UK government to ban Greenpeace, Oxfam, Trade Unions

The Transparency of Lobbying Bill sounds innocuous but threatens to prevent any organisation, other than a political party, from taking a stand on any political issue in the year leading up to an election. It has received little scrutiny in the media, but may be passed as early as next week.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said the bill is "the most pernicious assault on campaign groups in living memory".

Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the Commons, said "This bill amounts to a sinister gag on charities and campaigners in the year before the election."

Even the Electoral Commission, which would be charged with enforcing the law, writes:
the Bill creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues in the year before the next general election, and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations [emphasis in original]
Take action now, before this pernicious bill slips into law. Next week may be too late.

Write to your MP, via 38 Degrees
We urgently need your help to stop disastrous campaigning proposals, says NVCO
Coverage in The Guardian
Coverage in The Independent

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BBC censors violinist at Proms

At the end of the performance of Vivaldi by the Palestine Strings, a group of musicians aged 12 to 23 from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music,
violinist Nigel Kennedy remarked “It’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from the experience of this night of music that giving equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for things to happen.” His remarks were applauded by the audience and went out live over Radio 3, but the BBC said it would remove the remarks from a rebroadcast on BBC Four.

The BBC has often acted as a mouthpiece for Israel and rarely given Palestinians a voice. The BBC should allow Kennedy's short remark to stand as part of the record of the event; others can make up their mind as to whether they agree or disagree.

Kennedy's use of the word apartheid is not too harsh. While the exact actions differ from those of South Africa, both suppress a people on racial grounds, and both require the condemnation of the world to bring about their end.

Sign the 38 Degrees petition opposing the censorship
Report from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) 
Report in Telegraph
Report in Jewish Chronicle
Additional links from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP)

From the letters page of the Telegraph:
SIR – Some of us were present at the exhilarating celebration of musical artistry of Nigel Kennedy’s Four Seasons Prom, with the Palestine Strings. We congratulate the BBC for giving young players from the Edward Said Conservatory an all-too-rare opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of Palestinian cultural life, despite all the obstacles they face.

It now appears that the BBC intends to censor tomorrow’s broadcast of the concert, redacting a statement by Kennedy in which he hinted at the harsh conditions under which Palestinian musicians live. He said the Prom performance showed that “given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen”.

The BBC said these words do not “fall within the editorial remit of the Proms as a classical music festival”. Kennedy responded with a statement condemning an “imperial lack of impartiality”. We note the Jewish Chronicle’s report indicating that the BBC has been subjected to pressure from pro-Israel advocates.

As Jewish campaigners for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine, we urge the BBC to acknowledge his comments as an integral part of a performance which was warmly received by an enthusiastic Proms crowd. The BBC owes television viewers the right to see the event uncensored, in its entirety.

George Abendstern
Seymour Alexander
Craig Berman
Linda Clair
Mike Cushman
Nancy Elan
Pia Feig
Deborah Fink
Tony Greenstein
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Riva Joffe
Leah Levane
Rachel Lever
Dr Les Levidow
Prof Moshé Machover
Beryl Maizels
Miriam Margolyes
Dr Simon Pirani
Renate Prince
Roland Rance
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
Chair, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Leon Rosselson
Dr Joan Safran
Sabby Sagall
Alexei Sayle
Miriam Scharf
Stanley Walinets
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Secretary, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
Devra Wiseman
Naomi Woodspring
Terry Yason

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Images by Giuseppe Colaruso. Spotted via Boing Boing.



BIG Plans for a Lego Museum in Denmark

Bjarke Ingels Group, the folk who wrote Yes Is More, are building a museum for Legoland in Denmark. A reason to visit Billund in 2016! Reported in the Smithsonian, spotted via Boing Boing.

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Yes is More

Yes is More is one of my favourite books. In the form of a comic, it describes a series of architectural projects by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). My son Adam accompanied me to ICFP last year, in Copenhagen, just so we could visit some of BIG's projects in person. We had a ball!

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Caroline Lucas standing in a field waving a placard? Outrageous!

Mark Steele's commentary nails the absurd state of modern Britain, taking as a starting point Caroline Lucas's recent arrest for protesting fracking.
At last, a politician has been arrested. 
The one they’ve taken in is Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, because of all the lousy things you can remember politicians doing in recent years, have any been as filthy as what she did this week, standing in a field with a placard? 
Some MPs, such as Stephen Byers and others, were filmed promising to use their status to offer access to ministers, if you paid them between £3,000 and £5,000 a day. That could be seen, if you were picky about morals, as abusing your position slightly, but he only needed a mild caution, because at least he didn’t bring the good name of Parliament into disrepute by standing in front of a tree protesting about fracking. 
If Caroline Lucas had any decency, instead of writing a slogan about protecting the environment on that placard, she’d have sold the space for advertising. She could still have had “Stop Climate Change” in one corner, but the rest of it would have been sold for £3,000 to £5,000 to someone reputable such as British Aerospace, and say something like “There’ll be sod-all to frack after our bombs attack”, and the reputation of our government would be intact.

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Simon Stålenhag: Swedish Retrofuturism

I find these paintings by Simon Stålenhag disturbing and alluring.Spotted via Boing Boing.


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Idioms are oblivious, arrows are meticulous, monads are promiscuous

Jeremy Yallop spotted a recent comment on Haskell by Albert Y. C. Lai on a paper we coauthored with Sam Lindley, Idioms are oblivious, arrows are meticulous, monads are promiscuous.  Cheers!
I much recommend this paper. Underrated, underknown, pinpointing, unifying.

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Partner of journalist detained for nine hours

David Miranda (right) was detained at Heathrow for nine hours yesterday (Sunday 18 August 2013) under Section 7 of the Prevention of Terrorist Act. He was in transit from Berlin to his home in Brazil, and in the UK only to change planes. Miranda is the partner of journalist Glen Greenwald (left), who interviewed Edward Snowden (below) and has played a key role in the ongoing revelations about the NSA and GCHQ. Miranda had his phone and laptop confiscated, and has not been told when they will be returned. The photo shows Greenwald and Miranda at the airport in Rio di Janiero, today.

Glen Greenwald, responding to the arrest, wrote today:
It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. ...
If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President's plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it's so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.
First report, from the Guardian.
Greenwald's response.
Live blog of ongoing reaction.

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Star ratings, 2013 edition

August is Festival Time in Edinburgh.  But despite the wise words from XKCD above, this year I am forced to give out five stars, twice, because the shows are that good.

Pajama Men (five stars): excruciating physical comedy. Possibly the funniest thing I've seen, ever. Favourite line: `We seem to have strangely reached a limit' (you'll understand why it's funny when you see it).

That is All You Need to Know (four and a half stars): Physical theatre about the history of Bletchley Park, alternating between the war years and attempts to preserve the park in the nineties. They get right the bits about Turing, but there is much more here than just Turing.

Solfatara (four and a half stars): alternately hilarious and heartrending. In Spanish, with English surtitles that take on a life of their own ...

Festival of the Spoken Nerd (five stars): As they explain, being a nerd is about being open to saying 'oooh' to the universe, and this show made me 'oooh' more than once, as well as laugh from start to end.  Yes, those are gliders from Conway's Game of Life on the flyer below, and they feature in one of the 'ooohs', a stunning demonstration of recursive nesting.

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Carl Warner, noted in an earlier post for his Foodscapes, is now creating Bodyscapes.




All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

Last April, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling released a report, and a petition called for a parliamentary debate. The debate is upcoming on 2 September.
Some cities are performing well. Having put cycling closer to the heart of transport for decades, Oxford and Cambridge boast continental levels of journeys made by bike (17% and 30%).

In 2009, the six cycling demonstration towns, including Exeter and Darlington, recorded an increase in cycling of almost a third. This boost was delivered at an average cost of just £3m per town.

We should not be daunted by how far we still have to go to reach the levels of other European cities. Cycle commuting in New York doubled in four years thanks to investment in high-profile cycling improvements, and further expansion is planned. Seville recently managed a ten-fold increase in cycle use in just three years - from 6000 to 60,000 cycle journeys per day between 2007 and 2010.
 Recommendations include:

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Lavabit, e-mail service used by Edward Snowden, shuts in mysterious circumstances

Invitations to attend a press conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport came from edsnowden@lavabit.com. Now, the secure e-mail service has shut down in mysterious circumstances. The message on their web site makes chilling reading:
The story breaks on Boing Boing
Silent Circle, a similar service, closes a day later
Lavabit founder tells Forbes `If you knew what I knew, you'd stop using e-mail'
Coverage in the Guardian (and a light-hearted summary)

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Functional Programming comes to the Edinburgh Festival

Mostly Functional, a one-day event under the auspices of the Turing Festival, comes to Edinburgh on 22 August. Talks by Richard Carlsson, Dan Macklin, Duncan Coutts, Jose Valim, Eric Merritt, Gordon Guthrie, and others.

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