History People Are Talking About Archives 11-25-03 to 12-9-03





  • The Man Who Invented Reality TV: Presidential Filmmaker Robert Drew

  • Politicization of Australian National Museum Costs Director Her Job

  • Historian Travels from London in Search of Records Concerning "Wild Bill" Hickok

  • Debunking the Myth of the Samurai

  • Myths of Dunkirk Debunked

  • New Light Shed on Salem Witch Trials by Scholars Unearthing the Original Transcripts

  • How Jonathan Edwards Changed America

  • Mary Magdalene Wasn't a Harlot

  • Was Lincoln Gay?

  • Who Is Buried in Columbus's Tomb?

  • Vinland Map: Real or Fake?

  • Scientists Trace Evolution of Indo-European Languages to Hittites

  • How the Quashing of an Honest C.I.A. Investigator Helped Launch 40 years of JFK Conspiracy Theories

  • Max Boot: Japan's War Museum Hides the Truth

  • Why Are There So Many Books About the Nazis?

  • Where Research Stands Today on the Salvaged Monitor (of Monitorand Merrimack Fame)

  • Still More Vietnam Atrocities that Went Unreported

  • A Movie About the Germans Who Came Ashore In Maine for Thanksgiving in 1944

  • The Origins of the Concept of Hell

  • The New Enola Gay Controversy Is Abouty Politics, Not History

  • Is The Da Vinci Code Good History?

  • The Man Who Solved the Kennedy Assassination (No, Not Earl Warren)

  • James K. Galbraith: JFK Wanted Out of Vietnam

  • The Times Lied, Millions Died--And They Get to Keep Their Pulitzer?

  • Did FDR Make Things Worse in the 1930s?

  • Brazil Claims One of Its Own Invented a Flying Machine Before the Wright Brothers

  • Are Scholars Inventing a False History of Women from the Bible?

  • Samurai Values Still Permeate Japanese Culture

  • Germans as Victims of Allied Bombing: What Photographs Show


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    The Man Who Invented Reality TV: Presidential Filmmaker Robert Drew (posted 12-8-03)

    Paul Farhi, writing in the Washington Post (Dec. 6, 2003)

    Long before "K Street," before "The War Room" or "The Candidate," and way before anyone had heard of "reality TV," there was "Primary," a little documentary that was the father of them all.

    Robert Drew's film -- newly released on DVD (Docurama, $24.95) -- was ostensibly a detailed look at the Wisconsin Democratic primary battle of April 1960 between Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy. But it was the style, as much as the substance, that made "Primary" a pioneering work of film and journalism. It was, as Drew himself grandly refers to it, "a new kind of history."

    For the first time, the documentary camera moved with its subjects, following them down receiving lines and into back rooms, even accompanying them on car rides in the gray Wisconsin spring. There were no interviews in the traditional sense, no subtitles, no March-of-Time theatrics. Narration was pared to a few dozen words. The camera and sound simply caught the candidates and their caretakers in the act of being themselves. Today, the film's naturalistic style is taken for granted in documentaries, and in dramas like "The Blair Witch Project." But in its time, it was a technical and stylistic breakthrough, the American version of what European filmmakers had started calling "cinema verite."

    While its sound is shaky and its black-and-white photography often splotchy (even in its new digital form), "Primary" is ultra-modern in another important sense. Drew and his team of talented technicians had unrivaled access to Kennedy and Humphrey, and captured them in ways that contemporary media-savvy candidates would never permit. As crude as the film's technical quality is, it reveals a paradox of modern campaign coverage: We see more now, but we learn less.

    As Drew's camera watches, the stolid Humphrey stands on a sidewalk in a Wisconsin town, handing out his business card -- business cards! -- to indifferent passersby. At one point, he tousles a young boy's hair and flatters a would-be voter by telling him he's "a lucky man" to have married his wife. At another juncture, Humphrey sits in the passenger seat of a car en route to a campaign stop, first dozing, then droning on about the spring thaw. Dressed in his baggy overcoat and hat, the future vice president comes across as earnest, corny and dull -- in other words, unelectable by today's TV standards.

    By contrast, the scenes of Kennedy, who would win the primary, are kinetic. He is mobbed everywhere, particularly by children. His magnetism is best captured by a brief, post-Elvis/pre-Beatles shot of bobby-socks-wearing teenage girls rushing up a street to meet him. In one memorable sequence, Kennedy stands in a receiving line. But instead of focusing on the candidate, Drew's cameraman, Ricky Leacock, follows a beautiful young woman as she approaches. Just as she takes Kennedy's hand, her face melts into an expression of pure desire -- and then she winks at him. The footage seems to foretell Kennedy's future White House indiscretions. It also calls to mind the much-replayed clip of Bill Clinton greeting Monica Lewinsky in a Rose Garden ceremony.

    "Primary" is equally seduced by Jackie Kennedy. Just 30, and pregnant with JFK Jr. at the time, she exudes her usual glamour, but her trademark fireproof composure is punctured by Leacock's camera. Before a major campaign rally on the eve of the primary, he catches her standing on the podium, her gloved fingers twiddling furiously behind her back. On another busy receiving line, the camera finds Jackie discreetly working the cramps out of her aching hand.

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    Politicization of Australian National Museum Costs Director Her Job (posted 12-8-03)

    Christopher Kremmer, writing in the Australian Age (Dec. 6, 2003)

    It was a typically confronting day on the board of the National Museum of Australia. The debate had turned to the return of indigenous human remains to Aboriginal communities - a process pioneered by museum director Dawn Casey - when a member of the governing council interjected.

    Human remains, Aboriginal or otherwise, were a vital part of a good museum, said David Barnett, a conservative member of the council. They must continue to be displayed, so that people could study the history of human evolution.

    Casey, the daughter of a poor Aboriginal family from Far North Queensland, said nothing. She did not expect Barnett to sympathise with Aboriginal cultural practices concerning the living or the dead. He was already on record as describing the Stolen Generation as a "victim episode".

    "He told me once that it had been necessary to separate the children because, from Port Augusta to Broome, their parents were killing and starving them," Casey recalls with a deep sigh. Her own extended family had suffered from the forced separation of children and parents.

    As she prepares to leave her post this week, Casey is reflecting on her own long journey, from school drop-out to accomplished public servant, and on what she considers to be a growing threat to the integrity of Australia's great cultural institutions.

    When Casey looked around the boardroom table that day, she saw a phalanx of the Prime Minister's men staring back at her. "If you appoint a chairman who's a current member of the executive of a political party and a councillor who's the Prime Minister's biographer, and another councillor who has written speeches for the Prime Minister then, of course, you will get the strong perception of political interference," she says.

    There's nothing trumped-up about her. She plays by the rules. She doesn't use her race as a crutch.

    In a series of interviews with The Age over the past six weeks, Casey has spoken frankly for the first time about the museum's debilitating internal struggles over claims that it has misrepresented Australian history....

    The National Museum is, quite literally, the house that Dawn built. In 1997, she joined the $152 million project as construction manager. As director from 1999 onwards, she drove architects, builders and staff harder than her dad ever drove cattle, completing the ultra-modern building on the shores of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin on time and on budget.

    "She did an amazing job," concedes Tony Staley, a former federal president of the Liberal Party and chairman of the museum council since 1999.

    But Casey found herself being reluctantly drawn into the so-called "history wars".

    In October 2000, five months before the museum opened, Barnett fired his opening salvo in a memo written to Staley. In it, he warned that political correctness - "which, as we saw at the (Olympic) Games opening ceremony, is taking hold" - infected the "quite alarming" labels that explained the museum's exhibits.

    Staley, the veteran Victorian Liberal, handled the crisis adroitly, calling on an independent historian, Graeme Davison, to review the labels. Some labels were changed but Davison rejected claims of systematic bias.

    "David (Barnett) gives the impression - which I am sure he does not really hold - that the museum should follow the historical views of the government of the day," Davison reported to Staley.

    Complaints continued. Barnett took the director to task over a display concerning the 1967 national referendum, at which Australians voted to give Aborigines the vote. The display showed Labor leader Gough Whitlam campaigning for the "Yes" campaign. Barnett told the director that the referendum had been brought on by a Coalition government.

    The complaint sparked a wild goose chase for photographs of Liberal ministers campaigning for the "Yes" vote. Casey says staff couldn't find any because, while the Liberals had introduced the referendum, they ran dead on the issue. Despite that, the exhibit was later removed.

    One day in mid-2001, Casey received a telephone call from Pearson. "You should take note, Dawn. I have had a senior person contact me about the museum's display of the diary of an Italian internee who was a supporter of Mussolini," she recalls him saying. "You should change it."

    Pearson declined to comment, but The Age has been told he was concerned the exhibit might damage the museum's reputation in the Italian community.

    Professor Kay Saunders, a University of Queensland historian who advised the museum and attended occasional board meetings, believes some board members strayed into areas that are the rightful prerogative of management. "You had some council members who thought they were there to reshape the total content of the museum," Saunders says.

    She blames two board members - Barnett, who co-wrote a biography of John Howard, and the conservative columnist and former Howard speechwriter Christopher Pearson - for creating a "destructive" atmosphere on the board.

    "There were articles in the press, extremely critical internal memos . . . I even had a phone call from Christopher demanding that we change a certain display in the museum. It went on and on and on."...

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    Historian Travels from London in Search of Records Concerning "Wild Bill" Hickok (posted 12-8-03)

    From an account by the Associated Press (Dec. 4, 2003):

    About a mile north of the public square where "Wild Bill" Hickok killed a gambler who insulted his honor sits a red brick building that could hold an interesting footnote to the legend of the man known for his skill with a pistol.

    The building is home to the Greene County Archives. It is where historians hope to find a record showing that only six months before the deadly shooting, Hickok and his victim helped post bond for a mutual friend.

    Davis "Dave" Tutt, who was slow to the draw that day, was no enemy of Hickok, said Joseph Rosa, who has written books on Hickok and is considered a leading authority. The men were friends, and the face-to-face shootout might not have happened at all, but the events of July 21, 1865, spun inexorably out of control.

    Rosa recently traveled from his home in London and spent four days at the archives, poring through boxes of musty, century-old documents. He was looking for a record of the bond posted for Larkin Russell, who was charged with stealing four geldings.

    "If it does (turn up), that would be fantastic because you'll have both Hickok's and Tutt's signature on the same piece of paper," Rosa said. "That's really what it's all about."

    Rosa, 70, has spent some 50 years sorting through faded court papers, coroners' reports, news clippings and other documents about Hickok, a farmer's son from Troy Grove, Ill., who became a scout and spy for the Union Army and a deputy U.S. Marshal. He has talked to Hickok relatives.

    His interest in Hickok grew from watching Western movies as a boy. He became drawn to the man born James Butler Hickok who, legend had it, tamed two lawless Kansas towns and dabbled in gambling before being fatally shot in 1876 while playing cards in Deadwood, S.D.

    But the movies and available literature were at odds about Hickok and his reputation during the Civil War.

    "I got into studying this, and things didn't make sense," Rosa said. "Every story, every film, I got a different version. I started wondering what was the truth."

    Many stories claimed he killed hundreds of men. They were wrong.

    "He earned the nickname 'Wild Bill' during the Civil War for his actions against Confederate bushwhackers and other 'rebels,"' Rosa said.

    In 1865, Hickok and Tutt got into a row after Tutt said Hickok owed him $35; Hickok maintained it was $25. When they failed to agree, Tutt took Hickok's gold pocket watch as collateral. Some time later, Tutt went to the town square, wearing Hickok's watch. Hickok became angry at the implication that he didn't pay his gambling debts. The men walked menacingly toward each other, and Tutt stopped not far from where a motor vehicle office stands today. Hickok was some 75 yards away.

    "It has been repeated by several people that Hickok said: 'Dave, we've been friends for many years. You've helped me out many times, and you're the last person I wish to fall out with,"' Rosa said.

    Tutt reached for his gun, but not faster than Hickok. With one shot to the chest, Tutt was dead.

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    Debunking the Myth of the Samurai (posted 12-8-03)

    Stefan Lovgren, writing in the National Geographic (Dec. 2, 2003):

    Mythology colors all history. Sometimes, legend and lore merely embellish the past. Other times, mythology may actually devour history. Such is the case with the samurai, the military aristocracy of feudal Japan.

    The samurai are known as strong and courageous warriors, schooled with swords. In reality, they were an elitist and (for two centuries) idle class that spent more time drinking and gambling than cutting down enemies on the battlefield.

    But it's the ideals to which they aspired—discipline, loyalty, and benevolence—that endured and shaped the romantic image of the samurai that is now ingrained in the Japanese cultural psyche.

    That's in large part thanks to the movies. From Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece The Seven Samurai to the new Hollywood epic, The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, the movie samurai are usually noble and heroic characters.

    Ed Zwick, the cerebral director and co-writer of The Last Samurai, makes no apologies for embracing idealism over reality for his movie. He says each version has its uses in storytelling.

    "It's as important to celebrate what's poetic and idealized as it is to understand the reality," Zwick said in a telephone interview. "We're inspired by the mythologizing of the samurai as heroes."

    The Last Samurai is the fictional tale of a broken United States Civil War veteran (Cruise) who travels as a mercenary to Japan soon after the overthrow of the old Shogunate and the restoration of imperial rule in 1868. He ultimately rediscovers his honor by joining a samurai rebellion against the encroaching world of the West.

    The dawn of what's known as the Meiji era was a time of change as Japan emerged from 200 years of self-imposed isolation and began to shed some of its traditions. The samurai had served as a standing army with no one to fight for the last 200 years. Now they represented the past.

    "It's a country that tries to modernize itself in a hurry," said Harold Bolitho, a professor of Japanese history at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "It wants to get rid of a non-productive class of samurai to replace it with an effective fighting force. It wants to stand up as an independent nation and not be pushed around by Britain or the United States."...

    "The samurai were very much backward-looking and no more courageous or loyal or wise than anybody else," said Bolitho. "They were just more privileged. In the end they fight for those privileges, and they are defeated by the new Japan. It's the new Japan overcoming the old Japan."

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    Myths of Dunkirk Debunked (posted 12-8-03)

    Tom Leonard, writing in the news.telegraph.co.uk (Dec. 5, 2003):

    The BBC is to expose some of the myths surrounding the evacuation of Dunkirk in a new drama documentary.

    Dunkirk, a three-part BBC2 series which has cost £2.5 million, will "contain some truths that will be uncomfortable for people", said Alex Holmes, its director.

    Chief among these will be the popular perception of the selfless courage of the "little boats" that went across the Channel to pick up survivors.

    The series, based on interviews with survivors, will make clear that some who sailed the boats agreed to go because they were paid.

    It will also highlight the British duplicitousness towards the French, the poor organisation of the British forces and the fact that "not all people in war behave with simple heroics".

    "Dunkirk was the first example of spin," Holmes said. "The government took a near catastrophe and turned it into the rock on which the war effort was built."

    His series was "not revisionist but accurate. The notion that everyone leapt into boats at the drop of a hat to save their fellow man isn't the whole story. There is great heroism but it is complex heroism."

    Filmed in a documentary style as if a television crew is actually at the scene, the series mixes dramatic reconstruction with mock interviews with combatants and fly-on-the-wall footage of the War Cabinet.

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    New Light Shed on Salem Witch Trials by Scholars Unearthing the Original Transcripts (posted 12-8-03)

    Jay Lindsay, writing for the Associated Press (Nov. 28, 2003):

    The little that was known about Ann Dolliver suggested an unhappy life during wicked times.

    Her husband, a layabout with an affinity for wine, deserted Ann and their child around 1683, according to court records. Nine years later, Dolliver was accused of being a witch.

    But Dolliver may also have believed she was possessed and fought back with her own magic, according to Salem witch trial documents discovered in recent years. Dolliver crafted wax puppets of her imagined tormentors and damaged them, hoping to hurt her enemies or protect herself.

    "She thought she was bewitched and she read in a book that was (the) way to afflict them (that) had afflicted her," according to records of a court examination, unearthed by University of Virginia professor Benjamin Ray.

    Ray's work is part of five-year project by a team of scholars to update the trial transcript for the first time in 65 years. The project, which relies on original records whenever possible, aims to correct errors and find new documents that can add context to events and life to victims such as Dolliver.

    "It puts a little meat onto (Dolliver's) bones, because she was really basically a name," Richard Trask, a historian and witch trials expert, said.

    The work combines grinding research in dusty libraries with new technology, such as ultraviolet light and digital enhancement, that can reveal faded writing and information that was previously missed.

    Rather than settle the record, the new information could fuel more speculation about the events of 1692, Trask said. So many papers are lost that the new clues barely begin to fill in the gaps, he said.

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    How Jonathan Edwards Changed America (posted 12-5-03)

    Jay Tolson, writing in US News & World Report (Dec. 8, 2003):

    What would Jonathan Edwards think of suburban Chicago's Willow Creek Community Church, where every weekend some 17,000 congregants arrive in their Chevy Tahoes and Toyota minivans to worship in the enormous brick-and-glass auditorium? More specifically, what would the 18th-century Puritan preacher who penned the fire-and-brimstone sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" make of "seeker-friendly" services that use "drama, multimedia, and contemporary music" to serve "individuals checking out what it really means to have a personal relationship with Jesus"? Gazing across the packed rows, would Edwards recognize the modern face of the religious movement that he played such a key role in launching?

    On the 300th anniversary of the great theologian's birth, the questions are hardly academic....

    Today, according to a Gallup survey, roughly 4 out of 10 Americans identify themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians....

    Yet what exactly does an 18th-century New England Puritan have to do with a phenomenon that transcends denominational lines and emphasizes born-again conversion, Christ's redemptive role, the unerring authority of the Bible, and a commitment to taking the Gospel to others? The answer, quite simply, is a lot. George Marsden, a University of Notre Dame historian and author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life, put the matter squarely at a recent Library of Congress symposium: American history "recounted without its religious history or Edwards is like Moby Dick without the whale."

    As a major promoter of the First Great Awakening, the religious revival that swept through the Colonies in the 1740s, Edwards modified his own highly orthodox Puritan-Calvinist heritage and unintentionally launched a new and distinctively American strain of Protestantism. That tradition became the dominant religious force in American culture and politics in the 19th century and up through the early 20th. Along the way, it touched just about every major social movement, from abolitionism to Prohibition. "It is the glory of American Christianity," says Nathan Hatch, provost of the University of Notre Dame and author of The Democratization of American Christianity, "and it is also the shame."

    Starting in the late 19th century, however, waves of new immigrants and an assortment of intellectual challenges from Darwinism to "modernist" theology began edging evangelicals from their place at the center of American life. In reaction, a core of the faithful adopted a hypermoralistic, biblically literalist, and anti-intellectual stance that came to be known as fundamentalism. In the 1940s, more open-minded carriers of the torch, including Billy Graham and Carl F. H. Henry (founding editor of Christianity Today), broke with the bunker mentality and attempted to reconnect with the larger culture. Abandoning the apocalyptic scenarios of the fundamentalists and much of their anti-intellectual baggage, they broadened their appeal, often reaching out to Christians in mainline Protestant churches and even to Catholics. Fundamentalism didn't just disappear; many highly visible leaders and televangelists remain of that tendency. But it is now only one current within a larger movement. "We are back to a situation in which evangelicalism dominates our culture," says Wolfe. "But that doesn't mean `fundamentalist.' It means revivalist, personalist, therapeutic, entrepreneurial--the megachurch."...

    [O]ne way to make sense of contemporary evangelicalism is to consider how it has both hewed to and strayed from the path laid down by one of its most brilliant founding fathers.

    Thanks to Marsden's authoritative new biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, that path is now more clear. Running down its center is Edwards's overarching concern with the authentic religious experience. As a Calvinist born in 1703 into a family of Congregationalist ministers, he struggled mightily through his own conversion experience while attending Yale College. Like many who were exposed to Enlightenment ideas, he was troubled by his creed's insistence on a God whose sovereign will alone determined the eternal salvation or damnation of every human creature. After toying with other theological alternatives, Edwards was suddenly seized by the conviction that God was fair in "eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure." It was the turning point of his life, leaving him forever convinced of the need for the "experiential" validation of faith.

    In 1729, Edwards inherited the Northampton, Mass., pulpit of his widely revered grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. But from the beginning he felt uneasy about his grandfather's lax requirements for church membership. For that reason, Edwards found special value in the revival that he instigated in and around Northampton in 1734. His published account of this spiritual renewal became a major catalyst of the First Great Awakening of the 1740s, but Edwards had a more personal reason to value the 1734 revival: It provided an alternative means of establishing the spiritual authenticity of his congregants. In his later Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Edwards would caution, however, that intense experience alone was insufficient, even dangerous, unless accompanied by reason, a close regard for Scripture, and a disciplined and regular church life. Eventually, many of his own parishioners began to chafe under Edwards's strictness, and they finally rebelled and dismissed him from his post. Unbowed, Edwards joined an Indian missionary community in Stockbridge, Mass., and for seven years, while preaching to the Mohawks, penned some of his greatest works. In 1757, Edwards accepted the presidency of the College of New Jersey, as Princeton was then called. But soon after his installation, his life was cut short by a smallpox inoculation that went bad.

    Had Edwards lived to witness the birth and early years of the American republic, he would have seen the excesses of the First Great Awakening become even more pronounced in the Second Great Awakening. Along with the demographic explosion that saw America grow from 2 1/2 million in 1776 to 20 million in 1845 came a huge expansion and transformation of the religious landscape, with the number of ministers per capita more than tripling. But these ministers belonged mainly to upstart and aggressively evangelizing churches, the Baptists, Methodists, Disciples of Christ, and assorted African-American churches of those and other denominations. All these new churches shared Edwards's conviction that revival was a central part of the religious experience. But all were populist, democratic, antielitist, and even anti-institutional to an extreme that would have horrified Edwards. This democratic revolution in American Protestantism established the lastingly populist character of evangelical Christianity. And its broad, folksy appeal is probably the single greatest reason that America became and remained the most religious of all modern industrial nations.

    But Edwards was almost uncanny in anticipating how enthusiastic religion could go astray. Above all, he saw how certain developments could end up placing the individual (or worldly agendas), and not God, at the center of the religious experience. For Edwards, born into a clerical family, the existence of a genteel, well-educated, and authoritative clergy was almost an indispensable element of an orderly religious life and society. The Second Great Awakening shattered that ideal, opening the doors of the ministry to people from all rungs of society and often to people without any particular education or training for the ministry....

    Evangelical scholars and intellectuals especially lament the decline of the evangelical mind since the generation of Edwards. During the last century in particular, says Wheaton College's Noll, "Christian reasoning as a whole, through use of the Bible, theology, and doctrine, simply hasn't measured up. The scandal of the evangelical thinking is that there is not enough of it, and that which exists is not up to the standards that Edwards established."

    The fundamentalist turn in evangelicalism, in Noll's view, is a well-intentioned but inadequate response to challenges Edwards would have met more thoughtfully, with intelligence and religious conviction. In fact, if evangelicals had heeded Edwards's criticism of Enlightenment science and philosophy, they would have been less frightened by later scientific theories, like Darwinian evolutionary theory. More theologically informed readings of Scripture might also have discouraged the fundamentalists' use of biblical prophecy as what Noll calls "a complete and detailed preview of the end of the world"--often for dubious political purposes. Most evangelicals, for instance, have sensible reasons for their support of Israel, including respect for its democratic institutions. But fundamentalist zealots who base their uncritical support on end-times scenarios are so mechanistic in their use of Scripture that they view even President Bush's effort to negotiate a peace settlement as a betrayal of prophecy.

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    Mary Magdalene Wasn't a Harlot (posted 12-5-03)

    Barbara Kantrowitz and Anne Underwood, writing in Newsweek (Dec. 8, 2003):

    The year’s surprise “it” girl is the star of a mega best seller, a hot topic on campuses and rumored to be the “special friend” of a famous and powerful man. Yet she’s still very much a woman of mystery. For close to 2,000 years, Christians have known her as Mary Magdalene, but she was probably named Miriam, and came from the fishing village of Magdala. Most people today grew up believing she was a harlot saved by Jesus. But the Bible never says that. Scholars working with ancient texts now believe she was one of Christ’s most devoted followers, perhaps even his trusted confidante and financial backer.

    THIS REVISIONIST VIEW helped inspire the plot of “The Da Vinci Code,” which has been on The New York Times best-seller list for 36 weeks, with 4.3 million copies in print. Author Dan Brown draws on some credible discoveries about the first followers of Jesus as well as some rather fantastical theories about Mary Magdalene to suggest that she was far more than the first to witness the risen Jesus (her most important role, according to the New Testament).

    The blockbuster novel has enraged many theologians who consider it anti-Catholic, but it has also added new force to an already dynamic debate among women who see Magdalene’s story as a parable for their own struggles to find a place in the modern church. None of this would be possible without a new generation of women Biblical scholars who have brought a very modern passion to the ancient tradition of scriptural reinterpretation—to correct what these scholars regard as a male misreading of key texts.

    It has not been easy work. Despite the undeniably central role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Biblical focus has largely been on what God has accomplished through the agency of men—from Adam to the Apostles. Of some 3,000 characters named in the Bible, fewer than 10 percent are women. Female scholars are trying to redress the imbalance by unearthing narratives that have been overlooked for centuries and reinterpreting more-familiar stories, including Mary Magdalene’s and even the story of Eve (where, one could argue, the problems really began). And they are rigorously studying the Biblical period to glean what they can about the role of women in ancient times.

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    Was Lincoln Gay? (posted 12-5-03)

    David Donald, in the course of an interview with Margaret Warner on PBS about his new book, We Are Lincoln Men: Abraham Lincoln and His Friends (Nov. 27, 2003):

    An extraordinary number of people kept asking on the last book tour,"Was Lincoln gay?" And so I felt it necessary to go into this in some detail. I think, with the gay liberation movement has had need for heroes and heroines, and it would be rather nice to have Abraham Lincoln as your poster boy, wouldn't it? There have been some who tried to do that.

    There's one in particular, a man who's campaigned along this, and I'm amused and rather proud, I must say, that he has denounced me because I don't accept his views. They say, you know, David Donald can't be believed because he is"a dried-up old Harvard heterosexual prune." (Laughs)

    That's the most wonderful compliment anybody could pay to me. But I have tried to go over it very carefully, not merely what the evidence is, but with psychoanalysts and psychologists, and I think we're just about all agreed that Lincoln and Speed did not have a homosexual relationship.

    They were obviously fond of each other, they shared a great many things, and they loved each other in the way that Damian and Pytheas and David and Jonathan did. This was, I think, what Aristotle talked about, the perfect friendship.

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    Who Is Buried in Columbus's Tomb? (posted 12-4-03)

    Carol J. Williams, writing in theLA Times(Dec. 3, 2003):

    Who is buried in Columbus' tomb?

    Italian-born, Spanish-bankrolled, Orient-obsessed and Caribbean-besotted, the navigator celebrated and castigated for bringing European culture to the New World may have traveled as much in death as he did in his wayward search for a westward passage to Asia. He was buried and disinterred so many times that his whereabouts is one of history's most enduring mysteries.

    Now, science is trying to put to rest those bones of contention. DNA tests are underway on remains that Spaniards insist are those of Christopher Columbus, long enshrined in Seville's cathedral.

    But Dominicans have their own entry in the Columbus sweepstakes. Depending on what happens in Spain, Dominicans could test the contents of a chest-like tomb found 126 years ago hidden in Santo Domingo, in the Americas' first cathedral, and now displayed in a towering sepulcher that evokes comparison with the pyramids of Egyptian pharaohs.

    While the Spanish remains were grudgingly given up for testing in June, officials controlling the Columbus legacy in Santo Domingo have been, well, cryptic with their colleagues across the Atlantic Ocean. A commission was established more than a year ago to consider how to deal with the foreign requests for exhumation and DNA extraction, but it has yet to decide whether to allow either. Previous attempts by Spanish scientists have been rebuffed.

    "There is resistance to this idea of opening the tomb again. A lot of people don't like remains being disturbed, especially church leaders," said Carlos Batista, a Tourism Ministry official who oversees international collaboration to preserve memorials to Columbus. "It took two years just to get the tomb moved from the cathedral to the lighthouse."...

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    Vinland Map: Real or Fake? (posted 12-4-03)

    Kirsten A. Seaver, author of the forthcoming Maps, Myths and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map (Stanford University Press, 2004), writing in the Globe and Mail (Nov. 29, 2003):

    In October, 1965, Yale University librarians announced that they had acquired a manuscript world map dating from about 1440 showing the territory the Norse had dubbed "Vinland" (Wine Land) when they first sighted it from their ships a thousand years ago. The ruins at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland had already been declared a genuine Norse site, and accepted as proof that the Norse had ventured to North America. Now here was a map reconfirming it.

    But was the map genuine? Debate has raged for the past four decades; it was reignited this week with an announcement by retired Smithsonian Institution chemist Jacqueline Olin, who declared that the ink on the Vinland Map had very likely been applied years before the first voyages of Christopher Columbus.

    I disagree.

    One major problem is the lack of provenance for this map. Where did it come from? It first appeared on the European antiquarian book market in 1957, bound with a short text, The Tartar Relation. Yale University Press published a book simultaneously with the library's announcement, The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, but did not reveal the former owner of the two items, and no explanation has been offered since.

    Another perennial bone of contention has been the composition of the map's badly crumbling ink. In 1967, two British Museum scientists, A.D. Baynes-Cope and A.E. Werner, determined that the ink was carbon-based, and utterly unlike the medieval iron-gall ink used elsewhere in the volume in which the map had been found. Subsequent analyses -- reported independently by Walter and Lucy McCrone, and, just last year, by K. L. Brown and R.J.H. Clark -- have confirmed these characteristics. More troublingly, they have also demonstrated the presence of an industrially modified substance, anatase, of a modern date.

    Yet in the December, 2003, issue of Analytical Chemistry, Jacqueline Olin claims the ink on the Vinland Map is a medieval product. She relies on arguments she has used before, the chief one being that the anatase found in the map's ink results from the medieval process for making an iron sulfate in the form of green vitriol. She ignores the fact that industrially modified anatase crystals, developed for the commercial paint industry in the 1920s, are distinctly different from naturally occurring ones.

    When Ms. Olin claims that the lines on the map got their black colour from iron-gall ink containing naturally occurring anatase, she also overlooks the fact that anatase has been reliably found on the map only in the yellow ink line that remains wherever the black pigment has flaked and fallen off. The anatase in the ink's map is nowhere associated with the black line, but only with the leftover yellow one. The map's black pigment owes its colour to carbon, not iron-gall.

    It is unfortunate that Ms. Olin failed to check her facts in other areas as well.

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    Scientists Trace Evolution of Indo-European Languages to Hittites (posted 12-4-03)

    Tim Radford, writing in the Guardian (Nov. 29, 2003):

    At last the answer in black and white, or beltz and zuri if you happen to be Basque, or noir and blanc, if you are French. You owe the words to Hittite-speaking farmers from Anatolia, who invented agriculture and spread their words as they sowed their seed, 9,500 years ago.

    Languages, like people, are related. Russell Gray of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, reports in Nature today that he and a colleague decided to treat language as if it was DNA and compared selected words from 87 languages to build an evolutionary tree of the Indo-European languages. This could help solve an old argument: who picked up the original language and began to spread gradually evolving versions of it across Europe and Asia?

    For decades the focus has been on a tribe of nomad herders called the Kurgans from central Asia, who domesticated the horse 6,000 years ago and invaded Europe.

    Others have argued that the Indo-European family of languages must have spread with barley and lentils - the first agriculturalists in the Fertile Crescent would have exported not just their techniques, but also the words that went with them.

    Charles Darwin noted in 1871 that language seemed to have evolved in much the same way as animals and plants had. Dr Gray used the evolutionary approach three years ago to track the spread of languages from Asia eastwards across the Pacific.

    This time he chose 2,449 words from 87 languages, including English, Lithuanian, Gujarati, Romany, Walloon, Breton, Hindi and Pennsylvania Dutch and began a series of comparisons to build up a pattern of descent.

    The choice of words was critical, he says. "For example, English is a veritable fruit salad of a language, with chunks of vocabulary from the Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, Normans, and slices of Latin, French, Greek, and Italian tossed with some more recent garnishes from Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hindi. There is even the odd Polynesian borrowing, like tattoo," he said. "Ninety nine per cent of words in the Oxford English Dictionary are in fact borrowings from other languages."

    But English has a basic vocabulary of 200 words - star, dog, earth, blood, woman, year and so on - which can be linked to an original shared language.

    The answer is that words were on the move long before horses. Dr Gray's language tree ended with its roots in Anatolia in modern Turkey around 7,500BC, when villagers speaking a form of Hittite kindled pahhur, or fire, to boil watar, or water, before setting out on pad, or foot, to spread the good word.

    Correction. Our report [above] seemed to imply that the Basque language was related to the Indo-European languages. In fact, the research to which the report referred makes no mention of Basque. Basque is a language isolate, "of no known relationship with any other language" (Collins dictionary).

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    How the Quashing of an Honest C.I.A. Investigator Helped Launch 40 years of JFK Conspiracy Theories (posted 12-4-03)

    Jefferson Morley, writing in the Washington Monthly (Dec. 2003):

    It was 1:30 in the morning of Nov. 23, 1963, and John F. Kennedy had been dead for 12 hours. His corpse was being dressed at Bethesda Naval Hospital, touched and retouched to conceal the ugly bullet wounds. In Dallas, the F.B.I. had Lee Harvey Oswald in custody.
    The lights were still on at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters in Langley, Va. John Whitten, the agency's 43-year-old chief of covert operations for Mexico and Central America, hung up the phone with his Mexico City station chief. He had just learned something stunning: A C.I.A. surveillance team in Mexico City had photographed Oswald at the Cuban consulate in early October, an indication that the agency might be able to quickly uncover the suspect's background.

    At 1:36 am, Whitten sent a cable to Mexico City: "Send staffer with all photos of Oswald to HQ on the next available flight. Call Mr. Whitten at 652-6827." Within 24 hours Whitten was leading the C.I.A. investigation into the assassination. After two weeks of reviewing classified cables, he had learned that Oswald's pro-Castro political activities needed closer examination, especially his attempt to shoot a right-wing JFK critic, a diary of his efforts to confront anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans, and his public support for the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. For this investigatory zeal, Whitten was taken off the case.

    C.I.A. Deputy Director of Plans Richard Helms blocked Whitten's efforts, effectively ending any hope of a comprehensive agency investigation of the accused assassin, a 24-year-old ex-Marine, who had sojourned in the Soviet Union and spent time as a leftist activist in New Orleans. In particular, Oswald's Cuba-related political life, which Whitten wished to pursue, went unexplored by the C.I.A. The blue-ribbon Warren commission appointed by President Johnson concluded in September 1964 that Oswald alone and unaided had killed Kennedy. But over the years, as information which the commission's report had not accounted for leaked out, many would come to see the commission as a cover-up, in part because it failed to assign any motive to Oswald, in part because the government's pre-assassination surveillance of Oswald had been more intense than the government ever cared to disclose, and finally because its reconstruction of the crime sequence was flawed.

    Both the story of Oswald and the C.I.A., and the way in which it leaked out in bits and pieces fueled a generation of conspiracy-minded authors, journalists, and filmmakers who mined Richard Helms's dubious legacy--a rich vein of ominous ambiguity and unanswered questions about one of the most jarring events of modern American history. The untimely end to Whitten's investigation, which prevented a public airing of what the government actually knew, also contributed to a generation of public cynicism about Washington--to a national mythology of skullduggery, and the suspicion that secret agencies in Washington were up to no good and the truth never gets out. In the decades since Kennedy's death, the "rogue C.I.A. assassin" has become a stock Hollywood character, his villainy engrained in spy movies and the popular culture.

    Whitten's story, told here for the first time, has an uncomfortable new resonance today, as the Bush administration tries to thwart investigations into, among other things, what our intelligence agencies knew about Saddam's WMD programs before we went to war with Iraq.

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    Max Boot: Japan's War Museum Hides the Truth (posted 12-4-03)

    Max Boot, writing in the Weekly Standard (Dec. 1, 2003):

    NINE YEARS AGO, the Smithsonian Institution caused a furor by planning an Enola Gay exhibition that embraced revisionist views of the atomic bombing of Japan, which many scholars now depict as an act of racism and barbarism. After protests from veterans' groups, the museum amended its displays to make them more neutral. That decision was a good one, but even if the atomic bombing was justified (as I believe it was), it nevertheless does us credit that many Americans remain troubled by our military's incineration of hundreds of thousands of enemy civilians.

    What does it say about the Japanese character, then, that their most prominent war museum expresses a total lack of repentance for the actions taken by their armed forces in what they call the "Greater East Asia War"?

    On a recent visit to Tokyo, I stopped by the Yasukuni-jinja shrine located not far from the imperial palace. Its bland name, which translates as "for the repose of the country," conceals an incendiary content. Enshrined here are Japanese war heroes, including a number who were branded as Class A war criminals by the Allied occupation.

    Every year Japanese cabinet ministers and members of the royal family make a pilgrimage here, which always causes a certain amount of international consternation. The unvarying defense of these visits--akin to a German politician visiting an SS cemetery--is that the dignitaries come in their individual capacity only, and, in any case, they come to celebrate valorous deeds, not to endorse the cause in which they were committed.

    The adjoining Yushukan Military Museum shows how unconvincing these excuses are. It is, in essence, a two-story apologia for everything that Japan did between 1895 and 1945. During those years, Japan started at least four major wars and committed numerous atrocities as it attempted to annex Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other parts of Asia. Tens of millions of people died as a result. Nothing the Japanese did compares to the systematic genocide carried out by the Nazis, but their crimes were bad enough, not the least being those carried out against helpless American, British, and Australian POWs, who were lucky if they survived captivity as emaciated shadows of their former selves.

    There is no hint of any of this at Yushukan. The captions alongside tattered uniforms and rusting helmets are a study in amnesia. The museum all but blames the Chinese for the massacre carried out by Japanese troops in Nanking in 1938, though the actual atrocities (which killed more than 200,000 people) are never referred to. The caption, conveniently offered in both Japanese and English, merely mentions that the Chinese defenders were "soundly defeated, suffering heavy casualties." The result? "Inside the city, residents were once again able to live their lives in peace." The ones who were still alive, that is.

    Americans may think that Japan started World War II in the Pacific (remember Pearl Harbor?), but the museum has a different view: It was all FDR's fault. According to another caption, the crafty American president schemed to enter the war to end his country's economic malaise, "but was hampered by American public opinion, which was strongly antiwar. The only option open to Roosevelt, who had been moving forward with his 'Plan Victory,' was to use embargoes to force resource-poor Japan into war. The U.S. economy made a complete recovery once the Americans entered the war."

    Unsettling as all this is, the creepiest exhibits are those highlighting Japan's suicidal resistance in the last days of the war. The museum proudly displays a human aerial bomb ("Oka") and a human torpedo ("Kaiten"), replicas of those employed in attacks on American ships. There is even a giant painting depicting the "Divine Thunderbolt Corps"--aka the kamikazes--"in final attack mode at Okinawa," framed against beautifully lighted clouds. There is no hint that this fanatical failure to accept defeat--which amounted to a national religion in Japan--consigned hundreds of thousands of civilians to an early grave, and for no good purpose.

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    Why Are There So Many Books About the Nazis? (posted 12-4-03)

    Neal Ascherson, writing in the Guardian (Nov. 30, 2003):

    [In the preface to his new book, The Coming of the Third Reich] Richard Evans fishes up a phenomenal statistic. The standard bibliography of works on the Nazi period stood at more than 37,000 entries in the year 2000, having increased from 'a mere 25,000' in 1995. This is an average rate of 2,400 new items a year. I know that it is untrue to claim that the only bit of history now taught to British school pupils is the Third Reich. But it probably is true that it is the only bit of history they are almost all taught about.

    What is going on? Here we are in 2003, almost 60 years since Hitler sent for the pistol and the cyanide, and the flow of English-language books about the Nazis - not just specialist studies, but great big respectable mainline 'bookburgers' of narrative history - is still accelerating. I mean no disrespect to Professor Evans. He has written an admirable book, as I want to show. But I find more and more that it is the German reflections on the Third Reich which matter.

    This summer, for instance, Joachim Fest wrote an obituary essay in Der Spiegel on the mighty Observer journalist Sebastian Haffner, mostly about how Haffner advised and criticised Fest as he worked on his own biography of Hitler. Here was the living stream of continuity with the German past, the flashing, constantly changing perceptions of moral, political and cultural connections which affect how one judges the Germans and Germany of today.

    But the gap between that sort of intimate self-discovery and the books written by American and British scholars is widening. Have we, the foreigners, reached a point at which none of our modern historians makes the A-list unless he or she has done a Third Reich book? Most of this stuff in English is high-quality history, but why is so much of it being produced?

    Richard Evans recognises that this question deserves an answer. Many people will remember him as the star defence witness during David Irving's disastrous 'Holocaust denial' libel action two years ago. At the Irving trial, he was amazed to discover that 'no general history of Nazi Germany' existed which he could recommend. This book is the outcome, and it is only the first of three. This volume runs up to Hitler's accession to power in 1933; the second will cover the prewar period of Nazi rule, while the last volume will deal with the apocalypse of Hitler's Germany between 1939 and 1945.

    But there was another reason. As Evans explains in his preface, he considers many previous Third Reich histories to be contaminated by the rage or horror of their authors. This offends Evans's professional conscience: 'It seems to me inappropriate for a work of history to indulge in the luxury of moral judgment. For one thing, it is unhistorical; for another, it is arrogant and presumptuous.' The reader, in other words, is apparently in for a unique experience: a value-free history of the Nazis. That would be drab indeed.

    Luckily, it works out differently. The book is, in fact, full of moralising outbursts, but coming from contemporary witnesses rather than from Evans himself. And the events themselves grow only more horrifying as their details are magnified by the author's research.

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    Where Research Stands Today on the Salvaged Monitor (of Monitor and Merrimack Fame) (posted 12-2-03)

    Michael E. Ruane, writing in the Washington Post (Dec. 1, 2003):

    Inside the turret of the USS Monitor, it is dank and dripping and slimy. Water seeps from overhead and sloshes around the rusted metal underfoot. Gray mud clogs the mouths of the two massive guns. And a century's worth of encrustation clings to every angle.

    It feels like an awful place to die: Everything is upside down, which is the way the ship went to the bottom more than a century ago, and the way the 200-ton turret was hauled from off Cape Hatteras last year and brought here for conservation.

    Amid the tangle of girders, antique pulleys, toppled gun carriages and slabs of iron as thick as books, it's hard to tell what's what, except for the dent in the side where the turret's iron hide is buckled like a soda can.

    On March 9, 1862, not far from here in Hampton Roads, as the Monitor's guns heaved 180-pound cannon shot at the Confederate warship known in the North as the Merrimack, an incoming round struck the turret, stove in the iron and bounced off. The sound inside -- iron on iron -- can only be imagined.

    The Monitor and the Merrimack. The words have a cheery ring, like something from a furniture catalogue. History books bear quaint etchings of the Civil War fight, the first ever between ironclad warships. Today the Monitor-Merrimack Memorial Bridge-Tunnel carries an interstate highway across Hampton Roads, one of the world's great anchorages.

    The historic battle there was a draw....

    Curtiss Peterson, a mustachioed senior conservator at the Mariners' Museum here, stands in a hard hat, T-shirt, jeans and rubber boots on the lip of the Monitor's upturned turret as it sits in a storage tank behind the museum.

    "It's an endless series of puzzles," he says. Below him, three other curators wearing hard hats and goggles, rubber boots and rubber gloves, stand with hoses, pickaxes and cameras. While historians know the basics about the turret's construction, there are many details that remain a mystery, still caked in rust, decaying boiler coal and petrified sea crud....

    The fact that the Monitor's turret -- guns included -- is even present seems incredible.

    After sinking in December 1862, the ship lay undiscovered in 260 feet of water for the next 111 years. Several eras in naval history passed, along with two cataclysmic wars. During World War II, the wreck was mistaken for a German submarine and depth-charged.

    In 1973 the wreck was found by a research ship. Almost 30 years later, on Aug. 5, 2002, in a stupendous feat of nautical engineering and archaeology, the turret was extracted from the wreckage by the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was dragged up, brimming with mud, guns and the bones of two Yankee sailors, and brought here....

    The Monitor was built in a hurry, in response to word that the Confederacy was far advanced on the construction of the Virginia, which had the potential to destroy the Union's wooden fleet. The Monitor was armed with only two guns, but the revolving turret was designed to maximize the efficiency of its firepower.

    The guns fired through two side-by-side gun ports that were protected by coffin-shaped sliding iron doors, or port stoppers. Peterson has been most fascinated by learning how things worked in the turret. The conservators discovered to their surprise that each stopper could only swing along the inside of the wall, toward the other port.

    "That meant you could not open both gun ports at the same time," he says, "so you could not fire both guns at the same time. It was known that they did not run out more than one at the same time, but now we know that they could not."

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    Still More Vietnam Atrocities that Went Unreported (posted 12-2-03)

    Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Nov. 30, 2003):

    Dennis Stout was a soldier caught between the ethics of his job and surviving in an unforgiving Army.

    As a military journalist, he watched platoon soldiers force 35 women and children into a pasture in the heart of Vietnam's Central Highlands.

    As the people huddled -- some crying-the soldiers moved the villagers into small groups and led them to the edge of the field.

    Then came the gun shots, with bodies falling.

    "They just killed them -- mothers, with little kids and old people," he recalled.

    Though he wrote for an Army newspaper, he said he was banned from reporting about the killings that July day in 1967.

    It would be 36 years before the American public would learn of the elite unit known as Tiger Force, and its unprovoked attacks on Vietnamese villagers.

    The platoon's war crimes were revealed in a recent series, "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths," by The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, which described the slaughter of unarmed civilians by the soldiers between May and November 1967.

    The Army investigated the case for 4 1/2 years, substantiating 20 war crimes involving 18 soldiers. But no one was charged.

    As a public information officer who moved among fighting units, Stout said he watched the platoon soldiers routinely kill men, women, and children, but was unable to stop the brutality.

    "I knew what they were doing was wrong -- this unit was out of control," said the former sergeant, who wrote for the Screaming Eagle, the newspaper of the 1st Battalion/327th Infantry." There was no reason for what they did. No reason at all."

    It wasn't just Tiger Force.

    During his five months as a press officer, he said, soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division -- the larger unit that included Tiger Force -were committing atrocities.

    He watched 22 paratroopers rape and execute a woman, he said, and a medic pump swamp water into the heart of a prisoner before he was fatally shot by soldiers.

    Stout said he told a master sergeant, but was ordered to forget the killings. He confided to a chaplain, but was warned to keep quiet.

    After leaving the Army in 1969, he complained to Army officials who promised to investigate.

    But for three decades, the Pentagon refused to say what happened to his case -- and the detailed records he provided to agents.

    "I just thought it disappeared," he said.

    In fact, the Army sent two letters to Stout in 1997, saying officials were "unable to locate" records of his complaints.

    But documents at the National Archives tell a different story.

    Records show that the Army conducted an investigation for two years of his complaints beginning on Dec. 16, 1969.

    Known as the "Stout Allegation," the inquiry focused on eight specific atrocities passed on to agents by Stout, including the Tiger Force executions of villagers in the field.

    It can't be determined if anyone was charged because hundreds of documents including sworn witness statements are missing from the case, according to senior archivists.

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    A Movie About the Germans Who Came Ashore In Maine for Thanksgiving in 1944 (posted 12-2-03)

    Amanda Parry, writing in the Concord Online Monitor (Nov. 30, 2003):

    German soldiers may or may not have come ashore in Maine for a Thanksgiving dinner in 1944. But the rumor was compelling enough that a 21-year-old decided to make the story into a movie for a college class.

    On Thanksgiving in 1944, a young woman named Mary Luce shared a meal with three German sailors whose U-boat had been stranded off the Maine coast.

    The sailors had crept into town looking for food. Luce, alone on the holiday, invited them to her home for dinner. The four could barely communicate, but when the sailors

    left, one slipped money into her coat pocket.

    Well, maybe it didn't happen that way, but according to World War II lore, it could have.

    A local film student is bringing to life a rumor of German sailors on American shores in a short film titled Off Islanders.

    Twenty-one-year-old Andy Ritchie, a senior at New York University, said he wanted to try something different for his thesis film.

    "A lot of student films have stories that could take place anywhere," said Ritchie, home in Concord on Thanksgiving break. "But I knew that period (films), especially World War II, get people's attention."

    Last week, Ritchie brought a cast and crew to New Hampshire. They substituted Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, a Dunbarton home and the Canterbury Country Store for the spots in an unnamed town in Maine.

    It took three 12-hour days of shooting for what will be whittled down to a 20-minute movie. The film will be part of Ritchie's degree and serve as showcase material, a moving calling card he can use when starting his career in filmmaking.

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    The Origins of the Concept of Hell (posted 12-1-03)

    Carrie A. Moore, writig in the Deseret Morning News (Nov 29. 2003):

    Given its place in religious literature, it's difficult to consider purgatory as a place of hope.

    Yet that's exactly the way many Christians — particularly Catholics — have interpreted it to be over the centuries, believing "it has only one door, and that's the door to heaven, "and that people whose "venial sins" of self-interest are purified through purgatory's "cleansing" can then move on to eternal bliss.

    Protestant reformers rejected notions of a "purgation" or cleansing state, determining that at death souls are either assigned to heaven or hell by God's divine judgment.

    Yet the roots of modern understanding about the concept of purgatory aren't all that clear, according to Isabel Moreira of the history department at the University of Utah. She's researching the history of a place most of us would prefer to avoid, and told participants during a recent lecture at the U. about her findings.

    It's a concept many link to the Irish forms of penance, she said, noting the "legalistic view of sin" that resulted in handbooks containing tallies of individual sins and the required penance. "The Irish vision of the afterlife testified to a system where every debt was paid and every wrong atoned."

    The first complete description of purgatory known to exist is an account of a monk's vision of the afterlife, which was written in 716 A.D. after he died and was revived. While in the afterlife, "he was brought to trial" and shown "upper and lower hell and upper and lower heaven," Moreira said. Part of the account included a "fiery river, bubbling and flowing" with a bridge over the river for those who died. All were anxious to cross to the other side, she said, but some made it and others plunged into the stream, partially submerged.

    Each of those who fell in came out on the bank of the river "more brilliant and beautiful" than they had been before, no doubt purged of their sins. "They needed kindly chastisement from a merciful God."

    What the text didn't reveal was whether the torture was perceived differently from the punishment of hell, she said, and was it thought to be an "instructive" experience or simply "payback for sins that didn't merit hell?"

    Moreira said she's still trying to determine whether the idea of "corporeal violence is part of the divine judicial system."

    How such notions came about may stem from the fact that the Romans instituted violence as part of their way of ruling not only family members but any underling. Those exempt from punishment were only spared according to power and rank. Minors were believed to "acquire education through pain and punishment," through the process becoming "God's educated creation."

    The practice endured through the centuries and clergy were not necessarily spared, because in life "the soul was considered capable of change with purification through punishment."

    "As you go further and further into late antiquity, the use of torture and the death penalty increases," Moreira said, but the historical connections between such violence and the notions of purgatory and penance in the afterlife remain unclear. She believes the notion of purgatory is "more Roman than Celtic, and more Augustinian than Irish."

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    The New Enola Gay Controversy Is Abouty Politics, Not History (posted 11-26-03)

    Robert S. Dudney, writing about the new Enola Gay controversy; in the Air Force Magazine (Dec. 2003):

    First, this dispute is not about history. It's about today's defense posture. The protesters' petition states, ``We fear that such a celebratory exhibit ... helps build support for the Bush administration's dangerous New nuclear policies.''

    It reflects the desire of some for drastic cuts in, or even the total abolition of, nuclear arms. Second, it is about a negative vision of America. Kuznick has worried publicly that the exhibit ``only helps to legitimize the past use of nuclear weapons'' against Japan, as if its legitimacy were seriously in question.

    To critics, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unjustified, Japan would have surrendered anyway, and Washington acted only to establish postwar dominance, impress the Soviet Union, or ... something. In short, we have blood on our hands.

    The truth was stated by Correll in his May 995 editorial. ``Imperial Japan,'' he wrote, ``started the war, waged it savagely, and refused to surrender until the bombs fell.''

    To declare this fundamental truth is to court the wrath of the protesters, as veterans' groups and this magazine can testify. Yet it must be done - repeatedly, apparently.

    The situation brings to mind the words of ``Give 'Em Hell Harry'' Truman himself, when asked why he was harsh with his critics. ``I never give 'em hell,'' said Truman. ``I just tell the truth, and they think it's hell.''

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    Is The Da Vinci Code Good History? (posted 11-25-03)

    Chris Shull, writing in the Wichita Eagle about the claims about art advanced in The Da Vinci Code (Nov. 23, 2003):

    We asked two art historians, Annette LeZotte, assistant professor of Renaissance and Baroque art at Wichita State University, and Mira Merriman, retired emeritus professor of art history at WSU and a respected scholar of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, to evaluate a few of the claims made by Brown's fictional art experts.

    In Da Vinci's mural "The Last Supper," the person with the red hair to the right of Jesus is Mary Magdalene.

    "That is just such nonsense," Merriman said. "Mary Magdalene wasn't part of the 12 apostles. It's John."

    Merriman said that John is often portrayed as a youth in Renaissance paintings. Da Vinci, she said, continued that trend, giving him long red hair and a shy, feminine face that could be mistaken for a girl's.

    Moreover, LeZotte said, a recent restoration and analysis of "The Last Supper" has positively identified the figure third from Christ's right as Judas.

    "Da Vinci used only dark pigments for that figure," LeZotte said, "so that definitely is Judas based on the pigment analysis. So if that is Judas, and if you make that figure (next to Jesus) Mary Magdalene, then we are missing an apostle. You've got a narrative problem."

    The "Mona Lisa" is a self-portrait of Da Vinci.

    "Rubbish," LeZotte said. "That is a long-held myth about the 'Mona Lisa' that stems from Freud's book about Leonardo. Sigmund Freud wrote a psychoanalytical analysis of Leonardo Da Vinci and his art (in 1910), and it is really from that kind of Freudian interpretation that you get this idea that it is a portrait of Leonardo in drag.

    "And, you know, there's just no evidence for that."

    Merriman said the question should be approached using the theory of Occam's Razor, which states that the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be used.

    "You don't need complexity when you have a simple explanation," she said of the "Mona Lisa."

    "They know exactly who it is. She was a banker's wife. We know exactly when he (the banker) paid for it, and so on."

    Merriman and LeZotte point out that the mystery -- and the genius -- of the "Mona Lisa" lies not in any hidden symbolism but in technical features that have been analyzed for centuries.

    Before Da Vinci, Merriman said, portraits showed the body sitting in the same direction as the head and neck in a rigid pose. While the Mona Lisa's face looks directly at the viewer, her body is turned one quarter to her right.

    "That is essentially the most important thing about that portrait," Merriman said. "He wanted things to be lifelike. But in order to be lifelike you had to make them unreal.

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    The Man Who Solved the Kennedy Assassination (No, Not Earl Warren) (posted 11-25-03)

    David Talbot, writing in Salon (Nov. 22, 2003):

    [I]f moonstruck conspiracy-weavers like Stone and McClellan give JFK conspiracy research a bad name, that doesn't mean the Warren Commission was right. As even its most resolute defenders -- such as Gerald Posner, author of the 1993 bestseller "Case Closed" -- concede, the distinguished panel headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was denied key pieces of the puzzle by the FBI and the CIA. And the most important pieces of information related to the CIA/Mafia plot against Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and the illegal FBI surveillance of Mafia leaders, which revealed a widespread and murderous hostility toward President Kennedy and his crime-busting brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The Warren panel did have a neon-bright sign pointing to the Mafia right before its eyes -- Jack Ruby, the Mob-connected nightclub owner who murdered Oswald on national television -- but the commission inexplicably decided not to pursue this angle. Commission investigators credulously accepted the word of a Chicago hood named Lenny Patrick that Ruby had no underworld ties, when in fact it was Patrick himself who had run Ruby out of town for stepping on his gambling turf.

    Bobby Kennedy was not so credulous. Kennedy, who according to his biographer Evan Thomas "regarded the Warren Commission as a public relations exercise to reassure the public," immediately turned his suspicions on the Mafia, CIA, and anti-Castro Cubans after his brother's murder. He would accept the solemn word of fellow Irish Catholic John McCone, the CIA director, that the agency had nothing to do with the crime. But he would go to his grave in 1968 suspecting that JFK was the victim of a plot, and his thoughts lingered darkly on the lords of the underworld. In the years after JFK's assassination, as Bobby was elected to the Senate from New York in 1964 and then ran for president in 1968, he would launch more than one of his old Mafia-hunting Justice Department associates on a search for the truth, including Walter Sheridan and Ed Guthman, and even his press secretary Frank Mankiewicz. ...

    Bobby Kennedy never got into a position to reopen the file on his brother's assassination -- as he told a crowd of California college students he would in 1968 if elected president. But one of the young federal prosecutors who had worked for him at the Justice Department -- inspired by the battle cry in Shakespeare's "Henry the Fifth," they and Bobby referred to themselves as "we band of brothers" -- would. In 1977, G. Robert Blakey, who had worked on Bobby's "Get Hoffa" team, was named chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the only government panel besides the Warren Commission to investigate JFK's murder. Blakey, an organized crime expert who wrote the 1970 RICO act, would go into the two-year, $6 million probe believing the committee would reach the same conclusions as the Warren Commission. He would emerge as the Warren Report's most authoritative critic and a firm believer that Kennedy had died as the result of a conspiracy, masterminded by Marcello and his Mafia ally, Santo Trafficante, the Florida godfather who had been driven out of the lucrative Havana casino business by Castro and who had been recruited in the CIA plot to kill the Cuban leader.

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    James K. Galbraith: JFK Wanted Out of Vietnam (posted 11-25-03)

    James K. Galbraith, writing in Salon (Nov. 22, 2003):

    I believe the evidence now available shows that Kennedy had decided, in early October of 1963, to begin withdrawing 17,000 U.S. military advisers then in Vietnam. One thousand were to leave by the end of 1963; the withdrawal was scheduled to be completed by the end of 1965. After that, only a military assistance contingent would have remained. The withdrawal planning was carried out under cover of an official optimism about the war, with a view toward increasing the effort and training the South Vietnamese to win by themselves. But Kennedy and McNamara did not share this optimism. They were therefore prepared to press the withdrawal even when the assessments turned bad, as they started to do in the early fall of 1963. This was a decision to withdraw without victory if necessary, indeed without negotiations or conditions. In a recent essay in Boston Review, I assemble this evidence in detail.

    At one level, it isn't news. Certain facts -- that Kennedy wanted out of Vietnam, that he encouraged Sens. Mike Mansfield and Wayne Morse to keep criticizing his policy, that he told Kenneth O'Donnell that he would get out after the 1964 election, that he resisted all suggestions that main combat forces be sent to Vietnam -- have been known for decades. In my family, we know that JFK sent John Kenneth Galbraith (then serving as ambassador to India) to Saigon in September 1961 because, as my father has often put it, "Kennedy knew I did not have an open mind." JKG turned in a pessimistic report, reiterated in letters and discussions with the president thereafter.

    Kennedy's decision document, National Security Action Memorandum 263, has been in the public domain for a long time. As early as 1972, Peter Dale Scott called attention to it, and to its (then still-classified) successor, NSAM 273, which Lyndon Johnson approved on Nov. 26, 1963. Arthur Schlesinger mentions the withdrawal in "Robert Kennedy and His Times," published in 1978. In 1992 Maj. John M. Newman, an Army intelligence officer and professional historian specializing in South Asia, published a book giving still greater evidence and detail. This provoked wide-ranging controversy, with objections flowing in from Walt Rostow, Noam Chomsky, and many others in between.

    Newman received early support from a figure who had, up to that moment, remained silent on Vietnam for nearly 30 years. In 1993, Robert S. McNamara, secretary of defense to both Kennedy and Johnson, gave Newman the relevant part of an oral history he had recorded in 1986. In that document -- of which McNamara had made no public use -- McNamara states that Kennedy had made a decision to withdraw in spite of growing pessimism over the conduct of the war. Neither then nor later has McNamara ever tried to use this history to change the perception of his own responsibility for how the war was eventually conducted.

    McNamara's book, "In Retrospect," appeared in 1995. I bought a copy the day it hit Austin, Texas, as I knew it would test McNamara's capacity for candor on this point. The statement that Kennedy made a "decision" to begin a withdrawal appears flatly in the table of contents. And there are several matter-of-fact pages that report on the decision meeting of Oct. 2, 1963, at which McNamara recommended, and Kennedy agreed to, the withdrawal plan. But how well could McNamara document his case?

    An opportunity to find out came soon. On April 1, 1995, McNamara came to Austin to speak at the LBJ Library, to an enormous crowd. I drafted a question (of which, sadly, no copy survives) referring very specifically to the passages on Kennedy's withdrawal decision and asking for details. I printed it on a full page in large type and sent it up to the panel of screeners who were assigned to sort through scribbled questions from the audience -- a system designed, no doubt, to protect McNamara from verbal abuse.

    My question ended up in front of Neal Spelce, then anchorman for the local CBS affiliate. I suppose Neal assumed that it had been planted by the chair. He started to read it, seemed to realize that his inference was incorrect, and swallowed the rest. But McNamara understood where my question had been leading. He confirmed the "decision" to withdraw, and gave an account of Kennedy's taping system and of how he had gotten access to these tapes.

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    The Times Lied, Millions Died--And They Get to Keep Their Pulitzer? (posted 11-25-03)

    Andrew Stuttaford, writing for National Review (Nov. 24, 2003):

    Despite all the protests, the Pulitzer Prize board has decided that it will not revoke the award won by Walter Duranty of the New York Times for his reporting in Stalin's Soviet Union. This was not a decision that it took lightly, mind you. The board's members want everyone to understand that they only took their decision after "more than six months of study and deliberation." Six months — that's around one month, perhaps less, for each million who died in the holodomor, the man-made famine that Duranty tried so hard to deny.

    Here's how Petro Solovyschuk from the Ukraine's Vinnytsia region remembers that time:

    I no longer lived in my house. I slept in patches of clover, in haystacks; I was swollen from hunger, my clothes were in shreds. Our house was torn down and they took everything to the collective farm. Only a pile of clay remained. And there is no trace of my family — not a grave, nor a cross. There are only these names: my father — Makar Solovyschuk, died May 1933; my mother — Oliana Solovyschuk, died March 1933; my brother — Ivan Solovyschuk, died April 1933; my sister — Motrya Solovyschuk, died April 1933.

    Here's what Walter Duranty said in June of that year: "The 'famine' is mostly bunk."

    To be fair, the board's argument is not without some logic.

    In recent months, much attention has been paid to Mr. Duranty's dispatches regarding the famine in the Soviet Union in 1932-1933, which have been criticized as gravely defective. However, a Pulitzer Prize for reporting is awarded not for the author's body of work or for the author's character but for the specific pieces entered in the competition. Therefore, the Board focused its attention on the 13 articles that actually won the prize, articles written and published during 1931...In its review of the 13 articles, the Board determined that Mr. Duranty's 1931 work, measured by today's standards for foreign reporting, fall seriously short....

    But what can the board mean by "today's" standards? The distortions, cursory research, and rehashed propaganda that characterized so much of Duranty's work even prior to the famine were a disgrace to journalism — then just as much as now.


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