Daily Archives: August 28, 2008

Town hall spies become modern day Stasi troops

The public is being snooped on.

Town hall spies can now fine you on the spot for numerous minor offenses

Daily Express | Aug 27, 2008

By Tom Whitehead

AN army of town hall spies who can hand out on-the-spot fines is being recruited by the Government.

Council staff, car park attendants, private security guards and even dog wardens are being used to snoop on the public and issue fixed penalties for minor offences.

Amid accusations of policing on the cheap, they are informing on car tax dodgers and fining people for dropping litter, dog fouling and truancy. They even have the power to demand your name and address.

There are already more than 1,400 so-called “accredited persons” – the equivalent of a small police force – and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants even more so they can do jobs regarded as too trivial for the police. This private army have their own badges and uniforms and a review is under way which could see them given the power to dish out fines for more public order offences.

Companies are being urged to sign up to the scheme and even encouraged to use their involvement as a way of promoting themselves for “market advantage”.

The development means yet another tier of civilians being used for cheap policing alongside the already controversial community support officers.

It also fuels the row over the level of powers which town halls have to spy on the public and dispense summary justice. One critic dubbed them a modern day Stasi in a reference to the notorious East German secret police. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: “The public will be angered that the Home Office is seeking to take serious powers that should be applied by the police and encouraging them to be given not just to local councils, but also to private firms.

“The public want to see real police on the streets discharging these responsibilities, not private firms who may use them inappropriately, including unnecessarily snooping on ordinary citizens.

“This is a consequence of the Government’s obsession with policing on the cheap as well as their staggering complacency towards the extension of surveillance.”

Chief constables were given the right to hand limited police powers to civilians under Community Safety Accreditation Schemes in the 2002 Police Reform Act. The aim was to give civilians working in the community safety to have more powers to deal with the public.

So far, 95 organisations are involved, including 19 private companies, as well as local authorities, housing associations, NHS trusts and the fire service.

A Home Office good practice guide yesterday even admitted they are doing the jobs the police do not want to do. It said: “It is beneficial to use accredited persons to target those community problems that are deemed unsuitable for the police because police enforcement might be seen to be excessive.”

However, the town hall spies are not directly accountable to the police. Instead, they answer to their employer, and police will only be informed of complaints if there are three cases a year.

Vetting also varies from one force area to another, with some subject to anti-terror style investigation while others face little more than a standard criminal record check.

Phil Booth, of the No2ID civil liberties campaign group, said: “This is a sinister move towards a Stasi-snooper state in which jobsworths are devolved the powers of the police.”

But Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “The potential benefits are significant. They can help contribute to the delivery of neighbourhood policing that is both sustainable and really addresses the problems that local people face.

“I can think of few things that so clearly make a difference. The schemes contribute to police efficiency by releasing officers from non-essential community tasks.”

Members of British parliament fight to abolish oath of allegiance to the Queen

The queen and her royal consort presiding over the House of Lords

This would allow MPs to “swear allegiance to their constituents and the nation and to pledge to uphold the law” rather than pledge “personal allegiance to the serving monarch”.

WalesOnline.co.uk | Aug 9, 2008

Rebel MPs seek new oath

by Tomos Livingstone

THE oath of allegiance to the Queen should be scrapped and MPs required to pledge to serve their constituents instead, according to a cross-party group.

MPs and AMs have to swear an oath to the monarch, and although several have raised objections to the system in the past, there has never been a mainstream campaign for change.

Now a group of 22 MPs, including Newport West’s Paul Flynn and Gower MP Martin Caton, have signed a Commons motion calling for the oath to be reformed.

But traditionalists, including former Tory party chairman Lord Tebbit, said the campaign was “an attack on the State”.

Lord Tebbit said he thought the MPs would “rather be swearing allegiance to Brussels”.

He said: “This seems to me to be an attack upon the state itself. The monarch is the one embodiment of the state which is outside the political, partisan process.

“The people behind this campaign must either oppose the idea of anyone who is non-partisan having a role in the affairs of state, or they would rather be swearing allegiance to Brussels.”

The Early Day Motion, tabled by Lewes MP Norman Baker, “recognises that some honourable Members would prefer to swear an oath of allegiance to their constituents and the nation rather than the monarch”.

He called on the Government to “bring forward legislative proposals to introduce an optional alternative parliamentary oath”.

This would allow MPs to “swear allegiance to their constituents and the nation and to pledge to uphold the law” rather than pledge “personal allegiance to the serving monarch”.

Mr Baker’s motion has attracted the support of Lib Dem and Labour MPs, and one Conservative, Peter Bottomley.

The current oath states: “I … swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”

MPs can choose a slightly amended version which removes the references to God. They can also take the oath in Welsh if they wish, and in 1997 Lib Dem Andrew George became the first MP to take the oath in Cornish.

An alternative oath suggested by the campaign group Republic read: “I will work honestly and conscientiously and to the best of my ability to discharge the responsibilities which I have and do so without fear or favour in accordance with my convictions.”

In the Assembly the oath is taken privately, rather than in public as is the convention in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament. Some AMs have taken the oath while dressed in shorts, while others have claimed to have said the words with their fingers crossed.

In 2006 Plaid Cymru attempted to amend the Government of Wales Act to bring in a new oath, which AMs could choose instead of swearing fidelity to the Queen. It read: “I do solemnly swear to discharge the responsibility required of me to the best of my abilities and faithfully serve the people of Wales, whom I here represent.”

That proposal was defeated in a Westminster vote.

Graham Smith, from Republic, an organisation which wants the monarchy abolished, said: “This is about democracy. People too often complain that MPs aren’t responsive to their electorates, perhaps it’s time their allegiance to the people was made official. We welcome the support of Tory Peter Bottomley, who quite rightly says provision should be made for republicans in Parliament. It is absurd that republican MPs should be forced to swear allegiance to the Queen.

“In a democracy, allegiance should be to the people and the nation, not to a monarch. Republic is calling on all MPs to support the option of a non-royal oath of allegiance for everyone, whether Members of Parliament, new citizens, judges or other public officials.”

Mr Flynn, one of the MPs who signed the motion, said: “There are plenty of other preoccupations at the moment.

“This [campaign] is no change, really, it is old news, about 20 years old.”

Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire, said: “I’ve always been happy to swear allegiance to the Queen, I think the monarchy has a traditional and attractive place in British society. I will always vote against abolition of the monarchy.

“Other people get rather obsessed with the whole question. It’s been a very long time since a king or queen sentenced anyone to death, so I don’t think they present a clear and present danger.

“I would be disinclined to campaign for a change. There are other important questions, like the health service, the risk of flooding and so on.”

In March, former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith suggested that school-leavers should swear an oath to Queen and country to strengthen their sense of Britishness. He said wide-ranging measures to strengthen the significance of British citizenship were needed because Britain had become a “divided country” with failing national pride.

Several professions, including the police and Bishops in the Church of England, require an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Facts about the oath of allegiance

The requirement for MPs to take the oath of allegiance was established by the Parliamentary Oaths Act of 1866.

At Westminster the oath must be taken in English, although MPs can repeat it in Welsh, Gaelic or Cornish if they wish.

Members of Sinn Fein refuse to take the oath, and are therefore barred from taking their seats in Parliament.

Some members of the Scottish Parliament use a preamble before taking the oath. Dennis Canavan began the trend by saying, “Can I make it clear that I believe in the sovereignty of the people of Scotland rather than a monarch” when the Parliament met in 1999.

The late Tony Banks was seen crossing his fingers while taking the oath at Westminster. Another veteran Republican, Dennis Skinner, is alleged to have added the words “and all who sail in her” to his oath.

Who has to swear an oath to the Queen?

MPs, AMs, and MSPs
Archbishops and bishops
Members of the clergy (Church of England)
Armed services (excluding the Navy)
Police constables
Aliens upon naturalisation (foreign citizens wishing to become British citizens)

And who doesn’t?

Members of the Royal Navy
Northern Ireland police
Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Magistrates in Northern Ireland
Civil servants
Councillors
Local government officials

Blackwater-linked firm to train Canadian troops

“It raises a terrible spectre.”

Toronto Star | Aug 27, 2008

By Allan Woods

OTTAWA–Canadian soldiers could get training from a U.S. company closely linked to Blackwater USA, a private security firm implicated in the killings of hundreds of Iraqi civilians, if the Department of National Defence has its way.

The military gave notice this week of its intention to award an $850,000 contract for advanced counterinsurgency training to the Terrorism Research Center, a Virginia-based firm that specializes in terrorism training for military and law enforcement officials. The contract is for one year with the option for a two-year extension.

The counterinsurgency school, which boasts close links to the U.S. government, is listed as a branch of Total Intelligence Solutions, a company that is run by former director of CIA counterterrorism Cofer Black and Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy Seal.

Both are top executives with the Prince Group, the chief holding company for Total Intelligence Solutions and Blackwater.

“It will shock many Canadians to think of our soldiers, who are amongst the best trained in the world, to be sent down to the U.S. to work with a private war-making company that has been indicted in some of its operations in Iraq in the past,” said NDP defence critic Dawn Black. “It raises a terrible spectre.”

A spokesperson for Defence Minister Peter MacKay did not respond to requests for comment.

The defence department’s training requirements include insurgent tactics, surveillance and intelligence gathering, weapons, financing and propaganda.

The Canadian Forces first identified the need for more robust counterinsurgency training last September, around the same time that Blackwater security forces in Baghdad were implicated in the killing of 17 Iraqis while carrying out a contract with the U.S. State Department to protect government officials.

Related

Who Is “blackwater” In Iraq?

Carbon Neutral Pyramid to House 1 Million People

The Ziggurat Pyramid will stand 1.2 kilometres in height and cover 2.3 square kilometres in area

Biometrics (facial and fingerprint scanning) security will be used throughout the pyramid

Dubai Express | Aug 21, 2008

Eco-wonder: The Pyramid city

By Derek Baldwin, Senior Reporter

A proposed pyramid city for the Dubai desert will stand 1.2 kilometres in height, dwarfing the Burj Dubai – the tallest tower in the world – by hundreds of metres.

The solar-powered pyramid project – dubbed Ziggurat after the ancient Mayan pyramids – was announced this week by Timelinks, an eco-design firm that plans to unveil the engineering wonder at Cityscape Dubai later this year.

If completed, it’s expected to be the largest man-made residential structure on the planet, with its foundation covering more than two square kilometres.

“The pyramid will be more than a kilometre tall and will house one million people inside,” a source close to the project told XPRESS. “It will be completely self-sustainable.”

Nature power

Using solar and wind power, the mega structure will create its internal weather. Steam generated from solar power and collected through photovoltaic cell panels on the pyramid’s exterior might well be piped from the ground level to the uppermost heights of the pyramid’s interior and then released, instantly turning into rain, which may then fall on the lush garden communities inside the pyramid.

An eco system, full of vegetation, mild temperatures and regular rainfall, may make this a highly marketable city for people living in dry desert conditions.

In a statement, Ridas Matonis, Timelinks Managing Director, said: “Communities [Ziggurat] can be almost totally self-sufficient energy-wise. Apart from using steam power in the building, we will also employ wind turbine technology to harness natural energy resources.”

Matonis said the pyramid project requires 90 per cent less land than a traditional city. “Cities can be accommodated in complexes that take up less than 10 per cent of the original land surface. Public and private landscaping will be used for leisure pursuits or irrigated as agricultural land.”

Not a pipe dream

“Timelinks has patented the design and technology incorporated into the project and has applied to the European Union for a grant for technical projects,” the firm said. “A number of eminent professors will be on hand to explain the technicalities of how the Ziggurat project works and how these communities can be integrated in master projects.”

Fast facts

•     The Ziggurat Pyramid will stand 1.2 kilometres in height and cover 2.3 square kilometres in area

•     The design means that it might use 90 per cent less of a footprint than a traditional city hosting one million people

•     Biometrics (facial and fingerprint scanning) security will be used throughout the pyramid

•     No cars will be needed because the pyramid will have its own internal transport network

Chinese skyscraper builders to put up equivalent of 10 New Yorks, says Rio Tinto

An artist’s impression of China’s tallest building, Shanghai World Financial Centre.

· Research suggests 50,000 towers over next 20 years

· Demand for steel helps boost miner’s profits 55%

The Guardian | Aug 27, 2008

by David Teather

Rio Tinto yesterday shrugged off talk of an impending collapse in the commodities market, pointing to recent research that suggested China will build up to 50,000 skyscrapers in the next 20 years, the equivalent of 10 New Yorks, creating sustained long-term demand for steel and other raw materials.

The mining group reported half-year profits of $5.5bn (£3bn), a 55% increase on the same period a year earlier, providing the company with ammunition in its battle to see off a hostile bid by BHP Billiton valued at about £70bn.

Rio’s chairman, Paul Skinner, said the board’s view was unchanged since BHP increased its bid in February. “The offer on the table is still short of what we would consider full value for Rio Tinto and its prospects, and these results emphasise that,” he said. “We are demonstrating what Rio Tinto is really capable of.”

Metal prices have come off their highs after five years of strong growth, but Skinner said the credit crunch had had only a “modest” impact on Rio’s markets.

The company said that North America and Europe were becoming decreasingly relevant to the setting of metals prices, as demand is driven by China, India and other emerging markets – Chinese imports of iron ore are running 20% ahead of the same point last year. In the first half of the year, Rio lifted prices of iron ore by an average 86% compared with 2007, even as economies in North America and Europe were weakening. The average copper price charged by Rio in the first half was 20% higher than last year, gold was 38% higher and aluminium prices were up 2%. The company said 2009 was likely to be the sixth successive year of higher prices.

Profits were also boosted by the company’s $38.7bn acquisition of aluminium producer Alcan last year, though the brokerage Numis estimated that it accounted for only 5% of the gain in earnings.

Some analysts had been forecasting a dip in Chinese investment after the Olympics, but Rio is predicting that there will be a post-games boom. The company cited research from McKinsey, the management consultancy, which said the scale and pace of urbanisation would continue at an unprecedented rate.

By 2025, the report predicts that China will have 221 cities with more than a million inhabitants, compared with 35 in Europe today. As well as the need for huge spending on infrastructure, McKinsey projects that China will build between 20,000 and 50,000 skyscrapers, many of them in less developed interior provinces far from Beijing and Shanghai.

The company’s revenue from China in the first half more than doubled on the previous year, from $2.4bn to $4.9bn. Group revenue topped $30bn.

“There is no question that we are living in an era of unprecedented demand for minerals and metals,” said Rio’s chief executive, Tom Albanese.

The BHP offer is conditional on it gaining regulatory approval. A merger has already been cleared by Washington, Europe gives its verdict in December and Australian regulators are to rule in October. If it receives clearance, BHP will then send out the offer document and the bid will go live.

Another obstacle was thrown in the path of BHP’s bid over the weekend when the Australian government gave its approval to the acquisition of a 12% stake in Rio’s London shares by the Chinese state-owned company Chinalco.

Related

Tallest tower to open on Saturday

All the Queen’s forces and all the Queen’s men
Researchers like Philip Beresford, the author of The Book Of The British Rich, say that Queen Elizabeth invests in the major corporations like Rio Tinto (formerly Rio Tinto Zinc or RTZ), Royal Dutch Shell, ICI and General Electric. This makes sense because these are all pillars of the Black Nobility. The Queen appears to have substantial investments in Rio Tinto, the biggest mining company in the world.

Ukraine warns “Any nation could be next” to fall under Russian control

Having successfully “done” Georgia, the Kremlin might now turn its attention to Ukraine

The Guardian | Aug 28, 2008

By Luke Harding

Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko, could not have put it more starkly. Condemning Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia’s two separatist regions, Yushchenko warned yesterday: “Any nation could be next.”

In fact, Yushchenko was articulating what is now a commonplace in diplomatic circles: that having successfully “done” Georgia, the Kremlin might now turn its attention to Ukraine – and in particular its Russian-speaking region of Crimea.

France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said the same thing. “It is very dangerous … there are other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova,” Kouchner said.

In reality, the similarities between Ukraine and Georgia, and the Crimea and South Ossetia, are largely superficial. Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula, has a strong ethnic Russian majority. It became part of Ukraine during Soviet times, when it was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954.

Unlike South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which launched separatist wars in the 1990s, Crimea has been a successful part of the Ukrainian state. “It is very pro-Russian, especially in Sevastopol. But it doesn’t see itself as being against Ukraine,” Igor Shevliakov, from the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kiev, said.

He added: “There is no conflict between Crimea and Ukraine. Crimean politicians like to speculate on the Russian topic. But it doesn’t seem they are really interested in becoming part of Russia. They are more interested in keeping their own control over the peninsula. I don’t think there is a consensus in Crimea about separating from Ukraine.”

Clearly, this threat preoccupies Ukraine’s pro-western elite. Yushchenko denounced Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as “unacceptable”. Moscow’s actions would hasten Ukraine’s attempts to join Nato and the EU, and force it to increase its defences, he said.

“What has happened is a threat to everyone, not just for one country. Any nation could be next, any country. When we allowed someone to ignore the fundamental right of territorial integrity, we put into doubt the existence of any country,” he told Reuters.

Ukraine’s pro-Russian former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich welcomed the Kremlin’s decision. And Ukraine’s prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has been cautious not to criticise Moscow.

Behind these statements are hard calculations ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election in 2010. Yanukovich and Tymoshenko are likely to seek some accommodation with Moscow, should they win.

Some observers believe there are solid reasons why Russia is unlikely to initiate another military adventure in Ukraine. Russia’s elite have significant financial interests in Ukraine. “It seems Medvedev is satisfied with the outcome of the Georgian conflict. I don’t think they need a new conflict,” Shevliakov said.