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#Waterloo - A story of bullets and bones

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We started out by doing a metal detector survey of the orchard at Mont St Jean, which is right next to the farm. We were looking for evidence for the use of the farm as one of the main field hospitals during the battle of Waterloo, writes Professor Tony Pollard, Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and lead academic on Waterloo Uncovered.

We put trenches in and excavated down to the ground surface below the plough soil, and almost to our surprise, we came up with quite a concentration of musket balls - both Allied musket balls fired by the Brown Bess infantry musket, and the smaller calibre French musket balls. This indicates that there had been a fight here - these aren’t musket balls that have just landed here from some distance away, there had been a fierce fight very close to the farm.

Given that the farm lies about 600m behind the main Allied line, we think that the musket balls relate to a cavalry action - French cavalry must have swept down the hill into the grounds of Mont St Jean, where they were engaged by the defenders, and a firefight developed. The French musket balls were probably fired by carbines - short-barrelled muskets carried by mounted troops.

So we’re finding evidence of a previously unknown action at the very doors of the Mont St Jean Field Hospital. On the basis of that, we’ve expanded our survey up the hill beyond the farm, in the direction of the ridge and the ‘reverse slope’ upon which many British and Allied battalions stood during the battle. We could do this because the crops have been harvested and we can get our teams of metal detectors and surveyors on the hill to do a survey of a critical part of the battlefield.

Yesterday they found 58 musket balls in just half a day - we had to slow the operation down so our surveyors could catch up with the finds - it’s important that we plot the location of each and every find in order to get a “map” of how the battle there might have developed. We’ve also found a number of coins of different periods, and buttons, some of which might relate to the battle. In addition to the musket shot in the orchard of Mont St Jean, we excavated a very exciting find - a 6-pound cast iron French cannon ball.

We think this represents the crisis of the battle. Late in the day, around 18h, the French captured the farm of La Haye Sainte when its German defenders ran out of ammunition. They were then able to bring up Horse Artillery batteries of the Imperial Guard and bombard the Allied lines with round shot and cannister from very close range, causing huge casualties and threatening to break the line. The arrival of the Prussians on the extreme left of Wellington’s army helped tip the balance.

So the cannon ball relates to the point in the battle at which Napoleon most nearly won a victory. The other really significant find is in the orchard of Mont St Jean. We know that as many as 6000 wounded men may have passed through the farm and its outbuildings during and after the battle. They received primitive medical care for their injuries.

Operations were carried out without anaesthetic, including hundreds of amputations, the only remedy for smashed limbs. In one of the trenches surveyed by metal detectors a signal relating to a large metal object led the team of archaeologists to excavate further. They found human remains, the first time Waterloo Uncovered has encountered such a find. After working with the local authorities to establish that the bones did not relate to a modern burial, work continued and has revealed at least three leg bones. These appear to be the remains of amputated limbs from some of the operations carried out by surgeons. One limb shows evidence of trauma from a catastrophic wound, another appears to bear the marks of the surgeon’s saw from an amputation above the knee.

Finding human remains immediately changes the atmosphere on a dig. Suddenly there is a very poignant connection with the people who suffered here in 1815, a connection that has not been lost on the Waterloo Uncovered team of veterans and serving personnel. The next stage is to carefully excavate and remove the bones for further examination.

Belgium

US Elections 2020 - Democrats Abroad organizes global virtual rally for overseas voters

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19 September was Ballot Day, when all US overseas and military voters were sent their absentee ballots to vote in the 3 November general election. Saturday also saw Americans wake up to the news of the death of liberal US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, affectionately known as RBG. Justice Ginsburg pioneered jurisprudence focused on tackling discrimination against women. Her career culminated with nearly 30 years as a member of the US Supreme Court, where she served from 1993 until her passing on Friday night (18 September) after a long and hard-fought battle against cancer.
This week, Democrats Abroad will pay tribute to Justice Ginsburg by encouraging and assisting all Americans overseas to vote. A global virtual rally will take place from 16:30-20:00 (details here) and today (22 September), they will host a Belgian Voting Night to help Americans complete their absentee ballots and return them quickly (details on the website). Through their website, registration events and live voter assistance, Democrats Abroad have done their best to ensure that as many eligible Americans as possible are on the voter rolls of their home state and can receive a ballot to vote this November.
In addition to electing a new President, Democrats have a chance to win back the US Senate, which will among other things vote to confirm the President’s Supreme Court nominee.
Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden (pictured) said on 20 September, from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia: “Please follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don't go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can't ignore the cherished system of checks and balances.”
Democrats Abroad Belgium (DAB) has been very active throughout the year in encouraging 'ALL' Americans living in Belgium to register to vote. We now ask them to also encourage their Senators to refrain from confirming a new Supreme Court Justice until the next President is inaugurated. We hope that all Americans continue to honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by joining us this week and making their voice heard.
In 2016, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that there shouldn't be a vote in the U.S. Senate for Barack Obama's nominee - Merrick Garland - because it was a presidential campaign year. Republicans argued that the people of the United States should first elect a president and that that president should fill the vacant seat. However, as we’ve seen many times, Republican leaders now say the opposite and have committed to approving a new Supreme Court Justice regardless of the impending election.

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Belgium probes top EU think-tanker for links to China

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A former UK diplomat and ex-European Commission official who runs a Brussels think tank is being investigated by Belgian security services on suspicion of passing sensitive information to China — allegations that he denies. Fraser Cameron, who directs the EU-Asia Centre, rejected as “absurd” the investigation into his alleged contacts with two Chinese journalists accredited in Brussels who — according to Belgian security officials speaking on condition of anonymity — also work for the Chinese ministry of state security and the Chinese military, as reported  by Barbara Moens in POLITICO.

The Belgian officials who spoke to POLITICO also briefed Belgian newspapers De Standaard and L’Avenir on the case. It is unclear where the investigation might lead, since the charges he might face were not specified and espionage — which was cited by the Belgian officials — is not treated as a crime under Belgian law. According to a person close to the case, the federal prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into Cameron, though the prosecutor’s office itself declined to comment. The case was opened on the basis of the Belgian state security investigation that judged Cameron’s alleged activities could constitute a risk for European officials, though they did not specify what kind of risk he might pose.

Contacted by POLITICO for comment, Cameron said in an email that the allegations “are without foundation.” He stressed that he has “a wide range of Chinese contacts as part of my duties with the EU-Asia Centre and some of them may have a double function,” but added: “I retired 15 years ago from official employment and have zero access to any sensitive information.”

Cameron said his lawyer was not aware of any case having been opened, adding: “The allegations themselves are obviously damaging but they really are absurd if you just stop to think about them for a minute.” Cameron, who according to his entry on the EU-Asia Centre’s website has “lived and worked in Belgium for 20 years” and is “a visiting professor at several universities in Asia,” is suspected by Belgian intelligence of receiving thousands of euros for providing confidential — but not necessarily classified — political and economic information to the Chinese regarding European institutions.

In a separate email to L’Avenir, seen by POLITICO, Cameron said the EU-Asia Centre receives “a small annual grant” from the Chinese diplomatic mission to the EU, to help organize events on EU-China relations. “This is the only funding received from the Chinese,” he said.

Cameron added, in his response to L’Avenir, that the EU-Asia Centre’s recent activities, including a webinar on this week’s virtual EU-China summit, demonstrated “that we are highly critical of China!” ‘Close to Beijing’ POLITICO was told the names of the two Chinese journalists allegedly involved, but was unable to confirm their status independently.

Belgian security officials said the suspect activities had been going on for a number of years, but they would not say whether that included Cameron’s time at the European Commission, before his retirement in 2006. One official in the Commission, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cameron was known to be “very close to Beijing”. Since espionage is not classified as a crime in Belgium, public prosecutors have long called for an update of the country’s law on espionage, which dates back to the 1930s.

That means prosecutors may have to identify other criminal offenses if they want to press charges — which happened in the case of former Belgian diplomat Oswald Gantois. Investigated for leaking information to Russian secret services throughout his career, he was convicted in 2018 of illegal association with the purpose of committing forgery. Public prosecutors have cited Belgium’s role as a diplomatic hub, hosting the EU institutions and NATO headquarters, as justification for broadening the definition of espionage in national law to facilitate prosecution.

The current federal justice minister, Koen Geens from the Flemish Christian Democratic party CD&V, is trying to push an update of the espionage law through parliament but has made little progress because of an impasse in forming a government since late 2018. “The minister and CD&V have been asking for a long time to vote on the proposal,” said a spokesperson for the minister. Earlier this year, German prosecutors revealed that they suspected another former EU official of passing information to China. German national Gerhard Sabathil, a diplomat turned lobbyist, denied the allegations and has so far not been arrested nor charged.

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#COVID-19 - Sassoli: Strasbourg declared red zone

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) said: "The seat of the European Parliament is Strasbourg, this is laid down in the Treaties that we want to respect. We have done everything to resume the normal course of our plenary sessions in Strasbourg. However, the resurgence of the pandemic in many member states and the decisions taken by the French authorities to classify the entire Lower Rhine department as a red zone, obliges us to reconsider the move to Strasbourg.

"While we are very disappointed about this decision, we have to consider that the transfer of the administration of the European Parliament would entail quarantine for all staff upon their return to Brussels. We are going through a difficult time and I am grateful for all the co-operation, availability and expertise shown by the City of Strasbourg, the health authorities, and the government. The European Parliament's wish is to return to Strasbourg and we are confident that, in the face of a decline of the pandemic, this will be possible. The plenary session of the European Parliament from 14 to 17 September will take place in Brussels."

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