Thursday Reads: The Gates of Hell and Other Nightmarish News

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Good Morning!!

Archaeologists from Italy recently announced the discovery of a “gate to hell” in Turkey. From Discovery News:

Known as Pluto’s Gate — Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin — the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.

“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC — about 24 AD) wrote.

“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.

Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.

Inscription dedicated to the deities of the underworld, Pluto and Kore, found at the ancient ruin of "Pluto's Gate" in Turkey. (Credit: Francesco D'Andria, University of Salento)

Inscription dedicated to the deities of the underworld, Pluto and Kore, found at the ancient ruin of “Pluto’s Gate” in Turkey. (Credit: Francesco D’Andria, University of Salento)

Among the ruins at the site D’Andria and his colleagues found

Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld — Pluto and Kore.

D’Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave — all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.

D’Andria himself saw birds killed by carbon dioxide fumes because they got too close to the opening to the “underworld.”

According to an article at iTech Post, “‘Gate To Hell’ In Turkey Is One Of Many Hellish Portals.”

The idea of an Earthly entranceway to hell goes all the way back to Greek and Roman mythology. The portal in Turkey was referenced by Cicero and the Greek geographer Strabo as emitting deadly vapors that caused any animal that entered it to die. But it is far from the only hellish cave portrayed by the Greeks and Romans.

In the “Rape of Persephone,” Hades abducts the spring-goddess Persephone into the underworld through a cleft in a Sicilian field. Aeneas also makes a trip to the underworld through a cave near Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples and Odysseus makes a visit through Lake Acheron, located in northwest Greece. Orpheus travels to the underworld to retrieve Eurydice through a cave entrance at Taenarum or Cape Tenaron, located in the southern Peloponnese.

Portals to hell were also believed to exist during the medieval period. Mount Etna was thought to be an entrance to hell during this time, as was Iceland’s Mount Hekla, called the “Gateway to Hell,” which has recently shown signs of an impending eruption. Lacus Curtius was an entranceway in the Roman Forum where, according to legend, a soldier rode into the entrance to close it, never returning again. St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Ireland, considered an entrance to hell, was a famous pilgrimage site.

Supposed gates to hell abound in other portions of the globe as well, from Nicaragua to Fengdu in China.

I think there is another entrance to hell in on Capital Hill in Washington DC called the U.S. Congress.

The mile wide mirror would be able to focus the power of the sun onto a target on Earth (Daily Telegraph)

The mile wide mirror would be able to focus the power of the sun onto a target on Earth (Daily Telegraph)

There’s another big historical discovery in the news–this one is about more recent history. An old 1945 article from Life Magazine was recently rediscovered that reports on a plan by the Nazis to develop a satellite that would act as a giant “space mirror.” Supposedly it would use solar power to destroy whole cities.

There’s a piece about it at The Daily Mail that includes plenty of visual aids:

It sounds like something only a Bond villain would propose, but the Nazis planned a mile-wide ‘space gun’ powered by the sun.

The giant mirror could be used to focus the sun on a target – like the magnifying glasses used by children to create fire.

A long-forgotten article from Life magazine in 1945 revealed how ‘US Army technical experts came up with the astonishing fact that German scientists had seriously planned to build a “sun gun”’.

The giant orbital mirror would ‘focus the sun’s rays to a scorching point on the Earth’s surface’. The German army, readers were told, ‘hoped to use such a mirror to burn an enemy city or to boil part of an ocean’.

The idea came to renowned rocket scientist Hermann Oberth in 1923.

Of course the weapon was never built. The Nazis had lots of crazy ideas that would probably appeal to some wacko world leaders of today like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who is reportedly fantasizing about blowing up the world in present day 2013.

I know everyone thinks this is hilarious, and it is, but there are scenarios in which this sabre rattling could lead to more serious consequences. Last night the Christian Science Monitor asked: Can US trust North Korea leader to act rationally?

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s saber-rattling rhetoric and threats to restart his nuclear program could be a rational move to garner more in the way of concessions in the world community and much-needed political street-credentials among the populace and troops he commands.

But just how confident can Pentagon officials be about whether Mr. Kim is a rational actor?

Could he, in fact, be young, reckless, without great political savvy and in grave danger of making a move that could set off a chain of events – including an inadvertent war – with dire consequences?

The CSM reports that there are indications that Kim may be losing control of his military forces–there have been reports of units defecting to China. Although they were sent back, Kim may feel the need to assert his power by making these threats against other countries.

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At NBC News, M. Alex Johnson lists some possible ways that things could “get out of hand” in North Korea. Read about it at the link if you’re interested.

David Blair, chief foreign correspondent at the Daily Telegraph asks: Could North Korea start a war by mistake?

When a country seems on the point of going to war, its adversaries try to identify the key signals that would show it was serious. Forget rhetorical bluster, what would country X be doing if war really was imminent? Today, North Korea is the focus of that burning question.

No one can outdo North Korea when it comes to blood-curdling threats, missile tests and, indeed, the controlled detonation of nuclear weapons. But experience shows that none of these make war inevitable.

Instead, experts have settled on the view that the Kaesong industrial park, a facility found inside North Korea but served by a workforce from the South, could be the real indicator. Through every recent crisis, Kaesong has continued operating as normal, largely because North Korea’s bankrupt regime earns desperately needed hard currency from this facility.

Now, however, things are changing. North Korea has stopped workers from the South from crossing its border to reach Kaesong. It has not gone the whole way and shut down the site altogether – and South Korean workers who stay overnight at Kaesong are being allowed to leave. In the event of war, they would probably be taken hostage. If Kaesong represents a canary in the mineshaft, then the bird is not dead yet, but it appears to be coughing and spluttering.

All these pundits are focusing on whether or not Kim is a “rational actor,” but I think we also have to consider that we have some politicians over here who are always looking for ways to get involved in another war.

In other news,

Yesterday I was reading about a young couple in their late teens who disappeared in a California forest over the weekend. They had called police to say they were lost but thought they were near their car. Authorities had been searching for them since. This morning it’s being reported that the young man has been found, but his female companion is still missing. ABC News reports:

Family and friends are sharing mixed emotions today in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., after one of two missing teen hikers was found alive Wednesday night.

Nicholas Cendoya, 19, was located by another hiker, who was not a part of the search efforts, in a thick brush shortly before sundown, officials said.

Authorities have shifted their attention to the whereabouts of Kyndall Jack, 18. She was with Cendoya hiking in Southern California’s Cleveland National Forest when the pair went missing Sunday night….

Cendoya was located about a half-mile south of where much of the search had focused.

“He is weak, severely dehydrated and slightly confused,” Division Chief Kris Concepcion of the Orange County Fire Authority said.

We don’t yet know how they got separated. I hope Kyndall can be found. People can get very confused out in the wilderness. You wouldn’t believe how many people disappear or are killed in accidents in National Parks and Forests. It’s something I’ve read a bit about.

Yesterday another law enforcement officer was murdered, this time in West Virginia.

Investigators arrested a suspect but were still searching for a motive Wednesday after a West Virginia sheriff known for his tough stance on drug dealers was shot dead in his patrol vehicle.

Mingo County Sheriff Walter E. “Eugene” Crum was eating lunch just blocks away from a courthouse when he was gunned down, officials said.

Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, is accused in the killing, West Virginia State Police First Sgt. Michael Baylous said.

The suspect parked his car close to the sheriff’s SUV and shot through the window twice, hitting the sheriff twice in the head, according to a state official who was briefed on the investigation.

Maynard was shot by a sheriff’s deputy after a chase and is now in the hospital. So far his motive is unknown, but authorities seem concern that this case could somehow related to the murders of a prisons chief in Colorado and a district attorney, his wife, and an assistant district attorney in Texas. The deaths in Colorado and Texas are linked to white supremacist groups.

I wrote about this and about the Aryan Brotherhood prison gangs in my Tuesday morning post, so you can find more details there. If you didn’t read it, I highly recommend the Daily Beast article I quoted, “Why I fear the Aryan Brotherhood and you should too.”

The Texas DA’s had been involved in a major prosecution of the “Aryan Brotherhood of Texas,” one of the federal prosecutors in the case, Jay Hileman, withdrew for “security reasons.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Jay Hileman announced his withdrawal from a racketeering case involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas on Tuesday in an email to defense lawyers, Houston attorney Richard O. Ely II told The Times.

Investigators have scrutinized the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas in recent days after two Kaufman County prosecutors were killed in attacks that followed their office’s assistance in a major federal indictment against 34 alleged leaders and members of the gang in November.

The gang had allegedly threatened to attack law enforcement officials connected to the racketeering case, though officials still have not named a suspect in the attacks against Kaufman County Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse and Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland, who was killed with his wife….

On Wednesday, Tim S. Braley, an assistant U.S. attorney and deputy chief on a Justice Department drug and gangs task force, filed a notification that he would be joining the case as lead counsel with David Karpel, who had been previously working the case with Hileman.

The Daily Beast has another scary article today–this time specifically on the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, which is an independent group built on the model of the prison gangs which began in California’s San Quentin prison in the 1960s.

This really has been a hellish post, hasn’t it?  Soooo…. what are you hearing and reading today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a heavenly day!


Tuesday Reads: Republicans and Marriage Equality, The Aryan Brotherhood, and Other News

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Good Morning!!

I’ve got some kind of virus, and it’s making my brain very fuzzy. For the past three days I’ve been having trouble even staying awake. I think I’m better, but this morning I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for an hour without getting anything written. So I guess I’ll just get started and see what happens.

I guess one of the reasons I’ve been a little stuck is that I’ve been reading about Matt Salmon. Matt is gay and he’s also the son of Arizona Rep. Matthew J. Salmon, who spent yesterday telling the media that–unlike Ohio Sen Rob Portman–having a gay son hasn’t changed his attitudes about gay marriage. From The Washington Post:

In an interview aired over the weekend, Rep. Matt J. Salmon (R-Ariz.) told a local news station that his son’s homosexuality has not led him to change his position on gay marriage.

“I don’t support the gay marriage,” the congressman said. But Salmon emphasized that he loved and respected his son and did not consider homosexuality a choice.

“My son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say,” an emotional Salmon told 3TV. “It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with some of the issues. It just means I haven’t evolved to that stage.” [….]

“We respect each others’ opinions and we just know that on certain issues we have to agree to disagree,” the congressman’s son, Matt R. Salmon, told The Post. “I love my father and realize that he can have the opinions that he has, and they might differ from mine, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about him.”

Here’s the video of the interview via Mediaite:

I wasn’t that impressed with Rob Portman’s change of attitude–he realized his own son was gay and then suddenly decided gay marriage was okay. But at least Portman showed some empathy. Salmon sounds just plain cruel.

The younger Matt (father and son have different middle initials-the son is Matt R. Salmon) still supported his father’s run for Congress. His partner is Kent Flake, who is also the second cousin of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. Rep. Matt J. Salmon and Sen. Jeff Flake are both Mormons.

It’s nice that father and son still have a relationship, but it has to be incredibly painful for Matt to know that his own father disapproves of who you are and stands in the way of your marrying the person you love. According to Think Progress,

Portman clearly coordinated his announcement with his son, Will, in mind. The family released photos of Rob and Will spending time together, Will tweeted his support for his father that day, and last week wrote about how they made the decision together. Salmon has done the opposite, speaking without the consent of his son in an attempt to soften his own anti-gay positions, including past support for banning same-sex marriage and adoption.

I’m not sure how TP knows that Salmon spoke without this son’s consent, but Matt’s family has not been particularly supportive–at least according to an interview he gave to the Arizona New Times in 2010. For further reading, here is Will Portman’s coming out statement at the Yale Daily News.

All of this makes me so sad. Bigotry is so ugly and hurtful, and it’s amazing to me that people who have gone through this pain can still remain Republicans.

In Other News…

Evan Ebel, the man who shot Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements was released from jail because of a “clerical error.” He should have stayed locked up for another four years.

Ebel was on parole from Colorado prisons and was not legally allowed to purchase a weapon. He is believed to have used a gun to kill Clements on March 19 at Clements’ Colorado home. He is also believed to be involved in the death of a Domino’s delivery man, Nathan Leon, in Denver.

Ebel was then pulled over by Texas authorities two days later and engaged in a high-speed chase and gun battle with them. He was shot and died later at a hospital.

Ebel was a member of a “white supremacist gang 211 Crew.” It’s not yet clear if that is relevant to the murders, but coincidentally or not, there have been three recent murders in Texas that may be linked to a white supremacist group, “the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.”

Kaufman County, Texas (CNN) — As state and federal investigators flood this north Texas county searching for clues in the killing of two prosecutors in two months, the 100,000 people who live here can do little but nervously watch, and hope.

“The residents are, I think, astounded,” said Delois Stolusky, who has lived in the county seat of Kaufman for 30 years. “It’s just, one and one make two. You can’t keep from connecting these. And it’s just scary because we have no clue of who did the first shooting. And no clue, of course, yet who did this one. And, so of course our concern is what’s going to happen next.”

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, died in a shooting at their home over the weekend. Friends discovered their bodies Saturday, nearly two months to the day after someone killed McLelland’s chief felony prosecutor, Mark Hasse, in a daytime shooting outside the county courthouse.

Law enforcement officials have no clues in the shootings, but there are suspicions that the Aryan Brotherhood could be involved.

But McLelland’s office was one of numerous Texas and federal agencies involved in a multi-year investigation that led to the indictment last year of 34 alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, including four of its senior leaders, on racketeering charges.

At the time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny A. Breuer called the indictment a “devastating blow” to the organization, which he said used threats and violence — including murder — against those who violate its rules or pose a threat to the enterprise….

While authorities have not said whether they have linked the deaths of Hasse and McLelland, or the involvement of white supremacists, Texas law enforcement agencies did warn shortly after the November 2012 indictment that there was “credible information” that members of the Aryan Brotherhood were planning to retaliate.

This is very creepy, and after learning about this I was interested to read this piece at The Daily Beast by an African American former prison inmate who understandably chooses to remain anonymous: Why I Fear the Aryan Brotherhood—and You Should, Too. Here’s the introduction. I hope you’ll be interested enough to read the whole thing.

Four people have been killed since the beginning of the year in a series of shootings that appear to be connected to the homegrown jihadists of the Aryan Brotherhood. Mike McLelland, the district attorney of Texas’s Kaufman County, and his wife, Cynthia Woodward, became the latest victims this past weekend. Before that, McLelland’s former colleague Mark Hasse was shot in January. Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements was gunned down in mid-March.

The Brotherhood, also known as The Brand, AB, and One-Two, was formed during the 1960s by a group of white convicts serving time at San Quentin. They allegedly were fed up with white prisoners being victimized by the two predominant gangs, the Black Gorilla Family (BGF) and the Mexican Mafia and decided to form a gang of their own for self-protection. While initially closely associated with Nazism ideologically, many adherents belong to the group for the identity and purpose it provides. The ironclad rule for entrée into the Brotherhood is simple: kill a black or a Hispanic prisoner. The other rule, which is just as ironclad, gave rise to their motto: “Blood In/Blood Out.”

Quitting isn’t an option. There’s only death.

I got up close and personal with members of the Brotherhood more than 20 years ago in Nevada. Due to the relatively sparse population in northern Nevada, the feds didn’t have their own lockup in which to house pretrial detainees, or at least they didn’t back then. So they rented a “range”— a row—of 14 cells in Nevada’s maximum-security prison in Carson City to house defendants going back and forth to Federal Court in nearby Reno.

I have some more reads for you that I’ll give you in link dump style, because otherwise I’ll never be able to finish this post with my brain working so slowly.

According to the Greek Reporter, politicians in Cyprus got special treatment: Cypriot Politicians’ Loans Written Off.

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider: Russian Businessman Was Offered Chance To Smuggle €1 Million Out Of Cyprus For A €200,000 Fee

The NYT Sunday Magazine had a long article about Oikos University mass murderer One L. Goh: That Other School Shooting.

Barney Frank spoke to the Portland (ME) Press Herald: Social Security ‘entitlement’ deserves funding and respect: We should ensure its solvency by applying the payroll tax to earnings of $250,000 to $400,000.

The New York Times editorialized against cuts to Social Security: Social Security, Present and Future.

Raw Story: New York police sued for pepper-spraying 5-month-old baby

The New York Daily News: NYPD Commish Ray Kelly said ‘stop and frisk’ intended to ‘instill fear’ in blacks and Latinos: State Sen. Eric Adams

National Geographic: Cicadas Coming to U.S. East Coast This Spring. (Once every 17 years.)

Business Insider: Macy’s Accidentally Puts $1,500 Necklace On Sale For $47

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today. I’m looking forward to clicking on your links!