Sunday, August 15, 2010

Victorian councils filming inside of household bins

Household rubbish has come under unprecedented scrutiny, with Victorian councils filming bin contents and conducting secretive audits and inspections.

Privacy advocates are questioning the big brother tactics of waste authorities.

But councils, under pressure to cut rising landfill bills, insist surveillance is a vital part of their bid to educate residents about recycling.

Ratepayers Association of Victoria president Jack Davis said residents were largely unaware of the attention being paid to their rubbish.

But industry experts predict the hi-tech vigilance will only increase, and will result in micro-chipped bins and even detailed dossiers about individual households.

Victorian councils, including Monash, Stonnington, Moonee Valley, Latrobe, Melton, Greater Dandenong, Frankston and Port Phillip are using cameras fitted to pick-up trucks to film contents of recycling bins.

Many also conduct random waste audits, where households' recycling and green bins are collected for analysis.

Peter Chudek, from the Calder Regional Waste Management Group, said audits helped create "a clearer picture of community recycling habits". He said the recycling bins of about 200 households per municipality were "picked apart and measured".

"People don't know they are part of the audit ... because we don't want to pre-empt the audit," Mr Chudek said.

"We are still researching how to motivate people to do the right thing."

Gippsland Regional Waste Management Group executive officer Matthew Peake said privacy was paramount during audits: "Everything is disposed of, and the people who are involved in it realise they can't be going through people's private business."

However, Liberty Victoria president Michael Pearce, SC, said during both the auditing and filming processes, councils risked overstepping privacy boundaries, and that residents had little recourse.

"There's obvious potential for privacy breaches," he said.

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U.S. Atheists Reportedly Using Hair Dryers to 'De-Baptize'

American atheists lined up to be "de-baptized" in a ritual using a hair dryer, according to a report Friday on U.S. late-night news program "Nightline."

Leading atheist Edwin Kagin blasted his fellow non-believers with the hair dryer to symbolically dry up the holy water sprinkled on their heads in days past. The styling tool was emblazoned with a label reading "Reason and Truth."

Kagin believes parents are wrong to baptize their children before they are able to make their own choices, even slamming some religious education
as "child abuse." He said the blast of hot air was a way for adults to undo what their parents had done.

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Salvador Dalí's home town to be recreated in China

As home to the painter Salvador Dalí and inspiration for some of his greatest and strangest artistic endeavours, the Costa Brava fishing port of Cadaqués is used to the surreal.

But the latest project involving the north-eastern Spanish town has astonished even the cosmopolitan inhabitants of a place that boasts more art galleries per square kilometre than anywhere else in the country.

A Chinese developer has decided to build a replica of the town half-way across the globe in Xiamen Bay, where mainland China looks out towards Taiwan.

Architects from developers China Merchants Zhangzhou visited Cadaqués in June, taking measurements, photographing buildings and worrying about whether Chinese fire engines would fit down its tiny streets.

Sources at the company said they had found a spot that was geographically similar to Cadaqués, with its gently sloping hills and protected bay. "Building work will start in September or October," a spokesman said.

More than 100 acres of land will be used to build a near replica with a capacity to house some 15,000 Chinese holidaymakers who want to enjoy the Costa Brava experience without having to travel 6,500 miles.

The Chinese version will not have the sparkling Mediterranean, the madness-inducing Tramontana wind or as many jellyfish as Cadaqués, but the promoters say they will try to get as close to possible to the real thing.

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Dr David Kelly was on a hitlist, says UN weapons expert as calls grow for full inquest

A leading UN weapons inspector last night added his voice to the growing clamour for a full inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Dr Richard Spertzel claimed Dr Kelly was on a 'hitlist' in the final years of his life.

The former head of the UN Biological Section, who worked closely with Dr Kelly in Iraq in the 1990s, has written to Attorney General Dominic Grieve about the 'mysterious circumstances' surrounding the death.

The weapons inspector's body was found after he was unmasked as the source of a damaging BBC news report questioning the grounds for the Iraq war.

Officially, he took his own life.

Yesterday Dr Spertzel told the Mail that the British authorities were 'intentionally ignoring' the issue.

He believes that there is something 'fishy' and insisted that a coroner should examine the death as soon as possible.

His demands come 24 hours after nine of Britain's leading medical experts wrote an open letter to minsters demanding a full inquest.

Dr Spertzel said: 'I know that David, as well as myself and a couple of others, were on an Iraqi hitlist. In late 1997, we were told by the Russian embassy in Baghdad. I had no idea what it meant but apparently David and I were high on the priority list.'

He said he and Dr Kelly were told that they were 'numbers three and four' on the list during an inspection trip in Iraq.

~ more... ~

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