31 December 2009

A song for a New Year

You didn't think I'd choose Auld Lang Syne did you?

Happy New Year!

A personal review of 2009

Ach so 2009 comes to an end and I suppose a review is obligatory. For me 2009 was one of plans that did not come to fruition. The bike remains unridden, the photo projects remain un photographed but then I have had limited mobility for most of the year. I can walk unaided, but not too far and even now I daren't risk scrambling around some of the places I want to photograph.

At least I was only in that fucking cast for six weeks. Cycling and major photo projets will have to wait until next year. One thing I will never do is get annoyed with anyone who has to use a zimmer frame

On the cat front we bade farewell to our beloved Mimi in February. Mimi was just five years old when she died. She was severely disabled, crapped everywhere but the litter tray but she was so sweet and we loved her unconditionally

In July we took in a cat that needed a new place to live. It took him about three minutes to make himself at home!

And that was my event filled year. Sad, eh? Wishing both of my readers happy New Year

MOre favourite photos of 2009

30 December 2009

Chavez is an arsehole - part 27,694

Reuters reports that Hugo Chavez's government has accused the United of fomenting violence to undermine the Iranian administration.

"The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela categorically rejects the attempts at destabilization promoted by the U.S. government against the people and government of Iran," Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Bolivarian government is surprised that a group of governments, led by the U.S. empire, are echoing a campaign to divide and spread violence among Iranians, in contravention of elemental norms of peace, non-interference and respect for sovereignty," it added.

Chavez is an idiot who chooses to side with anyone as long as they are anti American, a lazy posture that is typical of far too many fellow leftists and which takes no account of how repressive the “anti-Americans” may be.

Chavez’s response comes as no surprise, given that he and Ahmadinejad are joined at the hip. Still it shows his contempt for the people of Iran and a love of brutal despots. How long before he becomes one himself?

As far as I am concerned Chavez can fuck off and die

Straw to review libel laws and about bloody time too

According to last Sunday’s Observer Jack Straw, the lord chancellor, is to order a comprehensive review of our idiotic libel laws.

Straw had previously promised to act against libel tourism but the justice ministry said the review, to be conducted by academics, lawyers and newspaper editors, will go much further. The formal terms of reference will be to "consider whether the law of libel, including the law relating to libel tourism, in England and Wales needs reform, and if so to make recommendations as to solutions".

The review will look at whether a specialist libel tribunal should be established to resolve defamation cases out of court. The issue of whether academics and scientists can defend their remarks on the basis of fair comment or in the public interest will also be examined. The wide terms of reference will also allow the working party to look into whether the burden of proof should be shifted from defendant to plaintiff, as is the case in countries such as the US.

Other issues for examination include whether large and medium-sized corporations would have to prove malicious falsehood for a libel claim to succeed. It may also look at the implications of the internet for libel. The only issue that will be excluded are the costs of defamation proceedings which are already the subject of a separate justice ministry consultation.

Despite the scale of the review, Straw said he hopes the working party will report by mid-March in time for any reforms to be implemented before the general election.

It is about bloody time that our libel laws were overhauled. especially the disgraceful situation with regard to libel tourism. The very worst example in my mind related to Child rapist Roman Polanski. Despite being too shit scared to come to the UK for fear of being arrested and extradited to the US, he still was able to successfully win damages here. He was able to give evidence by video link! This sort of stupidity must end

It would be nice also to think that frivolous lawsuits like the one pursued by the idiot Johanna Kaschke this year will become a thing of the past. In addition I would hope that the obscene profits made by parasitic bastards like Carter Ruck and Schillings are slashed.

On the other hand I doubt that there is enough time to put things into place before the election so all of this may just be an empty gesture.

Iranian Foreign Minister in bar brawl diplomacy

It comes as no surprise to see Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki resorting to Uncle Napoleonism as a result of the protests over the weekend. He did the same back in June. The fighting talk came as a bit of a surprise though...

Manouchehr "razors" Mottaki

In a response to Foreign Secretary David Miliband who hailed the "great courage" of the protestors, Mottaki threatened to punch us in the mouth.

Predictably the regime has blamed the West for the protests: “( the protesters)should not be encouraged by a few... statements by certain countries. They should not pin their hopes on them. Britain will receive a punch on the mouth if it does not stop its nonsense. ... It’s true I’ll bleeding have that wanker Miliband for breakfast. I boxed in the army you know“

David "Mental" Miliband

Mr Miliband had condemned the lack of restraint shown by Iranian security forces, saying "The tragic deaths of protesters in Iran are yet another reminder of how the Iranian regime deals with protest... Ordinary Iranian citizens are determined to exercise their right to have their voices heard. They are showing great courage. Anyway I can take that long streak of paralysed piss Moutaki any time, him and that fucker Larijani”

Miliband paid for his university studies by working as a cage fighter. He is also known to have a hair trigger temper, as Silvio Berlusconi discovered to his cost recently when he has hospitalised after spilling Miliband’s pint.

There is only one solution to this and this is a fight, Two Foreign ministers enter the arena, only one leaves!

29 December 2009

The beginning of the end in Iran?

I will make only one prediction this year: not that the regime will be toppled and Ahmadinejad’s bullet riddled corpse will be trodden underfoot in Azadi Square but that an awful lot more blood will be shed in Iran in the coming months. It is clear that the regime in on the back foot. I don’t think it is wishful thinking to believe that we could be witnessing the endgame in Iran.

After Sunday’s violence the regime appears to be even more desperate if arresting leading activists and confiscating the corpse of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s nephew is anything to go by

According to the Times who was shot in the chest. Tehran was rife with speculation that Seyed Ali Mousavi had been assassinated in order to send a message to his uncle, and the Government moved rapidly to prevent his death becoming another rallying point for the opposition. On Sunday security forces ringed the hospital where his body was taken. Yesterday they used tear gas to disperse protesters who had gathered outside. Later it emerged that they had removed his body and taken it to an undisclosed location.

Iran’s state-controlled media said that the body, and those of four other people killed during Sunday’s protests, had been taken away for forensic tests. In addition it implied he may have been shot by foreign agents to embarrass the regime.

At least seven opposition activists were arrested, including three of Mr Mousavi’s top aides, two advisers to the reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, and two of its most outspoken critics: Ebrahim Yazdi, who served as foreign minister in the early months of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and the human rights campaigner Emadeddin Baghi.

Meanwhile gangs of pro-government vigilantes increasingly appear to be taking the law into their own hands. On Saturday night a group broke up a meeting addressed by Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former president, and attacked nearby offices used by the family of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. Leading members of the Khomeini family now support the opposition.

Well let’s see what happens in the coming days, weeks and months. The protestors are not going to stop now. They will continue to put their lives on the line until the regime is taken down. What they get in its place is a major worry of course (I do fear for my friends in Tehran). As far as I am concerned the protestors have my complete support.

More favourite photos of 2009

28 December 2009


Give us a kiss for Christmas over, under and beside the mistletoe

The Times carries a curious report concerning mistletoe and one of the strangest creatures in the oceans.

The Weymouth Sea life centre in Dorset An aquarium in Dorset is hoping to be the first to breed sea dragons in Europe. Strangely it has found a way to increase their ardour – mistletoe, which tricked the sea dragons (Phycodurus eques) into a mating frenzy.

Fiona Smith, display supervisor at the centre, said: “The males have suddenly started engaging in heated courtship with the females. It seems they view the Christmas decorations as potential rivals, and they are making sure they don’t lose out.”

Well there you have it. spice up your love life with foliage!

Live and learn!

I learned a new word yesterday (or more correctly a new expression) to describe something I have seen most days for several decades.

The word in question is Lordosis (or more correctly Lordosis behaviour)is describes the presentation response of female cats in oestrus. Also tickle a cat at the base of its tail and it raises its bottom or at least mine do

And that is Lordosis behaviour. 24 hours ago I didn't know that...

Sorry, I'll do a better post later!

27 December 2009

Murder in Tehran

Iran saw further protests today and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the regime murdered up to nine demonstrators including the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the real winner of June’s elections.

Sunday was a major holy day in the Shia calendar, Ashura which honours Imam Hossein. Despite this security forces opened fire on protesters killing four, A fifth is believed to have died as a result of head injuries (doubtlessly meted out by British agents provocateur) after being beaten by police. Among the dead was Ali Mousavi, reported to have been shot through the heart.

Demonstrators – many chanting slogans against Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – retaliated by attacking members of the security forces, in some cases ripping off their uniforms and beating them with their own batons. Police cars were set on fire and photographs appeared to show riot officers retreating under a hail of stones.

A further four people were killed and many others injured in the northern city of Tabriz, according to reformist websites. Clashes were also reported in several other cities, including Isfahan, Shiraz, Arak, Mashhad, Babol and Najafabad.

Today's events differed from previous clashes in a way that seemed to herald further turmoil to come. By using lethal force on a day meant to honour one of Shia Islam's holiest figures, the regime may have undermined its claim to uphold Iran's religious traditions. The violent response of the protesters to the security forces was also unprecedented and suggested many are becoming fearless in the face of state repression.

A friend who lives in the centre of Tehran, right has confirmed that it was a grim day. It is a pointer as to what we will see in Iran over the coming months. Hopefully Ahmadinejad and Khamenei will be gone this time next year.

The Black Adder - Hell is fun!

The first inacarnation of Edmund Blackadder as Archbishop of Canterbury - Features a suprisingly shouty Brian Blessed!

Neda Soltan is the Times Person of the Year

The Times has chosen a martyr of the Iranian protests as its person of the year. Six months ago Neda Soltan’s death flashed across the world and a tragic icon was born. This is an edited version of the Times article:

Neda was not political. She did not vote in the Iranian presidential election on June 12. The young student was appalled, however, by the way that the regime shamelessly rigged the result and reinstalled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ignoring the pleas of her family, she went with her music teacher eight days later to join a huge opposition demonstration in Tehran. Hours after leaving home, she was shot, by a government militiaman, as she and other demonstrators chanted: “Death to the dictator.”

Arash Hejazi, a doctor standing near by, remembers her looking down in surprise as blood gushed from her chest. She collapsed. More blood spewed from her mouth. As she lay dying on the pavement, her life ebbing out of her, “I felt she was trying to ask a question. Why?” said Dr Hejazi, who tried to save her life. Why had an election that generated so much excitement ended with a government that claims to champion the highest moral values, the finest Islamic principles, butchering its own youth?

A 40-second telephone clip of Ms Soltan’s final moments flashed around the world. Overnight she became a global symbol of the regime’s brutality, and of the remarkable courage of Iran’s opposition in a region where other populations are all too easily suppressed by despotic governments.

She was no less of an icon inside Iran, whose Shia population is steeped in the mythology of martyrdom. Vigils were held. Her grave became something of a shrine, and the 40th day after her death — an important date in Shia mourning rituals — was marked by a big demonstration in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran that riot police broke up.

It was not hard to see why Ms Soltan so quickly became the face of the opposition, the Iranian equivalent of the young man who confronted China’s tanks during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations 20 years earlier. She was young and pretty, innocent, brave and modern. The story of her death was so potent that the regime went to extraordinary lengths to suppress it. It banned a mourning ceremony, tore down black banners outside her home, and insisted that her funeral be private. It ordered her family to stay silent.

In the subsequent weeks any number of leading officials, ayatollahs included, sought to blame her death on British and American intelligence agencies, the opposition, and even the BBC — accusing its soon-to-beexpelled Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, of arranging her death so that he could get good pictures. The regime announced investigations that, to no one’s surprise, exonerated it and all its agents.

When The Queen’s College, Oxford, established a scholarship in Ms Soltan’s name the regime sent the university a furious letter of complaint.

Back in Tehran, the regime tried to buy off Ms Soltan’s parents by promising them a pension if they agreed that their daughter was a “martyr” killed by foreign agents. Her mother, Hajar Rostami Motlagh, was outraged. “Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income from the Martyr Foundation,” she said. “If these officials say Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word ‘martyr’ in red which people write on her gravestone? ... Even if they give the world to me I will never accept the offer.”

Soon afterwards, government supporters desecrated her grave. The regime has not arrested or investigated Abbas Kargar Javid, who was caught by demonstrators seconds after he shot Ms Soltan. The crowd, unwilling to use violence, and with the police the enemy, let him go — but not before they had taken his identity card.

Six months on, it is obvious that Ms Soltan did not die in vain. The manner of her death, and the regime’s response, has shredded what little legitimacy it had left. She helped to inspire an opposition movement that is now led by her generation, which a systematic campaign of arrests, show trials, beatings, torture and security force violence has failed to crush, and whose courage and defiance has won the admiration of the world.

As the new year approaches, the so-called Green Movement appears to be gaining confidence and momentum. It no longer seems impossible that the regime could fall in 2010. If and when it does, Ms Soltan will be remembered as the pre-eminent martyr of the second Iranian revolution.

What to say but hope yet again that the Iranian regime is consigned to the worst circle of Hell where it and its Western apologists belong.

The Iranian protests have brought forward thousands of brave men and women and they are moist certainly not forgotten. However it is the case that one image can symbolise a whole event. Think of the Vietnam War and I would imagine that the picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked down a road is the image that springs to mind. Think of Tiananmen and it is the unknown protestor standing in front of a tank. Think of Iraq and I bet the image of Lynddie England dragging a prisoner on a chain in Abu Ghraib springs quickly to mind.

And so the murder of Neda Soltan is the defining image of the Iranian protests. The Times choice is appropriate in that it acknowledges just this.

26 December 2009

All great art is Indian!

Well I find it funny! From the sketch show Goodness Gracious Me which, like most sketch shows could be hit and miss, but when it hit it was very. very funny!

Christmas – a time to jail dissidents

The Guardian reports that Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most prominent human rights activists was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Liu is the founder of the Charter 08 campaign for constitutional reform and was given what is a draconian sentence yesterday on Christmas Day, clearly in an attempt to minimise international attention.

Following a year in detention and a two-hour trial, it took the No 1 intermediate people's court in Beijing just 10 minutes to read out the 11-page sentence. Liu was found guilty on Wednesday of subversion, the vaguely defined charge that Communist party leaders often use to imprison political opponents. litigation rights".

"We cannot accept this sentence because we have argued in court that Liu is innocent," said one of his lawyers, Mo Shaoping. His wife could not be reached as her mobile phone was strangely out of order. Amnesty International expressed outrage at the sentence, which it said was the harshest in 35 subversion cases since 2003.

Outside the courtroom and in the Chinese blogosphere, Liu's supporters have initiated a yellow ribbon campaign for his release. "China's Mandela was born this
Christmas," wrote the influential blogger Beichen.

Liu, a former Beijing Normal University professor, is a leading intellectual critic
of the repressive Chinese government. Liu was previously imprisoned for 20 months for taking part in the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.

He told friends that he knew the risk of imprisonment when he drafted Charter 08, which demands the open election of public officials, freedom of religion and expression, and the abolition of subversion laws. Liu was arrested last December before the Charter was made public. Other drafters and signatories have been harassed. The mainstream media have been forbidden to cover the subject and censors have blocked many related internet sites and articles. Many Chinese are unaware that it exists.

Liu’s imprisonment is an utter disgrace The Chinese Government looks to have created an icon and focus for protest, perhaps even of the status of Aung San Suu Kyi or, as the Chinese blogger says, Nelson Mandela

24 December 2009

A Happy Cthulhu Christmas to one and all

May none of your worst nightmares come true

Father Christmas is dead

I know this is the season of good will and that children everywhere will be awaiting the arrival tonight of Father Christmas on a sleigh pulled by Rudolf, Prancer, Dancer, Donner, Blitzen, Schwerpunkt, Zeitgeist and Schadenfreude.

However there is unequivocal evidence that whoever travels around tonight delivering presents is an impostor. There is proof in the records of an Essex parish church that Father Christmas in fact died in 1564.

An entry in the parish record of Dedham Parish Church in Essex shows that Father Christmas was laid to rest in a churchyard in the village of Dedham, Essex, on May 30 1564.

The record: "The 30[th] Day, Father Christmas was buried." Any headstone marking his grave disappeared many years ago.

Richard Harris, the chief archivist at the Essex records office in Chelmsford, explained "Christmas was not an uncommon surname in these parts around that time," he said. "In the 16th century old people were often called Old Mother this or Old Father that and this chap obviously took that nickname to his grave."

Hmm I think that the current Father Christmas is some alien replicant and should be destroyed. I would ask any right thinking citizen to aim a MANPAD to the sky tonight... and I don't mean an incontinence pad!

23 December 2009

A Podge and Rodge Christmas


Well Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a bit of bad poetry!

by William McGonagall

Mr. SMIGGS was a gentleman,
And he lived in London town;
His wife she was a good kind soul,
And seldom known to frown.

'Twas on Christmas eve,
And Smiggs and his wife lay cosy in bed,
When the thought of buying a goose
Came into his head.

So the next morning,
Just as the sun rose,
He jump'd out of bed,
And he donn'd his clothes,

Saying, "Peggy, my dear.
You need not frown,
For I'll buy you the best goose
In all London town."

So away to the poultry shop he goes,
And bought the goose, as he did propose,
And for it he paid one crown,
The finest, he thought, in London town.

When Smiggs bought the goose
He suspected no harm,
But a naughty boy stole it
From under his arm.

Then Smiggs he cried, "Stop, thief!
Come back with my goose!"
But the naughty boy laugh'd at him,
And gave him much abuse.

But a policeman captur'd the naughty boy,
And gave the goose to Smiggs,
And said he was greatly bother'd
By a set of juvenile prigs.

So the naughty boy was put in prison
For stealing the goose.,
And got ten days' confinement
Before he got loose.

So Smiggs ran home to his dear Peggy,
Saying, "Hurry, and get this fat goose ready,
That I have bought for one crown;
So, my darling, you need not frown."

"Dear Mr Smiggs, I will not frown:
I'm sure 'tis cheap for one crown,
Especially at Christmas time --
Oh! Mr Smiggs, it's really fine."

"Peggy. it is Christmas time,
So let us drive dull care away,
For we have got a Christmas goose,
So cook it well, I pray.

"No matter how the poor are clothed,
Or if they starve at home,
We'll drink our wine, and eat our goose,
Aye, and pick it to the bone."

22 December 2009

WW- some favourite photos posted in 2009 part I

Phygelius flower

Darya Dadvar in concert

Ted on our arch

The obligatory Geranium versicolor photo

An alternative kiss by Rodin


Crow in flight

The pope and copyright

According to the Times the Holy See, in a move to control the use of the papal brand, has announced that in future anyone wanting to use the face or name of the Holy Father or Supreme Pontiff must obtain Vatican approval.

Robin Fry, a copyright lawyer from the London firm Beachcrofts, said: "This declaration is a brave attempt to control use of the imprimatur and image of His Holy Father, but this can only realistically be done through registration of trademarks. “

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: “This is not about financial gain or commercial interests. It is simply an attempt to preserve the integrity of the Pope’s image at a time when there is a plethora of new media and there may be concern that it is used inappropriately.”

Hmm I wonder what sort of damages the will seek. A billion years in Purgatory? On the other hand I can’t wait to see the Vatican going to court to prevent Benedict’s image being used for a Caganer. I can see the Vatican getting royally Streisanded on the Internet if they do. The one at the top of the post is on account!

21 December 2009

Facebook 1, Cowell 0

On an utterly trivial note it amuses me that Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine is the Christmas number 1 having beaten another of Simon Cowell’s tedious products
The hot favourite had been X Factor winner Something McElderry with a cover of a Miley Cyrus song. Going by the comments he made during the week,Mephistopholes Cowell is probably not happy (but who gives a shit?)

Krissi Murrison, editor of the NME, stated “It proves not only that the public have better taste than Simon Cowell gives them credit for, but that it there is actually an alternative to the pap we have been fed by X Factor for the past six Christmases, The assumption was obviously that no-one could topple the combined power of ITV and X Factor - especially not a grassroots campaign with zero marketing budget. But this just proves that anything is possible. The public has had enough of them hi-jacking the charts with second-rate karaoke cover versions, and this is our way of showing that.”

A Facebook group called “Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1” quickly transformed itself into a major grassroots protest against the X-Factor attracting more than 980,000 followers. The campaign took on an increasingly anti-corporate and pro-social justice tone with followers encouraging each other to donate to the homeless charity Shelter which received £65,000 in public donations. Rage Against the Machine also lent their support to the campaign, promising to donate their royalties to Shelter and to play a thank you gig in the UK next year if the campaign was successful.

The other losers are Bookies who are set to make a major loss from the Rage victory. Rupert Adams, from William Hill, said. “We’ll probably take quite a hit, quite possibly a six or seven
figure hit” My heart bleeds for that bunch of parasites.

I don’t care for RATM but I care for X-Factor crap even less. It’s not that the singers are bad, far from it, but they are straitjacketed into churning out bland crap by svengalis like Cowell and Louis Walsh. More power I say to the campaign which cocked a snook at an entertainment industry and made a lot of money for a deserving charity to boot!

Hossein Ali Montazeri – an Iranian obituary

Presstv, the English language propaganda mouthpiece for the Iranian regime (also the tv station that Stalinist shithead George Galloway appears on), carries an obituary for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri that is at odds with those in the free Press, in that all of his opposition to the regime has been airbrushed out:

“ Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a leading clerical figure, has passed away at his home in the Iranian holy city of Qom.

His son, Ahmad, told IRNA news agency on Sunday that his 87-year-old father passed away due to cardiac arrest at 1.30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Montazeri, who was born in 1922 in the Najafabad city of the Esfahan Province, served as Friday prayers leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council in the early years of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

He was once designated as a successor to the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and was instrumental in instituting Iran's new constitution.

However, in 1989 Montazeri was relieved from his posts and focused the rest of his life on religious writings and teaching at his home in the holy city of Qom.”

No surprise that they fail to mention his vehement opposition to the regime. No wonder too that opportunistic rat like Galloway can’t wait to take their money.

20 December 2009

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri dies. What happens next?

The BBC (and well nigh every other reputable news source) has reported on the death in Qom of Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri at the age of 87. His family reported that he died of natural causes.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri was one of the key leaders of the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979, which abolished the monarchy and overthrew Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran.

According to his Al Jazeera obituary Montazeri was born in 1922 to a peasant family. He left his home town in his teens to undertake religious studies in Qom, Iran's centre for religious studies where he became a protege of al-Khomeini.

He soon became active in the clerical struggle to overthrow the Shah. He was imprisoned in 1974 for his political outlook and was sentenced to death. The death sentence was later waived and Montazeri was released in 1978, just a few months before the revolution.

In the wake of the Islamic revolution in 1979, Montazeri became one of the senior leaders of the new administration and was named the heir to al-Khomeini.

Montazeri's star fell in 1989. Over the previous two years, Montazeri had strongly protested against the mass executions of political prisoners and criticised the Islamic system in Iran. He urged al-Khomeini to review to the policies of the state and take steps to rectify any problems within them.

But Montazeri's appeal to al-Khomeini incurred but the Ayatollah's wrath, In March 1989, it was announced that he had had resigned his post as heir to the supreme leader. Khomeini was then succeeded by Ali Khamenei who remains in place today

Montazeri was placed under house arrest in 1997 following his support for reformists, after which he remained largely silent until June this year, when he voiced support for Mir Hossain Mousavi, the reformist candidate in that month's presidential election.

He joined the protests which rejected the results of the polls, which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president, win another term.

Perhaps unsurprisingly state-run media referred to him as a "simple-minded" cleric, references to him in schoolbooks were erased and streets named after him were renamed.

In early reports of his death the state news agency Irna did not use the ayatollah title in its early reports of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's death and referred to him as the "clerical figure of rioters".

His funeral is scheduled to start at 0900 local time tomorrow He will be laid to rest at the shrine of Hazrate Masoumeh, one of the most revered female saints in Shia Islam. No foreign media will be allowed to attend.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. Montazeri’s death is certain to precipitate more protests. It remains to be seen how strong the protests are. It could be a damp squib or it might just be another nail in the regime’s coffin

Good news on the libel front

Johanna Kashcke?

Yesterday’s Independent carried this short item

Alex Hilton, star of the Labour blogosphere and Labour candidate for Kensington & Chelsea, won a minor victory in the High Court this week, in a case which illustrates how easy it is to get sued for libel in the UK. He owns the website Labourhome, on which another Labour blogger, John Gray, wrote about a political activist named Johanna Kaschke, who left the Labour Party in 2007, to join George Galloway's Respect Party, then joined a communist party of some description, and since autumn 2007 has been an active Conservative. In 1975,

Kaschke was falsely suspected by the German police of links to the Baader Meinhof terrorist gang. She was arrested, but eventually released and awarded compensation.
She objected to having this old story dug up on LabourHome. Hilton removed the post and offered right of reply, but she decided to go to court. She lodged five complaints, but this week, the court struck out four. One point m'learned friends may yet have to deliberate, seriously, is whether it is actionable to describe someone as "one cherry short of a Schwarzwalderkirschtorte".

I have written about this idiotic case before. In my view it underlines the sheer and utter stupidity of our libel laws. How the hell can one be libelled for stating items of record? Kaschke was suspected of support for the Baader Meinhof, she did take a strange journey from Labour to the Tories

As for the “one cherry short of a Black Forest Gateau” comment. Oh come on! I hope that this final aspect of her spurious claim is treated with the same contempt by the law courts and as quickly as possible.

My thanks to Modernity blog for this.

Also see Jon Gray’s blog. John Gray and Dave Osler were also defendants in this idiotic case
When it came to Northern Ireland, I always used to take a “plague on both your houses” approach to the murdering bastards on both side of the sectarian divide. Like a lot of people I was, however, pleasantly surprised when Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness formed an effective working relationship.

Even though some things in Northern Ireland do remain newsworthy: according to the Observer the South Belfast seat may be contested (for the first time ever) by catholics standing for both the SDLP and the Conservative and Unionists.

The sitting SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell is likely to face Conservative and Unionist candidate Peter McCann. A former BBC senior executive McCann is a Catholic from the west of the city.

A spokeswoman for the UUP said no one could comment as there was an "ongoing selection process" taking place. She said the decision would be taken in the middle of January.

I will be the first to admit that this is not much of a story in the grand scheme of things. But perhaps, just perhaps this is an example of a tiny crack in the ridiculous sectarian divide that has blighted Northern Ireland for centuries.

I look forward to the day when the Mid Ulster seat is contested by Harry Burns (Sinn Fein) and Dermot Sullivan (DUP)!

Iran admits that protestors were murdered in prison

Mohsen Ruholamini, murdered in Kahrizak

The Iranian judiciary has finally acknowledged that at least three prisoners detained after June's disputed presidential election were beaten to death by their jailers, despite months of repeated denials by police and other authorities that the deaths of protesters in Iranian custody were caused by abuse and not meningitis as they tried to claim.

12 officials at Kahrizak detention centre have been charged with offences, of which three of them have been charged with murder. The prison, in southern Tehran, was at the centre of the opposition's claims that prisoners were tortured and raped in custody. The claims forced the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to order closure of the facility.

I hope the bastards get the sentences they deserve. However it is not just the jailers that deserve to be behind bars, it is the scum in the Basij, the scum in the Revolutionary Guards and the vermin Ahmadinejad and Khamenei who deserve to be there too

19 December 2009

Songs that go together in my head

If I think of one these songs the other comes into my head too. They were together on a tape I borrowed off a friend 25 years ago... Ach time flies

The least of Stalin’s crimes go on exhibit

I would not have been surprised if, as a child, Stalin would have pulled the wings of butterflies so it is perhaps not a real surprise to discover that he enjoyed defacing classical nude drawings with macabre messages ridiculing political opponents that he had executed.

According to the Telegraph, examples of his defacement have gone on display for the first time in Russia. Although they depict people Stalin would not have known, some of the images seem to have reminded him of people he had killed or purged.

“Ginger bastard Radek, if he had not pissed against the wind, if he had not been angry, he would still be alive,” Stalin wrote across the leg on one of the naked male figures. This refers to Karl Radek, a man who helped draft the Soviet constitution only to fall out with Stalin and be jailed and murdered.

In another sketch of a bearded nude man, Stalin has drawn a red inverted triangle over the man’s penis. Experts say the accompanying comments are a barbed insult aimed at Mikhail Kalinin, a senior Bolshevik apparatchik who Stalin marginalised. “Why are you so thin?” mocks Stalin.

In another sketch, Stalin urges the naked male model to be supplied with underpants, while a sketch of a nude man with his back turned prompts the following crude comment: “You need to work and not masturbate.” Another man is damned in Stalin’s trademark style. “One pensive idiot is worse than ten enemies,” writes Stalin.

A sketch of a muscular young man clutching a stick is one of the few drawings to meet with Stalin’s approval. “This is the strongest comrade!” Stalin writes next to it. “This Soviet David is preparing to tackle global imperialism. We will help! ”

Stalin appears to have defaced the reproduction sketches towards the end of his life, scrawling on them in red and blue ink before signing off with a flourish: “J. Stalin.”

The sketches’ owner has not been made public but it is thought that the drawings have been kept secret for more than half a century by Stalin’s former bodyguards and were only recently sold to a private collector.

I suppose that these give us a fresh insight into the man – that he was one warped and twisted example of humankind... Bo surpise there then!

Photo Hunt - Fast

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is Fast. I don't have any decent car or plane photos so here is a photo of water moving fast from a fountain in Trafalgar Square

18 December 2009

Not the perfect present for your beloved

Are you fed up of your useless/philandering/other reason (delete as applicable) spouse but still have no idea what to get them? Then fear not, London law firm Lloyd Platt & Company may have the perfect gift for you.

The company is offering divorce gift voucher which offer couples half-hour or hour-long advice sessions with a lawyer. A snip at just £125 plus VAT.

Senior partner Vanessa Lloyd Platt said: “Christmas can be a very stressful time for families as we have always seen by the huge increase of people seeking advice in January. The vouchers seem to appeal to an enormously wide spread spectrum of people looking for that ‘must have’ gift for Christmas. We hope through the vouchers that we can offer clients all the practical options available to them – divorce being only one of the options.”

Hmm while a lot of couples are truly miserable, especially so at Christmas when close proximity with (un)loved ones can push a fragile relationship over the edge. Still I can’t help but think that Lloyd Platt & Company are angling for happy or just an extra profitable New Year...

Waterworld in space

A student has discovered the first Earth-like planet ever seen outside of the solar system. The planet is about seven times the mass of our own planet and appears to be composed of about 50 per cent water, an essential condition for organic life to survive.

Called GJ1214b, the planet is in orbit around a red dwarf star that is about one-fifth the size of the Sun and is about 40 light years away. Although it is likely to be too hot to sustain life, the discovery shows that even very basic ground-based technologies are capable of finding almost-Earth-sized planets in warm, life-friendly orbits.

“Despite its hot temperature, this appears to be a waterworld,” said Zachory Berta, a graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics who first spotted the planet. “It is much smaller, cooler, and more Earth like than any other known exoplanet.”

The discovery, which was published today in the journal Nature, was made through a major search programme, called MEarth, aimed at discovering Earth-sized planets elsewhere in the galaxy. The project is monitoring 2,000 of the smallest stars in the sky for hints that they have orbiting planets.

The next step for astronomers is to try directly to detect and characterise the atmosphere, which will require a space-based instrument like Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope. The planet is only 40 light-years from Earth, easily within the reach of current observatories.

“Since this planet is so close to Earth, Hubble should be able to detect the atmosphere and determine what it’s made of,” said Dr Charbonneau. “That will make it the first super-Earth with a confirmed atmosphere — even though that atmosphere probably won’t be hospitable to life as we know it.”

Given that the first exoplanets were only discovered on the 1990s we are now finding ones which are nore ameanable to life (well only a bit more). Whatm will we discover over the next decade or so? I can't wait to find out!

Bebe again

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

17 December 2009

Trafigura scum win libel case against BBC

Despite being ultimately responsible for the dumping of a load of toxic rubbish which cause injury and probably death in the Ivory Coast in 2006, the amoral vermin Trafigura and their vile shysters Carter-Ruck have scored one over the BBC.

After negotiations with Trafigura director Eric de Turckheim the BBC broadcaster agreed to apologise for a Newsnight programme, pay £25,000 to charity, and withdraw any allegation that Trafigura's toxic waste dumped in Africa had caused deaths
That said BBC issued a statement, pointing out that the dumping of Trafigura's hazardous waste had led to the British-based oil trader being forced to pay out £30m in compensation to victims.

"The BBC has played a leading role in bringing to the public's attention the actions of Trafigura in the illegal dumping of 500 tons of hazardous waste" the statement said. "The dumping caused a public health emergency with tens of thousands of people seeking treatment."

Trafigura had only brought the libel action against a single aspect of Newsnight's reporting, the BBC statement went on: "Experts in the [compensation] case were not able to establish a link between the waste and serious long-term consequences, including deaths."

BBC sources said one factor in the management decision to settle was the fear that Carter-Ruck, Trafigura's libel lawyers, could run up potential bills of as much as £3m if the issue came to a full trial, particularly in the uncertain climate of British libel law. A hearing would have to be conducted before controversial libel judge Mr Justice Eady.

De Turckheim issued his own statement this morning, repeating the contentious claim that "The slops were... dumped illegally by an independent company called Compagnie Tommy – a deplorable action which Trafigura did not and could not have foreseen."
This is despite internal emails published by the Guardian show that Trafigura executives were indeed aware of the hazardous nature of their waste, and the need for specialist expensive disposal.

Once again it is clear that Trafigura are a greedy and avaricious company that does not care about the consequences of its actions. There is no way that they did not realise that offering a contract on the cheap in the Third World would not have consequences. Couple these examples of human detritus to another amoral rabble in the form of Carter-Ruck and a risible libel law and you get travesties like this.

The octopus and the coconut

Tool use was once thought to be the preserve of human and a very small number of higher mammals. It is now well known that certain corvids will make extensive use of tools to obtain food. Now researchers have discovered an invertebrate that can be said to use a tool.

An octopus that ferries around coconut husks while “stilt-walking” with its extended arms is among the most primitive species yet found to use tools, research has suggested. Unsurprisingly the invertebrate in question is an octopus - the veined octopus from Indonesia has been observed stacking coconut shells thrown away by humans and then transporting them across the sea floor, using them as portable armour to protect against predators.

Scientists who first observed the behaviour while diving off the coasts of Bali and northern Sulawesi said it was one of the first documented examples of an invertebrate using tools. “I could tell that the octopus, busy manipulating coconut shells, was up to something,” said Julian Finn, a member of the study team from the Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. “But I never expected it would pick up the stacked shells and run away. It was an extremely comical sight — I have never laughed so hard underwater.”

His colleague Mark Norman said the “stilt-walking” with coconut shells was a clear example of tool use, which is widely known among birds and primates but extremely rare in invertebrates such as octopuses. “There is a fundamental difference between picking up a nearby object and putting it over your head as protection versus collecting, arranging, transporting — awkwardly — and assembling portable armour as required,” he said.

The octopuses’ behaviour, details of which are described in the journal Current Biology, was observed during 500 hours of diving in Indonesia, during which the researchers watched 20 veined octopuses, of the species Amphioctopus margintus.

On four occasions, the scientists saw an octopus gather up several coconut shells, stack them, and then drape itself over them to pick them up. It would then extend its arms around the bulky cargo, and walk up to 20 metres with its load.

The shells, which had reached the sea floor as discarded human rubbish, were then employed as a shelter that could be carried around from place to place. It is qualitatively different from using rocks or empty shells as an impromptu hiding place, the scientists said.

The discovery of such tool use among octopuses suggests that it is quite a widespread form of animal behaviour. “Ultimately, the collection and use of objects by animals is likely to form a continuum stretching from insects to primates, with the definition of tools providing a perpetual opportunity for debate,” the researchers wrote.

This is utterly fascinating stuff. Previous research has proved the Octopus to be intelligent so this behaviour is perhaps not a huge surprise, still...

16 December 2009

An ancient burial shroud on an ancient leper

Today’s BBC reports that a team of archaeologists and scientists have found the first pieces of a burial shroud from the time of Jesus in a tomb in Jerusalem.

The shroud is very different from the Turin Shroud, the cloth having a much a simpler, a two-way, weave than the controversial relic.

The body of a man wrapped in fragments of the shroud was found in a tomb dating from the time of Jesus in the cemetery called the Field of Blood, where Judas Iscariot is said to have killed himself.

The discovery is another first being the earliest proven case of a person dying from leprosy.

Well there you have it: a an ancient shroud fragment and an ancient leper. This is many ways is more fascinating than the Turin Shroud.. well to me anyway!

Russian diplomacy drive bears fruit..

Russian diplomats can celebrate a major coup in their drive to get recognition for their client states South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Jesus, two more countries in the Eurovision Song contest... we’ll never win again!) According to yesterday’s Telegraph Russia can add a third country to the list of nations recognising the breakaway states. Having secured the support of Nicaragua and Venezuela, it can be revealed that mighty Nauru has joined this august body.

However, support comes at a price - $50m (£30.74m) in humanitarian aid

The Kremlin has been desperate to secure international recognition for the two regions since its punitive war last year with Georgia to the point of courting Nauru's foreign minister, Kieren Keke.

Nauru has a record of taking money to recognise or otherwise the independence nations, having taken money to acknowledge the existence of Kosovo. In 2002, Nauru accepted $130m from China to de-recognise Taiwan only to re-recognise it in 2005 after apparently receiving another, better offer.

Money is a major concern for Nauru. It has been in the clarts ever since its main resource, guano, began to run out. I suppose if Russia is so desperate that they will dole out millions for recognition then who shouldn't Nauru for sticking its hands in the till!

15 December 2009

WW- Cobaea

This Cobaea (Cup and Sauver Vine) was photographed on 12 December still going strong. The vine had and still has buds coming on. The plant is a perennial but not in England - it is a native of Mexico (or thereabouts). We are surprised to see it still going strong so close to Christmas. This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

The perfect gift for a watery Christmas

Do you live in a flood plain? are you worried that your nativity scene might be washed away by a raging torrent? Then fear not, for less than the price of a couple of pints of Lacrima Christi you can have the most flood-proof nativity scene there is.

Or perhaps you like to conduct an impromptu carol concert in the bath. The Virgin Mary, bay Jesus, Joseph and a full supporting cast will be with you as you sing Away in a Manger with the finest bathroom gusto!

Another wonderful idea brought to you by Ship of Fools

14 December 2009

Yesterday’s Times carried a report conducted within Muslim communities across Europe. The indications are that British Muslims the most patriotic in Europe, although than a quarter in some parts of the country still do not feel British.

The report, funded by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, found that on average 78% of Muslims identified themselves as British. This compares with 49% of Muslims who consider themselves French and just 23% who feel German.

The findings, based on more than 2,000 detailed interviews, suggest that Muslims may be better integrated in Britain than in other parts of the European Union.

The report appears to contradict previous research in the UK suggesting some Muslims are failing to embrace British values. A Populus poll in 2006 claimed that 7% of British Muslims believed suicide attacks on fellow civilians could be justified. The debate about the integration of Europe’s 20m Muslims was thrown into sharp relief last month when the Swiss controversially voted to ban the building of new minarets.

Many Europeans worry that aspects of Islam clash with their own values. The Soros study, however, found that strength of religious belief made no difference to how patriotic Muslims feel. Conducted over two and a half years, the report involved 2,200 in-depth interviews and 60 focus groups in 11 cities across Europe with large Muslim communities. The cities were chosen to be representative of varying levels of integration and cohesion across the continent.

The survey found (perhaps unsurprisingly) that levels of patriotism are much higher among second-generation Muslims. In Leicester, 72% of Muslims born abroad said they felt British; this figure jumped to 94% among UK-born Muslims.

Although a small minority of British Muslims have fallen under the influence of Islamic radicals, the survey indicates that Muslims here, like other immigrants, assimilate. The stupid or evil acts of the small minority focused on while the everyday business of the great majority is ignored but then that is the desire of those with agendas on both sides.

Photographers not terrorists

Despite the recent urgings of British Transport Police chief, Andy Trotter (who has responsibility within the Association of Chief Police Officers for this area) It seems that the message about photographers not necessarily being terrorists still doesn’t have to filtered down to the rank and file.

Some of the recent detentions are just plain idiotic - 7 armed police detaining an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral are just some of the more stupid examples.

As a photographer myself (albeit with more enthusiasm than talent!), I wholeheartedly support the group I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist. It is organising a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws. The gathering will take place in Trafalgar Square at noon on 23 January.

Nobody is suggesting that the police should not do their business but the stupid and heavy handed application of terror laws against citizens exercising their rights is a disgrace. I fully intend to be there.

By the something or other divided

Sally Bercow, the wife of the recently appointed Speaker and previously a Tory MP, has won a place on an official list of approved prospective candidates for the Labour party.

Mrs Bercow has been given the go-ahead to seek a parliamentary seat, a move that has irritated Tory MPs. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, said: “This makes it impossible for Bercow to continue as Speaker. Her adoption as a Labour candidate politicises the Speaker’s office and it may now be that he could be ousted before the general election.”

Me, I find this rather amusing, but I don’t see why John Bercow should be pressurised into standing down just because his wife might become an MP too,