Britain, Afghanistan, torture, and cover-ups


This video is called UN finds ‘systematic’ torture in Afghanistan.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Torture case highlights dangers of ‘Kafka’ law

Friday 23 November 2012

A government admission that it has secret information relating to its handover of suspects to Afghan security forces would not have come to light if the Kafka-esque Justice and Security Bill was already law, it was claimed today.

Lawyers for Defence Secretary Philip Hammond revealed the existence of the unknown material in a case brought by Serdar Mohammed, who is currently in a Kabul jail and alleges he was tortured after being handed to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) by British forces.

“The Secretary of State for Defence has received new information that will require consideration by him and reassessment of his position in relation to this case,” James Eadie QC told a High Court adjournment hearing on Thursday.

Mr Eadie argued for the full hearing of the case, scheduled for next Thursday, to be put back to an unspecified date.

Dinah Rose QC, appearing for Mr Mohammed, objected saying that her client was currently in jail in Kabul having been convicted on the basis of a confession allegedly obtained under torture.

However the hearing was adjourned while issues relating to the new information are considered.

Mr Eadie said that a public interest immunity certificate would be needed to keep the material confidential as there could be no secret court hearing to consider the “closed material.”

This was a reference to the controversial Bill currently going through Parliament which would allow secret court hearings in cases involving “national security.”

The case is significant because it is currently holding up attempts by the government to allow British troops in Afghanistan to pass prisoners into local hands.

Lawyers for the Defence Secretary, who had previously agreed to a moratorium on such transfers following Mohammed’s allegations in 2010, decided last month (October) that it was safe to resume.

But the High Court ruled that the Mohammed case should be heard before consideration was given to the ban being lifted.

Mr Mohammed’s legal representatives argue that Asadullah Khalid, the head of the NDS, is known to be personally involved in the torture of detainees and accuse the British government of failing to question assurances he gave.

Leigh Day & Co‘s Richard Stein, who represents Mohammed, said Thursday’s hearing illustrated the negative impact the Justice and Security Bill would have on open justice if it becomes law.

“If the Bill had been law today the Defence Secretary’s application for an adjournment would have been heard in secret, and it is likely that the adjournment would have been granted without the claimants ever knowing why,” he explained.

Britain: A Labour peer stunned the Lords on Thursday by suggesting nuclear weapons be dropped on troubled borders such as the one between Afghanistan and Pakistan: here.

Whales’ synchronised swimming when endangered


This video is called Long-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas).

From Phys.org:

Pilot whales use synchronised swimming when they sense danger

November 23, 2012

An international team of scientists have observed the behaviour of various groups of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar and Cape Breton in Canada belonging to the Globicephala melas species, which are also known as long-finned pilot whales. These results show that these whales use synchronised swimming when they identify the presence of an external threat.

There are 300 pilot whales inhabiting the Straight of Gibraltar. Here these cetaceans remain throughout the entire year in the water of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. But, little is known about their social structure. Headed by the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom) in collaboration with the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) and Conservation, Information and Study on Cetaceans (CIRCE) group, the study analysed the patterns of association between individuals within this whale community. The aim was to provide a long-term vision of their social system. “The important point is that we compared two different populations: one inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar which is exposed to predators (boats in this case) and another with an ecotype where there are not so many boats (Cape Breton in Canada). The pilot whales are social species and we were interested in seeing how mothers teach their young, for example. We observed that they use synchronised swimming when in danger,” as explained to SINC Renaud de Stephanis, researcher of the Biological Station of Doñana and coauthor of the study published in the journal Behavioural Processes. Between 1999 and 2006 the scientists gathered samples in an area of 23,004 km in the Strait of Gibraltar and took 4,887 images of the dorsal fins of whales to compare them with those in Canada.

“They swim in complete synchrony both in the Strait of Gibraltar and Canada. When sea traffic or whale watching vessels are nearby, the whole group collectively reacts to such external stimuli. When we arrived at the watching area they were swimming at their normal rhythm but after 10 or 15 minutes near to them, the mothers and their young began to swim in a synchronised manner in alert position. This is a sign of affiliation to the group,” adds the expert. According to the researcher, these cetaceans also have a social structure formed by permanent partnerships. This means that they spend their life with the same whales and they do not interchange between different groups, as in the case of bottlenose dolphins. Thanks to the study we now know that the presence of vessels also disturbs diving behaviour. “As such, when we began observing the whales up close, they tended to spend quite some time on the surface. However, the longer we spent nearby, the longer they stayed under water. This behavioural change could affect their energy levels, since they then have to make more of an effort to protect themselves and their young. In turn this limits hunting time, which means that they cannot feed their young properly,” concludes the researcher.

More information: Valeria Senigaglia, Renaud de Stephanis, Phillippe Verborgh, David Lusseau. “The role of synchronized swimming as affiliative and anti-predatory behavior in long-finned pilot whalesBehavioural Processes 91 (2012) 8-14.

Kingfisher and ice, photo


petrel41:

A very beautiful photo, showing the origin of the Dutch name for kingfisher: ijsvogel, ice bird. They don’t really like ice, as it blocks the way to food :)

Originally posted on The Bio Infos:

 

I got another amazing photograph from an unknown source..but it is mesmerizing :)

View original

New grass species in the Netherlands


Gaudinia fragilis

The Dutch botanists of FLORON report a grass species, new for the Netherlands, from the Biesbosch nature reserve.

It is Gaudinia fragilis. This originally south European species does not have a Dutch name yet. A name in English for it is French oat grass.

Before 1960, this plant had already been seen in the Netherlands a few times, but it did not establish itself then yet. Now, it has clearly become established.

Suriname abolishes Saint Nicholas festival


This is a video from the USA, criticizing the role of “Zwarte Piet” in Dutch Saint Nicholas celebrations.

From Starnieuws in Suriname:

22 November 2012

Sinterklaas celebration in Suriname is out of the question. The festival has a racist element, the “Zwarte Pieten”.

the blackface helpers of the bishop Saint Nicholas, according to nineteenth century Dutch tradition. Reminiscent of slavery in Suriname, a Dutch plantation colony then.

This festival does not belong in Suriname and should be abolished. Ronald Venetiaan (New Front / NPS) mentioned this issue emphatically in the National Assembly today.

New Front is the main opposition in the parliament in Suriname. The government parties agreed with him.

After Suriname had become independent, in the 1980s, the Sinterklaas celebration had already been abolished once, but it had returned later.

For more about objections to celebrating Sinterklaas, see here. And here. And here.

The Hague, the Netherlands: Racism at Pro-Black Pete Demonstration: here.

Dutch racists threaten singer Anouk in Zwarte Piet discussion: here.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Amsterdam on Saturday to protest against the continuing presence of Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, in Christmas celebrations: here.

USA: Fanning the controversy that has been batted around cable news this holiday season, Bill O’Reilly agreed with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that Santa Claus is, in fact, white: here.