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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)
The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.
This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.
Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.
Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.
“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”
Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.
In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.
“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.
Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”
Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.
“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”
Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.
Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.
Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.
“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”
Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”
For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.
The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.
In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.
“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”
In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.
The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.
Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.
Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.
The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”
Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.
Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.
In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.
“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”
Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.
In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.
“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.
“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”
Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.
Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.
He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.
A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”
Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.
Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”
The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.
Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.
Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.
“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”
Americans Created Russian President For Life: Vlad ‘The Bad’ Putin
I’m not very proud of that title, but I do believe it to be the truth. We here on the news that President Putin has an approval rate of 86% in Russia by their countries people. A lot of our American politicians are on the south side of 20%. If we are to believe the news programs here in the States then the Russian People are being lied to about what President Putin has been doing with Russia’s Sons and Daughters and the Russian People’s money. If what we are being told here in America is the truth this lowers President Putin to the level of George W Bush for being a liar and a War Criminal. O, by the way, we are being told that anti-American sentiment is at an all time high among the Russian People. What would President Putin’s poll numbers be if the Russian People were being told the truth about Crimea, Ukraine, Syria and His 200 billion dollar personal fortune our news programs say he has amassed for himself while he cuts his staff’s salaries and puts the full weight of the International Sanctions upon his people’s backs that he himself has personally caused? But then, we are forced to understand the fact that not everything we here on the news, or the things that come out of politicians mouths is always necessarily the actual real 100% truth!
Does your mind ever cross the thought of how someone like Mr Putin was ever able to get into power in Russia in the first place? I believe that Americans (not all of us) are a huge cause of this World Tragedy (Mr Putin coming into power and now gaining power). As you should be well aware of we have a lot of politicians, D.C Talking Heads, Holly Wood Producers, and some Generals who love to put their mouths in front of a microphone. Soon after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 we started hearing derogatory comments, not so much about the Soviet Union, but a lot about the country of Russia itself. We would see and hear comments in movies and hear from the fore mentioned mouth pieces how backward the Russians were, often portraying them as less capable or as less educated as we Americans are. But, one big thing that is still being said today about Russia is how we are the only World Superpower, removing Russia and China from the former “Big Three”.
What we have done my friends is we have on purpose bad mouthed this Great Nation of Human Beings, we have been stomping on other Human Beings pride and shoving that stupidity in their faces. We went from being considered as a friendly nation into their perceived arch enemies once again. This arrogance, this ignorance, allowed a person like Mr. Putin the opportunity to come to power in Their Nation, with promising the people that he would bring their swagger back. Through his arrogance, his lies, and his evil KGB Mother Russian style brain he has been successful in doing so. There was and is no excuse for how Our Nations mouth pieces have treated the Russian People since the Soviet Union split up. Any nation who has Nuclear Weapons with multiple available delivery systems is a Super Power! If a country has the ability to wipe another country off the face of the earth, they do not need to have their national pride constantly being stomped on. If we as a Nation had/would have been treating the Russian People as respected friends, Mr Putin and Communist minds like his would never have come into power in the first place in Russia. It’s not just the Russian People we have been acting ignorant toward either, if you haven’t noticed there is a Big Red Star rising in the Far East.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
It’s been dubbed the “Putin list” — the names of 210 prominent Russians, many with close ties to the Kremlin, released by the US Treasury Department.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin will demand the return of two diplomatic compounds seized by the United States when he meets in Germany this week with President Trump for the first time, the Kremlin said, as a senior Russian official warned that Moscow’s patience on the issue was running out.
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said his government showed “unusual flexibility” by not retaliating in December when then-President Obama confiscated the two compounds, in New York state and Maryland, and expelled 35 Russian diplomats as punishment for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Ushakov urged Washington to “free Russia from the need to take retaliatory moves,” according to The Associated Press.
The White House has reportedly been mulling returning the compounds in an effort to improve relations with Moscow, and in recent days Russian officials have warned that retaliatory measures have been drawn up if the compounds are not returned. They were nominally used by the Russian Embassy as recreational facilities, but U.S. intelligence has long argued they were bases for espionage.
In a separate statement released today, the Kremlin said Putin would raise the issue with Trump when the two meet in Hamburg, Germany, where the G-20 summit is being held Saturday. The statement said that the Kremlin expected Putin would convey the need to find the “most rapid resolution” on the issue, which it described as an “irritant” in Russian-U.S. relations.
The two leaders’ first meeting is highly anticipated, coming as investigations continue into possible collusion between members of Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials and as relations between Moscow and Washington are being described as at their worst since the Cold War.
There has been intense speculation for months over when the two presidents might come face to face. Since confirming the meeting
last week, the White House has been light on details about what they will discuss.
“There’s no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” Trump’s national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster told reporters last week.
McMaster said administration officials had been tasked with drawing up options to confront Russia over “destabilizing behavior,” including cyber threats and political subversion, as well as looking for ways to cooperate on issues such as Syria and North Korea.
Today the Kremlin was more specific, issuing a broad list of areas where it said it believed it could cooperate with the United States. The top issues listed for discussion were Russia’s dissatisfaction with U.S. sanctions, its desire to cooperate on international terrorism, the Syria crisis and improving efforts around nuclear arms control.
Most of the issues resembled those the Kremlin frequently raised with the Obama administration, and the statement emphasized Moscow’s desire for a return to normal relations.
There is “significant potential for coordinating efforts,” the Kremlin statement said. “Our countries can do much together in resolving regional crises,” including Ukraine, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The statement also said Russia was eager to restore business links with the United States.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday told the news agency Interfax he hoped the meeting would lend clarity to the relationship and warned that not seeking to normalize relations would be a “huge mistake.”
In reality, however, it’s unclear that, beyond the return of the diplomatic compounds, there is much Putin and Trump will be able to ask of each other. In many areas, U.S. and Russian interests have little overlap, and that has not appeared to change under Trump.
On Syria the two have clashed, and last month a U.S. fighter shot down a war plane belonging to Russia’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. The White House has said sanctions will not be lifted on Russia until it withdraws from Crimea, and in the Senate both parties are drawing up more sanctions to punish Russia for its alleged election meddling.
“I don’t think we should expect any kind of breakthrough,” said Maria Lipman, a veteran political analyst in Moscow. “I don’t think we should expect any significant results from this meeting. Not even the beginning of solutions to the major issues.”
During the presidential campaign and after the election, some Russian officials and state media expressed optimism that Trump would mean better relations with the United States. But such hopes have so far largely not materialized.
Lipman said she believes there is a growing realization in the Kremlin of Trump’s severely restricted ability to alter U.S. policy toward Moscow, given the intensity of the scandal around the Russia investigations.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)
The U.S. Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday for legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and force President Donald Trump to get Congress’ approval before easing any existing sanctions on Russia.
In a move that could complicate U.S. President Donald Trump’s desire for warmer relations with Moscow, the Senate backed the measure by 98-2. Republican Senator Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, were the only two “no” votes.
The measure is intended to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support for Syria’s government in the six-year-long civil war.
If passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law by Trump, it would put into law sanctions previously established via former President Barack Obama’s executive orders, including some on Russian energy projects. The legislation also allows new sanctions on Russian mining, metals, shipping and railways and targets Russians guilty of conducting cyber attacks or supplying weapons to Syria’s government.
“The legislation sends a very, very strong signal to Russia, the nefarious activities they’ve been involved in,” Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said as lawmakers debated the measure.
If the measure became law, it could complicate relations with some countries in Europe. Germany and Austria said the new punitive measures could expose European companies involved in projects in Russia to fines.
The legislation sets up a review process that would require Trump to get Congress’ approval before taking any action to ease, suspend or lift any sanctions on Russia.
Putin dismissed the proposed sanctions, saying they reflected an internal political struggle in the United States, and that Washington’s policy of imposing sanctions on Moscow had always been to try to contain Russia.
The bill also includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers.
UNCERTAIN PATH IN HOUSE
To become law, the legislation must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump. House aides said they expected the chamber would begin to debate the measure in coming weeks.
However, they could not predict if it would come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their summer recess.
Senior aides told Reuters they expected some sanctions package would eventually pass, but they expected the measure would be changed in the House. The Trump administration has pushed back against the bill, and his fellow Republicans hold a commanding 238- to 193-seat majority in the chamber.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson questioned the legislation on Wednesday, urging Congress to ensure that any sanctions package “allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation.”
Previously, U.S. energy sanctions had only targeted Russia’s future high-tech energy projects, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic, fracking and offshore drilling. They blocked U.S. companies such as Exxon Mobil, where Tillerson was chairman, from investing in such projects.
The new bill would slap sanctions on companies in other countries looking to invest in those projects in the absence of U.S. companies, a practice known as backfilling.
Also included for the first time are discretionary measures the Trump administration could impose on investments by companies in Western countries on Russia energy export pipelines to Europe.
The Senate also voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to add provisions to the bill allowing the U.S. space agency NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines and the 100 senators voted unanimously for an amendment reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.
(Additional reporting by Tim Gardner; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Tom Brown)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)
At first glance, Russian actions since the 2014 annexation of Crimea appear to signal a resurgence of power in the international system. Increases in military spending, forays into the Middle East and a foreign policy punching above its weight have all served to remind the world that Russia maintains influence on the global stage.
However, behind the Cold War-levels of military activity and violations of international laws are fundamental issues which will plague Russia going forward.
Demographic struggles have stricken the state since World War II, commodity price fluctuations and sanctions have crippled economic output and the current defense spending trends are unsustainable. Against the backdrop of harsh economic reality, the illusion of Russian resurgence can only be maintained for so long, and NATO policymakers should take note.
An increased NATO presence in the Baltics and more robust defense measures are all necessary and proportional steps towards creating a formidable deterrent to protect the United States’s more vulnerable allies in Russia’s neighborhood.
Russia, however, is not the existential threat to Europe that the Soviet Union once was, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Time is not on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side, and he can only ignore fundamental flaws in the socioeconomic landscape of Russian society for so long.
Building submarines and nuclear weapons will not reinvigorate the Russian economy and could eventually degrade what progress has been made to re-establish Russian prominence on the world stage.
The inertial nature of demographic pressure makes it an exceedingly difficult problem to address but also allows nations to forecast more easily. By nearly all calculations, Russia’s projected population growth appears stagnant at best. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the population of Russia (despite upward of 9 million immigrants) declined each year until 2013.
The combination of a decreased standard of living, a decline in the number of women aged 20 to 30 and an increased mortality rate have all damaged the prospects for growth in Russia. Rosstat, the Russian state statistical agency, estimated that the population will decline 20 percent in the next 35 years if current trends continue. This decline has been halted and even reversed to a minor extent in recent years, but reversing long-term trends will be difficult.
The economic outlook for Russia offers similarly bleak prospects, yet there are some signs of a slight turnaround. When compared to a negative 3 percent growth over the past two years, even the small 1.2 percent growth projected by the Russian finance minister (as well as the World Bank) is something to celebrate. Moscow has made some spending adjustments to reflect current oil prices, and Standard & Poor’s has upgraded its credit rating to stable.
The Russian people, however, are still in dire straits. In 2016, one-quarter of Russian companies cut salaries. Overall, the average Russian wage dropped 8 percent last year and 9.5 percent the year before. International sanctions imposed on Russia continue to cause problems, and energy prices have not recovered to previous highs.
Even as some Russians celebrated the election of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, who has expressed a desire for better relations with Russia and suggested that sanctions may be at least partially lifted, the potential for the removal of sanctions could lead to a speculative capital rush, creating more uncertainty in an already fractured economy.
Worsening the economic downturn is the Kremlin’s spending to modernize and expand its military capabilities amidst declining revenue and depleted reserves.
In a recent defense industry meeting, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that “funding has already been set aside for the coming years and that amount won’t be changed.” That statement doesn’t appear to be entirely correct, as defense spending is set to decrease by 7 percent, but it is telling when other federal departments were dealt 10 percent reductions.
For the time being, it seems this plan has won Putin praise at home and power abroad, but in the long-term it could place him on unsteady ground. As early as 2015, Russia had begun tapping into its “rainy day fund ” (generally regarded as an emergency measure to address economic slowdowns), and the minor economic recovery is not enough to make up for these shortfalls.
A continuation of this spending behavior combined with budgetary constraints could force Putin to make politically risky fiscal adjustments. He may have convinced his admirers that a bit of budgetary belt-tightening is necessary to ensure Russian security and stature, but economic backpedaling is only digestible for so long.
Even the Ukrainian conflict, once a source of popularity among the Russian people, has begun to hurt morale and highlights the economic malaise at home.
However, Vladimir Putin is not a man to be underestimated, and Russia will remain a threat. It still possesses one of the most powerful militaries in the world, a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons and a reinvigorated willingness to use its political muscle to influence the international system.
Yet while a cursory examination of approval ratings may show an unassailably popular leader, Putin’s power structure is more fragile than it first appears. Financial strain will continue to pressure state-dependent segments of the Russian populace, which have historically been the bedrock of Putin’s support.
It seems Putin’s Russia won’t perish in a Manichean clash in the Fulda Gap, but like the Soviet Union before it, today’s Russia will crumble under the weight of its own mismanagement and economic failure. Perhaps history does repeat itself.
Jacob Sharpe is an intern with the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.
UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s U.N. envoy says U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has confirmed the Trump administration fully supports his country’s territorial integrity and independence and will never accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Volodymyr Yelchenko told reporters Wednesday that Haley also confirmed in their “very good” recent meeting that the U.S. is “completely against the way Russia is dealing with the eastern part of Ukraine.”
Yelchenko says he’s “absolutely satisfied by her reaction and replies.”
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, and since then fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,600 people in the east.
Yelchenko is the current Security Council president and said members will be briefed Thursday on the latest flare-up in violence.
The U.S. Mission says Haley reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
(THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM GOOGLE PLUS)
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