Next up, the seventh seal to be opened …

At some point in the past week, this blog rather inexplicably went over the half-million-view mark.

It took a little less than four years to reach that point, but lest I get too big for my britches I need only remind myself that the Huffington Post racks up the same amount of traffic in just six hours.

On the other hand, the Cotton Boll Conspiracy is absolutely crushing both the Build Your Own Fire-Ant Farm blog and the Musings on Neo-Pelagianism blog in terms of unique visits.

So what I have I learned over these past four years? Judging from the semi-literate scribblings, the obvious contempt for copyright laws in regard to the use of images, and the willy-nilly selection of topics, one might suspect very little.

And one would be right.

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Nazi artillery found in Russian mountains

How remote is the area around Mount Elbrus, located in the western Caucasus Mountain range in Russia, near the border with Georgia?

Recently, five Nazi World War II artillery guns were discovered, along with ammunition and other explosives, where they’d apparently sat undisturbed for the past 70 years.

The guns – 76-mm cannons – are in good condition, according to police in Kalbardino-Balkaria region, the location of Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe.

“If they fell into the wrong hands, they could be used as intended,” Elbrus police chief Muslim Bottayev said. Military engineers would soon remove the weapons and ammunition to a safe location.

The German Wehrmacht occupied the area surrounding the mountain from August 1942 to January 1943, during World War II, according to a history of Mount Elbrus.

During the period, a team of German high mountain troops scaled Elbrus, planting a swastika at its peak, according to the Indo-Asian News Service. “Intended as a propaganda coup, the stunt reportedly enraged Hitler, who viewed it as a frivolous diversion of effort.”

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Message in bottle found after 98 years

Nearly a century after being set adrift, a bottle with a message has been recovered in the North Sea.

Andrew Leaper, skipper of the Shetland fishing boat “Copious,” made the discovery back in the spring when hauling in his nets off the coast of Shetland. He recently learned that the message in the bottle had been adrift for 97 years and 309 days.

That surpassed the previous record by more than five years, according to Guinness World Records.

Labeled as drift bottle 646B, the record-breaking bottle contained a postcard asking the finder to write down the date and location of the discovery and return it to the “Director of the Fishery Board for Scotland,” according to DiscoveryNews.

The postcard promised a reward of six pence, the publication added.

The water-tight glass bottle was released on June 10, 1914, by Captain C.H. Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation.

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Claim: Live cells found in mammoth remains

Asian scientists still believe they may be able to resurrect the long-extinct woolly mammoth, but don’t expect to see the Ice Age behemoths at your local zoo any time soon.

A team of Russian and South Korean researchers said they had discovered mammoth tissue fragments buried under meters of permafrost in eastern Siberia that could contain living cells.

“The existence of the cells – perhaps too few to achieve successful cloning, and treated with skepticism by many stem cell scientists – must still be confirmed by a South Korean lab,” according to Agence-France Presse.

But expedition member Sergei Fyodorov of Russia’s Northeastern Federal University said the discovery in the far north of the vast Yakutia region of eastern Siberia could lead to actual woolly mammoth cloning attempts.

“We discovered the mammoth tissue fragments in eastern Siberia in early August,” Fyodorov told the wire service.

“It seems that some of the cells still have a living nucleus. We saw that with portable microscopes on the spot – the cells appeared in color,” he said.

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Remembering Burton’s journey to Mecca

Of the many giants of the 19th century, few were as accomplished as Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Relatively unknown today, Burton was a fascinating character who could speak more than two dozen languages, was the first European to see Lake Tanganyika and served as a British diplomat in several countries.

But the above hardly does justice to Burton’s accomplishments. Born in 1821, he was a British geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, poet and fencer, in addition to being a linguist, explorer and diplomat.

Burton was a prolific and erudite author, and wrote numerous books and scholarly articles about copious subjects, including human behavior, travel, falconry, fencing, sexual practices and ethnography.

He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures.

Burton’s best-known achievements include traveling in disguise to Mecca, a feat he accomplished in the early 1850s.

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Documents show US covered up Soviet crimes

For decades Soviet officials blamed the massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war during World War II on the Nazis. The truth didn’t officially come out until 50 years later, when Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev publicly admitted his nation’s responsibility for the mass slaughter.

However, recently declassified documents, released Monday, show that American POWs sent secret coded messages to Washington, DC, with news regarding the massacre at the Katyn Forest that offered proof that the Germans could not have committed the killings.

The information, though, was suppressed by the US government, possibly because President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t want to draw the ire of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, whom the Americans needed to help defeat Germany and Japan, according to The Associated Press.

The Katyn massacre was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the Soviet secret police the spring of 1940. The victims were murdered with pistol shots to the back of the head, killed in the Katyn Forest in Russia, Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere.

Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the remainder were Polish intelligentsia arrested for allegedly being “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests.”

The Soviets’ aim was to eliminate a military and intellectual elite that would have put up stiff resistance to Soviet control, according to The Associated Press.

A 2004 report by the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation said the killings were specifically intended destroy the strength of the Polish nation: “The physical elimination of these people was meant to prevent the rebirth of Polish statehood based on their intellectual potential.”

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91-year-old vet reunited with his last Spitfire

A 91-year-old fighter pilot was reunited with the Spitfire he flew on his final World War II mission nearly seven decades ago this past weekend.

Lt. Rolf Kolling journeyed from his home in Norway to the North Weald Airfield in Essex, England, last Friday to catch of a glimpse of the Mark IX Spitfire he last piloted in late April 1945, in the waning weeks of the Second World War.

Kolling was joined by wingman and compatriot Eigel Stigset at the home of 332 Squadron, where celebrations took place to mark the 70th anniversary of the wartime links between North Weald and Norway, according to The Daily Mail.

The pair belonged to the Royal Air Force’s Norwegian wing in 1939-1945 conflict.

Returning to the base brought back bittersweet memories for Kolling, who during his combat career of 120 sorties was credited with one confirmed kill – a Focke Wulf – and a share in one probable – an ME 109, The Daily Mail reported.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Kolling said: “Four Spitfires would go up. And none would come back. Two pilots would be dead. Two would be prisoners of war. Every time you got into the cockpit, you knew it could be your last flight.

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