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Manhunt For Ring Leaders

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

Pilate seeks out Judas, Barabbas, and Simon Zelotes for inciting bloody insurrection

With the demise of his all-powerful mentor Aelius Sejanus, Pontius Pilate decided to win and cement the faith of the emperor. Flavius Josephus records that one day the Jews awoke only to find voltive shields – shields which bore an effigy of Tiberius Caesar – set up all over the “Holy City” of Jerusalem.  Outraged, they  straight off sent a deputation to the governor’s residence in Caesarea to register their disgust. Images of the emperor were considered by Jews to be blasphemous, an affront to the scriptural command to make no “graven images”. They demanded their removal forthwith.

Although Pilate initially refused to budge, he later relented and agreed to meet the protesters at a square in Jerusalem to listen to their petition. Unbeknown to the protesters, they were being lured into a snare as Pilate had stationed troops with concealed weapons around the perimeter. At his signal, the soldiers drew their swords and poised to attack.  Pilate then enunciated a warning to the protesters that if they   did not at once cease and desist from demonstrating, they would all be slain.  If Pilate thought they would immediately cower and retreat, he was grossly mistaken. According to Josephus, the protesters “laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed”.  For the first time since he took office as governor of Judea, Pilate capitulated to the will of his subjects: he ordered that the shields be removed from Jerusalem and brought back to Caesarea.  The injury to his ego must have been enormous but there was no Sejanus to sweep the carnage that  would have ensued under the carpet.   

There was another such standoff with the Jews that is related by Philo. It also involved shields but this time the shields simply bore an inscription rather than the image of the emperor. The inscription, writes Philo, “mentioned these two facts, the name of the person who had placed them there (Pontius Pilate), and the person in whose honour they were so placed there (Tiberius Caesar).” Once again, when the Jews remonstrated, Pilate cocked a snoop at them. The affair was so potentially  tempestuous  that this time around, the sons of Herod, led by Antipas, got involved. They told Pilate to his face that if he did not withdraw the shields from the Holy City, they would report him to the emperor and set out before him “his corruption and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending and gratuitous and most grievous humanity.” Pilate stood his ground nonetheless and the sons of Herod had no choice but to write a letter to Tiberius, who immediately replied, ordering Pilate to remove the shields to Caesarea.

The intervention by Tiberius strained relations between Pilate and Herod Antipas which thawed only after the trial of Jesus (LUKE 23:12). All in all,  however, it was a telling lesson to Pilate – that Tiberius was no Sejanus.  From this day on, Pilate seemed to have exercised a modicum of caution in his dealings with the Jews, particularly  those of Jerusalem. For example, he had in AD 29, 30, and 31 minted coins which bore images with symbols of sacred artifacts used by Roman priests in their pagan religions and which the Jews understandably found offensive. Post-31 AD, no Pilate coin bore  any pagan symbols. Be that as it may, Pilate had not exactly mellowed as we shall soon see.

THE BARABBAS INSURRECTION

Sometime in AD 32, Pontius Pilate was at it again in his provocative bunglings against the Jews. He appropriated Temple funds to construct a water carrier to Jerusalem. When the  Jews rightfully demonstrated, Pilate responded with heavy-handed reprisals. It seemed this time around, he didn’t care a jot about possible repercussions from Tiberius.  In The Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus documents the incident thus: “Pilate undertook to bring a current of water to Jerusalem, and did it with the sacred money, and derived the origin of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs (40 km). However, the Jews were not pleased with what had been done about this water.”

Judas Iscariot, who was the underground leader of the Zealots, the Essene military wing, and Theudas Barabbas (the disciple Thaddeus in the gospels, who is also the second Judas on the list) consulted with the then Essene Pope, Simon Zealotes, on the matter. The three Zealot top brass decided a protest should be staged during the forthcoming Feast of Dedication in November AD 32.  The “Anti-Pilate  Protest” would therefore be the theme of the festival. The Jews were accordingly rallied, with Theudas Barabbas  at the head of the protest march, which was dominated by the more belligerent pilgrims from Galilee. “Many ten thousands of the people got together, and made a clamour against him (Pilate), and insisted that he should leave off that design,” relates Josephus. “Some of them also used reproaches, and abused the man, as crowds of such people usually do.”

Pilate, who naturally operated on a very short fuse, felt affronted and dared against. His reflex inclination was to pounce. First, he sounded off a hypocritical warning he well knew would not be heeded.  Josephus: “So he habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit, who carried daggers under their garments, and sent them to a place where they might surround them. So he bid the Jews himself go away.” When the Jews stayed put, “boldly casting reproaches upon him”, Pilate “gave the soldiers that signal which had been beforehand agreed on; who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them, and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not; nor did they spare them in the least: and since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means, and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this sedition.” This is the carnage alluded to by the evangelist Luke with respect to the “the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (LUKE 13:1-3).

The demonstration had turned into an insurrection thanks to Pilate’s penchant for disproportional cruelty. Pilate’s forces did not escape unscathed nonetheless:  a few were killed.  Further incensed by the loss of his men, Pilate proceeded to issue a warrant of arrest for the three ring leaders. At the top of the wanted list was Theudas Barabbas, who had spearheaded the protest: he was charged with  murder as the life of a Roman  soldier  was far more precious than any number of  Jews.  Next was Judas Iscariot for being the leader of the Zealots overall. Simon Zealotes was third as he was at once a Zealot and their  spiritual leader in his capacity as the Essene Pope.

Meanwhile, Jesus, who was the political leader of the three as they numbered among his 12-man shadow government (called the 12 disciples), censured them for  provoking the Pilate  backlash. Part of this outrage he expresses in JOHN 10:11 thus: “The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep (the demonstrators in this context); and the hireling (mercenaries, a cynical characterisation of the three ring leaders), and not being a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, does behold the wolf (Pilate) coming, and does leave the sheep, and does flee; and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep;   and the hireling does flee because he is an hireling, and is not caring for the sheep (the three had gone into hiding instead of sticking their necks out for the sake of the demonstrators.)” Clearly, the three had acted unilateral, without seeking the opinion of  Jesus on the matter.     

SIMON ZELOTES IS DEMOTED

The disastrous riot against Pilate scandalised Simon Zelotes. Remember, Simon Zelotes had in September AD 31 succeeded John the Baptist (after his execution) as the Pope, or the Father of the Essene community. Now that his reputation was in tatters and a warrant of arrest had been issued against him, he could not be Pope anymore. Accordingly, Jonathan Annas (the disciple Nathaniel)  acceded to the papacy forthwith.  In the  Jesus movement, there were two factions – the Belligerent Faction, who advocated a forceful expulsion of the Romans, and the Peace Faction, who  preached co-existence with the Roman overlords. Simon Zelotes headed the former, whilst Jonathan  Annas headed the latter. As such, Jonathan was agreeable to the Roman authorities too.

As the new Pope, Jonathan took one more step: he decided to excommunicate Simon Zelotes and Judas Iscariot from the Essene fold primarily to placate Pilate (it is not clear why Theudas Barabbas was not excommunicated). Jesus was talking about this course of action when he said, “I saw Satan and Lightning fall from Heaven” – the proper translation and not the one we typically encounter which wrongly reads, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven” and into which the Christian  clergy have read all sorts of wishful meanings. As we have long explicated, “Satan” was the nickname of Judas as the leader of the Zealots and “Lightning” was the nickname of Simon Zealotes as the  head of the war  faction in the Jesus movement.  Once Simon Zealotes was excommunicated, it meant he would never ever be Pope again and Jonathan Annas would be practically uncontested as Pope.  

Now, just as being initiated into the Essene fold was referred to as “being born again”, excommunication was referred to as “dying spiritually”. Excommunication involved undergoing a ritual of symbolic death. An excommunicated monastic  was put through a burial rite, dressed in grave clothes, and put in his own tomb. In the case of a leader such as Simon Zelotes, the tomb was one of the caves carved out from the ends of the southern cliffs at Qumran. This cave has been found by archaeologists and has been dubbed “Cave 4”. This was a tomb reserved for the burial of  Popes. As the first Essene Pope, Menahem,  had been given the  titular name Abraham,  Cave 4 was also known as Abraham’s Bosom in his honour. The excommunicant was placed there for three full days and on the fourth day was brought out and  released into the wider world, with all connection with the Essene Community completely severed.

Simon Zelotes was subjected to the same ritual as  well. However, before it could run its course, there was a “divine” intervention. Exactly what was this?     

JESUS MOVES TO RESTORE SIMON

Whilst  he was Pope, Simon Zealotes went by another informal title, “Eleazer”. The title derived from Eleazer of the Old Testament, who succeeded his father Aaron as High Priest. The Pope was the de facto  High Priest of the Essene community.

In Greek, Eleazar is Lazarus. When Simon Zealotes, alias Lazarus, was demoted as Pope, he became a “Leper”. This did not mean a diseased person. In Essene jargon, “Leper”  was a term for a person who was not to be admitted into sacred surroundings (this definition can be found in a Dead Sea scroll called the Temple Scroll).  This was the fate of Simon Zelotes when he was excommunicated from the Essene fraternity.   Thus, when Jesus was feted in the house of “Simon the Leper” (MATTHEW 26:6-13/ MARK 14:3-9), it was actually in the house of  Simon Zelotes.

Now, although  Jesus did not approve of  the demonstration against Pilate, he still held Simon Zelotes  in very high esteem. Not only was Simon Zelotes his staunchest supporter politically but he was his father-in-law. As the Davidic messiah, Jesus must have therefore been under enormous pressure from his own wife Mary Magdalene and his mother-in-law Helena Salome to do something about the restoration of Simon Zelotes. Eventually, Jesus caved in.  The reinstatement  of Simon Zelotes is recorded in JOHN 11:1-53, a passage frequently  titled as The Raising of Lazarus. The Christian clergy has spun this as the act of summoning Lazarus from a state of natural death and have therefore dubbed it as a miracle. The fact of the matter was that it was the raising of Lazarus not from real death but from symbolic death.

Just to reiterate, when Simon Zelotes was excommunicated from the Essene fold, he figuratively died in that he was banished from all manner of fellowship with the Essene fraternity. Jesus now boldly stepped forward to unilaterally restore him to fellowship. This figuratively meant “raising him from the dead”. When Jesus performed the ritual to reinstate Simon Zelotes, he stepped onto the toes of the Essene top brass and from that day on they began to plot his demise (JOHN 11:53).

Exactly how was the restoration ritual performed?

NEXT WEEK: THE BETRAYAL

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Parricide at Herod’s Court

25th January 2021
SAILI

A wife, uncle, and two in-laws fall at the hands of Judah’s despot

The pre-eminent Jewish chronicler, Flavius Josephus, said of Herod the Great that he was “blessed with every gift of looks, body, and mind” but he was a “slave to his passions”. This was in the context of a gloating bloodlust.

His sword knew no sacred cows: neither his own kids, wives, in-laws, next of kin, nor bosom friends were immune from it. He is on record as pestering Caesar Augustus with a barrage of letters seeking permission to execute his own flesh and blood, prompting the Roman emperor to at one time quip that, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son”, which was apt: as a “Jew”, Herod did not eat pork and therefore in the event that he kept any pigs, they would never have to be killed.

You are by now well-apprised of the death of Hyrcanus II by the same Herod, General Atiku, in 30 BC. Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean ruler of Judah twice over, was actually the grandfather of Mariamne I, Herod’s most beloved wife and his second of up to 10 wives. It was Mariamne’s own mother Salome, who dreading Herod’s pathological savagery, pitched Mariamne to Herod in the hope that that would insure her family from Herod’s murderous caprices.

Now, Mariamne, General, was as much a stunning beauty as her younger brother Aristobulus III was breathtakingly good-looking. Having tied the knot with Herod in 37 BC, Mariamne had prevailed over her husband to install Aristobulus as High Priest. The post had fallen vacant on the death of Antigonus in 37 BC and Herod had appointed one Ananel, who had no ties whatsoever to the Hasmoneans, the first such in more than a century, in his place. Unable to resist the spirited entreaties of his beloved wife, who had also lobbied Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and her beau Mark Anthony, Herod gave in and replaced Ananel with Aristobulus, who was only 16 years old, in 36 BC.

Because of his enormous charisma and overall affability, Aristobulus was a hit with the masses despite his tender age and Herod was envious of the young man’s rock star-like popularity. To make doubly sure the young man did not harbour a seditious ace up his sleeve, the morbidly paranoid Herod had his spooks watch on both Aristobulus and his mother round the clock. Sensing imminent danger, Aristobulus contacted Cleopatra, asking for a pre-emptive safe passage to Egypt and there enjoy absolute freedom. When Herod got wind of this, he decided to get rid of Aristobulus as he did not wish him to be a perennial thorn in his flesh from the utter safety of self-imposed exile.

The opportunity came at a banquet in Jericho which was organised by Aristobulus’ mother. There, Herod had one of his henchmen cause Aristobulus to drown during a dusk time horseplay in a swimming pool. Of course Herod would forever maintain the drowning was accidental when everybody knew it was in truth a tactical elimination. Poor Aristobulus was only 17 years old having been born in 56 BC. He was the last Hasmonean High Priest and was replaced by the previously deposed Ananel, who was to remain in that position till 29 BC.

HEROD ACQUITTED OVER THE ARISTOBULUS DEATH

It need not be over-emphasised, General, that Mariamne and her mother Alexandra did not take Herod’s line over the all too untimely demise of Aristobulus lying down. If he had reckoned that with the death of Aristobulus he had gotten rid of potentially the most potent threat to his omnipotence, he was totally mistaken. Herod had actually simply fanned the flames of intrigue against him, for mother and daughter confronted him and accused him of murdering their boy in cold blood.

Nor did the two Iron Ladies end matters there: Alexandra wrote a lachrymal letter to Cleopatra to get her to bring her influence to bear on Mark Anthony so that Herod paid dearly and likewise for his nefarious act. Anthony, who at the time was the Roman colossus in charge of the whole of the Middle East, was persuaded and during a visit to Laodicea (in modern-day Turkey, though some accounts say it was Rhodes in Cyprus), he commanded Herod to report to him forthwith and exculpate himself over the affair.

Although Herod put a brave face on the matter, General, he was rather unsure of his eventual fate after the trial. He also suspected rightly or wrongly that Anthony had a thing for the voluptuously beautiful Mariamne and the last thing Herod wanted was for any other man to bed his beloved Mariamne even in death. So before he set off for Laodicea, Herod instructed his uncle Joseph, who was married to his sister Salome, to make sure that in the event that Anthony sentenced him to death, he should immediately put her to the sword. He also detailed a certain Sohemus, a most trusted aide, to stand sentry over the entire womenfolk at the palace.

Herod, however, had the nine lives of a cat, General. Using his immense rhetorical skills and the time-honoured palm greasing, he won himself an acquittal. Meanwhile, the Judean rumourville was abuzz with chatter that Herod had been summarily executed by Anthony, as a result of which people became spendthrifts of their tongues.

Both Joseph and Sohemus disclosed to Mariamne the instructions Herod had left them with in relation to her fate once he was no more. Mariamne was both livid and distraught that her husband regarded her as so easily expendable when outwardly he cherished her beyond words. To her mind, his arrangements with Joseph had nothing to do with love but sprang from sheer monstrosity. She probably thanked God that he was dead, but the fact of the matter was that he was not and when he at long last turned up, she did not want to have anything to do with him, including the conjugation which he so eagerly pined for after such an extended absence.

HEROD KILLS HIS WIFE AND HIS UNCLE

Now, if Herod had a kind of Svengali, General, it was his youngest sister Salome. Salome (65 BC-10 AD) was the most powerful woman at Herod’s court. A sly, scheming, and manipulating vixen, she arguably more than any other living being had the most sway in a negative sense on her brother, who took practically whatever she said as gospel truth.

Let us nevertheless, General, take stock of the fact that the bulk of what we learn about Salome comes from Flavius Josephus, who himself relied on the writings of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus. For one reason or the other, Nicolaus did not see eye to eye with Salome and it is therefore possible that much of what Nicolaus relates of her is embellished to smear her before the court of history.
Upon his return, Herod was told of the rumours of his death and so was surprised to find Mariamne alive when Joseph and Sohemus should in the circumstances have had her killed if indeed they were loyal to him. In fact, Joseph had even put Mariamne and Alexandra into the safe custody of Roman legions stationed in Judea just in case Jewish malcontents who abhorred Herod turned their wrath on them.

But there was more. Salome reported to Herod that Mariamne, who she hated like the plague, had had sexual relations with both Joseph and Sohemus, this being Mariamne’s reward to them for dishing out to her the dirt on Herod, and that she had on several occasions before attempted to poison him. Now, no one would hump Herod’s most beloved wife and get away scotfree. It is therefore small wonder that Herod straightaway ordered the execution of Joseph and Sohemus. Joseph was 61 years old at the time of his death in 34 BC, having been born in 95 BC. In the case of Mariamne herself though, he had her subjected to a formal court trial not on charges of adultery but of attempted regicide.

Herod had hoped that the court would acquit her, whereupon he would make bygones be bygones so great was his love for the woman, but sadly for him, General, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. Even then, Herod tactfully dilly-dallied on signing the writ of execution and simply had his wife detained at a fortress for some time until Salome prevailed over him to execute her at long last. Writes Josephus: “Thus, with the death of the noble and lovely Mariamne ended the glorious history of the Hasmonean High Priest Mattathias and his descendants.”

For a long time to come though, General, Herod was haunted by the death of his wife to the point of even sometimes coming across as if he had lost his mind. “When Herod realised what this meant (the death sentence passed on Mariamne), he tried in vain to have the verdict changed, but Salome did not rest until the death penalty was carried out,” Josephus informs us. “Herod was heartbroken; nothing could comfort him for the loss of his lovely wife.

For seven years he refused to have her body buried, and held it, embalmed, in his palace. Afterwards, he became so melancholy and despondent, nothing interested him or could arouse any enthusiasm in him for living … He was so far conquered by his passion, that he would order his servants to call for Mariamne, as if she were still alive, and could still hear them … He tried hard to forget his trouble by going hunting and banqueting, but nothing helped. Herod built new cities and erected temples and palaces. He also named a tower in honour of Mariamne.”

HEROD SLAYS SISTER’S EX-HUBBY

Mariamne’s death was not the only one which Herod perpetrated through the instrumentality of Salome. There were actually several and included those of her own husband Costobarus. Salome was married four times, to her uncle Joseph (45 BC); Costobarus (34 BC); Sylleus (circa 27 BC); and Alexas (20 BC).

Like the Herod clan, Costobarus was of Idumean stock. It was Costobarus Herod had made governor of Idumea and Gaza and upon Joseph’s death had him tie the knot with Salome, with the couple eventually siring two children, Berenice and Antipater III. Costobarus, though, soon began to harbour monarchical ambitions of his own and wrote to Cleopatra beseeching her to persuade Mark Anthony to make Idumea independent of Herod and install him (Costobarus) as Rome’s client King of the territory.

Of course upon learning of this, Herod was not amused. It was Salome who pleaded with him not to put her husband to the sword. Next time, however, a dumped Costobarus was not so lucky. Seven years after their marriage, Salome and Costobarus parted ways and a possibly hurt Salome decided to exact vengeance. She informed her brother that he had been harbouring two fugitives from Herodian justice for a full 12 years at his own farm.

The two were simply known as the Sons of Baba. Baba ben Babuta, their father and clan patriarch, was related to the Hasmonean ruler Antigonus, who Herod had replaced and killed in 37 BC with the help of Roman legions. Baba and his sons had resisted Herod at the time, with his sons henceforth persisted in insurrectionist activity against Herod. Baba himself had been captured and blinded by Herod but spared anyway as he no longer posed any threat. Writes Josephus: “Now the Sons of Babas were of great dignity, and had power among the multitude, and were faithful to Antigonus, and were always raising calumnies against Herod, and encouraged the people to preserve the government to that royal family (the Hasmoneans) which held it by inheritance.”

Costobarus had provided the Sons of Baba an indefinite lair “supposing that their preservation might be of great advantage to him in the changes of government afterward”. Following the Salome tip, Herod had Costobarus and the Sons of Baba summarily executed “so that none was left alive of the family of Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean), and the kingdom was wholly in Herod’s power, there being no one of high rank to stand in the way of his unlawful acts” per Josephus.

NEXT WEEK: HEROD’S WRATH ON HIS OWN SONS

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WHAT’S UP WITH WHATSAPP?

25th January 2021

In early January, WhatsApp, part of Facebook Inc., began alerting its 2 billion users to an update of its privacy policy which, should they want to keep using the popular messaging app, they have to accept. Much of the policy, which is about commercialising WhatsApp, states ‘WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies.

We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate and market services’. WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there, claiming it needs it to help operate and improve its offerings. More broadly, almost all of the $21.5 billion in revenues which Facebook generated in the third quarter of 2020 came from advertising and there is currently none in WhatsApp.

The company now wants to be able to serve more targeted ads to people on Facebook and Instagram by also garnering their usage habits on WhatsApp and enabling businesses take payments via WhatsApp for items that were selected on other Facebook sites. For long-time users, the option to share data with Facebook was made available in 2016, but it was just that: optional and temporary. It was now to become mandatory for everybody from Feb. 8 but owing to a massive backlash, the company has delayed that to May 15 to try and persuade users to sign up to the new Ts and Cs.

WhatsApp on Monday attempted to address the uproar over privacy concerns with a post on its website, explaining that the update was designed to aid businesses on its platform, as it reiterated in Friday’s post.

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

These new terms have caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and government organisations and triggered a wave of defections to rival services. Elon Musk has urged his followers to switch to Signal and the governments of Turkey and India have threatened to block the app if it insists on proceeding.

‘WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy verges on user surveillance and threatens India’s security’, a petition filed in an Indian court said on Thursday, presenting another legal challenge for the Facebook Inc. -owned messenger. “It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity,” lawyer Chaitanya Rohilla told the Delhi High Court. Many Indian users have began installing rival apps like Signal and Telegram, pushing WhatsApp to begin a costly advertising campaign to calm its 400 million customer-base, the largest of any country. The change has also met with a challenge in Turkey with the country’s Competition Board this week launching an investigation into the messaging service and its parent company.

Elsewhere too, in spite of Whatsapp protestations, millions of its users are already migrating to alternative platforms. Signal saw 7.5 million downloads last week,  a 4,200% spike since the previous week and large swaths of users also jumped to Telegram, as the platform gained 9 million new users last week, up 91% from the previous week. Both apps are now topping Google and Apple’s app stores,

Facebook could possibly learn a lesson from history here. Every past empire – Aztec, Mayan, Greco-Roman, Sumerian, Mongol, Chinese, Ottoman and more recently British, all saw their star rise, their glory swell, their boundaries grow and yet each eventually fell, often the instigators of their own downfall.

They expanded too far too fast and could not control what they had initially conquered. And now it looks like the same fate might await this large tech giant. Parent company Facebook has also come under fire recently for overt and covert censorship policies with questions raised as to partisanship and curtailment of freedom of speech. Thus one would have to question the wisdom of the timing of this new Whatsapp privacy policy, if nothing else.

To understand its influence and control one only has to check out the un-smart sector of the mobile phone industry which for some time has offered handsets a small step up from the basic starter sets with Facebook and Whatsapp as default screen app settings. These limited internet access options have allowed millions of users to connect with affordable data bundle packages.

And for Google smartphone subscribers, the search engine automatically connects its base to Whatsapp and Facebook – one big, happy family. Facebook is also seamlessly linked to Paypal offering contact-less charges for its boosted post advertising, a somewhat sinister partnership which accesses their Paypal log-in and authorisation details without the need to inform the payee – the transaction is simply deducted automatically from the registered credit card. This is Big Brother with a blue logo.

The bottom line here is that if you have any privacy issues at all – and you probably should – you might as well make the switch now before you are forced to sign away your rights in May. And the plus part is that both Signal and Telegram have the technological edge over Whatsapp anyway, the latter even being accessible on multiple platforms simultaneously, not just on your phone.
Empires take time to crumble and Facebook is not in imminent danger but information is a weapon that can be used in any war, even a virtual conflict, so don’t give this giant any more ammunition than it already has.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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