Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

By 1865, Standard Oil was the largest and most profitable organization in the world, moving to Manhattan to house all the new employees.

Doctor Quack the Devil Bill

and John D. Rockefeller

The super rich in America enjoy power and prerogatives unimaginable to most of us. Who can conceive of owning a private empire that includes 100 homes, 2,500 servants, untold thousands of luxuries, and untold millions of dollars? America has a royal family of finance that has known such riches for generations. It is, of course, the Rockefellers.

John D. Rockefeller’s father, William, was a travelling salesman and self-described “botanic physician” who refused to live a normal 9-to-5 life. There were secrets behind the brick walls at 515 W. Clark St., where Dr. William and Margaret Levingston lived.

Levingston was an assumed name, taken by a bigamist and a con man nicknamed “Big Bill” who peddled herbal remedies and cancer treatments around the country. In Freeport, he claimed to be an eye and ear specialist, but Levingston was a quack.

And the biggest secret: His real name was William Avery Rockefeller and he was the father of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Co. and at the time the richest man in the world. At the dawn of the 20th Century, there was national intrigue and mounting clues of Dr. Levingston’s secret Freeport life.

Publisher Joseph Pulitzer offered $8,000 ($210,000 in today’s dollars) to anyone who could provide information on Rockefeller’s father. William Randolph Hearst also offered a tidy sum for the story.

These days it is accepted as fact by historians that Big Bill, who died in 1906 in Freeport, fathered John D. Rockefeller with Eliza Rockefeller. In a span of two years, Big Bill had two children with Eliza and two more with the family housekeeper in a span of four years. He abandoned his family in the 1850s, but never got a divorce before marrying a second wife, Margaret Allen, in 1856.

The Rockefeller clan denied any genetic connection to Levingston, who took his secrets to the grave.

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Photo of the Day

Israeli soldiers treat hostages after they were held for a week at Entebbe airport after the highjack of an Air France plane, 1976 (Photo: Getty)

Operation Thunderbolt!!! 

On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139 took off from Tel Aviv, Israel, bound for Athens, Greece and eventually Paris. There were 246 passengers and 12 crew members aboard. Not long after the Airbus A-300 plane left Athens, four terrorists–two German nationals and two Palestinians–hijacked Flight 139. They were armed with pistols as well as a grenade with the pin removed, which one of the terrorists held onto as insurance against being attacked or overwhelmed by the passengers.

The hijackers, who were affiliated with the Marxist-leaning terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the equally radical Baader-Meinhof Gang of West Germany, forced the plane to land in Benghazi, Libya, and eventually in Entebbe, Uganda, which was then ruled by dictator Idi Amin. The passengers who were not Israeli nationals were released, but this left over 100 innocent people still in their hands. The terrorists demanded that the Israeli and other western governments release 53 prisoners held in Israel, Kenya, Switzerland, France and West Germany, or they’d start killing passengers one by one on July 1.

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Photo of the Day

Kaytn massacre: This 1952 photo, shows a view of a partially emptied mass grave in the Katyn forest where approximately 22,000 Polish men were killed. Declassified documents add proof that the U.S. government helped cover up the Soviets’ responsibility.

The Hill of Goats

 Impossible to tell when I will return home..

Katyn Forest is a wooded area near Gneizdovo village, a short distance from Smolensk in Russia where, in 1940 on Stalin’s orders, the NKVD shot, and buried over 4000 Polish service personnel that had been taken prisoner when the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939 in WW2 in support of the Nazis.

In 1943 the Nazis exhumed the Polish dead and blamed the Soviets. In 1944, having retaken the Katyn area from the Nazis, the Soviets exhumed the Polish dead again and blamed the Nazis. The rest of the world took its usual sides in such arguments.

In 1989, with the collapse of Soviet Power, Premier Gorbachev finally admitted that the Soviet NKVD had executed the Poles, and confirmed two other burial sites similar to the site at Katyn. Stalin’s order of March 1940 to execute by shooting some 25,700 Poles, including those found at the three sites, was also disclosed with the collapse of Soviet Power. This particular second world war slaughter of Poles is often referred to as the “Katyn Massacre” or the “Katyn Forest Massacre”.

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Photo of the Day

This image depicts the huge waterfall that formed when an oil drilling rig in Lake Peigneur punctured the ceiling of an underlying salt mine. The backwards flow of the normally outflowing Delcambre Canal temporarily created the biggest waterfall in Louisiana.

Pulling the Plug on Louisiana’s Lake Peigneur

A 1980 drilling accident caused one of the worst industrial accidents in Louisiana’s history

In 1980, Lake Peigneur was an unremarkable body of water located near the Gulf of Mexico and New Iberia, Louisiana.  The freshwater lake covered 1,300 acres of land and was only eleven feet deep. A small piece of land, the Jefferson Island, was home to a beautiful botanical park. Deep beneath the lake there was a salt mine.

Today Lake Peigneur is still an unremarkable body of water. But it is now a 1,300 foot deep saltwater lake.

On the morning of November 21, 1980, a Texaco oil rig team on Louisiana’s Lake Peigneur noticed that their drill had seized up below the surface of the shallow lake. The twelve men were baffled when they couldn’t free the drill.

Diamond Crystal Salt Company was busy mining away in the salt dome beneath Lake Peigneur as they had been doing for years. On the lake, a Texaco drilling rig was looking for some oil. The engineers operating the rig made a miscalculation which resulted in a 14″ drill bit ramming through the roof of the salt mine. Lake Peigneur drained into the salt mine. The whole lake.In the process, a whirlpool formed and sucked the drill bit and eleven barges down into the cavern.

Then, following a series of loud pops, their platform begins to tilt toward the water. Alarmed, the men scrambled to the shore.  Geysers shot up from the depths. They had no idea that they had just redrawn the landscape of Iberia Parish. They had managed to permanently transform an 11-foot-deep freshwater lake into a 200-foot-deep saltwater one.

It was the kind accident that happens, for example, when you text and drive.

In, in the process of generating revenue for (of all things) an environmental cleanup fund, a Texaco oil rig accidentally punctured the top of a salt mine situated beneath the lake. The water above emptied into the mine, creating a whirlpool that sucked 11 barges into the caverns below, turned the lake from freshwater to saline, and caused the Delcambre Canal to flow backwards. Three days later, nine of the eleven barges “popped up like iron corks, the other two were never found.

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Photo of the Day

Emilie Sagée was absolutely unconscious of what was happening and she only knew about the phenomenon because of the expression on the faces of the people who were there. It was by seeing their frightened faces, their eyes staring at something invisible which seemed to be moving near her, that she understood. But she had never, herself, seen her double; neither had she noticed the stiffness and slowing down of her movements when her double appeared.

Emilie Sagee Never Saw Her Doppelgänger

Everyone else did, though..

Emilie Sagee was a teacher and during lessons, sometimes, her doppelgänger would appear and frighten her pupils.

Sagee worked in an exclusive girls’ school. She was a very good teacher, but for some reason she kept moving from one job to another. In 16 years, she had changed positions an impressive 19 times.

In 1845, the school found out why.

One day when Emilie was in the school garden she looked through a window and noticed that the schoolmistress had left the class for a minute, and the girls were being noisy, suddenly, the girls were amazed to see Emilie sitting in the school teachers chair… while they could see real Emilie standing outside in the garden. One girl was brave enough to touch her and said that her flesh felt like muslin.

Mademoiselle Emilie Sagee, was a dedicated teacher working in France in the mid-19th century. Adored by her students, Sagee was constantly tortured by her doppelgänger in public. Her ghostly other would appear as she was giving class in open view of all of her students, who also saw the apparition. Her doppelgänger would stand at her side as she was lecturing and mimic her every move to the amazement of her students. From the classroom to the school grounds, her doppelgänger soon decided to go alone and was seen performing tasks on its own around the school. Some students would even try to interact with it but noticed that it was kind of ethereal.

This doppelgänger imitated the gestures of Emilie Sage by standing next to her, the her most striking appearance was made while the teacher was not in the room, but nevertheless visible to all At the same time in the gardens of the school. Emilie Sage declared that she had never seen her doppelgänger, but at each apparition she felt as if emptied of her strength.

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Photo of the Day

Narcisse Pelletier in European attire and sporting his stretched ear lobe

The Forgotten Castaway 

French cabin boy Narcisse Pelletier was only 13 years old when he set out on his first epic sea voyage with a crew from Marseilles, France. The Frenchmen were looking to pick up labourers in Hong Kong, but Pelletier would never complete the journey. The voyage was a mess from the start; and quickly ran out of resources. Ultimately Pelletier ended up stranded on the Cape York Peninsula in Australia.

After a gruelling voyage in a longboat across the Coral Sea to Cape York, he was rescued by a coastal Aboriginal family and remained with them as a member of the Uutaalnganu people for seventeen years. Even though it is all but forgotten in Australia, and in France his Cape York experience is known only in its broad outlines, his story rivals that of the famous William Buckley.

Narcisse Pelletier was 13 when he set off with a crew from Marseilles, France in August of 1857. Their trip had a stop in Bombay before heading to Hong Kong to pick up labourers, and then they were on their way to Australia. Along the trip, they encountered a number of problems, like running out of food, being shipwrecked, and angry natives. While what exactly happened is disputed, the end result was that sometime between late September and early October, 1858, Pelletier was left alone on the Cape York Peninsula in Australia.

Pelletier was found on the beach by a group of Aboriginal people. After his journey, he was incredibly weak, he had been injured by natives and his feet were cut up after some contact with coral. Amazingly, after a short time with the Aboriginals he was adopted by one of the men and was given the name Amglo.

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Photo of the Day

Madame de Pompadour. François Boucher’s 1759 portait, photo by The Yorck Project

Madame de Pompadour

The Uncrowned Queen of France

The illegitimate daughter of a financier exiled for fraud, Madame de Pompadour was groomed from childhood to become a plaything for the King. She more than fulfilled her destiny, becoming his acknowledged mistress and one of the most powerful women in 18th-century France.

When it comes to the title of maîtresse-en-titre, there was no one more renown than Madame de Pompadour who was the chief mistress of Louis XV of France from 1745-1751. She was the perfect example of a woman who suffered steadily through the various unpleasantries of her role—pandering to her mercurial lover in every way and tailoring her very existence to ensure his pleasure. In private, she often claimed to be used “too well” by the king who had a voracious sexual appetite and wanted to roll in the satin sheets several times a day. While she loved the attention of the court and king, however, Madame de Pompadour was mostly frigid, often teetering between sickness and health. Her position was demanding physically, emotionally, and mentally, and she was often exhausted by Louis’ expectations.

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Photo of the Day

 “I would like to do what Abraham Lincoln did…

I would like to do it in Pakistan.” 

-Iqbal Masih

The finest carpets in South Asia are woven by children because their tiny fingers can tie small, tight knots, and because they are paid just a few rupees. In Pakistan, a 12-year-old boy who protested against child labour was murdered.

Iqbal Masih (b. 1983 – April 16, 1995) was a Pakistani boy cast into bondage at age four because of his family’s inability to repay a debt, but through extraordinary courage and perseverance became an international symbol for the dignity of children and a martyr for justice—all by the tender age of twelve.

Iqbal first had to work an entire year as an apprentice with no pay. After that he was “paid” about 20 cents US per day. (This is in quotes because he didn’t receive the money. It was subtracted by the rug-maker, his employer, from what he owed.) However, his employer also added to what he owed the cost of his food and the tools he used to do his work. If Iqbal made mistakes, he was fined, and this, as well as interest, was added to the loan balance.

Iqbal Masih, received The World’s Children’s Honorary Award 2000 posthumously, for his struggle for the rights of debt slave children. Iqbal became a debt slave at an early age, for the owner of a carpet factory who then sold him on.

Iqbal was around 5 or 6 when he started working in the carpet factory. He worked from early morning until evening and was often treated badly. When his mother Anayat needs money for an operation, she took out a loan from a carpet factory owner. The loan, or ‘peshgi’, was in Iqbal’s name. That means that Iqbal owes Ghullah the 5000 rupees (100 US dollars) that his mother’s operation cost. Now Iqbal was a debt slave and the factory owner was in charge of his life.

Five years later, Iqbal was liberated from debt slavery. He started attending the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) school. Iqbal talked to his friends who worked at carpet factories and spoke at meetings. He gave many carpet workers children the courage to leave their owners. The owners threatened Iqbal who, after receiving an award in the USA, was murdered on 16 April 1995.

Today, Iqbal is a symbol for the fight against harmful child labour and slavery all over the world.

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Photo of the Day

Ludwig Van Beethoven. Interest in Beethoven’s love life has focused largely on a letter he wrote in the summer of 1812, to an unidentified woman.

Beethoven’s Love Letters

O, My Immortal Beloved!

“My heart overflows with a longing to tell you so many things…”

Beethoven may never have married, but women had a huge influence and impact on his music and life. German composer Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the most important figures in the history of music. He continued to compose even while losing his hearing and created some of his greatest works after becoming totally deaf.

Around 1812 Beethoven wrote a long letter (10 pages) to some woman who he was obviously quite taken with. Sadly we will never know for certain who it was. However the letter itself was discovered after Beethoven’s death in a secret drawer where he also kept the Heiligenstadt Testament, some savings and some pictures.

Dr. Franz Wegeler, one of Beethoven’s oldest friends in Bonn, wrote that Beethoven “was always in love – sometimes so successfully that many handsome young men might have envied him!” Another doctor who treated him over a period of 10 years, around the time he composed his middle-quartets, wrote that Beethoven had a preference for graceful and fragile women (which incidentally reflected the physical type of his mother) but he usually kept their identities a secret from his friends and quite possibly from the women themselves.

That may not be the typical image we have of Beethoven the Composer – the titan with the unruly hair and a glower like he’d have lightening-bolts coming out of his eyes as if he were always under the power of inspiration, striding across the ages as one of the greatest creative artists known to man.

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Photo of the Day

Rasputin in his salon among admirers early 1914, most likely on his birthday; his father is the 4th from the right. His telephone is visible on the wall. Photo by Karl Bulla.

The Sacred Madman of Russia

The Mad Monk, Rasputin said he was ‘Purifying’ Women by Sleeping with Them

The Russian word “rasputnik” means debauchee. This so irritated the Russian holy man, Grigory Rasputin, that he persuaded Tsar Nicholas II to let him change his name by law. Just before Christmas 1906, he became Rasputin Novy, which means “New Rasputin.” Rasputin later claimed that this name was bestowed on him by the Tsar’s young heir, Alexis. The boy had haemophilia, and it was Rasputin’s supposedly mystical capacity to staunch its effects which gave him such a hold over the imperial couple.

Rasputin was indeed a debauchee, and remained so to his atrocious end. Shortly before his murder, for example, he had what Frances Welch calls “a late night session more or less running into a long lunch” in which he drank 12 bottles of Madeira before passing out. Although he had mesmerising eyes, he was not physically prepossessing: “Following years of use as a napkin, his straggling beard was festooned with decaying food.”

“There’s no remorse without sin,” professed Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916), whose mystical powers were reportedly in evidence from the age of 12. His burning eyes and alleged ability to expand and contract his pupils at will brought him dozens of followers during his pilgrimages to Greece and the Middle East. He claimed to have powers allowing him to heal the sick and predict the future, while his lack of personal hygiene and his intimidating complexion were in line with the Russian tradition that viewed mujik (rural peasants) as potential saints. Among many other things, Rasputin was one of the Siberian shamans that healed in the name of Christ, and that was enough to counteract the misery of the world with religious devotion.

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