Flight MH17 and Repeating History: Russia Shot Down an Airliner in 1983

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A fact from awhile back!

Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, a civilian passenger plane, was shot down over Eastern Ukraine yesterday; a similar but far more severe event happened 31 years ago, and it led to what is universally regarded as the closest the world ever came to total nuclear annihilation:

On September 26, 1983 the world as we know it almost ended.

Civilization was saved from mutual evisceration by a chance occurrence, and yet only 1 person on Earth knew for the next 10 years.

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On that morning the Soviet early warnings systems began whistling and flashing. The screen in front of Stanislov Petrov read “launch” and the reliability indicator flashed “highest”.

There was no doubt that the U.S. had launched a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Over the next 3 minutes the siren registered more and more missiles as would be expected in a surprise nuclear strike. The system upgraded the threat from “launch” to “missile strike”.

Petrov’s duty was to immediately report any alert, much less one as strong as this, to his superior officer. To not report is dereliction of duty and all soldiers and civilians are keenly aware that the consequences are brutally painful in the Soviet Union.

This particular incident happened in a period that Cold War historian’s agree is the point of highest tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Just 3 weeks prior the Soviet Union had shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, a civilian airliner, killing 269 people including 60 American citizens and Lawrence McDonald, a U.S. Congressman (R-GA).

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We’re currently worried about a civilian airliner shot down by Russian funded rebels over a warzone with 0 American deaths, so imagine the tension after a Soviet military jet shot down a civilian plane that killed a U.S. Congressman and 59 other Americans at the peak of the Cold War. The Soviets were justly paranoid with anticipation of a  heavy handed response, and here was a confirmed and escalating missile attack entering the Soviet Union from the U.S.

Soviet military leaders were positive a nuclear strike was coming. Former Soviet Generals alive today confirm that they were so fearful that they would have immediately launched a full retaliation if a threat was detected.

Had Petrov done his duty, picked up the phone, and told his superior officer what he was seeing there is no doubt that the Soviet Union would have launched literally thousands of nuclear missiles at the U.S., and the U.S. would then return the favor.

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Keep in mind that by 1983 nuclear weapons were literally thousands of times more powerful than the primitive nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Due to radiation New York, San Diego, L.A., Chicago and hundreds more cities would not be habitable to this day.

Historians agree that this incident was the closest the world ever came to a genuine nuclear apocalypse. Besides the immediate mayhem there’d be crop failure, nuclear winter, collapse of trade and stock markets, currency collapse; civilization as we currently know it was a phone call from collapse. But it gets even freakier.

Mr. Petrov himself says “My colleagues were all professional soldiers, they were taught to give and obey orders.” He was the only officer who grew up as a civilian, and his hesitance, which he states was a fluke in and of itself, would not have existed for a soldier raised in the military.

Had any other officer been on duty the world we currently inhabit would be worse than a zombie apocalypse. People would watch The Walking Dead and say “I wish I lived in that paradise”.

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Next time you’re loathing your life’s circumstances just remember this story. Had a bad day? A stressful week where everything went wrong? Well at least we don’t live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland because we were a shift change from that reality on September 26, 1983.

Knowing what the world could look like lends overwhelming appreciation for what the world does look like, even if it’s not perfect.

Ancient Graffiti: Famous For All The Wrong Reasons

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In 79 AD, outside a tavern in Pompeii, a man named Restitutus scribbled “Take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates” on a Roman column creating one of the world’s oldest examples of bathroom stall style graffiti.

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Days later Mount Vesuvius erupted burying Pompeii in a pyroclastic flow of ash forever preserving his poetic writing.

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The eruption perfectly froze the city of Pompeii in time. How could this man, Restitutus, have known that 2,000 years later his amusingly obscene graffiti would be read by millions? His etched writing is spoken of by University professors in seminars, TV shows, books, and in little known blogs on the internet.

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Anyone who says “surely, nothing I do will ever be remembered” should think of Restitutus.

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Ancient graffiti is extremely rare because it is shallowly scribbled and is exposed to the elements for millennia. The only writings and records that survive from antiquity are nearly always written by nobles and scholars. The rare preservation of these delicate graffiti sketches gives deep insight into the culture of the common man. As usual, humanity should be embarrassed.

The etchings are generally inappropriate:

“Phileros is a eunuch!”

“Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than they ever have before!”

“I screwed the barmaid”

My personal favorite: Written 3 separate times in one spot is “Secundus defecated here”. Classic Secundus.

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I read the scribbles on a bathroom stall, and know that we are no smarter or dumber than we were 2,000 years ago. It makes me think communicating with someone from 2,000 years ago would not be so difficult after all. Some of the writings reveal that life today is only superficially different. We have better technology, but the same underlying desires and concerns:

“The man I am having dinner with is a barbarian”. I must reiterate – these are all real words written by average people 2,000 years ago in Pompeii. This is not embellished for dramatic effect. The walls of Pompeii speak these exact words.

I imagine a modern day person texting this to a friend, and realize texting our banal frustrations is an ancient urge. On the cities’ basilica wall is scribbled: “O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin.”

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Red Lobster Revolution

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In the 1800s lobster was considered so disgusting that it was served only to servants and prisoners.

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Lobster was considered such a revolting dish that it led to a servant rebellion – the servants felt they were force fed this wretched concoction too often.

 

This rebellion caused Massachusetts to pass a law stating that lobster could be fed to servants and prisoners no more than twice a week – to eat lobster more often was legally defined as cruel and unusual punishment!

 A Great Article On This Subject

People once found this food revolting because their culture and society told them it was. Today we find it to be an expensive delicacy, mostly because our culture and society tell us it is.

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History is littered with examples of fads that are considered high brow in one place or time, and laughable in the next.

 

The amazing thing is that these influences are so strong it can make a “delicacy” like lobster taste utterly revolting. When you eat lobster the same flavor molecules that led to rebellion hit your tongue’s palette.

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On an absolute level the flavor is precisely the same, but our mental evaluation is starkly different depending on how our culture told us to experience it. If this is true with something as easy to evaluate as “does this taste good?” then it is true of nearly EVERYTHING in your life.

 

Now that’s some food for thought.

 

Camel Capital of the World Lies In the Outback

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Saudi Arabia imports its camels from Australia.

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It’s reasonable to think of camels roaming the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa, but the only country on Earth with wild camels is Australia.

It was not always this way; camels were introduced to Australia in 1840, and have become an incredibly successful invasive species with over 1,000,000 feral camels wandering the Australian Outback less than 2 centuries after the first mating pair was introduced.

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It seems that camels were a natural fit to the Dr. Suess’ Zoo that is Australian wildlife. An animal that looks like it badly needs a chiropractor is a perfect addition to a world of koalas, kangaroos, seadragons, duck-billed platypus, thorny devils, the flying fox, wombats, emus, and a host of creatures straight out of Monsters Inc.

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The feral camels of Australia are considered a major pest, and the export industry exists as a profitable way of culling their population.

Who Is Your Santa Claus, and What Does He Do?

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If you visit Bari, Italy you can meet the real Santa Claus! Unlike most saints, Saint Nikolas’ earthly remains were never dispersed to various churches – this is usually done to make pilgrimages a more economic and feasible endeavor for the masses.

It was found that Saint Nick was approximately 5ft tall, and in 2005 a facial reconstruction was done. Amazing as it is, we know what Santa Claus looked like, even though he passed away some 1,670 years ago.

How We Built Saint Nick

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He lived in a tumultuous time of civil war for the Roman Empire and spent many years in prison because of his defense of his Christian faith. This all changed in February 313 when Emperor Constantine drafted the Edict of Milan, which put an end to prosecution of all religions, allowing citizens to worship whichever deity they chose.

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Constantine is noted as the first Christian Emperor, and the founder of the Holy Roman Empire, but he tactfully paid homage to a number of gods and goddesses depending on what event or region he was visiting.

As we all know, Santa Claus is based on the Turkish St. Nikolas of Myra. He is best known as the patron saint of sailing, but is also the patron saint of banking, pawnbroking, pirating, butchery, thievery, children, gift giving, orphans, royalty, and New York City.

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Early illustrations of St. Nicholas depict him as stern, commanding, and holding a birch rod. He was more a symbol of discipline and punishment than the jolly, overweight elf children know today.

It was the period from 1200-1500 that he really hit his stride as a joyful gift giver. After the Protestant Reformation of 1517 he fell out of favor, and it was at this time that the giving of gifts transitioned from his day, December 6th, to December 25th.

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Nat Geo Recaps His Life and Cultural Evolution

Up until ~1517 the gift sharing of Christmas was done on December 6th because it was a tradition associated purely with Saint Nick. Once he lost his mojo people still loved getting gifts, so the tradition became tied to the birth of Christ simply due to the proximity of the dates.

The image of Santa Claus we have come to know and love was established, but not necessarily invented, by the Coca Cola Company in the 1920s.

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Ultimately, the story of our modern image of Santa may have been solidified by Coca-Cola, but the image they used wasn’t original – it was one of several that had been floating around for several decades. What Coca-Cola did was to eliminate the uncertainty, and instill in the public conscience a single image of what Santa Claus looks like.

Want more detail about the history of the modern image of Santa?

Death Star Stimulus Denied

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In late 2012, a petition was submitted to the White House website urging that the United States government build a real Death Star.

In early 2013, the proposal was rejected (in a tongue-and-cheek manner), citing that the overall cost of the Death Star’s construction would amount to a cost exceeding $852 quadrillion, and would take 833,000 years before it could even be ready for construction due to the rate of steel production. Another reason for the rejection was also because the Government “did not support blowing up planets.”

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