31 July 2009

Photo Hunt - Entertainment

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is entertainment. In the absence of new photos here are some concert photos of my favourite musician Robyn Hitchcock

This is Robyn performing Airscape, the nearest thing the not-wife and I have to an "our song"

And this is Madonna of the Wasps (it gets started proper at around 1 minute), The nearest thing I have to a repeatable nickname for the not-wife!

But she calls me Balloon Man.. Damn I need to lose weight!

Ted is not impressed by Scottish comedian

Ted does not find comedy quiz shows to his liking. This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

30 July 2009

Comrade Duch and the sailor “spies”

Although the trial of Comrade Duch quite rightly focuses on the many thousands of innocent Cambodians who were tortured and butchered under his auspices at S-21 a small number of foreigners ended up in his evil grasp too.

Next month New Zealander Rob Hamill will testify as a victim at the Cambodian war crimes trial of the Comrade Duch. Mr Hamill’s brother Kerry was murdered by the Khmer Rouge in 1978.

According to the Scoop.NZ article, Mr Hamill’s appearance at the Extraordinary Court of Cambodia trial of Comrade Duch comes almost 31 years to the day after his brother Kerry Hamill and Englishman John Dewhirst were snatched from their yacht which blundered into Cambodian waters. Fellow sailor, Canadian Stuart Glass was killed, on 13 August 1978.

Kerry and John were tortured for two months at S-21 and forced to confess they were CIA spies, before being executed.

“I expect to experience the widest possible range of emotions when I see Duch,” said Mr Hamill who will be one of two Western victims to testify, “a lot of nervous energy will be expended. Duch says he is sorry and wants forgiveness, but I want to find out whether he truly understands the impact of what he did and the damage he caused. I’m not sure that he does comprehend what he and the Khmer Rouge did to the people of Cambodia, let alone to the families of Kerry, John and Stuart.”

The Wikipedia article on John Dewhirst lists other westerners who suffered their same terrible fate at S-21.

Americans James Clark, Lance McNamara, Michael Scott Deeds and Christopher DeLance

Australians Ronald Dean and David Scott

French brothers Rovin and Harad Bernard and Andre Gaston Courtigne

The article also states that several dozen Vietnamese, Thais, Laotians, Indians, Pakistanis and Arabs were detained in the prison at various times. They are not named

None of them fared any differently than the Cambodian prisoners.

Mr Dewhirst was one of two Britons to die in Pol Pot's Cambodia. The other Malcolm Caldwell, an academic and apparently a fervent supporter of the regime. He was assassinated during a visit to Phnom Penh in December 1978. but that is a different story...

Promising Iranian sportsman has hand removed by Iranian authorities....

The World Under-23 Rowing Championships last week provided a well deserved chance to hear the Iranian national anthem after Mohsen Shadi Naghadeh won the Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls event. His victory was a first for an Iranian rower at any world or Olympic rowing final. World Rowing has a photo of him (below) with silver medallist, Brazilian Ailson Silva and Linus Lichtschlag of Germany who won the bronze.

Press TV reports Mohsen’s win but it would seem that by the time it was reported in Iran his hand and upper arm were removed from the photo.

Now I wonder if it had anything to do with him sporting a certain green wristband thingumybob of the sort that caused a number of Iranian footballers so much grief last month...

I look forward to seeing Mohsen competing at Eton in three years time (the site of 2012 Olympic rowing regatta) unless of course the Iranian authorities don’t do more than crop his photo....

29 July 2009

James McIntyre - Canada's Bard of Cheese

Hints to Cheese Makers

Addressed to Jonathan Wingle, Esq.

All those who quality do prize
Must study color, taste and size

And keep their dishes clean and sweet,
And all things round their factories neat,
For dairymen insist that these
Are all important points in cheese.
Grant has here a famous work
Devoted to the cause of pork.
For dairymen find that it doth pay
To fatten pigs upon the whey,
For there is money raising grease
As well as in the making cheese.

Silly Week

THe King of the gloriously silly

Who else but the Great McGonagall!

The Great Franchise Demonstration

Dundee, 20th September 1884

Twas in the year of 1884, and on Saturday the 20th of September,
Which the inhabitants of Dundee will long remember
The great Liberal Franchise Demonstration,
Which filled their minds with admiration.

Oh! it was a most magnificent display,
To see about 20 or 30 thousand men all in grand array;
And each man with a medal on his breast;
And every man in the procession dressed in his best.

The banners of the processionists were really grand to see-
The like hasn't been seen for a long time in Dundee;
While sweet music from the bands did rend the skies,
And every processionist was resolved to vote for the Franchise.

And as the procession passed along each street,
The spectators did loudly the processionists greet;
As they viewed their beautiful banners waving in the wind,
They declared such a scene would be ever fresh in their mind.

The mustering of the processionists was very grand,
As along the Esplanade each man took his stand,
And as soon as they were marshalled in grand array,
To the Magdalen Green, in haste, they wended their way.

And when they arrived on the Magdalen Green,
I'm sure it was a very beautiful imposing scene-
While the cheers of that vast multitude ascended to the skies,
For the "Grand Old Man," Gladstone, the Hero of the Franchise,

Who has struggled very hard for the people's rights,
Many long years, and many weary nights;
And I think the "Grand Old Man" will gain the Franchise,
And if he does, the people will laud him to the skies.

And his name should be written in letters of gold :
For he is a wise statesman- true and bold-
Who has advocated the people's rights for many long years;
And when he is dead they will thank him with their tears.

For he is the man for the working man,
And without fear of contradiction, deny it who can;
Because he wishes the working man to have a good coat,
And, both in town and country, to have power to vote.

The reason why the Lords won't pass the Franchise Bill :
They fear that it will do themselves some ill;
That is the reason why they wish to throw it out,
Yes, believe me, fellow citizens, that's the cause without doubt.

The emblems and mottoes in the procession, were really grand,
The like hasn't been seen in broad Scotland;
Especially the picture of Gladstone- the nation's hope,
Who is a much cleverer man than Sir John Cope.

There were masons and ploughmen all in a row,
Also tailors, tenters, and blacksmiths, which made a grand show;
Likewise carters and bakers which was most beautiful to be seen,
To see them marching from the Esplanade to the Magdalen Green.

I'm sure it was a most beautiful sight to see,
The like has never been seen before in Dundee;
Such a body of men, and Gladstone at the helm,
Such a sight, I'm sure, 'twould the Lords o'erwhelm.

Oh! it was grand to see that vast crowd,
And to hear the speeches, most eloquent and loud,
That were made by the speakers, regarding the Franchise;
While the spectators applauded them to the skies.

And for the "Grand Old Man" they gave three cheers,
Hoping he would live for many long years;
And when the speeches were ended, the people's hearts were gay,
And they all dispersed quietly to their homes without delay.

More poetic gems at McGonagall online. Don't forget to sigen up for the gem of the day and vote to have William Topaz on a stamp!

Silly Week

A Day of silly posts - Swami

By William Penn V performed by William Penn and His Pals. A song from the glorious Pebbles Collection, Pebbles 3 - the Acid Gallery. A post for Silly Week.

Silly Week

I'm Allergic to Flowers

By the glorious Jefferson Handkerchief. Another prime cut from Pebbles 3 - The Acid Gallery. Another post for Silly Week

Silly week

28 July 2009

WW - Another pigeon

This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

Support bands I have seen #1

Icelandic punk band Purrkur Pillnikk who supported the Fall in late 1982 (or was it early 1983 ... one or the other). Not sure why I went to see the Fall as I couldn't stand them

27 July 2009

Two poems by Alicia Partnoy


I carry my rage like a dead fish,
limp and stinking in my arms.
I press it against my breast,
whisper to it,
people on the streets flee from me …
I don't know: is it the smell of death
that makes them flee
or is it the fear
that my body's warmth
might bring rage back to life?


This microphone
with its cable coiling around it,
bows to me.
I walk up to it,
open my eyes
my book
my mouth.
That’s right, I open my mouth wide
and begin my story.
They say
I speak too softly,
that I am practically mumbling,
that they can’t hear
the screams piercing.
I open
my memory
like a rotten cantaloupe.

They say
I have not managed
to forcefully convey the pitiless rage
of the cattle prod.
They say that in matters such as this
nothing must be left
to the imagination or to doubt.
I take out
the Amnesty report
and begin speaking through that ink.
I urge: “Read.”
I, in my turn, coil around
my bowing accomplice,
this microphone.
I urge action as a prescription,
information as an infallible antidote
and, one every knot is untied,
I recite my verses.
I resist. I am whole.

This microphone
with its cable coiling around it,
bows to me.

Activist http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicia_Partnoy Alicia Partnoy spent over two years in detention during the Argentinian Dirty War, during which she was beaten, starved and sexually assaulted. Her novel The Little School is based on her experiences.


26 July 2009

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Thomas Harriot's Moon drawings

In late 1609 Galileo Galilei made astronomical drawings of the Moon. However it would seem that he was not the first person to do so. 400 years ago today, Englishman Thomas Harriot (above)trained his lens on the Moon and after several hours later he had produced an intricate map of the Moon’s surface, showing craters, mountains and the planet’s empty “seas” (see below).

However, Harriot never saw the need to publish his work. If he had done so, he may well have had fame. “He had a nice annual pension from the Earl of Northumberland and he was just interested in the pursuit of knowledge,” said Alison McCann, assistant county archivist for the Sussex Record Office, which holds all of Harriot’s Moon drawings, made on behalf of Lord Egremont.

Harriot’s very first recording was made using hand-held device, known as the “Dutch trunke” telescope, which was only six times more powerful than the naked eye. It would have shown a small pinpoint of sky and Harriot would have had to inch the telescope across the sky, recording as he went.

By 1613 he had a telescope with a magnification of 36 times, and was able to record some of the most striking features of the solar system including Jupiter’s spot, Saturn’s rings and the dark sunspots that we now know correspond to magnetic activity on the Sun’s surface. He is also credited with the discovery of Snell’s Law, which describes the refraction of light through a lens, 20 years before Willebrord Snellius published his own theory. In addition he made important contributions to the development of algebra and wrote a treatise on navigation.

Harriot's achievements are now being recognised finally. Two of his Moon drawings, along with recordings of Jupiter and sunspots, have been unveiled at the Science Museum. Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, described Harriot as astronomy’s unsung hero. “It is good that his reputation is being restored,” he said.

It does seem that Harriot was a superb scientist but he hid his light under a bushel, so to speak, and so his achievements were never given the credit they were clearly due. Then again theat is nobody’s fault but his own. That Harriot made the first astronomical drawings of the Moon does not reduce Galileo’s achievements one jot.

Ahmadinejad in the doghouse...

According to the Washington Post “President” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in trouble with key supporters for not bowing immediately to pressure to drop his choice for vice president

Ahmadinejad had chosen Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as his first vice president, a job with even less power than his own but who does head cabinet meetings in Ahmadinejad’s absence. Mashai, who has been on record as saying “No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor. We view the American nation as one with the greatest nations of the world”. was not a popular choice for this role (heaven forfend that a senior position is not filled by a gimlet eyed anti-semite). It took Ahmadinejad a week to bow to pressure and dismiss him.

The head of the armed forces and an influential member of parliament questioned why it had taken Ahmadinejad so long to heed the supreme leader's instruction. "The Iranian nation didn't expect the ink on the leader's letter to dry out while it was not yet implemented," said Maj. Gen. Seyed Hassan, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the semiofficial Mehr

"The expectation from Ahmadinejad was that he would implement the leader's order immediately after receiving his letter on the 18th of July. Mashaie's appointment should have been revoked and annulled, as the leader said," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, who generally supports Ahmadinejad's policies.

Ahmadinejad, whose daughter is married to Mashaie’s son (this probably explains a lot) didn not respond to a Khamaenei edict to sack Mashaie until after it had been read on state television Friday.

Even so it seems that Ahmadinejad is still being at least a little defiant (like the lap dog that takes a shit on its owner’s lap?). According to CNN he has appointed Mashaie as his adviser and head of his bureau (presumably his chef de cabinet), a move that is likely to cause further anger among his supporters.

Hmm... Perhaps Ahmadinejad is up for six of the best off Khamenei and being forced to write “I must not employ a philosemite” a hundred times.

25 July 2009

The Final Three Veterans

At the start of the year there were 8 known World War I veterans alive. Today there are just three. This year we have seen the Last four British veterans still living in the UK (including Henry Allingham and Harry Patch who have both died within the last week) and the last Australian.

The Wikipedians tracking the last veterans of WWI count anyone who was in uniform at the time of the armistice even if they were still in training or in support roles. It is as good a cirterion as any. Here are the last three veterans:


John Babcock Babcock attempted to enlist in 1915 (aged 15). He was placed in a Young Soldiers Battalion in August 1917 and was then transferred to the UK where he continued training until the end of the war. He therefore never saw active service. He has lived in the US since the 1920s.Tthe Canadian government has authorised a state funeral for him should he accept it.


Frank Buckles Buckles enlisted in the US army at the age of 16 and saw service in France as an ambulance driver. He has been approved for burial in Arlington Cemetery. Buckles survived Japanese internment in WWII


Claude Choules Now living in Australia, Choules enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1916 and served on the Battleship HMS Revenge. He witnessed the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1919. Choules also saw service in WWII in the Royal Australian Navy.

In addition there is one other person who may have served in WWI but their service is unverified:: Briton Doug Terrey claims to have joined up in 1917 serving as a dispatch rider.

Harry Patch RIP

Portrait of Harry Patch by Peter Kuhfield

Last week saw the passing of Henry Allingham. This week it is with great sorrow to note the passing of Harry Patch, the last Tommy, the known WWI living in Britain and the last veteran of any nation to fight in the trenches on the Western Front. He was 111.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes to Patch saying: "I had the honour of meeting Harry, and I share his family's grief at the passing of a great man." The prime minister said the sacrifices of Patch's generation would never be forgotten. "We say today with still greater force: 'We will remember them'."

Prince Charles, who is also the Duke of Cornwall, paid tribute to Patch's service during the war. "Harry was involved in numerous bouts of heavy fighting on the frontline but amazingly remained unscathed for a while. Tragically one night in September 1917 when in the morass in the Ypres Salient a German shrapnel shell burst overhead badly wounding Harry and killing three of his closest friends. .In spite of the comparatively short time that he served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, Harry always cherished the extraordinary camaraderie that the appalling conditions engendered in the battalion and remained loyal to the end."

A close friend Jim Ross said "Harry died peacefully, surrounded by his many friends," he said. "While the country may remember Harry as a soldier, we will remember him as a dear friend. He was a man of peace who used his great age and fame as the last survivor of the trenches to communicate two simple messages: remember with gratitude and respect those who served on all sides; settle disputes by discussion, not war."

Patch was a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He served in the trenches as a private from June to September 1917. fought in the battle of Passchendaele in 1917 in which more than 70,000 British troops died.
Fletcher House nursing home in Wells, Somerset, where Patch died, said his funeral was being arranged in accordance with his wishes.

There are now just three WWI veterans alive around the world (See post above)

RIP Harry

24 July 2009

Photo Hunt - Utensils

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is utensil. A utensil is defined as an instrument or vessel used in everyday life. Given that plant pots and knifey things are everyday implements for gaddeners I suppose they could be defined as horticultural utensils!

The photo was taken in an outhouse of Ingatestone Hall

Robyn and ,,,,3

This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

23 July 2009

Forough Farrokhzad - The Sin

I sinned, a sin all filled with pleasure
wrapped in an embraced, warm and fiery
I sinned in a pair of arms
that were vibrant, virile, violent.

In that dim and quiet place of seclusion
I looked into his eyes brimming with mystery
my heart throbbed in my chest all too excited
by the desire glowing in his eyes.

In that dim and quiet place of seclusion
as I sat next to him all scattered inside
his lips poured lust on my lips
and I left behind the sorrows of my heart.

I whispered in his ear these words of love:
“I want you, mate of my soul
I want you, life-giving embrace
I want you, lover gone mad”

Desire surged in his eyes
red wine swirled in the cup
my body surfed all over his
in the softness of the downy bed.

I sinned, a sin all filled with pleasure
next to a body now limp and languid
I know not what I did, God
in that dim and quiet place of seclusion.

The first POW camp

I would have thought the first prisoner of war camp would have been built in antiquity. It didn’t occur to me that nobody got around to building on until the Napoleonic wars. I suppose dungeons or no quarter solved the issue previously...

According to the Times Channel 4’s Time Team has excavated what is believed to be the first such camp near Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire.

Between 1797 and 1814 a 9ha (22-acre) site, known as the Norman Cross Depot, held up to 7,000 enemy soldiers for up to ten years, not to mention a large number of guards. Many of the captives came from famous naval battles of the period such as Camperdown and Trafalgar and from captured colonies in Spain and Portugal.

Ben Robinson, an archaeologist at Peterborough Museum said: “This is a fascinating and unique site because the concept of a ‘prisoner of war camp’ did not exist before Norman Cross was built in 1797. It was an inspired experiment in taking huge numbers of enemy troops out of action, but also keeping them in as humane conditions as possible.”

Although the prisoners were generally treated well, more than 1,000 inmates died from typhoid in 1800 and 1801 and a total of 1,770 died during the camp’s 17-year history. The buildings were dismantled and the site cleared after Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Part of the camp, the stable block, now houses an art gallery. The gallery’s website has a section on the camp’s history that is well worth visiting

21 July 2009

Glass Hotel

From the Jonathan Demme film Storefront Hitchcock, in which Robyn Hitchcock performs in a New York storefront..... Really!

WW - Bear's Britches

The Acanthus in our garden. This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

20 July 2009


Ipomoea quamoclit aka the Hummingbird vine. Another attractive climber that the not-wife has succeeded in growing. I have no idea whe the plant is called a Quamoclit, but I daresy anyone looking for some free porn in this post is going to be as disappointed as ever

David Shayler gets stranger and stranger

Ten years ago David Shayler was famous for being a former MI5 Agent turned whistleblower. More recently he has proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, preaching a sermon on the mount near Middlesbrough last year.

No it seems that Mr Shayler has gone a step further by declaring himself to be Delores Kane, a very pneumatic transvestite with surprisingly good legs!...

'I know in my heart that I am Christ and I am here to save humanity,' he began. 'I am here to show humanity the way and to show unconditional love and that includes murderers and pederasts.'

The Shayler claimed that his transvestitism was 'part of the prophecy' because 'Jesus was a transvestite', adding: 'It was important to have feminine attributes and the people I live with don't mind at all.'

Shayler says he is on a 'mission' to save the world and this would happen through his growing of hemp, adding: 'We have a plan to save the world in four months by growing hemp. If we all started growing this plant we could be free, which is why they have made it illegal to stop people gaining freedom.'

Shayler now lives with eight other squatters in a farm near Dorking, Surrey He moved there after being evicted from a farm, in Guildford. He has been living with a group who call themselves the 'Rainbow Movement.'

Shayler seems to be getting more and stranger as time goes. It is easy to get a cheap laugh. Despite the nonsense he spouts he’s looks like a rather sad case these days. His former partner Annie Machon is of the opinion that his dealings with the Government pushed him over the edge. Perhaps she’s right....

19 July 2009

And yet some brave people are still prepared to pay the price

This article appeared in today’s Telegraph. Despite the clear and present danger to life, some people are still prepared to document human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Tatyana Lokshina has slowly watched her colleagues die. One by one, they have fallen to anonymous assassins protected by powerful forces whose appetite for murder seems to know few bounds.

Last week, in a ritual that has become all too familiar, Mrs Lokshina donned a black head scarf to bid farewell to one of her closest friends. Accompanied by other mourners, she walked in slow procession behind a open-backed lorry carrying the body of Natalya Estemirova, a fellow member of a dwindling group of female human rights campaigners dedicated to exposing the horrors they say the state has sanctioned in one of Russia's darkest corners.

Lokshina and Estemirova had been working jointly to expose the ordeal of a Chechen man who was publicly executed earlier this month by forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed Chechen president who has been accused of presiding over a reign of terror in the republic. The man had been accused of providing rebels lurking in the southern mountains with a sheep, a crime considered sufficient to warrant an extra-judicial execution in Chechnya.

Mrs Estemirova's murder was undoubtedly linked to her work. But according to fellow campaigners, its brazen nature was intended as an unmistakable message to the women who seek to complete her mission."The manner of her death was symbolic," said Allison Gill, the head of Human Rights Watch in Russia. "She worked on hundreds of cases of people who were kidnapped, shot and killed, or disappeared. And here she is, suffering the same fate. They did it to say: 'You could be next'."

Many inheriting Mrs Estemirova's mantle are women. The risks they face are self-evident and some organisations are considering the wisdom of exposing their staff to such danger. Yet the idea of surrender, for all the peril, seems out of the question.

Mrs Lokshina had little interest in Chechnya until she was sent there for a meeting by a US-funded rights organisation."One has to see it with one's own eyes to understand the immensity of the tragedy, the immensity of the injustice," she said. "Once I saw it with my own eyes, I felt on a human level that the only way not to feel complicit, not to be complicit, was to do something to stop them directly."

Like Mrs Estemirova, Tatyana Lokshina has been one of the principal characters who has woven the narrative of the of Chechnya in recent years. Most of the others are dead. One such was the crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya (Below). Who played a pivotal role for foreign correspondents seeking to understand Chechnya. Often, just as she did in print, she would excoriate Vladimir Putin, the man she held responsible for the callous disregard for human life in Chechnya.

One Saturday morning in October 2006, Mr Putin's 54th birthday, she was shot four times as she returned to her flat in Moscow from her local supermarket.

Another was Stanislav Markelov (below), a lawyer, human rights defender and colleague of Mrs Politkovskaya, was felled by an assassin's bullet shortly after speaking at a press conference in January. Known for his sunny disposition and dirty jokes, Mr Markelov was another crucial figure in the Chechnya activist community. Shot with him was Anastasia Barburova, the fourth reporter at Mrs Politkovskaya's Novaya Gazeta newspaper to meet a violent end since Mr Putin came to power in 2000.

Then there was Mrs Estemirova herself. Working from a tiny office off Vladimir Putin Avenue in central Grozny, Natalya investigated and chronicled the parlous state of human rights in Chechnya. Along with a small but dedicated team, it was her work more than anyone's that held the Kremlin-backed regime to some account.

For Mrs Estemirova, the only prominent activist who lived in Grozny full-time, it was far more than just a story. To anyone who saw her in action, it was evident how passionately she cared about every victim whose cause she championed."She completely gave her heart to every person she spoke to," said Mrs Lokshina. "I often saw Natasha crying when interviewing victims."

Mrs Lokshina is aware that, in continuing her friend's crusade, the powers ranged against her and her colleagues is immense. None is more powerful than Ramzan Kadyrov. In a secret affidavit to the European Court of Human Rights, his former bodyguard painted a chilling picture of the Chechen leader. According to Umar Israilov, Mr Kadyrov would wander around a gym that doubled as a secret jail, administering electric shocks to prisoners bound to exercise machines while casually kept up a game of billiards with his friends.

In January, as western reporters were preparing to publish his allegations, Mr Israilov was shot dead on a busy Vienna street as shoppers dived for cover. "I will be killing as long as I live," Mr Kadyrov once boasted to a reporter, although he consistently denied involvement in all the individual murders linked to his name.

Butcher Kadyrov and his puppet master

He is especially indignant about such allegations that he targets female activists. "I do not kill women," he has insisted. Yet women in Chechnya seem increasingly at threat. One of the cases Mrs Estemirova was struggling to expose when she died was the murder of eight women whose bodies were dumped in different parts of Chechnya one day last November.

Mrs Estemirova's death will only increase the fear of ordinary people in Chechnya. Not a single murder of any significant opponent of Mr Kadyrov has ever been solved, a failure critics say suggests the acquiescence – perhaps even the complicity – of Mr Putin, Russia's most powerful man. The Kremlin has consistently denied such allegations, blaming the deaths on Russian exiles intent on besmirching Mr Putin's reputation.

Natalya Estemirova

Since Mrs Estemirova's death, the responsibility for exposing the abuses she dedicated her life to revealing have largely fallen to women like Mrs Lokshina. But in the culture of impunity that reigns unfettered in Chechnya, it has become an almost impossible task.

The cost of truth – Chechnya

Natalya Estemirova

Last Wednesday journalist Natalya Estemirova was murdered. Apparently she had been abducted as she left her home in Chechnya on Wednesday morning, a colleague said. Her body was found in Ingushetia.She had been shot twice in the head at close range.

Mrs Estemirova was the seventh opponent of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed Chechen president, to have been murdered in the past 10 months

Her colleagues at human rights organisation Memorial alleged that Kadyrov was responsible for the killing. "Ramzan Kadyrov is responsible, not only because he leads Chechnya," alleged Oleg Orlov, Memorial's director. "He threatened Natalya, told her that her hands would be covered in blood and that he destroys bad people. We didn't say this before because we were scared for her safety."

Mrs Estemirova had just published a report that accused members of the Kadyrov administration of carrying out revenge killings.

Memorial called for the removal of Mr Kadyrov, who was appointed deputy prime minister in 2004 and ascended to the presidency in 2007 after reaching the legal age of 30. Accusations of disappearances, revenge killings and other abuses have dogged his regime. Critics accuse the Kremlin of turning a blind eye to the alleged crimes, in exchange for stability brought to a republic that fought two separatist wars with Moscow in the 1990s.

Ramzam Kadyrov, murderer, torturer, human rights abuser and puppet of Putin

Mr Kadyrov has denied accusations that he ordered the killing of Mrs Politkovskaya. However, in the past 10 months many of his rivals have been found dead after killings in Vienna, Istanbul, Dubai and Moscow.

Nobody believes him and the President and erstwhile president of Russia probably don’t really give a damn, if they did not actively, or at least passively sanction her death.

My thank to Sean Jeating Omnium for inspiring me to post this item and the next one

Bee(n) Feast

Bees four up on an Echinops

18 July 2009

Henry Allingham RIP

Henry Allingham has died at the age of 113. He was the world’s oldest man,the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the last surviving member of the Royal Naval Air Service and the last surviving founder member of the Royal Air Force.

Tributes were paid to Mr Allingham by the Queen, Prince Charles and The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Mr Allingham served with the Royal Naval Air Service in WWI, later transferring to the Royal Air Force at the time of its creation.

Dennis Goodwin, founder of the First World War Veterans' Association and a friend of Mr Allingham, said: "Henry was truly a gentleman - his strength of character, his purpose.He left quite a legacy to the nation of memories of what it was like to have been in WWI,"

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said: "Henry will be remembered with great fondness for his strong sense of humour and joy of life, and he was an inspiration for all those serving in the Royal Navy." Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff, said his passing was a "milestone in history. Henry was an inspiration to many and his thirst for life, cheery disposition and a desire to help others was his mark," he added.

His nephew Ronald Cator said his uncle looked "very, very frail. He went downhill in the last few months. He used to sleep a lot at the end. He wanted to pass away, poor old boy."

A young Henry Allingham

For decades, like many other war veterans, Mr Allingham buried his memories of the war, avoiding reunions and refusing to tell his family about his experiences. But, in recent years, he started making public appearances to make sure new generations did not forget the toll of war and went on to tell his life story in a book which was published last year.

His death means there are now only four WWI veterans still alive: Britons Harry Patch, 111, and Claude Choules, 108(now living in Australia) American Frank Buckles and Canadian John Babcock, who both live in the USA
RIP Henry

17 July 2009

Photo Hunt - Rock

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is rock so here is a photo of a rock! This rock, which is in the Millstreet Country Park, Co Cork, Ireland, was the site of a Hedge School. During the 18th Century catholic schools were banned in Ireland so many catholic pupils were given lesons in clandestine locations (more often indoors than outdoors, despite the name) The schools died out in the 19th century with the introduction of primary (elementary, national) schools..


Here's Dave Brock, a founder member of my favourite band Hawkwind. He is the only person from the original line up still with the band 40 years on (in August)

Here is Hawkwind with one of their poppier songs Quark, Strangeness and Charm (which, like the Dave Brock photo, I have posted before). The singer is Robert Calvert who, sadly died in 1988, but still serves nobly as my Avatar

Rafsanjani, prayers and protests in Tehran

Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran and one of the nation’s most prominent clerics has finally criticised the Iranian government for its for its handling of the protests that followed the disputed presidential election

Speaking at Friday prayers at Tehran University Rafsanjani said "Today is a bitter day. People have lost their faith in the regime and their trust is damaged. It's necessary that we regain people's consent and their trust in the regime."

The Guardian reported that Rafsanjani criticised the arrest and detention of protesters, and attacked the lack of freedom of expression. He expressed sympathy for the families of dead protesters, and ended his remarks by saying: "I hope this sermon will pave a way out of this current situation. A situation that can be considered a crisis."

Prayers were attended by Mir Hossein Mousavi who sat in the front row. Meanwhile the opposition packed the university prayer hall in a show of strength. They traded slogans with a number of government supporters. The government supporters chanted "death to America" while opposition supporters countered with "death to Russia", referring to the Iranian government's ties to Moscow..

During Rafsanjani's sermon the crowd inside the hall in Tehran University could be heard via state radio chanting, "Mousavi, Mousavi, we support you and "azadi, azadi" — Persian for "freedom"

.... Meanwhile outside...

Basiji militiamen in front of a line of riot police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters who chanted "death to the dictator" and called on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to resign. Young protesters with green bandanas over their mouths and noses set a bonfire in the street and kicked away gas canisters, facing off with the security forces while others scattered.

Before the sermon, police fired tear gas at hundreds of Mousavi backers trying to enter the prayer. When Mahdi Karroubi, another pro-reform candidate in the June election, headed for the prayers, plainclothes hard-line supporters attacked him, shoving him and knocking his turban to the ground, witnesses said. "Death to the opponent of Velayat-e-Faqih," the hard-liners chanted as they attacked him, referring to the supreme leader, the witnesses said.

As she headed for the university, a prominent women's rights activist, Shadi Sadr, was beaten by militiamen, pushed into a car and driven away to an unknown location,

After the prayers, some worshippers joined the protests outside, swelling their numbers to thousands. Members of the hard-line Basij militia charged the crowd, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd, witnesses said.

The protests in Iran are not over, not by a long chalk. So much for them fizzling out quickly as George Galloway so smugly predicted last month


This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

16 July 2009

Flying hand creatures

Meeting my childhood hero

40 years ago I was just six years old but I was utterly enthralled by the Apollo missions. I remember being utterly disappointed in May 1969 when the Apollo 10 Lunar Module descended to within a few miles of the moon's earth surface. I could not understand why they did not go the whole hog and land the thing. Less than two months later just about the only thing on my mind was the prospect of Apollo 11 being the one where someone actually walked on the Moon's surface.

Although I did not see the landing live on TV I was utterly thrilled that Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin finally did it! Apollos 12 through 17 were also thrilling but throughout my childhood it was Neil Armstrong who was my absolute hero. Other notables like George Best were all well and good but they just could not measure up to Neil.


Buzz Aldrin came a moderately (but not too) distant second. As for Michael Collins I felt sorry that the poor guy remained stuck in orbit!

20 years later, I was working as an Immigration official at Heathrow Airport. Summer was as busy as hell but it was normal for the major ports to send "relief" streams to smaller ports to help them deal with a massive increase in traffic. That year I landed one of the plums, four weeks at Prestwick Airport,near Ayr, in Scotland. The work was easy and I got the chance to do a fair bit of sightseeing.. as well as plenty of drinking with the other relief staff!

One weekday morning just after we had cleared the American and Canadian charter flights (Scottish expatriates coming back to visit friends and family, Canadian and US tourists wishing to see the sights of Scotland or take in a spot of golf). Most of my colleagues had gone off on a late breakfast break so I was holding the fort when a private jet landed. It turned out to be a party of Americans and Britons coming to play golf.

One of the party was Neil Armstrong himself. While it was never the done thing to faun over celebrities, All I could say was WOW! NEIL ARMSTRONG! If I had heard of Wayne's World at the time I might have gotten down on the floor and done the "I'm not worthy" thing.

Not much of a story, I know but he was my childhood hero and for a short moment I was a six year old once again...Such is life

16 July 1969

At this time 40 years ago Apollo 11 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center.

15 July 2009

Iran protestors flex their muscles through boycotts

There are fewer people demonstrating on the streets of Tehran but despite what the likes of idiots like Galloway predicted, the protests haven’t quite fizzled out. According to yesterday’s Guardian It seems that the protestors are using their economic muscle and boycotting companies deemed to be sympathetic to the Iranian regime.

Wholesale vendors in the capital report that demand for Nokia handsets has fallen by as much as half in the wake of calls to boycott Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) for selling communications monitoring systems to Iran.

In addition it seems that consumers are shunning SMS messaging in protest at the perceived complicity with the regime by the state telecoms company, while TCI. Iran's state-run broadcaster has been hit by a collapse in advertising as companies fear being blacklisted. There is also anecdotal evidence that people are moving money out of state banks and into private banks.

Nokia is the most prominent western company to suffer from its dealings with the Iranian authorities. Its NSN joint venture with Siemens provided Iran with a monitoring system as it expanded a mobile network last year. Siemens is also accused of providing Iran with an internet filtering system called Webwasher.

Some Tehran shops have removed Nokia phones from their window displays. Hashem, a mobile phone vendor, said: "I don't like to lose my customers and now people don't feel happy seeing Nokia's products. We even had customers who wanted to refund their new Nokia cell phones or change them with just another cell phone from any other companies. It’s not just a limited case to my shop – I'm also a wholesaler to small shops in provincial markets, and I can say that there is half the demand for Nokia's product these days in comparison with just one month ago, and it's really unprecedented. People feel ashamed of having Nokia cell phones," he added.

The Iranian authorities are believed to have used Nokia's mobile phone monitoring system to target dissidents. One Iranian journalist who has just been released from detention said:

"I always had this impression that monitoring calls is just a rumour for threatening us from continuing our job properly, but the nightmare became real when they had my phone calls – conversations in my case. And the most unbelievable thing for me is that Nokia sold this system to our government. It would be a reasonable excuse for Nokia if they had sold the monitoring technology to a democratic country for controlling child abuse or other uses, but selling it to the Iranian government with a very clear background of human rights violence and suppression of dissent, it's just inexcusable for me. I'd like to tell Nokia that I'm tortured because they had sold this damn technology to our government."

State-run TV has also been targeted by protesters who have listed products advertised on its channels and urged supporters to join a boycott. Companies are running scared, and viewers have noticed the number of commercials plummet.

"We don't have many choices to show and continue our protests. "They don't let us go out, they have killed many, we are threatened to text people or distribute emails, they have summoned people who shout Allahu Akbar ['God is great'] on rooftops at nights, so we need to look for new ways," said Shahla, a 26-year-old Iranian student. "I can obviously see on the TV that they are facing an advertising crisis. This at least shows them how angry people are," she added.

The SMS boycott, meanwhile, has apparently forced TCI into drastic price hikes. The cost of an SMS has doubled in recent days. Protesters view the move as a victory.

The intercept and monitoring technology provided by Nokia is pretty much a worldwide standard. Our mobile systems in the UK have exactly the same facilities which are used by our authorities too. Still the combined economic muscle of the Iranian people may well make companies think twice about getting into bed with the Iranian regime.

Evil Zionist chewing gum conspiracy uncovered

Hamas has unveiled a dark Zionist conspiracy that will rock the state of Israel to the core. It has tangible proof that Israeli intelligence services are supplying the Gaza Strip with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to "corrupt the young,"

"We have discovered two types of stimulants that were introduced into the Gaza Strip from Israeli border crossings," Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan told AFP. "The first type is presented in the form of chewing gum and the second in the form of drops," he said.
Mr Shahwan said that it had detained members of a gang that helped to bring in the products."They admitted during the investigation they were linked to the Zionist intelligence services," he said.

One suspect said he had received the products from an Israeli intelligence officer at a cut-rate price "with the officer saying they did not want money, but to distribute the products among the young people of Gaza. The intelligence services are aiming to corrupt the young generation by distributing these products among students."

The story came to light after a Palestinian man filed a complaint that his daughter had experienced "dubious side effects" after chewing the offending gum... (presumably a cessation of periods and a swelling of the abdomen?)

The Israeli military in an official statement admitted that it had indeed been supplying the gum. “It had been our plan to subvert the youth of Gaza by having them spend their time in constant copulation. That way they would be too tired to bother us. Sadly Hamas has caught us red handed. We apologise humbly and will cease distribution forthwith.”

Off the record another IDF source said “At least they didn’t discover the porno ray

14 July 2009

How cats control us

I knew I had to post this when I saw it. According to large swathes of the press , scientists have discovered the means by which cats control us.

Cats have learned that loud miaowing is not an effective strategy for waking us up for an early breakfast at 5am. Any cat trying that will probably find themselves extramuralised velocitatiously be it via the door or via the window.

Some cats (Robyn, Bebe and Ted included) disguise their cries for attention within an otherwise pleasant purr. The result, according to a study in the journal Current Biology, is a complex "solicitation" purr with a high-frequency element that triggers a sense of urgency in the human brain. Owners find it irritating, but not irritating enough to kick the cat out, and feel driven to respond. Which means that it pierces through the highest tog rated duvet and several pillows. It bores into your brain faster than that irritating advert jingle that kept playing in your brain until 4am

Dr Karen McComb, a specialist in mammal vocal communication at the University of Sussex, said that by employing an embedded cry, cats appear to be exploiting innate tendencies that humans have for nurturing offspring."The embedding of a cry within a call that we normally associate with contentment is quite a subtle means of eliciting a response – and solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing," she said.

McComb began the research into domestic cats after noticing the "manipulative" purring of her own cat, Pepo. "I wondered why this purring sounded so annoying and was so difficult to ignore," she said. "Talking with other cat owners, I found that some of them also had cats which showed similar behaviour."

After testing human responses to different purring types, McComb and her team found that even those with no experience of cats judged the "solicitation" purr to be more urgent and less pleasant. On examining the frequency of the special purr, she found a peak similar to that of a baby's cry, which gave it a "noisy, slightly whiny quality".

Asked whether the cat's special purr is more effective than other demands for food, she said: "I think it might be more effective than a dog. If you ask people who own cats what they do when they get up they say they feed their cats. Even before they have a cup of coffee. Cats are very good at getting their own way."

That is so true!

The problem for Dr McComb is now she has revealed the cat’s secret solicitation I fear that she will receive a visit from the Feline mafia. The editor of Current Biology will almost certainly wake up and find a mouse head in their bed

WW [- Echinops ritro

This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

Bear's Britches

13 July 2009

People of the DPRK commemorate passing of Great Leader, Dear Leader in rude health despite what western lackeys say

Last Wednesday the workers, soldiers and peasants of the indefatigable Democratic People’s Republic of Korea paid tribute to the peerless triumphs of the Great leader Kim il Sung on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of his passing from Great Leader to Eternal Leader.

The Great and then Eternal Leader happy after a successful day of purging imperialist running dogs

According to KCNA:

Senior officials of the party and state, leading officials of the party and power organs, working people's organizations, ministries and national institutions visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of demise of President Kim Il Sung. Blah, blah’ blah A floral basket in the joint name of Blah, blah, blah

Kimilsungia, a feature of many of the flower baskets

Servicepersons of the Korean People's Army, people from all walks of life and school youth and children blah, blah, blah floral baskets blah, blah, blah .

An endless stream of people visited the statue of the President on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang in boundless reverence and yearning for him, blah, blah blah, floral basket sent by Kim Jong Il, blah, blah, blah.

Kimjongillia, also a featured plant in many of the flower baskets

Blah.. Blah, blah, blah floral baskets in the name of blah, blah, blah. Also placed were floral baskets in the name blah, blah, blah. Overseas Koreans and foreigners. Servicepersons, working people and school youth and children from across the country visited the statues of the President in their residential areas. They laid floral baskets (and WOW), bouquets and flowers before the statues, blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile President Kim Il Sung was lauded in the highest terms by Shawn Pikford, delegate of the British organization for the study of the Juche idea, which claims a membership of over 77 million students in England alone.

“The validity and vitality of the Juche idea blah, blah, blah,” he said. The great Juche idea blah, blah, blah independent life blah, blah, blah world progressives. Blah, blah, blah will shine more brightly blah, blah, blah Juche idea, blah, blah, blah. The President is always alive blah, blah, blah hearts of the Korean people blah, blah, blah immortal exploits blah, blah blahh, revolutionary cause, blah, blah; blah Kim Jong Il.

But surprisingly not a single mention of floral baskets

As can be seen a lot of flowers sacrificed their lives to pay proper tribute to the colossus of the Songun ideal and enough hot air was generated to heat all of Pyongyang’s schools and hospitals for several months (pity the ceremony did not take place when it was cold...)

But what of General Secretary, the dear leader Kim Jong Il?

As painted just before his run up Mt Baedku

According to KCNA he visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace at 0:00 on Wednesday accompanied by Vice Marshal of the KPA Kim Yong Chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces, General of the KPA Ri Yong Ho, chief of the General Staff of the KPA, General of the KPA Kim Jong Gak, first vice-director of the General Political Department of the KPA, Vice Marshal of the KPA Kim Il Chol, first vice-minister of the People's Armed Forces, staff members of the Supreme Command of the KPA and other general officers of the KPA.

He together with the above-said commanding officers of the NDC and the KPA paid homage to President Kim Il Sung.

Of course it goes without saying that he was in the peak of health and indeed only the day before ran to the top of Mount Baedku on Tuesday although it must be stressed that it did leave hi a little tired the following day as can be seen in the following picture:

Dear Leader a little tired after running up Mt Baedku

The lackey press of the Capitalist lapdogs have had the temerity to claim that the Dear Leader may have Pancreatic Cancer.

The fascist South Korean government mouthpiece YTN television channel reported that Kim had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, citing unidentified intelligence officials.

It is in fact clear that the Dear Leader is still in charge and taking forward the peeless ideals of Juche, tirelessly working for the benefit of the freedom loving Korean people. The Dear leader has since rested and undertaken an intensive course of rejuvenation the effects of which can clearly be seen in the latest official photograph issued yesterday.

The Dear Leader (left) rejuvenated and ready to rule the DPRK for another 60 years

Long live Juche!