Penniless student? Make a video and get paid by the police

Here’s a money making tip. As student Simona Bonomo discovered, all you need to do is make a video of iconic buildings in London.

OK they don’t pay you straight away. In fact it’s fair to say there is some hassle involved. But it might also give you first hand experience of the Stanford experiment forty years on.

More surveillance please, we’re British

Manchester, England looks likely to get a congestion charging scheme to penalise motorists using the roads when they are most needed. As a sweetener, some of the revenue raised will be spent on local public transport.

It’s a hotly debated topic, and whilst the basic purpose – to reduce rush hour traffic – is a Good Thing it has many implications which need to be thought through. These incude the effect on Manchester businesses, house prices, the cost of deliveries, disadvantaging the less well off, increased pressure on public transport and so on.

Quite separately, I want to know why increasingly, the solution to social questions appears to be the installation of more cameras to snoop on law abiding citizens. Continue reading

Shami Chakrabarti in joke binoculars prank

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti was the victim of joke binoculars yesterday, and had to hold her chin up with her fist to stop herself suing the prankster.

This blow came on the same day she wasted time threatening the culture secretary, Andy Burnham with legal action when she should be out there campaigning for the protection of civil liberties.

Shami ChakrabartiSomeone should tell Ms Chakrabarti to behave a bit more like RMT leader Bob Crow, and to get over herself.

Give up your rights – just in case

Taking Liberties DVDYesterday the British government won – by a majority of only nine – its proposal to extend the time a suspect could be held without charge from 28 days to 42 days.

An overhaul of counter-terrorism laws in 2000 introduced the basic 48-hour detention, extendable to seven days with the permission of the courts. In 2003 that was doubled to 14 days – and the Terrorism Act 2006 took it to 28 days. Can you see a pattern here?
Continue reading

ID cards by stealth

Nineteen Eighty Four by George OrwellThe British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has the unenviable job of foisting identity cards on us. She knows that forcing us all to pay for one right from the start would not work. So she has announced that airport workers, immigrants and students are to get them first.

You may think that airport security is a Good Idea (that’s why workers already undergo police checks and wear ID badges), immigration needs to be controlled, and anything which makes student life easier is to be welcomed (showing two pieces of identification when opening a bank account is a major hassle). But make no mistake – you will be next.

When your personal data is on a vast government database (or a laptop left in a taxi), and you need an identity card just to take the dog for a walk, don’t say you didn’t realise how far the State planned to take this scheme.

Is Britain failing the Sugar Test?

Someone once told me that soft drinks companies regularly analyse their competitors’ products. Not so that they can copy the recipes, but in order to monitor the sugar content. Sugar is the most expensive ingredient, and a competitor reducing the amount of sugar in its fizzy drinks is most likely in financial trouble.

I have recently noticed an indicator, like the sugar content in drinks, which is a sure sign that an enterprise is in serious decline. In fact it doesn’t just correlate with the financial performance of businesses, but is a Sugar Test for the very prosperity and integrity of whole countries.

I discovered it on a trip to Spain. There’s a pharmacy near where we stay, and it has always been typical of continental pharmacies – blindingly white, clean, quiet and tidy. The medicines and toiletries are expensive. The staff in white coats are professional, aloof and yet helpful. The green cross sign outside may be a frenetic, dazzling animation more appropriate to Las Vegas than a quiet Spanish street, but inside all is calm and, well, clinical.

This time, however, something had changed. Continue reading