U.N. group seeks control of Internet 23 February 2005

GENEVA — Governments spearheaded by China, Brazil, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia are trying to place the Internet under the control of the United Nations or its member governments, a move that the United States and other developed countries are determined to resist. The issue has cropped up in preparatory talks for a world summit on the information society to be held from Dec. 10 to 12 in Geneva, with the stated goal of advancing the management and worldwide use of the Internet, especially in poorer nations. Delegates from rich and developing nations remained divided on the matter at the end of the latest round of talks on Friday, senior diplomats said.

"We will continue to fight hard to ensure that Internet governance remains a balanced enterprise among all stakeholders and continues to be private-sector-led," said the chief of the U.S. delegation, Ambassador David A. Gross. Pierre Gagne, executive director of the world summit, earlier identified control of the Internet as one of two key issues in the talks, adding that control and financial issues "will probably be the last issues to be resolved" at the summit. Many developing countries argue that governments need to play a greater role in managing and setting policy for the Internet, while the United States, the European Union and Japan, among others, say government interference could stifle the development of the dynamic medium. The Internet, at present, is loosely managed by a private organization in California named the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which coordinates such matters as Internet servers and domain names. Countries with developing and emerging economies would like to hand over that authority to a U.N. agency, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The Internet medium is too important to be left in the hands of one major power, some argue, and others say problems such as cybercrime and protection of intellectual property rights require greater government involvement. Yoshio Utsumi, secretary-general of the ITU, which will host the December summit, said in an interview that Brazil is "a very strong advocate" of his agency taking over the Internet. China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Senegal and many other African countries were also "keen" for the United Nations to have a role, he said.

But, he said, the differences of opinion were "too big" to be settled before the delegates meet in Geneva next month. Other diplomats said there might be no decision even then. The summit also will deal with questions such as how to block the spread of viruses, prevent unwanted "spam" and prevent the use of the medium for criminal purposes such as identity theft, Western officials said. Russia has proposed that the final declaration address Internet security in both "civil and security fields," but many countries fear that any reference to military security could limit freedom of expression, Mr. Utsumi said. There also is pressure for a strong statement in support of free expression on the Internet but sources said that is being resisted by China and other countries that want to maintain strong oversight of the medium.

Nitin Desai, special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the core purpose of the summit is to establish a common vision for the information society, to utilize new technologies to overcome poverty and to find ways to make Internet access affordable to all. The president of Senegal has proposed the creation of a "global digital solidarity fund" to help poor countries establish Internet access. The ITU estimates that fewer than 1 percent of low-income country residents are Internet subscribers. The United States and other industrialized countries say the existing mechanisms are sufficient and argue that funding a new international bureaucracy would not be an effective way to spread information technology. Poor countries would be better served by establishing an environment in which the private sector would develop the needed infrastructure, the industrialized countries say.


Nanny arrested for abusing twins 23 February 2005

Galina Goriatzkin, 31, was arrested Tuesday after she was filmed abusing seven-month-old twins she was hired to care for in Ramat Gan.

The twin's parents discovered the abuse after installing a video camera in their apartment.

Watching the video, the parents were shocked to see the nanny forcefully throw the twins on the couch and dangle them in the air by their legs.

Her remand was extended Tuesday by an additional seven days.


MP slams child support agency 14 February 2005

A LIBERAL backbencher has attacked his Government's Child Support Agency, describing it as a national disgrace and saying it had adopted an anti-male culture which impacted on male suicide. The federal MP for the NSW seat of Hume, Alby Schultz, said he would lodge a complaint with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward about the agency, which monitors child support payments. Mr Schultz said he had hundreds of examples of disgraceful action by the Child Support Agency.

"I believe that in most cases it is abusing its powers and is misusing the act under which it operates," he told Parliament. "The information that I have proves conclusively that the actions of the Child Support Agency have had a significant impact on male suicide.

"It has certainly had an impact on bankruptcies.

"It has caused breakdown, heartache and pressures for new families where payers of support have tried to get on with their life and create new relationships. "It has pursued the illegal and abusive use of its powers by accessing people's bank accounts." Mr Schultz said he had approached Ms Goward to discuss having the Child Support Agency removed or restructured.

"I did that on the basis of forewarning her that I am going to lodge an official complaint, as a member of Parliament, about the anti-male bias in the way the Child Support Agency operates and its obviously institutionalised sexism against males," he said. "I will do that because I can no longer tolerate and bear to read about and absorb the pain and suffering that is occurring because of the way in which they operate. "Publicly, they declare that their task is to provide child support but it is, in fact, spousal maintenance, which is destroying lives and careers. "I can no longer allow that to happen and I am going to pursue this issue."


Woman Makes Up Story About Tossed Baby 14 February 2005

Fort Lauderdale, Florida. - A woman who claimed to have witnessed a newborn being thrown from a moving car was the baby's mother and concocted the story as a way to abandon the child and conceal her pregnancy from her family, officials said Friday.

"It's not as horrible as we first thought," Sheriff Ken Jenne said. "The baby was never thrown out of a moving car. This is the case of a disturbed woman who gave birth and did not want to keep her child." No charges were brought against the woman, 38-year-old Patricia Pokriots. She was committed for psychiatric evaluation under a law that allows for people who are a threat to themselves or others to be held for 72 hours.

On Thursday afternoon, Pokriots dropped an hour-old baby off at a sheriff's station, telling authorities that she had scooped the boy up after seeing him tossed out of a car onto the grass, Jenne said. Pokriots told investigators she saw a couple arguing in a car, then witnessed the woman throwing the child from the passenger side.

Eventually, investigators found inconsistencies in Pokriots' story, and on Friday she acknowledged that she had lied, the sheriff said. "She has indicated that she does not want the child," Jenne said.

The 8-pound, 2-ounce boy, whose umbilical cord was still attached when he was brought in, had no injuries. Nurses at the hospital nicknamed him Johnny. The sheriff said the woman had kept her pregnancy a secret, and had initially planned to take the baby to authorities. State law allows a mother to abandon a baby at any medical facility or fire station within three days of birth.

But she came up with a cover story after seeing two people argue inside their car, the sheriff said. A boy who was playing nearby did see a couple arguing, but never saw them throw anything out, Jenne said.

Pokriots is a barmaid and has an arrest record including an aggravated battery charge. "She said she may be a threat to herself," Jenne said. He said she has a 10-year-old child who will be taken from the home Pokriots shared with her mother.


Devious social worker charged with perjury 11 February 2005

Woman Faces Perjury Charges After Men Jailed In Bogus Attacks

ORLANDO, Fla. -- At 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, 25-year-old Beate Faanis cut a stunning figure as a University of Central Florida golfer, and she quickly caught the eye of fellow golfer Trason Brooks. "Tall girl, blonde hair, blue eyes, pretty girl," Brooks recalled of his first impression of the Norweigian-born clinical social worker. They would date off and on over 18 months, but after their last break-up things turned downright bizarre.

The first sign of trouble came August 8, when Brooks was arrested while working at the Stoneybrook East golf club and charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated stalking. "Absolutely unbelievable," he thought, having no idea at the time from where the charges came. He soon learned Faanes told police he attacked her three times in recent weeks -- and evidence photos clearly showed the bruises she claimed he left behind on her face, thigh, and neck. But there were problems with Faanes' story: Brooks had solid alibis for two of the attacks, and he claimed he had not even seen Faanes for more than two months. He told Orange County investigators as much, but "they didn't care. They relied on her word 100 percent," he said. The sheriff's office attitude, he said: "You beat this girl, she has the marks, she has no witnesses, but you're guilty."

The sheriff's office says it had no choice but to arrest Brooks, since Faanes identified him and had the injuries to back it up. But there was evidence Faanes was a troubled young woman. Sheriff's office records show she attempted suicide in January 2004 over a break-up with another boyfriend. And, investigative records state, she admitted lying to Brooks about having aborted his baby in an attempt to gain his love -- in fact, she was never pregnant. But Det. Brian Cross, the lead sheriff's detective, said those incidents did not destroy her credibility. At the time, based on the evidence at hand, he said the most likely apparent danger would be to not arrest Brooks and risk having Faanes later turn up dead. So Brooks, a 28-year-old golf instructor and aspiring real estate salesman, went to jail with no bond. "It was the most humiliating thing ever," he said. "First of all, I've never been in a jail, not even a tour of a jail." When he saw the words "MAX 1" stamped on his jail paperwork, "I think in my mind that means I'm only going to be in jail max one day."

Actually, it means he's housed among the worst of the worst prisoners in the Orange County jail. "One guy had murdered his ex-girlfriend the night before and turned himself in and I'm thinking where in the world am I?" Brooks recalled. "A week goes by, three weeks go by, a month, two months and then I'm thinking, you got to be kidding me. Am I ever getting out of this jail?" Then he heard of "the best attorney in town," Harrison "Butch" Slaughter, who led a team of lawyers and investigators to uncover the truth. Slaughter persuaded a judge to set bail, but by then Brooks had spent 93 days in jail and the first of what's now a $30,000 legal bill. He said if his family did not have access to a competent, highly paid law firm, he might still be in jail or prison, because the sheriff's office accepted Faanes' allegations at face value. "Detectives did nothing. They took her word and believed it and rolled with it," said Brooks, adding, "If it was up to them, I would still be sitting in the Orange County jail." Sitting there, it turns out, with good friend Chris Brussow, who supplied one of Brooks' earlier alibis. "My friend didn't do it and I went before a judge to make a statement," said the 28-year-old Brussow, noting he was with Brooks on a night when Faanes pinned an attack on Brooks.

Faanes watched that alibi testimony in an August 18 court hearing. In October, with Brooks stuck in jail, she came forward with a new allegation: that Brussow came to her apartment and attacked her, punching her face and cutting her side. There were new bruises and a cut, so this time it was Brussow being carted off to jail. "No matter what I said to anybody, they laughed at me," he recalled. "'Sure you're innocent.' 'Sure you didn't do it.'" After four days, Brussow got a bond, but freedom was fleeting. On Christmas Day, Faanes told police Brussow again attacked her, this time with a knife, almost slitting her neck. Orlando police stormed Brussow's condo within hours with a warrant for attempted murder.

"Guns drawn, 'get face down, face down,' probably seven officers at least one dog. We're all on the ground in handcuffs. It's very disheartening to look up see my mom in handcuffs," he said. "All I could think about is this girl who's done this to me. I'm obviously terrified because now I'm going back to jail again." By then, though, Faanes' tales would begin to wear thin. While out on bond on house arrest, Brussow was attached to an ankle bracelet that tracked his every move. And it proved he was home on Christmas when Faanes claimed he attacked her miles away. And Brooks' lawyers produced a dozen alibi witnesses and dental records proving he was in Jackson County when Fannes claimed he last attacked her in Orange County, 300 miles away. Finally, a prosecutor asked Orlando police to seek the truth Brooks and Brussow had been claiming all along. Orlando police presented Faanes with the men's ironclad alibis during an interrogation on December 28, and she cracked in a tearful confession, admitting she inflicted all the injuries on herself, according to court records. "Everything is fabricated," said Brooks. "Everything's a lie." Little consolation now, said Brussow. "In my opinion they should've maybe looked into it before they came into my house with guns drawn. I guess that's not the way they do things."

Asked why that is, Brussow replied, "I think it's very unfair. Here are two people's lives and families ruined by a girl (who) lied, all because maybe she was a pretty face." Talking to police, Faanes blamed her actions on alcohol and anxiety drugs, but Trason Brooks suspects another cause: "She wanted me in prison the rest of my life ... In her mind we're getting married, we're having kids, we're going to be happily ever after. I made it clear to her that's not what my intentions were." As she was booked January 21 on charges of perjury and filing false reports, we asked Faanes, "Anything you want to say to Trason about this? Are you sorry?" but she wouldn't comment. Days earlier she told us she really was attacked, but was coerced by police to confess when they threatened her father. Police say that's another lie. "She needs some kind of mental counseling or some kind of help," said Brussow.

"She'll cause bodily harm to herself, she'll injure herself and in the process of doing that attempt to ruin other people's lives." Faanes has received some mental health care, at Lakeside Alternatives, after that suicide attempt in January 2004 and again after she confessed in December to injuring herself, according to police records. After graduating UCF, Faanes became a licensed clinical social worker and worked at the very same Lakeside Alternatives as a therapist until she resigned January 28, one week after her arrest. As for Brooks and Brussow, they say the ordeal has cost them their good names, their jobs, and much of their life, plus tens of thousands in legal fees. Both are consulting lawyers about possibly suing Faanes and law enforcement agencies for not diligently checking out her claims before arresting them. But for now they're just glad they're not in jail or prison.


Slain by Mother 10 February 2005

A suicidal mom, despondent over her divorce and struggling with her teenage daughter, beat the 14-year-old to death with a hammer and shovel before she tried to kill herself on a New Jersey highway, police said yesterday.

Cops found a disoriented Lynn Giovanni, 45, Sunday afternoon near a highway exit in Berkeley Heights, where she had crashed her car into a guardrail in an apparent suicide attempt. There, according to prosecutors, she told state troopers about her horrible crime: How she bashed in her daughter's head while the teenager slept and took off in her car to end her own life.

Troopers called police in Roselle Park, where Giovanni lives with her mother and daughter. Moments later, cops found the bloody body of Nicole Giovanni. "It was absolutely premeditated," said Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow. "This young girl's life was taken without any purpose. It is inexplicable why any parent would ever take the life of a child. "We mourn her loss, and we will prosecute her mother," he said.

Romankow said Nicole, a well-liked freshman at Roselle Catholic HS, was sleeping at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday when her mother came into her room and struck her several times in the head with a hammer and then once with a shovel. Lynn Giovanni fled in a 2000 Honda Civic and was discovered eight hours later, after she crashed her car on Route 78 nearby. Romankow said no argument immediately preceded the attack. Giovanni's mother, Angela Gravina, was not home at the time of the murder, Romankow said.

Gravina was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Giovanni, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, was taken to Overlook Hospital in Summit before she was transferred to the Trenton Psychiatric Institute, where she was being held on $250,000 bail and charged with murder. Friends said Giovanni suffered from depression and had difficulty dealing with a string of misfortunes, including a recent divorce, job difficulties and trouble with Nicole.

"She suffered every day of her life," said a friend named Chris. "She was on a lot of medication, and I wondered if that had anything to do with this." Friends said Lynn Giovanni had written a book, "Judicial System Loopholes," last year that slammed the court's treatment of domestic violence. Giovanni used the nom de plume "Faith Hope."


Injustice at the hands of the Scottish legal system 10 February 2005

I HAVE for many years admired the vociferous manner with which Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre has pursued cases on behalf of those who have experienced injustice. However, I felt his letter of February 9 was totally out of touch with the injustice many people experience at the hands of the legal system in Scotland. From my constituency experience over the past eight years, I have represented a number of individuals who were unable to secure the services of a solicitor to pursue an action against another solicitor. As a result, sheriffs have dismissed cases because individuals did not have legal representation through no fault of their own.

Worn down by their inability to find a solicitor to act on their behalf they have turned to the Law Society of Scotland for justice. The complaint-handling system of the Law Society of Scotland is slow and exhausting to penetrate. After years of effort, constituents obtain an opinion from an independent Law Society of Scotland Reporter favourable to their case, only to find the conclusions of that process watered down by a Law Society committee. All of this process takes years. This is the reality of the experience of some of the people who complain about legal services in Scotland.

Mike Dailly challenges the notion that "solicitors and insurance companies are in league to the detriment of complainers". One of my constituents has in his possession a note from the chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland that proposes a "summit" between representatives of the Law Society and the brokers of the master policy to "discuss the claims and complaints aspects" of my constituent's case. How does that square with the notion there is no dialogue between the Law Society of Scotland and its insurers? When these issues were shared with the readers of The Herald the letter went unanswered by the Law Society of Scotland. I have always had first-class service from every solicitor who has acted on my behalf. But that does not prevent me from seeing that others are not so fortunate. I hope there is going to be some change in the regulation of the legal profession. I hope for more independent scrutiny of complaints. I hope that people can secure justice without being worn down in the process. Some months ago in the columns of this newspaper I offered the justice minister cross-party co-operation on resolving these issues. My offer still stands and I hope her soon-to-be-published consultation paper starts the process of change.

John Swinney, MSP, The Scottish Parliament.


Why I Continue to Fight 9 February 2005

Judicial Intimidation In Norfolk County, Massachusetts

My girlfriend and I were victims of retribution , chilling of First Amendment rights and harrassment by Judge David Koppelman of Norfolk Probate and Family Court in Canton, Mass. In 1999 I was legal counsel for a father's rights group . We sued the State court system for violating the constitutional rights of male litigants. The case was widely publicized. I recieved significant media attention, was named lawyer of the year by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and recieved congratulaotry messages from the Mass Bar Association, praise from the Boston Herald and a plaque from the State Senate. I was even on TV in China, as well as the BBC and CNN, AP and NPR. CBS News also did a segment. My domestic relations practice dramatically increased. The lawsuit strongly criticized two judges ( Harms and Shaevel) in Norfolk Probate. Although the federal court refused to let the suit go forward, I succeeded inbringing the issue to the fore, and was in the press aroudn the country for weeks,

A few years later, Judge Koppelman and Judge Harms assumed control over the guardianship of my girlfriend's brother, who has schizophrenia.. They appointed a lawyer for him who immediately began to accuse my girlfriend and I of embezzlement from him. A guardian was appointed who, despite obvious attempts at intimidating him, cleared us. I took the precaution of hiring one of the elder statesmen of the Boston bar who confirmed that there was a vendetta directed against me.

It was too late, though, for my girlfriend.

She suffered a stroke within a few hours of learning of the accusation, was hospitalized, and is now on blood pressure medication. She had to have two MRI's and stay in the hospital for a week, She is a diabetic in her mid-fifties, and very fragile. These judges literally almost killed her. I am planning demonstrations and other acts of protest this summer in Canton, Massachusetts.

Attorney David Grossack

Law Society feeling the HEAT 8 February 2005

Law Society’s complaint sees off watchdog

THE governing body for Scottish solicitors has engineered the removal of a respected consumer watchdog from the executive taskforce reviewing Scotland's legal services market. However, the Law Society of Scotland denied any intention to "subvert" fair competition through its attacks on Grahame Horgan, principal enforcement officer at the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Duncan Murray, society president, alleged that Mr Horgan was guilty of a "conflict of interest" and had "compromised" the group's work.

Mr Horgan was recently dropped from the working party after The Herald's revelation last September that the OFT was planning to investigate the society ban on solicitors paying referral fees – a practice that is allowed in England and Wales. The society alleged that this breached an assurance given by Mr Horgan at a working party meeting that no further formal OFT action was planned over society rules. In correspondence seen by The Herald, Mr Murray also rebuked the OFT over The Herald's earlier report of an investigation into the society's master insurance policy, an inquiry which is still ongoing. Mr Murray told John Vickers, director general of fair trading, that it was intolerable for third parties to be informed of such investigations before the society had been officially notified. Last month Mr Murray urged Mr Vickers to "ensure (OFT) staff are much more circumspect in dealing with the press".

The society's master policy covers all compensation claims against Scottish solicitors arising from negligence, fraud or dishonesty. Critics, including the Scottish Consumer Council, have complained that the policy gives rise to suspicions that solicitors, brokers Marsh UK, and the insurance companies are in league to the detriment of complainers. One oft-heard though unsubstantiated claim is that lawyers will not take up negligence cases against other lawyers because, if they are successful, this will push up their own premiums under the master policy. The Law Society was not officially informed of the OFT's inquiry into the master policy until June 25 last year, a month after The Herald report of the investigation. Mr Murray first demanded that Mr Horgan be replaced in a letter to Mr Vickers last October. He said: "Let me state, for the record, that the society has no intention of subverting either EU or UK competition law … the society is of the view that the work of the group is compromised by the presence of Mr Horgan."

Mr Horgan's removal could prove significant. He has previous experience of piloting far-reaching investigations into competition in the professions. The row also comes at a sensitive juncture for the executive. The working party, established by Cathy Jamieson, justice minister, was set up to parallel the so-called Clementi review south of the border, which looks likely to usher in the most liberal legal services market in the world in England and Wales. The Scottish body has yet to publish recommendations. However, both the society and Faculty of Advocates, whose members dominate the working party, want little part of consumer-oriented changes mooted by Clementi. These include allowing outside firms to own law firms, and enabling solicitors and barristers to be able to set up in business together.

In correspondence disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Vickers dismissed the society's allegations that Mr Horgan had a "conflict of interest" and had "prejudiced the operation" of the Scottish working group. "I do not see that there is a conflict or prejudice," he told Mr Murray on November 5. "It is not at all uncommon for the OFT to be simultaneously engaged in complementary activities in relation to a market or set of markets." The agency has, nevertheless, caved in to the society's demand that Horgan be replaced. His substitute, competition enforcement director Alan Williams, said it had agreed "solely to facilitate the smooth running of the working group".


Worldwide father revolt against totalitarian power 6 February 2005

  The Washington Times

Forum: A Virginia Family Bill of Rights
by Stephen Baskerville

Bold legislation is being introduced that will put the Commonwealth of Virginia on the cutting edge of the worldwide campaign to reverse the family's seemingly inexorable decline.     Many states have now passed laws or constitutional amendments preserving marriage as one man and one woman, and more are set to follow. But Virginia is poised to go further.     Riding the momentum from the November election and the huge public opposition to same-sex "marriage," Delegate Kathy Byron and other legislators have introduced a "Family Bill of Rights." This ambitious bill will check not only the homosexual challenge to marriage, but also the huge erosion of parental rights. Stronger still, state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli has offered a bill to begin countering the "no-fault" divorce epidemic.     

Together, these measures would give Virginia the strongest family-protection provisions in the nation. Moreover, they would do so by protecting rather than limiting citizens' rights.     Why is this necessary? Because same-sex "marriage" is not only a threat to the marriage and the family. It may not even be the most serious. As Michael McManus of Marriage Savers points out, "Divorce is a far more grievous blow to marriage than today's challenge by gays."     Indeed, it is very likely same-sex "marriage" would not even be an issue were it not for the severe weakening of marriage that has already occurred due to divorce and out-of-wedlock births. "Commentators miss the point when they oppose homosexual marriage on the grounds that it would undermine traditional understandings of marriage," writes Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University. "It is only because traditional understandings of marriage have already been severely undermined that homosexuals are now laying claim to it."     Virginia's initiative will for the first time address the underlying, long-term causes of marriage decline and family dissolution, of which same-sex "marriage" is only the latest symptom. While it cannot rectify cultural pressures, it does directly confront the legal mechanisms that allow government officials to forcibly destroy families, often against the wishes of family members.     

Many have commented on how many voters in this election cast their ballots on the basis of "moral values." Yet it isn't clear same-sex "marriage" was all the voters had in mind.     A 1999 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 78 percent of Americans regard the high divorce rate as a serious problem, and a Time/CNN poll found 61 percent believe it should be harder for married couples with young children to divorce.     Equally important to preserving the marital bond is protecting the bond between parents and their children, increasingly threatened by government: Home-schoolers are harassed. Parents are pressured to put their children on dangerous psychotropic drugs under threat of child-abuse charges. Others face obviously trumped-up charges of child abuse and risk losing their children for exercising ordinary parental discipline, for poverty or during divorce proceedings.     With all these mechanisms available for government to sink its talons into children, hardly a family in America is safe. And parents are becoming an active political force.     

The gap between parents and childless voters was one of the widest in the election and was especially marked for fathers. According to Gary Andres in The Washington Times, "Men with children favored the president on the question of agreement on cultural direction by nearly 60 percentage points (Bush 77, Kerry 18, while men without kids slightly favored John Kerry.)"     Same-sex "marriage" is not the only area of family policy where upheavals occur. Bill Cosby's celebrated remarks last summer on parenthood and the family has placed a once-taboo subject at the top of the African-American agenda.     And another election result has not received the attention it deserves: In ultra-liberal Massachusetts, a whopping 85 percent of voters defied the strident opposition of feminists and lawyers to approve resolutions giving fathers equality in custody decisions. This measure could drastically reduce Massachusetts' divorce rate and curtail the power of the divorce industry, including judges like Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margaret Marshall. In Britain and Australia, fathers are literally marching in the streets over child custody.     We stand today on the brink of an upheaval of civilizational proportions. Same-sex "marriage" does not begin to describe the possible dimensions of disaster.     On the other hand, the determination of parents could develop into a worldwide revolt against the almost totalitarian power government now assumes over families.     


    President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
    Mr. Baskerville is a professor of political science at Howard University. 


Jailed if he phones his son 6 February 2005


A Divorcee who was told by a court that he faced jail if he telephoned his son, has failed in an Appeal Court bid to have the ruling overturned. The father, from Carmarthenshire, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was banned from having telephone contact with his young son by a judge at Cardiff High Court late last year.

The order followed claims by the boy's mother that the father was trying to turn her son against her with "undermining derogatory comments".

The judge also ordered that contact between the father and his son be reduced, and attached a penal notice to the order, meaning he could face jail if he telephoned his son, or brought him back late from a contact visit.

But in his bid to see the decision overturned, the father argued before Lord Justice Wall, sitting at London's Appeal Court, that the judge's ruling had been draconian and was keeping a father and son who loved each other apart.

"The judge stated that my son not only enjoyed contact with me but has stated that he would like to see his father more frequently," he said. "Cutting contact is a drastic step. To do so on the basis of unfounded allegations is plainly wrong. "Putting a man's liberty at risk should the order be breached is disproportionate,'' he added. The father was accompanied by his 76-year-old mother, who told the judge: "All my grandson wants is to be able to spend more time with his daddy."

Lord Justice Wall said he was moved by the grandmother's plea, but he had no choice but to refuse the father's application as nothing the judge in Cardiff had done could be said to be "plainly wrong". Lord Justice Wall added: "I've no doubt the boy loves both his parents, but the residue of what's left over from the relationship between the adults tends to rub off on the innocent children."

Urging the parents to co-operate for the good of their son, the judge concluded: "It is only when the parents respect each other, no matter what their own feelings, that the child can be free of adult interference."

Swansea evening post


Father wins benefits appeal 4 February 2005

A rule which means separated fathers can claim no benefits for their child even if they share almost equal care is "grotesque", "degrading", and brings the law into disrepute, according to an appeal court ruling.

The judgment, by Lord Justice Ward, came after Eugen Hockenjos, a father from north London who shares care of his two children, challenged the Department for Work and Pensions over the rule that child-related benefits can be paid only to one parent after a split.

Mr Hockenjos's seven-year case was based only on the child supplement of the job seekers' allowance. He argued successfully that, even if a child lived with the other parent most of the time, the non-resident father or mother was also entitled to state support for his or her caring role.

The government has applied to the House of Lords for leave to appeal against the judgment, which found that the benefit should be paid to both parents. In practice, the particular child-related element is being phased out in favour of the child tax credit, so the ruling is primarily symbolic.

Campaigners are pointing to the ruling as evidence of a gap between government-backed moves to encourage more joint care and a benefits system which supports only one parent, no matter how care is divided.

Writing in today's Society Guardian, Jack O'Sullivan of Fathers Direct says the Hockenjos case exposes an anomaly which he argues can drive some non-resident parents with substantial caring responsibilities into poverty.

The gender gap

Jack O'Sullivan on why the government must close the 'grotesque' benefits gap impoverishing separated fathers


The Fatherphobia Of Family Courts 4 February 2005

It's not just gay adoptions that threaten the right of children to be raised in traditional two-parent, mother-father homes. A threat also comes from father-phobic family courts that deprive children of their fathers. Under no-fault divorce, equality is the rule: Either spouse can terminate a marriage without the other spouse's consent and without any fault committed by the cast-off spouse or even alleged by the spouse initiating the divorce. When it comes to determining child custody, however, sexism is the rule. By making allegations of fault (true or false, major or petty) against the male, the female can usually get the family court to grant her their children and his money.

Despite an extended string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions upholding the fundamental right of parents to the care, custody and control of their children (reaffirmed in a 2000 case), and despite a very high standard that the government must meet in order to terminate parental legal rights, fathers are routinely denied due process when it comes to determining child custody after divorce. Family courts use a highly subjective rule called the best interest of the child as recommended by court-appointed child-custody evaluators or psychotherapists. There is no requirement that they have first-hand experience with raising children, and they are allowed to use their own personal prejudices to overrule the parents. But why aren't parents the ones best able to decide what is in the best interest of the child? Family courts routinely rubber-stamp child-custody evaluators who recommend maternal custody with fathers getting so-called visitation only every other weekend. This despite the mountain of social science research presented in Warren Farrell's book, "Father and Child Reunion" which proves that the best interest of the child of divorced parents is usually to give the child equally shared parent time.

Two dozen different measures listed in Farrell's book indicate that equally shared custody is better for children than maternal custody alone. Farrell's book explains how most fathers provide benefits that mothers usually don't. Yet, family courts typically rule as though fathers have no value except their money, and routinely banish fathers (who have not been proven to have committed any misdeed) from the lives of their children, except for every other weekend. Farrell describes how this typical custody pattern is a loser for the child, causing intense feelings of deprivation and depressive behavior. In his new book "Twice Adopted" Michael Reagan tells how, as the child of divorced parents, he only got to see his father, former President Ronald Reagan, on alternating Saturdays. He wrote, "To an adult two weeks is just two weeks. But to a child, having to wait two weeks to see your father is like waiting forever."

American courts are presumed to be based on an adversarial system with each side arguing its best case, subject to standards of due process, evidence and proof. Somehow, that doesn't function in family courts. Some divorce lawyers advise wives to manipulate the process by using a three-step technique: (1) make domestic violence or child abuse allegations, (2) demand full custody, (3) collect large amounts of child support, alimony, and legal fees. If the father objects to this process, the wife can make more accusations. The evaluators then call it a high-conflict divorce and give custody to the wife, declaring that shared parenting won't work.

If the husband doesn't acquiesce, he is reprimanded by the court for "not buying into the process." In trying to defend himself against accusations, the father is denied the basic rights of a criminal defendant such as presumption of innocence and the necessity that the accuser provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Family courts force fathers to submit to interrogations and evaluations by court-chosen child-custody evaluators. Fathers are forced to pay the high fees of these private practitioners whom they have not hired, whose services they do not want, and whose credentials and bias are suspect. The children are also subjected to these evaluators who attempt to turn the children against their parents in unrecorded interviews.

One of the most un-American aspects of family court procedure is the sentencing of fathers to attend re-education classes and psychotherapy sessions to induce them to admit fault and to indoctrinate them in government-approved parenting behavior. The court-approved psychotherapists report back to the court on the father's supposed progress, and his attendance at these Soviet-style re-education sessions must continue until he conforms. A cozy relationship exists among local lawyers and court-approved psychotherapists who recommend each other for this highly paid work of making evaluations, counseling, and conducting re-education classes. The psychotherapists decline to challenge each other's recommendations or question their competence, and lawyers decline to cross-examine them, because they all want to continue the profitable practice of referring business to each other and collecting fees from fathers who are desperate to see their own children.


Divorced fathers hope verdict will lead to more visitations 4 February 2005

The worldwide phenomena affecting all men and children

Court rules on dads' rights

Tomas Marhoun, a 33-year-old father of two, gave up hope of seeing his sons after a long and frustrating legal battle with his ex-wife. Tomas Marhoun hasn't seen his two sons, Matous and Krystof, in three years. The 33-year-old commodities analyst wrangled with his ex-wife Jana for a year over visitation with the boys. Then he and his parents, frustrated by the pace of the courts and worried that the children were being traumatized by litigation, dropped a legal challenge to gain access to his sons. "We finally decided it was better for them not to see me than to have to go through a long legal battle," he said. "If it had taken a month, two months or more to resolve, it would have been worth it. But not years."

Marhoun and thousands of Czech fathers like him have long complained about this country's family courts, which they say are biased toward mothers, lax in enforcing paternal visitation, and slow to reach decisions. But a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court may, some fathers say, make the murky and bumpy playing field of custody disputes clearer and more even. The court ruled Jan. 20 that judges should not automatically apply a standard of "two weekends a month" of paternal visitation when adjudicating custody disputes but should instead consider all evidence and arguments and then set the visitation parameters. Although the ruling failed to set a new visitation standard and isn't binding in lower courts, some divorced fathers have hailed it as a breakthrough. "It's a big deal," said Lubos Patera, head of Justice for Children, a fathers' rights group. "The highest court in the land said the influence of a father on a child must be ensured, that the present practice [of two weekends a month] should change."

As it stands, mothers win custody in 90 percent of cases, according to the Alliance for Children and Parents, another fathers' rights group, and in most of those cases, dads are granted visitation rights of two weekends a month. In the case of Slavicek v. Slavickova, Martin Slavicek sought custody of his son in a lower court from Thursday through the weekend. His ex-wife argued that the son's school week would be disrupted. The judge agreed, setting aside evidence that the son's performance at school had remained the same when the child had stayed with his father during the week. In overturning that decision in favor of Slavicek, the Constitutional Court said arguments from both sides in custody cases should be considered when determining visitation rather than a verdict of two weekends a month being applied as standard. The court added that a father plays an indispensable role in the upbringing of a child, one that should be protected.

Because Czech justice is not based on common law, the ruling isn't binding in lower courts. Parents with similar cases have to appeal to the court and hope for the same result. But lower-court judges may take the decision as a guideline. CUSTODY RULING

• Constitutional court says two weekends a month should not be standard visitation for divorced dad
• Dads' groups call it a victory for their cause
• Legal experts say rule isn't binding, but could influence other judges
• Dispute continues over pace of custody cases in courts and courts' ability to enforce rulings

"Courts don't want to be shamed," said Klara Vesela-Samkova, a child-custody lawyer, "so it might happen that judges will take this ruling into account when deciding cases."

Justice delayed

Custody disputes are common throughout the world, as are disgruntled fathers and paternal rights groups. Czech dads complain, though, that courts here are not only biased toward mothers -- a common claim elsewhere -- but also maddeningly slow. A majority of the 30 Czech custody cases standing before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg are complaints over the length of legal proceedings. In June, Evzen Volesky, a father, was awarded 7,500 euros (250,000 Kc/$10,800) in compensation because his case here had lasted eight years. Another problem, tied together with slow courts, is lax enforcement. Fathers who believe mothers are pretending their children are ill or planning trips during paternal weekends must return to court and prove a case of bad faith. It is up to the judges to issue punishment or to have police seize the children, two remedies that are rarely used.

Marhoun says he appeared in court dozens of times -- first to request that his wife obey an order to let him visit his children and then to answer charges that the child was traumatized during a stay with him. "In my case, it wasn't the rulings, although I didn't always agree with them; it was getting the judge to enforce them," he said. "I mean, I have my side and she has her side. What bothers me is that once the judge decides something, it should be applied, and in my case it wasn't. I had to go to court to get access I had already won." Jaromir Jirsa, president of Czech Union of Judges, rejected claims that Czech judges are slow and reluctant to enforce decisions. "There's always reasons for delays," Jirsa said. "Each case is different. Remember, we're talking about a child, not a piece of bread."


Lone parent support must be tackled 4 February 2005

Lone parent support must be tackled, says top academic

THE academic who came under fire over his comments about lone parents, last night reiterated his belief that our society needs to look at social welfare systems which encourage single parent families.

In a public lecture at UCC, Dr Edward Walsh, University of Limerick president emeritus, argued that society was facing difficulties due to the erosion of the traditional family structure.

He said the State is providing very real financial incentives which are actively encouraging the emergence of lone parent families. "The support the State provides may have moved further than it should. Very real financial incentives are now in place that may actively encourage the formation of lone-parent families," he said.

Dr Walsh, in the wake of a recent backlash from the lone parent lobby, stressed that he was merely presenting the statistics and it was up to each individual to make what they would of the data. He also apologised if some of the terminology he used caused offence in certain quarters, but he said: "These are the terms used in the reports to which I refer"

Quoting studies conducted in the US, he said it had been found that 72% of men accused of murder had come from families where the biological father was absent. Furthermore, the same applied to 60% of males accused of rape. Dr Walsh's lecture, entitled Science and Technology and the Future of Ireland, addressed the economic growth of the country in modern times. Dr Walsh, chairman of the Irish Council for Science and Technology, said "national happiness" was a factor which should be considered.

Ireland's GDP was all very well "but we need other things as well. For instance, how do we make this country a good place in which to live?" he said. Quality of life needed to be equated along with GDP in order to achieve what he termed national happiness.

But quality of life in Ireland was being adversely affected, not only by the rapid acceleration of lone parent families, but also drink and drug abuse. -Ireland was long recognised as having a drink culture, but now binge drinking is reaching epidemic proportions amongst teenagers, he said. Drug abuse and STDs were also on the increase, he said.

"We do not have a rich or strong moral framework from which to operate," he said, referring to recent church, judicial and political controversies, but we had to accept that Irish society had problems and the time had come to address the causes of those problems.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/pport/web/ireland/Full_Story/did-sgBjteEbKyJzEs gdq-nXlDAyFE.asp

Is this freedom of information? 3 February 2005

One month into the Government's 'new era of openness', outrage grows at a catalogue of obfuscation and evasion in answer to requests for disclosure

Iraq war: legal advice

Q. Please disclose the legal advice given by the Attorney General on the legality of the war with Iraq?

A. No. It is exempt as legally privileged information. (Attorney General)

Iraq war: legal discussions

Q. Please disclose all ministerial and senior military officer correspondence on the subject of the legality of the war/conflict with Iraq.

A. No. There is no obligation under the Act to disclose this information. (Ministry of Defence)


Q. Please disclose material concerning Stephen Byers' decision to declare Railtrack insolvent in autumn 2001.

A. It would not be possible to respond to this request within the appropriate cost limit. (Department for Transport)

Olympic bid

Q. Please disclose the assessment of the original candidates to head the Olympic bid following interviews that led to the appointment of Barbara Cassani.

A. No. Interview notes have probably been disposed of. (Greater London Authority)


Q. Please disclose all the open evidence against the Belmarsh detainees.

A. No, this would be too costly. Some of the information might also be exempt. (Home Office)

David Kelly

Q. Please disclose the minutes of the meeting of the BBC board of governors on the day of the publication of Lord Hutton's report on his inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly

A. It will take us until 9 March 2005 to balance the public interest against the possible harm of disclosure. (BBC)

Primary schools

Q. How many primary schools in England still have outside lavatories?

A. The department does not hold this information. (Department for Education and Skills)

Lord Irvine's flat

Q. Please disclose documents relating to the redecoration of the Lord Chancellor's residence, including costings, since 1997.

A. No. The question is almost certain to exceed the appropriate cost limit. (Department for Constitutional Affairs)


Q. Please let us see papers relating to the DTI investigation into BAT.

A. The department holds such information, [but] the information itself is being withheld as it falls under the exemption in section 44 of the Act. (DTI)


Q. Please provide minutes of meetings held between officials at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and executives of US gaming companies.

A. We need extra time to determine if this is in the public interest. (DCMS)


Man killed in Masonic gun ritual 3 February 2005

An initiation ceremony at a Masonic Lodge in New York has ended in tragedy after a man was killed during a ritual for new members. William James was accidentally shot in the head when a lodge member used a real gun instead of a blank pistol by mistake. The alleged gunman, a freemason aged 74, has been charged with manslaughter. It was supposed to have been the climax of the initiation rituals at the Southside Masonic Lodge in Long Island. Police said that William James was forced to sit in a chair with a gun pointed straight at him.

Aim was to frighten

Cans were placed on a small platform around his head. When the gun was fired another member was supposed to knock the cans off as if they had been hit by bullets. The aim was to frighten their new recruit. But Albert Eid, a long-serving freemason, had two guns in his pocket, one with blanks and one with real bullets. He apparently pulled the wrong one, killing Mr James. The initiation rituals and symbols of the Masons have long been shrouded in secrecy but the grandmaster of the New York State Freemasons issued a statement denying that guns played any role in official lodge ceremonies. William James was apparently being sworn into a select group within his lodge but it was a prank which went fatally wrong.

10 March, 2004