The Defiant Clove Tree

The Dutch United East India Company (abbreviated “VOC” for the Dutch title) was founded in 1602 and began competing with the Portugese in Southeast Asia. The Dutch soon forced their competitors out giving them a monopoly in the spice trade.

Clove trees only used to grow on two islands in modern-day Indonesia: Ternate and Tidore. They remained a closely guarded secret until the Portuguese and the Dutch arrived in the region. In 1667, the VOC gained complete control over the clove trade with the capture of the last harbor where non-Dutch-owned cloves could be purchased.

Beginning in 1652, the VOC introduced a policy whereby any clove trees that weren’t owned by the company were uprooted and destroyed by fire. Consequently, the company made huge profits with their control on the clove trade, among other spices, and to conserve this, punishments were harsh for those who defied them. The death penalty was handed out to anyone caught with a clove tree or seeds. All clove exports were limited. Only 800–1,000 tons were allowed out in commercial trade with the rest of the harvest being dumped in the sea.

Afo the clove tree

Afo the clove tree

But one tree defied the iron grip of the Dutch. Known as Afo, growing on the slopes of the Gamalama volcano on the island of Ternate. Somehow, Afo survived the policy of controlled destruction and was found by a French missionary turned entrepreneur who took some of Afo’s seeds in 1770. The seeds were taken to the Seychelles and Zanzibar, which is currently the world’s largest clove producer, thus ending the VOC’s trade monopoly.

Afo is estimated to be over 400 years old and still stands today, though nearing the end of its life, protected by a brick wall from locals who once tried to use it as firewood.

The Real Hannibal Lecter

One of the all-time scariest fictional villains, Hannibal Lecter has terrified moviegoers and book lovers for over 30 years. However, what’s even scarier is the fact that the liver-eating cannibal was based on a real killer. Alfredo Balli Trevino was a Mexican doctor who met Thomas Harris in the 1960s and left a very strong impression on the young writer.

In 1981, Thomas Harris published his second novel, Red Dragon, introducing the world to Hannibal Lecter. Three more novels, five movies, and one TV show later, and the world is still obsessed with the charming cannibal killer. However, there’s one question that’s haunted fans for a very long time. Was the character of Hannibal Lecter inspired by a real-life murderer? And if so, who? Plenty of names have been tossed around over the years, including Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish. Of course, there’s one man who knew the answer, but Thomas Harris preferred to keep his mouth shut, letting readers fight it out among themselves.

All that changed in 2013. When the 25th anniversary edition of The Silence of the Lambs novel was released, Thomas Harris included a new introduction that sent shivers up and down the spines of Hannibal fans. According to the author himself, Lecter was based on a little-known Mexican murderer he dubbed “Dr. Salazar.” The two met in the early 1960s when Harris was a journalist doing a story on Dykes Askew Simmons, an American murderer serving time in a Monterrey prison. While visiting the Mexican penitentiary, Harris learned Simmons had once been shot trying to escape. Critically wounded, the American was taken to Dr. Salazar who performed life-saving surgery. Intrigued, Harris wanted to interview the surgeon, mistakenly assuming Salazar was a prison doctor. It was an understandable assumption. Since he had medical training, Salazar worked with the poor and even had his own office inside the prison.

When the two finally met, Harris shook hands with “a small, lithe man with dark red hair.” He later described Salazar as a man who stood very still and had “a certain elegance about him.” The men began talking, but very quickly, Harris lost control of the conversation. Salazar began probing the writer, asking questions about Simmons’s victims and lecturing about the nature of torment. When the interview was over, Harris asked the warden about Salazar’s medical career. The shocked official replied, “Hombre! The doctor is a murderer! As a surgeon, he could package his victim in a surprisingly small box. He will never leave this place. He is insane.”

However, there’s one last question: Who is Dr. Salazar? According to both The Times and Mexican author Diego Enrique Osorno, Salazar’s real name was Alfredo Balli Trevino, and the evidence is pretty conclusive. Trevino was a surgeon and convicted murderer, he was in jail during the ‘60s and, most importantly, he treated Dykes Askew Simmons while in prison. But what did the good doctor do to end up behind bars?

On October 9, 1959, Trevino and his lover, Jesus Castillo Rangel, had a fight. Some say Rangel wouldn’t loan Trevino any desperately needed cash. Others claim Rangel wanted to end their relationship. Whatever happened, Trevino knocked Rangel unconscious, slit his throat with a scalpel, chopped him up into little pieces and put the bloody chunks into a box. With the help of an accomplice, Alfredo buried the remains, but he was eventually found out and sentenced to death. Fortunately for Trevino, his sentence was commuted, and he eventually left the prison in 2000. A free man, he continued his medical practice, helping the poor until he passed away in 2009. Despite his good deeds, chances are good he would’ve loved swapping stories and sharing a nice Chianti with everybody’s favorite cannibal.

Poem

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye

The Long, Storied History of the Greenbrier Resort

TheGreenbrier-North

The Greenbrier is a Forbes four-star and AAA Five Diamond Award winning luxury resort located just outside the town of White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, United States.

For most of its history, the hotel was owned by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and its successors, including the CSX Corporation. Before its most recent purchase and sale, the hotel was operated by CSX Hotels, Inc., a subsidiary of the CSX Corporation.

Following a year of heavy losses, CSX placed the hotel into bankruptcy in 2009. Justice Family Group, LLC, a company owned by local entrepreneur Jim Justice, subsequently bought the property and guaranteed all debts, resulting in dismissal of the bankruptcy. Justice has promised to return the hotel to its former status as a five-star resort and to introduce “tasteful” gambling for guests as a revenue enhancer. The Greenbrier Hotel Corp. today operates as a subsidiary of Justice’s company.

The last U.S. president to stay at The Greenbrier during his presidency was Dwight Eisenhower. A total of 26 presidents have stayed at The Greenbrier.

Bunker entrance

Bunker entrance


The Greenbrier is also the site of a massive underground bunker that was meant to serve as an emergency shelter for the United States Congress during the Cold War. It was code named “Project Greek Island” and Fritz Bugas was former onsite superintendent.

On March 20, 2009, the resort filed for bankruptcy, listing debt of up to $500 million and assets of $100 million. The resort lost $166 million in 2008. Pending court and regulatory approval, the resort was to be sold to the Marriott hotel chain (which has operated it), contingent upon significant concessions from the unions and approval of $50 million in financing from CSX.

On May 7, 2009, the Justice family of West Virginia publicly claimed that it had purchased the resort for $20 million. The Justice family, headed by patriarch James Justice, has extensive farm and milling operations in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina including 50,000 acres that it farms through its Justice Family Farms group headquartered in Beckley, West Virginia. In early 2009, it sold its Bluestone Coal Corporation network of West Virginia coal mines to Mechel.

The Marriott Corporation asserted that it had a valid contract to purchase the hotel, and expected to see that contract honored. However, Justice ultimately settled with Marriott, and the bankruptcy judge dismissed the case on May 19, 2009, clearing the way for Justice’s purchase of the property.

Bunker dormitory

Bunker dormitory

In the late 1950s, the U.S. government approached The Greenbrier for assistance in creating a secret emergency relocation center to house Congress in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. The classified, underground facility, named “Project Greek Island”, was built at the same time as the West Virginia Wing, an above-ground addition to the hotel, from 1959 to 1962.

Bunker rations

Bunker rations

Although the bunker was kept stocked with supplies for 30 years, it was never actually used as an emergency location, even during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The bunker’s existence was not acknowledged until Ted Gup of The Washington Post revealed it in a 1992 story; immediately after the Post story, the government decommissioned the bunker. The facility has since been renovated and is also used as a data storage facility for the private sector. It is featured as an attraction in which visitors can tour the now declassified facilities, known as The Bunker.

The Dirty Dozen

The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use this Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choosing the least contaminated produce.

For the second year, there is an expanded Dirty Dozen with a Plus category to highlight two crops – domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens, specifically kale and collards. These crops did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.

Though the Environmental Protection Agency has been restricting the uses of the most toxic pesticides, they are still detected on some foods. For example, green beans were on last year’s Plus list because they were often contaminated with two highly toxic organophosphates. Those pesticides are being withdrawn from agriculture. But leafy greens still show residues of organophosphates and other risky pesticides. That’s why they are on the Plus list for 2013.

Tests in 2008 found that some domestically-grown summer squash – zucchini and yellow crookneck squash — contained residues of harmful organochlorine pesticides that were phased out of agriculture in the 1970s and 1980s but that linger on some farm fields.

Genetically modified plants, or GMOs, are not often found in the produce section of grocery stores. Field corn, nearly all of which is produced with genetically modified seeds, is used to make tortillas, chips, corn syrup, animal feed and biofuels. Because it is not sold as a fresh vegetable, it is not included in EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Nor is soy, another heavily GMO crop that makes its way into processed food.

The genetically modified crops likely to be found in produce aisles of American supermarkets are zucchini, Hawaiian papaya and some varieties of sweet corn. Most Hawaiian papaya is a GMO. Only a small fraction of zucchini and sweet corn are GMO. Since U.S. law does not require labeling of GMO produce, EWG advises people who want to avoid it to purchase the organically-grown versions of these items.

The Dirty Dozen

Apples

Apples

Celery

Celery

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Grapes

Grapes

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

Kale/Collard greens

Kale/Collard greens

Nectarines

Nectarines

Peaches

Peaches

Potatoes

Potatoes

Spinach

Spinach

Strawberries

Strawberries

Summer squash

Summer squash

Sweet bell peppers

Sweet bell peppers

Duck Dynasty Event Cancelled

duck-dynasty-merchandise-ftr

The “Duck Dynasty” clan isn’t the draw it used to be. Not even in the Bible Belt.

Promoters announced last month that members of the Robertson family would appear at a show titled “Faith, Family & Ducks” at an 11,000-seat arena in Springfield, Mo.

For $37, $50 or $58, fans could enjoy live music and hear the bayou millionaires talk about “living the American dream” while staying true to their “family values and modest lifestyle.”

But according to local media reports, the April 27 event has been canceled due to low ticket sales.

What? Nobody wants to pay money to watch a bunch of fake hillbillies talk about their faux religious faith, and how they bilked millions out of unsuspecting consumers?

What’s happened to this country?

Quotes

“A graceful taunt is worth a thousand insults.”
–Louis Nizer

“I feel so miserable without you. It’s almost like having you here.”
–Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
–John Bright

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
–Winston Churchill

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.”
–Winston Churchill

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”
–Irvin S. Cobb

“I have never killed a man,
but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
–Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word
that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
–William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Poor Faulkner.
Does he really think big emotions come from big words?
–Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“He had delusions of adequacy.”
–Walter Kerr

“He can compress the most words
into the smallest idea of any man I know.”
–Abraham Lincoln

“You’ve got the brain of a four-year-old boy,
and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.”
–Groucho Marx

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”
–Groucho Marx

“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.”
–Robert Redford

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”
–Forrest Tucker

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”
–Mae West

“She is a peacock in everything but beauty.”
–Oscar Wilde

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
–Oscar Wilde

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”
–Oscar Wilde

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.”
–Billy Wilder