Pro-refugee Dutch board game


This 2005 hip hop music video from Sweden about refugees is Fort Europa by LoopTroop, with lyrics.

The new Fortress Europe board game, photo Maurice Vos/RTV Drenthe

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Board game to better understand refugees

Today, 09:30

What happens to an asylum seeker during his flight? What choices does he have to make? Refugee Support in the Northern Netherlands has developed a new board game, Fort Europa [Fortress Europe]. A game to better understand refugees.

At the invitation of the Centre for Visual Arts in Assen ten participants this Thursday put themselves in the shoes of a refugee. Playfully they learned what a refugee runs up against, what it takes to successfully leave one’s own country and the choices he has to make in order to enter the country of destination.

Good reasons

“Fortress Europe is a game where players get information on what having to flee means. Refugees are not refugees for the heck of it, they often have good reasons,” said Monique Berends of Refugee Support in the Northern Netherlands to RTV Drenthe.

Istahil Adulahi is one of the contestants who have played the game. She fled 20 years ago from Somalia to the Netherlands. “I think it’s funny to remember it this way. Gosh, was I really through all that?”

People traffickers

According to Abulahi the game is realistic. “I have also had to deal with people smugglers. I had no idea where I was going and had to blindly trust those people.”

Various departments of Refugee Support in the Netherlands have the game. Associations and schools can apply for the game and play it together with an employee companion of Refugee Support.

Warm welcome for refugees in Canada: here.

Syrian refugee family reunited in B.C. after more than 10 years apart. A Syrian man who has been waiting more than 10 years for his sons to join him in Canada had a tearful reunion with them at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday: here.

See this 10 December 2015 video.

Thousands of beluga whales, video


This video says about itself:

23 November 2015

Season 16 Episode 2: Drone Art

Arctic Watch photographer Nansen Weber undertook the mission of filming on the Northwest Passage with the use of a drone.

Nansen spent four weeks filming at Arctic Watch and around Somerset Island. This video aims to share some of the magical wonders of the Northwest Passage – the beluga congregation of Cunningham Inlet, the polar bears living in the environment and the unique landscapes of this hidden gem in Canada.

Nansen Weber is the first to film high Arctic wildlife with the use of a drone.

Shot uniquely on the coast of Somerset Island, this video showcases one of the last beluga nurseries on earth – Cunningham Inlet. Nearly two thousand whales congregate annually within this inlet.

Bald eagle saved in Canada


Michael and Neil Fletcher pose for a selfie with the bald eagle they rescued near Windy Lake Facebook

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Canadian brothers take selfie with bald eagle after saving trapped bird’s life

The siblings were hunting for grouse when they came across the bird caught in a claw trap

Kate Ng

29 November 2015

A pair of Canadian brothers took a ‘selfie’ with a bald eagle after rescuing the bird from a trap.

Brothers Michael and Neil Fletcher, from Ontario, were hunting for grouse in Windy Lake, Onaping when they found the bird of prey caught in a claw trap.

Michael told local newspaper The Sudbury Star they were driving through an open area when Neil thought he saw an eagle. After exploring the area on foot, they saw movement and walked toward it, where they found the huge bird on the ground.

The eagle had one of its talons stuck in a claw trap, a type of trap used by fur harvesters.

Michael said: “It was attached to a stake and the eagle was trying to fly up, but it only had a foot of slack in the chain.”

He explained how the huge bird calmed down when they covered its head with a hoodie and held on to it while working on the trap’s release mechanism.

“It calmed right down,” he said. “It didn’t really fuss or give any sign of aggression. I don’t know if it knew we were helping him, or what.”

After the bird was freed, the brothers removed the hood and held it up to take a selfie. Michael filmed Neil hoisting it up to shoulder height and giving it a push. The eagle flapped off into a nearby tree, where it stayed till the men left.

“I was surprised by the size, and that it’s such a beautiful bird,” said Michael. “When you see the eyes up close, they’re really amazing.”

They later contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, who thanked them for freeing the eagle and said they would be contacting the trapper about setting the trap up differently.

Refugees news update


This video from Canada says about itself:

Refugees Welcome! March Through Vancouver

6 September 2015

Rally held today on Coast Salish Territories, standing up with the global movement in solidarity with refugees and demanding Canada repeal exclusionary refugee policies. Part of 18 actions across the country.

By Janet Browning and Roger Jordan in Canada:

Canada: Right seeks to whip up backlash against refugees

24 November 2015

A right-wing, fear-mongering campaign has been whipped up in Canada by much of the political establishment and media in the 10 days since the Paris terrorist attacks.

Claiming that Syrian refugees constitute a “security threat,” the Conservatives and other right-wing forces are demanding the new Liberal government abandon its pledge to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees in the country by the end of 2015. Many have baldly declared that “Harper was right,” a reference to the former Conservative Prime Minister who callously resisted demands to take in more than a trickle of refugees and put in place mechanisms to effectively prohibit Syrian Muslims from finding refuge in Canada.

The latest attempt to whip up an anti-refugee backlash has included open Islamophobic appeals and has helped fuel a wave of attacks and threats against Canada’s Muslims.

By Martin Kreikenbaum in Germany:

Thousands of refugees stuck on the Balkan route

24 November 2015

Thousands of refugees have been stranded along the Balkan route with almost no care or accommodation after the Balkan countries Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia virtually closed their borders to refugees last week, only allowing asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq to cross.

The borders were shut under pressure from Germany and France so as to allegedly prevent Islamist terrorists from entering the European Union (EU). In fact, the measure, which represents a blatant violation of international agreements on the protection of refugees, is aimed at repulsing as many asylum seekers as possible at Europe’s borders.

At the weekend, the aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) counted up to 6,000 refugees who were temporarily stranded near the Greek city of Idomeni at the Macedonian border and prevented from travelling further. The temporary refugee camp had places for just 900 refugees. Thousands of refugees, including the elderly, children and pregnant women, had to sleep in the open in pouring rain and freezing conditions. There was also no provision of food. Instead, the Greek government deployed additional police officers to the border region to prevent refugees from going further.

When a few hundred refugees nonetheless managed to break through police lines, they were intercepted by the Macedonian border police and sent back. Refugees subsequently occupied the only railway connecting Greece with Macedonia. The camp at Idomeni was transformed into a protest camp.

Some refugees have gone on hunger strike and sewn their mouths shut. They have rejected calls from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to return to Athens. “We will cross or die,” they cried. On quickly improvised banners, they demanded to be allowed to continue their journey. “We are not terrorists. We are just looking for a better life. Please let us go,” one stated.

The division of refugees into national groups has produced bizarre scenes. One family was refused the right to enter Macedonia because only the husband could produce an Afghan passport, while the wife and children only had Iranian citizenship. Thirty-year-old Mohammed Mirzam told news broadcaster Al-Jazeera, “We’re trapped. … They won’t let my family across. We have no money, and we’re waiting without any idea of what is to happen.” Other Afghans were not allowed to cross because they were accused of allegedly falsifying travel documents.

The humanitarian crisis now emerging along the Balkan route began on 19 November, when the Slovenian government announced it would not allow any more economic migrants into the country. A police spokesman told Reuters, “More and more people have entered the country over recent days who we have good reason to believe are economic migrants.” Slovenia would thus only accept migrants from countries where armed conflict was taking place.

But it is the governments in Germany and France who initiated the partial border closings. They are exploiting the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 to further seal off Europe from refugees.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for a “significant strengthening of measures to secure European borders” at a meeting of justice and interior ministers in Brussels last Tuesday. The ministers subsequently agreed that refugees would not only be fingerprinted during registration, but also checked against databases of the European security agencies. Police officers from Europol and the border agencies will supervise the registration at the “hot spots”.

Slovenia, unlike the neighbouring EU member Croatia, is also part of the Schengen zone. In border management, it works closely with the Austrian and German governments. It is therefore likely that the idea of a partial border closing originated with German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who has been agitating for stronger restrictions on the inflow of refugees for weeks. This is also suggested by the justification offered by the Slovenian government. It declared that only refugees from countries at war or in military conflict would gain asylum in Germany and other European countries, while all others would be rejected as “economic migrants”.

The Slovenian government’s move was part of a domino effect in Serbia, Macedonia and Croatia. According to a report by German public broadcaster ARD’s “Tagesschau”, the European Commission in Brussels pressed for the borders to be closed. “That is the intention of Juncker’s plan, that the humanitarian aspect, meaning any assistance, is limited to those affected by war.”

Serbia’s labour and social minister Aleksandr Vulin said his government had no other option but to follow the example of Slovenia and Croatia. “We need to protect our country, and that is why we have brought in reciprocal measures toward those for whom Croatia and Slovenia have no room. We will not allow into Serbia anyone who cannot continue their journey.”

Since the change in course by Slovenia and Croatia was so obviously agreed with the European Union and Germany, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski also announced the closure of the border. At the same time, he warned the EU against exploiting his country as a buffer zone against “economic migrants.”

Gruevski recently was informed at a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban about the Hungarian approach of sealing its borders. Macedonia subsequently also began the construction of a barbed wire fence made available by the Hungarian government.

The sealing of the borders for refugees not from Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq represents a serious violation of human rights, since everyone is entitled to an individual review of an asylum application. For refugees who cannot produce any papers, which is hardly unusual after several weeks of travel, face checks are used to determine who will be allowed to travel further.

“What is taking place here is racial profiling instead of the individual reviewing of each case in accordance with the law,” stated Hagen Kopp from Project Moving Europe. It remains completely unclear why refugees from Eritrea or Somalia are being turned away at the borders, even though they are among those whose need for protection is high within the EU.

The spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Athens, Ketty Kehayioylou, in the Guardian criticised the claim that the rejection of refugees was a necessary measure to prevent terrorists from entering Europe. “This business of placing restrictions and erecting fences to keep terrorists out when terrorists are already in their countries makes no sense whatsoever. Profiling by nationality defies every convention”, she said.

In addition, human rights activists are contending that the conditions facing refugees worsen considerably when borders are closed and they are left in a legal no man’s land. “We fear that precisely at the onset of winter, people will be stranded without accommodation, food or assistance,” a spokesman from MSF said in Serbia.

Thousands of refugees already live homeless on the streets and squares of Athens. … Instead of accepting the refugees who are in need of protection, the EU is using batons and barbed wire against them, leaving them to their fate as winter begins.

Britain: TENS of thousands of refugees and migrants will lose English language lessons as a result of the government’s adult education cuts, it was revealed yesterday: here.

Canadian couple cancel wedding to help Syrian refugees


Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousef had a smaller wedding at Toronto City Hall. Photo: Jim Martin

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Canadian couple cancel wedding to donate money to help Syrian refugees

‘It was definitely the perfect way to start our marriage,’ the pair say

Ashley Cowburn

A couple have cancelled their expensive wedding to donate money to help the plight of Syrian refugees settling in their country.

Canadians Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousef decided to give the cash they would have spent on thier nuptials to charity after being moved by the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy found dead on a Turkish beach in September.

The couple, who got engaged in the summer of 2014, had already booked the venue, hired a caterer and drawn up a guest list of 130 people. But instead of going through with lavish wedding, they cancelled it all and had a small reception at Toronto’s City Hall last month.

Speaking to ABC News, Mrs Jackson said: “We were in the midst of wedding planning in September when that devastating photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi found on a beach came out.

“Like so many other people, we became acutely aware of how bad the situation was getting and how important it was to act and do something positive, so we cancelled the wedding and redirected the funds.”

The couple volunteer for Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, which has been raising money to help cover essential costs for Syrian families resettling in the area. So far the newlyweds have raised $17,500 towards the cause.

Mrs Jackson added: “Our family and friends were absolutely thrilled and supportive… and rather than giving the traditional gift, they made donations to help fund our sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family.”

“Our wedding was perfect…and it was definitely the perfect way to start our marriage.”

“These are people who are fleeing the very destruction of Daesh [ISIS] that we have seen in Paris”: here.

Winnie-the-Pooh’s skull on show in London


Winnie-the-Pooh’s skull

From the Royal College of Surgeons in London, England:

Real Winnie-the-Pooh’s skull displayed at the Royal College of Surgeons

20 November 2015

Winnie-the-Pooh fans will have an opportunity to see the skull of the bear that inspired the much-loved character in A.A. Milne’s stories, at the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum.

Milne, who wrote one of the most popular collections of children’s stories: Winnie-the-Pooh and later The House at Pooh Corner, was a regular visitor to London Zoo. His son, Christopher, named his teddy bear Winnie after a Canadian black bear who lived in the zoo. Named Winnipeg, and Winnie for short, she was the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh.

This video from London days about itself:

The bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh

18 January 2014

Ever wondered how Winnie-the-Pooh got his name? This is the story of Winnie the bear, who arrived at ZSL London Zoo a hundred years ago and who inspired AA Milne‘s iconic honey-loving character.

The RCS article continues:

Visitors to the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum in London will be able to see Winnie’s skull and learn more about her.

Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives at the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“Winnie-the-Pooh remains one of the most popular children’s stories ever since Pooh Bear was brought to life on the pages of A.A Milne’s book in 1926.

“Children and adults who visit the Hunterian Museum will now have an opportunity to learn about the real Winnie and how she inspired A.A. Milne.

“Her story and presence in our collection are a reminder of how learning about animal health can enhance our understanding and care for species around the world.”

Soldier and trained vet, Captain Harry Colebourn bought Winnie when she was a bear cub, and he was en route to fight in the First World War. He had enlisted to look after the cavalry units and named her Winnipeg after his home city in Manitoba, Canada.

Cpt Colebourn’s regiment travelled to Europe at the beginning of the war and he brought Winnie as their mascot while they trained on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. When the regiment was deployed to fight in France in 1914, he left Winnie at London Zoo.

Winnie lived through the war and was visited by A.A. Milne and his son Christopher. Photographs from this time show that Christopher was allowed in Winnie’s enclosure at the zoo. After the war, Cpt Colebourn donated Winnie to London Zoo, where she remained a popular attraction until she died of old age in May 1934.

During a recent review of the RCS’s collections, curators identified Winnie’s skull and the story of this treasured bear. Documents show that when Winnie died at the zoo, her skull was donated to Sir James Frank Colyer (1866-1954) the then curator of the Odontological Museum, which was part of the RCS collections. A dental surgeon, he was the first to report on dental variations and diseases in bears. He analysed a number of animal skulls from the Zoological Society of London to compile his comprehensive book on dental disease in animals (Colyer 1936. Variations and diseases of the teeth of animals).

At the time, Colyer noted in Winnie’s skull the loss of teeth, thickening of the alveolar process and sockets filled with bone. He associated this with Winnie’s extremely old age and her food habits. Recent examination of the skull shows that Winnie suffered from chronic periodontitis (an inflammation and/or loss of connective tissues supporting or surrounding the teeth). Colyer’s book, and the skulls featured in it (including Winnie’s), have now become valuable research specimens for biologists and zoo vets who need to treat captive animals for dental diseases.

See also here.