Ridge-nosed rattlesnakes in Arizona, USA


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

One of the rarest rattlesnakes of Arizona is the Ridge-nosed rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi). Rattlesnakes are venomous pit vipers and in Arizona, there is the highest diversity of the whole USA. This species lives in the high mountains, in canyons and montane forests. Living Zoology went to Arizona to film a snake documentary about the beauty of these reptiles.

Plants and ancient art in coronavirus days


This 30 March 2019 video by an employee of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands says about itself:

#Rijksmuseumfromhome: Jane about nature’s little jokes

Head of the Print Room Jane Turner has a house in England with a beautiful garden. In the new episode of #Rijksmuseumfromhome 🏠 she shows us the snapdragon plant that grows there. She saw the plant on a print made by draughtsman Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt at the end of the 16th century and was intrigued by the little skulls on the drawing. 💀

Red-crested pochard couple and other birds


Red-crested pochards, 2020

This photo shows a red-crested pochard couple. The female on the left, the male on the right.

Red-crested pochards, in 2020

They swam on 2 April 2020 at De Wijde Blik lake in the Netherlands.

Red-crested pochards and waves, in 2020

As they swam, there were big waves in the water because of the wind.

Reed, 2 April 2020

Even among reed plants along the bank.

Het Hol, 2 April 2020

At Het Hol nature reserve, the water was a bit quieter.

Grey heron, 2 April 2020

A grey heron.

Lambertszkade, 2020

These two photos show the footpath to the Lambertszkade hide.

Lambertszkade, in 2020

Like last time at the Lambertszkade hide, on 2 April a chiffchaff sang. Tufted ducks. A mute swan couple. Mallards. Coots. Moorhens.

Bezos condemns Amazon workers to death


This 3 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Status Coup’s Jordan Chariton reports on Amazon‘s cruelty to workers in the midst of coronavirus, and his interview with [Amazon strike leader] Christian Smalls.

Chris Smalls is a former Amazon worker who was fired for organizing a March 30 walkout at the JFK8 Amazon facility in Staten Island, N.Y. Bosses refused to close the facility despite confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the workers. In the aftermath of Smalls’ wrongful termination, a leaked memo from Amazon executives revealed the billion-dollar company’s intent to launch a racist smear campaign against him. Smalls spoke to Workers World’s Ted Kelly by phone on April 5: here.

Still ‘Grenfell’ flammable cladding in Britain


This 8 March 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Grenfell: The Deadly Cladding No One is Removing

After the Grenfell fire killed 72 people, many promises were made. Politicians vowed they would never let such a tragedy happen again.

But survivors say lessons are not being learned fast enough.

21 months after the fire, 354 buildings in England still have flammable cladding on them. In London, at least 176 high-rise buildings are yet to remove their Grenfell-style cladding.

Residents living at Northpoint in Bromley say they are facing bankruptcy and have been “abandoned” by the government.

It comes as police say criminal charges over the Grenfell Tower fire won’t be considered until the end of 2021. Survivors group, Grenfell United, say they feel “frustrated and disheartened” by the lack of progress.

By Alice Summers in Britain:

Nearly three years after the Grenfell Tower inferno, flammable cladding still widely used in UK

4 April 2020

A widely used type of building cladding has proven in tests to be highly flammable.

Nearly three years after the inferno at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, when aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding led to the rapid spread of a fire that killed 72 people, high-rise buildings across the UK are still covered in dangerous combustible material.

The test carried out on High Pressure Laminate (HPL) cladding resulted in flames ripping through the test structure in minutes, failing the safety assessment by a large margin.

While the exact brands of cladding and insulation were not released, the Metal Cladding and Roofing Manufacturers Association (MCRMA), an industry association, said it used a structure made of a “standard” version of the widely used HPL cladding and phenolic foam insulation to carry out the large-scale fire test known as British Standard (BS) 8414. This is the official test to which combustible materials must be subjected to in order to assess compliance with building regulations.

In 2018, insulation company Kingspan revealed that a system using HPL cladding had previously failed at least one BS 8414 test. Yet HPL has continued to be widely used across the country. In the recent MCRMA assessment, flames reached the top of the nine-metre-high test wall in just seven minutes and 45 seconds, with temperatures exceeding 700°C, forcing the test to be halted early. The test should last at least 30 minutes and the temperature recorded must stay below 600°C for a material to pass.

The fire spread inconsistently, with the flames not immediately catching hold extensively across the cladding and appearing relatively benign before suddenly taking hold in the joints between the panels and ripping through the cladding system in minutes. Panels “pinged off” the rivets holding them in place, creating air space and rendering the fire barriers almost useless in slowing the spread of the flames.

The results demonstrate that HPL systems pose a similar level of risk to the polyethylene-cored ACM cladding used on Grenfell, which failed the same test in six minutes and 35 seconds in the summer of 2017.

While it is not known exactly how many buildings are clad in HPL, research conducted by the housing publication Inside Housing found that 91 of the 1,612 high-rise buildings it surveyed were covered in this material. However, there are approximately 12,000 high-rise buildings over 18 metres tall across the country, with a further 100,000 buildings between 11 and 18 metres, so the real number of tall buildings using this cladding is probably in the thousands.

An additional survey by insulation manufacturer Rockwool identified 340 high-rise buildings with non-ACM cladding, many of which will be using HPL materials.

Warnings have been made about the danger of HPL for years, with industry experts calling on the government to implement large-scale testing and removal.

No tests were carried out to assess any HPL materials until midway through last year, when an HPL product treated with a fire retardant narrowly passed a BS 8414 test, despite temperatures rising to over 600°C after 25 minutes. The government issued guidance to local housing authorities stating that HPL could still be used on existing buildings if it was not combined with flammable insulation.

“Standard-grade” HPL was not subjected to any tests until the test in March this year, despite it being much more widely used than flame-retardant versions.

In a letter to the government, Dr Jonathan Evans, technical committee chair at the MCRMA who helped organise this recent test, said that he had called for the government to test standard-grade HPL in its post-Grenfell testing programme, but they had “flatly refused.”

“The foundation of [the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s] independent expert panel’s advice has been the ‘view’ that ACM [cladding] presents a unique danger despite there seemingly being no test evidence to support this. This is not ‘expert advice’—it is little more than wishful thinking. You can’t hide forever how these materials perform,” Dr Evans wrote.

He added, “From a fire and rescue perspective, the performance of a standard HPL system is practically the same as that of polyethylene-cored ACM—you’ve got just a few minutes to prevent a very serious fire from rapidly developing.

“Arguably, due to the higher fuel content, an HPL fire might be more difficult to fight than ACM due to the greater heat release rate,” he warned.

A 2019 study led by Professor Richard Hull, professor of chemistry and fire science at the University of Central Lancashire, already highlighted the danger of HPL materials, which have been associated with previous fire fatalities. Window panels using this material were installed at Lakanal House, a tower block in south London where six residents lost their lives in a fire in 2009 and another 20 were injured.

HPL cladding was also used on a student accommodation block belonging to the University of Bolton in the north of England, known as The Cube, where a massive fire broke out in November 2019. There were no fatalities, but two students had to be treated by paramedics for injuries, and the 211 students lost all their belongings.

Hull’s study found that HPL cladding releases heat 25 times faster and burns 115 times hotter than non-combustible products. Speaking to Inside Housing in 2019, Hull stated, “I think that HPL has been neglected, and shouldn’t have been neglected.

“One would fear that because of all the attention that has gone to the ACM buildings [that] the next disaster is likely to involve HPL rather than ACM—because they haven’t had the fire risk assessments and so on.”

Next to nothing has been done by the authorities to even address the danger posed by ACM cladding. According to government data, more than 400 residential blocks, in the public and private sectors, were found, after testing, to have flammable cladding. Yet as of January 16, 2020, at least 315 private and public high-rise buildings in England remain covered in ACM cladding. Remedial work has been completed on only 135 buildings, all but one in the public or social sectors, for which a pitiful £400 million has been made available since October 2018.

A further paltry sum of £200 million was made available in May last year, supposedly to handle at-risk buildings in the private sector. Taking account of the negligible remedial work done so far, between 13,300 and 17,100 households, comprising tens of thousands of people, live in unsafe privately owned homes. At the current rate, remediation on public sector blocks covered in ACM would take until October 2022, and private blocks not until October 2033.

With popular revulsion at government inaction growing, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his March 11 Budget an additional £1 billion “Building Safety Fund” for the removal of dangerous cladding of all forms from high-rise buildings. Sunak’s announcement came after the National Housing Federation calculated that total costs for removal work are expected to easily top £10 billion in the social housing sector alone.

The lack of testing and removal work carried out thus far is testament to the deplorable levels of contempt evinced by central and local government for the lives of working-class residents. In March, the government-established Grenfell Recovery Taskforce reported that while 194 of the 201 households made homeless by the Grenfell fire are now in permanent homes, six households are still in temporary accommodation and one household is still in a hotel.

Last month, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was halted due to the coronavirus crisis. While necessary to protect its participants, the inquiry is further delayed. A timescale that was not set to publish the findings of phase two of its proceedings until 2023 will be pushed back even further, while those corporations and government bodies guilty of social murder roam free under protection from prosecution offered by this state-orchestrated whitewash.

Dangerous combustible cladding still not replaced on 70% of buildings: here.

Coronavirus update, USA


Breana Avelar, a processing assistant, holds a sign outside the Amazon DTW1 fulfillment center in Romulus, Michigan, April 1, 2020 [Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya]

Chicago Amazon workers marched outside Amazon’s DCH1 delivery facility on Chicago’s Southwest Side on Friday chanting, “Our lives matter!” The demonstration took place after management revealed that two DCH1 workers had tested positive for Covid-19. The demonstrations follow a walkout by 30 workers on Monday, who urged workers going into the facility not to clock in and risk their lives: here.

This 4 April 2020 video from the USA is called Amazon’s Plans To Smear Strike Leader Leaked.

Letter from a Caterpillar worker in Illinois: “This is class biological warfare”. By a reporter, 4 April 2020. A Caterpillar worker writes about the dangerous conditions workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

US health care workers face retribution for criticizing unsafe hospital conditions. By Benjamin Mateus, 4 April 2020. The shortage or entire absence of personal protective equipment (PPE) is driving health care workers to voice their concern over the danger of becoming infected.

As infections and deaths soar, Georgia governor issues “stay-at-home” directive: here.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced an investigation Wednesday into a spate of deaths at the 247-bed Soldiers’ Home run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the small city of Holyoke in the western part of the state. As of Friday afternoon, there were 21 residents confirmed to have died at the Soldiers’ Home in a span of only 10 days. Of those who died, 15 tested positive for COVID-19. Tests were negative for two other deceased patients and results are pending for one more. A total of 59 current residents of the Soldiers’ Home have tested positive for COVID-19. An official with Massachusetts Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement saying that “the numbers of infected residents and deaths will continue to increase over the coming days. The deaths at the Soldiers’ Home were initially hidden from both the mayor of Holyoke, Alex Morse, and local health officials, who only became aware of a developing situation when employees at the facility reached out to them on Friday, March 12, with information that there was “a case that turned into several cases”: here.

Botanical gardens during coronavirus crisis, videos


This 2 April 2020 video says about itself:

Singapore Botanical Garden. The Beauty of the World

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 161-year-old tropical garden.

It is one of three gardens and the only tropical garden, to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Botanic Gardens has been ranked Asia’s top park attraction since 2013 by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.

It was declared the inaugural Garden of the Year, International Garden Tourism Awards in 2012 and received Michelin’s three-star rating in 2008.

This video from England says about itself:

A virtual ‘Wellness Wander’ around Cambridge University Botanic Garden, 19 March 2020

Join us for a virtual weekly walk around Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG).

In this challenging time as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we’re more aware than ever of the power and importance of nature – the sights, smells and sounds as spring unfolds and the garden moves into spring and summer.

We hope you enjoy what will be a series of short, weekly films and that they bring you some uplift and respite.

Sending you best wishes and thank you for watching. CUBG

This 26 March 2020 video from Australia says about itself:

Royal Botanic Gardens to close to contain coronavirus spread

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and Cranbourne will close to the public but conservation work will continue while the gates are shut.

Coronavirus news update


This 3 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Fired Amazon Worker Chris Smalls Responds To Leaked Smear Campaign Plans

Amazon executives described Smalls as “not smart or articulate”, Smalls was fired after organizing a walkout over employee safety at Amazon‘s Staten Island warehouse.

Now, a better consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Today, Dutch NOS radio reports that 35 Dutch soldiers have returned from Iraq. Earlier, scores had returned from the Afghan war. This should be an example for all governments in the world; to fight the coronavirus in worldwide solidarity; instead of fighting, or planning to fight, war on Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Iran, nuclear-armed China or nuclear-armed Russia.

Greek hospital doctors outside the Athens Health Ministry – they are demanding the requisitioning of the private sector

From daily News Line in Britain today:

GREEK DOCTORS DEMAND ‘PUT AN END TO PRIVATE SECTOR’ – fill 30,000 vacancies in the Greek NHS

THE Greek National Health Service doctors’ union OENGE has called on all doctors, trade unions, trades councils and social associations to ‘organise jointly mobilisations at hospitals’ entrances and protests at health administrative centres’ on 7 April, the ‘World Health Day – National Day of Action’.

The call was issued last Wednesday by the President of OENGE, Afrodite Rentziou, at the entrance of the Attiko Hospital near Athens. Several trade unions federations have pledged participation.

Rentziou said that only 75 new beds have been placed in Intensive Care Units, on top of 600, when the necessary number exceeds 3,500.

She added that before the coronavirus pandemic, there were 30,000 unfilled vacancies in the Greek NHS and the government now say that only 4,000 would be hired and for just a few months.

Rentziou appealed for the immediate employment of some 900 doctors who have applied for work in the hospitals.

OENGE have put forward three main demands. Mass employment of doctors, nurses and hospital staff; total unconditional requisition of the health private sector and integration with the Greek NHS; and protective clothing, masks and gloves for all medical staff.

On Thursday evening the Greek government’s health spokesperson Dr Sotiris Tsiodras announced that 1,514 people have been infected by the coronavirus and 53 have died since March 10.

The refugee camp at Ritsona, 50 km north of Athens, declared a lockdown on Thursday following 20 reported cases of coronavirus infection.

Dozens of villages in northern Greece have been declared infected by the virus and police and Greek Army units enforce a total prohibition of movement in or out of the villages.

The large ferry Eleftherios Venizelos with some 350 people on board of whom 120 have tested positive, according to the seafarers’ crew union PENEN, has docked in the port of Piraeus and will remain on a 14-day quarantine.

PENEN have denounced shipping companies for not declaring infections on cargo ships.

Greece quarantines Ritsona camp refugees: here.