Monthly Archives: October 2011

UK census to be abolished

Could our storecards replace the census? Plans unveiled to use data from shops, banks and estate agents


Last updated at 8:54 AM on 19th October 2011

The historic national census is set to be abolished

The historic national census is set to be abolished

The historic national census is set to be abolished and replaced by information on everybody in the country gathered from banks, stores and estate agents.

The census – first carried out more than 200 years ago amid fears that the number of people in the country was multiplying too fast – has become expensive, inaccurate and slow, the Office for National Statistics admitted.

Instead, it proposed building a picture of the population and how people live through computer records, including databases built up by private sector organisations.

That means that in future information people hand over to banks, to retail chains through their storecards, to energy companies or to mobile phone firms could be bought by the state and used by Whitehall departments, councils and quangos.

The ONS gave its first official admission that the census is likely to go in a consultation paper on its future plans for counting the population called ‘Beyond 2011’.

The title suggests that the census carried out at a cost of £500 million earlier this year will be the last.

It said: ‘All of the signs are that the 2011 census operation has been highly successful but the census is becoming increasingly costly, and changes in society are making it more challenging to carry out.

‘A more mobile population, and the increasingly complex ways in which people live, make the process of census-taking more difficult, and the concept of a snapshot every 10 years less relevant.’

The paper added: ‘At the same time, improvements in technology and the growth of computerised records about people and services, both in the public and private sectors, seem to suggest a possible alternative approach.’

The Daily Mail revealed earlier this year that ONS officials had approached representatives of large private sector companies to test the possibility of getting their customer databases.

One organisation that took part in talks, the Demographic User Group, has members including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, the Co-op, Boots, the lottery operator Camelot, power giant E-ON, phone company Orange and, in the financial sector, Barclays and Nationwide.

All the companies have extensive records on customers, their families, where they live, what they buy, and even the way they use transport through petrol sales records.

Estate agencies have extensive computerised records of housing and rail and bus companies and airlines have customer ticketing records.

Historic: The census was first carried out more than 200 years ago amid fears that the number of people in the country was multiplying too fast

Historic: The census was first carried out more than 200 years ago amid fears that the number of people in the country was multiplying too fast

Private sector material could be combined with the vast databases produced in the public sector, including those of Revenue and Customs, Department of Work and Pension benefits records, NHS and GP rolls, the Valuation Office Agency which records details of homes for council tax valuation, and local councils.

These could provide material on ethnicity, migration and education that could be hard to deduce from private sector records.

The plan for the state to use information given both to public sector agencies and private firms for other purposes is certain to prove highly controversial.

It appears to clash with data protection rules, which may need sweeping reforms if the ONS is to cash in on private databases.

The consultation paper said that assessments of a new census system would take into account ‘public burden and public acceptability’.

Describing computer databases as ‘administrative data’, it added: ‘Although administrative data may be used extensively in future, any data held will be securely stored and tightly controlled so that only results for non-disclosive geographical areas are ever made available.’

Boots could also give away their customer database from storecards

Boots could also give away their customer database from storecards

The first national census was taken in 1801, at a time when politicians and intellectuals feared the population was growing too fast and that a revolution similar to the French upheaval could be inevitable.

It put the population of Britain and Ireland at just over 16 million.

Since then censuses have been held every 10 years, except in the wartime year of 1941.

The death knell for the national census sounded in 2001, when officials tried to give a precise count of the population but missed out a million people.

Population figures had to be manipulated for years afterwards to make up for the errors.

The ONS made its embarrassment worse when it tried to use the excuse that many young people were away on holiday in Ibiza on the day the census was taken. In fact enumerators were hampered by a badly-designed system for returning forms and the reluctance of large numbers of recent immigrants to take part.

This year’s census forms had 918 tick box options over 32 pages, demand details on everything from ethnic identity to how you travel to work and what kind of central heating you have, and booklets to help non-English or Welsh speakers understand them have been produced in 56 languages.

But more information still can be gleaned from storecards. Tesco cards alone are used by 15 million people.


Read more:

UK census to be abolished and replaced by data from shops, banks and estate agents | Mail Onlin

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S.Africa supports Palestinian UN statehood bid


S.Africa supports Palestinian UN statehood bid

Released on – Wednesday,26 October , 2011 -00:06

South Africa on Tuesday threw its weight behind Palestine’s bid to become a full member of the United Nations and called on the international body to settle the bid quickly.

“South Africa looks forward, sooner (rather) than later, to welcoming Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations,” the government said in a statement.

“South Africa wishes to reaffirm its conviction: that Palestine is a state, that Palestine is a peace-loving state, and that Palestine is willing and able to carry out its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.”

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas made the historic application to a standing ovation in the UN General Assembly in September.

The 15-member Security Council pushed back the bid to a special membership committee to give its verdict.

The United States and Israel, strongly opposing the bid, say only direct Israeli-Palestinian talks can create a Palestinian state.

South Africa, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, accused the Council of being “paralyzed by inaction” in resolving conflict in the Middle East while it acted speedily in dealing with the Arab Spring.

South Africa welcomed a proposal for new peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine brokered by the Mideast Quartet — a group comprising the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — and called for an agreement before the proposed deadline of end 2012.

At the same time, it condemned Israel’s plan to build 1,100 houses in occupied territories.

“The single major obstacle to the negotiations is clearly the incessant building of illegal settlements by Israel,” the statement read.

Palestine’s bid needs the approval of nine members of the Security Council, but the US has said it will veto the decision.

India, also a non-permanent member of the council, earlier also expressed support for Palestine.

S.Africa supports Palestinian UN statehood bid | MSN Arabia News

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Bank Overdraft Fees: The Dough Keeps Rolling In

FOCUS | Bank Overdraft Fees: The Dough Keeps Rolling In

By Karen Weise, Bloomberg Businessweek

25 October 11

The bottom line: Despite last year’s rule change on overdraft protection fees, the programs are expected to bring in $16 billion this year for banks.

Banks have spent much of the past year howling about revenue lost after financial reforms limited consumer fees, especially the billions they reaped from charges for covering overdrafts on debit cards. Those programs, though, remain highly profitable. While fee revenue will be down about 16 percent this year from its peak in 2009, it will top $16 billion, predicts Moebs Services, a banking consultancy. “Consumers are still getting hit really hard by overdraft fees,” says Rebecca Borné, an attorney at the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group.

As banks pushed a shift from paper checks to debit cards over the past decade, they began enrolling customers automatically in overdraft protection plans, with charges of as much as $35 for each overdrawn transaction. Banks say that lets the 185 million Americans with debit cards make emergency purchases even if their account is short. Consumers, though, soon discovered that a slice of pizza could cost almost $40 after overdraft fees. Last year the Federal Reserve barred banks from offering overdraft protection on debit-card transactions without prior consent from consumers.

A few banks, including Bank of America and HSBC, have since stopped offering overdraft protection on debit-card purchases. (BofA in September announced a $5 monthly charge for debit cards to make up for lost fee revenue.) Others introduced or expanded overdraft programs. An informal survey by Impact Financial Services, which advises small and midsize banks, polled 150 community banks and found that 70 percent of them now offer overdraft protection, up from about half before the rules went into effect.

Many banks that offer the services have launched aggressive marketing campaigns to get customers to sign up. The banks sent letters and e-mails explaining the changes, at times with alarmist warnings that if they didn’t sign up their card might be rejected when they most need it. Some banks called customers who’d had transactions denied to persuade them to opt in. “We were surprised at the success rate,” says Jefferson Harralson, a bank analyst at research firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

The marketing campaigns also succeeded in sowing confusion. A survey by the Center for Responsible Lending showed that 60 percent of consumers who chose overdraft protection did so in part to avoid penalties if their debit cards were denied, even though such fees don’t exist. Similarly, two-thirds said they signed up to sidestep charges for bounced checks, which actually are covered under different programs.

Many banks still engage in one highly criticized overdraft practice: reordering purchases to process the largest ones first, instead of in chronological order. That means a big purchase may be approved, but customers could face overdraft charges for several small transactions. Banks that do this say consumers prefer the reordering because larger transactions are often the most important. A federal judge in California shot down that logic last year in a class action against Wells Fargo, calling it “utterly speculative.” He ordered the bank to pay consumers $203 million for what he called the “bone-crushing multiplication of additional overdraft penalties.” Wells Fargo says it is appealing the ruling, and it now processes transactions in the order they happened.

Weise is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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Israel still demolishing Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem

Israel still demolishing Palestinian homes in occupied JerusalemThe Israelis impose many restrictions on Jerusalem residents to prevent them from obtaining building permits.


Israel is continuing with its policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem on the pretext that the properties do not have official permits. In at least one case, the home owner was forced to demolish his home himself; failure to do so would have landed the man with demolition by the authorities and a heavy fine. A staggering 95 percent of building permit applications submitted by Palestinians are refused by the Israeli authorities.Jerusalem resident Ahmed Abdul Rahim Al-Bilbeisi told Quds Press that staff from the Israeli occupation municipality handed him an order to stop working on his house which, it was claimed, is built on “unauthorized” ground. The local court then issued an order to demolish the house located in Yakoute El-Hamawi Street, in the Gouze Valley. Mr Al-Bilbeisi said that he had to demolish his house with his own hands in order to avoid a fine of 50,000 shekels (around £8,500) which the court said it would impose if he didn’t abide by the demolition order. In addition, he would have had to pay for the authorities to demolish his home. He was given until the 25th October to fulfil the court order.

According to Al-Bilbeisi, he built his house in 2008 for $25,000 even though the Israelis refused his application for a building permit simply because his old home was too small for his growing family.

The Israelis impose many restrictions on Jerusalem residents to prevent them from obtaining building permits. Official statistics indicate that despite Jerusalem’s needs for 2,000 housing units to meet natural population growth fewer than 20 permits are approved annually.

The Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) asserts that the Israelis charge very high fees for building permits of between $25,000 and $30,000. Palestinians have to wait an average of five to ten years to get the licence. The statistics show that 45 houses were demolished in 2010, with 200 people being displaced. A total of 116 demolition orders were issued in the same period.

The Jerusalem authorities say that there are about 20,000 “illegal” buildings in occupied East Jerusalem, including 657 in the Silwan neighbourhood alone. If all of the demolition orders are carried out, nearly 120,000 citizens of the holy city will be displaced. In1997, the Israeli authorities established a special police unit to follow up house demolition issues.

Source and more at MEMO

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The Norse Creation Myth

The Ulfhednar Kindred – The Norse Creation Myth


The Ulfhednar Kindred – The Norse Creation Myth


The first world to exist was Muspell, a place of light and heat whose flames are so hot that those who are not native to that land cannot endure it.

Surt sits at Muspell’s border, guarding the land with a flaming sword. At the end of the world he will vanquish all the gods and burn the whole world with fire.


Ginnungagap and Niflheim

Beyond Muspell lay the great and yawning void named Ginnungagap, and beyond Ginnungagap lay the dark, cold realm of Niflheim.

Ice, frost, wind, rain and heavy cold emanated from Niflheim, meeting in Ginnungagap the soft air, heat, light, and soft air from Muspell.



Where heat and cold met appeared thawing drops, and this running fluid grew into a giant frost ogre named Ymir.


Frost ogres

Ymir slept, falling into a sweat. Under his left arm there grew a man and a woman. And one of his legs begot a son with the other. This was the beginning of the frost ogres.



Thawing frost then became a cow called Audhumla. Four rivers of milk ran from her teats, and she fed Ymir.


Buri, Bor, and Bestla

The cow licked salty ice blocks. After one day of licking, she freed a man’s hair from the ice. After two days, his head appeared. On the third day the whole man was there. His name was Buri, and he was tall, strong, and handsome.

Buri begot a son named Bor, and Bor married Bestla, the daughter of a giant.


Odin, Vili, and V�

Bor and Bestla had three sons: Odin was the first, Vili the second, and V� the third.

It is believed that Odin, in association with his brothers, is the ruler of heaven and earth. He is the greatest and most famous of all men.


The death of Ymir

Odin, Vili, and V� killed the giant Ymir.

When Ymir fell, there issued from his wounds such a flood of blood, that all the frost ogres were drowned, except for the giant Bergelmir who escaped with his wife by climbing onto a lur [a hollowed-out tree trunk that could serve either as a boat or a coffin]. From them spring the families of frost ogres.


Earth, trees, and mountains

The sons of Bor then carried Ymir to the middle of Ginnungagap and made the world from him. From his blood they made the sea and the lakes; from his flesh the earth; from his hair the trees; and from his bones the mountains. They made rocks and pebbles from his teeth and jaws and those bones that were broken.



Maggots appeared in Ymir’s flesh and came to life. By the decree of the gods they acquired human understanding and the appearance of men, although they lived in the earth and in rocks.


Sky, clouds, and stars

From Ymir’s skull the sons of Bor made the sky and set it over the earth with its four sides. Under each corner they put a dwarf, whose names are East, West, North, and South.

The sons of Bor flung Ymir’s brains into the air, and they became the clouds.

Then they took the sparks and burning embers that were flying about after they had been blown out of Muspell, and placed them in the midst of Ginnungagap to give light to heaven above and earth beneath. To the stars they gave appointed places and paths.

The earth was surrounded by a deep sea. The sons of Bor gave lands near the sea to the families of giants for their settlements.



To protect themselves from the hostile giants, the sons of Bor built for themselves an inland stonghold, using Ymir’s eyebrows. This stonghold they named Midgard.


Ask and Embla

While walking along the sea shore the sons of Bor found two trees, and from them they created a man and a woman.

Odin gave the man and the woman spirit and life. Vili gave them understanding and the power of movement. V� gave them clothing and names. The man was named Ask [Ash] and the woman Embla [Elm?]. From Ask and Embla have sprung the races of men who lived in Midgard.



In the middle of the world the sons of Bor built for themselves a stronghold named Asgard, called Troy by later generations. The gods and their kindred lived in Asgard, and many memorable events have happened there.

In Asgard was a great hall named Hlidskj�lf. Odin sat there on a high seat. From there he could look out over the whole world and see what everyone was doing. He understood everything that he saw.


Odin, Frigg, and the �sir

Odin married Frigg, the daughter of Fj�rgvin. From this family has come all the kindred that inhabited ancient Asgard and those kingdoms that belonged to it. Members of this family are called the �sir, and they are all divinities. This must be the reason why Odin is called All-Father. He is the father of all the gods and men and of everything that he and his power created.



The earth was Odin’s daughter and his wife as well. By her he had his first son, Thor. Might and strength were Thor’s characteristics. By these he dominates every living creature.



As all informed people know, the gods built a bridge from earth to heaven called Bifr�st. Some call it the rainbow. It has three colors and is very strong, made with more skill and cunning than other structures. But strong as it is, it will break when the sons of Muspell ride out over it. The gods are not to blame that this structure will then break. Bifr�st is a good bridge, but there is nothing in this world that can be relied on when the sons of Muspell are on the warpath.

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11 Israeli planes violate Lebanese airspace in 2 days

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: A total of 11 Israeli warplanes violated Lebanon airspace in a period of two days, reported the National News Agency.

On Friday morning, three Israeli warplanes flew over the south, and in the evening six more planes again flew over the border area, according to the Lebanese Army.

Then Saturday two Israeli planes violated Lebanese airspace when they flew over the area of Naqura in the south.

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Bachmann to Iraq: Reimburse us

This woman is an Idiot!

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) wants Iraq to pay America back for the war effort that overthrew Saddam Hussein but also dragged on for nine years.

“I believe that Iraq should reimburse the United States fully for the amount of money we’ve spent to liberate these people,” the presidential candidate said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“They’re not a poor country, they’re a wealthy country,” Bachmann said.

Bachmann lambasted the looming withdrawal of American troops as more “politically based than military based.”

“If you look at every time we have deposed a dictator, the United States has always left troops behind to enforce the fragile peace,” she said.

And in a jab at President Barack Obama’s chief political strategist David Axelrod, Bachmann quipped: “It’s more like a General Axelrod is making this decision.”

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