Friday, May 29, 2009

Last night something surreal happened

Last night, while we were sleeping inside our sleeping bags, something quite surreal happened: two police officers from Snow Hill police station (CP 85 and CP 105) and two workers from the homeless organisation Broadway came to visit us. CP 85 refused to issue us a ticket for the encounter/stop, despite that the back of a ticket states that “you are entitled to a full copy of the record of the stop or search now unless wholly impracticable”. “What can we do for you?” one of the workers said … You could see that they were under tremendous pressure and I am sure if Declan had said that two tickets back to Dublin would be nice, two would have been produced right there.

We haven’t encountered such a degree of pressure before. Normally we are “the last of the Mohicans” or “two submarines in the middle of the Atlantic ocean”, occasionally it’s “go back to where you came from”, and frequently it’s we’ll be sorted! Things became quite heated, and eventually we turned away to sleep with one of the workers still talking: it was like he hadn’t heard a word we had said. Exasperated, I finally sat up, pointed to the time on my clock – 11.45pm – and said to the guy that I would be writing a blog in the morning and I was interested to know for how long he intended to keep talking. Only then did they leave.

The truth is that we all knew Declan and I were not going to get any real help – except perhaps for the two tickets back to Catholic Dublin. Declan didn’t hold his tongue either and told them exactly that: weren’t we barred from the Methodist Church Whitechapel Mission for our own safety after I was assaulted in an unprovoked attack in the canteen of the premises (see here)? Didn’t we get robbed of all our money and documents in the Catholic Sisters of Mercy Dellow Day Centre and the case struck out because the police were unable to get any CCTV footage whatsoever from the Dellow (see here)? Doesn’t Declan have three crime reference numbers on one homeless man but the investigation is closed because the Dellow is not divulging the identity of the guy to police even though they know his details (see here)? Hasn’t Declan been told by police at Southwark police station that they couldn’t assure him that he wouldn’t be barred from the Catholic Manna Centre if he had this homeless man arrested at the premises (see here)? Wasn’t I groped and touched inappropriately – right underneath a CCTV camera – by a homeless man less than two weeks ago in the Dellow (see here)? Hasn’t Declan been washing in the street since April last year due to harassment and intimidation from other homeless while frequenting the Dellow and the Manna (see here)? The list went on but for brevity’s sake I would stop here (for more on the Dellow Centre in particular, see blog of 14 May “Letter to Archbishop Vincent Nichols”).

It’s not our fault, Declan said, that the Department for Work and Pensions repeatedly broke rules and put us to the street (see blog of 8 September “Application to the European Court of Human Rights”) – we came to England in 2003 and for two years attempted to get NAC up and running; we went on benefits in July 2005; the DWP terminated our benefits on 27 September 2006 because Declan did not “sign on” two days before he was due to do so on 29 September; we have been sleeping rough on the streets of London for over two and a half years (since November 2006).

We would be well off the street by now if we were given half a shake with the Big Issue (see blog of 23 February “Letter of complaint to the chair of The Big Issue Foundation”; the Big Issue is a magazine sold on city streets by homeless people) or the internet, Declan added – and by now he wasn’t even looking at the two Broadway workers. Wasn’t the original NAC website suspended due to a Spamcop report that was drawn up the day after the Home Office denied that a warrant had been issued to intercept Declan’s communications (see here)? Wasn’t the new NAC website removed within days by another free web host without explanation (see here)? Hasn’t SiteGround confirmed in writing that the NAC website we launched on 4 February - sponsored by Prof James Fetzer, a NAC Honorary Associate – has been hacked (see blog of 9 May "SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked")? Wasn’t Declan’s petition to the UN in support of therapeutic cloning brought to a halt through spam, and despite it having been signed by 24 Nobel Laureates (see blog here)? Doesn’t Declan now have to email every single evening the manager of Tower Hamlets Council’s Idea Store Whitechapel and the head of Cultural Services in Tower Hamlets Council with our computer bookings for the next day because members of staff refuse to confirm the bookings with a signature, printed name, initials or mark of any description (see here)?

So what’s the panic? Well, perhaps it’s Declan’s email now to advocates of freedom of speech – four undelivered emails to British mainstream journalists were returned to our spam box a couple of days ago. This is the email (links not included here):

Subject: Freedom of speech

Dear [Personalised],

I am writing to you as someone interested in issues of freedom of speech.

My web host has confirmed in writing that my website for the promotion of the scientific perspective on public policy issues at religionandmorality.net "has been hacked". My wife's blog of 9 May, "SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked", makes the case that a government organisation may very well be behind the organised hacker attacks that have been used to scramble or jam online content since late April.

The website, sponsored by Distinguished McKnight Prof. James Fetzer of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is being built from London in support of my petition to the United Nations on therapeutic cloning, which to date has been signed by 591 scientists and academics, who include recognised authorities from the world’s leading universities and research institutes, as well as 24 Nobel Laureates. (One of the subsections in What we do is "Oppose fundamentalism and extremism", and the site carries several news articles and features on the subject.)

I know that you are a strong advocate of freedom of speech and opinions, and wonder if perhaps you could write something, even something short, that might serve as a catalyst for others. I guess what we are really in need of is publicity of some kind or another. Even if you could suggest someone interested in issues of freedom of speech who may be of any help, this would be greatly appreciated.

For more detail (where my wife and I live for example), please see About us.

Yours sincerely,
Declan Heavey

This is a very interesting video on the state of freedom of speech in Belgium which I have just posted to my Facebook wall (the group “Support Lola Heavey - Stop Facebook Banning Her” now has 110 members):

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sherry Jones: "We must speak out for free speech"

I have taken the above title from a piece dated 19 May which can be accessed through the homepage of the Index on Censorship website – subtitled: “Why are UK distributors refusing to handle The Jewel of Medina? It’s time to raise an outcry says its author”. (As I stated in Tuesday’s blog “Free Speech Watch: Gagging in Britain” – the title taken from a recent Center for Inquiry blog entry – we are now emailing writers associated to the Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders, and others, on the hacking and on-going vandalisation of the NAC website (see blog of 9 May “SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked”); only last night the “Links” page carried a “Reported Attack Site!” notification, which got removed once I reposted the page.)



The Guardian also carried a story two days ago, titled “Muhammad child bride novel author condemns UK ‘censorship’”, which says that Sherry Jones, the author of The Jewel of Medina, has accused British publishers of being too afraid to publish her book in the wake of a firebomb attack on the office of Gibson Square, the London-based publisher which had been set to release it last year.

Her novel was initially acquired for a six-figure advance by Random House US, but dropped by the publisher last summer after it was warned that the book’s subject matter “might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment”. It was later acquired and published in America by small US publisher Beaufort Books. Gibson Square bought UK rights, but dropped the book following an arson attack on the home and office of its publisher Martin Rynja. Last week three men were found guilty of conspiracy to recklessly damage property and endanger life.

Jones has now revealed on her blog that despite attempts to find a new UK distributor for The Jewel of Medina, “everyone, it seems, is too afraid”. “Although the extremists lost in court, they have apparently won where it really counts – in the UK’s book stores,” she wrote. “The ‘thugs’ have accomplished their task – and freedom of speech, the first freedom to go when fascism gets a foothold, has taken a blow in the western world.”

She called on “the people of Great Britain” to “speak out against those who are limiting their right to read, think, speak, listen, debate, discuss, criticize”. “I hope the people of the UK can find the power, and the courage, to raise an outcry against censorship,” she said. “Now it’s time for the rest of us, including moderate Muslims and the press, who cherish our culture and our freedom, to raise a cry louder than that of radicals, so we don’t lose that most precious, and crucial, of freedoms.”

Across the road from our local council’s Idea Store Whitechapel – the borough’s flagship library, learning and information service where I spend most of my day – is the huge East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre. According to research seen by The Times, books calling for the beheading of lapsed Muslims, ordering women to remain indoors and forbidding interfaith marriage are being sold inside some of Britain’s leading mosques; one book, Fatawa Islamiyah, which urges the execution of apostates, was found in a bookshop at the mosque in Whitechapel.

Which reminds me that we frequently run into difficulties in Idea Store Whitechapel: only last week I was bullied by two security guards into vacating the computer I had booked the previous day, which I refused to do (see blog of 13 May “Letter to the Leader of Tower Hamlets Council”); a supervisor subsequently agreed that I would be able to have my bookings confirmed in writing by a member of staff, as Declan confirmed in an email of 13 May to the manager of Idea Store Whitechapel, Asab Ali, but this week a member of staff has still to agree to do so. For the record, this is Declan’s email yesterday evening to Ali, the fourth such email this week (all four emails have been copied to Heather Bonfield, Head of Cultural Services, Tower Hamlets Council):

Subject: Idea Store Whitechapel

Dear Mr. Ali,

I refer further to my email of 13 May (attached) and wish to confirm my wife's bookings* for tomorrow on computer 1.16 as follows:

D000355837 (Declan Heavey)
11.45 - 12.45
13.45 - 14.45
14.45 - 15.45

D000350314 (Maria Heavey)
12.45 - 13.45
15.45 - 16.45
16.45 - 17.45

*Bookings checked by a member of staff, but a confirmation signature, printed name, initials or mark of any description refused by the same member of staff.

Yours sincerely,
Declan Heavey

cc Ms. Heather Bonfield, Head of Cultural Services



Also last week, the then out-going leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said in a BBC Radio interview with Roger Bolton that atheists are “not fully human”. Philosopher Stephen Law, editor of the British Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK, comments: “[I]t is also worth just drawing attention to the fact that going round saying that those with whom one most profoundly disagrees are ‘not fully human’ is an extraordinarily insulting and dangerous thing to say, whether true or not”. Law also asks: “And does he consider my not-fully-human existence worth less than that of a fully-human religious person?” Well, the fact that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor considers Declan and I “not-fully-human” might go some way to explaining why we have been kept to the street for over two and a half years, after being put there in November 2006 (see “About us”).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care, inquiry finds



“An official report into abuse – physical, sexual and emotional – in Catholic schools in Ireland produced a harrowing picture yesterday of ill-treatment which it described as endemic,” says the Independent this morning. The government-appointed Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse - which carried out a nine-year investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse in reform schools, workhouses, orphanages, children’s homes and other childcare institutions – found that “Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorised thousands of boys and girls in the Irish Republic, while government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rape and humiliation”, says the Guardian.

The commission’s original judge, Mary Laffoy, resigned from her post in 2003 over claims that the Irish department of education – which was in charge of inspecting the orphanages and industrial schools – was refusing to hand over documents to her. Judge Sean Ryan, who took over as chair the commission, said that when confronted with evidence of sex abuse, religious authorities responded by moving the sex offenders to another location, where in many instances they were free to abuse again.

One of the things we do in the NAC website is Expose church-state programmes. So far, we have exposed two such programmes: British child migrants and Magdalene laundries. In fact, one of our Action alerts is to the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Mercy – institutions run by the Sisters of Mercy were also part of the culture of abuse, the report found – to demand an end to Sisters of Mercy-run laundries; a 2003 Guardian article, titled “In God’s Name”, noted that “the same Catholic orders who operated Magdalene Laundries in Ireland ran laundries in North and South America, Australia, France and are now concentrating their efforts in Asia and Africa”.

We run on the site an incredible Channel 4 documentary on the Magdalene asylums in Ireland titled “Sex in a Cold Climate” (see below). The documentary is almost an hour long; unfortunately, I haven’t seen it in its entirety because I have less than three hours of computer time in our local council’s Idea Store Whitechapel library: we frequently run into trouble in this library; only last week I was bullied by two security guards into vacating the computer I had booked the previous day, which I refused to do (see blog of 13 May “Letter to the Leader of Tower Hamlets Council”).



I should perhaps add here that Declan and I get our breakfast from Monday to Friday - my food for the entire day - in the Sisters of Mercy Dellow Day Centre. We also frequently run into difficulties in this day centre (see blog of 14 May “Letter to Archbishop Vincent Nichols”).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Free Speech Watch: Gagging in Britain



I have taken the liberty of borrowing the Center for Inquiry’s blog entry headline of two days ago because I believe it’s applicable to Declan and me. As I have said, on 8 May SiteGround wrote to Prof. James Fetzer confirming that the NAC website “has been hacked” (see blog of 9 May “SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked”). (Prof. Fetzer bought the domain name and web hosting with SiteGround of New York.) Since 25 April, organised hacker attacks have been used to scramble or jam online content.

We have now started emailing British journalists who might take this up. In fact, yesterday I sent close to 40 emails into the Times, the Guardian, the Independent and the BBC; next I will be selecting journalists associated to the Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders, and others. We got responses and auto-replies from the first batch of 10 emails, then nothing. This is how I know that the emails are probably being dumped into spam boxes, the same place where Declan’s emails to scientists and academics inviting them to sign his petition to the UN on therapeutic cloning go, and despite that it has been signed by 24 Nobel Laureates (see blog of 14 March 2008 “SpamCop reports Declan as a spammer”).

Anyway, one of the emails of reply really made my day. Although Declan’s concerns are a bit off this journalist’s beat, he writes: “I am impressed by some of the interesting ideas you have put forward and by your incredible commitment to promoting something you clearly care deeply about, I wish you the best of luck.” This is the email we are trying to get through (links not included here):

Subject: Public understanding of science

Dear [Personalised],

I am writing to you as someone interested in the public's understanding of science.

My web host has confirmed in writing that my website for the promotion of the scientific perspective on public policy issues at religionandmorality.net "has been hacked". My wife's blog of 9 May, "SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked", makes the case that a government organisation may very well be behind the organised hacker attacks that have been used to scramble or jam online content since late April.

The website, sponsored by Distinguished McKnight Prof. James Fetzer of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is being built from London in support of my petition to the United Nations on therapeutic cloning, which to date has been signed by 591 scientists and academics, who include recognised authorities from the world’s leading universities and research institutes, as well as 24 Nobel Laureates.

I know that you are a strong advocate of freedom of speech and opinions, and wonder if perhaps you might take this up, or even suggest someone who may be of any help.

Yours sincerely,
Declan Heavey

John Shook, research associate in philosophy at the University at Buffalo and vice president and senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry Transnational in Amherst, NY, comments in his Center for Inquiry blog on sixteen controversial people who were banned from entering the United Kingdom earlier this month. He concludes: “Congratulation, Britain. Not only are you making ideas into enemies, you have echoed Stalin and confirmed fundamentalist Islam’s logic of repression.”

I have another recent piece from the Times titled “Shami Chakrabarti was target in police search” that also exposes the sorry state of freedom of speech in the UK. Chakrabarti is Britain’s leading civil liberties campaigner and director of the pressure group Liberty. The paper reveals that police who arrested the Conservative frontbencher Damian Green in April trawled his private emails looking for information on her. The Tory immigration spokesman said that Chakrabarti’s name had been one of the keywords used to go through emails and computer documents going back several years. “This feels to me like a fishing expedition on somebody who embarrasses the government of the day,” he said. “That’s very disturbing.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Facebook warning and block

It has been quite an eventful week since SiteGround wrote to Prof. James Fetzer confirming that the NAC website “has been hacked” (see blog of 9 May “SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked”). (Prof. Fetzer bought the domain name and web hosting with SiteGround of New York.) On Wednesday, while in Tower Hamlets Council’s Idea Store Whitechapel - the borough’s flagship library, learning and information service - I was bullied by two security guards into vacating the computer I had booked, which I refused to do in the circumstances (see blog “Letter to the Leader of Tower Hamlets Council”); on Thursday, I was fondled by a homeless man after Declan ventured for the first time in months into the men’s washroom of the Catholic Sisters of Mercy Dellow Day Centre (see previous blog “Letter to Archbishop Vincent Nichols”); and yesterday I received my 7th warning and block from Facebook, this time after I had sent just one friend request - over an hour having elapsed since I had previously made a friend request.

I know of two people who have had their accounts disabled by Facebook: Pastor Ezekiel and Dan Abshear (see blog of 20 April “Facebook disables FB friend Dan Abshear’s account”). Eventually Dan got his account back, but Pastor Ezekiel never did. I have also been made aware of the case of Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen of the liberal right-wing Coalition – Facebook provided her with no arguments, just deleted her account.

One of my FB friends posted the following standard response from Facebook to the group “Support Lola Heavey - Stop Facebook Banning Her”:

Facebook has limits in place to prevent behavior that other users may find annoying or abusive. These limits restrict the rate at which you can use certain features on the site. Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with the specific rates that have been deemed abusive.

Your account has been disabled because you exceeded Facebook's limits on multiple occasions when sending friend requests, despite having been warned to slow down. We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason. This decision is final.

“Too bad that we cannot do anything to moderate their doctrinal orthodoxy”, my FB friend added. A few days ago, I posted to my wall a link to a summary of a study by MediaCurves which they published under the title “Majority of Facebook Users Unaware They are Being Censored”. I found this accompanying CCN video surprising and more than a bit disturbing:



The description of the group “Support Lola Heavey - Stop Facebook Banning Her” reads: “Facebook is looking to ban this woman because she is exercising her right to free speech. Simple as.” So far, 87 Facebook users have become members of this group. One of these members writes:

Please everyone, invite your friends to join this group. Everyday groups for the truly frivolous seem to grow like a wildfire; while this is sputtering along. If we hope to make any impact this needs to have a far larger membership. Everyone who believes in free speech is welcome in this group. This isn't about atheism or religion; this is about basic freedoms. Let's not just roll over and have our bellies tickled on this one.

Perhaps Facebook would take notice.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Letter to Archbishop Vincent Nichols

This morning Declan ventures for the first time in months into the men’s washroom of the Dellow Day Centre of the Catholic Sisters of Mercy Providence Row Charity, and I get fondled by a homeless man!

Declan is just gone when this homeless comes along side me and rubs his hand across my shoulder and down my arm. I shout at him to go away and hit him with the newspaper I was reading. A few minutes later he is back: this time, he touches me inappropriately, right underneath a CCTV camera. I am in disbelief: there are other homeless about the living room; a nun at the kitchen counter and another at reception; and there are two or three workers buzzing about. I am back shouting at him again, and this time a member of staff comes. About 10 minutes later, I am informed by a member of staff that this homeless has been asked to leave for the day, and I ask the guy to put my complaint on record.

This afternoon Declan emailed the new head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, in his capacity as Archbishop of the Diocese of Westminster, to which the Dellow Centre belongs; our concern that we may be barred from this day centre is not unfounded: on 18 June 2007 we were barred from the Methodist Church Whitechapel Mission by the minister’s wife after I was assaulted in an unprovoked attack by a homeless woman in the canteen - the barring was due to concerns about our safety!

For the record, this is Declan’s email to Archbishop Nichols:

Subject: Providence Row Charity

His Grace Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

Your Grace,

I refer to my most recent email of 13 April (attached) to the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, in his capacity as Archbishop of the Diocese of Westminster, to which the Dellow Day Centre of the Sisters of Mercy Providence Row Charity belongs.

This morning my wife was inappropriately touched and fondled by a client of the Dellow Centre, right underneath a CCTV camera, and despite that there were other people around her and staff about. She made a complaint to a member of staff, Mr. Keith Armitage, and requested of Mr. Armitage that he make her complaint a matter of record. She was subsequently informed by another member of staff that the homeless man was asked to leave for the day.

I can confirm that I continue to wash in the street as a result of harassment and intimidation by homeless people in the Dellow Centre and the Catholic Manna Day Centre (whose building is provided rent-free by the Archdiocese of Southwark), which I have been doing since 10 April last year; and my wife has been doing since 27 February. Since my initial letter of complaint to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor of 21 April 2008 (almost two weeks after I took to washing in the street), the following are just a handful of incidents from these two day centres:

(1) 16 May 2008: I reported a homeless man to the Metropolitan Police for racially aggravated harassment in the men's washroom of the Dellow Centre (crime reference no. 4212667/08);

(2) 18 June 2008: I was robbed in the canteen of the Dellow Centre of all my and my wife's money and documents (crime reference no. 4215697/08); 24 June: I was informed at Bow Street police station that the case had been struck out due to the police being unable to obtain any CCTV footage whatsoever from Providence Row Charity;

(3) 19 June 2008: the day after the robbery of all our money and documents in the Dellow Centre, I reported a homeless man to the Metropolitan Police for assaulting me while I was queuing for food in the Manna Centre (crime reference no. 3021917/08);

(4) 6 November 2008: I submitted a written complaint to the Chief Executive of the Providence Row Charity, Ms. Jo Ansell, against a homeless woman for the verbal abuse of both my wife and me from the reception desk of the Dellow Centre;

(5) 24 February 2009: I reported a homeless man to the Metropolitan Police for assault in the canteen of the Dellow Centre (crime reference no. 4204029/09); 25 March: I was informed by email from Limehouse police station that the case had been struck out due to the police being unable to obtain the identity of the suspect from the Providence Row Charity “even though they do know his details”.

I should again point out that my wife and I were barred from the Methodist Church Whitechapel Mission on 18 June 2007 by the minister's wife due to concerns about our safety following an unprovoked assault on my wife (crime reference no. 4217341/07). Despite that the Whitechapel Mission's website states that homeless people are not barred or excluded and that I wrote by registered post to the minister himself and to the head of the Methodist Church in the UK, Rev. Graham Carter, neither my wife nor I were readmitted.

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely,
Declan Heavey

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Letter to the Leader of Tower Hamlets Council

For the record, below is the email that Declan sent this afternoon to the Leader of Tower Hamlets Council, Councillor Lutfur Rahman, concerning Idea Store Whitechapel, the borough’s flagship library, learning and information service. We frequently run into trouble in this library, especially with internet access and computer bookings; but this afternoon it was particularly bad: I was bullied by two security guards into vacating (which I didn't do) the computer I had booked, and told by a member of staff that I was lying. Although Declan is tired of writing to Cllr. Rahman on the subject, he felt he was left with little choice in the circumstances.


Subject: Idea Store Whitechapel

Dear Cllr. Rahman,

I am writing to you in your capacity as Leader of Tower Hamlets Council to refer further to the attached copy of my most recent correspondence with the former Head of Idea Stores, Mr. Ian McNicol, to whom the former Leader of Tower Hamlets Council, Cllr. Denise Jones, referred my original complaint of 21 January 2008 regarding Idea Store Whitechapel and the repeated loss of computer bookings and internet access on both my wife's card (card no. D000350314) and my card (card no. D000355837) since 14 November 2007.

I wish to draw to your attention that this afternoon my wife had computer 13 on floor 1 in Idea Store Whitechapel booked from 1.15pm to 2.15pm; she made the booking yesterday evening. As soon as she logged in, the computer re-started with another name, Suhel Miah, on the monitor. Not wanting to vacate the floor in the circumstances, she asked a security guard if he would be so kind as to call a member of staff to her table. Ten minutes later no member of staff had appeared but along comes Mr. Miah, and he wants my wife to vacate her chair. Two security guards then appear and rudely, aggressively and in a bullish manner attempt to move my wife out, and this despite her pointing out to both guards that she had been waiting for almost 15 minutes for a member of staff and that she had booked the computer for the hour. A member of staff then comes along and also insists that my wife moves out: there is another name on the monitor. This member of staff is followed by a supervisor: she hadn't booked a computer from 1.15pm to 2.15pm, my wife is told by the supervisor, and there is nothing wrong with the computer; she must vacate. My wife is let log in after 1.30pm.

I reconfirm that since my complaint of 21 January 2008 to Cllr. Jones, my wife and I not only have experienced repeated loss of computer bookings and internet access, but several other problems to boot. For example:

(i) 1 February 2008: the Principal Idea Store Manager, Mr. Sergio Dogliani, wrote to me advising that the restriction by Idea Store Whitechapel of both my wife and I to a 3-hour maximum free computer use per day as from 29 January stands, despite that for several previous months we were given "additional time" subject to computer availability and in accordance with the Council's then and current "Idea Stores PC Usage Policy";

(ii) 24 June 2008: at approximately 12.30pm, a member of staff threatened my wife with security if she did not give her computer up to another card holder, despite that thirty minutes earlier a member of staff had confirmed in writing that my wife had booked the computer from 11.30am to 2.30pm;

(iii) 3 August 2008: both of the computers my wife and I had booked the previous day contained an identical virus which spread to the two USB drives we were using. This rendered my wife's portable programs inoperable. It also corrupted some of my most valuable data: a Word document containing a categorised list of over 150 British signatories of a petition of mine to the United Nations on therapeutic cloning, and a related database containing the names, email addresses and contact information for over 3,000 scientists and academics from around the world;

(iv) 6 August 2008: at approximately 2.45pm, MIMEsweeper blocked access to my Google Mail account due to "Porn Detected". At 3.10pm, following the restoration of my access to the account, I was informed by the store's technician, and without explanation, that "it may happen again for any length of time".

As I explained in my original complaint to you of 4 August 2008 following (iii) above, since 22 October 2007 my wife and I have been using computer time in Idea Store Whitechapel to contact scientists and academics to invite them to sign my petition to the United Nations on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), sometimes referred to as "therapeutic cloning". This petition to date has been signed by 591 scientists and academics, who include recognised authorities from the world's leading universities and research institutes, as well as 24 Nobel Laureates.

I once again acknowledge receipt of an email of 7 August 2008 from your Personal Assistant, Ms. Rachel Bielby, stating: "Cllr. Rahman is now on leave until the end of August. I have asked the office of the Director of Communities, Localities and Culture's office to deal with your correspondence." I reconfirm that on 9 January I received an email from Senior Management Support Officer, Ms. Sharon Ball, questioning only whether any of the reconfirmed information above is "actionable" by Tower Hamlets Council.

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey

Saturday, May 09, 2009

SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked

It seems that the problems with our website are far from over: the blog of 28 April, “NAC website is vandalised”; Wednesday’s, “Hacking and vandalisation of NAC”; Thursday’s, “Another hack attack?”; and yesterday’s, “Deletion of files on the NAC website”. In the Wednesday blog I published the email that Prof. James Fetzer received from SiteGround on the excessively slow loading of pages. (Prof. Fetzer bought the domain name and web hosting with SiteGround of New York.) SiteGround agreed with me that someone had written a script that made queries to an IP address located in ... Latvia!

Well, yesterday SiteGround wrote again to Prof. Fetzer. They confirm that our account “has been hacked”, listing “some files which look suspicious” as follows:

about/trustees.html
about/mission.html
about/honorary.html
about/about_us.html
about/supporters.html
about/contact_us.html
about/advisers.html
index.html
join/donate.html
reproductive-health/action.html

I find it rather strange that our site gets hacked when SiteGround blocks malicious bots and attackers using some of the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art technology available; they were rated the best web hosting company for 2007 and 2008. My site is also very basic and I am not using any web application that would require constant attention and updates to resolve the latest security vulnerabilities. In fact, it is the same website – with old articles removed – that was hosted free by Bravenet for almost three and a half years (October 2004 to March 2008), and without a hitch. (The NAC website, first launched in October 2004, has been twice removed from the internet: in March 2008, the original NAC website was suspended due to a SpamCop report; in February 2009, the new NAC website was deleted within days without explanation.) This is what SiteGround wrote in their email on their protection of sites:

Next, you may wonder what Siteground does to protect your site. The answer is:

- By default, we have set all sites to use the latest PHP 5.2 which has register_globals and allow_url_include turned off. This prevents remote code inclusion and variable poisoning.
- We are running a hardened apache version in chrooted environment with suexec. This makes sure that your website is isolated from the rest of the sites.
- We have compiled a secure Linux kernel with grsec enhancement. This secures the server against kernel exploits.
- We have sophisticated IDS / IPS systems which block malicious bots and attackers.

Unfortunately the above is not always enough. Most web applications require constant attention and updates to resolve the latest security vulnerabilities.

This hacker too has proven highly selective in which files he chooses to delete: we were notified by email on Thursday that our most important page “NAC Petition to the United Nations in Support of SCNT Signed by 24 Nobel Prize Winners” – from which the entire site has been derived – was missing (see previous bog). Declan and I find it particularly interesting that someone is willing go to such lengths to hack the website of two people who have been sleeping in the streets of London for over two and a half years. (We came to England in 2003 and for two years attempted to get NAC up and running. We went on benefits in July 2005. On 27 September 2006 the Department of Works and Pensions terminated our benefits because Declan did not “sign on” two days before he was due to do so on 29 September.)

According to a report issued in March by Reporters Without Borders, not only is the internet more and more controlled, but new forms of censorship are emerging based on the manipulation of information. “Orchestrating the posting of comments on popular websites or organising hacker attacks is also used by repressive regimes to scramble or jam online content,” Reporters Without Borders said.

I wonder if the reason why I am still unable to log in to my SiteGround account – due to my username and password not being recognised, and this despite that since launching on 4 February I have been uploading with a program and the same username and password – is because of another hacker attack. It wouldn’t be difficult since all my uploading is done in the local internet café.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Deletion of files on the NAC website



We are having more problems with our website. Now it seems that files I have posted to the site are being deleted. I have already discovered that our most important page “NAC Petition to the United Nations in Support of SCNT Signed by 24 Nobel Prize Winners” – from which the entire site has been derived - is missing. When I click on the “SCNT” icon I created for the site and my Facebook page, I get the standard error page, stating: “404 - Not Found. The page you are trying to access does not exist.” It was in fact an email we received yesterday from the US which brought the deletion to our attention.

Declan launched his petition to the United Nations from the street on 22 October 2007, calling for the establishment of a reasonable timetable for a UN declaration that would draw a distinction between reproductive cloning and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), sometimes referred to as “therapeutic cloning”, while specifically leaving it to UN member states to decide for themselves on SCNT within a regulation framework. To date, and despite that Declan’s personalised emails inviting scientists and academics to sign this petition were branded as spam by SpamCop on 6 March 2008 (see blog of 14 March “SpamCop reports Declan as a spammer”), the petition has been signed by 591 scientists and academics, who include recognised authorities from the world’s leading universities and research institutes, as well as 24 Nobel Laureates.

As I have stated in previous blogs, I believe there is a link between the SpamCop report and an email Declan received the day previous, on 5 March 2008, from the Home Office advising in response to several emails he addressed to Home Secretary Jacqueline Smith that no warrant to intercept his communications had been issued (see blog of 9 March “Home Office denies warrant to intercept communications”).

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another hack attack?

I am 90 percent sure that the NAC website is under another hack attack. In the previous blog “Hacking and Vandalisation of NAC”, I published the email that Prof. James Fetzer received from SiteGround on the excessively slow loading of pages. (Prof. Fetzer bought the domain name and web hosting with SiteGround of New York, rated the best web hosting company for 2007 and 2008.) SiteGround agreed with me that someone had written a script that made queries to an IP address located in ... Latvia!



What I discovered this morning is that when I go to the NAC homepage something is invoking Adobe Acrobat Reader. Another hacking, a trojan, a virus, a worm? A bit of investigation in Google and I find that a trojan called “gumblar.cn” contains several exploits and trojans that can harm your system, and that it starts its infection by invoking Adobe Acrobat Reader.

We haven’t been notified by SiteGround about any infection but I wonder if this new development is malicious – by attempting to have SiteGround pull down our website because in their view I am hosting a software or a program that may damage the operation of a computer. I am thinking here about the two times the NAC website has already been removed from the internet (see About us).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hacking and vandalisation of NAC

As I wrote in the previous blog, on 25 April our website was vandalised – the pages were taking an awful long time to load (about 30 seconds per page). I realised that the transferring of data was done through IP 94.247.2.195, which a Google search reveals is located in ... Latvia! Despite that the NAC website has been twice removed from the internet (see About us), I found this vandalism to the new website (launched 4 February) shocking because the site is sponsored by Distinguished McKnight Professor James Fetzer of the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Prof. Fetzer has bought the domain name and web hosting with SiteGround of New York, rated the best web hosting company for 2007 and 2008. Prof. Fetzer got in contact with SiteGround and received the following from a member of their Support Team:

I have carefully investigated the issue. While browsing the site I found that the site makes queries to the above mentioned IP address 94.247.2.195. I am not aware why the site is asking this address. I have checked the IP address and it appeared to be in Latvia.

The is slow because it waits the IP address to respond to your site. This address responds either very slow or it does not respond at all.

What I would advise you is to disable the script which makes the queries to this IP address. If after that the problem still persist please update the ticket in order to investigate the issue further.

So it seems that the site is hacked and someone has written a script which makes queries to this Latvian IP address. Well, clearly it was not me: firstly, I wouldn’t know how to write such script, and secondly, why would I want the pages of my site transferring data through Latvia? Perhaps more interesting, why would anyone want to hack the website of two people who have been sleeping in the streets of London for over two and a half years? And is the person who wrote this script the same person who, on 26 January 2008, raided Declan’s Google Mail, moved all emails sent to him after 12 August 2007 to Trash, and deleted 300 draft documents, including the names and email addresses of over 2,500 scientists and academics (see blog “Declan’s Google Mail is raided”)?

A few days ago I reposted everything on the site. Yet, two days ago the Stephen Mumford page from the section “Authors” was transferring data through Latvia; and yesterday it was one of our homepage feature articles, “The Whole World Is Watching”. This morning both of these pages were OK – I didn’t do anything to them – but we had an email from the US informing us that another feature article, “The Vatican's Immoral Declaration”, took an excessively long time to load!

According to a report issued in March by Reporters Without Borders, not only is the Internet more and more controlled, but new forms of censorship are emerging based on the manipulation of information. “Orchestrating the posting of comments on popular websites or organising hacker attacks is also used by repressive regimes to scramble or jam online content,” Reporters Without Borders said.

I wonder if the reason why I am still unable to log in to my SiteGround account – due to my username and password not being recognised, and this despite that since launching on 4 February I have been uploading with a program and the same username and password – is because of another hacker attack. It wouldn’t be difficult since all my uploading is done in the local internet café.