Facebook’s email dump in the UK

❝ As expected, the UK Parliament has released a set of internal Facebook emails that were seized as part of its investigation into the company’s data-privacy practices. The 250-page document, which includes conversations between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other high-level executives, is a window into the social media giant’s ruthless thinking from 2012 to 2015 — a period of time when it was growing (and collecting user data) at an unstoppable rate…

❝ If Facebook was hoping to close the year without any more controversies, these internal documents certainly won’t help. They’re yet another example of the company’s old, ambitious motto to “move fast and break things,” one that it’s desperately trying to get away from.

Some of the folks I respect the most – like Om Malik – have wholly nuked their Facebook presence. The only reason I retain a site there is to maintain minimal contact with old friends and family back in New England and round about this tired planet. Frankly, I’m the worst in the world at actually staying in touch. I never get round to answering “how are you doin'” inquiries from folks I still love as comrades fighting bigotry and war. Hopefully, they remember I was always craptastic at that.

Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is deliberate sophistry

❝ “…anti-Semitism is so entrenched in our society, so depressingly persistent, that to trivialise it is to trivialise the blueprint of prejudice itself. It is a barometer of moral cowardice: when someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their own faults or problems, they blame the Jews.”

❝ At the moment, two phenomena are taking place in UK politics. For the first time in nearly 40 years, a politician with seriously left-wing ideas, and pro-Palestinian sympathies, is approaching political power. Over the past two years, that same politician’s party has been going through a series of anti-Semitism allegations so comprehensive and systematic that we may employ the term “blanket coverage”.

❝ There is definitely a long-overdue debate that needs to be had over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – but the current barrage of media attention is not that debate. There are definitely some voices who claim to support the Labour Party, and who allow their anti-Zionism to spill over mindlessly into anti-Semitism. What we are witnessing in the UK media, however, is a near-complete evaporation of critical debate. So many aspects of this coverage are disturbing: the widespread assumption among TV hosts and commentators that anti-semitism is a problem exclusive to the Labour Party (polling suggests it is clearly not); the alarming paucity of any evidence or statistics, so that the sentence “anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”, repeated ad nauseam, becomes its own self-generating fact; the frankly ridiculous allegations of anti-Semitism levelled at the leader Jeremy Corbyn himself (Alan Sugar, one of the most famous faces in British business, tweeted a photo of the Labour leader sitting next to Hitler); the unconditional authority and respect given to voices who have been widely criticised elsewhere for bias – the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, for example, whose unreserved equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism drew a letter of protest from 88 Jewish celebrities; the lack of journalistic professionalism in giving any sense of proportion to the actual problem (the membership of the British Labour Party is 570,000 – the number of cases pending for expulsion from the party for anti-Semitism, the Guardian reported this week, is 70). Media coverage has been so appalling that, earlier in the summer, a group of 40 senior British academics accused the media of relying for its sources on a handful of “well-known political opponents of Corbyn himself”.

Discussion overdue. No less a problem in the US Congress.

UK Parliament Speaker of the House bans Trump over racism and sexism

❝ U.S. President Donald Trump must not be allowed to address the U.K. Parliament during a state visit to Britain, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

❝ Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to visit the U.K., but there have been calls by lawmakers not to give the president the honor of addressing both houses of Parliament after he introduced a ban on people from some majority-Muslim countries traveling to the U.S.

❝ “Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall; after the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I’m even more strongly opposed,” Bercow told lawmakers.

“I feel very strongly our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”

❝ Bercow said he has a veto over a speech in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, and would block one. And it would be a breach with tradition if Trump spoke in the Royal Gallery behind the Lords without his name on the invitation, he said.

“An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor,” Bercow said. “There are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country that do not include an address to both houses of Parliament.”

Now, we just need to get Congress up to the same standard.

Finland is banning coal by 2030 and aims for carbon-neutral by 2050


Click to enlargeReuters/Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva

❝ Finland, which gets about 10% of its energy from coal, said this week that it will stop using the fuel by 2030.

The Finnish ministry of economic affairs and employment let slip the news when it released its climate and energy strategy…Plenty of other countries, including the UK and France, are slowly phasing out coal. But Finland’s commitment is more concrete. Canada too announced last week that it would phase out coal by 2030.

❝ Finland’s long-term goal is to become carbon neutral and — perhaps by 2050 — rely entirely on renewable energy, the strategy document said. In the nearer term, by 2030, as well as cutting out coal, it aims to increase the share of renewable energy in its mix by 50%.

Not that 50% is a big increase. Renewables like wind and hydropower are only a tiny fraction of Finland’s current energy mix, in contrast to its Nordic neighbors: Norway runs on 100% renewable power thanks to its geothermal and hydro resources, while Denmark and Sweden have both built a lot of wind infrastructure in recent years…

❝ The strategy said that new investment should not be made in coal, either to build new plants or refurbish old ones. The document will go to parliament on Nov. 30.

It’s even easier for me to be enthusiastic, now, about nations outside the GOUSA working creatively towards a healthier environment. Americans seem hellbent to stay on the downbound train.

Norway is first country to commit to zero rainforest deforestation

The Norwegian parliament pledged the government’s public procurement policy will become deforestation-free after a committee of MPs recommended imposing regulations to ensure the state did “not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest”.

Norway funds forest conservation projects worldwide and also supports human rights programmes for forest communities.

Nils Hermann Ranum, the head of Policy and Campaign at Rainforest Foundation Norway, said in a statement: “This is an important victory in the fight to protect the rainforest. Over the last few years, a number of companies have committed to cease the procurement of goods that can be linked to destruction of the rainforest.

“Until now, this has not been matched by similar commitments from governments. Thus, it is highly positive that the Norwegian state is now following suit and making the same demands when it comes to public procurements”.

The MPs’ committee also called for the government to protect biodiversity by developing a separate policy and through investments made by Norges Bank Investment Management.

I’m not really surprised when other industrial nations make decisions like this one. Especially well-educated nations. Any hope for the United States’ Congress?

Thanks, Honeyman

Piglets probed over Parliament security breach in Uganda

Two piglets are being examined by police in Uganda for “terrorism-related material” after being let loose in parliament by anti-corruption protesters.

Reports say the animals were daubed in the colours of the governing party with slogans alleging MPs are corrupt.

Two protesters are in custody awaiting trial following the incident earlier this week in the capital Kampala.

Several police on duty at the time were suspended over the security breach…They face charges of neglect of duty, spokeswoman Polly Namaye told AFP news agency.

As for the piglets, she said it was “standard practice” to test for terrorism-related material as “there could have been another motive other than a protest”…

The protesters, Robert Mayanja and Norman Tumuhimbise, face charges of criminal trespass, conspiracy to sneak piglets into parliament and interrupting parliament work.

The two, who call themselves “the jobless brotherhood network”, accuse lawmakers of corruption and extravagant spending.

On any reasonable scale of protest vs size of corruption and veniality, I guess we’d need a passel of giant hogs for Congress. Painted red, white and blue, of course.

I wouldn’t expect exploding pigs, though.

Belgium’s parliament legalizes child euthanasia


Decision made after long, difficult debate – no matter what anti-choice moralists say

Parliament in Belgium has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions.

When, as expected, the bill is signed by the king, Belgium will become the first country in the world to remove any age limit on the practice.

It may be requested by terminally ill children who are in great pain and who have no treatment available.

Opponents argue children cannot make such a difficult decision. Which presumes opponents have the right to make the decision today – for the children.

In the Netherlands, Belgium’s northern neighbour, euthanasia is legal for children over the age of 12, if there is parental consent.

Under the Dutch conditions, a patient’s request for euthanasia can be fulfilled by a doctor if the request is “voluntary and well-considered” and the patient is suffering unbearably, with no prospect of improvement…

Supporters of the legislation argue that in practice the law will affect an extremely small number of children, who would probably be in their teens…

The law states a child will have to be terminally ill, face “unbearable physical suffering” and make repeated requests to die – before euthanasia is considered.

Parents, doctors and psychiatrists would have to agree before a decision is made

Church leaders argued the law is immoral…

Some paediatricians have warned vulnerable children could be put at risk and have questioned whether a child can really be expected to make such a difficult choice.

But opinion polls have suggested broad support in Belgium for the changes.

Not an easy debate. No more or less than the discussion between doctors, psychiatrists, parents and children facing the question. In a very small number of cases where even the possibility for such a decision is lawfully allowed.

None of which seems to matter to the Christian moralists who have no inhibition about lying about the debate which took place. No matter to the moralists of any philosophic conviction who depict the debate as a conspiracy to murder hundreds and thousands of inconvenient children. They deserve to be shamed for the liars they are.

Once again the leadership of movements against choice care no more for truth than they do for individual liberty.