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Fri, 21 Jul 2017
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Fireball 5

Revisiting the 1941 murders triggered by meteor shower on Canada's Belcher Islands

© Estate of Richard Harrington/Stephen Bulger Gallery
Eskimo Point, NWT, 1950.
In the wake of a meteor shower during the brutal winter of 1941 on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay, a 27-year-old Inuk named Charlie Ouyerack announced that he was Jesus, and that the community's best hunter, Peter Sala, was God. They gained acolytes and ordered that sled dogs be killed—because soon everyone would be able to fly—and unbelievers, too. One night, Sala's sister forced some of the islanders to take their clothes off outside in order to greet the end of the world. Six died of exposure. By the time the messianic cult had run its course, nine Inuit had perished.

American writer Lawrence Millman's new book, At the End of the World, tells the story of the murders. While the details mark them as some of the grisliest in Canadian history, the survivors he spoke with (who have all since passed away) poignantly open a window onto some of the indirect, insidious effects of colonization. The book paints a picture of the long reach of forced assimilation—even in an area that hadn't yet been infested by residential schools—which could warp people's relations with themselves and with the world around them in unforeseen and catastrophic ways.

Cloud Precipitation

The World's Most Catastrophic Floods

© EE Murray & Co/Interim Archives/Getty Images
Stereoscopic view showing debris, collapsed houses, and the general disastrous condition of Main Street in Johnstown, Pennyslvania soon after the flood, 1889. After heavy rains, the South Fork Dam burst and the waters of Lake Conemaugh flooded the town.
Floods were considered a blessing by certain civilizations—the Egyptians relied on the Nile's yearly overflow for fertile soil—but they also stand as some of history's most devastating natural disasters. Whether due to heavy rains, storm surges or busted dams, deluges have often claimed thousands of lives and left whole cities in ruin. In some cases, they even permanently changed the planet's geography.

1) The Johnstown Flood was so massive it equaled the flow of the Mississippi River.

The disaster began shortly after 3 p.m on May 31, 1889, when a dam on Pennsylvania's Lake Conemaugh washed away following several days of drenching rain. The collapse unleashed some 16 million tons of water, which quickly turned into a 40-foot-high, half-mile-wide surge of mud and debris. An hour later, the wave struck Johnstown like a giant fist, crushing some 1,600 buildings and sweeping away everything in its path. When the waters finally receded, over 2,200 people were dead and many more were injured or homeless. The flood was later blamed on the poorly maintained dam, which was owned by a hunting and fishing club, but no one was ever held financially liable for the disaster.


Mysterious Bronze Age 'sun altar' discovered in northwest China

© Chinatimes / YouTube
Archaeologists are raving about the "major" discovery of a huge sun altar in China's northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The Bronze Age altar dedicated to sun worship, was first discovered in 1993, but excavations did not begin in earnest until late last year. The excavations have now revealed that the structure has striking similarities to the kind of temples previously only seen much farther west on the Eurasian plains, Sina.com reports.

Sun temples were built by the nomadic tribes that once roamed the vast Eurasian steppe, however, no such temple has previously been discovered this far east.


Predynastic hieroglyphic inscriptions discovered in Egypt

© Ahram Online
The inscriptions uncovered engraved on a rock.
An archaeological mission from Yale University has discovered a new rock inscription site near the village of El-Khawy near Luxor, during their excavation work on the Elkab Desert Survey Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities.

The inscriptions range in date from the early Predynastic Period, which spanned approx. 4,000 to 3,500 BC, through to the Old Kingdom (approx. 2,686 BC to 2181 BC).

The village of El-Khawy is located approximately 7km north of the ancient city of Elkab and 60km south of Luxor.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the ministry explained that the site is composed of several panels of rock art and inscriptions which include some of the earliest—and largest—signs from the formative stages of the hieroglyphic script, and provides evidence for how the ancient Egyptians invented their unique writing system.

Hani Abu ElAzem, head of the Central Department of Upper Egypt Antiquities, described the discovery as important because it helps in understanding the development of a system of graphic communication, which sets the stage for the appearance of true hieroglyphic writing in Upper Egypt in approx. 3,250 BC.


Russian MoD declassifies documents on Soviet Union's preparedness for 1941 Nazi invasion

© Berliner Verlag / DPA Zentralbild / Global Look Press
The Russian Defense Ministry has declassified and published documents detailing how victorious USSR reflected on the disastrous early days of Nazi Germany's invasion. Military strategists wanted to know if the Soviet Union was unprepared for war.

The documents date back to the early 1950s and were penned by some of the most prominent generals in the Red Army at the time, including Marshal Ivan Bagramyan.

In 1952, the Soviet General Staff gathered a task force in its military science and history directorate, headed by Colonel-General Aleksandr Pokrovsky. Their task was to collect data, including eyewitness accounts, on the state of the Red Army shortly before and in the first part of the war with the Nazis.


Volcano-shaped pyramid in Peru has experts stumped

© Courtesy of Robert Benfer
El Volcán in the Nepeña Valley of coastal Peru has archaeologists stumped as to when and why this mound was built, though it may have served as a place for a ceremony related to a total solar eclipse.
From far away, El Volcán in the Nepeña Valley of coastal Peru might look like a natural feature in the landscape.

But this volcano is artificial, a mound or pyramid built by human hands with a crater dug out of the top. And some archaeologists are trying to figure out what it was used for.

Robert Benfer, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri who focuses on biological anthropology, had previously found a series of mounds shaped like orcas, condors and other animals in coastal valleys in Peru. He was looking for more of those earthworks by surveying valleys north of Lima when he spotted the volcanic cone that stands 50 feet tall (15.5 meters).

"I knew that a mountain in the valley had a large archaeological site, San Isidro, with platforms oriented to the solstice," Benfer told Live Science. "So with my team, we climbed it to get a better view of the surrounding valley, and I saw the Volcán site from a platform."


128-year-old German immigrant claims he's Hitler, authorities find Nazi trove in Salta, Argentina

© AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko
Members of the federal police show a bust relief portrait of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, June 16, 2017
Speaking in an interview with local media, the naturalized German immigrant explains he arrived in 1945 with a passport — allegedly a forgery produced by the Gestapo at the conclusion of World War II — identifying him as Herman Guntherberg.

​He said he decided to emerge from his extended period in hiding as Mossad — the Israeli secret service — officially abandoned their policy of pursuing Nazi war criminals in 2016. Much of Mossad's early work involved the capture of former Nazis hiding in Latin America, with the kidnap of Zyklon-B procurer Adolf Eichmann in 1960 a particularly famous example. He intends to publish an autobiography in September and "restore" his public image.

"I've been blamed for a lot of crimes I've never committed. Because of that, I've had to spend more than half of my life hiding from Jews, so I've had my punishment already. I've been depicted as a bad guy only because we lost the war. When people read my side of the story, it will change the way the perceive me," Guntherberg/Hitler said.

While mainstream historians universally concur Hitler committed suicide April 30, 1945 in the Fuhrerbunker, Berlin as the Red Army ran roughshod over the German capital, some alternative chroniclers have suggested the Fuhrer may have escaped to Latin America, as so many other Nazis did at the conclusion of the war.

In July 2016, Abel Basti published a revised edition of "Hitler in Exile" — he suggested the fallen Fuhrer fled to Argentina, where he then lived for ten years, before moving to Paraguay, under the protection of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who had German roots. Basti says Hitler died February 3, 1971 in Paraguay.

Mr. Potato

Useful idiots: Declassified CIA report assesses power of French postmodern "philosophers" in the 80s

We might assume that philosophy is an ivory tower discipline that has little effect on the unlovely operations of government, driven as they are by the concerns of middle class wallets, upper class stock portfolios, and the ever-present problem of poverty. But we would be wrong. In times when presidents, cabinet members, or senators have been thoughtful and well-read, the ideas of thinkers like Francis Fukuyama, Leo Strauss, Jurgen Habermas, and John Rawls—a favorite of the previous president—have exercised considerable sway. Few philosophers have been as historically influential as the German thinker Carl Schmitt, though in a thoroughly destructive way. Then there's John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, Aristotle... even Socrates, who made himself a thorn in the side of the powerful.

But when it comes to the mostly French school of thinkers we associate with postmodernism—Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, the Jacques Lacan and Derrida, and many others—such influence is far less direct. The work of these writers has been often dismissed as frivolous and inconsequential, speaking a language no one understands to out of touch coastal elites on the left edge of the spectrum. Perhaps this is so in the United States, where power is often theorized but rarely radically critiqued in mainstream publications. But it has not been so in France. At least not according to the CIA, who closely monitored the effects of French philosophy on the country's domestic and foreign policy during their long-running culture war against Communism and "anti-Americanism," and who, in 1985, compiled a research paper to document their investigations. (See a sample page above.)

Comment: Yet another example of shortsighted CIA idiocy. "As long as they hate the Commies, they're fine by us!" Because that's worked out so well with Islamic extremism and postmodern leftists... Both groups just happen to be the most likely vectors towards totalitarianism today. Good job, CIA!


Archaeologists Unearth Ancient, Forgotten City in Eastern Ethiopia

An international team of researchers led by University of Exeter archaeologists has discovered the ruins of an ancient city — once thought to be the "home of giants" — in eastern Ethiopia.

© Timothy Insoll, University of Exeter
The ruins of a 12th-century mosque in Harlaa, eastern Ethiopia.
The discovery reveals new information about the origins of international trade and Islam in Ethiopia between the 10th and early 15th centuries CE.

This is the first evidence which proves eastern Ethiopia was well connected with the Gulf, Egypt and India hundreds of years ago and highlights how skilled craftsmen traded with communities around the world and lived alongside people from different areas around the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

"This discovery revolutionizes our understanding of trade in an archaeologically neglected part of Ethiopia," explained Timothy Insoll, an archaeologist and Al-Qasimi Professor of African and Islamic archaeology at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.


Ancient DNA study shows how cats used humans to conquer the world

© Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock
Ancient DNA from 209 cats over 9,000 years tell the story of their dispersal

Sometime around the invention of agriculture, the cats came crawling. It was mice and rats, probably, that attracted the wild felines. The rats came because of stores of grain, made possible by human agriculture. And so cats and humans began their millennia-long coexistence.

This relationship has been good for us of course—formerly because cats caught the disease-carrying pests stealing our food and presently because cleaning up their hairballs somehow gives purpose to our modern lives. But this relationship has been great for cats as species, too. From their native home in the Middle East, the first tamed cats followed humans out on ships and expeditions to take over the world—settling on six continents with even the occasional foray to Antarctica. Domestication has been a fantastically successful evolutionary strategy for cats.