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Abe Recalled to Sumer

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Abraham succeeds deceased brother Haran as Enlil’s prospective Shepherd-King
 

Whereas teenager Abraham went to India as an Enlilite, he for a period switched to being Enkite. It was during this phase of his life that his original name Ibru-um was corrupted to A-brahm, meaning “No longer a Brahmin” and Abram, meaning “Exalted Snake”. A question that could be reasonably posed is, was Abraham’s espousal of the Enkite cult a spontaneous desire or simply a necessary rite of passage? The answer is not an easy one but my inclination is toward the latter. That is because even his own father, Terah, had gone through the back-and-forth Enlilite-Enkite-Enlilite metamorphosis.   

If in India the religious sect  that held the most sway amongst the population was the Cult of the Snake, that is, that of Enkites,  Abraham must have deemed it essential, with his own father Terah in on the artifice for sure, to pose as an Enkite initially and then defect back to the Enlilites at the appointed time, with a mammoth “catch” from the Cult of the Snake in tow.  

Ultimately though, Abraham made an impact throughout the  Indian Empire. When he was about 16 years of age, he began to tour the satellite states of the empire, such as Afghanistan and Persia, for instance, to evangelise. And wherever he toured, he left a nucleus of the Hebrew people there to continue where he left off so that his message was not drowned out in the mists of time. In ancient Afghanistan for instance, a community of Hebrews sprang up in a place called Bactria, a mountainous region situated midway on the road to India.

They called themselves Juhuda or Jaguda, both of which very much rhyme with Yehuda, as the Jews are known in Hebrew. Thus it is that even today, the Persians (Iranians) of that region revere Abraham as the founder of their faith and as their mediator before God.  The Hindu god Brahmin is also said to be represented by Abraham or his father Terah/Krishna,  just as Jesus in Christianity is said to be the personification of God the Father.   

One record of an ancient Indian text highlights an accomplishment Abraham wrought as the spiritual leader of ancient India. This was the promotion of the institution of marriage in a place which under the godship of the dissolute Inanna-Ishtar was happily amoral. “The moral fall was rapid. The seers and sages lived apart from the masses. They seldom married and were mostly given to religious contemplation.

The masses, without proper light and leader, soon became vicious in the extreme. Rape, adultery, theft, etc., became quite common. Human nature ran wild. Brahma (Abraham) decided to reform and regenerate the people. He made the chief sages and seers to marry and mix with the people. Most refused to marry, but 30 agreed.”This was akin to the saga of Hosea, a prophet who was ordered by God (Ishkur-Adad) to marry a harlot (HOSEA 1:2-3), a subject pulpit men are always at pains to rationalise.

ABRAHAM HITCHES SARAH

It was whilst he was in India that Abraham got married to a woman known in the Bible as Sarah. Sarah in Hebrew means “princess”. Was the person who informed this title, Sarah herself, a princess? She was yes. Sarah was Abraham’s paternal sister. That is to say, the two had the same father, Terah, but different mothers. Terah married Sarah’s mother, Tohwait, when Abraham’s mother, Yahnu, died. As a daughter to Terah, who was once priest-king of the Indian kingdom of Dwaraka, Sarah was indeed a princess.

But there was another vein in which she was a princess.  Before Tohwait married Terah, she had been a queen in Egypt. Her first husband Intef the Elder, was the nomarch, or  governor,  of  the Egyptian province of Thebes. She married Terah after Intef died, which suggests that although she initially married an Egyptian royal, she was a Sumerian herself.   

Now, the Hebrew nobility (males),  like the Anunnaki, married within the family, not outside it. This was because kingship, or heirship,  was primarily passed through the female line, not the male line.  We know from biology that if there’s a positive trait within the family, the sex that best perpetuates it is the female. Females carry what is known as Mitochondria DNA (MtDNA).  Although scientists claim they amply understand its purpose, they actually do not, seemingly.  

Both males and females carry MtDNA, but only females pass it along to their kids. Thus if a dynasty wanted to keep their bloodline pure, it was essential that their marriages be with close relations, preferably a paternal half-sister, though cousins   and even full sisters also counted but only as a last resort.   

It was the half-sister wife  (Mohumagadi in Setswana) who produced  a heir, not any other wife. Even if there was a first wife who produced a boy child and the marriage to a half-sister came later, the first-born son could  not inherit since he did not arise from the half-sister. It was the prince who was sired through the half-sister who inherited.

Sarah’s original name according to Genesis was Sarai. Although this is true, it is not complete. Her full name was Saraisvati, meaning “Mother Sarai” or “Lady  Sarai”. That rings a bell doesn’t it? The Saraisvati is a major Indian river. The river was named after Sarah to honour her as   Terah’s/Krishna’s firstborn daughter and therefore the one who was going to carry the dynastic seed.

Since she was about ten years younger than Abraham, Sarah was not born in India but in Nippur. The Bible says she was 90 years old when she conceived her firstborn son Isaac and given that Abraham was born in 2123 BC, Sarah must have been born in 2113 BC. It was in 2113 BC Terah moved from Nippur to Ur, when Abraham was ten years old. Thus the fact that the Saraivasti River was named after Sarah implies that Terah, even when he moved from India to Nippur circa 2140 BC, was still held in high esteem in India as its spiritual leader.

Sarah studied in Uttara Kuru, as northern Afghanistan was then known. Uttara Kuru was a   great centre of learning and whilst there, Sarah excelled. Quite apart from the fact that she was a princess, Sarah gained renown as a staggeringly beautiful woman with a powerful intellect, extra qualities that wooed Abraham. It seems by hitching Sarah, Abraham beat his older brother Haran to it. Maybe he was not content to being second  in line to the succession: he wanted to be first. And the odds of supplanting his brother as first in line were boosted by marrying not only a half sister but the seniormost half-sister.

HEBREWS EMBED IN EGYPT AS HYKSOS

In India, the largest concentration of the Hebrews was in a place known as Maturea, the domain which Abraham directly ruled. Whilst Abraham was making waves in India, Enlil, the Bible’s main  Jehovah,  came up with some scheme. In Canaan, which was under Enlilite jurisdiction, there were just too many Canaanites, who were Enkites in religious orientation. Indeed, one reason Nabu, Marduk’s heir, was making propagandistic inroads in Canaan was because the place teemed with people who were inherently pro-Enkite.

The vast majority of the Canaanites were descendents of Canaan, who was Ham’s fourth son. It were Ham’s descendents who also dominated in Egypt. Enlil regarded the proliferation of Canaanites in Canaan as an invasion. So he too decided to launch a counter-invasion.  He contrived to have the Hebrews of Maturea leave India for Egypt under the pretext that they were expelled from there for one reason or the other. The strategy worked: the “expelled” Hebrews were warmly received in Egypt and allocated their own region which was called Goshen (Heliopolis). The Hebrew settlers gave it a new name – Maturea – to remind themselves that it was from India they came.

In his great 1830s work Anacalypsis, the religious historian Godfrey Higgins confirms the above subterfuge when he writes thus: “The tribe of Ioud (Jews) or the Brahmin Abraham, was expelled from or left the Maturea of the kingdom of Oude in India and, settling in Goshen, or the house of the Sun or Heliopolis in Egypt, gave it the name of the place which they had left in India, Maturea.”

Contrary to what the Bible says, the first Hebrews to settle in Egypt were not the family of Jacob. That came much later in the 1500s BC. The Hebrew community was already there as early as 2000 BC. In Egypt, the Hebrew community  called themselves Hyksos. Hyksos meant “Shepherd Princes”. Remember, to Enlil, his chosen people were all priests/princes metaphorically speaking: that was his propaganda pitch. In other words, his chosen people – the Jews – were the elite of the human race because he was the most powerful and therefore the most esteemed of the Earth-based gods.  It explains why the nation of Israel called themselves a “royal priesthood”.  Their   leader/king was known as the Righteous Shepherd or Shepherd King.      

ABRAHAM RETURNS TO SUMER

Sometime before 2096 BC, Haran, Abraham’s elder brother, died in Ur, where he was based along with his younger brother Nahor and his father Terah. Exactly how he died is not specified both in the Bible and the Sumerian chronicles. Since he died in his youth,  we can safely conclude that his death was of natural causes.

Although he was way south of age 30 when he passed on, he was already a father. Typically, ancient Hebrews married at age 18, though marriages at ages  16 and 24 were not uncommon. Since Haran was a royal, we can expect him to have married early enough, in all probability at age 18. Given that he was born in 2123 BC, the marriage then may have taken place in 2105 BC, with the firstborn coming in 2104 BC.  
 

Haran was survived by three children. If the three kids were from the same mother and were born two years apart, the last born must have arrived in 2100 BC. In view of the fact that he didn’t have another kid thereafter, we may suppose that it was death that prevented that from happening. Hence, Haran in all probability died in 2099 BC latest.

Haran’s three kids were a boy, Lot, and daughters Milcah and Iscah. According to the rules of succession, with Haran having passed on the heir to Terah automatically became Lot. Lot, however, was a kid of about 5 or 6 years; therefore, it fell to Abraham, Haran’s immediate younger brother, to  hold fort till Lot had reached the age of majority, that is, 16 years.

Now, Haran had been earmarked by Jehovah-Enlil as the Righteous-Shepherd proper of the Age of Aries – the instrument with which to fight Marduk. With his death, that void had to be filled immediately. Being too young, Lot was obviously out of contention. As such, the privilege  automatically fell to Abraham, who was about 24 years in 2099 BC. It emerges, therefore, that Abraham became Enlil’s foil against Marduk by default: it was thanks to his older brother’s death that he stepped into the breach.  

All in all, there were two factors at play here. First, there was the question of who would succeed after Terah. That was a right of birth and it was held by young Lot. Meanwhile, the older Abraham would stand in for Lot. Second, there was the matter of who would be Enlil’s Righteous Shepherd.  This was not a birthright: it was a privilege.  And with Haran deceased, Enlil had decided that that privilege should transfer not to Lot but to Abraham. The geopolitical situation presently was so tense that to wait for Lot to grow would be detrimental to Enlil’s strategic interests.

Thus it was that Terah, after deliberating with Enlil and Nannar-Sin, decided to recall Abraham from his base in India so he could be primed for much more critical and overriding responsibilities.  That was how Abraham departed India. From then henceforth, he would be based in Sumeria though he did undertake tours of duty to the Indian empire once in a while to keep his memory alive and therefore see to it that the legend lived on.

UR-NAMMU’S “MISSION TO KILL”COURTESY OF JEHOVAH

Meanwhile, Ur-Nammu, the King  both of Ur and greater Sumer since 2113 BC , was making waves.  During the eighteen years he was in power, Ur-Nammu was many things to many people. To some, he was a rare-breed king who brought peace  and prosperity to Sumer. To others, he was a bloodthirsty warrior king, a tyrant  who revelled  at causing death and destruction..

This antithesis  explains why some Sumerian sketches uncovered by archaeologists depict him banqueting and celebrating peace and prosperity, whilst others show him riding in the royal chariot at the head of a  military column of armed and helmeted soldiers, matching to the battlefield.

When  he was appointed King by Enlil (and installed by Nannar-Sin), Enlil’s central brief to him was thus: “As the Bull to crush the foreign lands.  As the Lion to hunt the sinners down; to destroy the evil cities. Clear them of opposition to the Lofty One.” Who were the  “sinners” and what were the “foreign lands” in the above statement? I call upon Christians to pay utmost attention as  we  explain these terms because the Christians concept of a sinner is not what the Bible intended. To Christians, a sinner is anybody  who has rejected God and who continues to defy God without being nagged by a sense of penitence or contrition.

In Old Testament times,  a sinner was an Earthling who followed Marduk in opposition to Enlil.  It was not about spirituality: it was purely about power politics.  So Enlil’s first instruction  to Ur-Nammu was to destroy Marduk’s followers because they had been rallied against the “Lofty One”, who in this context  was Enlil as Earth’s Commander-In-Chief. Ur-Nammu was to ferret out these sinners right in the “sinning” or “evil” cities and slaughter them. The cities referred to here are those that were predominantly pro-Marduk; had significant pockets of a Marduk following; or were presently been propagandised by Nabu to convert to Marduk.  All these cities, two of which were Sodom and Gommorrah, were to be destroyed, crushed.

The “foreign lands” were principally those in Europe, Syria, and Lebanon where the Amorites, Marduk’s Western followers,  abounded. All these were to be subdued and annihilated once and for all. In order to help Ur-Nammu swiftly accomplish these ends, Enlil provided him with what the Sumerian records describe as a “divine weapon”. With it, Ur-Nammu was to “heap up the rebels in piles”. The weapon lived up to its billing as  before long Ur-Nammu had subdued the Sumerian city-state of Lagash, which until now had been the mightiest of all, slain its governor, and overrun six other city-states. And in keeping with Enlil’s decree, Ur-Nammu’s military expeditions were to take him well beyond Sumer’s borders into the western lands.

Ur-Nammu was fighting with the spirit of a “Bull” – the  interests of the  Enlil-controlled astrological age of Taurus, which was symbolised by a bull – and that of a “Lion” –   the  Enlilites, whose ancestors in the Sirius star system evolved from a beast that was predominantly lion-like.

UR-NAMMU’S RELIGIOUS REVIVAL THRILLS  JEHOVAH

On balance, however, peace prevailed during Ur-Nammu’s reign. And in terms of religious, economic, and moral revival, Ur-Nammu left a lasting imprint on Sumer.  “All scholars agree that in virtually every way the Ur III period begun by Ur-Nammu attained new heights in the Sumerian civilisation,” writes Zechariah Sitchin. “It was Sumer's most glorious period.”The  Sumerian records attest as such. “Equity in the lands Ur-Nammu established, to violence and strife an end he made, in all the lands prosperity was abundant.”

For a long time now, injustice, oppression, and immorality had become the order of the day in Sumer. The temples had been neglected. The Ekur, Enlil’s temple-abode at Nippur, had remained in dereliction since its defacing and defiling by Naram-Sin.  One of the first things Ur-Nammu did was to restore, renovate and magnify all the gods’ temples except  that of Marduk in Babylon and that of Ninurta in Lagash (Marduk was an enemy and the brothers Ninurta and Nannar-Sin hardly got along).

Zechariah Sitchin again: “Ur-Nammu, in addition to the great works in Ur, also restored and enlarged the edifices dedicated to Anu and Inanna at Uruk, to Ninsun (his mother) at Ur, to Utu-Shamash at Larsa, to Ninharsag at Adab. He also engaged in some repair work at Eridu, Enki's city.” Ur-Nammu was commended by the gods for his devoted ecclesiastical works and to the extent where he celebrated his accomplishments in stone.

“Ur-Nammu marked the occasion (of rehabilitating the Ekur)  by erecting a stela, showing him carrying the tools and basket of a builder,” Sitchin relates. “When the work was completed, Enlil and (his spouse) Ninlil returned to Nippur to reside in their restored abode. ‘Enlil and Ninlil were happy there’, a Sumerian inscription stated.”

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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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