Homophobic Brunei sultan, British Conservative ally


This 18 April 2011 video from Britain says about itself:

Proud Day For Sultan Of Brunei At Sandhurst | [British Armed] Forces TV

The Sultan of Brunei has said he values his country’s military relationship with the UK during an address at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Sultan was there to represent the Queen during the Sovereign Parade and to see his own son commission as an officer. As he spoke to the new Second Lieutenants he said he had fond memories of his own time at college and wishes them success serving their own countries.

By Phil Miller in Britain:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

British base in homophobic Brunei criticised

BRITAIN’S military presence in the south-east Asian nation of Brunei is facing fresh criticism from campaigners after the country’s autocratic ruler passed a new law making adultery and homosexuality punishable by death.

The group ForcesWatch reacted: “Given the British military’s claims to be progressive on LGBT+ will they be taking this issue up with Brunei’s Sandhurst-trained sultan?

“We have personnel permanently based in the country … withdrawing would be a powerful bargaining chip, unless [the Ministry of Defence is] happy to prop up a brutal autocracy?”

The Sultan of Brunei has said stoning and whipping of homosexuals will come into force on Wednesday.

The British army has three military bases in Brunei at Sittang Camp, Medicina Lines and Tuker Lines, housing around 2,000 troops under an agreement signed by then prime minister David Cameron in 2015.

Many of the British soldiers are Gurkha mercenaries from Nepal, reinforced by army helicopters.

Although the troops use Brunei for jungle warfare training, critics say Britain’s presence there helps support the sultan — one of the world’s wealthiest men — who has ruled since 1967.

Brunei was a British protectorate until 1984 and Anglo-Dutch company Shell has major oil reserves in Brunei dating back to 1929.

The Ministry of Defence told the Morning Star that the new law will not affect any British LGBT soldiers stationed in Brunei as they are protected by a separate bilateral agreement.

However the Foreign Office has written to Brunei expressing concerns about the new law.

A spokesperson said: “Capital punishment goes against our national values and has been banned in the United Kingdom for decades.

“The Minister for Asia and High Commissioner have raised their concerns in person, and we have updated the travel advice to alert British citizens of the new local laws in Brunei.”

The Tory MP Penny Mordaunt, who is Minister for Women and Equalities, tweeted: “No-one should face the death penalty because of who they love.

“Brunei’s decision is barbaric and the UK stands with the LGBT+ community and those who defend their rights.

“LGBT+ rights are human rights.”

British troops are based in all these countries – but this is the Foreign Office’s travel advice:

Ellen DeGeneres Boycotts Sultan Of Brunei’s Hotels Amid Launch Of Anti-Gay Laws. Brunei implemented a law making gay sex punishable by death, so many are boycotting hotels owned by the country’s Sultan: here.

BRUNEI WON’T ENFORCE GAY DEATH PENALTY Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah extended a moratorium on the death penalty to legislation prohibiting gay sex, seeking to temper a global backlash led by celebrities such as George Clooney and Elton John. [Reuters]

Kangaroo rats against rattlesnakes


This 26 March 2019 video says about itself:

Kangaroo rat defensive kicking of rattlesnake while jumping

High speed recording of a desert kangaroo rat (Dipodomys deserti) defensively kicking away a sidewinder rattlesnake (Crotalus cerastes) in mid-air. The animals are free-ranging in their natural desert habitat at night, and filmed with high speed cameras using near-IR lights invisible to both species. The video is recorded at 500 frames per second, and playback is slowed down about 30 times. This clip shows the ability of kangaroo rats to avoid venom injection even when bitten by using a forceful mid-air kick to dislodge the snake and push it away. Scientific details of this study are published in Freymiller et al (2019, doi 10.1093/biolinnean/blz027). Find more information and additional bonus videos here.

See also here.

Heavy metal music in Syrian war


This music video says about itself:

Band: Maysaloon
Single: Warsphere
Genre: Syrian Death Metal
Country: Syria
Year: 2017

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

How loud music helps to forget the war

About 150 people gather in a small, black-painted hall in Aleppo. They wear dark clothing and do head banging to the sound of rough guitars. The concert is called ‘live under siege’, but also ‘living under siege’. Outside, the civil war in Syria is going on.

The concert is a scene in the documentary Syrian Metal is War. Filmmaker Monzer Darwish, a refugee from Syria and now ended up in Dutch Noord-Holland province, followed people from the Syrian metal scene in 2013 and 2014. At the risk of their own lives, they organized concerts during bombing and traveled along routes full of snipers and paramilitary gangs. …

This video is called Syrian Metal Is War – Extended Trailer.

Even before the civil war, metalheads in Syria did not have an easy time, says Nasrah: “With long hair and a black shirt, you were a suspect quickly. Police were watching us and sometimes people were arrested after performances.” Even people in his own environment did not understand his lifestyle, the musician says. “Do you slaughter cats ritually, people often asked, or do you worship the devil?”

Things became different in the war. Metalheads no longer had to deal with the threat of police, but with the threat of war. “During a concert, we feared not only warfare, but also suicide bombers”, says documentary maker Monzer Darwish. Every meeting was a target for ISIS fighters, especially when music was being played. “Yet often 100, 150 people were together. Metal was the last bit of pleasure for them. They were literally willing to die for the music.”

Despite the passion of fans, the Syrian metal scene has had a hard time. Many bands have lost sight of each other in the stream of refugees. Guitar player Khodor Nashrah also said: “Our bass player is still in Syria, the drummer is in Austria and I am in Lebanon.” Despite the distance, the group is still active, he says: “Through WhatsApp we send pieces of music to each other. Our drummer then tries to make songs of it. But it is very difficult.”

New music

Documentary maker Monzer Darwish still plays the guitar in the Netherlands, although less often than before. “First find a house in the Netherlands, then a job. It is difficult to spend a lot of time with music”, he says.

His hope lies mainly with the metalheads in Syria itself, which he wants to bring more attention to with his film. “They still release new music, despite everything.” Darwish follows the bands closely: in the Netherlands he listens to music that appears in Syria. “I can’t live without it,” he says. “Without that music I would never have survived the war.”

Lebanese Christian leaders, in an bid to resurrect their influence, have entered into a Faustian pact with reactionary forces, anointing the indie pop band Mashrou’ Leila as its sacrificial lamb. Mashrou’ Leila, led by an openly gay frontman, has for years pushed the limits of social commentary in the Arab world. But never before had the four-man group faced censure in their home country, until now: here.

Rainforest wildlife, video


This 29 March 2019 video says about itself:

Rainforests 101 | National Geographic

Rainforests are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species. Learn about tropical and temperate rainforests, how they contribute to the global ecosystem, and the conservation efforts being done to protect these biomes.

General election in Britain? Will Labour win?


This 29 March 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Brexit: Will Tories Risk an Election Corbyn Might Win?

A third defeat for Theresa May’s Brexit plan sets up April 12 as the drop-dead date for an unlikely agreement in Parliament, a second referendum, a hard Brexit, or a general election where Jeremy Corbyn will present a progressive vision for Brexit and the future – Leo Panitch joins Paul Jay.

The prospect of leaving the European Union has provoked the deepest crisis of rule in the post-war history of British imperialism. But the great danger is that the working class is not only being prevented from intervening in its own interests, it is being divided against itself and politically subordinated to one or the other of two right-wing pro-capitalist factions. With Prime Minister Theresa May failing three times to secure agreement in parliament for the deal struck with the EU on post-Brexit trading relations, talk of a Conservative leadership contest is now overshadowed by speculation that there might be a second snap general election, following the one held in 2017. If a new election is called, the Tories are predicted to lose power to Labour, which has a five-point lead in the opinion polls and could form a minority government. Pro-Brexit and pro-Remain Tory MPs are united in opposing such a move, fearing that it will lead to unstoppable demands for an end to austerity by the working class … There are genuine and valid reasons why workers support Brexit that do not reflect the racism and nationalism whipped up by the Brexiteer faction of the bourgeoisie, including hostility to the EU’s imposition of austerity and hope that leaving the EU can bring an end to the social devastation wrought by successive Labour and Tory governments. The same holds true for many of those who support Remain, whose opposition to Brexit does not signal an uncritical endorsement of the EU, but rather fear of the economic impact of Brexit and repugnance toward the deliberate encouragement of nationalism and demands for an end to immigration and the free movement of labour, on which many young people depend.: here.