Daily Archives: February 8, 2009

Secret spy center will track Britons while on vacation

Spy centre will track you on holiday

Some government officials fear it is a significant step towards a total surveillance society.

Sunday Times | Feb 8, 2009

By David Leppard

THE government is building a secret database to track and hold the international travel records of all 60m Britons.

The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details for all 250m passenger movements in and out of the UK each year.

The computerised pattern of every individual’s travel history will be stored for up to 10 years, the Home Office admits.

The government says the new database, to be housed in an industrial estate in Wythenshawe, near Manchester, is essential in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. However, opposition MPs, privacy campaigners and some government officials fear it is a significant step towards a total surveillance society.

Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: “The government seems to be building databases to track more and more of our lives.

“The justification is always about security or personal protection. But the truth is that we have a government that just can’t be trusted over these highly sensitive issues. We must not allow ourselves to become a Big Brother society.”

Some immigration officials with knowledge of the plans admit there is likely to be public concern. “A lot of this stuff will have a legitimate use in the fight against crime and terrorism, but it’s what else it could be used for that presents a problem,” said one.

“It will be able to detect whether parents are taking their children abroad during school holidays. It could be useful to the tax authorities because it will tell them how long non-UK domiciled people are spending in the UK.”

The database is also expected to monitor people’s travel companions.

Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, defended the plans. “The UK has one of the toughest borders in the world and we are determined to ensure it stays that way. Our high-tech electronic borders system will allow us to count all passengers in and out and targets those who aren’t willing to play by our rules.”

In a report last week, the House of Lords constitution committee, whose members include Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, called for a significant cutback in the state’s surveillance powers.

It said Britain’s traditions of privacy and democracy were under threat from pervasive and routine electronic spying and the mass collection of personal information.

The Wythenshawe spy centre will house more than 300 police and immigration officers. A similar number of technicians will help check travellers’ details against police, MI5, benefit agency and other government “watch lists”.

The exact location of the new database is a secret within Whitehall, although Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, accidentally let slip during a public talk to officials late last year that it was in the Manchester area. All staff have now been instructed to refer to it only as “a new operations centre in the northwest”.

The database is the unpublicised part of the government’s so-called “e-borders” programme, intended to count everyone who comes in and out of the country by 2014. At the moment the UK Border Agency is running a pilot which monitors the travel movements of passengers on “high-risk” routes from a small number of airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Some 70m passenger movements have been tracked to date, but this is expected to increase to 100m by the end of April. Officials hope that by the end of next year 95% of the 250m annual passenger movements will be logged in the database.

The origins of e-borders stem from 2005 when Tony Blair, then prime minister, was unable to say, during a television interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, how many failed asylum seekers were in Britain.

Under the scheme, once a person buys a ticket to travel to or from the UK by air, sea or rail, the carrier will deliver that person’s data to the agency.

The data is then checked against various watchlists to identify those involved in abuse of UK immigration laws, serious and organised crime, and terrorism.

At the moment limited information about selected routes and travellers is kept on the pilot database run by the agency at an office in Hounslow, west London. In future, all such data will automatically be sent in bulk to the new database, instead of being released in response to specific requests by the authorities.

Lord Carlile, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said privacy concerns had to be balanced against the need to gather intelligence on terrorism suspects. “Travel patterns are a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Advertisements

Thalidomide drug ‘was created by the Nazis’ as part of chemical weapons program

THE morning sickness drug thalidomide, which caused pregnant women to give birth to babies without arms and legs, was first developed by the Nazis, probably as part of their chemical weapons programme.

Sunday Times | Feb 8, 2009

By Daniel Foggo

THE morning sickness drug thalidomide, which caused pregnant women to give birth to babies without arms and legs, was first developed by the Nazis, probably as part of their chemical weapons programme, according to new research. Two separate academics have revealed the discovery of documents indicating that the drug did not originate with Chemie Grünenthal, the postwar German chemical firm, as has always been claimed.

If, as their research suggests, thalidomide was first developed by scientists working in wartime Germany, it could have implications for the liability of the German government. So far it has given compensation only to German victims, although the drug was distributed in at least 46 countries.

Thousands of the drug’s victims are still battling for increased financial aid to help them cope with its legacy. There are 457 thalidomiders remaining in the UK; 2,700 in Germany; and a total of up to 6,000 worldwide.s

Mothers prescribed it between its launch in 1957 and 1961, when it was removed from the market, gave birth to children who lacked proper arms, legs, hands and feet. Some had also suffered brain damage and other disabilities.

Dr Martin Johnson, director of the Thalidomide Trust which provides help for surviving victims in the UK, has written a paper detailing evidence suggesting that the drug had been developed before Grünenthal secured a patent in 1954.

The company has always maintained that thalidomide was created by chance in 1953 by scientists who had tried to create an antihistamine but ended up with a tranquilliser.

Johnson suspects that it was actually first produced as a possible antidote to nerve toxins such as sarin, which was developed by Otto Ambros, a Nazi scientist who joined Grünenthal after the war.

“It is now appearing increasingly likely that thalidomide was the last war crime of the Nazis,” said Johnson.

One document unearthed by the Thalidomide Trust shows that Grünenthal apparently purchased the trade name of the drug – Contergan – and therefore probably the substance itself, from a French firm, Rhône-Poulenc, which was under Nazi control during the war years.

A confidential letter sent from Astra, which held the Swedish licence to distribute thalidomide, to its Norwegian subsidiary in 1958 states: “Unfortunately we can’t use the name Contergan in the Scandinavian countries, since Grünenthal obtained the name exclusively for the German market through an agreement with Rhône-Poulenc.”

From 1942 onwards Rhône-Poulenc registered 14 similar drugs, all ending with the same “ergan” suffix, a characteristic unique to the firm. Many of the drugs shared properties with thalidomide, such as affecting the nervous system.

“Not only is the name typical of the Rhône-Poulenc brand names of the 1940s; the action of thalidomide also belongs among this range of products,” said Johnson in his report.

Meanwhile, the author of a forthcoming book on Nazi scientists claims to have a copy of a document written in November 1944 by a director of IG Farben, the German pharmaceutical firm, which refers to the development of a substance, the chemical formula of which matches thalidomide.

Carlos De Napoli, an Argentinian who has published books on the activities of the Nazis who fled to South America after the war, claims his book, Hitler’s Laboratories, will show that the drug has its origins in the Nazi death camps.

IG Farben, whose bosses, including Ambros, were convicted of war crimes such as slavery and mass murder, ran the synthetic rubber and petrol processing plant at Auschwitz-Monowitz, which drew its labour from extermination camps.

De Napoli said the memo was sent on November 13, 1944 by Fritz ter Meer, an IG Farben executive, to Karl Brandt, an SS general who was Hitler’s personal physician and head of his euthanasia programme.

The report, in which the drug is referred to simply by a four-digit number – 4589 – states it has been tested and is ready for use. De Napoli says he discovered the document in the IG Farben archive in 1978 but realised only recently the significance of the formula it contained. “There is absolutely no doubt of the Nazi development of and experimentation with thalidomide in the world war two camps,” he said.

Johnson said the 1954 patent for thalidomide implied that it had already been tested on humans, even though trials on people did not officially take place until later. Grünenthal subsequently said it had “lost” much of the testing paperwork.

Johnson concluded in his report: “The patents suggest that thalidomide was probably one of a number of products developed at Dyhernfurth [a chemical laboratory] or Auschwitz-Monowitz under the leadership of Otto Ambros in the course of nerve gas research.”

Grünenthal said: “To our knowledge there was no collaboration between Grünenthal and Rhône-Poulenc for the development of Contergan/thalido-mide. Three Grünenthal employees discovered thalidomide and Grünenthal is the sole inventor on the patent.”

Sanofi-Aventis, which took over Rhône-Poulenc, said it was searching its archives.

Experiments on prisoners

Grünenthal was founded in 1946 by the soap manufacturers Alfred and Herman Wirtz, twins who were both former members of the Nazi party.

Their chief scientist was Dr Heinrich Mückter, a fledgling pharmacologist who had carried out wartime experiments on Polish prisoners to find a cure for typhus. He caused the death of hundreds in the process.

According to Grünenthal, Mückter was one of those responsible for inventing thalidomide.

Otto Ambros was the most qualified scientist with Nazi links to work for Grünenthal. His knowledge was used by the Nazis to develop deadly nerve toxins such as sarin. He was sentenced to eight years at the Nuremberg trials.

Maoist dictatorship looming large over Nepal

mao-zedong

Maoist Party Dictatorship Looming Large

News Blaze | Feb 7,2009

By Harihar Joshi, UK

The State of Nepal under the Maoists is turning into a state of USSR under Stalin or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Everywhere Maoist agents are placed. No business can be opened without the Maoist agents pressuring the winning bidders to pay them a percentage.

Businessmen have to suffer from the very beginning and pay unnecessary donations to the Maoists. Besides forced kickbacks, the businessmen have to bribe government officials and pay regular taxes on the biddings. The businessmen, in order to cover up their costs have to levy ordinary people a heavy price for the services they provide. The Nepali people are forced to pay a high price for every service they are taking. The high price for the day-to-day commodities is making Nepali people suffer badly.

This Nepali people’s sufferings increase due to the growing inflation rate. The economic development path taken by the Maoist Government is completely wrong. The Maoist philosophy of big budget to jumpstart development activities is a copy of the Soviet model of development activities.

I do not need not to remind, that with such an economic plan the Soviet Union collapsed. However, the Communists ruled there for more than 70 years. Nepali Maoists want to rule as long as they can and don’t care even if Nepal faces Soviet style breakage. Republic Nepal with federation in small components is more vulnerable than the Soviet Union.

The placing of Maoist cadets everywhere for surveillance purposes makes it difficult for people to perform daily routines. The human surveillance put by the Maoists at the Tribhuvan International Airport (T.I.A.) makes it difficult for the Nepali people coming in from abroad. The Maoists who are empowered for surveillance have all the details of Nepalese abroad.

The Maoists take special note of the Nepali people who come from the United States, Japan and some Western European countries. Nepalese coming from these countries are vulnerable for extortion and kidnapping. Politically active expatriates are even more vulnerable. Those who raise their voices against the Maoists in favor of democracy and Monarchy are almost certain to face consequences.

The Maoist policy of keeping people under a tight grip by intimidation and threats by its affiliates such as Young ‘Democratic’ Communist League (Y’D’CL) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is similar to the Afghan Taliban and the present day Iranian government-imposed dictatorial rule. Nepali women are frightened to speak too much about household problems created by the terrible policies of the Maoist Government.

The policy of one party dictatorship with Communist philosophy is coming closer to implementation in Nepal. The Maoist party is trying to break the Unified Marxist Leninists (UML) and strengthen the extremist leftist grip. The small left groups are slowly moving into the Maoist fold.

Unless united under the principle propounded by the late BP Koirala, who throughout his life held that the system of Constitutional Monarchy is the only option, Nepal is on the way towards the fracturing of the nation, towards one party dictatorship by the Maoists. The international community and donors will have no choice except to accept the outcome since a few of the international community members also see their benefits out of Nepal’s tragedies.

By all means, the Maoist party dictatorship is looming large.

Related

Nepal:UN to Ensure Army, Maoists Stay in Barracks
With the Nepal government and Maoist rebels agreeing to begin the process of arms management, all eyes are now focused on the United Nations to manage a difficult and touchy issue in Nepal’s peace process.

Winter could be coldest for 27 years

Britain could experience its most severe winter for 27 years if the cold snap continues.

Telegraph | Feb 7, 2009

By Nick Britten

With heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures over the last two months, the country is on course to rival the bitter winter of 1982, when towns and villages were cut off, power lines were down and there was severe drifting.

However, it is doubtful that anywhere will see the staggering minus 16.6F (minus 27.2C) recorded in Braemar, Scotland, or the minus 15F (minus 26.1C) in Edgmond, Shrops, both recorded on January 10th that year – the coldest daytime temperatures ever recorded in Britain.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that snowfall this week has topped the 1.8ft of snow that fell in Bingley, Yorks, in 1991, which has been the harshest winter in recent times.

Locals in Dartmoor have contacted the Met Office saying around 2ft of snow has fallen there in the last few days but as yet there is no official confirmation.

Although it might not feel like it, temperatures in the last week or so have only been one degree below the seasonal average.

A spokesman for the Met Office said this year has been nothing as bad as the big freeze of 1962/63, when it snowed from Christmas until March and was the coldest winter on record since 1740.

From the beginning of December, London particularly was covered in fog and heavy snowfalls coupled with strong winds saw 22ft deep snowdrifts.

From Boxing Day 1962 to March 1963, much of England was continuously under snow, with temperatures falling to minus 22.2 degrees Centigrade.

A Met Office spokesman said: “It’s been a severe winter so far, but nothing compared to 1962/63, thankfully.”

Bankers ‘used corporate credit cards to pay for prostitutes’

A New York madam who ran one of the city’s biggest escort agencies claims that prominent bankers and businessmen paid for her prostitutes with corporate credit cards.

Telegraph | Feb 7, 2009

By Tom Leonard in New York

Kristin Davis alleges that prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office decided not to pursue any of them even though she provided evidence.

Davis, who admitted charges last year of running a prostitution business employing more than 100 women, told ABC News that the men included a senior executive of a top media company, a banker who spent $41,600 and the chief executive of one of America’s largest private equity firms.

Others were the part-owner of a major league baseball team, managing directors from two of the world’s largest investment banks, and a prominent property developer who greeted prostitutes wearing women’s underwear.

ABC News said Davis provided it with a print-out of her computerised client list, a copy of which she offered to prosecutors.

“They showed no interest. Some of these guys, I was invoicing on corporate credit cards,” she said.

“I was writing up monthly bills for computer consulting, construction expenses, all of these things, I was invoicing them monthly so they could get by their accountants.”

In a new book, Davis also claims that Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor who resigned last year over a prostitution scandal, was “good for a call at least once a week”.

She claims she banned him temporarily from using her services because of complaints from her prostitutes that he was “too rough” and never wanted to use a condom.

A District Attorney’s office spokesman declined to comment to ABC News on Davis’s allegations.