Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: You know what ...

240 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 Newer→ Last

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I can assure you from personal checking that to a lab full of biologists, "the DNA results made them 99.5% certain it was bin Laden" is a hysterically funny joke.

    Could you elucidate? I'm prepared to believe they had DNA (familial?) for comparison, but obviously I have no idea what they might have been able to show.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17983 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    So, Danyl, the post WW2 war crimes trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo (flawed and ambiguous as they were) didn’t achieve anything – as opposed to going past the judge and jury and straight to the executioners?

    With all due respect to President Obama, vengeance is not justice. It wasn’t in 1946, and it isn’t now. Justice is hard and elusive; perhaps we will never find it in this world, or any other. But I just thought we were supposed to be better.

    The Nuremberg Trials involved prisoners who were already in captivity. If this piece is even half true – and no man has ever so much loved his wife that he would attempt to lay down her life in order to save his own – then what took place was a rolling firefight in a purpose-built and heavily fortified building, where Osama and co had a home team advantage.

    Unless Bin Laden was gunned down while actively seeking to surrender, I don’t think it is reasonable to fault the US for not bringing him out alive, any more than you can gripe about the New Zealand police not being able to bring David Gray in front of a judge after Aramoana.

    Sometimes justice and vengeance can be delivered simultaneously.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    You’d think that might have stuck in people’s minds.

    With the help of *their* television news? Are you kidding? :) (We can’t even get people in NZ to remember how shitty privatisation was last go-round.)

    The response in 2001, taking its cue from Bush, verged on the infantile

    That’s true, but what was interesting to me was that very brief window before the infantilism started. There were a few weeks when people were asking questions, wanting to learn about reasons for the attacks. My third-tier university held well-attended “teach-in” evenings to discuss American foreign policy, for example. That quickly became subsumed, though. It was an odd time. I think with different leadership it could have turned out so much less awfully.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3583 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I don’t think 911 was much of a surprise inside the USA either

    I do. Because it was. No amount of Monday-morning quarterbacking ten years on can change the fact that, for everyone but a tiny handful of people at the very top, it was a shock attack with zero warning whatsoever.

    [ETA: I don't mean the people at the top knew exactly what was going to happen, but rather that they had fair warning that something was brewing]

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1408 posts Report Reply

  • Clint Fern, in reply to richard,

    It was vengeance pure and simple. If justice is killing someone who may have ordered an attack which killed civilians then Bill Clinton, for example, should be shot for the bombing of the Sudanese aspirin factory. There may be one or two more cases involving US / European leaders as well.

    I've no sympathy for bin Laden, but would have none for Rumsfeld either.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 58 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Jolisa: I don't know - I was living in the US at the time - OBL had been talked about in the media for a while, his name wasn't a new one - after all he was Reagan's golden boy fighting the russians in Afghanistan, funded by the US - the fact that he'd turned against the US was not news

    There had been the 1993 WTC attack, various attacks in the middle east, Sudan - the first Iraq war had happened under Bush 1 (with hundreds of thousands of us marching in the street against it!) - if you listened to NPR, watched public television you knew that AQ existed and had the US in its sights

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    if you listened to NPR, watched public television

    And *that's* the problem with your argument, right there. ;)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3583 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Could you elucidate? I’m prepared to believe they had DNA (familial?) for comparison, but obviously I have no idea what they might have been able to show.

    Oh, not because they doubt the validity - with sibling DNA you could establish it was Osama beyond reasonable doubt - but because firstly, in biological terms,we talk about percentage similarities in DNA to establish species, and "99.5% similar" DNA is...similar enough to be human. Well, maybe Neanderthal.

    Secondly, because if you can say that a given sample of DNA is 99.5% certain to belong to one person (i.e. be related to the known sample you're testing it against) ...well, you're basically saying that 5 times out of 1000, any other random sample would give you a false match. There are seven-billion-odd people on this planet. Fewer than seven billion are of the right age, gender, and ethnicity, but still. When you look for familial DNA matches, you look for probabilities more like one in millions that a random sample would match the known sample - in New Zealand, for instance, you'd want a certainty of better than 1 in 4 million. Above that, at least one other random person in the country will test positive by chance.

    Now I'm quite sure the spokesperson was saying "99.5%" in the way most people use it, as a shorthand for "we're really, really sure". I'm certain it wasn't the actual statistical probability they got back. But if you're used to working with these things, it sounds pretty funny.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Shand,

    I predict that the GOP media will now feel that they have over-reached with their vitriol for anything President Obama. For a time atleast we should see a much cleaner conversation representing what amounts for democracy in America.

    auck • Since Aug 2008 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Oh, you science types, with your tiresome insistence that words and numbers have meaning, and should be used with care and precision. "Pshaw!" I say to you, Madame! Tish-tosh! :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11622 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I predict that GOP media will now feel that they have over-reached with their vitriol for anything President Obama.

    Economist blogger ‘E.G’ seems to agree with you. I hope you’re both right, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on the Tea Baggers (and their GOP panderers) having a rational neuron in their empty little heads.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11622 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    It's probably more interesting for Osama's DNA because his father had many wives - whether or not he and his sister share a common mother would have some impact on how useful her DNA would be

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Danielle,

    if you listened to NPR, watched public television

    And *that’s* the problem with your argument, right there. ;)

    But I did!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1408 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Nick Shand,

    For a time atleast we should see a much cleaner conversation representing what amounts for democracy in America.

    hah.

    So far I've learned that Obama didn't smile enough in the speech, he didn't seem happy about what he was saying, he was too flowery when talking about 9/11, used the word "I" too much and didn't thank GWB enough.

    I seem to remember back when he was a candidate, Obama copped flack for saying that he would go after OBL in Pakistan with or without a green light from Islamabad. McCain said he wouldn't.

    If the dem surrogates were anything like the gop's we'd be hearing about nothing else for the next two years.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 193 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    There had been the 1993 WTC attack, various attacks in the middle east, Sudan – the first Iraq war had happened under Bush 1 (with hundreds of thousands of us marching in the street against it!) – if you listened to NPR, watched public television you knew that AQ existed and had the US in its sights..

    Or Time Magazine, who had bin Laden on the cover in 1998, I seem to recall. I think they even had an interview with him. (I'm going on memory here). I know Time doesn't have the circulation it once did, but it still gets a bit wider than a few pointy heads.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Shand, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    didn’t smile enough in the speech ....

    Sounds cleaner to me. No mention of nazi death panel combos.

    auck • Since Aug 2008 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Jolisa: I don’t know – I was living in the US at the time – OBL had been talked about in the media for a while, his name wasn’t a new one – after all he was Reagan’s golden boy fighting the russians in Afghanistan, funded by the US – the fact that he’d turned against the US was not news

    There had been the 1993 WTC attack, various attacks in the middle east, Sudan – the first Iraq war had happened under Bush 1 (with hundreds of thousands of us marching in the street against it!) – if you listened to NPR, watched public television you knew that AQ existed and had the US in its sights

    I think you are right that the possibility of Al Qaeda attacks themselves were foreseeable, and it certainly didn’t take long to figure out who was responsible after they had happened.

    But I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim to have anticipated something on the scale of what happened on 9/11. (And, yes, I am aware of the FBI guy worried about terrorists going to flight school).

    Nor do I think that a "regular" sized Al Qaeda attack on the US would have prompted a response on the scale of the one that followed 9/11.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    It’s probably more interesting for Osama’s DNA because his father had many wives – whether or not he and his sister share a common mother would have some impact on how useful her DNA would be

    Half-siblings is still plenty close enough for a match. As good as first cousins, essentially.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Rob Hosking,

    Or Time Magazine, who had bin Laden on the cover in 1998, I seem to recall. I think they even had an interview with him. (I’m going on memory here). I know Time doesn’t have the circulation it once did, but it still gets a bit wider than a few pointy heads.

    Yeah, but it's not the same as a day-to-day concern; I'm sure plenty of people knew about it, but that's not the same as worrying about it. Plenty of people knew that Christchurch had a significant earthquake risk. The number who actually worried about it was rather smaller. Emotional comprehension and intellectual awareness of these sort of rare-event risks are streets apart; few enough in the US had the latter, still fewer the former.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW,

    There seems to be much carelessness in commentaries on the context of OBL's compound in Pakistan. The NY Times has maps of the location and diagram detail - and interesting to compare with the current GoogleEarth image which dates from June 2005. It is 1.4 km as the crow flies from the entrance to the Pakistan Military Academy, twice that by vehicle given the irregularity of access well off the main roads. It's on a flat essentially rural area of intensively cultivated small plots, a peri-urban area of scattered houses and trees taller than the buildings. The main buildings apparently show only minor changes since 2005.

    That is, it was not a conspicuous new construction perched on a hilltop in full view of the Pakistani military elite who turned a suspiciously blind eye as suggested eg. by so-called expert speaking with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon this morning. Seems like a pretty good spot to have hidden really.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 775 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I guess my point was that OBL/AQ as a threat was bubbling away in the news through much of the 90's - probably the real problem was that Entertainment Tonight and Leno weren't covering them

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Could you elucidate? I'm prepared to believe they had DNA (familial?) for comparison, but obviously I have no idea what they might have been able to show.

    Although our DNA is roughly 99.9% identical, there is such a huge variation in the other 0.1% (which are mostly non-coding regions) that you can usually nail down a statistic like: 'there is a 1 in a hundred million chance this is not bin Laden or one of his brothers, all of whom are accounted for'.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Is there any real justification for prolonged American military presence in Afghanistan now?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8040 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Although our DNA is roughly 99.9% identical, there is such a huge variation in the other 0.1% (which are mostly non-coding regions) that you can usually nail down a statistic like: ‘there is a 1 in a hundred million chance this is not bin Laden or one of his brothers, all of whom are accounted for’.

    And, given the number of human beings around, you need that level of certainty to be, well, certain.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    When you look for familial DNA matches, you look for probabilities more like one in millions that a random sample would match the known sample – in New Zealand, for instance, you’d want a certainty of better than 1 in 4 million. Above that, at least one other random person in the country will test positive by chance.

    As the population increases there is more chance of a random match, but saying that above this at least one other person will test positive is not a true. Its more likely, but not definite. And the same sentiment works in reverse too.

    I’m sure it was just a nice simplification, but it shows how the sort of human-can-understand-this projection onto a statistical number can be a bit misleading. I wonder if this sort of twisting is used by lawyers in the courts to confuse...?

    And my pals who do criminal forensic DNA testing for a living confirm that sibling testing should be able to confirm OBL’s DNA to a very high level, well above 99.5% (and as they were free to increase the number of loci tested above what is the standard number tested in forensic labs, the US scientists could have got this figure very very high indeed if they wanted).

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 123 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.