British, Dutch governments spying on citizens

This 2014 video is called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says UK surveillance law “defies belief” | Guardian Interview.

By Julian Vigo in Britain:

British and Dutch states challenged on snooping

Thursday 23rd November 2017

As Liberty in the UK and Sleepwet in the Netherlands challenge the extent of state surveillance, JULIAN VIGO calls for public advocacy and local activism to protect the rights of privacy

The UK’s new web spying rules are taking shape despite the legislation governing it, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), having become law late last year. There is so much left unresolved about what this Act represents.

For instance, the IPA, also known as the “snoopers’ charter”, represents a massive extension of the surveillance power of the state. It requires internet companies to keep customers’ web traffic history for 12 months.

It also gives spying agencies and police powers the ability to conduct the mass hacking of IT infrastructures, personal computers, smartphones and any electronic device.

Just a year ago, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden labelled this as “the most extreme surveillance in the history of Western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

So why are the British not reacting?

The Dutch are set to have a national referendum about similar mass-surveillance after opponents of this “dragnet law,” or Sleepwet, gained enough signatures to demand a public vote.

According to Dutch law the government must hold a non-binding referendum on any issue if the country’s voting commission receives 300,000 signatures in request of such a vote. The campaigners of Sleepwet got over 417,000 signatures of which, the commission said, 384,126 were valid.

The regulator recommended in October that the referendum should take place on March 21 in order to coincide with municipal elections.

In July of this year, the Dutch senate cleared the Intelligence and Security Agencies Act which is quite similar to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act.

It expands the governments’ powers to monitor all the data which moves through the country’s internet infrastructure.

Like the IPA, this law would also grant the government broad device-hacking powers, which means, practically speaking, that the government would have the legal authority to hack an entire town if it so chooses.

The organisers of Sleepwet claim that they are not trying to abolish the law, but they insist that there needs to be a legal basis for any targeted surveillance and they worry about the infringement of the basic rights to privacy and security.

As in the UK, one of the major concerns is the “untargeted interception of cable traffic and automated analysis of that data, which is basically mass surveillance,” according to Nina Boelsums, one of the five university students who initiated the call for a referendum.

Boelsums also calls into the question the hacking of third parties which she calls “an incentive for the intelligence agencies to collect zero-day vulnerabilities,” adding, “security experts are worried that that will actually make us less secure.”

What this also means is that data from all personal social media accounts, banking details, online purchases, social media, and personal information (ie sexual preferences, where your children go to school, etc) will be accessible to the government.

Like Sleepwet in the Netherlands, Liberty in the United Kingdom received more than 200,000 signatures on a petition calling for the repeal of the IPA after it became law last year.

Liberty has launched a legal challenge against the British government and this summer received the go-ahead from the High Court to challenge part of the government’s extreme mass surveillance regime with a judicial review of the IPA.

While groups like Amnesty International have called for an end to such legislation in the UK, they have been equally active in the Netherlands where the referendum was welcomed as a victory, albeit temporary, over the mass surveillance of people who pose no threat to national security.

The outcomes of Liberty’s lawsuit in the UK and Sleepwet’s referendum in the Netherlands are yet to be seen. But it will take public advocacy and local activism if we are to protect the basic rights of privacy and freedom from surveillance.

Stop British government’s wars

This 2015 video from Britain says about itself:

Veterans For Peace UK is a voluntary ex-services organisation of men and women who have served in every war that Britain has fought since WW2.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Activists declare: Britain’s foreign policy has failed

Thursday 16th November 2017

BRITAIN’S foreign policy has failed — we needs a change of direction and an anti-war government, campaigners declared yesterday.

The Stop the War Coalition launched its latest briefing, bringing together MPs, trade unionists and peace campaigners in Parliament, with Labour’s Chris Williamson in the chair.

Despite government denial over its military interventions, Britain is involved in seven theatres of war, Stop the War said, adding that the by-products have been an increased threat of terror attacks and a rise in racism.

The meeting heard how women have not been liberated 16 years after the war on Afghanistan despite it being one of the declared aims of the British and US invasion.

And, as a result of the war, 36 per cent of the population are on the poverty line and only 27 per cent have access to safe drinking water.

And British arms sales are being put above human rights with a 500 per cent increase in trade of missiles and other weapons with the Saudi regime since its bombing of Yemen began over two years ago.

The panel heard how Britain had been involved in “war after war after war” and due to US President Donald Trump’s belligerence the world has been brought to the brink of nuclear war.

The briefing explains how the century has been marked by a series of wars from the Balkans and Iraq to Afghanistan and the disaster of Libya.

The briefing aims to provide information for trade unionists, students and activists to win the arguments against the government’s drive for wars and argues for a “radically different foreign policy.”

British peace activist Helen John, RIP

This 2015 video from Britain says about itself:

Helen John: Peace Campaigner

Helen John’s beliefs and action for peace

In 1981, Helen John joined the peace march to protest against the planned siting of cruise missiles in the UK. Unexpectedly she found herself driven to continue the protest at the Greenham base. It has resulted in an enormous upheaval in her personal life.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

She never gave up: peace activist Helen John

Tuesday 7th November 2017

A VETERAN peace campaigner who helped found the Greenham Common women’s peace camp has died.

Helen John, 79, continued resisting war and battling militarism to the last.

A former midwife, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

In 1981 she was one of the original quartet of women to chain themselves to the fence around Greenham Common RAF base, where the United States stored Cruise missiles.

It inspired hundreds of other women to set up camp there, with the protest camp only disbanding 19 years later when Cruise missiles were removed from the base.

Ms John described Cruise missiles as “the son of the nazi V1 flying bombs.”

She was also involved in campaigning activities at the US snooping base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire. The National Security Agency site is dominated by the huge white globes housing radomes which gather economic, military and political intelligence from US satellites and feed it back to the Pentagon.

Ms John had lived in a caravan outside the base, which is staffed by more than 1,000 US military and civilian personnel, for more than a decade.

More recently she turned her campaigning attentions to the use of drones as pilotless weapons of destruction, staging protests at drone base RAF Waddington.

She had suffered ill health and died on Sunday night.

Stop Britain’s disastrous wars

This video says about itself:

21 June 2013

Former military intelligence officer and barrister Frank Ledwidge worked in Afghanistan helping to set up an improved judicial system. But, as time went on he became disillusioned with the value of British involvement there. What was it about working in Afghanistan that made him doubtful?

He also wondered just how much the British Afghan campaign was costing and he’s now written a book titled Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War.

By Chris Nineham in Britain:

It’s high time Britain put peace at the heart of its foreign policy

Friday 3rd November 2017

CHRIS NINEHAM says the public have learned from 16 years of violence abroad

THE wars that Britain has participated in over the last 16 years have generated unprecedented suffering and instability. All the countries that we have invaded and bombed in these years are still at war.

The West’s war in Afghanistan has lasted four times longer than World War I, but this year the level of violence has reached a record high in what is a nearly decade long trend.

Iraq, where government forces have just assaulted the Kurds, is still torn by sectarianism. Libya is in the throes of chaotic clashes between rival Islamist groups. And Syria is devastated and divided as a result of a traumatic civil war fuelled by multiple outside interventions.

And yet the West’s only answer is arbitrary and unco-ordinated escalation.

Since coming to power, and with British backing, US President Donald Trump has dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” (Moab) in Afghanistan, and sent thousands more troops there.

Applauded by Theresa May, he has directly bombed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria for the first time and he dramatically increased the number of bombing raids in Iraq during the deadly siege of Mosul.

Meanwhile Britain has provided military support for Saudi Arabia in its deadly war on Yemen. Such actions can only prolong the agony of the Middle East and Central Asia.

One result of the accumulated record of violence has been the dramatic spread of terrorism, not just in the Middle East, Central Asia and large parts of Africa, but also into Europe.

Trump’s aggressive posture has helped to create other flashpoints. His unilateral denunciation of the Iran nuclear deal threatens to unravel one of the vanishingly few effective peace agreements in the region in recent history and raise the already sky-high level of regional tension there.

Most worryingly, his gung-ho approach to the North Korean regime — including threats to ‘totally destroy the country’ — has helped fuel the most serious nuclear standoff since the Cuban missile crisis.

Once again, the attitude of the British government has been deeply unhelpful. Appallingly, May has said she stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Trump over Korea.

She has threatened our very own “military response” and looks set to commit British troops to enhanced war gaming in the region in the New Year.

Public opinion in Britain is against this kind of unthinking continuity. If some politicians have learnt little from the experience of 16 years of devastating war, many ordinary people have.

Surveys show that there is little support for more foreign wars and during the general election campaign, polls showed that a large majority of British people agreed with Jeremy Corbyn’s contention that there was a link between the foreign wars we have fought and the spread of terrorism.

Corbyn’s response to the dreadful Manchester attack was one of the turning points of the campaign. It helped to block May’s attempt to use the attack to launch a law and order backlash.

It convinced people that the new Labour leadership had the courage to tell the truth about a failed foreign policy.

We urgently need to build on this widespread anti-war sentiment. The Corbyn surge was partly a product of anti-war feeling and systematic anti-war campaigning that has been such a feature of British life since 2001.

Corbyn was chair of the Stop the War Coalition right up until his 2015 leadership bid. His success raises the prospect of a government committed to a sharp change in foreign policy.

Such a change would be immensely popular and would be an important part of signalling a new set of priorities for Britain.

But we are not there yet. Unfortunately, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry used part of her conference speech to enthuse about Nato and commit to high levels of arms spending.

There are many in Labour who are nervous about taking what they regard as “difficult” anti-war positions, even though the majority of people support them.

A concerted campaign for change is necessary in the coming weeks and months in the trade unions, Labour Party branches and wider society.

The anti-war resolution that was passed at the Young Labour conference recently was a good step forward and shows what can be achieved.

Stop the War has produced a new foreign policy briefing to help make this campaign a success. The briefing provides easy to read but comprehensive reports on the situation in the main theatres of the recent Western Wars.

It includes an analysis of Nato’s current role and exposes the dreadful impact of the Western arms trade. It also has a chapter analysing the links between increased aggression abroad and the worrying spread of Islamophobia at home.

It is written by leading anti-war activists and analysts including professors Paul Rogers and David Miller, Lindsey German, Tom Mills and Murad Qureshi.

We hope it will be ordered and used by activists up and down the country. Informed anti-war campaigning has never been more urgent.

Chris Nineham is national officer of the Stop the War Coalition.

Hedgehogs in Britain

This 2014 video from Britain is called Cute Baby Hedgehog Stuck in a Can! – Wildlife Rescue.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Hotchiwitchi, urchin or just Mrs Tiggywinkle … by any name PETER FROST loves a hedgehog

Friday 27th October 2017

IF YOU are lucky enough to have a hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in your garden, now is the time to give their welfare some thought. Particularly think about hedgehogs around bonfire time.

Every year numbers of hedgehogs die or suffer horrible injuries due to bonfire piles not being checked before being lit.

To help prevent hedgehogs and other wildlife from dying in the flames, try to avoid building your bonfire until the day it is going to be lit — this will reduce the chances of hedgehogs taking up residence in the bonfire pile for hibernation.

Always make sure you build your bonfire on clear ground (not on top of leaf litter) and don’t forget to check your bonfire just before lighting.

Small, round, brown and covered in spines, the hedgehog is one of the most easily identified of Britain’s wild mammals.

Once better known as the urchin, country folk would eat them often roasted in a clay coat that would remove the spines when the animal was cooked. They even featured in posh cookbooks cooked in an almond and cream sauce. Today the animal is too rare and threatened to think about eating.

Another name for the little fellow comes from Gypsy lore. They called them Hotchiwitchi or just otchie.

Hedgehogs have a degree of legal protection in Britain — they are listed on schedule six of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), which makes it illegal to kill or capture wild hedgehogs; they are also listed under the Wild Mammals Protection Act (1996), which prohibits cruel treatment of hedgehogs.

It would be much better if they were reclassified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to make them a schedule five species. This would introduce a legal imperative to search for hedgehogs in developments — and a legal imperative to mitigate for them.

They are most commonly spotted in domestic gardens or parks. Bushes and hedges provide the perfect daytime hideaway and insect-rich lawns and flowerbeds make excellent feeding grounds at dusk.

Hedgehogs eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians, bird’s eggs and anything else they can catch; they particularly like big, crunchy beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them useful allies of the gardener.

If you want to feed them please don’t give them bread and milk. Dried dog or cat food is a much better option. Make sure they can reach water to drink too.

Hedgehogs are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide. Once common, they are now under threat from habitat loss caused by the reduction of hedgerows, an increase in intensification of our agricultural landscapes as well as urban development.

Another major threat is too-tidy gardens and all those fashionable decks, patios and other hard garden landscaping.

In just the last 10 years, hedgehog numbers have fallen by a third and there are now fewer than one million left in Britain.
Adults will travel more than a mile or two in a night over many acres covering entire housing estates and neighbourhoods.

If you have a garden there is much you can do to help them. They need to be able to roam far and wide in search of food, mates and nesting sites.

Get together with your neighbours to cut a five-inch (13cm) square hole in your fence or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to link your gardens.

Log and leaf piles and wilderness areas make great places for hedgehogs to nest and hibernate. Local wildlife and dedicated preservation societies sell purpose-built hedgehog homes or you can build your own using one of the many simple designs from the internet.

Remember fallen leaves make the perfect nesting material, so don’t be too tidy and clear all of these away. Pile them in a quiet, undisturbed corner of your garden to allow a safe, secure area for them to breed and hibernate.

Hedgehogs hoover up over 100 invertebrates, such as snails, slugs and worms every night, so there is no need to use poisonous slug pellets.

They have poor eyesight but are quite curious, meaning they fall into holes and get stuck, so make sure you cover up any open drains and gullies.

If you have a pond, make sure you provide an access point so that hedgehogs can climb back out — this can be achieved by using a ramp or placing some stones at one end.

Attract plenty of natural hedgehog food by keeping your garden diverse with a wide variety of habitats. Mulch beds with garden compost will encourage plenty of earthworms, woodlice and beetles as it begins to rot down, while wood piles encourage a rich feast of earwigs, centipedes and woodlice.

Don’t be afraid to let your grass grow a little wild and leave some leaf litter as both are important homes for the hedgehog’s prey, including ground beetles and leatherjackets.

Most of these tips come from the many wildlife trusts that are working across Britain to restore habitats for wildlife and campaign for better protection for all nature.

Many run projects to specifically address the disappearance of hedgehogs, including raising awareness among local communities, recording sightings, encouraging people to take action at home and targeting hedgehog hotspots for conservation effort.

Why not help in their efforts?