How Italian renaissance domes were built

This 2014 video says about itself:

How an Amateur Built the World’s Biggest Dome

In 1418, Filippo Brunelleschi was tasked with building the largest dome ever seen at the time. He had no formal architecture training. Yet experts still don’t fully understand the brilliant methods he used in contructing the dome, which tops the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, Italy.

From Princeton University, Engineering School in the USA:

Double helix of masonry: Researchers discover the secret of Italian renaissance domes

May 18, 2020

Summary: Researchers found that the masonry of Italian renaissance domes, such as the duomo in Florence, use a double-helix structure that is self-supporting during and after construction. Their study is the first to quantitatively prove the forces at work in such masonry domes, which may lead to advances in modern drone construction techniques.

In a collaborative study in this month’s issue of Engineering Structures, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Bergamo revealed the engineering techniques behind self-supporting masonry domes inherent to the Italian renaissance. Researchers analyzed how cupolas like the famous duomo, part of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, were built as self-supporting, without the use of shoring or forms typically required.

Sigrid Adriaenssens, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, collaborated on the analysis with graduate student Vittorio Paris and Attilio Pizzigoni, professor engineering and applied sciences, both of the University of Bergamo. Their study is the first ever to quantitatively prove the physics at work in Italian renaissance domes and to explain the forces which allow such structures to have been built without formwork typically required, even for modern construction. Previously, there were only hypotheses in the field about how forces flowed through such edifices, and it was unknown how they were built without the use of temporary structures to hold them up during construction.

For Adriaenssens, the project advances two significant questions. “How can mankind construct such a large and beautiful structure without any formwork — mechanically, what’s the innovation?” she asked. Secondly, “What can we learn?” Is there some “forgotten technology that we can use today?”

The detailed computer analysis accounts for the forces at work down to the individual brick, explaining how equilibrium is leveraged. The technique called discrete element modelling (DEM) analyzed the structure at several layers and stages of construction. A limit state analysis determined the overall equilibrium state, or stability, of the completed structure. Not only do these tests verify the mechanics of the structures, but they also make it possible to recreate the techniques for modern construction.

Applying their findings to modern construction, the researchers anticipate that this study could have practical applications for developing construction techniques deploying aerial drones and robots. Using these unmanned machines for construction would increase worker safety, as well as enhance construction speed and reduce building costs.

Another advantage of unearthing new building techniques from ancient sources is that it can yield environmental benefits. “The construction industry is one of the most wasteful ones, so that means if we don’t change anything, there will be a lot more construction waste,” said Adriaenssens, who is interested in using drone techniques for building very large span roofs that are self-supporting and require no shoring or formwork.

“Overall, this project speaks to an ancient narrative that tells of stones finding their equilibrium in the wonder of reason,” said Pizzigoni, “from Brunelleschi’s dome to the mechanical arms of modern-day robotics where technology is performative of spaces and its social use.”

Peregrine falcons on Amsterdam Rijksmuseum

Peregrine falcon on Amsterdam, the Netherlands Rijksmuseum, photo by Rob Buiter

This photo by Rob Buiter shows a peregrine falcon on the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Recently, a peregrine couple showed they intended to nest on this building.

The museum welcomes the birds. They have put two nest boxes on the building.

Rijksmuseum, photo by Rob Buiter

On this photo by Rob Buiter, one of these nest boxes is under the clock on the left tower.

Ancient orchid bee nests in Panamanian cathedral

This 2015 video in Spanish is about the Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo (Panamá).

This 2008 video says about itself:

The relationship between Orchid Bees (genus Euglossa) and Orchids is remarkable.

This video shows male Orchid Bees collecting fragrance from a Mexican Orchid, Mormodes badia.

Filmed at Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens.

From ScienceDaily:

19th-century bee cells in a Panamanian cathedral shed light on human impact on ecosystems

January 27, 2020

Summary: About 120 clusters of 19th-century orchid bee nests were found during restoration work on the altarpiece of Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo (Panamá). Having conducted the first pollen analysis for these extremely secretive insects, the researchers identified the presence of 48 plant species, representing 23 families. The findings give a precious insight into the role of natural ecosystems, their component species and the human impact on them.

Despite being “neotropical-forest-loving creatures”, some orchid bees are known to tolerate habitats disturbed by human activity. However, little did the research team of Paola Galgani-Barraza (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) expect to find as many as 120 clusters of nearly two-centuries-old orchid bee nests built on the altarpiece of the Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo (Panamá).

This happened after restoration work, completed in 2018 in preparation for the consecration of a new altar by Pope Francis, revealed the nests. Interestingly, many cells were covered with gold leaf and other golden material applied during an earlier restoration following an 1870 fire, thus aiding the reliable determination of the age of the clusters. The cells were dated to the years prior to 1871-1876.

The bee species that had once constructed the nests, was identified as the extremely secretive Eufriesea surinamensis. Females are known to build their nests distant from each other, making them very difficult to locate in the field. As a result, there is not much known about them: neither about the floral resources they collect for food, nor about the materials they use to build their nests, nor about the plants they pollinate.

However, by analysing the preserved pollen for the first time for this species, the researchers successfully detected the presence of 48 plant species, representing 43 genera and 23 families. Hence, they concluded that late-nineteenth century Panama City was surrounded by a patchwork of tropical forests, sufficient to sustain nesting populations of what today is a forest-dwelling species of bee.

Not only did the scientists unveil important knowledge about the biology of orchid bees and the local floral diversity in the 19th century, but they also began to uncover key information about the functions of natural ecosystems and their component species, where bees play a crucial role as primary pollinators. Thus, the researchers hope to reveal how these environments are being modified by collective human behaviour, which is especially crucial with the rapidly changing environment that we witness today.

Trump threatens destruction of ancient Iranian monuments

This December 2016 video says about itself:

The Shah Mosque (Persian: مسجد شاه), also known as Imam Mosque (Persian: مسجد امام), renamed after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and Jaame’ Abbasi Mosque, is a mosque in Isfahan, Iran, standing in the south side of Naghsh-e Jahan Square. Built during the Safavid period, ordered by the first Shah Abbas of Persia.

View of the Mosque from Naqsh-e Jahan Square

It is regarded as one of the masterpieces of Iranian architecture and an excellent example of Islamic era architecture of Iran. The Shah Mosque of Isfahan is one of the everlasting masterpieces of architecture in Iran. It is registered, along with the Naghsh-e Jahan Square, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction began in 1611, and its splendour is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.

The mosque is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 20,000 rials banknote.

In 2007, the United States George W Bush administration threatened this beautiful ancient mosque with destruction.

Today, Dutch NOS radio reports (translated):

The United States has selected 52 Iranian targets to be attacked if Iran launches an attack on Americans or US possessions. President Trump writes in a series of tweets about the liquidation of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Friday.

According to Trump, some of the selected goals are “very important for Iran and Iranian culture”.

I would not be surprised if the Isfahan mosque is on that list of destruction by Donald Trump.

Recently, first a missile killed a soldier of fortune mercenary at a United States military base in Iraq. Without providing evidence, the Trump administration blamed that attack on an Iraqi Shiite militia, part of the Iraqi armed forces, and on Iranian general Soleimani.

As revenge, the Trump administration killed scores of people in air raids on Iraq, Syria and Somalia. Implying that the equivalent of the life of one United States mercenary is supposedly the lives of scores of Iraqis, Syrians and Somalis.

As a reaction, thousands of Iraqis protested at the United States Baghdad embassy. They threw water bottles. United States Marines fired tear gas and stun grenades at them. No one was killed. The embassy itself was not invaded. The demonstrators went away.

As revenge for that demonstration, the Trump administration killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and other ‘collateral damage’ people about whom the corporate media don’t tell much, at Baghdad international civilian airport.

Now, maybe there will come revenge violence for that from the Iranian regime as part of a circle of violence maybe leading to nuclear war.

I would not be surprised if the Trump administration would not wait with destruction of the Isfahan mosque and the 51 other targets in Iran until the Iranian government would really retaliate violently. After all, they killed scores of Iraqis, Syrians and Somalis without providing any proof that they were connected to the death of that one United States mercenary. Etc. Just like the Isfahan mosque and people inside it are unconnected to that death.

‘Get Out Of Iraq’ – US Abandons Citizens After Its Terror Attack: here.

Bauhaus architecture, 1919-2019

This January 2019 video from Germany is called Architecture, art and design – 100 years of the Bauhaus (1/3) | DW Documentary.

These two videos are the sequels.

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus art school and movement: “A New Era”

2 November 2019

Rarely has an anniversary been so extensively celebrated and commented on in Germany as the founding of the Bauhaus School (Staatliches Bauhaus) in Weimar in 1919.

Cities all over the country have opened their cultural institutions, museums, theatres, schools of art and further education to a host of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and performances devoted to the famed art and design school and subsequent movement.

Numerous books and articles have also appeared, along with a series of films and documentaries on television and radio. The celebrations even include the construction of two new museums, in Weimar and Dessau, aimed at preserving the Bauhaus legacy.

The question arises: what is so special about this school, which existed for only 14 years and was forced to change its location three times in Germany due to the hostile reaction of conservative and nationalist forces?

(Bauhaus literally means “building house” in German, or “School of Building”, although, ironically, the institution did not have an architecture department to begin with.)

Undoubtedly, the Bauhaus artistic movement has had an enormous influence over the course of the past century. As one art historian comments, “Its assimilation throughout the world can be traced … in numerous buildings, artworks, objects, designs, concepts, and curricula.” Its founder, architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969), writing in 1923, noted that the movement’s “identifying traits are clear, well-proportioned lines from which all unnecessary ingredients have been removed—the same traits characteristic of the modern engineered products of the machine.”

Walter Gropius

However, the contemporary significance of the Bauhaus does not lie merely in the forms of modern design it developed and propagated or the simple, functional architecture that was to largely characterise the 20th century—until its replacement by postmodernist conceptions of design. Above all, what makes Bauhaus special is its notion of combining many forms of artistic work and unleashing the creative power made possible by collective work. It appears that as the crisis of capitalism intensifies there is a longing for forms of creativity that no longer strive merely for individual “self-realisation,” but rather address real social needs and problems.

This need coincides with the general goals and perspectives with which the Bauhaus was founded and developed. In its founding manifesto, Gropius placed construction at the center of artistic work by attempting to build on the artisanal and artistic traditions of medieval architecture. The building, its space and everything in it, should be designed to serve the people. This principle should also apply to what appears to be at first glance a backward-looking return to craftsmanship and its foundations. In fact such craftsmanship is deliberately aimed at creating models which can then be produced industrially.

Foyer of the Bauhaus University, Weimar

In the April 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto, Gropius wrote: “The ultimate goal of all art is the building! The ornamentation of the building was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and they were considered indispensable parts of the great building. Today, they exist in complacent isolation, from which they can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavours of all artisans. Architects, painters and sculptors must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the building, both as a totality and in terms of its parts. Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of architecture, which it lost in salon art …

“So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”

Lyonel Feininger, Bauhaus Manifesto, 1919

It is no accident that the manifesto was adorned by a sketch of a cathedral by Lyonel Feininger, symbolically expressing the common aspiration of artists, master builders and craftsmen.

Even prior to the First World War, the architect Gropius had assimilated the ideas of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen, established in 1907), which called for an economic and cultural “union of artists, architects, entrepreneurs and experts” whose central concern was the search for a new form of architecture centered on “function”, “materials” and “construction.” These concepts were further discussed by architects and artists during the war. They were not limited to Germany or the Bauhaus, but were discussed and developed internationally, with different tendencies influencing one other.

One of the most important representatives of the association of art, architecture and arts and crafts schools in Germany was the architect Bruno Taut, whose exemplary large Berlin housing developments (“Hufeisensiedlung”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” etc.) are today part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In 1918, Taut was one of the founders of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers Council for Art, or Art Soviet), which drew its inspiration from the workers ‘and soldiers’ councils founded in Berlin at the same time, as well as from the 1917 October Revolution. Taut set himself the goal of bringing progressive developments and trends in architecture and art to broader layers of the population. He believed that capitalism was a grotesque system and had to perish. Like many artists of the time, members of the “art soviet” were reacting to important impulses from political and artistic developments and discussions in post-revolutionary Russia.

Bauhaus-style building in Chemnitz, Germany

A March 1, 1919 leaflet produced by the Arbeitsrat, for example, read: “Priority rests with the guiding principle: art and the people must form a unity. Art should no longer be the plaything of a few, but rather the fortune and life of the masses. The aim is to combine the arts under the wings of a splendid architecture.”

At the end of World War I, Gropius also joined the “soviet” and played a leading role in it.

Bauhaus—A New Era

Bauhaus—A New Era is the title of a six-part series that recently featured on German television to coincide with the Bauhaus anniversary. The title is entirely apposite. It refers to the social approach of the Bauhaus school, which remains so relevant today. The school emerged from its predecessors, the Grand-Ducal Saxon Art School and the School of Applied Arts founded by Henry van de Velde in Weimar in 1907, in whose buildings it initiated its work.

The television series is limited to the Weimar years of the Bauhaus. It depicts the spirit of optimism and enthusiasm that made possible highly progressive solutions despite the severe material shortages. Under these conditions, Bauhaus students developed new and creative methods of producing materials, often based on recycling existing sources.

Weimar was traditionally associated with German artistic giants Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, and reactionary forces in the city were quite prepared to distort the heritage of these two radical thinkers and artists to justify their own backward nationalism against everything Bauhaus stood for. They deplored the school’s internationalism, its opening up of opportunities for women and efforts to overcome boundaries between various arts and crafts to develop a comprehensive socially based concept.

Gropius (August Diehl) had already applied for the post of heading the Weimar school from the trenches of the First World War. The opening credits of the first part of the series feature this scene against the backdrop of images from the war. Both pupils and teachers (known as masters) returned from the horrors of war to what they hoped would be a fresh start for society, a new society which they were prepared to fight for with all their might.

Bauhaus—A New Era stands in contrast to the television film Bauhaus (original German title, Lotte am Bauhaus, 2019, directed by Gregor Schnitzler) recently broadcast on the ARD television channel, which is dominated by a love story and concentrates on the theme of the supposed oppression and discrimination of women at the Bauhaus.

The six-part series directed by Lars Kraume (The People vs. Fritz Bauer, 2015) has a number of strengths, even if the basic story and the choice of Dörte Helm (also present in the Schnitzler-directed film) as main protagonist initially suggest a similar approach. Kraume and his team have carried out extensive research to provide a realistic insight into the spirit of elation and enthusiasm with which the students, male and female, and masters, took up their work.

The series opens with an interview with an 80-year-old Walter Gropius in New York City carried out by the feminist journalist Stine Branderup (Trine Dyrholm), who accuses the architect of oppressing female students at the Bauhaus.

Branderup brings up Helm (Anna Maria Mühe) as an example of such alleged repression. Helm is able to develop herself and play a leading role among the students. The series explores the different factors determining why the talented young woman is not able to rise to the position of master-professor.

Kraume also deals with issue of the failure of the school to fully implement equality between the sexes, although the Bauhaus makes clear it favours equality for women. Instead of simply laying blame, the series presents a number of plausible explanations based on Gropius’ manoeuvres aimed at preserving the school.

Gropius has the support of the Social Democratic education minister Max Greil (Sebastian Blomberg), who, however, repeatedly makes concessions to the members of Weimar’s conservative-nationalist “fine society” and other reactionary circles. These included previous masters of the former art school and its pupils who despise Gropius for allowing Jews, women and Bolsheviks to participate in the Bauhaus. The prejudices of some of the teachers brought to the school by Gropius also play a significant role.

The establishment of a “women’s-only class” and the banning of female students from all the activities apart from work in the weaving department was undoubtedly a concession to the hostility and prejudices Gropius confronted. But as the film shows, the weavers were not oppressed. Rather, the textile workshop at Bauhaus headed by Gunta Stölzl (Valerie Pacher) developed into a highly creative center for textile art and technology and became one of the school’s most economically successful workshops.

Regarding the conflict about equal rights for women, Kraume explains: “Of all of the biographies, hers [Dörte Helm’s] was best suited to our story. She came from a middle-class home and yet was the most rebellious amongst her fellow students. She was denied matriculation but then resumed her studies, and had an unexplained relationship with Gropius on the basis of which she was able to join the painting class of Oskar Schlemmer, although women were only supposed to participate in weaving. Finally, after many conflicts, she moved back to her patriarchal father in Rostock. We asked ourselves the question, why.”

The role played by Gropius’ alleged affair with Helm remains unclear, but it clearly provides for dramatic film material. The court assembled to clarify whether Gropius did have a relationship with his student really existed and concluded there was no basis for the accusation.

Was the Bauhaus “political”?

Although the alleged affair occupies a central role, the series includes powerful scenes, performed by a cast of outstanding actors, which throw light on the history of the Bauhaus and why the school continues to fascinate up until today.

Kraume and his team have inserted key dramatic events drawn from the social struggles that took place between 1919 and 1923. The scenes commence with original film material from the battlefields of World War I. Later scenes, shot partly in black-and-white, feature battles between workers and police and in particular the events surrounding the general strike carried out by German workers to oppose the counterrevolutionary Kapp Putsch in March 1920. The militant resistance by workers was supported by many Bauhaus students.

Gropius sought to protect his school against reactionary forces by declaring it to be “unpolitical”, but there could be no escape from the political strife and antagonisms that dominated the early years of the Weimar Republic.

Time and again, A New Era reveals the precarious conditions under which members of the Bauhaus fought to further their aims of freedom of art, emancipation and internationalism against a host of right-wing forces. Based on their artistic work, the Bauhaus students were determined to overcome social differences and contribute to a better understanding between different nationalities.

Achievements, contradictions and conflict in the Bauhaus

The Bauhaus school is often associated with “reduced colours, clean lines and functionality”, but that is only partially true and applies above all to the work of Bauhaus in Dessau. During its period in Weimar the school’s approach was much broader and more colourful. The series shows this clearly.

This was precisely the approach adopted by those masters employed by Gropius in the school’s early days, including Johannes Itten (Sven Schelker), Lyonel Feininger (Ernst Stötzner), Oskar Schlemmer (Tilo Werner), Marcel Breuer (Ludwig Trepke), Wassily Kandinsky (Pjotr Olev), Paul Klee (Marek Harloff) and later Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (Alexandru Cirneala). Some of these artists had already made a name for themselves as Expressionists before the war.

The inclusion of dance and theatre in the school’s education program was also revolutionary. The series depicts Bauhaus evenings which included performances by well-known artists, such as Else Lasker-Schüler (Marie-Lou Sellem), as well as the famous Bauhaus festivals with their imaginative costumes and lanterns, expressing the hunger for life on the part of young people following the horrors of the World War.

Fierce polemics about the artistic orientation of Bauhaus’ educational program are also addressed in A New Era. In the course of the Weimar years, these conflicts developed mainly around the teachings of Itten and his followers, who in their endeavour to place the perfection of man at the center of their artistic activity turned to extreme forms of lifestyle. The conflict with Itten eventually led to his departure from the school. Nevertheless, albeit with some changes, the compulsory preliminary course developed by Itten, requiring all students to acquire basic skills in dealing with color, materials and techniques, was retained.

At the same time, great weight was placed on clear, constructivist forms based on the principle of “form follows function,” as well as a concentration on primary colours, represented by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg from the De Stijl (“The Style”) movement who was invited to the school as a guest speaker. De Stijl had many followers at the Bauhaus, although Doesburg was never appointed as a lecturer.

The sixth and last part of the series is devoted to the highly successful Bauhaus exhibition of 1923 which, for the first time, combined all of the various arts and crafts in the form of a new building—the Haus am Horn. The intention was to build an affordable house with all the features necessary for a family. The Haus am Horn predates the conceptions developed later in Dessau, i.e., construction with cheap and in part prefabricated but solid materials, together with simple but functional and appealing interior accessories.

Haus am Horn

However, the end of Weimar was not far away. In 1924, funding for the school was withdrawn following the election of a right-wing, German-nationalist administration in the state of Thuringia. The Bauhaus was forced to find a new location in the industrial city of Dessau.

The approach to the training of artists and architects encouraged by Gropius and his co-workers continues to be fruitful in many respects. Even if they could not solve many problems due to the constraints of capitalist society and the devastation of culture by the National Socialists and war, a study of the school’s ideas and aesthetic conceptions remains rewarding.

Bauhaus in Dessau [Source: Hjochheim]

The issues and contradictions surrounding art, design and building, posed in Weimar in 1919, are again very relevant at a time when ultra-right forces are once again seeking to influence cultural affairs. A whole layer of intellectuals is embracing reactionary politics.

In Germany the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is threatening to withdraw funding to artists and projects that seek to defend the rights of refugees and immigrants, should the party come to power. It is already agitating against art which does not conform to the party’s own thoroughly nationalist and backward provincial outlook.

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ines Weizman, a professor at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, was asked: “Do the Bauhaus institutions—in the light of this history—have a socio-political responsibility today?”

She replied: “Yes, that is very important! Then as now we must make a stand against right-wing tendencies and their attacks against cultural institutions and recognise the international network of scientists, teaching institutions, cultural institutions, collections and involved public celebrated in 2019, to be a strong, unifying force against the right wing.”

Weizman went on to criticise the decision by the Bauhaus in Dessau to cancel a concert in 2018 by the left-wing punk band Feine Sahne Fischfilet following threats of counter-demonstrations by the far right.

The author also recommends:

100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus
[25 January 2019]

Paris, France children Notre-Dame fire lead poisoning

This 6 August 2019 video from France says about itself:

A top French labour union and environmental health groups have banded together to demand Notre-Dame Cathedral be covered and sealed after the fire that destroyed its roof, deeming it an ongoing source of lead pollution.

By Sam Dalton:

Paris’s Notre Dame fire: Two children test positive for lead poisoning

12 August 2019

Four months after the April 15 fire at the Notre Dame cathedral, during which up to 440 tons of lead roofing was dispersed by smoke into the surrounding areas of Paris, at least two children have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead in their blood.

The revelations are an indictment of the local Parisian government of Socialist Party Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the national government of Emmanuel Macron, which have worked to cover up the lead poisoning scandal since the fire occurred and insisted that there is no danger to the population. The government’s actions, including its refusal to close local schools, have meant that hundreds of children have been kept at creches and on school grounds contaminated by lead for months. They are now in danger of permanent damage.

The Parisian Regional Health Authority (Agence Regionale de Santé–ARS) announced the results of the tests of 175 children on August 6. Sixteen were measured to have lead blood levels requiring continued monitoring (between 20 and 49 micrograms of lead per litre of blood), and two with levels above the 50 micrograms indicating a risk of lead poisoning.

While the French government’s categorization assumes levels below 50 micrograms of lead per litre of blood do not pose an immediate risk of blood poisoning, the World Health Organization states that even levels as low as 5 micrograms per litre can pose a significant danger to children. Given the small number of tests conducted so far, it is likely that many more people are now threatened with lead poisoning.

Of the two children recorded with higher lead levels so far, one was a student at a school located in the 6th arrondissement—within a 500-meter radius of the cathedral—that was closed on July 25, when Parisian authorities were finally compelled to respond to a popular outcry at the reports of lead contamination in the playground shared with a second neighbouring school.

Part of the school grounds had recorded lead concentration levels of up to 5,000 micrograms per square meter (μg/m2). This is more than 70 times the level of 70 μg/m² level specified by a 2016 French General Health Directorate advisory as signifying “risk of lead poisoning to children.”

The authorities’ cover-up of these results meant the school continued to function more than three months after the fire had occurred, during which time the government denied that there was any danger to the students.

On July 29, Annie Thébaud-Mony, the honorary research director at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, told Le Monde that a measurement of 5,000 μg/m2 was “gigantic” and “corresponds to what one can see in decontamination factories for recycling batteries or treating electromagnetic waste materials. They are a sign of massive contamination that will inevitably create victims.”

On July 26, the environmental protection NGO Robin Hood filed a lawsuit against multiple government organizations for placing the population in danger through its response to the lead danger. The suit charges the Macron administration’s Ministry of Culture, the mayor of Paris, the local councillors of the 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements of the city, as well as the ARS, with the placing of other individuals’ lives in danger, non-assistance to individuals in danger, and providing false and misleading information to the public.

“We estimate that, since the start, there has been a shortcoming of information diffused to the public and that [people] have been victims of false information and toxicity,” said Jacky Bonnemains, the president of the organization.

The organization had published an alert about the risk of lead pollution from the cathedral’s spires and roof on April 19—four days after the fire. This was followed up by a letter sent to the ARS for the Ile-de-France, the Minister for Culture, Minister of Health and the Minister for Labour. The letter requested that the authorities “put in place as soon as possible a coordinated protocol for monitoring dust and lead particles and other toxic substances in and around the cathedral.”

These appeals were ignored.

The Robin Hood NGO also published a letter received from University of Manchester Professor Michael Anderson. He emphasized the importance of rapid decontamination, given the risk that “lead particles will be carried into water sources.”

Not until a month after the Notre Dame fire were tests for lead levels ordered by the Parisian authorities. The results of the tests were made public in leaks published by Médiapart on July 18. They showed that of 196 tests in 10 schools and creches within 500 meters of the cathedral, 31 recorded levels equal to or greater than the 70 μg/m2 threshold, and some many tens of times over.

The local Parisian government covered over these figures, citing only average concentrations of lead, rather than the highest local points of concentration, which children could nonetheless be exposed to.

Bonnemains noted that the government has focused its attention on rebuilding Notre Dame rapidly before the 2024 Olympic games, but “making the cathedral sanitary has been completely overlooked.”

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, absorbing four to five times more lead than adults. Lead poisoning can cause many health difficulties, most severely, irreversible brain damage.

A deep clean of the schools that had been closed down in July began last week. The cleaning teams wore heavy protective gear appropriate to the danger of the site, which in the past three months children used regularly for play. Meanwhile the reconstruction efforts have now been halted on the site of Notre Dame itself, acknowledging the danger posed to workers. Nonetheless, the government has refused to accept calls by NGOs and the … CGT trade union federation to place a plastic cover over the cathedral itself.

Even the totally inadequate measures enacted so far have been due to public outrage at the government’s lies and indifference to the health of the population. The emergency bill passed in the confusion following the fire ordering the immediate reconstruction of Notre Dame provides authorities with “exemptions or adaptions applying to the protection of the environment and the evacuation and treatment of waste.”

The fire itself was the outcome of the starvation of resources on the cultural site, including staffing cuts and overworked personnel unable to properly utilize the complex fire detection system.

HOW A NOTRE DAME CONSPIRACY THEORY LED TO A SHOOTING  When the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire, far-right pundits spread groundless accusations that Muslim attackers started the blaze. Last week, a former far-right political candidate who had embraced that conspiracy theory went to a French mosque and tried to set it on fire. He shot two Muslim men who confronted him. [HuffPost]

USA: Bottled water distributions begin as lead water poisoning crisis erupts in Newark, New Jersey: here.

LEAD CRISIS HITS NEW JERSEY Residents in Newark, New Jersey, are facing a growing emergency over lead contamination in the city’s drinking water supply. The crisis is the result of years of mismanagement and has forced city officials to warn tens of thousands of residents against drinking tap water for fear of lead poisoning. [HuffPost]

On Tuesday, city officials in Newark, New Jersey were forced to halt handouts of bottled water over concerns over expiration labels. The emergency distribution had just begun on Monday in response to reports last week of high lead contamination in the city’s drinking water even after the use of home tap filters: here.

Earlier this month, the results of testing conducted in Newark, New Jersey’s public schools in August 2018 were released, showing that seven schools have lead-contaminated water. These results were released as the result of a public records request by WNYC/Gothamist; the city government of Newark did not post the results on its website, a violation of state rules: here.

Ancient monastery, squacco herons, flycatcher, Tilos, Greece

This July 2013 video is called Tilos, Greece – Agios Panteleimonas Monastery.

After 10 May 2019 May on Tilos came 11 May.

A woodchat shrike on a wire.

At Agios Antonios, still two squacco herons present.

We followed the mountain road from Agios Antonios to Agios Panteleimonas monastery. Originally from the 15th century, monks no longer live there.

Agios Panteleimonas monastery, 11 May 2019

Religious objects are still present.

Mosaic, 11 May 2019

So are mosaics.

Viewpoint, 11 May 2019

We continued to this viewpoint. On the right of the photo is Megalo Chorio village.

Then, to the garbage dump of the island. It attracted surprisingly many birds. Including a spotted flycatcher; and two Cretzschmar’s buntings.

After arrival back in Megalo Chorio: a red admiral butterfly on a wall.

Architecture, cats, birds of Tilos, Greece

This 13 July 2016 video says about itself:

Views from around the Island of Tilos, an island in the Dodecanese just west of Rhodes. Includes views from Ilidi Rock apartments and the castle at Megalo Chorio.

This video is the sequel.

After 23 April 2019, 24 April on Tilos.

In the morning, a golden oriole sings in Megalo Chorio.

Again, to the Skafi footpath.

A kestrel flying.

Painted lady butterflies.

Megalo Chorio, 24 April 2019

Meanwhile, in Megalo Chorio village the buildings still stand …

Megalo Chorio, on 24 April 2019

Megalo Chorio, alley, 24 April 2019

… on both sides of narrow alleys …

Megalo Chorio, gate, 24 April 2019

… with sometimes a gate …

Megalo Chorio, church, 24 April 2019

… sometimes leading to churches …

Megalo Chorio, flowers, 24 April 2019

… sometimes leading to flowers …

Megalo Chorio, mosaic, 24 April 2019

… or to mosaics …

Megalo Chorio, cats, 24 April 2019

or to cats …

Megalo Chorio, tree, 24 April 2019

or to this tree.

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.