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© P. B. Faoro

Lists of the “Odd and Unusual” are common and usually consist of folk wisdom, old wives tales, and common knowledge which is neither common nor knowledge.  Trivial as the following may be, it is intended to be fun and I’ve researched all of it.  Enjoy

George Washington’s service to his country didn’t end when he retired from the Presidency. After retiring to Mount Vernon, Washington was again called to public duty  when his former Vice President and successor, President Adams, named him commander of the American Army in mid-1799, responding to threatening noises from our former ally, France which was threatening to invade the new nation.  On learning the great Washington was back the French learned some manners.

Elephants pick up large sticks or small branches in order to scratch their behinds.

Elephants are the only animals with four knees;

Elephants always wake up in a bad mood

Giraffes also are known for being short tempered but it isn’t hard to understand why:  birth trauma.  Giraffe cows – if that is the proper term – always give birth standing up and the newborn calf is always a breech birth (tail end first).

Think about it.  Prior to birth, the calf has spent however many months in an ideal environment where it is always dark and  warm and and all its needs are met.  They have no knowledge of anything else.  All of a sudden, with no warning of any sort, they are summarily ejected from the womb into an extremely cold (for them) world of blinding light and go rocketing 10 feet to earth at 32 ft.per second /  per second before slamming into the ground butt first.

Only one mammal can’t jump — the elephant

Prior to painting the Sistine Chapel the only painting Michelangelo had done was during a brief stint as a student..

Gorillas were thought to be local tribal legends, much like Bigfoot is today, until explorer Paul du Chaillu became the first Westerner to see a live gorilla in equatorial Africa from 1856 to 1859. He brought dead specimens to the UK in 1861

The oldest known bottle of wine was buried with a Roman noble near the German city of Speyer 1,650 years ago and discovered in 1867. German wine expert Monika Christmann says: “It’s probably not spoiled, but it would not bring joy to the palate.”

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The short speech below comes with two caveats, the first being that Oliver Cromwell was a social and political disaster for England and the evolution of English democracy.  Secondly, there are no written records of his exact words 360 years ago when he dissolved the “Rump Parliament” by force a few months prior to being sworn in as Lord Protector for life of the new British Commonwealth.

That being said, Cromwell was by no means the first or last political character to use an eloquent tongue for personal, venal purposes.  Indeed, his skill in such matters made it all the easier to identify those same failures in others, and the recollections of several auditors of his remarks vary little.

Cromwell to the Congress on the conclusion of selfish, pointless strife April 20,1653:

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice: ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse: gold is your God: which of you have not barter’d your  conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

“Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

“In the name of God, go!”

Commentary and analysis talk shows shouldn’t necessarily be held to the standards of hard news where facts are supposed to be confirmed by two or more independent sources, but during a panel discussion of Weiner’s juvenile behavior, in the course of which similarly bad behavior by Elliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and others was brought into play, the host (a woman I respect) signed off by noting that the philanderers and adulterers named were all men. 

By no means is bad behavior be excused, but the obvious inference to be drawn from the host’s statement – that women are faithful and men aren’t – was at best a value judgment wholly  unsupported by facts and as such of no value in advancing progress toward gender equality.  Indeed, unsupported statements easily become cannon fodder for conservative reactionaries.

There have been numerous reputable studies on the subject of infidelity beginning with the Kinsey Reports of 1948 (men) and 1953 (women).  Though primitive and highly flawed by modern research standards, the Kinsey Reports basic findings remain intact: men and women both wander from the nuptial bed in statistically significant numbers.  The reasons vary and men do indeed stray more often than women,  but the percentages are similar and women are catching up fast.

There are also wide discrepancies in how many individuals stray, but according to serious researchers it is in no case is it more than 25% and some studies maintain that a truer figure is around 6%.  Part of the difficulty faced by researchers is that by the very nature of the questions being asked it must be assumed that some of the subjects are lying.  There is no professional agreement on how much lying is involved or how to factor lying into statistical results.  (Psychology Today has an interesting article on the subject posted here and some relevant statistics from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy can be found here.)

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As these words are written, Secretary of State John Kerry has announced agreement with Israel and the Ramallah government to restart peace talks, a Foreign Ministerial-level meeting is to be held shortly,

Ramallah continues both its condemnation of “Zionist atrocities” and reiterates its willingness to conduct negotiations on the basis of pre-1967 borders, Israel has said a return to pre-1967 borders – which would leave only 9.3 miles from the Mediterranean to  hostile Arab territory  – is out of the question but it will release 104 prisoners as a token of good faith.

Mahmoud Abbas, who in the past has said “We want the Israelis to leave. They want to leave – so let us let them leave” said on Monday in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists quoted by Reuters, less than a day after Kerry’s announcement, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”

Hamas has reiterated its refusal to negotiate anything at all with Israel under any circumstances whatsoever.  Hamas may be the only honest player on the field.

Some things never change; if the talks do, in fact, take place they will fail as always.  As Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban said at the Geneva Peace Conference with Arab countries (December 1973), “[t]he Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”  However, Eban’s aphorism missed the fact, incomprehensible to reasonable minds, that these “failures” have been a deliberate policy from the start. 

Arab leaders in the West Bank and Gaza don’t want their own state, and never have except as a tactical feint to an overarching objective.  What they do want is the obliteration of Jews and Israel at any cost and under any pretext.

As PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein said in a March 31, 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.

Herewith, the Escher-Aiken Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East, a simple plan named for the late Senator George Aiken (R-VT) who, during  the turmoil over US involvement in Southeast Asia, said “the best policy is to declare victory and get out”, which, of course, is what finally happened, and  the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, renowned for drawing physical objects that couldn’t possibly exist.

The four points of the Escher-Aiken Roadmap:

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Something strange started happening in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in South Africa in 1992.  Dead rhinoceroses – a lot of dead rhinoceroses – were being found.  By 1997 more than 40 had been killed.  Wildlife authorities were completely stumped as to the cause.

Clearly, humans weren’t responsible; the rhinos had been brutally mauled to death and their ivory tusks were intact.

Neither could the deaths be attributed to predatory animals; adult rhinoceros have no real natural enemies other than humans although young rhinos can fall prey to predators such as big cats, crocodiles, wild dogs, and hyenas.

After much head scratching somebody had a thought, a thought that proved out but one that also raised some troubling questions: elephants were behind the killings.  But why? Elephants and rhinos aren’t enemies and both are herbivores.

Not for the first time, the answer lay in horribly imperfect human understanding and actions.

Many years prior to the rhino killings South Africa found itself facing a serious elephant overpopulation problem.  Not only was sufficient grazing land rapidly dwindling, people (or rather their farms and gardens, and even their newly constructed tasty grass huts) were being threatened, sometimes fatally.

At the time, the accepted solution was to cull the herd of breeding adults, both male and female.  Grotesquely, the process included young calves often left tied to a dead parent, usually for an extended time, until a team returned to gather them up for transport to another elephant range.

An elephant never forgetsRead More