French police attacked by “urban guerrillas”

November 28, 2007

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French police searching a suspected rioter

There are riots in Paris – last night, over 70 policemen were injured, in the second night of violence in the Parisian suburbs. And police spokesman Patrice Ribeiro claimed that the youths they were facing are “urban guerrillas”! They were armed with a variety of weapons including firearms, and shot at policemen and reporters.

The riots were prompted by the death of two teenagers in a motorcycle accident involving a police car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, an area dominated by public housing blocks.  Angry residents said the police left the scene of Sunday’s crash without helping the two teenagers whose moped had collided with their car.

Police officials said the moped ignored traffic rules and crashed into the police car, and that the bike was unregistered and not road legal. Neither of the riders – aged 15 and 16 – was wearing a helmet, and the prosecutor’s office said the bike was going at top speed.  But this announcement has done nothing to calm feelings in the suburbs – it’s as if the police are saying that it’s okay to kill illegal drivers.

Omar Sehhouli, whose brother was one of the victims, told France Info radio: “This is a failure to assist a person in danger. It is one hundred percent a police blunder. They know it, and that’s why they did not stay at the scene.”  Sehhouli has also said that the rioting “is not violence but an expression of rage”.

The police have started an investigation into the crash.  They say that none of the officers involved had been drinking, and that it seems they were not responsible for the accident.  But the angry youths of Villiers-le-bel think that the police are just covering their backs. And they are incensed by the suggestion that the crash victims were responsible for their own deaths.

If the police want the rioting to stop, they will have to accept responsibility for what they’ve done.  And they need to lose the superior attitude with which they treat the inhabitants of the suburbs.


UK has harshest terror detention laws

November 16, 2007

Well, here’s something to make the British law and order crowd feel proud. The BBC reports that according to a survey carried out by the human rights group Liberty, the UK police have the power to hold uncharged terror suspects longer than any comparable country in the world.

British police can hold uncharged terrorism suspects for up to 28 days – and ministers are saying they want to increase that to up to 56 days.  The Liberty survey, carried out by lawyers and academics in 15 countries, found that the second-longest detention period was in Australia – at just 12 days!

Other European countries have detention rules far less draconian than Britain’s.  In France, terror suspects can be held for just 6 days before the equivalent of a charge is made.  And in Germany, suspects must be seen by a judge within 48 hours but can be held without trial during the period of investigation. This must be reviewed by a judge at least every 6 months.

Here’s a summary of terror detention laws in Europe and the USA:

France: Up to 72 hours without seeing a lawyer and four years in pre-trial detention
Germany: Must be seen by a judge within 48 hours but can be held without trial during investigation
Greece: Up to 12 months – 18 months in extraordinary cases
Italy: Up to 24 hours without seeing a lawyer
Norway: Up to 48 hours – a judge can increase this period
Spain: Up to 72 hours without a lawyer – can be increased to a maximum of 13 days
USA: The attorney general can detain foreign suspects but must start deportation proceedings within seven days. Suspects can be held for periods of six months

It is difficult to compare legal systems, but Liberty used the charge as an indicator of when the process moves from the police to the judiciary.  On that basis, the 28-day limit in the UK was by far the longest.

Liberty is calling for Britain to use alternative measures – for instance, by making intercept evidence, such as from phone taps, admissible in court.

It says that better investigatory powers for police would be more effective and fairer than an extention of the already lengthy detention times.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti told the BBC that she would also back measures allowing for a suspect to be charged with a lesser offence while investigations for other related offences continued.

“With safeguards, I think it’s perfectly proper to charge someone with a lower-level offence, like possessing explosive material or attending a terror training camp, while you continue to investigate a complex conspiracy to murder.”

What makes the UK’s approach to detention of terror suspects even worse is that the police have been keeping suspects in custody away from the courts for the full 28 days when they could have been charged earlier!  The Daily Mail reported this allegation made by Conservative Shadow Security Minister Dame Pauline Neville-Jones: Don Stewart-Whyte and Mohammed Usman Siddique, who were arrested last August for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to detonate explosives on planes flying from Heathrow to the USA, were charged on the 28th day of detention when the police had had the necessary evidence for some days.

When the police act in this way, the extended period of uncharged custody is tantamount to internment.  And this makes the government’s plans to extend the possible period to 56 days even more unacceptable.  It would also be interesting to discover how often “suspects” are held for the maximum period and then released with no charges following.  It’s possible that the police are using the extended custody as a way of keeping certain people off the streets, where they can’t make trouble for the establishment.  And I don’t mean “trouble” as in criminal activities – I mean as in asking inconvenient questions in public, or taking part in political campaigns that embarrass the government.

If the government go on with their plan, the UK will be well on its way to becoming a police state.  In fact, the UK already resembles a police state.  Please let’s not make the situation even worse!


UK plan: pay Afghan farmers to not grow opium

November 10, 2007

The UK government has come up with a plan to combat the increase in opium coming from Afghanistan – they propose to pay Afghan farmers to grow something else.

The Afghanistan opium problem is getting steadily worse.  Illegal Afghan opium was selling for as much as $125 per kilo in 2006. The UN said the area under cultivation rose this year from 165,000 to 193,000 hectares and the harvest rose from 6,100 to 8,200 tonnes.

Some influential figures have proposed really radical remedies.  Lord Jay, the former Foreign Office permanent secretary, suggested that Afghani opium be legally produced and used to manufacture morphine for medical use.  But his idea has been rejected.  The pharmaceutical industry probably vetoed the idea, as an increase in the legal opium harvest would make it more difficult to justify the high price that is currently demanded for morphine.

Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown, who has recently returned from Afghanistan,  announced to the House of Lords that The Department of International Development is considering the subsidised purchase of legal crops from Afghani farmers so they can make the kind of money that they get from raising poppies.

He stressed that the UK government is against the US policy of aerial spraying of poppy fields.  That kind of action only alienates the Afghani farmers when winning their trust should be the priority.

It’s interesting that opium harvests in Afghanistan have been steadily increasing ever since the Taliban were overthrown.  Before the war, the Taliban were strictly opposed to opium and heroin on religious grounds, and had been clamping down on the trade.  So this situation is the fault of the UK and USA.  President George Bush is encouraging the illegal production of heroin.  No wonder he won two terms!

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The British Army are doing their bit to encourage the illegal cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan.


Apple iPhone released in UK

November 10, 2007

Apple’s much-hyped mobile phone, the iPhone, went on sale in the UK yesterday at 6.02 PM, sparking some curious behaviour: there were queues at some stores – crazies started waiting outside the Apple store in Regent Street, central London, at 8 AM on Thursday… 34 hours early! – but other shops, like the nearby branches of Carphone Warehouse and the O2 store, were distinctly queue-free (and crazy-free).

Shouldn’t be surprised by this lunacy though – ever since its launch in the USA, the iPhone has been provoking irrational behaviour. It strikes me as pretty ridiculous that anyone even wants the bloody thing! It’s a pricey item, yet its hardly state-of-the-art. It has a 2-Megapixel camera, while many competitors now boast 5-Meg cams; it doesn’t support 3G/UMTS; it wears its wireless networking credentials like that’s something special… Bah humbug!

The iPhone’s main claim to fame is its prettiness. It is slim and sleek, and the large, sensitive touchscreen gives it great versatility. The lack of physical keys means it can be held in different positions for making calls, texting, web browsing… So yeah, it looks good. So what else has it got going for it?

Hmm… not much, methinks. You won’t catch me buying one. I think Nokia and Sony Ericsson make far superior alternatives.

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The iPhone: looks good… but looks ain’t everything


Claims and counter-claims about Madeleine McCann

November 9, 2007

There are a lot of theories doing the rounds about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, according to the Daily Telegraph.  The Portugese police apparently think that Madeleine died after a fall from stone steps at the family’s holiday apartment.  This theory arose after a sniffer dog detected “the smell of death” on the steps.

So what in hell is “the smell of death”?  I understand that sniffer dogs work by “indicating” when they detect the substance they are trained to find.  If a sniffer dog trained to find human remains (as the dog involved was trained) “indicated” the steps, the police would have tested the steps for human remains.  If the remains were there, the McCanns would have been in serious shit.  But this “smell of death” crap is ridiculous.

But also ridiculous is the theory currently being pushed by McCann family representatives – that a disgruntled ex-maid at the holiday complex kidnapped Madeleine as revenge against her former employers.  The maid would have to be completely insane to have done that, totally wacko… and drooling lunatics don’t make the best kidnappers.

The worst news I’ve seen though, is the report that the McCanns are planning to speak about the investigation on American chat shows.  Under portugese law, it is illegal for them, as official suspects or “arguidos”, to discuss it.  I understand that the McCanns are frustrated by the lack of progress and the accusations flying around, but if they breach Portugal’s secrecy laws then they will deserve everything they get there.


IPCC blasts Met top brass over de Menezes… and still no one takes a fall!!

November 9, 2007

The Guardian today reported the results of the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes:

The IPCC report criticized the Met Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, for trying to prevent the Complaints Commission from carrying out its investigation – it said that Blair’s actions were “of major concern” and “should never happen again” – but Blair is still refusing to quit;

The report blasted Commander Cressida Dick, police chief in charge of the operation, for failing to make sure that her instructions to “stop” de Menezes did not mean “shoot him repeatedly in the face”.  She won’t face disciplinary action… she’s been promoted;

Andy Hayman, described by the Guardian as “Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer”, was savaged for telling the Met Commissioner that they’d killed a suicide bomber when he knew damn well that they’d actually assassinated an electrician.  His job’s safe too.

But these murderers can’t get away with it for ever.  The de Menezes family intend to go to the European Court to get justice.  And the inquest into the death is due to start soon-ish.

But it would be nice if the government would stop supporting these evil people.  How can they be allowed to continue policing us?


Spider girl of Bihar has arms and legs chopped off

November 7, 2007

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This is an unusual girl – it’s Lakshmi, from a village in the north Indian state of Bihar. Well, she was unusual-looking; now she is recovering well after an operation to remove her extra arms and legs, according to the Guardian.

Lakshmi’s rare deformity – she had an extra set of arms and legs – was due to the fact that she was joined at the pelvis to a “parasitic twin” that stopped developing in the womb. The stronger fetus absorbed the arms, legs, and some organs from the other fetus.

In rural India, children with deformities are often considered to be reincarnated gods. Lakshmi is named after the four-armed Hindu goddess of wealth. Her parents have spent the past two years hiding the girl from superstitious neighbours, who alternately wanted to praise her as the incarnation of a deity and sell her to a circus.

Now, however, her ordeal is nearly over. Lakshmi still needs surgery for club feet. But the Spider Girl of Bihar is no more.

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