Stop the war in Afghanistan


This video from the USA says about itself:

Kathy Kelly on Afghanistan: Destitution, Unemployment & Hunger Must Be Addressed to Achieve Peace

8 June 2018

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban to last until June 20. The ceasefire comes after Muslim clerics in Afghanistan issued a fatwa—or religious ruling—against suicide bombings, after an attack Monday, claimed by ISIS, killed 14 people who had gathered for a clerics’ peace summit in Kabul.

This comes as the BBC is reporting that the number of bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force has surged dramatically since President Trump announced his Afghanistan strategy and committed more troops to the conflict last August; new rules of engagement have made it easier for U.S. forces to carry out strikes … . We speak to Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She has made many trips to Afghanistan and just returned from a trip this week.

This video from the USA says about itself:

As U.S. Intensifies Airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pashtun Men Stage 400-Mile Walk Calling for Peace

8 June 2018

Extended conversation with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She has made many trips to Afghanistan, and just returned from a trip this week. Kelly’s latest article for The Progressive is headlined, “Afghans, Parched for Water, March for Peace.”

British police scapegoating firefighters for Grenfell disaster instead of politicians, businessmen


This 24 June 2017 video is called Arconic knowingly supplied flammable panels for use in Grenfell Tower, London.

By Paul Bond in Britain:

Police to investigate London Fire Brigade over Grenfell fire: The real criminals remain at large

9 June 2018

London’s Metropolitan Police announced Thursday that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is under investigation for the “stay put” strategy it implemented during the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, 2017.

“Stay put” means advising residents to remain in their flat in the event of a fire in another flat in high-rise buildings. The police are investigating the possibility that the order could have breached health and safety law.

When asked by journalists whether senior LFB officers might face manslaughter charges, Matt Bonner, who leads the Met’s criminal investigation into the fire, indicated that prosecutions would be more likely under health and safety legislation.

The announcement of a police investigation into the London Fire Brigade over the Grenfell fire is part of the cover-up by the state, aimed at shifting responsibility away from those responsible onto those who attempted to fight the blaze—the firefighters.

Almost a year after the inferno, no arrests have been made or charges laid against any individual or company for the social murder of at least 72 people.

However, simultaneously with their announcement of the LFB investigation, police made another nine arrests in relation to alleged fraud by people claiming to be Grenfell survivors. Three individuals have already been jailed for this, and another two are awaiting sentencing. These swift arrests of people on minor charges were made by the same team responsible for not making any arrests of those guilty of mass murder.

This is despite the police stating that 36 companies and organisations involved in the construction, refurbishment, maintenance and management of Grenfell Tower are of special interest. The local council—the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)—and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), responsible for managing Grenfell Tower, are also under investigation.

Reports to the official public inquiry by fire safety experts and family members of the Grenfell victims criticised the stay put policy, saying that the LFB continued to implement it long after the fire spread.

The “stay put” strategy has long been standard procedure for high-rise blocks, with the aim of containing fires in individual flats. But its effectiveness depends on effective compartmentalisation of the building, i.e., ensuring that the fire’s spread is restricted by fireproof obstacles (doors, windows, etc.).

At Grenfell Tower, the use of inadequate and combustible materials massively compromised compartmentalisation, rendering “stay put” policy useless, with fatal results. Before firefighters had even extinguished the fire in its Flat 16 point of origin on the fourth floor, flammable materials used in window construction and external insulation and cladding in the 2016 refurbishment enabled the fire to spread to the outside of the building.

Fire expert Dr Barbara Lane said the “stay put” policy had “effectively failed” barely 40 minutes after the fire began, arguing that continuing to use the policy contributed to the loss of life.

Within the first half hour, concluded Lane, the stairs were free enough of smoke for escape by that means to have been viable. Most of those who fled the building did so during that period. Doors that were only fire resistant for 15 minutes rather than the half-hour they were supposed to be good for, coupled with the use of non-fire-resistant materials for the heating system in the building’s one staircase, ended the possibility of compartmentalisation.

Because of a switch fault, firefighters were also unable to use the building’s lift to move equipment up the building. They could not evacuate residents down the last four flights by lift and had to use the stairway.

Lane was also critical of the water source arrangements available to the LFB. Grenfell Tower had a “dry fire main”, meaning fire crews had to pump water into the building. A “wet riser” system, on the other hand, would have already been connected to the outside mains, meaning there would have been no need to connect internal pipes to fire engines. Wet risers also provide more water pressure, which might have assisted firefighters in getting to higher floors more effectively. Lane said the dry riser system was “non-compliant with the design guidance in force at the time of the original construction and… also non-compliant with current standards.”

Lane expressed concern at the delay in formally ending the stay-put strategy for nearly two hours from the original emergency call to the fire brigade. However, while concluding, “There was therefore an early need for a total evacuation”, she was careful to recognise the difficulties confronted by the firefighters.

She had found no evidence that the LFB knew the building’s cladding was combustible and acknowledged that a call for evacuation was not “an easy decision to make during the unfolding and complex events that occurred.”

José Torero, Professor of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland, told the inquiry that evacuation is not risk-free during the early stages of a fire, but “can be considered a better strategy than ‘stay put.’”

He reported that 70 minutes after the fire had started, the Grenfell firefighters were “outside the bounds of conventional practice.”

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) counsel asked, in his opening statement to the inquiry, “What alternative strategy might have been implemented” [that night]? There was, he said, “no obvious and safe alternative strategy nor detailed plan.”

Given the “multiple” safety failings of the building, he suggested firefighters “were always chasing a sinister fire they had no realistic chance of defeating.” The building was a “highly combustible death trap” and firefighters were put in an “impossible situation.”

Matt Wrack, the leader of the Fire Brigades Union, said that firefighters that night faced an “unprecedented catastrophe” and “did their utmost… to save as many lives as they could.”

The BBC’s recent Panorama programme about Celotex—who manufactured the insulation material used on the Grenfell cladding—broadcast footage shot by attending fire crews, who are heard to be in shock at the way the fire was rapidly spreading and engulfing the entire structure.

The LFB told the inquiry that it is “a fundamental misunderstanding” to believe that a “stay put” policy can be changed to evacuation just like that. Fire safety advice for tall buildings is not set by the fire service, but by the building’s owners. The LFB asked, “If there is no policy applied by the building owner which provides for a policy of simultaneous evacuation and there are no evacuation plans and there are no general fire alarms—what is an incident commander on the fire ground to do?”

Firefighters were placed in an “intolerable” position and were unaware of the shortcomings of the building’s maintenance and fabric.

Questions do need to be asked about the “stay put” strategy and its implementation, but the LFB noted that historically it has been generally successful. This depends, of course, on successful maintenance of the building’s compartmentalisation.

The inquiry has already heard a plea of limited responsibility from Arconic (formerly Alcoa), the cladding manufacturer, who have claimed their panels were “at most, a contributing factor.”

The company’s argument is that if the window fittings had prevented the fire reaching the outside, then wrapping the building in highly flammable material would not have resulted in any deaths. Arconic withdrew the panels from use in high-rise buildings after the fire.

Azure damselflies’ love tandems, video


This 8 January 2016 video shows male and female azure damselflies in love tandems at the Bourgoyen nature reserve in Ghent, Belgium.

The males are blueish and blackish. The greenish and blackish females are partly under water, to affix their eggs on water plants.

Boy Martin made this video.

Gena Turgel, Auschwitz survivor, Anne Frank helper, RIP


This video says about itself:

18 October 2011

Auschwitz survivor Gena Turgel, who went from concentration camp victim to a woman honored by the Queen of England, tells her amazing story on the Shalom TV original series, “Witness”.

Gena Turgel, Holocaust survivor known as Bride of Belsen, dies. Tributes paid to 95-year-old ‘shining light’ who tended to a dying Anne Frank and survived Nazi death camps: here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Woman who took care of Anne Frank in concentration camp has died

The Polish Holocaust survivor Gena Turgel has died at the age of 95. Turgel from Krakow survived the bombing of Poland, later concentration camps of the Nazis and took care of Anne Frank at the end of the war.

Turgel was in Auschwitz Birkenau and Buchenwald and was then taken to Bergen-Belsen in a cattle car. In the latter days of the war the camp was plagued by typhus. The 22-year-old Turgel arrived there in February 1945 and managed to get permission from the Germans to work as a prisoner in the camp’s hospital barracks.

There she met Anne Frank who was struck by the disease, she later told the BBC. “I washed her face, gave her water to drink, and I still see her face in front of me, her hair and what she looked like.”

Anne Frank died shortly thereafter, probably in February. Bergen-Belsen was liberated on 15 April 1945.

Wedding

Turgel survived the camp together with her mother. After the war Gena Turgel married one of the soldiers who had freed the camp and they went to live in London. Her wedding dress was made from the fabric of a British army parachute. The garment is exhibited in a museum in London.

For the rest of her life, Turgel continued to tell her life story. Her biography I light a candle came out in 1987. “A burning fire is extinguished today, and will never be replaced”, says the director of the British Holocaust Education Fund.

Young red-tailed hawk preens and fledges, video


This video from New York state in the USA says about itself:

Red-tailed Hawk Chick, H2, Fledges While Preening! – June 8, 2018

Watch H2 fledge accidentally while preening on the fledge ledge. First reports from BOGs Karel and Bogette are that the hawk landed safely and made its way into a nearby tree. More to come!

Watch live at allaboutbirds.org/cornellhawks

A Red-tailed Hawk pair has been nesting above Cornell University’s athletic fields since at least the 2012, making use of two different light towers for their nest sites. In 2012 and 2015, they used a tower near Fernow Hall, and in 2013, 2014, and 2016, they used the tower nearest Weill Hall. We installed cameras at both of these sites to get a better look at the intimate behavior of these well-known birds as they raise their young amid the bustle of a busy campus.

Italian racist mafioso murders refugee from war-torn Mali


This 4 June 2018 video says about itself:

Migrant workers went on strike on Monday in the southern Italian town of San Ferdinando following the killing of a worker from Mali.

Sacko Soumayla was shot dead on Saturday, reportedly while picking up some metal sheeting in an abandoned factory with two other men. They were collecting the material in order to improve the shacks in which they were living. While they were doing so, a man is said to have arrived by car and shot at the three men, killing Sacko.

Sacko arrived in Italy in 2010. He was working as a day labourer at farms in the area and was also part of the Unione Sindacale di Base (USB), a workers’ union. The USB called the strike after his death. On June 16 they are planning a nationwide protest to highlight the poor working conditions of people like Sacko, who often work for as little as €2 per hour in the fields of southern Italy, often in mafia-controlled farms.

One of the protesting migrant workers referred to the new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has promised to take a harder line on migration into Italy. “Salvini says so, he says to ‘kill all Africans‘. He says this”, the demonstrator stated.

By Marianne Arens:

Italy: Immigrant harvest worker shot dead

9 June 2018

A young man from Mali was shot dead on June 2 in the Italian province of Calabria. Soumaila Sacko, 29, leaves behind his wife and a five-year-old daughter in Mali and friends and colleagues in southern Italy. He worked to bring in the harvest and was also an activist for the grass roots union, USB, which campaigns on behalf of African day labourers.

Soumaila Sacko was one of thousands of workers who work as harvesters and day labourers, earning a pittance on the orchards of vegetable and agricultural farms in the hinterland of Gioia Tauro. The workers are housed in tents, barracks or improvised huts made of wood and plastic sheeting.

The shooting must be viewed in light of the right wing policies of the government in Rome, which was sworn in on the same day. The Lega/Five-Star coalition has announced it will deport half a million refugees within 18 months and imprison all refugees without proper permits in detention centers. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and the head of Lega, proclaimed a few hours earlier: “We tell all illegals: The party is over!” They should “pack their bags”.

On the same Saturday night, Soumaila was traveling with two compatriots in search of building materials for improvised accommodation. On the site of an abandoned former brick factory, they searched for pieces of sheet metal when a stranger stopped his Fiat Panda and began firing his rifle at them. Scrambling for cover, Soumaila was hit in the head and died on the spot. Another refugee was injured in the leg.

On Monday morning, more than 2,000 harvest workers stopped work in San Fernandino, where Soumaila had lived. Hundreds of workers took part in a protest march. Police responded by barring journalists from the immigrant workers’ accommodation.

A friend of Soumaila gave a speech denouncing “absolute slavery and exploitation”. He said, “Soumaila, like many workers here, toiled for a few euros a day … He was a man and a worker. He was a harvest worker like thousands in Italy. We want to know the full truth, we demand justice. And we demand reasonable accommodation for all workers!”

The deadly incident has drawn attention to the appalling living conditions for thousands of immigrant workers in southern Italy who harvest the oranges, lemons, mandarins, tomatoes and kiwis sold across Europe. They receive about 25 euros per day, from which the foreman usually deducts a pizzo [[mafia] protection money] of five euros. A large proportion of the workers have no employment contract and are hired as day labourers for a few hours and paid for filling boxes with fruit and vegetables.

The medical organisation Medu, which maintains maternity wards for migrant workers, has published reports of their extremely poor living conditions. Doctors complain that employers do not provide mineral water, work gloves or safety shoes. The workers are expected to walk long distances on foot because there is no public transport. As a result of the hard physical labour, workers are often ill and many are malnourished. The workers live together, crammed into mass shelters that lack electricity and running water. The situation with regard to toilets is catastrophic and completely unhygienic.

The town of San Fernandino is in the immediate vicinity of Rosarno, where mass unrest took place eight years ago. At that time, politicians made fulsome promises to improve the housing and conditions for migrant workers but, essentially, only two things have changed: the police presence has increased, and large tent cities have been set up outside Rosarno, where workers live today as miserably as they did before in warehouses.

Most of the young workers come from Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Senegal. Many of them have no proper papers and are treated like slaves.

Significantly, several newspapers initially wrote that Soumaila had been shot while attempting to steal. That is obviously not the case, since the crime scene is a brickyard which has been abandoned for years. The fact that Soumaila was an active trade unionist indicates that very different motives could be involved. In any event it is clear that someone shot in deliberate, cold-blooded fashion at the African workers.

On Tuesday, a 43-year-old farmer named Pontoriero was arrested on suspicion of murder. A police sketch, made with the help of the two survivors, and clues regarding the auto involved pointed to his involvement. The newspaper Corriere della Sera writes that the Pontoriero family is alleged to be associated with the Ndrangheta, the mafia branch which dominates much of the vegetable and citrus business in the Calabrian region.

On Tuesday and Wednesday there were strikes and protests by other groups of workers in Vibo (Calabria), Melfi (Basilicata), Teramo (Abruzzo), Cagliari (Sardinia) and Vicenza (Veneto). The USB union, several NGOs and other organisations have announced further demonstrations. The protests are also directed against the new government and its openly racist agenda.

The new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was forced to respond to the shooting in his inaugural speech. “We are not unfeeling”, Conte claimed, calling the murder of Soumaila Sacko a “tragic and disturbing incident”. Politicians will “take care of the dramatic situation of these people”, Conte said.

The new government is evidently concerned that protests in the south could link up with strikes and demonstrations in the north. A major demonstration against racism and exploitation is due to take place in Milan on Saturday, June 9.

‘SALVINI IS VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL LAW’ Mayors in southern Italy have said they will defy an order from the new far right and populist coalition government in Rome to stop a migrant rescue boat carrying 629 people from docking. [The Guardian]

Italy blocks migrant rescue ship from docking leaving over 600 stranded in the Mediterranean: here.

A decree by the new right-wing Italian government has prevented a ship with more than 600 refugees from landing in Italy. It is the result of the entire EU refugee policy: here.

Egyptian geese foster parents of grey lag goslings


This 6 June 2018 video shows an Egyptian geese couple with not just Egyptian goslings, but also (bigger, yellower) grey lag goslings. Probably, some grey lag goose eggs landed in the Egyptian geese nest, with a result somewhat like in Andersen’s fairy taleThe ugly duckling‘.

Rogier van der Weiden in the Netherlands made this video.

Japanese revanchist right-wingers want more taxpayers’ money for wars


This video from South Korea says about itself:

A Short Movie on Comfort Women

30 June 2014

A Sad and Beautiful Story about Comfort Women Sacrificed by Japanese Imperial Army during World War 2.

By Kurt Brown:

Japan’s ruling party calls for a doubling of military expenditure

9 June 2018

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last month called for a doubling of the nation’s military spending from its traditional post-World War II cap of 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). If achieved, this would sharply accelerate the acquisition of offensive hardware and the overall drive toward remilitarization, risking the danger of war abroad and the suppression of democratic rights at home.

Japan already ranks eighth in global military spending, with its budget reaching record-highs for six straight years heading into 2018. The latest budget of 5.2 trillion yen ($45.9 billion) is currently 0.9 percent of GDP. Doubling this would make Japan the third largest military spender in the world, behind only the United States and China.

While presenting this spending as defensive, in order to comply with Japan’s post-war constitution, the LDP and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government are finalizing plans to give Tokyo the ability to launch attacks on targets in foreign countries. On May 25, an LDP panel submitted a proposal to Abe that includes acquiring F-35B stealth fighter jets and other means of projecting its military power abroad.

Last December, Tokyo already said it planned to purchase cruise missiles, from both the US and Norway, with ranges between 500 and 1,000 kilometres. Japan is examining purchasing Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs) from Lockheed Martin, the same used by the United States in its attack on Syria in April. These would be fitted on Japan’s military aircraft.

To deploy the F-35Bs, the panel also proposed refitting Japan’s Izumo helicopter carrier into a full-fledged aircraft carrier, the country’s first since World War II. The LDP suggested calling it a “mother ship” to provide a thin veil over the true nature of such a vessel. The government will review these proposals as part of its National Defense Program Guidelines and the Midterm Defense Program at the end of this year.

In addition, the proposal calls for the country’s military to target cruise missile bases, a clear reference to China and potentially Russia and their armaments of long-range missiles. This reflects the integration of Japan’s military into US war plans in the Asia-Pacific, directed chiefly against Beijing, in line with the recent US National Defense Strategy, which accused China of seeking to displace the US as the hegemonic power in the Indo-Pacific region.

The panel called the current situation in Asia “the most critical” since World War II. In that war, the imperialist ambitions of Japan, the United States, and Europe clashed to determine which would control the region. Once again, these conflicts have re-emerged.

In the current defense budget beginning April 1, ballistic missile systems comprise the single largest category of spending, at 136.5 billion yen ($1.25 billion). Last December, Japan announced it would purchase two Aegis Ashore ballistic missile systems (at $1 billion each) from the United States.

Coupled with the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea, these armaments have drastically raised tensions in the region with China and Russia, which fear the accompanying X-band radar systems will be used to spy on their territory or be converted into offensive weaponry.

The scale of Japan’s military expansion belies the government’s claim to be simply responding to the supposed North Korean ballistic missile threat. Japan’s military budget is clearly disproportionate to the size of the impoverished North Korean economy, with an approximate GDP of $20 billion.

Japanese imperialism has used North Korea as the rationale for remilitarization and its war drive against China. For this reason, it has concerns about any rapprochement between Washington and Pyongyang, which would cut across this campaign in the eyes of the Japanese public.

Seeking to placate concerns over the obvious offensive nature of these proposals, the LDP said the capability to strike foreign missile bases was “based on the concept that clearly separates action from a pre-emptive attack that is not allowed under the constitution and international law.”

Not a word of this should be taken at face value. High-ranking LDP officials, including Prime Minister Abe, have previously insisted Japan has the legal ability to launch pre-emptive attacks in “self-defense.” Lawmaker Hiroshi Imazu said last year during discussion over acquiring cruise missiles: “It’s legally possible for Japan to strike an enemy base that’s launching a missile at us, but we don’t have the equipment or the capability.”

The Abe cabinet’s third “Basic Plan on Ocean Policy,” approved in May, called for stepped-up radar coverage, surveillance, and military operations around the uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which are disputed with China, and other islands claimed by Tokyo, including the Northern Territories/Kuril Islands currently in Russia’s possession.

Despite strong popular anti-war sentiment, Abe and the far-right nationalists in Japan are attempting to rewrite Japan’s constitution, in particular the so-called pacifist clause Article 9 which states “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” and “[t]he right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised.”

The proposed revisions are not limited to Article 9. In the LDP’s 2012 draft constitution, the party called for the government to be permitted to mobilise the military to put down domestic protests or unrest. Any military buildup will contribute to this end.

The placement of Japan’s military on an increasingly offensive footing can only further inflame tensions with China and Russia, further heightening the danger of a major arms race and war in the region.