Saturday, December 17, 2016

Smithsonian Snippets

Some items from the Smithsonian online magazine.

Austria to seize the house where Hitler was born

The stone in front of the home in Braunau am Inn, Austria, where Adolf Hitler was born reads "For peace, freedom and democracy, never again fascism, millions of dead are a warning"

Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 in Braunau am Inn, a town in Austria-Hungary (in present-day Austria). The building in which he was born has been in the family of local resident Gerlinde Pommer since the 1880’s. In 1938, future Nazi party leader Martin Bormann bought and restored the property. Pommer’s family bought it back after World War II, and in 1972, the city of Braunau and the Austrian government began renting the building, using it as a centre for adults with disabilities. In 2011 the government requested permission to renovate the property but Pommer refused. She also refused an offer to purchase the site and it has sat empty since.

The problem for the government and the local community is that Nazi sympathisers come to the site for adoration and to pay homeage, including from overseas.

On 15 December 2016 Austrian officials passed the law that will allow authorities to seize the home. There have been suggestions that the property be turned back into flats, turned into an adult education centre or a museum that confronts Austria’s Nazi past. 

The town of Branau will be happy to see the end of the “Hitler house”, as some have dubbed it. Two years ago, Braunau's second deputy mayor Christian Schilcher expressed the frustration of his residents to the BBC. “This theme is a problem for the image of Braunau. We want to be a beautiful little town, with tourism and visitors. We are not the children of Hitler.”

Adolf Hitler (1989-1945) as an infant, c 1989 - 1990

There Are Over 200 Bodies on Mount Everest, And They’re Used as Landmarks

“Green Boots” on Everest

The frozen bodies of many those who have died climbing Mount Everest remain in situ and are used as landmarks and trail markers. As Haweye says to Miss Munro in The Last of the Mohicans: “They are not strangers .... And they stay as they lay ...!” Some have even earned nicknames,

Some of the bodies and stories:
  • The body of “Green Boots,” an Indian climber who died in 1996 and is believed to be Tsewang Paljor, lies near a cave that all climbers must pass on their way to the peak. Green Boots now serves as a waypoint marker that climbers use to gauge how near they are to the summit. Green Boots met his end after becoming separated from his party. He sought refuge in a mountain overhang, but to no avail. He sat there shivering in the cold until he died.
  • In 2006, English climber David Sharp joined Green Boots. He stopped in the now-infamous cave to rest. His body eventually froze in place, rendering him unable to move but still alive. Over 40 climbers passed by him as he sat freezing to death. His plight might have been overlooked as passers-by assumed Sharp was the already-dead Green Boots. Eventually, some heard faint moans, realized he was still alive, and, too late, attempted to give him oxygen or help him stand.
The body of British climber David Sharp, frozen in a sitting position in “green boots cave”.
  • Francys Arsentiev was the first American woman to reach Everest’s summit without the aid of bottled oxygen, in 1998. But climbers do not recognize this as a successful ascent since she never made it down the mountain. Following a rough night time trek to camp, her husband, a fellow climber, noticed she was missing. Despite the dangers, he chose to turn back to find his wife anyway. On his way back, he encountered a team of Uzbek climbers, who said they had tried to help Francys but had to abandon her when their own oxygen became depleted. The next day, two other climbers found Francys, who was still alive but in too poor of a condition to be moved. Her husband’s ice axe and rope were nearby, but he was nowhere to be found. Francys died where the two climbers left her, and climbers solved her husband’s disappearance the following year when they found his body lower down on the mountain face where he fell to his death.
Two climbers noticed Francys Arsentiev’s on their way up Everest but couldn’t stop to help her. Overwhelmed with guilt, they returned after nine years in 2007 and covered her body in an American flag to dignify her death. They moved the body away from other climbers’ sight.
  • Shriya Shah-Klorfine died in 2012 while descending. She spent 25 minutes in celebrating her summit and ran out of oxygen. Later exhaustion killed her. Her body was wrapped in Canadian flag and lies just 300 meter below the summit.


Amazon Delivers!
The shopping behemoth’s first drone delivery goes off without a hitch.

One of Amazon's drones (they're testing several types) in action.

Online shopping giant Amazon made its first drone delivery on December 7, from its distribution warehouse in Cambridge, England. The delivery is a major step for Amazon, which was among the first big companies to pursue delivery by drone. The package—containing a small Amazon Fire TV and popcorn—successfully reached the client’s house after a 13-minute autonomous flight.

Though the flight was a carefully scripted publicity stunt, it kicks off a small trial in the Cambridge area. Initially only two customers will be able to order drone-delivered goods weighing up to five pounds (approximately 2.26 kilos): After placing an order and requesting 30-minute delivery on Amazon’s website, an automated process begins, with the only human involvement being to order the drone and place the package where the drone can get it. After that, the drone’s deployment, flight, delivery, and recovery are all automated.

Should these tests meet with success, the trial will expand to potentially hundreds of people living near the warehouse. But that’s just the beginning. Once the kinks are ironed out, Amazon’s ultimate goal is to expand the service all over the world, greatly reducing the company’s transportation costs by automating package distribution and delivery to the greatest extent possible.

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