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End of an Era

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

   

Hebrews expelled from Egypt after Jacob’s sons murder southern Pharaoh

Which god did the Hykso-Hebrews worship whilst they inhabited northern Egypt? Time and again, one encounters assertions by scholars that the Jews were strictly a one-god nation.  That is simply not true. Both the Bible itself and extra-biblical sources make it plain that until some time when the Age of Aries (2220 to 60 BC) was winding down, the Jews struggled to maintain adherence to one deity. In any case, even their principal god,  Yahweh, was not a single god: he was a composite god who post-Exodus was fronted, largely, by Ishkur-Adad.

In the time of Apepi II, the last Hykso Pharaoh, the Hyksos did not worship any of the Enlilite gods at all. They worshipped the Enkite god Seth. If you recall, Seth was the god who had his half-brother Osiris killed. During Apepi’s rule, Osiris was a wildly popular departed god in Egypt and to counter that the Hyksos exalted Seth, the antithesis of Osiris, because their standpoint was that they had to be at cross-purposes with anything that was quintessentially Egyptian.

AS IF THAT WAS NOT ABOMINABLE ENOUGH, THE HYKSOS EMBRACED A SUPERNATURAL GOD WE WOULD TODAY CALL THE DEVIL AND THESE ARE “GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE” WE’RE TALKING ABOUT.  This was Apophis, after whom Apepi named himself. Apophis was the spirit of evil, darkness, and destruction and was characterised as the polar opposite of the spiritual aspect of Marduk.

The Hyksos embraced the Apophis spirit (but without worshipping it) for two reasons. First, the indigenous Egyptians regarded it as the arch-enemy of Marduk and as such dubbed it “The Enemy of Ra”, Ra being Amen-Ra in full, the name by which Marduk was known in Egypt. Apophis was depicted as a huge snake – a bigger and therefore more powerful snake than Marduk, whose other cognomen was “The Great Serpent”, although he (Apophis) was also referred to as “The Evil Lizard”.   

Egyptians would make figures or effigies of the snake and then burn it, curse it, step on it, or even spit on it in a bid to repel Apophis and therefore ward off his influence. It is Apophis who is responsible for the underlying evil humans attach to snakes in general and not Enki, the Serpent of Genesis who was actually an enlightener and therefore a force for good.

Second, Apophis was such a resilient spirit that it could never be defeated, only temporarily slowed down. The Hyksos took great pride in invoking such a spirit in that they too regarded themselves as invincible despite the setback they experienced at the hands of Kamose, when they were driven out of Egypt but only to return using the tactic of infiltration and once again take the reins practically in perpetuity.

NOW, HERE IS THE IRONY OF IRONIES: AS MUCH AS THE HYKSOS HATED EVERYTHING WHICH WAS TYPICALLY EGYPTIAN, THEIR KINGS ADOPTED NAMES WHICH AT FACE VALUE SEEMED TO SUGGEST THAT THEY ALSO REVERED MARDUK. This was done with a view to winning over a section of the Egyptian populace in northern Egypt who tenaciously worshipped Marduk. For instance, when Apepi II became Pharaoh, he adopted the Egyptian throne name   Auserre, which meant “Great and Powerful Like Ra”. He in fact called himself “Son of Ra”. The Hyksos’ utter disregard for their own Enlilite gods was likely the reason Jacob decided to abdicate since he was slavishly loyal to Enlil and Nannar-sin.

A notable attribute of the Apepi rule was that northern Egypt was now more militarily powerful than southern Egypt (a Jacobite legacy) and therefore exercised hegemony over southern Egypt, which was under obligation to pay tribute to Apepi. It explains why Apepi’s other title was “King of Upper (southern) and Lower (northern) Egypt”. Writes Christopher Knight and Robert Lamas in The Hiram Key: “For hundreds of miles to  the south of Avaris (the Hykso capital), the city of Thebes (the capital of southern Egypt) continued its line of  Egyptian (Bantu) kings, although they bowed to the power of the Hyksos and paid to Apepi’s   tax collectors the dues demanded.” 

SIMEON AND LEVI CONTRIVE TO RULE WHOLE OF EGYPT

Meanwhile, two of Jacob’s sons were seething. They were Simeon, the second born, and Levi, the third born. With Reuben, the firstborn, having become estranged from his father for having committed adultery with one of his father’s wives, it was Simeon who was the de facto firstborn. Simeon was particularly close to Levi, so that the two typically strategised and schemed together.

The two brothers were irked by two measures their father had taken. The first was his hand-over of the throne to Apepi II. As far as they were concerned, he should have bequeathed it to Simeon.  The second had to do with Jacob’s selection of young Joseph as his heir. They thought this was unjust in that Leah, their mother, was senior to Rachel, Joseph’s mother, and in any case the two women had the same father and the same mother. Rachel therefore was the bloodline spouse, not Rachel:  the heir had to come from her.  

Long story short, Simeon and Levi wanted to rule as that was their inborn right as scions of the great Jacob and his first wife Leah. Accordingly, they hatched a plan. Their sights first and foremost were set on southern Egypt, which was the weaker of the two Egypts. They would depose and kill its pharaoh and Simeon would take over. Then they would target Apepi in northern Egypt, oust him too, and install Levi on the throne. The whole of Egypt would thus be under the rule of the Jacobite dynasty. Also once the two brothers were in power, Joseph would have no chance of unseating them. 

In order for their scheme to see the light of day, they would have to come up with some very clever, persuasive lie to bring their father on board just in case something went wrong and Jacob wondered what on Earth they had been up to. The excuse they came up with was a masterstroke. IT HAD TO DO WITH ORMUS, THE MONOATOMIC POWDER OF GOLD, ALSO VARIOUSLY KNOWN IN THE BIBLE AS MANNA OR SHEWBREAD.   

THE SECRET OF ORMUS

The Book of the Dead, authored by Ningishzidda (called Thoth in Egypt), Enki’s genius son, is reputed to be history’s oldest complete book. We learn from the book that the Egyptian pharaohs of old (the much earlier dynasties, the 1st to about the 4th Dynasty didn’t die the way we do. WHEN THEY REACHED A STAGE WHERE THEY FELT IT WAS TIME THEY PASSED ON, THEY SIMPLY CHANGED DIMENSIONS. They voluntarily translated from this physical realm to the spiritual realm.

This was a process that began in the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza, where they disembodied and then embarked on a journey through a tunnel all the way to the spaceport in the Sinai Peninsula, where they boarded an etheric spacecraft which transported them to Nibiru. This was not the physical Nibiru but its subtler equivalent (just as the physical Earth has   its subtler  double people immediately arrive in when they die, a kind of way station on their way to the Astral plane, the spiritual realm of the departed.)

How did the pharaohs of old transform from a physical being into a spiritual being instantaneously without undergoing the normal process of death? Well, it was all thanks to Ormus.  Scientists have determined that Ormus can be made to disappear into another dimension. It can also impart that capacity to anything in which or around which it sufficiently abounds. That is to say, in the case of a human being, if he ingests an appropriate amount of Ormus or is smothered with an appropriate amount of it under the right environmental conditions, he can immediately translate from the physical to the etheric, the equivalent of voluntary and painless death.

The Giza pyramids are one such suitable ambience for this transformation. Writes Lawrence Gardner in Genesis of the Grail Kings:  “The Pyramids were constructed with the technology of the superconducting highward firestone (Ormus)”.  Arguably the most famous pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2613 to 2494 BC) are Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. IT IS INTRIGUING THAT THEIR BODIES HAVE NEVER BEEN FOUND GIVEN THAT PHARAOHS LIKE THEY WERE WOULD HAVE BEEN PRESERVED THROUGH A PROCESS KNOWN AS MUMMIFICATION.

What was found in their respective King’s Chambers was a substance that turned out to be Ormus! This was in the 9th century AD, when the first explorers tunneled their way into the sealed chamber. What they found in there was a “lid-less, hollowed, granite coffer, containing not a body but a layer of a mysterious powdery substance”. 

Clearly, each of the three pharaohs had in their respective times simply translated to a subtler realm using the wonder medium of Ormus. “The once sealed Kings Chamber appears to have been contrived as a superconductor capable of transporting the pharaoh into another dimension of space time through the Meissner Field (a body’s polar magnetic aura),” writes Gardner. “It was here that the pharaoh’s rite of passage was administered in accordance with The Book of the Dead.”

The Pharaohs of Jacob’s day, however, seemed to have long lost knowledge of Ormus’s capacity to effect a translation of the live human body to another dimension as in their case they did die and their bodies were mummified (preserved by embalmment). Some of these preserved bodies are found in the world’s leading museums. HOWEVER, IT APPEARS THE SOUTHERN PHARAOH, SEQENENRE TAO II, HAD STUMBLED UPON THIS SECRET KNOWLEDGE AND IT WAS THIS REASON SIMEON AND LEVI PITCHED TO THEIR FATHER AS GROUNDS TO  CONFRONT HIM SO THAT HE SHARED IT WITH THEM.

They too wanted to simply translate directly to the spiritual realm when they were sufficiently aged and not experience death. Simeon and Levi knew in their heart of hearts that if Tao had that kind of knowledge, he would not be keen on sharing it with his arch-enemies of the north. That would give them the excuse to kill him, which their father would hopefully understand. 

BLOODY BROTHERS SLAY  BANTU PHARAOH

It was easy for Simeon and Levi to secure a meeting with Tao being the scions of the legendary Pharaoh Yaacoba. Believing them to be well-meaning visitors who like him abhorred the northern monarchy, Tao received them with all the decorum due at his palace at Thebes. Meanwhile, Simeon and Levi made overtures to some high-ranking members of Tao’s army, who signed up to the duo’s scheme to eliminate him.

Their enlisting was essential as the two on their own just could not bring their scheme to fruition or muster the popular regnal support from the southern Egyptian populace being members of the loathsome Hyksos, who were denounced as Hikau-Khoswet (“Ruling Settlers”), an adulteration of the name Hyksos. 

The two brothers first patiently studied Tao’s daily routine, which has been  documented thus in The Hiram Key: “Everyday, he left the royal place of Malkata to visit the temple of Amen-Ra at the hour of high noon, when the sun was at its meridian (directly overhead) and a man cast no shadow, no stain of darkness, across the ground. With the sun at its zenith (highest point), the power of Ra was at its height and that of the Serpent of Darkness, Apophis, was at its weakest.” It was whilst emerging from the temple that Tao was tactfully spirited away.

Exactly who handled him – whether it was Simeon and Levi themselves or their henchmen – is not known for certain.  But whoever they  were, they must have been  familiar to the king to get that close to him. They were most likely renegades from amongst his security detail who Simeon and Levi had promised  phenomenal rewards when they were in power.

The traitors’ initial trick was to tell the king that  they suspected a plot against him and so they were taking him to a safe place, to which the king readily obliged, as one would do to people they trusted the most.  Then once they got him to the “safe haven”, they bared their fangs and produced Simeon and Levi. The duo first asked the king to make known to them the cross-dimensional secret of Ormus, which he was said to have come in the knowledge of. 

According to   The Hiram Key, Tao did admit that yes, he did possess that kind of knowledge but he could not divulge it without the involvement of two other people who were privy to it.  He would rather die than betray such a sacred trust.  He got his wish and would in future be known as Tao the Brave for refusing to waver even on pain of death.

In July 1881, the mummies of several Egyptian pharaohs, including that of Tao, were discovered in a tomb near Luxor in Egypt. Tao’s was the only corpse to show signs of a violent death.  He had grisly  wounds on his head, which doctors who examined his body described as follows: “The middle of his forehead had been smashed in … Another blow had fractured his right eye socket, his right cheekbone, and his nose.

A third had been delivered behind his left ear, shattering the mastoid bone and ending in the first vertebrae of the neck … The terrible wounds on Seqenenre’s skull were caused by at least two people (Simeon and Reuben?) attacking him with a dagger, an axe, a spear, and possibly a mace.” Tao had ascended to the throne in 1558 BC. He was killed in 1554 BC. He was the last king of southern Egypt’s 17th Dynasty.
 
PHARAOH AHMOSE EJECTS HYKSOS FROM EGYPT

Sadly for Simeon and Levi, the assassination of Tao did not get the indigenous Egyptians to throng the streets and burst into dance in a frisson of euphoric excitement. Most of the generals threw their weight behind Tao’s son, Kamose, who was immediately installed as the new Pharaoh and the first king of the 18th Dynasty. It seemed Simeon and Levi had not consolidated their support before they killed Tao. They were forced to retreat to northern Egypt in ignominy.

Kamose vowed that he wasn’t going to rest till he had driven the Hyksos out of Egypt.    But he did not retaliate against them straightaway. He first honed the skills of his forces and in the third year of his reign attacked northern Egypt.   The offense was not sustained though as the following year, after being on the throne for only four years, he died of natural causes. He had however considerably shrunk Hykso territory, which suggests he was a formidable commander-in-chief.

At the time of his death, Kamose had no kids and his immediate younger brother, Ahmose,  was only 10 years old. His mother therefore took over as regent till Ahmose became of age. As his late brother, Ahmose was just as determined to be rid of the Hykso menace once and for all. At the head of a 480,000-strong army, he relentlessly assailed northern Egypt till finally what remained of Hykso territory was now the overcrowded Avaris, the capital.

In 1525 BC, the Hyksos surrendered and asked for a safe passage out of Egypt and back to Canaan. Ahmose obliged them, as a result of which 240,000 Hebrews left Egypt for Canaan. THIS WAS THE FIRST EXODUS: THE EXODUS OF MOSES’S TIME WAS ACTUALLY THE SECOND ONE.  At the time of their expulsion, the  Hyksos had ruled northern Egypt for 522 years, beginning with General Abraham (Pharaoh Mehibre Kheti) and ending with Pharaoh Apepi II.

SIMEON, LEVI CURSED; JUDAH BLESSED

The First Exodus was led by Jacob himself, assisted by his fourth son Judah, after Apepi II simply vanished into thin air.  Reuben had long fallen out with his father and Simeon and Levi had been sidelined for precipitating circumstances that led to the Hykso expulsion.  Because of this sorry development, Simeon and Levi were cursed by their father as plainly stated in GENESIS 49:5-7: “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their SECRET; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they DIGGED DOWN A WALL.  Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel.”

Jacob accused his two sons of having dug down a wall and of having killed a man.  The “wall” was northern Egypt, a buffer against southern Egypt’s possible incursions into Canaan. This buffer was destroyed when southern Egypt waged war on northern Egypt and expelled the Hyksos following their assassination of Tao.  Jacob also dissociated himself from the duo’s purported “secret”, the cross-dimensional Ormus which they cited to their father as the reason for killing Tao having refused to disclose it to them. The killing, Jacob regretted, was so unconscionably cruel and totally unjustified.

THE GREATEST BENEFICIARY OF HIS THREE BROTHERS FALL FROM GRACE WAS JUDAH. He had ably led the Hyksos into Canaan and for that he deserved a reward. GENESIS 49:8-10: “As for you, Judah, your brothers shall acclaim you; your hand shall be on the scruff of your enemies. Your father's sons shall bow down to you. A whelp of a lion is Judah—from the prey, my son, you will grow up—he crouches, he reclines like a lion; and like a lioness, who would make him rise up? The scepter shall not withdraw from Judah, nor the statute-maker's staff from between his feet, until indeed he comes to whom it belongs and the peoples' homage goes to him.”

Judah was declared the King of the Hebrews, the successor to Jacob. However, the promotion was not permanent: HE WAS TO BE KING UNTIL THE RIGHT PERSON, THE ANOINTED HEIR JOSEPH, WAS GROWN ENOUGH TO TAKE OVER. Was Jacob’s wish in relation to Joseph  honoured?
  

NEXT WEEK:   JOSEPH TAKES CENTRE STAGE

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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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