Iranian exiles demonstrate against Trump’s war


Iranian exile Roya Moayyed in Amsterdam

Translated from Amsterdam, the Netherlands local AT5 TV today:

Amsterdam Iranians afraid of escalation: ‘Two nights without sleep’

It is a nerve-racking week for Amsterdam Iranians. Since the liquidation of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on 3 January and the subsequent airstrike on a US American basis, the tension between the two countries has risen to unprecedented levels. “I didn’t sleep for the first two nights.”

Tensions between Iran and the USA have been around for much longer, but since Soleimani died in the American rocket attack in Baghdad, the fear of an escalation has increased considerably. …

Moayyed finds America’s strategy thoughtless and irresponsible. “President Trump is really different from other presidents, such as Obama. Obama focused more on peace, Trump focuses on escalation. ”

Nikita Shahbazi agrees. ‘What he does is not predictable at all. He has been calculating completely wrongly. He makes premature decisions without consulting others. This also happened with the liquidation of Soleimani. It is a disaster for the region.” …

Both Moayyed and Shahbazi were present at the Spui [in Amsterdam] this afternoon at a demonstration against war on Iran. … According to the demonstrators, the Netherlands should also not support the USA , since further escalation in Iran must be prevented.

Top 5 silliest animals on BBC video


This 11 January 2019 video says about itself:

Top 5 Silliest Animal Moments! | BBC Earth

The mighty polar bear, the tenacious penguin and majestic lion. Some of the most impressive creatures in the natural world – and at times, the most ridiculous. Join us as we recount the endearing capers of these incredible animals!

Young Rembrandt exhibition in his birthplace


This 1 November 2019 Dutch video is about the exhibition Young Rembrandt, rising star in the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, the Netherlands: the city where Rembrandt was born.

This video is the sequel.

There are about 40 paintings, 70 etches and 10 drawings in the exhibition.

Besides work by Rembrandt, there is also work by his teachers Lastman and Van Swanenburg. And by his colleague Jan Lievens, and by Rembrandt pupils.

It is the first-ever exhibition about Rembrandt’s time from 1624, when he made his first painting; till 1634, when he married Saskia van Uylenburgh and had definitely left Leiden for Amsterdam.

I visited this exhibition on 11 January 2019.

On my way to the museum, I saw four great cormorants sitting on a sail of the reconstructed windmill of Rembrandt’s father. A fifth cormorant flew towards them, landing on the same sail.

In the Lakenhal now, two paintings depicting ancient Greek mythology, as told by Roman poet Ovid, hang side by side.

Rembrandt, The abduction of Proserpina

The oldest of the two was The abduction of Proserpina, from 1630-1631. The picture depicts Pluto, the god of the underworld, abducting Proserpina (Persephone in Greek), daughter of Ceres (Demeter in Greek), the goddess of agriculture.

Pieter Lastman, who taught the young Rembrandt, had inspired his pupil to make paintings about biblical history, antique history and mythology. Yet, if we compare what Rembrandt painted about and what his older contemporary and inspiration Rubens painted about, then we see a striking difference. 75% of Rubens’ work had religious or antique historical and mythological subjects. With Rembrandt, only 25% of his work fitted into these categories. While 70% of Rembrandt’s work were portraits, including self-portraits. Only 15% of Rubens’ work were portraits; 0% self-portraits.

So, Rembrandt painted far less historical and mythological paintings than Rubens. Five of his works have themes from Ovid; less than many other 17th century artists.

In countries other than the Dutch Republic, these types of paintings often made complimentary allusions to contemporary princes and nobles, and/or were often commissioned by them.

In The Netherlands, there was no monarchical court comparable to this.

There was only the Stadhouder‘s court.

Which would have liked very much to be a princely court like elsewhere in Europe; but constitutionally wasn’t.

Rembrandt got a commission from that princely court (princely, as the Stadhouders were also absolute monarchs in the tiny statelet of Orange in southern France).

But when his portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms, wife of Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik, turned out to be not flattering enough, his relationship to that court deteriorated.

An Hermitage Amsterdam exhibition noted that Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik prefered painters from the feudal southern Netherlands, though that region was the military enemy, to “bourgeois” northern painters like Rembrandt. He also prefered Gerard van Honthorst to Rembrandt as a painter of portraits of his wife. Honthorst was not from the Spanish occupied southern Netherlands. However, his home province Utrecht in the central Netherlands was less bourgeois rebellious than Rembrandt’s Holland. And Honthorst had spent much time in feudal Italy.

Nevertheless, if compared to Rubens, Rembrandt painted many more portraits.

The sky in the Abduction of Proserpina painting is a special blue: lapis lazuli, which is expensive. He could afford that as the painting was commissioned by Frederik Hendrik; in 1630-1631, before that 1632 conflict on the portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms.

The Amalia van Solms portrait is not in Leiden. A Lakenhal worker explained to me that it had been complex to borrow Rembrandt works from other museums. It had not been possible to borrow the Amalia portrait from Paris in France.

Which is a pity, as that painting and its history are important for understanding the relationship between Rembrandt and his clients, whether princely aristocrats or urban bourgeois.

The Dutch weekly Leids Nieuwsblad of 18 July 2006 has a report by Werner Zonderop of a lecture, by Christopher Brown, of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, in Leiden. Chistopher Brown has put together this 2019-2020 Leiden rembrandt exhibition.

Brown’s subject in 1906 was Rembrandt, then born 400 years ago in Leiden.

Rembrandt, portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms

From the report (translated):

[Constantijn] Huygens [private secretary of Prince and Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik] made it possible for Rembrandt to get his first commissions at the Stadhouder’s court [in The Hague].

In this way, in 1632, Rembrandt was allowed to paint the portrait of Amalia von Solms [1602-1675], the wife of Frederik Hendrik.

[She was thirty years old then; eighteen years younger than her husband].

However, the princess of Orange, [nee Countess of Solms-Braunfels], did not like the portrait as it turned out, at all.

She thought her appearance had not been idealized.

To her indignation, Rembrandt painted her too much as she really was: the mouth stiff and grim, knob-nosed and fat, with a rather stern look.

The Abduction of Proserpina painting, now in Leiden, is usually in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Next to it in the Leiden exhibition is a Rembrandt painting of one year later: The Abduction of Europa. No longer commissioned by the Stadhouder, but by an Amsterdam businessman.

Rembrandt, Abduction of Europa

It is about the Phoenician princess Europa being abducted by the Greek god Zeus (Jupiter in Latin), disguised as a bull.

Normally, that work is in the J. Paul Getty Museum in the USA. The two museums were only willing to send these two similar paintings to Leiden, because now for the first time ever they would hang next to each other.

Another conspicuous 1631 painting in the Lakenhal was a depiction of then 12-year-old German Prince Rupert and his tutor. An article suggests that the prince’s father was not satisfied with the portrait, thinking there was too little emphasis on his son and too much on the non-princely tutor. So, Rembrandt left Leiden for Amsterdam and had his artist pupil Gerrit Dou finish the Prince Rupert painting. Prince Rupert would later play a role in the English civil war.

Prince Rupert and his tutor, by Rembrandt

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England will show this exhibition from 27 February till 7 June 2020.

Five new bird species discovered in Indonesia


This video series is called Birds of Wallacea.

From the National University of Singapore:

Novel avian species: 10 new bird taxa in islands of Wallacea

January 10, 2020

Summary: A research team found five bird species and five subspecies new to science in three small island groups off Sulawesi, Indonesia. The islands are situated in Indonesia’s Wallacea region, an archipelago at the interface between the Oriental and Australian biogeographical realms, named after Sir Alfred Wallace.

Birds are the best-known class of animals, and since 1999, only five or six new species have been described each year on average. Recently, a joint research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) made a quantum leap in the discovery of cryptic avian diversity by uncovering five bird species and five subspecies new to science.

The team, led by Associate Professor Frank Rheindt from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science, found the birds in three small island groups off Sulawesi, Indonesia. The islands are situated in Indonesia’s Wallacea region, an archipelago at the interface between the Oriental and Australian biogeographical realms, named after Sir Alfred Wallace, who was the most famous historical collector exploring the area.

The results of the study, which were published in the journal Science on 10 January 2020, provide evidence that our understanding of species diversity of complex areas such as Wallacea remains incomplete even for relatively well-known groups such as birds. The findings also suggest that modern exploration to find undescribed species diversity can be targeted to areas of high promise.

Insights from paleo-climatology and history guided discovery of new taxa

Sea depth is an important and long-neglected factor in determining the distinctness of an island’s terrestrial communities. The Earth undergoes periods of glacial-interglacial cycles, leading to the formation of land bridges between shallow islands during ice ages, allowing fauna of the different islands to interbreed. Deep sea islands, which have always been isolated, and high elevation islands are more likely to harbour endemism due to absence of land connections even during glacial cycles.

Guided by this knowledge, Assoc Prof Rheindt and his team concentrated their research efforts on the islands of Taliabu and Peleng, which are located off the north-eastern coast of Sulawesi, as bathymetric data indicate the presence of deep sea between these islands and Sulawesi.

The research team also examined the accounts of historic collectors such as Sir Alfred Wallace, and sought to focus on parts of Wallacea that had received the least coverage by historic collectors, as these areas would hold the highest promise of harbouring undescribed avian diversity.

The islands that the team targeted were characterised by such incomplete historic coverage: Taliabu and its neighbours, together forming the Sula group, were only briefly visited by eight historic collecting expeditions, all of which remained in coastal areas and failed to penetrate the highlands of the interior because of poor accessibility; and Peleng and the remaining islands of the Banggai group were visited along their coastline by only three historic collectors who never ventured far uphill into the interior.

New taxa found

Assoc Prof Rheindt and his team undertook extensive fieldwork in the three remote islands for six weeks, from November 2013 to January 2014, and collected 10 new, long-overlooked avian forms.

By integrating genomic and phenotypic research methodologies, the team successfully described five new songbird species and five new subspecies:

  • On Taliabu, they found three new species: the Taliabu Grasshopper-Warbler, the Taliabu Myzomela and the Taliabu Leaf-Warbler; as well as three subspecies: the Taliabu Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Taliabu Island Thrush and Sula Mountain Leaftoiler.
  • On Peleng, two new species — the Peleng Fantail and the Peleng Leaf-Warbler — and a new subspecies — the Banggai Mountain Leaftoiler — were discovered.
  • On Togian, a new subspecies — the Togian Jungle-Flycatcher — was found.

“Studying the routes and operations of historic collecting expeditions and identifying gaps has been a fruitful approach to pinpoint focal areas in our case. The description of this many bird species from such a geographically limited area is a rarity,” shared Assoc Prof Rheindt.

He added, “Going forward, the use of earth-history and bathymetric information could also be applied to other terrestrial organisms and regions beyond the Indonesian Archipelago to identify promising islands that potentially harbour new taxa to be uncovered.”

Implications for conservation

During the expedition, the research team found that both Taliabu and Peleng have suffered from rampant forest destruction. There is virtually no primary lowland forest on both islands, and most highland forests have been impacted by some form of logging or forest fires.

“While most of the avifauna we described seems to tolerate some form of habitat degradation and is readily detected in secondary forest and edge, some species or subspecies are doubtless threatened by the immense levels of habitat loss on these islands. As such, urgent, long-lasting conservation action is needed for some of the new forms to survive longer than a couple of decades beyond their date of description,” said Assoc Prof Rheindt.

Big anti Trump-Iran war protests in Britain today


This 4 January 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Washington protesters condemn Trump’s Iraq and Iran policy: ‘No justice, no peace’

Demonstrators marched to Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s airstrike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and ensued U.S. troop deployment to the Middle East. The Pentagon announced on Friday that nearly 3000 additional troops would be sent amid rising threats to American forces in the region.

Armed with chants and signs, the demonstrators began outside the White House. Actor and activist Jane Fonda joined the crowd, bringing her message about climate change awareness to the protest.

The D.C. protest came as tens of thousands of people marched in Iraq to mourn Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader who were killed in the U.S. airstrike.

By Bethany Rielly in Britain, 10 January 2020:

Corbyn to join anti-war protesters demanding US stepback from the brink with Iran

JEREMY CORBYN will join tens of thousands of protesters across Britain on Saturday calling for “no war with Iran.”

Anti-war campaigners are demanding the British government prevent the escalating tensions between Iran and the US.

The “critical” situation follows the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on Friday January 3 in Iraq by a US missile strike.

The attack was ordered by US President Donald Trump.

Protest organisers Stop the War described the assassination as “a provocative act that has taken us terrifyingly close to a new war in the Middle East.”

The group’s convener Lindsey German warned: “The situation remains critical.

“We need to mount maximum pressure on our government and on the Trump administration to prevent further escalation.”

Protests are expected in multiple towns and cities across the country including London, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Chesterfield, Liverpool and Manchester.

In the capital, the march begins outside the BBC on Portland Street at 12pm before heading to Trafalgar Square.

Crowds are expected to hear from Mr Corbyn, a former chair of Stop the War, musician Brian Eno and Joe Glenton from Veterans for Peace alongside Iranian and Iraqi speakers, as well as shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

The leader of the Labour Party has previously branded the killing of the Iranian general “illegal” and a violation of international law.

The mass demonstrations, co-organised by CND, have also received support from transport union RMT.

“We all saw the devastation that the 2003 Iraq war created and the last thing that region needs is another conflict waged by warmongering politicians,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.

“We’ll be there to send a clear message to the UK and US governments: No war on Iran.”

CND general secretary Kate Hudson described the Trump administration’s foreign policy with Iran as “steps to war.”

She said: “US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the reimposition of crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy and the US extra-judicial killing in a sovereign state are all steps to war.

“The danger of war remains high and the Prime Minister must exert every influence to ensure a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“Unless the sanctions are lifted, war and nuclear proliferation are a real threat.

“Britain must do more to alleviate the sanctions and push to salvage the Iran nuclear deal.”

Stop the War and CND have both slammed PM Boris Johnson’s reluctance to condemn the assassination.

The killing of Mr Soleimani sent shock waves across the globe and enraged the Iranian public who came out in huge numbers to demand revenge on the US.

Iran retaliated the following Tuesday by firing more than a dozen missiles at US-coalition bases in Iraq.

The Iraqi congress has demanded US troops leave the country immediately.

Join the gathering movement to prevent war on Iran: here.

After millions march against US imperialism in the Middle East. Trump boasts of “executing” Iranian General Suleimani in Ohio campaign speech: here.

Asheen Phansey, adjunct professor at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, was fired Thursday after posting a joke on his Facebook account related to US president Donald Trump’s threats wage war against Iran: here.