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Onward, Hancock – and the delusion of leadership candidates retreating to their comfort zone

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

Reading Matt Hancock’s piece in the Sunday Times a couple of weekends ago previewing Onward’s interesting new publication, Generation Why, and watching a clip of his speech at the publication’s launch, reminded me why I gave up talking to people in politics about football nearly 20 years ago.

A weird link? Let me explain. There comes a time when, despite theoretically sharing an interest in the same subject, you have so little actual shared experience of that subject that it becomes impossible to have any sort of meaningful conversation about it. You might as well be talking to each other in a foreign language.

As a youth of 16 or 17, playing at the bottom of the non-league pyramid, my favourite place to play was Heanor Town. For those that don’t know the East Midlands, Heanor is a small town in the North of Derbyshire. The football pitch was located at the top of the slope of the cricket pitch. While badly sloped, the pitch was impeccably cut whatever the weather (usually cold or freezing), the floodlights worked, and the dressing rooms had the intense smell of deep heat. Most importantly, the locals absolutely loved football and sport in general. Heanor was a football town.

When you talked to the locals about football, they didn’t just talk about Man Utd or Derby or Forest; of course, they did talk about them, but they’d be as happy talking about the last game against Kimberley Town, or Jeff Astle’s last song on Fantasy Football, or how Notts County fans moaned all the time. In short, when talking about football there was a shared understanding that you were talking about the game as a whole. It was expected that everyone knew practically everything there was to know about the game since they were a child – about players, fans, grounds, songs, old kits and all the rest.

When I arrived in London politics, full as it was with privately educated, mostly Southern staff that hadn’t played much, that shared understanding was totally absent. While many professed a love of the game, their entire way of speaking about it was alien. They’d talk almost entirely about the top of the game over the last few years since they became interested or – increasingly and weirdly – about football statistics. Nobody knew what the Anglo-Italian Cup was, let alone the FA Vase. And because nobody had really played at school, nobody knew what it was like to get hit on the thigh with a Mitre Multiplex in January. The Fast Show’s “I love football” sketch was no longer an amusing parody, but reality. Talking about football was a bizarre and depressing experience. So I stopped.

Which takes me back to Hancock’s article and speech. In giving advice to the Conservatives in appealing to the young, he wrote: “First, we need to get our tone right. Sometimes Conservatives can sound, as Ruth Davidson succinctly put it, a bit ‘dour’. Of course, it’s our job to be the pragmatists, but nobody wants to hang out with the person always pointing out the problems, rather than the one hopeful about the solutions…” At the event, he said:  “As well as delivering better economic prospects for people, we’ve got to sound like we actually like this country. We’ve got to patriots for the Britain of now, not the Britain of 1940. And enough about being just comfortable with modern Britain, we need to champions of modern Britain.”

Just as I found it increasingly difficult to relate to most of the privately-educated, metropolitan Conservatives talking about football, hearing this, I found myself similarly thinking that I have literally nothing in common with the same sorts of people’s views on politics. It’s as if we’ve grown up in entirely different worlds. Honestly, how can anyone think that the British people are collectively optimistic, happy-go-lucky, and modernity-obsessed? How can anyone seriously think that this is the best way to engage with people? How can they imagine themselves walking into the average pub, shopping centre or call centre canteen and connecting with ordinary people with such a case? 

Ordinary people don’t want to hear about 1940 or about life before large-scale immigration; most are happy with the people they live amongst. But they also emphatically don’t want to hear politicians droning on about how great the future is going to be and how technology and 3D printing is going to change everything for the better. It’s just not how they think about the world and not how they talk about it.

Look at what most working class and lower middle class people really think about things – those that make up the bulk of electorate. They think: that the economy is, at best fine, but that they see little of the benefits of growth; that long-term careers are a relic of the past; that good pensions have gone and that a long retirement is just a dream; that home ownership is increasingly unattainable; that the cost of living is too high; that their town centres are boring; that the NHS is over-burdened and under-funded and might fail them when the time comes; that crime is rising and police numbers are falling; that their savings will get raided to pay for social care; that childcare is ruinously expensive; and they think that politicians are out of touch thieves. While this is more prevalent amongst the old in provincial England, it’s actually common everywhere.

Why get so worked up over one little speech and an article? Because it’s clear that the Conservative Party is preparing to return to its recent comfort zone – using claims of a broad appeal to the young, which would be reasonable, to justify an appeal to the tiny number of successful, highly affluent, urban voters who are basically like those at the top of the Party. It’s dressed up as daring and confrontational, but is in fact just about following a path of least-resistance in the Party, while making those that make the case feel good about themselves. If Hancock is so sure this plays well, Heanor are home to Gedling Miners Welfare on Saturday. I’m sure they’d love to hear from him.

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Javid’s speech on knife crime: “We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.”

This is the full text of a speech delivered today by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary.

Today, we’re standing here on the site of a disused pickle factory, next to a very attractive gasworks. In 2013 after a brief spell as a medical storage facility, new life was given to this old unloved warehouse now converted to a trendy events venue.

What we see here today is a thriving business, a cultural asset and a pillar of the local community.

A testament to the Olympic legacy of London 2012, this building speaks to the optimism of those games and the story of regeneration across East London.

We have seen the undoubted benefits of this legacy. Investment, jobs, prosperity – all necessary to changing people’s life chances.

But the story doesn’t end here. In a way, I wish it did.

Economic prosperity can create the building blocks to stronger communities but that alone is not enough.

A closer look at those streets that are surrounding us will show you that our job is not yet done.

There are still too many places where that longed for prosperity has not reached, streets like the ones surrounding us, up and down the country that are instead dangerous and sometimes deadly.

On an almost weekly basis, we wake up to the news that another person has been stabbed, that robbery is on the rise, that serious violent crime is on the up.

This is not just a concern for those communities who are directly affected by that crime. It rightly causes national alarm.

A recent YouGov poll showed that for the first time, crime was a more important issue to the public than health. Last year saw a 14 per cent increase in homicides, a 15 per cent increase in hospital admissions for assaults involving a sharp instrument, a 17 per cent increase in recorded robberies.

This does not make for easy reading and that is exactly why it cannot be ignored. In my job as Home Secretary it is my duty to protect the public. And at the Home Office we work tirelessly to find the right policy solutions to tackle all types of crime. But what affects me more is my job as a father.

Take knife crime. Like everyone else I see the reports on young people feeling the need to carry weapons; it makes me worry about my teenage children.

Will they be hurt if they’re out in the wrong place at the wrong time on a night out? What if they get into an argument that then escalates?

I may be the Home Secretary but I’m not ashamed to confess; I have stayed up late at night waiting to hear the key turning in the door. And only then going to bed knowing that they have come home safe and sound. And like any other dad, when I watch the news and see the faces of all those young victims of knife crime I despair at the waste of those lives.

Many of those lost were of similar ages to my own children. So sometimes I cannot help but see the faces of my own children in the pictures of those victims.

I find it hard to detach the personal from the policy.

So I know that if we don’t feel safe on our own streets, if I don’t think they are safe enough for my children, or if we see our communities being torn apart by crime then something has gone terribly wrong.

Dealing with this scourge is not a simple question of turning around the statistics. The reasons for this rise in violent crime are many. Changes in illicit drugs market and the drive for profit has made criminal gangs take bigger risks and exploit even more vulnerable people. Alcohol abuse and the escalation of violence through social media are other factors that contribute to this picture.

The serious violence strategy the Government set out a year ago, has been a major focus of mine, especially trying to understand how we got to this point, and focusing on the immediate that are steps required to bring the situation under control.

The police told me that more powers, more tools and, yes, resources were needed to make a difference. That’s why I secured nearly a billion pounds more funding, including council tax, for police forces, in this year’s Police Financial Settlement.

That means more money to stamp out drug dealing for tackling serious and organised crime and for local police forces. It means that Police and Crime Commissioners are already planning to recruit 3,500 extra police officers and police staff. And that’s not all.

We are supporting the police by changing the law through the Offensive Weapons Bill, making it more difficult for young people to buy bladed weapons and corrosive substances. We know that acid is becoming a new weapon of choice for violent criminals. Now, if you are going to buy or carry acid, you’re having to have a very good reason.

We are changing the law in other ways too.I am trialling reforms that return authority to the police and give them the discretion that they need to effectively carry out stop-and-search. I know this is not universally welcome. I know that.

There is concern that in enforcing these powers, BAME communities will be affected disproportionately, but we must acknowledge that violence disproportionately impacts BAME communities too. And if stop and search rates drop too low, it does perhaps create a culture of immunity amongst those who carry knives. Stop-and-search saves lives. There are people alive today because of stop and search. I can’t say that clearly enough.

The Funding settlement and powers went a long way to supporting our forces, but senior officers told me that they needed more. More support and more funding.

They asked for £50 million to be immediately released to tackle the rise in serious violence. I doubled it. There is now £100 million extra. – £20 million from the Home Office, and £80 million in new funding from the Treasury. The forces facing the highest levels of serious violent crime will receive this additional funding for surge capacity so they can tackle knife crime in real-time, and not at half-speed.

And while all these efforts will make a big difference to our immediate efforts, the lasting solutions are not short-term. We know that crime doesn’t just appear. It has taken several years for the rise in violent crime to take hold, so we know that the answers cannot be a quick fix.

Before a young person ever picks up a knife, they have been the victim of a string of lost opportunities and missed chances. Any youth worker can tell you that gangs recruit the most vulnerable young people.That drug runners who travel over county lines coerce them into committing crimes.

These children are at risk, and we can detect early on who they are. We can do that. The kid that plays truant. The ones that get into fights. The pupils who struggle at school. And even though we can see the path to criminality, somehow, we still expect these children to make good life choices all on their own.

The sad fact is that many feel that they can’t lose the opportunities that they never had in the first place. What they and their families need is our help. It is exactly why I have launched a £200 million Youth Endowment Fund, to invest in the futures of this country’s most vulnerable youngsters. This fund helps steer them away from violence and offers them a better future.

This is not a one-off pot of money, the funding is spread over ten years, enabling long-term planning and interventions through a child’s most important years. But to address the root causes of serious violence we do need to go much further. We need to tackle adverse childhood experiences in the round, and better identify those children who are most at risk.

Children who grow up with substance abuse, with parental criminality, with perhaps domestic violence. I was lucky enough to realise the dream of every parent – to give your children a better start in life than the one you had yourself, but it could have been very different.

I grew up on what was dubbed by one tabloid as ‘the most dangerous street in Britain’. It’s not so difficult to see how instead of being Cabinet, I could have been taken in to a life of crime. There were the pupils at school that shoplifted, and asked if I wanted to help. The drug dealers who stood near the school gates and told you by joining in you could make easy money.But I was lucky. I had loving and supporting parents, who despite their own circumstances gave me security. I had some brilliant teachers who motivated me to go further than what was expected of me. I even had a girlfriend who believed in me and supported me despite my lack of prospects and went onto to become my wife. Thanks to them all I have built a better life for myself and my family. With their help, I suppose, I made it.

But I do not look back at my upbringing and see it as something in the distant past. The lessons of my childhood help shape the decisions I make every day. Shaping what I want to see for other kids who are just like me. That’s why I know the problems we face are not within the remit of any one government department. By the time a person becomes a problem for the police, it is often too late.

If we are to deliver meaningful change, and stop the violence before it begins, then the mind-set of government needs to shift. We need to instigate a sense of shared responsibility.

Take the frontline professionals, the teachers and nurses, the social and youth workers, all of them already working tirelessly to protect vulnerable young people and enhance the life chances of young people.

I have met teachers who have watched helplessly as one of their students falls under the influence of a gang. Nurses who, night after night, have seen teenagers brought into hospital with knife wounds. So I asked myself, what more can I do to help the people who work on the frontline?

That is why we have planned a public health approach to tackle violent crime. In practice, this means bringing together education, health, social services, housing, youth and social workers, to work them together coherently. It will enable those agencies to collaborate and share information. They will be able to jointly plan and target their support to help young people at risk, to prevent and stop violence altogether.

It is not about blaming those frontline staff for the violence, or asking them to do more. Far from it. It is about giving them the confidence to report their concerns, safe in the knowledge that everyone will close ranks to protect that child. A public health approach doesn’t mean passing the problem onto the NHS or a teacher. Rather, it means that serious violence is treated like the outbreak of some virulent disease. A national emergency.

Our legislation will place a legal duty on all parts of the government to work together not to apportion blame but to ensure there is no let up, until the violence itself is eradicated. We have already announced a new Serious Violence Implementation Task Force, the work of which will be driven by research and evidence starting with the review of drugs misuse led by Dame Carol Black. We already know that the drugs trade is a major catalyst of serious violence. That’s why we launched the National County Lines Coordination Centre in September. But the review will also bring home to middle-class drug users that they are part of the problem. They may never set foot in a deprived area. They may never see an act of serious violence, but their illicit habits are adding fuel to the fire that is engulfing our communities.

If we are to understand violence, we must also understand all its drivers and we in government are at the start of understanding how data can help us do that. Creating and understanding the causes and pathways to crime. Recent analysis by my own department found that the top 5 per cent of crime ‘hotspots’ accounted for some 17 per cent of the total volume of ‘acquisitive crime’. In plain English, crime such as burglaries and car thefts.

That is why the Home Office will be developing new proposals for a Crime Prevention Data Lab. We will be exploring how we can bring together information from the police and other agencies, to enhance our ability to make targeted and effective interventions.

And just as technology can help us prevent crimes, so too can it help criminals. Identities can be stolen online. Credit cards cloned from fake machines. Keyless entry systems tricked to gain access to your car. Criminals are smart, so businesses need to get smarter. I ask myself, if we can do this, what more can business do to help us?

Products and services must be designed to make crime harder to commit. The tech might be new, but the principle is not. In the 1980s, vehicle manufacturers and government came to the conclusion that you could design products to make it more difficult to commit a crime.

It is the reason a modern car comes with central locking, an alarm, steering locks and an immobilizer in all cars as standard. So I will be chairing a meeting with industry leaders, and asking them how they will help us in the fight against acquisitive crime.

Preventing crime can be as simple as fitting locks, alarm systems, and proper street lighting. This may seem like common sense, and in some ways it is, but it works. One trial in Nottingham saw the windows in council houses replaced with more secure versions. Their evaluation showed this intervention yielded a remarkable 42 per cent reduction in burglary from those properties. We have applied the same ideas to moped-enabled crime including a new standard of anti-theft devices on the mopeds themselves. And working with the Metropolitan Police to target hotspot areas, and design more secure two-wheeled vehicle parking.

This work led to a decrease of over 40 per cent of moped crime in a single year. So, we are now looking to apply this similar approach to a wider set of crimes. Just as we can design products to prevent crime, we can also design policy to shape the lives of young people to prevent criminality.

Changing the lives of young people will not be an easy task. Crime has a way of drawing in those who feel a little bit worthless. But when you belong to something greater than yourself, when you have something to lose, it’s not as easy to throw your life away.

Undoubtedly, of course there must be strong ramifications for those who commit crime – there must be. I do not shirk from my responsibility, as Home Secretary, to keep the public safe, whatever that takes.

I want us to be able to come back to this venue and know that, for these communities, something has changed. But to do that, we need to change how we see our young people.

No life is less important than another.

No future should be pre-determined by where you’re born, or how you’re brought up.

We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority

The Chinese government has drawn wide international condemnation for its harsh crackdown on ethnic Muslims in its western region, including holding as many as a million of them in detention camps.

Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said.

The facial recognition technology, which is integrated into China’s rapidly expanding networks of surveillance cameras, looks exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review. The practice makes China a pioneer in applying next-generation technology to watch its people, potentially ushering in a new era of automated racism.

The technology and its use to keep tabs on China’s 11 million Uighurs were described by five people with direct knowledge of the systems, who requested anonymity because they feared retribution. The New York Times also reviewed databases used by the police, government procurement documents and advertising materials distributed by the A.I. companies that make the systems.

Chinese authorities already maintain a vast surveillance net, including tracking people’s DNA, in the western region of Xinjiang, which many Uighurs call home. But the scope of the new systems, previously unreported, extends that monitoring into many other corners of the country.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00chinaprofiling-2-articleLarge One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority Uighurs (Chinese Ethnic Group) Surveillance of Citizens by Government racial profiling police Minorities Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China Megvii Technology Ltd Lee, Kai-Fu Computers and the Internet Computer Vision China cameras Artificial Intelligence

Shoppers lined up for identification checks outside the Kashgar Bazaar last fall. Members of the largely Muslim Uighur minority have been under Chinese surveillance and persecution for years.CreditPaul Mozur

The police are now using facial recognition technology to target Uighurs in wealthy eastern cities like Hangzhou and Wenzhou and across the coastal province of Fujian, said two of the people. Law enforcement in the central Chinese city of Sanmenxia, along the Yellow River, ran a system that over the course of a month this year screened whether residents were Uighurs 500,000 times.

Police documents show demand for such capabilities is spreading. Almost two dozen police departments in 16 different provinces and regions across China sought such technology beginning in 2018, according to procurement documents. Law enforcement from the central province of Shaanxi, for example, aimed to acquire a smart camera system last year that “should support facial recognition to identify Uighur/non-Uighur attributes.”

Some police departments and technology companies described the practice as “minority identification,” though three of the people said that phrase was a euphemism for a tool that sought to identify Uighurs exclusively. Uighurs often look distinct from China’s majority Han population, more closely resembling people from Central Asia. Such differences make it easier for software to single them out.

For decades, democracies have had a near monopoly on cutting-edge technology. Today, a new generation of start-ups catering to Beijing’s authoritarian needs are beginning to set the tone for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Similar tools could automate biases based on skin color and ethnicity elsewhere.

“Take the most risky application of this technology, and chances are good someone is going to try it,” said Clare Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. “If you make a technology that can classify people by an ethnicity, someone will use it to repress that ethnicity.”

From a technology standpoint, using algorithms to label people based on race or ethnicity has become relatively easy. Companies like I.B.M. advertise software that can sort people into broad groups.

But China has broken new ground by identifying one ethnic group for law enforcement purposes. One Chinese start-up, CloudWalk, outlined a sample experience in marketing its own surveillance systems. The technology, it said, could recognize “sensitive groups of people.”

A screen shot from the CloudWalk website details a possible use for its facial recognition technology. One of them: recognizing “sensitive groups of people.”CreditCloudWalk A translation of marketing material for CloudWalk’s facial recognition technology.CreditThe New York Times

“If originally one Uighur lives in a neighborhood, and within 20 days six Uighurs appear,” it said on its website, “it immediately sends alarms” to law enforcement.

In practice, the systems are imperfect, two of the people said. Often, their accuracy depends on environmental factors like lighting and the positioning of cameras.

In the United States and Europe, the debate in the artificial intelligence community has focused on the unconscious biases of those designing the technology. Recent tests showed facial recognition systems made by companies like I.B.M. and Amazon were less accurate at identifying the features of darker-skinned people.

China’s efforts raise starker issues. While facial recognition technology uses aspects like skin tone and face shapes to sort images in photos or videos, it must be told by humans to categorize people based on social definitions of race or ethnicity. Chinese police, with the help of the start-ups, have done that.

“It’s something that seems shocking coming from the U.S., where there is most likely racism built into our algorithmic decision making, but not in an overt way like this,” said Jennifer Lynch, surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There’s not a system designed to identify someone as African-American, for example.”

The Chinese A.I. companies behind the software include Yitu, Megvii, SenseTime, and CloudWalk, which are each valued at more than $1 billion. Another company, Hikvision, that sells cameras and software to process the images, offered a minority recognition function, but began phasing it out in 2018, according to one of the people.

The companies’ valuations soared in 2018 as China’s Ministry of Public Security, its top police agency, set aside billions of dollars under two government plans, called Skynet and Sharp Eyes, to computerize surveillance, policing and intelligence collection.

In a statement, a SenseTime spokeswoman said she checked with “relevant teams,” who were not aware its technology was being used to profile. Megvii said in a statement it was focused on “commercial not political solutions,” adding, “we are concerned about the well-being and safety of individual citizens, not about monitoring groups.” CloudWalk and Yitu did not respond to requests for comment.

China’s Ministry of Public Security did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

Selling products with names like Fire Eye, Sky Eye and Dragonfly Eye, the start-ups promise to use A.I. to analyze footage from China’s surveillance cameras. The technology is not mature — in 2017 Yitu promoted a one-in-three success rate when the police responded to its alarms at a train station — and many of China’s cameras are not powerful enough for facial recognition software to work effectively.

Yet they help advance China’s architecture for social control. To make the algorithms work, the police have put together face-image databases for people with criminal records, mental illnesses, records of drug use, and those who petitioned the government over grievances, according to two of the people and procurement documents. A national database of criminals at large includes about 300,000 faces, while a list of people with a history of drug use in the city of Wenzhou totals 8,000 faces, they said.

A security camera in a rebuilt section of the Old City in Kashgar, Xinjiang.CreditThomas Peter/Reuters

Using a process called machine learning, engineers feed data to artificial intelligence systems to train them to recognize patterns or traits. In the case of the profiling, they would provide thousands of labeled images of both Uighurs and non-Uighurs. That would help generate a function to distinguish the ethnic group.

The A.I. companies have taken money from major investors. Fidelity International and Qualcomm Ventures were a part of a consortium that invested $620 million in SenseTime. Sequoia invested in Yitu. Megvii is backed by Sinovation Ventures, the fund of the well-known Chinese tech investor Kai-Fu Lee.

A Sinovation spokeswoman said the fund had recently sold a part of its stake in Megvii and relinquished its seat on the board. Fidelity declined to comment. Sequoia and Qualcomm did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Mr. Lee, a booster of Chinese A.I., has argued that China has an advantage in developing A.I. because its leaders are less fussed by “legal intricacies” or “moral consensus.”

“We are not passive spectators in the story of A.I. — we are the authors of it,” Mr. Lee wrote last year. “That means the values underpinning our visions of an A.I. future could well become self-fulfilling prophecies.” He declined to comment on his fund’s investment in Megvii or its practices.

Ethnic profiling within China’s tech industry isn’t a secret, the people said. It has become so common that one of the people likened it to the short-range wireless technology Bluetooth. Employees at Megvii were warned about the sensitivity of discussing ethnic targeting publicly, another person said.

China has devoted major resources toward tracking Uighurs, citing ethnic violence in Xinjiang and Uighur terrorist attacks elsewhere. Beijing has thrown hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and others in Xinjiang into re-education camps.

The software extends the state’s ability to label Uighurs to the rest of the country. One national database stores the faces of all Uighurs who leave Xinjiang, according to two of the people.

Read more about the detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang:
How China Turned a City Into a Prison

April 4, 2019

China Is Detaining Muslims in Vast Numbers. The Goal: ‘Transformation.’

Sept. 8, 2018

Critic Who Exposed China’s Muslim Camps is Detained, Even Across the Border

March 13, 2019

Government procurement documents from the past two years also show demand has spread. In the city of Yongzhou in southern Hunan Province, law enforcement officials sought software to “characterize and search whether or not someone is a Uighur,” according to one document.

In two counties in Guizhou Province, the police listed a need for Uighur classification. One asked for the ability to recognize Uighurs based on identification photos at better than 97 percent accuracy. In the central megacity of Chongqing and the region of Tibet, the police put out tenders for similar software. And a procurement document for Hebei Province described how the police should be notified when multiple Uighurs booked the same flight on the same day.

A study in 2018 by the authorities described a use for other types of databases. Co-written by a Shanghai police official, the paper said facial recognition systems installed near schools could screen for people included in databases of the mentally ill or crime suspects.

One database generated by Yitu software and reviewed by The Times showed how the police in the city of Sanmenxia used software running on cameras to attempt to identify residents more than 500,000 times over about a month beginning in mid-February.

Included in the code alongside tags like “rec_gender” and “rec_sunglasses” was “rec_uygur,” which returned a 1 if the software believed it had found a Uighur. Within the half million identifications the cameras attempted to record, the software guessed it saw Uighurs 2,834 times. Images stored alongside the entry would allow the police to double check.

Yitu and its rivals have ambitions to expand overseas. Such a push could easily put ethnic profiling software in the hands of other governments, said Jonathan Frankle, an A.I. researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I don’t think it’s overblown to treat this as an existential threat to democracy,” Mr. Frankle said. “Once a country adopts a model in this heavy authoritarian mode, it’s using data to enforce thought and rules in a much more deep-seated fashion than might have been achievable 70 years ago in the Soviet Union. To that extent, this is an urgent crisis we are slowly sleepwalking our way into.”

An undercover police officer in Kashgar.CreditPaul Mozur

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Meet the “Women Against Private Police”

Westlake Legal Group ba0ee6a4-f894-4d73-896d-e4e57e35d950 Meet the “Women Against Private Police” The Blog private police baltimore

In Maryland, the state legislature recently granted Johns Hopkins University the power to create a private police force with the ability to control their campuses and other school facilities. The measure requires final approval from the Governor, but he’s already gone on record in support of the bill. This has apparently upset some of the residents living around those campus properties and a group of them have organized a petition drive to prevent the law from going into effect. These are the “Women Against Private Police.” (Baltimore Sun)

A group of Baltimore residents who live near Johns Hopkins campuses have filed formal paperwork to launch a petition drive to put the creation of an armed Hopkins police force on the 2020 ballot to let voters decide.

The organization “Women Against Private Police” formed a ballot issue committee Wednesday to fight the creation of the Johns Hopkins police force that was recently authorized by both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.

The legislation creating the force is awaiting the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan, who has said he supports the bill.

This petition drive may never get anywhere near the finish line, so the issue might wind up being moot. They need to collect almost 70,000 signatures in three months and they don’t have a lot of boots on the ground. And it would require them to dig up that many people from the affected communities who actually agree with them.

On that subject, what exactly is the complaint against establishing a campus police force? I’ve sifted through a few articles that include interviews with these women and they never seem to get down to any specific concerns. It’s all generalities about not wanting to “militarize” Johns Hopkins. I’m unsure what that even means.

You need to keep the schools safe and enforce the law, no? (At least I’d hope we could all agree on at least that much.) But the problem is that we simply don’t have enough cops. Large universities draw in big surges in population and the local law enforcement agencies don’t see a surge in their budgets to increase staffing and keep up. A system like this allows for other channels of funding to provide more police protection.

And it’s not as if we’re talking about some rogue militia force here. The laws vary from state to state, but campus police forces are pretty much the same as regular police, though most have restrictions on where they can patrol and which laws they enforce. (There’s a good article at FindLaw from 2012 that explains many of these distinctions.) If the school was hiring private armed guards like mall cops, perhaps I could understand the complaint, but that’s simply not the case here.

Maryland’s system seems fairly basic and supportable in this regard. People aren’t allowed to just hire their own army of private guards and send them out on the streets to enforce the law. Requests have to be approved by the state government, demonstrate available funding and comply with applicable laws. And the campus police will remain almost entirely on property controlled by Johns Hopkins. The opposition to more uniformed officers out on the beat keeping you safe is puzzling to say the least.

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Craig Hoy: Stop demanding the law-abiding simply learn to live with anti-social behaviour

Craig Hoy is a former Downing Street Lobby correspondent and a member of the Scottish Conservative Party.

After anything but a Merry Christmas, the last thing our struggling high streets need is to be blighted by anti-social behaviour. But all too often our villages, towns and cities are marred by low-level violence and intimidation, which reveal a stubborn stain on the character of modern Scotland.

Earlier this year, The Scottish Sun reported on ‘ASBO Avenue‘, where five individuals presided over a “reign of terror” on a small cul-de-sac. The number of dangerous dog notices issued across Scotland is up by 270 per cent in six years. Crime rose by 1.7 per cent in Scotland last year, with offences involving a weapon up by 3.4 per cent and robberies surging by 8.4 per cent.

In my home town of Haddington in East Lothian – where I now spend much of my time, following a decade running a business in the sharply different environs of Asia – authorities recently agreed a so-called ‘Problem Solving Partnership’ to tackle a spate of extreme anti-social behaviour. The actions of a small number of visible individuals alarmed local residents and angered weary local businesses. A series of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) followed, including one which bans a 38-year-old woman using “aggressive, abusive or intimidating language or behaviour” preventing her entering the street “in a group of more than two people”.

At the heart of this problem lies the vexing balancing act between personal rights and responsibilities. If you speak in private to those responsible for enforcing ASBOs, or pursuing tenant evictions, they admit that the pendulum has swung much too far in the wrong direction.

Those seeking to prosecute this behaviour say they are doing so with one hand tied behind their back. Cash-strapped local authorities and over-stretched police often lack the capacity to respond effectively – or react at all. The legal processes can be drawn-out and complex – and biased in favour of the offender.

While it’s un-PC to advocate hard-line early intervention, there’s mounting evidence that we’re still too reluctant to respond decisively to damaging and dangerous behaviour. Or, in the East Lothian case, the response is wrong: to house anti-social residents in the same locality, to make it easier for relevant agencies to monitor their behaviour – or, worse still, alongside good neighbours in the vain hope that it will make them change their ways.

The structural language of the mechanisms deployed hints at this sense of misguided logic. Take ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contracts’. These voluntary written agreements between councils, landlords and tenants have no legal status.

Think about it for a moment. It has come to something when adults have to explicitly agree in writing “not to threaten or abuse residents or passers-by” or, worse still, “not to throw missiles” at them. People ought to know that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and act accordingly, without having to sign a piece of paper.

Tony Blair’s much-vaunted “respect agenda” has been lost by governments of all political persuasions over recent decades and more.

What strikes me most, and should worry us all, is that many now believe this is a problem we simply have to learn to live with. They view it as a battle too complex – or too costly – to tackle through the penal system or via social or welfare policy. It is, say some on the Left, an undesirable but inevitable outcome of unacceptable levels of poverty and deprivation. I doubt that this is completely true but no political party is without blame.
 Two years ago, one of the starkest problems which struck me on my return to Scotland after a decade in Asia was the level of “everyday” anti-social behaviour. That could be kids on bikes “buzzing” an elderly pedestrian, or hooded youths using unleashed dogs to passively threaten those who walk by.

I accept comparing Scotland to countries such as Singapore is probably a fruitless exercise. Crude comparisons fail to take into account different cultural norms, legal and penal systems, the role of the family and the impact of different levels of wealth and the welfare system on an individual’s behaviour.

But it’s worth trying to assess precisely why significant levels of anti-social behaviour have been “priced in” to the everyday currency of life in Scotland today when other countries still adopt zero tolerance. If the respect agenda works elsewhere, then we shouldn’t give up on it here.

Scotland is prepared to think out of the box. Moves towards tackling knife crime through a “public health” approach have been successful in Glasgow. But it is worth stressing that finding “reachable and teachable moments” to educate offenders were deployed alongside deterrent based measures, including, for a period, increased stop and search and tougher sentences.

Finding a lasting solution to anti-social behaviour and violence might mean having difficult conversations about relying less on community sentencing, increasing fines and using custodial sentences more.

Community Justice Scotland (CJS) says the criminal justice system has to be “swift and visible”, but “balanced and fair” – allowing offenders to “build better lives” for themselves and their families. But we must be very careful we don’t create a dangerous imbalance in the same way we have over rights and responsibilities.

The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill, currently before the Holyrood Parliament, suggests further use of electronic tagging. CJS is calling for more ambitious measures still. Such calls should be resisted until it’s proven they reduce crime and re-offending across the cycle.

With attention focused on Brexit and the threat of Indyref2, it would be all too easy to push complex policy issues aside. But it would be completely wrong to admit defeat by failing to wrestle with these intractable issues.

Anti-social behaviour hits the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Taking action must remain a top-level policy priority for the Tory Party in Scotland, just as it should be for our political opponents.

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‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts

FORESTVILLE, Md. — ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Forestville fire house, first responders were stirring, led by Prince George’s County police Lt. Jen Krauss.

There wasn’t a fire to put out nor an arrest to be made; there were, instead, presents to be loaded so some Christmas spirits don’t fade.

You see, there are four kids and a mom who have been in despair, and this is something the police officers and firefighters wanted to help repair.

The mom, Sophia Chestang, has fought cancer and three strokes recently, all of this while raising her young family.

“She’s a remarkable person; she is trying so hard,” said Lt. Krauss, who was planning to catch the family off guard.

Westlake Legal Group chestang1-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police surprise Sophia Chestang with gifts for her family on Christmas Even. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Westlake Legal Group chestang2-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police surprise Sophia Chestang with gifts for her family on Christmas Even. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Westlake Legal Group chestang4-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police and first responders load up with presents for Sophia Chestang’s family on Christmas Eve. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Westlake Legal Group chestang3-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police and first responders surprise Sophia Chestang on Christmas Eve with gifts and money to pay off back rent. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

With police cars and fire trucks loaded like Santa’s sleigh, the first responders left the fire house prepared to make the mother’s day.

Red and blue lights lit up the night sky, as the motorcade moved through the streets, oh, how did they fly.

In Chestang’s apartment, through the window there were flashes of light, so she grabbed up her kids to head into the night.

When she opened her door, what did appear? A line of first responders with hands full of Christmas cheer!

In came lieutenants, sergeants, corporals and officers first class, followed by firefighters, EMTs and battalion chiefs also did pass.

Some carried bags full of food, others had wrapped gifts in tow; two officers carried a couch in and asked the family, “Where should this go?”

Chestang’s eyes filled with tears, overwhelmed by the sight. Her children’s eyes lit up like stars as they jumped with delight.

Little did Chestang know that the best hadn’t come yet. What was in a little black box is what she wouldn’t forget.

You see, her health issues had left her behind in the rent. Inside the box was money, which would be well-spent.

Krauss said, “Sophia, we’ve raised enough money to pay all your back rent.” The cash in the box covered every last cent.

Chestang started to cry, as she gave Krauss an affectionate embrace. There were smiles abound, on every face.

“A caravan of love” is what Chestang called the Christmas miracle that happened this night — how so many came together to help her out of her plight.

“Merry Christmas” and “thank you,” the family said to those who pulled off this feat, a kindhearted gesture, which will help them get back on their feet.

The seeds for a brighter future for Chestang’s family the first responders have sown. Chestang said, “It lets me know that I’m not alone.”

Once the fire trucks and police cars were unloaded, the crews headed back into the night, to serve the community so that every one could sleep tight.


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Fed judge sides with Baltimore police on surveillance device

BALTIMORE (AP) — A federal judge is siding with Baltimore police in a civil lawsuit over the use of a clandestine cellphone-surveillance device. The Daily Record reports that U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake ruled Wednesday that an order obtained by police met the requirement for a warrant. Blake reached the opposite conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals. The state appellate court ruled…


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