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Fri, 28 Oct 2016
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Secret History


Cold War: US mulled storing secret nukes in unwitting Iceland, considered a deployment location option for WWIII

© Wikipedia
Keflavik Naval Air Station
Newly declassified documents dating back to the Cold War era show US authorities contemplated storing nuclear weapons in Iceland in the 1950s-60s without alerting the country's authorities. Recently declassified State Department documents obtained by the National Security Archive show that US government officials debated using Iceland, where they had a then-operational naval air station in Keflavik, as an "atomic base," including through "secret deployments."

A letter from the US ambassador to Iceland at that time, Tyler Thompson, dated August 1960, shows the Icelandic authorities inquired whether US "nuclear weapons were kept at Keflavik or carried through it in transit." Despite all references to Iceland being deleted from Thompson's letter, as this archival release shows, his signature and a daily staff summary from the US State Department, dated June 1960, which refers to the letter, indicate that Iceland was the site on the agenda.

In his letter, Thompson opposes the plan to use Iceland as a nuclear storage site, especially without alerting the authorities. He calls the plan a mistake, but the letter itself indicates that internal discussions were held on the matter.

Thompson warns of a "dramatic row" which could "be expected to have an unfortunate effect on our friends and allies, to affect adversely our interests as far as neutrals are concerned, and to provide a propaganda field day for our enemies" if Reykjavik learned about a secret deployment of nuclear weapons. The ambassador also appears concerned that Iceland could withdraw itself from NATO "in protest" against such deployment. In the end, these concerns won out and the plan was scrapped.

Comment: The National Security Archive reported 27 nuclear deployment sites. Nine were listed in the appendix; 18 were redacted and subsequently Belgium, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey were disclosed. Iwo Jima was later identified as an actual deployment site. Iceland was considered a 'conditional' deployment location in the event of war. Go here for the list of documents and synopses.


Newly discovered Hindu epic Ramayana portrays Indian gods more as humans

© Wikimedia Commons
Lord Rama and Sita.
A different version of the integral Hindu epic Ramayana, written by Valmiki has been extracted from a Sanskrit library in Kolkata. As much as it has moved the scholars who found it, it might as well widen the readers' horizon.

Last year in December, the manuscript was found by accident at the Asiatic Society Library by scholars who were researching on Vanhi Purana of the 6th century. The scholars were searching through a global informational storage known as Catalogus Catalogorum, where they found that a manuscript of the other version of Ramayana was tucked at the 100-year-old Samskrita Sahitya Parishad, Kolkata.

This version of Ramayana is different from the one widely read by people out of its difference that this manuscript talks more about the separation of Sita and Lord Rama as a husband and wife than the separation of father and son. Ram and Sita have also been portrayed more as humans than God and goddess, mentioned indiadivine.org report.

The scholars found the second manuscript of Vanhi Purana in the library's archives, and analysed the slokas that they were different yet familiar to Ramayana, for the story revolves around Ram, Sita, and Ravana. This manuscript, the Dasa Griba Rakshash Charitram Vadha, was perhaps a result of various interpolations.


Ancient camp site discovered at 14000ft above sea level in Ladakh

© Tweeted by @MIB_India
The site was unearthed at 14,000 feet above the sea level on the way from Saser La to Ladakh.
New Delhi - The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered an ancient camping site dating 8500 BC in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, indicating humans were camping in the area 10,500 years ago.

The site was unearthed at 14,000 feet above the sea level on the way from Saser La to Ladakh, an official release said.

While exploring in Nubra valley during 2015-16, ASI Joint Director General SB Ota noticed a section, exposed due to road construction, showing successive layers comprising burning residue.

A charcoal sample collected from the site, which was sent to Beta Lab, Florida for radiocarbon, dated it back to 8500 BC.Realising the significance of the evidence, a team of ASI officials were sent for further inspection last month.

Further, charcoal samples from lower and upper deposits sent for dating have provided radiocarbon dates of 8500 BC and 7300 BC respectively, indicating repeated human activity at this camping site for about eight hundred years, the release said.

Preliminary studies of charred bones collected from the site, carried out by PP Joglekar of Deccan Collage, Pune, have shown the presence of Gorel and Yak, it added.

"The research so far carried out has proved the antiquity and nature of human activities to an extent, but their camping patterns, extent of camping area, tools and other cultural aspects are yet to be traced," the release said.

To address these issues, proper archaeological excavations and explorations are being planned by the ASI, it said adding, however, it will not be an easy task to undertake these works in such a rugged terrain at an altitude around 14000 feet, with low oxygen and no habitation.


Mexican archaeologist says Teotihuacán was built to worship water

© emerzel21/iStockphoto
The ancient Pyramid of the Moon, the second-largest pyramid in Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Perched on a plateau surrounded by mountains some 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, the city of Teotihuacán reached its peak between A.D. 200 and 450, when it was home to as many as 100,000 people. In A.D. 600, Teotihuacán was mysteriously abandoned, leaving future generations of scholars to puzzle for centuries over the secrets of the ancient city, its magnificent pyramids and its people. Now, in what may be a major breakthrough in the study of Teotihuacán, one archaeologist argues that the city was likely built around the worship of a single essential substance: water.

For centuries, archaeologists and other scholars have struggled to unlock the secrets of the ancient city of Teotihuacán. After reaching its peak just as the Roman Empire was in decline, the city was largely destroyed around A.D. 600 by fire and looting, perhaps as the result of a civil war or enemy invasion. By A.D. 750, the surviving members of Teotihuacán's population seem to have been absorbed into neighboring cultures, or to have abandoned the once-great city for their ancestral homelands.

Because they had no complex form of writing, relatively little is known about the founders and inhabitants of Teotihuacán. Archaeologists haven't discovered any carved slabs inscribed with characters, or any royal tombs. This lack of artifacts contrasts sharply with the wealth of evidence left behind by the Maya, who also built impressive pyramids in their cities in Central America.

It was the Aztecs who found the ruins of Teotihuacán in the 1300s and gave the city its name, which means "the place where men become gods" in Nahuatl. It was also the Aztecs who linked Teotihuacán's two largest pyramid—the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon—to their own story of creation. But according to Verónica Ortega, the Aztecs may have had the story wrong.


New study shows schizophrenia arose after divergence of modern humans from neanderthals

© Getty Images/Cesar Manso/AFP
El Neandertal Emplumado', a scientificly based impression of the face of a Neanderthal who lived some 50,000 years ago by Italian scientist Fabio Fogliazza.
Schizophrenia poses an evolutionary enigma. The disorder has existed throughout recorded human history and persists despite its severe effects on thought and behavior, and its reduced rates of producing offspring. A new study in Biological Psychiatry may help explain why-comparing genetic information of Neanderthals to modern humans, the researchers found evidence for an association between genetic risk for schizophrenia and markers of human evolution.

"This study suggests that schizophrenia is a modern development, one that emerged after humans diverged from Neanderthals," said John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "It suggests that early hominids did not have this disorder."

The cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, but researchers know that genetics play a significant role in the development. According to senior author Ole Andreassen from the University of Oslo in Norway and University of California, San Diego, some think that schizophrenia could be a "side effect" of advantageous gene variants related to the acquisition of human traits, like language and complex cognitive skills, that might have increased our propensity to developing psychoses.

Along with Andreassen, first authors Saurabh Srinivasan and Francesco Bettella, both from the University of Oslo, and colleagues looked to the genome of Neanderthals, the closest relative of early humans, to pinpoint specific regions of the genome that could provide insight on the origin of schizophrenia in evolutionary history.


'Superhenge' structures were actually wooden posts in giant pits

© Wikimedia
Last year archeologists discovered "Superhenge", or what was thought to be around 90 stone monolithic structures buried a meter below ground, just a few kilometers northeast of the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. The blocks were over 4,500 years old.

It turns out, however, that the circular Superhenge was actually made of timber, and that it was hurriedly taken down. The research team that made this discovery hypothesize that the Superhenge might have been constructed and deconstructed during a tumultuous time, rife with political or religious conflict.

Geophysical survey techniques allowed scientists to first discover Superhenge and conclude that each monolith was organized in a circle with a diameter of about 500 meters. They did not actually, however, excavate the site.

Now a recent excavation of the Superhenge site has revealed that the standing monoliths were neither standing, nor stone, nor even monolithic. These structures are actually giant pits that once contained wooden posts.

Gold Seal

The Lion with 600 lives: The little-known facts of Castro's legacy

Today, Cuban leader Fidel Castro is celebrating his 90th birthday. Although there are almost no blank spots in Castro's biography, some facts of his life might have been forgotten. RT has decided to remember them.

Castro was always distinguished by his charisma, a feature which allowed him not only to implement a number of cardinal reforms in Cuba and bring the country to new heights in the fields of education, medicine, and tourism, but also make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, become a blogger, and even a hero in computer games.

Cigars and the beard

Many remember Fidel Castro for his beard and cigar. El Comandante was always proud of his beard and said that he would shave it only when the revolution finally triumphs.

"I don't waste my time shaving. This would take about 15 minutes every day. This way, I can save a few days a year for important matters," he once stated.

Castro always loved Havana cigars, so much that there was once an attempt to poison him through them. In 1986, however, the leader of the revolution had to give up this pernicious habit because of health problems. "The best thing you can do with a box of cigars is give them to the enemy," he said then.

Comment: See also: Fidel: Internationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-apartheid hero of the revolution

Che Guevara

Fidel: Internationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-apartheid hero of the revolution

Cuban leader Fidel Castro (L) is pictured with revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara in a August 2, 1961, in Havana.
teleSUR looks at a few of the anti-colonial and revolutionary movements Castro has inspired and supported throughout his life, and his ongoing legacy throughout the world.

1. Liberation of Southern Africa

While Angola won its independence from Portugal on Jan. 15, 1975, inner political conflicts escalated between the leftist People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, the National Liberation Front of Angola, FNLA, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, UNITA.

According to declassified documents, the U.S. sought to gain hegemony through a CIA operation which resulted in US$30 million in funding and support for the FNLA and UNITA. Apartheid South Africa supported the CIA operation by carrying out invasions, incursions and sabotages against Marxist forces within Angola.

Under Fidel's leadership, more than 25,000 troops and military advisers were deployed to Angola during the war and ultimately helped win the independence of the country.

Comment: Further reading:


Ancient trolling? Golden curse tablets wishing ill will upon enemies found in Serbian tombs

© Institute of Archaeology, Belgrade
A gold curse tablet dating back to 4th century AD.
Archaeologists in Serbia have discovered the first known golden curse tablets in ancient Roman tombs in Serbia. The tablets contain inscriptions in long-forgotten languages with strange magical symbols calling upon both gods and demons to unleash ill-health, punishment, and death upon enemies, unrequited lovers, bad neighbors and relatives.

NBC reports that the curse tablets were found in Roman tombs at the Viminacium archaeological site, the ancient capital of the former Roman province of Moesia Superior in Serbia. The territory was under Roman (and later Byzantine) rule for about 600 years, from the 1st century BC until the Slavic invasions of the 6th century. Today, the archaeological site of Viminacium occupies a total of 450 hectares (1,100 acres), and contains remains of temples, streets, squares, amphitheatres, palaces, hippodromes, Roman baths and tombs.

Comment: More curses:

Ice Cube

Did Neanderthals die out because they were too dumb to make warmer clothes?

© Ephert via Wikimedia Commons
A human skull, left, and a Neanderthal skull, right. Though there is now evidence that the two interbred, some scientists believe that human out-competed Neanderthals. Others believe that Neanderthals couldn't adapt, like to colder climates, like ancient humans could.
It is still a mystery with what led to the demise of the Neanderthal. Some anthropologists believe they were out-competed by ancient humans. Others believe they couldn't adapt to a changing climate.

While scientists disagree about their extinction, they also disagree on what kind of clothing Neanderthals wore, if any at all. Some think that they might have just worn capes. But a new study out in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology says that the two may be interlinked.

The team of researchers from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada set to work mining databases that recorded what animal remains were found around the campfires of ancient humans and Neanderthals.

Comment: Further reading: