Nazi commander found residing in Minnesota

 Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division

Inserted in the opening paragraph of Slate magazine’s story about a Nazi collaborator who was discovered last week to have been living in the US for the past 60-plus years were these two sentences, which would be slightly amusing if not representative of a grave injustice:

“Michael Karkoc now lives in Minnesota and when he entered the United States in 1949 told authorities he had not performed military service during World War II. That wasn’t really accurate.”

No, indeed it wasn’t. Karkoc was a founding member and an officer of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later was an officer in the SS Galician Division.

There appears to be plenty of evidence that the company Karkoc commanded massacred civilians, including burning villages filled with women and children, and that he was at the scene of the atrocities, even if there’s no proof Karkoc himself didn’t actually participate.

The Associated Press broke the story about Karkoc on Friday and provided an exhaustive report on not just the fact he’s been living in the United States for decades, but included background between groups allied with the Nazis and how many individuals avoided being brought to justice under the guise of fighting communism.

It will be hard for Karkoc to plead mistaken identity; in 1995 he published a Ukrainian-language memoir that stated he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 to fight on the side of Germany – and wrote that he served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.

The memoir is available at the US Library of Congress, according to The Associated Press.

(Above: A 1944 photo shows head of the SS Heinrich Himmler, center, reviewing troops  of the Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division, of which Michael Karkoc was a  member.)

La Salle vessel may be on verge of discovery


The remains of the first European ship to sink in the upper Great Lakes – built by famed French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle – may be uncovered shortly.

Beginning this weekend, Steve Libert will head a diving expedition to an underwater site in northern Lake Michigan, where archaeologists and technicians will attempt to determine whether timber jutting from the seabed and other items beneath layers of sediment are the wreckage of La Salle’s legendary vessel, the Griffin.

“I’m numb from the excitement,” Libert told The Associated Press. “It’s the Holy Grail for the Great Lakes; it’s No. 1 on the list.”

Libert, 59, recently retired from a position as an intelligence analyst with the US Department of Defense. He’s long had a passion for maritime mysteries and has journeyed from Okinawa to the Florida Keys for diving expeditions.

He’s long been intrigued by stories of 17th Century French explorer La Salle, who journeyed across the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi in a quest for a trade route to the Far East that he hoped would bring riches and renown, according to The Associated Press.

“Particularly intriguing was the tale of the Griffin, a vessel that La Salle built and sailed from Niagara Falls to the shores of present-day Wisconsin before sending it back for more supplies,” the wire service added.

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Nun dies after 86 years of cloistered life

The Papal Conclave Day Two

One can’t help but be awe-struck at some of the facts surrounding the life of Sister Teresita Barajuen, a Spanish nun who died this week.

For one, she was 105 years old and had spent almost all of the past 86 years as a cloistered nun in the Buenafuente del Sistal Monastery northeast of Madrid.

Cloistered nuns live contemplative lives in which they spend much of their time praying.

They usually have little or no contact with the outside world and live in structures that prevent them looking outside their enclosures, and also keep neighbors from seeing into the court-yards or gardens used by the nuns.

Sister Teresa, as she was known, entered the Cistercian monastery when she was 19, many years before the onset of the Spanish Civil War which devastated the nation.

Except for the period of 1936-39 conflict which caused the nuns to flee from the fighting, Sister Teresa lived her entire life as a nun in the Buenafuente del Sistal Monastery, according to the website

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A recognition that will do you in eventually

oldest person

If there’s one honor you don’t want, it’s to be recognized as the world’s oldest person.

Without fail, often within months and sometimes even weeks of being declared as the planet’s senior senior citizen, the individual is dead.

The latest to fall victim to this curse: Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, 116, who died today less than six months after being recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living person.

Kimura did far better than his immediate predecessor, though. Dina Manfredini lasted just 13 as the world’s oldest person before dying late last year.

And of the 32 previous record holders, only seven survived more than a year after being honored for their longevity. Sounds like a curse if I’ve ever heard of one.

In seriousness, one of the interesting aspects of news stories about the extremely aged is that they are almost never quoted. This is almost always, to put it delicately, because the faculties of the extremely aged aren’t quite what they once were.

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Rare gorilla’s albinism traced to inbreeding

snowflake the gorilla

Snowflake, the only albino gorilla known to man, was a star at the Barcelona Zoo for decades.

Captured in Equatorial Guinea, Snowflake lived at the zoo from 1966 until his death in 2003, becoming an iconic figure of not only the zoo but the city itself.

Now Spanish researchers say they have determined that Snowflake’s albinism was the result of inbreeding.

After carrying out genome sequencing on Snowflake’s remains, researchers at Barcelona’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology have concluded that his albinism was caused by a “mutation of the SLC45A2 gene” which was transmitted to him by both parents, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Genes causing albinism are recessive. That is, to be albino, you have to have the two chromosomes with the mutation for albinism,” Tomas Marques, the director of the team that carried out the study, told the wire service.

Snowflake’s grandfather probably carried the recessive albino genes, Marques said.

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Research: cotton could aid in oil-spill cleanup

low micronaire cotton

Low-grade unprocessed cotton could prove an effective cleanup tool following oil spills at sea, according to recent research.

A study published in the most recent issue of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research reveals that one pound of low-micronaire cotton can absorb more than 30 pounds of dense crude oil, according to research conducted at Texas Tech’s Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory.

In addition, the natural waxiness of raw, unprocessed cotton fiber keeps water out, making cotton an efficient and effective material for addressing ocean-based oil spills, according to the publication, published by the American Chemical Society.

“The new study includes some of the first scientific data on unprocessed cotton’s use as a crude oil sorbent,” according to Southeast Farm Press.

About 10 percent of the cotton grown in West Texas is low micronaire, according to Seshadri Ramkumar, lead author of the study and manager of the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech.

“It doesn’t take a dye well, so it has little value as a textile fiber. However, because it is less mature, more of it can be packed into a given area,” he said. “We show through sophisticated testing that low-micronaire cotton is much finer and can pick up more crude oil.

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