RTL apologizes for spreading revenge porn

I recently wrote a blogpost about the media helping spreading revenge porn. In that post I mentioned how the German TV channel RTL had spread revenge porn of Danish feminist Emma Holten in a program about her.

As I mentioned in the blogpost, Emma Holten was taking steps towards legal action against RTL, and now there are more news on the matter.

The magazine of the Danish journalist union brings the news that RTL has settled with Emma Holten (article in Danish). The settlement involves RTL apologizing, acknowledging that they had violated Emma Holten, and giving a sizable compensation.

According to the article, and to Emma Holten’s comments on facebook and instagram (both links in Danish), this is a very satisfactory result, since it saves the trouble of a court case in Germany, and it sends a clear signal that media can’t violate the privacy of people just because somebody already had done so.

Congratulations to Emma Holten on a good result – hopefully she never has to fight this fight ever again.

 

Denmark overhauls its tax department

Outside the country, Denmark is known for its high tax rates. This would probably lead people outside Denmark to believe that the Danish taxation system is a well-oiled machine. If you live in Denmark, you know this is hardly the case however, as the Tax Department has been riddled with scandals.

These scandals have mostly related to IT projects, but in recent times, they have also related to bad controls, which have led to foreign swindlers getting tax returns that they should not have had in the region of $2 billion. On top of that, are problems with collecting back taxes and other money owned the state.

The scandals, and especially the loss of such a huge amount, has led to a major reform of the tax department.

Bloomsberg writes about it in this article: Billions in Losses Trigger Danish Overhaul of Taxation Model

Of course, the headline of the Bloomsberg article is nonsense – the Danish taxation model is going to stay the same. Rather it is the processes for paying out tax returns and collecting past taxes is getting overhauled, with more controls and better IT systems. As part of the overhaul, the department system of the Ministry of Taxation with get overhauled, splitting the Tax Department (which is one of the departments under the Ministry) into several departments. This is done to strengthening the expertise in the problem areas.

As someone who works with IT projects, I am curious of how the new structure and focus will change their way of doing IT. Many of the projects have in the past been huge projects, largely based on the waterfall model,  but in the last couple of years, both the Ministry of Taxation and the Taxation Department have tried to change this. The Ministry of Taxation has tried to change it by doing the development themselves, while the Taxation Department has tried to break projects into smaller bits, and using Agile.

All in all, it seems like a great idea to overhaul the department and ministry, but it comes down to the actual implementation.

Trump has lost the neoconservatives

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is doing pretty bad in a number of demographics, and is pretty much doing well in one demographic: white men. And even in that demographic, Clinton is catching up.

Even among white men, there are sub-demographics where Trump is doing bad. Some of these are unsurprising, e.g. he is doing badly among LGBT, young men and men with college or higher degree, while others are a bit more surprising, e.g. neoconservatives.

In one sense, it makes sense that neoconservatives are against Trump – they are usually highly educated and international in their outlook. In another sense, it is highly surprising – they are extremely partisan on behalf of the Republican party, and they generally dislike the Clintons. In recent months, however, a number of neoconservatives have come out and said that they would not vote for Trump, and probably would vote for Clinton instead.

The most recent is Paul Wolfowitz, joining people like Bill Kristol in explicitly stating that he is preferring Clinton over Trump.

The Atlantic has a good cheat sheet of where the different Republicans are standing on Trump.

Looking down the list, I am not surprised that monsters like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are backing Trump, but I can’t help being amazed by how many GOP politicians and intellectuals have abstained or even directly opposed the official presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

Think of what this would mean, in the highly unlikely case of Trump winning the election. There would be some kind of civil war in the GOP, probably resulting in a lot of prominent people either leaving the party or getting expelled (Trump doesn’t take opposition nicely).

Even if Clinton wins, as everything points towards right now, there will be a deep schism in the party – probably bigger than the one that the Tea Party takeover created. This would probably mean that the Republican party would spend more time and resources on fighting itself. While this sounds great, the Tea Party takeover of the GOP shows that this might actually be harmful, pushing moderates out and giving power to the extremists.

The only way I see avoiding that, is if Clinton and the Democrats win big, showing that the majority of the electorate rejects extremism, giving GOP moderates the leverage.

Podcast recommendation: The Z List Dead List

This post is an attempt to a new series of blogposts, recommending good podcasts I’ve come across.

First on the list, is The Z List Dead List, a podcast by Iszi Lawrence, based on her comedy show of the same name.

The basic concept of the show is that Iszi Lawrence invites comedians (and others) to come and talk about a person who is a) dead, and b) should be more widely known.

This concept allows for a great series of podcasts, where you get introduced to some interesting people from history. There is a British bias in the selection, but even so, we get introduced to a pretty widespread selection of people through the 7 series, that exists so far.

Given that Iszi Lawrence is a feminist and a skeptic, the podcast is great in these areas, and several of the episodes includes people from these areas.

If you have any comments to the podcast, or have any suggestions for podcasts that I should check out please let me know in the comments,

Acknowledging past wrongs

Out of Victoria, Australia comes the story about a moral policeman, Denis Ryan, who did was what was right, even when it destroyed his career.

They destroyed Denis Ryan’s police career. Now they admit he was right all along

He [Denis Ryan] refused to buckle when his bosses wanted him to ignore a paedophile priest and then was hounded from the job in a conspiracy that many believe went all the way to the chief commissioner’s office.

Now, 44 years after he was forced to resign because he cared more for children than his professional future, he has been vindicated in the very office where his career was destroyed.

It was only a few words and a handshake but when Ashton formally apologised on behalf of the police force it was the final vindication for a man who refused to be crushed by two powerful institutions.

40 years ago, there was a powerful Catholic fraction of the Victorian police force which covered over the crimes of members of the Catholic Church, allowing them to continue. Denis Ryan didn’t accept this, and fought against not only the Catholic Church but also the Victorian police force, trying to get justice to the victims, and stop any more crimes from happening.

Unfortunately, while he did get some results, the collected power of the two institutions were too powerful, and Ryan was forced out of the police force, thus allowing predatory priests to continue for decades more.

Current Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has now acknowledged that Ryan was treated wrong. This is not only an important acknowledgement of past wrongs in the police force, but it also means that Ryan will get some sort of compensation for being forced out of the police force (something which cost him his police pension).

For more about Denis Ryan and his investigations, you can listen to more here: Conversations with Richard Fidler – Former police officer Denis Ryan’s devoted quest for justice

Media, don’t spread revenge porn!

I find it amazing that it is necessary for me to write this post, but it appears to be necessary.

When you are a journalist, TV reporter, blogger, or any other type of media person reporting on revenge porn, you shouldn’t help spread the revenge porn!

Again and again, we see news stories reporting on revenge porn, in which examples of said revenge porn (sometimes censored) is included.

This is not OK. This helps spreading the revenge porn, and harm the victims.

A recent example of this is the German TV channel RTL, which in June reported on the story of Emma Holten who had pictures of her leaked on the internet, and as a response created some new pictures of herself, to take back ownership of her body. This has been widely reported on, e.g. in this video at the Guardian: Someone stole naked pictures of me. This is what I did about it.

RTL had made a story about Emma Holten and her experiences last year, where they used the new pictures, after having obtained the right to use them.

This time around, they also showed the new pictures of Emma Holten, but they also showed some of the original leaked photos, uncensored. As a matter of fact, they apparently spent more time on showing the leaked photos than the others.

All this happened without Emma Holten being informed about it, and thus obviously without her consent.

The Guardian has a good article on the incident and the results of it: Revenge porn survivor may take legal action against German TV firm

What the Guardian article doesn’t make clear is that RTL at first was dismissive of Emma Holten’s objections, saying there was a language barrier at play, but since then, the channel has apologized and removed the program from the internet, and promised that it won’t ever be broadcasted again.

Currently I don’t know if Emma Holten will press on with legal action, but if she does, she has my full support, and I hope that it will stop other medias from helping spread revenge porn in the future.

Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub schedule

The schedule for Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub has been organized for the rest of the year.

The talks take place at Café Nutid at 19:00. All talks will be in Danish. The links take you to a facebook event for the talk – it is not necessary to sign up and it is free to participate.

12. september: Sidsel Kjems: Hvad ved du om folkekirkens økonomi?

10. oktober: Niels Marthinsen: Musik og naturvidenskab

14. november: Andreas Hoff og Kim Bartholdy: 100 myter om sundhed

12. december: Nanna Rolving: Status på HPV-vaccinen

We are busy trying to create the schedule for the first half of 2017, and always welcome suggestions to subjects and speakers relating to science and skepticism. Talks can be in Danish or English.

Lazy linking

A round up of interesting articles and posts that I have come across the last couple of weeks.

400-year-old Greenland shark is oldest vertebrate animal

The Guardian article is about the newest research into the Greenland shark which indicates that they have a lifespan of centuries, and might be the oldest vertebrate animals around. The scientists did this by looking at the carbon-14 in the eyes of some captured sharks, and used this to estimate the ages of the specimens. This is obviously imprecise, but it does clearly indicate that the sharks have been around for a long time.

As a side note, this article can’t help remind of the old story about the bowhead whale swimming around with a 100-year old harpoon fragment embedded in it.

 

In other marine news, it appears that humpback whales protect potential prey from Orcas, even when the prey is of entirely different species, such as seals.

Humpback whales interfering when mammal-eating killer whales attack other species: Mobbing behavior and interspecific altruism?

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are known to interfere with attacking killer whales (Orcinus orca). To investigate why, we reviewed accounts of 115 interactions between them. Humpbacks initiated the majority of interactions (57% vs. 43%; n = 72), although the killer whales were almost exclusively mammal-eating forms (MEKWs, 95%) vs. fish-eaters (5%; n = 108). When MEKWs approached humpbacks (n = 27), they attacked 85% of the time and targeted only calves. When humpbacks approached killer whales (n = 41), 93% were MEKWs, and ≥87% of them were attacking or feeding on prey at the time. When humpbacks interacted with attacking MEKWs, 11% of the prey were humpbacks and 89% comprised 10 other species, including three cetaceans, six pinnipeds, and one teleost fish. Approaching humpbacks often harassed attacking MEKWs (≥55% of 56 interactions), regardless of the prey species, which we argue was mobbing behavior. Humpback mobbing sometimes allowed MEKW prey, including nonhumpbacks, to escape. We suggest that humpbacks initially responded to vocalizations of attacking MEKWs without knowing the prey species targeted. Although reciprocity or kin selection might explain communal defense of conspecific calves, there was no apparent benefit to humpbacks continuing to interfere when other species were being attacked. Interspecific altruism, even if unintentional, could not be ruled out.

Nation Geographic has a good write up about this: Why Humpback Whales Protect Other Animals From Killer Whales

 

In completely unrelated news, it appears that better health coverage makes people more healthy. Hardly a surprising information, but there are now actual data to back this common-sense conclusion up.

Obamacare Appears to Be Making People Healthier

A few recent studies suggest that people have become less likely to have medical debt or to postpone care because of cost. They are also more likely to have a regular doctor and to be getting preventive health services like vaccines and cancer screenings. A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers another way of looking at the issue. Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand.

It seems incredible that it is necessary to collect data about this, when it is so obvious that it would be the case. There are, however, many things that appears obvious, which turns out to be wrong, so it is good that the researchers uses this opportunity to find data to expand our knowledge.

 

Jennifer Raff has written a very interesting post about human cannibalism:

Cannibalism and Human Evolution

The post starts out with the following bit of family story:

One of my aunts was once asked during an interview for a position in the criminal justice field “Is there any kind of criminal you don’t feel you could work with?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Have you ever seen ‘The Silence of the Lambs?’ I don’t do cannibals.”

This reminds me of a story I was once told by an elderly lady from New Zealand, who told about back when she went to school, and one of her teachers explained to the class that people used to be cannibals, but that this no longer was the case, and that they of course don’t know what humans taste like, to which a Maori girl in the class put her hand in the air, and said, “excuse me miss, it tastes like chicken”.

The girl, who almost certainly didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of this, didn’t make any friends in the class.

There certainly is a strong taboo surrounding cannibalism. Probably especially so when you are in areas where it has been practiced within the last couple of centuries.

 

ThinkProgress has a good article on John Lott, a pro-gun “scientist” who is actually a fraud:

The NRA’s Favorite Gun “Academic” Is A Fraud

The United States seems to be in a perpetual cycle mourning mass shootings in the country. This year alone, there have already been 233 mass shootings, where four or more victims were shot, leaving 310 dead and 930 injured. But every time another shooting happens, advocates pop up arguing that more guns don’t actually lead to more violence and stall the much-needed conversation about gun control.

John Lott is, if not the most influential, certainly the most prolific “academic” in the gun debate. He has authored weekly columns in local newspapers on the horrors of gun free zones, published widely-distributed books on the ostensible benefits of right-to-carry laws, and his newest book The War on Guns has received rave reviews by prominent conservatives, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Newt Gingrich.

I had missed the fact that John Lott had turned up again like a bad penny.

As the ThinkProgress article explains, John Lott lies and distorts gun statistics, makes undocumented claims, lies about his data and research, and has been caught sockpuppeting both book reviews and comments to articles and blogposts.

Tim Lambert at Deltoid has done a lot of work debunking John Lott’s stuff in the past.

It’s Climategate all over again

A couple of weeks ago, apparently timed to cause most damage to the DNC and Hillary Clinton, Wikileaks leaked a number of emails taken from the DNC mail servers by hackers, which appears to be Russian, or have ties to Russia.

After the leak, Wikileaks tweeted out a number of claims about the content of the emails, often linking to a specific email as some kind of evidence. This was picked up by others, and others also added new claims.

Just about all of these claims have now been pretty much debunked (see e.g. here)

The only part that hasn’t been debunked is the fact that several of the DNC staff expressed displeasure with Bernie Sanders, and made suggestions on how to stop him. None of which appears that anyone has followed up upon. Several high position DNC staffers have resigned because of this.

Looking at this, I can’t help thinking of Climategate.

Apart from the Russian hacker connection, there are also many other similarities:

The emails were released at a time to maximize their harm. In Climategate, the emails were released just before the Copenhagen Summit, and was a major cause of the very limited results from the summit. In the DNC emails, they were released just before the DNC convention, but with limited results.

Frustrated comments were taken as evidence for nefarious plots. In Climategate, frustrated scientists wrote about how to stop bad science from getting published, and about withholding data from people they knew would twist and misuse them. In the DNC emails, DNC staffers talked about how to harm the Sanders campaign. In neither cases, did any of the emails lead to any actual actions!

Emails are quoted out of context. In both Climategate and the DNC mails, there are many passages that appears problematic if devoid of context. These are of course those passages that gets quoted all the time. Looking at those passages in context, they suddenly appear much more reasonable (or as the words of a frustrated person, as described above).

The Climategate mails managed to do real, everlasting harm to the planet, by derailing the summit and make the scientist take time to defend themselves. Time they could have spent on research instead.

So far, it appears that the DNC mails haven’t had the same effect, probably because many of us are wiser to the methods of the attackers, and because new technology makes it easier to look up the facts. There is still a risk that the DNC mails might cause lasting damage though – if they somehow gives Trump and the GOP a leverage, allowing him to win. That would cause harm not only to the DNC or even the US, but to the entire world.

In other words, it is important to ensure that any claims about the DNC mails are met swiftly and resoundingly.

Theoretically, the DNC mails could still hold a ticking bomb for the Hillary campaign, but that is highly doubtful. If they did, someone would already have brought it up.

On a passing note, I will just say that it is highly likely that we will see similar email dumps in the future, and it is important to remember Climategate (and the DNC mails), when reacting. Instead of just believing any claims made about what they say, make sure to check the actual mails out, and to do so in context.