Briefly…

The UK Criminal Justice weblog looks like an interesting resource. (via Mad Musings of Me)

The BBC discusses inaccuracies in the media reports on the war, and ponders on some of the reasons for them. (No doubt inspired by my ruminations on the subject ;-)

The Memory Hole is a website by a guy called Russ Kick, who has edited some of the disinformation books. This is how he describes it: “The Memory Hole exists to preserve and spread material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known … The emphasis is on material that exposes things that we’re not supposed to know (or that we’re supposed to forget).” It looks like an interesting site, and includes some pretty no-holds barred coverage of the graphic realities of this war that we’re in. (via skimble)

Blunkett on Asylum

I was listening to the Today program over breakfast this morning and David Blunkett was being interviewed over plans to have asylum seekers processed or moved to countries outside the EU in various circumstances.

I’m afraid that I wasn’t paying the closest of attention at first, and I can’t find any details of this report on their website to fact-check, but one thing caught my attention. There was a discussion that seemed to be about what to do with asylum seekers who had their applications rejected but for whom deportation to their home countries was deemed to be a risk for them (our laws prohibit us from doing this).

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t this the whole point of an asylum system – to provide shelter for those who are at risk in their countries of origin? What exactly has to have happened to someone for his or her application to be granted?

Haliburton’s Iraq Contract

Lisa Rein notes the award of a contract to “put out oil fires and make emergency repairs to Iraq’s oil infrastructure” to Haliburton. The report she cites also makes this observation: “But its biggest value could be that it puts Halliburton in a prime position to handle the complete refurbishment of Iraq’s long-neglected oil infrastructure, which will be a plum job.” Does this surprise anyone?

(via Boing Boing)

Scammin’

I got one of those dodgy emails about vast fortunes found in African bank accounts today. I can’t believe that someone’s still doing this – surely everyone knows this is a scam? (As if anyone even needs warning anyway, it’s just so utterly ridiculous). And why does this guy feel the need to SHOUT?

From felix_lamine@libero.it  Thu Mar 27 17:13:00 2003
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Received: from libero.it (193.70.192.62) by smtp1.libero.it (6.7.015)
        id 3E68E7F1001892A1; Thu, 27 Mar 2003 11:33:53 +0100
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2003 11:33:52 +0100
Message-Id: 
Subject: from_lamine
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From: felix_lamine@libero.it
X-XaM3-API-Version: 3.2 R29 (B54 pl1)
X-type: 0
X-SenderIP: 213.136.97.64
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

DEAR,

I AM THE DIRECTOR OF BILLS AND EXCHANGE AT THE FOREIGN REMITTANCE 
DEPARTMENT OF OUR BANK HERE IN ABIDJAN COTE D'IVOIRE.

IN MY DEPARTMENT WE DISCOVERED AN ABANDONED SUM OF US$12.500,000.00 
(TWELEVE. FIVE MILLION USD ONLY) IN AN ACCOUNT THAT BELONGS TO ONE OF OUR 
FOREIGN CUSTOMERS WHO DIED ALONG WITH HIS ENTIRE FAMILY IN NOVEMBER 1999 
IN A PLANE CRASH.

SINCE WE GOT INFORMATION ABOUT HIS DEATH, WE HAVE BEEN EXPECTING HIS NEXT 
OF KIN TO COME OVER AND CLAIM HIS MONEY BECAUSE WE CANNOT RELEASE IT 
UNLESS SOMEBODY APPLIES FOR IT AS NEXT OF KIN OR RELATION TO THE DECEASED 
AS INDICATED IN OUR BANKING GUIDELINES.

UNFORTUNATELY WE LEARNT THAT ALL HIS SUPPOSED NEXT OF KIN OR RELATIONS 
DIED ALONG WITH HIM AT THE PLANE CRASH LEAVING NOBODY BEHIND FOR THE CLAIM.

IT IS THEREFORE UPON THIS DISCOVERY THAT I AND ONE OF THE OFFICIALS IN THE 
DEPARTMENT NOW DECIDED TO MAKE BUSINESS WITH YOU AND RELEASE THE MONEY TO 
YOU AS THE NEXT OF KIN OR RELATIONS OF THE DECEASED FOR SAFETY AND 
SUBSEQUENT DISBURSEMENT SINCE NOBODY IS COMING FOR IT AND WE DON'T WANT 
THIS MONEY TO GO DISBURSEMENT ACCOUNT AS UNCLAIMED BILL.

THE BANKING LAW AND GUIDELINES HERE STIPULATED THAT IF SUCH MONEY REMAINED 
UNCLAIMED AFTER FOUR YEARS THE MONEY WILL BE TRANSFERRED INTO FEDERAL 
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNT AS UNCLAIMED FUND. THE REQUEST OF A FOREIGNER AS NEXT 
OF KIN IN THIS BUSINESS IS OCCASIONED BY THE FACT THAT THE CUSTOMERS WAS A 
FOREIGNER AND AN IVORIEN CANNOT STAND AS NEXT OF KIN TO A FOREIGNER.

WE AGREE THAT 15% OF THIS MONEY WILL BE FOR YOU AS FOREIGN PARTNER AND 5% 
FOR EXPENSES INCURRED DURING THE COURSE OF REMITTANCE. THEREAFTER TO THE 
PERCENTAGES INDICATED.

THEREFORE TO ENABLE THE IMMEDIATE TRANSFER OF THE FUND TO YOU AS ARRANGED. 
YOU MUST APPLY FIRST TO THE BANK AS A RELATION OR NEXT OF KIN OF THE 
DECEASED INDICATING YOUR BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER AND LOCATION WHERE IN THE 
MONEY WILL BE REMITTED . UPON RECEIPT OF YOUR REPLY I WILL SEND TO YOU THE 
TEXT OF THE APPLICATION. AS SOON AS YOU RECEIVE THIS LETTER, YOU SHOULD 
CONTACT ME IMMEDIATELY AND INDICATE YOUR DIRECT AND CONFIDENTIAL TELEPHONE/
FAX NUMBERS FOR THE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION REQUIRED.

TRUSTING TO HEAR FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY ON TELEPHONE NUMBER 0022507822694.

YOURS FAITHFULLY,

FELIX LAMINE
 FOREIGN OPERATIONS

DNA, data retention and civil liberties

Widely reported today (here and here, for instance) are the proposals to allow the Police to retain fingerprint and DNA data on anyone arrested for a crime, even if they should later not be charged.

I don’t think that it is unreasonable for suspects in an investigation to provide this sort of identifying data. Anyone innocent of a crime should be confident that this should help exclude him or her from the investigation. It’s the fact that the data will be retained by the Police that causes me some concern (and this is the major change to the law here – which is being introduced as an amendment to the criminal justice bill). Lord Falconer, a Home Office minister, was interviewed on the Today program this morning, and he came out with a figure of 300,000 when asked how many people arrested each year were later released without charge. All these people would have their data held by the police under these proposals.

As I’ve discussed before, I generally feel uncomfortable about the state holding large databases of deeply personal information on the general population. Measures like this may seem fairly small when reported individually, but it’s important to look at the broader picture. Over the last few months alone, there has been discussion of the “Entitlement Card” (read “ID card”) scheme, the communication data monitoring proposals and now this. The sheer quantity of data identifying you, what you do and who you talk to that the state wants to begin collecting is growing fast. Then juxtapose this against other developments such as the reports of suppression of dissent occurring in the States and I for one begin to feel uncomfortable.

Changes to the law which involve increases in the quantities of data being held on people by the government should be debated openly and honestly, and not put through as amendments to broader pieces of legislation. All I’m really doing here is backing calls for such a debate.

Sociable Blogging

I met Nick Barlow today over lunchtime – I’d offered him a couple of books I had spare and he’d accepted. It was interesting to meet a fellow blogger however briefly – the first time I’ve ever actually met anyone in Real Life who I’ve become acquainted with via the net. He suggests that some kind of bloggers gathering might be a fun idea – sounds good to me. Just beware of any photobloggers lurking with their digital cameras should there be alcohol involved…

Depleted Uranium

The BBC ran a story yesterday on a report by the UN into the persistence of depleted uranium in the Balkans. Although no one is prepared to say that there is a significant danger to health, no one seems prepared to categorically state that there isn’t one either, and it is flagged as a “cause for alarm”.

It is interesting to note that although the MoD, Nato and the Pentagon say that “it poses little risk on the battlefield or subsequently”, they do recommend that their personnel wear protective clothing when entering environments which have been subjected to attack with DU ammo. And now the UN is finding it in the groundwater in Bosnia, 8 years after the conflict ended.

Our troops are using DU ammunition in Iraq this time around, and it seems clear that we really don’t know what the medium to long term side effects of this kind of weapon are.