Monday, March 08, 2010

Swiss voters reject giving abused animals a lawyer

Swiss voters have soundly rejected a plan to appoint special lawyers for animals that are abused by humans, dealing a blow to advocates who say Switzerland's elaborate animal rights laws aren't being enforced. Official results showed that 70.5 per cent of voters cast their ballot against the proposal to extend nationwide a system that has been in place in Zurich since 1992. About 29.5 per cent of voters backed the proposal, with officials putting the turnout at just over 45 per cent.

"The Swiss people have clearly said our animal protection laws are so good we don't need animal lawyers," Jakob Buechler, a lawmaker for the centrist Christian People's Party, told Swiss television SF1. Switzerland tightened its animal protection laws two years ago and now has among the strictest rules anywhere when it comes to caring for pets and farm animals. Pigs, budgies, goldfish and other social animals cannot be kept alone. Horses and cows must have regular exercise outside their stalls, and dog owners have to take a training course to learn how to look after their pets properly.

Tiana Angelina Moser, a lawmaker for the Green Liberal Party, said animal rights advocates would now be looking for other ways to make sure laws against animal abuse were properly applied and those who hurt animals receive appropriate punishment.

The country's only animal lawyer, Antoine Goetschel, said that public prosecutors were often unsure about animal rights and shy away from pursuing cases even if there is clear evidence of abuse. Goetschel said he represents about 150 to 200 animals annually in Zurich, while in other cantons (states), only a handful of cases go to court each year.

Most of his clients are dogs, cows and cats, Goetschel told AP in a recent interview. But in one high-profile case last month, Goetschel represented a dead pike after an animal protection group accused the angler who caught it of cruelty for taking 10 minutes to haul the fish in. The angler was found not guilty.

Opponents of the latest proposal, including farmers' groups and the government, had argued that existing laws are sufficient and appointing lawyers for animals would incur unnecessary costs for taxpayers.


Photography under threat: The shooting party’s over in Britain

Did you hear the one about the mother banned from taking a snapshot of her baby in the pool? Or the student prevented from photographing Tower Bridge at sunset? Be warned. The authorities now have the power to confiscate your camera — or even arrest you — for daring to take a picture in public

In the eyes of many, the camera has become an offensive weapon, as Peter Dunwell discovered when he travelled from Grimsby to London in January. Coming down by train with a work colleague, Dunwell planned to make a photo-journal of their trip. At King’s Cross he took out his Sony Handycam and started to photograph the arrivals board and station. Two police community-support officers approached and told him to stop. Sure, PCSOs are agents of the state whose job it is to stand by while others drown (as happened in the case of a 10-year-old boy) but intervene in anything none too dangerous. And yes, King’s Cross is sensitive to the threat of terrorism because the London bombers arrived there before going their separate ways on the Tube to murder 52 people in 2005. But Dunwell, a middle-aged man of middle build with middling-brown hair, doesn’t look much of a terrorist. He looks more like the manager of a Jessops camera shop, which is what he is. Though his colleague has dyed blonde hair and pierced ears, there’s no law against that, yet.

In fact, the PCSOs did not suspect him at all of plotting to blow King’s Cross to smithereens. They told him to put his camera away simply “because people don’t want you taking their photographs”. Kamera verboten.

Nobody had complained or objected. Authority had taken its own decision that the British public did not wish to appear in Dunwell’s photograph, even if only in the background. Dunwell was shocked and embarrassed. “It made me feel like I was a paedophile,” he says. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong or illegal. It says something about our attitudes, our freedoms and restrictions on life that you can’t even take a photograph.”

In the most spied-on country in the world, with an estimated 4.2m CCTV cameras tracking our moves, people are now suspicious if Joe Nikon presses his shutter button. In one way Dunwell’s incident was so bittersweet it was almost comical. He had come to London to attend a demonstration in Trafalgar Square about precisely this: the rising tide of restrictions on public photography. That day hundreds of photographers gathered in the square — where you can now only take a commercial photograph if you pay for a special permit — to protest that they are not terrorists, paedophiles or paparazzi invaders of privacy. They’re just enthusiasts pursuing life through a single-lens reflex.

The protestors came in all shapes and sizes: tall, short, fish-eyed and wide-angled. Some were as tatty as their cameras, bandaged together with tape, others were in cashmere and corduroys with the latest kit. Among them was Jane Hobson, a photography student. Shortly before Christmas, Hobson was on a student exercise taking pictures in central London. Outside City Hall, security guards ordered her to stop. “They just said it wasn’t allowed, even though I was on a public highway. Another time I was stopped while taking pictures of Tower Bridge at twilight.”

Many photographers believe more is at stake than a few lost shots of iconic buildings. Eyeing up the fading light, they see darkness falling on personal freedoms and a whole strand of social history. “Look at the Victorians and Edwardians,” says Hobson. “Photographs tell us so much of what it was like then. We’re in danger of losing that.” And Simon Moran, a photographer who hosts the UK Photographers’ Rights Guide on his website, says: “Some of the greatest pieces of photographic art we have — reportage and street photography and cityscapes — wouldn’t be possible if people didn’t have the freedom to go around and take pictures without being stopped.”

One of the most beguiling properties of photographs is their ability to expand over time. When you capture an image, often spontaneously, it is a single moment framed in stillness. A child’s innocent smile, perhaps, a lover’s glance, a silhouette etherised against a sundown sky. Look again in 5, 10 or 50 years and that image will have grown far beyond a 7x5in print into a lost world all of its own: a life that might have been; a culture vanished; a childhood of happy, crazy days. Did we really wear those fashions? And look at that hair!

From animals daubed on cave walls to Martin Parr painting modern life with a camera, man has always recorded the world around him. It’s personal memory and public history, and, say photographers, it’s under threat.

If such claims seem alarmist, consider a famous image by Jimmy Sime from 1936. It shows a group of five boys standing by the road in Eton and brilliantly portrays the social divide of the time. Three are local boys in open-neck shirts and scruffy trousers or shorts, looking agog at the other two, who are Eton pupils immaculate in top hats, ties and waistcoats, walking canes in hand. The facial expressions still speak across the years. To capture such an image now, you would need the permission of all the boys, via their parents or the school. Without it, the pixel police step in, either in person or in the form of self-censorship. When a recent BBC programme filmed Eton pupils walking along the road outside the college, it blurred the faces of every one.

Photographing adults, even our most taxpayer-funded figureheads, is also becoming off limits. In December some of Her Majesty’s loyal peasants tried to snap the Queen and members of the royal family as they were going to church near Sandringham. A heinous crime obviously — so the police moved in and confiscated their cameras. Kate Middleton, a royal-in-waiting as Prince William’s on-off girlfriend, threatened legal action after being snapped at Christmas on a tennis court close to a public footpath. Her lawyers sought damages for invasion of privacy. At the time of writing the case was unresolved, but was expected to be settled in Middleton’s favour

Many photographers blame changes in the law for the antipathy that has developed towards them. One European court ruling, involving Princess Caroline of Monaco, judged that taking photographs of her was an invasion of her privacy even when she was in a public place. Yet other celebrities court such pictures. Some photographers complain they are now uncertain where the boundaries lie.

In photography journals and blogs, professionals and keen amateurs also take aim at the Terrorism Act of 2000. Section 44 of the act gave police more power to stop and search people in specified areas. That might sound reasonable — until you learn that large tracts of London, every big rail station in the UK and many other sites have been quietly designated specified areas. To make matters more confusing, details of which areas have been designated are often not disclosed in case it might help terrorists. It’s 1984 meets Catch-22. Previously the police had at least to cite reasonable grounds for suspicion in order to stop and search you; now they don’t. If you’re wearing a loud shirt, walking on the pavement cracks, or carrying a camera, you’re fair game.

The law also allows officers to view images in your phone or camera. Officers are not allowed to delete them — but they can seize and retain any item that an officer “reasonably suspects is intended for use in connection with terrorism”.

At the same time terrorism shares a powerful characteristic with paedophilia: they both fuel a climate of fear that spreads far beyond their immediate or likely victims. In the aftermath of the child murders of Sarah Payne in 2000 and Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham in 2002, local officials went to Defcon 2 on paedo-alert throughout the country. Pre-emptive bans and jobsworth enforcement have become the norm, as Kevin Yuill, a university lecturer, discovered when he picked up his daughter from a ballet class at a Durham leisure centre.

“She was 10, and for her to apply for the Royal Ballet School she had to have some pictures of certain poses,” recalled Yuill. “I’d arranged with her ballet teacher, a middle-aged woman, to help me with the poses while I took pictures. I was stopped by the manager of the centre and told I needed permission to take pictures. I said, ‘From who? Who exactly do I need permission from? I’m her father.’ She said I’d need to get central permission, from the council, to take pictures in a leisure centre of my own child.” Despite his protestations, the manager insisted Yuill took no photos. “It’s outrageous,” he says. “I’m not allowed to take pictures of my own child. And her ballet teacher, a 60-year-old woman, was there. She was outraged too. It’s not about protecting children, it’s about something else. I dislike the idea of government being the only people allowed to take pictures, which is what this appears to be.”

Age, gender and location make little difference. In Fareham, Hampshire, an older couple were stopped from taking pictures of their grandchildren in a shopping centre because photography was banned. They were ordered to leave. In a park in Oldham, a young couple were stopped from taking pictures of their 11-month-old baby when a warden told them it was “illegal”. In recent months a man was questioned by police for taking pictures of the Christmas lights in Brighton; and in Kent a man was arrested after he took pictures of Mick’s Plaice, a fish-and-chip shop. Haddock fundamentalism has yet to emerge as a major threat, but you never know.

The legal position remains badly focused. Case law on privacy is developing. Certain laws relating to private property can encompass photography — you might be pursued for trespass if you took a photograph on private property without permission. And taking photographs against a subject’s will could be held to be harassment.

The lack of any specific law banning photography in public places is little comfort. The uncertainty itself is insidious, says Hadaway. “There is this huge space for people to impose rules. The government and the police say that no, there’s no law that prevents you from taking photographs. But petty authority pushes for greater control.”


Is atheism promoting intolerance?

Comment from Australia

It wasn’t so long ago that most atheists kept their non-belief of a God or other deities largely to themselves. They lived in a world where most people believed - and continue to believe – there is a God or some other spiritual being that is at the controls of everything around us - even if some people can’t put their finger on who or what this Force is.

But now a new strand of atheist is emerging. Independent thinkers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are prepared to speak out publicly and condemn established religious beliefs, accusing the "God followers" of having a dangerous influence on society.

Is this new atheism at risk of causing a new battlefront of conflict and division in society? Monash University Professor and Anglican priest Dr Gary Bouma seems to think so. He told the Studies of Religion in Focus conference in Sydney today that atheists or people without a specific faith are fuelling sectarian conflict and creating problems for interfaith tolerance in Australia.

According to ABC News, he aimed his criticism at groups that vilify or deny the right to build mosques and those who say that religious voices should be driven out of the public policy area or that religion shouldn’t be in schools, etc.

The battlelines between atheism and religion appear already to have been drawn in New Zealand at least. Last month, atheists who wanted to run an advertising campaign on buses across the Tasman proclaiming "There is probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life" were blocked from doing so by one major company.

While Christianity remains the most dominant religious faith in Australia, there are also signs that this country is becoming a more diverse society. At the same time, the 2006 Census identified 18.7 per cent of Australians claiming they had "No Religion", a percentage that has been steadily increasing.

As many of the newly-arrived and long-established faiths seek to co-operate in creating a more tolerant nation, the strand of atheism that expresses hostility towards all religious belief and seeks to convert the world to one of non-belief threatens to destabilise that process.

Contrary to what some atheists believe, the world would not be a better place without religion.


There never has been a Palestinian state

Richard Cohen’s excellent article in the Washington Post on Wednesday March 2nd, offers several compelling reasons why Israel doesn’t deserve to be compared to South Africa under Apartheid, but I believe that it will be hard for many on the left who think of the State of Israel in that manner to ever understand this, unless they know the truth, that Israel isn’t and never has occupied any Palestinian Arab owned land.

In her excellent article “Palestine – The Big Lie”, Sharon Nader Sloan lays out the true history of Israel, going all the way back to ancient Israel, all of which clearly proves that:

1: There’s never existed a “Palestinian State”

2: Jerusalem was never the capital of any nation other than Israel.

In fact there’s really no such thing as a Palestinian. They’re just Arabs, like all the rest. They hate Jews because their religion tells them to, and because in a matter of a few short years after modern day Israel was created, the Jews took that barren and desolate land and turned it into a bountiful and beautiful Garden of Eden growing oranges the size of basketballs. Of course by doing this, right under the Arabs’ noses, and for all the world to see, they showed the Arabs up for what they are, a culture of backwards, bigoted and racist barbarians, whose only contribution to human civilization was the invention of Algebra.

Then, to add further insult to injury, when shortly after her founding, all of Israel’s close neighbors got together and attacked her, all of those brave and manly warriors were made to look like “girly-men” by the Israeli military, and it’s easy to imagine how that made them feel.

As Ms. Sloan points out, Palestine is a region, not a nation, in the same way that the Sahara is a region. Most of the Arabs who owned land there SOLD it to the Israelis. The Israelis paid what to them were enormous sums for their land, and they were happy to take it. Not one square inch was stolen from anyone.

And if the need for a “Palestinian State” were so great, why didn’t we hear anyone demanding a “Palestinian State” during the 19 years that Jordan occupied Jerusalem and the entire West Bank? Why did they ever reject the UN compromise of splitting the land controlled by the British up into a Jewish state and what would have been a Palestinian State” in the first place? Instead they decided to go to war to destroy Israel, after which that land legally became Israel’s by right of conquest!

So why should there be a Palestinian State”? The Arabs are free to live there, there are even Arab members of the Knesset. Are they saying that they’re entitled to their own state because they live there? If so, how would we feel if the huge number of Hispanics in California demanded their own state as well? And while we’re at it, how would the non-Hispanic Californians feel about the Hispanics, if they were constantly throwing rocks at them, and harassing them 24/7?

The idea that the Jews in Israel are occupying Arab lands is taken for granted by almost everyone, and like Global Warming, it’s just another BIG LIE!

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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