Daily Archives

Afghanistan eases ban on news coverage of raids

Reuters – Afghanistan rowed back on Saturday from a total ban on media broadcasts of “disturbing” images from insurgent attacks or live pictures of security operations. The new rules for media were agreed over the past week after an outcry over restrictions imposed on March 1 by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency that threatened to arrest journalists who film attacks. Read article

UK database state breached 11 times

Register – Home Secretary Alan Johnson has given Parliament some details on the most recent breaches of the various identity databases held by his ministry. Johnson told the House of Commons that there were 11 occasions in the last year when information was used or accessed improperly. In response to a question from Chris Grayling, Tory shadow home secretary, Johnson said in the last year five people had been disciplined or dismissed for falsifying records or manipulating Home Office systems. Six people have been disciplined for unauthorised access to a database or letting someone else use their log-in. Read Article

UK Home Sec says 17m ID cards in circulation by 2017

Register – The government expects to have issued 17 million ID cards by 2017, Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the Commons yesterday. Johnson was responding to a question from his Tory shadow, Chris Grayling, who asked: “What proportion of the estimated 49 million products to be issued between April 2012 and March 2017 … will be identity cards?”. Johnson replied: “Approximately 49 million products will be issued over the period April 2012 to March 2017 of which we expect approximately 32 million passports and 17 million identity cards.” These wouldn’t necessarily all be different IDs, so to speak, with some accounted for by replacements of lost or stolen cards and passports. Read Article

Bitter plight of the vanilla trade children

The Times – NOARY’S fingers are stained a thin, luminous yellow by the sweetest spice of all. Close to exhaustion, his tiny body is pouring with tropical sweat. At eight years old, he has been tending the vanilla orchids since before first light after walking to work, barefoot and in darkness, alongside his brother, Ando, just a year older. Read Article

Thousands attend anti-Berlusconi protest in Rome

Tens of thousands of Italians have been taking part in a protest in Rome’s main square against the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The demonstrators, called out by the opposition and unions, accused him of changing laws for his own benefit. The protest organisers also called for employment, education and health to be at the centre of campaigning for this month’s regional elections. A recent opinion poll showed only low levels of support for Mr BBC – Berlusconi. Read article

UK police forces face threat of ‘racist’ label over stop and searches

Guardian – The official equalities watchdog will threaten to brand as racist police forces which are deemed to have used stop and search powers excessively against people from ethnic minorities, the Guardian has learned. Police forces will be told they face enforcement action unless they give meaningful promises to change, says a report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission expected to be released later this month. It presents a prima facie case that the police are still failing in their duties under racial equality laws and finds that an officer’s power to stop and search, based on having a reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminality, is disproportionately used against Afro-Caribbean and Asian Britons. Read Article

A Detention Bill You Ought to Read More Carefully

Atlantic – Why is the national security community treating the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010,” introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on Thursday as a standard proposal, as a simple response to the administration’s choices in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt? A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. Read the bill here, and then read the summarized points after the jump. According to the summary, the bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning. Read Article

Central Figure in CDC Vaccine Cover-Up Absconds With $2M

Huffington Post – A central figure behind the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) claims disputing the link between vaccines and autism and other neurological disorders has disappeared after officials discovered massive fraud involving the theft of millions in taxpayer dollars. Danish police are investigating Dr. Poul Thorsen, who has vanished along with almost $2 million that he had supposedly spent on research. Read article

Germany fights to keep Holocaust organiser’s files sealed

Telegraph – Those hoping to have a 50-year secrecy order overturned believe the government is embarrassed by details within that may prove German and Vatican officials colluded in his escape and freedom. The secrecy order is being challenged in a benchmark court case against the BND, Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which wants the 4,500 pages of documents on Adolf Eichmann to remain out of the public domain. The service claims that intelligence agencies in other countries will be “frightened off” in future data-sharing if they are disclosed, Der Spiegel reported. Read article

Bank reform talks fail, Dodd to go solo

Reuters – Chances of a broad overhaul of U.S. financial regulation dimmed on Thursday after bipartisan Senate talks collapsed, jeopardizing a top Obama administration priority and boosting bank share prices. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd warned that time was running out to pass legislation this year. He said he would unveil his own bill on Monday and aim to get it to the Senate floor by Easter. Some analysts now question whether Congress can complete work on reforms this year. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who is not seeking reelection in November, will likely have to pick up some Republican support to move a bill. “The real problem I am facing is the clock,” Dodd said at a news conference. Earlier, Senator Bob Corker, a Republican who had tried to hammer out a compromise with Dodd, said a simultaneous White House push to get healthcare reform through Congress had thrown a wrench into their effort. Read Article

Australian archaeologists uncover 40,000-year-old site

AP “” Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world’s southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, an Aboriginal leader said Wednesday. The site appears to have been the last place of refuge for Aboriginal tribes from the cannon fire of Australia’s first white settlers, said Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. Read article

At least 75 killed in fighting in Somali capital

CNN – At least 75 people have been killed in clashes in the Somali capital of Mogadishu since fighting broke out earlier this week between government forces and Al-Shabaab rebels, medical sources and a witness said Saturday. At least 30 people died on Wednesday, and another 35 died on Thursday, the city’s ambulance service said. Another five died of their wounds while hospitalized, according to Duniyo Ali Mohamed, medical director of Mogadishu’s Medina Hospital. Read article

Quotation Of The Week

Climate change is another factor affecting the landscape. At the beginning of the (14th) century it is not unusual to buy English wine. Many noble and royal houses have extensive vineyards. Not so a hundred years later. By 1400 the vineyards in England have all but gone. The mean temperature has dropped by about one degree centigrade”

- Dr Ian Mortimer, “The Time Travellers Guide To Medieval England”

Sneaky anti-terror cameras used in war on the mororist

Express – TECHNOLOGY to fight terrorists is being used by “town hall Stasi” to hike parking fines and rake in cash from motorists, the Tories said yesterday. Councils routinely use Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology to clamp down on parking offences, they claim. The device scans 3,000 vehicles an hour and cross-checks in seconds with police, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and insurance databases. This allows parking tickets to be issued by computer. Read Article

Greece debt: EU agrees bailout deal

Guardian – The eurozone has agreed a multibillion-euro bailout for Greece as part of a package to shore up the single currency after weeks of crisis, the Guardian has learnt. Senior sources in Brussels said that Berlin had bowed to the bailout agreement despite huge resistance in Germany and that the finance ministers of the “eurozone” ““ the 16 member states including Greece who use the euro ““ are to finalise the rescue package on Monday. The single currency’s rulebook will also be rewritten to enforce greater fiscal discipline among members. The member states have agreed on “co-ordinated bilateral contributions” in the form of loans or loan guarantees to Greece if Athens finds itself unable to refinance its soaring debt and requests help from the EU, a senior European commission official said. Read Article

SOUTH AFRICA: Gender Loses Out in Basic Education Crisis

IPS – With the 15th-year review of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women taking place at the ongoing Commission on the Status of Women in New York, South African teachers and education experts say they fear that a special focus on the advancement of girls is getting lost amidst the growing levels of poverty in the country. Read Article

‘Killer Electrons’ Get Super-Charged Above Earth

space.com ““ When a shock wave from a solar storm hits the Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, it creates highly energetic particles dubbed “killer electrons” that can be dangerous to satellites. During solar storms, the number of killer electrons in the radiation belt grows at least 10 times. The European Space Agency’s Cluster mission has helped figure out how these killer particles are created, which could help to better protect Earth’s satellites and astronauts – Read Article

Violence and abuse rife in UK food factories

Guardian – Thousands of workers in Britain’s lucrative food industry are being subjected to widespread mistreatment and exploitation, including physical and verbal abuse and degrading working conditions, according to an inquiry published today. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it has uncovered significant evidence of abuse among producers supplying Britain’s big supermarkets. The inquiry includes reports from meat factory workers who say they have had frozen burgers thrown at them by line managers, and accounts of pregnant women being forced to stand for long periods or perform heavy lifting under threat of the sack. Read Article

Rove ‘proud’ of US waterboarding terror suspects

BBC – A senior adviser to former US President George W Bush has defended tough interrogation techniques, saying their use helped prevent terrorist attacks. In a BBC interview, Karl Rove, who was known as “Bush’s brain”, said he “was proud we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists”. He said waterboarding, which simulates drowning, should not be considered torture. In 2009, President Barack Obama banned waterboarding as a form of torture. But the practice was sanctioned in written memos by Bush administration lawyers in August 2002, providing legal cover for its use. Read Article

Mysterious Speed Record May Explain Mystery of Sun

Space.com ““ A new study reports that the top of the gigantic conveyor belt of plasma moving inside the sun has been running at record-high speeds for the past five years. The phenomenon might be the reason why the sun has continued to have so few sunspots recently when it should be ramping up the production of these surface-blotching storms. “I believe this could explain the unusually deep solar minimum we’ve been experiencing,” said David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA and co-author of a new study describing the findings, in a NASA statement. “The high speed of the conveyor belt challenges existing models of the solar cycle and it has forced us back to the drawing board for new ideas.” Read Article

Pope quashes push for celibacy debate

ABC – In the wake of the latest sex abuse claims in the Catholic Church in Germany, a number of senior clergy have called for a debate on the issue of celibacy in the priesthood. The Archbishop of Vienna called for a thorough examination of the link between celibacy and child sex abuse by priests and the Archbishop of Salzburg asked whether it was an appropriate way of life for priests today. Read Article

Suicide bomber in rickshaw hits Pakistan checkpoint

BBC – At least 10 people have been killed by a suicide bomber in a rickshaw at a security checkpoint in north-west Pakistan, police say. At least 34 people were wounded by the explosion near Mingora, the main city in Swat Valley. It comes a day after twin suicide attacks in the eastern city of Lahore killed 45 people and injured about 100. Read article

China calls U.S. a hypocrite over human rights

Reuters – China accused Washington of hypocrisy on Friday for its criticism of Beijing’s restrictions on the Internet and dissent, blaming the United States for the financial crisis and saying its own rights record was terrible. In its annual survey of human rights in 194 countries issued on Thursday, the U.S. State Department criticized China, along with Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea and Russia. China’s State Council Information Office, or cabinet spokesman’s office, issued its own annual assessment of the United States’ human rights record in response, and this year it dwelt on America’s economic woes. “The United States not only has a terrible domestic human rights record, it is also the main source of many human rights disasters worldwide,” the Chinese report said, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Read Article

Scientology insider’s nightmare childhood

ABC – A former Scientologist who says she was a “child slave” and alleges she saw a six-year-old boy chained up in a ship’s hold is disappointed the Senate has blocked a full inquiry into the religious organisation. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has been calling for a full inquiry into the church since revealing claims of forced abortions and other abuses in Parliament last year. Read Article

Suicide blasts kill 45 in Pakistan’s Lahore

Reuters – Two suicide bombers targeting the Pakistani military killed at least 45 people in Lahore on Friday, officials said, in a challenge to government assertions that crackdowns have weakened Taliban insurgents. A third bomb exploded near a police station in Lahore later on Friday, police said, wounding up to four people and further rattling nerves in the eastern city near the border with India. Militants have renewed pressure on the U.S.-backed Pakistani government, with five bomb attacks this week alone. Read article