Thursday, April 30, 2009

London Nailbombs: 10 Years Today


It was 10 years ago today, 30 April 1999, that a twisted fantasist, David Copeland, unleashed three nailbombs in London. Three people were killed and 165 wounded by this race hater's dream of inciting a "war", sparked on by his membership of (first) the British National Party (BNP) and then the tiny band of zealots run by former mad monk (and now Islamist) David Myatt.

Local press is covering the story, as are various national and ethnic and gay media and forums: the bomber, Copeland, had targeted both black (Brixton), Asian (Brick Lane) and gay (Old Compton Street) areas of the capital.

One chapter of my book, HOMELAND, tells the story of how I just missed being caught in one of the bombs myself; and how those I know were affected by this tragedy.

Stieg Larsson honored in bestseller lists


The Guardian reports that a Swedish crime wave is taking place: not of smash and grab criminals, but novelists from the Scandinavian realm, topping the European bestseller charts.

Leading the way is my old contact Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. It was a real shame Stieg died too young, of a heart attack in 2004. I'd met him a couple of times: as a journalist, Stieg was one of the foremost experts on right-wing extremists in Sweden and leading member of Expo, a magazine investigating extremists. I had no idea he was writing crime novels either, but seems the fates have been kind to him since his passing.

Well, now I must go out and get my copy of his books!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Trial opens into alleged gang kidnap, torture and murder of French Jew


From The Guardian:

France was forced to confront the moral decay of its deprived housing estates as the trial opened today one of the decade's most harrowing murder cases: the kidnap and torturing to death of a Jewish mobile phone salesman by a gang said to believe Jews were "loaded" and would club together to pay a ransom.

Ilan Halimi, 23, was found naked with his head shaved, in handcuffs and covered with burn marks and stab wounds near rail tracks outside Paris in February 2006. In a state of shock and unable to speak, he died en route to hospital. He had been held, tortured and beaten for three weeks, his head wrapped in tape, eyes Sellotaped shut and fed through a straw, while a gang known as the Barbarians demanded a ransom from his family.

Police initially did not treat the case as a hate crime. But within days of Halimi's death his family said he was targeted because he was Jewish. France, still coming to terms with its anti-semitic collaboration of the second world war, was plunged into a wave of soul-searching. Tens of thousands of people marched against anti-semitism.

The leader of the Barbarians gang, Youssouf Fofana, 28, a French school dropout turned petty criminal, has appeared in court accused of kidnapping, torture and assassination, with anti-semitism as an aggravating circumstance. Facing life imprisonment, he admits masterminding the kidnap but denies murder. A deliberately provocative character who has bombarded officials and lawyers with insults, he arrived in court shouting "Allah will be victorious". Of the 26 other defendants, 15 are accused of taking part in the plot. Others are accused of adhering to a law of silence and not going to the police.

Frank Lindh's latest talk

'American Taliban' John Lindh's father, Frank Lindh, continues his quest for his son's freedom in his latest talk.

"John, himself, is very scholarly and thorough in studying traditional Islam," Lindh said. "When he heard bin Laden speak, he recognized almost immediately that he was not a scholar. So John found him boring and he actually reported that he fell asleep while bin Laden was speaking at the camp one night."

A major point that Lindh emphasised was that John was immediately labeled guilty of terrorism by the government, and the media was biased and unconstitutional.

"Even the president said that he was an al-Qaida warrior, which is wrong," said Richard Gonzales, a sophomore mechanical engineering student. "We have no evidence to prove that's right, so how can we really say that he's guilty of all these crimes?"

As chronicled recently, the list of US abuses of prisoners in its detention during the War on Terror remains troubling for anyone concerned for international law and the Geneva Conventions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why you should avoid internet weirdoes

And I can think of many people I know (or read) posting on internet forums that seem quite worrying, too, after reading this story on the Daily Mail today:

A computer fanatic flew from his home in Germany to stab a website manager to death after he became obsessed with his victim's girlfriend over the internet, a court heard today.

David Heiss, 21, stabbed Matthew Pyke 86 times in his own home in a 'cold, calculated and pre-meditated' attack which was 'born out of obsession and hatred in equal measure', a jury were told.

Prosecutor Shaun Smith QC told how Heiss 'acted in his real life as he did in his cyber life' and became fixated with his victim's girlfriend, Joanna Witton, through an on-line strategic game playing site called Warscentral.com
[cont'd]

Listen up all you nerdragers and obsessives: remember it's just a game, yo ....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gold Trading Exposed


My website now includes links to the Gold Trading Exposed series, recently written for the gaming industry website, Eurogamer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The "other" Sir Allen

Not Sugar, but Stanford. I just recalled that I'd been to the bar owned by Sir Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire now being investigated by the SEC in America for an alleged $8 billion Ponzi scheme.

You'll have seen his strange interview, linked below; now see the bar and cricket ground near the airport in Antigua, in the Caribbean, where I recently spent a few hours during a layover between flights.


The Twenty20 ground
Neil at the Sticky Wicket
Sticky Wicket

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bizarre interview


Sir Allen Stanford, who until recently bankrolled Twenty20 cricket and flew around the world in a private jet, offers a somewhat bizarre rebuttal of the accusations against him in this interview on ABC News.

Standing accused of running a massive US $8 billion Ponzi scheme, Sir Allen alternately laughs, cries, rages and threatens violence to those who suggest he was a mere con man and not a legit businessman.

Watch the video and watch this space for my piece on the guys who take down fraudsters (see previous stories here).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Meet the Chinese gold sellers and farmers


There are over one million 'gold farmers' in China, in an industry which makes up to US $10 billion per annum.

So I reveal in the second part of my Eurogamer investigation into 'gold selling' in online worlds, I talk to a Chinese 'gold farmer', a 'gold seller' who sells his wares and an old skool gamer who describes the lure of buying and selling virtual items.

Many farmers are earning just a handful of dollars a day for their work, spending 10-12 hours 'grinding' items and selling on the proceeds to the boss of a workshop, who then makes a profit selling to a third-party broker (the gold seller) who then deals with the end player.

See the full report up at Eurogamer; and catch the third part of the series for the Players' reaction.

Games companies respond in the final part of the series, The Carrot and the Stick, published Easter weekend.

The National publishes American Taliban story


The National newspaper in the Middle East has published the latest of my stories on John Walker Lindh, the so-called 'American Taliban', and the campaign by his father Frank Lindh, and mother Marilyn Walker, to have him released from prison.

As the piece notes, some of the draconian restrictions imposed on Lindh since his imprisonment in 2001 have finally been lifted (no-one is quite sure yet what this means) and hopes are being raised that the US Federal authorities may look favourably on his case once more.

Lindh was jailed in the hysteria and aftermath of September 11: whilst foolish and naive, even a zealot for a time, others convicted of 'greater' crimes than him (he was actually sentenced to 20 years in jail for breaking economic sanctions on the Taliban) have since been released.

Read The National story to find out more; a longer version is up at my own website.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Journalists dismayed by UN defamation of religion resolution

Journalist organisations worldwide are said to be dismayed by a new UN resolution which seeks to ban defamation against religion.

The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution on defamation of religion last week. "This decision brings discredit on the UN Human Rights Council, which should not justify censorship and the stifling of dissenting voices," said the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

The Council's resolution, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and approved by the Council on 26 March, calls for a global fight against "defamation of religions". Islamic countries argue that criticising or satirising religions is a violation of the rights of believers and leads to discrimination and violence against them.

The resolution was passed by a vote of 23-11, with 13 abstentions. Freedom House, which co-organised a petition signed by more than 180 organisations worldwide against the resolution, said it was "especially disappointed that South Africa, a liberal democracy whose citizens have a deep understanding of how such laws are used to punish dissenters, continues to back these
resolutions."

According to IFEX members, the defamation of religion concept can be used by authoritarian governments to stifle debate and criticism of religions and religious institutions.

"These countries are using the UN to expand and bring legitimacy to their frontal assault on freedom of expression," said Freedom House. "This assault starts at the level of domestic blasphemy laws present in many OIC countries, which are routinely employed to harass and imprison religious minorities, political dissenters and human rights advocates, and is elevated to the international level through resolutions at the UN."

According to ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the resolution is the latest in a series on the subject of "defamation of religions". The first was adopted in 1999 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS voiced "extreme concern" that the cumulative effect of these resolutions serves to undermine established international human rights guarantees on the right to freedom of expression but also on the rights to freedom of religion and to equality.

"It is shameful and disappointing. Unfortunately, it is also unsurprising given the way this issue has unfolded in the UN over the last decade," said ARTICLE 19.

According to Freedom House, text condemning "defamation of religions" was originally part of a draft declaration to be issued at the Durban II anti-racism conference in Geneva next month. But it was withdrawn after Western nations said they would pull out of the UN conference unless it was removed.