May 2008

The power of stupid

The US Dunkin Donuts chain has pulled an online advertisement (via) featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray. Right wing commentators, such as Michelle Malkin, decided that the scarf looked like a Palestinian keffiyeh and must, therefore, be some sort of pro-Islamic, anti-American statement.

The black and white scarf in question is paisley.

Dunkin Donuts pulled the ad last weekend because of what it calls a misperception about the scarf that detracted from its original intent to promote its iced coffee.

John Scalzi has a helpful translation:

Because Michelle Malkin is so appallingly stupid and/or ignorant that it appears that she can’t tell the difference between a paisley scarf and a kiffiyeh, we’re pulling our ad of Rachel Ray enjoying our iced coffee. We do hope that once Ms. Malkin extracts her head from between her own ass cheeks, she stops by one of our many establishments and samples one of our fine iced coffees, any one of which undoubtedly tastes much better than the crap that typically fills her mouth, via her brain, at any given time

Researcher arrested for researching

A masters student and a staff member at Nottingham University have been arrested (via) under the 2000 Terrorism Act after the student downloaded al-Qaida-related material from a US government website.

Rizwaan Sabir is researching terrorist tactics and, even though his university supervisors have insisted that the material is directly related to his work, he was held for nearly a week and accused of downloading the materials for illegal use.

The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a prevent agenda against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.

Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrators computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabirs family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.

There has been a public outcry against the threatened deportation and university staff and students are planning a march to demonstrate against the attack on academic freedom.

Indiana Jones and the Angry Communists

Members of the Russian Communist Party have demanded that the new Indiana Jones film to be banned in the country because they say it distorts history.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, set during the Cold War, sees Harrison Fords character battle Cate Blanchetts evil KGB agent.

Sergei Malinkovich, the rather paranoid chief of the St Petersburg Communist Party told Reuters that the films plot was “rubbish” and then went on, bizarrely, to claim that if the film is allowed Russian cinema goers might end up believing that the communists were running around with crystal skulls back in 1957.

Moscow Communist official Andrei Andreyev was being equally paranoid, claiming: It is very disturbing if talented directors want to provoke a new Cold War.

The Nekschot Cartoons

Nobodys Business (via) has scans of the eight cartoons Gregorius Nekschot was forced to remove from his website.

It has to be said that these cartoons are crass, crude, gratuitous and not particularly original. It also has to be said that neither crassness, crudeness, gratuitousness nor a lack of originality are valid reasons for going around arresting cartoonists.

So on with the show
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Whistleblower fired

TJX Companies, the US retail conglomerate whose substandard security led to the worlds biggest credit card breach, has fired an employee after he left posts in an online forum revealing shoddy security practices at the store where he worked.

Security was so lax at the TJ Maxx outlet located in Lawrence, Kansas, that employees were able to log onto company servers using blank passwords, the fired employee, Nick Benson, told The Register. This policy was in effect as recently as May 8, more than 18 months after company officials learned a massive network breach had leaked the details of more than 94 million customer credit cards. Benson said he was fired on Wednesday after managers said he disclosed confidential company information online.

Other security issues included a store server that was running in administrator mode, making it far more susceptible to attackers. He said he brought the security issues to the attention of a district loss prevention manager name Allen in late 2006, and repeatedly discussed them with store managers. Except for a stretch when IT managers temporarily tightened password policies, the problems went unfixed.

Frustrated at the unwillingness of management to properly protect their customers data, Benson made a series of posts on the website, which is devoted to web application security.

Bensons disclosures werent specific enough to give attackers information needed to successfully breach TJXs networks. And when you consider the right of TJXs customers and employees to know that their data may be at risk, its not unreasonable to call him a whistleblower.

For Bensons part, he has no regrets. Theyre telling the public theyre PCI compliant, he said, referring to so-called payment card industry security rules governing businesses that accept credit and debit cards. That I think is unethical.

The Register is asking if other TJX employees have tales similar to Bensons. If so, you can contact the reporter using this link. (Anonymity assured.)

Scientology protester avoids prosecution

The 15 year old protester who was summonsed after turning up to an anti-Scientology demonstration with a sign reading Scientology is not a religion, its a dangerous cult will not be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided.

A statement from City of London Police today sheepishly conceded that its officers have some legal boning up to do. It confirmed the case has been dropped, and said: The CPS review of the case includes advice on what action or behaviour at a demonstration might be considered to be threatening, abusive or insulting. The forces policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice.

The CPS said: Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness (as opposed to criticism), neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression.

The BBC reports that the boys proud mother called the decision a victory for free speech.

JoJo’s Bizarre Fatwa

A Japanese publisher has been forced to suspend sales (via) of a series of comics, and the related DVD series, after Muslims decided to take offence. At issue is a 90 second scene in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in which, Dio Brando, a villain, picks up a copy of the Koran as he orders the execution of the hero and his friends.

After a viewer posted negative comments and the still scene on a web forum, others started jumping on the bandwagon until Sheikh Abdul Hamid Attrash, chairman of the Fatwa Committee at Al-Azha in Cairo, decided to step in and call the cartoon an insult to Islam.

‘‘This scene depicts Muslims as terrorists, which is not true at all,’’ he said. ‘‘This is an insult to the religion and the producers would be considered to be enemies of Islam.’’

According to Shueisha, the publisher, the scene was ‘‘a simple mistake.’’

‘‘Neither the original comic nor the animation intends to treat Muslims as villains. But as a result, the cartoon offended Muslims.’’ said the official. ‘‘We apologize for the unpleasantness that the cartoon may have caused and will carefully consider how to deal with religious and culture themes.’’

The official said one of animators came up with the idea of using an Arabic book in order to give the scene a more authentic feel as the villain was hiding out in Egypt.

With that in mind he went to the library and found a book, which turned out to be the Quran and inserted it. No one realized the mistake as no one could read or speak Arabic, the official said.

Of context and apologies are irrelevant in the face of an opportunity to be offended and there have been calls to boycott Japanese products.

Ballin: I support freedom of speech, but

Dutch Justice Minister, Ernst Hirsch Ballin came in for a verbal kicking during Tuesdays debate on the Gregorius Nekschot affair. The opposition fiercely criticised the cartoonists arrest and the search of his house last week, with independent MP Rita Verdonk remarking: This isnt Iran; this is The Netherlands in 2008.

The press has also weighed in, with De Telegraaf reporting the debate under the headline Stasi tactics and De Volkskrant making their views known by printing three of the cartoons. On Wednesday, HP/De Tijd printed all eight of the cartoons which the Public Prosecutor claims are criminal.

The left-wing daily quotes the leader of the opposition VVD as saying, this was a political arrest adding there is increasing government pressure on freedom of expression and Christian Democrat politicians are behind it

Ballin claimed in the debate that he strongly supports freedom of speech, but that he also supports the Public Prosecutors Offices decision to prosecute people for exercising it.

Before the debate, VVD leader Mark Rutte blamed the ruling CDA (Christian Democrats) for the mess. It is time the CDA came to their senses, and publicly support one of the most important basic rights in our country, he declared, because it appears that the CDA is prepared to sacrifice freedom of speech at the altar of standards and values.

Offensive food

Sikhs in Bangalore have been protesting (via) against a restaurant in the city because the menu included some pictures which they decided had hurt their feelings.

Over 50 Sikhs, who clearly had nothing better to worry about, gathered in front of the restaurant, tore up and set fire to a menu card and then marched off to the local police statement to file a complaint.

Gurudwara Committee president, Gursharan Singh claimed that some of the pictures on the menu – including a Kirpan (sword) and turban kept along with the footwear – somehow “humiliated” members of the community. He then went on to issue the inevitable threat:

“If the hotel management fails to tender a public apology through media or send a written apology to the Gurudwara, Bangalores Sikh community - comprising 8,000 members - will stage a massive dharna to prevent them from carrying out their business, he warned.

Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult

A 15-year-old in the UK is facing prosecution for using the word cult to describe the Church of Scientology at an anti-Scientology demonstration in London earlier this month.

When he arrived at the demonstration, the teenager was told by a member of the City of London police that he was not allowed to use the word cult. A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order act, which prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting, and strongly advised him to remove the sign.

The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a cult which was corrupt, sinister and dangerous.

After the exchange, a policewoman handed him a court summons and removed his sign.

Someone at Slashdot has found a video of the teenager receiving the summons (starting at 57 seconds). He is now looking for advice on how to handle the case.