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Sun, 28 Aug 2016
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Secret History

Cloud Lightning

The history of the park ranger hit by lightning 7 — or was it 8 — times?

Sullivan Roy Cleveland Sullivan
In 1977 there was a mobile home off Route 340 near Dooms strangely covered with 12 lightning rods, affixed to all four corners of the trailer, on the TV antenna, the electric meter and in six of the taller nearby trees. Each was heavy gauge no. 6 copper wire, grounded on spikes sunk seven feet in the ground.

There was good reason for this eccentric arrangement; the trailer owner, retired Shenandoah Park Ranger Roy C. Sullivan, had already been struck by lightning seven times, and still had one more to go, earning a dubious world record that stands today.

"Some people are allergic to flowers," Sullivan told a Waynesboro News-Virginian reporter in June, 1977, "but I'm allergic to lightning."

Born February, 1912 in Greene County, Sullivan's legacy began in the 1920s. As he helped his father cut wheat, lightning struck his scythe, knocking him to the ground and setting the field on fire.

He had no idea what was still to come.

© Findagrave.com
Roy Sullivan’s grave in Augusta County.

Bad Guys

The hidden history of Congo's uranium: Stolen by the Americans to destroy Hiroshima

Since the first use of a nuclear weapon in Hiroshima 71 years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1945, the story of where the uranium for the bomb came from and the covert operation the U.S. employed to secure it has been little known.

That is until the publication next week in the United States of a new book, Spies in the Congo, by British researcher Susan Williams (Public Affairs Books, New York), which unveils for the first time the detailed story of the deep cover race between the Americans and the Nazis to get their hands on the deadliest metal on earth.

At the outset of World War II, when the U.S. launched the extraordinarily secret Manhattan Project, uranium from North America and most of the rest of the world was less than one percent enriched and considered inadequate to build the first atom bombs. But there was one mine in the world where, through a freak of nature, the ore contained up to an unheard of 75% enriched uranium: Shinkolobwe mine in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.


Reality check: The police were created to control people, not protect them

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren't so racist, or didn't carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren't so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century from the threat posed by that system's offspring, the working class.

This is a blunt way of stating a nuanced truth, but sometimes nuance just serves to obfuscate.


Evidence found for a great flood that marks the beginning of China's civilization

New geological findings suggest that an ancient flood in a popular legend about the birth of China's civilization might have actually occurred, but some 150 years later than historians thought.
© Wu Qinglong
This photo shows Jishi Gorge upstream from the landslide dam. Gray silt deposits reveal an ancient, massive lake held by the dam.
In Chinese mythology, the tale of a great flood marks the beginning of the ancient civilization and the debut of China's first-ever, but possibly fictional, dynasty—the Xia Dynasty. Today, researchers published a paper in Science laying out geological evidence for a huge flood on the Yellow River almost 4000 years ago that may have inspired the origin story.

"The scientific evidence of this flood would lend support to parts of the legendary history," said Li Liu, an archaeologist at Stanford University in California and coauthor on the new paper. Specifically, the findings could lend credibility to arguments that the Xia Dynasty actually existed.

Yu the Great

The story of the Xia Dynasty starts with a flood that supposedly lasted 20 years. In ancient times, a man called Yu recruited villagers in the Yellow River valley to divert the waters that had been raging untamed for almost a decade. Over another decade, Yu and the villagers dug channels and tributaries that led the water to the sea.

Grateful countrymen crowned Yu the Great as their ruler. He started the dynastic tradition when he eventually passed his throne to his son. Modern scholars suggest that Yu's reign started in 2070 B.C.E.—if it existed at all.

Because Chinese texts made no mention of this story for the next millennium, some scholars reject the existence of the dynasty itself, said Wu Qinglong, a geologist at Peking University in Beijing and lead author of the paper.


Rare pottery workshop discovered in Galilee

© Royee Liran, Israel Antiquities Authority
A kiln discovered in northern Israel was cut out of the chalky bedrock at the site, which is located in the modern-day town of Shlomi.
An ancient potters' workshop dating back to Roman times has been discovered in Galilee, in northern Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced that excavations in Shlomi, a town near the Lebanon border, have revealed a ceramic factory where storage jars and vessels for wine and oil would have been made 1,600 years ago. Archaeologists working at the site said this workshop is notable for its carefully constructed rock-cut kiln.

"What makes the pottery works so special is its unique kiln, which was hewn in bedrock and is unlike most of the kilns known to us that were built of stone, earth and mud," Joppe Gosker, the excavation director, said in a statement.

Comment: Related articles:


The mystery of the 6-toed and 6-fingered people of Chaco Canyon

Ancient people of the Pueblo culture of Chaco Canyon, in what is now New Mexico, decorated their houses with six-digit handprints and footprints.

Although it is not really known why these images were depicted in homes, researchers suggest that having an extra finger or toe made the person more important and respected in this society.

According to National Geographic, researchers were aware of the examples of polydactyly ('many fingers') among the Pueblo culture for many years.

Several skeletal remains showing extremities with extra toes and fingers have also been found. One of the discovered remains had an ornate anklet around its six-toed foot but carried no such offering on its five-toed foot.

Book 2

Germany publishing SS head Himmler's diary found in Russian archive

© wikipedia
Nazi Heinrich Himmler
A diary of high-ranking Nazi Heinrich Himmler discovered in a Russian military archive is being published in Germany by Bild. The 1,000-page document sheds light on the routinely evil everyday activities of the head of the SS and Holocaust supervisor. Bild daily launched the publication of selected excerpts from Himmler's diary on Tuesday.

The diary, arranged in the form of a calendar, bears dates and contains information about meetings and military decisions made by and in the presence of the SS chief. The diary covers two different periods, pre-war 1938 and the crucial war years of 1943 and 1944.

Over the last 70 years the document remained unnoticed in Russia, before finally being discovered at the Military Archive in Podolsk, a city near Moscow. The authenticity of the diaries has been verified by experts of the German Historical Institute, a state institution in Moscow, which thoroughly analyzed the records and compared them with Himmler's other documents and known facts.

"The importance of these documents is that we get a better structural understanding of the last phase of the war," the Times quotes the institute's director Nikolaus Katzer as saying. The information presented in the diary is "rather dry and not very meaningful," yet provides numerous new details significantly expanding the big picture. "It is therefore a very important and significant testimony," Katzer said.

Damian Imoehl, the journalist who helped Bild get the diaries, says the scariest thing about Himmler is his bureaucratic ordinariness. In an eerily human way, Himmler regularly contacted with his wife and daughter, and could spend an evening watching a film or playing cards. "One day he starts with breakfast and a massage from his personal doctor, then he rings up his wife and daughter in the south of Germany and after that he decides to have 10 men killed or visits a concentration camp," Imoehl said.

Comment: Himmler was probably a psychopath. He was able to carry out evil in a mundane manner because he was without conscience, empathy or moral compass. His diary may add validating or new aspects to this study of humanity's intraspecies predator.


Ancient execution? 80 shackled skeletons found in Greek cemetery

© Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters
Skeletal remains, with iron shackles on their wrists, are laid in a row at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens, Greece, July 27, 2016.
A discovery has been made in Greece that might chill you to the bone. At least 80 skeletons were unearthed at an ancient cemetery, their wrists bound by iron shackles, with the remains believed to be those of the victims of a mass execution.

Some of the skeletons in the Falyron Delta necropolis cemetery are lying in a neat row, while others are piled on top of each other, their jaws hanging open.

And although the bones were initially found earlier this year, few people have been allowed to have a look at the skeletons - until now.


70 years ago today, WWII vets took up arms against corrupt cops - ran them out of town

The Battle of Athens, Tennesee - 1946
Establishment political corruption and election rigging have become so commonplace, the stunning collusion and fraud perpetrated by the Democratic National Committee this year — revealed in several document leaks — seemed virtually inconsequential to vast swaths of the voting public.

To some, however, the coordinated plot to install Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee constituted an unforgivable breach of faith, if not outright criminality — particularly since none of those involved will be held accountable. Despite this outrage, a parallel feeling of helplessness also settled in — after all, the disillusioned lamented, what could really be done to thwart such a blatant power-grab?

To those who believe such malfeasance is beyond resolve, perhaps a revisit to the Battle of Athens on its 70th anniversary will offer some perspective.

In 1946, war-weary GIs began to return from World War II battlefronts in Europe and Japan, ready to resume life in their sleepy Tennessee town. What they found, instead, infuriated them to the core. A power-hungry Democrat and his associates had since usurped local government and law enforcement, and had imposed a maniacal chokehold on the McMinn County town through extortive fines, excess laws, and arrests of anyone who opposed them.

While the soldiers were away fighting power-hungry foreign enemies in 1936, Paul Cantrell, a Democrat from a wealthy and prominent family, used that influence to win the position of sheriff. Though many Athens citizens strongly suspected Cantrell hadn't been elected through entirely legal means, there appeared to be no way to challenge the results.


Indian study of genetics of Andaman Islanders uncovers new human ancestor

© Theierry Falise
The Jarawas.
A study published a few days ago in the journal Nature Genetics has found the presence of a third and a new ancestor to humans — a sibling of the Neanderthal and the Denisovan. The study compared the complete DNA sequences of the Jarawas and the Onges living in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal with the DNA sequences of Neanderthals and Denisovans, and they found some notable differences in the DNA sequences.

"In this study we have found in the DNA sequence of modern humans, specially in the Jarawa and Onge populations, fragments of DNA that belong neither to the Neanderthal nor the Denisovan nor even to most of the contemporary human groups," says Partha P. Majumder, one of the corresponding authors of the paper and Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kalyani, West Bengal.

"Further statistical analysis of the DNA segments showed that the best explanation of the origin of these DNA fragments is that they belong to an unknown third human ancestor that is already extinct. The unknown human ancestor is like an evolutionary sibling of the Neanderthal and the Denisovan."

A small proportion of DNA from the unknown extinct hominin is found only in the population from South and Southeast Asia while it is absent from Europeans and East Asians. "That there is an ancestor of modern humans that was not discovered earlier is a major finding of our work," he says.