Ilya Bryzgalov is a better at hockey than history – fortunately for him.
Bryzgalov, a native of the Russian city of Togliatti, on the Volga River, recently gave an interview to the Russian sports outlet Championat in which he was questioned on his views on Stalin, who had many millions killed between 1922 and 1953.
“Positive. I see logic in his action,” Bryzgalov said, according to a translation by Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov. “Not without going too far, of course. But he came to power in a country that had just lived through a revolution. There were so many spies, enemies, traitors there. A lot of people still had guns after the civil war. The country was in ruins, (people) needed to survive somehow. The country needed to be rebuilt, and in order to do that it needed to be held in iron hands.
“… He knew what he was doing. He is described as a ‘bloody tyrant.’ But at the time it couldn’t be any other way. Yes, there were innocent people who were victims of repression. But it happens.”
This may be nit-picky, but a word of advice to whichever public relations firm is advising Bryzgalov and/or the Flyers: when discussing the deaths of millions, avoid phrases such as “but it happens.”
A 2,300-year-old Mayan temple in Central America was recently razed for use as road fill, it was revealed late last week.
The construction company that demolished the temple, which was approximately 160 feet square at the base and 20 feet high, is owned by a local Belizean politician.
The temple was located 50 miles north of Belize City, near the border with Mexico, and was part of the pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site at Noh Mul, on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula.
“This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable,” said Tracy Panton, Belize’s Tourism and Culture Minister. “This expressed disdain for our laws is incomprehensible.”
The archeological complex, like all pre-Columbian ruins, was under the protection of the state even though it was located in a privately owned sugar cane plantation, according to Agence France-Presse.
Noh Mul was the center of a Mayan community of 40,000 that was initially occupied between 350-250 BC. It was inhabited off and on until about 900 years ago.
Authorities learned of the incident at the end of last week, blaming the D-Mar construction company, which is owned by Denny Grijalva, a candidate for mayor of Belize City.
Water in several South Carolina rivers remains high after flooding reached levels unseen in a quarter-century.
A combination of a wet spring and heavy rains earlier this month pushed several rivers over their banks, including the Broad River, which had risen at least 15 feet when I visited it last week.
Normally, in the scene shown above, rocks are visible, turtles, river otter and fish are readily evident, and the foundations of a train bridge destroyed during the War Between the States can be seen.
However, flooding, exacerbated by heavy rains in the northern part of the state, had pushed the river over its banks to a degree that metal picnic tables normally far out of reach of the river were barely above water.
Even more fascinating was an area approximately a mile to the west, the location of an abandoned rail bridge converted into a walking path over the past half decade.
For 98 percent of the year, a small stream approximately four feet across and a foot deep flows under the bridge, which is about 750 feet across.
On this day, the entire area under the bridge was flooded, up to 20 feet deep in places, and water was moving toward the Broad River, rather than simply being backed up by river overflow.
There’s something awe-inspiring about flooding, particularly when the water is on the move. Massive amounts of water cruising past at enhanced speeds can’t help but impress, especially when it’s laden with flotsam such as fallen trees.
The discovery of new animal species is unusual but certainly not earth-shatteringly rare.
Periodically, scientists will announce that a new variety of lemur has been found in Madagascar or a previously unknown spider has been located in a distant part of Sri Lanka or an unclassified frog has been uncovered in remote India.
Less common is finding a new species in a populated, scientifically advanced region such as the United States.
However, scientists in Florida last week announced that they came across a new species of black bass in the southeastern United States during a genetic study of fish in 2007, according to Field & Stream.
Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission christened the species, found in the Chipola River, “Choctaw bass.”
The Chipola is a small tributary of the Apalachicola River that runs north-south along the middle of the Florida Panhandle.
Choctaw bass possess a DNA profile unlike that of any other species, scientists announced.
Modern Western society appears caught between alternately making its denizens’ lives easier – smartphones, handheld GPS, debit cards, etc. – and more difficult – air-travel hassles, low-flow toilets and so on.
Often, it would seem that for every convenience that business ushers in, government feels the need to tack on a burden or two. What’s most frustrating is that these aggravations are often utterly unnecessary.
Case in point: Gas cans. No, seriously.
Beginning in 2009, government regulation prevented the manufacture of gas with vents.
In an effort to prevent spillage – not a bad goal, mind you – the Environmental Protection Agency issued regulatory guidelines a few years ago that stated that, “ … new cans will be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically.”
As Jeffrey Tucker of the Laissez Faire Club points out, “The government never said ‘no vents.’ It abolished them de facto with new standards that every state had to adopt by 2009. So for the last (four) years, you have not been able to buy gas cans that work properly. They are not permitted to have a separate vent. The top has to close automatically.”
What we have now, if you are unfortunate enough to have to rely on a gas can manufactured after 2008, is an implement that dispenses gasoline unevenly.
Today marks the 250th anniversary of the beginning of Pontiac’s Rebellion, known by a number of other monikers, including Pontiac’s War, Pontiac’s Uprising and Pontiac’s Conspiracy.
Pontiac was a chief of the Ottawa nation, and was one of many Indians dissatisfied with the results of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which left the British in control of much of eastern North America.
Pontiac was born in the early part of the 18th century, most likely along a waterway in what is today the Midwestern US, likely either the Detroit or Maumee river.
He became an Ottawa war leader by the mid-1740s and supported the French in pivotal French and Indian War.
Following the British victory in North America and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British angered Indian tribes who had been allied with the French by cutting back on key supplies previously distributed from forts in the region.
The Indians had come to depend on gunpowder and ammunition distributed by Europeans for hunting game for food and to be able to take skins, which could be used in trade. The British, however, mistrusted their former Indian adversaries and began to restrict distribution of both.
Some Native Americans began to grow wary, believing the British were making preparations to attack them by disarming them. Many also resented being treated like a conquered people.
Efforts to raise the sole surviving German Dornier Do 17 bomber from World War II began last Friday, more than 70 years after it was shot down over the English Channel.
The aircraft, a light bomber, rests in approximately 50 feet of water and is in surprisingly good condition, according to those involved with the salvage operation.
Officials plan to raise the bomber with a specially designed cradle later this month.
The project will be the biggest recovery of its kind in British waters, and the price tag could top $900,000, according to Reuters.
The existence of the Dornier Do 17 – lost during the Battle of Britain – off the coast of Kent became known when it was spotted by divers in 2008 lying on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.
“The plane will be packed in gel and plastic sheeting to shield it from the air before it can be transported to hydration tunnels where the crust created by 70 years underwater will be washed away over the next two years,” according to Reuters.
Eventually, the bomber will be exhibited in the Royal Air Force Museum in London.
Among some Shia Muslims, there is a belief that Muhammad al-Mahdi, known as the Twelfth Imam, has been hidden for more than a millennium but will return one day to bring justice to the world.
Known as the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam bears similarities to the Judeo-Christian notion of the messiah.
Apparently, the concept is a popular one in Iran, as there are currently some 3,000 “fake mahdis” imprisoned in the Middle Eastern nation.
“Every month we get someone coming in, convinced he is the Mahdi,” seminary expert Mehdi Ghafari told The Economist. “Once a man was saying such outrageous things and talking about himself in the third person that I couldn’t help laughing. He got angry and told me I had ‘bad hijab’ and was disrespecting the ‘Imam of Time,’” as the Mahdi is known.
Earlier this year Iran’s authorities arrested nearly two dozen men in separate incidents, all of whom claimed to be the Mahdi.
A website based in Qom, Iran’s holiest city, deemed the men “deviants,” “fortune-tellers” and “petty criminals,” who were exploiting credulous Iranians for alms during the Persian new-year holiday, which fell in mid-March, according to The Economist.
“Iran’s economic doldrums may have helped to cause this surge in people claiming to be mankind’s savior – and in women saying they were the Mahdi’s wife,” the publication added.
In a case that likely has more than a few people checking their own personal genealogy, New York authorities say that a 97-year old who died last year left behind an estate valued at nearly $40 million but no heirs and no will.
Roman Blum survived the Holocaust and came to the US after World War II, where he became a successful real estate developer.
Blum married another Holocaust survivor, but she died in 1992 and the couple had no children.
Despite the advice of numerous friends, Blum declined to make a will for himself, leaving the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.
A friend summed up the situation as only a New Yorker can:
“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Blum after doing carpentry work for him in the 1970s.
North Korea has been making headlines a great deal lately, and not for good reasons.
In a move that must have warmed the hearts of millions of impoverished North Koreans scraping to find enough food to keep their families from starving, the nation’s leadership announced intentions to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, calling the US the “sworn enemy of the Korean people.”
A few days later, North Korea confirmed it was ending the 60-year armistice connected to the 1950-53 Korean War.
On March 30, Pyongyang declared it was in “a state of war” with South Korea, and Kim Jong-un stated that rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific in response to the US flying two nuclear-capable B2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula.
While US intelligence officials speculate that Kim Jong-un is using the bluster to assert control over his country, and his ultimate goal is recognition rather than getting involved in a devastating conflict, the general consensus seems to be that the baby-faced dictator is decidedly unpredictable, if not eight kinds of crazy.
Which is just what the people of North Korea don’t need at this point.