November 26, 2012

End software patents

Filed under: Business, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:15

Marginal Revolution writer and George Mason economics professor Alex Tabarrok argues for an end to software patents.

New child abuse panic in Britain

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:00

In sp!ked, Neil Davenport talks about the ongoing child abuse panic that is gripping Britain, and contrasts it with the 1987 horror show that was the investigation into systematic child abuse in Middlesbrough:

In retrospect, it is suggested, the move in recent years towards intrusive policing of family life, and in particular working-class family life, was a positive and enlightened development. Incredibly, the re-evaluation of the policing of the family as an enlightened thing has included attempts to rehabilitate the long-discredited Cleveland child-abuse scandal of 1987, when 121 children were removed by social workers in Middlesbrough on the grounds that their parents had abused them. That scandal was closely followed by allegations of child-abuse rings in Rochdale and Orkney in 1990. In each case, the vast majority of the allegations were found to be false. Yet now, in the wake of the Savile scandal, broadsheet journalists claim that the ‘public fury’ against the paediatricians who made the Cleveland allegations was ‘too simplistic’. It created a ‘saga of rogue doctors and wronged parents’, which doesn’t capture the reality of what happened in Cleveland, apparently. In other words, the suggestion is that there was some truth in the Cleveland allegations, and that the state must rediscover its nerve to interfere wholesale into suspicious communities.

[. . .]

As has been previously argued on spiked, it was from the mid-1980s onwards that child abuse took centre stage in the national consciousness. In 1986, the founding of Esther Rantzen’s ChildLine gave credence to the growing belief that children were no longer safe in their own homes or communities. This paedophile panic, largely driven by figures from the political left, reached its devastating pinnacle in Cleveland in 1987. Here, two paediatricians, Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt, became convinced that the widespread rape of young children was taking place in this part of Middlesbrough.

Higgs and Wyatt based their evidence on a technique called reflex anal dilation, which would supposedly detect signs of sexual assault. After Higgs had experimented on her own children and found a negative result, she concluded that any positive result must mean that other children had been abused. Despite it being too small a control group to give any definitive answers, the dubious test and results were still enough evidence for the state effectively to kidnap and contain over 100 children and arrest their parents.

[. . .]

This resulted in the setting up of a public inquiry, led by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, which examined instances where sexual abuse was said to have taken place. In these cases, the courts subsequently dismissed the charges against the vast majority of the parents. During the inquiry, it was revealed that social workers were driven by malignant prejudices rather by any sense of duty or professionalism. In video-recorded interviews with the allegedly abused children, social workers were seen threatening and attempting to bribe the children in order to make them confirm social workers’ belief that they had been abused. Leading questions were asked of the children, which would not have been permitted in court.

The impact on the children and the accused parents was devastating. It took some of the innocent parents two years to get their children back home. For years afterwards, the children and parents of Cleveland reported being terrified of any knock on the door. One of the children taken away by the authorities said recently: ‘We were abused by the very people — the doctors and social workers — there to protect children. We were essentially put up for adoption. My father now says he did not dare even put a towel around me at the public swimming pool for years. He was afraid of cuddling us in public. My parents’ lives have been shattered.’

“[W]e must rewrite the history distorted by that, ahem, writer from Stratford”

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:24

More on the project to determine if the remains discovered in Leicester are those of Richard III:

Whether the bones prove to be Richard’s or not, the discovery in September has already set academic journals, websites, university lecture circuits and the mainstream media abuzz across Britain, sparking intense and occasionally impolite exchanges. On the floor of the House of Commons, members of Parliament are eloquently clashing, with representatives from York — for whom Richard was the last hope against rival Lancastrians in the War of the Roses — demanding the restoration of his tarnished image. One organization of die-hard Richard III supporters (there are at least two) is running a national ad campaign to clear the king’s name.

There are even calls for a state funeral, giving the medieval king a send-off steeped in the pomp and circumstance of contemporary Britain.

“I suppose we won’t dash off to the Folger Library in Washington and destroy the First Folio, but we must rewrite the history distorted by that, ahem, writer from Stratford,” Hugh Bayley, a member of Parliament from York, said with tongue only partly planted in cheek. “The fact that a Mr. Shakespeare decided to write some play about a hunchback shouldn’t blacken the name of a fine, upstanding defender of country.”

Yet if the remains are indeed those of the long-lost sovereign — something archaeologists call extremely likely — it also raises a conundrum: Where to bury one of England’s most demonized characters?

Under Church of England protocol, the bones, should they prove to be Richard’s, appear destined to end up in the cathedral at Leicester, the city where the remains were found. But many insist they should instead go to the Anglican cathedral in York, the city where history suggests that he wanted to rest. Still others question whether burial should be in an Anglican cathedral at all, as he died a Roman Catholic, reigning by the grace of God and the pope.

WW1 slang that became part of everyday English

Filed under: Britain, France, Germany, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:47

Jasper Copping lists a surprising number of words that entered the civilian language thanks to the linguistic creativity of soldiers in the trenches during the First World War:

If you’re feeling washed out, fed up or downright lousy, World War One is to blame.

New research has shown how the conflict meant that hundreds of words and phrases came into common parlance thanks to the trenches.

Among the list of everyday terms found to have originated or spread from the conflict are cushy, snapshot, bloke, wash out, conk out, blind spot, binge drink and pushing up daisies.

The research has been conducted by Peter Doyle, a military historian, and Julian Walker, an etymologist, who have analysed thousands of documents from the period — including letters from the front, trench newspapers, diaries, books and official military records — to trace how language changed during the four years of the war.

They found that the war brought military slang into the mainstream, imported French and even German words to English and saw words from local dialects become part of national conversation.

It was a “world” war, so the linguistic additions came from further afield than Belgium or France:

Several Hindi terms, picked up from Indian Army soldiers and already circulating in the regular, professional army, were also disseminated widely.

One of those most used at the front was “cushy” — from khush (‘pleasure’).

Soldiers would describe cushy, or comfortable billets, as well as cushy trenches, in quiet sectors.

The most well known term derived from Hindi though was “Blighty”, from bilati, meaning “foreign”, which, when applied by Indians to Britons, came to be perceived by Indian Army servicemen as the term “British”.

Words even entered the lexicon from the trenches opposite. “Strafe” became an English word, from the German “to punish”, via a prominent slogan used by the enemy: “Gott Strafe England”, while prisoners of war returned with term “erzatz”, literally “replacement”, but used in English to mean “cheap substitute” and spelled ersatz.

Chicago is a tough place to play football

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:32

This game was so out-of-hand by halftime that Fox cut away to the Atlanta-Tampa Bay game. What I did see was not encouraging, as both teams showed lots of errors but Chicago was able to capitalize on Minnesota’s errors to a much greater extent than the Vikings could with Bears mistakes.

With Percy Harvin still recovering from his ankle injury, the other wide receivers failed to step up. Jarius Wright saw more action and wasn’t bad, but Jerome Simpson gave more than enough evidence for why Cincinnati was willing to let him walk after last season — ball drops are bad at any time, but when combined with a lack of effort they’ll shorten your playing career as a receiver. Daily Norseman probably spoke for a lot of Vikings fans with this tweet:

Among the few Vikings who played at a high level was Adrian Peterson, who tied a team record (held by Robert Smith) with his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. On the downside … two fumbles on the day (although one of them will go against Christian Ponder’s record instead). Ponder didn’t have a good outing, but his receiving corps made it even tougher:


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