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Thursday, February 4, 2016

More journalists slaughtered

From the NYRB Daily

More than fifty journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. But until this year, nobody had tried to massacre an entire busload of journalists in the center of Kabul, all working for the country’s largest and most successful broadcaster. That changed on January 20, when a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a minibus taking forty journalists and staff of Tolo TV home after a day at the office.

At least seven people were killed including several women in their early twenties; some of the victims were burnt and scarred beyond recognition. Another twenty-six were injured, many extremely seriously. It was easily the most deadly single attack against journalists ever made in Afghan history...

Notwithstanding the one trillion dollars spent in Afghanistan by American taxpayers since 2001, the fact is that Afghanistan is a country whose government has hardly any ability to enforce its writ, even in the capital itself. Corruption and warlordism have become an essential part of the system and the population has gradually lost faith in its leadership. And as security continues to deteriorate, Afghans now make up the second largest contingent of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe, their numbers surpassed only by those fleeing Syria. According to UN statistics, they constitute almost 15 percent of the 650,000 refugees who reached Europe between January and August. Many of them come from well-educated, middle-class backgrounds and had good jobs in Afghanistan when there was still a large presence of foreign forces in the country.

Amid this collapse of the rule of law, Tolo TV has been one of the few bright spots. The network has built up an amazing reputation for reporting the news as it is and presenting the country’s problems as they unfold. It is also intensely creative, translating programs such as American Idol into the hugely popular Afghan Idol, and launching the country’s first league soccer teams. Tolo’s soap operas are watched around the region. Tolo is less a TV station than a national institution in a country that has few others.

But this reputation has come at a steep price. Last year the Taliban threatened Tolo after they accused it of misreporting atrocities carried out in Kunduz when the northern city briefly fell under Taliban control. There was a direct threat against Tolo CEO Saad Mohseni and his three brothers, who help run Tolo. Staff members and prominent TV anchors also received threats.

 Hit the link at the top to read the rest of this very disturbing story.

Article written by  Ahmed Rashid

Travel scams

Sun, sea and scams

Southern Cross Travel Insurance survey reveals how crime affects us on holiday.
  • 60% of people have encountered a crime whilst travelling overseas.
  • 15% have been ripped off converting currency.
  • 21% have been deliberately given incorrect change.
  • 7% have had a bank card duplicated or stolen.
  • 5% have been mugged or robbed and a further 5% have been pick-pocketed.
  • 38% of travellers stated that crime ruined part, or all, of their holiday.
  • 14% of people had to cover the losses themselves, because they had no travel insurance.


Where travellers encounter crime

  • Indonesia / Bali 14%
  • Thailand 11%
  • USA 10%
  • Hong Kong 8%
  • China 7%
  • Fiji 7%
  • France 7%
  • Italy 5%
  • Malaysia 5%
  • Singapore 5%
  • UK 5%
  • Vietnam 5%

5 tips for avoiding crime

  1. Keep valuables in sight or in a secure place such as the hotel safe
  2. Avoid walking around at night alone, especially in unlit areas
  3. Stay sharp! Don’t drink too much and get plenty of rest
  4. Don’t keep all your money in one place and never leave your wallet in your back pocket
  5. Make it difficult for pickpockets by keeping your bag zipped and close to you

What to do if you encounter crime

  • Contact the police immediately
  • Get a police report to help with any claims
  • Contact your travel insurance company who will be able to advise what documents you need to make a claim

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Death Toll

In just the last 25 years, the deaths have been confirmed of 2297 journalists and other media staff, who have been killed for nothing more than trying to keep the world informed about the state of a war.  Or for writing about a revolution.  Or for exposing crime and corruption.

Their killers continue to act with impunity, according to a new report by the International Federation of Journalists.

In 1990 the toll was 40.  Since then, it has always exceeded a hundred each year.

"The last ten years were the most dangerous," said the General Secretary of the organization, Anthony Bellanger.

In Afghanistan, more journalists have been killed by unfriendly fire than American soldiers.

Read more

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Save the Channel hovercraft!

From the BBC

Hoverspeed hovercraft set to be destroyed

Two famous hovercraft are set to be destroyed in Hampshire.

The Princess Margaret and Princess Anne Hoverspeed vessels carried passengers between Dover and France for 30 years.

They were taken out of service in 2000 and have since been stored at Lee-on-Solent.

Contractors aiming to develop the land to create new homes now plan to demolish them.

The nearby Hovercraft Museum hopes to save one of them for the nation.


Museum volunteers who fear the last remaining cross-Channel hovercraft are on the verge of being destroyed have started a petition to save them.

The Princess Margaret and Princess Anne Hoverspeed vessels are stored at the Hovercraft Museum at Lee-on-Solent.

The museum said the site's owner, the government's Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), wants to develop the land to create new homes.

More than 2,600 people have signed the petition to date.

According to the museum, the craft - which are the last remaining cross-Channel SRN4 hovercraft - are now in the possession of HCA.

The vessels are not owned by the Hovercraft Museum Trust.

The museum's trustees said they hoped a deal could be reached with HCA and have submitted a proposal to save the Princess Anne, which is in better condition than the Princess Margaret.


'National treasures'

However, they said they had "reluctantly accepted" the Princess Margaret was likely to be broken up and sold for scrap.

Hovercraft Museum trustee Emma Pullen said: "Many people come simply to see these huge relics from a bygone age and their loss would be an enormous blow to the museum.

"They are piece of British history, the like of which we will never see again.

"We will do everything in our powers to protect at least one of these national treasures."

The cross-Channel service from Dover to Calais closed in 2000.

The two 250-tonne vessels could carry 400 passengers and 55 cars.

They were built on the Isle of Wight by the British Hovercraft Corporation in the 1970s and operated from Dover and Pegwell Bay in Kent.

They were replaced in 2000 by a catamaran service.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The future for Peking

Hamburg News

Millions For Hamburg's Historic Museums

New York's tall ship "Peking" is coming home: the German Bundestag contributes 120 Million towards a German Port Museum in Hamburg

Built in Hamburg, Germany in 1911, the mighty four-masted barque “Peking” is docked at the South Street Seaport in New York City, where the tall ship is used as a maritime museum. A steel-hulled four-masted barque, “Peking” was part of the so-called Flying P-Liners of the Hamburg shipping company F. Laeisz, it was one of the last generation of windjammers used in the nitrate trade and wheat trade around the often treacherous Cape Horn.

Now, the famous tall ship will be returning home. On 12 November 2015, the budget committee of the German German Bundestag decided to purchase the ship and to return it to Hamburg. It is going to be a part of the announced German Port Museum in Hamburg, for which 120 million euro were allocated. Hamburg’s Bundestag members Rüdiger Kruse (CDU) and Johannes Kahrs (SPD) significantly promoted and supported the project in the budget committee.

Hamburg’s Future Port Museum

With the establishment of a German Port Museum in Hamburg, a vision pursued for long by Hamburg’s locals and politicians will finally become true. The city of Hamburg with its international sea port will thus be given a spectacular showcase for its significant economic and cultural history. With the granting of 120 million euro, the museum will be fully financed by the federal budget.

The Economic and Cultural History of the Port

Upon completion, Hamburg will cover the operating cost of the Hamburg Port Museum.. “The support of the federal government for the Hamburg’s culture is a great appreciation of the performance of the city’s cultural institutions on a national and international level”, said Barbara Kisseler, Hamburg Minister of Culture. “The establishment of a national museum reflecting the importance of the Port of Hamburg gives us the opportunity to present the economic and cultural history of the Port of Hamburg in a wider context. Now , all partners in the project will have to develop a viable concept, illustrating the complex maritime history in an exciting and multi-faceted way”, continued Kisseler.

The Perfect Place

“For Hamburg and its historic museum, building a national port museum is a unique opportunity. Finally, a place can be set up, where the exciting and important layers of global trade connected to the largest German port can be displayed and explained”, rejoiced Börries von Notz, director of the Foundation HistoricMuseums Hamburg.

“With the more than 500,000 objects on the economic and cultural history of the port that have been waiting for years in the depots of the Foundation Historic Museums Hamburg to be shown, a rich collection is available to display the history of the port with its significant economic and urban history and its international relations to visitors from all over the world in a modern and exciting way.”

As a city that has been a symbol of trade and shipping for centuries, Hamburg is the perfect place for the German Port Museum. “There is hardly a better place for the port than being located right in the middle of Hamburg’s bustling port, the gateway to the world”, says Rüdiger Kruse, CDU, Rapporteur-General for Culture and the Media in the budget committee of the German Bundestag.

Friday, January 29, 2016


An extract from The Tale of Kitty in Boots by Beatrix Potter, published by Frederick Warne & Co at Penguin Random House Children's

Once upon a time there was a serious, well-behaved young black cat.

It belonged to a kind old lady who assured me that no other cat could compare with Kitty.
She lived in constant fear that Kitty might be stolen - "I hear there is a shocking fashion for black cat-skin muffs; wherever is Kitty gone to? Kitty! Kitty!"

She called it "Kitty", but Kitty called herself "Miss Catherine St Quintin".

Cheesebox called her "Q", and Winkiepeeps called her "Squintums". They were very common cats.

The old lady would have been shocked had she known of the acquaintance.

And she would have been painfully surprised had she ever seen Miss Kitty in a gentleman's Norfolk jacket, and little fur-lined boots.

Now most cats love the moonlight and staying out at nights; it was curious how willingly Miss Kitty went to bed.

And although the wash-house where she slept - locked in - was always very clean, upon some mornings Kitty was let out with a black chin. And on other mornings her tail seemed thicker, and she scratched.

It puzzled me. It was a long time before I guessed there were in fact two black cats!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A new Beatrix Potter book!

From the BBC

A new story written by Beatrix Potter more than 100 years ago, featuring Peter Rabbit, is to be published for the first time.

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots was rediscovered by publisher Jo Hanks after she found a reference to it in an out-of-print Potter biography.

Quentin Blake, best known for his work with Roald Dahl, has illustrated the story, to be published in September.

Potter had only completed a single drawing to go with the manuscript. (See above)

She sent the story to her publisher in 1914, saying it was about "a well-behaved prime black Kitty cat, who leads rather a double life".

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots also features an appearance from an "older, slower" version of Peter Rabbit.

Ms Hanks, a publisher at Penguin Random House Children's, found a reference to Potter's letter to her publisher and the unedited manuscript in the 1970s literary history about the author.

Three manuscripts were then found in the Victoria and Albert Museum archive, handwritten in school notebooks - a rough colour sketch of Kitty-in-Boots, a pencil sketch of villain Mr Tod and a dummy book, with some of the manuscript laid out.

Potter said in letters, also kept in the archive, that she had wanted to finish the story but "interruptions began", including the First World War, her marriage and illness.

Ms Hanks said: "The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter.

"It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales [including Mr Tod, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Ribby and Tabitha Twitchit].

"And, most excitingly, our treasured, mischievous Peter Rabbit makes an appearance - albeit older, slower and portlier!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

War Against Pirates

From The Economist

IN OCTOBER 2013 the Seaman Guard Ohio, a Sierra Leone-flagged ship, was intercepted just under 11 nautical miles off the coast of India by the local coastguard. The grey-hulled vessel looked like a naval ship—bristling with antennae and radar—but was chartered by AdvanFort, a private security firm based in Washington, DC. It had 35 crew and carried 35 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. On January 11th this year all those aboard—among them Britons, Estonians and Ukrainians—were convicted of entering Indian waters with illegal weapons. They were sentenced to five years in prison.

The case offers a glimpse into a world not often seen by landlubbers. The Seaman Guard Ohio was a “floating armoury”, a ship that loiters semi-permanently in international waters, acting as a hotel and base for private security guards hired to protect ships from Somali pirates. They are typically stationed in waters off Sudan, Sri Lanka or the United Arab Emirates, waiting for their customers—merchant ships in need of protection—to pass by.

Guards hop aboard a client’s ship with their guns, then ride it through the piracy “high risk area” (HRA). Since armed guards first started protecting ships against Somali pirates about a decade ago, no ship with them aboard has been successfully hijacked. Now about 40% of ships rounding the Horn of Africa carry armed guards, according to IHS Jane’s, a research company.

Once the ship has passed back into safe waters the guards disembark to another armoury. Then they fly home or jump aboard the next ship going the other way. This arrangement keeps guns out at sea, avoiding bothersome and inconsistent national laws. When they stray too close to land, as the Seaman Guard Ohio allegedly did, they can run into legal trouble. Armoury operators market their services online. Some vessels feature wi-fi, television rooms and gyms to keep guards happy, along with safes to store weapons.

No official register of floating armouries exists, so it is impossible to count them reliably. But at least 15-20 lurk in and around the Indian Ocean, according to one seasoned guard. He reckons thousands of military-grade weapons are stored aboard the vessels.

The British government has tried to regulate the industry. It has issued licences for “private maritime security companies” to use certain armouries that it deems safe and professionally run. Among its rules are that weapons should only be used in self defence. Tom Frankland, a director at Sovereign Global UK, a firm that runs two floating armouries (but unlike AdvanFort does not itself guard cargo ships) says his firm’s craft are regulated by the governments of Britain and Djibouti, whose government representatives control the transfer of weapons at sea.

Armouries have done brisk business since governments and marine insurers first demarked an official HRA in 2010. At the peak of Somali piracy in 2012, shipowners would pay about $45,000 per trip for armed guards. Insurers often insisted they have them, reckoning that this would reduce the risks of them having to pay out millions in ransoms if a ship were hijacked. Yet competition has driven down rates charged by security firms and standards are falling as less highly-regulated companies enter the market. A boss of one British-owned armoury worries that the use of such firms could lead to weapons entering the black market.

“You used to see teams of Royal Marine Commandos and Navy Seals guarding ships,” says one naval officer involved in patrolling the waters off the Horn of Africa. “Now you get three [untrained men] sharing a rusty AK-47.” Moreover, the industry itself is facing tougher times. On December 1st the HRA was shrunk, thanks to a steep drop in the number of pirate attacks—itself the result of more guards as well as patrols by mainly western navies. That is good news for shipowners, but bad news for their guards. Adding to the uncertainty is a chance that Somali piracy will make a comeback in 2016. IHS says strife in Somalia, coupled with a forecast for months of clement weather, have put Somali pirates in its “top 10 risks” for 2016. If piracy rebounds, some old sea dogs of war may get another lease of life.

Peking to return to Hamburg

From the National Maritime Museum blog

Peking will Return to Hamburg

The South Street Seaport Museum has announced that the 1911 barque Peking will return to Hamburg, Germany, to serve as the centerpiece of that city’s new waterfront museum.

Photo: Bob-Athinson

Launched at Hamburg’s Blohm & Voss shipyard, Peking was one of the famed Flying P line sailing for the Reederei F. Laeisz in the nitrate and wheat trade around Cape Horn.

One of only four surviving ships of the Flying P fleet—the others are Kruzhenstern (ex-Padua), Pommern, and PassatPeking was made famous by sailing legend Irving Johnson. In 1929 Johnson and his friend Charles Brodhead signed on as paying passengers aboard the barque, with the intention of soaking up the experience of sailing a tall ship, working with the crew as much as they could get away with it.

The experience was captured both in Johnson’s book The Peking Battles Cape Horn,  which can be found in the NMHS bookstore) and the film Around Cape Horn, available through Mystic Seaport.

Peking came to the South Street Seaport Museum in 1975, joining the Liverpool-built Wavertree of 1885, Ambrose, Pioneer and Lettie G. Howard. In recent years, however, South Street determined that financial realities would not support two such large ships, given the cost of maintaining them in good condition. 

Capt. Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the Seaport Museum, summed it up:
“South Street Seaport Museum has long worked to maintain a fleet of well-maintained, relevant historic ships at her East River piers. The idea of recreating the “Street of Ships” is an important one, but what is clear is that two huge sailing ships are a crushing burden of maintenance.

"Our 1885 ship Wavertree, currently the subject of a $13 million city-funded restoration project, is the right ship for the Seaport Museum and for New York. Wavertree called at New York. She is the type of ship that built New York. Peking has a similar relationship to Hamburg. With the return of Wavertree in the middle of 2016, there will again be a huge square-rigged sailing ship at South Street  in outstanding condition.

"Peking will return to Hamburg, the city of her birth, and there be cared for in much the same way. This is good for the Seaport Museum and it’s good for Peking."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Preserved food for seamen and soldiers

Guest post
The Emperor’s legacy – a food revolution

Malcolm Lewis

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars which raged across Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries a high priority for the French military commanders was to keep their troops properly fed whilst on the march. Soldiers could live off the land in the summer but struggled to find energy giving foods during the long winter months. The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, commanding his vast armies, realised the need to transport nourishing convenience rations for his troops over long distances. He offered a prize of 12,000 Francs to any person who could provide the solution. Nicholas Appert, a confectioner by trade, carried out experiments for some eleven years with the preservation of meat and vegetables in stoppered jars which had been immersed in boiling water. He submitted his concept to the French government and was awarded the Emperor’s prize in 1809. It is uncertain how successful his innovation proved to be as the glass jars were heavy and liable to breakage when transported over rough roads.

Nicholas Appert, the inventor of canned food

Les Artisans illustres 1841, collection Jean-Paul Barbier, Musée des Beaux Arts Châlons en Champagne

Appert published a book detailing his methods in 1810 and Peter Durand, an English inventor, obtained a copy. He patented a tinplate can design which offered a stronger alternative to glass. Brian Donkin, owner of the Dartford Iron Works, bought Durand’s patent and began food canning experiments in a factory in Bermondsey. Donkin saw the British Navy as the main outlet for his preserved foods. The Navy Board managed a fleet of a thousand ships across the globe and keeping the crews economically and healthily fed was a demanding task. 

Donkin’s company offered Appert’s recipe for boeuf boulli, which the sailors anglicised to bully beef, and various fruits and vegetables and even milk.  Early cans had a body made from tinplate with a locked internally soldered side seam. A stamped and flanged end was soldered to the bottom. The contents were hot filled and the ‘customer end’ was then thickly soldered to the top of the can body. This end had a handle and hole through which gravy or juice was poured to fill the headspace. A cap with a small vent hole was then soldered over the hole. When steam came from the vent hole during processing it was sealed with a drop of solder. The whole can was then placed in a heated bath for the “required time”. Can sizes ranged from 4 to 45lbs and it is said that a whole sheep was processed on one occasion. A skilled tinsmith could make up to 10 cans a day. (Today’s DWI line makes 1750 baked bean cans a minute!)

With slow production speeds the opportunity for volume sales to large organisations such as the Navy was limited. Added to which with the ending of the war with France in 1815 the Navy was left with large stocks of salted meat and was not anxious to purchase the expensive new canned alternatives. Initially it bought canned meat and soup on the recommendation of the Admiralty’s doctors for sick and convalescent seamen. By 1827 the Navy Board had laid down scales of preserved foods to be issued generally in place of salted provisions.

Donkin’s company shipped canned goods all over the world in the early 1800’s as they gained popularity. A captain of an English ship visiting Brazil in 1821 amazed his dinner party guests on board with the menu he provided. He noted in his diary “Tinned meats were in their infancy. I astonished them with a six pound piece of salmon to begin with and then a fillet of veal. A friend had sent me two hampers of good things from Fortnum and Mason’s and these tins were part of the lot”.

The merits and convenience of canned food were appreciated by the leaders of voyages of exploration. Edward Parry on his arctic expedition in 1819 to find the North West passage took tins of roasted veal, each tin having the instructions “to open cut round the outer edge with chisel and hammer”. Parry failed to find a passage through the ice and in 1845 John Franklin led another expedition to the arctic as part of the global magnetic survey, once more equipped with a selection of tinned goods. Nothing more was then heard of his two vessels and amazingly thirty nine expeditions were sent to find the lost men. In 1859 a stone cairn was discovered containing a log book of Franklin’s voyage which showed that, after his ships had become frozen in the ice for eighteen months, he and his men trekked southwards but all had perished on the way. Although a  20th century analysis of some of the explorers’ bones found by the cairn showed some signs of lead poisoning, presumably from the canned food they had eaten, it is certain that starvation and scurvy was the cause of  death of most of the expedition members.

From these early business ventures triggered by the demands of an Emperor for a method to preserve food to feed his army grew a safe world wide canning industry which has contributed to the health and living standards of millions of people.

Many thanks to Malcolm Lewis, who himself thanks John Rees ex-R&D Wantage for the technical information.