31/12/2016 Witness


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Hallo, and welcome to Witness with me, Tanya Beckett. I am here at the


British Library in London for the last time this year to bring if I


want our favourite stories from 2016. We will meet a former member


of Chairman Mao's intimates red guards, a woman astronaut who


trained with the Challenger space or crude an art restorer who brought a


Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece back to life. But first, Witness has


travelled to the Bamyan Valley in Afghanistan. For over 1,000 years to


huge statues of border towered over the valley at in 2001 they were


destroyed by the Taliban. Mr Hussein was one of the local people forced


to lay dynamite around the statues. This year is the 50th anniversary of


the start of the cultural revolution in China. At the forefront were red


kites, fanatical students trying to help eliminate vestiges of


capitalism. Our next Witness Saul Yeung was one of them. In 1966I was


in middle school when the cultural revolution started. The biggest


nation on earth, China, is in turmoil. Is China's ageing leader


losing control? Has Mao gone mad, driven by the megalomania of the


teenage Red Guards? Mao had decided to drive the young


people in a vast campaign to purify the Communist Party. There was to be


a new revolution, a cultural revolution, a revolution in people's


thinking. Inspired by Mao, the Red Guards went


wild in their enthusiasm to keep the revolution alive. They worshipped


Mao as their leader and follow his instructions without question. They


consider longhair and Western-style clothes I'm Communist. --


un-Communist. After reports of riotings, beatings


up and even murder, the Red Guard seem to have gone too far. Their


leaders have told them to cool off and go and help with the harvest.


Saul Young, talking to Witness in San Francisco. In January 1986


tragedy struck the US space agency NASA when the space shuttle


Challenger exploded shortly after launch. Six astronauts and a school


teacher were killed. Barbara Morgan was another teacher who trained


alongside the Challenger team. My husband that I, we were sitting on


the sofa, watching venues and president Reagan came on and made


this announcement, it was quite remarkable. Today I am directing


Nasser to begin a search and to choose as the first citizen


passenger in the history of our space programme one of America's


finest, a teacher. I'll always remember my husband, who was a


writer, jumped up immediately and said, why a teacher, why not a


writer? And I laughed and said I thought a teacher would the perfect


choice. Christa was chosen as our teacher in space. I was very, very


lucky to be chosen as her backup. Christa was very much like the girl


next door. She had an effervescent smile. She was very intelligent and


just soaking it all in. Christa spent six months with me training


with the Challenger crew. Some of the favourite training was with the


simulators, to learn what it was like to be weightless. We did not


stop laughing that entire flight. Launch date was January 20 eight. We


had been at the Kennedy space centre for a few days and the crew had been


spending time in crew quarters going through all the last-minute work and


preparation for the flight. And that morning it was a very, very cold


morning. We of course have school children all over the country


watching. There were, you know, 100 kids from Christa's son's school


there. And all of the families and friends. I remember I was so


excited, I so wanted to be with them. I was waving and I am sure I


was jumping up and down. Really cheering them on, really really


happy for them and wanting to be with them. S we have main engine


start, four, three, two, one and left. Lift off of the 25th station


at all -- space shuttle mission and we have liftoff. Very soon into the


launch, things didn't look right. There wasn't one contrail going up


and that look very different from the launch of that Christa and I had


watched a few months earlier. And then at some point you realised that


something has gone terribly wrong. Flight controllers, you are looking


very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction. We


all went to crew quarters where we were waiting word and helping her


families. It was, you know, a really tough situation. In September, I


went back to the classroom, and I taught for many, many more years. In


1998, many, many years later, NASA asked me to apply for the astronaut


office, the astronaut programme. At that point I had left teaching and


went and served as an astronaut for ten years. One of the wonderful


legacies of the Challenger is the educational programme that the


families of the Challenger crew members got together and created,


where young people for themselves experience the joy and wonder of


spaceflight and space exploration. It is called the Challenger centre


for space science education. That is why the Challenger crew were going


into space. They were going to explore and discover an experience


for all of us and to keep that future wide open for all of us.


Former astronaut Barbara Morgan talking to us at her home in Idaho.


Remember, you can watch Witness every month on the BBC News channel,


or you can catch up on all of our films along with more than 1000


radio programmes in our online archive.


Now, a story of Cold War intrigue and the BBC. In 1978, a Bulgarian


dissident was working in London for BBC World Service. On his way into


the office he was stabbed with, of all things, poisoned umbrella


witness has tracked down Doctor Bernard Reilly, who tried to save


Georgi Markov's life. I remember walking into the cubicle and Georgi


Markov was on the trolley, setting up. He was hot, toxic, he had rapid


pulse rate and his temper Bridge was up. The first thing he said that, I


was warned three months ago that they are out to get me. And I have


been poisoned by the KGB and I am going to die and there is nothing


you can do about it. Georgi Markov was driving to work at the BBC. He


parked as usual below Waterloo Bridge. Georgi Markov came up the


steps of the bridge, towards the bus stop on the road above. As he


reached the bus stop, suddenly something happened to Georgi Markov.


He suddenly felt a sharp stabbing at the back of his right thigh, and he


looked around expecting the person behind him to apologise for prodding


him with an umbrella. Instead of which the man hailed a taxi. Mr


Georgi Markov finished his shift and it wasn't until late that night at


his home in Clapham that he developed a high fever. When I


examined him systematically, the only thing that I could find was on


the back of his thigh he had, perhaps, sort of a centimetre


diameter swollen area, with then around one or two McNamee the


central puncture mark. I thought, well, at best phoned Scotland Yard


special branch because they are the sort of people who deal with


defectors. His own room at the BBC Bulgarian service was used by


anti-terrorist squad detectives investigating the murder. I thought


it can't be cyanide, that would kill you to quickly. It can't be thallium


or arsenic, that is too slow. It had to be a toxin. And if there was a


toxin it might be an antidote. So I then went home, and my wife said you


should read more Agatha Christie. And she had just read a book called


the House of the Lurk lurking Death, rice and in the face. I don't think


this was an intruder diagnosis, it was because of the book she had read


at the time but the whole thing was that she was proven right, it was


right in. His heart had started giving out, and I just saw the hype


machine die away, and shortly after that he died -- ricin. I had to go


to the postmortem. I remember the pathologist taking a segment of


thigh tissue where this area was. As this was being handled, very small


metallic object was dislodged. As a sort of role under the table, and


they then looked at it under a microscope and realised that it was


actually a very round, circular, tiny little ball about, sort of,


just under two millimetres in diameter, and that it had holes in


it. And obviously something could have been contained in those holes.


They decided almost straightaway that this was going to be ricin. It


is a poison which is incredibly toxic. It is strange that as you


encounter one patient so early on in 1's career that actually changes


your entire life. All I wanted to be was a forensics pathologist. I


wanted to be someone who looked at dead bodies, looked at laboratory


findings, and decided white people died. And this was the first patient


I am trying desperately to keep alive, and failing. And realising


that actually I didn't want to find out why people died, I wanted to try


and keep them alive. Doctor Bernard Reilly with that extraordinary


story. Finally this month, Caty cap witness has travelled to Milan to


meet the woman charged with restoring one of the world's great


masterpieces, Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper. She finished her


painstaking work in 1999 after spending 20 years on the project.


Last Supper was painted here 500 years ago for the refectory of Santa


Maria. But due to his experimental fresco technique, it started to


flake away almost as soon as Leonardo Da Vinci had finished it.


Now, a mouth on restoration has attempted to save one of the world's


masterpieces from disappearing completely.


By stripping away centuries of botched restoration attempts, lines


which were crude and inexpressive are now delicate and refined. The


mural isn't by no means perfect and some critics feel too much paint has


been removed. -- is by no means perfect.


Pinin Brambilla, speaking at her studio in Malang. That's all for


Witness for this month and this year. We will be back in 2017 with


more stories from history told by the people who were there. From me


and the rest of the Witnessed him, good light -- Milan. -- goodbye.


Some contrasting weather conditions to close out our final few


It was cold and foggy in the south-east pretty much


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