British government spied on historians Hobsbawm and Hill


This video from Britain says about itself:

2 October 2012

Historian Prof Eric Hobsbawm is interviewed by Simon Schama about his work and his extraordinary life. With archive clips from Eric’s previous TV and radio appearances.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

MI5 spied on Hobsbawm

Saturday 25th October 2014

MI5 spent years keeping Marxist historians Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill under surveillance, according to newly released government documents.

Files released by the National Archives at Kew in west London yesterday reveal that MI5 closely monitored both academics for years, opening their mail, tapping their phones and scrutinising their contacts.

The files on Hobsbawm show how he fell foul of the authorities during his time as a sergeant in the Army Education Corps during the second world war, when his tendency to leave left-wing literature lying around saw him marked out as a “bad influence.

“We know that Hobsbawm has been continually in touch with prominent communists and with party headquarters and there is no doubt that he is a keen and very active party member,” one report from 1942 noted.

Saving hen harriers in Britain


This video from Britain is called Hen Harrier Facing Extinction; BBC Inside Out.

From Wildlife Extra:

RSPB take action to protect Hen Harriers

Hen Harriers continue to be under threat in the UK

In a European Union-supported project, the RSPB are working toward creating a safe and sustainable future for the endangered Hen Harrier in the UK.

The organisation’s five-year programme, named the Hen Harrier Life+ Project, will focus on direct conservation action as well as community engagement and raising awareness among the public about the plight of the bird of prey.

The project will focus on seven sites in northern England, and southern and eastern Scotland that have been designated as Hen Harrier nesting sites under the European Union Birds Directive.

These are areas where the birds frequently come into conflict with humans. In northern England, and in southern, central and eastern Scotland where land is managed for Red Grouse hunting, Hen Harriers are frequently shot in spite of being legally protected.

Their persecution by humans is a long-running story, and in 1900 the birds became extinct on the British mainland. Although they have been making a comeback in the British Isles, their population still has a long road to recovery.

Between 2004 and 2010, the National Hen Harrier Survey recorded an 18 per cent decline in the UK Hen Harrier population. By 2013 the birds had experienced their worst breeding season in England for decades, failing to rear chicks anywhere in the country. But in 2014 things began to look up for the birds in Britain; at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, 46 young fledged from 12 nests. However the birds fared less well in England where there were four Hen Harrier nests, but due to natural deaths and unexplained disappearances of three birds that were satellite-tagged, only nine of the 16 chicks that fledged are thought to still be alive.

Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project will be working with landowners and the shooting community to raise awareness about the birds in order to ensure their future. It will also link up with and support the work of PAWS Raptor Group ‘Heads Up for Hen Harriers’ project, which includes the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, and conservation and landowning interests.

Blánaid Denman, Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project manager, explains: “The project is not about RSPB fixing things on our own but about bringing together a whole conservation community, from organisations to individuals, working together to secure a future for hen harriers in our uplands.”

As well as working with volunteers and other organisations in order to actively monitor the birds in the wild, the project is also working with gamekeeping students, professional gamekeepers, and landowners.

Defra, the RSPB and other stakeholders are currently working on drafting an emergency recovery plan for Hen Harriers in England. Although the final plan is still to be agreed, the initial draft received widespread support from the shooting community.

Bahraini torture prince investigated by British police?


This video about London, England is called Bahraini Prince Nasser loses diplomatic immunity over protester torture claims.

By James M. Dorsey, Senior fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore:

Bahrain rattled by UK court’s opening of door to investigation of torture allegations

Posted: 10/21/2014 7:00 am EDT

A failed effort by a public relations company representing Bahrain and a UK law firm acting on behalf of Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guard and head of its National Olympic Committee, to micromanage media coverage of this month’s lifting of the prince’s immunity by a British court reflects mounting unease in the island state and international sporting associations. The court decision opens the door to a British police investigation into whether or not Prince Nasser was involved in the torture of political detainees that could include three former players for the Bahraini national soccer team.

The five-day long effort by UK-based Bell-Yard Communications Ltd and London law firm Schillings was aimed at forcing this writer as well as The Huffington Post to adopt Bahrain’s narrow and partial interpretation of the court decision. That interpretation involved an inaccurate assertion that no investigation into whether or not Prince Nasser had been involved in torture of detainees could emerge from the court decision, that immunity had not been part of the grounds on which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had initially refused to investigate, and that soccer players had not[h]ing to do with the investigation.

The lawyers and PR representatives appeared particularly concerned about the assertion that the investigation could involve soccer players presumably because of the implications that could have for Prince Nasser’s Olympic status as well as that of a relative of his, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency, the prince’s number two at the Bahrain Olympic Committee and the island state’s Supreme Council for Youth and Sport.

The UK High Court lifted Prince Nasser‘s immunity in a case initiated by several Bahrainis who alleged that they were tortured in the aftermath of a popular uprising in Bahrain in 2011 that was brutally squashed by Saudi-backed security forces. The Bahrainis went to court after the CPS had refused to issue an arrest warrant for the prince on the grounds that his status in Bahrain granted him immunity in the UK. The prosecution said further that evidence submitted had been insufficient to justify an investigation. Because Prince Nasser was not a party to the proceedings, he had no opportunity to respond to the allegations in court.

The lawyers and PR representatives sought to have removed any reference in this writer’s article to a potential investigation or that immunity had played a role in the CPS’s thinking despite the fact that the prosecution in a statement to the court agreed to the lifting of Prince Nasser’s immunity in expectation that the Bahraini plaintiffs would submit further evidence. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said after the court hearing that the ruling opened the door to an investigation and that they would be providing additional evidence.

This writer corrected after publication a factual error in the original story. The story originally reported that an investigation had been opened rather than that the court ruling opened the door to an enquiry.

Nonetheless, in attempting to prevent fair and honest reporting, the lawyers and PR agents contradicted themselves. The attempt to force deletions that would have substantially altered the core of the story occurred despite the fact that Bell’s Melanie Riley had provided to this writer the statement of the prosecution to the court.

The prosecution said in the statement that “in the light of the Claimant’s intention to submit further evidence to the police (who are responsible for investigating the allegations), the Crown Prosecution Service has agreed to state to the police its view that immunity should not be a bar to any such investigation on the evidence currently available.”

Bahraini concern that the possible fallout of the court decision could affect not only Prince Nasser but also Sheikh Salman was evident in an email from Ms. Riley assertion that “there is no relevance to the AFC of yesterday’s proceedings.”

Sheikh Salman, according to information submitted to the prosecution, headed a committee established in 2011 by a decree by Prince Nasser to take measures against those guilty of insulting Bahrain and its leadership. Prince Nasser formed the committee after an earlier royal decree had declared a state of emergency. The royal decree allowed the Bahrain military to crackdown on the protests and establish military courts, according to the information provided to the prosecutor.

Sheikh Salman, a former soccer player who also serves as head of the Bahrain Football Association, is running next year in AFC presidential elections, which if he wins would give him an automatic seat on the executive committee of world soccer body FIFA.

The prosecutor was further furnished with a publicly available video clip in which Prince Nasser called for the punishment on television of those including athletes who participated in anti-government demonstrations. More than 150 athletes and sports officials, including the three national soccer players, were arrested or dismissed from their jobs at the time. Many have since been reinstated.

The failed Bahraini effort to micromanage reporting of Prince Nasser’s case, involving insinuations that this writer’s report was defamatory and demands that their unsolicited correspondence to a US publisher not be reported on, reflects greater sensitivity to image and reputation of Gulf states that also include the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, who stand accused of violations of human and labour rights. All three states have been put to varying degrees under the magnifying glass because of their hosting of major events, including the 2022 World Cup, the 2020 World Expo, Formula-1 races and ambitions to host similar events like the Olympic Games as well as their association with prominent educational and cultural institutions such as New York University and the Guggenheim Museum.

The various states have used different strategies to counter allegations of violations of human and labour rights. While Qatar has by and large engaged with its critics, Bahrain and the UAE have sought to prevent negative reporting by barring critical journalists and academics from entering their country.

Qatar, despite its engagement with human rights groups and trade unions, has not been immune to such tactics. Saleem Ali, a former visiting fellow at the Qatar-funded Brookings Doha Center, told The New York Times that he was advised during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government. At the same time, Qatar has sought to win hearts and minds in the United States with the establishment of Al Jazeera America, part of its global television network, and the expansion in the US of its belN sports television franchise.

Qatar’s strategy backfired when Britain’s Channel Four disclosed that the Gulf state had hired Portland Communications founded by Tony Allen, a former adviser to Tony Blair when he was prime minister, to create a soccer blog that wrongly claimed to be “truly independent” and represent “a random bunch of football fans, determined to spark debate,” but in fact served to attack its detractors.

For its part, the UAE has spent lavishly on public relations engaging, according to The Intercept, a US firm to demonize Qatar because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. The UAE is also suspected of supporting a network of Norway and France-based human rights groups that sought to project the Emirates as a champion of human rights despite crackdowns that have involved political trials denounced by international human rights groups and derided Qatar’s record.

Disclosing the UAE’s efforts to shape reporting in the US media, The Intercept noted that “the point here is not that Qatar is innocent of supporting extremists… The point is that this coordinated media attack on Qatar – using highly paid former U.S. officials and their media allies – is simply a weapon used by the Emirates, Israel, the Saudis and others to advance their agendas.”

Bahrain: The verdict on Nabeel Rajab‘s trial expected on October 29: here.