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.
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.
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.
Two Georgia men – one nicknamed “Bubba” – have been charged in a recent grave-robbing incident in which the corpses of five Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers were dug up.
Jerry Atkinson and Ralph Hillis Jr., both of Waynesboro, Ga., could get up to five years in the hoosegow if convicted of “malicious removal of the dead from a grave.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Hillis goes by the nickname “Bubba.” He was arrested last week, but Atkinson remained at large, according to the Burke County Sheriff’s Office
However, Burke County deputies did a search Atkinson’s home and discovered a methamphetamine lab, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
The cemetery is in a secluded location and has been a burial site since the 1700s.
It is believed the suspects were searching for relics such as buttons off the uniforms the soldiers may have buried in.
British finance minister George Osborne wielded the cudgel of fiscal insecurity to warn Scots against voting for independence.
Scotland runs the risk of ceding control of much of its economy if it chooses sovereignty during a referendum next year and remains in a “currency zone” using the British pound – the preferred option of the pro-independence Scottish government.
Osborne also warned there was no guarantee that the rest of the United Kingdom would accept such an arrangement.
Speaking in Glasgow, Osborne said choosing such a path could result in Scotland ending up like Panama and Montenegro, which use the US dollar and the euro, respectively, but neither has control over policy, according to Agence France-Presse.
In case anyone in attendance was unclear where Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, stood regarding Scotland’s 300-year-old union with England, the British Conservative politician made it crystal clear.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t break it,” he said.
There remain a handful of actions that are generally accepted as off-limits by society today. These include: guzzling the communion wine during mass, sending your kids off on Halloween dressed in white robes and a hood, and messing with the dead.
Someone in Burke County, Georgia, apparently missed the memo on the last item, as authorities there reported that grave robbers broke into caskets in an isolated cemetery and removed clothes from the bodies of Confederate and Revolutionary War veterans.
Investigators said grave robbers turned over head stones at Old Church Cemetery in Waynesboro, Ga., pulled caskets from the ground and removed the clothes from the deceased, leaving their bones exposed.
The robbers also disturbed graves containing children’s bodies, according to the Waynesboro True Citizen.
The cemetery is in a secluded location and has been a burial site since the 1700s.
An official with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office said he believes the grave robbers were searching for relics, The Telegraph reported.
There are two oft-cited shibboleths regarding the White Star Line’s decision to construct just 20 lifeboats for the RMS Titanic: cost and aesthetics.
There must have been some short-sighted reason to equip a ship that could carry more than 2,200 people with lifeboats that couldn’t even handle 1,200, right?
Not necessarily. We forget that the regulatory and safety environment is, in some ways, very different than it was 101 years ago today, when the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank, taking more than 1,500 souls with her.
Yet, as Chris Berg of the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia, wrote last year, the Titanic was fully compliant with all marine laws.
The British Board of Trade required all vessels above 10,000 metric tonnes, or just over 11,000 US tons, to carry 16 lifeboats; the White Star Line went above and beyond the minimum by ensuring that the Titanic exceeded that requirements by four boats.
However, the Titanic weighed more than 51 tons, or far more than upper threshold that the Board of Trade used to base its lifeboat requirement upon.
The problem lay not with greed or a lack of foresight on the part of the Titanic’s builders or owners, but in the fact that regulations had not been updated in nearly 20 years and were designed for a different era.
In what may have been one of the more slippery cases in state history, the Maine Marine Patrol last week nabbed a New Hampshire man with 41 pounds of elvers – young eels – worth more than $80,000.
Phillip Parker, 41, of Candia, N.H., was caught with the brood – the largest such case in the history of the Maine Marine Patrol – without a state “elver-harvesting license,” according to the Bangor Daily News.
Lest one think harvesting baby eels is a penny-ante business, elvers sell for $2,000 per pound, the paper added.
Demand for American elvers has skyrocketed since Japan’s devastating 2011 tsunami and after restrictions were placed on European elver exports, according to the Manchester (NH) Union Leader.
“They are often sold to Chinese or South Korean buyers, who rear them to adulthood and sell them for food,” the publication reported.
The American Eel, which is found along the East Coast of North America, has a fascinating life cycle.
The Canadian penny is showing it’s not going down without a fight.
Nearly two months after the Royal Canadian Mint stopped distributing the one-cent piece, the coin continues to circulate, causing some confusion north of the border.
That’s because when government officials announced the mint would end the penny’s run after more than 150 years, many people thought the cent would no longer be used.
But that’s not quite the case, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“Businesses don’t have to turn over the pennies they collect to the bank and they can decide if they want to keep using Canada’s smallest currency, even though it’s not being produced,” the CBC reported.
Pennies still remain legal tender in Canada, it added.
The Los Angeles Times’ take on the recent report that William Shakespeare didn’t like to pay taxes and sought to profit from an archaic form of commodities trading says as much about the Times’ view of the world as it does about life in Elizabethan-era England.
The Times picked up on a report from researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales that claims the Bard of Avon was a grain hoarder and was pursued by authorities for tax evasion.
Profits from his actions were channeled into real estate deals, enabling Shakespeare to become a large landowner.
The Times calls Shakespeare a conniving character, a tax dodger and a profiteer. What it fails to do is add some economic context to its story.
While focusing on claims that Shakespeare “a tax dodger who profiteered during times of famine,” the Times makes just a brief mention of the fact that there was no copyright laws in Shakespeare’s time, meaning he could expect no future royalties from his works.
Instead, the publication manages to whip up a little class envy while portraying the playwright as little more than a thug:
“By combining both illegal and legal activities, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon,” according to the Times. “His profits – minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion – meant he had a working life of just 24 years.”