Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We are seeking to raise £4,000

This Easter holiday Declan and I had a very lucky escape, and the weather didn't help (the worst in 25 years, according to the Met Office). We entered it on the wrong foot too. On Tuesday last week, Declan received an email from Network Rail in reply to his email of 8 January to its chief executive after he was told by an attendant in the public toilets of Liverpool Street Station that he could no longer use the facility to wash (although he continued to wash there). The basins "should be used to wash your hands/face only", this email states, effectively barring not only Declan but also me from the entrance-fee public toilets. We had of course been doing our teeth there (and Declan his shaving) ever since the Methodist Church-run Whitechapel Mission barred us back in June due to concerns about our safety. So since Wednesday last I splash some water on my hands and face and go to the train station at 5.45am to do my begging – instead of the normal 6.45am. Which brings me to the second event. On Thursday, the last day I had to get some money for the long weekend, another homeless was also there doing some begging; I kept bumping into him too.

Somehow, while in the Sisters of Mercy-run Dellow Centre, somebody mentioned another homeless centre which, unlike the Dellow, would be open over the holiday period (Friday to Monday). It turned out to be quite a walk, made harder by the horrendous weather – frost, wind, rain, snow, you pick, we had it all – but nonetheless we got some breakfast and lunch and that averted a catastrophic four days.

I won't go into the freezing temperatures overnight or the predicament of having almost nowhere to go for the afternoon (it was indeed unfortunate that on 8 March the manager of our local McDonald's at Liverpool Street Station barred us from the premises, see blog of 9 March "Home Office denies warrant to intercept communications"). Surface it is to say that during those long four days I really wished the European Court of Human Rights had written to Declan, just so I could have tossed the 1,000-page European law book I carry everywhere as part of my belongings: Declan received a letter from the Registrar turning down his request of 8 September for priority, but informing him that the Court would examine his application, also of 8 September, possibly before the end of January. (We have concluded that since we didn't convince the Court of the merits of our case for priority, the chances are we didn't put a good enough case together for the Government to be invited to set out its observations on the merits and admissibility of the case.)

Come this week there is only one thing left standing and that is the porch we have slept in since 3 November 2006 – we haven't been barred from the Dellow Centre so far and are quite mindful there (although Declan now has to further bullfight the homeless in the men's washroom). Anybody who saw the porch would know it is not used at all: the walls and floor are so dirty you wouldn't be sure of their original colour (and that despite my wiping of the floor almost every night); months ago a distributor left five Thomson phone directories by the door, which have never been collected; large rubbish bags languish at one side of the porch for days (one was actually thrown over us as we slept not long ago); and the building of offices has an attractive front glass door around the corner. Yet the signs are ominous: every single night now workers are going in and out of the building through the porch door; since the beginning of the year a cleaner has been going in and out through the porch door every weekday night between 10.00pm and 11.00pm and another cleaner has been doing the same between 5.00am and 5.30am (we get up at 4.30am); on Wednesday a worker went in at 4.15am and on Easter Sunday two workers came out as soon as we put a foot in the porch at 7.30pm (these two events are a first); and of course there is the two police officers who visited us on 22 February to tell us that they had an order to evict us.

Aside from not having another place to go to, I suspect in respect of this other place to sleep that an assault on me may well be on the cards under the pretext that we clearly chose an unsafe place to bed down (I sleep on the outside so that Declan can sleep with our well tied bags on the inside). I haven't forgotten that within two weeks of sleeping in the porch we are using, somebody sat on the right hand side of my face in the middle of the night - I have also been dragged out of the two-step porch by the ankles, and another night kicked repeatedly in the chest and shoulders by some guy as his mates stood by.

Declan's petition to the UN in support of human cloning for therapeutic purposes has been signed to date by 503 scientists and academics, including 22 Nobel laureates, despite that the majority of his emails are flagged as spam (see previous blog "SpamCop reports Declan as a spammer"). That is the reason why for example nobody signed on 20 March, and only 4 scientists did so the previous day - the Tower Hamlets Council's Idea Store Whitechapel, where we do all our emailing, imposed a 3-hour limit on free computer use on both our membership cards on 29 January, but we can still email about 350 scientists in a day.

So we have decided that it is time to try and raise £4,000. With some of the money we would rent the most basic place imaginable (all we are seeking is a fourth wall for safety); with an address we would be able to register NAC as a company so we are legal and accountable to our agreed trustees (since the NAC website was suspended on 8 March, I have listed NAC trustees and honorary associates in the blog of 9 March "Home Office denies warrant to intercept communications"); NAC as a company would also entitle us to a business account which would allow us to pay for a web hosting provider; and I would be in a position to buy a laptop, which nowadays can be done quite cheaply – I wouldn't even need a home internet connection since virtually all public libraries in London are free WiFi Hot Spots.

We are well used to getting up at 4.30am and to working hard, so I believe that within a couple of weeks of buying a laptop I would have done a 20 or so page website in support of Declan's petition to the UN – as I reported in the previous blog, the NAC website is not going to be uploaded again. The website would be loosely based on Oxfam's highly successful "Make Trade Fair" (although initially the home page would look more like "the issues" page). The objective would be to attract the endorsement of scientific organisations so that we could then be in a position to ask prominent advocates of embryo research to collaborate in the campaign.

The campaign would seek to (i) raise awareness of the challenges and benefits of therapeutic cloning and human embryonic stem cell research, and (ii) encourage political discussions in countries around the world. Declan of course would continue to seek signatories and more directly contact Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists and academics. We believe this initiative would generate quite a bit of interest if we can get, say, two thousand scientists and academics to sign the petition, before we take it to the wider public.

There would also be a blog exclusively on therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research. I already have a few design models in mind and very much think we would be able to attract commentaries from scientists (even interviews through email) and from lay activists. The blog would gather important scientific news in the field, public policy developments and counterarguments to those who wish to impede embryo research.


Video: Gordon Brown seeks embryo compromise

This Easter holiday has also been quite problematic for Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, used his Easter Sunday homily to launch an attack on the Government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill – the bill, which has already passed the House of Lords, proposes to legalise the creation of hybrid embryos, make it easier for gay couples to access IVF and encourage the development of stem-cell therapies – warning Brown against imposing a three-line whip ordering Labour MPs to vote with the party line in favour of the bill. The cardinal claimed that the bill would lead to the endorsement of experiments of "Frankenstein proportions" and that it is “a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life.”

It clearly fell on deaf ears that the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Academy of Medical Sciences issued a briefing document (reported by the BBC on 15 January) spelling out why they see hybrid embryos as so important: “This research has massive potential to provide treatments for serious debilitating disorders ranging from developmental abnormalities in young children, to stroke, cancer, HIV/Aids, diabetes and Parkinson's disease, as well as better and safer treatment for infertile couples.” (The briefing document also called for the hybrids to be known as "human admixed" embryos to reflect the fact that they are overwhelmingly made of human tissue, with just a tiny amount of animal DNA added in.)

Scientists were not impressed. "The Catholic Bishops are using scaremongering tactics in an attempt to block important medical research aimed at understanding and developing treatments for incurable diseases," said Dr Chris Shaw, professor of neurology and neurogenetics at King's College London (and a signatory of Declan’s petition). Dr Stephen Minger, director of the stem cell biology laboratory at King's College London (and also a signatory of the petition) added: "The church should carefully review the science they are commenting on, and ensure that their official comments are accurate, before seriously misinforming their congregations." And Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, head of genetics at the National Institute For Medical Research (and another signatory of the petition): "How can a little ball of cells violate human dignity or scare anyone, especially when its purpose is to do good?"

A Department of Health spokeswoman said that the Government was proposing "strict controls" on the research. "This is not about 'creating monsters'. It is purely laboratory research, and is aimed at increasing knowledge about serious diseases and treatments for them."

The Association of Medical Research Charities and the Genetic Interest Group, which between them represent more than 200 patient charities, said the research "could greatly increase our understanding of serious medical conditions affecting millions", and have written to all MPs urging them to support the bill.

Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris said the bill was a "decent and civilising" measure. He said: "The use of terms like ‘monstrous’ and ‘Frankenstein’ to describe microscopic embryonic entities which contain animal and human material is preposterous scare-mongering given the millions of people who have received life-saving pig-heart valves. He [Cardinal O'Brien] is entitled to reject any treatment coming from this research on behalf of himself and his more devout followers but the millions of people hoping for medical research breakthroughs using stem cell technology would regard his attempt to veto this for them as well to be 'monstrous'."

One of those millions of people is Geraldine Peacock CBE, a former chair of the Charity Commission, who has had Parkinson's for 18 years, and had the following to say:

I wish one of these pontificators could get inside my body and see what it feels like. Parkinson's is like being locked in your own body when your mind is still there. I can become as rigid as a plank and my legs won't bend. It's as though there is a ton of cement on my chest and an army of ants crawling up and down my body with spears. It's like being buried alive.

By the age of 70, three-quarters of those in this country will have Parkinson's disease to some degree as it is a degenerative illness. Once you have it, it never goes into remission. But no one tells you how difficult it is to live with.

It makes me so angry when I hear academics, theologians or medics arguing about cloning. For me, it is like hearing any hopes we may have of returning to normality being taken away. By mixing ethics with religion and politics, which is a lethal concoction, they are not thinking about the people who have the disease. I feel like saying, 'Get off your high horse.'

I would not want to stop any process unless I knew it was categorically not going to work for those who are suffering. I don't believe cloning embryos is like taking life. Parkinson's is such a desperately painful disease. You would have thought that everyone would support anything reasonable to find a cure, and I believe what is being suggested is reasonable.

No doubt they too will fall on deaf ears; and in relation to Gordon Brown, well, responding to pressure from within his party and from senior figures in the Church, he has agreed to the unusual step of allowing Labour MPs a free vote on the most controversial sections of the bill – no wonder Declan and I were made rough sleepers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

SpamCop reports Declan as a spammer

On Wednesday Declan received an email from Bravenet, the web host of our website Network of those Abused by Church, replying to his email of 8 March in respect of their suspension of the NAC website earlier that morning (see previous blog). They state: "We apologize for the delay. Unfortunately this suspension is due to spam as reported via SpamCop. As per our Terms of Service Rules and Regulations (http://www.bravenet.com/global/terms.php), we do not allow any unsolicited email in association with our site or services. Please cease all such activity and reply here indicating that you have done so and understand these terms for your account to be reviewed for restoration."

It turns out that on 6 March, the day after Declan received an email from the Home Office denying that a warrant to intercept his communications exists, SpamCop received a complaint from a scientist to the effect that Declan’s email to him was a spam. SpamCop promptly drew up a report (http://www.spamcop.net/w3m?i=z2902444514z2f7c18eb545d54a637fa97c4ff4bb206z) and sent it not only to Bravenet (which suspended NAC) but to GoPetition (which hosts Declan's petition to the UN) and Google (which hosts this blog and Declan’s mail account).

A click to "Learn more about what to report and what not to report to SpamCop" yields the following information:

Spam is bulk email. If someone writes to an individual personally, one-on-one, to ask a question or inquire about a post made to a newsgroup or website, then that is not spam, even if it contains commercial or marketing content. However, email containing the recipient's name is not always legitimate. For example, if someone writes a personalized message, but fails to address any subject which is specific or relevant to the recipient ("Kelly, get the lowest prices on prescription drugs!" is an example), it is safe to assume the message is spam. (Emphasis added)

Since a complainant must provide SpamCop with a copy of the offending email, it should have been pretty straightforward to determine that an email with the subject "NAC: Petition to the UN on hESC research", addressed to a particular scientist and inviting him/her to sign a petition to the United Nations in support of human cloning for therapeutic purposes, was not spam; especially if it is evident from the email that the petition itself is being signed by distinguished scientists and academics from around the world. Nonetheless, this morning Declan received the following from SpamCop: "It appears that the issue is that some of the people you're sending mail to don't believe that it's solicited by them, and they don't wish to receive it, so they have reported it as spam." I wonder if the “Academic Freedom Petition, an initiative of the Discovery Institute to urge the adoption of policies by the US's academic institutions “to ensure teacher and student academic freedom to discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution”, has to surmount similar obstacles. It seems that SpamCop intends to neither review their report nor have it withdrawn.

Last night we reckoned that we could well have been 24 hours away from losing everything (despite that “GoPetition - Petitions FAQ” states: “You should email as many relevant people as you can”) and had to go to an internet café – the Tower Hamlets Council's Idea Store Whitechapel, where we do all our emailing, imposed a 3-hour limit on free computer use on both our membership cards on 29 January – and email SpamCop (see below), Bravenet, Google Legal and GoPetition Legal with a letter earlier in the day to Home Secretary Jacqueline Smith. (Declan also thought it would be wiser if I didn't beg in the train station this morning: I am under threat of arrest, and the last time I was issued with a ticket, on 26 February, PC 9191 called me "a piece of shit" before his partner informed me I would be arrested if I came back.)

We have decided that when we get off the streets, the NAC website will not be uploaded again. Instead, NAC will concentrate exclusively on Declan’s petition to the UN. I intend to create a new website with a campaign to support this petition and have my eyes on “Make Trade Fair” by Oxfam and the video page of “Stop Heathrow Expansion” by Greenpeace UK.

As we had to spend all our money in the internet café last night and I didn’t beg this morning, I am afraid Declan is going to be pretty hungry this weekend. As usual, on Thursday and Friday I kept the grated cheese sandwich that the nuns at the Dellow Centre of the Sisters of Mercy Providence Row Charity give the homeless "for later" – although since Tuesday the grated cheese has been removed.

Grated cheese is just the latest to be withdrawn though: the voluntary hairdresser who used to attend on Wednesdays hasn’t turned up for months (Declan and I wear a cap permanently now); the hair clipper that the homeless had been using to do their own hair (and which Declan was not very happy using because it never came with disinfectant spray) has also disappeared; on Tuesday I was told by the nun in charge of clothes that she didn’t have any men’s jeans (Declan’s jeans are immensely big for him and are in a bit of a state) or runners for me (mine have holes), and to get two pairs of socks Declan had to show her that the heels of his socks had holes; toiletries that used to be put out, especially for the women, are nowhere to been seen; and a shower in the women’s washroom has now to be pretty quick to avoid a shock - it doesn’t matter if you are the first in line or not.

As I reported in my blog of 23 February “Police threaten to evict us from the porch”, a look at Providence Row's annual report of 2006/07 doesn’t provide any clues, but contains three pages of supporters: charities, societies, churches, companies, livery companies, religious organisations, trusts, statutory funders (London Borough of Tower Hamlets, London Councils and The Corporation of London) and the Duke of Norfolk (to whom Declan reported the withdrawal of his use of a landline phone) as Patron.

This is Declan's (ineffective) email last night to SpamCop:

Subject: SpamCop report

Dear Sir/Madam

I refer to your spam report regarding my website http://www.nac1.bravehost.com.

Please find below a copy of my email of today's date to the British Home Secretary, Ms Jacqueline Smith, regarding interception of communications. Since 22 October 2007, I have been contacting through personalised email distinguished scientists and academics to invite them to sign my petition to the United Nations entitled "Consideration at the United Nations of a Declaration on Human Cloning for Therapeutic Reasons" at [withheld].

I would be much obliged if you would please review this matter as soon as possible, as http://www.nac1.bravehost.com is associated with the aforementioned petition, which to date has been signed by 478 scientists, including 22 Nobel prizewinners.

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey

dheavey@gmail.com
http://www.nac1.bravehost.com
http://network-of-those-abused-by-church.blogspot.com

-----------------------------------------

Subject: Interception of communications

Dear Ms Smith

I refer further to my email to you of 29 February in your capacity as Home Secretary whose personal approval is required for an interception of communications warrant in the interests of national security, preventing or detecting serious crime, or safeguarding the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.

As I explained in my email of 29 February, since 22 October 2007 I have been contacting through Google Mail distinguished scientists and academics to invite them to sign my petition to the United Nations entitled "Consideration at the United Nations of a Declaration on Human Cloning for Therapeutic Reasons", calling for the establishment of a reasonable timetable for a UN declaration that would draw a distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning while specifically leaving it to UN member states to decide for themselves on therapeutic cloning within a regulation framework. To date, this petition has been signed by 478 scientists, including 22 Nobel prizewinners.

On 6 March I drew to your attention the following: (1) in the last week of December, two emails from scientists, asking me to add their name to the aforementioned petition, were filtered to my Spam mailbox; (2) on 6 February, I was informed by a signatory that an email I had sent him had not been received, despite Google Mail's record of it having been successfully transmitted; (3) on 8 February, I received two Out of Office AutoReplys with "[SUSPECT SPAM]" in the subject; (4) on 27 February, I was informed by a signatory that my email to him earlier that afternoon had been "filtered to a Spam mailbox"; (5) from 28 to 29 February inclusive, over 30 automatically generated delivery status notifications (confirming failure or delay to transmit) were filtered to my Spam mailbox; and (6) on 28 February, I received an email from a scientist, in response to my latest invitation to him to sign the petition, informing me that he was "sure" he said he was happy to have his name added to the list of signatories. (The first email I sent from my Google Mail account is dated 9 April 2005.)

I reconfirm receipt of your email of reply of 5 March, reference T4721/8, signed by AS Cooper of the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism, stating in respect of an interception of communications warrant: "I do not think that the pattern of your e-mail problems means that you are being intercepted". As I previously mentioned in my email of 8 March, my website Network of those Abused by Church is hosted with Bravenet, which suspended the site on 8 March, replying to me on 12 March as follows:


We apologize for the delay. Unfortunately this suspension is due to spam as reported via SpamCop. As per our Terms of Service Rules and Regulations, we do not allow any unsolicited email in association with our site or services. Please cease all such activity and reply here indicating that you have done so and understand these terms for your account to be reviewed for restoration.


Please find attached a copy of the email from Bravenet of 12 March containing headers of the email received by SpamCop on 6 March, the day after the aforementioned email of reply from you. I also attach a snapshot of my Spam mailbox containing 95 automatically generated delivery status notifications from 6 to 12 March inclusive. (Since 2 March, 223 automatically generated delivery status notifications have been filtered to my Spam mailbox.)

I should again point out that on 26 January, while I had no access to a computer, all emails sent to me after 12 August 2007 were moved to the Trash and 300 draft documents, which included the names and email addresses of over 2,500 scientists, were deleted for good.

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Home Office denies warrant to intercept communications

On Wednesday, the Home Office replied to Declan's email of 29 February regarding interception of communications (see previous blog). Apparently, the Home Secretary, Jacqueline Smith, has not issued a warrant to intercept Declan's communications – among other anomalies, automatically generated delivery status notifications (confirming failure or delay to transmit) have been filtered to Declan's Spam mailbox for over a week now – and the Home Office has recommended that Declan contact his Internet service provider. Yesterday morning I discovered that Bravenet, a Canadian web hosting company, had suspended our website Network of those Abused by Church, stating in Account Overview: "Your account is currently suspended. We received complaints that you are spamming. Please discontinue this and contact support to get your account reactivated." Declan emailed the Home Secretary again yesterday afternoon (the letter is presented below) and also Bravenet. We are concerned that perhaps next in the chopping line is my blog, so I have downloaded the 109 entries to date, and, just in case, I also have an up-to-date pdf of the petition and signatories.

We are only emailing scientists and academics to invite them to sign Declan's petition to the UN supporting work on therapeutic cloning – to date 461 scientists and academics, including 22 Nobel laureates, have signed – and it doesn't make much sense that a scientist or an academic would contact Bravenet to complain instead of asking Declan to remove him or her from his mailing list (as a few have done). I don't think either that it is credible a web host would suspend a website following complaints without investigating the allegations first.

It doesn't change the fact that our website is the hard work of three years (from 2003 to 2006), and contains thousands of pages, including, among others: exclusive material from a NAC trustee, now deceased, and two honorary associates; hundreds of articles (and pictures) from around the world - in breaking news, recent news, features and books - relating to the encroachment of Christian religion into government affairs (on issues such as human embryonic stem cell research, Darwinian evolution, reproductive freedom, voluntary euthanasia, etc); and three original campaigns, one of which is titled "The Vatican and the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals", incorporating as a Take Action an email to Pope Benedict XVI urging him to stop obstructing family planning.

Our website also includes Declan’s personal website, which contains among other documents: transcript of public inquiry into his soundness of mind which was heard in the High Court of Ireland before a judge and jury on 26 February 1997 and following three days, and which he successfully defended in person (see blog of 20 September “Issues raised in the JREF Forum”); his letter of 18 October 2002 to the late Pope John Paul II concerning his complaint of maltreatment against the Hospitaller Order of St John of God; letters of reply to him from the former President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and now President Jose Manuel Barroso concerning our loss of various rights and liberties since 1997; and Declan’s claims in person for judicial review filed on 10 April and 24 August 2006 in the High Court of London in respect of the first and second suspension by the Department for Work and Pensions of his joint claim for unemployment benefit (see blogs of 5 and 8 September for Declan’s urgent request for priority to the European Court of Human Rights and his application to the Court, respectively – the former has been denied and the latter was “possibly” going to be examined by the end of January, but Declan hasn’t been informed of the outcome yet).

For the record, the following distinguished scientists and academics, including two Humanist laureates (*), have agreed to be the trustees of NAC:

Peter Atkins, University of Oxford, UK
Vern Bullough*, University of Southern California, deceased, USA
Joseph Chuman, Columbia University, USA
Arthur Dobrin, Hofstra University, USA
R Joseph Hoffmann, Center for Inquiry, USA
Michael Irwin, Friends at the End, UK
Elton Kessel, Oregon Health & Science University, USA
Gerald A Larue*, University of Southern California, USA
Stephen D Mumford, The Center for Research on Population & Security, USA, Chair
Jack Parsons, Author, deceased, UK
Howard B Radest, University of South Carolina, USA
Herb Silverman, College of Charleston, USA
Lewis Wolpert, University College London, UK

And NAC honorary associates, including two Nobel laureates (+) and five Humanist laureates (*):

Phillip Adams AO, Author/Broadcaster, Australia
Philip W Anderson+, Princeton University, USA
John P Anton, University of South Florida, USA
Louis J Appignani, The Louis J Appignani Foundation, USA
Scott Atran, University of Michigan, USA
Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation, USA
Joseph E Barnhart, University of North Texas, USA
Frederick Crews, University of California Berkeley, USA
Daniel C Dennett*, Tufts University, USA
Theodore Drange, West Virginia University, USA
Evan M Fales, University of Iowa, USA
James H Fetzer, University of Minnesota, USA
Johan Galtung*, Transcend, Norway
Donald C Johanson*, Arizona State University, USA
George Klein*, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
Sir Harold Kroto+, Florida State University, USA
Wesley Morriston, University of Colorado, USA
Piergiorgio Odifreddi, University of Turin, Italy
Sir Roger Penrose, University of Oxford, UK
Steven Pinker*, Harvard University, USA
James Randi, The James Randi Educational Foundation, USA
Andreas Rosenberg, University of Minnesota, USA
Nathan Salmon, University of California Santa Barbara, USA
Theodore W Schick, Muhlenberg College, USA
David M Seaborg, World Rainforest Fund, USA
Michael Shermer, Skeptics Society, USA
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Dartmouth College, USA
Victor J Stenger, University of Hawaii, USA
Herman Suit, Harvard University, USA
Alan Trounson AO, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, USA
Michael Tye, University of Texas, USA

Thursday morning proved quite eventful. When I began begging for spare change in Liverpool Street station at 6.40am, another beggar was already going about half-dressed with a plastic cup – he couldn’t be missed. An hour later I was told to “f*** off” by some guy I had politely approached. And another guy told me rudely that I had asked him for change the week previous and when I apologised, he replied, “Yeah, be sorry”. Although I have been begging in the station since 10 January - see blog of 20 January "Begging for over a week" - this is the first time I have done so for a full two working weeks (and I can’t see how it won’t become three working weeks next week, and so on). It is also the first time since December 2006 that we have not been able to put together the £1.40 we need to buy a couple of Big Issues – a magazine sold by homeless people on registered street pitches: two weeks ago The Big Issue refused to sell us magazines in quantities of one, and the last time I actually stood out with one was on 21 February, when my pitch was unceremoniously taken over by a street distributor of a free magazine (see blog of 23 February “Police threaten to evict us from the porch”). The reason for this is that I am under the threat of arrest, so I mostly beg to get food for Declan for the day (I have been keeping a diary since 19 November in the event I am arrested and I find myself being prosecuted for begging, see blog of 25 November "Defence for a court"): the last time I was issued with a ticket for begging on 26 February, PC 9191 called me a "piece of shit" before his partner told me I would be arrested if I came back.

Yesterday morning, before we discovered Bravenet had suspended the NAC website, the manager of our local McDonald's at Liverpool Street station barred us from the premises because we had been seen taking stickers from (abandoned) coffee cups – this is a common practice among McDonalds' customers: each cup carries a card and a sticker, six of the latter of which gets you a free cup of coffee. We seem to attract barring: on 18 June we were barred from the Methodist Church-run Whitechapel Mission by the minister’s wife due to concerns about our safety, and on 8 February Declan was told by an attendant in the public toilets of Liverpool Street station that he could no longer use the facility to wash, despite Declan having paid the 20p admittance fee (he still washes there though).

Perhaps somebody is hoping that time is on his side, that our commitment and endurance will burn itself out, that Declan and I will gradually be forced to accept a fait accompli, that we will accept defeat. But this happy (for him) outcome is never going to happen. Still, this weekend we are getting more of what we got last weekend: Declan has had less than £2 to spend on food, while I have been eating the bit of grated cheese and the two white sandwich bread that the nuns from the Sisters of Mercy-run Dellow Centre give the homeless "for later", and which I kept from Thursday and Friday.

This is Declan’s letter to the Home Secretary:

Subject: Interception of communications

Dear Ms Smith

I refer further to my email to you of 29 February in your capacity as Home Secretary whose personal approval is required for an interception of communications warrant in the interests of national security, preventing or detecting serious crime, or safeguarding the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.

As I explained in my email of 29 February, since 22 October 2007 I have been contacting through Google Mail distinguished scientists and academics to invite them to sign my petition to the United Nations entitled "Consideration at the United Nations of a Declaration on Human Cloning for Therapeutic Reasons", which supports work on therapeutic cloning and the use of stem cells for research and the treatment of disease. To date, this petition has been signed by 461 scientists and academics, including 22 Nobel prizewinners.

On 29 February I drew to your attention the following: (1) in the last week of December two emails from scientists, asking me to add their name to the aforementioned petition, were filtered to my Spam mailbox; (2) on 6 February I was informed by a signatory that an email I had sent him had not been received, despite Google Mail's record of it having been successfully transmitted; (3) on 8 February I received two Out of Office AutoReplys with "[SUSPECT SPAM]" in the subject; (4) on 27 February I was informed by a signatory that my email to him earlier that afternoon had been "filtered to a Spam mailbox"; (5) from 28 to 29 February inclusive over 30 automatically generated delivery status notifications (confirming failure or delay to transmit) were filtered to my Spam mailbox; and (6) on 28 February I received an email from a scientist, in response to my latest invitation to him to sign the petition, informing me that he was "sure" he said he was happy to have his name added to the list of signatories. (The first email I sent from my Google Mail account is dated 9 April 2005.)

I can confirm receipt of your email of reply of 5 March, reference T4721/8, signed by AS Cooper of the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism, stating:


I do not think that the pattern of your e-mail problems means that you are being intercepted. Broadly, interception is the monitoring or interference of communications such as telephone calls, e-mails or letters whilst they are being transmitted so as to make their contents available to a third party. In the UK interception is a highly effective intelligence-gathering tool that has proved vital in preventing terrorist atrocities and combating serious crime. Because of the invasion of personal privacy, its use is limited to intelligence and law enforcement agencies and - with a few exceptions such as interception in prisons or for business purposes - it is subject to prior personal authorisation of the Secretary of State. In these cases, applications to use these powers must be made on grounds of preventing or detecting serious crime, protecting national security or to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.

As you can see, this is unlikely to apply to you. I would recommend that you contact your Internet service provider to investigate the causes of the difficulties you have been experiencing.


Please find attached a snapshot of my Spam mailbox containing 97 automatically generated delivery status notifications from 3 to 7 March inclusive. With reference to the recommendation in the email quoted above that I should contact my Internet service provider to investigate the causes of the difficulties I am experiencing, I beg to point out that all my emailing is done from computers located in Tower Hamlets Council's Idea Store Whitechapel, the borough's flagship library, learning and information service - despite the imposition on 29 January of a 3-hour limit on free computer use on both my wife's membership card and mine - which contains a total of 47 computers, as well as 8 Learning labs, several, if not all, of which also contain computers.

I should again point out that on 26 January, while I had no access to a computer, all emails sent to me after 12 August 2007 were moved to the Trash and over 300 draft documents, which included the names and email addresses of approximately 2,500 scientists, were deleted for good. My website Network of those Abused by Church is hosted with Bravenet, which this morning suspended the site, stating in Account Overview: "Your account is currently suspended. We received complaints that you are spamming. Please discontinue this and contact support to get your account reactivated."

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Interception of communications

Yesterday afternoon Declan emailed the Home Secretary Jacqueline Smith regarding interception of communications (a type of surveillance where a communication is intercepted before it reaches its destination). A few days ago I found a petition by the European Life Scientist Organization (ELSO) on European research funding containing almost 90 pages of the names and email addresses of scientists, and over two days I emailed more than two hundred of them. Of course, when over 30 automatically generated delivery status notifications (confirming failure or delay to transmit) are filtered to Declan’s Spam mailbox, there is not one single Out of Office AutoReply and only one scientist signs Declan’s petition to the UN on hESC research, you know you have to do something (the letter is presented below).

Yesterday also saw us yet again being visited by the City of London Police at the porch we sleep in at night – as I reported in my last blog, two police officers visited us the previous Friday, telling us that they had an order to evict us from the porch. This wasn't my only brush with the law though. Last Tuesday I was stopped by another two police officers at 7.20am as I walked the local train station asking people for some spare change: the previous Thursday I was stopped from selling The Big Issue (a magazine sold by homeless people on registered street pitches) after my pitch was unceremoniously taken over by a street distributor of a free magazine.

PC 9191 – he issued me my first ticket for begging on 13 November as his partner proceeded to call me "the scum of the earth", and a third on 18 January as he told me I would be arrested the next time – is on top form. “You don’t know Maria?” he asks his new partner. “Maria is always begging around here. Maria, how are you?” Not much later, as his partner is writing out my forth ticket, he says that they “should put this piece of shit [me] away”. At the end I am ordered to leave the station immediately, his partner adding that if I return I will be arrested on the spot. I am even told what direction to take so I can’t get lost in the crowd.

It hit us quite hard because the Sisters of Mercy-run Dellow Centre was closed on a one-off the following day – after more than a week in which their food was particularly scarce – and I was under pressure to get some money. Of course, we could avail of the basic breakfast for 60p that the Methodist Church-run Whitechapel Mission provides, including on weekends, except that the minister’s wife barred us back in June due to concerns about our safety.

Anyway, I haven’t been arrested yet, probably because I am leaving the station as soon as I put together the few pounds I need to get Declan by for the day. This weekend is the toughest yet. After putting away £2 – Declan has to travel to the Big Issue head office on Monday to ensure the proper registration of our pitches after repeated “administrative errors” in respect of same – and the admittance fee to wash in the public toilets of the train station, we have, well, less than £2. I have kept the bit of grated cheese and the two white sandwich bread that the nuns from the Dellow Centre give the homeless "for later" (plus some fruit that was given to pedestrians yesterday on some promotion), and so Declan needs to spend no money on me.

Needless to say, I am back begging in the train station on Monday, and probably again all week because I can’t see how I am going to be able to put aside the £1.40 we need to buy a couple of Big Issues – the Big Issue has refused to sell us magazines in quantities of one.

Maybe we are two belligerent people but I think we are just extremely lucky to be part of one of these “causes greater than self”, like therapeutic cloning and the use of stem cells for research and the treatment of disease. This is Declan’s letter to the Home Secretary:

Subject: Interception of communications

Dear Ms Smith

I am writing to you in your capacity as Home Secretary whose personal approval is required for an interception of communications warrant in the interests of national security, preventing or detecting serious crime, or safeguarding the UK's economic well-being. My name is Declan Heavey. I am the director of Network of those Abused by Church (NAC). My wife and I are of no fixed abode, and have been sleeping rough on the streets of London since 3 November 2006. I have lodged my case against the UK with the European Court of Human Rights by application of 8 September 2007 with an urgent request for expedition.

Since 22 October 2007, I have been contacting through Google Mail distinguished scientists and academics to invite them to sign my petition to the United Nations entitled "Consideration at the United Nations of a Declaration on Human Cloning for Therapeutic Reasons", which supports work on therapeutic cloning and the use of stem cells for research and the treatment of disease. To date, this petition has been signed by 415 scientists, including 22 Nobel prizewinners.

I wish to draw to your attention the following: (1) in the last week of December two emails from scientists, asking me to add their name to the aforementioned petition, were filtered to my Spam mailbox; (2) on 6 February I was informed by a signatory that an email I had sent him had not been received, despite Google Mail's record of it having been successfully transmitted; (3) on 8 February I received two Out of Office AutoReplys with "[SUSPECT SPAM]" in the subject; (4) on 27 February I was informed by a signatory that my email to him earlier that afternoon had been "filtered to a Spam mailbox"; (5) in the last two days over 30 automatically generated delivery status notifications (confirming failure or delay to transmit) have been filtered to my Spam mailbox; and (6) yesterday I received an email from a scientist, in response to my latest invitation to him to sign the petition, informing me that he was "sure" he said he was happy to have his name added to the list of signatories.

I should point out that on 26 January, while I had no access to a computer, all emails sent to me after 12 August 2007 were moved to the Trash and over 300 draft documents, which included the names and email addresses of approximately 2,500 scientists, were deleted for good.

I understand that in the UK my civil rights concerning surveillance are protected by: Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and correspondence; Data Protection Act 1998; Covert Surveillance Code of Practice; and Interception of Communications Code of Practice.

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey