Saturday November 01 , 2014

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Here are some of the books I have read over the years.

If you'd like to send your reviews to share, we'de be delighted to share your though
ts
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Failed Evidence

by David A. Harris

It seems the FBI make tons of mistakes and are not man enough to own up to them and the innoicent suffer.

 

Though television shows such as CSI seem to promise an age of advanced, scientific law enforcement, in reality, law enforcement organizations are often slow to embrace these techniques and resistant to change:

"In 2010, and for the previous nine years running, CSI: Crime Scene Investi­gation ranked among the most popular shows on television in the United States. ... Watching these programs, the viewer knows that policing has changed. For every member of the CSI team using a gun, more wield test tubes, DNA sampling equipment, and all manner of futuristic gizmos designed to track down witnesses and catch the bad guys. The show signals a break with the past, because it revolves around the way police use modern science to find the guilty and bring them to justice. ... But this all-too-common view of modern police work using science to move into a gleaming, high-tech future turns out to be a myth. ...  

"Brandon Mayfield's case makes a striking example. In March of 2004, terrorists bombed four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wound­ing approximately eighteen hundred. Spanish police soon found a partial fingerprint on a plastic bag in a car containing materials from the attack. Using a digital copy of the fingerprint sent by the Spanish police, a senior FBI fingerprint examiner made 'a 100% identification' of Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon attorney, whose prints appeared in government databases because of his military service and an arrest years earlier. Three other fingerprint experts confirmed the match of Mayfield to the print found on the bag: FBI supervisory fingerprint specialist Michael Wieners, who headed the FBI's Latent Print Unit; examiner John Massey, a retired FBI fingerprint specialist with thirty years of experience; and Kenneth Moses, a leading independent fingerprint examiner.

The FBI arrested Mayfield, and at the Bureau's request, a court incarcerated him for two weeks, despite the fact that he did not have a valid passport on which he could have traveled to Spain; he claimed he had not left the United States in ten years. When the FBI showed the Spanish police the match between the latent print from the bag and Mayfield's prints, the Spanish police expressed grave doubts. The FBI refused to back down, even declining the request of the Spanish police to come to Madrid and examine the original print. Only when the Spanish authorities matched the print with an Algerian man living in Spain did the FBI admit its mistake. The Bureau issued an apology to Mayfield -- an action almost unprecedented in the history of the FBI -- and later paid him millions of dollars in damages in an out-of-court settlement.

"The extraordinary apology and the payment of damages may help to rec­tify the injustice done to Mayfield and his family. But for our purposes, what happened after the FBI admitted its mistakes and asked the court to release Mayfield shows us something perhaps more important. The Mayfield disas­ter occurred because, among other things, the verification of the original FBI match of Mayfield's print -- a procedure performed by three well-regarded fingerprint experts -- ignored one of the most basic principles of scientific testing: the verification was not a 'blind' test. The three verifying examin­ers knew that an identification had already been made in the case, and they were simply being asked to confirm it. No scientific investigation or basic research in any other field -- a test of the effectiveness of a new over-the-coun­ter medicine, for example -- would ever use a nonblind testing procedure; yet nonblind verification is still routine in fingerprint identification. Further, the FBI conducted proficiency testing of all of the examiners involved in the Mayfield case -- but only after revelation of the errors, not before.

At the time of Brandon Mayfield's arrest, the FBI did no regular proficiency testing of its examiners to determine their competence, even though such testing routinely occurs in almost any commercial laboratory using quality-control procedures. Further, and perhaps most shocking of all, the fingerprint com­parison in the Mayfield case relied not on rigorously researched data and a comparison made under a well-accepted set of protocols and standards, but on the unregulated interpretations of the examiners.

 

"Yet, confronted by an undeniable, publicly embarrassing error that high­lighted the crying need for fingerprint analysts to adopt standard practices used in every scientific discipline, the experts refused to yield. Their answer was resistance and denial: resistance to change, and denial of the existence of a problem. Months after the humiliating exposure of the Mayfield deba­cle, some of those involved continued to insist that the matching of prints to identify unknown perpetrators could not produce mistakes -- ever. ...

"As an institution, the FBI did no better at accepting its error and changing its practices. ... As these words are written, more than six years after a mistaken fingerprint match almost sent Brandon Mayfield to prison for the rest of his life, the FBI laboratory's fingerprint identification division does not use standard blind testing in every case. The laboratory widely considered to have the best fin­gerprint identification operation in the country continues to resist change and remains in denial, and has refused to move toward practices and safe­guards that the scientific world has long considered standard."

Author: David A. Harris
Title: Failed Evidence
Publisher: NYU

 


Origins of Sex:


A History of the First Sexual Revolution




In the 1700s, Western attitudes towards prostitution went from punishment to reform, and from fear to charity. For a time, the wealthiest among the British vied to show their status by establishing asylums where prostitutes could be taken and reformed through piety and penitence:

"In the eighteenth century attitudes to prostitution were transformed for ever. The conventional Protestant view had been that common whores were the worst sexual reprobates of all. They were given the harshest punishments: summarily whipped, imprisoned, and set to hard labour. During the 1650s, when the Adultery Act made them liable to execution, hundreds were simply rounded up, ripped from their friends and families, and transported thousands of miles across the ocean to the West Indies, without so much as a trial. The entire culture of sexual discipline depended on such severity. For the terrible threat that lustful, avaricious whores posed to social order was abundantly illustrated in the Bible, and deeply imprinted upon the minds of ordinary men and women. Prostitutes had no special licence, no accessary function: on the contrary. Any unchaste woman was a whore; repeated promiscuity merely deepened her sin and her monstrousness.

"Long after 1800, prostitutes continued to be treated as dangerous spreaders of disease and disorder. But from the middle of the eight­eenth century this perspective was increasingly matched, and often overshadowed, by the emergence of alternative attitudes to commer­cial sex. Whores were henceforth as likely to be regarded with sympathy as with condemnation. ..

"From the 1750s onwards, the rescue and rehabilitation of prostitutes became a major social concern. Huge efforts were poured into the foundation and operation of asylums, workhouses, and other charities for fallen women, girls at risk of seduction, and other actual or potential victims of male lust. ...

"This new fascination with penitents coincided with mounting dissatisfaction over the efficacy of punishment. The traditional view had been that chastisement was the best way of encouraging sexual sinners to reform. To let the 'punishment beat you home to God', they were told, was the true 'work of charity to your soule'. ... 'Few are committed to the house of correction,' it was conventionally believed, 'but they come out better.'

"By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, this had become a questionable supposition. ... Stripping a woman naked and whipping her in public 'may, for aught I know, contribute to her modesty, and put her in a state of innocence', mused Bernard Mandeville disingenuously: but really 'flogging has a quite contrary effect'. The hero of The London-Spy was equally certain: if anything, 'it makes many whores ... but it can in no measure reclaim 'em.'  

"From the 1730s onwards ... there emerged a new, less politicized way of organizing public philanthropy, adapted from the world of commercial speculation: a private, joint-stock company, funded by subscription and targeted at a specific problem, rather than at the poor as a whole. The spectacular success on this model of the London Foundling Hospital (chartered in 1739, opened in 1741) suddenly made practical intervention in social problems seem much easier than it had been earlier in the century. Together with the outbreak of war at the end of the 1730s (and again in the mid-1750s), it also helped to make joint-stock philanthropy fashionable, especially amongst the capital's growing business community. As political arith­metic became established as a central foundation of public policy, saving lives became an ever more urgent national priority.

"The Magdalen House for penitent prostitutes, and the Lambeth Asylum to protect poor girls from seduction, both of which opened in London in 1758, followed the same model. So did the Dublin Magdalen Asylum, founded in 1767, and every later institution of this kind. By mid-century, attitudes towards innovative social projects had been turned on their head. From being the preserve of a minority and the outgrowth of exceptional religious zeal, public charity had become a leading expression of social and mercantile status."  

Author: Faramerz Dabhoiwal
Title: The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
Publisher: Oxford

Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
by Faramerz Dabhoiwala by Allen Lane

 

 

 

 

 

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