Australian bereaved families react to flight MH17 disaster


Flight MH17

By Peter Byrne in Australia:

Australia: Two significant reactions to the MH17 tragedy

31 July 2014

Two Australian families of those killed in the MH17 disaster have made statements that stand out in stark contrast to much of the commentary in the corporate media. They differ sharply from the Australian government’s agenda of exploiting the tragedy as part of the US-led campaign against Russia and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Queensland couple, Roger and Jill Guard were killed in the MH17 crash along with 296 others. Roger Guard headed the pathology department at Toowoomba Base Hospital. He had worked in the public health system for 40 years. Jill Guard, also a doctor, worked in general practice. They were on their way home from a two-month European holiday.

The Guard family posted an online tribute describing Roger Guard as a dedicated professional then continued: “Away from work, he was an avid reader and was incredibly knowledgeable in geography, history and science. He was interested in knowing how the world works, and fascinated by the endless complexity of nature. He challenged his kids to be curious and inquisitive and to find out facts for ourselves rather than accepting assertions without evidence. He was a scientist to the core.”

Writing about his mother, Paul Guard said: “Jill was also a dedicated doctor who worked in general practice for many years. She worked for most of her career at the Family Planning Clinic in Toowoomba specialising in women’s health. She also committed herself to multiple worthy causes including Meals On Wheels, assisting Sudanese refugees in Toowoomba and sponsoring children through World Vision. She was a talented musician and played the cello, piano and recorder … She cared for a number of people in need over her years in Toowoomba, and provided emotional and practical support for many more. She was truly selfless and consistently put her family and friends’ needs above her own.”

These accounts of the lives and outlook of his parents go some way to explaining the tone and content of the interview given by their son, Paul, one of their three children, to ABC News 24.

Paul Guard was composed and determined to make some important points. Following general questions about his parents, he was asked what message he had for the Australian government and all world leaders.

He replied: “In terms of finding out who’s responsible for this, I believe that the party responsible for the death of my parents, all those children on the plane, all of those people in the prime of their lives, is not just Vladimir Putin, it’s not just the Russian military, it’s not the Ukrainian government or the separatist rebels or even the person who pressed the button on the missile launcher—I believe it’s the conflict itself.

“If the conflict wasn’t happening there, that plane would not have been shot down.”

He then called on world leaders, including the Australian government, to find a way to halt the conflict “if you want justice for the victims and the victims’ families.”

Three siblings, Mo aged 12, Evie aged 10 and Otis aged 8 were travelling with their grandfather Nick Norris, from Amsterdam to their home in Perth on flight MH17. The parents of the three children, Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris had stayed for a few extra days holiday planning to catch a later flight. Last week they published a message addressed to “the soldiers in the Ukraine, the politicians, the media, our friends and family.”

“Our pain is intense and relentless. We live in a hell beyond hell. Our babies are not here with us—we need to live with this act of horror, every day and every moment for the rest of our lives.

“No one deserves what we are going through. Not even the people who shot our whole family out of the sky. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other. This is a revelation that gives us some comfort.”

Then, in an implicit condemnation of any attempts to use the tragedy for militarist purposes, they continued: “We would ask everyone to remember this when you are making any decisions that affect us and the other victims of this horror.”

Both the Guard and Maslin families have expressed widely held antiwar sentiments, fundamentally at odds with the bloodlust continually promoted by the political establishment and mass media.

New Brazilian frog discovery, name honours escaped slaves


This video is the film Quilombo, on the history of slavery in Brazil, and slaves’ resistance to it.

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of frog named after slaves

A tiny new species of narrow-mouthed frog from the Microhylidae family has been discovered in the Atlantic Forest of the Espírito Santo State, southeastern Brazil.

Measuring just 14mm, the new species has been name[d] Chiasmocleis quilombola after the quilombos communities typical of the Espírito Santo State in Brazil, where the frogs were collected.

Quilombola communities are descended from slaves who dared to escape during colonial Portuguese rule in Brazil between 1530 and 1815 and find a refuge in the depths of the Atlantic Forest.

Even today in the north of Espírito Santo State quilombola communities still remain and maintain alive their traditions, such as quilombola food and craftwork.

Chiasmocleis quilombola occupy coastal areas north of Espírito Santo State, a region that is under strong human pressure, therefore the species may face imminent threat of habitat loss.

The discovery was made by scientists from two US universities, the University of Richmond in Virginia and The George Washington University in Washington DC.

See also here.

The scientific description of the new species is here.

Alaska grizzly bears on webcams


This video is called Battle Of The Giant Alaskan Grizzlies.

From eNature.com in the USA:

Watch Live As Grizzlies Catch Salmon

Salmon are running in Alaska and Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park may be the best place to watch local bears gorge themselves on fresh caught salmon.

Explore.org has a number of webcams on the scene and you can almost always observe a bear or two (or three or four!) in action.

British government treats Bahraini human rights defender as a criminal


This video says about itself:

Bahraini Activist Nabeel Rajab: Why I Am Taking My Family to Pearl Roundabout

12 February 2012

After attempting yesterday to march with a few hundred people to Freedom Square, only to be blocked by scores of riot police, today Nabeel Rajab decided to try another approach. He set out with only his immediate family — his wife and two children, with a few supporters nearby — to walk to Pearl (Lulu) Roundabout. Before the family had walked more than a few meters, they were attacked with tear gas. Listen as Nabeel explains what he is trying to accomplish with this simple walk.

After the British government had David Miranda, partner of investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, arrested as a ‘terrorist’ at Heathrow airport, as revenge for help in exposing massive spying on millions of people

From the Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

31 July, 2014

Bahrain: Harassment of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab at Heathrow Airport

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express their concern over the harassment and ill-treatment of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and his family at the hands of the authorities at Heathrow Airport.

On 24 July 2014, Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR and director of GCHR, arrived with his wife and two children (12 and 16 years old) at Heathrow International Airport from Bahrain on a personal visit to see friends and undergo medical checkups in the UK. To their surprise, they were held for approximately five hours at a temporary detention center at the airport as they were waiting for the immigration authorities to process their entry papers. Their luggage was thoroughly searched and their fingerprints and photos were taken. They felt that they were treated “like criminals”. Rajab was allowed one phone call only and had to be escorted by a policeman when going to the rest room. Additionally, he was interrogated about his sentence and imprisonment in Bahrain, which was the apparent reason for this treatment. Later, they were informed that they would be allowed to enter the country; however, their passports were held for investigation and they were told that they will be notified in two weeks (by August 7, 2014) whether they will be allowed to stay in the UK for three weeks as they had planned. Rajab’s visa was issued via the UK embassy in Bahrain a few days before his trip and no issues were brought to his attention at that time.

Rajab was imprisoned in Bahrain for two years between July 2012 and May 2014 for exercising his right to freedom of assembly by participating in and calling for peaceful protests, in the Capital Manama, in defense of people’s rights in Bahrain.

He was considered a prisoner of conscience by several human rights bodies including the UK based Amnesty International[[1], and his detention was considered arbitrary by the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.[[2]

In June 2014, the UK embassy in Bahrain held his passport for over 16 days after he submitted it to apply for a UK visa, despite the fact that the normal visa procedure does not take more than 5 days. The embassy also delayed handing back the passport after he asked for it even if without a visa. Eventually he was handed back the passport with a visa that was issued then canceled. As a result of this delay, the embassy effectively managed to hinder the human rights defender’s planned activities to travel to the UN human rights council (HRC) 26th session in Geneva, as a meeting organized between Rajab and the OHCHR was cancelled after initial postponement, and his participation in several planned events on the side of the UN HRC, which were announced publicly were also cancelled, due to the fact that he was not able to travel while his passport was held at the embassy.

In stark contrast to the treatment received by the human rights defender Nabil Rajab, Nasser Bin Hamad, son of the king of Bahrain, received a royal reception from the British government, despite the torture charges against him in court of law when he visited the kingdom in May 2014[3].

Since his release, Rajab has been vocal in criticizing the position of the UK government towards the Bahraini people’s struggle for rights and democracy which he has described as “the worst in the world”. He compared it to its position towards the popular struggle in South Africa against racial discrimination policies. The UK government calls for democracy and human rights in some countries while it turns a blind eye to the violations and abuses in its ally Bahrain, and continues to target Bahrain for arms deals despite ongoing reports of brutal attacks on protesters[4].  Earlier this month, BCHR and GCHR have joined 29 organizations in sending a letter to the newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain.

The BCHR and GCHR believe that the leading human rights defender and his family have received this unacceptable treatment and harassment merely because of his work in the field of Human Rights, and hold the UK authorities responsible for this violation of his freedom of movement. It is extremely unacceptable that Rajab continues to be harassed and treated as a criminal by Bahrain’s ally on top of his unfair imprisonment due to the criminalization of freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain.

The BCHR and GCHR call on British government to change its interest-driven policy towards Bahrain and stand up for the principle of protecting human rights worldwide without discrimination.

The BCHR and GCHR demand that the British governmentto:

  1. Stop harassing Bahraini human rights defenders and activists,
  2. Cease any further harassments or restrictions to Rajab’s freedom of movement.
  3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain and all countries are able to conduct their human rights work without fear of reprisals.

The BCHR and GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attentiontoArticle 6 (c) which states that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

Nabeel Rajab Interview: Bahrain ‘Bought British Government’s Silence’ Over Human Rights Violations: here.

Bahrain Torture Survivor Isa Alaali Granted Bail Following Detention in the UK for Over Five Months: here.

Bahrain: Trade unions and the struggle for democracy: here.

Bahrain: Photographer Hussian Hubail Denied Medical Care for Heart Condition: here.

BCHR: Hold Bahraini Royal Family Member Accountable In The Alba Corruption Case: here.

U.S. allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, along with Syria, are using malicious email and Facebook messages to track and entrap journalists, dissidents and campaigners, who face jail and torture if identified and arrested, according to a new study: here.

Good green turtle news from Ascension island


This video is called Hawaii Green Sea Turtle Eating.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife reaps huge benefits from Ascension Island’s new conservation legislation

The remote UK overseas territory of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, has achieved remarkable results in conserving its green turtle populations.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department report that the number of green turtles nesting has increased by more than 500 per cent since records began in the 1970s.

As many as 24,000 nests are now estimated to be laid on the island’s main beaches every year, making it the second largest nesting colony for this species in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a paper in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

Lead author Dr Sam Weber said: “The increase has been dramatic. Whereas in the 1970s and 80s you would have been lucky to find 30 turtles on the island’s main nesting beach on any night, in 2013 we had more than 400 females nesting in a single evening.”

The Ascension Island’s government has announced that it is committing a fifth of the territory’s land area to biodiversity conservation.

New legislation enacted by the island’s governor, Mark Capes, has created seven new nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that include the island’s three main turtle nesting beaches, along with globally important seabird colonies that are home to more than 800,000 nesting seabirds.

The legislation was developed as a result of a two-year project run by the Ascension Island Government and the University of Exeter to develop a national biodiversity action plan for the territory.

Dr Nicola Weber, Ascension Island Government’s Head of Conservation, said: “The decision to give legal protection to our most iconic wildlife sites follows extensive public consultation and has received a high level of support from across of the community.

“It speaks volumes as to how seriously environmental stewardship is currently taken on the Island”.

Dr Annette Broderick, who is leading the project for the University of Exeter and who has been researching sea turtles on Ascension Island for the past 15 years, said: “Green turtles were an important source of food for those on the island and passing ships would take live turtles onboard to ensure fresh meat for their voyage.

“Ships returning to the UK would stock up with turtles for the Lords of the Admiralty, who had a penchant for turtle soup.

“Records show a dramatic decline in the number of turtles harvested each year as fewer and fewer came to nest and since the 1950s no turtles have been harvested.

“We are now seeing the population bounce back, although our models suggest we have not yet reached pre-harvest levels.”

Turtles were legally protected on Ascension Island in 1944 and the population began its slow climb back.

“Because sea turtles take so long to reach breeding age, we are only now beginning to see the results of conservation measures introduced decades ago,” said Dr Weber.

“It just goes to show how populations of large, marine animals can recover from human exploitation if we protect them over long enough periods.”

See also here. And here.

This video is called Conservation on Ascension.