court finds Northern Ireland abortion laws violate human rights

Northern Irish abortion laws breach human rights - court (Yahoo News)

Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion laws are in breach of human rights by failing to provide exceptions in the case of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime, Belfast's High Court found in a landmark ruling on Monday.

Unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, abortion is banned in Northern Ireland unless the life or mental health of the mother is in danger...

Just as in the Republic of Ireland, where the law is as strict and debate as fierce, the restrictions have led to thousands of women a year travelling to Britain for abortions.

...Judge Mark Horner upheld a challenge by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission that the laws breached the European Convention on Human Rights and asked the parties involved to consider whether the ruling could be applied under current legislation.

If not, it would be referred to Northern Ireland's devolved assembly which to date has refused to extend legislation and whom the judge criticised, saying the issue was "unlikely to be grasped by the legislature in the foreseeable future".

Cory Doctorow: "security model that treats the computer's user as an attacker is doomed"

The idea that we should treat ideas as property isn't just an abstract ontological confusion, it has very real consequences. As we become more reliant on computers, one of the most dangerous of those consequences is treating the owners of computers as attackers to be restricted, rather than users to be empowered.

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave (

As ACM members doubtlessly appreciate, preventing the owner of a computer from executing the code of their choice is an impossible task. No matter how cleverly the operating system and its services monitor the user and hide the keys necessary to unlock files without permission, users will eventually find a flaw in the defenders' code and use it to jailbreak the system, allowing arbitrary code execution. Even if you stipulate that locking computer users out of their own computers is a legitimate objective, it is still a technological nonsense. A security model that treats the computer's user as an attacker is doomed. We cannot hide keys in devices we give to attackers for the same reason we cannot keep safes—no matter how well designed—in bank-robbers' living rooms.

The DMCA tries to address this by threatening people who publish code or information that would help remove a lock with severe penalties: five years in prison and $500,000 in fines for a first offense.

But information about flaws in a computer is not just useful to people who want to add functionality to their computers: it also provides opportunities for malware to seize control over the system. By criminalizing disclosure of flaws, the DMCA ensures systems covered by its measures become reservoirs of long-lived digital pathogens.


cheering censorship

A school that punishes students for "insensitive language" in making a political point (however stupid the point) does not get to claim it believes in freedom of speech.

Controversy over local high school student's tweet (

A local high school cheerleading captain was disciplined after she sent out a tweet about illegal immigrants.

She says it was a political statement, not a racial one. FOX25 spoke with the teen who says she was taking a page from Donald Trump. [Ugh. -tms]...

"When only 10 percent of Revere votes for mayor cause the other 90 percent isn't legal," Godino said in the tweet.

She says it was a response to a tweet from her teacher about the low voter turnout for November's mayoral race. Caley says she meant her tweet as a political comment, not a racial one.

But after other students complained, the school stepped in. Revere Superintendent Dianne Kelly says the district believes in freedom of speech, but cannot support what she calls insensitive language.

first trial in Freddie Gray murder begins

This first trial in the murder of Freddie Gray starts today:

First trial in death of Freddie Gray begins in a city that is still on edge (Washington Post)

The first of six consecutive trials of officers accused in the killing of Freddie Gray is scheduled to begin this morning in Baltimore...

The trial of Officer William G. Porter, 26, will be closely watched locally and across the country...

The legal proceedings are expected to last until at least mid-December and will provide fresh details about how Gray suffered a severe spinal injury while being transported in a police van. It also could bring the first public account from one of the officers charged in the case, since Porter’s attorneys have said he will likely take the stand.


cop privilege in Georgia

The word "privilege" is often used very loosely these days, to refer to a person not being subject to the penalties exacted by (for example) racism or religious bias, rather than to a someone being granted a genuine bonus of status. But the way in which cops who kill are treated is a genuine and dangerous example of special privilege, as exemplified by Georgia law.

Georgia's Special Perk For Cops Who Kill Citizens (Mimesis Law)

Georgia, unlike other states, allows police officers to give an unrebutted statement to the grand jury at the end of every grand jury proceeding. If an officer is not given that opportunity, the indictment is thrown out and he has to be retried. No cross-examination or scrutiny of any kind is allowed....


If a police officer is not given this privilege, his conviction is reversed and he must be retried, even when prosecutors call the privilege “manifestly unfair.”

So even when Georgia prosecutors do seriously seek indictments against police officers for killing citizens, they often run into problems. Paul Howard, the District Attorney for a large chunk of Atlanta, sought to indict an officer for “fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager twice in the back.” But because the officer got the last word, Howard said, he just had no way to rebut the officer’s emotional testimony.


blind girl can't use cane in school because someone might trip over it

Ah, bureaucracy.

Blind Girl Denied Use of Cane in School Because It's a Tripping Hazard (

A blind girl in Britain has been told she cannot use her cane at school because it presents a tripping hazard....

Lily-Grace Hooper, who is seven, suffered a stroke when she was just four days old, which left her virtually blind.

But her school, Hambrook Primary School, has now told the youngster she can no longer use her walking cane, because it could trip up teachers and other pupils at the school.

A risk assessment by Gary Learmonth from Sensory Support Service – done on behalf of the school – said the cane caused a high risk to other people around Lily-Grace, and that she should instead have full adult support “100 per cent” at all times.

In other words, at the risk assessor’s behest, the school is ready to create a dependent and incapacitated child out of a bold and bubbly girl who was getting around just fine.


We're back, baby!

This blog has been on hiatus for about the past year, while I focused on building my presence at Patheos, first with a column on the Agora blog and now with my own blog, "The Zen Pagan". There have also been some technical annoyances with Drupal that I needed to address.

But it's long past time to bring it back. This will still be the place for my comments on politics, culture, and technology, mostly by sharing links with brief comments; so as we head into the election campaign, look for plenty of coverage of that.

​Alabama school makes 5-year-old take suicide evaluation questionnaire for pointing crayon

The latest entry in the hoplophobia follies. Remember, it's ok for cops to actually shoot people for no good reason (as long as those people are black), but if a kid makes any symbolic gesture that in any way reminds you of a gun, they are a dangerous psychopath. (But, fortunately, it seems we can deal with dangerous psychopaths by compelling them to sign contracts promising not to be dangerous. Then it's ok.)

​Alabama School Makes 5-Year-Old Sign Suicide/Homicide Safety Contract (Jezebel)

A mother in Mobile, Alabama, is reasonably pissed off after E.R. Dickson Elementary School had her 5-year-old sign a contract stating she would not kill or injure herself and/or others after pointing a crayon at another student and saying "Pew pew."

Hammond, IN cop breaks into car to taser man

Paranoid criminal cops say they thought he had a weapon. It's too bad nobody did have one and used it to stop this assault and torture. In the end, the only way to stop a bad cop with a gun is a good citizen with a gun. The Black Panthers were right on that much.

It's important to note that this man was a passenger in the car. He had no obligation to carry ID papers. He was entirely within his rights to not roll the window all the way down -- indeed, that would make a sane cop feel safer, as it's impossible to try to punch or stab someone through the window. With no grounds for reasonable suspicion, there is no grounds for detention or arrest, and certainly not for assault.

Except, of course, for black people talking back to white cops. Which in the American police state, justifies anything.

Police sued for tasering passenger during traffic stop (Yahoo News)

A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses Indiana police of excessive force after officers smashed a woman's car window with children inside, tasered an unarmed passenger and dragged him out of the vehicle during a routine traffic stop last month.

Police, though, say they feared the passenger might have a weapon after he refused to step out the vehicle and reached toward the rear seats.

in authoritarian USA, corporations are people, kidnapped Muslims aren't

Guantanamo remains a national shame, and failing to close it is near the top of Obama's crimes (below only his murders by drone).

Who Are ‘We the People’?

IN holding that corporations had religious rights, the Hobby Lobby decision sat in contrast to a case I brought under the same statute in 2004, in which the court found that Muslims at Guantánamo Bay were not persons and had no religious rights.


To me, the case seemed open-and-shut. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (R.F.R.A.), which was passed in 1993, prohibits the government from “substantially” burdening “a person’s exercise of religion” unless it serves some important government interest that cannot be accomplished in any other way....

The Federal District Court in Washington, which first heard the case, agreed that “R.F.R.A. expressly protects the religious exercise of ‘persons,’ a broadly applicable term, commonly including aliens.” But the government appealed and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that, as aliens held outside the United States, these men were not “persons” after all. The Bush administration had put them offshore precisely to ensure this.


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