Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Official British garbage snoopers
Councils are secretly rifling through thousands of dustbins to find out about families' race and wealth. Waste audits allow officials and private contractors to check supermarket labels, types of unwanted food - and even examine the contents of discarded mail.
The local authorities are using social profiling techniques to match different types of rubbish to different ethnic groups or wealthy and poor households, as part of a recycling drive initiated by the last Government.
Householders can then be placed into social categories, which in some areas range from 'wealthy achievers' to the 'hard-pressed' - and subsequently targeted for future leafleting campaigns.
But last night critics condemned the move as 'highly intrusive'. Most homeowners have no idea that their rubbish is being searched or that data collected could be used to prosecute those who place rubbish in the wrong bin.
At least 90 councils ran covert bin-rifling operations last year, according to Freedom of Information requests. They targeted a total of more than 10,000 families and argue that Government guidance suggested all checks on bins should be done without the knowledge of householders. ‘Ideally, you do not want to inform the public of an audit taking place, as this could alter their disposal behaviour,’ it said.
But the secret nature of the audits will raise concerns about privacy. Although some councils used their staff to conduct the operations, many hired in private contractors.
Often, officials deliberately picked streets where different types of men and women lived to see if their ethnic origins, type of home or wealth affected the amount or rubbish they threw out.
Councils in Leeds, Poole, Kensington and Chelsea, Swindon and Cheshire East all used some form of social profiling to target homes for bin searches. In Hackney, East London, researchers targeted homes based on their potential ethnic and social mix, collecting data separately on four different groups, including ‘multi-ethnic private flats’ and ‘prosperous young professionals’ flats’.
The study found that ‘as expected’ the ‘educated urbanites’ living in ‘trendy’ flats threw away the least rubbish.
Hackney also found a number of electrical items which should have been recycled, including a microwave oven, a foot spa and an electric heater.
In Bracknell Forest, Berkshire, researchers sifted through discarded food. They concluded that more than half of it could have been recycled or composted if householders had behaved more responsibly.
Officials in Wokingham, Berkshire, went through the bins of almost 500 homes, identifying almost a ton of rubbish that could have been recycled.
In Southampton, officials found that homeowners were more likely to put general waste in the recycling bin in the week after Christmas.
Fiona McEvoy, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, condemned the move as ‘highly intrusive’. ‘Councils shouldn’t be paying contractors to rummage through resident’s bins when there’s huge pressure on their finances. Local authorities should abandon their fascination with what’s inside our bins once and for all and concentrate on cutting the considerable fat within town halls.’
Dartford Council, in Kent, has refused to carry out the secret surveys. Jeremy Kite, who is the council’s Tory leader, said: ‘I strongly object to the analysis and examination of waste put out for collection unless specific permission is obtained from the householder and have intervened to prevent such exercises in Dartford on more than one occasion. I do not believe it is right.’
Councils cited little-known guidance from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for secret searches. Enfield Council, in North London, said: ‘In line with Defra guidance we took the view that householders would not be notified in order to avoid prejudicing the results.
‘When waste is placed out for collection by the householder the law regards this as being discarded, ie: not wanted or owned by the householder. When collected by the local authority the waste falls into their ownership.’
Ban the burka debate spreads to Spain, following France, Belgium and the Netherlands
SPANISH MPs will debate barring burkas in public, joining other European countries considering similar moves against the Islamic garments.
Spain's leading opposition party says the move is on the grounds that the body-covering garments are degrading to women.
Top officials of the ruling Socialist Party indicated they will support the proposal by the opposition Popular Party, making a ban likely unless the country's highest court rules it unconstitutional.
A debate in Spain's lower house has been set by the Popular Party for tomorrow or Wednesday, the party said. No vote will be scheduled until after the debate, and Spain's Parliament usually goes on vacation for a month starting in late July or early August. Justice Minister Francisco Caamano said on June 15 that garments like the burka are “hardly compatible with human dignity”.
Head-covering veils would not be included in a ban as they form a part of traditional Spanish dress, with women often covering their heads with a garment called a mantilla, especially during church services in the south of the country.
Other European nations that have debated regulating the use of body-covering burkas or face-covering niqabs include Belgium, the Netherlands and France.
A notable exception has been Britain, where Immigration Minister Damian Green described calls to outlaw such garb as “un-British”. “Telling people what they can and can't wear, if they're just walking down the street, is a rather un-British thing to do,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. “We're a tolerant and mutually respectful society.”
France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burka-style Islamic veils on July 13 in an effort to define and protect French values, a move that angered many in the country's large Muslim community.
The French ban on burkas and niqabs goes before Senate in September amid predictions it will pass, but its biggest hurdle could come when France's constitutional watchdog scrutinises it later.
Britain and France have sizable Muslim minorities that they have sometimes struggled to integrate. Differences over dress - in particular the stark-looking niqab, usually an all-back garment which leaves only the eyes visible - often serve as touchstones for wider discussions about Islam, identity, and immigration.
A British Conservative MP has just tabled a French-style bill that would outlaw the niqab, but the bill hasn't received any support for the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and isn't likely to get very far.
Belgium's lower house approved a ban on face-covering veils, but it must still be ratified by its upper chamber.
The Netherlands debated banning burkas four years ago and may yet outlaw attire that is considered as demeaning to women.
Spain's second-largest city of Barcelona in June banned the use of burkas and niqabs in municipal buildings, joining a handful of small towns and cities nearby that have taken similar steps.
White Christian Britons being unfairly targeted for hate crimes by official prosecutors
White Christian Britons are being unfairly targeted compared with minority groups for committing hate crimes, a new report says. The study from think-tank Civitas argues that new hate crime legislation is restricting freedom of speech, and has effectively introduced a new blasphemy law into Britain by the back door.
A foreword attached to the main report, “A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today”, argues that prosecutors and police are unfairly singling out alleged crimes by white Christians, while ignoring other similar offences by minority groups.
It says: “Some police forces and the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] seem to be interpreting statutes in favour of ethnic and religious minorities and in a spirit hostile to members of the majority population, defined as ‘White’ or ‘Christian’.”
Report authors said it is “legitimate to ask” whether these agendas are being driven by “sectarian groups” within either police forces or inside the CPS.
It claims “there is evidence of biased application of the law”, citing the case of a Muslim man who sprayed the words “Islam will dominate the world – Osama is on his way” and “Kill Gordon Brown” on a war memorial in Burton-Upon-Trent.
He was prosecuted for criminal damage – “that is neither a racially nor a religiously aggravated offence”.
The CPS had argued that “the defacing the memorial did not attach to any particular racial or religious group” despite the fact that the monument was “a Christian and British memorial, carrying Christian and British symbols.
"People who read the story found themselves thinking that, if a non-Muslim had defaced a Muslim building the system would have thrown the book at him".
This compared with a Christian couple in Liverpool, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who were prosecuted and then cleared last December of a religiously aggravated hate crime after a strongly worded discussion with a Muslim guest at their hotel about the relative merits of their respective religions.
Civitas questions whether the CPS’s decisions are being influenced by an internal staff association called the National Black Crown Prosecution Association (NBCPA), which has in the past received tens of thousands of pounds from the CPS.
It says the NBCPA’s “main objective is to advance the careers of ethnic minorities within the CPS but it also takes an interest in the impact of CPS decisions on members of ethnic minorities”.
It adds: “Whether this concern threatens the impartiality of the CPS is not clear. But other harmful effects of race-based politics have already led to open criticism by some CPS staff.” It cites a newspaper report which claimed “that ethnic minorities were being given jobs within the CPS that they could not do”.
It adds: “The activities of race and religion-based groups within the criminal justice system, including the police, the probation service and the CPS, are such that a public inquiry is now needed. “Groups that act in a sectarian spirit have no place in a system whose essence should be justice and impartiality.”
A hate crime is officially defined as a “criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility, or prejudice based on a person’s religion or perceived religion”.
Yet the report argues that these definitions are without substance and result in confusion and silliness in their application.
Although the total number of these crimes has fallen from 13,201 in 2006/7 to 11,845 in 2008/9, the report says the volume of hate legislation has rapidly expanded, with 35 Acts of Parliament, 52 statutory instruments, 13 codes of practice, three codes of guidance and 16 European Union directives which have a bearing on “discrimination”.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said the NBCPA was “a highly regarded staff association” and “the trailing of the suggestion that the NBCPA may affect the CPS’ impartiality is without foundation.
“The NBCPA has no influence over specific casework decisions. The decision to prosecute is based solely on the application of the principles contained in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”
Prosecutors only take allegations of a racist or religious crime to court when they are satisfied “there has to be sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. “Where there is evidence of a racially or religiously aggravated crime, the public interest will usually require a prosecution.
“When making their decisions, prosecutors are not influenced by the ethnic or national origin, religion or belief of the suspect or victim and it is incorrect to suggest any one group is singled out more than another for prosecution.”
There is no limit to the ambitions of American "civil liberties" body
Now they want national security information turned over to them. But that was one step too far:
A federal judge on Thursday refused to force the public release of CIA methods relating to Sept. 11 detainees who were interrogated harshly, saying the judiciary's authority is limited when national security is at stake.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected arguments by the American Civil Liberties Union that it should be able to force the CIA to release names and documents related to the detainees if the methods used by the agency were illegal.
He said to do so would "confer an unwarranted competence to the district court to evaluate national intelligence decisions."
The judge said releasing the documents requested by the ACLU would provide operational details about the application of various interrogation techniques in various circumstances for a particular detainee.
"The difference between the information officially released and the CIA operational records here is different in quality, degree, and kind," Hellerstein said. He cited an earlier court case that he said was consistent with his findings. In that case, the Supreme Court let the government withhold identifying information of scientists who worked on a covert CIA program researching the use of chemical, biological and radiological materials to control human behavior. The program led to the death of some human test subjects.
"Courts are not invested with the competence to second-guess the CIA director regarding the appropriateness of any particular intelligence source or method," Hellerstein wrote.
He said the law was clear that the courts do not have the authority to force the release of such documents.
He noted that CIA Director Leon E. Panetta had declared that disclosure would result in "exceptionally grave damage to clandestine human intelligence collection and foreign liaison relationships."
Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director, said the group was "very dismayed by today's ruling." He said the civil rights group was seriously considering an appeal. "The CIA can't rely on its authority to withhold intelligence sources and methods in order to withhold evidence of its own [alleged] criminal conduct," he said.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). 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.