U.S. Religious Zealots Sneak Into Scottish Schools Without Parents’ Knowledge to ‘Help’ With Lesson Plans

U.S. Religious Zealots Sneak Into Scottish Schools Without Parents’ Knowledge to ‘Help’ With Lesson Plans.

“British newspaper the Daily Record just revealed that a U.S.-dispatched group of Christians, affiliated with the Church of Christ, has been helping out in Scottish schools. Head teacher Sandra MacKenzie (pictured below) of the 400-pupil Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride knew what the missionaries were up to — the paper says she even invited them – but the kids’ parents were left in the dark. They only realized what was happening when their children came home with Creationist books they had been given at assembly. “


I recommend reading the rest a U.S. Religious Zealots Sneak Into Scottish Schools Without Parents’ Knowledge to ‘Help’ With Lesson Plans.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things…

I’m okay with religion, I’ll happily give a spirited defence of someone’s belief in a supreme being. I’m more uneasy with the idea of presenting religion to children before they have shown an ability to distinguish between differing philosophies. I’m very uneasy about religion being presented as fact. I’m generally incensed by the idea of religion flat out contradicting scientific evidence.

To give the balanced view – this is external group helping out at a presumably short-staffed school, who handed out some books on Monday, presumably the teachers at the school, had a quick glance at them (the article commically mentions a parent saying “They looked fair enough at a glance and one had a dinosaur on the front”) and though ‘isn’t it lovely that these volenteers even bring materials for kids’) So I’d like to hesitate a little before we take torches and pitchforks to the teachers.

The thing that sticks in my mind here, is that when I was at a (Catholic) primary school, my class was given a copy of the New Testament each. If this Christian school in predominately Christian Scotland had given each kid a little copy of the bible, which (read literally) includes a range of things on which children can ask awkward questions of their parents, then I don’t believe that parents, papers or public would have batted an eye. You can certainly imagine a confused North American Missionary being deeply mistifed by the idea that the UK is fine with Leveticus, but fiercely objects to putting the message of gensis into a children’s book…

Orginal story in this piece…


Stripping Kindle DRM with Lego

From HackADay…. Stripping Kindle DRM with Lego.

HackADay has a nice post about a guy who has built a lego machine to take the copy-protection off his kindle ebooks – the machine presses the ‘next page’ button on his Kindle, then the space bar on his Mac to take a picture. These pictures are then sent to a cloud-based text recognition service. After a few hours of this there is a copy of the eBook in plain text format sitting in his computer.  You can read the story and see the video at HackADay I’m posting here because it’s a nice example of the key problem with copyright protection mechanism: sooner or later the format has to be delivered in a way that humans can consume, and at that point, machines can consume it in any format they like…

Activist dropped by disability charity over offensive tweets (updated)

(For those coming back for a second time – the edit is as the bottom of the article)

From The Disability News Service we have

A disability charity [Leonard Cheshire Disability(LCD)] has had to scrap plans to sponsor a disabled activist to attend the Labour party conference, after it was alerted to a string of offensive messages he sent other disabled campaigners on the social networking website Twitter.

This has been making the rounds on Twitter recently, and I’ve been thinking about it a little. The activist in question, Simon Stevens (@simonstevens74 as it happens) is someone I quite like the existence of. For sure, we would, if we corresponded, disagree about almost everything that it is possible to disagree about including, but not limited to, politics, disability rights, accessibility,  engagement style, and polite use of Twitter, but netherless I pay attention to him, partly because I think ignoring people who disagree with you isn’t a particularly healthy way for a society to function, but also because it is oddly nice to know that the disability community is no more homogenous than any other community.

Regarding some of the facts – there’s an interesting (and I think well recovered from PR standpoint) side to this: the statement by LCD said:

“We have decided to withdraw our support for an independent campaigner attending the Labour Party conference. We made this decision with regret after we had read recent public statements by them.

“The purpose of the Access All Areas programme is to enable campaigners to express their own personal views at conferences. But we have always made it clear to them that this should be done with courtesy and respect for others.”

Which is kind of interesting: the notice appears to say that it’s not Steven’s views that are a problem (they are certainly not mainstream-disability, as a range of bloggers have noted) , or the reactions of other people with disabilities to the idea of him in some sense representing them (which have been… forthright) , it’s that he expresses them in an impolite way. Which I think says are remarkable amount about british culture in its right…

For interest, the text of the Access to All scheme is here (it doesn’t mention representing the community as a whole). It’s also worth reading the Kittysjones piece on the subject, (which gets bonus marks for quoting and linking to sources).

EDIT – 1 month later,

I’m updating this piece because Simon has made his side of the story known…. and has put forward a campaign. I’m going to applaud several things about this.  Primarily, he’s put forward (I understand) all of the documents relevent to the campaign, even those that show him in a poor light – and that sort of disclosure is something I’d like to see more of regardless of where one is on the ideological scale.


But that’s not the most important thing, the most important thing is that far too many disabled people are ignored, far too many are patronised, and far too many are taught to be content with what they are given. And if there is one thing I can say about Simon Stevens, is that if he thinks he’s being mistreated, he will raise hell.  For anyone with a disability, a health condition,  a vulnerability – I would rather they were disagreeing with me than being silent.


Recording communication

Visual of letter sent by job centre

From Skwawkbox I came across a rather sad example of secrecy in bureaucracy. The crux of the issue is that a benefit claimant would like to be able to record their conversations with the officials concerned and the officials don’t like this, to the extraordinary length that they appear to have referred the claimant to a psychologist. The mysteries of the psychologist angel are beyond me. But I am passionate about information, open information, and accessible information. It’s not obvious to me why someone said by a official, while officially discharging their official duties, is not to be recorded. I *can* see why the statements made by the claimant might have privacy implications and why certainly no information should be made public without the claimant’s consent. Does every 100th claimant get given a state secret? (an *actual* reasonable reason might be that one might accidentally record the private conversation going on at the desk next door, but that’s not what’s going on here)

From the point of view of the claimant I can see it might be useful to record conversations for such purposes as:

  • Because you have a poor memory,
  • Because you have trouble reading and writing and struggle to make notes
  • Because the information being imparted about benefits and taxation and jobs is complex and you are more likely to understand on a second listening
  • Because you get the feeling you’ve been screwed around by the system a little much and you’d like to have a record of what’s going on.

For the record, during my PhD I would record supervision meetings/tutorials that I had with my supervisors (with their full advance permission) and found that on a second listen I understood vastly more that I did at the time. I highly recommend audio recordings wherever possible.

And this is were the disability angle comes in properly, because it’s quite hard to have clear-cut issues when one brings in the full spectrum of use cases.  So If I’m not allowed to perform an audio recording, am I allowed to bring along a shorthand typist who will accurately note down every word we say? If I am, then I’ve got an auto-transcription app on my phone – you speak near it and it produces as text the words you said – that’s no a recording, is that okay?

You make thing I’m being silly with this and I am, but I’m heading to a serious point. Because I do a lot of work with Augmentative Alternative Communication AAC devices like these:

For the people who use them, Stephen Hawking is the example that everbody has heard of, they are often the only possible way of communicating. And, in many designs, the automatically log what people have used them to say. So if an AAC-user goes into the jobcentre, are they allowed to use their device to communication? After all they are automatically recording the entirely of one side of the communication…

From Skwawkbox via Samedifference

#remember to do via samedifferenece

There’s lots I don’t understand about copyright enforcement…

Regardless of your stance on Copyright infringement, it’s worth following Torrentfreak’s News feed for some fairly well-researched journalism relevent to technical and security issues.

Today, their story is the treatment of a UK man who is currently bailed for videoing  films at the cinema… and there is so much I don’t understand about the story.

From the article: 

Five unmarked police vehicles were sent to arrest a man in the UK following allegations that he ‘cammed’ the movie Fast and Furious 6 and put it online. After being banned from every cinema in the country the 24-year-old was released on bail.

But now, three weeks in advance of his bail date, things have started moving again with yet another surprising turn of events.

Earlier this week police and FACT turned up at the man’s home in the West Midlands armed with a new search warrant issued by a magistrate, this time in relation to the camming of the movie ‘Epic’.

First of all, I wasn’t actually aware that filming in a cinema was still a thing – I understood that the piracy that can believably affect Box office and DVD sales is the copying of DVDs and the leaking of early screeners and preview copies. I can completely understand why that’s a problem – and given that such things are widely leaked I can’t quite see why its worth somebody’s time and effect to go to the cinema with a camcorder.  More to the point – surely it’s in FACT’s interest that movie piracy is flooded with poor quality rubbish because then people have a greater incentive to buy DVDs? is that not right? So I don’t understand either the motivation of a guy recording in the cinema, or the guys stopping him.

After being taken to a police station at 8am the man was questioned and held for more than eight hours. Interestingly and despite significant resources invested in the original raid, the police informed the man that charges against him in respect of Fast and Furious 6 had been dropped. There would, however, be new charges.

“When I was eventually interviewed at 4pm I was questioned again by FACT in relation to the Fast and Furious 6 cam, which I ‘politely’ declined to answer any questions about,” he told TorrentFreak.

I’m also deeply confused by police procedure here – if someone has recorded a video at the cinema and uploaded it somewhere, and you have enought evidence to arrest them, then I’m somewhat confused as to why you get held for eight hours.  There isn’t a public safety justification for a start, but more to the point, the evidence would all be electronic anyway – and the electronic evidence would make this pretty open and shut – either there’s a evidence trail on a laptop somewhere or there isn’t – and that makes it pretty open and shut in either direction. Can someone give me a clue as to why he’s held for 8hours instead of a 30 minute, set of ‘Was it you?’ questions and the police sending his electronics to one of the digial forensics teams?


In the Press

Some of my research (Domesday related) appeared in the online press this week – Children face postcode lottery for communication aids – In ‘Children and Young People Now’ (picture is their own).

There is a postcode lottery in accessing electronic aids for children and young people with communication impairments, new research suggests.


Electronic aids can be vital for helping disabled young people communicate. Image: Communication Matters

More than five years after the publication of the Bercow Review, which first highlighted the inconsistent nature of NHS provision of communication aids across England, analysis of data has discovered “strong evidence” that a postcode lottery still exists for children and young people.
The research by Royal Holloway academic Joseph Reddington found that there was no provision of communication aids for children, young people or adults in a range of NHS regions across the country…

You can read the rest here

Alice through the looking glass

From wikipedia:

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) is a work of  literature by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). It is the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May (May 4),[1] uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on November 4 (the day before Guy Fawkes Night),[2] uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. In it, there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.

There are only 12 chapters numbered from 1-12. and you can click on the diagram for a closure look.

The Count of Monte Cristo

From wikipedia:

The Count of Monte Cristo (FrenchLe Comte de Monte-Cristo) is an adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas, père. It is often considered to be, along with The Three Musketeers, Dumas’ most popular work. He completed the work in 1844. Like many of his novels, it is expanded from the plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.[1]

The story takes place in FranceItaly, islands in the Mediterranean and the Levant during the historical events of 1815-1838 (from just before the Hundred Days through to the reign of Louis-Philippe of France). The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book. It is an adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness.

Apologies for the massive diagram: there are 117 chapters numbered from 1-117. and you can click on the diagram for a closure look (you’d probably want to)

Gone with the wind

From Wikipedia:

Gone with the Wind, first published in May 1936, is a romantic novel written by Margaret Mitchell, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the book in 1937. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The novel depicts the experiences of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to come out of the poverty that she finds herself in after Sherman’s March to the Sea. The book is the source of the 1939 film of the same name.

There are 63 chapters numbered from 1-63. and you can click on the diagram for a closure look.

Great Expectations

From Wikipedia:

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It was first published in serial form in the publication All the Year Round[1] from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. It has been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times.[2]

Great Expectations is written in the first person from the point of view of the orphan Pip. The novel, like much of Dickens’ work, draws on his experiences of life and people.

The text is conveniently split into 59 chapters and clicking on the image gives you, well, a bigger image

Treasure Island

From Wikipedia:

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of “pirates and buried gold”. First published as a book on 23rd May 1883, it was originally serialized in the children’s magazine Young Folksbetween 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island; or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola and the pseudonym Captain George North.

Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, it is an adventure tale known for its atmosphere, character and action, and also a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality—as seen in Long John Silver—unusual for children’s literature then and now. It is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perception ofpirates is vast, including treasure maps with an “X”, schoonersthe Black Spottropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.[1]


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling, and was published on 21 June 2003 by Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom, Scholastic in the United States, and Raincoast in Canada. Five million copies were sold in the first 24 hours after release.[1]

The novel features Harry Potter’s struggles through his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including the surreptitious return of Harry’s nemesis Lord VoldemortO.W.L. exams, and an obstructiveMinistry of Magic.

It’s got 38 chapters and clicking on the diagram will give you a closer look.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone


From Wikipedia:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard. It describes how Harry discovers he is a wizard, makes close friends and a few enemies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and with the help of his friends thwarts an attempted comeback by the evil wizard Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents when Harry was one year old.

There are 17 Chapters and clicking on the diagram will give you a closer look.

Brave New World

From wikipedia:

Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurology. Huxley answered this book with a reassessment in an essay, Brave New World Revisited (1958), and with his final work, a novel titled Island (1962).

There are 18 Chapters and you can click on the diagram for a closer look.