Swifts in Nijmegen city

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

A juvenile Common Swift (Apus apus) peering out of a nest brick entrance hole at approx. 35 meters height at project Hessenberg in the centre of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Filmed August 1st 2013. More about this project and the Swift nest bricks: here.

If in old cities old buildings are torn down to make way for new buildings, then birds like swifts often lose their nesting opportunities.

Jochem Kühnen of BirdLife in Nijmegen city in the Netherlands tries to do something against that.

In 2009, when the high-rise building De Hessenberg was built, Kühnen convinced the builders to include 22 nesting bricks for swifts.

Already in the next year, swifts started to nest there. Now, the birds use 80% of these nesting opportunities.

Now there are plans for an ever bigger building in Nijmegen: Nimbus, 24 stories high. Jochem Kühnen talked to the Nimbus architect about swifts. The architect became enthusiastic, and decided to include 100 swift bricks in the building.

Ants build a city, video

This video from the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

September 11 2015

Swarming ants in an anthill and busy city life are often compared. But in Rotterdam they made a very special example of that. Designer Lucas Zoutendijk of Bureau 1:1 made for the Architecture Day an ant city of sand in the shape of the map of Rotterdam. 1300 ants have been living there since some weeks ago. The Spanish ants immediately began construction of their ideal city.

Palmyra in Syria, ISIS and the CIA

This 2010 video is called Palmyra, Syria.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

The atrocities of ISIS and the US wars of sociocide

26 August 2015

Images posted Tuesday on social media have confirmed the destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra. The images show ISIS fighters planting explosive charges throughout the ancient structure and then detonating them, reducing the temple to rubble.

The willful demolition of this site, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world and one of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in existence, followed the savage murder a week earlier of Professor Khaled Assad. The 82-year-old Syrian archeologist had participated in the excavation and restoration of Palmyra’s ruins and had remained there as the head of antiquities for nearly half a century. He was beheaded for refusing to assist ISIS in looting the site.

UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and educational agency, justifiably denounced these atrocities as “war crimes,” adding that “their perpetrators must be accountable for their actions.”

There is no question that those responsible for these acts and for far bloodier atrocities against the Syrian people are criminals and should be held accountable. The obstacle to bringing to justice those principally responsible, however, is the fact that they are the former and current chief officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA.

It was they who laid waste to one Middle Eastern country after another, while working with the Islamist forces that comprise ISIS to carry out their wars of regime-change against a series of secular Arab governments.

The systematic destruction of a cultural heritage carried out by ISIS has a historical precedent in the crimes carried out by the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. This regime set out to erase the country’s cultural heritage, while carrying out a reign of terror and mass murder against the population.

The similarities between ISIS and the Khmer Rouge do not end with their barbaric assaults on culture and human life. In both cases, the preconditions for these atrocities had been created through the destruction of entire societies by US imperialism.

In Cambodia, a US bombing campaign dropped some 532,000 tons of explosives on the country in four years—more than three times the tonnage dropped on Japan during all of World War II. The resulting death toll is estimated as high as 600,000, while 2 million people out of a population of 7 million were made homeless and economic life was shattered.

ISIS and the current bloodshed across Syria and Iraq are the direct products of similar acts of sociocide on the part of US imperialism. In Iraq, the illegal US invasion of 2003, the subsequent occupation and the systematic destruction of what had been one of the most advanced health and social infrastructures in the Arab world claimed the lives of over 1 million Iraqis, while turning another 5 million into refugees. The divide-and-rule strategy pursued by the Pentagon stoked a sectarian civil war by deliberately manipulating tensions between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations.

The ramifications of this policy have long since spilled across national borders, with increasingly catastrophic consequences, all driven by Washington’s resort to militarism to advance its aim of hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

To this end, the US has been involved in wars for over 35 years, beginning with the CIA’s orchestration of the war for regime-change against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, where it allied itself with Islamist forces, including Osama bin Laden and the other founders of Al Qaeda.

Nine months before the last US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, Washington and its NATO allies launched another unprovoked war of aggression to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and impose their own puppet regime over the oil-rich North African country. The destruction of the Libyan state and the murder of Gaddafi plunged the country into chaos and bloodshed that continues to this day. Islamist militias used as US proxies in the Libyan war, along with tons of captured Libyan weapons, were subsequently funneled—with the aid of the CIA—into the civil war in Syria, strengthening ISIS and helping create the conditions for it to overrun more than a third of Iraq.

In the name of the never-ending “war on terrorism,” Washington is prosecuting another military campaign in alliance with the Shia-based government in Baghdad against ISIS in the predominately Sunni regions of Iraq, while in Syria it is stepping up military operations in alliance with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf monarchies, while attempting to find “moderate” Sunni Islamists it can utilize as proxies in the war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York Times Tuesday published a lengthy article reflecting an internal debate within the Obama administration over whether to provide more direct US support to Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist militia with multiple links to Al Qaeda. The group already receives extensive backing from key US allies Turkey and Qatar.

The horrific consequences of decades of US wars are now spilling into Europe, with the increasingly desperate flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees—in many cases at the cost of their own lives—from homelands that Washington has turned into killing fields.

Politically and morally, the US government and its top officials, starting with Bush and Obama, are totally responsible for all of the crimes, atrocities and human suffering resulting from the multiple wars of aggression they initiated.

None of them have been held to account. Representatives and defenders of an oligarchy of corporate billionaires, they are not, under the present political setup, answerable to the American people, whose opposition to war they routinely defy.

The task of bringing these war criminals to justice and putting an end to the succession of wars and growing threat of a new world war lies with the working class.

Egyptian Queen Nefertiti’s grave discovered?

This 2013 video is called Discovery Channel’sQueen Nefertiti” The Most Beautiful Face of Egypt.

From the Amarna Royal Tombs Project, by Nicholas Reeves:


Recently published, high-resolution scans of the walls of room J (the Burial Chamber) of Valley of the Kings tomb KV 62 (Tutankhamun) reveal, beneath the plastered surfaces of the painted scenes, distinct linear traces. These are here mapped, discussed, and tentatively identified as the ‘ghosts’ of two hitherto unrecognized doorways. It is argued that these doorways give access to: (1) a still unexplored storage chamber on the west of room J, seemingly contemporary with the stocking of Tutankhamun‘s burial; and (2) a pre-Tutankhamun continuation of KV 62 towards the north, containing the undisturbed burial of the tomb’s original owner: Nefertiti.

From the Daily Mail in Britain today:

Has Queen Nefertiti been found behind King Tut’s tomb? Scientist claims to have discovered a secret door to her burial chamber in Tutankhamun’s grave, the boy king who may have been her son

Radical claim made by Dr Nicholas Reeves at the University of Arizona
He analysed high-resolution scans of the walls of Tutankhamun‘s grave
Dr Reeves says he found ‘ghosts’ of doors that tomb builders blocked
The door on the north side contains ‘the undisturbed burial of the tomb’s original owner – Nefertiti’, Dr Reeves argues

Inspection of King Tut’s Tomb Reveals Hints of Hidden Chambers. Secret doors may conceal the burial chamber of Queen Nefertiti, but tantalizing clues await further testing: here.

British Museum’s Reading Room, what will happen?

This video says about itself:

Reading Room of the British Museum

16 April 2007

The British Museum in London is one of the world’s greatest museums of human history and culture. Its collections number more than 13 million objects from all continents. The centre of the museum was redeveloped in 2000 to become the Great Court, surrounding the original Reading Room.

By Jack the Blaster in London, England:

What future for the British Museum‘s reading room which inspired Karl Marx?

Friday 31st July 2015

THE British Museum opened a new wing last year which cost £135 million to build and was designed by New Labour’s favourite “starchitect,” Sir Richard Rogers.

The museum was thrilled to announce a purpose-built exhibition area providing the public with a new way of looking at its treasures.

But as the debate as to whether our museums should be allowed to charge an entrance fee raises its head again — the new wing is used for ticket-only events — the British Museum faces a tricky question as to what it now does with one of the greatest assets it possesses.

It is not an artefact pillaged by a Victorian grave-robber, but Sir Sydney Smirke’s astonishing round reading room, found in the very centre of the museum.

Built in 1852 and based on Rome’s Pantheon, it gave Karl Marx a desk, its shelves were browsed by Lenin, and was the place for Victorian novelists such as Bram Stoker and Conan Doyle to be seen slaving over their manuscripts, and later other writers such as the Bloomsbury set.

To construct what was originally the main reading room for the British Library, Smirke used cast iron and concrete — ground-breaking construction techniques for the time.

Its spectacular interior boasts huge windows that flood leather-topped desks with natural light. Shelves packed with tomes curve gently round the walls and history seeps from every nook and cranny.

We can also assume it is in fairly good nick. It was spruced up by a three-year renovation programme after the library’s 1997 move to new headquarters in nearby Euston Road, its original decorative scheme reinstated and post-war additions removed. Desks were discreetly updated so computers can be used.

From 2007 until last year the museum used it as a temporary place to host ticket-only blockbuster exhibitions, including acclaimed shows as The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army and Life and Death in Pompeii.

But while its glorious history as a “temple to the deification of bibliography,” as one Victorian scholar described it, is celebrated, its future is not so certain.

The museum had temporary planning permission to shroud its beautiful features in scaffolding and planks during the construction of the new wing so it could host shows that cost more than a tenner to go and see.

It boosted income while wriggling round the free-entry rule. They said it was a temporary solution while the new wing was completed — but it seems the museum has no idea what happens next.

This is particularly important today, as new calls for museums to charge come at a time when access to public study spaces is under attack.

The idea that the state should fund libraries is increasingly being whittled away in this neoconservative age. Everything must have an immediately obvious economic cost and public services are seen as luxuries, not the corner stone of a civilised society.

Your correspondent has been asking the museum for five long years what the future holds for the room.

I have requested interviews with the directors in charge of its future — but been stonewalled. Instead, after regular badgering, press officers finally answered written questions.

Their answers were far from enlightening.

“The reading room is currently closed while the museum undertakes a programme of work to remove temporary exhibition staging,” they said — a case of stating the bleedin’ obvious.

What happens after this, nobody wants to discuss in any detail. The museum says a new director is to be appointed in 2016 after the current incumbent Neil MacGregor steps down, and then its fate will be considered.

“There are no specific ideas on the table,” the spokesman added. “It is a case of keeping an open mind and considering all options.”

This case of kicking the can down the road is concerning.

Surely MacGregor, widely praised for his stewardship of a collection that, to many, carries the distasteful whiff of Britain’s imperial past, should have a vision for this extraordinary room at the very heart of the institute?

It can only further heighten fears that spaces which can be used for coffer-boosting ticketed exhibitions are just too valuable to hand back to the public.

Surely with Bloomsbury’s massive student population facing further pressures on study space, and the neighbourhood’s schoolchildren — many living in crowded conditions where homework is a logistical issue — the room should be returned to its original role forthwith?

Support is out there. Museum trustee and Nobel prize-winner Sir Paul Nurse told me that opening up Smirke’s masterpiece once more would be a advantageous.

“I can’t second guess what will happen — but I’d like to see its integrity returned,” he said.

“I’d like to see the fact it was this great library and intellectual centre for London celebrated. It means making its structure obvious and some connection maintained to its intellectual history. It is a space that spawned ideas.”

Others are more forthright. Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank queries why a plan has not been long in place.

“It is an extremely important interior and the museum must find an acceptable use for it soon,” he told me. There were promises it would be restored and reopened and they have not done that. So much has happened there of truly international importance. “It is a marvellous place to work — it is so conducive to intellectual achievement.”

Architect Spencer de Grey, senior partner and head of design at Rogers’s practice, worked on the redesign of the museum’s great court between 1994 and 2000.

He says the room’s future must be at the top of the to-do list for MacGregor’s replacement.

“London is short of civilised, free places of study,” he said. “Surely the round reading room could immediately reopen as such. It is an uplifting space that inspired the likes of Karl Marx and should be available to the students and researchers of today.”

The museum holds in its trust treasures lifted from civilisations from around the globe.

Now it must show, as a matter of urgency, how it intends to care for one of its own.

Celebrate International Bat Night in English church, 28 August

This 29 September video from the USA says about itself:

Bats: Guardians of the Night

Visit Bat Conservation International to learn more about these amazing species and what we can do to protect them.

From Wildlife Extra:

Unique opportunity to celebrate International Bat Night

On Friday 28 August, to mark International Bat Night, The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) is offering wildlife enthusiasts, their families and friends the opportunity to stay overnight in a 13th century church inhabited by a colony of Natterer’s bats.

Guests are invited to sleep in the aisle of the church and sample “champing” (church camping) whilst learning more about the mysterious creatures overhead from bat experts on site.

The event will take place at The Church of St John the Baptist in Parson’s Drove, Cambridgeshire, a stunning Grade II* church which has been in The CCT’s care since 1974 and which is a long-time favourite of both bats and architecture enthusiasts.

An expert bat-handler will lead the evening with a presentation about the fascinating animals and everyone will have a chance to try out the bat detectors.

After sunset, the bats will appear from under the church roof and guests can help The CCT count them as they emerge for their night’s feeding.

The unique break was inspired by The CCT’s hugely successful champing holiday breaks, which give people the chance to stay overnight in some of the UK’s most beautiful churches.

Camp beds will be provided in the aisles of the church so guests can get some rest before rising at 4.30am to enjoy the spectacle of the bats swarming back to the church. A hearty breakfast will be provided at 8.30am.

The bat survey will be crucial in helping ecologists on site understand more about these mysterious creatures. For more information about the event please visit The CCT website here.

This event is suitable for children over eight. Families with younger children are welcome to join in without champing at the evening-only event. Tea, coffee and squash included in the ticket price and all children will receive a free bat toy!

Bat Champing Packages cost from £45 (£25 for under 16s) including breakfast, bat talks, bat detectors and bed in an aisle of a stunning 13th century church

Bat Watching Evening tickets are available for £5 (£2 for children)

Etruscan women exhibition in 2011

This 2014 video is called Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia (UNESCO/NHK)

Lucas Knitel told on 27 November 2011 about the exhibition on Etruscan women at the Antiquities Museum in Leiden.

This exhibition is the counterpart of the present exhibition about Etruscan men, in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam.

In this culture in ancient Italy, women had a relatively strong position (somewhat like Egypt), if compared to Athens and other Greek states, Rome, and Mesopotamia.

We do not know as much about Etruscan culture as we might like. Much of their temples and other buildings were made of wood, so few of these survive. We also know much more about rich Etruscans than about poor ones. And the Etruscan language is still a problem. Not because of their alphabet, similar to the Greek alphabet; but because their language is unrelated to most European languages in antiquity.

There are varous theories on the origins of Etruscans. Eg, Italian nationalists tend to claim they were “autochthonous” ancient Italians. Another theory claims they were immigrants from Asia Minor. Mr Knitel tended to favour a third theory: that Etruscans were immigrants from central Europe. In what is now Austria, the Rhaetic language was spoken in antiquity. It seems that Rhaetian is related to Etruscan.