Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The 20,000 snooper army: Vast number of town hall bureaucrats get power to enter British homes without a warrant
As many as 20,000 town hall snoopers have assumed powers to enter people's homes without a warrant and search for information, a survey revealed last night. The research details for the first time how a raft of intrusive laws has allowed council staff to barge into homes and businesses uninvited.
The bureaucrats are benefiting from the 1,043 state powers of entry in primary and secondary legislation – more than 400 of which have been created by Labour. These include checking for fridges which do not have the correct eco-friendly energy rating, making sure a hedge is not too high and inspecting a property to ensure 'illegal or unregulated hypnotism' is not taking place.
Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the research, said: 'Once, a man's home was his castle. Today, the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes. 'Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public's right to privacy and the potential for abuse. There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.'
Using Freedom of Information laws, Big Brother Watch, a new privacy campaign group, asked councils in Britain to reveal the number of staff they had authorised to conduct property searches. The research, entitled 'Barging In', found there were at least 14,793 officers with that power – the equivalent of 47 officers in every local authority in Britain. More than a quarter of councils either refused or failed to answer the FOI requests.
But based on the responses given by other town halls, there are 20,000 snoopers with the power to enter a person's home or business. The survey relates only to town hall staff. If police officers, paramedics and firefighters are included, the total would be in the hundreds of thousands. Northamptonshire County Council and Glasgow City Council have the most officers able to enter your home, with almost 500 each.
Councils have been handing out the powers despite the fact Gordon Brown has expressed concern about the practice. In 2007, the Prime Minister said: 'I share the concerns about the need for additional protections for the liberties and rights of the citizen.'
Town halls are also carrying out thousands of 'spying' missions under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The law was passed nine years ago to fight terrorism, but access to the spy powers has been extended to 653 state bodies - including 474 councils. Cases uncovered by the Mail include Kent County Council carrying out 23 telephone subscriber checks as part of probes into storing petrol without a licence and bringing a dog into the UK without putting it into quarantine.
Britain's public prosecutor is forced to defend his socialist past
Britain's top prosecutor faced charges he is a 'socialist' yesterday after he flatly rejected Tory plans to give homeowners the right to kill burglars. Keir Starmer, the controversial Director of Public Prosecutions, said he could see no case for a change in the law, despite public outcry at the recent jailing of a man who beat up an intruder. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling called for stronger rights for householders after Munir Hussain was sentenced to 30 months for assaulting a gang member who held his family hostage at knifepoint in their home.
The intervention was the second time Mr Starmer, a former left-wing human rights lawyer, has publicly denounced Tory policies on crime. The DPP risked further controversy yesterday by repeating his support for the Human Rights Act, which the Conservatives have vowed to revoke. Mr Starmer's double outburst provoked claims that he has politicised the post – which has traditionally been seen as independent of politics.
The DPP, who edited left-wing publications in his youth, was forced to defend himself against the charge of bias. BBC interviewer Martha Kearney said: 'You have published magazines called Socialist Alternatives. You have had a political background.'
Mr Starmer replied: 'These are things of 25, 30 years ago now. They're not relevant to the work I do now. I hope that since I've been in office I've made it absolutely clear that every single decision is made absolutely independently.'
The DPP, who was named after former Labour politician Keir Hardie, said it was 'a little bit unfair' to brand him left-wing because of his name. But he then went on to dismiss Tory plans to help homeowners out of hand, when he could have stated simply that his job is to uphold whatever laws governments pass.
Current rules mean that homeowners can use 'reasonable force' against intruders. The Tories say they want to change the law so that prosecutions would only occur if homeowners used 'grossly disproportionate' force. But Mr Starmer said: 'The current test works very well. I can't really see the case for a change in the law at this stage. 'I have faith in the current arrangement which is the use of reasonable force. There are many cases, some involving death, where no prosecutions are brought. 'We would only ever bring a prosecution where we thought that the degree of force was unreasonable in such a way that the jury would realistically convict.'
He insisted that the case of Munir Hussain was different because he had pursued the intruder down the road and then assaulted him. 'What the law doesn't allow is for individuals after the event having pursued someone who may have been an intruder to then seek some sort of summary justice,' he said. 'We can't allow our system to be undermined by those exacting summary judgment in that way.'
Privately, party officials were furious that Mr Starmer had again been drawn into a public denunciation of their policies. 'He is there to enforce the law,' one said. 'He is not there to make the law.' A Tory spokesman added: 'It is for Parliament to make the law. We are still committed to reviewing the law if the Conservatives win the next election.'
Mr Starmer tried to insist that he had 'neither agreed nor disagreed with the government or the opposition' on human rights law. But he then went on to make clear his fears for the consequences of tearing up the law, which the Tories would replace with a British Bill of Rights, which is blamed for a host of politically correct court rulings to help terrorists and criminals.
'My concern is with victims and witnesses,' Mr Starmer said. 'The Human Rights Act has been a very effective instrument in progressing the rights of victims and witnesses. I'm anxious that there isn't any halting of that progress.'
In his interview, Mr Starmer said he is still looking at submissions to a public consultation on the law on assisted suicide. The DPP has drawn up guidelines for courts, which have been dismissed as a killer's charter.
And he said that decisions on whether to charge MPs and peers with fraud and other 'dishonesty type offences' over their expenses claims would be made 'in the reasonably foreseeable future'.
It is perhaps inevitable that Keir Starmer finds himself on a collision course with the Tories. Named after socialist firebrand Keir Hardie, Mr Starmer, 47, spent his formative years as what a former flatmate called a 'hard left' campaigner, running a group called Socialist Alternatives. He published the group's magazine, widely regarded as an impenetrable collection of left-wing jargon.
But it was good training for a man who would go on to befriend Cherie Blair and forge a reputation as one of Britain's foremost promoters of the developing area of human rights law. In 2007 he successfully challenged Home Office control orders against two terrorist suspects on human rights grounds.
His appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions in July 2008 was seen by critics as among the most blatant attempts by New Labour to pepper the establishment with those who share their ideological commitment to European human rights law, which is blamed for a host of politically-correct rulings.
Palestinian prof admits Arab denial of Temples is baloney
Before Israel founded, 'Muslims would not have disputed connection Jews have'
A prestigious Palestinian professor told WND that the Muslim denial of a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount is political and that historically Muslims did not dispute Jewish ties to the site. "If you went back a couple of hundred years, before the advent of the political form of Zionism, I think you will find that many Muslims would not have disputed the connection that Jews have toward [the Mount]," said Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University in eastern Jerusalem. "The problem began arising with the advent of Zionism, when people started connecting a kind of feeling that Jews have toward the area with the political project of Zionism," Nusseibeh stated.
Zionism refers to the political movement that supports the reestablishment of the Jewish state in the land of Israel.
According to sources inside the Palestinian Authority, Nusseibeh has come under some PA pressure for writing in a recent study that Jews historically revered the Temple Mount before the time of Muhammad and Islam. The PA sources denied any security threats against Nusseibeh but conceded that PA President Mahmoud Abbas' office had asked the professor to issue a clarification acknowledging the Palestinian line denying Jewish ties to the Mount. The sources indicated that if Nusseibeh did not issue a clarification his position as Al-Quds' president could be in jeopardy.
Nusseibeh, however, denied that he has received any threats over the matter. "I am surprised that people are surprised by what I wrote. There is nothing in Islam that denies the fact that Judaism is one of the religions of the book," he said.
Nusseibeh contributed to an Israeli-Palestinian study about the Temple Mount entitled, "Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade." In the study, Nusseibeh does not affirm the existence of the Jewish Temples on the site but writes the Mount was revered by Jews before the time of Muhammad.
The PA long has denied any Jewish historic connection to the Temple Mount or Jerusalem. In a previous WND interview, Chief Palestinian Justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi declared the Jewish temples never existed and Jews have no historic connection to Jerusalem. He also claimed the Western Wall really was a tying post for Muhammad's horse, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets for Islam. Tamimi is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem.
"Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city, and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880s," said Tamimi. "About these so-called two temples, they never existed, certainly not at the [Temple Mount]," Tamimi said during a sit-down interview in his eastern Jerusalem office.
The Palestinian cleric denied the validity of dozens of digs verified by experts worldwide revealing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temples throughout Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount itself; excavations revealing Jewish homes and a synagogue in a site in Jerusalem called the City of David; or even the recent discovery of a Second Temple Jewish city in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Tamimi said descriptions of the Jewish Temples in the Hebrew Tanach, in the Talmud and in Byzantine and Roman writings from the Temple periods were forged, and that the Torah was falsified to claim biblical patriarchs and matriarchs were Jewish, when they were prophets for Islam. "All this is not real. We don't believe in all your versions. Your Torah was falsified. The text as given to the Muslim prophet Moses never mentions Jerusalem. Maybe Jerusalem was mentioned in the rest of the Torah, which was falsified by the Jews," said Tamimi. He said Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus were "prophets for the Israelites sent by Allah as to usher in Islam."
Asked about the Western Wall, Tamimi said the structure was a tying post for Muhammad's horse and that it is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, even though the Wall predates the mosque by more than 1,000 years. "The Western Wall is the western wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque. It's where Prophet Muhammad tied his animal, which took him from Mecca to Jerusalem to receive the revelations of Allah." The Kotel, or Western Wall, is an outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount that survived the destruction of the Second Temple and still stands today in Jerusalem.
Tamimi went on to claim to WND the Al Aqsa Mosque , which has sprung multiple leaks and has had to be repainted several times, was built by angels. "Al Aqsa was built by the angels 40 years after the building of Al-Haram in Mecca. This we have no doubt is true," he said.
The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.
The Temple was the center of religious worship for ancient Israelites. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God's presence dwelt. All biblical holidays centered on worship at the Temple. The Temples served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and were the main gathering place for Israelites.
According to the Talmud, the world was created from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount. It's believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition.
The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed in about A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark what Muslims came to believe was the place at which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 656 times.
Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night on a horse from "a sacred mosque" – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to "the farthest mosque" and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque became associated with Jerusalem about 120 years ago.
According to research by Israeli Author Shmuel Berkovits, Islam historically disregarded Jerusalem as being holy. Berkovits points out in his new book, "How Dreadful Is this Place!" that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for. He wrote Muhammad made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place – the Kaaba in Mecca – to signify the unity of God. As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings influenced the Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites are to be found only in the Arabian Peninsula and that "in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron."
A guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published in 1925 listed the Mount as Jewish and as the site of Solomon's Temple. The Temple Institute acquired a copy of the official 1925 "Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif," which states on page 4, "Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which 'David built there an altar unto the Lord.'"
Old-fashioned standards live on in Africa
A gay couple was jailed for "gross indecency" in Malawi after the country's first same-sex public wedding ceremony over the weekend, as several African states were clamping down on homosexuality. A police spokesman said that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, the first Malawian gays to publicly wed in a symbolic ceremony on Saturday "will appear in court soon to answer charges of gross indecency".
Homosexuality is banned in the conservative southern African country where the public discussion of sex is still taboo. Malawi's penal code outlaws homosexuality and sodomy, which is punishable by a maximum of 14 years in jail.
Countries such as Uganda, Senegal and Burundi have intensified their efforts to repress homosexuality in a continent where 38 out of 53 countries have criminalised consensual gay sex.
Hundreds of people attended Saturday's ceremony held at a guesthouse in Blantyre and spiced with traditional and hip-hop music. The couple wore traditional robes. "I went there to see for myself a gay couple," Finiasi Chikaoneka, one of the hundreds of people who thronged the venue, said. "There were many people who were just curious about the whole affair because this was the first time that gays have come out openly," he added. Monjeza told the crowd he and Chimbalanga had been living together for five months, having first met at church.
The Malawi Law Society, a grouping of some 150 lawyers in Malawi, has condemned the wedding, saying it was illegal and "against the order of nature". The society's secretary, Mercy Mulele, was quoted by the Daily Times urging police action as the wedding was "against the laws of Malawi".
Gift Trapenze, who heads the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), which fights for gays, prostitutes and prisoners, defended the couple, saying "they were expressing their legal rights". He said the wedding was aimed at "testing" Malawi laws which were silent on such matters. "The two individuals were expressing their sexual orientation as human beings. The police should not interfere in this matter," he said.
The government does however recognise the existence of gays in Malawi and often calls on them to come out so as to help in the fight against AIDS, which affects around 14 per cent of the 13 million population.
Trapence said 21.4 per cent of gays were infected with HIV. He said gays had been driven underground because of fear of the anti-gay culture and imprisonment.
The anti-homosexuality laws on the continent have sparked condemnation from local and international rights groups. The Ugandan government drew worldwide condemnation for its proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would punish homosexuality with life imprisonment, and threatens anybody who promotes homosexuality with jail.
In Senegal a group of 24 men were arrested on Christmas Eve for allegedly engaging in homosexual acts and holding an authorised party. They were released the following day but remain under investigation.
In April, Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza promulgated a bill that made homosexuality an offence punishable by up to two years in prison. Human rights groups have condemned the move, saying the government's treatment of gays and lesbians is worsening.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.