CIA Romanian torture prison discovered, 2011

This video says about itself:

AP Exclusive: Inside Romania’s Secret CIA Prison

7 December 2011

For years, the CIA used a government building in Bucharest, Romania as a makeshift prison for its most valuable detainees.

From Associated Press, 8 December 2011:

Inside Romania’s secret CIA prison

WASHINGTON: In northern Bucharest, in a busy residential neighbourhood minutes from the heart of the capital city, is a secret the Romanian government has long tried to protect.

For years, the CIA used a government building — codenamed “Bright Light” — as a makeshift prison for its most valuable detainees. There it held Al-Qaeda operatives Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, and others in a basement prison before they were ultimately transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006, according to former US intelligence officials familiar with the location and inner workings of the prison.

The existence of a CIA prison in Romania has been widely reported, but its location has never been made public. The Associated Press and German public television ARD located the former prison and learned details of the facility where harsh interrogation tactics were used. ARD’s program on the CIA prison is set to air Thursday.

The Romanian prison was part of a network of so-called black sites that the CIA operated and controlled overseas in Thailand, Lithuania and Poland. …

Unlike the CIA’s facility in Lithuania’s countryside or the one hidden in a Polish military installation, the CIA’s prison in Romania was not in a remote location. It was hidden in plain sight, a couple blocks off a major boulevard on a street lined with trees and homes, along busy train tracks.

The building is used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information, which is also known as ORNISS. Classified information from Nato and the European Union is stored there. Former intelligence officials both described the location of the prison and identified pictures of the building.

In an interview at the building in November, senior ORNISS official Adrian Camarasan said the basement is one of the most secure rooms in all of Romania. But he said Americans never ran a prison there.

“No, no. Impossible, impossible,” he said in an ARD interview for its “Panorama” news broadcast, as a security official monitored the interview.

The CIA prison opened for business in the fall of 2003, after the CIA decided to empty the black site in Poland, according to former US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the detention program with reporters.

Shuttling detainees into the facility without being seen was relatively easy. After flying into Bucharest, the detainees were brought to the site in vans. CIA operatives then drove down a side road and entered the compound through a rear gate that led to the actual prison.

The detainees could then be unloaded and whisked into the ground floor of the prison and into the basement.

The basement consisted of six prefabricated cells, each with a clock and arrow pointing to Makkah, the officials said. The cells were on springs, keeping them slightly off balance and causing disorientation among some detainees.

The CIA declined to comment on the prison.

During the first month of their detention, the detainees endured sleep deprivation and were doused with water, slapped or forced to stand in painful positions, several former officials said. Waterboarding, the notorious interrogation technique that simulates drowning, was not performed in Romania, they said.

Former US officials said that because the building was a government installation, it provided excellent cover. The prison didn’t need heavy security because area residents knew it was owned by the government. People wouldn’t be inclined to snoop in post-communist Romania, with its extensive security apparatus known for spying on the country’s own citizens.

Human rights activists have urged the Eastern European countries to investigate the roles their governments played in hosting the prisons in which interrogation techniques such as waterboarding were used. Officials from these countries continue to deny these prisons ever existed.

“We know of the criticism, but we have no knowledge of this subject,” Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a September interview with AP.

The CIA has tried to close the book on the detention program, which President Barack Obama ended shortly after taking office.

“That controversy has largely subsided,” the CIA’s top lawyer, Stephen Preston, said at a conference this month.

But details of the prison network continue to trickle out through investigations by international bodies, reporters and human rights groups. “There have been years of official denials,” said Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker who led an investigation into the CIA secret prisons for the Council of Europe. “We are at last beginning to learn what really happened in Bucharest.”

During the Council of Europe’s investigation, Romania’s foreign affairs minister assured investigators in a written report that, “No public official or other person acting in an official capacity has been involved in the unacknowledged deprivation of any individual, or transport of any individual while so deprived of their liberty.” That report also described several other government investigations into reports of a secret CIA prison in Romania and said: “No such activities took place on Romanian territory.”

Reporters and human rights investigators have previously used flight records to tie Romania to the secret prison program. Flight records for a Boeing 737 known to be used by the CIA showed a flight from Poland to Bucharest in September 2003. …

Later, other detainees — Ramzi Binalshibh, Abd al-Nashiri and Abu Faraj al-Libi — were also moved to Romania. …

Court documents recently discovered in a lawsuit have also added to the body of evidence pointing to a CIA prison in Romania. The files show CIA contractor Richmor Aviation Inc., a New York-based charter company, operated flights to and from Romania along with other locations including Morocco and the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

For the CIA officers working at the secret prison, the assignment wasn’t glamorous. The officers served 90-day tours, slept on the compound and ate their meals there, too. Officers were prevented from the leaving the base after their presence in the neighbourhood stoked suspicion. One former officer complained that the CIA spent most of its time baby-sitting detainees like Binalshibh and Mohammed whose intelligence value diminished as the years passed.

The Romanian and Lithuanian sites were eventually closed in the first half of 2006 before CIA Director Porter Goss left the job. Some of the detainees were taken to Kabul, where the CIA could legally hold them before they were sent to Guantanamo. Others were sent back to their native countries.

The detailed and engrossing 2008 book, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America, by Hugh Wilford investigates the CIA’s ideological struggle from 1947 to 1967 to win “hearts and minds” for US capitalism and to prosecute the Cold War: here.

‘Bring European bison back to Dutch nature reserve’

This 13 June 2015 video is about bringing back European Bison to the Romanian Carpathians.

Regional TV Omroep Brabant in the Netherlands reports today that the management of nature reserve De Maashorst between Oss and Uden wants to introduce European bison.

Local authorities will still have to give permission for this. The (conservative) VVD political party has objections.

Human with Neanderthal ancestry discovery

This video says about itself:

16 September 2014

Nova – Decoding Neanderthals (PBS Documentary)

By Jennifer Viegas:

Ancient Human With 10 Percent Neanderthal Genes Found

June 22, 2015 11:00 AM ET

DNA from a man who lived 40,000 years ago in Romania reveals that up to 11 percent of his genome came from Neanderthals.

Because large segments of the individual’s chromosomes are of Neanderthal origin, a Neanderthal was among the man’s ancestors as recently as four generations back in his family tree, reports a study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

The finding reveals that some of the first members of our species who came to Europe interbred with the local Neanderthals.

To this day, individuals of European and Asian heritage retain Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, but whether or not Neanderthals went extinct or simply were absorbed into the modern human population remains a matter of definition, senior author Svante Pääbo told Discovery News.

“Some Neanderthals clearly became incorporated in modern human societies,” said Pääbo, director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It is still unclear exactly how much of the complete Neanderthal genome exists today in people, but it seems to approach something like 40 percent.”

“But, of course, the Neanderthals are clearly extinct in the sense that they do not exist as an independent, separate group since some 30,000 or 40,000 years.”

David Reich from Harvard Medical School coordinated the population genetic analysis of the study, which was an international effort. At the center of the research were the remains of the man, named “Oase 1,” unearthed at a cave system called Peștera cu Oase in Romania.

The researchers believe that the man derived from the same expansion out of Africa as other modern people, but was likely to have been part of an early “pioneer foray into Europe,” ahead of other migrations that were to come later.

Under what conditions his relatives, and those of other early Neanderthal-human hybrids, interbred is a big question.

Chris Stringer, an expert on early humans at the Natural History Museum in London, posed some intriguing questions about the matings.

“Were these peaceful exchanges of partners, raids which stole women or girls, or even the adoption of orphaned babies?” he asked, adding that the answer remains a mystery.

What is clear is that the interbreeding took place at different times and locations. This particular individual, Oase 1, did not contribute much, if at all, to later modern human populations, however. Pääbo explained that whatever population he represented seems to have “disappeared,” leaving behind no known tools or other artifacts.

Romanian fossil Balaur, dinosaur or bird?

This 2011 video is called Ancient Reptile Tribute Three: Balaur bondoc / Dromaeosaurid – Dinosaur.

From PeerJ:

The phylogenetic affinities of the bizarre Late Cretaceous Romanian theropod Balaur bondoc (Dinosauria, Maniraptora): dromaeosaurid or flightless bird?

June 18, 2015


The exceptionally well-preserved Romanian dinosaur Balaur bondoc is the most complete theropod known to date from the Upper Cretaceous of Europe. Previous studies of this remarkable taxon have included its phylogenetic interpretation as an aberrant dromaeosaurid with velociraptorine affinities.

However, Balaur displays a combination of both apparently plesiomorphic and derived bird-like characters. Here, we analyse those features in a phylogenetic revision and show how they challenge its referral to Dromaeosauridae. Our reanalysis of two distinct phylogenetic datasets focusing on basal paravian taxa supports the reinterpretation of Balaur as an avialan more crownward than Archaeopteryx but outside of Pygostylia, and as a flightless taxon within a paraphyletic assemblage of long-tailed birds.

Our placement of Balaur within Avialae is not biased by character weighting. The placement among dromaeosaurids resulted in a suboptimal alternative that cannot be rejected based on the data to hand. Interpreted as a dromaeosaurid, Balaur has been assumed to be hypercarnivorous and predatory, exhibiting a peculiar morphology influenced by island endemism.

However, a dromaeosaurid-like ecology is contradicted by several details of Balaur’s morphology, including the loss of a third functional manual digit, the non-ginglymoid distal end of metatarsal II, and a non-falciform ungual on the second pedal digit that lacks a prominent flexor tubercle. Conversely, an omnivorous ecology is better supported by Balaur’s morphology and is consistent with its phylogenetic placement within Avialae. Our reinterpretation of Balaur implies that a superficially dromaeosaurid-like taxon represents the enlarged, terrestrialised descendant of smaller and probably volant ancestors.

Some time round about 165 million years ago, the group of small, feathered dinosaurs that we call birds evolved from within the theropod radiation (theropods are the so-called ‘predatory dinosaurs’: the great group that includes animals like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor as well as the birds). As anyone reasonably familiar with recent palaeontological discoveries will know, we’re now aware of a large number of fossils that blur and smudge whatever distinction there might have been between ‘dinosaur’ and ‘bird’: here.

French racist mayor refuses Roma baby girl’s burial

Cemetery of Champlan in France

From Al Jazeera:

French mayor slammed over Roma burial denial

Paris suburb mayor accused of racism after refusal to allow baby of ethnic minority to be buried in municipal cemetery.

Last updated: 03 Jan 2015 23:28

The mayor of a Paris suburb has been accused of racism following his refusal to allow a Roma baby to be buried in the municipal cemetery.

Christian Leclerc, the mayor of Champlan, has explained his refusal on the grounds that the cemetery has “few available plots.”

“Priority is given to those who pay their local taxes,” Leclerc was quoted by Le Parisien daily as saying.

Critics, however, believe his decision to refuse the nearly three-month-old girl a final resting place was motivated by anti-Roma sentiment.

“It’s racism, xenophobia, and stigmatisation,” Loic Gandais, president of an association helping Roma families in the region, said.

Gandais accused Leclerc of hiding behind the fact that the baby, identified only as Maria Francesca, was pronounced dead in another town.

The infant was rushed to hospital on December 26 in the nearby town of Corbeil-Essonnes, where she was declared dead from sudden infant death syndrome.

The child’s parents are Romanian natives who have lived in France for at least eight years, according to supporters. Their two other children are attending school in Champlan.

Roma plight

Faced with the mayor’s refusal, they have arranged for their daughter to be laid to rest on Monday in the town of Wissous, a few kilometres from Champlan.

Most of France’s roughly 20,000 Roma live in makeshift settlements with little or no access to basic amenities.

Successive governments have drawn fire for demolishing numerous camps and evicting families with children, although some in France have supported a tough approach.

Roma families in Champlan live on two plots of land without water or electricity.

Though many towns around Paris struggle to integrate Roma migrants some have been moved by the plight of Maria Francesca’s parents.

Explaining his offer to host the burial the conservative mayor of Wissous, Richard Trinquier, told AFP it was “a question of humanity”.

“The pain of a mother who carried a child for nine months, and lost her after two and a half months must not be worsened.”

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

An advocacy group for French Roma speaks of shame and calls this racism of the right-wing mayor. “They just do not want Roma, dead or alive. It is inhumane. There is not a shred of empathy.”

“How can they refuse this? It’s disgusting, unfair, inhumane. A Roma family feels as much pain as French parents at the loss of a child.”

See also here. And here. And here.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

The row over Maria Francesca’s grave has coincided with another episode that points to the erosion of the barriers that once existed in France between the “mainstream” centre-right (including the heirs of Charles de Gaulle) and the far right FN (composed partly of the heirs of the collaborationist Vichy regime of 1940-44). Senior officials in the junior movements of both the FN and Mr Sarkozy’s UMP held a joint celebration on New Year’s Eve and posted selfies on the internet.

The UMP demanded an explanation from party members. Former President Sarkozy took over the leadership of the party again in November. He plans to move the UMP to the right on issues such as immigration – but to refuse all dealings with the Front National.

Plant, snake discoveries in Romania

This video is called Eryx jaculus – snake.

From BirdLife:

Autumn of discoveries: SOR welcomes new findings in the Romanian flora and fauna

By Alessia Calderalo, Mon, 20/10/2014 – 11:34

For the Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR, BirdLife Partner) the autumn of 2014 will be remembered as one of the most rewarding periods since the society began its work in conservation. Two important discoveries have been made in the area of Romanian flora and fauna; our colleagues in SOR are proud to share them with the BirdLife Partnership.

The first good news came in early May, when biologist Matis Attila was mapping habitats in the Dumbrăveni Forest Natural Reserve, a Natura 2000 site. While working, he discovered a plant that had never been seen in Romania before- the Hairy Broomrape Orobanche pubescens. However, it was not until September that he was able to confirm his identification. This plant normally lives in the Mediterranean Basin, in countries such as Greece and even Bulgaria, but not in Romania. “It is not an invasive species because it was not brought artificially into our ecosystem. Maybe the plant has been here before and nobody noticed, since the members of the Orobanchaceae family are hard to determine”, said Matis. Hairy Broomrape is a parasite that takes its water and minerals from the roots of a host plant. From now on, anyone who is interested in seeing the Orobanche pubescens will have be able to do so at the Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca, where it will be growing with the other 650,000 plants of their collection.

The second, very exciting moment came with the discovery of several specimens of Javelin sand boa Eryx jaculus, a non-poisonous, non-aggressive snake that had not been seen alive in Romania since 1937. The anonymous person who made the finding reported it via a Facebook message to Vlad Cioflec, herpetologist and SOR member, noting the discovery of one specimen of this small snake. Vlad set up a team with Corina, his wife and fellow herpetologist together with wildlife photographer, Doru Panaitescu. The trio promptly went to the site, where they discovered other individuals: a female and six youngsters that were photographed, filmed and returned to their burrows. In 1986 and again in 2011, individual snakes were found dead in Romania, but no Javelin sand boa had been found alive in the country since before World War II. The fact that not only one but seven individuals have been found this time gives the experts reason to think that a viable population is possible in Romania.

This video is about the recent discovery of Javelin sand boas in Romania.

Both discoveries have raised the hopes of biologists at SOR, whose work is dedicated to ensuring that Romanian ecosystems expand in variety and richness. If you wish to know more about these findings, please contact Ovidiu Bufnila, Communications Officer at SOR.