Coronavirus crisis, how wildlife reacts

This 3 April 2020 video says about itself:

Wildlife is Returning to Cities

This video is a treasure sent to us, and we take great pleasure in sharing it with you. It is the bittersweet message that the Earth is sending us… yet again. It is as though we were being sent to our rooms to think about what we’ve done to the world.

“Life can survive without us quite nicely, thank you. But we cannot survive without Life.” – Stuart Scott

This 16 March 2020 video says about itself:

Venice canals run clear again in unexpected silver lining of coronavirus lock-down measures

There have been very few positive stories to come out of the coronavirus crisis, but footage filmed on Monday in Venice is evidence of what a small amount of downtime can do to one of the cities in the world worst hit by over-tourism.

The canals of Venice have made headlines multiple times over the past months due to its inability to cope with over-tourism, massive amounts of cruise ships and pollution.

As Italy went into complete lock-down the coronavirus outbreak halted the influx of tourists to ‘The Floating City’. March would normally see approximately 700,000 tourists arrive. However, footage obtained by Ruptly highlights how in a matter of days Venice‘s canals have began to clear up, fish have returned to the streams and the city’s famous old nickname “La Serenissima” (The very serene one) is once again relevant.

Clearing the canals of ferries, gondolas, motor-boats and the waste that comes from their engines, as well as water buses has had an undeniable impact on the local environment and will reignite the discussion of over-tourism in the city once the coronavirus crisis reaches its end and normality resumes. If any good can come of an international crisis such as the one we currently live in, one can only hope that images such as these will push governments towards establishing a better balance between tourism and the environment.

Venice is the capital of the Veneto region, one of Italy’s worst hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Veneto is currently reporting 2,473 cases of coronavirus with 70 deaths thus far. In total Italy has been Europe’s worst-hit region with 27,980 cases and 2,158 deaths to date.

Climate protest at Venice film festival

This 7 September 2017 video from Spanish news agency EFE says about itself:

Environmental activists stage sit-in on Venice Film Festival red carpet

Venice, Italy, (Camera: Jorge Ortiz). Hundreds of environmental activists staged a sit-in on the red carpet at Venice‘s Film Festival on Saturday calling on the international community to declare a climate emergency, winning plaudits from Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and Canadian actor Donald Sutherland.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Hundreds of climate activists have occupied the red carpet for hours on the final day of the film festival in Venice. They demanded action against climate change and a ban on big cruise ships to dock in Venice any longer.

The more than three hundred participants, some dressed in white overalls, had signs with slogans such as Grandi navi no (no big ships) and Big ships kill Venice. The police kept a close eye on the demonstrators, but the demonstration was peaceful. The demonstrators left around noon.

The demonstrators were supported by Rolling Stones leader Mick Jagger and actor Donald Sutherland, who are in Venice for the premiere of the thriller The burnt orange heresy, in which they both play a role.

“I’m glad they do this because they’re the ones who inherit the planet“, Jagger said at a press conference. He also criticized the US American government, which he says is in the process of reversing all the environmental measures taken.

According to Sutherland, environmentalists must fight harder for their aims and deserve all the support they can get. He was also critical of the leaders of some major countries. “If you are my age, 85, and you have children and grandchildren, then you do not leave them anything at all if you do not vote those people in Brazil, London and Washington out. They are destroying the earth.”

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.

Right-wing Italian mayor wants death without trial for ‘Allahu akbar’

This video about Italy says about itself:

Venice Gay Pride: Mayor Brugnaro ‘wants to ban parade’

27 August 2015

The mayor of Venice has been quoted as saying that he will try to ban Gay Pride parades in the city, provoking fury from gay rights activists.

“There will be no gay pride in my Venice,” Luigi Brugnaro told La Repubblica newspaper, describing the event as farcical and kitsch.

The head of an Italian gay rights group criticised the mayor and invited him to join the next Pride parade in Venice.

“We will be back next year and we invite the mayor to march at the head of the parade with us,” Flavio Romani, from the Arcigay group, told AFP news agency. “That way he will see what a Gay Pride really is.”

He accused the mayor of trying to impose his views on a “cosmopolitan city”.

In the interview with La Repubblica newspaper (in Italian), Mr Brugnaro said he firmly opposed hosting the parade in Venice.

Mr Brugnaro earlier provoked controversy by withdrawing books that depicted same-sex families from Venice’s nurseries and primary schools.

The British pop star Elton John was among those who condemned the move, calling the mayor “boorishly bigoted” in an Instagram post.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

Mayor of Venice repeats: “Who calls Allahu Akbar here will be shot straight away”

The death penalty was abolished in Italy in 1889. Except for Mussolini‘s fascist dictatorship. Under Mussolini, the death penalty could, in theory, only be applied after a trial (in practice, a trial at a fascist kangaroo court). Now, the far-right mayor of Venice wants the death penalty without trial; not even kangaroo court trial. Not for murder; not for rape. For saying two words.

‘Allahu akbar’ means ‘God is the greatest‘ in Arabic. It is a very common saying in mostly Muslim countries; eg, at funerals. The expression expresses the hope of the person using the saying that the forces of good will ultimately prevail, even in difficult circumstances.

In a very small percentage of the saying being used, it is by ISIS or similar terrorists during acts of violence. It was also said by Canadian islamophobic terrorist and Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen supporter Alexandre Bissonnette as he committed mass murder at a Quebec mosque, as a cynical reference to Islam intended to wrongfoot police investigations.

However, in far over 99% of cases, saying ‘Allahu akbar’ has nothing to do with terrorism. Just like saying ‘Thank God’ or a similar expression from a Christian tradition in the big majority of cases does not mean that the person saying it is a Christian fundamentalist terrorist aiming at killing supposedly ‘un-Christian’ persons.

The right-wing mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro,

According to Wikipedia:

Luigi Brugnaro is an … Italian politician, entrepreneur, business executive and the current Mayor of Venice, an office he took a hold of on June 15, 2015. …

Brugnaro has attracted controversy via his banning of forty nine books about discrimination and or homosexuality from the city’s schools, including a French Book on gay parenting entitled “Jean Has Two Mums”, and in declaring that there will be no gay pride parade in Venice.

The Volkskrant article continues:

wants frontier justice for potential terrorists. Anyone who enters the busy San Marco square and calls ‘Allahu akbar’ will, according to Brugnaro, be shot after three steps. …

Brugnaro: ‘Last year I said they will be shot after four steps, now I say: after three steps. I will say it in Venetian: ‘Ghe sparemo’. (‘We’ll shoot them’) ….

Brugnaro did not say what police would do if someone would call Allahu Akbar as a joke.

#BlackLivesMatter at Venice biennale art exhibition, Italy

This video says about itself:

“Freed But Not Free”: Artists at the Venice Biennale Respond to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

11 August 2015

After the fourth day of protests over Michael Brown’s death, authorities have declared a state of emergency in St. Louis County, drawing worldwide attention.

We look at the state of the Black Lives Matter movement and the art world with two participants in the Creative Time Summit alongside the Venice Biennale in Italy. “At the moment we are dealing with Black Lives Matter and the violence against black and brown people in the United States, Europe is experiencing incredible deaths of black people here too,” says author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, noting the “perilous state of people worldwide that have been subjugated to white supremacy and capitalism.”

Rhodes-Pitts is the author of “Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America,” part of a trilogy she is working on about African Americans and utopia. We are also joined by Charles Gaines, a pioneering conceptual artist who teaches at California Institute of the Arts.

Transcript of this is here.

Protests continued Monday night and early Tuesday morning in Ferguson, Missouri in defiance of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s declaration of a state of emergency across St. Louis County earlier that day. Hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered in the evening, demanding justice for Michael Brown and an end to police brutality: here.

Homophobic mayor in Venice, Italy

This 2014 video is called Homophobia as seen by youth in Italy.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

New Mayor of Venice Luigi Brugnaro bans books about homosexuality from city schools

Certain books are being collected by authorities so they can “verify” they are suitable for young children

Doug Bolton

Thursday 09 July 2015

Venice‘s new mayor has been heavily criticised for his decision to ban books dealing with homosexuality from the city’s schools.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has banned a total of 49 books covering homosexuality and discrimination from schools, fulfilling one of his campaign promises.

Books banned include a French book titled ‘Jean Has Two Mums’, a story of a wolf family where the cub has two mothers.

Brugnaro has defended himself, saying he will “not be intimidated” by the criticism, which has taken the form of groups organising public readings of the banned books, and public libraries actively encouraging visitors to read them.

He added: “Parents need to educate their children on these things, not schools.”

According to a statement posted on Brugnaro’s website, authorities have collected all the books in question from across the city’s schools, and will “verify” them to make sure they are “suitable for preschoolers”.

Books that deal with religious, racial or disability-related discrimination have been collected by authorities for analysis, but the statement says they will “certainly be redistributed” at some point.

However, he said that books that deal with homosexuality may be kept out of school libraries for good.

The Mayor’s statement criticised the “cultural arrogance” of previous administrations, that have introduced the banned books into schools “without asking anything to anyone, especially to families.”

Any type of same-sex union, whether civil partnership or full marriage, is not recognised in Italy and unobtainable in the country.

For years there has been a push to make the government introduce civil unions, a cause that has received a boost recently following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland and the USA.

However, it has been met by a backlash from other groups, who see an introduction of same-sex unions as an affront to traditional Italian values.

The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, supports the cause, and Italy’s senate is currently looking a a bill which Renzi hopes will allow same-sex partnerships by the end of July.

Italian police homophobia: here.

British poet Attila the Stockbroker in Venice, Italy

This video is called Venice, Island Treasure – Documentary

Poet Attila the Stockbroker from England writes:

Beyond the tourist trail in the city of canals and contradictions

Thursday 19th Sep 2013

Attila the Stockbroker visits the city built on water

My wife and I have been married for 13 years next month but until a couple of weeks ago we’d never had a proper holiday.

Sure, she’s been all over the world with me on tour, lugged instruments and bags of CDs and T-shirts from Auckland to Oslo, but never been anywhere there were no gigs, impassioned political discussions, timetable to follow and venues to get to.

However, a couple of weeks ago all that changed. We went to Venice, a place she has dreamed of visiting for 40-odd years and I have never seen her so happy. It was wonderful.

I know it’s a cliche, but cliches happen for reasons. Venice is the most beautiful place I have ever been.

A city built on water, it’s a living monument to human ingenuity and creativity and the absence of cars and garish advertising boards makes it even more special.

It was absolutely heaving with tourists, including some from the US who conformed so grotesquely to awful stereotypes that we were occasionally reduced to quiet hysterics – but we were tourists too, of course. And 15 minutes’ walk from the centre the crowds were gone and we were in a different world.

I‘ve always taken at least as much notice of the posters and graffiti in a city as the architecture because it’s a great way of judging the local mood. Despite the beauty of their surroundings – which they probably take for granted, as we do the industrial port and sewage outfall near where I live – many Venetians are not happy.

Their traditional way of life is being eroded by the almost exclusive concentration on tourism and, with the sheer volume of visitors, young people are moving away in droves due to the lack of affordable accommodation and jobs outside the so-called service industries.

And there is palpable anger at the ecological and social impact of the huge cruise ships which visit Venice daily and dwarf everything else on the horizon.

In between all the lovely romance and architecture there was, inevitably, time for some beer and football. Seeking out the fruits of the local small independent breweries, I found many of them at Aldo’s Bar in the Cannaregio district.

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday at the football in the company of Enrico – singer of legendary Verona anti-fascist band Los Fastidios – and his friends, watching Virtus Verona play Castiglione in the 4th Division.

Virtus are firmly committed to opposing the ghastly right-wing image associated with football in Verona where Hellas, the city’s main team, have a notorious fascist following.

Virtus, whose motto is Che Guevara‘s slogan Hasta la victoria siempre, are going from strength to strength.

Any football-loving comrades visiting the area can be assured of a very warm welcome.

And, on the subject of the fascist threat, what the hell is happening in Greece? The power and strength of the Greek Communist Party is such that they could have wiped out Golden Dawn when they first started.

Now fascist thugs are openly attacking communists in the street.

It’s time for urgent action to unite and defeat fascism on the streets.

In Venice, environmentalists tally rare win over tourism: here.

Marco Polo really was in China

This video is called Marco Polo ~ Inspiration of Exploration : A History Fair Documentary.

From the Universitaet Tübingen in Germany:

Marco Polo was not a swindler – he really did go to China

16 April 2012

A thorough new study of Chinese sources by University of Tübingen Sinologist Hans Ulrich Vogel dispels claims that Venice’s most famous traveler never truly went as far as China.

It has been said that Marco Polo did not really go to China; that he merely cobbled together his information about it from journeys to the Black Sea, Constantinople and Persia and from talking to merchants and reading now-lost Persian books. But in Marco Polo was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues, (Brill Verlag) Hans Ulrich Vogel, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Tübingen, puts paid to such rumors. He begins with a comprehensive review of the arguments for and against, and follows it up with evidence from relevant Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, German and Spanish literature. The result is compelling: despite a few, well-known problems with Marco Polo’s writings, they are supported by an overwhelming number of verified accounts about China containing unique information given over centuries.

Doubts have been raised since the mid-eighteenth century about Marco Polo’s presence in China. Skeptics have pointed out that Marco Polo did not mention the Great Wall. Yet research in the East and the West have shown that the Great Wall as we know it is a product of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and that earlier earth walls had long since disintegrated and had lost the military role they played in the Mongol Empire. Another argument often used is that Marco, his father and his uncle are not mentioned in any Chinese document. However, this argument overestimates the frequency of documentation and the intentions of Chinese historiographers. Even Giovanni de Marignolli (1290-1357), an important papal envoy at the court of the Yuan rulers, is not mentioned in any Chinese sources – nor his 32-man retinue, nor the name of the pope. Only the “heavenly horse” sent as tribute from the “Kingdom of Franks” in 1342 gets a mention.

Professor Vogel also examines an area so complex and which requires such a high level of historical expertise that it has largely been neglected – Marco Polo’s descriptions of currency, salt production and revenues from the salt monopoly. Vogel concludes that no other Western, Arab, or Persian observer reported in such accurate and unique detail about the currency situation in Mongol China. The Venetian traveler is the only one to describe precisely how paper for money was made from the bark of the mulberry tree (morusalba l.)

sic; Morus alba

He not only details the shape and size of the paper, he also describes the use of seals and the various denominations of paper money. He reports on the monopolizing of gold, silver, pearls and gems by the state – which enforced a compulsory exchange for paper money – and the punishment for counterfeiters, as well as the 3% exchange fee for worn-out notes and the widespread use of paper money in official and private transactions.

Marco Polo is also the only one among his contemporaries to explain that paper money was not in circulation in all parts of China. It was used primarily in the north and in the regions along the Yangtze, but not in Fujian and certainly not in Yunnan, where according to Polo, cowries, salt, gold and silver were the main currencies. This information is confirmed by Chinese sources and by archaeological evidence. Most of these sources were collated or translated long after Marco Polo’s time – so he could not have drawn on them. He could not read Chinese.

Marco Polo’s description of salt production is also accurate and unique. He lists the most important salt production centers known to him: Changlu, Lianghuai, Liangzhe, and Yunnan, as well as the authorities administering them. His report of the methods used to make salt in Changlu checks out with Chinese documents of the Yuan era. Salt in the Venetian monopoly was produced in a different way. This and other information, the accuracy of which has not yet been fully appreciated, all indicate that Marco Polo really did serve the Great Khan. Chinese sources show that he was not the only young man to be taken under the wing of Kublai Khan (1215-1294) and entrusted with important tasks. Marco Polo’s claims of the value of salt production – for instance, that the revenues from Kinsay brought in 5.8 million saggi of gold annually – can be checked against the exchange rate for paper money, bringing Professor Vogel to the conclusion that Polo knew what he was talking about. This book, based on work carried out in the DFG Research Training Group 596 “Monies, Markets and Finance in China and East Asia, 1500-1900” provides ample evidence that Marco Polo did go to China.

See also, in German, here.

An article published in Science earlier this year calls the intercontinental trade network that crossed the Indian Ocean a “Maritime Silk Road” that once powered more East-West commerce than the famous land route. However, a lack of archaeological and historical research in the region has resulted in a focus generally placed on the 6,000-kilometre-long Silk Road, traveled and recorded by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century. Researchers have largely ignored the fact that Polo returned to Europe by means of the Indian Ocean, and one twentieth century scholar even called the Indian Ocean “scarcely more than an extension of the eastern Mediterranean”: here.

Coral reef grows in Venice, Italy

This video is called Venice, Italy – August 3 2006.

From the Daily Telegraph in England:

Venice flood barrier blossoms into coral reef

By Malcolm Moore in Rome

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 02/04/2008

A coral reef has bloomed in the Adriatic Sea on the site where a tidal barrier is being constructed to protect Venice.

Marine biologists said the Mose project – a Thames Barrier-style defence around the Venetian lagoon – has proven an irresistible magnet to rare coral, fish and crustaceans.

They have discovered more than 150 different species, including the giant pen shell (Pinna nobilis), an endangered bivalve that can grow up to 3ft long and is normally found in the warmer waters around Sardinia.

The reef, on the mile-long rock and cement barrier, has taken hold in just two years and is also being visited by the Dustbin-Lid jellyfish (Rhizostoma octupus), the largest in the Mediterranean, which can measure up to 2ft across.

Andrea Rismondo, a marine biologist at the University of Padua said: “This barrier was built for an entirely different purpose. However, the structure has become an amazing meeting point for all sorts of fish, flora and fauna.”

He added that because of global warming, the waters around Venice can now host the sort of fish and coral that were previously found only in the southern Mediterranean or Red Sea.

Bikini corals recover from atomic blast; but not all species of them: here. See photos here.

Great Barrier Reef: here.

No-take marine reserves, in which fishing is completely banned, can lead to very rapid comebacks of the fish species most prized by commercial and recreational fisheries, reveals a new study of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef published in the June 24th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication: here.

De Wit has conducted studies at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where he and his colleagues have found four entirely new species of the Grania worm. One of them is the beautifully green-coloured Grania colorata: here.

Ten years to save Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: here.

New Coral Reefs Discovered in Iceland: here.

Coding Early Naturalists’ Accounts into Long-Term Fish Community Changes in the Adriatic Sea (1800–2000): here.

Cave-dwelling corals in the Mediterranean can work alongside one another to catch and eat stinging jellyfish, a study reveals: here.