Amici Curiae: The Chucked Waffle, Anonymous “Hacktivist,” and Egyptian Dissent Edition

State of the Union

President Barack Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress this past week. Amongst other things, he highlighted the need to invest in innovation and education, as well as the need to tame the raging US deficit. His address, entitled “Winning the Future,” cast the legislative challenges facing the United States as part of a broader competition amongst nations, singling out such nations as China, India and South Korea.

In the spirit of the newfound civility President Obama called for following the recent Tucson shootings, Republican and Democratic Congressmen took the symbolic act of sitting amongst each other, rather than divided by party, as per usual.

In another first, the President’s response received two responses, rather than the traditional one. First, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin delivered the official Republican response. Afterwards, at the behest of the Tea Party, Representative Michelle Bachmann delivered an alternative response. Both portrayed the U.S. financial situation as dire and deserving of immediate and drastic spending cuts.

With 2012 fast approaching, the State of the Union might be better examined in light of the upcoming Presidential elections. Obama’s campaign style “Winning the Future” title and centrist themes including boarder control, deficit reduction in the same speech as education funding was certainly indicative of this reality. Bachmann, who has hinted at being open to a run the presidency herself, has also seemed to be in campaign mode as of recent.

David Kato Murdered for Protecting Human Rights

Just weeks after winning a court case against a local Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine) over its policy of identifying homosexuals in its pages, Uganda gay rights activist David Kato were bludgeoned to death in his home in Mukono on January 26th, 2011.

In October 2010, the tabloid published a front page story on a list of 100 homosexuals with their names, photos, addresses alongside a yellow banner that says “Hang Them”. David Kato, as the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda, was one of the listed homosexuals. After being published as one of the “top 100 homosexuals”, David Kato told CNN last year that he feared for his life, and that “The villagers want to set my house ablaze.”

Despite the threats, Kato had actively spoken out for gay rights and, along with two activists, successfully sued the Ugandan tabloid earlier this year where the court brought an injunction to bar media from outing people its tabloid believed to be homosexuals.

“When we called for hanging of gay people, we meant … after they have gone through the legal process,” Giles Muhame, the editor of Ugandan Rolling Stone, told CNN . “I did not call for them to be killed in cold blood like he was.”

Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Uganda and is subject to 14 years to life in prison. In 2009, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for life imprisonment of gay people, was proposed. Although the bill was internationally criticized, it still remains to be decided by the parliament. David Kato lost his life fighting against this bill. International communities must take action to force the Ugandan government to protect human rights and equality, to abandon anti-homosexual laws, and to protect the liberty of all LGBT citizens in the country.

Charges Dropped Against Waffle-Throwing Leafs Fan

Let’s face it – it’s a tough time to be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. While there have been a few ‘highs’ along the way, the season thus far is a far cry from pre-season expectations.

As might be expected, fans have dealt with the disappointment in a myriad of ways. The angry have called for the firing of head coach Ron Wilson. The smart have started cheering for the Habs (couldn’t resist!). And then there’s Joe Robb (shall we call him the peculiar?), who, in a moment of originality borne of frustration, threw a waffle on the ice in a December 20th game at the Air Canada Centre. Mr. Robb later expressed regret over the incident, suggesting his emotions got the better of him.

While, as might again be expected, Robb was expelled from the building and banned from returning, the punishment did not end there, as he was criminally charged with mischief to property. Overreact much? While initially Executive Vice-President for Venues and Entertainment of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Bob Hunter didn’t think so, arguing that the waffle could have hit and injured a spectator (oh the danger a thawed waffle could do to some poor, unsuspecting suit in the front row…), the organization seems to have come to their senses this week, dropping the charge.

With the issue of criminal prosecution seemingly resolved, one major issue remains unanswered: why a waffle?

Five Arrested over “Anonymous” Cyber Attack

The Anonymoushacktivist ” collective, which targeted companies they deemed hostile to WikiLeaks, were arrested in the U.K. on January 25th, 2011. The group became famous in December 2010 when it attacked MasterCard and PayPal, which had stopped processing and accepting donations for WikiLeaks, respectively. After the December attack, Anonymous has also shut down a number of Tunisian and Egyptian government websites.

The five suspects, all males aged from 15 to 26 years old, united through an online message board called because of their opposition to censorship. Their weapon is “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” (LOIC), an open-source software program that can perform a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack –a type of cyber attack which uses a network of computers to bombard the target website with thousands of requests for data, thus overloading it and causing it to shut down.

The five hacktivists were arrested under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. People convicted of computer misuse offences in the U.K. face a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a 5,000 pound fine.

Egypt Protest on Friday? I Heard it Through……the Facebook.

Egyptians have organized its largest anti-government protests in years. And it all started from a Facebook group.

The Facebook group, “We are all Khaled Said,” started when the 28-year-old Khaled Said was tortured to death by the police for posting a video online showing officers sharing loot from a drug bust among themselves. It is run by an anonymous administrator and has now become Egypt’s most popular online human rights group. The site is abuzz with talk that there would be demonstrations everywhere after Friday Prayers. The protesters have designated this day as the “day of rage”, calling for an end of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has arrived in Egypt to join the rallies on Friday. As reported by CNN, the Facebook group had increased from only 20,000 on Wednesday to more than 80,000 followers on Thursday to support Friday’s protests.

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