British government violates privacy, tribunal decides

This video from Britain says about itself:

Amnesty International being spied on by GCHQ/NSA

22 January 2014

Alice Wyss, a researcher at Amnesty International, says GCHQ are spying on the organisation.

From the BBC:

UK spy agencies broke privacy rules says tribunal

By Chris Baraniuk, Technology reporter

6 hours ago

UK spy agencies broke privacy rules by collecting large amounts of UK citizens’ data without adequate oversight, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled.

Complaints about data collection by GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 were put forward by campaign group Privacy International.

The ruling said some data collection did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It was a “highly significant judgement”, Privacy International said.

As part of its review of the spy agencies’ activities, the IPT examined the organisations’ collection of communications data – involving the “who, where, when, how and with whom” was involved in conversations, but not their contents – and personal information about people.

Such data is “vital for identifying and developing intelligence targets”, according to GCHQ.

Article 8 of the ECHR states, however, that all citizens have the right to a private life and that any interference with personal data must be lawful and necessary.

“It is very significant,” said Graham Smith of London law firm Bird & Bird.

He added that much of the data collection had been carried out under an older piece of law – section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984.

“It gave absolutely no clue at all that it could be used for this particular purpose,” said Mr Smith.

“Everyone accepts that what the agencies do operationally has to be secret, but the laws that say what they can and can’t do shouldn’t be secret.”

Comical clowns, ‘killer’ clowns, political clowns

This video says about itself:

10 October 2016


By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Beware of the real clowns in public office

Saturday 15th October 2016

The Paddy McGuffin column

Right, I’m back! What did I miss?

I jest of course because even in the lead-lined, sea bed-located bunker into which this column inters itself on such infrequent occasions the madness could not be prevented from seeping through.

Basically it’s all been about clowns, right?

As if that was in any way different to every other two-week period in the annual schedule.

But no, the media have whipped themselves and everyone else into a frenzy over the so-called prevalence of marauding killer clowns, apparently terrorising people both in the US and, as with so much else of their junk “culture,” copied in Britain.

At first I thought this was a serious news story.

Quite right, I thought.

The ridiculous hair, the ludicrous outfits, the nonsensical gibberish and the constant levels of outrageous and wildly inappropriate behaviour.

It’s about time they did something about the continued travesty that is Donald Trump and his mentally defective cheerleaders.

But it gradually dawned that this was not the angle the hysterical mainstream media was taking.

And then this column got angry. You see, since childhood it has inadvertently gone against the prevailing orthodoxy and really liked clowns.

Far from being coulrophobic it would class itself as firmly in the “philiac” camp.

Clowns teach us valuable life lessons such as: “Don’t go up to strangers, especially if they’re wearing grease paint and particularly if they are in possession of an abnormally large hooter.”

They also teach us, from an early age, about the pain and pathos that life inflicts, particularly if a Tory or Republican government gets in.

Clowns, in the main, are a noble breed who sacrifice themselves to help others if only to forget their troubles for an hour or two, and who hold up a sometimes painful reflection of our baser selves.

Who reading this can honestly say they have never wanted to smack someone in the mouth with a custard pie or round the back of the head with a plank of wood? Or much, much worse.

A classic case in point, when it comes to the artistry of the form, is that of Joseph Grimaldi, often described as the king of clownery.

Grimaldi’s life on the stage started at around the age of three and, despite the physical and mental agonies he suffered for his art, he remained on it almost until his tragically early death as a crippled wreck of the man he used to be, carried to and from performances because his brutally abused body would no longer allow him to walk.

Making people laugh is a serious business, as any decent comic will tell you, but by anyone’s standards Grimaldi was hardcore.

He suffered for the audience’s amusement.

In most settings that would be heroic.

The original role of the clown was, while in some ways similar to that of their latter-day equivalent, much more philosophical and dare I say it profound, at the same time as providing light relief and yes also spectacular acrobatic and mirth-inducing skill.

The fact that certain individuals appear to have been donning the guise for allegedly nefarious purposes (no-one at time of writing has actually been convicted of anything) is of course a cause of concern but if, as the press seems intent on suggesting, they are seeking to lure and therefore one supposes entrap or abuse children, there are far less terrifying yet insidious outfits they could have worn.

Jesus or the Easter Bunny for a start.

Meanwhile our hacks are so “concerned” about the potential of another John Wayne Gacy (no, I hadn’t forgotten about him) that they are letting the real fools — in Westminster and Washington — literally get away with murder.

Let us take as an example our current Home Secretary Amber Rudd who basically used her party conference speech to brand all immigrants as scum. And then furiously denied that she was in any way racist.

To employ a phrase I have used previously, much like Tory policy, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, stick an orange up its arse and whack it in the oven.

And then of course there’s Boris… I struggle to recall a time when Britain had a minister purportedly in charge of foreign affairs who had such little grasp of international politics.

But never mind the fact that his global knowledge stops somewhere around the end of the Peloponnesian war. This week he took hypocrisy to a whole new level by calling on the public to protest outside the Russian embassy in London over the country’s involvement in Syria.

This would be the same Johnson who, as mayor of London, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax-payers’ money to try to evict peace campaigner Brian Haw from his perfectly legal position in Parliament Square over his sustained opposition to the war that started all of this.

The same Johnson who sneeringly ignored two million people opposing the illegal invasion of Iraq.

You can’t have it both ways just because it suits you now, you fatuous arriviste.

It is becoming increasingly apparent to all but the most slavish and dim-witted in our society that Johnson’s sole “qualification” for the role of foreign secretary appears to be that he played Risk when he was an over-privileged pre-pubescent.

Give him a couple of weeks and he’ll be announcing the invasion of Kamchatka.

Here, as with the ongoing game of mutually assured destruction being waged on the other side of the pond, when it comes to elections the gullible public gets what it deserves and most assuredly deserves what it gets.


We must resist Amber Rudd’s divisive immigration proposals if we are to build unity and solidarity between migrants and the wider working class, writes DON FLYNN: here.

Threatened toads and English literature

This video from Italy says about itself:

Rospo comune / Common toad (Bufo bufo) * ENGLISH SUBS *

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Alert as the common toad appears to be on its last legs

Friday 7th October 2016

The toad’s bright eyes led to the belief that inside its head was a valuable jewel hence their slaughter – today’s threats are more complex but equally calamitous, says PETER FROST

I love toads. I shared a garden once with one — he lived for years in an upturned flowerpot in a damp and shady corner and helped in my constant battle against slugs and other garden pests.

I always called him Mr Toad. He was much better pest control than a whole shed full of chemicals.

George Orwell shared my love of the common toad (Bufo bufo). In the year I was born — 1946 — Orwell wrote an essay for the socialist paper Tribune in praise of the humble creature.

Orwell loved nature and occasionally wrote nature notes instead of the hard left-wing politics his Tribune readers expected. Some wrote to complain and suggest he got back to writing about serious politics and world affairs.

John Betjeman on the other hand wrote to say: “I have always thought you were one of the best living writers of prose,” and telling Orwell he had “enjoyed and echoed every sentiment” of his thoughts on the common toad.

Orwell pointed out that the pleasures of simple natural things are available to everybody and cost nothing and he argued that retaining a childhood love of nature makes a peaceful and decent future more likely.

He finished his toad essay thus: “How many times have I stood watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn, and thought of all the important persons who would stop me enjoying this if they could.

But luckily they can’t…

The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.”

Sadly, today my and Orwell’s toad is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Britain’s toad population has plummeted by nearly 70 per cent over the past 30 years and is now in such peril that the once common species is close to qualifying as endangered.

A combination of new intensive profit-driven farming techniques, which have entailed the loss of ponds and the death of prey from pesticides, as well as increasing urbanisation has reduced toad populations by thousands.

Tidy, hard-surfaced domestic gardens are another peril as is the massive increase in road traffic. This is despite widespread schemes to help toads safely migrate to their breeding ponds by carrying them across busy roads. You have probably seen the many quaint roadsigns indicating toad crossings.

Climate change is another cause of the population decline because of the disruption this causes to hibernation cycles by milder winters.

South-east England has suffered the worst decline in toad numbers recently but populations are falling all over the country.

Toads are extremely adaptable and can live in many places ranging from farmland and woodland to suburban gardens, where they play an important role as pest controllers, eating slugs, snails and insects and are food themselves for many of our most likeable mammals such as otters.

Toads and frogs are easily distinguished by the fact that frogs have smooth, moist skin while toads have drier, “warty” skin. Frogs have longer legs so that they can jump whereas toads have shorter legs which they use to crawl.

You are more likely to see them on mild nights as they hide during the day. In the winter, they hibernate in hollows or at the bases of hedgerows.

They like ponds with fish. This is because their tadpoles are poisonous to fish which gives them a greater chance of out-competing frog tadpoles.

They continue to be able to secrete toxins as adults and therefore have few predators. However, they will be taken by herons, members of the crow family and grass snakes.

You may notice the noxious secretions they have if you pick them up.

They usually hibernate between October and March and then breed from March onwards when tiny toadlets emerge from ponds during August.

There is no doubt that although popular and friendly toads are ugly, squat and warty. Their remarkable large bright eyes led to the belief that inside a toad’s head was a valuable jewel which led to the destruction of many toads by ignorant people until relatively recently.

They occupy a fond place in the British imagination. Mr Toad in Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows, is a selfish and reckless character but is nevertheless well loved.

Perhaps that is why every year thousands of volunteers take part in Toads on Roads patrols to help carry nearly a million of the amphibians in safety to their breeding waters.

Britain has another even rarer and more threatened species of toad. This is the natterjack toad — Bufo calamita.

It can be distinguished from common toads by a yellow line down the middle of the back and shorter legs that gives them a distinctive walking gait.

Natterjacks have a very loud and distinctive mating call so their name literally means the chattering toad — the jack (or toad) that natters. In the sand dunes around Liverpool they call them the Formby nightingale.

In England, the natterjack lives in very few locations mostly among coastal sand dunes along the Mersey estuary. But never, sadly, anywhere near Wigan Pier.

Self-harm up in British armed forces

This 2012 video is called Growing number of US soldier suicides.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Friday 23rd September 2016

THE number of armed forces personnel deliberately self-harming has shot up over the last five years, official figures showed yesterday.

Figures released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recorded 383 cases of deliberate self-harm among service personnel in 2014-15, up from 339 in 2010-11.

Women and young recruits featured heavily.

The data included armed forces personnel, mobilised reservists, full-time reservists and non-regular permanent staff alongside trained and untrained personnel.