Archive | History

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




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




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




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 .


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Scotland Votes on Independence


Historic Turnout at Polls Today




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




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 

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




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



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



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



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/ Telegraph

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The Sexbot Revolution is Coming


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



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



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”



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



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

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.

* * * * * * * * *

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.”

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(Via Undernews)

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Teach Your Children






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



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.

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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.

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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 on September 10, 2013.

Images by the Humboldt Sentinel.

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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

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– and slightly abridged 
Images and additions by the Humboldt Sentinel

* * * * * * * * *

 Thank you, Joe


Billings Gazette

Joe Medicine Crow

Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow

Crow Nominated for Congressional Gold Medal



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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Posted in Features, History, National2 Comments

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


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



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




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

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

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

Will 3D Printing Change the World?


A Short Video Primer of the Possibilities



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


If you haven’t noticed, much attention has been paid to 3D Printing lately and for good reason.

Many companies are developing cheaper and more efficient consumer models blowing away the tech community, with radically new developments and applications happening every week.  Still in its infancy, the industry is looking at a promising future.

Many herald 3D Printing as a both a revolutionary and disruptive technology, but will these printers truly affect our society?

Beyond being an initial novelty, 3D Printing appears to have a game-changing impact on business, consumer culture, health, food, manufacturing, copyright and patent law, and even the very concept of scarcity on which our economy is based.

Objects and parts, jewelry and art, tools, small houses, human ears, pizza, sports equipment, and even guns have been manufactured using the same printing technology that’s aboard the space station.  Materials such as plastics, metals, concrete, stem cell tissues, and food have been creatively used as mediums for different applications, expression, and industry.

From at-home repairs to new businesses, from medical to ecological developments, 3D Printing technology promises an undeniably wide range of possibilities profoundly changing our world. 

Expect it to be coming to you very, very soon.

Posted in History, National, Scene0 Comments

New Guinness World Record Set in Domino Toppling


Enjoy Your Life:  An Extreme Exercise of Domino Patience and Perseverance



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


What goes up must come down.

The Sinners Domino Entertainment Team painstakingly setting up 277,272 dominoes in a sports hall in Germany.   It took a week of preparation by the team of 12 to set them all up– but only 10 minutes for them all to fall back down. 

The overall theme was entitled ‘Enjoy Your Life.’  It could easily have been called, ‘I Have Too Much Time on My Hands.’

The audience cheered as carefully set up pyramids collapsed and images of famous landmarks and people appeared as the dominoes cascaded.

What you see here isn’t a series of past and present domino events.  It’s one single event consisting of a continuous fall—10 minutes worth of toppling– branching out to various themes and into different areas of the auditorium.

Not everything went as planned.  Some of the dominoes failed to topple, a pyramid failed to fall, one of two streamers failed to expand, a banner didn’t fully unfurl, and a race car didn’t take off.  Still, Rube Goldberg would have been proud over the domino distraction contraption.

All in all, only 272,297 tiles actually fell over, but this was more than enough to set a new Guinness World Record.

The centerpiece section, built with 55,000 dominoes, also beat the current world record for most dominoes falling in a spiral.

When it was all over, the tiles were counted and a new domino world record was established.  Then everyone did what they normally do:  they picked up their toys, put them away, and went back to work and got on with their lives doing great things for the benefit of all of mankind.

The above video also went viral, garnering over two million views since its posting yesterday.  As if you’ve got something better to do?

Posted in History, Media, Scene1 Comment

Makers of War, Machinery of Death


Wired Magazine’s Inside Look at Syria’s Arms Makers


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel




The arms manufacturers of Aleppo used to be ordinary men—network administrators, housepainters, professors. 

Then came the bloody Syrian crisis.  Now they must use all their desperate creativity to supply their fellow rebels with the machinery of death.

Wired Magazine’s Matthieu Aikins gives us a rare look into one of Aleppo’s makeshift bomb-making factories.



How War in Syria Turned These Ordinary Engineers Into Deadly Weapons Inventors

By Matthieu Aikins, et al.


ABU YASSIN pulls open the heavy iron gate of the school and steps back.

“Peace be upon you,” he says in Arabic, grinning and extending a hand, his arm stained to the elbow with aluminum powder.  “Welcome, welcome.”

He turns and waves for me to follow.  We walk along a short pathway toward the front door, past an assortment of ordnance laid out on the concrete, bombs that fell from the sky but failed to explode: an ovoid 88-millimeter mortar shell, a big 500-pounder with twisted tail fins, a neat row of pale-gray Russian cluster bomblets, their nose fuses removed.  “Later! I will open them later!” he says, eyebrows waggling with anticipation.

The four-story school is shaped around a set of basketball courts, paved with stone tiles and pocked at the far end with small dark craters.  A set of white plastic lawn chairs and a table have been arranged in the central courtyard near the door leading into the school.

A young boy walks over in silence.  “Let’s see, coffee or tea?” Yassin says, distracted, contemplating the plastic furniture.  Another assistant, an older man in a filthy smock, comes out and stands beside us holding a silver cylinder the size of a soda bottle.  It’s wrapped in clear plastic tape and sprouts a red fuse, which the man proceeds to light.

The fuse sputters as he steps forward and pitches the cylinder underhand across the courtyard, where it bounces and rolls to a halt some 30 yards away.

“Explosion!” he yells as Yassin looks on.

With a deafening clap, the bomb bursts in a cloud of flame and smoke, buffeting our faces with a pressure wave.  Yassin scurries forward and crouches on his haunches to examine the crater it leaves.  

Slowly he walks back, shaking his head.

“Very bad, very bad,” he mutters—but then, remembering his guest, his expression brightens to a smile. “Please, sit down…”

“…These things are for killing people,” he tells me at once, in sudden disgust. “Every time I make a bomb, I feel sorrow…”

An exceptional glimpse into Syria’s current crisis and the homegrown bomb-makers fueling it, you can read Wired Magazine’s full article here.

* * * * * *

Article excerpt by Matthieu Aikins and  Wired’s full article contains photographs and audio interviews by Moises Saman, and audio recordings by Sam Tarling and Alexander Fedyushkin.

The above photograph is by Moises Saman.

Posted in History, Media1 Comment

The Amazing Transformation of Led Zep’s Jimmy Page


Stairway to Heaven



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


How do you go from this (above) to that (the video clip below) in only 11 short years?

The song doesn’t always remain the same.

At the age of 13, James Patrick Page picked up a guitar he had found in the house and learned to play, appearing as part of a quartet on the BBC’s Huw Wheldon Show in 1957.  He’s the polite and appropriately reserved British lad on the left with the neatly combed black hair and  the conservatively crisp white oxford collar peering above his dark pullover sweater, muddling through the skiffle routines of  Mama Don’t Want to Skiffle No More and the early American tune, In Them Ol’ Cottonfields Back Home.

Wheldon’s “What do you want to do when you leave school?” met with Jimmy’s then wholly innocent answer of ”biological research, to find a cure for cancer if it isn’t discovered by then,” which has a certain irony to it given his later groupie-orientated and drug-filled adventures with Led Zeppelin.

Prior to forming the band with Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham in 1968, Page had already toured America with The Yardbirds, the innovative “British Invasion” band launching the careers of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.

Page said that he had a very specific idea in mind as to what
he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, from the very beginning:

“I had a lot of ideas from my early days. The Yardbirds allowed me to improvise a lot in live performance and I started building a textbook of ideas that I eventually used in Zeppelin.  In addition to those ideas, I wanted to add acoustic textures.

Ultimately, I wanted Zeppelin to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done before, with lots of light and shade in the music.”

Jimmy had his share of indulgent excess, women, dabbling in the occult and teachings of Aleister Crowley, the death of drummer Jon Bonham choking on his own vomit in his manse, and loads of alcohol, hashish, heroin and cocaine along the way. 

“Oh, everyone went over the top a few times. I know I did and, to be honest with you, I don’t really remember much of what happened,” Page recalled.  “I can’t speak for the other members of the band, but for me drugs were an integral part of the whole thing, right from the beginning, right to the end.”

Considered one of the greatest and influential guitarists of all time, his career as Led Zeppelin’s lead guitarist spanned decades working the different rhythms of rock guitar: monolithic riffing to blistering solos, acoustic beauty to vast instrumental guitar orchestration, Eastern influence to blues, 50s rock ‘n roll to full-on psychedelic strums.

Jimmy reminisced in 2010:

When I grew up there weren’t many other guitarists … There was one other guitarist in my school who actually showed me the first chords that I learned and I went on from there.  I was bored so I taught myself the guitar from listening to records.  So obviously it was a very personal thing.

If I ever really felt depressed, I would just start putting on all my old records that I played as a kid, because the whole thing that really lifted me then, still lifts me during those other times.

It was good medicine for me, and it still does that for me when I put something on.

Isn’t it wonderful that we’ve got all that good medicine?  I think it’s got to be all part of our DNA, this mass communication through music.

That’s what it is.  It’s got to be, hasn’t it?  Music is the one thing that has been consistently there for me and it has never let me down.”



It was a tough decision of what to go with here: Going to California,  Kashmir, Black Dog, or
the classic Stairway.  We chose the latter.

Posted in History, Media, Scene3 Comments

Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla



Thank You for Lighting Up the World
And Not Blowing Up the Planet



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Pretty much everybody even remotely associated with science has heard the name Tesla before.

He was the man who held lightening in his hand and invented the ever-zapping coils resonating the richly arcing tones of Sweet Home Alabama seen above.

Surprisingly, few people these days are familiar with the life and times of one of humankind’s most eccentric and arguably insane scientific super-geniuses.  He was to electricity as Elvis Presley was to rock ‘n roll.

First off, Nikola Tesla was brilliant.  Not only that, he was badass brilliant.

The Croatian-born engineer spoke eight languages, almost single-handedly developed technology that harnessed the power of electricity for household use, and held numerous patents in different areas.

The guy invented things like electrical generators, FM radio, remote control, robots, spark plugs, fluorescent lights, induction motors, X-Ray machines and giant-ass Tesla coils that shot enormous, brain-frying lightning bolts all over the place like crazy.

He had an unyielding, steel-trap photographic memory and an insane ability to visualize even the most complex pieces of machinery.  The guy did advanced calculus and physics equations in his damn head, memorized entire books at a time, and successfully pulled off scientific experiments that modern-day technology STILL can’t replicate.

For instance, in 2007 a group of lesser geniuses at MIT got pumped up out of their minds because they wirelessly transmitted energy a distance of seven feet through the air.

Tsk-tsk, big whoop.  Nikola Tesla once lit 200 lightbulbs from a power source 26 miles away, and he did it in 1899 with a machine he built from spare parts in the middle of the god-forsaken desert.  Tesla had gone wireless before the world even had wires.  To this day, nobody can really figure out how the hell he pulled that shit off because two-thirds of the schematics existed only in the darkest recesses of Tesla’s all-powerful brain.

Insane Brilliance

Of course, much like many other eccentric mega-geniuses and diabolical masterminds, Tesla was also completely insane.  Prone to nervous breakdowns, he claimed to receive weird visions in the middle of the night, spoke to pigeons, and occasionally thought he was receiving electromagnetic signals from extraterrestrials on Mars.

He was also obsessive-compulsive, hated human hair, jewelry, round objects, and anything not divisible by three.  He was celibate and asexual his entire life.

Basically, Nikola Tesla was the ultimate mad scientist, which is seriously awesome.

Another sweet thing about Tesla is that he conducted the sort of crazy experiments that generally would result in hordes of angry villagers breaking down your door with torches and pitchforks.

One time, while he was working on magnetic resonance, he discovered the resonant frequency of the Earth and caused an earthquake so powerful that it almost obliterated the 5th Avenue New York building that housed his Frankenstein Castle laboratory.  Stuff was flying off the walls, the drywall was breaking apart, the cops were coming after him, and Tesla had to smash his device with a sledge hammer to keep it from demolishing an entire city block.  Nothing like having a real life Lex Luthor living next to you in Gotham.

Later, he boasted that he could have built a device powerful enough to split the Earth in two.  Nobody dared him to prove it.

Another time he produced artificial lightning with discharges consisting of millions of volts at his Colorado Springs proving grounds.  Thunder from the released energy was heard 15 miles away.  People walking along the street observed sparks jumping between their feet and the ground.  Electricity sprang from water taps when turned on.  Light bulbs within 100 feet of the lab glowed even when turned off and horses in a livery stable bolted from their stalls after receiving shocks through their metal shoes.  Butterflies were electrified, swirling in circles with blue halos of St. Elmo’s fire around their wings.

Tesla also ordered the construction of the Wardenclyffe Tesla Tower, a giant building shaped like an erect penis that would have housed the largest Tesla coil ever built. 

The massive structure, ostensibly designed to wirelessly transmit power, was cited at the time as a potential cause of the mysterious 1908 Tunguska Event – a ten-megaton blast that detonated in the wastelands above central Russia, completely obliterating and deforesting
everything within a several-hundred mile radius. 

While no one has proven Tesla’s involvement in the ass-destroyingly huge explosion now ascribed to a meteorite, it’s pretty awesome that this guy potentially could have detonated a weapon 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb destroying Hiroshima, and all back before they’d even invented the submachine gun.

During his adventures blinding half of the world with science, Nikola Tesla harnessed the power of Niagara Falls into the first hydroelectric power plant, constructed a bath designed to cleanse the human body of germs using nothing but electricity, and created a 130-foot long bolt of lightning from one of his massive coils– a feat which to this day remains the world record for man-made lightning.

Thomas Edison gets all the glory for discovering the lightbulb, but it was his one-time assistant and life-long arch-nemesis, Nikola Tesla, who made the breakthroughs in alternating-current technology that allowed for people to cheaply use electricity to power appliances and lighting
in their homes. 

Today, all homes and applicances run on Tesla’s AC current.

Tesla’s Particle Beam Atomic Death Ray

But perhaps his most badass invention was his face-melting, tank-destroying, super-secret Atomic Death Ray.

In the 1920s Tesla claimed to be working on a tower that could potentially have spewed forth a gigantic beam of ionized particles capable of disintegrating aircraft 200 miles away, blinking most men out of existence like something out of a Flash Gordon comic.

His weapon, known as the “Teleforce Beam“, allegedly shot 60 million volts of ball lightning, liquefying its targets with enough power to vaporize steel.

Tesla believed wars of the future “will be waged by electrical means” and claimed his super-duper powerful raygun could shoot further than 200 miles if only its range wasn’t limited by the unfortunate curvature of the Earth.

Luckily for all humans, this crazy insanity never came to fruition.  Most of the schematics and plans existed only in Tesla’s head, and when he died of heart failure in 1943, little hard data on the project existed.  Still, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI ransacked his place and confiscated all his personal stuff and locked it away just to be on the safe side.

Despite being incredibly popular during his day, Tesla now remains largely overlooked among the lists of the greatest inventors and scientists of the modern era.

Nikola Tesla was one of those super-genius badasses whose intellect placed him dangerously on the fence between “great scientific mind” and “utter madness.” 

Wanting to provide the world with abundant,  
cheap, and clean energy free from fossil fuels by using planet Earth as its own conductor, neighbors often heard terrifying sonic booms emanating from his many mind-boggling experiments.  He held 700 patents at the time of his death, made groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of physics, robotics, steam turbine engineering, and magnetism, and once melted one of his assistants’ hands by overloading it with X-rays.  That isn’t really scientific, but it’s still pretty cool.

And honestly, if there was ever one man on the planet who was capable of single-handedly destroying the entire planet through his insane scientific discoveries, it was Tesla.  That alone should qualify him as a pretty righteous badass mother of invention.

* * * * * * * *

Happy Birthday, Nikola.  Thank you for not blowing up the planet. 

You’ve gone, but you’ve turned on the light for the future.  Scientist, engineer, and a badass mad genuis, you lit up all the cities around the world and changed the face of how we live in it.

You wanted to share your energy and ideas with everyone but your financial backers abandoned you because they didn’t want it given it away for free.  In the end, you died penniless, alone, and largely forgotten.

You’re a man out of time, Nikola. 



Nikola Tesla was born July 10, 1856, and died on January 7, 1943.  If you’re reading this now, you have him to thank.

To note, the musical Tesla coils in the above clip were constructed by electrical engineering students Steven Caton and Eric Goodchild.  A Tesla Coil is a special type of transformer invented by Nikola Tesla that generates extremely large voltages using a phenomenon known as electrical resonance.  Each coil in the video is capable of generating a 13 foot spark, equating to about 500,000 volts of electricity.  By modulating the number of sparks that emit from the coil each second, different tones are produced by the coils.

If you’d like to see a large Tesla coil in action, head on down to Shamus T Bones restaurant in Eureka and ask them to light it off for you, and their Jacob’s Ladder, too.  Just don’t lift up your fork.

For Steven at GHD and Matthew at MIT.

Posted in Energy, History, National7 Comments



Monroe Candidly Remembered On Celluloid



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure.  I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle.  But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”


Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson) was an American actress, model, and singer, who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful Hollywood motion pictures during the 1950s and early 1960s.

After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began her career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946 with Twentieth Century-Fox. Her early film appearances were minor, but her later performances in The Asphalt Jungle, All About Eve, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like it Hot, and Bus Stop drew attention.

Typecast by Hollywood as the “dumb blonde” persona, not many knew she was a passionate reader, owning four hundred books at the time of her death, and often photographed with a book in hand.

Despite her fame and fortune, she could never rise beyond her insecurities.  The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems, depression, and a reputation for unreliability and being difficult to work with. 

The mysterious circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of debate.  Her death at the young age of 36 was officially classified as a “probable suicide” although the conjectured possibilities of an accidental overdose and homicide have not been ruled out.

A few weeks before her death in 1962, Marilyn’s career and personal life, in a sense, were on the rise.  She was invited to a number of new film projects and spent a weekend with her former husband and baseball great, Joe DiMaggio, and according to rumors they planned to re-marry.   Marilyn was found dead at her home in Brentwood the following weekend.

The funeral arrangements for Monroe were made by DiMaggio and he had a half-dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for the next 20 years.  He never spoke publicly about his relationship with Monroe.

In the decades following her fast rise from humble origins to stardom and ultimately to a sad and untimely death, Marilyn Monroe ironically became a larger than life pop and cultural icon– and America’s quintessential sex symbol.

“Life is what you make it.  No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth.

But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up.  Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway.  But just remember, some come, some go.  The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends.  Don’t let go of them.  Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world.

As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too.  And baby, I hate to say it, most of them– actually pretty much all of them, are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate.  You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything.

Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.  Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?

So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”


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Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit


The Legendary Singer’s 1939 Protest Song



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


No one had ever heard anything quite like it before.

Billie Holiday first performed Strange Fruit in 1939 at New York City’s Greenwich Village Cafe Society to a stunned audience.

Made famous by the legendary jazz singer, many today aren’t aware of the song’s revolutionary origin and the impact it had on black culture and music.

The song was first a poem originally named Bitter Fruit written in the 1930s by Abel Meeropol, a white, Jewish high school teacher in the Bronx.  Writing the piece after seeing a gruesome photo of a lynching, he felt compelled bringing attention to the issue.

Meeropol set the poem to music and performed it around New York City with his wife as a protest song.  What made the poem so unique was the way it paired natural and beautiful imagery with the inhumane and haunting imagery of lynching– the smell of magnolias with that of burning flesh.

Billie Holiday’s performance of the song would soon make it famous. 

Only 24 at the time, she was hesitant to sing a song of such a sensitive subject manner, but she also knew the importance of the song and what it represented. 

Holiday said singing  Strange Fruit made her fearful of retaliation, but because its imagery reminded her of her father, she wanted to sing the piece and make it a regular part of her live performances.

Through her vocal interpretation, Billie was able to turn the graphic and disturbing words into a lasting and visual picture evoking a raw and unpleasant emotion for the listener:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

At every show, Billie performed it– but only under her conditions. 

During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were in prayer.  It was always the last song of her set, the waiters would stop all service in advance, and the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face.  There was to be no encore. 

It was a bold move.  Strange Fruit is considered the original protest song because music wasn’t often used to express political protest at the time. 

Jazz drummer Max Roach later said about it:

When she recorded it, it was more than revolutionary.  She made a statement that we all felt as black folks.

No one was speaking out.  She became one of the fighters, this beautiful lady who could sing and make you feel things.  She became a voice of black people and they loved this woman.

Her song helped the anti-lynching movement, making it impossible for people to ignore the brutal practice.”

Holiday approached her recording label, Columbia, about recording the song but the company feared retaliation by its record retailers in the South and shelved the idea.  She turned to Commodore Records, an alternative jazz label, who recorded this version with Frankie Newton’s eight-piece Cafe Society Band.

The song was highly regarded.  The 1939 record sold a million copies, in time becoming Holiday’s biggest-selling record.

Holiday’s courageous Strange Fruit paved the way for future protest songs taking root in the 1950s and 60s civil rights movement, such as We Shall Overcome

In 1978, Holiday’s version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, included in the list of Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts, and named song of the century by Time magazine in 1999.  Bob Dylan cited it as an important influence on his life and music in 2005.

Over 40 artists have recorded Strange Fruit since, following in Billie Holiday’s footsteps and cutting hauntingly to the soul.





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Elvis: Up Close and Personal


Photographer’s Shots of a Lifetime



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


In 1956, a young 21-year old Elvis Presley was at the beginning of his unparalleled career.

Photographer Alfred Wertheimer was asked by Presley’s new label, RCA Victor, to photograph the rising star on the cusp of fame after leaving Sun Records in Memphis.

Wertheimer had never heard of Elvis when he got the call to come and photograph the singer.  “There was about 10 seconds of silence from my end,” remembered Wertheimer, laughing, “Then I said, ‘Elvis who?’”

Wertheimer was soon ushered into a backstage room and introduced to the young singer who had travelled from Memphis to New York to appear on the CBS show.

Wertheimer recalls:

“He grunted an OK without even looking up at me.  He was sitting, feet up on a table, his Argyle socks showing, looking intently at his finger, while this middle-aged man hovered awkwardly.  I realized the other guy was a jewelry salesman who had just delivered a ring Elvis had ordered.

Elvis was oblivious to anything other than the ring.  He had that ability – you could call it a gift – of being totally absorbed in what he was doing to the exclusion of everything else.

That was one of the reasons he was so wonderful to photograph.  As a photographer, you want people to be involved in what they are doing and not in what you are doing. 

He was involved in what he was doing to the point of obliviousness.  It was extraordinary.”

With unimpeded access to the young performer, Wertheimer was able to capture the unguarded and everyday moments in Elvis’ life, a year that took him from Tupelo, Mississippi to the silver screen, and to the verge of international stardom to being coined ”The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Wertheimer photographed Elvis in 1956, and again in 1958, images that were both spontaneous and unrehearsed.  

His photographs of Elvis are of the ordinary and extraordinary:  reading a newspaper while waiting for a cab, washing his hands during one of his train trips, walking back to his hotel alone and unrecognized, catching a secret kiss on a dare in a dimly lit hallway.

“My initial impression was that offstage he was a shy person, but he also permitted closeness,” Wertheimer said.

“I didn’t say much, either, so we got along just fine.  Elvis seemed to instinctively understand the process I was involved in, which was to get as close as I could using a small camera and available light.”

Soon after their first meeting, Wertheimer travelled to Memphis to shoot Presley in more relaxed surroundings with his family and close friends.  Wertheimer remembers Elvis being ”just more at ease with people he knew.”

Did Wertheimer notice a change when they met again in 1958?

“Oh, for sure.  He was a different guy.  He’d had his hair cut.  His mother had died.  He was being pulled out of his environment for two years and who knew if he would still be a big star when he returned?  It was a strange
moment for him.”

Wertheimer last saw Elvis as he was inducted into the service on September 22, 1958.  Wertheimer said it was a sad moment and the last time the friends would meet.  “That day at the Brooklyn port of disembarkation was the last time I saw him alive,” Wertheimer said.

After 1958 and Elvis’ induction into the army, the world forgot about Wertheimer’s photographs, for 19 years.

On August 16, 1977, the day Elvis died, Time Magazine called to inquire into the 2,500 images Wertheimer had taken.   ”The phone hasn’t stopped ringing in the last thirty years,” Wertheimer noted.

As Elvis slipped into pop iconic status, many of Wertheimer’s photographs became as famous as the man himself, while others still remain unpublished to this day.

* * * * * * * *

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The Great Navigators


Tahiti, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Ocean Voyages Beyond



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Across Humboldt’s rugged Pacific ocean, 2,500 miles away
in a Southwesterly direction, lay Tahiti, Hawaii, Fiji, and the
greater Polynesian islands.

The Polynesians were intimately tied to the ocean.  No other culture embraced the open sea so fully with such skill and an adeptness for navigating it.

They sailed the sea 1,300 years before Christ, and hundreds of years before the Europeans, using voyaging canoes crafted from island materials and stone tools.  The ocean was naturally integrated into Polynesian culture;  the people came from small islands surrounded by vast and extreme ocean expanses.

waveFor the continental Europeans, the ocean was looked upon as a menacing and terrifying world that only the bravest of explorers would venture out upon for any length of time.  To a Polynesian islander of Tahiti, however, the world was primarily aquatic.  It had always been that way.  The Pacific Ocean covered more area than land on their little corner of the planet. 

In island culture, the navigator and his double outrigger canoe were integral to the survival of the people.

As their islands became overpopulated, Polynesian navigators were sent out to sail uncharted seas to find thousands of undiscovered islands.  For weeks at a time and with only a few earthly possessions taken aboard, they and their families would live on the small flotilla of boats made from wood and lashings of braided fiber in search of a new homeland for the next generation.

It was a dangerous undertaking.  A mistake, an error in judgment, or any lapse of memory on the part of the navigator, no matter how small, could have deadly consequences on the open sea.  The navigator’s responsibility was great and exacting.  He held an enormous position of leadership, knowledge, and trust for which everyone in the clan depended upon for their mutual survival.

Thousands of miles were traversed by these ancient navigators without the aid of maps, sextants, or compasses.  They navigated their canoes by the stars, swells, natural life, and other signs coming from the ocean and sky.

wave3Asleep during the daytime, the paths of the stars and the rhythms of the sea guided these navigators by night.  The color of the sky and sun, the angle of the light and the shapes of the clouds, the movement of the breeze and the direction from which the swells were coming, guided them by day.  The ocean swells and the presence of certain sea and land birds would tell them exactly where land lay ahead.  Several days away from an island still out of sight, they could determine the exact day of landfall.

Navigation was a precise science to the Polynesians, a learned art passed on verbally from one navigator to another for countless generations.  Only the best, brightest, bravest and wisest were chosen to be navigators:  taught over many years through lecture, songs, or with sticks and seashells laid out like a mental map on the sand by elders, they knew over 150 stars by name, as many islands and their chains, and the methods of vessel construction.  It was all burned into the navigator’s collective memory, having no written aids to assist them during their long voyages.  Stories are still told by the Polynesians today about the adventures and travels of these early explorers– whom they refer to as the Great, or Master, Navigators.

In 1768, as he sailed from Tahiti, Captain Cook was amazed to find the Polynesians could always point in the exact direction in which Tahiti and the various 118 islands that make up French Polynesia lay, without the use of the ship’s charts. 

Unlike later visitors to the South Pacific, Cook understood that these Polynesian Great Navigators could guide canoes across the Pacific over great distances without help, discovering and colonizing New Zealand, New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Hawaii, the Marquesa, Cook, and Easter Islands, among others.

These traditional navigation skills, along with the double canoe, eventually disappeared with the emergence of Western technology, which mariners over the world came to rely upon.

pic 8By the 1970s, these Great Navigators from Tahiti and Polynesia, now old men with the millennia of experience taken from generations of explorers before them, began passing away in record numbers.

Except for Nainoa Thompson, these navigators are mostly gone, their knowledge lost forever.  No longer do these ancient aquanauts– or even the newest generation of Polynesian mariners– need brave the open seas  for a place to call home.

* * * * * *

We wonder:  traveling thousands of miles in exploration across the Pacific, did these great navigators ever reach the shores of present-day California?

Recently, linguist Kathryn A. Klar of University of California, Berkeley, and archaeologist Terry L. Jones of California Polytechnic State University have proposed there were contacts between Polynesians and the Chumash and Gabrielino Indians of Southern California, between 500 and 700 AD.

Their primary evidence consists of the advanced sewn-plank canoe design, which is used throughout the Polynesian Islands, but is unknown in North America — except for those two tribes. 

Moreover, the Chumash word for “sewn-plank canoe,” tomolo’o, may have been derived from kumulaa’au, the Polynesian word for the Redwood logs used in construction.

This film is by courtesy of Devin Graham and best seen at the full-screen setting.  For the good folks of Molokai who spent hours patiently telling us the story of these great navigators at the Coconut Grove, thank you.

Please spread the word.  Share this– and all of our posts– with others, and friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  We appreciate and thank you for reading, and for giving us a little push in the right direction.

Posted in Features, History, Media0 Comments

A Trip Down San Francisco’s Market Street, 1906


Miles Brothers Rare Film Footage Provides Glimpse of the City Days Before Earthquake



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The film you are seeing here is a very rare bird indeed.

A Trip Down Market Street was recorded by placing a movie camera on the front of a cable car as it proceeds down San Francisco’s Market Street in 1906.

A virtual time capsule from over 100 years ago, it shows many details of daily life in a major American city, including the fashions, transportation and architecture of a bygone era.  It was as stellar and novel for its time as Star Wars and Avatar is today.

The film begins at the location of the Miles Brothers film studio between 8th and 9th Streets, and continues eastward to the cable car turntable at The Embarcadero in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building.

market street 1906Originally thought to have been made in 1905, historian David Kiehn, who examined contemporary newspapers, weather reports and car license plates recorded in the film, reported that Trip Down Market Street was actually filmed on April 14– just four days before the devastating April 18, 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed Market Street and the entire downtown area—and thus preserving a moment in the history of San Francisco that would soon cease to exist.

Produced by the four Miles brothers– Harry, Herbert, Earle and Joe– the 13-minute “actuality” film was made as part of the popular Hale’s Tours of the World film series.  Older brother Harry cranked the Bell & Howell
camera during the filming.

The Miles brothers had been producing films in New York and established a studio at 1139 Market Street in San Francisco in early 1906.

market street burningHarry and Joe Miles left the city with their film footage on April 17, but heard of the tragedy enroute by train to New York.  They turned back with their equipment but sent the Market Street footage onto New York.  Their San Francisco studio was destroyed, burning to the ground as the city lay in ruins.  The film Trip Down Market Street narrowly survives today because it was sent away only a day before the tragedy.

The company set up a temporary office in Earle’s home at 790 Turk Street and during the next few weeks shot film of the ruins, refugees, and the begin-
nings of reconstruction.

The Miles vowed to rebuild their studio, but never did.  San Francisco’s early role in the film industry faded from memory with the loss of the Miles’ business.  They continued to operate, but the business industry changed.

In 1908, Thomas Edison formed the Motion Picture Patents Company with other large film producers.  Edison’s Patents Company tried to force independent producers and filmmakers out of business so it could control both the production and distribution of films on all levels.

They succeeded at first, and the Miles Brothers New York office was forced to close.

Miles bros2Herbert Miles became a fierce opponent of the Patents Company, partnering with the founders of soon-to-be Universal and Fox Films to establish independent production companies and distributors.  Joe Miles eventually founded a film storage company.  Earle Miles ran the San Francisco office as an industrial film producer and non-theatrical distributor.

Harry Miles however, the oldest brother who did the filming here, did not live to carry on the fight.  Suffering from insomnia and a series of epileptic fits that forced him to withdraw from the business, he killed himself in January of
1908 by jumping from the seventh floor of his
apartment building.

In 2010, Trip Down Market Street was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

* * * * * * *

market street cable carNote:  Although it seems there are many automobiles in the film, the number of them is deceiving.  That’s because the same cars frequently circle around and pass by the cable car on more than one occasion.  California began registering automobiles in 1905, and license plates are visible on several of them.  The car with plate 5057 was registered in February 1906 by the Reliance Auto Company.

This version of Trip Down Market Street has been enhanced to full high-definition and can be seen at a full-screen resolution for better detail.

It has been motion-stabilized, noise-filtered, and sharpened.  We’ve seen the 1906 original—pioneering motion photography for its day– which is scratchy and bumpy, discolored and light-faded by comparison.

(For Ray Hillman, a San Francisco and Humboldt historian who has always taken the time as a gentleman and engaging teacher to patiently answer our many questions about everything under the sun, inspiring us to know and learn more about our place in history)

Posted in History, Media7 Comments

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