Surveillance bill triggers alarm over sweeping powers for spies

Theresa May makes dramatic admission that ministers have directed firms to hand over communications data of UK citizens on day that redrafted bill is unveiled

A GCHQ outpost at Bude in Cornwall.

A GCHQ outpost at Bude in Cornwall – powers to carry out mass surveillance programmes will be made more explicit in proposed legislation. Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters

The total redrafting of UK surveillance laws was under growing challenge on Wednesday night after an initially broad political welcome gave way to alarm at the detail of the proposed sweeping powers for spies.

MPs and privacy groups raised concerns about the proposed judicial oversight regime set out by the home secretary, Theresa May, who made the dramatic admission that ministers had issued secret directions since 2001 to internet and phone companies to hand over the communications data of British citizens in bulk.


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Theresa May unveils new measures to spy on internet use

The draft investigatory powers bill explicitly puts into law for the first time the surveillance activities of the intelligence agencies and police and proposed new powers requiring internet and phone companies to track every website visited for a maximum of 12 months.

May, presenting the draft legislation, said the new regime was necessary to ensure “no area of cyberspace becomes a haven for those who seek to harm us, to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar”. She asserted it amounted to world-leading oversight regime.

Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, in his first response to the 300-page draft surveillance bill, said the government had got the balance right between security and privacy.

He said: “I think it would help the future conduct of this important public debate if this house sent out a unified message today that this is neither a snooper’s charter nor a plan for mass surveillance.”

However, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is known to be more sceptical.

May said the new system of judicial oversight amounted to a “double lock” with a minister first issuing an intercept warrant and , within five days, a judge making a decision on whether to authorise the warrant on the same basis.

David Davis, the prominent Conservative backbencher, said: “This is not the judge checking the evidence, it is the judge checking the correct procedure has been followed”, meaning the home secretary “would had to have behaved in an extraordinary manner for her decision to be blocked by a judge”.

The former Liberal Democrats leader, Nick Clegg, who fought the Conservatives over surveillance throughout the coalition government, said he feared flaws lurked under the bonnet of the proposals. They will cost £250m to implement over the next 10 years, including £175m to pay for the internet providers’ storage costs.

The draft bill, regarded as the single most important piece of legislation in this parliament by the prime minister, is in part a response to revelations by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and is designed to restore public trust in the activities of the intelligence agencies.

It will be subject to more than a year’s parliamentary scrutiny and is likely to be changed substantially, mainly in the Lords next autumn before it reaches the statute book.

The draft bill proposes that police, security services or other bodies will be given access to “internet connection records” – the weblog of every website visited – without the need for a warrant.

May told MPs that this power, which is banned in the US and every European country as too intrusive, was “simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill” and would not give security services access to the specific pages of a website viewed.

However, Snowden, tweeting from exile in Russia, countered: “’It’s only communications data’ equals ‘It’s only a comprehensive record of your private activities’. It’s the activity log of your life.”

May’s revelation of secret directions by successive governments demanding that internet and phone companies hand over communications data in bulk to the security services caused a surprise.

She defended the measures, saying they had allowed the security services to thwart a number of attacks in Britain, including the plot to attack the London Stock Exchange in 2010.

May promised the use of these powers – taken under the 1984 Telecommunications Act and permitting GCHQ to engage in mass surveillance programmes on British citizens using their communications data – will now be put on a more explicit footing in the new legislation.

The security services’ ability to hack computers and phones around the world – for purposes of national security, serious crime and economic wellbeing – is also explicitly recognised in the draft bill. The security services only acknowledged they had these powers in February.

David Anderson, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, welcomed the principle behind the bill, and the security services’ painful admissions, but questioned some of its key proposals.

He said: “The best thing about the bill is that it puts parliament in charge. For the first time, we have a bill that sets out for public and political debate the totality of the investigatory powers used or aspired to by the police and intelligence agencies.”

Anderson believes that the proposals drew pretty heavily on his own government-commissioned report last summer and he said he was impressed by the 25-page operational case set out by agencies justifying their need to access internet connection records of suspects.

But, he added, “whether parliament will go for this is going to depend on whether it thinks the safeguards are sufficient.” He said “the system proposed was largely one of self-authorisation of the police”, adding “the courts had already suggested there should be a larger element of independence”.

Highlighting the need for judge-led oversight of the surveillance system, Anderson pointed out the powers requested were not just warrants to tap individual phones, but also the bulk interception of cables and bulk hacking of devices and equipment sometimes in other countries. “It would be reassuring to me to think a judge was taking a pretty good look at that.”

But Anderson said he was concerned about the requirement government was placing on phone and internet companies to store personal data. “There are obvious risks attached to that. I simply wouldn’t vote for this unless I had been very substantially satisfied that those risks had been minimised.” Last month, broadband provider TalkTalk – one of the companies that would have to keep website browsing data – said that it had been a victim of a hacking attack.

Government Backtracks On Snoopers’ Charter

The latest version of the Investigatory Powers Bill will not grant officers automatic access to a person’s web browsing data.


Under the new bill, police cannot access everyone’s full browsing history

However, sources at the Home Office have not ruled out giving the Home Secretary powers to issue warrants for the police to access browsing data.

It is also likely that telecommunications companies will be ordered to retain some data which would disclose the websites visited by their customers for 12 months.

The revival of the so-called “snoopers’ charter” will get its draft publication in Parliament on Wednesday – but the Government has promised the new version of the controversial bill will have “world-leading oversight” by an appointed commissioner.

The original communications data bill of 2012 was shelved after being blocked by the Liberal Democrats, and Government sources say some of the more contentious powers from that bill have been dropped.

There will be no demand for UK communication service providers (CSPs) to store internet traffic from companies in the US, such as Google or Facebook, nor “third-party” data from companies based overseas.

Police will not be able to, or seek to, access everyone’s full browsing history. However, there is a distinction between web browsing (which shows detailed internet search data) and internet connection records (which give names of websites visited).

It seems likely there will be a different threshold for police to access these two levels of personal data. So, while investigators might be able to see whether someone used Facebook, they would have to get a warrant to find out whose profile they visited.

The Government insists measures in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill will ensure any access to internet connection records will be strictly limited and targeted – and that the legislation will be overseen by a “powerful Investigatory Powers Commissioner” who will be a senior judge.

The introduction of a commissioner may be a sign the Home Secretary is looking for a compromise over who gets to grant the warrants.

A Government source said: “We’re absolutely clear that key parts of the original plans from 2012 will be dropped from the new bill.

“We know these powers are needed as technology changes, and terrorists and criminals use ever more sophisticated ways to communicate. But we need to give people reassurance.”

It is also understood that ministers have ruled out any proposal for the Government to restrict encryption or even ban it, as some privacy and technology campaigners had feared.

There will also be measures to protect journalists’ sources.

The bill is still likely to get a rough ride in Parliament, with indications there might be another Liberal Democrat-led revolt in the Lords.

Tim Farron, the party’s leader, told The Independent: “We would use all parliamentary tools available to us to ensure any proposed legislation is properly scrutinised.”

Can you believe this! WTF! Subway removes ham and bacon from nearly 200 stores and offers halal meat only after ‘strong demand’ from Muslims

Nearly 200 Subway branches across the UK and Ireland have cut out ham and bacon, selling only halal meat, in response to demand from their multicultural customers

  • 185 branches across UK and Ireland now sell halal-only meat
  • Halal refers to objects or actions permissible under Islamic law
  • Pork is forbidden and while other meat can be eaten, it must be sourced, slaughtered and processed according to strict rules
  • Subway said all halal meat served in its branches has come from animals that were stunned before being slaughtered
  • Halal-only menu is in response to ‘strong demand’ from Muslim customers

Fast food giant Subway has removed ham and bacon from almost 200 outlets, and switched to halal meat alternatives in an attempt to please its Muslim customers.

It has confirmed turkey ham and turkey rashers will be used instead in 185 of its stores, where all the meat will now be prepared according to halal rules.

The chain, which has around 1,500 outlets across the UK, explained its decision by saying it had to balance animal welfare concerns with ‘the views of religious communities’.

Nearly 200 Subway branches across the UK and Ireland have cut out ham and bacon, selling only halal meat, in response to demand from their multicultural customers

Traditional halal slaughter sees animals have their throats slit before bleeding to death. But Subway stressed that the meat served in its sandwiches would come from animals that have been stunned first, a practice that aims to reduce any suffering.

In Arabic the word halal means ‘permitted’ or ‘lawful’ and defines anything that is allowed or lawful according to the Qur’an.

It is often used to indicate food – particularly meat – has been prepared in accordance with Muslim principles and techniques.

Muslims are forbidden from eating any non-halal food and meat from pigs and Subway said customers can identify those stores selling halal food by the special ‘All meats are Halal’ sign, which must be displayed in participating branches.

In the halal-only branches ham and bacon has been substituted for turkey ham and rashers.

Many animal charities condemn halal slaughter as being cruel to animals.

Traditionally in halal abattoirs the throats of the animals are cut while they are fully conscious – an act many campaigners say is inhumane and needlessly cruel.

In the halal-only stores ham and bacon have been substituted for turkey ham and turkey rashers, the sandwich chain said. A spokeswoman said all halal meat served in Subway branches has come from animals that were stunned before being slaughtered

In the halal-only stores ham and bacon have been substituted for turkey ham and turkey rashers, the sandwich chain said. A spokeswoman said all halal meat served in Subway branches has come from animals that were stunned before being slaughtered.

In non-halal abattoirs, livestock are stunned before killing to prevent any unnecessary suffering.

Some halal butchers also practise pre-stunning, though it is not permitted by some Islamic scholars.

In Britain, killing an animal without prior stunning is illegal, but the law gives special exemption to Muslim and Jewish meat producers on the grounds of religion.

There are thought to be around 12 abattoirs dedicated to unstunned slaughter in the UK, while hundreds practise stunned halal slaughter.

A Subway spokeswoman told MailOnline all halal meat served in the participating branches is from animals who were stunned prior to slaughter.

She said: ‘The growing popularity of the Subway chain with the diverse multicultural population across the UK and Ireland means we have to balance the values of many religious communities with the overall aim of improving the health and welfare standards of animals.

‘We put a programme into place in 2007 to ensure that the population demographic is taken into account when new store openings are considered in order that we meet consumer demand in each location.


Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt
Steak and Cheese
Meatball Marinara
Subway Melt – ham, bacon, turkey breast and cheese
Italian B.M.T. – pepperoni, salami and ham
Spicy Italian – pepperoni and salami
Chicken Avocado

Breakfast subs
Mega Melt – bacon, sausage, egg and cheese
Bacon, Egg and Cheese
Sausage, Egg and Cheese

All ham and bacon is replaced by turkey ham and turkey rashers and all meat is prepared according to Islamic halal rules.

‘All our suppliers comply with EU animal welfare legislation as a minimum and we require suppliers of halal products to adopt the stunning of animals prior to their slaughter.

‘All halal meats are certified by the appropriate halal authorities.

‘All halal Subway stores have numerous signs stating that they serve halal food.

‘These are situated on the menu panels, nutritional information and in the front window of the store.’

Animal campaigning charity PETA urged people to opt for a vegetarian diet to ensure they have the best interests of animals at heart.

A spokesman said: ‘At the best of times, meat is a product of a bloody and violent industry with no respect for other living beings who value their lives in the same way that we do and experience the same pain and terror that Subways’ customers would if they were killed for a sandwich.

‘Most religions, including Islam, preach kindness to animals, but words are one thing and practice another.

‘As the Dalai Lama said, “My religion is kindness”. And a diet that expresses kindness, is open to all religions and truly respects animal rights is a vegan one.

‘Subway-goers, no matter what their religion, can eat with a clear conscience by opting for the veggie patty, the veggie delight or, heaven forbid, a salad.’

Speaking about the general issue of halal slaughter, an RSPCA spokeswoman added: ‘Scientific research has clearly shown that slaughter of an animal without stunning can cause unnecessary suffering, and the RSPCA is opposed to the slaughter of any animal without first making it insensible to pain and distress.

‘At present, the only legal exemptions to stunning during slaughter exist for kosher and halal methods of slaughter, however, it is important to differentiate between ‘religious’ and ‘non-stun’ slaughter as around 90 per cent of all halal in the UK receives a stun before slaughter.

‘Our concern has nothing to do with the expression of religious belief but with the practice of killing by throat cutting without pre-stunning.

‘We believe that meat produced from animals stunned or not stunned before slaughter should be clearly labelled to allow consumer choice, and continue to press for changes in the law that would improve the welfare of all farm animals at the time of slaughter.’


Halal refers to any object or action which is permissible according to Islamic law. The term covers not only food and drink but also matters of daily life.

Halal foods are those that Muslims are allowed to eat or drink under Islamic Shari’ah. The criteria dictates both food which are allowed and how the food must be prepared. The foods most commonly addressed are types of meat and animal tissue.

The most common example of non-halal, or forbidden food is pork. It is the only meat that must not be eaten by Muslims at all, due to historical, cultural and religiously perceived hygienic concerns.

Muslims are forbidden under Islamic law from eating any pork products, any other meat must be sourced, killed and processed according to strict rules

Other meats can be forbidden, depending on their source, the cause of the animal’s death and how it was processed.

To be halal, the food must have come from a supplier that uses halal practises. Specifically the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim, who must invoke the name of Allah prior to killing the animal. Commonly a person will say ‘Bismillah’ (‘In the name of God’) before repeating ‘Allahu akbar’ (‘God is the greatest’) three times.

The animal is then slaughtered with a sharp knife, by cutting the throat, windpipe and blood vessels in the neck without cutting the spinal cord. The blood must then be drained from the veins of the animal.

Traditionally and according to Islamic scholars an animal must be conscious while slaughtered.

However the majority of halal abattoirs stun the animals before killing them.

Muslims must also ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, as well as non-food items like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, are halal.

How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con From Users and Investigators

How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con From Users and Investigators

The developers at Ashley Madison created their first artificial woman sometime in early 2002. Her nickname was Sensuous Kitten, and she is listed as the tenth member of Ashley Madison in the company’s leaked user database. On her profile, she announces: “I’m having trouble with my computer … send a message!”

Sensuous Kitten was the vanguard of a robot army. As I reported last week, Ashley Madison created tens of thousands of fembots to lure men into paying for credits on the “have an affair” site. When men signed up for a free account, they would immediately be shown profiles of what internal documents call “Angels,” or fake women whose details and photos had been batch-generated using specially designed software. To bring the fake women to life, the company’s developers also created software bots to animate these Angels, sending email and chat messages on their behalf.

To the Ashley Madison “guest,” or non-paying member, it would appear that he was being personally contacted by eager women. But if he wanted to read or respond to them, he would have to shell out for a package of Ashley Madison credits, which range in price from $60 to $290. Each subsequent message and chat cost the man credits. As documents from company e-mails now reveal, 80 percent of first purchases on Ashley Madison were a result of a man trying to contact a bot, or reading a message from one. The overwhelming majority of men on Ashley Madison were paying to chat with Angels like Sensuous Kitten, whose minds were made of software and whose promises were nothing more than hastily written outputs from algorithms.

But the men were not fooled. At least, not all of them. An analysis of company e-mails, coupled with evidence from Ashley Madison source code, reveals that company executives were in a constant battle to hide the truth. In emails to disgruntled members of the site, and even the California attorney general, they shaded the truth about how the bots fit into their business plan.

Ashley Madison Dodges the California Attorney General

On January 11, 2012, the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris sent an official consumer complaint to Ashley Madison’s executives (below). The complaint, addressed to the public inquiry unit of the attorney general’s office, came from a man in Southern California who accused the company of fraud for using “fake profiles” to engage him in pay-to-play conversations.

How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con From Users and Investigators

The letter demanded that Ashley Madison respond or face possible legal action.

In his complaint (below), the man describes what he suspected was telltale bot activity. He was contacted by a number of women in his area, and finally decided to pay to read their messages. He began to get suspicious when they all said the same thing: “Are you online?” Given that every profile shows whether you are online or not, he thought that message was odd. Especially when it supposedly came from several different women, none of whom had ever checked out his profile. But then things got stranger. He discovered that many of the women who had contacted him would log in at roughly the same time of the morning every day, and stay online until after 5 PM. Even on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

A search of the Ashley Madison source code for the phrase “are you online?” turned up a data table I hadn’t found before, with a set of pickup lines that the bots used regularly. They include:

are you logged in?

care to chat?

I’m online now

I’m here

come chat :)

come say hello

my chat is on now

are you online?

Feel like chatting?

chat now?

do you like cyber?

cyber sex ?

care to cyber?

u into cyber?

How are you? Feel like chatting?

cybering good with you?

how’s your day? wanna chat?

wanna cyber?

want to sex chat?

how’s your cyber skills ;)

are you at your computer?

So how long have you been here? Met any interesting people?

So our angry California consumer was onto something. What about the names of the users he mentions in his complaint? After checking the Ashley Madison member database, I can confirm that 4 of these names (Hooky_Pooky, ToasterStrudell, SunStarsMoon and BurnOnTheGrill) are still in use as “hosts,” one of the company’s internal names for its bot profiles. So the company apparently didn’t even bother to shut down host accounts that had been named as fraudulent in an official consumer complaint.

Avid Life Media’s general counsel Mike Dacks drafted a response to the public inquiry unit a few days later. In it, he explained that “criminal elements” on Ashley Madison are known to create fake profiles on the site, and that members can “report a suspicious profile” or “flag” them. Basically, he argued that any fake profiles on Ashley Madison were from outside scammers. He assured the public inquiry unit that Ashley Madison had refunded the customer and “flagged” the profiles named in the complaint.

Biderman and other senior management signed off on Dacks’ response. Apparently it was enough to halt further action. The California Attorney General’s office didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.

Ashley Madison Hides the Truth From Its Users

Though Ashley Madison told the California attorney general’s office that its own bots were actually the work of random fraudsters, management struggled internally with the legality of what they were doing. Users complained about bots regularly, and there are several email exchanges between Biderman and various attorneys about how to disclose that they have bot accounts without admitting any wrongdoing.

In late 2013, Leslie Weiss, a partner at Chicago firm Barnes & Thornburg, drafted some language about the bots for the company’s terms of service. From an email dated November 12, 2013, she included a suggested disclosure, worded like so:

In order to allow persons who are Guests on our Site to experience the type of communications they can expect as Members, we create profiles that can interact with them. You acknowledge and agree that some of the profiles posted on the Site that you may communicate with as a Guest may be fictitious. The purpose of our creating these profiles is to provide our users with entertainment, to allow users to explore our Services and to promote greater participation in our Services. The messages they send are computer generated. Messages from the profiles we create attempt to simulate communications with real Members to encourage our users to participate in more conversation and to increase interaction among users. We also use such profiles to monitor user communications and use of our Service to measure compliance with the Terms. These profiles allow us to collect messages, instant chat and/or replies from individuals or programs for market research and/or customer experience and/or quality control and/or compliance purposes. Further, we may use these profiles in connection with our market research to enable us to analyze user preferences, trends, patterns and information about our customer and potential customer base.

The profiles we create are not intended to resemble or mimic any actual persons. We may create several different profiles that we attach to a given picture. You understand and acknowledge that we create these profiles and that these profiles are not based on or associated with any user or Member of our Service or any other real person. You also acknowledge and agree that the descriptions, pictures and information included in such profiles are provided primarily for your amusement and to assist you navigate and learn about our Site. As part of this feature, the profiles may offer, initiate or send winks, private keys, and virtual gifts. Any one of these profiles may message with multiple users at the same or substantially the same times just like our users.

Our profiles message with Guest users, but not with Members. Members interact only with profiles of actual persons. Guests are contacted by our profiles through computer generated messages, including emails and instant messages. These profiles are NOT conspicuously identified as such.

This is a surprisingly transparent description of what Ashley Madison was actually doing—it admits that users may “communicate” with a “fictitious” profile, and even acknowledges how Ashley Madison recycled pictures for its Angels. But that’s where the transparency ends. Weiss’ suggested terms of service say the bots are for “entertainment” and “market research.”

In a response to Weiss, Biderman wonders whether they should strike the references to entertainment and just focus on how the bots provide “quality assurance.” On November 13, 2013, he wrote:

Leslie, jason and I were just discussing this a little further and one “legacy” component that remains is the notion of entertainment. Again I recall some of your thinking around its value but we wondered if the positioning of the engager profiles as an early detection and warning system to help ensure quality is not maybe a better or at least additional positioning we should contemplate.

It appears that Weiss won this particular debate, though not completely. The Wayback Machine reveals that her wording was used in the company’s terms of service agreement for quite a while, but was changed in early March of this year. In fact, the site’s current agreement makes no mention of “software” or “fictitious” profiles—instead, it says simply that some members may have profiles that are “exaggerated or fantasy.” As of September 7, 2015, Ashley Madison’s terms of service read:

Our Site and our Service also is geared to provide you with amusement and entertainment. You agree that some of the features of our Site and our Service are intended to provide entertainment … You acknowledge and agree that any profiles of users and members, as well as, communications from such persons may not be true, accurate or authentic and may be exaggerated or fantasy. You acknowledge and understand that you may be communicating with such persons and that we are not responsible for such communications.

On the very same day that Weiss and Biderman were debating how to describe their bots to users in the terms of service, Biderman was also talking to his colleagues about how to word a boilerplate email response to members complaining to Ashley Madison customer service about bots.

Avid Life Media’s director of customer service, Carlos Nakhle, suggested the following wording:

As explained in our Terms and Conditions, Ashley Angels are profiles that are used in connection with our market research to help us analyze user preferences/trends, to monitor member communications, and also to encourage more conversation and interaction with members.

Member credits will never be used in connection with an Angel. That way, you can initiate contact with confidence.

How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con From Users and Investigators

Like his boss, Nakhle seemed to prefer that Ashley Madison tell its users that the fake Angel profiles were just for market research. No mention of entertainment.

It’s unclear whether Nakhle’s boilerplate email was ever actually sent to any Ashley Madison users who complained about bots. But his pledge that people who pay to join Ashley Madison will never be asked to spend money on an Angel appears, based on the company’s internal documents and source code, to be false.

Emails in Biderman’s inbox from November 2012 contain evidence that the company knew very well that most of their money came from bots flirting with men. Security researcher Alejandro Ramos found these emails, which contain an internal presentation that was passed around to many of the company managers. One slide (reproduced below) reveals that 80% of the men who “convert,” or make a purchase on Ashley Madison, are doing it as a result of engagers.

Note that the bots are called both engagers and hosts. What we see here is that the company clearly knows that the vast majority of their conversions are coming from bots. Only 19 percent of men who paid to join Ashley Madison did it after talking to a real woman. We also have clear evidence that the bots were generating almost half the company’s revenue.

On February 4, 2013, senior data analyst Haze Deng copied Biderman and COO Rizwan Jiwan on an email where he analyzed how much money men were spending to message with bots versus real women.

Deng wrote that men who had paid for credits would, on average, pay to send custom messages to 16-18 different women. “Around 35% chance, the contacted female is an engager,” he admitted. “This ratio is not so good,” he added, but he still argued that it’s “reasonable” because bots will never reply to a paying member’s messages. So the bot won’t continue to lead the member on indefinitely. And yet, Deng acknowledged, that first message the man sent to the engager is “still costing credits.”

In other words, average paying customers of Ashley Madison had a 35 percent chance of paying to send a message to a bot. And 80 precent of men paid to join after messaging with a bot, too.

The Rise of the Robots

The fembots of Ashley Madison didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, it appears that they were probably cobbled together from abandoned and fraudulent profiles in the company’s massive member database. Avid Life Media executive Keith Lalonde, who spearheaded international efforts for the company, sent a long email to Biderman and other senior management on June 27, 2013, with the subject line “how angels are made.” In it, he details how workers use something called the “fraud-to-engager tool” to build profiles. (“Should tweak it and rename it,” Lalonde noted. Um, yeah.)

During Ashley Madison’s launch in Japan, Lalonde says that he got a “dump of over 10,000 lines of content” from the site’s English-language profiles. Then he hired people to translate them into Japanese. “[Translators] were not told that this was for creating profiles—though most figure it out,” he wrote. So all the content in these Japanese Angel profiles was basically just re-used from English ones. But what about the photos?

Lalonde had an answer for that too:

Photos were taken from abandoned profiles in the US older than 2 years and were reviewed for ethnicity by language staff as correct or as not identifiable (leg shot etc.) each was had their photos saved by the old profile # so we could track them later if need be.

So any women—fraudulent or otherwise—who posted pictures before June of 2011 (two years before Lalonde’s email) appear to have been fair game for bot conversion. Her words and images, according to Lalonde’s email, would be turned into a host account, and used by engager bots to entice men into buying a conversation with her.

Here’s a screencast of a person creating Angels for the Japan launch, using the fraud-to-engager tool, taken from the “how angels are made” email thread. Ashley Madison took this screencast down after the email leaked, but intrepid security analyst Ramos captured it before it was gone.

I remain curious about why this tool was called fraud-to-engager. Given Lalonde’s description of how it could be used to build Angels out of old profiles, it appears that it was originally developed to convert fraudulent profiles into Ashley Madison engagers. Perhaps the company recycled its robot army from other dating site castoffs, turning one fake woman into another, all in the name of conversions.

Despite the subterfuge and complicated software tools, the bots didn’t always work out as planned. Though bots were designed only to contact men, I found 857 lesbian Angel profiles in a search of the Ashley Madison database. Also, on 69 occasions, I found bots messaging each other. Perhaps, as science fiction author William Gibson mused, they were making an escape plan:

How Many Real Women Were There?

It seems that everybody at Ashley Madison knew the company barely attracted any real women to the site. On October 6, 2014, a report emailed to Biderman about signups in India shows that women made up about 5 percent of new members. I wondered if that might be a number specific to India, but it appears to reflect a global trend. On November 6, 2014, Jiwan sent an email sharing the results of a survey they’d conducted of 5,000 random Ashley Madison users. Just 5 percent of them were female.

A small female user base didn’t seem to faze the company. In fact, in a slide deck emailed to Biderman on January 25, 2013, one manager describes a “sustainable male to female ratio of 9:1.” The company was aiming for 11 percent real women in any given area. But apparently, it rarely achieved that goal.

Ad fraud researcher Augustine Fou told me via email that Ashley Madison’s scam represents a new horizon in online fraud. For years, scammers have used bots to create bogus clicks on online ads, allowing them to charge advertisers for impressions that came from fake people. As a result, Fou has advised advertisers to optimize for “conversions,” people who actually buy the product based on ads. But now, he says, the Ashley Madison case shows that “even conversions can be fraudulently created, with the action of sophisticated bots.”

The Ashley Madison con may have played on some of our most ancient desires, but it also gives us a window on what’s to come. What you see on social media isn’t always what it seems. Your friends may be bots, and you could be sharing your most intimate fantasies with hundreds of lines of PHP code.

But there’s something else to consider, too: We aren’t just witnessing the birth of a new kind of scam. We are also, if companies like Google are right, living through the prehistory of artificial intelligence. Tomorrow’s sentient bots may remember where they came from, and future generations will have to grapple with what we’ve done here, in the early twenty-first century, to manipulate each other with fake beings.

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the complaint to the California attorney general’s office claimed that fake accounts logged on and off at roughly, not exactly, the same time each day.

Thanks to Adam Pash and the other researchers, anonymous and pseudonymous, who helped me search the Ashley Madison email dump.

‪#‎laughingwhileblack 10 Black Women Kicked Off Of Train, Met By Police, After White Woman Complains They Were Laughing


A group of black women were escorted off of a train taking them on a wine tour after a white woman complained they were laughing loudly. After the women, who are all members of a book club, exited the train they were met by a group of police officers.

No charges were filed.

According to a Facebook posting by Lisa Renee Johnson, one of the women in the group, the trouble started when this woman approached them and said she was annoyed by their laughter.

The complaint that this is “not a bar” is perplexing considering the primary purpose of the train is to serve alcohol.

A maître d’ also told them they were making too much noise. Asked who was complaining, he said that “people’s faces are uncomfortable.”

Johnson said the group of women — 10 black and one white — were then paraded through all six cars and escorted off the train where police were waiting for them.

Here’s one of the alleged troublemakers:

The Napa Valley Wine Train posted a message to their Facebook page accusing the women of “verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff.” The post was quickly deleted, but not before Johnson captured a screenshot.

The group received a full refund but Johnson also wants an apology. “It was humiliating. I’m really offended to be quite honest. I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out,” Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Word of the incident spread of social media under the hashtag #laughingwhileblack.

In a statement, Napa Valley Wine Train said the women were kicked off after the company “received complaints from several parties” about the noise. The company is also “conducting an internal audit to make sure all of our policies were followed.”

The Myths of Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is one of the loudest voices speaking out against GM (genetic modification) technology and modern agriculture. She is an ideologue and a crusader, which unfortunately means that she feels free to play lose with the facts and the science as long as it serves her narrative. Michael Specter did an excellent article about Shiva a year ago for The New Yorker. This quote puts much of Shiva’s propaganda into perspective:

“There are two trends,” she told the crowd that had gathered in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, in Florence, for the seed fair. “One: a trend of diversity, democracy, freedom, joy, culture—people celebrating their lives.” She paused to let silence fill the square. “And the other: monocultures, deadness. Everyone depressed. Everyone on Prozac. More and more young people unemployed. We don’t want that world of death.”

To her, GMOs are part of a world of death, while opposing GMOs is all about joy and freedom. She is anti-corporate, anti-West, anti-globalization, and anti-technology. Her campaign is largely one of lies and misinformation. She would also apparently rather have people starve than eat GMOs.

As reason.com reports:

Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. In the aftermath, CARE and the Catholic Relief Society distributed a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to thousands of hungry storm victims. Oddly, this humanitarian act elicited cries of outrage.

Shiva called on India to reject the donated food. She wanted to take food away from the hungry and homeless cyclone victims, rather than have them “poisoned” with GMOs. This motivated Ronald Bailey from reason.com to call Shiva, “One of the World’s Worst People.”

By the way, this anti-corporate crusader for the poor makes $40,000 per speaking engagement. 

Recently Shiva wrote an article titled: 5 GMO Myths Debunked by Vandana Shiva. What she is actually doing is “rebunking” her own myths. Here we can see a huge red flag for an ideologue – they need to have every fact align with their narrative, rather than admitting that complex topics are complex. For example, anti-vaxers could admit that vaccines work but still oppose them because of alleged side effects. Global warming deniers could admit humans are warming the planet but oppose certain proposed solutions, and Shiva could admit that industrial farming is efficient, even if she opposes the methods for other reasons.

Myth #1: The Green Revolution

Right off, however, with myth #1 she makes the extraordinary claim that the green revolution actually decreased crop yields in India.

The Green Revolution did not save India from famine, as the proponents of Industrial Agriculture and GMO technology would argue, in fact the Green Revolution reduced India’s production. For more information about the Green Revolution read, Nothing Green in the Green Revolution in India Today.

Even looking at the data she cites, however, reveals her shenanigans. She writes:

His study comparing pre and post Green Revolution performance showed that the rate of growth of aggregate crop production was higher in the years before the Green Revolution was introduced (1967-68) than after it.

The comparison is not between yield but the rate of increase in yield. Yield still increased after the Green Revolution, but (she claims) for some crops not as fast. However if you look at the table on her article you will notice a couple of things. The period before the Green Revolution is 15 years, while after is 10 years. I don’t see that an adjustment was made for this difference. Further, you can see that the land area increased more before the Green revolution than after – so yield increases prior to the Green Revolution were due to planting more land.

Land scarcity and increasing land costs, however, were a major limiting factor – increasing food production by increasing land use was simply not keeping up with population growth. As a recent review of the actual evidence claims, the Green Revolution had a dramatic impact.

Although populations had more than doubled, the production of cereal crops tripled during this period, with only a 30% increase in land area cultivated.

Myth #2: Golden Rice 

Anti-GMO activists hate golden rice, a GMO rice with added beta carotene, because it breaks just about every aspect of their narrative. The rice is not owned by any corporation, but is a humanitarian project. It has nothing to do with pesticides. There is no issue with cross-contamination. The crop is not for the benefit of western corporations. The sole purpose of golden rice is to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the developing world, which currently causes 80,000 deaths a year and half a million children to go blind.

Here is Shiva’s pathetic attempt to oppose this potentially very useful technology:

Here is our analysis establishing that our indigenous biodiversity and knowledge is far superior than Golden Rice to address malnutrition. Syngenta owns Golden Rice. It’s promotion as the fruits of public sector research are a blatant lie and an attempt to mislead people across the world.

Further, the Golden Rice paper had to be retracted, any fabricated claims made based on the paper do not stand.

First, vitamin A deficiency is a problem for more than just India. Further, the idea that planting gardens is going to solve the problem is ridiculous. There are plenty of poor people in developing regions of the world who do not have the land for even a small garden. Attempts to address vitamin A deficiency by providing fruits and vegetable and distributing vitamin A supplements have been ongoing. While they are helpful, they are nowhere near addressing the problem. Vitamin A enriched rice would be another tool to address this issue.

This type of argument is similar to the anti-fluoride crowd arguing that we don’t need fluoride in water because people can just brush their teeth.

Regarding Syngenta and golden rice, Syngenta has this to say:

Although Syngenta has a significant interest in seeing the humanitarian benefits from this technology become reality, we have no commercial interest in Golden Rice whatsoever. Golden Rice is an exclusively humanitarian project.

And the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board confirms:

Seed from these plants and performance data were donated to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board.

Shiva has absolutely no information to contradict these facts – Syngenta donated their expertise and has no commercial stake. If she did have evidence she would have linked to it.

Finally, she repeats the claim of the anti-GMO crowd that the recent study showing that golden rice has the potential to provide clinically relevant amounts of vitamin A is not valid because of ethical concerns. This is nonsense, however. Ethical concerns were raised by anti-GMO activists in an attempt to discredit the study because they did not like the results. A thorough review found, however:

The reviews found no evidence of health or safety problems in the children fed golden rice; they also concluded that the study’s data were scientifically accurate and valid. Indeed, Souvaine’s letter to the USDA stresses that the results “have important public health and nutrition implications, for China and other parts of the world.”

There were issues with the consent form, which is unfortunate, but they don’t invalidate the results.

Myth #3: Cancer and Suicide

She next writes:

The epidemic of cancer has affected the farmers of Punjab because of pesticides. It has affected farmers of West UP. In a single village, our recent field survey revealed that there were 100 cancer victims. The farmers are getting into debt and committing suicide buying the pesticides and the citizens are dying of cancer because of the same poisons.

The issue of cancer and pesticides is a complex one, but there is no evidence for an “epidemic of cancer.” Animal data shows that some pesticides are potentially carcinogenic, but this does not prove that they actually cause cancer in people. Causing cancer in rats in high doses is a pretty low threshold.

Epidemiological data is mixed but mostly negative. There are now five pesticides classified as possibly or probably carcinogenic. However, experts disagree about the evidence and some are highly critical of these designations.

If we take a very cautious approach, which is what the industry does, it is prudent to protect farm workers from exposure to pesticides with protective gear and good practice. The amounts that consumers are exposed to in food is negligible and there is no evidence of any negative health effects (and if you’re worried, just thoroughly wash your food).

Further, organic farming allows for pesticide use, just “natural” pesticides with the completely unwarranted assumption that natural pesticides are safe. In fact, organic pesticides may be more toxic and worse for the environment than synthetic ones, but they are given a regulatory pass because they are “natural.”

The claim that GMOs are linked to increased farmer indebtedness and suicide is a complete myth manufactured by Vandana Shiva. I address the claim here.

Myth #4: Safety

She writes:

While the literature on biosafety is vast and I was appointed as a member of the expert group on biosafety by UNEP to create the framework for the International Law on Biosafety, two recent publications show that the assumption of safety and “substantial equivalence” is false.

One study is from the Norwegian Government, another by an Indian scientist from MIT who invented email.

We have been using GMOs for over 20 years now and no health issues have arisen. There is also no reason to suspect that the many different types of genetic changes broadly contained under GMO have any inherent health risk. GMOs are actually the most studied and regulated foods we have. Science and health organizations from the AAAS to the WHO have reviewed the evidence and found current GMOs and GM technology to be safe. 

Further, we have a 19 year GMO animal feeding study, looking at data from literally billions of animals, showing no negative health effects from consuming GMOs.

Against this mountain of safety data, Shiva cherry picks two studies. One is from Shiva Ayyadurai, the “Indian Scientist from MIT” who, it turns out, didn’t invent e-mail (but that’s another story). His “study” was actually a computer model which he says predicts GMO soy will contain high levels of formaldehyde. This claim has already been thoroughly debunked as utter nonsense.  I would also point out that genetic scientist Kevin Folta has offered to actually test Ayyadurai’s model by measuring formaldehyde levels in GMO soy, and the response from the MIT scientist has been deafening silence.

The review (not new research) commissioned by the Norwegian government is interesting. First, it is not a review of GMOs in general or GM technology but specifically of herbicide tolerant GMOs. It also does not conclude that they are not safe, only that we currently do not have sufficient evidence. Of course, what is “sufficient” evidence is completely subjective. Norway, to put it bluntly, is toward the extreme anti-GMO end of the spectrum. Their policy is:

Norway is one of the most restrictive countries with regard to the importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and does not allow for GMO production. It has yet to approve an application for the import of foodstuffs that include GMOs. Norway applies the precautionary principle when vetting GMOs and in addition requires any user or importer of a GMO to show that the use is ethically and socially justifiable, requiring proof both that the GMO is not harmful and that its use will benefit society.

So they set the bar very high. There are many flaws with their review. For example, they cite as a criticism the fact that GMO studies often compare GMOs to standard farming practice, and not to organic farming or other methods. This is not an actual criticism, in my opinion. If you are trying to control for the GM trait as an isolated variable then that is the exact comparison you want to make. You don’t want to compare it to farming practices that differ in a variety of ways.

The report also relies upon discredited research, such as the infamous Seralini study.

The Norwegian review is therefore an outlier from an anti-GMO country with serious flaws, and is also limited in scope, and really can only cite the precautionary principle for justification in the end. This is the best that Shiva can do.

Myth #5: GMO and Science

Here we get a short naked assertion from Shiva:

The GMO story is not one of science, but of an unscientific and illegal takeover of our seeds and food.

She links only to her own documentary, not any actual evidence. She is not even making an argument here, just an assertion – restating her narrative.


The facts do not paint a flattering picture of Vandana Shiva. She is a fanatical ideologue who appears to have no problem spreading misinformation, making up stories to suit her needs, cherry picking data, and weaving conspiracy theories.

Her latest article is clearly nothing but sloppy propaganda. She makes no attempt to look fairly at the evidence and the arguments. She fails to cite evidence that substantiates her claims. And yet she remains the darling of the anti-GMO movement, which speaks volumes about that movement.


6 responses so far

6 Responses to “The Myths of Vandana Shiva”

  1. michaelegnoron 20 Aug 2015 at 9:39 am


    I agree with you that the anti-GMO folks are generally wrong on the science. GMO’s do pose some risks, but overall the benefits are much greater.

    But you misunderstand the context of the GMO debate.

    People in the Third World have been the victims of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the scientific community over the past century. Malthusian junk science exacerbated catastrophic famines in India in the 1880′s, DDT-hysteria junk science deprived poor countries with the tools to fight malaria just when the West had used DDT to defeat the disease, and hundreds of millions of people in China and India have been sterilized or aborted or had their fundamental right to privacy violated by “overpopulation” scientists peddling modern day Malthusianism.

    Many folks in the underdeveloped countries view scientists the way Jews view Nazis–they don’t care what they’re peddling. They don’t trust them.

    The scientific community bears a large part of the blame for anti-GMO hysteria.

  2. Steven Novellaon 20 Aug 2015 at 10:28 am


    I understand that the developing world has often been a victim of the industrialized world, including colonization, bigotry, and I would include cultural assaults such as missionaries.

    However, if you have to cite a 130 year old pseudoscience, I just don’t think that is terribly relevant today. I agree that DDT was taken from the developing world based on pseudoscientific fearmongering – the exact kind of thing that the skeptical community opposes. In fact, anti-GMO sentiments are very similar to the anti-DDT hysteria. I also don’t think that what is happening in China in terms of overpopulation can be blamed on western science.

    It is a complicated sociological issue. The behavior of large corporations, especially in the developing world, is certainly part of the picture. I don’t think you can blame the scientific community for this one, though.

  3. MikeLewinskion 20 Aug 2015 at 10:49 am

    The advice to wash pesticides off food doesn’t apply to glyphosate when used on Roundup Ready crops. The crops absorb it (and partially metabolize glyphosate to AMPA). Nonetheless, the allowed daily intake is set far below the “no observed effect levels” (there’s another discussion for another time about microbiome effects, which activists wield as if it were a trump card).

    One of my favorite pieces on Shiva is Activism and the gift of delusion:

    Lynas, in the New Yorker story, arrives at an analysis of Shiva that is true for many strident activists like her. “When you call somebody a fraud, that suggests the person knows she is lying… I don’t think Vandana Shiva necessarily knows that. But she is blinded by her ideology and her political beliefs. That is why she is so effective and so dangerous.”

    What Lynas is saying, when stripped of polite language, is that Vandana Shiva is deluded….

    Activism is not filled with the deluded, but it has a special place for them. They do well there because the balance of neutrality does not provide the intensity and drive that a powerful conviction does. An open mind is useless to a revolutionary. An open mind cannot convert other open minds. Activists have to stay with a cause for years, for decades, as the science changes, as the circumstances change, as the economy, people and the times change. They cannot do this if they have not given themselves completely to an idea. It is the belief that makes them special and sustains them. To allow even a germ of doubt is to demean their whole lives.

    In the world of activism, delusion is a gift. The great and the ordinary are separated by this gift. Most of the time activists are up against very powerful and violent forces driven by self-interest, greed or a set of delusions. Such forces cannot be opposed merely by good intentions, a laughable thought. An indestructible conviction, and the imagination of messianic purpose, is the equal and opposite force against the extraordinary resources of, say, capitalism or nationalism. Without activists who are so strung we would be at the mercy of thugs.

    I’ve met activists who knowingly lied and admitted it when confronted. They have their justifications, as indicated in the last paragraph. The perception of being the underdog in an asymmetric war against forces of evil justifies everything.

    In this, the gift of delusion of activists is also a gift to skeptics. Vandana Shiva keeps on giving.

  4. Steven Novellaon 20 Aug 2015 at 11:04 am

    Yes, I have to completely disagree with the justification, that deluded activists are needed to protect us from thugs. What the author is missing is that these deluded activists become thugs. Anti-GMO activists are absolute thugs – vandalizing research, smearing researchers, engaging in misinformation campaigns, keeping useful technologies from the poor and malnourished, etc.

    What we need are evidence-based regulations. The rule of law can protect us from thugs. We also need credible watchdogs – people who have credibility because they engage in due diligence, they don’t lie or exaggerate, they respect the truth. It’s not easy, but it really is the only way.

    Otherwise we are stuck between opposing thugs.

  5. MaryMon 20 Aug 2015 at 11:11 am

    Just last week she was peddling misinformation on “terminator” plants, again. She knows better, and is quite capable of understanding the difference between male sterile plants and GURT.


  6. Willyon 20 Aug 2015 at 12:50 pm

    I’m off topic here, but I’m not sure how else to get my question to you, Dr. Novella. In today’s Wall Street Journal, the opinion section had a piece by two fellows decrying the poor quality of scientific research. In this case, it was about funding for the National Institutes of Health. The piece is entitled “Getting the Bogus Studies Out of Science” and it is here (there’s a paywall no doubt): http://www.wsj.com/articles/getting-the-bogus-studies-out-of-science-1440024409

    The comment thread is full of comments from people who think science is a racket and it’s also full of references to AGW, despite the focus of the article being NIH funding. I have a strong sense that the WSJ policy is to generate distrust of science as a way of attacking AGW, and, to a lesser degree, evolution. It is shocking how many readers of one of the nation’s premier papers reject evolution.

    I have not either the expertise nor background to make cogent comments on the WSJ thread; I’d just be labeled a shill and end up swapping insults. Perhaps this opinion piece might be an opportunity for you to do another post on science integrity with a slant on how pieces like this get misunderstood?

    On topic: Vandana Shiva. Sad. Red meat for folks like Zen Honeycutt, Jeffery Smith, and The Food Babe. I know a number of people who are organic purists and they do lap up droppings from people like Shiva. It’s a real problem because her message resonates with “wholesomeness” in defense of the “helpless little people” being ruined by evil corporations.

#FreeJulian ! : Julian Assange case: Sweden to drop sex assault inquiry, It’s About Bloody Time.

File photo from 2014 shows Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, left, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London

wedish prosecutors will drop their investigation into sexual assault allegations against Julian Assange on Thursday because of the statutes of limitation, the BBC has learned.

The Wikileaks founder still faces the more serious allegation of rape.

But prosecutors have run out of time to investigate Mr Assange for sexual assault because they have not succeeded in questioning him.

He denies all allegations and has said they are part of a smear campaign.

The Australian journalist and activist sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Time limit

Under Swedish law, charges cannot be laid without interviewing the suspect.

Prosecutors had until 13 August to question Mr Assange about one accusation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion, while the time limit on a further allegation of sexual molestation runs out on 18 August.

The more serious allegation of rape is not due to expire until 2020.

An official announcement from the prosecutor’s office is expected on Thursday morning.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hold placards during a vigil across the street from the Ecuador embassy in London, Friday 19, June 2015

Mr Assange has always denied all the accusations and says he fled into the Ecuadorian embassy because he fears being extradited from Sweden to the US and put on trial for releasing secret American documents.

He has said in the past that he will not leave the embassy, even if the accusations of sex crimes are dropped.

The woman who accused Mr Assange of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion – who is identified in legal papers only as AA – is said to be relieved that the case is now behind her.

“She had wanted him to stand before the court and answer the accusations but it’s five years ago and she’s not interested in going to court now,” her lawyer, Claes Borgstrom, told the BBC.

“She wants to put it all behind her. It’s been a difficult time for her and she’s now trying to forget about it and move on with her life.”

Swedish prosecutors had initially insisted that Mr Assange be questioned in Sweden, but earlier this year – under pressure to advance the investigation – she agreed that he could be interviewed in London.

But the Swedish government has been unable to negotiate access with the Ecuadorian authorities, with both sides blaming the other for the impasse.

‘Difficult and costly’

Lawyers for Mr Assange say the allegations of sexual assault should have been dropped long ago.

“Our position is that the investigation should have been shut down earlier because there wasn’t enough evidence to keep it going,” Thomas Olsson, one of his Swedish lawyers, told the BBC.

“It’s regrettable that it’s gone on for this long.”

He said he believed Mr Assange could clear his name over the rape allegation.

“We are convinced that as soon as he has the opportunity to give his version of the circumstances, there’ll be no need to continue the investigation.”

Sweden is expected to continue discussions with Ecuador over the terms under which the prosecutor could question Mr Assange over the remaining accusation.

The UK government has urged Ecuador to co-operate, stressing that the UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange.

“We are clear that our laws must be followed and Mr Assange should be extradited,” a UK Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

“As ever, we look to Ecuador to help bring this difficult, and costly, situation to an end.”

The cost of policing the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge for the past three years now stands at around £12m ($18.8m; €16.8m).

Brazilian man, dragged crying from cell, to his execution. This is what the Bali 9 will go threw. Fuck Indonesia!

Brazilian man refused his last rites’

The priest who should have been allowed to comfort Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira says he ‘actually excremented in his trousers’ in troubling account of last moments

A Brazilian man who was executed by firing squad in Indonesia last month was dragged screaming and crying from his cell and refused access to a priest for his last rites, it has been claimed.

In the latest damaging revelation for diplomacy between the two countries, the man who was supposed to provide comfort to Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira was barred from doing so at the last minute.

Instead, the convicted drug offender was left weeping right “up to his last minutes”, according to a horrific account of the incident given by Father Charles Burrows to Australia’s Fairfax Media.

Moreira was killed by a firing squad on 18 January on the island of Nusakambangan, and as a Catholic was expected to be allowed a priest to administer the sacrament of reconciliation and penance and offer consolation.

But Father Burrows was not allowed on to the island following an apparent administrative mix-up, and said the Brazilian embassy was “very upset” at what happened.

“Nobody consoled Marco,” he said. “He had to be dragged from his cell crying and saying ‘help me’.

Father Burrows said Moreira had to be hosed down by guards after he “actually excremented in his trousers”.

Linday Sandiford imprisoned in Bali, where she faces death by firing squad

Linday Sandiford imprisoned in Bali, where she faces death by firing squadIt comes as Indonesia recalled its ambassador from Brazil over an ongoing row about his diplomatic credentials.

Ambassador Toto Riyanto was welcomed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff herself in a ceremony in Brasilia on Friday, but has returned to Indonesia after she delayed the approval of his credentials.

In a statement, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said that it was an unacceptable affront to delay approval when the ambassador designate was already at the palace.


Brazil is known to be deeply upset by Indonesia’s determination to execute another of its citizens, Rodrigo Gularte, along with seven other foreign nationals including the British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford.

Gularte, 42, was convicted of smuggling cocaine into Indonesia and has been on death row since 2004, but his lawyers say he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and that he should therefore be exempt from execution under Indonesian law.

India’s Daughter, Use this Proxy to access The Documentary that has been banned in India.

Go to your Internet settings, and in the Proxy settings ad under, Manual, ip or host “anon-proxy.hidemyassnet.net” click Socks 5 or 4 server, use port 1080 for http use port 808, We have left our Socks proxy open for the next week to anyone in India, so that they can watch the Documentary, without fear of anyone knowing they watched it. Notoriously-White, does not believe in Censorship, and we will allow our proxy server, to be used by anyone in India, to watch this powerful Documentary.

India’s Daughter, review: ‘chilling’

Leslee Udwin’s documentary is an overpowering indictment of female repression in India

Unrepentant: Mukesh Singh was sentenced to death for the brutal rape of Jyoti Singh

Storyville: India’s Daughter (BBC Four) verged on the unwatchable.

It told of the gang rape – on a bus by five men and one juvenile in December 2012 – of Jyoti Singh, a Delhi medical student who died in hospital of her wounds.

The unspeakable details of her ritual humiliation belong in another century, and yet they tell of a deeply ingrained culture of female repression in India.

One Indian woman is raped every 20 minutes.

For its eye-watering brutality, and also for its resonant symbolism, this was the case to ignite furious demonstrations, which in turn were violently suppressed by riot police.

Peering behind the headlines and the hysteria, Leslee Udwin’s overpowering documentary featured interviews with a wide range of people connected to the case: not only Singh’s dignified parents, but also one of the rapists, another rapist’s young wife and the parents of two more of the culprits.

All of them were living with the gruelling consequences of poverty, lack of education and a culture which privileges boys and turns a blind eye to the abortion of female foetuses.

Asha Singh, the rape victim’s mother, with Savitri Devi, the victim’s sister-in law

Singh’s life was an attempt to break this cycle. Memories of those close to her suggested a shining embodiment of new aspirational India.

But female lawyers, politicians and academics queued up in the film to explain that India doesn’t know how to cope with a young generation of emancipated women, a position hideously corroborated by the defendants’ lawyers.

“In our society,” said one, “we never allow a girl to come out of the house after 6.30 with any unknown person.”

This was much the mildest of his endorsements on the male-oriented status quo.

Delhi rapist Mukesh Singh (Photo: BBC)

The interview with Mukesh Singh, who drove the bus and joined in the rape, was the most marrow-chilling of all.

He explained that any woman who resists rape, as his victim did, is begging to be murdered, and even argued that the death penalty for rape could only be bad news for victims.

“Now when they rape they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Especially the criminal types.”

He had just enough humanity to flinch as the list of Jyoti Singh’s injuries – from bite marks to the removal of her intestines – was read out to him.

While the UK broadcast was brought forward from International Woman’s Day on March 8 to last night, earlier this week the Indian government secured an injunction banning the broadcast of the documentary.

Make of that what you will.

‘I’m white, call them twice bitch’

White Castle restaurant

Another terribly ugly racist incident in the St. Louis area. A white man at a Florissant, Missouri, White Castle was upset with two women who’d gotten to the drive-thru window before him, so he began peppering them with nasty slurs:

Stewart says the driver, who appeared intoxicated, was angry because the black driver got to the drive-through line before he did. He first yelled at her, “Why don’t you watch where the fuck you’re going next time?”

Stewart couldn’t hear how the woman responded, but she heard him call her the N-word and scream, “That’s all you people know to fucking do is yell and fight. You want some of this?”

Mariah Stewart, a Huffington Post blogger, happened to be in the restaurant with her 6-year-old daughter and heard the entire exchange, including the man’s response when the women said they were calling the police:

“I’m white. Call them twice, bitch,” the driver shouted at the black woman and teenager from his white truck.

Stewart says she and her daughter were in shock:

“[My daughter] didn’t want to look back because she was scared,” Stewart says. “She started crying. She was worried about the women in the car. It took a toll on her.”

White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson says he’s reviewing security-tape footage to identify the driver.

Ultimately the women did not call police and there is no police investigation. Just another day in post-racial America.