Daily Archives: December 25, 2016

France 24 : UN resolution: No love lost between Netanyahu and Obama

UN resolution: No love lost between Netanyahu and Obama


In what many see as a final defiant diplomatic move, US President Barack Obama has allowed a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, a move highlighting the stark deterioration of US-Israeli relations.

The US abstained from a UN Security Council vote on Friday allowing all remaining 15 members of the Council to pass the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel’s settlement policy.

President Obama’s decision not to block the vote signalled a startling break from longstanding US policy in the Middle East.

In the past, Washington has vetoed all UN resolutions related to the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the grounds that differences must be solved through negotiations.

In explaining the decision, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said on Friday, “it is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground – and is consistent with US policy across Republican and Democratic administrations throughout the history of the state of Israel – that the United States did not veto it.”

The landmark move has unleashed a diplomatic furore and revealed deep divisions in the traditionally strong alliance that binds Israel to the US.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “anti-Israel” and “shameful”, adding that Israel would not abide by its terms.
Netanyahu said he had instructed his foreign minister to review engagements at the United Nations, including funding for UN agencies and the presence of UN representatives in Israel.
He accused the Obama administration of failing to protect Israel and even colluding with its detractors.

Much of the criticism aimed at the US has focused on the president’s timing. Questions have been raised as to why, after nearly eight years in office, the Obama administration has only now decided to allow the resolution to be approved.

White House officials responded swiftly saying they had been watching draft resolutions in circulation for a least a year and were ready to take a stand when one made it to the table.

US ‘tried everything’

The White House added that it had repeatedly tried to convince Israel that building on Palestinian land was sabotaging hopes for peace.

Deputy national security adviser to Obama, Benjamin J Rhodes, said in a report published in the New York Times yesterday that the US president had tried everything.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today,” Rhodes said.

“Absent this acceleration of settlement activity, absent the type of rhetoric we’ve seen out of the current Israeli government, I think the United States likely would have taken a different view,” he said.

It’s a position that was reiterated earlier this month by US Secretary of State John Kerry who told a US-Israeli forum in Washington that right-wing members of Netanyahu’s government were trying to destroy hopes for a two-state peace deal.
AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby group in Washington said: “By adopting this resolution, the United Nations has once again served as an open forum to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Netanyahu views the abstention, which comes after months of closed-door deliberations, as the ultimate betrayal saying that the US had “failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN”.
Adding fuel to the fire, and in an unprecedented move for a US president-elect, Donald Trump attempted to intercede by asking Egypt Thursday to postpone the vote. Later, after hearing the outcome of the resolution, he implied in a tweet that he could punish the United Nations at a later date.

Tense relations

It is no secret that relations between Netanyahu and Obama have been frosty at best. Some observers have gone so far as to suggest that Obama’s decision has had as much to do with diplomatic differences as mutual animosity.

Indeed, ideological differences had put the two men, one a liberal democrat the other a conservative premier, at odds from the very start.

“They have a fraught relationship and it’s fueled by a belief on the part of both of them that the other is trying to screw them, trip them up, thwart their policies, corner them, ambush them,” Martin Indyk, Obama’s former special envoy to the Middle East, told the New York Times last year.

Breaking point

The most damaging rupture in Israeli-US relations, however, came back in July 2015 when the Iran nuclear deal was signed.The US brokered deal sought to lift international sanctions in exchange for constraints on Iran’s nuclear capability. Netanyahu was so incensed he flew to Washington to address Congress to try to stop the deal going ahead.

Nonetheless, the US is still set to give Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade — the largest such aid package in US history — but relations have never fully recovered.

US special envoy to the peace process Frank Lowenstein said after the decision Friday that US Secretary of State John Kerry would in the coming days unveil plans to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Netanyahu’s former national security adviser Uzi Arad said of the rift in a New York Times article last year that, “it was a gradual thing that widened over time”.

On the legacy of this schism, he said: “History will probably say that both leaders mismanaged their relationship. It’s not one party.”

France 24: Christians mark Christmas in Iraqi town freed from IS rule

Christians mark Christmas in Iraqi town freed from IS rule


Iraqi Christians filled the pews of the fire-scarred Mar Shimoni church in Bartella, east of Mosul, on Christmas Eve, for the first service since its recapture from jihadists.

The Islamic State group destroyed crosses at the church in the town of Bartella and set it alight, but volunteers worked for days to ready it for the service, the first held here in two and a half years.
The damage done by IS is still visible: pieces of crosses can be found in and around the church, parts of it are still charred from the flames, and the face of a statue near its entrance has been smashed, the hands broken off.
But a new cross has been erected on top of the church, and the Christmas Eve service held here is a step on what will be a long road to recovery for the town.
For some of the displaced Christians of Bartella, it was a deeply emotional experience.
“I can never describe… our happiness and everything. We feel like life returned,” said Nada Yaqub.
“We felt that our cross is still around our necks. No one could take it from us.”
Matti Hanna called the jihadists who displaced the town’s people “criminals”.
“My feelings are the feelings of all the people of Bartella, the same feelings: we missed this day… we missed it a lot,” said Hanna.
IS seized Bartella and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in the summer of 2014, leaving Christians with the grim choices of conversion, paying a tax, fleeing or death.
The town was recaptured as part of the massive military operation to retake Mosul, the last IS-held Iraqi city, which was launched on October 17.
‘We are staying’
Worshippers travelled in buses from Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil to Bartella for the service.
It was held with security forces deployed around the church, in a town marred by smashed buildings and IS graffiti.
But there were some festive aspects as well: a Christmas tree decorated in ornaments, coloured lights and topped by a star stood at the entrance to the church compound, and the bell at Mar Shimoni was rung at the beginning and end of the service.
Worshippers held candles during the service, which was conducted in Aramaic and Arabic, the air smelling of incense, gas heaters only slightly warming the chilly air.
“We want to deliver the message that we are staying in this country and that these are our roots and our origins,” Father Yaqub Saadi, the church’s priest, told AFP.
Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, attended the service, as did Nawfal Hammadi, the governor of Nineveh province, where Bartella is located.
A group of American soldiers also came, but faced some difficulties when one of their heavy armoured vehicles became stuck in a muddy section of a street near the church.
The soldiers entered the church without their usual weapons or body armour, with most of them sitting in a group in the back.
While Bartella and other Christian areas around Mosul have been recaptured from IS, the large-scale return of residents is still a long way off, with bombs planted by the jihadists still a threat and basic services needing to be restored.
Yaqub said that even though her house in Bartella was destroyed, she still hopes to come back.
“God willing, I will return,” she said.

France 24: Pope says Christmas ‘taken hostage’ by materialism

Pope says Christmas ‘taken hostage’ by materialism


Pope Francis said on Saturday that Christmas had been “taken hostage” by dazzling materialism that puts God in the shadows and blinds many to the needs of the hungry, the migrants and the war weary.

Francis, leading the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics into Christmas for the fourth time since his election in 2013, said in his Christmas Eve homily that a world often obsessed with gifts, feasting and self-centeredness needed more humility.

“If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there,” the Pope said at St. Peter’s Basilica.

At the solemn but joyous service, attended by some 10,000 people as well as dozens of cardinals and bishops, Pope Francis said the many in the wealthy world had to be reminded that the message of Christmas was humility, simplicity and mystery.

“Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference,” he said.

“Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts, but cold toward those who are marginalized.”

He then added in unscripted remarks: “This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed.”

Security was heightened for the Christmas weekend in Italy and at the Vatican after Italian police killed the man believed to be responsible for the Berlin market truck attack while other European cities kept forces on high alert.

St. Peter’s Square was cleared out six hours before the mass started at the basilica so that security procedures could be put in place for those entering the church later.

Francis, who has made defence of the poor a trademark of his papacy, said the infant Jesus should remind everyone of those suffering today, particularly children.

“Let us also allow ourselves to be challenged by the children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat over-laden with immigrants,” he said.

Outside the basilica, thousands of people who could not get into the largest church in Christendom watched on large screens in the chilly night.

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons,” he said.

On Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

France 24: Singer George Michael of Wham! fame dies at 53

Singer George Michael of Wham! fame dies at 53


British singer George Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist with sometimes sexually provocative lyrics, died at his home in England on Sunday. He was 53.

In the mid-1980s, “Wham! was one of the most successful pop duos ever, ahead even of Simon & Garfunkel, with singles like “”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “”Careless Whisper”, ““Last Christmas” and ““The Edge of Heaven”.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” his publicist said in a statement.
“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage,” the statement said.
British police said Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious.”
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou June 25, 1963 in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents in a flat above a north London laundrette, Michael once played music on the London underground train system before finding fame with Wham!.
With a school friend, Andrew Ridgeley, he formed Wham! in 1981, a partnership that would produce some of the most memorable pop songs and dance-floor favorites of the 1980s.
“I am in deep shock,” said Elton John. “I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans. @GeorgeMichael #RIP.”
‘I want your sex’
The duo had their first hit with their second release ““Young Guns (Go For It)” (1982) before their debut release “”Wham Rap” became a hit the following year. The 1984 album “Make It Big” was a huge success in the United States.
““No way could I have done it without Andrew,” Michael once said. “I can’t think of anybody who would have been so perfect in allowing something which started out as a very naive, joint ambition, to become what was still a huge double act but what was really…mine.”
But Michael was keen to reach beyond Wham!’s teenage audience and to experiment with other genres. Wham! announced their split in 1986.
A pilot solo single “”I Want Your Sex” was banned by daytime radio stations but was one of his biggest hits.
“I want your sex, I want you, I want your sex,” he sang. “So why don’t you just let me go, I’d really like to try, Oh I’d really love to know, When you tell me you’re gonna regret it, Then I tell you that I love you but you still say no!”
In the space of the next five years, Michael had six U.S. Number One hit singles including ““Faith”, ““Father Figure”, ““One More Try”, ““Praying For Time” and a duet with Aretha Franklin ““I Knew You Were Waiting For Me”.
Questions about his sexuality were raised when he was arrested in 1998 for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.
“I feel stupid and reckless and weak for letting my sexuality be exposed that way,” Michael told CNN at the time. “But I do not feel shame [about my sexuality], neither do I think I should.”
“I can try to fathom why I did what I did,” he continued, “but at the end of the day, I have to admit that maybe part of the kick was that I might get found out,” he told CNN.
Though he had relationships with women and once told family members that he was bisexual, Michael, then 34, said he was gay.
“Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael,” said Star Trek actor and LGBT rights activist George Takei. “You’ve found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.”
While Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power, Michael voted for Britain’s opposition Labour Party but criticized Tony Blair’s support for George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“Sad to hear that George Michael has died,” said current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. “He was an exceptional artist and a strong supporter of LGBT and workers’ rights.”
Michael’s death comes at the end of a year that has seen the passing of several music superstars, including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, the guitarist of British rock group Status Quo, died on Saturday at 68.

Feng Zhang: Biomedical Engineer Changing DNA Technology


Un peisaj de BASM , Un peisaj din Romania ! Peles


Un peisaj de BASM , Un peisaj din Romania !

Overlooking Owens Valley to the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.


Overlooking Owens Valley to the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.

One of the most beautiful places in the world. Overlooking Owens Valley to the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Today’s Holiday: Christmas (Greece)

Today’s Holiday:
Christmas (Greece)

According to Greek folklore, supernatural beings with unusual powers are present upon earth during the 12 days between Christmas Eve and Epiphany. The name for these spirits is kallikantzari, and they wander about during the Christmas season causing mischief. They are ugly and unkempt, and their favorite way of getting into the house is through the chimney, much like the traditional Santa Claus. Christmas masqueraders often dress in animal skins to represent these demons, and their jangling bells are supposed to drive the spirits away.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Today’s Birthday: Louis Chevrolet (1878)

Today’s Birthday:
Louis Chevrolet (1878)

Born in Switzerland, Chevrolet was an auto mechanic who emigrated to the US in 1900 to race cars. In 1905, he drove a mile in a record 52.8 seconds. In 1911, he founded the Chevrolet Motor Company with support from General Motors founder William C. Durant and designed its first car. He sold his interest in 1915 but continued making racecars. His cars won the Indy 500 in 1920 and 1921. He later formed an aircraft company with his brother, but the venture failed. Who drove his winning car in 1920?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

This Day in History: Charlemagne Crowned Emperor (800 CE)

This Day in History:
Charlemagne Crowned Emperor (800 CE)

Charlemagne was king of the Franks (768–814) and emperor of the West (800–814). With the exception of the British Isles and parts of Italy and Spain, he united in one vast state almost all the Christian lands of Western Europe. After restoring Leo III to the papacy, he was crowned emperor in Rome on Christmas Day, 800 CE, finalizing the split between the Byzantine and Roman empires and marking the revival of the empire that was the forerunner of the Holy Roman Empire. What language did he speak?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Quote of the Day: William Shakespeare

Quote of the Day:
William Shakespeare

Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Article of the Day: Axolotl

Article of the Day:

Found in lakes near Mexico City, axolotls are salamanders affected by a phenomenon called neoteny, which means that adults of the species often fail to undergo metamorphosis and reach reproductive maturity without losing their larval characteristics. They are able to regenerate most body parts and are used extensively in scientific research. Axolotls are also commonly kept as pets in several countries and are considered a delicacy in Mexico. What prevents axolotls from undergoing metamorphosis?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Word of the Day: polymorphism

Word of the Day:

Definition: (noun) Crystallization of a compound in at least two distinct forms.
Synonyms: pleomorphism
Usage: Calcium carbonate possesses the characteristic of polymorphism, since it crystallizes as calcite or aragonite.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Cherokee girl. Late 1800s? Source – National Anthropological Archives.


Cherokee girl. Late 1800s? Source – National Anthropological Archives.

Cherokee girl. Late 1800s? Source – National Anthropological Archives.

Pope Francis: Christmas message “Urbi et Orbi”: full text – Vatican Radio



Buddha Quotes: The tongue, like a sharp knife….


Buddha Quotes: The tongue, like a sharp knife….

Buddha Quotes: The tongue, like a sharp knife, kills without drawing blood.

Massacre of the Russian royals: Horrific last hours of a dynasty | Daily Mail Online


Massacre of the Russian royals: Horrific last hours of a dynasty


Bayonetted and shot by drunken assassins, the slaughter of the Russian royal family shook the world.

By Zoe Brennan for the Daily Mail

19:04 EST 18 Jul 2008, updated 19:08 EST 18 Jul
Bayonetted and shot by drunken assassins, the slaughter of the Russian royal family shook the world.
Now a new book reveals in compelling detail the horrifying final days of the Romanovs.
As the light faded, a train halted in the siding near the remote railway station of Lyubinskaya on the Trans-Siberian railway line.
tsar and family
Gunned down: The Tsar and Tsaritsa with their five children who were executed by the Bolsheviks
It was the evening of April 29, 1918, and there was nothing outwardly remarkable about these first-class railway carriages, except the presence of a heavily armed guard outside their doors.
Inside sat a family whose faces have been immortalised through history book pictures.
Four pale girls, in white lace, their hair tied back with satin ribbons. A sickly little boy in a sailor suit.
This was the moment of truth for the Romanovs, the Russian Imperial Family deposed by the Soviet revolution.
Now, they were making their final journey. The young and beautiful Grand Duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, sat beside their mother, the haughty Tsaritsa Alexandra, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
The young Tsarevich Alexey lent on his father, the former Tsar Of All The Russias, Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov. The engine started, and the train took a decisive turn.
The lingering hope inside Special Train No. 8 evaporated. The train was lumbering not towards a trial in Moscow or foreign exile, as they had believed, but to the bleak Urals.
The Romanovs were being taken to Ekaterinburg, the historic hub of Russia’s old penal system.
There they would face a firing squad just 78 days later  –  and exactly 90 years ago this week.
To coincide with that anniversary, their last wretched days have been chronicled in an explosive new book.
Using previously overlooked documents and witness accounts, it tells the story of the family’s final moments in unprecedented detail.
So just how did these most aristocratic of aristocrats fall so decisively from glory?
A man of limited political vision and ability, Nicholas was an unlikely king. Even in stature, at 5ft 7in, he was lacking.
Fatally, he turned a blind eye to social unrest. He left his deeply unpopular wife, Alexandra, in effective political control.
She was increasingly spellbound by Grigory Rasputin, the charismatic ‘holy man’ she believed could save her haemophiliac son Alexey from bleeding to death.
Faced with escalating political turmoil, Nicholas believed he had no option but to abdicate ‘for the good of Russia’ in 1917.
He did so also because he believed it would guarantee the safety of his beloved family.
Again, in this he proved calamitously naive. The family were initially placed under house arrest and then transferred to a small rural town, Tobolsk, where they retained a substantial entourage of 39 courtiers and servants.
They brought many of their Imperial Palace treasures with them, including leather-bound volumes of photographs and vintage wines from the court cellars.
Eventually, the new revolutionary high command decreed that such privilege could not be allowed in the emerging communist state.
Instead, a house in Ekaterinburg was secretly prepared. It would be a far cry from the sumptuous winter and summer palaces, banqueting halls and glorious gardens the Imperial Family had previously enjoyed. Ominously,
it would be referred to by a Bolshevik euphemism, dom osobogo znachenie –  The House Of Special Purpose.
Stepping off the train in Ekaterinburg after a bone-rattling five-day journey, an exhausted Nicholas and his wife were received into the hands of local soviets, along with their doctor, maid, valet and footman.
As their car drew up to The House Of Special Purpose, they looked their last on the outside world.
It was Passion Week, and the Easter bells of the Orthodox Church rang out across the city.
As the gates to his new prison slammed shut, the Tsar was curtly told: ‘Citizen Nicholas Romanov, you may enter.’
From now on, there would be no more acknowledgement of Romanov status and titles, much to the Tsaritsa’s disgust.
Gradually, the Imperial Family settled in to their new lodgings, a private house which, though hardly a palace, was nonetheless regarded as one of the most modern in the city, as it possessed a flushing toilet.
Hidden behind a high wooden fence, its windows blacked out, it was now a gloomy prison. The Romanovs were confined to a suite of five rooms.
Spirited and bored, the Romanov girls, aged between 17 and 22, ignored warnings not to peek out of an unsecured top-floor window, until a sentry fired a warning shot at Anastasia’s head.
The young princesses’ clothes were becoming increasingly threadbare  –  there were no more white dresses and pretty hats like they used to wear every summer at their palace in the Crimea, a seaside paradise where the air was thick with the scent of roses and honeysuckle.
Lively and vivacious, they still beguiled their guards, however, with one saying they could not have looked prettier ‘even if they had been covered in gold and diamonds’.
The family were allowed to keep their bed linen, bearing personalised monograms and the Imperial crest, as well as fine porcelain dinner plates bearing the name Nicholas II.
Alexandra had also brought supplies of her favourite English eau de cologne by Brocard, as well as cold cream and lavender salts.
These were not the only potions on which the Tsaritsa was reliant. Plagued by migraines, heart palpitations, insomnia and sciatica, she was hopelessly addicted to a whole range of drugs.
She had long ago admitted to being ‘saturated’ with Veronal, a barbiturate. She also took morphine and cocaine for menstrual pain.
It has been speculated that the Tsar, too, was cushioned from reality by narcotics. It was said that his childlike indifference to losing the throne was the result of smoking a mixture of hashish and the psychoactive herb henbane, administered by a Tibetan doctor, recommended by Rasputin, to counter stress and insomnia.
Life in The House Of Special Purpose was severely restrictive. They were not allowed visitors, nor to go outside except during a proscribed hour.
And they were to talk no language other than Russian 54 –  the Tsaritsa liked to speak to her children in English.
However, she refused point blank to obey an edict to ring a bell every time she went to use the bathroom.
Daily life had become a matter of endurance. The family had one consuming obsession, however: Alexey’s fragile health.
Since April, the 13-year-old had been suffering from a recurring haemorrhage in his knee, causing him agonising pain.
Doctors had already cautioned that Alexey would not reach 16 because of his debilitating illness, but he seemed now at death’s door.
The family was exhausted by a relentless round of all-night sessions at his beside. Eventually, the splint was taken off his leg, and he could be carried out to the garden, but he would never walk again.
By early July, the daily ritual of life at the House had taken on a numbing predictability.
The family rose at eight in the morning, and breakfasted on tea and black bread.
The days were filled with endless games of cards, patience and the French game bezique, which was a family favourite, while Alexey played with his model ship and tin soldiers.
The family dogs, Ortino, Joy and Jemmy, provided a much-needed diversion.
During their hour in the small garden, the girls and their father would walk the 40 paces back and forth, eager to make the most of their exercise time.
It was a sorry picture: the man who had once ruled 8.5 million square miles of empire, now master of a single room of his own and a small, scrappy garden.
The evenings were filled with a meagre supper, prayers and Bible readings, more games, and embroidery and sewing 55 –  the women spent long, furtive hours concealing gemstones and pearls into the linings of their dresses, to fund the life in exile of which they dreamed.
On July 4, there was an abrupt change in the House. The authorities were concerned that a rescue attempt was being plotted by royalists, and the guards were changed.
There was another reason for this, and for the Tsar and Tsaritsa, it was a shocking one.
On June 27, Maria, the most flirtatious and attractive of the Grand Duchesses, had been discovered, during an inspection by commanders, in a compromising situation with guard Ivan Skorokhodov.
He had smuggled in a cake for her 19th birthday, and their friendship had developed quickly in the boredom of the house.
Skorokhodov was sent to the city’s prison, while Maria, an elegant young woman with light brown hair and mischievous blue eyes  –  was reprimanded by her family.
Tragically, in their final weeks together, her eldest sister, Olga, and her mother froze her out, refusing to speak to her as punishment for disgracing them.
Outside, civil war raged. The ranks of the White Army, which opposed the Bolsheviks, had been swelled by Czech deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army.
They were rapidly gaining ground on Ekaterinburg. Food in the city was rationed, and typhus and cholera had taken grip.
The mood grew increasingly ugly  –  45 members of the local Orthodox diocese were murdered, their eyes gouged out, tongues and ears hacked off and their mangled bodies thrown in the river.
But inside the House Of Special Purpose, an air of unreality reigned. It was getting hotter and hotter, and the inhabitants of the building had now settled into a state of restless boredom.
The atmosphere was increasingly claustrophobic.  The Tsar and Tsaritsa continued to write their diaries every evening, although there were no grand banquets, affairs of state, or court gossip to relate.
Only their joy when the frail Alexey had been well enough to take a bath. ‘Very hot, went early to bed as awfully tired and heart ached more,’ wrote Alexandra on Thursday, July 4, 1918.
A guard described the Tsar’s ‘melancholy’ aspect, of outward calm and dignity, that crumpled when he though he was unobserved.
He would watch his children play, his soft blue eyes full of tears. For her part, the Tsaritsa was a broken woman. Gone were her delicate features and lovely golden hair.
The family had learnt to be stoical, but their awful fate loomed. In America, the Washington Post published rumours that they had already been executed.
In Britain, George V had withdrawn his earlier offer of asylum for the family, and three days’ before the execution was blithely attending a cricket match at Lord’s
In fact, the Romanovs’ fate at this point hung in the balance. Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was aware that their demise would anger the Kaiser, because of the Romanov’s links with the German royal family.
But his advisers were telling him that Ekaterinburg could soon fall to the Czechs, and the Imperial Family could prove a rallying point against communism.
The deeply religious Tsaritsa wrote to a friend that she and her family were: ‘Readying ourselves in our thoughts for admission to the Kingdom of Heaven.’
At the House Of Special Purpose, the guard book recorded as it had for many days: ‘Vse obychno’ –  ‘ Everything is the same’. But ominous preparations were in hand to ‘ liquidate’ the Romanovs and to keep the matter a state secret.
A nearby mineshaft had been identified as a suitable burial place, and a doctor had been ordered to procure 400lb of sulphuric acid to destroy the bodies.
Tuesday, July 16 began uneventfully for the Romanovs, but their guards were putting into place the last plans for their execution, assembling an armoury of guns in order to carry out their task, and ordering 50 eggs from local nuns to help give them strength for the task ahead.
On one occasion, a laundrywoman witnessed 17-year-old Ansastasia sticking out her tongue at the head of the hit squad, Yakov Yurovsky.
And while there is no indication that the children were aware of their impending fate, two of the guards got cold feet and said they would not shoot the girls. They were sent away.
At 3pm, the family walked around the strip of unkempt garden for the last time.
After evening prayers, they went to bed. In the early hours of the following day, they were wakened and told that the White Army was approaching and might launch an artillery attack on the house.
They were to go downstairs for their own safety. The Tsar got up immediately, the women put on their camisoles sewn full of jewels and pearls, as they had rehearsed for a rescue attempt or sudden flight.
Soon they emerged, ‘all neat and tidy’ as one guard observed. At 2.15am on July 17, they were led down to the basement.
The Tsar was heard to turn and say to his daughters reassuringly: ‘Well, we’re going to get out of this place’  –  proof, some say, that he was a true martyr who was fully aware of the horror ahead.
Anastasia carried her sister Tatiana’s little Pekinese, Jemmy, down the stairs. They were ushered into a storeroom, lit by a single naked bulb.
The windows had been nailed shut. True to form, Alexandra complained that there were no chairs.
Next, the family and their servants were lined up as for a last, sinister official photograph.
Then they were left alone for half an hour, as their assassins downed shots of vodka.
Re-entering the room, a guard read out a statement sentencing the family to death.
The faces before him registered blank incomprehension. The family crossed themselves, and a man walked towards the Tsar and shot him at point-blank range in the chest.
Other guards fired, as his body crumpled to the floor. Half drunk, the guards shot clumsily, hitting the Tsaritsa in the left side of her skull.
Next to her, poor lame Alexey, too crippled to move, sat transfixed with terror, his ashen face splattered with his father’s blood.
The moans and whimpers from the floor testified to a botched job. But it was the children who suffered most.
None of the Romanov girls died a quick or painless death. Maria was felled by a bullet in the thigh, and lay bleeding until repeated stabbing in the torso snuffed out her life.
Her sisters were eventually finished off with an 8in bayonet, Olga having been shot in the jaw, and Tatiana in the back of the head as she tried to escape.
What should have been a quick, clean execution had turned into an orgy of killing, with only the thick clouds of gunpowder smoke obscuring the full horror of it.
Last of the women to die was Anastasia. A drunken guard lunged at her like an animal, attempting to pierce her chest with his bayonet.
Eventually, the head of the hit squad, Yakov Yurovsky, took his gun to her head.
Alexey alone was still alive, the young heir to the throne. He was wearing an undergarment sewn with jewels, which acted as a flak jacket. Yurovsky fired his Colt into the boy’s head, and he slumped against his father.
It had taken a frenzied 20 minutes to kill the Romanovs and their servants. In the panicked moments that followed, Yurovsky’s men staggered from the room, choking and coughing.
Shaking and disoriented, one of them vomited as he emerged into the cool night air.
Meanwhile, upstairs, in the House Of Special Purpose, Alexey’s King Charles spaniel, Joy, barked, his ears pricked, waiting for his young master to return.

• EKATERINBURG: The Last Days Of The Romanovs, by Helen Rappaport, is published by Hutchinson at £18.99. To order a copy at £17.10 (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.

Massacre of the Russian royals: Horrific last hours of a dynasty | Daily Mail Online


Crăciun Fericit la toți vă doresc din inimă si din suflet!

Dăm cadouri sperând să ne iertăm păcatele față de lume…că nu mai avem nimic în inimă și spirit să dăm…din inimă și suflet…Crăciun Fericit la toți vă doresc din inimă si din suflet!


Crăciun Fericit la toți vă doresc din inimă si din suflet!

Apache Chief Naiche & his wife Ha-o-zinne. Photo by F.A. Randall. 1886.


Apache Chief Naiche & his wife Ha-o-zinne. Photo by F.A. Randall. 1886.

Apache Chief Naiche & his wife Ha-o-zinne. Photo by F.A. Randall. 1886.

De la Breaza Făgăraşului de acest Crăciun 2016


De la Breaza Făgăraşului de acest Crăciun 2016

De la Breaza Făgăraşului de acest Crăciun 2016

Mesajul Custodelui Coroanei de Crăciun 2016:  Romani,…


Mesajul Custodelui Coroanei de Crăciun 2016:


Am traversat impreuna un an cu semnificatii importante, cu emotii profunde, cu tristete si cu bucurii.

Anul 2016 a stat sub semnul celor 150 de ani de istorie moderna a tarii noastre. Carol I a devenit principe suveran in anul 1866 si  a promulgat o noua consitutie, care a asezat statul roman modern pe harta Europei.

Devotamentul fata de Coroana si fata de Tara a fost un numitor comun al inaintasilor mei. Loialitatea Regelui Carol I si a Reginei Elisabeta, ca si daruirea exemplara a Regelui Ferdinand si a Reginei Maria sunt un mare exemplu pentru Romania de astazi.

Anul acesta este un an al durerii, in care ne-am despartit de Regina Ana. Cei 68 de ani pe care Regina noastra i-a daruit Regelui si tarii ne-au facut sa credem ca ea va fi mereu cu noi. Regina a plecat lasand in urma tristete, dar si un exemplar legamant de devotement, modestie si hotarare.

Tatal meu a fost absent anul acesta, dupa o grea problema de sanatate. Inconjurat de iubire, Regele nostru a sarbatorit 95 de ani.

Romania isi consolideaza libertatile si foloseste bine instrumentele dezvoltarii. Societatea noastra dovedeste constiinta si intansigenta, doreste informatie si da dovada de spirit civic. Autoritatea politica este chemata sa dea examene de competenta si de etica. Ne lipseste inca reflexul de a respecta legea, fara sa ne oblige cineva, si nu ne exercitam inca, in plan public cu raspundere si patriotism.

Evenimentele din Europa si din lume ne arata ca democratia traieste intr-un moment de instabilitate si slabiciune. Prosperitatea nu asigura automat echilibrul si siguranta tarii noastre. Deviere de la principii si valori, momente de ratacire pot interveni in orice societate, chiar si in cele mai avansate de pe glob.

Romania are de facut fata unor dificultati care erau de neimaginat acum 20 de ani. Valorile pe care Regele Mihai le-a promovat intreaga sa viata sunt astazi mai importante ca oricand: bunatate, loialitate, simtul datoriei, iubirea fata de tara, competenta si masura.

Ca in fiecare an, Fundatia Principesa Margareta a Romaniei a facut eforturi pentru ca batranii nostri sa aiba o viata demna, inconjurati de afectiunea si respectul celorlalti. De asemenea, fundatia ajuta generatia tanara de artisti talentati, care au aspiratii inalte, pragmatism si energie, pentru a evolua profesional. Ei pot duce Romania departe, dar au nevoie de ajutorul societatii.

La 140 de ani de la fondarea Crucii Rosii romane, aceasta mare organizatie a reluat legatura sa istorica si traditionala cu Familia Regala.

Soldatii romani ne dau o lectie de curaj, patriotism si simt al datoriei. Felicit pe militarii nostri, oriunde se afla ei!

Familia Regala a mers in acest an in multe comunitati locale, mici si mari, din Cluj si Sibiu la Iasi si Bacau, de la Brasov si Alba la Galati si Tulcea, din Ialomita la Chisinau, Balti, Cahul, Soroca si Comrat. Familia noasta a reprezentat Romania in vizite in Germania, Suedia, Marea Britanie, Albania, Elvetia si Belgia. Am dezvoltat proiecte educationale, culturale, sociale si sportive, am avut actiuni diplomatice. Multe institutii si organizatii s-au asezat sub egida regala.

Palatul Elisabeta, Castelul Peles si Savarsinul gazduiesc evenimente si aduna mii de oameni, incurajand competenta, continuitatea si creativitatea.

Suntem in ajunul sarbatorii nasterii Domnului Nostru Iisus Hristos. Exemplul sau de iubire si sacrificiu este o sursa de inspiratie, un far al vietii noastre.

In numele Regelui Mihai si a intregii Familii Regale, trimit romanilor din tara, din Republica Moldova si din toate colturile lumii, urari de sanatate si fericire!

Asa sa ne ajute Dumnezeu!

Vin de Cotnari vechi de 10 anişori: Ce culoare are!


Vin de Cotnari vechi de 10 anişori: Ce culoare are!

Vin de Cotnari vechi de 10 anişori: Ce culoare are!

Crăciun fericit !!! Cabana Valea Sâmbetei (1401 m alt.) – masivul Făgăraș. © imagine: Fotografia în viziunea lui COMŞA Bogdan


Crăciun fericit !!!

Cabana Valea Sâmbetei (1401 m alt.) – masivul Făgăraș.
© imagine: Fotografia în viziunea lui COMŞA Bogdan

Crăciun fericit !!!

Cabana Valea Sâmbetei (1401 m alt.) – masivul Făgăraș.
© imagine: Fotografia în viziunea lui COMŞA Bogdan

De Crăciun, în Breaza de Făgăraş


De Crăciun, în Breaza de Făgăraş

De Crăciun, în Breaza de Făgăraş

Jan de Bray – The Adoration of the Shepherds 1665 Oil on Panel 63 x 48 cm Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague


Jan de Bray – The Adoration of the Shepherds 1665
Oil on Panel 63 x 48 cm
Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague

Jan de Bray – The Adoration of the Shepherds 1665
Oil on Panel 63 x 48 cm
Mauritshuis Museum, The Hague

Ceata din Sona. Craciun fericit!


Ceata din Sona. Craciun fericit!

Ceata din Sona. Craciun fericit!