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28th September   

Pack Them in and Sell Them Cheap...

New seat layout suggested for packing more people onto planes
Link Here

Plane seating Air travel is being overhauled with a new aircraft design which plans to seat passengers facing each other in rows.

The controversial design is intended to save space and money and could see 50% more passengers packed on to each plane.

Howard Guy, director of the UK company Design Q, acknowledges that some people will not be happy with the plan, but says they will be able to pay less for any inconvenience.

Having passengers face each other is not an ideal situation, he said: But this will see increased revenue for the operator and more economical tickets for the passenger - so by keeping both happy, this concept makes an attractive alternative. Sure the passenger can choose a flight facing forward in a traditional seating position, but he or she will have to pay more for the luxury.

Guy predicts that the design could see a 50% increase in the number of passengers on board and a 30% reduced cost per seat.

However, he did concede that the seats would not be comfortable for passengers on flights of more than two hours. Our thoughts are really to do with short-haul journeys - anything from 30 minutes to 80 minutes. As the seats will be designed for less occupancy time, passenger comfort will be reduced on longer trips, he said.

 

25th September   

Dicks Spotted on Flintshire Council...

Half baked bid to rename 'spotted dick' pudding fails
Link Here

Spotted Dick Flintshire County Council has been forced to rethink its ill-considered decision to rename Spotted Dick as Spotted Richard .

According to the BBC, the powers that be pulled Spotted Dick from the menu after several immature comments from a few customers at its HQ in Mold.

Councilor Klaus Armstrong-Braun who'd slammed the rebrand as ludicrous told the BBC: It's a great victory for Spotted Dick and for everyone who makes it. It's made Flintshire a laughing stock all over the world. I've had lots of letters criticising them.

Flintshire council's Colin Everett, confirmed: Although the majority have seen the humorous side of the story, the impression given in the media that the council might have been 'politically correct' has led to some derision and, sadly, to a number of abusive letters being sent in from across the country.

In full agreement with the catering management Flintshire County Council will observe proper tradition and refer to all dishes by their proper name. Spotted Dick will be back on the menu under its proper and proud name. In future, any customers who act in this childish way will be asked to behave properly or will be refused service.

 

22nd September   

Identified as Discriminatory...

Chicago nightclub finds subtle way to ban lady boys
Link Here

Hunter's Nightclub A Chicago gay bar popular with cross-dressers now requires them to show a valid photo ID that matches their gender presentation. Put another way, they now need a photo ID that shows them in drag.

Hunters Nightclub reluctantly imposed its new ID requirement because cross-dressing prostitutes were advertising on Craigslist and mentioning the establishment, said manager Peter Landorf: If it is prostitution in any form, that could cost me my liquor license.

Under the new admission rule, cross-dressers must have a government-issued photo ID that looks like the person presenting it at the bar. That, of course, is a serious hurdle for people like Andy, a part-time transgender woman said the ID requirement is unfair: Since I am not a full-time trans, it is not really feasible for me to have my 'femme' photo on my license, he said. I do not even know if they would allow it. ... This is discrimination, pure and simple.

And, according to Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, it could be. The fact is, if they are only requiring this of cross-dressers, that would be problematic because it would single out cross-dressers or transsexuals for a special burden, Yohnka said. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, they can't do that.

Landorf isn't unsympathetic and said bar staff is working on coming up with another solution.

 

19th September   

Potentially Dangerous People...

UK police dream up new label to justify targeting people with no criminal record
Link Here

Northumbria police logo People without criminal convictions could be subject to covert surveillance, under new police tactics revealed.

Durham Police has begun applying methods used to contain people found guilty of violent or sexual crimes to individuals not convicted of such offences.

The 'Potentially Dangerous People' (PDP) initiative is thought to be the first of its kind in the country and police chiefs are aware going public will raise concerns over human rights.

But Ian Scott, head of Durham CID, said: Anything we do has got to be proportionate and legal. This is about preventing offending. Scott said the policy affected people in “present likelihood” of serious sexual or violent offending, such as rape, indecency towards children or wounding with intent.

Mike Creedon, assistant director of County Durham Probation Service, spewed old clichés about 'balance': You've got to balance the human rights of the offender and the human rights of the potential victim in the community. We're talking about people who constitute a very real threat to life or limb.

People can be declared PDPs following a referral to the Public Protection Unit and a multi-agency meeting to discuss the case. A PDP could be watched or contacted by police about their behaviour.

Comment: Presumed Guilty

See article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

It is all part of the trend under Labour that allows the authorities to undermine the legal concept of innocence and to determine a person's intentions and take action, without reference to a normal court of law and without informing the individual of the nature of accusations against him or her. On Sunday I wrote about a "sleeper" clause in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 which works with Jack Straw's Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to allow a restraining order to be made on a person who has been acquitted.

It is of enormous importance that we understand that to allow the policy of Northumbria and Cleveland forces to go unchallenged is to lose an essential right in British life. If the exchange of information on people merely suspected of violent or abusive intentions continues, how long will it before these networks of agencies begin to turn their attention to people suspected of other crimes or simply of behaviour that the state finds inconvenient?

That the police can instigate this policy without the slightest murmur of dissent, without debate in parliament, without local MPs raising the mildest concern, is a very worrying sign indeed.

...Read full article

 

13th September   

Update: Vetting even the Nanny of the Nanny State...

British hostility to vetting required for adults to interact with kids
Link Here  full story: Vetting Workers...UK vets all adults to work with kids

CRB Vetted only Ministers are under intense pressure to scale back plans for a big brother child protection database which will force millions of parents to undergo paedophile and criminal checks.

In a major blow for the Government, Britain's largest children's charity, the NSPCC, criticised the regulations for parent helpers which it said threatened perfectly safe and normal activities and risked alienating the public.

Esther Rantzen, the founder of the Childline charity; paediatricians; teachers; children's authors; politicians and members of the public also joined the growing coalition opposing the Vetting and Barring Scheme, which could lead to one in four adults being screened.

Barry Sheerman, Labour chairman of the Commons' children and families select committee condemned the way the policy was being implemented and demanded that Children's Secretary Ed Balls get a grip on this.

Next month parents in England and Wales who take part in any formal agreement to look after children – even if it is as little as once a month – will be told they have to register with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) – at a cost of £64. From next summer, parents who have failed to register with the ISA could face prosecution.

Critics claim parents will be wrongly labelled as criminals. Others fear that those who currently give up their time to help out in schools and clubs could give up rather than go through the hassle of registering.

Wes Cuell, director of services for children and young people for the NSPCC, said: The warning signs are now out there that this scheme will stop people doing things that are perfectly safe and normal, things that they shouldn't be prevented from doing.

When you get this degree of public outcry there is generally a good reason for it. I think we are getting a bit too close to crossing the line about what is acceptable in the court of public opinion. We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

6th September   

Fossilised Heart...

Museum security jobsworth detains naked model
Link Here
Blakey

  Sanctimonious Moi?

Zack Hyman, who made US headlines earlier this week with his subway snaps of naked girls on the L train, is in the news again.

This time, he didn't get away with it. Or rather, his model, Kathleen Neill was popped at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for stripping off amongst the nudes. Hyman practiced his usually strip-and-snap routine, but for the first time, the model was caught by police.

As Neill moved to leave the museum, she was detained by an employee until police arrived. The guard explained (without a hint of irony in a museum full of nudie cuties ): I had to make sure that girl was turned over to the police. There were little kids in here watching the whole thing.

Hyman wasn't charged, but his model was, with public lewdness.

Hyman asked, Why is this wrong? There were thousands of people in the Met today looking at nudes as art, but as soon as there is a real nude, it's a big problem.

Neill had the same question, which she posed to the security guard who detained her. She told me there were naked statues everywhere, the guard said: I said, ‘Those statues are 400 years old. You're from the 21st century.'

Comment: Sanctimonious twat

From Alan

Sounds to me as if the museum employee deserves Esther Rantzen's Jobsworth Trophy. What an officious, sanctimonious twat - and what a pity his name isn't all over the internet for exposure to public ridicule!

 

5th September   

Teachers Taught a Miserable Lesson...

Teachers banned from pubs, swingers clubs and holidaying in Pattaya
Link Here
The Pub

  Sorry, we don't serve teachers!

UK teachers are demanding the right to get drunk at weekends as they protest against a tough new code of conduct.

More than 10,000 have signed a petition calling for the scrapping of rules which require them to uphold public trust in their profession outside school.

The code, drawn up by the General Teaching Council and coming into force next month, aims to reinforce the traditional role of teachers as pillars of society.

It urges teachers to act as role models for pupils inside and outside the classroom by maintaining reasonable standards in their own behaviour.

But teachers have branded the code unnecessary intrusion into their private lives which could lead to staff being pulled up simply for letting their hair down on weekends. They also say the code contains other vague statements that are open to wide interpretation.

Now the NASUWT union has launched a petition attacking the code, which has attracted more than 10,000 signatories over the summer holidays. It has also sent a poster to every state school in England urging staff to campaign for the code to be withdrawn.

A draft version of the code stated that teachers must maintain standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession.

However this was toned down following consultation. It now says staff must maintain reasonable standards in their own behaviour that enable them to...uphold public trust and confidence in the profession. Meanwhile a late addition to the code states that it does not limit a teacher's right to a private life.

 

4th September   

Brits' Health and Pension...

6 monthers will be able to retain use of NHS. Deflating pension challenged.
Link Here

Ragged Union Jack Restrictions on access to the National Health Service are set to be eased next year for expatriate Britons living outside the European Economic Area.

Under recently unveiled Government plans, Britons with ties to countries such as Canada, America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand may be absent from the country (UK) for up to six months a year before being considered for charges for NHS treatment.

The move doubles the period in which these expatriates may spend abroad without losing NHS eligibility. Since 2004, expatriates outside the EEA have been allowed a period of absence of only three months if they wanted to use the NHS without paying.

The change is due to take effect as soon as possible in 2010 – albeit subject to consultation this autumn. It will put thousands of Britons in big expatriate communities such as Cape Town and Perth on the same footing as Britons who split their time equally between UK and a Mediterranean home.

Health ministers have faced criticism over the apparent injustice of penalising those who have paid a lifetime's National Insurance contributions and moved outside the EEA, rather than settling in, say, Spain. The idea is to make things equal and fair for everyone while tidying up the anomalies, a Department of Health spokesman said.

Strict limits of access to the NHS were introduced in 2004 by John Reid. The then Health Secretary described his reforms as designed to make the NHS a British service for people who live in Britain.

Deflating Pension Challenge

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

A group of British pensioners living overseas who are challenging the government over its policy to freeze state pension pay outs for retirees living in certain countries will today have their case heard in a European court.

The judgment could affect the pensions of more than 500,000 pensioners.

Around 1 million British pensioners live overseas, but only about half of them have their state pensions uprated in line with UK inflation each year, as if they still lived in the UK.

Those who live in the European Economic Area, Switzerland and a number of countries that have reciprocal agreements with the Britain, including the US, Jersey and Jamaica, benefit from the uprating.

However, for the other half living in countries including Australia and South Africa, state pension payments are not increased in line with inflation. Instead, the amount they receive is fixed on the day they retire, or, if they have already retired, the day they emigrate.

Today's hearing is the latest in a long run of court battles and appeals that have so far failed to bring about a change in overseas pensions.

Annette Carson, one of 13 expatriate pensioners going to court, moved to South Africa in 1989 and continued to make national insurance contributions in the UK until she retired in 2000. Her pension is frozen at £67.50 a week.

Carson contested the government's refusal to index-link pensions in the British courts in 2002, claiming discrimination. The case was rejected, and an appeal to the court of appeal in 2003 also failed. She was also unsuccessful in an appeal to the House of Lords in 2005.

At the time, Lord Hoffman, one of a majority finding against Carson's argument, said: She was under no obligation to move to South Africa. She did so voluntarily and no doubt for good reasons. But in doing so, she put herself outside the primary scope and purpose of the UK social security system.

Andrew Harrop, of the charity Age Concern and Help the Aged, said pensioners who had made national insurance contributions all their lives were being penalised for retiring abroad . We hope the case today will see an end to this inequality and ensure the government gives every pensioner their fair share, no matter where they decide to retire."

There will be a two-hour hearing at the European court of human rights, but a judgment is not expected until spring 2010.

 

31st August   

Rustling about in your Laptop...

US can continue to pry into people's portable computers at borders
Link Here

US undie sifter The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the US has amended its policy to seize any electronic device brought into the country, in a bid to counter criticisms that the policy infringes civil liberties.

The DHS conducts border searches of computers and other electronic media on a percentage of international travellers seeking to enter the US. Most times, the traveller is asked to turn on a device to ensure it is what it appears to be. But out of the 1,000 laptop searches between October 2008 and August 2009, 46 searches were in-depth.

Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the new directives to clarify searches of computers and other electronic media at US ports of entry. The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travellers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders, she claimed.

 

29th August   

Holiday Drinks...

Shock horror survey notes that people drink more on holiday
Link Here

drinks English holidaymakers are turning to drink on their breaks with the average adult consuming eight alcoholic drinks a day, a survey suggests.

That equates to 80 drinks over the course of the average holiday, or well over 200 units of alcohol.

More than a quarter said they ended up drinking three times more than normal.

NHS guidelines advise no more than two to three units a day for women or three to four units for men - roughly equal to a large glass of wine for women and two pints of beer for men.

The Know Your Limits campaign survey found that on an average day on holiday, beer drinkers drank five pints, wine drinkers had four glasses of wine, and those who prefer spirits had five mixer drinks, such as vodka and coke.

According to the Department of Health, drinkers also admitted to downing four other alcoholic drinks, such as strong cocktails or shots, each day.

Public health minister Gillian Merron said it was all too easy to slip into the habit of drinking too much on holiday.

GP and TV medical commentator Dr Chris Steele said most people want to let their hair down on holiday but it was important to think about being healthy on your return.

 

26th August   

Bitter and Bonkers...

Daily Mail reader 'appalled' by sweet wrapper
Link Here

Daily Mail letter of the year:

The other day, while doing our weekly shop, I bought for my two children, Benjamin and Ofelia, a packet of Haribo Maoam lemon-and-lime confectionary. It was only after I was leaving the check-out that I noticed the appalling illustration on the packaging. This consists of a lemon and a lime locked in what appears to be a carnal encounter. The lime, who I assume to be the gentleman in this coupling, has a particularly lurid and distasteful expression on his face.

I demanded to see the shop manager and during a heated exchange my wife became quite distressed and had to sit down in the car park. I was told to register my complaint with the manufacturer.

I'm glad I spotted this before my young children, who are both very sensitive. My wife and I have always tried to maintain their innocence -- and to think our years of careful parenting could have been wrecked by, of all things, a sweet wrapper makes me livid.

I received a reply from the company saying that the wrapper design had been introduced in Germany in 2002 with a view to making fruit figures more modern and lively to better appeal to the consumer.

It said: At no point was it intended to create sexual images. It had been shown to a number of children and adults of different age groups, none of whom has made any comments referring to sexual content.

I consider this response less than satisfactory. As a member of our local church, I'm now urging other members of our flock to boycott Haribo products until this illustration is removed.

Simon Simpkins, Pontefract, West Yorks.

 

22nd August   

Fake Crimes...

France and Italy fine returning tourists with fake goods
Link Here

Copy DVDs Holidaymakers could be fined thousands of pounds - or even jailed - for buying fake designer goods when abroad, copyright lawyers are warning.

Authorities in France and Italy are not just targeting those who produce and sell fakes but also those who buy them. In France, the maximum fine is 300,000 euro (£260,000) or three years in jail.

The UK government has decided against criminalising consumers. Instead it has launched an information campaign aimed at people using markets and boot sales.

Seizures of counterfeit goods on the continent more than doubled in 2008, with customs authorities seizing 178 million fake items - mostly imported from China.

The European Commission is supposedly concerned about the growing involvement of organised international criminal gangs. It says: Without doubt, one of the principal methods of dispersing counterfeits is the 'ant-like' traffic of tourists returning home from holiday, bringing back souvenirs.

Intellectual property lawyer Simon Tracey said anyone tempted to bring back items such as fake designer sunglasses, a football top or handbag from their holidays should beware. He said lots of people have already been fined thousands of euros for owning a fake, and France seemed a little bit harsher than Italy. But he said it was hard to persuade people that owning a fake was a bad thing.

 

21st August   

Land of the Not So Free...

US town considers midnight curfew for all citizens
Link Here

New Jersey state seal The US city of Patterson is considering imposing a curfew on all it residents in an attempt to combat spiralling crime.

The measure would be the first time an American city has imposed a curfew in a non emergency situation.

Residents in Patterson, New Jersey, would face imprisonment or fines if they are caught outside between the hours of midnight and 7am although people travelling in cars would not be included.

The Mayor of Patterson, which has a population of 147,000, said the drastic measure was being considered following a spate of shootings linked to drugs. The city has had six murders and 30 shootings already this year.

The curfew would last for at least two months and will be voted on by city leaders next month.

Civil rights leaders have condemned the proposed curfew. Ed Barocas, from the American Civil Liberties Union, said: An adult curfew is unprecedented in our state.

Law experts also said the curfew was unconstitutional.

 

19th August   

Judge and Jury...

Magistrates warn that UK police will abuse summary justice powers
Link Here

Magistrates' Association Police cannot be trusted to hand out summary justice and will act as judge and jury if given powers to issue more on-the-spot fines, magistrates have warned.

In an extraordinary attack, the Magistrates' Association said it is a certainty that officers will misuse powers because they cannot be relied on to handle them appropriately.

The comments have been made as part of the Magistrates' Association response to the Government's plans to allow police to issue £60 fixed penalties for careless driving.

Police have been accused of increasingly dealing with offences using on-the-spot fines as an easy way to hit the government's crime targets. Magistrates are worried that the number of offences now dealt with in this way is keeping some serious offenders out of the courts.

Paul Holmes, a Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: It is a sorry state of affairs when the Government's push for instant justice is driving a wedge between different parts of our criminal justice system. The police have been given wide-ranging powers without adequate debate. It is deeply concerning that even judges think they will abuse them.

The Government's proposals would make careless driving a fixed penalty offence, meaning those guilty being handed an on-the-spot fine and given three points on their licence. Currently, those suspected of careless driving are prosecuted in the courts where they can face a fine of up to £5,000 and up to nine points on their licence.

Chris Hunt Cooke, chairman of the Magistrates' Association road traffic committee warned against this. In his response, he said: Regrettably, recent experience with out-of-court disposals shows that the police cannot be relied on to use them appropriately or as intended. Once they have been given these powers, the police will misuse them, that is a certainty, and careless driving will be generally treated as a minor offence, unless serious injury is involved. This is a proposal that places the convenience of the police above what is right in principle, may coerce innocent drivers into accepting a fixed penalty, and is certain generally to downgrade careless driving in terms of offence seriousness.

 

18th August   

Offsite: Pub Banned?...

How killjoys colonised Britain's public houses
Link Here  full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

Pub with no customers The smoking ban, on top of strict licensing laws and CCTV, has turned pubs from places of choice and tolerance into outlets for official meddling.

Two years into the English smoking ban, pubs are closing at a rate of 40 a week. The New Labour government and much of the media still claim to see no connection between the two, instead blaming economics and competition from supermarkets. But pubs have thrived in previous recessions, and supermarkets have always sold cheaper booze. People used to go to pubs for the social atmosphere. Some of us still would, if that atmosphere wasn't fast disappearing.

...Read full article

 

17th August   

An Englishman's Home is His Council's Castle...

Local councils aggressively seize people's own homes
Link Here

RPTS logoi Councils are grabbing houses from the elderly, sick and vulnerable by routinely abusing powers that let them seize empty properties.

One home a week is being taken over by local authorities under the powers granted by John Prescott.

They allow councils to take possession of properties that have been empty for more than six months. But a dossier compiled by the Tories shows that some councils have used the powers in an aggressive and intimidating manner.

Documents show that councils have sought to seize homes from the old and the recently deceased and in one case from a woman who was absent caring for her sick daughter in France. Others have moved to take homes from elderly residents who did not understand the intricacies of the rules surrounding Empty Dwelling Management Orders. In one case, in Lewisham, South-East London, a couple inherited a property and wished to house their son there, only to find the council trying to seize it.

Tribunal papers revealed the council's attitude had been aggressive and overzealous.

Tory local government spokesman Caroline Spelman said: I am deeply concerned that the vulnerable and the old are being targeted by aggressive town halls. For all of Labour's talk about human rights, ministers have utter disregard for the fundamental right to own property and to be protected from state intrusion into your home.

A Communities and Local Government spokesman said councils were only meant to step in when a home owner has been unwilling to co-operate . If a seizure is approved by a Residential Property Tribunal the home can be let to council tenants and the rent is passed to the owner after the council has covered its costs.

 

14th August   

Misplaced Blame...

ECPAT blame Brits for the meanmindedness of their government
Link Here

ECPAT logo More than a fifth of Britons may be unknowingly contributing to child trafficking, a survey published today reveals.

People who buy pirate DVDs and roses from street vendors, smoke home-grown cannabis, give money to child beggars and use prostitutes may be supporting what the United Nations has described as a modern day slave trade, says research published by ECPAT, the international campaign against the sexual exploitation of children.

According to the survey, published at the launch of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness, 89% of those questioned were not aware that their activities may be contributing to illegal businesses run by networks who smuggle children from countries such as China, Africa and Afghanistan

If you engage in these activities then you are supporting the illegal economy and that includes trafficking, said Chris Beddoe, chief executive of ECPAT UK.

 

11th August   

Sharia Towers...

Alton Towers asks swimmers to cover up
Link Here

Swimming briefs Small swimwear is out, says Alton Towers water park in a barely concealed grope for August publicity

Rachael Lockitt, the park's PR manager, rejected any suggestion that the Speedo story was dreamt up to generate a little August publicity. However, the venue got good press mileage in May when it announced a similar "ban" on children wearing high heels to cheat the height requirements on its rides.

It insists the trunks-only rule is an extreme measure … to prevent embarrassment among fellow members of the public and to maintain the family-friendly atmosphere at the resort.

Morwenna Angove, sales and marketing director for Alton Towers, said: We feel this small brief style is not appropriate for a family venue so we are advising male bathers to wear more protective swimwear such as shorts.

Alton Towers said not only men were involved – some women bathers had turned up wearing thongs.

 

10th August   

Update: Stasi Britain...

One UK adult in 78 coming under state surveillance
Link Here  full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Stasi The number of Big Brother snooping missions by police, town halls and other public bodies has soared by 44% in two years.

Last year there were 504,073 new cases. This is the equivalent of one adult in 78 coming under state-sanctioned surveillance.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said last night: It cannot be a justified response to the problems we face in this country that the state is spying on half a million people a year. The Government forgets that George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a blueprint. We are still a long way from living under the Stasi - but it beggars belief that is necessary to spy on one in every 78 adults.

The requests to intercept email and telephone records were made under the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. A total of 653 state bodies, including 474 local councils, are allowed to use its surveillance powers.

Huhne said it made a mockery of a supposed crackdown on the use of RIPA by the Home Office. He added: We have sleepwalked into a surveillance state but without adequate safeguards. Having the Home Secretary in charge of authorisation is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

Despite the huge number of requests, the Home Office says there is a need to go further than giving public bodies access to phone and internet records. Under plans unveiled earlier this year, the police and security services would gain access to the public's every internet click and phone call. This would include, for the first time, monitoring the use of social networking sites such as Facebook. Every internet and phone company would have to allocate an ID to each customer.

 

3rd August   

Balls' Britain...

CCTV cameras installed in troublesome family homes
Link Here

Big Brother Thousands of families in England are to be put in 'sin bins' in a bid to change their 'bad behaviour', Ed Balls has announced.

The Children's Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV supervision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Around 2,000 families have gone through these Family Intervention Projects so far. But ministers want to target 20,000 more in the next two years..

Balls said: This is pretty tough and non-negotiable support for families to get to the root of the problem. There should be Family Intervention Projects in every local authority area because every area has families that need support.

 

2nd August   

Update: State Snooping...

ISPs condemn the far reaching internet surveillance proposed by the UK government
Link Here  full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Linx logo Internet firms have condemned the government's Big Brother surveillance plans as an unwarranted intrusion into people's privacy.

The companies, which ministers are relying on to implement the scheme, also say the government has misled the public about how far it plans to go in monitoring internet use.

The criticism, contained in a private submission to the Home Office, threatens to derail the £2 billion project, which ministers claim is essential to combat terrorism and crime.

Despite hostility from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups, government security officials want to be able to monitor every e-mail, phone call and website visit of people in the UK. The government claims it wants simply to maintain its capability to fight serious crime and terrorism.

However, the submission — by the London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 firms including BT, Virgin and Carphone Warehouse — said: We view the description of the government's proposals as ‘maintaining' the capability as disingenuous: the volume of data the government now proposes [we] should collect and retain will be unprecedented, as is the overall level of intrusion into the privacy of citizenry.

This is a purely political description that serves only to win consent by hiding the extent of the proposed extension of powers for the state.


Apart from accusing ministers and officials of hiding the truth from the public, the internet firms dismissed the plans as technically unworkable. In a statement earlier this year, GCHQ denied that it planned to spy on every e-mail and website visit in the UK. The internet providers, however, made it clear they do not believe that denial.

These new proposals suggest an intention to capture anything and everything, regardless of the communications [method] used. We have grave misgivings about the technical feasibility of such ambition, they said: We are not aware of any existing equipment [an internet company] could purchase that would enable it to fulfil a legal obligation to acquire and retain such a wide range of data as it transits across their network ... in some common cases it would be impossible in principle to obtain the information sought.

The internet providers also complained that the new proposals might be illegal under European or human rights laws. They said the plans would involve the collection of data which is unprecedented both in volume and the level of intrusion into personal privacy.

 

2nd August   

Update: Brits Shown the Card...

Alan Johnson unveils final design for British ID card
Link Here  full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

UK ID Card 2009 Home Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the British national identity card.

The card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester area from the end of this year. Volunteering for a car will also incur a lifetime of having to keep the state informed of address changes etc under duress of enormous fines.

Ministers plan to launch the £30 biometric ID card nationwide in 2011 or 2012 - but it will not be immediately compulsory.

Opposition spokesmen said it was a colossal waste of money and civil liberty groups said it was as costly to our pockets as to our privacy.

Ministers say the card, which follows the launch of the foreign national ID card, will provide an easy way of safely proving identity.

The card is very similar in look to a UK driving licence but holds more data, including two fingerprints and a photograph encoded on a chip. This chip and its unique number in turn links the card to a national identity register which, under current legislation, will hold more information about the identity of the individual.

If the scheme goes ahead, the card could be used as a travel document within Europe, separate to the passport, similar to arrangements between other EU member states.

Like the UK passport, the front of the card displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.

No2ID, a national pressure group, is launching a counter-campaign across North-West England to derail the Home Office's plan. Dave Page, from the organisation, said: Once you are on that database, you can never come off it.

From the moment you're registered you'll have to tell the authorities of any change in your circumstances for the rest of your life - and pay whatever fees they ask for the 'service'.

You'll never know who's looking at your details. It won't protect our safety. It won't be convenient - except for Whitehall. This scheme is an expensive and dangerous con.

 

1st August   

China Blue...

Chinese produce cheap alternative to Blu-ray discs
Link Here

CBHD logo China has unleashed a new format war for control of the high-definition DVD market in an audacious attempt to unseat the Blu-ray disc as the sole global standard.

The launch of the China Blue High-definition Disc (CBHD) for domestic use is viewed by analysts as a dramatic assertion of the country's rising technological confidence and they believe that the format could mount a serious challenge to Blu-ray.

The potential growth of the format in China has already become clear. In just a couple of months since it was launched, the cheaper all-Chinese CBHD players are thought to be outselling Blu-ray players at a rate of about three to one. The discs, priced at 50 yuan (£4.50), set consumers back about a quarter of the cost of a Blu-ray.

Toshiba confirmed that the CBHD format was based largely on technology developed for HD-DVDs and that it was in a licensor-licensee relationship.

China's decision to back the new format is understood to arise from a desire to protect its electronics industry from the royalty costs of using technology developed overseas. Chinese makers of ordinary DVD players have to pay about $22 per machine in royalty costs to a variety of patent holders; the dominance of Blu-ray would have condemned them to many more years of payments as that technology grew in market share.

The creation of a home grown format will fatten the margins of Chinese technology groups as Beijing pushes them to become internationally competitive.

CBHD was initially expected to flex its muscles as a format in China alone. Warner Bros has said that 100 titles will appear on the format by the end of this year and about 30 are already available. But at least one other big Hollywood studio is understood to be considering support for CBHD, suggesting to some that it may creep out from China into neighbouring markets. CBHD players are available in Hong Kong and the cheaper format may prove attractive in other emerging markets in the region.

 

27th July   

Bouncer Justice...

Bouncers become third tier police with powers to issue fines
Link Here
Nazi soldiers

 An army of security guards and park wardens

Private security companies that employ nightclub bouncers are being licensed to issue on-the-spot fines under a huge extension of police-style powers to 'accredited' civilians.

There are now more than 1,400 people enrolled across England and Wales to issue fines for offences from dog fouling to public disorder.

A private security company in Norfolk is the latest group to be accredited to issue instant fines. The company, Norwich-based EventGuard, has won accreditation for the first 25 of its employees to help police with antisocial behaviour and to issue fixed penalties. The company manages crowds and traffic at  events such as the Royal Norfolk Show but also carries out 'door supervision'.

It is licensed to direct traffic on the highway; control antisocial behaviour including harassment; prevent drinking in certain places and issue fixed penalty notices for offences including graffiti, flyposting, dog fouling, littering and public disorder.

EventGuard is understood to have spent about £10,000 on the accreditation including uniforms of yellow jackets and T-shirts emblazoned with a logo indicating they are authorised by the police to issue the tickets.

The powers are granted by chief constables under the Police Reform Act 2001 to organisations that contribute towards community safety. They must undergo extensive vetting and training and wear a badge and uniform approved by the chief constable.

Security guards and others accredited, such as park wardens, parking attendants and shopping centre guards, have access to the Police National Computer and must use it before issuing an on-the-spot fine. Where the offender has a criminal record, a ticket should not be issued but the police called and the offender dealt with through the courts system.

Magistrates are not impressed, they are lodging a protest with Jack Straw, the Injustice Secretary, amid concerns that guards will have a gung-ho approach to issuing fines.

John Howson, deputy chairman of the 30,000 Magistrates' Association in England and Wales, said there were already numerous examples of such tickets being issued inappropriately. Our concern is that here we have essentially a 'third-tier' police force that is now including security guards and door supervisors. These people need to check the Police National Computer to see if the person has a criminal record. We don't think it appropriate for these people to have that access.

 

25th July   

CustImms...

Immigration and Customs merge to become the UK Border Agency
Link Here

Uk Border Agency logo UK border control arrangements have just changed as thousands of customs and immigration officers, sharing wide ranging powers, created a new unified force at the border following Royal Assent of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.

Frontline customs and immigration officers now work together as the UK Border Agency, with the power to quiz passengers on immigration and customs matters. This means many passengers will face just one primary check point when coming in to the UK.

Since the creation of the UK Border Agency in April 2008, bringing together immigration, customs and visa checks, more than 3,500 officers have already been trained to carry out passport and customs checks.

From 5 August 2009, 4,500 HM Revenue and Customs staff will formally become part of the UK Border Agency.

The Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:

This is part of the biggest transformation of our border controls in a generation. A unified force at the border with the powers to carry out customs and immigration checks allows us to continue the crack down on illegal immigration and the smuggling of drugs and weapons.

'I am determined that Britain's border remains one of the strongest in the world. This Act is an important part of ensuring it stays that way.'

The Act also ensures that migrants who want to become British citizens earn the right to stay by speaking English, paying taxes and obeying the law.

It will speed up the path to citizenship for those who contribute to the community by being active citizens. Under the new system full access to benefits and social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents — a route that can take up to ten years.

'This new Act ensures that those who want to stay earn the right to do so, learn to speak English and play by the rules. Those that don't will not be allowed to become citizens, making our system both firmer and fairer.

 

25th July   

Flogging Holiday Ideas...

150 women in the Maldives lined up for barbaric flogging after sex outside of marriage
Link Here

Maldives flag Almost 150 women living in the Maldives face a public flogging for indulging in extra-marital sex after being convicted by the Muslim country's conservative courts. Around 50 men also face the punishment.

Amnesty International's Maldives specialist, Abbas Faiz, called flogging a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment which is banned by international human rights law. The practice is humiliating and leads to psychological as well as physical scars for those subjected to it for years. [It is] a form of torture. The most recent official statistics available to the group date from 2006 and show that a total of 184 people were sentenced to flogging for extra-marital sex under a penal code that includes elements of Sharia law. Of those 146 were women, with the majority of the punishments still to be carried out.

In the Maldives the issue of flogging has become a political battleground following the whipping of the teenager earlier this month outside a government building in the capital, Male. Reports said that the women required hospital treatment after she was flogged in front of a jeering crowd of men.

Since the case was publicised there have been a number of demonstrations in support of flogging, some calling for the deportation of a British journalist, Maryam Omidi, who published reports of the incident in the local Minivan News.

Reports suggest that in recent years, many mosques in the Maldives have fallen under the influence of foreign, conservative imams. The previous president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had been Asia's longest-serving ruler and who positioned himself as the country's defender of Islam , had sought to use the religion to bolster his dwindling. The government in turn said that more conservative forms of the religion had been able to spread as restrictions on freedom of expression were lifted.

Last night, presidential spokesman Mohamed Zuhair told The Independent the government was committed to fulfilling its obligations to international treaties that prohibit torture. He added: The president is holding meetings with all concerned parties to try and deal with this.

 

20th July   

Not to be Sneezed At...

Airlines to deny travellers suspected of swine flu
Link Here
Thai airport staff

  Let's pray that that sneeze isn't swine flu

Holidaymakers suspected of suffering from swine flu are being stopped from boarding flights.

Check-in staff at Heathrow and other main British airports are vetting passengers for possible symptoms and turning away those suspected of being infected. Some countries, including Thailand, Egypt and China have installed thermal body scanners to identify passengers with fever.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic confirmed this weekend that its staff were not allowing suspected sufferers to travel. A BA spokesman said some passengers had already been turned away at check-in because they showed symptoms of infection.

Our staff are trained on what to look out for if someone has swine flu or any other communicable disease, said the spokesman: The staff seek medical advice and anyone with swine flu would be advised they are unfit to travel.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said check-in staff would call in a medical team for advice if passengers were showing possible signs, such as coughing or excessive sneezing. We would be advised by our medical experts. But advice for anyone with swine flu is that they should not travel and wait until they recover, said a spokesman. The Association of British Insurers said cancelled holidays or postponed flights would normally be covered under insurance policies. Passengers are advised to check airline websites for advice.

Passengers who are suffering from swine flu but are not spotted at check-in may find themselves quarantined on their arrival overseas.

 

20th July   

Buyers Beware...

Buyers of copy DVDs in Malaysia are liable to fines and jail time
Link Here

copy DVDs A Malaysian Police Chief, ACP Ahmad Sofi Zakaria advised the public to stop buying pirated DVDs or VCDs, warning that police will not compromise on the matter.

Those caught buying these face a hefty fine or could spend several years in jail. Many are unaware but action can be taken against them (for buying pirated DVDs or VCDs) under Section 18(4)(a) of the Film Censorship Act 2002, for having an illegal item, he said.

Those found guilty could either be fined up to RM30,000 or spend three years in jail, or both.

 

19th July   

Update: Playing a Fascist Tune...

UK government insist on vetting the bands at your local pub
Link Here

DCMS logo Live music is fast disappearing from pubs, clubs, wine bars, restaurants and other small venues, musicians claim, because of a law passed in 2003.

Hopes were raised recently when the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport ended a lengthy investigation into the 2003 Licensing Act by recommending that venues with a capacity of fewer than 200 people should be exempt.

But this week, the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw surely, gave the Government's reply: it does not matter how small a venue is, it can still attract trouble. Bradshaw has agreed to revisit the issue, but not for at least a year, by which time there could be a different government.

If there is a folk singer or rapper in the pub, there has to be a special licence called a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). According to the Musicians' Union, small venues have stopped putting on live music because managements do not want the hassle of filling out lengthy and intrusive forms.

In London, which has perhaps the most vibrant live music scene of all, there is the additional hazard of form 696, compiled by Scotland Yard, which some people suspect is a deliberate device for suppressing the forms of music that black and Asian teenagers enjoy – dubstep, hip hop, ragga, and the rest. The original version of form 696, since amended, asked after the ethnic background of all performers, and for their mobile phone numbers.

Lowkey, a British-Iraqi rapper, added: I've seen it doing the clubs. On a night when they are expecting the white audience, there will be one bouncer on the door. On the next night, when there is a black audience, there will be bouncers everywhere, metal detectors, you have to show your passport and give your address. that kind of thing. They just assume that where there is a lot of brown people, there is going to be violence.

But Bradshaw said that his department has considered exemptions for small venues, but has not been able to reach agreement on exemptions that will deliver an increase in live music whilst still retaining essential protections for local residents. There is no direct link between size of audience or number of performers and potential for noise nuisance or disorder, he claimed.

His decision provoked a furious reaction from musicians. Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of the charity UK Music, and former lead singer of the punk rock group the Undertones, said: After six years of legislation, eight consultations, two government research projects, two national review processes and a parliamentary select committee report, all of which have highlighted the harmful impact these regulations are having on the British music industry, the Government's only reaction is yet another review.

The Met says that the form is simply a tool for protecting the public, including the young people at these gigs, and that, even when there is a high risk of trouble, it is very unlikely that police will close the venue. It happened eight times last year.

But on the Downing Street website there is a petition, organised by the singer Jon McClure, to scrap the unnecessary and draconian usage of the 696 form from London music events. It has attracted 17,405 signatures. Gordon Brown has not yet responded.

 

19th July   

Offsite: 'Evil destruction' of a Happy Family...

UK authorities conspire to steal child from loving parents
Link Here

UK Flag The story began in April 2007 when "Mr Smith", as I must call him, had a visit from the RSPCA over the dog-breeding business he ran from the family home. He had docked the tails of five new-born puppies – a procedure that had become illegal two days beforehand. Unaware of this, he promised in future to obey the new law.

Three days later, however, at nine o'clock in the morning, two RSPCA officials returned, accompanied in cars and riot vans by 18 policemen, who had apparently been tipped off, quite wrongly, that Mr Smith had guns in the house.

Armed with pepper spray, they ransacked the house, looking for the nonexistent guns. The dogs, released from their kennels, also rampaged through the house. When Mr Smith and his wife, who was three months pregnant, volubly protested at what was happening, they were forcibly arrested in front of their screaming five-year-old daughter "Jenny" and taken away. Two hours later, with the house in a shambles – the dogs having strewn the rabbit entrails meant for their dinner across the floor – social workers arrived to remove the crying child.

Held for hours in a police cell, Mrs Smith had a miscarriage. When she was finally set free, she returned home that evening to find her daughter gone. It was the beginning of a barely comprehensible nightmare.

..Read full article

 

17th July   

Update: Passport to Pimlico...

British Government scraps passport requirement for ferries to Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands
Link Here  full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

Passport to Pimlico DVD Plans to force passengers travelling from Ireland and the Channel Islands to carry a passport for travel to mainland Britain have been quietly shelved.

The move to introduce passport controls within the Common Travel Area - which includes Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands - for the first time in more than 80 years had been criticised by airlines and ferry companies, amid warnings of "travel chaos" at airports and terminals.

Earlier this year, peers in the House of Lords voted against the proposal, contained in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill.

Alan Johnson, the new Home Secretary, ruled that the Government would not fight to restore the measure, which would have affected the 15 million people who travel within the British Isles each year, when it returned to the Commons, effectively killing the plan off.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: Conservatives have argued consistently that the Common Travel Area is useful for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Channel Islands and that the Government was wrong in seeking to abolish it. We are delighted that our arguments have won the day.

A spokesman for the British Air Transport Association said that it had called for the rules to be clarified to avoid confusion at airports.

 

16th July   

Offsite: Copies Better than the Originals...

The more Malaysia censors, the more DVD pirates thrive
Link Here

Copy DVDs Why is the public so willing to protect the pirates, who may be backed financially and logistically by organised crime? The pertinent short answer is the extremely low cost of acquiring near-flawless digital content but there is a long answer, an incisive element that enables the pirates to flourish despite being whacked hard by law enforcement raids: censorship.

...Read full article

 

8th July   

Update: Passport to ID Cards...

UK Passport price increased
Link Here

UK passport Holidaymakers face inflation-busting increases in passport fees.

The cost of an adult passport will rise £5.50, or 7%, to £77.50, the Home Office said.

Fewer people are going abroad as families tighten their belts in the recession, meaning applications for passports were 400,000 below the expected level.

The rises, which will come in to force in September, will see the price of a child passport increase £3 to £49.

Fast-track adult applications, which take a week, will cost 15% more, up £15.50 to £112.50.

Prices have shot up in the last decade. In 1997 a passport cost £18. In 2007 it cost £51 and by last year it was £72.

A Home Office spokesman denied the increase was related to ID cards. But shadow home Secretary, Chris Grayling, said: This looks like a blatant attempt to bury part of the cost of the ID scheme in the price of a passport. The Government admits that it has no idea how many people will have to volunteer for ID cards before they cover their costs, so it looks like the cost is being lumped on to our passports.

 

7th July   

Update: ID Card Fines...

MPs increase the cost of ID cards to £1000 for some holders
Link Here  full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

UK ID card MPs have approved fines of up to £1,000 for those who fail to tell the passport and identity service of changes in their personal details including address, name, nationality and gender.

The fines are part of a package of secondary legislation being pushed through parliament designed to implement the national identity card scheme, and which will allow sensitive personal data on the ID card/passport database to be shared with the police, security services and other government departments.

The regulations were approved as the Conservative party made clear for the first time their commitment to scrap not only the identity card scheme but also its underlying database.

The shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, told MPs: One of the first acts of a Conservative government will be cancelling the ID cards scheme. The scheme and the register are both an affront to British liberty and will have no place in a Conservative Britain. They are also a huge waste of money.

The Conservatives' home affairs spokesman, Damian Green, asked how the scheme could be voluntary when they were penalties for failing to provide information for the database: If it is a voluntary card, why are there penalties attached for failing to provide that information? he said, adding that the government should warn people that once they volunteer for a passport or ID card it was then compulsory for the rest of their lives.

Fines starting at £125 and rising to £1,000 are to be levied on those who fail to notify the authorities of a change of name or address, or to surrender an identity card, or to report a card lost, stolen, damaged, tampered with or destroyed.

 

4th July   

In the Best Possible Taste...

Singapore blown away by Burger King advert
Link Here

It'll blow your mind away A print advertisement of Burger King's sandwich in Singapore has come under fire because of its distasteful and unappetizing

The ad for the BK Super Seven Incher shows mind-blowing sandwich near the open mouth of a wide-eyed, red-lipsticked woman accompanied by suggestive tagline: It'll blow your mind away.

Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled, Fox News quoted the ad as saying further.

The ad is a limited time promotion in Singapore, known around the world for its strict government controls of social conduct. And now advertising experts have said the ad leaves little to imagination and should be discontinued.

A spokeswoman for Burger King, said the ad was produced by a local Singaporean agency.

 

2nd July   

Update: ID Cards Mandatory for Passport Holders...

£1000 fines for not keeping UK up to date with one's address
Link Here  full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

UK ID card Brits who apply for or renew their passport will be automatically registered on the national identity card database under regulations to be approved by MPs in the next few weeks.

The decision to press ahead with the main elements of the national identity card scheme follows a review by the home secretary, Alan Johnson. Although Johnson claimed the cards would not be compulsory, critics say the passport measures amount to an attempt to introduce the system by the backdoor.

Johnson said he had halted plans to introduce compulsory identity cards for airline pilots and 30,000 other critical workers at Manchester and London City airports this autumn in the face of threats of legal action. Longer term plans to extend compulsory ID cards to other transport industries, such as the railways, as a condition of employment have also been scrapped.

But two batches of draft regulations to be approved by MPs tomorrow and next week are expected to include powers to make the passport a designated document under the national identity card scheme. This means that anyone applying for or renewing their passport from 2011 will have their details automatically added to the national identity databases.

The regulations also include powers to levy a fine of up to £1,000 on those who fail to tell the authorities of a change of address or amend other key personal details such as a change of name within three months.

Johnson said he wanted to see the introduction of identity cards accelerated for foreign nationals resident in Britain and for young early adopters for whom they would act as a useful proof of age. This trial is to be extended from Manchester to other parts of the north-west.

Isabella Sankey, director of policy at the human rights group Liberty, said the home secretary needed to be clear as to whether entry onto the national identity register was going to continue to be automatic when applying for a passport.

If so, the identity scheme will be compulsory in practice. However you spin it, big ears, four legs and a long trunk still make an elephant, she said.

Guy Herbert of the No2ID campaign said the pressing ahead with making the passport a designated document made a nonsense of the home secretary's assertion that the scheme was not compulsory: It is not compulsory as long as you don't want to leave the country.

 

1st July   

Offsite: Ban-happy Brighton...

Drinkers the latest target of killjoy campaigners and politicians
Link Here  full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians

Puritans Far from promising a wild weekend, the UK seaside town of Brighton is fast degenerating into a centre of booze-confiscating puritanism.

How has this infamous recreational playground become so ban-happy, so distanced from its unashamed pleasure-seeking history? Where has that heady mix of elegance, taste and debauchery that was the Regency period gone?

...Read full article

Booze bans – the new frontier of joyless regulation

 See article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

The Manifesto Club last week produced a report which showed that 712 local authorities have introduced drink free zones, enabling police officers and the ridiculous community support officers – when are these people going to be made to find proper jobs? – to confiscate alcohol on the mere suspicion that someone is going to break the law. The Manifesto Club, which is by the way becoming one of the significant voices of reason and liberty in Britain, estimates that 20,000 bottles or cans will be confiscated in July and August this year. Brighton has enforced bans on people carrying unopened bottles of wine and beer which they plan to drink at home, Lambeth Council plans to make the entire borough the subject of a designated public place order (DPPO), while Camden has a borough wide ban except for Regents Park, Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath.

...Read full article

 

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