Forces are using a loophole in surveillance laws that allows them to see stored messages without obtaining a warrant from the home secretary.
Civil liberties campaigners reacted with concern to the disclosure that police were snooping on personal messages so often, without any external monitoring and with few safeguards.
Surveillance laws protect the public from having live phone messages, texts and emails accessed by police unless a warrant is granted by the home secretary.’
‘What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void filled by marketing andconspiracy theories. Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous 20. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.’
- Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us
- Britain the loneliness capital of Europe
- Loneliness: a silent plague that is hurting young people most
- Isolation – a growing issue among older men
- One in five children just want to be rich when they grow up
- Secret Fears of the Super-Rich
- Campaign to End Loneliness: Research
- Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness
‘Front companies in the UK are at the heart of an investigation into one of Europe’s biggest money-laundering operations, allegedly forming part of a conspiracy to make $20bn (£12.5bn) of dirty money look legitimate. The funds are believed to have come from major criminals and corrupt officials around the world wanting to make their ill-gotten cash appear “clean”, so they can spend it without suspicion.
At least 19 UK-based front companies are under suspicion. The scandal highlights how lax corporate rules have made this country an attractive destination for global organised crime. The secrecy company directors are entitled to under UK law is also hindering attempts to identify the “Mr Bigs” behind the scam.
An investigation by The Independent and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an NGO, has identified dozens of firms in a global web spreading from Birmingham to Belize.’
‘The Ministry of Justice has come up with the idea of building a super-prison for children as young as 12, at the core of which will be a regime of punishment and physical restraint. The jail will house around 300 boys and a handful of girls, and includes a planned unit for babies in case the girls get pregnant.
No one, but no one, supports this bizarre proposal, except for the companies that would profit from building the £85m complex. The government has refused to publish the rules or any details about what it is euphemistically calling a “secure college”. Next week the House of Lords will scrutinise the legislation and consider an amendment suggesting the whole idea be put on hold until more details are published.’
- Change law that puts children in jail for minor offences, says report
- Grayling gives green light for staff to use force against inmates in new jail
- Youth Offender ‘Super Prisons’ Plan Condemned
- Young offenders’ institution declared unsafe by chief inspector of prisons
- Plan for Europe’s biggest children’s prison ‘would put young offenders at increased risk of harm or death’
- Inquest into death of Adam Rickwood leaves more questions than answers
- Laura Smith on the death in custody of Gareth Myatt
‘The Islamic State has released the latest propaganda video delivered by captured British journalist John Cantlie, in which he warns of a “third Gulf war”.
In the fourth video from the Lend Me Your Ears video series posted online by the jihadists, the abducted photojournalist said media rhetoric was whipping up support for a “full-blown war” and that Isil was prepared.
Mr Cantlie warned that Isil has “grown exponentially until not even the US military, the policemen of the world, are able to contain them”.
He said the media had learnt nothing from previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the mujahideen were happy to “sit back and watch them (the West) waste trillions more (dollars) to avoid the spectre of another 9/11.”’
- Nafeez Ahmed on the ‘inevitability’ of a ground war against ISIS
- Ex-chief of CIA’s bin Laden unit says Islamic State needs U.S. to intervene
- General Allen: ISIS has made ‘substantial gains’ in Iraq
- Obama faces growing pressure to escalate in Iraq and Syria
- Why Air Strikes Against ISIS Will Fail
- Islamic State ‘adapting to US-led air strikes’
- Islamic State recruitment soaring in wake of U.S. bombing
‘The walls of society are falling down. After months of geopolitical crises tearing through every region, the global economy has seized up and there are supply shortages of everything: food, water, energy. News comes through that riots are breaking out across the UK. What would you do?
John Bland knows exactly what he would do because he is a “prepper”. Preppers are, as the nickname suggests, prepared. To them the collapse of society is not probable, but it is still possible. So they prepare for it in all ways, from boning up on survival skills to having fully stocked bunkers.’
- Ebola and Isis: Black Swans of the Apocalypse?
- Is it time to join the ‘preppers’? How to survive the climate-change apocalypse
- Doomsday preppers: How to survive anything from a zombie apocalypse to a natural disaster
- Inside Britain’s Armageddon houses: Meet the ‘preppers’
- UK Preparedness Network
- UK Preppers Guide
‘The rights group Privacy International asked the British government this morning to investigate a surveillance company for enabling spying on Bahraini activists in the U.K.
The company in question, Gamma Group, is a U.K.-based firm that provides surveillance software and other “lawful intercept” technology to governments around the world. Among their products was FinFisher software, which lets spies remotely monitor a computer they’ve infected — accessing files, web traffic, Skype calls and more. Privacy International asked the U.K.’s National Crime Agency to investigate the company.
“Companies like Gamma have been enabling repressive states’ unlawful conduct, but then seeking to suggest that they bear no responsibility for the products that they supply,” said Adriana Edmeades, Privacy International’s legal officer.’
- Call to probe UK firm over Bahraini ‘spying’ claims
- Bahrain ‘spied on political activists living in the UK’
- Bahraini Activists Hacked by Their Government Go After UK Spyware Maker
- Leaked Files: German Spy Company Helped Bahrain Hack Arab Spring Protesters
- Bahrain Government Hacked Lawyers and Activists with UK Spyware
- Ethiopian refugee ‘illegally’ spied on using British software
‘The British parliament voted Monday in favor of a non-binding motion to recognize the state of Palestine, in a majority vote of 274-12.
The vote, which followed a debate that lasted nearly five hours, has no practical significance since it does not oblige the British government to change its current policy of recognizing Palestine only after a peace deal is reached between Israel and the Palestinians. The vote passed thanks to the Labour Party’s mobilization, as well as the Conservative Party’s virtual absence from the vote.
Outside the Palace of Westminster over the course of the debate, a small group of Pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a banner saying “Time to start giving back what we had no right to take” – a reference to the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which the British government committed itself to establishing a “national home” for the Jewish people in Palestine. Inside, many of the speakers in the debate, in which over 50 members of parliament asked to participate, mentioned the Balfour Declaration as well, and with it what they saw as Britain’s special responsibility to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict.’
- MPs’ vote on Palestine state recognition is part of growing international trend
- Israel decries UK vote on Palestinian state; PLO rejoices
- Labour split on vote over Palestine state
- George Galloway to Abstain as it ‘Accepts Recognition of Israel’
- Swedish PM’s recognition of Palestine violates law, says legislator
- Christian clerics to Europe: Recognize Palestinian statehood
- EU set to reassess ties if Israel doesn’t move on peace
- UK-Israel trade hits record high despite Gaza carnage
- Sweden: Israel is not being singled out
- Israel to Summon Swedish Envoy Over Palestine Recognition
‘“UKIP MP strangely familiar”. “Anything bends if you f**k about with it enough, says Apple.” “Non-smokers have no way to signal that sex is over.” Those are just a typical day’s headlines from The Daily Mash, the British satirical website that has become a surprise dotcom money-spinner – even if Nigella Lawson failed to see the joke.
Launched by a pair of disillusioned newspaper journalists in 2007, who spotted a gap for a domestic parody news website inspired by the success of The Onion in the US, The Daily Mash has grown from a source of online distraction for office workers into a thriving business, complete with a lucrative merchandise sideline.’
‘The UK authorities are operating a surveillance system where “anything goes” and their interceptions are more intrusive to people’s privacy than has been seen in the US, Edward Snowden said.
Speaking via Skype at the Observer Ideas festival, held in central London, the whistleblower and former National Security Agency specialist, said there were “really no limits” to the GCHQ’s surveillance capabilities.’
- Edward Snowden: It was worth it
- Snowden Doc ‘Citizenfour’ Reveals Existence of Second NSA Whistleblower
- Snowden documentary shows that only government transparency can stop leaks
- Snowden lawyer urges consideration of effects of mass surveillance
- Snowden’s Privacy Tips: “Get Rid Of Dropbox,” Avoid Facebook And Google
- Snowden wins Guardian readers’ Nobel peace prize poll, ahead of Malala Yousafzai
‘Three of the UK’s four big mobile phone networks have made customers’ call records available at the click of a mouse to police forces through automated systems, a Guardian investigation has revealed.
EE, Vodafone and Three operate automated systems that hand over customer data “like a cash machine”,as one phone company employee described it.
Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a transparency watchdog, said: “If companies are providing communications data to law enforcement on automatic pilot, it’s as good as giving police direct access [to individual phone bills].”
O2, by contrast, is the only major phone network requiring staff to review all police information requests, the company said.’
- Theresa May vows Tory government would introduce ‘snooper’s charter’
- ISPs take legal action against GCHQ over mass network infrastructure surveillance
- NSA and GCHQ Using the ‘Treasure Map’ to Real-Time Spy on World’s Internet and Telecom Networks
- GCHQ ‘set up fake LinkedIn profiles to spy on mobile phone networks’
- NSA and GCHQ caught spying on Angry Birds players
- Mass surveillance in the United Kingdom
- Farage says UKIP could hold balance of power in 2015
- Ukip wins Clacton and nearly wins Heywood & Middleton
- Vote UKIP, get Labour, warns David Cameron
- Cameron to unveil EU immigration crackdown following Ukip victory
- UKIP leader Nigel Farage defends HIV remarks
- The front pages: UKIP election surge reaction
- BBC receives almost 1,200 complaints over Ukip May election coverage
- UKIP are not an “Alternative”
- Ukippers say the funniest things
‘In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.
As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.’
‘[...] Politicians and pundits talk about welfare as if it’s solely cash given to people. Hardly ever discussed is corporate welfare: the grants and subsidies, the contracts and cut-price loans that government hands over to business. Yet some of our biggest companies and industries operate a business model that depends on them extracting money from the British taxpayer. The operators of our supposedly privatised train services are kept afloat by billions in public money. Or take the firm created by billionaire Jeff Bezos: last year it emerged that Amazon had paid less in corporation tax to the UK than it had received in government grants.
The bill for corporate welfare is huge – and largely hidden. We know a lot about the people who claim social welfare: we know how much each benefit costs the public, the government sets strict rules for eligibility – and we even have detailed estimates for how much cheating goes on. Between them, Whitehall, academia and NGOs have churned out enough surveys on social welfare claimants to fill a wing of the Bodleian library. But corporate welfare? The government has itself acknowledged: “There is no definitive source of data about spending on subsidies to businesses in the UK.” The numbers are scattered across government publications and there is not even any agreement on what counts as a corporate handout.’
- Osborne aims at tax credits and benefits in new squeeze on working poor
- LGA: Cut to council crisis funding would affect ‘thousands’
- Disney earns £170m in tax breaks as UK film industry grows
- Amazon earns more through government grants than it pays in tax
- UK banks benefited from £38bn ‘too big to fail’ state subsidy
- Britain rules the world of tax havens, Queen is warned
- UK is becoming a tax haven for multi-nationals at the expense of domestic shopkeepers
- Forget Benefits Street. When will we shame the scroungers lapping up corporate welfare?
- Scroungers: How Much Does the Corporate Welfare State Cost the Tax Payer
- The Corporate Welfare State
‘If Britain’s big supermarkets fondly imagined that they’d come roaring back to health once the recession ended, then they’ve been sorely disappointed. Instead, as the new Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, put it: “The reality is that the market has changed more rapidly in the last three to six months than I’ve seen in my 30 years in the industry.”
And Sainsbury’s isn’t even the company most in trouble. Tesco has been caught cooking its books in order to make its fall in profits look slightly less vertiginous. The conventional wisdom is that this is all because shoppers are flocking to Aldi and Lidl. Maybe that’s part of it. But figures from August confirm that the big four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – still have a market share of nearly 75%. Between them, Aldi and Lidl have 8.4%. The real difference is that, with their pared-down approach, those two sell at a decent profit.
The success of Aldi and Lidl does mean something, of course. But I suspect that Britain’s changing grocery habits are the consequence of much more than mere bargain hunting. As a society, we are a bit different post-recession. I think a lot of people’s lives and priorities have changed.’
‘One in ten current world leaders have studied in the UK, according to research by the British Council.
The analysis found that of heads of state who have studied at universities abroad, the proportion of UK alumni rises even higher to 31% – a close second to those who’ve studied in the USA (34%). But when measured as a proportion of total students in each country, analysis suggests that the UK is ten times more likely to produce a world leader than the USA – UK universities produces one world leader per 50,000 graduates, whereas the US produces one per 500,000.’
‘Britons must accept a greater loss of digital freedoms in return for greater safety from serious criminals and terrorists in the internet age, according to the country’s top law enforcement officer.
Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said in an interview with the Guardian that it would be necessary to win public consent for new powers to monitor data about emails and phone calls.
Warning that the biggest threats to public safety are migrating to the internet and that crime fighters are scrambling to keep up, the NCA boss said he accepted he had not done a good enough job explaining to the public why the greater powers were necessary.’
- Public told: Let us spy on you online more to keep you safe
- UK crime agency seeks total access to citizens’ emails, social media content
- Julian Huppert warns Labour likely to bring in snooper’s charter
- Theresa May vows Tory government would introduce ‘snooper’s charter’
- GCHQ’s Online Spying Tricks: Rigged Polls, Facebook Propaganda, Skype, LinkedIn Info Capture
- Latest Snowden Leak Is Devastating to NSA Defenders
- 10 Biggest Revelations From Edward Snowden’s Leaks
- Timeline of Edward Snowden’s revelations
- The NSA files
‘As investors fled Europe in the worst days of its sovereign debt crisis, China-based companies moved in the other direction and surged in, with cash flowing from China into some of the hardest-hit countries of the eurozone periphery.
In 2010, the total stock of Chinese direct investment in the EU was just over €6.1bn – less than what was held by India, Iceland or Nigeria. By the end of 2012, Chinese investment stock had quadrupled, to nearly €27bn, according to figures compiled by Deutsche Bank.
The buying spree, analysts say, was nothing short of a transformation of the model of Chinese outbound investment. It is expected to increase steadily over the next decade.’
- China Global Investment Tracker
- For China, First the Waldorf, Then the World
- China took 12.3 per cent of world economy in 2013
- How Much U.S. Debt Does China Hold? The U.S. Isn’t Sure
- Swiss/China swap deal opens yuan
- Yuan trading gains traction in Europe
- A parallel Chinese financial order
- China’s President Xi Jinping signs Venezuela oil deal
- China Buys Friends and Influences Nations
- Jim Rogers: China to be most important country in 21st century
- Jim Rogers: China will gain massive power and influence by bailing out EU
- China’s replica of Wall Street: Half-built and deserted skyscrapers, floods regularly
‘Police chiefs have been ordered to reveal how many times they have used broad surveillance powers to spy on journalists.
The Interception of Communications Commissioner has issued a directive to all chief constables as part of an inquiry into whether the authorities are abusing their powers by using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) to uncover confidential sources.
The surveillance watchdog has been under pressure to act after revelations that the police obtained communications data relating to journalists on The Sun and The Mail on Sunday without permission from a judge or the newspapers knowledge.’
- Police told to reveal extent of their ‘anti-terror’ snooping on journalists
- Information watchdog to investigate police ‘spying’ on journalists’ sources
- How police hacked Mail on Sunday to identify source who exposed Chris Huhne
- Sun makes official complaint over police use of Ripa against journalists
- ECHR to investigate UK spying laws on journalists
- Nick Davies says journalists should find out from RIPA tribunal if police have spied on them
‘[...] Livestock thefts have increased on British farms during the past few years, and jumped again by 24% last year. According to figures from the insurance company NFU Mutual, which insures around three quarters of the UK’s farmers, around 90,000 animals were stolen last year – mostly sheep, though pigs and cattle have also been targeted – costing farmers £6.5m. The word rustling sounds almost quaint, with its connotations of centuries-old mischiefs, or wild west-style lawlessness, but it can be hugely damaging to many farmers’ livelihoods, has serious welfare issues for the animals taken and could have terrible consequences if diseases are spread. It can even affect the health of the customers who buy illegal meat.’
‘Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Justice, acted illegally in trying to drive through multi-million pound legal aid cuts that could have led to the closure of hundreds of legal firms, a High Court Judge has ruled.
The Government has been told to halt its cost-cutting plans for legal aid payments for duty solicitors at police stations. Under the plans, the work currently carried out by 1,600 firms would be limited to 525 contracts, leading to closures and mergers of high-street legal firms attempting to make the new system pay.’
‘Let’s get this straight. The Conservative party or its leadership are not being reluctantly dragged rightwards. They are boldly going into the blue yonder, because that’s where their yearnings take them. Out of Europe is not just a policy, it’s a proxy for all they hate, from human rights to welfare. Outism is a romantic longing for all their little England could be, if only it were free of everything – possibly including voters.
The chancellor ratcheted rightwards with undisguised glee, welfare cuts his totemic message. Brazenly he reprised “All in it together” as yet again his £3.2bn cuts divided young from old and low-paid from the wealthier with a pensions bonanza for their heirs. Will voters think it “fair” to take an average of £300 and up to £1,300 from low-income households? Not idlers, but 7 million are “hardworking” families: abysmal low pay is why they need tax credits. Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research points to the inequality effect: with Osborne forecasting pay rising by 3.5-4.5% by 2018, this cut accelerates the divide. Hidden in here is a housing benefit cut that will cause evictions: already landlords refuse to let to tenants on housing benefit.’
- David Cameron pledges tax cuts for millions
- Osborne proposes two year benefits freeze
- Benefits to be paid onto smart cards
- Fury As Brain Damaged Man Is Deemed ‘Fit For Work’
- Now taxman can grab £17k straight from your salary
- Desperate shopkeeper facing huge energy bill hanged himself moments after British Gas cut electricity supply
- Household energy bills rise 4% while price paid for gas and electricity by Big Six suppliers falls by up to 20%
- Working parents lose out on free school meals
- English councils report £25m shortfall on free school meals programme
- ‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’
- Foodbank figures top 900,000
- Humiliated blind woman asked by ATOS benefits assessor: ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’
- 212,000 people ‘beaten up for being on benefits’ after being demonised as scroungers
- Welfare claimants to get attitude tests, employment minister reveals
- ‘Bedroom Tax’ One Step Closer To Abolition After Tories Are Defeated In Crucial Vote
‘George Osborne has urged businesses to raise their heads “above the parapet” and counter what he sees as an anti-free market movement led by trade unions and charities.
Speaking to business leaders at the Institute of Directors’ annual convention, Osborne said principles of enterprise and business as a force for widespread prosperity were “up for grabs” for the first time in his adult life.
Osborne told the audience at London’s Royal Albert Hall: “You have to get out there and put the business argument. Because there are plenty of pressure groups, plenty of trade unions and plenty of charities and the like, that will put the counter view.”‘
- Osborne faces backlash after branding charities ‘anti-business
- How the super rich got richer: 10 shocking facts about inequality
- The privileged few are tightening their grip on the arts
- Stop rich overseas investors from buying up UK homes, report urges
- British unions slam government’s austerity measures
- Tories to ban strikes if less than half of workers back them
Thousands of people who have taken out payday loans from firms other than Wonga should also have their interest and charges wiped out, say consumer and legal experts.
This follows the announcement on Thursday that the payday lender was forced by the Financial Conduct Authority, the new City regulator to write off £220m of loans to 375,000 borrowers after the firm admitted those people should never have been given loans.
The company, which charges annualised interest rates of up to 5,853% a year and has been accused by MPs of “legal loan sharking”, said it would entirely wipe out loans to 330,000 people, and scrap interest and charges owed by a further 45,000 customers.’
Editor’s Note: Another award for Tony Blair when he should be serving a long jail sentence for war crimes. He may have done some good things for the LGBT community in Britain, but what about the LGBT community in places like Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships that Blair has cuddled up to for many years? Don’t they count?
‘Tony Blair has been recognised as one of the top gay icons of the past three decades, along with figures such as Boy George, Sir Ian McKellen and Barbra Streisand.
He has been given the accolade by Gay Times to mark its 30th anniversary.
Blair’s period as PM saw the lowering of the gay age of consent, bringing it into line with that for straight couples, as well as the introduction of civil partnerships.
Gay Times said Blair’s status as an ambassador of gay rights was undeniable.’
- From Egypt to Saudi Arabia: The world according to Tony Blair
- The hypocrisy of Tony Blair’s Middle East vision
- Demented Tony Blair recites the Saudis’ creed in his latest speech
- Tony Blair advises Kazakh president on publicity after killing of protesters
- Tony Blair lambasted by former employee over role in own charity
- Little Tony Blairs of Kosovo: the boys named after the ‘great man’
- Blair defends Saudi probe ruling
‘“Theresa May will also announce that the Conservative manifesto will contain pledges to introduce banning orders for extremist groups and extremism disruption orders for extremists who spread hate but do not break existing laws.” Conservative briefing note.
The home secretary’s manifesto plan to silence extremists by banning their access to the web and television is cast far wider than the Islamist “preachers of hate” of tabloid headlines. As David Cameron pointed out, the Conservatives now want to look at the “full spectrum of extremism” and not just the “hard end” of that spectrum that counter-terrorism policy has focused on up to now.
The difference is spelled out in the detail of the policy, where it says that it is intended to catch not just those who “spread or incite hatred” on grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.’
‘Theresa May, the current UK Home Secretary, has announced that, if re-elected, her party (the Conservatives) will push for “extremist disruption orders” which would effectively ban people declared “extremist” (using a very broad definition) from using social media or appearing on TV.
Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.
They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.
The broad definitions here matter. Part of the plan is to make such rules cover a wide variety of groups and individuals, based on what the government “reasonably believes” they may be up to.’
- Extremists to have Facebook and Twitter vetted by anti-terror police
- Theresa May vows Tory government would introduce ‘snooper’s charter’
- Theresa May: British values will prevail over extremists
- A short analysis of the Home Secretary’s speech to the 2014 Conservative Party Conference
- What are Theresa May’s new ‘extremism disruption orders’?