British taxpayers pay covering up Blair-Libya scandal

This 23 September 2014 British TV video says about itself:

Tony Blair is a crusader‘ says John Prescott | Channel 4 News

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott calls his ex boss Tony Blair a ‘crusader‘ because of Blair’s recent calls to send troops back into Iraq.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Government spent ‘astronomical’ sum covering up Blair-Gaddafi links

THE government’s legal battle against a dissident and his wife over their rendition to Libya after a tip-off from MI6 cost more than £11 million in public funds.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj was kidnapped and tortured by Muammar Gadaffi’s forces after he was returned to the regime with then pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar in 2004.

The couple were kidnapped and rendered to Libya through a joint MI6-CIA operation linked to former Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s infamous “deal in the desert” with the brutal dictator.

They fought a long battle with the government for compensation, admission of guilt and prosecution.

Last summer, PM Theresa May issued an apology and accepted Britain had shared information with the regime, contributing to their rendition.

That legal battle cost taxpayers more than £11,400,000, as revealed in response to a freedom of information request to the government’s legal department.

The sum included nearly £4.5 million in government legal costs and almost £7m paid to the pair’s lawyers.

Mr Belhaj sued the government, former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, Sir Mark Allen.

He always insisted he would drop his case for an apology, an admission of liability by ministers and a nominal sum of £3 — £1 from each of the defendants.

Katie Taylor, deputy director of human rights group Reprieve, which represented the couple, said: “Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar were willing to settle for an apology all along, but rather than admit Britain’s role in their rendition, the government resisted coming clean for years — at astronomical cost to the taxpayer.

“This failed cover-up shows the need for a judge-led inquiry into British complicity in torture.”

THE former and completely discredited prime minister Blair, who took the UK into a war with Iraq that was based on lies and brought ISIS into the world, was yesterday issuing more threats as he urged Labour supporters who ‘can no longer vote for the party’ to vote for one which ‘unequivocally’ backs Remain: here.

Tilos orchids, birds and sea

This video is about Tilos island, Dodecanese, Greece.

After 19 April 2019, we woke up the next day, 20 April, in Megalo Chorio, Tilos island.

In the morning, a singing nightingale.

We climbed the steep village alleys up to a Greek Orthodox church.

Heart, 20 April 2019

One of the houses has a heart shape in its front gate.

A Sardinian warbler singing.

A dark phase Eleonora´s falcon flying past.

We take the bus to Agios Antonios harbour hamlet. Inhabited in the summer season. Now still deserted.

Waves, 20 April 2019

It is windy, causing waves to break on the rocky coast.

Pier, 20 April 2019

On the pier, this old boat and this crooked lamppost.

Agios Antonios, 20 April 2019

The deserted Agios Antonios hamlet is quiet, but the sea and the wind are not.

We walk along the mountain path from Agios Antonios back to Megalo Chorio.

Holy orchid, 20 April 2019

Along the path, beautiful flowers. They are holy orchids. Most not yet flowering. But the one on this photo is.

Common poppies. Barley.

Pyramidal orchids, 20 April 2019

Then, another orchid species. Pyramidal orchids.

A house martin flies past. Then, barn swallows.

Then, a much bigger bird. A long-legged buzzard.

This 15 June 2017 video is called Long-legged buzzard in flight (Buteo rufinus) Αετογερακίνα – Cyprus.

Flowers, 20 April 2019

More beautiful flowers yet before we reached Megalo Chorio.

Trump’s aggressive anti-Latin American policies

This 12 January 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Donald Trump’s Comments On Immigrants: They’re Rapists. They All Have AIDS | Velshi & Ruhle

From comments on Mexican and Haitian immigrants, to firing back at Reporter April Ryan about the CBC, MSNBC’s Ari Velshi looks back a Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants, minorities.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US imperialism resurrects the Monroe Doctrine

24 April 2019

“Today, we proudly proclaim for all to hear: the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well,” US national security advisor John Bolton declared last week in Florida.

This was only one of an increasing number of public invocations by Trump administration officials of this nearly two-century-old canon of Washington’s foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere.

Bolton’s audience consisted of a gathering to mark the 58th anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, an abortive attempt mounted by the CIA using Cuban counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Bolton absurdly compared the participants in this filthy operation, one of the all-time greatest fiascos in the history of US foreign policy, to “the brave men of Bunker Hill … and Normandy.”

The Monroe Doctrine was written in 1823 by John Quincy Adams, one of the most prominent opponents of slavery and of the war against Mexico in 1846, which he denounced as a war to expand the slave system. When it was first announced by President James Monroe in 1823, it was directed against any attempt by the reactionary monarchical powers of Europe to recolonize the newly independent republics of Latin America.

The definition of the doctrine underwent profound changes, however, with the rise of US imperialism at the turn of the century. This was consolidated by means of stripping Spain of its remaining colonies in the Americas, while ruthlessly repressing the revolutionary strivings of the peoples of those colonies, particularly in Cuba, and imposing semi-colonial US domination that deprived them of any genuine independence.

The so-called “Big Stick” corollary introduced under President Teddy Roosevelt in 1904 set the essential parameters of the doctrine for the next century, setting the stage for some 50 direct US military interventions. It arrogated to US imperialism “international police power” throughout the hemisphere, i.e., the use of force to overturn governments that conflicted with the interests of US banks and corporations, replacing them with the likes of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and that of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the Monroe Doctrine became inextricably linked to a hemispheric “national security” regime and anti-communism directed at maintaining Latin America as a US sphere of influence and crushing the revolutionary movement of the Latin American working class. The result was the imposition of fascist-military dictatorships throughout much of South and Central America, which murdered, tortured and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of workers, students and other opponents of US domination and military rule.

Given this bloody and criminal history, US administrations in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union referred less and less to the Monroe Doctrine as an operative policy in Latin America. John Kerry, the US secretary of state under the Obama administration, went so far as to declare in a speech to the Organization of American States in 2013 that “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over”, and to claim, improbably, that Washington was forswearing further interventions and now viewed the lands to its south as its equals.

Now, however, the bloodstained doctrine has been resurrected with a vengeance, first in relation to the cynical regime change operation surrounding the self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó in Venezuela, and now with the dramatic escalation of Washington’s illegal and unilateral extra-territorial sanctions against Cuba.

In the first instance, the Trump administration continues to impose crippling sanctions that have deepened poverty and hunger in Venezuela, while insisting that “all options are on the table,” threatening direct military intervention under conditions in which the ploy of declaring Guaidó, a right-wing US-financed political non-entity, as the sole “legitimate” government of Venezuela has failed to spark the military coup that Washington had hoped for.

“It’s for [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro to worry about what the United States is capable of,” Bolton declared in an interview on the PBS television Newshour last week, “and it’s also to make it clear, we value the protection of the 40 to 45,000 American citizens in Venezuela. We don’t want to see any harm come to them.”

The protection of American citizens against supposed “harm” was the pretext for the last two major US military invasions in the hemisphere: in Grenada in 1983 and in Panama in 1989.

Bolton repeated his declaration that the Monroe Doctrine was “alive and well,” adding that its purpose was to “throw a shield around the hemisphere” and to create “the first completely free hemisphere in human history.”

Free from what, one might well ask. The short answer is free from any impediment to the US energy conglomerates’ exploitation of Venezuelan oil; free from competition for trade and resources on the part of China, Russia and the European Union and free from any challenge from below to the domination of US imperialism and its allies in the national bourgeoisie of the various Latin American countries.

It most certainly does not spell freedom for the working class in Latin America. The attitude of the Trump administration toward these workers is exposed every single day in the relentless hounding of immigrants on the US southern border, who have been hunted down by fascist-minded immigration agents, thrown into concentration camps and had their children ripped from their arms.

As for Cuba, Bolton and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the unprecedented action last week of activating what amounts to the “nuclear option” in the Helms-Burton Act, legislation which codified the US blockade against the island nation. Title Three in the act, which allows US companies and citizens to sue in US courts to recover property lost in the expropriations that followed the 1959 Cuban Revolution, had been waived by successive administrations, both Democratic and Republican alike, since it was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996.

The action, now in force, exposes foreign companies operating in Cuba—European, Chinese and Canadian—to potential lawsuits involving billions of dollars, with the threat that their assets in the US could be seized or that they could be barred from US markets.

The resurrection of the Monroe Doctrine is bound up with the preparations for a new world war. US imperialism is determined to assert its hegemony over not only Venezuela, but also Iran, the Middle East and Central Asia in order to establish its unchallenged control over all of the world’s energy reserves, giving it the ability to deny access to its principal global rival, China.

At the same time, the revival of the discredited doctrine, reviled throughout Latin America, is the response of a US imperialism in decline, confronting the fact that in its “own backyard”, it has been replaced by China as the principal source of foreign investment. China has overtaken the European Union as the second largest trading partner of Latin America, and it is Brazil, Peru and Chile’s leading trade partner.

There is, of course, a domestic component to the waving of the sullied flag of the Monroe Doctrine. It is inseparably linked with the Trump administration’s attempt to wage a fascistic campaign against “socialism,” … the centerpiece of its 2020 reelection drive. Ominously, in his address to the right-wing Cuban exiles connected to the Bay of Pigs, a milieu that produced terrorists and assassins involved in many of the crimes of US imperialism in the 20th century, Bolton declared: “We will need your help in the days ahead. We must all reject the forces of communism and socialism in this hemisphere—and in this country.”

The struggle against the attempts of the US ruling elite to promote a fascistic movement against the growth of socialist opposition within the working class finds its most immediate ally in the battle of Latin American workers against their right-wing governments like that of the fascistic former army captain Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the right-wing multimillionaire Mauricio Macri in Argentina and Lenin Moreno, who proved his allegiance to imperialism by throwing open the doors of Ecuador’s embassy in London to a British police snatch squad acting on behalf of Washington’s demands for the rendition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

As the recent strike wave of Mexican workers in Matamoros demonstrated so powerfully, the working class, objectively joined in a common process of production across national boundaries by the exploitative operations of transnational banks and corporations, can find a way forward only through the conscious unification of the US and Latin American working class in struggle to defeat their common enemies, US imperialism and the region’s national ruling oligarchies.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced “a new era in the relationship” between the US and Latin America on Friday at the second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He repeated this same theme at each stop of his Latin America tour last week, which also included Ecuador, Mexico and El Salvador. Pompeo demanded greater censorship and spying, and a closer alignment with Washington’s drive against its geopolitical rivals in South America. He also called for the Mexican and Salvadoran governments to step up their anti-immigrant measures: here.

Trump to Britain, big protests prepared

This video from Britain says about itself:

Maz Saleem, UK peace activist. Stop the War coalition Speaker at Trump Not Welcome manifestation [in Brussels, Belgium].

19 May 2017

At the end of May, Donald Trump, president of the United States, comes to Belgium to attend the NATO summit. These past months, Trump caused outrage all over the world: dividing and excluding people, denying climate change, intimidating the media, phasing out solidarity, …

We stand united in saying ‘No!’ to Trump, his policy and his European counterparts. Join us at the protest march Wednesday 24 May at 5 PM in Brussels.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Campaigners vow to ‘flood the capital with protesters’ during Trump‘s state visit

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to launch huge protests following the announcement today that US President Donald Trump will make a state visit to Britain.

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Mr Trump and his wife Melania will visit the Queen in a three-day trip from June 3.

The Stop Trump coalition promised to “flood the capital with hundreds of thousands of protesters” as part of a Together Against Trump demonstration.

Stop Trump Coalition spokeswoman Shaista Aziz said: “This demonstration isn’t just about Trump as one man.

“He is a symbol of the new far right, a politics of Islamophobia and anti-semitism, of war and conflict, and walls and fences that are growing around the world.

“We are fighting against the British government’s own disgraceful ‘hostile environment’ policies, as well as Trump’s border wall.

“It is time for everyone who opposes this politics of hate and bigotry to stand up and be counted.”

Huge protests were mobilised on July 13 [last] year when Mr Trump’s state visit was downgraded to a working visit in the face of widespread opposition.

The demonstration saw 250,000 people march in London and tens of thousands in 50 towns and cities across the country.

Campaigners predict the upcoming action will see big numbers given that the mobilisation is taking place against the backdrop of the school climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion action.

Stand Up To Trump spokeswoman Sabby Dhalu said: “Donald Trump is the world’s number one racist, warmonger and misogynist, with no solution to the global economic crisis.

His presidency has emboldened every fascist and racist across the globe and is stirring up tension in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

“A formal state visit to Britain in June must be met with widespread opposition.”

Mr Trump will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May during the trip and attend a ceremony in Portsmouth to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Ms May said: “The state visit is an opportunity to strengthen our already close relationship in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence, and to discuss how we can build on these ties in the years ahead.”

Stop the War also condemned the decision to invite Mr Trump and vowed to return to the streets in June’s protest.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: “It beggars belief that on the very same day Donald Trump is threatening to veto a UN resolution against the use of rape as a weapon of war, Theresa May is pressing ahead with her plans to honour him with a state visit to the UK.

“This is a president who has systematically assaulted all the shared values that unite our two countries and, unless Theresa May is finally going to stand up to him and object to that behaviour, she has no business wasting taxpayers’ money on all the pomp, ceremony and policing costs that will come with this visit.”

1 MILLION LONDONERS SET TO MARCH AGAINST TRUMP More than a million Londoners look set to protest Trump’s visit to the U.K., with a new poll showing that 13% of the city’s 8 million residents are “likely” to join the demonstrations. [HuffPost]

Eleonora’s falcons, red-footed falcon, orchids, other flowers

Pyramidal orchid, 19 April 2019

After the morning of 19 April 2019 on Tilos island in Greece came the afternoon. On our way from Megalo Chorio village, a Sardinian warbler on a bush. Then, we saw this pyramidal orchid.

White flowers, 19 April 2019

And these white flowers.

We arrive at a wetland with reed beds. Swallows fly low over the water to drink. This is also a favourite drinking spot for Eleonora’s falcons. Relatively many of these rare birds live on Tilos: 10% of the world population.

There comes an Eleonora’s falcon, flying above the reed bed. It is sooty brown, the dark morph of this species. One cannot tell male Eleonora’s falcons from females by their colours. Only by females being a little bigger: my guess is that this bird is a female. Both sexes may be coloured either sooty brown, or somewhat like a hobby for the light morph.

This is an October 2012 video about Eleonora’s falcons on a small island near the big Sardinia island in Italy.

Eleonora of Arborea, 19th century fantasy portraitThe name Eleonora’s falcon comes from Sardinia. It commemorates Sardinian judge Eleanor of Arborea. She was one of very few female judges in the European Middle Ages. In 1392, she banned harming nests of birds of prey. The first time ever for such a conservation measure. Eleonora’s falcons were named after her. Eleanor of Arborea also made laws giving daughters equal inheritance rights to sons; and improving the rights of raped women.

House martins, swifts flying.

Eucalypt leaves, 19 April 2019

Eucalypt trees, originally from Australia. With some leaves green, some reddish brown.

Then, a bird approaches fast. Is it a giant swift, maybe an Alpine swift? No, it is a falcon. A hobby? No, it is all dark grey. It is a male red-footed falcon. I fondly remember this species from Lesvos island.

Poppy, 19 April 2019

On our way back, we saw this common poppy.

Chamomile and oats, 19 April 2019

A bit further, we saw these wild chamomile flowers and these wilde oats.

About twenty hooded crows flying together.

A white stork on spring migration flies overhead.

As we get closer to Megalo Chorio again, a flock of house sparrows in an orchard.

Stay tuned for more on Tilos!

Bahraini regime torturers’ British training

This November 2015 video says about itself:

Human Rights Watch Accuses Bahrain Of Torturing Detainees

A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report says that security forces in Bahrain are still torturing detainees.

By Phil Miller in Britain:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Human rights campaigners warn academics not to train Bahraini police

‘Instead of training torturers, perhaps the Huddersfield University academics should focus on Bahrain’s unjust criminal justice system,’ Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy says

ACADEMICS from Britain are teaching at a police academy in the Middle East despite concerns that its officers are involved in human rights abuses.

Two Huddersfield University lecturers are visiting Bahrain’s Royal Police Academy to discuss interview techniques.

Psychologists Dr John Synnott and Dr Maria Ioannou are delivering a masters programme in security science on behalf of the university.

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy advocacy director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei told the Morning Star: “It’s really shocking to see academics from Huddersfield University equipping the Bahraini police force – which boasts a record of murdering individuals through torture without accountability – with techniques that will only empower state repression.

“Last week, 138 individuals, including children, were sentenced and revoked of their citizenship in a single trial.

“Is this the standard that Huddersfield University expects from their partner?

“Instead of training torturers on how to break victims more efficiently, perhaps academics should focus their efforts on assessing the unjust operations of the Bahraini criminal justice system.”

The Huddersfield scheme was inaugurated by the university’s chancellor Prince Andrew last April.

A spokesperson for Huddersfield University confirmed that it was working with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry, adding: “The masters programme covers subjects including investigative psychology, forensic psychology, computer science (cyber security), forensic science and criminology and includes a dissertation.

“The course is delivered at the academy by Huddersfield staff who usually spend approximately two weeks in the country teaching the students.

“The first cohort of 26 police officers graduated in March this year.”

Gouldian finches, why so colourful?

This 2017 video from Australia is called Gouldian Finch Conservation – ABC News.

From Cornell University in the USA:

Why unique finches keep their heads of many colors

An underlying selection mechanism prevents one color from dominating

April 23, 2019

There appears to be an underlying selection mechanism at work among Gouldian Finches — a mechanism that allows this species to produce and maintain individuals with red heads, black heads, and yellow heads. Research by scientists from the the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other institutions, reveals what this additional evolutionary process might be. Findings were published today in the journal Nature Communications.

“Most people have heard of natural selection,” says lead author Kang-Wook Kim at the University of Sheffield. “But ‘survival of the fittest’ cannot explain the color diversity we see in the Gouldian Finch. We demonstrate that there is another evolutionary process — balancing selection — that has maintained the black or red head color over thousands of generations.”

The yellow-headed type (actually more orange) is produced by a completely different mechanism that is not yet understood. Yellow-headed Gouldian Finches make up less than one percent of the wild population.

“Having distinct multiple color types — a polymorphism — maintained within a species for a long time is extremely rare,” explains co-author David Toews, who did this work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab and who is now at Pennsylvania State University. “Natural selection is typically thought of in a linear fashion — a mutation changes a trait which then confers some reproductive or survival advantage, which results in more offspring, and the trait eventually becomes the sole type in the population.”

Studies from Macquarie University in Australia have shown the red-headed finches have the apparent advantage. Female Gouldian Finches of all colors prefer the red-headed males, who also happen to be more dominant in the social hierarchy. So why hasn’t the black-headed type disappeared? It turns out there are disadvantages to having a red head, too, such as higher levels of stress hormones in competitive situations.

“If advantages are cancelled out by concurrent disadvantages, these two color types can be maintained — that’s balancing selection,” Toews says. “Red forms are not as common in the wild, so the counterbalancing pressure reduces the advantage of being red. That’s super cool!”

Teams from the University of Sheffield and the Cornell Lab independently zeroed in on a particular gene called follistatin which is found on the Gouldian Finch sex chromosome and regulates melanin to produce either red- or black-headed finches. Rather than competing, the two teams decided to join forces and share their data. For the yellow morph, a different gene, not located on the sex chromosome, is controlling the head pigmentation, but it hasn’t yet been found and it’s not clear what forces are allowing the yellow morph to persist in the wild.

In another twist, Toews and co-author Scott Taylor, at the University of Colorado-Boulder, have done previous research that revealed the genes likely governing the plumage differences between North American Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers — and one of those regions is in the same spot on the sex chromosome that differs among Gouldian Finches with different head colors.

“We didn’t expect we’d locate the exact genomic region that governs plumage differences in both the Gouldian Finch and the two warblers,” says Toews. “But now that we’ve done it, it opens up the possibility that the same region in other species may also be controlling plumage color.”