Tag: liberal democrats

Romanian Minister jailed over dodgy Microsoft deal

sandu.kqydm8bnpcRomania’s former telecommunications minister, Gabriel Sandu, has ended up receiving  two years for money laundering, abuse of office and bribery involving the lease of Microsoft IT licences for schools.

An ex-mayor of  Piatra Neamt, Gheorghe Stefan, and two other businessmen who acted as middlemen also got jail terms of up to three years.  At the start of the trial last October, the defendants admitted to charges of influence peddling in order to get their sentences reduced by a third.

They told the court how they used their influence to get the government to approve the purchase of Microsoft licences in 2009, and how they got fees from the people interested in having the contracts go through.

Sandu was accused of receiving three million euro and of asking for an additional 1.3 million euro in bribes to ensure he chose the company involved.

During the trial, he admitted he was “the worst minister in Romania’s history”. He also said he gave away all the money he received to finance his Liberal Democratic Party and its election campaigns.

Prosecutors said the contract was worth $105 million and was to supply Microsoft Office licences to schools and other public institutions between 2004 and 2009.

Microsoft offered the licences on a 47 percent discount on the price that Microsoft offered the Romanian government, which the minister and his chronies trousered.

Officials involved also sought bribes in order to favour Fujitsu Siemens Computers in operating the contract, at a price that was overestimated by 40 per cent.

An investigation showed that out of the $54 million that the government paid under the licensing contract and its extension, commissions paid to public officials amounted to $20 million.

Tablets to sort Scots wolves from English sheep

David-Cameron-at-the-EU-s-007The UK government is pushing through a bill to allow only English MPs to vote on English only matters as part of a pledge UK prime minister David Cameron made before this year’s general election.

Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, said the Tory party is a “passionate supporter of the Union” of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As there are 50-odd Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) members in the Commons, and sundry other MPs from the other two countries, the logistical matter of separating the Scottish, Welsh and Irish wolves from the English sheep is a bit of a problem.

The Tory party only has one MP in Scotland after the SNP staged a landslide victory which swept away nearly all Labout MPs as well as Liberal Democrats.

Currently, when MPs vote they file through two lobbies – one for yes and one for no – and are counted by human tellers.

But in a move which will propel MPs from Gladstone’s days into the 21st century, the Clerks have come up with a new system of telling using tablet computers to account for the differences in nationalities.

The tablets, said Grayling, will “give the Tellers an immediate tally of whether a measure has a majority of English MPs”.

He did not say which brand of tablets will be used, but the method won’t apply to the House of Lords because, well, it just won’t.

Grayling’s plans were picked up by Pete Wishart, the shadow SNP leader of the House of Commons.

He said: “What a lot of constitutional bilge and unworkable garbage!” He said the plans will create two classes of members of parliament. “We would do as well to stamp the foreheads of Scottish MPs before they go into the Lobby, and I thought that the Leader of the House was quite close to suggesting or proposing it.”

Grayling said: “The honourable Gentleman seems a tad on the exercised side”.

UK’s Lib Dems use IP geolocation

Liberal candidate Layla Moran (right) with constituent Francis DelaneyUK political party the Liberal Democrats is to use IP geolocation to serve local website content to candidates in the up-coming general location on May the 7th.

The party is using the NetAcuity Edge system to give website content to prospective voters about their local candidate.

That means, for example, that voters in West Oxford and Abingdon will be served info about the Lib Dem candidate here, Layla Moran.

Voters are also served local campaign messages and policies. Digital Element, the manufacturer of the technology, said the Lib Dems expect to get between four and five million visits to the website before voting starts.

Bess Mayhew, digital spinner at the Liberal Democrat party, said that when people view content that’s less generic, it can affect they way they vote. “Small margins can really make a hige difference to the final result. In this election, in particular, we’re going to to see a lot more marginal seats.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is sending unwanted email messages to people that haven’t apparently opted in to receive them. They come from Labour Party luminaries including Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband. The press office at the Labour Party was unable to clarify why non Labour Party members are receiving the spam.

Digital Economy Act gets a lashing

Earlier this week the UK coalition government put up a web site aimed at pieces of legislation that were ill conceived or threatening to civil liberty.

The government says it will listen to the people and canvass our views before it drafts a “freedom bill” or whatever it turns out to be.

As TechEye reported shortly before the UK general election, the then opposition, the Conservative Party, colluded with the Labour Party to push the digital economy act through, effectively stifling debate and ignoring the many voices from the IT world ranged against it. The Liberal Democrats, now in coalition with the Conservative Party, opposed this.

Now we see on the “Your Freedom” site an appeal to the government to can the digital economy act as a basic assault on freedom. It remains to be seen whether the lobbyists for the now act will be more influential than the Queen’s subjects.

You can find the appeal here All other ideas are here..

Clegg backtracks on McKinnon extradition claims

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has started to do a U Turn on plans to save Gary McKinnon from extradition. For a few brief minutes it looked like the new government was going to stand up to the United States and not extradite Gary McKinnon.

 

The Deputy Prime Minister said during a radio interview that he, the Home Secretary Theresa May or even David Cameron might not have the power to halt an earlier court decision allowing him to be extradited.

 

So that means all those remarks he made while in opposition that it was “completely within” the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s power to make changes to the law to allow him to be tried in Britain may not have been completely true.

 

It appears however that it is true that politicians views change when they get a desk in the ministry.

 

The extradition has been approved by the courts, though lawyers for McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, have waged a long-standing legal campaign against it insisting that the move would breach his human rights.

 

Until now Clegg has been a high profile supporter of their efforts and dismissed claims by the previous government that it had no power to intervene.

 

Clegg wrote last year it was “simply not good enough for Alan Johnson to shrug his shoulders and claim that nothing can be done”.

 

“It’s completely within his power to enact amendments from the Police and Justice Act, which would allow Gary McKinnon to be tried over here. Or he could urge the Director of Public Prosecutions to begin proceedings.”

 

However when talking to Radio 5 he said that while he had not changed his view “in any way” he said that he had not got the power to completely reverse and undo certain legal aspects of the case.

 

He still thinks that Gary McKinnon should be tried in the UK, but says he is powerless to do anything. He should know about being powerless – he has been a liberal democrat for some time. However you should think that now he is in charge he should be able to do more than do a France to the Americans.

Records of British rebels go online

Records of famous British “rebels” have been digitised and published online.

The 224,000 names published from originals held by the London Metropolitan Archives tell the story of the Britons persecuted by the state between 1694 and 1921 for their religious beliefs who campaigned for many modern political rights. This includes poet William Blake and author Daniel Defoe as well as George Fox and John Stuart Mill – a leader in liberal thinking.

Dr Deborah Jenkins, Assistant Director of the City of London’s Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery, said: “The non conformist congregations have played a fascinating role in the story of London and the collections we hold at London Metropolitan Archives are fundamental to developing our understanding of their impact on life in the capital.”

The records have been published on Ancestry.co.uk and also include baptism and marriage registers and burial inscriptions, dating from the late 17th century when the roots of non conformism were laid.

The company also claims that members of the current Liberal Democrat party can trace their origins to these religious dissenters, who supported the Whig politicians in the 18th and 19th centuries in their push for greater civil and religious rights.

Dan Jones, international content director at Ancestry.co.uk, said: “Many of the free, multi-faith and multi-cultural societies around the world owe a great deal to 18th and 19th century nonconformists who fought for a more tolerant and diverse Britain.”

“Anyone who is lucky enough to find an ancestor within these records can be proud in the knowledge that their forebear was someone who wasn’t afraid to be different or stand up for what they believed in.”

New home secretary reconsidering UFO watcher case

The UK Home Secretary has confirmed that she is considering a request from UFO watcher Gary McKinnon to reconsider his extradition to the US on hacking charges.

McKinnon’s legal team has asked the new home secretary Theresa May to reconsider the planned extradition of their client.

McKinnon, 43, is about to be extradited to the United States to face charges of hacking into 97 computers operated by the U.S. government, including those of the Pentagon, Army, Air Force and NASA.

America was deeply embarrassed when the bumbling hacker looking for a UFO cover-up crashed his way though the finest cyber security the US had on offer. It wants to lock him up and throw away the key and had been asking the Brits to hand him over.

McKinnon, who is mentally ill, has maintained that he would top himself if the US play out its revenge fetish.

Last year, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson said that, after reviewing medical reports and court filings for McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, he found no evidence of why McKinnon should avoid extradition.

McKinnon is now taking his case to the High Court, where a judge soon is set to rule on whether Johnson was correct in his decision.

But if May decides to reverse the decision then the case could be tried in this country.

Before they were elected, there was some support from both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats for McKinnon. The Brits have been jolly good at handing over people who the US has been accused of being bad guys but the US on the other hand is not so keen to extradite the people the British say have been naughty.

There is no doubt that rather than getting jailed for the rest of his life McKinnon would get a much lighter sentence in Blighty, if he went to jail at all.

A Home Office spokesman told TechEye that May had received the letter and was considering it. He could not say when she would make her mind up. 

Labour dominating social media mentions

The election is looming: tomorrow, the 6th of May, the whole wide world will vote for which party will lead it into a utopian political paradise in what is the most important moment in politics for anyone who has ever lived. Forget Obama and move on: we’re living in Cleggmania, Gordon and Cameron intensely and desperately battling it out on heated television debates to win the respect and affection of the public. Gil Scott-Heron said that the revolution won’t be televised, but he was wrong. This is the revolution. Right now.

At the moment, predicting who’s going to take what seats is pure speculation. Fortunately, we’ve exclusively got the latest in from Christian Howes at Webtrends with a set of social media analytics to tell us who and what you, the people, have been talking about. He has monitored all mainstream media for us, including BBC Online, The Times Online and Sky News, as well as social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, and finally just about every single blog ever and all of their interconnections to give us a good glimpse of where the election might be headed tomorrow.

As we have mentioned before here and here, monitoring mentions of contenders, for example on Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing, often yields a pretty accurate result as to who’s on top. And as this is the most X-Factorish election the British public has ever seen, it may carry extra weight. It’s worth pointing out that, of course, none of this is gospel but it provides interesting insight into party popularity. Keep in mind that Gordon Brown’s bigotgate gaffe trended on Twitter within minutes, so a lot of the mentions will be about that.

Until now, Clegg’s lot have been the clear winner in positive social media mentions and overall mentions. Labour has slowly, slowly creeped up and has nipped past the Liberal Democrats to come out on top with 186 percent of mentions across all channels. Again, keep in mind Brown accidentally taunting a pensioner on record.

Webtrends says thatthe Liberal Democrats must not be written off. “Social media channels have been a real stronghold for the party where it held 45 percent of Facebook mentions and also Twitter with just under 38 percent of mentions referring to Nick Clegg,” Christian told TechEye. “During the last 24 hours however, the party is in third place across all channels at 155.5 percent.”

Throughout the whole campaign David Cameron and the Conservatives have done well by maintaining a solid, consistent level of activity, avoiding the spikes that come with positive or negative mentions, and overall came in second across all channels with a total of 157 percent of mentions. It has done well via the mainstream news channels – not that we reckon any of the nationals have an agenda or anything like that – and had plenty of positive mentions in blogs.

After all is said and done, mentions have broadly reflected sentiments expressed in the polls, Christian tells us. A hung parliament is a definite fear of Labour and the Conservatives, while the Lib Dems are embracing the idea. The social media channels reflect this as do the traditional polls.

Take a look for yourself – here are the specific channel analytics over the last 24 hours.

Facebook mentions only:

Mainstream media only:

Blog mentions:

Twitter mentions:

Video site mentions:

Pirate Bay militates against Digital Economy Act

The Labour Government, in its fag days, pushed through the Digital Economy Act (DEA) with the collusion of the Tory Party.

But Pirate Bay is rallying its forces to say it’s not too late to turn the tide against the Act.

Pirate Bay itself is vulnerable to the DEA, according to web site Torrent Freak. No one is entirely sure what measures may be brought in by the Act. That’s because, like many other Acts, there are elements that can be brought into action using statutory instruments (SIs). SIs are not debated.  Instead, they are laid on the table of the UK House of Commons and become law.

According to one expert on UK Law that TechEye chatted to last week, SIs were first introduced into the UK in the 13th century. Between the 13th century and when Labour came into power in 1997, only 6,000 SIs were used. In the last 13 years, Labour has implemented 20,000 more.

Torrent Freak said that Pirate Bay has published an info bulletin to help people understand how they can get the Act repealed.

One way might be to ask local candidates for election in the UK to say whether they will go for repeal of the Act, if re-elected.

Torrent Freak is here. Pirate Bay is here.

Facebook actively censoring LibDem and Labour

In the wake of the first ever broadcast election debates featuring the big 3 of British politics on telly, Facebook has been behaving very strangely, censoring a number of pro Labour and LibDem groups and pages.

A Labour campaigner tells us that two of the prevalent pages that have been censored are ‘Labour Win’ and ‘Were[sic] backing Brown’. A petition has been started for Facebook to reinstate the Labour Win page. On it, the groups founder claims that Facebook removed the profile because it was “fake”.

The strange thing is, there are unofficial groups and pages all over Facebook, and not just in the UK. Why would Facebook be actively removing campaigning sites unless it has a vested interest in the Conservative party? Digging out well hidden T&C’s seems a strange thing to do without reason.

Especially when you consider that Facebook very recently became self-appointed paragon of the general election online, actively encouraging all of its UK users to register to vote. Why, if it is so keen to get the country out of the apathy slump, would it be trying to stifle genuine, informed political debate?

We have tried to contact Facebook but as of yet have had no reply.

A source who has closely been following the issue told TechEye: “They’ve been up to dirty tricks since the begiining of the year when it was clear social media was getting the message across. Initially posts would disappear for no reason, but as they’ve gone on as if it’s been about trying to minimise the cross fertilisation.

“For instance if I write ‘Happy Birthday’ on your wall both our names show up in the live “See More” feed. But if I were to write on the ‘Labour Win’ page, or another such group, the recipient is blank. This is a development in recent months because one anti-Cameron group had over 150,000 members and therefore had wide reach, and they were simply scared.

“Now that group fails to appear on any search, and even though I’m a member of the group it does not appear in my list of groups.! Prior to this in February, Facebook started blocking tinylinks to newspaper articles critical of the Tories on the grounds they had been reported as being offensive! All of these actions are attempts to restrict the easy flow of information about Tory policies.”