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Fri, 20 Apr 2018
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Lost city of Rhapta may have been discovered on Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania

lost roman city Rhapta
© Seaunseen / Alan Sutton
Underwater photograph of some of the rectangular blocks that were found off Mafia Island in Tanzania.
Centuries of speculations related to the lost city of Rhapta may have been ended with a discovery made during a helicopter flight over Tanzania's Mafia Island. A set of partially submerged ancient ruins are believed to be the Roman market town, which had become lost to the pages of history.

The discovery took a place when scuba-diver Alan Sutton spotted an unusually-shaped formation in the water while flying in a helicopter off the coast of Tanzania. After a few years of searching for the ruins, he announced his success in a blog post . It took him three years to discover the ruins of structures resembling an ancient harbor city. Researchers claim that the ruins cover a large area and there are impressive lines of foundations covered by the thousands of square and oblong blocks.

Document

Rare Thomas Jefferson letter discovered in family attic on sale for $325k

Thomas Jefferson letter signature
© RAAB Collection
Always check the abandoned boxes in your attic because you never know what you might find.

A family in Mississippi discovered a rare letter from founding father Thomas Jefferson in a box of heirlooms, written to their ancestor, U.S. Ambassador to France William Crawford.

The four-page letter from the former president shows his reaction to the end of the War of 1812, comparing it to the American revolution. He discusses the honor of American independence and rails against the British.

Magnify

Skeletons with elongated skulls found by researchers in Bolivia

elongated skull
Researchers in Bolivia have found a number of skeletons in Bolivia. Two of them are of extreme interest since they display anomalous cranial deformation: freakishly large, elongated skulls.

According to researchers one of the skeletons had an elongated head that exceeds the proportions of an artificial cranial deformation, raising the question what could have caused such atypical features?

Finnish archaeologists working near the village of Patapatani in Bolivia, recently found the remains of at least six individuals buried under an Aymara funerary tower which was built, thousands of years ago for people of royal statues in the ancestral culture.

Comment: See also:


Blue Planet

The American War for Independence, why couldn't Britain win this one?

British Solders, American Revolutionary war

Could the Brits have won?
For the British Empire the war of American Independence ended in a humiliating and quite unexpected defeat. This answer looks at the reasons why the British Government was unable to quell the rebellion and ultimately lost the war which, in its later stages became a global conflict.

Comment: Also see, How Britain 'lost' America,
India - prized and essential. For 18th century Britain, forced to choose between their American possessions and India, was a no-brainer. The Indian prize was essential for the 'emerging' British imperial agenda - and more prestigious.



USA

The truth behind the 4th of July: The Founding Fathers & America's apartheid state

american ostrich
Ah, July 4th. Of all the national orgies of self-congratulation, militarism and, of course shopping, this one stands out. Even more than say Memorial Day it perfectly captures the combination of myths and ignorance that make up the fairy tale view we hold of our national origins and character.

Fortunately, a new generation of scholars is bringing new research and perspective to our understanding of what really happened and especially why white racism is so intractable. One reason is that its roots run so much deeper than most whites even begin to understand or acknowledge. (A partial list of essential recent books appears at the end of this article.)

What most of us think the Declaration of Independence says is this and only this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
But there was much more to the Declaration than those famous words. Far more attention was dedicated to a long list of grievances that the founding fathers had with the King. One of them was that the British were in cahoots with, "the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages." Another complaint which didn't make it into the Declaration but was included in a precursor document, the Virginia Constitution, complained that the British were "prompting our Negroes to rise in arms against us..."

Question

How hetereosexuality and homosexuality were 'invented' in the late 19th century

straight

An image from the cover of "Straight"
If you met Hanne Blank and her partner on the street, you might have a lot of trouble classifying them. While Blank looks like a feminine woman, her partner is extremely androgynous, with little to no facial hair and a fine smooth complexion. Hanne's partner is neither fully male, nor fully female; he was born with an unconventional set of chromosomes, XXY, that provide him with both male genitalia and feminine characteristics. As a result, Blank's partner has been mistaken for a gay woman, a straight man, a transman — and their relationship has been classified as gay, straight and everything in between.

Blank mentions her personal story at the beginning of her provocative new history of heterosexuality, "Straight," as a way of illustrating just how artificial our notions of "straightness" really are. In her book, Blank, a writer and historian who has written extensively about sexuality and culture, looks at the ways in which social trends and the rise of psychiatry conspired to create this new category in the late 19th and early 20th century. Along the way, she examines the changing definition of marriage, which evolved from a businesslike agreement into a romantic union centered around love, and how social Darwinist ideas shaped the divisions between gay and straight. With her eye-opening book, Blank tactfully deconstructs a facet of modern sexuality that most of us take for granted.

Salon spoke to Blank over the phone about the origins of heterosexuality, the evolution of marriage and why the rise of the "bromance" is a very good thing.

Men and woman have been having sex for as long as there have been humans. So how can we talk about there being a "history" of heterosexuality?

We can talk about there being a history of heterosexuality in the same way that we can talk about there being a history of religions. People have been praying to God for a really long time too, and yet the ways people relate to the divine have specific histories. They come from particular places, they take particular trajectories, there are particular texts, and individuals that are important in them. There are events, names, places, dates. It's really very similar.

Bad Guys

Beyond the Iran-Contra Affair Part 2: World War 3 has already happened

reagan
This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the Iran-Contra affair. This "scandal" briefly revealed the massive crimes that are always going on behind America's facade of respectability. It revealed the activities of the Secret Team of current and former CIA agents who for thirty years had been training and supporting drug-dealing exile armies, from China, to Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, and of course Nicaragua. Drugs, weapons dealing, money laundering, political bribery, terrorism, assassination, covert wars were just a few of their activities. But you'll have to read part one to find out more about that. This time, instead of examining the scandal itself I'll be widening the focus to reveal the worldwide covert war the US was waging with renewed intensity during the 80's, the final decade of what I call World War 3. World War 3 was primarily a war on the third world; it began before World War 2 even ended in places like Greece and China. With the end of World War 2 it kicked into high gear, targeted the Soviet Union with a covert war using fascist exiles like the Ukrainians and waging a massive and almost forgotten war to prevent Mao from liberating China, and later waged covert war on China using drug-dealing KMT exile armies. The Philippines became a laboratory for counter-insurgency and psychological operations. Millions would die in wars waged on Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos.

Comment: For the first part, see: Beyond the Iran-Contra Affair Part 1: The secret team


Sherlock

Newfound human species suggests Africa was evolutionary melting pot

homo naledi skull
© John Hawks, Wits University
The skull of Homo naledi, which was discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.
The most recently discovered extinct human species may have lived less than 1 million years ago, researchers have discovered.

This finding suggests that a diverse range of human species might have lived at the same time in Africa, just as they might have in Asia, researchers said.

In 2015, scientists reported South African fossils of a hitherto-unknown relative of modern humans that possessed an unusual mix of features, such as feet adapted for a life on the ground but hands suited for a life in the trees. The fossil's discoverers named the species Homo naledi, and noted that although the early human had a brain about the size of an orange, these humans may have performed ritual burials of their dead.

Comment: Further reading:


Fireball 5

Comets and the early Christian mosaics of Ravenna

Justinian's Raging Bulls
© Wikimedia Commons
Justinian's Raging Bulls.
The Plague of Justinian has been associated with the extreme weather events of 535 - 536 AD which [in its turn] has been associated with "debris from space impacting the Earth".
The extreme weather events of 535 - 536 were the most severe and protracted short-term episodes of cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 2,000 years.

The event is thought to have been caused by an extensive atmospheric dust veil, possibly resulting from a large volcanic eruption in the tropics, and/or debris from space impacting the Earth.

Its effects were widespread, causing unseasonal weather, crop failures, and famines worldwide.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_weather_events_of_535%E2%80%93536
The Plague of Justinian (541 - 542) was a pandemic that afflicted the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, especially its capital Constantinople, the Sassanid Empire, and port cities around the entire Mediterranean Sea.

One of the greatest plagues in history, this devastating pandemic resulted in the deaths of an estimated 25 million (initial outbreak) to 50 million (two centuries of recurrence) people.

Recent investigations relate this severe plague epidemic to extreme weather events of 535 - 536 considered as an example of volcanic winter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_of_Justinian
In a wonderful YouTube video Dr. Ruth Dwyer examines the Ravenna Mosaics and discovers the mosaics clearly depict "debris from space impacting the Earth".

Nuke

70 years later Bikini islanders still deal with fallout of U.S. nuclear tests

Bikini Atol

Operation Crossroad
In 1946, French fashion designer Jacques Heim released a woman's swimsuit he called the "Atome" (French for "atom") - a name selected to suggest its design would be as shocking to people that summer as the atomic bombings of Japan had been the summer before.

Not to be outdone, competitor Louis Réard raised the stakes, quickly releasing an even more skimpy swimsuit. The Vatican found Réard's swimsuit more than shocking, declaring it to actually be "sinful." So what did Réard consider an appropriate name for his creation? He called it the "Bikini" - a name meant to shock people even more than "Atome." But why was this name so shocking?

In the summer of 1946, "Bikini" was all over the news. It's the name of a small atoll - a circular group of coral islands - within the remote mid-Pacific island chain called the Marshall Islands. The United States had assumed control of the former Japanese territory after the end of World War II, just a few months earlier.

Comment: A world war has begun: We must break the silence
I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, "Where is that?" If I offer a clue by referring to "Bikini", they say, "You mean the swimsuit." Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered "unsafe" on a Geiger counter. Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called "Bravo". The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.