Air pollution kills 29,000 Britons a year


This video is called In the Slow Lane: Is Britain doing enough to tackle air pollution from transport? | 17.07.2013.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Polluted air killing up to 29,000 people every year

Friday 11th April 2014

Public Health England report finds toxic particles are killings tens of thousands.

Up to 29,000 people are choking to death on polluted air every year across Britain, according to alarming new public health figures released yesterday.

Environmental campaigners responded by demanding strict policing of air pollution levels.

Researchers for Public Health England announced in the report that airborne particles of smog, dust and industrial contaminants were linked to 306,835 years of lost life nationwide — with Westminster faring worst of all.

The tiny toxic particles are known to penetrate the lungs’ spongy tissue and cross into the bloodstream, where they can cause heart and lung diseases, cancers, aggravate asthma and in some cases prove fatal.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Emilia Hanna said it was now clear that air pollution was a leading environmental health risk.

She said: “We need to see cleaner streets with less traffic congestion, more people walking and cycling to work and improved public transport.

“If we lived in cleaner cities where the air was safe to breathe these would be more pleasant places for us to spend time in, and we would live longer, healthier lives.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Blackbirds most numerous birds near British schools


This is a video about a singing blackbird from the Netherlands.

From Wildlife Extra:

Blackbird is top bird in playgrounds

April 2014: For the sixth year in a row the blackbird is the most common school playground visitor in the UK, a RSPB survey finds.

Eighty-five per cent of schools that took part in the survey in the Big Schools Birdwatch saw blackbirds, with an average of five birds seen per school, slightly down on 2013 figures.

Starlings held onto the number two spot, but carrion crows moved up two places from fifth in 2013 to third this year. Carrion crows were spotted at more than half of all schools; the average counted during the hour-long survey was four.

More than 70,000 pupils and teachers counted the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day between 20 January and 14 February. Their sightings contribute to the results of RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest wildlife survey in the world.

The bird with the most significant change in rankings compared with last year is the black-headed gull, which dropped from third to sixth place. Just 35 per cent of schools recorded black-headed gulls in 2014, contrasting with 75 per cent the previous year.

Overall, average numbers of birds spotted appear to be down this year; however experts at the charity believe this is more likely to be because of the mild weather. Availability of natural food sources in the wider countryside meant birds didn’t need to visit school grounds to feed.

James Harding-Morris, the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch Co-ordinator, said:

“It’s encouraging that so many children and teachers continue to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, especially when this winter’s mild weather meant birds didn’t turn up in the numbers they usually do. Seeing nature first-hand is the single best way to enthuse young people about it, and by watching birds from their classroom window they can learn so much about the amazing diversity of wildlife living on their doorstep.

“Finding out which birds they share their playground with always gets children excited, and through that excitement comes learning. Most importantly, it encourages them to help us give nature a home.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

British young people against nuclear weapons


This video from England is called Bruce Kent Addresses London ‘No Trident‘ Demonstration.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Post-cold war generation ‘more likely’ to oppose nuclear weapons

Tuesday 8th April 2014

Researchers find young people oppose scale of Trident programme and disagree with government claim that it is a nuclear ‘deterrent’

People who grew up after the end of the cold war are more likely to oppose nuclear weapons than their elders, researchers said yesterday.

Only 19 per cent of 18 to 35-year-olds think the Trident nuclear missile programme should be renewed at its current size and capacity compared to 33 per cent aged 36 and over.

And 47 per cent of the younger group directly disagree with government claims that nuclear weapons protect us from modern-day threats like terrorism.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Stop damaging marmoset monkeys’ brains, campaigners say


This video from South Africa is called International Primate Rescue (1 of 4): Playing with Marmosets.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Halt ‘disturbing’ medical tests on monkeys, campaigners urge

Monday 7th April 2014

Cure Parkinson’s Trust sponsors experiments pumping primate brains full of harmful drugs

Animal welfare activists have begged a British charity to stop “profoundly disturbing” experiments on monkeys’ brains for medical research into Parkinson’s disease.

Campaign organisation Animal Aid issued a statement today denouncing the Cure Parkinson’s Trust for sponsoring Canadian scientists to inject monkeys with brain-damaging drugs.

“The vast majority of the British public do not want their money being used to fund profoundly disturbing experiments on animals,” said Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler.

In papers published in the Journal of Neuroscience and Public Library of Science ONE between 2011 and 2012, the testing was described as injecting marmoset monkeys with the chemical MPTP, which mimics Parkinson’s by killing brain cells.

The animals were then given differing doses of L-Dopa — a Parkinson’s treatment drug — to monitor its side effects.

Cure Parkinson’s Trust was named in the media as a supporter of the tests.

“We are calling on charities like the Cure Parkinson’s Trust to focus solely on productive non-animal research,” added Mr Tyler.

Animal Aid argues that the recurrent use of the same animals was equally disgraceful, given that — according to the Home Office’s measurement of animal tests — the suffering induced to the marmoset monkeys was “severe.”

Mr Tyler claimed that the British public’s money was ultimately being used to torture the animals.

In Britain, as in Europe, it is illegal to re-use animals for experiments on the “severe” threshold of pain, distress or lasting harm.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tony Blair in CIA torture flights scandal


This video from the USA is called Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Boeing in CIA Torture Flight Program.

From the Daily Telegraph in England:

Tony Blair ‘knew all about CIA secret kidnap programme

Former British PM was ‘fully briefed’ on CIA’s interrogation programme after Sept 11 attacks

By Peter Foster, Washington

8:53PM BST 05 Apr 2014

Tony Blair knew in detail about the CIA’s secret kidnap and interrogation programme after the September 11 attacks and was kept informed “every step of the way” by MI6, a security source has told The Telegraph.

Mr Blair, the then prime minister, and Jack Straw, his foreign secretary, were fully briefed on CIA activities and were shown now infamous Bush administration legal opinions that declared “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding and stress positions to be legal, the source said.

“The politicians took a very active interest indeed. They wanted to know everything. The Americans passed over the legal opinions saying that this was now ‘legal’, and our politicians were aware of what was going on at the highest possible level.

“The politicians knew in detail about everything – the torture and the rendition. They could have said [to M16] ‘stop it, do not get involved’, but at no time did they,” said the source, who has direct and detailed knowledge of the transatlantic relations during that period.

The claims come as Scotland Yard continues to investigate whether MI6 officers should face criminal charges for alleged complicity in the rendition of suspected terrorists, including two Libyan Islamists who were sent back in 2004 to Tripoli, where they were tortured.

The case was opened in January 2012 after documents recovered during the Libyan revolution appeared to show that Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and other agents had been complicit in the rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who was captured by the CIA with his pregnant wife and sent back to Libya.

Among the documents was a memo apparently signed by Sir Mark congratulating the then Libyan intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa, on the “safe arrival” of Mr Belhadj.

The Telegraph understands that MI6 has been forced to hand over top secret documents from that period to police and that senior officers who served at the time have been interviewed as part of the investigation. It is not known whether Mr Straw, who intelligence sources have indicated was fully briefed on the rendition, has also been interviewed by police.

The source’s claims echo those made publicly by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, who said in a speech in 2012 that MI6’s cooperation with the CIA’s rendition programme was a “political” decision.

Tony Blair absolutely knew, Dearlove was briefing him all the time. He was meticulous about keeping the politicians informed. Whether there was anything in writing, well that is a different matter,” added the source, who said it was laughable to suggest that the approval for British security services to cooperate with the CIA programme had been authorised by Mr Straw alone.

“The understanding at SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] was it was acting in the ‘national interest’ and with clear political approval.

“SIS is not a rogue organisation. It would never do this kind of thing alone and without explicit authorisation; that is just not how it works.”

The British government has never formally admitted its role in rendition or officially apologised to victims, although it has paid out several multi-million pounds in “no fault” settlements to rendition victims and former Guantánamo Bay inmates who sued for damages.

The claims against Mr Blair come as the US Senate voted this week to declassify a summary of a 6,300-page report into the CIA’s rendition programme in a move that legal experts say will put added pressure on the British government to come clean about its role.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat chairman of the committee that conducted the research, said the “shocking” report had “uncovered the facts” behind the secret programme and could be made public within 30 days following a security review by the White House and the CIA.

As well as the continuing criminal investigation, the British government, MI6 and Mr Straw are being sued by Mr Belhadj. In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph this week, Mr Belhadj said he was determined to pursue the British government through the courts for an apology and the truth about what happened to him – and what senior figures such as Mr Blair knew about it.

“When he was sitting in the tent with the dictator Gaddafi, I was facing torture at the hands of my own country’s [intelligence] services,” Mr Belhadj said by phone from Tripoli, referring to Mr Blair’s meeting with the Libyan leader in March 2004.

Mr Blair has never confirmed what he knew about the rendition programme, but has argued that Libya played a vital role in the “war on terror”. Mr Belhadj’s case was thrown out last December by a High Court judge who acknowledged that he had a “well-founded claim”, but declined to hear it, citing British government legal arguments that it would seriously damage US-UK relations.

It was decided that English courts had no jurisdiction over events that may have taken place in other countries.

However, legal experts said that the Obama administration decision to declassify its investigation into the torture programme seriously undermines the British government’s claim that all information relating to the case must still be kept secret or be heard in secret courts that were set up last year to hear such cases.

“The fact that President Obama himself has said that this report should be released only confirms that the UK now has no leg to stand on,” said Amrit Singh, a senior lawyer with the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative.

Mr Belhadj said: “In light of the publication of this report it appears that the British legal argument that my case cannot be discussed for fear of upsetting the Americans is actually just a pretext.

“It’s going to make it clear that the British government’s attempt to cover up the abuse that my wife and I suffered are not to do with national security but are to do with avoiding national embarrassment.”

USA: While CIA torturers are protected, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou is in prison. Help get him out: here.

Nancy Pelosi blames CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” on Dick Cheney: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta