The Berlin Street Market Killings: Reactionary legislation solves hardly anything

December 23, 2016

In the wake of the Berlin market truck killings, some voices are calling for the Schengen open borders policy in the European Union to be scrapped.  This is understandable on a visceral level – Anis Amri, a man who had been on terrorist watch lists, had apparently driven freely all over the Schengen area both before and after the killings – he had managed to travel over 1,000 miles around Europe in spite of an arrest warrant, and he was finally caught and slain by police in Milan, Italy; so he had successfully travelled from Germany to Italy while he was a high-profile murder suspect.  But scrapping the Schengen agreement because of the Amri case would be an example of reactionary legislation that would achieve very little but would pose problems for millions of law-abiding citizens.  Maybe trucks should be banned too?  After all, Amri used one to commit his crimes.

anis-amri

Anis Amri, the Berlin truck murderer killed by police in Italy

It reminds me of the reactionary gun laws passed in Britain because of “lone gunman” cases: for instance, the Hungerford massacre when Michael Ryan used assault rifles to murder 16 people in 1987 led to a ban on automatic weapons; and the Dunblane atrocity when Thomas Hamilton entered the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and used pistols to murder 15 children and their teacher caused the government to ban virtually all handguns as well as firearms such as hunting rifles.

These two UK examples of sweeping gun control reform after single atrocities have probably saved few, if any lives.  The assault rifles used by Ryan were extremely rare in any case, and the Dunblane massacre was down to insufficient vetting of Hamilton more than the law that allowed properly-vetted individuals to buy pistols for recreation or competition shooting; because of the post-Dunblane legislation, members of the 2012 British Olympic shooting teams were unable to train in Britain, and £42 million had to be spent on special facilities where the shooting events could take place, at Woolwich Royal Artillery Barracks – facilities that were demolished after the Games. Shooting sports bodies and some politicians argued that the money would have been better spent on the lasting legacy that would be gained by refurbishing and upgrading permanent facilities at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley, which would have cost a maximum of £30 million, and which would allow British competitive sports shooting teams to practice on home soil.

The ultimate irony of these reactionary legislations is that only law-abiding citizens are affected by the laws.  Criminals who want assault rifles or handguns can buy them anyway, on the black market, where they do not have to possess licences.  Any change to the Schengen agreement would have the same effect: stopping countless citizens to move freely in the European zone because of one evil man’s actions.  It is an erosion of rights similar to those we have seen in the USA – except of course in the States guns and bullets are trivial to buy.


The killer bees have been saved… hold on, shouldn’t that be “vanquished”? No, apparently it’s good news that we are at the mercy of giant killer bees or something

May 2, 2013

Remember I told you I’m in a few online action groups? No? Then clear that beeswax outta your ears and listen up! And you at the back, put that cellphone away or I’ll confiscate it…

Where was I? Oh yeah, online action groups. There’re not (all) useless circle jerks, some actually achieve stuff! One group, avaaz.org, sent me an email saying:

HUGE WIN ON BEES!
Dear amazing Avaaz community,

We did it — Europe just banned bee-killing pesticides!! Mega-corporations like Bayer threw everything they had at this, but people-power, science and good governance came out on top!!

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the specialist conservation organisation Buglife, says:

“It was a close vote, but thanks to a massive mobilisation by Avaaz members, beekeepers, and others, we won! I have no doubt that the floods of phonecalls and emails to ministers, the actions in London, Brussels and Cologne, and the giant petition with 2.6 million signers made this result possible. Thank you Avaaz, and everyone who worked so hard to save bees!”

Bees pollinate two thirds of all our food — so when scientists noticed that silently, they were dying at a terrifying rate, Avaaz swung in to action, and we kept on swinging until we won. This week’s victory is the result of two years of flooding ministers with messages, organizing media-grabbing protests with beekeepers, funding opinion polls and much, much more. Here’s how we did it, together:

Keeping France strong. In January 2011, 1 million people sign our call to France to uphold its ban on deadly neonicotinoid pesticides. Avaaz members and beekeepers meet the French agriculture minister and fill the airwaves, pressing him to face down fierce industry lobbying and keep the ban, sending a strong signal to other European countries.

Tackling industry head on. Bayer has faced Avaaz and allies protesting at its last three annual meetings. The pesticide giant’s managers and investors are welcomed by beekeepers, loud buzzing, and massive banners with our 1 million plus call on them to suspend use of neonicotinoids until scientists reviewed their effect on bees. Avaaz even makes a presentation inside the meeting, but Bayer says ‘no’.

Making the science count. In January the European Food Safety Agency finds that three pesticides pose unacceptable risks to bees, and we jump in to ensure Europe’s politicians respond to their scientific experts. Our petition quickly grows to 2 million signatures. After many talks with EU decision-makers, Avaaz delivers our call right to the EU HQ in Brussels. Later that same day, the Commission proposes a two-year ban!

Seizing our chance. The battle to save the bees heats up in February and March. Across the EU, Avaaz members are ready to respond as all 27 EU countries decide whether to welcome or block the proposal. When farming giants UK and Germany say they won’t vote yes, Avaaz publishes public opinion polls showing huge majorities of Brits and Germans in favour of the ban. Avaaz members also send almost half a million emails to EU Agriculture Ministers. Apparently afraid of dealing with citizens rather than industry lobbyists, UK minister Owen Paterson complains of a “cyber-attack”, which journalists turn into a story in our favour! And then comes Bernie — our 6 metre bee in Brussels — a powerful visual way to deliver our petition as negotiations enter the final stages. Journalists flock to Bernie, and we hear we’ve helped get the Spanish ministry to look harder at the science and shift position . But we didn’t get the majority we needed to pass the ban.

Turning the red light green. In April the bee-saving proposal is sent to an Appeals Committee, giving us a glimmer of hope if we can switch a few more countries’ positions. In the final sprint, Avaaz teams up with groups including Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Pesticides Action Network, plus beekeepers and famous bee-loving fashion designers to organise an action outside the UK Parliament. In Germany, beekeepers launch their own Avaaz petition to their government, signed by over 150,000 Germans in just two days and delivered in Cologne soon after. More phone calls rain down on ministries in different capitals as Avaaz responds to a last-minute wrecking amendment by Hungary, and positions Bernie the bee again in Brussels. Pesticide companies buy adverts in the airport to catch arriving officials, and take to the airwaves suggesting other measures such as planting wild flowers. But their slick messaging machine is ignored, first Bulgaria then — the big prize — Germany switch their stances and this week we win, with over half of EU countries voting for the ban!

It’s been a long haul, to get this win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without scientists, specialists, sympathetic officials, beekeepers and our campaign partners. We can be proud of what we’ve helped to accomplish together.

One strong bees advocate, Paul de Zylva, head of the Pesticides and Pollinators Unit at Friends of the Earth said:

“Thanks to millions of Avaaz members who mobilised online and in the streets. Without a doubt Avaaz’s massive petition and creative campaigning helped push this over the edge, complementing our work and that of other NGOs.”

It’s time to celebrate this breathing space for one of the earth’s most precious and important creatures. But the EU ban is only in place for 2 years pending further review. And around the world bees continue to die from the pesticides which weaken and confuse them, as well as from loss of habitat as we plough up and build over the countryside. In Europe and across the world there’s lots of work to do to ensure sound science guides our farming and environmental policies. And we’re just the community for the job. 🙂

With hope and happiness,

Ricken, Iain, Joseph, Emily, Alex, Michelle, Aldine, Julien, Anne, Christoph and the rest of the Avaaz team

So, proof positive that a lot of little emails can join together into a huge swarm of killer emails that kills all in its path… Hmmm, maybe not the best metaphor, but you get the meaning, right? Right? RIGHT? Hey Dave, is this thing working?

Well, that’s all I have to say right now. Oh, I nearly forgot! You can join Avaaz.org, give ’em your credit card details and whatever at https://secure.avaaz.org/en/. And all the other groups, like 38 Degrees (who also participated in the bee thing), the Open Rights Group, and any I failed to mention (sorry guys!)… these things don’t work by perpetual motion or cold fusion… they need money. Just a couple of quid’ll do; if everyone sent these groupd £2, that’d add to… I dunno, a big heap of £2 coins I suppose.

Anyway, that’s the message of the day: we saved the bees! Hooray!!

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Camover: Germans vs CCTV

January 27, 2013

Here’s something that may interest you: a reaction to the increasing intrusive surveillance in Germany – nowhere near the police state I live in (the UK) but it’s certainly trying to catch up. A group called Camover has started a campaign of trashing CCTV cameras in public places. The participants have called it a “game”; from the Guardian:

The game is real-life Grand Theft Auto for those tired of being watched by the authorities in Berlin; points are awarded for the number of cameras destroyed and bonus scores are given for particularly imaginative modes of destruction. Axes, ropes and pitchforks are all encouraged.

The rules of Camover are simple: mobilise a crew and think of a name that starts with “command”, “brigade” or “cell”, followed by the moniker of a historical figure (Van der Lubbe, a Dutch bricklayer convicted of setting fire to the Reichstag in 1933, is one name being used). Then destroy as many CCTV cameras as you can. Concealing your identity, while not essential, is recommended. Finally, video your trail of destruction and post it on the game’s website – although even keeping track of the homepage can be a challenge in itself, as it is continually being shut down.

…The winner of the game does not get a trophy or a year’s supply of spray paint. The competition ends on 19 February, to coincide with the start of the European Police Congress. The prize, says Camover, is to be in the frontline of a protest that will take place three days earlier, on 16 February. The location has yet to be confirmed, but Camover advises anyone who turns up to “crouch to avoid the flying cameras”

…”We thought it would motivate inactive people out there if we made a video-invitation to this reality-game,” the creator of Camover (who wanted to remain anonymous) told me. “Although we call it a game, we are quite serious about it: our aim is to destroy as many cameras as possible and to have an influence on video surveillance in our cities.”

.

I must say, this game sounds like fun. And the video 9and this one) is instructive as well as entertaining. Any chance it might catch on over here? 😉

PS: That pesky German government, eh? I thought I’d found some sort of “official” site – http://camover.blogsport.de – only to find it’s been taken down! Petty rodents or what! Also this page: https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=camover&source=web&cd=10&cad=rja&ved=0CGoQFjAJ&url=http%3A%2F%2Finagist.com%2Fall%2F295325266933342208%2F&ei=9VAFUYSRM4PAhAeproDwDg&usg=AFQjCNHWWjeT8A1f7ickVsngqAktR5j6qQ&bvm=bv.41524429,d.ZG4′ The European Police Conference are due to gather in Berlin soon. How embarrassing for the “authorities).

Fist

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Wikileaks front page is back up :) but the rest of the site is still down :(

February 9, 2010

I was telling you all just the other day that wikileaks.org was offline. Well, the site has been “down” for a while – point your browser at http://wikileaks.org and you’ll see an announcement that they’ve had to take their servers offline due to lack of funds – but a few days ago I went to have a look if they were back, and even the announcement was down! Wikileaks’ front page was just blank! OMG, I thought, have they gone away for ever? Have the evil powers that be actually got rid of them? I was very concerned – Wikileaks provide an excellent service to the world, enabling whistle-blowers and other friends of truth to upload documents that enemies of truth would rather stayed hidden. In the short time since its foundation, Wikileaks has become an indispensible online resource. Its complete disappearance really shook me up!

But it turns out there was no need to worry. At least, no need to worry as much as I did. Because Wikileaks’ front page is back up! Surf there and you’ll find a brief explanation of their current financial difficulties and info on how you can donate cash or technical resources to the cause. Because an operation like theirs doesn’t come for free – there are multiple servers to keep online, and administration and other staff required to verify the authenticity of the documents they wish to leak and to keep the computers purring. To do this takes cash. And since Wikileaks provides its service free of charge, it needs donations.

Come on, peeps, the world will be a poorer place if Wikileaks can’t keep operating. It provides a truly important service. The citizens of Australia and Germany should realise that more than anyone else. Because those two countries are ruled by governments who use filters to censor what their populations can view on the web. Wikileaks got hold of the lists of sites these filters block, and leaked them. And Australia and Germany promptly blocked wikileaks.org! These governments claim the filters are there purely to block child pornography and similar material; but their anti-Wikileaks action demonstrates that the so-called “democracies” are also censoring sites on a political basis.

This is something that all lovers of freedom should despise! If so-called “liberal democracies” like Australia and Germany can censor internet sites on a political basis, so can any other country. China is not the only nation with a “great firewall”. We all need to keep an eye on Wikileaks to find out what our authorities are up to… and you can be damned sure that our governments want to stop us from finding out what they’re up to! If Wikileaks is to successfully combat its powerful enemies, it needs resources. Money. And we need to donate that money, unless we want to wake up tomorrow to find that someone has decided what we can and can’t be trusted to know!

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Just in case you’re having trouble accessing wikileaks.org for any reason, I’ve reproduced below details of some of the ways you can donate to Wikileaks. Note that this info is about just *some* of the ways you can donate financially, technically and legally. There’s more info on the Wikileaks front page, for instance how to donate via PayPal. I couldn’t reproduce Javascript forms etc. I’ve done my best to ensure all the info below is accuarate; but please note I can’t be held responsible for any errors here. Go check wikileaks.org if at all possible.

Donate via Cash / Cheque
You can support us by posting cash, cheques or international money grams to one of the following addresses:
All countries
WikiLeaks ICT
BOX 4080, University of Melbourne
Victoria 3052, Australia

USD, EUR, AUD preferred. International cheques are best over $800 to avoid fees. If sending cash, please place it in a non-transparent envelope or a CD case for maximum security.
Kenya
WikiLeaks ICT
PO Box 8098-00200
Nairobi
Kenya

Other addresses are available on request from wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org

Donate via Bank Transfer

To contribute via direct wire transfer, please make your donation to one of the following organizations that can accept support on our behalf. Tax deductibility is possible where indicated.
Europe

Use our account at the tax-deductible Wau Holland foundation:

Wau Holland Stiftung, Postfach 640236, 10048 Berlin, Germany
Commerzbank Kassel, BLZ: 52040021, KTO: 277281204
(international: IBAN: DE46520400210277281204, BIC: COBADEFF520)
(inquiries: wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org)
United States
Banking details available on request. Email wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org with the name of your state to be guided through this simple process.
Australia & New Zealand

Use our tax-exempt infrastructure foundation:

WikiLeaks ICT, Australia

Full bank details available on request. Email wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org to be guided through this simple process.
All other countries

Use our account at the non-profit Wau Holland foundation in Europe:

Wau Holland Stiftung, Postfach 640236, 10048 Berlin, Germany
Commerzbank Kassel, BLZ: 52040021, KTO: 277281204
(international: IBAN: DE46520400210277281204, BIC: COBADEFF520)
(inquiries: wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org)

Other bank accounts are available on request from wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org

Support us technically

Wikileaks is currently overloaded by readers. This is a regular difficulty that can only be resolved by deploying additional resources. If you support our mission, you can help us by integrating new hardware into our project infrastructure or developing software for the project. Become patron of a WikiLeaks server or other parts of our technology, adding more pillars to the stability and balance of the WikiLeaks platform. Servers come trouble-free and legally fortified, software is uniquely challenging.

If you can provide rackspace, power and an uplink, or a dedicated server or storage space, for at least 12 months, or software development work for WikiLeaks, please write to wl-supporters@sunshinepress.org

Support us legally

Individuals or organizations wishing to donate lawyer time write to wl-legal@sunshinepress.org. We provide unique legal challenges in an ongoing fight for global justice and freedom of speech. If you support our mission, join our legal team to help defend those values.

WikiLeaks would like to thank the following 18 steadfast supporters (unordered):

* Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
* The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
* The Associated Press – world wide news agency, based in New York
* Citizen Media Law Project – Harvard university
* The E.W Scripps Company – newspapers, TV, cable TV etc.
* Gannett Co. Inc – the largest publisher of newspapers in the USA, including USA Today
* The Hearst Corporation – media conglomerate which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle
* The Los Angeles Times
* National Newspaper Association (NNA)
* Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
* The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA)
* The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
* Public Citizen – founded by Ralph Nader together with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC)
* The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
* The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
* The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
* Jordan McCorkle, the University of Texas
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CCC demonstrates ease of forging biometrics

December 6, 2007

On 27 November, the Chaos Computer Club’s “biometrics experts” and journalists working for German TV Magazine PlusMinus, demonstrated how easy it is to beat the biometrics tests planned for passports and identity cards.

In front of running cameras, a fingerprint scanner installed at a supermarket checkout was deceived, charging the transaction to someone else’s account. The journalists of the TV magazine were able to trick the point-of-sale system with forged fingerprints after only a short tutorial from CCC experts.

This effectively rubbishes the claims made by biometrics proponents and security system manufacturers that such forgery is only possible under “laboratory conditions”.

The fingerprinting system tricked here is the same used in biometric-equipped passports. It is also the standard planned for German ID cards – and also the likely system for the proposed UK identity card.

If a couple of journos can defeat the system after a brief tutorial, how on earth can the authorities claim that identity documents will be secure? Yet that is exactly what we are being told! ID cards won’t be worth the plastic they’re printed on… any two-bit crook will be able to assume your identity.

These cards are not meant to save us from “identity theft”. Really, they will be used as part of the growing surveillance culture. Each card will contain a chip carrying a bewildering amount of your personal information. And this info won’t just be readable by your friendly neighbourhood policeman – the criminals will have your entire life history on tap.

Yet the authorities are still intent on pushing these identity document laws on us. We must stop them! RESIST!!


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!


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