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27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassinated


This is the blog title I hoped never to write. Bhutto has sacrificed her life for democracy in Pakistan. I am watching the BBC news covering this breaking story in real time, and like so many others around the world, I am bereft and shocked and desperately worried about the future. True, I don't live in Pakistan or even know anyone who does, but can anyone doubt now how we are all connected? This is a cruel blow for all who want peace and democracy.

22 December 2007

One of our two house guests

Photo by Lewis Ramage

We have two house guests staying for a month or so. This is Chewie, a young female. The other one looks very similar, and is male, named Max, and a bit older. They are Blue and Gold Macaws.

Mixed blessings for British victims of US justice system abuses and failures

The family of Jamil el Banna, photo from Guardian Unlimited


There are breaking stories in two on-going sagas of British residents/citizens caught in the web of the US courts.
First, the Guantanamo four: the British passport-holding inmates of Guantanamo were returned to Britain some time ago, but four remaining detainees were British residents, though not citizens, some with very strong ties to Britain, such as close family who are citizens. The Blair government, in its wisdom, probably sacrificed them in order to get a swifter and more favourable deal for the passport-holders. Or something, who knows. I have been following this story intensely since the first cages were erected at "Camp X-ray" and the whole business just sickens me.
In any case, three of the four have been returned to the UK just this week: Abdennour Samuer, Omar Deghayes and Jamil el-Banna. (El-Banna is 45, but looks at least 60 in his picture.) Although Samuer was released with no further questions (all three men may be subjected to control orders at some time in the near future if they choose to remain in the UK), Deghayes and el-Banna were arrested in the UK before they got a chance to see their families who were left waiting and uninformed. Apparently it is Spain who is the culprit now, alleging that the two were members of a Spanish cell of al Qaida, although there is very little if any evidence of this. One piece of evidence is a video-tape of Deghayes training men in Afghanistan, but it has been shown conclusively that the named person is not him. Both men were finally released on bail and reunited with their families yesterday.
The other story concerns a British citizen with dual US citizenship who has been on death row most of his adult life and just hours from execution on several occasions. It is now generally conceded that he is completely innocent, but due to the intricacies of the case, he had to enter a plea bargain of no-contest to reduced charges to be released from prison. Kenny Richey will not be home for Christmas after all, due to falling ill with heart disease just as he was about to enter the plea bargain that would automatically lead to his release. He has had severely deteriorating health during his time on death row, not surprisingly.

A Seasonal Horror Story

This is one of those tragedies of capitalism and human appetites. About five years ago, part of the ethical food movement, along with emphasizing "local produce" and an explosion of demand for fair-traded and organic products, was the promotion in the UK of game birds and meats as an ethical alternative to farmed animal-based foods. As so often happens, the decision turns out to be more shaded greys than black-and-white. The rising popularity of game birds has meant there is not nearly enough supply in the traditional supply chain of seasonal shooting. So we see speciality farms raising caged quail, partridge and pheasant, and selling the meat and eggs as "game". You can see where this is going.

17 December 2007

The Brown Dog of Battersea Park


I came across this gem in my occasional perusal of Wikipedia's site of the day. I love how this highlights radical history, makes links between seemingly disparate movements, and also tells a touching story of courage and principles. Even the "see also" linklist at the end is like a roll call of all that is dear to me.

08 December 2007

Kudzu


After having had to listen to my pro-kudzu rant (I am the eternal champion of despised vegetables and animals) my son simply put this link in a comment to my only blog from Atlanta.
But I am sure there is a dramatic difference in the appearance from the air of Atlanta, and not an improvement, which perhaps only accidentally coincides with the kudzu-abatement programme. And yes, I do miss the kudzu.

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