Algerian desert dust infected with French bomb radioactivity


This video is about a French nuclear weapons test in Algeria.

By David Lowry in Britain:

Is Saharan dust radioactive?

Friday 4th April 2014

As Britain is blanketed in a layer of desert sand, DAVID LOWRY asks whether it could be contaminated by fallout from French nuclear tests in Algeria more than 50 years ago

South-easterly winds have coated Britain in a toxic Saharan dust cloud.

Combined with domestic pollution, the sand has caused air quality to plummet and engulfed many parts of the country in smog-like conditions.

But one unreported aspect of the Saharan dust is that it could be radioactive.

French nuclear testing in Algeria, conducted during the height of the independence struggle, spread radioactive fallout across southern Europe in the early 1960s – and the radioactivity that settled on the desert could have been resuspended in this natural fallout event over Britain.

It’s recently been revealed that atmospheric spread of the radioactive fallout was much larger than the French army admitted at the time.

New reports by the France 24 TV station suggest that the fallout from the tests at Reggane in central Algeria stretched across all of west Africa, across the Mediterranean and up to southern Europe.

The information came to light following appeals from military veterans who say their current ill health is linked to exposure to dangerous levels of radiation.

France‘s first nuclear deviceGerboise Bleue” (Blue Jerboa) was more than three times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

Thirteen days after it was detonated, in February 1960, radioactive particles ranged from the Central African Republic to Sicily and southern Spain.

At the time the French military authorities said the fallout from the explosion was limited to the desert and that radiation levels were “generally low.”

But associations representing military veterans of France’s nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s are demanding that the government admits it knew that the fallout from Saharan tests was dangerous.

“In the 1960s the norms governing acceptable levels of radiation were much less strict than they are now,” said Bruno Barillot, an expert in nuclear tests who is representing veterans’ groups.

“And the medical evidence we have now shows clearly that exposure to this radiation can set off serious illnesses more than three decades later,” he told Le Parisien.

Barillot added that the declassified documents showed that the army at the time was aware that even the 1960s safety levels were largely surpassed and that significant quantities of airborne radioactive particles, particularly iodine 131 and caesium 137, could have been inhaled by large numbers of people in north Africa.

He also complained that the government had been extremely selective in terms of what documents to release.

The Parisien article points out that “if it can be demonstrated that the fallout of the bomb tests spread dangerous levels radiation over large parts of north Africa, many more demands for compensation from individuals and from national governments could be in the pipeline.”

I found this suggestion interesting, as I had been involved in research on this issue over 20 years, when I did research for the now retired Labour MP Llew Smith.

In October 1993 he asked in a written question to the secretary of state for defence whether he would ask his French counterpart for information on the French atmospheric nuclear tests in Reganne, citing article 34 of the Euratom treaty.

This treaty says that member states intending to conduct dangerous experiments in any part of their territories require permission from the European Commission and are required to seek its advice on health and safety.

In reply the junior defence minister Jonathan Aitken answered: “Article 34 of the Euratom treaty does not apply to military activities.”

Just over two years later Labour MEP Alex Smith, for whom I also did research, asked the European Commission what technical information the French government had provided about the environmental and safety implications of nuclear tests in Algeria and which “independent external individuals or institutions” the commission had consulted.

He was told by was told by environment commissioner V Bjerregaard in 1996 that France had notified the commission in July 1959 that it intended to carry out a nuclear explosion in the Sahara desert and “the additional safety measures envisaged.”

The commission replied the following month and “gave a favourable opinion while proposing some modifications.”

Bjerregaard said: “These concerned the timing of the explosion with regard to meteorological conditions, the volume of radioactive dust generated in relation to the characteristics of the soil and the need to comply with the dose limits in … basic safety standards that were laid down by the Council on February 2 1959.”

France carried out the first explosion in February 1960.

Bjerregaard said that “subsequent tests were carried out taking similar safety measures.”

From 1960 to 1996, France carried out 210 nuclear tests, 17 in the Algerian Sahara and 193 in Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia.

Yet Bjerregaard admitted that “no further notifications to the commission in terms of Article 34 of the Euratom Treaty were received, neither at the start of nuclear testing at Mururoa in 1966 nor before underground testing [in the South Pacific] was resumed on September 5 1995.”

So clearly Euratom’s remit did apply to military nuclear activities, despite the MoD denial.

For more of David Lowry’s writing visit drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk.

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Diurnal wintering behaviour of the Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) in north-east Algeria


Originally posted on North African Birds:

Aberkane, M., Maazi, M.-C., Chettibi, F., Guergueb, E.-Y., Bouslama, Z., & Houhamdi, M. (2014). Diurnal wintering behaviour of the Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) in north-east Algeria.Zoology and Ecology (in press). doi:10.1080/21658005.2014.889870

Abstract:

The Marbled Teal, Marmaronetta angustirostris, is a globally threatened species, especially in the Western Mediterranean. Its numbers are currently following a downward trend. The population size and status of the Marbled Teal are well estimated in some areas of its geographic range, but in others, such as Algerian wetlands, they are still not known. Population and time-activity budget estimation of the species were carried out in the semi-arid Ramsar wetland Garaet Timerganine located in north-east Algeria in the course of two subsequent wintering seasons. The wintering population showed a significant decrease in numbers from the first to the second year with peaks of 763 and 270 individuals, respectively. This variation was probably due…

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French colonial torture general dies


General Paul Aussaresses, photo: AFP

From the BBC:

4 December 2013 Last updated at 11:27 GMT

Algeria torture: French general Paul Aussaresses dies

General Paul Aussaresses, who defended the use of torture by French forces during Algeria’s war of independence, has died.

The 95-year-old retired general was the first senior French officer who admitted torturing and killing 24 Algerian prisoners-of-war in a book he published in 2001 about the conflict.

In 2002 a French court convicted him of defending the use of torture.

So, apparently he was convicted for whitewashing torture. Unfortunately, never for his torture itself; or for his murders.

He was also stripped of his Legion of Honour – one of France’s top merit awards – after the book appeared.

Aussaresses never regretted the use of torture. He said “it became legitimate when the situation demanded it”.

He also maintained that the government of the day was not only aware of the atrocities, but also approved them.

Aussaresses was born in November 1918 at Saint Paul Cap de Joux in the south of France. He enlisted in the French secret services and went on to found the counter-espionage unit.

In 1957 he was approached to establish order in Algeria. He himself described the unit he was heading as a “death squad” that was charged with carrying out night raids, torture and the removal of certain detainees.

According to Dutch NOS TV, General Aussaresses described torture as “a very efficient way to make suspects talk”. If I would be tortured, then I might well confess to being Osama bin Laden’s uncle, or Osama bin Laden’s granddaughter. Of being Queen Cleopatra. Of being Julius Caesar; or of having killed Julius Caesar.

So much about the “efficiency” factor of “intelligence” extracted from “talking” under torture.

A book on France’s relations with its ex-colonies is an indictment of its policies in the Arab world, says IVAN BEAVIS: here.

Cattle egret between Dutch cattle, videos


These two videos are about a cattle egret between Dutch cattle.

Cattle egrets are rare in the Netherlands.

The videos are by André Strootman.

Cattle egrets in Algeria: here.

Moorhen chicks ‘walk on water’, video


This is a video of a moorhen and its chicks.

They walk ‘on water’ … rather on the water-lily and yellow water-lily leaves.

Basennel made this video, from a canoe near Kinderdijk in the Netherlands.

Status and breeding ecology of the Common Moorhen in Algeria: here.

French torture survivor in Algeria Henri Alleg dies


This video says about itself:

Oct 3, 2007

Renowned French journalist Henri Alleg discusses his experience of waterboarding, when he was tortured by the French army.

From ANSA news agency in Italy:

France: journalist Henri Alleg, dead at 91

His 1958 book revealed French torture in Algeria

PARIS, JULY 18 – Former Algerian independence fighters saluted French journalist Henri Alleg, who in the 1950s was the first to denounce French torture in Algeria and who died today in Paris aged 91, as a man who ”always fought the good fight”. Born in London in 1921 of Russian and Polish parents, Alleg became a French citizen when his family emigrated to Paris. His father, who escaped famine and pogroms to become a successful tailor, destined him to become a pharmacist, but instead Henri read, traveled, studied literature at the Sorbonne, and became involved in politics.

In 1940 he moved to Algiers, where he lived on odd jobs and got to know the locals as well as refugees from the German invasion and Algerian independence militants.

He joined the Communist Party and became director of its Alger Républicain newspaper, which also published Albert Camus.

Targeted by French authorities, the newspaper was often raided and ultimately banned.

Branded as subversives, its employees went underground: it was 1957, the year of the battle of Algiers, of violent repression and arbitrary detention.

One January morning, Alleg was arrested while visiting a Communist friend and taken to Barberousse prison, where he experienced first-hand the treatment French colonial police reserved for independence fighters: interrogation via torture, with beatings, water-boarding, cigarette burns. His attorney Leo Matarasso, who was also counsel for the Algerian National Liberation Front, exhorted him to ”do that which illiterate others cannot do”. Alleg took up the challenge, writing an account of his detention. Matarasso smuggled the manuscript out of Barberousse and into Paris, where Editions du Minuit published it in February 1958 under the title ‘La Question‘.

It was banned and taken off the shelves less than a month later, but not before it was read by 60,000 people who began to debate it, share it, and question the role of France in Algeria.

From Middle East Online:

Born Henri Salem to a Jewish-Polish family in London in 1921, Alleg was raised in Paris and set off in his late teens for Algeria, then one of France’s key overseas territories. …

Alleg was arrested in 1957, at the height of Algeria’s war of independence from France, tortured and sentenced to 10 years of forced labour on the French mainland.

He later recalled spending a month being tortured in a villa outside Algiers, where he was subjected to beatings, electric shocks and waterboarding.

“The worst thing was the cries of the Algerians who were suffering the same as I was. This is the memory that lingers,” he told a Paris court in 2001. …

In a statement, President Francois Hollande said Alleg had “alerted our country to the reality of torture in Algeria” and hailed the journalist for “fighting for the truth”.

“La Question” was made into a French film by director Laurent Heynemann, released in 1977.

Crane migration flying, video


This is a video about a big group of cranes, during their spring migration, flying north in V formation.

The video is by kogru from the Netherlands.

Spatio-temporal dynamics of wintering Common Cranes Grus grus in Algeria: a ten year survey. A ten year survey of wintering Common Cranes was carried out in the high plateaus of Algeria (Oran, M’sila, Sétif and Oum El-Bouaghi). The distribution and abundance showed an obvious spatio-temporal variability. The trend in numbers of this species showed a stability in all sites (except in Oum El-Bouaghi where the abundance trend has accused a significant decrease). This should be the result of high human disturbance and, to a lesser extent, to higher winter temperatures particularly at Oum El-Bouaghi. Moreover, the decreasing winter numbers in Algeria coincided with a marked increase in numbers in winter in Europe (Spain and France). Common winter census in North Africa and in Europe are necessary to have a better knowledge of the species’ population trend: here.