3rd June 2013
There has been heavy rain in central Europe. The worst affected countries are Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. In Austria their meteorological service says two months of rain has fallen in two days. Prague is threatened by flooding as are the German cities of Passau and Rosenheim. Four people have so far died and eight are missing. I heard Stephen Evans say early on Today this morning that it is being classed as a once in a hundred year event. The only trouble with that is the last similar occurence was in 2002.
Immediately after that Simon Jack spoke to a specialist fraud lawyer about the Liberty Reserve story. His point was that the level of trust among the participants that no one would be betrayed was quite extraordinary. As far as the outside world was concerned is was all amazingly brazen. Even so he thought other virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, should have a successful future.
IGas, a UK company with a shale gas concession in northern England, estimates we could have twenty times more gas locked up under our feet than we thought. That would be enough to keep us gas sufficient for 10-15 years. As with all new things though there are arguments for and against whether we should extract the reserves. Perhaps the biggest influence is our inbuilt resistance to change. Not in my back yard please.
The BBC are certainly challenging me, at least, with elephant in the room subjects at the moment. This item has been well covered by both Today and the BBC website this morning. HPV, human papillomavirus, is prevalent in all the population. For most of us it has no affect at all. Some, if not all, strains can only be transmitted by body fluids and for a minority it can cause warts such as foot verrucas. For a smaller number, probably depending on your genetic make up, the warts can become cancerous. The delicacy of the topic is that the disease is most commonly spread I think during sex, by vaginal and sperm fluid. It can cause cancers to the penis, vagina, anus, mouth and throat. The whole subject is in today’s news because a famous American actor has told The Guardian he believes his throat cancer was caused by giving oral sex and thereby contracting HPV. There must be a pretty high risk factor as I see all 12-13 year old girls in this country are offered immunisation against HPV. Channel 4 News also ran the story in the evening.
I am pretty sure that the age of the al-Qaeda type terror cell is over. The Gang are under too much scrutiny from intelligence agencies now to be able to set up and service hidden fighting units like that. If you were a bad person sitting at a desk I wonder how you would decide to adapt. I imagine you might look at modern trends, how we like new technology for example, and see if you could put that to your advantage. I have watched a Channel 4 Dispatches programme this evening on the Boston and Woolwich killings and their conclusion is the internet is the key. Disillusioned, not perhaps very clever, angry young men can find web sites which tell them how to make bombs, commit acts that people find most terrifying, yet feel they are part of a worldwide supportive family. What those young men don’t realise though is how the Gang are watching all the time to identify those who are most suitable for their aims. Gang helpers will then be deployed, who themselves probably have no idea of the larger picture, to implant certain thoughts and ideas in the target’s mind. Once all that is in place the person can be left in limbo ready for a key emotionally destabilising trigger from someone close by, which will push them into the desired action. As an example perhaps of one such Gang proxy facilitator in the background, I saw that Michael Adebolajo was in court today. He seemed quite emotionally disturbed. He kept blowing kisses to a man in the public gallery. I heard some journalists say that man was his brother.
I am not one so I probably should not be surprised but I really do not understand why politicians always seem to need cover to do the right thing. I suppose it must be that they have to take people with them. I go around upsetting people all the time. After last week’s parliamentary expose stories the coalition government have announced today that they intend to have in place a statutory register of lobbyists by July, as promised at the last election by all the main Parties. I trust they will send a letter of thanks to the journalists involved. Nick Robinson was saying on Today this morning that there is a big difference between Select Committes whose members are elected by their fellow MPs and All Party Groups which can be little more than old chums arranging nice expenses paid trips for themselves to various parts of the world. The Lib Dem Peer Lord Oakeshott has said that if the public knew what went on in the House of Lords particularly we would be truly shocked.
Today’s FT reports that a fight, in which about a dozen men died, took place in a frontier area of Lebanon on Saturday between Hezbollah and the Syrian opposition.
4th June 2013
The main story on Today this morning was the government’s plans to cut £220 million from the annual criminal aid budget in England and Wales on top of that for civil cases already announced. Our total legal aid budget at the moment is £2.1 billion a year, a lot of money. The idea is that provision of the service will be partly transferred to large private companies under competitive tender rather than allow individual small specialist solicitor firms to take on the work as predominantly happens now I believe. Currently 1600 firms are available for defendants to use, in future it will be 400. It seems the proposition is that going forward you will have no choice over which of those 400 represents you. Mention was made throughout the programme that one such big company interested in the work is the Stobbart Logistics Group. Like some banks in the past, I suspect the Stobbart Group are Gang influenced. In September 2009 I visited Aviation Way, an industrial area at Southend on Sea, on business. It is by the perimeter fence of Southend Airport bought by the Stobart Group in 2008. Stobbart also bought Carlisle airport the following year. From the short time I was in there it was plain to me that the place was infused with Gang helpers. They were everywhere. That was a time when there was a lot of worry circulating about bomb attacks on planes. It was on my mind and I eventually sent a Neighbourhood Watch intelligence report to Kent Police about my concerns on 2nd February 2010.
I think it fair to say that HSBC is one of the global banks which was least affected by the financial crisis. That does not mean though they came out of it unscathed. In December 2012 they agreed to pay US regulators a fine of $2 billion over money laundering allegations involving Iran and North Korea. Although I missed it at the time I see that last Friday it was announced Sir Johnathan Evans, who left MI5 a few weeks ago, has joined them as a non-executive director under a three year contract being paid £95,000 per year. Additionally he will serve on their Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee set up in Januray 2013 for which he will be paid £30,000 per year. Other members are Bill Hughes former head of Soca, Dave Hartnett former chief of HMRC and Jim Comey former US deputy attorney general. Sir Johnathan’s new positions were authorised by the Prime Minister.
The German town of Passau, on the Danube and at the confluence of two other rivers, is experiencing it’s worst flooding since the 16th century. Prague authorities thought the river Vitava there would peak last night. But then prime minister Petr Necas unexpectedly announced this morning that nine dams holding back floodwaters were being opened to relieve pressure on them. More worry for the citizens. Please don’t let anyone tell you the Gang are nice people.
I did not think I would be writing about the El Capitan rock face in the Yosemite national park in California again after my note of 6th April 2013. However it has been on the Radio 4 news bulletins this morning. A 28 year old London doctor died on the mountain at the weekend when a one foot by two foot bolder hit him, dislodged by his male friend and climbing partner 150 feet above. He was pronounced dead at the scene and was obviously massively unlucky. I can only assume he was not wearing a helmet. From the London Evening Standard website I see a teenager was also killed there at the weekend when he was swept over a waterfall. Absolutely amazingly it reports that 12-15 people die in the park every year. I would have thought that is a statistic Americans should be looking into.
There was a lovely quote from a lady on Today this morning. She said their piece was so riddled with inaccuracies she hardly knew where to start. The discussion was over the numbers of people passing though our accident and emergency departnments in hospitals. The facts appear to be that throughput has been remarkably constant over the years rising at about 1.7% per annum, less than our population increase. However that changed last August when there was a spike and it has continued in subsequent months to the present time. No one seems to know why so I may as well give my view. Not that many will like it as it is pure conspiracy. I would rather explain it though in terms of pinpricks as I mention in chapter 8 of my book. And it shows, in my view, how shockingly strong the Gang are in our society.
When you are up against it, as has been the case for Organised Crime for some time now, you might just as well use all the assets available to you. One of the biggest I feel is the large number of fearful people around who are willing to do favours for you. As long as you do not impose yourself on them too often that should work. No one knows you have spoken to them and no one will suspect their motive is other than what they say. Their interest in keeping that secret is as strong as yours. With that background then I would not have thought it should not be too difficult to get individuals to go along to A&E departments for illegitimate reasons. It could be for something they would normally go to their GP about, for example. Your Gang database systems are fully coordinated so you can make sure no one goes too often and no obvious discernable pattern is apparent. Each one in itself is just a pinprick. But when you get enough of them they start to overwhelm you.
Having written that I feel, as the FT would, I should try and think of a solution. Possibly it would be to have some form of overseeer in each A&E department to weed out the wheat from the chaff. To impose a bit of discipline on the place and see that professional efficiency prevails.
I wrote about the fifth edition of the American psychiatric DSM book, produced 19 years after the fourth, in a diary note of 10th February 2012 printed in the chapter 12 appendix of my book. DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The American gentleman academic who chaired the editing committee for DSM5 was on Today this morning and he pretty much agreed with everything that John Humprys said. He said that grief, even if extended, is not a medical condition nor necessarily is ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, in children. The latter should not be a label used when inadequate adults do not know how to handle a boisterous, characterful normal youngster. The point the professor made was that DSM5 provides guidance only. Psychiatrists sould not use it as cover for justifying some pretty far fetched views and actions.
Not that the Gang want to put any pressure on Ed Miliband I am sure but the transmission also mentioned that 20 Labour MPs have set up the Labour for a Referendum group. The businessman paying for the campaign was on the edition and spoke very reasonably I thought. A YouGov poll has found that 50% of his MPs see Mr Miliband as out of touch.
I also understand from the programme that up to one in five trolleys go missing from supermarkets every year. That is a lot of trolleys. They must be somewhere.
On his return from holiday David Cameron chaired a new task force yesterday he has set up to bring together cabinet ministers, intelligence and police chiefs to see what lessons can be learnt from the Woolwich attack. As far as the politicians are concerned he wants Michael Gove to think about how extremism can be discouraged in schools, Vince Cable to cover universities and Chris Grayling prisons. He also considers lax charitable status might be a factor. I am not sure whose pidgeon that is.
Today’s FT reports on discussions which took place in the Commons yesterday on Syria. John Baron, Julian Lewis, Sir Peter Tapsell, Sir Menzies Campbell and Peter Hain were all against Britain’s stance of arming moderate rebels. Ed Miliband was critical. Mr Cameron reminded the House about what happened in Bosnia in the 1990s. In his view the world’s inaction then led to the killing of some 200,000 Muslims. He asked for clear thinking now to stop a similar tradegy unfolding in front of our eyes.
It mentions on the Communications Bill, the Prime Minister saying that currently 95% of serious crimes involve the use of communications data which cannot be scrutinised or intercepted. I imagine he means by that, in the same way as MI5 cannot follow every possible terrorist on their watch list, neither can they currently concentrate on people that interest them when they are using the internet. A specific authorisation order from the Home Secretary is required for that I believe.
I wrote on Saturday about weak regulators. The subject pops up again in that edition this time for the Charity Commission. On this occasion, instead of using the adverb feeble, Margaret Hodge says their approach lacks vigour. They registered Cap Trust as a charity even though HMRC subseqently refused any gift aid relief to taxpaying contibutors. The tax people saw the purpose of the trust as a tax aviodance vehicle. The worry is that Cap Trust are just the the tip of the iceberg.
5th June 2013
I missed it at the time but I have just watched a clip on a BBC webpage of Douglas Alexander being interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday about Syria. He not unreasonably remarks there seems to be a contradiction between us wanting to arm the Syrian opposition, which encourages them to be more belligerent, but then saying we would really like them to talk peace as well. His interviewer, Eddie Mair, was saying he had spoken to the Czech Foreign Minister on PM during the week, something I had also missed. Mr Schwarzenberg also quite reasonably said apparently that it seemed a bit daft for us to be saying we want everyone to talk but one of those participants, Mr Assad, cannot be part of the solution. I think perhaps what both Mr Alexander and Mr Schwarzenberg underestimate is the factor of confidence. If a person feels threatened they will find it almost impossible to compromise, especially with their enemies. However if they have confidence that enlarges their heart and makes it easier for them to be generous.
After the American man talking about the DSM5 manual yesterday there was a lady on Today this morning early from the Reading Agency charity informing us of the Books on Prescription scheme. Apparently there are six million people in England who have anxiety or depression and doing nothing about it. Esssentially the project is a reading list available in 85% of our public libraries of self help books which professionals say will definitely help if we choose to read them.
Philip Clarke spoke in the business section of the programme. He made the point that Tesco are market leaders in their field in Thailand, Malaysia, Hungary and Slovakia. He asked what other British businesses can say that.
A medical professor was on that transmission speaking on a report by various interested parties about the NHS issued today. He was saying that hospitals should be more focused. They should be doing a few things well rather than many things badly. It would be a much better use of scarce resources. If patients knew it was for the best treatment they would not mind travelling a bit to a specialist centre. The interesting bit though was his aside about his private conversations with politicians. They have asked him to realise that, no matter how much they agree, it would not be possible for them to do anything about it. We are very touchy about our hospital services. It would lose the Parties too many votes. The advice apparently is for professionals to quietly sort it out amongst themselves.
The Director of Public Prosecutions was talking at 8.10 about his office’s new policy of allowing victims to challenge his staff’s decision not to procede with a prosecution once case papers have been passed to them by the police. Apparently there are 70,000 of those rejections every year so it is not difficult to imagine his office could be swamped. I am sure he has considered that however and does not think it will happen. The new arrangements will be reviewed after three months.
There was a really good news item on the edition. I noticed how nice the wild flowers were at the Olympics site last summer and Prince Charles has put his name to the designation of 107 new wildflower meadows to be created all over the country by the end of year. Apparantly we have lost 97% of such areas since the 1930s.
The Chief Constable of Gloucestshire police was on the programme expanding on the new ability of forces to issue spot fines for anti-social driving. In my experience it is a prevalent Gang tactic designed I think to encourage you to take unecassary risks which can then be capitalised on. Examples given have been driving too close to the vehicle in front and hogging the middle lane on a motorway when the inside lane is free. The lady said one reason for the change is to involve all police officers in traffic policing, not just the specialist ones, and to free the system up from the existing paperwork around present prosecutions of driving without due care and attention.
Chatham in Kent had a new bus station and road layout in October 2011. You can imagine that might have got local motorists confused initially but not 18 months later. Currently over 400 drivers a week are being fined for driving through it when they shouldn’t. The Gang cover being used, in my opinion, is that it is drivers’ Sat Navs telling them to do it.
Following my note about the British Airways engine fire on 24th May 2013 Saturday’s FT gives me a couple of additional details. Apparently an engineer has admitted not securing the latches during maintenence and then the aircraft was going towards central London. Planes take off into the wind and invariably ours comes across the Atlantic from the west. That morning however it must have been blowing to the west.
On the back page page John Authers comments that the discredited world of finance is changing. We are finding new ways of doing things. Virtual and community currencies, peer to peer financing, crowd sourcing and mobile phone transactions all show that we no longer have to rely on the banks as we once did.
Things have turned sour on Syria today. Around dawn this morning the Syrian army made a big push on Qusair and took back the town from the rebels. That must be a massive confidence booster for Mr Assad. He will be in no mood to compromise with the opposition. On the other side the rebels have not been able to reach a unified position. The inevitable has therefore happened. Mr Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, after meeting with American and Russian diplomats in Geneva, announced that the peace conference is being postponed with a start now hoped for in July.
President Obama I think will have seen that coming and today he has announced that Susan Rice will be his new national security adviser from next month. He had previously wanted Ms Rice to be his Secretary of State from the beginning of February this year but that was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. This position does not involve them. Ms Rice is currently American ambassador to the UN and the President would like that post taken by Samantha Power, a human rights researcher close to him. Ms Power’s nomination does have to be confirned by the Senate. Possibly Mr Obama is thinking he might wish to openly back the Syrian opposition in the future and wants to have as much political weight on his side, for the eventuality, if it arises.
Today’s FT reports that the American government has offered rewards of between $3-7 million for help in capturing the leaders of Islamist militant groups Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in west Africa and the Signed-in-Blood Battalion.
6th June 2013
On a daily basis I keep two memory sticks of my files, one that I keep in the house and one in my home office. If there is a fire only one will be destroyed. The night before last when I went over to the house I came back about 20 minutes later because I needed something. As I walked over disturbed birds on my left and a cough on my right told me something was going on. When I thought about it I was pretty sure it was back up for someone to remove my second memory stick, copy that day’s notes and then put it back. Last night I put that second stick somewhere else. This morning when I came in the toilet was smelling, a problem I mention in chapter 10 of my book but which I have not had happen for months. I had upset my big Daddy. And he wanted me to know it.
A BBC Kent webpage reported last night that a cannabis farm of more than 800 plants has been discovered in a disused social club building at Hoo in the old county of Kent. It was worth several hundreds of thousands of pounds. Two men from Dartford have been arrested.
Ed Miliband will make a big speech this morning on the just started strategy of setting out Labour Party plans for after the next election should they be elected. They will impose a cap on social security spending. I heard Nick Robinson say that is well and good but what hasn’t been mentioned is who, currently on benefits, will lose out when the overall bill would otherwise have increased. A voter needs to know that in order to make an informed decision.
A BBC webpage says this morning that over the first four months of this year there have neen 7525 reported incidents of people trying to steal pin numbers and credit cards. Last year the equivalent number was 2553. It seems the thief first starts by looking over your shoulder for the number and afterwards distracts you in some way so the card can be taken. Presumably their hope then is to immediatey take money out of your account before you report the card as stolen.
This story I feel is on a par with The Guardian’s breaking of the phone hacking scandal on 4th July 2011. This morning, The Guardian here, and the Washington Post in America, reveal that in April a judge in the American Secret Intelligence Surveillance Court granted the FBI a three month court order. The judge specifically said, under the terms of the 2001 Patriot Act apparently, that the contents of the order were secret and must not be disclosed to any outside party. The order authorised the USA National Security Agency to obtain from Verizon, one of the country’s largest telephone companies, non specific details of all telephone calls made by it’s tens of millions of customers originating within the United Sates. Details were to include the source and destination phone numbers, and the time and length of each call. Hardly surprisingly the American Civil Liberties Union has called the order beyond Orwellian. It may have got something to do with an email I sent on Tuesday or it may not.
From a Newspaper Review on Today this morning I understand The Independent reports this morning that Nick Clegg, Chris Grayling, Justine Greening, Ken Clarke and Sayeeda Varzey all disagree with Mr Cameron’s idea of arming the Syrian rebels. The Labour Pary might try and call a parliamentary debate about it. It could be one of those situations where you need to regroup and reassess. The falling of Qusair might well have been a game changer. If the oppostion think there is a realistic prospect of them being militarily defeated I suppose that could be used as an argument for them to negotiate something while they still have the chance.
I wrote about Sir David Nicholson’s retirement on 21st May 2013. The programme was saying this morning before 7am however, in relation to politicians and the NHS, that he does not intend to go out with a whimper. Before the last general election he issued the Nicholson challenge for the NHS to make £20 billion of savings without materially affecting care to it’s patients. If think his focus will be, until he leaves next spring, to persuade politicians to allow health service professionls to procede with strategic reforms and, perhaps if necessary, to tell us voters not to be so irrational with some of our more emotional views.
Another item was about an unexpected offer by North Korea to the South to reopen the Kaesong industrial zone. Bearing in mind that it employs 53,000 North Koreans, and I guess cannot function properly without South Korean technical assistance, that must be sensible. South Korea has said the move is positive. I expect Seoul will want to widen the talks as much as it can.
Also highlighted on the transmission is the government’s decision to try and empower local communities more in planning decisions on wind farm applications. It is hoped I think that the change will make applicants more sensitive to the views of people living nearby. Ultimately locals wil be able to override national policy if they feel strongly enough about it.
I think it too much of a coincidence that sarin has been in the news recently in both Syria and America, the latter involving a threat to the President’s personal safety. In Syria Mr Obama’s judgement is being tested as to whether the use of sarin warrants America’s military intervention. It is Iraq’s WMD argument all over again. Those thoughts have been brought into my mind by an interview towards the end of the broadcast with a specialist military man with experience in Syria. He was saying, if the regime are responsible, they have been incredibly clever by using such small amounts of the poison on the battlefield. That means an outside full analysis very difficult. It has made the opposition extremely fearful and his view was it would help the rebels if they were provided with gas protection equipment and detectors. Then they could provide evidence to the world themselves if any future attacks should occur.
A little while ago an elderly gentleman I know, whom I speak to once a week, discovered he had cataracts in both eyes. His doctors advised he should have surgery. He was told the success rate was 98%. The first operation made his eye worse. The surgeon said he would take extra precautions with the second. Last week after that operation the gentleman told me his second eye is also now worse than it was.
The guerilla group the Mau Mau violently resisted the British colonial government in Kenya in the 1950s. In 2011 a British High Court judge ruled in a test case that four of them had arguable cases in law for compensation against the British Government for the way they were treated after capture. Today William Hague has announced in Parliament that 5228 victims would be paid £19 million between them. There are still at least 8000 with outstanding claims. I heard Max Hastings say on The World at One at lunchtime that to reopen that matter after such a long period, no matter how bad it was at the time, is inappropriate. He suggested the judge concerned lacked common sense. I think I agree with him.
Thanks to Channel 4 News this evening I know that the somewhat secretive Bildenberg Group is holding it’s first annual meeting in the UK for at least eight years. The location of the three day think tank event attended by European and North American notables is a Watford hotel. Attendees include George Osborne, Ed Balls, Ken Clarke, Henry Kissinger, Christine Lagarde and the heads of Google, Amazon, BP, BAE Systems, Goldman Sachs and HSBC.
7th June 2013
I have been up in east London today and The i newspaper reports that Mr Cameron has agreed to have a free vote in the Commons if he wishes to supply arms to the Syrian opposition. The mechanics of that though are not clear. More than 80 Conservative MPs have written to the Prime Minister expressing their concerns about his intention.
Also there is an article saying that on present trends 47% of us will have had some form of cancer by 2020. In part that could be because of our ageing population. Cancer is more prevalent in older people. In 2010 cancer caused 157,000 deaths but even so nowadays it often isn’t fatal. That I know those details means I feel that cancer is far less of an elephant in the room subject for us than it was. You cannot defeat your fear unless you have good information about a subject. Interestingly a man on Today said we may have lost our dread of cancer but not our fear of dying. And that I think is because it is still a taboo subject we currently refuse to talk about in polite company. It is almost as if some of us think we have a right to eternal life on earth and somehow we will prolong our wordly existence if we refuse to think about the subject. That is a path to unhappiness I suggest.
The other item there which interested me was a piece about Operation Nexus. It is a specialist Met police unit of 100 officers targeting predatory sex offenders who have committed their offences aboad. Once identified they can then be deported. That is fine in principle but apparently the standard of proof at an Immigration Tribunal is less than for a court of law. We will have to be careful we are not getting rid of people for hidden reasons of dislike when they have broken none of our laws and are staying here legally.
It was not instantaneous but as today has worn on the story about intelligence agencies snooping on us has built up a head of steam on both sides of the Atlantic. In America a programme called Prism has been revealed whereby various US agencies have secret real time access to the servers of nine internet companies, named by the Washington Post as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, palTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. Worried faces all round. The director of US National Intelligence has said that journalists’ activity was reprehensible and threatened irreversible harm. However he did not explain exactly why he thought that. His argument seems to be that we do such things to protect you from terrorism and, because you fear terrorism, you must trust what we do in secret. The legal authority for Prism it appears is section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 1978. In Britain The Guardian reports that information from Prism has been routinely accessed by GCHQ since at least June 2010.
Then on PM this evening Robert Peston was raising some big issues I feel, brought into his mind by an ISC (Intelligence and Security Committe) report concerning the Chinese company Huawei. It is suspected they have strong links to the Chinese government and military. They have had significant tie ups with BT in this country since at least 2005 which it seems have pretty much gone through on the nod. It appears possible that our security services have given the ISC a secret briefing warning them about Huawei but without giving any reasons. Then, of course, if something does go wrong down the line they will always be able to say they told us so. Robert extrapolates that idea to the field of internet security generally. Governments and national organisations, such as the BBC, across the world have had their pants scared off by dire warnings of hacking attacks, probably without fully understanding the subject (one of my daughters does not have anti-virus software on her computer with which she is perfectly comfortable). The result is they spend an absolute fortune with private companies on internet security who, it seems to me, could predominantly be Gang influenced firms.
The Queen officially opened the new BBC Broadcasting House in central London today. When the subject came up in conversation she made the point that Prince Philip had gone into hospital for a planned investigation. He is not ill. I hope that does not mean he will be upset by the get well soon card I posted him earlier today. I am sure he won’t be.
A nice we are all this together story has been doing the rounds today. Last night six men with axes, some dressed in burkas, carried out a smash and grab raid on Selfridges in Oxford Street shortly before it shut. Two escaped on a moped. The silly twits managed to crash it about a mile away spilling their loot onto the road. One tried to run off. However passers by pinned them to the ground until police arrived. The Met have thanked the public for their quick thinking and brave actions.
8th June 2013
Someone I know under eighteen works in a Sainsbury’s superstore in Kent. Because of his age he is not allowed to sell alcohol at the checkout without authorisation of an adult superior. However he was finding, when he did that, he had to sometimes wait literally five minutes for a person to come. That upset the customer and was causing him hassle. He did the pragmatic thing, he stopped asking. From one point of view therefore he became an accident waiting to happen. The inevitable came along last week. Management noticed and for a period of half an hour he was secretly watched and seen serving two people with alcohol without permission. Yesterday a formal meeting took place with a note taker and he was disciplined for his offence. In the days beforehand he did not share the situation with anyone. He took that pressure on himself. Last night, when he told me, he said he had only done so because he knew how upset I would have been if he hadn’t. He was quite clear he did not share the experience for his own benefit.
I predict this communications surveillance stuff is going to be a real can of worms. I thought I had got beyond being shocked about what goes on in this world but I hadn’t. I truly hope this is the last big thing that needs sorting out. I can’t move on in my own life as I wish when you have all got yourselves in such a terrible mess.
How a statute passed in the 1970’s, before the world wide web was even thought of, can be used to justify ogling at us today on an industrial scale beggars belief. The politicians knew it was going on, the President was informed about it when he came into office, and yet we weren’t told. Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook had never heard of Prism before this week and would not have voluntarily agreed to any court orders as applied for Verizon. I believe that will be shown to be the case.
It has emerged that the recording by the State of activities of Verizon customers, and possibly all other large American phone companies as well, has probably been going on since at least 2008. Prism apparently was developed in 2007. Mr Obama has said he felt healthy scepticism when he found out what had been going on but obviously considered it should carry on in the same secretive way as before. He says you cannot have 100% security and 100% privacy and zero inconvenience.
Shami Chakrabarti on Today this morning concentrated on the international aspect of the story and the problem when one country’s laws has no legitimacy about what goes on in another jurisdiction. Another argument for a world government of united nations perhaps.
David Cameron I feel has decided to stay out of it. I think that is a very good idea. He is concentrating this morning on his hosting of a meeting between various charities and companies to promote alleviation of hunger in the developing world, fitting in with our presidency of the G8. Justine Greening was on Today this morning promoting the idea.
The Tory backbencher David Davis has suggested intelligence services could be looking for example at a love email sent to your wife or mistress or girlfriend. Not that Mr Davis wants to spook us I am sure.
A final thought before I leave the story for the time being is on my note of 29th May 2013 when I refer to apparent remarks from within MI5, made by a Gang member I suspect under the guarantee of anonymity. They were to the effect that all our tortuous democratic worries over our Communications Bill are quite purile. People outside his world have no idea of the scope of intelligence available to our spies. I expect he thought it about time we all grew up and, with the way he felt at the time, he didn’t mind expressing it.
I watched the Panorama programme about Patrick Mercer on Thursday evening. The journalist seemed very nice. However he set up a fictitious company to deliberately deceive someone like Mr Mercer. That is not something the police could do. If they tried it the press would be down on them for entrapment like a ton of bricks. It is not something an honest member of the public would contemplate. It would just not be right. Nevertheless the programme does allow me to write the following note.
I do not look upon Mr Mercer as a bad man. His judgement is poor however and perhaps he does not understand himself as well as he might. This is only my opinion, I have no idea whether I am right or not, but he did strike me as feeling isolated and uncared for. He made sure he was always on his own at the meetings. When the reporter was pulling him into the scam he seemed unnaturally concerned that the lobbying firm really wanted him. Mr Mercer perhaps thought it was just that he needed to be sure of his money but I wonder if it went a bit deeper than that. Then I anticipate the Gang were watching it all from the word go. There was a scene of the journalist talking on a mobile phone at the top of Primrose Hill in London, I think. Nearby was a youth in a hoody sitting on a park bench looking the other way. I suspect he was within hearing distance. No obvious opportunities arose for them however so I expect, towards the end, the Gang director just got one of Mr Mercer’s colleagues to say a word in his ear about this new friend who had suddenly come into the MP’s life. He wanted to see what effect that would have. Mr Mercer did become suspicious but even with the warning it did not prevent him falling further into the trap.
I have just listened to yesterday evening’s recording of Any Questions from Machynlleth where April Jones lived. The audience were emotional and a bit rowdy but I thought Jonanthan Dimbleby handled them well. However a minute from the end of the programme a man in the audience started shouting loudly and would not stop. I believe that man was probably acting on Gang orders.
There was an occasional column in last Saturday’s FT written by a psychiatrist. From that I know it is thought 50% of prison inmates have significant psychological problems. He also wrote about a delusional lady he found in prison but who he thought should not have been there. Delusion apparently is a false belief, held with certainty and impervious to argument, which dominates a person’s mind.
At this morning’s aid meeting Mr Cameron said, in relation to the world’s poor, that when people are dying we don’t believe in providing excuses. We believe in trying to do something about it. He said we have a sense of duty in trying to help others which gives us a good standing around the world. He said he is proud to be British. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the number of chronically malnourished children by 20 million before 2020.
Autism is a malfunctioning of the brain which affects a person’s social behaviour. There was a man on Today yesterday before 7am involved in research saying his team have indentified that some genes are more important than others in maintaining the condition and, besides that category of negative genes, we also have positive genes which tend to alleviate the disorder. It is hoped that medication can be developed which will tend to turn the bad genes off and the good ones on.
In the main body of the programme there was a fascinating discussion on whether the presence of roadside speed cameras help reduce accidents. The man from the RAC said they do and the lady from Safe Speed said they don’t. One factor apparently is the statistical phenomenon called regression to the mean which I don’t understand. The other is that only 6% of recorded accidents report than speed was a factor. Speed cannot be the cause of an accident on it’s own. Unfortunately the discussion was based on data from only a third of the speed cameras in the country because those responsible for the others did not bother to supply the information requested. It would be better I feel to have a full set of data on which to express an opinion.
A piece on that broadcast told the story about a turf war between the Bombers and Tottenham Turks gangs in the north London Turkish community. One of their main businesses is the distribution of heroin from Afghanistan smuggled through Turkey. The trouble of course when gangs fall out is the rest of us start seeing things we would rather not think about. A gang leader was shot dead outside Turnpike Lane tube station on a Wednesday afternoon in February 2012. The reporter interviewed a 19 year member who said protection rackets against honest Turks in the area is common, as is one gang extorting drugs from the other under threats of violence, as it is to have torture rooms for those who do not toe the company line. Those sentences describe what is currently going on in our capital city not some backward country far away. Unsurprisingly apparently that level of visibility is frowned upon by the big men back in Turkey. Three man have just been sentenced for last year’s killing.
A bit later, time was given to a fine of £150,000 under the Data Protection Act handed down by the Information Commissioner’s Office to Glasgow City Council. It was partly for losing through theft an unencrypted laptop in May 2013 on which was contained the private details of 20,000 people including bank account details for 6,000. It was one of 75 unprotected laptops which were unaccounted for over time. The Assistant Information Commissioner said that for a responsible body like that city council to misplace such a large number of machines is unbelievable.
This morning’s Today reported that cod stocks are recovering in the North sea under a multi-faceted coordinated approach. It shows what we can do when we put our thinking caps on.
The programme was talking a lot about Syria this morning. We do have to try and be positive and one thing Lord Malloch Brown said was that possibly Mr Assad’s recent battlefield success might help him feel more magnaminous towards his opponents.
9th June 2013
Mr Cameron has said that internet child pornography twists minds and therefore puts young people in unnecessary danger. He says the time for excuses and blame is over, we must all work together on it.
It is clear the informal style two day summit between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping has gone well. The US have described it as unique, positive and constructive. The Chinese have referred to the talks as historic and a template for creating a new model of cooperation with their counterpart. The sides have agreed to discuss climate change matters. The two big issues are North Korea and cyber activity. On the first they agreed it is not acceptable for North Korea to become a nuclear armed state. For the second Mr Obama warned that cyber attacks from within China were causing upset in his country. The Chineses leader said he would look into it. They both agreed the subject should not be allowed to sour their relations. Indeed the Chinese say striving for effective cyber security could be a source of cooperation between them. From the video clips you can see the two leaders are speaking to each other in the same language which I feel must make communication for them much easier.
I think it a good thing the two sides have wished to express pleasure about the encounter. I believe that shows they appreciate the importance of positivity. It is so much easier to get things done if your spirits are lifted. And that applies as much to the world community as it does to any of us in our individual lives.
It is not a coincidence, in my view, that it has been announced North and South Korea will be having some senior governmental talks in a few days time to try and improve their relations, the first for two years.
There is an interesting BBC webpage up this morning by Andrew Bomford of the PM programme going behind the scenes at the Old Bailey, looking at various parts of the building the public do not normally see.
Friday’s FT reports that the UK’s chief of defence staff has been to Myanmar, or Burma, to offer assistance in putting security and policing reforms in place as they move out of political isolation. The FT says the proposition has been enthusiastically accepted there.
I am not sure if I have mentioned it before but that paper notes that Xi Jinping has a daughter at Harvard University. It also remarks he visited the Pentagon last year when he was vice president. I suspect that was quite a significant event for him. It says cyber issues have made a remarkable transformation in recent times. They have moved from never being mentioned in public, to being politely discussed in private, to now being slap bang at the top of the political agenda.
I thoughful piece in the edition by Philip Stephens I feel. For me he is suggesting that nations sould be less isolationist, to look outside of themsleves a bit more. We are stronger together than when pulling apart. The trouble when you only see yourself as representing your own interests, it seems to me, is that you give those hidden forces the opportunity to divide and rule.
The Sunday Programme interviewed the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, this morning to back up the IF campaign wanting the forthcoming G8 summit to focus on global hunger. Following her attendance yesterday with Mr Cameron at the Nutrition for Growth meeting she was fully briefed on the subject.
Prior to his statement to Parliament tomorrow Mr Hague appeared on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. He said law abiding citizens have nothing to fear from the activities of intelligence agencies. He specifically mentioned we will never be aware of what they get up to. All we have to do is trust that they are achieving the best for us. That is exactly what a Kent Police detective constable said to me in correspondence in the autumn of 2010. I was asking him to made specific enquiries about some apparently accidental damage caused to a neighbour’s property, as I describe in chapter 4 of my book. He was not prepared to indicate in any way whether he had spoken to the people I thought he should in relation to the incident, for reasons of their privacy. He just said he had carried out an appropriate investigation and I must trust he had done that. I do not think however it is a satisfactory answer.
The other thing about secrecy it appears to me is that it is very effective at putting people into boxes. In December 2010 John Humprys interviewed Julian Assange at a Suffolk country house about the Wikileaks story. When John asked him whether he knew at the time the source of his leaked secret cables Julian said no. He referred to people needing to work in cells in his line of business. Someone was giving him information he wanted which he was very pleased about and presumably he thought it best not to ask why. By the time of the discussion however it was known that Julian had received his details from Bradley Manning who was being harshly treated by the American military. When John asked Julian why he had not offered any form of support to Bradley, such as funds to help with his defence, Julian thought about it for a moment and agreed it would be an appropriate thing for his organisation to do.