Saturday, July 18, 2009
Tributes to the late Walter Cronkite and evaluations of the meaning of his work are pouring in. Here's an essay from the AP's Ted Anthony, a bio from MSNBC.com, commentary from Michael Ventre, an article from the New York Times, and coverage from CNN and Mr. Cronkite's own network, CBS.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Da dum DA DUM! Da dum DA DUM DUM! What was the name of that Perry Mason episode that neither Senator Franken nor Judge Sotomayor could remember? According to the blogosphere, and Perry Mason addicts, it's possibly The Case of the Terrified Typist, from season one of the legendary series, first aired September 21, 1957. The case actually ends in a mistrial when everybody discovers that Perry's client has been using someone else's name. Want to see it for yourself? Check out a broadcast here from CBS. You can also purchase the original episodes, which are now becoming available on DVD.
But according to Barbara Hale, who played Della Street in the original series and in the made for television movies, Perry NEVER lost a case. What heresy. Listen to an interview with All Things Considered from July 15th.
According to Raymond Burr (Perry Mason) himself, he did lose some cases, just not on Saturday, the day the show aired.
For more about Perry Mason and his enduring influence, see
J. Dennis Bounds, Perry Mason: The Authorship and Reproduction of a Popular Hero (Greenwood Press, 1996)
Thomas Leitch, Perry Mason (Wayne State University Press, 2005).
Anita Sokolsky, The Case of the Juridical Junkie: Perry Mason and the Dilemma of Confession, 2 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 189-199 (Winter 1990).
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Despite its cartoon style, an ad for Levonelle One Step, a "morning after" pill does not make light of contraception, says the Advertising Standards Authority, and may continue to air during the later evening hours. The ASA had received more than 100 complaints about the contraceptive, which is manufactured by Bayer Schering Pharma.
The ASA noted that the visuals and on-screen text referred to the fact that a condom had split, and we considered that it was clear that the couple's method of contraception had failed, rather than that they had had unprotected sex. We also noted that the voice-over and on-screen text referred to the product as "emergency contraception", and we considered that it was also clear from the ad that the product was designed to be used in a specific situation where a contraceptive mishap had occurred, rather than as a regular form of contraception. We noted that the woman looked worried as she was shown sitting in bed and on the way to the chemist, and we considered that the ad suggested that her situation was not trivial but of concern to her. We considered that the animation did not present the woman in a glamorous or fashionable way, and we therefore considered that the style of the ad was unlikely to have particular appeal to young people. Because of that, and because we considered that the ad as a whole did not trivialise the issue of emergency contraception or encourage unprotected sex, we concluded that the ad would not cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ad under CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 6.1 (Offence) but did not find it in breach.
Read the entire adjudication here.
A BBC 1 radio host has criticized the new rules that the BBC has put in place to try to avoid situations like the one caused by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross several months ago. Chris Moyles says "Everything now needs to be signed, sealed and approved 18 times. We're not trying to change the world, but because radio is so dull, so boring and so formulaic, and anyone different – me or Jonathan [Ross] – stands out." Mr. Moyles has also found himself running afoul of BBC rules lately, over comments he made concerning a popular singer, and over comments about Auschwitz. Read more here.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Spanish High Court Drops Charges Against U.S. Soldiers In Death of Journalist, Tells Lower Court Judge To Close Case
Three American soldiers facing charges in the death of a Spanish journalist have had the charges dismissed by the Audiencia National (the Spanish National Court). The Court found that the judge who reinstated the charges did not present any new evidence to support that reopening of the case. It also told the trial judge to close out the case. "La Audiencia Nacional ha vuelto a revocar el procesamiento de los tres militares de EEUU implicados en la muerte del cámara de Telecinco José Couso en Bagdad (Irak) el 8 de abril de 2003, y le ordena al juez Santiago Pedraz que concluya el sumario y lo eleve a la Sala de lo Penal, para poder acordar el archivo."
Derrick Coetzee, who downloaded "thousands" of images of from the National Portrait Gallery's website and uploaded them to Wikipedia, is facing legal action for copyright infringement. The issue is not whether the paintings themselves are copyrighted, but whether the photographs of the paintings are copyrighted, and where, and whether that copyright will be recognized under U.S. law. Here's more from TechRadar.com. Here's a copy of the letter Mr. Coetzee received from the NPG's attorneys.
The Guardian has told Members of Parliament that the News of the World's phone hacking extended even farther than the paper previously reported. The Guardian's journalists, summoned before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee told the committee about additional evidence, including payments to private investigators. Testimony before the committee continues next week. Read more here.
The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an Israeli Tourism poster that misleadingly implies that the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip are still part of Israel. The ASA received more than 400 complaints from the public about the poster. In response the Israeli Ministry of Tourism said that the poster was not intended to be a political map, and that the criticism was political. But the ASA responded,
[T]he aim of the ad was to promote tourism to Israel. We also noted that the map featured in the ad was labelled "Israel" and we considered that, along with the claim "Few countries pack so much variety into such a small space as Israel", the ad implied that all of the areas featured on the map were part of the state of Israel. We noted that the map showed border lines for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but we also noted that those border lines were faintly produced and difficult to distinguish on the map itself. We understood that the borders and status of the occupied territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were the subject of much international dispute, and because we considered that the ad implied that those territories were part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Controversy over a juried Baton Rouge, Louisiana, art show. Forum 35, which sponsors an annual art show, Art Melt, removed a photograph chosen for the exhibit, apparently because it was of a nude woman, without notifiying the photographer, Kenneth Wilks. The photo was eventually returned to the exhibit. Erin Wesley, head of Forum 35, said the group regretted the decision to remove the piece, "without in-depth consideration of its impact on the artistic integrity of the piece, the artist, and the arts community.” Read more here in an article from the Baton Rouge Advocate. Here's a link to a video clip discussing the issue.
British historians and writers are objecting to a Russian decision to shut down a major website, www. hrono.info, officially because it provided some excerpts from Adolf Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf. But protestors are saying the real reason is political. The site included criticism of Russian official Valentina Matviyenko. Read more here and here.
Actor Stephen Fry said he illegally downloaded a copy of an episode of his former co-star Hugh Laurie's show House because he was away from home at the time and couldn't download the episode legally. He said he used the popular BitTorrent site to do so. He also said he is not advocating piracy.
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University will conduct an independent expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world. This project will help inform the FCC’s efforts in developing the National Broadband Plan. “Advanced communications have the potential to enhance the lives of all Americans, improve public safety, create jobs, and support our economic recovery,” Chairman Julius Genachowski
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University will conduct an independent expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world. This project will help inform the FCC’s efforts in developing the National Broadband Plan.
“Advanced communications have the potential to enhance the lives of all Americans, improve public safety, create jobs, and support our economic recovery,” Chairman Julius Genachowski
“A comprehensive assessment of these plans will be enormously helpful given our short timetable,” said Blair Levin, who is coordinating the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Knowing what has already been learned will improve our ability to deliver the best possible National Broadband Plan.” Consistent with Chairman Genachowski’s recent public statements regarding an open and transparent National Broadband Plan process, the results of the Berkman Center review will be made publicly available.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Rosetta Stone, the popular language learning company, has sued Google for trademark infringement. The suit arises via Google's "Ad Words" advertising program, which links search words to trademarked products. Rosetta Stone claims that via Ad Words, Google misleads consumers. Read more here via Blog of Legal Times.
Science journalists and others in the media have begun a massive international campaign to pressure British MPs to modify the libel laws in the wake of the Simon Singh defamation ruling. Mr. Singh lost an important preliminary ruling over an article he wrote criticizing chiropractic treatment when Mr. Justice Eady determined that "wording used by Singh implied that the BCA was being consciously dishonest. Singh has denied that he intended any such meaning."
Mr. Singh is appealing the ruling. Meanwhile, a number of influential reporters and writers are mounting a campaign called "Keep Libel Laws Out of Science" and are sending an open letter to Members of Parliament. The letter reads:
The law has no place in scientific disputes We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.
The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children's ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.
Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.
English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the "libel capital" of the world.
Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.
The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.
Among the early signers from the media and publishing are
David Aaronovitch Columnist, The Times and Author
Monica Ali Writer and Member, English PEN
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Journalist and Columnist
Julian Baggini Journalist and Writer
Wendy Barnaby Editor, People and Society
Penelope Bennett Writer and Member, English PEN
David Bodanis Journalist and Author
Rosie Boycott Former Editor, The Independent and Independent on Sunday
Geoffrey Carr Science Editor, The Economist
Marcus Chown Author, Journalist and cosmology consultant to New Scientist
Duncan Campbell Journalist and Author
Dr Philip Campbell Editor-in-Chief, Nature
Nick Cohen Columnist, The Observer
Clive Cookson Science Editor, Financial Times
Amanda Craig Writer and Member, English PEN
Nick Davies Journalist and Author of Flat Earth News
Blain Fairman Writer and Member, English PEN
Kendrick Frazier Editor, Skeptical Inquirer
Martin Gardner Author, Former Scientific American columnist and prominent skeptic
James Gleick Science Writer and Journalist
Dr Ben Goldacre Writer, Broadcaster and Medical Doctor
David Hare Writer and Member, English PEN
Nigel Hawkes Director, Straight Statistics and Former Health Editor, The Times
Mark Henderson Science Editor, The Times
Roger Highfield Editor, New Scientist
Eva Hoffman Writer and Member, English PEN
Dr Richard Horton FRS FMedSci Editor, The Lancet
Alok Jha Science and Environment Correspondent, The Guardian
Rohit Jaggi Columnist, Financial Times
Frances Jessup Writer and Member, English PEN
Barry Karr Skeptical Inquirer and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki Author, Broadcaster and Scientist
Hari Kunzru Writer and Member, English PEN
Sam Lister Health Editor, The Times
Brenda Maddox Journalist and Biographer
Kenan Malik Journalist and Author
Marilyn Malin Writer and Member, English PEN
Naomi May Writer and Member, English PEN
Dr Margaret McCartney Columnist, Financial Times and GP
Caspar Melville Editor, New Humanist magazine and Chief Executive, The Rationalist Association
Robin McKie Science Correspondent, The Observer
George Monbiot Journalist
Andrew Mueller Journalist and Author
Beverley Naidoo Writer and Member, English PEN
Steven Novella Editor, Science-Based Medicine; Director of General Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine and Author
Vivienne Parry Science Writer and Broadcaster
John Rennie Former Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American
Nick Ross Journalist and Broadcaster
Ian Sample Science Correspondent, The Guardian
Anne Sebba Columnist, Financial Times
Ariane Sherine Comedy, Writer and Journalist
Michael Shermer Publisher, Skeptic Magazine; Columnist Scientific American and Author of Why People Believe Weird Things
Rebecca Smith Medical Editor, The Daily Telegraph
Andrew Sugden Deputy Editor, Science
Mike Swain Science Correspondent, The Daily Mirror
Bill Thompson Technology Journalist
Margaret Wertheim Science Writer
Among the early signers from law are
David Allen Green Solicitor
Jonathan Morgan Fellow in Law, University of Cambridge
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC Barrister and Labour Member of the House of Lords
Here is a link to the statement for individuals who wish to sign.
For more about the campaign and related issues go to the Sense About Science site here.