Very many starlings, video

This video shows thousands of starlings. At the end of the afternoon, they go to their resting places in bushes in the Netherlands.

Tom van Kerkhoff made this video.

Bahrain dictatorship attacks women’s rights

Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, of the Women's Petition Committee in Bahrain

From the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT):

Bahrain: Sentencing and continuing judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer

November 30, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing and continuing judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, Head of the Women’s Petition Committee, an organisation which campaigns for the rights and dignity of women in the Shari’ah family courts.

According to information received, on November 26, 2015, the High Criminal Appeal Court upheld the one year sentence, suspended for three years, issued against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer on charges of “assaulting a police officer” (see background information). The Court refused all the requests of the defense lawyers, which included the testimony of Ministry of Interior officials and a forensic examination of whether Ms. Jamsheer could have kicked the police officer as alleged.

The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and the continuous judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning her human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against her.

Background information:

Over the past years, Ms. Jamsheer has come under permanent surveillance with a 24-hour presence of plainclothes Public Security officials of the Ministry of the Interior in front of her home.

On September 14, 2014, Ms. Jamsheer was arrested and arbitrarily detained for more than three months on allegations of defamation, in connection with messages posted via her Twitter account criticising corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain, which is run by members of the ruling family. Various charges were brought against Ms. Jamsheer based on the above-mentioned Twitter posts resulting in twelve criminal cases.

Hearings in a total of 12 criminal cases against Ms. Jamsheer have been regularly adjourned without any reason, in violation of Ms. Jamsheer’s right to be tried within a reasonable time.

On October 29, 2014, the Third Criminal Court acquitted Ms. Jamsheer in one case, fined her 100 BHD (approx. €210) in another case, and granted bail upon the payment of 50 BHD pending the decision on the other Twitter cases. However, Ms. Jamsheer had to wait until November 27 to be released, and was again rearrested only 12 hours later on new charges of “assaulting two police women”. She was again released on December 15, 2014, and further put under house arrest until January 15, 2015.

On May 5, 2015, the Bahrain High Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jamsheer to a one year prison term, suspended for three years on charges of “assaulting a police officer”.

On June 9, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jamsheer to one year and eight months imprisonment on charges of defamation in connection with messages posted via her Twitter account criticising alleged corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain. Ms. Jamsheer paid a bail of 400 BHD (approx 1,200 USD) and filed an appeal.

Besides, on October 1, 2015, the Second Lower Criminal Court held its first hearing against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer on charges of “verbal and physical confrontation with a police woman”. The Court then adjourned the hearing to November 11, 2015. On that day, Ms. Jamsheer’s lawyers requested the Court to present evidence and witnesses, and the court adjourned the hearing to December 28, 2015. The Prosecution alleges that Ms. Jamsheer assaulted a police officer while she was detained in September 2014.

In the present, separate case, for allegedly “assaulting a police officer”, for which she has been sentenced in first instance to one year in prison suspended for three years, the High Criminal Court of Appeal had refused on October 29 the requests filed by Ms. Jamsheer and adjourned the hearing to November 23 for the verdict. The ruling was eventually issued on November 26.

The Observatory recalls that on December 29, 2014, UN experts urged the government of Bahrain to drop charges against Ms. Jamsheer, as she was sentenced “purely for [her] criticism of government authorities. […] Such criticism is not only fully legitimate according to Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law; it is also essential to the free and public debate necessary for a healthy civil society” they added.

Furthermore, Ms. Jamsheer has faced other acts of harassment. For instance, on March 14, 2015, Ms. Jamsheer was denied the right to board on a plane at Bahrain International Airport by the airport’s security office as she attempted to travel to France to receive medical treatment. Ms. Jamsheer, who did not receive any prior notification, was not given any reason for the travel ban. On March 23, 2015, Ms. Jamsheer complained to the Public Prosecutor’s office regarding the travel ban and was informed that she should submit a travel request to the High Criminal Court. The Court reviewed her request on April 12, 2015 and decided to waive the travel ban, stating that there was no solid reason for such a restriction. Nonetheless, on April 15, 2015, the office of the Public Prosecutor was still unable to provide Ms. Jamsheer with a formal authorisation to travel, stating that the file was now in the hands of the immigration office.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer;

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Guarantee Ms. Ghada Jamsheer’s freedom of movement;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its :

– Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

– Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”,

– as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. Ensure in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.


  • Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
  • Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: 00973 17 21 05 75;
  • Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
  • Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email:
  • H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email:
  • H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Avenue Louise 250, 1050 Brussels, Belgium; Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail:

Bahraini Women Call for Elimination of State Violence Against Women: here.

Red squirrel prepares for winter, video

This video from the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

1 December 2015

13-year-old Niklas Haverkate filmed this red squirrel, looking between the autumnal foliage for food for his winter stock.

Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald murdered, police boss fired

This video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

25 November 2015

The murder of Laquan McDonald was covered up by Chicago police. Here’s what happened.

By Kim Bellware, Reporter, The Huffington Post in the USA today:

Chicago Mayor Fires City Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy

The officer has faced harsh criticism in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

Posted: 12/01/2015 11:59 AM EST | Edited: 8 minutes ago

CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department‘s top cop has been fired.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference Tuesday that he had fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy. The 56-year-old has faced harsh criticism for his handling of the high-profile shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times in 2014 by a Chicago police officer.

Last Tuesday, McCarthy and Emanuel appeared in a joint press conference ahead of release of the damming dashcam footage that both the department and the mayor’s office had tried to keep from going public. The video shows the officer, Jason Van Dyke, shooting the teen in the middle of the street as he walks away from police.

Emanuel’s hand-picked McCarthy as the city’s top cop in 2011.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.

Chicago demonstration, AFP photo

This is a photo of a demonstration in Chicago against the killing of Laquan McDonald. The sign alludes to the racist organisation K[u] K[lux] K[lan].

Police chief’s resignation spurs demands that Chicago cops’ secret facility be closed: here.

Thailand military dictatorship bans New York Times, again

New York Times, uncensored

First, a military junta overthrew a democratically elected government in Thailand.

Then, the military dictatorship censored the Internet.

Then, the military dictatorship banned George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Then, the military dictatorship banned the New York Times.

Now, the military dictatorship has banned the New York Times again.

New York Times, as censored in Thailand

See NOS TV in the Netherlands today.

Or see Voz Is Neias today:

Bangkok – The printer of the International New York Times in Thailand refused to print an article portraying a gloomy outlook for the country, leaving in its place a large blank space at the center of Tuesday’s front page.

The printing company called the story too “sensitive” but declined to specify the offending material.

The article, titled “Thai spirits sagging with the economy” in the paper’s other Asian editions, described a moribund economy, pessimism after years of political turmoil and concern about the royal succession. The military took power in a May 2014 coup, and elections that were promised have been put off until at least 2017.

Discussion of the monarchy has always been a delicate matter in Thailand, where strict laws limit frank discussion of the royal family. But freedom of speech has been constricted even further under the military government, prompting many publications and reporters to self-censor to avoid offending the junta.

In place of the article was a two-line note that said: “The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal.”

“It’s sensitive,” said the official, who declined to give her name for that reason. …

Beyond highlighting a general sour mood among Thais, the article touches on the eventual succession of the ailing 87-year-old king. Insulting the monarchy is punishable by three to 15 years in prison.

Another blank space appeared on page 6, where the rest of the article was to run. However, the article was still available online to readers in Thailand.

This is the second time in three months that the newspaper’s local printer has blocked publication of a piece about Thailand. The printer decided not to publish the entire Sept. 22 edition because it contained an article about the future of the Thai monarchy that it also called “too sensitive to print.”

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The New York Times, said it was notified about the printer’s decision, but that the newspaper played no role in it.

Murphy said there have been rare instances in other countries where printers have chosen not to publish stories because they were deemed too sensitive. “We understand the pressures local publishers sometimes face, but we regret any censorship of our journalism,” she wrote in an email.

The newspaper, known until 2013 as the International Herald Tribune, announced recently that it was ceasing printing and distributing its print edition in Thailand as of year-end. In a letter to subscribers, it attributed the decision to rising operating costs.

The junta, which has curbed dissent through intimidation and detentions, also has said that defense of the monarchy is its priority, and has vigorously pursued prosecutions under the law. Over the past year, there has been a significant increase in convictions.

In a 41-page report on Thailand issued last month, the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders noted that due to censorship, threats and harassment of the media and increasing use of repressive laws, the country “is now seen as one of the region’s most authoritarian regimes as regards journalists and freedom of information.”

BirdLife at Paris climate conference

This 1 December 2015 from France says about itself:

The first of our ’60 Second COP’ videos – Bertille from our [BirdLife] French Partner LPO (who’s been working on their ‘Un arbre pour le climat‘ initiative ahead of COP) was among our LPO/BirdLife team who welcomed Francois Hollande to our COP stand earlier. She tells us a little about what he said and why, as a Parisian, it is important COP has come to her city.

More BirdLife reports on the COP21 conference in Paris are here.

New film Blackface on Dutch Saint Nicholas holiday

This video is the new film Blackface; about the Dutch Saint Nicholas holiday, and the role of the blackface character Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in it, as seen by an African American.

The video says about itself:

30 November 2015

‘Blackface’: Dutch holiday tradition or racism?

You know the story. Every December jolly St. Nicholas visits the children of the land — accompanied by his servant, Black Peter, a goofy, singing, candy-giving Renaissance-clad figure in blackface, giant red lips and a curly wig.

What? That doesn’t ring a bell?

It would if you lived in the Netherlands, where the visit of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet on December 5 — the eve of St. Nicholas’ birthday — is a longstanding tradition. But it’s a tradition that’s been called into question in recent years, including by Roger Ross Williams, the director of the short film “Blackface,” which looks into the character and his past.

“It was shocking to me. The arguments of the Dutch is that it’s a children’s holiday and that it’s a tradition,” says Williams, an African-American whose short film “Music by Prudence” won an Oscar for short subject in 2010. Many don’t see the racist aspects of the character, he adds.

When he announced his documentary, he was insulted online, told to “eat a banana, black monkey” and other epithets. He hasn’t been alone in raising hackles; his film shows one black protester being hauled away from a crowd welcoming Zwarte Piet because, in the protester’s words, “I made them feel so uncomfortable that they had to get the cops.”

The issue of racism is a complex one in the famously liberal Netherlands. (Indeed, its liberalism was a huge attraction for Williams, a gay man who is married to a white Dutchman and now lives in Amsterdam.) The country profited greatly from the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries; one of the roles of the Dutch West India Co. was to transport slaves from Africa to the Americas. The Dutch didn’t ban slavery in its territories until 1863, though it was illegal in the Netherlands.

Dutch blackface tradition debated

Though the story of Zwarte Piet is said to date back hundreds of years, it was popularized in a 19th-century children’s book. The character is Sinterklaas’ Moorish helper, and his arrival from Spain with Sinterklaas — who rides a white horse — has become a yearly celebration, complete with Sinterklaas’ boat pulling into a Dutch harbor and a welcoming parade. Children and adults dress up as Zwarte Piet at parties.

“It’s just tradition. It has nothing to do with racism,” says Ronald Livius, a commodities trader who grew up in the southern Netherlands and now lives in Switzerland. A former Atlanta resident, he says that the Surinamese members of the Atlanta Holland Club who played Zwarte Piet had “absolutely no issue doing so.”

Williams, the filmmaker, dismisses this as “Dutch innocence.”

“They’ll say that Black Pete is not blackface, but you’re literally blacking up your face … and (adding) hoop earrings and an Afro wig,” he says. “It’s pretty obvious to us, but it’s like a whole country in denial.”

There has been some reconsideration of Zwarte Piet. There’s a Facebook page in opposition, and some fans have tried to recast his blackface as chimney soot.

Still, resistance has been strong. A U.N. committee asked the Netherlands to get rid of the character, but the Dutch government “dismissed” its request, The New York Times reported in August.

The right-wing party of Geert Wilders, one of the country’s most popular politicians, proposed a “Black Peter Law” last year that would ensure the character would remain as he is.

And when Emily Raboteau, an American who spent a holiday season in Amsterdam, tried to explain to locals why she had issues with Zwarte Piet, they ignored her.

“You’re being racist,” she said her Dutch neighbors told her. “We love him.”

“I was arguing with a wall,” she wrote in an essay for Virginia Quarterly Review.

For his part, Williams has been asked why he doesn’t focus on race problems in America. He says he has, but that’s not the point — he lives in the Netherlands now.

“This is something that’s upsetting and disturbing to me, and I’m not going to look the other way,” he says. “I can’t look the other way.”

About film maker Roger Ross Williams on 30 November 2015 to Dutch RTL TV (translated):

The US American documentary filmmaker Roger Williams received death threats since he announced he was making a documentary about Zwarte Piet. “I got an e-mail that I would get a bullet in my back and I had better watch out,” he told the RTL Late Night show.

It was the most violent of thousands of hate mails he received. In his documentary ‘Blackface’, broadcast by CNN, Williams takes a clear stand against Zwarte Piet as an outright racist phenomenon.

‘Nerve hit’

The attention he received since then was overwhelming. “I’ve hit a nerve, I believe.”

Williams, who lives in the Netherlands, says he does not understand how many Dutch people just do not see the problem. “People say to me that it is a harmless children’s festival, and then next they say that, being a black monkey, I should keep my mouth shut.”