A little hole in British security

The British revealed today that, because of lax security, they issued 10,000 passports last year to bogus applicants, including at least two terrorists:

The Home Office today revealed that around 10,000 British passports were issued to false applicants last year, as it released details of new measures to combat identity fraud.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) received 16,500 fraudulent applications between October 2005 to September 2006, less than half of which were detected and thrown out, a minister admitted.

Around 6.6 million passports were issued in the UK over the same period, meaning 0.5 per cent of issues were false.

It has also emerged that two terrorists have been given UK passports.

Dhiren Barot pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder at Woolwich Crown Court in December and was sentenced to life with a recommendation that he serve 40 years. He had seven passports in his true identity and two further passports in fraudulent identities.

A second man, Moroccan national Salaheddine Benyaich, had two British passports in the name of a British citizen born in Brighton. The IPS said a face-to-face interview would have stopped his application. He is currently serving 18 years in Morocco for terrorist offences.

The scale of the problem was revealed as the Government attempts to dampen opposition to plans to force first-time claimants to attend face-to-face interviews before receiving their passport.

The above story shows the huge difference between percentages and actual numbers. A .05% failure rate is an extremely low failure rate percentage-wise. Ten thousand erroneously issued passports per year, however, is a horrific number, especially with realistic terrorist threats.

The British government does seem to be dealing with the problem, as noted above, although their chosen approach is very labor intensive:

First-time passport applicants aged over 16 will face a list of up to 200 personal questions when compulsory interviews are introduced later this spring.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly teenagers, will be grilled about their lives by a Government official in a dry run for the introduction of ID cards.

Under detailed plans published yesterday, people applying for their first adult passport must attend an “authentication by interview” at one of 69 centres around the country.

They will be expected to complete the usual passport application form before being called for what critics describe as “an interrogation”. This will involve a series of additional questions to establish their identity. Applicants will be asked about their ancestry, including the background of their parents, previous addresses, details about counter-signatories and other questions designed to establish a ”social footprint” of who they are.

Senior officials said the aim was to prevent fraudulent passport applications which lead to 10,000 documents each year being sent out to bogus claimants, including terrorists.

Since I don’t know what Brits currently have to do to get a passport, it’s impossible for me to tell if the new plan is reasonable, or completely over the top. Frankly, it would be interesting to learn how many false applicants slip through the American process. I do know that first time applicants cannot apply by mail, but have to go to a post office or a passport office, so they at least have to show their face.

As it is, considering the fact that many consider Britain to be Ground Zero for the Western end of radical Islam, I’m personally glad to see the government taking the problem serious and acting aggressively to deal with it.

del.icio.us | digg it


How not to get scammed at the ATM

I first heard about this ATM scam when I read of it in Rick Steve’s excellent travel book on Italy (it is, apparently, a very popular European scam).  You can view this easy to read slide show to understand what not to do when your card apparently gets sucked permanently into the maw of an ATM.

Hat tip:  Brain Droppings

I always knew I didn’t have an accent

What American accent do you have?

Your Result: The West



Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you’re a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland






North Central



The Inland North






The South



The Northeast



What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

It got me absolutely right.   About you.  Try it out and let me know if the test is right about where you’re from.

Hat tip:  A Rose By Any Other Name

Indoctrinate U trailer

As an added incentive to you to go to the Indoctrinate U website, and let them know that, in your community, there is at least one person who wants to see the movie about some of the things that happen in American universities, here’s the movie trailer:

Remember, distributors are running shy because they don’t believe there is an audience out there. By registering at the web site, the movie’s makers can demonstrate to the distributors that there are indeed people in America who are interested in documentaries from people other than Bore and Moore.

del.icio.us | digg it

The EU versus individual countries

This is the story:

The European Court of Human Rights has awarded a Polish woman 25,000 euros ($33,000; £16,000) in damages after she was refused an abortion.

Alicja Tysiac’s eyesight worsened drastically after she had her third baby and she fears she may go blind.

The 35-year-old mother was refused an abortion despite warnings that having a baby could make her go blind.

In staunchly Catholic Poland, abortion is illegal unless the health of the mother or unborn child is at risk.

The Strasbourg court ruled that the mother of three’s human rights had been violated when she was denied an abortion on therapeutic grounds.

When Alicja Tysiac became pregnant in February 2000, three eye specialists told her having another baby could put her eyesight at serious risk.But neither the specialists nor her GP would authorise an abortion.

After giving birth later that year, Ms Tysiac suffered a retinal haemorrhage and feared she may go blind.

She now wears glasses with thick powerful lenses but she cannot see objects more than a metre and a half (5ft) away.

As a disabled single mother, she struggles to raise her three children on her meagre state pension.

There’s so much here that’s either not said or that I don’t understand. Does anyone have answers to the following questions?

1. Who pays the 25,000 euros?

2. If it’s Poland that pays, is it being sanctioned for following its own laws?

3. In the part of the article I didn’t quote above, we learn that Poland actually intends to stiffen its abortion laws. What kind of federalism is this that doesn’t overturn a member country’s law, but simply imposes fines against the country for following its own laws? Since this seems to be a weird, punitive kind of federalism, will it last?

4. Is the problem that the EU feels Poland didn’t follow its own laws? That is, does Poland interpret “risk to the mother” in a way that doesn’t include blindness, but only includes the risk of death? If a country interprets its own laws one way, and the EU another, which should trump?

5. And lastly, because it might help answer some other questions, where has the baby’s father been in all this? Buried in the article is the fact that Ms. Tysiac is single, and already had two children when she became pregnant with a third.

As you can see, I’m very ignorant about the way this situation works. Do any of you have answers about the intersection between national laws and EU rulings?

del.icio.us | digg it

Bizarre media inversion

An Israeli is shot at and wounded, and the Palestinian coalition is “embarrassed” that it managed, once again, almost instantly to breach a cease fire.  Guess which gets the headline?  (And you’re right if you bypassed that poor Israeli man.)  Somehow this strikes me as different from those endless stories that are headlined “Palestinian teenager shot.”  Often, after reading down a bit, do discover that he was shot because he was trying to launch a Molotov cocktail, or because he was a rock thrower caught in the crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.  The press is pretty good about not lying regarding basic facts, but I sure don’t appreciate the way in which the press so often decides to present those facts.

Anti-Semitism is as ugly from the Right as it is from the Left

This blog spends a lot of time hunting down and attacking the anti-Semitism that comes from the Left. It’s worth remembering, though, that anti-Semitism also has a long and honored history on the Right. Lately, Patrick Buchanan is the poster boy for this kind of ugly thinking. He exposed himself again today in an article he wrote — an article that relies on a story from the ultra-Leftist Nation magazine — blaming AIPAC’s pressure for Nancy Pelosi’s decision not to cut into the President’s constitutional power to declare war.

The big hoo-ha revolves around a spending bill for Iraq that would have required President Bush to seek permission from Congress before launching a war against Iran. Buchanan is incensed that Nancy Pelosi refused to go along with this, blaming the fact that some attendees booed during a speech she gave an AIPAC gathering in which she criticized the Iraq War. From this, he drags in the fact that Israel is worried about Iran and, voila, according to The Nation and to Buchanan, Pelosi was so frightened by the AIPACers, and so sensitive to their fear on Israel’s behalf about Iran, that she effectively gave away Congress’ right under Art. 1, sec. 8 of the Constitution to declare War.

Just to fill you in on the legislative blanks, here’s the source of Buchanan’s outrage:

According to John Nichols of The Nation, Pelosi’s decision to strip the provision barring Bush from attacking Iran without Congress’ approval “sends the worst possible signal to the White House.”

“The speaker has erred dangerously and dramatically,” writes Nichols. Her “disastrous misstep could haunt her and the Congress for years to come.”

Nichols does not exaggerate.

If Bush now launches war on Iran, he can credibly say Congress and the Democrats gave him a green light. For Pelosi, by removing a provision saying Bush does not have the authority, de facto concedes he does have the authority.

Bush and Cheney need now not worry about Congress.

They have been flashed the go sign for war on Iran.

Pelosi & Co. thus aborted a bipartisan effort to ensure that if we do go to war again, we do it the constitutional way, and we do it together.

Nothing in the provision would have prevented Bush, as commander in chief, from responding to an Iranian attack or engaging in hot pursuit of an enemy found in Iraq. Nor would the provision have prevented Bush from threatening Iran. It would simply have required him to come to Congress — before launching all-out war.

Buchanan can spin this as much as he wants, but the fact is that the bill as it stands does nothing to affect the fact that, under the Constitution, it’s still Congress that gets to declare war. Of course, presidents have always found ways around this fact (witness the “police action” in Korea in the 1950s), but the bottom line is that Congress gets to declare war, and all that’s left to a determined President is either to convince or to circumvent Congress, as has been done since the Civil War era. It’s that simple. A mere funding bill cannot give away Congress’ powers, nor is it a green light saying that Bush can do whatever the Hell he wants. And unlike Buchanan, I’m sure that Bush isn’t fool enough to believe that this funding mandate is a green light, allowing him to act utterly without Congressional limitations (and funding, let’s never forget that funding). Only a man in the grip of an anti-Semitic rage would weave together these little bits and pieces into a full throttle anti-Semitic attack against a nefarious Jewish lobby. Shame on him!

del.icio.us | digg it