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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci's famous 'Vitruvian Man' in doubt?

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Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of a male figure perfectly inscribed in a circle and square, known as the "Vitruvian Man," illustrates what he believed to be a divine connection between the human form and the universe. Beloved for its beauty and symbolic power, it is one of the most famous images in the world. However, new research suggests that the work, which dates to 1490, may be a copy of an earlier drawing by Leonardo's friend.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Girl Monarch

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Ah ... lovely photos of the Queen, Elizabeth through the stages of her life.

She was not born in the main line of succession to the throne. For the first ten years of her life, her position in the Royal Family was the same as Princess Beatrice’s today — a daughter of a younger son, destined to flutter on the royal fringes.

Brought up with an almost religious respect for the Crown, there seemed no prospect of her inheriting it. The future Elizabeth II was brought up in the deepest of Britain’s many 20th century recessions, and it was thanks to Bobo, her nanny, that she retained some contact with the frugal habits of working and middle-class families as they struggled to survive in the Thirties.

She learned how to recycle paper, almost as if she, too, had been born the daughter of an Inverness railwayman.

To this day, the Queen keeps her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes, and is eagle-eyed in switching off unnecessary lights in Buckingham Palace.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Was Bob Marley neutralized?

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Conspiracy theory ... who killed Bob MARLEY?

This Utube clip intones that the king of reggae was a marked man in the 1970s, the focus of a covert CIA operation and a victim of induced cancer!

Were reggae superstars Peter Tosh and Marley targets as were civil rights leaders Malcolm X and MLK?

The aim - prevent socially conscious lyrics and rhetoric from inspiring a movement of people intent on changing the status of the quo.

This world routinely destroys our greatest activists.

What say you?

Black Power Movement

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The Black Power Mixtape examines the evolution of the Black Power Movement in the black community and Diaspora from 1967 to 1975.

The film combines music, startling 16mm footage (lying undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for 30 years), and contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars.

During the rise of The Black Power Movement in the 60 s and 70 s, Swedish Television journalists documented the unfolding cultural revolution for their audience back home, having been granted unprecedented access to prominent leaders such as Angela Davis, the SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael, and Black Panthers founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.

Now, after more than 30 years in storage, this never-before-seen footage spanning nearly a decade of Black Power is finally available. Director Goran Hugo Olsson presents this mixtape, highlighting the key figures and events in the movement, as seen in a light completely different than the narrative of the American media at the time.

Check it out!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Artist

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The new and as of this morning, acclaimed film, The Artist now nominated at the Oscars is a silent black and white lovely reminiscent of the nineteen twenties.

And they have the greatest little dog for a co-star.
Trailer at the link!

What is the Truth about Islam and Muslims in America?

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Many Americans remain confused about Islam and Muslims in America in the wake of anti-mosque protests, anti-Shariah legislation and related controversies.

A town-hall style program was held on 18 January 2012 where a live audience and online viewers were invited to ask hard questions to leading authorities on Muslim Americans, religious liberty, and interfaith relations.

Join the comment thread ... become acquainted through sharing, watching, and discussing.

Taking individual responsiblity and eschewing bigotry is the only way humankind will turn the corner of religious harmony among people.

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Evolution of the Police Car

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Akron, Ohio, lays claim to the first motorized police patrol wagon, built by Collins Buggy in 1899.

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The first squad car hit the bad streets of Akron, Ohio, in 1899. The battery-powered buggy was designed by city mechanical engineer Frank Loomis and built by Collins Buggy Co. It was equipped with electric lights, gongs and a stretcher, and had a snaillike top speed of 16 mph and a feeble range of 30 miles before it needed to be recharged. The car's first assignment: to pick up a drunk at the junction of Main and Exchange streets.

By 1909, there was a serious need for a more modern police car to supplement or replace bicycle and horse-mounted units in order to keep up with faster, motorized vehicles driven by offenders. Enter the Ford Model T, the only affordable choice. The early versions of the T were powered by a front-mounted 4-cylinder engine that developed 20 horsepower, propelling the big beast to a top speed of almost 45 mph. During this period, cars were purchased retail and then modified by police departments. Modifications were limited — rudimentary markings and a variety of lights were the only things that set most early police cars apart from regular cars.

In 1919, Ford began producing a Model T police truck, developed in response to police requests for a secure vehicle that separated officers and prisoners. Generally painted black and known by the slang term "paddy wagon," police departments often used the cagelike transport to haul drunken partygoers to a holding cell.

From 1899 through the decades until today ... see the complete evolution of police cars at the link.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cheese ... from colonial cheddar to kraft singles

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The pilgrims brought cheese and cows on the Mayflower.

Early American cheeses were made at home, eaten at home or sold in local markets. A variety of European styles persisted in non-commercial cheesemaking. The American industry soon honed in on a single type: cheddar. It was uniquely sturdy and adaptable and proved manageable in colonial conditions, it tasted great despite seasonal extremes in temperature and humidity that other European cheeses could not endure.

Americans were serious about cheddar.  By 1790 wheels of cheese were exported to England, the motherland of the breed. The cheese trade grew and revolutionary patriots became proud of their “American cheese” but British connoisseurs were contemptuous, judging “Yankee cheese” inferior to traditional cheddars. This poor reputation made American cheese cheap - snubbed by aristocrats, British commoners quickly bought up.

Cheesemaking was transformed forever when Jesse Williams created the first American cheese factory in New York in 1851. It was a father-son venture that bought milk from surrounding herds, pooling it to make cheese at one location.

Williams made commercial cheesemaking viable and reliably decent. Nationwide, cheese factories spread creating generic, factory cheddar that became so common that Americans simply called it “store cheese,” or “yellow cheese.”

Then James L. Kraft in 1903 moved from Canada to Chicago with $65 and with a horse and wagon started whole selling cheese. To reduce waste, Kraft tried packaging cheese in jars and later experimenting with cheese canning — an idea the Swiss had been tinkering with.

Then came something completely different - by shredding refuse cheddar, re-pasteurizing it, and mixing in sodium phosphate, Kraft produced the American processed cheese, patented in 1916.  It was an immediate commercial success and a boon to American soldiers in the World Wars.  By 1930 over 40% of cheese consumed in the U.S. was Kraft Cheese despite its relatively high price.

With clever advertising, Kraft charged more in exchange for their promise of safety and consistency regardless that the product was derived from inferior cheese.

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Shopping Carts

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Sylvan Goldman had a problem. As was customary for grocery stores in 1936, his Standard/Piggly Wiggly locations in Oklahoma City supplied shoppers with a small wooden or wire basket for them to carry as they wandered up and down the aisles. Once the basket got too heavy, though, customers headed for the check-out line, a situation Goldman wanted to avoid. To keep them buying, Goldman was determined to figure out a way to make heavy baskets more manageable.

One night, he happened to look at a wooden folding chair and inspiration struck. He placed one shopping basket on the seat and another under the chair, then envisioned wheels on the legs, and a handle on the back. He was on to something. It took a few months of tinkering, but Goldman eventually settled on a design that was convenient and flexible. To use a cart, you took a folded-up frame from a row of them stacked side-by-side. In their folded form, they were only about 5” wide, so storage space was minimal — a factor Goldman knew would come into play for his invention to be accepted in other stores. Once unfolded, the shopper would grab two baskets and place them in two holders on the frame – one above and one below. When they were done shopping, the check-out girl simply put both baskets on the counter and rang everything up.

Unfortunately, the big debut of his big invention was a great big flop. Despite having a pretty young woman at the entrance to help customers set up the carts, the only people interested in using them were the elderly. Men were too proud to admit they needed help carrying a basket, and some younger women said they had pushed enough baby buggies that they weren’t going to use one for shopping, too. Distraught, Goldman hatched another plan – he hired attractive men and women to push carts around inside the store and pretend to shop. When real customers came through the doors and refused the cart, the young woman at the entrance looked back into the store and said, “Why? Everyone else is using them.” Never underestimate the power of peer pressure.

By 1940, only three years after they were introduced, carts had become so popular, entire grocery stores were being designed around them with wider aisles and larger check-out counters to hold all the food people were buying.

Goldman’s cart was a great jumping off point for more inventors to have a go at their own shopping cart designs. The first big innovator was Orla Watson, who, in 1947, made the baskets permanently attached to the cart, and redesigned them to have a hinged back, allowing each basket to nest inside another one like spoons for easy storage. The carts were a hit with shoppers, but a pain in the back for check-out girls who had to bend over and dig food out of the bottom basket for hours on end. So Watson made the top basket fold up and out of the way, while a hydraulic platform at the check-out counter would lift the bottom basket up to counter height at the push of a button.

The shopping cart we all know – with one big basket – was first introduced in the 1950s. Aside from a few tweaks here and there, like the baby seat, drink holders, the plastic handle, even bigger baskets, and upgraded wheels, the shopping cart’s basic design hasn’t changed much since then. But that doesn’t mean that shopping cart technology has grown stagnant. Great minds out there are working on new ideas to take the shopping cart into the future.

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Four Historic American Family Feuds

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In the rural parts of 19th-century America disagreements were solved with the business end of a gun. At the link are four historic bloody family feuds.

Grahams–Tewksburys: The Pleasant Valley War

Before their feud started in the 1880s, the Grahams and Tewksburys, both livestock ranchers in Pleasant Valley, Arizona, were actually friends and business partners. Granted, their business was stealing cattle from another rancher. So neither family was a pillar of the community from the start. Their falling out occurred around 1882, probably over the stolen cattle, though the over-grazing of land by the Tewksburys’ sheep was also a point of contention

Turks-Joneses: The Slicker War of the Ozarks

The feud between the Turks and the Joneses, both of Benton County, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountain region, started like so many others at the time – on Election Day. Most men were given the day off from work so they could visit the polls, which meant they also spent a lot of time in the local saloon after casting their votes. A combination of whiskey and politics inevitably resulted in fistfights, such as the one in 1840 when Andy Jones and Jim Turk got into a scuffle that was soon joined by other members of their clans

The Lee-Peacock Feud

In August 1861, Bob Lee joined the Ninth Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army, leaving behind his family in northeast Texas. While he was away, the Union League, a civil group created to promote loyalty to the Union and to protect blacks and Union sympathizers, set up a local chapter headed by Lewis Peacock. After the War, Lee returned home to find the League using their political weight to force the area to adopt what the community saw as unfair Reconstruction initiatives. Many of Lee’s neighbors looked to him—a former Confederate—as the leader in the push back against this new form of Northern oppression.

To quash his new rival, Peacock rounded up his men and arrested Lee on trumped up charges of war crimes. Knowing he would be exonerated in court, Lee and his brother, who acted as a chaperone, went peacefully. But instead of taking Lee to the authorities, Peacock’s men took the brothers into the wilderness and robbed them. They also forced both Lee brothers to sign a $2000 promissory note before setting them free. Alive but angry, Lee and his brother sued the leaders of the Union League and won. But instead of settling the matter, the 1867 judgment only escalated the bitterness between the two sides. When a relative of Peacock’s later shot and wounded Lee, the first blood had been spilled in what would become a small-scale Civil War in Texas.

The Hatfields and The McCoys

While the most famous family feud, between the McCoys of Kentucky and the Hatfields of West Virginia, dates back to 1865, the feud’s most deadly era began on Election Day in 1882. Three McCoy men killed Ellison Hatfield, stabbing him 26 times before finishing him off with a bullet to the chest. The next day, as the three young men were escorted to Pikeville, Kentucky, for arraignment, the Hatfield clan intercepted them, tied them up, and shot them in cold blood.

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The Story of Marjarine

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Conceived by Emperor Napoleon III. Napoleon III who thought his poorer subjects and navy would benefit from having easy access to a cheap butter substitute.  He offered a prize for anyone who could create an adequate replacement.

In 1869, French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès perfected and patented a process for churning beef tallow with milk to create an acceptable butter substitute, thereby winning the Emperor’s prize.

Surprisingly Mège-Mouriès was not the first margarine tycoon.  Despite Napoleon III’s high hopes for Mège-Mouriès’ product, dubbed “oleomargarine,” the market did not take off.

In 1871, Mège-Mouriès showed his process to a Dutch company that improved his methods and helped build an international market for margarine. The Dutch entrepreneurs realized that if margarine would become a substitute for butter, it must look like butter, they began dyeing naturally white margarine to a buttery yellow.

Sadly, Mège-Mouriès died a pauper in 1880. The Dutch company that improved his recipe experienced sme success. That company, Jurgens, became a world-renowned maker of margarines and soaps and later became part of Unilever.

The dairy world were predictably irked. Butter was big business. The notion that a cheaper substitute, even one made with milk, terrified dairy farmers. They convinced legislators to tax margarine at a rate of two cents per pound—no small sum in the late 19th century. Dairy farmers also successfully lobbied for restrictions that banned the use of yellow dyes that made margarine look appetizing. By 1900, artificially colored butter was contraband in 30 U.S. states.

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Operation Barbarossa

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June 22nd 2011 marked the 70th anniversary of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union — the biggest military adventure in history, which led directly to the downfall of Adolf Hitler’s murderous regime. Together with the Holocaust that followed it, Operation Barbarossa was the ultimate expression of Hitler’s twisted vision, reflecting both the vaulting ambition and depthless cruelty of Nazi ideology

Hitler never offered many specifics about his grand vision — perhaps because even he realized they were too shocking to be committed to paper. After years rattling around his hate-filled brain, in 1940 Hitler give the task of actually planning the colonization of Eastern Europe to his loyal henchman Heinrich Himmler — the commander of the elite Schutzstaffel (SS) security force, and a man who rivaled his Führer in sheer crazed murderous ambition.

In the broad outlines of Himmler’s Generalplan Ost (Eastern Master Plan), German victory in the east would inaugurate ethnic cleansing on an unprecedented scale. After the destruction of the Soviet Union, approximately 31 million “Slavic sub-humans” would be murdered, starved to death, or forcibly deported to Siberia to make room for 8-10 million German settlers. The groups to be “resettled” (which soon became a euphemism for murder) included all of Eastern Europe’s Jews and most of the Slavic populations of Poland, Ukraine, and Belorussia. Fourteen million Slavs would be sterilized and retained as slave labor.

Although many members of his general staff were skeptical about the wisdom of invading Russia, Hitler’s fantastic vision seemed a little more plausible following an unbroken string of triumphs from 1936-1940. Remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 was followed by the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938. Britain and France finally declared war on Germany following Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 — but the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) appeared unstoppable with the lightning conquests of Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries, and France from March-June 1940. And all this was merely a preamble.

On December 18, 1940, Hitler issued a secret order to Germany’s top generals instructing them to begin preparing a massive surprise attack on the Soviet Union, codenamed “Barbarossa” after a 12th-century Holy Roman Emperor who won land for the Germans from the Slavs. The element of surprise was crucial, Hitler emphasized, because of the need to prevent the Red Army from withdrawing into Russia’s vast interior; German troops would drive deep into Soviet territory and capture millions of enemy troops in huge encirclements before their commanders had time to react. To accomplish this, Hitler’s generals planned a “blitzkrieg,” or “lightning war,” similar to the ones that destroyed Poland and France in 1939-1940 — but on a much, much larger scale.

As originally planned, the attack would begin in the spring, “no later than May 15,” to give German armies the most time for fighting before the grim seasonal deadline imposed by the Russian winter; the Red Army would have to be beaten no later than December 1941, or millions of German soldiers risked death by freezing.

Underlying this breathtakingly ambitious strategy was the German general staff’s conviction that the Red Army had been fatally weakened by Stalin’s purges in the late 1930s, when the paranoid Soviet dictator executed 40,000 (or 50%) of his own top officers. Hitler had also lulled Stalin into something like a false sense of security with a non-aggression pact signed when the two dictators divided up Poland in 1939; in reality this treaty (like all Hitler’s diplomatic agreements) was nothing more than a “scrap of paper” to be treacherously discarded after serving its purpose.

“Unprecedented, Unmerciful, and Unrelenting Harshness”

Viewing the coming invasion of Russia as a battle to the death between Germany and “Judeo-Bolshevism,” Hitler ordered his generals to crush resistance with utmost brutality. In a secret speech on March 30, 1941, recorded by Army Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder in his diary, Hitler warned these proud Prussian officers to abandon “obsolete” notions of decency and honor:

“The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful, and unrelenting harshness. All officers will have to rid themselves of obsolete ideologies. I know that the necessity for such means of waging war is beyond the comprehension of you generals but . . . I insist absolutely that my orders be executed without contradiction.”

This included killing every Communist official — the infamous “Commissar Order.” Hitler justified mass murder by arguing that Bolshevik officials, left alive, would lead a guerrilla war threatening the German military’s lines of communication and supply. Indeed the same method — summary executions — would be used against anyone even suspected of supporting the partisan resistance. If guilty parties couldn’t be found, the Germans would simply execute everyone in the nearest village to make their point. In short, millions of people (mostly peasants) would be murdered for trivial or imagined offenses.

And there was a still-darker secret Hitler hid even from his generals, aside for a few vague allusions: the planned murder of all of Europe’s Jews, beginning with roughly three million Polish Jews, 900,000 Ukrainian Jews, and 600,000 Belorussian Jews. In his fevered imagination Hitler lumped together poor Jewish peasants, Communist party officials, and anti-German partisans in a single, malignant conspiracy that had to be “exterminated.”

Some of the officers objected to the “Commissar Order” and atrocities against civilians on grounds of honor; Field Marshal Erich von Manstein “told the commander of the Army Group under which I served at that time… that I could not carry out such an order, which was against the honor of a soldier.” But Hitler, anticipating the qualms of his professional soldiers, gave them an easy out: much of the dirty work of hunting partisans and murdering Jews would be left to about 3,000 retired policemen and petty thugs, operating as four roving SS death squads euphemistically termed Einsatzgruppen (“Special Action Groups”).

In the final months before Barbarossa, personnel and materials moved around Europe on an unprecedented scale, as roughly 3.8 million men massed in four giant armies along a 820-mile front stretching from Finland to Romania. 3.2 million German troops would be supported by 600,000 troops drawn from the Third Reich’s vassal states and allies, including 300,000 Finns, 250,000 Romanians and 50,000 Slovaks.

In preparation for Barbarossa, the German military stockpiled 91,000 tons of ammunition, half a million tons of fuel (40% of all fuel available to Germany at the time), and 600,000 trucks and 750,000 horses to carry supplies.

Speaking with his top generals on February 3, 1941, the Führer contemplated his vast gamble with typical nihilism: “When the attack on Russia commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment.” But the world would have to wait to hold its breath.

Hitler originally intended to launch Operation Barbarossa around May 15, 1941. But then (in typical fashion) a small Balkan intervention turned into a sweeping hemispheric gambit for control of the Middle East.

In November 1940, Hitler sent German troops to support his embattled ally Mussolini, who’d launched an ill-advised invasion of Greece. Meanwhile, the hapless Italian ally also suffered a humiliating setback in North Africa after invading British-occupied Egypt; in February 1941, Hitler dispatched Rommel’s Afrika Korps to tidy up the situation. Then in May 1941, Hitler invaded Yugoslavia to crush the government established two months before by nationalist air force officers, costing him three more crucial weeks.

Of course timing was of the essence: like clockwork, torrential rain would turn Russian roads into an ocean of mud by late August and temperatures would fall below freezing as early as October, with snow soon to follow. However, even though it was now a month behind schedule, Hitler decided Germany couldn’t afford to push back Operation Barbarossa to the next spring, arguing that the German Wehrmacht would never be as strong vis-à-vis the Red Army as it was now. And Hitler himself wasn’t fully in control, to hear him tell it: in February 1940 he divulged that “I follow the path assigned to me by Providence with the instinctive sureness of a sleepwalker.” A fatalist first and last, the Führer couldn’t wait to roll the dice.

The attack came before dawn on June 22, 1941, commencing at 3:15 a.m. with the largest artillery bombardment in history, as 20,000 artillery pieces rained thousands of tons of shells on Red Army positions. Simultaneously 3,277 Luftwaffe combat aircraft launched a record-breaking aerial onslaught targeting the Soviet air force on the ground. Columns of tanks punched holes in Red Army defenses, followed by motorized and regular infantry, all supported by a continuing air assault, now targeting Soviet ground forces.

The invasion had three main objectives. Army Group Center, consisting of 1.3 million troops, 2,600 tanks and 7,800 artillery pieces, mounted a massive drive on Moscow. Meanwhile, Army Group North, consisting of 700,000 troops, 770 tanks and 4,000 artillery pieces, drove north from East Prussia through the Baltic States towards Leningrad, with an assist from Finnish and German troops coming from Finland. Finally Army Group South, consisting of one million troops, 1,000 tanks and 5,700 artillery pieces, invaded the Ukraine with an assist from Romanian troops targeting the Black Sea port of Odessa.

At first it looked like Hitler’s boldest gamble would be rewarded with his most spectacular success, as German and allied troops scored victory after victory. By December 1941, the combined German armies had killed 360,000 Soviet soldiers, wounded one million, and captured two million more, for total Red Army losses of around 3.4 million by the end of the year. In six months, German troops and their allies advanced up to 600 miles and occupied over 500,000 square miles of Soviet territory, home to 75 million people.

But final victory eluded the Germans. For one thing, Hitler continually meddled with the schedule and strategy for Barbarossa, resulting in further critical delays: in September 1941, he diverted part of Army Group Center north to help the attack on Leningrad, and another part south to help capture Kiev. The encirclement of Kiev was one of the greatest military victories in history, with over 450,000 Soviet troops taken prisoner in one giant roundup. But Army Group Center’s push on Moscow — the main goal of Barbarossa — was pushed back by another month.

And as impressive as their gains were, the Germans paid a high price for them, suffering 550,000 total casualties by September 1941, rising to 750,000 by the end of the year, including 300,000 listed as killed or missing in action. Lengthening supply lines were increasingly disrupted by partisans and bad weather; Army Group Center alone required 13,000 tons of supplies per day, and even during the dry months deliveries by trucks and horses could only meet about 65% of this demand. At its longest in 1942, the front stretched over 1,800 miles from the Arctic to the Black Sea. And still the steppes stretched out, seemingly endless, inducing a kind of horizontal vertigo. Halder’s diary entry from November 7, 1941 was tinged with unease: “Beyond the Russian expanses, no plan at present.”

The terrifying truth, now dawning on some officers, was that Hitler’s planners had drastically underestimated the strength of the Soviet military due to faulty intelligence and their desire to please the Führer. During the planning phase, they judged an invasion force of 3.8 million men in 193 divisions sufficient to defeat a Soviet military believed to number 4.2 million men in 240 divisions, including reserves. In reality, in June 1941 the Soviet military could muster five million men in 303 divisions, and this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Soviet manpower: from June-December 1941, the Red Army was able to field 290 more divisions, essentially creating an entire new army from scratch.

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A Brief History of Marbles

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No one knows where marbles originated.

They were found in the ashes of Pompeii, the tombs of ancient Egypt, and they were played with by Native American tribes. Earliest examples were stones, polished smooth by a running river or made by hand from clay, stone, or glass by artisans.

Mass production became possible in 1884, when Sam Dyke of Akron, Ohio, created a wooden block with six grooves, each of which held a lump of clay. An operator rolled a wooden paddle over the clay balls with a back-and-forth and lateral motion, creating six marbles. With 350 employees, Dyke’s factory cranked out five train cars of a million marbles per day.  Mass production made marbles cheaper to make, dropping the price from a penny each to a bag of 30 marbles for the same price. Other businessmen joined in and Akron soon became the marble capital of late-19th century America.

In 1915, mass production of glass marbles began on a machine invented by Akron’s M.F. Christensen. The machine, of a screw conveyor with two grooved cylinders spun together as a “slug” of molten glass was placed between the cylinders on one end and moved gradually to the opposite side, simultaneously cooling and shaping them into a sphere by the rolling grooves. The design worked well and has remained essentially unchanged and is the most common way to make marbles today.

The History of Ice!

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Until two centuries ago, ice was a nuisance side effect of winter.

In the early 1800s, one man saw opportunity in frozen ponds. Frederic Tudor introduced the world to cold glasses of water on hot summer days and created a thirst people never realized they had.

In 1805, two wealthy Boston brothers at a family picnic were enjoying luxurious cold beverages and ice cream and joked at how thrilling their chilled refreshments would be for colonists sweating in the West Indies. That random remark stuck with one brother - Frederic. Thirty years later, he shipped almost 200 tons of ice halfway around the world, becoming the “Ice King.”

Tudor was an unlikely scion of industry. He was a Harvard drop out who drifted for several years until he retired to his family’s country estate to hunt, fish, and try his hand at farming. After his brother William's quip of harvesting ice from the estate’s pond to sell in the West Indies, Frederic, with little else to do moved forward seriously.

He convinced William to join him in a scheme to ship ice from New England to the Caribbean. He reasoned that once people tried it, they would never chose to live without it. For six months, the brothers pooled money and laid plans to ship ice to the French island, Martinique, hoping to create a monopoly..

Typically, no one believed their idea would work.

In fact, no ship in Boston would agree to transport the unusual cargo.  Frederic spent nearly $5,000 (a massive investment), to buy a ship of his own and on February 10, 1806 - The Boston Gazette reported, “No joke. A vessel with a cargo of 80 tons of ice has cleared out from this port for Martinique. We hope this will not prove to be a slippery speculation.”

The ice arrived in Martinique in perfect condition but no one wanted to buy. Tudor desperately explained how the cold blocks of ice could be used in the stifling Caribbean heat, but islanders were unconvinced.

After this inauspicious start, William withdrew from the partnership. The following winter, Frederic drummed up enough money to send another shipment to the Indies. 

A trade embargo left much of the Caribbean off limits for two years and Frederic was forced to wait while the Tudor family fortune dwindled after a dubious real estate deal in South Boston.

Despite his financial woes, Frederic persisted, and his ice business finally turned a profit in 1810. A sequence of occurencies—including war, weather, and the needs of relatives—kept him from realizing a fortune and between 1809 and 1813, he landed in debtors’ prison three times and often hid from the sheriff.

By 1821, Tudor’s business had strengthened. He had created real demand in Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, and Havana but still needed to refine his operation. 

Nathaniel Wyeth was an innovator who became Tudor’s foreman in 1826.  Using a horse-drawn plow to cut the ice into large grids, Wyeth invented a faster harvesting method and implemented an assembly process. Labourers sawed the blocks apart and floated them downstream to a conveyor belt that hoisted the blocks from the water to the icehouse to be stacked up to 80 feet high.

Wyeth’s ingenious methods were a major improvement on harvesting practices. With Wyeth on board, Tudor asserted his long-fomenting monopoly, becoming the “Ice King.”

Tudor’s reputation solidified in 1833 when he shipped 180 tons of ice halfway across the world to British colonists in Calcutta. The venture was so successful that it reopened trade routes between India and Boston.

At home, Tudor also dominated the market.  By 1847, nearly 52,000 tons of ice traveled by ship or train to 28 cities across the United States, nearly half of this ice came from Boston, most of which was Tudor’s.

He maintained ice-harvesting rights to key ponds throughout Massachusetts. Frederic Tudor died in 1864, once again a wealthy man. By then, everyone with access to a frozen body of water was in the ice business. Ice boomtowns sprouted along the Kennebec River in Maine, where farmers found year-round employment.

The 1860s became the peak competitive period of American ice harvesting, and Tudor’s company prospered. During the Civil War with the South cut off from ice supplies in the North, the ice industry continued to grow in New England and in the Midwest.

As American society grew accustomed to fresh meats, milk, and fruit - the ice industry expanded into one of the most prosperous and powerful industries in the United States.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

When Walt Disney Kipnapped Nixon

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Walt Disney kidnapped the Vice President, Richard Nixon and his family in 1959 – although there was no sinister plot. The Nixons were at Disneyland to dedicate the brand-new, never-before-seen Monorail system.

It was a hot day, so Walt invited the Nixons into the Monorail’s air conditioned cab. It had to be on for the AC to work, of course, and since the state-of-the-art transportation was all geared up and ready to go, Walt thought it would be an opportune time to show the Vice President what it could do. So they took off. The problem? His entire Secret Service detail stood on the platform outside.

The Monorail made one lap, on its approach, Secret Service agents at the platform began running alongside as it slowed, until Nixon’s daughters cheered, “Again!” and the Monorail sped off, again abandoning the dismayed Secret Service who still lacked a Vice President to protect. Tricky Dick “roared with laughter,” according to Bob Gurr, the Imagineer in charge of the whole operation.

“You should have seen your expressions,” Nixon told the men when he exited the Monorail. It was later revealed that the Monorail had only made one lap on the track prior to that – it hadn’t been fully tested and Gurr was a bit concerned that it would catch fire with the Second Family aboard.

UFOs In Wartime: The Untold Story

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UFOs are mentioned throughout the Bible, found in Renaissance art, on ancient coins and in cave paintings. But from early to modern times, UFOs have been particularly conspicuous when the world is involved in armed conflict.

In the spring of 1909, hundreds of people saw strange unidentifiable aircraft flying over England. Dubbed Scareships, they were described as being huge cigar-shaped objects capable of moving at tremendous speeds. Though they resembled Zeppelins, the newly invented German war blimps would not be able to reach England for another five years. If the Scareships weren't Zeppelins, what were they?

Though investigated many times over the years by some of the world's leading UFO researchers, no one has ever been able to solve the mystery of the Scandinavian Ghost Fliers. According to The Ghost Hunter blog, "these odd aircraft were seen hundreds of times over Finland, Sweden and Norway between 1932 and 1937. When seen in daylight the ghost fliers took the form of extremely large aircraft, bigger than anything then flying, coloured grey and without markings of any kind."

Hundreds of UFOs, known as "foo fighters," were spotted by Allied bomber crews during World War II. The American military claimed they were Nazi super weapons, but once the war was over, this proved untrue. What were they... really?

More than a million people saw strange flying objects over Los Angeles on the night of February 24, 1942, the U.S. Army insisted the objects were Japanese bombers, after the war, the Japanese themselves proved this to be false.

In 1949, the U.S. military claimed all flying saucer sightings were caused by "hoaxers, religious cranks or publicity hounds" and ended its investigation of UFOs. But just a year later, its pilots began encountering unearthly flying machines at the outbreak of the Korean War.

On two successive weekends in August 1952, UFOs appeared over Washington DC, buzzing nearby airports, the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. They were seen by many on the ground, were picked up on radar and even photographed; yet the Pentagon later claimed they were nothing but "temperature inversions.

During the 1960s and 70s, hundreds of UFOs appeared over America's top-secret ICBM bases, sometimes shutting off their power, sometimes retargeting their warheads. So why did the U.S. military insist the UFOs were really "unidentified helicopters?"

Ben Franklin's 200 Plus Ways to Say Inebriated

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We celebrate Ben Franklin’s 306th birthday this year (Jan 17).

The Drinkers Dictionary - a lengthy list of expressions about inebriation was first published by Franklin in the Pennsylvania Gazette on January 6, 1737.

....“The Phrases in this Dictionary are not (like most of our Terms of Art) borrow’d from Foreign Languages, neither are they collected from the Writings of the Learned in our own, but gather’d wholly from the modern Tavern-Conversation of Tiplers."  Ben Franklin

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Coronation

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception
Flanking the Queen from left as they were then titled: Lady Moyra Hamilton, Lady Anne coke, Lady Jane Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Lady Mary Baillie-Hamilton, Lady Jane Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby and Lady Rosemary Spencer-Churchill

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It was a photograph that captured the youth, glamour and femininity of what would come to be called the new Elizabethan age.

Britain’s 27-year-old Queen had been crowned in Westminster Abbey earlier that day, June 2, 1953, and now she poses for photographs in Buckingham Palace. She is wearing the Imperial State Crown and the exquisite Coronation gown designed by Sir Norman Hartnell. The 21ft ermine-trimmed velvet Purple Robe of Estate flows from her shoulders.

She is flanked by her Maids of Honour: six of the country’s most blueblooded young women, all single, beautiful and, like the Queen, wearing gowns by Hartnell.

The picture, taken by official Coronation photographer Cecil Beaton, delighted Her Majesty and became one of the defining images of the day. What it does not reveal, however, is the human hinterland behind the pomp and splendour. It gives no clue to the Maids’ discomfort: their gowns were rib-crushingly tight.

Queen Elizabeth followed a precedent set by Queen Victoria by having Maids of Honour instead of pages to bear her Coronation train. It was their duty to unfurl the cumbersome train as she alighted from the Gold State Coach outside Westminster Abbey and hold it aloft using six silk handles invisibly stitched into its underside.

‘Ready, girls?’ the Monarch asked her attendants as they paused at the Abbey doors to begin their historic procession to the altar.

Their delicate choreography delighted even notorious perfectionist Beaton, who described the Maids, whose ages ranged from 18 to 23, as the Queen’s ‘retinue of white, lily-like ladies’.

Now, in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, they relive a momentous day they can still vividly recall, six decades on . . .

Rin Tin Tin: The Life And The Legend

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One of Hollywood’s greatest stars of the Twenties and Thirties - Rin Tin Tin was once the most famous dog in the world, decades before Lassie came to the screen and the first pet cited as the co-respondent in a divorce case.

Forty million Americans watched The Adventures Of Rin Tin Tin. It was exported to 70 countries. Children loved the Wild West adventures, chase scenes and gun fights.

But most of all they loved Rin Tin Tin: loyal, brave and inventive, ... he always saved the day.



Friday, January 20, 2012

The Middletons Head to Mustique

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The tiny Caribbean island of Mustique was made famous in the 1960s when its owner, Lord Glenconner, gave the Queen's late sister a 10 acre plot of land as a wedding present.

Lord Glenconner bought the island, which had been left to wrack and ruin following the decline of the great sugar plantations in the 19th Century, for £45,000 in 1958 .

In the early days, life on the island was simple: with little fresh water and dusty tracks for roads.

But the eccentric Scottish noble struck on the idea of parcelling up and selling off small pockets of land to carefully vetted buyers.

Princess Margaret commissioned theatrical designer, Oliver Messel, to build her a villa, Les Jolies Eaux. She adored Mustique because it was somewhere she could let her hair down away from prying eyes and public scrutiny.

Visitors included her cousin Lord Lichfield, who had a villa nearby, gangster John Bindon — with whom Princess Margaret is rumoured to have had an affair — and Mick Jagger. It was here, too, that she conducted her affair with Roddy Llewellyn, a landscape gardener 17 years her junior.

Princess Margaret gave Les Jolies Eaux to her son, Lord Linley, when he married in 1998, but, much to her distress, he quickly sold it.

In 1989 Mustique Island was transformed from a family estate into a private limited company - The Mustique Company - with the 100 or so homeowners as shareholders

There is no “out of season” as Mustique is far enough south to avoid hurricanes and enjoys temperatures of around 75F to 80F all year round.Read more:

It is also one of the safest places in the Caribbean. The only murder in Mustique’s recent history occurred 10 years ago when a French heiress was found stabbed to death in her villa — a crime that has never been solved.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

James Dean Expose?

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What was the true sexuality of Hollywood legend James Dean?

A new film about the star will take a specific look at his personal life.

The biopic Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean, includes scenes of the actor having sexual encounters with a series of men.

Of course, we know it matters not whether he was or not!

Ariel Sharon ... remembered by his son

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This is hardly the first time the child of an Israeli politician has written about his or her parent. Yaakov Sharett edited and published the personal diary of his father, Moshe Sharett, the second prime minister of Israel, and it would be difficult to overstate the importance of this volume. Ofra Nevo-Eshkol wrote a book about the humor of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, in which she humanizes her father, and Yael Dayan wrote “My Father, His Daughter,” which candidly depicts the riotous sexual behavior of her father, Moshe Dayan.

Gilad Sharon’s “Sharon: The Life of a Leader” differs from these works in that it is a detailed and heavily documented biography of sorts. Ariel Sharon held onto everything, including the scribbled notes passed to him by colleagues at cabinet meetings. It serves as an unmitigated statement of defense for its subject. The book is dedicated “To my beloved wife and children, my brother, my mother, those who preceded us, and especially for you, Dad – you are the hero of the book, the hero of our lives.” The dedication is the first indication that in this book, the author is attempting to fill the role of the late Uri Dan, the most illustrious of the propagandists whom Sharon employed in his byzantine court.
Brave, daring – and contentious

For better or for worse, Ariel Sharon played a significant role in the annals of the State of Israel. In the first part of his public life he was a soldier and general who fought in every war and became renowned as a brave military leader and a daring strategist. At the same time, he was also considered a quarrelsome and contentious person who was incapable of respecting authority, did not always speak the truth, and was wont to be involved in blood-spattered incidents.

The Most Dangerous Woman In the World

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Emma Goldman was born in 1869 in Kovno, then part of imperial Russia.

The formative moment in her political awakening came during the so-called Haymarket affair, when four Chicago labor leaders, all self-described anarchists, were framed and executed for a crime they apparently never committed. The event shook Goldman to the core,

in 1892 she conspired to assassinate the industrialist Henry Frick, a fierce adversary of organized labor ‏(the plot was not successful‏), and it was with Berkman that she was deported from the United States to Russia in 1919 for inciting against the draft.

In her 30 years in the United States, when she was not on the road firing up the crowds, inspiring presidential assassins ‏(Leon Czolgosz, the man who shot and killed William McKinley in 1901, said he was motivated by a speech she had given‏) or doing time in prison, Goldman worked as a midwife and nurse. In 1906, she fulfilled a longtime professional dream, when she founded the anarchist monthly magazine Mother Earth − a publication that became the major focus of her life until it was shut down by the government in 1917.

After leaving Russia, in December 1921, following a brutal crackdown by the Red Army, in which thousands of Russians were killed, Goldman spent most of the remaining years of her life in exile in England and France. Although she was certainly cognizant of the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jews in Germany, it is not clear from this biography how she was able, or whether she even tried, to reconcile the events of the era with her fierce anti-war views and her conviction that anti-Semitism would go away if only the Jews would make themselves citizens of the world, as she had.

Goldman, who died in 1940, was rediscovered and embraced as the darling of the New Left in the 1960s. As the anti-establishment movement in America enjoys yet another resurgence these days, the author, Vivian Gornick couldn’t have chosen a better time to publish a biography of this true trailblazer.


Auschwitz Lives On

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Sketches from inside - haunting images created by a prisoner within ...

will be published by the memorial museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau

"The Sketchbook from Auschwitz" contains 22 pictures drawn in 1943 by an unknown prisoner at the camp. The sketches, mostly drawn in pencil, document sometimes gruesome images of life and death at the concentration camp. Among the scenes depicted in the collection are the arrival of prisoners by train, and the notorious selection process by the Nazis.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fuehrer and his Frauleins

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Vivid, colourful photographs captured of the Fuehrer and his Frauleins during a celebration of his fiftieth year.

The rare images were captured by German photographer Hugo Jaeger from the rise of fascism in Germany in the Thirties until the end of the Second World War.

He was given unique access to Adolf Hitler at massive, public rallies across Europe and also in more intimate moments with colleagues. The colour images bring Nazi Germany to life - in one image Hitler salutes crowds at a rally under a dazzling blue sky, while the backdrop is awash with the red of the swastika

The story of how the pictures managed to survive the war is almost as remarkable as the images themselves.  When the Allies stormed Germany in 1945 and his home - he took the opportunity while they were distracted by a cognac bottle - to bury the images inside glass jars on the outskirts of town for 20 years before finally selling them in 1965 to Life Magazine

Royal Sketches

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They were intimate pictures the Queen never wanted the public to see.

When family portraits sketched by her were leaked to a journalist, she sought an injunction in one of the first cases of its kind, the furious monarch applied to the courts to stop publication of the drawings in the 1840s.

More than 150 years later, the public will be offered the rare chance to see them when copies of six of the pictures go to auction.

112 Year Musical Collection

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A massive cache of musical treasures that's grown to include a fragile harp-piano, the pioneering Moog synthesizer and the theremin used for 'The Green Hornet' radio show has been shuffled over the years from a theater to an unheated barn and now languish, rarely seen or heard, in a Michigan storage vault.

Spanning centuries and continents, the instruments worth at least $25 million by their chief caretaker's estimate are packed and stacked in an out-of-the-way storage room with water-stained ceilings. It's hardly the environment envisioned for them when Detroit businessman Frederick Stearns gave the University of Michigan the base of the collection a century ago with instructions that the instruments be exhibited.

da Vinci designer

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 da Vinci ... Painter, scientist and inventor.

Now a luxury Italian brand has decided to manufacture a bag based on Leonardo's design – more than five centuries after his death.

it seems Leonardo da Vinci, the man who gave us the Mona Lisa, can also be credited with another creation – the designer handbag.

It is believed he drew his sketch of an ornate leather accessory in 1497 while he was painting The Last Supper.

The bag is named the Pretiosa.

The Story of Temple Emanu-El

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The founding of Temple Emanu-El was a consequence of the second wave of immigration of Jews from Europe to America. During the time of the American Revolution there were approximately 10,000 Jews living in the United States — most of Sephardic ancestry. Following the failure of the liberal revolutions in central Europe, Jews from the regions of Germany and Austria began their migration across the Atlantic. During the years 1835 to 1855, approximately 250,000 made their way across the Atlantic and settled primarily in New York, Baltimore, Cincinnati and even

San Francisco. The roots of the oldest Reform synagogues in America lay in these communities.

Established in l845 at a gathering of 33 Jews from Germany, Temple Emanu-El held its first services in a second floor loft at the corner of Grand and Clinton streets on the Lower East Side. With more Jews coming from Germany to New York, and with the growing success of the community, the congregation moved progressively uptown — both physically and spiritually. By l868 — only 23 years after founding Temple Emanu-El — the congregants built an edifice at Fifth Avenue and East 43rd Street, which was at that time the largest synagogue structure in America. Temple Emanu-El already had gained the reputation of having the most prominent congregation of members in the United States.

As Emanu-El continued to grow, the neighborhood in which it was situated became more and more commercialized. The decision thus was made in the mid-l920s to relocate. Consolidating in l927 with Temple Beth-El (located on Fifth Avenue and East 76th Street), the congregation built its present house of worship at Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street.


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Mass grave at Treblinka disproves theorists who have denied its genocidal past as the site of an extermination camp.

A British forensic archaeologist has unearthed fresh evidence to prove the existence of mass graves at the Nazi death camp Treblinka - scuppering the claims of Holocaust deniers who say it was merely a transit camp.

Some 800,000 Jews were killed at the site, in north east Poland, during the Second World War but a lack of physical evidence in the area has been exploited by Holocaust deniers.

Scrapmetal nightmare

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A solid silver cross was snatched from the altar in a chapel at Manchester Cathedral where it had stood for more than 50 years commemorating the building’s devastation in a wartime bombing raid.

A spate of thefts of bronze plaques from war memorials has led to calls for tougher action against rogue scrap dealers blamed for encouraging the plunder in the UK.  Although this scurge is global.

What slovenly mind would desecrate memorials for transient cash? ... how banal ... how uninspired.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Miss America

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The first Miss America was in 1921,the winner -16 year old  Margaret Gorman.
By 1939, a "long-stemmed" Miss Michigan was crowned Miss America.
Miss America 1949 Jacque Mercer got hitched to her high school sweetheart during her reign.
Crowned in 1945, less than a week after the end of WW II, Bess Myerson was the first (and so far only) Jewish Miss America.
In 1951, Mobile, Alabama's Yolande Betzebe refused to pose in a swimsuit during her reign as Miss America.

More trivia at the link.

Where are they now?