Author Archive | majestic

Greed and Decline: The Treasure of the Knights Templar and Their Downfall

One can never read enough about the Knights Templar … so here’s some more from Ancient Origins:

The ‘Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon,’ more commonly known as the Knights Templar, or the Templars, was one of the most renowned military orders during the Middle Ages. The source of their fame came not only from their prowess on the battlefield, but also from the wealth they amassed during the Crusades. These riches eventually led to their downfall, and became the so-called ‘Treasure of the Templars’ in the popular imagination. What exactly is the ’Treasure of the Templars’?


Members of the Knights Templar in discussion. (Public Domain)

The Finances of the Templars

The Templars were not only great warriors, but formidable financiers as well. One of the two ranks of non-fighting men, for instance, was known as the farmers, who were responsible for the administration of the Order’s worldly possessions.

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Real Life Submission: French Jews Exodus To Israel

Reading the just-published English edition of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission over the last week has been quite surreal given the real-life events in Paris. (For those unfamiliar with the book, literary gadfly Houellebecq envisions a scenario where France becomes an Islamic nation upon the victorious national election of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2022.)

One of the effects of the changeover from a secular to an Islamic state is the exodus of Jews from France to Israel. Recent events have accelerated the process greatly, reports the Observer:

Birthright Israel, the charity founded in 1999 to bring young Jews on trips to Israel, has witnessed an unprecedented increase in participation among French citizens over the past two years.

The Observer has learned that 2500 French Jews will have visited Israel as part of the program this year—more than double the 1100 who went last year and a stunning 2400% increase over the 98 who visited as program participants in 2013.

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More Than 1 In 4 Americans Believe Government Is The Enemy

Views-of-govt-7Is that all? Judging by the political rhetoric at the Republican debates you’d expect at least half of all Americans think of their government as the enemy! From CBSDC:

More than 1 in 4 Americans believe that the government is the enemy, according to a new poll.

Pew Research Center found that 27 percent of registered voters say they think of government as an enemy, up 8 points since 1996. The latest poll looked at general public opinion regarding the federal government.

The findings suggests that 57 percent of voters feel frustrated with the government, while 22 percent feel angry and 18 percent feel “basically content.”

The majority of Americans feel the federal government has room for serious improvement, with 59 percent saying the government needs “very major reform.” Only 37 percent of voters felt that way in 1997…

[continues at CBSDC]

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The World’s First Cyborg Plant

Why shouldn’t plants be cyborgs too, eh? Gizmodo details a massive step for plant life:

The concept of “green energy” got a whole lot more literal this week, when scientists announced they’d successfully turned living roses into electronic circuits. That’s right—cyborg flowers are now a thing.

Despite how it sounds, the aim isn’t to create a race of leafy green borg that will one day rise up and enslave their human masters. Instead, think smart plants that can sense and display environmental changes, or crops whose growth can be regulated at the flick of a switch. Or plant-based fuel cells that convert the photosynthetic sugars into electricity. The very first electronic plant, developed by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden and described this week in Science Advances, is a step toward any one of those applications and many more.


Basic plant physiology and analogy to electronics. (A and B) A plant (A), such as a rose, consists of roots, branches, leaves, and flowers similar to (B) electrical circuits with contacts, interconnects, wires, and devices.

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Science Is Proving That Tragic Curses Are Real

If you think you’re cursed, you might be right, per Nautilus:

In the first lines of Sophocles’ Antigone, the title character bemoans her fate to the chorus:

How many miseries our father caused!
And is there one of them that does not fall
On us while yet we live?

Antigone must reckon with the choices her father Oedipus made and the slippery, obscure moral inheritance that he leaves her. She ultimately chooses to pay with her life, not for her sins, but for her father’s.

Oedipus and Antigone

Oedipus and Antigone


Children reckoning with and reenacting the sins of their forebears is a key part of the tragic form. The great Greek tragedians—Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides—incorporated ancestral fault into their works, as Orestes, Electra, and Antigone reap what their powerful but monumentally flawed parents sow. The Greeks took the idea of moral inheritance well past the stage, weaving it into the fabric of their society, from elegiac poetry to philosophical treatises to medical literature.

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Jihadi Help Desk for ISIS Terrorists

Even jihadis need tech support per this report from NBC News:

NBC News has learned that ISIS is using a web-savvy new tactic to expand its global operational footprint — a 24-hour Jihadi Help Desk to help its foot soldiers spread its message worldwide, recruit followers and launch more attacks on foreign soil.

Source: Brookings Institution (CC)

Source: Brookings Institution (CC)

Counterterrorism analysts affiliated with the U.S. Army tell NBC News that the ISIS help desk, manned by a half-dozen senior operatives around the clock, was established with the express purpose of helping would-be jihadists use encryption and other secure communications in order to evade detection by law enforcement and intelligence authorities.

The relatively new development — which law enforcement and intel officials say has ramped up over the past year — is alarming because it allows potentially thousands of ISIS followers to move about and plan operations without any hint of activity showing up in their massive collection of signals intelligence.

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Why Megan Phelps-Roper Left Westboro Baptist Church

WBC_20051202_sacco-topeka5Young, attractive and intelligent, Megan Phelps-Roper was the future of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. But then she came to her senses … her story portrayed in the New Yorker:

On December 1, 2009, to commemorate World AIDS Day, Twitter announced a promotion: if users employed the hashtag #red, their tweets would appear highlighted in red. Megan Phelps-Roper, a twenty-three-year-old legal assistant, seized the opportunity. “Thank God for AIDS!” she tweeted that morning. “You won’t repent of your rebellion that brought His wrath on you in this incurable scourge, so expect more & worse! #red.”

As a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, in Topeka, Kansas, Phelps-Roper believed that AIDS was a curse sent by God. She believed that all manner of other tragedies—war, natural disaster, mass shootings—were warnings from God to a doomed nation, and that it was her duty to spread the news of His righteous judgments.

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How To Buy Zero Day Exploits (And How Much They Cost)

If you have to ask what zero day exploits are, this post ain’t for you. But if you know and you’re in the market for some custom hacking, Wired usefully provides a spy firm’s price list:

The trade in the secret hacker techniques known as “zero day exploits” has long taken place in the dark, hidden from the companies whose software those exploits target, and from the privacy advocates who revile the practice. But one zero-day broker is taking the market for these hacking techniques into the open, complete with a full price list.


In an unprecedented move Wednesday, the zero-day broker startup Zerodium published a price chart for different classes of digital intrusion techniques and software targets that it buys from hackers and resells in a subscription service to customers that include government agencies. The list, which details the sums it pays for attack methods that effect dozens of different applications and operating systems, represents one of the most detailed views yet into the controversial and murky market for secret hacker exploits.

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Genetically Engineered Salmon Will Not Be Labeled

Here’s some unwelcome news: not only has the US FDA approved genetically engineered salmon to be sold into the human food supply, but the producers won’t even have to label it, reports the New York Times:

Consumers wanting to avoid genetically engineered salmon, if it eventually reaches grocery stores, might have a hard time being sure. That is because the Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday that the salmon would not have to be labeled as genetically engineered.

AquaAdvantage salmon

That is consistent with the F.D.A. stance on the widely eaten foods made from genetically modified corn, soybeans and other crops. The F.D.A. on Thursday rejected two petitions from groups asking for required labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Agency officials explained on Thursday that the law required labeling of “material” aspects of food, and that use of genetic engineering per se is not material. A significant change in the nutritional content of a food would be an example of a material change, and that altered nutritional profile would have to be on the label, but not the fact that it was produced by genetic engineering.

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The tiny pill fueling Syria’s war and turning fighters into superhuman soldiers

Ever heard of Captagon? It’s the amphetamine pill turning fighters in Syria into deranged psychos, and it’s a decent bet that you’re going to hear a lot more about it soon. Here’s an introduction courtesy of the Washington Post:

As The Post’s Liz Sly recently noted, the war in Syria has become a tangled web of conflict dominated by “al-Qaeda veterans, hardened Iraqi insurgents, Arab jihadist ideologues and Western volunteers.”

On the surface, those competing actors are fueled by an overlapping mixture of ideologies and political agendas.

Just below it, experts suspect, they’re powered by something else: Captagon.


A tiny, highly addictive pill produced in Syria and widely available across the Middle East, its illegal sale funnels hundreds of millions of dollars back into the war-torn country’s black-market economy each year, likely giving militias access to new arms, fighters and the ability to keep the conflict boiling, according to the Guardian.

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