Friday, August 28, 2020

Review: Tayto Muchos Smokey Chilli Chicken

These snacks had the same taco or quesadilla-like shapes as the nacho cheese version of Muchos, but this time the flavor description had my mouth watering before I even opened the bag. ...

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by August 28, 2020 at 12:40PM

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review: Pringles Parmesan & Roasted Garlic

Having reviewed 145 kinds of Pringles, it was a bit surprising to see this one show up as a new flavor — parm & garlic is a pretty common combination found in lots of snacks. ...

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by August 26, 2020 at 02:47PM

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Review: Varitas de Verduras

This snack consisted of square-profile sticks in the standard three colors that veggie snacks come in — light green, light red and light beige — all of them hollow. ...

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by August 11, 2020 at 08:08AM

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Review: Fragrance Mala Salted Egg Fish Skin

This snack, from the same folks who brought us Salted Egg Potato Chips, promised some heat that the potato chips lacked, while using the same salted egg seasoning. ...

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by August 05, 2020 at 02:44PM

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Roman Emperor Who Tried to Make His Horse Consul

When one thinks of Roman Emperors, often two kinds come to mind- the heroic generals and brilliant philosophers, like Caesar Augustus and Marcus Aurelius, or the insane and depraved despots like Nero and Commodus. The latter two are well known for their long list of antics, for a video on Nero’s famous fiddle incident and the truth about all that, check out the link in the description below. But both Nero and Commodus were preceded by an Emperor who, in his three years and 10 months as ruler in Rome, acted in a manner that at first was bizarre and then descended into outright insanity.

Born Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, the man better known as Caligula was the great grandson of the Caesar Augustus, son of general Germanicus Julius Caesar and the third man to assume the title of Roman Emperor. During his early childhood he would travel with his father, Germanicus, on his military campaigns dressed in a little soldier’s outfit. The soldiers took great humor in this and nicknamed him Caligula, meaning ‘little boot.’ When he was around seven years old, his father was killed in Syria, possibly poisoned by an agent of his great-uncle, the Emperor Tiberius, who saw his nephew as a potential political rival. After this, the young Caligula spent time in the care of his mother until she and his brother Nero were exiled to the island of Pandateria for treason. From then on he lived with his Great-Grandmother Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, and then his grandmother, Antonia Minor. While in exile his brother and mother were abused and malnourished, leading to their deaths in 31 and 33 A.D. Unsurprisingly from this, their deaths caused Caligula to harbor a rather large resentment towards Tiberius.

Caligula was relocated to the island of Capreae, a popular resort island off the western coast of Italy. Here he was under the watchful eye of his great-uncle, but with some maneuvering and acting skill, he managed to avoid banishment or execution. For example, he ingratiated himself with Naevius Sutorius Macro, the head of Tiberius’ guard, who would often speak well of Caligula on his behalf.

Ultimately he was given an honorary Quaestorship, an important political office, and briefly married in 33 A.D. but his wife, Junia Claudilla, died in childbirth shortly after. Two years later, in 35 A.D., Caligula and his cousin, Tiberius Gemellus were named co-heirs to Emperor.

A mere two years after that, Emperor Tiberius died in March of 37 A.D. and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was rumored that Caligula or possibly the aforementioned Macro may have hastened his death. As for Macro, Roman historian Tacitus claims he smothered the 77 year old Emperor with a pillow, while Suetonius alleges Caligula did the deed himself.

Whatever the truth of that, after the Emperor’s death, Caligula and Macro successfully removed Gemellus from Tiberius’ will, and he then held sole claim to the Principate. He was inaugurated by the Senate later that month and was heralded by the Roman people with immense celebration. The first seven months of his rule were rather joyful by all accounts. Ingratiating himself to the masses, he relieved citizens overburdened by Imperial taxation, recalled political exiles, and funded many public spectacles. For his own part, he also retrieved the remains of his mother and brothers and ensured they received a proper place of honor.

But in October of his first year as Emperor, something changed. Caligula fell ill, some historians suggest he may have been poisoned, while others assert it was nothing more than a simple common illness. But either way, something changed directly thereafter, at least if his behavior is any indication.

Not long after, he began executing members of his family, including his cousin Gemellus, as well as his Father-in-law and Brother-in-law. His two younger sisters were exiled, and only his Uncle Claudius, the future fourth Emperor and Caligula’s replacement, was spared, simply to be kept around as an object for ridicule and amusement.

Further, Caligula began to slander the memory of Emperor Augustus, and stated that his own mother had actually been the result of an incestuous relationship from Augustus with his daughter.

Over the next three years Caligula’s reign would become more and more erratic. At first, he pushed for tax reforms to relieve an overburdened populace and promoted several Plebeians to the more esteemed Equestrian rank. This ingratiated him with the common people, but drew the ire of the Roman elite.

Beyond this, he conducted numerous building projects including the expansion of ports on the toe of Italia and in Syracuse to allow for more grain imports. He completed the temple of his great grandfather, the now deified Caesar Augustus as well as the Theater of Pompey. He began construction of two major aqueducts to better distribute water to the city. And went so far as hauling an obelisk all the way from Egypt to use as a centerpiece in a Circus he had built- the obelisk is still around today and is prominently displayed near the Vatican in Rome.

Early in his reign he also completed perhaps the most insane of his building projects, a giant pontoon bridge across the bay of Baiae in southern Italy. He did this just to ride his favorite horse, Incitatus across the bay and fulfil a mock prophecy saying he had ‘no more chance of becoming Emperor than of riding a horse across the bay of Baiae’.

Speaking of his horse, he also apparently attempted to make this horse consul and built the horse a stable out of marble, a manger from ivory, and filled the horse’s not-so-humble abode with the finest purple trappings. Caligula also designated a house, fully furnished and filled with attendant slaves, for dinner parties held by the horse on occasion.

Unfortunately for the humor of it all, he was unsuccessful in making Incitatus a consul. However, he did manage to make him a priest.

Moving on from there, according to Roman historians, Caligula began to refer to himself as Pater exercituum, the father of the armies, and Optimus Maximus Caesar, the best and greatest Caesar. He supposedly also had an incestuous relationship with his sister, Drusilla, and kept her with him even after she married. Upon her death, he ordered a period of public morning over her. He later incorporated the temple devoted to the twin deities Castor and Pollux into his own palace.

Continuing his trend of rather odd and seemingly dangerous behavior, attempting to stir up unrest between the commoners and the social elite, he would sell seats to Plebeians so that when Equestrians showed up to plays, all their seats would already be taken. Naturally this did not sit well.

Further, during public spectacles, the Emperor would withdraw the shade curtains from the top of the amphitheater when the sun was hottest and forbid anyone from leaving, then only provided wounded or sickly beasts and aged gladiators to fight for their “entertainment.” He would on occasion, also close the granaries so that the people could starve for a bit.

Apparently having a bucket list life goal to piss off as many people as humanly possible, Caligula also began to execute accused criminals without hearing their cases, going so far as to compel parents to be present at their children’s executions. One man, saying he was unwell and unable to attend one such execution was met with Caligula’s personal litter sent to fetch him. And once, when he heard an Equestrian crying out that he was innocent in the arena, Caligula had the man brought to him, cut out his tongue, and tossed him back in. He also fed prisoners to the wild beasts he reserved for his games, whether they were actually guilty of whatever crime or not didn’t seem to be of any concern.

Keeping of up the crazy, Caligula also in one instance apparently asked a man whom he’d brought back from exile how he spent his time away from home. Fearing for his own life the man replied carefully, “I prayed to the gods that Tiberius would die and you should become Emperor.” Hearing this, Caligula promptly dispatched word that anyone he had banished must now be executed.

But Caligula’s mistreatment of others did not end with the poor or his political rivals. He often forced his officials to run alongside his litter wearing full togas- a heavy wool garment which is perhaps not best suited for sport- then attend to him at dinner distributing napkins.

In one specific instance, it’s also noted that while training, the veteran gladiator with whom Caligula practiced his martial skills, purposely threw himself at the Emperor’s feet in defeat. Rather than simply end the training session as you might expect, Caligula stabbed him to death and ran about with a palm frond (the traditional signal of victory shown by gladiators) as if he’d just been in a real gladiatorial fight.

Reversing his early efforts to ingratiate the masses, he ultimately began taxing the Roman people heavily, even arresting wealthy citizens and confiscating their property and once demanded gifts to be given to him on New Year’s day from every single person in Rome. Then, once he’d received his gifts, apparently just for fun rolled around in a massive pile of gold coins he’d accumulated from the haul.

Beyond day to day management of the empire, Roman Emperors were often marked by their military campaigns, but Caligula was a tad different here too. He only went on a single military campaign during his tenure as Emperor. Wishing to conquer Britain, he assembled a fast army and made way. At times he would have the army move as such haste that his Elite personal guard had to stow their standard to keep up, and at others so slowly that he could order the towns ahead to sweep the roads and wet them down to settle the dust.

Encountering no resistance along the way, he ordered some Germanic members of his guard to cross the Rhine and lie in wait. During his evening meal, he ordered a messenger to inform him that the enemy was advancing, then quickly captured the men and announced his great victory.

When he reached the northwestern coast of Gaul, (modern France), he declared war against Neptune himself. His soldiers were directed to stab the sea, and collect sea shells as war trophies. Then, gathering the best and tallest Gaulish men he could, he ordered them to dye their hair blonde and assume German names, so they could be presented as prisoners of war upon his return to Rome.

Continuing the crazy, as his reign continued he began to dress up as several gods, often bearing the tokens usually associated with them, such as a lightning bolt, trident, or caduceus. He is also described as affixing a golden beard to his face, wearing women’s shoes, or dressing in the habit of Venus.

He also began referring to himself as Jupiter on public documents. At one point, he even ordered that all statues of deities be brought from Greece so that he could replace their heads with his own. This included the 6th “wonder of the Ancient World”, the statue of Zeus at Olympia.

Not limiting himself to the Greek or Roman Gods, frustrated and mistrustful of the Hebrews for their stubborn displays of Monotheism, Caligula attempted to have his statue erected in the Temple of Jerusalem. As you might expect, fearing a revolt, the governor of Syria delayed completing the order by almost year. After advisors finally convinced him to reverse the order, Caligula quickly changed his mind, renamed the temple ‘The Temple of Illustrious Gaius the New Jupiter’ and built a colossal bronze gilt statue of himself to place within.

As you might imagine from all this, pissing off basically every person in his empire and more than a few beyond couldn’t last forever. Finally the Senators grew tired of his antics. Three men, led by an individual named Cassius Chaerea, began plotting to assassinate him.

As for Chaerea’s specific beef with the emperor, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. (Yes, people have been flipping people off for thousands of years, with the original implication seeming to represent the penis, as we’ve covered before on the origin of giving people the bird.) In any event, on a no doubt completely unrelated note on this, as mentioned, the chief organizer of Caligula’s assassination, and first to stab him, was Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:

“Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.”
In any event, the conspirators’ plans were forced into motion when Caligula stated that he planned to move to the Egyptian city of Alexandria to be worshipped as a living god there.

And so it was that they, along with many other conspirators, cornered the Emperor in an underground tunnel beneath the palace and gave him the ol’ Caesarian treatment. It is reported that he made no sound of alarm when the assassins struck, and only attempted to flee out of the tunnels as he was stabbed to death.

After, members of his guard went on a bloody rampage, killing several of the conspirators as well as nearby senators who were uninvolved in the assassination. The Emperor’s body was half-burned on a hastily assembled pyre and buried on the spot. His wife and daughter were murdered along with him. Legend had it that the garden in which the Emperor was burned and buried became haunted by spiritual apparitions, until Caligula’s sisters, having returned from exile, finished the cremation and gave him a proper burial.

With his death, the Roman Empire saw the end of the Julian Caesars.

As to why he acted so bizarrely during his rule, this is a matter of debate. It is noted that during his life, Caligula often complained that the times he lived in were relatively peaceful, unmarked by famine, war, or natural disasters, and thus, he feared he may pass from memory if he was not associated with any noteworthy event. This may have led him to become so obsessed with putting on military shows, promoting himself as the very incarnation of several deities, and the constant self-promotion through trying to assert his image onto every statue in the empire- obsessed with being remembered as his forbears were.

Whether that was his motivation or not, in the end the man himself is indeed one of the most remembered of all Roman Emperors, though, of course, remembered not for any great achievements or with any reverence, but simply for his insane behavior and for establishing a precedent for instability that would follow, though never quite equaled, by Emperors to come.

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from Today I Found Out
by Colin Parry - August 04, 2020
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Monday, August 3, 2020

The Nazi Interrogator Who Killed Them With Kindness

Hitler. Himmler. Goering. Goebbels. Even the most casual student of history knows this roster of infamous Nazis that were responsible for some of the greatest evils the world has ever known. Of the millions that were killed by German hands during World War II, countless thousands were prisoners of war. Often massive numbers of prisoners were killed at a time in acts of retaliation for the killing of German soldiers. POWs and even civilians were routinely turned over to the Gestapo for interrogation, never to be seen again, whether or not they divulged any useful information or not. POWs would do most anything to avoid ending up in Gestapo hands. Hogan’s Heroes provided a less-than-realistic depiction of life in a POW camp. There were few bumbling, indifferent Germans like Sergeant Schultz keeping guard in the Stalag prison system.

Over the decades, the image of the sadistic Nazi interrogator has become commonplace. A bright light in the prisoner’s eye while he’s sitting in a lone chair in the middle of a stark room – the threat or even meting out of torture always just a second away. However, violent means of Nazi interrogation were often unsuccessful. Many prisoners would endure sickening treatment but still only state basic information like name, rank and serial number, or give bogus information to their captors.

But one notable German man, who one prisoner would note could get a confession of infidelity from a nun, employed very different means of interrogation, often with much more success than with the point of a bayonet- killing them with kindness. His name was Hanns Scharff – the kind-hearted Nazi interrogator.

Scharff was born in 1907 in East Prussia, now part of Poland. His father, Hans Hermann Scharff, was a highly decorated soldier in the East Prussian Army who was killed during The Great War. This gave the son a great sense of pride about his dad. Scharff’s mother was from a family that ran one of Germany’s largest textile mills, located near Leipzig, and the elder Scharff worked there prior to WWI. The younger Scharff was raised in the family villa adjacent to the textile complex. He attended school in Leipzig and studied art intensively, which would lay the groundwork for his post-WWII life.

Scharff learned the ropes of the textile business, including marketing and exporting of the businesses’ wares, and quickly moved up the company ranks. He shipped off to the company’s offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was supposed to last for a year, but was promoted to Director of the Overseas Division of the textile company. Scharff remained there for nearly ten years, during which time he met and married Margaret Stokes, a South African British woman whose father, Captain Claud Stokes, was a squadron leader in the Royal Flying Corps.

The family would fall victim to very bad timing. In the summer of 1939, they were on vacation in Greiz, Germany, when WWII broke out. Unable to travel, the family was stuck there. Scharff found work in Berlin, but was drafted into the German military in 1939. Thus, began his odyssey to avoid being shipped off to the Eastern Front, where he was slated to be sent. Scharff’s wife was indignant and hysterical about his orders, not only from a spouse’s standpoint, but because Scharff was fluent in English. Frau Scharff believed it was a tremendous waste of his skill to not at least work as a German/English interpreter. She was able to make her way to a German General’s office to plead her case. It’s unclear whether or not she employed the tactics of Forest Gump’s mother to get the General to change his mind, but whatever she did, she was convincing, and he sent a telegram to Scharff’s Panzer division ordering them to send him to the Twelfth Interpreter’s Company in Wiesbaden. The telegram arrived the morning he was to leave for the Eastern Front.

But he was not out of the woods yet. Upon arriving on the train in Wiesbaden, Scharff asked the military police where his unit was located. Unfamiliar with the unit, they ordered him to report to another unit that was headed to the Eastern Front. In desperation, Scharff contacted a high-ranking German officer who had known his father, whom he had told his son to call if he was in trouble and needed an ace-in-the-hole. The friend ordered the new Panzer unit to release him to the proper unit. At that point, he had twice avoided what would probably have been certain death in Russia.

From here, Scharff was trained in British military organization and customs, but he soon became bored with his duties. He told one of his superiors that he was dissatisfied with manufacturing holes in paper and estimated the cost of each hole at five pfennigs. This irritated his general, but nonetheless he sent him to the Luftwaffe interrogation center in Oberursel, one of few granted this privilege, to act as an interpreter for the interrogators. This was the turning point in Scharff’s contribution to interrogation history.

The center was where all Allied airmen captured on the Western Front were taken for interrogation. Scharff was stuck in a lower-level position, but when two of his superiors were killed in a plane crash, he was promoted to head of the United States Army Air Force Fighter Section. It was then that he was transferred to the Luftwaffe from the Army, though at the same rank. He quickly became soured on harsh interrogation techniques. Although these violent methods were largely off of the books, and an official list of less drastic techniques was published, they were still the order of the day. He had witnessed these intense and violent episodes and decided that he’d do things differently.

And so it was that Scharff would use the role of “Good Cop” to achieve his goals. Scharff first gained the trust and confidence of the captives, plying the captives with long walks in the woods, his wife’s baked delicacies, casual conversations, good medical care, and even letting one POW fly a plane. Beyond all these little kindnesses, he would sell himself as their biggest advocate with his superiors. He was the one who could keep them from the Gestapo, but only if they worked with him and played ball. No Nazi dentist would dig into their gums and ask them, “is it safe?”

His methodology was as follows: get to know the POW, and then allow him to talk without coercion. Along the way, Scharff pretended to know everything beforehand, but stated that his superiors insisted that the information come from the captive. Then he would either confirm that he knew the information or discontinue the conversation. This eventually became known as the Scharff Method, and it was highly successful. POWs often offered up vital intelligence on their own through his trickery. No brutality, no torture…no raising of voices. No use of the Gestapo.

Maybe the most classic example was Scharff suggesting to a POW that a chemical shortage caused American tracer bullets to leave white smoke instead of red. The airman replied that this was not the case – they were white to indicate low ammunition. Naturally, this was extremely useful information for the German forces.

Through his methods, Scharff was able to put together extensive dossiers on American pilots, especially the higher-ranking ones. This included information about their hometowns and families, their press clippings, and even information about common American and British pilot behavior when off duty. As such, he was able to more easily bamboozle POWs. He was also allowed to wear street clothes, which led captives to believe he was much higher ranking than he actually was.

During the remainder of the war, Scharff interrogated all manner of famous, high ranking pilots. This included Lt. Col. Francis Gabreski, who was the top American fighter ace in Europe in WWII. Scharff even had Gabreski’s picture on the wall in his office, and was thrilled to meet him. However, even Scharff’s techniques could not pry information from Gabreski. He was one of the few POWs who did not provide useful information during interrogation from Scharff.

This is noteworthy as it’s estimated he interrogated around 500 POWs, with only a couple dozen or so providing no useable intelligence to him.

Further showing how friendly he was able to get with all these prisoners, most of the men he interrogated would go on to happily sign his guest book before being transferred.

As you might expect from his extreme success and rather unusual methods for the day, Scharff’s public profile greatly increased after the war. Like German rocket pioneer Werner Von Braun, he was useful to the United States, and because he was not an insidious Nazi, he wasn’t tried at Nuremburg, nor did he have to escape to South America. In 1948, he was asked to come to the United States to interrogate Martin J. Monti, who defected to Germany in 1944. He was also asked to testify during Monti’s trial.

The U.S. Air Force also adopted several aspects of his methods. More recently, after controversy over “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the War on Terror and the uproar over alleged torture at Abu Ghraib prison, President Obama launched the FBI’s High Value Interrogation Group. It spent millions studying and presumably utilizing Scharff’s methods. Scharff also continued his friendship with the aforementioned Lt. Col. Gabreski after the war. The two reenacted an interrogation in 1983 at a reunion of Stalag Luft III POWs in Chicago.

On that note, Scharff eventually settled in the United States and became an American citizen. The rest of his life’s work has likely affected many more Americans than his interrogations. Scharff had studied art in his younger days, and developed his craft into a successful business. He had a gift for mosaic-based art and furniture, and found instant success with this endeavor in New York. He eventually brought the business to Los Angeles. His daughter-in-law, Monika Scharff, joined him and became his business partner for the new “Scharff and Scharff” company. It is still in operation today. Among their well-known works are the large mosaics of the Cinderella story in the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Others include mosaic entry ramps at Epcot Center, mosaics at several colleges and in hotels, homes, stores and churches around the globe.

Scharff passed away in 1992. His story lives on in a print. Some of his memoirs were published in a 1950 article in Argosy Magazine. In 1978 military writer Raymond Toliver collaborated with Scharff to publish the book, The Interrogator: the Story of Hanns Scharff, which was re-published with a different company in 1997. It was a mixture of Scharff’s memoirs and Toliver’s supporting biographical work.

Scharff’s legacy in interrogation continues to grow to this day. Scharff’s tactics have been studied at length by Par Anders Granhag, who is a professor of psychology at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. Granhag is considered the leading authority on Scharff and his techniques. As for Scharff’s extreme success, Granhag states that Scharff was able to manipulate and contradict the POWs assumptions about interrogation which, in turn, circumvented their counter-interrogation training. Thus, the deception and new level of comfort made them ripe for the taking.

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from Today I Found Out
by Kent Cubbage - August 03, 2020 at 12:00AM
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How Do German Schools Teach About WWII?

After World War II, the German state was utterly destroyed. It was split in four parts, and to top it all, coming face to face with the scale of the atrocities their government and armies committed through public events like the Nürnberg trials. This in combination with the process of de-nazification, which can be seen as a large-scale rehabilitation program, and the regaining of independence, albeit as two states, helped the German people in the 50s to begin looking towards the future, burying the past.

It was not just a lost war, which people can accept while still feeling proud about their deeds during it, as perhaps the French used to view Napoleon’s efforts which ended in defeat, or Austria’s defeats in the Seven Year War. Rather, in this case, the sensation after the war seems to have been similar to a person regaining their senses after having committed acts of violence under the influence akin to a crowd cheering for a football team or other such instances of mob mentality which all humans are susceptible.

Naturally given all the revelations after the war and the atrocities committed, the Germans, collectively, wanted nothing more than to forget, and focus on new goals, first the economy, which led to the German economic miracle, and then on the foundation of the European union, of which in the coming decades it would arguably become the leading country.

But what about the history books in school? After all, typical after any conflict, whether a given side is the winner or loser, the history taught in schools tends to be colored to favor ones’ own people. This, however, could not happen in Germany. The reasons for this were varied, from making sure something like that couldn’t happen again and, of course, the scale of the atrocities on a global level and the small time gap that separates us from those events and how well documented those events are.

This brings us to the broad strokes of how this particular conflict was and is taught in German schools. We should point out here that in Germany, the education system is regulated not by the federal government but independently in each of the 16 states that constitute the German federal republic (or BRD). So the way history is taught, although generally falling within the same lines, can vary a lot from region to region. For example, the choice of literature used in the various classes differs greatly not only from year to year but also from federal state to federal state.

That caveat out of the way, the study of the war period and how this is viewed in German schools can be generally divided into four parts:

First, the Weimar Republic: The Weimar Republic, at least its beginnings, are generally viewed positively. It is seen as a first decent effort towards democratization, despite the problems that it faced in the aftermath of World War I. The various problems, culminating in the economic crisis of the late 20s and the subsequent rise of the Nazi regime, are dealt with in detail, emphasizing the mistakes that would lead to the fall of the democratic system. One would say that the Weimar Republic, despite the brevity of its existence, is viewed with a certain nostalgic sentiment, accompanied by the looming threat of what was to come. And that is not just the war but the Nazis themselves and their ideology.

Second, Nazi ideology and atrocities: Head-on, the students are confronted with the crushing effects of totalitarian regimes, racial ideologies and where these can lead. In addition to photo and video documentaries, most schools organize mandatory school trips to holocaust memorials, usually former concentration camps. This does not only apply to history class. Students are also introduced to works of literature tackling the issue of Nazism and ethnic hate in Europe of the time. This can include but is not limited to authors such as Berthold Brecht and Thomas Mann. Additionally, Jewish voices are amplified in terms of Jewish poetry, reports from survivors, and historical documentaries focusing on the long-term consequences of hate and violence. Some of the literature choices indicate that the schools try to emphasize the aspects of humanity and also the problem of group mentality and prejudice, as seen in works such as the post war play “Andorra” by Max Frisch, and more recent works such as “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” (from 2006 by John Boyne) and “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink, but also the diaries of Anne Frank. Excerpts of pro-Nazi texts are studied also, once the students are deemed mature enough to handle this. In this vein, experts from “Mein Kampf” are tackled in advanced history class, stressing the contradictions within the text, what contemporary citizens might have identified with, and the lack of morality therein. Interestingly, as if to complement Nazi ideology with a similar type of prejudice, the other major topic focused on intensely is that of slavery, racism, and segregation in America.

Third, the war itself: Remarkably, the details of the fields of war are often underplayed in German schools. A possible reason for this is that showing maps of expanding German territory during the first two years of the war and discussing their winning battles might cause encouragement of nationalistic pride, which seems counterproductive to many given the points that educators are trying to teach.

Furthermore, the discussion of the details of each battle that Rommel won or lost in Africa or the supply problems on the eastern front are not vital to the analysis of the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Another, more practical aspect, is that already much time has been allocated to the subject of war anyway, so they cut down on the actual battles.

Of course, one downside of deemphasizing this is many German students are never really made aware of many specific military events and conquests. Since most emphasis in school is put on the internal developments, theoretical or philosophical aspects, and of course on the ideology and practice of ethnic cleansing and the ruthlessness to other groups of people seen as ethnic, cultural or political outcasts, such as Jews, homosexuals, communists etc., the result is that the military developments of war are understated as alluded to. The result is, shockingly, that many German students are actually surprised to learn things like that Germans invaded places like (modern) Ukraine, (modern) Serbia, and Greece.

In contrast to these broader war strokes, resistance against the Nazi regime within Germany is heralded as an example of heroism and bravery; one such example being the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl, members of the resistance group “The White Rose”. Such examples allow German students to find figures from the war time with whom they can identify with.

On this note, not every regular German who lived in the 1930s and 40s is painted as a terrible person, after all when dealing with such a large group, as in any populace, there are plenty of good people and a percentage of bad. That said, given all that happened, a large emphasis is put on even most of the good people being complicit in the atrocities by looking away and not doing anything to stop it.

Fourth, Defeat and post war: The major destruction in Germany and the high cost of human lives during the war is not attributed to the allies, but rather to the Nazi regime itself, which is being viewed as the perpetrator in starting an unnecessary war in the first place. Furthermore, most of the destruction on German soil was inflicted in the last year of the war. The obstinacy of not surrendering, even as it was clear that the outcome of war would be negative, is seen as proof of the minimal care the Nazis expressed towards their own people. The suicide of members of the Party, such as Himmler and Hitler himself, is seen as an act of cowardice on their part.

Thus, rather unique in history, the opposing forces who were victorious are not generally seen in a negative light by those they defeated. Far from it.

On that note, the occupation of the German cities by the allied army is characterized as “liberation” (“Befreiung”), despite, of course, that the allied soldiers at the time didn’t seemingly view the race to Berlin as a race to “free” Berlin. This choice of words, however, comes with the emphasis that by losing the war, the German people were freed from Nazism.

An interesting example comes from alternative history broadcasts that contemplate a world after supposed Germany victory. These paint a horrific dystopia in which the Germans as well as the occupied people would be suppressed by a ruthless Nazi regime. The 8th of May is therefore known as Day of Liberation (Tag der Befreiung).

Making parallels to the way the European Renaissance supposedly liberated the medieval people, the “liberation”, as well as the de-nazification process lead to an internal katharsis among Germans concerning Nazism.

Reflecting all of this in popular German cinema, German war films, especially in the last few decades, tend to deal with the subject with honesty, showing the gradual shift to madness caused by hollow mass delusions, often in a tone more fatalistic than heroic. Therefore, they can be much deeper than a typical war movie, and if you are up for that, you might enjoy works such as the “Generation War” miniseries (“Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter”) or the movie “The Fall” (“Der Untergang”), perhaps mostly known thanks to the most memefied Hitler scene ever…

Of course, one major issue of all of this in the way it’s taught in schools and extreme emphasis placed on this period of history, is the subject of imposed collective responsibility on modern Germans, even if just implied or felt, rather than ever explicitly stated.

On first glance, it is good to study these events in great detail to make sure they don’t happen again. However, an issue for Germans, of course, is the sense of collective responsibility, despite no student today or their parents or even potentially grandparents having anything to do with any of that.

How much weight does the idea of original sin have? How is a person born in the 2000s responsible for the Nazi atrocities? It is still heavily frowned upon to display the modern-day German flag – despite officially and explicitly not being a Nazi symbol – in most contexts other than international football matches. On a similar note, a nationalistic display such as pledging allegiance to the flag during class every morning would have the worst possible connotations in Germany, despite being common in places like the United States.

Furthermore, there is a high percentage of population with immigrant heritage (just look at the German national football team). As you might expect from all this, there is some concern that the German school systems may go too far with the seeming obsession with the Nazis and all the mistakes that were made, instead of spending more time on broader history as is more typical in many other nations.

Whatever one’s opinion on that, as an interestingly little side-note, the German de-Nazification process was considered such a success that decades later Americans sought to apply a same methodology after occupying Iraq. Unsurprisingly, this was not exactly successful.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Expand for References
  • Friedrich Huneke: „Vorher war der 8. Mai 1945 ein bloßes Datum …“ Erinnerungskultur im Unterricht. In: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Jg. 57 (2006)
  • Jan-Holger Kirsch: „Wir haben aus der Geschichte gelernt“. Der 8. Mai als politischer Gedenktag in Deutschland. Böhlau, Köln/Weimar/Wien, 1999
  • Howard, Lawrence E. (United States Army Reserve) (2007-03-30). “Lessons Learned from Denazification and de-Ba’athification (strategy research project for a master of strategic studies degree)”
  • German Education
  • German Shulportal
  • Articles from Die Zeit, Die Welt

The post How Do German Schools Teach About WWII? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

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by Nasser Ayash - August 02, 2020 at 12:00AM
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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Review: Tayto Muchos Nacho Cheese

These hollow, corn-based snacks were shaped kind of like tacos, but for some reason they also pressed them in two places so that they would be divided into three wedge-shaped thirds-of-tacos (kind of like how quesadilla are cut sometimes for serving). ...

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by August 02, 2020 at 01:32PM

Indie Game Releases of the Week: 3rd to 9th August 2020

Indie Game Releases of the Week: 3rd to 9th August 2020 This week in indie games, we have the party game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, first-person...

The post Indie Game Releases of the Week: 3rd to 9th August 2020 appeared first on IND13.

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by Rahul Shirke August 02, 2020 at 07:59AM

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Making Diamonds

In this episode of The Brain Food Show, we are start out looking at the rather interesting way the couple hundred million dollar Hope Diamond has been transported a couple times.

Next up we have a brief message from our sponsor Skillshare for 2 months for free here:

Next up, we discuss how diamonds went from a mostly worthless item throughout the majority of human history to in very recent times the extremely expensive item we have today. We then dive into the extremely fascinating story of the guy who first managed to figure out how to make diamonds, bypassing the normal couple billion year process to have them form naturally.

On another note, if you could do us a huge favor and rate and review this show in whatever podcasting platform you’re using (including hopefully giving us some feedback related to the new format), we would be extremely grateful. Thanks!

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by Daven Hiskey - August 01, 2020 at 01:37AM
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How Did WWI Pilots Shoot Through Their Aircraft Propeller?

On June 7, 1912, Lieutenant Roy Kirtland took off from a field outside College Park, Maryland in a Wright Model B, the first aircraft ever purchased by the American Army Air Services. To his right sat Captain Charles Chandler, a Lewis light machine gun cradled between his legs. As Kirtland banked the aircraft 300 feet over the field, Chandler took aim at a white cloth banner staked out on the ground below and opened fire. It was the first time in history a machine gun had ever been fired from an aircraft, and it proved frighteningly effective, with a full 12% of the 47 rounds fired finding their target. The age of aerial warfare had begun, and the world would never be the same again.

Yet despite this promising start, when the Great War broke out in 1914 few armies knew quite what to do with their newfangled flying machines. At first aircraft were mainly used for aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting, serving alongside tethered observation balloons. But many pilots carried pistols and rifles in case they were shot down behind enemy lines, and inevitably they turned these weapons on each other, leading to the first aerial duels. On August 25, 1914 Frenchman Roland Garros became the first pilot to damage another aircraft in combat, wounding a German airman with his pistol, while on September 7 Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov scored the first ever aerial victory by ramming his French Morane aircraft into an Austrian Albatros, his action leading to the deaths of both aircrew.

As the Great War ground on and the strategic importance of air power grew, designers on both sides set about creating dedicated fighter aircraft with which to defend their airspace. But almost immediately they ran into a major problem. By 1914 most aircraft were of tractor configuration, with the engine and propeller in front of the pilot, and attempting to fire a machine gun through the propeller arc was likely to end in said pilot having a very bad day.

At first designers simply worked around the problem, building pusher-style aircraft with the propeller in the rear and the gunner in the front, such as the Vickers F.B. 5 Gun Bus, the first purpose-built fighter aircraft to enter service. But this solution proved awkward and unwieldy, pusher aircraft at the time being too slow and unmaneuverable to keep up with their targets. The very worst among these early fighters was French SPAD SA1, which placed the engine and propeller in between the pilot and gunner so that in a crash landing the unfortunate gunner would either be crushed or cut to pieces.

Other aircraft like the Bristol F.2 Fighter placed the gunner in a rear cockpit firing a flexibly-mounted machine gun at an angle, while still others like the Avro 504 mounted guns atop the wing to clear the propeller arc. But none of these solutions were ideal for a variety of reasons, and the ultimate goal remained to mount an aircraft’s guns forward of the cockpit, where they could be aimed by pointing the entire aircraft and reached by the pilot for reloading or to clear jams.

One early method of doing this was invented by none other than Roland Garros, who in December 1914 had the propeller of his Morane-Saulnier Type L monoplane fitted with metal wedges to deflect stray bullets. While crude, this installation proved surprisingly effective, with Garros scoring the first aerial victory using a machine gun fired through a propeller on April 1, 1915. Garros would score two more victories with this aircraft before being forced down behind enemy lines on April 18. While he attempted to burn his aircraft before being captured, he was unsuccessful, and his deflector-equipped propeller fell intact into German hands. But by this time the Germans had already developed their own solution to the propeller problem, and it was about to turn the tide of the air war.

In June 1915, a revolutionary new aircraft appeared in the skies over the Western Front: the nimble German Fokker E.1 Eindecker monoplane. Almost overnight, every other fighter aircraft became obsolete, and for nearly six months the German Imperial Air Service enjoyed near total air superiority over Allied forces, a period that came to be known as the Fokker Scourge. Much of the Eindecker’s effectiveness lay in its machine gun, which could fire safely and reliably through the propeller thanks to a clever device invented by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker: the gun synchronizer.

Gun synchronizers are sometimes erroneously referred to as interrupter gear, implying that the mechanism interrupts the firing of the guns whenever the propeller is in the way. But this is not the case. WWI machine guns such as the German MG.08 had a firing rate of around seven rounds per second while aircraft propellers rotated at around 20 revolutions per second, meaning that even a two-bladed propeller would interrupt the gun up to six times per firing cycle, preventing it from ever firing. Instead, Fokker’s synchronizer used the rotation of the engine itself to fire the gun. In this system, a circular metal plate with two protruding cam lobes is fixed to the rear of the engine, the lobes being arranged at right angles to the propeller blades. To fire the guns, the pilot pulls a lever that lowers a cam follower onto the rotating plate. Whenever the propeller blades are horizontal and out of the way, one of the lobes strikes the follower, which in turn activates a mechanical linkage that fires the gun. Thus the gun operates not as a true machine gun but rather as a semi-automatic rifle whose trigger is pulled by the engine whenever the propeller is clear.

But even with this system, variations in engine speed and ammunition quality can still cause the synchronization to drift, leading to the inevitable destruction of the propeller and the aforementioned bad day for the pilot. Synchronizer mechanisms thus had to be adjusted for each individual aircraft. This was done by fitting a wooden disc to the propeller hub and firing the guns through it. The pattern of bullet holes was then used to adjust the angle of the firing cams so that the pattern of shot fell safely between the propeller blades.

While Fokker’s original design gave the German fighter aircraft a huge advantage in the latter half of 1916, it was a limited design that could only be made to work with a single machine gun, and proved fragile and difficult to maintain in combat. Fokker thus designed an improved system which moved the firing cams to the guns themselves and transferred the engine’s rotation to the cams using flexible drive shafts. As the firing cam on each gun could be adjusted individually, two or even three guns could now be mounted on the same aircraft. Introduced in the summer of 1917, the new system would remain the standard for the German Imperial Air Service until the end of the war.

Following the appearance of the Fokker Eindecker in June 1915, the British scrambled to develop synchronizer gear of their own. Their first attempt, the Vickers-Challenger Gear, wasn’t exactly the most elegant system, requiring the machine gun to be mounted to the left side of the engine. But sometimes good enough is, well, good enough, and the Vickers-Challenger Gear at least gave the Allies a fighting chance against the Fokker Scourge until April 1916, when the capture of a German synchronizer gear allowed the Sopwith Aircraft Company to reverse-engineer their own version.

But all these early British systems were rendered obsolete by the introduction of the C.C. Synchronizer, named after its inventors, Munitions Officer Major Colley and Romanian inventor George Constantinescu. Based on Constantinescu’s work on wave propagation through fluids, the C.C. Synchronizer used hydraulic oil to transmit sound pulses from the engine to the guns. Not only was the system universally adaptable to any engine and aircraft type, it proved far more reliable and easily adjustable than all other systems, and starting in November 1917 became the standard for all British fighter aircraft. Though the Germans captured many examples of the C.C. gear, they were never able to reverse-engineer it as they erroneously assumed it to be a standard hydraulic system. But by this time other factors like the British naval blockade of German shipping and the entry of America into the war had already turned the tide of battle in the Allies’ favour, and German pilots were never again to enjoy the same air supremacy as they had in 1915.

After the war mechanical and hydraulic synchronizers were largely replaced by electric types, but by the 1930s the use of synchronizers had largely fallen out of favour. The traditional fighter armament of two rifle-caliber machine guns mounted in the nose was becoming increasingly ineffective against the new generation of all-metal bomber aircraft, and aircraft designers began moving towards harder-hitting arrangements of large-caliber guns mounted in the wings. However, several nations such as Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union, continued to use synchronized nose-mounted guns throughout the Second World War. Many of the war’s top-scoring aces, like Germany’s Erich Hartmann and Hans-Joachim Marseille, preferred nose guns as they did not lose accuracy with range, unlike wing-mounted guns which had to be harmonized to converge at a certain distance ahead of the aircraft.

The last aircraft to use synchronizers were Soviet Lavochkin La-11s and Yakovlev Yak-9s flown by North Korean pilots during the 1950-1952 Korean war. By this time propeller-powered fighters had finally given way to jets, eliminating the need for synchronization gear altogether. While the heyday of gun synchronizers was relatively brief, their impact on warfare is incalculable. Synchronizers were the key technology that turned the airplane from a marginally useful curiosity into a deadly and indispensable weapon.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Bonus Facts:

  • While popular culture has painted the life of a WWI pilot as dashing and romantic, the reality was far less glamorous. Aerodynamics was still poorly understood, and aircraft were designed largely based on guesswork and trial-and-error. Built of wood, canvas, and wires, they could be extremely fragile machines, sometimes breaking apart in midair when handled too roughly. Furthermore, unlike in modern radial engines where the cylinders are fixed and only the propeller spins, in WWI rotary engines the whole massive engine block spun around its shaft, generating violent gyroscopic forces that pulled many an inattentive pilot into a deadly spin. Cockpits were open and unheated, exposing pilots to bitter subzero temperatures at altitude, and until the introduction of primitive oxygen equipment near the end of the war, altitude sickness and even the bends were regular hazards. Little wonder then that at the height of the Fokker Scourge, the average lifespan for a British pilot, most of whom had received less than 15 hours’ flight training, was a mere 11 days.Incredibly, despite all these risks few WWI pilots carried parachutes, as doing so was seen as a sign of cowardice. Officers also often banned the use of parachutes as they believed this would encourage pilots to return their expensive aircraft intact rather than just bailing out.And if all this wasn’t enough, aircraft rotary engines were lubricated with castor oil, which would often spray back into pilots’ faces and into their mouths. Given the particular effects of castor oil on the human digestive tract, it’s not hard to imagine what a pilot’s first destination often was upon reaching the ground.
  • The death of German ‘Ace of Aces’ Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron, has traditionally been attributed to Canadian pilot Arthur “Roy” Brown, who claimed to have shot down Richthofen’s aircraft on April 21, 1918 over Morlancourt Ridge near the River Somme. But subsequent investigations have cast serious doubt on this account. At the time of his death Richthofen was in pursuit of another Canadian Pilot, Wilfrid “Wop” May. Seeing his comrade in trouble, Brown dove steeply and fired briefly at Richthofen’s aircraft before pulling up to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen then continued his pursuit of May for another two minutes before crash-landing, mortally wounded, in a sector occupied by the Australian Imperial Force. When Richthofen’s body was autopsied, it was found that he had been hit by a single .303 caliber bullet from below, which had entered his right armpit and exited just below his left nipple. Not only had Brown’s attack come from above and to Richthofen’s left, but such a wound would have caused Richthofen to bleed out rapidly, making it impossible for him to have continued pursuing Wop May as long as he did. So, who killed the Red Baron? While sources vary, the most likely candidate is Sargent Cedric Popkin, an anti-aircraft gunner of the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company, who claimed to have fired at Richthofen’s aircraft twice during the final dogfight. Of these, Popkin’s description of the second engagement appears to match the angle at which the fatal bullet struck Richthofen. Other proposed candidates include Gunners W.J. “Snowy” Evans and Robert Buie of the 14th Australian Field Artillery Brigade, but these have since been dismissed since their reported angles of fire do not match Richthofen’s wounds. Nonetheless, Arthur Brown was – and still is – officially credited with shooting down the Red Baron. Despite this claim to fame, however, Brown seldom spoke of the affair, stating “There is no point in me commenting, as the evidence is already out there.”
  • Do you like confined spaces, heights, and cold temperatures? Then you’d have been perfect for one of WWI aviation’s most dangerous jobs: zeppelin spy car observer. By 1916, improved British air defences had forced German zeppelin bombers to operate at high altitudes out of reach of enemy fighters and antiaircraft guns. Unfortunately, this often placed them above cloud cover, making navigation and bomb aiming nearly impossible. To get around this, in 1916 Captain Ernst Lehmann and Baron Gemmingen, the nephew of airship designer Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, invented the observation car or spy car, a torpedo-shaped vehicle that could be lowered on a cable from a zeppelin through the clouds with one very unlucky crewman aboard. Equipped with a compass, a map, and a telephone, the spy car observer would relay commands to the helmsman on navigation and when to drop the zeppelin’s bombs. Yet while observers bitterly cold temperatures and the terrifying prospect of being cut loose in an emergency, zeppelin crews eagerly volunteered for spy car duty, as it was the only place on the hydrogen-filled airship where they could smoke.
Expand for References

The post How Did WWI Pilots Shoot Through Their Aircraft Propeller? appeared first on Today I Found Out.

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by Gilles Messier - August 01, 2020 at 12:00AM
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