News Notes 13-02-2012

Abu Qatada released from Gaol today

Perhaps we should follow the example of France and Italy – when confronted with the same problem themselves, they quietly deported the individual and let the court vent it’s wrath. One can understand their point of view. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has proved inadequate to protect us from the likes of Abu Qatada so we have the moral, if not the strict legal, right to take unilateral action.

On the ECHR itself; I don’t have any kind of problem with the notion of human rights, or that they should be upheld. My problem is that bodies like the ECHR are ineffective because they never exist in the places where they are needed; Europe isn’t perfect, I know, but it’s hardly a place where there are so many basic human rights abuses that a special court is needed to deal with them. If the ECHR really wants to do some good, perhaps it should open a branch in Harare or Pyongyang.

But then bodies like the ECHR aren’t really about upholding real human rights are they ? They seem to me to be essentially an example of western society patting itself on the back at how wonderfully enlightened it is – the real human rights abuses meanwhile, carry on unabated.

Apple goods being seized in China following a court case

The big story about Apple in the most of the dailies is about their alleged use of sweatshop labour; the tech sites however mostly are reporting that Apple may have a potentially bigger problem in China. According to China Daily, authorities in the capital of Hebei province, Shijiazhuang city, have been seizing iPad’s from Apple resellers after the company lost a case in the local courts brought by a Chinese company called Proview who claim that they own the trademark “iPad”. According to them, they registered it as their trademark in 2001. The fact that the trademark was originally held by Proview is not disputed by Apple, their understanding is that they purchased rights to use the trademark from Proview Taipei via a UK company called Application Development Limited in 2010. Proview however, claim that the deal allows them to retain the use of the trademark for use in mainland China; the resulting case appearing to stem from what looks like a legal department screw up at Apple.

Apparently it’s going to cost Apple $38m and an apology to settle the case, but nothing is certain in China, where the release of any new Apple product generally causes a stampede. Apple goods are still on sale in Hebei, but re-sellers are apparently keeping them “under the counter”. Legal screw up or not, some commentators have claimed that it’s being exploited politically – possibly just to remind Apple who’s boss.

News International journalists at the Sun are complaining bitterly that News Coprs Management Standards Committee is throwing them to wolves over the bribery allegation in Operation Elevden

“It is all very well for Rupert Murdoch to try to put his arm around us, but he cannot stop what he has set in motion with the MSC. What hurts most is that The Sun had a special bond with Rupert. He loved its wit and mischief. This is a company that used to value loyalty above all else. And now the MSC is flinging people off a cliff.” (Sun journalist quoted in The Times today)

I don’t wish to be unkind, but that’s a bit rich coming from a Sun employee. The reason that News Corp had to set up an MSC in the first place is because nobody believes a word that NI employees at the Sun and (now defunct) NOTW say, right up to the level of senior UK management, and who can blame them. Phone hacking is one thing – that might have conceivably been contained within the UK business. But large scale bribery of public officials – that’s a whole different ball game; under the Foreign Corrupt Practices act, a US company can be prosecuted for bribery that occurred anywhere in the world. This could not only bring down Murdochs’ leadership of News Corp, it could bring down the company itself. Loyalty works both ways methinks; if they admire Murdoch as much as they claim it’s time to come clean before HE is the next casualty of this affair.

No doubt, journalists will say that they have to protect their sources; any policeman knows that they are only as good as their informants, and journalists are no different. Yet there is a significant difference – a police officer can contemplate turning a blind eye to minor criminality if the information leads to a real villain; yet can the Sun really say the same of its informants here – public servants all who stand accused of bribery. A journalist going to gaol to protect the identity of a vital source is a noble and lofty thing, but to protect the identity of a public official accused of Bribery – that one is harder sell.

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