A bizarre case in Denmark

Content note: Violence, death, violence against women, possible murder, mutilation of corpses

The newspapers in Denmark is currently spending much time on one particular story that on one side is pretty common, and on the other side, is quite bizarre.

One the common side, it is the all-to-common story of a man and a woman going somewhere, woman disappears, and later turns up dead.

One the bizarre side, it involves a submarine, a well-known Danish rocket enthusiast, a Swedish journalist, and rumors about the sex tastes of at least some of the people involved.

The story that is known so far is this: On August 10, Swedish journalist Kim Wall boarded a submarine together with Danish rocket enthusiast Peter Madsen. Peter Madsen designed and built the submarine himself, and has been known to give tours in it.

After Wall failed to return home, her boyfriend alarmed the police, who started a search for the submarine, which at that time, also had disappeared.

The submarine was found, and Peter Madsen saved from it by helicopter. While Peter Madsen was saved, the submarine sank because of a leak in it. Peter Madsen claimed that the leak appeared after he had set Kim Wall on land.

So, to sum it up, Kim Wall went on the submarine trip with Peter Madsen, and was set on land. Afterwards, the submarine sank, and Kim Will disappeared on the way home from where she was set on land.

Unsurprisingly, the police didn’t quite buy this story, and started looking closer at the details.

There was camera footage from the place where Kin Wall was supposed to have been put on land, which showed that nothing of the sort happened.

This is where Peter Madsen changed his story – he claimed that Kim Wall had died by an accident in the submarine, and that he had buried her at sea.

Peter Madsen was accused of manslaughter and put into jail pending a trial.

Since then, the torso of Kim Wall has been found, and Kim Wall’s blood and underwear has been found in the submarine (which has been raised).

Currently, Peter Madsen is sticking to his story about burying Kim Wall at sea, claiming that the mutilation of the body must have happened after he threw her into the sea. He  has provided the details that Kim Wall was hit on the head by the hatch, which killed her. He also said that he used a rope to get her up the ladder, which somehow made her underwear slip off her.

Again, unsurprisingly the police isn’t buying it, and has added murder charges and charges of indecent handling of corpses (it is worth noticing that indecent here isn’t necessarily in a sexual sense, but also covers handling corpses in a disrespectful way, such as mutilating them).

The police is working hard to collect as much evidence as possible, in order to get Peter Madsen convicted.

And now for the sexual tastes – during the court hearings, there has been questions into the sexual tastes of Peter Madsen, asking if he is into BSDM. I understand the direction of the questions, but I find it problematic that it appears that they try to indicate that being into BSDM would lead a person to murder someone. This is hardly the case.

As wall as going to the court hearings, Peter Madsen is being evaluated psychologically. Unlike the US (or at least movie description of US courtrooms), an insanity plea won’t get you off the hook in Denmark. If you are considered insane, and thus a danger to society, you will be put into custody without a time limit. The only way to get out again, is to convince the judges and psychologists that you are no longer a threat to society.

In most countries, guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and this is also the case in Denmark. However, this can be done in many ways, as explained in this NY Times article:

“The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of a crime, but there are no rules demanding certain types of evidence,” said Trine Baumbach, an associate professor of law at Copenhagen University. “It’s a very pragmatic legal system and the sum of the circumstantial evidence can be enough,” she said, noting a recent murder conviction in a case in which the victim’s body was never found.

Given the changing stories of Peter Madsen, his admitted behavior after the death of Kim Wall, and the state of Kim Wall’s corpse, I personally think that there is a high likelihood that Peter Madsen will be found guilty. But it is good that the police keep working on finding more evidence.

I will continue to blog on this story as it develops.

Asshole creates safe space from dissenting voices

Showing once again that self-awareness is not the strong suit of right-wingers, a CEO has created an employment test, which will create a safe space for him, ensuring that he won’t experience people who disagree with him – all in the name of trying to show that “snowflakes” can’t expect safe spaces.

Company introduces ‘snowflake test’ to weed out ‘whiny, entitled’ millenial candidates

Of course, the CEO is a nobody, and the company doesn’t hire a lot of people, so this is just a PR stunt, trying to appeal to anti-millenials and all sorts of bigots.

Thoughts on the British election

Well… that was a bit of a culsterfuck, wasn’t it?

I love the fact that May in her arrogance called for an election to grant her a solid mandate to negotiate Brexit with the EU, and the population clearly demonstrated their unwillingness to do so, reducing the Conservatives enough to deny them the absolute majority that they held before May’s ill-fated decision.

I also love the fact that Labour seems to be winning votes among the young people – indicating that Labour stand a fair chance of winning the next election, either by themselves, or (quite likely) together with the Lib-Dems and the Greens.

The fact that there is no party that can form a government by themselves is, generally speaking, a good thing, as it means that whoever get the Premiership has to be able and willing to listen and negotiate – something which I think would be a useful trait in someone who is going to negotiate Brexit with the EU. Unfortunately, in this specific case, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead May seems to be leaning on the support of the D.U.P. – a far-right, bigoted party from North Ireland, with firm roots in terrorism. Hopefully the more progressive back-benchers of the Conservatives won’t put up with that, and will force her to either work across the middle or call for a new election.

All in all, I find it hard to imagine that May is able to negotiate a good deal with the EU, or that she will be the PM for a full election cycle.

Can they really be this culture-less?

This is an actual headline from Fox News insider: NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of Trump

The play in question is a modern adaption of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar put up by Shakespeare in the Park.

The only place the article mention’s the play’s name is when quoting Delta Airlines saying “do not condone this interpretation of Julius Caesar.”

The Delta Airline quote was stated through twitter, and whomever wrote that tweet should be fired as a craven, uncultured fool.

The Fox article heavily quotes Guy Benson, who apparently is a Fox talking head on Fox and Friends.

Benson said it is “not a subtle statement” to portray the murder of a sitting U.S. president.

“This is so incredibly in poor taste that I’m surprised they haven’t cast Kathy Griffin in the production,” he said.

If Benson, or anyone else employed by Fox, knew any culture, they would know that the play is not endorsing the murder of Julius Caesar (no matter how much he looks like Trump). That is what the whole famous funeral speech by Mark Anthony is about.

Given how fragile Benson and the other Fox employees are, I tried to find a YouTube clip of the speech that they might find acceptable, and I think I found one – here Mark Anthony is played by Charles Heston.

Or if watching Heston causes them too much pain, perhaps Marlon Brando’s version works better

Both of those movie clips are of course from productions of Julius Caesar which stay true to the classic version of the play, but it is hardly a new thing that play instructors update the settings (see e.g. Romeo + Juliet from 1996) or the location (see e.g Kurosawa’s Ran from 1985 which was based on King Lear)

We have had some site issues

As happens all too frequently, this blog has been quiet for some time – this time, however, it wasn’t (just) due to my inactivity. Last week we had some issues with the blogging network, making it hard for us bloggers to blog. It should be fixed now, so I guess I have to find a new excuse for not blogging enough.

Skeptics fail at skepticism once again

There is a new article in the Skeptic Magazine going the rounds among prominent white male skeptics.

It is by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, and called The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies, and is an attempt to take down the field of gender studies by getting a “Sokal-style” hoax article published.

Since many prominent white male skeptics hate the field of gender studies, they are filled with glee by this take-down of the field.

There is just one problem – it is nothing of the sort. One hoax article is not enough to take down a field, especially not if it is accepted by a scam journal, which this one was (after being turned down by a real journal in the field).

For a good take-down of the crappy Skeptic Magazine article, see this excellent blogpost by Ketan Joshi: The engine of irrationality inside the rationalists

Lazy linking

Another round of interesting links from the internet

Should complementary and alternative medicine charities lose their charitable status?

Right now, the Charity Commission is in the middle of a public consultation, asking whether or not organisations that offer complementary and alternative therapies should continue to have charitable status. This review presents an unprecedented opportunity for the public to turn the tide, and to make it clear to the Charity Commission that it is not enough to make a medical claim, but that such claims have to be backed up by reliable evidence.

The Good Thinking Society has raised the problem with organizations based on promoting pseudo-science having charitable status, forcing the Charity Commission to hold a public consultation on the subject. As part of his work for the Good Thinking Society, Michael “Marsh” Marshall (host of Skeptics with a K) has written a great opinion piece in the Guardian explaining the reasons behind the Good Thinking Society’s focus on this.

Note: the public consultation ended on March 19th, but it is still worth reading the piece anyway.

Making Progress Toward Open Data: Reflections on Data Sharing at PLOS ONE

Since its inception, PLOS has encouraged data sharing; our original data policy (2003 – March 2014) required authors to share data upon request after publication. In line with PLOS’ ethos of open science and accelerating scientific progress, and in consultation with members of the wider scientific community, PLOS journals strengthened their data policy in March 2014 to further promote transparency and reproducibility.[1] This move was viewed as controversial by many, particularly for PLOS ONE, the largest and most multidisciplinary journal to ever undertake such a mandate. In this post, we look at our experience so far.

Interesting blogpost by PLOS ONE on their data sharing policy, and what the effect of their policy has been, three years after they implemented it.

The Doomsday Scam

This NY Times Magazine article is from November, 2015, but I have just recently come across it. It is a fascinating look into a hoax-substance red mercury, which is supposed to be highly dangerous, and the people searching for it.

The Eurocrat Who Makes Corporate America Tremble

Vestager’s entire tenure has been laced with an instinctive mistrust of big corporations. She’s driven investigations of Amazon.com, Fiat, Gazprom, Google, McDonald’s, and Starbucks—and she still has two and a half years remaining in her term. Rulings on McDonald’s and Amazon, both under scrutiny for their tax deals with Luxembourg, are imminent. If Vestager levies a multibillion-dollar fine against Google—a distinct possibility because the company is fighting three separate European antitrust cases—she will truly set headlines aflame. Google came under review for allegedly forcing Android phone manufacturers to pre-install its suite of apps, favoring its own comparison-shopping services in its search results, and preventing third-party websites from sourcing ads from its competitors. As with Apple and Amazon, these cases were bequeathed to Vestager by her predecessor, but she’s accelerated them to their finish lines.

Great profile of EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager, which focuses not only on her work, but also how the American corporations don’t know how to approach her.

‘The Drug Whisperer’: Drivers arrested while stone cold sober (warning: autoplay video)

Apparently some American police districts teaches cops how to “recognize” signs of drug use. I use scare quotes around recognize, as this news segment clearly shows that they do nothing of the sort. Instead they jail people without a cause.

 

Podcast recommendation: Skeptics with a K

As part of my series of posts recommending podcasts, the turn has come to recommend Skeptics with a K, a podcast by the Merseyside Skeptic Society. The Merseyside Skeptic Society is of course an important skeptical organization, which is well known for having come up with the 10:23 campaign and for co-organizing the QED conference.

The podcast started out in 2009, and is thus a quite long-running podcast, coming up on its 200th episode (as I am writing this, episode 198 was released two days ago).

The podcast has had 3 hosts from the start, with the current hosts being Mike Hall, Michael “Marsh” Marshall, and Alice Howarth. Mike and Marsh has been hosts from the start, while Alice joined in 2014, taking over from Collin Harris.

The shows style is basically that the three hosts sit together, talk about their daily life, and then talk about a skeptic or science subject that they find relevant for the show. The show is relaxed, often silly, but despite what the hosts (especially Mike) would say, very informative. From the science talk by Alice, over Marsh’s work for the Good Thinking Society, to Mike’s addressing misconceptions and misuse of the placebo concept.

In recent years, it has become easy to be cynical about organized skepticism, but podcasts like Skeptics with a K helps fight that cynicism, showing the good side of organized skepticism, demonstrating that it can make a difference, and that it is not just about people promoting themselves, but it is also about people like the 3 hosts who actively work to promote critical thinking, both through their podcast, and through their work fighting against things like homeopathy.

Note: if you have a problem with swearing, this is probably not the podcast for you.

Also, you probably would want to avoid the Christmas special as the first episode to listen to, as it is a drunk episode, and not very representative of the rest of the podcast.

John Oliver is spot on

John Oliver covered the French presidential election last night, and explains what is at stake

It is hard to overstate the importance of this election, and the consequences if Le Pen wins. It could very well lead to the collapse of the EU, since it is highly unlikely that Germany would be able to work together with a fascist like Le Pen.