Archive | History

Australian Security Forces Storm Sydney Cafe

 

 

Hostage Siege Ends With Attack, Gunshots

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s over.

Australian security forces on Tuesday stormed the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney where several hostages were being held at gunpoint, in what looked like the dramatic ending to a standoff that had dragged on for more than 16 hours.

Heavy gunfire and loud bangs rang out shortly after 2 a.m. local time today, and moments earlier at least six people believed to have been held captive had managed to flee the scene.

Australian state broadcaster ABC reported that three people were dead and four others were wounded and in serious condition.  Police said the three people killed were the gunman and two of the hostages.

It is unknown whether the two hostages who were killed, a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman, were caught in crossfire, or shot by the Iranian-born gunman.  Among the four wounded was a police officer shot in the face.

Medics moved in and took away seven injured people on stretchers, but it was not clear whether they included the gunman.  He was identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh facing multiple charges of sexual assault.  Local media reported that Monis, who was known as Manteghi Bourjerdi before he changed his name, was 49 or 50 years old.

Chris Reason, a correspondent for CNN affiliate Seven Network, said the gunman became “extremely agitated” when he realized what had happened and “started screaming orders” at the remaining hostages.

Reason said he could see the gunman pacing past the cafe’s windows from his vantage point at the network’s nearby offices.  He described the man as unshaven, wearing a white shirt and black cap and carrying a shotgun.

The gunman demanded a flag and phone call through hostages who contacted several media organizations, Sky News Australia reported.

Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron, was found guilty in 2013 of sending offensive and threatening letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and calling them “Hitler’s soldiers,” as a protest against Australia’s involvement in the conflict, according to local media reports.

He was also charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.  Earlier this year, he was charged with the sexual
assault of a woman in 2002.  He has been out on bail on both
of the charges.

“This is a one-off random individual.  It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act.  It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous,” his former lawyer Manny Conditsis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.  “His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” Conditsis said.

He was believed to be acting alone and does not appear to be part of a broader plot, US law enforcement said Monday.  Beyond the demands for the flag and phone call, precisely what he wanted remained murky late Monday.

During the siege, hostages had been forced to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack.  The black flag with Arabic writing read, “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”

At least six hostages were either released or had escaped, with terrified cafe workers and customers running into the arms of paramilitary police.

Fifteen or so hostages were understood to have been holed up inside the cafe, said Chris Reason, a reporter at Channel Seven, whose office is opposite the cafe.

The incident forced the evacuation of nearby buildings and sent shockwaves around a country where many people were turning their attention to the Christmas holiday following earlier security scares.

In September, anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in the city of Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife. 

Tough anti-terror laws were passed by the Australian parliament in October in response to the threat of homegrown extremism.

The siege cafe is in Martin Place, a pedestrian strip popular with workers on a lunch break, which was revealed as a potential location for the thwarted beheading.

“We’re possibly looking at a lone wolf who has sympathies to global jihad or someone with mental health issues in search of a cause,” said Adam Dolnik, a professor at the University of Wollongong who has trained Sydney police in hostage negotiations.  “This is all about attention.”

In the biggest security operation in Sydney since a bombing at the Hilton Hotel killed two people in 1978, major banks closed their offices in the central business district and people were told to avoid the area.

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, earlier this year raised its domestic terror threat level from medium to high, mainly due to concerns about home-grown extremists.

About 70 Australians are thought to be fighting for militant groups in the Middle East.

A number of Australian Muslim groups condemned the hostage-taking in a joint statement and said the flag’s inscription was a “testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals.”

~Via Google News, ABC, Seven Network, WRAL, Reuters

 

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Colonizing the Red Planet

 

 

Mars:  The Epic Dream Vs. the Harsh Reality

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s a one-way ticket to Paradise.

In 2012, a Dutch nonprofit led by entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp announced plans to send four citizen astronauts to colonize Mars in 2023.

The motivation behind the project was later revealed to have little to do with the pursuit of science.  Instead, the organization— known as Mars One— plans to film the whole thing, turning the far-flung mission into a bizarre reality TV show.

The call for applications began back in 2013.  No previous intergalactic experience was necessary, Mars One said in their release.

Applying is easy.  Applicants just need to be over the age of 18 and comfortable with the notion of spending the rest of their mortal lives on a different planet.

In the first two weeks, more than 78,000 people applied for the one-way trip into space.  That number now tops a surprising 200,000 folks wanting to start a new life someplace else.  Mars One hopes to pick between 28 to 40 candidates by the year 2015 and train them for the final mission.

One small problem though:  The organization also needs to raise around $6 billion in funding to pull the whole thing off.  That’s one heck of a Kickstarter project.

Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is the fourth rock from the sun and lies roughly about 140 million miles away from us– depending on our elliptical orbits with one another.  First recorded by Egyptian astronomers 4,000 years ago as “the Red One” due to its iron-rich rocky and dusty surface, Mars has always captured our imagination for travel, exploration, and potential colonization.

Mars has roughly the same landmass as Earth.  Martian surface gravity, however, is only 37% that of Earth– meaning you could leap nearly three times higher on Mars. 

Mars, to note, also sports two moons.

The Martian year is 686 earth-days long, causing some extreme temperature variations in its four seasons.  At the closest point to the Sun, the Martian southern hemisphere leans towards the Sun causing a short, intensely hot summer; while the northern hemisphere endures a brief, cold winter.  At its farthest point from the Sun, the Martian northern hemisphere causes a long, mild summer with the southern hemisphere having a lengthy, cold winter.

Mars has the largest dust storms in the solar system.  They can last for months and cover the entire planet.  The seasons are extreme because its orbital path around the Sun is more elongated than most other planets in the solar system.

There is no oxygen on Mars except in minor trace amounts and the atmosphere consists primarily of carbon dioxide gas.  Water on the surface of Mars does exists in its polar ice caps but it’s prone to either freezing or evaporation.  There is abundant water trapped below the surface; enough to cover the whole planet to a depth of 115 feet.

So, just how scientifically sound is sending four normal people, with no scientific background, to another frontier planet in the hope of making it habitable for future generations?

Not very much, according to a team of MIT engineering students.  The group made a detailed simulation of the Mars One settlement to assess the mission’s feasibility.   Their results, published last month, show that it will be virtually impossible for humans to survive on Mars with the current technology that exists.

“We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible,” said Olivier de Weck, MIT professor of aeronautics and engineering systems.  “But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made.  We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”

The researchers began by looking at each component outlined in Mars One’s plan, from living conditions and life-support systems to logistics and emergency procedures in case of fire.

The first problem is food.  Mars One plans to build a series of capsule-like habitats to house the settlers, using solar panels to supply electricity and extracting drinking water from the soil with an irrigation system.

Using a typical work schedule and metabolic rate of astronauts on the International Space Station, the study estimated that a settler on Mars would have to consume 3,040 calories a day to stay healthy, subsisting on a diet that includes foods like beans, lettuce, peanuts, potatoes, and rice.  The researchers found that producing enough of these crops to sustain settlers would require almost four times an area as the one laid out in Mars One’s plan– 2,150 square feet, as opposed to the 530 currently allotted.

Further, if the crop-growing area is part of the settlers’ habitat as proposed, the crops would end up producing unsafe levels of oxygen that would need to be abated with a constant supply of nitrogen.  This process would require technology that has yet to be developed for use in space.

The same goes for water.  The Mars One plan is to melt ice for drinking water, but the MIT study found that current technologies that can extract and melt water from soil are not yet ready for use in Mars’ harsh environment.  Eventually, the study found, the total atmospheric pressure inside the habitat would drop to unsafe levels, suffocating the first settler within a mere 68 days.

Can Mars be colonized?  Undoubtably it will, someday.  And when it happens, it will be the farthest journey mankind will ever have traveled.  As of September 2014, there have been 40 unmanned missions to Mars, including orbiters, landers and rovers.  18 of those missions have been successful.  There have been many more flybys.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s MOM Mangalyaan orbiter recently arrived on September 24, 2014.  The next mission to arrive will be the European Space Agency’s ExoMars project, comprising of an orbiter, lander, and rover;  followed by NASA’s InSight robotic lander mission, slated for launch in March 2016 and with a planned arrival in September of 2016.

Essentially, colonizing Mars for humans is the kind of thing that presents great challenges and requires an enormous amount of preparation.  

“There are just so many unknowns,” said Sydney Do, one of the graduate students who led the MIT study.

“And to give anyone confidence that they’re going to get there and stay alive–  there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

 


 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Erik Wernquist’s award-winning film at top above, Wanderers, was made using actual digital images and real locations gathered from NASA/JPL, NASA/CICLOPS, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, European Space Agency, John Van Vliet and Björn Jonsson. 

It is best viewed on a full screen and with the volume cranked up.

‘Mars One: Introduction Film’ was produced by the MarsOne Project.

Images by Space.com.

 

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Greece’s Largest Mystery Tomb Unearthed

 

 

Identity of Ancient Tomb’s VIP Skeleton a Mystery

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The ancient sands of Ozymandias are slowly and painstakingly being pulled back to reveal their secrets.

Coins featuring the face of Alexander the Great have been found at the largest tomb ever unearthed in Greece, where archaeologists are hunting for clues to solve the mystery of who lies buried there.

The enormous tomb at Kasta Hill in Amphipolis in northern Greece dates back to the fourth century BC and also contains near-intact sculptures and intricate mosaics.

Kasta Hill lies in what was once the ancient city of Amphipolis, conquered by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, in 357 BC.  Experts have known about the existence of the burial mound in Amphipolis, located northeast of Thessaloniki, since the 1960s, but work only began in earnest there in 2012, when archaeologists discovered that Kasta Hill had been surrounded by a nearly 1,640 foot wall made from marble.

Earlier this year, archaeologists discovered a path and 13 steps leading down from the surrounding wall.  It was then that they uncovered a limestone wall protecting and concealing the entrance of the tomb.  Behind the wall, archaeologists revealed two marble sphinxes, both headless and missing their wings, recovered during excavations.   Bit by bit, the grand tomb began revealing the Ozymandian secrets that had lain hidden for 2,300 years.

The discovery of a skeleton inside the structure has added to the excitement over the site, which has enthralled the Greek public.

The archaeologist in charge of the dig, Katerina Peristeri, on Saturday said they still did not know the identity of the skeleton but it was likely the tomb was built for a high-ranking individual.

Giving the first complete presentation of the excavation results at the Ministry of Culture in Athens, Peristeri said the quality of the statues and the sheer scale of the tomb “show that a general could have been buried there”.

The tomb was repeatedly plundered before being sealed off but Peristeri said the team still found several coins around the tomb, including some showing the face of Alexander the Great and some dating back to the third and second century BC.

Archaeologists had to dig their way past huge decapitated sphinxes, break through a wall guarded by two caryatids — sculpted female figures — and empty out an antechamber decorated with lavish mosaics to finally find the tomb’s occupant.

As they entered the second chamber of the tomb, more spectacles awaited – a magnificent mosaic which covers the entire floor area and depicting a well-known scene.  The mural shows the abduction of Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter and goddess of agriculture and fertility, by Hades/Pluto.  A mural representing the exact same scene was discovered in the tomb of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father.

In the third chamber, archaeologists found a hidden vault in the floor that had been sealed with limestone.  It contained human remains inside a sarcophagus.  The skeleton had once been inside a wooden coffin– now disintegrated– which had been sealed with iron and bronze nails.  Bone and glass decorative elements and skeletal remains were found both within and outside the limestone sarcophagus.

“We knew we had to return there and solve the mystery of the hill,” said Peristeri.

New research has revealed that the vast tomb had been open to the public in antiquity, leading to looting and damage by the invading Romans.  Sealing walls at the tomb were constructed during the Roman era to keep vandals and looters away, but much damage had already been done.  This has made it difficult to immediately identify the owner of the tomb, as many artifacts that would been buried alongside the individual, and would have helped with identification, are missing.

“It is certain there was damage and plundering in ancient times as it was a large monument that people could visit,” said Peristeri.

Since the unearthing of the site, deemed to be of huge historical importance and visited by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in August, there has been widespread speculation over who was buried there:  from Roxana, Alexander’s Persian wife, to Olympias, the king’s mother, to one of his generals.

“We have no clear clues on the identity of the buried person based on the sculpture of the Lion which stood on top of the hill and the other architectural finds,” said archaeology architect Michael Lefantzis.  “We do know that the dead was a prominent figure… In my opinion he was a warrior.”

But historians say it is highly unlikely to have been Alexander himself, who conquered the Persian empire and much of the known world before his death at the age of 32.

Geophysical scans of Kasta Hill have revealed that there is much more lying hidden within the enormous burial mound, and archaeologists have announced that more excavations will begin in the near future.

~Via Archaeology Today, Ancient Origins,
Megalithic.co, Peter Sommer, MSN News

 

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Remember the Future: Chernobyl Revisited

 

 

Radiation Never Really Dies

 

**VIDEO**

 

Danny Cooke and Bob Simon
CBS News

 

 

Some tragedies never end.  Just bury the horror and move on.

Ask people to name a nuclear disaster and most will probably point to Fukushima in Japan three years ago.

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine was 30 years ago, but the crisis is still with us today.  That’s because radiation virtually never dies.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Chernobyl while working for CBS News on a ’60 Minutes’ episode which aired on Nov. 23, 2014.  Bob Simon was the correspondent and his video can be seen below.

Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been.  The nuclear disaster, which happened in 1986 (the year after I was born), had an effect on so many people, including my family when we lived in Italy.  The nuclear dust clouds swept westward towards us.  The Italian police went round and threw away all the local produce and my mother rushed out to purchase as much tinned milk as possible to feed me, her infant son.

It caused so much distress hundreds of miles away.  I can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who were forced to evacuate.

During my stay, I met so many amazing people, one of whom was my guide Yevgen, also known as a ‘Stalker’.  We spent the week together exploring Chernobyl and the nearby abandoned city of Pripyat. There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place.  Time has stood still and there are memories of the past floating around us.

Armed with a camera and a dosimeter Geiger counter I explored the ruins and made the above film.

After the explosion in 1986, the Soviets built a primitive sarcophagus, a tomb to cover the stricken reactor.  But it wasn’t meant to last very long and it hasn’t.  Engineers say there is still enough radioactive material in there to cause widespread contamination.

For the last five years a massive project has been underway to seal the reactor permanently.  But the undertaking is three quarters of a billion dollars short and the completion date has been delayed repeatedly. Thirty years later, Chernobyl’s crippled reactor still has the power to kill.

It’s called the Zone and getting into it is crossing a border into one of the most contaminated places on Earth. The 20-mile no man’s land was evacuated nearly 30 years ago.  

Drive to the center of the Zone today and you’ll see a massive structure that appears to rise out of nowhere. It’s an engineering effort the likes of which the world has never seen. 

And it’s a race against time.

With funds from over 40 different countries, 1,400 workers are building a giant arch to cover the damaged reactor like a casserole.  It will be taller than the Statue of Liberty and wider than Yankee Stadium — the largest movable structure on Earth.

The radiation won’t die or go away.  It will just be encapsulated, a sealed tomb inside a steel skeleton, a buried edifice of horrors to remember the future by.

 

~Via Danny Cooke/Bob Simon and CBS News

 

 

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The Ambition of the Rosetta Mission

 

The European Space Agency Gambles Big

 

**Award-Winning Film**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Ambition really took us by surprise.

Made in collaboration by the European Space Agency (ESA)—the European equivalent of NASA—it is remarkably unlike any other film NASA has ever done for its own space missions.

It is definitely something out of the ordinary: a big-budget-style sci-fi movie directed by Tomek Baginski with famous actors, such as Aidan Gillen of Game of Thrones fame, and a subtle yet powerful message relating to the Rosetta mission.

On November 12th, something spectacular will happen in space history.  The Rosetta spacecraft, launched back in 2004, will drop its Lander onto the surface of comet 67P. 

Part of what has been so impressive is the length of time this mission has taken to finally get to the comet– 20 years since the planning began, and ten years since its launch.

It is a complex mission.  Rosetta could not head straight for the comet.  The remarkable feat of the Rosetta spacecraft is that it has been ping-ponging its way through the solar system, beginning a series of looping orbits around the Sun that brought it back for three Earth fly-bys and one Mars fly-by.  The mathematical calculations alone were mind boggling.  

Each time, the spacecraft changed its velocity and direction as it extracted energy from the gravitational field of Earth or Mars and then spiraled out on different trajectories to eventually meet up with comet 67P– a decade later.

Rosetta, reaching the bizarrely shaped rubber-duck icy comet, has spent the last three months mapping its surface in the hope of finding a suitable spot to place its Lander. 

It is the first time a spacecraft has entered into orbit around a comet, which is a celestial body formed during the Big Bang– and with almost no gravity.

The Philae Lander– packed with a science laboratory, harpoons, scrapers, computers, and even ovens – will obtain samples, do analyses, and beam the information back to the earth about the basic origins of the universe.  The hope is that Rosetta mission will help answer some of the most basic questions about our existence.

When the Lander touches down seven hours after its release on November 12, all manner of things can go wrong.  The gravity of 67P is so small the Lander could hit the surface, bounce off and be lost in the vast emptiness of space.

Rosetta is truly a milestone of mankind’s achievement.  And, in order to succeed, it’s a mission taking a true amount of… Ambition.

~Via ESA, Vimeo, PhyOrg

 

If you enjoyed this film, you may like our other post:  Genesis

 

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Hobbit Humans

 

 

The Mysterious Race of Little People

A New Species of Human Evolution

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The tiny skeleton found buried in a cave on Indonesia’s Flores island is a unique and ancient species of man, researchers insist.

In October 2004, excavation of fragmentary skeletal remains from the island of Flores in Indonesia yielded what was called “the most important find in human evolution for 100 years.”

Its discoverers dubbed the find Homo floresiensis, a name suggesting a previously unknown species of human.

Ten years after being discovered, the “Hobbit Human” remains a controversial figure.  Some researchers think that while this diminutive human-like being certainly existed, it might not have been human after all.  Others adamantly disagree.

A commentary in the latest issue of Nature theorizes that the Hobbit Human could have descended from a more ancient pre-human group called Australopithecus, of which the 3.2-million-year-old skeleton “Lucy” is the most famous representative.  

Lucy might have to share the spotlight with the Hobbit, though, if the theory is proven to be correct.

A quick refresher:  The Hobbit Human, aka Homo floresiensis, was a 3 1/2 foot tall species with huge flat feet that lived on the remote Indonesian island of Flores as early as 13,000 years ago.  Weighing in at 55 pounds, they lived on the island for what is believed to be tens of thousands of years.  It is still not known how these early hominins got to Flores or how they evolved their small stature. 

By modern comparison, an African pygmy human is only 4 1/2 feet tall.  Floresiensis was much smaller than that.

The prevailing theory has been that the Hobbit was a member of our family tree, belonging to the genus Homo and having descended from a population of Homo erectus that made its way to the island and shrunk in stature over evolutionary time.  Remains for a handful of Hobbits were found with stone tools and the bones of an extinct pygmy form of an elephant-like creature called a Stegodon.

Renowned paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London wrote that the tiny brain of one of the excavated Hobbits as well as its body shape and individual bones “look more primitive than those of any human dating to within the past million years.”

The Hobbit jaw and chin are “most like those in pre-human fossils more than 2 million years old,” Stringer wrote.  And their primitively evolved wrist bones fall off the evolutionary chart of humans altogether.

The Hobbit therefore shares traits with Australopithecus.  And this is where the real mind blower comes in.

We’ve tended to assume that only Homo sapiens left Africa, interbred with locals in Europe and Asia (like Neanderthals and Denisovans), and resulted in today’s non-Africans.

But what if other species, similar to Australopithecus, also left Africa, made it to places like Indonesia, and successfully settled there until very recent times?  This is where the plot thickens.

Stringer points out that if the ancestors of Homo floresiensis reached a place as far out as Flores, then they probably also went to places like Sulawesi, the Philippines and Timor, which would have been along their proposed route.

There are the ancient folklore stories told by Hawaiians of the Menehune, a prehistoric tribe of little people that settled the islands of Hawaii and predated the Polynesian arrival, leaving behind their ancient stone ruins still seen today.

Then there are also the stories of WWII soldiers stranded on islands in the South Pacific who reported finding very old skeletons of very small people buried in the area’s remote caves.

It could even be that they accidentally rafted to such places “on mats of vegetation in such a tectonically active region,” Stringer wrote. 

While that might sound preposterous and far fetched, keep in mind that people wound up doing just that during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Stringer explained the significance of the renewed look at the Hobbit Human.

“If the H. floresiensis lineage had a more primitive origin than the oldest known H. erectus fossils so far identified in Asia, then we would have to re-evaluate the dominant explanation for how humans arose and spread from Africa,” he wrote.

“It would mean that a whole branch of the human evolutionary tree has been missing,” Stringer said.

Still, a controversy still brews in the paleo-world of researchers.

“First they claimed the Hobbit was really a modern person with microcephaly – an abnormally small head,” said Floresiensis expert Professor Dean Falk of Florida State University.

“We showed that this could not be true.  Then they claimed he had Laron syndrome, a form of dwarfism.  Again my team showed this was not true.  Now they are taking a shot with Down’s syndrome.  Again they are wrong.”

Whatever the debate, Homo floresienses is an important paleoanthropogical find that will undoubtedly rewrite our understanding of human evolution– and how our own family tree came about.

 

~Via Nature, The Guardian, Discovery, Bradshaw Foundation,
SciShow, Smithsonian NMNH

 

 

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Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be… Militants

 

 

Poster Kid Jihadists

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, left the Austrian capital Vienna in April this year, leaving a note for their parents explaining that they had gone to fight in Syria, a decision believed to be influenced by their recent radicalization through a local mosque. 

But they later claimed that they wanted to leave and come back to Austria– reportedly infuriating ISIS leaders waging a constant propaganda war for new talent.

 

Two Austrian teenage girls who ran away to Syria to join Islamic State fighters are beginning to regret their decision.  Unnamed security service insiders told Austrian media that the girls have managed to contact families and that one of them wants to go home.

The pair left home to join the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) in April.

Little information was immediately known, aside from that one had been 16 and one 14 at the time of their departure.

Both reportedly married Chechen fighters after their arrival in Syria and became pregnant.

Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend, Sabina Selimovic, 15, are children of Bosnian migrants, but grew up in Vienna, where they became accustomed to talking to whomever they wanted, saying whatever they pleased, and wearing whatever clothes they liked.

But with their views believed to have become increasingly radical in recent years, Kesinovic and Selimovic decided to leave all that behind, run away, and cross the Turkish border into Syria, a decision believed to be influenced through the internet and their recent introduction to a local mosque. 

After the girls were persuaded to leave the country, police managed to track them to the Turkish border.  They believe that they went by car into the war zone where they were married to extremists and then sent out to fight.   They then regularly posted status updates on social media from Syria.

On their departure from Austria, they left a note, telling their parents: “Don’t look for us.  We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”

Since their departure, pictures have emerged online of the pair brandishing Kalashnikov rifles and wearing full niqab clothing.

For weeks, social media accounts believed to belong to the girls have been posting pictures and information leading
many to feel they enjoyed living a life of terror. 

Sabina first claimed she was pregnant, then retracted it and said she wanted to go home to Vienna – until she gave another interview and expressed how much she loved Syria.  Samra has also given conflicting reports on her condition and whether she actually enjoys her time with ISIS in Syria.

Austrian anti-terrorism police said that an interview given to a French magazine allegedly with one of the two teenage girls was probably carried out at gunpoint.  They believe this was a plan set up by ISIS in order to get people to think the two wanted to be the poster girls for jihad in Syria, and that their social media accounts were overtaken and manipulated by ISIS.

“It is clear that whoever is operating their pages, it probably is not the girls, and that they are being used for propaganda,” a security expert told the Austrian Times.

An Austrian security insider said: “If they really want it to be believable that the girls are now claiming they don’t want to come home, they should let them give the interview on neutral territory where it’s possible to see that they aren’t being threatened by a gun.  If the claim they want to come home is untrue, they have the opportunity to walk back into Syria.”

Both the girls were instantly married as soon as they crossed over the border into Syria and although Sabina and her husband initially lived in the same room with Samra and her husband, the 15-year-old has now reportedly moved out into a new flat.

Speaking over SMS text messages to French weekly magazine Paris Match, Sabina said she was not pregnant as had been claimed and added that she was really enjoying life in Syria and felt free to enjoy her religion in a way that she did not in Austria.

The magazine did manage to confirm that the teenager had only been allowed to speak to them with the permission of her husband who was also reportedly in the room as she wrote back answers to the questions.

She said that after arriving to Turkey from Austria they had crossed over the border into Syria on foot and ended up in the city of Rakka and where they had nothing other than the clothes they were wearing.

Sabina said her “husband” was a soldier and added: “Here I can really be free.  I can practice my religion.  I couldn’t do that in Vienna.”

In Vienna, experts who studied the transcript of the interview said it was almost certain that the teenager had been forced to speak to the magazine by her husband, who was a fighter in the ISIS-terrorist militia.

Asked about the routine of life in a war zone and how they started the day, Sabina said:  ”I like to eat. The food here is very similar to Austria even if it’s mainly halal food.  But you can get ketchup here, Nutella, and cornflakes.”

Interpol released images of the two girls in April, after they disappeared. Both sets of parents have been attempting to make contact and unconfirmed reports have stated that communication has been established.

Both are still believed to be in Rakka, in northern Syria.  According to the Vienna-based newspaper Österreich, Samra wants to return home as the horrors of Syria “have become too much.”

The story of the plight of the girls went around the world once it became known.  The pair wanting to leave had done a lot of damage to the ISIS campaign, experts said, and it was clear ISIS leaders were irritated and trying to limit the damage control to their own advantage.

Speaking to the Österreich, an official with the home office said that escaping Isis in Syria “after such a long time” would be extremely difficult.

The newspaper, which is known for its close links both to the security services and the children’s families, says that death is a “constant companion” for the girls.

There is some hope for women wishing to flee ISIS, however.  In recent days, a Syrian woman fled from the group back to Turkey.

But the two young girls may find attempts to come back difficult.  Austria’s laws bar citizens from returning once they have joined a foreign war, and the two could face prosecution.

“The main problem is about people coming back to Austria.  Once they leave it is almost impossible to return,” said Karl-Heinz Grundboeck, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry.

In total, around 130 Austrian nationals are believed to have left the country and become foreign fighters for ISIS.  Many more have come from other countries throughout Europe as well.

~Via UK Independent, CEN, MK Independent,
NY Daily News, and RT Today

 

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The Incredible Amazing Flying Car

 

It’s Here.  It’s Real.  And It’s Spectacular.

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Up, up and away.

Meet the AeroMobil 3.0, a car and plane hybrid that its inventors say will revolutionize the transportation industry.

The flying car weighs just 880 pounds and has a flying range of 435 miles– making a trip between San Francisco to Los Angeles in one easy hop.

The prototype and video seen above was unveiled by the AeroMobil company at a technology conference in Vienna,
Austria, yesterday.

It has a sportscar cockpit and dragonfly wings.  It can drive on the road, park in the garage, and take to the skies in short order.  It does not need a paved runway for takeoff or landing. 

Its inventor, Juraj Vaculik, says he’s been working on the project for the past 30 years and his dream of offering a fully functional flying car in production is almost a reality. 

Vaculik is one interesting CEO cat.  He was a former theatre director and a student activist in Czecheslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, before turning himself into an inventor, engineer, and entrepreneur.

“Our plan, the optimistic one, is that between 2016 and 2017 the first products will be delivered to customers, but that’s still an open question.  The next period will be testing, testing, and testing of the prototype,” Vaculik said.

The AeroMobil 3.0 contains advanced plastic composite materials for the body shell, wings, and its wheels.  It also contains avionics equipment, autopilot capability, and will have an advanced parachute deployment system.  Other proprietary details are being kept secretly mum for the time being.

The magical flying car still has to meet regulatory standards and gain European flight certification.  

The current prototype has wings that fold out to a span of 26 feet for flight.  Running on standard gasoline, it flies at 125 mph, consuming only two gallons of gas for every 62 miles traveled.  It had a successful maiden flight and was developed in ten months by a team of 12 people.

The two-passenger car was designed by Stefan Klein, founder and head of the Department of Transport Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Slovakia. 

In 2010, he teamed with Vaculik to start AeroMobil and commercialize the project.   In 2013, a previous prototype of the car was certified by Slovakia’s Aviation Authority for use in that country.  The latest prototype is now undergoing testing for certification in Slovakia, and the company says it’s close to being commercially available.

The company wants to use the latest version to begin marketing the product.  Of course, they believe commuters would love to get their hands on one.  But on a bigger scale, they are aiming the flying car at developing markets where there is minimal infrastructure like roads, highways, or airports.

Vaculik says the machine’s sleek design is as much about form as it is about function.  He insists that when the final production is ready for consumers, it will soon change
the way people travel.

“No, it’s not a boy toy.  It’s not something strange just for Hollywood movies… it is something which is really necessary for transportation.  It’s just more efficient,” Vuculik said.  “We think it’s time to make transportation much more emotional and more personal.  You really can travel simply from point A to B.”

Giving people the option to take to the air and avoid increasingly congested roadways makes for an interesting idea, alright.

Flora Petersen came from Vienna for the unveiling and to see what all the aerocar hype was about.

“I love it!” Petersen said.  “I didn’t even know it was possible, that you can actually make a car fly, so I really wanted to see how it works.  I want to try it out, for sure.”

And she may get her chance soon.

The biggest challenge going forward for Vaculik’s team is reducing the amount of runway needed for the little aerocar to take off.  It currently needs a safe takeoff distance of 220 yards– a distance that’s hard to come by in the everyday urban landscape.  Contrastly, it only needs a length of 50 yards for a safe landing.

But Vaculik is confident.  The prototype works beautifully.  It flies, it’s safe, it’s efficient, and although the price hasn’t been determined or disclosed yet, it looks like it’s going to be a relatively affordable number for many.

Hold onto your seats and buckle up.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride in the friendly and
crowded skies of everyday commuting soon. 

 

 

 

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Solving the Mystery of Amelia Earhart

 

Metal Fragment of Amelia’s Plane Found

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

What happened to Amelia is an unsolved mystery that has captivated
the world’s attention after she disappeared 77 years ago.

A fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.

Researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) announced that a piece of famous flyer Amelia Earhart’s missing plane was found in Nikumaroro, a tiny uninhabited island along the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, midway between Hawaii and Australia.

This fragment of Earhart’s vanished aircraft is the first piece of information about how she crashed while on a fateful expedition to circumnavigate the Earth.  She never accomplished the goal and her disappearance has been a mystery ever since.

TIGHAR posted a photo of the 19-inch-wide by 23-inch-long piece of a metal portion patch installed near the window of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra during the aviator’s eight-day stay in Miami in 1937, the fourth stop on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

The aluminum patch had replaced a navigational window.  A Miami Herald photo shows the Electra departing for San Juan, Puerto Rico on the morning of Tuesday, June 1, 1937 with a shiny patch of metal where the window had been.

Researchers found the piece in 1991, but had not identified the piece to the plane until comparing it to a Lockheed Electra aircraft in Wichita Air Services in Newtown, Kansas.  The rivet pattern and other features on the Nikumaroro artifact, labeled Artifact 2-2-V-1, matched the patch and lined up with the structural components of the Lockheed Electra, TIGHAR said on its website.

The patch found in the Pacific was a “complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials and rivet patterns as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual,” according to TIGHAR.

After the pilot and plane disappeared on July 2, 1937, a wide array of conspiracy theories sprouted.  This new discovery debunks any theory that Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, made it across the Pacific Ocean.

TIGHAR hypothesized that the duo made a forced emergency landing along the smooth flat coral reef of Nikumaroro after their fuel supply ran out 350 miles before
their next pit stop on Howland Island.  

The two likely died as castaways with limited resources.  Other evidence also supports this account of what happened.

The breakthrough would prove that, contrary to what was generally believed, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, did not crash in the Pacific Ocean or were taken prisoner by Japanese military forces as spies.

In 10 archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro, Gillespie and his team uncovered a number of artifacts which, combined with archival research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway presence.

“Earhart sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, said

“This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart,” Gillespie said. 

“The many fractures, tears, dents and gouges found on this battered sheet of aluminum may be important clues to the fate and resting place of the Electra.”

Previous research on a photograph of Nikumaroro’s western shoreline taken three months after Earhart’s disappearance also revealed an unexplained object protruding from the water on the fringing reef.

Forensic imaging analyses of the photo suggested that the shape and dimension of the object are consistent with the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra.

Moreover, an “anomaly” that might possibly be the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s aircraft emerged from analysis of the sonar imagery captured off Nikumaroro during TIGHAR’s last expedition.

The object rests at a depth of 600 feet at the base of a cliff just offshore where, according to TIGHAR, the Electra was washed into the ocean. An analysis of the anomaly by Ocean Imaging Consultants, Inc. of Honolulu, experts in post-processing sonar data, revealed the anomaly to be the right size and shape to be the fuselage of Earhart’s aircraft.

The organization will now travel to Nikumaroro in 2015 to conduct further exploration in the area searching for other pieces of Earhart’s wreckage.  TIGHAR believes that partial remains of the Electra are likely buried deep off the west end of the island and will investigate the anomaly with Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) technology.

During the 24-day expedition, divers will search for other wreckage at shallower depths and an onshore search team will seek to identify objects detected in historical photographs that may be relics of an initial survival camp.

“Funding is being sought, in part, from individuals who will make a substantial contribution in return for a place on the expedition team,” Gillespie said.

The mystery as to what happened to Amelia may soon be at hand.

~Via LA Post, My Way, Fox News, Vimeo, TIGHAR

 

 

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Jordanne

 

“Just Be the Person You Were Born to Be

…And Live On”

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Meet Jordanne Whiley. 

She’s the 22-year-old Grand Slam tennis champion of Britain.  Four times.  And she’s broken her legs 26 times.

She is Britain’s youngest ever National women’s singles champion in wheelchair tennis at the tender age of 14.

The Paralympic bronze medalist recently took a silver medal at the World Team Cup in Netherlands.  She and Japanese partner Yui Kamiji triumphed in the women’s doubles at the French Open.  Jordanne and the Great Britain team came away with three medals from the World Team Cup, beating the USA 2-1 to take the gold.  And she’s won Wimbledon. 

Born with the degenerative disease of Osteogenesis imperfecta, as does her father, Keith, she began playing tennis as a very young girl.  And she’s never looked back nor allowed her disability to define her or interfere with an intense spirit to win, as Zak Razvi’s short film, Jordanne, above shows.

Aside from her extreme focus on tennis– with training sessions three times a day– she enjoys studying languages, speaks French and Dutch, and has aspirations to coach abroad someday once she has finished competing.

Her injuries have been frustrating and presented challenging setbacks for her, but she refuses to toss in the racket and quit.  Her competitive drive and human spirit to be the best athlete that she can be just won’t allow her to do that.

“I’ve struggled a bit this year because of injuries and I haven’t played as many tournaments as I would have liked to do,” Jordanne said. 

“It’s disappointing– but I will do all I can to make sure I’m ready for the next tournament.”

Her champion advice for herself and others?

“I’m not ashamed to say I’ve got a lot of flaws, but can’t change it, so get on with it.  I just feel that you were the person you were born to be …and live on.”

 

 

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The Making of Malala

 

2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

 

**Award-Winning NYT VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Her courage and life inspires and captivates us all.

This is the story of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, told by The New York Times’ senior video journalist Adam B. Ellick, who made the above documentary about her in 2009 before she was an international star.

Determined to defy the odds and become a doctor, there is a story to Malala Yousafzai’s improbable transformation from a quiet, deferential 11-year-old living near Pakistan’s tribal areas to a teenage spokeswoman for girls’ education.  

Malala, shot in the head by the Taliban last year, received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday.  At the age of 17, she is the youngest recipient of the prestigious honor.

Ellick’s video begins with her determined father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, but gets pushed forward by intense news media coverage of her daring campaign against the Taliban.

Given Malala’s re-emergence on the world stage– healing from her wounds and winning the Nobel– raises the back story of some sobering and difficult questions.

Malala was a brave young girl, advocating for a better future for all girls in her country.  She is seen as a young heroine by many.

But was it fair for her to fight so publicly in such a dangerous environment?  To push so strongly for education for women in such a restrictive male-dominated culture?  Or was she thrust into the limelight by adults captivated by the power of a child staring down the Taliban?

Pakistan continues to be one of the worst places to be a woman.  More than half of Pakistani girls are not educated.  Pakistan also has the world’s second lowest rate of female employment in the world, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Parity Report– lower than even Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s failure to educate its citizenry is rooted in government ineffectiveness.

Despite a recent increase, Pakistan still spends only about 2 percent of its gross domestic product on education.  That is less than it spends on subsidies for its national airline, and only half the global average.

Malala represents a new coming of age and a bright beacon of hope for those following in her footsteps.

~Via The New York Times, Adam B. Ellick, Malala Yousafzai, and Vimeo

 

 

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Ken Burns’ ‘The Roosevelts’

 

PBS Series Reveals Everything Wrong With Our Current Political Class

 

**VIDEO**

 

Joseph A. Palermo
Huffington Post

 

 

Ken Burns’ seven-part PBS series on the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, is a remarkable achievement.

Burns sheds a poignant new light on the personal and public lives of three monumental figures in 20th Century American history.  And in doing so, he illustrates the relative rottenness of the hacks, partisans, and plutocrats who make up the political class that rules America today.

By exploring the lives and times of TR, FDR, and ER Burns shows that in our not-so-distant past the governing institutions of this country were actually responsive to the needs and desires of working-class Americans.

This superb and moving portrait is a perfect fit for our times.  The utter failure of our current “leaders” is glaring by comparison.

Yes, TR was a warmonger, and FDR signed the order that imprisoned innocent Japanese Americans. There are long lists of both presidents’ failures.  But we shouldn’t let those flaws bury the fact that both TR and FDR were not afraid to stand up to big corporations and Wall Street if they viewed their actions as damaging to the country.  That alone is probably the biggest difference between those leaders of the early decades of the 20th Century and today.

After thirty years of “supply-side” economics that has left working people still waiting for better times to “trickle down”; eight years of George W. Bush’s misrule that brought us war and recession; the Far-Right ascendency in 2010 that has all but shuttered the federal government in an attempt to destroy Barack Obama; and a Supreme Court that is proudly subservient to every tenet of plutocracy — I think it’s okay to flip on PBS and feel a bit nostalgic for a time when there existed effective politicians who actually gave a damn about the quality of life of the majority of Americans.

Over the past thirty years, Presidents and Congresses have become so subservient to corporations and Wall Street that the two major political parties are all but indistinguishable.

One of the reasons why our politics have become so volatile and opinion polls show over and over again that our people have nothing but contempt for the whole political class in Washington and the widespread recognition that the plutocrats, CEOs, and Wall Street bankers have effectively seized our governing institutions.

Another subtext for our times of the Burns documentary is the reminder that people who come from the richest .01 percent of Americans don’t have to be total assholes.  Unlike the Koch Brothers, or the Waltons, or Representative Darrell Issa (the richest man in the House of Representatives) the Roosevelts didn’t feel they had a class interest in keeping their boots on the necks of America’s working people; they strived to uplift them.

And they saw the federal government not as a bazaar of accounts receivable to vacuum up precious tax dollars for the already rich but as a means to improve the lives of the 99 percent.

The Roosevelts also illustrates a time when Democrats had dirt under their fingernails.  There was no need to remind them that Democratic politicians valued labor unions or sought new protections in the workplace.  The leaders and rank-in-file were tied together.

Today, when we see Democratic politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel bludgeoning teachers’ unions while supping at the table of big campaign donors from Wall Street we’re left with the realization that working people have few reliable advocates for their class interests anymore.

Since 1984, Democratic politicians decided the party needed to “move to the center” given Ronald Reagan’s landslide.  But “moving to the center” meant moving away from serving the interests of working people and moving toward Wall Street and big corporations.

Ironically, in the 1990s, when the Democratic Party grew more diverse based on race and gender, it shifted far closer to the Republicans in terms of class.  We’ve seen one Democratic president (Bill Clinton) push NAFTA and other “free trade” deals that decimated labor unions; unravel the social safety net in the name of “welfare reform”; and deregulate Wall Street.

And we’ve seen another Democratic president (Barack Obama) refuse to send any bankers to jail for the massive fraud they committed in the mortgage markets; choose to beat up teachers’ unions with Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top”; and accommodate the profiteers inside our health care system.

All of these policies represent a capitulation to the interests of big corporations and Wall Street on the part of Democratic administrations at the expense of their own constituencies.

Another aspect of the Burns documentary is a revealing look at the kind of patriotism that TR, FDR, and ER exhibited throughout their lives.  It was a patriotism that recognized that the country is strongest when all Americans had opportunities and the federal government not only helped to uplift them materially, but also protected them from the rapacious predators of the Wall Street ruling class.

We’ve lost that sense of patriotic duty today.  The “you’re on your own” society has won out in recent decades over the idea that “everyone does better when everyone does better.”

So if you haven’t yet seen The Roosevelts, by all means, sit back, put on PBS, and enjoy watching a time in America that predates the death of the liberal class.

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Joseph Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Dr. Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties. He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.

Part of the Iona Brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.

 

 

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Elvis on the Stairway to Heaven

 

Led Zeppelin Meets Elvis, 40 Years Ago

 

**Archival VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

40 years ago today the band began to play. 
And it was out with the old– and in with the new.

The Los Angeles Forum played host to some of the greatest shows Led Zeppelin ever put on.  It was also the place where, on May 11, 1974, the band came face to face with their legendary childhood hero for the first time.

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Bonham were in Los Angeles for the launch of their own record label, Swan Song.  The night after the raucous launch party at the Bel Air Hotel, the band– minus bassist John Paul Jones– decided to attend Elvis Presley’s concert at the Forum.

Elvis was alerted to the presence of the rock group in the audience.  During the show, taped and later released as Live in L.A., he said to his band, “Wait a minute… If we can start together, fellas; because we’ve got Led Zeppelin out there.  Let’s try to look like we know what we’re doing, whether we do or not.”

Jerry Weintraub, their mutual promoter at the time, took Jimmy Page and Robert Plant up to Presley’s Las Vegas hotel suite following the concert.

For the first few minutes, Elvis ignored them.

Jimmy Page, who had first picked up a guitar after hearing Elvis’ Baby Let’s Play House on overseas radio in 1955, began to wonder and fidget.  What was going on?  Did he really want to meet them?  Should they say something?

Elvis finally turned to them.

“Is it true,” he said, “these stories I hear about you boys on the road?”

Robert Plant amiably answered, “Of course not.  We’re family men.  I get the most pleasure out of walking the hotel corridors, singing your songs.” 

Plant also offered his best Elvis impersonation, breaking the ice.  He reminisced that Jimmy Page also joked with Elvis by adding that, “We never sound checked, but if we did, all I wanted to do was sing Elvis songs,” Plant said.

“At that meeting, ‘Elvis thought that was funny.  He asked me, ‘Which songs do you sing?’’” 

“I told him I liked the ones with all the moods, like that great country song ‘Love Me:  ‘Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel, but love me…’

For a moment Elvis Presley eyed them both very carefully.  Then he burst out laughing.  Then his bodyguards burst out laughing.

For two hours he entertained them in his suite.  He had never heard their records, he said, except for when his stepbrother played him Stairway to Heaven.  

“I liked it,” Presley said.

Later, walking down the hallway from the hotel room, Page and Plant were still stunned, congratulating themselves on a two-hour meeting with the King.  

“Hey,” came a voice from behind them.  Plant recalled what happened next.

“So when we were leaving, after a most illuminating and funny 90 minutes with the guy, I was walking down the corridor.  He swung around the door frame, looking quite pleased with himself, and started singing that same song, ‘Treat me like a fool…’

“I turned around and did Elvis right back at him.  We stood there, singing to each other.”

Plant later wrote about his impressions of Presley: “I met Elvis with Zeppelin, after one of his concerts in the early ’70s.  I sized him up.  He wasn’t quite as tall as me, but he had a singer’s build.  He had a good chest– that resonator.  And he was driven.”

Elvis’ and Zeppelin’s paths would cross two more times during the ‘70s.

The next meeting took place at Presley’s home in Memphis.  Jerry Schilling, a noted member of Elvis’ ‘Memphis Mafia’, wrote about the encounter in his book, Me and a Guy Named Elvis.

Elvis said it would be okay for them to come by the house.

Schilling was there on the night of the planned meeting and was surprised to see that Elvis was in his pajamas and robe– he and Sheila Ryan were getting ready to go upstairs.  Schilling reminded Elvis that Richard Cole, Led Zep’s band manager, and bassist John Paul Jones were coming.  Elvis remained downstairs to wait for them.

Schilling recalls:

“From the moment Richard stepped into the house, he was loud and profane, packing an amazing number of f-words into everything he said.

‘You know’, Elvis said to him. ‘I’d appreciate it if you’d watch your language in front of my lady.’  Things got very quiet.  Everybody sat down.  

And it stayed quiet.  Then Elvis decided to break the ice, and asked if he could see the fancy watch that Richard was wearing.  Richard handed the watch over, and when Elvis put it on, Richard quickly said that if Elvis wanted the watch, he could keep it.

‘Does it have any special meaning to you?’ Elvis asked.

‘Well, a bit.  Atlantic Records gave them to the group’, said Richard.

‘OK, thanks’, said Elvis.

I don’t know if Richard expected to lose his watch that easily, but about twenty minutes later Elvis went upstairs and came back down with another watch, a real piece of jewelry, covered in diamonds– a wristwatch you could trade in for a car.  Maybe a couple of cars.

‘Here’, he said to Richard.  ’Take this one’.

A very stunned Richard accepted.  From then on the night was nothing but fun, with a lot of laughs and a lot of quoting Monty Python routines (Elvis was the first Monty Python fanatic I ever knew).

Elvis and Richard obviously shared a sense of humor.  And I could tell Elvis also liked the much quieter John.  At one point, Elvis excused himself, went back upstairs, and returned with an equally impressive watch for the bassist.

Before the evening was over, Elvis said he wanted to make another exchange.  He was out of watches, but had another bit of fashion in mind.

So he stood, eyed John, and said, ‘Let’s swap pants’, while simultaneously, in expert Python fashion, let his pajama bottoms drop beneath his robe.

The loud Richard was shocked into silence, while the usually quiet Sheila and John burst out laughing. 

Nobody accepted Elvis’ offer, but it was a great note to end the night on.”

 

The final meeting between Zeppelin and Elvis took place on the Baltimore airport tarmac while both were on tour in 1977.

Presley’s stepbrother, David Stanley, later recalled the encounter:

“The other time the Presley tour ran across the band was while out on the road.  It was at the Washington-Baltimore airport.

We (the Presley tour) were playing in Washington and Led Zeppelin was playing at the Capital Centre.  We arrived on the Lisa Marie, Elvis’ private jet, and Led Zeppelin arrived on the Caesar’s Chariot.  

It was a hell of a sight to see these two private jets, sitting side-by-side, on the private tarmac.

I asked Elvis if I could go with the band that night for their Led Zeppelin concert.  He just looked at me and said ‘No.’

When I asked him why, he said, ‘look at the bottom of your paycheck.’

As I entered the limo with Elvis I said ‘they sure have a nice jet.’

Elvis leaned over and reminded me that ‘they lease their jet from Caesar’s Palace, I own mine.’”

 

Elvis Presley inspired many of the greatest rock and roll acts of the ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond.  Led Zeppelin, too, was no exception, and when their paths crossed it was a thrill for both the band and the King himself.

By August of 1977, Led Zeppelin was sailing at the top of the rock ‘n roll charts as the biggest gig in the nation. 

The King, his popularity waning, became a shadow of his former self.  Overweight, his mind and speech dulled by the pharmacopia he ingested daily, and suffering from glaucoma, high blood pressure, migraines, an enlarged colon, liver damage, paranoia, and abbreviated concerts, would be found dead in his bathroom at Graceland at the age of 42.

Each had taken their own separate stairway to heaven.

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

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Appealingly Cheap and Incredibly Deadly

 

 

Death-Bot Drones and Their Blind Execution

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

John Oliver
Last Week Tonight

 

“All of the sudden, drones are everywhere,” John Oliver says above in his satirically sad piece from Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight.

“They’re the third most annoying thing in the sky– after mosquitoes and plastic bags caught in the breeze.”

The heart of Oliver’s argument is that drones are often used without an appropriate level of intelligence on targets, with a loophole in the definition of “imminent threat” needed to carry out such an attack.  

Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official under President Obama, explained how the administration sees drone strikes:  “Right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons based on secret evidence, in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials.  That frightens me.”

It frightens John Oliver too, who spent twelve minutes laying out exactly why the US drone program is so disturbing.  

Among the specifics:

  • Military-age males killed in strikes are allegedly considered guilty of being “militants” by the CIA until proven innocent.
  • The US government doesn’t actually know the specific identities of many people it kills, or indeed how many people it has killed overall.
  • According to the Justice Department, for something to be an imminent threat justifying a strike “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” despite, as Oliver notes, that being “what the fucking word imminent means.”

Later, the host touches on ”the psychological impact of living underneath drones,” showing a heartbreaking clip of Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemini youth activist and journalist, addressing Congress in 2013 after his village was struck by a drone.

Unfortunately, not thinking about drones is a luxury many people don’t have, a point made overwhelmingly clear by a clip of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy whose grandmother had been killed by a drone strike.  In the clip, Zubair Rehman testifies that he no longer loves blue skies; he prefers grey skies.

“The drones do not fly when the skies are grey,” he said.

That was enough for Oliver.

“When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.”

 

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The Elusive Freedom of Tomorrow

 

 The Great Dictator’s Famous Speech

 

**Award-Winning Animated Short**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
   ~George Orwell, 1984

 

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.  
That’s not my business.

I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.  I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white.

We all want to help one another.  Human beings are like that.  We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.  We don’t want to hate and despise one another.

In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.  The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.  Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, and has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.  Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.  Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.  We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.  Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together.  The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.

Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children,
victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair.  The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.  The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.  

And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers!  Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel!  Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, and use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men– machine men with machine minds and machine hearts!

You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!  You have the love of humanity in your hearts!  You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers!  Don’t fight for slavery!  Fight for liberty!  In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men!  In you!

You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness!  You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power.

Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.  By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power.  But they lie!  They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!  Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise.  Let us fight to free the world!  To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!  Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

~Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator (1940)

 

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Hong Kong Protests Push for Greater Democracy

 

 

Police Pull Back as Protesters Jam City Streets

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The growing protests in Hong Kong have gripped the world’s attention.

Extending their protests into the workweek, Hong Kong democracy activists continued occupying major thoroughfares Monday, forcing the closure of some schools, banks and other businesses in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Due to the demonstrations, government officials said they would cancel a major annual fireworks celebration scheduled for Wednesday — China’s equivalent of the Fourth of July.

After firing 87 volleys of tear gas at protesters at nine locations on Sunday evening, police backed away from engaging directly with the demonstrators on Monday.  

Thousands of activists took to the streets in neighborhoods on both sides of Victoria Harbor, sitting down in intersections and setting up barricades.  Protesters wore goggles or masks and raincoats, and many held umbrellas to protect against the possible use of pepper spray.

Despite warnings that the demonstrations could seriously damage Hong Kong’s economy and reputation as a stable Asian financial hub, workers went on strike, including employees at Coca-Cola Hong Kong.

A number of businesses opened late or closed early, but in many parts of the city commerce continued as usual.

No one seemed sure what would happen next, in part because the movement has become diffuse and spontaneous and attracting a wide cross section of participants.  Without a cohesive group of leaders directing things “it’s very difficult to predict” how the situation will evolve, said Chi-Keung Choy, professor of comparative politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“It is no longer a movement initiated by the group Occupy Central, or the student strike.  It became a self-initiated movement,” he said.

Government officials in Beijing and Hong Kong will need to extend a significant olive branch to get marchers off the streets, Choy added. “They need to have major concessions from the government.  No one can convince them, unless the government makes big concessions.”

The demonstrations have burst forth in response to China’s decision to allow only Beijing-vetted candidates to be nominated in the city’s elections for chief executive, Hong Kong’s top civil position.

Protesters shouted slogans demanding full democracy in 2017, calling for the open nominations of candidates so that anyone, including China critics, can run for office.  But Chinese officials have rejected that, stating nominees must be endorsed by a 1,200-strong election committee which is stacked with Beijing loyalists.

“There’s more and more interference from Beijing,” said Tsang Fan-yu, a designer who was at Wednesday’s protest with his seven-year-old son for their sixth consecutive year.

“We have to come out to make our voices heard.  The form of democracy Beijing wants is unacceptable.  It’s fake.”

But also underlying the unrest is unhappiness in Hong Kong over a range of issues:  high housing prices, a growing income gap, and an influx of mainland visitors whose customs and habits have struck locals as uncouth.  In addition, many of the youths who make up a forceful component of the demonstrators have little sense of connection to mainland China and instead embrace a strong identity to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, a longtime British territory, reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 under a Basic Law that embraced a framework known as “one country, two systems.”  Communist authorities in Beijing essentially agreed to allow the territory of 7 million a high degree of self-rule for 50 years except for matters of national security.

The situation in Hong Kong has drawn the concern of Western governments, but they have been unusally tepid in their support for the demonstrators.  Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Monday that foreign interference in the situation was unwelcome by Beijing.

“Hong Kong belongs to China.  Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s domestic affairs,” she said in Beijing.  “We strongly oppose any countries interfering or supporting Occupy Central by any methods.  We wish these countries to be cautious.”

The US consulate general in Hong Kong said the US “does not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development, nor do we support any particular individuals or groups involved in it.”

But some Hong Kongers are calling for greater expressions of support from overseas.  A group of Hong Kong-based employees of Apple wrote to Chief Executive Tim Cook, calling for active support of the civil disobedience campaign. 

“The people of Hong Kong are now under the violent treatment of the Central government while fighting for the human rights and democracy of Hong Kong,” they wrote.  They asked Apple, as “the most humanized and the most respectful company, to support and help our civil disobedience campaign and also to respond to the fight of Hong Kong people.” 

Hong Kong has a rich tradition of protests, but demonstrations are typically well organized and calm with people gathering in designated parks and marching along pre-planned routes with official permits.  The free-form and unpredictable nature of the last few days’ protests have surprised local residents — and spurred many of them into the streets in solidarity.

Riot police remained on guard on the sidelines of the main protest area near the government headquarters, although not in large numbers.

The government urged the demonstrators to disperse to allow emergency vehicles, public transport and other traffic to pass.  Its statement followed calls from some protest organizers for people to return home.

But with thousands of demonstrators continuing to jam streets in key financial and commercial districts it appeared unlikely that the extraordinary protest movement would end anytime soon.

“It’s shocking to see armies of police equipped with tear gas guns, rifles and batons,” said Nan Hie In, who joined demonstrators on the streets Sunday night.  “Amid the madness, the crackling sounds from police firing tear gas and the protesters running away to evade the chemical haze, I thought: Are we in Syria or Hong Kong?”

After he and a few friends were ambushed inside a public square by police with a volley of tear gas, Jerry Ip, 25, said, “I felt like I’d die.” Even so, Ip said he was undaunted because “we’re fighting for the future of Hong Kong. This is our homeland.”

After the tear-gas confrontations Sunday night, Hong Kong government officials sought to take a more conciliatory approach.  Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appeared on television after midnight promising that police would use “maximum discretion” and saying that he hoped people would “keep calm” and not be misled by “rumors.”

At a gathering outside the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday afternoon, a group of protest supporters urged office workers to show support for the demonstrations after business hours. 

Students and protesters, meanwhile, are preparing for a new night of clashes and tense standoff with police.

“Hong Kong people are not going to take this lying down,” said local legislator Alan Leong.  “This is a people’s movement.”

And like Tiananmen Square, the whole world is watching.

~Via Google News, CNN, LA Times, UK Daily News, YouTube

 

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Pride and Bullets

 

Cause and Effect

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The causes of World War One have been written about countless times.  You probably know the straight-away story.

It began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, sometimes referred to as “the bullet that started World War I.”

This seemingly small conflict between two countries spread rapidly.

Soon, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, and the United States were all drawn into the war, largely because the former were involved in treaties and alliances that obligated them to defend certain other nations.  

Western and eastern battle fronts quickly erupted along the muddy borders
and hedgerows of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

1916 and 1917 were particularly dominated by the continued bloody trench warfare in battlefields.  Soldiers fought from dug-in positions, striking at each other with the new technological development of machine guns, heavy artillery, tanks, and chemical weapons.  

Soldiers died in the onslaught by the millions under ugly and brutal conditions.  By the score, they were killed, maimed, blinded, and gassed.

Although both sides launched renewed offensives in 1918 in an all-or-nothing effort to win the war, both efforts failed.  The fighting between exhausted, demoralized troops continued to plod along until Germany, under Kaiser Wilhelm II, lost a number of individual battles and gradually had to fall back.  A deadly outbreak of influenza, meanwhile, took a heavy toll on soldiers of both sides. Eventually, the governments of both Germany and Austria-Hungary lost control of the war as both countries experienced multiple mutinies.

The war ended in the late fall of 1918, after the member countries of the Central Powers signed armistice agreements one by one.  Germany was the last, signing its armistice on November 11, 1918.

Kaiser Wilhelm, an ineffective war leader scorned by the public and the army for Germany’s worst defeat, abdicated the day before and fled into exile to the Netherlands.

As a result of the armistice agreements, Austria-Hungary was broken up into several smaller countries. Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, was severely punished with hefty economic reparations, territorial losses, and strict limits on its rights to develop its military.

Many historians, in hindsight, believe that the Allies were excessive in their punishment of Germany and that the harsh Treaty of Versailles planted the seeds for World War II rather than foster an extended peace.

The treaty imposed steep war reparations payments on Germany and forced the country to bear the financial burden of the war.  Already stretched financially thin by the war, the additional economic burden caused enormous resentment.

Ultimately, extremist groups under the banner of patriotic nationalism– the Nazi Party under Adolph Hitler– were later able to exploit this humiliation and resentment, taking political control of the country in the decades following.

The well-researched video thesis above offers an alternative history and gives a different take of how World War I– the War to End All Wars– began 100 years ago.

By tracing the story backwards in time we stumble upon a very unexpected cause, and discover that sometimes the most harmless of inconsequential things can indeed have terrible consequences.

Cause and Effect– and how history repeats itself—is an important lesson for all of us to understand and remember, even in this modern day and age.

 

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Free History Night in Freshwater

 

Jerry Rohde: The Infamous 1964 Flood

A Unique Perspective of Disaster

 

Friday, September 19: Freshwater Grange

Potluck at 6 pm

Presentation at 7 pm

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

There will be good times in Wrangletown tonight. 

Jerry’s back by popular demand for another free potluck and history presentation at the Freshwater Grange.

Pierson Building Center in Eureka is funding a free series of historical lectures as part of their celebration of the business’s 52nd anniversary.

Celebrating Life in Humboldt County is a series of 10 PowerPoint presentations being held at Grange halls, town halls and community centers throughout the county.

Jerry Rohde, local author and premier historian, will give an hour-long talk tonight on “The 1964 Flood,” highlighting different aspects of Humboldt’s infamous and catastrophic natural diasaster.

With over 60 images and interesting anecdotes, stories, and facts about Humboldt’s infamous 1964 Flood, Jerry may amaze and mesmerize the audience yet again like he did before.

Yes, as bridges were swept away, the National Guard was called in, entire communities were washed away down the rivers, and Humboldters rallied to help one another.

Jerry will tell us how history repeats itself: only 11 years earlier, the 1955 ‘Hundred-Year’ flood provided a warning of what was to come; while way back in the winter of 1861-62, the North Coast was hit with what may have been the biggest flood of all.

Come to the free presentation and Jerry will fill you in on the exciting history and take your questions.  Everyone is welcome and we’d love to see you.  And your family and friends!

There’s a community potluck at 6 pm, so bring a dish to share.

Jerry’s presentation starts at 7 pm.

Thank you Pierson Building Center for sponsoring Jerry’s gig.  Last time, it was fun for everyone– in a history sort of way.  Who knew history could be that fun?

To get there, take Myrtle Avenue/Old Arcata Road. At 3 Corners Market, turn east onto Freshwater Road and drive 2.2 miles to the Garfield Little Red School House, and turn right onto Grange Road.  You can’t miss it: it’s the big, big building at 29 Grange Road.

If you know Jerry, it ought to be a great presentation in Wrangletown,
a very friendly and beautiful community just outside of Eureka.

Admission is free.  For more information, you can contact Rohde at 445-3844 or jerry.rohde@gmail.com .

 

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Scotland Votes on Independence

 

Historic Turnout at Polls Today

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The once vast empire of the United Kingdom may be less
united and vast once the votes are cast and counted.

Scotland’s voters are heading to the polls today to cast their ballots in a landmark referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

There, they will face a straightforward and simple yes or no question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

More than 4.2 million people have registered to vote, the largest electorate ever in Scotland, and the historic turnout in the referendum is expected to be high.

A vote for independence means Scotland, with its population of about 5.3 million, would split apart from the rest of the United Kingdom, made up of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  A simple majority is all that is needed for either side to claim victory.

Voting will take place at more than 5,500 polling stations across 32 districts nationwide, from the remote highlands and islands to the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Some ballot boxes must be collected by helicopter, plane or boat from remote polling stations on distant islands.

Results from the different areas will come in overnight on Friday morning local time.

Voters in the referendum do not have to be British citizens; Commonwealth, Irish and EU citizens who live in Scotland and are registered to vote there can cast a ballot.  However, Scots living outside Scotland do not have a say.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who has led the pro-independence “Yes Scotland” campaign, cast his ballot Friday morning in the village of Strichen, Aberdeenshire.  Labour lawmaker Alistair Darling, who has headed the pro-union “Better Together” campaign– backed by the main parties in Westminster– voted in Edinburgh.

Nearly 790,000 people applied for a postal vote– the largest volume of registration for postal votes ever in Scotland. 

For the first time, the vote has been extended to 16- and 17-year-olds living in Scotland.  Nearly 110,000 people younger than 18 have registered to vote.

The vote for independence is too close to call as thousands of tourists and journalists poured into Edinburgh for the historic day.  Some believe the vote for independence represents the greatest threat to England since WW II.

No one will know exactly what the results will be until after the votes are tallied.  Media must follow strict rules forbidding the reporting of details on campaigning and the exit numbers until after polls close.

“Democracy will win at the end of the day,” resident John Donnelly declared.

“Obviously not everyone will be getting the result they want, but I’d like to think that they’d be happy that we’re getting what we voted for.”

 

UPDATE Sept. 19 The results?  Scotland Voted ‘No’.

~Via Google News, Simon Straetker, Vimeo

 

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Jimi’s Machine Gun

 

Hendrix’s Famous Star Spangled Banner Shred at Woodstock

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

At Woodstock in 1969, Jimi Hendrix did a startling take on the national anthem.

He was the last act of the festival and scheduled to close the show on Sunday night. 

He didn’t take the stage until 8 am on Monday morning.

Of the 500,000 young people who were there during the weekend, only a handful — about 30,000 — were left the next 
day.

Wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe, a red head-scarf and blue jeans, and flashing a peace sign to the crowd, Jimi took to the stage and did a wailing extended rendition of Francis Scott Key’s signature work on his guitar. 

Many fondly remember waking up to a rudely blaring Star Spangled Banner in the early morning hours.

It was a far cry from the traditionally-held tune.  Jimi’s version was loud, dissonant, inharmonious; and yet touchingly soulful, all at once.  The audience was clearly stunned.  No one had dared do anything like this before and it completely blew their hearts and minds.

 Upon leaving the stage, Hendrix collapsed from exhaustion. 

The New York Post later wrote his performance “was the most electrifying moment of Woodstock and probably the single greatest moment of the Sixties.”  Others called his screaming guitar Jimi’s Machine Gun.

The choice and arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner was unorthodox to say the least.  Irritating to many, it caused consternation for those who thought Hendrix had desecrated and shredded a sacred piece of work– the country’s national anthem– to pieces.  He had been playing this version for about a year, beginning as part of a guitar solo he played during Purple Haze.

When playing in the southern states of the US, Hendrix was often warned not to do the number because of the constant local threats made against him.  Jimi disregarded the threats and played it anyway.  Every time.

He tried to record his version for an album but was never satisfied with the results in the studio.  After he died, engineer Eddie Kramer mixed a version from Jimi’s studio takes which was released on the album Rainbow Bridge

The Woodstock performance seen above, however, remains by far his most famous take of the song.

Hendrix’s version is seen by some as an anti-war song about Vietnam.  Halfway through the song, Hendrix often imitated the sounds of bombs dropping, machine gun fire and people singing.  

To note, his version of the Star Spangled Banner was the first song played when a propaganda radio station called “Radio Hanoi” went on the air, broadcasting to American troops serving in Vietnam in an effort to lower morale and have
them desert.

Three weeks after Woodstock, Hendrix said he wasn’t expressing an anti-American sentiment whatsoever.  He explained why he performed his groundbreaking version in only a few short words:

“We’re all Americans … it was, like, ‘Go America!’  We play it the way the air is in America today.  The air is slightly static, see,” Hendrix simply said.

Considered to be one of the best guitarists of all time and a pioneer of using electronic effects that are still in use today, Hendrix wrote, performed, and produced his own material.  Self-taught, he never had any formal music lessons– and he didn’t know how to read music. 

His musical work encompassed only four short years until his untimely death a year after Woodstock, due to a barbituate overdose.  He was 27.

The images of Jimi playing Woodstock are widely regarded as iconic pictures capturing the defining moment of youth and the Vietnam era of 1969. 

In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock at number one on their list of the 100 best performances.  Rolling Stone named Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time.

 

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I Can See Clearly Now…

 

…The Rain Is Gone:

   Johnny and Jimmy’s Versions

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

1972 was a good year for Texas singer/songwriter Johnny Nash.

Nash, who recorded Reggae-influenced music, had gone to Jamaica and recorded his song Hold Me Tight and a cover of Sam Cooke’s Cupid with a local rhythm section.  Both songs became hits in Jamaica, and over the next two years charted in England and the United States.

By 1972, Cecilia and Mother And Child Reunion found success in the States, incorporating Nash’s Reggae rhythms.  Nash quickly followed up on the trend with I Can See Clearly Now, a single from the album of the same name.

Make no mistake, Nash had legitimate Reggae credentials:  Bob Marley– before he became crazy famous– was an assistant producer and session player on the album, and also wrote 3 of the songs, including Stir It Up, which became Nash’s next – and final – hit.  The musical partnership between Johnny Nash and Bob Marley is one of the more fascinating and overlooked periods in the history of reggae music.

A cover version by Jimmy Cliff, below, went to #18 in the US in 1994.  His version was in the John Candy movie Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsled team.

Nash wrote this song himself, recording it in London with members of The Average White Band.  Hitting #1 in the US for 4 weeks late in 1972,  the album sold seven million copies– yet arranger Martyn Ford received the paltry
sum of $70 for his services.

When first released it was widely speculated I Can See Clearly Now was about suicide.  Nash adamantly denied this was the case, insisting it was about hope and courage for individuals experiencing and overcoming adversity in their lives.

It all fit into the new and different awareness happening in the nation by 1972. Things, people, thoughts, ideas and movements were coming out of the closet. Music, film and television took on a different vibe;  art exploded with newer colors and more vibrant canvases.  

With the Vietnam War finally winding down and servicemen returning home, America became a nation comprised of young people wanting to heal and waiting to lead.  They were turning on and tuning in.  They weren’t dropping out.

There was a glimmer of hope things could change.

Women and minorities saw more empowerment and expression than had happened during the 60′s.  Conservative types became a twinge more liberal.  Social movements sprang forth everywhere with the notion of equality, peace, and love.  A more socially aware, just, and thinking country was just beginning to emerge.

We bloomed like flowers in the new age, able to see clearly a way foward towards a better world.

 


 

 

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Remembering Playland at the Beach

 

San Francisco’s Long-Forgotten Icon

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

 

 

Playland view to the south, 1940

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young family enjoys cotton candy at Playland, 1960s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playland died along with blue collar image that once embodied a gritty San Francisco.

San Francisco has always been somewhere people come to enjoy themselves, and tourism has long been a mainstay of the city’s economy.

Nightlife, culinary delight, amusement, erotic adventure and family entertainment are all contained within its 49 square miles.  Anything a visitor may seek, San Francisco can provide.  Echoes of fun and amusement ring throughout the city from the cable cars atop Nob Hill to the sea lions barking at the wharf.

Turning back the clock to the Depression, we find San Francisco bubbling as a haven of fun even then.

 

    Bathing beauties laugh it up at Playland, 1940s

The place to go was a now-vanished amusement park, Playland-at-the-Beach.

During the Depression and World War II, Playland thrived.  Adults and children, families and couples on dates, sailors from all over the world went to Playland to ride bumper cars and roller coasters and explore the thrills of the Funhouse.  For many San Franciscans, Playland was, and still is, their childhood, 42 years after its demolition.

Playland was located at Ocean Beach, just north of Golden Gate Park, below the point where the land rises to Sutro Heights.  The attractions in this corner of the city had the added novelty of being where Western civilization meets the Pacific Ocean– in a way, at the end of the world.

From the mural-bedecked Beach Chalet at the western end of the park to Playland to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths, the recreational options lined up in a long row.  Much of this ended up as part of the pleasure empire of the man called the Barnum of the Golden Gate, George Whitney.

A little amusement area named Ocean Beach Pavilion had existed since 1884.  In 1912, Arthur Looff and his partner, John Friedle, built Looff’s Hippodrome, housing a grand carousel built by Looff’s father.  In 1922, the two added the Big Dipper roller coaster and the Chutes-at-the-Beach water ride.  Whitney and his brother Leo came to town and opened a photofinishing concession booth in a smaller version of Playland.

In 1926, Whitney became general manager, and the park became Whitney’s Playland-at-the-Beach.  He bought out shaky concessionaires during the Depression.  By 1942, he owned everything from Sutro Baths to Fulton Street.

 

 Funhouse Mirrors at Playland

Whitney’s Playland grew to more than ten acres of amusements next to the Great Highway.  It included Topsy’s Roost Restaurant, which later became Skateland; a midway of games and vendors; and, of course, the Funhouse with long wooden slides, a human turntable that spun and threw people off if they didn’t hang on, and distorting mirrors and air jets that blew women’s skirts up.

Many fondly remember the Carousel, the Big Dipper, the Diving Bell, Chutes at the Beach, Dark Mystery, Limbo, and Fun-tier Town, too.

Playland was also the birthplace of the It’s-It, Whitney’s invention of ice cream sandwiched by two oatmeal cookies and covered in chocolate.

 

 

View from Sutro Heights, 1995.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only the newly remodeled and now far more upscale Cliff House and Beach Chalet still stand.  A condominium development erased any trace of Playland.

Anyone who remembers Playland is wistful, or maybe just nostalgic, for the gritty, blue-collar San Francisco.  “It wasn’t just toys for the rich.  It was toys for everyone,” said Dan Fontes, a muralist working in El Cerrito on a large rendering of Playland and the surrounding area.

San Francisco has changed.  The blue-collar neighborhoods are mostly gone, and amusement is often more solitary than when the Playland fun house rang with screams and laughter.  Still, Playland has not been lost.  Anyone can find it.  Its fragments are scattered all over the city.

 

Laughing Sal

 

Playland is best remembered by a laugh, the one that belonged to a huge mechanical woman who towered above the entry to the Funhouse from the 1940s until it closed in 1972 and she was auctioned off.  Her name was Laughing Sal.

Anyone walking down Playland’s Midway — even nearby neighbors — heard Sal’s bellowing laugh.  She had devilish curly red hair and huge freckles all over her fat, terrifying visage.  In the middle of it all was a gap-toothed smile that provided nightmare material for countless children.  This was creepy, the same way a ventriloquist’s dummy is creepy.

“She would stand there laughing and laughing, and you would stand there laughing and laughing, and you didn’t know why,” said Sharon Jessup, a San Francisco native who grew up going to Playland.  Sal’s continuous laugh was a drunken yelping guffaw, an evil cackle, the uninhibited outburst of someone going out of her mind.  With arms extended, she heaved back and forth with a bit of a bobbing motion in her huge glass box.

Sal was constructed by the Old King Cole papier-mache company under commission to the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., maker of amusement park furnishings. Old King Cole started with a mechanical laughing department store Santa Claus.  They fitted the Santa with a woman’s legs, breasts that jiggled on the end of springs and custom-made heads.  With the addition of a 78 rpm recording of the most memorable laugh in the world, Laughing Sal was born.

 

 

The Big Dipper roller coaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playland: “The favorite in action!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the 1960s, Playland was run down and a little seedy.  Some say it started downhill when Whitney tore down the Big Dipper roller coaster in the late 1950s.  Sutro Baths burned during its demolition in 1966, and Whitney stopped operating Playland in 1968.

The park took on a roving carnival feel, said Marvin Gold, who grew up nearby, going to sleep every night to the sound of Sal’s cackle.  In 1972, Playland was put up for sale.  When it closed on Sept. 4, 1972, Herb Caen wrote a column called, “We’ll Never Go There Anymore.”  He reminisced over It’s-Its, Bull Pup enchiladas, a 40-cent corn dog and a ride on the carousel.

Today, Playland is covered with housing.  A Safeway stands on the site of the old diving bell.  Gold said he remembers when workers came to smash the concrete foundation and heard a clang.  They found the concrete lined with a steel tank, filled it in and built on top of it.

“One hundred years from now when they tear Safeway down, they’re going to find an old steel tank sitting there and have no idea what it was,” he said.

“Oh, and those slides, those beautiful wooden slides,” he said of the long hardwood slides in the Funhouse.  “When I saw them cutting those slides into pieces … I nearly cried.  ”Playland was our second home.”

For the next 30 years after Playland closed, people didn’t have to look far to find Laughing Sal.  Although the main Funhouse Sal went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for $50,000, Playland’s back-up Sal found a home in the basement of the Cliff House, along with the penny arcade machines.  They all were put into the Musée Mecanique, a collection that Ed Zelinsky obtained from George Whitney. 

All of the machines were still working, offering love tests, telling fortunes and showing the first silent films.  Video games were added to a small arcade at the back — early games like Pac Man and eventually the 3-D driving and shooting simulators we see now.

In 2002, the Musée was imperiled when the Cliff House was renovated.  San Franciscans came to the rescue with a petition carrying more than 25,000 signatures.  They were outraged that the Parks and Recreation Department, which owns the Cliff House, hadn’t tried to find the historical Musée a new home.

Thanks to the public outcry, a home was found at Pier 45, where a row of crab stands leads to a building painted with a giant version of Laughing Sal’s face.  Her missing tooth is the entry to Amusing America, which chronicles San Francisco’s place in the country’s cultural history of amusement parks.

Playland, Sutro Baths and the 1939 World’s Fair are all featured in displays, with the Musée Mecanique collection in the back.  And at the door, as in her two previous homes, Sal is the greeter and gatekeeper who still bursts into laughter for a quarter.  Maybe she’s laughing at her luck, having survived the urban development that has put her into a museum version of a city that no longer exists.

Maybe she’s laughing at what amusement in San Francisco has become around her: a Fisherman’s Wharf that has become a commercial tourist center with many of the same type of attractions as Playland. 

Dan Fontes, the muralist and a good source of history on Sutro Baths and Playland, says that when Playland was alive, “Fisherman’s Wharf was a fisherman’s wharf, with fishermen.”  Now, it is the Playland of today, the city’s waterfront amusement center, even if it is there mostly for tourists. 

The ghosts of Playland live in the hearts and memories of so many grown-ups.   They ensure that Playland isn’t entirely gone and that childhood won’t be forgotten.

~Via SF Historical Museum, San Francisco Public Library, YouTube, SF Gate

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Americas’ ‘Missing Link’ Discovered in Underwater Cave

 

12,000-Year-Old ‘Naia’ Sheds New Light on Land Migration

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

ABOVE VIDEO:  In a submerged cave in Yucatan, divers found
the near-intact skeleton of a delicately built teenage girl, who
died more than 12,000 years ago after she fell into a sinkhole
from which there was no way out.

 

She was found in the depths of planet Earth.

And she’s the oldest human skeleton ever found in North America, discovered by a team of international scientists in an underwater Yucatán Peninsula cave.

DNA from the skeleton shows similarities to modern Native Americans, while her skull structure matches those of Paleoamericans that came across the Bering land bridge. 

In short, she may be the ‘missing link’ to the origins of the first Americans on the continent.

Named “Naia”, the teenager fell to her untimely and tragic death in a large pit called Hoyo Negro, meaning “black hole” in Spanish.

The divers found her on a ledge, her skull at rest on an arm bone.  Ribs and a broken pelvis lay nearby.  She was only a young teen when she wandered into the cave on the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the darkness she must not have seen the enormous pit looming in front of her.

More than 12,000 years later, in 2007, after the seas had risen and the cave system had filled with water, her skull — upside down, teeth remarkably intact — caught the eye of a man in scuba gear.

Patricia Beddows, a cave-diving researcher from Northwestern University, said the find is remarkable: “The preservation of all the bones in this deep water-filled cave is amazing– the bones are beautifully laid out.”

“The girl’s skeleton is exceptionally complete because of the environment in which she died — she ended up in the right water and in a quiet place without any soil.  Her pristine preservation enabled our team to extract enough DNA to determine her shared genetic code with modern Native Americans,” she added.

The skeleton, which is now covered in water, is estimated to be between 12,000 and 13,000 years old, suggesting Naia lived in the late Pleistocene or last ice age.

She measured 4’ 10” tall and was delicately built.  Slender and bucktoothed, her estimated age of death was 15 or 16 years old, based on the development of her teeth.

She lies in a collapsed chamber together with the remains of 26 other large mammals, including a saber-toothed tiger, 600 yards from the nearest sinkhole.  Most of these ancient
mammals became extinct around 13,000 years ago.

“Naia, and the other animals, would have slipped through a hidden sink hole and fallen 100 feet into a shallow pool and trapped,” said paleontologist James Chatters of Applied Paleoscience in Bothell, Washington, who led the study, published May 15 in Science.  

“There would have been no way out.”  The broken pelvis of Naia’s otherwise near-perfect skeleton is likely a result of the accidental fall, he says.

Analysis of the remains in situ, most of which are still lying in the submerged cave where they were found, suggests that modern Native Americans are the descendants of the earliest Paleoamericans, who migrated from Siberia towards the end of the last glacial period.  An alternative theory held instead that a mysterious, more recent influx had brought in new populations from Eastern Asia.

The near-complete human skeleton, which has an intact cranium and some of the oldest preserved DNA to date, was found lying 130 feet below sea level near a variety of extinct animals, including an elephant-like creature and relatives of the mastodon.  Those remains helped scientists establish the age of the skeleton.

In order to assess the age of the skeleton, the team analyzed tooth enamel and seeds dropped by bats using radiocarbon dating and calcite deposits found on the bones using the uranium-thorium method.

They used similar methodology to date the remains of a variety of mastodon relatives found near the skeleton, which were found to be around 40,000 years old.  The more than 26 large mammals found at the site included saber-toothed cats and giant ground sloths, which were largely extinct in North America 13,000 years ago.

Naia’s age was further supported by evidence of rising sea levels, which were as much as 360 feet lower during the last ice age than they are today.

Naia’s mitochondrial DNA reveals genetic signatures in common with modern Native Americans, despite her very different skull shape.

“You can never exclude that Native Americans have more than one group of ancestors,” says Chatters.  But his team’s data, he points out, are consistent with the idea that Native Americans evolved from Siberian ancestors.

“It helps support the consensus view, from archaeological, genetic and linguistic evidence, that the Americas were initially peopled 15,000–20,000 years ago from Siberia,” says human geneticist Chris Tyler-Smith.

According to this widely held theory, the Americas were populated by Siberian ancestors who crossed the Bering land bridge that back then linked Eurasia and Alaska.  The migration is thought to have started during the Pleistocene ice age– which ended around 14,000 years ago– and continued over the next several thousand years as these populations moved south.

Yet researchers have puzzled over why the more-than-10,000-year-old Paleoamerican skulls unearthed so far have such different morphology from those in more recent finds and from modern Native Americans.

Scientists wondered whether other Native American ancestors had arrived in a later migration.  The new DNA results indicate that the very different skulls of modern Native Americans have evolved on North American soil.

Paleoamerican remains are few and far between, because the nomadic tribes did not always build tombs for their dead.  The oldest and first full skeleton to be found, it’s the first major set of remains unearthed so far south.

 ~Via Science, Nature, IBT,
and Nature Newstream

 

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Record High Radiation in Seawater off Fukushima Plant

 

California Coastal Commission:
Radiation Plume to Hit Coast in Year

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

In the above video, Naoto Matsumara is the only resident
living a lonely existence in the exclusion zone around Japan’s
Fukushima nuclear power plant.

When the massive earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown in 2011, high levels of radiation forced all 16,000 residents to be evacuated.

Refusing the government’s plea to leave his hometown of Tomioka, Naoto vowed to take care of the animals that were left behind. 

Two years later, he still stays on– while little progress has been made cleaning up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters ever to occur.

 

Radiation has spiked to all-time highs at five monitoring points in waters adjacent to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power station, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday.

The measurements follow similar highs detected in groundwater at the plant.  Officials of Tepco said the cause of the seawater spike is unknown.

Three of the monitoring sites are inside the wrecked plant’s adjacent port.

At one sampling point in the port, between the water intakes for the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, 1,900 becquerels per liter of tritium was detected Monday, up from a previous high of 1,400 becquerels measured on April 14, Tepco said.

And at a point between the water intakes, seawater sampled Thursday was found to contain high levels of strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, and other beta ray-emitting isotopes.

Tepco is struggling to reduce contamination at the poorly protected plant, which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  

Measures include plans to build a gigantic underground ice wall around the plant to keep the daily flow of groundwater from entering the cracked reactor buildings and mingling with the highly radioactive cooling water in their basements.

The ice wall project is expected to cost $300 million and will put a massive burden on the power grid when completed:  It will need about 45.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to operate, equal to annual power consumption of 13,000 average households.

The project involves freezing the soil into barricades 30 meters deep and 2 meters thick for a distance of 1,500 meters around the buildings housing reactors 1 through 4.  The soil will be frozen by sinking pipes into the ground and running liquids through them at a temperature of minus 30 degrees.

On Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and contractor Kajima Corp. demonstrated a miniature ice wall to reporters at the site.  “We can confirm the frozen soil’s effect in blocking water,” a ministry official said afterwards. 

The department aims to begin construction next month.  But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not approved the plan saying its backers have so far provided insufficient reassurances about public safety.

International nuclear experts have also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the plan.  Germany has pledged to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 following the Fukushima diasaster.

Meanwhile, the California Coastal Commission downplayed fears about Fukushima-derived ocean radiation today.

The Commission issued a report stating that waterborne radiation levels off its coast are “far below that of naturally-occurring radioactive elements in the ocean.”

“Over the last three years, the radioactive ocean plume has been carried eastward by ocean currents, becoming increasingly diluted as it spreads over an ever-larger area and mixes to greater depths,” the report states. 

“The leading edge of the plume appears to have reached North America off of Vancouver Island, and could possibly reach California within the next year… Radioactive cesium derived from Fukushima has been detected at low levels in the tissues of highly-migratory fish species such as Pacific Bluefin tuna, which appear to have accumulated the cesium in their juvenile rearing grounds in the western Pacific,” the report adds.

The report advised that “the long-term effects of low-level radiation in the environment remain incompletely understood, and that this understanding would benefit from increased governmental support for the monitoring of radioactivity in seawater and marine life and the study of health outcomes linked to radiation exposure.”

 

Via Japan Times/Daily UK/Straight.com/Vimeo/UK Telegraph

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The Sexbot Revolution is Coming

 

Poll: 1 in 5 People Would Have Sex with a Robot

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The future is now.

Would you have sex with a robot?  If you answered yes, you’re not alone.

Forget about raging against the machine: Some people would rather get naughty and nasty with it instead.

A new survey has found that one in five UK-dwellers would be willing to have sex with robots, marking a huge leap in the realm of digitized romance.

Over 2,000 people were quizzed on their attitudes toward androids– with less than favorable results. 46% of participants said they felt that technology was progressing too quickly, while a third expressed fears that automatons posed a serious threat to humanity.  The same number also believed that robots may soon replace key jobs, including those of soldiers, cops and teachers.

Middlesex University’s Professor Martin Smith, who oversaw the study, said, “While many of us worry about the role of technology and machines in modern society, robots are increasingly being developed for important roles that will help protect and improve our lives.”

Protecting and improving is one thing, but replacing significant others in the bedroom does seem like a bit of a jump.  Sure, a robot may perform all the necessary… uh, functions, but just how much intimacy can be created between a human and a piece of erratically moving machinery? 

Could the rules of sex change dramatically?  Could it change the way men and women have future relationships?

If online dating has already eradicated a huge chunk of the way we develop our capacity for closeness, won’t robotic bedmates make the situation even worse?

“It seems we have gotten to the stage where people would rather have sex with something that knows exactly what it’s doing, where we know exactly how it will react, and how long it will take, and how good it will be,” adds Anna Hughes, a schoolteacher with a long-term boyfriend.

But this obliterates the excitement of the uncertainty of being with a living person and the risk of it all going wrong, which is big part of having sex with someone in the first place.  I’m just glad I got into a relationship before sleeping with C-3PO became the norm,” Hughes said.

This kind of living could be coming at a hefty price—namely the dissolution of any and all intimacy, ever.

With 46% of those surveyed admitting that they’d either get under the covers with a sexbot or not judge those who choose to, that’s a fair proportion of people prepared to embrace getting down and dirty with droids.

This isn’t a uniquely UK trend, though:  Sex between live humans has been steadily sloping downwards in numerous countries around the world.

Consider Japan, where nearly half of women aged 16-24 are “not interested in, or despise, sexual contact.”

And this isn’t just a problem across the one gender—there’s also a burgeoning movement called Otaku, which denotes the rising number of men opting for relationships with virtual lady friends in the absence of real ones.

These asexual young men who show no carnal desire fare badly when it comes to the figures, with 36% professing a zero inclination whatsoever in getting it on.  Many members of the Otaku clan were able to maintain relationships with the opposite sex, but only if they existed in the form of computer games.

It isn’t about maintaining a relationship anymore.  It’s more akin to cocooning or playing video games rather than getting out and socially playing.  And we thought that would never happen.

This kind of living could be coming at a hefty price—namely the dissolution of any and all intimacy, ever.  It’s one thing to want to make it on your own, but using robotic surrogates for situations that require the warmth of another person, either physically or emotionally, just isn’t something we should be casually trading in like a used car.

Professor Smith also makes the case for future droids becoming quasi-aware—with a pre-programmed sentient awareness, that is.  In other words, your innermost needs, dreams, desires and fantasies would be catered to by artificial intelligence.

“Robots will be able to show most, if not all, of the signs and behaviors of emotional intelligence… The robots won’t have feelings, but like actors they will be able to show emotional intelligence.”

These technological advances are only mere decades or less away.  Shelling out for a chunk of plastic that’s been programmed to sleep with you is on the horizon, a brave new world of coming technological intimacy.

Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places.  Flowers, chocolate and a glass of wine will be so  passé and old school.

 

~TechNews/Gray Scott/YouTube

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From Billions to None

 

The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The passenger pigeon disappeared in a geologic heartbeat.  Because of us.

Imagine that tomorrow morning you woke up and discovered that the familiar rock pigeon—scientifically known as Columba livia, popularly known as the rat with wings—had disappeared.

It was gone not simply from your window ledge but from Piazza San Marco, Trafalgar Square, the Gateway of India arch, and every park, sidewalk, telephone wire, and rooftop in between.  

Would you grieve for the loss of a familiar creature, or rip out the spikes on your air-conditioner and celebrate?  Perhaps your reaction would depend on the cause of the extinction.  If the birds had been carried off in a mass avian rapture, or a pigeon-specific flu, you might let them pass without guilt, but if they had been hunted to death by humans you might feel honor-bound to bring them back to life.

In “A Feathered River Across the Sky:  The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction,” Joel Greenberg’s studies a bird that really did vanish after near-ubiquity.

The passenger pigeon—sometimes called “the blue pigeon” for its color though the blue was blended with gray, red, copper, and brown– should not be confused with its distant cousin, the message-bearing carrier pigeon, which is really just a domesticated rock pigeon in military dress.

Unlike the rock pigeon– domesticated six thousand years ago, now feral, and brought to these shores by Europeans in the early seventeenth century– the passenger pigeon was native to North America, where it roved over a billion acres of the continent searching for bumper crops of tree nuts.

It was here, like the American bison, when Europeans arrived, and it was here when the peoples we consider indigenous migrated across their land bridge thousands of years before that.  It evolved on the unspoiled continent and was allied with the big trees that once covered much of the Northeast and the Midwest.

 

Most Numerous of Birds

The passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird species in North America, and possibly the world, dominating the eastern half of the continent in numbers that stagger the imagination.

In 1813, John James Audubon saw a flock– if that is what you call an agglomeration of birds moving at sixty miles an hour and obliterating the noonday sun– that was merely the advance guard of a multitude that took three days to pass.

Alexander Wilson, the other great bird observer of the time, reckoned that the flock he saw contained 2,230,272,000 individuals.  

To get your head around that number and just how many passenger pigeons that would mean, consider that there are only about two hundred and sixty million rock pigeons in the world today.  You would have to imagine more than eight times the total world population of rock pigeons, all flying at the same time in one connected mass.

No wonder witnesses frequently described the birds in quasi-Biblical, if not apocalyptic, language.  A flight over Columbus, Ohio, in 1855 elicited the following eye-witness account:

“As the watchers stared, the hum increased to a mighty throbbing. Now everyone was out of the houses and stores, looking apprehensively at the growing cloud, which was blotting out the rays of the sun.

Children screamed and ran for home. Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores. Horses bolted.

A few people mumbled frightened words about the approach of the millennium, and several dropped on their knees and prayed.”

 

On the ground, the birds were equally prodigious.  A joint at the corners of the lower bill enabled their mouths to more than double in size.  Their crops could hold “up to a quarter of a pint of foodstuffs,” and they could vomit at will if they saw a food that they liked better.

Thoreau, a keen watcher of the birds, marveled that they could swallow acorns whole.  A Detroit newspaper in the late nineteenth century described the squabs as having “the digestive capacity of half a dozen 14-year-old boys.”

In their wake, passenger pigeons left behind denuded fields and ravaged woods; descriptions conjure up those First World War photographs of amputated trees in no man’s land.  

“They would roost in one place until they broke all the limbs off the trees,” one old-timer recalled, “then they would move to adjoining timber & treat it likewise, then fire would break out in the old roost and destroy the remainder of the timber.”  Their droppings, which coated branches and lay a foot thick on the ground, like snow, proved toxic to the understory and fatal to the trees.

One hunter recalled a nighttime visit to a swamp in Ohio in 1845, when he was sixteen; he mistook for haystacks what were in fact alder and willow trees, bowed to the ground under gigantic pyramids
of birds many bodies deep. 

As late as 1871, a single nesting ground in Sparta, Wisconsin, covered eight hundred and fifty square miles, hosting more than a hundred million birds.

But the profusion was misleading.

 

The End of the Line

Twenty-nine years later, a boy in Ohio shot a passenger pigeon out of a tree with a twelve-gauge shotgun, killing what was identified as the last wild member of the species.

A small captive population remained at the Cincinnati Zoo, including a pair patriotically named George and Martha, but there would be no new feathered nation.  By 1910, Martha was the sole survivor. 

Martha spent four years as a melancholy zoo attraction.  Visitors tossed sand to get her to move.  Officials offered a thousand-dollar reward for a mate, but on September 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon in the world died.

Newspapers described how Martha was frozen in a three-hundred-pound block of ice and sent by train from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C.  There she was skinned, stuffed, and put on display at the Smithsonian for a nation guiltily waking up to its role in the destruction of the bird and its habitat.

How could a bird could go from a population of billions to zero in less than fifty years? 

The short answer is that it tasted good.

 

Easy Pickings  

The bird was easy to kill and so abundant that it often seemed, in the days before refrigeration, like the quail that fell on the Israelites in Exodus.  In 1781, after a crop failure, a flock of pigeons saved a large swath of New Hampshire from starvation.  Despite the occasional apocalyptic shiver, most Americans looked up and decided that it was cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

The birds were such tempting targets that, in the early eighteenth century, cities had to ban hunting in town, because, in the words of one ordinance, from 1727, “everyone takes the liberty of shooting thoughtlessly from his windows, the threshold of his door, the middle of the streets.”

You did not even need a gun: you could poke them from their nests with poles or beat them out of the air with clubs– the weapon of choice Mark Twain recalled from his boyhood, in Hannibal, Missouri.  Squabs were fattened on “pigeon milk”– the sloughed-off lining of the birds’ crop that parents regurgitated for their young– and got so plump, Greenberg reports, that they would fall to earth with a “splat.”

The birds even killed themselves.  Greenberg conjures up a vision of pigeons crammed into their huge roosts, and then asks the reader to “imagine the destruction that would ensue when tree limbs, or at times entire trees, snapped and plummeted to the ground, crushing hundreds if not thousands of birds.  When flocks descended to drink, at times the birds that landed first would drown under the weight of newcomers.”  

No wonder Martha lived so long in her lonely cage.

For both Native Americans and European settlers, the appearance of passenger pigeons or the discovery of one of their giant roosting grounds became a festive occasion where every member of the family had a role: shooting the birds, knocking squabs out of nests, chasing the unfledged runaways, and collecting the dead for pickling, salting, baking, or boiling.

Boys stuck long hickory poles into the ground, pulled on ropes tied to the tips of the poles, and knocked birds down simply by making the poles quiver. Nets were stretched between trees. A roosting ground in Tennessee was set on fire and “scorched corpses were then collected the next day for personal use or sale” from two-foot-high piles of the dead.

More elaborate methods were used, of course—like luring the birds into nets with a live pigeon, which is the origin of the term “stool pigeon.”  A demand for stool pigeons opened up a trade in live birds, and so did the later development of “trap shooting,” in which live birds were mechanically launched into the air for sportsmen.

So many birds died in transport to the shoots that huge numbers were needed.  The “clay pigeon” was devised by passenger-pigeon hunters to replicate the experience after the actual birds grew scarce.

As long as America was rural and untraversed by railroads, the killing did not seem to do much more than dent the vast pigeon population.  After the Civil War, however, things began to change rapidly.

You could find out by telegraph where pigeons were nesting, get there quickly by train, and sell what you killed to a city hundreds of miles away.  Soon market hunters began operating on an enormous scale, cramming tens of thousands of birds into boxcars—especially after Gustavus Swift introduced the refrigerator car, in 1878.

This meant that rural migrants to growing cities could still get wild game, and the well-heeled could eat Ballotine of Squab à la Madison, served by a new class of restaurant, like Delmonico’s, in New York, where fine dining was becoming a feature of urban life.  All this coincided with an explosion in logging, which began destroying the habitat of pigeons just as hunters were destroying the pigeons themselves.

We did hunt the passenger pigeon to death, even if we didn’t quite understand at the time what we were doing.  

We also might have saved it, at least in token form, if only our technological genius and our conservation consciousness– two things that set us apart from other animals– had come together sooner.

Human beings live in their historical and cultural contexts as much as passenger pigeons lived in fields, trees, and sky; it is important to remember, for example, that rural people hunted for food in the days before factory farming and supermarkets.  The chicken industry in this country alone kills more than seven billion birds a year– far more than the total number of passenger pigeons at their peak.

Nobody in the nineteenth century had figured out how to make the slaughter of the birds sustainable, but it is worth wondering what we would think of the passenger pigeon, and ourselves, if they had.

Thoreau, in a mysteriously beautiful passage in his 1862 essay “Walking,” likens the diminishing numbers of passenger pigeons in New England to the dwindling number of thoughts in a man’s head, “for the grove in our minds is laid waste.”

Thinking of the birds as missing thoughts is a good way to honor them.  Martha and her billions were undone by the complicated, pitiless tangle of our modern industrialized world, but Thoreau’s nineteenth-century protest—“Simplify, simplify”—will not help us in the twenty-first.

Indeed, when it comes to our relationship to nature, the wish for simplicity may be the most destructive thing in the world.

~Via Joel Greenberg/Jon Rosen/Anthony Kendall/Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

Our best wishes and heartfelt appreciation goes out to the
Yurok Tribe for their efforts in restoring the Condor

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Becoming the Best Capitalists on the Planet

 

Weaving A Fortune:

Alibaba Serves China’s “Treasure Hunters”

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

WANTOU VILLAGE, China– With strong stitches and well-worn
hands, Wei Haiying added yet another finished cushion to the
ceiling-high piles already crowding her east China home.

For centuries, the women of Wantou village have woven its abundant willow straw into useful products, but for little profit.

Then Jack Ma and Alibaba came along, to spread some money-making magic.  Resting from her labors, Wei, 39, checked a computer Wednesday for the latest online orders.  ”Now we run our own business, we have more freedom, more income, and it’s better than working for others,” said Wei, whose monthly income has doubled in the past year to $1,600, far above the local average.

Blending traditional skills with modern marketing, Wei’s little success story forms a tiny part of the super-sized Alibaba e-commerce narrative that Ma offers to U.S. investors.  Already an A-list business billionaire in China, where he has dressed as Lady Gaga to entertain employees, Ma, 49, will score more fame and fortune when his firm gets a U.S. listing, in what is likely to prove one of history’s biggest ever IPOs.

In 1999, English teacher and kung fu novel fan Ma founded Alibaba in an apartment in the city of Hangzhou, with backing from 17 friends.  

He faced stiff odds, such as setting up an online payment system in a nation where hardly anyone had credit cards.  Now Alipay, like a Chinese Paypal, has over 800 million registered users, and its mother ship Alibaba is an Internet monster, grabbing more online trade than eBay and Amazon combined.

Alibaba resembles both.  Its eBay-like marketplace Taobao, which means “treasure hunt,” allows budding entrepreneurs like weaver Wei to set up and run an online store, for free.  The site has 7 million sellers offering hundreds of millions of items.  On Alibaba’s business-to-consumer site T-mall, called “heavenly cat” in Chinese, over 70,000 brands, including Gap and Apple, operate storefronts, for a fee.

In Wantou village, in coastal Shandong province, e-commerce even overshadows Communist Party propaganda.  Wall slogans exhorting the one-child policy fade fast, but no one can miss fresher phrases such as “Rushing about away from home, from east to west, doesn’t beat doing Taobao at home.”

So many of its 4,700 residents engage in e-commerce, almost exclusively on Taobao, that Alibaba ranks Wantou among at least 20 “Taobao villages” in China.  The firm’s definition requires over 10 percent of households to be operating online stores, and village e-commerce annual revenue must exceed $1.6 million.

“We really thank Taobao, it’s brought us wealth,” Wei Haiying said.  Two years ago, Wei stopped weaving for wholesalers.  Her husband quit his job as a driver.  Teaching themselves how to use computers, they set up a Taobao store.  Now they regularly go online to shop too, for clothes and shoes for their daughter.  ”It’s cheap and convenient,” said Wei.

The ease of Taobao shopping, and expectation of bargains, helped her neighbor become a local star.  An early convert, Jia Peixiao, 34, sold $1.3 million of willow straw and rattan products in 2013 and expects to double that volume this year.  Inside the family’s courtyard home, Jia sits beside a poster of Jack Ma.

“Many people in the village and elsewhere consider Ma a god,” said Jia, who ranks him highly, after reading some of the popular Ma biographies that fill China’s airport bookshops. “He’s a man who dares to do things, he has created a new era, an era of e-commerce,” Jia said.

Earlier in his career, Ma was labeled a cheat and a madman, but his success, fortune and maverick streak have since endeared him to most Chinese.  In recent years, Ma has been called the Godfather of business start-ups, the Napoleon of the IT world, “Crazy Jack,” and even a grass-roots hero.  Unusual for a Chinese boss, he also makes fun of himself, such as dressing as Snow White, or Lady Gaga, for Alibaba’s annual party.

Jia, a computer science graduate, appears a model disciple, having moved on from Taobao to create his own brand, Munuan, that now operates a T-mall store for a $10,000 annual fee.  Most customers are urban, female white-collar workers
between 18 and 35, he noted.

Beijing housewife Zhang Jingwen, 28, loves Taobao for cheap prices and the online guidance of previous buyers but prefers traditional shopping centers for higher-quality purchases, she said.  Using a Taobao app on her iPhone, she enjoys discounts buying daily toiletries, but, like many online shoppers worldwide, can’t resist the gimmicks either.

“If I met Jack Ma, I would thank him and say ‘you not only changed our lives, but also our whole village,’ ” said Meng Lili, 32, Jia’s wife, who is eight months pregnant with their second child and still works the computers as one of nine employees fielding orders.

Jia’s illiterate mother appears stunned by the sharp change in family fortunes.  An Shouhua, 61, learned weaving at age 9, and never went to school.  ”No woman in the village could find a husband without skill in weaving,” she said.  Government officials used to collect her woven goods – and pay just 5 cents day, she added.

Her son now plans a holiday to the USA or Europe, the first time Jia and his family will have left China. 

“We’re middle class now, and we can afford it,” he said.

His dad, Jia Chunwen, 62, still grows wheat and corn on the family’s typically small plot, but is prouder of his computer skills, and ability to chat with former navy comrades over QQ, a messaging service run by major Alibaba rival Tencent.

More than 600 million Chinese now use the Internet, just under half the entire population.

In Wantou’s Communist Party-run village committee, Deputy Secretary Jia Chuncui, 58, has no computer in his office or home but supports the e-commerce trend.  ”You don’t need a large space, or much funding, and you can still farm your land,” Jia said.  The government has offered land cheaply for a large Taobao Mall now under construction.

Rural China generally loses its children, to toil as migrant workers in distant cities.  Wantou sees them return to join its e-commerce boom. Inside a former dentist’s clinic, Jiao Chuanlei, 24, runs one of 20 courier companies in the village.  “It’s all because of Taobao there are so many couriers here,” he says.

Critics of the Chinese Internet complain that copycat businesses pre-dominate, Communist Party censorship inhibits innovation, and counterfeit goods still flow freely. Jia Peixiao says Taobao sellers are under pressure from the public to provide higher quality, legitimate goods.

“We all want our platform to be ever bigger and better, so the cake will be bigger for all of us to eat,” said Jia, already enjoying the taste of a better life.  On Tuesday, a Taobao delivery man arrived with his latest order– highly expensive, edible bird’s nests, from one of many Taobao sites specializing in tasty Chinese delicacies.

 

Via Google News/NewsLeader/Taluswood Films/Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

China has rapidly moved from Maoist communism to becoming the best capitalists on the planet in less than three generations.  Seen as an economic savior of sorts, Jack Ma is floating all boats for China’s lower and middle classes, with the approving nod from its government paving the way forward.

If you haven’t heard of Jack Ma, you soon will. 

America, we need to step up quicklyand wisely.

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Secrets of the Egyptian Pyramids

 

Cairo: 1920

A GOOD HUMOR VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It’s an amazing tale.

There are many ancient Egyptian secrets out there begging to be
discovered underneath the sands of time. 

We only have to find them.  This video from Kheops Pyramides lets us in on one of these shocking untold stories. 

No one believed these deeply kept rumors until now.  It was only after the hard evidence was found that this dark mystery was finally revealed for the first time and brought to light.

Keep looking.  Under the couch.  …That remote must be somewhere.

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Ancient Infant’s DNA Unlocks Clues to Origins of First Americans

 

Genome Mapped of 12,600-Year-Old Clovis Culture Baby

 

–Child Found to be Direct Ancestor of an Entire Continent

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Move over, Europeans.  A genetic study suggests present-day Native Americans are descended from some of the continent’s earliest settlers– and they’re not your ancestors.

The DNA of a baby boy who was buried in Montana 12,600 years ago has been recovered, and it provides new indications of the ancient roots of today’s American Indians and other native peoples of the Americas.

It’s the oldest genome ever recovered from the New World.  Artifacts found with the infant show the boy was part of the Clovis people, a widespread, sophisticated Ice Age culture in North America.  They appeared in America about 13,000 years ago and hunted mammoth, mastodon and bison.

The boy’s remains, uncovered at the Anzick Site in Montana in 1968, were associated with distinctive Clovis stone tools.  In fact, it is the only known skeleton directly linked to artifacts from this culture.

The DNA indicates the boy’s ancestors came from Asia, supporting the standard idea of ancient migration to the Americas by way of a land bridge that disappeared long ago.

The boy’s genome showed his people were direct ancestors of many of today’s native peoples in the Americas, researchers said.  He was more closely related to those in Central and South America than to those in Canada.  The reason for that difference isn’t clear, scientists said

The researchers found that around 80% of today’s Native Americans are related to the “clan” from which the boy came.  The researchers said they had no Native American DNA from the United States available for comparison, but that they assume the results would be same, with some Native Americans being direct descendants and others also closely related. 

The burial site, northeast of Livingston, Mont., is the only burial known from the Clovis culture.  The boy was between 1 year and 18 months old when he died of an unknown cause. 

He was buried with 125 artifacts, including spear points and elk antler tools.  Some were evidently ritual objects or heirlooms.  The artifacts and the skeleton were covered with powdered red ochre, a natural pigment, indicating a burial ceremony.

The skeleton was discovered in 1968 next to a rock cliff, but it’s only in recent years that scientists have been able to recover and analyze complete genomes from such ancient samples.

The DNA analysis was reported online yesterday in the journal Nature.  Some researchers have raised questions about the origins of early Americans, with one theory even proposing a link to Ice Age Europeans.  But the Nature study places the origins of these ancient people in Asia.

The burial site lies on the property of the parents of one of the study’s authors, Sarah Anzick.  It is known as the Anzick site.

Shane Doyle of Montana State University in Bozeman, another of the authors and a member of the Crow tribe, said the indication of such ancient roots for American Indians fits with what many tribal people already believed. He also said plans are underway to rebury the boy’s remains at the site after the winter.

The boy “was not a chief or a great hunter,” but his burial showed love and respect, Doyle said at the Montana Historical
Society in Helena on Wednesday.

Next will be a memorial at the site, he said, “Something small, so that the state of Montana, people around the world will know the importance of that place.”

In a telephone conference with reporters, the researchers said that once they discovered the link between the boy and today’s Native Americans, they sought out American Indian groups to discuss the results.  Co-author Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, an expert in deciphering ancient DNA, called for scientists to work closely with native peoples on such research.

On Wednesday, he noted there were Native American groups who said their oral history showed that they were descendants of the first people in the Americas.

“Well, they turned out to be right,” Willerslev said at the Montana museum, where artifacts from the site are on display.

The results are “going to raise a whole host of new ideas and hypotheses” about the early colonization of the Americas, said Dennis O’Rourke, an ancient DNA expert at the University of Utah.  The DNA casts doubt on theories that the Clovis were descended from Europeans or colonists from
Oceania.

The former theory relies, in part, on close similarities between Clovis tools and those of the Solutrean culture, which thrived in Ice Age France and Spain.

The latest results place the homeland for Native American peoples – including the Clovis – in Siberia.

Interestingly, however, the teams found that Native American ancestors coming in from Asia split into two groups.

One group was ancestral to native peoples presently living in Canada and the other one– which is represented by the Clovis boy– was ancestral to virtually all Native Americans in South America and Mexico.

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Via Google News/BBC/CBS

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The Real Tammany Hall Political Machine

 

The Forgotten Virtues of Corruption and Social Service, Intertwined

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Terry Golway
The New York Times

 

Political machines clearly aren’t what they used to be.  

Last fall’s designation of the old Tammany Hall headquarters on Union Square as a city landmark is a reminder of just how powerful the nation’s most famous machine was, and why it remains a presence in political conversations.

Tammany Hall — shorthand for the faction that controlled Manhattan’s Democratic Party for most of a 150-year period — has a well-deserved place in the annals of urban misgovernment in the United States.  It stole elections, it intimidated political antagonists, and it shook down contractors and vendors.

It produced the very face of political corruption, William M. Tweed, known to friend and foe as “Boss.”  And it was, at best, indifferent to the grievances of African-Americans and later, Hispanics, in New York.

But there’s more to the story:  Tammany Hall’s leaders delivered social services at a time when City Hall and Albany did not.  They massaged justice at a time when the poor did not have access to public defenders.  And they found jobs for the unemployed when the alternative was hunger and illness.

Barbara Porges, a Tammany district leader years before women won the right to vote, prided herself on knowing the names and predicaments of peddlers who worked on Orchard Street in the heart of her district.  When one of them, an onion seller, contracted tuberculosis, Ms. Porges raised money to send him to a drier climate.  Nobody saw reason to ask how this was achieved.

For generations of immigrants and their children in Manhattan, the face of government was the face of the local Tammany ward heeler.  And it was a friendly face.  This was something entirely new for Russian Jews, Southern Italians and, to be sure, the Irish who dominated the machine.  Their experience with politics in the old country was not quite so amiable.

For Tammany, power rested on voter turnout.  And turnout was a function of relentless outreach and tireless service.

The legendary Tammany leader George Washington Plunkitt — the man who coined the phrase “honest graft” — met with constituents and lesser Tammany officials in his district several times a week to find out who was happy with Tammany’s services and who required some special attention.

Plunkitt was a leader of Tammany Hall and was, by the standards of our times and his, undeniably corrupt.  As his Boswell, newspaperman William Riordon, noted:

 

“In 1870 through a strange combination of circumstances, he held the places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor and drew three salaries at once — a record unexampled in New York politics.

Facing three bidders at a city auction of 250,000 paving stones, he offered each 10,000 to 20,000 stones free and having thus dispensed with competition bought the whole lot for $2.50.”

 

Plunkitt was not only corrupt but a hardworking, perceptive and appealing politician who took care of his constituents, qualities one rarely find in any plurality of combinations in politics these days.

Politics, Plunkitt said, “is as much a regular business as the grocery or the dry-goods or the drug business” and it was based on studying human nature.  He claimed to know every person in his district, their likes and their dislikes:

 

I reach them by approachin’ at the right side . . . For instance, here’s how I gather in the young men.  I hear of a young feller that’s proud of his voice, thinks that he can sing fine.  I ask him to come around to Washington Hall and join our Glee Club.  He comes and sings, and he’s a follower of Plunkitt for life.

Another young feller gains a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot.  I bring him into our baseball club.  That fixes him.  You’ll find him workin’ for my ticket at the polls next election day. . .

I rope them all in by givin’ them opportunities to show themselves off.  I don’t trouble them with political arguments.  I just study human nature and act accordin’.”

 

Plunkitt also believed in sticking with his friends: “The politicians who make a lastin’ success in politics are the men who are always loyal to their friends, even up to the gate of State prison, if necessary.  Even if it’s only one man. . . you get his cousin, and his cousin and so on, until you have your own organization.”

His prescription for becoming a statesman was to go out and get supporters.  Nothing so dramatically illustrates this than a typical day for Plunkitt, as recorded by newspaperman Riordon:

 

Plunkitt was aroused a two a.m. to bail out a saloonkeeper who had been arrested for tax law violations.  At six he was again awakened, this time by fire engines.  Tammany leaders were expected to show up at fires to give aid and comfort.

“At 8:30 am he was getting six drunk constituents released.  At nine he was in court on another case.  
At eleven, upon returning home, he found four voters seeking assistance.  At three he went to the funeral of an Italian, followed by one for a Jew.

“At seven p.m. he had a district captains’ meeting.  At eight he went to a church fair.  At nine he was back at the party clubhouse listening to the complaints of a dozen pushcart peddlers.  At 10:30 he went to a Jewish wedding, having “previously sent a handsome wedding present to the bride.”

He finally got to bed at midnight.”

 

It was a principle that worked well for Tammany Hall, which at its height early this century had 32,000 committeemen and was forced to use Madison Square Garden for its meetings.

Another notable Tammany district leader who worked his way up from poverty, Jeremiah T. Mahoney, once insisted that he and other Tammany colleagues never forgot the dire circumstances of their impoverished childhoods amid the splendor of late 19th-century Manhattan.

Those memories, he argued, led Tammany to support progressive reforms like workers’ compensation, the beginning of minimum-wage laws, the federal income tax, public pensions for widows and children, greater government regulation of the workplace and private property, and other laws that helped set the stage for the New Deal in the 1930s.  The Tammany machine’s two greatest advocates for social reform were Mahoney’s law partner, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and the four-time governor Alfred E. Smith.

At the same time, Tammany resisted the reform movement’s impulse to impose an evangelical Anglo-Protestant morality on the Catholics and Jews who made up the bulk of New York’s poor.  Many private charities in the early 20th century were obsessed with dividing the poor into those considered worthy of help and those whose personal lives disqualified them for assistance.

Tammany figures, many of them descended from survivors of the potato famine in the mid-19th century, made no attempt to investigate the claims of those who sought their help.  One of the machine’s legendary scoundrels, “Big Tim” Sullivan, explained how he approached those who sought a free meal in his clubhouse: “I never ask a hungry man about his past.  I feed him not because he is good, but because he needs food.”

Yes, many Tammany figures, including Sullivan, were corrupt.  But it’s hard not to detect more than a little bigotry in the rhetoric of the machine’s foes.  

Andrew D. White, president of Cornell University and one of the late 19th century’s most-celebrated reformers, once complained that under Tammany and its imitators, a “crowd of illiterate peasants, freshly raked from Irish bogs, or Bohemian mines, or Italian robber nests,” exercised “virtual control” over New York and other cities packed with immigrants.

Indeed they did, thanks to Tammany’s embrace of an early form of multiculturalism.  Tammany’s Irish leaders were quick to incorporate Jews into their clubhouses (Herbert Lehman, the first Jew elected governor of New York, was vice chairman of Tammany’s finance committee in the mid-1920s), and while it was hardly ahead of its times on race relations, it encouraged black participation at a time when fellow Democrats in the South suppressed voting rights.

Tammany Hall certainly was guilty of many of the offenses arraigned against it.  But those flaws should not overshadow Tammany’s undoubted virtues.  

Tammany Hall was founded in 1854; its golden age lasted until the three-term LaGuardia administration began in 1934.  For only ten intervening years was Tammany out of office.  We got rid of people like Plunkitt and machines like Tammany because we came to believe in something called good government.

But in throwing out the machines we also tossed out a philosophy and an art of politics.

The machine succeeded not simply because it could round up votes.  It succeeded because it was unafraid of the grunt work of retail politics and because it rarely lost touch with its voters.

 

Terry Golway is the author of the forthcoming book “Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics.”

* * * * * * * * *

(Via Undernews)

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Posted in History, Politics1 Comment

Teach Your Children

 

 

Well

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Lest we forget, images from the Iraqi War seen by a child
and seldom seen in the traditional mainstream media here
at home.

Just a kind reminder:  Teach your children well. 

Keep your family– and others’– warm and safe and protected.

 

 

 

 

Posted in History, Media0 Comments

Health Care’s Amazing Smart Phone Revolution Is Here

 

iDoctor Smart App is the Future of Medicine

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The key to your health care may be in your smart phone– and not in your wallet.

One of the world’s top physicians, Dr. Eric Topol, has a prescription that could improve your family’s health and make medical care cheaper in the above video.

Topol has become the foremost expert in the exploding field of wireless medicine, and the cardiologist says a whole new revolution in health care is underway– using a patient’s own smartphone.

The technology behind it is nothing short of amazing in terms of applicability, immediacy, accuracy, and reducing medical costs for the patient.

“These days, I’m prescribing a lot more apps than I am medications,” he said.

Topol points to a growing number of apps and devices– none of which he is paid for using or endorsing– that are capable of measuring vital signs and then transmitting that data to smartphones.  

Whether it’s your blood sugar levels, your heart rate or your sleep habits, Topol believes we should track our own conditions through our phones and use that data to see patterns and warning
signs of illness.

Topol speaks of a not-so-distant future where human beings are digitized through sensors in the bloodstream.  He explains, “By having a sensor in the blood, we can pick up all sorts of things, whether it’s cells coming off an artery lining indicating a heart attack, whether it’s the first cancer cell getting in the bloodstream, whether it’s the immune system revving up for asthma or diabetes or you name it.  All these things, will be detected by sensors in the blood which will then talk to the phone.”

And when one of these warning signs is picked up by the sensor, a special ring will be sent to your cell phone.  Like an engine warning light on your car’s dashboard, this ring will indicate that trouble is brewing in a certain area of the body.  Ideally, this would prevent life threatening incidents, like a heart attack.

Topol calls the medical community hesitant to embrace wireless technology.  This he sees as destructive to the advancement of medicine.  He is similarly critical what he calls “population medicine,” in other words, one standard method of treatment that’s used on all patients. 

He says that mandated mass screenings, such as the annual mammogram for women over 50, are not only wasteful, but can cause needless anxiety from false positives and biopsies.  “Only 12% of women will ever get breast cancer, so instructing that all women be screened yearly exposes many to unnecessary radiation and often leads to false positives and biopsies causing needless anxiety for both the patient and his or her family,” Topol said.

When describing medicine today, Topol says most doctors “fire into a black box, give someone medication, go home and pray.”   He argues that instead, in the near future, everyone should have his or her DNA sequenced which would reveal what diseases or conditions an individual is prone to, and also what types of drugs will or will not be effective for that particular individual.  

Topol is in full support of DNA sequencing, but there is some controversy regarding how effective DNA sequencing is when it comes to predicting illness.  Right now a full DNA sequencing costs about $2,500, but Topol expects that within the year, the cost will drop by more than half. It is his hope that DNA sequencing will soon be affordable for all. 

Topol further predicts that finding a cure to ailments from cancer to heart disease depends on sharing our medical information.  He insists that if we were serious about the war on cancer, every single person who had the disease would get his or her tumor genome sequenced, record treatment techniques and outcomes, and then make it all public knowledge.  This data combined has extraordinary potential.

His enthusiasm is infectious as he describes his vision for the near digital future.

“If we started to bring all this information together, the acceleration of knowledge and the transformation of what we could do for the future of disease would be extraordinary.”

 We couldn’t agree more.

 

Via YouTube/NBC and Dr. Eric Topol.  Our appreciation goes to
Herrmann Spetzler of Open Door Community Health Centers 
for sending this along.

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1 in 4 Men Surveyed in Asia and Pacific Have Raped

 

Author of UN Study Explains Why Rape is so Prevalent

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Rachel Shea
National Geographic

One in four men surveyed for a United Nations study in Asia
and the Pacific admitted raping at least one woman.

The UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific surveyed over 10,000 men at nine sites in six countries: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka.

At the survey site in China, 23 percent of men admitted to at least one rape.  In Papua New Guinea, that figure was 61 percent.

To understand what’s behind such startling figures, National Geographic spoke with Rachel Jewkes, the lead technical adviser for the study.

 

You’ve studied rape extensively in South Africa and now across Asia and the Pacific.  How did you get involved in this kind of research?

I moved out to South Africa from England in 1994.  I had a job to set up the women’s health research unit in the South African Medical Research Council.  

I was told that the key issues in women’s health were things like teenage pregnancy, so I said, “Okay, I’m willing to do research on teenage pregnancy, but as part of this work I want to talk to teenagers about how they got pregnant.”

We interviewed 24 pregnant teenagers.  Twenty-three out of the 24 told us stories about being raped.  I had absolutely no idea that sexual violence was a phenomenon that could have this sort of prevalence.

 

What have you learned about why men rape?

Sexual entitlement is the most common motivation across all of these countries.  I think that very, very strongly points to the root of rape in gender relations, and the fact that rape is really legitimized in so many of these countries.  Sexual entitlement means feeling that you ought to be able to have sex with a woman—essentially, if you want it, you can have it.

The flip side of that is the idea that it’s a woman’s responsibility to make sure that she doesn’t have sex when she doesn’t want it.  If a woman is raped, she would be blamed for putting herself at risk for being raped.

 

How did you select the countries that you studied?

It certainly wasn’t because we knew that rape or violence against women was more common in those countries.  We wanted to get a range of different parts of Asia, so we wanted south Asia, southeast Asia, and east Asia as well as the Pacific.  

Then we wanted countries where we had a UN partner that would fund the study and was committed to using the results for developing prevention programming.

 

Why is the incidence of rape so high in Papua New Guinea?

I think it’s the confluence of a culture that is extremely patriarchal and a culture that is extremely accepting of the use of violence in a whole range of different circumstances.  

It’s not just gender-based violence, but also a very severe and frequent use of violence in childrearing, and a lot of fighting in the community between men.

 

Why is rape comparatively less common in other countries that you studied?

I think that they may be slightly more peaceable countries.  The two countries that really spring to mind are Bangladesh and most of Indonesia.  Alcohol use is much lower in Bangladesh and in Indonesia, too.  They are both Muslim countries, they both have relatively strict social mores around sex, and one way or another child abuse is less common in those countries.

Child abuse really is strongly associated with rape and violence later on.

 

Nearly 4 percent of the men surveyed said they had participated in gang rape.  Are there differences between perpetrators of single rapes and gang rapes?

Gang rape is associated more with poverty.

There’s been quite interesting research to argue that men come together in gangs and then get involved in a whole range of violence and antisocial activities as a way of trying to assert their masculinity, to make themselves feel like strong and powerful men.

The conditions of poverty that they live in prevent them from having access to more traditional manifestations of manhood, such as being a provider.

Their energies get directed rather into demonstrating sexual success with women, demonstrating dominance and control over women, and fighting with other men…

This is a partial excerpt of the National Geographic article.  To continue reading the full article by Rachel Shea, please click here.

* * * * * * * * *

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Voyager 1 Has Left the Solar System

 

Mankind’s Farthest Space Probe Reaches Interstellar Space

(NASA and Vangelis VIDEOS)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s official.  Voyager 1 has left the solar system, an epic milestone of exploration.

NASA’s Voyager 1 probe has crossed the border of the solar system, making history as the first human-made object to leave the heliosphere, the magnetic boundary separating the solar system’s sun, planets and solar wind from the rest of the galaxy.

“In leaving the heliosphere and setting sail on the cosmic seas between the stars, Voyager has joined other historic journeys of exploration:  The first circumnavigation of the Earth and the first steps on the Moon,” said Ed Stone, chief scientist on the Voyager mission.  “That’s the kind of epic event this is, as we leave behind our solar bubble.”

The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and its sibling 2 were launched in 1977, 16 days apart and after Elvis had left the building.

As of Thursday, according to NASA’s odometer, Voyager 1 is 11.7
billion miles from Earth.  Its sister ship, Voyager 2, is a little bit
farther behind at 9.5 billion miles from the planet. 

Both Voyagers did flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  Another milestone is this:  The probes, unpowered and out of contact with the Earth, will fly near a star in about 40,000 years, Stone said.

Voyager is currently traveling at more than 38,000 miles per hour.  Surprisngly, it has only 68 KB of memory on board — far less than a smartphone, said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager’s project manager, yet scientists can still communicate with the spacecraft every day.

“It’s the little spacecraft that could,” she said in a NASA press conference yesterday.

The Voyager 1 probe now has a totally new mission, Stone said.

“We’re now on the first mission to explore interstellar space,” he said.  ”We will now look and learn in detail how the wind which is outside, that came from these other stars, is deflected around the heliosphere.”

Wind — made of particles from these other stars– has to go around the heliosphere the way a water in a stream flows around a rock, Stone said.  Scientists are interested in learning more about the interaction between our solar wind and wind from other stars.

Natural radioactive decay provides heat that generates enough electricity to help Voyager 1 stay in contact with the Earth.  The first science instrument will be turned off in 2020, and the last one will be shut down in 2025, Stone said.

Powered by radioactivity, both Voyagers are still in contact with the Earth.  It was found that sunlight would be far too weak in the outer solar system to drive solar panels, and the power is gradually running down as the radioactive fuel decays.  The craft are expected to last until around 2020– giving plenty of time to collect data about this newly reached realm of nature.

Both Voyager probes carry time capsules known as the golden record,” a 12-inch, gold-plated copper disc with images and sounds so that extraterrestrials could learn about us.  Let’s hope they can build the appropriate record players to listen in.

With Voyger’s historic journey to the outer region of the solar system, our understanding of the vast emptiness between space and stars– once beyond our reach and imagination– has become so much closer.

 

Filmed in High-Defintion with NASA’s Hubble telescope, Vangelis’ “Alpha” video above presents a rare and spectacular glimpse of the heavens using your full-screen setting.

* * * * * * * * *

For aerospace pilot, the Planet, and YES fan, Rand Fisher.

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The Golden Rule is Obsolete

 

Bomb Unto Others As They Could Bomb Unto You

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“There is no doubt that Saddam al-Assad has crossed the red line. … Sorry, did I just say ‘Saddam’?”

~Secretary of State John Kerry

 

 War is a racket and the Golden Rule need not apply.

During World War II, allied forces engaged in a few war crimes every bit as vicious as those perpetrated by the defeated enemies.

The Nazi psychopaths who ran death camps were matched by the allied officials who fire-bombed such non-military cities as Dresden and Hamburg, and vaporized tens of thousands of civilians along with some U.S. military prisoners of war in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The nuclear bombing of these Japanese cities was done primarily to impress the Soviet Union while helping end the war.  Beautiful cities such as Dresden were leveled because, in the words of one RAF official, “we didn’t have any other cities left to bomb.”  

The RAF Bomber Command chief, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, said thirty years later that he would do the same thing again if presented with the same choices.

Sean Hannity and many of his neocon warhawk brethren embrace the same sort of reasoning as Bomber Harris. With increasing numbers of decent, intelligent Americans able to see the planned war on Syria as being based on the same kinds of lies and forgeries that led to the unprovoked war on Iraq, the war-lovers are trying a different tack.

If people are not prepared to “lob a few missiles into Syria,” Hannity argued, an attack on Iran would be an even better action to take.  

Hannity’s position – and that of so many other neocons – comes down to little more than this: if we’re not buying into our plot against Syria, then let us go attack someone else before any more opposition arises.

War is an end in itself, and it matters little who is chosen as the enemy of the year.  Besides, it’s good for the US military-industrial complex.  Manufacturing and selling arms just happens to be our biggest export and it’s something we’re really, really good making money at.

No more would we expect Mother Theresa to operate a brothel than we could imagine advocates of peace and liberty welcomed into the management of the state.  It may work for Switzerland, but it just doesn’t work for us.

Ron Paul was persona non grata to members of the political elite because he wanted to reduce– perhaps even eliminate– the violent and true nature of the American nation-state.  He was almost booed off the stage at a Republican gathering for suggesting that this country employ the “Golden Rule” as the basis for foreign policy.

We may talk tough about ‘crossing the red line’ but let’s put some clarity back into the hypocrisy:  United States bombings can be just as indiscriminate and cruel as poison gas. 

In case we’ve forgotten our history, here’s the bombing list of our country in the sixty years since WW II– which our schools don’t teach,
our media doesn’t remember, and our glorious leaders and neocons
everywhere like to glorify:

Korea and China 1950-53 (Korean War)

Guatemala 1954

Indonesia 1958

Cuba 1959-1961

Guatemala 1960

Congo 1964

Laos 1964-73

Vietnam 1961-73

Cambodia 1969-70

Guatemala 1967-69

Grenada 1983

Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese
and Syrian targets)

Libya 1986

El Salvador 1980s

Nicaragua 1980s

Iran 1987

Panama 1989

Iraq 1991 (Persian Gulf War)

Kuwait 1991

Somalia 1993

Bosnia 1994, 1995

Sudan 1998

Afghanistan 1998

Yugoslavia 1999

Yemen 2002

Iraq 1991-2003 (US/UK on regular no-fly-zone basis)

Iraq 2003-2011 (Second Gulf War)

Afghanistan 2001 to present

Pakistan 2007 to present

Somalia 2007-8, 2011 to present

Yemen 2009, 2011 to present

Libya 2011

Syria 2013?

The above list doesn’t include the repeated use by the United States of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, Agent Orange, and other charming inventions of the Pentagon’s mad scientists.  Nor does it include chemical and biological weapons manufactured and stockpiled by the United States.

A story just released by Foreign Policy magazine based on newly-discovered classified documents reports how, in 1988, during the last year of the 8-year Iraq-Iran War, America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks by Iraq that were far more devastating than anything Syria has seen.

Indeed, during that war the United States was the primary supplier to Iraq of the chemicals and hardware necessary to provide the Saddam Hussein regime with a chemical-warfare capability.

When it comes to foreign policy, war, and making money, the Golden Rule just doesn’t work anymore.  It’s just too simple, ethical, and truthful to apply.

* * * * * * * *

Sourced from UnderNews, Butler Shaffer, and William Blum’s book “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.”

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Mother Agnes Mariam: ‘Footage of Syria Chemical Attack is a Fraud’

 

Exposing the Syrian Chemical Weapon Hoax

By Daniel McAdams

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib, mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria, told RT today that she has
evidence that the video footage currently being shopped
around by Sen. Feinstein and the Obama administration as
proof that the Syrian president used gas on his own people
is a fraud.

Part of the problem with the videos is that they were all taken nearly at the same time as the alleged attack itself.  How to gather all the bodies in one place and begin videotaping– in some cases, before the attack had even taken place?

Mother Agnes Mariam is a Catholic nun who has lived and worked in Syria for the past 20 years.  She has been particularly outspoken about the atrocities committed by the US-backed Syrian rebels against Christians and other minorities.  Her reputation is impeccable, though she is routinely slandered in Western media.

Said Mother Agnes Mariam of the events on the morning of August 21:

I am not saying that no chemical agent was used in the area – it certainly was.

But I insist that the footage that is now being peddled as evidence had been fabricated in advance. 

I have studied it meticulously, and I will submit my report to the UN Human Rights Commission based in Geneva.

Also new today, Belgian teacher and former Free Syrian Army supporter Pierre Piccinin, who was kidnapped by the Syrian insurgents and just released, vehemently denied that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack.

Piccinin stated to RTL as he landed back in Belgium after his release:

It is a moral duty to say this.  It is not the government of Bashar Al-Assad which used sarin gas or another combat gas in the suburbs of Damascus.  

We are certain of this following a conversation that we had.  It hurts me to say this because I have been a fervent supporter of the Free Syrian Army since May 2012 in its just struggle for democracy.

He promised to submit the proof of his assertions to the authorities.  But will anyone listen?

Mother Agnes Mariam also pointed out the double standards among Western governments and the Western media.

On August 5, US-backed insurgents went on a murderous rampage in several Alawite villages, killing more than 500 innocent civilians.  Western governments pretended it did not happen.  Western media obliged their governments in a conspiracy of silence.

Said Mother Agnes Mariam to RT today:

How can the international community ignore the brutal killing spree in Latakia on Laylat al-Qadr early in the morning of August 5, an attack that affected more than 500 people, including children, women and the elderly?

 They were all slaughtered.  The atrocities committed exceed any scale. 

But there was close to nothing about it in the international mass media.  There was only one small article in The Independent, I believe.

We sent our delegation to these villages, and our people had a look at the situation on-site, talked to the locals, and most importantly – talked to the survivors of the massacre.

I don’t understand why the Western media apply double standards in this case – they talk about mass murder that the use of chemical weapons resulted in non-stop, but they keep quiet about the Latakia massacre….

A total of twelve Alawite villages were subjected to this horrendous attack.  That was a true slaughterhouse.  People were mutilated and beheaded.  There is even a video that shows a girl being dismembered alive – alive! – by a frame saw.  The final death toll exceeded 400, with 150 to 200 people taken hostage.  Later some of the hostages were killed, their deaths filmed.

Asked about the persecution of Christians in Syria, Mother Agnes Mariam was quick to point out that not only Christians, but also many Muslims are being murdered by the Western-supported insurgents in Syria. 

She said that the insurgents are emboldened to commit even more gruesome atrocities because they feel they have the backing of Western powers:

 I would like to say that if these butchers didn’t have international support, no one would have dared to cross the line.

But today, unfortunately, the violation of human rights and genocide in Syria is covered up on the international level. 

I demand the international community stops assessing the situation in Syria in accordance with the interests of a certain group of great powers.

The Syrian people are being killed. They fall victim to contractors, who are provided with weapons and sent to Syria to kill as many people as possible.  The truth is, everywhere in Syria people are being kidnapped, tortured, raped and robbed.

So while the Obama administration is obsessed with a few suspiciously-timed Youtube videos that purport to show a few hundred killed in some sort of chemical attack — but even they have no proof the government was responsible — they remain criminally silent about the thousands of atrocities committed by their allies, the insurgents.

Even as indisputable evidence of the insurgents’ Nazi-like violence continues to surface, the US and its tiny group of supporters (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel) continues to stand by their men.

Never again?  Well it is happening again.  And no one in power seems to give a damn.

 

* * * * * * * *

From ”Mother Agnes Mariam: ‘Footage of Syria Chemical Attack is a Fraud’” by Daniel McAdams.  This article originally appeared in LewRockwell.com on September 10, 2013.

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The Four War Coups of Joe Medicine Crow

 

The Little Known Story of the Warrior, Soldier, and WW II Hero

(VIDEO by Ken Burns)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“War Chief of the Crow Indians” isn’t a title that’s just
randomly thrown around to any guy who happens to own a
gigantic, awesome-looking headdress and a really bitchin’
traditional-style wooden bow made out of the bark of dead
Treants.

You don’t become a War Chief just because you’re the oldest dude in the tribe, or the most badass hunter, or the only guy in the hood capable of bench-pressing an automobile.  

It’s an ancient, prestigiously honorific position bestowed only upon the bravest, the strongest, and most hardcore person around and the only way to attain this hallowed title is by proving yourself in combat and unlocking the four achievements the Crow believed to be the most insanely-difficult things a warrior can attempt in battle:  Leading a successful war party on a raid, Capturing an enemy’s weapon, Touching an enemy without killing
him, and Stealing an enemy’s horse.

None of this stuff is easy, and pretty much all of it requires you put your life on the line by voluntarily bringing yourself face-to-face with at least one warrior who is presumably in the process of actively trying to rip you limb from limb with a bowie knife and then splatter your corpse across the countryside with a well-placed headbutt.  

It’s like the Crow Indians’ way of making sure they don’t have any sucky weaklings leading their tribe into combat.

At 98 years old, Joseph Medicine Crow-High Bird is the last surviving War Chief of the Crow Indians.  He is a hardcore, fearless, neck-snapping warrior who accomplished all of these tremendous feats of bravery in combat and proven himself a step above the majority of humanity on a really super badass scale.

And he did it all in World War II.

Early Life

Joe Medicine Crow was born on a reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana in 1913.  Raised in the illustrious warrior tradition of the Crow, this dude had some pretty hardcore people to look up to as a young man – his step-grandfather had been a scout for Custer at the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn (the Crow had a generations-long blood feud with the Lakota Sioux), and his paternal grandfather was a guy named Chief Medicine Crow who was like the Michael Jordan of Crow war heroes.

So, naturally young Joseph was drilled into a tough-as-hell warrior capable of handling himself in any situation.  The majority of this young warrior’s childhood was spent undergoing hardcore Spartan-style feats of strength, piledriving buffalo, riding horses bareback, swimming through mighty rivers, punching things, and running barefoot through the snow-covered plains uphill both ways.  

He was taught to control his fear in the face of imminent peril, learned to hunt dangerous animals by himself, and trained his body to survive prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures.  He was also taught the war history of his tribe, and in addition to honing his body to the ultimate wilderness survival machine, became the first member of his tribe to graduate with an advanced college degree, receiving his MA in Anthropology from USC in 1939.

Joe Medicine Crow was in the process of working on his PhD when the United States entered World War II.  Never one to back down from the opportunity to put his powers of mass destruction to good use, Crow enlisted as a scout in the 103rd Infantry and was sent to the beaches of Normandy to wreak havoc on the forces of European Fascism.

Despite serving in a war dominated by automatic weapons, heavy artillery, and gigantic tanks armed with 88mm cannons, Medicine Crow held on to the time-honored practices of his tribe – he always wore bright red war paint into combat and strapped a sacred yellow-painted eagle feather to his helmet for good luck.

He also counted the four coups required to distinguish himself as a Crow war chief, which is no small task when one of those tasks involves stealing a horse from the enemy.

 

#1.  Leading a Successful War Party on a Raid

As an infantry scout, you probably don’t get too many opportunities to lead a group of men into combat.  Pvt. Medicine Crow got the opportunity to do just that in the snow-covered battlefields of Western France while the Allies made their push from Paris towards Berlin.

The border to Germany was a heavily-fortified wall of impenetrable machine gun bunkers, tank traps, trenches, moats and artillery positions known as the Siegfried Line, which was basically like a functional, not-worthless version of France’s Maginot Line.

Well, during one particularly nasty portion of the battle for the Rhine, Medicine Crow’s commanding officer ordered the Native American warrior to take a team of seven soldiers and lead them across an field of barbed wire, bullets, and artillery fire, grab some dynamite from an American position that had been utterly annihilated, and then assault the German bunkers and blow them up with TNT.  

This was basically a suicide mission, but, according to Medicine Crow, when he got the mission his CO’s exact words were, “if anyone can do this, it’s probably you.”

That’s not exactly a phrase that inspires tremendous confidence, but Joe Medicine Crow didn’t give a twit’s wit.

He charged out, evaded an endless rain of fireballs, shrapnel, and misery, grabbed the TNT from a supply crate while tracer rounds zipped past his head, and then charged balls-out towards some German machine gun nests while carrying an armload of ultra-high explosives.  He miraculously reached the wall in one piece and blasted a hole in the Siegfried Line so the infantry could advance.  

Medicine Crow received a Bronze Star for this action and his squad did not lose a single man in the battle. 

Yeah, I’d call that a win.

 

#2.  Taking an Enemy’s Weapon Away from Him

Shortly after moving through the Siegfried Line the 103rd Infantry was ordered to capture a nearby town that was being staunchly defended by the enemy.  (I read one source that Joe was photographed leading the charge and leaping through the breach he’d created in the wall thus making him the first American soldier to set foot on German soil;  however I wasn’t able to verify this fact or locate the photo.)

While the main elements of the 103rd moved into the well-defended main street of the village, Joe Medicine Crow’s scouts were ordered to flank around through a back alley and get behind the German fortifications. Well, as this was going down, Medicine Crow got separated from his unit and while he was in the process of sprinting through some German family’s backyard, a random Nazi stepped out from behind the wall with his rifle at the ready.

Joe didn’t see the guy until the last second and ended up running right into the guy like the Juggernaut from the X-Men.

The two guys smashed helmet-to-helmet in a maneuver that would have netted Medicine Crow a 15-yard penalty in the NFL, and the force of the running mega-Indian flying headbutt sent the Nazi and his rifle sprawling aimlessly across the lawn.

Joseph Medicine Crow, however, still had his rifle firmly wedged in his kung fu grip and was ready to pull the trigger.

 

#3.  Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him

Joseph Medicine Crow now found himself standing rifle-to-face with an unarmed German soldier, but gunning down an unarmed man wasn’t his style– he was much more of an “honorable combat” sort of warrior– yet he wasn’t about to let his enemy off the hook without getting in a red, white, and blue knuckle sandwich, either.

So Joe Medicine Crow threw down his rifle and cold-cocked the guy in the face, Batman-style.

The two guys started going at it, and at one point the Nazi almost flipped the tables and pinned Joe.  Our Native American warrior freaked out, grabbed the German by the throat, and started squeezing.

Just as he was ready to choke the life out of his enemy, the German, sensing imminent death, started calling out for his Mom.

That kind of put the kibosh on Joseph’s kill thrill. 

So he let the guy live, taking the German– and his rifle– as a prisoner of war and knocking out the two War Chief prerequisites with one well-placed face-punch.

 

#4.  Stealing an Enemy’s Horse

Of all the stuff on this borderline-impossible list, this is the one that seems would trip up most people these days.  But, no lie, in early 1945 Joseph Medicine Crow stole 50 horses from a group of surprised German officers.

The account starts with Joe and his men on a scouting mission deep behind enemy lines.  While surveying the landscape for enemy troop movements, Medicine Crow’s small team of recon experts just happened to come across a small farm where some senior members of the German officer staff were holed up – along with some awesome thoroughbred race horses.

So, naturally, Joe had to steal them.

In the early hours of the morning, Joseph Medicine Crow, dressed in his blazing U.S. Army uniform, snuck past the sleeping guards armed only with a rope and his Colt 1911 .45-caliber service pistol.

He found the best horse in the group, tied the rope into a makeshift bridle, mounted the horse bareback, and then gave a super-outrageous-loud Crow war cry as he herded as many horses out of the corral before the startled Nazis started firing bullets at him.

Hauling butt through the German countryside in the dead of night, Joseph Medicine Crow sang a Crow war song while German officers ran outside in their underwear taking potshots at him with their Lugers.  Around 50 horses were stolen from the battalion of German officers.

This stuff is so crazy you couldn’t even make it up.

 

Later Years

In the last days of the war, Joseph Medicine Crow helped liberate a concentration camp in Poland by ramming a jeep with his commanding officer through the front gates. 

The SS guards immediately dropped their guns and ran away without a fight. 

After the war, Joe finally headed home to his tribe in Montana.  When the Crow elders heard about his through-the-roof Gamerscore they made Joe an official War Chief in the Tribe– a post he now holds by himself.

Joe Medicine Crow-High Bird was also made a Knight in the French Legion of Honor, received three honorary PhDs, authored nearly a dozen books on military history, stayed married to the same woman for over 60 years, and has been the official historian for his tribe for the last fifty years.

In August of 2009 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest honor awarded to American civilians – for his combined military service and all the work he has done to help improve the lives of the people of the Crow people.

The 95 year-old Medicine Crow personally led the ceremonial
dance after the ceremony.

 

From BadassoftheWeek.com– and slightly abridged 
Images and additions by the Humboldt Sentinel

* * * * * * * * *

 Thank you, Joe

Links:

Billings Gazette

Joe Medicine Crow

Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow

Crow Nominated for Congressional Gold Medal

Wikipedia 

Sources:

Ken Burns and KPBS-San Diego:  Medicine Crow War Chief Story from “The War”  (via YouTube)

Nabokov, Peter.  Native American Testimony.  Penguin, 1999.

Robinson, Gary and Phil Lucas.  From Warriors to Soldiers.  iUniverse, 2010.

 

If you enjoyed this story, you might like Reckless, The Mongolian Mare

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A People’s History of the United States

 

Howard Zinn and The Politics of History

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Dr. Joseph A Palermo
Joseph A Palermo.com

 

The President of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, deservedly became the target for censure recently in academic circles after emails surfaced exposing his ham-handed attempt to purge Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States from the Indiana curriculum.

Shortly after Zinn died on January 27, 2010 at the age of 87, then Governor Daniels wrote to the state’s top education officials that:

“this terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away . . . A People’s History of the United States is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.  Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana?  If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history.”

Mitch Daniels’s attempt to erase Zinn from the Indiana curriculum unveils him as an anti-intellectual who is clueless about the discipline of History as well as the historical profession.

If Daniels finds Zinn’s work “truly execrable” he should at least be required to point out exactly where the objectionable material can be found, enter into a debate, and act like a college president.  Daniels probably never read A People’s History and his dance on Zinn’s grave is a reflection of his own reactionary politics and authoritarian demeanor.

Thankfully, both the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the two preeminent scholarly associations among historians, condemned Daniels’s proclivity for book burning. 

A group of 90 Purdue faculty members followed with an open letter to President Daniels:  ”Most experts in the field of U.S. history do not take issue with Howard Zinn’s facts, even when they do take issue with his conclusions.”

A People’s History

A People’s History is based on secondary sources and was intended from the outset to be a textbook with the aim of filling a gap in what at the time was the standard narrative of American history.  

Written in the late-1970s, Zinn’s book is a synthesis of the works of other historians at the time.  Sweeping in scope beginning with the first European settlements in the Western Hemisphere, ther narrative sketches out descriptions of the power struggles of American society and politics from the colonial period through the Vietnam War era and beyond.

The majority of the criticism heaped on A People’s History from historians does not take into account Zinn’s explicit goal of writing an alternative narrative, nor do they usually acknowledge that the book is a synthesis of secondary sources that existed up to the late-1970s.

Even so, Zinn’s sources include many of the works from the most important historians and social scientists in America at the time he was writing, in addition to essays from people like Upton Sinclair, Emma Goldman, W. E. B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Studs Terkel, Betty Friedan, and others.

Just a cursory glance today at the field of American women’s history alone that has grown so rich since the time A People’s History was published shows that American history has moved more in Zinn’s direction than toward the typical monumental history narrative that preceded it.

Zinn fired off some of the first shots analyzing the agency of ordinary people and the role that race, class, and gender play in American history.  

He set a template for interpreting the meaning of power relations that American historiography since 1980 has expanded and refined.  African-American history, Latino/Chicano history, Borderlands history, the history of immigration, (with countless monographs on Irish, Jewish, and Chinese immigrants), labor history, Native American history, and LGBT history, and so on, are now considered part of the “mainstream” narrative.

The de-centering of the powerful great white males didn’t happen by accident.  

And it’s precisely this de-centering that got Mitch Daniels’s knickers in a bunch.  Zinn couldn’t help it if he was ahead of his time and pointing the way forward.  ”There are a thousand stories that are part of the larger one and that remain untold,” Zinn writes.

All one needs to do is look at the American history books that have won the highest praise and the most prestigious prizes in the field to see how well A People’s History fits into contemporary historical studies.

In the years since A People’s History was published the Bancroft Prizes and Frederick Jackson Turner Prizes have gone to books by American historians that are not monumental in orientation, but focus mostly on ordinary working people, women, or ethnic and racial minorities and their associations that were originally excluded, subordinated, overlooked, or ignored. 

The historiography since 1980 vindicates Zinn’s work:

“The real heroes are not on national television or in the headlines.  They are the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the social workers, the community organizers, the hospital orderlies, the construction workers, the people who keep the society going, who help people in need.  

They are the advocates for the homeless, the students asking a living wage for campus janitors, the environmental activists trying to protect the trees, the air, the water.

And they are the protesters against war, the apostles of peace in a world going mad with violence.” (Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress)

Mitch Daniels et al.

Many of Zinn’s detractors condemn him for missing the “nuance” of viewpoints at odds with each other.  

Would one try to seek to reconcile slaves and slave masters?  Or urge indigenous peoples to grumble unobtrusively about those who are engineering their extermination?  Or find a shining path of “moderation” between the Ku Klux Klan and a terrorized Southern black population? Why should the “middle” for eternity be the most sensible place to stand?

Unlike many of his critics, (with or without “impeccable leftist credentials”), Zinn never accepted the pretense of the “liberal” state being a perfect manifestation of the public will nor as a “neutral” arbiter between capitalism and its critics.

For the sake of legitimacy, the “democratic” state always tries to appear benign and representative.  That is, until the critics look like they’re winning.  Then you can count on water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets, and an occasional tank to come out.

Zinn simply made it a point to remind us that most of the reforms we now regard as cherished characteristics of liberal society – suffrage for all women and men over 18 years of age, public education, the right of workers to organize labor unions, freedom of the press, etc. – were won by popular struggle in the teeth of often merciless ruling-class opposition.

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Zinn’s working-class roots were always not far from the surface.  Unlike most academics he knew firsthand the hardships that working people faced.  

In World War Two he served his country as a bombardier, and like the authors Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas F. Dowd, his wartime experiences dramatically influenced his views of war and peace.  

His focus on the disconnects between American leaders’ stated goals abroad and the realities he encountered throughout his life from the Vietnam War era to his opposition to George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, gave him insights as a scholar that are often lacking among the armchair intellectual types who comprise the bulk of his critics.

Zinn marched in civil rights demonstrations and was arrested multiple times in the late-1950s and early-1960s.  He wrote about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at a time when no other professional historian recognized the significance of this new black student organization.

He protested against the Vietnam War and repeatedly faced arrest.  His FBI file is gigantic.  He wrote Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal in 1967, and traveled to Hanoi the following year with the peace activist, Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. to secure the release of American prisoners of war.  He helped Daniel Ellsberg distribute the Pentagon Papers.

Throughout the course of his 87 years Howard was a living example of the unity of thought and action.  He was a life-long activist and commentator on the injustices he saw all around him.  He didn’t stay in the Ivory Tower, but tirelessly demonstrated against misplaced power and remained an activist his entire life.  Most importantly, he was an inspiration to young people.

The GI Bill, as it did for so many other veterans, enabled Zinn to become a historian in the first place and more than almost any other phenomenon in early post-war America, it was the GI Bill that changed the interpretation of American history.  

So many ethnically diverse veterans from working-class backgrounds now had the opportunity to get a college education that their perspectives altered American consciousness.

Zinn was also a gifted writer.  

He had the capacity to describe the plight of ordinary people in a compassionate and empathetic manner with clarity and emotion.  He could convey irony in American history better than most writers and was also very funny.  These qualities contributed to the popularity of A People’s History since people always respond positively to well-crafted writing.  

And young people in particular are tired of hearing that the “truth” always can be found in some mushy middle somewhere.

I think there’s a lot of sour grapes aimed at Howard not only for his politics but also because critics are simply jealous that there are 2 million copies of A People’s History in circulation.  

A People’s History made Zinn a rock star of sorts, one of the most well known American historians in the world.

People Versus “Patriots?”

At a time when Representatives in Congress, such as Steve King (R-Iowa) openly engage in racism of Mexican immigrants he sees as nothing more than drug mules; or Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) calling Mexican migrant laborers “wetbacks”; or Rush Limbaugh relishing in using the term “nigga”; or the murders of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, Zinn’s uncompromising stand on the history of American racism and immigrant bashing is as relevant today as it ever was.

With right-wing state governments, aided by the U.S. Supreme Court, doing everything in their power to suppress the voting rights of African Americans, Latinos, and young people, Zinn’s analysis of past efforts to strip minorities of political rights is pertinent.

When we see Republicans (and like-minded Democrats) in Texas, Ohio, Kansas, and other states aggressively rolling back women’s reproductive rights and trying to reduce women to second-class citizens, the history of American women’s struggles to win basic rights that Zinn wrote about remains vital.

When the President of the United States seizes the power to assassinate anyone in the world deemed an “enemy” of the United States whether they be U.S. citizens or not without charges or trial; locks up and throws away the key on whistleblowers like Bradley Manning– and would like to do to Edward Snowden– or engages in endless warfare around the globe in the name of combating “terrorism,” Zinn’s thoughts on war and peace and the struggles of peace activists, including himself, are as important as ever.

These actions of the imperial presidency, along with the Guantanamo prison (which Amnesty International compared to a “gulag” in 2005), and the level of incarceration generally in America, the power of the government to do ill to its citizens that Zinn described is still very much alive.

In an economy that is still reeling from the robbery of the “To-Big-To-Fail” banks, and a society with Gilded Age levels of income and wealth inequality, high unemployment, austerity, the organizing efforts of the lowest paid workers in the fast-food industry in large cities across America, we see a perfect example of the unsung “heroes” Zinn wrote about fighting the powerful forces to build a more decent society.

Their efforts mirror the ways workers of previous generations fought for the 8-hour day, the minimum wage, and Social Security.  The powerful corporate Right in America that Zinn singled out for ridicule, as it has done in the past, is spending lavishly to keep workers down and stop other vital reforms that would allow working people to get a better deal.  

And with all of the ecological threats looming, young people in particular should be exposed to the past activism that established environmentalism as a social movement in the first place.

Surely, with all of the problems American society confronts today relating to racism, sexism, militarism, immigrant bashing, and the assault on working people by corporate power and its influence over our courts and governing institutions — acquainting students and the public at large with the past struggles against those elements in American society that fuel and benefit from a divided and misguided citizenry remains a worthy cause.

Howard Zinn’s work remains not only “relevant” but essential to pointing the way forward for the next generation.

 

* * * * * *

An abridged excerpt, you can read Dr. Palermo’s full article here.

The Humboldt Sentinel appreciates Dr. Palermo sharing his article with our readers.

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz and his Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

eighties-150x150An Associate Professor of History at California State University–Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties.

He’s written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy; and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism.

rfkAppearing on radio, television, and panel forums, he was given an oddly prominent jab by none other than conservative commentator Glenn Beck. Mr. Beck lost his show, Dr. Palermo came out remarkably unscathed, and the rest is history.
 
He currently writes for the Huffington Post, LA Progressive, his website, and other publications.
 

Posted in History, Politics1 Comment

A Year on Mars

 

Curiosity’s Pictures from the Red Planet

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Happy Anniversary.

NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrated one full year on Mars 
yesterday.  Since landing safely after its 350-million mile journey
on the morning of Aug. 6, 2012, the rover has crawled the distance
of exactly one mile across the planet’s desolate surface.

As part of the $2.5 billion mission, Curiosity searched for the presence of life, explored a portion of the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater, and became the first rover to drill on another planet.

In its second year, Curiosity is headed toward Mount Sharp, a three-mile-high formation whose layers scientists believe hold secrets of Mars’ geological history.

In honor of Curiosity’s year on the Red Planet– and the more than 71,000 images it has recorded and sent back to NASA from millions of miles away– here are some of the space robot’s best photos seen for the first time, stunning landscapes representing a technological achievement boggling the mind for both its endeavor and audacity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curiosity snapped this picture of itself in Mars’ Gale Crater, below, where testing revealed
life could have existed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tire track from the two-ton rover is imprinted in the planet’s sandy surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This landscape of the Gale Crater near the Martian equator is the result of 900 images taken
by Curiosity and stitched together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curiosity became the first rover to ever drill on another planet.  The unearthed materials
revealed the presence of life-sustaining chemicals nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen, in addition
to a type of clay that forms in the presence of water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom of Mount Sharp can be seen in the distance as Curiosity makes its way across
Mars’ rocky surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rover tracks leave Mankind’s indelible mark on the Martian landscape.

* * * * * * * * *

It’s a long, long way from home.

(Via NASA and The Week)

Posted in History, National1 Comment

‘Jetman’ Soars Over Wisconsin

 

Human Jet Wing Flight at 120 MPH

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

He soared like an eagle.  A very fast one.

“Jetman” Yves Rossy flew over Wisconsin next to a B17 bomber using nothing but the jetpack strapped to his back — and a specially designed flying suit.

The contraption allows Rossy to travel at more than 150 miles an hour.  The stuntman typically launches the contraption, called a jetwing, from a helicopter and uses a parachute to land.

The Jetman made his first public US flight in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Tuesday at the famous Oshkosh airshow.

For Yves Rossy, the experience is a dream 18 years in the making.  The 53-year-old Swiss fighter pilot and skydiver came up with the idea for the jetwing while skydiving.

“We want to be birds.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.  We don’t have feathers… I wanted to just be a free flyer.  That’s really the goal — nothing between me and air,” Rossy said.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Yves’ jetwing is made of a carbon-Kevlar composite and boasts four jet engines, each of which puts out about 49 pounds of thrust.

While a hand-held throttle controls the engines, Yves Rossy uses his body to maneuver the machine.  He climbs, descends, and steers himself by moving his shoulders, legs, and other body parts.

The Jetman has flown over the United States before, but never for a public US airshow.  Rossy did a demonstration for reporters on Monday, the day before the show, by flying in formation with a B17 bomber.  Along with Monday and Tuesday’s performances, he is scheduled to fly on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Rossy’s innovation currently exceeds aviation regulations, which sometimes makes it difficult for him to get airtime in.  Because of this, the Jetman had to register himself as an aircraft, something he initially didn’t agree with.

“It’s sad that to fly you need a license.  No.  You need wings.  That’s the kind of spirit we have,” he said.

 

Posted in History, National0 Comments

NSA Rocked Over Newly-Revealed Data Snooping Project

 

 

A Whole New Level of Invasive NSA Spying:  XKeyscore

 

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Edward Snowden is at it again.

This time the whistleblower’s latest leak has detailed the National Security Agency project known as “XKeyscore,” a program allowing NSA analysts to search all of your Internet online activity without a warrant and whenever they choose.

Washington, DC (Yahoo News)–  Civil liberties advocates challenged intelligence officials over claims about the limited scope of U.S. surveillance programs following a new report on a vast Internet data project — as lawmakers moved anew to rein in the National Security Agency.

The Guardian on Wednesday, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, described a program known as XKeyscore, saying it allows a range of analysts to monitor everything from emails to browsing history to online chats.

According to the piece, the XKeyscore program is the “widest-reaching” system the NSA agency has and allows analysts without prior authorization to dig around the database by filling out an on-screen form giving a basic justification.  The Guardian published a series of detailed slides on how the program operates.

The article was quickly challenged by the NSA, as well as lawmakers briefed on some of the details.  In a statement the agency said “allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true.”

But others reacted to the report with alarm, noting that if true the details may contradict prior claims made by agency officials.

“The latest revelations make clear that the government’s surveillance activities are far more extensive and intrusive than previously understood, and they underscore that the surveillance laws are in desperate need of reform,” American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.

“These documents also call into question the truth of some of the representations that intelligence officials have made to the public and Congress over the last two months.  Intelligence officials have said repeatedly that NSA analysts do not have the ability to sift indiscriminately through Americans’ sensitive information, but this new report suggests they do,” Jaffer said.

Civil liberties advocates took to Twitter to trumpet the latest allegations against the NSA, as part of an intensifying campaign to convince Congress to rein in the agency.

“All Members of Congress have a duty to notify their constituents that the government is surveilling them,” Jesselyn Radack, with the Government Accountability Project, tweeted.

Lawmakers on Thursday separately unveiled two bills that would reform the secretive court that approves surveillance requests.  The bills would create an office to advocate before the court for privacy rights — to ensure both sides of any such argument are heard — and would change how judges are appointed.

The bills are sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Tom Udall, D-NM.

The nation’s top intelligence official has previously apologized for giving inaccurate testimony earlier this year on surveillance.  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a June 21 letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, said his answer was “clearly erroneous” when he told Congress the NSA doesn’t gather data on millions of
Americans.

But as the intelligence community moves to declassify portions of its data collection programs — thus freeing officials to speak more openly about them — officials are continuing to defend the programs and challenge recent media reports.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. officials on Wednesday again stressed that there are clear limits to analysts’ ability to monitor phone and Internet data.

“We try to be very, very judicious in the use of this very narrowly focused authority,” NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said, in reference to the collection of phone metadata. 

“It’s important to remember that all we’re getting out of this is numbers,” Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said of the same program.  ”Nobody’s name.  Nobody’s address.  The content of no communications.”

Litt stressed that the metadata collection — which gathers information like the time and duration of calls — is meant to “identify telephone numbers that warrant further inquiry.”

That is presumably the general purpose of XKeyscore, which focuses instead on the Internet.  The leaders of the House intelligence committee, following the publication of the Guardian article, claimed the report “provides a completely inaccurate picture of the program” by suggesting lower-level workers can scour the data at will.  

“The program does not target American citizens.  Further, the program referenced in the story is not used for indiscriminate monitoring of the Internet, as many falsely believe,” said committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., top Democrat on the panel.  They said it is only used to track foreign intelligence.

According to the Guardian report, the Internet program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet” including emails and websites visited.  It also reportedly allows analysts to intercept Internet activity in “real time.”

The Guardian notes that U.S. law requires the NSA to get a warrant if the target is a U.S. individual — but says the XKeyscore program provides “the technological capability, if not the legal authority” to go after Americans without a warrant as long as
an analyst knows information like an email or
IP address.

The NSA, in its statement, pushed back on these assertions.

“The implication that NSA’s collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false,” the agency said.  “NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — legitimate foreign intelligence targets.”

The agency said those with access to the system are trained on their “ethical and legal obligations.”  The agency also complained that the ongoing leaks continue to jeopardize national security.

The statement said the programs as a whole have helped defend the nation, and that as of 2008, “there were over 300 terrorists captured using intelligence generated from XKEYSCORE.”

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

Posted in History, National0 Comments

Wall Street Pulling an Enron on Consumers– Again

 

JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs:  Manipulating the ‘Free Market’ and Fleecing America

 

(VIDEO: The Daily Show)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Who says Wall Street doesn’t need oversight and regulation? 

Greedy financial firms manipulating the ‘free market’ economy, collecting dishonestly large profits and cheating consumers, that’s who.  Think Enron.

JPMorgan Chase has settled charges that it manipulated power markets in California and Michigan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has cast a wary eye on Wall Street energy operations.  The bank will pay $285 million in penalties to the Treasury and about $125 million in restitution to ratepayers.  This comes on the heels last week that it and Goldman Sachs manipulated the aluminum and copper commodity markets in a similar fashion.

The federal regulator found that JPMorgan ran 12 manipulative bidding strategies, which forced energy grid operators to pay inflated prices.

The move comes amid rising scrutiny of commodities activity across the board, from marker making to physical ownership and storage. JPMorgan has already announced it will sell its physical commodities unit.

Regulatory and public scrutiny over Wall Street practices has definitely increased since the financial
crisis.

A few days after a game-changing indictment of major hedge fund SAC Capital for insider trading which could push its billionaire manager Steve Cohen out of the money managing business, JPMorgan has also been connected to the manipulation of other commodity markets. 

In a story about Goldman Sachs and the manipulation of aluminum and copper markets, the New York Times reported that Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and other banks also engaged in maneuvering the oil, wheat, cotton, and coffee markets.  Goldman Sachs rejected the accusations about their market making business.

California residents and others could be halfway relieved that regulators are catching such manipulation while still in its infancy, at least as compared to Enron which was forced to pay $1.5 billion for similar violations.

Still, continued news of insider trading and market manipulation promises to keep the public’s attention focused on financial practices, and regulators’ watchdogs nearby. 

The big question now is whether FERC will go after other banks.  Earlier this month, it ordered Barclays to pay $453 million, alleging that the bank manipulated energy markets from 2006 to 2008.  Barclays has vowed to fight the order.  Other banks may face similar issues soon.

What we’re seeing lately is a remarkable resurgence of Wall Street’s unfettered greed in an environment devoid of ethical or business constraints with little oversight.  The latest examples are exactly the reason why we need to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, which built a wall between depositor banks and investment banks. 

If that doesn’t happen, you can expect Wall Street to continue to corner the free market and shamelessly fleece the economy of America in true un-American and Enron-esque style, laughing all the way to the bank.

 

Posted in History, National0 Comments

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