Wednesday, February 27, 2013
House of Lords dilutes Press plan which ‘threatens free speech’
Controversial plans to force newspapers to seek approval from a new regulator before printing contentious stories were watered down by peers last night.
Tabled by Labour peer Lord Puttnam this month, the proposals provoked an outcry by human rights campaigners, who warned they would have a chilling effect on free speech.
Supporters of the amendment of the Defamation Bill included some Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels, as well as Labour and Crossbench peers.
They said they wanted to use it to put pressure on ministers to bring forward plans to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals for Press regulation.
But Lord Fowler, a former journalist and Tory Cabinet minister, who had backed the plans, said he now saw they went too far.
He said the Press ‘do have a genuine point’ in warning the proposal would harm free speech.
The peer said the plans were ‘anathema’ to journalists as they raised the chance of stories being suppressed by the powerful.
‘In any story of any controversy, there will always be people out there who want to stop the story, or at the very least take the guts out of it,’ added Lord Fowler.
Peers agreed to remove the clause without a vote. But Lord Fowler said he still supported the main thrust of Lord Puttnam’s amendment.
This would introduce Leveson-style arbitration for members of the public wronged by the Press and potentially ruinous damages for papers which refused to sign up.
But Justice Minister Lord McNally said yesterday’s change made an ‘unacceptable position’ only ‘marginally better’. He confirmed that ministers still viewed the Puttnam amendment as ‘unacceptable’.
The Bill, which contains vital reforms to libel laws, is now effectively in limbo, pending the outcome of cross-party talks on implementing the Leveson proposals for a new media regulator.
Lord McNally said a draft royal charter has been published showing how a ‘recognition body’ might be constituted to underpin a ‘tough system of self regulation’.
Tory sources have made it clear that David Cameron would rather abandon the Bill than allow Lord Puttnam’s plans to become law.
More insane British "justice"
Rapist with HIV who sparked nationwide manhunt after going on the run walks free from court because of his ill health
A convicted rapist with HIV who sparked a nationwide manhunt after going on the run has been spared jail - because of his ill health.
As a registered sex offender drifter Alan Clune, 32, was required to tell police where he lived after he was released from jail.
He went on the run after moving out of a house in Lancashire he shared with his partner without telling police.
Senior officers said he posed a risk to members of the public and he was at large for 10 days before being found 300 miles from home in London.
It emerged Clune, a former Big Issue seller, had repeatedly ignored a sex offender order demanding he tell police of his home address.
He had originally been jailed for four years for the rape an 18-year old heterosexual man whilst knowing he was HIV positive and had Hepatitis B.
At Burnley Crown Court, Clune admitted breaching the notification requirements of the sex offenders' register but was given a two year suspended prison term after his lawyer told how his client was undergoing dialysis and had skin cancer.
Passing sentence Judge Beverley Lunt said she was imposing a suspended sentence only because of Clune's health, but warned if he failed to comply with the order again, he would be locked up for a total of four years.
Judge Lunt warned him: 'It's an absolute certainty. Start obeying the rules. The trouble with you is if you go off the rails, you go off spectacularly.'
Clune who became a drug addict at 13 learned he contracted HIV in July 2002. The following September he raped his 18 year old victim following a drinking session in Swansea.
The teenager who had been visiting the Welsh city to see his girlfriend had to endure 'three months of terror' before doctors could tell him he had not contracted the disease.
In December 2002 Clune was ordered to sign on the Sex Offender register for life but after his release from jail flouted the order three times in the space of two years.
He was given a suspended jail term in December 2006 then in November 2007 was jailed for five months before being given a further three months in July 2008 for breaching the terms of the order.
He disappeared again on May 11 last year after quitting his home in Haslingden, near Rossendale.
The alarm was raised when police had gone to Clune's home in relation to a completely unrelated matter and found that he was no longer living there.
Michael Scholes, prosecuting, said Clune registered at a Salvation Army drop-in centre in the West End of London on May 16, saying he was homeless and had been sleeping rough.
On May 21, police turned up to arrest Clune but he slipped out of the door and ran off. He was detained in a nearby Apple store.
Lawyers for Clune later said his actions were 'not a precursor' to any sexual offence. He said he would 'sofa surf' from time to time when he got into difficulties.
In mitigation defence lawyer Bob Sastry said his client's disappearance was 'not necessarily premeditated.' He had been having difficulties with his then-partner and the relationship had broken down.
The barrister continued : 'He must acknowledge, particularly when he was staying at the Salvation Army, there was no difficulty in telling police where he was. By that stage, he was worried about going to prison.'
Dorset town scraps 'uncool' traditional carnival queen
A Dorset town has become the latest to ditch its annual "uncool" carnival queen procession through the streets, in a move that will end a tradition dating back more than 80 years.
Despite being synonymous with British culture as fish and chips and Morris dancers, Verwood has become the latest victim of a growing modern trend that believes the ceremony is outdated.
Organisers today announced that they would bring down the curtain on the carnival queen for this year’s summer parade after 84 years captivating locals.
They have also scrapped floats this year after fewer organisations were prepared to enter, citing high insurance costs and health and safety fears.
Instead, there will be a short walking procession through the town, which has a population of about 14,000, while any wheeled entries must be non-motorised.
Officials admitted entry numbers have dwindled in recent years and women have become increasingly unwilling to participate.
"We always have lots of potential princesses – 25 to 30 girls enter each year,” Steve Saville, one of the organisers, said today. "But for older teenagers and young women, I'm afraid it's not cool to be a queen these days. "It's not a beauty contest – queens have been chosen for their personalities and what they have done. But it's just not cool."
It is in stark contrast from the town’s first parade in 1929, in which dozens of excited young ladies entered desperate to wear the crown.
New committee members are now being sought to join the band of volunteers, mostly from the town's Rotary club, who have attempted to keep interest alive for the past decade.
Last year Devizes in Wiltshire announced it too was ending the tradition, first launched in the market town in 1933, where a local lovely was chosen each year to ride on a decorated float at the head of the summertime procession through the streets.
A decision to scrap the traditional pageant in Weymouth, Dorset in 2009, provoked such an outcry that the event was eventually reinstated.
Verwood’s queen-less carnival is due to take place in late June.
Not just a blob: Brain scans reveal babies born THREE MONTHS early can recognise human speech - and even distinguish between male and female voices
Babies born up to three months premature can recognise different syllables in human speech, say scientists.
A study showed similarities in the way the brain processes language in the new-borns and adults - including specific neurological reactions to changes from the 'ba' to 'ga' sound and to a male to female voices.
Professor Fabrice Wallois, of Picardie University in Amiens, France, said the findings suggest that early in the development of the brain it begins to decipher distinct sounds or 'phonemes'.
The study showed similarities in the way the brain processes language in the new-borns and adults - including specific neurological reactions to changes from the
The study showed similarities in the way the brain processes language in the new-borns and adults - including specific neurological reactions to changes from the "ba" to "ga" sound and to a male to female voices
HOW THEY DID IT
Using bedside functional optical imaging, Fabrice Wallois and colleagues scanned 12 sleeping 28-32-week gestation age pre-term infants.
This is the earliest age at which cortical responses to external stimuli can be recorded.
He said as early as three months before birth a baby's brain establishes neural functions that help decipher human speech.
At birth children can discriminate some syllables and recognise human speech but how these immature brain cells process it remains unclear.
Using powerful non-invasive scanners Prof Wallois and colleagues analysed 12 sleeping premature infants born after 28 to 32 weeks while playing voice recordings.
This is the earliest age for neuronal responses to external stimuli and Prof Wallois found the premature brain can perceive differences in syllables.
In addition although the tests produced responses in the right frontal region of the brain - the first part of the brain to form - syllabic changes also sparked responses in the left hemisphere.
This suggests certain linguistic brain areas exhibit a sophisticated degree of organisation as early as three months prior to full term.
Prof Wallois said: 'We observed several points of similarity with the adult linguistic network.
The research gives a new insight into the way mothers communicate with their babies - and how language skills develop
The research gives a new insight into the way mothers communicate with their babies - and how language skills develop
'First, whereas syllables elicited larger right than left responses, the posterior temporal region escaped this general pattern, showing faster and more sustained responses over the left than over the right hemisphere.
'Second, discrimination responses to a change of phoneme (ba vs. ga) and a change of human voice (male vs. female) were already present and involved inferior frontal areas, even in the youngest infants.
'Third, whereas both types of changes elicited responses in the right frontal region, the left frontal region only reacted to a change of phoneme.
'These results demonstrate a sophisticated organisation of areas at the very onset of cortical circuitry - three months before term.
'They emphasise the influence of innate factors on regions involved in linguistic processing and social communication in humans.'
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.