Bird postage stamps in Lebanon

This 30 October 2018 video says about itself:

World’s birds face slaughter in skies over Lebanon

The tiny country of Lebanon is one of the most critical hubs for birds worldwide, a funnel for millions of species passing between Africa and Europe and Asia on their yearly migration routes. Story by Alison Tahmizian Meuse.

From the Migratory Soaring Birds Project site, 12 May 2019:

Lebanese president Aoun launches bird-themed postage stamps

Lebanese President Michel Aoun launched three bird-themed stamps to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, and to promote the awareness campaign he launched to protect certain migratory birds in Lebanon. The postage stamps, which were unveiled during a celebration at Baabda Palace, had drawings of migratory birds that are significant to Lebanon’s biodiversity.

Ibrahim Khader, Regional Director of Birdlife Middle East Secretariat and Assad Serhal, Director-General of SPNL (BirdLife Lebanon) presented the president with BirdLife’s trophy to thank him for promoting responsible hunting of migratory birds and for his role in nature conservation in Lebanon.

Among the attendees were First Lady Nadia Al Chami Aoun, Minister of Telecommunications Mohammad Choucair, Minister of Justice Albert Sarhan, and a number of ambassadors, government representatives, environmentalists and general directors, along with the President’s special advisor Claudine Aoun Roukoz.

“Today, we celebrate the launch of “migratory birds” postage stamps hoping to educate people about these birds in order to make Lebanon, a safe haven for them.” The president said at the event. “Despite signing the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity in 1992, Lebanon is still considered a dangerous zone in which birds lose their lives, which is no longer acceptable,” he added.

Aoun pointed out that Lebanese hunters took little notice of international and Lebanese hunting laws such as Law 580, which outlines the types of species and hunting materials that are permitted. He said “The hunting of storks, hoopoes, bee-eaters, partridges, sparrows, golden orioles and short-toed treecreepers was internationally banned” urging the Lebanese community to protect these birds during the migration season.

“Respecting the laws of nature is not a luxury,” President Aoun said. “The “human, animal and plant worlds must live in perfect harmony, otherwise there will be disastrous effects for all three, and any fault in these worlds impact negatively on the others. The desert is the best example, where there is no life for the flora and thus none for humans and none for fauna,” he continued.

1965 Lebanese bird stamps

Lebanon’s prime minister, a prisoner in Saudi Arabia?

This video says about itself:

6 November 2017

The Saudi power struggle hits the Arab world’s poorest country | News News

A Yemeni girl carries wood as a Houthi militiaman keeps watch Sunday at the site of an alleged Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa. (Yahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency/EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s apparent consolidation of power risks exacerbating an already catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting a rebel group … for more than two years. On Sunday, shortly after carrying out a purge of royal cousins and other high-ranking officials, an emboldened crown prince announced that the coalition would forcibly close all of Yemen’s ground, air and sea ports.

The move came after the Houthi militia fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The Saudi-led coalition had already restricted access to Yemen’s ports, but a full closure has long been feared as a potential trigger for widespread starvation. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 after the Houthis took control of the capital city of Sanaa. Since then, the coalition has destroyed much of Yemen’s economy and infrastructure. Mohammed is widely seen as the architect of the coalition’s offensive in Yemen.

Around 7 million Yemenis are now on the brink of famine, according to aid agencies, and 10 million more do not know where they will get their next meal. Cholera is spreading uncontrollably, with more than 800,000 cases reported and fears that the number will cross a million by year’s end. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed, many by coalition airstrikes. “The idea of even more restrictions in Yemen is a cause for major concern,” said Scott Paul, a senior humanitarian policy adviser at Oxfam who has worked in Yemen. “This could be a blip, but it could also be a sea change.”

By James Tweedie:

Lebanon demands former PM’s return

Saturday 11th November 2017

Suspicions grow that Saudis are keeping Hariri prisoner

LEBANON’S government demanded the return of former prime minister Saad Hariri yesterday as suspicions grew that he is being held prisoner in the kingdom.

The call came as Saudi, Kuwaiti and Bahraini citizens began flying out of Lebanon following Thursday’s orders from their governments.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun summoned Saudi charge d’affaires Walid al-Bukhari to the presidential palace yesterday.

He said Mr Hariri’s extraordinary resignation, announced on television from the Saudi capital on Saturday, was “unacceptable” and urged him to return.

Foreign Minister Jibran Bassil tweeted: “Today we demand the return to the nation of our Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

“We paid a heavy price to elect a president and a premier who represent us,” he wrote. “We chose our representatives and we are the ones to decide whether to remove them or not.”

Mr Hariri’s own Future Movement party also called on him to return “to restore the internal and external balance of Lebanon” in a statement read out by former prime minister Fouad Siniora on Thursday.

That was after Mr Hariri’s plane returned from Riyadh without him.

Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan warned Beirut on Monday that it would be “declaring war” on the kingdom if the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement, an ally of Iran, was not excluded from the unity government that Mr Hariri formed last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office claimed yesterday that the French and US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia had seen Mr Hariri, who “says he is not a prisoner, the prince [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] says he is not a prisoner.”

Mr Macron flew from the neighbouring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia in Thursday night to meet the crown prince, who only received the title from King Salman in June.

Before the French president left, he echoed unproven Saudi and US claims that the Yemeni ballistic missile that hit Riyadh airport on Saturday had been supplied by Iran.

France, the US and Britain all supply arms to countries in the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen since early 2015. British officers also train Saudi troops and help direct the war from the country’s command centre.

Amid the eruption of an open confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, French President Emmanuel Macron suddenly decided on November 9, amid an official visit to Abu Dhabi, to visit Saudi Arabia for talks. In Abu Dhabi, Macron had, among other official activities, visited a military base from which French warplanes bomb targets in Iraq and Syria, in order to announce further military operations: here.

What Craziness Is Going On in Saudi Arabia? Here.

The recent mass arrests in Saudi Arabia combined with the kidnapping of Lebanon’s prime minister, the escalation of the war against Yemen and Riyadh’s charge that both Iran and Lebanon have “declared war” against it point to an immense regional crisis that threatens to erupt into a wider conflict: here.

Lebanese PM Saad Hariri ‘pressured to resign’ by the Saudis, according to a New York Times report: here.

Save Croatian stork couple from poachers

This video says about itself:

Open letter to the President of LebanonMichel Aoun

26 April 2017

More here.

Dear President Aoun,

My name is Stjepan Vokić. People would describe me in a multitude of different ways, but all of them would agree with one thing – that I am a man who loves animals more than I love myself. And they would be right.

Twenty-five years ago, in my little village in my little homeland Croatia, I found a small stork with a wound in her wing – she had been shot by hunters. It was immediately evident that she would not be able to fly ever again which for a migratory bird means death.

I took her home with the hope of helping her in some way. I built a nest on the roof and a winter habitation in the garage so that she could survive the cold winter days. I named her Malena (The Little One).

Since Malena cannot fly, I have been her wings… I have caught fish for her, I have collected branches for her nest and helped her survive long winters. Over the years of friendship with Malena, I have learned numerous facts about storks and realized how magnificent those creatures are. Fifteen years ago, in the springtime, while returning from Africa, a male stork Klepetan landed in her nest. Ever since that day, he and Malena have been inseparable and up to this day, 59 young storks have set off into the world from their nest.

With the approach of autumn, Klepetan travels to south Africa to winter there, but at the end of March he returns back to his Malena in Croatia. This has been a regular occurrence for fifteen years already.

His 14000 kilometre journey teems with danger and these ten days while we wait for him impatiently are the most tense moments of my life.

However, when Klepetan appears in our back yard and flies to the bucket filled with fish I prepared for him, there is no money or wealth that could replace happiness and joy that fill my heart. I have three sons, and ever since Klepetan landed in Malena’s nest I accepted him as my fourth son.

The thought that one spring he may not return scares me more than anything. Although during his journey, storms, hunger and thirst threaten him, the most dangerous part of the flight is the 200 kilometre long route over your Lebanon. Every year around two million migratory birds get killed in this air route… some for fun, some for food, some for sale. This year Klepetan’s friend from the flock, Tesla, had an ill-fortune and got hurt. The stork Tesla was one of the two Croatian storks tracked by a GPS device for scientific research within the project “SOS Stork Croatia” which aims to determine the exact movement routes of the migratory birds of our area.

Just like the previous fifteen autumns, Klepetan will commence his journey to Africa and will once more fly over Lebanon. Unfortunately, I cannot go with him to protect him, but I am sending you this letter written with his feather, in order to implore you, to use the power your esteemed position brings and do everything you can in order to ensure that migratory bird protection laws remain in effect and that they are applied to their fullest extent. I am also sending you Klepetan’s feather because I believe that the feather is mightier than the sword.

I hope that you will use this particular feather, even before Klepetan flies to the south, to sign the law which will make a difference and save these wonderful creatures from merciless killing.

In my country, there is a belief that storks bring children and that they bring new life. These two storks are my whole life. You do not have to believe in stories for little children, but you can believe in the fact that in Croatia every spring, via live stream camera, over a million people await Klepetan’s return and that the moment of his return brings happiness and joy reminding many of what love means and what it means to love.

The story of my Klepetan is a proof to everyone that love simply knows no boundaries. I do not believe in fairy tales, but I do believe in goodness and I do believe that nature remembers and gives back everything, and more than anything, I believe in your humaneness and your benevolence and I thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Malena, Klepetan and Stjepan Vokić

From BirdLife:

9 May 2017

Migration: A long-distance love story

For the past 15 years, a lovestruck stork has faithfully returned from its South Africa wintering grounds to the same rooftop in Croatia, where he is dramatically reunited with his disabled amore. It’s a love story that has captivated a nation – but every time he departs, there are fears that he will not survive to see his beloved next spring.

You could set your clock to Klepetan. Over a million people watching via live stream already have. Every year, for the past 15 years, Klepetan, a male White Stork Ciconia ciconia returns to the same red-tiled rooftop in Brodski Varoš, a small Croatian village near the Bosnian border.

Except last year, Klepetan was late. Six days late. Normally, he returns on March 24th, give or take a day, but it was now March 30th, and his partner, Malena, was casting a lonely figure as she waited patiently for her beau to return.

But then, at 4:40pm, Klepetan dramatically swooped into view of the livefeed camera, reuniting the two lovebirds after months apart and sending the nation into rapturous joy.

But what is it about this particular pair of storks that resonates with the Croatian public above all others? Perhaps it’s because their relationship has to endure something that most lovers will be familiar with at one point or another in their lives – long distance.

Klepetan, you see, has to make the long, arduous 5,000 mile trip to South Africa alone every winter. Malena was illegally shot in 1993, and hasn’t flown properly since. Luckily for her, she was discovered at the side of the road by a school janitor, Stjepan Vokic, who treated her wounds and has looked after her ever since – building a makeshift nest on the roof of his house for her, and providing shelter for her during the cold winter months.

It was while she was enjoying the roof nest one day 15 years ago that she was spotted and wooed by Klepetan, and the pair have been inseparable since. (Most of the year, anyway.) Over the years, the lovers have reared dozens of chicks.

But come the winter, Klepetan flies south to Africa with the other storks, leaving his flightless partner behind. When the birds return in the spring, Vokic, and the hundreds of thousands of people glued to the livestream, face an anxious wait to see if Klepetan has survived his perilous journeys. Migratory birds brave numerous threats every time they embark on their epic travels – from storms to starvation, predators to power lines. But there’s one particular stretch of Klepetan’s journey that has his supporters particularly concerned – a 100 mile stretch that takes Klepetan over Lebanon.

The African-Eurasian Flyway – one of the most important migratory routes in the entire world – runs straight through Lebanon, and it is here that the journey ends for around 2.6 million birds as they are felled from the sky by irresponsible hunters.

As one of the larger migratory birds, storks are an obvious target for poachers, and this year the issue of Klepetan’s safety is particularly poignant, with the news that a male stork called Tesla – one of two Croat storks fitted with GPS trackers for research purposes – met his end in Lebanon this past April.

Vokic is so concerned about Klepetan’s welfare that he has taken the extraordinary step of writing a letter to the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun – using a pen fashioned from one of Klepetan’s own feathers – a symbolic gesture that the feather is mightier than the sword. The heartfelt letter … was delivered to Aoun in a box containing the very same feather – which Vokic urges Aoun should use to pen a law offering stronger protection for birds during the critical migration seasons.

An excerpt from the letter says: “In my country, there is a belief that storks bring children and that they bring new life. These two storks are my whole life. You do not have to believe in stories for little children, but you can believe in the fact that in Croatia every spring, via live stream camera, over a million people await Klepetan’s return and that the moment of his return brings happiness and joy reminding many of what love means and what it means to love.“

It follows a letter by BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita, addressed to Claudine Aoun Roukoz, the president’s special advisor, thanking Aoun for his commitment and urging for closer collaboration with the BirdLife Partnership on this matter.

Fortunately, there is every chance that Vokic’s emotional plea will tug at Aoun’s heartstrings – just last month, the Lebanese Prime Minister himself pledged to stop the annual slaughter in his country, stating that: “There should be a peace treaty between Man and the tree as well as Man and birds, because we continue to transgress upon them”.

But any action by Aoun needs to be swift and decisive and followed with action on the ground. It is only a matter of months until Klepetan will begin eyeing the long journey south once more. For the lovestruck stork who returns to his partner’s nest every year like clockwork, the clock is ticking.

UPDATE February 2018: here.

Lebanese domestic workers demonstrate

This video says about itself:

DREAMS FOR SALE (Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon)

8 September 2014

This video is based on a report that examines the processes and practices pertaining to the recruitment of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) from Nepal and Bangladesh and explores their work and living conditions in Lebanon.

Executive Summary in English here.

With the support of Anti-Slavery International

Animation by Nayla Gedeon

From the World Socialist Web Site, 13 May 2013:

Last weekend, several hundred migrant domestic workers staged a march through the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The overwhelmingly female domestic staff, mainly from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, were protesting against their working conditions.

Under the kafala system, domestic staff are sponsored by their Lebanese employer, the family they work for, and are not allowed to move jobs and are not covered by Lebanese legislation relating to working conditions. This leaves them open to mistreatment and abuse. There are instances of suicide among domestic staff resulting from their mistreatment. Although domestic staff set up a union last year, it is not recognised by the Lebanese Labour Ministry.

Endangered Mediterranean monk seals in Lebanon

This 2013 video from Greece is about Mediterranean monk seals in Cyclades.

It says about itself:

Concerning the species, it is the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal, the only seal species living in Greece, the rarest seal in the world (less than 600 individuals left worldwide,) and the No 1 endangered marine mammal in Europe. Polyaigos is an important area for this species as it has reproductive caves in witch some seals give birth every year. In this video it is a mother with her pup (around 15 days old).

From BirdLife:

Emergency conservation for Mediterranean Monk Seal in Lebanon

By Shaun Hurrell, Thu, 11/02/2016 – 16:43

Once thought locally extinct in Lebanon, immediate action was taken by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon for the conservation of this Endangered species when a pregnant female was found dead.

In March 2015, a seal was found dead trapped in fishing nets on the coast of Beirut, Lebanon. When post-mortem confirmed that seal was pregnant, this was a saddening event on its own. But a group of conservationists were further compelled to action when they realised this was a Mediterranean Monk Seal – believed to be the world’s rarest species of pinniped (seals, sealions and walruses).

With an estimated population of less than 450 mature individuals, this Endangered species was once thought to be locally extinct in Lebanon – for the last five decades there have been only occasional sightings, including those as deaths or bycatch.

For conservationists in Lebanon, this was as exciting news as it was sad, as Monk Seal could still be breeding in a coastal cave, and providing an opportunity to protect the species and its remaining habitats. The fact that this female was pregnant suggested that another seal might be still present along the coast, and this was confirmed few days later sighted by few fishermen.

On hearing the recent tragic news, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean quickly granted emergency funding to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL; BirdLife Partner) to carry out a thorough identification of the remaining Mediterranean Monk Seal habitat in Lebanon, to investigate new threats and to work with local communities including fishermen to protect them.

The Mediterranean Monk Seal was formerly found throughout the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and northwest African coast, but its population has declined rapidly since the 1970s most probably due to disturbance, degradation of habitat, hunting, killing by fishermen who see them as pests, bycatch, plus a lack of awareness and other causes that need to be explored and identified.

The first step in the project: to fully understand the status of Monk Seals in Lebanon. SPNL has started talking to fishermen and divers whilst building a bank of data to compensate for the current absence of surveys and scientific studies to find out where they are, how many, and what threatens them.

SPNL have identified that there may be new threats such as the consumption of alien invasive poisonous fish Lagocephalus sceleratus, illegal fish blasting near caves and repetitive oil spill incidents.

Next, a conservation action plan for the species is crucial. SPNL is developing a Mediterranean working group for the Monk Seal including key range states and stakeholders where seal conservation lessons from other countries have already been learnt and can be shared.

Finally, understanding and raising awareness is key. Interviews have been initiated with the fishing community and divers to communicate the importance of Monk Seal conservation.

Due to fisherman-seal conflict, whereby fishermen accuse seals of ‘eating their fish and destroying their fishing gear’, the prohibition of fishing in sensitive areas for Monk Seals is one early response – but not a last resort.

For the last decade, SPNL have been reviving an ancient tradition of sustainable protected area management that rings well with local people: the Hima revival. So SPNL hopes that once coastal sites and islands important for the seals are officially identified, they can ensure their protection through designation as Marine Hima which will be supported and cared for by local people.

In the future, CEPF and SPNL wants to ensure the sustainability of Monk Seals and their conservation in Lebanon.

“The presence of this animal alive along the coast of Lebanon constitutes a unique natural heritage, and could be very interesting from a sustainable tourism point of view,” says Bassima Khatib, SPNL.

“Similarly to how we reduced the persecution of owls which were perceived to bring bad luck, we want fishermen to understand that Monk Seals are a good omen on the coast.”

Mediterranean Monk Seals were listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List from 1996 until last year. However, there have been some signs of recovery in certain areas such as the Aegean Sea near Greece meaning they are now listed as Endangered (more data is still needed from Lebanon though).

The Ancient Greeks revered Monk Seals as they saw them as a good omen, so perhaps this is a good sign for the future of the species in Lebanon.

With lack of data though, and still a very small population, there is still a long way to go for saving this species.

More about the Mediterranean’s most endangered marine mammal

Mediterranean Monk Seals Monachus monachus used to inhabit open sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, but ancient hunting pressure forced the intelligent animals to seek refuge in remote accessible caves with underwater entrances. Over two metres long and weighing 250-300kg, they are called ‘monk’ seals because from behind the head and shoulders resemble a hooded monk wearing flowing black robes.

The seal is an ‘EDGE’ species (Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered): one of only two surviving monk seal species from an ancient pinniped lineage.

‘Solidarity with Lebanese ISIS victims, like with Paris’

Hanna Nijenhuis, photo by Hans Nijenhuis

Translated from Dutch site De Correspondent today:

While everyone on Facebook hoisted the French flag, Hanna (18 years old) coloured her profile picture with the flag of Syria. It led to a lively WhatsApp conversation with her father, who gradually found it more and more difficult to reply. An eighteen-year-old proves to have insight many government leaders still have a lot to learn about.

WhatsApp after Paris: how Hanna (18) teaches her father a lesson

Hanna Nijenhuis (18)’s school essay was about why the United States did win two world wars, but not smaller wars. Now she learns German in Berlin. Hans Nijenhuis (53) is her father and works at NRC Handelsblad daily. This is their WhatsApp conservation on Monday night.

Hanna: Are you tired of all those French flags on Facebook as well? And of all that #prayforparis? The whole internet is red, white and blue.

Hans: What do you mean? That is a mark of solidarity, that is good?

Hanna: Solidarity is good, but why only #prayforparis? In Beirut, two days before Paris there were also [ISIS] attacks with many deaths. And I see no Lebanese flags. I think you do not even know how a Lebanese flag looks while you put the French victims with their portraits in the newspapers. And heroic tales of the survivors. I have never read an account of a Lebanese.

Lebanese flag

Hans: Paris for us is simply closer. That city stands for values ​​that we share. For our way of life. Remember when we were there together, a few years ago, how much you liked it? All those cafés, lively everywhere.

Hanna: Yeah okay, I know what you mean. But in Lebanon they want to live as well. The way they live is not important, right? Do you know at all what values ​​they stand for there? In Lebanon fathers and daughters live too, shouldn’t you feel compassion for them? The Western media have a Western viewpoint. And you pretend that’s the whole truth. As if the West is the only thing that matters. I’ve changed my profile picture to the Syrian flag. I do not only support France.

Solidarity with both France and Lebanon against terrorism

This is a ‘twibbon’ expressing solidarity with both the French and Lebanese victims and survivors of ISIS violence. You can put it on your Facebook or Twitter account here.

Hans: But we also support Syria! We receive tens of thousands of refugees. And we bomb Islamic State (ISIS). Roger Cohen, an influential columnist, says that we should seize the international outrage to destroy ISIS once and for all. ‘To Save Paris, Defeat ISIS’, Cohen wrote in The New York Times. Francois Hollande and Mark Rutte speak of a “war”.

Hanna: You read columnists, I have my school essay. I will pick it up in a moment, wait. And meanwhile, you can explain what you mean by war.

Hans: More air strikes, possibly ground troops. ISIS mainly consists of crooks with weapons. It should be possible to take them out.

Hanna: So, bombs. That means collateral damage in the form of innocent lives, I wrote in that paper. Fathers and daughters who have nothing to do with ISIS and do not want to.

Hans: That’s annoying, but ISIS also causes the loss of innocent lives!

Hanna: And that is exactly why we hate ISIS so much. But with all that bombing we do the same. We do not want to be better than them? And even if you did not see it as a matter of principle, do all these military actions make sense? In Afghanistan and Iraq, we went after the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, but the people there saw something else. They saw Western soldiers in their streets who did not belong there. And that drove them increasingly towards the terrorists. I get that. Honestly, would you like it if the Iraqis suddenly would come marching through our streets? The terrorists make use of that feeling. They then pretend to be the good guys. …

It is classic Al Qaeda, Dad: provoke the Western world, so that those countries will venture into Muslim territory, and support for terrorists will increase. It is in one of the books I have used, The accidental guerrilla by David Kilcullen. You should read it.

Hans: In Afghanistan, girls now go to school. …

So says the war propaganda. It practice, it turns out that invasion by foreign troops did not bring any change in the low numbers of Afghan girls going to school.

Hanna: Wake up, Dad! America’s war on terror after 9/11 did much more damage to the USA than the attack itself. Detention without trial in Guantanamo, water-boarding, drone attacks with civilian casualties, an unstable Iraq where ISIS could establish itself. And especially for you because you like to think economically: the attacks on the Twin Towers by terrorists cost an estimated $ 500,000. In the war on terror, America has spent more than $ 700 billion.

An extremely conservative estimate.

They drain you, Dad.

Hans: What do you suggest?

Hanna: Get the guilty people. Put them on trial and punish them. But do not declare war on countries, nations or believers who have not committed the attacks.

Hans: The French do their best. The border is controlled tightly, the Molenbeek district of Brussels [in Belgium] is searched thoroughly.

Hanna: I see it all. White men in Audis are waved through, everyone with a dark complexion is a suspect and is searched. And such a ‘thorough search’ – not everyone living there is an accomplice, huh. The way the search happens will lead to new enemies, frustration, exclusion. All of these are sources of radicalization. …

Hollande wants to extend the state of emergency by three months. Then they will be able to do so searches and arrest people anywhere. The borders are closed again. More police on the streets. And again, people like you and me will not notice much of it. But anyone with an ‘oriental’ appearance will. A few more attacks and we will no longer have va rule of law but a police state.

Hans: Okay, but how are things with you in Berlin?

Hanna: Everyone is afraid of Muslims attacking. I’m afraid of Westerners who still massively hate Islam. I read this reaction to a report about the French bombing of Raqqa: “A carpet of bombs like in Dresden should be effective: demoralize the population.” How could anyone want to let that happen again? That’s what I consider scary.

Just as innocent – comparing Beirut and Paris. A Lebanese journalist asks why we categorise Lebanese victims as we mourn French ones: here.

PRESIDENT OBAMA GOES AFTER ANTI-REFUGEE SENTIMENT “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate,” he said. And here’s what Americans thought of Jewish refugees on the eve of WWII. [AP]

SUSPECTED BOKO HARAM MARKET BOMB KILLS 32 IN NIGERIA Eighty more people were injured in the blast, which took place in the northeastern city of Yola. [Reuters]

British Muslims condemn Paris murders

This music video from Britain is called Yusuf Islam – Peace Train (Peace Train lyrics on screen).

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Not in our name

Monday 16th November 2015

Muslim communities condemn atrocity

MUSLIMS in Britain united in solidarity over the weekend with victims of the atrocious shooting and bombing spree in Paris that left 129 people dead.

The world recoiled in horror on Friday night after gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a concert hall, restaurants and the vicinity of Stade de France in seven near-simultaneous bloody attacks.

The so-called Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which have also left more than 350 people injured, with 99 in a critical state.

As many as 89 of the dead victims were shot with Kalashnikov rifles in the Bataclan Hall while watching Californian band Eagles of Death Metal.

Nick Alexander, a 36-year-old from Essex, was gunned down while selling band merchandise.

British singer and musician Cat Stevens — who changed his name to Yusuf Islam after becoming a Muslim in the 1970s — paid tribute to Mr Alexander.

He said: “Just read Nick Alexander was killed in Paris. He was our tour merchandiser on last year’s tour. Sending love and condolences to his family.

“We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives or were injured by violence and terror around the world.”

At least seven suspects — the first of whom was named as 29-year-old French citizen Ismael Omar Mostefai, whose six relatives were detained on Sunday for questioning — are believed to be dead.

An eighth man was reported to have been “on the loose.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said there was “no justification for such carnage whatsoever” and that the “remaining people responsible” should be “brought to justice and face the full force of the law.”

Muslim Women UK has warned of increased intimidation and violence against innocent Muslims in the wake of the second terrorist shoot-out in Paris this year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

The feminist charity said: “Everyone regardless of faith or no faith, even with an ounce of morality, would condemn the Paris attacks.”

Members of British Islamic organisations carried flowers, candles and French flags in a Trafalgar Square vigil on Saturday night to show solidarity with those affected by the massacre.

Representatives from the Christian-Muslim Forum, Muslim British Youth and the Muslim Association of Britain also attended.

MCB secretary-general Dr Shuja Shafi also said: “The attacks once again in Paris are horrific and abhorrent and we condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms.

“My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours.

“This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves Islamic State. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith.”

Christian-Muslim Forum director Catriona Robertson said: “Terrorism has no religion. We are all united in our prayers for those killed and injured.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned against “feeding a cycle of violence” with hateful and divisive responses against the Muslim community after the “horrific and immoral” event.

He added: “We are proud to live in a multicultural and multifaith society and we stand for the unity of all communities.”

Also by Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Labour warns against Syria panic attack

Monday 16th November 2015

Dropping bombs is not the solution, says Benn

THE Labour Party warned Britain against resorting to “dropping bombs” on Syria after the so-called Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for massacring 129 people in Paris.

Only a “diplomatic solution” to the Syrian civil war should be considered in countering threats made against Britain, shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said.

This is good news, and a bit surprising, as Hilary Benn is a right-winger within Labour; closer to Tony Blair than to his father Tony Benn.

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott also told Sky News that a solution was now “even more urgent” following the second spate of tragedies in the French capital in less than a year.

On Friday night, seven suicide bombers stormed restaurants, a football stadium and a concert hall with machine guns before setting off explosives to kill themselves. More than 350 people were injured.

Mr Benn said: “If the government wants to bring [a comprehensive plan] forward, then we would look at it. But I’m afraid you are not going to defeat Isis/Daesh in Syria just by dropping bombs.”

Tory PM David Cameron has decided to withhold proposals to extend the RAF mission to Syria for votes in the Commons unless there was a “consensus” backing them, including from Labour MPs.

Home Secretary Theresa May reiterated this standpoint yesterday, while stating that refugees would be “vetted” for any signs that they could somehow harbour terrorist tendencies.

However Labour would only consider military action in Syria if there are enough resources to cope with refugees who would seek safety in Britain as a result of war, according to Ms Abbott.

The Stop the War Coalition also rejected bombing as a viable solution.

It said: “There is absolutely no evidence that this will do anything but make the situation worse. The only solution can lie in political and negotiated solutions.”

“There can be absolutely no justification for the horrific shooting and bombing of very large numbers of innocent people, in concerts, bars and cafes.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” it added.

Meanwhile the horrific incident has been used as an opportunity to call for Ms May’s Investigatory Powers Bill — also known as the Snoopers’ Charter — to be rushed through Parliament within a month.

The Bill — which Mr Cameron described as “absolutely vital” — would allow police and intelligence agents access to the browsing history, emails and messages of everyone in the country.

LEBANESE authorities have arrested seven Syrians and two Lebanese suspected of involvement in the weekend of terror attacks. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk announced the arrests yesterday, three days after a double suicide attack — claimed by islamic State (Isis) — in the southern Beirut district of Burj al-Barajneh killed 43 people and wounded more than 230: here.

Britain: There is an unequivocal connection between Western foreign policy and terror. And already Theresa May is hinting that this attack on Paris may need to be followed up by a fresh round of attacks on civil liberties, renewed strengthening of powers for the security services and tighter immigration controls. Opposing the rising tide of racism, anti-immigrant hysteria and ensuring that this tragic loss of life isn’t used by those who wish to pour more petrol on the flames will, as always, fall to the labour and progressive movement: here.

After Paris attacks, French government steps up police state measures: here.

The terrorist atrocity carried out in Paris by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been seized upon by the United States, France and the other imperialist powers to intensify the policies of war and plunder that destroyed entire societies in the Middle East and created the conditions for the growth of reactionary forces such as those that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more last Friday night: here.

The G-20 summit of world political leaders being held in Turkey to discuss the economic issues impacting on the world economy has been turned into a council of war. The major imperialist powers are moving rapidly to escalate their military intervention in Syria in the wake of Friday night’s terror attack in Paris: here.

Jeremy Corbyn says a military response in Syria could cause ‘yet more mayhem and loss’. The Labour leader says the West needs to ask difficult questions about Saudi Arabia and arms sales: here.

Sky News takes down article which referred to Jeremy Corbyn as ‘Jihadi Jez’ after petition: here.

HEAVILY ARMED special SAS forces were ordered onto the streets of the UK, yesterday and told to ‘shoot on sight’ suspected terrorists as the UK hires 1,900 more spies: here.

Saudi royal smuggles 2000kg of illegal drugs

This video says about itself:

Princely Trafficking (Saudi drug smuggling)

6 December 2012

Documentary about Saudi Prince Nayef Al-Shaalan, who was sentenced in absentia to ten years in jail on charges of involvement in a cocaine-smuggling gang. The prince was one of ten people handed jail terms in connection with an operation which landed two tonnes of cocaine outside Paris in 1999. He was accused of using his diplomatic immunity to smuggle drugs to France on board a private jet. Was the grandson of founding Saudi monarch Abdulaziz, and son-in-law to the Saudi deputy defence minister, trying to covertly raise money for black operations?

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Saudi prince caught with 2,000 kilos of drugs

Today, 17:10

In Lebanon, a Saudi prince has been arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling. At the airport of the capital Beirut was a load of two tonnes of amphetamine tablets intercepted just before it was brought on board the private jet of the prince.

According to an anonymous source within the Lebanese security service this concerns prince Abd al-Muhsen bin Walid bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud. Besides the prince were still detained four others. All the suspects are from Saudi Arabia.

The drugs were divided over forty bags. According to Lebanese media this is the largest drug bust ever at the Beirut airport.

A UN report from 2014 states that in the Middle East there is a huge demand for amphetamine, also known as speed. More than half of the amphetamine that is globally intercepted, is found in that region.

For anything to do with drugs, you will get the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Well … you will get it if you are a poor Pakistani … … I am not so sure about royal family scions. As in Saudi Arabia, as in quite some other countries, there is one law and one, other, law for royals and for other elite people.

Saudi actor arrested by religious police for taking selfies with female fans in mall: here.

Saudi Arabia seizes 48,000 cans of Heineken beer disguised as Pepsi: here.

Humans from Africa to Lebanon to Europe, snail research says

This video is called Introduction to Archaeology – Lecture 2a. ‘Palaeolithic Europe‘.

From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

New chronology for Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) supports Levantine route of modern human dispersal into Europe

June 1, 2015


Bayesian modeling of AMS radiocarbon dates on the marine mollusk Phorcus turbinatus from Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) indicates that the earliest presence of Upper Paleolithic (UP) modern humans in the Levant predates 45,900 cal B.P.

Similarities in early UP lithic technology and material culture suggest population dispersals between the Levant and Europe around 50,000–40,000 cal B.P. Our data confirm the presence of modern humans carrying a UP toolkit in the Levant prior to any known European modern human fossils and allow rejection of recent claims that European UP modern humans predate those in the Levant. This result, in turn, suggests the Levant served as a corridor for the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and into Eurasia.


Modern human dispersal into Europe is thought to have occurred with the start of the Upper Paleolithic around 50,000–40,000 y ago. The Levantine corridor hypothesis suggests that modern humans from Africa spread into Europe via the Levant. Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon), with its deeply stratified Initial (IUP) and Early (EUP) Upper Paleolithic sequence containing modern human remains, has played an important part in the debate.

The latest chronology for the site, based on AMS radiocarbon dates of shell ornaments, suggests that the appearance of the Levantine IUP is later than the start of the first Upper Paleolithic in Europe, thus questioning the Levantine corridor hypothesis. Here we report a series of AMS radiocarbon dates on the marine gastropod Phorcus turbinatus associated with modern human remains and IUP and EUP stone tools from Ksâr ‘Akil. Our results, supported by an evaluation of individual sample integrity, place the EUP layer containing the skeleton known as “Egbert” between 43,200 and 42,900 cal B.P. and the IUP-associated modern human maxilla known as “Ethelruda” before ∼45,900 cal B.P.

This chronology is in line with those of other Levantine IUP and EUP sites and demonstrates that the presence of modern humans associated with Upper Paleolithic toolkits in the Levant predates all modern human fossils from Europe. The age of the IUP-associated Ethelruda fossil is significant for the spread of modern humans carrying the IUP into Europe and suggests a rapid initial colonization of Europe by our species.

NatureWatch, new app launched

This video says about itself:

23 March 2015

NatureWatch is a new iPhone application from BirdLife International which allows you to plan your wildlife adventures, share your experiences, and help conserve some of the best sites for wildlife in the world.

NatureWatch is available in the App Store and covers 533 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa.

From BirdLife:

NatureWatch App Launched! Watch nature, share moments, conserve sites

By Nick Askew, Mon, 11/05/2015 – 12:10

NatureWatch is a new iPhone App from BirdLife International which allows you to plan your wildlife adventures, share your experiences, and help conserve some of the best sites for wildlife in the world.

“Covering 533 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa, NatureWatch gives people who care about these sites a global voice”, said Patricia Zurita – BirdLife’s Chief Executive.

By downloading NatureWatch from the App Store, you can easily find all the information you need to enjoy your next adventure through accessing the latest maps, information sheets and sightings from each site.

The new App also allows you to share your magical moments with nature as they happen with your family, friends, colleagues and other NatureWatch users.

NatureWatch users can view lists of key bird species at each site, share their latest sightings and report any threats to the sites in real time.

“With NatureWatch in your pocket, you’re helping BirdLife and our Partners to monitor each site, plan the best actions, and respond to threats”, added Zurita.

“As you leave behind the smells of the forest and the sounds of the birds, with NatureWatch you can also give something back for the conservation of the site you have visited.”

NatureWatch has been generously supported by the IBAT Alliance (BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN and UNEP-WCMC), the Aage V. Jensen Foundation and UK Darwin Initiative, and has been developed in Partnership with BirdLife Partners in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa.

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