France’s oldest LGBT bookshop is being pushed out of Paris’s trendy gay district due to skyrocketing rents fanned by gentrification, tourism and top brands which have opened outlets there.
"Les Mots a la Bouche" has been a landmark in the Marais, one of the most sought after areas in the French capital, since it opened in the early 1980s. Les Mots à La Bouche, Top LGBTQ Bookshop in Paris, Forced Out by Rising Rents https://t.co/fP70l0Uc14 pic.twitter.com/9frYb5jJ0c — Towleroad (@tlrd) January 18, 2020 But the landlord now wants the rent to be hiked by four times — in keeping with the market rate — and the bookshop will have to relocated after more than 36 years, Nicolas Wanstok, who works at the bookshop, told AFP.
Les Mots a la Bouche is a historic bookshop, Paris’s deputy mayor for culture Christophe Girard, told AFP.
"We are very attached to it and our aim is to save it. We are continuing to seek options."
Several historic establishments in the Marais, which was also the city’s traditional Jewish quarter, have been push out by sky-high rents.
Sarah Fearon filed a bias lawsuit against Brick Township
Sarah Fearon, a Brick Township court clerk, has filed a lawsuit against the township and her supervisors, alleging anti-gay and anti-LGBT bias. The suit comes after Fearon reported the abuses to administrators to no avail. Fearon, who is gay, has been with the township’s municipal court since March 2016.
In her complaint, Fearon claimed that she was “unapologetically mocked” and complaints dismissed as a mental health disorder. When reporting racial and homophobic comments made by colleagues in the office, Fearon was told by her manager to “brush it off” and “not (to) worry about it.”
“Our client worked in such a toxic environment that her co-workers and supervisors felt entitled to make discriminatory and disparaging comments on almost a daily basis,” Fearon’s attorney Matthew A. Luber, of the McOmber & McOmber law firm said in a statement. “The notion that such bigoted behavior could occur in any workplace, let alone within the public court system, is truly appalling.”
The 30-page lawsuit alleges that Brick Township officials “cultivated a workplace that allowed and encouraged employees and supervisors to engage in crude, racist, and homophobic behavior.” Fearon claims she was retaliated against and ostracized for her complaints about her colleagues’ behavior.
Fearon claims she complained to township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin in November 2019, stating that the “conduct makes the workplace extremely uncomfortable.”
Bergin allegedly responded by saying, “maybe you should tell everyone that you are gay so they stop making jokes and comments.”
Bergin as well as Fearon’s immediate supervisor are also being sued in addition to the township. In addition to damages, the lawsuit also seeks to implement sensitivity training for township workers.
Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck said ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Virginia General Assembly sends “an important message.” (Photo courtesy of Vee Lamneck) (WB) LGBT activists in Virginia and across the country continue to celebrate the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state’s General Assembly.
Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, told the Washington Blade in a statement their organization is “encouraged by the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment here in the commonwealth” on Wednesday.
“This sends an important message that all Virginians deserve equal rights under the law,” they said. “We are one step closer to creating a Virginia where everyone can live, learn, and work free from fear of discrimination.”
Lamneck added Equality Virginia urges “our lawmakers to carry this spirit of equality forward and pass the Virginia Values Act, which will update and strengthen our laws to protect all people, including LGBT Virginians, from discrimination in housing, employment, and public spaces.”
“It’s heartening to see Virginia pass the ERA and affirm the importance of equality under law,” said Human Rights Campaign Deputy Commincations Director Nick Morrow, who pointed out to the Blade the 2020 legislative session began eight days ago on Jan. 8. “Already, the new pro-equality majorities in the Virginia General Assembly are working on behalf of the rights of all — not just some — in the commonwealth.”
Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer for Equality Now, told Blade the ERA’s ratification protects the rights of “women, girls, non-binary folx, our transgender siblings and all marginalized genders.”
“As a queer woman, I cannot tell you how elated I am to finally see myself reflected in our nation’s most foundational document,” added Kelly.
Virginia is the 38th state to ratify the ERA, an important milestone needed to formally ensure gender equality is part of the Constitution.
“Putting gender equality in the Constitution does not right the wrongs of the past, nor fix all forms of discrimination,” cautioned Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County). “But it lays down a marker on a map that leads us to a more just and equal future.”
Currently, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin and sex. The U.S. Supreme Court is still considering if “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
Still, many view the ERA’s ratification as both historic and a step in the right direction.
“As someone who was a young legislative aide in 1980 when the ERA went down in defeat in the Virginia Senate,” said Virginia Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker. “I am overjoyed that our Commonwealth has finally ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.”
Swecker added watching the measure pass under the leadership of a House speaker and Virginia Senate president pro tempore who were both women made her “unbelievably proud to be a Virginian and a woman today.”
Nevada in 2017 became the 36th state to ratify the ERA and Illinois followed suit the following year, but Virginia last year again failed to ratify it.
The ERA passed in the House by a 59-40 vote margin and in the Senate by a 28-12 vote margin. Governor Ralph Northam has signaled his support for the measure.
Attorney General Mark Herring in a press release described the vote as “historic” and a “major milestone in the fight for equality in this nation.”
“I am preparing to take any steps necessary to ensure that Virginia is recognized as the 38th ratifying state,” said Herring. “That the will of Virginians is carried out, and that the ERA is added to our Constitution, as it should be.”
The South Dakota Legislature is considering a bill to criminalize transition-related care for transgender youth. (Photo by Dk4hb; courtesy Wikimedia Commons) (WB) The start of the new year means the start of state legislative sessions around the country — and the annual emergence of anti-LGBT legislation is right on cue.
Just two weeks into 2020, a slew of anti-LGBT bills have been introduced throughout the country. But this year, the legislation is taking on new forms to specifically target transgender youth.
Many of the bills seek to criminalize transition-related care for transgender youth, while others — in the wake of controversy over transgender girls competing in schools, including a case in Connecticut the Department of Education has agreed to consider — would prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports.
Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT and HIV project, said in a conference call with reporters 2020 marks a “hostile” start for legislative sessions “not just in the number, but in the content of the bills and in the swiftness with which they were introduced.”
“Certainly, since 2016, we’ve seen a lot of bills across the country attacking trans people in particular, but there is a sort of level of intensity, both in the character and the volume, that we’re seeing that is pretty alarming this session,” Strangio said.
Bills that would criminalize transition-related care for transgender youth, including gender reassignment surgery, are now pending in South Dakota and Florida, Strangio said. The bills have penalties, Strangio said, for administering, prescribing and performing the treatment.
“Obviously when the government is proposing wholesale bans on people being able to access medically accepted standards of care, that suggestion itself is dangerous for young people,” Strangio said.
Other bills in South Carolina and Missouri, Strangio said, wouldn’t institute criminal penalties, but would prohibit transition-related care for transgender youth.
The bills, Strangio said, would “overnight lead to such significant physical and mental health crises that it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a bill that would genuinely cause the short-term death of trans young people.”
Legislation that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity, Strangio said, has been introduced in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri (in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment), New Hampshire, Tennessee and Washington State.
The New Hampshire bill, Strangio said, only imposes restrictions on the women and girls side of sports, including “an invasive” requirement that in any dispute, young athletes would have to provide documentation of their hormone levels, chromosomes and reproductive organs.
But not all the anti-trans bills take on these new forms. Legislation has been introduced in Kentucky, Strangio said, that takes the form of a previously seen measure seeking to ban transgender kids from using school restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
Strangio cited widespread opposition to the measures. The bills against transition-related care for youth, Strangio said, are opposed by medical and psychological groups, and the bills against transgender youth in sports are opposed by women’s groups and athletic organizations. S.D. anti-trans bill an imminent threat
One of the most advanced of these anti-trans bills is the legislation pending in South Dakota, House Bill 1057 , that would criminalize providing transition-related care to transgender youth. A hearing, initially set for Friday, was rescheduled for the bill to take place Wednesday.
South Dakota State Rep. Fred Deutsch said in a statement to the conservative National Review the legislation, called the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” would ensure children are “protected from dangerous drugs and procedures.”
“The solution for children’s identification with the opposite sex isn’t to poison their bodies with mega-doses of the wrong hormones, to chemically or surgically castrate and sterilize them, or to remove healthy breasts and reproductive organs,” Deutsch is quoted as saying. “The solution is compassionate care, and that doesn’t include catastrophically and irreversibly altering their bodies.”
If enacted into law, a doctor who provided transition-related care, including gender reassignment surgery, to a minor would be guilty of a Class 4 felony, which could mean up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $30,000. As of now, the legislation has more than 40 co-sponsors.
Deutsch is quoted in the South Dakota-based Argus Leader that he began working on the bill nine months after he met with transgender people and heard “their experiences of being hurt by the transition process.”
According to the Endocrine Society , hormone therapy isn’t recommended for transgender youth and a team of professionals should manage treatment for youths.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, condemned the legislation in a statement as dangerous and contrary to medical standards.
“Doctors and other medical professionals, not politicians, should decide the appropriate medical care for transgender youth,” Keisling said. “This is one of the most extreme and dangerous pieces of legislation in the country and threatens doctors with prison simply for providing necessary health care.”
Strangio said the American Civil Liberties Union is planning to file a lawsuit should the legislation become law. Other bills target adoption, health care
At the same time, legislation in state legislatures that would more broadly enable discrimination against LGBT people is reappearing.
Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT and HIV project, counted in the conference call a total of 25 anti-LGBTQ bills, many of which would impose anti-LGBTQ restrictions on education and enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom.
The most advanced is anti-LGBTQ adoption legislation in Tennessee headed to the governor’s desk that would enable taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBTQ homes over religious objections. Gov. Bill Lee is expected to sign the legislation. Similar anti-LGBT adoption bills, Saxe said, are pending in Missouri and West Virginia.
“These bills are incredibly damaging for young people,” Saxe said, “both for LGBT youth, who see the targeting and dehumanizing of the community, as well as foster youth and others in state care.”
Bills in Alaska and Arizona, Saxe said, would institute “prohibitions on education about LGBT people” in school. Another bill in Arizona, Saxe said, would allow teachers to refuse to use the preferred pronouns for transgender students.
In Indiana, Saxe said legislation is pending that would allow mental health counselors to refuse to treat patients, including LGBT people, based on religious beliefs. Legislation in Kentucky, she said, would institute a religious exemption for health care workers writ large to refuse care, including for LGBT patients.
“They impede on access to quality care,” Saxe said. “They put discrimination ahead of patients or children and they’re really not solving any problem, perhaps most egregiously.”
According to Equality Florida, the anti-trans legislation in the state is actually one of five anti-LGBT bills introduced in the state legislature. Others would undo pro-LGBTQ city ordinances, undo city ordinances prohibiting widely discredited conversion therapy and enable conversion therapy in those cities within the home.
“This is the most overtly anti-LGBT agenda from the Florida Legislature in recent memory,” said Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director. “It runs the gamut from openly hostile legislation that would arrest and imprison doctors for providing medically necessary care, to legislation that would carelessly erase critical local LGBTQ protections.”
Asked by the Washington Blade whether the anti-LGBT bills across state legislatures, given their common nature and language, are coming from the same source, such as Alliance Defending Freedom, Strangio said he couldn’t say for certain, but named the anti-LGBT legal group as among their supporters.
“I agree the language is very similar, and I think some of these have been workshopped over several years,” Strangio said. “I think in terms of the groups that are advocating for the substance of the bills, I would say that it’s 100 percent ADF and the local family policy institutes.”
Bills prohibiting transition-related care for transgender youth, Strangio said, are “likely” being pushed in response to a recent custody dispute between two parents in Texas over a child who’s apparently transgender.
Matt Sharp, state government relations national director for Alliance Defending Freedom, responded with a comment expressing general support for the anti-trans bills when asked by the Blade via email if the legal firm had a hand in writing the legislation.
“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field,” Sharp said. “Forcing female athletes to compete against biological males isn’t fair and destroys their athletic opportunities. Likewise, every child deserves a childhood that allows them to experience puberty and other natural changes that shape who they will become.” Could state bills lead to lawsuits in favor of LGBT rights?
Seeing a remarkable silver lining to the legislation in a question on the conference call was YouTube personality Matt Baume, who pointed out the passage of constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage in 2004 led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling for same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
Could a similar situation follow, Baume asked, in which enactment by the state legislatures of these anti-LGBT bills would lead to litigation that would have the opposite effect: A Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing transgender rights nationwide?
Saxe, in response, drew a distinction between the two, pointing out the constitutional amendments were generally passed at the ballot, not by state legislatures.
“I think it’s hard to know whether of any of these, if they pass, will end up going to the Supreme Court,” Saxe said. “I think…the health care restrictions and some of the other bills are so egregious that it seems to hard to imagine letting them stand.”
However, Saxe said the potential of costly litigation may be key in preventing these state legislatures from approving these anti-LGBT bills in the first place.
The better comparison, Strangio said, would be 2016, when there was a proliferation of anti-trans bathroom bills, including House Bill 2 in North Carolina, and religious freedom legislation, such as House Bill 1523 in Mississippi.
Strangio warned that could mean litigation wouldn’t be successful. Although both laws were subject to lawsuits, the Mississippi law is still on the books, and HB2 ended up being repealed and replaced with a weaker law that is still on the books in North Carolina.
David Flugman, a partner with the New York-based law firm Selendy & Gay PLLC who has focused on LGBT rights, said in a statement bills prohibiting transition-related care for transgender youth are “a pernicious attempt to target a disfavored group” and constitutionally suspect.
“They raise serious constitutional concerns surrounding these minors’ rights to control their own bodies and their ability, with their parents’ consent, to obtain critical medical treatment,” Flugman said. “The bills also represent a heavy-handed intrusion by the state into the medical decisions of parents and children in consultation with medical professionals. I think we can expect to see lawsuits filed.”
The corner of Sixth and Penn Streets was a little warmer Monday morning.
Students from Alvernia, Mayor Eddie Moran, the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and the LGBT Center of Greater Reading partnered to hand out hot chocolate, graham crackers and doughnuts to passersby to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“From the minute that we met this morning (Alvernia’s students) were enthusiastic to help. One of them asked if we can give hugs,” Moran said.
Giving back to the community is a big part of Alvernia University’s mission, said student Noah Wright, 19.
“We just wanted to bring service to the community and do the best we could do for the less fortunate in the area,” Wright said.
Wright, who described himself as a lovable person, decided to give out hugs as well.
“They may not have a family,” he said. “They may not have had a hug in a couple of years. You don’t know. If I can do anything to make their day happy, I’ll do the best that I can.”
Moran said the original plan was to clean up some of the city’s parks, but the weekend’s winter weather canceled those plans.
“So, yesterday, I thought ‘How else can we make a difference in our community,’ ” Moran said.
Moran put out the call for help on social media, and the DoubleTree and LGBT Center of Greater Reading responded.
“We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else today,” said Michelle Dech, executive director of the center. “It’s an important day. We really should be doing this every day."
Craig E. Poole, the hotel’s general manager, said he threw his support behind the event because he wanted to show the volunteers the day was more than just about giving.
“I wanted to show the people giving that it’s not just giving but the relationship you build with them,” Poole said.
Poole shared a story from earlier in the morning when a homeless woman came to the stand.
“Her whole entire house was in her hands and her hands were frozen,” Poole said. “Alneasa (Jordan, the hotel’s human resources director) gave the woman her gloves.”
At the same time, a couple who were getting a cup of hot chocolate and a doughnut overheard the woman’s situation and offered to give her a ride.
“A giving begot giving, begot giving, begot giving,” Poole said. “A cup of hot chocolate and a doughnut got a lady a ride home. She’s warm. She’s got a new friend on the street.”
Moran said hot chocolate and snacks are nice, but building relationships is what’s most important.
“Most importantly is engaging in conversation, well-wishes and love for our community,” Moran said. “I’m now hoping this becomes an annual thing. What better way to recognize (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), someone who gave so much to our country in hope and love.”
Cleve Jones and his new book Via the Watermark (WM) The LGBT+ Center in Orlando will host a book signing and meet & greet with LGBT rights pioneer Cleve Jones Jan. 29.
Jones — who chronicled his life in his memoir “When We Rise: My Life in The Movement” — was involved in many of the most pivotal moments of the LGBTQ rights movement including working as an activist with Harvey Milk, co-founding of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and conceiving the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Jones’ book was partially the inspiration for the 2017 ABC miniseries “When We Rise,” on the history of the LGBT rights movement in the U.S.
“I am excited that Cleve will be joining us,” said The Center executive director George Wallace in a statement. “He is an important person in our LGBT history and we have so much to thank him for.”
The event will be held at the LGBT+ Center in Orlando Jan. 29 from 6-8 p.m. This is a free event and open to the public. To register for the event, go here . Copies of “When We Rise” will be available at the event for purchase for Jones to sign. There will also be light bites and a cash bar provided.
Photo Via the Watermark (WM) Hours before the 2020 legislative deadline, seven Republican lawmakers submitted four anti-LGBT bills on Jan. 13.
The lawmakers, which include Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Sen. Dennis Baxley, Rep. Byron Donalds, Rep. Michael Grant, Sen. Joe Gruters, Rep. Bob Rommel and Sen. Keith Perry, all came together to introduce the bills that each included a companion bill in the House and Senate.
HB 1365 “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” would make it a second-degree felony to provide certain medical care or treatments to transgender children. According to Sabatini’s Facebook post on the bill, he said, “No parent should be allowed to sterilize, castrate, or permanently disfigure a child.”
HB 305 “Preemptions of Conditions of Employment,” would repeal the protections that are currently in place for employers to not discriminate against people for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
HCR 309 “Equal Rights for Men and Women,” and HB 537 “Home Based Business,” could legalize conversion therapy where it has previously been banned and allow it to be performed within the home.
“It’s hard to believe that this is a legislature where three LGBTQ members are proudly and openly serving, but it is,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said in a Tweet. “This is what it feels like to be kicked in the gut by your colleagues. I am so utterly offended and disappointed.” Rep. Carlos G Smith ✔ @CarlosGSmith It’s hard to believe that this is a legislature where three LGBTQ members are proudly and openly serving, but it is. THIS is what it feels like to be kicked in the gut by your colleagues. I am so utterly offended and disappointed. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/florida-republicans-file-4-anti-gay-bills-last-day-session-n1116256 … Florida Republicans submit 4 anti-gay bills on last day to file
The bills would repeal LGBTQ antidiscrimination ordinances, criminalize trans health care for minors and allow conversion therapy in places that had banned it. nbcnews.com 802 8:30 PM – Jan 15, 2020 Twitter Ads info and privacy Politicians all over the nation have expressed opinions over the controversial bills, many taking to social media to share their thoughts, including democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren who retweeted Smith’s tweet.
“These bills would cause immense harm to LGBTQ+ Floridians—especially children,” Warren wrote. “I’ll fight to protect LGBTQ+ youth, including by passing the Equality Act, banning conversion therapy nationwide, and ensuring that every LGBTQ+ person gets the gender-affirming health care they need.” Elizabeth Warren ✔ @ewarren These bills would cause immense harm to LGBTQ+ Floridians—especially children. I’ll fight to protect LGBTQ+ youth, including by passing the Equality Act, banning conversion therapy nationwide, and ensuring that every LGBTQ+ person gets the gender-affirming health care they need. https://twitter.com/CarlosGSmith/status/1217620158614732801 … Rep. Carlos G Smith ✔ @CarlosGSmith It’s hard to believe that this is a legislature where three LGBTQ members are proudly and openly serving, but it is. THIS is what it feels like to be kicked in the gut by your colleagues. I am so utterly offended and disappointed.https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/florida-republicans-file-4-anti-gay-bills-last-day-session-n1116256 … 3,236 7:05 PM – Jan 16, 2020 Twitter Ads info and privacy Florida isn’t the only state that has recently put forth anti-LGBTQ legislation. South Dakota also has a pending House bill that seeks to criminalize providing certain care for transgender youth. Missouri and South Carolina have bills that would ban transgender-related care.
These bills have caught the attention of several local advocacy groups and many have released statements on the bill.
“This is the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida Legislature in recent memory,” Equality Florida Public Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer said in a press release. “It runs the gamut from openly hostile legislation that would arrest and imprison doctors for providing medically necessary care, to legislation that would carelessly erase critical local LGBTQ protections.”
Change to Regulations Will Negatively Impact Social Service Provisions of Nine Federal Departments
In wake of the Trump Administration’s announcement of so-called ‘religious freedom’ regulations impacting vital social service provision at the departments of Agriculture; Education; Health and Human Services; Homeland Security; Housing and Urban Development; Justice; Labor; USAID; and the Veterans Administration, the Los Angeles LGBT Center issued the following statement:
“The Trump Administration today released regulations that allow faith-based organizations to discriminate against members of the LGBT community when they seek vital and life-saving social services programs. These regulations span a variety of federal departments including Labor, Education, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.
The Administration’s thinly disguised effort to remove regulatory guarantees that ensure equal treatment of LGBT people is yet another example of the concerted attacks against our community. Make no mistake about it: This is not about religious freedom—it’s about freedom to discriminate and harm in the name of religion. These new regulations give federally funded faith-based organizations the license to discriminate against millions of LGBT Americans.
We demand the right to access social services supported by our tax dollars like all other Americans. We will continue to fight this ongoing attack on our rights. We will not be silenced or forced back into the closet.”
The Guardian leads with the announcement from Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, that he will step down from the helm after seven years. The BBC has been warned it is now facing a "dangerous moment", the paper reports, as Conservative MPs such as ex-culture secretary John Whittingdale raised questions over BBC funding and the licence fee. The new DG’s "biggest battle is likely to be over the corporation’s funding," the paper says. The Financial Times suggests the timing of Lord Hall’s departure marks an attempt to "steal a march on Boris Johnson and minimise his influence" over who will lead the BBC through negotiations over its funding. But the paper’s top story is on the International Monetary Fund which has slightly cut its forecast for global economic growth for 2020. The newspaper suggests the forecast may overshadow the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Sun devotes its front page entirely to a photograph of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, as she walked her dogs with baby Archie on Vancouver Island, Canada. The paper describes her as "beaming" and adds that Prince Harry is flying back to join them. The Daily Mail also reports that Prince Harry is flying back to Canada. But its top story focuses on another royal – the Queen’s grandson, Peter Phillips. The paper says he has appeared in two adverts for a dairy firm shown on Chinese TV which described him as a "Royal Family member". According to the Mail, Mr Phillips did not respond to questions, including as to whether he was paid, and Buckingham Palace declined to comment. The Times reports on the case of British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert who was arrested in Iran in 2018 and jailed for spying. The paper says it has seen letters smuggled out of her cell, in which the University of Melbourne academic wrote that she felt "abandoned and forgotten". She added that she is denied phone calls and visits. Photos of former couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston speaking at the Screen Actors Guild awards feature on many front pages. The Daily Mirror’s main story is on convicted murderer Jeremy Bamber, who claims he has new evidence which proves he could not have killed five members of his family in Essex in August 1985. Bamber says he has the "ultimate alibi". The Daily Star reports on the latest after pranksters momentarily halted play at the Masters snooker tournament on Sunday, by setting off noises from an electronic whoopee cushion in the crowd. The Star says the "jokers" behind the noises "are threatening to hit more top sports events" in a bid to "brighten people’s days". The Metro splashes on the UK’s counter-terrorism "blitz", as the government reveals more details about their plans to get "tougher" on convicted terrorists. The paper says among the new measures being promised are lie detector tests, longer prison terms and a ban on dangerous offenders being granted early release. The lie detectors could be used to check terrorists have genuinely reformed, the Metro says. Tuesday’s i newspaper focuses on the HS2 rail project, after a leaked report suggested the cost of it could almost double to £106bn. The paper reports that new Tory MPs from the North and Midlands have called on Boris Johnson to scrap the project and instead spend the money on local transport upgrades. Brexit is the subject of the Daily Express’ main story. The paper accuses the EU of "plotting to delay" talks on a post-Brexit trade deal until March. It reports that the UK is ready to begin working on a trade deal immediately, but European officials have warned it could "take some time" before they are prepared. Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning
The M247 Sergeant York was abandoned by the US Army in 1985 In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.
The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.
Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.
Just like an army on the move, there are contrasting views about how far and how fast this technology will advance. Above all, designers are testing the limits of human control and machine independence, the ultimate goal of autonomy.
Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with? The Milrem unmanned vehicle with Estonian troops in Mali Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.
UK defence technology group Qinetiq presented the British army with a selection of these vehicles during a month-long trial on Salisbury Plain in late 2018. The basic UGV came from the Estonian company Milrem, but Qinetiq integrated a series of technology options onto it to create a trio of military roles.
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Depending on the option chosen the UGV, known as Titan, can carry supplies or a heavy machine gun, or it can stand guard over its human comrades, using infra-red sensors and thermal imaging to supplement a battery of cameras.
Running on an electric-diesel hybrid engine Titan can be controlled by a human operator or sent off to perform tasks directed by its own software which can decide when to switch between power sources. The Titan can carry supplies or a heavy machine gun Keith Mallon is in charge of UGVs at Qinetiq. While a small tank weaving across a muddy plain is a curious sight, he focuses on the digital contents of the UGV.
"We’ve had robotics for years, but the information revolution means it can navigate on its own."
Machine learning, a subset of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution, means software embedded in Titan recognises patterns. Data from its cameras and other sensors is matched to prior examples so it can navigate to a chosen destination.
The idea is to have minimal human intervention while Titan goes about supporting the troops or exploring a dangerous area. But the freedom Qinetiq will grant to the UGV is strictly limited.
When it comes to firing a gun or anti-tank missile mounted on the chassis a human must always be in the loop to decide on the use of lethal force. "We will never give software the capability to fire a weapon," says Keith Mallon.
Does all this mean robot mini-tanks have really won acceptance? Nick Entwistle (front, middle, arms folded) with Challenger 2 tanks Nick Entwistle spent 19 years serving in the British army in tanks and armoured vehicles. Today he advises the army and has studied the results of the Salisbury Plain trials. He points out that warfare throws up choices that go way beyond the capabilities of current AI technology.
"Even humans have trouble discriminating between a civilian and a combatant. And human beings are adept at reading situations. But look at Afghanistan where the enemy hid among civilians. So autonomy is not going to happen for some time. The technology is further away than some like to think."
Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood. A version of the Ripsaw tank was used in the Fast & Furious movie Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.
It has been chosen for detailed testing by the US Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) programme. After evaluating a whole crop of UGVs the army intends to field some for real by the mid-2020s.
Team Ripsaw uses a handful of sophisticated visual and thermal sensors to see all around the UGV in day and night. These sensors live inside a gimbal on a mast that can be extended to peer far and wide. The big challenge is to pre-plan a mission and then let the UGV go and do it independently of an operator with radio control. This is where AI comes in.
David Ray is a senior FLIR executive and ex-US Air Force communications expert who served on Air Force One. As he sees it AI is "about object detection, how you tell the difference between a broomstick and a gun". The Ripsaw M5 is designed to protect crewed tanks Again, machine learning is the key, showing the Ripsaw’s digital mind a succession of images that build up a comparative picture of the world.
Self-driving cars can be programmed to recognise everyday events from videos. But you simply cannot show a machine real images of every possible situation that might arise in war.
So synthetic training aids, familiar from flight simulators and using hyper-realistic computer-generated images have been brought to bear. These reflect combat conditions. The machine-learning software builds up a library of capabilities as it absorbs images of conflict.
This merging of different technologies represents a big breakthrough for UGVs.
David Ray talks of the Ripsaw as "very fast and flexible and able to traverse difficult terrain such as sand dunes". It uses an electric-diesel hybrid motor that can transition to a silent approach in stark contrast to the barrage of noise laid down by conventional tanks. The US Army wants a discreet machine that can creep up on its target. The Ripsaw carries a smaller robot that can get into smaller spaces The real revelation about the Team Ripsaw vehicle lies in what FLIR calls its marsupial character. The little tank can open a hatch under its angled front to disgorge a junior robot partner, a smaller tracked machine based on a bomb disposal robot. This scuttles away into confined spaces to look for enemies lurking inside buildings or to detect toxic substances such as nerve agents.
The robot family doesn’t stop there. A quadcopter drone can rise from the rear of the UGV to carry out aerial reconnaissance on behalf of its terrestrial team-mates.
This is layered surveillance, keeping manned vehicles well back from danger while a trio of tech-heavy toys spy on threats. Like Titan, Team Ripsaw has an armed option which resembles a smaller version of a normal tank.
As with his UK counterparts, David Ray is emphatic that a human will always be in the loop before firing.