Farangland News

2009: April-June

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30th June   

Golden Opportunity...

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

US Mainstream DVDs

Video Universe

Kuwaiti police investigate magic spells used to rob gold shops
Link Here

  Sgt. Gul Abul at your service!

The Jahra police have taken into custody an Iraqi man who goes by the name of Kaka for using a magic spell to steal gold ornaments from a shop, reports Al-Shahid daily.

The arrest came following a complaint filed by the owner of the shop who said two persons entered his shop and asked to see sets of gold ornaments. The owner added he displayed in front of the men five sets. After checking the men said they were not interested and left the shop. However, after they had gone the salesman was shocked to find two sets missing. He was puzzled because he did not see the man taking the gold with them.

However, a case was filed against the thieves and intensive police investigations led to the arrest of the two men who are believed to criminals.

During interrogation Kaka reportedly admitted to the charge and said he had stolen items in similar fashion with the help of three other friends after casting a magic spell on the salesmen.

Investigations are underway to find out how many thefts the suspects have committed in similar fashion.


28th June   

Travel Warning...

Man jailed in Dubai for Victoria Beckham cancer awareness t-shirt
Link Here

A man has been jailed in Dubai for wearing a cancer awareness Marc Jacobs T-shirt featuring a nude but discreetly obscured picture of Victoria Beckham.

Raffi Nernekian, a Lebanese national, was arrested after an argument with a local man about the T-shirt, in which the key parts of Beckham's body are obscured either by her hands or the logo Protect the skin you're in.

Nernekian was subsequently jailed for offending public decency for a month, a sentence upheld on appeal. He will be deported after serving his sentence, even though he has lived in the city for five years.

The case is the latest example of foreigners falling foul of the repressive social codes in force in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai issued an updated version of its code in March, which said that clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.


23rd June   

Updated: Unappealing UAE...

UAE compounds adultery injustice as man is freed whilst woman loses appeal and remains in jail
Link Here
Full story: Adultery...Check the marital status of your girl

The woman recently sentenced to three months in jail in the United Arab Emirates on sex-related charges has lost her appeal against the sentence.

But, in a strange twist, the man Roxanne Hillier was alleged to have had sex with, and who had also been sentenced on these charges, has been released from jail.

As far as we understand, there is no other way that we can take this further in court. But we are exploring other options, Maxine Hillier said shortly after her sister's appeal was heard on Monday.

Hillier, 22, a dive instructor, had been fighting for her freedom since her arrest just more than a month ago. She and the owner of the centre were arrested during a police raid on May 16. She was later found guilty of being alone in a room with a man to whom she was not related, and of engaging in sex out of wedlock.

Her boss, a UAE citizen who is married with children, was sentenced to six months' jail and Hillier to three months.

Hillier's family unsurprisingly insisted the charges were trumped up and that foul play was involved. Strangely the authorities have listed Hillier as muslim when she is in fact christian. They said she had been working late the day of her arrest and had decided to sleep in a locked guest room at the dive centre, while her boss was working in another room. Her father Freddie said the police had forced their way into the centre and broke down Hillier's door.

Maxine Hillier said her family was battling to accept the appeal decision: The family is taking it badly. My sister and my mother are taking a lot of strain . However, they were still hoping to use the release of Hillier's boss to help her sister.


17th June   

No Fun Abroad...

UK Foreign Office warns about nasty laws to watch out for when on holiday
Link Here

About half of British women who sunbathe topless on beaches abroad do so without first checking whether it is legal, a survey by the Foreign Office (FO) revealed.

One in seven men admitted having sex in a public place on holiday, an extremely serious offence in some countries.

The FO also warned that homosexuality is illegal in many popular holiday destinations, including Morocco and Goa. There were several incidents in Morocco last year where individuals were charged, resulting in one Briton being imprisoned for three months.

Jess Prasad, manager of the FO's Know Before You Go campaign, said: With more people travelling outside the eurozone this year, it is ever more important that people familiarise themselves with the local laws and customs before they go.

Not to mention that adultery is horribly illegal in several muslim countries, in particular the UAE emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah etc


14th June   

Update: Feminist Objects...

Object cover up lads' mags at WH Smith
Link Here
Full story: Lads Mags...Blaming lads mags for all the world's ills

12 activist objects and a photographer descended upon the two WH Smiths in London's Liverpool Street station on Friday to celebrate the third national Feminist Friday by covering the entire lads' mags displays with paper bags and slogans objecting to the sexist portrayal of women as objects.

Object said: The reception we received from customers in the two shops was really supportive, with one woman telling us that seeing younger women actively engaged in feminist activism and not passively accepting the sexist messages we see all around us had 'made her day'; a group of 14 year old girls really keen to discuss the impact of lads' mags on how girls and women are viewed and treated and wanting to get involved; and many other women and men signing our petition against lads' mags being sold as part of the mainstream media.

It was good fun and empowering - a great opportunity to take a stand against the pornification of culture and to say - women are human, stop treating us like objects!


13th June   

Searching for Hassle...

Microsoft unveil new search engine for websites, images and video
Link Here

Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, has caused controversy by allowing users to see porn videos without leaving the site, once safety controls are turned off.

The site became available to users, two days ahead of its official roll out date on June 3. One of its defining features is the functionality which enables it to auto-play videos in search results, when users hover the mouse above the stills. By typing in words with sexual connotations, once the safety search setting is off, Bing users can access porn films and other similarly explicit material, within the site. Other search engines, such as Google, do not play the videos within their sites, but provide links to external sites.

The ‘safe search' is on by default, however anyone can turn it off with two clicks and self certified age verification.

Last week Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive unveiled Bing at the All Things Digital conference in San Diego, as a replacement for its current search engine, Live Search.

The new search engine aims to better understand what users are looking for, and therefore displays fewer results in certain circumstances. A search for the website Facebook, for instance, would bring up just one result linking to the site itself, with the option of displaying further results about the site.

Update: Hint: Select a Free Country in the Country Location set up

4th June 2009.  Based on article from business.rediff.com

Bing.com, Microsoft's new search engine and much ballyhooed answer to Google, seems to have a neurotic attitude towards pornography.

While users in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia can search for sexually explicit material within the search page itself, Bing.com is automatically set-up to censor searches from Thailand and other censorial countries.

Other countries to get this censorship treatment are Middle East nations, China, Germany Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey.

Searches from within Thaialnd for the term 'sex', along with other sex-related terms, return the following result: THE SEARCH SEX MAY RETURN SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT. To get results, change your search terms. No results are listed. There is no safe search' option where users can toggle on/off this automatic censorship.

However, it's been discovered that if users change their country location setting to an uncensored country, say the US, full results will be displayed, provided the user then turns off safe search.

Update: Microsoft rearrange Bing.com to allow easier blocking

13th June 2009.  Based on article from news.cnet.com

After plenty of coverage about how its Bing search engine makes it all too easy for kids to find and view porn, Microsoft has made some changes that will make it easier for parents, companies or states to block or monitor what people are viewing on the site.

In a blog post, Microsoft announced that it is making two changes the company thinks will help address the issue.

According to the post, explicit images and video content will now be coming from a separate single domain, explicit.bing.net. This is invisible to the end customer, but allows for filtering of that content by domain, which makes it much easier for customers at all levels to block this content regardless of what the SafeSearch settings might be.

With this change, parents should be able to use parental control tools to block that domain and therefore block the images and videos. Almost all third-party filtering tools can be configured to block specific domains or sites, as can the parental controls in Microsoft Vista and Mac OS X.

Microsoft will also return the "source URL" information of specific images and videos, so if a filtering program blocks that site, it will prevent the video or image from being viewed within Bing. For example, if there is a video playing at Playboy.com, a filtering program that blocks Playboy would also prevent someone from viewing the content from inside Bing.

In an e-mail, Microsoft spokesman David Burt said the company has reached out to more than 25 filtering and security vendors to work with them to provide a solution for filtering explicit content while using Bing.


11th June   

Updated: Flirting with Repression...

More victims of UAE ban on sex outside of marriage
Link Here
Full story: Adultery...Check the marital status of your girl

A South African woman has been jailed in the United Arab Emirates for sleeping with her boss in the latest example of the country's hardline approach to sex outside marriage.

Roxanne Hillier has now been jailed for three months even though she agreed to carry out medical tests to prove there had been no sexual contact.

Roxanne Hillier was asleep in a room above the dive shop where she worked in the emirate of Sharjah when police broke down the locked door and arrested her.

They claimed she was having an affair with her boss, an Emirati, who was downstairs at the time repairing the shop's dive equipment. She was also accused of being alone in the same room with him, also technically a crime in Sharjah.

Her father, Freddie Hillier, said police records showed the raid was ordered after someone rang them to say her boss was using the room above the shop to have sex with foreign women: We believe it was aimed at the boss of the place. My daughter was caught in the crossfire.

Hillier said his daughter's big mistake was to sign a confession in Arabic that she did not understand: They were shouting at her in Arabic. She was scared and made the mistake of bowing to pressure. She thought that was going to get her off.

She was brought before a court on May 22 for a fifteen-minute hearing conducted in Arabic. Last week, she was brought before the court again to be told briefly that she had been found guilty and sentenced to three months' jail. Her boss was sentenced to six months.

An appeal in the case is due to be heard on Sunday.

Update: South African

Thanks to Freddie who pointed out that Roxanne is South African, not British as widely reported.


8th June   

Updated: Bye Bye Grasshopper...

David Carradine dies in Bangkok hotel
Link Here

David Carradine, the actor who starred in 1970s television series Kung Fu and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films, was found hanged in a Bangkok hotel room yesterday.
Thai police are investigating the twin theories that the death was either suicide or a sex game gone wrong. Carradine, 72, was found hanging in a wardrobe with a rope around his neck and other parts of his body.

The actor was in Thailand to shoot a film and checked into the luxury Nai Lert Park Hotel, situated next to the British Embassy. He failed to join crew members for dinner on Wednesday night but they did not raise the alarm, believing him to be resting in his suite. A maid discovered his body at 11.30am on Thursday.

Initially, police said they believed Carradine had committed suicide and were not seeking anyone else in connection with the death. There is no trace of fighting in the hotel room and the room was locked from inside. There is no sign of bruising on his body, police official Pirom Janthapirom said. We are investigating from where he got the rope because it does not seem it was from the hotel.

However, there was no suicide note and an unnamed officer claimed the death may have been an attempt at auto-eroticism.

Carradine is survived by his wife, Annie Bierman, and three children. His agent, Chuck Binder, said the news was shocking. The actor was full of life, always wanting to work... a great person, and had been in good spirits of late Binder said.

We will always remember David Carradine for the stature and strength of character that added so much to many of the low budget movies that he starred in.

Update: Thai Rath Wrath

8th June 2009. Based on article from inquisitr.com

The family of the late actor David Carradine are reported to be outraged over a picture of his body published in a Thai newspaper.

The Thai Rath newspaper, a Thai language newspaper ran the picture on its front page, and a larger version inside the paper. The image shows Carradine crouching, although does censor some of the more explicit parts of the shot.

Thai Rath is Thailand's best selling newspaper with a circulation of about a million. It is a tabloid style rag never shying away from lurid pictures of victims of accidents and crimes.

A lawyer for Carradine's family said that The family is outraged about the release of these photos” and that the family sue for invasion of privacy and emotional distress if the David Carradine death photo is run in a United States publication.


5th June   

Offsite: Police Thug Tasers Old Lady...

Taser Torture as Summary Punishment for 'Non-Compliance'
Link Here
Full story: Taser Not So Non Lethal...Taser stun gun proves lethal in police hands

The official rationale for issuing Tasers to police officers is that the electro-shock devices represent a “non-lethal” alternative to the use of a firearm in dealing with situations that threaten the life or safety of an officer or innocent bystanders.

In practical terms, however, the Taser — which is proving to be a reliably lethal weapon — has become an instrument of pain compliance. In unadorned terms, this is summary punishment through torture for those who pose no threat to anyone, but who refuse to cooperate instantly with orders issued to them by police officers.

The recent arrest of 72-year-old Austin grandmother Kathryn Winkfein, who was assaulted with a Taser during a traffic stop, illustrates this perfectly.

After a police officer stopped Mrs. Winkfein for allegedly driving 60 in a 45 MPH zone, the grandmother refused to sign the ticket stub. Under Texas law, motorists are required to sign traffic tickets under threat of arrest.

According to the police officer, Mrs. Winkfein not only refused to comply, but she swore and became violent with him. Palsied with terror over the threat posed by a frail septuagenarian woman, the officer hit her with a blast from his Taser. Mrs. Winkfein disputes every element of the official account, and intends to file a lawsuit.

...Read full article


4th June   

Snitch Happy Britain...

Brits the mostly likely to flag up YouTube videos
Link Here

British YouTube users are amongst the most sensitive in the world, executives at the site have claimed.

The company has reacted by introducing special Britain-only policies following a raft of complaints from users over gang-related videos.

Victoria Grand, head of policy at YouTube, told The Times: The UK is a big flagging country. We get a lot of videos flagged up in the UK because of issues that British people are concerned about which maybe aren't an issue in the US, such as the brandishing of guns.

Scott Rubin, YouTube's head of communication, said: In terms of outside regulation verses internal regulation, this is a very new world, so the people who are closest to that world are the ones who understand best. We have a vested interest in making this site a place that's safe for advertisers and good for the community. Regulators coming from the outside would not have this deep understanding.

Calls have also been made by internet safety groups across Europe for websites such as YouTube to be subject to the same degree of regulation as television channels, but Rubin rejected the demands: We are not a broadcaster.

YouTube representatives have been in Britain in the past week to meet MPs and officials from the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom to demonstrate new internal safety measures introduced to bolster the self-regulation.

The site has partnered with the British organisations Childnet and Beatbullying to introduce a Safety Centre where users, especially children, are offered advice on how to report and deal with people who are harassing or threatening them on YouTube.

YouTube has also signed up to the code of practice set out by the EU Safer Social Networking Initiative and is in consultation with the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety on how to protect and inform children of the dangers of viewing inappropriate content.

This still leaves user-led regulation as the main form of policing available on YouTube. Users can flag videos they believe to be in breach of YouTube's guidelines on violent, offensive, obscene or inappropriate material. These videos are then checked out by a team of reviewers who have received training, including from the FBI, on how to spot dangerous material on their site.

These measures have been introduced after YouTube conceded they could not hope to police the 20 hours of video being uploaded onto the site every minute. The site has, instead, introduced optional swear-word filters for user-generated text on the site and has updated its technology to allow its reviewers to police flagged videos more quickly.

John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said he was encouraged by the changes to the policing of the site, but vowed to remain watchful of the situation: It's something we will continue to monitor and if any further areas for concern arise, we will raise that with them.


3rd June   

Nothing to Hide...

When bag searches can cause untold grief
Link Here

A Canadian court has ordered a cinema to pay $10,000 damages after staff searched a family's bags looking for camera equipment, but ended up breaching their privacy. The search by staff also turned up something embarrassing in older daughter's bag. Mom had no idea. Not impressed.

When a woman took her two daughters to Cinema Guzzo in Montreal to watch Shrek the Third in 2007, they were searched for camming kit. Big trouble ensued.

Finding a stash of illicit smuggled snacks, staff ordered them returned to their vehicle, to be locked securely away so it would be impossible to consume them while watching the movie. The trio complied.

The search of the bags continued and then, jackpot! Although staff didn't find the latest DV camera, they did find some birth control pills in the older daughter's bag, an event that didn't go unnoticed by her mother. Until this point, she had absolutely no idea her child took them. Understandably ang., demanding $60,000 CAD.

Last week a judge ruled that the staff did indeed breach the privacy of the family and ordered the cinema to pay $10,000 CAD ($9,000 USD). Signs at the point of ticket purchase must clearly state that there is a bag search in place and staff must not put their hands inside people's bags. Cinema Guzzo failed on both counts, not to mention causing sensitive problems within a family and guaranteeing that they never, ever come back as customers.


3rd June   

BBC a World Player...

BBC may open up iPlayer to international viewers
Link Here

BBC and Google are in talks to launch international iPlayer site. This step would mean BBC shows could be seen globally in their entirety on the iPlayer platform supported by YouTube.

Sources close to the negotiations say that Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, is leading talks with Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive and chairman about rolling out an international version of the BBC iPlayer, supported in some way by Google-owned video sharing site YouTube.

However the process has been mired by the need for international rights clearance for the BBC programmes currently shown on the iPlayer in the UK. The BBC iPlayer allows viewers to watch popular BBC programmes for up to seven days after they were first broadcast.

Although no details about the business structure have emerged, it is though internet users would be able to access the content for free.

A BBC spokesperson said: There are a significant number of obstacles to extending this commercially to other countries, including international rights clearance. These obstacles present significant difficulties and for this reason there are no firm plans for a specific international BBC iPlayer, but audiences can watch BBC content outside the UK through numerous BBC Worldwide content deals with online partners such as iTunes.


25th May   

Stags, Hens, Nuns and Greeks...

British funsters arrested in Greece for offending the church
Link Here

Police in the coastal town of Hania on Crete said that 17 British nationals were arrested on Sunday for insulting the Catholic church after they paraded themselves dressed in nun attire and naughty lingerie.

A police source said that the group would be taken to a prosecutor to be officially charged and may be fined. But he added that they are unlikely to be jailed for what is a misdemeanour offence.

It was not clear whether the Britons were male or female, or whether they were attending a stag or hen party.


24th May   

Update: Councillors Queue up with Ludicrous Ideas...

Oldham nutters propose bar queues and an end to rounds
Link Here
Full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

Drinkers in Oldham pubs are to be told to stand in a queue and banned from ordering more than two drinks at a time at the bar. Rope barriers similar to those used in shops and post offices will be installed to keep customers in line.

The nutter plan has been proposed following supposed concern over disorder and violence in town centre bars.

The two-drink limit is intended to so called curb binge-drinking and stop customers ordering large amounts of alcohol.

But critics say the 'nanny state' restrictions will end the convivial British tradition of drinkers buying rounds for their friends. Mark Hastings, of the British Beer And Pub Association, said: We have no problem with tackling problem drinking but this is not the way to go about it. These measures are costly, unnecessary and totally disproportionate at a time when around 40 pubs are closing every week. People aren't going to want to drink if they have to queue up as if they're in the post office.'

Under plans drawn up by Not So Liberal Democrat-controlled Oldham Council, all 22 pubs in the town centre will have to comply with the new rules. The 2003 Licensing Act allows police and trading standards officers to apply for variations in a pub licence if there is concern about drink-related violence and disorder.

Licensing committee member Derek Heffernan said: It would be the end of buying a round but we have to do something to calm things down. There have been fights and stabbings and it's not right that people going out for the evening have to worry about being attacked.

Drinkers in Oldham yesterday were similarly unimpressed. Jeff Smith, a regular at the Hare And Hounds, said: It would cause even more trouble than there is already because there will always be someone trying to jump the queue.

An Oldham council spokesprat said: The measures are under discussion and a decision will be made within weeks.


21st May   

Update: Summer Cold, Winter Flu...

The world seems to have dodged the swine flu bullet
Link Here

News reports are that there are now officially > 10K cases of swine flu "confirmed" across the world. More than half are in the USA, about a third are in Mexico. The rest are scattered widely across the world.

Same report has 80 deaths "confirmed".

That term "confirmed" is VERY important. It means that the person was sick enough to seek medical care; that he was cultured and the culture was positive. Seemingly thousands of "mild" cases are occurring but not seeking medical care.

Is it surprising that more people in the USA might be being tested than in Mexico? No figures are given for the number of 'potential' cases that are cultured but not "confirmed".
This means that there is indeed human-to-human transmission of this flu. BUT the good news is that it is not sweeping across the world like wildfire.

As far as testing is concerned, one can only assume that a death that is THOUGHT to be related to the flu is very likely to lead to a test being done post-mortem if it wasn't done before. SO, the 80 deaths are a better measure of the lethality which appears to be extremely LOW.

80 out of 10K cases is low; more likely it is closer to 100 out of 100K cases! Which is extremely low at 1 per 1000.

All in all, the news looks good for the world to have dodged a bullet this time around.

BUT having said that, it is not yet over. The 1918 Swine Flu Pandemic was fairly mild in the Spring and returned with a vengeance in the Fall. Only time will tell.


20th May   

No Fun in the Maldives...

Jordan liable to a prison sentence for naked sunbathing
Link Here

Katie Price a.k.a Jordan faces the prospects of being jailed after the busty model was caught sunbathing in Maldives - naked.

She broke strict Muslim laws by shedding her clothes to soak up the sun - a crime that can land tourists in jail, reports the Mirror.

Foreign Office travel advice warns: Nudism and topless sunbathing are prohibited throughout the Maldives including on resort islands. The Maldives is a Muslim country and serious violations of law may lead to a prison sentence.


20th May   

Canada Descends the Slippery Slope...

Arrested and fined for not holding escalator handrail
Link Here

A Montreal/Laval cop cuffed and dragged a woman away, throwing her in a holding cell and writing her a ticket for Canadian $420 ...for failing to hold the handrail while she dug in her bag for her subway fare.

Bela Kosoian says when she didn't hold the handrail Wednesday she was cuffed, dragged into a small holding cell and fined.

It was horrible, disgusting behaviour [by police], said Ms. Kosoian.

Ms. Kosoian was riding an escalator down to catch a 5:30 p.m. subway from the suburb of Laval to an evening class downtown when she started rifling through her backpack looking for a fare.

Ms. Kosoian says she didn't catch the officer's instruction to hold the rail when he first approached. When he told her again to hang on, she says she replied: I don't have three hands.


19th May   

Mobile Snitch...

Think about what your mobile is telling your insurers or employers
Link Here

State-of-the-art mobile phones could threaten users' privacy, affect their ability to obtain insurance and jeopardise their job prospects, academics have warned.
Phones which use GPS technology to pinpoint their location are popular, but academics said a staggering amount of information could be revealed about a person simply by knowing their location via such technology.

Researchers from the Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS), an EU-funded group looking at privacy issues, were fitted with GPS tracking devices which recorded their every move.

The team found the data disclosed not just where they had been but intimate details about their lives. By using GPS tracking to work out how often users went to the gym, visited bars and brothels or even how fast they drove, it would be possible, FIDIS said, to build up a profile of their lifestyles, even calculating their risk of heart disease.

Such personal information, if passed to third parties such as health insurance companies or potential employers, could be detrimental to the consumer.

Researcher Denis Royer from Goethe University in Frankfurt said: This information is of course extremely useful for companies aiming to produce targeted advertising, and many of us would gladly receive customised drinks offers when we're heading to a local coffee shop. However, if users are targeted based on their inferred lifestyle, which restaurants they visit, or how much alcohol they seem to drink, their own information could potentially be used against them.


18th May   

Killer Chip...

Saudi inventor attempts to patent poison implant locator chip
Link Here

A Saudi Arabian inventor has filed for a patent on a potentially lethal science fiction-style human tracking microchip, the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) told The Local .

But the macabre innovation that enables remote killing will likely be denied copyright protection. [Great! so everyone can copy the idea unchecked!]

While the application is still pending further paperwork on his part, the invention will probably be found to violate paragraph two of the German Patent Law – which does not allow inventions that transgress public order or good morals, spokeswoman Stephanie Krger told The Local.

The patent application – entitled Implantation of electronic chips in the human body for the purposes of determining its geographical location – was filed on October 30, 2007, but was only published until last week, or 18 months after submission as required by German law, she said.

The tiny electronic device, dubbed the Killer Chip by Swiss daily Tagesanzeiger, would be suited for tracking fugitives from justice, terrorists, illegal immigrants, criminals, political opponents, defectors, domestic help, and Saudi Arabians who don’t return home from pilgrimages.

After subcutaneous implantation, the chip would send out encrypted radio waves that would be tracked by satellites to confirm the person’s identity and whereabouts.

An alternate model chip could reportedly release a poison into the carrier if he or she became a security risk.


17th May   

Saints and Sinners...

Religious nutters inspire crazy drinking laws in Utah
Link Here

Utah's Governor, Jon Huntsman, has signed the most sweeping changes to the state's liquor laws in 40 years into law. Some crazy laws were scrapped but were replaced with others.

In the name of economic development and the name of travel and tourism, and so that we don't have to explain whenever a company comes into town for the first 30 minutes of our discussion why we have some of these onerous rules on the book, we're going to sign , Huntsman said at.

Bars will no longer have to be private clubs beginning July 1, eliminating a decades-old headache for anyone who has ever sought a cocktail here.

The move is being made in an effort to make the state seem a little less odd to outsiders and boost the state's $6 billion a year tourism industry. Tourism officials have long complained that Utah's notoriously quirky liquor laws have given Colorado a competitive advantage in luring the lucrative ski and convention market.

Tourists in search of a beer and a bite to eat after hitting the ski slopes frequently walk out of bars once told they're for members only. A separate membership, costing at least $4, is required at every bar.

It's always been the knock on Utah. We've got the best snow, we've got the best access, we have the nicest people. There's nothing that compares to our product. The only knock that anybody could ever come up with is that 'Your liquor laws are strange, quirky, weird,' said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, the ski industry's marketing arm.

The new law will also allow restaurants to take down partitions known as Zion Curtains that separate bartenders from customers in restaurants. Currently, bartenders or servers must walk drinks around the bar before they're allowed to serve them.

The private club system and the Zion Curtain as they're known today got their start in 1969 after the Mormon church told its members to vote down a proposal that would have allowed the sale of liquor by the drinks in restaurants. The church is still highly influential here and the changes to the state's liquor laws would not have happened if the church had opposed them.

As part of a compromise, the state will impose tougher drink drive and underage drinking penalties. Utah will also become the first state in the country to require bars to scan the ID of anyone who appears younger than 35 before being allowed to enter.

Information obtained through the ID scan, including name, age and address, will be kept on site for seven days so it can be accessed by law enforcement, despite concerns that keeping the information is a violation of privacy.

The compromise Huntsman signed into law will also prohibit new restaurants from mixing cocktails in public view because some lawmakers are worried that children will be enticed to drink alcohol if they see it poured from bottles.

Huntsman increased the maximum amount of liquor allowed in the standard cocktail from one ounce to 1.5 ounces last year by agreeing to other rules that are unique to Utah. Among them, customers can't have more than 2.5 ounces of liquor before them at any time. Customers in Utah also can't order a margarita and a shot of tequila at the same time because it contains the same primary liquor, but they could order a margarita and a shot of bourbon, for instance.


16th May   

Blocked View...

Australia's advert censors whinges at ad for Classic Double Breast Burger
Link Here

A Nando’s ad has fallen foul of the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau - this time featuring a dim woman whose breasts are so large that she can’t see her chips.

A complaint that the ad encouraged discrimination against women was upheld, meaning that the ad - for the Classic Double Breast Burger has been pulled.

ASB CEO Fiona Jolly said: While the Board recognised the intended humour, it also considered a significant proportion of the community would be offended and find there was an element of sexuality and objectification of women that was concerning.


8th May   

Free Speakers Bullied...

US bloggers worried about law that could make internet insult a crime
Link Here

American bloggers have reacted angrily to proposals for a new law that could potentially make it illegal to criticise or make fun of somebody online.

Linda Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman for California, is leading a bill intended to combat cyberbullying – but opponents say the law's limits are vague and threaten freedom of speech.

The bill, which is being submitted to Congress for the second time, proposes that any electronic communication intended to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress could be punished with a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years.

According the proposals, the new rules would cover email, blogs, instant messaging and texts.

Opponents are concerned that it could violate the US constitution's first amendment – which guarantees freedom of expression – and threatens valid online criticism.

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA school of law and one of the most high-profile political bloggers in the US, has attacked the proposals as overbroad and constitutionally vague. Although serious cyberbullying is clearly an unwanted problem, Volokh says the definition of severe could easily lead to the censorship of campaigning blogs, political arguments or even consumer boycotts. This cannot possibly be constitutionally permissible, it cannot possibly be a good idea, it cannot possibly be what the drafters intended, and yet that is what they wrote. If it is passed through Congress, I see it being struck down in courts.


6th May   

Update: Rotten Apple Spoils a Lovely Bunch...

Apple censors The Sun for its page 3 fun
Link Here
Full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

Apple may put News International's nose out of joint with its definition of 'obscene', after rejecting a newspaper-reading iPhone app for reasons of rudeness.

Newspaper(s), an application that renders content from the world's newspapers, was rejected by iTunes because it included the UK's Sun newspaper - complete with topless Page Three girl - on the grounds that it violates the iTunes policy on obscene content.

But the Sun reckons it's a family paper, and takes accusations of pornography-pushing very seriously indeed.

According to a report on iLounge the publisher of Newspaper(s) was recommended to resubmit the application once OS 3.0 is released, after which a suitable category will be available, but instead decided to remove the offending newspaper from the app.


4th May   

Update: The Jury is Out...

Has the world dodged swine flu?
Link Here

The statistics so far indicate that there are about 250 cases of Swine flu in the USA. Fully one-third of them are reported to have a direct link to Mexico. Overall, there are about 1000 known cases world-wide outside of Mexico. All of the deaths so far are directly linked to Mexico; the only non-Mexican death was the child who had just crossed the border into Texas.

If 1/3 of the rest of the world's cases also originated in Mexico, then the rate of spread is only 2 cases per person. This is actually quite low. This is likely very good news.

First, the circulating virus (or perhaps the post-Mexico version) is not highly contagious. The efforts to limit the spread by closing schools and asking ill people to stay home seems to be working. Quarantining groups (as in the Hong Kong hotel) seems a bit drastic at this point but closely watching travelers exiting Mexico is paying off.

The second encouraging point is the low number of deaths outside of Mexico and even the "down-sized" count from there. We still don't know for sure just how lethal the original outbreak was because we don't have (and likely never will have) a denominator of all those infected in Mexico. But the downsized number of deaths "confirmed" to be caused by this virus bodes well. So far, 1 death per 1000 cases outside Mexico is not too bad of a lethality ratio; even that is being "generous" in counting the Texas child's death as non-Mexican. This, however, still doesn't tell us if the virus has already mutated into a less lethal strain or if 1/1000 was the original rate in Mexico.

Once again, the jury is will out, but indications are that the world MAY have dodged a bullet this time.

Good News and Bad News in Swine Flu Analysis

See article from io9.com

If the new virus spreads from one infected person to the next at about the same speed as ordinary flu, that gives an idea of how many cases there may have been in that time. A mathematical model permits the calculation of an important variable called R0 – the number of additional people infected, on average, by each case. If R0 is less than one, an infection dies out.

Nicholas Grassly of Imperial College London and Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh, UK, have analysed the rate of spread.

Grassly cautions that the estimate is very preliminary. But with the data available now, he gets an R0 of 1.16 – enough for the virus to keep going, but only just.

This could be good news. In epidemiological theory, at least, the lower the R0, the easier it may be to snuff the virus out by further hindering its spread.

But it may be too early for celebrations. The 1918 flu pandemic, caused by another H1N1 virus, started with a mild, early wave in spring and early summer. The flu lab at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US estimates that the R0 of the 1918 virus in spring was only 1.45. That shot up, they estimate, to 3.75 when the virus began its lethal second wave the following autumn.

Much may now depend on how quickly the new H1N1 virus from swine adapts to people.


4th May   

Pizza plus Free Thai Massage...

New Zealand advert censor reports on ads of 2008
Link Here

A religion-related Tui beer billboard was the most complained about ad in New Zealand in 2008, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) annual report said.

Let's take a moment this Christmas to think about Christ...Yeah Right - Tui, went to No 1 on the ASA 2008 hate list, with 86 complaints, saying it was offensive to Christians, as was the alcohol-religion link.

Dominion Breweries withdrew the Christmas ad, after howls of 'outrage'.

Tui bumped Hell Pizza from No 1, after the fast food company cooked up the most complained-about ads in 2006 and 2007. Hell Pizza only managed No 10 in 2008, with its $25 Hot as Hell direct mail ad. That ad promised a Thai massage with one of its pizzas, if the offer was redeemed in Thailand on the day of purchase. The ad showed a photo of a young Thai woman in high heels and a bikini, which 16 complainants said invoked prostitution and was a racial slur to Thais.

In 2008, there were 1246 complaints about 703 different advertisements, up on 1160 and 668 in 2007.

Selection from the 10 most complained about ads of 2008:

  • 1. Tui Beer, billboard. Let's take a moment this Christmas to think about Christ...Yeah Right - Tui. (86 complaints). Settled, when withdrawn by advertiser.
  • 2. Brandex Adventure Sports Ltd, television. Skins sportswear, touting the physicality of African-American athletes, saying they have a warrior mentality and killer instinct . (73). Upheld, racial stereotyping.
  • 5. Advanced Medical Institute, billboard. Want long-lasting Sex?, ad for nasal medication to battle premature ejaculation. (38). Upheld, did not meet due sense of social responsibility.
  • 6. Sky Television, billboard. An ad for a Sky television programme stated, all business considered, even from Jews. (27). Settled, advertisement removed and an apology published.
  • 7. Beds R Us, television. A couple searching for the perfect bed are shown kissing passionately, then the female, clad in underwear, straddles the male. (23). Settled, ad replaced after complaints that sex was being used to sell.
  • 10. Hell Pizza, direct mail. $25 Hot as Hell ad showed a photo of a Thai woman in high heels and a bikini, promising a Thai massage, if the offer was redeemed in Thailand on the day of purchase. (15). No grounds to proceed, as it did not meet the threshold to breach the Advertising Codes.


4th May   

Updated: Expenses Allocated for Dubious Purposes...

UK Government snooping continues despite apparent climb down
Link Here

The home secretary has vowed to scrap a ‘big brother’ database, but a bid to spy on us all continues.

Spy chiefs are pressing ahead with secret plans to monitor all internet use and telephone calls in Britain despite an announcement by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, of a ministerial climbdown over public surveillance.

GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre, is developing classified technology to intercept and monitor all e-mails, website visits and social networking sessions in Britain. The agency will also be able to track telephone calls made over the internet, as well as all phone calls to land lines and mobiles.

The £1 billion snooping project — called Mastering the Internet (MTI) — will rely on thousands of “black box” probes being covertly inserted across online infrastructure.

The top-secret programme began to be implemented last year, but its existence has been inadvertently disclosed through a GCHQ job advertisement carried in the computer trade press.

Grabbing favourable headlines about the climbdown on a central database, Smith announced that up to £2 billion of public money would instead be spent helping private internet and telephone companies to retain information for up to 12 months in separate databases.

However, she failed to mention that substantial additional sums — amounting to more than £1 billion over three years — had already been allocated to GCHQ for its MTI programme.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said Smith’s announcement appeared to be a smokescreen. We opposed the big brother database because it gave the state direct access to everybody’s communications. But this network of black boxes achieves the same thing via the back door.

Update: GCHQ on Mastering the Internet

4th May 2009. See press release from gchq.gov.uk

Presumably in response to the Sunday Times revelations above, GCHQ have issue a rare press release:

Just as our predecessors at Bletchley Park mastered the use of the first computers, today, partnering with industry, we need to master the use of internet technologies and skills that will enable us to keep one step ahead of the threats. This is what mastering the internet is about. GCHQ is not developing technology to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain, or to target everyone in the UK. Similarly, GCHQ has no ambitions, expectations or plans for a database or databases to store centrally all communications data in Britain.

Because we rely upon maintaining an advantage over those that would damage UK interests, it is usually the case that we will not disclose information about our operations and methods. People sometimes assume that secrecy comes at the price of accountability but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, GCHQ is subject to rigorous parliamentary and judicial oversight (the Intelligence and Security Committee of parliamentarians, and two senior members of the judiciary: the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner) and works entirely within a legal framework that complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The new technology that GCHQ is developing is designed to work under the existing legal framework. It is an evolution of current capability within current accountability and oversight arrangements The Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 underpin activities at GCHQ - both existing systems and those we are planning and building at the moment. The purposes for which interception may be permitted are set out explicitly in the legislation: national security, safeguarding our economic well being and the prevention and detection of serious crime. Interception for other purposes is not lawful and we do not do it. GCHQ does not target anyone indiscriminately - all our activities are proportionate to the threats against which we seek to guard and are subject to tests on those grounds by the Commissioners. The legislation also sets out the procedures for Ministers to authorise interception; GCHQ follows these meticulously. GCHQ only acts when it is necessary and proportionate to do so; GCHQ does not spy at will.

Update: ISPs Unimpressed

4th June 2009. See article from theregister.co.uk

Jacqui Smith's plan to have ISPs create an enormous federated database of all online communications is receiving a frosty reception from the industry, multiple sources have revealed.

Many in the industry are currently working on their written objections to the proposals, which are known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme.

ISPs are worried that the Home Office does not understand the scale of the technical challenge involved in monitoring and storing data on every communication via the internet. They fear the spiralling costs associated with government IT projects and resent being forced to devote resources to the plans.


3rd May   

Update: Coughing and Spluttering...

Swine Flu: Has it Stalled?
Link Here

One can think of the spread of a disease like influenza as a series of concentric circles. The disease starts at a point source. A relatively few people are exposed and become ill. They spread it to their contacts; a slightly larger number of people; perhaps 3-5 per original infection.

The third ring then includes those a bit farther from the source and might include a number of tourists or visitors who then widen the circle of potentially exposed people as they return to their homes.

As of 2 May, the current swine flu 'epidemic' seems to be stalling at this 4-5th ring. There seems to have been some spread to people who had no exposure in Mexico but the numbers haven't risen rapidly as might have been expected.

This sounds like good news. This virus might not be highly contagious; making it harder to spread. Better still it doesn't seem to be proving to be as lethal as first thought. Those initial 159 deaths in Mexico were downsized to about 9 "confirmed" cases. Just what the other 150 died of is not being discussed.

As noted in Part 2 below, this might simply indicate a very large number of flu infections (both swine flu and "normal" flu) across the region. A simple count of events (deaths) is not too informative unless one knows how many people were involved (the denominator). 100 deaths may be very bad if only 200 people are infected but not so bad if 10,000 are sick.

It'll be a few more days before the world knows where it stands as far as the ability of this virus to spread far and wide.


2nd May   

Royal Command Performance...

Fun on Windsor Castle lawn
Link Here

An amorous couple stripped naked and had sex in a park within sight of Windsor castle.

Witnesses say the couple were enjoying a picnic on the lawn, but appeared to have too much to drink and began having sex on their blanket.

The Queen was at home in the castle at the time, but it is not known if she witnessed the spectacle.

An employee at the Harte and Garter Hotel, which overlooks the castle, said: People were shouting things like 'what are you doing?' but the couple didn't seem to care at all. It was going on for about 10 or 15 minutes, which is quite a long time, considering the location.

The couple carried on until police intervened. A witness said: The officers told them to stop and the sight of the uniforms seemed to snap them out of it. They were unsteady on their feet and the guy pulled his trousers up and helped the girl put hers back on.

A spokesman from Thames Valley police confirmed that two people had been arrested and cautioned for outraging public decency.

The couple now fear their drunken romp could cost them their jobs. They are worried their employers will give them the sack for bringing their companies into disrepute.


1st May   

Offsite: Normal Flu?...

Notes on flu deaths, confirmed vs estimated
Link Here

Yesterday morning, Mexico was reporting 159 deaths from swine flu. According to the WHO, that number is not only 7. How does 159 magically become 7?

Answer By including the word "confirmed" in front of it.

This is a fairly radical website that regularly attacks the "established" medical system so the following must be read in that context. However, there is indeed NO WAY that annual flu-related deaths could EVER be counted.

Thirty-Six Thousand People Do Not Die Each Year from "Regular Flu" (Confirmed)

Read just about any news report on swine flu deaths, and you'll come across a line that claims "36,000 people die each year from flu-related causes." It sounds authoritative. It's even a nice, round number. But where is this number coming from? And is it based on any actual science?

This statistic is being paraded around by almost everybody, as if to say that swine flu isn't so bad because regular flu kills so many people each year anyway. The truth is that the only standard by which the CDC and WHO are quoting deaths from swine flu is if they are confirmed deaths from a particular viral strain. To them, if a death has not been confirmed in their labs, it does not count as a death from that flu.

Got that? Only "confirmed" deaths count. And they must be confirmed in a laboratory using a rigorous method of comparing samples taken from the deceased with a known database of viral patterns.

As it turns out, virtually none of the 36,000 people said to die from regular flu each year have been confirmed in any lab whatsoever.

...Read full article from naturalnews.com


30th April   

Updated: Don't Let the Bugs Bite...

Mexican Swine Flu
Link Here

Well, has it happened? Has the dreaded pandemic that had been discussed then seemingly forgotten actually happened?

Seemingly, a new strain of flu has emerged in Mexico and has spread to a number of places in the USA. This can be attributed mainly to air travel.

What exactly has happened?

There are many, many strains of the flu virus. Most all are restricted to infecting one species of animal. So there is bird flu, swine flu and human flu -- multiple types of each. They are quite similar but yet different enough that they do not "cross-over" from one species of animal to another. BUT when that does happen,-- when a flu virus that mainly infects one type of animal changes just enough to "cross-over" to another -- things tend to not go well.

In this particular case it appears as though a flu virus common in pigs (swine) has acquired the ability to pass to humans and worse from human to human.

Earlier scares of bird and swine flu epidemics had not turned into true problems because the flu virus failed to move within the human population. Those who became infected -- mostly in Asia -- had had some direct contact with the birds or swine. The flu was unable to establish itself and move from human to human. But flu viruses are very unstable. That means that they are able to exchange genetic materials between them when they meet. If a person has a human flu virus in his body at the same time as a bird or swine flu strain, these viruses can re-combine to form a new virus with some properties of both strains.

In the current case, that appears to have happened. The new virus that is causing concern is able to infect humans fairly easily and yet it looks to the human body like a swine flu. Humans have little or no immunity to this type of flu, since it was previously confined to pigs. This contributes both to the ease of spread and to the lethality.

What should YOU do?

First, those face-masks MAY make you feel like you are doing something, but they are generally useless. If the person wearing the mask is the one with the sneezing and the cough, they MAY help to cut down on the spread. But they will not usually help you avoid the virus. In short, the virus is too small for the mask to have any effect.

The MOST EFFECTIVE method of avoiding an infection is to WASH YOUR HANDS! This is the main mode of spread of the flu virus not breathing in air-borne virus. If flu is actively circulating in your city, it would be a good idea to have a set of "outside clothes". Change clothes when you come home and immediately wash those that were "outside". But this is a rather late and extreme method of control.


Two different scenerios seem to be playing out at the moment. In Mexico, we are seeing a fairly high number of deaths. Likely this is in a population with less access to early and proper medical care as well as a group whose underlying health and diet may not be the best. This might be a predictor of what would happen if this virus strikes Asia.

In the USA, to date, there are a fair number of cases but few if any deaths. Again, basic health and nutrition is the likely reasons. The worrisome part of the picture at this early stage is that it has occurred in so many places so far apart in the USA. This simply indicates that infected people have traveled rapidly; likely before they themselves knew that they were infected and did not yet have symptoms. It also suggests the ease with which this virus spreads from human to human.

Do not look for a vaccine to be the silver bullet to stop this outbreak. No specific vaccine exists at the moment. Only time will tell IF this will be the PANDEMIC that has been discussed and dreaded for so long.

At the moment, the world is at a heightened level of concern but we are not yet at the point of declaring an epidemic much less a pandemic.

Update: Hopefully Not So Fatal

30th April 2009. Thanks to jj

Why so many deaths in Mexico not seen elsewhere?

It's too early to be absolutely sure about the cause but it is likely one of two possibilities.

It is possible that there are two or more different viruses involved. Precisely because this type of virus is so unstable, it is possible that the virus at the epi-center in Mexico was "stronger" and thereby caused more deaths. This would be a good sign for the future if the virus is getting weaker as it travels. Proof of this remains to be seen. It also bodes well that all the known cases worldwide have a direct link to Mexico. In other words, little if any transmission has taken place except in Mexico. Although the latest news out of NYC suggests that more people are sick than went on the school trip to Mexico, but whether or not they have this particular flu has yet to be proven.

A more likely scenario is that it is all a matter of numbers. It is entirely possible that at this point there are just too few cases outside of Mexico to have produced any deaths. For the sake of argument, let's say 1 in a hundred infected people die of that flu infection. If there are 150 deaths in Mexico, it is entirely possible that there are (were) more than 15,000 cases in the country. So far, the entire number of cases outside of Mexico has yet to reach 100. Assuming that it is the same virus, statistically only one death would be expected. Until the rest of the world sees 1,000 cases we might not know the level of fatality of this particular virus.

Swine Flu Facts:

You cannot catch swine flu by eating pork.

There is no vaccine for the current swine flu, although the standard vaccine used this year may provide a partial immunity and lessen the symptoms.

Masks do almost nothing to stop the flu (of any kind). Hand washing is the key.

V versus W:

The "normal" (expected) deaths from a standard flu season is 'V' shaped. More accurately, it look like this: \____/; meaning that the youngest (infants) and the oldest are at greatest risk of death. When in 1918, the Spanish Flu (also a Swine Flu) struck across the world, the death toll was W-shaped; meaning that young adults (those of military age and who were in the camps training to go to WW I) were at great risk and contributed to the deaths in great numbers.

It remains to be seen what shape the 2009 Swine Flu Outbreak will be.


28th April   

Update: Monstrosity Unveiled...

Government unveil their ideas for a searchable databases of communications
Link Here

Communications companies are being asked to record all internet contacts between people to modernise police surveillance tactics in the UK.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stepped back from a single database - but wants companies to hold and organise the information for the security services.

Announcing a consultation on a new strategy for communications data and its use in law enforcement, Smith said there would be no single government-run database. But she also said that doing nothing in the face of a communications revolution was not an option.

The Home Office will instead ask communications companies - from internet service providers to mobile phone networks - to extend the range of information they currently hold on their subscribers and organise it so that it can be better used by the police, MI5 and other public bodies investigating crime and terrorism.

Presumably to add a networked SQL facility to enable the authorities to search across databases with such questions as give me a list of all mobile phone users in Heathrow last Thursday who regularly read jihadist websites.

Ministers say they estimate the project will cost £2bn to set up, which includes some compensation to the communications industry for the work it may be asked to do.

Advances in communications mean that there are ever more sophisticated ways to communicate and we need to ensure that we keep up with the technology being used by those who seek to do us harm.

It is essential that the police and other crime fighting agencies have the tools they need to do their job, However to be clear, there are absolutely no plans for a single central store.

What we are talking about is who is at one end [of a communication] and who is at the other - and how they are communicating,

Communication service providers (CSPs) will be asked to record internet contacts between people, but not the content, similar to the existing arrangements to log telephone contacts.

But, recognising that the internet has changed the way people talk, the CSPs will also be asked to record some third party data or information partly based overseas, such as visits to an online chatroom and social network sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Security services could then seek to examine this data along with information which links it to specific devices, such as a mobile phone, home computer or other device, as part of investigations into criminal suspects.

The plan expands a voluntary arrangement under which CSPs allow security services to access some data which they already hold.

The consultation document is entitled Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment [pdf]

Responses, by Monday 20th July 2009 to:

Nigel Burrowes
Communications Data Consultation
Room P.5.37
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Or by e-mail to: communicationsdataconsultation@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk


28th April   

Pig Headed...

The dread disease that cannot be named
Link Here

Israel's deputy health minister Yakhov Litzman has urged reporters to refer to the worrying new virus as 'Mexican flu' rather than 'swine flu.'

He made this recommendation at a press conference on Monday in order to update the public on developments regarding the epidemic in Israel.


25th April   

Update: Monstrosity Unveiled...

Government prepare to unveil their ideas for a searchable database of communications
Link Here

Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state in a searchable database under plans to be unveiled this week.

The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database.

The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country's data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be unacceptable .

A consultation document on the plans, known in Whitehall as the Interception Modernisation Programme, is likely to put great emphasis on propaganda about the threat facing Britain and warn the alternative to the powers would be a massive expansion of surveillance.

But that will fuel concerns among critics that the Government is using a climate of fear to expand the surveillance state.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, the country's data watchdog, told the Daily Telegraph: a Government database of the records of everyone's communications – if that is to be proposed – is not likely to be acceptable to the British public. Remember that records – who? when? where? – can be highly intrusive even if no content is collected.

It is understood Thomas is concerned that even details on who people contact or sites they visit could intrude on their privacy, such as data showing an individual visiting a website selling Viagra.

The proposed powers will allow police and security services to monitor communication "traffic", which is who calls, texts, emails who, when and where but not what is said. Similarly they will be able to see which websites someone visits, when and from where but not the content of those visits.

However, if the data sets alarm bells ringing, officials can request a ministerial warrant to intercept exactly what is being sent, including the content.


19th April   

Update: Police Hate Cameras...I Wonder Why?...

UK police force tourists to delete photos of London buses 'to stop terrorism'
Link Here
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state

No tourist trip to London is complete without a set of holiday snaps. But a father and son were forced to return home to Austria without their pictures after policemen deleted them from their camera - supposedly in a bid to prevent terrorism.

Klaus Matzka and his son, Loris from Vienna, were taking photographs of a double-decker bus in Walthamstow, north-east London, when two policemen approached them.

Austrian tourists Klaus and Loris Matzka were ordered to delete pictures of a London double decker in Walthamstow

The tourists were told it is strictly forbidden to take pictures of anything to do with public transport and their names, passport numbers and hotel address in London were noted.

Matzka was then forced to delete any holiday snaps that featured anything to do with transport.

The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the allegations and had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in London. [yeah yeah]. A spokeswoman added: It is not the police's intention to prevent tourists from taking photographs and we are looking into the allegations made.

Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a Green party member of the London assembly, said the incident was 'another example of the police completely overreaching the anti-terrorism powers'. She said she would raise the issue with the Met chief, Sir Paul Stephenson, as part of the discussion into police methods at the G20 protests, adding: I have already written to him about the police taking away cameras and stopping people taking photographs.


19th April   

Offsite: Take Courage...

Courage Beer poster banned by the advert censor
Link Here

A poster, for Courage beer, showed a nervous looking man sitting on a sofa with a can and glass of beer beside him. A woman was standing with her back to him wearing a figure-hugging dress that had its sales label still attached. Text, in a speech bubble coming from a large pint of beer, stated TAKE COURAGE MY FRIEND.

Three members of the public believed the poster implied that the beer would give the man confidence to either make negative comments on the woman's appearance or take advantage of her.

ASA Assessment: Upheld

The ASA noted Wells & Youngs Brewing Company comments that the text TAKE COURAGE MY FRIEND was a call to action to buy Courage over other beers and also that it used the brand name in a manner that was evocative of earlier campaigns. However, we considered that the combination of the text and the image of the man with an open beer can and half empty glass of beer was likely to be understood by consumers to carry the clear implication that the beer would give the man enough confidence to tell the woman that the dress was unflattering.

We did not consider that consumers generally would believe that the poster suggested that the man would be unnecessarily negative or take advantage of the woman, but would simply tell the truth. Although we understood the humorous intention of the scenario, we concluded that the poster breached the Code by suggesting that the beer could increase confidence.

Comment: Dutch Courage

17th April 2009. Thanks to Alan, See letters from guardian.co.uk

The same point about courage is made in a letter to the Guardian today:

Who are these people who persuaded the Advertising Standards Authority to rule that beer does not increase courage?

I hope that Courage Brewers have the conviction to stand up to such an absurd denial of the facts. Alcohol reduces both fear and inhibitions. Dutch or otherwise, courage is courage.

Dr Allan Dodds
Consultant neuropsychologist, Nottingham

Offsite: A confidence trick we can all drink to

19th April 2009. See article from guardian.co.uk by David Mitchell

There are lots of bad things to be said about alcohol. It wrecks and costs lives, often because it boosts confidence. It gives people the confidence to argue, fight and rape, as well as to chat more at parties or enjoy karaoke. It makes people dependent on the confidence it gives, to the extent that they'll poison themselves to get it. But it definitely gives you confidence - I know, I've had some.

And the Courage advert is even admitting that there may be a downside to boozy confidence. Their beer, it's telling us, is about to give the man the false confidence to say something that he shouldn't. They're not portraying it as lending confidence in a life-saving situation, like spinach for Popeye: "Let me have a quick glug of Courage and then I'll be able to save that coach-load of schoolchildren from falling into the volcano!"

God only knows the tearful, relationship-ending consequences of that man's forthcoming bout of Dutch courage. Rather than glamorising alcohol, I'd say it's a playful admission of some of its adverse effects and rather more, in terms of candour, than the ASA has a right to expect.

...Read full article


18th April   

Update: Killing and Kettling...

Police tactics need urgent investigation
Link Here
Full story: Policing UK Demonstrations...Heavy handing policing of demonstrations

' The UK police officer caught on film attacking Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests could face manslaughter charges after a second postmortem concluded that the newspaper vendor died from internal bleeding and not a heart attack.

It emerged last night that the Metropolitan police officer who had been suspended from duty has now been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter by investigators from the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The New York fund manager who handed the Guardian the video evidence said last night that he felt vindicated by the findings. Now I'm glad I came forward. It's possible Mr Tomlinson's death would have been swept under the rug otherwise. You needed something incontrovertible. In this case it was the video.

The first postmortem results - which were released by police - said Tomlinson had died of a heart attack. The second postmortem was ordered by the family's legal team and the IPCC after the footage was broadcast.

The second postmortem was conducted by Dr Nat Cary, who was able to scrutinise video evidence before conducting his examination. In a statement last night, City of London coroners court said Dr Cary had provisionally concluded that internal bleeding was the cause of Tomlinson's death. Dr Cary's opinion is that the cause of death was abdominal haemorrhage. The cause of the haemorrhage remains to be ascertained. Dr Cary accepts that there is evidence of coronary atherosclerosis but states that in his opinion its nature and extent is unlikely to have contributed to the cause of death.

Neither the IPCC nor City of London police made any mention of the injuries or abdominal blood found by the pathologist Dr Freddy Patel when they released results of the first postmortem. City of London police said only that Tomlinson had suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work.

Tomlinson's son Paul King said: We believe we were badly misled by police about the possible role they played in Ian's death. First we were told that there had been no contact with the police, then we were told that he died of a heart attack. Now we know that he was violently assaulted by a police officer and died from internal bleeding. As time goes on we hope that the full truth about how Ian died will be made known.

O'Connor Inquiry

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, has ordered a review of public order policing amid mounting concerns over the way his force and the City of London police handled the G20 protests this month.

Stephenson said he had asked the chief inspector of constabulary, Denis O'Connor, to examine police tactics. The so-called practice of "kettling" – containing crowds will be a prime focus of O'Connor's inquiry.

Stephenson has also barred uniformed police officers from covering their shoulder identification numbers, saying the public has a right to be able to identify them.


6th April   

Update: Watch Where You Browse...

UK ISPs retain website and email logs from today
Link Here

Details of every email sent and website visited by people in Britain are to be stored for use by the state from today as part of what campaigners say is a massive assault on privacy.

A European Union directive, which Britain was instrumental in devising, comes into force which will require all internet service providers to retain information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls made over the internet, for 12 months.

Hundreds of public bodies and quangos, including local councils, will also be able to access the data to investigate flytipping and other less serious crimes.

It was previously thought that only the large companies would be required to take part, covering 95% of Britain's internet usage, but a Home Office spokesman has confirmed it will be applied across the board to even the smallest company.

Phil Noble of privacy group NO2ID, said: This is the kind of technology that the Stasi would have dreamed of. We are facing a co-ordinated strategy to track everyone's communications, creating a dossier on every person's relationships and transactions. It is clearly preparatory work for the as-yet un-revealed plans for intercept modernisation.

Another EU directive which requires companies to hold details of telephone records for a year has already come into force, and although internet data is held on an ad hoc basis this is the first time the industry has faced a statutory requirement to archive the material.


1st April   

Spy in the Car...

Tracking devices to be mandated for private motorists
Link Here

  Good morning motorist 6374734834/3535
Ignition request denied.
Destination ExCeL is a prohibited zone,
Driving privileges suspended for 6 months!

The government is backing a project to install a communication box in new cars to track the whereabouts of drivers anywhere in Europe, the Guardian can reveal.

Under the proposals, vehicles will emit a constant signal revealing their location, speed and direction of travel.

The EU officials behind the plan claim it will significantly reduce road accidents, congestion and carbon emissions.

A consortium of manufacturers has indicated that the device could be installed in all new cars as early as 2013.

However, privacy campaigners warned last night that a European-wide car tracking system would create a system of almost total road surveillance.

Details of the Cooperative Vehicle-Infrastructure Systems (CVIS) project, a £36m EU initiative backed by car manufacturers and the telecoms industry, will be unveiled this year.

But the Guardian has been given unpublished documents detailing the proposed uses for the system. They confirm that it could have profound implications for privacy, enabling cars to be tracked to within a metre - more accurate than current satellite navigation technologies.

The European commission has asked governments to reserve radio frequency on the 5.9 Gigahertz band, essentially setting aside a universal frequency on which CVIS technology will work.

The Department for Transport claimed there were no current plans to make installation of the technology mandatory. However, those involved in the project describe the UK as one of the main state backers .

The European Data Protection Supervisor will make a formal announcement on the privacy implications of CVIS technology soon. But in a recent speech he said the technology would have great impact on rights to privacy and data.

The system allows cars to talk to one another and the road. A communication box behind the dashboard ensures that cars send out messages every 500 milliseconds through mobile cellular and wireless local area networks, short-range microwave or infrared.

The messages will be picked up by other cars in the vicinity, allowing vehicles to warn each other if they are forced to break hard or swerve to avoid a hazard.

The data is also picked up by detectors at the roadside and mobile phone towers. That enables the road to communicate with cars, allowing for intelligent traffic lights to turn green when cars are approaching or gantries on the motorway to announce changes to speed limits. Data will also be sent to control centres that manage traffic, enabling a vastly improved system to monitor and even direct vehicles.

A traffic controller will know where all vehicles are and even where they are headed, said CVIS manager Paul Kompfner: That would result in a significant reduction in congestion and replace the need for cameras.

Although the plan is to initially introduce the technology on a voluntary basis, Kompfner conceded that for the system to work it would need widespread uptake. He envisages governments making the technology mandatory for supposed safety reasons. Any system that tracks cars could also be used for speed enforcement or national road tolling.


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