Anne Frank video


From A Blog About History:

According to the Daily Mail, the only known film footage of Anne Frank has been released for the first time to a worldwide audience. This is not entirely true. I watched this video a few years ago when it was included in a documentary about the tragic diarist. Nonetheless, it is touching.

See also here. And here.

Dutch military aircraft kills Afghan civilians


This video from the USA is called Sonali Kolhatkar on Why Afghanistan is “Just as Bad as Iraq”.

This week, in Helmand province in Afghanistan, not just the United States Air Force are busy killing civilians.

Their Dutch little brothers as well. According to Dutch ANP news agency:

KABUL – During an airstrike by a Dutch F-16 in the southern Afghan province Helmand, Afghan civilians have been killed on Wednesday. The commander in chief of the Dutch armed forces, General Peter van Uhm, said so on Thursday from Kabul to the ANP.

The F-16 did a precision bombing

“Precision”, indeed

on a suburb of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand. … According to a local tribal elder, at least nine civilians were killed, including some children.

Canadians and Dutch kill civilians, by Dave Markland: here.

British Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has hinted at sending more troops to Afghanistan as a top US general admitted that victory over the Taliban was not a foregone conclusion: here.

US President Barack Obama is facing a split among his closest advisers over whether to pour still more soldiers into Afghanistan or shift to a drone-based strategy that directly targets militant leaders in Pakistan: here.

USA: As the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan begins its ninth year, national anti-war groups join together for a day of nonviolent direct action on Monday, October 5 at the White House: here.

Ethiopian “apeman” fossil described


Reconstruction of Ardi

From the BBC:

An ancient ape-like creature that may be a direct ancestor to our species has been described by researchers.

The assessment of the 4.4-million-year-old animal called Ardipithecus ramidus is reported in the journal Science.

Even if it is not on the direct line to us, it offers new insights into how we evolved from the common ancestor we share with chimps, the team says.

Fossils of A. ramidus were first found in Ethiopia in 1992, but it has taken 17 years to assess their significance.

The most important specimen is a partial skeleton of a female nicknamed “Ardi”.

The international team has recovered key bones, including the skull with teeth, arms, hands, pelvis, legs, and feet.

One of the lead researchers on the project, Professor Tim White from the University of California at Berkeley, said the investigation had been painstaking.

“It took us many, many years to clean the bones in the National Museum of Ethiopia and then set about to restore this skeleton to its original dimensions and form and then study it and compare it with all the other fossils that are known from Africa and elsewhere as well as with modern age,” he told the journal.

“This is not an ordinary fossil. It’s not a chimp. It’s not a human. It shows us what we used to be.”

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

See also here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here.

Was “Ardi” not a human ancestor after all? New review raises doubts: here.

A 35-mile rift in the desert of Ethiopia will likely become a new ocean eventually, researchers now confirm: here.

NABU (BirdLife in Germany), in cooperation with the Ethiopian Government and other partners, will run a special project to protect the last natural forests where the world famous ‘arabica’ coffee is produced. In the last 10 years, almost 43% of these forests have disappeared, as they have been transformed into arable land, causing a huge loss of biodiversity: here

A further step has been taken towards our understanding of natural selection. CNRS scientists working at the Institut de Biologie of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (CNRS, February) have shown that humans, and some of their primate cousins, have a common genetic footprint, i.e. a set of genes which natural selection has often tended to act upon during the past 200,000 years. This study has also been able to isolate a group of genes that distinguish us from our cousins the great apes. Its findings are published in PloS Genetics (26 February 2010 issue): here.

US torture camp in Iraq closed


This video is called Iraq Haditha Massacre Shocking Story of Marines Killing in Iraq.

A video, about the Haditha massacre, which used to be at Google but is no longer there, said about itself:

BBC has gotten its hands on what they’re calling a “New ‘Iraq massacre’ video.” The video, too gruesome to air in full, shows that a number of Iraqis officially killed by a crumbling building after a firefight with the U.S. military, actually appear to have been killed by gunshots.

From National Public Radio in the USA:

U.S. Prison‘s Closure Offers No Solace For One Iraqi

by Jonathan Blakley

October 1, 2009

As the U.S. continues its slow reduction of forces from Iraq, it is also releasing thousands of Iraqi prisoners and transferring other detainees to Iraqi custody. The largest U.S. prison in Iraq, at Camp Bucca, closed this month, stirring fresh and painful memories for one Iraqi journalist who was detained there.

Camp Bucca, opened just after the U.S. invasion in March 2003, sits on more than 40 acres of desert sand near the head of the Persian Gulf, just north of the Kuwait border. At its peak, the prison housed more than 22,000 detainees in separate camps.

Ali Omar al-Mashhadani was one of them. A 40-year-old journalist, he recalls his detention at Bucca — and all of his memories — as negative.

“We were isolated from everything. We didn’t have a radio or anything. The Americans would sometimes bring us very bad news, like a Sunni guy killing a Shiite, or vice versa, to make the prisoners hate each other,” he says.

After the U.S. invasion, Mashhadani worked as a cameraman for the BBC and Reuters, and as a stringer for NPR.

In the summer of 2005, he was detained without charges while photographing a clash between U.S. forces and insurgents in Haditha.

He was released after spending three months at Camp Bucca.

“We’d demonstrate inside because we heard about massacres or other bad news about the war. We’d throw apples, and they’d respond with gunfire or dogs,” he recalls.

Over the course of the next six years, the U.S. military detained Mashhadani seven more times, essentially, he believes, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, while holding a camera near U.S. forces.

Like many other detainees, he has never been charged.

Mashhadani says he suffered psychological abuse at Camp Bucca, where Shiites and Sunnis were knowingly housed together, and where prisoners were forced to stay in small, dark holding cells.

The rooms had many air conditioners, and prisoners were only give one blanket.

“It was freezing there. Every eight hours, the guards would take us out for just 10 minutes. The prisoners were given food twice a day, but their hands and feet were chained. They had to use the bathroom right there in the cell. This went on for weeks, or even up to a month,” he says.

Mashhadani says he spent 21 days in a cell like this, because the Americans didn’t like the answers he was giving them.

Now, he says, he wants to sue the American government. He wants compensation, or at least to clear his name.

“Until this moment,” Mashhadani says, “they have not told me what my crime is.”

Fate Of Camp Bucca

Western and Iraqi journalists toured the sprawling Camp Bucca facility hours before the prison was permanently closed on Sept. 16.

The United States invested more than $50 million in the camp.

The U.S. has detained more than 100,000 Iraqis since 2003. Now, only 8,000 are behind bars.

There are now only two U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, and they will be handed over to the Iraqi government next year.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — It isn’t clear whether the United States will ever be able to declare victory in Iraq, the top U.S. commander there said Thursday: here.

Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein have directed at least three remarkable documentaries about the US invasion of Iraq and its consequences: Gunner Palace (2004), The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair (2006), and now, How To Fold a Flag: here.

The Ministry of Defence was excoriated in a High Court judgement on Friday over its failure to disclose information regarding the alleged torture and murder of 20 Iraqis by British troops five years ago: here.

Britain: Human rights campaigners will descend on Parliament Square on Saturday to demand the release of more than 200 Guantanamo Bay detainees and draw attention to other “secret torture camps” worldwide: here.

Nicole Colson examines revelations about the acts of violence committed by soldiers returned from Iraq–and how the military is trying to evade responsibility: here.

Supreme Court delay may help keep detainee abuse pics forever sealed: here.

US forces kill Afghan civilians again


This is a video about Afghan Member of Parliament, expelled for being anti war and pro women, Malalai Joya.

From Associated Press today:

KABUL — An airstrike on a compound in southwestern Afghanistan killed at least six civilians, a local tribal leader said Thursday, after the U.S. military reported that ground forces were coming under fire from inside the residence and called in aircraft.

Civilian deaths have been a source of friction between President Hamid Karzai and U.S. military commanders and have infuriated many ordinary Afghans, who claim international soldiers use heavy-handed tactics.

In Helmand province, local tribal leader Ghulam Mohammad Khan said a farmer, his wife and four children were among nine dead in the airstrike Wednesday evening. He said three guests at the compound also died, but he did not know their identities. …

In Logar province, in eastern Afghanistan, a spokesman for the governor said villagers claimed a U.S. operation overnight killed an innocent shopkeeper and complained that American forces had wrongly detained three civilians. Din Mohammad Darwesh, the spokesman, said villagers were refusing to bury the shopkeeper’s body, in order to prove his innocence, and demanding the release of the three men.

From BigNews Network:

Envoy says his removal from Afghanistan sends out a bad signal about the UN

ANI Thursday 1st October, 2009

London: The senior UN envoy, who was removed from his post in Afghanistan, has told the BBC that his dismissal has sent out “a terrible signal” to the world about the organisation.

Peter Galbraith said he believed he had been removed because of a dispute with his superior over how to handle fraud allegations in the country’s recently held presidential elections. …

“Not just on personal grounds, but because I think it sends a terrible signal when the UN removes an official because he was concerned about fraud in a UN-sponsored and funded election,” he said.

Galbraith said he had seen “very extensive evidence of fraud” in August’s president elections and had had “a sharp disagreement” with his superior, Kai Eide, about how to address it.

He wanted to present the evidence to the Afghan Election Complaints Commission for further investigation, he said, but Eide “did not want this information disseminated”.

Galbraith said that when he intervened, President Hamid Karzai complained and Eide “decided he would support Karzai, who would be the beneficiary of the fraudulent ballots”.

He said Eide had initially “tended to dismiss the fraud”.

“Later, when the evidence of the fraud was inescapable he did talk about it but he’s consistently minimised it,” he added.

EU election observers have said that about 1.5m votes – about a quarter of all ballots – cast in August’s presidential vote could be fraudulent.

Galbraith’s questioning of the election commission had angered Karzai and several cabinet members, some of whom had said they no longer wanted to work with him.

But Galbraith said the UN had “the mandate to support free, fair and transparent elections”.

“That unfortunately imposed on us an obligation to raise the question of fraud in elections which were funded by the international community and supported by the United Nations,” he said.

Afghan women: here.

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Disasters in Pacific, Indonesia


This video is called Tsunami Thailand (Koh Phi Phi) – 2004.

A tsunami of six-metres or higher, followed by several smaller waves, hit the South Pacific islands of American Samoa, Samoa, and Tonga on Tuesday morning. Around 140 people are dead, many more are missing, and at least 1,000 people have been displaced. The toll is sure to increase as several remote, cut-off villages have been destroyed: here.

Samoa Tsunami: Survivors Recall Harrowing Tales, Death Toll Reaches 150: here.

At Least 464 Die as Quake Hits Indonesia Island: here.

Asia had little respite yesterday from an already brutal storm season with warnings that the next tempest was en route to the Philippines: here.

Prehistoric big birds, flying reptiles, insects


This is a video about the evolution of birds in New Zealand.

From New Scientist:

Monsters of the skies: giant beasts that ruled the air

17:40 30 September 2009

Recently, researchers concluded that a huge eagle that once haunted New Zealand’s forests was a fierce predator that may have hunted humans – Anna Davison rounds up other ancient airborne behemoths

Haast’s huge eagles, Harpagornis moorei

* Wingspan: 3 metres
* Found in New Zealand until about 500 years ago
* Related to modern-day eagles

New Zealand never had many native land mammals – no tigers, wolves, or other predatory mammals – just a few diminutive bats. Before humans arrived, its forests bustled with birds, and the enormous Haast’s Eagle once ruled them all.

Its wingspan of 3 m wasn’t a big stretch, but at 18 kg (40 lbs), Haast’s Eagle was a good deal heavier than any eagle alive today, making it the largest that ever lived.

The New Scientist article continues with giant flying reptiles, called Azhdarchids; the big extinct bird Argentavis magnificens; the largest known insect, Meganeuropsis permiana, which resembled a dragonfly, had a wingspan of more than 70 cm and weighed as much as a crow; and Dasornis emuinus, wingspan: 5 metres, found in England during the Lower Eocene, about 50 million years ago, related to modern-day ducks and geese.