A P2P Web site was blocked in Israel with practically no publicity

The httpshare.com P2P Web site was blocked by the three largest Israeli ISPs, yet this fact received no publicity in Israel and I found out about this only from Slashdot.
More details – in: IFPI gets Israeli ISPs to block Hebrew peer-to-peer site.
I found that technically, the blocking was accomplished by directing httpshare.com to
My biggest shock is from the lack of publicity this blockage received inside Israel – none of the Internet news Web sites and no blogs, which I follow, mentioned this.

Warning to drivers in countries which persecute sex customers

If you live in a country like Sweden or USA, in which people who buy sex from prostitutes can be persecuted, then do not be a good samaritan if you see a woman in apparent distress on road:

Good Samaritan Sex Offender
Chicago Man Sues after Prostitution Arrest

Abysmal Quality of Breathanalyzers Software

In Israel, if you drive a car and a policeman asks you to submit yourself to test by breathanalyzer to determine whether you are drunk or not, you must submit to test. Otherwise, you will be deemed to have driven under influence.

What if the instrument wrongly determines that you have blood concentration of ethanol above the legal limit?

At least one breathanalyzer used in USA was proven to have criminally unreliable software. For example, “the software takes an airflow measurement at power-up, and presumes this value is the “zero line” or baseline measurement for subsequent calculations. No quality check or reasonableness test is done on this measurement.”

Based upon past experience with car speed measurement radar guns in Israel, I am skeptical whether Israeli courts would accept such information as defense by people wrongly accused of drunk driving.

Software-driven instruments used for medical diagnosis are subjected to stringent quality requirements and strict regulations (see, for example, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Premarket Notification 510(k)) before the manufacturer is allowed to sell the instrument. Currently, no similar legal framework exists for regulating instruments used for law enforcement.

Freedom of expression for primary and high school teachers

I was prompted to write this by a request, which I received today.

Some background information: large part of the contents of my DEAF-INFO Web site is material, which was posted to the DEAF-L mailing list by various subscribers over the years. When the mailing list was active, I saved the best posts and put them in the Web site, with attribution to the original contributor.

The request, which I received today, was to remove the attributions to a particular contributor.

In the past I received similar requests. Upon further questioning, it turned out that most of those requests were made by people, who expressed their strong opinions about various deafness related issues, while they were students. Few years later, they were to get jobs as teachers in schools of the deaf. Then they were concerned that they’ll get into trouble because of the opinions, which they expressed in the past.

I asked someone, who teaches in a regular primary school, about this. She explained to me that teachers are forbidden to publicly express their opinions. The teachers are usually state or county employees. The only people authorized to publicize opinions are the employer’s public relations specialists.

I believe that this state of affairs is rather unfortunate. Teachers work “in the trenches” – they deal with pupils with learning disabilities, they deal with non-working educational methodologies, they deal with poorly-designed materials. They should be able to criticize non-working methods of instruction. If their school principal does not improve the methods, the teachers should be free to publicize their criticism. This would allow parents to ultimately have a say in improving the quality of instruction their children receive.

This is important especially in the area of deaf education, which is especially rife with conflict among different goals (integration vs. separate identity), philosophies (oral vs. Sign Language) and a bewildering choice of communication methods.

Treatment of terminal patients by unapproved drugs

In a recent case brought before a federal appeals court in USA, the court ruled that patients with terminal illnesses do not have a constitutional right to use medicines that have not yet won regulatory approval.

There is a big gap in the reporting about the case in question. It was not stated whether the pharmaceutical companies in question would supply the experimental drugs for free or at most for nominal cost; or whether they would require the terminal patients to pay full price for those drugs.

On one hand, selling unapproved & experimental drugs to patients with terminal illnesses is akin to making loans bearing usurious interest to people with poor money handling skills, or to bilking gullible victims by witch doctors. Patients or their next of kin could be induced to part with huge amounts of money in a futile last-ditch attempt to save their lives. Such an activity should rightly be banned.

On the other hand, if a pharmaceutical company is willing to provide an experimental drug free of charge, then the above considration does not apply. The company’s researchers have to believe in the drug for them to want to foist it on the terminal patients. In such a case, the company would have no financial incentive to foist untested drugs on gullible victims. The only benefit the company would get would be from having more clinical experience with the experimental drug.

My suspicion is that the case in question was about the right of pharmaceutical companies to foist, for a pay, experimental drugs on terminal patients. It would be interesting to see who is really behind the Abigail Alliance, the case’s litigants.

Responsible adult vs. lawsuit-happy childish

There are some countries, in which people are lawsuit-happy. USA is the notorious example. In such countries, whenever something bad happens to someone, he sues the nearest deep-pocketed individual or organization.

As a reaction, several organizations make laws restricting the freedom of people to take risks and do things. The organizations know that they cannot expect people to take responsibility for their mistakes.

The result is that even responsible people have their freedom limited. Because someone else was bruised and sued the organization for $2 million, you cannot take that shortcut way but have to walk the long way.

The problem is that people do not declare if they want to be treated as responsible adults or as irresponsible (but lawsuit-happy) children. My proposal is that each service provider shall register its clients as either childish or mature.

  • If you are childish, you are restricted, but can sue the organization for any slight wrongdoing.
  • If you are mature, you are expected to accept responsibility for whatever is happening to you. You may sue only at extreme circumstances.

People will declare how they want to be treated – as childish or as mature. The declaration for one organization is not related to declaration for another organization.

The distinction is by competence. For example, someone may want to be adult car driver yet childish scuba diver. Some organizations may want to provide more than two maturity levels (gradual steps from childish to mature). The declaration is not reversible – once you declared yourself as a mature adult, you cannot revert to being childish.

If you do not know if you can handle a situation, you may want the organization serving you to provide you with a self-test to help you decide if you want to be considered as childish or as mature in your dealings with the organization in question.

Debugging the mechanism of sending feedback on GPLv3

I am subscribed to the GPLv3 Information mailing list. About two weeks ago, the new draft of GPLv3 was announced. I reviewed it and had four comments.

I tried to submit the comments via the provided E-mail address. The system requires you to associate your comment with a fragment from the GPLv3 draft. I associated my comments with fragments as requested.

All four E-mail messages bounced back to me – the fragments were not found in the draft.

I sent a bug report (gnu.org #333022). I was told that I found a bug in the comments handling system, and that now the bug has been fixed. I was asked to resubmit my comments. I resubmitted all four comments.

I got messages about delayed local delivery of my E-mail messages, but no confirmations of receipt of my comments arrived.

Another bug report was sent (gnu.org #333429). Again, apology for the problem with the E-mail system. The problem was fixed, and I was asked to resubmit my comments, which I did today.

This time, confirmation messages arrived after less than 5 minutes (Comment #2930, Comment #2931, Comment #2932, Comment #2933). The status of the above comments can be tracked by surfing to the appropriate link. For example, Comment #2930 can be tracked by browsing http://gplv3.fsf.org/comments/rt/readsay.html?id=2930.

I feel proud of myself. Not only did I make some comments, but I also cleared the way for other people to contribute to this very important review of the GPLv3.

Rabbi Eliashiv declared war on the deaf!

Rabbi Eliashiv, an Haredi rabbi, issued a ruling forbidding schools under his control to admit children, whose parents are using non-“kosher” cellphones (cellphones with intact ability to use SMS, Internet and video).

This ruling adversely affects deaf people, who need to be in contact those parents due to reasons like:

  1. They work with those parents and need to communicate them as part of their job.
  2. They themselves are deaf children of those parents.

It is necessary to take legal action, with the aim of outlawing cellphones without functional SMS, and outlawing discrimination against deaf parents of haredi school children, who use video for Sign Language communication via 3G cellphones.

Sources (in Hebrew for the time being):

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