War crimes whistleblower Chelsea Manning still imprisoned

This 12 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

XY Chelsea (2019) Official Trailer | Chelsea Manning SHOWTIME Documentary

Produced by Pulse Films, XY Chelsea tells the historic story of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, whose 35-year sentence in an all-male maximum security prison was commuted by President Obama in 2017.

Shot over two years and featuring exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes verité with Manning, the film picks up on the momentous day in May when she leaves prison and follows her through her journey of discovery, while also examining her place in the conversation on national security and the fight of the transgender community for rights and visibility. XY Chelsea premieres Friday, June 7 at 9/8c on SHOWTIME.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

US court orders Chelsea Manning to remain in prison

23 April 2019

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning remains in jail after a federal appeals court Monday rejected her request to be released on bail and upheld a contempt order against her for refusing to testify before a grand jury impaneled to bring fabricated charges against the media organization WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

A unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia rejected her attorney’s arguments that she was wrongfully held in contempt and should be granted bail while the contempt order was appealed.

Manning’s continued imprisonment is nothing short of criminal. She is being subjected to effectively arbitrary detention in order to compel her to testify against Assange, a wrongfully imprisoned and persecuted journalist. This flagrant miscarriage of justice is a testament to the corruption of the US judicial system, which often operates in violation of both the US constitution and international human rights agreements.

“While disappointing, we can still raise issues as the government continues to abuse the grand jury process. I don’t have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury,” Manning declared in a defiant statement released by her lawyers Monday. “While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up.”

“The rejection of Chelsea Manning‘s appeal against her imprisonment for contempt is a sign of lawless America,” said journalist John Pilger in reply to the court ruling. “Manning had the Constitutional right to remain silent and not collaborate with the notorious Virginia grand jury’s corrupt indictment of Julian Assange. But the US Constitution, and its Amendments—exalted by American historians as inviolable guardians of freedom and justice—are now openly flouted by US courts as America’s lawlessness abroad is reflected in its institutions notably the judiciary. The appeal rejection is a clear indication of the injustice awaiting Julian Assange should British courts allow his extradition.”

Manning, who already served seven years of a 35-year sentence in a military prison over charges related to leaking evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks in 2010, has been held in jail since March 8 after she made the courageous decision to withhold her testimony from the grand jury. The former Army Specialist has been sentenced to remain in jail indefinitely, either until she purges her contempt of court by testifying or the grand jury’s term expires.

Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11, after his asylum status was illegally withdrawn by the government of Lenin Moreno. Assange is now awaiting a May 2 extradition hearing in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, known as Britain’s Guantanamo Bay, after being convicted on a charge of bail jumping over trumped-up sexual assault allegations in Sweden.

While Assange has been charged by the US government with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, carrying a possible five-year sentence, the grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia is still seeking Manning’s testimony, indicating that further charges are still in the works. CNN already reported last week that the US Justice Department expects to bring further charges against Assange.

The US government alleges that Assange sought to help Manning crack a password so that she could obscure her identity when accessing classified information on government computers. Since she is named in the criminal conspiracy complaint against Assange, it is likely that the Trump administration is also seeking to bring criminal charges against Manning.

She is being vindictively pursued by the Trump administration in retaliation for her role in leaking war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, US diplomatic cables and most famously the “Collateral Murder” video which shows a US helicopter gunship attack in Iraq which killed at least a dozen of Iraqis, including two Reuters journalists. Even though a contempt sentence is not meant to be punitive, just coercive, Manning was held in solitary confinement for four weeks before being released into the general prison population.

“We are of course disappointed that the Circuit declined to follow clearly established law, or consider the ample evidence of grand jury abuse,” attorney Moir Meltzer-Cohen, of Manning’s defense team, said in a statement to the press.

“It is improper for a prosecutor to use the grand jury to prepare for trial. As pointed out in Ms. Manning’s motions and appeals, since her testimony is not necessary to the grand jury’s investigation, the likely purpose for her subpoena is to help the prosecutor preview and undermine her potential testimony as a defense witness for a pending trial.

“We believed that the Appeals court would consider this, as it is strong evidence of an abuse of grand jury power that should excuse her testimony.”

Manning’s attorneys also argued that her testimony had been rendered unnecessary by the unsealed charge against Assange and that she had already told prosecutors everything relevant to her interactions with WikiLeaks during her court-martial in 2010. Manning has cited her First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, to free speech, against unreasonable searches and seizure and self-incrimination, as a justification for defying the grand jury.

Furthermore, her attorneys argued that her detention is unreasonably cruel, since the jail is not equipped to provide Manning with necessary medical attention in connection with her gender reassignment surgery.

While all of these arguments have so far been dismissed, Manning can now appeal to the full 4th Circuit Court or directly to the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration’s unconstitutional vendetta against Manning and Assange is the continuation of a bipartisan effort begun nearly a decade ago by the Obama administration. Trump has the full support of the Democrats and their associated media outlets, led by the New York Times and Washington Post, in persecuting Assange and Manning.

While the current charges against Assange relate to the 2010 leaks, the Democrats have promoted the lie for more than two years that WikiLeaks colluded with the Trump campaign and the Russian government of Vladimir Putin to “hack” the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump by leaking emails from Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Democratic National Committee.

With this narrative, pushed without evidence by the US intelligence agencies for the last two years, blown apart by the release of the Mueller report, which did not find any evidence of collusion, the true anti-democratic character of the pursuit of Assange and Manning has come to fore. The Democrats and Republicans, the two parties of Wall Street and war, agree that the journalists and whistleblowers who expose their crimes must be silenced.


Honey bees survive Notre Dame Paris fire

This 19 April 2019 video about Paris, France says about itself:

The bees that live on the roof of Notre Dame are alive and buzzing, having survived the devastating fire that ripped through the cathedral on Monday.

Beekeeper Nicolas Geant told CNN that he received a call from the Notre Dame spokesman saying there were bees flying in and out of the hives. “Which means they are still alive!” Geant said.

“Right after the fire I looked at the drone pictures and saw the hives weren’t burnt but there was no way of knowing if the bees had survived. Now I know there’s activity it’s a huge relief!”

Notre Dame has housed three beehives on the first floor on a roof over the sacristy, just beneath the rose window, since 2013. Each hive has about 60,000 bees. Geant said the hives were not touched by the blaze because they are located about 30 meters below the main roof where the fire spread.

The beekeeper Nicolas Geant settled these three hives on the roof of the sacristy of Notre Dame

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The bee colony that lives on the roof of Notre Dame also survived the fire. There was still uncertainty about this, but the three hives, in which 180,000 honey bees live, were not affected by the fire. The hives were placed on the roof in 2013 as a contribution to biodiversity in the center of Paris. They stood about 30 meters below the tip of the roof that burned down.

According to the beekeeper of Notre Dame, bees can survive a fire by filling themselves with honey as soon as they detect a fire. Insects have no lungs and cannot choke because of smoke. European bees will never leave their hive and will protect their queen at all times, beekeeper Geant says.

Aegean sea journey, 18 April

Aegean sea, 18 April 2019

Before telling how we left Kos island in Greece after our 18 April 2019 arrival there, first this photo through an airplane window from just before our arrival: Greek Aegean sea islands to the north of Kos.

All photos of this blog post are made with a cell phone.

This June 2018 about the harbour of Kos island in Greece says about itself:

Kos City is the capital of the island, has the largest port and is the tourist and cultural center. Close to the harbour is the 14th century Neratzia Castle, built in 1315 by the Knights of St. John of Rhodes. In the center of the city is an old market place, an agora. The ancient Asklepieion is located between Kos Town and the Dikeos.

This February 2019 video says about itself:

Island hopping Greece

We had a great trip from Rhodes to Kos. The ferryboat stopped in Chalki, Tilos and Nisyros. All places were amazing. Enjoy!

After our arrival on Kos island on 18 April 2019, our ferry traveled in the opposite direction: from Kos to Nisyros to Tilos.

Kos-Tilos ferry. 18 April 2019

This photo shows our ferry from Kos to Tilos.

I had crossed the Aegean sea once before: from Turkey to Lesvos island. I had seen Scopoli’s shearwaters and bottlenose dolphins then.

What would we see this time?

We did not see as much wildlife as that earlier time. Mainly a yellow legged gull flying just above the sea. This ferry was a catamaran, sailing much faster than the Turkey to Lesvos ferry. It was windy as well, making it harder to use binoculars.

Greek flag, 18 April 2019

The Aegean sea: in ancient times, there were various explanations for the name Aegean. The Athenians said the name referred to their King Aegeus, of 1000 BCE, or longer ago. When Aegeus was king, the son of King Minos of Crete was murdered in Athens. Hand over my son’s murderers to me, Minos demanded. But King Aegeus did not know who had murdered the Cretan prince. Then, King Minos said, once in seven years you have to send seven young men and seven young women to Crete. These young people were fed to the Minotaur, a half-human half-bull monster living in the underground Labyrinth in Crete.

Theseus, Aegeus’ son, wanted to stop this human sacrifice. When the ship to Crete had to sail again, he traded places with one of the seven young men. He told his father: I want to talk to the Minotaur to stop his killing. If the monster is unwilling, then I will try to kill it. If I succeed, and all fourteen young Athenians will be alive, then, when the ship will arrive again in Athens, its sails will be white. If the sails will be black, that will be a sign that the Minotaur has killed me and the others.

When Theseus arrived on Crete, King Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell in love with him. She said: Theseus, you are strong and courageous. Maybe you can kill the minotaur. However, then you and the other Athenians will still die. You won’t be able to find your way out of the Labyrinth. Therefore, I give you this ball of thread.

As Theseus entered the Labyrinth, he tied one end of the string to the door. He found the Minotaur and killed it. Then, he followed the thread out of the Labyrinth. All the young Athenians boarded their ship. So did Ariadne, who had saved Theseus’ life and whom he loved.

The ship landed on Naxos island to get drinking water. As Theseus slept, the goddess Athena woke him up. She said: You must sail early in the morning. And no, you cannot take Ariadne along. Naxos is the island of Dionysus, the god of wine. Dionysus has fallen in love with Ariadne. She will become Dionysus’ wife.

Athena tells Theseus to leave Ariadne

On this Greek vase painting, Athena tells Theseus (left) to go to his ship, leaving Ariadne. Hypnos, the winged god of sleep, makes sure that Ariadne does not wake up.

Theseus obeyed the gods. But he felt so sad that he forgot to change the black sails to white sails. In some versions of the myth, Theseus voluntarily abandoned Ariadne, not really loving her. However, then his forgetting to change the sails to white ones becomes unexplainable.

As the ship approached Athens, King Aegeus was on the lookout on Sounio cliff. He saw the black sails. ‘My son and the thirteen others are dead!’ In despair, Aegeus jumped into the sea and drowned. And that, according to the Athenians, is why we still call it the Aegean sea.

There is also another explanation, based on another person who supposedly drowned long ago. Aegea was said to have been a queen of the Amazons. She supposedly wanted to bring an army of women warriors from Libya to help the Trojans in their war against the Greeks. However, she drowned; and the sea where she died was named after her.

Tilos, 18 April 2019

After about 90 minutes of sailing, our ferry-boat approached Tilos island.

Tilos, on 18 April 2019

We landed in Livadia, the harbour village of Tilos.

Tilos wildlife: see here.

Alma Tadema drawing discovery on flea market

The newly discovered Alma Tadema drawing, photo Fries Museum

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Drawing by Frisian artist Alma Tadema found at flea market

The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden has bought a drawing by Alma Tadema that has been found at a flea market. It is probably a portrait that the Frisian artist made of his niece Sientsje Tadema.

The work was presented to the museum by a Belgian who found it at the flea market in Brussels. He then contacted the Fries Museum.

Curator Marlies Stoter investigated the work and recognized Alma Tadema by the combination of the fine lines and strong pencil lines in the dark parts of the drawing.

Longing women

Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema (1836-1912) is an artist from Dronrijp who emigrated to England after his studies at the art academy in Antwerp. During his studies he regularly made portraits of people from his immediate environment.

In 2016 there was a large exhibition about the artist in the Fries Museum. It mainly showed his images of ancient Roman scenes with longing beautiful women. That was a great success: 158,000 visitors came to it.

The drawing can be seen from April 20 on at the exhibition Collected Work: the rich collection of Friesland, writes regional broadcasting organisation Omrop Fryslân. The museum now has 18 paintings and around 90 works on paper by the artist.

Paris Notre Dame cathedral fire destruction

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

See first images inside Notre Dame Cathedral after fire

CNN’s Tom Foreman discusses historical artifacts inside Notre Dame Cathedral as firefighters continue to battle the flames.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris devastated by fire

16 April 2019

On Monday evening, an intense fire devastated Notre-Dame cathedral, the most frequently visited monument in Paris, with 14 million annual visitors. The fire that broke out at about 6:50 p.m. (local time) in the wooden frame of the roof of the cathedral brought down the spire approximately one hour later, and then totally destroyed the roof. A tall column of thick, yellowish smoke that poured out of the cathedral, consumed by the flames, cast a pall over the city.

The cathedral staff rapidly evacuated tourists who were inside, and the security forces evacuated nearby neighborhoods of Cité Island in Paris. When the flames spread inside the cathedral and reached the north tower, at about 9 p.m., Assistant Interior Minister Laurent Nunez issued a communiqué that it was “not guaranteed” that the structure of the cathedral would be saved. However, at about 11 p.m., firefighters announced that “The structure of Notre-Dame cathedral is saved and preserved overall.”

As 500 firefighters continued to battle the flames late into the night, one firefighter was injured and the heat inside the cathedral caused by molten lead from the collapsed roof remained intense.

At approximately 11 p.m., the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation of “involuntary destruction via fire”, seemingly ruling out the possibility that the fire was caused by arson. At the time of the fire’s outbreak, major work was being done on the roof, where large scaffolding had been set up. The possibility that an accidental fire was triggered by work being done at the site “currently has the attention of investigators, given the current state of the investigations”, said a judicial source close to the probes.

Millions of people in France and internationally are in shock, faced with the devastation of an edifice whose construction began in 1153 and lasted two centuries, and which now is part of the cultural heritage of all of humanity.

Thousands of people went to the neighborhoods of Paris near the cathedral on Monday evening. One woman spoke to BFM TV through her tears and said: “I am a witness to a disaster. I am not particularly religious, but this is a symbol of our beautiful city, which already is not in a very good state, so this makes me extremely sad.”

“It is really sad, the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life,” said Sam Ogden, a British tourist who had come to Paris to visit the cathedral.

Countless art works visited and photographed by hundreds of millions of people around the world have suffered damage that is yet to be determined. These include three rose windows made of stained glass dating to the 13th century, and three organs, including the famous great organ, with its five keyboards, 109 registers and nearly 8,000 pipes. It is unclear what impact the intense heat has had on the structural integrity of the stone of which the cathedral is built.

The sadness felt at the loss to humanity resulting from the fire inevitably recalls other tragedies, such as the plundering of the Iraqi national museum under the watch of NATO countries’ occupation troops after the illegal 2003 invasion, or the Brazilian National Museum fire last year. The Brazilian government’s austerity measures had deprived the museum in Rio of necessary fire protection. Firefighters arriving to fight the flames found themselves without ladders and with unusable fire hydrants.

Aerial view of the fire at Notre Dame

It is difficult to understand at this point how Notre-Dame cathedral could have found itself defenseless in the face of this type of fire.

Maybe the restoration work was done too fast and with too little concern for safety for financial reasons?

The vulnerability of French cathedral spires and roofs to fire has been well known for many centuries, with the cathedrals of Reims and Chartres having suffered major fires of this type in 1481 and 1506, respectively.

Notre-Dame was spared major fires not only during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also during the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, when Parisian workers attacked the structure as they rose up against the Church, and also during the two world wars of the 20th century.

Despite all the vast technological advances that humanity has made in the 21st century, it is in this century that the famous cathedral was ravaged by fire. Serious questions are posed, with budgets in France and across Europe entirely turned to austerity and tax cuts for the rich, as to whether the allocation of more money on the renovation of Notre-Dame and its fire security could have averted or at least contained a blaze that ended up devastating the entire building.

It was left to US President Donald Trump to tweet a suggestion to send “flying water tankers” used in forest fires to dump water onto the cathedral in a desperate attempt to fight the flames, a comment that quickly drew a retort from France’s General Directorate of Civil Security: “The weight of the water and the intensity of the release at low attitude could, in fact, make the structure of Notre-Dame fragile and cause collateral damage to nearby buildings.”

This 15 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump gives Notre Dame fire advice. See how officials responded.

Former FDNY Battalion Chief John LaFemina explains why President Trump’s firefighting suggestion of “flying water tankers” would not have worked in the battle against the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

The Alex Lantier article continues:

President Emmanuel Macron visited the Notre-Dame site, accompanied by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Earlier in the evening, Macron had postponed a planned speech in response to the demands of the “yellow vest” movement, which has carried out five months of protests against Macron and his policies of austerity and widening social inequality.

Statements of solidarity came from governments around the world. The German, British, Turkish, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese governments, as well as the Vatican and the city of London, all made statements indicating their sadness. Macron, for his part, gave a brief and perfunctory speech in front of the cathedral, pledging that it would be rebuilt.

It seems likely that the cathedral will now be closed for repairs for a number of years.

Conspiracy Theorists Blame Jews, Muslims For Notre Dame Fire: here.

Paris Notre Dame cathedral on fire

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

Firefighters are considering Notre Dame Cathedral fire an accident

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. There had been ongoing construction and renovation to the building. CNBC’s Sue Herera reports.

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

Pictures of Paris’s iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral on fire | ITV News

France’s famous Notre-Dame Cathedral is burning, with video showing the building flaming and billowing smoke.

More here.

This video is a live stream of the fire.