It was his symbol of Pharaonic authority way back in Egypt
Moses’ divorce from Miriam, his half-sister wife, took place at Hazeroth. From there, the Israelites moved to Rithmah just slightly further north within the broader Kadesh-Barnea region, also known as the Wilderness of Zin or the Wilderness of Paran, but towards the border with Edom.
Here, Adad, the Anunnaki Jehovah of the exodus, ordered Moses to spy out the land he had pledged to the Israelites – Canaan. This gesture was crucial if they had to know the strength of the enemy and acquaint with the fertility and vegetation of the land they would eventually come to possess.Moses assembled a crack 12-man espionage team, one from each tribe. The team was led by Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb from the tribe of Judah.
They were instructed to survey the Promised Land from the Negev Desert in the south to the “hill country” in the north (where the Jebusites, Hittites, and Amorites were concentrated). The spies were expected to bring back with them specimens of crops that flourished in that land just to assure the doubting Thomases among the Israelites that the place of their bequest was indeed worthwhile, that it was worth dying for in the inevitable and in fact looming land-grab war.
The mission took 40 days to complete, which was reasonable for a rather spare piece of territory that was 240 km long and 96 km wide. The spy scouts were impressed with the fecundity and greenery of the Promised Land, which those days was not as arid as it is today. Particularly noteworthy was the valley of Eshcol, whose lush hillsides were awash with figs, grapes, and pomegranates. The fruits were so humongous in our time that would only be possible if they were GMOs, that is, genetically modified foods.
A single cluster of grapes, for instance, had to be carried not by one person but two. When the scouts returned, they, on that basis alone, gave a very good report to Moses which was in affirmation of the fact that the Promised Land was the utopia it was touted as. “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” Sadly, that was the only good news they had in store for their compatriots. The rest was far from encouraging. Exactly what was that and what followed thereafter?
ADAD PRONOUNCES 40 YEARS OF PENAL WANDERINGS ON HIS PEOPLE
The scouts reported that most of the Canaanite cities were fortified. They were surrounded by walls as much as 20 feet thick and 25 feet high, with guards stationed on watchtowers. One city in particular struck fear in the hearts of the scouts. This was Hebron, as the Israelites would later call it, but at the time it was known as Kiriath Arba. Hebron was inhabited by a race of giants known as the Anakim, from whom the infamous Goliath arose.
The Anakim, we have long learnt, were also known as the Nephilim, the offspring resulting from intermarriages between Earthling women and the Igigi, the space-based Anunnaki. “We saw giants there, the descendants of the Anakim,” the scouts recounted. “All the people we saw were huge. Next to them, we were like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought too. We can’t go up against them: They are way stronger than us.”
There was yet another black mark against the Promised Land, the scouts reported. It “devoured those living in it”, meaning it was prone to earthquakes, an observation which indeed had merit â€¨as Israel sits along the Syrian-African fault line, which runs along the border with Jordan. It is part of the Great Rift Valley that extends from northern Syria to Mozambique. The broader region has consistently experienced large-scale earthquakes every 80 to 100 years for centuries and a number of less deadlier ones in-between. About 30 years before the exodus, in 1365 BC, a serious earthquake had hit the Holy Land.
When news of the scouts’ report seeped through, a loud lamentation went up from the community of Israel in a manner akin to a mass funeral. They accused Moses and Aaron for setting them up so they ended up in the lion’s den and told the duo to their face that they would no longer recognise them as their leaders but would instead elect a new leader who would take them back to Egypt. When Joshua and Caleb took the floor and tried to reassure the people that contrary to the testimony of the other ten scouts the Israelite army was capable of defeating the Anakim in that they had an all-powerful god in Adad, the people thought the two were raving mad and even braced to have them stoned.
Having gotten wind of these goings-on, a livid Adad summoned Moses and there and then read the riot act. He said he was going to disinherit the Israelites, that is, disown them, since they were incapable of trusting him despite the many “wondrous” feats he had performed on their behalf. Prostrating himself before Adad, Moses implored against this extreme measure, arguing all too vehemently that Adad would lose face in the eyes of the Egyptians if he so did as he would come across to them as a capricious and feckless god who left his people in the lurch after having brought them this far.
To his credit, Adad relented upon hearing Moses’ entreaties. However, he made two comeuppance pronouncements nonetheless. First, all the ten scouts who filed the negative report about the reconnaissance mission would be struck dead – for telling the truth (what a god!): only Joshua and Caleb, who spoke with an optimistic tone, would be spared. Second, he was going to banish the Israelites to endless, back-and-forth wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years, one year for each day of the duration of the espionage mission.
During the course of these 40 years, he would in one way or the other kill off those who were 20 years and older, save for the clans and offspring of Joshua and Caleb. Only the relations and progeny of Joshua and Caleb would set foot in the Promised Land. On hearing this, the protesting elements changed tack. They now decided to detach from the Israelite contingent and invade Canaan on their own independent of Moses: that way, they would, if successful, avoid Adad’s diabolical scheme to systematically and methodically erase them from the face of the earth. Sadly, they were too few and as yet inexperienced.
BESIDES, THEY DID NOT HAVE THE ADDED BATTLEFIELD ADVANTAGE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL ARK OF THE COVENANT. They were soundly defeated and repulsed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. Moses was gracious enough to welcome them back as they showed genuine penitence. Meanwhile, Adad made good on his promise to punish the ten spies whose negative report caused disquiet and panic among the Israelite population. He visited an unspecified “plague” on them in which they all perished. Exactly how Adad focused these plagues on his intended victims is a mystery.
ADAD CONTINUES TO BARE HIS FANGS
Thus far, a pattern was emerging in relation to the dynamics between Adad, Moses, and the Nation of Israel. The Israelites simply never learnt lessons despite the fact that Adad ruled them with an iron fist. They were an implacably stubborn lot. The more Adad struck terror in their midst with his summary executions, the more hardened they became in their resolve to defy him. It seemed they had become accustomed to witnessing terror wrought by their own god and therefore grown insensitive to it.
On his part, Adad was determined to exact retribution on them, sworn that he would never brook any nonsense. The slightest intimation of displeasure with him would be met by a disproportionately but consistently heavy-handed response, invariably capital punishment. If Adad’s killing spree was somewhat kept in check, it was thanks to the relative restraint forced upon him by Moses. Every time Adad pronounced doom on some ranks of the Israelites, Moses threw himself at his feet and begged him to either exercise mercy or show leniency.
Otherwise, had Moses been Adad’s yes-man through and through, his people would have long been decimated thanks to his god’s penchant for the perpetration of gloating evil. Moses, however, could only temper Adad’s excesses, not reverse them full circle. Adad continued to unleash his cruelty and ferocity on his hapless people. To him, if his chosen people did not learn lessons, that was all the more reason to hit them harder with each transgression.
Four more killing episodes followed after Rithman while Moses was still their leader. The first concerned a man who was found gathering wood on the Sabbath. Adad had decreed that no work of any kind must be done on the Sabbath. He ordered that the man be stoned to death, in line with EXODUS 35:2. The second had to do with what became known as Korah’s rebellion. Korah (a priest), two fellow ring leaders, and 250 others confronted Moses in a bid to impeach him for what they thought was his rather inept leadership.
Korah was particularly disillusioned that the Promised Land wasn’t going to be had soon enough but it was now a thing of a very uncertain future considering what Adad had pronounced. When Adad heard of what was happening, he had the three ring leaders “swallowed up by the ground on which they stood”. Again, this was no miracle. What simply happened was that they were frog-marched to a mudcrack site (which have a very hard crust but are very soft underneath, like thin ice on a pond, and abound in some parts of the Arabian desert especially around oases), where they were made to drown in the quicksand.
(It is clear the story was not exactly as related in the Book of Numbers. For example, NUMBERS 16:32 says the three died along with members of their families, but some of the psalms, which became fashionable during the reign of King David about three hundred years later, are attributed to the “sons of Korah”, suggesting they did not die along with their father). Their 250 followers Adad terminated by strafing them with a fierce blaze from his flying saucer.
The following day, when the people swarmed in on Moses and set about accusing him of his being a supine accomplice of his god in the deaths of Korah and his loyalists, Adad sent a plague that killed 14,700 people. The third took place at a place known as Shittim, where the Israelites were camped, in the country of the Moabites. It so happened that some Israelite soldiers were plucking around with Moabite women. The Moabite women not only lured the soldiers into a sex cult but enticed them into worshipping a Moabite god, that is, an Enkite god. Once again, Adad had made it clear that “idolatory” would be punishable by death. He ordered Moses to round up all the culprits and execute them in broad daylight. Altogether, 24,000 soldiers were killed. MIRACLE OR MIRAGE?
Finally, there was the incident of the “snake bites”. The Israelites were en route to the Moabite country having set off from Mount Hor. The journey was an arduous one in that it was rather long-winded: they had to skirt the boundaries of Edom as the King of Edom had refused them permission to pass through his country. In the process, some among the Israelite army were so overcome with fatigue they began to plot against Moses for bringing upon them such untold hardships.
The soldiers not only were famished, being sustained on the usual Tamarind manna, but they had parched throats owing to a dire shortage of water, as a result of which they grew nostalgic of Egypt as they always were prone to do. According to the Pentateuch writers, Adad reacted by unleashing on them a swarm of highly venomous snakes in an incident that came to involve the famous Bronze Serpent and in which many soldiers are said to have succumbed to the snake bites.
The story of the Bronze Serpent is one of the unseemliest of the Bible. It goes as follows according to NUMBER 21:4-9. “They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
So the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.’ And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a serpent of copper, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.’ And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”
The story has two major anomalies. First, Adad had forbidden the Nation of Israel from making graven images. So how could he have instructed Moses to make a simulacrum of a snake when ordinarily such a gesture would have carried a death penalty meted out by he himself? Second, THE SNAKE WAS THE SYMBOL OF ENKITE GODS, more so Enki, Marduk, and Ningishzidda. These not only were sworn Enlilite rivals but they were the butt of Enlilite jokes. Every time Enlil sneered at Marduk, for instance, he referred to him as “the Great Serpent”. So how could Adad have gotten Moses to exalt a clan of rival gods? It all simply defies logic. Given the aforesaid contrarieties, how do we explain the incident?
BRONZE SERPENT WAS MOSES’ PHARAONIC STAFF
First, although the Pentateuch writers cast the swarm of snakes as a miraculous plague Adad visited on the Israelites, that was far from the case. The place in which the Israelites were trekking through after a successful military campaign against the Canaanite king Arad was the Arovar Valley, just below the twin-peaked Mount Hor. THEN AS NOW, THE BROADER SETTING OF THIS AREA WAS INFESTED WITH SNAKES AND SCORPIONS.
In the 7th century, a log of the Assyrian army under King Esaharddon when campaigning in this area described it as “a remote district, a desert plain of salty land, a region of droughts, with snakes and scorpions which cover the soil like ants.” Indeed, DEUTERONOMY 8:14-15 underscores the naturalness of this snake phenomenon in the area in these words: “The LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint.”
This was Moses talking in his valedictory speech to the Nation of Israel. SO THE EVENT WAS PERFECTLY NATURAL: THE ISRAELITES JUST HAPPENED TO FIND THEMSELVES IN AN EXPANSE OF WILDERNESS RIDDLED WITH HIGHLY POISONOUS SNAKES AND SCORPIONS. If people were mass-beaten by snakes (as they slept mainly as the Arovar snakes can simply pop out of the sand and strike), then the necessity of their healing did certainly arise. Exactly how were they healed?
The Pentateuch writers would have us believe that once again, Adad performed a miracle, by having Moses raise up a bronze snake to which every victim of a snake bite simply had to look and instantly be restored to full health. That is a stretching of the truth: it is an embellishment of the facts of the matter. You will be aware by now that among the exodus caravan were Egyptians. And among these Egyptians were trained healers, known in Egypt as the Theraputae.
As Egyptians, the Theraputae worshipped or venerated Enki, who alongside his genius son Ningishzidda was reputed as the god of healing. IT WERE THE THERAPUTAE WHO SPRANG INTO ACTION AND ADMINISTERED THE ELIXIRS THAT NEUTRALISED THE SNAKE POISON. For the Theraputae to perform such a duty, they insisted that their god, Enki, had to be at least momentarily exalted in the circumstances that prevailed, whereupon Moses had no option but to cave in.
Now, the medium of exaltation was not a bronze pole that had to be set up on the spur of the moment. MOSES IMPROVISED WITH HIS OWN PHARAONIC STAFF THAT HE HAD COME WITH FROM EGYPT. A pharaonic staff was the symbol of a Pharaoh’s authority and was topped with a snake sculpted in bronze. Thus as the ranks of the Theraputae were busy doing their medical rounds, Moses held up his pharaonic staff for every patient to symbolically gaze upon.
Sadly, the story over time was infused with godly and miraculous overtones so that even during the time of Hezekiah King of Judah 600 years later, the Israelites were paying religious homage to Moses pharaonic staff in commemoration of the Arovah “miracle healing”! But there is still more to the bronze snake symbolism. That we unpack next week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.