Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tasers Safer Than Guns Wodensdays Rant

Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
Taser stun guns are now in use in most Australian state and territory police forces, but the debate about their safety continues to rage around the world. In the United States, where the American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting a running battle with the stun gun’s manufacturers, two deaths have been linked to Tasers in the past two months. While in Britain a review of the use of Tasers published in the Journal of Clinical Forensic has recommended they be made more widely available to police.

Civil liberty groups would be upset by them. It's appropriate for police use, not personal use.


Weasel said...

Last month ACT police announced they were putting them into use after a lengthy trial. Most of the forces that are trialling or permanently using them have limited their them to specialist armed response squads, such as the Special Operations Group in Victoria and South Australia’s Star group.

NSW, which has been using Tasers in “high risk” situations for two years, began trialling them with its state riot squad in June.

Tasers use jolts of 50,000 volts of electricity to paralyse people. The shocks are delivered by two barbs with wires attached that are fired at the target from a distance of up to six metres.

So far no deaths have been recorded from Tasers in Australia. The most serious recorded injury was in 2004 in South Australia, where a dart from a Taser fired by police became imbedded in a man’s eye. It had to surgically removed.

The latest deaths in the US in the states of Rhode Island and Wisconsin prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to call for a moratorium on their use. An ACLU study released late last year claimed that at least 148 people in the United States and Canada had died since 1999 after being stunned by police with Tasers.

Taser International countered the study with its own report claiming the ACLU ignored data showing that the use by police of Tasers had reduced injury rates of both police and offenders during confrontations (the same conclusion reached in the latest UK study). Taser International also hotly disputes the claim that its stun gun has led to 148 deaths. It says the majority of deaths of people who had been Tasered had been the result of other factors, such as drugs, and had occurred hours if not days after the initial incident.

In Australia a study of Taser safety carried out for Victoria Police by the Alfred Hospital in 2004 and leaked last year warned the stun guns posed “immediate risks and potentially fatal dangers”, but also said there had been no proven links between their use and deaths.

While Taser International refutes claims its stun gun is responsible for scores of deaths, it admits there are dangers.

“Data suggests that about two out of every 1,000 subjects of TASER usage sustain injuries related to the TASER use,” it says. “These are usually injuries related to falling to the ground. There was even one tragic fatality when a subject fell and sustained a fatal head wound when his head hit a street curb.”

Weasel said...

As an Australian link is investigated into the sending of more than two billion spam emails, mostly trying to sell Viagra, a warning has been issued about a new technique being used by spammers – subliminal messages. The messages, that flash across your computer screen faster than the eye can detect when you open a spam email, have just been discovered by Internet security company PandLabs.

According to the PandaLabs warning, the subliminal messages appear on the screen for between 10 and 40 milliseconds. The messages flashing the word “buy” were detected in spams promoting certain company stocks.

“This is the first time we have detected an Internet threat that uses subliminal techniques,” PandaLabs director Luis Corrons said. “Although in this case the author cannot boast a fine-tuned technique, it is worrying to witness how cyber-criminals are trying to introduce new strategies to increase the effectiveness of their attacks. And, worse still, we can expect new and more sophisticated threats of this kind to appear. Think about the damage that this type of message could cause, especially to young users.”

The latest development follows a warning by another Internet security company that a new generation of more sophisticated “phishing” emails is beginning to hit the Net. was a victim of phishing yesterday when a bogus email claiming to be from us began circulating and warning people that banks were planning to close this week. It asks users to click on a link, which takes them to a website where a Trojan virus is planted on their computer.

MessageLabs intelligence report for August says almost one third of viral emails now circulating on the Internet are phishing attacks, compared to one fifth in July. Viral emails make up about one per cent of all emails, which means that one in every 324 emails is now a targeted phishing attack.

“This is a clear indication that online criminals are further concentrating their activities in this area, perhaps seizing the opportunity before two-factor authentication becomes a more rigorous standard across the banking industry,” MessageLabs says.

The MessageLab Intelligence report also says the level of spam on the Internet rose globally by 1.8 per cent between July and August. That means 64.5 per cent of all email traffic – or one in every 1.55 emails – is now spam.

And some two billion of those were allegedly circulating with the help of an Australian, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The ACMA said in a statement yesterday that it was investigating the person’s involvement in spreading spam in conjunction with the Dutch telecommunications regulators.

“Preliminary analysis of the email messages contained in the spam campaign has identified that over two billion emails were sent in one spam campaign,” said Lyn Maddock, acting ACMA chair. “ACMA analysis to date has identified that the messages in the spam campaign primarily promoted Viagra products.”

I hope the spammer gets a day for each sent spam email.

Weasel said...

How could such a dumb idea have gone so far? This is the real worry for Labor:

KIM Beazley’s plan to make a pledge to uphold the “Australian values” of freedom, democracy and gender equality a condition of entering the country has caused outrage within the Labor Party.
The Opposition Leader, also under attack for his comments on Muslims, stared down strong criticism from Labor colleagues yesterday after proposing a plan forcing visitors to Australia to sign visas endorsing Australian values.

Labor MPs told The Australian last night they were deeply concerned about the proposal, which was made without consultation, was not workable and undermined the party’s values.

Labor sources said respected former immigration minister and party powerbroker Robert Ray was scathing of the idea in Labor caucus, asking: “Will this be dropped this week or next week?”

The most silly part of the idea is to get even visitors here to sign off on Australian values. Sadly, Beazley’s critics object to it most because they think it threatens multiculturalism, a policy the party should ditch anyway.

The proposal is well intended, has merit and should never see the light of day because it is innapropriate and stupid.

I came from the US, and fondly recall the pledge of allegiance thirty years after I Ieft at age ten. It was recited at the start of each school day. It is appropriate for children who are forming values to come to face them in this way. At worst, the pledge is benign, at best it underlays civic pride.

For adults, however, such a pledge is an impost. It invites ridicule and dissension. It has all the meaning of a senior brother's face in a communist nation.

Weasel said...

Al Gore says his hot new film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, should alert us to a threat that risks “ending all human civilisation.”
Instead, the hosannahs the former American vice-president is getting on his visit to spread his ludicrous scaremongering reveals a more immediate danger.

Is healthy scepticism and fidelity to facts dead in this country?

Are even our scientists too gripped by this end-of-the-world religion of man-made warming to dare point out Gore’s documentary contains exaggerations, half-truths and falsehoods?

‘Fraid so. It’s one predictable thing for film critics such as the ABC’s David Stratton to gush that An Inconvenient Truth—essentially a film of a lecture I’ve seen Gore give—might be “the most important film you ever see”.

Stratton, after all, has his profession’s weakness for assuming that what he sees on the screen must be real. Let’s hope he never sees Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

And the Gore-praising journalists must be grudgingly excused, too. Many tend to be salvation-seeking suckers for any green story that damns wicked humans and their rich ways.

(In fact, ABC TV was so eager to promote Gore that it ran two big interviews with him on Monday night, so viewers who dozed off during one might wake up in the middle of the next without missing a syllable. But I was banned by Gore’s publicists from interviewing him, not being sufficiently reverential in the ABC way.)

Of course, I make allowances for the fact that to challenge Gore’s claims is to risk being denounced not as wrong but as evil. I sure found that out when I once pointed out to the holy roller a couple of flaws in his argument and watched him pop.

Yet how sad that even our scientists are too cowed or too evangelical to note more than a flicker of concern that Gore in his film tortures truth to scare the be-Gaia out of our youngsters.

(Click on title for full article)

In the United States, scientists as eminent as Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric science at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have denounced Gore’s film as “shrill alarmism” or simply wrong in critical parts.

But here? The Age, for instance, surveyed seven local scientists who’d seen the film and all gave it four stars out of five or higher.

“I was really quite moved,” declared Dr Penny Whetton, CSIRO’s Climate Change Impact and Risk group leader. “Its scientific basis is very sound.”

In fact, the worst that any said was that there was a “minor quibble” with Gore claiming all sorts of natural disasters were “due to human activity”.

Oh, is that all? Falsely blaming hurricanes, vanishing glaciers, great floods and more all on wicked humans is now just a “minor quibble”?

Yes, it is true, the planet warmed until 1940, then cooled until around 1970 before warming again until 1998—producing a net warming of around 0.6 degrees.

It is also true that carbon dioxide tends to trap heat, and that over the past half century (since the worst of this warming) we’ve pumped out a lot of it. And it’s true most climate scientists think this is one cause—probably the biggest, say many—of global warming.

But even on that there is no agreement. And the rest is even more strongly debated.

Yet from this scientific uncertainty has been constructed a Gospel of the Green Apocalypse, to doubt which gets you likened to Holocaust deniers and Big Tobacco shills.

So who dares to point out that Gore is just one of the worst of the fact-fiddling Green evangelicals, who jet in a cloud of gasses to warn us that the boogieman is going to eat our children?

Well, here are just 10 of my own “minor quibbles” with Gore’s film. These are my own “inconvenient truths”, and judge from them the credibility of Gore’s warnings of the end of all civilisation.

1: Gore claims that a survey of 928 scientific articles on global warming showed not one disputed that man’s gasses were mostly to blame for rising global temperatures. Only dumb journalists and bad scientists in the pay of Big Oil pretended there was any genuine debate.

In fact, as Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University has demonstrated, Gore relies on a bungled survey reported in Science.

Peiser checked again and found just 13 of those 928 papers explicitly endorsed man-made global warming, and 34 rejected or doubted it. The debate is real.

2: Gore says the man who first made him realise we were heating up the earth was his late professor, oceanographer Roger Revelle, who noticed carbon dioxide levels were increasing.

In fact, Revelle shortly before his death co-authored a paper warning that “the scientific basis for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time”. And some warming might even be good, he added.

3: Gore says ice cores from Antarctica, that go back 650,000 years, show the world got warmer each time there was more carbon dioxide in the air.

In fact, as the University of California’s Professor Jeff Severinghaus and others note, at least three studies of ice cores show the earth first warmed and only then came more carbon dioxide, many hundreds of years later. So does extra carbon dioxide cause a warming world, or vice versa?

4: Gore shows a series of slides of vanishing lakes (like Lake Chad) and snow fields (like Mt Kilimanjaro’s) and blames global warming for it all.

In fact, Lake Chad is so shallow it nearly dried out as far back as 1908, and again in 1984. So many more people depend on it now that the water pumped out for irrigation has quadrupled in 25 years. No wonder it’s drying.

And Mt Kilimanjaro was losing its snows more than a century ago, not because of global warming, but—says a 2004 study in Nature—largely because deforestation has cut the moisture in the air.

And that worrying picture Gore shows of vanishing glaciers in the Himalayas? Newcastle University researchers last month said some glaciers there are now getting bigger again.

5: Gore shows scary maps of how New York and Shanghai would drown under 20 feet (600cm) of water if all Greenland’s ice melted.

In fact, various studies say Greenland’s snow cover—and Antarctica’s—is increasing or stable. The scientists of even the fiercely pro-warming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict seas will rise (as they have for centuries) not by Gore’s 600cm by 2100, but by between 14 and 43cm.

6: Gore claims the seas have already risen so high that New Zealand has had to take in refugees from drowning Pacific islands.

In fact, the Australian National Tidal Facility at Tuvalu in 2002 reported: “The historical record from 1978 through 199 indicated a sea level rise of 0.07 mm per year.” Or the width of a hair.

Says Auckland University climate scientist Chris de Frietas: “I can assure Mr Gore that no one from the South Pacific islands has fled to New Zealand because of rising seas.”

7: Gore claims global warming has helped cause coral reefs “all around the world” to bleach.

In fact, new research from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the seas rapidly cooled from 2003 to 2005. And most bleaching is caused by El Nino events.

8: Gore claims hurricanes are getting worse because of global warming, and he shows pictures from Hurricane Katrina.

In fact, America has this year had fewer hurricanes than usual. And most hurricane experts agree with Dr Chris Landsea of the US National Hurricane Centre, who says “there has been no change in the number and intensity of (the strongest) hurricanes around the world in the last 15 years”.

9: Gore claims warming is causing new diseases and allowing malarial mosquitoes to move to higher altitudes.

In fact, says Professor Paul Reiter, head of the Pasteur Institute’s unit of insects and infectious diseases: “Gore is completely wrong here.” Reiter says “the new altitudes of malaria are lower than those recorded 100 years ago” and “none of the 30 so-called new diseases Gore references are attributable to global warming”.

10: Gore never even hints at other possible explanations scientists have given for the warming globe.

And here’s just one: increased solar activity. That’s a theory suggested by leading American scientists such as Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Fred Singer and Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some even predict we’re about to suffer a new bout of global cooling. Says Professor Bill Gray, world hurricane authority from Colorado State University: “My belief is that three, four years from now, the globe will start to cool again.”

Or as Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of the Russian of Sciences astronomical observatory, warned last week: “On the basis of our (solar emission) research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth’s climate by the middle of this century.”

I’m sorry to raise these inconvenient truths just when so many of our scientists seem to prefer the certainties of faith over the uncertainties of evidence.

But can we please have an adult discussion about global warming without the usual shrieks of outrage from people who think demanding this evidence is blasphemous?

We are talking about science, right? But too much of this talk now sounds far too religious to me.

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I take your points. The only other person I know who so strongly adheres to your position is, ironically, a crazy lefty philosphy student.

For me, it is like an argument on semantics. I distrust Gore's inflammatory statements because he is prosecuting a political agenda that has nothing to do with environmental concern.

If you are saying that carbon dioxide emissions aren't cause for concern, I respectfully disagree. I think we have to work hard to find ways make our 'footprint' less harmful to our future. To that end, I think it important that industry be allowed to profit from sensible, effective measures. I don't think Kyoto is environmentally useful, being largely a leftwing political device.

Useful measures include the use of bacteria to breakdown soot in smokestacks. Useful measures include the use of nuclear generated power. Useful measures will never include voting ALP while they oppose sensible management of the environment.