Bird-of-paradise videos

These videos are part of the Birds-of-paradise project.

This video is about that project.

This video about birds-of paradise on the Aru islands in Indonesia says about itself:

Nov 12, 2012 by LabofOrnithology

See what it took for National Geographic photographer Tim Laman, to capture the shot of a lifetime.

This video is called Greater Bird-of-Paradise.

This video is called King-of-Saxony Bird-of-Paradise. Filmed by Tim Laman near Tari Gap in November of 2010.

This video says about itself:

Visit a King Bird-of-Paradise‘s perch in the lowland forests of the Bird’s Head Peninsula in western New Guinea. Watch as a diminutive male practices his courtship display. He aims to impress females with a combination of velvety red plumage, two emerald-green feather disks that bobble on wiry shafts—plus fan-shaped side feathers and abrupt about-face dance moves. Filmed by Tim Laman in August 2009.

More about the birds-of-paradise project is here.

Torture in British history

This video from Britain is called Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain – ‘To get to the truth I needed to keep asking questions …’

From Socialist Worker weekly in Britain:

Tue 13 Nov 2012

Britain’s secret history of torture

Investigative journalist Ian Cobain spoke to Simon Basketter about his new book on the cover-up of torture

According to the prime minister, there is “no evidence” of torture by Britain.

In reality the British state has tortured people throughout its history—and continues to torture today.

The abuse isn’t carried out by “rogue soldiers”. It is a policy sanctioned by the highest levels of the military and political establishment.

Ian Cobain’s new book, Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, exposes this brutal reality and how those in power have tried to hide it.

Ian started looking at the cover-up of torture while covering a terrorism trial in 2007. “One of the defendants alleged that he was tortured,” he explained. “He said a succession of British agents would come along and ask the same questions.

“I heard a second person giving a similar account. Then I heard of a third person as he was being flown from Pakistan to London, minus three fingernails.”

Ian started to ask why this pattern existed. “Either intelligence officers are seeing what they can get away with,” he said. “Or there’s a policy they’re working to.”

The question is who ordered the abuse and why. Ian said, “You have to ask at what level was that policy agreed. Could it be lower than the prime minister? Could it be lower than the foreign secretary?”

The Baha Mousa case

Baha Mousa died under interrogation in Iraq in 2003. He was held for days in a stress position, deprived of sleep, covered alternately in urine and cold water, and repeatedly beaten.

Ian points out that the torture of Baha Mousa was allegedly to condition him for interrogation. But “what was actually going on was that people were just walking in, kicking the living daylights out of him, and walking out again”.

Thousands of people were abused in interrogation in Iraq. As a tool for gathering information Ian described it “ often utterly pointless”.

But he added, “Maybe it was an attempt at wider repression. The purpose of it could be to intimidate an entire people. And if that’s the case, who’s taking the decision?”

The British state has long used torture to terrorise those who challenge its power. Beatings, sexual humiliation, hooding, sleep deprivation, bombardment with white noise—the British army pioneered all these techniques.

In Kenya in 1952 British occupiers declared a state of emergency in response to demands for independence spearheaded by the Mau Mau organisation. Brutalities included castration, slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums and flogging people to death.

In the early 1970s the British army used torture in Northern Ireland in response to a growing Republican movement and agitation for Catholic civil rights.

Ian charts the development of interrogation and torture techniques. The army developed what became known as the “five techniques”—hooding, starvation, sleep deprivation, and the use [of] noise and stress positions.

He says these methods were “guaranteed to leave no marks that would result in either official embarrassment or the risk of war crimes prosecutions”. But they would “cause intense pain and terror, plus lasting psychological damage”. The techniques were banned in 1972. But they continue to this day.

Denial and outsourcing

Those in power try to hide the truth of who orders torture through a process of mutual denial and outsourcing. Outsourcing has become particularly useful as the British “don’t even have to be in the room”. They can be “standing on the outside passing in the questions” as Ian put it.

The fact that the West uses torture has become more widely known. Ian warned that some can use the apparent “inevitability” of torture as a means of justifying it.

“There are enough people who think torture is in some way acceptable or inevitable,” he said. “You get David Miliband in his private conversations saying things like, ‘There’s a difference between torture and cruel and degrading treatment.’

“Because he’s not in the torture chamber on the receiving end, he presumably feels able to repeat the line that he’s heard from Foreign Office lawyers.”

But when it goes wrong, establishment figures lash out at each other. Ian recalled an interview given by former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw.

“Straw said no foreign secretary can know everything. At which point the head of MI6, Richard Dearlove, crops up to make it clear that everything they did was ministerial authorised.”

Put simply, “Ministers were not only authorising torture, they were encouraging it—yet were prepared to deny it”.

The Libyan connection

There is still more to be revealed. From late 2003 the West decided to bring Libya back into the fold. That meant enemies of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime became enemies of the West.

According to Ian, “We decided the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were dangerous. So we grab their leadership in the Far East, then fly them to Tripoli in front of their pregnant wives and six year old daughters so they can be tortured.

“It’s all about getting closer to their monstrous regime for commercial reasons. It’s as much about money as it is about weapons. It’s grotesque. And torture plays its part along the way.”

Ian is far from confident about either stopping torture or revealing the full truth about it. “We know a lot,” he said. “But there are unknown unknowns. We don’t have an acknowledgement—we have denial. I don’t think there’ll be an acknowledgement for a long time.

Bloody Sunday showed us, as did Hillsborough, that when the state is involved in wrongdoing that leads to lots of people dying, it can’t be trusted to examine itself.

“When people in an organisation act like they’re hiding something, it’s usually because they’ve got something to hide.”

Network of repression built after the war

During the Second World War one of the poshest addresses in Kensington, London, became a torture centre. Prisoners passed through the unit that became known as the London Cage.

They were beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to assume stress positions for days at a time. Some were told they would be murdered and their bodies quietly buried.

Others were threatened with unnecessary surgery carried out by people with no medical qualifications. Guards boasted that they were “the English Gestapo”.

The London Cage was part of a network of nine “cages” around Britain. Three, at Doncaster, Kempton Park and Lingfield, were at hastily converted racecourses. Another was at the ground of Preston North End Football Club.

The British set up another torture centre in Egypt. According to Ian Cobain, “In 1944-45, the Joint Intelligence Committee talked about the anticipated need for widespread repression in post-war Germany.”

In reference to murderous paramilitaries used in Ireland in the 1920s, “They talked about having to have a Black and Tan type operation.”

Internment camp

In the four years after the war, 95,000 people were interned in the British zone of Allied-occupied Germany. The town of Bad Nendorf was evacuated and turned into an internment camp.

One “Tin Eye” Stephens, on attachment from MI5 and drawing on torture used during the war, was in charge. Over the next two years 372 men and 44 women passed through his hands.

One German inmate recalled being told, “We are not bound by any rules or regulations. We do not care a damn whether you leave this place on a stretcher or in a hearse.”

He was made to sleep on a wet floor in a temperature of minus 20°C for three days. Four of his toes had to be amputated due to frostbite.

At least one Communist who had been tortured in Buchenwald by the Nazis was tortured again by the British.

As Ian said, “The use of torture by the British is always concealed behind denials and obfuscation and lies. It was in the 1940s, and it is today.”

Further reading

Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture by Ian Cobain. The book draws on previously unseen documents and witness accounts to expose torture by the British state.

Cobain exposes a systematic use of torture that is far from being the work of a few rogue interrogators. He shows how those in power have used torture to protect their position. And he exposes the lie behind Britain’s claims to civilisation and democracy.

Two American whistleblowers alleging U.S. forces tortured them in Iraq can’t sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a federal appeals court in Chicago that found those along the military command chain enjoy broad immunity from such torture claims: here.

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Welsh child abuse evidence destroyed

This video from Britain says about itself:

Nov 12, 2012 by NEWSHD2012

The report into child abuse in north Wales written in the 1990s by John Jillings and then shelved to avoid legal claims has been found in council archives.

By Simon Basketter in Britain:

Tue 13 Nov 2012

Destroyed evidence of child abuse could have been ‘vital’

Photographs of men abusing boys in north Wales were deliberately destroyed.

That simple shocking fact has become lost in the media storm over whether politicians were involved in the abuse.

The cover-up of systematic abuse at Welsh children’s homes is continuing.

Sian Griffiths worked for Clwyd council in the inquiry office on the 1994 Jillings and 2000 Waterhouse inquiries into the abuse.

She said that photographs of abuse obtained by victim Steven Messham were ordered to be destroyed. Steven said he could see men’s faces clearly in the pictures but police officers said they could not identify them.

Asked what happened to the photographs, Griffiths said, “We were supplied with copies of court documents… there was an order made for the book of photos to be destroyed.

Asked to clarify that they had been destroyed she said, “They were. Well that’s what’s in court papers—official documents.” And asked whether those photographs could have been vital evidence she replied, “Yes.”

Griffiths added that there were people mentioned in the Waterhouse inquiry who probably got away with abuse.


The Jillings report was trashed on the insistence of Clwyd council’s insurers, which feared a wave of writs from victims. It outlined the widespread abuse of children in care.

The then newly appointed chief constable of North Wales Police refused to meet the panel or help with access to the police major-incident database.

The report says that, “We were disappointed at the apparent impossibility of obtaining a breakdown of data. We are unable to identify the overall extent of the allegations received by the police in the many witness statements which they took.”

Some 130 boxes of material handed to the police by the council were not made available to the panel. The council didn’t allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information. “This was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers,” says the report.

According to the report, the insurers—Municipal Mutual—suggested the chair of the council’s social services committee, Malcolm King, be sacked if he spoke out.

“Draconian as it may seem, you may have to consider with the elected members whether they wish to remove him from office if he insists on having the freedom to speak,” it is quoted as saying.

Allegations covered the period 1980 to 1988, and a four-year police inquiry saw 2,600 statements taken and 300 cases sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Eight men were charged, and six convicted. How many children were abused is not clear.

Establishment fights to protect politicians

The backlash against allegations of child abuse in high places was fast and determined. Within days of the government announcing two inquiries into the north Wales child abuse scandal, the establishment regrouped.

There will be a new police inquiry into the abuse. And a judge will look at the last judicial inquiry—the Waterhouse inquiry, which began in 1996.

As Labour MP Tom Watson pointed out, “A narrow-down investigation is the basic building block of a cover-up.”

Next, David Cameron warned that gay men were at risk of a “witch hunt” after being confronted with a list of suspected paedophiles on television. But Cameron was the first person to link gay people and paedophiles in relation to the scandal.

The focus moved to the victims of the abuse in Wales. The Guardian ran a story saying Lord McAlpine had been wrongly identified as a child abuser.


The BBC’s Newsnight programme reported that Steven Messham said he was abused by a leading 1980s Tory politician but did not name Lord McAlpine. McAlpine said the claims were “wholly false and seriously defamatory”.

Messham issued a statement last week saying, “After seeing a picture in the past hour of the individual concerned, this is not the person I identified by photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine.”

This at the very least suggests that there are still questions to be asked of what the police were doing. Nonetheless the BBC descended into chaos as a series of resignations followed—though notably when its director general left it was with a £450,000 payoff in his pocket.

The Waterhouse Inquiry, which is being investigated for having covered up the scandal, is now regularly being used to discredit victims for “inconsistencies” in their evidence.

There is a concerted effort keep the scandal away from politicians. With the Leveson inquiry into press standards due to publish, the cops, the politicians and the media are all turning on each other.

Meanwhile the message to abuse survivors is a familiar one—shut up or be vilified.

Media hypocrites denounce victims

Sections of the media are gloating following several resignations at the BBC relating to the child abuse scandal.

The BBC’s director general, head of news and deputy head of news stood down after a Newsnight programme accused a senior Tory of abusing children.

It didn’t name the Tory, but he was later identified as Lord McAlpine. He denies the charges.

The Guardian has talked of abuse victims “telling tales”. The Daily Mail has denounced the BBC. Yet just days earlier, both were happy to repeat the claims.

One Mail report from Wednesday of last week was headlined, “Victims tell of horror inside North Wales care home where gang rape, strip searches and vicious canings were a way of life”. It added, “High-profile visitors to the home allegedly included two senior former Tories”.

Then the Mail on Sunday ran a disgraceful article on abuse victim Steven Messham last weekend. It said his evidence about abuse was “unreliable from the start” and tried to discredit him by falsely painting him as a violent criminal.

The media claim this is all about getting to the truth. In reality it will help protect powerful people while putting victims off reporting abuse.

Top Tories admit that they knew

Margaret Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary Sir Peter Morrison has been accused of abusing children. Morrison was formerly deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.

Rod Richards, a former Conservative MP and ex-leader of the Welsh Tories, said that he had seen evidence linking Sir Peter Morrison to the North Wales children’s homes case.

Richards said, “What I do know is that Morrison was a paedophile. And the reason I know that is because of the North Wales child abuse scandal.”

Former Tory minister Edwina Currie said that Morrison had been protected by a “culture of sniggering”. In her diaries, she called him “a noted pederast”, with a liking for young boys.

Report reveals 12 deaths

At least 12 young men died after suffering abuse in north Wales during the 1970s and 1980s. An unpublished report into the abuse commissioned by Clwyd council includes the list, which it says “is not comprehensive”.

R1 fell to his death from a railway bridge. R2 committed suicide aged 16. R5 was found dead aged 18 due to “acute respiratory failure due to solvent abuse”. R7 died aged 27 from alcohol abuse. R10 died from an apparent heroin overdose. R12 was found hanged.

All had lived at Bryn Alyn or Bryn Estyn care homes. Most of the deaths took place around the time of a police investigation into the abuse. Some of those who died had made statements or given evidence.

The report noted that “perhaps insufficient thought has been given to the psychological or psychiatric stress of appearing in court as a witness in high-profile cases”.

An internal Clwyd council report, again unpublished, describes “numerous claims that senior public figures including the police and political figures might have been involved in the abuse.”

The Kincora scandal: child abuse and cover-up in 1970s Belfast: here.

A report out this week will debunk the myth that child sexual exploitation is the preserve of certain ethnic groups, saying that perpetrators can come from any background: here.


My second ever reblog, from a blog in Britain; on serious human rights issues in a country often mentioned on this blog

Originally posted on MENA Solidarity Network:

Vice-president of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association, Jalila al-Salman recorded a video message for the MENA Solidarity Network event in Parliament ‘Teachers and the Arab Spring’. The audience also heard from resigned Bahraini MPs Ali Alaswad and Jawad Fairouz about the repression faced by teachers and other activists over recent months and the torture suffered by Jalila’s colleague Mahdi Abu Deeb, president of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association.

The meeting also heard reports from Egypt and Tunisia, which we will be posting on our website shortly.

Read more about the Bahraini speakers’ testimony at the meeting here

Jalila has now been re-arrested following her sentencing on 21 October.

What you can do

  • See here for details of where to send protest letters and petitions
  • Invite a Bahraini speaker to your union branch meeting. Contact and we will put you in touch with Bahraini activists in the UK who are willing to…

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Ancient Chinese play in England

This video from England is called The Orphan of Zhao | Royal Shakespeare Company.

By Anna Chen in Britain:

The Orphan Of Zhao

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Sometimes it’s useful being the barbarian at the gate. This “outsider” role has been imposed on British east Asians by top-ranking arts institutions for far too long, so don’t blame us when we warm to it.

“Normal” roles are denied us unless they’re race-specific with a “Chinese connection” and sharp white elbows mean we often don’t even get those. The welcome policy shift towards cross-racial casting – intended to give ethnic minorities a fair share of parts, representing British society in all its glorious variety – has led instead to one-way traffic and exciting new opportunities for white actors to scarf up the juiciest Chinese parts.

Take the hallowed Royal Shakespeare Company‘s latest offering, a reworking of the traditional Chinese classic The Orphan Of Zhao which dates back 2,500 years.

Ji Junxiang’s 13th-century version is merely the best-known but here it is credited solely to adapter James Fenton as part of the RSC’s A World Elsewhere trilogy which includes Pushkin’s Boris Godunov and Brecht’s A Life of Galileo.

Only three out of 17 actors in the production are east Asians but none are in leading roles, thereby missing a golden chance to rectify invisibility with something imaginatively groundbreaking. So blatantly unfair is this casting that it’s fomented an unprecedented uprising by fellow British east Asian actors and an international controversy.

Orphan is a good old blood-and-guts revenge story, set in ye olde feudal China. The sexually degenerate and Nero-like Emperor murders for pleasure while his favourite minister, Tu’an Gu, a black-clad Ming the Merciless villain played charismatically by a shaven-headed Joe Dixon, plots to grab power.

Gu wipes out his chief rival the noble Zhao Dun and his entire clan but misses the baby borne by Zhao’s wife, the Princess, the Emperor’s daughter. The child grows up to avenge his family and take his rightful place.

As bloody as any Shakespearean or Jacobean tragedy, the story is somewhat cruder. Despite its “Chinese Hamlet” reputation, it features no deep philosophical musings on the meaning of life. How could there be in a story so infused with Confucian fetishisation of hierarchy?

The plot turns on the assumptions that aristocracy will out, true blue blood is all and everyone’s lives are subordinate to the blood line.

“Adapted” this may be but updated it’s not. When Doctor Cheng Ying (Graham Turner) swaps his own newborn son for the aristo, condemning his baby to certain death, there is no sense of inner struggle for this mysterious Eastern cypher.

Cheng’s motivation is as absurd as it is creakingly mechanical – “He must be given a chance to grow so that justice can finally be done” – a line typical of the subtext-free character of the dialogue. Even his wife, despite begging for her child’s life, hands him over without a fight. The Herodesque slaughter the sacrifice is supposed to stop is a dramatically undeveloped afterthought.

However, the Pythonesque trail of deaths by a series of plot-devices on legs, including a ninja – Japanese! – assassin Glasgow-kissing himself against a wall is, at least, inadvertently amusing. This is Aladdin for middle-class grown-ups.

The story’s appeal to the resurgent 19th-century mindset dominating too many of Britain’s cultural institutions is clear. Sex and cruelty, a wonderfully exotic orientalist fantasy for middle Ingerland. They even fly in four severed heads the colour of the Peking ducks you see hanging in Chinese restaurants – last seen in the English National Opera’s Turandot – where the psycho Princess’s murdered lovers are suspended in the palace kitchens.

Scratch a liberal and you’ll find antiquated colonialist attitudes they don’t even know they possess, reinforcing some startling class-and-race political notions. In a potent illustration of these unconscious assumptions, the four ethnic actors playing servants kowtow in a line, while the white actors – Cheng Ying, his wife and nobleman Gongsun Chujiu – play their scene. A snapshot which speaks volumes. Chris Lew Kum Hoi has one moment to shine at the very end, playing the ghost of Cheng’s child. He does it beautifully.

It’s fascinating to watch the Establishment close ranks over this play. White males of a certain age, desperate to convert paunch into punch, flail and fail to land one on us because, even by their own liberal criteria, they are on the wrong side of history. We ghosts are materialising and pissing in their prawn balls.

The Orphan Of Zhao runs at the RSC until March 28. Box office: 0844 800-1110.

The British East Asian Artists group is pressing for a debate with the RSC over the issue of cross-racial casting. For details, visit here.

See also here.

United Arab Emirates Internet censorship

This video is called UAE Governement Bans Online Political Dissent After Joining UN Human Rights Committee.

From the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Cairo, Egypt):

Egypt: ANHRI Calls on the UAE Authorities to Immediately Revoke the Law Which Takes All the Freedoms Away

14 November 2012

press release

Cairo — ANHRI expresses its deep concerns regarding the new law issued by the UAE, the law of combating the IT crimes.

ANHRI mentioned that the new law includes some articles which guarantee the protection to some information on the internet like the credit cards, bank accounts, any Internet payments methods, or any method used in electronic forgery but in the same time the law includes several articles that take away the freedom of expression. In addition to such, elastic provisions will allow the country to prosecute several citizens on unknown charges to send them to jail, like mixing honey with poison.

The new law includes a lot of articles that take away the freedom of opinion and expression in addition to information exchanges, such as:

Legal prosecution to whoever present electronic pictures, audio records even it is correct and punish him in addition to punishing whoever call for peaceful demonstrations or marches;

Legal prosecuting to whoever about whom the authorities say they are not subject to the law of the state or whoever violate its basic principles of the regime system in the state or whoever wants to overthrow the regime in addition to punishing whoever uses the Internet or any of its IT means to mock, damage the reputation, prestige or the state’s position or any of its foundation, president, deputy, rulers, crown princes, representatives, flag, national peace, slogan, national anthem or figures.

The legal prosecution to whoever providing false, inaccurate or misleading information to any of the organizations, institutions, bodies or any entities which could affect the interests or insults the position, reputation or the prestige of the state.

The Decree law allows the court to confiscate the equipments, programs or means used in committing any violation, close the place or the website, totally, partly or for a period of time.

ANHRI said that “the authorities’ issuance of such law which restricts all the means of freedom of expression and exchange of information in the country to find a justification to campaign of arrests of all the activists who call for democracy in the country and until now their charges are still unknown in the light of the pressure practiced on the UAE regime to reveal the places of were these activists are jailed”.

ANHRI said that this law will empower the authorities to send anyone to jail at any time without any problems due to these elastic articles. The law appears to protect the privacy and freedoms but it actually takes away all the freedoms and it is a means to send a wide number of citizens and activists who call for freedoms to jail in a legal form; but such a form is repressive.

ANHRI added that this law proves with no doubt that the UAE persistently silences the voices of the opposition which calls for freedom and democracy. It proves also that it does not have the intention to change its total control the judicial authorities. The regime also aims to politicize the judgments issued and use them as a repressive tool to serve the dictatorship regime.

ANHRI calls on the UAE to revoke such a repressive law and to be bound by the international treaties and law which the UAE has signed.

UAE cracks down on bloggers and online dissidents: here.

UAE tightens Internet law, cracks down on bloggers: here.