Czars not good at stopping epidemics


This video says about itself:

Marlene Dietrich as Catherine II ['the Great', czarina of Russia]

The Scarlet Empress‘, 1934. Directed by Josef von Sternberg.

From Mother Jones in the USA:

Would Any of the Actual Czars Have Stopped Ebola?

No.

By Tim Murphy

Fri Oct. 17, 2014 11:03 AM EDT

We need an Ebola czar, apparently. It “may make sense,” President Barack Obama announced on Thursday night. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) agreed, calling on the administration to appoint someone like Colin Powell to manage the response to the deadly virus in the United States—five years after pushing legislation that would have prohibited the White House from appointing such czars. If it’s a czar they want, it’s a czar they must have. By Friday morning, we’d seen the white smoke: the President tapped Ron Klain, Vice President Joe Biden‘s former chief of staff, to head the response.

But are czars any better than anyone else at responding to and containing outbreaks of infectious disease? If history is a guide, probably not:

Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible: Kind of incompetent, as the name suggests. When the bubonic plague killed 10,000 people in the city of Novgorod, triggering civil unrest, Ivan responded by sending his vicious secret police, the Oprichniki, to burn down the town and kill the inhabitants. Yikes.

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great: Although more popular than Ivan and largely successful in her aim of expanding the empire’s land holdings, Russia’s greatest czar was helpless in the face of the plague of 1771. Dissatisfaction with Catherine’s handling of the outbreak, which killed more people in Moscow than the Black Death, resulted in the Moscow Plague Riot of 1771, during which time protesters assassinated an archbishop in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great: A real can-do spirit—just look at that mustache! When his soldiers contracted plague during a campaign in the Baltic, Peter ordered them to fall back and then took aggressive measures to prevent a full-fledged outbreak. “Unlike earlier outbreaks, when no medical assistance had been provided, Peter took a more active view and sent Dr. Christian Wiel to supervise anti-plague measures,” wrote John T. Alexander, in his comprehensive study, Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia: Public Health and Urban Disaster. Historians credit Peter with nationalizing the response to disease outbreaks and investing new resources in medical institutions. But that didn’t stop the disease from spreading east.

Nicholas II

Nicholas II: Nicholas is known mostly for being deposed during the Russian Revolution, but before he was executed he also proved himself largely incapable of responding to a string of cholera epidemics in the city of Saratov, even after a similar outbreak in the city during the Crimean War less than two decades earlier. The historian Charlotte Henze noted “huge gaps between the legislation of public health measures and their actual implementation.”

“Ebola Czar” an expert on Washington, not medicine: here.

Rare medieval bookmark discovery in Leiden, the Netherlands


This video is called Rare medieval bookmark.

About this video, from Leiden university in the Netherlands:

Rare medieval bookmark found in Leiden University Library

A rare medieval bookmark emerged in Leiden University Library. Book historian Erik Kwakkel found the disk in an archive of manuscript descriptions called the Bibliotheca Neerlandica Manuscripta. It was likely put their [sic; there] in the early twentieth century by Willem de Vreese, who made the descriptions. The presence of the bookmark was not known to the library. Only thirty-five bookmarks of this type have been identified worldwide.

The bookmark concerns a disk with the numbers 1-4 written on it. Originally, it would have been fitted in a sleeve, which could be pulled up and down along a cord. The reader would turn the disk to indicate in what text column certain information was found, after which he pulled the sleeve to the relevant line. Page, column and line were thus marked. The specimen in Leiden is incomplete, as only the disk itself survived. However, this manuscript in Harvard’s Houghton Library illustrates how the bookmark works.

Although it is hard to determine the precise date of the bookmark, it was likely made in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. It appears to have been popular in learned books and it reflects how scholars from the thirteenth century began to use their books. No longer were the objects merely used to read from cover to cover, but an interest emerged to read particular sections. To facilitate such use, various aids became widely used, including the index, running titles, and detailed chapter titles. The rotating bookmark can be understood as yet another means to quickly and efficiently find your way to a particular passage. The thumbprints on the Leiden specimen suggests it was frequently used.

The bookmark has been moved to the manuscript collection and has been given the shelfmark BPL 3327. The find was first reported on Erik Kwakkel’s blog medievalbooks.nl and in De Volkskrant of 2 October, 2014.

Last Modified: 02-10-2014.

Viking treasure discovery in Scotland


This video says about itself:

Metal detectorist finds Britain’s biggest ever haul of Viking treasure

12 October 2014

The largest haul of Viking treasure ever found in Britain has been unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast, it was revealed today.The discovery was found on Church of Scotland land after the detectorist painstakingly searched the unidentified area in Dumfries and Galloway for more than a year.

From STV in Scotland:

‘Significant’ Viking treasure found in Dumfries and Galloway

12 October 2014 12:31 BST

A hoard of Viking treasure found in Dumfries and Galloway has been described one of the most significant archaeological finds [in] Scottish history.

Early indication suggest there are over 100 artefacts, comprising several gold objects.

The hoard also included a complete metal vessel containing more objects. This has not yet been emptied and the first step will be to examine its contents by x-ray techniques.

Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland.

Head of the Treasure Trove Unit Stuart Campbell, who is overseeing the recovery and assessment of the find, said: “This is a very important and significant find and has required the close cooperation of Historic Scotland with Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland staff to recover the fascinating items it contains.

“Due to the quantity and variety of the objects, and the importance of the find overall, it will take some time for experts to assess the hoard as a whole so that we can appreciate its true significance.

“We look forward to learning more.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage.

“It’s clear that these artefacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.

“The Dumfries hoard opens a fascinating window on a formative period in the story of Scotland and just goes to show how important our archaeological heritage in Scotland continues to be.

“As ever, the Scottish Government will work to facilitate and support the discovery, analysis and exhibiting of finds like this, for the benefit of people here and abroad. With that in mind I would like to echo the praise for the responsible behaviour of the metal detectorists: without their continued cooperation this would not be possible.”

The location of the find is not being revealed. The Scottish Government, Treasure Trove Unit and Historic Scotland are all involved in ensuring the area is properly protected while the full historical significance of the site is established.

English sculpture commemorates World War I


This video is called World War I “Celebration” (GRRRR).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday 7th October 2014

THE tragedy of World War I is being commemorated in the Pennine town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.

A sand sculpture of a woman clutching a telegram informing her of her husband’s death has been created in a paved area outside Hebden Bridge town hall to mark 100 years since the senseless slaughter.

The sculpture is the work of Jamie Wardley, who will be reworking the sculpture twice over coming months.

In the first re-working, now complete, the woman became middle aged. Later she will be elderly to signify that although people learn to cope with loss, the hurt felt through tragedy is eternal.

The sculpture is modelled on a local woman called Hannah Greenwood. Her family name dates back centuries, but as is the case with many people, some of her extended family is also German.

The work was commissioned by Labour-run Hebden Royd Town Council.

See also here.