Snoopers’ Charter Set to Return to Law as Theresa May Suggests Conservative Majority Could Lead to Huge Increase in surveillance Powers

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Courtesy of Andrew Griffin @ The Independent:

The Conservatives are already planning to introduce the huge surveillance powers known as the Snoopers’ Charter, hoping that the removal from government of the Liberal Democrats that previously blocked the controversial law will allow it to go through.

The law, officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, is already back on the agenda according to Theresa May. It is expected to force British internet service providers to keep huge amounts of data on their customers, and to make that information available to the government and security services.

The snoopers’ charter received huge criticism from computing experts and civil liberties campaigners in the wake of introduction. It was set to come into law in 2014, but Nick Clegg withdrew his support for the bill and it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Theresa May, who led the legislation as home secretary, said shortly after the Conservatives’ election victory became clear that she will seek to re-introduce it to government. With the re-election of May and the likely majority of her party, the bill is likely to find success if the new government tries again. Continue reading

TTIP: Transatlantic Trade Deal Text Leaked to BBC

Which ever ist or ism you want to apply, it solidifies the power of a few. Courtesy of Glenn Campbell @ BBC Scotland:

A leaked draft of what the European Union wants excluded from a new trade deal with the United States has been obtained by the BBC.

The document describes itself as the EU’s “initial offer” in negotiations over the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).

It includes the wording that UK ministers have said will protect the NHS from privatisation.

Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS is still needed.
The 103-page document is headed “trade in services and investment: schedule of specific commitments and reservations”.

It was produced before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels were held at the beginning of this month.

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On health, the document states: “The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”.

The wording is the same as that used in a similar free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA).

The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured “publicly funded health services are excluded”.

The European Commission has also previously said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK.

But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal. Continue reading

MH370 Was Hacked And Shot Down By American Air Force Says Airline Boss Marc Dugain

Courtesy of Ryan Barrell @ Huff Po:

Doomed flight MH370 was shot down by the United States after being remotely hacked, a former airline boss has claimed.

Ex-Proteus Airlines head Marc Dugain has added to mountains of conspiracy theories surrounding the missing aircraft by suggesting the US Air Force blew the plane out of the sky.

Fearing a 9/11 style terror attack, the USA took action from the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia after learning hackers had taken control of the Malaysia Airlines plane, Mr Dugain claims.

The Frenchman says he spoke to residents of the Maldives who saw “red and blue stripes with a white background” on a plane heading towards Diego Garcia on the day of MH370’s disappearance.

The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared over the South China Sea on 8 March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

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Marc Dugain

Continue reading

Heirs to Rockefeller Oil Fortune Divest from Fossil Fuels over Climate Change

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Courtesy of Suzanne Goldberg @ The Guardian:

The heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their funds from fossil fuel investments on Monday, lending a symbolic boost to a $50bn divestment campaign ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change.

The former vice-president, Al Gore, will present the divestment commitments to world leaders, making the case that investments in oil and coal have an uncertain future.

With Monday’s announcement, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund controls about $860m in assets, said Beth Dorsey, the chief executive of the Wallace Global Fund and the Divest-Invest movement, which has led the divestment campaign. About 7% are invested in fossil fuels.

But the Rockefellers’ decision to cut their ties with oil lends the divestment campaign huge symbolic importance because of their family history. The divestment move also helps bring a campaign launched by scrappy activists on college campuses into the financial mainstream.

But for oil, there may not have been a Rockefeller fortune. John and William Rockefeller were the co-founders of the Standard Oil Company, which at the time operated the world’s biggest refineries, and overtime spawned Exxon, Amoco and Chevron.

Now, after a year of deliberations, the descendants of those original Rockefellers had decided the time had come to move away from oil. Continue reading

How Westbrook Partners came to loom over a small east London community

Courtesy of Amelia Hill and Robert Booth @ The Guardian:

For more than 80 years, the Lever family have run the New Era housing estate in east London as a philanthropic concern, enabling teaching assistants, NHS staff and construction workers to live near their places of work while paying affordable rents.

Now the grandson of Arthur Barsht, the man who built the 93-flat estate, has defended his family’s decision to sell the properties to an American private equity company. He has, he suggested, little sympathy for the families who could be evicted before Christmas.

The plight of the tight-knit community living in a small corner of London has links that stretch across the Atlantic to American firefighters, teachers and police; and far beyond, to international property deals in Munich, Paris and Tokyo.

The entire community’s homes were bought from underneath them in March by Westbrook Partners with the help of Richard Benyon, the Conservative MP whose multimillion-pound family estate was a partner on the deal. Now Westbrook plans to raise rents sky-high, forcing residents – most of whom have leases with a break clause of just two weeks – into homelessness.

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Russell Brand joins the protest to save social housing at the New Era estate earlier this month. Photograph: Jules Annan/Barcroft Media

The families say they may have to leave London, swapping their tight-knit familiar community for towns and cities where they know no one. Wherever they end up, however, the British taxpayer will have to foot the bill to house many of them – indirectly contributing to Westbrook’s profits.

Continue reading

Named and shamed: The government MPs profiting from NHS sell-off

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Sickening: These are some of the prominent government ministers who have profited from allowing private companies to provide NHS healthcare services. Meanwhile…

Courtesy of Voxpolitical:

Here’s a new wrinkle on an old story: The social media have been publishing lists of MPs with shares in private healthcare companies – and therefore have their noses in the trough as these companies profit from NHS contracts – since before the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was passed. Now the Unite union has published its own list and the mainstream media have got involved.

Good for Unite – at last this corruption is receiving the attention it deserves.

Named on the list of 71 Coalition MPs (64 Tories; seven Liberal Democrats) are David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, along with former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – proving that corruption played a huge part in the introduction of private firms into NHS work.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are also named, providing a clear indication of why the Liberal Democrats colluded in this – we can only call it – crime. Even though none of the politicians mentioned in the list acted against current UK laws, they all acted dishonestly in claiming that the change was good for the country when in fact they meant it was good for themselves.

How many of them declared this clear conflict of interest while voting for the Health and Social Care Act in 2012? None seems the most likely answer.

According to the Daily Mirror, “All 71 MPs named in the dossier voted in favour of the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Act in 2012, which opened up the NHS to more private firms.”

The revelation comes ahead of Friday’s vote on Labour MP Clive Efford’s Private Members’ Bill, which calls on MPs to scrap key sections of the Act.

This Bill is not to be confused with Labour’s plan to abolish the Act altogether, which could only happen after a Labour government is elected in May next year. The UK Parliamentary system works in such a way that the sitting government can never lose a whipped vote as its members outnumber all other groups in the House of Commons; it is a shame that this blog has to spell it out but some readers have demonstrated a lack of understanding in this regard.

The list includes Andrew Lansley’s now-infamous £21,000 donation in November 2009 from John Nash, the former chairman of Care UK, and Jeremy Hunt received more than £20,000 from hedge fund baron Andrew Law, a major investor in healthcare firms. Continue reading

Destroying Online Freedom in the Name of Counter-Terrorism Will make the World a More Dangerous Place

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Photo: Reuters

Courtesy of Carly Nyst @ The Telegraph:

Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ, announced his arrival this week with a call for “greater co-operation” with security forces by tech companies. Hannigan’s article in the Financial Times illustrated vividly the destructive ideology that has driven the infiltration by the British and American intelligence agencies into every aspects of the digital realm – an unquestioning faith in the righteous purpose of intelligence agencies, a complete mischaracterisation of the nature of the internet and its value, and a frightening belief that companies stand only on the side of the State, rather than in the interests of the privacy and security of their users.

Hannigan’s decision to enter the debate in this way is extraordinary. In a parliamentary democracy based on the Rule of Law, it is not appropriate for civil servants to speak for government or set policy.

His rhetoric is all the more disappointing for being the first public response by GCHQ to the serious challenges to the lawfulness of its activities since the first of the Snowden revelations in summer 2013.
Such activities include, of course, mass surveillance of all communications in and out of the British Isles, warrantless access to the NSA’s databases, the hacking of user devices and even the infiltration of Yahoo webcam chats.

Over the past year, in courts and inquiries and the media, GCHQ has refused to confirm or deny any of its wrongdoings, and the Government has refused to engage in any constructive conversation on how to prevent the overreach of intelligence agencies in the digital age.

Rather than acknowledge the very real misgivings that the British people have in the accountability of the services charged with protecting their security, Hannigan has used his public platform as an exercise in ex-post justification, and to launch the case for expanded powers. The audacity of such an attack, even as GCHQ is under the review of the Intelligence Services Committee, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, is astounding. Continue reading