Language, society and law
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IAFL launch new website (and draft Code of Practice)

IAFL launch new website (and draft Code of Practice) | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
The purpose of the IAFL is to improve the administration of the legal systems throughout the world by means of a better understanding of the interaction between language and the law.
Tim Grant's insight:

The Internationl Association of Forensic Linguists have today launched their new website - which looks slick and professional to me!

 

More importantant than the looks they are also launching a consultation on a Code of Practice.  See http://www.iafl.org/news.php

 

I've been on the drafting committee for this so it's good to see it out there and I'm interested in what responses we'll get.  Please don't send any response to me though; email Ron Butters (ronbutters@mac.com) using the Subject line "CODE OF PRACTICE FEEDBACK".

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Language, society and law
Forensic linguistics, applied linguistics and wider issues of language and society.
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Linguistic evidence used in Sameena Imam murder case: brothers jailed - BBC News

Linguistic evidence used in Sameena Imam murder case: brothers jailed - BBC News | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Two brothers who used chloroform to murder a cash-and-carry manager from Cardiff are jailed for life and must serve at least 30 years.
Tim Grant's insight:

This was the trial I gave evidence at in Birmingham Crown Court last month - the linguistic element of the prosecution case was fairly minor in that there was plenty of other evidence that would have contributed to the verdicts.


My evidence was principally that a text message sent from Sameena’s phone after her time of death was consistent in style to previous messages sent by Roger Cooper.  This is the message Roger Cooper is reading out in the video clip of his interview.

 

As with all such cases we won’t know the degree to which the linguistic evidence contributed to the guilty verdict of the jury.

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You Understand, Don't You? - Cross-cultural communication and forensic linguistics in the Northern Territories of Australia.

You Understand, Don't You? - Cross-cultural communication and forensic linguistics in the Northern Territories of Australia. | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
A reverse role play performed at the Language and the Law Conference. Supreme Court of the Northern Territory - Darwin
Tim Grant's insight:

Diana Eades recently posted to the forensic-linguistics@jiscmail.ac.uk mailing list and has given her permisison to reproduce her post below.  It concerns a conference on langauge and law in the Northern Territories of Austalia and the considerable progress being made there to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the Aboriginal peoples in their access to justice.  

 

Whilst I'm sure there is still a long way to go, the work of Diana and her colleagues (both legal and linguistic) do seem to be bearing fruit.

 

---

 

Diana's post: 

 

[Forensic linguists]  might be interested to hear about developments from the Northern Territory of Australia (NT), where the Supreme Court held its second Language and Law conference at the end of August (the first was in 2012).

 

This is the only conference held by a court in Australia, and it brought together judges, magistrates, lawyers, a few police officers, linguists, law scholars, and interpreters,  to discuss language and law issues for this linguistically and culturally diverse jurisdiction (30% of the population is Aboriginal, many of whom do not speak English fully, and there are many immigrant languages spoken as well).

 

About 10 of the papers are downloadable over the next 6 months from the NT Supreme Court's website, including that of the country's top judge, the Chief Justice of the High Court: http://www.supremecourt.nt.gov.au/ 

 

Over 200 people participated in the conference at which there were papers presented by scholars and practitioners, as well as many short talks by interpreters about their experiences, and 3 reverse role plays. These role plays were scripted to provide lively and poignant presentations of what it is like for people who do not speak English as their first language to participate in the legal process: important cultural, linguistic and legal issues were highlighted (see more below).

 

There were also presentations on several new protocols and projects which deal with language and the law. Although much of this was focussed on the large Aboriginal population of the NT, I believe that there are implications and models which will be of relevance in many other linguistic situations around the world:

 

1. The NT Law Society's (expanded) second edition of the  Indigenous Protocols for Lawyers guides lawyers in practice "that is culturally attuned to the special requirements of communicating with and representing Indigenous people". Two of the 6 protocols will be of particular interest to linguists: #1 on assessing whether an interpreter is needed includes 3 pages which give linguistic substance to this question, while #5 gives very practical and linguistically informed advice about how to use Plain English "to the greatest extent possible.

http://www.lawsocietynt.asn.au/images/stories/publications/indigenous_protocols_for_lawyers.pdf

This document draws on work by the Aboriginal Interpreter Service, see “How to decide if you should work with an interpreter – Legal” and “Do I need an interpreter? 4 step process – Legal” on http://dlgcs.nt.gov.au/interpreting/aboriginal_interpreter_service/when_to_use_an_interpreter )

 

2. The Plain English Legal Dictionary Northern Territory Criminal Law 

This 122 page document gives more than 300 terms of NT Criminal Law a Plain English definition, as well as an example, and links it to one of the 11 stories which illustrate the use of the terms. Several of the terms are also provided with suggestions for judicial officers and legal professionals about how they might talk about the term. 

http://www.ards.com.au/pages/Law%2C-Governance-and-Economics.html. On this website you can access the interactive version and download the pdf version.

The 11 page introduction to this dictionary is great reading for linguists and anyone else interested in the linguistic issues dealt with in its preparation.

 

3. The Northern Territory Supreme Court Interpreter Protocols (22 pages)

http://www.supremecourt.nt.gov.au/media/documents/InterpreterProtocols.pdf

This document sets of rules, requirements, practical and ethical issues for interpreted proceedings. Interestingly, it includes a few directions for lawyers about some specific linguistic issues to follow in interpreted proceedings, such as "Avoid the use of negative assertions as they are frequently a source of miscommunication".

 

4. The Northern Territory Magistrates Court Interpreter Protocols (31 pages):

http://www.nt.gov.au/justice/ntmc/documents/MagistratesCourtInterpreterProtocols.pdf

 (There is quite a bit of overlap with the Supreme Court protocols.)

 

5. The Police Caution project was a joint project with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service, the NT Police, and the Dept of Attorney General and Justice which resulted in the translation of the police caution into the 19 most commonly spoken Aboriginal languages in the NT. When written documentation about this project becomes available I'll send a reference/weblink to this list.

 

And finally, the reverse role play from the 2012 conference is accessible on Indigitube: http://www.indigitube.com.au/video/item/2477 

Highly recommended viewing, and could be good to show students. It'd be good to explain that the laughter is because it was filmed live during the 2012 conference, and the audience of conference delegates got lots of laughs from seeing a well-known judge acting as defendant, and well-known Aboriginal interpreters acting as judge, lawyers and court staff. I think the seriousness of the issues still comes through very clearly.

 

final comment

I have to tell fellow list-members that the judicial leadership on language and the law issues in this linguistically diverse jurisdiction was tremendously inspiring, as was the fantastic collaboration between judicial officers, lawyers and interpreters

 

cheers

Diana

 

 

* If you want to subscribe to the email list you can go to the group homepage at www.jiscmail.ac.uk/forensic-linguistics 

 

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How to Spot Psychopaths: Speech Patterns Give Them Away

How to Spot Psychopaths: Speech Patterns Give Them Away | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Psychopaths may be cunning and manipulative, but how they speak can be revealing.
Tim Grant's insight:

An interesting story a few of you have emailed me...

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Dominic Watt's curator insight, July 1, 2015 8:21 AM

Thanks to Tim Grant for alerting me to this story.

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So here's that chat log from the foreign exchange fixing case. In what sense is it a code?

Tim Grant's insight:

"In a statement, the DoJ said that between December 2007 and January 2013, euro-dollar traders at Citi, JPMorgan, Barclays and RBS – who described themselves as members of “The Cartel” — “used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate benchmark exchange rates”.

 

This quote is from the Financial Times article about the case.

 

I get that it's a code in the linguistic sense of a restricted sub-variety of language - in this case as spoken by an expert community. I don't read it though as a criminal cypher, an attempt to disguise meaning. 

 

In in the same way that street slang can be impenetrable to those who only have access to standard English, but also be entirely clear to those who are drawn from the right community, so too, I'd expect this chat log to be clear to anyone in the business. 

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Who Killed Emma? - A case of adversarial interpreting from BBC Radio 4?

Who Killed Emma? - A case of adversarial interpreting from BBC Radio 4? | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Why, ten years on, does one of the biggest murder cases in Scotland remain unsolved?
Tim Grant's insight:

A fascinating radio programme with a significant section on an issue of interpretation (from about 18 minutes).  

 

A police interpretation of covert recordings was used to arrest and charge some Turkish men for the murder - however, a later independent interpreter concluded that no-one said anything incriminating on the recording.

 

A case for Krzysztof Kredens of adversarial interpreting...

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Malicious Communications: from Moves to Genres

Malicious Communications: from Moves to Genres | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Tim Grant's insight:

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago our MA Forensic Linguistics students have been carrying out some practical projects in forensic linguistics as part of their course.  The previous group was looking at transcription conventions for police interview (which you can read about here: http://sco.lt/94FDG5 )

 

A second group has been examining the question of whether malicious communications fall into a number of identifiable sub-genre.  At CFL we’ve been developing a database of malicious communication, which currently contains about 200 threatening, and abusive letters.  Our database should be ready to go live online at the end of the summer  (watch this space!). 

 

The difficulty with the idea of a genre of malicious communication is that most theories of genre suggest that specific genres arise out of specific communities of practice, and it is of course tricky to identify a community approach in most malicious communications.   The students thus took a random set of about 40 of the letters and analyzed the letters to identify common ‘moves’ across the texts.  (For information on moves theory see e.g. Henry and Roseberry, 2001).  Then with a bit of help they carried out a statistical cluster analysis to discover that the letters fall into four groups that they call “Professional threat”, “Personal / unprofessional threat”,  “Abuse with clear justification”, and “Abuse without clear justification.” 

 

Thus far they’ve produced the accompanying poster presentation but we are looking to develop a more formal paper.

 

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Penelope O'Meara's curator insight, August 1, 2015 4:59 PM

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago our MA Forensic Linguistics students have been carrying out some practical projects in forensic linguistics as part of their course.  The previous group was looking at transcription conventions for police interview (which you can read about here: http://sco.lt/94FDG5 )

 

A second group has been examining the question of whether malicious communications fall into a number of identifiable sub-genre.  At CFL we’ve been developing a database of malicious communication, which currently contains about 200 threatening, and abusive letters.  Our database should be ready to go live online at the end of the summer  (watch this space!). 

 

The difficulty with the idea of a genre of malicious communication is that most theories of genre suggest that specific genres arise out of specific communities of practice, and it is of course tricky to identify a community approach in most malicious communications.   The students thus took a random set of about 40 of the letters and analyzed the letters to identify common ‘moves’ across the texts.  (For information on moves theory see e.g. Henry and Roseberry, 2001).  Then with a bit of help they carried out a statistical cluster analysis to discover that the letters fall into four groups that they call “Professional threat”, “Personal / unprofessional threat”,  “Abuse with clear justification”, and “Abuse without clear justification.” 

 

Thus far they’ve produced the accompanying poster presentation but we are looking to develop a more formal paper.

 

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CFL Masters students devise a linguistic transcription system for police investigative interviews.

CFL Masters students devise a linguistic transcription system for police investigative interviews. | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Forensic linguistics courses, research and expert evidence in cases of disputed authorship and contested meanings.
Tim Grant's insight:

A group of our students on the Aston MA Forensic Linguistics have been engaged in a project looking at the process of transcription for recorded police investigative interviews as carried out in the UK.

 

On the "Practical Applications in Forensic Linguistics" module  the graduate students have to produce a product which is useful to the justice system. We'll blog here about the outcomes of the other students' projects over the next few weeks. 

 

For this group, on the basis of their research around the processes by which Records of The Interviews are produced and on the basis their reading on transcription conventions from conversation analysis, the students have come up with their own system of transcription.  This is a simplified transcription convention from the linguistic perspective but is more sophisticated than current police practice. 

 

Just before Easter the group were invited to discuss their system with Greater Manchester Police .  They have blogged about their visit on our CFL site and they also have put their system on their own website here:

http://www.keytranscriptionsystem.co.uk/

 

Well done to Fiona, Lauren, Emily, Annie and Gaby!

 

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Lingua Digitalis's curator insight, April 14, 2015 12:45 PM

Well done to my discourse analysis postgrads! 

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Forensic linguistics expert testimony in Russian 'hate speech' cases.

Forensic linguistics expert testimony in Russian 'hate speech' cases. | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Forensic
linguistics plays a significant role in Russia’s regulation of hate speech. The
subjective nature of such expert advice increasingly muddies its central
position within the Russian legal system.  
Tim Grant's insight:

This is a fascinating article about an area of forensic linguistics which is little discussed. 

 

The number of issues about method and ethics and subjectitivty clearly carry beyond the Russian context.

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Do your e-mails, texts and tweets reveal clues to your identity?

Do your e-mails, texts and tweets reveal clues to your identity? | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
We leave a trail of linguistic fingerprints, but as potential evidence to a crime, is it reliable?
Tim Grant's insight:

I've just posted this comment on the jiscmail.ac.uk forensic-linguistics mailing list and thought it deserved a re-posting here:

 

The article seems to focus on author *identification*.  I personally am very sceptical about claims for author identification and much prefer the term 'authorship analysis'.  When I appear as 'expert' in a jury trial I believe strongly that it is not my job to tell a jury that an individual has written a particular text or not.  In many case circumstances this would be to usurp the job of the jury and decide guilt or innocence.  Rather, given a case where there is a sufficiently comparable set of known texts, and then an anonymous or queried text, I believe a linguist can assist the Court by placing before a jury an analysis that demonstrates points of consistency and inconsistency between the known and the queried.  Where there are points of consistency, the next step should be to help the jury weigh the importance of this evidence by describing how distinctive such features are either against other potential authors in the case, or against a relevant population corpus.  Linguistic insight and understanding is required in explaining the degrees of consistency and distinctiveness in terms of other variables such as genre, accommodation etc..   There is a striking line in the article by a Law Professor in the piece who says "it's just a matter of time "until they get the wrong person and are proved wrong by DNA." "  If your authorship analysis is diligent and you are accurate in your observations, there is no sense in which you can 'get the wrong person'. This is because 'identifying persons' wasn't what you were trying to do.   You are describing language and comparing and contrasting texts for features of consistency and distinctiveness.  If a different individual wrote the piece, the evidence of degrees of consistency and distinctiveness can still stand.  The explanation of them is different. Incidentally, this approach has also stood appeal in the UK Courts in a case where Malcolm Coulthard assisted in a conviction concerning the analysis of text messages.  The Criminal Court of Appeal commented on  Malcolm's evidence that  the disputed txt messages were consistent with the defendant's writing (and elsewhere inconsistent with the victim's).  The Appeal Judgement is detailed, and worth study by anyone in the field, but one line reads that  "The judge reminded the jury in terms that the expert was not saying that in his opinion the applicant had written the texts, merely that he could have done, as could a number of other people. [Hodgson, D. v [2009] EWCA Crim (31 March 2009) - para 62]"  It is (partly) because Malcolm's method led to his appropriately cautious opinion that the case stood.  An attempt at authorship identification may have fallen at appeal.

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Event: Computer-mediated communication and discourse research. 13th March, Aston University

Event: Computer-mediated communication and discourse research. 13th March, Aston University | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
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All welcome!

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MPs talk twaddle about 'internet asbos'

MPs talk twaddle about 'internet asbos' | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
People who post racial hatred on social media should be treated like sex offenders and served with “internet asbos” banning them social networking sites and preventing them from hiding behind fake identities, a group of MPs alarmed by rising anti-semitism have proposed.
Tim Grant's insight:

Online abuse, racial hatred, anti-semitism or pretty much anything else can be declared antisocial behaviour and be subject to an ASBO - no change in the law necessary.

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Talk: Assuming identities online – tracking and tracing the multiple linguistic identities of online paedophiles | The FORGE

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A talk I'm giving 17th February at Lancaster University...

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Presumed guilty? An 'easy read' guide to justice finds presumption of innocence hard to express.

Presumed guilty? An 'easy read' guide to justice finds presumption of innocence hard to express. | Language, society and law | Scoop.it

Ancient principle of justice seems to have been forgotten in guide for people facing criminal cases

Tim Grant's insight:

It's never easy to write an 'easy read' anything but this does seem to be a spectacular failure. The cynical might read more into this - perhaps the Ministry of Justice have lost sight of the presumption of innocence?

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Parliamentary office of science briefing on Forensic Linguistics

Tim Grant's insight:

An interesting paper written by POST but with consultation from forensic linguists across the UK.

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Judge discharges his duty using corpus methods

Tim Grant's insight:

I've reported before on just one American Judge, Judge Posner, turning to corpus methods to decide the ordinary meaning of a term but I had though he was a one off.

 

This case contains not only a further example, exploring whether the term "discharge" refers to a single shot from a pistol or might equally apply to a series of shots, but also contains a some judicial appellate  opinions on the use of corpus methods by judges.

 

Well worth a look.

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Lecturer in Applied Linguistics - opportunity to join CFL!

Tim Grant's insight:

The English language and linguistics group here at Aston is advertising a lecturing post.

 

Teaching need has been identified in the areas of business management and leadership communication; phonetics and phonology; psycholinguistics or, syntax and lexico-grammar - and so you'd need to be able to identify at least one of these areas where you'd be able to offer teaching.  

 

You'd also have to contribute to one of the three School research Centres - these include the Centre for Forensic Linguistics; Interland,an interdisciplinary research centre examining issues of language and diversity, or CLERA which examines language education.

 

Here at CFL we're naturally keen to attract good applications from forensic linguists or phoneticians to help re-enforce, what was the first, and is still the largest, Centre for forensic linguists worldwide.

 

The timescale is short - so if you are interested be sure to dust off your CV and get an application in!

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​Forensic Linguists Use Spelling Mistakes To Help Convict Criminals | VICE | United Kingdom

​Forensic Linguists Use Spelling Mistakes To Help Convict Criminals | VICE | United Kingdom | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
We talked to a forensic linguistics professional about how a text message can give away a murderer.
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Nicci MacLeod talks to Vice magazine.  Also featuring Professor Time Grant....

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CFL Survey about 'Adversarial interpreting' in forensic contexts

CFL Survey about 'Adversarial interpreting' in forensic contexts | Language, society and law | Scoop.it

If you have ever experienced adversarial interpreting (either through challenging the other interpreter's translations or as the interpreter whose translations got challenged) I'd be very grateful if you would help me with my research by completing this short anonymous survey. If you would like to discuss the topic of my research or get access to the results once they are published do email me at k.j.kredens@aston.ac.uk.

Thank you!

Tim Grant's insight:

My CFL colleague Krzysztof Kredens is working on a research project devoted to what he has termed 'adversarial interpreting', a phenomenon that may arise in situations where two independently booked interpreters are present at the same interpreting assignment, particularly in legal contexts. He'd like to hear from interpreters who have experienced adversarial interpreting (either through challenging the other interpreter's translations or as the interpreter whose translations got challenged). He's put together a brief anonymous survey - click the title above to go to the page.

 

Do contribute if you can!

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Jim Fitzgerald talks forensic linguistics on US TV show Crimetime

Staging suicides is far from perfect to get away with murder, as we discuss fake suicides that were successfully debunked to convict the murderers responsibl...
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Jim continues to raise the media profile of forensic linguistics with his second appearence on this show.

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Forensic Linguistics on US radio's The Diane Rehm Show

Forensic Linguistics on US radio's The Diane Rehm Show | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Emails, texts and tweets may be changing how we solve crimes: Word choice, spelling and punctuation can all serve as virtual fingerprints. A look at how technology is changing criminal linguistic evidence in court.
Tim Grant's insight:

US Radio show featuring Natalie Schilling, Jim Fitzgerald and Larry Solan discussing forensic linguistics

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Mihaela Patrascu's curator insight, April 3, 2015 11:36 AM

Linguistics as virtual fingerprints

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Language Log » SCOTUS: A fish is not a "tangible object"

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A fantastic legal definition case from Language log...

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Baal Annual Meeting at Aston second call for papers now out...

Baal Annual Meeting at Aston second call for papers now out... | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Baal Annual Meeting at Aston University
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BAAL Aston - second call for papers now out...

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Valentine’s Day message from a forensic linguist: Falling out of love needn’t mean falling into hate

Valentine’s Day message from a forensic linguist: Falling out of love needn’t mean falling into hate | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
Tim Grant's insight:

Valentine’s day and the weeks following can be a boom-time for a jobbing forensic linguist.  Last year in the week following Valentine’s I received four case enquiries from individuals who had received abuse, threatening and even hate-filled cards and messages.  Each of these cases (which I generally don’t take!) resolved to an ex-partner.

 

Some of these messages are truly threatening and very upsetting and require action.  Others are mildly amusing.  One of my favourite Valentines* abused the recipient as being a “Fat bearded twat!”  - I’m still trying to encourage one of my students to write a paper on the use of “bearded” as a term of abuse or an intensifier of abuse. 

 

But here’s the point. Unless He had grown the beard in response to the breakup, or in a futile attempt at anonymity, She, had until fairly recently, loved that beard.  I’m allowing my romantic imagination to run away with me here but She had presumably fancied the beard from across a crowded room, plucked up courage to engage the beard in conversation, had a first kiss with that beard, and finally grown familiar and fallen in love with all its hirsute greatness.  Now the beardedness has made it to the top three of the most hated aspects of the ex-love. 

 

So here’s my message to all you ex-lovers  and Valentine haters out there: You loved each  other once.  You don’t now.  It hurts so cry a little, drink too much, eat too much chocolate and then, whatever they did to you, leave it alone.  The opposite of falling in love needn’t be falling into hate.  Other options include never seeing the person again (and never bothering them again) or even friendship and a different sort of relationship.

 

Writing an abusive Valentine’s message isn’t going to make you feel better and may get you into trouble.   

 

I’m busy and don’t need the work.

 

Love is all you need.

 

------

 

*not from my wife!

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Twitter boss admits trolling failure

Twitter boss admits trolling failure | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
In a memo to staff, leaked to the Verge, Twitter boss Dick Costolo takes personal responsibility for dealing with trolling.
Tim Grant's insight:

Yup!

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Targets missed in Translation: Who's really to blame? -

Targets missed in Translation: Who's really to blame? - | Language, society and law | Scoop.it
The Courts Minister calls it a significant improvement whilst the Law Society deems it to be shocking. These are two polar opposite views about the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) that show the outsourcing of courtroom interpreting to a single supplier has consistently fallen short of hitting its 98% performance target but Read More
Tim Grant's insight:

This from the Today Translations' blog reflecting on the missed targets by Capita in their MoJ contract to provide interpreting srvices to the Courts.

 

I've been posting on the failures of this system for several years now and where we've got to, as illustrated by Todays' post was entirely predictable. 

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