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Inanna’s Grand Thievery

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER  
 

Enki robbed of the strategically crucial MEs by Jehovah’s granddaughter

Before Inanna-Ishtar, Jehovah’s self-willed granddaughter, set off to attend her late husband Dumuzi’s funeral at Nergal’s palace in today’s South Africa, she had told her handmaiden, who had remained behind in her Sumerian cult city Uruk,  and her  foreign affairs secretary Ninshubur that in the event that she was not heard from  within three days, they should raise an alarm. This was because she was not absolutely sure of her safety when she faced her elder sister Ereshkigal, who was the funeral ceremony’s hostess and who had insisted Inanna not show up at all.

Thus early on the third day of Inanna’s disappearance, her handmaiden contacted Ninshubur, who was still camped outside Nergal’s palace along with the rest of Inanna’s entourage, all of whom had been prevented from setting foot onto the palace courts by Ereshkigal. Ninshubur immediately messaged Nergal’s son, requesting him to establish whether Inanna was among the gathering in the palace hall. The young man had not seen her aunt and so he sent word to his father, who in turn alerted Enlil.

Having confirmed that Inanna had indeed arrived for the funeral two days ago but was nowhere on the palace premises, Enlil was alarmed: he had a hunch something sinister had befallen his granddaughter and the obvious suspect was Ereshkigal. Without wasting time, Enlil assigned Enki to urgently look into the matter. The choice of Enki was suiting: not only was he Inanna’s grandfather too on her mother’s side Ningal but Enki could be counted upon to restore Inanna to life if  she had succumbed to foul play at the hands of Ereshkigal particularly that she would not have been dead for more than three days.

Enki took Ereshkigal aside and demanded that she owns up as to what she had done to Inanna as it was crystal-clear she was the one behind her disappearance. Ereshkigal, who was at once Enki’s granddaughter, daughter-in-law, and the mother of his son Ningishzidda (that’s how incestuous the Anunnaki were), did not equivocate:  breaking down into copious tears,   she recounted all that had transpired and even provided the coordinates of the exact spot Inanna had been left to die.

Enki went to work straightaway. It was summer time in South Africa and the chalky-white-skinned Anunnaki, like Enki was, just could not venture out in the blazing sun being rather susceptible   to the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays. So drawing on his genius, Enki fashioned two androids from clay in a matter of hours, who he named Kurgarra and Galatur,  electronically animated them, and detailed his dark-skinned Anunnaki pilots to take them to where Inanna was. Meanwhile, he was monitoring the situation using a facility similar to video-conferencing in the air-conditioned ambience of Nergal’s palace.

Enki had equipped the two medical androids with an “Emitter” and “Pulser” respectively. The metaphor for the reanimation substances the androids carried was “Food of Life” and “Water of Life” respectively. Arriving at the scene of Inanna’s ordeal, the search party found an already dead Inanna still strapped to the tree. There was no time to waste. Enki immediately activated the androids by remote control.   “Upon the corpse a Pulser and Emitter they (the androids) directed,” the Sumerian records relate. “Then the Water of Life on her they sprinkled, in her mouth the Plant of Life they placed.” The measures taken worked like a charm. “Inanna stirred, her eyes she opened: from the dead Inanna arose.”

INANNA IMMORTALISES DUMUZI IN SEX RITUAL

Within a week’s time, Inanna had been nursed back to full health by Enki. Now bursting with vitality and strutting her stuff as usual, she demanded, first, that her regal regalia be returned to her by Ereshkigal. Then she asked for Dumuzi’s body, which she took with her back to Nubia, where he had ruled. There, she had the body “washed with pure water and anointed with sweet oil”. She then clothed the body with a shroud and laid it on a lapis lazuli slab. That done, she placed the body into a tomb carved out of a specially preserved rock formation in the centre of the city. The body was to remain there till Nibiru was back in the ecliptic, whereupon she would accompany it to the planet for the very last rites.  

Yet Inanna remained haunted by the death of her Romeo for the rest of her life. She always dreamt about Dumuzi and even had broad-daylight hallucinations of him. In a vain attempt at consigning him to total oblivion, she introduced, in her cult city of Uruk, what became known as the “Sacred Marriage Rite”. At her ziggurat temple-house, the Eanna, there was a standalone structure known as the Giparu (“Night Time Abode”) and in a wing of the Giparu was a sex den known as the Gigunu (“Chamber of Night Time Pleasures”).

It was in the Gigunu that Nibiru king Anu, “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”, made love to her every time he came to Earth. Even more significant, it was in the Gigunu that she and Dumuzi had their first one-night-stand and where their first sexual act after the wedding ceremony took place. Thus the Gigunu, rather than make her forget about Dumuzi, in fact achieved the contrary purpose – to reinforce his memory.

Now, the Sacred Marriage was far from a marriage: it was purely for recreational, one-night-stand sex romp. Initially, this took place once every year on the anniversary of Dumuzi’s death, when an aristocratic demigod was invited by Inanna to “sample” her in the Gigunu. In due course, the rite had a spin-off, whereby an Anunnaki groom was invited to “taste” her on the night of his wedding day before he consummated his marriage with his own bride.

“To this Gigunu, young heroes (Anunnaki), on the night of their weddings, with sweet words she lured,” say the Sumerian chronicles. “Long life, a blissful future to them she promised.” All the while, Inanna imagined she was being mounted by her beloved Dumuzi. Sadly, almost every such man who slept with her in the Gigunu died of what is called “cardiogenic shock” arising from too much “sexual sweetness” (even in our day, such deaths account for approximately 0.6 percent of all sudden deaths).

KINGS FEATURE IN SACRED MARRIAGE RITE

The sexual fatalities so scared the daylights out of wedding grooms that they ceased and desisted from responding to Inanna’s Gigunu overtures, as a result of which she now turned to priest-kings of Uruk with a twist in terms of the bait dangled forth.  To the priest-kings, it was not simply about sex only: rather, it was more about eliciting her blessings as the superintending goddess once every year. This new dimension of the Sacred Marriage Rite which involved priest-kings became part of the yearly, 12-day long Akiti (“On Earth Bring Life”) festival.  Zechariah Sitchin describes the ritual in some detail as follows:

“Inanna began to invite the king to her Gigunu … The essence of the procedure was to find a way to have the king spend the night with the goddess without ending up dead … The outcome depended not only the king's personal fate, but also the fate of the land and its people—prosperity and abundance or the lack of them in the coming year. For the first four days of the festival, the gods (Anunnaki) alone participated in the re-enactments (of the death of Dumuzi and his replacement by a new ruler). On the fifth day the king came on the scene, leading the elders and other dignitaries in a procession through a special Way of Ishtar…  

“Arriving at the main temple, the king was met by the High Priest, who took away the king's insignia and placed them before the deity (Inanna) in the Holy of Holies (symbolic dethronement of Dumuzi). Then, returning to the dethroned king, the High Priest struck him in the face and made him kneel down for a ceremony of Atonement in which the king had to recite a list of sins (particularly the killing of Dumuzi) and seek divine forgiveness.

Priests then led the king out of town to a pit of symbolic death; the king stayed there imprisoned while above the gods debated his Destiny. On the ninth day he re-emerged, was given back his insignia and royal robes, and led back the procession to the city. There, at evening time, washed and scented, he was led to the Giparu in the sacred precinct.

“At the entrance to the Gigunu he was met by Inanna's personal attendant, who made the following appeal to the goddess in behalf of the king: ‘The sun has gone to sleep, the day has passed. As in bed you gaze upon him, as you caress him, give Life unto the King … May the king whom you have called to heart enjoy long days at your holy lap …  Give him a reign favourable and glorious.  Grant his throne an enduring foundation … May the farmer make the fields productive.

May the shepherd multiply the sheepfolds … In the palace let there be long life.’ The king was then left alone with the goddess in the Gigunu for the conjugal encounter. It lasted the whole night. In the morning the king emerged, for all to see that he had survived the night (that is, had not died from sexual sweetness . The Sacred Marriage had taken place; the king could reign on for another year; the land and people were granted prosperity.”

Inanna so popularised the spirit of the Sacred Marriage Rite that long after the advent of Dumuzi,  Sumerian kings described poetically the ecstasy of such memorable nights with her. The “death and resurrection”  of  Dumuzi itself continued to be commemorated by the Jews once yearly on what  was designated “The Day of National Mourning”, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing. For example,  the prophet Ezekiel (EZEKIEL 8:14) was wroth when he saw Israelites “weeping for Tammuz,” the Hebrew rendering of the name Dumuzi, which is Thomas in English.  

ENKI DENIES INANNA THE CRUCIAL “MEs”

Following the death of Dumuzi, Inanna decided to turn Uruk (Erech in the Bible) into a city along the lines of the glittering Kish, which was the Paris of Sumeria. She just wasn’t patient enough to await the appropriate time for her allocation of an own domain   which had been promised her at the conclusion of the Second Pyramid war at the say-so of King Anu of Nibiru. It was the same King Anu who gifted her Uruk as her cult city as part of the dowry that automatically entitled him to conjugal rights every time he visited Earth and every time she visited Nibiru, which she did periodically.

The person she chose to transform the city was Enmerkar, officially  the grandson of her twin-brother Utu-Shamash. Enmerkar was the son of Meskiaggasher, or Meshack in short. Born to Shamash by an Earthling concubine, Meshack was the first priest-king of Uruk, which he ruled for 324 years before handing over to Enmerkar. But Enmerkar, apparently,  was no more than a legal son of Meshack as Enmerkar made a point of trumpeting the fact that he was actually a demigod, his real father being Shamash, very much an echo of Marduk’s double-entendre relationship with Osiris, who was at once his son (biologically) and grandson (legally). Enmerkar would rule Uruk under the auspices of “goddess” Inanna for    420  years, nearly a 100 years more than his father did not least because he was a maniac  in bed – exactly the type that appealed to the nymphomaniacal  Inanna.  

When kingship (for humans under the aegis  of Anunnaki “gods”)  was transferred from Kish to Uruk circa 3000 BC in accordance with the rotational setup decreed by Enlil, Inanna detailed Enmerkar to turn Uruk from a mere sacred precinct to a thriving metropolis that should rival Kish in every respect. Enmerkar’s first major statement in this brief was to refurbish and enlarge the Eanna, erect a 6-mile long wall around it, and pave the entire city with  “limestone blocks from 50 miles to the east”. True to the spirit of his name, which conveyed the meaning of being “diligent”, Enmerkar would   ultimately carve himself lasting renown as “The Man Who Built Uruk”.

At this incipient stage, however, Enmerkar, who for some reason called himself “Sumeria’s Junior Enlil”, could only go so far. To turn Uruk into the Utopia Inanna envisaged, he needed certain enablers in the form of transformational codes known as the MEs. Indeed, it was with only 50 MEs that Ninurta had  turned Kish into the full-fledged centre of urban civilisation it was. Exactly what were the MEs?      

The MEs have been described as “physical objects that one could pick up and carry, or even put on, and which contained secret knowledge or data. Perhaps they were something like our present-day computer chips, on which data, programs, and operational orders were minutely recorded. On them the essentials of civilisation were encoded”; as “portable objects which held all the knowledge   and other aspects of a high civilisation … In the current state of modern technology, one can envision them as some kind of computer disks or memory chips which, in spite of their minute size, hold vast amounts of information.

In a few decades, with more advanced technology, one might compare them to some other marvelous store of information (yet to be invented)”; and as “a kind of computer or data disks— which held the information needed for the sciences, the handicrafts, and the arts. Numbering more than a hundred, they included such diverse subjects as writing, music, metalworking, construction, transportation, anatomy, medical treatments, flood control, and urban decay; also, as other lists make clear, astronomy, mathematics, and the calendar.”

The problem, however, was that the MEs were held by Enki, their  inventor and  custodian as the Anunnaki’s god of knowledge, who released them at the appropriate time to any Anunnaki god in charge of a city-state or an entire domain and for the benefit not of the god himself but of humans in his charge.  Thus when Inanna approached Enki and begged for some of the MEs, he politely turned her down in that her aim, he discerned, was not to improve the quality of life of mankind – his creation – but to stroke her own outsized ego primarily. Enki feared that if Inanna was availed the MEs, her sense of self-worth and delusions of grandeur would be such that she might go on a land-grabbing rampage like the pinheaded daredevil  she was.

As things turned out by and by, Enki read her correctly. Be that as it may, Inanna simply was not the one to yield sedately to any sanction or obstacle thrown her way. She vowed to Enmerkar, as she busily gave him a blow-job and greedily gulped on his jizz, that she would get the MEs by hook or crook. Exactly what did she mean?  

ENKI COAXED INTO PARTING WITH 100 MEs

As everybody else, Inanna was all too aware that Enki had quite a weakness with the opposite sex that mirrored her own. It is this weakness that she sought to exploit and land herself a few “divine formulas” as the MEs were otherwise known. Enki was aging and having lost much of his sex appeal of yesteryears – though still a stud under the sheets – he was even all the more toast and was liable to go to every length to bed a delectable beauty like Inanna.  

Having received word that Inanna was on her way over to see him over some crucial matter about which she didn’t go into details, Enki was ecstatic. He instructed his chief steward Isimud to “sweet wine prepare, the beer vessels to the rim fill up!”    Arriving at Enki’s seaside villa in her “sky chamber” on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Inanna was dressed literally to kill. She wore not conventional clothing but a negligee – a  see-through bed time gown that left nothing to the imagination. “With jewelry was Inanna bedecked, by her thin dress her body she revealed,” Enki himself relates.  

Enki straightaway ushered her into his exquisite bed chamber which doubled as his study and was the repository of a whole range of  classified and confidential subject matters. Inanna wasted no time in working her bitch-ish charms on the already salivating randy Casanova by indulging in all sorts of seductive antics. “When she bent down, her vulva by Enki was thoroughly admired,” the Sumerian texts relate. Soon the duo were flirting, feasting, and carousing. “From the wine cups sweet wine they drank, for beer drinking a competition they had.” Before long, they were making whoopee on Enki’s King-sized bed. “Enki would thrill her with advanced sexual practices and she would show him a thing or two as well,” the Sumerian records voyeuristically inform us.   

The combined effects of the alcohol and the repeated rounds of exceedingly sweet rumpy pumpy robbed Enki of his sense of scruple, whereupon Inanna, who had been drinking only sparingly so as not to unduly compromise her mission, popped the request. But she was not rash: she made her ME entreaties step by step, about seven times altogether, and each time Enki readily obliged her.  By the time the clock struck midnight, Enki had parted with 7 monarchical MEs and 94 dealing with matters of economic, scientific, military and technological advancement. Having attained the object of her mission, Inanna tip-toed out of Enki’s bed chamber as he lay drained of all energy in a manner reminiscent of a deflated tyre, made her way to  the parked flying saucer, and jetted off to Uruk at breakneck speed in a fever of yipping and hooraying excitement.       

NEXT WEEK:  INANNA LANDS DREAM POSSESSION!

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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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