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Three Ranged Against Jesus

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

They were Judas Iscariot, Jonathan Annas, and Herod Agrippa

March AD 33 was a momentous month in the life of Jesus. Not only did he seal his marriage with Mary Magdalene but he publicly proclaimed himself as the King of the Jews. The marriage was as political as it was a social compact.  It’s political import was to prepare him for his symbolic coronation as the King of the Jews when he was anointed by his “queen” Mary Magdalene as per the ancient monarchical custom that went back to the time of ancient Egypt. Why was Jesus so intent at asserting his status as King of the Jews?

Let us first recall that at the time, both Jesus and his immediate younger brother James were contending for the Davidic kingship. Historically, the Pharisees (and conservative Jews) promoted James, whereas the more politically influential Sadducees (and Hellenistic Jews) rallied behind Jesus. The Pharisees clamoured for James because he was born procedurally as befitted a Davidic heir, in September, the holiest month of the year, in 1 AD. On the other hand, Jesus was born at the wrong time of the year for a Davidic heir – in the month of March 7 BC, which was six months out of kilter. To them, the unusually early birth suggested hurried sexual relations between his father Joseph and his mother Mary, which amounted to fornication. The Sadducees, however, reasoned that Jesus was conceived when Joseph and Mary were already betrothed and since betrothal was practically marriage itself as it needed a formal divorce to terminate, Jesus was effectively born within wedlock.

In the 30s AD, it was the Pharisaic stance that held more sway. When Jesus in AD 29 broke away from the movement of John the Baptist to form a kind of opposition party to his wayward cousin, John, who held the position of Pope – the Father of the Essene community – responded by de-recognising Jesus as the Davidic heir and embracing James in his stead. Jesus had also estranged himself from the current Pope, Jonathan Annas, when he unilaterally restored Simon Zelotes to the Essene fold following his excommunication, which  stemmed from his involvement in the bloody riot against Pontius Pilate.

Hence Jonathan Annas, whose brother-in-law was the Jerusalem Temple High Priest Joseph Caiaphas,  turned against Jesus and began to root for James as the Davidic messiah.  For the first time therefore, Jesus was at odds with the Sadducees, who had consistently backed him hitherto.  

Jesus did not take the matter lying down. He hit back by de-recognising James as his Crown Prince and elevating his second brother Joses, short for Joseph. This course of action caused a rift in the family as Mary,  their mother, was of the inalienable view that James was the legal heir to Jesus. In fact, Mary   had from the very beginning preferred James as the Davidic heir since he did not have the baggage of perceived moral scandal that Jesus had thanks to the questionable circumstances of his birth.  As such, Mary and some of her children (she had five sons and three daughters) on occasion tried to disrupt Jesus’s campaigns as the Davidic messiah (MARK 3:21/31 and 6:4).

AGRIPPA COURTS JESUS

In gospel times, there were two Herods who both directly and indirectly influenced Jewish affairs in Judea. They were Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, aged 53 in 33 AD,  and his cousin Herod Agrippa I, aged 44. Agrippa was a grandson of Herod the Great, the deceased father of Antipas. Agrippa’s sister Herodias was married to Antipas, which meant the two Herods were at once cousins and in-laws.  

The two Herods both were highly ambitious men.  Each wanted to be the political King of the Jews (Jesus was the ceremonial King) subject to the sanction of Rome. Of the two, Antipas had the brightest prospects: as ruler of Galilee and Perea, he was already a quarter-king, the meaning of the term tetrarch. Agrippa’s chances were to all intents and purposes bleak.

He had been declared bankrupt whilst he resided in Rome at only age 25 and was consequently banished from Rome. He settled in metropolitan Judea.  But Agrippa believed this tarnish would not endure. Whilst in Rome,  he had established very close bonds with people who were close to Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar.  He fell into debt because of his lavish entertainment of  distinguished Romans to banquets at his home in order to gain political influence, his single aim being to regain the Herod monarchy that had been abolished by Caesar Augustus in AD 6.

He tactfully cultivated close friendship with  Drusus, the son of Tiberius,  and Gaius, the grandson of Antonia, the most powerful Roman  woman of the day who was also the sister-in-law of Tiberius. Antonia, who was close friends with his mother Bernice, became his godmother. With such powerful connections  right in the nucleus  of the Roman Empire, Agrippa was hopeful that in the fullness of time he would be favourite for king at the expense of his uncles, notably  Antipas.    

The relations between the two most eminent Herods were fickle. They kept blowing hot and cold. Antipas had been persuaded to extend  a financial lifeline to the broke Agrippa by his wife Herodias when he verged on committing suicide on account of his insolvency  but this  generous gesture did little to endear him to his cousin. Instead of  lending support to Antipas as the future king, Agrippa decided to enter the fray too as a contender in his own right when he was not King Herod’s son but a grandson and therefore quite  distant in the line of succession.

Since Agrippa was based in Judea as opposed to Antipas, who was based in Galilee, he was closer to the theatre of realpoilitik. He knew which  alignments in Jewish political dynamics were the more opportune and expedient. Flavius Josephus writes glowingly of him, characterising him as “naturally noble in spirit”, but he was a political prostitute who changed alliances on a whim.  For instance, when John the Baptist was alive, Agrippa aligned with him against Jesus. But after the Baptist’s death, he began to gravitate towards Jesus and to the extent where Antipas, who had always been aligned with Jesus, now played second fiddle. 

Thus when Jesus decided to proclaim himself as the Davidic messiah to send a unequivocal message to James and company that he was the real king in waiting, he was aided and abetted in this regard by the equally royal figure of Agrippa.

Meanwhile in Rome, things were happening. In AD 19, Germanicus, the adopted son of Tiberius and his anointed heir,  had died. That  made Germanicus’s son Gaius Caligula as next in line. In AD 33, signs began to emerge that Tiberius was set to name Gaius as his heir.  The Qumran community were therefore aware that if  Gaius became emperor, it was almost a given that he would appoint Agrippa as the client King of the Jews. It was on account of such a scenario that they began to rally to Agrippa at the expense of Antipas. Since Agrippa also needed the support of Jesus  in his monarchical ambitions, he decided to openly project him as the Davidic King of the Jews.  

AGRIPPA ORDAINS JESUS AS KING

The incident in which Jesus rode astride a donkey into Jerusalem is commonly referred to as “The Triumphant Entry” in allusion to the euphoric manner in which he is supposed to have been received by pilgrims to the Passover. It is recorded in MATTHEW 21:1-17; MARK 11:1-11; LUKE 19:28-39; and JOHN 12:12-19.

The notion of the incident having taken place in Jerusalem derives only from the surface reading of scripture. The gospels were written in a code language called pesher and some of the terms the writers employed do not carry the meanings we superficially attribute to them. In pesher, Jerusalem (in plural form)was a code name for Qumran. It is at Qumran that the Triumphant Entry  took place. In fact, much of what you read in the gospels happened at  Qumran and the surrounding areas, the collective code name of which was the Judean Wilderness.  

The evangelist who relates the incident most accurately is Matthew. Matthew documents that there were two animals involved, a donkey and a colt (a young donkey). This is significant as it correctly suggests that the Triumphant Entry   did not involve one person but two. The one of course was Jesus and the other was … Herod Agrippa.  

Invariably at this time of  the year  (the Passover season), a harbinger ceremony was conducted at Qumran. One of the Herods and a Davidic heir mounted donkeys  and led a procession in mimicry of the   coronation of a king. The involvement of the Herods arose because they saw themselves as the future monarch  either as  subordinate to Caesar (as Herod the Great was) or simply as a monarch in their own right in a world were Rome was no longer in power. In the latter,  a Herod would be the political monarch  and the Davidic heir would be the ceremonial king subordinate to the Herod. Accordingly therefore, Agrippa rode on the donkey (being senior) and Jesus rode on a colt.

To the mainstream Jews, however, it was Jesus who stole the limelight  as the ceremony evoked that of the Old Testament whereby King David instructed his son Solomon to ride in a procession on a donkey so that he could proclaim him as  heir to the throne (1 KINGS 1:28-34). The shouts “Hosanna” and chants of “the coming kingdom of David” was a clear enough message that the pilgrims recognised Jesus as the real King of the Jews. It was a triumphant affair indeed.

The ceremony began at the Mount of Olives, a code name for  the Manger, the Qumran house in which Jesus had been born,  and concluded at the temple, that is,  the  Qumran sanctuary and not the Jerusalem temple.

AGRIPPA TURNS AGAINST JESUS

The Qumran temple also served as a treasury, where tithe money was stored. Part of this money came from Essene missions abroad. Since foreign money was “unclean” and had to be converted to “holy money”, the money changers did proliferate within the temple precincts. Jesus had always resented this commercial element, which seemed to override the main thrust, the spiritual element. Now that he had been officially instituted as the Davidic King, he decided to show  his outrage by turning over the tables of the money changers. His message was that the temple was fundamentally a house of worship and not a bureau de change.

The money changers had turned the temple into a “den of robbers” as they exploited the pilgrims by charging highly inflated exchange rates.  

Jesus’s action naturally incensed the Herods, particularly Agrippa. The Herods had a vested interest in activities going on at the temple as they had a stake in the foreign exchange business there. In fact, the rivalry between Agrippa and Antipas primarily had to do with who had the most control of this business. The Herods were not a spiritual people: they were dynasts. To them, religion was secondary to commerce. None of the two was king and thus none felt subordinate to the other. Whoever had the finest rapport with the Essene Pope and the Treasurer-General had the lion’s share of the business that was taking place at the temple.

Presently, the Pope was Jonathan Annas and the Treasurer-General was Judas Iscariot. Jonathan Annas’s loyalties now lay with Agrippa, whose odds of becoming king with the change of the monarchical guard in Rome were brightest. Annas had promised all the monthly tithes that came from the Diaspora to Agrippa and Jesus had taken very strong exception. He would rather the tithes went to Simon Zelotes, who had been the head of the Diaspora mission before his excommunication and demotion from Pope. But Jesus had reinstated Simon to the Essene top brass and therefore was of the position that Simon was deserving of the tithes.

Agrippa and Simon Zelotes hardly saw eye to eye: they seemed to be mortal enemies. Jesus was not only devoted to Agrippa’s foe but he was now sabotaging the foreign exchange business, a lifeline of the Herods.  Furthermore, he had alienated himself from Jonathan Annas by openly laying claim to the position of Pope so that he could be the Priest-King, the Melchizedek. In the event, Agrippa and Annas banded together against him. Judas Iscariot, who Jesus had also antagoinised, closed ranks with the two. Judas was a monarchist and as the Essene’s keeper of the purse had always pandered to the financial exigencies of Agrippa. The stage, thus, was now set for  the trio to teach Jesus a lesson.  

Herod Agrippa I, with Agrippa riding on the donkey and Jesus on a colt. Agrippa accompanied Jesus to endorse him as the Davidic King at the expense of his brother James, who was contending for the same status.  

NEXT WEEK: JESUS IS ARRESTED

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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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