Birds, bee, Karl Marx and architecture

Canal, Leiden, 13 August 2017

As this blog reported before, on 13 March 2017 we went to the botanical garden. We walked back along the same canal where we had seen a herring gull couple earlier that day. All photos in this blog post are macro photos.

Coot, 13 August 2017

There were birds now as well: the parent coot we had seen earlier, with its two youngsters, one older than the other one. The parent coot stood on a boat.

Mute swan youngster, 13 August 2017

A group of adult and young mute swans passed.

Karl Marx, 13 August 2017

A bit further, we met Karl Marx. Not the person, but the small boat named after him.

Leiden, 13 August 2017

We went left along another canal.

Doelenpoort, 13 August 2017

We passed the 17th century Doelenpoort gate.

Butterfly-bush, 13 August 2017

Finally, we passed a butterfly-bush with a bee on it.


Pro-slavery -genocide statues in the Netherlands?

This 18 August 2017 Dutch TV video is about controversial statues of three men who played a role in the history of the Netherlands.

First, Peter Stuyvesant; known as the 17th century governor of what is now New York City in the USA. The video says Stuyvesant is controversial. He owned slaves, had a Quaker tortured because of his religion, was anti-Jewish and violent against native Americans. He also had plans to increase the slave trade from Africa to Curaçao and further.

(Still Stuyvesant, while alive, maybe killed less people than the cigarettes named after him in the 20th century killed with cancer).

The second controversial statue is of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, seventeenth century Dutch East India Company Governor General in what is now Indonesia.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 18 August 2017:

Henk te Velde, professor of Dutch history, says that Coen was called the butcher of Banda. “He has thousands of dead people on his conscience because he led the punitive expedition to the Indonesian island Banda.” That was about getting for the Netherlands the monopoly of the trade in nutmeg.

The third statue is of General Van Heutsz.

Translated from NOS TV:

As Governor General in the Dutch East Indies, General Van Heutsz played a major role in the bloody Aceh war. According to [historian] Fatah-Black, he has hundreds of thousands of dead on his conscience. But he was initially praised by Queen Wilhelmina, who gave him a high level medal.

The statue erected for him in the 1930s was already controversial then.

There are less statues of controversial people in the Netherlands than, eg, statues of United States Civil War Confederate warriors fighting to keep slavery; statues now criticized in, eg, Charlottesville, Virginia and praised by President Donald Trump. According to Fatah-Black, this is because in the Netherlands there is not such a big tradition of erecting statues of persons considered to be heroes by some.

Statues and politics in the USA and Britain: here.

Fossil baleen whale discovery in Japan

This video says about itself:

22 August 2017

Fossil of whale of 15 million years old reveals ancient hatcheries

A second close look at a fossil has revealed a hatchery previously unknown of an extinct whale, and potentially sheds light on how species respond to changing weather conditions. They report a careful reexamination of several fossils of an extinct whale, Parietobalaena yamaokai, which existed around 15 million years ago. Fossils had been collected over the last century from around Hiroshima, and were held at Hiwa City Museum of Natural History. When examining one of the exhibits, part of a skull, Tsai noticed that two of the bones had not completely woven, indicating that the animal must have been less than six months old when he died.

Identification of a possible breeding place of the Miocene for whales in the northern hemisphere also raises some interesting questions, he concludes. When, where and what species of whales initiated the long, annual migration between feeding and childbirth. Answers to these questions could help provide clues about the breeding grounds of modern whales whose locations are largely unknown. This, in turn, will have direct application for conservation strategies.

From ScienceDaily:

A potential breeding site of a Miocene era baleen whale

Researcher identifies evidence of a calf whale from the Miocene of Hiroshima, Japan suggesting the earliest known site for baleen whale breeding in the northern hemisphere

August 22, 2017

Baleen whales are amongst the largest animals to have ever lived and yet very little is known about their breeding habits. One researcher’s second look at previously found baleen whale fossils from Japan provides new evidence of a now long-gone breeding ground of the extinct baleen whale Parietobalaena yamaokai dating back over 15 million years.

The research published in the open-access journal PeerJ elaborates on the evidence of the presence of a very young individual of an extinct baleen whale, along with the occurrence of several fossil specimens of the same whale species. This study claims to have discovered a very uncommon case — a breeding ground for a long extinct large whale.

Researcher Cheng-Hsiu Tsai noticed the open suture in the skull of one fossil specimen, which indicates the preservation of a very young whale — under six months old, perhaps even close to a new-born calf. The fossil specimens investigated were originally found in the 20th century and are currently held at the Hiwa Museum for Natural History, Shobara, Hiroshima, Japan.

Identifying breeding grounds of living species of whales are incredibly rare, let alone for extinct Miocene species. For example, scientists are not certain where the endangered western gray whales reproduce, in turn leading to no concrete strategies to recover this critically endangered population of around 100 individuals.

The discovery of an ancient paleo-breeding site, which dates back to 15 million years ago, could provide new insights into the future of baleen whale survival. In a rapidly changing world, locating breeding sites and understanding why a breeding site disappeared may subsequently lead to information on how best to respond in order to conserve these living endangered populations.

London Grenfell disaster, poetry, survivors meet

This video says about itself:

26 June 2017

‘Grenfell Tower, June, 2017’ is a poem written by Nigerian writer Ben Okri. To raise funds for relatives of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, and for survivors.

Ben Okri and Deborah Levy are organising a writers’ event in London.

From the World Socialist Web Site in England:

Socialist Equality Party holds public meeting on Grenfell fire in London

By our reporter

21 August 2017

The Socialist Equality Party held a public meeting Saturday on the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire, titled, “Social Murder: A crime against the working class.”

Around 100 people attended at the Harrow Club, off Bramley Road, located in the shadow of the burnt-out tower, including a number of survivors, local residents and workers and youth from other parts of the capital and elsewhere.

Chairing the meeting, WSWS writer Robert Stevens explained that the SEP was “very aware that we are dealing with very emotional and sensitive issues today. People here and many others have lost loved ones and even saw them perish in a terrible fire.

“But it is our duty to discuss these questions—not in the manner of the cheap sensationalism of much of the media. We want to present the case for the prosecution of all those responsible for this appalling crime.”

SEP meeting on Grenfell Tower

To ensure that all felt free to speak, the SEP had denied a request from Sky News to film proceedings and told police officers who inquired that they were not welcome.

An attentive audience heard two reports.

The first, given by International Youth and Students for Social Equality member Thomas Scripps, was on the events leading up to and surrounding the tragedy.

The second, given by National Secretary Chris Marsden, was on the political implications of the fire and the perspective advanced by the Socialist Equality Party.

Scripps said, “The Grenfell Tower fire has impacted on every aspect of British life. So much so that it is possible to say that politics in this country can be divided into before and after Grenfell.”

It was the product of decisions taken “which all those involved knew were potentially life threatening, but which were carried out anyway because there was money to be made.”

Scripps demonstrated how the fire started in a floor flat before escalating out of control due to the entire tower being encased in flammable cladding, showing a widely viewed World Socialist Web Site video.

Grenfell Tower became a death trap as the result of the social cleansing policies imposed by Conservative-run Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and its arms-length company that managed the block—the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

Scripps noted that “Kensington and Chelsea Council was so keen to destroy social housing and to give Grenfell a cosmetic facelift because it stands to make millions by doing so.

“It is Britain’s richest borough, with the highest house prices in London—an average of £1.37 million last year—and is the site of the most expensive street in the country, Victoria Road, average house price £8 million.”

“Grenfell has taken on the dimensions of a national disaster,” he explained, with hundreds of council-run tower blocks “similarly clad, including the Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage.”

“In addition, there are reports of fires involving cladding in the Middle East, Australia and elsewhere—pointing to the international dimensions of Grenfell. Indeed Grenfell was anticipated by blazes involving cladding in at least 20 major high rises all over the world.”

Expanding on this theme, Marsden said that Grenfell, “points to a common experience of the working class all over the world. In country after country, the super-rich get ever richer, while working people suffer an ever-steeper decline in their living conditions.”

He noted that just in the last few months the drive by the capitalist class for increased profits had led to tragedies that have taken the lives of hundreds of people in countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Sierra Leone and described these terrible events.

Marsden continued, “Finally, in the richest country in the world, our American comrades have campaigned for years to expose how in Flint, Michigan, Rick Snyder, a multimillionaire Republican governor, and his Democratic state treasurer, Andy Dillon, switched the city’s water supply to untreated water from the polluted Flint River,” with devastating consequences.

Marsden played a World Socialist Web Site video on Flint which has been viewed nearly a million times on Facebook.

The term social murder, Marsden explained, was first coined by the co-founder of scientific socialism, Frederick Engels, in his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, as long ago as 1845—at the very beginnings of industrial capitalism: “Yet no one today could describe Grenfell in better terms.”

Marsden declared, “The SEP urges all survivors, local-residents and workers everywhere to place no confidence in May’s rotten whitewash of an inquiry … . They must rely on themselves alone, on their social power.

“Workers must demand that all those guilty of social murder at Grenfell in both political and business circles are arrested, charged and put on trial.”

But for this to happen means building the SEP as the political leadership necessary to make it happen.

Following the reports there was a lively discussion period lasting around two hours. The meeting heard moving contributions from survivors of the fire, including Nick Burton, who managed to escape with his wife from the 19th floor, at 3:40 a.m.—thanks to the heroic action of firefighters. Sid-Ali Atmani, who managed to escape from the 15th floor, also spoke on his traumatic experience and his efforts to expose the official whitewash inquiry into the fire. Ali relayed the ongoing contempt with which survivors are being treated by the council and the powers-that-be.

The audience responded during and at the end of contributions with warm applause.

Jerry White, a leading member of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, spoke during the discussion. What happened at Grenfell was a “crime” in which “lives were sacrificed due to financial and political decisions that benefited a tiny minority at the top.”

White explained how in Flint, thousands of working class residents of the US industrial Midwest city had their water supply poisoned. As with Grenfell, this was due to political and commercial decisions made—in the US by Republican and Democratic Party politicians in alliance with big business—motivated by the drive to cut costs and increase profit. This has already resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people.

Marsden explained in his summation that the government, local council and Metropolitan Police were involved in a “massive cover-up” over Grenfell. He said, “Grenfell has shown one thing and that is the enormous ingenuity, dedication and seriousness of the working class.” To applause he said, “This was a crisis in which people were failed by the official system and everything that happened here happened because of the actions of local residents.”

Marsden explained that the SEP will be holding a regular forum in the area at which residents can come together and discuss a way forward. The SEP would work to expose the government’s fraudulent inquiry into Grenfell: “We will counter their propaganda with the truth.”

… Over the next days, the WSWS will publish coverage of the meeting including interviews with those in attendance.

Bolivian endangered parrots helped by nestboxes

This video from Bolivia says about itself:

Nestboxes Save Macaws!

12 May 2017

In 2017 nine Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw chicks have successfully hatched from Armonia’s nest box program. The news is especially encouraging as this is the first time we recorded a chick whose both parents had also fledged from nest boxes. . This clearly shows Blue-throated Macaws are learning to identify nest boxes as a safe place to breed. (Footage: Aidan Maccormick, Editor: Márton Hardy, Soundtrack: Montuno – Latin music no copyright music).

From Birdlife:

21 Aug 2017

Critically Endangered macaws are learning to trust artifical nest boxes

This year, nine Blue-throated Macaw chicks have successfully hatched from nest boxes erected by Armonía (BirdLife in Bolivia) – including the first-ever second-generation nest box fledging.

Found only in the Llanos de Moxos – a tropical savanna in northern Bolivia – the striking Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis was nearly trapped to extinction as a result of demand for the cage bird trade, until 1984, when live export of the species from Bolivia was banned.

But while that threat has been reduced (if not entirely eliminated), the remaining Blue-throated Macaw population, estimated to be in the low hundreds, faces a significant hurdle in its attempts to rebound. The entirety of its known breeding range is situated on what is now private cattle ranches, and the resultant tree-felling and burning has left the Blue-throated Macaws – picky nesters by necessity – short on viable options.

Blue-throated Macaws prefer trees with spacious cavities to nest in, but 150 years of cattle-ranching has resulted in the clearing of most of the larger trees in the region. The beleaguered species has been recorded to suffer a high rate of nesting failures in recent years, with predation from species such as Southern Caracara Caracara plancus and Toco Toucan Ramphastos toco cited as one of the main factors.

However, since 2006, Asociacion Armonía (BirdLife in Bolivia), the Blue-throated Macaw Species Champion, have been working to boost the species’ nesting options. With support from the Loro Parque Fundación, Bird Endowement – Nido Adopito – El Beni-Factors ™ and the Mohammed bin Zayed Conservation Fund, Armonía has erected numerous next boxes across the southern part of the Blue-throated Macaw’s breeding range, to great effect. In the eleven years since the programme has been running, 71 chicks have successfully hatched – a significant number for a species with such a tiny (50-249) estimated adult population.

This year, nine Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged from Armonia’s nest boxes – one of which represented a significant milestone in our attempts to save this Critically Endangered species – our first-ever second-generation nest box fledging. Both of its parents were themselves hatched in a nest box seven years ago, and the pair have now returned to raise their own offspring in the same boxes.

Macaws are intelligent birds and much of their behavior is learned from their parents. We are confident that once a macaw pair breeds in a nest box, their offspring will learn this behaviour. – Bennett Hennessy, Development Director, Armonía.

Armonía are now working to improve and expand upon this programme. In 2014, Armonía installed 67 nest boxes in a potentially successful site in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, where currently Blue-throated Macaws forage and roost, but do not yet breed. It is hoped that in time, these intelligent birds will adjust to the presence of these artificial cavities and begin breeding within this protected area.

Also, Armonía are also constantly revising their nest box designs to better suit the needs of the species as new insights become available. The discovery of a new breeding site this past February has given Armonía furtherinformation on the Blue-throated Macaw’s preferred nesting conditions; as a result, future designs will be taller and more isolated to reflect their preferences.

Solar eclipse, other space news

This video from Wyoming, USA says about itself:

Watch solar physicists watching the eclipse | Science News

21 August 2017

This time-lapse video shows how a group of solar physicists and engineers studying the sun’s wispy atmosphere kept busy during totality, but also got to take a look at the corona with their own eyes. In the foreground, Paul Bryans and Ben Berkey uncover and cover the telescopes’ lenses, while Steven Tomczyk, Alyssa Boll and Keon Gibson record data and Philip Judge calls out the time.

Read more here.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Crowds gather to witness solar eclipse in Oregon

21 August 2017

Thousands watch in excitement as corona becomes visible: solar eclipse.

SO EVERYONE FREAKED OUT ABOUT THE ECLIPSE From your favorite celebrities to the president, eclipse fever abounded. Check out some of the incredible photos from the event that stopped productivity for a solid few hours across the country. Fox News host Shepard Smith went wild for eclipse coverage, and his colleague Tucker Carlson delivered this gem of a line, saying Trump looking at the eclipse without glasses was “Perhaps the most impressive thing any president has ever done.” [HuffPost]

And if you didn’t watch Bonnie Tyler sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart during the eclipse, you didn’t do the eclipse right.

The Parker Solar Probe was launched early Sunday morning and has begun its three-month journey to get closer to the Sun than any previous spacecraft: here.

Mars has nighttime snow storms. Cloud cooling and speedy winds lead to rapid winterlike storms, simulations show. By Ashley Yeager, 11:00am, August 21, 2017.

London Grenfell Tower disaster and music

This music video from England says about itself:


8 August 2017

For September 2017 tour info and tickets: here.

Featuring vocals of Mai Khalil and Asheber.
Produced by Quincy Tones and Jo Caleb.
Mixed by Guy Buss.

Executive Producers: Fahim Alam, Tariq Chow and Lowkey.
Director: Fahim Alam.
Director of Photography: Jeffrey Celis.

By Paul Bond in Britain:

“The night our eyes changed”

Five musical responses to the Grenfell Tower inferno

16 August 2017

The June 14 inferno at Grenfell Tower has had a profound political impact. The death of at least 80 people was a cruel exposure of the reality of social relations between the classes and has laid the basis for developing a socialist political orientation among broad masses of workers and youth.

The tragedy has already triggered an artistic response from musicians. Music mogul Simon Cowell brought together a number of high-profile figures for a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, but a far more powerful and politically interesting response has come from local artists on the urban music scene.

Where Cowell’s record was an attempt to soothe and calm, the reaction of local performers has been marked by anger and an insistence on justice and naming the guilty parties. They express the need for the victims of capitalism to speak with their own voice. These tracks sometimes make for difficult listening, but indicate a growing politicisation of the grime scene.

Grime is an eclectic and innovative form of rap music, described by one commentator as “an amalgamation of UK garage with a bit of drum & bass, a splash of punk,” that has firmly established itself on the British urban music scene. Its descriptions of urban life have not always got beyond the gritty and everyday, but this gives it the potential to comment directly on immediate events and makes it well placed to make more directly political comment. Indeed it is no accident that the strongest part of Cowell’s charity single was the introductory verse by grime artist Stormzy.

Lowkey’s Ghosts of Grenfell is the most accomplished of the tracks to date. Like the other performers, Lowkey watched the horror unfolding on what he describes here as “The night our eyes changed.” He recounts the events he saw, the accounts of survivors and he names the victims.

There is a fine poetry in Lowkey’s words, his testament to those killed in “Rooms where both the extraordinary and the mundane were lived.” “Now it’s flowers for the dead and printing posters for the missing” is a powerful line.

Like the other tracks, Ghosts demands a community response, with Mia Khalil singing a chorus “Did they die or us? Did they die for us?” It identifies the forces behind the blaze, declaiming, “Oh you political class, so servile to corporate power”, and confronts them directly with their victims. At the end of the video survivors and locals hold up “Missing” posters under the Westway. They name the victims, asking the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council directly where they are, before warning, “The blood is on your hands … Like a phoenix we will rise.”

It is a heart-wrenching moment—difficult to watch because of the tragedy it conveys so well, but also an inspiring call for defiance.

Lowkey is an articulate performer with a history of political activity. Long involved with the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, he endorsed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the recent General Election.

Other local artists have also supported Corbyn. In an interview with the Guardian, grime artist AJ Tracey said his endorsement was based on the question of council housing. Others have identified with his empathy. As Shocka put it in his Grenfell Tribute, “He’s white, I’m black, Colour don’t change jack, Whenever something happens he’s there that’s a fact.”

That is in line with the basic human empathy expressed by all of the artists to the fire. …

This music video from Britain says about itself:

Shocka | Grenfell Tribute [Music Video]: SBTV

29 June 2017

After a few difficult weeks for us in the UK, Shocka brings us the realness. He’s currently raising money for the victims of Grenfell Tower, if you would like to support, download MyBusks and you can donate to his live performance of this track.

It’s time we use our talents to change the circumstances of those less fortunate.

The Paul Bond article continues:

There is a growing recognition that the situation facing working people and youth is worsening, demanding different, revolutionary responses. Shocka is explicit on this: drawing attention to sickle cell sufferers and mental health patients, he says, “Life’s getting tough for us, but you’ve got to keep fighting,” and later, “Even though there’s so much problems in the world, it’s kind of funny that the problems got us all uniting,” before stating quite bluntly that the smell of “revolution’s in the air, you just gotta take a whiff.”

In part this is because of the failure of all of the political forces “so servile to corporate power,” in Lowkey’s words. In the Guardian interview, AJ Tracey’s brother, Mickey, noted that there had been “no central government response, no local government response” to Grenfell Tower. While both brothers advised against rioting as an expression of anger (because it allows the ruling class simply to disregard its causes), they recognised its root in a frustration caused by peaceful protests being ignored or dismissed.

This brings out explicitly the question of class forces. Flow’s Grenfell Tower Tribute (Raise Your Head) opens with a rejection of talking about the authorities, addressing itself explicitly to the victims, “not the government.” Again, the social realities of class difference are recognised (“If the government starts thinking ’bout the money less, maybe we’ll wonder how to identify bodies less.”) The song’s call that this must not happen again prompts the urgent demand that “We need changes.”

This music video from Britain is called Flow – Grenfell Tower Tribute (Raise Your Head).

The recognition of class differences and working class community cohesion is common to many of the tracks. Grenfell Tower Tribute by Big Zuu, one of AJ Tracey’s collaborators, points to the rich sitting uncomprehending while the poor are struggling with the realities of daily life, and says “No wonder why there’s people there displaying rage.” Again, he draws a sharp distinction between “Community, the people power” and government: “this city’s ours.”

The song closes by insisting that the people died because they were poor in one of the richest cities in the world.

This music video from Britain says about itself:

Big Zuu – Grenfell Tower Tribute [Music Video] | GRM Daily

16 June 2017

West London MC Big Zuu has just dropped this poignant video in partnership with GRM Daily to pay tribute to the people who have lost everything – their possessions, their homes, their families.

The video is a collation of footage around the site and is a touching documentation of the amount of love our community has for one another.

Nothing can bring back what was lost but we can honour them in our memories and our art.

The Paul Bond article continues:

Probably the angriest response so far is Grenfell Tower’s Burnin by El Nino and Cx4.

Its video opens with a banner declaring, “The Royal Murderers of Kensington and Chelsea.”

Masked, as ever, they appeal to their local street community for determination and defiance: “LA/LBG [Latimer/Ladbroke Grove], we ain’t ever gonna back down.” But the appeal is confined to the immediate community (“Love my hood to the death. RIP to the rest.”) Nevertheless it does draw the line between victims and perpetrators.

This music video from Britain says about itself:

6 August 2017

Grenfell Tower’s Burning is the unrelenting new music video from Latimer/Ladbroke Grove rappers El Nino & CX4.

The Paul Bond article continues:

El Nino describes the song as “the UK’s first conscious drill tune.” Like the other artists they recognise the widening gulf of inequality (“the poor getting poorer while the rich getting richer”), the policies of social cleansing on behalf of the ruling elite (“Government want us out, ’cos they wanna make way for the rich”), the council’s corrupt implementation of that policy through housing lists, the media’s role in covering up such manoeuvres, and the devastatingly vicious character of such a programme—“So many lives, so many little kids, Can’t imagine what they had to go through.”

These songs should be made known to as broad an audience as possible.