Pinochet torturers sentenced in Chile


This Spanish language 15 December 2016 video is about a commemoration in Chile of the kidnapping, disappearance, torture and murder of five months pregnant Reinalda del Carmen Pereira Plaza by the secret police of dictator Pinochet.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Ex-cops jailed for ‘disappearance

CHILE: A judge sentenced 35 former agents of General Augusto Pinochet’s secret police on Wednesday for the 1976 kidnapping and torture of a pregnant Communist Party member who was never seen again.

Judge Miguel Vazquez sentenced Pedro Espinoza, Juan Hernan Morales and Ricardo Victor Lawrence to 10 years in prison. The 32 others received seven-year jail terms for their part in the crime or four years as accessories.

Five-month-pregnant medical technician Reinalda Pereira, who aided dissidents resisting the dictatorship, was kidnapped on December 15 1976.

See also here.

Photo of Reinalda del Carmen Pereira Plaza

This photo commemorates Reinalda del Carmen Pereira Plaza.

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New butterflyfish discovery in the Philippines


Roa rumsfeldi, Credit: © 2017 Luiz Rocha and the California Academy of Sciences

From the California Academy of Sciences in the USA:

Surprise new butterflyfish from the Philippine ‘twilight zone’

October 19, 2017

A newly described species of brown-and-white Philippine butterflyfish — the charismatic Roa rumsfeldi — made a fantastic, 7,000-mile journey before surprising scientists with its unknown status. Live specimens collected from 360 feet beneath the ocean’s surface in the Philippine’s Verde Island Passage escaped special notice until a single black fin spine tipped off aquarium biologists back in San Francisco. Deep-diving researchers from the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs team — with genetic sequencing help from a parent-son team — share their discovery of a fifth species of Roa this week in ZooKeys.

“We named this reef fish Roa rumsfeldi because, as

former United States Secretary of ‘Defence’ War, torture enabler and Iraqi archaeological treasures looting enabler

Donald Rumsfeld once said, some things are truly ‘unknown unknowns‘”, says senior author Dr. Luiz Rocha, Academy curator of ichthyology and co-leader of its Hope for Reefs initiative to research, explore, and sustain global reefs. “This fish caught us completely off-guard. After traveling from the deep reefs of the Philippines to our aquarium in San Francisco, former Academy aquarium biologist and co-author Matt Wandell noticed a black fin spine that looked different from other known Roa we’ve collected in the past. It was a light bulb moment for all of us.”

Butterflyfish — which sport bold patterns — are iconic coral reef species. Because this group’s taxonomy is relatively well understood, scientists didn’t expect to find an unknown species on a recent expedition.

Under pressure

Roa rumsfeldi and its close relatives are only know to live in mesophotic “twilight zone” reefs — a place where sunlight is scarce and divers with traditional scuba gear cannot safely visit. In the narrow band between the light-filled shallow reefs and the pitch-black deep sea, these little-known mesophotic reefs, located 200 to 500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, are home to fascinatingly diverse and previously-unknown marine life. As part of its Hope for Reefs initiative, specially trained Academy scientists are exploring these relatively unknown frontiers with the help of high-tech equipment like closed-circuit rebreathers, which take extensive training and allow them to extend their research time underwater.

As part of their expedition-driven research, Rocha and his Academy colleagues sometimes collect live fish they believe to be unknown species in order to study their behavior (making for more robust research) and inspire the public to connect with beautiful and unique reef life during aquarium visits.

“Our human bodies are not really compressible,” says Bart Shepherd, Director of Steinhart Aquarium and co-leader of the Academy’s Hope for Reefs initiative, “but fish have swim bladders for buoyancy that can’t make the journey from twilight zone depths to the surface. We gently moved this Roa to a special lightweight decompression chamber designed just for fish, brought it to the surface, and attentively cared for it through the flight back to San Francisco and into our aquarium.”

A family affair

“The team effort between our museum’s scientists and aquarium biologists helped add a new fish to the tree of life,” says Rocha, adding that the collaboration isn’t the only reason this fish discovery feels particularly special. “My teenage son Gabriel helped sequence its genes during a summer internship — his mother and I helped show him how to use complicated genomic processes to take a closer look at the fish’s DNA. This is part of how we prove a species is distinct, and it’s always a pleasure to share that learning with young people.”

Gabriel Rocha, a high school sophomore at the time, helped sequence the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase I gene, also known as the “barcode” gene. The process from DNA extraction to amplification and sequencing takes just a few days — an ideal project for short, in-depth internships. After the sequence is obtained, the work moves from the lab to the virtual world: Major online databases contain thousands of sequences of this gene for known species, and are a great comparison tool.

New discoveries and Hope for Reefs

Considered the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs are some of the most biologically diverse, economically valuable, beautiful, and threatened ecosystems on Earth. They cover less than 0.1% of the ocean but contain more than 30% of marine species. Coral reefs provide critical habitat to vast marine communities — from the tiny coral polyps that make up the reef’s foundation to the colorful fishes and sharks that live among them. Coral reefs are integral to the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, providing protection from erosion and generating income through ecotourism and fishing.

In response to coral reef threats, the Academy launched the Hope for Reefs initiative in 2016 to explore, explain, and sustain the world’s coral reefs by making fundamental breakthroughs in coral reef biology; developing new conservation solutions and restoration techniques with partners like SECORE International and The Nature Conservancy; and sharing what we know through innovative exhibits and educational programs.

Every Academy expedition yields new understanding and surprising discoveries, and the public can see new and rare species, many of which have never been displayed in a public aquarium, at Steinhart Aquarium. Explore the great unknown alongside our scientists as they uncover the secrets of our world’s critically important reefs. Visitors to the Academy’s aquarium can take a closer look at many mesophotic marine creatures from around the world — and discover why they deserve protection — in Twilight Zone: Deep Reefs Revealed.

Theresa May breaks promise to London Grenfell disaster survivors


This video from London, England says about itself:

18 October 2017

Grenfell Speaks to Zeyad Cred about the Grenfell silent march and the importance of keeping this growing movement going on the 14th of every month.

By Felicity Collier in Britain:

Only 14 Grenfell families rehoused since catastrophe

Friday 20th October 2017

LABOUR accused the government yesterday of failing to keep its promises made in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster because only 14 families have since been rehoused.

Shadow housing minister John Healey said that 152 households are still living in hotels four months on from the deadly fire that killed around 80 people.

He reminded Communities Secretary Sajid Javid that, days after the disaster, Prime Minister Theresa May had said: “I have fixed a deadline of three weeks for everybody affected to be found a home.”

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Javid admitted that only 14 families have been rehoused permanently, and that the number still needing a new home has risen to 202.

Fewer than one in 10 of the 4,000 high-rise blocks in the country have been tested by the government for fire safety and the flammability of exterior cladding similar to the material that fuelled the Grenfell blaze, Mr Healey said.

Mr Javid has “refused any government funds for essential fire safety work on other high-rise blocks,” he added.

The Communities Secretary revealed that out of 169 high-rise social housing towers in England that have Grenfell-style cladding, 161 are unlikely to meet current fire safety standards and work would be needed to make them safe.

Some 32 councils have expressed concern about funding for improvement works.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the Metropolitan Police has advised Kensington and Chelsea Council not to release its correspondence with the London Fire Brigade relating to the potential risks of the cladding on Grenfell and other buildings.

Making tower blocks safe for thousands of people in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno will cost £405 million in London, according to a report published by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC): here.

Ocean wildlife and noise pollution, new film


This video is the trailer of the new film Sonic Sea.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes about it:

The documentary Sonic Sea recently won two Emmy Awards, for Best Nature Documentary and for Best Music and Sound. The film is about protecting ocean life from noise pollution, featuring research by scientists including Dr. Christopher Clark from the Cornell Lab’s Bioacoustics Research Program.

Loving Vincent, new film on Van Gogh


This video says about itself:

Loving Vincent – Official Trailer

29 August 2017

LOVING VINCENT is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, produced by Poland’s BreakThru Films & UK’s Trademark Films.

The film brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

The genuine achievement of Loving Vincent, and its limitations

19 October 2017

Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman; written by Kobiela, Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

“Art is something which, though produced by human hands, is not wrought by hands alone, but wells up from a deeper source, from man’s soul.”—Vincent van Gogh

Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is one of the most beloved artistic figures in history. He revolutionized painting and is admired for his art, his humility, his personality, his compassion. He lived for most of his adult life on very limited means, often among the poor. “The Potato Eaters” (1885), an unsentimental scene of peasants eating by lamplight, was his first significant work.

Van Gogh’s brilliant art work, with its bold, urgent brush strokes, the intense drama of his short life–during which he sold only one work out of the 850 he painted–and his death by suicide have combined to strike a sympathetic chord with millions of people over the years.

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

This helps explain the tremendous interest in the new animated film, Loving Vincent, co-directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, who also co-wrote the script with Jacek Dehnel. The Polish-UK production is a tribute to the great artist and an attempt to bring his life and work to a wide international audience.

Seven years in the making, it is the first fully oil-painted feature film, with 125 painting animators having produced the movie’s 65,000 frames. For over two years, the team of painters worked at studios in Gdansk and Wroclaw in Poland and in Athens to complete the project.

As Loving Vincent’s press material explains, the work “was first shot as a live action film with actors, and then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, and the performance of the painting animators.” (We will return to the details of this fascinating process below.)

The narrative begins one year after the painter’s tragic death at the age of 37.

Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), a listless, troubled young man sporting a mustard-yellow jacket, is given a letter by his bearded postman father, Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), addressed to Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s brother. Armand’s journey to deliver the letter to Theo begins in Paris. His first encounter is with Vincent’s paint supplier Père Tanguy (John Sessions). Tanguy tells Armand that Theo died shortly after his much-loved brother’s demise–the brothers, he says, were “two hearts, one mind.”

Black-and-white flashbacks depict the tumultuous relationship of van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) with fellow painter Paul Gauguin (Piotr Pamula)–“They were at each other’s throats”–including the notorious episode in which an enraged Vincent sliced off part of his left ear. We also learn, according to the filmmakers, that for his family, Vincent existed in the shadow of an older brother, a stillborn Vincent (“He struggled to be what his mother wanted him to be”).

Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where Vincent eventually committed suicide, is Armand’s next stop. There, he tracks down all who knew the painter during the last weeks of his life. He begins at the inn near where Vincent fatally shot himself. The innkeeper’s daughter Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson) offers kind recollections of Vincent, while the judgmental and religious Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory), housekeeper to Dr. Paul Gachet (Jerome Flynn)–the physician who treated Vincent—is convinced that “he was evil.”

Gachet, who was jealous of Vincent’s talent, stole a few of the latter’s masterpieces after his death. (In 1990, the first of two versions of van Gogh’s portrait of Gachet sold for $82.5 million, a record price for a work of art at the time.)

Gachet’s daughter, Marguerite (Saoirse Ronan), is cautious in her testimony about the deceased artist, saying that her father and Vincent were like “chalk and cheese.” Another doctor, Mazery, even suggests that Vincent was murdered (“It [the shot] was too low an angle. He would have had to have shot himself with his outstretched toe”).

In the end, the central concern of this “relatively conventional detective story” (Variety) boils down to whether van Gogh was murdered or committed suicide.

Loving Vincent is hardly the first film on the subject of the famed painter. In addition to Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life (1956), Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo (1990), Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh (1991) and Andrew Hutton’s Van Gogh: Painted with Words (2010), there are dozens of television and film documentaries about van Gogh’s life in numerous languages. But the Kobiela-Welchman film is certainly unique in its artistic/film approach.

There is something remarkable and encouraging about the internationally coordinated, painstaking process by which the film was made, which involved the efforts of hundreds of artists, technicians and others.

As noted above, this is the first fully oil-painted animated film. The characters are played by actors, who “worked either on sets specially constructed to look like Van Gogh paintings,” the film’s production notes explain, “or against green-screens, with the van Gogh paintings being composited in, along with Computer Generated animation, after the shoot. The live-action shoot took place at Three Mills Studios in London and CETA studio in Wroclaw.”

Prior to and during the live action filming “the Painting Design team spent one year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.” This effort included working out how to show van Gogh’s works, which come in various sizes, within the frame created by the cinema screen. “They also had to work out how to deal with ‘invasions’, where a character painted in one style, comes into another Vincent painting with a different style. They also have to, for the purpose of the story, sometimes change daytime paintings into night-time paintings, or paintings which were done in Autumn or Winter, had to be re-imagined for summer when the journey of the film takes place,” according to the notes.

A group of Character Design Painters specialized in reinterpreting the actors as their van Gogh portrait originals, “so that they would retain their own features and at the same time recognizably take on the look and feeling of their character in painting form. There were 377 paintings painted during the Design Painting process.”

The painting animators, charged with producing the actual frames of the film, worked in Painting Animation Work Studios (PAWS). “PAWS allow the painter to focus as much attention as possible on painting and animating without being concerned about lighting and technology, and allow for consistency across the photographs being taken in 97 PAWS in 3 studios in 2 countries.”

Co-director Dorota Kobiela explains, “Our team of painters were painstakingly painting 65,000 frames of oil painting, spending up to 10 days painting a second of film, moving each brush-stroke frame by frame. That takes a lot of commitment, a lot of respect for his work.” The production notes point out that “the opening shot of the film, descending through Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, contains over 600 paintings and took three painters a combined total of 14 months to paint.”

Kobiela’s collaborator, Hugh Welchman adds, “Those painters who were animating Vincent style, which is about 70 percent of the film, could only use the reference material as a guide. They had to then re-create it in Vincent style based on Vincent’s paintings and also on the Design Paintings that we made with 20 painters over the course of a year, to create the design and the world of Loving Vincent.

“Once they [the animators] have painted their first frame, then they have to move it 12 times a second [i.e., there are 12 frames a second], and each time that means moving every brush stroke, so they are animating the brush-strokes.”

All those involved deserve credit for their sincere efforts. However, the extraordinary technical achievements over which they have presided and their obviously heartfelt admiration for van Gogh do not insure that the filmmakers profoundly grasp the artist’s life and times. There is no reason to be so overwhelmed by the remarkable imagery and Loving Vincent ’s admirable qualities to the point that one shut one’s eyes to the problems.

In the course of the movie, Gachet’s daughter Marguerite asks Armand at one point: “You want to know so much about his death–but what do you know about his life?” This, unfortunately, is a question that can be posed to Loving Vincent as a project.

Vincent van Gogh was relentlessly driven to look at life in the most honest and untiring fashion. He found it physically and psychologically impossible to live and work in any other manner.

His paintings seem to throb with emotion. But van Gogh was not merely an instinctive painter. He was deeply versed in the history of art. Art historian Meyer Schapiro once commented that van Gogh’s “letters contain remarkable illuminations on the problems of painting; one could construct a whole aesthetic from scattered statements in the letters.”

The painter took great interest in literature as well. He makes references in his letters to writers such as Balzac, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë, Zola, Daudet, the Goncourt brothers, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Huysmans and Turgenev.

He had a strongly developed social conscience and paid considerable attention to the social and economic situation (including strikes) in France and elsewhere.

Van Gogh’s subjects included coal miners, peasants, weavers and manual laborers. He also painted women like Sien Hoornik, whom he met in 1882. As the Van Gogh Museum explains, “She became both his model and his lover. Vincent’s friends and family … were shocked, as Sien was a former prostitute. What’s more, she was pregnant and already had a five-year-old daughter. Vincent felt sorry for Sien, though, and was determined to take care of her. They rented a studio in which she, the little girl and the new baby could all live as well.”

Sorrow [Sien Hoornik], Vincent van Gogh

One of his works of the time, in chalk, watercolor, pen and ink, is entitled “The Poor and Money.” It shows a group of poor people who have shown up to watch a national lottery drawing. “Vincent wrote to his brother Theo that he saw this scene on a rainy day in The Hague,” notes the museum. “He was moved by the vain hope of these shabbily dressed ‘poor souls.’”

These are the people and the milieus to which van Gogh was drawn as an artist and a human being. In July 1882, he wrote to Theo: “Even though I’m often in a mess, inside me there’s still a calm, pure harmony and music. In the poorest little house, in the filthiest corner, I see paintings or drawings. And my mind turns in that direction as if with an irresistible urge. As time passes, other things are increasingly excluded, and the more they are the faster my eyes see the picturesque. Art demands persistent work, work in spite of everything, and unceasing observation.”

And in July 14, 1885, he wrote: “That’s to say, living in those cottages day in and day out, being out in the fields just like the peasants–enduring the heat of the sun in the summer, the snow and frost in the winter, not indoors but outside, and not for a walk, but day in and day out like the peasants themselves.”

Linda Nochlin, in an essay, “Van Gogh, Renouard and the Weavers’ Crisis in Lyons” (in The Politics of Vision), notes that van Gogh much admired the work of Paul Renouard, a popular French illustrator at the time, and asked specifically for a work called “Sans Travail” (“Without Work”), depicting weavers in Lyons whose looms were outdated and who faced starvation. The illustration in question was dedicated by Renouard to Cesar de Paepe, a Flemish printer and prominent socialist who founded the Belgian Workers Party in 1885, a participant in the First International of Marx, from 1867 to 1870, and a collaborator in Europe’s first socialist newspaper.

Van Gogh was committed to depicting reality, as beautiful or ugly and harsh as it might be. “The most touching things the great masters have painted,” Vincent once wrote to Theo, “still originate in life and reality itself.”

On this aspect of van Gogh’s life and on his social and aesthetic concerns, the film is weak. If Loving Vincent encourages people to investigate the painter’s life and work, that is all to the good. But they will have to go beyond what the filmmakers themselves see and understand about this artistic genius.

An interview with a Loving Vincent painter-animator: here.

EuroBirdwatch 2017 results


This video from Moldova is about EuroBirdwatch 2017 there. Featuring bluethroat, black-tailed godwit and others.

From BirdLife:

9 Oct 2017

(Bird)Life through a Lens: EuroBirdwatch 2017

By Christopher Sands

Bird lovers, young and old, across Europe took out their binoculars for the bird-watching highlight of the year – BirdLife’s annual EuroBirdwatch! Over the weekend of 30th September – 1st October, nearly 22,000 people attended 934 different events across 41 countries. And now the results are in!

BirdLife’s ‘EuroBirdwatch 2017’ (30th September – 1st October) hosted almost 22,000 people across 41 countries. In over 934 different events, the magnificence of the autumn migration was in full flight as over 4 million migratory birds were observed making their way south to their wintering places.

A different BirdLife partner takes on the coordinating and data collection role each year to provide us with this amazing snapshot of the weekend. This year SOS/Birdlife Slovakia assembled the aggregate figures and notable moments, which are available in their entirety at www.eurobirdwatch.eu.

A glimpse of some of the excitement includes over 1.2 million birds observed in Finland, among them a Desert Wheatear, 3 Red-flanked Bluetails, and 2 each, Olive-backed Pipits, Dusky Warblers, and Common Firecrests.

Hungary had the most participants with nearly 4,000 enthusiasts showing up and spotting, among other spectacular travelers, a Yellow-browed warbler, Lesser White-fronted goose, Saker falcon, Peregrine falcon, Black stork, Golden plover, Osprey, and Cattle egret.

As mentioned above, with the rare Desert Wheatear in Finland, other highlights included many other rare species, including: a Buff-breasted sandpiper in Sweden; Yellow-browed Warbler in Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Hungary, Latvia and Czechia; Red-throated Pipits in Belarus, Switzerland and Lithuania; White-headed Duck in Uzbekistan; Dusky warbler in Italy; Eleonora’s falcon in Bulgaria; Pallid Harrier in Cyprus and Malta; and the amazing Cory’s Shearwaters migration in Gibraltar.

A tip of the feather to SOS/BirdLife Slovakia for their superb work in collating and organizing the results, and to all of the organizers and participants across the 41 European countries celebrating the natural miracle of migration and wishing all birds travelling south a safe flyway.