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 2006: July-Sept

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28th September   Blame Alert

From The Telegraph

Girl, Interrupted DVD coverA coroner warned parents of the dangers of letting their children watch adult films yesterday after hearing how an eight-year-old girl hanged herself after seeing a film featuring an identical suicide.

Kyesha Freeman made a makeshift noose from her pyjamas and slung one end over a curtain rail in her bedroom before tightening it round her neck.

Police recovered 18-rated DVDs and videos from her bedroom including the film Girl, Interrupted which is rated 15 by the BBFC.

The 1999 film, which stars Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie and Whoopi Goldberg, is set in a 1960s psychiatric hospital and focuses on a group of disturbed young women. In one sequence, one patient commits suicide by hanging herself. Police believe Kyesha watched the film and may have been trying to imitate the scene in her bedroom.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Aiden Cotter, the Birmingham coroner, said:
I am not even halfway to believing that she intended to take her own life. I don't believe that an eight-year-old - even one described as mature - has sufficient understanding of what death really means. Whether she was playing out something which she had seen on a DVD or whether she was upset and looking for attention, I don't know. What I am sure about is that she could not form necessary intent to take her own life. Every parent should emphasise to children you do not put anything around your neck or anyone else's. Adults ought to be careful what films, DVDs or tapes are available to children because it's easy for a child to see something and imitate it without realising what it is. I hope this will save some other little child or family from such grief.

 

25th September   Fragile Integrity

Based on an article from The Herald

Scottish ParliamentHolyrood officials last night launched an investigation after softcore porn channels were found on the parliament's in-house broadcasting system.

MSPs and staff were yesterday offered a choice of seven pay-per-view adult channels, including Red Hot Wives, Playboy TV, Television X, and Spice Extreme.

The parliament last night said the channels appeared to have been added to the TV feed by mistake, and the supplier had been asked to remove them.

Besides live coverage from Holyrood's main chamber and its committee rooms, the Telewest-supplied feed also carries some regular TV and radio stations. However, it is supposed to be a "bespoke" system, to which no other channels can be added.

Sandra White, the SNP nutter on Holyrood's equal opportunities committee, which is looking at the harm done by pornography, said it was "disgraceful" the channels had slipped through:
There has to be some kind of inquiry. People might have thought it was parliamentarians accessing porn. The integrity of the parliament is important.

 

24th September   Phalluses at the Royal Academy

From The Times

Untitled (Medusa) by Terrence KohSenior members of the Royal Academy have complained that the organisers of a new exhibition of works owned by Charles Saatchi had misled them over the nature of “pornographic” items going on show.

The academicians were not told that works to be included in the show, USA Today, which opens on October 6, would be of an explicit sexual nature. They were informed only that some would be “cutting edge”.

Some members of the academy are now demanding that a separate room be set aside for the “adult” works. We gave the show a cautious go-ahead, said Ivor Abrahams, an academician and sculptor, who sits on the exhibitions committee:  Now we find that at least 10 or so of the works might cause offence. It’s schoolboy smut and a cynical ploy to get Saatchi even more noticed. Abrahams now believes that the show should not go ahead. We’ve been hijacked by Saatchi. It is hard to see any merit in this show.

Works going on display include a girl painted by Gerald Davis performing a sex act on a man. Davis, whose other works on show include naked youngsters, penises and a woman defecating, admits that some of his art stems from his own fantasies from when he was 12.

Another artist, Terence Koh, not only states that some of his exhibits incorporate “artist’s piss”, but also admits that they are “decadent and pornographic”. One of them, Untitled (Medusa), shows religious figures, including women, with prominent phalluses.

Tom Phillips, the chairman of the exhibitions committee, said the show was justified:
It should be seen in the wider context of American art today. There are more serious and worrying things going on in the world than somebody having oral sex, which you can anyway see all the time on the internet.

 

22nd September   Searching for Dirty Tricks

From The Register

Google has delisted www.inquisition21.com, the website campaigning against many of the Operation Ore child pornography convictions. The last time the search giant's crawlers checked the site out was on 10 September.

Operation Ore, the UK's largest investigation into online child pornography, was the result of US authorities handing over credit card details on over 7,000 individuals whose details they had found on a porn portal that contained links to child pornography.

Inquisition21 says the database contained a large number of fake credit card numbers, and many card numbers that were being used fraudulently. This, it argues, casts doubt on the safety of some of the convictions in the UK. In addition many of the credit cards were being used to subscribe to legal adult sites without being made aware that illegal sites were available on the same subscription. Inquisition21 is gathering support to mount a legal challenge to some of the convictions.

Brian Rothery, Inquisition 21's editor, says the delisting followed an attack on the site on 8 September. He says the attack, during which quite a large amount of undesirable material was placed on the site with numerous links to it from other sites, came as the site was about to make potentially damaging disclosures about the handling of the investigation.

We asked Google why it had taken the site off its database, and on which grounds it has appointed itself censor, but it refused to comment on the action.

Instead it issued a statement: We cannot tolerate websites trying to manipulate search results as we aim to provide users with the relevant and objective search results. Google may temporarily or permanently ban any site or site authors that engage in tactics designed to distort their rankings or mislead users in order to preserve the accuracy and quality of our search results.

At the time of going to press, the company had not confirmed that the Inquisition21 site had actually breached any of these guidelines

 

21st September   Sound Bytes Aimed at the Under 12's

From The Telegraph & The Guardian

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, joined the debate into the state of childhood yesterday. Asked about a ban advertising aimed at the under-12s, such as the one in Sweden, on advertising aimed at under-12s, he said it was "worth a try": There are real issues which the Advertising Standards Authority, as far as I know, are very concerned about it and I have had conversations with them.

Meanwhile Labour must lead the debate on "lost childhood" by proposing a ban on advertising to children under 12, a manifesto prepared by the Compass Group proposes today.

It is the first time the mainstream left has entered the debate, arguing that youngsters are being damaged by commercialisation and education built around exams rather than creativity and play.

The manifesto, prepared with the increasingly influential Compass Group of MPs, claims the government needs to address "a social recession" every bit as alarming as past economic recessions.

 

20th September   Tomlinson v MI6

From The Register
See also  http://tomlinsonvmi6.blogspot.com/

Sacked spy Richard Tomlinson has defied the UK's secret services by posting the first chapter of his spy novel online.

The ex-MI6 officer was fired in 1995 after four years in the foreign arm of British secret intelligence and spent a year in a maximum security prison for publishing a book about his time in the organisation. But he has fought back against what he claims is intimidation by his old employees with the publication of chapter one of The Golden Chain on his blog.

Tomlinson had his house and boat in France raided earlier this year after MI6 claimed he was responsible for releasing a list of alleged active MI6 agents on the internet. Even though Tomlinson now links to the list from his blog, he swears he wasn't behind the list. Since the raid, he has fought with the UK government, including MI6 and Special Branch, for the return of his possessions, publishing copies of emails and letters sent to him over the matter online.

Recently, the UK authorities confirmed that they were retaining ownership of his possessions because he had made a number of references to writing a novel or book to be based in whole or in part on information falling within the terms of the Order. That order was the terms of Tomlinson's release and he was effectively accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act a second time. Tomlinson's response has been to publish the first chapter of his book on his blog, presumably with the threat of releasing further chapters until his possessions are returned.

The online battle has been going on since March this year, when Tomlinson discovered blogging and set about trying to force MI6 to respond to his endless requests for his sacking to be reviewed by a tribunal.

In August Tomlinson's Typepad blog was shut down at the request of Special Branch. Tomlinson opened up a Blogger account immediately afterwards with the title " Tomlinson v MI6 (it's back!)"

 

19th September   Scots Lighten Up

Pity this doesn't seem to reflect in their politicians

From The Times

Scottish Loveknot DVD coverA new poll commissioned by The Sunday Times suggests attitudes are softening in Scotland. While issues such as pornography, prostitution and adultery have yet to breach mainstream acceptability, in private at least, people admit to being more relaxed about them than ever before.

A YouGov poll reveals fewer than half of Scots believe infidelity is morally wrong. Only one-third thought that being a prostitute was wrong — in 2002 about 35% said it should be illegal.

Only one in five Scots now thinks it wrong to use pornography — 10% fewer than six years ago — while two-thirds believe there is nothing wrong with making pornography.

In 2000, 87% of Scots wanted to retain section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Now fewer than one in five Scots believe homosexuality is unacceptable, with younger people more than three times more relaxed than the over-55s.

 

28th August   Bare Faced Shame of Scottish Justice

From The Scotsman

Naked Rambler at John O'GroatsThe naked rambler says he will continue refusing to wear clothes despite his seventh conviction for breach of the peace.

Stephen Gough was handed a seven-month sentence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday for walking out of Saughton prison in the nude and breaching his bail.

Despite his return to jail, he claims he will not cover up while in the Capital.

As Edinburgh is the only place in the trek he was arrested, Gough is intent on remaining naked every time he visits the city until he is left alone by the authorities.

His lawyer, John Good, told the court: We are developing our attitudes to this all the time. Maybe with global warming on the agenda we will all join Mr Gough in his pursuit one day.

When asked by Sheriff Kenneth McIntyre how long Gough aimed to keep up his campaign, Good answered: He is very dogmatic and says he will not desist.

Gough, from the south of England, was arrested on July 19, having just completed a previous three-month sentence

 

29th July
updated to
27th August
  A Clip Round the Ears

Oh well, if the youngsters are 'psychological harmed' by the game they can always become chief police officers.

From Virgin

Reservoir DogsPolice officials and politicians in the UK have reportedly blasted Eidos' upcoming video game adaptation of Quentin Tarantino's film Reservoir Dogs.

The Yorkshire Post reports that police officials are concerned that players can take police officers hostage and go on to burn out their eyes with a lit cigar, chop off their fingers with a cigar cutter and hack off their ears using a scalpel, while they plead for their lives and scream in pain.

A spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) condemned the video game. He said: Anything that encourages violent emotions, including such emotions towards members of the police service, is particularly disturbing and can only be described as offensive. It is disappointing to find violent video games on the market that may cause psychological harm to those who play them.

Harrogate MP Phil Willis said: It's impossible to see how such a game can have anything other than a highly damaging effect on how people perceive and react to police officers. I am absolutely staggered that such a game is being allowed to be sold in our shops. It sends out the message that the police and authority figures are there to be targeted and dispatched, desensitises people to the idea of killing and undermines normal moral values.

The BBFC told the newspaper that the video game will be rated for players aged 18 and older when it is released in the UK later in 2006. They also said that the game:
contains nothing that is
particularly stronger than things found in most 18-rated games

1st August   Update: Dogged by Nutter MPs

From The Times, thanks to Dan

Reservoir DogsThe nutter MP, Keith Vaz, has tabled  the following Early Day Motion was
tabled:

2571 Reservoir Dogs Video Game

That this House condemns the release of the forthcoming video game Reservoir Dogs which allows players to pistol whip and execute hostages and which promotes and supports the infliction of extreme violence and cruelty; recognises with concern the link between video games and violence made in a study by the University of California, San Francisco; notes that the game has already been banned in New Zealand and Australia due to the extreme levels of violence involved; and calls on the British Board for Classification to ban it from being sold in the United Kingdom.

Keith Vaz was supported by Peter Bottomley, Mike Hancock, Stewart Jackson, Phil Willis, Mark Durkan, Tom Brake, Betty Williams and Nigel Dodds
 

27th August   Update: Label Your Disks or We'll Cut Off Your Ears

From igniq

Reservoir DogsAccording to Spong, the title was missing from a Gamestation store, so they did some checking around. It seems the BBFC 18 rating logo was not on the disks released for the Xbox. It was on the packages, however.

Evidently, UK law requires this logo to be on both the disk and the outer packaging, so the title was recalled.

The PS2 version of the game is available.

I’m all for putting suggested ratings on games. As a parent I appreciate them. But, really, on the disk, too? Seems a little over the top to me.

There’s no word from Edios when the labeling mix up will be fixed.

 

12th August   Bullied by Hype

Based on an article from The Register

Bully Playstation game The UK release date for Bully, the much hyped computer game, has been announced for October 20th. Pre-orders are already being accepted at UK Amazon The US release date is set for December 1st.

Now is the time to see whether nutters will kindly add to the sales hype for the game. The most likely suspects will be Bullyonline, which advises parents on bullying, racism and homophobia, who have already called for the game to be banned.

Keith Vaz, the nutter Labour MP for Leicester East has been campaigning for a while already. His Video Games Bill got off to a bad start in May. Its second reading in the House of Commons was dropped due to a lack of parliamentary time, although Vaz may revive it in the next session.

Vaz has attracted the signatures of 51 MPs in his call for a Bully ban. Another of his early day motions called last month for the impending computer game of the film Reservoir Dogs to be banned.

As it happens, this looks like yet another case of well-meaning campaigners getting excited about something before they've seen it. People playing Bully, by all accounts, take the part of a regular kid trying to get through the day in a school stuffed through of them.

 

9th August   Ranting About Grossly Offensive Phone Calls

From The Register

Law LordsA man who ranted and shouted in telephone calls to his MP should have been convicted for using racist terms that were "grossly offensive". The offence is a necessary limitation on everyone's right to freedom of expression, the House of Lords has ruled.

Mr Collins made a number of calls over a two year period to his local MP, David Taylor. Sometimes he spoke to Taylor's staff in the North West Leicestershire constituency; sometimes he left recorded messages to which staff and Taylor himself later listened.

Collins was described in court as holding strong views on immigration and asylum policy. He referred to "Wogs", "Pakis", "Black bastards" and "Niggers" in his calls. Some who received the calls described themselves as shocked, alarmed and depressed by the language.

Under the Communications Act 2003, it is an offence to send over a public electronic communications network a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. The wording can be traced back to legislation passed in 1935 and the charges were brought under an Act of 1984; but the House of Lords considered the case as though the 2003 Act applied.

A lower court ruled that Collins' language was offensive – but not grossly offensive. The charges were dismissed. The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed without success to the Queen's Bench Divisional Court. He then appealed to the House of Lords.

Allowing the appeal, Lord Bingham of Cornhill ruled that the question of whether a message is grossly offensive must be answered by applying the standards of an open and just multi-racial society and the words must be judged taking account of their context and all relevant circumstances.

Usages and sensitivities may change over time. Language otherwise insulting may be used in an unpejorative, even affectionate, way, or may be adopted as a badge of honour.

There can be no yardstick of gross offensiveness otherwise than by the application of reasonably enlightened, but not perfectionist, contemporary standards to the particular message sent in its particular context. The test is whether a message is couched in terms liable to cause gross offence to those to whom it relates.

He explained that the law does not criminalise the conduct of one who uses language which is, for reasons unknown to him, grossly offensive to those to whom it relates; rather, it criminalises those whose message is couched in terms showing an intention to insult those to whom the message relates or giving rise to the inference that a risk of doing so must have been recognised by the sender.

Differing from the courts below with reluctance, but ultimately without hesitation, I conclude that the respondent's messages were grossly offensive and would be found by a reasonable person to be so. Since they were sent by the respondent by means of a public electronic communications network they fall within the section. It follows that the respondent should have been convicted.

Collins did not seek to rely on the Human Rights Act of 1998 – which includes a right to freedom of expression. Rightly so, observed Lord Bingham: while the Communications Act interferes with the right, it is a restriction clearly prescribed by statute.

It is directed to a legitimate objective, preventing the use of a public electronic communications network for attacking the reputations and rights of others. It goes no further than is necessary in a democratic society to achieve that end.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appears to have brought the appeal to clarify the law. Due to a previous undertaking, the result will not affect Collins and no order against him will be made.

The court noted that the offence in the Communications Act overlaps with a similar offence in the Malicious Communications Act of 1988 which is potentially wider because it is not limited to the use of a public electronic communications network. The 1988 Act criminalises, for example, dropping a letter through a letterbox which is grossly offensive, obscene, indecent or menacing.

 

7th August   Censorship Mapped Out

From The Guardian

OS Map coverThe Ordnance Survey has finally stopped falsifying Britain's maps, almost 80 years after the government first ordered cartographers to delete sensitive sites in the hope of thwarting German bombers.

The popular Landranger series will now show the nuclear warhead plant at Burghfield, near Reading, hitherto shown as a mysteriously empty field although well known to anti-nuclear demonstrators.

Other previously hidden installations include the signal interception aerials at RAF Digby in Lincolnshire and the vast underground munitions dump at Glen Douglas in Scotland. The access road appears for the so-called Corsham Computer Centre in Wiltshire, thought by conspiracy buffs to be Tony Blair's nuclear shelter.

The internet and high-resolution satellite photography have made attempts at hiding sensitive information obsolete and the Cabinet Office security policy division in Whitehall finally agreed this March to scrap the censorship.

Censorship started in 1927 with well-founded fears of a wartime aerial blitz, around the time that prime minister Stanley Baldwin secretly instructed: No work of defence shall appear upon any map on sale to the general public ... No blank space shall appear, but the natural physical features of the country shall continue to appear.

During the cold war, the Ministry of Defence listed 4,800 "key points" to be deleted. Martin Furnival-Jones, who became head of MI5, worried about saboteurs: he wanted oil refineries, gasworks and railway bridges removed, even insisting all factories should have their role concealed because it would be "useful to any agent". This is the origin of the uninformative word "works" appearing on maps to this day.

Censorship was slashed to a more manageable "S list" of super-secret targets, such as the Windscale nuclear plant, and GCHQ, the radio espionage agency. But even as late as 1995, John Major's Conservative government set up a fresh "Sensitive Sites Register".

But technology was moving too fast. Firms such as GetMapping and Multimap systematically made aerial surveys available from 1999, and now satellite pictures are available on the web and via software like Google Earth. Amateur enthusiasts, meanwhile, set up websites pointing out the glaring omissions from official maps.

Intelligence writer Duncan Campbell said the tampering was a
futile farce that creaked on 40 years after it had ceased to have any conceivable value.

 

18th July   13 Million Brits Live Abroad

So the next time people say: If you dislike the country so much why don't you leave?...you will know that millions have done exactly that.

From The Telegraph

UK PassportAn investigation was demanded last night after it was revealed that about 1.7 million British passports have been issued overseas in the past four years.

Last year alone, 62,068 were handed out in China and 10,813 in Ireland, Foreign Office figures show.

In Kenya, British passport issues almost doubled from 2,273 in 2002/03 to 4,050 in 2004/05. Issues in the United Arab Emirates soared from 3,719 four years ago to nearly 7,000 in 2005/06.

Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Harwich, who obtained the figures in a parliamentary answer, questioned whether Britons overseas would actually require so many passports..

He noted that Kim Howells, a Foreign Office minister, had admitted that we are unable to tell in how many cases the recipient was issued with a passport for the first time as the records did not provide that information.

But the Foreign Office insisted that with more than 13 million British nationals living overseas and 65 million overseas visits a year, issuing about 450,000 passports abroad each year was "understandable".

 

3rd July   Don't Talk to Strangers...Or Show them Your Picture

Based on an article from The Guardian

beboThe government-backed watchdog the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre will say today it has begun an inquiry young people's networking sites after concern from teachers and parents.

They have become alarmed at how children are using the sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and now bebo to display personal details and, in some cases, intimate photographs of themselves. It is estimated that 61% of UK children aged 13 to 17 have a personal profile on a networking site, which enable a user to create their own homepage, exhibit photographs and socialise online. Of the 8 million children in the UK with access to the internet, one in 12 says they have gone on to meet someone whom they initially encountered online.

The latest site to come under scrutiny - bebo.com - organises networks around school or college communities, and has attracted 25 million members since its launch 18 months ago. A few children have begun showing pictures of themselves in sexual poses, semi-naked or wearing lingerie. One headteacher has called in police after discovering more than 700 of her students had signed up with bebo, and that some were displaying images she considered to be indecent. Linda Wybar, headteacher of Tunbridge Wells girls' grammar, also banned the site from her school and wrote to every parent about her concerns.

In a statement, Bebo said: Bebo has taken the issues of privacy and safety very seriously since its inception and was one of the first social networking sites to partner with organisations like wiredsafety.org to create safety tips on issues such as cyberbullying and online safety. We prominently post links to these safety tips for parents and Beboers on our homepage and all profiles have a 'report abuse' link where members can report other members for inappropriate content or behaviour.

Ahead of today's announcement by the Ceop, which was set up by the government two months ago, the head of the agency, Jim Gamble, told the Guardian:
We've got a specific interest in social networking sites simply because it is 'the' new phenomenon, it is how young people are coming together and capitalising on a range of different technologies. Basically, they're inviting friends to be members of private groups or inviting others to view public materials.

In many ways that's a good thing for children, a great opportunity. In other ways it represents everything you see on the school playground - the only difference is that in this playground, there are no teachers or police or moderators to keep an eye on what's going on.

 

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