Author Archive | Eugene Volokh

“Danes claim blister gas find”:

Danish troops have found dozens of mortar rounds buried in Iraq which initial tests show could contain blister gas, the Danish army said on Saturday local time.

The Danish army said the 36 120mm mortar rounds found on Friday had been buried for at least 10 years.

“All the instruments showed indications of the same type of chemical compound, namely blister gas,” the Danish Army Operational Command said on its website, cautioning that further tests were needed.

Blister gas, such as mustard gas, an illegal weapon which former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said he had destroyed, was extensively used against the Iranians during the 1980 to 1988 war. . . .

I’ll believe it when more thorough tests are done — in the past, supposed discoveries of chemical weapons haven’t panned out — but I pass along the news for whatever it’s worth. [...]

Continue Reading

Adobe anti-counterfeiting feature:

Reader Jim Herd points to this Toronto Globe & Mail story:

Adobe Systems Inc. acknowledged on Friday it quietly added technology to the world’s best-known graphics software at the request of government regulators and international bankers to prevent consumers from making copies of the world’s major currencies.

The unusual concession has angered scores of customers.

Adobe, the world’s leading vendor for graphics software, said the secretive technology “would have minimal impact on honest customers.” It generates a warning message when someone tries to make digital copies of some currencies.

The U.S. Federal Reserve and other organizations that worked on the technology said they could not disclose how it works and wouldn’t name which other software companies have it in their products. They cited concerns that counterfeiters would try to defeat it. . . .

Adobe revealed it added the technology after a customer complained in an online support forum about mysterious behavior by the new $649 “Photoshop CS” software when opening an image of a U.S. $20 bill.

Kevin Connor, Adobe’s product management director, said the company did not disclose the technology in Photoshop’s instructions at the request of international bankers. He said Adobe is looking at adding the detection mechanism to its other products.

“The average consumer is never going to encounter this in their daily use,” Mr. Connor said. “It just didn’t seem like something meaningful to communicate.”

Angry customers have flooded Adobe’s Internet message boards with complaints about censorship and concerns over future restrictions on other types of images, such as copyrighted or adult material.

“I don’t believe this. This shocks me,” said Stephen M. Burns, president of the Photoshop users group in San Diego. “Artists don’t like to be limited in what they can do with their tools. Let the U.S. government or whoever is

Continue Reading

Faked survey results:

From the Washington Post:

A survey a judge cited in his decision to move Scott Peterson’s capital murder trial out of Modesto contained made-up information, criminal justice students who conducted the survey told a newspaper.

The 10-county survey suggested that more jurors without bias could be found in the San Francisco Bay area or Southern California than in Stanislaus County, which includes Modesto, home town of Peterson’s slain wife, Laci.

But several of the California State University, Stanislaus students who compiled the report told The Modesto Bee they used a lot of fake information because it had been too hard to gather all the data properly. The students requested anonymity, the paper said. . . .

For more on the story, see here and here. Some polling experts say, probably correctly, that the professor should have supervised the students better, and not required them to call on their own time and money — not because the students’ conduct is excusable, but because it was foreseeable, and the professor had a duty to the users of his survey to try to deter even inexcusable misconduct by the students.

     Oh, and here’s something pretty annoying:

One of the seven unidentified students said Friday, “I’m really disappointed in the school. They never said how Dr. Schoenthaler didn’t have permission to do this and they seemed more upset with the students. It wasn’t an approved assignment.”

A self-described spokesperson for the unidentified students said Friday that they are worried about backlash for their whistle-blowing, but continue to stand behind the decision.

Oh, how disappointing! The administration is more upset with students who cheated than with a professor who supposedly violated an internal administrative Human Subjects Review rule (1) that’s aimed at protecting survey subjects, not at protecting the surveytakers or the [...]

Continue Reading