Daily Archives: June 9, 2011

Garbage cams deployed to monitor recycling performance

Goal is to get people to reflect on habits, but privacy group says it’s humiliating

MSNBC | Jun 8, 2011

The garbage tracking program uses a camera that takes a picture each time the lid is closed. Scott Heppell / AP

LONDON — Now on Facebook: Your garbage.

Five British households have signed up for a Newcastle University program announced Wednesday that puts photographs of every item placed in a garbage can on Facebook in a bid to raise consciousness about recycling efforts.

The “BinCam” uses a sensor and a camera phone to record the image each time the garbage can lid is shut. The person who does that is not photographed.

Households that participate will be rated on how efficiently they recycle.

“Normally when you throw something away and the lid goes down you forget about it — out of sight out of mind — and that’s the end of it,” said Anja Thieme, one of the postgraduate students in charge of the project. “But the reality could not be further from the truth. Waste has a massive environmental impact.”

She said the program is not designed to humiliate people who recycle poorly but to make people reflect on how they dispose of waste.

Early results are encouraging, researchers said, as the amount of garbage thrown away and not recycled has diminished in the weeks since the program began.

But the privacy advocacy group Big Brother Watch is raising concerns about the pilot project.

“This sounds like an elaborate joke — except it isn’t,” said director Daniel Hamilton. “Encouraging recycling is fine but publicly humiliating those who choose not to is outrageous.”

He said he would not be surprised if some local councils in England start similar programs.

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Freemason used dark arts to set up spy ring of corrupt cops on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s News International


Jonathan Rees leaves court after being acquitted of the axe murder of his former partner Daniel Morgan. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

Phone-hacking scandal: Jonathan Rees obtained information using dark arts

Freemason set up network of corrupt police, customs officials, taxmen and bank staff to gain valuable information

guardian.co.uk | Jun 8, 2011

by Nick Davies

Years ago, Jonathan Rees became a freemason. According to journalists and investigators who worked with him, he then exploited his link with the lodges to meet masonic police officers who illegally sold him information which he peddled to Fleet Street.

As one of Britain’s most prolific merchants of secrets, Rees expanded his network of sources by recruiting as his business partner Sid Fillery, a detective sergeant from the Metropolitan Police. Fillery added more officers to their network. Rees also boasted of recruiting corrupt Customs officers, a corrupt VAT inspector and two corrupt bank employees.

Other police contacts are said to have been blackmailed into providing confidential information. One of Rees’s former associates claims that Rees had compromising photographs of serving officers, including one who was caught in a drunken state with a couple of prostitutes and with a toilet seat around his neck.

It is this network of corruption which lies at the heart of yesterday’s claim in the House of Commons by Labour MP Tom Watson that Rees was targeting politicians, members of the royal family and even terrorist informers on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. The Guardian’s own inquiries suggest that Watson knows what he is talking about.

Much of what the police sources were able to sell to Rees was directly related to crime. But Rees also bought and sold confidential data on anybody who was of interest to his Fleet Street clients, to which the police often had special access. The Guardian has confirmed that Rees reinforced his official contacts with two specialist ‘blaggers’ who would telephone the Inland Revenue, the DVLA, banks and phone companies and trick them into handing over private data.

Related

One of the blaggers who regularly worked for him, John Gunning, was responsible for obtaining details of bank accounts belonging to Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, which were then sold to the Sunday Mirror. Gunning was later convicted of illegally obtaining confidential data from British Telecom. Rees also obtained details of accounts at Coutts Bank belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Kent. The bank accounts of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, are also thought to have been compromised.

Confidential data

The Guardian has been told that Rees spoke openly about obtaining confidential data belonging to senior politicians and recorded their names in his paperwork. One source close to Rees claims that apart from Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, he also targeted Gaynor Regan, who became the second wife of the former foreign secretary Robin Cook; the former shadow home secretary Sir Gerald Kaufman; and the former Tory cabinet minister David Mellor.

It is not yet known precisely what Rees was doing to obtain information on these political targets, although in the case of Mandelson it appears that Rees acquired confidential details of two bank accounts he held at Coutts, and his building society account at Britannia. Rees is also said to have targeted the bank accounts of members of Mandelson’s family.

An investigator who worked for Rees claims he was also occasionally commissioning burglaries of public figures to steal material for newspapers. Southern Investigations has previously been implicated in handling paperwork that was stolen by a professional burglar from the safe of Paddy Ashdown’s lawyer, when Ashdown was leader of the Liberal Democrats. The paperwork, which was eventually obtained by the News of the World, recorded Ashdown discussing his fears that newspapers might expose an affair with his secretary.

Computer hacking

The successful hacking of a computer belonging to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst was achieved in July 2006 by sending Hurst an email containing a Trojan programme which copied Hurst’s emails and relayed them back to the hacker. This included messages he had exchanged with at least two agents who informed on the Provisional IRA — Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife; and a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the very few people who knew their whereabouts. The hacker cannot be named for legal reasons.

There would be further security concern if evidence finally confirms strong claims by those close to Rees that he claimed to have targeted the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stephens, who would have had regular access to highly sensitive intelligence. Sir John’s successor, Sir Ian Blair, is believed to have been targeted by the News of the World’s full-time investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Assistant commissioner John Yates was targeted by Rees when Yates was running inquiries into police corruption in the late 1990s. It appears that Yates did not realise that he himself had been a target when he was responsible for the policing of the phone-hacking affair between July 2009 and January 2011.

Targeting the Bank of England, Rees is believed to have earned thousands of pounds by penetrating the past or present mortgage accounts of the then governor, Eddie George; his deputy, Mervyn King, who is now governor; and half-a-dozen other members of the Monetary Policy Committee.

Rees carried out his trade for years. His career as a pedlar of privacy stretches back into the 1990s, when he worked assiduously for the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the News of the World.

Rees and Fillery had three key media contacts, some of whose conversations with them were recorded by a police bug in their south London office: Doug Kempster from the Sunday Mirror, who was recorded suggesting that “Asians look better dead”; Gary Jones from the Daily Mirror, who was recorded as Rees told him that some of what he was doing for the Mirror was illegal; and Alex Marunchak, the executive editor of the News of the World.

This lucrative career was crudely interrupted in September 1999 when Rees was arrested and then jailed for plotting to plant cocaine on a woman so that her ex-husband would get custody of her children. Sid Fillery similarly ran into trouble with the long of the arm of the law which he was so keen to twist. He was arrested, convicted for possession of indecent images of children and retreated to Norfolk to run a pub. Rees, however, emerged from prison in May 2004 and proceeded to carry on trading, this time exclusively for the News of the World, then being edited by Andy Coulson, who went on to become David Cameron’s media adviser.

The scale and seriousness of Rees’s activities have worrying implications for Operation Weeting, the Scotland Yard inquiry which finally — unlike its two predecessors — is making a robust attempt to get to the truth of the scandal. Weeting has been told to focus on one private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire; on one illegal technique, phone-hacking; which he deployed for the one newspaper which paid him on a full-time contract, the News of the World. That alone is consuming the full-time efforts of 45 officers.

The truth is that Mulcaire was only one of a dozen different investigators, many of whom used other illegal techniques. And the News of the World, as journalists all over Fleet Street know, was not the only enthusiastic employer of these dark arts. Mulcaire and his phone-hacking became the single focus through the simple fluke that he was clumsy enough to get caught interfering with the voicemail of the royal household — the one target which would finally move the police into taking on a Fleet Street paper. The police famously failed to look beyond him, and it is only now that the rest of the truth is beginning to emerge.

With the new disclosures of Rees’s operation there will be pressure on Weeting to expand its inquiry, which would involve recruiting still more officers. And, in the background, there is a small queue of other investigators waiting to have their names — along with their Fleet Street clients — added to Weeting’s list of suspects. High among them will be a former Metropolitan police detective who was accused of corruption in the early 1980s and forced out of his job after a disciplinary hearing.

Senior Yard sources say this detective then came up with a novel form of revenge. He acquired a press card and proceeded to act as a link between Fleet Street crime correspondents and the network of corrupt detectives he knew so well.

Former crime reporters from several national newspapers have told the Guardian that they used this detective to carry cash bribes — thousands of pounds in brown envelopes — to serving officers. Scotland Yard for years has been aware of his activity and has attempted but failed to catch him and stop him.

The crime reporters say that one reason for the Yard’s failure is that, when the Yard tried to stop the corruption, serving officers tipped them off so they could evade detection.

And there is more. The Guardian has identified a total of eleven specialist ‘blaggers’ who were paid by wealthy clients, including Fleet Street newspapers, to steal medical records, bank statements, itemised phone bills, tax files and anything else that was both confidential and newsworthy.

Genetically engineered toxins found in foetuses

GE toxins found in foetuses, research shows

3news.co.nz | Jun 9, 2011

By Jonny Talbot

Toxins from genetically engineered foods have been found in the blood of pregnant woman and foetuses, according to new research from Canada.

Research from the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec found traces of Bt toxin Cry 1 – an insecticide genetically engineered into GE food crops such as maize and potatoes – in pregnant women’s blood.

These findings have prompted the Soil and Health Association of New Zealand, which opposes GE derivatives in food, to call for a rethink on GE derivative based foods.

Association spokesperson Steffan Browning said the Government could remedy the situation by “reassessing or withdrawing the approximately seventy GE food lines approved for use in the New Zealand food supply”.

Greenpeace Australia, GE spokesperson Laura Kelly agrees and says she is worried by the findings.

“When fed to rats, these Bt toxins damaged the test animal’s livers and kidneys. It is outrageous that we don’t know what impact this will have on their development,” she says.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) principal advisor on toxicology John Reeve says people should not be concerned by the findings.

“The research findings do not give rise to any concerns. The pesticides discussed have no effects on mammals, including humans, at levels far higher than likely to be found in food,” he says.

“The effects are only seen at extremely high doses as each of the pesticides is of very low toxicity to humans.”

Soil and Health are calling for improved labelling on foods which contain ingredients such as genetically-engineered maize.

“There are very few foods able to be correctly identified in food stores, although GE material is now in very many processed food items” says Mr Browning.

But Mr Reeve says MAF’s present labelling system – regulated by the Australian Food Standards Code – provides consumers with adequate information.

“The code already requires that foods with genetically modified material, with altered characteristics, have a statement ‘genetically modified’ in conjunction with the name of the modified material on the label,” he says.

Mr Reeve says MAF are aware of the research and there is no need to change the present regulations.

World Health Organization’s small pox virus cache may become ‘poor man’s atom bomb’

indiatimes.com | May 28, 2011

BANGALORE: The resolution by the World Health Organization (WHO) to hold on to the two last known remaining stocks of the smallpox virus for “crucial research” raises the spectre of bioterrorism, warns a leading Indian virologist.

“If the destruction is delayed indefinitely, the synthesis and preparation of small pox virus as a bio-weapon, by a non-superpower would increase and it may truly become a poor man’s atom bomb,” says Kalyan Banerjee, former director of the National Institute of Virology in Pune.

The World Health Assembly-WHO’s decision-making body-announced Tuesday that it would defer until 2014 any decision on the destruction of the two remaining stocks of the virus since “crucial research” based on the virus remains to be completed.

After smallpox was officially eradicated in 1980, all countries were asked to surrender their stocks of the virus to the WHO to prevent accidental release. Currently the virus is held at two WHO-sanctioned repositories – the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and a Russian facility in Koltsovo in Siberia.

The debate over whether or not to destroy these two last samples had been going on since 1980. But the WHO has constantly been postponing the date of destruction under pressure from the United States and Russia that wanted to retain the samples until the needed research was complete to develop new drugs and vaccines to counter a potential bioterror attack.

“In my opinion, the world will gain much more by destroying the last traces of the virus than by keeping it,” said Banerjee who himself was former member of a WHO advisory committee on smallpox research and now a committee adviser.

“The arguments tendered in favour of retaining the virus appear to be unconvincing,” he told IANS. “To put it bluntly, it is the same logic, by which the superpowers continue the possession of the nuclear weapons; they wish to hold on to the smallpox virus as a super bio-weapon.”

“The research is being drawn on and on, but research cannot be made a tool or apology for the indefinite retention of the virus,” Banerjee said.

Farting Death Camels Must Die To Save The World!

Carbon plan to unleash kill-choppers against dromedaries

theregister.co.uk | Jun 8, 2011

By Lewis Page

An Adelaide-based entrepreneur has hit upon a novel method of fighting global warming: he intends to exterminate Australia’s vast population of feral camels by means of gunfire from helicopters and jeeps, so preventing the beasts from unleashing a deadly planet-wrecking miasma of greenhouse gas from their rumbling guts.

The idea is that the War On Dromedaries would be paid for – and indeed, turn a profit – by selling government carbon credits issued on the basis that a dead camel cannot be emitting methane by means of belch or trouser cough. Methane is a vastly more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, so the elimination of even quite small sources of it can equate to a substantial carbon-emissions reduction.

In fact, according to the calculations of Tim Moore – managing director of Oz firm Northwest Carbon – the campaign against the camels would yield substantial results indeed. He calculates that each of the feral dromedaries roaming Australia’s mostly desolate interior belches or farts out no less than 45kg of methane each year, equating to a thumping tonne of CO2. On average, each camel assassination will prevent the equivalent of 15 tonnes of carbon emissions.

The resulting certificates, Moore reckons, could easily be traded for enough money to cover the costs of blasting the dromedaries from helicopters or 4x4s and disposing of the bodies, which could perhaps be sold for pet food.

More than a million mustang droms are thought to prowl the Australian interior, having bred there after camels were imported during the 19th century to act as beasts of burden. The creatures have become pests: in one well-known case in 2009, the outback town of Docker River was overrun by thirsty camels seeking water.

“If everyone knew what they were doing, people would be more concerned,” Moore tells the Financial Times, “especially when they start coming into town and kicking down your toilet.”

The Australian government is considering whether Northwest Carbon’s camel-busting plans are eligible to benefit under its carbon initiatives. Full details can be viewed here in PDF.