A WELSH mother of two facing drug trafficking charges in Malaysia no longer faces the prospect of death by hanging if found guilty, it is understood.
Shivaun Orton, 41, of Harlech in North Wales and her husband, Abdul Harris Fadilah, have been held in a Malaysian prison on remand since they were arrested shortly before Christmas.
Police raided the beach resort the couple ran in the northern state of Terngganu and reportedly seized drugs worth an estimated £16,000.
Shivaun pleaded not guilty to eight charges of drug trafficking and possessing cannabis, amphetamine and heroin at a hearing in January.
Under Malaysian law, possessing more than 15g of heroin carries the death penalty.
She was due to make a court appearance today but this evening, a member of Shivaun’s family who have begun a Facebook campaign in support of her posted this message: “Shivaun and Harris did not go to court today as a chemical report showed that there was less than 15g of heroin so the lawyer had the trafficking charged dropped- this means they no longer face the death penalty - they will still face the other charges at a court appearance in May.”
Shivaun Orton is said to be in good health and seeing her sons Jacob, 16, and Isaac, 14, on a regular basis.
Her brother Daniel said the family have been in contact with the Foreign Office. He said: “The Foreign Office have said Shivaun is in good spirits.”
Her family say she is a victim of a controlling marriage.
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Council membersHighlighted extract from this page: “Council members are all highly valued and bring with them a wealth of diverse experience.” Lord Justice Leveson
Right Honourable, The Lord Judge
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Igor Judge is the president of the Sentencing Council. In his role he provides oversight to the Council and appoints judicial members.
He became Lord Chief Justice on 1 October 2008.
He was called to the Bar in 1963, became a Queen’s Counsel in 1979, appointed High Court Judge, Queen's Bench Division 1988, was appointed Lord Justice of Appeal and sworn in as a Privy Councillor, 1996, was Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales from1998 to 2003, appointed Deputy Chief Justice for England and Wales in 2003 and appointed President of the Queen's Bench Division in 2005.
The Right Honourable Lord Justice Leveson
Brian Leveson was appointed as chairman of the Sentencing Council by the Lord Chief Justice, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Most recently he has held the position of Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales for the three year term until December 2009.
He was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1970. He practised on the northern circuit from chambers in Liverpool, across the full range of common law work, crime, personal injury and commercial work. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1986, and was a Recorder and a Deputy High Court Judge. He was appointed a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, in 2000, and served as a Presiding Judge of the northern circuit. In 2005 he was appointed to the new position of Deputy Senior Presiding Judge, and in 2006 as a Lord Justice of Appeal. He is an honorary fellow of Merton College, Oxford and has received an honorary LL.D. from the University of Liverpool.
District Judge (Magistrates' Court) Anne Arnold
Anne Arnold was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1981. She was appointed as a Stipendiary Magistrate, now District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts), for the East and West Sussex commission areas in 1999 based at Brighton Magistrates’ Court. Since 2006 she has been the Resident DJ (MC) at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court. She was appointed a Recorder assigned to the western circuit in 2005. She is a member of the Judicial Studies Board DJ (MC) Continuation Training Tutor Team and serves on the Legal Committee of the Council of Her Majesty’s DJs (MC). Prior to her appointment as a judge she was employed as Director of Legal Services for the Dorset Magistrates’ Courts.
John Crawforth OBE
John Crawforth has been the chief officer for Greater Manchester probation area since March 2005, becoming the first chief executive of the Greater Manchester Probation Trust in April 2009. Prior to this he was chief officer for the Lancashire Probation Area from 1994. John began his probation career in Greater Manchester in 1974 as a probation officer, working in Bury, and then as a probation manager in inner-city Manchester and Salford. He is a graduate of Leeds, Nottingham and Cambridge Universities with an M.Phil in criminology.
His special interests include sentencing and the courts, promoting safer communities and working to develop successful rehabilitation programmes for offenders in prison and on release. John was formerly chair of the Lancashire Criminal Justice Board and has played a key role there and in Greater Manchester in improving public confidence in the criminal justice system. John was awarded an OBE in June 2008 for public and voluntary service.
Siobhain Egan is a consultant solicitor specialising in defending allegations concerning fraud, serious organised crime, money laundering and regulatory offences. She qualified as a criminal defence barrister in 1989, transferring in 1993 to become a solicitor. She was appointed by the Legal Services Commission to sit on the Very High Costs Cases Appeal Committee. Siobhain was The Times Lawyer of the Week in June 2003 as a result of her work on the Beckham kidnapping case, and from 2005 to 2008 has been cited in both the Legal 500 and the Chambers Legal Directory. Siobhain has also assisted the BBC and Granada TV with a number of documentaries on criminal justice issues and in 2009 she collaborated with The Independent and The Guardian on articles focusing on criminal legal issues.
His Honour Judge Globe QC
Henry Globe was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1972. He practised on the northern circuit between 1972 and 2003 and was joint head of chambers of Exchange Chambers from 2000 to 2003. He has been standing counsel to the then Department for Social Security and Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. He became a Recorder in 1991 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994. He was appointed as a Senior Circuit Judge for crime and became Resident Judge at Liverpool Combined Court and the Honorary Recorder of Liverpool in October 2003. He has been a member of the Judicial Studies Board Criminal Committee and has been course director for the Judicial Studies Board for murder and manslaughter cases and for serious fraud cases. He has been a judicial member of the Criminal Justice Council.
Tim Godwin OBE QPM
Tim Godwin has been the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since December 2008 and has chaired the London Criminal Justice Partnership since April 2006. On leaving school, he spent six years in the Merchant Navy, where he achieved the rank of second mate, before joining Sussex Police in 1981 where he served until joining the Metropolitan Police in 1999. On behalf of ACPO, he is responsible for Criminal Justice. Tim has a degree in public sector police studies from the University of Portsmouth and a diploma in applied criminology from Cambridge University. In 1991 Tim received the Royal Humane Society Testimonial for rescuing a man from a high bridge over a railway line and he received the national prize for public management leadership in 1998 by the Office of Public Management.
Tim was awarded an OBE in 2003 and the Queen's Police Medal in 2009.
Gillian Guy is the chief executive of the independent charity, Citizens Advice, the body that leads, supports and promotes Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales. She is the lead member of the executive management team, who are together responsible for the day-to-day leadership and running of the organisation.
Gillian was previously the chief executive of Victim Support and led a major programme of change and development. She was also instrumental in developing new and improved services for victims. Previously Gillian trained as a lawyer and spent 11 years as chief executive of the London Borough of Ealing.
The Right Honourable Lord Justice Hughes
Anthony Hughes was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1970. His principal chambers were in Birmingham, practising a mix of common law, crime and family. He was a Crown Court Recorder from 1988 to 1997 and head of No.1 Fountain Court Chambers, Birmingham. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1990. From 1997 to 2003, he was a Judge of the High Court of Justice, Family Division. He served as Presiding Judge on the midland circuit from 2000 to 2003, and then transferred to the Queen's Bench Division. In 2000 he was appointed Presiding Judge of the midland Circuit and in 2006 was appointed Lord Justice of Appeal and is currently the Vice President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal.
Anthony Hughes is deputy Chairman of the Sentencing Council.
His Honour Judge McCreath
Alistair McCreath was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1972. He practiced from chambers in Birmingham. He was appointed an Assistant Recorder in 1986, a Recorder in 1990 and a Circuit Judge in 1996, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court. He became Resident Judge at Worcester Crown Court in April 2006 and in 2007 became Honorary Recorder of Worcester. He was a tutor Judge and deputy course director for JSB criminal induction seminars from 1998 to 2007, since when he has been course director for criminal continuation. He has also been course director for long and complex cases.
Katharine Rainsford JP
Katharine Rainsford has been a Magistrate on the West Hertfordshire Bench since 1987 and was chair of the bench from 2004 to 2007. She is currently vice chairman of the family panel and has been bench training and development committee chair. Katharine also works for the Judicial Studies Board where she is in her third year as director of the national bench chairman’s course.
By profession Katharine is an internationally published historical novelist, writing under the name of Katharine McMahon. She has published seven books, including the The Crimson Rooms and best-seller The Rose of Sebastopol which was shortlisted for the Best Read Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards. She is an advisory fellow with the Royal Literary Fund and teaches and mentors creative writers.
The Honourable Mrs Justice Rafferty, DBE
Anne Rafferty was called to the bar by Gray’s Inn in 1973. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990 and a Recorder in 1991. In 1996 she was appointed Deputy High Court Judge and was head of chambers at 4, Brick Court. She was the first woman to be made Vice-Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association and then chair and was also the first female chair of the Bar Conference. In 2000 she became a High Court Judge and between 2003 and 2006 was Presiding Judge of the south eastern circuit.
In July 2005 she received an honorary LL.D conferred from the University of Sheffield and is a Dame of the British Empire.
Professor Julian Roberts
Julian Roberts is a Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Worcester College. His research interests include sentencing, public opinion about crime and criminal justice, and victims and the criminal justice system. He holds a doctorate in experimental psychology and is currently the editor of the European Journal of Criminology. His books include Punishing Persistent Offenders; Public Opinion, Crime and Criminal Justice; and Hearing the Victim.
Keir Starmer QC
Keir Starmer is the Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service. He was called to the Bar in 1987 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002, specialising in human rights, international and criminal law. He has conducted cases before the House of Lords, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter American Court of Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. Keir was appointed an adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board in 2003, and was joint head of Doughty Street Chambers before being appointed as the Director of Public Prosecutions in November 2008.
The Honourable Mr Justice Treacy
Colman Treacy was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1971. He practised from chambers in Birmingham and was head of chambers from 1994 to 2000. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990, a Recorder in 1991 and to the High Court Bench in 2002. He was Presiding Judge on the midland circuit from 2006 to 2009. As a High Court Judge he has sat in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, the Divisional Court, the Queen’s Bench Division, and the Administrative Court and is a Visitor to the Inns of Court.
Drug offences guideline
The consultation on the draft guideline on drug offences is open from 28 March 2011 to 20 June 2011. The consultation documents comprise a draft guideline, a full consultation paper intended for criminal justice professionals, a shorter public consultation paper, a resource assessment and an equality impact assessment.
If you are a member of the public and you wish to read the consultation please download the following document:
- Drug offences guideline – public consultation
- Drug offences guideline – public consultation (large print)
If you would like the public consultation paper in easy read format please contact us.
There is also a simple online questionnaire which you can complete.
If you are a criminal justice professional (including members of the judiciary) and would like to read the consultation, please download the following document:
- Drug offences – resource assessment
- Drug offences – equality impact assessment
- Analysis and research bulletin - drugs offences
- Public attitudes to the sentencing of drug offences
- Drug 'mules': twelve case studies
All research and analysis publications that accompany this consultation can be viewed here.
The consultation on the Sentencing Council's draft guideline on assault closed on 5 January 2011. All consultation documents relating to it can be found on the closed consultations page. The definitive guideline and the Council's response to consultation submissions is expected to be announced in February.
Dealer is caught with £50,000 of cocaine, crystal meth, cannabis and ecstasy... and judge frees him
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 2:03 AM on 31st March 2011
- Judge rules Colin MacDonald's case 'exceptional'
Lenient: Judge Stephen Holt described Colin MacDonald's case as 'exceptional'
A drug dealer caught with a massive haul worth £50,000 has been spared jail by a judge.
Colin MacDonald was found with the stash of class-A drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, three bin bags of cannabis and deadly crystal meth when police raided his home.
But Judge Stephen Holt provoked fury by giving the 34-year-old a 12-month suspended sentence, allowing him to walk free from court.
The soft sentencing came just 24 hours after new guidelines recommended drug dealers could escape jail even if they were selling heroin.
MacDonald, of Dollis Hill, North London, had 90g of crystal meth, 90g of cocaine, 100 ecstasy pills, 85g of amphetamine and three bin bags full of cannabis. He admitted five counts of possession with intent to supply drugs when he faced Harrow Crown Court on Tuesday.
In an astonishing ruling Judge Holt said MacDonald was an ‘exceptional’ case as he had started taking drugs following a family tragedy, had admitted his guilt and been on a successful rehab programme. He said the dealer, originally from South Africa, simply ‘sometimes sold drugs at cost price to other users’.
But a source close to the case declared: ‘MacDonald put his hands up early but no-one was expecting him to walk out of court.
‘This is the kind of sentencing that is hugely demoralising to police and other authorities trying to win the war on drugs.’
He called the judge’s ruling ‘absurd’ and said: ‘Investigators were in no doubt MacDonald was dealing in a significant way.’
On Monday a panel of judges recommended non-custodial sentences for ‘low level’ dealing, including up to 50g of heroin or cocaine or 100 ecstasy tablets.
They said this would enable the courts to concentrate on the biggest producers and suppliers.
Critics say the Sentencing Council proposals send the wrong message to criminals.
There are also fears the plans would reward those who show remorse for their crimes.
Tory MP James Clappison said: ‘Anyone involved in the drug trade should face a custodial sentence and they should know they face a custodial sentence.
‘The idea you can supply 99 people with ecstasy and be described as a minor participant is boggling. Nobody is going to put their hands up in court and say “I’m Mr Big”.’
Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said of MacDonald’s sentence: ‘It sets a dangerous precedent.’
Pauline Holcroft, the mother of Rachel Whitear, who died of a heroin overdose when she was 21, said: ‘Surely letting dealers off with a community order sends out completely the wrong message.
‘There’s an awful lot of damage that can be done with 49.9g of heroin. Rachel died for a £10 fix.
‘These people obviously have drugs to sell them on. They are passing on misery to countless families.’
Free to deal
By TOM WELLS, JENNA SLOAN and NICK FRANCIS
A DRUG dealer was spared jail by a soft judge - even though he was caught with a massive stash worth £50,000.
Colin MacDonald, 34, appeared for sentencing before Judge Stephen Holt after cops who raided his home found:
90g of highly-addictive crystal meth rocks stuffed in a washbag;
90g of powdered cocaine;
100 ecstasy pills;
85g of amphetamines, and THREE bin bags stuffed with dried cannabis leaves.
Police also discovered seven boxes of Viagra, a large quantity of powerful painkiller Tramadol, self-seal bags and two sets of scales. MacDonald admitted five counts of possession with intent to supply Class A and Class B drugs at a magistrates' hearing. Yet Judge Holt gave him just a suspended 12-month jail term.
And MacDonald, of Dollis Hill, North London, walked free.
The case, which came to light a day after a panel of top judges recommended lenient sentences for dealers THEY regard as "small-time", caused dismay and anger among police. A source close to the case said: "MacDonald put his hands up early but no one was expecting him to walk out of court.
"This is the kind of sentencing that is hugely demoralising to police and other authorities trying to win the war on drugs." Outraged Tory MP Patrick Mercer said MacDonald's sentence "seems derisory". He added: "It sets a dangerous precedent for one of the biggest problems facing the police."
Judge Holt, sitting at Harrow Crown Court, called the MacDonald case "exceptional".
He said South African MacDonald had started taking drugs after a family tragedy, had admitted guilt, had been on a successful rehab course and just "sometimes sold drugs at cost price to other users".
But the source close to the case called the judge's reasoning "absurd," adding: "Investigators were in no doubt MacDonald was dealing in a significant way."
More fury erupted last night over the Sentencing Council's plans - revealed in yesterday's Sun - to spare hordes of "low-level" dealers jail. The judges' panel wants courts to focus on banging up drug producers and major suppliers.
They defined small-time dealers as those who have up to 49.9g of heroin or cocaine, even though that amount could be worth up to £2,000 and as little as 5g can kill.
"Minor" peddling was also said to involve less then 100 ecstasy pills, 250g of amphetamines, 49 tabs of LSD, 1kg of cannabis and 50g of the tranquilliser ketamine.
But The Sun is demanding resistance to such soft justice.
And last night Pauline Holcroft, mother of heroin victim Rachel Whitear, said: "It seems to me judges have lost touch with reality."
Care home manager Pauline, 61, released harrowing pictures of her 21-year-old daughter curled up dead on the floor of her flat in 2002, with a syringe in her hand.
Pauline has since campaigned to educate youngsters on the dangers of drugs - but fears her crusade could now be derailed.
The mum, of Ledbury, Herefordshire, said: "Surely letting dealers off with a community order sends out completely the wrong message.
"There is an awful lot of damage that can be done with 49.9g of heroin. Rachel died for a £10 fix."
"These people obviously have the drugs to sell them on. They are passing on misery to countless families."
Ex-gang member Darrell James blasted the soft approach as "ludicrous". Darrell, 38, who has served time in prison but since turned his back on crime, said: "It will see ten dealers on every street corner."
He added it would encourage Mr Bigs to recruit large teams of young runners, each pushing relatively small amounts of drugs.
Darrell, of Hackney, East London, said: "They will sell to customers for a small cut of profit. A top dealer will be able to recruit far more runners if he can assure them carrying up to 50g won't land them in jail."
Britain has gone much softer on dealers over the last decade.
In December 2001, 23-year-old Stephen Lane was jailed for 4½ years at Gloucester Crown Court for possessing 7.34g of heroin.
The same year chef Daniel Trudgian, 22, was jailed for 18 months after he was caught with 25 ecstasy pills in Falmouth, Cornwall.
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Hooked on single fix
CRYSTAL meth is as deadly and addictive as crack - and users can get hooked from their first try.
It has wreaked havoc in the US. A dramatic poster campaign by police across America showed how the drug ravaged the faces of users.
Crystal meth is smoked, snorted or injected. Users experience a fast high and short-lived feeling of invincibility - often accompanied by hallucinations - followed by a devastating low where suicidal feelings surface.
They believe they look energetic and confident but their actions appear frenzied and psychotic.
Users suffer palpitations, restlessness, headaches, a dry mouth and incredibly itchy skin, which can be followed by heart attacks.
One addiction expert said: "If Satan himself had developed a drug, it would be crystal meth."
IBM Press room - 2011-02-17 IBM to Collaborate with Nuance to Apply IBM’s "Watson" Analytics Technology to Healthcare - United States
ARMONK, N.Y. & BURLINGTON, Mass. - 17 Feb 2011: IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) today announced a research agreement to explore, develop and commercialize the Watson computing system's advanced analytics capabilities in the healthcare industry.
The research and technology initiative will combine IBM’s Deep Question Answering (QA), Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning capabilities with Nuance's speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding (CLU) solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of patients that provide hospitals, physicians and payers access to critical and timely information. The two companies expect the first commercial offerings from the collaboration to be available in 18-24 months.
Additionally, Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are contributing their medical expertise and research to the collaborative effort. For example, physicians at Columbia University are helping identify critical issues in the practice of medicine where the Watson technology may be able to contribute, and physicians at the University of Maryland are working to identify the best way that a technology like Watson could interact with medical practitioners to provide the maximum assistance.
Watson's ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process information to find precise answers can assist decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information, and offer answers they may not have considered to help validate their own ideas or hypotheses.
"Combining our analytics expertise with the experience and technology of Nuance, we can transform the way that healthcare professionals accomplish everyday tasks by enabling them to work smarter and more efficiently," said Dr. John E. Kelly III, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. “This initiative demonstrates how we plan to apply Watson's capabilities into new areas, such as healthcare with Nuance.”
For example, a doctor considering a patient's diagnosis could use Watson's analytics technology, in conjunction with Nuance’s voice and clinical language understanding solutions, to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature to gain evidence from many more potential sources than previously possible. This could help medical professionals confidently determine the most likely diagnosis and treatment options.
“The combination of Nuance’s speech recognition and existing Clinical Language Understanding solutions with the power of IBM’s Watson technology will introduce unmatched clinical information and analytic technological advancements for healthcare,” said Paul Ricci, chairman and CEO of Nuance. “The initiative represents a logical step in Nuance’s evolution, one that expands our capabilities from recognizing what was said to understanding the intent and providing guidance. The solutions we are developing with IBM will transform the capture, flow and use of clinical data, empowering healthcare organizations to drive smarter, more efficient clinical and business decisions.”
“We are excited at the prospect of applying the Watson analytics technology to help create the next generation of electronic medical record systems and the next generation of computer diagnostic and decision support tools,” said Dr. Eliot Siegel, Director of the Maryland Imaging Research Technologies Laboratory (MIRTL) University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We believe that this has the potential to usher in a new era of computer assisted personalized medicine into healthcare to improve diagnostic accuracy, efficiency, and patient safety.”
“Watson has the potential to help doctors reduce the time needed to evaluate and determine the correct diagnosis for a patient,” said Dr. Herbert Chase, professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We also believe that Watson also has the ability to help doctors provide personalized treatment options that are tailored to an individual patient's needs.”
Under the agreement, IBM and Nuance will jointly invest in a multi-year research initiative targeted to the applications of the Watson technology to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of patients in combination with Nuance’s voice and clinical language solutions. In addition, IBM has licensed access to the Watson technology to Nuance. IBM and Nuance are currently engaged in a five-year joint-research initiative designed to advance next-generation natural language speech technologies, the results of which will be commercialized by Nuance. IBM also named Nuance its Preferred Business Partner for speech technologies and related professional services, aimed at complementing IBM’s Industry Solutions portfolio.
For more information about the Watson computing system and the Jeopardy! challenge, please visit: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/presskit/27297.wss
About Nuance Communications, Inc.
Nuance is a leading provider of speech and imaging solutions for businesses and consumers around the world. Its technologies, applications and services make the user experience more compelling by transforming the way people interact with information and how they create, share and use documents. Every day, millions of users and thousands of businesses experience Nuance’s proven applications and professional services. For more information, please visit: Nuance.com.
In the era of Accountable Healthcare, where there is shared responsibility for the quality and cost of patient care, Nuance Healthcare’s portfolio of Medical Intelligence solutions empower healthcare provider organizations, payers and individual physicians worldwide to deliver higher quality care, improve financial performance and enhance compliance efforts. Nuance Healthcare employs a range of technologies and services as part of its full portfolio – speech recognition, clinical language understanding, decision support, test results management and data analysis. For additional information on Nuance’s healthcare IT solutions visit: http://www.nuance.com/for-healthcare/index.htm
To view the press kit on Watson go to: http://www.ibm.com/press/watson
Note to registered journalists and bloggers: You can view and download b-roll about the universities by going to http://www.thenewsmarket.com/ibm. All materials are available in streaming quality. [registration available online]
A movie explains more than thousand words. Videos of innovative solutions or some of our references
Interactive Horror Movie - with voice control
The audience, via voice control on the mobile phone, controls the next step of the actor.
During this project, aixvox GmbH was the consulting team for speech technology. We provided the creative people from Jung von Matt and the creator of the interactive movie player from Powerflasher with the knowledge about voice technology. The project uses voice portal technology from Telenet.
Voice biometrics in real life
As a demo project together with manufacturers, aixvox created a solution for opening a door with mere use of voice. The system knows the persons biometric voice data and the door opens after verification.
Both video and solution were shown at CeBIT 2008 in Hannover, Germany.
Interview with Detlev Artelt, CEO of aixvox at CallCenterWorld 2010 in Berlin
Detlev Artelt in an interview with Günter Greff of Call-Center-Expert about latest trends in Call Center and Unified Communications.
SpeechTEK Europe Programme Chair
Have you developed a multimodal application that uses speech technologies? Take SpeechTEK Europe’s Multimodal Challenge
Submit a written description of your speech tech multimodal application and, if selected, you’ll be invited to create a two-minute video of your deployed multimodal application on YouTube.
We’ll promote your video on this site and user experience experts will evaluate your application and award prizes based on originality, usability, and quality. SpeechTEK Europe conference attendees will vote for the best multimodal application during the conference in London and winners will be announced at the close of SpeechTEK Europe.
Check out the latest companies to take the Multimodal Challenge:
Personal Health Assistant
This smart multimodal mobile application provides the ability to create and update personal health records using convenient multimodal interfaces. This application combines reminder/alerting services, with location-based searches, maps and directions, image/video capture and annotation, and group-share of selective information securely. It acts as a health-passport for individuals with information on allergies, drug-interactions and wellness monitoring.
Intelligent multimodal/multi module automated real-time authentication processes
SafeRise an intelligent multimodal recognition system used for automated real-time authentication processes. The system enables biometric recognition based on face, voice and behavioural patterns, correlated with real-time live information and database cross quarries. SafeRise provides easy and convenient access to authorised tenants and approved visitors while maintaining the highest level of security.
FlexT9 for Android
FlexT9 for Android represents the power of a truly multimodal experience combining voice and predictive input to give mobile consumers more control over how they send emails or text messages, search the web, update their social media status, and more. By combining Nuance's Dragon Dictation, T9 Trace, T9 Write and XT9, users decide whether they speak, trace, write or tap - or all of the above - via an innovative four-in-one keypad. FlexT9 allows users to switch between different input methods with just a simple tap - and now they can easily toggle back and forth between all six supported languages, which include UK and US English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. FlexT9 is currently available on the Android Market.
Ocean Blue Software Ltd
Talk@TV is a digital set top box (STB) solution that benefits users who are blind or have visual impairments, by voicing the on screen programme guide and menu items. Broadcast data such as the narrative for programs, and static data such as menu items and layouts are clearly described by voice. The project has utilised many years of experience from the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind), on designing products for visually impaired and elderly people using the knowledge from psychologists, creative designers and evaluation trials on how to create products for everyone to use. The product is the world's first accessible, Digital free to air set-top box (STB) designed to provide and allow greater visual clarity in operation, intuitive for the user, easy to use and a better experience than normally associated with Digital TV receiver devices. The breakthrough development allows the visually impaired to access TV like never before.
Dial H for Horror - aixvox presents interactive horror movie in San FranciscoAachen/ San Francisco. The first interactive horror movie “Last Call” evokes national sensation and enthusiasm. Aixvox GmbH, a consulting company from Aachen, created in collaboration with the renowed agency Jung von Matt, Powerflashers and Telenet communication systems a hitherto unique setup. Via speech recognition the dialogue between protagonist and an audience member becomes possible. The participant's answers are transformed into specific instructions. Thus, every member of the audience can design a different film.
At Mobile Voice Conference in San Francisco aixvox will present the interactive movie for the first time to the American market. “The project is groundbreaking for the future. Speech technology will find its place at the entertainment market not only here in Germany, but world-wide“, explains Detlev Artelt, CEO and senior consultant of aixvox. The Mobile Voice Conference (www.mobilevoiceconference.com) is one of the most well-known American conferences recognizing topics such as speech recognition, speaker verification or also text-to-speech. From 22 - 23 April in San Francisco the conference focuses on mobile phones, mobile Internet and language solutions for mobile devices. Apart from the innovative use of speech technology and mobile phones e.g. in Last Call, the experts from aixvox also present different application types of language solutions. „New ways to use voice in Businesses and Entertainment: A view from Europe“ is the title of the lecture, Detlev gives at 22.4.2010, 10,.15 – 11.20.
Beside current trends in the range Unified Communications and Voice solutions on the European market are focussed. The upcoming English edition of voice compass, annually published by Detlev Artelt, will also pick out modern solutions, trends and innovations in speech technology as a central theme. As the current edition of voice compass (R)Evolution in der Kommunikation (www.voice-compass.com) it specially focuses Unified Communications.
About the aixvox GmbHThe aixvox GmbH from Aachen is an international consulting and service enterprise. Our focus is the optimisation of customer communication in the field of Unified Communications, speech applications, marketing, public relations and training. We rebuild telecommunication infrastructure, expand existing systems, establish marketing strategies, conduct image furthering public relations and coach your employees in communication with their customers. Furthermore, we publish several professional articles and market researchs in the field of speech automation, as well as the voice compass, the book about the speech market.
SpeechTEK Europe 2011
SpeechTEK University - Tuesday, 24 May 2011 W1 – Hola! Bonjour! Shalom! Are you ready? Challenges in designing and deploying multilingual speech applications10:00 - 13:00Sondra Ahlén, Principal VUI Consultant/Owner - SAVICNava Shaked, CEO - Brit Business Technologies Ltd (BBT)
The design and deployment of multilingual speech applications for speakers of multiple languages presents many challenges. Issues range from defining business and user requirements, to incorporating cultural, political and linguistic knowledge, and handling technical aspects such as special characters and language-specific acoustic models. Whatever your background – whether novice or expert, multilingual or not – this workshop explores the key challenges encountered when deploying a multilingual speech application. Bring your laptop for hands-on examples and collaborative exercises.
W2 – Speech recognition - the underlying technology10:00 - 13:00Ami Moyal, Head of Afeka Center for Language Processing - Afeka Academic College of Engineering
Widely used speech recognition engines have various operational modes: grammar-based recognition, Large Vocabulary Continuous Speech Recognition (LVSCR, as used in dictation and speech transcription), and keyword spotting. This workshop looks under the covers of speech recognition engines to learn how they work and understand the fundamentals of key algorithms. Learn which metrics to use for evaluating the performance of your speech recognition engine. Learn how application developers can improve performance by carefully specifying grammars. Examples and exercises will focus on grammar structur and its influence on the recognition operation and on Human-Machine Interaction.
W3 – Adding speech to your own android application14:00 - 17:00Diego Zanin, Senior Product Engineer - Loquendo
Android is the first mobile platform that supports the use of standard mechanisms to integrate speech into applications, and provides default resources to do it. Developers can make a speech-enabled application and any Android user is ready to use it. This workshop helps you learn how to access the Android speech synthesis and speech recognition engines. Discover how to use alternative engines and technologies from thirdparty providers, and review tips and guidelines for mobile Vocal User Interfaces on Android.
W4 – Introduction to speech technologies14:00 - 17:00James Larson, Vice President - Larson Technical Services
Designed for attendees new to the speech technology arena, this tutorial provides an overview of today’s key speech technologies. What are the major types of speech recognition engines? Do speaker identification and verification really work? Is there a need for touchtone recognition in interactive voice response systems? Who drives the speech dialogue – the user, the computer, or both? Where are natural language processing technologies, such as natural language recognition, machine translation, response generation, and summarisation used today? Should you consider speech applications on mobile devices? Untangle the voice standards alphabet: VoiceXML, SSML, SRGS, CCXML, PLS, and SCXML. Take home a thorough grounding in speech technology.
Mature Autism – What I Want for World Autism Awareness DayMarch 31, 2011, 06:13
Filed under: asperger's syndrome, autism, disability | Tags: AS, asd, Asperger diagnosis, asperger's, asperger's syndrome, autism, autism awareness, autism spectrum, blogging, blogs, disability, emotions, information processing, language, sensory processing, World Autism Awareness Day
I think the thing I want most for World Autism Awareness Day is understanding. Autism is not a disease neither is it – as a rule – life threatening. I don’t want to pretend that everything will be perfect, but neither should any one assume that autism will ruin their or their child’s life. Autism is a diagnosis not a sentence.
I want the world to better understand what Autism is. I want people to understand that Autism is not a psychological illness. Some people with autism may be below average intelligence, but many will be above, some will be very much above. That a person has difficulties learning does not necessarily indicate a lack of intelligence, but might equally indicate problems with processing information. Communication problems tend to be a part of autism and what is perceived as an inability to learn may be predicated upon a preference for an alternative communication or learning method. I had thought of making this piece a list of resources, but others will do that; instead I want to speak from my heart, because we too have feelings, however much difficulty we have in expressing and understanding them.
You cannot generalise from one person with autism to all, we are all different. It is essential that you throw out stereotypes and expectations, although if you are a parent please keep your expectations high, we may yet surprise you! Treat each of us as an individual and find what works for each of us, often what has worked for one will work for another so share your experiences. Share your experiences and also share ours, listen to us, if you can learn to communicate with us there is much we can all learn.
I think – like you – we want to be valued and appreciated for who we are, not condemned for not being who you might have wanted us to be. For some of us, when you talk about finding a cure for autism, when you seek out a preventable cause, it does feel as if you are saying we should not exist. I understand that every parent loves their child by definition, but when you look for a cure it really can feel as if you feel there is something wrong with who we are. Personally I would prefer that you focus your efforts on making society accommodate us, make what adaptations you need to have us participate fully. Yes, I want everyone to understand everything about autism, but I do not want to feel threatened by your quest for understanding, I’d like to feel you are working for us not to end us.
Most of all this Autism Awareness Day I want people to understand that people with Autism Spectrum “disorders” – I hate that word! – are human. Our normality may be different, but we are as human as you. Just as your blue eyes don’t make you inferior to your brown-eyed neighbour, so our autism makes us no less human than you. I want people to be aware of autism – even of its negatives like some co-morbid conditions, – in a positive way. The world does not end with autism, but a different way of being in the world begins. I have a dream of a world which values each of us regardless of who we are and enables us to fully participate. I dream of a world where difference is not a sigma but merely difference, and where we can accept and enjoy that difference having learned to accommodate it. Most of all I dream of a world where we can all be happy because we all want each other to be happy ,and are prepared to put in the effort and the resources that requires, and here I am not only speaking for people with autism but for all people. Awareness starts by asking the question, “Who is my neighbour?” and caring enough to listen to the answer.
Mum facing execution in Malaysia is back in court31 March 2011
A COURT hearing is being held today (Thursday) for Shivaun Orton, a Harlech woman facing execution in Malaysia.
The mum-of-two and her husband, Abdul Harris Fadilah, have been held in an Asian jail since they were arrested in December on suspicion of drug trafficking after police carried out a raid on their home in Cherating.
She pleaded not guilty to eight charges of drug trafficking and possessing cannabis, amphetamine and heroin at an earlier court hearing in January.
Chemistry reports have now been submitted to the courts to allow for a further hearing.
Police seized £16,000 worth of drugs from the beach resort the couple ran in the northern state of Terengganu, includ-ing 225g of heroin.
Under Malaysian law, the offence of possessing more than 15g of heroin carries the death penalty, and if found guilty, Shivaun, 41, could be hanged.
Her family, who have be-gun a Facebook campaign in support of Shivaun, have said that she is in good health and seeing her sons Jacob, 16, and Isaac, 14, most weeks.
Her brother Daniel said the family have been in contact with the Foreign Office. He said: “[the Foreign Office representative] said that Shivaun is in good spirits and he told her about this Facebook campaign to raise awareness for her situation.
“It must be very difficult for her - not knowing what her future holds and perhaps being scared to even hope in case hope is dashed.
“I am glad that she knows that we are here for her and that we will continue to support her and her children, and that she is not forgotten about but is forefront in our minds and prayers.”
Her family say she is a victim of a controlling marriage, and MP Elfyn Llwyd has also been supporting Shivaun and has met with the family.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has also given his backing over Shivaun’s case, and arranged for the minister in the Foreign and Common-wealth Office to look into her case.
Pictured: Shivaun Orton pictured here in 1997 with her eldest son.
Reprieve—Texas caught illegally dispensing lethal injection drugs under the name of a hospital that closed 30 years ago
March 31, 2011
Texas caught illegally dispensing lethal injection drugs under the name of a hospital that closed 30 years ago
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has today been reported to the US Attorney General Eric Holder for illegally purchasing and dispensing lethal injection drugs under the name of a hospital that closed in 1983.
In a letter to Holder and to the Texas Department of Safety, lawyers for death row prisoner Cleve Foster describe how the state's prison agency has been purchasing controlled substances – including drugs used for lethal injections – under a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration certificate assigned to Huntsville Unit Hospital, which has not existed for 30 years. "[A]s a result, we believe that TDCJ is unlawfully in possession of and unlawfully dispensing controlled substances," the lawyers write.
Under US drug laws, DEA registration numbers must be renewed every three years. Yet Foster's legal team, Maurie Levin and Sandra Babcock, have discovered that the TDCJ “has failed to advise the DEA for the past twenty-eight years of the fact that the Huntsville Unit Hospital no longer exists," or to admit that what actually exists at that location is a prison unit with a warden "purchasing and dispensing controlled substances".
The lawyers further report that Texas’s drugs are not kept at a pharmacy or by a DEA-registered handler: "At no point is an appropriately licensed or authorized practitioner involved in the dispensing process, and at no point is a prescription written to transfer the controlled substances to a member of the execution team”.
Levin and Babcock have asked Attorney General Holder to direct the DEA to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, noting "the potential for abuse is rampant." If violations are found, they request the immediate revocation of agency registration and seizure of the ill-obtained drugs. Any such action would disrupt Texas’s busy execution schedule; seven executions are slated for August, with Cleve Foster due to die on April 5.
Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said:
“Every day, the US capital punishment system looks more ridiculous. If the Texas Department of Criminal Justice can’t even manage to obey the law, why on earth should they be granted the extraordinary power to kill prisoners?”
For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7427 1099 / 07931592674.
Notes for Editors:
Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Reprieve has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’
Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Lord Ken Macdonald QC; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner, Vivienne Westwood
- 2011_03_30 Texas illegal drugs - Letter to DPS
- 2011_03_30 Texas illegal drugs - Letter to Hon Eric Holder.pdf
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Wednesday, 30 March 2011
85% of women are annoyed by their Facebook friends
By Emil Protalinski | March 30, 2011, 4:01pm PDT
There’s a fine line between friend and frenemy on Facebook, according to a new survey with 400 female respondents.
Emil ProtalinskiEmil Protalinski has covered the tech industry for five years for multiple publications, including Neowin for two years and Ars Technica for three years. He has written 1,000s of articles for both, with a particular focus on scrutinizing Microsoft products and services. Recently, Emil has expanded his coverage to non-Microsoft technologies, including the social networking giant Facebook.
85 percent of women say they have been annoyed by their friends on Facebook. A new survey conducted by Eversave, a company that offers daily deals it calls Saves, asked 400 women about their habits on the social network.
The goal was to better understand the impact of social networking on deals. Eversave found that 87 percent of women said they find out about deals by Liking daily deal companies on Facebook and 45 percent learn about savings through their friends’ posts.
The results also uncovered the love-hate relationship women have with Facebook. These bothersome behaviors topped the list:
- Complaining all the time (63 percent)
- Sharing unsolicited political views (42 percent)
- Bragging about seemingly perfect lives (32 percent)
You would think that women would abandon the site if they can’t stand the social blabber that keeps the service buzzing. Despite the occasional annoyances, however, women appreciate Facebook for allowing them to see friends’ photos and videos (91 percent) as well as helping them search and reconnect with long lost friends (76 percent).
The data also uncovered some interesting things about Facebook friendships. While women use Facebook to keep their friends informed about what they are up to (79 percent) as well as share interesting and/or funny links and videos (64 percent), they have little tolerance for friends who use the site to brag or overshare. Survey respondents were asked if they were friends with certain online personalities, and here are the results:
- The documentarian – they update their status with their every move (65 percent)
- The drama queen – everything’s a crisis with this friend (61 percent)
- The proud mama – they think Junior’s every move is newsworthy (57 percent)
- The incessant liker – they “like” every post (46 percent)
- The slactivist – don’t they know Facebook can’t cure cancer? (40 percent)
- The poser – they project an image of life so perfect, and it’s not true (40 percent)
Women (and men) may want to think twice before accepting a friend request. As for the friends that you already have, if you feel uncomfortable unfriending them, remember there are alternatives: you can always hide their updates or limit what content of yours they can see on the site.
“The survey validated our thinking on Facebook’s growing influence on daily deals, but we were surprised by responses that show the love/hate relationship women have with Facebook,” Jere Doyle, CEO of Prospectiv, which owns Eversave, said in a statement.
The Parable of Prohibition
A very bizarre chapter of history can teach us a lot.By Johann HariPosted Thursday, June 3, 2010, at 10:03 AM ET
Since we first prowled the savannahs of Africa, human beings have displayed a few overpowering and ineradicable impulses—for food, for sex, and for drugs. Every human society has hunted for its short cuts to an altered state: The hunger for a chemical high, low, or pleasingly new shuffle sideways is universal. Peer back through history, and it's everywhere. Ovid said drug-induced ecstasy was a divine gift. The Chinese were brewing alcohol in prehistory and cultivating opium by 700 A.D. Cocaine was found in clay-pipe fragments from William Shakespeare's house. George Washington insisted American soldiers be given whiskey every day as part of their rations. Human history is filled with chemicals, come-downs, and hangovers.
And in every generation, there are moralists who try to douse this natural impulse in moral condemnation and burn it away. They believe that humans, stripped of their intoxicants, will become more rational or ethical or good. They point to the addicts and the overdoses and believe they reveal the true face—and the logical endpoint—of your order at the bar or your roll-up. And they believe we can be saved from ourselves, if only we choose to do it. Their vision holds an intoxicating promise of its own.
Their most famous achievement—the criminalization of alcohol in the United States between 1921 and 1933—is one of the great parables of modern history. Daniel Okrent's superb new history, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, shows how a coalition of mostly well-meaning, big-hearted people came together and changed the Constitution to ban booze. On the day it began, one of the movement's leaders, the former baseball hero turned evangelical preacher Billy Sunday, told his ecstatic congregation what the Dry New World would look like: "The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever rent."Advertisement
The story of the War on Alcohol has never needed to be told more urgently—because its grandchild, the War on Drugs, shares the same DNA. Okrent alludes to the parallel only briefly, on his final page, but it hangs over the book like old booze-fumes—and proves yet again Mark Twain's dictum: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
There was never an America without chemical highs. The Native Americans used hallucinogens routinely, and the ship that brought John Winthrop and the first Puritans to the continent carried three times more beer than water, along with 10,000 gallons of wine. It was immediately a society so soaked in alcohol that it makes your liver ache to read the raw statistics: By 1830, the average citizen drank seven gallons of pure alcohol a year. America was so hungry for highs that when there was a backlash against all this boozing, the temperance movement's initial proposal was that people should water down their alcohol with opium.
It's not hard to see how this fug of liquor caused problems, as well as pleasure—and the backlash was launched by a furious housewife from a small town in Ohio. One Sunday in 1874, Eliza Thompson—a mother to eight children, who had never spoken out on any public issue before—stood before the crowds at her church and announced that America would never be free or godly until the last whiskey bottle was emptied onto the dry earth. A huge crowd of women cheered: They believed their husbands were squandering their wages at the saloon. They marched as one to the nearest bar, where they all sank to their knees and prayed for the soul of its owner. They refused to leave until he repented. They worked in six-hour prayer shifts on the streets until the saloonkeeper finally appeared, head bowed, and agreed to shut it down. This prayer-athon then moved around to every alcohol-seller in the town. Within 10 days, only four of the original 13 remained, and the rebellion was spreading across the country.
It was women who led the first cry for Temperance, and it was women who made Prohibition happen. A woman called Carry Nation became a symbol of the movement when she traveled from bar to bar with an oversize hatchet and smashed them to pieces. Indeed, Prohibition was one of the first and most direct effects of the movement to expand the vote.* This is one of the first strange flecks of gray in this story. The proponents of Prohibition were primarily progressives—and some of the most admirable people in American history, from Susan B. Anthony to Frederick Douglass to Eugene V. Debs*. The pioneers of American feminism believed alcohol was at the root of men's brutality toward women. The anti-slavery movement saw alcohol addiction as a new form of slavery, replacing leg irons with whiskey bottles. You can see the same left-wing prohibitionism today, when people like Al Sharpton say drugs must be criminalized because addiction does real harm in ghettos.
Of course, there were more obviously sinister proponents of Prohibition too, pressing progressives into weird alliances. The Ku Klux Klan said that "nigger gin" was the main reason that oppressed black people were prone to rebellion, and if you banned alcohol, they would become quiescent. An echo of this persists in America's current strain of prohibition. Powder cocaine and crack cocaine are equally harmful, but crack—which is disproportionately used by black people—carries much heavier jail sentences than powder cocaine, which is disproportionately used by white people.
It was in this context that the Anti-Saloon League rose to become the most powerful pressure group in American history and the only one to ever change the Constitution through peaceful political campaigning. It was begun by a little man called Wayne Wheeler, who was as dry as the Sahara and twice as overheated—and a political genius, maneuvering politicians of all parties into backing a ban. He threatened them by weaving together a coalition of evangelicals, feminists, racists, and lefties—the equivalent of herding Sarah Palin, the National Association of Women, David Duke, and Keith Olbermann into one unstoppable political force.
With the implementation of the 18th Amendment in 1920, the dysfunctions of Prohibition began.* When you ban a popular drug that millions of people want, it doesn't disappear. Instead, it is transferred from the legal economy into the hands of armed criminal gangs. Across America, gangsters rejoiced that they had just been handed one of the biggest markets in the country, and unleashed an armada of freighters, steamers, and even submarines to bring booze back. Nobody who wanted a drink went without. As the journalist Malcolm Bingay wrote, "It was absolutely impossible to get a drink, unless you walked at least ten feet and told the busy bartender in a voice loud enough for him to hear you above the uproar."
So if it didn't stop alcoholism, what did it achieve? The same as prohibition does today—a massive unleashing of criminality and violence. Gang wars broke out, with the members torturing and murdering one another first to gain control of and then to retain their patches. Thousands of ordinary citizens were caught in the crossfire. The icon of the new criminal class was Al Capone, a figure so fixed in our minds as the scar-faced King of Charismatic Crime, pursued by the rugged federal agent Eliot Ness, that Okrent's biographical details seem oddly puncturing. Capone was only 25 when he tortured his way to running Chicago's underworld. He was gone from the city by the age of 30 and a syphilitic corpse by 40. But he was an eloquent exponent of his own case, saying simply, "I give to the public what the public wants. I never had to send out high pressure salesmen. Why, I could never meet the demand."
By 1926, he and his fellow gangsters were making $3.6 billion a year—in 1926 money! To give some perspective, that was more than the entire expenditure of the U.S. government. The criminals could outbid and outgun the state. So they crippled the institutions of a democratic state and ruled, just as drug gangs do today in Mexico, Afghanistan, and ghettos from South Central Los Angeles to the banlieues of Paris. They have been handed a market so massive that they can tool up to intimidate everyone in their area, bribe many police and judges into submission, and achieve such a vast size, the honest police couldn't even begin to get them all. The late Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman said, "Al Capone epitomizes our earlier attempts at Prohibition; the Crips and Bloods epitomize this one."
One insight, more than any other, ripples down from Okrent's history to our own bout of prohibition. Armed criminal gangs don't fear prohibition: They love it. He has uncovered fascinating evidence that the criminal gangs sometimes financially supported dry politicians, precisely to keep it in place. They knew if it ended, most of organized crime in America would be bankrupted. So it's a nasty irony that prohibitionists try to present legalizers—then and now—as "the bootlegger's friend" or "the drug-dealer's ally." Precisely the opposite is the truth. Legalizers are the only people who can bankrupt and destroy the drug gangs, just as they destroyed Capone. Only the prohibitionists can keep them alive.
Once a product is controlled only by criminals, all safety controls vanish and the drug becomes far more deadly. After 1921, it became common to dilute and relabel poisonous industrial alcohol, which could still legally be bought, and sell it by the pint glass. This "rotgut" caused epidemics of paralysis and poisoning. For example, one single batch of bad booze permanently crippled 500 people in Wichita, Kan., in early 1927—a usual event. That year, 760 people were poisoned to death by bad booze in New York City alone. Wayne Wheeler persuaded the government not to remove fatal toxins from industrial alcohol, saying it was good to keep this "disincentive" in place.
Prohibition's flaws were so obvious that the politicians in charge privately admitted the law was self-defeating. Warren Harding brought $1,800 of booze with him to the White House, while Andrew Mellon—in charge of enforcing the law—called it "unworkable." Similarly, the last three presidents of the United States were recreational drug users in their youth. Once he ceased to be president, Bill Clinton called for the decriminalization of cannabis, and Obama probably will too. Yet in office, they continue to mouth prohibitionist platitudes about "eradicating drugs." They insist the rest of the world's leaders resist the calls for greater liberalization from their populations and instead "crack down" on the drug gangs—no matter how much violence it unleashes. Indeed, Obama recently praised Calderon for his "crackdown" on drugs by—with no apparent irony—calling him "Mexico's Eliot Ness." Obama should know that Ness came to regard his War on Alcohol as a disastrous failure, and he died a drunk himself—but drug prohibition addles politicians' brains.
By 1928, the failure of Prohibition was plain, yet its opponents were demoralized and despairing. It looked like an immovable part of the American political landscape, since it would require big majorities in every state to amend the Constitution again. Clarence Darrow wrote that "thirteen dry states with a population of less than New York State alone can prevent repeal until Haley's Comet returns," so "one might as well talk about taking a summer vacation of Mars."
Yet it happened. It happened suddenly and completely. Why? The answer is found in your wallet, with the hard cash. After the Great Crash, the government's revenues from income taxes collapsed by 60 percent in just three years, while the need for spending to stimulate the economy was skyrocketing. The U.S. government needed a new source of income, fast. The giant untaxed, unchecked alcohol industry suddenly looked like a giant pot of cash at the end of the prohibitionist rainbow. Could the same thing happen today, after our own Great Crash? The bankrupt state of California is about to hold a referendum to legalize and tax cannabis, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pointed out that it could raise massive sums. Yes, history does rhyme.
Many people understandably worry that legalization would cause a huge rise in drug use, but the facts suggest this isn't the case. Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in 2001, and—as a study by Glenn Greenwald for the Cato Institute found—it had almost no effect at all.* Indeed, drug use fell a little among the young. Similarly, Okrent says the end of alcohol prohibition "made it harder, not easier, to get a drink. ... Now there were closing hours and age limits, as well as a collection of geographic proscriptions that kept bars or package stores distant from schools, churches and hospitals." People didn't drink much more. The only change was that they didn't have to turn to armed criminal gangs for it, and they didn't end up swigging poison.
Who now defends alcohol prohibition? Is there a single person left? This echoing silence should suggest something to us. Ending drug prohibition seems like a huge heave, just as ending alcohol prohibition did. But when it is gone, when the drug gangs are a bankrupted memory, when drug addicts are treated not as immoral criminals but as ill people needing health care, who will grieve? American history is pocked by utopian movements that prefer glib wishful thinking over a hard scrutiny of reality, but they inevitably crest and crash in the end. Okrent's dazzling history leaves us with one whiskey-sharp insight above all others: The War on Alcohol and the War on Drugs failed because they were, beneath all the blather, a war on human nature.
Correction, June 3, 2010: This article originally stated that Glenn Greenwald conducted a study on Portugal's decriminalization of personal possession drugs for the American Enterprise Institute. It was for the Cato Institute. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Corrections, June 8, 2010: This article originally misspelled the last name of Frederick Douglass as Douglas. (Return to the corrected sentence.) In addition, the article cited an incorrect date for the passage of the 18th Amendment. (Return to the corrected sentence) It also suggested that women gained the right to vote before, rather than after the passage of prohibition. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Slate V's Bookmark: When Liquor Was Prescribed as Medicine