Last of the wild asses back from the brink By Helen Briggs

KulansImage copyrightACBK
Image captionKulans live in pairs or small herds

Wild asses are returning to the grasslands of Kazakhstan where they once roamed in large numbers.

The equine animals, known as kulans, are native to the area but have been pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal hunting and loss of habitat.

Conservationists have started reintroducing the horses to their natural landscape.

This month, more kulan were released in the Altyn Dala nature reserve to establish a fourth population.

The project is being organised by the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK).

Sergey Sklyarenko said reintroduction started in a reserve on an island in the Aral Sea with fewer than 20 animals.

“We have got to now about 4,000 kulans in three wild populations,” he said.

“The creation of a fourth population will allow to provide new areas for the species and increase its sustainability.”

The wild asses were captured in the Altyn Emel National Park in the autumn.

KulansImage copyrightACBK
Image captionThe kulans were released at a nature reserve in the centre of the country

The population there has reached about 3,000 individuals, but there is little potential for future growth.

The kulans were moved to a centre at Alytn Dala in Central Kazakhstan, where they were kept in captivity over the winter to allow them to bond and adjust to local conditions.

Mares have been fitted with GPS collars so that the movement of herds can be tracked.

The animals have already started exploring the area, and it is hoped that they will thrive and breed.

Asian wild ass once ranged across the Russian Federation, Mongolia, northern China, northwest India, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Today their main stronghold is southern Mongolia and China.

The Equus hemionus (Asian Wild Ass, Asiatic Wild Ass) is listed as Endangered, and considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Although they are a protected species, they are hunted for their meat and their skins in some areas

18 April 2018

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Germans find ‘Harald Bluetooth’ medieval treasure

Part of Schaprode treasure trove, 13 Apr 18Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHarald Bluetooth might have buried the treasure while fleeing from enemies

Treasure linked to the reign of 10th-century Danish King Harald Bluetooth has been dug up in northern Germany.

An amateur archaeologist and a 13-year-old boy found a silver coin on the Baltic island of Rügen in January when scanning a field with metal detectors.

Experts kept the find secret until a team dug up 400sq metres (4,300sq ft) of land at the weekend.

They found braided necklaces, a Thor’s hammer, brooches, rings and about 600 coins, probably buried in the 980s.

“This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic sea region and is therefore of great significance,” said lead archaeologist Michael Schirren.

Schaprode coins, 13 Apr 18Image copyrightAFP
Image captionChristian crosses feature on many of the coins, but there is quite a variety

Harald Bluetooth was born a Viking and is credited with unifying Denmark and introducing Christianity there during his reign.

In the 980s he fled to Pomerania, now in north Germany, after losing a big sea battle against forces loyal to his son Sweyn Forkbeard. Bluetooth died in 987.

The king was immortalised by Nordic technology firms when they embedded their wireless “Bluetooth” technology in digital gadgets.

Amateur archaeologist Rene Schoen (L) and 13-year-old student Luca Malaschnichenko look for a treasure with a metal detector in Schaprode, northern Germany on April 13, 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionRene Schoen (L) and 13-year-old student Luca Malaschnichenko were the first to find the treasure

The site of the treasure trove, Schaprode, is a few kilometres from Hiddensee, where a 16-piece gold hoard dating from Bluetooth’s reign was found in the 19th Century.

The Schaprode discoverers – 13-year-old Luca Malaschnitschenko and amateur archaeologist René Schön – are in a group of enthusiasts looking after historical sites in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state in north-eastern Germany.

Warrior king

Bluetooth led his warriors in campaigns against Frankish nobles who ruled parts of France and Germany in the Carolingian Age.

After converting to Christianity in 950, he set up bishoprics in Denmark, consolidated his kingdom with forts and seized some territory in Norway and north Germany.

The earliest coin in the Schaprode hoard is reckoned to be a Damascus dirham dating from 714, and the latest ones are Frankish Otto-Adelheid pennies minted in 983.

More than 100 of the 600 coins are believed to have been minted in Bluetooth’s kingdom. They have Christian crosses on them and were given to Danish nobles.

By BBC News 16th April 2018

 

Rare Photos of Martin Laurello, the Man Who Could Turn His Head Around Backwards

Martin Joe Laurello (1885-1955), aka “The Man with the Revolving Head,” “The Human Owl,” or “Bobby, The Boy with the Revolving Head,” was born in May 1885 in Nuremburg, Germany. He was born with a twisted spine that allowed his head to turn a complete 180°. When he had his head turned, his spine was in the shape of a question mark. He was married to Amelia Emmerling, and was a Nazi sympathizer.

He moved to America from Germany in 1921 and began performing with sideshows such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey. Aside from turning his head around, Martin Laurello (formally Martin Emmerling) trained dogs to do acrobatics and was a ventriloquist.

When Laurello would turn his head around, he could not breathe, however he was able to drink. Laurello was at Robert Ripley’s first ever Odditorium at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair and had performed at many Ripley’s odditoriums in the 1930s.

His last recorded appearance was on the show “You Asked For It” on March 24, 1952. He died of a heart attack and was cremated in 1955, at age 70. The video below was taken from the movie “The Incredible Life and Times of Robert Ripley: Believe it or Not!.”

(via wikia.com)

The Malbork Castle is the largest castle in the world measured by land area

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The Malbork castle located in the town of Malbork in Poland is considered to be the largest brick fortress in the world measured by land area. It is one of the many castles built by the Teutonic Knights in northern Poland in a form of an Ordensburg fortress.

The construction began in 1275 and since 1309 it has been the capital of The Teutonic Order of Holy Mary in Jerusalem. It is an astonishing example of a medieval brick castle which fell into decay until it was restored in the early 20th century.

 

It was named after Mary, patron saint of the religious Order and it was called Marienburg. The Teutonic Order built this castle to strengthen their own control of the area and to protect Poland against the attacks of the pagan Prussians of the Baltic tribes. The evidence for the construction can only be found in the architectural studies in the Order’s administrative records and histories.

Siegfried von Feuchtwagen was the Grand Master of the Knights who undertook the next phase of the fortress’ construction when he arrived in Marienburg from Venice. The castle’s construction became more important in 1308 after the conquest of Gdansk and Pomerania.

 

It was 52 acres in size which is four times bigger than the area of Windsor Castle. Through the years, it was expanded several times because more room was needed for the Knights which at one point were approximately 3, 000. The fortress contains three separate castles– the High Castle, the Middle Castle, and the Lower Castle. Built near the river Nogat, the castle allowed easy access for trading ships from the Baltic Sea and the Vistula which is the longest river in Poland.

The Order was mostly trading with amber. In 1410, the castle was besieged after the Order was defeated in the Battle of Gunwald. In 1457, King Casimir IV Jagellon entered the castle after the Order left in 1456 because during the Thirteen Years’ War they could no longer financially manage the place.

 

 

Following severe damage in the Second World War, Malbork castle became a shadow of its former self. After that, the castle has been reconstructed several times. In 1962 it was reconstructed following a fire in 1959 which caused further damage. In 2016, a new restoration has been completed.

Today, it is a well-preserved medieval Gothic castle and museum. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. Visitors can walk through the hundreds of empty corridors and there are wooden weapons for the youngest that can be purchased at the gift shops.

 Marija Georgievska

Poland’s Moszna: From a Knights Templar shelter to a 99-spire castle favored by Kaiser Wilhelm

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When taking the route that connects Prudnik and Krapkowice in the western part of Upper Silesia in Poland, it’s a little confusing to come across a refreshment stall and souvenir booth on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

No doubt intrigued, any traveler may choose to slow down and explore, and if so, notice a sign next to the stalls pointing towards Moszna, a small village in the Opole Voivodeship, 22 miles away from the capital, Opole, and 75 miles from the city of Wroclaw.

Take this road and see where it leads, and the traveler discovers a road filled with countless stalls like the first, and only to be met by the sight of a spectacular castle at the end. The 19th-century Pałac w Mosznej, or Moszna Castle, is one from which fairytales are made of. And when seen firsthand, such fairytales truly come alive.

Moszna is a gigantic dreamlike structure spread over 8,400 square yards, an edifice that at first glance, with its grand design and enormity, suggests an English castle from the Elizabethan era. Yet when seen up close, Moszna shows an eclectic style, the result of the place being home to different families, at different times.

And with a history dating back as far as the middle of the 17th century, the place has an interesting story of how a castle composed out of three highly different sections, all built in three very distinctive architectural styles, came to look so mesmerizing and eerie at the same time.

There are many legends and facts behind how these walls were erected and joined together to form the striking structure dubbed the “castle of the 99 towers.”

The name of the village is derived from the surname of a Moschin family who, at the dawn of the 14th century, bought a large estate and moved there. During those times, the village was part of Łącznik parish, one of the church’s many properties held throughout Europe. As the story goes, this family, close to the church, purposely moved there, a village that almost nobody knew existed, to run a monastery and provide shelter for the Knights of the Temple of Solomon. According to local legend, in its early years Moszna was not a castle but a monastery run by the Order of The Knights Templar. This did not last long, as their last leader was burned at the stake in 1314 and the Templars were hunted down, disbanding soon after.

However, bearing in mind that all supposed facts from those early days are murky, to say the least, and taking into account that the Order was a secretive organization, this story is hard to confirm. However, investigations that were carried out centuries later found very old cellars buried deep beneath the gardens of the castles, adding a spark of intrigue to a story already rooted in folklore.

Whether true or only a sentimental story passed from generation to generation, this legend was of interest to the von Skall family, the first ever formally recorded owners who bought the estate in 1679 and built the foundations of the present castle.

According to historical evidence, George Wilhelm von Reisewitz, Great Marshal at the court of Frederick the Great (King of Prussia from 1740 until 1786), and cousin to Urszula Maria von Skall, the very first owner of the Moszna estate, inherited the place after she passed away in 1723. He began remodeling his newly inherited home to his liking, and in no time an aristocrat inhabited an extravagant castle built upon the grounds where once Templars slept, a story that was sold as such among his friends in the aristocracy. Now, his former home forms the baroque center of Moszna Castle.

Jorge Luis Borges, the renowned Argentine novelist, once shared his thoughts on the exuberant style, “I would define the baroque as that style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities and that borders on self-caricature. The baroque is the final stage in all art when art flaunts and squanders its resources.” In the same manner, George Wilhelm von Reisewitz squandered his resources, and the von Reisewitz family lost the estate in 1771. Unable to afford its upkeep, they were forced to auction the place. Thus the castle fell into the ownership of Heinrich Leopold von Seherr-Thoss, whose family owned another castle as well as many properties nearby in Dobra village.

This family owned Moszna up until another Thoss, Karl Gotthard Seherr-Thoss, sold it to Heinrich von Erdmannsdorff in 1853, who shortly after, for reasons still unknown, sold it to Hubert von Tiele-Winckler in 1866.

Prior to that, Franz Winckler, a silver-mine worker in the 1830’s, moved from Tarnowskie Góry to Miechowice to work for a mining magnate who owned almost all calamine mines and zinc foundries in the area. This businessman died, and Franz, a former employee of his, ended up marrying his rich widowed wife, and most interestingly, in no more than a decade ended up being knighted by the Prussian king.

In 1854, their daughter, the heiress Valeska, married Hubert, then Hubert von Tiele, and in order to keep the knighthood heritage, both of them decided to use a combined name of Tiele-Winckler. Looking for a new home where they could start a new family, the Tiele-Wincklers stumbled upon the castle.

They bought the Moszna estate, had children, and years later, when his father died in 1893, the eldest male child inherited all of their wealth, including the castle. His name was Franz Hubert and he is now credited as the one who during his residence built the castle we see today.

Only three years after he became sole owner of the place, part of the castle was destroyed by a devastating fire. This meant a whole lot of rebuilding was needed. During the reconstruction, Franz Hubert not only restored it but expanded the castle to the east in a Victorian Gothic style, which was popular at the end of the 19th century. Thus, the Neo-Gothic east wing of the castle was created.

In no more than a decade, the castle had a fully landscaped garden to the front, as well as another wing to the west, built in 1911 in a Neo-Renaissance style to accommodate Emperor Wilhelm II, the last German Kaiser (Emperor) and King of Prussia. A few years earlier, the Kaiser and Franz Hubert had become acquainted, after which Franz was granted the title of earl. As for the Kaiser himself, he got himself a new vacation home, where he soon became a regular.

The castle nowadays is more or less as it was when Earl Franz finished rebuilding it, with its 99 towers and 365 rooms. Due to his son’s negligence and tumultuous married life, the family nearly lost the property along with the family’s fortune. What was left was raided by the Red Army in the aftermath of World War II, leaving an empty and ransacked castle behind.

Nowadays, the whole castle is a reasonably priced hotel and is available for anyone wishing to experience its beauty firsthand, along with the history that surrounds the great building. Set in a beautiful park packed with gorgeous azaleas, rhododendrons, and oak trees that have stood for as long as the castle itself, Moszna is a haven for those wanting to get away from it all in stunning surroundings.

 Martin Chalakoski

The Pulitzer Prize is named after Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher who helped introduce “yellow journalism” to the world

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William C. Gaines, Harold E. Martin, Miriam Ottenberg, Deborah Nelson, and Buzz Bissinger. What do all of these names have in common? Well, every single one of them has won the Pulitzer Prize award for investigative journalistic achievement.

Since its launch in 1917, the Pulitzer Prize has come to be regarded as a prestigious mark of recognition in the fields of journalism and literary arts. There are today 21 categories up for grabs in the annual presentation, with the jury members reserving the right to withhold an award if they believe no submissions in that category reach the standard. To wear the badge of Pulitzer Prize Winner is an accolade that is highly coveted.

It is definitely an acknowledgment of serious journalism. But there is a curious part to its inception, and that is the name of the award itself.

The “Oscar” of journalism is named after a man who arguably laid the grounds for what would be known later as “yellow journalism,” a sensationalist press that is the predecessor of today’s tabloid news.

Joseph Pulitzer was born in Hungary and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He was involved in the newspaper business in 1868, when he started working for the Westliche Post. However, it took some 20 years for him to make a true mark in the field of journalism. By then, he had accumulated enough experience and wealth to own a newspaper; he purchased the New York World for a reported sum of $345,000.

With Pulitzer on top, the newspaper thrived and its circulation began breaking records. This was all due to Pulitzer’s knack for appealing to the masses. He knew what the common people wanted to read and he gave it to them. There were legitimate news stories, but also stories ranging from scandalous affairs to street crimes.  People gobbled it up; they couldn’t get enough. Every new day had a new story to tell.

Pulitzer was active in the Democratic Party and interested in social causes. He recruited the investigative reporter Nellie Bly, who is famous for both her undercover reporting and headline-chasing exploits. Business was going well for Pulitzer right up until 1895 when William R. Hearst bought the New York Journal and became involved in the same business. This kick-started a great rivalry between them with a single goal in mind: Who would outsell the other. The crime-and-scandal-fueled rivalry soon turned into an all-out circulation war, giving birth to yellow journalism as we know it today.

So, in retrospect, if Joseph Pulitzer can be considered the one who set the foundation, then Hearst can be viewed as the one who set the course for the tabloids of the future.

Although both newspapers had high circulations, for the critics they were nothing more than low-brow publications. They despised them, especially their methods of reporting and affinity for sensationalism. It was around this period when the term “yellow journalism” became widely known, which brings us to its inception.

The term was already in use among journalists and reporters of the era, but it was Erwin Wardman, the then-editor of the New York Press, who published it first. Among peers, especially serious journalists, the term was often used in a derogatory sense for the news that they made fun of.

Also introduced by Wardman is another expression that was popular at the time–“yellow kid journalism.” For this phrase, he specifically alluded to the main character in Richard Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley comic strip that was published in the two rival newspapers. The Yellow Kid ran first in Pulitzer’s paper. When Outcault was lured away with a bigger salary by Hearst, Pulitzer hired another cartoonist to continue drawing the cartoon for his New York World.

Who invented the tabloids can be debated forever. However, the fact remains that it was Pulitzer who left $250,000 in his will to Columbia University to establish that now most prestigious prize. If it was the other way around, we might be talking about the Hearst Prize.

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The Pulitzer Prize remains one of the most important awards for writing. And Joseph Pulitzer made sure that it would be named after him. Whatever his history, the board gives the award based on the quality of the writing itself.

 Goran Blazeski