Jay and blue tit


This is a video of an Eurasian jay.

This morning, in the Nova passage, a jay eating peanuts from a feeder close to the tree trunk. At the feeder next to it, further away from the trunk, hanging from a smaller branch, a blue tit eating seeds.

Only outside the United States could an American robin generate tremendous excitement in the birding world, and that’s just what has happened this month in Exeter. For the first time in more than 25 years, a vagrant American robin has been sighted there, and birders are gathering in huge flocks of their own to see the rare bird: here.

British government torture hush money


From the (conservative) Daily Mail in Britain:

Hush money: Multi-million pound payouts to silence British terror suspects held in Guantanamo

By Tim Shipman

Last updated at 7:39 AM on 16th November 2010

Terrorist suspects freed from Guantanamo Bay are to be paid off to silence their claims that UK spies were complicit in torturing them.

At least one former detainee will receive more than £1million in hush money from ministers desperate to stop the cases reaching court.

One of the largest payouts will go to Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who claims MI5 and MI6 fed questions to his CIA-backed torturers.

In return for the cash, the detainees will drop the civil cases for damages that had threatened to lift the lid on the activities of the intelligence agencies after 9/11. …

The former detainees due to receive the money include British citizens and residents of the UK, some of whom entered the country as asylum seekers.

One allegation is that the British government knew they were being illegally transferred to Guantanamo Bay but failed to prevent it. …

Mr Cameron told MPs the inquiry would be free to look at allegations of ‘extraordinary rendition’, where agencies could have known about CIA operations to fly mistreated suspects secretly from country to country, sometimes using UK airports.

There was also speculation that the British military base in the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia, was being used to hold terror suspects.

From British daily The Guardian:

Earlier this month George W Bush, the former US president, had claimed that controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, had protected the UK from further terrorist attacks. David Cameron rejected such sentiments. …

Those detainees understood to be in line for settlements include Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga. One allegation is that the British government knew they were being illegally transferred to Guantánamo Bay but failed to prevent it. …

The payout is bound to be seen as a blow to the reputation of the former foreign secretaries David Miliband, Margaret Beckett and Jack Straw [see also here] for allegedly eroding civil liberties. Their reputations will turn more on the outcome of the Gibson inquiry.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Allegations made by the former detainees include that some of them were subjected to the controversial practice of waterboarding. One claims to have lost the sight in one eye after it was rubbed with a rag soaked in pepper spray. …

When claims of MI5 collusion into the torture of one of the men, Binyam Mohamed, first became public, the then Shadow Justice Secretary, Dominic Grieve, now the Attorney General, called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations and for the matter to be referred to the police.

Court papers revealed last year how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods employed were so extreme that, according to one court official, waterboarding was “very far down the list of things they did”.

Britain: The government’s attempts to avoid potentially incriminating court proceedings by offering compensation to former Guantanamo detainees must not prevent the truth coming out, campaigners and MPs warned today: here.

An MI5 officer will not be prosecuted over claims he was complicit in the torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, the Crown Prosecution Service said today: here.

Online Panel With Former Guantanamo Detainee Omar Deghayes; Human Rights Now : here.

Why [US] Republicans and [British] Tories no longer see eye-to-eye: here.

Torture, Abuse on the USS Bataan and in Bagram, Kandahar: here.

White stork and snipe


Today, again to the former Baillon’s crake breeding ground.

On the windmill, two great cormorants, a starling and a magpie.

Male gadwall

In a canal: male and female gadwall ducks, a moorhen and teal.

In the next canal, a great crested grebe and a magpie sitting on a reed stem.

Snipe flying.

In the northern lake: many great cormorants, lapwings and a shelduck.

Herring gulls and black-headed gulls.

Teal. Tufted ducks.

Many shovelers flying. Panic because of a raptor? I did not see the raptor.

As I walk back, I do see a white stork flying.

Holocaust survivor threatened by Israeli racists


Eli Tzavieli

From British daily The Independent:

The Holocaust survivor whose life is in danger again

In the Israeli city of Safed, an 89-year-old man has been accused of treachery for welcoming Arab students. Catrina Stewart reports

Monday, 15 November 2010

First they threatened to burn his house down. Then they pinned leaflets to his front door, denouncing him as a Jewish traitor. But Eli Tzavieli, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, is defiant. His only “crime” is to rent out his rooms to three Arab students attending the college in Safed, a religious city in northern Israel that was until recently more famous for Jewish mysticism and Madonna.

A campaign waged by Shmuel Eliyahu, the town’s radical head rabbi, culminating in a ruling barring residents from renting rooms to Israeli Arabs, means that Safed is fast emerging as a byword for racism.

“I’m not looking for trouble, but if there is a problem, I’ll confront it,” says Mr Tzavieli, a Jew who survived Nazi forced labour camps and whose parents perished in Auschwitz. “These [tenants] are great kids. And I’m doing my best to make them comfortable.”

At an emergency meeting last month, Mr Eliyahu, the son of a former chief rabbi of Israel, was joined by 17 other religious leaders in warning that the city’s 40,000 Jewish residents were threatened with an “Arab takeover.”

The declaration appeared to trigger a campaign of harassment against Mr Tsavieli to pressure him into throwing the students out. When the pensioner paid little heed to his aggressors, he received an anonymous threat to set fire to his house and a vicious poster campaign accused him of “returning the Arabs to Safed.”

Mr Eliyahu, who once advocated the mass slaughter of Palestinians civilians in Gaza to stop the firing of Qassam rockets, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Theatre and politics in Israel: here.

Israel to build migrant centre: Cabinet votes to build detention facility for thousands of Africans: here.

Gamelan concert in the museum


This video from Indonesia is called gamelan gong kebyar from Bali.

On 14 November, there was a gamelan concert at the museum.

It was by the Sekar alit (“little flower’) orchestra, who play Balinese gamelan; usually faster than Javanese gamelan.

Most instruments in gamelan to Europeans look like metallophones. One of the gangsa (one type of metallophone) players told me that they would like to have more players, as at present not all instruments can be played at the same time. For instance, the big kettle gongs, which need to be played by two, prefersably four, people, were not played today, she said.

The director Henry Nagelberg played the kendang drum. The woman who played ugal (the highest metallophone) also had a central role.

During three pieces, there was also Balinese dancing by a group of five girls, aged about 8-12.