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PostPosted: Mon 22 Oct , 2012 5:04 pm 
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Experts sentenced to six years in prison for insufficiently warning victims

I find this very disturbing - seven scientists were found guilty of manslaughter because they didn't warn the public strongly enough about the dangers of an earthquake. At this stage in our technological development, we can't predict earthquakes with enough accuracy to be 100% infallible. These scientists gave their best judgement based on the data and were wrong in this case.

If I were a scientist employed in Italy I would resign immediately.

Quote:
The defence had argued it is impossible to predict quakes. Seismologists have long concurred, saying the technology doesn't exist to predict a quake and that no major temblor has ever been foretold.


Quote:
According to the commission's memo, issued one week before the big quake, the experts concluded that it was "improbable" that there would be a major quake though it added that one couldn't be excluded.


What do you people think?

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PostPosted: Mon 22 Oct , 2012 6:40 pm 
The Grey Amaretto as Supermega-awesome Proud Heretic Girl
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Wow, that is disturbing. :( Earthquakes are highly unpredictable. Are they going to start sentencing meteorologists for not predicting tornadoes? Or not predicting where lightning is going to strike?

That feels very wrong to me. :nono:

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PostPosted: Mon 22 Oct , 2012 7:01 pm 
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It sounds like a desperate attempt to focus their grief by finding a scapegoat, without really considering whether the scapegoat is actually responsible.

I can understand the mob mentality, but that it went through the courts and actually produced a conviction? Are Italian judges so incompetent?

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PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct , 2012 2:34 pm 
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Apparently 5000 scientists have signed the following and sent it to Giorgio Napolitano:

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Years of research, much of it conducted by distinguished seismologists in your own country, have demonstrated that there is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of an impending disaster. To expect more of science at this time is unreasonable. It is manifestly unfair for scientists to be criminally charged for failing to act on information that the international scientific community would consider inadequate as a basis for issuing a warning. Moreover, we worry that subjecting scientists to criminal charges for adhering to accepted scientific practices may have a chilling effect on researchers, thereby impeding the free exchange of ideas necessary for progress in science and discouraging them from participating in matters of great public importance.


The article doesn't say whether these were world-wide scientists, or just Italian.

Full letter (in .pdf format)

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Last edited by Jude on Wed 09 Jan , 2013 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
typo :oops:


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PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct , 2012 6:17 pm 
The Grey Amaretto as Supermega-awesome Proud Heretic Girl
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I reposted this on HoF. JewelSong found another article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/world ... .html?_r=0


It's really quite disturbing, imo.

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PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct , 2012 6:29 pm 
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I've got more news: Italian disaster experts resign over quake trial

Quote:
Four top Italian disaster experts quit their posts Tuesday, saying the manslaughter convictions of former colleagues for failing to adequately warn of a deadly 2009 earthquake means they can't effectively perform their duties.


Quote:
Commission president Luciano Maiani and two other members resigned, along with a top official for earthquake and volcano risk in the national Department of Civil Protection. Maiani said Monday's court ruling made it impossible to work in a "calm and efficient" way.


Let's hope all Italian scientists resign. That's the only rational course, I think.

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PostPosted: Tue 23 Oct , 2012 7:20 pm 
The Grey Amaretto as Supermega-awesome Proud Heretic Girl
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I agree. Either that or someone with some common sense should overturn this ruling, recognizing it for what it is--an emotional reaction to a tragic, but unforeseeable, situation.

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PostPosted: Fri 09 Nov , 2012 2:07 pm 

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No surprise. Italy's facing some unpleasant consequences from these convictions (and the resignations that followed).

Convictions Leave Italy's Civil Protection in Chaos

[Edit: Oops, looks like Science has started putting its news stories as well as the scientific articles behind the login page. Try this google cache if you don't have a subscription - it's not pretty, but it has the same information.]


In a nutshell, most of Italy's commission that advises the government on natural disasters has resigned or is threatening to resign, the government has so far refused to accept the resignations of the scientists who have tried to resign, and the whole thing is a mess.

There's also a separate development:

Quote:
"...the newspaper La Republica published another recorded last week suggesting that scientists serving on CGR were under pressure to bring their public statements in line with the wishes of Guido Bertolaso, then-head of the DPC. ... In the call, recorded three days after the L'Aquila quake, Bertolaso discusses a CGR meeting scheduled for that day with commission member and then-INGV Director Enzo Boschi. "Today's meeting is aimed at this, so the truth is not to be said." Bertolaso said.

(Though no one knows what "truth" they're talking about.)


Lali, I'm uncomfortable with the whole trend to find someone (or some organization) responsible for any and all disasters. As a society, we no longer seem to be capable of saying that it was a terrible tragedy, no one meant it to happen or did anything deliberately to bring it about, so let's mourn and move on.

The other trend that disturbs me is governments cherry-picking what scientific findings and advice they want to accept from experts, and what they want to ignore.

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PostPosted: Fri 09 Nov , 2012 4:01 pm 
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Excellent. I'm glad all those scientists are resigning - that's the only rational course after this fiasco. And let's hope the Italian government and courts realize the consequence of what they've done.

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PostPosted: Sat 10 Nov , 2012 3:48 pm 
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I hope so, too.

And I agree with your last two thoughts wholeheartedly, aninkling.

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PostPosted: Mon 19 Nov , 2012 9:36 pm 
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I was :Q when I heard this news. It's really, really scary that politicians AND the judiciary treat science like this. I can understand grief and anger and wanting to pin the blame on a scapegoat, but to actually DO it? :Q Mindboggling. I do hope the repercussions for this bite those responsible for this ruling in the rear.

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Nov , 2014 1:00 am 
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So, there's a good-but-not-nearly-good-enough update:

The Seismologists Accused of Manslaughter

Quote:
Blamed for the deaths of 300 people following a devastating 2009 earthquake, six of seven accused Italian experts now walk free.


But:

Quote:
ScienceInsider reported that all but Bernardo De Bernardinis have had their sentences overturned. De Bernardinis was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison, instead of six. The court said that of the seven experts, it could only prove a link between De Bernardinis’s words and the actions of the victims—to which De Bernardinis reportedly retorted that he believes he could face “God and man” with a clear conscience.

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Nov , 2014 3:20 pm 

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Poor guy. Italy is just plain bizarre about science, IMO. Lately, they've been going after Ilaria Capua, one of the world's biggest experts on avian influenza, and the person who implemented the first practical field use of vaccination to help control outbreaks in birds. I read the accusations in a news story in Science, and I'm still baffled.

Quote:
Science 5 September 2014:
Vol. 345 no. 6201 pp. 1105-1106
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6201.1105

In an unpublished report that is the culmination of 10 years of investigation, Italian police claim that a "criminal organization," which included scientists, company executives, veterinarians, and government officials, has colluded to profit financially from Italy's battle with avian influenza. Among other things, the report claims that the members of the organization smuggled influenza viruses into Italy, sold viruses illegally, produced and sold an illegal vaccine, and attempted to spread avian influenza to create a market for the vaccine.


Here's a link to the text, which I think has the full article:

http://www.reddit.com/r/worldnews/comments/2fjk7n/police_claim_leading_flu_researcher_illegally/



Quote:
Perhaps the most explosive charge is that Candoli and others deliberately spread bird flu viruses from 1999 on in an attempt to create a market for vaccines and pressure the government to approve them. The report uses the term “attempted epidemics,” but does not specify how they might have been triggered. The evidence appears to be circumstantial. During calls with veterinarians working for poultry farms in northern Italy, Candoli told them it was time to: “Stop spreading that illness!”


The most obvious interpretation of "Stop spreading the illness" is, of course, that they were trying to get veterinarians to use better disinfection and other precautionary measures to keep from accidentally spreading viruses within the birds on a farm, or between farms on objects like cars, etc. Like telling nurses to remember to wash their hands frequently and stop (inadvertently) spreading MRSA in hospitals.

Quote:
In 2005, he and a Merial colleague discussed whether it might be the right time for someone to find Italian ducks infected with H5; at the time, a dangerous strain called H5N1 was fanning out of Asia to Africa and Europe. Twenty days after the call, an H5N1 virus—although not of the Asian strain—was isolated from a dead duck near Modena.


So if you live in Italy, you'd better not discuss your research plans to see if something exists, either...

I'd really hate to be a scientist in Italy.

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Nov , 2014 2:39 pm 
The Grey Amaretto as Supermega-awesome Proud Heretic Girl
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That is pretty insane. :(

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