Friday, October 21, 2005

Countries turn backs on Hollywood

Unesco member states have formally voted to support their own film and music industries against globalisation.

The United Nations cultural body voted in favour of a cultural diversity convention, backed by France, Canada and the UK.

The US had said the "deeply flawed" convention could be used to block the export of Hollywood films and other cultural exports.

The vote follows French moves to protect its film and music industries.

Strict quotas

France already awards large subsidies to its own film, music, theatre and opera industries to support its cultural heritage.

It also imposes strict quotas on the level on non-French material broadcast on radio and television.

The new convention on cultural diversity aims to recognise the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services.

It enables countries to take measures to protect what it describes as "cultural expressions" that may be under threat.

The majority of Unesco's 191 member states voted for the convention.

Britain's representative to Unesco, Timothy Craddock, said the wording was "clear, carefully balanced, consistent with the principles of international law and fundamental human rights".

But it was opposed by the US, which said the convention was unclear and open to wilful misinterpretation.

French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said nations had a right to set artistic quotas because 85% of the world's spending on cinema tickets went to Hollywood.

The US suggested 28 amendments to the convention, which were almost unanimously rejected by Unesco delegates.

It was feared that Thursday's vote could isolate the US, which rejoined Unesco in 2003 after a 19-year absence.

The convention will need to be ratified by 30 member states in order to take effect.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Monday, October 17, 2005

Stem cell strides may help resolve ethical dilemmas

New methods preserve viable embryos, but some opponents skeptical of tactics New processes don't kill viable embryos -- opponents say moral issue s
- Carl T. Hall, Cornelia Stolze, Chronicle Staff Writers
Monday, October 17, 2005

Scientists are reporting two new ways of creating embryonic stem cells without killing viable embryos, potentially reshaping the biggest bioethical debate of the Bush administration.

In one case, embryonic stem cells were made from a genetically abnormal embryo designed to be incapable of developing. The other method was an attempt to fashion stem cells from an embryo without damaging it.

The new methods, detailed in separate research reports released online Sunday by the British journal Nature, are intended as laboratory answers to the moral questions raised by the destruction of human embryos. If the strategies work, one result could be the availability of more federal grants for one of the most promising fields of biomedical research.

A White House spokesman said it was premature to speculate on any potential change in administration policy. But William Hurlbut of Stanford University, a member of a White House bioethics advisory council, called it "a starting point for an important new dialogue" on possible "technological solutions for the moral problems surrounding human embryonic stem cell research."

The new techniques raise their own questions about just what sorts of laboratory creations deserve human status. The latest research is "right there on that boundary between what I would consider ethically permissible and potentially ethically troubling," said biochemist Fazale Rana at Reasons to Believe, a Christian group in Southern California opposed to human embryonic stem cell research.

Much of the debate centers on the precise definition of "embryo," because it is considered by some people to have the same moral status as a human being. In one of the new sets of experiments, researchers crafted stem cell lines from lab creations characterized as "nonviable" entities.

Others dismissed such arguments as semantic quibbling.

"This is an attempt to solve an ethical issue through a scientific redefinition that really doesn't solve the issue," said Jaydee Hanson, director of human genetics at the International Center for Technology Assessment, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that opposes some kinds of cloning and stem cell research on moral grounds.

In August 2001, President Bush made the production of any new stem cell lines ineligible for federal grants because such work involves the destruction of human embryos. Bush also objects to cloning embryos, which scientists advocate as a way of creating specialized stem cell lines carrying disease genes or the DNA of an individual patient.

Those restrictions helped inspire California's $3 billion Proposition 71 initiative, which state voters approved in the 2004 general election specifically to pursue research banned from receiving federal support.

On Sunday, stem cell researchers Rudolf Jaenisch and Alexander Meissner of the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed how embryonic stem cells -- the flexible early-stage cells that can mature into all the cell types of the body -- can be produced from a type of research cloning known as "alternate nuclear transfer."

The researchers devised a way to block the activity of a gene from an adult cell that would have allowed the cell to develop into an embryo once in the uterus. With that activity blocked, the cell is nonviable because it lacks the ability to "establish the fetal-maternal connection" in the uterus. This abnormal DNA then was inserted into the nucleus of an egg whose own DNA had been removed.

The idea was to create something akin to a cloned embryo but that would be inherently incapable of developing beyond the pre-implantation stage. But the researchers showed they could still generate a specialized stem cell line, which would have the same DNA as that of the adult cell used to produce the cloned embryo. Thus, it could be considered a strategy to make "patient-specific" embryonic stem cells without destroying any potential life.

A separate team of researchers led by Robert Lanza and Young Ching of Advanced Cell Technology, a Massachusetts biotech company, used yet another method to obtain stem cells.

Experimenters used a single cell, known as a "blastomere," snipped from a developing embryo at the eight-cell stage. This is sometimes done as a type of biopsy in fertility clinics when would-be parents are concerned about implanting an embryo carrying a genetic disorder. Known as "pre-implantation genetic diagnosis," the goal is to screen out disease-carrying embryos. Previous clinical evidence suggests that removing one or sometimes even two cells for diagnosis leaves a viable embryo.

The latest study showed that a cell removed for diagnosis can be coaxed into replicating itself overnight. The copy then can be used to generate a line of stem cells, the researchers reported, while allowing the original cell to be subjected as usual to pre-implantation analysis.

The new approaches so far have only been tried in laboratory mice, and there's no guarantee similar results can be obtained in humans. They were described as proof of principle for ideas long championed by those opposed to embryo destruction.

He insisted that an entity such as that produced in the MIT experiments has "no inherent principle of unity, no coherent drive in the direction of the mature human form."

But the new methods do not assuage all ethical concerns.

"The tinkering doesn't change the essential nature of the cloned entity," said Hanson, of the International Center for Technology Assessment. "The only reason it's not an embryo is definitional."

Douglas Melton, a renowned stem cell scientist at Harvard University, said he doubted critics of stem cell research will be placated by the alteration of a single gene. An altered embryo, he said, may still be considered an embryo.

As for using a biopsied cell, several studies in mice, rabbits, sheep, swine and primates have shown that single cells transplanted into the uterus of the respective species are capable of propagating viable offspring. Thus, even if removing a single cell doesn't interfere with the developmental potential of the embryo, the isolated cell itself could be considered capable of embryo status.

Jaenisch said this human potential argument shows how "absurd" the theoretical discussions can get in stem cell biology.

"If one used this argument to protect cells developed through nuclear transfer because with further manipulation they might become a living clone, then every cell of our body would deserve the chance to become a human being,"
he said. "In not cloning them, each of us would be barring millions of individuals from getting a chance to live."

Despite all the arguments, Jaenisch said it's still conceivable that special cloning or other techniques might be an acceptable compromise to allow expanding the federal role in stem cell research.

If so, he said, "We would have made a big step forward."

So far it is not clear if stem cells created by either of the new methods would qualify for federal grants, according to James Battey, head of a stem cell task force at the National Institutes of Health.

Bernard Lo, a prominent bioethics expert at UCSF who also advises the California Prop. 71 program, called on those who object to stem cell research to make their views on the alternative derivation methods clear at the outset.

"This work is really driven by a desire on the part of scientists to address the moral concerns some people have. So those people should say now if it doesn't settle the problem," to avoid a lot of wasted effort, he said.

E-mail the writers at and

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The one and three-quarter-state solution?

So much for those who thought Israel's withdrawal from Gaza would trigger rapid progress toward peace.

By Jonathan Freedland

Oct. 12, 2005 | For Britons who managed to tear themselves away from the David Blunkett saga on TV Monday night, there was drama of a different kind on BBC2. "Elusive Peace" charted the story of Bill Clinton's failed attempt to resolve the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, a struggle that reached its dismal climax at Camp David in 2000. This latest effort by remarkable filmmaker Norma Percy, who has created her own subgenre of TV diplomatic history, featured interviews with all the key players -- Ehud Barak, Yasser Arafat, Clinton himself -- telling the inside story of midnight talks, eavesdropped conversations, last-minute panics and, tragically, the inability to move that final inch toward what might have been a deal.

It was compelling television, but also instructive. For it showed just how much has changed in the intervening five years. Arafat is dead; Sharon is no longer the rabble-rouser whose walkabout on the Temple Mount did so much to derail the peace process, but prime minister; Clinton is the elder statesman, his former residence occupied by a man whose Middle East focus has not been peace in Israel-Palestine but war in Iraq.

It's not just the personalities who have changed. The past five years have also seen a wider shift, away from the across-the-table negotiations of the Clinton era toward a newer, more enigmatic model. The days of bilateral talks and mutuality have gone. Now we are in the age of unilateralism.

As if to underline the point, Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas were due to meet Tuesday for a summit. For the second time in as many weeks, they called it off. So much for those who thought that Israel's August withdrawal from Gaza -- the prime example of the new unilateralism -- would trigger a return to the negotiating table and rapid progress toward a signed agreement.

That's not how it is anymore. Yes, Gazans are relieved to be rid of the Israelis at last. And yes, Israelis -- despite some persistent violence, with Palestinian rockets fired across the new "border" -- still believe the pullout was the right move. But that does not mean the two sides are about to reach across the divide and touch each other. Instead they are looking inward.

For the Israelis, that's a matter of politics. Sharon's concern now is not Abbas, but his Likud rival, Benjamin Netanyahu. A fortnight ago he successfully fought off a leadership challenge from Bibi, and he wants to preserve that advantage; he will do nothing that might hand his rival ammunition. He will not release Palestinian prisoners, nor bow to Abbas' request for more weapons for his security forces -- nothing, in other words, that would allow Bibi to accuse Sharon of treachery. That's why the summit with Abbas could not go ahead: There was nothing Sharon was willing to give his Palestinian counterpart.

Meanwhile, Abbas (or Abu Mazen) is in a strikingly similar hole. Challenged by Hamas, which pulled in a quarter of the vote in recent municipal elections on the West Bank -- a creditable score, given that their political base is Gaza -- Abbas could not afford to return from a summit empty-handed. He has a genuine fight on his hands with Hamas -- one that could explode into a civil war that his own threadbare forces could lose. The sense that the Palestinian Authority writ does not run in Gaza, that either anarchy or Hamas rules there, is proving deeply damaging, suggesting the Israeli withdrawal has not helped the Palestinian Authority but undermined it. The result is that Abbas too is devoting the post-Gaza lull to securing his own internal position, rather than hatching grand schemes for an accord with the enemy.

This phase of introspection reflects the broader trend. I spoke Tuesday with Eival Gilady, who served as a close advisor to the Israeli prime minister on the Gaza disengagement. His message was clear: The ball is now in the Palestinians' court. Under the internationally endorsed road map, the next step is for the Palestinians to put their own house in order, starting with a crackdown on terrorism.

If that were to happen, then Israel might make a further move. Revealingly, Gilady cites the unilateral disarmament steps taken by Mikhail Gorbachev, which paved the way for a mutually agreed arms pact later. "When you act unilaterally, it doesn't stay unilateral," he says. In other words, Israel moves first on Gaza. Then Abbas stabilizes the P.A. Then Israel will act again. Not a peace process exactly, but a series of one-sided moves: Call it sequential unilateralism.

Under that logic, what would Israel's next act be? In the past few days, the Israeli press has been bubbling with hints from key officials at further unilateral pullouts, this time from the West Bank. The scenario seems to be that Sharon sits tight for now, sees off Bibi, fights, wins an election next year -- and then stages a series of mini-disengagements. Gary Sussman, an analyst at Tel Aviv University, says the map for those withdrawals is already laid out. "The fence is the border," he says, confident that Israel would pull back, more or less, to the line traced by the wall, or security barrier, it has built through the West Bank. That would entail dismantling a few isolated settlements and keeping the large settlement blocs.

Such a move would see Israel out of, perhaps, 50 percent or 60 percent of the West Bank. Combined with Gaza that would represent the de facto Palestinian state, promised by the road map and now routinely demanded by George W. Bush, Tony Blair and everyone else.

The old guard of Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, are said to be deeply depressed at this prospect. For such an entity would leave them no access to Jerusalem and would represent substantially less territory than the Clinton parameters promised in December 2000. It would not be the two-state solution they sought for two decades but, says Sussman, something less: "A one and three-quarter state solution."

What's more, Sharon would make this move and win not just international acceptance but praise. The Gaza withdrawal won plaudits from the United Nations and the European Union; even Pakistan broke Muslim ranks to start a diplomatic engagement with Israel last month. If there were to be more pullouts in the West Bank, Sharon would be a hero once more. There would be no pressure on him; it would all be on the Palestinians, who would rapidly be cast as grudging and difficult for not receiving these chunks of the West Bank with gratitude.

No wonder the likes of onetime peace negotiators Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi are said to be glum. They must realize that in the new game of sequential unilateralism they are being outplayed by an Israeli prime minister who is proving a far cannier strategist than anyone expected. They should avoid watching "Elusive Peace"; it will only make their moods darker. There they will see how much better they might have fared under the old game.

Clinton recalls a proposal he made in late 2000 that would have split Jerusalem and given the Palestinians sovereignty over the upper Haram al-Sharif, with Israeli control over the lower Temple Mount. "Who could accept this?" says Arafat, from the grave. Now his people may have to brace themselves for accepting much less.

This article has been provided by the Guardian through a special arrangement with Salon. © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005. Visit the Guardian's Web site at

-- By Jonathan Freedland

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Battle blogging for profit

By Xeni Jardin
Xeni Jardin is co-editor of the blog BoingBoing and a contributor to Wired magazine and National Public Radio.

October 9, 2005

AS BLOGS become big business, Internet giants have begun trying to profit from new forms of journalism, including war coverage. The results are not encouraging.

Yahoo's latest experiment reveals that it considers war news just another form of entertainment. This from an online giant that has already shown it is cavalier about press freedom and a friend of oppression.

Look back to 2004, when reporters at a Hunan province newspaper listened as their editorial director read a statement from the Communist Party's Propaganda Department about the upcoming 15-year commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre. It warned that dissidents may use the Internet to spread "damaging information."

One reporter used an anonymous Yahoo e-mail account to ask a colleague in New York to post a report about the statement on pro-democracy website Minzhu Tongxun (Democracy Newsletter).

But as the 37-year-old married reporter behind the numeric pseudonym "198964" learned, he shouldn't have assumed that Yahoo defends press freedom. When Chinese security agents asked executives at Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) to identify the man, they did so. Police grabbed him on a street, searched his house and seized his computer and other belongings, according to documents filed in his defense.

Mr. "198964," whose real name is Shi Tao, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for "divulging state secrets abroad." Bloggers, human rights groups and journalism organizations, including PEN and Reporters Without Borders, condemned the action.

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang brushed off responsibility. At an Internet conference Sept. 10 in Hangzhou, China, Yang said Yahoo and other U.S.-based multinationals "have to comply with local law."

Or else what? They lose access, that's what, which means losing profits.

Shi Tao's attorney, Guo Guoting — who was detained, placed under house arrest and shut out of his office before his client's trial — argues that the company has a greater obligation to international law than to local law. "China is a signatory of the [U.N.] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights," Guo told the Hong Kong independent daily Epoch Times. "Shi Tao … was legitimately practicing his profession, not committing a crime. The legal entity of Yahoo Holdings [Hong Kong] is not in China, so it is not obligated to operate within the laws of China or to cooperate with Chinese police."

As morally repugnant as Yahoo's actions may be, other tech vendors before it have acted similarly. "Many big companies, such as Microsoft and Nortel, in their quest to gain shares of the large Internet market in China, transform China into an information prison by collaborating with the Chinese regime on questions of censorship," Guo said. "They should not forget all moral principles under the temptation of financial gain."

Yahoo's hypocrisy is even more shameful because it is also in the news business. The company recently opened a news production division with promises of hard-hitting stories that U.S. mainstream media are afraid to report.

Yahoo launched "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone," pledging to send the former television reporter to "every armed conflict in the world within one year" and dispatch blog-sized "bites" of war.

Several years ago, I introduced Sites to the world of blogs, collaborating with geek friends to launch I helped him publish his firsthand impressions of the Iraq war as a not-for-profit project. But as the war heated up, Sites' employer, CNN, forced him to shut down the blog. Sites later joined NBC and videotaped the shooting by a Marine of an unarmed Iraqi. As a way to explain why that piece of truth mattered, he reopened his blog. (Last November, these pages excerpted his explanation of the shooting.) Another "warblogger" is BBC news producer Stuart Hughes, who stepped on a landmine while covering the Iraq war. On his blog, he documented the amputation of his right leg and his recovery. Like me, he is troubled about "Hot Zone."

"It seems like the journalistic equivalent of a Simpson and Bruckheimer high-concept movie — all concept and very little content," Hughes said from London. "I've lost too many friends in war zones — and come too close myself — to have any time for this 'stamp-collecting' approach to conflict. The presentation is distasteful — war reporting comes with a strong public service agenda, and it's cheapened by this 'Geraldo Rivera' presentation. This goal of covering every armed conflict in the world — so what? At what cost? It leaves a very nasty taste in my mouth."

The launch of Yahoo's corporate-powered warblog, and its promise of more newsertainment to follow, raises anew the question how to define journalism.

One obvious answer: Real journalists don't treat war as entertainment, and real news companies don't help imprison a man for reporting the truth — even if that would ensure profits.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Treating China's online addicts

By Daniel Griffiths
BBC News, Beijing

The internet is taking China by storm, with millions of people logging on in record numbers and web cafes busier than ever.

Rising personal wealth means more people are able to buy computers or pay to go online. The vast majority are young people using the net to chat or play games.

But behind the boom, there is a downside.

Wang Yiming, 21, is a self-confessed internet addict, one of a growing number in China. He used to spend hours online each day, often going without food or sleep. His face is drawn and sallow.

He said addiction changed his whole life:

"A month or two after I started surfing the internet, I failed some of my school tests, but I was too afraid to tell my parents. When my father found out, he was very angry.

"But I couldn't control my addiction. Friends were also telling me that I was on the net too long, but I thought: 'It's my life, I can do what I want.' I became a real loner, was withdrawn, and wouldn't listen to anyone."

For help, Wang Yiming went to China's first internet clinic, a low-rise, anonymous building in central Beijing.

All 15 patients when I visited were young men - the main social group affected by this problem - and they all told a similar story of how their addiction to the net destroyed their lives.

The clinic itself is part of a bigger addiction centre also treating those hooked on alcohol or drugs. The internet addicts go on a two-week course involving medical treatment, psychological therapy, and daily workouts.

The latter are a key part of the programme. Many of the men have spent every waking moment in front of a computer screen and have never experienced regular exercise.

Dr Tao Ran, head of the clinic, said the scale of the problem in China was enormous:

"Every day in China, more than 20 million youngsters go online to play games and hit the chat rooms, and that means that internet addiction among young people is becoming a major issue here.

"And it's only recently that the authorities have started to wake up to the seriousness of the problem with more articles in the papers highlighting the dangers of going online for too long," he said.

Rising demand

The clinic is getting an extra 200 beds next year to meet demand and new centres are due to open in other major cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou.

But the programme only lasts two weeks, followed by minimal after-care. Many have their doubts about the long term, like one patient's mother.

"The work of the doctors here at the centre has been very important, but of course I'm still worried," she said.

"I admire the doctors for what they have done so far and all we can do is follow their advice and knowledge to help our son," she said.

All the men know this centre is just the beginning. Now they must return to the outside world and the real test for these computer addicts.

And with millions of Chinese logging on every day, it is likely that the country's first internet clinic is going to have its hands full.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/10/10 14:06:17 GMT

Just Enough Piracy

It's not news that the main reason the movie and television industries are wary of BitTorrent is that they're freaked out by the music industry's experience with piracy. Although they see the economic advantages of P2P distribution, they're concerned that once they put their stuff out there, even wrapped in triple layers of kryptonite DRM, it might be cracked and then circulate in unprotected form. For movies, that's lost revenues. For TV shows, that means ads could be stripped out, expiration routines could be removed and (gasp!) content could be modified or remixed.

All that counts as Very Scary Stuff to industry executives, and as a result they're looking for "strong" DRM before they consider letting their premier content circulate online. This is a mistake, for two reasons:

The first is about the user experience: Any protection technology that is really difficult to crack is probably too cumbersome to be accepted by consumers.

We've seen all sorts of failures of this sort before, from dongles to laborious and confusing registration schemes. Each seems better at annoying consumers than at building markets. The lesson from these examples is that zero-percent piracy is not only unattainable, it's economically suboptimal. If your content is uncrackable, it means you've probably locked the market down so tight that even honest consumers are being inconvenienced.

Instead, efficient software and entertainment markets should exhibit just enough piracy to suggest that the industry has got the balance of control about right: not too loose and not too tight. That number is not zero percent (which requires protection methods so invasive they kill demand), and it's not 100% (which kills the business). It's somewhere in-between.

The second reason the quest for zero-piracy is a mistake is an economic one: piracy can actually let you raise your prices.

I'll give you a surprising example. I was chatting with a former Microsoft manager the other day and he revealed that after much analysis Microsoft had realized that some piracy is not only inevitable, but could actually be economically optimal. The reason is counterintuitive, but intriguing.

The usual price-setting method is to look at the entire potential market, from the many at the economic lower end to the few at the top, and set a price somewhere in between the top and bottom that will maximize total revenues. But if you cede the bottom to piracy, you can set a price between the top and the middle. The result: higher revenues per copy, and potentially higher revenues overall.

(This is, by the way, the opposite of the conventional economic approach to developing-world piracy, which is to lower the cost of a product closer to the pirate version, closing the pricing gap to try to win customers over to the official version. In practice, however, the pirate price is so low that it's rarely possible to close that gap enough to make much of a difference.)

Add to this the familiar (if controversial) argument that piracy helps seed technology markets, and can be a net benefit. Especially in fast-developing countries such as China and India, the ubiquity of pirated Windows and Office have made them de-facto national standards. Few users could have paid for the retail versions at the start, but now that the spread of cheap technology, including free software, has led to an economic boom, Microsoft is finding a nice market for commercial software at the very top, in big companies and government offices.

When all these effects are considered, it appears that there actually is an optimal level of piracy. That right level would vary from industry to industry. Today the estimated piracy rates are 33% for CDs and 15% for DVDs. The industries say that's too high, but most anti-copying technologies they've brought in to lower that figure have proven unpopular. Would even tighter lock-downs help? Probably not. Maybe 15%-30% is simply the market saying that this is the optimal rate of piracy for those industries, and any effort to lower that significantly would either choke demand or push even more people to the dark side.

So the moral for video content holders and others considering DRM: be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. "Uncrackable" DRM could make the P2P problem worse, by driving more users underground and depressing prices. Don't imagine that if you release content in a relatively weak DRM wrapper (like today's DVDs) and copies get out that the whole market will collapse. Instead, you may find that piracy stays constant at relatively low levels, leaving the rest of the market happier and more profitable.

The lesson is to find a good-enough approach to content protection that is easy, convenient and non-annoying to most people, and then accept that there will be some leakage. Most consumers see the value in paying for something of guaranteed quality and legality, as long as you don't treat them like potential criminals. And the minority of others, who are willing to take the risks and go to the trouble of finding the pirated versions? Well, they probably weren't your best market anyway.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

'Glorifying' terror plan revised

'Glorifying' terror plan revised
A proposed law banning the "glorifying" of terrorist acts has been revised, following criticism of the proposals.

People would have to "intend to incite" further acts of terror to be convicted, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said.

Opponents had said the original proposal was unclear and could threaten civil liberties. Mr Clarke denied plans were being "watered down".

The plan to detain terror suspects for up to three months without charge would stay, the home secretary said.

Mr Clarke also published new plans to give police powers to temporarily close down places of worship being used by extremists.

Failure of the trustee or registered owner of the place of worship to take steps to stop such behaviour would be a criminal offence.

On the "glorifying" offence, Mr Clarke said: "We believe that glorification of terrorism is wrong and should be outlawed in law - we have made that clear all the way through.

To make a statement glorifying terrorism if the person making it believes, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that it is likely to be understood by its audience as an inducement to terrorism
"But a number of people have made observations to the effect that there were difficulties in the wording we originally suggested, and so we thought bringing together the glorification and incitement clauses in the bill would be the best way to deal with that."

He said it was not a case of "watering down" the new Terrorism Bill.

It would, he said, make it an offence to "make a statement glorifying terrorism if the person making it believes, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that it is likely to be understood by its audience as an inducement to terrorism".

Kevin Martin, the head of the Law Society, which represents solicitors, said the government had been right to amend the "poorly drafted legislation which would have put free speech at risk".

But John Cooper, a criminal barrister, said the legislation remained "totally and utterly unworkable".

"The courts are going to have a great deal of difficulty in establishing what intent is," he said.


Dominic Grieve, the Conservative shadow attorney general, said: "It's a climb-down - common sense has finally prevailed."

He said it had been "immediately apparent" when the plans were published three weeks ago that the one relating to glorification of terrorism was "completely unworkable".

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "The new definition is a major improvement.

"It means that cases where people are deliberately trying to provoke terrorism are more likely to stand up in court."

But he said the "case still has not been made" for the detention without charge of suspects beyond 14 days.


Mr Clarke said he remained convinced the maximum time limit for detention of terror suspects should be increased to three months.

He said that under existing laws, the police were using the maximum 14 day period only in exceptional circumstances - with the suspects charged in all cases.

"The police use their existing detention powers cautiously and in moderation, and I am confident that they would use an amended power in the same careful fashion," he said.

"There would also be proper judicial oversight of detention. Such powers already operate successfully in other European countries - in France and Spain suspects can be detained for up to four years before trial."

The Home Office issued a seven-page Metropolitan Police document defending the three-month detention plan - it contained details of three terror cases yet to come to court, including one described as the largest mounted in the UK.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/10/08 14:53:27 GMT

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Schenck v. United States

from Wikipedia:

Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), was a United States Supreme Court decision concerning whether the defendant possessed a First Amendment right to free speech against the draft during World War I. The defendant, Charles Schenck, a Socialist, had circulated a flyer to recently drafted men. The flyer, which cited the Thirteenth Amendment's provision against "involuntary servitude," exhorted the men to "assert [their] opposition to the draft," which it described as a moral wrong driven by the capitalist system. The circulars proposed peaceful resistance, such as petitioning to repeal the Conscription Act.

Schenck was charged with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act by attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment. The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck's conviction was constitutional. The First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging insubordination, since, "[w]hen a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight." In other words, the court argued, the circumstances of wartime permit greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowable during peacetime.

In the opinion's most famous passage, Justice Holmes sets out the "clear and present danger" standard:

"The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

This case is also the source of the phrase "shouting fire in a crowded theater", a paraphrase of Holmes' view that "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

Critics of the decision argued that a more apt analogy for Schenck's actions would have been someone getting up between the acts and declaring that there were not enough fire exits, or shouting, not falsely, but truly that there was a raging inferno inside to people about the enter the theater.

As a result of the decision, Charles Schenck spent six months in prison. The "clear and present danger" test was later strengthened to the more inclusive "bad tendency" test in "Whitney v. California". Justices Holmes and Brandeis shied from this test, but concurred with the final result. Both of these cases were later narrowed by Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), which replaced the "bad tendency" test with the "imminent lawless action" test.