Manchester’s Sad Dichotomy


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Field A_2010_07_29_0436_250x375px
Every terrorist incident in the West seems to have a sequel, and that is the blame game.
In a poll on Twitter by David Jones 70% of respondents suggest government was partly to blame for the attack. Even the music concert performer, Ariana Grande, who sung at the Manchester event is being blamed for the clothes that she wore. Then it’s the security services for not preventing the attack.

Of course, it goes without saying that an entire religion is also to blame. Loose immigration policy on Middle Eastern and North African refugees, and the infiltration of radicalism into mosques is apparently much to blame. Even liberal thinking people took a knock and so too does every strain of political party. On the other hand, singer, Morrissey suggests that politicians are just too scared to blame Islam for Manchester attack! It doesn’t help.

Indeed, how is all this indignant blame going to help? It is certainly throwing up a smoke signal and one wonders if our political ‘elite’ can see the smoke for the mist and formulate pro-active and acceptable policy.

I am told that two poor homeless people, Britons, who were begging and sleeping on the street in the immediate area of the blast, rushed to the aid the bleeding victims. Their moving accounts of how they helped the victims has ended in an appropriate appeal to assist them and the money is still pouring in!

Here are two British people made destitute by the system, struggling to keep going, against all the odds, and their Government does naught for them, so it seems. How could they? Here is the irony. So much funding available to the poor is allocated to refugee immigrants first; they are housed, given jobs and lead a right royal life in comparison to life in their home nations.

Our ungrateful terrorist, even enjoyed a university education until he dropped out. Who funded that? Police named British born Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Muslim, just 22 years of age, from a Libyan refugee background. His brother, Ismail Abedi, was arrested and so too were his parents, in Libya.

Salman and Ismail appear to be of good home and blessed with the opportunities of the British way of life. Abedi lived in a house on Manchester’s Elsmore Road – a quiet, residential street lined with red-brick semi-detached houses. How quaint. Better than a cardboard box outside a stadium. The brothers were more favoured by the system, it would seem, than are most true Britons who find themselves in dire straits.

So who is responsible for this, who should take the blame? Seems to me that there is blood on the hands of successive Western governments. European and American intervention in the Muslim non-secular states is part of the problem. Invasions on false premises of weapons of mass destruction and, of course, the war against terrorism. All with ulterior motive. Offensives against ISIS in the ‘Caliphate’, and more recently in Syria cannot help. But it is not the entire cause.

Islam cannot possibly be described as a religion of peace. By all accounts it is clearly the root of most terrorism in Europe and is based on its tenets of non-Muslim intolerance, jihadist revolution, hatred of the infidel and the anti-Semitism of its faith. It’s a hateful religion, so much so that some are influenced to perpetrate dastardly acts of terrorism in its name.

There are a disturbing number of psychotically deluded little Muslims running around Europe. This psychosis is the ultimate motive for all Islamic terrorism in the West. Yet the West digs its head deeper into the sand. The migration to Europe by many thousands of Muslims, away from their now broken homes and bankrupt economies run by despots, is not without contribution. They come with much religious indoctrination, a pathological bitterness, and even thoughts of retribution and, yes, the blame game too.

We owe them, some might say, and we are giving abundantly it would seem. Yet the system that feeds and sustains them is foreign to them, non-Islamic, and needs to conform to their way of living.  They, and more so their issue, are easy victims for radicalisation; that process of religious corruption of the mind and making the infidel host enemy. Their new home, with generous benefactors, becomes the target. No holds barred. They perceive they are profiled badly, which they are much due to Muslim terrorism, and they feel rejected.

So there is the ugly mix. The West seems to have ignored the alarm bells rung and buries itself in the comfort of being nice to these strange and struggling people with different ways. Society is intolerant of those who point fingers at migration or object to the pacifism in the face of an onslaught, labelling them racist or even bigot. And now the fires are burning. Manchester weeps. Terrorism wins yet again – Europe raises the white flag to negotiate!

The thing is, you cannot negotiate with terrorists. Negotiation with terrorists will only succeed if you bend entirely to their demands. They call the shots. The jihadist wants to impose his religion, his way of life, the Islamic way, and give privilege to Muslims and those of the faith. There is no compromise. Understand clearly, the jihadist has no political master nor tangible nation to which they are loyal. They fight and slaughter the innocents in the name of their mythical God. Gods cannot negotiate. So who are European government to negotiate with?

The Manchester suicide bombing is a dire tragedy of multiple proportions. The dead and their grieving and suffering families, the lacerated and torn wounded, and the horrified onlookers scared with fear, are only a part of the tragedy. The other tragedy is that of successive governments which, clearly, cannot see the wood for the trees.

The time is ripe for a paradigm shift in combatting Muslim terrorism. It goes much beyond tackling home grown radicalisation. Europeans need to go to the root of the problem and exorcise or purge the community which breeds the problem. This, of course goes against those well entrenched doctrines of human rights, religious freedom of association, and the credible system of jurisprudence that Europeans enjoy, but which no immigrant Muslim would have enjoyed in his home country. There is the dichotomy.

PRISM and Tempora: Unholy Tapping Alliance or Portcullis


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIIt seems rather strange that there is such indignant protest that the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States has been trolling social media, gathering intelligence. Even more umbrageous objection arises from the allegation that some of this intelligence is being shared with Unites States’ allies, principally the United Kingdom. The pinnacle dissent in this debacle seems to be that your trustworthy and friendly social networking site has allowed ‘Uncle Sam’ backdoor access to all your data, which of course they all deny.

Let us smell the salts here. Intelligence gathering has recorded biblical roots from the days when Moses sent twelve men to spy on the land of Canaan. Spying is labelled by some as the second oldest profession, but, perhaps, commands less respect than the first. While war with ones foes has been the catalyst of espionage motivation generally, home revolution, subversion and civil dissension have turned the practice inward, thus targeting citizen opinion.

The core of good intelligence interception is communication. Message snatching has moved from bribing or disabling the messenger to sophisticated methods of “wire-tapping” designed to monitor a broader spectrum of interests and thus glean more intelligence. Electronic eavesdropping forms a major part of most intelligence operations the world over today. The intelligence agencies have moved with the technology and social networking just had to fall within their sites.

Back in the 1960s the Western allies introduced ECHELON, the global electronic eves-dropping system; a late Cold War need to intercept then COMECON military and diplomatic communications traffic. With the waning of the Cold War, ECHELON turned its attention to the collection and analysis of private and commercial communications using radio, microwave, cellular, fibre-optic, cyber and celestial (satellite) communications, known by the acronym SIGINT. It continues to operate today and we have known about it for years. The Chinese are doing it, as are the Russians.

Now we have PRISM bursting onto the world stage, thanks in part to whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who is current sought by the United States. PRISM (described as an activity designator – thus the acronym SIGAD) is a complimentary process of the wider reigning ECHELON and a primary source of US and sometimes Western intelligence. The process of activity designation prioritises intercepts based on their worth, perhaps through a process of key word/phrase analysis. Thus, most of the drivel we write hits the waste bins of the NSA. The ‘good stuff’ is pumped into massive non linear databases, making the GDR Stasi’s Department 26 look like kindergarten.

According to leaked NSA documents, social networking giants (Facebook, Google, Skype and Yahoo were named) and some of the big five (Microsoft and Apple included) allowed direct access to their servers and databases by the PRISM system! All deny the access, one stating that they were ‘really protective of the information our users have provided’ – attributed to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Director of Engineering. Yet the United States government obtained over three billion items from cyber communications networks in just March 2013 alone. Where did it come from?

Edward Snowden and those documents he leaked suggest United Kingdom complicity in the scheme of things, yet British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, re-acting to the PRISM exposé, told Parliament,

“Our agencies practice and uphold U.K. law at all times… To intercept the content of any individual’s communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by me, the Home Secretary, or by another Secretary of State. This is no casual process. Every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice. Warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted, and we judge them on that basis.”

Who is the Pinocchio here? The British SIGINT operation at GCHQ, which feeds United Kingdom intelligence, is tapping into fibre-optic communication links and drawing data for analysis over a 30 day holding period in an intelligence operation called Tempora. This is not a suspect targeted operation. The information, from both innocent citizens and security suspects, is shared with the NSA in dubious exchanges, perhaps for PRISM intelligence. Is this legal, Mr Hague, or is it just another ‘porky’ offered to cover your backs?

Be very afraid if you are a terrorist or a criminal so naïve as to chat about your dirty deeds in cyberspace or on any legitimate communications network. Big brother is really watching now. We know that, and it may not be legal, but really people who complain the most about privacy violations by social networks are in fact their own worst enemies. It is these same people who share their achievements, plans and wishes, if not there inner-most secrets, in social media. The message here is keep your private data to yourselves, but surely this would defeat the object of social networking.

While some may dillydally innocently, others spin sinister plots and revolution foolishly oblivious to reality on these sophisticated networks. We have come to trust the integrity of our communications platforms and social networks; and we clearly believe we should enjoy some right to privacy. This is a mythical right, since the wicked World cannot work like that in an age of fundamentalist terrorism.

PRISM and other similar systems, like Tempora, have built up complex profiles about you, but you only have yourself to blame for gullibly feeding the system. Our sudden indignity about all this snooping does amuse, and must surely rank in the naivety stakes with those who believe the myth of the tooth fairy. We know it is happening and this makes it all the more nauseating that filthy politicians choose to deny the instruments of their intelligence gathering apparatus.

Plagiarism: Curse of the Artist


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThere is a lot of photo plagiarism going on in social media forums. Photographers really need to understand the risks and, perhaps,  if they display their work, accept that this is the nouveau way. Or should they? People will steal your work and use it to bask in a new found glory; a showing off of a supposedly new talent, which they never really had.  They might even making money from your work. They follow in the footstep of the music pirates… everyone seems to be doing it, so maybe it must be right. It is not! Simply put, it is the theft or filching of one’s intellectual property, and most often an infringement of the author’s copyright.

According to the plagiarism dot org web site the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary the term “plagiarize” means:

to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own; to use (another’s production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

While perhaps flattering to the photographer, only in a way, just too many people seem to be content to share or purloin the work of others. They often do so in their own name, by simply failing to credit original authors. They are part of an unfortunate sect who, clearly, are unable create their own content and who can only fail to bring new and original material to the social media platforms. They would if they could, but social media almost dictates that these poor people must post something to at least become acknowledged or ‘expert’ and, hence, well known, if not popular. They are doing this on the backs of credible authors and originators. Social media never intended that this be done on the wicked altar of plagiarism and theft.

Photography is never the simple click of a shutter button… there is so much more to it. Your average photographers will have invested heavily in learning their craft and in acquiring their equipment. They will have expended time and money to get on location for the shoot, and then taken frame after frame until they get it right. A good photographer will admit to a ratio of one brilliant image in possibly a thousand… hitting the photographic sweet spot just once in as many minutes, if not hours of dedicated photography.

Yet some hapless soles, devoid of creativity and capacity to originate, will spend just seconds copying your work and passing it on as their own. Some will destroy a perfectly good image with crudely styled motivational messages, often plagiarized too, and then offer the work as their own, shamelessly oblivious of their destructive prowess. No reference is made to the original author, the source of the material stolen, nor any consideration given to copyright. Some go so far as to rub out obvious copyright notices.

Digital photography has led to an explosion of graphic material on the internet. This is healthy. It allows the photographer to share his or her work and the viewer or beholder to marvel, enjoy and make recollections which are pleasing to the heart. Most photographers see the power of the internet to allow exposure of their work, and often this leads to commercial considerations. This is all very honorable, until somebody decides to claim the image as his or her own for gratuitous purposes or profit.

Photographers understand the ethics when handling the work of others. It is simple. Credit the original artist if you can, and almost certainly credit the source of the material. To not do so infers you are passing the work on as your own, that is, stealing.  There is just too much ignorance being demonstrated by offenders.  Almost without exception stealing is a crime across the globe and ignorance is no defense. Surely, it is time the social media networks came to understand this and take action against offenders who pursue this filthy crime. The are all providing the platform.  Plagiarists should also learn to understand.

You can help… there is a petition to be signed and you could join a social media group in support of this campaign.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Is the Battle for the Rhinoceros on its Last Legs?


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XISouthern African conservation of the rhinoceros is severely threatened despite years of intensive preservation effort, mostly by private enterprise and non-governmental entities. Renewed demand for rhinoceros horn, basically a material called keratin, similar to hair and nails, has stepped up the pressure upon Africa’s most treasured fauna heritage. Criminal syndicates are hard at play while African governments slumber.

It is estimated that near 95 percent of all rhinoceros horn poached in southern Africa ends up in the Far East. China is often cited as a major consumer nation, yet the probability is that Vietnam may well be more predominant. Vietnam can hardly be proud that she lost her last Javan rhinoceros to poachers in 2010. With Asian rhinoceros numbers now depleted, to shamefully low levels, the East is looking at its new frontier of horn supply, Africa.

The principle cause of foreign demand is perceived pharmacological benefit in treating high fevers, influenza, hepatitis, and leukaemia amongst other things, according to ancient Chinese writings. Yet, no medical research in the last 30 years has concurred with these antediluvian authors. Asian rhinoceros horn is considered more potent than that of its African cousin and commands a five-fold higher price too. Alas for Africa, superior horn from the now critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros, the latter disgracefully down to a mere world population of just 30 animals, is nearly impossible to acquire!

Africa is not just victim to this effect, but catalyst to the cause as well. The ‘great white’ hunters of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries set a poor precedent in animal slaughter, but poverty would, today, seem a principle cause. This is a by-product of Africa’s heritage and political mismanagement; the doctrine of want, greed and destruction; conflict and warfare; and all the apparent misdemeanours of post-colonial government. Such poverty has presented opportunity for both indigenous poacher (who would never benefit from the live animal in the wild) and foreign trafficker alike.

Picture ©2008 Andrew Field – Simply Wild Photography

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) sums it up succinctly,

“A lack of political support and will power for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos.”

Africans have been far too passive in controlling the poaching scourge. Inadequate policing; ineffective legislation; poor conservation awareness and consequent pittance budgets are germane. Misdirected land policies; political attitude with hapless foresight in the face of many other priorities, usually brought about by greed, patronage, corruption and incompetence, contribute to poaching successes, trafficking wealth, and foreign demand.

Trafficking rhinoceros horn has become a lucrative business, so much so, that even the official keepers of Africa’s wildlife heritage are succumbing to its temptations. Your average poacher has stepped up the sophistication ladder too, armed with high powered rifles; state of the art darting equipment and specialist sedative drugs; chain saws; night vision instruments and helicopters as well. Often, the horn ‘reaping’ resources of criminal syndicates far ‘outgun’ those of the protectors. It has become a no win situation for Africa.

Trade in African rhinoceros horn is becoming so lucrative that opinions in some parts of the conversation camp are turning towards legitimising its trade. To some, that would be akin to decriminalising drug trafficking because the problem has become too large and too hot to handle. A few thousand rhinoceros in the wild are hardly likely to service the demand of a quarter of the world’s population. Massive breeding and livestock rearing programmes would be needed: something way outside the capacity of ‘developing world’ coffers and way down the priority list too. The scale is just too immense, besides poached horn is free, or at least cheap.

Pertinently, Africa can hardly feed itself, yet alone nurture its wildlife. Can Africa look to its Eastern horn market for help? Strange as that may seem, Asia, being the principle source of demand, has not seen fit to properly conserve or indeed escalate or ‘farm’ its own rhinoceros populations to service horn demand. Why should they? The ease with which Asia has managed to supplement dwindling supplies of, albeit less powerful, horn out of Africa should be ringing bells loud and long for African politicians.

Conservationists have been tolling these bells for decades. Zimbabwe’s Campfire programme has long identified the need to allow poor rural communities, the have-nots, to be rewarded and benefit from their wildlife heritage through conservation projects alongside the wealthy. Could African communities, using Campfire styled strategies, benefit from massive rhinoceros breeding schemes and how effectively could governments protect their efforts if they did? It seems that this has been left to private enterprise, which is actually stifled by regulatory control against trading the horn they reap from living, rather than slaughtered, beasts.

Little doubt the debate will continue, but swift action is now the only hope. In the meantime, Africa’s rhinoceros populations are on the decline, being decimated, following the Asian trend. Clearly, Far Eastern nations, responsible for the destruction of African fauna, need to play their critical role in controlling illicit trade, yet that outcome is remote.

That leaves the issue squarely in the hands of poorly resourced Africans. It does not bode well for the rhinoceros, short of implementing some rather draconian measures. How does one expect African governments to fair against illicit horn syndicates when more powerful and better resourced nations have failed against the drug cartels? The other option is to succumb to legitimisation of trade in horn. That will only enhance our acceleration towards extinction of the species because, seemingly, Africans lack the will and capacity to change and have run out of time to alter their course.

“Despite the action of conservation programmes, 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction. For example, the reassessments of several Rhinoceros species show that the subspecies of the Black Rhino in western Africa, the Western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) has officially been declared Extinct. The subspecies of the White Rhino in central Africa, the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is currently teetering on the brink of extinction and has been listed as Possibly Extinct in the Wild. The Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is also making its last stand, as the subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus is probably Extinct, following the poaching of what is thought to be the last animal in Viet Nam in 2010.” – IUCN

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XISpeed trapping is probably the single most used law enforcement method to combat road deaths.  One might however question whether this does in fact save lives or whether it is merely window dressing enforcement to generate general compliance with the rules of the road.  For want of a better word the imposition of fines gets a wee bit ‘pedantic’ for those who are travelling at say 65kph in a 60kph zone.   We all know how easily and indeed comfortably one can creep up 5kph without noticing, but one supposes that rules are rules.
 
We need to take a step back from trapping to the actual setting of speed limits.  This is where the ‘do-gooders’, the politicians and councillors step in.  Some may suggest that speed limits are set too low, thus making trapping ‘easy meat’ for traffic law enforcement officers, and that cognisance should be taken of certain other factors, such as age of drive, experience and the type of vehicle they are driving.  Many are designed for speed.
 
Many of us are in metric speed limit zones and, generally, town centres are set at 60kph as a general limit and 80kph on dual carriageways.  The open general limit on highways is 120kph.   In the United Kingdom built up area are 30mph, while dual carriageways and highways get the 70mph approval.  Yet we are all driving vehicles which manufacturers have designed to travel upwards from speeds of 200kph/124mph, almost twice speed limits.  That is criminal!
 
One often wonders what science is applied to speed limiting, or whether in fact nations have just pursued limiting as a case of ‘those have always been the limits’.  Statistics have been quoted on United Kingdom based speed limits which suggest “Accident statistics show that at 40mph nine out of ten children hit by cars either die or receive life changing serious injuries. At 20mph nine out of ten survive.” **   Should 20mph be the general limit in built up areas?

Clearly, many people reading this will be thinking that their local speed limits are a little dull, when they come to consider it.  Nobody would propose that speed limits be abolished, because there are very good reasons not to travel at high velocity through, for example, built up areas where pedestrians dominate, especially the young.   But control does not lie in law enforcement trapping.  Given the amazing feats of engineering we enjoy in motor vehicles today, and considering aspects of age, driving experience and training, one wonders if speed limiting legislations has been left behind in the 1950s mindset.  It is very much contingency limiting, for that tiny minority who may suffer an accident, which cannot be adequately controlled.

Given all this, it would seem that more fundamental issues are still ignored.  These are that most people who take to the wheel of a car generally intend to be law abiding citizens and have no intention of using their vehicles as a weapon.  No cognizance is taken of those who are seasoned drivers, nor the propensity of the very young or the very old to be more accident prone.  No one cares about expansion of vehicle brake capacity or efficiency, vehicle design and the elimination, to a reasonable degree, of drink-driving (which combined with speed is a sure killer).
 
The potential impact fatality figures on children are often quoted.  With measures like gun control in the United Kingdom, when it was discovered that guns can kill in large numbers in populous communities, guns were banned outright.  Yet when it is evident that the higher the speed the more likely impact deaths occur, with vehicles, which are apparently more lethal than guns, vehicle are not banned.  Even recommended speed rates for hitting children are not imposed, less enforced, around areas where children predominate.   Compare legislation controlling health and safety on the roads with that imposed on the tobacco industry.  The principle objectives are similar, to save lives, except motor vehicles kill mostly third parties rather than cigarettes kill smokers themselves, if they choose to smoke.

As ludicrous as that may seem, legislators still have not considered limiting vehicle manufacturers with the speed that their production vehicles may travel.   There are no health warnings in the cockpits of these killing machines on four wheels!   To achieve ‘do-gooder’ status, really no vehicles should be allowed to travel beyond a nation’s speed limits.  Their ability to do so actually encourages, if not causes, crime.  With geo-positioning technology vehicles could be limited easily to speeds outside driver control, right down to that magical 20mph in areas where children might be likely jump in front of motor vehicles.  Yet nothing is being done with this line of thinking.

There are just so many variables, one might guess it would make traffic law enforcement just a little too difficult, but speed trapping will unlikely contribute to the reduction in road deaths.   More scientific speed limiting will and vehicle manufacturers should have been more involved in that process.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Oh Ronald. . .sorry, but you’ve got to stay behind bars


With Jack Straw having denied parole to Ronald Biggs, one of the ‘great train robbers’, and the furore which may follow, one wonders whether there are any parallels between Biggs the thief and Bernard Madoff the thief. Bernard has, as we all know, just been popped into the ‘clink‘ for 150 years and he will see his, now miserable, life out behind bars. Well so we think.
At the time that Biggs committed his crimes, society saw fit to place him in prison for, what was then deemed a sensible period of time. He escaped, fled to South America, and lived a life of some comfort, before being ‘re-captured’ and returned to serve the rest of his sentence in prison. Now the weeping hearts are suggesting Straw may be a touch on the inhumane side for not allowing Biggs his freedom.
People who follow this line of thinking need to be persuaded that we either have a criminal justice system which exerts reasonable punishment for crimes exploited against others, or we have a system which allows those who commit these nefarious deeds to enjoy the whims of those who find any form of punishment abhorrent.
How would victims feel if the same ‘weeping heart’ thinking was applied to Madoff?