You are browsing the archive for 2019 January 22.

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Are Scientists on the Verge of Resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth?

January 22, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Every summer, groups of hunters head to the remote, uninhabited New Siberian islands in search of the elusive “white gold”—a perfectly formed tusk of a woolly mammoth—hidden in the thawing Arctic permafrost.

They are not only exploring the furthest reaches of the Arctic Ocean, but traveling back in time, carrying out a primordial quest for the tusks of the massive beasts that roamed the forbidding landscape in droves before going extinct 10,000 years ago.

Of course, there’s always the chance the hunters may stumble not just on a tusk or two, but on an entire set of mammoth remains, including fur, flesh and even oozing blood.

An illustration of a family of Woolly Mammoths.

That’s what happened in 2013, when a team from Yakutsk, Russia, uncovered the almost-complete carcass of a young female mammoth buried in the permafrost on the New Siberian Islands. Not only were three legs, a majority of the body, part of the head and the trunk still relatively well preserved, but when the researchers began efforts to dislodge the animal’s remains, they noticed dark, sticky blood oozing from the carcass.

Carbon dating revealed that Buttercup, as she was dubbed, lived some 40,000 years ago. From her remains, including a vial of blood drained from her carcass, scientists hoped to extract living mammoth cells that will yield intact DNA—the missing link in modern scientists’ long-running quest to bring this ancient behemoth back from the dead.

In the new documentary film Genesis 2.0, Swiss documentarian Christian Frei and his co-director, Siberian filmmaker Maxim Arbugaev, follow the intrepid mammoth tusk hunters in the New Siberian Islands, as well as various scientists in the United States, Russia, South Korea and China who are working to bring the mammoth back to life in one form or another.

Traditional Chinese carvers make elaborate sculptures out of mammoth ivory, and first-class mammoth tusks can net the hunters tens of thousands of dollars on the international market, especially since China banned the import and sale of elephant ivory in 2016. Russia exported 72 metric tons of mammoth ivory in 2017, with more than 80 percent of it going to China.

For the Siberian mammoth hunters, finding a top-notch tusk to sell is the goal, of course—a lot of what they find is in poor condition—but it’s also a mixed blessing. In local culture, which has long considered …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Medieval Weapons That Maimed and Killed

January 22, 2019 in History

By Andrew Knighton

Swords and lances weren’t the only weapons of choice during bloody battles of the Middle Ages.

When picturing medieval European warfare, we usually focus on the knights—glamorous aristocratic warriors fighting with sword and lance. But while these weapons were important, medieval warriors thrashed their opponents with an array of brutal instruments.

A weapon’s popularity depended on multiple factors, including its effectiveness, status and cost. But, in the midst of fighting, it was a weapon’s impact on the opponent that ultimately proved its value.

Kelly DeVries, a medieval warfare expert at Loyola University, says medieval weapons seldom broke through metal armor. “But blunt force trauma, the smashing of the bones, that’s going to incapacitate somebody.” A weapon didn’t have to kill to be important, it just had to take an opponent out.

Watch a preview of the new series Knight Fight, premiering Wednesday, January 23 at 10/9c.

Swords and Lances

According to DeVries, “The single most important weapon in the Middle Ages was the sword.”

A fast-moving weapon that could stab as well as slice, the sword delivered the most damage for least effort. It allowed the development of a sophisticated form of martial art, granting fame to expert swordsmen and inspiring fighting manuals such as Fiore dei Liberi’s Flos Duellatorum (1410). As military historian Mike Loades says, the sword “gives hope that skill can triumph over brute force.”

There were other reasons for the sword’s popularity. The limits of metalworking meant that swords were initially expensive, conferring status on their owners. Because the sword was a weapon suitable for wearing, that status could be displayed both on—and off the battlefield.

Thirteenth-century French knight

The other high-status weapon was the lance, used in attacks by mounted men-at-arms. The force of a galloping horseman, concentrated through the point of a lance, gave it incredible power. But it was a one-shot weapon, often shattering on impact and was no use up close. It was individually deadly but not a war-winner.

READ MORE: 9 Blades That Forged History

Spears, Axes, Mace

Though swords became widespread, polearm weapons were, at one point, more prevalent for ordinary infantry.

Cheap and easy to manufacture, spears equipped the increasingly large armies of medieval rulers. Used in large defensive blocks, they provided an antidote to cavalry charges, as shown by the successes of the Scots against the English at Bannockburn (1314).

While the spear was most common, other polearms were deadlier. Equipped with axes, blades, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Scathing Reaction to the Last Oscars With No Host

January 22, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

“And now ladies and gentlemen, here’s one of the great legends of Hollywood. She’s back with us tonight—Miss .

But the “camp” style of humor that permeated Beach Blanket Babylon wasn’t yet a part of mainstream media. Hofler thinks the negative response to the Oscars number “was this real reaction against this gay humor in a period in which people were no longer really tolerant of gay people.” He contrasts this to the years before AIDS when Hollywood establishment types had had no problem partying at Carr’s house.

“Believe me, because Allan Carr was the producer, everyone involved identified that opening number as this kind of gay humor run amok,” Hoffler continues (Eileen Bowman, who played Snow White, later wrote the Oscars show “looked like a gay bar mitzvah,” whatever that means). Were the opening number to air today, the reaction might be different. “I interviewed [former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing] about it and I remember her saying, I bet if they showed that today people wouldn’t object to it.”

Allan Carr, center, meeting with composer Marvin Hamlisch (left) and director Kenny Ortega (right) during the 61st Annual Academy Awards Rehearsals on March 20, 1989 at ABC Studios in Los Angeles, California.

Dennis Bingham, director of the Film Studies Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, thinks Carr’s opening number “may have worked just great on a stage in a nightclub some place, but it wasn’t good television.” Yet he also thinks that, 30 years later, it’s hardly the most embarrassing thing that’s happened at the Oscars.

“The year that Seth MacFarlane hosted, when people turned on the show a little late to see him leading a chorus line singing ‘We Saw Your Boobs’—that was much more embarrassing and uncalled for,” he says of the 2013 Oscars. In addition, Bingham says the 2017 Best Picture mix-up, where La La Land received an award intended for Moonlight, “is the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen at the Oscars.”

As maligned as Carr’s Academy Awards show was, it did have some influential moments. His was the first Oscars with extended coverage of stars arriving on the red carpet, an event that has since become its own pre-awards show. Carr coined an iconic award show phrase by telling presenters that instead of announcing the “winner,” they should say, “The Oscar goes to…” Billy Crystal also delivered a well-received monologue at the ‘89 Oscars. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Get Ready for North Korea's Next Summit Showdown

January 22, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

North Korean spymaster Kim Yong-chol came to town and a summit
announcement resulted. The White House tweeted that President
Donald Trump “looks forward to a second summit with Chairman
Kim.” The meeting is supposed to occur before the end of
February. Vietnam has been suggested as a possible location.

Cynicism about the planned summit is rife in Washington. The
first meeting last June resulted in dramatic images but little
denuclearization. Neoconservatives are frustrated that the
president has yet to send in the bombers. Leftish critics who a
year ago complained that he was about to start a war now insist
that he has been played by the North’s Kim Jong-un. However,
denuclearization should not be seen as the upcoming summit’s
principal, if not only, objective.

No one in Washington
other than the president appears to believe there is much chance
that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea intends to disarm,
but the show must go on.

Despite Trump’s apparent confidence in North Korea’s
supreme leader, no one in Washington other than the president
appears to believe there is much chance that the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea intends to disarm. That is one
reason for why Pyongyang desired another summit. If an agreement is
possible, the DPRK believes, then it is through the president, not
the secretary of state and certainly not the national security
adviser. Last week a North Korean diplomat complained to me about
the current diplomatic impasse but expressed hope that “if
the summit occurs it will contribute to breaking the
stalemate.”

In fact, it should surprise no one if Kim proves unwilling to
yield weapons so costly to develop, as well as the capability to
construct them. Nukes offer international status that much larger
nations lack. The weapons also reinforce the regime’s
domestic meme of protecting its people from foreign enemies, while
rewarding the military for its loyalty. Most important, as my North
Korean interlocutor argued, the weapons are “the last option
for simple deterrence.” Well-deserved skepticism of the
DPRK’s claims notwithstanding, Washington’s
overwhelming conventional military strength combined with its
penchant for regime change make nuclear weapons the only effective
guarantee for any government on Uncle Sam’s naughty list.

However, denuclearization should be seen as a means to an end:
peace and security. That is why the Republic of Korea has so avidly
embraced what appears to be a new course under Kim. One could end
the threat of North Korean aggression by reducing willingness as
well as capabilities. In this sense reconciliation, if
genuine—a major condition, of course—is an existential
issue for the South. South Koreans could sleep more comfortably if
convinced that the North, though still …read more

Source: OP-EDS