Bats of North Sea wind farms, new research


This video says about itself:

Male Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Bat singing

12 September 2014

At a large mixed maternity roost of Nathusius’ and Soprano pipistrelles in Northern Ireland, the males are busy trying to attract females with their songs. This boy had the cheek to sit right at the entrance to the roost so all the females had to go past him. He was a pretty loud and frantic singer so he probably got lucky.

You can see him opening his mouth as he makes each noise, but the camera could not pick up the very high-pitched sounds that he made.

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

27 February 2015

You would not expect it, but bats also fly above the sea. Researchers have now shown that in the months of September and October they may even be found regularly in offshore wind farms. Probably the bats pass the windmills when they are migrating, but the researchers also conclude that they sometimes fly there from the continent to catch insects. Nathusius’ pipistrelle was most heard around the windmills, but signals were also heard from common noctule bats.

The study took place in two wind farms off the coast of Egmond.

New research at the University of Exeter and Bat Conservation Ireland has given the lie to the popular belief that streetlights are attractive to our common bat species because of the insect life they attract. The study found that in fact bat activity was lower in street-lit areas than in dark locations with similar habitat. And, in fact, the scientists have concluded bright lights are having a detrimental effect on bats: here.

Bats obey ‘traffic rules’ when foraging for food: here.

Rare birds in Britain and Ireland update


This video from San Francisco in the USA says about itself:

23 February 2011

Several pair of American Wigeons were found at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

From Rare Bird Alert in Britain:

Thursday 26th February 2015

Lingering rarities included Harlequin Duck (Aberdeenshire), Ferruginous Duck (Gloucestershire), Black Scoter (Northumberland), Penduline Tits (Devon), Laughing Gulls (Wirral and Co Cork), Lesser Yellowlegs (Co Dublin) and King Eider (Cornwall).

The best of the rest included Dotterel and Little Bunting (Cornwall), two Cattle Egrets, two American Wigeons, three Glossy Ibises, five Rough-legged Buzzards and eight Waxwings.

Irish government whitewashing Bahrain human rights violations?


This video from the USA is called CNN – Bahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients.

From the Irish Medical Times:

Freedoms at the heart of medical education

February 18, 2015

Prof Eoin O’Brien is critical of the recent Medical Council report on RCSI-Bahrain following a recent accreditation visit, suggesting that it does Ireland an international disservice.

Education without freedom of speech is an oxymoron that I believe has just been upheld by the Irish Medical Council (IMC) and the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, on behalf of the Irish people.

With more than two million people supporting freedom of speech in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and supportive demonstrations throughout this country, it is timely to ask how authorities acting on behalf of the Irish public can be, in my view, so cavalier in granting what amounts to official approval of an oppressive regime.

And let’s be in no doubt but that Bahrain is a most oppressive regime, ranking 163rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index (Ireland ranks 16th), as a consequence of which it is off-limits to most human rights groups. In this small island about one million people are governed by a minority Sunni monarchy, which, with the economic backing of Saudi Arabia, oppresses the Shia majority who are denied the most basic of human rights.

Let us remind ourselves that what started as a peaceful protest for basic human rights in the Arab Spring of 2011 ended with more than 35 people killed and some 70 medical professionals, including 47 doctors, being arrested, with more than 150 medical workers suspended or dismissed from their jobs, and that Irish-trained surgeons and doctors Ali Al-Ekri, Bassim Dhaif, Ghassan Dhaif and his wife Zahraa Al-Sammak were among the tortured. Dr Al-Ekri remains incarcerated in a prison.

Freedom of speech

The question is this: can university education be provided in an environment that forbids freedom of speech and imprisons those who chose to exercise this fundamental democratic right? The President of the Irish Medical Council, Prof Freddie Wood, who until recently was a member of the Council of RCSI and Chairman of its Finance Committee, is, I would argue, of the opinion that freedom of expression is a prerequisite of medical education.

In a recent lecture, Prof Wood used a quote from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we start to remain silent about the things that matter.” The President went on to illustrate the righteous adherence of the IMC to such a principle: “All the international research shows that doctors who have issues at medical school are likely to continue with bad practices throughout their professional lives. If we can work to standardise the training experience for all doctors so that it is consistently high, we can make sure a reference for good practice is there throughout a doctor’s career.” Likewise, the National University of Ireland (NUI) (which awards degrees in Bahrain) is emphatic in emphasising the importance of freedom of speech in university education.

Dr Maurice Manning, the Chancellor of NUI, chaired a committee in 2013 that drafted a guiding document entitled Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland and its Member Institutions.

It should be noted that the RCSI, as a member institute, should be subject to the principles enumerated in this document, among which are: “The National University of Ireland and its member institutions have a special responsibility to ensure that… the human rights of their students, staff and associates are fully respected, regardless of the country where they are located. This includes but is not limited to freedoms that are necessary for the good functioning of a university, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination.”

It goes on to emphasise that the NUI and its member institutions must ensure that none of their activities, including partnerships they undertake with institutions in different countries, are seen as providing support for the violation of human rights.

How, one has to ask, can these Irish institutions on the one hand emphasis such laudable principles about the educational environment of medical students, and, on the other, countenance granting accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain and its associated hospitals, where torture and imprisonment of medical staff, not to say anything about suppression of freedom of speech, has been openly documented and repeatedly emphasised by medical and legal authorities?

Educators in Bahrain have also had difficulty reconciling the principles of education with the repression of basic human rights. The former President of RCSI-Bahrain, Prof Tom Collins, resigned his position because by remaining in office effectively amounted to complicity with suppressive policies of the Bahraini authorities — a resultant compromising of the very essence of higher education.

The ‘rape’ of Bahrain

Dr Mike Diboll, a former Academic Head of Continuing Professional Development at Bahrain Teachers College, University of Bahrain, and a faculty member of the University of Bahrain, who “witnessed the toxic effects of institutionalised sectarianism, the suppression of academic freedom and the violation of civil and human rights at the University of Bahrain”, has stated that: “The rape of Bahrain Polytechnic provides yet more evidence — as if more were needed — as to why no respectable international higher education institution, professional body, or accreditation agency should have anything whatsoever to do with Bahrain until fundamental social and political change has happened there.”

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the recent announcement by the Medical Council to grant accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain has appalled many doctors, who see grave implications that extend far beyond the shores of the islands of Bahrain and Ireland.

IMC Report

The IMC Report on Accreditation Inspection of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Bahrain Medical School, which took place on October 13 and 14, 2014, makes, in my view, disturbing reading, not so much for the recommendations it makes, but for the facts it chooses to omit in reaching its conclusions. I am not going to concern myself with the make-up of the visiting team, but rather concentrate on their failure to make any meaningful reference to human rights and the freedom of expression — issues that cannot be ignored in the context of approving a third-level institution that purports to educate doctors to practise in multicultural environments.

The only mention of human rights in the 40-page document (apart from four documents listed as ‘Background Reading’) is reference to a review document from RCSI-Bahrain that apparently “commits RCSI-B to expressing its declared ethos, including commitment to dignity and freedom for all, though the content and process of its teaching”.

The report goes on: “A stand-alone module on human rights has been introduced, with assessment explicitly linked to student progress.”

It could be argued that the report reflects an unsuitable position taken towards the institute under inspection, rather than expressing its findings in a dispassionate and factual manner. For example, from the outset the “noble purpose” of RCSI is acknowledged, whereby it enhances “human health through endeavour, innovation and collaboration in education, research and service”.

The report repeatedly “commends” RCSI-Bahrain, examples being for the sports facilities available on campus and on the range of clubs and societies available to students, the “Careers Office, which provides guidance, support and advice” and the “calibre of the administrative staff met on the accreditation inspection”.

These are important considerations in any university where fundamental existential conditions, such as academic freedom, meritocratic decision-making, freedom of association and freedom of expression are assumed, which is not necessarily the case in Bahrain.

The report deems the clinical facilities to be acceptable, not by a rigorous assessment of the hospitals, interviewing past pupils, patients and independent reports, but instead by relying on the ability of current students to speak out and exercise their freedom of speech, which has hitherto been so assiduously denied them.

There is then the time given to the IMC visit — two working days to visit and interview personnel at the RCSI-Bahrain Medical School, the King Hamad University Hospital, and the Bahrain Defence Forces Hospital, and to assess the clinical facilities.

The report suggests an important contradiction, which needs to be reconciled, namely that while it was disappointing that the Team had been unable “to meet with a greater number of students, they found that students were aware of the purpose of the meeting and had reasonable opportunity to opt-in”. Why did so few students attend, then, if they were aware of the meeting?

The final conclusion of this flawed report is that: “The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Bahrain’s six-year Medical Programme should be approved for a period of five years under the terms of Section 88(2)(a)(i)(I) of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.”

This recommendation is based on the fact that RCSI-Bahrain provided “an appropriate, comprehensive and pedagogically-sound education programme, which is carefully designed to meet defined educational outcomes and is based on the well established programme at the parent institution in Dublin”.

Does this imply that the visiting team from Ireland believed that the same democratic principles that pertain in Dublin also operate in the educational environment in Bahrain?

This is not too surprising, of course, seeing that it would appear they did not interview or visit any of the people involved in upholding human rights in that country.

Rather, the IMC team has chosen to concentrate on issues of technical competence rather than the relevance of ethical principles in decision making — a dangerous course as the Irish people well know, having had to pay for this dichotomy in the failure of banking regulation in this country.

Human rights

So what is the state of human rights in Bahrain today? Two examples will suffice. First, the IMC visit took place just after the women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer had been arrested and detained for tweeting criticism of the IMC-approved King Hamad University Hospital; she is now considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Second, my friend Nabeel Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East division’s advisory committee, is presently facing six months in prison — a sentence he is appealing — for issuing a tweet that offended the Bahraini authorities, which has warned that anyone who “offends by any method of expression the National Assembly or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies” will be sentenced to jail.

Allow me to speculate. Were the IMC delegation, who were selected for proven abilities and experience, aware of all this background, did they choose to ignore it, were they denied enquiry into the educational environment, did they in fact probe the issue, or did they see it as outside their remit — or none of the above? Only the IMC can say which, if any, of these explanations is correct.

Whatever the answer, as things stand at present, the IMC and the Minister of Education and Skills have done nothing to address the abuse of human rights in Bahrain, and have allowed it to continue by sanctioning an Irish educational institution in that island.

Perhaps, more importantly, they may be jeopardising the reputation of Irish higher education both at home and abroad in terms of its pursuit for and profession of truth.

Ireland has a proud tradition internationally in medicine by virtue of medical missionary work, its contributions to scientific medicine and the reputation for clinical excellence acquired over many years by dedicated doctors and nurses working at home and abroad.

The Minister has a responsibility not to see this reputation squandered. She has a further responsibility, which is that she must be assured that the IMC is acting in accord with the requirements of the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), which the IMC is mandated to support. These standards stress that the locations for clinical tuition should be safe, and that academic freedom must be upheld so that there is “appropriate freedom of expression [and] freedom of inquiry” for both staff and students.

If the Minister upholds the decision of the IMC, which I believe conflicts with human rights standards in Ireland, then this issue may well be open to challenge.

While we in the US ate chocolates and celebrated love, Bahrain commemorated another occasion. This year, Feb. 14 marks the fourth anniversary of the most recent revolution. Unfortunately, the repression continues, and this Valentine’s Day is marked by more forceful responses to continuing protests, complete with tear gas, sound bombs and police violence against demonstrators: here.

Bahrain initiates criminal investigation into online content of opposition party: here.

Northern Ireland child abuse and secret service MI5


This video about Northern Ireland says about itself:

BBC News & The Today Programme 6 August 2014

The Kincora Boys’ Home was a children’s home in Belfast, Northern Ireland that was the scene of a notorious child sex abuse scandal.

The Belfast News Letter reported that files on Kincora were “conspicuously absent” from the routine January 2013 release of 1982 government papers by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) under the 30-year rule.

In July 2014 former soldier Colin Wallace said that any new investigation into the abuse at the home should have access to information from intelligence agencies. Wallace said that he received intelligence in 1973 that boys at the home were being abused, but some of his superior officers refused to pass on information. He also said that the Terry and Hughes inquiries did not examine evidence relating to the intelligence services.

In August 2014 a former intelligence officer, Brian Gemmell, said that he also had been ordered to stop investigating allegations of abuse at the home. He said that he learned details of what happened in the home while gathering information on loyalists. He was told he was running two agents who had close links to the home. As well as telling him not to investigate, the senior officer told him to stop running an agent. He had spoken out anonymously before, but dropped his anonymity because he wanted the allegations to be investigated again. (Wikipedia)

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Kincora scandal: Abuse victim seeks Judicial Review over MI5 link to Belfast boys’ home

A former resident of the notorious institution says local inquiry lacks the legal clout to expose the extent of cover-up

James Hanning

Sunday 15 February 2015

A victim of abuse at a notorious boys’ home in Northern Ireland will seek this week to challenge the conduct of Whitehall’s ill-fated investigation into child abuse.

A former resident at the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast, supported by other victims, is applying for judicial review into the decision to exclude the home from the London-based inquiry, now chaired by Justice Lowell Goddard from New Zealand. At stake is whether current and former members of MI5 can be forced to give evidence.

Widespread allegations of abuse of residents – including claims that abuse was covered up and allowed to continue unchecked for years because police and the British security services were using the home to blackmail people – are the subject of a separate inquiry in Northern Ireland, the Historical and Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, led by Sir Anthony Hart.

Critics of the HIA claim it lacks sufficient powers to get to the heart of the scandal, and want Kincora to be investigated by the Goddard inquiry. On Tuesday at the High Court in Belfast, lawyers representing a Kincora victim, Gary Hoy, will challenge the decision by the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, to leave the Kincora investigation under the control of the HIA. The lawyers want the decision judicially reviewed. The Government confirmed last week that it will oppose the application.

Campaigners say Kincora should be removed from the HIA and included in the Goddard inquiry because of the purported links with London of some of those who abused boys, and because, they say, the HIA will not be able to compel witnesses to attend nor insist on seeing sensitive civil service documents.

Kincora has long cast a shadow over both Northern Ireland and MI5. In 1981, three men were imprisoned for between four and six years for a number of offences relating to systematic sexual abuse of children over a period of years. Previously, a number of whistleblowers had attempted to call a halt to the abuse, but it continued unabated, giving rise to claims that staff were being protected by the security services. Last year, former MI5 officer Bryan Gemmell told The Independent on Sunday that he had expressed concern but was told by his boss in MI5 to keep his nose out of Kincora. He also said that he had been asked by the same person if he thought a known Protestant terrorist might be susceptible to being blackmailed over his homosexuality “because they had film of him”.

Former army press officer Colin Wallace also sought to raise the alarm, but went unheeded.

One Kincora victim, Clint Massey, told The IoS recently: “In those days [the 1970s], there were loads of people over from London. I have always assumed they were senior figures from Whitehall. I certainly heard English accents…. I strongly believe it was an entrapment operation [for the security services]. They hoped to get a handle on the people who visited, to get them to work for them and inform for them.”

Last week, Mr Massey gave evidence to the Police Ombudsman, who is investigating the failure of successive police inquiries to get to the truth. Yesterday he said: “The HIA inquiry needs to be able to summon the senior civil servants. When Whitehall says jump, they jump. But if it’s based here in Northern Ireland, it won’t have the authority.” This view was backed by the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee on Friday.

HIA inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart has sought to reassure critics that his inquiry has sufficient powers. It has sought details of all Kincora-related files held by all UK government departments and agencies. It has secured extra funding and claims that witnesses who co-operate with the inquiry will be immune from prosecution, including offences under the Official Secrets Act.

However, victims’ solicitor Kevin Winters says: “This case has to be taken by the Goddard inquiry, because the applicants and many others believe there was a cover-up. It has never been properly investigated, and the sense of there having been a cover-up is compounded by a very real perception the Banbridge inquiry is not fit for purpose.

“The HIA is not a statutory inquiry and doesn’t have the necessary powers. It is true it can seek to be given those powers, but that would take primary legislation, and we can’t know how quickly that would happen or how effective.

“In the absence of a proper inquisitorial inquiry, this case must be taken on by the Goddard inquiry.

A VICTIM of child abuse at a notorious Belfast boys’ home today won the right to challenge the British government’s refusal to hold an inquiry into the crimes committed there here.

Child abuse cover-up in interests of ‘national security’: here.

Dolphins in Ireland, video


This 10 February 2015 video is about a pod of common dolphins near Cork, Ireland.