New Judge Dredd movie… Yay?

August 30, 2012

dredd
Judge Dredd: just your regular sociopathic murderous cop.

I used to collect 2000AD (weekly British SF comic) and even Judge Dredd Megazine (monthly spin-off) for quite a while – and I’ve got one helluva potential fire hazard under my bed to prove it. But then I grew up or something, and quit the comic-book habit several years ago. Until a few months ago, the comic’s garish cover caught my eye and I succumbed. And now I have a potential fire hazard under my coffee table.

So, other than my compulsion to tell total strangers about my domestic fire hazards, why am I writing about this? Because I’ve discovered that a new Judge Dredd movie is being released soon! OMG this is brilliant! First of all, I gotta tell you that the film is called Dredd, I suppose to distance itself from the bucket of sloppy crap Judge Dredd released in 1995 and starring Sylvester Stallone. That film suked majorly, as many 2000AD readers said loudly and often. And its actual cinema title is Dredd 3D, because it’s (obviously) been filmed with 3D format in mind. But I’m sure a regular 2D version will be released on DVD (it better had, or someone very close to me will burn down every cinema he can before the cops shoot him dead. 2000AD fans are very protective of Dredd, whose story has been featured in every issue of 2000AD since #2).

What’s more, it’s a British film, just like 2000AD is a British comic! It’s going to be released in Britain first, on 7 September, and the USA will have to wait until 21 September! Swivel on that, Yanks Well, apart from those Yanks whose IQs are above “complete and utter loser” and know how to download a video file off the internet. Google Is Your Friend.

I don’t recognise Karl Urban, the Kiwi who plays the eponymous sociopath,but Wikipedia tells us he is known for playing Éomer in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the 2009 film Star Trek, and Caesar on Xena: Warrior Princess. He played Vaako in The Chronicles of Riddick, the Russian assassin Kirill in The Bourne Supremacy, and Ghost in Pathfinder and won acclaim for his performances in New Zealand films The Price of Milk and Out of the Blue. That’s not bad, for a Kiwi. Olivia Thirlby, who plays Judge Anderson in the film, has had some movie expereince too, but I’m not going to bother telling you about it, as Thirlby is a bird and everyone knows that chicks are just decoration in action (I’ll probably get garotted with my own intestines for writing that, and maybe I’ll deserve it – Anderson is a powerful dudette in the comic, so Thurlby may be more than the oh-so-predictable love interest yawn). If you really wanna know about her, look at her Wikipedia article, same as I did.

Another major reason for thinking this movie won’t suck is the fact that Dredd keeps his helmet on all through the film. He never appears unhelmeted in the comics, so why would he on screen? No pandering to an egotistic dick like Sylvester Stallone.

I’m not too sure about this new drug “Slo-Mo” that apparently makes users think the world is in slow motion – just a way of justifying some Matrix-style scenes – I meancome on, doesn’t the world of Judge Dredd contain enough weird future drugs? But wtf do I know: I’m not writing films, just writing about them.

Anyway: Dredd 3D. British cinemas from 7 September (Hah!). Don’t miss it. And send in yer comments about it. Let’s see if this one’s any better than that nineties shite eh?

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“Big Brother” traffic camera network stays secret… because it is crap

August 27, 2012

The British police have a high-tech system of road cameras that can recognise car registration plates, feeding this info to a computer centre in Hendon, north London, which holds more than 7bn records of the movement of traffic records the whereabouts of 16m vehicles per year stretching back six years. Police hope the database will be able to record up to 50m licence plates a day.

Such a “Big Brother” surveillance system is worrying, for reasons I won’t go into here (fer krist’s sake, does anyone actually need to be told of the terrible ramifications? Even home secretary Theresa May, not known as a champion of civil liberties, has ordered that regulation of the Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras should be tightened up. No other “democratic” country routinely tracks innocent motorists in this way.

Yet the police have successfully won a freedom of information tribunal precisely because, they allege, the system is crap. Apparently, if the location of ANPR cameras were revealed publicly, the blind spots would allow crooks to evade the system. DS Neil Winterbourne, in charge of the ANPR cameras for Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, told the tribunal criminals could evade the cameras by adopting “a particular driving style”, which he did not describe. Maybe because the “particular driving style” does not exist?

The police cited examples where ANPR cameras had been moved or realigned so they couldn’t read registration plates. But they neglected to mention the fact that many roadside cameras are tampered with because drivers think they are speed cameras – there is a very active anti-speed camera movement, with websites like www.speedcam.co.uk which has a map of cameras nationwide and a press release made by Motorists Against Detection (MAD) which describes itself as “the UK’s only direct action anti-speed camera group”, and which claims to have “taken out” 1000 cameras since the groups formation in 2000. Don’t the police think that some of their ANPR cameras may have been messed with by MAD who have mistaken them for speed cameras?

break a camera today
A MADman doing his bit to help us hold onto our civil rights

The UK has a terrible track record re civil liberties. Just look at all the CCTV cameras in our town centres (there for our “protection” apparently, though I have yet to be convinced how an inanimate object will “protect” me when a ruffian is kicking my head in). Ask any American what he thinks of our surveillance culture: no other nation would accept it. Only the British, it would seem (baa baa). And now this secret network of cameras what can follow us everywhere, anytime. Baa baa, my fellow Brits. Baa bloody baa.

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Surfthechannel.com screwed in court… copyright owners engage in circle-jerk

August 20, 2012

It’s a blow for us on the right side of the “copyright war” – FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) have won a case against Anton Vickerman, the owner of Surfthechannel.com, and he has been imprisoned for 4 years! This was the result of a private prosecution launched by FACT after the Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute the case. And this is after sites like TVLinks and Newzbin have succeeded in winning cases brought against them under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA), and after the CPS declined to prosecute Richard O’Dwyer who ran tvshack.net, another links site.

FACT spokesperson
A FACT spokesperson

These links sites don’t host content themselves – instead they tell users where they may be able to find content (TV shows, movies etc). Usually these sites also operate on a policy where they will take down a link if the copyright owner tells them of possible violation.

FACT don’t like links sites because they allegedly lost between £52m and £198m of lost revenues, based on the provision of access to the top 50 films over the indictment period, tallied with the idea that 55% of those who went to the site would have bought the film in some way instead. Which is a complete load of crap, as many other users of links sites will tell you. I often watch movies or TV shows through links sites that I would never pay to watch. And if I do see something I like, I will usually buy it on a DVD as legitimate DVDs are usually far superior in quality than the online “pirated” (Grrr I hate that term) versions.

If you want to know how the case of Surfthechannel.com turned out this way when so many other sites have prevailed, look here. Otherwise, just take in the fact: a links site owner has been sent to prison for four years! Something needs to be done about FACT (a disgusting monster of an organization funded by the TV and film industries. What legal action can we take? I guess we could send emails to our MPs and other democratically elected representatives… or wecould join the Pirate Party and stand for election under their banner. Otherwise… well, don’t go breaking any laws, m’kay?

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Pussy Riot jailed for anti-Putin “punk prayer”

August 17, 2012

Unbelievable… I wish. Unfortunately it’s all too believable: three members of the Russian band Pussy Riot have been jailed for two years, for an impromptu performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Officially, their crime was “hooliganism” motivated by religious hatred – “in other words, a grave violation of public order,” said Judge Marina Syrova.

The case against the three defendants – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich – has been dressed up as a “hate crime” against the Russian Orthodox Church. In her three hour summing up before verdict and sentencing, Judge Syrova said she had convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and that the act had been one of blasphemy, not politics. She refuted the claim that the protest was political in nature, calling on the people to stop Putin from becoming president of Russia for a third term (which he achieved two weeks after the performance). The punk prayer was certainly obscene, but was a “brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out” – which Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill said amounted to blasphemy.

This was the prosecution’s strategy from the start, representing the performance as one of religious hatred rather than politically motivated. Even though the punk prayer clearly called for Putin to go, the government, politicians and members of the Orthodox hierarchy have repeatedly described it as blasphemy. Critics of Pussy Riot have been quoted by the BBC as saying it was “an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church”. “Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics,” posted one critic online. One protester outside court in Moscow simply shouted: “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell.”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said in a letter to supporters ( written before the verdict and passed to them by her lawyer), “I hold no spite. I have no private spite. But I have political spite.”

Our being in jail is a clear and distinct sign that freedom is being taken away from the whole country,” she wrote. “And this threat of destruction of the liberating, emancipatory forces of Russia is what makes me angry

Putin’s Russia has long been a dictatorship in all but name. Putin stood down as prime minister, but immediately became president. And dissent has always been met with strong-arm tactics. Even a brief anti-Putin performance in church has been punished in a way that does not reflect the “crime”, and the government has been careful to concentrate all attention on the “religious” aspect of the affair, so many people see it as an insult to their faith.

There have been protests internationally, with many well-known people lending a voice: Ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among several people arrest said ed outside the court in Moscow including opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov, while other protests have been attended by well-known people such as Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bjork. Protests have been held internationally, such as in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted “Freedom”, and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square, Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona. Of course, there have also been anti-Pussy Riot demonstrations, attended by Orthodox worshippers who have been tricked by Putin and his henchmen. It’s all been a wonderful distraction for Putin’s people to put into effect various anti-democratic steps, such as the series of laws targeting demonstrations, non-governmental organisations and the internet, and the charges recently been brought against opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

“Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country,” wrote Tolokonnikova in her letter written before the verdict.

“Whatever the verdict for Pussy Riot, we and you have already won,” she wrote. “Because we have learned to be angry and speak politically.”

Unfortunately, Russia has excellent, ruthless agents and troops inherited from the Communist age, and ex-KGB thug Putin won’t be standing down any time soon.

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Ecuador grants Assange political asylum – but how will he get from London to Quito?

August 17, 2012

News about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden and the possibility of being sent to the USA to face spurious but all too serious espionage charges. In June he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embasshy in London, requesting political asylum. Well, the Ecuador government has made its decision: as things stand, Assange is a potential political prisoner, and if he’s extradited to Sweden there is a very definite possibility that he will be forwarded to America, where faces charges relating to “top secret” communiques that were leaked by Wikileaks and published by the New York Times and the Guardian. Hmm, that’s a thought: how come the New York Times editor hasn’t been charged with espionage? Why isn’t the USA calling for the extradition of Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian? Rhetorical questions of course. Newspapers have been around a long time, as has been the notion of a free press. But many governments say that online reporting isn’t really journalism at all – and of course Wikileaks is a pain in the ass that the US/UK would like to stomp to death pour encourager les autres.

Countries usually respect the embassies of other nations, regarding diplomatic posts as the legal territory of that foreign nation. But William Hague, British foreign secretary and effectively the prime minister as the real prime minister (David Cameron) and the deputy PM (Nick Clegg) has made some ominous threats. He’s already said in public that Assange would be arrested if he leaves the embassy in London where he has lived for nearly two months, and Ecuador claim that British authorities are threatening to storm the embassy to arrest him.

Hague responded to the asylum decision saying it was “a matter of regret” that Assange had been granted asylum, and that Assange would be arrested when he left the embassy regardless.

The British government sent a letter to Ecuadorean officials in Quito outlining the powers of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, which allows revocation of a building’s diplomatic status if the foreign power occupying it “ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post”. Hague said this was not a threat, simply an explanation of British law, allegedly in line with international law.

If government agents (ie. the police) invade the embassy to arrest Assange, it will be setting a precedent with possibly explosive outcomes. In recent history foreign embassies have been sacrosanct. Earlier this year, the lawyer and dissident Chen Guangcheng took refuge in the US embassy in China; and the People’s Revolutionary Army didn’t storm the building – when Chen left the embassy it was completely freely. And many other people have gained sanctuary in another countries’ embassies – check out the list here. If the British government think the Ecuadorean embassy is fair game, what will happen to the British Embassy in Ecuador… or anywhere else?

Think, Hague, think. If Dave comes back from holiday to a diplomatic crisis, heads will roll. Even yours. :p

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Call centres to be established *in* prisons… so even higher category inmates can work as slaves

August 9, 2012

I’d say this is unbelievable – except of course it’s nothing of the kind. I’ve just recently written a post about how inmates in open prisons are being used as slave labour in call centres, earning themselves £3 per day – that’s right, you didn’t misread that – £3 per day, not per hour. And now, to outdo itself in amorality, now there’s a plan to build call centres inside prisons, so higher category prisoners will be able to take advantage of this great career move. And how much will the prisoners be paid? Strangely, no one wanted to tell the Guardian a specific amount – but surprise surprise:

It is unclear how much prisoners would be paid at call centres inside prisons but under current rules prisoners on “work experience” are paid £3 a day, with no set maximum to the work experience period.

The MoJ said there were varying levels of pay for those working inside prisons with the lowest being around £3 a day

So, prisons will be putting people out of a job, as there’s no way someone “on the out” (prison slang meaning “not in jail”), with rent/mortgage to pay and possibly family to support will be able to work for such a ridiculous figure.

This scheme is supposed to help inmates to rehabilitate, apparently. And guess what: similar projects are under way in the USA. With many positive outcomes no doubt, stopping the drugs and the killings and the ever-pervasive gang culture that helps make US “prisoner warehouses” such lovely places.

According to the Guardian:

An MoJ spokesperson said, “Prisoners who learn the habit of real work inside prison are less likely to commit further crime when they are released. For that reason the Prisons Service is looking at a number of potential schemes to increase work opportunities in prisons.

“All contracts with outside employers must comply with a strict code of practice which sets out that prisoners cannot be used to replace existing jobs in the community. Prisoner wages, for those in closed prisons, are set by prison governors and companies have no control over the level of payment.”

And guess who’s going to run the service and make the money: a company called ONE3ONE Solutions, which is owned by the prison service (apparently called ONE3ONE because there are 131 prisons). And our Beloved Leader David Cameron makes an appearance in the ONE3ONE prospectus, urging businesses to take advantage of the opportunity working prisoners offered. “Prisoners working productively towards their own rehabilitation will contribute to the UK economy and make reparation to society,” he wrote.

“Many businesses, large and small, already make use of prison workshops to produce high quality goods and services and do so profitably. They are not only investing in prisons but in the future of their companies and the country as a whole. I urge others to follow their lead and seize the opportunity that working prisons offer.”

Yes, it’s a good idea to take these jobs away from people who aren’t prisoners. They’ll become unemployed and, frustrated by their inability to support their families, they might be tempted to commit crimes (dealing in class A drugs like heroin and crack cocaine can be lucrative, I understand). Then, when they’re arrested for these crimes, they’ll be sent to prison where they will actually be able to get their old jobs back!

Oh yes, a grand, calculated scheme. Where can I get hold of some shares in ONE3ONE?

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Call centre lays off employees – and replaces them with prisoner slave labour!

August 8, 2012

An article in the Guardian today (8 August 2012) tells how a call centre in Wales has laid off 15% of their employees, and replaced them with prisoners from Prescoed prison in Monmouthshire, paying them 40p per hour – just 6% of the Minimum Wage!

The roofing and environmental refitting company Becoming Green has taken on a staff of 23 prisoners. Currently 12 are being paid just 6% of the minimum wage.  The law specifically exempts prisoners from any right to the minimum wage,which suits Becoming Green just fine – it confirmed that since it started using prisoners, it had fired other workers – regular workers who do have the right to be paid the minimum wage.. Former employees put the number of workers laid off at 17 since December.

Becoming Green claim that there had been “performance issues” with the employees who had been fired; but the workers themselves say they were meeting targets and had worked as required.  Workers and ex-employees say it’s obvious that Becoming Green had sacked the regular workers because they can get slave labourers from the prison to do the same work for pennies.

Spokespersons for the Howard League for Penal Reform and prisoners’ charity Unlock said they’d never before heard of prisoners being used like this, taking jobs from other people while being prison wages – a derisory £3 per day that was dubiously justified as “training rates”.

So,is this another way for the booming private prison industry to finance itself – allowing businesses to use inmates as slave labour in return for kick-backs? Why else would the prisons let their inmates be taken advantage of in this way?

Apparently Kenneth Clarke wants to increase the number of prisoners working for outside companies. But speaking about the expansion of prison work from 10,000 to 20,000 prisoners over the next decade, Clarke told the BBC last month: “It would be a very serious downside if we started replacing job opportunities for law-abiding people, and we’ve been conscious of that all the way through.” Was this ignorance? Or a calculated lie?

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said that for any company to rely on cheap labour of prisoners was “immoral and disgusting”.

He went on:

The association wants to see prisoners working and leading law-abiding lives but not at the expense of other workers being sacked or laid off to facilitate it.

Some employers must be rubbing their hands and the shareholders laughing all the way to the bank.

The ministers must be held to account if the factual position is this company has sacked workers to employ prisoners … The general public will be outraged if this proves to be widespread and proper scrutiny of contracts needs to be made public to ensure public confidence.

Private prisons, government-approved slave-labour, honest workers being sacked to make room for slaves with no right to the minimum wage… who’d a thunk it?

Well, quite a few people would have seen this coming – the cranks, the crackpops, the tin-foil hat brigade. Remember that, when you hear another outlandish conspiracy theory…

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