BenTha'er-Horizons

Current Affairs

Earlier Epidemics in History

Was our nation's capital planned to be another city other than the Washington, DC area? What may have happened to make that change? Could it have been an unforeseen epidemic?

Was the potential capitol Philadelphia which was the business and cultural center of the new nation made up of states (or former colonies). It appears that Philadelphia was hit with a significant epidemic of yellow fever in the year 1793 which devastated and changed the city. While DC was likely going to be the capitol location, Philadelphia was still being considered. No longer - after this epidemic. The tiny mosquito knocked down this big city's plans and reputation. Hard to believe this could happen and Yellow Fever was not understood as far as cause and pathogenesis until a century later at the time of the Spanish-American War. Much like how history changed in the eastern Roman world if you read Justinian's Flea about the onset of the plague.

Read more about this epidemic here.
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The Long Goodbye and Inauguration

Today Barack Obama exits as 44th president and Donald Trump succeeds as the 45th. It seems like it was a very long goodbye by Obama and I was among those who looked forward to moving past his presidency. I felt he was dangerous to the Constitution and also safety of the American citizen. I don't like the interest groups who supported him and he made it clear through his actions he did not support all the people, just the ones who agreed with him. I wish I could say national healing would start but there is too much division now in classes and political thought. I don't think we can come together unless it is an outside threat. A shame.
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Radiation Effects

What have been the long term effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? An ongoing study has been following what has developed since. A report is here.
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The Melungeons

Not far from where my paternal grandfather and family were located and also my maternal ancestors came from, there is located an obscure group of American people, the Melungeons. I have never heard of them yet that means little. There is so much to learn in this world. Were my people part of this group since they are located in far NE Tennessee and the Clinch River Valley. Who knows. But more on the Melungeons here.


" Some lived over the state line on Stone Mountain, in other craggy parts of western Virginia and North Carolina and in eastern Kentucky. But the ridge and this valley were their heartland.
The story of the Melungeons is at once a footnote to the history of race in America and a timely parable of it. They bear witness to the horrors and legacy of segregation, but also to the overlooked complexity of the early colonial era. They suggest a once-and-future alternative to the country’s brutally rigid model of race relations, one that, for all the improvements, persists in the often siloed lives of black and white Americans today. Half-real and half-mythical, for generations the Melungeons were avatars for their neighbours’ neuroses; latterly they have morphed into receptacles for their ideals, becoming, in effect, ambassadors for integration where once they were targets of prejudice."
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Sunken Aircraft Carrier

What does a sunken aircraft carrier look like in the depths of the ocean? Mighty or not mighty in appearance? The carrier, the USS Independence, of Jaws movie fame came into being in World War II. It was sunk purposefully in the 1950s. Now they are exploring the vessel deep in the ocean to gather its secrets. More here.

"The USS Independence joined the Pacific Fleet in 1943, participating in several raids on Japanese installations before encountering the business end of a torpedo. After a patch-up, it returned to fighting for the remainder of WWII, before encountering the business end of two nuclear bombs".
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Irish Travellers

There are the Romany who travel in Europe and also in parts of the U.S. There is a group of Travellers in Ireland who are Romany like but not Romany. They follow their own ways and have set gender roles. One person got close enough to spend time with them and photograph them. Here is more detail on their lives.
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Seal Team 6 and 2002

The Fog of War they call it. Currently they are considering a Medal of Honor for a man who may have been mistakenly left behind in battle, who fought on against the enemy until almost rescued he did succumb. The story is here.

"An airman with the unit is being considered
for the Medal of Honor after new video
analysis suggested that he fought alone
bravely in a 2002 battle on an Afghan peak."

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The Panama Canal Today

One of the most interesting engineering marvels and changes to history of commerce was the building of the Panama Canal. It marvels those who see it today. Yet, it is not without its controversy and problems today. Read it here.
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Crime: The Unabomber

An interesting piece about how a literature professor helped the FBI narrow down the suspects, catch and convict the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. True crime is an interesting read when it is kept to the the facts and not Hollywoodized.
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Wine Tasting Heard Round the World

For so many years, French wines were considered the top of class in taste. Nothing could touch them. Then at one point in the 1970s, a surprise happened where California wines came out of the shadows and beat the French wines in a tasting test. The world has never been the same again. Another story to read.
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The Amerikans

I have watched the TV show, The Amerikans, on FX since it started. The concept is a deep cover family, parents came over from Russia and are very American like spies for the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Their children do not know they are spies and they assume they are a normal American family.

I came across this story of a family of much similar circumstances. The parents were deep cover spies for Russia and the children did not know of the deception until the FBI arrested the parents. Now the sons must live in Europe and wish to be able to return to the U.S. Read the story.
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Vikings, A Trip

I like to watch the TV series on the History Channel called Vikings. I have been to Norway and have visited the Viking museum. We have seen Viking ships that have been restored. They are not large. It is hard to believe they crossed the Atlantic in them but they did. They are now going to cross the Atlantic in a Viking ship again. The story of the voyage is found here.
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Columbine Lessons

One of the saddest days in current times was the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold terrorized their high school and killed a number of their classmates and a teacher. The high school was Columbine and located outside Denver, CO. It has been the source of a lot of soul searching and study. The mother of Dylan Klebold has written a book and is speaking out about how to engage in our children's lives and maybe not miss clues to things going very wrong in their lives. One such piece about this is here.
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The Rhodes

Well, I have not been to Africa. I have not visited South Africa nor Zimbabwe. I do remember when there was a Rhodesia. I can also say that I have met a large number of people living in the UK who used to live in South Africa and Rhodesia who returned to the mother country. A bit of understanding of Cecil Rhodes and his influence on southern Africa and how it reflects in current affairs along with the Rhodes Scholarship, please read this article from New Criterion.
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The Real Steve Jobs

I have always been an Apple product fan since I got a MacIntosh product back in the 1980s. Hard to believe that that old Mac Plus cost over $3500 and needed a back up hard drive. We have come a long way, Baby, on computers. Much to the influence of Steve Jobs. Interesting and difficult guy. I saw a documentary on TV recently that is mentioned in this article. It was interesting and enlightening. He did change our world or how we look at it. Few have done so in the manner he did. Read about it.
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Margaret Thatcher

I have come to admire the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. I am sure this would drum me out of many English homes who don't. I do remember the turmoil of labor in the United Kingdom and it seemed to be Britain was on a precipice of being dangerously irrelevant on the world stage. She stabilized the country in my opinion and brought it back more to relevancy. It remains sadly unknown if that would continue. Here is an article about Margaret Thatcher or at least a review of a book about her. It can explain why many people such as myself admire her.
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Entebbe

I am a student of history and also fascinated by many current events. I try to keep up. I am an Israel supporter though I don't agree with everything they do as a country. One of the most fascinating parts of their history and the ongoing saga over the years of terrorism was the hijack of an airplane carrying many Israelis and diversion to the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The hostages were held several days and the rescue by an Israeli Government strike team is considered the best hostage rescue ever. A book covering the topic thoroughly has just been published and the book review is found here.
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ET, Go Home

I came across an interesting article about how Drew Barrymore, the little child in ET, had to grow up on her own while barely into her teenage years. It is an interesting tale and I am glad I had a more stable home with my family. You can read her story here.
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The Oldest European Settlement in the U.S.

"We know that St. Augustine (established in 1565) is the oldest existing European community in the U.S. We know Jamestown (1607) is the oldest English community, and although the Roanoke colony was settled earlier, it did not survive. Such was the case of the Luna settlement, a Spanish colony in Florida that was the first multi-year European settlement in what would became the United States. Spanish conquistador Tristán de Luna y Arellano settled his expedition in what is now Pensacola, Florida, in 1559. Stranded by a hurricane that wrecked their ships, the colony lasted until 1561. It’s exact location was lost to history -until now. "

Learn more about this settlement and the discovery here.
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What Is Counter Terro

With the number of mass shootings increased in recent days, a mix of Jihadi terror and spree killers, I read with interest this piece about there are really two types of shooters. There may be a few exceptions or blends but primarily two. In knowing their habits of how they do their attack, one can learn better how to deal or find them. So read about the two types - the terror soldier and then the lone wacko.
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Question Of The Day

Do Zombies eat brains? Considering I do like to watch Zombie stuff or Zoobies as the inside joke is here, more Zombie trivia is worth checking out. Beyond the bit of content extracted, you can check out the theory here.

"In regards to why the zombies feed on brains, the closest we’ve ever come to an official explanation is a quote from Return of the Living Dead’s writer and director, Dan O’Bannon, who suggested that the undead felt the need to feed on the brains of the recently living because it somehow made them feel better by easing their pain. Avid fans of the zombie genre have tried to expand on this reasoning by asserting that zombies eat brains and guts because of the high levels of serotonin they contain, something that is kind of alluded to but by no means confirmed in the film’s official commentary where the production designer for the film, William Stout, notes that the idea of eating brains somehow alleviating the zombie’s pain “makes sense“."
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Munich, An Earlier Terror

In 1969, I was lucky to visit Europe while I was still in high school. Our trip took us to Munich where I saw the initial construction of the Olympic sites for the 1972 Olympics. During the Olympics, Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes and coaches hostage. The hostages died or were killed. Here is a recent article about newer information released that showed some were severely tortured during their captivity. Sadly, we don't see much changed in terror in this day and age.
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Terrorism is here

Today was another unspeakably bad day. Radical islamic terrorism has hit our shores again. 14 people dead and 21 injured at an attack on a meeting/holiday party at a regional convention center in San Bernardino. So much of the details don't make sense. The two perpetrators have been located and are dead. The whole scenario is alarming.
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Extinct Cave Lion Cubs

The found the well-preserved remains of two cave lion cubs in the frozen ice sheet of Siberian Russia. The cubs were from a time period of over 10,000 years ago and a very rare find, An interesting archeological find and read about it here.
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American Pharoah versus Secretariat

American Pharoah was the first thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown for several years. A number of horses came very close but lost at the Belmont Stakes. He did the Trifecta this year and just completed his racing career with a win. Someone matched up video to see which horse would win if they raced against each other, American Pharoah or Secretariat. Check here to see the outcome.
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Tawt I Saw a Puddy Tat

Mark Steyn is a writer who Bob and I enjoy reading. He is has a needle sharp wit that he uses in his writing and TV discussions. It appears he got a cat a year ago and quite enjoys having him. The cat is named Marvin. Mark Steyn did a Halloween video and he is a cat album coming out. More about it here.
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Mountaineering - Death in the Clouds

Mount Everest has always been a challenge and a source of fascination. In 1996, there was a large loss of life and dramatic rescues of survivors that have made it into the best seller book list and also movies. I came across a fascinating story about how many people have died climbing Everest and where most of the deaths have occurred. The story primarily covers more recent deaths and how many bodies are left on the mountain. Also, what it means to the people they left behind. A fascinating article.
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Yom Kippur War and Gettysburg

A veteran of Israel's 3 day Yom Kippur War of 1973 has written a book comparing that battle to Gettysburg in the Civil War. He feels there are a number of comparisons and he was encouraged by other historians to tell the tale. Find it here
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Today, Never Forget

Not much more to be said. The 14th anniversary of 9-11.
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Possible California Disaster

Bob and I lived down in Walnut Creek, CA for 20 years. We lived near the Sacramento River delta and would spend some time camping or visiting the area. I came across this article about how with a major earthquake and the right circumstances, the delta levees could break down bringing in sea water. The increase in salinity would for one be disastrous for the area. As with the dams further up near the Sierra Nevadas controlling the drinking water sources for Northern California, little has been done to improve the levee infrastructure. California could be sitting on a major disaster for the large population that lives in the state. Read more about this situation here.
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American Dream

“Somebody left the American Dream in the toaster too long. It's now burnt to a crisp.”
― Joe Bageant

Some days it seems better to want to turn off the TV, stop reading the internet and papers. Hunker down for the nightmare of what American looks like anymore to pass.
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A City Destroyed

Another Michael Totten article. He seems to find a way to bring home the culture of a city or geographical area. Cities don't have to be destroyed by mass weapons, they can be destroyed economically or culturally. His focus in this article is about the city of Sousse in Tunisia. This city was a resort city to many in Europe for a wonderful vacation along the Mediterranean. A few months ago, an ISIS inspired person took a weapon and killed 38 people while they relaxed along the beach. Now the tourist industry in this city and this country are decimated. Certainly achieving what this evil person wanted. One hopes the country will come back but it may take a long time to do so or never.
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The Korean Peninsula

A fair amount of hostilities have occurred between North and South Korea over the last 60-70 years. Even currently, North Korea is making noise about trying to attack South Korea because "they exist". I came across this trivia story about how North Korea sent an assassination squad to South Korea in 1968 to kill President Park Chung Hee. They did not succeed but one member was captured. Shortly after the South Koreans tried training a group like the Dirty Dozen to do the same to Kim Il Sung. They were never deployed and were abandoned on the island they were sent to train on. An interesting story of skullduggery.
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Picking Losers

You know the feeling when it seems you like something and it should catch on. And it doesn't or at least for a very long time when you want it to stick around because you love it. What about when it happens over and over again. Surprise! It appears that they use people like me (us) who continually pick or buy losers through Big Data to determine which products are likely to not catch on. Some of use just doom it right from the start. Just read about it and weep. It won't be around long anyway.
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A Ranch the Size of Texas, Almost

One can buy themselves a ranch in Texas. One for $725 million at least. The famed Waggoner ranch is for sale. It is a sale ordered by judges on the family who cannot come to agreement on how to split up the ranch. More about the ranch here.

FOR SALE: Largest ranch in the U.S. within a single fence. Texas fixer-upper with more than 1,000 oil wells; 6,800 head of cattle; 500 quarter horses; 30,000 acres of cropland; tombstones for legendary cowboys, long-dead dogs, and a horse buried standing up. Favorite of Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt. Colorful history of drinking and divorce. Fifteen-minute drive to rib-eyes at the Rusty Spur in Vernon. Ideal for Saudi oil sheiks, billionaire hedge funders, and dot-commers who can tell a cow from a steer. Profitable. Zero debt. Property taxes only $800,000 a year. Price: $725 million.
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Prehistoric Island

One sees movies or TV shows about people being shipwrecked on an island where there are natives or cannibals or something menacing. Well, there really is an island like that is this day and age. It is found in the Bay of Bengal. The people there will kill anyone who comes on the island. They shoot arrows and throw spears at any planes or copters that fly above. The island is called North Sentinel Island. It is curious though what the natives call it? More information here. The trees provide so much cover they hide visualizing where the people are.
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Mixed Up Twins

I came across this article about two sets of identical twins who were mixed up at the hospital between both sets and each set grew up thinking they had a fraternal twin not an identical twin born with them. Until they found out the truth. A fascinating story about genetics, epigenetic, environment and also how one must feel when they look at their life and wonder what it would have been like if they had lived in their true parental family.
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Reality Today

Exchanges established by the federal government are exchanges established by the state. Rachel Dolezal is black. Iran will honor an agreement not to develop nuclear weapons. ISIS is a JV team. There’s an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses. Michael Brown had his hands up and pleaded “don’t shoot.” Caitlyn Jenner is a woman. Obamacare is working. 2+2 doesn’t necessarily equal 4. The polar ice caps are disappearing. The IRS is doing a decent job. The border is secure.We’ve ended two wars responsibly. Hillary Clinton turned over all work-related e-mails. An $18,200,000,000,000 debt can grow without mention. People who burn down buildings and overturn cars aren’t thugs. The OPM hack is manageable. We’ve reset relations with Russia. Entitlement reform can be kicked down the road. We’re more respected around the world.

Reality is Now Discretionary, Peter Kirsanow
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The Obsolete Man

Lately, it has seemed as if the United States is drifting or being pushed more to a Semi-totalitarian state. The rule of law is vanishing or what has been the rule of law for over 200 years. It is an unsettled feeling on where we are going. I am a non-conformist when it comes to being told what I must think and say. I tend to dig in my heels and say "No Way". I am feeling that lately. A recent article referred to the path we are taking was predicted by a Twilight Zone episode in 1961, The Obsolete Man. How soon will we, or I, become The Obsolete Man for real.
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Hitler's Bed

There is a lot of controversy going on currently that centers around removing the Confederate battle flag. I have not ever been a fan of the flag and my ancestors fought for the North. I do find it troubling how off the wall crazy this is getting. I am still a fan of history and one cannot change it or hide it. Also, it is going to drive supporters under ground or harden their "defenses". Better to have open dialogue and handle it.
On another note, with all of that hysteria, I read about an Englishman who is a Nazi memorabilia collector. He is not a supporter of Nazism it sounds but he is wrapped up in saving Third Reich artifacts for posterity. The story is here.
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Atomic Ghosts

Well, the old Cold War is over and they are now putting together remnants and historical artifacts of that time into a historical park. It does seem a bit eerie. Are we on the verge of a new Cold War but with Arab nations in the Middle East? The photos are fascinating and this article is a bit of a jaunt back into our recent history related to nuclear weapons and our relationship with or against the Soviet Union. What would Stalin say?
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Magna Carta 800 Years

Today is the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede in England. I have seen the location of Runnymede 20 miles west of London. I believe I was on a trip to see Windsor Castle. I have seen one
of the versions of the Magna Carta in Lincoln Castle in Lincoln in the 1990s on a trip to England with Bob's Mom, Dorothy. It was a great trip and lots to see. I have photos but they are likely not digitalized yet. I had to see the Magna Carta since it was the basis for English law and therefore, our law and Constitution. Read more about it here.
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Peaceful Neighbors as Mass Murderers

How can groups of people live a number of years side by side, carry on business and daily activities, yet subsequently end up murdering those same neighbors on a mass scale? Genocide in Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, currently in Syria and Iraq? What syndrome allows this to occur?
A discussion of the underlying physiological nature of this issue is discussed here.
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Russia's Take on Current Times

Timothy Snyder is an author I have mentioned in this blog a number of times. He has written a number of books and articles about the area and political times between Germany and the Soviet Union before and during World War II. His description of the turmoil, war and totalitarian methods during the 1930s and 40s is startling and gruesome. Here is an interesting article of his evaluating how Vladimir Putin is using the Hitler/Stalin pact of 1939 as a basis for his actions toward the Ukraine and other countries now. This Pact was taboo in Russia for many years since Hitler turned on Stalin to attach the Soviet Union. Interesting and concerning where this goes now.
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Drone Views of Damaged Cities

Here is a drone's eye view of cities where they have been de-populated due to radiation leaks (Chernobyl, Tomioka) or population moving out (Detroit). There are 36 photos. People used to live normal lives there and now they are uninhabitable or next to being so.
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A Real Amerikans

Many people have watched the TV series, The Americans, with the C as a Soviet symbol. It is an interesting show that is well acted. The premise is a family where the parents came over to America after Soviet recruitment as teenagers to infiltrate the system as normal Americans but are spies. Their children do not know they are Soviet spies.

I came across this article and video from 60 minutes about a real spy who still lives in the U.S. but came over as a spy from East Germany and the Soviet Union in the 1980s much like in the TV series. More can be found here. His name is Jack Barsky but is an accepted name not his original. Jack Barsky was a child who died and he assumed the name.

"Tonight, we're going to tell you a story you've probably never heard before because only a few people outside the FBI know anything about it. It's a spy story unlike any other and if you think your life is complicated, wait till you hear about Jack Barsky's, who led three of them simultaneously. One as a husband and father, two as a computer programmer and administrator at some top American corporations and three as a KGB agent spying on America during the last decade of the Cold War."
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Real Jurassic Park

So will we really try to do a version of Jurassic Park some day in the near future. It appears they are looking at bringing back different extinct species through using samples of their DNA, De-extinction they call it. More can be found here.

Jurassic Park has a lot to answer for. It made the idea seem so simple. Take the DNA from a microscopic drop of dinosaur blood, preserved for 65 million years in the gut of a mosquito trapped in fossilised amber. Carry out a bit of jiggery-pokery involving chaos theory and Jeff Goldblum. Insert the dino DNA into the yolk of a crocodile’s egg and leave to incubate. Soon you’ll have a thriving menagerie of once-extinct beasts roaming the jungles of someone’s private theme park. The 1993 Hollywood blockbuster and Michael Crichton novel of the same name may not have invented the idea of “de-extinction” but they certainly put it out there as a concept. And like all good works of science fiction, it showed what goes wrong when scientists get above themselves. A rampant T-rex is, after all, the ultimate invasive species.
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Apartment Burning

April Fool's Day was not a good one for a number of people locally. A major arson fire was set at the cafeteria of South Albany High School. This whole building part of the school burned to a crisp. It serves as a cafeteria and meal center for a number of local schools and a band center too. What a shame. Then later in the day while David, Renee, Nicolas, and Ryan were out here at the farm, their old apartment they lived in until last October burned inside. All the units in this section were affected with smoke and water damage beyond this one. It was comforting they no longer lived there and no fire started while they lived there and were upstairs. The stairs were narrow, and steep with an angle. Not a good way to get out from a fire below. Supposedly the later tenants were moving out and had leaned a mattress against a heater starting the fire. Sad if true.
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Old Nazi Hideouts in Argentina

They captured Adolph Eichmann in Argentina. We know conventional wisdom says many German Nazis escaped at the end of the war to countries on the eastern side of South American. Mengele lived in Brazil plus Paraguay, I believe, until he died. They found some old buildings, hideouts, in the jungle in Argentina near the border with Paraguay. Just more evidence of the stories that would make up "The Odessa File". Here is a fascinating story found in the Washington Post.
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The Crusades

Our President recently insulted Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast. As a Christian, I certainly feel his comments were insulting and beyond what the President should do or say. That he is not like any other prior President and seems to care little what other Americans like or want (even his supporters at times) is evident.His comments also tended to misrepresent Christianity's role in the Crusades. Here is information the author says is the real history of the Crusades.
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Megyn Kelly

One of my day to day heroes and I love to watch is Megyn Kelly of Fox News. It was nice to see that the New York Times (worth mostly cage paper on the political area) did a feature on her. Check it out.
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Churchill's Lost Election

The 50th anniversary of Churchill's passing was this weekend. I have long admired Churchill for many reasons. A lot of it is his style of writing and his sense of history especially family history. I have a number of his books in series. I love the History of the English Speaking People. I lived with those books daily for awhile. It certainly made me an Anglophile. Here is an interesting article on why Winston Churchill lost his election so soon after World War II was over.
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The Internet Alexandria Library

History has described the immensity and loss of the library at Alexandria in Egypt. We lost so much when that library was burned. People think that everything that is on the internet is there for all time or certainly for a very long time. Often it is not and is purged in days, weeks, months, and maybe years. Now people have created the internet Archive and are saving webpages for posterity. They are the "go to" people for this effort. Read about it in detail here.
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Ideal Communist City

Planners of a particular mind set are looking at ways to get more people to live in dense urban environments, close together, and to use urban transit systems. Not my cup of tea to be sure. Maybe the precursor to their ideal now was what people thought were the ultimate communist city model in the Soviet Union. I saw this sort of lifestyle in East Berlin when I visited there in 1969. Again, not the way I would live, especially behind the Berlin Wall which I saw first hand (along with the crosses for those who were killed trying to leave over No Man's Land. So take a look at what was in our past and may never be totally out of possibility with the socialist leaning minds out there.
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The DFR Speech

Last night was the State of the Union speech. I could not watch the speech. Too tired of being lied to. All I can say is that everything I have been on out takes and discussions of the speech is that it should not be the SOTU but the DFR speech (Divorced From Reality) on both domestic and foreign policy. 'Nuff said.
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Parisien Jihad

We have been through 3 days of intense news coverage of an overwhelming loss of life through execution shooting of a cartoonist publication office and then a Jewish market in Paris. Most of the perpetrators are dead now yet one woman is still on the loose. She was the spouse of one of the dead gunmen. France now has their most severe terrorist attack and are reeling from it. An interesting article and discussion of how France came to this pass and what they now how to look forward to with jihadists in their midst.
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Ebola Story

Ebola has been ravaging west Africa,especially in three countries. It did make its way over to the United States and I think it will again very possibly. At one point in the spring of 2014, it looked like they had the disease under control and on the way out as an epidemic. It smoldered and came roaring back in the summer. Here is an interesting story about how that was allowed to happen.
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Polin

I love to be able to travel and there are a number of places I would like to visit in this world. Traveling to Poland is one. Visiting Warsaw and Cracow would be top of the list. Due to their rich history and culture. Culture that that was deeply damaged and changed within the last 75 years. The first Jews arrived in the 10th century to the area that is Poland. They made up a large percentage of the population until nearly exterminated during World War II. Their story is the story of Poland too even though there are not large numbers there now. Poland has recently opened a new museum that looks at the History of Polish Jews over time since their arrival there. From reading this article and others, there is now additional reasons to visit the area. The museum is built in the heart of the Warsaw ghetto where so much loss of life and significance from World War II.
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The Big Apple

Another Trivia Day. Why is New York City referred to as The Big Apple. Read about it here.

The earliest documented reference to New York being referred to as “The Big Apple” comes from a 1909 book by Edward Martin, called The Wayfarer. In it, he uses the moniker in a metaphorical sense, rather than a proper name for the city:

"Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city… It inclines to think that the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap…"
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Crowd Size

Trivia Day again. Today I Found Out recently covered how crowd size is determined. This can be a controversial issue because people use the numbers to boost the importance of their issue or message. Usually people of a leftist persuasion can get by with exaggeration while others cannot. It is interesting to read in this story about how a fairly simple mathematical look at determination was the basis for what is done today. Read about it.
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The Yanks Are Coming

Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a bit fitting to blog about World War I again and an article about a book out about this period and how the Yanks came to fight over in Europe. There is a bit more about that time and the book that is available here.

“Though the country was unprepared for war and there were questions about the leadership of the administration, the threat of unrestricted warfare from German U-boats, the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania with American civilians on board, and the dubious telegram sent from Germany to Mexico—promising a return of territory in the American southwest if the central American country joined Germany in a war against the United States—drew America into World War I.”
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Where Art Thou, T-Shirt?

T-shirts are everywhere. Under our outer wear shirts, a fashion item themselves, a public statement, or just an advertisement, we all wear them. We don’t give any thought to where they came from, how they were invented. Surprisingly they are a newer piece of clothing. Check out their history here.

“Relatively speaking, the t-shirt is a fairly new addition to our collective wardrobes and it has only been an acceptable piece of clothing in its own right for around half a century. While the garment itself has existed in a recognisable form (albeit with wider necks and shorter sleeves) since the early 20th century, it was almost universally considered to be underwear and it was rarely, if ever worn in public.

So where did the t-shirt come from? It’s thought that it evolved from a kind of all-in-one underwear made from red flannel known as the “union suit” which was popular with workers in the 19th century. The union suit was patented in 1868 in New York and was based on a similar kind of underwear that had been popular with Victorian women. While the Union Suit excelled at keeping men warm, it was all but useless at keeping them cool in hot weather, unless that is, it was cut in half, which many workers did. In so doing, they inadvertently created the top half of what many would recognise today as “Long Johns”, a similar garment which consisted of two pieces of long underwear.”
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Radical Islam in the Middle East

It helps to read books and magazine articles on different perspectives regarding the history of peoples and religions in the Middle East. Here is an interesting article about the development of radical Islam in the Middle East in more recent times.
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A Changing World Order?

Is the world as we know it changing? Is the economic prosperity and hope for increasing democracy seeping away in current times?There are some who believe so. Time will tell. I believe the next 6 to 12 months could be very dangerous and significant months.
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Russian Art as Propaganda

There is a current art exhibit on display in a newer museum in Moscow. The concept is the art of “Soviet Realism”. Of course in Communist times, this type of realism is very much propaganda. A discussion of the exhibit and how it is a look into this time frame and heritage of the Russian peoples can be found here.

“The term "Soviet Realism" conjures up images of workers and farmers nobly engaged in their labors—inflated to mythical status—and depicted in a kind of debased academic style. Produced at a time when Soviet authorities scrutinized art for its content and its execution, demanding ideologically worthy subjects as well as expressive methods that would be easily understood by the masses, works of this kind were offered in direct contrast to the "decadent, bourgeois" styles that flourished in the West, those that embraced abstract forms and individual expression—both anathema to Soviet aesthetics. Much of it is more properly understood as propaganda than as fine art.”
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One Top Ten Robin Williams Performances

As we all remember Robin Williams, one site put together their top 10 performances of his. As I watch different clips, I have to marvel at his ability, his genius. I also have to laugh which can be a rare quality in this day. Please watch and enjoy a little time away to NeverNeverLand here.
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Till We Meet Again, Robin Williams

Sad news today of the passing of Robin Williams, comic and actor. Of course, I never did meet him.Yet, one feels that you know of him through his work. He was an amazing comic genius. When I first saw him on Mork and Mindy TV show I could not believe the quick facile changes he did between routines. No one was like him, other than his hero, Jonathan Winters. He could make you laugh at the drop of a hat, anytime. It is though with incredible sadness that I write this........
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Vietnam Today

Michael Totten is at it again, writing great travel pieces for unusual areas of the world. This time instead of Cuba, he has visited Vietnam. His description of the country, people, cities and government now compared to the days of the Vietnam War are fascinating. The country has rebounded and though is a bit totalitarian, it is not repressed the same way it is in Cuba. More of a bustling entrapeneurial spirit present in the people. Here is the article. The hot weather sounds a bit intimidating and not my type to enjoy though.

“Ho Chi Minh would be appalled if he could see Vietnam now.”
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Spies Come In From the Cold

John Le Carre wrote the ultimate spy novel, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold”, many years ago. It is considered to be based on the group of Cambridge-educated men who were friends that went on to be spies for Russia within the British government. The amount of information and secrets they shared with Russia was huge and devastating. The story of the men and their clique at university is fascinating. A recent book has come out about the most well-known of the group, Kim Philby. The title is called, “ A Spy Among Friends”. To read about the background, find it here.
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Brandolini's Law

So, from now on, it will be referred to the Brandolini’s law (a.k.a. the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle) which states that:

“The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

‘Nuff Said.
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Ruining Country

Well, I couldn’t have said it better. This article does a nice job of explaining why I think Obama is ruining the country. The tipping point is getting closer and I don’t know if we can recover. It all feels rotten underneath the surface and a “lollipop-like” facade of sugar sweetness above the surface. A sweet and tart mix that does not work and will turn sour before long.
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Iraq Falling Apart

Why is Iraq quickly disintegrating into a failed state and breaking into different competing regions when it was more on the road to a country that held democratic elections? One good article and opinion is found here. Our current foreign policy lacks good leadership and understanding of the region. We do not have a President who truly knows what he is doing and really is more a poster person for the Presidency than a substantive individual. Whatever makes him political points are all that matters. The rest of us and the world can go hang.
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An Unbroken Hero

Recently, an amazing man and a hero out of World War II passed away. The man is Louis Zamparini and he died at the age of 97. He was a pilot in World War II who survived his planed crashing in the Pacific war theatre followed by many days afloat in the ocean trying to make land. He was then captured by the Japanese and with that, survived a brutal incarceration by the Japanese through to the end of the war. Mr. Zamparini was the central focus of the best selling book, Unbroken. For a moving summary of his exploits and character, it can be found here from the Weekly Standard.
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Is It a Pre-War World?

There is a lot of speculation during this 100th anniversary year of the start of World War I that events in the world have many similarities now to that distant year. Do they? As in many instances, yes in a number of ways, and no in so many other essential matters. Walter Russell Mead is one of the best writers and foreign policy analysts out there. You can read his thoughts here.
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More View of Havana

Michael Totten has written another version of his travels or travelogue involving Cuba and Havana. It is a fascinating perspective of what the current political situation and government has made of Cuba from the pre-Communist days. He wanted to visit a Communist country and experience what that means as a tourist and a better appreciation of what the citizens of that country live with.

“Marxists have ruled Cuba for more than a half-century now. Fidel Castro, Argentine guerrilla Che Guevara, and their 26th of July Movement forced Fulgencio Batista from power in 1959 and replaced his standard-issue authoritarian regime with a Communist one. The revolutionaries promised liberal democracy, but Castro secured absolute power and flattened the country with a Marxist-Leninist battering ram. The objectives were total equality and the abolition of money; the methods were total surveillance and political prisons. The state slogan, then and now, is “socialism or death.” “
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Andrew Breitbart Quote

I always enjoyed and admired the person and spirit of Andrew Breibart. He tackled life and people head on, fearlessly. He challenged the norm and yet with good spirits. He certainly gathered friends and foe alike. He wanted people to be warriors to the truth on their own. I believe we still miss his presence in this stressed out world, semi-nightmare world we live in currently.
I bring this up because it was a good news day yesterday. I re-certified for ABVP feline for another 10 years. The hard work to pursue it instead of letting it lapse paid off. I got my new 60mm macro Nikon lens for my Nikon camera so I can film closeups better. How exciting to pursue! Here is a great quote from Breitbart to stick on my wall and remember.

“Walk towards the fire, don’t worry about what they call you. All of those things are said because they want to stop you in your tracks. But if you keep going, you’re sending a message to people who are rooting for you, who are agreeing with you. The message is that they can do it.”

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Memorial Day 2014

To remember a great place to be on Memorial Day, here is Arlington Cemetery with Arlington House at the top of the hill. So many sad, yet wonderful memories and sacrifices recognized in this hallowed area. I have seen big, rough looking men weep at ceremonies of at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is humbling.
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9-11 Memorial

The 9-11 Memorial Museum below Ground Zero is set to open about now. It is said to already be considered a big tourist attraction for people going to New York City. There has been some controversy surrounding the opening though overall it has been touted positively in the way the museum has handled the displays. An interesting description and mapping of how the museum is laid out is found here.
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For Sale, Dracula's Castle

Bran Castle, the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is up for sale. The castle is a 13th century fortress owned by the Hapsburg royal line and is considered for purchase by the Romanian government. Bram Stoker never visited the castle and relied upon a description of Bran Castle as the setting for Dracula. Stoker also drew inspiration for the vampire character from Vlad lll, the Impaler, born in Transylvania in 1431. Read about it all here.

“And in the novel, Stoker describes the Transylvanian Count's fortress as sitting high above a valley, perched on a rock above a flowing river. As the Bran Castle website notes, this castle is the only such fortress in Transylvania that fits the bill.”
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Bran Castle
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Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon was held last week, one year after the bombing at the last Marathon. It all seemed to go off well and the winner on the men’s side was an American of Somali background. People injured in the bombing are still recovering from one year ago. A good news article about the bombing is found here in Boston Magazine.
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Cults and Brainwashing

Long ago when I was just in college, Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her apartment in the East San Francisco Bay area. She was an heir to the Hearst Publishing Empire (William Randolph Hearst) and college age herself. It was a cause celebre because she later showed up with her kidnappers as a perpetrator in a bank robbery. She was eventually captured and convicted of this crime. The sentence was commuted later because it was shown that she had been brainwashed by this violent cult. The Federalist online has an interesting discussion of the case and how brainwashing is considered to work in individuals. The author compared the techniques of achieving this to how the media and culture are brainwashing the public in general in current times. Certainly we are being “nudged” to accept a change in social mores or be shunned by society around us. An interesting article that can be found here.

On a side note and the 6 degrees of separation concept, Patty Hearst’s sister was engaged at the time of the kidnapping to someone I knew well after that time. His name is Francis Morgan and is a Welsh friend of our good friend, Stephen Morgan.
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Ukrainian Uprising

Since November 2013, the Ukrainian population has taken to the streets in Kiev to protest the President of the Ukraine turning away from ties with the European Union and moving ties toward Russia. Many, especially in the western part of the country feel closer to the EU, others in the eastern section are tied closer to Russia. This resistance has led to the President (former now) fleeing to Russia and abandoning his palatial home. Russia has asserted its power and position to the Ukraine by taking over the Crimea area and placing it under total Russian control. One article I had saved a few weeks ago about the Ukrainian resistance and uprising against police tactics discusses how the people fought back by using medieval tactics and weaponry. A discussion of this is found here.
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Che Quevera and Cuba

Here is another great article and analysis of the recent history and status of Cuba by Michael Totten. He covers the bloody background of Castro’s henchman, Che Quevera. Unfortunately, a large number of ignorant individuals have romanticized Quevera and his visage is found on many a T-shirt. From all reports he was an evil man who was happy to practice revolution, especially in the form of killing anyone in his way or did not support his beliefs or efforts. Michael Totten covers this well in this article and a description of the monument to Quevera in Cuba.
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More Ukraine

I wrote 2 days ago here about the revolution in the streets of the Ukrainian people. This area has had a long history of turmoil. It is the land of the Cossacks too. One can read a synopsis of the history of this area and how it relates to today’s troubles by going here.
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Ukraine Today

For the past few months, the country of Ukraine has been in turmoil. A large number of the population are objecting to their leader’s cave-in to Putin of Russia to scrap a treat tying them closer to the European Union. Russia wants to rebuild their sphere of influence, much like what the geographical set up was for the Soviet Union. The Ukraine, being a large country and often the breadbasket for much of the surrounding countries, is key. What happens here has a lot of impact for Europe, Russia, and also the United States. The Ukraine has been important in much of the European and world’s political power plays for the past two centuries. And how they have suffered for it. It was a battleground between Germany and Russia in the 1930s and 40s. The people are standing up to their government and are “in revolution”. It is interesting though to note that the western part of Ukraine is more Europe disposed while the eastern portion has maintained its Russian ties. This article shows a large number of photos of what has been happening in Kiev recently.
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Top 10 Bad Decisions of 20th Century

Here we go again, another Top 10 list. This one is the Top 10 bad decisions of the 20th Century. They all seem to be related to wartime decisions. It is interesting to consider a counterfactual scenario of what would have happened if that decision or that action did not happen. I think the list is all justifiable as determined. Some may shift one item out and another in as they consider what is important to them. The list can be found here.
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Cuban Road Trip, Part Two

The second part of Michael Totten’s Journal covering his road trip around Cuba is found here. In this piece, he traveled to Trinidad which is a World Heritage Site. From his description, it is a beautiful city in many ways, unfazed by the Communist changes to architecture and buildings. Much of what has been there has been in place for centuries, even longer than parts of Paris as he mentioned. It is illuminating when he describes again how little people live on in Cuba, twenty dollars a month. Though even if one has cash money there is little or nothing there that one can use the money to buy. It is much like a post-apocalyptic world where money has no value or meaning to everyday life.

“So it turns out even Trinidad’s bubble of private enterprise can barely hobble along when it’s encircled by communism and cut off from the rest of the world. In hindsight, that’s obvious. I showed up in Cuba on a middle class salary, and I even brought emergency money, but I still couldn’t buy anything. Nothing’s for sale. Everything is in short supply everywhere. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket or your account. Cash isn’t as worthless as it would be after the end of the world, but it’s close.”

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Cuban Road Trip

As much as I wish I was the one traveling and on a road trip, I am not. Reading Michael Totten’s World Affairs Journal does make me feel as if I was though. He is a very engaging writer and brings a person right into the heart of where he is. You can see the countryside and experience what he experiences. I have written a piece earlier about his series on Cuba and here is another part of that visit. In this Journal piece, he is writing about taking a road trip to visit the Bay of Pigs. It is a name that should resonate in U.S. history and during JFK’s presidency. One gets a feel for the life of the average Cuban. People live on the same amount of money given to each person monthly. Seafood and meat items can be luxury goods and get them into very serious trouble. Michael Totten’s work is definitely worth reading.

“Police officers pull over cars and search the trunk for meat, lobsters, and shrimp. They also search passenger bags on city busses in Havana. Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote about it sarcastically in her book, Havana Real. “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.”

If they find a side of beef in the trunk, so I’m told, you’ll go to prison for five years if you tell the police where you got it and ten years if you don’t.

No one is allowed to have lobsters in Cuba. You can’t buy them in stores, and they sure as hell aren’t available on anyone’s ration card. They’re strictly reserved for tourist restaurants owned by the state. Kids will sometimes pull them out of the ocean and sell them on the black market, but I was warned in no uncertain terms not to buy one.”
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The World View from Mead

Walter Russell Mead writes for The American Interest. His columns are very well-written and a thoughtful, balanced look at domestic and foreign policies and affairs. He did recent columns listing first his picks for The World’s Biggest Losers for 2013 and then The 10 Biggest Winners of 2013. This may not match other’s picks yet WR Mead still presents a reasoned look at his. Certainly one can learn a bit about current affairs by reading these articles.
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Londonistan

One of the most interesting books Bob and I have read is Melanie Phillips book, Londonistan. She covers the increasing Islamization of Great Britain where she lives. She has a very interesting blog that I will catch from time to time. This article does not come from her yet covers much of the same topics that she covers. It is disturbing being the Anglophile that I am. I am not surprised though considering the large population of Muslims Bob and I would see in our last visit to London. So many come from the Middle East with money to live part of the year. The heart of London is coated with the hajib. This is a long article yet one worth reading to get a sense of where Great Britain is headed.
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2014, Another Great War?

I have touched on this subject in recent posts, even the one yesterday. What is we were to have a Great War this year, 100 years after the last? Could we? Are the circumstances leaning that way? Here is an article discussing if it could happen and that it would have to entail the United States and China to come close to the impact of the Great War, being they are two super powers who could make the difference. Take a read. See what you think.
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