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Desolation in Mesopotamia

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Nuclear Cloud of Death wreaks havoc in Sumer in modern-day Iraq

Reading the Sumerian chronicles, one gets the impression Nergal,  Enki’s second-born son but who had long closed ranks with the Enlilites, had turned Canaan into both an apocalyptic inferno and a watery inundation reminiscent, more or less, of the Deluge of Noah’s day.  As soon as the Awesome Weapons (atomic bombs) were launched from the skies by Ninurta and Nergal, “they spread awesome rays, scorching everything like fire,” the Sumerian tablets relate. 

“The resulting storm in a flash of lightning was created … The five cities of the valley he (Nergal) finished off, to desolation they were overturned. With fire and brimstones were they upheavaled:  all that lived there to vapour was turned. By the awesome weapons were mountains toppled: where the sea waters were barred, the bolt broke open. Down into the valley the sea's waters poured. By the waters was the valley flooded. When upon the cities' ashes the waters poured, steam to the heavens was rising.”

 Meanwhile, a widowed Lot, who along with his two virgin daughters had taken refuge in the cavernous recesses of Zoar’s mountainous countryside, decided to make sexual capital out of the catastrophe! This is the Biblical version of the debauchery as per GENESIS 19:30-36. “Now Lot went up from Zoar and dwelt in the hill country, and his two daughters were with him, for he was fearful to dwell in Zoar. So he was dwelling in a cave, he and his two daughters with him.  

The firstborn said to the junior sister: ‘Our father, he is old, and there is no man in the area to come on us according to the way of all the earth. Do go, let us give our father wine to drink; then do let us lie with him and keep seed alive from our father.’ So they gave their father wine to drink that night. Then the firstborn came and lay with her father. Yet he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. It came to pass on the morrow that the firstborn said to the junior sister: ‘Behold, I lay with our father yesternight.

Let us give him wine to drink tonight also; then come and lie with him, that we may keep seed alive from our father.’ So they again gave their father wine to drink that night; and the junior sister got up and lay with him. Yet he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus the two daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.”

Sadly, this is a shamelessly male chauvinistic spin on what really transpired. You will perhaps have noted by now that in the Bible, the female always takes the blame for a man’s every misstep. Adam fell because of Eve; Samson was physically enfeebled thanks to Delilah; Judah was seduced by her daughter-in-law who posed as a prostitute; etc. By the same token, Lot was made to sleep with his own daughters by his very daughters. That simply is not true.

The truth of the matter is that it was Lot who actively and cunningly seduced his gorgeous daughters who had never known a man before. Lot simply confronted the two gals and span the yarn that the world had come to an end with the nuking of Canaan and therefore he and his two daughters were the only beings who had survived. It was therefore only they who had to start repopulating the world once again. With their naivety, the teenage daughters took what their father had said as gospel truth and allowed him to take turns at them in this regard. So forget about the Genesis account: it was a pure concoction intended to absolve Lot of willful incest and portray women in an ever-guilty light.

About a year later, the two daughters each had a son. The older daughter’s was named Moab. He became the father of the Moabites. The younger daughter’s was named Ben-Ammi, meaning “Son of my kinsman”.  He became the progenitor of a people known as the Ammonites. Both the Moabites and Ammonites would repeatedly war against their next of kin, the Israelites, for reasons we have already touched upon.

“LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES” COMES TO BEAR

Yet the nuclear strike against Canaan did not affect that part of the world only. In what Zechariah Sitchin has dubbed the law of unintended consequences, the nuclear holocaust, the “gigantic explosions”, had far-reaching ramifications as far afield as Sumer itself.  “On the Land Sumer a calamity fell, one unknown to men,” say the Sumerian records. “One that had never been seen before, one which could not be withstood.”

This was in the form of what became known as the “Evil Wind” but which we today can easily understand as a drifting nuclear radiation cloud. “The cities, the people, the vegetation – everything was upheavaled by the gods' weapon (the nuclear bombs). Its heat and fire scorched all before it: it affected people even at some distance away.”

Exactly how did the chain of unintended consequences begin? “By a darkening of the skies were the brilliances (mushroom cloud) followed, then a storm to blow began. Swirling within a dark cloud, gloom from the skies an Evil Wind carried.” The Evil Wind was so dense that it completely obscured the skies for at least 24 hours on a day that would be forever etched on the human psyche. 

“On that day, when heaven was crushed and the Earth was smitten, its face obliterated by the maelstrom – when the skies were darkened and covered as with a shadow – on that day the Evil Wind was born … There was created a great storm from heaven … a land-annihilating storm … an Evil Wind, like a rushing torrent … a battling storm joined by a scorching heat … By day,  it deprived the land of the bright sun, in the evening the stars did not shine … It was a day not to be forgotten.”

The Sumerian records make it more than amply clear that the Evil Wind was triggered by a nuclear upheaval. “A blast, an explosion: an evil blast heralded the baleful storm, an evil blast was its forerunner.”  They are also unequivocal as to who brought about the whole cataclysm. “Mighty offspring, valiant sons,  were the heralds of the pestilence.” These are Nergal and Ninurta being referred to here:  “Mighty Ones” or “Great Ones” were metaphorical characterisations of the Anunnaki by virtue of their dazzling technology, humanly unseemly feats, and their extraordinary longevity.

The Sumerian records talk  of a “Cloud of Death” which arose from the cities of the Jordan plain, which began as an immense whirlwind,  and which reached near and far. This cloud was propelled by a happenstance Mediterranean wind. “A dense cloud that brings doom (a nuclear mushroom), a tempest that scorches the heavens, rose to the sky, followed by rushing wind gusts.”

It was indeed a day not to be forgotten. “When dawn the next morning came, from the west, from the Upper Sea (Mediterranean Sea), a storm wind began blowing.  The dark brown cloud eastward it directed, toward the settled lands (Sumer) did the cloud spread … A storm, the Evil Wind, went around in the skies.

And then the whirlwind began to spread and move westward with the prevailing winds blowing from the Mediterranean … Moving from west to east, the deathly cloud, enveloped in terror, casting fear everywhere, was carried to Sumer by a howling wind, a great wind which speeds high above, an evil wind which overwhelms the land. Slowly over the lands the Evil Wind blew, from west to east over plains and mountains it traveled.”

A lamentation text states that starting from the Jordan plain, the blast's deadly cloud was carried by the prevailing winds eastward all the way "to the boundary of Anshan" in the Zagros Mountains, affecting all of Sumer from Eridu in the south to Babylon in the north. “From the midst of the mountains it had come, from the Plain of No-Pity (Jordan Plain) it had come …”

“RUN FOR DEAR LIFE”, ENKI URGES GODS AND MORTALS ALIKE

Were Nergal  and Ninurta aware of the certainty of the poisonous nuclear cloud? According to the Sumerian records, they were not. “The great gods paled at the storm’s immensity,” so we’re informed by the Sumerian chroniclers. Indeed, had they been aware of such an eventual outcome, they would have had General Abraham move as far away from Canaan as time permitted. For Abraham first took refuge in the Hebron mountains, some 50 miles away from Sodom. It was not until the Evil Wind materialised that  he hastened to Gerar along the Mediterranean coast.

The only god who anticipated and predicted the Evil Wind was the “all-knowing”  Enki. The moment Nergal and Ninurta were done with their bombing blitz, Enki, who was at the time was at Eridu,  his Sumerian base, issued a clarion call for both the gods and Earthlings  to run for dear life. Enlil, Nergal, and Ninurta immediately joined him in trumpeting the call. “To Ninurta and Nergal Enlil and Enki the alarm sounded,” say the Sumerian chronicles. “Unstoppable the Evil Wind death to all delivers! The alarm Enlil and Enki to the gods of Shumer transmitted: Escape! Escape! to them all they cried out. Let the people disperse, let the people hide!”

     The gods were frantic. As the Evil Wind began to "spread to the mountains as a net," they began to flee their beloved cities.  “From their cities the gods did flee, like frightened birds from their nests escaping they were … The deities ran off …  They took unfamiliar paths."  Writes Zechariah Sitchin: “The text known as Lamentation Over the Destruction of Ur lists all the great gods and some of their important sons and daughters who had ‘abandoned to the wind’ the cities and great temples of Sumer.”

One of the earliest to depart Sumer was Ninki, Enki’s wife. According to a text known as The Eridu Lament, Ninki took to a flying saucer and headed to a safe haven in Africa. “Ninki, the Great Lady, flying like a bird, left her city (Eridu).” Another of the early escapees was Inanna-Ishtar, who so hurriedly took off she was later to chafe that in her state of panic, she had left behind her jewelry and a host of precious possessions.

In her case, she left not in a flying saucer but in a submarine. “Inanna hurriedly departed from Uruk, sailing off toward Africa in a submersible ship and complaining that she had to leave behind her jewelry and other possessions … In her own lamentation for Uruk, Inanna-Ishtar bewailed the desolation of her city and her temple by the Evil Wind, which in an instant, in a blink of an eye,  was created in the midst of the mountains and against which there was no defense.” But whilst some Anunnaki were double-quick on their feet, others kind of shilly-shallied. The result was either outright disaster or near-disaster.  Two gods almost lost their lives. One god actually perished as we demonstrate in next week’s piece.

NERGAL’S EVIL WIND RENDERS MUCH OF SUMER “DESOLATE”

It was on the land of Sumer that the Evil Wind effected the most havoc, where it carried death which could not be eschewed. “From the Valley of No Pity, by the brilliances (atomic explosions)  spawned, toward Shumer the death was carried … It covered the land as a cloak, spread over it like a sheet.” Brownish in colour, during the daytime "the sun in the horizon it obliterated with darkness: at night, luminous at its edges it filleth the broad earth and blocked out the moon. The moon at its rising it extinguished."

Wherever The Evil Wind reached, “death to all that lived mercilessly it delivered.” It  "bore gloom from city to city, carrying dense clouds that bring gloom from the sky … Carried by the Evil Wind, it was a death from which there was no escape: it was a death let loose in the road, which roams the street … The highest wall, the thickest wall, it passes like a flood; no door can shut it out, no bolt can turn it back.”

What the Evil Wind caused in Sumer  was not violent destruction but silent annihilation. “The unseen death moved slowly over Sumer, its passage lasting twenty-four hours – a day and a night … A poisonous nuclear cloud, driven eastward by unexpected winds, overwhelmed all life in Sumer … Slowly over the lands the Evil Wind blew, from west to east over plains and mountains it traveled.

The prevailing winds, coming from the Mediterranean Sea, carried the poisonous nuclear cloud eastward, toward Sumer, and there it caused not destruction but a silent annihilation, bringing death by nuclear poisoned air to all that lives.” The panic, fear, and confusion that overtook Sumer and its cities as the alarm was sounded are vividly described in a series of lamentation texts, such as the Ur Lamentation, the Lamentation over the Desolation of Ur and Sumer, The Nippur Lamentation, The Uruk Lamentation, amongst others.

To their credit, the gods, as we have already intimated, did  alert mankind as to the calamity at hand. The Uruk Lamentation has them megaphone-announce (from low-flying drones) in the middle of the night, “Rise up! Run away! Hide in the steppe!” But although the people did heed the desperate call, it still was too late: they were felled by the Evil Wind anyway. Writes Zechariah Sitchin: “Those who hid behind doors were felled inside; those who ran to the rooftops died on the roofs.

Those who to the streets fled, in the streets were their corpses piled up. It was an unseen death: ‘It stands beside a man, yet no one can see it; when it enters a house, its appearance is unknown’.  It was a gruesome death: ‘Cough and phlegm weakened the chest, the mouth was filled with spittle, dumbness and daze have come upon them.’ As the Evil Wind clutched its victims, ‘their mouths were drenched with blood’. The dead and dying were everywhere … The people of the lands by the Evil Storm's hand were clutched; futile was the running. No one treads the highways, no one seeks out the roads.”

The Evil Wind laid waste to man, plants, and animals alike.  “Stealthy was the death, like a ghost the fields and cities it attacked.  The highest walls, the thickest walls, like floodwaters it passed … Through the door like a snake it glides, through the hinge like a wind it blows in … 

In the cities and the hamlets, the mother cares not for her children, the father says not 'O my wife' … The young child grows not sturdy on their knee, the nursemaid chants not a lullaby …  The people, terrified, could hardly breathe: the Evil Wind clutched them, does not grant them another day … Mouths were drenched in blood, heads wallowed in blood … Their  faces  are made pale by the Evil Wind. Their spirit abandoned their bodies …  The dead, lying where they fell, remained unburied: the dead people, like fat placed in the sun, of themselves melted away. In the grazing lands, cattle large and small became scarce, all living creatures came to an end.

The sheepfolds were delivered to the Wind. The cultivated fields withered; on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates only sickly weeds grew, in the swamps the reeds rotted in a stench … The storm crushed the land, wiped out everything … In the orchards and the gardens there is no new growth, quickly they waste away … On the steppes cattle large and small become scarce  …”

The Sumerian records emphasise that the Evil Wind caused desolation rather than destruction. “From Eridu in the south to Sippar in the north did the Evil Wind the land overwhelm … It caused a calamity, one unknown to men, to befall the land … As the Evil Wind passed and blew, it left Sumer desolate and prostrate. The storm desolated the cities, desolated the houses …  caused cities to be desolate, caused houses to be desolate, caused stalls to be desolate, the sheepfolds to be emptied.

There was desolation, but no destruction; emptiness, but no ruins: the cities were there, the houses were there, the stalls and sheepfolds were there –but nothing alive remained … The waters are poisoned: Sumer’s rivers flow with water that is bitter, the once cultivated fields grow weeds, in the meadows the plants have withered.”

Yet the real source of the Evil Wind – the atomic blasts – remained elusive as far as the people of Sumer were concerned.  But they were dead right in attributing it to Enlil. They said it was "a great storm directed from Anu … It hath come from the heart of Enlil.  In a single spawning it was spawned … Like the bitter venom of the gods, in the west (Canaan) it was spawned."

NEXT WEEK:  ENKI’S HEROICS IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH

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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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