Grass snakes’ mating season


After grass snakes have woken up from hibernation, their mating season starts, as this 11 April 2017 video shows.

Paul Brassé in the Netherlands made this video.

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Sri Lankan garbage dump kills many people


This video says abot itself:

16 April 2017

Hopes faded on Sunday for the survival of an estimated 100 people trapped under a landslide at a giant rubbish dump in the Sri Lankan capital. Police say the known death toll from the disaster has risen to 26. Emergency workers are to resume their search on Monday after halting late on Sunday night. The 300-foot-high dump collapsed after flames engulfed it late on Friday, burying as many as 145 homes. The police say they are investigating whether the landslide was natural or man-made. Residents of the area, mostly living in shanties, had been demanding the removal of the dump, saying it was causing health problems. The government had said it would remove it soon, under an infrastructure plan.

By Vijith Samarasinghe and Wimal Perera in Sri Lanka:

At least 26 dead in garbage dump collapse in Sri Lanka

17 April 2017

The death toll from Friday’s collapse of a large portion of the massive garbage dump in Meethotamulla, in the suburbs of Colombo, rose to 26 by yesterday evening. The bodies of seven children, along with 19 adults, have been found so far. Another 12 injured have been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital. Residents told WSWS reporters that there could be as many as a 100 people still buried under the debris.

About 145 houses have been destroyed or buried by the collapsing garbage mountain. Around 645 people from 180 families have been displaced and are temporarily sheltering in a nearby primary school and other places without basic amenities. Because the Hindu traditional New Year festival day fell on April 14, visiting relatives may also have been inside the buried houses. The Sri Lanka Electricity Board warned people to leave the surrounding area because a high voltage power line has been damaged.

The tragedy has provoked shock and outrage across the country, compounding the political crisis of the goernment, which is already facing widespread opposition over its austerity policies. President Maithripala Sirisena has held meetings with ministers, military chiefs and government officials to announce assistance and compensation for the victims. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has cut short his tour of Asia “because of the disaster.”

With government approval, Colombo Municipal Council had established a huge garbage dump on a 16-acre block of land and heaped waste up to 30 metres high. Management of the dump lacked any scientific application or concern for the lives of nearby residents. Friday’s collapse destroyed all the houses in its southern boundary.

A woman, who had been waiting since Friday for the bodies of her brother, his wife and 12-year-old daughter to be unearthed, told the WSWS that no government officials or rescue teams reached the site for more than an hour after the disaster. “Residents themselves started searching for the buried people. Then the navy and police came with few shovels,” she said.

Facing rising anger, the government sent army “rescue teams” a few hours later. The army brigadier in charge of the disaster site told the media that a contingent of 600 has now been deployed.

Soldiers and rescue teams are searching the site with rented excavation machinery and without proper equipment or protective gear. This shows the lack of proper disaster preparedness by the government, despite the many landslides in recent years that have killed hundreds. In 2004, the Asian tsunami killed around 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.

Another woman told the WSWS: “For how long have we been saying that this [heap of refuse] would collapse!” She said that a university professor had warned last year that the garbage mountain could collapse due to the pressure of methane gas being produced inside. “All our cries fell on the deaf ears of governments! They did nothing until so many people were buried alive,” said a man who was waiting for information about relatives.

Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, S.M. Marikkar, a government parliamentarian for the area, and Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara faced angry protests by local people when they visited the area.

“People told them that there’s no need to visit after so many have died. What we got when we protested against dumping of garbage here was baton charges,” a man told the WSWS. “Politicians, Buddhist monks, or Catholic priests, none of them are wanted here.”

Another man, now alone with his grandson, angrily explained that these were not deaths, but murders.

Conscious of the simmering anger, the government has deployed a large number of police and soldiers in the area. Under the pretext of “public safety,” the entire area has been cordoned off. The residents are still unable to salvage valuables from their houses.

Contingents of riot police armed with water cannon, tear gas and firearms are on stand-by in nearby towns such as Wellampitiya and Gothatuwa New Town.

More than 24 hours after the collapse, Deputy Finance Minister Harsha de Silva said that the problem had been building up more than 20 years and the government had now decided to immediately stop the dumping of garbage at the site.

Blaming the victims themselves, de Silva stated that the tragedy occurred because the families had refused to move from the area, despite being offered compensation. Locals, however, told the WSWS that there had not been a resettlement program, apart from verbal promises by officials for a pittance in compensation or for rent for a house at an alternative location.

These attempts to evict people are a part of the project initiated by the previous government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, and continued by the current government, to transform Colombo into an international financial and commercial hub. The government is now seeking to use the tragedy to push ahead with evictions.

For a long time this area was used as a place for dumping garbage. However, the dangerous situation developed after 2009 when it became Colombo’s main garbage disposal facility. People protested, warning against the potential disasters on many occasions in the past few years. In early 2014 the Mahinda Rajapakse government launched a violent police attack on the residents who were engaged in a sit-in for days blocking dumping.

During the campaign for the January 2015 presidential election, Ranil Wickremesinghe, then opposition leader, visited the area and told the residents that the problem of the garbage dump would be solved as soon as Maithripala Sirisena was elected. Yesterday he sent hypocritical condolences and cynically stated that the government had been on the point of solving the problem of the garbage dump. In reality, his government responded to local protests in May and December 2015 with brutal police attacks and the arrest of many residents.

The Meethotamulla garbage dump disaster is another tragedy generated by successive governments and the drive for profit. It demonstrates that the capitalist system cannot resolve even the most basic problems facing the masses. While President Sirisena has reportedly ordered an immediate stop to garbage disposal in the area and relief for the victims, his real concern is to prevent the disaster from becoming a focus for mounting anger against the government.

Egyptian geese in a tree


This 11 April 2017 shows Egyptian geese in a tree.

Else Wildeman in the Netherlands made this video.

Chomsky on Trump’s bombs on Afghanistan and Syria


This 13 April 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Noam ChomskyTrump’s Bombing of Afghanistan and Syria

See also here.

America’s longest war drags on in Afghanistan: here.

US bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. A new stage in the repudiation of international law. By Mike Head: here.

Neocons Have a Long List of Endless-War Ideas for Donald Trump to Implement: here.

Overall, in the countries encircling Syria, there is very little support among the general population as well as among the intellectuals, for the Western assaults on the country, conducted directly, and indirectly by proxies. Pro-Western regimes and governments are currently governing Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and all of them are officially supporting the Western military actions: here.

America’s Endless Afghan War: here.

TROOPS EXPECTED TO INCREASE IN AFGHANISTAN “The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said.” [WaPo]

No obstacle racing because of nesting lapwings


This video shows a northern lapwing at its nest in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Mud run” canceled at the last moment because of nesting northern lapwings

Today, 10:48

A mud-running event in Amersfoort was canceled at the last minute because lapwings nest on the ground. The organization of the Mudrun Fun in Vathorst district discovered the birds yesterday and concluded that they will not run today.

A few hundred people would participate in the event, including children. The intention was that they would run on a trail with mud, obstacles and a water slide. It was the fifth edition of the event.

Yesterday nothing seemed to be wrong; then the organization was alerted that the birds were nesting. The lapwing is a protected native species and has been declining in numbers. The organization therefore considered it irresponsible to let the event continue, despite the permits already issued by the municipality.

Black woodpecker makes new nest, video


This 11 April 2017 video shows a black woodpecker making a new nest for the new nesting season.

Last year’s black woodpecker nests are often used by pine martens, tawny owls, etc.

Henk Verbruggen from the Netherlands made this video.

Sectarian massacre of Shiite Syrian civilians


This video says about itself:

RAW FOOTAGE: Explosion hits Syrian evacuation bus convoy in Aleppo

15 April 2017

WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES

At least 100 killed after explosion targets bus convoy in Aleppo transporting residents of two besieged Shia villages. An explosion near a bus convoy waiting to enter the Syrian city of Aleppo killed or wounded several people on Saturday, pro-government media outlets, pro-opposition activists and a monitor reported.

A military media unit run by Damascus ally Hezbollah said a suicide attacker had detonated a car bomb near the convoy.

By Jordan Shilton in the USA:

Syrian rebels massacre at least 126 civilians in suicide bomb blast

17 April 2017

A convoy of buses evacuating residents from the government-held towns of Foua and Kefraya in Syria’s Idlib province was targeted by a suicide bomber Saturday, claiming the lives of at least 126 civilians. The attack occurred west of Aleppo as the buses made their way to government-controlled areas.

The evacuation of the residents of the two towns began Friday morning and was part of a swap deal agreed between the government of Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces. In exchange for allowing the evacuation of residents from Foua and Kefraya, rebels agreed to resettle the populations of Madaya and Zabadani, two towns they control near Damascus. In total, around 7,250 people were evacuated from the four towns. It was part of a broader plan brokered by Iran and Qatar to move up to 30,000 people over a 60-day period.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is linked to the rebels, 68 children were killed in the blast. Other sources have put the figure as high as 80.

The observatory confirmed the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device carried in a vehicle, backing up an earlier report on Syrian state TV which said the attackers used a van meant for delivering aid to gain access to the area.

An al-Jazeera reporter at the scene described how many of the buses were completely destroyed and dead bodies littered the ground. Ambulances rushed those from the scene who had been injured.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, it occurred in a rebel-controlled area. Ahrar al-Sham, a conservative Islamist militia, condemned the bombing and called for an international investigation to determine who was to blame.

In stark contrast to the moral outrage expressed by politicians and the media in the wake of the alleged gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month, which the Trump administration seized upon to launch an illegal missile strike on a Syrian air base, the death of over 100 Syrians in a suicide bombing—substantially more than the number who died in the alleged gas attack—prompted virtually no condemnation from the Western powers.

The US State Department released a weasel-worded statement which, while condemning the killings, sought to strike a pose of impartiality and refused even to identify the rebel Islamist militias as being responsible. “We deplore any act that sustains or empowers extremists on all sides including today’s attack,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

At a comparable stage in the aftermath of the Khan Sheikhoun incident, just hours after the alleged attack, US government officials had already acted as judge, jury and executioner, and were proclaiming the guilt of the Assad regime without presenting any evidence.

President Donald Trump, who invoked the deaths of “beautiful babies” and the need to defend the “civilized world” in justifying his April 6 cruise missile strike, which killed nine civilians, did not even comment on the bloodbath carried out by forces linked to the American CIA.

For their part, the servile corporate-controlled media reported on the incident, if at all, in a largely routine manner.

The New York Times published a lengthy front-page report concentrating almost exclusively on the crimes committed by Assad during the war, alleging that “the largest number of violations by far has been by the Syrian government.” It criticized the failure to bring government officials before the International Criminal Court in the Hague and blamed Russia for blocking any action by the UN Security Council.

The general indifference shown by the political and media establishment to the victims of this brutal massacre exposes once again the hypocrisy of the crusaders for “human rights” in the United States and the European imperialist powers. It demonstrates the fraudulent character of the propaganda campaign in the wake of the alleged gas attack, designed to conceal the real aims of US imperialist intervention in Syria: regime change in Damascus and the consolidation of Washington’s hegemonic position in the energy-rich Middle East against any challenge from its geopolitical rivals.

The reason for the lack of reaction is not hard to find. While it remains unclear precisely which faction of the rebels carried out the mass slaughter, Washington and its Gulf allies have the main responsibility for arming the collection of right-wing Islamist militias fighting the Assad dictatorship and enabling them to continue the civil war. The opposition is now dominated by the al-Nusra Front, which was formerly affiliated to Al Qaeda.

If any journalist were honest enough to follow the evidence, they would have to apportion a significant part of the blame for the bus convoy bombing to the criminal and reckless policies of US imperialism. More than six years after instigating the Syrian civil war, Washington has the blood of an estimated 500,000 Syrians on its hands.

This does not even take into account the upwards of 1 million people killed as a result of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the hundreds of thousands of deaths due to wars either led or sponsored by Washington in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and the millions throughout the region forced to flee their homes as a consequence of conflict and societal breakdown.

The highly selective concern shown for “human rights” issues by the representatives of US imperialism is nothing new. Saturday’s bombing came less than a month after a single US air strike launched as part of the ruthless onslaught against Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, claimed the lives of as many as 300 civilians sheltering in a basement. This horrific war crime, coming on top of the thousands of civilian deaths that have occurred since the US-backed offensive was launched last October, was largely buried by the media.

The ruling class considers the deaths of civilians to be collateral damage—a price worth paying in their ruthless struggle to uphold US imperialist interests in the Middle East and around the globe. Barely 24 hours after the bus bombing, Trump’s National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster vowed in an ABC News interview that Washington was ready to escalate tensions with Russia still further, not only over Syria, but over Europe as well.

McMaster said of Russia’s alliance with Assad, “So Russia’s support for that kind of horrible regime, that is a party to that kind of a conflict, is something that has to be drawn into question as well as Russia’s subversive actions in Europe. And so I think it’s time though, now, to have those tough discussions with Russia.”