Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Brandeis Columnist: ‘Restore Louis Brandeis’ free speech legacy’

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Aaron Fried, columnist for Brandeis University's independent student newspaper The Justice, kicks off the fall semester with a powerful column calling for revisions to his college's speech codes. Given that his school is named after Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a champion of free speech, Fried argues that he and his fellow students should be embarrassed by Brandeis' inclusion on FIRE's list of the 12 worst colleges for free speech, published in The Huffington Post in March.  

Noting that several of Brandeis' policies earn a "red light" ranking from FIRE, here's Fried's take on some of the problems presented to students wishing to speak their minds:  

Unfortunately, other areas of our speech policies run contrary to these ideals, most notably, our harassment policies, which FIRE has red-lighted. These well-intended policies nominally fulfill the goal of promoting a respectful and orderly campus, where students can live without fear of being mistreated.

In reality, some of these policies are incredibly vague and, like any poorly defined set of rules, run the risk of unfair, subjective interpretation.

For example, the Handbook's definition of sexual harassment is ambiguous. One example of sexual harassment is "subtle pressure for sexual activity." Imagine ...

5 Ways to Promote Free Speech on Constitution Day

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

September 17, Constitution Day, is just around the corner. For students, this national celebration is a perfect opportunity to kick off the school year by drawing attention to free speech issues on your campus. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Free Speech Wall, Photo courtesy of Michelle Fields 

1. Build a Free Speech Wall. To hold a free speech wall event, organizers build a temporary wall out of cardboard or plywood, or put up paper on a the wall of a building, and provide markers for students to write, draw, or post anything they want. Like free speech, this is an event that can and should cross partisan lines. For example, Sam Houston State's wall last year was sponsored by student groups from across the political spectrum, with the school's Lovers of Liberty, Bearkat Democrats, Democratic Socialists, and College Republicans all participating. Check out these examples of successful walls on campuses across the country.

2. Host a free speech event or protest. In addition to free speech walls, student groups have held events such as campus speakers, readings of banned books, "food or freedom" exchanges, trivia events (you could use the Constitution Facts link below), and flyer distributions from their schools' speech ...

Milk Scandal Reporter Quits

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A top Chinese investigative reporter who first exposed the scandal of melamine-tainted infant formula in 2008 has quit his job, saying his ideals have been crushed.

Jian Guanzhou, the first journalist to name Sanlu as the source of contaminated milk powder in a story for the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post in September 2008, announced he was leaving in a post this week on China's popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.

"I have been at the Oriental Morning Post for 10 years, during which I have poured the most precious years of my youth, my sorrow, my dreams and feelings into the purest of ideals," Jian wrote.

"Now my ideal is dead, so I'll get going. Take care, brothers!"

A thoughtful-looking man in his 30s, Jian shot to national fame after he began investigating home-grown dairy giant Sanlu for possible contamination of its infant formula, after 14 babies in Gansu province were found to have kidney problems.

Jian deduced that what the cases had in common was their use of Sanlu powder, publishing his conclusions on his paper's website in spite of huge pressure from powerful company executives.

Jian was lauded for doing so even by China's tightly controlled state-run media.

'Sense ...

UnlearningLiberty.com is Live!

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Unlearning Liberty now has its own home online. 

At UnlearningLiberty.com, you can find an excerpt from the book, links to purchase a copy from Barnes & Noble and Amazon, the latest news on all things Unlearning Liberty, including author appearances, and more.

There is also a page devoted exclusively to praise for the book. Best selling author and Harvard professor Steven Pinker, Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institute, Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, and University of Wisconsin professor Donald Downs have all given Unlearning Liberty their stamp of approval.

Nat Hentoff, author of Free Speech for Me but not for Thee and one of the "100 outstanding journalists in the United States in the last 100 years" according to NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, has this to say of the book, set for release October 23:

Greg has spent over a decade working to bring the Constitution back to campus. In Unlearning Liberty, he brings to life his many fights with university censors and shows the abandonment of fundamental freedoms on campus for what it is-an issue of grave importance to every single American. Anyone concerned about ...

Graphic Novel Removed from Connecticut School District’s Summer Reading List

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The video game-themed graphic novel Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux will be removed as an option on a Connecticut school district’s ninth grade summer reading list after a parent complained of profanity and sexual references in the book. The Enfield, Connecticut, Board of Education will also change its policy so that a board committee must approve the reading lists drawn up by schools.

Sidescrollers was chosen as one of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2008, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “wholesome…but still entertaining for young teens or those with a sense of humor.” It recounts the adventures of three teenaged slacker geeks who are roused to action when a female friend becomes romantically involved with loutish quarterback Dick. Along the way, the trio engages in mildly vulgar but realistic teenage banter and vandalizes Dick’s car with anatomically correct graffiti.

Enfield parent Christie Bosco claimed that her effort to have the book removed was “not a question of censorship,” even though it was not required reading and her son could simply choose a different book. It is unclear whether the Board of Education followed its own policy on Challenges to the Use of ...

Congress Members Demand USTR Tell the American People What’s Going on With the TPP and its Impact on Digital Freedom

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

US Congressional Representatives Ron Wyden and Darrell Issa insist that the American people have a right to know what the US is seeking in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with respect to intellectual property rights (IPR). They have co-authored a letter to Ron Kirk [PDF], the head of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that is leading the US delegation in the TPP negotiations, asking him to reveal what the USTR is seeking in the intellectual property chapter.

Specifically, they call attention to its provisions that will impact digital freedoms:

Disciplines related to IPR could impact how people gain access to the Internet and could constrain what people may say online or how they can collaborate and share content. It is imperative that the IPR chapter of the proposed TPP agreement not inappropriately constrain online activity. Poorly-constructed IPR disciplines that erode Internet freedom could impede innovation, economic growth, and speech.

Given the Internet’s increasing role in facilitating American exports of digital goods and services, it is crucial that they do not tip the balance in IP enforcement in a way that will only further restrict Internet freedoms and users' digital rights. The letter concludes with their request that ...

FIRE’s Seven Best Colleges for Free Speech 2012

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Here's today's press release: 

FIRE's Best Schools for Free Speech 2012 (seal)

PHILADELPHIA, September 5, 2012—With students heading back to campus and high school seniors beginning their college applications, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is pleased to announce its 2012 list of the nation's best colleges and universities for freedom of speech today on The Huffington Post

FIRE commends James Madison University, The College of William & Mary, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania for protecting free speech on campus and maintaining policies that honor freedom of expression. 

"It's easy for students to get caught up in the frenzy of trying to get into the best-ranked schools," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "But if the college you attend doesn't respect free speech, your education will suffer regardless of how high the college is ranked."

In determining the seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech for the second annual list, FIRE considered whether an institution's policies restrict speech protected by the First Amendment and whether the school had censored speech in recent years. Each of the seven institutions chosen has earned a "green ...

Timeline entry for 1986: Bridge to Terabithia

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature 1986 challenges to “Bridge to Terabithia,” by Katherine Paterson.

Bridge to Terabithia book coverPaterson’s novel for young people was challenged in 1986 as recommended reading for 6th grade students in the Lincoln, NE schools. Parents objected to the book’s “profanity” including the phrase “Oh, Lord” and use of “Lord” used as an expletive. “Bridge to Terabithia” won the Newbery Award for children’s literature in 1978. It tells the story of two 5th graders’ creation of a magical world far removed from their daily lives, and details the joys and sorrows of childhood, particularly the power of friendship and imagination.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks.

Green Party Ad Featuring Bleeped Obscenity Challenges TV Indecency Rules

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The Green Party won a public-relations battle with Google on Tuesday, forcing the company’s television advertising division to book time for a commercial in which its presidential candidate uses a (partly bleeped) obscenity to describe the policies of the major-party candidates.

Read more.

Service Agreements Kill Privacy, But Can They Create It Too?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

With more people constantly connected to the Internet, technology companies are becoming massive repositories of sensitive and personal information. Our communications with family and friends now sit stored on servers belonging to Google or Facebook. Cell phone companies keep track of our location by recording every time we connect to a cell phone tower for up to two years. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has not kept up with this technological reality. And a recent case decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, United States v. Golden Valley Electric Association (PDF), highlights the increasing way constitutional rights are adjudicated when it comes to data stored by other companies: through the service agreement a user enters into with a company.

First, some background. The Supreme Court long ago ruled that users lose their expectation of privacy when they turn information over to third parties. The "third party doctrine" has been used by the government to justify warrantless acquisition of cell site tracking records, Twitter account information, and email. They've argued these records belong to the companies, so a user can't complain when the data is turned over to the government. Ultimately, this means that your constitutional rights ...

Church Asked to Move, Again

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Local officials are pressuring members of a house church in southern China’s Shenzhen city to relocate only 20 days after they moved into their current location, the congregation’s pastor and the property owner said Tuesday.

“We had once congregated in the Bantian area, but community officials pressured our landlord, asking us to move out,” said Zhao Jianjun, pastor of the Zhongfu Gangtou church.

“We then moved into our current location, also near Bantian, two weeks ago. But now the street committee has spoken with our new landlord, telling him not to lease his property to us.”

Zhao said he met with the street committee to ask them why they had told the landlord to force the congregation out.

“I went to the street committee to ask their reason, and they were very rude in talking to me. One of the office heads said, ‘Are there even any Christian believers left in Shenzhen now?’”

“I told him that there are many and that the members of our group are all Christian believers.”

“I was angry at this undisguised discrimination, and quarreled with them,” the pastor said.

Phone calls to the street committee office went unanswered on Tuesday.

Zhao Jianjun said the ...

Tibetans Display Dalai Lama Photos

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

In a major show of defiance, Tibetans celebrating the enthronement of a local religious leader at the weekend paraded large photographs of the Dalai Lama in a restive Tibetan county in China’s Sichuan province, Tibetan sources said.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet into exile in 1959 amid a failed national uprising against Chinese rule, is regarded by Chinese authorities as a dangerous separatist, and possession of his pictures often brings harsh punishment to those who display them.

“On Sept. 1, an enthronement  ceremony for the tulku [reincarnation] of Dudul Lingpa was organized at Changkar monastery in the Lingkha Shi subdivision of Bathang county in Kardze (in Chinese Ganzi) prefecture,” a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several thousand Tibetans, many on motorbikes, took part in the ceremony to welcome the young lama, the source said, adding, “Many displayed huge photos of the Dalai Lama on their motorbikes and paraded in the ceremony.”

Among the photographs taken of the parade and sent to RFA, one picture shows a car carrying the banned Tibetan national flag on its hood.

A Sept. 4 report by the online Tibet Express noted that though the residents of Lingkha ...

Vanderbilt Versus Fairness

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Vanderbilt University continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. On August 24, Associate Provost and Dean of Students Mark Bandas sent an email to all Vanderbilt students regarding changes to the university's sexual misconduct policy—and those changes are disturbing.

In an op-ed published last week in Vanderbilt's student newspaper, The Vanderbilt Hustler, former FIRE intern and college junior Kenny Tan warns of the threats these new changes pose to student rights at Vanderbilt.

Like so many other schools, Vanderbilt has made changes to its policies as a result of a "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in April of last year. The letter calls for, among other things, universities to use the "preponderance of evidence" (50.01% proof) standard when adjudicating cases of sexual misconduct, lest they lose their federal funding.

Kenny points out that Vanderbilt's lower evidentiary standard "will undoubtedly make it easier to falsely convict innocent students." He also draws attention to another OCR requirement adopted by Vanderbilt that will open up those accused of sexual misconduct to "double jeopardy," which Kenny rightly states violates the principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

...

Security Group Stokes Abuses

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

A Paris-based rights group has accused the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)—a regional grouping of China, Russia, and their neighbors in Central Asia—of fomenting human rights abuses, as Beijing hosted an SCO business forum in China's troubled northwestern Xinjiang region this week.

Since the SCO's founding in June 2001 by the two world powers and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the group has engaged in a slew of serious rights violations, justifying them as being part of anti-terrorism cooperation, according to a new report from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

"Basic rights such as the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom from torture and the duty of non-refoulment, are increasingly being violated," the FIDH said Monday in a news release published on its website.

"Victims lack adequate access to effective remedies at the national level. In this context of impunity, victims’ access to international and regional human rights mechanisms and remedies takes on additional significance."

The report came as Beijing launched the second annual China-Eurasia Expo, a regional trade fair, in Urumqi, the capital of northwestern China's Xinjiang region, on Monday with an address by Premier Wen Jiabao.

The SCO held a ...

50 State Salute to Banned Books Week: Call for Participants

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

50 State Salute logo

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. To commemorate this milestone anniversary, the Office for Intellectual Freedom is coordinating a “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week.” The “50 State Salute” will form the core of ALA’s participation in this year’s Banned Books Virtual Read-Out and will consist of videos from ALA Chapters proclaiming the importance of the freedom to read. Many ALA Chapters have agreed to participate and we hope that your organization will join us by creating a video. Please note that the “50 State Salute” is for organizational participation only. All individuals wishing to participate in Banned Books Week should check out the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out page for information on ways you can participate. The deadline to submit video for the “50 State Salute” is Friday, September 28, 2012.

Criteria

The “50 State Salute” will consist of short videos (no longer than 5 minutes) that emphasize ways in which each state’s community celebrates the freedom to read during Banned Books Week. Videos can be as simple as a state representative reading a book that was banned/challenged in your state, or reading a book by an author from your state whose ...

Is Congress Getting Ready to Take on Patent Trolls?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research division of Congress known for its objective studies, recently released a report on the effects of patent trolls on innovation and the economy. The study (PDF) presents a pretty thorough analysis of the patent troll problem, but what's striking is its existence at all: Could it be that Congress is really starting to pay attention when it comes to fixing the broken patent system?

Patent trolls are litigious entities that don't usually create new products or come up with new ideas. Instead, they buy up patents and use them offensively. Armed with often overbroad and vague patents, the trolls send out threatening letters to those they argue are infringing. According to the CRS report, "The vast majority of defendants settle because patent litigation is risky, disruptive, and expensive, regardless of the merits; and many [patent trolls] set royalty demands strategically well below litigation costs to make the business decision to settle an obvious one." Businesses lose both time and money, and innovation suffers.

We've known for some time just how much of a problem patent trolls pose. Last summer, This American Life made patent trolls mainstream with an extremely popular ...

Funding for ‘The Daily Helmsman’ Restored

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

As Torch readers may have already noted, FIRE is pleased to report a successful resolution to the funding dispute for The Daily Helmsman at the University of Memphis (UM). 

FIRE has been following this case closely since it first began in May, when UM's Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) cut the Helmsman's funding by $25,000. According to several reports, this funding cut was motivated by troubling viewpoint discrimination on behalf of the SAFAC. Both former Student Government Association President Tyler DeWitt and SAFAC Chair Stephen H. Petersen were recorded (in DeWitt's case, in multiple print venues) expressing their displeasure with the newspaper, strongly insinuating that the funding decision was motivated by the Helmsman's content. 

In light of these troubling pronouncements and criticism from several outside sources, including Society of Professional Journalists President John Ensslin, UM President Shirley C. Raines launched an investigation into the situation. FIRE wrote to Raines on August 24, urging her to defend the Helmsman's rights and ensure the funding cuts were reversed.

This past Friday, news broke that the Helmsman's budget had been restored. In a statement, President Raines explained:

The University of Memphis remains committed to both the First ...

Timeline entry for 1985: In the Night Kitchen

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature 1985 controversy over “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak.

In The Night Kitchen book coverIn 1985, “In the Night Kitchen” was challenged at the Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, WI because the book was believed to desensitize children to nudity. In Sendak’s picture book, a young boy named Mickey falls out of his clothes as he travels through his dreams to the magical kitchen of the title. In addition to being challenged, “In the Night Kitchen” was frequently defaced by those who objected to Mickey’s nudity and drew diapers or pants over Sendak’s images. The book was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1971.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks.

Junior High School Teacher Fired for Students’ Political Cartoons

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

by Mark Bousquet

An assignment asking junior high school students to create a political cartoon has resulted in the teacher being fired. Robert Duncan, a teacher at Boyet Junior High School in Slidell, Louisiana was fired earlier this month after a parent complained about artwork from the assignment Duncan had hung outside of his classroom. The offending pictures depicted a bullet hole in the side of President Barack Obama’s head, and another which used Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Mitt Romney to imply that it was hunting season on the President.

Though fired at the start of August, the assignment and original complaint occurred in late January 2012. Duncan assigned “a history assignment in which students were asked to symbolize ‘a current political matter.’” Duncan then hung the art outside of his classroom, which one student found offensive. According to the Times-Picayune, “Parent Karen Stampley said Tuesday she was alerted last week to the drawings and pictures by her daughter, a Boyet Junior High School student. When Stampley went inside the school, she said she saw them hanging on a wall, including one altered photo that portrayed a bullet hole on the president’s head.”

...

Wagner In Israel: The Unofficial Ban

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

By Joe Izenman

How much should artistic expression be curbed in the name of cultural sensitivity? How long should a dead creator’s works be judged, not on their merits, but on the political inclinations of their maker?

The works of legendary opera composer Richard Wagner have not been performed in the state of Israel, or indeed even pre-Israel, by the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, since the outbreak of World War II. From an article at American Thinker:

On November 12, 1938, the overture to Wagner’s opera Lohengrin was deleted from its program as a protest against Kristallnacht, which had occurred three days earlier in Germany. Since then, Wagner’s works have not been performed in public places during the Jewish settlement in Palestine or after the establishment of the state of Israel

Authorities often cite Wagner’s personal anti-Semitism as the reason behind the ban of his works in Israel, a case further compounded by the fact that Wagner’s works became symbolic of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Recently, the Israel Wagner Society attempted to stage an academically-minded performance of Wagner’s works, featuring 100 privately-hired musicians, at Tel Aviv University. However, amidst community anger and protest, the concert was cancelled by the ...

Pentagon warns former SEAL about bin Laden book

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

The Pentagon general counsel threatened legal action Thursday against a former Navy SEAL who wrote a revealing book about last year’s Osama bin Laden raid, warning him he has violated secrecy agreements and broken federal law.

Read more.

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: Prostitution

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: Prostitution
A proposed revision of the laws governing prostitution is a complicated and multi-faceted issue. Feminists for Free Expression advocates the decriminalization of prostitution. This paper sets forth why this position is necessary and why prostitution is a feminist issue. Although decriminalization will not solve all of the problems associated with prostitution, it is a first step in granting women and other members of the sex worker population their basic civil rights.

http://bit.ly/OEi9LM

Members of Congress Demand Answers for Homeland Security’s Unjust Domain Name Seizures

Friday, August 31st, 2012

This morning, a bipartisan group of Representatives, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), sent a pointed letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano protesting the recent spat of domain name seizures—executed on dubious copyright grounds—that have been censoring websites with no due process.

“Our concern centers on your Department’s methods, and the process given, when seizing the domain names of websites whose actions and content are presumed to be lawful, protected speech,” the letter said, which was also signed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.).

The Representatives’ letter focused on the case of former hip hop website Dajaz1. Dajaz1’s domain name had been seized for over a year, despite evidence that the website had lawful material, and that “many of the allegedly infringing links to copyrighted songs, and specifically the links that were the basis of the seizure order, were given to the site’s owner by artists and labels themselves” including Kanye West, Diddy, and a vice president of a major record label.  

Adding to the injustice, the government refused to cooperate with Dajaz1’s attorneys for months, and sought numerous extensions of the seizure authority in secret. ...

Timeline entry for 1984: The Color Purple

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature 1984 challenges to The Color Purple, by Alice Walker.

The Color Purple book coverIn 1984, The Color Purple was challenged as appropriate reading for Oakland, CA high school honors classes due to the work’s “sexual and social explicitness” and its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and human sexuality.” After nine months of haggling and delays, a divided Oakland Board of Education gave formal approval for the book’s use. Walker’s novel won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983, and explores themes of racism, sexism, religion, and family.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks.

The Battle for Privacy Intensifies in Australia

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Australians are fending off threats to their right to privacy from all directions. First, there was Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon’s push to expand government online surveillance powers, submitted to Parliament in a package of reforms sought in a National Security Inquiry.

Then, on Aug. 22, the Australian Senate approved the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, granting authorities the power to require phone and Internet providers to store up to 180 days worth of personal communications data. The purpose is to aid in investigations by both foreign and domestic law enforcement agencies, making it especially controversial since it can result in granting foreign governments access to Australian citizens’ communications data. The legislation only allows for data retention in the cases of specifically targeted individuals.

The bill is based on the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime – which we've flagged in the past as one of the world’s worst Internet law treaties – and the passage of the bill opens the door for Australia to join the Convention.

At least we can welcome the news that one of the most controversial aspects of Roxon’s National Security Inquiry proposal, a vague mandatory data retention provision that would have required service ...

Despite Privacy Concerns, Mexico Continues Scanning Youth Irises for ID Cards

Friday, August 31st, 2012

By Gabriela Manuli

For more than a year and a half, the Mexican government has been collecting an unprecedented amount of biometric data from minors ages 4 to 17 as part of a youth ID card program. The Personal Identity Card for minors, a document authorities say is intended to help streamline registration in schools and health facilities, comes embedded with digital records of iris images, fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature for each minor.

Documents obtained by EFF under Mexico’s Transparency and Access to Information Act show that as of this past May, nearly 4 million minors had been enrolled into registries associated with the new ID. Public records also revealed that more than 1.2 million ID cards had been issued in the states of Baja California, Baja California South, Colima, Chiapas, Distrito Federal, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Sinaloa, and Morelos. Of those who were issued cards, 1,345 had to go through the registration process again because the quality of their biometric data was inadequate for identification.

The ID card project is part of the integration of Mexico’s National Population Register (RENAPO), which is intended to provide a unique identity system to conclusively prove identities of all Mexican citizens. Under ...

FIRE Urges on University of Memphis Investigation, Calls for Restoration of Cut Newspaper Funds – UPDATE 9/1: Funds Restored

Friday, August 31st, 2012

We've been providing updates the last few weeks about a troubling case at the University of Memphis (UM), whose student newspaper, The Daily Helmsman, recently had a third of its previous year's student activity fee allocation cut (from $75,000 to $50,000) in what appears to be a clear case of retaliation against the paper as a result of the funders' displeasure with its content. 

Spurred by heavy criticism of the funding cuts, UM President Shirley Raines has launched an investigation into the matter. Former Student Government Association President Tyler DeWitt, who had a hand in the funding decision, is also keeping mum after previously going on record with his content-based criticisms of the newspaper to multiple outlets. Last Friday, FIRE wrote to UM President Shirley C. Raines, asking the university to reverse the funding cuts and reminding it that viewpoint-based funding decisions like the one apparently made against the Helmsman are unconstitutional. As our letter points out, it isn't as if the evidence of discrimination against the newspaper is scant, thanks to former UM Student Government Association President (SGA) Tyler DeWitt. We wrote:

DeWitt has been critical of the Helmsman, as well as open about the ...

Research Sheds Light On Scary New Surveillance Apps for Smartphones

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Following on the heels of last month's first-ever public analysis of the elusive spyware FinSpy, security researchers at Citizen Lab have released an analysis of samples that appear to be FinSpy Mobile, the smartphone component in the FinFisher toolkit. As with last month's analysis, Bloomberg has published an early report summarizing the technical analysis and describing responses from the companies in question.

The FinFisher suite is developed by the UK-based Gamma Group, which faces troubling questions about its use by repressive regimes around the world. EFF has called for companies that produce surveillance technology for use by governments and law enforcement agencies to adopt "Know Your Customer" standards, like those required by Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other export regulations, in order to avoid becoming "repression's little helper." An EFF white paper from April of this year, "Human Rights and Technology Sales," addresses this issue in detail.

The samples studied by the researchers collectively work on nearly all major smartphone platforms, with the capability to collect and transmit information ranging from GPS location data to the content of voice calls and text messages. The programs created for different smartphone platforms vary, but the Citizen Lab analysis ...

Unshelved Celebrates Virtual Read-Out

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Unshelved, a webcomic created by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, ran a series of comic strips this week to celebrate Banned Books Week’s Virtual Read-Out.

According to the website’s About page, Ambaum and Barnes began publishing Unshelved, which focuses on the staff of a community library, in 2002. The strips, which began running on Monday, August 27, feature the frank teen services “bad-boy” librarian Dewey. From an Unshelved website post by Barnes:

This week in Unshelved, Dewey is making the case for celebrating next month’s Banned Books Week with a Virtual Read-Out. Feel free to use this week’s strips to promote Banned Books Week in your school, library, or bookstore!

This year marks the 30th annual Banned Books Week and the second Virtual Read-Out, which challenges people to record video of themselves reading aloud from banned books and giving eyewitness  accounts of local challenges.

You can view the strips on the Unshelved website here. Find out more about the Virtual Read-Out here.

Because of their visual nature, graphic novels are among the most challenged books in libraries around the nation. CBLDF is a sponsor of Banned Books Week, which takes place September 30 ...

Comics Struggle to Gain a Foothold in Iran

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Increasingly, young artists in Iran are expressing their love for comic books. Rather than imitate the work found in American and European comics, these artists want to put a uniquely Iranian stamp on their work. However, they find their voices constrained by the need to conform to Islamic law.

This week, we came across a New York Times article that ran a few months ago, highlighting the budding comic book scene in Iran. Artists in Iran feel that their creativity is limited. Since all publications must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, many artists choose to make comics about religion or the Iran-Iraq war. Even then, these creators are not safe from government disapproval. The Story of Ashura by Parviz Eghbali ran into trouble because of its depiction of Imam Hussein. Islamic law does not allow visual representations of religious figures. Eghbali convinced authorities that the likenesses were unique and could not be ascribed to any person.

In May, CBLDF covered the story of Mahmoud Shokraye, an Iranian cartoonist sentenced to 25 lashes for his depiction of Member of Parliament Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani. Ashtiani took offense and sued the cartoonist for the insult. After domestic ...

TPP Countdown: USTR Gives Us an Entire Two Minutes More to Present to Trade Negotiators

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has not ceased to claim that they are providing ample opportunity for public stakeholders to participate in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Agreement (TPP). One such supposed opportunity is a "stakeholder presentation" where representatives from various organizations and companies can discuss an issue of their choosing relating to the content of the TPP.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with several other civil society organizations and concerned individuals, will be in Leesburg, Virginia next week to attend these stakeholder events. We will be there because the TPP is a multilateral trade agreement that has been negotiated in secret and contains a chapter that could have wide-ranging impacts on our Internet freedom. A few days ago, we wrote about how the USTR sent all stakeholders an update: that we would be given a mere eight minutes to present to negotiators, down from the 15 minutes we had in San Diego.

Today, we have received a new email from the USTR that they would actually give stakeholders 10 minutes to make our presentations. That is an entire two more minutes for us to express our concerns to trade delegates over what could ...

Citing First Amendment, University of California Rejects State Legislature Resolution

Friday, August 31st, 2012

On Tuesday, the California State Assembly unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution (PDF) that "urges both the University of California (UC) and the California State University to take additional actions to confront anti-Semitism on its campuses," including a ban on the use of public resources for "anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation." The San Francisco Chronicle's Nanette Asimov reports that the University of California has already indicated it will not comply with the resolution's requests: 

The University of California says it won't support a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on campus - approved unanimously by the state Assembly on Tuesday - because the resolution says "no public resources will be allowed to be used for any anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation."

"We think it's problematic because of First Amendment concerns," said Steve Montiel, a UC spokesman.

However well-intentioned the state legislature's resolution may be, this is the correct response from UC, a public university system bound by the First Amendment. While the resolution states that the recommended actions should be taken "with due respect to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," the call is nevertheless troubling, given that speech many would consider to be anti-Semitic or an instance of "intolerant agitation" ...

Prominent Academics Respond to the TPP

Friday, August 31st, 2012

 

We asked several academics to let us know their thoughts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The TPP is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement, and it will do so in a way that will have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, privacy, access to information, and ability to innovate. Their responses are below.

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"TPP is a failed war continued. Let's stop it."

Lawrence Lessig
Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University
Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

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“It is deeply disturbing that the USTR has been negotiating with other nations for IP rules that are not in conformity with and much stronger than US law. Our democracy is at risk if these officials can commit the US to a policy that would require Congress to change our laws without the benefit of public debate and input from all affected parties.”

Professor Pamela Samuelson
Berkeley Law School & School of Information
University of California at Berkeley
 

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“The U.S. plan [for TPP] is everything it wanted ...

UT Austin Finishes Inquiry into Same-Sex Parenting Paper: No Wrongdoing

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Professor Mark Regnerus

Last night, the University of Texas at Austin announced that it had completed its inquiry into allegations of scientific misconduct and found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Professor Mark Regnerus, who authored a controversial paper about same-sex parenting in the journal Social Science Research. The paper, titled "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study," has been cited by advocates of male-female marriage and parenting, and has unsurprisingly proved deeply controversial. 

Indeed, the debate over the paper has been so contentious that it is difficult to find accounts of the paper's contents that are not colored by the opinions of the authors. For more information about the contents of the paper itself, I recommend this dialogue between Professor Regnerus and William Saletan of Slate, which presents arguments for both sides and is largely free of bomb-throwing. 

Of course, FIRE has no opinion on same-sex parenting and never will. We also have no opinion on the scholarly merits of Professor Regnerus's research. However, the debate entered FIRE's area of interest when a blogger named Scott Rose filed a scientific misconduct complaint with UT ...

Airlines to passengers: You can’t wear that

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

A woman flying from Las Vegas on Southwest this spring says she was confronted by an airline employee for showing too much cleavage. In another recent case, an American Airlines pilot lectured a passenger because her T-shirt bore a four-letter expletive. She was allowed to keep flying after draping a shawl over the shirt.

Both women told their stories to sympathetic bloggers, and the debate over what you can wear in the air went viral.

It’s not always clear what’s appropriate. Airlines don’t publish dress codes. There are no rules that spell out the highest hemline or the lowest neckline allowed. That can leave passengers guessing how far to push fashion boundaries. Every once in a while the airline says: Not that far.

Read more.

EFF Sues for Answers About Illegal Government Email and Phone Call Surveillance

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Government Withholding Information About Unconstitutional Spying at NSA

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) today, demanding answers about illegal email and telephone call surveillance at the National Security Agency (NSA).

The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008 gave the NSA expansive power to spy on Americans' international email and telephone calls. However, last month, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, a government official publicly disclosed that the NSA's surveillance had gone even further than what the law permits, with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issuing at least one ruling calling the NSA's actions unconstitutional. The government further disclosed that the FISC had determined the government's surveillance violated the spirit of the law on at least one occasion, as well. EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeks disclosure of any written opinions or orders from FISC discussing illegal government surveillance, as well as any briefings to Congress about those violations.

"For years we've seen news reports in the New York Times and other outlets about widespread government spying going beyond the broad powers granted in the FAA, but we've yet to get any real answers about what is going on," ...

Republican Platform Calls for Free Speech on Campus

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Exciting news this week from the Republican National Convention. No, I'm not talking about any of the speeches, nor anything having to do with the Presidential race. I'm not even talking about the guy who proposed to his girlfriend on the convention stage. This week, the Republican Party adopted the following plank in its national platform (see page 12):

[W]e oppose governmental censorship of speech through the so-called Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes, free speech zones, or other forms of "political correctness" on campus.

Of course, FIRE is a proudly nonpartisan organization. We stand up for free speech on campus regardless of what part of the political spectrum the speech represents. We work productively with Democrats and Republicans, and count many Libertarians among our friends too. (Does anyone really want to be censored?) And of course, we defend plenty of speech that isn't political at all. 

That said, you have to give credit where credit is due. No matter your political beliefs, this plank is worthy of praise. It's a powerful endorsement of the concerns that lie at the heart of FIRE's mission. 

Next week, the Democratic Party will convene in Charlotte, North Carolina, ...

Timeline Entry for 1983: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature 1983, when I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, faced significant controversy.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings book coverIn 1983, four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” claiming the work preaches “bitterness and hatred toward white people and encourages deviant behavior because of references to lesbianism, premarital sex and profanity.” Maya Angelou’s autobiography, published in 1969 and nominated for a National Book award in 1970, details the poet’s early years and illustrates the power of literature in surviving trauma and adversity. Angelou’s numerous awards and honors include the National Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks.

One Fan’s Unique Celebration of Banned Books Week

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Banned Books Week is just around the corner — libraries, reading advocates, and free speech groups such as CBLDF are gearing up to celebrate written and drawn literature. One fan of books is taking his support of the right to read to a whole new level: He will be spending the entire week (barring bathroom breaks) in the window of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indystar.com describes the events surrounding Corey Michael Dalton’s sojourn in a window in downtown Indianapolis:

His unusual living arrangement is part of the library’s week-long censorship-related programming that will include celebrities (gadfly/filmmaker Michael Moore and former Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon, among others) reading aloud from banned books each evening. Moore will most likely appear via Skype. The public is invited to all of the events. Other programming is still being worked out. (For more information, visit www.vonnegutlibrary.org).

Vonnegut’s work has been and still is challenged in libraries around the country. From Indystar:

It’s near and dear to Vonnegut fans since “Slaughterhouse Five” is one of the most roughed-up books in history. By the ALA’s count, Vonnegut’s biggest seller has been banned or restricted more than a dozen times. In 1974, ...

Timeline: 30 Years of Liberating Literature

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Since 1982, Banned Books Week has rallied librarians, booksellers, authors, publishers, teachers, and readers of all types to celebrate and defend the freedom to read. As we commemorate 30 years of Banned Books Week and enter our 31st year of protecting readers’ rights, ALA is pleased to unveil this new timeline of significant banned and challenged books. 

In addition, leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, we will be highlighting one book from the timeline each day. Today we begin with 1982 and feature “Slaughterhouse-Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut.

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

In 1982, a sharply divided Supreme Court found that students’ First Amendment rights were violated when “Slaughterhouse-Five” and 8 other titles were removed from junior and senior high school libraries. The Island Trees (NY) School District School Board removed the books in 1976 because they were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.” In Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, the Court found that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” Vonnegut’s satirical novel, published in 1969, considers themes of war and human nature, and is widely regarded as his most influential ...

Missourian Publishes “Unfit to Read” Banned Book Project

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

A belated update, but one worth taking a second look at if you’ve seen it already. Missouri School of Journalism Associate Professor Charles Davis organized a group of students in working on an awesome project about book challenges in schools from across the state. Using Freedom of Information Act Requests, the participants gathered data on censorship issues in Missouri and wrote several reports on banned book-related issues.

Included in the project are interactive graphics listing the challenged books and providing descriptions as well as an interactive map.

We commend the Missourian and all those involved in this important effort and we’re hoping other J schools and professors will follow in Davis’ footsteps. To see some results of our FOIA requests, see our June blog post on book challenge excerpts.


Double-sized IFAction Round-Up, August 13-26

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit http://lists.ala.org/wws/subscribe/ifactionFor an archive of all postings to the list since 1996, visit http://lists.ala.org/wws/arc/ifaction. Below is a sample of articles from August 13 – 26, 2012.

Privacy

Secret E-Scores Chart Consumers’ Buying Power 

Police chiefs offer guidelines for drones

Text Message Donations Good for Democracy, Risky for Privacy

FBI Gives Police Free Tool to Convert Photos for Facial Recognition 

Stepped-up computer monitoring of federal workers worries privacy advocates

‘Friends’ can share your Facebook profile with the government, court rules

Trust: Ill-Advised in a Digital Age 

Appeals court OKs warrantless tracking

Hulu Loses Bid To Dismiss Privacy Lawsuit

Buying coffee, and giving up some privacy

What Happens When Our Cellphones Can Predict Our Every Move?

Online Privacy: Americans Want It, and They Want It Now. So Why Can’t They Get It?

Custom Ads Consult Your Facebook Likes

Are the Feds Stalking You on Facebook?

Landmark California Location-Privacy Bill Nears Governor’s Desk

When Wireless Sensors Meet Big Data

GPS technology finding its way into court

California Senate Passes ...

ALA to partner with the Chicago Humanities Festival

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

As part of ALA’s ongoing Banned Books Week related festivities, the Office for Intellectual Freedom will cosponsor a program at the Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF), “The Case for Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.” The program will take place on Sunday, November 11, 2:00 to 3:00 PM, at Francis W. Parker School – Diane and David B Heller Auditorium, 2233 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614. Tickets are $5.00 for general admission, and free for students and teachers.

The featured speaker of the event is Loren Glass, University of Iowa associate professor of 19th- and 20th-century American literature and cultural studies. He will recount how Chicagoan Barney Rosset and his fledgling Grove Press led the charge against censorship to the works of William S. Burroughs, D.H. Lawrence, and Henry Miller, in the 1960s, by helping to redefine the parameters of obscenity and bring this essential and provocative literature to college classrooms and the greater American reading public. Glass recounts Rosset’s campaign and explores how the literary avant-garde joined the mainstream.

Tickets for this program will go on sale on Tuesday, September 4, for CHF Members, and will open to the general public on Monday, September 17. For more information about this program, please visit ...

“Robopocalypse” Challenge in Knoxville, TN

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

This summer, the Hardin Valley Academy wanted to keep its STEM students interested in school subjects during their vacation. After determining that the best way to do this was probably not by assigning weekly physics equations, the school assigned Daniel H. Wilson’s best-selling sci-fi novel Robopocalypse (Doubleday) as the program’s summer read.

A parent of an incoming freshman voiced his concerns over profanity in the book, apparently convinced that his 14-year-old has never heard the word fuck before.

The dean of the academy, Debbie Sayers, responded to the parent in an e-mail stating: “We discussed adult-level language, and decided that most (not all) students of this age group are exposed to profanity through much more graphic means than the written text…we knew there might be some objection to his, and we were willing to defer to parental concerns and discretion.”

The student in question was offered an alternative assignment, but this of course was not sufficient and the parent wants the book removed entirely and ASAP. But he doesn’t want to file a formal complaint, evidently, since it sounds like a lengthy process.

Hardin Valley Academy alum Ryan Clark posted this awesome video in response to the incident:

We couldn’t ...

Senate to Consider Bill Designed to Protect Journalists and ISPs from SLAPP Lawsuits

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

by Rick Marshall

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, better known as a SLAPP lawsuit, is a legal action initiated by a party with the primary purpose of causing its opponent to succumb to the pressures of litigation. Often times, the party filing a SLAPP lawsuit is aware it is likely to lose its case, but files anyway, hoping the mere threat of a costly, resource-consuming legal proceeding will prevent its opponent from continuing whatever activity it has taken issue with.

Importantly, not every inconvenient lawsuit should be considered a SLAPP suit. The term predominately applies to those suits filed specifically to discourage various activities associated with the exercise of the constitutional right to free speech. Journalists, bloggers, authors, filmmakers, political cartoonists, and comic book creators who use their various art forms to comment on matters of public concern are easy prey for corporations that can afford to file frivolous, speech-chilling lawsuits. As defendants against larger and better-funded companies, many victims of SLAPP lawsuits simply fold rather than fight the lawsuit, even if the company suing them is clearly in the wrong and would lose its case in court. SLAPP lawsuits often have a chilling effect on free speech.

Recently, ...

Painting of Golden Gate Bridge jumper pulled from Sausalito Art Festival contest

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The Sausalito Art Festival abruptly pulled a painting of a human figure falling from the Golden Gate Bridge from its website after a complaint from an outraged Marin resident that it could encourage suicides from the famed span.

Titled “Jump the Golden Gate Club,” the painting by San Francisco artist Douglas Brett was chosen by a panel of three judges as one of four honorable mentions in the painting category for the festival’s first “American Icon” art contest.

The decision to remove it has sparked cries of censorship from the artist and raised questions of whether the well-being of the community takes precedence over freedom of expression and free speech.

Read more.

American Cartoonist Daryl Cagle Presents Video Conference on Editorial Cartoons for Pakistani Journalists

Monday, August 27th, 2012

In mid-August, American cartoonist Daryl Cagle presented a video conference on for editorial cartoonists and journalists based in Lahore, Pakistan. Cagle discussed the impact of political cartoons in the US, and the lack of restrictions on the ideas that American cartoonists can express. By contrast, Pakistani cartoonists felt that there were many taboo topics that inhibited their creativity.

As part of his presentation, Cagle discussed the nature of political cartoons, which he feels are best understood within the context of the society that inspired them. He noted that generally, there is no censorship in the US on what a cartoonist can draw. The market determines what content should or should not be published. In other words, editors frequently base their decisions on what cartoons to publish on the tastes of their readers.

In contrast, the cartoonists in Pakistan do not feel the same freedom to address any subject matter. Article 19 of Pakistan’s constitution grants freedom of speech to all citizens, but this freedom is subject to any restrictions imposed by law. The most limiting of these are the “Blasphemy Laws,” which refer to Chapter 15 of the Pakistan Penal Code. When the international press refers to the Blasphemy ...

Ukraine’s National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality Sets Its Sight on SpongeBob

Monday, August 27th, 2012

SpongeBob SquarePants, Getty Images by Mark Bousquet

Are SpongeBob SquarePants, Walt Disney, the Teletubbies, Shrek, and the town of South Park, Colorado, banding together to corrupt the youth of the Ukraine? That’s what Ukraine’s National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality is now investigating. According to the Wall Street Journal, a “fringe Catholic website” called Family Under the Protection of the Holy Virgin, “these and several other children’s shows are ‘a large-scale experiment on Ukrainian children’ to ‘create criminals and perverts,’ and should be banned.”

The National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality is “a state body that evaluates media to check they observe Ukrainian morality laws, which ban inciting religious hatred, producing or disseminating pornography, and propagating alcoholism and smoking, among other things,” and while it is “not clear when it will meet to discuss the report,” it is not the first time the commission has targeted animated fare for censorship, as it has previously attempted to have The Simpsons banned from Ukrainian airwaves.

According to Eric Pfeiffer at Yahoo! News, the targeted programs and rationale this time around include:

SpongeBob Squarepants: “gay”

Teletubbies: “Deliberately aims to create subnormal (men), who spend all day in front of the television with their ...

This Weekend: Join CBLDF & Get Darth Vader & Son Signed by Jeffrey Brown!

Friday, August 24th, 2012

This weekend, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is proud to thank supporters joining or renewing their membership at the $50 level with a copy of Darth Vader & Son, signed with a sketch by Jeffrey Brown!  Get this amazing gift here!

Earlier this month, Jeffrey graciously appeared at the CBLDF’s table at Wizard World Chicago to meet our supporters and made a point of signing extra copies for our supporters online. It’s one of the many extraordinary premiums that creators contributed to the CBLDF during the summer convention season to help our fundraising.  You can see other new thank yous in our expanded donation center.

With a $50 “Supporter” membership, donors also receive:

  • The exclusive CBLDF Membership card. This sturdy, plastic card fits easily in a wallet and provides special access to CBLDF events across the country. The 2012 card features exclusive art by superstar artist CLIFF CHIANG!
  • A button set featuring our logo, and more!
  • A CBLDF Window Decal, so that you can show the world that you support Free Speech!

If you are already a member, and wish to participate in this exclusive, you can either upgrade your current membership, or sign up a friend!  ...

Russian female punk band Pussy Riot gets 2 years for hooliganism over Putin protest at church site

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

A Moscow judge sentenced three members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot to two years in prison on hooliganism charges on Friday following a trial seen around the world as an emblem of Russia’s intolerance of dissent.

The trial inspired a wave of small but raucous protests across Europe and North America in support of the feminist rockers, who have been dubbed prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Hundreds of Pussy Riot supporters waiting outside the Moscow courtroom chanted “down with the police state” when the sentence was announced. Dozens were detained, including several opposition leaders.

The three women were arrested in March after a February guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral where they high-kicked and danced while singing a “punk prayer” pleading with the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a third term as Russia’s president two weeks later.

Read more.