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25th September   

Dicks Spotted on Flintshire Council...

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Half baked bid to rename 'spotted dick' pudding fails
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Spotted Dick Flintshire County Council has been forced to rethink its ill-considered decision to rename Spotted Dick as Spotted Richard .

According to the BBC, the powers that be pulled Spotted Dick from the menu after several immature comments from a few customers at its HQ in Mold.

Councilor Klaus Armstrong-Braun who'd slammed the rebrand as ludicrous told the BBC: It's a great victory for Spotted Dick and for everyone who makes it. It's made Flintshire a laughing stock all over the world. I've had lots of letters criticising them.

Flintshire council's Colin Everett, confirmed: Although the majority have seen the humorous side of the story, the impression given in the media that the council might have been 'politically correct' has led to some derision and, sadly, to a number of abusive letters being sent in from across the country.

In full agreement with the catering management Flintshire County Council will observe proper tradition and refer to all dishes by their proper name. Spotted Dick will be back on the menu under its proper and proud name. In future, any customers who act in this childish way will be asked to behave properly or will be refused service.

 

21st September   

Electorially Correct...


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Election Commission won't be scanning YouTube for political spoofery during next general election
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The Electoral Commission logo The UK Electoral Commission has said it will not be able to police the expected explosion in spoof internet videos at the next general election.

Some experts believe unattributed videos on YouTube and e-mails could be used to spread false information.

Election leaflets must include a named individual to prevent foul play - but there are no such laws on the internet. The elections watchdog has told the BBC it does not have the resources to scour the internet for malicious videos.

The Electoral Commission says candidates' websites should include details of who published the material as a matter of good practice but they are not required by law to do so.

In 2003, it said spoof websites were an acceptable part of the democratic debate as long as they were clearly identifiable as such and did not seek to deceive the voters. But the advent of video sharing sites such as YouTube has led to a massive increase in political material on the internet - and it is expected to play a crucial role at the general election, which must take place before June.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said it had no plans to police internet material during the general election campaign: There is nothing in electoral legislation that would cover that kind of stuff. Our job is to provide guidance for those people taking part in an election and to help them stay within the law.

But he makes clear that complaints about potentially defamatory material, under electoral laws, remain a matter for the police and that cases will be investigated.

 

21st September   

Update: Libel Trumps Science...

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Richard Dawkins highlights the misuse of UK libel laws
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

The Enemies of Reason: Uncut Interviews DVD Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, has called for Britain's libel laws to be reformed following a string of cases in which science researchers and writers have been sued for criticising health therapies they felt to be unreliable.

Among those currently facing writs is Simon Singh, the broadcaster and author, who is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for an article criticising the use of chiropractic techniques for some childhood illnesses. He has spent £100,000 defending the action.

Another is Peter Wilmshurst, a heart specialist at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, who is being sued by NMT Medical, an American company, for suggesting that medical trials into one of its devices had been described inaccurately to other scientists. Wilmshurst made his remarks in America to a US journalist who published it on an American website. However, the company was still able to issue its writ in Britain, where libel laws are regarded as among the most draconian in the world.

Dawkins told the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth that the UK's libel laws are having a chilling effect on public debate about science and medicine: England's libel law is being ridiculed as an international charter for the litigious. I urge politicians to support the call for reform so we can get cross-party support on this vital issue.

The campaign to change Britain's libel laws has won widespread support. Sile Lane of Sense About Science, which is co-ordinating the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign, said the same plea would be made to the upcoming Labour and Conservative conferences.

 

18th September   

Starve them Out!...

Royal College of Psychiatrists call for action about pro-anorexia websites
Link Here

RC Psych logo One million people in the UK suffer from eating disorders, commonest in teenage girls. More than one in 10 girls look at pro-eating disorder websites repeatedly, the Royal College of Psychiatrists says.

In a paper today, the College calls on the Government to do more to protect vulnerable women. They say the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, set up last year, should specifically target pro-eating disorder websites in its monitoring and educational activities.

Professor Ulrike Schmidt, chair of the College's Eating Disorders Section, said: This is not a rare problem; it affects a significant number of schoolchildren. Studies have shown that girls who looked at these sites had low self-esteem, felt bad about their bodies and were miserable. Patients in eating disorders units spend up to 20 hours a week looking at [the websites]. There is a vulnerable group of women who are being sucked into this.

The pro-eating disorder websites offer a forum for debate and help young girls stave off doubt about what they are doing. They offer a way of keeping in touch with thousands around the world who share their vision. Other countries have tried to control the websites by law. A Bill to ban them in France last year was ultimately lost. In Spain, the health ministry has closed sites accused of promoting self-starvation in girls and, in the Netherlands, moves have been made to add warnings to the sites. Professor Schmidt said the College was not proposing a ban on the websites, many of which were beyond UK jurisdiction: These sites are probably set up by people who are themselves vulnerable. Criminalising the problem would not be helpful.

 

13th September   

The Last British Bullfighter...

Like a red rag to an animal rights activist
Link Here

The Last British Bullfighter book Britain's only matador has been told he cannot promote his memoirs in Waterstone's following protests by animal rights groups.

The book chain has cancelled a series of in-store appearances by Frank Evans, who was due to sign copies of his autobiography, The Last British Bullfighter . The 67 year-old came out of retirement last month to step back into the bullring, becoming the oldest toreador in the business.

Waterstone's acted after receiving complaints from supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), the Born Free Foundation and the North West Hunt Saboteurs Association, among others. The signings were scheduled to take place in Manchester and Liverpool.

A spokesman for the chain said: In the best interests of our customers and staff, last week Waterstone's decided to cancel the two Last British Bullfighter events. No further events related to the book are planned.

Evans said Waterstone's had made the right decision. He told The Daily Telegraph: I've been in this business for over 40 years so I'm quite used to animal rights activists targeting me. I would hate for any of Waterstone's staff to come to any harm so I completely understand their decision to cancel.

It's a sad day when they can stop people reading something. Over the years I've had letter bombs in the post and death threats. These extremists can be quite sinister.


The Last British Bullfighter chronicles Evans' unlikely journey from the backstreets of Salford, where he grew up as the son of a butcher, to the Spanish bullfighting circuit, where he is known to fans as El Inglés.

 

6th September   

Comment: Chucky's Back!...

Daily Mail re-opens it's Child's Play blame game
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Child's Play 3 DVD Dan comments:

The Doncaster child murderers story has, predictably enough, got the right-wing tabloid press screaming about the threat of a violent and out of control feral youth and spewing indignation about Britain's ammoral underclass.

Nobody knows what caused this two boys to commit such acts of grotesque brutality but the Tory tabloid press will go for the usual easy scapegoats.

The Daily Mail is already trying to insinuate some link between this appalling case and the Child's Play horror movies. Echos of 1993 and Jamie Bulger spring to mind.

Based on article from dailymail.co.uk

The two tormentors convicted yesterday used to watch the same horror films as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the killers of James Bulger, it emerged last night.

From the age of six and seven, the Doncaster attackers were allowed to sit through Child's Play videos while their mother smoked cannabis, a relative claimed.

The central character of the horror film series is a demonic doll called Chucky, which comes to life and kills people.

The films feature scenes of graphic violence which many adults find too disturbing to watch. It was Child's Play 3 that came under scrutiny during the trial of Thompson and Venables in 1993.

 

5th September   

Earwig Oh!...

Amazon remove Manchester United chants from their store
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Manchester United Chants Amazon UK have withdrawn a CD of Manchester United chants from sale on its website because of complaints that some of the lyrics are offensive.

The unofficial album Manchester United Chants contains a supporters' song aimed at Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

A statement from Amazon.co.uk explained that Arsenal had complained about the nature of the chants.

It said: Arsenal Football Club has provided us with formal notice that content within the album Manchester United Chants is defamatory in nature and we have, therefore, removed this title from our website.
We would not remove a product from our site because some, or many, people find it to be distasteful or otherwise objectionable.

Wenger was sent off during Arsenal's recent 2-1 defeat against Manchester United after he kicked over a water bottle following a disallowed Gunner's goal. Arsenal supporters have complained that he was then subjected to this particular chant by some Manchester United fans.

Manchester United's director of communications Philip Townsend said: We have gone on the record - several times - about this disgusting chant.

The chants listed for the album are:

1. Park Park Wherever You May Be [Explicit]
2. Anderson Anderson [Explicit]
3. Who Are Ya? [Explicit]
4. Sit Down [Explicit]
5. Easy Easy Easy [Explicit]
6. Same Old Arsenal Always Cheating [Explicit]
7. Champions 07/08 [Explicit]
8. When The Reds Go Marching In [Explicit]
9. Build A Bonfire [Explicit]
10. United wohohoh! [Explicit]
11. We Are The Stretford Enders [Explicit]

Is "Same Old Arsenal Always Cheating" the chant that is considered so disgusting?

 

31st August   

Offsite: A Bluer Rinse?...

Daily Mail online forums to change to user flagging of comments rather then moderator pre-approval
Link Here

Daily Mail logo Mail Online, the UK's most visited newspaper website, is to stop moderating user comments.

Mail Online, owned by Associated Newspapers, will continue to use an automatic filter that prohibits inappropriate language. But instead of pre- or post-moderation of online comments, as most newspapers use, it will only review comments if they're reported by users.

James Bromley, MD of Mail Online, said, We have hundreds of thousands of comments every month. Because of the volume, not all were going up. We want to give people their chance to respond and for it to appear immediately. This improves the user experience.

...Read full article

 

17th August   

Easy Offence on Special Offer at Tesco...

Covering up Lesbian Vampire Killers DVD
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Lesbian Vampire Killers Tesco and other major retailers are stocking versions of the film Lesbian Vampire Killers with stickers that obscure the word Lesbian and part of the image of a cleavage that appear on the cover.

The distributor of the DVD said it was complying with a request from retailers, although stores have denied they requested that the film's title be obscured.

The censored version picked up by the big retailers has a sticker covering the word Lesbian, which states: Warning: may display sexually suggestive cover image . Another bigger sticker that partially obscures the cleavage displays the message: Warning: contains explicitly fit bloodsucking hotties!

A spokesperson for the distributor of the DVD, Momentum, said the changes were made at the request of stores: We were asked by a number of retailers to cover up certain parts of the cover, and we complied with their requests.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Borders are among the stores that have chosen to stock the censored version of the cover, but all deny asking for the wording to be obscured.

Tesco said it had asked for the image of the cleavage to be covered: In common with other retailers we asked the supplier to change the picture to make it more appropriate as we are a family retailer. We did not suggest that they [Momentum] amend the wording.

A spokeswoman for Borders said the store was never asked about censorship. Indeed, there were some censury [sic] labels stuck on the packaging but they were not requested by Borders – they were sent to us like that.

HMV, which is running the uncensored version of the cover, said an alternative version of the cover was never discussed with Momentum: We've been happy to stock Lesbian Vampire Killers in its original sleeve. We find the idea of any retailer requiring the word Lesbian to be covered up surprising to say the least, and can't see why anyone would find the word offensive .

 

15th August   

Offsite: An Education in Prudery...

A college lecturer is facing disciplinary action after showing erotic material to his students
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Femmes of Power book Just what is it about sex that causes such apoplexy amongst the British managerial class?

The latest outbreak of prudery appears to have taken place at East Surrey College, where lecturer Simon Burgess faces disciplinary proceedings for having the effrontery to expose students on a level 3 photography course to the works of noted international photographic artist, Del LaGrace Volcano.

The problem? Del LaGrace's work focuses on an exploration of transgender life and sexuality. Much of this work is wholly innocuous: some of it could be interpreted in a sexual context. The artist himself admits that the imagery contained in Love Bites — one of the works that may have been displayed — is more focused on the erotic side of the scene than the bulk of his material.

From there it may be a short hop to deciding that the pictures are “pornographic” and “inappropriate” — and that any lecturer exposing young minds to such work may be guilty of misconduct.

...Read full article

 

15th August   

Easily Offended for a Pound...

The Sun conjures up a nonsense story about Poundland selling 18 rated porn
Link Here

Poundland High street chain Poundland has been 'blasted' by a few parents rounded up by the Sun over the sales of 18 rated softcore porn.

The budget retailer was branded disgusting after angry parents found the 'filthy' films within easy reach of young kids.

Displayed alongside cartoons and Laurel and Hardy films the blue movies — including the titles Latin Fleshpots and Lesbian Wife Hunters — were slammed as offensive and inappropriate .

'Disgusted' Carly Johnson said the titles should be withdrawn from sale from the branch in Chatham, Kent. She said: It's absolutely disgusting. These films should not be on sale in Poundland - especially on view to children. I come to Poundland with my kids all the time and it's a bit sickening to know that these kind of films are on sale. The shelf is not that high up so even eight to ten-year-olds can easily reach them.

Another mum, who did not wish to be named, added: I come to Poundland with my kids all the time and it's a bit sickening to know that these kind of films are on sale. They shouldn't be available for just £1 either - I had no idea filth could be bought so cheaply. It's offensive and inappropriate.

Since the videos are rated 18 and not R18, there are no restrictions on their sale and the local Medway Council said they will not be investigating.

A trading standards spokesman said: There are no restrictions on sales or placement of these films, but the buyer must be 18 or older, the same restriction as any other 18-rated film.

And Poundland have refused to withdraw the titles — saying all the videos complied with film classification laws.

 

14th August   

Update: Opinions Smoked Out...

Liverpool consult residents over an 18 rating for movies with smoking
Link Here

Liverpool City logo Liverpool City Council are proposing to override the BBFC and award 18 cinema certificates to films showing tobacco smoking.

The 18 rating would not apply to films which portray historical figures who actually smoked or those which provide a clear and unambiguous portrayal of the dangers of smoking, other tobacco use, or second-hand smoke, the council said.

The proposal has been made to the authority's Licensing and Gambling Committee by Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

If the plans go ahead, cinemas and any other premises showing films would have to notify the council 21 days in advance if they intend to show films containing images of smoking.

Today, Liverpool council launched a public consultation exercise on its website.

The BBFC is generally responsible for classifying films. However, under the Licensing Act 2003 local councils have statutory powers to classify or re-classify films to be exhibited in their particular areas. Although the government's guidance concerning the Licensing Act 2003 recommends that local councils should not duplicate the work of the BBFC it does allow local councils to reclassify films if there are good local reasons for doing so.

Offsite: Send for the Sanity Inspector

14th August 2009. See Why pretend the past was cigarette-free? from timesonline.co.uk

A council's plans to bar under-18s from films with smoking sets us on a dangerous path, says Gerald Warner.

Send for the Sanity Inspector – quickly. There is work for him among the denizens of Liverpool city council. The council is proposing to use its powers to upgrade to an 18-certificate the classification of films "if they depict images of tobacco smoking", in order to protect the vulnerable youth of Merseyside from exposure to such depravity.

...Read full article

 

12th August   

Update: Back in Court...

Simon Singh continuing his legal fight with the BCA
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Trick or Treatment book Simon Singh announced today that he will continue the fight in his libel case with the British Chiropractic Association after his application to appeal the preliminary ruling was rejected last week. He has now has the option to try and overturn that decision at an oral appeal. If this fails his case will be tried on a meaning of a phrase he did not intend and is indefensible. This highlights the problem of narrow defences that, along with high costs and wide jurisdiction, make the English libel laws so restrictive to free speech.

Simon said today: I can confirm today that I have applied for a hearing to ask the Court of Appeal to reconsider its recent denial of permission. A great deal has happened since my original article was published back in April 2008 and I suspect that the libel case will continue for many more months (or maybe years). While my case is ongoing, it continues to raise a whole series of arguably more important issues, particularly the appalling state of English libel laws. I am pleased that the Culture Secretary has agreed to meet with signatories of the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign statement to hear how the laws affect writers. We are also pursuing a meeting at the Ministry of Justice and with front benchers in other departments to lobby for a change in the law.

 

9th August   

Libellous Thoughts...

Book on The Groucho Club is being pursued for libel before being written yet
Link Here

Groucho Club logo The UK Libel Laws have taken another step into the abyss which signals the end of Free Speech as we know it. A UK based media club, The Groucho Club which is owned by a billion pound corporation Graphite Capital have launched a one of a kind High Court action for a pre publishing test case for libel against the author of an expos book about the club.

The Author, Tyrone D Murphy, is writing a book titled The Groucho-Gate Affair . The book is now the subject of a pre publishing test case for a permanent injunction for libel. It is of interest to note that this book has not yet been completed. Murphy said This frivolous legal action is nothing more than a blatant attempt to silence me and to intimidate me with the threat of costly legal action.

In recent years, similar cases have been described as the scourge of journalism and have set alarm bells ringing throughout media circles. Such cases are an attack on free speech. The current UK libel laws protect the rich and powerful from any form of public scrutiny or investigation. Newspaper editors and writers now have to consider the costs of intimidating libel actions before they run a story. This undermines the whole role of the Press in our society and encourages self-censorship of articles criticising the interests of the wealthy and the powerful.

This is a typical example of how the British Courts are being abused. Murphy says I cannot fathom why the Groucho Club, favoured haunt of many of my fellow journalists, would commence an action based purely on speculation of what might be written.

Tyrone D Murphy states that the expos deals with the management of the club and not with any of the members. Murphy is an award winning documentary and filmmaker, the editor of the newsletter Article 10 and a former electronic surveillance specialist and was responsible for uncovering many illegal bugging operations in the UK. It is understood that the issue of electronic surveillance at the Groucho Club is a central issue in their case.

According to Murphy, the Groucho Club originally applied to the courts for an injunction but did not proceed with the original injunction application because he decimated their case. Now, the Groucho Club have used his defence to correct blunders in their original case before instigating this new pre-publishing test case for libel. Murphy states This test case is based on what could be written and is the most ferocious attack on free speech in many years; it has wide reaching ramifications for all writers and journalists alike

 

7th August   

Posing Problems...

Gang banned from posting menacing pictures on the internet
Link Here

Facebook logo A judge has banned a gang from posting menacing photographs of themselves on the internet.

In a landmark ruling, nine men pictured making gun gestures on social networking websites will be locked up if such images appear again.

Judge Clement Goldstone QC also banned them from posing together on the internet in any situation.

The judge issued the ban while sentencing members of the Fallowfield Mad Dogs gang for affray. He was shown pictures of them pulling gun poses and talking about preparing for war on a networking site.

He said: Membership of or affiliation with gangs is made known through the internet. The courts will not stand idly by when youths maraud menacingly like packs of wild animals.

Gang members will still be allowed to publish pictures of themselves individually, but not making threatening gestures or with any of the men sentenced.

A police source said: These hoodlums are sticking two fingers up at the law. This gang has caused us many problems over the years and these pictures speak volumes about what they get up to. They think they are untouchable but we hope this ban will hopefully be a massive blow to them spreading their evil influence so easily.

They had gone searching for a member of a rival gang, but after being told to move on they began circling the police officers in a predatory and volatile manner, making gun gestures with their hands. They were arrested when officers called for back up and they appeared at Manchester Crown Court charged with offences including affray, possessing ammunition, assault and criminal damage.

 

7th August   

Update: Grin and Bear It...

Steve Gough recognised in Land's End
Link Here  full story: Naked Rambler...Stephen Gough imprisoned for being naked

Grin and Bear It Here is a picture of the Naked Rambler, Steve Gough, which I took at the Land's End visitor centre.

The Journey Makers display He is properly credited as someone who has completed the 874 mile walk from John o' Groats to Land's End. I visited Land's End today and saw this recognition.

The first picture is the relevant text seen on their display and the second is the picture of him on their display looking away, with his bottom censored, nevertheless I was pleased to see his efforts had been recognised by the folk at the Land's End visitor centre.

Which is a bit more than can be said of some nasty pieces of work in Scotland who have locked him up in jail for ages.

 

6th August   

Cult Fiction Movies...

New specialist cult movie shop in Edinburgh
Link Here

Cult Fiction Movies logo To fans, Edinburgh's newly-opened Cult Fiction Movies is a magical store where a litany of grindhouse double features, BFI Classics and films from America's Criterion Collection which remain currently unavailable on this side of the Atlantic might be found alongside rare and imported movie posters.

To passers-by it's a curiosity box with low-budget, largely forgotten flicks from the 80s such as Killer Klowns From Outer Space , Xtro and Maximum Overdrive proudly displayed alongside more mainstream cult films like Trainspotting , The Big Lebowski and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It's all things to all people, or at least those with an interest in hard-to-obtain classics on DVD.

Owner Stewart Dawson describes his personally preferred genres as horror and sci-fi: Everyone will have their own definition of what a “cult” film is so I want them to think, when they see the word in the name of the shop, that I'll have what they want. I've got a range of grindhouse films, although most of their names will probably mean nothing to you. I've got rare westerns, a horror range, other sections for individual directors like Dario Argento and Pier Paulo Pasolini. Whereas all some customers might want is (his eyes scan the impressively-stocked shelves) The Gate – a classic 80s horror film there. Or maybe the original Captain America …

Dawson has run Cult Fiction as an online business since early 2008 and a physical store since June of this year. The bulk of Dawson's stock is comprised of import versions of films which are unavailable in the UK, whether they've been deleted for years or only recently taken off the shelves; during any period of deletion, even for previously widely-available films, the prices of import versions rise. Taking inspiration and advice from The Cinema Store in London, Dawson must ensure that each disc is properly certificated and matches up with the BBFC-approved cut of the film. While the online era is denting the DVD industry, though, it has proven helpful to him: Distributors are more likely to permit you to sell import copies of their films now, because they know that anyone who wants them will just download them otherwise.

Beyond the sales side of the business, Dawson is planning themed events in future, including an instore appearance by Troma Studios founder Lloyd Kaufman in August.

 

3rd August   

Offsite: Censors Smoked Out...

Why is Audrey Tautou smoking a fountain pen?
Link Here

Coco Chanel poster French people see Audrey Tautou in her pyjamas and drawing deep on a Gauloise, enticing pushovers like me to go and see Coco Avant Chanel .

And here she is again in the poster seen in British cinemas: same pose, same eyes, same pyjamas but instead of the fag, a preposterous pen.

...Read full article

 

2nd August   

Offsite: Beyond Belief...

Stand-up comedians take on religion
Link Here

Robin Ince Book CLub poster The comedy scene has become the latest arena for the God debate. A new wave of irreverent, atheist stand-ups are taking on the rise of religion.

With the mumbo-jumbo of alternative medicine nestling into previously sane minds and the garbled nonsense of Intelligent Design inching its way ever closer to British schools, beleaguered rationalists could be forgiven for thinking those days are gone for good. Surprisingly, however, the vanguard of the Enlightenment's fightback includes a small group of young, bright and strangely lo-fi comedians - most of whom will be performing at this year's Edinburgh Fringe - based around an occasional roaming comedy night called the School for Gifted Children.

...read full article

 

1st August   

Update: Back Pain...

Simon Singh refused permission to appeal
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Trick or Treatment book There has been a setback for Simon Singh in the libel case brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association.

The Court Office today confirmed that, in an Order sealed on 30 July 2009, the Court of Appeal has refused Simon Singh's application for permission to appeal (PTA).

Simon Singh needed PTA because permission to appeal had been refused at first instance at the preliminary hearing in May.

He can make an "oral renewal" before the Court of Appeal.

 

30th July   

Offsite: Fighting Back...

An intrepid, ragged band of bloggers vs The British Chiropractic Association
Link Here  full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Trick or Treatment book Today the Australian magazine Cosmos, along with a vast number of other blogs and publications, reprinted an article by Simon Singh, in slightly tweaked form, in an act of solidarity. The British Chiropractic Association has been suing Singh personally for the past 15 months, over a piece in the Guardian where he criticised the BCA for claiming that its members could treat children for colic, ear infections, asthma, prolonged crying, and sleeping and feeding conditions by manipulating their spines.

The BCA maintains that the efficacy of these treatments is well documented. Singh said that claims were made without sufficient evidence, described the treatments as "bogus", and criticised the BCA for "happily promoting" them. At a preliminary hearing in May, to decide the meaning of this article, Mr Justice Eady ruled that Singh's wording implied the BCA was being deliberately dishonest. Singh has repeatedly been clear that he never intended this meaning, but has been forced to defend this single utterance, out of his own pocket, at a cost that has run to six figures.

...read full article

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial . This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that '99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae'. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: 'Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.'

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher. If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

 

30th July   

Offsite: Funny and Offensive...

The new offenders of standup comedy
Link Here

Scott Capurro Live CD Political correctness used to rule comedy, but now comics routinely offend their audiences. How did things get so nasty?

It's a Saturday night in north London, and a group of people are listening to one white man speak. First he suggests that all Muslim men are secretly gay. Next, he's using the n-word. Then he draws his eyes into slits to mock the Chinese. One woman in the crowd has had enough. "You're awful," she says, leaving the room. "You're a disgrace." Soon, others join her; the man abuses them as they leave. The atmosphere is sour.

This is not an unruly seminar on racism, but comedy, 2009-style. It's a world where all the bigotries and the misogyny you thought had been banished forever from mainstream entertainment have made a startling comeback. Tonight's comic is San Francisco comedian Scott Capurro, and his routine is not unusual in the taboo-teasing world of 21st-century standup. Before the gig, I ask Capurro how he feels about routinely offending his audience. "It's great," he says. "I'm not friends with my audience. I'll never see them again. If they want to fight, they can have one with me. How often does an audience get the chance to stand up and say, 'You are fucked up'? It's so exciting – it's a conversation."

...read full article

Comment: There isn't a "New Offensiveness"

1st August 2009. See article from guardian.co.uk by Richard Herring

On Monday I was astounded to read an article by Brian Logan in this very paper in which he wrote, and I quote, that "racists have a point". I never thought I'd live to see such a hateful opinion expressed by a Guardian journalist and was morally outraged.

Actually, I'm not being entirely fair. The piece read: "This year veteran comic Richard Herring is sporting a Hitler moustache for his show Hitler Moustache, in which he argues that 'racists have a point'." So it wasn't Logan who said it. It was me. I knew that all along, and yet I wilfully took the line out of context in order to be sensationalist. What a cheap and shoddy tactic: you'd expect that in a tabloid perhaps, but the Guardian?

...read full article

 

22nd July   

Update: Pig Business...

The story of Channel 4's showing of the campaigning Pig Business film
Link Here  full story: Pig Business...Suing a film about the pig farming business

Pig Business logo Pig Business is an expose of US industrial pig farming conglomerate Smithfield Foods. It has met with repeated attempts at censorship by the company's lawyers.

Filmmaker Tracy Worcester explains how England's libel laws have helped stall the film's general release, and stopped the world learning more about the environmental realities of intensive livestock rearing.

After a showing of my film, Pig Business, at the Royal Society of Arts on 13th November 2008, Channel 4, which was scheduled to broadcast the film in the New Year, received two letters from lawyers acting for the main focus in the film, Smithfield Foods of America, the world's biggest pig producer and processor.

Fearing the legal might of a $12 billion company threatening to sue, Channel 4 pulled my film just before broadcast on February 3rd 2009. To prepare for the worst, Channel 4 made changes to accord with England's business-friendly libel laws and the UK TV's fairness standards, administered by OFCOM. Despite a further two threatening letters, Channel 4 broadcast the film on its More 4 channel on June 30th.

In the US, the Constitution's First Amendment enshrines free speech as a right. So, if you allege in good faith that a public company is causing harm, as long as the allegations are not made maliciously, the company has to prove that it has not caused the harm. In England however, the burden of proof is reversed. The person making the allegation has to prove their case with scientific analyses, court judgments or credible witnesses.

Not even the tabloids are immune from Smithfield's threatening letters: both The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard have received warning letters for reporting about the film.

On the day of a showing at the Barbican arts centre in London on 27 May 2009, Smithfield's lawyers told the Barbican's management that the film was 'defamatory'. As a result, the audience was made to wait half an hour while the executive producer and myself were told that the showing would only go ahead if we signed a document agreeing to indemnify the Barbican.

Putting it on my website would apparently expose me to Smithfield's litigation in every jurisdiction. So the message will have to be spread guerrilla-style - i.e. below Smithfield's radar. For another nine days, the film will be on Channel 4's web site. It is also available free of charge to anyone who wishes to give a private screening.

 

21st July   

Offsite: Censoring Local Art...

Local bureaucracy leads to self-censorship among artists
Link Here

Helen Gorrill art Just what is it with petty bureaucracy and art? Are unelected officials uneasy with matters that cannot be precisely codified and tick-boxed to death? Or do they really believe that all culture must be shoe-horned into a lowest common denominator one size fits all family model?

Last week, it was Wigan's turn to hit the headlines, as Tory councillor and opposition leader Michael Winstanley laid into a photography exhibition, entitled Fetish Rocks. He claims to be "quite frankly, shocked".

He goes on:

They talk about this being an example of cultural diversity but as far as I am concerned this is nothing more than pornography. I don't think that this is appropriate for the town centre. We should be looking to attract families into Wigan, not weirdos.

Sterling stuff – which might be deserving of a little more serious attention had Winstanley seen the exhibition, spoken to the organiser, or in any way attempted to get to grips with what the exhibition was about.

...Read the full article

 

11th July   

Controlled Hate...

Two men jailed for offences linked with race hate website
Link Here  full story: Race Hate Internet Prosecutions...UK prosecutions over internet comments

HM Courts Service Two men have been jailed after becoming the first in the UK to be convicted of inciting racial hatred via a foreign website.

Simon Sheppard received four years and 10 months, and Stephen Whittle two years and four months. The men printed leaflets and controlled US websites featuring racist material.

They fled to the US after being convicted at Leeds Crown Court last year, but failed in an asylum bid.

Sheppard was found guilty of 11 offences and Whittle was found guilty of five offences at a trial in July last year. Sheppard was convicted of a further five charges in January 2009.

Leeds Crown Court was told Whittle wrote offensive articles that were then published on the internet by Sheppard. The published material included images of murdered Jews alongside cartoons and articles ridiculing ethnic groups.

Judge Rodney Grant said: These are serious offences. I can say without any hesitation that I have rarely seen, or had to read or consider, material which is so abusive and insulting... towards racial groups within our own society.

The investigation into Sheppard began when a complaint about a leaflet, called Tales of the Holohoax , was reported to police in 2004 after it was pushed through the door of a synagogue in Blackpool. It was traced back to a post office box in Hull registered to Sheppard. Humberside Police later found a website featuring racially inflammatory material.

The pair thought that they could circumvent English law because their website was hosted in the US.

Comment: Holocaust denial via the back door

11th July 2009. From Phantom on the Melon Farmers Forum

This looks like a outlawing of holocaust denial via the back door.

It also is a tightening up on existing standards of freedom of expression. The moment you voice anything abusive or insulting you're taking a step closer to jail.

Billy Connelly, Frankie Boyle and Roy Chubby Brown better take note. They are inches away from being outlawed.

I'm sorry, but in my mind's eye, we're hitting a serious wall here.

Just recently we've had a guy sentenced to one and a half years of supervision and re-education meetings for being curious about an aspect of bizarre adult sexuality.

Now we've just had a guy sentenced to four and a half years in jail for not liking Jews and saying as much.

I have at times myself been the man with the wrong face and name in the wrong place, so I'm no friend to prejudice and xenophobia of any kind. But I've always understood that the price of freedom is to let those of an opposing opinion speak. This includes narrow-minded people with little more than hate between their ears.

Yet it seems these days - especially with this government - argument is being closed down (just look what they allow for debate in the commons!) and instead bans and prohibitions are the preferred norm. Who needs Perikles or Cicero if you can just ban anyone from making wrong choices?

I really think we are witnesses to something very bad happening here, people.

Comment: Lost Appeal

1st February 2010. See article from news.bbc.co.uk

Two men have lost their appeals against the UK's first conviction for inciting racial hatred via a foreign website.

Simon Sheppard was sentenced to four years and 10 months, and Stephen Whittle to two years and four months at Leeds Crown Court in July.

However, the Court of Appeal has reduced Sheppard's sentence by one year and Whittle's jail term by six months.

 

5th July   

Offsite: Slash, Femslash and Popslash...

How to police popslash
Link Here  full story: Obscene Text...Writer prosecuted for text fantasy story

Girls Aloud CD It started with Star Trek fans writing stories about a Kirk/Spock love affair, and it quickly became a craze. Fantasy fiction, or fanfic websites now attract contributions from large numbers of obsessive fans, and new genres are emerging at a remarkable rate: slash fanfic focuses on gay relationships (the Lord of the Rings characters provide particularly fertile ground), with femslash for lesbian characters; and then there's real person popslash , where the unlucky subjects are celebrities in the music business.

One popslash fantasy came to public attention this week when, most unusually, its author found himself in court. Darryn Walker's writing is darker than most. The 35-year-old former civil servant's story, a 12-page article called Girls (Scream) Aloud , depicted the kidnap, rape and murder of each member of girl band Girls Aloud by their coach driver.

...Read full article

 

3rd July   

Offsite: Cleared of Obscenity But...

Another victim of an archaic law
Link Here  full story: Obscene Text...Writer prosecuted for text fantasy story

Index on Censorship logo Darryn Walker has suffered unemployment and vilification for writing a pornographic story. The censorious obscenity law that allows this to happen must be scrapped, say John Ozimek and Julian Petley

Authors across the UK breathed a sigh of relief on Monday, as a landmark prosecution for obscenity was dropped at the eleventh hour. The importance of this case cannot be underestimated. The alternative, a world in which this prosecution had gone ahead and succeeded, would have changed the nature of the Internet (and publishing) in the UK for years to come.

...Read full article

 

1st July   

Update: When You're Chewing on Life's Gristle...

Censorial Glasgow finally relent for a showing of Life of Brian
Link Here  full story: Monty Python...Monty Python winds up the nutters

For almost 30 years, one of the classic comedy films has been unofficially banned in Glasgow, after it was branded blasphemous by councillors on its release.

Monty Python's Life of Brian will finally get a screening after it was granted a licence by the city council – the last of 39 across the UK that imposed the initial ban.

The stars of the film, including Michael Palin, John Cleese and Terry Jones, will be invited to a special screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre in September.

In sharp contrast to the furore of 29 years ago, the city council's licensing committee did not receive a single objection to the application heard yesterday.

The move was welcomed by film experts for bringing an end to a cinematic anachronism.

Allison Gardner, head of cinemas at the GFT, said: The film has been widely available to the general public on video and DVD and has been screened on terrestrial television. None of these events has caused widespread offence, or in any way destroyed the sanctity of the Church or undermined its place in our wider society. I believe the film is seen as an affectionate and inspired depiction of the life of Jesus from a perspective that is humorous, rather than blasphemous.

But Christian nutters said the decision to grant the film a 15 certificate was a reflection of declining standards in society, and called it a sad day.

Stephen Green, director of the radical campaign group Christian Voice, which has organised protests against shows such as Jerry Springer: The Opera , said: We know Glasgow was the last place in the country to keep the ban in place, as the only other area, Aberystwyth, had a screening a couple of months ago. It is a bit of a shame it's now been granted a licence in Glasgow, but it shows how much we have let standards slip.

Comment: Scotland 'Rogered'

6th July 2009, thanks to Chris

Life of Brian was shown on the welsh language channel S4C when it was banned in Swansea and Aberystwyth sure that the same would be the case in Scotland being it was shown on channel 4.

 

1st July   

Offsite: Thinking Out Aloud...

These obscenity laws should be abolished
Link Here  full story: Obscene Text...Writer prosecuted for text fantasy story

Girls Aloud CD That Walker was cleared is not surprising. It was a ridiculous charge to bring in the first place. But it also testifies to the obsolescence of the Obscene Publications Act itself, a piece of nineteenth-century legislation that rests upon a perception that some people are incapable of dealing with certain material without being adversely affected in some way.

...Read full article

UK obscenity law: Where to now?

See article from theregister.co.uk by John Ozimek

As the dust settles on the Girls (Scream) Aloud trial, what are the implications for the future of obscenity law in the UK?

In the short term, the answer has to be not much . Had the trial produced a guilty verdict, then much would have changed.

It would have been the first successful prosecution of written material under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA) in over 30 years: it would have succeeded in respect of material that, however apparently appalling, is not that much more extreme than hundreds – thousands, even – of similar works on and off the internet.

The door would have been open to a slew of similar prosecutions: more importantly, it would have had a serious chilling effect, putting on guard any budding writer thinking of dealing with the cruder, rawer side of erotic life.

...Read full article

 

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