Hindenburg Disaster

September 25, 2012 · Posted in Disasters · Comments Off on Hindenburg Disaster 


On May 6, 1937, the golden age of airship travel comes to an end. During a landing in severe thunderstorms at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, the Hindenburg bursts into flames and crashes.  The tragedy brought an end to the popularity of Zeppelin airship travel and the common use of hydrogen as fuel.  Hydrogen is now making a comeback as a component for cell phone towers, forklifts and even aircraft tugs.


Hindenburg Facts

At 803.8 feet in length and 135.1 feet in diameter, the German passenger airship Hindenburg (LZ-129) was the largest aircraft ever to fly.  The commercial flights of Hindenburg, along with Graf Zeppelin, pioneered the first transatlantic air service.  She carried hundreds of passengers and traveled thousands of miles before being destroyed in a tragic fire on May 6, 1937 at NAS Lakehurst.  Please join us for a trip through Hindenburg’s history:


The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

September 19, 2012 · Posted in Church History · Comments Off on The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife 
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – A newly revealed, centuries-old papyrus fragment suggests that some early Christians might have believed Jesus was married. The fragment, written in Coptic, a language used by Egyptian Christians, says in part, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …”

Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen King announced the findings of the 1 1/2- by 3-inch honey-colored fragment on Tuesday in Rome at the International Association for Coptic Studies.

King has been quick to add this discovered text “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married,” she wrote in a draft of her analysis of the fragment set to appear in the January edition of Harvard Theological Review. The divinity school has posted a draft of King’s article to which AnneMarie Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton University, contributed.

“This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married. The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that. So we’re in the same position we were before it was found. We don’t know if he was married or not,” King said in a conference call with reporters.

“What I’m really quick to say is to cut off people who would say this is proof that Jesus was married because historically speaking, it’s much too late to constitute historical evidence,” she continued. “I’m not saying he was, I’m not saying he wasn’t. I’m saying this doesn’t help us with that question,” she continued.

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In the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Bible, there is no mention of his marital status, while the accounts do mention Jesus’ mother, father and siblings. The four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – tell the story of Jesus’ birth and early childhood then skip to his short, three-year ministry before detailing his death and resurrection.

The idea that Jesus was married is not a new one.

In other writings about the life of Jesus from antiquity suggest Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene, a disciple who was close to Jesus. Author Dan Brown also used the idea of Jesus being married as a jumping off point for the fictional novel “The Da Vinci Code.” King dismissed that notion in her call with reporters.

“There’s no indication we have that Jesus was married,” said Darrell Bock, a senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. “One could say the text is silent on Jesus’ marital status is because there was nothing to say.”

Initial dating for the honey-colored fragment by the team of scholars puts the papyrus piece coming out of the middle of the second century.

King is referring to the fragment as the “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” or “GosJesWife” as a short hand for reference, and noting that the abbreviation does not mean this scrap has the same historical weight as the canonical Gospels.

Biblical scholars often use the term gospel to refer to a genre of ancient writings featuring dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, King notes in her paper. The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas are just a few of the ancient accounts about the life of Jesus that Christians do not consider canonical.

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At the conference, King said another professor suggested the fragment could have come from the text of a homily, or sermon, where the writer was using this phrase as a literary device. She told reporters that while she will consider that as a possibility, the fragment is “probably a gospel. Probably from the second century and most close to the Gospels of Mary, Thomas and Philip.”

Bock agreed with the notion that the text fragment shared similarities with those gospels, called the Gnostic Gospels, which were the writings of an early outlier sect of Christians. He said the text could be referring to a “gnostic rite of marriage that is a picture of the church and Jesus, not a real wife.”

But he added, “it’s a small text with very little context. We don’t know what’s wrapped around it to know what it’s saying.”

Bock said it’s likely to be a gnostic text if it proves to be authentic. “The whole text needs vetting. She’s doing the right thing to release it and let scholars take a look at,” he said, adding “it’s a little bit like trying to analyze the game in the first quarter.”

“It’s a historical curiosity but doesn’t really tell us who Jesus was,” Bock said. “It’s one small speck of a text in a mountain of texts of about Jesus.”

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The owner of the fragment has been identified by King as a private collector who has asked to stay anonymous. The owner brought the fragment to Harvard have King examine it in December 2011.

King then brought it to the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. Roger Bagnall, the institute’s director and an expert on papyrus, examined it and determined it to be authentic, Bangall confirmed to CNN.

Ariel Shisha-Halevy, professor of linguistics at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, who was asked to examine the authenticity, according to the draft of the article, told King via e-mail, “I believe – on the basis of language and grammar – the text is authentic. That is to say, all its grammatical ‘noteworthy’ features, separately or conjointly, do not warrant condemning it as forgery.”

Little is known about the origin of the text. Because both sides of the fragment have writing on them, King said it could have come out of a book rather than a scroll.

“Just like most of the earliest papyri of the New Testament and other literary and documentary papyri, a fragment this damaged could have come from an ancient garbage heap,” the King says building on prior research by Luijendijk.

King writes “the importance of the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ lies in supplying a new voice within the diverse chorus of early Christian traditions about Jesus that documents that some Christians depicted Jesus as married.”

The Smithsonian Channel also announced Monday that it will air a special on King’s findings on September 30.

 Newly revealed Coptic fragment has Jesus making reference to ‘my wife’
– CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

John F. Kennedy Marries Jacqueline Bouvier

September 12, 2012 · Posted in Presidential history · Comments Off on John F. Kennedy Marries Jacqueline Bouvier 

On this day in 1953, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, the future 35th president of the United States, marries Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport, Rhode Island. Seven years later, the couple would become the youngest president and first lady in American history.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was born into a prominent New York family in 1929 and grew into an avid horsewoman and reader. In 1951, after graduating from George Washington University, Jackie, as she was called, took a tour of Europe. That fall, she returned to the U.S. to begin her first job as the Washington Times-Herald’s “Inquiring Camera Girl.” Shortly afterward, she met a young, handsome senator from Massachusetts named John Kennedy at a dinner party in Georgetown. They dated over the next two years, during which time Jackie mused at the idea that she might actually marry a man who was allergic to horses, something she never thought she would have considered. In 1953, the two were engaged, when Kennedy gave Jackie a 2.88-carat diamond-and-emerald ring from Van Cleef and Arpels.

“Jack,” as Kennedy was called, and Jackie married on September 12, 1953, at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. Jackie wore an ivory silk gown made by Ann Lowe, an African-American designer. The Catholic mass was attended by 750 guests and an additional 450 people joined the wedding reception at Hammersmith Farm. The couple danced to the Meyer Davis Orchestra’s version of “I Married an Angel.” Davis also performed at Jackie’s parents’ wedding and at Kennedy’s inaugural ball.

John F. Kennedy marries Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport, Rhode Island. (2012). The History Channel website. Retrieved 8:37, September 12, 2012, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/john-f-kennedy-marries-jacqueline-bouvier-in-newport-rhode-island.

Jeffrey MacDonald Convicted of Murdering His Family

September 8, 2012 · Posted in Historic Crimes · Comments Off on Jeffrey MacDonald Convicted of Murdering His Family 

New York (CNN) — Before O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony, before Scott Peterson, Amanda Knox and the cottage industry of cable news legal pundits, there was the shocking case of Jeffrey MacDonald.

Ten years after his pregnant wife and two young daughters were butchered in their home in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, MacDonald was convicted of the killings and sentenced to life in prison. While a jury was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of MacDonald’s guilt, many people were still left with one lingering question: Did he really do it?

The drama surrounding the heinous crimes and the subsequent trial fascinated the public for decades. It sparked controversial best-selling books, an immensely popular television miniseries and an explosive “60 Minutes” interview that was watched by tens of millions of viewers.

Today, more than 40 years after the murders, questions are still being raised about MacDonald’s guilt.

“We’ve been sold a bill of goods about this case,” said filmmaker Errol Morris. “It’s as phony as a three dollar bill.”

Morris, an Academy Award-winning documentary director whose acclaimed movies include “The Fog of War” and “The Thin Blue Line,” has made that opinion the centerpiece of a new investigative book, “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.” At more than 500 pages, it aims to prove that an innocent man is in prison.

“The evidence is neither clear nor convincing,” Morris told CNN. “There are many things about this case that rub me the wrong way, but principal among them was how the jury was asked to make decisions about his guilt or innocence with incomplete evidence, evidence that was withheld, corrupted and suppressed.”

Flawed forensic analysis, a contaminated crime scene, damaged and destroyed evidence and an effort to bury a confession all contributed to a miscarriage of justice, according to Morris.

“This has nagged me for so many years, “Morris said. “I felt I should do something.”

What is not in dispute is what happened at 544 Castle Drive in the early morning hours of February 17, 1970. Military police officers responding to a call from MacDonald found his wife, Colette, beaten and stabbed to death in the master bedroom; the couple’s two daughters, Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, 3, were in their beds, also stabbed to death.

MacDonald, who was wounded with two stab wounds and a collapsed lung, told investigators that he was sleeping on the couch when he heard screaming. He said he awoke to find in his home three men and one woman, who he described as having blond hair and wearing a floppy hat. They were chanting “kill the pigs” and “acid’s groovy” before attacking him, MacDonald told the investigators.

MacDonald and his claim of killer hippies made headlines around the country. They also turned him into a prime focus of the investigation.

“The story is so bizarre and unlikely and it might actually be true,” said CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “It seems too preposterous on its face that a smart guy might have come up with something better, which raises the possibility that it might actually be true.”

What is absolutely certain is that a military inquiry into the murders recommended MacDonald not be court-martialed, citing a lack of evidence. MacDonald was granted an honorable discharge.

He moved to Southern California, where he practiced medicine. But the case against him was far from over. In 1975, a grand jury indicted MacDonald for the murders. He was ultimately convicted in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison.

“He is almost the definition of an unlikely murder suspect,” said Toobin. “Princeton graduate, medical doctor, Green Beret, these are the kinds of credentials we associate with people at the top of the heap in this country, not convicted murderers.”

Was MacDonald the victim of injustice or a manipulative, cold-blooded killer? “Fatal Vision,” the 1983 book on the case by Joe McGinniss, portrayed MacDonald as a cunning sociopath.

Asked to comment on “Wilderness of Error,” McGinniss issued the following statement to CNN:

“Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the murders of his wife and two young daughters in 1979. In all the years since, every court that has considered the case — including the United States Supreme Court — has upheld that verdict in every aspect. MacDonald is guilty not simply beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt.”

A key figure in Morris’ bid to show MacDonald is innocent is Helena Stoeckley, the woman who confessed to being in the home the night of the murders. Stoeckley, who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and who died in 1983, testified that she had no involvement in the murders. Morris said she was encouraged by a prosecutor to alter her testimony.

“Stoeckley was crucial to the defense case because she gave us reason to believe that MacDonald was telling the truth,” Morris said. “But if you cut her out of the story by pressuring her to change her story, you are going to change the outcome of the trial.”

James Blackburn, the prosecutor who MacDonald said threatened Stoeckley, would not comment on the charge because of pending litigation.

“I was the prosecutor in the case, and I did that job to the best of my ability,” Blackburn told CNN. “I did it in great reliance of the evidence the government had and we presented an honorable case and it was straightforward and it was based on good and competent evidence. And I agree with the jury’s verdict.”

Today, MacDonald, who will be 69 in October, still has his believers. In addition to Morris, they include Hammond A. Beale, who served as a legal adviser during the Fort Bragg military inquiry into the murders.

“I think those of us that are on the side that believes he is totally innocent can’t believe this happened,” Beale said. “This guy has not only lost his wife and kids but loses his career and ends up in prison for the rest of his life. That’s horrendous.”

“The army got it right, the federal courts royally screwed it up,” Beale added. “I don’t think this will ever go away until justice is done.”

Morris doubts the conviction will be overturned. Still, he is hopeful MacDonald will one day be freed from custody.

“It’s a principle of fairness,” Morris said. “You don’t want to convict an innocent man.”

Author seeks to prove murderer is innocent/Source CNN  Read More

Picasso Sculpture

September 3, 2012 · Posted in Art History · Comments Off on Picasso Sculpture 


EVANSVILLE, Ind.–A call from a New York art dealer about a glass sculpture by Pablo Picasso to a museum in Evansville, Ind., led the museum to search its holdings and unravel a bizarre mystery of a hidden treasure.

•By Michael Wheatley, Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science
Pablo Picasso’s Seated Woman with Red Hat, a fired-glass piece kept in storage nearly 50 years, was only recently discovered to be genuine.

By Michael Wheatley, Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science

Pablo Picasso’s Seated Woman with Red Hat, a fired-glass piece kept in storage nearly 50 years, was only recently discovered to be genuine.

Arlan Ettinger, of the art broker/auctioneer Guernsey’s, who had handled the sale of Jackie Kennedy’s possessions and Princess Diana’s things, among other celebrities’ belongings, was the New Yorker. In February, he was researching rare, extremely valuable sculptures made of glass — the word for it is “gemmaux” — by Picasso. One of Ettinger’s clients was considering selling some Picassos and was interested in their value. Ettinger tracked one to Evansville by perusing the papers of its original owner.

But old records of transactions involving art aren’t always reliable. Ettinger hung up the phone figuring he’d reached a dead end.

In Evansville, the museum staffers, their curiosity piqued, soon were rummaging through their storage area. And inside a shipping crate that had arrived during the tail end of the Lyndon Johnson administration, there it was, 3 feet tall, a couple of feet across: Picasso’s “Femme Assise au Chapeau Rouge” (“Seated Woman with Red Hat”).

“I pretty much know the lay of the land here,” said John Streetman, in his 38th year as the museum’s executive director, “but this was a total surprise.”

The cash value of such a piece can’t be known until it’s sold, but Ettinger puts it “in the range of $30 (million) or $40 million.” Another Gemmaux expert said that estimate sounds high. But even half as much is a lot of money to Evansville’s museum, whose entire endowment fund contains $6 million.

When Streetman got Ettinger on the phone with news of the Picasso’s discovery, “you could almost hear champagne corks popping in the background,” Ettinger said. “They were shocked. I don’t know if ’embarrassed’ is the right word, but maybe ‘amazed,’ ‘thrilled.’ ”

Museum officials, like the occasional lottery winner that doesn’t come forward right away, moved forward with caution. They debated what to do with their new-found masterpiece but kept the debate within the museum’s walls.

By the time they spilled the beans in August, their plan was in place: “De-accession.” That’s museum-speak for: sell the piece, take the cash. Guernsey’s Ettinger will handle the transaction via a private sale, not an auction. He said he has fielded some inquiries, but so far there’s no deal.

Evansville’s Picasso is surely the most spectacular artwork to ever come through town. But only a handful of museum insiders got so much as a peek at it. There was no public showing; the piece was not made available for media photographing. It may even be out of town already. All anyone in the know would say about the artwork is, “It’s in a secure place.”

“I wanted to show it,” said Streetman, “but the president of our board came up with a list of good reasons not to.”

Board President Steve Krohn is a businessman, a lawyer. “It would have cost too much money to insure and to adequately protect,” he said. “We might have had to hire additional security and make changes to the physical plant that we couldn’t justify for one item. We made the only prudent decision.”

A Studebaker — and a showman

The story of “Femme Assise au Chapeau Rouge” begins in 1954 with the great Picasso traveling to Paris and producing several dozen glass sculptures, or les gemmaux, in a new and original way.

In 1957, a collection of gemmaux was shown in Paris and New York, and some very fancy people made purchases, including Nelson Rockefeller, the emperor of Japan and Raymond Loewy. Loewy picked out “Femme Assise au Chapeau Rouge.”

Loewy today is largely forgotten. But back then, “the father of industrial design” was a ubiquitous celebrity. He designed locomotives, airplanes, tractors, the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the Schick electric razor, the Electrolux refrigerator and the Greyhound Scenicruiser.

Loewy liked to mingle with artists. He counted Salvador Dali a close friend. He collected art and gave it away.

In 1963, as the South Bend, Ind.-based carmaker Studebaker basked in the accolades for the look of its radical, grilleless, Loewy-designed Avanti sports car, Loewy agreed to give his Picasso to the Evansville museum.

Loewy died in 1986, but the decision makes no sense to his son-in-law, David Hagerman, who lives in Atlanta and manages the Loewy estate.

“Raymond Loewy had a great affinity for South Bend,” Hagerman said, referring to the Studebaker connection. “I would have assumed if he’d have donated to a museum in Indiana, he’d have donated to a museum in the South Bend area.”

It’s possible Loewy never even set foot in Evansville, which is 300 miles from South Bend. But he did know Siegfried R. Weng, an artist and arts administrator who by all accounts was difficult to resist.

In the 1940s, Weng headed the art museum in Dayton, Ohio, where he curated a show of Loewy’s art collection and probably got to know the great designer.

Weng moved to Evansville to run the museum in 1950 and took the organization to new heights, leading it to the construction of its first new museum building.

“Siegfried (Weng) was like P.T. Barnum,” said Streetman. “A very unusual, wonderful man.”

Philanthropists often make donations based on personal relations, which would explain Loewy’s gift to Evansville. It’s impossible to know for certain how that gift came to languish in storage for 44 years. But it’s obvious that when Loewy’s Picasso arrived, the Evansville museum wasn’t paying attention. A staffer mislabeled it a work by “Gemmaux,” said Mary Bowers, the current curator.

Some possible explanations for the mix-up: The piece arrived in 1968 (per the terms of Loewy’s 1963 promise) just as Weng was retiring; the director as well as his staff may have been preoccupied with their own futures.

Besides, the piece itself wasn’t the colossus it is today. Its appraised value, for Loewy’s tax purposes, was just $20,000.

The value has increased considerably, but exactly how much isn’t clear because as far as the art world knows, no similar work has changed hands for many years.

“There’s no pre-established market,” said Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y., which owns three Picasso gemmaux pieces. “We received them in the ’90s, when no one really knew what they were,” Oldknow said. (She declined to disclose their appraised value.). “But now there’s an intense interest in the ’50s, and everything from then is being re-evaluated.”

Oldknow said she’d “rather not comment” on Ettinger’s estimate, “but I think it’s high.”

Just what will the Evansville museum do with its windfall? There are no plans.

“We’ll turn it over to the Finance Committee for their recommendations,” said Krohn, the lawyer.

Some townsfolk are sorry to see the artwork go, even if they never saw it in the first place.

“Seems like if the museum needed the money that bad they should have looked through their basement sooner,” said Brent Carroll, who manages River City Pawn, where people swap treasures for cash daily. “Something that’s been there since ’68, to right away take it to where no one’s going to see it again? I’d say keep it and put it on display a year or two, then sell it. But that’s just me.” Indiana museum unravels mystery of Picasso sculpture

Neil Armstrong’s Death at 82

August 25, 2012 · Posted in Science · Comments Off on Neil Armstrong’s Death at 82 

I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Neil Armstrong today. Neil and I trained together as technical partners but were also good friends who will always be connected through our participation in the mission of Apollo 11. Whenever I look at the moon it reminds me of the moment over four decades ago when I realized that even though we were farther away from earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone.

Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a landmark moment in human history. I had truly hoped that in 2019, we would be standing together along with our colleague Mike Collins to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our moon landing. Regrettably, this is not to be. Neil will most certainly be there with us in spirit.

On behalf of the Aldrin family, we extend our deepest condolences to Carol and the entire Armstrong family. I will miss my friend Neil as I know our fellow citizens and people around world will miss this foremost aviation and space pioneer.

May he Rest in Peace


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