Thursday, December 31, 2015

Largest UK sperm bank turns away dyslexic donors; Guardian, 12/29/15

Matthew Weaver, Guardian; Largest UK sperm bank turns away dyslexic donors:
"Britain’s largest sperm bank has been turning away donors with dyslexia in what it describes as attempts to “minimise the risk of transmitting common genetic diseases or malformations to any children born”.
In a practice branded “eugenics” by campaigners and a would-be donor, the London Sperm Bank has banned men with dyslexia or other common conditions it described as “neurological diseases” from donating.
A leaflet to donors lists a series of conditions the clinic screens for, including: attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], autism, Asperger syndrome, dyslexia and the motor disorder dyspraxia.
The fertility regulator has launched a review of the London Sperm Bank after being alerted to its practices by the Guardian."

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Database leak exposes 191M voter registration records;, 12/30/15

Greg Otto,; Database leak exposes 191M voter registration records:
"A white hat security researcher discovered a database filled with voter registration records on 191 million Americans — and that anyone with an Internet connection and the right IP address can access it...
"It seems like a whole country’s worth of registered voters information would be a national security issue.”
FBI and DHS issued a “no comment” when asked about the voter database.
How voter information is protected varies by state. Some have no restrictions in place, while others prohibit commercial use or require the data be used for only political purposes."

Twitter unveils revised rules regarding hate speech in posts; Reuters via Guardian, 12/29/15

Reuters via Guardian; Twitter unveils revised rules regarding hate speech in posts:
"Twitter has clarified its definition of abusive behaviour that will prompt it to delete accounts, banning what it calls hateful conduct that promotes violence against specific groups.
The social media company disclosed the changes on Tuesday in a blog post, following rising criticism it was not doing enough to thwart Islamic State’s use of the site for propaganda and recruitment.
“As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs, but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse,” said Megan Cristina, director of trust and safety. The new rules do not mention Isis or any other group by name.
“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease,” according to the revised rules."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

90-Year-Old Gay Man Recalls Long Struggle With His Sexuality; NPR, 12/24/15

NPR; 90-Year-Old Gay Man Recalls Long Struggle With His Sexuality:
"SHAPIRO: But what I hear you say is that you might have some regrets about some choices that you've made. But you do not regret the life that you lived, even though you only really came out at age 70.
BLACK: I don't really because I think a lot of that - it's a weird thing to say, but I really think that suffering can be - it certainly isn't always by any means - but it certainly can be a way of understanding other people, opening. You know, Mother Teresa said, Lord, break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in. I can't say that. You know, that's - but I really am grateful that my heart has been broken a good many times because it does help me to love."

Government Can't Deny Trademarks Over Offensive Names, Appeals Court Rules; NPR, 12/23/15

Eyder Peralta, NPR; Government Can't Deny Trademarks Over Offensive Names, Appeals Court Rules:
"The court ruled that their name — The Slants — is private speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The government, the court writes, has no business trying to regulate it by denying the band a trademark.
At issue in the case was Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which allows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to deny or cancel a trademark if it is "disparaging" of persons, institutions or national symbols.
In a 10-2 decision, the court decided parts of that section were unconstitutional. Conferring a trademark, the court argues, does not make the band's name government speech.
Here's the comparison the majority uses: "The PTO's processing of trademark registrations no more transforms private speech into government speech than when the government issues permits for street parades, copyright registration certificates, or, for that matter, grants medical, hunting, fishing, or drivers licenses, or records property titles, birth certificates, or articles of incorporation.""

Robert Spitzer,' Most Influential Psychiatrist,' Dies at 83; Associated Press via New York Times, 12/27/15

Associated Press via New York Times; Robert Spitzer,' Most Influential Psychiatrist,' Dies at 83:
"Gay-rights activists credit Dr. Spitzer with removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in the D.S.M. in 1973. He decided to push for the change after he met with gay activists and determined that homosexuality could not be a disorder if gay people were comfortable with their sexuality.
At the time of the psychiatric profession's debate over homosexuality, Dr. Spitzer told the Washington Post: "A medical disorder either had to be associated with subjective distress — pain — or general impairment in social function."
Dr. Jack Drescher, a gay psychoanalyst in New York, told the Times that Spitzer's successful push to remove homosexuality from the list of disorders was a major advance for gay rights. "The fact that gay marriage is allowed today is in part owed to Bob Spitzer," he said.
In 2012, Dr. Spitzer publicly apologized for a 2001 study that found so-called reparative therapy on gay people can turn them straight if they really want to do so. He told the Times in 2012 that he concluded the study was flawed because it simply asked people who had gone through reparative therapy if they had changed their sexual orientation."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vegas newspaper stands up to its newly unveiled owner, casino giant Sheldon Adelson; Los Angeles Times, 12/23/15

Nigel Duara and Lisa Mascaro, Los Angeles Time; Vegas newspaper stands up to its newly unveiled owner, casino giant Sheldon Adelson:

Re-Print of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' Unleashes Row in Germany; Reuters via New York Times, 12/23/15

Reuters via New York Times; Re-Print of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' Unleashes Row in Germany:
"For the first time since Hitler's death, Germany is publishing the Nazi leader's political treatise "Mein Kampf", unleashing a highly charged row over whether the text is an inflammatory racist diatribe or a useful educational tool.
The 70-year copyright on the text, written by Hitler between 1924-1926 and banned by the Allies at the end of World War Two, expires at the end of the year, opening the way for a critical edition with explanatory sections and some 3,500 annotations.
In January the 2,000 page, two-volume work will go on sale after about three years of labor by scholars at Munich's Institute for Contemporary History."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ruling Could Help Washington Redskins in Trademark Case; New York Times, 12/22/15

Richard Sandomir, New York Times; Ruling Could Help Washington Redskins in Trademark Case:
"The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington made the ruling in a case involving an Asian-American dance-rock band that sought to register a trademark for its provocative name, the Slants. The court said the First Amendment “forbids government regulators to deny registration because they find the speech likely to offend others.”
Writing for the majority, Kimberly A. Moore, a judge on the appeals court, said: “It is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that the government may not penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys.”...
Still, Tuesday’s ruling was considered a major one in trademark law — the striking down of a provision of the nearly 70-year-old Lanham Act that deals with disparaging or offensive trademarks.
“The majority opinion is a very broad rejection of the proposition that the federal government can refuse registration or use of a trademark based on whether certain groups find the mark to be disparaging,” said Jeremy Sheff, a law professor at St. John’s University School of Law who specializes in intellectual property. “It was exactly on that basis that the Redskins’ marks were canceled.”
Whatever happens in the appeals court to the Redskins’ registered trademarks, the team’s use of its name is not in jeopardy. Although it symbolizes racism and intolerance to some, and has inspired groups to demand that it be replaced, the Redskins’ owner, Daniel Snyder, has vowed never to drop it. He has fought a public battle to prove the name does not offend all Native Americans. And he has the backing of the N.F.L., which has been paying the costs of defending the trademarks."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Chinese Rights Lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, Is Given Suspended Prison Sentence; New York Times, 12/21/15

Jane Perlez, New York Times; Chinese Rights Lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, Is Given Suspended Prison Sentence:
"One of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers was given a suspended prison sentence on Tuesday after being convicted of two charges in connection with his provocative online criticism of the government.
The sentence — three years in prison, with a three-year reprieve — meant that the lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, 50, would go free, and that he would not serve more time behind bars unless he committed another offense, said Mo Shaoping, one of Mr. Pu’s lawyers. But Mr. Mo said the conviction also meant that Mr. Pu’s career as a lawyer was over...
Mr. Pu is the most prominent rights lawyer to be arrested during a far-reaching crackdown on dissent under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. That campaign has centered on lawyers, rights advocates and journalists, and the authorities have detained several hundred of them. A number have been tried in courts and imprisoned.
Amnesty International criticized the court’s ruling on Tuesday, noting that it would halt Mr. Pu’s work as a lawyer."

Pitt Law Professor Michael Madison will give a talk on intersections among academic freedom, copyright and publishing, and new media and communication platforms on Tuesday, 1/12/16 4 PM, University of Pittsburgh

Talk on 1/12/16 4 PM at University of Pittsburgh:
Pitt Law Professor Michael Madison will give a talk on intersections among academic freedom, copyright and publishing, and new media and communication platforms: You may have heard that the topic of the 2016 Senate plenary will be academic freedom in the 21st century. As a lead-up event, the University Senate invites you to an open discussion with Pitt Law Professor Michael Madison on intersections among academic freedom, copyright and publishing, and new media and communication platforms. Please see the attached announcement for additional details. We hope you will attend. Day/Time: Tuesday, January 12 at 4:00pm, 2500 Posvar Hall.
A new announcement is available. Click the link below to view it:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hong Kong netizens worry copyright bill will limit freedom of expression; Los Angeles Times, 12/19/15

Violet Law, Los Angeles Times; Hong Kong netizens worry copyright bill will limit freedom of expression:
"Gathering for a rally outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, with a banner nearby proclaiming, “Fight for the freedom of the next generation,” several hundred raised their voices against a copyright bill they say could further chill freedom of expression in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
Protesters said they fear the legislation could be wielded as a tool of political prosecution against those who use memes to mock politicians, and even expose them to criminal charges...
In recent years, Hong Kong has sprouted an online parody subculture, as disaffected local netizens lampoon officials and criticize government policies by repurposing pop songs or doctoring screen grabs.
The new bill carries exemptions for caricature, parody, pastiche, satire, news reporting and commentary. It also requires those who repurpose others’ material to cite the source of the original work and obtain permission from copyright owners.
Opponents say the requirement puts too heavy a burden on authors of derivative works and would leave them vulnerable to civil liabilities and criminal charges. Opponents of the legislation are also pressuring lawmakers to amend the bill to exempt fair use, as is the case under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S., or all user-generated content, a concept pioneered in Canada’s copyright law, saying these laws afford users the impunity to exercise their freedom of expression."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The book every new American citizen — and every old one, too — should read; Washington Post, 12/17/15

Carlos Lozada, Washington Post; The book every new American citizen — and every old one, too — should read:
"Fortunately, there’s this little book called “Democracy in America” — written 175 years ago by, of all people, some know-it-all foreigner.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I’d never read Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work until now, but I’m glad I picked this year to do it. Few books have been so often cited and imitated, so I won’t presume to offer more insight than this: “Democracy in America” is an ideal book to read as a new citizen. Yes, it’s really long and stuffed with annoying, self-referential French digressions. (I can say that sort of thing now, I’m American!) But it also explains perfectly to a brand-new compatriot so much of the essential minutiae of life here, so much of what America is and was, so much of what it risks losing...
“Democracy in America” also captures the fights between security and liberty, a battleground long before Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency, religious tests and Syrian refugees. “What good does it do me, after all,” Tocqueville asks, “if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life?”
For Tocqueville, that authority threatens whenever it expands its scope."

Pearls Before Swine;, 12/20/15; Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine: [Never Read the Terms and Conditions]

Everything You Know About Martin Shkreli Is Wrong—or Is It?; Vanity Fair, 1/31/16

Bethany Mclean, Vanity Fair; Everything You Know About Martin Shkreli Is Wrong—or Is It? :
"I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I liken myself to the robber barons.” So says Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old hedge-fund manager turned pharmaceutical-company C.E.O., who achieved instantaneous notoriety last fall when he acquired the U.S. rights to a lifesaving drug and promptly boosted its price over 5,000 percent, from $13.50 a tablet to $750. The tsunami of rage (the BBC asked if Shkreli was “the most hated man in America”) only got worse when Shkreli said he would lower the price—and then didn’t. An anonymous user on the Web site Reddit summed up the sentiment bluntly: “Just fucking die will you?”
“The attempt to public shame is interesting,” says Shkreli. “Because everything we’ve done is legal. [Standard Oil tycoon John D.] Rockefeller made no attempt to apologize as long as what he was doing was legal.” In fact, Shkreli says, he wishes he had raised the price higher. “My investors expect me to maximize profits,” he said in an interview in early December at the Forbes Healthcare Summit, after which Forbes contributor Dan Diamond summed up Shkreli as “fascinating, horrifying, and utterly compelling.”"

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Trump brings bigots out of hiding; Washington Post, 12/18/15

Dana Milbank, Washington Post; Trump brings bigots out of hiding:
"A couple of weeks ago, I wrote: “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”
I cited a long list of incidents in which he targeted women, Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, Asians and the disabled. Here’s what I heard from Trump’s defenders..."

Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Owners Told Reporters to Monitor Judges; New York Times, 12/18/15

Ravi Somaiya and Barry Meier, New York Times; Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Owners Told Reporters to Monitor Judges:
"The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Friday that in the weeks before Sheldon Adelson bought the paper, its journalists were asked to monitor three local judges. One of those judges is overseeing a case involving Mr. Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate.
The assignment was handed down by corporate management over the objections of the newsroom, the paper reported.
No reason was specified for the assignment, the paper’s editor, Michael Hengel, said in an interview on Friday, and the material, which the paper said amounted to 15,000 words, was never published...
One of the judges the reporters were told to monitor, Elizabeth Gonzalez, is handling a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed in 2010 against Mr. Adelson and his casino company by Steven Jacobs, the former chief executive of its operations in Macau.
Mr. Jacobs has contended in court papers that he was fired after refusing to carry out what he believed to be illegal demands ordered by Mr. Adelson such as digging up potentially damaging information on high-ranking members of the Macau government."

Having Owned Up to Buying Newspaper, Adelsons Go Silent; New York Times, 12/17/15

Ravi Somaiya and Sydney Ember, New York Times; Having Owned Up to Buying Newspaper, Adelsons Go Silent:
"John L. Smith, a columnist for The Review-Journal who filed for bankruptcy while defending himself against a lawsuit brought by Mr. Adelson over a book Mr. Smith had written, said when reached by phone on Thursday that he would have to seek permission before speaking to a reporter. In a 2013 column about the lawsuit, Mr. Smith wrote that his lawyer had realized that “the case wasn’t about defamation, but about making me an object lesson for my newspaper and other journalists who dared to criticize the billionaire.” (Adelson eventually dropped the case.)...
Asked whether he was concerned about conflicts arising between his newsroom and Mr. Adelson’s myriad business and political interests, Mr. Hengel said, “Yes, absolutely.” He said, too, that he had argued with the newspaper’s publisher, Jason Taylor, over Mr. Taylor’s decision to remove references in an online article by The Review-Journal that raised questions about the ownership. But, he said, “What we’ve got to go on right now is their statement that they are going to allow us to pursue journalism the way we should and the way we’re expected to. I am going to take them at their word on that, until they prove otherwise.”...
Some remain skeptical. “I think there’s a lot of consternation, not just inside The Review-Journal, but outside,” said Jon Ralston, a veteran Nevada political journalist."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Is There Any Evidence Trigger Warnings Are Actually a Big Deal?; Science of Us, 12/15/15

Jesse Singal, Science of Us; Is There Any Evidence Trigger Warnings Are Actually a Big Deal? :
"What the conversation has lacked is any sort of solid information about how common trigger warnings, or debates about trigger warnings, really are on campuses. No one really knows whether the few anecdotal reports about truly ridiculous trigger-warning requests (a student in a class on rape law saying the term violate triggers her, for instance) are indicative of a bigger problem, or merely isolated instances that shouldn’t be spun into grand arguments about the decline of higher education, or the fragility of millennials, or whatever else.
Now we at last have some numbers. Last week, the National Coalition Against Censorship released the results of a survey about trigger warnings. The organization teamed up with the Modern Language Association and the College Art Association to ask those groups’ members to fill out a survey about their experiences with trigger warnings. The survey included both standard multiple-choice response items and chances for the respondents to write in their own responses.
It’s important to note that, as the NCAL itself acknowledges, this wasn’t a scientific survey — the organization didn’t conduct the usual, rigorous (and oftentimes expensive) procedure one would need to get a sample of respondents that’s approximately representative of the national population of college professors. (For one thing, the sample consisted, by definition, entirely of professors who study the subjects covered by the MLA and CAA."

Most Professors Fear, But Don’t Face, Trigger Warnings;, 12/10/15

Leah Libresco,; Most Professors Fear, But Don’t Face, Trigger Warnings:
"The vast majority of professors surveyed (85 percent) said students had never asked them for trigger warnings. Thirteen percent of professors had gotten a request once or twice, and only a tiny proportion of professors polled said they received trigger warning requests several times (1.4 percent) or regularly (0.3 percent). The professors reported even fewer student movements; 93 percent of professors said they were not aware of any student-led efforts to adopt a trigger warning policy at their school.
Students may not be making many requests of professors personally, but they are broadly in favor of trigger warnings. A survey commissioned in September by the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale found that 63 percent of students favored professors using trigger warnings, and only 23 percent opposed the practice. (The survey asked about “use” but did not ask respondents how they felt about requiring warnings.)
Although very few professors who responded to the National Coalition Against Censorship survey had experience with trigger warning policies, most said they were worried about the effect warning policies would have on their classroom. Professors who said they would expect a negative effect on classroom dynamics from trigger warnings outnumbered those who said they would expect a positive effect (45 percent to 17 percent). The pessimism was even more pronounced when professors were asked about the effects trigger warnings would have on academic freedom. Nine times as many professors said the effects would be negative as positive (63 percent negative, 7 percent positive)."

Star Wars Trigger Warnings: These are the microaggressions you are looking for;, 12/15/15

Zach Weissmueller, Austin Bragg, & Justin Monticello,; Star Wars Trigger Warnings: These are the microaggressions you are looking for:
"Before seeing Star Wars, read the trigger warnings.""

Ethics on the near-future battlefield; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 12/17/15

Michael L. Gross, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Ethics on the near-future battlefield:
"The US Army’s recent report “Visualizing the Tactical Ground Battlefield in the Year 2050” describes a number of future war scenarios that raise vexing ethical dilemmas. Among the many tactical developments envisioned by the authors, a group of experts brought together by the US Army Research laboratory, three stand out as both plausible and fraught with moral challenges: augmented humans, directed-energy weapons, and autonomous killer robots. The first two technologies affect humans directly, and therefore present both military and medical ethical challenges. The third development, robots, would replace humans, and thus poses hard questions about implementing the law of war without any attending sense of justice...
As we search for answers to these questions, we must remain wary of placing too much stock in technology. Contemporary armed conflict amply demonstrates how relatively weak guerrillas, insurgents, and terrorists find novel ways to overcome advanced technologies through such relatively low-tech tactics as suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, human shields, hostage taking, and propaganda. There is little doubt that these tactics gain purchase because many state armies endeavor to embrace the “laws of humanity and the requirements of the public conscience,” and, as democracies, often choose to fight with one hand tied behind their backs. The emerging technologies that will accompany future warfare only sharpen this dilemma, particularly as asymmetric war intensifies and some inevitably ask whether killer robots lacking a sense of justice might not be such a bad thing after all."

Open Access and Academic Freedom; Inside Higher Ed, 12/15/15

Rick Anderson, Inside Higher Ed; Open Access and Academic Freedom:
"As they have gained momentum over the past decade, the open access (OA) movement and its cousin, the Creative Commons licensing platform, have together done a tremendous amount of good in the world of scholarship and education, by making high-quality, peer-reviewed publications widely available both for reading and for reuse.
But they have also raised some uncomfortable issues, most notably related to academic freedom, particularly when OA is made a requirement rather than an option and when the Creative Commons attribution license (CC BY) is treated as an essential component of OA.
In recent years, major American and European funding bodies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, the Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Research Councils UK have all instituted OA mandates of various types, requiring those whose research depends on their funding to make the resulting articles available on some kind of OA basis. A large number of institutions of higher education have adopted OA policies as well, though most of these (especially in the United States) only encourage their faculty to make their work openly accessible rather than requiring them to do so."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Here's How China's Trying To Rewrite The Rules Of The Global Internet; Huffington Post, 12/16/15

Matt Sheehan, Huffington Post; Here's How China's Trying To Rewrite The Rules Of The Global Internet:
"The eastern Chinese city of Wuzhen will host the second World Internet Conference, which starts Wednesday and continues through Friday, with President Xi Jinping giving the keynote speech. The conference is part of an ambitious Chinese effort to redefine debates over cybersecurity, national sovereignty and censorship.
In recent years, Chinese leaders have pushed the idea of "cyber sovereignty" -- the notion that each country's government should maintain independent control over what content is available online within its own borders. Numerous countries censor online content they deem illegal, but cyber sovereignty takes on a new dimension in China, where global web giants such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram are blocked."

Drone owners get Christmas surprise from FAA: you will have to register to fly; Guardian, 12/14/15

Sam Thielman, Guardian; Drone owners get Christmas surprise from FAA: you will have to register to fly:
"The FAA and the Department of Transportation (DoT) announced new rules on Monday that will mean nearly all drone operators will have to register their drones in a national database.
The authorities have been attempting to crack down on unlicensed drones amid their rising popularity – they are expected to be one of this Christmas’s biggest toys. But drones have been seen as a major menace and have disrupted firefighting efforts, been used to snoop on neighbors and to smuggle drugs into prison (not to mention regularly flying too close to manned aircraft).
The new rules cover all drones weighing more than 0.55lb (0.25kg) and take effect on 21 December."

Perfectly Reasonable Question: Was That Photo Real?; New York Times, 12/14/15

Margaret Sullivan, New York Times; Perfectly Reasonable Question: Was That Photo Real? :
"The Times’s Lens blog took up the topic of photo manipulation in October after it became an issue during World Press photo competition.
And The Times’s ethical guidelines are clear on the subject: “Images in our pages, in the paper or on the Web, that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way. No people or objects may be added, rearranged, reversed, distorted or removed from a scene (except for the recognized practice of cropping to omit extraneous outer portions). Adjustments of color or gray scale should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction, analogous to the ‘burning’ and ‘dodging’ that formerly took place in darkroom processing of images. Pictures of news situations must not be posed.”"

Facebook adjusts controversial 'real name' policy in wake of criticism; Guardian, 12/15/15

Amanda Holpuch, Guardian; Facebook adjusts controversial 'real name' policy in wake of criticism:
"Facebook unveiled changes to its controversial “real name” policy on Tuesday after criticism from transgender people and victims of domestic abuse.
The social network bans anonymity and has insisted people use their birth names on their accounts. The policy has caused problems for people who used different names from the one they were born with, including transgender people and victims of domestic violence who use aliases to hide from their abusers...
Critics grew to include rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union of California and Human Rights Watch. They formed the Nameless Coalition to protest the policy because it “has facilitated harassment, silencing, and even physical violence towards its most vulnerable users”."

Johnny Depp's dogs: Barnaby Joyce wins principled decision-making award; Guardian, 12/16/15

Elle Hunt, Guardian; Johnny Depp's dogs: Barnaby Joyce wins principled decision-making award:
"Barnaby Joyce has been honoured for refusing to compromise on his commitment to Australia’s national biosecurity in the face of the man twice voted People magazine’s sexiest man.
The federal minister for agriculture and water resources has been awarded the Froggatt award for principled decision making by the Invasive Species Council for “acting quickly and decisively” against actor Johnny Depp and his wife, Amber Heard, for bringing their Yorkshire terriers into Australia in breach of quarantine laws...
The Froggatt Awards, bestowed annually, are named in honour of the Australian entomologist Walter Froggatt, who was one of the lone voices against the introduction of the cane toad into Australia in the 1930s as a control agent for beetle infestations.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

China's Xi Jinping says internet users must be free to speak their minds; Guardian, 12/16/15

Tom Phillips, Guardian; China's Xi Jinping says internet users must be free to speak their minds:
"Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s China researcher, said rather than encouraging Chinese citizens to share their thoughts and ideas, Xi’s three years in power had seen growing intolerance for free speech.
“Under Xi Jinping there has been a very aggressive assault on internet freedom which includes the imprisonment and detention of outspoken [online] opinion leaders.”
Wang said the result was a more cautious Chinese internet that was increasingly devoid of debate over important political and social issues. “People are becoming much more fearful to share their thoughts online,” the activist said."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Hidden History of Gay Purges in Colleges; Huffington Post, 12/11/15

Margaret A. Nash, Huffington Post; The Hidden History of Gay Purges in Colleges:
"During the 1940s, at least three public universities expelled students and fired faculty who were presumed to be homosexual. The cases at Texas, Wisconsin, and Missouri open a window onto a little known aspect of the history of higher education in the United States. Although we know in a general way that homosexuals were discriminated against during the 1940s, there is scant documentation about the treatment of homosexuality on college campuses.
A paper on this topic that I co-authored with one of my former graduate students, Jennifer Silverman, was just published in the journal History of Education Quarterly. The paper, "'An Indelible Mark': Gay Purges in Higher Education in the 1940s," builds on a small amount of existing literature on the history of homosexuality and campus life...
The history of gays and lesbians on campuses, as either faculty or students, in the pre-McCarthy years has yet to be written. Our research is beginning to change that."

US politicians attack 'nightmare' of Xi Jinping's China; Guardian, 12/14/15

Tom Phillips, Guardian; US politicians attack 'nightmare' of Xi Jinping's China:
"“Even by China’s standards, the spectacle both inside and outside the court surrounding the trial of Pu Zhiqiang … was a mockery of justice and rule of law,” Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said... “While a verdict has not yet been announced, we can say with certainty that today marks a new low point in Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’, which is by virtually every measure a nightmare for China’s dissidents, lawyers, journalists, and millions of others, Pu foremost among them.”...
Speaking on Tuesday, Pu’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said the trial represented a landmark case for freedom of speech in China and would set a new legal precedent over what internet users could – or could not – write online.
“In my view, this case will show where the limits are. This is the most important part of this case, because it is about defending [Chinese] citizens’ freedom of expression.”"

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Lie About College Diversity; New York Times, 12/12/15

Frank Bruni, New York Times; The Lie About College Diversity:
"Is that where diversity was supposed to lead us?
I don’t think so, and I think we’re surrendering an enormous opportunity by not insisting that colleges be more aggressive in countering identity politics, tamping down partisan fury, pulling students further outside of themselves and establishing common ground.
They’re in a special position to do that.
“College is a place where trust-fund kids, Pell Grant kids and all these people who would not normally be together in our society are living in very close proximity, and we need to take advantage of that,” Carol Quillen, the president of Davidson College, near Charlotte, N.C., acknowledged.
Davidson is coaxing campus organizations and even using off-campus trips to orchestrate conversations between white and black students, between religious students and atheists, between budding Democrats and nascent Republicans. By prioritizing these kinds of exchanges, the school sends the message that they matter every bit as much as the warmth and validation of a posse of like-minded people."

Wisconsin Regents Back Free Speech; Associated Press via New York Times, 12/12/15

Associated Press via New York Times; Wisconsin Regents Back Free Speech:
"The University of Wisconsin has become the latest university system to officially affirm the right to free speech and academic freedom for all students amid concerns that academia is trying to protect students from being offended by classroom lectures and discussions.
The system’s Board of Regents voted 16 to 2 on Friday to adopt a resolution stating that the university should not shield people from ideas or opinions they find unwelcome or offensive.
“These are not just pretty words we are going to put in a brass plaque,” said a regent, José Delgado. “You’ve got to be able to listen hard, even if it hurts.”
Civil rights advocates are concerned that universities are trying to limit free speech to protect students from feeling offended. Civil liberties supporters have also raised concerns over the use of “trigger warnings” to alert students about uncomfortable course content. On some campuses, groups have demonstrated against or canceled appearances by contentious speakers."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

IUP president calls for campus-wide discussion following racist photo; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/10/15

Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; IUP president calls for campus-wide discussion following racist photo:
"Fallout from the photo is being felt across campus and beyond, including IUP president Michael Driscoll, who told the campus this week he already had grown uneasy this fall about “how we talk about and treat each other” on the campus of 14,000 students.
In a campuswide e-mail sent a day after the photo surfaced on social media, Mr. Driscoll announced that a series of campus discussions will occur during spring semester. He urged the community to take stock over the upcoming holiday break of what can be done.
“My concern is not about a single incident or some specific sequence of events. It is not just about free speech, stereotypes, civility or prejudice -- although all of those are important parts of the discussion,” he said. “Rather, it is about how we come together as a family to challenge ourselves to grow individually and as a collective.”
Michelle Fryling, an IUP spokeswoman, said Thursday that the photo’s source was a female student, whom she declined to identify. She would not comment on prospects that the woman would be disciplined, but when asked about campus rules in general, Mr. Fryling said: “If you read the student code (of conduct) there are very clear guidelines about civility, about harassment or ethnic intimidation, which follow a lot of state and legal guidelines.”
Ms. Fryling said the photo was sent on a private Snapchat account not controlled by IUP. She said without elaborating that the student since has faced threats.
In recent months, a number of U.S. campuses have become flash-points over race, ethnicity and inclusion, sometimes due to events within their boundaries, and other times over broader national debates about such topics as police use of deadly force, immigration and events overseas."

Anonymous Launches #OpTrump to Teach the Donald a Lesson;, 12/11/15

Issie Lapowsky,; Anonymous Launches #OpTrump to Teach the Donald a Lesson:
"In a video posted online this week, Anonymous has committed to fighting back against Trump’s highly publicized proposal that all Muslim people be banned from traveling to the United States.
“This policy is going to have a huge impact. This is what ISIS wants,” the masked figure in the video says. “Donald Trump, think twice before you speak anything. You have been warned, Donald Trump.”
The group has already launched a campaign called #OpTrump, aimed at taking down the presidential candidate’s online footprint."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Online Classes Appeal More to the Affluent; New York Times, 12/4/15

Sindya N. Bhanoo, New York Times; Online Classes Appeal More to the Affluent:
"In a study published in the journal Science, Mr. Hansen and his colleagues reported that people living in more affluent neighborhoods were more likely to register and complete MOOCs. Each increase of $20,000 in neighborhood median income raised the odds of participation in a MOOC by 27 percent, the researchers found.
Yet the vast majority of MOOC participants are not the very affluent, who are comparatively small in number. Mr. Hansen said that it ought to be possible to adapt or redesign online courses so that they are more appealing and accessible to lower-income people.
“Just because it is free and available online, it does not necessarily mean that the chief beneficiaries or users are going to be the less advantaged,” Mr. Hansen said."

The Rise of Hate Search; New York Times, 12/12/15

Evan Soltas and Seth Stevens-Davidowitz, New York Times; The Rise of Hate Search:
"The human capacity for rage and anger will never disappear. But there is a huge difference between this flare-up of hatred and those from decades past. We now have rich, digital data that can help us figure out what causes hate and what may work to contain it. That might offer some hope to Muslim Americans who see a country that right now appears more prone to fury than understanding."

Can Data Measure Faculty Productivity? Rutgers Professors Say No; Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/11/15

Ellen Wexler, Chronicle of Higher Education; Can Data Measure Faculty Productivity? Rutgers Professors Say No:
"The data come from Academic Analytics, a company that measures scholarly productivity. It adds up professors’ journal articles, citations, books, research grants, and awards, and compares those numbers with national benchmarks. At the moment, the database includes more than 270,000 faculty members.
Rutgers bought a license for the service in 2013. And on Monday the School of Arts and Sciences faculty will vote on a resolution calling for the university to limit how it uses the data. On Wednesday union leaders will meet with the university’s academic and labor-relations team to discuss the issue.
"The way scholarship aids public discourse is by being innovative, being interdisciplinary, taking risks," Mr. Hughes said. "Academic Analytics doesn’t measure or value those kinds of unconventional forms of research and publishing."
Faculty-union leaders are wary of how the database will affect their profession. They’re worried that professors will feel obligated to produce work that’s reflected in their scores, and that the university will use flawed data to make decisions."

China prepares to gag free speech champion Pu Zhiqiang; Guardian, 12/11/15

Tom Phillips, Guardian; China prepares to gag free speech champion Pu Zhiqiang:
"Perry Link, an American academic whose wife stood alongside Pu during the 1989 democracy protests, said Chinese leaders were determined to silence a man who had become an expert in “punching the Communist party in the nose in indiscreet ways”. “He has irritated people at the top and they have decided they need to stop him,” said Link, a veteran China expert from the University of California, Riverside.
Pu’s lawyers say he will face two separate charges at Monday’s trial – “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “inciting ethnic hatred” – and faces up to eight years in jail. Both accusations relate to seven tweets he allegedly posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter, between 2011 and 2014, the year he was detained...
Others fear Beijing will impose a harsh punishment in order to intimidate and silence Pu’s many thousands of supporters. “He is an advocate of free speech – that’s exactly his issue,” said Link. “And if all of these followers can see that our hero of free speech can be put away for exactly the crime of exercising his free speech that is a terrible blow, to internet expression especially.”
“If he gets put away for a longish term it will have a huge chilling effect on the internet in China and that is serious.”"

Friday, December 11, 2015

Senate Panel Leaders Condemn Companies for Drug Price Hikes; Associated Press via New York Times, 12/9/15

Associated Press via New York Times; Senate Panel Leaders Condemn Companies for Drug Price Hikes:
"The leaders of a Senate panel are condemning four companies for aggressively increasing prices for prescription drugs. They say the companies have exploited a system lacking in competition to hike prices for critically needed medicines.
An investigation by the Senate Special Committee on Aging focuses on Turing Pharmaceuticals, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin Inc. and Rodelis Therapeutics. The first two faced especially harsh criticism.
"The Turing and Valeant price spikes have been egregious," Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who heads the panel, said at a hearing Wednesday.
Collins added that like those two companies, Retrophin and Rodelis also bought the rights to brand-name drugs whose patents had expired and then hiked their prices.
Public outrage boiled over this fall after news that Turing increased by more than 5,000 percent the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat a life-threatening infection, jacking it up from $13.50 to $750 per pill."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian; Northwestern Digital Library Collections, Northwestern University

Northwestern University, Northwestern Digital Library Collections; Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian:
"Sensitive images and text
This site presents the complete contents of The North American Indian originally published by Edward S. Curtis between 1907-1930. The images and descriptions reflect the prevailing Euro-American cultural perspective of Curtis’s time, that Indians were “primitive” people whose traditions represented a “vanishing race”. Contemporary readers should view the work in that context.
In The North American Indian some ceremonial rituals and objects are portrayed which were not intended for viewing by the uninitiated. No material has been excluded or specially labeled in this online edition. All descriptions and images are included in order to represent the work fully."

Greenpeace Subterfuge Tests Climate Research; New York Times, 12/9/15

John Schwartz, New York Times; Greenpeace Subterfuge Tests Climate Research:
"A sting operation by the environmental group Greenpeace suggests that some researchers who dispute mainstream scientific conclusions on climate change are willing to conceal the sources of payment for their research, even if the money is purported to come from overseas corporations producing oil, gas and coal.
Over a period of several months, two Greenpeace employees posed as representatives of energy companies and offered to pay prominent commentators on climate change to write papers that extolled the benefits of coal and carbon emissions. The Greenpeace workers also asked that the payments not be disclosed.
Disclosure of funding for scientific research has been a flash point in the fight over climate change, especially in the case of published scientific research. The effort by Greenpeace, which has a long record of using aggressive tactics to make environmental statements, was to “unravel the story” of industry ties to denial of climate change, said Lawrence Carter, one of the Greenpeace employees involved in the subterfuge.
“It shows a way that fossil fuel money can get into funding these climate skeptic campaign groups,” he added."

Greenpeace exposes sceptics hired to cast doubt on climate science; Guardian, 12/8/15

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian; Greenpeace exposes sceptics hired to cast doubt on climate science:
"An undercover sting by Greenpeace has revealed that two prominent climate sceptics were available for hire by the hour to write reports casting doubt on the dangers posed by global warming.
Posing as consultants to fossil fuel companies, Greenpeace approached professors at leading US universities to commission reports touting the benefits of rising carbon dioxide levels and the benefits of coal. The views of both academics are well outside mainstream climate science.
The findings point to how paid-for information challenging the consensus on climate science could be placed into the public domain without the ultimate source of funding being revealed."

Santa's Powerful Message For Boy With Autism: 'It's Okay To Be You'; Huffington Post, 12/10/15

Dominique Mosbergen , Huffington Post; Santa's Powerful Message For Boy With Autism: 'It's Okay To Be You' :
"“Santa sat him next to him and took L's hands in his and started rubbing them, calming them down. Santa asked L if it bothered him, having Autism? L said yes, sometimes. Then Santa told him it shouldn't. It shouldn't bother him to be who he is,” Johnson wrote in her post.
Landon told Santa that he sometimes “gets in trouble at school and it's hard for people to understand that he has autism,” but that he's “not a naughty boy.”
“You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy,” Santa told WOOD-TV, recalling the exchange with Landon. “You’re a good boy, you know.”
Johnson said she was incredibly moved by Santa's thoughtful words.
“This stranger in a red suit told my son the same message I've been trying to get through to him for a while now -- that he's special and I love him just the way he was made,” the mom told “Seeing Landon's face light up in that moment was just incredible. I couldn't stop crying.”"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Google's Eric Schmidt calls for 'spell-checkers for hate and harassment'; Guardian, 12/8/15

Alex Hern, Guardian; Google's Eric Schmidt calls for 'spell-checkers for hate and harassment' :
"Google’s Eric Schmidt has called on the technology industry to put its collective intelligence behind tackling terrorism on the internet, by building “spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment”.
Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, wrote in the New York Times that individuals, tech companies and governments all have a role to play in ensuring the internet is only used for positive ends...
“We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media — sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment. We should target social accounts for terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and remove videos before they spread, or help those countering terrorist messages to find their voice.”"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Librarians in uproar after borrowing record of Haruki Murakami is leaked; Guardian, 12/1/15

Justin McCurry, Guardian; Librarians in uproar after borrowing record of Haruki Murakami is leaked:
"Librarians in Japan have ditched their traditional regard for silence to accuse a newspaper of violating the privacy of Haruki Murakami, Japan’s best-known contemporary writer, after it revealed his teenage reading habits...
The Kobe Shimbun revealed Murakami’s reading habits of half a century ago after obtaining the cards from the school’s library that carried borrower entries under the author’s name, Japanese media reported.
The newspaper defended its actions, but the Japan Librarian Association accused it of violating the privacy of Murakami and other students whose names appear on the cards.
“Disclosing the records of what books were read by a user, without the individual’s consent, violates the person’s privacy,” said an association report."

Friday, December 4, 2015

China vows to drive 'smart aleck' lecturers from its universities; Guardian, 12/4/15

Tom Phillips, Guardian; China vows to drive 'smart aleck' lecturers from its universities:
"Zhi Zhenfeng, an academic from the government-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times newspaper the university crackdown was designed “to strike fear in people and to reform their behaviour”.
In his essay, the education minister, said the well-being of the Communist party and Chinese higher education was threatened by the misdeeds of “smart alecks who mislead their supervisors and defraud their subordinates”.
“All levels of party organisations, party members and cadres in the education system must remain vigilant, take action [and] show self-control,” added Yuan, who is the former president of Beijing Normal University.
Yuan sparked controversy earlier this year when he claimed hostile “enemy forces” were attempting to infiltrate university campuses in order to turn young minds against the party.
Books that attempted to spread western values in Chinese education needed to be banned, the minister added.
Liberal academics say the discussion and study of sensitive topics has become increasingly difficult under Xi Jinping, who is now entering his fourth year as Communist party chief."

Baldwin Township man leaves $500,000 to Carnegie Library system; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/4/15

Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Baldwin Township man leaves $500,000 to Carnegie Library system:
"A retired Baldwin Township man who researched his investments at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Downtown branch did well enough to donate $500,000 to the library system.
Last month, a plaque was installed at the Downtown and Business branch entrance to honor the donor, Orest Seneta, who was in his late 80s when he died in 2011.
Mr. Seneta graduated from McKees Rocks High School and attended the University of Pittsburgh. He moved away but later returned and lived in Baldwin Township at the time of his death. His brother, John Seneta of Dunn Loring, Va., told library leaders that his brother regularly did research on his investments at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Downtown and Business location.
In a prepared statement, John Seneta said, “This is a fitting tribute to my brother and a way to ensure that others have the same access to resources into the future,” noting how much libraries have evolved over the years since his brother did his research manually...
Ms. Cooper said the bequest was “one of the more significant gifts that we have gotten from an unknown donor. If people are interested in leaving money to the library, we’d love to meet them.”"

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Scholars Unveil New Edition of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’; New York Times, 12/1/15

Alison Smale, New York Times; Scholars Unveil New Edition of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ :
"Not since 1945, when the Allies banned the dubious work and awarded the rights to the state of Bavaria, has Hitler’s manifesto, “Mein Kampf,” been officially published in German. Bavaria had refused to release it. But under German law, its copyright expires Dec. 31, the 70th year after the author’s death.
That allows a team of historians from a noted center for the study of Nazism, the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, to publish its two-volume, 2,000-page edition, a three-year labor complete with about 3,500 academic annotations.
The intention is to set the work in historical context, to show how Hitler wove truth with half-truth and outright lie, and thus to defang any propagandistic effect while revealing Nazism."

Call and Response; Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/1/15

Tamara Venit Shelton, Chronicle of Higher Education; Call and Response:
"The Call to Action, its list of grievances and demands, has received a mixed response from the faculty here at the college. The majority, including me, have proffered support, but some professors worry that the student movement threatens academic freedom. Will new administrators, additional academic resources, and diversity training lead to more invasive measures that undermine our authority as experts and constrain our freedom of speech?
Those concerns are real. So are the concerns of marginalized students.
As Claremont McKenna rebuilds and moves forward, our faculty, administrators, and students will have to overcome resentment and skepticism. We will have to comprehend one another with humility and empathy.
As professors, we may have to rethink the space of the classroom — from a place under our authority to an environment that we co-create with our students. From my corner of campus, I find myself with a renewed commitment to teaching history and, through history, empathy.
I will not shrink from difficult conversations about race and power."

Young fogies: Modern illiberalism is led by students; Washington Post, 11/30/15

Catherine Rampell, Washington Post; Young fogies: Modern illiberalism is led by students:
"These are real subjects of student complaints, as reported by professors in a new survey released by the National Coalition Against Censorship.
About 800 members of the Modern Language Association and the College Art Association, two large scholarship organizations, participated in an opt-in online poll in the spring. While this wasn’t a scientific survey, it nonetheless was the first major attempt to look beyond isolated anecdotes and better gauge the scope and usage of trigger warnings, among other efforts to bowdlerize academic discourse.
The takeaway? Trigger warning mandates remain rare, but plenty of educators (and presumably students) already feel their chilling effects on speech...
Fewer than 1 percent of survey respondents said their institutions had adopted policies on trigger warnings, but 7.5 percent said students at their institutions had initiated efforts to require them. Twice as many — 15 percent — reported that students in their own classes had requested trigger warnings. Likewise, 12 percent said their students had complained when they hadn’t been warned about distressing content.
A majority of educators (58 percent) said they’ve voluntarily provided some sort of warnings about course content, though the warnings may have been broadly worded and they didn’t necessarily allow students to opt out of course materials."

Coca-Cola under fire over ad showing Coke handout to indigenous people; Guardian, 12/1/15

Guardian; Coca-Cola under fire over ad showing Coke handout to indigenous people:
"Consumer rights and health groups are calling on the Mexican government to ban a new Coca-Cola ad depicting young white people handing out Coke as a service project at an indigenous community in southern Oaxaca state.
The ad has been criticised for its depiction of light-skinned, model-like young people joyously constructing a Coca-Cola tree in town and hauling in coolers of Coke.
Mexico has skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes, especially among indigenous people.
The Alliance for Food Health is calling on the National Council to Prevent Discrimination to pull the ad campaign immediately.
The alliance, a coalition of consumer rights and health groups, says it is an attack on the dignity of indigenous people and contributes to their deteriorating health. Mexico is a major consumer of soda and other sugared drinks.
The ad was publicly posted on a Coca-Cola YouTube channel until Tuesday night when it was removed, after news of the campaign about it broke."

Research Group Funded by Coca-Cola to Disband; New York Times, 12/1/15

Anahad O'Connor, New York Times; Research Group Funded by Coca-Cola to Disband:
"A group called the Global Energy Balance Network, led by scientists and created by Coca-Cola, announced this week that it was shutting down after months of pressure from public health authorities who said that the group’s mission was to play down the link between soft drinks and obesity.
Coke’s financial backing of the group, reported by The New York Times in August, prompted criticism that the company was trying to shape obesity research and stifle criticism of its products.
Public health authorities complained that Coke, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, was adopting tactics once used by the tobacco industry, which for decades enlisted experts to raise doubts about the health hazards of smoking. Last month, the University of Colorado School of Medicine said it would return a $1 million grant that Coca-Cola had provided to help start the organization."