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Sun, 18 Feb 2018
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Question

Did ancient Greeks sail to Canada?

Greek triremes
© Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo
Greek triremes were sizable oared ships used by ancient Mediterranean cultures for naval warfare. Typically, Greek sailors stuck close to shore. In new research, however, scientists suggest these sailors took to the high seas, making repeated trips across the North Atlantic Ocean.
The story of the European settlement of North America usually features a few main characters: red-headed Norsemen who sailed across an icy sea to set up temporary outposts, Spanish conquistadors, white-collared English separatists, French trappers, and Dutch colonists. Now a team of Greek scholars proposes another-and much earlier-wave of European migration: the Hellenistic Greeks, in triremes powered by sail and oar in the first century CE, nearly a millennium before the Vikings.

These ancient Greeks regularly visited what is now Newfoundland, the study's authors say. They set up colonies that lasted centuries, and they mined gold. They made recurrent trips every 30 years. Some travelers would return home after only a brief stay, but for others the voyages were one way-they came to know the North Atlantic, not the warm Aegean, as their home waters.

To be clear, there is no firm evidence of the ancient Greeks' purported voyages. There are no known physical remains of these historic Greek settlements in North America, nor are there first-hand descriptions of such journeys in anything but one account from antiquity. The idea is based entirely on a new examination of a dialogue written by the influential Roman author Plutarch, who lived from 46 to 119 CE.

"Our intention is to prove, with modern science, that it was possible for this trip to be made," Ioannis Liritzis, an archaeologist at the University of the Aegean who proposed that the ancient journeys took place, wrote in an email. Liritzis presents his argument in a new paper, co-authored with astronomer Panagiota Preka-Papadema, philosopher Konstantinos Kalachanis, meteorologist Chris G. Tzanis, and information technology consultant Panagiotis Antonopoulos.

Greek historians and maritime archaeologists are wary, however. Several people contacted for this story say Liritzis's claims are unfounded, and unlikely at best.

Russian Flag

'Not one step back!' - Stalingrad at 75: Five ways in which iconic battle turned tide of WW2

Soviet soldiers fighting in Stalingrad
© Zelma / Sputnik
Soviet soldiers fighting in Stalingrad
February 2 marks the 75th anniversary of the German surrender at Stalingrad. While the five-month battle remains a symbol of World War II, its practical importance to defeating the Nazis deserves more attention.

1. Inflicted huge losses

Stalingrad was the biggest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare. Estimates vary, but fighting between August 1942 and February 1943 is thought to have resulted in up to 2 million casualties, with more than a million dead.

The German Wehrmacht perfoms an air strike on Stalingrad
© Berliner Verlag / Archiv
The German Wehrmacht perfoms an air strike on Stalingrad, Soviet Union, in September 1942

Books

Book review: 'The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics: Western International Theory, 1760-2010', by John M. Hobson

john hobson eurocentric politics
Rather than producing value-free and universalist accounts of the history of interstate relations, John Hobson writes, international observers usually provide provincial analyses that celebrate and defend Western civilization as the subject of, and ideal normative referent in, world politics. This bias is not only limited to Western thinkers, but also post-colonial or anti-Western writers, who tend to vastly overestimate the importance of the West in global history. Hobson identifies two subdivisions, one imperialist the other anti-imperialist:
The former I call 'paternalist Eurocentrism', which awards Western societies a pioneering agency such that they can auto-generate or auto-develop into modernity while conversely, Eastern societies are granted conditional agency and are unable to auto-generate or self-develop (....) By contrast, the anti-imperialist variant takes the form of anti-paternalist Eurocentrism.
Karl Marx's work is perhaps the most interesting example that shows that Eurocentrism was by no means limited to those who embraced 'scientific racism' or those who supported capitalism or imperialism. Rather, Marx believed foreign intervention in what he called backward societies such as China and India was necessary for them to change. He asserted:

Info

Ancient stone tools by unknown people discovered in India

Ancient Stone Tools
© Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India
Middle Palaeolithic artefacts emerging during excavation at Attirampakkam.
Science has long thought that we Homo sapiens didn't leave Africa until approximately 175,000 years ago. Now a newly discovered collection of sophisticated stone tools in India that dates back to around 385,000 years has archeologists Archaeologists scratching their heads.

It's a discovery that challenges everything we thought we knew about early humans and changes our understanding of when they spread out to other landmasses.

Using luminescence dating to age the artifacts,at the stratified prehistoric site of Attirampakkam, India, the researchers determined that the end of the Acheulian culture and the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic culture begun almost 450,000 years ago, much earlier than was conventionally presumed for South Asia. Around 7,261 stone artifacts were extracted from the site, which rests on the banks of a tributary of the Kortallaiyar River.

"Chronologies of Middle Palaeolithic technologies in regions distant from Africa and Europe are crucial for testing theories about the origins and early evolution of these cultures, and for understanding their association with modern humans or archaic hominins," says the study, published today in the Nature journal.

Blackbox

An Eccentric Tradition: The Paradox of 'Western Values'

moses painting
© Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn / Getty Images
Western values?
It is no secret that former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a fan of Western values.

On more than one occasion he has lamented what he calls "the great Australian silence" - the neglect of "the Western canon, the literature, the poetry, the music, the history and above all the faith without which our culture and our civilisation is unimaginable."

Abbott's predecessor, John Howard, is also known as a stout defender of the Western tradition and its values, and he too worries that we are losing our connection to it: "When we think of our civilisation, we lack an integrated understanding of the contribution of the early Romans and Greeks, the framework of what is frequently called the Judaeo-Christian ethic."

Further afield, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron has preached the importance of Christian values for Britain.

More recently, and perhaps unhelpfully for the cause, Donald Trump has jumped on the bandwagon. In a rare moment of coherence, Trump delivered a speech ahead of the 2017 G20 summit in Poland, urging the defence of "our values" and "our civilization."

Document

Untold story of the Pentagon Papers co-conspirators

Gar Alperovitz
© Sharon Alperovitz
In 1971, Gar Alperovitz played a vital, clandestine role in making the Pentagon Papers public.
In June of 1971, Gar Alperovitz, a thirty-five-year-old historian, sped through suburban Boston, looking for an out-of-the-way pay phone to use to call a reporter. Alperovitz had never considered himself much of a risk-taker. The father of two ran a small economic think tank focussed on community-building. He had participated in demonstrations against the Vietnam War and rung doorbells with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Boston, as part of an antiwar campaign. But what he was doing on this day, propelled by his desire to end the conflict, could lead to federal prison.

He pulled his old Saab up to a phone booth on the outskirts of Harvard Square, and rang a hotel room nearby. When the reporter picked up, Alperovitz identified himself with the alias he had adopted: "It's Mr. Boston." Alperovitz told the journalist to open the door. Waiting in the hallway was a cardboard box, left minutes before by a runner working with Alperovitz. Inside were several hundred pages of the most sought-after documents in the United States-the top-secret Vietnam history known as the Pentagon Papers.

Che Guevara

Come meet the CIA: Drugs, guns and money

CIAmoneyskull
© Sott.net
On November 22, 1996, the US Justice Department indicted General Ramón Guillén Davila of Venezuela on charges of importing cocaine into the United States. The federal prosecutors alleged that while heading Venezuela's anti-drug unit, General Guillén smuggled more than 22 tons of cocaine into the US and Europe for the Calí and Bogotá cartels. Guillén responded to the indictment from the sanctuary of Caracas, whence his government refused to extradict him to Miami, while honoring him with a pardon for any possible crimes committed in the line of duty. He maintained that the cocaine shipments to the US had been approved by the CIA, and went on to say that "some drugs were lost and neither the CIA nor the DEA want to accept any responsibility for it."

The CIA had hired Guillén in 1988 to help it find out something about the Colombian drug cartels. The Agency and Guillén set up a drug-smuggling operation using agents of Guillén's in the Venezuelan National Guard to buy cocaine from the Calí cartel and ship it to Venezuela, where it was stored in warehouses maintained by the Narcotics Intelligence Center, Caracas, which was run by Guillén and entirely funded by the CIA.

To avoid the Calí cartel asking inconvenient questions about the growing inventory of cocaine in the Narcotics Intelligence Center's warehouses and, as one CIA agent put it, "to keep our credibility with the traffickers," the CIA decided it was politic to let some of the cocaine proceed on to the cartel's network of dealers in the US. As another CIA agent put it, they wanted "to let the dope walk" - in other words, to allow it to be sold on the streets of Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

Dig

Syphilis-ridden 18th century mummy found in Swiss church is relative of Boris Johnson

The mummy and Boris
© Getty
The mummy and Boris
A syphilis-ridden 18th century mummy dug up from a Swiss church is the great-great-great-great-great- great-great grandmother of Boris Johnson, it has emerged.

The body was uncovered in 1975 during renovations on Basel's Barfusser Church, but her identity has remained a mystery for more than 40 years.

Known as 'Switzerland's most famous mummy', the woman was buried in front of the altar, and found wearing expensive clothes, with no signs of malnutrition, suggesting she had been wealthy.

Comment: Science is showing how our lineage can have profound affects on the generations that follow, at the same time it has also been found that we can escape those effects through conscious efforts, but at least in Boris' case this may provide one reason for why he is the way he is: And on Boris:


Info

Archaeologists discover 10,000-year-old drawing tool

Ancient Crayon
© Paul Shields/University of York
The crayon revealed a sharpened end.
Archaeologists say they may have discovered one of the earliest examples of a 'crayon' - possibly used by our ancestors 10,000 years ago for applying colour to their animal skins or for artwork.

The ochre crayon was discovered near an ancient lake, now blanketed in peat, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire. An ochre pebble was found at another site on the opposite side of the lake.

The pebble had a heavily striated surface that is likely to have been scraped to produce a red pigment powder. The crayon measures 22mm long and 7mm wide.

Ochre is an important mineral pigment used by prehistoric hunter-gatherers across the globe. The latest finds suggest people collected ochre and processed it in different ways during the Mesolithic period.

Star of David

The not-so-secret life of the late Mathilde Krim

Johnson with Mathilde Krim, at dinner, undated photograph

Johnson with Mathilde Krim, at dinner, undated photograph.
On January 15, Mathilde Krim, a scientist and socialite, died on Long Island at 91, and the obituaries described her courageous leadership in the fight against AIDS. Krim was incensed by the widespread stigmatization of AIDS victims as somehow deserving the disease, and she worked to lift prejudice that kept our society from taking the illness seriously. (I saw her work for myself, attending a fundraiser at her East Side townhouse back in the 90's).

What the news has not told you about is Krim's other great achievement: helping to swing the White House to Israel's side in the 1960's. The no-daylight policy of U.S. alignment with the Israeli government, so obvious today in Trump's deference to Netanyahu, was born under Mathilde Krim's dear friend Lyndon Johnson. In the feverish weeks surrounding the 1967 war, Krim, who had once emigrated to Israel, and her husband Arthur, a leading fundraiser, were continually at Johnson's side, and advised him on what to say publicly.

"Johnson was the pivotal president for our relationship with Israel and I think Mathilde Krim's sway over Johnson was such that it turned the entire relationship, allowing Israel to continue on, especially after the Six Day War, in a manner that defied not only the U.N. but the whole world with regard to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians," says Martin Brod, a retired systems analyst in New York who has long studied the role of Israel's American friends in cementing the special relationship. Here is that story.