Crazy, Fascinating & Horrifying

tags: Crazy, Fascinating & Horrifying

Each week we come across stuff that's weird.  Sometimes it's horrifying.  This is where we're sharing what we find. Make of it what you will! The text comes directly from the websites we’re hyperlinking.

One fall day in 1838, Jesuit priests from Georgetown University assembled enslaved people and walked them to a ship at a wharf south of Washington. The boat was not filled with silver or wood or cotton, but with 56 people, some of the 272 enslaved humans kept by the university.

The 56 people were unaware of the life of terror that awaited them when the boat docked in New Orleans. Georgetown was in debt and needed cash; so its priests forced the African-Americans they had enslaved onto the ship and sold them down the river.

My relatives — Hillary Ford, Henny Ford, their infant Basil and others –— were on that ship. Hillary and Henny were my maternal grandmother’s grandparents; their son Basil was my grandmother’s father. They didn’t live that long ago: I knew family members who had known them. They were real people with real names. They loved their child and would have done anything to escape the nightmare of their reality.

Forty years ago next month, the two major-party nominees, President Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia, were almost tied in the polls. Mr. Ford’s media team, Doug Bailey and John Deardourff, argued for taking a chance on a television commercial that would infuse the Ford campaign with the vote-getting power of emotion and history.

But the result proved to be so unsettling, even shocking, to some of its sample viewers that Mr. Ford’s handlers made sure it stayed in the vault.

The terms weren't introduced at the same time—A.D. came before B.C.—and each took hundreds of years to catch on.

Ironically, considering the system is used to describe precise calendar years, it’s impossible to say exactly when the “A.D.” calendar designation first came into being, says Lynn Hunt, author of Measuring Time, Making Historyand professor of history at UCLA.

Though there are a few frequently cited inflection points in that history—recorded instances of particular books using one system or another—the things that happened in the middle, and how and when new systems of dating were adopted, remain uncertain.

By Ammar AzzouzPhD Candidate, University of Bath.

[N]ot all the ruins should be physically preserved. But architectural technology can also assist in digitally documenting the memories of Syria. A digital replica of the shattered cities can be created using the new science of 3D laser scanning.

All of these technological tools could be used to great effect when we finally get the chance to start rebuilding the broken country that is Syria in 2016.

It proved a race against time -- American troops rescuing hundreds of thoroughbred horses from the Nazis and ensuring they weren't eaten by advancing Russian troops. American General George Patton, nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts", gave the all clear for the secret operation to get under way in the final days of the Second World War.

The world famous MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky has, since the ’60s, been the most prolific radical critic of U.S. foreign policy. Chomsky was among the most influential left wing intellectual opponents of the U.S. military action in Southeast Asia in the ’60s and ’70s. Writing about the events in Cambodia in the latter half of the ’70s with co-author Edward Herman, Chomsky accused the American media and scholars who reported on the killings committed by the Khmer Rouge of producing atrocity propaganda. The authors claimed that the mainstream were all too eager to accept, without adequate evidence, claims about horrible deeds that were attributed to the Khmer Rouge. Chomsky and Herman made the indisputable claim that conservatives would use reports about abuses occurring in Cambodia to claim that they had been right all along about the Vietnam War. To this day, Chomsky claims he was simply assessing the evidence available at the time.

Chomsky later described Sidney Schanberg, for his reporting of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge and for what Chomsky claims was his negligence in reporting the deadly impact of the massive U.S. bombing of Cambodia in the early ’70s, as a person of utter depravity. (Schanberg was criticized by some on the right for what they regarded as his overly critical reporting of the impact of American bombing and the corruption of the Lon Nol government). Chomsky and Herman were far less critical of accounts of post-1975 Cambodia that described an enlightened and humane polity. They praised George Hildebrand and Gareth Porter’s now discredited book, discussed below, as a carefully researched work that demonstrated the successes of the new regime in overcoming the devastating results American military action had on Cambodia as it became a sideshow in the Vietnam War.

Much of the early evidence for the human rights abuses committed by the Khmer Rouge were from accounts gathered from refugees who had fled to Thailand. Like some other skeptics of the atrocity accounts about Cambodia, Chomsky and Herman were hesitant to rely on refugees because they are by nature dissatisfied people. Finally, Chomsky and Herman were sympathetic to the argument of Michael Vickery that many of those who fled wished to avoid the rigorous work routine imposed by the Khmer Rouge. Of course, no one could deny that there was a rigorous work regime imposed by the communists in Cambodia.

The creepily named Project Iceworm was a secret U.S. Cold War mission to plan missile launch sites under the ice in Greenland. The plan was to dig 2,500 miles of tunnels in which to store and maybe someday launch 600 nuclear missiles.

Greenland was an ideal site because of its proximity to Russia, but this also made the construction that much more risky. It was kept a secret from Denmark, of which Greenland is a constituent. But you can't just go digging thousands of miles in in the ice and expect no one to notice.

So, as a cover, the U.S. Army claimed to be building "Camp Century," a "research facility" sanctioned by Denmark. Built in 1960 near Thule Air Base, its stated purpose was to study construction techniques and established scientific experiments under Arctic conditions. In actuality it was all a cover; the underground research facility gave the U.S. an excuse to dig under the ground to plant the missiles.

A beard tax was levied by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 5th September, 1698, in one of the most unusual pieces of taxation ever.

The progressive tax on facial hair meant that anyone who wished to keep a beard had to pay the government. Once their money had been deposited the bearded individual received a small, copper token as proof the tax had been paid. An impoverished beggar could pay for his beard with just two kopeks, whereas the wealthiest members of society had to pay over a hundred roubles.

Although hugely unpopular, the legislation remained until 1772 – forty seven years after Peter I had died.

The government never solved his murder.

FORT BENNING, Ga. —Pvt. Felix Hall was strung up in a jack-knife position in a shallow ravine. A quarter-inch noose, tethered to a sapling on the earthen bank above him, dug into the flesh of his neck. His feet, bound with baling wire, were attached by a second rope to three other saplings, and his hands were tied behind him.

Hall succeeded in kicking loose his legs and freeing his left hand. Then, while he still had breath, he desperately scraped dirt loose from the ravine wall, trying to scoop out enough of the sienna-colored earth to build up a mound beneath his feet that he could stand on “to take the strain from his neck,” the FBI would later report. He got the dirt up to the arches of his dangling feet. But the earth was soft and loose and ultimately not enough to support his weight.

When investigators eventually arrived on the scene and examined his body, he’d been suspended in this position, in the woods of Fort Benning, for more than six weeks. Maggots were eating his flesh.

From a review of a 1980 history of Italian fascism —The United States and Fascist Italy: The Rise of American Finance in Europe by Gian Giacomo Migone — newly translated into English by Molly Tambor.

In her preface Molly Tambor notes that one of the most difficult decisions she and Migone had to make in rendering his book into English was how to translate classe dirigente. Out of respect for modern sensibilities they rejected the most obvious option, “ruling class,” in favor of a variety of synonyms such as “elites” and “business leaders.” But even through the filter of this deliberately depoliticized translation, the picture Migone paints is clear. America’s new power in the 1920s was based on its economy, and in the projection of an American vision of international order beyond the League of Nations, it was US bankers who led the way. The crucial issues of Italian–American diplomacy were not questions of democracy, but of finance. They concerned the settlement of Italy’s war debts and the restoration of the gold standard. And with the friendly guidance of J.P. Morgan, Mussolini’s regime came willingly to agreements on the terms of financial arrangements with the US. The war debt deal negotiated in 1925 was the most generous that America concluded with any of its wartime associates. It set off a flow of American investment to Italy that only accelerated after 1927, once Italy stabilized on the gold standard.

Altogether America’s investment in fascist Italy soon exceeded $400 million. Remarkably, by 1930 when President Hoover began his push to restore order to the world (starting with the London conference on naval arms control), fascist Italy, after Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government in Britain, was Washington’s favored partner in Europe. When Mussolini’s foreign minister, the charismatic ex-squadistra Dino Grandi, met Hoover in 1931, the president is said to have assured his Italian guest that the vocal minority of antifascists in America should be ignored: “They do not exist for us Americans, and neither should they exist for you.”

What tore the harmony of the 1920s apart was not the increasingly dictatorial tendencies of Mussolini’s regime, but the Great Depression.

The legend of Troy is one of the oldest stories ever told, but reached a new audience through Wolfgang Petersen’s 2004 Hollywood epic Troy. The film is a loose adaptation of Homer’s ancient Greek poem the Iliad, and it covers the main events of the Trojan War. It is a story brimming with heroic warriors – Achilles, Hector, Patroclus – men who outperform all others on the battlefield. Their reward for this prowess is eternal glory – the term used by Homer is kleos.

But not all are deserving of this kind of everlasting fame. Near the beginning of the tale, the Trojan prince Paris falls in love with the Spartan queen Helen, who is married to King Menelaus. The couple steal away to Troy, where they are cautiously welcomed by Troy’s ruler, Priam. As the plot unfolds, Helen remains an elusive presence at Troy, as the different Greek kingdoms come to demand her return to Menelaus. The outcome of her adulterous relationship with Paris hardly needs to be repeated here: a ten-year war and the annihilation of the city of Troy.

Nuclear Crater Concrete Dome: MARSHALL ISLANDS

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