World

Largest known underwater cave on Earth discovered in Mexico; holds clues to Mayan civilization

A team of experts in Mexico has discovered two linked underwater caverns that are more than 4,000 years old and form the largest known such cave on earth. The discovery of the cave system, which stretches 215 miles, could hold valuable information about the ancient Mayan population, which inhabited parts of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Guatemala, among other areas in the region. The cave holds hundreds of Mayan relics, according to Guillermo de Anda, the director of the Gran Acuifero Maya team, which is part of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. De Anda told Reuters that the caves are certain to shed light on how the Mayan civilization evolved. “Without a doubt, it’s the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” de Anda said, according to Mexico Daily News. The linked caves are Sac Actun and Dos Ojos. “It allows us to appreciate much more clearly how the rituals, the pilgrimage sites and ultimately the great pre-Hispanic settlements that we know emerged,” de Anda told Reuters. Some caves had important religious meaning to the Maya. “We’ve recorded more than 100 archaeological elements: the remains of extinct fauna, early humans, Mayan archaeology, ceramics and Mayan graves,” de Anda is quoted as saying in the Mexico Daily News. “It’s also very significant that this discovery enables us to see the possible patterns of past settlement. From the Pleistocene through to the ancient Mayans and up to the colonial era, they developed parallel to this enormous flooded fresh-water cave.” The discovery caps nearly a year of intense exploration in the area. As exciting and significant as the finding is, it may be only part of something even larger, de Anda believes. There may be, for instance, other cave systems that are linked to Sac Actun, which means “White Cave” in the Yucatec Maya language.

Very cool!!  To see some pics, click on the text above.    🙂

US OKs selling Japan missiles to shoot down North Korean missiles

The Trump administration has approved a $133.3 million missile defense sale to Japan to meet the escalating threat from North Korea — by shooting down the rogue nation’s own ballistic missiles. The State Department says Congress was notified Tuesday of the proposed sale of four missiles for the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. A State Department official told Fox News that, “Also included are four Mk 29 missile canisters, and other technical, engineering and logistics support services.” The department said the sale would support the U.S. defense industry and underscore Trump’s commitment to improve the defense of allies threatened by North Korea. The system was jointly developed by Japan and the U.S. The missiles could be used at sea with Japan’s current Aegis-equipped destroyers and with the land-based Aegis system its Cabinet approved for purchase last month. That’s intended to bolster Japan’s current missile defense and perhaps curry favor with President Donald Trump who is eager for U.S. allies to buy more American military hardware. “If concluded, this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States,” the State Department official told Fox News. “It will bolster the security of a major treaty ally that has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region. It will also improve (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s) interoperability with U.S. missile defense systems, and increase the protection for U.S. installations in the region.”

South Korea’s president credits Trump for talks with North Korea

South Korea’s president said Wednesday that President Trump “deserves big credit” for renewed talks between South and North Korea, and that Mr. Trump has offered to negotiate personally with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure,” President Moon Jae-in told reporters. “I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks.” Mr. Trump told Mr. Moon in a phone call that he is open to talking with North Korea, the South’s presidential office said. Mr. Trump also said there would be no military action while talks are ongoing, the statement said. The White House said that Mr. Moon thanked the president “for his influential leadership in making the talks possible.” The North-South talks, held on Tuesday, were the first in two years, and North Korea announced that it would send a delegation to the Olympics in Pyeongchang next month. Mr. Trump said Vice President Mike Pence will lead the U.S. delegation to the games. In their phone call, the White House said the two leaders “underscored the importance of continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea.” “President Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances,” the White House said. Mr. Moon said he wanted to show Mr. Trump his gratitude. Mr. Trump tweeted last week that he believes his pressure on Pyongyang has produced results. “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” the president tweeted, adding that “talks are a good thing!” Mr. Trump has raised the pressure on North Korea for the past year, pressing China to isolate Pyongyang economically and diplomatically. He also has imposed new U.S. sanctions and gained new U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, an ally of the administration, said on Twitter that the North-South talks “are a waste of oxygen.” “We’ll have scenes of the two Koreas parading on TV at the Olympic opening ceremony, but as far as the North Korea nuclear threat is concerned, it won’t change a thing,” Mr. Bolton said.

Kim Jong Un’s bizarre North Korea propaganda photos

From a lubricant factory to an orphanage, potato factory or tire production center, Kim Jong Un has conducted many sporadic visits to odd and quirky North Korean sites throughout the years. Kim is often photographed with a massive grin and interacting with factory workers. Several officials also typically stand in the background taking notes — about something — during the visit, though the only details released about the trips come through KCNA. The visits are often described as “field guidance” from Kim and usually includes praise for the workers. At times, he’s joined by his rarely-seen wife, Ri Sol Ju, and his sister, Kim Yo Jong, with the women seen peering at glass cases of beauty products or standing behind the despot with a smile on their faces. Click here to see some bizarre photos of Kim during his visits.

Opinion: Trump Puts Fact Ahead of Fiction in Israel

The most exhausting thing about the Middle East — except for the bloodshed, poverty, tyranny, etc. — is that it refuses to conform to how it’s described in the West. It’s like journalists, diplomats, and politicians want to announce a football game, but the players keep insisting on playing rugby. The field looks similar. The scoring isn’t all that different. It’s just a different game. But don’t tell the gang in the booth. They get furious when you point out that the facts don’t line up with the commentary. Consider President Trump’s momentous (though for now mostly symbolic) announcement that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Before you can debate whether this was a good move, you must acknowledge one glaring fact that the chatterers want to ignore or downplay: It’s true. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, convenes there. Israelis call it their capital for the same reason they claim two plus two equals four. It’s just true. What makes the decision controversial is that everyone had agreed to pretend it wasn’t the capital in order to protect “the peace process.” That’s another term that doesn’t quite correspond with reality. There is no peace process. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president finishing the twelfth year of his four-year term, has refused to meet with the Israelis to discuss anything since early in the Obama administration. Part of the blame for that, of course, belongs with Obama, who built an entire foreign policy around what he wanted to be true rather than what was actually going on. Obama sought to distance the U.S. from Israel on the assumption that Israel was the unreasonably stubborn party in the “peace process.” That’s why, on the way out the door, the Obama administration broke with precedent and opted not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring East Jerusalem “occupied territory.” This implied that, as a matter of international law, the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem itself really belong to the Palestinians — which is an insane fantasy. But denying reality is how this game has long been played. In his speech after Trump’s announcement, Abbas talked at great length about Jerusalem’s history as a Muslim and Christian city. He made no mention of the fact that it’s also a famously Jewish city, having been established as the capital of ancient Israel 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Trump called his decision “a recognition of reality.” People invested in irreality insist the move will worsen “the Middle East conflict.” Here, too, we have mislabeling. Whole books are dedicated to the Middle East conflict, as if the Israel–Palestinian issue were the only conflict in the region. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians or the millions displaced by the civil war there. Tell it to those dying in Yemen, site of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It’s been this way for decades. The Palestinians and their Arab patrons insisted to gullible Westerners that the Israel–Palestinian conflict was the source of all the region’s problems. Was the Iran–Iraq War, which cost more than a million lives, a fight over Palestinian statehood? What about the Lebanese Civil War? Turkey’s campaign against the Kurds? The only people who bought the idea that the Middle East conflict began and ended with Israel were those guys in the control booth describing the wrong game — i.e., Western experts and activists deeply invested in the “peace process.” In a sense, that’s understandable. If you’ve dedicated your entire professional life to a moveable feast that covers your airfare and lodging in Paris or Geneva while you discuss grave matters, it’s probably hard not to cling to fictions. But those fictions are losing their hold, ironically thanks in large part to the Obama administration. By working on fantasy rather than facts, Obama threw the balance of power in the region heavily in Iran’s favor, lifting sanctions and giving Iran hundreds of billions of dollars. He thought the Iranians would join the community of nations or some such twaddle. Instead, they pocketed the money and are now on a surer path to a nuclear bomb. As a result of this new reality, the old fictions are a luxury that Iran’s regional adversaries can no longer afford. That’s why Saudi Arabia, a longtime Palestinian patron, has been moving steadily closer to Israel: because Israel is a more valuable friend in the new Middle East conflict than the Palestinians are — or Obama was.

Agreed!!  That spot-on op-ed was written by Jonah Goldberg, who was part of the “never Trumpers” crowd over at National Review.  So, that probably pained him to write that.  But, we give credit where credit is due.  Glad to see he did the same in this case.  Please consider this our “Read of the Day.”  If you read only one article here today, then read this!  Then, pass it along..   Excellent!!    🙂

Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Olympics by I.O.C.

Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals. That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways. The International Olympic Committee, after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history. The ruling cemented that the nation was guilty of executing an extensive state-backed doping program. The scheme was rivaled perhaps only by the notorious program conducted by East Germany throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Now the sports world will wait to see how Russia responds. Some Russian officials have threatened to boycott if the I.O.C. delivered such a severe punishment. President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to be predicting a boycott of the Pyeongchang Games, since his foreign policy in recent years has been based on the premise that he has rescued Russia from the humiliation inflicted on it by the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, has said no boycott was under discussion before the announcement, however, and the news broke late in the evening in Moscow when an immediate official reaction was unlikely. In barring Russia’s team, Olympic officials left the door open for some Russian athletes. Those with histories of rigorous drug testing may petition for permission to compete in neutral uniforms. Although it is unknown exactly how many will clear that bar, it is certain that the contingent from Russia will be depleted significantly. Entire sports — such as biathlon and cross-country skiing, in which Russia has excelled and in which its drug violations have been many — could be wiped out completely. Thomas Bach, president of I.O.C., has said he was perturbed not only by Russia’s widespread cheating but by how it had been accomplished: by corrupting the Olympic laboratory that handled drug testing at the Games, and on orders from Russia’s own Olympic officials. In an elaborate overnight operation at the 2014 Sochi Games, a team assembled by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to conceal evidence of top athletes’ steroid use throughout the course of competition. More than two dozen Russian athletes have been disqualified from the Sochi standings as a result, and Olympic officials are still sorting through the tainted results and rescinding medals. At the coming Games, Mr. Bach said Tuesday, a special medal ceremony will reassign medals to retroactive winners from Sochi. But, in light of legal appeals from many of the Russian athletes who have been disqualified by the I.O.C., it is uncertain if all results from Sochi will be finalized in time. The Russian Olympic Committee was also fined $15 million on Tuesday.

Wow….

WATCH: Off-Duty Officer with Baby in His Arms Shoots, Kills Two Robbers

An off-duty officer near São Paulo, Brazil, shot and killed two would-be robbers while holding his baby in his arms. The officer, Sergeant Rafael Souza, and his wife were inside a pharmacy to get medicine for their sick baby when the incident occurred. The Independent reports that 24-year-old Jefferson Alves allegedly pointed his pistol at Souza, at which time Souza drew his own gun and shot Alves “at close range.” Souza can then be seen moving in and out of the video searching for the second suspect, 22-year-old Italo Creato. Souza shoots Creato as well. In the middle of the video Souza’s wife can be seen crouching between aisles with her hands over her ears. Near the end of the video Souza’s wife can be seen stretching out her arms toward her husband, asking to take the baby. Souza passed the baby to his wife then returned to checking aisles to be sure there were no more suspects. Suspects Alves and Creato were both pronounced dead at the scene.

Awesome!!  To see the video of this, click on the text above.  Kudos to Sgt. Souza!!