Staines Massive

News from UK political blog Bloggerheads, where Tim Ireland has received a legal letter from a lawyer acting on behalf of Paul Staines, the right-“libertarian” political blogger (“Guido Fawkes”) who popped up on BBC Newsnight a few nights ago. Ireland has accused Staines of hotlinking an image onto his website in infringement of Channel 4 and artist copyright, and charged Staines with hypocrisy for complaining about of one his own images being used in the same way. Ireland also repeated allegations which appeared on Matt Buck’s Hack Cartoons of previous “form” in this area. Staines, however, claims that he has written permission to use the image under dispute, and he has demanded that Ireland retract.

This looks like a storm in a teacup, but rather than simply making a moral defence on the grounds of “fair usage” (after all, most of us skirt rather closely to the very strict letter of the law on this matter, particularly since, unlike in the USA, there is no legally-enshrined “fair use” provision), Staines has decided it is a matter worth consulting a lawyer over and he has now instructed Donal Blaney of Griffin Law to send a letter demanding a retraction, apology, and damages. Ireland’s response can be seen here. Alas, however, Staines has rather undermined his position already with a comment at Buck’s website, where he admits that:

…I do rip off images from the BBC website because I regard them as public property.

This must be some weird “right-libertarian” interpretation of “public property”. One assumes he means that because almost everyone in UK contributes to the cost of the BBC website through the TV licence fee, images on the website therefore belong to the public at large. But this is nonsense: images on the BBC website are either copyrighted to the organisation or appear under license from other sources – no court would consider them to be “public domain”. And images belonging to the BBC may be used to generate revenue elsewhere which helps to keep the licence fee down; in other words, “ripping off” BBC images arguably amounts to “ripping off” the public. At any rate, it is exactly the same offence as the one which he now believes he should be compensated for over being accused of.

Of course, this is not the first time Staines has made a legal threat against other bloggers: last year he threatened several blogs over the re-publication of a report which had appeared in the Guardian in the mid-1980s. Then, as now, Staines claimed he had in his possession a document which disproved the claims made in the article (in fact, it fell rather short of that). Given his supposed “libertarianism”, and his (mistaken) crowing that by hosting his blog abroad he could not himself be sued in the UK for his writing, many bloggers again charged Staines with hypocrisy.

But the bigger question is: why have such an extreme reaction over such a petty issue? Perhaps the answer is: because he can. Libel actions are incredibly expensive in the UK, and the outcomes uncertain. Should the matter come to court, Tim will be liable for thousands of pounds of potential damages and costs. He may be completely in the right, but who wants to gamble everything they have on the judge agreeing? Often, those accused will meekly pay up or capitulate simply to avoid the costs, hassle, and potential losses.

But what about the potential costs to Staines? After all, he’s not a Russian or Saudi billionaire. In such cases, it helps if you know a friendly lawyer. We don’t know what arrangement Staines has with Blaney, but it should be noted that Blaney is not just any solicitor – he’s a close ideological ally on the “libertarian” right and a well-known Tory activist. According to Wikipedia he was born in 1974, so he was too young to have taken much of a part in the hey-day of 1980s Federation of Conservative Students scene where Staines cut his teeth, but he’s made up for it since. The Guardian profiled him in 2003:

A new right-wing youth organisation – the Young Britons’ Foundation – has been accused of plotting a “Militant-style” take-over of the party’s youth wing, Conservative Future, by senior Tories.

…The founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation, Donal Blaney, is also a controversial figure in the Tory party – he faced accusations of racism, and a complaint by the Commission for Racial Equality, when he ran a Fulham Homes for Fulham People campaign while a councillor in the borough. But Mr Blaney does have some influential friends; the foundation’s parliamentary counsel contains the former Conservative party chairman, Cecil Parkinson, Tory MP Gerald Howarth and shadow deputy prime minister, and likely future leadership contender, David Davis.

…Mr Blaney told Guardian Unlimited that it is compiling a dossier cataloguing examples of “socialist PC” bias on every course on every campus in the country. And he insisted that “all the stuff that gets fed back to us shows that the bias on campus is getting worse”…The site also promises that the foundation will help any student who wants to bring legal action against “abuse of powers by colleges, universities or students’ unions”.

American readers will recognize this kind of thing, and sure enough, he’s a British graduate of the Leadership Institute, in Virginia:

Mr Blaney based the foundation on the “lessons learnt from a collection of American thinktanks, most notably The Young America’s Foundation, The Leadership Institute, The Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in Academia and the American Conservative Union”. And he even launched the group at the Young America’s Foundation’s student conference in Washington earlier this year.

His musings on these “lessons” can be seen here.

So is Staines bluffing? Or will he, like some other conservatives have recently promised, pursue his claim “relentlessly, to trial or capitulation”?

Latvia-Based Anti-Gay Preacher at Atlanta Conference

Part of international evangelism conference

OneNewsNow reports on an evangelism conference in Atlanta:

The three-day conference — called “Synergize” — begins today in an Atlanta, Georgia, church. Pastor Sunday Adelaja, founder of God’s Embassy Church in Kiev, Europe’s largest church, organized the event. Speakers include actor Ben Stein, Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, and Pat Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic.

…Pastor Adelaja believes if the church in America became as “active and aggressive” in culture as the homosexual movement, then the church would have a missions movement that the “world would be proud of again.”

Quite a few figures are involved, ranging from predictable “religious right” culture warriors through to more thoughtful evangelicals like the scholar Leonard Sweet. However, given Adelaja’s apparent preoccupation with “the homosexual movement” (perhaps a reaction against his former close association with Ted Haggard), one attendee in particular may be significant: Alexey Ledyaev, pastor of the New Generation Church in Riga. Ledyaev has an obsession with homosexuality which rivals that of Fred Phelps, and this forms part of an extreme nationalist and Christian dominionist agenda. I blogged him back in September; here he is in full throttle after a Christian counter-protest against gay rights ended in anti-gay violence:

A double policemen cordon around the few mostly foreign homosexuals (at least two policemen per each gay) beating their ownin order to make a way for foreigners this was too much!

A friend of mine grabbed a policeman by his truncheon and asked him,

* Why do you beat the people?
* We were given an order that none of the gay should be hurt.
* And if they tell you to fire at people?
* You should inquire the city council of Riga, said the policeman and pulled out his tool of mass impact.

Security of the gay was more important than security of the people…

Stay home, dear Swedish pederasts, and walk down the streets of your own Stockholm but don’t show up on the squares of Riga.

…Islamization goes full speed wherever homosexual lifestyle is legally accepted. Muslim organizations and committees, centers and mosques, schools are being opened overwhelmingly everywhere…. Homosexuality and islamization are two sides of the medal and integral elements of the one destructive process of European culture and civilization.

In 2005, Ledyaev explained that:

Homosexuality is a…dangerous and contagious disease. The contagious should be isolated and treated. Otherwise, an epidemic will sweep through the entire community.

Ledyaev has also made close links with Scott Lively and Ken Hutcherson, both of who have travelled to Latvia to spread word of the need to persecute homosexuals and to oppose “homosexualists” – a term equivalent to Phelps’s “homosexual enablers”.

Sunday Adelaja, meanwhile, was blogged by me here. He and Ledyaev have been close allies for a while; I noted here Ledyaev’s call for “Christian government” and Adelaja’s response that this would be achieved in Ukraine through the “Just Ukraine” political party.

Name variations: Alexey Ledyaev; Alexei Ledyaev

Clinton for Moon

More at my Ambassadors for Moon blog.

Moldovan President Gets Orthodox Christian Award

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II has doled out another award to a regional leader with a dodgy reputation; the Moscow Times reports:

President Vladimir Putin met with Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin in the Kremlin on Tuesday to discuss trade and possibly a solution for the issue of Transdnestr.

…On Monday, Voronin, the head of Moldova’s Communist Party, received an award for “Outstanding Work to Strengthen the Unity of Orthodox Christian Peoples” from Patriarch Alexy II for resisting the expansion of the Romanian Orthodox church into Moldovan parishes.

Looks like a bit of typical quid pro quo, then. However, this Moldovan report puts a rather more seemly spiritual spin on the award:

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia appreciated the substantial contribution President Vladimir Voronin brought to the process of revival of the moral and spiritual values of the society, Orthodox Church, which was subject to destruction in the period of fight against the faith in God. In this respect, Aleksiy II stressed that the awarding of the prize, For Outstanding Activity to Consolidate Orthodox Nations’ Unity, to the Moldovan president speaks for itself.

[“]What we have done during all these years, and continue to do for the sake of the revival of the Orthodox Church, in the name of consolidation and development of the Moldovan citizens’ spirituality, is an unflinching factor of strengthening the stability in the society and developing the society on the whole. The unity of people and Church determines the peace and mutual understanding which dominate in our society,[“] Vladimir Voronin emphasized.

Alexei’s enthusiasm for Voronin appears to be greater than that felt by most Moldovans, according to this recent Tiraspol Times report:

According to the latest opinion poll, Putin is widely trusted by at least 66 percent of all Moldovans, or two out of three in the country. This compares to less than half that still believe in the virtue of their current leadership: In stark contrast to Putin, only 45 percent trust their own president, Vladimir Voronin. A majority of Moldova’s inhabitants have no faith that their current president is honest or trustworthy.

While Moldova is officially listed as Europe’s poorest country, its president and his close relatives rank as the richest family in the country. Their quick and unexplained road to enormous personal wealth is seen as one of the reasons why only a minority among the voters believe that Vladimir Voronin should still be worthy of their trust.

Voronin has sought to boost his popularity through such subtle means as having his face placed on the country’s stamps, alongside a bootleg EU logo (Moldova is not a member).

Another recipient of awards from Alexei is Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko; in 2002, Alexei awarded Lukashenko the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh “for strengthening unity of Slav peoples”; the year before that, it was a prize from the “International Foundation for Unity of the Orthodox Peoples”, presumably the same award as that now presented to Voronin. As it happens, Lukashenko (commonly known as “Europe’s last dictator”) has recently been opining on the need for church and state to “unite” during the coming year, which he has decreed will be “The Year of Health”.

It’s That Moon Again

A bit of an experiment: I’ve decided to launch a spin-off blog devoted to the Universal Peace Federation and the many prominent “Ambassadors for Peace” who are now associated with the organisation, which was founded by Rev Moon in 2005. The UPF claims to have played a significant role in development and conflict resolution in numerous parts of the world, and a remarkable number of individuals have accepted “Ambassador” status. While various other bloggers and journalists have been keeping an eye on the Unification Church and Moon’s activities in the USA, not much attention has been given to the reports on the UPF that now regularly appear on international news-sites ranging from Azerbaijan to Zambia as well as on the UPF website itself.

Here it is, then:

Ambassadors for Moon

Report: Canadian UPF Given MLK Award by US Consul General

Strange (and slightly confusing) news from the Canadian Gazette (emphasis added):

Emmett (Pops) Johns, the Roman Catholic priest who ministers to Montreal street kids, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, a veteran black community activist, and a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, Alusine Bah, are this year’s local recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award.

The honour is presented by the U.S. Consul General each year to individuals who best exemplify King’s ideals.

…The Universal Peace Federation of Montreal, founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon to promote interreligious reconciliation and family renewal, also received an award.

Mayor Gérald Tremblay presented the awards today at city hall.

So did Mayor Tremblay present the awards, or was it the US Consul General? Or both of them? And did the UPF get the same “Legacy Award”, or something different tacked onto the same ceremony? Alas, there is nothing on the consular or UPF websites, and there are no other media reports…

It is worth noting that the UPF has recently been working closely with King’s son, as I blogged here.

Death Sentence for Afghan Journalist for “Blasphemy”

Follows 2003 and 2005 cases

Index on Censorship has the story of Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, the young Afghan journalist who has been sentenced to death for supposedly downloading and distributing an Iranian article (unidentified) deemed to be blasphemous:

Deeply conservative Afghan clerics, most of whom have never used a computer or the Internet, believe Kambakhsh himself wrote the article and therefore found him guilty of blasphemy.

Because there is no clear punishment for downloading “un-Islamic” articles from the Internet, the primary court of appeal asked clerics to comment. The conservative clerics, who had not investigated the case, demanded the death penalty.

…Afghan Minister of Culture and Information Karim Khuram has said he was sorry to hear that the court has issued a death sentence, but added: “What he did was outside his professional activities and nothing related to journalism. So I have to respect the court.”

Yaqub Ebrahimi, who works for IWPR (Institute for War and Peace Reporting), told me that his brother was being punished for articles and reports that he [Yaqub Ebrahim] had written about local warlords and violators of human rights.

This is in Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, in the conservative north of the country. The BBC has the detail that:

Balkh province’s deputy attorney general, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, warned other journalists that they would be arrested if they attempted to support Kambakhsh.

Further details of Khaliqvar’s outburst are given on Kerala Next, and provide a bit of black comic relief:

Khaliqyar had mistakenly referred to the reporter as “Pervez Musharraf,” the name of the Pakistan president, prompting laughter from the journalists.

“Journalists are supporting Kambakhsh. I will arrest any journalist trying to support him after this,” Khaliqyar stormed.

He also said Kambakhsh had “confessed” and must be punished.

However, according to CNN, Kambakhsh claims that someone else added his name to the document print-out and then distributed it. CNN also notes why Ebrahimi may have been the real target:

Among his best-known pieces was an expose of the “dancing boys,” teenage boys who dress up as girls and dance for male patrons at parties thrown by some commanders in northern Afghanistan.

That report can be seen here, and it includes a condemnation of the practice by Khaliqyar. CNN continues:

In other reports, Ibrahimi has named government officials who extort money from locals, [Jean Mackenzie, country director of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting] said.

The day after Kaambaksh was arrested, authorities paid Ibrahimi a visit and combed through his computer and notebooks looking for names of sources who helped him in his reporting, MacKenzie said.

An article by MacKenzie on the subject can be seen here. It quotes Rahimullah Samander, head of the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association:

“First of all, the arrest of Parwez is illegal,” he told IWPR. “Keeping him in prison for three months was also illegal. The decision by the court and the prosecutor’s office was due to pressure from some political and jihadi groups. This is a plot against Parwez, a well-organised one.”

Karim Khuram, the Minister of Culture and Information who “respects” the court’s decision, is actually not much of a fan of culture – last year he banned a Bollywood film made in Afghanistan entitled Kabul Express and hauled in an actor for questioning. He has also interfered with the running of Radio Television Afghanistan.

This is not the first blasphemy case targeting journalists; back in 2005, Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, who edited a magazine entitled Haqoq-e-Zan (Women’s Rights), received a two-year prison sentence for the crime; it was reduced to six months by the high court in Kabul. Two journalists were also arrested in 2003, as Reporters Without Borders reported at the time:

Sayeed Mahdawi, the editor of the independent, Dari-language weekly Aftab (Le Soleil) and Ali Reza Payam, a journalist with the newspaper, were arrested in Kabul on 17 June because of a column published on 11 June that was deemed to be blasphemous…Headlined “Holy fascism,” the column called for Islam to be adapted to the modern world in the drafting of Afghanistan’s new constitution, condemned the crimes committed in Islam’s name by former mujahideen chiefs, and questioned the supreme court president, a religious conservative close to warlord Abdul Sayyaf. The column also posed the question: “If Islam is the last and most complete of the revealed religions, why do the Muslim countries lag behind the modern world?”

…The government asked a special commission for press freedom and news media evaluation to determine the degree of responsibility of the two journalists before referring the case to the judicial authorities. The information and culture ministry supported the claim that the column was blasphemous. “It was our duty to stop this newspaper’s publication,” the deputy minister said.

This was before Karim Khuram’s appointment as minister.

…Reporters Without Borders revealed on 6 August that the supreme court, in a document that had been kept secret, had also called for the death penalty for Mahdawi and Payam for blasphemy. The 10-page document, signed by the court’s president, confirmed the death penalty request made by the court’s department for fatwas. The government would have been obliged to implement this decision by the country’s highest court, although the case was already before another court, lower in hierarchy. President Karzai had transferred the case to a Kabul civil court fearing the supreme court would hold a blasphemy trial.

The two men were released from jail pending their trial, and they wisely took the opportunity to seek asylum abroad – apparently helped by the same information and culture minister, who doubtless saw this as the easiest way to dig himself out of a hole in the face of international condemnation. This time, though, it looks like that option will not be available, either for the minister’s successor, or for Kambakhsh.

Name variations: Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh; Sayad Parwez Kambaksh; Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi; Aftab; Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi;; Sayed Madawi; Ali Payam Sestan; Ali Payam Sestani

Possible Court Case over Orkney Satanic Panic

Staying with Private Eye, news (p. 29) of a possible court action emerging out of the 1991 Orkney “Satanic Panic” that led to nine children being taken into care by social workers and a number of adults – including the local church minister – accused of ritual abuse. The case is to be brought by “MW”, who was eight years old in 1991 and came to the attention of social workers due to an actually abusive father:

MW was…said to have given social workers the story of widespread ritual abuse; but she has maintained that she was told to copy a picture of a satanic circle supplied by her interviewer. In taped interviews, MW has said that there was no ritual abuse.

MW has been spurred into action by a documentary that appeared British TV in August 2006, entitled Accused:

She was distressed after a key RSSPC social worker opened old wounds by insisting that abuse had taken place.

That would perhaps have been social worker Janette Chisholm, who blithely dismissed the fact all of the supposed victims – now adults – insisted that the “ritual abuse” had not occurred as evidence merely of “denial”. Another social worker featured in the programme perhaps gave away a bit more than he intended to when he admitted bitterly that he and his colleagues had been unprepared for an articulate media campaign launched by the accused parents. MW, who was subsequently abused by foster parents and who left school without qualifications, now wants “an apology and redress”, and she hopes the courts will grant her legal aid to pursue her claim. MW was not included in an apology and compensation package given to the other children because she was in care already.

Back in 2006 it was also announced that families accused of Satanic abuse in Rochdale in 1990 had decided to sue, but there hasn’t been anything in the public domain since. Around the same time, Kyle Sapp in California told reporters that he had been coaxed into lying about Satanic abuse at the McMartin Preschool in the early 1980s. I blogged on all this here.

As it happens, the same issue of the Eye also carries a letter (p. 14) from San Diego psychologist Ellen Lacter, who had written in to defend the work of Valerie Sinason, whom the Eye had criticised in the previous issue (I blogged this here). Lacter praises Sinason for standing “up for victims of ritual crimes when others have been intimidated into silence”. I noted on Talk to Action some months ago that Lacter considers her “mentor” to be Steve Oglevie, who was at the centre of a 1989 incident in Idaho in which the discovery of a dead baby led to a Satanic panic. In 2006 Oglevie was named as a co-defender in a case brought by Donna Marie Krahn, a Canadian woman who claims that she was made to believe that she had been Satanically abused.

Eye Suggests Murdoch Motive for Ban on Cruise Book

The latest Private Eye magazine (1202, p. 26) has some extra context as to why Andrew Morton’s new biography of Tom Cruise is unavailable from Angus & Robertson, the Australian bookshop chain. The obvious reason is the fear of a libel action (as I blogged here), but the Eye also notes that Angus & Robertson is Murdoch-owned, and that Rupert and his son Lachlan are close to James Packer, son of the late Kerry Packer and a friend of Cruise:

Packer is not only Australia’s richest man but also a dedicated Scientologist, having been recruited by Cruise himself – as Morton reveals in his book. No doubt Packer is greatly relieved that his mates the Murdochs are helping to prevent Australians from reading Morton’s scurrilous book about his mate Tom.

Back in May, Packer’s Nine Network was accused of running a “soft” story on Scientology timed to spoil more critical piece on the Seven Network.

Russian Foreign Minister Links Russian Diplomacy to Orthodox Church

An interesting piece from Interfax Religion:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian diplomacy have been traditionally united with common purposes.

‘Work of Russian diplomats has been consonant with the aspirations of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries,’ Lavrov said on Monday evening in the Church Councils hall of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral at the annual awarding ceremony of the Orthodox Peoples’ Unity Foundation.

Lavrov received an award for “strengthening relations with the countries of Eastern Christian tradition and developing common humanitarian space in Europe”:

‘Common spiritual heritage has always been an efficient factor of closing in for Orthodox peoples while outside efforts to disturb this unity appeared unworkable,’ the foreign minister stressed.

He thinks that Russia’s relations with Orthodox countries especially with Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Serbia have reached new level.

In particular, Lavrov indicated Russian support for the Serbian cause in Kosovo.

The importance of the Russian Orthodox Church for Putin was noted a few months ago by Time, following the announcement of the reunification with ROCOR (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia):

Nationalism, based on the Orthodox faith, has been emerging as the Putin regime’s major ideological resource. Thursday’s rite sealed the four-year long effort by Putin, beginning in September 2003, to have the Moscow Patriarchate take over its rival American-based cousin and launch a new globalized Church as his state’s main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument…The Church’s assertiveness and presence is growing — with little separation from the State.

However, while the Russian Orthodox Church is keen to foster Orthodox unity, it has also for a long time challenged the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and a few months ago Russian church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin called for “All-Orthodox meetings” despite relutance from Constantinople. Given the tenuous position of Patriarch Bartholomew – perennially obliged to rely on the good graces of the Turkish government – the subtext seems to be that Moscow ought to be taking the lead here, as it did back in the days when the city was known as the “Third Rome”.

As well as religious unity, the Russian Church likes to promote Slavic solidarity, which is also very useful for Putin. Among those who have been honoured by the Moscow Patriarchate for “strengthening unity of Slav peoples” is none other than Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus (of course, that was before the Russia-Belarus gas dispute).