Amphibians in Germany, documentary


This 16 March 2019 video says about itself:

Into the Forest: Amphibian Nature Documentary

Journey for 90 days into a mysterious European forest to encounter some lesser known animals that may surprise you, especially the amphibians and reptiles.

Bryan Maltais takes you into a forest of southwest Germany to meet its wildlife as they emerge in the last days of Winter, and flourish through the breeding season into Summer. Large mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles are featured in this whimsical tale.

The Fire Salamander and its plight with Bsal are featured. Bsal is a microscopic fungus that was accidentally imported into Europe and destroys the skin of many types of salamanders. The Fire Salamander is currently disappearing in parts of Europe due to the invasion by the non-native Bsal fungus. Watch this documentary to the end to learn about Bsal and how you can help prevent its spread.

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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.

Italian painter Tintoretto, new film


This video is called Tintoretto. A Rebel in Venice [2019] Documentary.

On 1 April 2019, I went to see the film Tintoretto. A Rebel in Venice, by director Giuseppe Domingo Romano.

Another director, Peter Greenaway, explains some of Tintoretto’s works in it.

The film celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of Tintoretto (1518-1594). He is sometimes called the last great artist of the Italian Renaissance.

He was a productive person: over 300 paintings, including the biggest ones painted so far.

Like Titian and Paola Veronese, he worked in Venice city. Unlike the two others, he was born there.

To be able to have his work in public buildings, Tintoretto used tricks a bit typical of a commercial city like Venice, like undercutting the wage proposals of his rivals to get commissions.

Tintoretto was an innovative artist. He is sometimes seen as a predecessor of movies, as his paintings suggest movement.

Tarquin and Lucretia, by Tintoretto

This Tintoretto painting shows the ancient legend of Lucretia. According to Roman historiography tradition, Prince Sextus Tarquinius tried to rape her. In the painting, that causes the breaking of Lucretia’s pearl necklace. The pearls fall down; some are depicted as they move half way between Lucretia’s neck and the floor.

The rape of Lucretia story inspired many other artists, including Rembrandt. The legend says that in 509 BC the son of the king of Rome, Sextus Tarquinius, raped Lucretia. He thought he could commit that crime with impunity, as he was a man, Lucretia a woman; he was a prince, Lucretia a subject. Like in 2015 a scion of the Saudi royal family harassed women sexually in the USA, saying: ‘I am a prince and I do what I want. You are nobody!’ Sextus Tarquinius told Lucretia that if she would not submit to being raped, then he would kill both her and one of her slaves, place their bodies together, and claim he had defended her husband’s honour when he caught her having adulterous sex. In despair, after the rape Lucretia then committed suicide.

Anger in Rome about the rape and suicide of Lucretia led to a revolt in which the royal family was deposed and replaced by the Roman republic.

That Roman republic became an inspiration for later revolutions in which monarchs were overthrown and replaced by republics. Like the eighteenth century American revolution against King George III of Britain, in which the first president of the USA, George Washington, was compared to Roman republican statesman Cincinnatus. During the French revolution against King Louis XVI revolutionary painter David painted scenes from Roman republican history.

In the seventeenth century, the Roman republic was an inspiration for English revolutionaries who deposed and beheaded King Charles I and made England a republic.

Why did Rembrandt, why did Tintoretto consider Lucretia a worthy subject? The film does not ask that question. According to ancient Roman historiography, Sextus Tarquinius’ royal dynasty were tyrants, killing people and taxing their subjects heavily. Like taxation and bloodshed had been causes of the Etruscan-Roman royal dynasty’s downfall, Spanish royal taxes and the Spanish inquisition burning Protestants at the stake had also been factors in the Dutch revolt. May Rembrandt not have seen a parallel between the royal dynasty of Rome and King Philip II and his successors in Spain; and between the successful republican revolt in Rome, and the succesful (at least in the northern Low Countries) Dutch revolt against the monarchy?

And may Tintoretto not have thought similarly, as his Venice, like later the northern Low Countries, was one of few republics in a Europe full of monarchies? I cannot say for sure, as I don’t know writings by Tintoretto, or Rembrandt, about this.

The film begins by pointing out that in Tintoretto’s 16th century, plague epidemics weakened Venice. The Venetian republic had been economically and politically important in the late Middle Ages. However, in the 16th century, commercial sea routes in the Mediterranean became proportionally less important than western Europe, the Americas and Asia. Yet, Venice was still artistically important.

Some of Tintoretto’s work is inspired by these plague epidemics; which he survived, but Titian did not.

Another review of this film is here.

Egyptian actors banned for criticizing dictatorship


This 14 January 2019 video says about itself:

Egyptian Actor Khaled Abol Naga: Arab Spring Ideals Will Prevail Despite Current “Black Wave”

Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga said during a December 31 interview with France 24 Arabic TV that the Arab Spring uprising that swept the Arab world was like a “huge wave of fresh seawater that came and shattered [the old] regimes“. He said that although the Arab world is currently experiencing the “black wave” that usually occurs after revolutions, the ideals of the Arab Spring will ultimately succeed because of their nobility. He also said that freedom of speech is fundamental to Arabs’ ability to change their countries for the better, and that it must be defended despite the disagreements that people have.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Prohibition of acting for famous Egyptian actors after criticism of president

Two well-known Egyptian actors have been expelled from the [government aligned] National Association of Actors after criticizing Egyptian President Sisi. The two spoke out in Washington last Monday against the constitutional change that allowed the 64-year-old president to remain in power until 2034.

Amr Waked and Khaled Abol Naga both played in various Egyptian films and series and some US American films. Naga is also known in Egypt because of the many shows he presented there. Both actors now live abroad.

Shortly after they had criticized, they were told that they had been expelled from the union. That also means that the men are no longer allowed to do their work in Egypt. “It’s ridiculous, it’s like they’re not only throwing us out of the union, but also taking our nationality away“, Naga tells The Washington Post.

Singing ban for singer

A few days ago, Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab was also told that she is no longer allowed to perform. She had said that there is no freedom of expression in Egypt. The singer also presents the Arabic version of The Voice.

Human rights organizations regularly sound the alarm about the North African country. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the human rights situation in Egypt is much worse than in 2010, just before the start of the Arab Spring.

Birds in Colombia, documentary film


This 8 February 2019 video says about itself:

The Birders, a documentary film on Colombian bird diversity and birdwatching presented by ProColombia, with support of FONTUR and directed by Gregg Bleakney.

The film highlights Colombian local birdwatching guide, Diego Calderon-Franco and National Geographic photographer / videographer Keith Ladzinski as they travel through one of the most diverse bird regions in the world to capture new and rare birds that have never been filmed before.

The Birders also takes people through the Colombian landscape, highlighting several of its’ top locations, culture, birds and music. As well as: Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, in the Guajira Peninsula. El Dorado Bird Reserve, in the Santa Marta Mountains. Minca and surroundings, in the Santa Marta Mountains. Tayrona National Natural Park and El Chamicero del Perija Bird Reserve, in the Perija Mountains.

The films aims to change the perception of Colombia through showcasing the diversity of birds who live there.

“Birdwatching in Colombia is a real adventure. These guides and biologists are always finding new things”, says director Gregg Bleakney. Diego Calderón agrees, “Being a bird guide in Colombia is absolutely crazy, we are basically living the Victorian times of exploration.

You can choose a remote corner of the country and almost for sure you are going to find surprises: new species, new subspecies, new range extensions. Colombia is a box of surprises!”

Along with the unique birds and exquisite landscape, The Birders incorporates an original score from local musicians inspired by the bird songs found in the film.

Mucho Indio – Teto Ocampo

Teto Ocampo has spent the past 10 years learning to play the Arhuaco people’s ancestral songs. Though his band, Mucho Indio, Teto takes listeners on a cosmic journey through space and time by translating Colombia’s most ancestral melody, the song of the hummingbird, to a modern format. He composed the melody with a rare charu flute, an instrument that only a handful of people on planet have the knowledge to play.

Song name: Kumuchikayu

Sidestepper English musician Richard Blair is most well known as the founding member of Sidestepper, a pioneering Colombian band that has paved the way for a modern generation of Colombian artists who have successfully gone global through mixing local and foreign musical concepts.

Richard’s meditative song was inspired by “mixed migrant flocks”, a phenomenon where foreign birds migrate to Colombia’s Caribbean region to live, travel and sing with local groups of birds.

Song name: To Close Your Eyes

Ghetto Kumbé Together with the team of the documentary, Edgardo Garcés travelled to his birthplace of La Guajira to record the song of the Vermilion Cardinal. Edgardo tattooed the bird on his arm to ground himself after the death of his parents. He had never seen the bird in the wild before. The story of this eye-catching bird’s connection to indigenous Wayúu culture is the inspiration for this modern Afro-Colombian electronic song.

Song name: Soy Guajira

Frente Cumbiero Using Colombian Cumbia as its base, Mario Galeano and his band Frente Cumbiero composed a modern take on the classic USA surf songs of the 1960s, but with a birder’s soul. The song draws inspiration from the endemic Santa Marta Parakeet. These social birds
live in flocks on a massive ridgeline overlooking the Caribbean Sea and Magdalena River Valley, the birthplace of Cumbia music.

Song name: Parakeet Ridge

El Leopardo With his band El Leopardo, Daniel Broderick (aka Dani Boom) composed a thumping electronic club song that mirrors the Manakin bird’s slow build-up to a frenetic courtship display. The mechanical clapping sound of the White-bearded Manakin’s wings, recorded by the documentary team in Tayrona National Park, is the foundation of Dani’s composition. The courtship call of the Lance-tailed Manakin provided a secondary melody.

Song name: Manakin Boom

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA, March 2019:

The Birders is a documentary about the delights of bird watching in northern Colombia, the country that boasts more bird species than any other place in the world. Watch it for free, and then enter to win an all-expense-paid, 4-day trip to the Santa Marta region of the country. Runners-up win binoculars, boots, and more. Watch the movie and enter by March 28.