Daily Archives: August 4, 2008

Police send 344 officers on sex-change training

Humberside Police has been criticised for taking officers off frontline duties in a crime-ridden neighbourhood to send them on sex-change training “to help PC Lauren’s transition.”

Telegraph | Aug 4, 2008

By Aislinn Simpson

The move is in response to one of their colleagues undergoing treatment to change from a 42-year-old married man into a woman called Lauren.

But senior officers have said it constitutes “political correctness gone mad” to have staff on anti-discrimination training when they could be out on the beat.

A total of 510 staff – including 344 police officers – working for Humberside Police in North East Lincolnshire received a letter from the chief superintendent saying they had to attend the half-day training course to help PC Lauren’s transition.

The training is likely to cost thousands of pounds but could help to protect the force from a potentially embarrassing lawsuit if PC Lauren were to experience discrimination.

Kevin Sharp explained in his letter that she suffered from gender identity dysphoria, which left her feeling like a woman trapped in a man’s body.

“As from today, Lauren starts her new life and over the next few weeks you will receive awareness training during which you will be able to read a personal letter from Lauren,” he said.

“I trust you will have the same determination as I have to help Lauren return to work with as little fear and trepidation as is possible. . . but feel much happier than she has ever done before.”

Humberside Police’s A Division covers Grimsby and the surrounding area in North-East Lincolnshire, which according to the force website suffers from a “disproportionately high level of crime and disorder”.

Nearly 30 per cent of residents live in 10 per cent of the most deprived boroughs in England, and last year police recorded in excess of 27,000 crimes there – more than a third more than the average.

One unnamed senior officer from the division said the plan was “a scandal”.

“It’s time spent away from duty at the public’s expense,” he said. ” We give time to this while the amount of training given to police officers on law has dwindled.”

Grand Theft Auto blamed over Thai taxi driver murder

Police officers watch as a Thai teenager [2nd right] re-enacts robbing and murdering a taxi driver after trying to imitate scenes from the controversial ‘Grand Theft Auto’ video game Photo: REUTERS

A teenager in Thailand has stabbed a taxi driver to death and linked the killing to the violent video game Grand Theft Auto IV.

Telegraph | Aug 4, 2008

He later told police: “Killing seemed easy in the game.”

Polwat Chino, 19, told authorities he had been addicted to the controversial video game, developed in Edinburgh by computer gaming company Rockstar North. The popular game has been described by the British Police Federation as ‘sick, deluded and beneath fun’.

Chino hailed a taxi in Bangkok and when it came time to pay the fare, he stabbed the 54-year-old driver to death. Police will allege he needed money to pay to play the game and intended to rob the taxi driver.

After the stabbing, he tried to steal the taxi with the dead driver in the back seat, but did not know how to drive. Neighbours in Soi Jaran Sanitwong in central Bangkok called police after Polwat constantly pressed on the horn as he reversed into a dead end. When police arrived Polwat had locked himself in the car.

Police claimed Polwat had imitated the game when he stabbed the taxi drier, named as Kuan Pohkang, a married man from the poor northern province of Maha Sarakham.

The dead man’s son, Manon, 25, said: “My father never hurt anyone. He was a gentle man.”

Police quoted Polwat as saying in a statement: “I needed money to play the game every day. My parents give me only 100 baht a day, which is not enough. I am also fed up with them fighting. They are civil servants and do not make good money,” he said.

He said bought two knives with money given to him by his mother and then went to rob a taxi driver, though he did go out with the intention of killing the driver. The killing occurred after the driver reached for a metal bar to defend himself against the robbery.

Polwat told police he could not drive but did not think it would be hard. He was struggling with the car when police arrived.

He has been charged with robbery causing death and possessing offensive weapons.

Grand Theft Auto games have sold more than 70 million copies worldwide and are based on a character called Niko Bellic who rises through the underworld of ‘Liberty City’ – a pastiche of New York – usually through violent means.

Belgian “Nebuleuse” tied to child abuse networks, Iran Contra and the BCCI’s “Black Network”

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Colleagues question official story about dead anthrax scientist

Ivins Could Not Have Been Attacker, Some Say

Colleagues and friends of the vaccine specialist remained convinced that Ivins was innocent

Washington Post | Aug 3, 2008

Scientists Question FBI Probe On Anthrax

By Joby Warrick, Marilyn W. Thompson and Aaron C. Davis

For nearly seven years, scientist Bruce E. Ivins and a small circle of fellow anthrax specialists at Fort Detrick’s Army medical lab lived in a curious limbo: They served as occasional consultants for the FBI in the investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, yet they were all potential suspects.

Over lunch in the bacteriology division, nervous scientists would share stories about their latest unpleasant encounters with the FBI and ponder whether they should hire criminal defense lawyers, according to one of Ivins’s former supervisors. In tactics that the researchers considered heavy-handed and often threatening, they were interviewed and polygraphed as early as 2002, and reinterviewed numerous times. Their labs were searched, and their computers and equipment carted away.

The FBI eventually focused on Ivins, whom federal prosecutors were planning to indict when he committed suicide last week. In interviews yesterday, knowledgeable officials asserted that Ivins had the skills and access to equipment needed to turn anthrax bacteria into an ultra-fine powder that could be used as a lethal weapon. Court documents and tapes also reveal a therapist’s deep concern that Ivins, 62, was homicidal and obsessed with the notion of revenge.

Yet, colleagues and friends of the vaccine specialist remained convinced that Ivins was innocent: They contended that he had neither the motive nor the means to create the fine, lethal powder that was sent by mail to news outlets and congressional offices in the late summer and fall of 2001. Mindful of previous FBI mistakes in fingering others in the case, many are deeply skeptical that the bureau has gotten it right this time.

“I really don’t think he’s the guy. I say to the FBI, ‘Show me your evidence,’ ” said Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, former director of the bacteriology division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, on the grounds of the sprawling Army fort in Frederick. “A lot of the tactics they used were designed to isolate him from his support. The FBI just continued to push his buttons.”

Investigators are so confident of Ivins’s involvement that they have been debating since Friday whether and how to close the seven-year-old anthrax investigation. That would involve disbanding a grand jury in the District and unsealing scores of documents that form the basis of the government’s case against Ivins.

Negotiations over the legal issues continue, but a government source said that the probe could be shuttered as early as tomorrow. The move would amount to a strong signal that the FBI and Justice Department think they got their man — and that he is dead, foreclosing the possibility of a prosecution. No charges are likely against others, that source added.

Once the case is closed, the FBI and Justice Department will face questions — and possibly public hearings — from congressional oversight committees, which have been largely shut out of the case the past five years. The investigators have cited the ongoing nature of the case, as well as accusations of leaks to the media, for the information blackout to Capitol Hill.

One bioweapons expert familiar with the FBI investigation said Ivins indeed possessed the skills needed to create the dust-fine powder used in the attacks. At the Army lab where he worked, Ivins specialized in making sophisticated preparations of anthrax bacteria spores for use in animal tests, said the expert, who requested anonymity because the investigation remains active.

Ivins’s daily routine included the use of processes and equipment the anthrax terrorist likely used in making his weapons. He also is known to have had ready access to the specific strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attack — a strain found to match samples found in Ivins’s lab, he said.

“You could make it in a week,” the expert said. “And you could leave USAMRIID with nothing more than a couple of vials. Bear in mind, they weren’t exactly doing body searches of scientists back then.”

But others, including former colleagues and scientists with backgrounds in biological weapons defense, disagreed that Ivins could have created the anthrax powder, even if he were motivated to do so.

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Knights Templar sue the Pope

Jacques de Molay, the 23rd and Last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, is lead to the stake to burn for heresy Photo: GETTY

The heirs of the Knights Templar have launched a legal battle in Spain to force the Pope to restore the reputation of the disgraced order which was accused of heresy and dissolved seven centuries ago.

Telegraph | Aug 4, 2008

Knights Templar heirs in legal battle with the Pope

By Fiona Govan, Madrid

The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, whose members claim to be descended from the legendary crusaders, have filed a lawsuit against Benedict XVI calling for him to recognise the seizure of assets worth 100 billion euros (£79 billion).

They claim that when the order was dissolved by his predecessor Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties as well as countless pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the knights were appropriated by the church.

But their motive is not to reclaim damages only to restore the “good name” of the Knights Templar.

“We are not trying to cause the economic collapse of the Roman Catholic Church, but to illustrate to the court the magnitude of the plot against our Order,” said a statement issued by the self-proclaimed modern day knights.

The Templars was a powerful secretive group of warrior monks founded by French knight Hugues de Payens after the First Crusade of 1099 to protect pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.

Related

Heretics no more: Vatican finally reveals secrets of the trials of the Knights Templar

They amassed enormous wealth and helped to finance wars waged by European monarchs, but spectacularly fell from grace after the Muslims reconquered the Holy Land in 1244 and rumours surfaced of their heretic practices.

The Knights were accused of denying Jesus, worshipping icons of the devil in secret initiation ceremonies, and practising sodomy.

Many Templars confessed to their crimes under torture and some, including the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, were burned at the stake.

The legal move by the Spanish group comes follows the unprecedented step by the Vatican towards the rehabilitation of the group when last October it released copies of parchments recording the trials of the Knights between 1307 and 1312.

The papers lay hidden for more than three centuries having been “misfiled” within papal archives until they were discovered by an academic in 2001.

Pope Clement V secretly absolving the Knights Templar after officially disbanding them

The Chinon parchment revealed that, contrary to historic belief, Clement V had declared the Templars were not heretics but disbanded the order anyway to maintain peace with their accuser, King Philip IV of France.

Over the centuries, various groups have claimed to be descended from the Templars and legend abounds over hidden treasures, secret rituals, and their rumoured guardianship of the Holy Grail.

Most recently the knights have fascinated the modern generation after being featured in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.

Futher reading on the Knights Templar

Police prepare restaurants and cinemas for “mass casualty” terror attacks

Police prepare terror attack warning for restaurants and cinemas

Telegraph | Aug 4, 2008

Restaurants, cinemas and theatres will get police warnings to prepare for terrorist bombings amid fears of “mass casualty” attacks in British town centres.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, a specialist police unit, is drawing up guidance for hospitality and entertainment sites as part of a drive to prepare for terrorist attacks on crowded public places.

Big hotels will also be covered by the new “protective security guidance” to prepare for attacks including car bombs and suicide bombs.

Owners and managers of hospitality and entertainment firms will be told to assess their businesses’ likely vulnerabilities to attack and prepare contingency plans for staff in the event of an attack.

The police-led security office will this month start running counter-terrorism training exercises for businesses in the “night-time economy”. Known as ARGUS courses, the exercises will present staff and managers in restaurants, cinemas, theatres and hotels with a simulated terrorist attack.

There is no specific intelligence pointing to attacks on town centres and the NCTSO says its guidance documents and training exercises are intended to prepare businesses for the worst.

“In the worst case scenario your staff and customers could be killed or injured, and your premises destroyed or damaged in a ‘no warning’, multiple and co-ordinated terrorist attack,” the office has told business owners.

On its website, NCTSO gives a stark warning about the threat to Britain posed by international terrorism.

It says: “Attacks around the world have shown that terrorists will attack those targets they perceive as being attractive.

“Amongst the likely targets for international terrorists are locations with comparatively limited protective security measures which afford the potential for terrorists to cause mass casualties.”

The Home Office said: “The National Counter Terrorism Security Office is due to publish shortly two new protective security guidance booklets for cinemas, theatres, restaurants and hotels.”

Solzhenitsyn, chronicler of Soviet gulag, dies

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst; the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!”

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

AP | Aug 3, 2008

By DOUGLAS BIRCH

MOSCOW (AP) — Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian author whose books chronicled the horrors of dictator Josef Stalin’s slave labor camps, has died of heart failure, his son said Monday. He was 89.

Stepan Solzhenitsyn told The Associated Press his father died late Sunday in Moscow, but declined further comment.

Through unflinching accounts of the eight years he spent in the Soviet Gulag, Solzhenitsyn’s novels and non-fiction works exposed the secret history of the vast prison system that enslaved millions. The accounts riveted his countrymen and earned him years of bitter exile, but international renown.

And they inspired millions, perhaps, with the knowledge that one person’s courage and integrity could, in the end, defeat the totalitarian machinery of an empire.

Beginning with the 1962 short novel “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” Solzhenitsyn (sohl-zheh-NEETS’-ihn) devoted himself to describing what he called the human “meat grinder” that had caught him along with millions of other Soviet citizens: capricious arrests, often for trifling and seemingly absurd reasons, followed by sentences to slave labor camps where cold, starvation and punishing work crushed inmates physically and spiritually.

His “Gulag Archipelago” trilogy of the 1970s shocked readers by describing the savagery of the Soviet state under the dictator Josef Stalin. It helped erase lingering sympathy for the Soviet Union among many leftist intellectuals, especially in Europe.

But his account of that secret system of prison camps was also inspiring in its description of how one person — Solzhenitsyn himself — survived, physically and spiritually, in a penal system of soul-crushing hardship and injustice.

The West offered him shelter and accolades. But Solzhenitsyn’s refusal to bend despite enormous pressure, perhaps, also gave him the courage to criticize Western culture for what he considered its weakness and decadence.

After a triumphant return from exile in the U.S. in 1994 that included a 56-day train trip across Russia to become reacquainted with his native land, Solzhenitsyn later expressed annoyance and disappointment that most Russians hadn’t read his books.

During the 1990s, his stalwart nationalist views, his devout Orthodoxy, his disdain for capitalism and disgust with the tycoons who bought Russian industries and resources cheaply following the Soviet collapse, were unfashionable. He faded from public view.

But under Vladimir Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency, Solzhenitsyn’s vision of Russia as a bastion of Orthodox Christianity, as a place with a unique culture and destiny, gained renewed prominence.

Putin now argues, as Solzhenitsyn did in a speech at Harvard University in 1978, that Russia has a separate civilization from the West, one that can’t be reconciled either to Communism or western-style liberal democracy, but requires a system adapted to its history and traditions.

“Any ancient deeply rooted autonomous culture, especially if it is spread on a wide part of the earth’s surface, constitutes an autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking,” Solzhenitsyn said in the Harvard speech. “For one thousand years Russia has belonged to such a category.”

Born Dec. 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, Solzhenitsyn served as a front-line artillery captain in World War II, where, in the closing weeks of the war, he was arrested for writing what he called “certain disrespectful remarks” about Stalin in a letter to a friend, referring to him as “the man with the mustache.” He served seven years in a labor camp in the barren steppe of Kazakhstan and three more years in internal exile in Central Asia.

That’s where he began to write, memorizing much of his work so it wouldn’t be lost if it were seized. His theme was the suffering and injustice of life in Stalin’s gulag — a Soviet abbreviation for the slave labor camp system, which Solzhenitsyn made part of the lexicon.

He continued writing while working as a mathematics teacher in the provincial Russian city of Ryazan.

The first fruit of this labor was “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the story of a carpenter struggling to survive in a Soviet labor camp, where he had been sent, like Solzhenitsyn, after service in the war.

The book was published in 1962 by order of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was eager to discredit the abuses of Stalin, his predecessor, and created a sensation in a country where unpleasant truths were spoken in whispers, if at all. Abroad, the book — which went through numerous revisions — was lauded not only for its bravery, but for its spare, unpretentious language.
After Khrushchev was ousted in 1964, Solzhenitsyn began facing KGB harassment, publication of his works was blocked and he was expelled from the Soviet Writers Union. But he was undeterred.

“A great writer is, so to speak, a secret government in his country,” he wrote in “The First Circle,” his next novel, a book about inmates in one of Stalin’s “special camps” for scientists who were deemed politically unreliable but whose skills were essential.

Solzhenitsyn, a graduate from the Department of Physics and Mathematics at Rostov University, was sent to one of these camps in 1946, soon after his arrest.

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