Tag Archives: censorship

Links for March 31st

Measles Outbreak Triggered by Unvaccinated Child

What began as a family trip to Switzerland in 2008 ended up as a public health nightmare in California.

The family's 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

The pope is not above the law

One of those accused in the Verona deaf-school case is the late archbishop of the city, Giuseppe Carraro. Next up, if our courts can find time, will be the Rev. Donald McGuire, a serial offender against boys who was also the confessor and "spiritual director" for Mother Teresa. (He, too, found the confessional to be a fine and private place and made extensive use of it.)

This is what makes the scandal an institutional one and not a matter of delinquency here and there. The church needs and wants control of the very young and asks their parents to entrust their children to certain "confessors," who until recently enjoyed enormous prestige and immunity. It cannot afford to admit that many of these confessors, and their superiors, are calcified sadists who cannot believe their luck. Nor can it afford to admit that the church regularly abandoned the children and did its best to protect and sometimes even promote their tormentors.

An open letter to conservatives

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you.  I grew up in a profoundly Republican home so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You’ve lost me and you’ve lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I’d like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You’re going to have to come up with a platform that isn’t built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from yours; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Sunday Sacrilege: The greatest blasphemy of them all

We are so tired of being told that we can't be moral without an objective external source of goodness…yet here we have a group of people who most loudly claim as their professional calling a direct insight into the mind and will of the cosmic lawgiver, and what do we find? Violations of basic human decency at every level.

Stand up to Murdoch, Armando Iannucci tells BBC

In language worthy of his most famous creation, Malcolm Tucker, The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci today called on the BBC to do more to defend itself from its critics – and "find someone to articulately tell James Murdoch to fuck off".

Iannucci was speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards, where his political satire won a hat-trick of awards. These included a first acting prize for the show for its star, Peter Capaldi, who plays Tucker.

The creator, writer, director and producer of the Thick Of It, Iannucci thanked the BBC for "holding its nerve over the series, especially when they have been under a lot of pressure over taste and decency and all sorts of things".

"I love the BBC dearly and would fight for it to the death," he said. "My only wish is that whenever it is accused of something, even if it's something it hadn't done, I wish it wouldn't go to the first police station and hand itself in.

It’s True: Hot Water Really Can Freeze Faster Than Cold Water

Hot water really can freeze faster than cold water, a new study finds. Sometimes. Under extremely specific conditions. With carefully chosen samples of water.

Ministry of Justice announces move on libel reform

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has announced that the government believes the case for libel reform has been made, and that the Ministry of Justice will now move to make reforms to England’s defamation laws, potentially with a Libel Reform Bill.

Commenting on the findings of the Ministry of Justice libel working group, Straw said the government would seek to address the issues of single publication, the strengthening of a public interest defence, and procedural changes to address issues such as early definitions of meaning and libel tourism.

Is the music industry trying to write the digital economy bill?

Two weeks is a lifetime in politics – especially in the political life of the backwards digital economy bill, Labour's gift to the incumbent entertainment industries that government is bent on ramming into law before the election.

In my last column, I bore the bizarre news that the LibDem front-bench Lords had introduced an amendment to the bill that would create a Great Firewall of Britain. This would be a national censorwall to which the record industry could add its least favourite sites, rendering them invisible to Britons (except for those with the nous of a 13-year-old evading her school's censorware). Over the following days, the story got weirder: the LibDem amendment got amended, to add a figleaf of due process to the untenable proposal.

And then it got weirder still: a leaked memo from the BPI (the UK record industry lobby) showed that the "LibDem amendment" had in fact been written – with minor variances – by the BPI.

The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it.

On March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted as saying that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican," and that "when one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia." This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation.

Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made "to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse." He stupidly went on to say that "those efforts have failed."

Brits: ask your MP to demand a debate on new copyright law before voting

Last week's extraordinary leaked UK record industry memo on the Digital Economy Bill candidly asserted that the only reason Britain's retrograde, extremist new copyright law would pass Parliament is because MPs were "resigned" that they wouldn't have a chance to debate it properly.

For context: Labour cancelled its anti-fox-hunt legislation because there wasn't time for proper debate, but they're ramming through this copyright bill even though it's far more important and far-reaching — for one thing, a broken UK Internet will make it harder for people who care about fox hunts one way or the other to organise and lobby on the issue.

Now, 38 Degrees is asking Britons to write to their MPs and ask them to call for a full debate on this law before they vote on it. [...] No matter what side you come down on for the Digital Economy Bill, is there anyone who wants law to be made without debate?

Links for November 27th

Boots’ cynical stance on homeopathy

There's something of a backlash taking place online against Boots today, after their professional standards director Paul Bennett admitted before a parliamentary committee yesterday that the chain sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, even though they know there is no scientific evidence that they actually work.

National papers involved in a conspiracy of silence

[W]hy, I wonder, was The Guardian the only national paper to report on the fact that former News of the World football reporter Matt Driscoll was awarded almost £792,736 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination by an employment tribunal?

The Guardian story appeared online on Monday night and in Tuesday's morning's paper. It was covered by the Press Gazette. It was reported on a lawyer's website. There were also mentions on various blogs[...].

But this record payout – believed to be the largest award of its kind in the media – was not considered to be newsworthy enough for any national to mention.

Yet it must surely be in the public interest for people to know about misbehaviour by Britain's best-selling newspaper

‘Aggressive’ policing of protests condemned in post-G20 inquiry

Senior police officers could lose the consent of the British public unless they abandon misguided approaches to public protests that are considered "unfair, aggressive and inconsistent", an inquiry has found.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, used a landmark report into public order policing to criticise heavy-handed tactics, which he said threatened to alienate the public and infringe the right to protest.

The report, published today, called for a softening of the approach and urged a return to the "British model" of policing, first defined by 19th-century Conservative prime minister Sir Robert Peel. O'Connor advocated an "approachable, impartial, accountable style of policing based on minimal force and anchored in public consent".

The initial reaction from protest groups was positive. A lawyer from environmental organisation Climate Camp [...] described the findings as a "huge step forward".

Chumby One: handsome successor to the cutest computer ever

The Chumby One — the successor to the incredibly innovative Chumby device — is just about ready to ship, and is available for $99. Chumby is a cute, squeezable hand-held device that is wide open — everything from the circuit board designs to the software is open-licensed and freely downloadable. The idea is to produce an adorable, versatile device that any hacker, anywhere, can improve, so that all Chumby owners can get more out of it.

Activists repeatedly stopped and searched as police officers ‘mark’ cars

The roads were empty when Linda Catt and her father drove their white Citroën Berlingo into London on a quiet Sunday morning. They could not have known they were being followed.

But at 7.23am on 31 July 2005, the van had passed beneath an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera in east London, triggering an alert: "Of interest to Public Order Unit, Sussex police". Within seconds Catt, 50, and her 84-year-old father, John, were apprehended by police and searched under the Terrorism Act.

After filing a complaint, the pair, neither of whom have criminal records, discovered that four months earlier, a Sussex police officer had noticed their van "at three protest demonstrations" and decided, apparently on that basis, it should be tracked.

Murdoch-Microsoft deal in the works

Microsoft is ready to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to remove its news content from Google, according to the Financial Times. Microsoft has also approached other "big online publishers" with similar deals.

"One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan 'puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them",' wrote the FT's Matthew Garrahan. "… Microsoft's interest is being interpreted as a direct assault on Google because it puts pressure on the search engine to start paying for content."

This he calls a "ray of light to the newspaper industry."

Dirt can be good for children, say scientists

Children should be allowed to get dirty, according to scientists who have found being too clean can impair the skin's ability to heal.

Normal bacteria living on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when we get hurt, the US team discovered.

The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses that can cause cuts and grazes to swell, they say.

Their work is published in the online edition of Nature Medicine.

Protests grow over digital bill

The Digital Economy bill has sparked a wave of protest among consumers and rights groups.

Soon after the bill began its journey through Parliament on 19 November, many expressed worries about parts of it.

The bill suggests the use of technical measures to tackle illegal file-sharing that could involve suspending the accounts of persistent pirates.

Critics fear this and other powers the bill reserves could damage the UK's growing digital economy.

BBC iPlayer launches Wii channel

The BBC iPlayer is relaunching on the Nintendo Wii in the form of a dedicated Wii channel on 18 November.

Only consoles with a broadband connection in the UK will be able to run the channel.

To get the service, Wii owners will be able to download it from the console's online shop for free.

Australia mulls Scientology probe

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has said he will consider calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the Church of Scientology.

But he said the evidence must be looked at carefully before proceeding.

Senator Nick Xenophon launched a scathing attack on Scientology, citing letters from former followers alleging extensive criminal activity.

Scientology spokesman Cyrus Brooks said the senator's attack had been an abuse of parliamentary proceedings.

Senator Xenophon tabled seven letters from former Scientologists who he said were willing to co-operate with New South Wales and Australian federal police.

"The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia, contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses which are truly shocking," he said

Apocalypse Then: a two-part series on the lessons of Y2K

In 1993, a tech consultant named Peter de Jager wrote an article for Computerworld with the headline "Doomsday 2000." When the clock struck midnight on 1/1/00, he wrote, many of our computers would lose track of the date, and very bad things would happen as a result.

Looking back, De Jager's article is remarkable for its pessimism. He interviewed several IT experts who said the tech industry was completely ignoring the computer-date bug. Many didn't think it was a real problem, and those who did felt no pressure to do anything about it—after all, the year 2000 was a long way away. "I have spoken at association meetings and seminars, and when I ask for a show of hands of people addressing the problem, the response is underwhelming," de Jager wrote. "If I get one in 10 respondents, I'm facing an enlightened group."

But then something strange happened: Everyone started worrying about Y2K.

Links for November 17th

Labels may be losing money, but artists are making more than ever

The Times Labs blog takes a hard look at the data on music sales and live performances and concludes that while the labels’ profits might be falling, artists are taking in more money, thanks to the booming growth of live shows.

The Times says that they’d like more granular data about who’s making all the money from concerts — is there a category of act that’s a real winner here? — but the trend seems clear. The 21st century music scene is the best world ever for some musicians and music-industry businesses, and the worst for others.

Which raises the question: is it really copyright law’s job to make sure that last years winners keep on winning? Or is it enough to ensure that there will always be winners?

Huawei Pushing Aside Cisco and Ericsson

There was a time, about a decade ago, that Cisco (CSCO) executives would comment that Huawei was so good at copying (aka appropriating) Cisco’s technology that it even replicated bugs in the software. What was once a joke has morphed into a juggernaut in the communications-equipment marketplace that shows no sign of abating.

Huawei has pushed itself onto the world stage of equipment OEMs for carriers worldwide in wireless, IP-broadband, core networks, software, and services. According to market research firm Informa, Huawei is now the number three supplier of wireless infrastructure equipment, trailing only Ericsson (ERIC) and Alcatel (ALA)

How to cope with unemployment

Unemployment can be one of life’s toughest challenges, but there are many practical steps you can take to help you best cope.

An array of information is available through the BBC News website and various groups offer help for people who are unemployed.

Here is a guide to some of that advice and information.

Surreal drama of Zambia ‘porn’ trial

The trial of a news editor in Zambia, accused of distributing obscene material, is coming to an end. Chansa Kabwela says she sent photos of a woman giving birth without medical help to senior government officials to highlight the effects of a nurses’ strike. Jo Fidgen has watched the trial, and reflects on what it reveals about Zambian culture.

Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap

You won’t find a better media center than the open-source XBMC, but most people don’t have the space or desire to plug a noisy PC into their TV. Instead, I converted a cheap nettop into a standalone XBMC set-top box. Here’s how.

The David Nutt affair, Lord Drayson, and the new political confidence of science

As I’ve been covering the repercussions of the sacking of David Nutt as the Government’s chief drugs adviser over the past two weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what the affair means for British science, and its role in political life.

On one level, of course, the episode has been rather depressing. This Government talks a good game on making evidence-based policy, but as I’ve argued before, the dismissal of Professor Nutt highlights that what many ministers prefer is policy-based evidence. Scientific advice is still too often seen as something to be embraced if it supports conclusions that are politically palatable, and ignored if it does not.

Cut the Cable For Good with Boxee and Apple TV

If you vaguely recall hearing similarly over-the-top pronouncements before, you’re almost certainly right. For more than a decade, pundits have been saying that your internet connection would, any day now, be the primary pipeline for television shows, on-demand movies, YouTube videos, music videos, video podcast feeds, online radio, personalized audio streams, online and offline pictures and music—anything you could fit on your screen, really.

Enter Boxee
Boxee’s media center gives you that, and all from one application. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s built from the guts of the killer Xbox Media Center (which is still a quite active project itself), and it simply works. Loaded onto an Apple TV, or any TV-connected computer, Boxee also gives you free license to drop your cable or satellite dependency with hardly any regret, especially once you realize your year-to-year savings.

Free Speech Is Not For Sale

After a year-long Inquiry, English PEN and Index on Censorship have concluded that English libel law has a negative impact on freedom of expression, both in the UK and around the world. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and should only be limited in special circumstances. Yet English libel law imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on free speech, sending a chilling effect through the publishing and journalism sectors in the UK. This effect now reaches around the world, because of so-called ‘libel tourism’, where foreign cases are heard in London, widely known as a ‘town named sue’. The law was designed to serve the rich and powerful, and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.

Ofcom knocks back BBC DRM plans

BBC plans to copy protect Freeview high definition (HD) data have been dealt a blow by regulator Ofcom.

It has written to the BBC asking for more information about what the benefits would be for consumers.
Initially it looked as if Ofcom would approve the plans but, during its two week consultation, it has received many responses opposing the plan.

Critics say a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for Freeview HD would effectively lock down free BBC content.

My son has cancer. He can’t go into day care because of unvaccinated children. – By Stephanie Tatel – Slate Magazine

Current public opinion about childhood vaccinations sometimes seems to be influenced less by science and more by Jenny McCarthy. But here’s something that rarely gets discussed: the threat posed by the nonvaccinated to children who are immunosuppressed.

Links for March 12th

Iron Maiden speak out over riot

Heavy metal group Iron Maiden’s tour manager has criticised the people who were arrested for trying to gatecrash a concert in Bogota.

Colombian police arrested more than 100 people after stones were thrown hours before the group were due to perform.

In a statement posted on the band’s website, Rod Smallwood said: “We abhor the inane behaviour of a small minority of people outside.”

Product placement on TV ruled-out

The government has rejected proposals to allow broadcasters to use product placement in programmes, despite collapsing advertising revenues.

The practice of brands paying to have their products featured on television shows and movies is common in the US.

But Culture Minister Andy Burnham said a UK ban would be maintained and that he would “consider all other avenues before allowing product placement.”

Stephen Fry: The internet and Me

Stephen Fry – wit, writer, raconteur, actor and quiz show host – is also a self-confessed dweeb and meistergeek. As he confesses “If I added up all the hours I’ve sat watching a progress bar fill up, I could live another life.”

His Twitter feed is the world’s second most popular, pipped at the post by one Barack Obama. He spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Analysis programme about why he believes the web is such a wondrous thing.

Last.FM joins Google’s rights row

Online music service Last.fm has waded into the row between YouTube and the Performing Right Society.

Founder Martin Stiksel said he hoped a resolution could be found to avoid illegal services from taking over.

He urged both parties to find a “workable solution, which he hoped would include cheaper and “less complicated” licences.

Tech shifts cultural boundaries

Digital technologies challenge the cultural industries, says Bill Thompson.

Web founder’s ‘snooping’ warning

The integrity of the internet is under threat if online “snooping” goes unchecked, one of the web’s most respected figures has told Parliament.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said browsing habits could now be monitored as if someone had put a “TV camera in one’s room”.

Laws must be better enforced to ensure such “sensitive” data was not misused for commercial gain, he added.

Italian bloggers call for support from around the world to fight blogger-licensing in Italy

Senator D’Alia comes along wanting to black out the Internet. He has proposed an amendment, that has been approved in the Senate, to a draft law put forward by Minister Brunetta, that will oblige the ISPs to black out a site, a blog or a social media like YouTube or Facebook (the whole site) at the request of the Minister of the Interior for crimes of opinion, for example a film clip or a group that invites people not to observe a law that is considered to be unjust. Without any verdict from a magistrate. Today, this only happens in China. In a dictatorship.

Now Carlucci, ex show girl now member of Parliament for the right wing, is proposing to a law to forbid to publish any content in any form on line anonymously.

Homosexuality does for UK blue duck population

A couple of male blue ducks have pretty well done for hopes that the species might propagate in the UK after eschewing the advances of a female in favour of some light boy-on-boy, the Telegraph reports.

The pair of gay drakes – named Ben and Jerry – resisted the advances of female Cherry at Arundel Wetland Centre in West Sussex and came out of the avine closet to form a close partnership.

Dr Who Dalek found in pond

A Dalek from Dr Who was found submerged in a pond by volunteers enlisted to clear it of rubbish.