Argentine dictatorship’s murderer Astiz convicted

This video from Democracy Now! in the USA includes Bone Fragments Discovered at Argentine Torture Site.

From Italian news agency ANSA:

Desaparecidos ringleader condemned

‘Angel of Death’ Alfredo Astiz ran death flights, court says

Rome, March 18 – Italy’s supreme court on Wednesday found an Argentinian ex-navy officer responsible for all the death flights during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War in the 1970s and ’80s.

Upholding a life sentence for former captain Alfredo Astiz for the murders of three Italians, the Cassation Court noted that the so-called ‘Blond Angel’ or ‘Angel of Death’ had told a former prisoner that ”rivers give back corpses but killer whales eat bodies”.

Astiz also confided in Maria Alicia Milia that the death flights were used to ease overcrowding at the infamous Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) barracks and were reserved for the estimated 20% of the suspected leftist opponents of the regime deemed ”irredeemable”.

In April 2008 a Rome appeals court upheld guilty sentences for Astiz and three other Argentinian ex-navy officers in the murders of the three Italians who ‘disappeared’.

The four ex-officers, who contested the legitimacy of the proceedings, were tried in absentia.

Three of them – Astiz, Jorge Eduardo Acosta and Alfredo Ignacio Antonio Vanek – are being held in Argentina for similar offences while the fourth, Jorge Raul Vildoza, is a fugitive.

A fifth former officer, Hector Antonio Febres, was also convicted at the original trial in 2007 but has since died of poisoning in his Argentine cell.

The defendants were convicted of torturing and murdering three Italo-Argentinians during Argentina’s military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

Angela Maria Aieta, the Calabrian mother of a Peronist MP, was seized by the Argentinian military in April 1977.

Businessman Giovanni Pecoraro was seized together with his daughter Susanna in June 1977.

The three were all taken to a torture centre in downtown Buenos Aires and never heard of again.

The appeals court last April also confirmed a preliminary determination of compensation of 150,000 euros for the victims’ relatives.

Italy has repeatedly asked for the four to be extradited.

A sixth defendant, former admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, was scratched from the list because of health problems. He may be tried separately.

The six men are alleged to have been part of a group which helped run ESMA, a military academy which was turned into a torture centre.

Rome prosecutor Francesco Caporale based part of his case against the ex-officers on testimony provided by ESMA detainees who escaped death.

The court found that thousands of people held at ESMA were drugged and dumped alive into the ocean from military transport planes.

During Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ against suspected leftist opponents, as many as 30,000 people were killed, including an estimated 500 Italians who joined the ranks of the desaparecidos, the ‘disappeared’ or ‘missing ones’.


Families of the Italian-born victims have been campaigning for years for the cases to be brought before the Italian courts.

Caporale took up the case of the three disappeared Italians in the wake of the 2000 convictions in absentia of seven Argentinian military and police officials accused of abducting and murdering eight Italian nationals.

Former general Carlos Guillermo Suarez Mason, one of the most notorious officers of the military dictatorship who died in 2005 while being held in solitary confinement, was handed a life sentence together with another ex-general, Omar Santiago Riveros.

The five other defendants, who included police chief Juan Carlos Girardi, were sentenced to 24 years.

In a related case that grabbed headlines here at Christmas 2007, a Uruguayan ex-navy intelligence officer accused of murdering four Italian citizens was found to have been living in Salerno for years undisturbed.

A year later Italy refused an extradition request for the man, Nestor Jorge Fernandez Troccoli, on the grounds that he was an Italian citizen.

Troccoli was one of 140 people named in arrest warrants issued by Rome prosecutors investigating the deaths of 25 Italian citizens in a decades-old cross-border operation aimed at hunting down leftists.

The others are former government chiefs and military and intelligence officers in seven South American countries including Argentina.

Rome prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo has asked the Italian justice ministry to forward extradition requests to the countries whose military regimes sent teams to kill fugitive dissidents.

The Brazilian justice ministry has said it was unlikely to grant such requests.

The other countries concerned – Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru – did not respond.

Capaldo started his probe in December 1998 on the basis of suits filed by the relatives of the Italians who ‘disappeared’ during Operation Condor, which ran from 1975 to the mid 1980s.


Smallest frog of Andes discovered

Female Noble's pygmy frog with two eggsFrom

Smallest Andean frog discovered in cloud forests of Peru

Jeremy Hance

March 18, 2009

At 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) in the Andes herpetologists were surprised to discover a frog so small it could sit on a dime with room to spare. Further study showed that this new species, named Noble’s pygmy frog, is the smallest frog in the Andean mountain range.

The tiny frog took biologists by surprise since as a general rule species in higher altitudes tend to be larger than similar species in lower regions. Measuring at less than half an inch, the Noble’s pygmy frog is not only the smallest frog in the Andes, but one of the smallest vertebrates in the world above 3,000 meters.

Unlike most of her relatives the female Noble’s pygmy frog lays eggs that hatch not tadpoles, but actual infant frogs. Instead of laying hundreds of eggs, she lays only two in a moist place, like under moss or the leaf litter. The mother protects the eggs from drying out and hungry insects.

The status of the Noble’s pygmy frog population is unknown, however the chytrid fungus that has devastated amphibians globally has also taken its toll in Peru. Herpetologists hope the nature of the ecosystems in the Andes allows endangered frogs places to retreat to avoid the plague.

Male Noble's pygmy frog on index fingerThe frog was discovered in the cloud forests of Manu National Park in Peru. The frog inhabits cloud forest, montane scrub, and the high-elevation grasslands located in the park and the privately-owned Wayqecha Research Station. Ten new frog species have been discovered in these cloud forests in the last two years alone.

The new species is described by Edgar Lehr from the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden and Swiss-Peruvian ecologist Alessandro Catenazzi from the University of California at Berkeley in the latest issue of the journal Copeia.

Citation: Lehr, E., and A. Catenazzi. 2009. A new species of minute Noblella (Anura: Strabomantidae) from southern Peru: the smallest frog of the Andes. Copeia 2009(1): 148-156.

Related articles

Poison frog diversity linked to the Andes

(03/10/2009) Electric colors, wild markings, and toxic skin have made poison frogs well-known inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest. With 353 recognized species, and probably more awaiting discovery, poison frogs are an incredibly diverse group of amphibians. While it has long been believed that the Amazon basin, itself, was the source of their diversity, a new study published in PLoS Biology has uncovered that the Andes mountain chain has served as an oven of evolutionary biodiversity for poison frogs over several million years.

Photos of new frogs discovered in Colombia

(02/03/2009) Ten undescribed species of amphibians — including nine frog and one salamander — have been discovered in the mountains of Colombia, report scientists from Conservation International (CI). The “new” amphibians included spiky-skinned, orange-legged rain frog, three poison dart frogs and three glass frogs, named for their transparent skin. The amphibians were discovered during a recent Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition in the Tacarcuna area of the Darien, near the border with Panama.

See also here. And here.

Newly Discovered Chemical Weapon In Poison Frogs’ Arsenal: here.

Pleasing poison frog (Ameerega bassleri): here.

Dig a pond to help Britain’s frogs – Free advice: here.

Pharaoh Hatshepsut discovery

This National Geographic video is about Queen Hatshepsut.

Important news from ancient Egypt. Not just about the last pharaoh Cleopatra. Also about Hatshepshut, a much earlier female ruler.

From Luxor News:

(ANSAmed) – MADRID – ”The Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt” is how the Spanish press have today celebrated the discovery by a group of Spanish archaeologists of a burial chamber with coloured paintings, jewels and hieroglyphics dating back 3,500 years, in Luxor. The chamber was found by experts from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in the necropolis of Dra Abu el-Naga, on the western bank of Luxor, Ancient Thebes.

The burial chamber belonged to Djehuty, one of Queen Hatshepsut‘s high officials, and represents the culmination of the work of the 8th campaign of the project run by the Caja Madrid Foundation since 2004. Jose’ Manuel Galan, the director of the team of archaeologists, explained to the press that the extraordinary significance of the discovery is ”not only in its undeniable aesthetic value”, but also in the fact that ”in this era, at the end of the XVIII dynasty, burial chambers were not decorated”.

See also here.

She may have ruled like a man, but Egyptian queen Hatshepsut still preferred to smell like a lady: here.

Hatshepsut in Berlin a fake? Here.

Royal Family Necropolis of the Third Intermediate Period at the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri; Dr Szafranski: here.

An Egyptian excavation team has unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt’s Culture Minister Farouk Hosni announced on Monday. Engraved with religious texts, the six-foot-tall red granite door belonged to the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatshepsut, the long-ruling 15th century B.C. queen from the New Kingdom: here.

Cleopatra, mixed African-European?

This is the trailer of the film Cleopatra, with the last pharaoh played by (white) Elizabeth Taylor.

According to new research, she may have looked more like Halle Berry.

Cleopatra reconstruction

From Egyptology News:

ARCHEOLOGISTS and forensic experts believe they have identified the skeleton of Cleopatra’s younger sister, murdered more than 2,000 years ago on the orders of the Egyptian queen.

The remains of Princess Arsinöe, put to death in 41BC on the orders of Cleopatra and her Roman lover Mark Antony to eliminate her as a rival, are the first relics of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be identified.

The breakthrough, by an Austrian team, has provided pointers to Cleopatra’s true ethnicity. Scholars have long debated whether she was Greek or Macedonian like her ancestor the original Ptolemy, a Macedonian general who was made ruler of Egypt by Alexander the Great, or whether she was north African.

Evidence obtained by studying the dimensions of Arsinöe’s skull shows she had some of the characteristics of white Europeans, ancient Egyptians and black Africans, indicating that Cleopatra was probably of mixed race, too. They were daughters of Ptolemy XII by different wives.

Taposiris Magna: here.

Will Angelina Jolie play Cleopatra? Here.

A thesis from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) argues that Queen Arsinoë II ruled ancient Egypt as a female pharaoh, predating Cleopatra by 200 years: here.

Spoon-billed sandpiper in danger

This video is called Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Hatch.

From BirdLife:

Two surveys of the wintering grounds of Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus starkly illustrate the extreme and growing pressures this Critically Endangered species faces. The second annual survey on the coast of Myanmar found one new wintering site, but numbers overall were less than in the previous year. But in Vietnam, where more than 27 individuals were recorded in the mid-1990s, not a single Spoon-billed Sandpiper was seen in January 2009.

Spoon-billed sandpiper surveys imply numbers still falling; here.

Finding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Thailand: here.