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Sun, 17 Dec 2017
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Secret History


Loch Ness monster: Those 1975 underwater photos

Just before 7 o'clock on the evening of Friday 29 August 1975 the telephone at my home in Leeds rang. An American voice inquired: 'Mr Nick Witchell? Transatlantic call for you from the United States.' After a short pause Bob Rines came on the line to announce news that meant the search for the 'Monster' of Loch Ness was finally over. 'Nick,' his voice came clearly and steadily over the thousands of miles, 'we've got it, we've hit the jackpot. We have detailed close-up colour photographs of the head, neck and body of one of the animals.'

Thus spoke Robert Rines to Nicholas Witchell as found in Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story". It is what I would call the summit of Monster Fever or perhaps we could call it "Peak Nessie". It was back in 1975 when rumours began to appear on the TV and newspapers that ground breaking photographs of the Loch Ness Monster were about to be revealed to the world.

Nicholas Witchell had already published the first edition in hardback of his book the year before and this news made it easy for Penguin Books to go to paperback with a new and final chapter entitled "The Solution". Reading that postscript gives one the impression that this was the last cryptozoological book on the creature. The next one would be zoological. Clearly that never happened, so what went wrong?

Bad Guys

The ugly truths of the first World War and how colonial violence and imperialism have come home to roost

Colonial violence
The Great War is often depicted as an unexpected catastrophe. But for millions who had been living under imperialist rule, terror and degradation were nothing new.

Today on the "Western Front," the German sociologist Max Weber wrote in September 1917, there "stands a dross of African and Asiatic savages and all the world's rabble of thieves and lumpens." Weber was referring to the millions of Indian, African, Arab, Chinese and Vietnamese soldiers and laborers, who were then fighting with British and French forces in Europe, as well as in several ancillary theatres of the first world war.

Faced with manpower shortages, British imperialists had recruited up to 1.4 million Indian soldiers. France enlisted nearly 500,000 troops from its colonies in Africa and Indochina. Nearly 400,000 African Americans were also inducted into US forces. The first world war's truly unknown soldiers are these non-white combatants.

Ho Chi Minh, who spent much of the war in Europe, denounced what he saw as the press-ganging of subordinate peoples. Before the start of the Great War, Ho wrote, they were seen as "nothing but dirty Negroes ... good for no more than pulling rickshaws". But when Europe's slaughter machines needed "human fodder", they were called into service. Other anti-imperialists, such as Mohandas Gandhi and WEB Du Bois, vigorously supported the war aims of their white overlords, hoping to secure dignity for their compatriots in the aftermath. But they did not realize what Weber's remarks revealed: that Europeans had quickly come to fear and hate physical proximity to their non-white subjects - their "new-caught sullen peoples", as Kipling called colonized Asians and Africans in his 1899 poem The White Man's Burden.


The Mirabal Sisters: How three butterflies defeated a brutal dictator

Mirabal sisters
© Women's Activism NYC
Mirabal Sisters: Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa
The Mirabal sisters made the ultimate sacrifice to topple Dominican despot Rafael Trujillo, triggering the advent of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women every November 25.

Rafael Trujillo
© unknown
"The butterflies (Las Mariposas)," they called themselves: a phrase that belied their fortitude. Three sisters of exceptional beauty, the Mirabals were born into an affluent farming family in the Dominican Republic as it was descending into a totalitarian nightmare under dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Known for his brute savagery, Trujillo - who dominated the island nation's politics for three deadly decades between 1930 and 1961 - was not a man to be trifled with. Bribery, murder and rape? De rigueur. That's to say nothing of the 'secret' 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians on Dominican soil.

But Minerva, Patria and María Teresa were not to be trifled with, either. Inspired by the political activism of an uncle and after witnessing a massacre by Trujillo's men during a religious retreat, one by one the sisters marched into the political fray.


Ancient site reveals Britain's neolithic civilization

‘Cat’s Brain’
© Adam Stanford., Author provided (No reuse)
‘Cat’s Brain’.
This summer, the University of Reading Archaeology Field School excavated one of the most extraordinary sites we have ever had the pleasure of investigating. The site is an Early Neolithic long barrow known as "Cat's Brain" and is likely to date to around 3,800BC. It lies in the heart of the lush Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, UK, halfway between the iconic monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury.

It has long been assumed that Neolithic long barrows are funerary monuments; often described as "houses of the dead" due to their similarity in shape to long houses. But the limited evidence for human remains from many of these monuments calls this interpretation into question, and suggests that there is still much to be learnt about them.

In fact, by referring to them as long barrows we may well be missing the main point. To illustrate this, our excavations at Cat's Brain failed to find any human remains, and instead of a tomb they revealed a timber hall, suggesting that it was very much a "house for the living". This provides an interesting opportunity to rethink these famous monuments.

The timber hall at Cat's Brain was surprisingly large, measuring almost 20 metres long and ten metres wide at the front. It was built using posts and beamslots, and some of these timbers were colossal with deep cut foundation trenches, so that it's general appearance is of a robust building with space for considerable numbers of people. The beamslots along the front of the building are substantially deeper than the others, suggesting that its frontage may have been impressively large, monumental in fact, and a break halfway along this line indicates the entrance way.


Erin Pizzey: Refuting 40 years of lies about domestic violence

Erin Pizzey

Erin Pizzey
Editor's Note: Erin Pizzey was born in 1939. In 1971, she founded the first nationally and internationally recognized women's shelter (or "refuge") in Chiswick, which is part of London in the UK. Her organization expanded to include many houses and a large, growing organization, now known as Refuge in the UK.

It was soon after founding that groundbreaking battered women's shelter that Pizzey began being subject to public protests and death threats.

A key figure in the women's movement of the 1970s, she eventually fled her native England with her children after the protests, threats, and violence culminated in the shooting of her family dog. However, she never stopped her work advocating for victims of domestic violence, and eventually returned to the UK.


Rare 400-year-old map of Mexico painted by indigenous Nahuatl people

Rare map
The Codex Quetzalecatzin, or Mapa de Ecatepec-Huitziltepec, depicts the birth of what would later become known as the Americas.
A 400-year-old map of Mexico dating from the Spanish Empire is now being displayed for the first time at the United States Library of Congress. Known as the Codex Quetzalecatzin, it was created by indigenous Nahuatl people during the time period in which they first encountered European settlers.

The map, which was created in 1593, also goes by the name Mapa de Ecatepec-Huitziltepec. In a statement on the acquisition, the Library of Congress noted that it was one of only a few known Mesoamerican manuscripts to have survived from that period, and called it one of the most important indigenous American documents made available in a century. The Library of Congress has digitally archived it for the first time and made it publicly accessible online.

"The codex shows graphically the kinds of cultural interactions taking place at an important moment in American history," John Hessler, curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection for the archaeology of the early Americas of the Library of Congress, said in the statement. "In a sense, we see the birth of what would be the start of what we would come to know as the Americas."


Celebrating the hidden holocaust of Thanksgiving

homeland security
Imagine if the Nazis won the Second World War. Yes, yes, I know there's a TV show about that - but stay with me.

So imagine: the Nazis won, and then every year, on the day when we currently hold Holocaust Remembrance Day, they celebrate with a national holiday called "Eternal Gratefulness for the Fruits of Industry."

In the Nazi national holiday, citizens bizarrely demonstrate no recollection whatsoever of the systematic, bureaucratic state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews.

Instead, they share with each other strange stories of how the German nation overcame all obstacles through generosity and love, manifested in amazing industrial advancements attributed to the wonderous exceptionalism of the German nation. Stories that have literally no resemblance to real Nazi history.

Guess what.

Che Guevara

Remembering Fidel Castro: A Latin American legend

Fidel Castro
The Cuban revolutionary remained influential in Latin America and across the world for half a century.

Fidel was born in 1926 during a period when then-President Gerardo Machado was cutting off the traditional elite from its long-held power and defending the island's sovereignty from the United States.

As a child, Fidel was sent to live in Santiago de Cuba, where he excelled more in sports than academia.

His youth was marked by turbulent politics: Fulgencio Batista became president in 1940 and ruled the country until 1944 before returning to power through a coup in 1952. With the blessing and material support of the United States, he ruled Cuba with an iron fist until 1959 in what even John F. Kennedy once referred to as "one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression."

While studying law at the University of Havana, Fidel became increasingly involved in anti-imperialist activism. After traveling to the Dominican Republic and Colombia, Fidel sharpened his leftist politics and led protests against right-wing governments in both countries.

Comment: More on Fidel Castro's remarkable legacy:

Che Guevara

First FBI interview with Howard Zinn

howard zinn
In July 2010, the FBI declassified their 243-page file on Howard Zinn, dating back to 1949 (read summaries of files). The first recorded contact with Zinn is this report filed four years later on November 25, 1953. Two FBI agents questioned Zinn about matters based on information provided by informants. FBI files on individuals and groups are notoriously unreliable. They are shared here simply as relevant primary documents. The transcript follows.


Deranged Dating - Dendrochronology is scientific, or so it's claimed

Deranged Dating
© Malaga Bay
One of the quaint aspects of academia is it's claim that Dendrochronology is "scientific".
Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating) is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed in order to analyze atmospheric conditions during different periods in history.

The peculiarities of the "scientific method" deployed by Dendrochronology is perhaps best understood by examining how this academic discipline handles Roman Times.

Early in the 1980s Dendrochronology adopted German chronologies for Roman Times.