Farangland News

2009: Jan-March

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29th March   

Update: No Right to Travel...

  Video Universe - Buy New Release DVDs, TV on DVD, Music Videos and Much More

US Mainstream DVDs

Video Universe

Personal details to be logged to travel to the Isle of Wight
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

Passengers on ferries to the Isle of Wight and Scottish islands such as Mull and Skye will soon have to carry identity papers to comply with new police powers.

And travellers flying between British cities or to Northern Ireland face having their personal data logged when booking tickets and checking in.

Until now ferry passengers on most routes in Britain have not been required to produce ID and internal flight passengers only face random police checks.

But under new Government security rules that will come into force next year, personal data, including name, date of birth and home address, will be typed into a computer record for the police by the booking clerk or travel agent.

Under the new powers, police will be able to track the movements of around 60million domestic passengers a year. The controversial measures were due to be introduced two years ago, but were dropped after protests from Ulster politicians, who said the plan would construct ‘internal borders' in the UK.

But last week the Government used the release of its anti-terrorism strategy to quietly reintroduce them. Buried on Page 113 of the 174-page ‘CONTEST' document was the announcement of new police powers to collect advanced passenger data on some domestic air and sea journeys.

Last night a Home Office spokesman confirmed the measures would require passengers to show photo ID, such as a driving licence or the (proposed) Government ID cards, when booking tickets for domestic air and sea journeys.

He added that ferry journeys to the Isle of Wight or the Isle of Skye and private jet passengers would be included in the new measures, due to be formally announced later this year. The powers will be introduced using a so-called statutory instrument signed off by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, without the need for a full debate in the House of Commons.


27th March   

Blinkered MPs...

Parliamentary internet filter blocks MP's own newspaper column
Link Here

MPs are prevented from surfing the internet for pornographic and other inappropriate material in their Commons offices, it has emerged.

A filter on the Commons IT system blocks access to websites that contain supposedly offensive or illegal content or are sources of malicious software.

The policy emerged after an MP was unable to access colleague Lembit Opik's column on the Daily Sport site.

Opik said he did not believe the site should be blocked: Because of the things they are trying to censor they may have made an assumption about this particular website . But he said he did not believe the site was inappropriate and that although he backed the filters, which prevented MPs from being bombarded with utter rubbish , he did think they were too restrictive and sometimes prevented MPs from accessing sites they needed for their work.


27th March   

Morrison Minor...

Supermarket encourages parents to leave children outside while shopping
Link Here

A mother was stopped while buying a 12 certificate DVD at a  Morrisons supermarket because she was with her young children.

Karen Richards said she was amazed and outraged after the incident at her local Morrisons.

She was shopping with her eight-year-old son, Sean, and nine-month-old baby when she was stopped at the checkout trying to buy the film Ladies in Lavender , a drama starring Dame Judi Dench.

The assistant said she could not buy it because she was with her young children.

Miss Richards said: Is Morrisons suggesting I should leave them both outside while I shop in case I want to buy something of a slightly adult nature? Does Morrisons not realise how totally ridiculous this is?

She added: The ironic thing is the staff member was quite happy to sell me a bottle of wine at the same time. It is further proof, if it is needed, that this 'PC' world of ours has gone barking mad. But with regards to films, I'll decide what my son does or does not watch, not Morrisons.

She said after talking to the supermarket's supervisor she was eventually allowed to buy to film.

A Morrisons spokesman said customers suspected of buying an age-restricted product for a minor should be refused sale: The DVD product in this case had an age restriction applied to it and the store followed procedure.


17th March   

Trainspotters Banned...

National express to destroy popular British hobby
Link Here

Trainspotters could be banned from King's Cross and other major stations for security reasons, it was claimed today.

Union leaders say National Express will bar spotters from stations on the East Coast main line because they are a nuisance and pose a security risk.

The ban, which union leaders claim betrays Britain's 170-year long railway heritage, covers King's Cross and York, which is the spiritual home of the industry and next door to the National Rail Museum.

National Express is instigating the ban as it installs automatic ticket gates at main stations along the line.

Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA, the industry's second largest union, said The barbarians have finally taken over the industry. Only people with no sense of history would commit such an act of mindless vandalism. Young trainspotters have been with us since Victorian times. Now National Express is saying they should be banned as they are a nuisance. The company has told us that train spotters will be banned at all its main line stations which will be installed with gated barriers.”

Stations covered by the ban also include Stevenage, Peterborough, Newark, Leeds, Durham, Doncaster, Wakefield and Newcastle.

One trainspotter, who would only give his name as Roger, said: National Express has taken leave of its senses. Trainspotters may be seen as a bit odd but we are friends of the railways. We don't smash it up, steal cables or blow ourselves to bits — so why are they picking on us?


16th March   

Book Burners...

USA consigns pre-1985 children's books to the incinerator
Link Here

It's hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children's products, the federal government has now advised that children's books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute.

Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing—at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.

The problem is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), passed by Congress last summer after the panic over lead paint on toys from China. Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don't conform. The law has hit thrift stores particularly hard, since many children's products have long included lead-containing (if harmless) components: zippers, snaps, and clasps on garments and backpacks; skateboards, bicycles, and countless other products containing metal alloy; rhinestones and beads in decorations; and so forth.

Not until 1985 did it become unlawful to use lead pigments in the inks, dyes, and paints used in children's books. Before then—and perhaps particularly in the great age of children's-book illustration that lasted through the early twentieth century—the use of such pigments was not uncommon, and testing can still detect lead residues in books today. This doesn't mean that the books pose any hazard to children. While lead poisoning from other sources, such as paint in old houses, remains a serious public health problem in some communities, no one seems to have been able to produce a single instance in which an American child has been made ill by the lead in old book illustrations—not surprisingly, since unlike poorly maintained wall paint, book pigments do not tend to flake off in large lead-laden chips for toddlers to put into their mouths.

At any rate, CPSIA's major provisions went into effect on February 10. The day before, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published guidelines telling thrift stores, as well as other resellers and distributors of used goods, what they could safely keep selling and what they should consider rejecting or subjecting to (expensive) lead testing. Confirming earlier reports, the document advised that only “ordinary” children's books (that is, made entirely of paper, with no toylike plastic or metal elements) printed after 1985 could be placed in the safe category. Older books were pointedly left off the safe list; the commission did allow an exception for vintage collectibles whose age, price, or rarity suggested that they would most likely be used by adult collectors, rather than given to children.

Since the law became effective the very next day, there was no time to waste in putting this advice into practice. A commenter at Etsy, the large handicrafts and vintage-goods site, observed how things worked at one store:

I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children's books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can't believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of The Outsiders from the top of the box, but so many!

Whatever the future of new media may hold, ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or “sequester” from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn't we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?


15th March   

Google PsychoAnalysis...

Google is analysing you via the websites you visit
Link Here

Google has unleashed a new behavioral ad targeting scheme on its AdSense advertising network - though it has carefully avoided the term behavioral ad targeting. Google prefers interest-based advertising.

We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit, Google VP Susan Wojcicki wrote in a blog post: Today, we are launching 'interest-based' advertising as a beta test on our partner sites and on YouTube. These ads will associate categories of interest - say sports, gardening, cars, pets - with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads.

To answer questions over user choice and privacy, Google is offering something called an Ad Preferences Manager, where you view and edit the ad categories Google has placed you in based on your past behavior. If you like, you can tell Google to serve you ads in additional categories.

You can also opt-out of the program. But this is a cookie-based opt-out, which means you'll have to opt-out on every machine and every browser you use. It also means that if you're someone who regularly clears your cookies for privacy reasons, you'll opt yourself back in.

Google does offer a browser plug-in that maintains your opt-out even when cookies are cleared, but it's only available for Firefox and IE.

To Google's credit, its privacy controls go beyond what you'll find on similar ad-targeting systems recently introduced by Yahoo!, AOL, and others. But the end result is that most people will be targeted without realizing they've been targeted.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has called on Google and others to create an industry-wide database that would allow anyone to instantly opt-out of all behavioral ad targeting.


14th March   

Update: Prison Island...

UK e-borders database monstrosity gets ever more expansive
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

The travel plans and personal details of every traveller who leaves Britain are to be tracked by the Government, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Anyone departing the UK by land, sea or air will have their trip recorded and stored on a database for a decade.

Passengers leaving every international sea port, station or airport will have to supply detailed personal information as well as their travel plans. So-called booze crusiers who cross the Channel for a couple of hours to stock up on wine, beer and cigarettes will be subject to the rules.

In addition, weekend sailors and sea fishermen will be caught by the system if they plan to travel to another country - or face the possibility of criminal prosecution.

The owners of light aircraft will also be brought under the system, known as e-borders, which will eventually track 250 million journeys annually.

Even swimmers attempting to cross the Channel and their support teams will be subject to the rules which will require the provision of travellers' personal information such as passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact travel plans.

The full extent of the impact of the government's e-borders scheme emerged amid warnings that passengers face increased congestion as air, rail and ferry companies introduce some of the changes over the Easter holidays.

95%of people leaving the country being subject to the plans by the end 2010. Yachtsmen, leisure boaters, trawlermen and private pilots will be given until 2014 to comply with the programme.

They will be expected to use the internet to send their details each time they leave the country and would face a fine of up to £5,000 should they fail to do so. Similar penalties will be enforced on airlines, train and ship operators if they fail to provide details of every passenger to the UK Border Agency.

In most cases the information will be expected to be provided 24 hours ahead of travel and will then be stored on a Government database for around ten years.

Britain is not the only country to require such information from travel operators. The USA also demands the same information be supplied from passengers wishing to visit America. But the scale of the scheme has alarmed civil liberties campaigners.

Your travel data is much more sensitive than you might think, Phil Booth of the privacy group, NO2ID said: Given that for obvious reasons we're encouraged not to put our home address on our luggage labels, and especially given the Government's appalling record on looking after our data, it just doesn't seem sensible for it to pass details like this and sensitive financial information around.

Ferry firms and Eurostar - who, unlike airlines, do not gather such detailed passenger information - have also raised concerns about the impact on passengers and warned the plans may not even be legal under EU law. The changes would mean that Eurostar, Eurotunnel and ferry companies will now have to demand passport details from passengers at the time of booking, along with the credit card information and email address which they would have taken at the time of the reservation.


12th March   

Seeing Red...

Thai Anti-Government radio station ordered to close
Link Here

The Thai government has denied ordering the closure of an anti-government radio station.

PM's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said only the National Telecommunications Commission had the authority to close radio stations.

The minister insisted the government treated all radio frequency operators equally, regardless of their colour, in a reference to the country's biggest anti- and pro-government movements.

A community radio station operating on the FM 97.25 frequency was reportedly ordered closed after speaking out in favour of Thaksin Shinawatra and attacking the government.


11th March   

Best Wind Up Award...

Sloggi 'female bottom' advert honoured at feminist awards
Link Here

An image of a female bottom with the slogan On Special Offer has been named the most degrading advertisement of the year by a European women's group.

The poster of protruding buttocks clad in see-through tights by Swiss underwear giant Sloggi was given the award for promoting pornography and prostitution by the Guard Dogs - a French and Swiss feminist association.

Italian coffee company Lavazza snagged the gratuitous nudity that has nothing to do with the product prize for using a picture of a naked woman on all-fours used to sell its coffee.

And a special award for the most sexist image of 2008 was given to car giant Renault for an advert showing a man and woman in bed, with him reading a magazine about the new Clio hatchback and her reading a baby magazine. Underneath was the slogan: Good things come in pairs.


9th March   

The Rotten State of Britain...

An angry rant at what New Labour have done to Britain
Link Here

Britain has become a bureacratic and authoritarian state watched over by a quarter of the world's CCTV cameras, a study of Labour's decade in power claims.

The Rotten State of Britain claims to be the first deeply researched factual account of Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's time in office.

The author Eamonn Butler, a director of the leading think tank the Adam Smith Institute, claimed that his book had been turned down by two publishers because of the unconventional nature of the content.

Among the claims in the book are that Britain has a quarter of the world's CCTV cameras, the largest of any country and that taxes have risen by 51% since 1997.

Each year the Government has passed 3,500 regulations, along with 100,000 pages of rules and explanation.

Butler also claims national debt is running at £4.6billion, or £175,000 per household, not £729billion (£29,000 per household) as the Government claims.

Dr Butler said he wrote the book because he got so angry about the way that they have no concept of the rule of law.

One in nine hospital patients picks up an infection during their stay on a ward, while the total cost of outstanding claims against the NHS is £9.2billion, Dr Butler claimed.

He said that 30,000 of the 200,000 people who die of cancer and strokes each year would survive if they lived anywhere else in northern Europe.

Dr Butler also claimed in the book that the number of people receiving state benefits has risen from 17million people in 1997 to 21million people by 2007. He found that nearly six million families receive £16billion-worth of child credit. Dr Butler said: It's ridiculously high number of beneficiaries for something aimed to help the poorest.


5th March   

Gambling on a Loss of Privacy...

Bank payment details used to disqualify gamblers from getting mortgages
Link Here

  Lovely little filly.
A sure thing at 3/1.
You can put you
 mortgage on it!

The Irish Times says that banks are starting their own form of censorship on Irish online gamblers by rejecting their mortgage applications.

Irish banks are apparently not happy about approving mortages for online gamblers, no matter whether you enjoy an occasional flutter on the horses or play bingo online at the weekends; if it shows on your bank statement you might find yourself on the reject pile when it comes to buying a new home.

A spokesman for the Independent Mortgages Advisers Federation (IMAF), Michael Dowling, told the Irish Times that banks looked at online betting in a very negative light. He said that signs of online gambling on a bank statement don't mean an automatic disqualification, however it is one of the criteria applied when reviewing mortgage applications.

The banks will never admit it, but it is... being discussed, said Dowling. Banks are paying a lot more attention to bank statements now... and if they see even 150 Euro going into an online gambling account each month they frown on it.


4th March   

Four Years for a Speck of Cannabis...

Travellers warned to avoid UAE, even transit passengers
Link Here

Poppy seeds in food, common over-the-counter medications and traces of banned substances are enough to warrant four-year prison sentences in the United Arab Emirates, travellers have been warned.

Visitors to Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now being advised to take extreme caution and avoid arrest for 'possession' of a controlled substance.

The advice, issued by the legal charity Fair Trials International, follows a recent spate of arrests and imprisonment.

The charity, which assists those facing trial abroad, has urged travellers to ensure they are completely free of any substances prohibited by the country they are visiting.

Earlier this week, a British man was imprisoned for four years after 0.003g cannabis was found in the tread of his shoe by customs officials in Dubai. Keith Brown was stopped in transit from Ethiopia to London last September.

The amount of the drug found on his shoe would not be visible to the naked eye and weighs less than a single grain of sugar.

Fair Trials International Chief Executive Catherine Wolthuizen said: We have seen a steep increase in such cases over the last 18 months. Customs authorities are using highly sensitive new equipment to conduct extremely thorough searches on travellers and if they find any amount - no matter how minute - it will be enough to attract a mandatory four-year prison sentence.

And the list of banned substances in the UAE includes many products which are available over-the-counter and off-the-shelf in the UK. These include medications such as codeine, a common ingredient in pain relief and cold-and-flu medication, and the common baking ingredient, poppy seeds.

Ms Wolthuizen added: What many travellers may not realise is that they can be deemed to be in possession of such banned substances if they can be detected in their urine or bloodstream, or even in tiny, trace amounts on their person. We even have reports of the imprisonment of a Swiss man for 'possession' of three poppy seeds on his clothing after he ate a bread roll at Heathrow.

Only last month a German citizen was detained for an alleged drugs offence when entering Dubai. Cat Le-Huy was found carrying melatonin pills to help with jetlag and sleeping problems.


3rd March   

Bride Fattening...

Forced feeding of young west African girls
Link Here

Fears are growing for the fate of thousands of young girls in rural Mauritania, where campaigners say the cruel practice of force-feeding young girls for marriage is making a significant comeback since a military junta took over the West African country.

Aminetou Mint Ely, a women's rights campaigner, said girls as young as five were still being subjected to the tradition of leblouh every year. The practice sees them tortured into swallowing gargantuan amounts of food and liquid - and consuming their vomit if they reject it.

In Mauritania, a woman's size indicates the amount of space she occupies in her husband's heart, said Mint Ely, head of the Association of Women Heads of Households.

A children's rights lawyer, Fatimata M'baye, echoed Ely's pessimism. I have never managed to bring a case in defence of a force-fed child. The politicians are scared of questioning their own traditions. Rural marriages usually take place under customary law or are overseen by a marabou (a Muslim preacher). No state official gets involved, so there is no arbiter to check on the age of the bride.

Leblouh is intimately linked to early marriage and often involves a girl of five, seven or nine being obliged to eat excessively to achieve female roundness and corpulence, so that she can be married off as young as possible. Girls from rural families are taken for leblouh at special fattening farms where older women, or the children's aunts or grandmothers, will administer pounded millet, camel's milk and water in quantities that make them ill.

Other leblouh practices include a subtle form of torture - zayar - using two sticks inserted each side of a toe. When a child refuses to drink or eat, the matron squeezes the sticks together, causing great pain. A successful fattening process will see a 12-year-old weigh 80kg. If she vomits she must drink it. By the age of 15 she will look 30, said M'baye.


2nd March   

Jakarta Travel Warning...

Indonesian religious police raid hotels
Link Here

Jakarta's neighbour Tangerang is holding a search operation on hotels suspected of having illegal prostitution or receiving couples who were not married.

Secretary of the Tangerang city administration, Harry Mulya Zein said the city public order agency had held raids on adulterers in hotels of the area. Almost every week, the officers searched for hotel guests who were not husband and wife, he said, as quoted by Antara.


1st March   

Unwarranted Police Raid...

Man poses as police officer so as to confiscate adult DVDs from store
Link Here

A Colorado man who posed as a police officer in an effort to confiscate pornography from an adult novelty store has pleaded guilty to impersonating a police officer.

Andrew Libby was sentenced to two years of probation.

His lawyer, Kristi Sanders, says Libby was suffering from delusions when he entered the store last July, saying he was from the Longmont Police Department and needed to inspect pornographic DVDs to look for underage actors.

Sanders says Libby believed the store was involved in illegal activity that he needed to shut down.

Libby is barred from owning weapons or visiting the store during his probation. He also must get mental health treatment.


26th February   

End of a Free Lunch...

News for Nationwide Building Society customers
Link Here

When you use a Nationwide Visa debit card or credit card to make a transaction in Thailand, Visa charge a fee for each transaction and Nationwide currently pays that fee on your behalf.

We will start to pass this fee onto you from 6 May 2009 on credit card and from 1 June 2009 on debit card and it will be included in the sterling amount shown on your statement.

The fee is currently 0.84%. From 1 July 2009 this fee will increase to 1%.


23rd February   

Comment: Drunk on Power...

Government slip in bill to mandate CCTV in pubs
Link Here
Full story: CCTV for Pubs...Government dictating CCTV for pubs and off licences

Big Brother CCTV cameras are to be fitted inside shops and supermarkets on the orders of the state to keep track on anybody buying alcohol.

A law is being quietly pushed through Parliament giving councils the power to order licensed premises to fit the surveillance cameras. Pubs will also be covered.

The footage of people innocently buying a bottle of wine in a shop or a pint of beer in a bar must be stored for at least 60 days, and be handed over to the police on demand.

The measures form part of the Policing and Crime Bill, but have not been highlighted by Ministers. Under a code of conduct, which will be enforced by the Bill, any business that intends to sell alcohol will have to agree to install the cameras.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said: We are already a country with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the civilised world, but this law is systemising the surveillance of a nation. People will be treated like suspects wherever they go.

Earlier this week, the Mail revealed how police were warning pubs they would not support their licensing applications unless they agreed to train the intrusive cameras on their customers.

The first blanket policy has been introduced in the London borough of Islington, where all applicants wanting a licence to sell alcohol are being told they must fit CCTV.

Other forces are adopting similar tactics. But the planned new law goes much further, as it will allow councils – which ultimately hand out all licences – to insist on the CCTV cameras.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell, who is piloting the CCTV measure through the Commons, recently admitted that he couldn't remember the last time he was in a pub.

Mark Hastings, spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association, said: It's an extraordinary admission from someone who is proposing measures that, on the Government's own admission, will cost the pub sector hundreds of millions of pounds a year. It shows how disconnected he is from the realities of what it's like trying to stay in business in the current environment.

Comment: Grade 1 Listed Prodnoses

23rd February 2009. Thanks to Alan

Haven't these absurd prodnoses got anything better to do?

What about the many pubs which are listed buildings, maybe unchanged for a century or more, that have got to have these things installed? Their appearance could be ruined.


23rd February   

Searching for Privacy...

Proxy strips out id sent to Google and deletes records after 2 days
Link Here

Scroogle is a web service that disguises the Internet address of users who want to run Google searches anonymously.

Scroogle also gives users the option of having all communication between their computer and the search page be SSL encrypted.

The tool was created by Google critic Daniel Brandt who was concerned about Google collecting information on users, and set up Scroogle to filter searches through his servers before going to Google: I don't save the search terms and I delete all my logs every week. So even if the feds come around and ask me questions I don't know the answer because I don't have the logs any more. I don't associate the search terms with the user's address at all, so I can't even match those up.

Traffic has doubled every year and as of December 2007, Scroogle had passed 100,000 visitors a day.

Besides anonymous searches, the tool allows users to perform Google searches without receiving Google advertisements. There is support for 28 languages, and the tool is available as a browser plug-in.


18th February   

Smacks of Sharia...

No kissing zones in Warrington Station
Link Here

Lovers hoping to bid each other an intimate farewell will no longer be able to do so in certain areas of Warrington Bank Quay train station after no kissing signs appeared following concerns that embracing couples were supposedly causing congestion.

The signs were installed as part of a refurbishment of the station and have divided the car park and taxi ranks into kissing and no-kissing zones.

The idea of the no-kissing zones at Warrington station in Cheshire, was first mooted in 1998 by Colin Daniels, chief executive of the town's chamber of commerce. He came up with the idea after hearing that a station in Deerfield, Illinois, had used the signs to ease congestion.

Daniels said: It is a fairly congested station and ideally what we want is for people to come here, drop someone off and move on. But that wasn't always happening and people were lingering and causing delays.

With these 'no-kissing' signs we are pointing out that we don't want people doing that right outside the front of the station. If they want to linger and say a longer goodbye they can do that in the 'kissing zone' where there is a limited amount of parking.

Daniels said that the station would not be enforcing the zones too rigidly, adding: It is a bit of fun, but it will be interesting to see if people observe it. They may seem frivolous but there is a serious message underneath.


17th February   

Deserving of a Good Slapping...

German TV presenter cops a feel on live TV
Link Here

A German TV presenter is under fire after he grabbed his colleague's breast on a live prime time show.

Hans Blomberg was announcing the results of a public vote for a song contest when he fondled his colleague, 28-year-old Susanka Bersin.

As the results came in, Blomberg joked: But the two most beautiful points remain with me – before he grabbed at Bersin's cleavage.

Bersin was shocked and immediately slapped him in the face.

Blomberg said he did not understand what all the fuss was about. He said: The real scandal was that she slapped me – not my boob grabbing!

Blomberg's boss Karsten Kroeger said: He had gone too far, no doubt about that. However it has been announced that the presenter will not be sacked.


13th February   

Update: Unsoiled Internet Feed...

Virgin America will provide uncensored internet access
Link Here
Full story: Inflight Internet Access...Airlines consider internet access on planes

  We would have used filters but they
blocked our own website

Virgin America will offer unrestricted wireless Internet access on flights from Boston to California starting tomorrow.

Although Delta, United, and American Airlines also offer wireless service on select flights, all of them have taken measures to block adult content. According to a report in the Boston Herald, Virgin has no plans to filter out porn sites.

We don't believe that Wi-Fi accessibility will significantly change the current formula, as there is nothing stopping guests now from downloading the content onto a laptop for a flight, airline spokeswoman Abby Lunardini told the Herald.

Virgin assumes adult passengers will not view pornographic content on a laptop while seated next to children. The airline doesn't censor content offered on seatback screens, although parental control is available.

Most guests view being on a flight akin to being in any other public place and moderate their behavior accordingly, Lunardini said.

Passengers may use the service with any Wi-Fi-enabled device once the plane has reached 10,000 feet, at a cost of $12.95 per flight.


13th February   

Offsite: Head and Shoulders Above the Law...

UK Police are forcing publicans to install CCTV before approving their licences
Link Here
Full story: CCTV for Pubs...Government dictating CCTV for pubs and off licences

The Guardian carried a letter from Nick Gibson who told how he had taken over a pub in Islington, London, and had to apply for a new licence, which required the approval of a number of organisations, including the police.

I was stunned," he wrote, "to find that the police were prepared to approve – ie not fight – our licence on condition that we installed CCTV capturing the head and shoulders of everyone coming into the pub, to be made available to them on request.

...read full article


12th February   

Goodies and Baddies...

Police baddies raid cowboys and indians party
Link Here

Some had feather head-dresses, others were in buckskin and a few were shouting Bang! Bang! You're dead! at Roy and Val Worthington's offbeat silver wedding celebrations, which had a Wild West theme. The party was going well until the real law arrived at their saloon.

It was, according to guests, one over-relaxed cowboy who triggered a full-scale armed police alert at the party's pub venue in the Leicestershire village of Castle Donington. He failed to wrap his toy rifle in newspaper or tuck it into a bag, and instead sauntered down to the party with the fake weapon over his shoulder.

An anxious neighbour rang Leicestershire police, who responded rapidly and in force, including dispatching a police helicopter.

Mrs Worthington said: We'd just come out of the church after renewing our vows and my husband said 'I bought you a helicopter' as a joke, because there was this one overhead. But when we got to the bottom of the road there were all these police cars stopped outside. There was an armed police unit and a police dog.

The landlady of the Moira Arms, Tina Whiting, said that the scale of the response was surprising and doubtless expensive. She said: I think it was obvious what was going on. They were dressed as cowboys and Indians. You could tell it was a party and not a shootout.

A spokesman for Leicestershire police said the helicopter had been nearby, but all reports of firearms had to be treated on the assumption that they could be real guns. He said: People need to remember that it is an offence to carry a gun, whether real or imitation, in a public place and should bear this in mind when attending fancy dress parties. It can cause real distress to those who witness it.

None of the Worthingtons' party guests were arrested or charged.


8th February   

Update: Still an Idiot...

Jeremy Clarkson explains his apology
Link Here
Full story: Top Gear and the Grand Tour...Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson wind up whingers

  At least he didn't call me fat!

Jeremy Clarkson watered down his apology yesterday for calling Prime Minister Gordon Brown a one-eyed Scottish idiot – saying he was not sorry for the idiot bit.

Speaking to The Sun, in which he writes a weekly column, he said: I very specifically apologised for making fun of his personal appearance – very specifically.

I have nothing against the Scottish and of course I regret making any remark that might have upset the disabled. But the idiot bit – there is no chance I'll apologise for that.

The BBC said it would be taking no further action against Clarkson.


8th February   

Update: Travel Watch...

UK to store all travel details in database
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

I hope you enjoyed your holiday in Pattaya.
Your teaching licence has now been revoked
on grounds of immorality

The government is building a database to track and hold the international travel records of all 60m Britons.

The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details for all 250m passenger movements in and out of the UK each year.

The computerised pattern of every individual's travel history will be stored for up to 10 years, the Home Office admits.

The government claims the new database, to be housed in an industrial estate in Wythenshawe, near Manchester, is essential in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. However, opposition MPs, privacy campaigners and some government officials fear it is a significant step towards a total surveillance society.

Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: The government seems to be building databases to track more and more of our lives. The justification is always about security or personal protection. But the truth is that we have a government that just can't be trusted over these highly sensitive issues. We must not allow ourselves to become a Big Brother society.

Some immigration officials with knowledge of the plans admit there is likely to be public concern. A lot of this stuff will have a legitimate use in the fight against crime and terrorism, but it's what else it could be used for that presents a problem, said one: It will be able to detect whether parents are taking their children abroad during school holidays. It could be useful to the tax authorities because it will tell them how long non-UK domiciled people are spending in the UK.

The Wythenshawe spy centre will house more than 300 police and immigration officers. A similar number of technicians will help check travellers' details against police, MI5, benefit agency and other government “watch lists”.

The database is the unpublicised part of the government's so-called e-borders programme, intended to count everyone who comes in and out of the country by 2014. At the moment the UK Border Agency is running a pilot which monitors the travel movements of passengers on high-risk routes from airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Under the scheme, once a person buys a ticket to travel to or from the UK by air, sea or rail, the carrier will deliver that person's data to the agency. The data is then checked against various watchlists to identify those involved in abuse of UK immigration laws, serious and organised crime, and terrorism.


7th February   

Update: Down Under the Belt...

Jeremy Clarkson apologises for calling Gordon Brown an idiot
Link Here
Full story: Top Gear and the Grand Tour...Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson wind up whingers

  At least he didn't call me fat!

Jeremy Clarkson has apologised after referring to Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a one-eyed Scottish idiot. He was speaking in Sydney, Australia where he is hosting Top Gear Live , a stage version of the popular BBC show.

During a discussion on the economy, he compared Brown unfavourably with Kevin Rudd, the Australia prime minister, who had addressed his country on the scale of the financial downturn.

He genuinely looked terrified. Poor man, he's actually seen the books, Clarkson said of Rudd.

We have this one-eyed Scottish idiot who keeps telling us everything's fine and he's saved the world and we know he's lying, but he's smooth at telling us.

Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: Mr Clarkson's description of Prime Minister Brown is offensive. Any suggestion that equates disability with incompetence is totally unacceptable. We would be happy to help Mr Clarkson understand the positive contribution people with sight loss make to society.

In a statement issued by BBC Worldwide, Clarkson said: In the heat of the moment I made a remark about the Prime Minister's personal appearance for which, upon reflection, I apologise.

Scottish politicians reacted angrily to Clarkson's remarks. Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader, said: Such a comment is really a reflection on Jeremy Clarkson and speaks for itself. Most people here are proud that the Prime Minister is a Scot and believe him to be the right person to get the UK through this global economic crisis.


6th February   

Getting Acquainted with Big Brother...

The US National Security Agency wants to get to know you better
Link Here

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell's Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.

The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.

It is known as Aquaint, which stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence.


5th February   

Policing for the Space Age...

Armed police arrest man for amusing child with toy ray gun
Link Here

Police scrambled eight patrol cars filled with armed officers after a man in his 50s pointed a toy ray-gun at a baby and said Pow, Pow.

The man was arrested after he approached the baby and its mother with a silver ray-gun which lights up and makes a buzzing noise when the trigger is pulled.

Onlookers in Hove, East Sussex, were astonished when the police cars sped to the scene to apprehend the man.

Alison Edmonds  said that she saw the man - who is not believed to be related to the baby and mother - approach the pram holding the toy gun, before jokingly saying Pow, pow while pressing the trigger repeatedly.

The mother of the child then called police, who sent an armed response team to find and arrest the man, who was waiting for a bus less than a few hundred yards away.

Miss Edwards said: It was unbelievable. All he did was try to make the child laugh, but the mum decided to call the police and obviously told them a man with a gun had threatened her and her baby.

What happened next was truly astonishing. I've never seen anything like it. These eight cars screamed to a halt and surrounded the poor man at the bus stop. They were fully kitted out with machine guns, rifles and everything. The man didn't know what was happening. All he was trying to do was make the baby crack a smile.

Police seized the man's toy ray-gun and arrested him on suspicion of possessing an imitation firearm in a public place.


4th February   

Obscene Policing...

Indian Judge dismisses police charges against kissing couple
Link Here

A court in India has dismissed criminal proceedings against a married couple charged with obscenity for allegedly kissing in public in the capital.

Police arrested the couple - a 28-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman - for kissing near a station last September.

The police in Delhi had begun criminal proceedings against the couple for sitting in an objectionable position near a metro (railway station) pillar and kissing due to which passersby were feeling bad.

Judge S Muralidhar quashed the criminal proceedings. He said that even if police reports were accurate it is inconceivable how... an expression of love by a young married couple would attract an offence of obscenity and trigger the coercive process of law.

The judge expressed surprise that the couple had been picked up and charged by police despite officers being told that they were married.

The lawyer who contested the case for the couple told a Delhi newspaper: Obscenity charges are attracted when an act is so obscene that it encourages depravity or annoys the public. In this case both these contents are missing, because the charge sheet is silent on any passers by as originally claimed.


31st January   

The Swiss Watch...

But don't like to see German ramblers naked
Link Here

When the first nude walkers came over the border the tranquil, neutrality-loving Swiss tried to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Now the Swiss authorities are trying to fend off hordes of German ramblers dressed in nothing more than a rucksack and walking boots. The influx appears to have been started after a German mountaineering website declared the Swiss wilderness a paradise for naked ramblers.

We have been receiving many complaints, Markus D๖rig, a spokesman for the government of the Appenzell Innerrhoden canton, told The Times. The local people are upset and we in the government share their concern. How would one feel if one was to go walking in nature and suddenly came across a group of naked people?

When police in the eastern Appenzeller region arrested a group of German nudists they had to apologise and let them go as there was no law against rambling in one’s birthday suit.

Swiss legislators have spent the winter trying to find a solution and now they are ready to act. A law stipulating that naked walking is a crime is expected to be enacted this spring. A fine will leave nude ramblers ฃ120 out of pocket — providing they have any — or facing further legal action if they are unable to pay on the spot.

The Bill will be approved by the local parliament on February 9 and should come into force on April 26, when the canton’s citizens gather at the Appenzell town square for an annual vote on legal amendments.

Germany, where freik๖rperkultur — free body culture — is a respectable pastime, is aghast. The tabloid Bild Zeitung wrote a sniffy editorial about Swiss intolerance and listed nudist alternatives around the world, hinting at a boycott of Switzerland as a tourist destination.


26th January   

Political Heavyweight...

Gordon Brown whinges at overweight newspaper cartoons
Link Here

  Just one more waffer thin
slice off interest rates monsieur?

He considers himself to be a political heavyweight, but it appears that Gordon Brown doesn't like being drawn as one. It has emerged this weekend that he has complained to newspaper cartoonists that they draw him on the rather large side – "fat" was the word the PM used.

Brown is known to have brought the subject up with at least two national newspaper artists, including The Independent's Dave Brown, pulling them up on their portrayal of him and insisting: I'm not that fat. A touch vain? Perhaps.


25th January   

Dangerous Shoes...

Man sues strip club over dangerous dance attire
Link Here

A US man is suing a strip club after he was hit in the nose by a stripper's platform shoe.

Yusuf Evans, who is suing for ฃ18,000 ($25,000), was watching exotic dancer "Tiara" perform a high kick when her shoe flew off her foot and smacked him in the face.

He is asking for the damages over injuries he says will require surgery claiming he can only breathe out of one side of his nose.

Evans who was visiting the XTC club in Akron, Ohio, last year, said he does not normally frequent strip clubs. ..BUT... made an exception because he was entertaining friends from out of town.

He explained: She ran, at a nice speed, grabbed the pole and flung her whole body around, all her weight flung that in a circle around the pole and her boot flew off and it hit me in my nose.

The lawsuit with Summit County Commons Please Court says XTC management allowed dancers to wear improper attire and required strippers to perform dances that made the stage a hazardous place.


22nd January   

Offsite: Officious Britain...

The bullies that Labour has unleashed
Link Here

  Put down the bird seed...
Take a step back from the table...
And raise you hands above your head!

Power has been given to the most minor officials to hurt and harass people. The new air of officiousness is unacceptable.

What is noticeable now that so many of Labour's laws have come into force is the increase of pettiness, bullying and loss of humanity in local officials, government agencies and the various new breeds of wardens and community officers who patrol the streets looking to fine those who feed the birds and put up notices for their lost cat.

It is the detail of stories that reach the local press that tells us of the vast change in the relationship between the man in the street and authority. A new and – to me – alien element of harshness has entered the equation, and I believe we are going to see a lot more of it.

...Read full article


21st January   

Updated: Toilet Humour...

Bulgarians whinge at Czech artwork
Link Here

A Czech artist has unveiled a humorous sculpture of the 27 European Union nations that has caused a diplomatic row

David Cerny told The Times tonight that it is to test whether the EU had a sense of humour.

He admitted that he had misled his own government, which commissioned him to make the 10 million Crown (ฃ350,000) artwork as a showpiece of its presidency of the EU, by making it with his friends instead of artists from the 27 countries.

Cerny added that he apologised to Bulgaria after its ambassador formally complained about its depiction as a map of toilets and he also strongly denied that Germany’s interlinked autobahns were made to look like a swastika, as some observers have unconvincingly suggested.

The artist, who has a long history of controversial projects, said that he planned to travel to Brussels for the official launch in the atrium of the European Council after senior Czech officials agreed to go ahead despite the double embarrassment of Cerny’s hoax and the complaints from other governments.

But Betina Joteva, first secretary for the Bulgarian government office to the EU, insisted that the image of her country was removed. “I cannot accept to see a toilet on the map of my country. This is not the face of Bulgaria,” she said.

Slovakia was also understood to have complained about its depiction as a body tied up with rope said to represent Hungary, its neighbour and rival. British diplomats were said to be relaxed about the empty space on the giant sculpture intended to signify that the UK was absent from the EU.

I am seriously very pro-European, Cerny told The Times: It would be a great pity if Europe would not be able to take this as a bit of satire and irony. If we are strong as Europe it should be OK for one nation to make fun of other nations.

Update: Toilet Cover

16th January 2009

The Czech ambassador sent us a letter telling us that they will either remove or cover up the offending item, Betina Joteva, first secretary for the Bulgarian EU embassy, told AFP.

Earlier Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, officially opening the exhibit said: I apologise to Bulgaria and its government if it feels offended, and I think we are certainly ready to engage in a dialogue.

If you stand by your request to remove it, of course we will certainly do that, he added, addressing a Bulgarian diplomat attending the ceremony.

Update: Down the Pan

17th January 2009. See article from telegraph.co.uk

The controversial representation of Bulgaria as a "Turkish" lavatory is to be removed from an art installation in a European Union building on Monday.

The decision to take down the exhibit was confirmed on Friday evening by David Cerny, the controversial Czech artist whose creation has generated a furious debate over free speech at the heart of the EU. We are going to put Bulgaria into storage on Monday, he told The Daily Telegraph: Its removal will become a symbolic part of the object itself and part of the mirror the installation holds up to Europe.

Italy on Friday became the latest country to use Brussels diplomatic channels to raise objections to the art work.

Italian diplomats are upset by Italy's depiction as a soccer pitch on which mechanical football players, wearing the national team colours, appear to be animatedly performing a sex act with footballs to enthusiastic crowd sounds.

They are not happy at all, said a Brussels diplomat. Other sources confirmed that Italy regards the art work as bad taste but said that the Italians would hold off from an official protest until after consultations with Rome and other countries.

Update: Cover Up

21st January. See article from news.bbc.co.uk

Part of a work of art that depicts Bulgaria as a toilet has been covered up, following the country's protest.

The Bulgarian entry was shrouded by a black sheet on Tuesday.

A Czech government spokeswoman told BBC News that the shroud had been put in place by the Czech side.

We proceeded to a technical solution, which we found together in intensive talks with the Bulgarian side over a few days, Michaela Jelinkova said.


20th January   

Updated: If You Seek Amy...

Britney Spears asks to be fucked by radio censors
Link Here

Britney Spears forthcoming single could be banned by some US radio stations over fears that listeners might mishear the song's lyrics.

Programmers are concerned about the meaning behind the song, If You Seek Amy, which when sung by Spears sounds like F U C K me.

Spears' song could technically avoid censorship because it doesn't contain offensive language.

Patti Marshall, program director at Cincinnati's Q102, told MTV: It's OK to put in on an album, have fun with it, but we're publicly owned, you know? We have a responsibility to the public ... you put this ... out and act like we're all fuddy-duddies, like we're trying to make moral judgements. It's not about us. It's about the mom in the minivan with her 8-year-old.

In the song, Spears sings the line: All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy, which sounds like: All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F U C K me.

Another programmer told the broadcaster that it would have to run the song past a legal team before it could be aired.

Update: If You See Amy

20th January 2008. See article from earsucker.com

Britney Spears has reportedly been forced to re-record her song, If You Seek Amy due to the threat of radio stations worrying about that mom in the minivan with her eight-year-old . Good grief, will this ever end?

She is editing the track, which includes the lyrics, All of the boys and all the girls are beggin’ to If You Seek Amy, to If You See Amy.

The uncensored version is going to do well in the dance clubs, though.


19th January   

Passport to Jersey...

Passports required for travel between UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands
Link Here

People a year who travel by air or sea between Britain and the Irish Republic will face formal passport checks for the first time in more than 80 years, under new immigration legislation.

But no compulsory passport checks are to be imposed on the land border between the republic and Northern Ireland, although ad hoc intelligence-led immigration checks will be carried out by mobile teams of Border Agency staff.

Ministers say the proposal in the citizenship and immigration bill will plug a critical gap in Britain's border security as they introduce the multibillion pound electronic border over the next five years. The programme will enable travellers to be checked against watch lists before they get on the plane or ferry.

At the same time as the legislation was published in London yesterday, the Irish government announced that it will introduce its own new border control system from next year. The Irish justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said the Irish border information system would also screen for illegal migrants by checking travel data collected by airlines and ferry companies before departure and checking it against watch lists.

A British proposal to introduce passport checks for those who fly from Belfast to the rest of the UK was dropped after strong opposition from Conservatives and Ulster Unionists.

The imposition of border controls will however also apply to those who travel between Britain and the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.


18th January   

Lashings of Beer...

Beer drinkers face the lash in Malaysia
Link Here

A Malaysian sharia High Court has sentenced a man and a woman to caning for drinking beer.

Malaysians Mohamad Nasir Mohamad and Noorazah Baharuddin, were each discovered last year consuming beer in Pahang bars.

Part-time model Sari Dewi Shukarno, a resident of Singapore, faces similar accusations, according to the New Straits Times.

Pahang's Sharia High Court fined Mohamad and Baharuddin each $1,400 and ordered that they be publicly whipped for their crimes.

The caning is to shame them and should be done at any of the prisons in the country, judge Abdul Rahman Yunus told the Times.

Alcohol is widely available in the Muslim country, and the Quran calls indulgence in alcohol and gambling a great sin. But lawyer Pawancheek Merican, a shariah law committee member of the Malaysian Bar Council, told Agency France Press canings for consumption are unusual: It's rare but it's within the law and Muslims are subject to such law in this country.

Offenders are whipped with a long strip of rattan that cuts into the skin and leaves permanent scars. The law only concerns Muslims and it does not apply to non-Muslims.


16th January   

Goddam Nutters...

US state senator proposes bill to outlaw all public and published profanity
Link Here

South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford has introduced a bill that, essentially, seeks to outlaw profanity.

S.56 would prohibit the public utterance or publication of printed material containing profanity. It would also make it illegal to exhibit or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.

Games, movies, books, websites, magazines, music and cable TV, of course, would also be threatened.

The proposal would make the dissemination of such profanity a felony, punishable by five years in jail or a $5,000 fine. Or both.


14th January   

Offsite: Labour's Watching...

Let's face it, soon Big Brother will have no trouble recognising you
Link Here

This is the year when automated face-recognition finally goes mainstream, and it's about time we considered its social and political implications. Over the past few days, at trade fairs from Las Vegas to Seoul, a constant theme has been the unstoppable advance of “FRT”, the benign abbreviation favoured by industry insiders. We learnt that Apple's iPhoto update will automatically scan your photos to detect people's faces and group them accordingly, and that Lenovo's new PC will log on users by monitoring their facial patterns.


Governments and police are planning to implement increasingly accurate surveillance technologies that are unnoticeable, cheap, pervasive, ubiquitous, and searchable in real time. And private businesses, from bars to workplaces, will also operate such systems, whose data trail may well be sold on or leaked to third parties - let's say, insurance companies that have an interest in knowing about your unhealthy lifestyle, or your ex-spouse who wants evidence that you can afford higher maintenance payments.

...Read full article


12th January   

Update: Labour's Listening...

EU ISPs to retain email routing and websites visited from 15th March
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Jacqui Smith will soon begin one of the Home Office's famed consultation exercises on new systems demanded by spy chiefs to snoop on internet communications in the UK. this is known as the  Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) .

But in the meantime, the imminently-in-force EU Data Retention Directive (EUDRD) is due to come into force on 15 March, as part of a European Commission directive which could affect every ISP in the country.

The EUDRD differs from Jacqui Smiths database monstrosity in that EUDRD mandates communications data retention by ISPs in house whereas the IMP could propose retention by the UK government in a centralised database.

Both were originally to be implemented by the Communications Data Bill as related but separate legal acknowledgements of law enforcement.

That marriage of convenience was cancelled, however, when it became clear its passage through parliament would cause the UK to fail to meet its legal obligation to transpose the EUDRD by March 15. Instead the directive is being made UK law by statutory instrument (secondary legislation without a parliamentary hearing).

In the meantime, Whitehall infighting over the much more ambitious IMP intensified, prompting Jacqui Smith to drop the Communications Data Bill from the Queen's Speech in favour of a public consultation, putatively scheduled to begin around the end of this month.

Based on article from independent.co.uk

Plans for a Big Brother database holding records of every citizen's emails, internet visits and mobile phonecalls must include proper safeguards to protect the public from abuses of privacy, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service has warned.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking publicly for the first time since taking up his post in November, said the Government, police and security agencies should only be allowed to collect and use that data where there was a clear legitimate purpose that justified the invasion of an individual's privacy.

Starmer said: By its very nature criminal investigation touches on privacy. I think the right balance for any investigation or prosecution has got to have a legitimate purpose. Investigation of crime is a legitimate purpose. But Starmer stressed, there must also be effective safeguards to act as a break on the state's invasion of the public's privacy.

His predecessor, Sir Ken Macdonald, described the database as an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information.

Big Brother: How much will they know?

The wholesale collection and storage of all our email, internet and mobile phone records would allow the Government to know more than it has ever known about how we live our daily lives. By accessing mobile phone records and using GPS tracker technology it would be possible to discover where a phone-user is on any given day. Police or the security services would also be able to establish the length of each call as well as the number that was dialled.

Messages to and from social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace could also be subject to covert surveillance, meaning the Government would know both where we are and who our friends or associates might be. This information would be added to the records of all email traffic, allowing investigators to form a clearer picture of our social lives. This would include all emails, although not the content, from unsolicited sources.

The picture would be completed by a trawl of our internet history which might lead the police to draw conclusions about our interests and shopping habits. At no time would we know we were being snooped on.


10th January   

Offsite: It's not debatable...

Britain's jack-booted paramilitary police
Link Here

I left the Mail on Sunday office on Saturday evening, planning to walk to Paddington Station and go home. The Israeli Embassy is nearby, on Palace Green, but Palace Green is a closed street, blocked by gates, and anti-Israel demonstrators cannot get close to the actual building. Instead, they tend to gather opposite the gates, and when there are more than a few dozen of them, they block the whole street.

This is what had happened on Saturday. I couldn't get through, so I went round by back streets to the other side of the (fairly small) protest. I began walking eastwards along Kensington Road. Suddenly, out of the gloom I saw more demonstrators approaching me, presumably stragglers from Trafalgar Square, come to shout at the Israelis. That didn't bother me. They were quiet and peaceable.

What did bother me that, in front of the demonstration was a sort of skirmish line of black-clad, helmeted figures, each carrying a large round black shield and a big club. All were wearing clompy, macho boots and ( if my memory serves me right) leather trousers as well. They were both ridiculous and creepily frightening, and - to my eye - wholly unBritish.

They were part-astronaut, part-samurai, all menace. They were also pointless. I couldn't see any reason for this riot squad to be there. There was no trouble, before or behind or beside them. That was when they started bellowing at me. Get back! (or something like that). I looked round to see if I had accidentally got into the middle of a sudden melee, but the street was as peaceful as it had been before.

I held out my hands in a shrugging, mock-pleading gesture and began to ask why I couldn't just walk on the pavement undisturbed. I am , I began to say a private person on his way to Paddington station.

I didn't finish. I couldn't. The figures began bawling again, in a strange robotic chorus of Arthur-Mullard-like voices. And this is what they bawled: It's not debatable! Then they bawled it again It's not debatable! And then one more time.

...Read full article


9th January   

There's Probably No God...

Atheist bus campaign comes to Pattaya?
Link Here

The advertising censor is being called upon to rule on the likelihood of God's existence after complaints were made about the atheist bus advert campaign.

Censors at the Advertising Standards Authority are now considering whether to tackle the question that has taxed the minds of the world's greatest thinkers for centuries.

It has recorded 48 complaints since Tuesday when buses first hit the streets emblazoned with the message: There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. At least 40 more people were understood to have made objections by last night.

Most of those who have contacted the ASA consider the adverts offensive and say they break guidelines on taste and decency.

Stephen Green, the nutter behind Christian Voice is claiming they should be taken down because the statement in the adverts cannot be substantiated: If you're going to put out what appears to be a factual statement then you have to be able to back it up. They've got to substantiate this proposition that in all probability, God doesn't exist.

The ASA is now considering whether to investigate his complaint, which could lead to it reaching a deep ontological conclusion about a supreme being. If it ruled that the wording in the posters was unsubstantiated, it would be interpreted as effectively saying that in all probability God does exist. Ruling that the words were justified could be taken as an agreement that God probably does not exist.

Members of the public donated ฃ140,000 to the Atheist Bus Campaign after its founder, the writer Ariane Sherine, suggested there should be an antidote to religious posters on public transport that threaten eternal damnation to non-believers.

Some supporters of the movement had wanted a stronger slogan that denied God's existence categorically. But the word "probably" was included in order to meet ASA rules.

The British Humanist Association, which is co-ordinating the campaign, said it was confident the chosen wording will not be banned by the censor.

The ASA said: We are assessing these complaints to see whether there are grounds for an investigation.

There's Probably No God in Spain Either

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Meanwhile the posting of atheist advertising on Barcelona's buses has been branded an attack on all religions.

Next week, Barcelona will become the first city in Spain to copy the UK campaign when its buses use a direct translation of the slogan adopted in Britain. Madrid, Valencia and other cities are being targeted to run similar campaigns.

Probablemente Dios no existe. Deja de preocuparte y goza de la vida, it reads, translating as There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.

The campaign has provoked a reaction from the Catholic archbishopric of Barcelona. Faith in God is not a source of worry, nor is it an obstacle for enjoying life, it said in a statement.

It is an attack on all religions, said Javier Maria Perez-Roldan of the church's Tomas Moro centre, blaming the socialist government for the privately funded campaign: The government has created an atmosphere of belligerence.


9th January   

Update: Path to a Police State...

UK MP stopped for taking pictures of cycle path
Link Here
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

Conservative MP Andrew Pelling has said he was stopped and searched by police on suspicion of being a terrorist after taking photographs of a cycle path.

The MP for Central Croydon was stopped by police under trumped up anti-terrorism laws on December 30.

Despite him showing his House of Commons pass to the officers, they insisted on searching him after they found him taking photos of a cycle path in his area.

He told police that he was taking photos to highlight a long-neglected bicycle and pedestrian route, which had been of concern to his constituents and that he was intending on taking the photos to Parliament to illustrate the dangers posed by the protracted maintenance works.

But the two officers insisted on searching him after they told him they thought he was taking photos of East Croydon train station. They searched his bag, but after finding nothing of interest they sent the MP on his way.

A police spokeswoman said: An officer stopped and searched a man's bag in Cherry Orchard Road on December 30, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. The officer conducted a stop-and-search, taking into account the current terror threat, as he was taking pictures in the vicinity of a major transport hub.


7th January   

Update: Terrorised by Police...

Artists and photographers harassed by police
Link Here
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years.

With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home. But to the policemen who arrested him last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.

The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said 'what are you doing?' I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the Anti-Terrorism Act, he recalled.

For Powell, this brush with the law resulted in five hours in a cell after police seized the lock-blade knife he uses to sharpen his pencils. His release only came after the intervention of the local MP, Simon Hughes, but not before he was handcuffed and his genetic material stored permanently on the DNA database.

But Powell's experience is far from uncommon. Every week photographers wielding their cameras in public find themselves on the receiving end of warnings either by police, who stop them under the trumped up justification of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, or from over-eager officials who believe that photography in a public area is somehow against the law.

Groups from journalists to trainspotters have found themselves on the receiving end of this unwanted attention, with many photographers now fearing that their job or hobby could be under threat.

Yet, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the law is straightforward. Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Their powers are strictly regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order. This applies equally to members of the media seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places, a spokeswoman said.

But still the harassment goes on. Philip Haigh, the business editor of Rail magazine, said the bullying of enthusiasts on railway platforms has become an unwelcome fact of life in Britain: It is a problem that doesn't ever seem to go away. We get complaints from railway photographers all the time that they are told to stop what they are doing, mainly by railway staff but also by the police. It usually results in an apologetic letter from a rail company .


6th January   

Update Spotting a Police State...

UK trainspotters harassed by police
Link Here
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

UK Police are using draconian anti-terrorism powers against trainspotters, it has emerged.

Enthusiasts innocently taking photographs of carriages and noting serial numbers have ludicrously been accused of behaving like a reconnaissance unit for a terror cell.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop a staggering 62,584 people at railway stations. Another 87,000 were questioned under separate stop and search and stop and account legislation.

The figures were uncovered by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who warned that Britain was sliding towards a police state. While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.

The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs and I know this has led to innocent trainspotters being stopped. This is an abuse of anti-terrorism powers and a worrying sign that we are sliding towards a police state.


5th January   

Offsite: Prison Britain...

Why is Labour so keen to imprison us?
Link Here

A quite extraordinary statistic has been dug out of the deepest quarries of Whitehall by a diligent government official following an inquiry about the number of laws introduced by Labour since taking office in 1997.

We know there has been a tidal wave of legislation, but it is mind-boggling to discover the size of the tsunami. It is estimated that more than 3,600 new offences have been created. But even more astonishing, as Baroness Stern, a crossbench peer, discovered when she asked, is the number of these that can result in a prison sentence. Believe it or not, there are 1,036 that the official could identify. There may well be more.

...Read full article


1st January   

Nutter Niles Embarrasses Australia...

Australian beach lovers to cover up lest they offend muslims
Link Here

Nutter MP Fred Nile says he wants topless bathing banned in New South Wales to protect Sydney's Muslim and Asian communities.

The Reverend Prude Nile has rejected allegations that prudishness is behind a bill he has prepared to ban nudity, including topless sunbathing, on the state's most popular beaches.

Australia's reputation as a conservative but culturally inclusive society was at risk of erosion by more liberal overseas visitors, he said.

Our beaches should be a place where no one is offended, whether it's their religious or cultural views, he said: If they've come from a Middle Eastern or Asian country where women never go topless - in fact they usually wear a lot of clothing - I think it's important to respect all the different cultures that make up Australia.

Acting Premier Carmel Tebbutt and the NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, have both said that topless bathing is an issue for local councils, not state governments.

NSW No So Liberal powerbroker David Clarke and Labor MP Paul Gibson have reportedly vowed to support the bill.

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the topless issue was one of context and clear signage: People want to go to the beach and use the beach in a variety of ways. Obviously family groups want to go to the beach, people who want to get a bit of sun all over also want to go to the beach. As long as people know what the rules are and know what to expect I think it is a matter for the individuals involved.

Waverley Council Mayor Sally Betts says she is aghast at moves by state politicians to outlaw women from sunbathing topless on NSW beaches. We've got alcohol-related violence, we've got under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour in the public domain - those are really important issues, Betts told Fairfax Radio Network. If the Reverend Nile really wants to help people he should focus on those issues.


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