Friday, March 04, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Zahi Hawass Resigns, USAF Mystery Space Plane and Amelia Earhart's Gold?

Egyptian Chief of Antiquities Zahi Hawass Resigns

nytimes - Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief antiquities official for almost a decade and a cabinet minister since January, said Thursday that he would not stay on in a newly formed government.

Egypt’s prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, resigned Thursday, and the army asked his replacement, Essam Sharaf, to form a caretaker cabinet.

“If the government will ask me again, I will not accept this job,” Mr. Hawass said in a telephone interview.

He also posted on his blog a list of some two dozen sites that have been looted or vandalized since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Among them were the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s storerooms at its excavation site in Dahshur, south of Cairo, which he said were attacked twice.

In recent weeks, Mr. Hawass has been the target of criticism ranging from charges of corruption to complaints that he is a publicity seeker. He was closely associated with Mr. Mubarak, who promoted him to a cabinet position during his last days in power.

In the interview, Mr. Hawass lashed out at his critics but said he was leaving his job because he could no longer protect Egypt’s antiquities. “Those people are insects, they are nothing, but what really bothered me is the situation that you read today on my Web site,” he said.

Egyptologists and cultural heritage experts said they did not know who would succeed Mr. Hawass, and one expert expressed concern that his departure would lead to more looting.

“I am terrified by the idea that this might be a sign to potential looters that now that last element of control is gone, and now we have a free hand to continue looting,” said Karl von Habsburg, the president of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield, a body that tries to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones.

The director of the Metropolitan Museum, Thomas P. Campbell, said the museum had not previously disclosed the attacks on the storerooms at Dahshur, which took place several weeks ago, because the “nature of the information we were getting was confused.” The objects excavated from the site belong to the Egyptian government, not the Met, he said, adding that museum officials were “gravely concerned about what’s going on” in Egypt.

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England's 17th century witch chronicles put online

reuters - A 350-year-old notebook which documents the trials of women convicted of witchcraft in England during the 17th century has been published online.

The notebook written by Nehemiah Wallington, an English Puritan, recounts the fate of women accused of having relationships with the devil at a time when England was embroiled in a bitter civil war.

The document reveals the details of a witchcraft trial held in Chelmsford in July 1645, when more than a hundred suspected witches were serving time in Essex and Suffolk according to his account.

"Divers (many) of them voluntarily and without any forcing or compulsion freely declare that they have made a covenant with the Devill," he wrote.

"Som Christians have been killed by their meanes," he added.

Of the 30 women on trial in Chelmsford, 14 were hanged.

Wallington also recounts the experiences of Rebecca West, a suspected witch who confessed to sleeping with the devil when she was tortured because "she found her selfe in such extremity of torture and amazement that she would not enure (endure) it againe for the world." Her confession spared her.

Carol Burrows, who managed the notebook's digitization, on Thursday told Reuters that Wallington's journal was important because of its connections to the civil war.

"It's a personal account and it tells us a lot about the time -- they were troubled times," she said.

"It's in English and it's very easy to read so it's going to be of interest to the general public as well as scholars," she added.

The manuscript is one of Wallington's seven surviving notebooks. The woodturner wrote 50 journals about religion, the civil war and witchcraft trials during the course of his life.

A team at The University of Manchester's John Rylands Center for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care spent two weeks photographing the notebook kept at Tatton Hall in Cheshire so they could make it available online.

The notebook can be viewed free of charge at chiccmanchester.wordpress.com/

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Amelia Earhart mystery takes bizarre twist...gold bullion said to be onboard downed plane

radioaustralia - Rumours involving sunken treasure and one of the world's great aviation mysteries are swirling around the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

Locals believe a plane wreck could be the final resting place of the American airwoman Amelia Earhart who disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in 1937.

Even more incredibly they say there's gold bullion on board and that a giant snake is guarding the wreck.

But an expert on Earhart's disappearance says the claim is "silly beyond description".

PNG correspondent Liam Fox reports.

FOX: The rumour mill, or coconut wireless, as its known is always running hot on Bougainville. Many of the tall tales that fly around the island involve gold.

One of them was given prominence by the Post Courier newspaper this week with the front-page headline "Plane wreck believed to be Earhart". It said there are "strong indications" a plane wreck found off the coast of Bougainville was the one flown by Amelia Earhart, who famously disappeared in 1937 while attempting to become the first pilot to circle the globe close to the equator.

If that wasn't amazing enough the report said there was gold bullion on board and a six-metre snake was guarding the wreck. The man at the centre of the claim is local businessman Cletus Harepa who's paying for divers to inspect the wreck.

HAREPA: Somebody saw it when they were diving for fish and they saw the plane but they didn't know the plane was Amelia's plane until I got my divers to dive 70 to 100 metres down, and I told my divers, got and get something from inside.

FOX: He says a diver found two skulls in the cockpit and three boxes of gold bullion but the bars were too heavy to carry to the surface.

FOX: What will you do if you recover the gold? Will you keep it for yourself or do you give it to the government ? What's your plan?
HAREPA: The government can have some, I will have some. What I want to do is to improve the island. Get a good hospital, a good school, good water supply.

FOX: Mr Harepa admits they're yet to find proof the wreck is Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra, but he's confident it is the plane because of another, older rumour that female pilots used to smuggle gold out of Lae on the PNG mainland in the 1930s. Lae was Earhart's last stop before she vanished.

Mr Harepa does say however that the story about the giant snake is rubbish.

HAREPA: It's an eel, it's a brown eel that uses the plane as just a place to hide.

FOX: American Ric Gillespie is a leading expert on the Earhart mystery and has spent the last 22 years trying to find her final resting place.

GILLESPIE: These stories about gold bullion and a six-metre snake guarding the wreckage are just frankly hilarious. There is simply no way that the Earhart aircraft could be anywhere near Papua New Guinea.

FOX: Mr Gillespie says radio transmissions and other evidence indicates Earhart landed on Nikumaroro atoll in the Central Pacific, where she and her navigator later perished from a lack of food and water. He says the story coming out of Bougainville is testament to the enduring mystery surrounding her disappearance.

GILLESPIE: The whole thing is silly beyond description, but I guess it's just an indication of how popular the Earhart mystery is, and how everybody wants a piece of that action.

FOX: Meanwhile gold fever has broken out on Bougainville with armed men reportedly preventing outsiders from diving on the wreck.

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Air Force's mystery space plane again heading into space

cbsnews - Intrigue continues to shroud a small prototype unmanned space plane that the U.S. Air Force hopes to launch on Friday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The first X-37B returned to Earth in December after finishing its 225-day journey. That mission, too, was classified and the military said little other than that it was pleased as punch with the results.

So what's the project all about? The sometimes fevered speculation that's accompanied the project from the start has been annotated by the usual questions: Will the X-37 serve as the prototype for a new kind of James Bond-like spy ship? Could it sneak up on rival countries' satellites and zap them with a laser?

On Wednesday, the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has been critical of the program, added its voice to the debate, registering a public complaint about the vehicle's practical use. "Because of its weight and relative lack of maneuverability, the space plane is not well-suited for a number of missions," wrote Laura Grego, a scientist with the group's Global Security Program "For example, it would have a harder time carrying payloads into orbit, maneuvering in space, rendezvousing with satellites, and releasing multiple payloads. Yes, the space plane may offer more flexibility and is potentially reusable, but that comes at a very high price compared with the alternatives. We have not seen an analysis that shows why it is worth that high price."

In the past, Air Force officials have rejected suggestions that the X-37 project was designed with the intention of "weaponizing" space. And they're still on message. In its most recent statement, the Air Force said that the program was designed to test reusable technologies for future American space exploration as well as for "operating experiments" which researchers can later examine back on Earth.

That and 25 cents won't be enough to get you on the subway. So it's still watch and wait.

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Holy sh*t! Thief steals almost $250,000 via plane's toilet

au.news.yahoo - An ingenious thief swiped almost a quarter million dollars on a flight in the Caribbean after sneaking into the cash-laden cargo hold via the toilet, police said Thursday.

A Brink's security employee placed three sacks of cash containing a total $1.65 million in the hold of the Air Antilles plane before it headed from the French island of Guadeloupe to the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin.

The security guard took his seat on the ATR-42 turboprop plane but when the flight landed 40 minutes later it was discovered that $236,809 were missing from the sacks.

Police are seeking a man who complained he felt ill and spent most of the journey in the toilet. In fact, he was removing panels to gain access to the hold in the rear of the plane.

Shortly before landing, the unnamed man -- who was travelling with a woman who appeared concerned about his health - asked a hostess for an ambulance to meet him on the tarmac, witnesses said.

When the ambulance arrived, the man said he felt suddenly better and walked out of the airport without having to go through the normal security checks and disappeared, police said.

Cleaners who found bundles of notes in the toilet raised the alarm. The woman travelling with him was questioned in the baggage arrival hall but did not have any of the missing money.

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