Archive for the ‘news’ Category
While Simon Singh won his day in court, many others continue to suffer under the draconian libel laws of the UK.
In the US we were lucky to see a bill passed this year that specifically protected us against libel suits emanating from overseas. However, many other countries still face the chilling effect of being sued in an English court.
Free speech is essential for journalists and bloggers to speak out against nonsense and pseudoscience. This is why everyone needs to join in this most worthy of causes.
Here’s the message that needs to be pushed:
The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!
This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.
The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.
You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.
The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at
Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.
If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.
We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at
It sucks to have a birth on September 11. No longer is it a carefree day of fun. No, it’s now a day of emotions ranging from somber rememberance to an excuse for assholes like Terry Jones to make meaningless gestures of stupidity and ignorance.
Luckily, the Onion is here to save us with the written word in a manner only they have truly mastered. It’s a collection of all their article relating to the 9/11 event. Enjoy.
Hurricane Earl is bearing down on my beach house (well, mine for a week). Right now it’s a category 3 storm. That’s bad. In less than 24 hours it’ll be raging off the Outer Banks, and at that point it could either be a category 4 (we’re screwed) or with any luck it’ll have weakened or even swung out to sea a little bit and just give us a nasty day of rain and high winds.
In all, we’ve been lucky for the many years we’ve been coming to Topsail Island as we’ve never had a major storm come near us. So this particular storm seemed mighty fishy, almost like something was sending it this way on purpose.
Luckily I purchased our very own super hero for the trip. This is probably his 7th or 8th version of his armor. It’s freaking wild what you can buy at Costco now-a-days. Your own god damn Iron Man.
So, we sent Ironing Man (as he is known by the wee ones) aloft to survey the skies and determine what was behind this foul storm.
Using his advanced sensors, state-of-the-art velco and aluminum bar design, and a washed-up bag that served as a weight on his tail he was able to do some serious reconnaissance of the beach and spot the neer-do-wells.
Jellyfish! It was their fiendish plot to storm the beaches and sow terror among the populace. Riding the large waves and heavy surf created by Earl they flung themselves without mercy upon the beaches… and promptly stopped, forgetting their jellied bodies were no match for dry land. Fools!
Better luck next time, suckers.
It’s been a crazy, busy summer and as you can see, I finally gave in and let Twitter do some blog posts for me.
So, what stories have caught my attention in the last few weeks?
Back at the turn of the century the House and Senate passed the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act. It’s a real piece of work, and shows the ignorance our electorate has when it comes to the digital medium. First we have to back up and understand why it was passed.
Our copyright system in the US is messed-up. It’s antiquated, it’s abused, and it’s overburdened. Tossing the internet and software explosion on top of it further broke it. The DMCA was meant as a stop-gap patch, heavily supported and written by lobbyists (think the RIAA, MPAA), in an attempt to assert some kind of control of this crazy internet world.
What it did was seriously encumber Fair Use rights, and resulted in all sorts of shenanigans such asby being used to take down any sort of website content a person or corporation found objectionable. It become a ten-ton hammer in a world where a screwdriver was needed.
Thankfully, a few weeks ago large parts of the DMCA was rolled back in federal court. Fair Use once again reigns and you can do things like make back-ups of your own DVDs, root your own devices for complete control (othweise known as jailbreaking), and generally muck-about in devices and content YOU purchased. Yes, a few short weeks ago all that was illegal as defined and enforced by the DMCA. Scary, eh?
H. Res. 1593 – Bringing facts back to education
A bill was recently introduced into Congress in an effort to establish a baseline for education standards as developed by board of education committees. It’s sad this bill even has to exist, but given the actions of an especially ignorant group of Texas representatives, here we are.
HR 1593 says:
“Supporting academically based social studies curriculum standards for the Nation’s elementary and secondary education public school textbooks.”
OK. And its methods would be:
“Whereas the National Council for the Social Studies believes that State social studies standards should be developed by consulting scholars for their expertise, soliciting input from community members and educators, and having master social studies educators write standards to ensure that they are effective and grade appropriate.”
Sounds sane right? Contrast this to the current state of the Texas Board of Education who were re-writing what would be used in school textbooks (which by benefit of its size, what Texas wants everybody else gets). The board contained no experts, no scholars, and admittedly ignored advice and research on the topics they struck from the textbooks. And let us not forget the board’s leader, Don McLeroy’s now famous rant that, “We need to stand up to these experts…”. Just what we needed as a nation more dumbing-down of education.
I think HR 1593 is a powder keg. Should it pass it will blow open discussion of curriculum standards in education. The discussions of what passes as facts and standards alone will be epic, especially in the science arena. For now, though, it’s a sleeping giant. Let’s hope it’s not killed in committee.
And of course Prop 8 was back in the news.
The whole affair reminds me of these Madison and Jefferson quotes.
In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority. – James Madison
The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society. Thomas Jefferson
Founding Fathers rolling in their graves? Not quite.
Then there’s the Google-Verizon proposal – I’ll cover this colossal blunder in a separate post.
Late last week the Obama administration released a document that outlined ideas and process for developing a more secure experience on the internet. There is a real and present danger from losing one’s confidential information through various cyber attacks. This leads to credit cards being charged for items you did not purchase, withdraws from your bank account, or even fraudulent accounts set-up in your name. It can wreck your finances, credit, and generally make life hell.
It’s worth reading the document if only to gird yourself against what will no doubt become the top panic topic du jour from the talking heads of media. The contents of the document will no doubt be distorted beyond measure.
My take from having read it is the technology and process already exist. There are many open source measures from PGP and OpenID that one can use to create a more secure precense on the web. The problem is it takes education and understanding – a focus that should have been the majority of the document but wasn’t.
Indeed, the strongest set of security tools and measures are completely useless if people don’t know how to use them and why they need to be used. Today’s internet environments like Facebook create habits that encourage one to lose their information. You become trained to click on any link someone sends (the quintessential internet security no-no), you friend anyone that sends you a request out of guilt, and post your daily information and habits for anyone to use to social engineer any answer out of you they’d like.
Creating good security habits, understanding how your information gets hacked and used, and knowing the basics for keeping the computers you use free of malware is a far better, far cheaper solution than any national internet ID plan.
Where do you get started?
Though it’s a bit dry, The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team has a good set of topics that is worth reading – from creating secure passwords to avoiding social engineering and phishing attacks.
All this is very similar to the old Smokey The Bear campaign – “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
Only you can prevent yourself from getting hacked.
Earthquakes are all the rage of late. Seems like you can’t turn on the tv, radio, or Fark without learning about yet another earthquake. Which led me to wonder , “why the hell are we getting all these earthquakes of all of a sudden?”
This was quickly followed by, “I wonder if they are just being over reported and we’re having a normal level of earthquakes?”
According to the handy data recorded at United Sates Geological Survey (USGS) we should follow Douglas Adams’ advice – don’t panic.
From their site:
The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes
In fact, they have a detailed Q&A here on the level of unpanic that should be currently employed.
Hurray. Five minutes of research and I feel confident this is not the end times.
So now to find the most ludicrous explanation for the earthquakes. Let’s have a contest: What are the most panic-ridden, world-is-ending explanations you can find on the internet?
Over the past year there has been a burgeoning campaign for libel reform in the UK. The main issue stems from the fact that the UK has some of the most draconian libel laws on the globe. If someone accuses you of libeling them, the burden of proof rests on you to prove that your assertions are true and not libelous.
This has the amazing effect of stifling criticism and open commentary on a variety of topics. This is especially delicate when it comes to journalists and scientists commenting in the inefficacy of things. To put it simply, calling something crap that is crap can get you sued. All burden of proof that said object is crap rests completely on you.
These has been played out in a recent lawsuit raised by the purveyors of chiropractic against journalist Simon Singh. He called chiropractic out for what it is – bunk. He’s subsequently been sued over it and because of the way the laws are set-up in the UK, has had a huge uphill battle.
This battle has led to the creation of The Libel Reform Campaign website which is a clearing house for information about this bad law and the ongoing efforts to have it changed.
So why should you, non-UK citizen care about any of this? The UK’s libel laws are set-up in such a way that it has become easy, moreover a target, to bring libel charges against individuals that are neither citizens nor live in the UK, but have the case tried in the UK. Don’t like what someone has said about you are your product? Don’t waste time defending it, find a way to sue them in the UK over it! Some examples from the Libel Campaign Reform website:
Claimant: Boris Berezovsky and Nikolai Glouchkov, businessmen, Russia
Respondent: Forbes Magazine, USA
The House of Lords allowed Russians Berezovsky and Glouchkov to sue the American Forbes Magazine over an article concerned with their business activities in Russia, which contained accusations of gangsterism and corruption.
Claimant: Kaupthing, Investment Bank, Iceland
Respondent: Ekstra Bladet, Denmark
The Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet was sued in London by Kaupthing, an investment bank in Iceland, over articles it had published that criticised advice the company had given to wealthy clients about tax shelters.
Claimant: Rinat Akhmetov, businessman, Ukraine
Respondent: Obozrevatel, two of its editors, and one of its journalists, Ukraine
Obozrevatel is a Ukraine-based internet news site that publishes in Ukrainian, with only a few dozen readers in Britain. This case was brought by Akhmetov in relation to a series of four articles about Akhmetov’s youth, published in January and February of 2007.
In this small sample, take note that not once does anyone actually living in the UK bring about the charges – but everything is tried in the UK using the UK libel laws. This is how broken the damn system is and why it needs to be seriously overhauled.
Again, why should you care?
We’re in an increasingly connected world. We write blogs, post tweets, leave messages on forums, and make our opinion known. With the libel laws the way they are your opinion can find itself in court half-way around the world. Do you, non-UK resident, want to pay for airfare and a UK lawyer to defend yourself in court?
What can you do about it?
No it’s not your usual crap internet petition. It’s a serious venture, one piece of ammo in a campaign to truly reform UK’s broken libel laws. They need 100,000 signatures to help bring about this change.
Take five minutes out of your day to cover your ass and fix something that is very, very broken.
Good news everyone, somebody gives a damn about the future!
Obama gave a press conference today about science. It was 15 minutes of things I’ve ranted about on this blog for months – that not only is science education fundamental to the future of this country, but it’s fundamental to advancing society as a whole.
It’s worth watching and noting that this isn’t just a government effort, but something smartly interwoven into business, television, science celebrities and more – the kind of co-effort and cooperation that it takes to really make something of this magnitude succeed.
I particularly like when Obama says “it’s about the ability to understand our world…to think critically.” When contrasted against where our country and government had been heading the previous eight years, when contrasted against debate and discussion in society today, that’s a 180 degree turn in behavior that I’d like to see.
This campaign, called “Educate to Innovate” which in turn has another buzz word attached with it called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) will be the focal point to drive America back to the top in science education.
It sounds like a number of efforts are underway, and more are getting ready to kick off – so hopefully this won’t be a lot of smoke, mirrors, and rhetoric. Though it seems funny to have this push when NASA is having its budgets flayed. I’m not quite sure how you justify the diminishing of the most visible and premiere showcase of science, math, engineering and technology in light of this speech.
You’ve got to start somewhere, right? You won’t get far as a programmer without knowing your way around Unix.
Some handy links I’ve uncovered to help me along the way.
Have some favorite Unix links? Share ‘em!
and of course for vi