Phantom The Pirate Purring Moggy Who Won A Dispute With Two Of The World’s Biggest Music Publishing Companies

I’ve had a small, self-imposed hiatus from blogging recently. Nothing untoward. Just pursuing other equally important stuff. But there is nothing like coming across a piece of total absurdity to shake off lethargy and get you hitting the keyboard again.

There is a small moggy called Phantom to thank for getting me out of the blocks. And I thank his owner. I will try my best to keep any puns to a minimum. Now, I know online piracy of copyrighted material is a big issue, and big companies don’t like it. There’s been a significant court case in Australia recently on internet piracy that initially delivered a judgment going one way and then, on appeal, another judgment that went the other way. But that is another story. What I am talking about here, in the case of Phantom, should be called online piracy of the ridiculous.

This story began about a year ago when Phantom’s owner, a YouTube user called Digihaven tried to do us all a favour. He wanted to acknowledge the calming, soothing, not to mention meditative qualities of cat purring. So Digihaven uploaded an hour long looped video of Phantom, his cat, doing just that. Purring. Softly. The video was called “Cat Purr 1 Hour Relax, Study,Sleep.”

So I guess you are wondering how in the name of Christ could this find its way to being a case of copyright infringement? Me too. But wait. There’s more.

Digihaven’s video did modest business compared to some cat videos. It amassed around 25 hundred hits but it was monetized so potentially it could earn revenue for Digihaven under YouTube’s Content ID system.

For those who might not be aware of the YouTube Content ID system, this is how it works. Anyone who uploads a video can potentially leverage it to make money by ticking the monetizing tab. But you have to own the copyright on all of the material in the video, including any music or sound used. It’s designed to keep everyone honest. YouTube’s system is built to look for evidence of copyright infringement, and stop people making money from uploading other people’s songs and films. The automated program scans videos and matches their soundtracks to existing songs — if they’re too similar to something on its database, it stops uploaders from making money from the posts.

Week in, week out, automated bots detect and report millions of alleged copyright infringements, which are then processed by the receiving site without a human ever looking at them.

Unfortunately this process is far from flawless, resulting in many false and inaccurate copyright infringement claims. Just to give you more of an idea, the system is similar to what YouTube installed to detect pornographic videos which went horribly wrong when it was revealed that uploaders were by passing the system by using Gaelic Irish language titles for porn films. Is it just me who finds this particularly hilarious? Talk about an Irish joke.

So, getting back to the story of Phantom, the purring moggy. Almost a year after Phantom’s video was posted by Digihaven, the cat’s owner was informed by YouTube that Phantom is a “pirate” purring moggy. No I am not joking. Apparently, it was claimed that part of the video belongs to EMI Music Publishing and PRS, who happen to be two of the world’s biggest music publishing companies.

In its copyright notice sent to Digihaven, YouTube says the cat purring was flagged by its Content ID system as infringing a copy of a musical composition called “Focus.”

The video was not removed by the false claim, but according to Digihaven, monetization was disabled. I am happy to report he won’t be forced into bankruptcy due to the loss of income.

“I’m sure EMI/PRS made Phantom a sad kitty,” Dighaven was heard to say.

But the story doesn’t end here. Not on your life. Or in this case all nine of them. Digihaven was just sharpening Phantom’s claws for a catfight with YouTube and the two music publishing giants who seemingly have nothing better to do.

Hoping to clear his cat’s name, Digihaven filed a dispute. I am also happy to say sanity prevailed with EMI agreeing to lift its claim of copyright infringement.

And while we all might contemplate how it even got this far, Phantom, meanwhile, is reportedly considering a career in the music business and looking for compensation.

“Phantom is currently independent, but looking to sign on with an indie label,” his owner Digihaven says. “ Phantom’s lawyer is looking for 4 kilos of catnip in damages.”

And so he should.

She Outed The Online Trolls And Now She Wants Them Charged By Police

Clementine Ford is a freelance writer and blogger. She is Australian, so if you happen to live anywhere else in the world, you’ve probably never heard of her. Never mind. You are about to. Ford writes very entertainingly, in my view, about feminism, pop culture and social issues. She is controversial. Can be divisive. You might not always agree with everything she says but she is entitled to express her opinion and it is always well expressed. Whenever I think of people like Clementine Ford I think of French philosopher Voltaire. I think of the immortal words written about him to the effect I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Clementine Ford wrote about something the other day that created a furore. Now there’s a good word. This is how it all came about. There is a breakfast television program in Australia called Sunrise, which I never watch. The reason I never watch it, is because it appeals to people whose IQ roughly relates to their shoe size. In typical Sunrise fashion they had a segment about photos women had taken of themselves in either nude or compromised positions, that were later used in revenge porn attacks on social media. Of course Sunrise blamed these women saying they had brought the shame upon themselves because they were responsible for the photographs and were aware or should have been aware of the risk of the photos being misused by an ex partner. Sunrise conveniently forgot that many or even most of these photos used in this way were stolen. Ok.

Cue Clementine Ford who took exception to this Sunrise segment and decided to stage a protest of her own. Ford posted a photo of herself on Facebook with the words “Hey #Sunrise, Get F—ed” scrawled across her chest. She also posted a long, passionate and impossible to argue against, in my view, rebuttal of “victim blaming.”

In fact, it is worth repeating some of the words she used in her post that accompanied the photograph: “ I have taken nude photos of myself and sent them to lovers. I’ve taken nude photos of myself when I’m bored. I’ve taken nude photos just because I have a smart phone and it’s fun. None of that means I have asked for my privacy to be violated, my photos stolen and my very self made available for public humiliation and judgment. Consent is everything.

“When Channel 7’s Sunrise asks ‘when will women learn’ instead of ‘why do men continue to view women as objects they can defile and violate while the world watches and tut-tuts’, they are victim blaming. They are saying it’s the responsibility of victims of crime and assault to prevent it and not the responsibility of society to make such crimes intolerable and unacceptable.

“When will women learn? Learn what? That our bodies do not belong to us? That we have no right to determine who sees those bodies, touches those bodies, fucks those bodies, and shares in those bodies? Honey, we don’t need to learn that. We already know the answer. We don’t have those rights. We are not allowed to be the masters of ourselves, only the gatekeepers.

“Fuck your bullshit, Sunrise. You’re an antiquated, pedestrian piece of rubbish and you truck in misogyny and everyday sexism. Consent is what happens when you give permission. Theft and assault is what happens when people take it from you despite you saying no.”

As you might expect Ford’s post, stirred up a veritable hornet’s nest. She received more than 20,000 comments including several graphic and violent messages. They were not pleasant. They were very threatening and completely inappropriate. One in particular from someone called Ryan Hawkins who directly threatened her with sexual violence. But Ford, instead of deleting the messages – “as I have done so many times in the past” – shared the online responses on her Facebook page. In her typically erudite way Ford justified her actions this way: “I chose to share it publicly because abusers hide behind the veil of privacy and anonymity. “When women complain about abuse, we’re often told we’re overreacting or making it up. “It’s important that abusers know they won’t be shielded and also that people see the reality of online harassment.”

Now you might think Facebook would take a dim view of people who threaten violence, particularly of a sexual nature, simply because they don’t like a point of view expressed by a woman, who is not afraid to say what she thinks. If you did, you would be wrong. Dead wrong. What happened next had me scratching my head. Facebook initially banned Ford for 30 days for posting the violent responses. Yep. Because she posted abusive comments made about her including Ryan Hawkins’ threat to commit sexual violence, Ford was deemed to have violated Facebook’s community standards.

Now at this point, like me, you might be thinking Facebook needs to get a grip. Well, someone in Facebook actually did. The 30-day ban has now been lifted and Ford’s Facebook account reinstated.

Understandably, Clementine Ford was ‘thrilled’ that common sense had prevailed while pointing out the ban should never have been imposed in the first place. But that is not the end of this story. Ford decided enough is enough. She reported one of her abusers, South Australian man Ryan Hawkins to police. Ironically, Hawkins found himself the target of intense online criticism and has since apologised for his abuse of Ford, saying he had he jumped on the bandwagon without thinking.

“I was being a smart arse, just trying to have some sick fun with her, but it didn’t really work,” he said. “I said sorry afterwards.”

Ford is not having a bar of the Hawkins apology. She confirmed that she made a formal complaint to police. “This was a real threat and I will be making that case to the police,” Ford said. “He threatened sexual violence against me and that is serious.”

Ford, who was later interviewed by a major daily newspaper, said she had experienced online threats “many, many times before but never “anything like this”.

“The reaction to my initial post, then the reaction to the threats, the incredibly viral nature of the entire thing – it is has been beyond anything I ever expected or experienced,” she said.

And, of course Ford saved some of her harshest words for Facebook.

“How can a post saying, ‘shut up and die you stupid feminist c***’ not automatically violate Facebook policy, but my reposting of those words can?” she said.

“Facebook is woefully behind the times when it comes to gender hate speech, and I am so sick and tired of it.”

Ford also said there had been “moments of optimism” during the week.

“I have had countless emails from so many women this week saying they feel stronger, they feel braver since reading the stories and the post.”

Like I said when it comes to Clementine Ford I can’t help thinking Voltaire, Voltaire, Voltaire.

Modern Apps Are Killing Monogamy. My Advice. Stick With The Dinosaur

Sometimes I will happily stand up and be called a dinosaur. Called myself one plenty of times before. Someone actually called me a killjoy today. That’s going too far. Old fashioned. Yes. Out of step with modern living. Yes. Sometimes. And yes, this is one of those times when I am happy to be walking at a different pace.

It was the headline that got my attention. Are modern dating apps killing monogamy? Apparently the answer is yes. And proof positive of this development was offered by way of a case study. Let’s call her Jessie. That’s what the article called her so who am I to contradict. Before online dating, before her two kids, before the Big Conversation with her skeptical husband, Jessie’s inkling was that she wasn’t quite like the ladies she saw at church. The sexual taboos of life in the affluent burbs weren’t for her.

Her first marriage when she was in her early 20s, ended after she had an affair. Her second marriage, starting shortly thereafter, was “happy – very happy,” but as her children grew up, moved out and on, she was left….well…. bored.

Thoughts turned to cheating on her husband of 20 years, we are told, as if this was perfectly normal behavior. She considered bars, parties, and a return to the good old days of her mid-20s. All care and no responsibility.

But Instead, Jessie sat her husband down for a deep and meaningful so we are told. Here’s the kicker. We are told she told him something that more and more “progressive” couples are beginning to realise. They love each other and want to stay together – but in the age of Tinder, Ashley Madison and OkCupid, well…they have other options.

Options, that are just a click away.

“Interesting, introspective, happily married professional,” reads Jessie’s profile on the newly non-monogamous dating site Open Minded. “I’m into building deep and loving relationships that add to the joy and aliveness of being human.”

Bollocks Jessie. You are into sex, Nothing deep. Certainly, nothing meaningful, and only the truly naïve would call it loving.

Let’s just pause and refect for a moment. Open Minded is a dating site that isn’t quite like Ashley Madison, the unapologetic dating-for-cheaters service that expects a billion dollar valuation when it becomes a publicly listed company you can buy shares in.

How sad is that?

There’s money to be made in every kind of human exploitation including adultery. Open minded also isn’t quite like mobile hook-up app Tinder, where – according to one recent report – as many as 40 per cent of “singles” are secretly … not single. Open Minded, according to its founder, yet another tech savvy hustler, is a new kind of dating site for a newly “mainstream lifestyle” where couples, we are told “form very real attachments” just not exclusively with each other. He expects the app to be used by swingers, polysexuals and experimental 20-somethings. But he guesses that most of his 70,000 users are people just like Jessie. In committed, conventional relationships, who realize that, statistically speaking, few modern couples stay with a single person their whole life. Can I just say I have no problem with that at all. In fact, can I say, I have been that person. All I am saying is, if you are going to do that, don’t stay married and act like a single person.

“If you look at marriage, it developed as a survival strategy and a means of raising kids,” the founder of Open Minded says. “But relationships are no longer a necessary component of life. People have careers and other interests – they can survive without them.”

This is a classic example of people just talking without saying anything at all. And of course we have an academic to give the whole thing credibility. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and one of the world’s leading relationship researchers, ( I bet she is the only one to call herself that) is in the same dark camp as the Open Minded app entrepreneur. She says in caveman days, humans teamed up in non-exclusive pairs to protect their children. Later, as people learned to plant crops and settle in one place, ” marriage became a way for men to guarantee kids, and for women – who couldn’t push heavy ploughs or carry loads of crops to market – to eat and keep a roof over their heads.”

So is Fisher seriously suggesting this is the only reason why people enter into relationships? What about love? And commitment? What about it ? says Fisher. There’s a long history of married men sleeping around, Fisher says. You can forget about romantic notions or thinking that relationships are anything other than transactions and the social expectation that both people partner for life, to the exclusion of everyone else. Is just that, an expectation.

In fact, given the history and prevalence of non-monogamous relationships throughout cultures, it’s not scientifically correct to say the human species mate or pair for life, Fisher says. Dogs mate for life. Beavers mate for life. Humans have one-night stands, lovers and a 50 per cent divorce rate.

Fisher dubs it a “dual reproductive strategy”: We’re biologically programmed to form pair-bonds, yes, but some people – many people – are also programmed to seek out variety.

I couldn’t possibly disagree more. Deep down human beings want romance in my view. They want something long lasting. They want friendship, companionship. Love. Yes they want sex. Don’t we all. But that comes at the end of the long chain of all of the other.

See I told you. I am a dinosaur.

The Little Australian Court Case With Big Implications For Pirate Movie Downloaders. Beware They Are Coming To Get You

A not so quiet revolution is being played out in the Federal Court of Australia. It’s a legal case with Tsunami like implications that could pretty much engulf most of the world. No, I am not being melodramatic.

In fact this court decision, will result in some unwelcome questions being asked wherever there’s a computer, and a person sitting in front of it, downloading pirated movies. When you put the two together it amounts to a shedload of people. Now do you see where this is a going?

If you still don’t, let me explain.

The case was a commercial action involving the copyright owners of a movie called The Dallas Buyers Club. I can’t profess to know much about the film other than it features some big Hollywood names like Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. Clearly it was enough of a box office success for a lot of people to want to download the movie illegally. The copyright owners of The Dallas Buyers Club were understandably pissed that this was happening because it was costing them money. A lot of money. So they decided to do something about it. You could call it a testing of the waters.

In a nutshell, a Federal Court judge ordered several Australian internet service providers, including a very large one called iiNet, to hand over to a film studio, the identities of thousands of account holders whose internet connections were allegedly used to share an unauthorized copy of the Dallas Buyers Club movie. In a landmark judgment, Justice Nye Perram ruled in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC’s “preliminary discovery” application requesting that the ISPs disclose the identities of people it alleges shared the movie online.

Preliminary discovery. Such a quaint legal term but in this particular case it means dire consequences for pirate movie downloaders. In addition to iiNet, ISPs Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks will also be required to hand over customer details. Even if these ISPs weren’t big companies, even if their list of subscribers was small, the devil is in the detail. It’s the implications of what this decision means that’s important. It is unclear whether iiNet will  appeal the decision before the Full Court of the Federal Court. They have 28 days to do so.

As for the implications, picture this. Thousands of anonymous people sitting in the privacy of their own home, in front of a computer screen all over Australia quietly using applications like Bit Torrent to download pirated versions of first release movies. Their safety net has always been their anonymity. I mean how could anyone trace them? Well guess what? Thanks to this court ruling now they can. Not only can, they will be traced. The ruling means about 4700 Australian internet account holders whose service was used to share Dallas Buyers Club on the internet from as early as May 2013 are soon likely to receive legal letters, from Australian lawyers representing Dallas Buyers Club LLC. These letters will threaten legal action, unless relatively large sums of money are paid for breach of copyright. Now I can hear you thinking. What is he on about? This case only affects 4700 people the man must be dreaming. How can this have worldwide implications? Well my answer to that is don’t think numbers. If you think numbers, you are missing the point. Think precedent. A ruling has now been made about one movie but what is to stop similar rulings being made for each and every pirated movie or video that has ever been downloaded? What is to stop similar courts in similar countries all over the world being asked to make a similar decision? And now that decision has been made in favour of the copyright holder, is it more probable than not that a similar court will make an almost identical ruling? These are very, very big questions.

And as for that letter of demand, the practice commonly referred to as ‘speculative invoicing.’ there are already examples in the United States where letters were sent to ISP account holders threatening legal action claiming they would be liable for damages of up to $US150,000 unless settlement fees of up to $US7000 were paid. No surprise most people paid the $7K. It’s a lot less than 150 grand.

Now the Australian Federal Court decision did come with some provisos. The judge also ordered that the privacy of individuals should be protected, meaning Dallas Buyers Club cannot disclose the identities of letter recipients to a third party.

Some overseas judges have placed caps on the amount of money that can be sought through this out of court process. But Justice Perram did not indicate whether he would do this as part of the letter approving process.

The case, which was heard over three days in February, centred on whether Dallas Buyers Club LLC should be given access to details of internet account holders whose connections it alleges were used to share its movie using peer-to-peer file sharing software. The details to be handed over include names, email and residential addresses of those whose connections were allegedly used to share the movie. So not only do they know who you are, they know where you live. During the case, Michael Wickstrom, vice president of royalties and music administration at Voltage Pictures, the parent company of Dallas Buyers Club LLC, objected to iiNet providing examples of the speculative invoicing letters sent in similar US cases. One of the reasons for his objection might be because those letters, in the minds of some, amount to extortion.

Wickstrom said the format of the letters to be sent to Australian ISP subscribers would be different and worded in such a way that they complied with local laws.

In a remarkable display of generosity, Wickstrom also said the company would not sue or attempt settlement with people suffering from autism people who were disabled, on welfare, or have mental illness.

It should be noted that anti piracy forces are employing sophisticated means to track down illegal downloaders. They employed a German-based pirate hunting company called Maverick Eye UG to identify ISP users who were sharing the movie online. Maverick Eye joined torrent “swarms” sharing Dallas Buyers Club and then tasked its software to log the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of those who distributed the movie without authorisation and in breach of copyright laws. The software identified a total of 4726 Australian IP addresses.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC then contacted iiNet and other ISPs, asking them to divulge customer details associated with those IP addresses without a court order — but as you might expect the ISPs refused. They know giving over that kind of information is also going to cost them customers. No-one will want to subscribe to an ISP that is going to hand over a customer’s private information.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC then decided to take Federal Court action, to compel the ISPs to disclose customer details through the preliminary discovery application process, which is often used by parties in a case where the identity of the person or company they want to take legal action against, is unknown but can be discoverable through a third-party.

iiNet sought to challenge the request on the grounds that it would lead to alleged infringers being sent letters of demand seeking significant sums of money for an infringement. “We are concerned that our customers will be unfairly targeted to settle any claims out of court using [this] practice,” iiNet said in a blog post. The ISP also argued that customers could be incorrectly and unfairly identified as alleged infringers if details of the account holder were revealed. In other words, the relevant IP address could have originated from a person in a shared household where someone other than the account holder had infringed copyright. iiNet also argued it wanted to fight the matter because Australian courts had never tested a case like this one. But none of these arguments impressed the court.

So, to all those Pirate downloaders out there in cyberspace. Here are some words of warning. They’re coming to get ya.

Indiana’s Really Strange Religious Freedom Law Which Is Just An Excuse For Homophobia

America is a funny place. By that I mean peculiarly eccentric. And it’s not always in a good way. Take this as a for instance. The US State of Indiana has just passed a very strange law. It’s called a Religious Freedom Law. But it seems to me the only freedom it grants is the right to be a homophobic bigot. To put it plainly, the law permits individuals and businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion. In other words people can be denied service because of their sexual orientation and that denial is justified on the grounds of religious belief. It doesn’t take much imagination or ingenuity to figure that this law is directed at Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgender community. The Governor of Indiana, a man called Mike Pence, signed this into law. He says and I quote: ” The bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it was about discrimination, I would have vetoed it.” He’s entitled to his opinion, but civil liberties and gay rights groups have a very different take. They say this law asserts that the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” and that individuals who feel like their religious beliefs have been or could be “substantially burdened” can rely on this law to fend off lawsuits. Supporters of these laws talk of the example of a florist who refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding or a baker who refuses to make the couple’s wedding cake — and it’s clear this law is aimed at subverting any lawsuits that the florist or the baker might face.

But what about a restaurant that refuses to serve a gay couple, who simply want to sit down and enjoy a meal?

“It would foil any lawsuit against a supplier who acted on religious grounds, but the law can get squirrely, “ according to one legal analyst, adding that it’s likely that a refusal to serve a gay person would not be upheld under the law, but a refusal to provide a service for a gay wedding would.

Indiana is not the first state to implement this kind of a law.

It’s the 20th American state to adopt a “religious freedom restoration” law, most of which is modelled on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

But that law was passed in very different times with the backing of a broad-based coalition and wasn’t proposed against the backdrop of gay rights or the Tsunami of marriage equality laws sweeping the country in recent years.

The law in Indiana, came after an outcry from social conservative groups over publicity where business owners found themselves in hot water for refusing services to gay couples planning to get married.

In addition to those 20 American states, legislators in nine other states have introduced similar types of “religious freedom” laws — bills that either failed to go through in 2014 or are still up for consideration this year.

But a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, says those 20 laws are “dramatically different in their scope and effect.”

“Indiana is the broadest and most dangerous law of its kind in the country,” the spokesman said.

Arkansas’ legislature passed an Indiana-style law, which now heads to the state governor for approval.

Religious liberty — and using it to sabotage same-sex marriage and other gay rights — has become the rallying cry for social conservative groups in the past year as they watched one anti-gay marriage law after another get overturned in the courts. Thank God they were overturned.

What the Indiana Governor didn’t say was that standing behind him, as he signed the bill, were several socially conservative lobbyists, the very ones who pushed for the law and are fiercely opposed to same-sex marriage. One of the lobbyists, Eric Miller, wrote on his website that the law would protect businesses from participating in “homosexual marriage.” So much for being non discriminatory.

The Human Rights Campaign is in no doubt that the only reason these laws were passed was because of the legalising of same sex marriage. However,it is a high-risk political gamble. The States who want this type of law will have to calculate risk versus rewards. Are the rewards that come from the religious groups much greater than the financial cost they will have to wear in lost business?  Never underestimate the power of the pink dollar. You do so at your peril.

These “religious freedom restoration” laws have already been used as a legal defence to allegations of discrimination.

The Human Rights Campaign says there are several cases where individuals have used these laws in a courtroom — and not just in cases involving LGBT people and weddings. For example, a police officer in Oklahoma claimed a religious objection when he refused to police a mosque. Another police officer in Salt Lake City claimed “religious liberty” when he refused to police a gay pride parade. And a photographer in New Mexico used religious freedom as a defence for not serving a lesbian couple in 2013.

Ironically, 21 states currently have laws on their books prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And another nine have those protections, but just for public employees.

So how could a Religious Freedom Restoration law sit comfortably in an environment of laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation? The answer is they can’t. “They’ve basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it’s okay to discriminate against people,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign. Indiana is starting to discover that having discriminatory homophobic laws is not very helpful. Plenty of very large companies are moving to distance themselves from the Religious Restoration bill. For example, Cloud computer giant Salesforce, says it will cut back on its investments in the State of Indiana.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, in a Twitter post, said his company was “deeply disappointed,” and called on Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, to veto a similar measure.

” Apple is open to everyone,” Cook said.

Gen Con, the world’s largest gaming convention with 56,000 attendees last year, said it might stop holding the event in Indianapolis, the state’s main city. This would be a huge financial blow because it contributes more than $50 million to the economy.

The powerful National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is hosting the US men’s college basketball finals in Indianapolis next week, but the Association said it was “especially concerned” about how the law would affect its student athletes and employers. Hollywood stars joined the opposition via social media, where actor Ashton Kutcher likened the law to Anti-Semitism and singer Miley Cyrus directed an expletive at Indiana Governor Pence.

Fortunately, Gay rights have made big strides in recent years, with marriage equality recognized in 37 states after the US Supreme Court in 2013 ruled that federal law could not discriminate against married LGBT couples.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican who opposed the law, said he and other city officials would talk to businesses and convention planners to counter the uproar the law has caused. “I’m more concerned about making sure that everyone knows they can come (here).”

Around the state, bumper stickers saying: “This business serves everyone” have begun appearing in many business windows, and groups such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce have taken to social media with messages that the state is welcoming to all businesses. The stakes in this are pretty high. Indianapolis’ tourism and convention business is estimated to generate $4.4 billion annually and create 75,000 jobs. Chris Gahl, a vice president with the tourism agency Visit Indy, said: “We know that their ability to work is largely dependent on our ability to score convention business and draw in events and visitors.”

Unless Indiana wakes up and smells the coffee and abandons plans to introduce such a discriminatory law, it is going to be hit in a place that will hurt the most. The good old hip pocket nerve. And, quite frankly, so they should.

The Baseball Star Turned Internet Vigilante. Social Media Trolls Beware

Something interesting happened the other day that well and truly blurred the lines between real life and the one that lives in the digital world called social media. They are fast becoming one and the same if they haven’t already. There is no better example of a blurred line than when people behave very badly in the digital world and don’t expect consequences or retribution. In other words, you can’t go round dissing people and not expect it to come back to bite you. What goes around comes around and in this case boy did it come around. It all centres on someone unlikely. Someone, you wouldn’t expect to be a digital crusader. His name is Curt Schilling. If you follow baseball in the United States then you’ll know he’s a bit of a legend of the game. But it’s not his baseball exploits that we are talking about.

Curt Schilling turned himself into a troll hunter and a pretty effective one at that after his daughter became the target of what can only be described as vicious online social media abuse and bullying. I think it would be fair to say that her father’s sporting notoriety might have been a motivating factor for the abuse. But it was uncalled for and thoroughly unpleasant. People who do this kind of thing are cowards. They hide behind the anonymity that social media generously gives them except they did not count on Schilling.

The former Red Sox pitcher acted swiftly, publicly humiliating his targets and getting some of them fired from their jobs and suspended from university. It was internet vigilantism at its finest. It all began when Schilling had the temerity to tweet his congratulations to his 17-year-old daughter, Gabriella, on gaining a softball scholarship. I mean the arrogance of the man. What was he thinking? Apparently major league baseball stars aren’t allowed to express parental pride in the achievements of their offspring. Or so some people seem to think. Schilling was just like any other Dad who sees his kid stand up on their own two feet and achieve something in life. Good on him I say for being a father taking an interest in his child.

Schilling says as a world famous sports star and avid social media user, he was expecting the inevitable “smart ass college kid” replies, which included “I’ll take care of her” and “Can’t wait to party with her.” But he was horrified at the torrent of graphic and violent comments that followed. “I want to come and play but Gabby wants me to *** and stay,” said one. “Teach me your knuckleball technique so I can shove my **** in your daughter,” read another.

In what is now the hallmark of the troll, the tweets mentioned rape, as well as bloody underwear, “and pretty much every other vulgar and defiling word you could likely fathom,” Schilling said.

So Curt Schilling drew a line in the sand and said enough. But that’s not all. No sir. If you are going to play with fire, best not invite Curt Schilling to the party because you are going to get badly burned. Schilling used his position in the public eye to out the internet trolls. He identified two of them in particular, who had made little or no attempt to conceal their true identity. One was Adam Nagel, a sophomore at Brookdale Community College, who called himself The Sports Guru. The other, with the username Hollywood, was vice president of the Theta Xi fraternity at Montclair State University. “I was a jock my whole life,” Schilling said. “I played sports my whole life. Baseball since I was 5, until I retired at 41. I know clubhouses. I lived in a dorm. I get it. Guys will be guys. Guys will say dumb crap, often. But I can’t ever remember, drunk, in a clubhouse, with best friends, with anyone, ever speaking like this to someone …”

After he outed them, Schilling wished them luck if they were googled. He said he kept every one of their offensive tweets. “No less than 7 of the clowns who sent vile or worse tweets are athletes playing college sports,” he said. “I knew every name and school, sport and position, of every one of them in less than an hour.” Like I said. Do not mess with Mr Schilling.

The 48-year-old father of four got in touch with the coaches and parents, of the people who wrote the offensive tweets. Many were made to write letters of apology. He also published two more tweets by users Justin Time and Jacob Robbins, “to let you internet sleuths have a go” meaning Schilling’s blog followers.

Commenters on his blog and Twitter users began circulating the names of Nagel and the Montclair student, Sean Macdonald, along with their mobile phone numbers, email addresses and social media account details. MacDonald, who worked part time selling tickets for the Yankees, was fired, and Nagel was suspended from university. All their social media accounts have been deleted.

Justin Time was identified as Liam Cronin, a camp counsellor from Huntington, New York. Jacob Robbins was identified variously as a student at St Ambrose University in Iowa, as a San Jose State student and as someone called Ben Cohen. Two days later, he released another name, which received the same treatment. Schilling’s campaign made headlines nationwide in the United States. Some applauded him for speaking out against verbal abuse on social media. Others expressed concern over what they perceived as witch-hunts, and Schilling’s “doxxing” of the trolls, which means revealing personal information online, and is illegal.

Cronin went so far as to reveal himself on Schilling’s blog, explaining that his comments about Gabby being “passed around” only referred to “sluttiness”, not rape. Sorry but that doesn’t cut it as any kind of apology or act of contrition. “I simply was trying to piss off curt schilling because I think he’s a moron,” Cronin wrote, adding that Schilling’s fans had called his college demanding he be kicked out, his past employers to make sure he is blacklisted for life and his parents, to tell them what a terrible job they did.

So how does Curt Schilling feel about all the trouble he’s caused? You may not be surprised to know that he is utterly unrepentant. He told the New York Post newspaper, there’s no longer any distinction between online and offline lives. “People are saying, ‘Hey, Curt Schilling called out people on Twitter, and they got in trouble in real life.’ Twitter now IS real life — Facebook, Instagram, all of it,” Schilling said. He is right. Schilling says he is now done with naming names, at his daughter’s request, although she told People magazine she didn’t feel sorry for the trolls.

“It’s really sad that one thing they said could cost them their entire career on a sports team or their job, but I think it’s even sadder that they don’t think that should have happened,” Gabriella Schilling said.

Curt Schilling’s act is the latest in a series of online social media shaming, which saw a PR executive, Justine Sacco, publicly vilified for an offensive and racist tweet she made about AIDS. Lindsay Stone went into hiding after a tasteless joke she made at an American military cemetery which she later shared on social media and Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice lost endorsements after using a gay slur. A Brisbane tech blogger, Alanah Pearce turned the tables on her trolls by contacting their parents. The internet is a bit like being careful what you wish for. It offers opportunities for verbal abuse and for retaliation. For every action there is a reaction. The father turned social media vigilante summed up his position on his blog: “Gabby I know you’re likely embarrassed ( for what I did) and for that I apologise. But as we have talked about, there is no situation ever in your life, where it’s OK for any ‘man’ to talk about you, or any other woman this way.

“This is so far off the radar it’s pathetic. The ignorance and pathetic lack of morals or of any integrity is astounding. These aren’t thugs, tough guys or bad asses, these aren’t kids who’ve had it rough, they aren’t homeless or orphans, these are pretty much ALL white, affluent, college attending children, and I mean children.

“It truly is time this stopped. I don’t know where it started because it sure as hell didn’t happen much when we were growing up.”

He’s so right about that. Should we feel sorry for the trolls who lost their jobs or got kicked out of University for what they did? Do they deserve our collective sympathy? Did Curt Schilling over react in what he did, defending his daughter? Let me take a second to think about that. Ok. I did. No.

Naming And Shaming On Social Media Can Cost You Plenty

Social media. What a revolution. Not a day goes past, without just about every one of us being on it, in one form or another. It helps us keep in touch, find love, get work, be empathetic to one another. No end to the possibilities. But like every rose it has its thorns. And people are just starting to understand the implications of what it means when things go horribly wrong on social media, especially in terms of issues like privacy and public shaming. But a recent case in an Australian court has provided some sort of clarity on one issue relating to personal privacy. A West Australian woman was awarded almost $50,000 in compensation from an ex-boyfriend who posted sexually explicit videos and photos of her on Facebook. It was a significant legal ruling on the law of personal privacy. The case involved a woman called Caroline Wilson, a fly-in, fly-out worker at Fortescue Metals Cloudbreak mine in the Pilbara in outback Western Australia. Fly-in workers originate from other parts of Australia but they are attracted by the high wages and superior working conditions offered by mining companies desperate for skilled labor.

Wilson took her ex-boyfriend and former colleague Neil Ferguson to court after he posted 16 photos and two videos of her on his Facebook page. The court was told that Ferguson posted the sexually explicit material after Wilson ended their relationship via a text message, which judging by his subsequent behaviour, was the least that Ferguson deserved. In a series of expletive-laden text messages to Wilson, Ferguson said the photos were “out for everyone to see … Can’twait to watch you fold as a human being.”

What a charmer.

Wilson, became aware of the posts after being told by friends around 5.20pm on August 5, 2013. And they were subsequently deleted around 7pm after she begged Ferguson to remove them. Wilson’s lawyer, argued his client was entitled to an injunction under the law of breach of confidence to restrain Ferguson from re-posting the material, along with compensation for loss of wages, embarrassment and distress.

According to legal experts, there are very few Australian cases where a plaintiff, in a breach of confidence case, is entitled to compensation for emotional distress, as opposed to economic loss. The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released a report in June setting out elements of a potential civil action for serious invasions of privacy that would allow damages to be awarded for emotional distress. However, the Australian Government does not support the new law. The ALRC also said it was “desirable” for Parliament to “clarify the courts’ powers to award compensation for emotional distress” in breach of confidence cases.

What was really interesting about the case was what the judge said: “By posting the photographs and videos on his Facebook page, the defendant made them available to his approximately 300 ‘Facebook friends’, many of whom worked at Cloudbreak.”

The judge referred to a 2008 Victorian Court of Appeal decision, Giller v Procopets, in which a woman won compensation for emotional distress after her former partner distributed copies of sexually explicit videotapes of the couple. The judge said this was the only case he could find in which a superior court in Australia had grappled with the same issues. He also made the important observation that the events in the Giller v Procopets case took place in 1996, but technological advancements had “dramatically increased the ease and speed” of disseminating images and other material.

And that is an extremely important distinction. If anything, it makes the transgression far worse, than it might have been in the past, in terms of dissemination.

The judge ruled that Wilson was entitled to an injunction and $48,404 in compensation, including $35,000 for emotional distress and $13,404 for loss of wages while on leave. Ferguson was sacked from his job as a result of the incident. Quite frankly, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him.

As you might expect, this case has the legal fraternity in a tizz. Associate Professor ,David Rolph, a media law expert at the University of Sydney Law School, said the case “indicates that breach of confidence might provide a remedy for addressing a lot of personal privacy concerns”. But he noted that applying existing causes of action to new situations that do not “ fit neatly” may distort the law and have unintended consequences. “My own view is that if privacy is a value that’s worth protecting it’s worth protecting directly and we should think about that in a broader, more comprehensive way,” he said.

A legal precedent has been established. The law has dealt fairly severely in a social media case of naming and shaming. Hopefully it will make potential future perpetrators think twice about indulging in similar behaviour. We can but hope.

Til Death Us Do Part, But Only If I Know All Of Your Secrets And Lies

Every now and again, I get reminded of what a strange, strange, world we live in. Mad even. Hollywood once made a very funny (I thought it was hilarious) movie called: It’s a mad, mad world. It shows how a bunch of strangers can, through the right set of circumstances, behave completely irrationally and out of character or simply show their true nature. Take your pick. In truth it’s probably a bit of both. And once the dye is cast there is no end to the madness.

These days, social media seems to act like a full moon and make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. Here are the latest pieces of insanity currently in vogue. As you might expect, it’s got a lot to do with men and women getting together. But first we must ask the leading question: How well do you know your significant other? It’s a question having a major effect on how we shape our dating experience. People are using web searches and social media to investigate a person’s history before they even go on first date. A recent survey discovered that information from Facebook is now being used in a third of all divorce cases as well. With social media we can discover all sorts of information about another person such as previous employment, old flames, school sports teams and last week’s embarrassing party photos. But getting back to the question: How well do you know your significant other? The answer is not very well at all according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the information gap is so alarming for some, that they are employing, wait for it, private investigators to look into the background of their significant other before contemplating a tying of the knot. According to the report, private investigators across the Unites States are saying that business is booming in recent years from clients who basically “ want their sweethearts investigated for potentially deal breaking habits and secrets.”

You might think it a little strange that this trend is taking off now. After all, we seem to know more about a potential spouse now than ever before. But one reason might have something to do with what I would call perverse psychology. One private investigator told the Wall Street Journal that all of this available data is actually inciting people into seeking even more information: “What they are getting is just enough information to make them curious.”

But it’s not just the availability of information about a partner’s past that is fuelling this trend. It’s also because these days, many of us seem to have more of a past worth investigating. “In a world where people are taking longer to get married, and accumulating more relationship baggage, I think many adults today are understandably nervous about going ahead with a major relationship commitment or engagement,” says Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project. He notes that given this long pathway that men and women are taking to marriage, “it’s no surprise that people are hiring private detectives or other services to look into their partner’s background.”

According to the Wall Street Journal report, while some of us may think that being choosy about who to marry and therefore trying out multiple long term relationships will help to make us as sure as we can be about the person we eventually settle down with, the opposite may be true. The more relationships we have before marriage, the more likely we are to cheat on a spouse. The report says having all these relationships (and getting to watch on Facebook the lives of the ones who got away) only makes it harder not easier to reach a decision about who to marry. It’s an interesting perspective. The report goes on to say that once we marry, it can have the effect of making us less satisfied with our choice. We crave more and more information in order to be sure we’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right, but how much is too much? Don’t we already have enough background to judge whether our partner is the one? After all, two thirds of couples who married in 2012, lived together for more than two years before they walked down the aisle. We already know our partner’s preferences when it comes to everything, especially their favourites, from brand of toothpaste to sexual positions. So what’s left? A lot, as it turns out. One relationship expert researching a book on interfaith marriage, was surprised to learn that more than half of the couples didn’t talk about how they wanted to raise their children before they sealed the deal (and that was just among the ones who already had kids).

She wrote: “ How is it possible that in all the deep, late night conversations that led you to believe this person was your soul mate you never got around to ( talking about) faith and family? “

So is it all about having the right conversation and asking the right questions of each other? The report goes on to say that the information gap is not limited to religion. It also concerns finances. In her book, The Starter Marriage And The Future of Matrimony, Pamela Paul wrote about couples who failed to reveal to each other that they had major financial debts. One woman neglected to tell her husband that, for a number of years, she earned no income and her father was paying all of her expenses. How does this kind of information, you might ask, just slip through the cracks in long term relationships? According to the experts, for one thing, we don’t often get the right input from our family and community when it comes to significant others. In her book, Pamela Paul reports, that “all the divorcees (she) interviewed said their parents gave them no direction about marriage beyond telling them upon their engagement it’s as long as you’re happy.”  And as much as we might think living together is the ultimate test for whether a relationship will succeed, the reality of the matter may be completely different. According to these experts it is very easy to live under the same roof with someone and not have any conversations about planning for the future. You can chat endlessly about who leaves dirty laundry on the floor or whether they’ve ever mopped a kitchen floor but what about having the serious chats about finances or children? Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, recently told the Atlantic magazine, that “Living together doesn’t charm or doom you; it is not whether you live with your partner as much as how you live with your partner.” She added, “I am not against living together, but I am for, young adults being more aware that it is an arrangement that has upsides and downsides.” One of the downsides is surely that cohabitation often gives people the illusion of true intimacy while at the same time allowing partners to conceal the most important pieces of information. But, is hiring a private Investigator really the solution to discovering this kind of information? You could always try being a bit more of an open book. You might also find you achieve the same result without the aggravation or the expense.

What Mobile Phones Will Look Like In 20 Years From Now

When I started in journalism, thirty plus years ago, there were no computers, or the Internet. We used to write our stories initially with a pen and notebook and then on typewriters back in the office using carbon copy paper. It wasn’t quite the Stone Age, although there was a person called the stone sub whose job it was to make the last minute changes to hot metal used to print a newspaper. When I think about the past, I get a little misty eyed. It makes me nostalgic. There was a certain romance in the way newspapers used to be written, created and printed which I kind of miss. But you can’t stop progress. Then came computers, email and mobile phones. In the case of mobile phones, we’ve discovered we can’t live without them. They’ve undergone their own revolution. In the 30 years since the first mobile phone was offered for sale, we’ve seen it morph from a wallet busting brick, into a super slim computer that can do virtually anything we want from entertaining us to saying what we should be doing next. But what interests me is where to from here? What if we could see into the future? What is the next generation, and several generations after that, mobile phone going to look like? What are the innovations already being played with by engineers and scientists in Hi Tech laboratories around the world? Is the future of the device set to change at warp speed? So, somewhat ambitiously, I thought I would try and answer those questions. I did some digging and this is what I came up with by way of research and the best guesses on where mobile phone technology is heading. To make it easier, I’ve divided the technological predictions from the next two years, all the way through to the next 20.

Let’s begin with the next 1 to 2 years.

Mobiles were truly ugly when they were first introduced but at least they could withstand rough treatment. In recent years there’s been a tradeoff in mobile phone design, with resilience winning out in favour of artistic beauty. But the future will witness yet another transformation with the introduction of unbreakable mobile phones. Weatherproof handsets are already proving to be a surprise hit with consumers who want their mobile device to be made of tougher stuff. Manufacturers will be looking to use the latest materials, including scratch and shatterproof infused glass, as well as liquid metal for cases, to make them virtually indestructible and, able to bounce back to their original shape after being dented.

Modular mobile phones will hit the market where customers can buy a handset made from features they pick and choose to be included. There’s already a project under way that will allow consumers to decide what their custom handset can do and what it will look like so they can create a phone that perfectly fits their needs. For example, if there’s a phone that has a great camera, but you don’t need the other stuff, this modular approach would allow you to have the best of everything or cherry pick the bits that are important to you. Expect to see the pick ‘n’ mix smartphones shift the goalposts in the immediate future.

In 3 to 5 years, with smartphone screens getting bigger, and people spending more time on mobiles than any other device, expect to see super high resolution, cinema quality displays on handsets. This will be a quantum leap from the monochrome, one line displays of the 90s. We will be looking at full 4K screens, that’s four times the resolution of High Definition, right in the palm of your hand. This feast for the eyes is only just reaching our television living rooms today but mobile makers are already eyeing it up for pocket size gadgets. It’s unlikely that mobile sizes will continue to grow at this stage with around five inches or 12 centimetres fast becoming the optimum size. But within three years, stunning 4K screen will be the de rigueur. And If you think 4G browsing on your phone is pretty fast today, just wait a few years and you’ll be falbbergasted. The next generation wireless mobile network will be at warp speed by comparison, quick enough to download a high def movie in just 30 seconds. It will also make storage size obsolete as everything from your apps including entertainment could be accessed from the storage cloud within the blink of an eye. The infrastructure for this technology is being prepared for release in 2020.

The camera will also evolve in our smartphones to do far more than just your standard selfie. It will have 3D technology using wide angle lenses and sensors so you will be able to map your surroundings, that will mean you can actually walk around inside your photos. Mobile cameras will understand and process the space around you and then remodel it into a 3D image. For example, you could revisit old birthday party pictures, explore old holiday photos, or take a look around hotels, houses for sale or eBay items in great detail. The technology is currently being tested in mobile handsets.

In 6 to 10 years, the fabled foldable mobile phone, which has been talked about almost as long as the flying car will become a reality. This remarkable innovation will be brought about by breakthroughs in material technology — in particular a super thin, super strong and conductive wonder material called Graphene. There are already mobile phones on the market that have a slight bend in them and manufacturers are showing off these flexible devices at tech shows, but within ten years we could see mobiles that can change shape to suit our needs and roll up right into our pocket. There wouldn’t be a need for both a tablet and a mobile, or for you to decide what screen size to choose— imagine being able to unravel a screen that adapts to different sizes? You can make it bigger for browsing the internet or smaller if you just want to make a phone call. Mobile manufacturers are keen on this flexible, wrappable, mouldable, unbreakable mobile device and research labs like the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have already begun producing a prototype. Batteries last about as long as a sneeze these days but in the Hi Tech future, our devices could run for 20 years on a single charge. A team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a titanium dioxide gel that stores lithium ions in its nanostructure which makes it the Holy Grail as far an everlasting battery is concerned. But that is not the only development in battery technology. There’s a team in South Korea looking to transform the heat that’s generated from our bodies into electricity to power mobile phones. There’s also the idea of piezoelectricity, which converts movement into energy so we could walk and charge our mobile phone at the same time. Believe it or not researchers in California have created a tattoo that generates electricity from human sweat. So if you will pardon the pun we won’t have to sweat the future of a mobile phone’s power supply.

In 10 to 15 years those holographic floating displays that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies, will burst out of our mobile devices. Researchers are working on a 3D screen that materialises into thin air which we can move and manipulate. It’s already being developed by a startup company called Ostendo Technologies. Their ‘Quantum Photonic Imager’ is a mini projector that can beam a high resolution image into the open. That technology could be fine tuned so that we’re fully interactive with the floating screen — we could watch sport being played in front of us, get inside maps and play games in a 3D space created for us. Wearable technology is even trying to remove the necessity of carrying a phone and in future years the physical handset could disappear altogether. Just as the smartphone managed to overwhelm the hardware of developments like Sat Nav, MP3 players, wallets, and to some degree watches and compact cameras,the new smart watches and smart glasses will be operated by spoken command and they will become the primary communication device. The screen would be projected in front of the glasses in a Heads Up Display or through a pill sized holographic projector that would unfurl in midair. It would spell the end of the selfie. What a shame.

Finally, in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back and be highly amused at how we once had to actually hold a mobile phone to operate it. Going way beyond wearables, is a smart contact lens that could offer a device free experience to display messages, web pages, directions and video literally right in front of your eye. A lens with basic computer circuitry is currently being tested, which includes sensors that will provide important medical alerts such as when a diabetic reaches dangerous glucose levels. With nanotechnology having the potential to build robots the size of blood cells, the prospect of developing computing components small enough to fit on a contact lens is a distinct possibility. As the memory of clunky, manual mobile handsets morph into a world of invisible communication devices, plugged straight into our bodies, we will also see highly sophisticated operating systems that we can talk to as if they were another human being. Artificial Intelligence with built in personal assistants which become intuitive, knowing what we like, where we’ve been and what we’re doing.

If our mobiles can already work out and tell us when to leave work in order to catch our usual train home while reminding us to say happy birthday to an office colleague  and warning us about the number of calories there are in a biscuit even before we’ve eaten it, how hard can it be to imagine what else it will be able to do? Forget about asking Siri if it’s going to rain, you can have a full blown conversation, if you want to, about the state of the weather all over the world.

A computer has already been designed to dominate the television game show Jeopardy,  providing complex human like answers to questions. Some, like me, might find all of this terrifying but techno geeks, I’m sure, can’t wait. As one wag suggested, Artificial Intelligence is coming so you better get your small talk ready or you will run out of things to say.

The Doctor Taken To Task For Including Junk Food In His Daughter’s School Lunch

Now here is something really thought provoking. A father was strongly criticised by his daughter’s substitute teacher, because she considered the school lunch, he packed for the little girl, was too unhealthy.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that happening, but maybe it needs to happen more often than it has.

The teacher sent a note home with the child demanding that the father promise to do a better job in the future. In the note, the daughter’s substitute teacher, at Kirksville Primary School in Missouri, listed the unhealthy foods in the little girl’s school lunch, which included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, crackers and a pickle. It ended: “Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.” The letter was followed by a request for a parental signature, which the father refused to give, because he was so offended by the letter’s contents.

Wait. There’s more. Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

The Dad in question, a man called Justin Puckett, also happens to be a family Doctor from Missouri. He posted the contents of the letter on Facebook.

Now I am sure many will think, some might even say, as a Doctor, Justin Puckett, should know better than to send his daughter to school with a lunch containing so much junk food.  In his defense, the Doctor and father said “I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offence that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

Of course a cynic might say if it’s your number one job Justin, you need to be doing it better.

To be fair, Justin Puckett, also made the point that the teacher did not give an accurate description of what was in his daughter’s lunch: “Unfortunately, the letter didn’t have what she had, correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having. She also had four marshmallows in a Ziploc bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program,” Puckett said.

The school later called the family to apologise saying the substitute teacher was out of order. The school released a statement saying: “we had an individual take it upon themselves to send a note home to parents ……this will not happen again.”

Puckett went on to say “The issue isn’t what happened at the Primary School and with my daughter because she is very independent and going to be completely unaffected by this. But what does bother me is that it just seems that we are constantly being inundated with the inability to be parents of our children,”

Has Puckett got a point? Or was the substitute teacher in the wrong here? In the court of public opinion I am not so sure. The substitute teacher obviously takes her job very seriously. She sees herself as an educator whose role is to promote healthy minds and bodies. She thought she was doing the right thing. No way could that school lunch be said to be healthy. The child might have got away with one piece of chocolate but if you were to ask any nutritionist, four pieces of chocolate and a bag of marshmallows is definitely a bridge too far. Now, you might think it silly to be having an argument over some junk food. But what isn’t silly is the latest missive from the World Health Organisation, warning that diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year and urgent action is needed to stop what it describes as a “slow moving, public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like consuming too much fat, salt and sugar along with smoking and alcohol abuse, are causing an epidemic of diseases, which together constitute the leading cause of death globally. The WHO says this “lifestyle disease” epidemic “ is a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic in human history.

” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a range of cancers, killed 38 million people around the globe in 2012 — 16 million of them under the age of 70, the WHO says. ”  Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying … every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s.”

Forty two million children under the age of five are considered to be obese, and an estimated 84 per cent of adolescents do not get enough exercise.

In Australia, for example, some leading health groups have called on the Government to consider introducing a tax on junk food and sugary drinks. The Consumers Health Forum, the Heart Foundation, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Public Health Association of Australia are calling on the government to take decisive action to end the widespread marketing of junk food and drink. The groups surveyed 1016 people, and 50 per cent supported a government imposed tax on junk food and sugary drinks, similar to the tax on alcohol and tobacco. The research also showed 79 per cent of people believe if a child’s intake of junk food is not lowered they will live shorter lives than their parents. Seventy-seven per cent of people polled, support making it compulsory for all packaged foods to have a health star rating. Eighty five per cent of people surveyed, say unhealthy eating habits is now a major problem for Australian children. It is the first time four major health groups have joined forces to demand action from the Government, which they say is now urgent.

“Despite at least six reports from task forces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt drenched products continues largely unrestricted,” the groups say in a joint statement. “Unless immediate action is taken to address dietary related illness there will be a significant increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” Heart Foundation National CEO, Mary Barry believes introducing a tax will help protect Australian children and stem the cost of obesity in this country which is estimated at $56 billion a year. “The obesity crisis is threatening a whole generation of children,” Ms Barry said.

Those are compelling reasons for why a dispute over four chocolates and a bag of marshmallows isn’t so inconsequential after all and why a father and a doctor should know better, and a substitute teacher might not have been so out of order in reminding him.