What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White
Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.
This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.
Monday, January 17, 2022
Sunday, January 16, 2022
‘I’d keep it on the down low’: the secret life of a super-recogniser
Police employ them and scientists study them, but what is life like for the rare few who can never forget a face? Super-recogniser Yenny Seo didn’t think it was anything special
As a child, Yenny Seo often surprised her mother by pointing out a stranger in the grocery store, remarking it was the same person they passed on the street a few weeks earlier. Likewise, when they watched a movie together, Seo would often recognise “extras” who’d appeared fleetingly in other films.
Her mother never thought this was “anything special”, Seo says, and simply assumed she had a particularly observant daughter.
Seo too was unaware that others didn’t share her love of the private game she played, where she’d spot a person on a bus or the street and then flick through the vast catalogue of faces she kept in her head, trying to place where she’d seen them before. “It’s always been quite fun for me,” she says. “Especially as a child. I remember just really enjoying looking at different faces.”
It was only as she got older and started using social media that Seo became self-conscious of her skill. “I would start a new class in uni or I would meet people through social gatherings and I would remember visually what kind of photos I’d seen them in. I’d already be so familiar with them and I’d know in my head: ‘Oh, you are that person’s sibling, or you used to date so-and-so,’” she says.
“But I also knew it’d be really creepy if I said that out loud, so I’d keep it on the down low and just say: ‘Oh, nice to meet you.’”
Once, while working at a part-time job at a clothing store when she was at uni, Seo had cause to show her skill. Staff were shown grainy, hard-to-decipher CCTV footage of a habitual shoplifter; the next time this person entered the shop, Seo instantly recognised them, and alerted the security guard. “I knew I must have some kind of skill, but I still didn’t think it was anything special, because I just had so many instances like that happen.”
Until the early 2000s, little scientific attention was paid to whether all humans possess the same ability to recognise faces. According to Dr David White, now a lead investigator at the Face Research Lab at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), “I think intuitively people believe that the way they see the world is the same as others. And I think that scientists had that intuition as well.”
White first became interested in the field while studying a rare condition called prosopagnosia – when a brain injury leaves someone unable to recognise faces. He was intrigued that while people with this condition couldn’t recognise the face of a loved one, they could still recognise other objects – evidence, he says, that our brains are organised to perform different tasks, “like an app on your smartphone”.
Along with other researchers, White started examining people without brain injury, discovering there is “tremendous variation” in facial recognition ability. At the very upper end of the performance scale, a cohort of just 1-2% of the population are “super-recognisers” – people who can memorise and recall unfamiliar faces, even after the briefest glimpse.
The underlying cause is still not entirely clear – it’s a new field, with only around 20 scientific papers studying super-recognisers. However, it is suspected genetics plays a role because identical twins show similar performance, and it has been shown that cortical thickness – the amount of neurons – in the part of the brain that supports face recognition is a predictor of superior ability.
Recently, White conducted an experiment where he used eye-tracking technology to study how super-recognisers look at faces, discovering they are “spreading their gaze more around the face, which suggests they might be painting a more elaborate picture of the face in their mind’s eye”.
Because it’s such a rare phenomenon, in 2017 White and his colleagues at UNSW designed a publicly available online screening tool to try to unearth the world’s best super-recognisers. Seo, then in her mid-20s, gave it a go – and her score was so high, White invited her to come to Sydney for more testing.
With more than 100,000 people now tested, Seo still ranks in the top 50.
Over the past decade, security and law enforcement agencies around the world have started recruiting people with superior facial recognition capabilities. London’s metropolitan police has a special team who examine CCTV footage from crime scenes – they were used in the investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy with the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury – and several years ago Queensland police started identifying super-recognisers in its ranks. A proliferation of private agencies has also sprung up, offering the services of super-recognisers.
Seo has no interest in repeating her “one crime-fighting moment” from her uni days – she’s happy with her job as a technician at a pathology lab. She still enjoys looking at faces – the use of face masks during the pandemic is providing a fun challenge. Most of the time she can still recognise a person even if they’re wearing one – and the diagnosis has given her “confidence in my abilities”.
“It made me realise: oh yeah, it’s not crazy – I must have been right the whole time. It’s not that I’m creepy, but my brain is just wired that way.”
Meet the Muslim Army Chaplain Who Condemned Torture of Guantánamo Prisoners & Then Was Jailed Himself | Democracy Now!
Meet the Muslim Army Chaplain Who Condemned Torture of Guantánamo Prisoners & Then Was Jailed Himself
"Twenty years ago today, the U.S. military began imprisoning Muslim men at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. We speak with the prison’s former Muslim chaplain, James Yee, who was jailed and held in solitary confinement for 76 days after being falsely accused of espionage. All charges were eventually dropped, and he received an honorable discharge. Yee describes how boys as young as 12 to 15 years old were treated as enemy combatants on the prison complex and the widespread Islamophobia that put even Muslim Americans under heavy surveillance. “During my time I was there, it was clear that these individuals were not in any way associated with terrorism whatsoever,” says Yee.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue to look at this 20th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo. It opened 20 years ago today.
We’re joined now by former Army chaplain Captain James Yee. He was one of the first Muslim chaplains commissioned to the prison in 2002 by the U.S. Army. But less than a year after serving there, he was accused of espionage by the military and faced charges so severe that he was threatened with the death penalty. He was arrested and imprisoned for 76 days in solitary confinement. The military leaked information about the case to the press, and the media went on a feeding frenzy. Chaplain Yee was vilified on the airwaves as a traitor and accused of being a mole inside the Army. Then the military’s case began to unravel. The charges were eventually reduced and, eight months later, dropped altogether. He ultimately received an honorable discharge. Chaplain Yee wrote about his experiences in a book titled For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire. James Yee has long called for the closure of Guantánamo, joins us now from his home in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
James Yee, welcome back to Democracy Now! We covered your case from the beginning. Why don’t you start off by telling your own story, how you came to be at Guantánamo, being a chaplain for the Muslim men who were held there, and then what happened to you?
JAMES YEE: Great, great. Yeah, first of all, Amy, Juan, and also to Mansoor and Moazzam, thanks for having me join you today on the program.
But I converted to Islam back in the early ’90s, and I was already in the military as a graduate of West Point, serving in the Air Defense Artillery as a young lieutenant, and then, after converting to Islam, thought I could fulfill a pretty unique role in becoming a chaplain in the U.S. military, because at that time there were no Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military. And I entered — I reentered active duty in early 2001 as a Muslim chaplain. And in the immediate post-9/11 aftermath, I was someone who the U.S. Army Public Affairs looked to to handle media requests that dealt with anything that had to do with Muslims who were serving in the U.S. military, especially following the tragic attacks on 9/11 where many of these Muslim servicemembers were experiencing backlash.
So, my name was out there not only in U.S. Army Public Affairs but in the Department of Defense, also the State Department. And so, when we started bombarding Afghanistan and opened the prison camp at Guantánamo, I was earmarked for that assignment down in Guantánamo. And I would arrive to the prison camp in early November, almost exactly at the same time that the now-infamous Major General Geoffrey Miller took command of the Joint Task Force. And like you said in your intro, I was there for 10 months. I was supposed to have been there six months, involuntary extended another six months. But at the 10-month mark, then I was secretly arrested.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, James Yee, could you talk about, from your perspective, what Guantánamo represents to the rest of the world and the impact that the treatment of the prisoners there has had in the Muslim world?
JAMES YEE: Yeah. So, Guantánamo, no doubt, is the international symbol of torture and prisoner abuse. And it continues today to damage the reputation of the United States. And I feel it also damages the relationships that the U.S. has even with our closest allies. By and large, I don’t know of any other nations around the world who are accepting of the U.S. continuing to operate this prison camp in Guantánamo.
But in my view, these are very important issues, because this has been around for now 20 years. We’re at the 20th anniversary of this prison camp. And one of the things I always like to point out is something that the late Colin Powell had stated. And he said that he would close Guantánamo not today, not tomorrow, but this afternoon. So, even someone who was part of the Bush administration that opened Guantánamo, from an insider’s perspective, even he saw the urgency of — that’s Colin Powell — of needing to close this prison camp immediately.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about the issue that has not gotten a lot of attention, the question of the youthfulness of some of the detainees — basically children — what you know about that?
JAMES YEE: Yeah. So, during my time in Guantánamo, which was late 2002 through most of 2003, there were actually three young boys from Afghanistan who were brought to Guantánamo during that time. And they were ages 12 to 14 years old. They were termed “juvenile enemy combatants.” There were already juvenile enemy combatants at Guantánamo, according to the international standard, which would be under the age of 18. So, the policy at Guantánamo was that anyone who — any prisoner who was 15 years old or older were held in general population. And there were several. One that I recall very distinctly was Omar Khadr from Canada, and he was only 15 at the time. But these three younger prisoners were brought to Guantánamo during my time, and they were kept in a separate facility known as Camp Iguana. And I actually used to meet with them on a weekly basis. I had set up some basic sessions and courses on Islam that I would teach. And they had their own translator or interpreter, who had an Afghani background, that spoke their dialected language.
But they also went through things which I found disturbing. I wasn’t privy to witness how they were interrogated, but there were often times when the interrogators came during the time my sessions were taking place, and I was pushed aside. And following those sessions with interrogators, I saw that these young boys actually came back very disturbed. They had changed behaviors. They showed signs of anxiety. And they would recall things to me and the other guards that were overseeing their detention, things like how interrogators would come and they would promise them like nice things like ice cream and things like that, but then, for some reason, their punishment was they wouldn’t get that ice cream. Now, you’re talking about very youthful kids. And when you’re treating individuals like this, who are taken away from their home, taken away from their families, it had to have a devastating effect on their psyche.
AMY GOODMAN: James Yee, you’re a former U.S. Army captain. You graduated from West Point, a Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo. So, if you could finish your story? What happened there? We’re talking about a time when, what, 800 Muslim men, almost, were being held. And then you had the Muslim — you had Arabic interpreters. You had Arabic-language interrogators. Were you chaplain to all of them? And then, what happened to you? How did you end up getting imprisoned?
JAMES YEE: Yeah. So, my role as a chaplain, one, was chaplain to the prisoners who were all being held in Guantánamo. The numbers were upwards towards 660 around the time I was there. One of the things I also make a point of is, during that time in 2003, not one could be definitively connected to any terrorist attack or the attacks on 9/11. That wasn’t a reality, because anyone who was seriously suspected of being involved in terrorism weren’t brought to Guantánamo in 2003. They were put in those secret CIA black sites. And it wasn’t only until later, in 2006, when those 19 or so prisoners were brought to Guantánamo, after Bush closed down those CIA black sites. But during the time I was there, it was clear that these individuals were not in any way associated with terrorism whatsoever.
But my other role as a chaplain was to prisoners. And in that role, it was to ensure free exercise of worship and accommodation of religious practices for the prisoners there, and also fielding the complaints and concerns that prisoners had, and thereby providing them with a secondary channel of communication up the chain of command for those concerns and complaints.
Then I was chaplain to many American Muslims who served on this Joint Task Force, civilian and military. And by and large, most of these individuals were translators or interpreters, linguists. And we actually had a pretty vibrant, what you might call, congregation, in which we had the Friday worship service at the chapel, the Guantánamo chapel on Fridays. And that even raised suspicion amongst the command at Guantánamo, because we were all under surveillance. I recall seeing individuals who were associated with the FBI that were kind of monitoring our activities at the chapel. And I knew that these individuals were from the FBI because many of the translators worked for the intelligence operation and said, “Yeah, these guys who are hanging around the chapel are with the FBI.” So that raised suspicion.
So, there was this widespread Islamophobia or somehow some kind of fear that we, as American Muslims who were working for the Joint Task Force, were somehow being seditious. And that’s how I got targeted as the chaplain, because I was supposedly the ringleader. And after I was arrested, it also came to light that two other American Muslims who were down in Guantánamo working, one a civilian translator and one who was a U.S. Air Force translator, both also — both Arabic linguists, they were also arrested during the time I was. And it was being — and the media frenzy that you spoke about, or you mentioned earlier, was that I was the ringleader of some type of spy ring in Guantánamo working on behalf of who knows.
AMY GOODMAN: And how long you were held, and how you got out?
JAMES YEE: So, I was secretly arrested in September of 2003, for 76 days held in solitary confinement. I also was subjected to this process called sensory deprivation, where I had the goggles put over my eyes and the ear devices put over my ears to prevent me from hearing or seeing, which instilled fear in me, because I had saw how the prisoners at Guantánamo were subjected to sensory deprivation. And for me, this was an indication that I was also being put into this category of enemy combatant, where all of my rights could be stripped away, as they were stripped away from all of the prisoners down at Guantánamo.
And because I was a U.S. citizen, they put me into what you might call the stateside Guantánamo, which was the Consolidated Naval Brig, where President Bush was housing people he categorized as enemy combatants that were either U.S. citizens — and there were two, an individual named José Padilla and another named Yaser Hamdi — or an enemy combatant that had been taken into custody on U.S. soil, like Saleh al-Marri, who was in the United States legally and was put also in this prison. And I was housed alongside these individuals.
But long story short, all of the charges that were brought against me would eventually fade away. They eventually would, after having absolutely no evidence, even try to prosecute me on mishandling classified information, in which there was no evidence for that. And so the charges would be dropped. I was released, reinstated as a chaplain, sent back to Fort Lewis, Washington, after which, at the first opportunity, I resigned of my commission.
AMY GOODMAN: Wow. Well, we’re going to break and then come back to our discussion with James Yee, former U.S. Army captain who served as the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo before the military falsely accused him of spying and imprisoned him. All the charges were dropped. He received an honorable discharge. His book is called For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire.
When we come back, we’ll speak to Mansoor Adayfi, the former Guantánamo prisoner who was held by the U.S. without charge for 14 years before being released in 2016, not to his own country but to Serbia. He would write a letter from his imprisonment in Guantánamo to the former chaplain, James Yee. Stay with us."
What Martin Luther King Jr. said about the filibuster: ‘A minority of misguided senators’
"On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that if Republicans continue to block a voting rights bill, the chamber would vote on changes to filibuster rules. Then he set a deadline for the vote: Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The quote-a-thon has gotten to the point where King’s daughter Bernice King has told people to “enact policies that reflect your birthday sentiments,” and at least a dozen times, she has urged them to learn another quote and/or stop taking that one out of context. So has King’s son Martin Luther King III.
But the context in which King shared his views on the filibuster is the same one in which the Senate now finds itself: amid battles over voting rights legislation.
In July 1963, King was in Washington when he gave a few interviews about a potential civil rights act. President John F. Kennedy had pitched it a month earlier in a speech to the American people, saying he wanted to end racial segregation in public accommodations and to strengthen voting rights.
One interview was with “Press Conference U.S.A.,” a government-funded television show distributed internationally. By law, each broadcast could not air domestically until 12 years after it was recorded, according to C-SPAN. King was questioned for 30 minutes by a panel.
Toward the end, William Workman of the State, a Columbia, S.C., newspaper, brought up Kennedy’s civil rights bill. Would King, he asked, be amenable to bringing Kennedy’s proposals to a national referendum?
“Well, this would certainly be all right with me, because I think the vast majority of people in the United States would vote favorably for such a bill,” he said.
King then moved from the journalist’s hypothetical to the real world, continuing: “I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting. They won’t let the majority senators vote. And certainly they wouldn’t want the majority of people to vote, because they know they do not represent the majority of the American people. In fact, they represent, in their own states, a very small minority.”
It was that way “all throughout the South,” he said.
So: not a filibuster fan.
For decades, a coalition of Southern Democrats and some Republicans had successfully used the “talking filibuster,” cloture rules and other delay tactics to block civil rights legislation, including bills that would have ended poll taxes and literacy tests at the ballot box. In 1946, five senators spoke long enough to kill a bill that would have cracked down on workplace discrimination. The longest speech in Senate history — 24 hours and 18 minutes by South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1957 — was a failed attempt to stop another civil rights bill.
So, in 1963, everyone assumed that the greatest challenge Kennedy would face with his “omnibus” bill would be the dreaded filibuster.
Kennedy, of course, did not live to see his bill put to the vote, but his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, did, pushing through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson, a former Senate majority leader who had once tweaked filibuster rules, still endured record-breaking filibusters on his way to victory.
The Supreme Court struck down key sections of that Voting Rights Act in 2013. Senate Democrats are trying to restore some of the protections it provided. Martin Luther King III announced in December that he would spend his father’s birthday campaigning in Arizona for voting rights and an end to the Senate filibuster.
In the late 1980s, Senate rules changed, making it easier for lawmakers to filibuster; an extended floor speech was no longer necessary. One of the last of the old “talking filibusters” went down in 1983, when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) led an unsuccessful 16-day effort to block King’s birthday from being made a federal holiday."
Texas county rejects half of mail-in ballot applications amid new voter restrictions | Texas | The Guardian
Texas county rejects half of mail-in ballot applications amid new voter restrictions
"Denied ballots follow trend across state after Republicans imposed new rules following Trump’s baseless fraud claims
Election officials in the Texas county that includes the state capital, Austin, have rejected about half of applications for mail-in ballots, following new voting restrictions brought in by Republicans.
The voter identification rules have led to the rejection of about half of the 700 mail-in ballots requested in Travis county for primary elections in March, according to the county’s clerk.
The denied ballots in Travis county follow a similar trend across Texas, with officials in Harris county, which includes the city of Houston, and Bexar county, which includes San Antonio, also turning down a substantial number of mail-in ballot applications.
Republicans in several states have sought to impose voting restrictions in the wake of baseless allegations of voter fraud by Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president who has struggled to accept the reality that he was beaten fairly by Joe Biden in last year’s presidential election.
In Texas, state Republicans last year enacted new voting laws that require absentee voters to include their driver’s license number, state ID number or the last four digits of their social security number on their applications. Counties then have to match this information with voter profiles to approve them for a mail-in ballot.
The new rules also ban drive-through and 24-hour voting and allow more access to partisan poll watchers. The Biden administration has decried the wave of voting restrictions around the country as undemocratic and the US justice department has filed a lawsuit claiming that Texas’ new laws disenfranchised eligible voters contrary to their civil rights.
The Travis county clerk’s office said it had not received enough information from the Texas secretary of state to help voters provide the correct information. “Many other counties are experiencing the same high rejection rate,” the office told the Washington Post. “We have not received instructions from the state outlining what our office can do to assist voters in submitting a completed application.”
The secretary of state, however, said he was “surprised” by the high rejection rate in Travis county and called on officials to revisit the ballots. “We anxiously await the results of their re-processing of these mail ballot applications,” said John Scott, a Republican. “We urge all county election officials to contact the Texas secretary of state’s office to seek advice and assistance on the correct method of processing mail-in ballot applications.”
Biden has sought to confront Republicans on voting rights restrictions, stating in a speech in Atlanta last week that “they want chaos to reign. We want the people to rule.” The president lent his weight to a push to drop the filibuster in an evenly-divided US Senate to allow for a new voting rights act to pass, only to be stymied by the opposition of the centrist Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
Civil rights leaders are continuing to call for change, however, ahead of a federal holiday on Monday to mark the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Members of the civil rights titan’s family will be in Arizona, another state to clamp down on voting rights, for the holiday to mobilize support for the stalled bill.
Martin Luther King III, the civil rights leader’s oldest son, told the Guardian: “We’re gonna continue to push to get something done. Because to me, it’s fundamental to the foundation of our democracy. It’s those on the other side who seem to have lost the perception of what democracy is.”