British World War II veteran’s solidarity with Calais refugees

This video says about itself:

Refugees Welcome‘ demonstration Calais | Syrian refugee‘s message to David Cameron

A partially-blind Syrian refugee speaks at the Stand Up to Racism ‘Refugees Welcome’ demonstration in ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais; sending a message to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Saturday 17th October, 2015.

By Caroline Gregory in Britain:

Worse than after WWII: Harry Leslie Smith‘s condemnation of ‘the Jungle’

Wednesday 11th November 2015

The campaigning veteran and author recently visited the Calais camp to see for himself the place that is home to 6,000 refugees.

WINTER has been slow to arrive at the Calais refugee camp, but just this last week the mornings have had a new chill to the air.

“I’m too angry to be cold,” said veteran campaigner Harry Leslie Smith, “this is absolutely disgraceful.”

Smith’s early morning visit took in the church, sanitation arrangements, schools and medical provision. The conditions are “a disgrace to our Western nations,” he said.

Smith is well-known for his campaigning on austerity, the NHS and humanitarian issues. Harry’s Last Stand, his book published last year, is a powerful invective on today’s world and current politics.

As he himself said: “I am not an historian but, at 91, I am history, and I fear its repetition.”

The worry that history is repeating is what motivates a lot of the British volunteers, many of whom have left their jobs in order to help in Calais indefinitely.

Organisations such as Help Refugees (formerly Help Calais) began as small fundraising operations which rapidly filled the gap that NGOs such as the Red Cross would generally fill.

The politics surrounding migration have resulted in a noticeable absence of the large charities on the ground.

Nonetheless it is startling to hear someone who has lived through extreme poverty, the Great Depression and World War II RAF campaigns describe somewhere in 21st-century France as “appalling.”

The vast majority of the British volunteers here are under 40. This is beyond anything most have ever witnessed. Smith’s shocked reaction confirms fears. The Calais “Jungle” does not meet even minimum refugee camp standards.

Last week the French court ordered the government to implement camp improvements within eight days.

Some 6,000 residents from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan are living in the shanty town, burning waste for heat and to make small cooking fires.

Three water points service the entire camp, although the supply is contaminated with E coli.

The Pas-de-Calais prefecture has been told to install more water points, waste collection and some semblance of child protection for unaccompanied minors.

The improvements would naturally cost thousands of euros. The fine for failing to comply? Just €100 a day.

Smith was visibly moved at the sight of refugees lining up to receive basic supplies, likening it to queues in Soviet Russia.

These men are dignified, intelligent, many are lawyers and engineers. Many have also previously lived for extended periods in Britain and carved out successful and productive lives.

Near the tent that serves as an occasional school, Smith recalls his childhood.

“I had a bad young life. My parents didn’t have the funds to provide food for us. It affects family life when money is short and your living conditions are bad — it’s a fact of life that I can vouch for.”

Many of the youngsters here are unaccompanied or living in groups, which seems difficult to comprehend in Britain where there are strict child protection rules and criminal records checks for those who work with children.

Smith explains to a Syrian five-year-old that he himself had to start work at just seven years old.

Now 92, Smith is more indomitable than ever. He nimbly hoists himself up backwards onto a high carpeted bench inside a makeshift Afghan cafe and takes in his surroundings.

He describes the refugee camps in Hamburg after World War II, with shelters neatly arranged in rows.

“It was organised. It looked like a little town, well-kept. The people there were starving too, but they were well looked after. It frightens me here. Quite honestly, I don’t know how they are coping.”

Two years ago Smith announced he was wearing the remembrance poppy for the last time. He explained that, for him, the symbol has been hijacked as a justification for present conflicts and national austerity.

This RAF veteran is far from unpatriotic, however. As he said at the time: “My despair is for those who live in this present world.”

He is also relying on Britain to solve this refugee situation in Calais, and makes a final appeal.

“Don’t start thinking: ‘It’s not me, it doesn’t matter, they’re not near me.’

“Please start thinking as human beings. We must get this fixed immediately — I’m sure as hell hoping and relying on British ingenuity and guts.”

Most influential academic books, according to Britons

This video is called The Genius of Charles Darwin – HD Full Length (All 3 Episodes).

There is not only a National Bird election in the Netherlands. There was also another election in Britain.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

These five books have been named as the most influential academic texts of all time

Posted 2 hours ago by Louis Doré

The most influential academic books in history have been revealed in a public vote.

Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species from 1859, which founded evolutionary biology, was named the most influential academic text ever written.

The study was voted for by 26 per cent of the public in an online poll of over 900, to mark the inaugural Academic Book Week.

The top five were:

1) On the Origin of SpeciesCharles Darwin
2) The Communist ManifestoKarl Marx and Friedrich Engels
3) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
4) The RepublicPlato
5) Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant

Also shortlisted were:

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
The Uses of Literacy by Richard Hoggart
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
Orientalism by Edward Said
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

The poll was organised as part of a series of events and competitions throughout the UK, conducted by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in conjunction with the British Library, between 9-16 November.

Goldcrest revives after window collision

This video from Britain says about itself:

Goldcrest coming back to life with Alex Sally

19 June 2015

This little goldcrest hit my window. I kept him warm for a few minutes then slowly and gently watched him come back to life!

British militarist propaganda for schoolchildren

This 2013 video is called Child soldiers in the British Army: one recruit’s story | Guardian Docs.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Military mentoring denies kids rights, says ForcesWatch

Tuesday 10th November 2015

SCHOOLKIDS are being taught more about the “military ethos” than peace and human rights, a ForcesWatch report revealed today.

New data brought forward by the military recruitment watchdog showed how Tory policy could be breaking the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

According to ForcesWatch, there has been no investment in peace and human-rights teaching, while the Department for Education has spent £45 million since 2012 by on “military ethos” schools programmes, which involve veterans helping children develop “character.”

The non-profit organisation’s co-ordinator Emma Sangster said: “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear when it comes to education — schools must teach human rights, peace and tolerance in order to promote non-violence as a life skill and to develop an awareness of the importance of these values for society.

“Not only does the government fail to ensure that schools educate for peace or about peace, it actively promotes military approaches through its military ethos programmes, free military-related learning resources and the ever-expanding presence of the armed forces in our schools.”

ForcesWatch is now calling for an inquiry into the military ethos programme, which sends ex-armed forces personnel in to schools to mentor “disengaged pupils” and “instil teamwork, discipline and leadership.”

Last December Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said of the programme: “For pupils who may have faced challenges or difficulties in their personal life, these initiatives run by former armed services personnel can offer a sense of greater aspiration and can help build the skills and confidence they need to go on to good jobs and successful futures.”

Helping refugees is ‘terrorism’, British government says

This video from Britain says about itself:

London – Calais Refugee Aid convoy supplies #2

9 August 2015

More supplies for our aid convoy to refugees in ‘The Jungle’ Calais. Please donate to our campaign on fundraising ends Tuesday evening. Donate now: here.

The British government’s definition of ‘terrorism’ is … let us say … extremely wide. It includes opposing ISIS terrorism in Syria; journalism, by the BBC or by others; and singing a punk rock song.

Now, one more ‘terrorist’ activity, according to the upside down standards of David Cameron’s Britain: helping refugees.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Terror law used to hold volunteer pair after Calais mission

Saturday 7th November 2015

Border staff try to intimidate activists after trip to refugee camp

POLICE used anti-terror laws to detain British volunteers returning from a visit to a French refugee camp.

Two members of the London 2 Calais convoy, which regularly drives donations and volunteers to the camp, known as the Jungle, on the outskirts of the Channel port town, revealed yesterday how they had been held at the border for over three hours.

The group was detained under schedule seven of the Terrorism Act 2000 before they were allowed to board a Channel ferry and asked a series of bizarre questions.

London 2 Calais founder Syed Bokhari told the Star that he had been particularly targeted.

He added: “I think it’s because I’m an Asian man, I’m a Muslim.

“I think that if it was somebody else that was driving that car or leading that team, that was a white person or wasn’t from an Asian background, perhaps they wouldn’t have used the terrorism law.

“They basically were trying to intimidate us in terms of who we worked with, what our plans are and asking all sorts of strange, in some cases perverse, questions about what we were doing and our relationships to each other.”

Orwell’s 1984 fiction, 2015 British reality?

This video from Britain says about itself:

Tim Berners-Lee on the snoopers’ charter

28 May 2015

The inventor of the world-wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, talks to Krishnan Guru-Murthy about his opposition to Theresa May’s plans to increase snoopers’ charter powers.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

For Ms May, 1984 is tame

Thursday 5th November 2015

WHEN former US spook Edward Snowden leaked masses of classified National Security Agency (NSA) data two years ago, he did something heroic.

This is not because leaking classified intelligence is inherently virtuous or even because of the huge personal sacrifices Snowden made — giving up his well-paid job and his relationship and being forced to live in exile.

It is because he was committing a public service in revealing for the first time the astonishing scale of state surveillance that has become the norm in the West.

These revelations were met with horror.

The idea that every detail of your personal life, the contents of every message you send and the words of every phone call made could be listened to was shocking — indeed, it used to be a stock accusation the “liberal” West threw at socialist countries, particularly East Germany.

But what Snowden revealed, the vast and indiscriminate hoovering up of personal data by security agencies, was closer to the Big Brother is Watching You dystopia George Orwell dreaded than anything the Stasi could have managed.

These startling discoveries were compounded in February when the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ spy base had been unlawfully sharing data intercepted in bulk for over seven years.

None of this prompted any embarrassment, let alone any apology, from the British state for its abuse of citizens’ trust. Nobody from the security services was punished for breaking the law and ministers did not vow to rectify the situation — except in the sorry sense of Theresa May’s draft Bill, unveiled in the Commons yesterday.

If the measures you’re using to spy on your own people break the law, don’t change tactics — change the law.

The draft Bill suggests private web and phone companies will be required by law to retain the details of every website visited by everyone for 12 months, in case the police or the spooks decide they want a look.

A new legal obligation also forces companies to help the security services hack into computers and phones, to overcome any encryption technology citizens may try to hide behind.

And it explicitly endorses the bulk collection of data.

Supposedly there are safeguards. The Prime Minister will have to agree if the spies want to target an MP.

Given David Cameron’s hysterical rants about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being a threat to our national security, the Star remains unconvinced that the Tory leader will take a sober and cautious approach to such cases.

If police want warrants to intercept communications new judicial commissioners will have the right to veto the Home Secretary’s approval.

But as Tory MP David Davis and Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti note, this retrospective rubber-stamping exercise does not amount to proper judicial oversight.

Despite a welcome intervention by shadow home secretary Andy Burnham seeking assurances over blacklisting, Labour appear to be ready to accept this further erosion of our civil liberties.

Of course terrorist groups exist. Isis and other extremist groups do seek to convince young British people to take up arms and travel to warzones to torture and kill. There are groups who want to massacre ordinary citizens.

Marxists can point to the economic, political and social causes of what to most of us is inexplicable behaviour, but these do not counteract the need to defeat such groups and prevent atrocities.

Unfortunately, repeated revelations of state snooping on perfectly legitimate protest, state complicity in blacklisting and state persecution of trade unionists, environmental activists, feminists, communists and many other activists show that the British state is not a benevolent watchdog acting in the public interest.

It is the tool of our rulers which can and often is used against us. It cannot be trusted with the blanket powers the Conservative Party seeks to give it.

This video from Britain says about itself:

ITSG News: Investigatory Powers Bill – Snoopers Charter 2.0?

5 November 2015

In today’s news: The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, unveiled plans for sweeping new surveillance measures yesterday, including the right to find out which websites people visit and requiring communications companies to store customers’ phone and internet records for 12 months.

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill would also give agencies such as Mi5 and Mi6 a legal basis for hacking mobile and computer devices, remotely accessing everything stored within a device including messages, photos another data.

Peter Sommer, a digital evidence expert has explained the government’s reasoning behind the new bill, citing the encryption behind ever increasing internet communications diminishing the intelligence agencies’ ability to get information from interception. With applications such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp being protected via end-to-end encryption, the information at present is completely unreadable. By allowing Mi5 and the rest of the intelligence agencies to bypass encryption and access the data where it originates, the government is optimistic about being able to connect the dots in order to find and stop the terrorists before their attacks.

The so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’ was first suggested 2012 before being blocked by the Liberal Democrats, who claimed the law was far too invasive. The new bill is a watered down version – however civil liberties groups are still condemning the government’s plans to obtain access to the personal data of millions of completely innocent citizens.

By Conrad Landin in Britain:

Web use stored for a year under snoopers’ charter

Thursday 5th November 2015

TORY platitudes on civil liberties are of no use when the government is sanctioning the surveillance of workers, Labour said yesterday as Theresa May unveiled plans to compel communications firms to help spies hack phones.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the “snoopers’ charter,” will require internet providers to store records of people’s web and social media use for up to a year.

Home Secretary Ms May said the blueprint would leave “no area of cyberspace which is a haven for those who seek to harm us to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar.”

She won praise from her Labour opposite number Andy Burnham for introducing extra safeguards to protect the civil liberties of the public — including a “double lock” approval system for surveillance requests, where judges can veto warrants signed off by ministers.

But hero US whistleblower spy Edward Snowden said the new law “legitimises mass surveillance.”

“It is the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West,” he said. “[The] snoopers’ charter does not require individualised judicial authorisation in advance of interception. Such a dragnet is mass surveillance.”

Mr Burnham warned of “fears in some communities, particularly the Muslim community, that the powers will be used against them disproportionately.”

And he warned: “We have seen in the past how police powers have been wrongly used against trade unionists.

“The government are legislating in the Trade Union Bill to impose new requirements on trade unionists in respect of the use of social media and on the monitoring of it by the police.

“As [Tory MP] David Davis said, this isn’t Franco’s Britain. Can the Home Secretary see that to continue to build on the trust she has created and the good start that she has made today, the government should drop some of its more divisive rhetoric and measures, starting with the measures in the Trade Union Bill?”

Mr Burnham’s comments came as the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing, commissioned by Ms May in March, reconvened for a further preliminary hearing. “Core participants” including blacklisted workers and women who were targeted by undercover officers via sexual relationships were granted the right to be represented by lawyers of their own choosing.

Taxpayers are set to fork out a whopping £247 million for the Bill’s implementation.

Investigatory Powers Bill could allow Government to ban end-to-end encryption, technology powering iMessage and WhatsApp. Theresa May said while introducing the legislation that it didn’t include a controversial plan to ban the important technology – but it does allow Government to force companies to get around it: here.

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI explains how the new surveillance Bill would allow spies and police to hack into our devices on an unprecedented scale. LIBERTY has called for a fundamental overhaul of our surveillance laws for years — so we awaited last week’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill with bated breath: here.