Boudicca and the Iceni Rebellion

In the first century CE, an uprising against Roman rule on the island of Britannia was launched. In a short time, the rebels had wiped out a Roman army, sacked two towns, and burned the Roman city of Londinium to the ground. And even more horrifying to the Romans, the British rebels were led by a woman.


Boudicca and her troops.                                       photo from Wiki commons

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The Wall Street Plot to Depose FDR

One of the oddest political events in American history happened in 1933, just after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office. Retired US Marine General Smedley Butler, who had led American troops during interventions from China to Nicaragua (and had twice won the Medal of Honor), testified to Congress that he had been approached by a conspiracy of corporate businessmen and Wall Street bankers to depose FDR and establish a Fascist regime in the United States, based on the political and economic programs of Hitler and Mussolini. Butler’s story became known as the “Business Plot”, and it still divides historians today.

General Smedley Butler                                                       photo from Wikicommons

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“Piltdown Chicken”: The Archaeoraptor Fraud

In 1999, the National Geographic Society, in a splashy press conference, announced a stunning new fossil find to the world–a half-dinosaur half-bird that was “the missing link” in avian evolution. It was given the name “Archaeoraptor”. But within a short time, the Society was forced to withdraw its announcement when it was discovered that the celebrated fossil was a fraud, earning it a new nickname–the “Piltdown Chicken”.


Reconstruction of Microraptor, one of the species used to fabricate the “Archaeoraptor” skeleton
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The Most Endangered Bird: The Fight to Save the Guam Kingfisher

The Guam Kingfisher was never a very widespread bird, limited to the tiny Pacific island of Guam. But when a non-native snake was accidentally introduced to its habitat, the birds were devastated, and the population dropped to just 29 individuals. Today, the US Government is carrying out a massive effort to save the Guam Kingfisher from extinction.


Guam Kingfisher

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A History of NAFTA

In December 1993, the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The first of what would become twenty-odd regional “free trade agreements”, NAFTA was a source of controversy and conflict from its inception, with one side arguing that it promoted economic growth and helped workers in poor countries, and one side arguing that it crippled the US economy and gutted environmental and labor protections.


Bill Clinton signs the NAFTA agreement.                                      White House Photo
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Kirishitan: Christianity and the Japanese Shoguns

In the 16th century, European Christianity entered the Empire of Japan. It became such a threat to the social order that it was outlawed, Japanese Christians were massacred, and Japan closed itself off to the West for the next two and a half centuries.


Japanese Kirishitan painting of a Madonna and Child          photo from Wiki Commons

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Central Park Zoo: America’s First Zoo

Just before the Civil War, New York was the largest city in the US. To enhance its reputation as an international cultural center, the city decided to duplicate the expansive public parks that were found in London and Paris, and in 1853, the state legislature authorized the city to obtain 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan for use as a public park and common space, under the management of an appointed Parks Commission. And from this, according to the claim, appeared America’s first zoo.


The Central Park Zoo

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Philadelphia Zoo: America’s First Zoo

In the early years of the American republic, Philadelphia, as the second-largest city, with a population over half a million, was the country’s intellectual, educational, and social capitol. It is therefore no surprise that the city was a center of scientific study, establishing a large number of universities, medical schools, and scientific institutes. And, according to their claim, the nation’s first zoo.


The Philadelphia Zoo
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The Top Air Ace of the Vietnam War

During the years of US combat in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972, there were only two American ace pilots, both with five aerial victories. (Three other non-pilot Weapons Officers were also credited with five victories.) The North Vietnamese, however, despite their inferior training and the limitations of their Soviet-built fighter jets, had 16 ace pilots with five or more victories. The highest-scoring of these was Nguyen Van Coc.


MiG 21
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Forgotten mysteries, oddities and unknown stories from history, nature and science.