US Trump, Egyptian Sisi meet, both anti-human rights

This 2014 video is called Alaa Abd El-Fatah, Blogger & Political Activist (Egypt).

From Human Rights Watch in the USA:

Egypt: Sisi-Trump Meeting Shows Mutual Contempt for Rights

Washington — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi‘s scheduled meeting with United States President Donald Trump on April 3, 2017, comes at a time when human rights are at a nadir in Egypt and under threat in the US, Human Rights Watch said today.

Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump is the first visit by an Egyptian head of state to the White House since 2009. Al-Sisi, as defense minister, overthrew the country’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsy, in July 2013, and oversaw the brutal dispersal of opposition protests that left more than 1,150 people dead in the following weeks. Under al-Sisi’s presidency, his security forces have arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians and committed flagrant rights abuses, including torture, enforced disappearances, and likely extrajudicial executions.

“Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

Al-Sisi, who was elected in May 2014, has presided over near-total impunity for abuses by the military and security forces and the severe restrictions on civil and political rights, effectively erasing the gains of the 2011 uprising that ousted the longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

After meeting al-Sisi during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2016, Trump, then a presidential candidate, released a statement declaring his “strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.”

Since signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt has received numerous benefits from its alliance with the US, including US$1.3 billion in annual military aid since 1987, receipt of excess US military equipment, special military training, and the right to buy equipment on credit – an arrangement known as “cash flow financing” that was provided, until recently, only to Egypt and Israel.

After the military coup in 2013, the US limited several government-to-government assistance programs. But it was not until after security forces killed an estimated 817 people while dispersing a sit-in opposing Morsy’s removal in Cairo’s Rab’a al-Adawiya Square on August 14, 2013, that the administration undertook a review of military aid to Cairo and temporarily suspended the delivery of major weapons systems. The delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 Abrams tank kits resumed in 2015, and in February 2017, the US said it would restart a biennial military training exercise. US military cooperation with Egypt never ceased, and no government official or member of the security forces has been held accountable for the mass killings.

Since 2012, Congress has conditioned military aid to Egypt on taking various steps toward supporting human rights and a democratic transition to civilian government. But in every year but one, Congress has allowed the secretary of state to waive those restrictions based on US national security interests.

Since Morsy’s removal, Egyptian security forces have arrested at least 41,000 and possibly as many as 60,000 people, according to local human rights groups. Security forces arbitrarily detained many under accusations that they were members or sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement to which Morsy belonged. Courts have sentenced thousands for violating a 2013 law that effectively bans opposition protests, including leftists and other non-Islamist activists in addition to alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Among those currently detained is Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American citizen who founded the Belady Foundation for Street Children, and whose trial on allegations of human trafficking and using children in street protests has been marked by serious due process violations, including her groundless detention since May 2014.

Since March 2015, when al-Sisi appointed Magdy Abd al-Ghaffar, a veteran of the ministry’s abusive National Security Agency, as interior minister, police and National Security agents have forcibly disappeared hundreds of suspects for periods lasting from days to months. Police and National Security agents routinely use torture, often against dissidents and during enforced disappearances, to make suspects confess or divulge information, or to punish them. National Security agents have also carried out likely extrajudicial killings on several occasions documented by Human Rights Watch since 2015. Courts have convicted and sentenced only a handful of policemen for torturing detainees since 2013, and those few sentences all remain on appeal. No National Security officer has received a final conviction for abuse.

Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula have been fraught with gross abuses. In North Sinai, where an affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has established a presence, Egyptian military and Interior Ministry forces have committed torture, enforced disappearances, and likely extrajudicial killings. Military air and artillery strikes have killed scores of civilians. Between 2013 and 2015, the military wiped most of the border town of Rafah off the map under the justification of eliminating smuggling tunnels that benefited ISIS, forcing thousands of families to relocate while violating their rights to forewarning and proper compensation. Yet ISIS has continued to operate even in towns ostensibly under government control. The extremist group has killed dozens of civilians it views as government collaborators and singled out Christians for attacks and threats, driving hundreds of Christian families to flee.

Both the Sisi administration and the Egyptian parliament have taken steps to cripple the human rights organizations that document rights violations and provide assistance to abuse victims. In February 2017, security forces physically shut the offices of the 23-year-old Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, one of several dozen human rights organizations targeted in a years-long criminal investigation based on allegations that the groups illegally received foreign funding. Under a vaguely worded amendment to the penal code al-Sisi issued by decree in 2014, anyone who receives foreign funding “with the aim of pursuing acts harmful to national interests or destabilizing the general peace or the country’s independence and its unity” could face 25 years in prison. At least 20 prominent human rights defenders have been banned from leaving Egypt, and the assets of many rights defenders have been frozen. Such criminalization of foreign funding to nongovernmental human rights organizations contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In November, parliament drafted a new civil society law behind closed doors that would prohibit independent nongovernmental organizations from operating in the country by requiring that a group’s work “agree with the state’s plan, development needs and priorities.” The law criminalized a host of broadly worded activities, including conducting public surveys or field research without government approval, or conducting any work “of a political nature.” Parliament approved the law following just two days of debate but never sent it to al-Sisi for approval following widespread international criticism.

In 2015, US President Barack Obama announced that the US would resume, in the interest of national security, the delivery of major military equipment that it had placed on hold after the Rab’a massacre. But the Obama administration also announced the end of cash flow financing and introduced specific categories to guide how Egypt could use its military aid, which was not reduced.

In fiscal year 2015, Congress conditioned significant funds to Egypt, including military aid, on democracy and human rights progress. But Secretary of State John Kerry used a national security waiver to bypass those conditions. In fiscal year 2016, Congress conditioned 15 percent of military aid until the secretary of state certified progress on democracy and human rights. A national security waiver was also provided, but neither the certification nor the waiver has been exercised. Congress has not yet passed a funding bill specifying Egypt’s aid for fiscal year 2017.

Both the Sisi and Trump administrations apparently want to expand cooperation, especially on counterterrorism, despite these serious and ongoing abuses. In response, the US Congress should maintain, at a minimum, the restrictions on security assistance from previous years unless there is serious and measurable progress on human rights, such as dropping the investigation into nongovernmental organizations, repealing the law banning protests, and beginning a review of the cases of those detained arbitrarily and sentenced solely for peacefully exercising their civil or political rights. Congress should ensure that the Trump administration cannot waive these restrictions.

“Giving more money to the Sisi government is to the detriment of US and Egyptian interests,” Margon said. “Neither side in this relationship seems interested in promoting human rights, but the gross abuses being committed by Egyptian authorities should compel Congress to keep limiting support.”

General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the dictator of Egypt, will receive a red-carpet welcome at the White House today. His meeting with US President Donald Trump represents the highpoint of a five-day US visit aimed at solidifying Washington’s support for his blood-soaked regime and securing fresh financing from the World Bank and Wall Street, along with new deals with US-based transnationals looking to profit off the exploitation of Egypt’s low-paid and brutally repressed workers: here.

President Donald Trump welcomed the bloodstained military dictator of Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to the White House Monday, giving a public demonstration of support for a regime that has slaughtered thousands, crushing the revolutionary uprising of millions of workers and youth that inspired the world in 2011, and currently jails tens of thousands of political opponents and dissidents: here.

THREE FREED Three American prisoners being held in North Korea have arrived safely back in the United States, less than a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured their release. But for Americans captive in Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere, Donald Trump’s recent actions have likely made their prospects worse. [HuffPost]

Egypt’s chief prosecutor signals tightened censorship: here.


Otter back in Dutch Naardermeer nature reserve

This 2013 animation video shows how dangerous it would then be for otters, or other animals, to cross from Ankeveense Plassen to Naardermeer reserves because of traffic. There were no otters, rare in the Netherlands, in these nature reserves then.

In 2013, wildlife tunnels were built under the busy road between the two reserves. Wildlife started to use these tunnels: roe deer, red foxes, hares and others.

In 2016, for the first time an otter was seen in the Ankeveense Plassen.

And this week, for the first time, camera traps saw an otter in the Naardermeer for the first time in over fifty years. Probably, the animal had used the wildlife tunnel.

Hiroshima nuclear bomb survivors tour Britain for a global ban

Hiroshima survivors

Hiroshima bomb survivors tour Britain for a global ban: here.

American badger buries cow, video

This camera trap video from the USA says about itself:

An American badger buries a calf carcass by itself in Utah‘s Grassy Mountains, January 2016.

See also here.

Follow tiger shark Quinty’s migration on the Internet

This video says about itself:

8 May 2012

On an expedition to the Bahamas, Jonathan encounters dozens of Lemon sharks while trying to film a Tiger shark. But finally a Tiger shark arrives and you won’t believe the incredible encounter Jonathan has with this enormous, hungry animal.

Translated from The Save Our Sharks site, 29 March 2017:

For the first time people can follow a Caribbean shark via satellite

Shark “Quinty” swims 1,200 kilometers from Saba to Trinidad in four weeks

Today shark conservation campaign Save Our Sharks has launched a website where live sharks can be tracked. Last October a number of tiger sharks around the Dutch Caribbean islands were equipped with satellite transmitters to study how they use the area and where they go swimming. …

The first shark which got a transmitter this way has got the name Quinty, after [TV presenter] Quinty Trustfull … The shark can be followed at this site

The female tiger shark Quinty is 3.43 meters long, which makes her an adult lady of about 15 years. Since she was equipped on the Saba Bank with the satellite transmitter Quinty swam over 1200 kilometers south within a month. Thus she reached in early December 2016 Trinidad and Tobago, where she stayed for three months, before traveling to her current location near Barbados. During this trip she swam through the waters of 13 different countries.

British, Spanish conservative Gibraltar sabre rattling

This video says about itself:

The War of Jenkins’ Ear was a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that lasted from 1739 to 1748, with major operations largely ended by 1742. Its unusual name, coined by Thomas Carlyle in 1858, relates to Robert Jenkins, captain of a British merchant ship, who exhibited his severed ear in Parliament following the boarding of his vessel by Spanish coast guards in 1731. This affair and a number of similar incidents sparked a war against the Spanish Empire, ostensibly to encourage the Spanish not to renege on the lucrative asiento contract (permission to sell slaves in Spanish America).

One might think, now it is the 21st century, not the 18th. Robert Jenkins died long ago. Spain does not have American colonies any more, so British slave traders can no longer sell African slaves to them. The British and the Spanish governments are European Union allies (for as long as the Brexit negotiations have not been concluded). They are both in the NATO military alliance. The British Tory government party and the Spanish Partido Popular are conservative sister parties.

Yet, in 2013 both governments did military sabre rattling against each other about Gibraltar.

In 2016, British Royal Navy warships were ‘sent to Gibraltar to protect it from Spain’ during Brexit negotiations.

And today, from Reuters:

A former leader of [Prime Minister Theresa] May‘s Conservative party, Michael Howard, said she [May] would even be prepared to go to war to defend the territory, as then prime minister Margaret Thatcher did with Argentina over the Falkland Islands 35 years ago. …

“Thirty-five years ago this week another woman Prime Minister sent a task force halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country,” he said on Sky TV’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday. “I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar.”

The opposition Labour party said such “inflammatory” comments would not help Britain get what it needed from the Brexit negotiations. “Sadly it’s typical of the botched Tory approach which threatens a bad deal for Britain,” the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said.

Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis refused to talk about veto rights when it comes to Gibraltar in an interview on Sunday, but said he viewed the EU’s stance very positively.

“When the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the EU partner is Spain, and in the case of Gibraltar the EU is therefore obliged to take the side of Spain,” he told El Pais.

As if the British government bombing Syria and Iraq, helping the Saudi autocracy bomb Yemen; Spanish neo-colonial soldiers in Africa; and the threat of war between nuclear armed NATO and nuclear armed Russia, or China are not already bloody warmongering enough …

African honey bees help elephants and farmers

This video says about itself:

African honey bees change lives and save elephants

14 November 2015

The Elephants and Bees Project is an innovative study using an in-depth understanding of elephant behaviour to reduce damage from crop-raiding elephants using their instinctive avoidance of African honey bees. The project explores the use of novel Beehive Fences as a natural elephant deterrent creating a social and economic boost to poverty-stricken rural communities through pollination services and the sustainable harvesting of “Elephant-Friendly Honey”.

Elephants & Bees is thrilled to share this short video on the project’s amazing milestones. Get to learn how bees are bringing harmony to communities that live with wildlife.

By Lucy King from Kenya:

New Elephants and Bees Video by FFN winner Lucy King

An update from Lucy King, our Future for Nature Award winner 2013. She just released the first ever Elephant and Bees Project Video [see above] …

“The establishment of the Elephants and Bees Research Center in late 2013 on an acre of donated land from, and in the heart of, the wonderful Sagalla community just outside Tsavo East National Park has boosted our hands-on involvement in this community lead research project and enabled us to establish a more in-depth research program in the heart of this human-elephant conflict hotspot. The farmers we are collaborating with to test our novel beehive fence design are fully engaged in the research and their livelihoods are flourishing thanks to reduced elephant crop-raids, pollination services and the sustainable harvesting and sales of delicious ‘Elephant-Friendly Honey’.

Beyond our Tsavo-based Elephants and Bees Research Center, we have been supporting the establishment of beehive fence projects being initiated by new partners in both Africa and Asia. Data is slowly coming in from trial beehive fence sites in Tanzania, Botswana, Uganda and Mozambique, and this year new projects have started in Chad, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The growing interest from all over Africa and Asia has encouraged us that our holistic concept of deploying beehive fences as a sustainable human-elephant conflict reduction approach is viable for those subsistence farmers living side by side with these vulnerable and endangered pachyderms.”

Visit her website for more information.