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Thread: All Down The Line

  1. #151
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    A closer look ...
    And it's not all sugar and spice ...




    The New Silk Road, Part 1: From China to Pakistan | DW Documentary

    The New Silk Road is a mammoth project intended to connect China with the West. It's a gigantic infrastructure project that Beijing says will benefit everyone. But this two-part documentary shows China’s predominant self-interest and geopolitical ambitions.

    The old Silk Road is a legend, whereas the New Silk Road is a real megaproject. China wants to reconnect the world though a network of roads, railways, ports and airports between Asia and Europe. A team of reporters travels by sea and land along the New Silk Road and shows how China, with the largest investment program in history, is expanding its influence worldwide. Their journey begins in Shenzhen on the Pearl River Delta. This is where China's legendary rise to an economic superpower began 40 years ago. The private market economy experiment unleashed forces that allowed Shenzhen to grow into a mega-metropolis.

    The team takes a container ship towards Southeast Asia. Its first stop is the port city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. A joke is making the rounds there these days: you can now travel to China without a passport and without leaving your own country. Sihanoukville is now almost part of China itself! The Chinese have financed practically everything built here in the recent past: the extension of the port, new roads, bridges and factories. Many Cambodians are unhappy and feel like losers in the boom. Rising prices and rents are making the poor even poorer. But for land and house owners, on the other hand, it’s a bonanza.

    In Myanmar, resistance is already growing. Locals in Kachin have successfully blocked a new dam project, asking how the Chinese could produce energy for their own country whilst leaving the locals themselves without electricity? The Myanmar government pulled the emergency brake and the huge Chinese dam project did not get beyond the first concrete piers in the river.

    The Karakorum Highway from Kashgar in China across the Roof of the World to Islamabad in Pakistan is one of the most difficult and dangerous roads in this breathtaking mountain world. Once the road is finished, it often disintegrates again, and rock falls and landslides block the highway as if the Karakorum Mountains are trying to deny China strategic access to the Arabian Sea. The first part of the report ends in Islamabad.
    Published on Jul 20, 2019

    42:25 minutes



    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUxw9Re-Z-E



    ***



    The New Silk Road, part 2: From Kyrgyzstan to Duisburg


    China's path to global power leads through the legendary trade road. Our authors travel west on two separate paths: One team follows the sea route, along which China is expanding its support bases, while the other follows the ancient Silk Road through Central Asia. Their journey takes them through stunning landscapes and to magical places with ancient caravanserais, where the lore of the old Silk Road lives on. At the same time, they observe China’s overwhelming new influence in immense construction sites and shipping hubs. People everywhere are hoping the new trade will bring them and their children work and prosperity, just as the old Silk Road did hundreds of years ago. But others fear that a future dominated by China will bring them no good at all. "Clean water, the mountains and nature are much more important than the money they give us," the filmmakers learn in Kyrgyzstan.

    Chinese investment has not only bestowed the country with better roads, power lines and railway lines, but also with environmental pollution, corruption and crippling debt. Oman is another stop on the line, where Beijing has taken over large parts of a new Special Economic Zone in the desert city of Duqm. You can still see traditional Arab dhows in the old harbor at Sur, but they no longer have a place in today’s international trade. Instead, the horizon is dotted with huge container ships, many of them flying the Chinese flag. Meanwhile, the French port city of Marseille is aiming to become the New Silk Road’s European bridgehead. A small container village in the hills above the city is the first step. Cheap textiles from the Far East are delivered here to the "Marseille International Fashion Center”. MIF 68 for short - 68 is considered a lucky number in China - is geared towards distributing China’s products throughout Europe. The two-part documentary shows the breathtaking dimensions of this gigantic project - one where, it would seem, no stone will be left unturned.

    42:26 minutes



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  3. #152
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    Meanwhile ...

    Credit or control? - Social surveillance in China | DW Documentary


    China is developing a "social credit system" to evaluate its citizens' behavior. The system uses a point scheme to reward good conduct and punish bad conduct -- such as criticizing the government, or even running a red traffic light.

    People who pay their bills too late or drink too much alcohol will be given penalty points, and could face travel restrictions or have their financial credit rating lowered. Good conduct could be rewarded with discounts on bookings for hotels or rental cars. The system will use the millions of suveillance cameras that have been installed throughout China -- plus facial-recognition- and motion-profile technology -- to keep track of people. The "social credit system" is now in the testing phase, and it's already become controversial. It's scheduled to be introduced in Beijing next year.

    In our report, we'll meet a young woman who works as a marketing manager, and has a good behavior rating. She says it may help to get her young son into a top-quality school. We also talk to a journalist whose reports on corruption earned him a bad score. The authorities then blocked his social-media accounts, and banned him from flying on passenger jets. The "social credit system" has hit one of China's ethnic minorities particularly hard: the mostly-Muslim Uighurs, who live in the northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang.

    Published on Jul 23, 2019

    27:00 minutes



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  5. #153
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    Will add another disturbing China news piece here ...

    Beijing strikes ominous tone, saying military could intervene in Hong Kong

    Members of a Chinese honor guard take part in a ceremony welcoming Belgium’s King Philippe to Beijing on June 23.
    (Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)


    By Alice SuStaff Writer
    July 24, 2019
    10:46 AM
    BEIJING —


    The latest protests in Hong Kong appear to have touched a nerve in Beijing, where officials and state media have escalated rhetoric against the pro-democracy movement, accusing the United States of interference and ominously affirming the People’s Liberation Army’s ability to intervene at the Hong Kong government’s request.

    Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a news conference Wednesday morning that the protests on Sunday were “intolerable.”

    “Some radical protesters’ actions challenge the authority of the central government and the bottom line of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” Wu said, adding that the ministry would follow Article 14 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

    “One Country, Two Systems” is China’s way of referring to its administration of Hong Kong, under which it is part of China but allowed to maintain some degree of autonomy. Article 14 states that the Chinese government’s military forces stationed in Hong Kong will not interfere in local affairs unless the Hong Kong government requests assistance “in the maintenance of public order” or for disaster relief.

    As mass protests against a proposed extradition bill morphed into a desperate pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong over the last two months, the local government has denied rumors that the Chinese military might intervene. Some analysts who study Hong Kong expressed skepticism that Beijing would send its military, which could have devastating consequences.

    But Chinese officials and media are now stoking nationalist anger with rhetoric that’s been used to pave the way for crackdowns in the past, specifically with accusations of foreign intervention and condemnations of “chaos” and “disorder.”

    Sunday’s protests broadened the scope of conflict as protesters shifted from targeting the Hong Kong territorial government and police to directly challenging the Chinese government.

    Thousands marched to Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong, chanting a pro-independence slogan. They splattered the Chinese government emblem with eggs and black ink and spray-painted the walls with derogatory terms for China.

    Later that night, organized pro-Beijing thugs rampaged through a mass transit station in the northern rural area of Yuen Long, beating civilians with metal rods and wooden sticks.

    Public fury has swelled against Hong Kong’s police force, which didn’t arrive until an hour after the attacks began and then disappeared before the mob returned to continue attacking people.

    Lynette Ong, a University of Toronto political scientist who’s researched the employment of “thugs for hire” in mainland China, said this is a common practice and was used against protesters during the 2014 Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.

    “Governments outsource violence to third-party agents for ‘plausible deniability,’” Ong said, adding that the thugs in this case could also have been hired by business interests who want protests to end.

    During a pro-Beijing rally on Saturday, Hong Kong newspaper executive Arthur Shek gave a speech encouraging crowds to “discipline” pro-democracy protesters with canes and PVC pipes. “Caning the kids is teaching them, not violence,” he said.

    Shek has since resigned, after staff of his paper signed a petition condemning his remarks.

    Video has emerged of pro-establishment legislator Junius Ho shaking hands with some of the men in white, as well as of police officers speaking with them, despite official claims that the police had made no arrests that night because they “could not be sure of who was involved.”

    Police have since arrested 11 men in connection with the attacks on charges of unlawful assembly. They’ve also arrested more than 120 people in connection with pro-democracy protests since early June.

    Protesters trashed Ho’s legislative office Monday and damaged Ho’s parents’ gravestones, spray-painting “official-triad collusion” on a wall above them.

    In response, Ho posted a Facebook video making death threats against pro-democratic legislator Eddie Chu, who has spoken up against corruption in rural areas in the past and argued with Ho on a local TV channel on Tuesday.

    Ho said Chu had “two paths” before him: “One is a path of being alive, one is a path of not being alive. You must choose which path to take. Decide soon,” he said.

    There is no evidence of any connection between Chu and the graveyard vandalism.

    While Hong Kongers raise an outcry against the Yuen Long attack, Chinese media have fixated on protesters’ defacement of the Chinese government office.

    Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference Tuesday that the vandalism was a “radical, illegal, violent action” and a “serious challenge to the bottom line of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” adding that foreign powers were obviously directing these actions behind the scenes.

    “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. China will absolutely not allow any foreign power to intervene in Hong Kong affairs,” Hua said. “We urge America to withdraw their black hands from Hong Kong before it is too late.”

    There has been no evidence of U.S. involvement in the Hong Kong protests, although the U.S.-China trade war has frayed relations between Beijing and Washington.

    State media and Chinese social media, which is censored so that only state-approved content appears, shared portrayals of the Hong Kong protesters as violent mobs attacking police and threatening Chinese sovereignty while a “silent majority” of pro-Beijing Hong Kongers cried for help to protect Hong Kong from violence.

    State media have said nothing about the Yuen Long mob so far, but social media posts supporting the attackers have been allowed to proliferate.

    “If someone wanted to invade your homeland, wouldn’t you resist them rather than welcoming them?” wrote one commenter in defense of the white-shirted attackers. “These rioters came to Yuen Long to create riots first, then the locals in white shirts resisted them.”

    It’s a turnaround from earlier media strategy in mainland China, where the peaceful million-person marches in Hong Kong in June were censored.

    Only when protesters broke into the legislative building on July 1 did Chinese media begin reporting on the Hong Kong protesters, framed as troublemaking rioters under foreign influence.

    “It is like what they tried to do when broadcasting images of upheavals in Western countries to portray an impression of chaotic democracy,” said Ho-fung Hung, sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. “But such efforts could easily backfire.”

    “The mobilization of thugs could further delegitimize the government and make the protest boil over further. The showing of protest footage could also encourage mainland citizens to imitate,” Ho said.

    Jeff Wasserstrom, a historian at UC Irvine, said the state narrative’s portrayal of Hong Kong protesters resembles how Chinese Communist Party leadership spoke about student protesters in Tiananmen Square in the lead-up to the massacre in 1989.

    “The CCP leadership promulgated the notion 30 years ago that what were, in fact, overwhelmingly nonviolent and broadly supported gatherings in Tiananmen and public squares in scores of other cities were somehow creating ‘chaos,’” Wasserstrom said.

    The echoes come alongside state praise for Li Peng, the recently deceased hard-line former premier who backed a military response to the Tiananmen protests.

    An official obituary said Li “made decisive moves to stop the turmoil” in 1989, playing “an important role in the major struggle concerning the future and fate of the Party and the state.”

    At the same time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping seems so far determined to avoid a repeat of Tiananmen.

    Willy Lam, professor in Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that Xi is hesitant to deploy troops because it would mean an end to the “One Country, Two Systems” setup, which is supposed to guarantee Hong Kong semi-autonomy until 2047.

    Chinese troops in Hong Kong’s streets might also drive out the thousands of multinational businesses headquartered in Hong Kong, he said, which would be a major loss for Beijing.

    Beijing seems to be using the same strategy as in 2014, Lam said: “Do nothing, make no concessions and wait for the protesters to make mistakes.”

    But the current movement has far broader social support than the Occupy movement did in 2014, which means the protests may escalate rather than fade away.

    The march planned for Saturday in Yuen Long may be “explosive,” Lam said.

    One idea that’s gaining traction is for the government to establish an independent judiciary-led inquiry into both police and protester violence over the last two months.

    Dozens of ex-Hong Kong officials and legislators, the Hong Kong Bar Assn., the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and more than 60 family members of police officers have voiced support for such a commission.

    Setting up such an inquiry would be “painful” for Beijing, Lam said, but might be the “least costly maneuver” given the alternatives of “losing face” by withdrawing the bill, especially now that domestic anger is ramped up, or escalating into military intervention.

    Global attention plays a crucial role in what happens next in Hong Kong, Wasserstrom said.

    “This is a pivotal moment in one of the great David and Goliath struggles of contemporary times. It has been extraordinary how often the David in this case has been able to stand up to the Goliath,” Wasserstrom said.

    “That does not mean it can necessarily keep happening and that the Goliath in Beijing will not change its strategy.”

    Nicole Liu and Gaochao Zhang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


    Source & reference links here:latimes.com

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  7. #154
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    Greenwashing global logging | DW Documentary

    FSC eco-certification was established 25 years ago to stop the deforestation of primeval forests by attesting that products are made from "environmentally-friendly" wood. But does the FSC really prevent illegal deforestation?

    Primeval forests are shrinking at an increasing rate. Is exploitation of the well-intentioned FSC system failing to prevent illegal deforestation and thus deceiving consumers? The jungles of Cambodia have been all but destroyed since 2000, and now just 25 square kilometers remain. Deforestation is responsible for more CO2 emissions than all the world’s cars and trucks put together. The Bonn-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is responsible for the certification of sustainable forestry worldwide and its certification is considered to be the most important eco-label. It is supposed to help consumers to identify furniture, paper, planks and other goods made from "environmentally friendly” timber. The FSC has certified the management of more than 200 million hectares of forest to date - an area about the size of Western Europe. But what has the FSC achieved in 25 years? Manfred Ladwig and Thomas Reutter spent months filming deforestation around the world and discovered that companies accused of processing illegal timber do not necessarily lose their FSC certification and even a company condemned for illegal logging in the Brazilian rainforest can continue to use it. The film investigates the connections between the FSC, illegal deforestation and the displacement of indigenous peoples and throws an unsparing light on the global timber industry.

    Published on Jul 27, 2019

    42:25 minutes



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  9. #155
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    Returning Topic

    A very related environmental problem to the above post ...

    Researchers link seaweed blooms to pollution in ocean water

    1:41 minutes


    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiwauBraXeE


    Massive mounds of seaweed piled up along Florida’s east coast beaches in October 2017, a smelly mess that made it difficult to walk on the beach, much less enjoy the stroll.

    Was it coincidence those piles of seaweed showed up after a very busy hurricane season, including a flux of rainfall from Hurricane Irma out of the rivers and inlets along Florida’s East Coast?

    Maybe not, says Brian Lapointe, a research professor with Harbor Branch Oceanographic at Florida Atlantic University.

    With more and more of the seaweed, known as sargassum, piling up in places like Cancun and Miami Beach, Lapointe and a group of researchers are finding some of the same factors behind the increasing appearances of algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon and blue-green algae outbreaks in Florida waters are at least partially to blame. As the seaweed becomes more abundant, the tangled and stinky piles could show up more often and in greater amounts on beaches, even as far north as Volusia and Flagler counties.

    Working with researchers at the University of South Florida and Georgia Institute of Technology, Lapointe has been looking into why so much golden brown sargassum, a type of macroalgae, has covered beaches along the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico since 2011, plaguing many popular tourist locations. And they want to know if they can forecast future blooms.



    In June 2018, a blanket of sargassum extended 5,499 square miles across the Central Atlantic from West Africa into the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Straits and the waters off South Florida’s east coast. A study the researchers recently published in the journal Science dubs the vast and growing expanse of seaweed the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt,” and states it’s now the largest macroalgae bloom in the world. The USF researchers estimated the grass in that belt weighed an estimated 20 million tons.

    In June 2019, the seaweed belt across the Atlantic covered an area five times bigger than it did in the years between 2011 and 2017, but not as big as in June 2018.

    People who live in the Caribbean told researchers they’ve never in 50 years seen such a mass of seaweed, said Mengqui Wang, a post doctoral researcher in the Optical Oceanography Laboratory at USF and co-author on the study.

    The belt is different than the Sargasso Sea, the area of seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s East Coast that provides nursery grounds for sea turtles that hatch on Florida beaches.

    Sargassum floats on the surface and provides important habitat and foraging for sea turtles, birds and other marine life. Once it reaches the sandy shoreline it becomes a foraging area for creatures that live on the beach, and it captures drifting sand to form new dunes. But when it piles up in massive amounts on beaches, it can smother turtle nests and attract pests, in addition to the putrid aromas that waft along the beach.

    After studying 19 years of satellite data to find out where the seaweed comes from, where it goes and what feeds or suppresses it, Lapointe and the other researchers said nutrients, such as nitrogen, in the water may play a bigger role than imagined in the expansion and growth of seaweed in general. The study area extended to about 50 degrees north, into the Gulf of Mexico, and from West Africa to the Amazon, including the eastern coast of Florida, said Wang.

    Local observers said they haven’t yet seen the kind of piles showing up in South Florida this summer, but seaweed did make an appearance in Flagler Beach in June, not typical for that time of year. The piles appeared in North Peninsula State Park and Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, said Matt Bledsoe, who manages two Florida state parks.

    Jennifer Winters, who oversees habitat conservation on Volusia County’s beaches, finds the study interesting but not surprising, given what is known about the way nutrients cause plants to grow. Locally, Winters said she knows of no one who formally monitors the frequency or proliferation of sargassum on local beaches.

    Beth Libert, president of the Volusia Flagler Turtle Patrol informally tracks the seaweed on her daily walks. She and others said seaweed historically shows up on local beaches in the fall, at the end of hurricane season. That’s when volunteers check the seaweed wrack line, to rescue any wayward sea turtle hatchlings that swam out to the ocean and were then washed back in with the seaweed.

    But, in addition to the natural events, such as storms and nor’easters that wash seaweed in from the Sargasso Sea to local beaches, Lapointe said it’s probable the sargassum belt they’re researching could reappear along beaches in Volusia and Flagler counties bringing seaweed in more often and in greater volume.

    That’s what they’ve already been seeing in South Florida. Just this week the largest sargassum influx every reported as seen in Palm Beach and Key West, he said. It multiplies as small fragments break off and continue to grow. And the more nutrients it receives, he said, the more it grows.

    Researchers are looking to try to improve forecasts for where and when the seaweed blooms appear as they learn more about it.

    In the recent study, Lapointe and his collaborators, funded by NASA, focused on how nutrients flowing from the Amazon River in Brazil fuel the sargassum blooms in a combination of natural and human causes.

    The “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt” gets it start in the nutrient-rich waters moving out of the mouth of the Amazon, fed by increasing deforestation and fertilizer use in the basin, he said, and also from an upwelling off the African Coast that churns deep, nutrient-rich waters from the bottom of the ocean up to the surface.

    However, from Brazil, the sargassum circulates through the Caribbean, then into the Gulf, and then around the Florida Keys and up the East Florida coast, said Lapointe. That’s much the same way the red tide algae bloom moved last year from the Southwest Florida coast around the state and up along the coast to the southern end of Volusia County.

    All along the way, runoff, agriculture, fertilizers, sewers and septic tanks, and flooding rainfall push nutrients out into large plumes that carry nitrogen into the water. Lapointe said the water — because fresh water is less dense than seawater — forms a buoyant plume offshore that enriches the sargassum and encourages it to grow.

    The seaweed continues to feed on that runoff as it circulates, he said. For example, Irma’s heavy rainfall sent storm water surging into rivers across the state, sending a pulse of polluted water out into the ocean through inlets along Florida’s coasts. Along with nutrients from six sewage outfalls in South Florida, he said the elevated coastal nutrients in 2017 nourished the sargassum.

    “Our research shows when these plants become enriched like this, they can double their biomass in 10 days to two weeks,” he said. “It’s just like the blue-green algae coming from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.

    “All of these blooms we’re talking about here are feeding off increasing nitrogen, primarily from human activities, ” he added. “We’ve been kind of sloppy housekeepers. We aren’t controlling our human nitrogen footprint very well.”

    Anyone who has ever tried to keep a clean aquarium at home knows the challenges with keeping the water clean to control algae growth, said Lapointe. And, he added, it’s the same problem causing algae blooms in Florida’s springs and estuaries and also causing problems for coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

    The researchers said the dramatic increases in seagrass underscore the need to understand its ecological and chemical impacts on the coastal environment, tourism, local economies and human health.

    USF researchers are studying how the seaweed blooms affect fish and other marine life and whether their arrival can be forecast in advance, Wang said. “There’s so much sargassum out there, it must have a huge impact to the ocean chemistry.”

    Source: news-journalonline.com

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    Country town charm ...

    Görlitz woos residents | DW Documentary

    The town of Görlitz in eastern Germany needs more young residents. To attract them, it’s offering a trial stay, with a free apartment and daycare included. A young Berlin family took up the offer. Will the city’s charm win them over?

    Görlitz, tucked away in the easternmost corner of Germany, is a charming provincial town. It has a beautiful old city center, affordable rents and plenty of options for recreation nearby. But Görlitz is aging: One third of its 55,000 residents are over the age of 65. And now? The Interdisciplinary Centre for Ecological and Revitalizing Urban Transformation, or IZS, has come up with a creative solution. They’re offering an apartment - rent-free for one month - and support in work and settling in to attract big-city dwellers to their home town. Kevin Kandetzki is a freelance painter willing to try his luck - along with his partner, their newborn baby and their child in daycare. They’ve already braced themselves for a culture shock. The Berlin artists are moving to a city that recently gave 30% of its votes to the far-right AfD party. Will their dream of a new life become a nightmare?

    Published on Jul 8, 2019

    12:30 minutes



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    Climate change: Europe's melting glaciers | DW Documentary

    It is far too late to save the Alpine glaciers. And now, the dangers caused by tons of melting ice are rising sharply. Every year, climate change is destroying two of the currently 70 square kilometers of glaciers left in the Alps.

    The permafrost in the Alps is thawing, and transforming what used to be sturdy slopes into loose screes. In addition, climate change is leading to significantly more extreme weather conditions every year, while heavy rainfall causes serious erosion. The result: avalanches and landslides like those in Bondo, Switzerland, or Valsertal in Austria.

    In Switzerland, residential areas are shrinking as people are forced to leave their homes forever. The disappearance of glaciers as water reservoirs is already posing a major problem. Farmers in Engadine, who have been using meltwater for irrigation for centuries, are already facing water shortages. Last summer, they had to rely on helicopters to transport water to their herds in the Grison Alps. Above all, alpine villages depend on winter tourism to survive. Yet experts are forecasting that by mid-century, there will only be enough natural snow left to ski above 2,000 meters, which will spell out the end for about 70 percent of the ski resorts in the Eastern Alps. But instead of developing alternatives, lots of money is still being invested in ski tourism. Snow cannon are used to defy climate change, and artificial snow systems are under construction at ever higher altitudes. As usual, it’s the environment that is set to lose as the unique alpine landscape is further destroyed by soil compaction and erosion. Some municipalities are now working on new models of alpine tourism for the future. As global temperatures continue to rise, the cooler mountain regions will become increasingly attractive for tourists, especially in the summer.
    Published on Jul 31, 2019

    43:25 minutes



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    Video

    So close and so far apart ...

    Inside Israel's Maximum Security Prison (Prison Documentary) - Real Stories


    In the confined space of the jails Israelis & Palestinians have to co-exist. Inside Israel's highest security prisons Palestinian fighters and bombers come face to face with the coercive power of the Israeli State.
    Published on Aug 6, 2019

    58:56 minutes



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    History stories ...



    Naked Cooks, Excrement, Rats: The Secretly Disgusting History of Royal Palaces

    Filthy residences forced European monarchs to constantly move their courts ...

    In July of 1535, King Henry VIII and his court of over 700 people embarked on an epic official tour. Over the next four months the massive entourage would visit around 30 different royal palaces, aristocratic residences and religious institutions. While these stops were important PR events for the king, designed to spark loyalty in his subjects, royal households had another reason entirely for their constant movement.

    They weren’t just exercising their tremendous wealth: they actually needed to escape the disgusting messes large royal parties produced. Palaces—like Henry’s Hampton Court—had to be constantly evacuated so they could be cleaned of the accumulated mounds of human waste. Livestock and farmland also needed time to recover, after supplying food for so many people. Once the tour was over, Henry and a swelling court of over 1,000 would keep moving for the rest of the year, traveling frequently between the King’s 60 residences in a vain attempt to live in hygienic surroundings.

    Within days of a royal party settling in one palace or another, a stink would set in from poorly discarded food, animal waste, vermin from or attracted to unwashed bodies, and human waste (which accrued in underground chambers until it could be removed.) The hallways would become so caked with grime and soot from constant fires that they were fairly black. The very crush of court members was so dense that it made a thorough house cleaning impossible—and futile. Though cleanliness standards were subpar throughout the Medieval, Renaissance and Regency eras, royal courts were typically dirtier than the average small cabin or home.

    Some of the most storied reigns in history, like that of Catherine the Great, took place against a backdrop of horrifying smells, overcrowded quarters, overflowing chamber pots and lice-filled furniture. While paintings of Louis XIV’s opulent court at Versailles show royals clad in gorgeously embroidered garments, viewers today are missing one of the main effects of their finery: the odor of hundreds of garments that have never been washed, all in one unventilated room. And Charles II of England let his flea-bitten spaniels lie in his bed chamber, where they rendered the room “very offensive and indeed made the whole Court nasty and stinking,” according to a 17th century writer.


    Louis XV's toilette at the Palace of Versailles.

    But without a doubt, the most pressing health concern was caused by the dearth of waste disposal options in an era before reliable plumbing. “Feces and urine were everywhere,” Eleanor Herman, author of The Royal Art of Poison, says of royal palaces. “Some courtiers didn't bother to look for a chamber pot but just dropped their britches and did their business—all of their business—in the staircase, the hallway, or the fireplace."

    A 1675 report offered this assessment of the Louvre Palace in Paris: “On the grand staircases” and “behind the doors and almost everywhere one sees there a mass of excrement, one smells a thousand unbearable stenches caused by calls of nature which everyone goes to do there every day.”

    According to historian Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and his Court, the fastidious Henry VIII “waged a constant battle against the dirt, dust, and smells that were unavoidable when so many people lived in one establishment,” which was fairly unusual for the time. The king slept on a bed surrounded by furs to keep small creatures and vermin away, and visitors were warned not to “wipe or rub their hands upon none arras [tapestries] of the King’s whereby they might be hurted.”

    Many of the rules laid down by the King indicate that his battle against the advancing grime was a losing one. To keep servants and courtiers from urinating on the garden walls, Henry had large red X’s painted in problem spots. But instead of deterring men from relieving themselves, it just gave them something to aim for. Calls for people not to dump dirty dishes in the hallways—or on the King’s bed—seemed to fall on deaf ears.

    Amazingly, Henry was even forced to decree that cooks in the royal kitchen were forbidden to work “naked, or in garments of such vileness as they do now, nor lie in the nights and days in the kitchen or ground by the fireside.” To combat the problem, clerks of the kitchen were instructed to purchase “honest and wholesome garments” for the staff.


    Part of the Hampton Court Palace kitchen, pictured in the 1940s, which had been
    kept exactly as it was in the early 16th century.


    While the King had a relatively sophisticated lavatory system for himself, other waste measures intended as hygienic seem disgusting today: servants were encouraged to pee in vats so that their urine could be used for cleaning. As actual cleanliness was often unachievable, the royal court resorted to masking the offending odors. Sweet-smelling plants covered palace floors, and the fortunate pressed sachets of scent to their noses.

    Once Henry and his court moved on to the next royal residence, the scrubbing and airing out of the palace began. The waste from the King’s non-flushing lavatories was held in underground chambers when the court was in residence. But after the court left, the King’s Gong Scourers, tasked with cleaning the sewers in his palaces near London, went to work.

    "After the court had been here for four weeks, the brick chambers would fill head-high,” Simon Thurley, curator of Historic Royal Palaces, told The Independent. “ It was the gong scourers who had to clean them when the court had left."

    Of course, filthiness in over-crowded royal establishments was not just a problem at the English court. When the future Catherine the Great arrived in Russia from her family’s relatively clean German court, she was shocked by what she found. “It’s not rare to see coming from an immense courtyard full of mire and filth that belongs to a hovel of rotten wood,” she wrote, “a lady covered in jewels and superbly dressed, in a magnificent carriage, pulled by six old nags, and with badly combed valets.”


    Bathroom Apartment of Marie-Antoinette at Versailles.

    The Western European belief that baths were unhealthy did not help matters, either. Although neat freak Henry VIII bathed often and changed his undershirts daily, he was a royal rarity. “Louis XIV took two baths in his life, as did Queen Isabella of Castile,” Herman says. “Marie-Antoinette bathed once a month.” The 17th century British King James I was said to never bathe, causing the rooms he frequented to be filled with lice.

    It was the Sun King himself, Louis XIV, whose choice to no longer travel from court to court would lead to a particularly putrid living situation. In 1682, in an effort to seal his authority and subjugate his nobles, Louis XIV moved his court permanently to the gilded mega-palace of Versailles. At times over 10,000 royals, aristocrats, government officials, servants and military officers lived in Versailles and its surrounding lodgings.

    Despite its reputation for magnificence, life at Versailles, for both royals and servants, was no cleaner than the slum-like conditions in many European cities at the time. Women pulled up their skirts up to pee where they stood, while some men urinated off the balustrade in the middle of the royal chapel. According to historian Tony Spawforth, author of Versailles: A Biography of a Palace, Marie-Antoinette was once hit by human waste being thrown out the window as she walked through an interior courtyard.

    The heavily trafficked latrines often leaked into the bedrooms below them, while blockages and corrosion in the palace’s iron and lead pipes were known to occasionally “poison everything” in Marie-Antoinette’s kitchen. “Not even the rooms of the royal children were safe,” writes Spawforth. An occasional court exodus could have reduced the wear and tear on Versailles, perhaps leading to fewer unpleasant structural failures.

    This unsanitary way of living no doubt led to countless deaths throughout royal European households. It was not until the 19th century that standards of cleanliness and technological developments improved life for many people, including members of royal courts. Today, many European royals still move from residence to residence—but for pleasure, not to try and outrun squalor.


    Source: history.com
    Will add this one a personal favorite ...

    King Henry VIII's toilet at Hampton Court Palace



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    Artificial intelligence and its ethics | DW Documentary


    Are we facing a golden digital age or will robots soon run the world? We need to establish ethical standards in dealing with artificial intelligence - and to answer the question: What still makes us as human beings unique?

    Mankind is still decades away from self-learning machines that are as intelligent as humans. But already today, chatbots, robots, digital assistants and other artificially intelligent entities exist that can emulate certain human abilities. Scientists and AI experts agree that we are in a race against time: we need to establish ethical guidelines before technology catches up with us. While AI Professor Jürgen Schmidhuber predicts artificial intelligence will be able to control robotic factories in space, the Swedish-American physicist Max Tegmark warns against a totalitarian AI surveillance state, and the philosopher Thomas Metzinger predicts a deadly AI arms race. But Metzinger also believes that Europe in particular can play a pioneering role on the threshold of this new era: creating a binding international code of ethics.

    Published on Aug 14, 2019

    42:26 minutes



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    A German public broadcast company takes a look at ...

    Hitler´s book "Mein Kampf" and its secrets | DW Documentary


    You can still buy Adolf Hitler’s credo all over the world, under the counter in some places, on the Internet or simply at the bookshop in others. But did Hitler actually write it himself? And was it really a blueprint for war and the Holocaust?

    Hitler’s "Mein Kampf" was first published in 1925. The 700-page work has been translated into 18 languages, sold over 12 million copies and been revised numerous times since Hitler's death. Almost everyone knows of it, yet hardly anyone has actually read it. "Mein Kampf" is a book of paradoxes, famous yet unfamiliar - fascinating and repellant at the same time.

    Published on Aug 15, 2019

    42:26 minutes



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    Paradise lost ...

    Mining Peru: nature's wealth from the Andes to the Amazon | DW Documentary

    Illegal gold prospectors are threatening the Manu National Park in Peru, which is a World Heritage Site. More species of wild animals and plants have been documented in Peru than anywhere else on Earth. But now their very survival is at stake.

    Peru’s Manu National Park is an unparalleled hotspot of biodiversity, which is why UNESCO declared the area a World Heritage Site thirty years ago. Ten percent of all known bird species are native to this area, including gaudy parrots and iridescent hummingbirds. Jaguars and tapirs sneak through the forests, while giant otters and caimans hunt in their waters. The Manu National Park straddles an altitude difference of around 4000 meters between the eastern foothills of the Andes and the lowlands of the Amazon, encompassing mountains, alpine forests and a huge lowland rainforest.

    These superlatives and the existing environmental protection laws alone should be sufficient to preserve the area, but low interest rates in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis have prompted bankers and private investors to switch to a more lucrative source of income: Gold! Since then, tens of thousands of illegal gold prospectors have been pouring into the area around the national park, stripping back the rainforests and threatening natural habitats with extinction. The mercury used to extract the precious metal has contaminated the rivers and poisoned both wildlife and humans alike, leaving an uninhabitable landscape that looks like the surface of the moon.

    Illegal plantations of coca bushes for cocaine are also behind both growing environmental damage and the spread of violence. Yet, although this natural paradise is facing disaster, organized crime and corruption make it hard for the authorities to take action.
    Published on Aug 16, 2019

    25:56 minutes



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