UK top government official: human rights no longer a "top priority"

The royals with Sir Simon McDonald.

Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office -- the country's most senior Foreign Office official -- told MPs that his department had sidelined human rights work in favour of global trade agreements (the same agreements that allow sovereign wealth funds from the world's most brutal, oppressive states to buy huge swathes of the UK's public institutions at knock-down prices in the Tories' great sell-off of public assets). Read the rest

Brass cuffs decorated with vintage maps, anatomy, science and math


Kate in Dorchester, England makes gorgeous brass wrist-cuffs decorated with vintage literary, cartographic and scientific imagery: there's Poe's Raven; the periodic table; anatomical dentistry drawings; Newton's laws of motion; the human spine; a map of the Thames and the Tower of London; a tape-measure; the human foot's bones; and headlines from Jack the Ripper's killings and much, much more. Read the rest

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Tube-map labelled with one-bedroom flat rental rates


Since the crisis, the number of people renting in the UK has sharply increased, but the number of landlords has decreased, as a smaller and smaller number of richer and richer people control the destiny of more and more Britons. Read the rest

Jamaica wants slavery reparations from the UK


Members of Jamaica's Parliament are threatening to turn their backs on David Cameron during an official visit unless he agrees to discuss reparations for slavery during the meeting. Read the rest

Dismaland will be dismantled, used for refugee shelters in Calais


Banksy's brilliant piss-take on theme-parks has run its course and will now be dismantled, shipped to Calais and turned into temporary shelters for the refugees massed there. Read the rest

KARMA POLICE: GCHQ's plan to track every Web user in the world


The KARMA POLICE program is detailed in newly released Snowden docs published on The Intercept; it began as a project to identify every listener to every Internet radio station (to find people listening to jihadi radio) and grew into an ambitious plan to identify every Web user and catalog their activities from porn habits to Skype contacts. Read the rest

UK film industry: our cinemas patrolled by Silence of the Lambs nightvision LARPers


For more than a decade, the UK movie industry makes a big deal out of announcing that audiences at the latest blockbuster movies will be surveilled by bored teenagers who get to LARP Buffalo Bill with greasy night-vision goggles that they'll use to catch camming pirates. Read the rest

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Why is it so easy to believe that the UK super-rich have sex with pigs?


Well, for one thing, it's pretty weird that as soon as the story that UK Prime Minister/hereditary toff David Cameron allegedly stuck his penis in the mouth of a dead pig in a college initiation for a secret society of the ultra-rich, the UK's top establishment figures leapt to his defense, saying that even if he face-fucked a dead pig, it wasn't such a big deal. Read the rest

David Cameron now all alone in demanding crypto backdoors, doubles down on antibiotic resistant superterrorists


The US government has given up on demanding backdoors in cryptography for now (advocates have announced that they'll wait until a terrorist attack and then use that as the excuse for fresh demands), leaving the UK government as the last man standing in the race to compromise the security of the technologies with the power of life and death over us. Read the rest

UK Open University plans mass closure of regional call centres


I'm a visiting professor at OU, and dearly love the institution. It's a remarkable, multidisciplinary institution with a long history of educating people who've been excluded from the traditional university system.

The regional call centres are hugely important to the OU's success. They are the university's front line, staffed by dedicated, local people who help their neighbours to navigate the OU system, and connecting current OU students with alumni and prospective students, acting as a force for social cohesion in the OU's community.

My OU Computer Science colleague, Ray Corrigan, has written a stirring and important piece about the OU regional call centres' role in the OU system:

Understanding the OU deeply takes a long time. It is full of incredible people who care deeply about our students and who have repeatedly shown they will go to the ends of the earth for this place, even to the point of putting their own health and welbeing at risk. Staff in the East Grinstead regional office which was shut down by the University at the end of November 2014, worked evenings and weekends, even in the knowledge they would be unemployed by Christmas, to ensure the students were settled with experienced, well qualified-tutors for our courses starting last autumn. In the thick of all the complexity and accommodation of massive structural changes of the past few years, though, it's worth noting that fundamentally the OU is simply about putting people in touch with people, people who care.

Historically the OU turned a discredited education method - correspondence courses - into hugely effective supported open learning at a distance which, for over 40 years, has outstripped the personal support provided by most of the conventional university sector by a street.

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Interactive map of the swathes of England owned by offshore tax-dodgers

Whole regions of England are now owned by holding companies in tax-havens "from Panama to Luxembourg, and from Liechtenstein to the South Pacific island of Niue." Read the rest

UK Labour Party elects its first left-wing leader in more than 20 years

After decades of Blairite, New Labour politics that catered to banks, built out mass surveillance and attacked unions and the working poor, the UK Labour Party has elected a genuine left-wing leader, by a landslide: democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn. Read the rest

Heathrow security insists that ice is a liquid

Simon Perry froze a can of Diet Coke solid and took it through security at London's Heathrow Airport to see whether he could find a loophole in the "no liquids" rule. Read the rest

Commercial for Banksy's Dismaland

The sold-out installation at Weston-super-Mare is a carnival of dark delights and clearly fun for the whole family. (via JWZ) Read the rest

Final Pratchett novel is out: The Shepherd's Crown

Well, The Shephed's Crowd (a Tiffany Aching book) is out in the UK, anyway -- (idiotically) the US release will be Sept 1. Read the rest

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