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Monthly Archives: November 2013

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The Christian owners of a hotel in Cornwall who banned a gay couple from staying have lost their final battle in the British courts to win legal support for their selective guest policy.

The supreme court unanimously dismissed an appeal by Peter and Hazelmary Bull that their right to express their religious beliefs had been breached.

The Bulls operate a policy at their hotel, stated on their online booking form, that double bedrooms are available only to “heterosexual married couples”.

The case was originally brought by Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, a gay couple, whose booking was refused in September 2008.

The supreme court judges said that although the Bulls’ rights under the European convention on human rights to manifest their religion were at issue it was justifiable and proportionate to limit them in order to protect the rights of others.

Delivering judgment, the deputy president of the supreme court, Lady Hale, said: “Sexual orientation is a core component of a person’s identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation.”

Homosexuals, she added, “were long denied the possibility of fulfilling themselves through relationships with others … This was an affront to their dignity as human beings which our law has now (some would say belatedly) recognised.

“Homosexuals can enjoy the same freedom and the same relationships as any others. But we should not under-estimate the continuing legacy of those centuries of discrimination, persecution even, which is still going on in many parts of the world.”

There was no question of replacing legal oppression of one community with legal oppression of another, she maintained. “If Mr Preddy and Mr Hall ran a hotel which denied a double room to Mr and Mrs Bull, whether on the ground of their Christian beliefs or on the ground of their sexual orientation, they would find themselves in the same situation that Mr and Mrs Bull find themselves.”

After the ruling, Hazelmary Bull said: “We are deeply disappointed and saddened by the outcome. We are just ordinary Christians who believe in the importance of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Our B&B is not just our business, it’s our home. All we have ever tried to do is live according to our own values, under our own roof.

“These beliefs are not based on hostility to anyone – we certainly bear no ill will to Steven and Martyn. Our policy is based on our sincere beliefs about marriage.

“Britain ought to be a country of freedom and tolerance, but it seems religious beliefs must play second fiddle to the new orthodoxy of political correctness.

“We appealed to the supreme court to introduce a bit more balance when dealing with competing rights of sexual orientation and religious liberty. Somehow, we have got to find a way of allowing different beliefs to coexist in our society. But the judges have sidestepped that big issue, and reinforced the notion that gay rights must trump everything else.

“What does this mean for other people in Britain who believe in traditional marriage – not just Christians, but Muslims, Jews, people of all faiths and none?”

Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute which supported the Bulls’ appeal, said: “What this case shows is that the powers of political correctness have reached all the way to the top of the judicial tree. So much so that even the supreme court dare not say anything against gay rights.

“Lady Hale effectively said gay rights are almost untouchable because of the rulings by European judges. This ruling is another slap in the face to Christians, and shows that the elite institutions are saturated with a liberal mindset which cares little about religious freedom.

“Parliament needs to reform the law to allow a more reasonable approach which balances competing rights. Otherwise, Christianity will become the belief that dare not speak its name.”

But Wendy Hewitt, deputy legal director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, welcomed the ruling. “The courts have been very clear throughout this long-running case that same-sex couples should not be subjected to discrimination when accessing services,” she said.

“This is what parliament intended when it approved the 2007 sexual orientation regulations and then passed the Equality Act 2010, well aware that gay men and lesbians have long suffered discrimination when seeking to stay away from home as a couple. Each of these parties has the same right to be protected against discrimination by the other.”

Phil Allen, employment partner at the law firm Weightmans, said: “Where characteristics protected by equality legislation conflict, employers, and ultimately courts, face a challenging balancing act. The judgment reinforces the message that no individual may insist on manifesting their religious beliefs, whether in a commercial or employment context, where the rights of others may be impacted.”

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The plan is this: the Dark Mail protocol will have encryption baked right in, so the user won’t have to handle any keys, and the message will still be encrypted end-to-end, including while in transit (sorry, fiber-tappers). The promise is a lofty one:“Dark Mail users will get the security of PGP without the cognitive burden; if someone can use email today they will be able to use Dark Mail tomorrow.”There will be clients for all desktop platforms and iOS and Android mobile devices and, because it’s an open-source project, others will be able to build on top of the underlying technology as well. The project’s open nature also means experts can poke around the code to check it’s as secure as the Dark Mail Alliance says it is.

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Dega704 writes with news that Edward Snowden is believed to have a collection of highly sensitive classified documents that will be released in the event he is detained, hurt, or killed. According to Reuters, “The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. The passwords are in the possession of at least three different people and are valid for only a brief time window each day, they said. The identities of persons who might have the passwords are unknown.” These details havecaused several security experts to express skepticism, but multiple sources, including Glenn Greenwald, believe Snowden has not released all of the documents he appropriated. “U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public. Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories.” Whether or not it’s true, U.S. and U.K. officials clearly believe it, which can only serve to protect Snowden.

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Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes “For many education advocates, the arts supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools but research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent. Now the NY Times reports that with the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a large-scale, random-assignment study (abstract) of school tours to the museum has determined that a strong causal relationship does in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes. Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions. Moreover, most of the benefits are significantly larger for minority students, low-income students and students from rural schools — typically two to three times larger than for white, middle-class, suburban students — owing perhaps to the fact that the tour was the first time they had visited an art museum. Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented? ‘Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition,’ write the authors. ‘Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school’s curriculum.'”

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jones_supa writes “An EU citizen uses around 200 plastic bags per year. That’s too much, says the EU. But wasting plastic bags is not just a European problem. Countries around the world are struggling with the issue, and it especially affects growing economies such as Asia. Some Southeast Asian countries don’t even have the proper infrastructure in place to dispose of the bags properly. The problems for the environment are many. Plastic bags usually take several hundred years until they decay, thereby filling landfills, while animals often mistake the plastic for food and choke to death. Additionally they are a major cause of seaborne pollution, which is a serious hazard for marine life. This autumn, EU started ambitious plans which aim to reduce usage 80% by 2017. Some countries have already applied measures to slow plastic bag use: England has added a 5p charge to previously free bags, and in Ireland the government has already imposed a tax of 22 euro cents ($0.29) per plastic bag. The EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potonik, said, ‘We’re taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem.'”

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Bernard Randall, the British gay man charged with homosexuality-related offences in a Ugandan court, glances up sceptically when I walk into his lawyer’s chambers. His Ugandan partner, Albert Cheptoyek, sits protectively in front of him, closer to the door, on a rickety wooden bench. Cheptoyek’s white shirt illuminates his dark sweaty skin, while Randall’s oversize dull-coloured clothes match his face, making him almost invisible.

And that perhaps may just be the effect he needs to get through the ordeal of having the content of a sex tape of him and his 30-year-old partner splashed over newspapers and across the media here. And not just any media, but the media of a country that has declared homosexuality to be an evil practice, a cancer imported from the west that must be stamped out no matter what the cost.

In 2009, Ugandan MPs proposed the death penalty for certain homosexual acts. The anti-homosexuality bill was shelved after international pressure, but it remains on parliament’s order paper and could be debated and passed at any time.

In Uganda the media routinely out gay people in an attempt to “protect” the moral fabric of society. In 2010 a tabloid called the Rolling Stone printed the names and addresses of people perceived to be gay and called on the public to hang them.

Randall, 65, says that he became a victim of such an outing after his computer was stolen, a video of him and his partner leaked and pictures from it published in a tabloid. He faces the possibility of two years in prison. His partner faces the more serious charge of carrying out acts of gross indecency that carries a seven-year prison sentence.

The charges are visibly weighing down on them. Randall’s eyes, fatigued and bloodshot, have big bags under them. He involuntarily sits on the edge of the seat, as far from me as possible, protecting himself subtly with his arms. He seems to age before my eyes.

Certainly it is easy to see that Cheptoyek, perhaps more familiar with Uganda’s anti-homosexuality outbursts, is his protector. He declares there will be no interview, even though I have an appointment.

“How do I know you are who you say you are? How do I know that you are not from NTV?” he says, referring to one of the TV stations that he feels covered their story unfairly.

Their eyes are pleading. Cheptoyek asks me firmly to leave them alone. And then out of nowhere, almost weeping, he says: “We have been through so much. Those people put my photos all over the place. We do not know what to do.”

They are lost. Life after this ordeal will be almost impossible. They know that the Ugandan public, an estimated 90% of whom support the anti-homosexuality bill, will not welcome them back. Like other outed Ugandans before them, they risk threats, evictions, even death. As a result, Cheptoyek and Randall will trust only foreign journalists. Their only hope lies in the west after the country they call home – in Randall’s case, chose to call home – has become hostile beyond their imagination.

Uganda has been called the worst nation in which to be gay. It was its anti-homosexuality bill that first brought its homophobic attitudes to the attention of the world, attracting powerful criticism from Europe and America, where it was dubbed barbaric and a violation of fundamental human rights. Britain and the US both threatened to cut aid to Uganda if it passed the bill. Uganda interpreted this reaction as evidence that the west was imposing a “gay agenda” on Africa.

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president for the last 27 years, described homosexuality as a decadent culture from the west and a threat to African values and Christianity. He showed open support for the bill but later backed down in the face of widespread international pressure. However, his ministers have continued to preach anti-gay rhetoric, urging gays to leave the country.

But Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, thinks that the accusation that the west is promoting homosexuality is misguided. “People are exaggerating the influence of foreigners in the gay rights campaign in Uganda. The same people who fund other activities fund gay rights organisations. We do not have special donors,” he says. “When we started our campaigns in 2007, we did not have any foreign funders. It was a naive gamble rather than a foreign-aided campaign.”

In fact, the greatest foreign influence in the gay rights debate in Uganda comes from the western evangelical movement that is spreading radical ideas rejected in their own countries, Mugisha says. His organisation is suing evangelist Scott Lively in a US court for his involvement in what Mugisha calls persecution of gays and abuse of their fundamental rights.

Homosexuality is a common theme in churches in Uganda, with religious leaders castigating gay people at every opportunity. The country has held national prayers against homosexuality. In 2010 a pastor, Martin Ssempa, showed videos in his church of gay people having sex in a bid to convince his congregation of the dangers and to try to trigger disgust about gays.

Funded by evangelical movements from America, anti-gay churches have linked the high prevalence of HIV and Aids in the country to homosexuality. They have accused homosexuals of going to school and “recruiting” underage children.

Mugisha says evangelists have played on the psyche of many Ugandans. “They come here with their own agenda. It is like colonialism.”

But to the ordinary Ugandan the Randall trial is yet more proof that there are foreigners who come to Uganda with one mission – to spread homosexuality. Mugisha argues that the socio-legal regime that sanctions homophobia and the idea that homosexuality is foreign has made foreigners an easy target for extortionists.

“We have seen this before. Many people blackmail white men and even rich black people known to be gay. Randall is unfortunate that his story reached the public.”

Frederick Juuko, a Ugandan law professor and critic of foreign influence in Ugandan politics, agrees that homosexuality is a pawn for many in times of desperation, including government. He says Uganda is a failed state and that blaming foreigners for homosexuality is a handy distraction.

My encounter with Randall and Cheptoyek comes to a rapid end; it is soon time for them to make their daily trip to the police station – a condition of their bail.

“We have to go and deal with this,” Cheptoyek says. They drive off, stopping after a few metres to let a guard slither into the back seat, just in case.

A new slide culled from the trove of documents leaked by Edward Snowden shows where the NSA placed malware on more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide, according to Dutch media outlet NRC.The NSA management presentation slide from 2012 shows a world map spiderwebbed with “Computer Network Exploitation” access points.Like all the NSA slides we’ve seen so far, this one is unlikely to win a Powerpoint beauty pageant anytime soon.Not that this should distract anyone from the profoundly disturbing implications of this US government malware map that’s being reported by a Dutch news agency — an outlet to which the US government gave a “no comment.”

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“For me, the most important thing is context. Take a grocery list,” said White, who’s also earning his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Maryland. “Glass should recognize things at the supermarket,” telling you when it sees something on your list without having to actually show the list to you.”You want it to be a non-annoying friend; you want it to add value,” he said. Glass needs more of those kind of apps, he said.Word Lens translates text seen through Google Glass into your language, as demonstrated at a hackathon for the newly released Glass Development Kit.

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Norman Lamb said the practice had “no place in modern society” but the Government was not planning to ban it, he explained in a Commons debate. He was speaking after Labour MP Sandra Osborne called a special debate in Westminster Hall in which she urged ministers to impose regulation on the psychotherapy sector.

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Norman Lamb