Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New additions to the International Academy of Humanism

There have been some new additions to the International Academy of Humanism.

Carolyn Porco
Russell Blackford
Susan Jacoby
AC Grayling
Maryam Namazie
Philip Kitcher
Maryanne Garry
Leo Igwe
Laurence Krauss 

Wendy Kaminer


Article in Foreign Policy Magazine

Help, I'm a British Philosophy Professor With the Same Name as a Burmese Heroin Kingpin!

...and banks keep getting us confused.

BY Jamila Trindle
FEBRUARY 10, 2014
Source here.

The U.S. sanctions blacklist is meant to stop terrorists, drug lords, and weapons traders from getting access to their money. Unfortunately, it also ensnares a lot of people who just happen to have the same name as one of those alleged criminals. Professor Stephen Law, who shares the name of a prominent Burmese heroin dealer, has discovered that firsthand.

The British Stephen Law is a soft-spoken professor at the University of London where he has taught philosophy for 17 years and plays the drums in a band called The Heavy Dexters. He's also the author of books like Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked Into an Intellectual Black Hole. The Burmese one is a wealthy drug kingpin who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2008 and again in 2010 because of his ties to the country's ruling junta. Treasury officials said Law's company, Asia World, received lucrative government construction contracts because of his close ties to the regime. The second Law uses several aliases and is believed to split his time between Burma and Singapore.

Monday, February 10, 2014

My THINK week event with Miguel Farias - Oxford Feb 24th

Think Week 2014 - Stephen Law & Miguel Farias

Monday February 24th, 7:30pm:  Do You Believe The Facts Or The Myth?
Friends Meeting House, St Giles
Dr. Stephen Law
Dr. Miguel Farias

A discussion about belief. Humans believe in many different things, but what do we prefer? The science and facts, or stories and myths? Why are our minds inclined this way? And if we do prefer myth over fact, how can we change the nature of our belief?

Philosopher Dr Stephen Law, author of ‘Believing Bullshit’, and Experimental Psychologist Dr Miguel Farias, will present their ideas about these questions and discuss their thoughts. Members of the audience are invited and encouraged to join the resulting discussion.

Presented as part of Think Week 2014, February 24th to March 2nd Oxford

Think Week 2012 is sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK)http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/



Presented by: the University of Oxford Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society; Oxford Brookes Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society; Oxford Humanists; and Oxford Sea of Faith.

Monday, February 24, 2014 - 19:30 to 21:00


How the US Treasury imposes sanctions on me and every other "Stephen Law" on the planet - my letter to OFAC

Right, here's another thing I am getting off my chest - email letter to OFAC (edited slightly from version sent).


This correspondence is copied to my UK Member of Parliament The Right Hon. Andrew Smith. Please copy him into your reply.

My name is "Stephen Law". The name "Stephen Law" appear on OFAC's "specially designated nationals" list:

Here is the actual OFAC listing for "Stephen Law", alias of "Steven Law"


This person is Burmese and is suspected by US Treasury of drug trafficking. He is the son of Lo Hsing Han (dubbed by US Treasury as "The Godfather of Heroin") and has a Singaporean wife. His addresses, as listed by you, are all in Burma and Singapore. None are in the UK.

I have discovered that, as a result of this listing, US Customs block shipments of goods to me here in the UK. Also when people try to wire me money from abroad (not just from the US, but from anywhere), for e.g. occasional travel expenses for academic conference attendance, the payment is interrupted and various checks are made before the funds are released. This became so bad during one period (a series of payments every single one of which triggered a block) that I had to switch to a different bank account. At no point was I told why this was happening (i.e. that you, OFAC, are responsible). The banks concerned believe they must keep this information from me (I was told this by my bank branch). Hence it took me many months to figure out what the source of the problem was: OFAC/US Treasury.

It appears any "Stephen Law" anywhere in the world will suffer this same treatment, as indeed will anyone who merely happens to have the same name or alias as one of your "specially designated nationals". This has proved frustrating, time-consuming and also costly to me personally. E.g. I have  paid US$77 postage for goods it turns out I can never receive because they are returned by US customs to the US vendor because my name is listed. As a result of the OFAC listing, I cannot now order goods from - or receive gifts from friends and relatives in - the United States.

Can you inform me: given I am very obviously NOT the Burmese Stephen Law:

(i) how I can avoid having all goods shipped to me from the US to my UK address being blocked and returned to sender by US customs?

(ii) how I can avoid my own bank repeatedly asking me who I am (and requesting information including my DOB, which they already possess) before unblocking any payment from abroad?

My bank knows who I am, and they know I am not the Burmese "Stephen Law" on the specially designated nationals list, but still I have to go through this same rigmarole every single time money is wired to me. How do I avoid this please?

Yours faithfully

Stephen Law

PS Ofac-caused delays to payments to me can run into weeks. On one occasion I ran up overdraft charges as a result of not receiving funds blocked by OFAC.

PPS I was interviewed by Foreign Policy magazine about all this a short while ago.Also interviewed by News Hour on BBC World Service.

PPS OFAC just phoned me and suggested I have my DOB and passport number put on all parcels posted from US and all money transfers, plus a note to contact them in case of problems. It's worth a try....

PPPS Have tried doing as OFAC suggeted (though I won't put my passport number on packages because of the obvious risk of identity theft). Did not work. Parcels still blocked. A parcel was blocked that gave my full name, date of birth, information regarding OFAC listing and that I was obviously not the OFAC-listed person. Still blocked.