Colourful Dutch beetles, new book


This video from North Dakota in the USA is called Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Cassida rubiginosa) on leaf.

Dutch entomologist Jaap Winkelman has published a new book. It is available here.

The name of the book is De Nederlandse Goudhaantjes. The word goudhaantje in the title stands for two small bird species living in the Netherlands, goldcrest and firecrest (‘vuurgoudhaantje’).

However, Winkelman’s book is not about birds. As goudhaantje is also the name of a family of mainly colourful beetles, Chrysomelidae or leaf beetles. There are over 35,000 leaf beetle species, according to Wikipedia. About 38,000, according to Winkelman’s book. Of these, 59 species live, or have lived in earlier times, in the Netherlands.

With Winkelman’s book, people will be able to discover all Chrysomelidae of Belgium and the Netherlands.

This video is called Scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii); a leaf beetle species living in the Netherlands.

German militarism reviving


This video, recorded in Belgium, says about itself:

The last survivor of the destruction of Louvain in WW1 | Channel 4 News

5 August 2014

It was in Belgium where the Germans inflicted collective punishment on civilians 100 years ago. Channel 4 News correspondent Lindsey Hilsum speaks to the last known survivor of the sacking of Louvain.

By Elizabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

German commission undermines parliametary approval requirement for military operations

9 August 2014

Largely unnoticed by the public, a commission of former defence politicians as well as military experts has been working to repeal the requirement that Bundeswehr (armed forces) operations abroad obtain parliamentary approval.

The commission is headed by former defence minister Volker Rühe (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), his deputies are Walter Kolbow (SPD, Social Democratic Party), former parliamentary undersecretary of defence and Wolfgang Schneiderhan, former Bundeswehr inspector general.

Their activity is closely related to the campaign to revive German militarism, and the stated aim of the government and the president that Germany must take on a greater role and responsibility in the world, including through the use of military means.

After the Second World War, in response to the war crimes of the Wehrmacht (Hitler’s armed forces), the role of the Bundeswehr was constitutionally enshrined as a purely defensive army. The constitution expressly prohibits the preparation of aggressive military interventions. After German reunification in 1991, the then CDU-led government urged, however, that the Bundeswehr also participate in armed foreign missions of the UN and NATO. In 1991 and 1992, without the consent of parliament, German soldiers were sent on UN armed “peacekeeping missions” to Somalia and Cambodia. In 1992, the German armed forces participated in NATO surveillance flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The same year, the SPD, which was still in opposition and had previously criticized such missions, undertook a foreign policy reversal and called for the legal situation to be clarified.

The Supreme Court finally ruled in July 1994 that the deployment of the German armed forces abroad was in principle constitutionally permissible, however each mission needed the approval of the Bundestag.

Subsequent governments, in particular the former SPD-Green government led by Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer, have systematically expanded Bundeswehr missions abroad. The Bundestag has regularly given its blessing to such missions, from the war in Yugoslavia to the Afghanistan mission.

However, with the foreign policy change since the last federal election, and the tense political situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, the existing procedures are regarded as too time consuming by leading politicians and military brass. They want a free hand for quick-armed interventions. Emphasizing NATO treaty obligations, they argue that a mandatory requisite to seek a parliament decision for Bundeswehr missions poses an obstacle to Germany’s reliability as an ally and for its leadership responsibilities in NATO.

On July 29, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the last meeting of the commission on July 8 in Aachen. The paper cites political scientist James Davis, a professor at the University of St. Gallen and a member of the commission, saying that Germany was among the group of countries, “in which the parliamentary right of consultation [was] particularly pronounced.” This would make deployments as part of multinational alliances more difficult.

It was along these lines that Volker Rühe, who was defence minister from 1992 to 1998 in the governments led by Helmut Kohl, also spoke. “We already no longer have national armed forces, but armies operating at European level increasingly in a division of labour. …This will be further consolidated. But this also means that it must be sure that their contribution is available.”

Calls for a softening and undermining of the need for parliamentary approval have long been made. For example, according to Walter Kolbow (SPD), the deputy chairman of the Commission: “We will not get far in an international context with a military constitution from 1955. It is about creating reliability for the allies.”

Before their meeting in Aachen, members of the commission visited the European aviation transport command in Eindhoven, Holland, the headquarters for the “Allied Joint Force Command NATO” in Brunssum and the base for AWACS reconnaissance aircraft in Geilenkirchen.

A total of 440 of 1,300 Bundeswehr soldiers used for the AWACS system are based in Geilenkirchen. Germany finances a third of the annual AWACS budget, to the tune of about 250 million euros. When the German government abstained in the vote in the UN Security Council on the bombing of Libya by NATO in March 2011, German crew-members on the AWACS aircraft that were circling over Libya had to be withdrawn.

Proponents of stronger military engagement by Germany repeatedly cite this abstention, which is now regarded by German politicians, in particular representatives of the Greens, as a serious foreign policy error that must never again be repeated.

Rühe said that this was an essential part of the job of the commission headed by him: “We need to find a way that protects confidence, so that European countries also engage in such a division of labour of military structures.”

Of the 800 soldiers at the NATO command post in Brunssum, 90 are from Germany. They are currently lead by the German General Hans-Lothar Domröse. Some military figures stressed during the commission visit that this command post would be almost paralysed if in an emergency the German forces were withdrawn from the operations staff.

This question arose three years ago, in the operations against Libya. However, German officers were ultimately not withdrawn from the NATO command post, despite the fact that Germany had abstained from voting in the UN Security Council for the mission. This fact too was concealed from the general public.

According to Rühe, a commission proposal to bypass parliamentary approval might look like this: Once a year, the government allows parliament to grant it so-called general “transnational powers,” in other words to issue a blank check for international military operations. The Bundestag should “affirmatively note” that other nations can rely on the Germans in these areas. In the case of a concrete deployment, the Bundestag would still have to agree, but the political threshold for rejection would be significantly higher.

However, the demands and wishes of the military leadership and also many politicians go much further. For example, some demand the replacement of the vote by the Bundestag before a Bundeswehr mission through a so-called call-back right. The Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: “The government decides on a deployment, the Bundestag can (theoretically) end it again. This is already possible for operations that cannot be delayed, but beyond that it will be impossible to enforce.”

The commission is to submit its proposals to the Bundestag by April next year. Its next meeting is scheduled for September 11. Despite being invited, the Greens and the Left Party have not sent any members to the commission, supposedly because they fear a weakening of the rights of parliament.

The Green defence spokeswomen, Agnieszka Brugger said: “We would really like to have cooperated, if the government parties were responsive to our suggestions.” In their opinion, the Parliamentary Participation Act in its current form already offers “rapid response” mechanisms. Parliament had “so far always shown great responsibility,” she said, alluding to the approval of the Greens to foreign Bundeswehr missions since 1998.

The drive to abolish parliamentary approval for foreign military missions makes clear that the revival of an aggressive German militarism goes hand in hand with the dismantling of democratic checks and balances.

Nurse Edith Cavell, a real World War I heroine


An artist's impression of what an Edith Cavell £2 coin might look like

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Commemorating a real hero of World War I

Monday 4th August 2014

PETER FROST celebrates a little victory

WHEN our present Con-Dem government started to plan commemorations for the anniversary of the start of World War I, it didn’t take a genius to guess just who its heroes would be.

Would it be the brave and oh-so-young Tommies who fought like lions in the trenches and on the muddy, bloody battlefields that were home to this historic conflict?

No. It was clear that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Michael Gove — then still rewriting school histories — would hand the accolades to insensitive and incompetent officers, the often Eton-educated donkeys, who sent so many brave men to an unnecessary early death.

The government’s Royal Mint announced it was to honour one of the most insensitive of all the donkeys, Lord Kitchener, who convinced thousands of working-class lads to sign up. Many of them were very young indeed who lied about their age to answer Kitchener’s jingoistic appeal.

Kitchener was a warmonger with the blood of millions on his hands.

Even before WWI he had a reputation for atrocities. He led the Omdurman massacre in Sudan in 1898 and expanded the network of concentration camps in South Africa during the second Boer war. Many civilians died in the unhealthy conditions.

In January this year the Morning Star published my article on the outrage and insensitivity of such a commemorative Kitchener coin. This article proved to be just one part of a massive public outcry.

I suggested that nurse Edith Cavell would be a far better candidate for such a commemorative coin. I suggested the message on the coin be her famous last words: “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

I wasn’t the only one backing Cavell. Tens of thousands signed an online petition organised by Sioned-Mair Richards, a Labour city councillor in Sheffield. Richards, a former mayor of Carmarthen, had admired Cavell since she was a girl.

Cavell was a vicar’s daughter and the English matron of a teaching hospital in Belgium. She had already built a huge reputation as an influential pioneer of modern nursing.

When war broke out she was visiting her mother in Norfolk. She hurried back to Belgium where she knew her nursing skills would be urgently needed.

Cavell’s hospital became a Red Cross station for wounded soldiers. She ensured all nationalities were equally treated in her wards. “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved,” she said.

When a number of wounded British soldiers, cut off from their comrades, arrived at the hospital, Cavell faced a dilemma. Should she help the British soldiers and put at risk the neutrality of the Red Cross and endanger those working with her?

If she refused to help the soldiers they would be in danger of being shot, along with any Belgian civilians who had harboured them. Cavell decided to help them despite the risk to herself.

“Had I not helped, they would have been shot,” she later said.

In order to help them she joined the Belgian underground. Her actions helped more than 200 allied soldiers to escape to neutral territory. When the network was betrayed, Cavell was arrested, found guilty of treason by a court martial, and sentenced to death.

Cavell was shot, in her nurse’s uniform, by a firing squad, at dawn on October 12 1915 in Brussels.

Now the British Mint has belatedly announced that it will mark the anniversary of the first world war with a £5 coin bearing the likeness of Nurse Edith Cavell.

It’s very rarely that our dreadful government gets it right, given enough pressure from the likes of the Morning Star and the public in general.

Peter Frost blogs at frostysramblings.wordpress.com.

Belgian xenophobic mayor’s ‘musical’ anti-Roma plan backfires


This video says about itself:

French Roma expulsions spark racism warning

19 August 2010

After destroying their homes and giving them $383, France is flying 700 Roma people to Romania and Bulgaria.

The government has been dismantling Roma settlements, saying they were havens for illegal trafficking, child exploitation, begging and prostitution.

But Romania’s foreign minister says he’s worried France’s action is creating xenophobia.

Al Jazeera’s Estelle Youssouffa looks at the man leading the French drive for security and public order.

By Evan Bartlett in British daily The Independent:

A plan to remove a group of Roma Gypsies by playing loud music backfired on a town mayor when the group responded by dancing.

Gino Debroux, the mayor of Landen – a small town 30 miles from Brussels in Belgium – had resorted to the measure yesterday after claiming the Roma had outstayed their agreed tenancy on a private plot of land.

He hired a local DJ to play music up to 95 decibels – the equivalent of a pneumatic drill from 50 feet away – but his choice of Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits as a first song did not have the desired effect as children from the camp broke out into a small jig.

This music video is called Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing.

“I want to thank the mayor,” one camp resident told Reuters. “It’s very nice that he sent a DJ for us to have a party.”

See also here.

Grass snake expansion in Flanders


This video is called Britain in COLD BLOOD – The Grass Snake (Natrix natrix).

Translated from Knack weekly in Belgium, 7 July 2014:

The grass snake is on the rise in Flanders. The snake which until recently did not live in Flanders has been observed 27 times since the beginning of this year. VRT TV reports this.

The grass snake hibernates and lays its eggs inter alia in compost heaps. Probably the animal was brought from Germany with compost and the snake came to Limburg province that way.

Squirrel-magpie conflict about nuts, video


This is a video about a conflict between a red squirrel and a magpie about nuts.

The video is by Jos Bleyweert in Genk in Belgium.

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Wounded harbour porpoise recovering


This video says about itself:

Harbour porpoise rescued

Theodore the harbour porpoise is on the road to recovery. Kylie Stanton reports. July 26, 2012.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Porpoise recovering well after surgery

Monday, May 19, 2014, 13:35

A severely injured young porpoise was successfully operated in Harderwijk. The animal, after months of intensive care is expected to be able to go back to sea soon.

In February, the porpoise washed up on the beach at the Belgian Koksmuide. It had been bitten by another animal, probably a fox. The mammal was badly wounded on its side and elsewhere.

Night and day

The porpoise was emaciated and did not seem to be able to make it. The animal was transferred to the SOS Dolphin Foundation in Harderwijk. The injuries were so severe that he could not swim independently. During the first weeks volunteers of the Foundation have supported the porpoise night and day in the pool where it stayed.

The wounds were treated with a special honey salve. But there were complications. It was found that two small pieces of bone stuck out near a fin. A specialized veterinarian has successfully removed the bones, which is unique in the Netherlands.

Though the fins are slightly shortened now , the porpoise seems not to care. “He’s staying with a number of stranded porpoises in a basin, but we actually see no difference in swimming behavior between him and the other animals,” said a spokesman for SOS Dolphin.

This harbour porpoise was called Sjors (George).

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Report swifts in Britain


This is a video about swifts building their nest in Essen, Belgium.

From Birdwatch Magazine in Britain:

Eyes to the skies for swifts

Posted on: 08 May 2014

The RSPB is asking the public to record any Common Swifts they see swooping across Britain this spring and summer.

With their long scythe-like wings and their high-pitched screeching sound, swifts are one of the most visible and audible birds in our skies at this time of year. They are superb fliers and travel up to 6,000 miles from Africa to Britain and Ireland every summer to raise their chicks. Over the course of their journey from Africa they never touch the ground, which explains their generic name Apus, which translates as ‘without feet’.

Sadly, swifts are now on the Amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern, as their breeding population has fallen by more than a quarter over the past 25 years. The reasons for this decline remain unclear, but loss of nesting sites is a possibility. Swifts often nest in holes old buildings, but as a result of renovations these can be blocked up or even destroyed.

Claire Barnett of the RSPB said: “It is known that swifts nest throughout Britain in our villages, towns and cities, but we need the public’s help to identify exactly where. The scream of the swift marks the start of summer for many. Swifts will return to the same nesting site every year to raise their chicks, but once it fledges it may not land for another four years, eating, drinking and sleeping on the wing.

“It is devastating that swifts are declining at such a rapid rate, and it’s important that we know where they are nesting so we can work with home and business owners, and builders and developers to help protect them.”

If you see swifts this year anywhere in Britain, then the charity wants to hear from you. The RSPB is particularly asking for records of low-flying screaming parties of swifts, which indicates they are breeding in the area. You can add your records to the online RSPB Swift Inventory at www.rspb.org.uk/applications/swiftsurvey.

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