04 February 2011

Friday Links of Interest

* Colorado's incarceration rate for women (93 per 100,000 population) is the third highest in the United States after Oklahoma (134 per 100,000), and Texas (98 per 100,000). The national average is 69 per 100,000. "In 2004, [Oklahoma] imprisoned more than 10 times as many women per capita as Massachusetts or Rhode Island."

* Microsoft's customer support website chronicles the ire of people who have had Bing hijack their systems.

* "[H]ow many offenders sentenced under the old 100-1 crack guidelines (and the amended version applicable from 2007 to 2010) would benefit from retroactive application of the new 18-1 crack guidelines that the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act produced"?

12,835 offenders sentenced between October 1, 1991, and September 30, 2009 (fiscal years 1992 through 2009), would be eligible to receive a reduced sentence if [the new sentencing guideline] were made retroactive. If these offenders were to receive reduced sentences . . . the dates on which they would be released would span more than thirty years....

Based on [additional] assumptions, the average sentence reduction for all impacted offenders with sufficient information to perform this analysis would be 22.7 percent (or 37 months, from 163 months to 126 months). Table 6 shows that 7,612 offenders (76.9%) would receive a sentence reduction of 48 months or less. Conversely, 286 offenders (2.9%) would receive a sentence reduction of more than 10 years.

A more modest adjustment to the crack sentencing guidelines in 2007 was applied retroactively. "The 2007 reduction benefited over 15,000 crack prisoners, though the amount of sentence reduction was only around 2 years of imprisonment."

The federal corrections budget would be reduced by about $1 billion if the sentencing guideline change mandated by the Fair Sentencing Act was made retroactive.

* Mohamad Hammoud was the first man convicted of charges including material support for terrorism after 9/11 (he was the first man charged under a 1996 law that makes it illegal to give money to designated terror groups and was found guilty and sentenced shortly after 9/11). He was sentenced to 155-years in prison "for smuggling cigarettes and sending $3,500 of the profits to Hezbollah." This was reduced this past January by Judge Graham Mullen on the grounds that this was "grossly disproportionate." But, the new sentence for the man who has served about ten years in prison so far is 30 years in prison after the original sentence was reversed on appeal. Thus, "the 37-year-old from Lebanon will spend an additional two decades in prison, then likely be deported." Hammoud plans to appeal the new sentence as well.

His attorneys wanted Hammoud to walk out of the courtroom with a sentence of the more than 10 years he already served. . . They contend he sent the money to a wing of Hezbollah that helps provide Middle Eastern communities with clean water and good housing, not the military wing labeled terrorists by the United States government for numerous attacks on Israel. . . . defense attorneys brought up more than a dozen cases in which people got sentences much shorter than Hammoud, including sentences of only a few decades for defendants that provided actual weapons and hundreds of thousands of dollars to terrorist organizations. "This is a case where people get seven years, eight years," Hammoud's attorney Stanley Cohen said.

From here.

* Twin studies, surprisingly, show a strong hereditary component to adolescent crime victimization:

[G]enetic factors explained a surprisingly significant 40 to 45 percent of the variance in adolescent victimization among the twins, while non-shared environments (those environments that are not the same between siblings) explained the remaining variance. But among adolescents who were victimized repeatedly, the effect of genetic factors accounted for a whopping 64 percent of the variance.

The study's author surmises that "genetically influenced traits such as low self control affect delinquent behavior, and delinquents, particularly violent ones, tend to associate with antisocial peers."

* Low prices of consumer electronics in the U.K. have caused criminals to shift from committing burglaries to muggings where small, high value items like iPods and laptop computers are stolen.

* High IQ people of modest means are considerably less likely to get higher education in Minnesota than in Sweden, while low IQ people from affluent families were more likely to get higher education in Minnesota than in Sweden. Higher education is free in Sweden to students with good grades and test scores, but money is still a barrier to these students in the United States.

Notably, Harvard and several other Ivy League schools have instituted sliding scale tuition arrangements so that they can continue to admit the most qualified applicants regardless of means. For example, Harvard limits tuition to 10% of the first $180,000 of family income and has ceased including student loans in undergraduate financial aid packages.

* Tree ring data from Mexico released last year showed that a "large ancient drought previously confirmed for the Southwest of the United States is shown to have extended into central Mexico (1149-1167 AD)."

[It] also provides the first independent confirmation of the so-called Terminal Classic drought, a megadrought some anthropologists relate to the collapse of the Mayan civilization. This decades-long dry period had been previously determined by analysis of lake and basin sediments in other areas of Mexico and the Caribbean. . . [The data] narrowed the event's timing to 897-922 AD and confirmed that it had a wider geographical impact than previously thought, extending into the highlands of Central Mexico, where other classic period cultures were located.

This parallels recent 2500 years of paleoclimate data from Europe that also shows a strong link between the major upheaval in European civilization in the last couple of thousand years and climate trends.

At times of social stability and prosperity, like the rise of the Roman Empire between 300 B.C.E. and 200 C.E., Europe experienced warm, wet summers ideal for agriculture. Similar conditions accompanied the peak years of medieval Europe between 1000 C.E. and 1200 C.E. . . .

In the 3rd century C.E. . . . extended droughts matched the timing of barbarian invasions and political turmoil. Around 1300 C.E., on the other hand, a cold snap combined with wetter summers coincides with widespread famines and plague that wiped out nearly half of Europe's population by 1347. . . . In eras of prosperity, more trees were cut down for building and fuel, yielding more samples in the archaeological record. At other times, like the years after the Black Death and the so-called Migration Period between 300 C.E. and 600 C.E. when the Roman Empire was overwhelmed by tribes pushing in from the east, the number of wood samples dwindles to nearly nothing.

Krugman and Brad DeLong, meanwhile, have recently noted an interesting article from 1970 on the connection between the institutions of slavery and serfdom in Europe and the Black Death. Climate data may elucidate some of the unanswered questions from that analysis.

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