All 10 entries tagged Uk

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August 14, 2006

Threat levels: doing the numbers

Being interested in world event, and also a student of statistics, I'm always intrigued by the language of politicians when it comes to threat or risk.

For instance, this week we reached the dizzying heights of a 'CRITICAL' terrorist threat level, which is distinguishable from 'SEVERE' simply by the imminent nature of the threat. However, when we were downgraded to 'SEVERE' this morning, the questions started to surface. Recently politicians haven't said much of the terror threat level, but in the last few days I'm constantly hearing about how a threat is 'highly likely' now we are at the SEVERE level.

What does that mean? It seems it can be misleading in two distinct ways:

  1. How likely is highly likely? It suggest a very high probability that an attack will happen, but what is that? 0.5? 0.7? 0.99? More than likely it is an extremely low probability figure if we talk of an attack in the near future, maybe less than 0.01. Certainly, the impact of such an event could be catastrophic, which may justify using such language in a relative sense.

  2. Once we retreat from the immediacy of an event (ie the CRITICAL level), we have no reference to the timespan of these threats. We are expected to assume the level is describing the 'climate' in which we live. But does this mean an attack is actually highly likely? The language used does not make sense if we consider the intended message..

Perhaps I shouldn't think so much about it. Maybe they should publish estimated probability figures with 95% confidence intervals.. That would satisfy pedants like me.


July 13, 2006

ICA news update

Firstly I should apologise for the blog not being updated in a little while, but I'm practically running it on my own at the moment…

Anyway, back to current affairs, and I have good news!
It seems that the stupid, ill conceived ID card scheme has gone under, which is to say (in government speak), will be re–evaluated after another report to take place after Easter 2007. This means that it is off the table probably forever but even if they ever do think about bringing it back then it will be held back until at least the time when we can elect a different government.
link

Secondly I have more good news!
“Lord” Levy, the Labour party's chief fund–raiser and close friend of Tony Blair has been arrested last night, he was then questioned and released on bail, and this morning is being questioned again by police. If Lord Levy has broken the law then I would feel confident in saying that Blair too has broken the law (and probably Brown); because they management system would have to be seriously messed up if the head(s) of an organisation did not know how the finances were organised. The corruption could run very deep, but I wouldn't expect the police to even question the PM…
link

Thirdly, I will briefly mention Israel (I've not devoted any time to this because I am far from an expert, and it has been covered in depth in many other places). Israel has said that the attack on their soldiers by the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists constitutes an act of war. Israel has attacked an airport in Lebanon and is imposing an air and sea blockade. Israel is also stepping up pressure on Gaza. Fighting continues.
link

Fourthly, Iran has been referred back to the security council for possible punishment, but this would not include military action. “Ministers meeting in Paris said Tehran has not signalled it was seriously considering incentives designed to get it to abandon uranium enrichment”. The success of this referral will be dependant on Russia and China who have not been keen on imposing sanctions on Iran because it could harm them economically.
link

If you feel that I'm not reporting on something which you feel you could say something interesting about, or if you would like to contribute in more depth feel free to respond here to mention it, I'll try and get you added to be able to post here.


July 03, 2006

28 days not enough

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5138294.stm

The BBC is reporting on the polices power to detain people for 28 days and the Home Affairs Committee saying that this is “Inadequate”. Apparently this is because it takes a long time to process terror suspects and then to charge them. People often worry about the police having the ability to randomly detain people without charge, and without even telling them what charge they might face, some claim that this could/would lead to more terrorism. Not so says Blair. The Home Office is still claiming that even 14 days which we currently have is simply not long enough and the government's official line at the 90 day debate was that it was essential to save lives (even though 14 days has been perfectly fine to prevent terrorism up to now… they didn't even detain the people who actually carried out the attack on 7/7/05).

At the risk of breaking Godwin's law I found this quote from Goering at the Nuremberg trials which seemed very relevant:

Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.

To me this is pretty much what Blair has been doing. Anyone who doesn't want 90 day detention is risking the lives of innocent people in the country… those damn pacifists who fail to be patriotic.


June 25, 2006

A New Bill of Rights

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/5114102.stm

Editorial:

David Cameron has suggested that the Conservative party could scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA). This suggestion has also come from Tony Blair over the past few months (though strangely it was Blair who passed the law). The Human Rights Act, it is argued, gives too many rights to criminals and not enough protection to the population at large.

Cameron's suggestion differs from that of Blair because he is suggesting getting rid of the HRA but introducing a Bill of Rights for the UK, along the lines of the American on (though evidently different from the English Bill of Rights, which was passed in 1689). Cameron said that the current HRA is both giving too many rights to criminals whilst failing to protect civil liberties, a new act would be an attempt to reverse both these trends.

For my part, I would argue that this is desperately needed. We are losing rights every day because the current government's attitude is “even if it isn't broke… introduce more laws”, a tribute to that never give up, never think things through, attitude. The 90 day detention was a case in point; there is no need to have any length of detention without charge over and above about 24 hours. If you suspect that someone has committed a crime then you should charge them, at least then they know what they are meant to have done and can try and produce some counter evidence. This was a horrific breach of civil liberties which we couldn't stop because the laws which forbade it were seen to be too old, too remote and not clear enough. The 90–day law clearly breached the Habeas Corpus Act (1679) but this is still just a law, and Parliament can get rid of or over right any law it wants. If we have a new Bill of Rights it could be set up in such a way that it cannot be easily overwritten or changed.

It is also not too difficult to see examples of criminals been given too many rights. An example is the man who whilst escaping from the police climbed on top of a house. He threw bricks and tiles at the police and yet the police was bound to provide food for him because to not do would go against his “human rights”.

We clearly need a new set of rules which everyone can see, understand and feel confident with. A new Bill of Rights is a very good start.


June 23, 2006

Blair to attack the 'Justice Gap'

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5108158.stm

From the BBC, we hear that Blair, after meeting campaigners for 'victim's rights' we are to address the apparant 'justice gap'. Apparantly, the rights of criminals are 'outweighing' the rights of the victims. Well maybe so, especially when victims call for the right to execute/castrate/flog or whatever.

Also, we hear that there "is a huge and growing gap between the criminal justice system and what the public expects from it". Well that I agree on, or at least there is a gap between public perceptions of the criminal justics system and that inconvienient thing called reality. Talk to you're average Joe (no offence Joe..) on the street and he'll tell you crime is out of control in this country, not enough people get locked up, and judges are becoming 'soft' in terms of sentencing. When you mention that crime is falling year on year consistantly (despite the waves of new criminal offences introduced under Labour), the prison population is "within weeks" of reaching capacity (according to the cheif prison women in an interview in the New Statesman the other week..I forget her name), and that sentencing has in fact gone up rather than down in terms of length served in prison, one gets an awkward silence…

…followed closely by the heckles of being a pansy liberal falling at the shoes of blood thirsty murderers, and worse, peodophiles. There's just no telling some people..

It all reminds me of one time when I was 15–16. In a corner shop a woman approached me to ask me to sign a petition for a 'Sarah's Law', whereby addresses and phone numbers of peodophiles are made available to the public.. I told her quite frankly that I didn't believe in the vigilante justice that would be the inevitable consequence in some areas of the UK, and that any civilised justice should be left up to the courts. She called me a peodophile. I left.. Again, there's just no talking to some people..


June 22, 2006

Insurance for 'imaculate' conception

In what is the strangest story I've heard in a while, an insurance firm has been forced to withdraw their insurance cover for three women in Scotland that covers them in the event of them being chosen by God as the vessel for the second coming of christ. If the women secured a payout, £1 million would be made available to bring up the messiah, so says the BBC.

The MD of 'britishinsurance.com' said, "The people were concerned about having sufficient funds if they immaculately conceived." Hmm.. well I suppose it's a risk we all take, even men I suppose, considering a God as 'all–powerful'.

However, whether they'd taken out the small print of not being liable for 'acts of God' is not clear.


June 19, 2006

Forest Gate/De Menezes

sorry, could only find a picture of the front cover, but I just tought that photo was very powerful


June 12, 2006

Reid attacks 'too lenient' sentence

According to the BBC, John Reid has critised the judgement on a man convicted of sexually assaulting a 6–year–old girl as 'too lenient'.

The man in question recieved life inprisonment, but with the possibility of release in 5 years.

I'm not going to say much here, because I've just finished my exams today, and I'm a bit worse for wear shall we say…

I'll just propose a question. With the separation between the legislator and the judicuary so important in the UK constitutional arrangment, does this signal a step too far by a politician, or is this indeed within John Reid's responsibilities (ie to question the sentencing of independant judges)?


June 10, 2006

"Yet another" Knife attack

Another young life has been cut short by an apparantly unprovoked attack by a "knife weilding gang of youths", so reported by the Guardian.

This is somewhat of a follow up to the post 'Knife Amnesty Fails', and it seems we have another example of Joe's point. However, my questions are in regard to the media's responce to this. Every day it seems there is a new knife victim, giving the impression that we are under a new crime wave perpetrated by these "knife weilding maniacs". But has anything changed? Is this just an example of sensationalized media? My guess is that in a few weeks, knife victims will resume being ignored by the media, and the problem will pretend to solve itself. We are already starting to see it, with stories being continually relegated to further and further inside the paper.

A comment on Joe's thread talked about the awareness created by the knife amnesty, which of course is a good thing. The media's reporting of these unecessary, violent murders is fantastic. I'm just frustrated of the short–termism of it all.


June 04, 2006

Knife Amnesty fails.

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5045744.stm

The BBC is reporting that in the knife amnesty over 10,000 knives and other weapons have been handed in to the police. The article contains a quote from “Mothers Against Murder and Aggression” (like other people want to be murdered?) where they claim that this is a good thing – after all, that's 10,000 less dangerous weapons on the street, right? Well, no.

The knives which are handed in almost certainly wouldn't have been used in crimes – people who commit crimes don't give their weapons in. This is quite probably just older people who have been lead to believe that what they already owned is actually going to kill them and make little kittens cry. It is futile. It is also worth mentioning that it doesn't seem to have done anything to stop the rate of knife murder…


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