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March 2019
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FBI's 'Clothing Match' Expert Changed Testimony To Better Serve Prosecutors, Co-Chairs Nat'l Forensic Committee

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A little more than a month ago, we covered the ultra-weird offshoot of FBI forensics spearheaded by Richard Vorder Bruegge. Vorder Bruegge claimed mass-produced clothing like jeans were as unique as fingerprints and DNA. According to his forensic "expertise," a match could be made using only low-res CCTV screengrabs and whole lot of arrows.

This peculiar strand of FBI forensics is still in use. Vorder Bruegge, rather than being laughed out of the FBI forensic lab, has risen to a position where he can pass on his dubious expertise to others. ProPublica continues to dig into the FBI's questionable forensic programs and has found that Vorder Bruegge is now sitting near the top of the nation's forensic organizational chart.
Today, Vorder Bruegge is one of the nation’s most influential crime lab scientists. He serves on the Forensic Science Standards Board, which sets rules for every field, from DNA to fingerprints. He’s a co-chair organizing the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting this week in Baltimore, a gathering of thousands of crime lab professionals, researchers, lawyers and judges.
This has happened due to Vorder Bruegge's testimonial quantity, not quality. ProPublica quotes a 2013 law review article that refers to him as the "most ubiquitous" expert witness. A quality job it isn't. But given enough opportunities, Vorder Bruegge has managed to turn unproven claims about the uniqueness of clothing into years in prison for people he's testified against. His track record shows he's willing to change his expert opinion if it better serves the prosecution.
In his report, Vorder Bruegge wrote that John Henry Stroman and the robber had similar “overall shape of the face, nose, mouth, chin, and ears.” But Vorder Bruegge stopped short of declaring a match, saying the video and pictures were too low resolution for that.Nevertheless, prosecutors said in court filings that if Vorder Bruegge took the stand, he would testify that “the photograph is of sufficient resolution to definitively state that the robber is John Henry Stroman.”[...]It wasn’t the first time, nor the last, Vorder Bruegge’s lab results said one thing and the courts were told something different. Court records and FBI Lab files show statements by prosecutors or Vorder Bruegge veered from his original conclusions in at least three cases.
This is what happens when you care about convictions but not all that much about science. Vorder Bruegge's background as a geologist certainly didn't prepare him for a future of staring at grainy photos of shirts worn by suspects. But none of that mattered to the FBI which found him to be a useful champion of pseudoscience who could be used to lock people up.The entire report is a fascinating, if disheartening, read. Jurors and judges are easily swayed by FBI experts, even after cross examination exposes mathematically-impossible levels of certainty or, in at least one case, Vorder Brugge's admission he worked backward from the conclusion prosecutors wanted him to reach.Work like Vorder Bruegge's is exactly why a prominent federal judge resigned from a forensic committee in 2015. Judge Jed Rakoff recognized the DOJ did not want to fix its forensic problems. It only wanted to give the appearance it cared for as long as it took to sweep the embarrassment under the rug. The DOJ has too much invested in half-baked science and self-made experts to actually clean house and add more actual science to its forensic methods.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Mar-2019
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Long-Term Strategies to Improve Your Online Brand Reputation

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It is becoming more and more apparent that your brand online reputation plays a significant role in the overall success of your business. According to a Harvard Business School Working Paper, “every additional one-star Yelp rating causes an increase in the business's revenue as high as 9%.” There is no possible way to make your […]The post Long-Term Strategies to Improve Your Online Brand Reputation appeared first on Adotas.

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Sites Warn EU Users Of Just How Bad Article 13 Will Be

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As we mentioned, a bunch of websites started protesting yesterday in the lead up to next week's vote on Article 11 and Article 13 that will fundamentally change the nature of the internet. The main ones were various European Wikipedia editions, which completely blacked out and posted a warning message. Here's the one in Germany (with automatic browser translation -- the original, obviously, is in German):

Different sites are doing different things -- and for some it depends on whether you're visiting from the EU or not, but it's good to see so many sites coming together on this. Reddit, as explained in a blog post on its site, are telling any EU Redditor who tries to post something new that it's blocked:
Lots of others have stepped up as well. The ever popular online streaming site Twitch is warning people in a variety of ways, including creating a video about its concerns:
And has also put the message all over its social media:
Patreon, the very popular website for helping creators get paid has warned its creators that under Article 13, it may need to block their content:
Others who have spoken up include Creative Commons and the Internet Archive:
Another site that joined in -- which we'll refrain from screenshotting -- is the most popular porn site on the internet, Pornhub.Between all of this, the question now remains: will the EU Parliament ignore all of these voices? Ignore all of the over 5 million people who signed a Petition against Article 13? Will it ignore all the companies who have said that Article 13 will put them at a disadvantage compared to Google? Will it ignore of the content creators who rely on platforms like Twitch and Patreon?

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