John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Friday, June 29, 2012
  Leah McGrath Goodman - Journalist Banned from the UK
This link is to her weblog. The Guardian has also published an article written by Helen Pidd about the issue.

In essence an American journalist has been banned from the Common Travel Area (which includes the UK and Jersey). It appears that the reason is to prevent her investigating Haut de la Garenne and the associated issues.

If this was happening in another country there would be outrage, but the fact that it is happening here doesn't seem to cause any concerns. Odd really.

 
Friday, June 22, 2012
  Statutory Orphans and SSDA903
This judgment (today) shows how depressing the system is in terms of how it looks after children. Children have been made statutory orphans and then just left in that state. In fact the government could if it could be bothered track how many children are in that state through the SSDA903 return, but hasn't been bothered to do so. It is a mistake to think there is anything substantially different in a placement order from a freeing order. Both separate children from their family networks (and often their siblings) without actually ensuring there is an alternative. Anyone who looks objectively at the system has to conclude that it is depressingly bad.
 
  Communications and Data Bill (Snoopers Charter) why it cannot work
I have read the Snoopers Charter. It tends to concentrate on the administrative processes rather than the key question as to what records can in practise be kept.

Web browsers work in two main ways. These can be distinguished in the URL. Eg http://www.theyworkforyou.com is insecure. https://www.twitter.com is secure.

If, for example, you try to use twitter in an insecure manner it automatically switches to a secure link.

The data that passes between two insecure web links can be tracked by anyone who has access to any of the networks that the data passes on. There are programs such as packet sniffers that are created to do this. Obviously the Internet Service Provider (ISP) can do this. However, data that transfers in a secure manner cannot be tracked. The secure system is called SSL Secure Sockets Layer.

The way it works is that a system called asymmetric key encryption is used to exchange a session encryption key between client and server. The server first passes out what is called a certificate with details of a number that can be used to encrypt a message. The client then encrypts the session key using that number. The system is asymmetric in that a different number is used to decode the session key than is used to encode the session key. Hence it is possible to encode the session key in such a way as only the server (and no-one in the middle of the conversation) can decode it.

This is normally done with the Rivest Shamir Adleman (RSA) algorithm which is based upon the mathematical rule that factoring the product of two very large prime numbers takes a very very long time.

Maths bit:
This is that if n=pq (p and q being both prime numbers) and m=(p-1)(q-1) and E a number selected to be coprime with m (ie it has no common factors) and D is another number selected so that DE mod n=1 then if your session key is x
y=x ** E mod n (** to the power of)
and the magic is that x=y ** D mod n
So E (plus n) is your public key and D (plus n) the private key. The client encrypts the session key with the public key and the server uses the private key to decrypt it. To get the private key from the public key you need to factor n.

If you pick long enough session keys and long enough prime numbers it is not practical to break the encryption. (it takes too many centuries of processing).

Hence if you are using SSL all that can be tracked by a "man in the middle" is which IP address is being used for the server. It is not possible to know which web pages on that server are being looked at or even the domain of the server.

The IP addresses are the numbers of each computer. You can find your public IP address here.

The same can be done for email. Furthermore it is possible to use onion routing to conceal what the destination IP address is. Hence no useful information can be obtained by people getting access to the communications between client and server.

Hence unless the state bans the use of encryption (which is used for credit card transations) then ISPs are unable to pick up any useful information about what people are doing on the net.

Obviously the state could require everyone to have a chip implanted in their skull to record all communications, but I don't think that would enthuse people.

The above, however, is why the snooping bill won't acheive anything.

 
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
  TB vaccinations in schools
TB is a nasty disease that can only be transferred by close contact with people. The policy of the health service has been to only offer vaccination to people who have family contacts with areas with high levels of TB. That is because the vaccination itself is not something people would like. I have for some time argued that there is a risk of a disease vector at school and that schools which have a high proportion of children who qualify for the vaccination should offer it to all of the children at that school. The sad death of Alina Sarag (who was at a school which is (just) in my constituency, but who lived outside the constituency) makes it clear that there is a risk of a disease vector at school. That is why we need to consider this particular category. I argued this before she was infected.
 
Monday, June 18, 2012
  Greek Elections
Given the choice between taking a cure to deal with the hangover following a binge on debt and simply getting drunk to conceal the hangover the greeks have (marginally) decided to go for the cure. That is best for the Greeks. I think it is also best for the rest of the world.
 
Sunday, June 17, 2012
  The State is not your Friend (thought police)
This story in the Sunday Express relates to the proposals by a local authority to remove a baby at birth. (note that there are a number of errors in the Sunday Express Article see below)

Removing a baby at birth is a really draconian thing to do. It has to be based upon a real and urgent threat to the baby. Removing the baby is often harmful to the baby. Hence it has to be a very serious threat.

In the linked case the local authorities concerns are as I said in the House of Commons on Wednesday:
Hansard has the full debate. My relevant section is:
Ms Toni McLeod, who lives with her family in Durham, is thinking of going to Ireland because she is pregnant. It is a difficult situation. She was a supporter of the English Defence League. I hate the EDL. Three of my children are mixed-race, and I protest against the EDL. Toni McLeod says that she is not racially prejudiced, but that children were taken from her partly because of her membership of the EDL. It was “felt that conversations and opinions may be expressed in the children’s presence.” That is a “thought police” approach to care. The system intervened because of what Toni McLeod might say in front of her children. She says that she has many friends who are Muslims and Sikhs, and that she disowns the EDL nowadays, but whether that is true or not, we should ask whether it is appropriate for the state to remove a child because children may be radicalised by a parent. Is that an appropriate use of the phrase “risk of significant harm”? That brings us back to the statutory guidance, which makes no effort whatsoever to give any indication of what is meant by the phrase.

So her husband is fighting for a country which won't allow his wife to keep her baby (and would probably give it to another family) because of what she might say to the child.

I oppose the EDL myself. Mrs McLeod says she now does not support the EDL. My view is that the EDL are generally out for a fight rather than expressing a political position. However, I do not think association with the EDL is good cause to remove a new born child from a mother. She has no real choice but to emigrate because the care system is so orientated towards adoption.


Statement from Toni MacLeod in respect of the Sunday Express Article: My name is Toni Macleod. I would like to put the record straight following the misleading article in the Sunday Express which repeated allegations made by Childrens Services in Durham that they should know not to be true.

I did respond violently to being arrested at the EDL demonstration and when a police officer punched me in the face the imprint of my teeth did appear on his knuckles. This was a response, not something I started. I am not a racist and I now regret going to the EDL demonstration. I do, however, strongly support the British Troops and will continue to back our boys. I have character references from Muslim and Sikh friends. I am not involved with North West Infidels.

I have never owned a Pit Bull. An ex-partner of mine attacked me in 2010 and my German Shepherd responded by biting him. The judge recognized that the dog was defending me and, therefore, the dog was not destroyed.

I do not have a mental health problem. I am not and have never been a drug addict. I have not drunk alcohol in 2012. I did get drunk on one day in 2011 when I was told that my children were not returning to me.

 
Friday, June 15, 2012
  Draft Communications and Data Bill (wrong and stupid)
I am somewhat confused as to what the government think they can achieve trying to get emails and web traffic tracked.

The whole idea of the Secure Sockets Layer protocol is to prevent "man in the middle" attacks from being able to find out what is being said.

Hence if someone sends email using SSL through an email server hosted abroad then the only thing the government could have tracked is that someone has sent one or more emails. The government would not know to whom, how many emails in the session or from whom, nor would the government be able to find out anything further.

Indeed if people use onion routing then the government wouldn't even be able to find out which hosts are being used.

It is important to remember that the English courts have removed children from at least one person in part for their political views. (in a secret court of course) Hence it is a sensible precaution for everyone in the country to have all their communications encrypted. That, therefore, conceals the terrorists in a mass of unaccessible encrypted data.

To me this is all very wrong and stupid.

nb I wrote the second implementation in the world of SSL back in 1995.

 
Thursday, June 07, 2012
  A referendum on the EU does need to happen, but not yet.
The issue as to the UK's relationship with the other countries in Europe is being discussed publicly again. It is worth displaying the following image again:

This is the current structure for the various European Bodies. It is now recognised that the Eurozone requires a banking union. I think it is also clear that the UK will not be part of this. It may be that the Eurozone moves further, but the situation is so volatile at the moment that it cannot be clear. What should, however, be clear is that the UK should not aim to be part of the core Eurozone countries.

If there were to be such a proposal then the law now is that the UK would have to hold a referendum.

My own view is that there will become a time when there is merit in having a referendum as to what the relationship should be between the UK and other European Countries. There will only be a limited range.

I don't think there is anyone suggesting that we should not be part of the Council of Europe. It is, however, the membership of the Council of Europe which leads to us being part of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Much of the criticism of the ECtHR is unfair. However, it is clear that it should be accountable to special resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That would resolve the issue of the remoteness of ECtHR. If the UK were not part of this jurisdiction then one would expect it would fall to be part of the jurisdiction of the United Nations Committees on Human Rights. Here are more details about the UN bodies to which there is an individual right of petition.

We then have the EEA. The EEA is governed by the rules of the EU, but is not part of the CAP or CFP. The EEA gives the rights of free movement within the countries of the EEA. This is another issue about which there is some stress.

Then is the EU itself. My own view is that given that we would not wish to leave the EEA it is better to take part in deciding what the rules of the EEA are. Hence I think being part of the decision-making body is best.

At the point at which it becomes clear what the future bodies in Europe will look like (which is not clear today) then there is a good argument for a referendum as to where the UK should rest within this. It is quite likely that this will happen within this parliament, but it has not happened yet.

The difficult question is that as to what the question should be. Do we have a range of options including leaving the Council of Europe or do we have a more limited range of options? Should we have the option of joining the nucleus of Europe or not?

 
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
  Transit of Venus
I hadn't really prepared for this, but when I looked at the clouds I went back to sleep. To be fair, however, nothing was as good as these images. I don't normally bother about the details of the structure of the sun although it is, of course, very important to life on earth. In 1999 we went to Cornwall to see the eclipse of the sun (Lunar) and indeed it was very cloudy, it got very dark and then light again. Still quite a nice trip though. The Venusian Transit and associated geometry is an interesting part of history. Some of the astronomers took real efforts to measure the transit. Worth a look at on the net.
 
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
  A story about Estonia
This is a story about Estonia. Which puts a more positive viewpoint on balancing government finances. Those doctors threatening to strike need to explain why they should be exempt from the effects of the financial crisis.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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