Damage to the Eastern Hall of the Ma’arra Museum, Idlib Province. Can civilians be trained to stem the destruction?

An international group of cultural experts and scientists have formed an emergency task force to help Syrians save their heritage from destruction.

The four-year civil war has killed more than 150,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes. It is also, as documented by the BBC, destroying some of the world’s most important art, buildings and monuments.

“What we’re doing is cultural triage,” says Brian Daniels of Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Philadelphia. He has recently returned from an undisclosed location in Turkey where the Heritage Task Force was training Syrians to protect artefacts from bombs and other threats.

“What we’re talking about is how do you sandbag collections for safety when you are coming under assault? What gets saved and what doesn’t? How do you treat the interior of the building when you expect it to collapse? This is a very grim business.”

The Heritage Task Force has been established by the Syrian Interim Government and brings together major organisations such as the Smithsonian Institution, the US Institute of Peace, Penn Cultural Heritage Center and The Day After Association based in Belgium. It is supported by the JM Kaplan Fund in New York.

The Umayyad Mosque area on 1 March, as captured by satellite

By 26 March, the minaret was destroyed and a large hole was created in the wall (orange arrow). The roof of the Souq al-Madina suffered additional damage (red arrows).

It is the latest attempt to protect cultural treasures in areas outside the control of the Assad government. In May this year, UNESCO established an observatory in Beirut to monitor destruction and looting while gathering information that may help restoration when the fighting ends.

But the Heritage Task Force is the first direct effort to support and train experts and activists inside Syria who are risking their lives to save the nation’s heritage.

“The conditions in Aleppo are particularly bad,” says Daniels. “We were meeting with people who had been without electricity for extended periods and without running water for longer than a month. We were meeting with people who had come under regular barrel bomb attack, who were working in museums and other cultural institutions that had had collateral damage from these bombs – sometimes direct mortar attacks.”

He says the psychological support is extremely important but admits that the practical help the task force can offer is limited.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Many times you have reports of damage or an attack but it’s somebody’s word and that can be ignored. Being able to use satellite imagery and established scientific methods to analyze that imagery adds so much to the debate ”

End Quote
Susan Wolfinbarger
American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The vast majority of Syria’s heritage sites lie directly in the line of fire. Looting is also a major problem. Of particular concern is the condition of a famous collection of Byzantine mosaics at Ma’arra Museum in Idlib province. The building has reportedly been attacked by Isis, an Islamic militant group which is also responsible for a counterinsurgency in Iraq.

The Heritage Task Force has offered advice on how to stabilize the mosaics and provided emergency conservation supplies. Many of the tactics were learned during World War II when Europe’s heritage suffered similar threats.

Meanwhile, aerial satellite images have revealed the extent of the damage to an ancient souk in Aleppo and the city’s 1,000-year-old Umayyad mosque. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Further satellite analysis is being planned that will monitor the whole of the country and may offer evidence that some sites are being deliberately targeted.

“Intentional damage is not something we can actually prove with our analysis,” says Susan Wolfinbarger, project director of the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

But she says when the imagery is analyised in conjunction with other information from news outlets, social media and eyewitness accounts, patterns can emerge that may point to deliberate attacks on heritage sites.

Gunfire damage to 6th century AD mosaic from Farkiya, Ma’arra Museum.

War’s beginning

Syria is no stranger to conflict. One of the first recorded acts of organized warfare took place more than 5000 years ago at Hamoukar in the northeast. The attackers used clay bullets fired from slings, massacred the residents and burned the city to the ground. Although the region has largely escaped the current civil war, experts say the lack of security makes the site vulnerable to looting and unauthorized construction work.

High- and low-resolution satellite images taken over a series of several years, months and days provide a detailed timeline of physical changes to buildings and landscapes. Such geospatial technology is already being used to offer evidence in criminal cases involving environmental disasters such as oil spills and human rights abuses.

“So many times you have reports of damage or an attack but it’s somebody’s word and that can be ignored. Being able to use satellite imagery and established scientific methods to analyze that imagery adds so much to the debate and clarifies things that people aren’t able to because there isn’t access on the ground,” says Wolfinbarger.

As the civil war grinds on with no sign of a truce, the task of saving Syria’s heritage seems overwhelming.

“To witness these antiquities which have been preserved for thousands of years being destroyed over the course of three years is devastating,” he says.

At this point, he says, it is not a question of stopping the damage. They are just hoping to contain it.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28380674

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July 21, 2014

By: Newswire

Travel Agent

AmaWaterways debuted its 2015 Europe, Russia, Asia Africa brochure. The new brochure introduces three new ships, a new destination and new theme cruises, as well as the return of the line’s wine and Christmas markets sailings.

RELATED: AmaWaterways Announces 2015 and 2016 Mekong River Itineraries Aboard the New AmaDara

Highlights of AmaWaterways’ 2015 Europe, Russia, Asia Africa brochure include:

Three New Ships:

  • AmaSerena and AmaVista – These new sister ships will offer travelers the opportunity to sail Europe’s waterways, including the Danube, Main and Rhine. The 164-passenger vessels will have Twin Balcony Staterooms, heated swimming pools with swim-up bars, salon services, fitness rooms, glass elevators and more.
  • AmaDara – This new 124-passenger ship joins AmaLotus in 2015, offering an voyage along the Mekong through Vietnam and Cambodia. The itinerary includes an overnight experience on an authentic yet contemporary junk, stops at UNESCO World Heritage Sites and time exploring the Khmer empire.  

New and Returning Theme Cruises:

  • In Celebration of Wine Cruise – AmaWaterways’ wine cruises make their return in 2015.  Traveling through Europe’s wine regions, these sailings will offer expert wine hosts, complimentary lectures, wine tastings and excursions to vineyards and cellars. (19 Departures in 2015)
  • Beer Cruise – A first for AmaWaterways, 2015 will bring the all-new Beer Cruise.  Hosted by beer expert Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell – author of a weekly beer column and three books – beer enthusiasts will enjoy beer pairing dinners, experiences, visits to breweries and local tastings. The new Beer Cruise will take place as part of AmaWaterways’ March 31 Tulip Time Cruise sailing and December 14 Christmas Time Cruise itinerary. (2 Departures in 2015)
  • Art Illumination Cruise – Art aficionados and aspiring artists alike can channel their inner Monet during this inaugural journey through France’s Normandy region onboard AmaLegro. (Embarking August 13, 2015) 
  • Jazz Cruise – Conducted in partnership with Jazzdagen Tours, this seven-night cruise onboard AmaLyra will offer jazz performances by a global assortment of musicians and immersive tours of a variety of ports, including the grand capital Vienna and towns like Durnstein. Guests can explore cathedrals and Baroque abbeys and take in the sights of Wachau Valley. (Embarking September 22, 2015)
  • Jewish Heritage Cruises – These itineraries dive into the legacy of Europe’s Jewish history and culture. Complimentary excursions include visits to World War II sites, historic Jewish synagogues and sightseeing spots European cities. Countries visited include Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. Optional extensions in Prague on The Romantic Danube and Lucerne and Zurich on The Enchanting Rhine are also available.  (4 Departures in 2015)
  • Christmas Markets Cruises – These cruises include feasts, festive décor, onboard entertainment and visits to centuries-old Christmas Markets in places such as Regensburg, Nuremberg and Vienna. Travelers will enjoy two itineraries in the Christmas markets, including Christmas Time Cruise (13 Departures in 2015); and Christmas on the Rhine. (11 Departures in 2015)

For more information, visit www.AmaWaterways.com

Related Links :

AmaWaterways Launches Booking Engine

One-on-One on AmaWaterways’ New Travel Agent Booking Engine

AmaWaterways Details New Ship, Cruise Program for 2014

Cris de Souza Named AmaWaterways’ Director of National Accounts

Article source: http://www.travelagentcentral.com/cruises/amawaterways-debutes-2015-europe-russia-asia-africa-brochure-47005

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I BELIEVE the construction of the European Union is not just a European legacy, but rather part of the world’s heritage.

It is a political institution that inspires countries to work together and increase co-operation and integration in their regions. It was the inspiration for South America, with Mercosur and the Union of South American Nations, and for Africa, with the African Union and the regional economic communities that are now engaged in developing the continent. It is an amazing achievement that countries that have been at war for centuries, begun to work together peacefully to resolve their differences through dialogue and politics and not by force of arms.

It is perhaps difficult to perceive at this moment, especially from inside a Europe suffering from unemployment and the loss of workers’ rights after years of economic crisis, which dates from the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Mainly for a generation that had the good fortune to grow up in a developed society and did not have to suffer the pain of war. But, just as it is advisable to step back some distance in order to discern the magnitude of a giant monument, certain achievements are only clearly visible when seen from a distance and with a broader perspective of time.

The social rights and the standard of living that Europeans enjoy are still a distant goal for the populations in the majority of countries in the world. The social welfare state is a great achievement, the result of the struggle of generations and generations of workers. We in Latin America are still struggling to achieve part of that which you, in Europe, must fight to protect against opportunistic initiatives to reduce rights.

Working people, the middle class, and immigrants cannot be held responsible for the crisis caused by the irresponsibility of the financial system. Banks were too heavily leveraged with huge speculative investments rather than responsible and productive ones. It cannot be left to the most vulnerable segments of our society — immigrants, retirees, workers, and the countries of southern Europe — to pay the bills for the greed of few.

The brutal adjustments imposed on the majority of European countries — which has been justly referred to ‘austericide’ — has delayed the resolution of the crisis without reason. The continent will need to have vigorous growth to recover the dramatic losses of the last six years. Some countries in the region appear to be emerging from the recession, but the recovery will be much slower and much more painful if the current contractionist policies are continued. More than imposing sacrifices on the European population, these policies are prejudicial even for those economies that managed to resist the crash of 2008, such as the US, the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, and a large share of developing countries.

In order to overcome this crisis, we needed in 2008, and still need today, more political than purely economic decisions. It is essential to understand and explain to the people the origins of the current crisis. Politics, still analog in a digital world, must be renewed to engage in a dialogue with society to identify the problems and to create new solutions. Political decisions cannot simply be outsourced, shifted to technical commissions, multilateral organisations or third or fourth-level bureaucrats. The roles of leaders and political parties cannot be replaced in a democracy. If progressive forces are not capable of presenting new ideas and representing workers and young people, offering advances and hope, we will see, sadly, an increase in the voices that promote fear, intolerance, and xenophobia.

In March, I had the opportunity to talk in Rome with the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi. His courage and skill trying to solve ancient impasses in Italian society was rewarded by the population with heavy voting in favour of his Democratic Party. It is a clear sign that it is possible to overcome the scepticism with politics.

We need to create a new historical horizon. Not a new theory, but a new utopia capable of motivating the population and serving as a horizon for progressive forces in Europe.

The world has changed in the last 30 years. But instead of lowering the standards of European workers’ rights against the competition of workers from emerging countries, what is needed is to raise their standards of living to levels similar to those of the Europeans. We need a broader and more generous vision of Europe, facing the fact that it’s possible to achieve the goal of a world without poverty.

Thirty years ago, when most of South America lived in sombre times with dictatorships spread throughout the continent, the solidarity and support of the EU and progressive parties were of great help in strengthening the forces of the left and achieving a return to democracy in our region.

Today, after great popular and political efforts, our continent is a peaceful and democratic region, with significant advances in economic development and the struggle against poverty made in the last decade.

In South America, it was the inclusion of the poorest levels of society that helped propel the economy forward, increasing income and consumption, creating strong internal markets, that allowed a progressive agenda with the advancement of social and worker rights.

In Brazil, the numbers that best translate the success of that strategy of investing in the poor are the more than 20m jobs created in the formal sector in the last 11 years, the 36m people that emerged from extreme poverty, and the 42m people that moved into the middle class.

I am convinced that the solution for the economic crisis worldwide lies in the fight against poverty on a global scale. Social funding should not be seen as simply spending, but rather as an investment in people. We must stop viewing the poor of the world as a problem and start viewing them as a solution, both within countries, and on a broader scale around the world.

Investments in social programmes, agricultural production and in financing infrastructure in developing countries, especially in Africa, can create new jobs and a new consumer market. Despite the worldwide crisis, African GDP grew consistently at rates of 5% and 6%, making space for the demand for more sophisticated goods and services produced in the wealthy countries and contributing to a sustainable recovery of the economies of Europe and the rest of the world.

The Europe that managed to be reborn after the devastation of the wars of the first half of the 20th century is proof that it is possible, by politics and democracy, to improve the standard of living of the population.

In South America, a generation of leaders such as Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Kirchner, Michelle Bachelet, Pepe Mujica, Rafael Correa, and Evo Morales, among others, succeeded, against all kind of conservative, and even reactionary opposition, to reach power by democratic means and promote great social and political advances in their countries.

The contribution of the progressive political forces is crucial to our continents. Therefore, a more direct political dialogue and closer ties are needed between South American and European lefts. It is important not only for our regions, but for the whole world.

lThis article is co-edited with Queries (HERE), the European Progressive Magazine published by FEPS, the think-tank of the Social Democrats at European level.

Lula’s lesson for EU on investment

Growth, inflation, stagnation, hyperinflation, stagflation, record IMF rescue, stabilisation, balanced budgets, and early repayment to the IMF. Brazil has been through it all in the past few decades.

But now it is the world’s seventh largest economy, and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — universally known as Lula — was one of those in the driving seat when the economy was turned around.

Among the measures he introduced, such as a huge growth investment programme, are now being pushed in the EU in a bid to stimulate the kind of 7% growth seen in Brazil in 2012.

But, having weathered the global economic recession of the past few years, growth in Brazil has now slipped. Nearly balanced government budgets of the past few years grew to a 3.28% deficit last year and debt to around 60%, both excellent by EU standards. Inflation is more than 6%, interest rates over 10%. So Lula is well placed to advise the EU on the benefits of social investment, believing recovery is as important for the global economy as it is for the EU.

Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Article source: http://www.irishexaminer.com/analysis/balancing-act--raising-living-standards-in-emerging-economies-276212.html

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Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/automobiles/collectibles/this-1918-cadillac-type-57-served-in-world-war-i.html

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Big Five sightings await Bench International’s seven-day “Wildlife and Wilderness” South African tour that is $1000 off if taken by August 31. The tour includes six nights’ safari lodge accommodation, meals, and local and game drives. Costs $3050 a person twin-share. See benchinternational.com.au.



A canopy walk through the Borneo jungle is included in a new holiday package to Kota Kinabalu. The deal includes return flights from Australian cities and five nights’ accommodation. Costs from $1166 ex-Sydney twin-share. For sale until July 31 and for travel until November 30. See directflights.com.au.


Need some sun? A three-night stay at Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise Hotel in a Superior Twin Room is on offer at more than 40 per cent off. Valid for sale until August 31, and for travel until September 30. Add $14 a person for stays on select dates October 1-November 30. See sunloverholidays.com.au.



A 31-night cruise from Miami to Seattle aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl visits Central America, US West Coast cities and Alaska. The total 34-night holiday includes flights. Costs $6439 a person, twin-share. Valid for sale until September 30. See worldwidecruisecentres.com.au.


Viking Cruises has a $995 airfare offer on bookings of Viking European river cruises. The return economy fare applies to all major Australian gateways and includes taxes. Add a stopover for $200 a person. Valid for travel February-November 2015.

See vikingcruises.com.au.



Jiuzhaigou – at the southern end of the Minshan mountain range, 330 kilometres north of the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu – is hugely popular for its lakes, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, wildlife, grasslands and Tibetan villages. In 1992, Jiuzhaigou was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, five years later a World Biosphere Reserve. See the gorgeous Jiuzhaigou region and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary with China specialist Helen Wong’s Tours. The 19-day tour including airfare is now $400 off for a couple. Costs $6170 a person twin share. On sale till August 31 for travel till mid-2015.

See helenwongtours.com.

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It has always been a lovely building – four stories of limestone and intricate detail. What made it so wrong was that it represented a brief but ugly chapter in Cincinnati history.

The Renaissance revival building at 12th and Walnut streets went up in 1877, and even in a German part of town, Over-the-Rhine, this building was extraordinarily Teutonic. It was built by an immigrant named Rattermann, it had a statue of Germania built into the design, and then there was the name: Deutsche Gegenseitige Versicherungs Gesellschaft von Cincinnati.

That became a problem starting 100 years ago when World War I began, the Lusitania was torpedoed and everything German became suspect. The language stopped being taught in public schools, people were fired from their jobs, street names were changed and pretzels disappeared from bars. Too Germanic.

The name of this lovely building was covered up for a century, never seen again – until now.

Last week the name was revealed again.

“It honors the German heritage of the city, and it rights a wrong of the past,” said Don Heinrich Tolzmann, president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati. For a long time Tolzmann hoped to bring the building back to its original state.

Kelly Murphy, who owns the building with her husband, first learned of the covered name when they bought the building five years ago. Then Tolzmann reminded them.

When it was time to paint the building, Murphy said it was time to bring back history. “It was something we really wanted to do. It felt important,” Murphy said.

City Councilman Chris Seelbach, a longtime resident of OTR and a descendant of German immigrants, fully supported the change and helped clear the path.

Seelbach knew the city’s history, he knew of the fear and hysteria, and he thought it was time to correct at least one thing. “It was a way to uncover the fear and honor our German heritage,” Seelbach said. “It’s great to honor that. I was glad to be a part of it.”

It is difficult to remember how troubled those times were, now that Bockfest booms, people drink Rhinegeist and every new house is seemingly a “haus.” But in 1914, when the war began, things began to feel uncomfortable in the German-American and German immigrant community.

At the time, more than half the residents of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were either born in Germany or had German parents, according to Tolzmann. The Germans built churches and opened businesses and had made this their home.

When the war began in Europe in 1914, some people wondered how the Germans here felt. In truth, it was complicated. World War I was not popular, and many Americans – of all ethnicities and races – thought the country should stay out of the conflict.

“They (German-Americans) had mixed emotions; they tried to keep the United States out of the war,” Tolzmann said. “It was a heartbreaking experience.”

The reality is that many Americans had no interest in fighting in Europe. “Most Americans were isolationists” said Scott Gampfer, director of the Cincinnati History Library and Archives and History Collections at the Cincinnati Museum Center. “And before our (American) involvement in the war, many Germans here were sympathetic to German causes. They raised money for war relief.”

After the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and after it became increasingly likely that American would join the war, Germans and German-Americans were questioned about their American-ness. And it got ugly.

Some businesses were boycotted, German-language books were removed from libraries and some people changed their names. By police order, according to the Ohio Historical Society, only German could not be used in public meetings. Bremen Street became Republic Street.

“A pall of suspicion fell over the city,” Gampfer said. “But the hysteria was not founded on anything real. It became ridiculous.”

This was when the building at 12th and Walnut covered its name. The Deutsche Gegenseitige Versicherungs Gesellschaft von Cincinnati firm became the German Mutual Insurance Co. of Cincinnati. Better for business, fewer questions.

The statue built into the building, the lovely Germania, became Columbia. “E Pluribus Unum” was chiseled into her gown. (However, many people still know the building as the Germania, due to the statue.)

This hysteria began to fade, oddly, when America did enter the war. German-Americans signed up or were conscripted like all other people here. “Many felt compelled to prove their loyalty,” Gampfer said. “And they fought valiantly.”

Over time, Cincinnati began to move on from this period. German-Americans and German immigrants were more accepted. During World War II, there was far less suspicion and, in most places, none at all. The dark history of fear became a memory.

And last week, a basket crane was raised up to the fourth floor of the building on 12th and Walnut and the final board covering the original name of the building was removed. “Truth triumphs,” Tolzmann said.

And one block away, on 13th and Walnut, a century of wind and sun was beginning to uncover even more history. The paint over a boarded business has faded enough now that the name underneath that paint is beginning to emerge.

It’s in German, too.

Street names changed during WWI hysteria

• German Street to English Street

• Berlin Street to Woodrow Street

• Bremen Street to Republic Street

• Brunswick Street to Edgecliff Point

• Frankfort Street to Connecticut Avenue

• Hanover Street to Yukon Street

• Hapsburg Street to Merrimac Street

• Schumann Street to Meredith Drive

• Vienna Street to Panama Street

• Humboldt Street to W.H. Taft Road

Article source: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2014/07/18/building-otr-embraces-scorned-german-history/12871919/

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Blues guitarist, singer and music producer Johnny Winter has died at age 70.

Winter rose to fame in the late 1960s and ’70s with his performances and recordings that included producing his childhood hero Muddy Waters.

“I love blues. I don’t mind a little rock and roll, too, as long as it’s blues-based rock and roll,” he told Guitar World in 2010. He was the older brother of Edgar Winter — also a music legend.

Winter’s representative, Carla Parisi, confirmed Thursday to the Associated Press that Winter died Wednesday in a hotel room in Zurich. A Facebook note says “his wife, family and bandmates were all saddened by the loss of one of the world’s finest guitarists.”

He had been on an extensive tour that took him to Europe for his last performance Saturday at the Lovely Days Festival in Wiesen, Austria. He performed in May at the annual Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Winter, who was born in Beaumont, Texas, showed his gift for music at an early age. At 4, he played the clarinet. At 11, the ukulele. He and Edgar often appeared as a duo on children’s TV shows and talent contests. Johnny formed his first band when he was 15 and was making records at 18.

But he battled health and substance abuse issues through the years.

In that Guitar World interview in 2010, he said, “I was not in the best shape for a while there. I was going through some really difficult personal issues, and I started taking prescription drugs to help with the problems on the advice of a doctor. But I ended up taking too many prescription drugs for too long. Combined with drinking, the adverse effects just got worse and worse.”

But, he added at the time, “I feel great now.”

Last month, in an interview with JournalStar.com, Winter, who released more than 25 albums in his career but never won a Grammy, was asked what he’d like his legacy to be.

He replied: “I just hope I’m remembered as a good blues musician.”

Winter was scheduled to release a studio album, Step Back, on Sept. 2 via Megaforce Records.

Article source: http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/17/johnny-winter-dies-switzerland/12781539/

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