Monday, June 27, 2016

Operation Condor

Operation Condor

Operation Condor Formulated to Eliminate Exiled Left-Wing Activist

Operation Condor named after the largest carrion bird of the world had been formulated to eliminate thousands of exiled left-wing activists who had ventured to confront the military dictators ruling the continent during the 70s and 80s. Operation Condor also known as Plan Condor was said to be a campaign of political suppression together with state terror which involved intelligence operation as well as assassination of adversariesthat had begun in 1968. It had been implemented officially in 1975 by the right wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America.

The program was envisioned to eradicate communist or Soviet influence together with ideas in order to subdue active or possible opposition movement against the contributing administrations. Owing to its secret nature, the accurate number of deaths directly linked to Operation Condor is very doubtful. Some have estimated that that were at least 60,000 deaths which could be credited to Condor and probably more. Victims comprised of rebels and leftist, union and peasant leaders, students and teachers, priests and nuns, intellectuals together with suspected guerrillas. The main members of Condor were the governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.

Technical Support/Military Aid – United States Government

Technical support and supplied military aid to the participants had been provided by the United States government, till at least 1978 and again after Republican Ronald Reagan had become the President in 1981.These types of support were often directed through the Central Intelligence Agency. Ecuador and Peru later on joined the process in more peripheral roles and these attempts like the Operation Charly assisted the local juntas in their anti-communist subjugation.

It seemed to be a planned programme of state-sponsored murder wherein US-backed commands devised to hunt down, kidnap and kill political opponents across South American and yonder.The correct number of the victims may not be known though the recent judges in Buenos Aires would deliver their judgment on the first court case in order to state focus on the conspiracy. Former military officers, eighteen in number, including Argentina’s last dictator Reynaldo Bignone – 88, would be sentenced on charges including kidnapping, torture as well as forced disappearance while seven other defendants inclusive of Jorge Videla, the general who had headed Argentina’s junta at the time of its bloodiest first three years had died when the trial had started in 2013.

Operation Condor Ended – Argentina Defeated Military Dictatorship in 1983

As per secret documents excavated after democracy had returned to the region, Operation Condor had been initially drawn up at a secret 1975 meeting of intelligence chiefs from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay which later extended to include Brazil. The minutes of the meeting had been signed for Chile by Colonel Manuel Contreras, the dreaded head of the Dina secret police of that country. The dictatorship and their intelligence services had been responsible for tens of thousands of missing and killed people during the period between 1975 and 1985.

 The `terror archives’ had revealed an amount of cooperation by Colombia and Venezuela, for instance, Luis Posada Carriles who was possibly at the meeting ordered the bombing of Orlando Letelier’s car. Alianza Americana Anticommunista, a Colombian paramilitary organization could have cooperated with Operation Condor. Mexico along with Costa Rica, Canada, France, the UK, Spain and Sweden received several fleeing from the terror regimes as refugees. Operation Condor eventually ended when Argentina had defeated the military dictatorship in 1983 and re-established democracy.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Maunsell Forts

Maunsell Forts

Maunsell Forts – Armed Towers

The Maunsell Forts are said to be armed towers built in the Thames and Mersey bays during the Second World War in order assist in defending the United Kingdom and operated as army and naval forts. In 1942, the Maunsell Sea Forts were constructed and decommissioned in the late 1950s and later utilised for other undertakings comprising of pirate radio broadcasting.

The Maunsell Sea Forts situated off shore on the Thames estuary, are said to be some of the most bizarre-looking structures which have been named after Guv Maunsell the civil engineer who designed them. It is said that they were abandoned in 1958 though some of them still tend to stand till date. During the World War II when Great Britain came across serious attacks from the Luftwaffe, the forts seemed to have a very short though intense life.

There has been little which could be done on land in order to counteract the continuance attack on the naval organization. Though known collectively as Maunsell forts there seems to be two diverse designs with various purposes. There are three-three army forts on the Thames bay close to the mainland and on the Mersey and further offshore are another four naval forts in the Thames bay.

Four Naval Forts – First to be Built

The army forts comprising of seven circular shaped forts have been linked through a walkway. The naval forts tend to have two cylindrical towers which are connected by a gun platform overhead.The first forts to be installed were the four naval forts which had been built from February and June 1942 and these forts accommodated 120 men each, typically below the waterline.

 The structures were constructed onshore and then sunk in their position, offshore. The naval forts on the other hand were single structures which had seven floors and each fort had Bofors guns and radar. From the unique four naval forts, only two seemed to last till date and one of these last two forts tend to presently host the self-proclaimed Principality of Sealand.

Guy Maunsell had designed a new kind of fort in 1943 which seemed more innovative and each fort comprised of a central control tower connected to six satellites. From the three army forts located in the Thames bay, the Nore Army Fort seemed to be the closest to the shore and is the only one which does not exist since it had been damaged severely during the 50’s and had been demolished towards 1960.

Red Sands Army Fort – Linked by Walkways

The Red Sands army fort made up of seven forts is linked by walkways and there is an on-going attempt of restoring the Red Sands army forts since they have been considered to be in good condition. The Shivering Sands Army Fort placed more than nine miles away from the shores, presently remains abandoned. Out of the seven forts which have been built here, there seems to be only six that remains till date after one of the forts had been hit in 1963, by a Norwegian boat.

It has served as the location of the first pirate radio which broadcast from the Maunsell forts. And its future seems uncertain though there are plans of dismantling it.From the time of the war, they had been placed under maintenance though they soon lost any planned importance and were utilised in various ways.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping

Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping

Baby Lindbergh - Eaglet – Kidnapped

On March 1, 1932 at around 9.00 pm, a crime which had drawn the attention of the entire nation, Charles Lindbergh III, the 20 month old son of Charles Lindbergh, the aviation hero, had been abducted by kidnapper or kidnappers who had climbed into the second-storey nursery of the Lindbergh home near Hopewell, N.J, through a ladder and seized the child, leaving a ransom note with a demand of $50,000. The Lindbergh baby named `the Eaglet’ by the press had been discovered missing by Betty Gow, the nanny of the child around an hour after the incident. The local authorities had been notified by the Lindbergh who in turn yielded control of the investigation to the New Jersey State Police.

 On investigation, the crime scene, a ransom note was discovered on the sill of an open window and muddy though unclear footprints in the nursery. Some distance away from the Lindbergh house, a ladder was found, broken where at one point two pieces were united and footprints were found leading towards the woods to the edge of the property. The Lindbergh was flooded by offers of help and false clues. For three days, the investigations lead to nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Thereafter, a new letter showed up with a fresh demand of $70,000.

Clues Leading to the Crime

The kidnappers ultimately had given instructions of dropping the money and when delivered, the Lindberghs were informed that their baby was on a boat called Nelly, off the coast of Massachusetts. But, after a thorough search, there was no sign of the child as well as the boat and soon thereafter, the body of the child was found near the mansion of the Lindbergh.

The child had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was discovered less than a mile from his home. The inconsolable Lindberghs ended in donating their mansion to charity and moved away. This crime seemed like it would remain unsolved till September 1934 when a noticeable bill from the ransom had turned up. The gas station attendant who had acknowledged the bill wrote down the license plate number since he became suspicious of the driver and the same was tracked back to a German immigrant and carpenter Bruno Hauptmann.When his home had been examined, detective had found a portion of Lindbergh ransom money.

Trial – A National Sensation

Hauptmann had appealed that the money had been given to him by a friend, to hold and that he had no link to the crime. The result of the trial became a national sensation. The case of the prosecution was not strong for the most part, the main indication besides the money, was testimony from the experts of handwriting that the ransom note was written by Hauptmann.

The trial had also tried to form a connection between Hauptmann as well as the kind of wood which was used in making the ladder. The evidence and intense public pressure was sufficient in convicting Hauptmann who was then electrocuted in 1935. In the consequences of the crime, the most dishonourable of the 1930s, kidnapping had been considered as a national crime.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cambodia's Vast Medieval Cities Hidden Beneath the Jungle


Revealed Undocumented Medieval Cities – Temple City of Angkor Wat

Cambodian archaeologists have discovered various earlier undocumented medieval cities near the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat. The Guardian can reveal in revolutionary discoveries which tend to turn overkey assumption regarding the history of the south-east Asia. Dr Damian Evans, the Australian archaeologist, whose discoveries had been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science recently, would be announcing that cutting edge airborne laser scanning technology has exposed several cities between 900 and 1,400 years old below the tropical forest ground, some of which tend to oppose the size of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.

Some of the experts are of the belief that the recently studied data, taken in 2015 at the time of the extensive airborne study that was undertaken by an archaeological project over a span of 734 sq. km indicates that the massive thickly populated cities could have founded the biggest empire on earth during the time of its peak in the 12th century.Evans has informed that they have entire cities discovered below the forest which no one is aware of, at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and it seems that they have uncovered only a section of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen and this time they have got the whole deal which is big, the size of Phnom Penh.

European Research Council – ERC Funding

For the project, Evans had attained European Research Council – ERC funding, based on the success of his first light detection and ranging survey in 2012, in Cambodia which had discovered a difficult urban landscape linking medieval temple-cities like Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, to Angkor and had confirmed what the archaeologist had long ago assumed that there seems to be a city below Mount Kulen.

 It was till the results of the bigger survey of 2015 had been analysed that the size of the city was obvious. The survey had discovered a collection of findings, inclusive of intricate water systems which were built hundreds of years before the historians had believed that the technology prevailed. These discoveries are projected to challenge theories on how the empire of Khmer had been established, dominated the region and decline towards the 15th century as well as the role of climate change together with the water management in the process.

Highly Refined Water Management System

The temple ruins of Angkor that stretches across the UNESCO protected Angkor archaeological park seem to be the country’s highest destination for tourists, with the main temple city, Angkor Wat seen on the national flag of Cambodia.

The presumed decline of Angkor has long engaged the archaeologists, taking into account the most extensive urban settlement of pre-industrial times as well as boasting on the highly refined water management system. The new cities have been discovered through firing lasers to the ground from helicopter in producing tremendously detailed imagery of the surface of the Earth.

 Evans has mentioned that the airborne laser scanners had also recognized huge numbers of enigmatic geometric pattern that had been formed from earthen mounds that could have been gardens. Emeritus professor of anthropology at Yale University and one of the distinguished archaeologist, Michael Coe, specialising in Angkor and the Khmer civilization has stated from Long Island in the US, that he thinks these airborne laser findings symbols the greatest progress in the past 50 or even 100 years of knowledge of Angkorian civilization.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sacred Destination: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia – Great Architectural Monument – Byzantine & Ottoman Empires

A great architectural and an amazing monument from Byzantine and for Ottoman Empires is Hagia Sophia at the Turkish Republic.The magical city Istanbul had hosted several civilizations since centuries, wherein Byzantine and Ottoman Empires had been the most popular ones and presently the city carries the features of these two different cultures. Hagia Sophia tends to be a perfect combination from which one can notice both Byzantium as well as Ottoman effect under one great dome.

One will find 4 seraphim mosaics – God’s protector angels with 6 wings, on the 4 pendentives which tend to carry the dome. The faces of the 4 seraphim have been covered with six to seven layers of plaster for at least 160 years during the Ottomans’ sovereignty. The last person who had seen the faces of the Seraphim had been the Swiss architect Gaspare Fossati when he had been holding the restoration at Hagia Sophia in 1840s. Putting the efforts of 10 days of hard work, specialists managed to take off the seven layers of plasters, revealing the face of one of the seraphim.

Served as Cathedral/Mosque/Museum

Hagia Sophia means `holy wisdom’ and the domed monument was initially constructed as a cathedral in Constantinople, present day Istanbul, Turkey, during the 6th century A.D. It comprises of two floors which are centred on a giant nave that tends to have a great dome ceiling together with smaller domes that tower above it. Helen Garner and Fred Kleiner in their book `Gardner’s Art through the Ages’ A Global History, has mentioned that `its dimensions are difficult for any structure which is not built of steel.

In plan it is about 270 ft. long and a width of 240 feet. The diameter of the dome is 108 feet and its crown tends to rise about 180 feet above the pavement’.In its live span of 1,400 years, it had served in the category of a cathedral, mosque and is now a museum. Constantinople had been the capital of the Byzantine Empire when it had first been constructed. Officially Christian, this state formerly shaped the eastern half of the Roman Empire, carrying on after the fall of Rome.

Hagia Sophia_1

Construction in 532 AD – Nika Riots, Great Revolt

Construction of Hagia Sopha had started in 532 AD when the Nika Riots, the great revolt had hit Constantinople. During that time, Emperor Justinian I was the ruler of the empire for five years and was disliked by the people. A University of London historian Caroline Goodson in a National Geographic documentary had stated that `people were resentful of the high taxes which Justinian had imposed and they wanted him out of the office’.

 Justinian had managed to pull down the revolt with physical force, after moving loyal troops in the city. Due to the revolution and on the location of a torched church known as the Hagia Sophia, a new Hagia Sophia was to be built. For the ancient writer, Paul the Silentiary, who seemed to live there when the cathedral had been completed, the building signified a triumph for Justinian as well as Christianity.

Justinian had turned to two men Anthemius and Isidore the Elder in the construction of the cathedral.They had built it in a hurry completing it in less than six years and putting it in comparison took almost a century for medieval builders in constructing the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy – Opal Capital of the World

The town of Coober Pedy, like Setenil de las Bodegas tend to exist and is home to over 1,600 inhabitants. Coober Pedy is a town situated in northern South Australia, 846 km north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway.As per the census of 2011, the population had been 1,695, comprising of 953 males, 742 females inclusive of 275 native Australians.

Coober Pedy around 150 million years back had been covered by ocean and when the water had receded, the sandy silica minerals from the seabed seemed to flow into the rocky cracks and the cavities and solidified over a period of time.

These changed into multi-coloured gem-stonesknown as opal. The town has been referred as opal capital of the world due to the quantity of precious opals which have been mined there and it creates more opal than any place on the earth. Coober Pedy is well-known for its below-ground residences known as `dugouts’ that had been built underground to fight the intolerable daytimeheat and to protect their babies from dingoes and Australians.The early Coober Pedy dugouts had been holes which had been dug in search of opal.

Initially Known – Stuart Range Opal Field

The opal mining back then had been strenuous manual labour and hence the earliest Coober Pedy homes were not bigger than what was really needed. Presently opal mining in the town area of Coober Pedy is not permitted any more.

 The sandstone in Coober Pedy was suitable for underground homes and was easy to dig through, just like all sandstone though it is also very strong and steady. Coober Pedy was initially known as the Stuart Range Opal Field and was named after John McDouall Stuart. In 1858, he had been the first European explorer in that area. Towards 1920, it had been re-named as Coober Pedy; an anglicised version of the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti commonly meant `white man in a hole’.

Coober Pedy_1
Opal was first discovered in Coober Pedy on February 1, 1915 and ever since its discovery; the area was constantly occupied and mined for gemstones. If anyone tends to own anything with opal in it, the same has come from the Coober Pedy mines and since then Coober Pedy has been contributing to the majority of gem quality opal to the world. Together with the dugout homes and mine shafts, the town claims of underground shops as well as pubs together with a church and also a graveyard.

Largest Opal Mining Area in the World

Presently, Coober Pedy depends much on tourism as the opal mining industry in providing the inhabitants with employment as well as sustainability. It has more than seventy opal fields and is said to be the largest opal mining area in the world. Coober Pedy has grown into one of the most exceptional location in Australia and probably also the world.

It is said to be a cosmopolitan town having a population of 3,500 and more than 45 various nationalities. Coober Pedy also tends to have various heritage-listed sites which comprise of 13 Hutchison Street – Three Roomed Dugout and 9 Hutchison Street – Coober Pedy Catholic Church as well as Presbytery.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The History of Ancient Toilets -II

ancient toilets
Credit: Fr Lawrence Lew, OP, CC BY-NC-ND

Gardrobe – Small Chamber with Platform over Hole in the Floor

Toilets seemed to be one of the most important features of medieval castle and medieval toilets was an experience which several today would fight with. The public medieval privy had been the cesspit which was only a hole in the ground that was at times lined with stone or wooden planks. It was not better in castles and though the wealthy and the powerful could afford a much sophisticated toilet, the gardrobe, it was a far cry from the simple modern toilet.

The gardrobe was a small chamber with platform over a hole in the floor. Koloshi-Ostrow at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts and Jansen an independent archaeologist based in the Netherlands are among the rising number of archaeologists, infectious disease specialist together with other experts who have been making attempts on the history of the lost loos, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Middle Ages with a specific focus on the Roman world.

Their studies have shown a new way of learning about diets, habits and disease of the past populations, particularly those of the lower classes that had received scarce attention from archaeologists. It has been concluded by the researchers, that Roman residents went to their toilets with some fear, due to superstition and also because of very real dangers from rats and other pests lurking in the sewers.

Ancient Rome – Sophisticated Plumbing System

Though ancient Rome is well-known for its sophisticated plumbing system, latest research of old faeces indicates that its sanitation technologies were not good for the health of the residents. An archaeologist at Hunter College in New York, Hendrik Dey, had stated that `toilets have a lot to tell about, far more than how and where people went to the bathroom. Koloski-Ostrow has said that `one has to have a strong sense of self and of humour to work on this topic since one who works on it is going to get ribbed by friends and enemies’.

She had begun the topic almost a quarter of a century ago when Nicholas Horsfall, a classicist had called her over in the library, at the American Academy in Rome. Invention of some of the first modest toilets is attributed to Mesopotamia in the late fourth millennium BC. The non-flushing matters were pits around 4.5 metres deep that were lined with a stack of hollow ceramic cylinders about 1 metre in diameter.

Romans Extraordinary in Adoption of Toilets

Individuals would have to sit or squat or the toilet and the excrement may have stayed in the cylinders with liquids leaking outwards through damage in the rings. The Romans were extraordinary in their adoption of toilets and towards the first century BC, public toilets had become a main feature of Roman infrastructure like bathhouses, according to Kolosi-Ostrow.

 All city dwellers had access to private toilets in their residence. She adds that the however, very little is known about how these toilets functioned and what people thought of them. One reason could be that during the Roman times, few of them wrote about toilets and when they did so; they were frequently ironic thus making it hard to understand their meaning But Koloski-Ostrow as well as Jansen think that it is worthwhile taking up the topic seriously.

 They together with some two dozen other archaeologists analysed over 60 toilets all over the city most of which had not been described earlier, for their forthcoming book on toilets in the Roam capital.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The History of Ancient Toilets

Credit:Photo by Becky Bowen

Garderobe –Medieval Toilets

Garderobe - French wardrobe is described as a place where the clothes as well as other items seem to be stored. It is also considered a medieval toilet. A garderobe, in European public places means a cloakroom wardrobe, armoire or alcove that is utilised temporarily to store the coats and the other properties of visitors The word garderobe in Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, German, Russian and Spanish means a `cloakroom while in Latvian it means `checkroom’.

At Donegal Castle, anexplanation shows that during the time the castle garderobe had been in use, it was said that ammonia would protect the visitors’ coats and clock especially from fleas. In a medieval castle or other building, the garderobe was said to be just a hole, discharging to the outside into a cesspit of the trench based on the building structure.

 These toilets often were located within a small chamber lead by association to use of the word garderobe to define the rooms. Several of them can still be viewed in Norman and the medieval castles and fortifications, for instance at Burresheim Castle in Germany where there are three garderobes that are visible till date. With the introduction of indoor plumbing they have become out-dated.


Ancient Communal Toilet on Palatine Hill

Archaeologist have found clues to what life was earlier in the Roman world and in other civilization by searching the remains of early loos and sewers.A high ceilinged room beneath one of Rome’s most magnificent palaces, some 2,000 years back, was a smelly, busy space. Within the damp chamber, a bench perforated by about 50 holes that were the size of dinner plates ran along the walls which could have held some of the bottoms of the lowest members of Roman society.

Presently the room is closed to the public though the archaeologists Ann Koloshi-Ostrow and Gemma Jansen had a rare opportunity in 2014, of studying the ancient communal toilet on the Palatine Hill. They measured the heights of the stone based benches, which was comfortable 43 centimetres, the distances between the holes – an intimate 56 cm and the drop down in the sewer below, of a substantial 380 cm at its deepest. They wondered regarding the mysterious source of the water which could have flushed the sewer or perhaps some nearby baths.

Urinal ; Image

Drawings on Outer Entryway

Drawings on the outer entryway indicated long queues wherein people had some time to carve or write their messages before they could take their turn on the bench. The underground area with the combination of plain red and white colour scheme on the walls showed a lower class of users probably slaves.

When Giacomo Boni, the Italian excavator had excavated this room in 1913, the toilets were aprohibited topic and in his report he had misguided the remains of the leaky benches for something extraordinary, some portion of an elaborate mechanism which he had guessed would have pumped water providing power for the palace above. Jansen had commented that Boni’s narrow-minded feelings did not permit him to recognize what was before him and he could not imagine it to be a toilet.