Thursday 18 May 2017

Why torture doesn’t work

On Witches and Terrorists
By Michael Shermer

 As recounted by author and journalist Daniel P. Mannix, during the European witch craze the Duke of Brunswick in Germany invited two Jesuit scholars to oversee the Inquisition’s use of torture to extract information from accused witches. “The Inquisitors are doing their duty. They are arresting only people who have been implicated by the confession of other witches,” the Jesuits re ported. The duke was skeptical. Suspecting that people will say anything to stop the pain, he invited the Jesuits to join him at the local dungeon to witness a woman being stretched on a rack. “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch,” he began. “I suspect these two men of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack, executioners.” The Jesuits couldn’t believe what they heard next. “No, no!” the woman groaned. “You are quite right. I have often seen them at the Sabbat. They can turn themselves into goats, wolves and other animals…. Several witches have had children by them. One woman even had eight children whom these men fathered. The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” Turning to the flabbergasted Jesuits, the duke inquired, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”
One of these Jesuits was Friedrich Spee, who responded to this poignant experiment on the psychology of torture by publishing a book in 1631 entitled Cautio Criminalis, which played a role in bringing about the end of the witch mania and demonstrating why torture as a tool to obtain useful information doesn’t work. This is why, in addition to its inhumane elements, torture is banned in all Western nations, including the U.S., whose Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”
What about waterboarding? That’s “enhanced interrogation,” not torture, right? When the late journalist Christopher Hitchens underwent waterboarding for one of his Vanity Fair columns, he was forewarned (in a document he had to sign) that he might “receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.” Even though Hitchens was a hawk on terrorism, he nonetheless concluded: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”
Still, what if there’s a “ticking time bomb” set to detonate in a major city, and we have the terrorist who knows where it is— wouldn’t it be moral to torture him to extract that information? Surely the suffering or death of one to save millions is justified, no? Call this the Jack Bauer theory of torture. In the hit television series 24, Kiefer Sutherland’s character is a badass counterterrorism agent whose “ends justify the means” philosophy makes him a modern-day Tom├ís de Torquemada. In most such scenarios, Bauer (and we the audience) knows that he has in his clutches the terrorist who has accurate information about where and when the next attack is going to occur and that by applying just the right amount of pain, he will extort the correct intelligence just in time to avert disaster. It’s a Hollywood fantasy. In reality, the person in captivity may or may not be a terrorist, may or may not have accurate information about a terrorist attack, and may or may not cough up useful intelligence, particularly if his or her motivation is to terminate the torture.
In contrast, a 2014 study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology entitled “The Who, What, and Why of Human Intelligence Gathering” surveyed 152 interrogators and found that “rapport and relationship-building techniques were employed most often and perceived as the most effective regardless of context and intended outcome, particularly in comparison to confrontational techniques.” Another 2014 study in the same journal— “In terviewing High Value Detainees”—sampled 64 practitioners and detainees and found that “detainees were more likely to disclose meaningful information … and earlier in the interview when rapport-building techniques were used.”
Finally, an exhaustive 2014 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence analyzed millions of internal CIA documents related to the torture of terrorism suspects, concluding that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” It adds that “multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence.” Terrorists are real. Witches are not. But real or imagined, torture doesn’t work.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Donald Trump

Knock, Knock,
Who's there ?
Donald who?
Donald Trump
Go away

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Tuesday 20 September 2016

going up in smoke - time to stubb out cigs for good

Smoking rates across England are the lowest on record, health officials have said. Public Health England (PHE) said that 16.9 per cent of the population in England are smokers - the lowest level since records began.

The figures were released as the health body launched its annual Stoptober campaign to encourage the nation's remaining smokers to quit for the month of October. If people give up the habit for 28 days they are five times more likely to quit for good, PHE said.

In England there are now twice as many ex-smokers (14.6 million people), than current smokers (7.2 million), PHE added. Last year, out of the 2.5 million smokers who made a quit attempt, 500,000 people (20 per cent) were successful.

That's right, over 1/3 of smokers tried to quit last year. So much for the idea that smokers smoke out of freedom of choice, 80% of those trying to give up last year failed. Survey show over 90% of all smokers want to quit.
"Alongside unhealthy diet, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable early death in England, accounting for over 78,000 deaths a year. Quitters will soon see they have reduced blood pressure, easier breathing and better circulation. Stopping smoking is the best thing a smoker can do to improve their health."
Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "On top of this human cost, smoking has been estimated to cost the economy over £10 billion a year. We therefore support public health campaigns like Stoptober that motivate and support people to quit."

The Government's deputy chief medical officer, Dr Gina Radford said "We have a range of free support that can go direct to your phone, laptop or tablet via the Stoptober app, a daily email service or Facebook Messenger bot. The new Stoptober website also has advice and information on stop-smoking services and quitting aids." 

Add in the huge financial benefits of not smoking and the environmental and economic harm done by growing tobacco, there's never been a better time to quit.

Saturday 3 September 2016

when I want your opinion ....

absolutely agree with this.

"In an internet age it is, at first glance, democratic to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That is surely true. It is however a fatal step to then claim that all opinions are equal. Some opinions are backed by fact. Others are not. And those that are not backed by fact are worth considerably less than those that are."