Ancient ships of death: Were they on a mission of politics or plunder?


Post 7795

Ancient ships of death: Were they on a mission of politics or plunder?

For more than a thousand years the ships of death moldered unseen on the shore of the Baltic Sea, sheltering the bones of dozens of Viking-era young men and a trove of rich possessions.

Now, after analyzing the ships and skeletons, researchers have a chilling new idea to explain how so many men died at the peak of their strength: they were diplomats from central Sweden, killed while on a mission to talk rather than fight.

The proposal, outlined in a study in the current issue of Antiquity, runs counter to previous interpretations that the men were raiders or warriors. Whoever they were, their bones give researchers a priceless window into life at the dawn of the Viking era.

The “graves gives us a rare – if not unique – glimpse of a Viking Age drama,” Ole Thirup Kastholm, a curator at Denmark’s Roskilde Museum who was not involved in the new study, says via email. “It (poses) the most intriguing mystery with plenty of questions to investigate: Who are the dead men? What was the purpose of their journey? … And perhaps the most interesting questions: Who did it?”

Whoever interred the dead aboard two ships in what is now Salme, Estonia, in about 750 AD went about their work with great care and respect. Many of the 41 bodies were carefully positioned, and valuables were scattered among the remains. Researchers found swords bedecked with gold and jewels and hundreds of elaborate pieces from a  a chess-like strategy game called Hnefatafl, or The King’s Table.They also found two decapitated hawks and the skeleton of a large dog, which had been cut in half.

In life the men must have been fearsome figures. They were young and tall, at least one nearly six feet. Analysis of their teeth, combined with the design of the buried artifacts, suggests that they came from central Sweden, not Estonia, says study co-author T. Douglas Price, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The skeletons on the larger of the two ships showed signs of violent death: stab wounds, decapitation marks, and an arm bone cleaved by a blade.

Following the discovery of the smaller ship in 2008 and the larger in 2010, researchers thought the men died on a mission of conquest or plunder. But the evidence didn’t quite fit.

The blinged-out swords seemed more suitable for projecting power than for fighting, and Viking-era warriors generally relied on spears and battle axes rather than swords, study co-author Jüri Peets of Estonia’s Tallinn University says via email. Game pieces and animals seem impractical for a military expedition but would’ve provided welcome amusement on a diplomatic trip. The men may have been on a voyage to forge an alliance or establish kinship ties, Peets says, when unknown parties set upon them.

Outside opinion on this explanation is mixed. The theory is “a far better solution than … (a) military expedition gone bad,” Kastholm says via email.

But Jan Bill of Norway’s Museum of Cultural History argues that the gaming pieces don’t rule out a voyage devoted to battle. “Soldiers have always had lots of waiting time, and games with them to shorten (this) time,” he says via email. “Whether this group was on a diplomatic mission, or raiding, or both, I don’t think we can decide from the evidence of what was used as grave goods.” Study co-author Peets says the idea of a diplomatic mission is a “working hypothesis,” and research continues.

Young aristocratic men of the day routinely took part in war bands, says James Barrett of Britain’s University of Cambridge via email. Whether the men were intent on diplomacy or bloodshed, he says, the burial site “shows the cosmopolitan, albeit very dangerous, character of the Baltic Sea area even before (or at the very start of) the Viking Age.”

Advertisements

What do ordinary citizens in the Arab world really think about the Islamic State?


Post 7794

What do ordinary citizens in the Arab world really think about the Islamic State?

July 27 at 5:00 AM

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage

What do ordinary Arabs think about the Islamic State? This spring, we added several questions to the standard battery of Arab Barometer surveys to find out. We asked a scientific sample of respondents in Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria and Morocco the following questions:

  • To what extent do you agree with the goals of the Islamic State;
  • To what extent to do you support the Islamic State’s use of violence; and
  • To what extent do you believe the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with the teachings of Islam?

Little support for the Islamic State

The findings were stark: Not many Arabs sympathize with the Islamic State. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State’s goals range from 0.4 percent in Jordan to 6.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State’s use of violence range from 0.4 percent in Morocco to 5.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing that the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with Islam range from 1.0 percent in Jordan to 8.9 percent n the Palestinian territories.

It’s important to dig deeper, though. While very few respondents express positive attitudes toward the Islamic State, it is possible that some who support the Islamic State’s goals or tactics or believe the group’s actions are compatible with Islam decline to answer the question or say they don’t know, rather than explicitly express approval of the Islamic State.

Why the Islamic State propaganda arm is more important than its fighters

 For sensitive issues like support for an extremist group, this is a common way to avoid expressing an opinion that is contrary to societal norms. For each question and each country, therefore, we also note the percent that decline to respond or say they don’t know. With these responses treated as expressions of support for the Islamic State, the percent having positive, or at least neutral, attitudes toward the Islamic State increases, particularly in Algeria and in the Palestinian territories. Nevertheless, as shown in Figure 1 (click here), it is clear, overall, that there is very little support for the Islamic State among these five Arab publics.

A key demographic differs little

What about younger and poorly educated men, who seem to be a primary audience for the Islamic State message? Breaking out the responses of male respondents age 36 or under who have had less than secondary schooling shows that even among this key demographic there is also little support for the Islamic State’s goals or for its use of violence, and that few consider the Islamic State’s tactics to be compatible with the teachings of Islam. Indeed, in some instances, positive attitudes toward the Islamic State are held by fewer individuals in the key demographic category. These findings are shown inFigure 2 (click here).

A Tunisian exception?

Findings are similar with respect to whether the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with the teachings of Islam, but with one potentially instructive exception. This concerns Tunisia, where 14.9 percent of poorly educated younger male respondents say that the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with Islamic teachings, compared with 8.6 percent of other Tunisians.

The finding that younger and less-well-educated Tunisian men are more likely than other Tunisians to judge the Islamic State’s tactics to be compatible with Islamic teachings may help to explain why a large number of Tunisians have left the country to fight with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. News reportsplace the number at 3,000 to 8,000, far more than any other Arab country with the exception of Saudi Arabia. And since most who have responded to the Islamic State’s call are poorly educated younger men, the comparatively high percentage that considers the Islamic State’s tactics to be compatible with Islam may provide a part of the explanation.

There are only 87 respondents in this key demographic category in the Tunisian survey, and so the findings should be accepted with a measure of caution, even though a non-parametric statistical test does show a very low probability of obtaining by chance alone the difference reported in Figure 2.

Only 3.4 percent of poorly educated younger Tunisian men express support for the Islamic State’s goals, and only 2.3 percent agree with its violent tactics. Nevertheless, it is notable that Tunisians in the demographic category that is the primary target of the Islamic State messaging are significantly more likely than other Tunisians, and their counterparts in other Arab countries, to consider the Islamic State’s tactics compatible with Islam.

An embedded experiment

We wanted to dig even deeper into factors shaping the views of younger and less-well-educated men, the key demographic targeted by Islamic State messaging. We, therefore, introduced a survey experiment into the 2016 Arab Barometer instrument. Respondents were randomly assigned to either a control group or one of four treatment groups before being asked the questions about the Islamic State.

The various treatment scripts provided information about the Islamic State and its stated objectives. The control version included no additional text. The script of the first treatment, Treatment A, told respondents that the Islamic State has emerged as a potent force in the Middle East, that its goal is to extend its self-proclaimed caliphate across the Muslim world, and that it has killed many Muslims and non-Muslims in pursuit of this aim.

The three remaining treatments, B, C, and D, included the Treatment A script and then provided an additional piece of information. Treatment B added that another of the Islamic State’s stated objectives is to limit Shiite influence across the Muslim world and to confront Iranian-led Shiite forces in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere; Treatment C added that another of the Islamic State’s declared goals is to defend Islam from attacks by secular leaders and other elites whose goal is to limit the role of Islam in government and public life; and Treatment D added that another of the Islamic State’s declared goals is to counter intervention in the region by the United States and other Western powers who have engaged in military attacks against it.

Figure 3 (click here) shows responses to the question about the Islamic State’s goals of younger and less-educated men in the control group and in each of the four treatment groups. The figure shows that approval, or at least the absence of disapproval, is more common among respondents in the control group and less common among those in all of the treatment groups, especially those in Treatments B, C, and D, each of which provides information about one of the Islamic State’s stated objectives. In each case, the difference between the control and Treatment B, the control and Treatment C, and the control and Treatment D is statistically significant. Figure 3 thus strongly suggests that the provision of information about the Islamic State’s declared goals reduces the likelihood that a young, poorly educated man will approve of the Islamic State’s goals.

Several additional insights are suggested by the findings shown in Figure 3. First, although the degree of support for the Islamic State’s goals is lower among those in Treatment A than among those in the control group, the difference is not large enough to be statistically significant, meaning that this result could have just been chance. Accordingly, we cannot say with confidence that telling those in the key demographic targeted by the Islamic State only about the group’s violent actions, including the killing of Muslims as well as non-Muslims, will change their views very much.

Although telling these young men both about the Islamic State’s violent actions and about any one of its stated objectives is likely to reduce support for the group, telling them about the Islamic State’s goal of combating Shiite influence has the greatest effect on their assessments. This is probably because Sunni-Shiite tensions are largely absent in the five Arab countries on which this analysis is based, whereas in many, if not all of the Muslim countries, there is likely to be at least some concern about secular leaders and Western influence. Accordingly, the conclusion to be drawn is that support for the Islamic State will diminish among those in the population category from which the Islamic State seeks to recruit fighters to the extent they see as less relevant to their own societies the goals on behalf of which the Islamic State claims to be fighting.

Only a small minority of young, uneducated men who sympathize with the Islamic State have left to fight on its behalf. Yet, those who sympathize with the movement are more likely than others to one day join its cause. It may be possible to use some of the Islamic State’s own messaging against the movement. Juxtaposing information about its use of violence and its specific aims leads to small but statistically significant and meaningful declines in support for the group. Combining this strategy with other messages combating its extremist ideology may offer the best approach to influence the views of the small minority of uneducated young men who sympathize with this terrorist organization.

Mark Tessler is the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Michael Robbins is the director of the Arab Barometer. Amaney A. Jamal is the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics at Princeton University and director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice. 

Incredible moment rescue helicopter soars over bride’s head on rescue mission during wedding photos


Post 7793

Incredible moment rescue helicopter soars over bride’s head on rescue mission during wedding photos

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/incredible-moment-rescue-helicopter-soars

It’s the wedding photo of your dreams – but how on earth did this incredible picture come about?

And judging by this stunning photo, the happy couple won’t be forgetting theirs in a hurry.

A blushing bride stands on the Icelandic coast as a helicopter soars overhead.

The incredible image was captured by renowned wedding photographer CM Leung during an already unconventional shoot on the Nordic island.

The incredible photo by CM Leung was created by chance

Leung was snapping the man and woman on rocks and cliff edges when the Iceland Coast Guard chopper arrived on a rescue call.

Once everyone was safe, Leung positioned the bride to stand in front of the helicopter taking off, while emergency crews stood by to ensure the plan went off safely.

The results are breathtaking – but as a behind the scenes video shows, it wasn’t entirely plain sailing.

While the helicopter looks about to strike the bride in the head, the angle of the photo makes it look closer than it actually is.

Photographer, CM Leung shoots an unusual wedding scene

 

CM Leung
Photographer, CM Leung shoots an unusual wedding scene
CM Leung

But it was still near enough for the wind from the propellers to blow the brides veil out of her hands and knock her, and the photographer to the ground.

Since posting the video of the shoot on YouTube earlier this month, the film has been watched more than 242,000 times.

Man trapped in deadly floods is forced to make a hard choice – save his wife or save his mother


Post 7792

Man trapped in deadly floods is forced to make a hard choice – save his wife or save his mother

You won’t be surprised that his ‘betrayed’ partner dumped him after he bolted across the village to save his beloved mum with torrential rain battering his province

Gao Fengshou decided to save his mother instead of his wife during flooding in Daxian, China

CEN
Cen Gao Fengshou decided to save his mother instead of his wife

A man trapped in devastating floods was forced to make a split second decision – whether to save his mum or his wife.

At least 112 people dead and 91 others have gone missing as torrential rains swept through China.

The Daxian village was almost completely wiped out – but faced with the terrible choice one man in abandoned his wife to dash across town and save his mother.

He is now begging for his spouse’s forgiveness after she dumped him.

The man left his home, where his wife, two kids and ailing father live, and bolted across his village to save his mum, leaving his other family members to fend for themselves.

Gao Fengshou decided to save his mother instead of his wife during flooding in Daxian, China. Pictured - flood damage in Daxian

CEN
Gao Fengshou’s village was completely devastated by flooding

Gao Fengshou decided to save his mother instead of his wife during flooding in Daxian, China. Pictured - flood damage in Daxian

CEN
Instead of getting his wife and children out of the house, he rushed to save his mum

Gao Fengshou, the 39-year-old husband, had known that a serious storm was on its way to Daxian Village, in Xingtai City of North China’s Hebei Province.

But while the rest of his family stayed up worrying, he made no plans and went to sleep instead until he was woken by his wife, Zhang Xiaoyan, aged 30.

But instead of getting Zhang, his children and his elderly father out of the house, he left the home in a hurry and dashed across the village to save his mum, whose old family home was already waist-deep in water.

Gao Fengshou decided to save his mother instead of his wife during flooding in Daxian, China. Pictured - flood damage in Daxian

CEN
He is now begging for his wife’s forgiveness after abandoning her

2016 Rex Features
At least 112 people have died in the flooding in China

Gao successfully saved his mum, but then found he could not return to his home as the floodwaters were already up to his chest.

After waiting several hours for the water to recede, he rushed back to his house and was relieved to find Zhang, the kids, aged four and two, and his dad huddled on the roof, having survived the flood.

She apparently felt betrayed by her husband, who chose his mum over her.

Zhang reportedly returned to her parents’ home in East China’s Shandong Province, where Gao has now gone to beg for her forgiveness.

More than 9 million people across China have also been affected by the season’s freak weather.