Daily Archives: December 9, 2010

Worldwide corruption ‘on the rise’

Worldwide corruption has spread in the economic downturn with more than half the people in a survey claiming that bribery and graft was on the rise.

People reserved their greatest distrust for political parties, with 79 per cent rating them corrupt or extremely corrupt.

Telegraph | Dec 9, 2010

Transparency International, the international watchdog, said that 56 per cent of 91,000 people asked across 86 countries believed corruption was growing worse, while only 30 per cent saw an improvement.

A quarter of all those asked said they had paid a bribe in the last year with the police the biggest recipients.

The most corrupt nations were Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, India, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Palestine, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

The least corrupt regions showed the biggest rise in those witnessing corruption.Respondents in Europe, where 73 percent said they saw more corruption, and North America – where 67 percent reported a rise – were particularly pessimistic.

Researchers said that reflected the impact of the global financial crisis.

“The fallout of the financial crises continues to affect people’s opinions of corruption, particularly in Europe and North America,” said Huguette Labelle, Transparency’s chairman. “Institutions everywhere must be resolute in their efforts to restore good governance on trust.”

People reserved their greatest distrust for political parties, with 79 per cent rating them corrupt or extremely corrupt. Around 60 per cent rated public officials, parliaments and police as corrupt, while business and the private sector were viewed as corrupt by 51 per cent.

Protesters hurl bottles and bins at car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall react as their car is attacked Photo: AP

Tuition fees protesters attack car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall

A car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall has been attacked by protesters amid worsening violence that has followed victory for the Government in the crucial tuition fees vote.

Telegraph | Dec 9, 2010

Prince Charles and the Duchess were unharmed as the window of their Rolls Royce was smashed and the car covered in paint.

An eyewitness said the car became separated from their police escort as they drove up Regent Street towards the London Palladium, and found themselves in the midst of crowds who had just left the protest in Trafalgar Square. Protesters bombarded the car with bottles and bins.

When the royal couple arrived at the London Palladium they appeared relaxed and smiled and joked with Kylie Minogue, Take That and N-Dubz, some of the acts performing for them.

Another vehicle, which had been travelling behind the royal car, also had a cracked window, but its occupants, who work for the couple, were also unharmed.

There was a heavy police presence around the entrance to the Palladium on Oxford Circus.

A Clarence House spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that their Royal Highnesses’ car was attacked by the protesters on the way to their engagement at the London Palladium this evening.

“Both their Royal Highnesses were unharmed.”

Scotland Yard condemned the “outrageous and increasing levels of violence” tonight.

A spokesman said: “This has nothing to do with peaceful protest. Students are involved in wanton vandalism, including smashing windows in Oxford and Regent Streets.

“Innocent Christmas shoppers are being caught up in the violence and disruption.

“It has gone so far that a car in which the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were travelling through the West End was attacked. Police managed the situation and they were unharmed.”

The spokesman said 38 protesters and 10 officers have been injured. Six officers required hospital treatment and four suffered minor injuries.

MPs voted 323 votes to 302, a majority of 21 in favour of the motion despite vocal opposition from some Liberal Democrats and a handful of Tory MPs.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said he was “proud” of the Government’s package, which will allow English universities to treble fees from 2012.

Mr Cable, a Liberal Democrat, insisted the plan was “progressive” and would “maintain high quality universities in the long term”.

Flanked by David Cameron, the Prime Minister and his deputy, Nick Clegg, Mr Cable faced angry cries from Labour backbenchers as he insisted the plans were “more progressive”.

He said: “I don’t pretend, none of us pretend, that this is an easy subject. Of course it isn’t. We have had to make very difficult choices.

“We could have made a decision to drastically cut the number of university students, we could have cut student maintenance, we could have cut the funding to universities without replacing it.

“But instead we have opted for a set of policies that provides a strong base for university funding, which makes a major contribution to reducing the deficit and introducing a significantly more progressive system of graduate payments than we inherited.”

Faced with barracking which forced Speaker John Bercow to urge MPs to give the minister a “fair hearing”, Mr Cable added: “I am proud to put forward that measure to this House.”

John Denham, the shadow business secretary, said fees were being trebled “simply to reduce the 80 per cent cut in the funding of university teaching – not to raise extra money”.

He told MPs: “Most graduates will be asked not to pay something towards their education, but to pay the entire cost of their university education.”

Ahead of the vote protesters hurled flares, sticks, snooker balls and paint balls at officers as they attempted to break through metal barriers.

Wooden benches in Parliament Square were set on fire, with two demonstrators seen standing on top of the bonfire, watched by cheering protesters.

Senior officers said that a “containment” operation had been put in place “due to the level of violence”.

Up to 1,000 Metropolitan Police officers cut off all roads to Parliament Square to keep protesters at a distance.

Superintendent Julia Pendry has said that police were attempting to keep protesters away from the gates of Parliament itself.

“Protesters will be allowed sight and sound of parliament,” she said. “However, there is evidence to suggest a number of people will come to London intent on causing violence and disorder. They are jumping on the bandwagon of these demonstrations with no intention to protest or interest in student tuition fees. This is of concern to us.

“Those who come to London for peaceful protest will be policed proportionately and appropriately. But those who are intent on committing crime will also be dealt with and they will suffer the consequences of their actions.”

Police crack down on China rights activists ahead of Nobel

China has accused Western nations of trying to foment unrest giving Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize

AFP | Dec 9, 2010

BEIJING — Police have stepped up a crackdown on rights activists on the eve of Friday’s Nobel ceremony in Oslo honouring jailed dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 peace laureate, rights groups said.

“As the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony nears, police across the country are resorting to ever-stricter measures in order to ensure that prominent members of civil society are kept silent,” the Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a statement Thursday.

“National security officers have been calling in activists and dissidents… and warning them not to leave their homes or take part in any activities to mark the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.”

Liu, a writer who has advocated political reform in China for more than two decades, was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold petition calling for change.

Beijing has lashed out at the award and accused Western nations, including Norway, of attempting to foment unrest in China by giving Liu the prestigious prize.

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest on October 8 when the award was announced and she and Liu’s brothers have been banned from leaving the country to accept the prize on his behalf, they have said.

Scores of dissidents have been placed under house arrest, police surveillance, or made subject to other restrictions on their movements or communications with the outside world in the aftermath of Liu’s win.

According to the Rights Defenders, Charter 08 co-author Zhang Zuhua was asked by police to leave Beijing on Wednesday after his phone and Internet connections were cut a day earlier.

Zhang had been under house arrest since Liu was named this year’s peace laureate.

Meanwhile the mother of jailed activist and one-time Nobel Peace Prize candidate Hu Jia was placed under house arrest this week, while the ongoing house arrest of his wife Zeng Jinyan was intensified, the group said.

Numerous rights lawyers have also been placed under direct police surveillance this week including Li Fangping and Tang Jitian, it added.

In an open letter received Thursday by AFP, the Democratic Party of China — which was founded in 1998 by a group of dissidents and quickly banned by authorities — said “thousands” of activists had been harassed.

“We urge the people who receive this letter to pay attention to the outrageous persecution and extreme measures of repression that are ongoing in China,” the group said.

“The Nobel Peace Prize has given the world an opportunity to highlight the true dictatorial face of China’s communist government.”

Majority of Americans doing worse under President Obama than they were two years ago: poll

NY DAILY NEWS | Dec 9, 2010

BY Sean Alfano

President Obama has had a tough time convincing Americans that his economic policies will work.

Americans believe President Obama has delivered on his message of change. Unfortunately, the change is for the worse, according to a new poll.

More than 50% asked say they are worse off today than they were two years ago when the country’s economic meltdown was in full swing. Just 35% say they are better off in the poll conducted by Bloomberg.

Also, 66% said the country was headed in the wrong direction.

Democrats are split, with 48% saying the U.S. is on the wrong track. More than 80% of Republicans feel the same way.

Not surprisingly, 50% of the respondents said unemployment and jobs were the most pressing issue facing the nation.

The unemployment rate is at 9.8% compared to 7.4% in December 2008.

A quarter of those asked blamed the country’s trillion-dollar deficit and spending as the most alarming issue facing the U.S.

On the hot button topic of tax cuts, 33% want them extended for Americans earning less than $250,000 a year. A poll released Wednesday by Gallup suggested the opposite, with 66% in favor of giving all Americans the tax break.

“After looking at all the politicians and all the policies, they’re not geared toward Americans. They’re geared toward the corporations,” Ken Cmar, a 45-year-old from Florida, told the Bloomberg poll.

“It’s that trickle-down economic thing and I’m at the wrong end,” he said.

The poll, conducted by the Iowa-based company Selzer & Co., surveyed 1,000 people and has a margin of error of 3.1%.

Alternative energy inventer’s un-requested VeriChip and associated tumor removed

Bob Boyce’s un-requested VeriChip and associated tumor removed

Boyce finally had the second VeriChip implant removed yesterday along with the associated tumor.  This time the surgical staff documented the implant with photos, and the surgeon placed the “foreign body” in a specimen container and sealed it to establish chain of custody evidence.

PureEnergySystems.com | Dec 7, 2010

by Sterling D. Allan

PIC A second VeriChip microchip implant was removed yesterday from Bob Boyce's shoulder, which was placed there without his knowledge or consent. The blue color is from a dye that pinpoints cancerous cells, which are not uncommon to form along with VeriChip implants.

Last year we reported that Bob Boyce, the highly-revered inventor of ultra-efficient electrolysis systems and of a self-charging battery circuit (harnessing energy from the environment, possibly from zero point energy), had contracted terminal cancer and that the originating point was a VeriChip microchip that someone implanted in his right shoulder without his knowledge or permission.

He had a chip removed, but it turned out that another chip was still in there, implanted deeper, as confirmed by an X-ray.

He’s lived with that one for a year, but finally had it removed yesterday at the Fannin Regional Hospital in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

The Fannin surgical staff took photos as the chip was removed from the tissue and placed in a specimen container, labeled “foreign body”, and sealed by the surgeon.  The blue color of the tissue is from a dye that was injected to mark cancerous cells.

Such chips have been documented to sometimes instigate tumors where they are implanted, as was the case with Boyce .

Full Story

Is this the Big Brother Society?

By encouraging the public to monitor CCTV footage, a new website promises to turn us all into armchair snoops.

spiked-online.com | Dec 9, 2010

by Patrick Hayes

A commemorative frieze of George Orwell’s face was recently pried off a wall marking the location of Booklover’s Corner, the second-hand shop in Hampstead, London, where the author worked in the 1930s. There were no witnesses to the crime, which appears unsolvable. One journalist joked at the time that ‘one would suggest CCTV, were it not a monument to the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four’.

Jokes aside, closed-circuit television (CCTV) is often presumed to be a key instrument for resolving crimes, especially when there are no eye witnesses. Yet despite the fact that Britain is one of the most spied-upon nations in the world, with over 60,000 council-operated CCTV cameras, the growth in surveillance cameras has not led to a decrease in crime. Most of the cameras are unmanned and can therefore only be useful in identifying culprits after they’ve already committed a crime.

In order to make up for some of the shortcomings of CCTV, the entrepreneur Tony Morgan launched the website has said that this is another bonus of the scheme – it allows people to intervene in crimes without fear of getting hurt.

Unsurprisingly, the initiative has caught the attention of politicians. One Tory MP praised it for ‘building a more responsible big society’, referring to David Cameron’s efforts to make members of the public take responsibility for their communities’ wellbeing and safety. This was surely music to the ears of Morgan, who wants to extend his venture to allow his army of crime-stoppers to monitor public spaces, too.

Some areas of Britain have already been subjected to listening and talking CCTVs, where camera operators can bark orders through loud speakers at people engaging in ‘anti-social behaviour’. In one scheme, messages pre-recorded by children were broadcast to misbehaving adults. Now, with Internet Eyes, we may shortly be seeing a growth in armchair busybodies, alerting authorities to ne’er-do-wells over the internet.

The Lib-Con government has promised to ‘roll back the surveillance state’, but the culture of surveillance is still going strong and the government has expressed enthusiasm over people policing their own streets and communities. Likewise, many of Internet Eyes’ users have cited ‘doing good through fighting crime’ as a main motivation for registering.

Internet Eyes is likely to accentuate the detrimental effects that the roll-out of CCTVs has had on public space and citizens’ relations in Britain. The proliferation of CCTV cameras has helped erode normal codes of behaviour, encouraging people to feel unsafe whenever they are unmonitored. CCTVs make us less likely to help others out when they’re in trouble or to come to the aid of local shop owners being robbed or dealing with unruly customers. If there’s a camera monitored by an anonymous official or a self-described crime-stopper to do our civic duties for us, then what’s the point of getting involved?

Initiatives like Internet Eyes will also help breed suspicion and distrust, encouraging us to presume that people are up to no good and need to be policed every second of the day. Far from building social bonds, this reduces us all to policemen or criminals.

It remains to be seen if Internet Eyes proves to be a success. After all, watching livestreams from corner shops is hardly the height of excitement. The odds of halting a real-life shotgun robbery (or even catching a schoolchild nick a stick of gum) seem phenomenally low. Yet it does seem to deal with a lot of the operational shortcomings of current CCTV operations: it’s cheap and provides real-time crime alerts.

While CCTV has come under a lot of criticism for being inefficient and impractical, the real problems with the surveillance society aren’t to do with technicalities. After all, initiatives like Internet Eyes can make up for technical shortcomings. Instead, the importance of things like privacy, free public spaces, and interpersonal relationships undisturbed by busybodies need to be reasserted as CCTV cameras become more numerous and more efficient.

Rolling back the surveillance state is not simply about cutting investment in CCTVs or increasing regulation about how they’re used, as politicians have proposed. It is about challenging the culture of surveillance. A stronger case needs to be made for how CCTV imposes on public spaces, erodes trust, fragments relationships and breeds dependency on the watchful eye of authorities.

Internet Eyes and multitude of other devices observing us – from drones to talking cameras – should be switched off for good.

Patrick Hayes is a co-founder of the Institute of Ideas’ Current Affairs Forum and one of the organisers of the Battle of Ideas festival.

India protests TSA patdown of sari-clad envoy

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures alongside Meera Shankar (L), Indian Ambassador to the United States in November 2009. LOEB/AFP/Getty

India protests TSA patdown of Meera Shankar, sari-clad envoy, at Mississippi airport

NY DAILY NEWS | Dec 9, 2010

BY Aliyah Shahid

More storms are brewing for the TSA after the Indian ambassador was forced to undergo a patdown at an airport, reportedly on grounds that she was wearing a sari.

Meera Shankar was in a security line at a Mississippi airport last week when she was pulled out for a hands-on search.

“Let me be frank. This is unacceptable to India. We are going to take it up with the government of the United States so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said in New Delhi.

The controversial patdown also made university officials, who invited Shankar to give a speech, shudder.

“It was a wonderful program, maybe the best we’ve had, (but) this stupid incident ruined the whole thing,” said Janos Radvanyi, chair of Mississippi State University’s international studies department. “She said, ‘I will never come back here,’ We are sending her a letter of apology.”

The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson quoted witnesses saying the ambassador was singled out because of she was wearing the traditional Indian garment.

A TSA spokesman said diplomats are not exempted from the searches and that Shankar was “screened in accordance with TSA’s security policies and procedures.”

In September, the Shankar underwent a similar patdown in Chicago.

“There are well-established conventions, practices as to how diplomats are treated. I am surprised at the way our ambassador has been treated for the second time in three months,” Krishna said.

Extreme U.S. Cold Turns Even More Fierce Next Week

Though the cold will be most extreme as compared to normal across the Southeast, people from North Dakota to New York and Florida will all feel the wrath of this arctic outbreak.

Accuweather | Dec 9, 2010

By Heather Buchman, Meteorologist

If you think this week is cold, just wait until next week arrives. The fiercest blast of arctic air this season thus far will raid the eastern half of the country.

AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski says this could be the most painful cold blast of the entire winter season in many places and the one that people will remember most.

Though the cold will be most extreme as compared to normal across the Southeast, people from North Dakota to New York and Florida will all feel the wrath of this arctic outbreak.

Temperatures in Minneapolis and Fargo will drop well below zero, while punishing winds create subzero AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures for 36 to 48 hours or longer in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Buffalo.

Even people in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., could endure RealFeel® temperatures below zero by midweek.

The worst of the arctic air will first come pouring in to the Upper Midwest this weekend with temperatures possibly failing to rise above zero in Minneapolis and Fargo. While Fargo often experiences this caliber of cold one or more times during the month of December, it is quite a bit more rare to see this occur in Minneapolis so early.

Sunday night, temperatures across most of Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and northwestern Wisconsin will dip between 10 and 20 degrees below zero. With the wind factored in, AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures will be closer to 30 degrees below zero.

During the first half of next week, the arctic air will bleed across the rest of the eastern United States. The extreme cold will be following in the wake of a monster storm set to bring blizzard conditions to parts of the Northeast and Midwest this weekend.

Monday will be the most brutal day for the Southeast with temperatures failing to rise out of the 20s in Nashville and 30s in Atlanta, Birmingham and Charlotte. Highs this frigid are more than 20 degrees below normal.

For several nights, temperatures will plummet into the teens and 20s across much of the interior Southeast. Monday night will be the worst for many residents with lows in the teens spanning from Tennessee to just north of Tampa, Fla.

Across the Midwest, temperatures likely won’t get out of the single digits in the Chicago area Monday. RealFeel® temperatures will plummet more than 20 degrees below zero there early in the morning.

Highs in the teens are forecast for Buffalo, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Detroit early next week.

By Wednesday morning, people in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., will be waking up to temperatures in the teens for the first time this season.

AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi emphasizes that the cold coming will be the most extreme for the Southeast. It is very unusual to have such bitter cold in the Southeast so early in the winter.

Brutal Subzero Arctic Cold Seizing Minneapolis to NYC Next Week

Accuweather | Dec 9, 2010

By Heather Buchman, Meteorologist

Millions of people across the eastern half of the country are in for a shock next week as brutally cold arctic air invades the region.

It only happens about once or twice a decade that we see air this frigid spilling into the Upper Midwest during the month of December.

Even if actual temperatures don’t fall below zero, horrendous winds will make it feel that way from Minneapolis to Chicago, New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C.

The arctic air blasting in will by far be the coldest yet this season, and likely one of the worst of this entire winter in some places, including all the way to the Southeast and even Florida.

Rarity of the Cold Coming

The painful cold will first seize the Upper Midwest on the heels of a blizzard this weekend. Temperatures will likely fail to rise above zero in Minneapolis Sunday.

While subzero highs occur almost every winter in Minneapolis, it is quite rare for them to show up in December. In fact, over the past decade, only two other times (in 2000 and 2008) has a high temperature below zero been recorded in December.

Similarly in the Chicago area, where high temperatures are expected to stay in the single digits Monday, there have only been two times in the last 10 years when the thermometer failed to reach the 10-degree mark.

Highs in Detroit and Indianapolis Monday are forecast to be in the teens, a feat that doesn’t happen all too often in December either.

For the first time this season, New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C., will all record highs in the 20s and lows in the teens Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

If the Cold Weren’t Enough, Just Wait for the Winds

While actual temperatures will be frigid, it’s the wind that will really have people reeling in disgust next week.

AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures, which provide a measure of how cold it feels with the wind factored in, will be well below zero in Minneapolis for several days straight starting Saturday night. These values will reach as low as 30 below zero Saturday night into Sunday morning.

People in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo and perhaps Indianapolis will all endure a 36- to 48-hour period of subzero RealFeel® temperatures during this arctic blast. These values could exceed 20 below zero in Chicago Sunday night and Buffalo Monday night.

In Indianapolis, Cleveland and Detroit, RealFeel® temperatures will dip past 10 below zero at times early next week.

In New York City and Boston, the nighttime and morning hours Tuesday through Wednesday will be the most brutal with RealFeel® temperatures near or below zero.

Cold-stunned turtles wash up on NC beaches, paralyzed by abnormally low temperatures

Associated Press | Dec 8, 2010

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The cold weather gripping the Carolinas has meant stunned sea turtles along the coast and the need for green turtles hatched from a South Carolina nest to hitch a ride to the Gulf Stream.

The StarNews of Wilmington reports that loggerhead sea turtles become paralyzed by abnormally low temperatures.

Thirty additional turtles were reported in trouble Tuesday near Cape Lookout. Twenty other turtles were discovered along the coast earlier, said Karen Beasley, the director of the Topsail Beach Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.

Loggerhead sea turtles are protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.


Sea turtles struggling in cold

The cold weather also means that endangered green sea turtle hatchlings from nests across the state line in South Carolina will need a ride to the warmer offshore waters of the Gulf Stream.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports three late-season green sea turtle nests were found in Garden City Beach. Green sea turtles don’t often lay eggs so far north, preferring warmer waters near Florida and the Caribbean.

Some of the eggs from the nests were recently moved to Charleston.

This week, the hatchlings are to take a boat ride from North Carolina offshore to the Gulf Stream.

DuBose Griffin of the state Department of Natural Resources says the turtles would not survive if they had to swim to the Gulf Stream.

Green turtles can survive in water that is 65 degrees and higher. But the waters off the immediate coast of the Carolinas is now in the mid-50s.

The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston is also working to make space for sea turtles that have been stunned in the Northeast.

More than 100 sea turtles have been brought into the New England Aquarium after they were found stunned on beaches in Cape Cod, Mass.

Kelly Thorvalson, the manager of the sea turtle hospital at the aquarium in Charleston, plans to take three turtles on Thursday to Florida, where they will be released.

That will make more room at the Charleston aquarium to treat turtles if needed.