Monday 26th of February 2018

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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-02-26 02:33
Al Jazeera tells us:

The Normans also helped inspire many of our modern images of the Middle Ages, giving us much of the medieval pastiche that show up in places like “Game of Thrones.” That said, names from the Norman era were often even better than the imitations they inspired. Just a few: Harold Harefoot, Harthacnut, Swein Forkbeard, Charles the Simple, Hrolf (known as Rollo), William Longsword, William of the Iron Arm, Flodoard, Dudo of St. Quentin, the Dux Pyratorum (or Duke of Pirates) and Robert the Weasel, Terror of the World.

As some of these names suggest, for all the clichés about chivalry, the Normans’ image among contemporaries often had more to do with their Viking ancestry than their religiosity. In the words of one abbot, they were men “more apt to destroy than to build the temples of the Lord.” The above mentioned Robert, as the most prominent Norman leader in Italy, was excommunicated three times. It is telling that one of his most pious moments occurred when, after crushing the pope’s army in battle, he kissed the pontiff’s feet and begged forgiveness for the victory. Though not a cliché they can claim credit for inspiring, the Norman conquerors were certainly capable of embodying the one about religion, like patriotism, being the refugee of a scoundrel.

On the other side of the Crusades were the Seljuqs, a dynasty that entered the Islamic world as mounted warriors who rode in from the Central Asian steppes. In 1055, a decade before the Norman conquest of England, they seized control of Baghdad, becoming rulers of the Abbassid Caliphate and the greater Middle East about half a century before the Crusaders headed for Jerusalem. Like the Normans, they did not always enjoy the best of reputations among their co-religionists. Consider the words of caliphal envoy Ahmad ibn Fadlan. He included among the Seljuqs’ vices “the shamelessness of their women, who were always unveiled, and their brazenly exposing their pudenda,” their “general aversion to water and washing” and the fact that the men “never took off their garments, which became encrusted with dirt, until they frayed away and disintegrated.”

Yes, this still is the story of the FIRST crusade, the advent of which has shaped the Middle East policy of the West from the Middle Ages (circa 1096) till today's 2018 US empire's shenanigans.

So, who were the Seljuks? The modern map of their part of the world show they came from Kasakhstan, (possibly tribes from upper Russia) with a loose kingdom that extended from Pakistan to Iran, Iraq and Turkey, comprising Usbekistan, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and the south west of Saudi Arabia. It appears that the Moors, the Arabs, though of the same religious creed, did not like them much and defended their patch as much as possible, sometimes using the crusaders on their own side against the Seljuks. 

Meanwhile, despite the common goal, the smell of glory and the grab for loot became factors of disputes and treachery between the chief European crusaders of various origins — some being Normans, some being Frankish…

Urban II's 1095 preaching for war in the Holy Space, led volunteers from all classes in Western Europe to become Crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving indulgences from the Church. Some were hoping for a mass ascension into heaven at Jerusalem or for god's forgiveness for their sins. Others went to satisfy feudal obligations, some were not so noble nor pure, but to obtain glory and honour — and to seek economic and political gain.

Thus some of the warriors who fought in the Crusades were simple hypocrites, looters, thieves, while others were convinced by the religious hubris as the opportunity of fighting in a holy war fitted their self-promotional piety.

by 1099, With Jerusalem under their control, the crusaders installed new rules in the lands they had captured, both from the Arabs and the Seljuks.

The crusaders expelled many inhabitants, including Muslims, Jews, and eastern Christians — and filled Jerusalem with settlers brought from Western Europe. The new settlers were mostly slaves and nobodies from western Europe. Their social status quickly improved when they became landowners in the Holy Region. 

Meanwhile, the commanders of the First Crusade, began to anoint themselves as monarchs. 

Baldwin I, also known as Baldwin of Boulogne (1060s – 2 April 1118), was the first "count of Edessa" from 1098 to 1100, and first King of Jerusalem from 1100 to his death. Destined for a Church career, he abandoned it and had married a Norman noblewoman, Godehilde of Tosny. He received the County of Verdun in 1096, then joined the army of his brother, Godfrey of Bouillon who had been given the Duchy of Lorraine in 1087, to became one of the most successful commanders of the First Crusade.

Baldwin (like his brother, a Frankish) and Tancred (a Norman) had launched separate expeditions against Cilicia (coastal Turkey, near Syria) in the autumn of 1097. Tancred tried to capture Tarsus, but Baldwin forced him to leave it, which gave rise to enduring conflicts between Baldwin and Tancred. Baldwin seized important fortresses in the lands to the west of the Euphrates with the assistance of local Armenians...

For example Thoros (Thathoul) of Edessa — the Armenian ruler of Edessa, a former officer in the (Roman) Byzantine Empire and of Greek Orthodox faith) invited Baldwin to Edessa to fight against the Seljuqs (Seljuks). Taking advantage of a riot against Thoros, Baldwin seized the town and established the first "crusader state" on 10 March 1098. 

To strengthen his rule over the place, the then "widowed” (looking at historical records, it looks that young Godehilde of Tosny outlived Baldwin by 30 years) Baldwin married Thathoul (Thoros)'s daughter, Arda. He supplied the main crusader army with food during the siege of Antioch. He defended Edessa against Kerbogha, the governor of Mosul for three weeks, preventing the Mosul guy from reaching Antioch before the crusaders captured it.

Godfrey of Bouillon, whom the crusaders had elected their first ruler in Jerusalem, died in 1100. He was unmarried and had no descendants. Daimbert, the Latin patriarch, and Tancred offered Jerusalem to Tancred's uncle, Bohemund I of Antioch. Godfrey's army had taken possession of the town and urged Baldwin to claim "Godfrey's inheritance".

As a Muslim ruler had captured Bohemund (possibly betrayed by the Baldwin mob), the patriarch crowned Baldwin king in Bethlehem on 25 December (some sources say July) —Arda becoming the first Queen of Jerusalem.

Baldwin captured Arsuf and Caesarea in 1101, Acre in 1104, Beirut in 1110, and Sidon in 1111, with the assistance of Genoese and Venetian fleets and smaller crusader groups, but all his attempts to capture Ascalon and Tyre failed. After his victory in the third battle of Ramla in 1105, the Egyptians (possibly under Seljuk’s rule) launched no major campaign against the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Baldwin supported Bertrand, Count of Toulouse to capture Tripoli in 1109. Being the only crowned monarch in the Latin East, Baldwin claimed suzerainty over other crusader rulers. Baldwin II (Baldwin’s and Geoffrey’s cousin) of Edessa and Bertrand swore fealty to him. 

The Muslim population had climbed to about 5 per cent compared to the Christian population of 11 per cent globally, by 1100.

Tancred, who ruled the Principality of Antioch, also reluctantly obeyed Baldwin I who supported Baldwin II and Tancred against Kerbogha's successor, Mawdud, who launched a series of campaigns against Edessa and Antioch in the early 1110s. He erected fortresses in Oultrejordain—the territory over the river Jordan—to control the caravan routes between Syria and Egypt. He died during a campaign against Egypt.

A bit more about Tancred...

In 1096, Tancred had joined his maternal uncle Bohemund for the First Crusade, and the two made their way to Constantinople. There, he was pressured to swear an oath to Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, promising to give back any conquered land to the Byzantine Empire. Although the other leaders did not intend to keep their oaths, Tancred refused to swear the oath altogether. 

He participated in the siege of Nicaea in 1097, but the city was taken by Alexius' army after secret negotiations with the Seljuk Turks. Because of this, Tancred was very distrustful of the Byzantines (Roman Empire left over which comprised Grece and Turkey).

In 1097 the Crusaders divided their forces at Heraclea. Tancred entered the Levant by passing south through the Cilician Gates. He displayed the skills of a brilliant tactician by seizing five of the most important sites, which included the ancient cities of Tarsus and Adana, the great emporium at Mopsuestia, and the strategic castles at Sarvandikar and Anazarbus.

The last three settlements were annexed to the Principality of Antioch. During their fourteen-year occupation of Anazarbus the Crusaders built the magnificent donjon atop the centre of the fortified outcrop. 

At Sarvandikar, which controlled the strategic Amanus Pass, Tancred imprisoned Raymond of Saint-Gilles in 1101/02. Raymond was part of the doomed Crusade of 1101, where he was defeated at Mersivan in Anatolia. Raymond (Count of Toulouse) escaped and returned to Constantinople. In 1102 he traveled by sea from Constantinople to Antioch, where he was imprisoned by Tancred (who still resented the captivity of Bohemond), and was only released after promising not to attempt any conquests in the country between Antioch and Acre. Raymond immediately broke his promise, attacking and capturing Tartus. He began to build a castle on the Mons Peregrinus ("Pilgrim's Mountain") which would help in his siege of Tripoli. He was aided by Alexius I, who preferred a friendly state in Tripoli to balance the hostile state of Tancred in Antioch. Raymond died on February 28, 1105, before Tripoli was captured.

Tancred had assisted in the siege of Antioch in 1098. One year later, during the assault on Jerusalem, Tancred, along with Gaston IV of Béarn, claimed to have been the first Crusader to enter the city on July 15. However, the first crusader to enter Jerusalem was Ludolf of Tournai, followed by his brother Englebert. When the city fell, Tancred gave his banner to a group of the citizens who had fled to the roof of the Temple of Solomon. This should have assured their safety, but they were massacred, along with many others, during the sack of the city. The author of the Gesta Francorum (Deeds of the Franks) records that, when Tancred realised this, he was "greatly angered".

The new colonial leaders expanded their realm. Within a decade, most of the Levantine coast was in the crusaders' hands. And the Christian enclaves in the east now numbered four, with the addition of a new county in Tripoli.

The economics of the war soon began to dominate the crusades and the Regent of Antioch, Tancred, marched his army towards Aleppo, then the trade capital of the Levant.

Aleppo's ruler, Radwan, who has been described as spineless and servile, had a friendly relationship with the crusaders. The story goes that he even put a cross on the mosque of Aleppo, which provoked a strong reaction from the locals as they revolted against their duplicitous ruler.

More to come...

Yes, this still is the story of the FIRST crusade, the advent of which has shaped the Middle East policy of the West from the Middle Ages (circa 1096) till today's 2018 US empire's shenanigans.
by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 17:46


South Australia could become the "Saudi Arabia of the south" by tapping into a huge revenue stream from building a high-level nuclear waste dump in the state's north, the Australian Conservatives say.

Launching the party's campaign for the state election, founder and federal leader Cory Bernardi said it was time to take the "ideological blinkers" off and revive the conversation over the construction of a dump and the development of a nuclear power plant.

Acknowledging the party's proposals were a "long burn" given the revenue from a dump would take years to flow, Senator Bernardi said it would allow for $3 billion in annual taxes to be scrapped, including payroll tax and the emergency services levy.

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Yeoh! We need to be the "Saudi Arabia of the South" with more of our women in Burqas, at home in the kitchen cooking while barefoot while pregnant... Sounds like a proposal coming from Allah himself, unless Barnaby helped in this Kanbra after hours policy formulation. Bagging Elon Musk is a bit rich, coming from a bloke, Bernardi, who seems he's not done anything creative since he was born... The idea of a dump has been poopooed many times for good reasons and nuclear power is on the wane, for being too expensive and at the end of the day too dangerous with its waste products.


by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 16:42

UNITED NATIONS (Sputnik) – Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday called on his US counterpart Nikki Haley and the US delegation at the United Nations to observe diplomatic decorum and not refer to the Russian authorities as a regime of President Vladimir Putin.

During a session devoted to the UN Charter, Haley called Russia a destabilizing force in the situation in eastern Ukraine. The US diplomat added that what she called regimes of Putin, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were acting unpunished on the international arena.

"I would like to remind permanent representative Haley – there is no "regime" in Russia, but a legally elected president and appointed government. I would like to ask the US delegation to observe at least basic diplomatic decorum in the future. By the way, there is also a legitimate government in Syria, whether you like it or not," Nebenzya said at a United Nations Security Council session.

This is not the first time the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations comes under fire over professionalism issues. Last year, her tweet on North Korea caused quite a stir online.


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by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 16:26

At North Michigan University, students can discover how to “decolonize” their diet. That means learning “about where the common foods and ingredients come from, what a ‘decolonizing diet’ is, and how they can incorporate the diet into their daily lives.”

Meanwhile, the editors of the American Historical Review have announced plans to decolonize the journal and confront its “past lack of openness to scholars and scholarship due to race, color, creed, gender, sexuality, nationality and a host of other assigned characteristics.”

In the UK, London’s School of Oriental and African Studies has announced plans to “decolonize” its degree courses following high-profile student campaigns such as “Why is My Curriculum White?” that are critical of “the domination of white ‘Eurocentric’ writers and thinkers.” Last year, students at Reed College protested the Eurocentrism of their Introduction to Humanities course. At Yale Universitystudents petitioned for the removal of a course in Major English Poets that featured, surprisingly enough, mostly white men. Thanks to their efforts, that course has now been downgraded to optional.

The fight to decolonize Harvard led to the removal of the Royal family seal, for fear that it might “evoke associations with slavery.” At the University of Oxford a plaque honoring Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist who established the Rhodes Scholarships, has been taken down. At Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, professors can take a course in decolonizing education in order to “understand indigenous perspectives in the history of colonization to contemporary realities in Canada.” All around the world, universities are decolonizing courses, buildings, libraries, and reading lists.


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by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 16:17

World-famous evangelist Billy Graham died early Wednesday at the age of 99 in his mountain home in Montreat, North Carolina. But unlike most headlines today dealing with religion and conservatism and figures famous for both, the news of his death did not draw the usual hyper-partisan carping from the media or the chattering class. In fact today, he’s being called “America’s Pastor.”


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In Australia, the drunks saw the bottled spirit and the gamblers saw the jackpot light.... Alleluyah!!!!

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by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 13:05

PYEONGCHANG (Sputnik) - The International Olympic Committee commission recommends to lift the disqualification of the Russian Olympic Committee following the analysis of all doping samples of Russian athletes during the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea’s Pyeongchang, Olympic Athlete from Russia Implementation Group Chair Nicole Hoevertsz said.

“The OAR Implementation Group recommends that the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee not be lifted at the closing ceremony on February 25, 2018, and conditions applying to the OAR delegation remain in place … The Implementation Group recommends lifting the Russian Olympic Committee’s suspension once all results of the doping tests of the OAR athletes during the Olympic Winter Games of Pyeongchang 2018 have been confirmed as negative,” Hoevertsz told the IOC session on Sunday.

She noted that for the purposes of historical files the results and medals earned by the OAR athletes at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games would remain recorded as OAR.


Meanwhile, IOC President Thomas Bach said Sunday that the International Olympic Committee Executive Board has recommended not to remove the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee until the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games.

“The IOC Executive Board decided not to lift the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee for the closing ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 … The suspension of the ROC is considered to be lifted once the Doping-Free Sport Unit has confirmed that there are no additional anti-doping rules violations by members of the OAR delegation,” Bach told the IOC session.


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by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 13:03

Rustling branches and a canopy cacophony – part howl, part screech, part snigger – proclaim the presence of black-and-white ruffed lemurs as visitors enter Ivoloina zoological park in eastern Madagascar.

The raucous primate is one of several critically endangered species in this biological refuge, which breeds and protects rare wildlife from the growing pressures on this island’s unique ecology.

But having kept the poachers, loggers and developers at bay, the park’s operators now fear the advance of a very different threat: Duttaphrynus melanostictus, widely known as the Asian common toad.

Nobody knows precisely how this toxic amphibian arrived in Madagascar. The most credible theory is that a small number were accidentally shipped inside a container from Vietnam that was unloaded at Toamasina port and opened at the giant Ambatovy nickel and cobalt processing plant. But what is certain is how quickly they have overrun the local habitat.

Villagers near the Ambatovy plant say they first noticed the creature around 2008. They had never seen a toad because Madagascar’s island evolution has only produced frogs. Locals considered the new arrival so strange and repellent they called it radaka boka (leprous toad).


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by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 11:33

The Turnbull Government has launched an all-out attack on our democratic rights. 

This video from top viral media lab Juice Media explains exactly what's at stake. And with politicians headed back to Canberra for Parliament on Monday, this is the perfect time to make it go viral and make sure everyone knows what's at stake. 


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by Gus Leonisky on Sun, 2018-02-25 07:43

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China is trying to gain access to sensitive U.S. technologies and intellectual properties through telecommunications companies, academia and joint business ventures, U.S. senators and spy chiefs warned on Tuesday at a Senate hearing.

Republican Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he worried about the spread in the United States of what he called "counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors."

"The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms (companies) like Huawei (Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL]) and ZTE Corp, that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government," Burr said.

Chinese firms have come under greater scrutiny in the United States in recent years over fears they may be conduits for spying, something they have consistently denied.

A Huawei spokesman said the company is aware of "U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market." He also said the firm is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries and poses no greater cyber security risk than other vendors.

ZTE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Burr said he worried that foreign commercial investment and acquisitions might jeopardize sensitive technologies and that U.S. academic research and laboratories may be at risk of infiltration by China's spies.

Several of the U.S. spy agency chiefs who testified at the committee's annual worldwide threats hearing cited concerns raised by what they called China's "all of society" approach toward gaining access to technology and intellectual property.


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