Bible project touted by Tory education secretary craters when he’s told to raise the money himself!

A plan by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to send a copy of the King James Bible to every school in the country – each including a personal inscription from him – has run into trouble after government sources reported he has been told to find private funding for the project.

Sources said David Cameron told Gove that while he supported the idea, the education secretary should avoid using taxpayers’ money for it. But Gove has yet to find a private philanthropic sponsor for the enterprise, and some Whitehall sources said he has been told he cannot distribute the book until he does so, leaving thousands of copies in a warehouse abroad…

…But Whitehall sources said Gove was told at the highest levels that it would be wrong to spend nearly £400,000 on the project at a time when the government was in negotiations with teaching unions over cuts to their pension entitlement…Wow! I’m surprised the Tories were that perceptive.

The 400th anniversary of the publication of the Bible was in 2011.

This is the same dweeb who wanted British taxpayers to pop for £60 million for a new yacht for the Queen. Phew.

Fundamentalist threats of violence block video link speech in India

Jaipur Festival Poster
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Salman Rushdie says he is “sad for India” after threats of violence prevented him from addressing an Indian literary festival.

He said religious extremist groups had prevented freedom of ideas and blamed politicians for failing to oppose the groups for “narrow political reasons”. The planned video-link was cancelled after Muslim activists prepared to march on the venue in Jaipur.

Many Muslims regard Sir Salman’s book, The Satanic Verses, as blasphemous.

The video-link had been organised after Sir Salman withdrew from attending the festival, saying that sources had told him of an assassination threat.

What century owns the minds of people prepared to kill for blasphemy?

Speaking to India’s NDTV television channel, Sir Salman said: “I have a lot of personal disappointment but the overwhelming feeling is disappointment on behalf of India – a country I have loved all my life and whose long-term commitment to liberty and secularism I have praised all my life.”

He said the decline in liberty in India was “the saddest thing”

Sir Salman said it was ludicrous he was cast as the enemy of Islam when the real enemies were extremist leaders who were strengthening the image of the faith as a violent and repressive ideology…

Tuesday was the final day of the five-day festival.

It may have been the beginning of the end of the sort of democracy practiced in India. That, uh, is not meant to imply improvement, BTW.

The first century of the war on drugs

The first international drug treaty was signed a century ago this week. So what was the war on drugs like in 1912?

Today it is taken for granted that governments will co-operate in the fight against the heroin and cocaine trade. But 100 years ago, narcotics passed from country to country with minimal interference from the authorities. That all changed with the 1912 International Opium Convention, which committed countries to stopping the trade in opium, morphine and cocaine.

Then, as now, the US stood in the vanguard against narcotics. While the UK’s position is unequivocal today, a century ago it was an unenthusiastic signatory, says Mike Jay, author of Emperors of Dreams: Drugs in the Nineteenth Century.

The real concern a century ago was over alcohol, he argues. “There was a big debate over intoxication as there was concern about the heavy, heavy drinking culture of the 19th Century…”

And opium use was viewed in the mid-19th Century in a very different way from modern beliefs about drug use. It was possible to walk into a chemist and buy not only opium and cocaine, but even arsenic…

“There were opium dens where one could buy oblivion, dens of horror where the memory of old sins could be destroyed by the madness of sins that were new,” wrote Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

But the fashion in drugs was changing from the “downer” of opium to the “upper” of cocaine – hence Arthur Conan Doyle making Sherlock Holmes a cocaine injector…

But in the US, cocaine came to be associated with street gangs, alongside racist propaganda that the drug sent black men insane and put white women at risk…So these domestic concerns helped drive the international agreement in the form of the 1912 treaty. But while it tackled the trade, in the UK at least, the authorities were slow to crack down on individual users…

In reality, there was no “drug scene” in Britain back then, says Jay. What existed was confined to a few streets in Soho and a handful of dealers in Limehouse. And once the drug laws came in banning cocaine and opium, the problem was easily contained by the police…

The baby boomers were the first generation in history to become real global consumers. People were suddenly going to Morocco to smoke hash, or hitching with lorry drivers who were using amphetamines.”

So the floodgates opened. Where once the authorities were fighting relatively small groups of offenders in a tiny drugs subculture, now they must fight millions of users and powerful international cartels.

RTFA for an understanding of laws and “wars” on drugs in the time when the community of users was small, coppers ruled the streets – instead of gangbangers – and profit hadn’t yet driven drugs into a global economy.

Not that today’s governments seem to be any more capable of understanding changing circumstances.

European Union proposes a right to edit or delete personal info recorded on the Internet

Click image to enlarge

A new law promising internet users the “right to be forgotten” will be proposed by the European Commission on Wednesday. It says people will be able to ask for data about them to be deleted and firms will have to comply unless there are “legitimate” grounds to retain it…

Details of the revised law were unveiled by the Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich…

“These rules are particularly aimed at young people as they are not always as aware as they could be about the consequence of putting photos and other information on social network websites, or about the various privacy settings available,” said Matthew Newman.

He noted that this could cause problems later if the users had no way of deleting embarrassing material when applying for jobs. However, he stressed that it would not give them the right to ask for material such as their police or medical records to be deleted.

Although the existing directive already contains the principle of “data minimisation”, Mr Newman said that the new law would reinforce the idea by declaring it “a right”…

The commissioner said that firms would have to explicitly seek people’s permission to use data about them and could not proceed on the basis of “assumed” consent in situations where approval was required.

Her proposed law says that internet users must also be notified when their data is collected, and be told for what purpose it is being processed and for how long it will be stored.

The bill also suggests people must be given easier access to the data held on them, and should have the right to move it to another provider in addition to the right to have it deleted.

However, the commissioner said that she recognised there were some circumstances under which this right would not apply. “The archives of a newspaper are a good example. It is clear that the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history,” Ms Reding told delegates.

RTFA. There’s a certain amount of regulatory crap I’ve left out. The core of the concept is worth discussing throughout the Web.

I’m surprised an effort as specific as this hasn’t been proposed in the United States. Certainly folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation are cognizant of this effort. No doubt they are as frustrated as the rest of the nation is with our incompetent lawmakers in DC – and are waiting to see if the real world gets a chance to intervene after the coming elections?

There’s hardly a nation with an intelligentsia more concerned with privacy – and achieving less towards expanding those rights – than the United States. For their part, our political “leaders” have spent a serious amount of time since the end of World War 2 dedicated to reducing privacy in parallel with their goal of reducing dissent and free speech.

And, yes, there was a time when conservatives were as concerned with these topics as liberals or progressives. Not anymore, man.

Domesticated dog skull found in Siberian cave – 33,000 years old

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A 33,000-year-old dog skull unearthed in a Siberian mountain cave presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with an equally ancient find in a cave in Belgium, indicates that modern dogs may be descended from multiple ancestors…

An ancient dog skull, preserved in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia for 33,000 years, presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with equally ancient dog remains from a cave in Belgium, indicates that domestication of dogs may have occurred repeatedly in different geographic locations rather than with a single domestication event.

In other words, man’s best friends may have originated from more than one ancient ancestor, contrary to what some DNA evidence previously has indicated.

“Both the Belgian find and the Siberian find are domesticated species based on morphological characteristics,” said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona…

The Altai Mountain skull is extraordinarily well preserved, said Hodgins, enabling scientists to make multiple measurements of the skull, teeth and mandibles that might not be possible on less well-preserved remains. “The argument that it is domesticated is pretty solid,” said Hodgins. “What’s interesting is that it doesn’t appear to be an ancestor of modern dogs…”

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