Katz Against the Wall

“A closed mouth collects no feet” – Columnist/nutrition expert Dr. David L. Katz criticised for political articles

Last month, I blogged about The Clear and Present Menace of SciLence, a politically charged opinion piece by Huffington Post columnist/nutrition expert Dr. David L. Katz, founding director of the CDC-funded Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.

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Dr. Katz’s January 27, 2017 article (source)

In that article, Dr. Katz railed against reports that the Trump administration had issued gag orders to the USDA and other US federal agencies:

I have a friend who told me he voted for Trump for one reason only: the Second Amendment. I have a question for him and others like him: what purpose can the Second Amendment possibly serve when the First Amendment is desecrated? When science is subordinated to silence, and the press to propaganda – only tyrants control the flow of information. 

After I published my item, Dr. Katz received several unusually critical comments from readers in the comments section of his article.

Via LinkedIn:

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In a follow-up article, Dr. Katz addressed the backlash, stating he would not stop writing about politics:

Lately, I am hearing from friends and colleagues with prominent voices in health and medicine – in some cases voices much more prominent than my own – that members of their large following are advising them to stop talking about politics. Sometimes my friends tell me this directly; sometimes I see such commentary in their social media feed. I see it in my own, too, as well as my email inbox every day. 

I am told, in essence: I am interested in what you have to say about health, but please just stick to that topic or I will stop following you. And indeed, weighing in about what I think matters most to our well being right now, I do see my Twitter following dip on occasion.

So be it. My answer, like that of the colleagues who command my respect, is no.

He also included the startling admission that he “[finds] it hard to care” about his patients’ health while Trump remains in office, and that as a credentialed MD, he believes Trump is “mentally ill.”

Honestly, I find it hard to care and counsel about the state of your colon or your coronary arteries while our democracy is self-destructing. Telling you why, or how to eat more kale at the moment feels a bit like arranging doilies on the Titanic. I think we should talk about the iceberg.

I needn’t tell you the particulars of what’s going on right now; you already know, or are living under a rock where this column won’t reach you either. But I can tell you what I think it means as a physician. I believe our president is mentally ill.

Paul Krugman is among those to have said this already, but Dr. Krugman is not a medical doctor. His PhD, like his Nobel Prize, is in economics- so his qualifications are suspect in this case. Mine are not, although I would readily defer to my colleagues in psychiatry. Still, I am qualified to say that paranoia, overt narcissism, and fixed delusions are bona fide mental illness.

Here’s how Dr. Katz’s “friends and colleagues” responded:

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It’s not the first time Dr. Katz has been criticised for offering a diagnosis…by remote observation to “express a political view.”

Via “Nutrition columnist Dr. David Katz slams NFL star Vince Wilfork and his namesake pizza & sandwich sold by Big Y supermarkets, but doesn’t mention his business relationship with Big Y,” by Peter M. Heimlich, The Sidebar, May 23, 2016:

Providing no indication that he examined Wilfork or consulted his physician, Dr. Katz diagnoses Wilfork as “severely obese” and adds, “I very much suspect his health is a ticking bomb, and retirement will markedly trim the fuse.”

Here’s how the “internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight control, and the prevention of chronic disease” says he arrived at those conclusions:

“Studies show that the ‘eyeball test’ differentiates fat from muscle nearly as well as fancy measures of body composition. Meaning no disrespect whatever to Vince, an especially perspicacious eyeball is not required to see that his health is in peril. There are plenty of images on-line; search them and see for yourself.”

See also: Censorship and Science, my January 27, 2017 item re: Author/journalist Nina Teicholz’s response to Dr. Katz’s concerns about censorship of science – she says “specious retraction efforts are also a form of censorship.”

Preaching to the Press

Is the British press shooting itself in the foot with efforts to halt state-backed press regulation?

Last October, IMPRESS became the first Royal Charter-backed press regulator in Britain after its application was approved by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), the government-funded body set up in the wake of the 2012 Leveson Report to oversee press regulation.

The decision to approve IMPRESS has proven controversial with the British press, with speculation about its motives and sources of funding.

What the press thinks of IMPRESS (source)

One particularly controversial area of concern is the involvement of motor racing tycoon Max Mosley, son of notorious wartime fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley.

British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley (source)

In 2008, the younger Mosley – who currently funds IMPRESS via two charitieswon a court case against disgraced British tabloid the News of the World (now defunct) after it reported about his participation in what it termed a “sick Nazi orgy” with prostitutes.

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Sleazy 2008 report by News of the World (source)

Critics claim Mosley has a vendetta against the popular press, and is bankrolling IMPRESS using his father’s money to serve a personal agenda – accusations he has repeatedly denied, albeit unconvincingly.

Another primary area of concern is Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, under which publishers who are not a member of an approved regulator could soon face “exemplary” damages – for instance having to pay their opponent’s costs in libel and privacy cases, regardless of who wins.

Critics argue Section 40 could undermine a “vibrant local press” by “blackmailing” publishers into joining, otherwise face “draconian” sanctions.

These are fair and principled criticisms, and the British press is right to be concerned that state-backed regulation presents a threat to freedom of the press. However, critics would be wise to listen to and acknowledge pro-regulation arguments – if not to reconcile their aims with those of Leveson, then to save their own neck.

Lord Justice Leveson (source)

Take for example The Sun, one of several British tabloids to come under close scrutiny during the 2011 Leveson Inquiry. A fierce opponent of state-backed press regulation, it casually dismisses pro-regulation campaigners like Hacked Off as “leftie plotters.”

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The Sun’s gratuitous “leftie plotters” headline (source)

Are supporters of Leveson likely to find this sort of language persuasive? Or is The Sun merely preaching to the converted?

Another recent example, by way of the Daily Telegraph, perfectly illustrates the way in which the British press is carelessly sowing the seeds of its own destruction. As reported on this blog, last month the Telegraph published a sensationalist article about Steve McNought, whose Bristol-based publishing company Arkbound was recently approved by IMPRESS.

The January 21, 2017 article, “Armed robber turned publisher wins approval from state-approved Press regulator funded by Max Mosley” by the Sunday Telegraph’s chief reporter Robert Mendick, focused on McNought’s criminal past, namely a series of armed robberies he committed in 2007-08 for which he received a 12-year prison sentence.

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The Telegraph’s January 21, 2017 article (source)

The details of McNought’s US crime spree would make for a compelling episode of True Crimes, but that’s not what the Telegraph intended; as McNought told me in a comment on this blog, the article was a clear attempt to undermine Impress, using me as a tool to do so, in the most nasty and underhand way.”

In other words, the Telegraph fulfilled the worst expectations of its critics, betraying the principles of ethical journalism – if not the “full spirit” of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) code of practice to which it supposedly subscribes. To boot, McNought says he is considering legal action against the Telegraph for allegedly falsely reporting about his crimes and infringing his privacy.

The “draconian” Section 40 is presently awaiting a final signature from Culture Secretary Karen Bradley. Question: Is the British press willing to risk its hard-won freedoms for the sake of a few cheap shots at its political opponents?

Let’s hope not.

See also: “Crime and Regulation,” my January 24, 2017 item re: Steve McNought’s full response to the Telegraph’s article about his criminal past.

And: “The Case for Regulation,” my October 31, 2016 item re: Members of IMPRESS answer criticism that state-backed regulation could undermine a “vibrant local press.”

And: “UnIMPRESSed,” my October 27, 2016 item re: Two publications are no longer applying to join IMPRESS – with another on the fence.

WikiLeaks Goes “Full Trump”

WikiLeaks claims it invented popular whistle-blower program SecureDrop and that Julian Assange co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation – claims denied by FPF co-founder Micah Lee in heated exchange with the WikiLeaks Task Force

Last week, WikiLeaks tweeted that the Associated Press (AP) and other press organisations had adopted “WikiLeaks technology” in adopting SecureDrop, a whistle-blower submission program developed by US “hacktivist” and transparency advocate, the late Aaron Swartz.

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In response, Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) co-founder Micah Lee tweeted that Wikileaks’ claim re: SecureDrop was “a lie” and that it had “never contributed” to the program’s development.

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This was followed by a heated exchange between Lee and the WikiLeaks Task Force, an official WikiLeaks account set up in October 2016 to “correct misinformation” about its namesake organisation.

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In its response, the Task Force claimed Swartz and the FPF developed SecureDrop using technology “invented at WL,” and that WikiLeaks’ founder, exiled Australian journalist Julian Assange, co-founded the FPF…

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…claims denied by Lee in another tweet:

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The Task Force then doubled down, claiming Lee was not a founder of FPF…

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…in another tweet even claiming Lee was “an anti-freedom of speech campaigner”:

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However, the FPF website clearly lists Lee as one of its co-founders:

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As covered on this blog, the WikiLeaks Task Force recently began threatening legal action against Twitter users – including journalists – who criticise WikiLeaks and Assange.

In this case, at least, Lee had the final word:

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See also: “WikiLeaks Threatens Writer,” my January 15, 2017 item re: WikiLeaks Task Force’s demand that Jezebel writer delete “rapist shitbag” Assange tweet or “face the consequences.”

Preventing Prevent 2.0

Does Trump plan to implement a US version of highly controversial British counter-extremism strategy?

Via “Exclusive: Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam – sources” by Julia Edwards Ainsley, Dustin Volz and Kristina Cooke, Reuters, February 2, 2017:

The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

As covered on this blog, the unintended consequences from the British government’s own counter-extremism programme – the much-maligned Prevent strategy – have proven to be deeply troublesome, and the strategy is frequently criticised by students’ groups and free speech organisations as a threat to academic and religious freedoms.

Of particular concern is the government’s loose definition of “extremism,” which essentially provides legal remit for authorities and British institutions such as schools and universities to shut down political dissent (one Yorkshire council even used Prevent to target anti-fracking environmental protesters).

Yorkshire anti-fracking protesters (source)

According to Prevent duty guidance, the government defines “extremism” as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British Values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

In an interview with the Guardian in 2015, Metropolitan Police commander Mak Chishty expanded on the government’s definition to include subtle changes in behaviour, such as the shunning of certain shops, claiming there was a need for authorities to “move into the private space” of Muslims.

Asked to define “private space,” Chishty said: It’s anything from walking down the road, looking at a mobile, to someone in a bedroom surfing the net, to someone in a shisha cafe talking about things.”

Conservative MP Lucy Allen put it best: “Prevent…sounds positively Orwellian.

Metropolitan Police commander Mak Chishty (source)

The clincher is that much of the data used to support Downing Street’s premise that British institutions are “hotbeds of “extremist activity, was taken – without attribution – from a misleading report by “right-wing think tank the Henry Jackson Society.

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July 2015 report by Student Rights director Rupert Sutton (source)

Via my December 2015 public records request, Downing Street was still in the process of collecting case studies about extremism just five days before the updated strategy came into force, and appears to have ignored a request from an internal fact-checker to amend figures about the number of events featuring “hate speakers” held on university campuses in 2014.

The strategy is currently facing a legal challenge from British Muslim activist Dr. Salman Butt, who claims the government breached his free speech rights when it branded him an “extremist” in a 2015 press release.

Info-Warring

Leading US conspiracy news website InfoWars accused of stealing content

According to multiple DMCA complaints that were sent to Google, InfoWars didn’t seek permission before republishing articles that originally featured on pro-gun news website AmmoLand and Danish-run news website nsnbc international.

Via the Lumen Database – a website that collects takedown requests of online content – AmmoLand claimed that InfoWars duplicated, in full, its July 11, 2015 interview with Donald Trump, published shortly after he announced his candidacy for US president.

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AmmoLand’s August 14, 2015 complaint to Google (source)

Via nsnbc’s complaint, InfoWars is accused of duplicating an article about Syrian journalist Maya Nasser, who was killed in 2012 while reporting from war-torn Damascus.

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nsnbc’s undated complaint to Google (source)

InfoWars is also accused of duplicating an article about bioterrorism originally published on Cincinnati survivalist news website On Point Preparedness.

Via Why I Hate Infowars & Internet Plagiarism”, On Point Preparedness, May 6, 2015:

It was during October 2014 that I had my first popular article. I contacted Mac Slavo @ SHTFPlan.com and he was excited to repost my article. He was very courteous and asked if he could repost the article text “in full”, or whether I wanted him to only republish 1/3 of the article with a “read more” tag. Excited with the opportunity, I told him that he could republish my article in full text and all was good in the world.

After only a day of being up on his site, bigger fish like Infowars republished the story in full text, but did not ask for my permission. Additionally, they sited [sic] SHTFPlan.com as the source, rather than On Point Preparedness as the original author.

Last week it was reported that InfoWars founder Alex Jones, once described by New York magazine as “America’s leading conspiracy theorist,” has applied for White House press credentials.

State-Backed Regulation: A Pressing Issue

British journalism magazine the Press Gazette publishes article based on my blog post re: Magazine publisher’s claim the Daily Telegraph falsely reported about his criminal past in order to undermine state-approved press regulator

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The Press Gazette’s January 27, 2016 article (source)

Earlier this week, I blogged about Steve McNought, co-director of Bristol-based magazine publisher Arkbound, who suggested he was taking legal action against the Daily Telegraph for allegedly falsely reporting about his criminal past.

Yesterday, long-running London-based journalism/media trade magazine the Press Gazette published an article based on my blog post.

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Via “Magazine publisher with criminal past says Telegraph used him to ‘attack’ Impress” by Freddy Mayhew, the Press Gazette, January 27, 2017:

The co-director of a Bristol-based magazine publisher has accused the Daily Telegraph of exploiting his criminal past to “attack” and “undermine” press regulator Impress.

[Steve McNought], co-director of Arkbound, has said he is considering legal action after a story headlined: “Armed robber turned publisher wins approval from state-approved Press regulator funded by Max Mosley”, was published on the paper’s website earlier this week.

The story details how McNought, formerly known as Stephen Jackley, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 18 offences, including armed robbery and possession of a firearm, carried out in 2007/8 and that his publishing firm is signed up to Impress.

McNought, who was 23 when charged, told Press Gazette the article was “an attack on Impress”, adding: “The Telegraph had a political bone to pick with Impress, and I was an easy target.”

Impress became the first Royal Charter-backed press regulator in Britain last year after its application was approved by the Press Recognition Panel, which was set up following recommendations made in the Leveson report.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which regulates the majority of UK news media publishers, has so far refused to apply for recognition under the Charter.

McNought, whose firm publishes Boundless magazine, told the Shooting The Messenger blog: “The Telegraph’s coverage is a clear attempt to undermine Impress, using me as a tool to do so, in the most nasty and underhand way.”

He also claimed there were a number of factual inaccuracies in the story, but would not go into detail about what these were.

McNought was quoted in the Telegraph story, written by chief reporter Robert Mendick, as claiming the piece had infringed his privacy.

Read the full article by clicking here.

See also: “Crime and Regulation,” my January 24, 2017 item re: McNought’s response to the Telegraph’s article about his criminal past.

Censorship and Science

Prominent co-signer of failed CSPI retraction demand Dr. David L. Katz rails against censorship of science – but author/journalist Nina Teicholz says specious retraction efforts are also a form of censorship

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Per the above tweet, author/columnist Dr. David L. Katz, founding director of the CDC-funded Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, alluded to reports that newly elected US President Trump had ordered a communications lock-down of several federal agencies, including the USDA, responsible for setting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Today, Dr. Katz expanded on that issue, in addition to broader issues of censorship and the scientific method, via his bi-weekly column for The Huffington Post:

Good science is an enemy to no one, since it advances understanding and knowledge…and thus choice. Good science empowers us with options. Censorship, of course, keeps us uninformed – or worse, misinformed. Ignorance is the ultimate form of repression.

Scientists are the first to acknowledge that the sounds of science are not always, immediately, perfectly in tune. It can take any number of revisions to get the lyrics and melody of truth just right. But this very process leads us robustly and reliably toward truth and understanding.

…When science is subordinated to silence, and the press to propaganda – only tyrants control the flow of information.

As readers of this blog will know, Dr. Katz’s recent concerns about censorship of scienceare quite the turnaround.

In 2015, Dr. Katz was one of 180+ co-signers to a flagrantly censorious retraction demand organised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) – a powerful Washington, DC nutrition lobby group.

In a letter to the BMJ, the CSPI had requested a retraction of an article by New York Times bestselling author/journalist Nina Teicholz about the questionable science underpinning the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines.

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The CSPI’s November 5, 2015 retraction demand (source)

The BMJ nixed the CSPI’s retraction demand last month after a year-long investigation by two independent reviewers. They found no grounds for retraction, adding that Teicholz’s criticisms of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) are within the realm of scientific discussion.

Via the Huffington Post, Dr. Katz trashed the BMJ for its calamitous decision, as well as the two independent researchers, and finally Teicholz herself – referring to her in passing as a journalist with no known relevant expertise and a book to sell into the bargain.

It’s not the only time Dr. Katz has attacked Teicholz in the media.

Journalist/author Nina Teicholz (source)

As reported on The Sidebar – my Atlanta, GA blogging buddy Peter M. Heimlich’s crack investigative journalism blog – Dr. Katz has been clawing at Teicholz for years.

Shortly before the release of Teicholz’s best-selling book on the history of nutrition science, The Big Fat Surprise (2014), he attacked her motives and speculated about her rolling her eyes at this column on the way to cash her royalty checks.

When her critique of the dietary guidelines came out in 2015, he argued that the BMJ should not have published her article because she is not a nutrition expert, and not a scientist.

He was later quoted in journalist Ian Leslie’s acclaimed April 2016 Guardian article about the nutrition wars, “The Sugar Conspiracy,” describing Teicholz as “shockingly unprofessional” and “an animal unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Celebrity nutrition expert Dr. David Katz (source)

That month, several prominent physicians criticised Dr. Katz for his ad hominem remarks, leading Yale University’s School of Medicine to publicly disassociate from its otherwise unrelated namesake, the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Centerof which Katz is the founding director.

Yesterday, I e-mailed Teicholz for comment about Dr. Katz’s sudden change of heart re: his “censorship of science” tweet.

In her response, Teicholz said that “specious retraction efforts are also a form of censorship, as are intimidating columns trying to discredit the work of people whose views are different from your own.”

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Dr. Katz’s dramatic December 6, 2016 article (source)

Strangely, Dr. Katz maintains that he – not Teicholz – is the victim of a “cabal” funded by “the beef industry.” The claims go back to November 2015, following the Huffington Post’s decision to pull two of Dr. Katz’s articles after it was revealed he had reviewed a sci-fi novel he wrote under a pseudonym, without disclosing authorship.

Later that month, he wrote an article via LinkedIn, in which he connected the retractions – the result of an unrelated enquiry by Peter M. Heimlich – to Teicholz’s BMJ article. But as Peter told the Yale Daily News, he was unaware of the dietary guidelines dispute when he broke the story on his blog.

Dr. Katz’s review has since become infamous on the Internet for its lavish prose and self-reverential comparisons to legendary writers like Milton, Yeats, Dickens and Plato.

On that note, here’s an especially moving paragraph from that review:

I found the writing — prose that nonetheless managed to hint at epic poetry — as enthralling as the story was riveting. In reVision, Colleen McCullough meets John Milton. Yeats meets Yourcenar. In the blend of rollicking adventure with utopian aspiration, J.K. Rowling meets Gene Roddenberry. Where characters are vividly rendered and complex ideas distilled to stunningly simple clarities, Dickens meets Dawkins. As a clash of other worlds illuminates the better ways our world might be, Plato’s Republic meets Lord of the Rings. Where lyrically beautiful writing and deep currents of humanism traverse expanses of law and folklore, science and faith, passion and politics — the Bible, Bill of Rights and Bhagavad Gita commingle.

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See also: “Butter, Meat and Free Speech,” my December 3, 2016 item re: The BMJ’s decision not to retract Teicholz’s dietary guidelines article.

Under Surveillance

‘The whole process is a farce’ – Read the outraged responses to the UK Parliament’s refusal to reopen debate of highly controversial new surveillance law

Last November, the UK Parliament approved the Investigatory Powers Act – dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter” by critics – a highly controversial surveillance law handing British authorities sweeping powers to hack into the phones and computers of private citizens.

Shortly after being passed into law, someone named Tom Skillinger started a petition for Parliament to repeal the new law, calling it a “disgrace to both privacy and freedom” – a sentiment echoed by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and others.

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Skillinger’s November 2016 petition to Parliament (source)

According to petition.parliament.uk, Parliament’s Petitions Committee will only consider holding a debate if a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, a number quickly surpassed by Skillinger’s petition in late November.

However, the Committee decided not to debate because the bill was “debated on many occasions in Parliament before it became law.”

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The Petitions Committee’s response to the petition

Via my December 21, 2016 public records request to the House of Commons, here’s how members of the public¹ who signed the petition responded to the Committee’s decision:

John Barron
The website states “if a petition gets 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in parliament”. Why then are we being told that the Petitions Committee is overruling this in the case of the Investigatory Powers Act petition?

Yes it has been discussed before but the public is still not happy with the outcome and with over 150,000 signatures, it seems the discussions that have taken place previously have not fully captured the views and expected outcomes of a significant number of people.

Where on your website are the rules about refusing to consider petitions with over 100,000 signatures for discussion in Parliament?² This should be made very clear below your statement about petitions receiving 100,000 signatures being considered for debate on your home page.

And secondly, why are the public’s views on this matter not being shared with Parliament? Something of this magnitude with so much potential for internal and external misuse should be very carefully considered and reviewed for as long as it takes to get it right. And the people whose data is expected to be used should be listened to throughout the whole process.

People should consent to their data being used in this way, this is basic ethical governance. Why is it that we have rigid ethics committees for all other professions but not for politics which impacts not just on a sample of people but on the entire population?

Harold Spritzer
It was my understanding that the government *had* to discuss any petition with over 100,000 responses. Therefore, what is the purpose of the Petitions Committee, when popular petitions, that the government would rather brush under the carpet, are so easily ignored? What is the purpose of democracy when it can be this easily ignored? I ask you to reconsider this decision, and will be bringing this up directly with my MP.

[The same person responding to the Committee’s response that its decision was based on the fact that “the issues had recently been debated.”]

The IPA may have been “recently” debated, however, its worth nothing;

• A previous version of this bill, the “Draft Communications Data Bill,” was previously thrown out. The implication of this bill is very much – if not exactly the same.

• As usual with most technology focused laws and legislation, those that voted on the bill know and understand very little about the law, and have in fact – just chosen to exclude themselves from the law!

Just because a bill has been discussed “recently” does not make grounds to ignore public viewpoint. This law and decision just goes to prove that separate and divide between Parliament and the public is ever growing, treating themselves as “above the law” by excluding themselves from the law, and is simply an attempt to legalise existing illegal behaviour by the government.

Cat Mendoza
So you have decided not to debate the new Snooper’s Charter law. So really the process is a waste of time if you’ve already “debated” a topic, whether we sign the petition afterwards or not? Makes the whole process a farce and you should have this clearly stated at the top of each petition. Maybe something along the lines of “Please do not waste our time with this petition if we have already debated the issue, thanks”.

When matters like this are concerned, the number of times a certain matter is debated is irrelevant. What is important is that over 100,000 people are still not happy about the circumstances to whatever matter is being petitioned. Therefore there is still substantial concern which is not being addressed.

My personal opinion is that if you are adamant that you will not discuss matters that have already been discussed, and therefore it is irrelevant whether people are happy about it or not, that you shouldn’t waste our time with websites that kid that we have a voice and opinion, because “if we already debated it, then we won’t debate it again”. It sickens me.

You may as well shut this website down, as all it really is in practice is a forum for you to track how many people don’t like something as opposed to being a platform to change anything that’s important.

Responses have been lightly edited for continuity purposes.

¹Names have been changed.
²More info about the petitions process available via: https://petition.parliament.uk/help

Crime and Regulation

IMPRESS-approved magazine publisher issues legal challenge against the Daily Telegraph after it published article about his criminal past

Last week, the Daily Telegraph published an article about Steve McNought, whose Bristol-based publishing company Arkbound was recently approved by official UK press regulator, IMPRESS.

The January 21, 2017 article, “Armed robber turned publisher wins approval from state-approved Press regulator funded by Max Mosley” by the Sunday Telegraph’s chief reporter Robert Mendick, focused on McNought’s criminal past, namely a series of armed robberies he committed in 2007-08 for which he received a 12-year prison sentence.

McNought, then known as Stephen Jackley, was released from prison in 2015 with the help of the Prince’s Trust. He changed his name by deed poll later that year.

Arkbound Director Steve McNought in 2016 (photograph by Tom Jackson)

In October last year, I corresponded with McNought for an item I wrote about press regulation, of which he offered a strong defence.

Today, I asked him to comment on the Telegraph’s article. Here is his response.

“The Telegraph’s coverage is a clear attempt to undermine Impress, using me as a tool to do so, in the most nasty and underhand way. Aside from the factual inaccuracies, the article completely disregards my recent work – which includes getting personal commendations from Prince Charles, winning a series of awards, and being part of several respectable initiatives. The article implies that anyone with a criminal background cannot be a journalist, yet throughout history some of the greatest journalists have come from disadvantaged backgrounds that sometimes involved criminal conduct during their youth. Given that the Telegraph itself is run by people with not exactly ‘whiter than white’ backgrounds (any simple investigation will reveal the full details), and that it has been subject to numerous libel proceedings, with a proven political bias, their stance is deeply hypocritical. It is an ethos that implies no-one deserves second chances, and should never be allowed to move forward, no matter what positive steps they make.

“I have been informed that several people and organisations have written to The Telegraph in criticism of this article, though I doubt any remedial or corrective action will be taken. The libelous aspects of this article are currently subject to legal challenge.”

See also: “The Case for Regulation,” my October 31, 2016 item re: Members of official UK press regulator IMPRESS answer criticism that state-backed regulation could undermine a “vibrant local press.”

WikiLeaks Threatens Writer

WikiLeaks Task Force demands Jezebel writer delete “rapist shitbag” Assange tweet or “face the consequences”

The WikiLeaks Task Force, set up to “correct misinformation” about anti-secrecy media organisation WikiLeaks, claimed Jezebel writer C.A. Pinkham was “committing libel with actual malice” after he tweeted a critical response to the task force’s own tweet criticising US President Barack Obama.

Pinkham’s January 6, 2017 tweet with reply:

c-a-pinkham-wikileaks-task-force

WikiLeaks founder, Australian journalist Julian Assange, was granted political asylum by Ecuador’s London embassy in mid-2012 after facing sexual assault allegations in Sweden. He says the sex was consensual and believes if he leaves the embassy he risks being extradited to the US to face prosecution for WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of classified government documents.