Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: The Annual Sale of the Maidens of Babylon (Part 19);Assyrian

Hail holy union! Wedded love on earth!
The highest bliss which crowns us from our birth,
Our joy! The mainspring of our life and aims,
Our great incentive when sweet love inflames
Our hearts to glorious deeds and ever wreathes
Around our brows, the happy smile that breathes
Sweet fragrance from the home of holy love,
And arms us with a courage from above.

O Woman! Woman! Weave thy love around
Thy chosen lover, who in thee hath found
A loveliness and purity so sweet,
That he doth watch for coming of the feet
That brings him happiness and thrill his heart–
For one, of all thy kind who can impart
To him the holiest bliss, the sweetest joy,
That e’er can crown his life so tenderly;
He worships thee within a holy fane,
Let not his hope and joy be all in vain!

O thou, sweet Queen! We crown thee in our homes,
And give to thee our love that holy comes
From Heaven to inspire and bless our lives.
For this mankind all hope to take pure wives
To sacredest of all our temples, shrines,
And keep thee pure within sweet love’s confines
That we may worship thee, and daily bring
Devotions to our altar,–to thee sing
Our orisons of praise, and sacred keep
Our homes till we shall softly drop asleep
Within the arms we love so tenderly,
And carry with us a sweet memory
Of purity and bliss that blessed our lives,
And children gave from sweetest of pure wives.

Thou art our all! O holy woman, pure
Forever may thy charms on earth endure!
Oh, trample not upon thy husband’s love!
For true devotion he doth daily prove.
Oh, shackle not his feet in life’s fierce strife,
His weary shoulders burden,–blast his life!
Or palsy those dear hands that work for thee,
And fill his eyes with tears of agony,
Till love shall turn as acid to his teeth,
And thorns shall tear his side with hellish wreath,
And daggers pierce his heart, and ice his soul,
And thou become to him a hated ghoul!

[2]What married woman is untainted, pure?
She, who when married spreads for men no lure,
Bestows caresses on no man but him
Who is her husband; she who doth not trim
Her form to catch the vulgar gaze, nor paints
Herself, or in her husband’s absence taunts
Not her sweet purity; exposes not
Her form undraped, whose veil no freeman aught
Has raised;[3] or shows her face to others than
Her slaves; and loves alone her husbandman;
She who has never moistened her pure lips
With liquors that intoxicate;[4] nor sips
With others joys that sacred are alone
To him, her strength; who claims her as his own.

O Beauty, Purity, my theme inspire!
To woman’s love of old, my muse aspire!
When her sweet charms were equally bestowed,
And fairest of the sex with hopes imbued
Of capturing men of wealth and lives of ease,
When loveliness at public sale[5] doth please
The nobles of the land to wealth bestow
Upon ill-favored sisters, maids of woe,
Who claimed no beauty, nor had lovely charms;
When crones and hags, and maids with uncouth forms,
Secured a husbandman despite of fate,
And love redeemed them from the arms of hate.

The proclamation Izdubar had made
To bring to the great plaza every maid,
For Beltis’ feast and Hergal’s now arrives,
When maidens are selected as the wives
Of noblemen or burghers of the towns
And cities of the kingdom; when wealth crowns
The nobles richest, ever as of old,
With beauty they have purchased with their gold.

The festival, the Sabat-tu[6] hath come!
The Sabat-tu of Elul! hear the hum
Of voices filling Erech’s streets!
The maids are coming, how each gaily prates!
The day and hour has come for them to stand
And meet the bidders from all Sumir’s land;
The day that ends their maidenhood, and brings
Them joy or not. Oh, how the poor young things
With throbbing hearts approach yon gathering throng
To hear their fate pronounced; but is it wrong?
The custom old, Accadia thinks is good,
They all are young and fresh with maidenhood;
The ugly ones as well, shall husbands have,
And their young lives from shame thus they will save.
No aged maids shall pass from yonder throng
With bitterness,–their heart’s unuttered song
For some dear love to end their joyless woe,
And longings unallayed that e’er may flow.

But Love! O where art thou? art thou a thing
That gold may buy? Doth lucre thy bright wing
Unfold to hover over human hearts?
Oh, no! Thy presence to our soul imparts
A sweeter joy than selfishness can give,
Thou givest love that thou mayst love receive;
Nor asking aught of wealth, of rank, or fame.
True love in palace, hovel, is the same
Sweet joy, the holiest of sacred things.

For this we worship Ishtar, for she brings
Us happiness, when we ourselves forget
In the dear arms we love; no coronet
Of power, or countless gold, or rank, or fame,
Or aught that life can give, or tongue can name,
Can reach the heart that loyally doth love,
Nor hopes of heaven, nor fears of hell can move.

Mayhap, this Sabattu, some lover may
All wealth he claims abandon on this day,
For the dear heart that seeming pleads to him,
While her fond glistening eyes shall on him gleam.
A look, a glance; when mingling souls speak love,
Will in his breast undying longings move;
And let us hope that when the youths have lain[7]
Their all before the herald, that no men
Who see their sacrifice will rob their hearts
Of all that gives them joy or bliss imparts;
Or that this day alone will maidens see
Who have not loved, and they will happy be
With him who purchases her as his wife;
Or proud young beauties will enjoy the strife
Of bidders to secure their lovely charms,
And love may bring their husbands to their arms.

The day is sacred, dedicated old
To Love and Strength, when loving arms shall fold
A vigorous husband to a maiden’s breast,
Where she may ever stay and safely rest.

The day of Ishtar, Queen of Love! the day
Of Nergal, the strong god, to whom they pray
For strength to bless with vigor Accad’s sons.
For many anxious years this day atones.

[8]This day their Sar the flesh of birds eats not,
Nor food profaned by fire this day, nor aught
Of labor may perform nor “zubat”[9] change,
Nor snowy “ku-bar-ra”[10] anew arrange.
A sacrifice he offers not, nor rides
Upon his chariot this day, nor guides
His realm’s affairs, and his Tur-tan-nu rests.

Of soldiers, and of orders, he divests
His mind; and even though disease may fall
Upon him, remedies he may not call.
The temple he shall enter in the night,
And pray that Ishtar’s favor may delight
His heart; and lift his voice in holy prayer,
In Nergal’s temple rest from every care,
Where he before the holy altar bends
With lifted hands, his soul’s petition sends.

Around the square the palms and cedars shine,
And bowers of roses cluster round divine.
Beneath an arch of myrtles, climbing vines,
And canopy,–with wreathing flowers it shines,
There stands a wondrous garland-wreathed throne,
Where maids are gathered;–each unmarried one.
The timid maids and bold of Babylon
Are each in turn led to the rosy throne;
The crowd of bidders round the herald stand,
The richest and the poorest of the land.

The queen of Accad’s maids doth now appear,
We see the burnished chariot coming near,
Ten beauteous bays with proud steps, nodding plumes
Come first; behind, a train of nobles comes;
And now we see the close-drawn canopy
Thrown back by slaves, who step aside, that she
The queen of beauty crowned with lilies, rose,
May here alight. And see! she queenly goes
With dainty steps between the noblemen,
Who stand on either side the queen
Of beauty of the plains, who first this day
Shall reign upon the throne, and lead the way
For all the maids who shall be bought for gold,
And thus the first upon the throne is sold.

She takes her seat beneath the canopy,
Upon the throne high raised, that all may see;
As she her veil of fine spun gold flings back
From her sweet face and o’er her ringlets black,
Her large dark eyes, soft as a wild gazelle’s,
Upon the richest nobles dart appeals.
Her bosom throbs ‘neath gems and snowy lace,
And robes of broidered satin, velvets, grace
Her beauty with their pearly folds that fall
Around her form.

Hark! hear the herald’s call!
“Behold this pearl! my lords and noblemen,
And who will bid for her as wife, my men?”
“Ana-bilti khurassi ash at ka!”[11]
“Akhadu khurassi ana sa-sa!”[12]
“U sinu bilti khurassi!”[11] two cried.
“Sal-sutu bilti!”[12] nobles three replied;
And four, and five, and six, till one bid ten,
A vast amount of gold for noblemen:

But see! The bidders in excitement stand
Around a youth who cries with lifted hand
And features pale and stern, who now began
To bid against a wealthy nobleman,
Whose countless herds graze far upon the plain,
His laden ships that ride upon the main
He counts by scores. He turns his evil eyes
And wolfish face upon the youth and cries,
“Khamisserit!”[13] The lover answering says:
“Esra’a!”[14] “U selasa’a!”[15] then brays
The gray-haired lover. “U irbaha!”[16] cries
The youth, and still the nobleman defies;
Who answers cooly, “Khausa’a;”[17] and eyes
The anxious youth, who wildly “Miha!”[18] cries.
“Mine! mine! she is! though you “alapu”[19] bid!”
“A fool thou art!” the noble, leaving, said.

“One hundred talents for a maid!” he sneered,
And in the crowd he growling disappeared.
The measures filled with shining gold are brought,
And thus the loveliest of all is bought.

The next in beauty on the throne is sold,
And thus the beautiful are sold for gold.
The richest thus select the beautiful,
The poor must take alone the dutiful
And homely with a dower which beauty bought,
And ugliness with gold becomes his lot.

The ugliest, unsightly, and deformed,
Is now brought forth; with many wriggles squirmed
She to the throne, where beauty late had sat:
Her ugliness distorted thus; whereat
The herald cries: “Who will this woman take
With smallest dowry? She can cook and bake,
And many household duties well perform,
Although she does not claim a beauty’s charm.
Who wants a wife?”

The ugly crone with blinks
Doth hideous look, till every bidder shrinks.
A sorry spectacle, mis-shapen, gross,
She is, and bidders now are at a loss
How much to ask to take the hag to wife.

At last one cries: “Five “bilti,”[20] for relief
Of herald I will take, to start the bid!”
“And four of “bilti”, I’ll take, with the maid!”
“Three and a half!” one cries with shaking head,
“And she is yours, my man!” the herald said,
And thus she bought a husband and a home.

And so the scare-crows, scraggy ones, now come
In turn; the lean, ill-favored, gawky, bald,
Long-nosed, uncouth, raw-boned, and those with scald
And freckled, frowsy, ricketty and squat,
The stumpy, bandy-legged, gaunt, each bought
A man; though ugly as a toad, they sold,
For every man with her received his gold.

The heaped-up gold which beauteous maids had brought
Is thus proportioned to the bidder’s lot;
The grisly, blear-eyed, everyone is sold,
And husbands purchased for a pile of gold,
And happiness diffused throughout the land;
For when the maid refused her husband’s hand
She might return by paying back the gold.

And every maid who thus for wife was sold
Received a bond from him who purchased her,
To wed her as his wife, or else incur
The forfeit of his bond, and thus no maids
In all the land were found as grumbling jades,
Whose fate it was to have no husbandman,
For every woman had a husband then.

[Footnote 1: We have included in Tablet IV Tablets V and VI of the original, as classified by Mr. Sayce.]—[Footnote 2: The above is taken from an Assyrian fragment (“W.A.I.,” ii. 35, No. 4) translated in “Records of the Past,” vol. xi., pp. 159, 160, and presents the Assyrian view of purity and the customs of their people.]—[Footnote 3: Literally, “whose veil no freeman of pure race has raised.”Before slaves and men of mean rank, women of the East are not obliged to veil the face.]—[Footnote 4: Literally, “who has never moistened her teeth with an intoxicating liquor.” “Rec. of the Past,” p. 160, l. 6.]—[Footnote 5: The public sale herein described is taken from the statement of Herodotus (see Herodotus, vol. i., p. 196. Compare “Nic. Dam. Fr.,” 131, and Ælian. “Var. Hist.,” iv. 1), who says all the marriageable virgins in all the towns of the empire or kingdom were sold at public auction. The beautiful maidens were sold to the highest bidder, and the proceeds were deposited before the herald. The ugly maidens in turn were then put up, and the bidders were called upon to take them as wives with the smallest dowry to be paid from the proceeds of the sales of the beautiful maids, and they were in turn awarded to those who would accept them with the smallest amount as dowry. The numerous contracts for the sales of women now in the British Museum may possibly be records of these transactions.]—[Footnote 6: “Sab-at-tu,” a day of rest for the heart (“W.A.I.,” ii. 32), the Sabbath day, which was dedicated to the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, and their gods, which were known by different names.]—[Footnote 7: “Lain,” to lay, v.a. (pretr. “laid,” part, passive “lain,” from “liggan,” Sax.), “to place along the ground.”–Fenning’s Royal Eng. Dic., London, MDCLXXV.]—[Footnote 8: From the Babylonian Festival Calendar (“C.I.W.A.,” vol. iv., pls. 32, 33); also translated in “Records of the Past,” vol. vii., pp. 162, 163.]—[Footnote 9: “Zubat,” robes.]—[Footnote 10: “Ku-bar-ra,” linen robes.]—[Footnote 11: “And two golden talents!”]—[Footnote 12: “Three talents!”]—[Footnote 13: “Fifteen!”]—[Footnote 14: “Twenty!”]—[Footnote 15: “And thirty!”]—[Footnote 16: “And forty!”]—[Footnote 17: “Fifty!”]—[Footnote 18: “One hundred!”]—[Footnote 19: “One thousand!”]—[Footnote 20: “Five bilti,” about £3,165 sterling, or $15,825.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.


SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.) (Part 4); Assyrian

The Elamites, disconcerted by the rapidity of his action, allowed him to crush their allies unopposed; and as they had not openly intervened, the conqueror refrained from calling them to account for their intrigues. Babylon paid the penalty for all: its sovereign, Belibni, who had failed to make the sacred authority of the suzerain respected in the city, and who, perhaps, had taken some part in the conspiracy, was with his family deported to Nineveh, and his vacant throne was given to Assur-nadin-shumu, a younger son of Sargon (699 B.C.). [Berosus, misled by the deposition of Belibni, thought that the expedition was directed against Babylon itself; he has likewise confounded Assur-nadin-shumu with Esar-haddon, and he has given this latter, whom he calls Asordancs, as the immediate successor of Belibni. The date 699 B.C. for these events is indicated in “Pinches’ Babylonian Chronicle”, which places them in the third year of Belibni.]

Order was once more restored in Karduniash, but Sennacherib felt that its submission would be neither sincere nor permanent, so long as Merodach-baladan was hovering on its frontier possessed of an army, a fleet, and a supply of treasure, and prepared to enter the lists as soon as circumstances seemed favourable to his cause. Sennacherib resolved, therefore, to cross the head of the Persian Gulf and deal him such a blow as would once for all end the contest; but troubles which broke out on the Urartian frontier as soon as he returned forced, him to put off his project. The tribes of Tumurru, who had placed their strongholds like eyries among the peaks of Nipur, had been making frequent descents on the plains of the Tigris, which they had ravaged unchecked by any fear of Assyrian power. Sennacherib formed an entrenched camp at the foot of their mountain retreat, and there left the greater part of his army, while he set out on an adventurous expedition with a picked body of infantry and cavalry. Over ravines and torrents, up rough and difficult slopes, they made their way, the king himself being conveyed in a litter, as there were no roads practicable for his royal chariot; he even deigned to walk when the hillsides were too steep for his bearers to carry him; he climbed like a goat, slept on the bare rocks, drank putrid water from a leathern bottle, and after many hardships at length came up with the enemy. He burnt their villages, and carried off herds of cattle and troops of captives; but this exploit was more a satisfaction of his vanity than a distinct advantage gained, for the pillaging of the plains of the Tigris probably recommenced as soon as the king had quitted the country. The same year he pushed as far as Dayaini, here similar tactics were employed. Constructing a camp in the neighbourhood of Mount Anara and Mount Uppa, he forced his way to the capital, Ukki, traversing a complicated network of gorges and forests which had hitherto been considered impenetrable. The king, Maniya, fled; Ukki was taken by assault and pillaged, the spoil obtained from it slightly exceeding that from Tumurru (699 B.C.). Shortly afterwards the province of Tulgarimme revolted in concert with the Tabal: Sennacherib overcame the allied forces, and led his victorious regiments through the defiles of the Taurus.[The dates of and connection between these two wars are not determined with any certainty. Some authorities assign them both to the same year, somewhere between 699 and 696 B.C., while others assign them to two different years, the first to 699 or 696 B.C., the second to 698 or 695 B.C.]

Greek pirates or colonists having ventured from time to time to ravage the seaboard, he destroyed one of their fleets near the mouth of the Saros, and took advantage of his sojourn in this region to fortify the two cities of Tarsus and Ankhiale, to defend his Cilician frontier against the peoples of Asia Minor. [The encounter of the Assyrians with the Greeks is only known to us from a fragment of Berosus. The foundation of Tarsus is definitely attributed to Sennacherib in the same passage; that of Ankhialc is referred to the fabulous Sardanapalus, but most historians with much probability attribute the foundation to Sennacherib.]

This was a necessary precaution, for the whole of Asia Minor was just then stirred by the inrush of new nations which were devastating the country, and the effect of these convulsions was beginning to be felt in the country to the south of the central plain, at the foot of the Taurus, and on the frontiers of the Assyrian empire. Barbarian hordes, attracted by the fame of the ancient Hittite sanctuaries in the upper basin of the Euphrates and the Araxes, had descended now and again to measure their strength against the advanced posts of Assyria or Urartu, but had subsequently withdrawn and disappeared beyond the Halys. Their movements may at this time have been so aggressive as to arouse serious anxiety in the minds of the Ninevite rulers; it is certain that Sennacherib, though apparently hindered by no revolt, delayed the execution of the projects he had formed against Merodach-baladan for three years; and it is possible his inaction may be attributed to the fear of some complication arising on his north-western frontier. He did not carry out his scheme till 695 B.C., when all danger in that quarter had passed away. The enterprise was a difficult one, for Nagitu and the neighbouring districts were dependencies of Susa, and could not be reached by land without a violation of Blamite neutrality, which would almost inevitably lead to a conflict. Shutruk-nakhunta was no longer alive. In the very year in which his rival had set up Assur-nadin-shumu as King of Karduniash, a revolution had broken out in Elam, which was in all probability connected with the events then taking place in Babylon.

His subjects were angry with him for having failed to send timely succour to his allies the Kalda, and for having allowed Bit-Yakin to be destroyed: his own brother Khalludush sided with the malcontents, threw Shutruk-nakhunta into prison, and proclaimed himself king. This time the Ninevites, thinking that Elam was certain to intervene, sought how they might finally overpower Merodach-baladan before this interference could prove effectual. The feudal constitution of the Blamite monarchy rendered, as we know, the mobilisation of the army at the opening of a war a long and difficult task: weeks might easily elapse before the first and second grades of feudatory nobility could join the royal troops and form a combined army capable of striking an important blow. This was a cause of dangerous inferiority in a conflict with the Assyrians, the chief part of whose forces, bivouacking close to the capital during the winter months, could leave their quarters and set out on a campaign at little more than a day’s notice; the kings of Elam minimised the danger by keeping sufficient troops under arms on their northern and western frontiers to meet any emergency, but an attack by sea seemed to them so unlikely that they had not, for a long time past, thought of protecting their coast-line. The ancient Chaldaean cities, Uru, Bagash, Uruk, and Bridu had possessed fleets on the Persian Gulf; but the times were long past when they used to send to procure stone and wood from the countries of Magan and Melukhkha, and the seas which they had ruled were now traversed only by merchant vessels or fishing-boats.

Besides this, the condition of the estuary seemed to prohibit all attack from that side. The space between Bit-Yakin and the long line of dunes or mud-banks which blocked the entrance to it was not so much a gulf as a lagoon of uncertain and shifting extent; the water flowed only in the middle, being stagnant near the shores; the whole expanse was irregularly dotted over with mud-banks, and its service was constantly altered by the alluvial soil brought down by the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Ulai, and the Uknu. The navigation of this lagoon was dangerous, for the relative positions of the channels and shallows were constantly shifting, and vessels of deep draught often ran aground in passing from one end of it to the other.[The condition I describe here is very similar to what  Alexander’s admirals found 350 years later. Arrian has preserved for us the account of Nearchus’ navigation in these waters, and his description shows such a well-defined condition of the estuary that its main outline must have remained unchanged for a considerable time; the only subsequent alterations which had taken place must have been in the internal configuration, where the deposit of alluvium must have necessarily reduced the area of the lake since the time of Sennacherib. The little map on the next page has no pretension to scientific exactitude; its only object is to show roughly what the estuary of the Euphrates was like, and to illustrate approximately the course of the Assyrian expedition.]

SOURCE: History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 8 (of 12), by G. Maspero/Translated by M. L. McCLURE

World News Headlines: 12-13-2018


US warns Turkey against Syria operation targeting Kurds;The Turkish president has announced a fresh offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria is just around the corner. But the US has warned that such action would harm efforts to destroy the “Islamic State” in the region.The US on Wednesday warned Turkey against launching an operation targeting Kurdish militias in northern Syria, saying such action would be “unacceptable.” “Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern,” said Commander Sean Robertson, a spokesman for the Pentagon. Robertson said Washington was committed to Turkish border security, but noted that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) remained a “committed partner” in the fight against the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group. “We should not and cannot allow ISIS to breathe at this critical point or we will jeopardize the significant gains we have made alongside our coalition partners and risk allowing ISIS to resurge,” Robertson said, referring to the militant group by an alternative acronym. But Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and views its consolidation of territory in parts of Syria as a threat.

Turkey train crash: Fatalities after high-speed train collision; A Turkish high-speed train has collided with a local train in the capital, Ankara. Numerous casualties and several fatalities were reported by local media. Turkish media reported that the accident, which happened as the train was setting off from Ankara to the central southern province of Konya, had resulted in multiple casualties and fatalities. Images showed at least two carriages had been derailed, at least one of which appeared severely mangled. The accident happened in the western city district of Yenimahalle at 6:30 a.m. local time (0330 UTC). Official sources were reported as saying that, in addition to seven fatalities, at least 46 people had been injured. Part of the train appeared to have collided with a station overpass, which collapsed onto some coaches. Ankara governor Vasip Sahin said the high-speed train crashed into a locomotive engine checking rails at the Marsandiz train station. A rescue team was looking for more survivors, he said. “Our hope is that there are no other victims,” said Sahin, who added that a technical investigation was also underway into the cause of the crash.

Brexit: Theresa May wins Conservative Party confidence vote; Theresa May has survived a leadership challenge from hard-line members of her Conservative Party. But the battle over her controversial Brexit deal continues. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has won a confidence vote in her leadership of the Conservative Party. Of the party’s 317 lawmakers, 200 voted for her to remain in office and 117 voted against her. The party cannot hold another leadership challenge for another year. “We now have to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country,” May said after the result was announced. She added that she would seek legal and political assurances from EU leaders on a “backstop” arrangement contained in a draft Brexit deal. Hard-liners in her own party oppose the deal because they fear that the backstop, an insurance policy for maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland, a UK territory, and EU member Ireland, could force the country to accept EU rules indefinitely. Forty-eight of them triggered the confidence vote on Tuesday after weeks of outrage over May’s handling of Brexit talks with EU leaders.

No Brexit renegotiation, Angela Merkel tells Bundestag; The German chancellor says that her country continues to seek an “orderly” Brexit, but is preparing for harsher eventualities. The topic dominated Merkel’s second-ever parliamentary Q&A session.One day after Theresa May’s visit to Berlin and Brussels, as the British prime minister was facing a no-confidence vote within her own party, Angela Merkel submitted to a session of parliamentary questioning modelled on that in the House of Commons. Not surprisingly, topic number one was Brexit. And equally unsurprisingly the chancellor reiterated a familiar position. “We have no intention of changing the Brexit deal,” Merkel said. “That’s the common position of the 27 member states. So there’s no reason to expect any changes to come from the discussions.” Merkel rejected the accusation from the anti-EU far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that the Brexit deal finalized in November “punished” Britain for leaving the EU. She said that the coming years would be used as a transitional period for working out outstanding issues such as the “difficult constellation” of Northern Ireland.

Australia to get anti-corruption commission; The commission will have two divisions: one to investigate the public sector and one for law enforcement agencies. The announcement attempts to nullify a major issue facing Scott Morrison’s government ahead of elections. Australia is to have a national anti-corruption commission aimed at stamping out corrupt and criminal behavior in police and politicians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday. The move comes after pressure from the Labor opposition party, Greens, independent MPs and even from within the government to have a national integrity commission that can investigate corruption by federal employees and politicians. “This is a real proposal, with real resources and real teeth,” Morrison told reporters at a press conference in Sydney. Morrison said the Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) will have two divisions: one will focus on the public sector, including politicians and their staff, and the other will focus on law enforcement agencies.

Germany shores up lithium supply with landmark Bolivia deal; As carmakers wrestle for the emerging electric car market, a German company sealed a key deal to mine a massive lithium deposit under a salt flat in Bolivia. The metal is crucial for making car battery cells. Lithium deposits hidden below Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flat are believed to be the largest in the world. On Wednesday, Germany’s privately owned ACI Systems agreed to a partnership with Bolivian state company YLB to exploit the element. Lithium is a key component in producing battery cells for electric cars, and a steady supply of the metal would allow German carmakers to boost their production. “Germany should become a leading location for battery cell production,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said. Securing access to lithium would help “avoid falling behind and slipping into dependency,” he added.

EU parliament approves ‘world’s largest’ free trade deal with Japan; The world’s largest free trade agreement — one between the EU and Japan — is expected to go into force in February. Nearly all duties will be removed. The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a free trade agreement between Japan and the EU, covering 635 million people and almost one-third of the world’s economy. Dubbed the world’s largest free trade agreement, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will remove duties on almost all agricultural and industrial products as well as open up the service sector and procurement. It also moves to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade. “Almost five centuries after Europeans established the first trade ties with Japan, the entry into force of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will bring our trade, political and strategic relationship to a whole new level,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Our economic partnership with Japan — the biggest trade zone ever negotiated — is now very close to becoming a reality. This will bring clear benefits to our companies, farmers, service providers and others,” said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade. European lawmakers voted 474 in favor and 152 against with 40 abstentions. Japan’s parliament have already approved the agreement.

Venezuela jails German rightwing journalist for espionage; A journalist known for his bylines in rightwing newspapers has been charged with spying and rebellion. Press freedom groups have called for his release, saying he has a right to report “regardless of his personal views.”The German Foreign Ministry on Wednesday confirmed to DW that German journalist Billy Six has been arrested in Venezuela. The ministry said it has extended consular services to the journalist, who is known for his bylines in the conservative Berlin-based Junge Freiheit newspaper. “We appreciate his journalistic work and the intrepid manner in which Bill Six reports from crisis regions across the world,” Junge Freiheit editor-in-chief Dieter Stein told DW. “With all our strength, we will support his family and the foreign ministry to secure his release.”


Second Canadian missing in China; Canadian Foreign Ministry says they have lost contact with a second Canadian in China.Michael Spavor is a businessman and has been working on cultural exchanges between North Korea and foreign countries.
A photo in his Instagram account shows him meeting with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un. Chinese media report that authorities are investigating him on suspicion of harming China’s security. The disappearance comes days after former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained by the Chinese spy agency.

Thai election campaign starts; Thai politicians are out in the streets rallying support with their sights set on next year’s general election. It follows this week’s lifting of a ban on political activity by the country’s military-run government. The official campaign is expected to start in early January. But on Wednesday members from an opposition party were seen meeting with shop owners in central Bangkok. Pheu Thai Party’s election strategy committee chairperson Sudarat Keyuraphan said the party will do their best to get people to vote for them. The group supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra who is in self-imposed exile after being ousted in a 2006 coup. The former leader remains popular and is expected to be a major factor in the election that has been slated for February 24th. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has repeatedly pushed back the vote that would restore democracy in the Southeast Asian country. Reports say the military wants to keep power and is expected to form a new political party to field candidates in the election.

Mindanao martial law extended again; The Philippines Congress has approved another extension of martial law on the southern island of Mindanao until the end of next year. The Philippine military is still facing off against armed militants in the area. A joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the extension on Wednesday with an overwhelming majority. It’s the 3rd time martial law has been extended. The move comes after President Rodrigo Duterte last week asked Congress to grant the extension. He imposed martial law on Mindanao last year in the wake of a fierce battle in and around Marawi City. Five months of fighting between government forces and armed supporters of the Islamic State militant group killed 12-hundred people. Duterte has had the area and its neighboring islands under military rule ever since. Some lawmakers have criticized the repeated extensions, saying they allow human rights violations to become commonplace. But the government says it wants to ensure security for next month’s scheduled referendum on creating an autonomous government.

Two Koreas verify demolition of guard posts; he process to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula has taken a symbolic step forward. Military officers from the 2 Koreas on Wednesday verified the destruction of 22 guard posts in the demilitarized zone that still divides the countries. Each side sent 7 officers and camera crew across new cross-border paths built for the first time since the 2 Koreas were divided. Their task was to check that the installations have been demolished as well as to verify that weapons, military equipment and soldiers have been totally withdrawn. Seoul and Pyongyang agreed in October to demolish 11 guard posts each by the end of the following month. They later decided to preserve one on each side of the border for their historical value.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it clearly shows the willingness of both sides to implement the accord. However, there are believed to about 200 guard posts remaining in the DMZ.

Japan, S.Korea foreign ministers hold phone talks; The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea have held phone talks amid strained ties over the South Korean Supreme Court’s rulings on wartime labor. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha spoke for about 30 minutes before noon on Wednesday. Japan’s foreign ministry says the top diplomats had a frank exchange of views on bilateral relations, and referred to the South Korean top court’s rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate Korean men who say they were forced to work at factories in Japan during World War Two. The phone talks were the first since Kono demanded that the South Korean government take resolute action following the court’s first ruling in October. The 2 ministers are believed to have discussed the South Korean government’s response to the rulings. South Korea’s foreign ministry announced that Kang explained to Kono the South Korean government’s position on the rulings and asked Japan to respond prudently.The ministry added that the 2 sides agreed to remain in close contact.

Autonomous truck tested; A Japanese truck maker conducted a test run of its self-driving vehicle at its headquarters near Tokyo on Wednesday. The prototype of UD Trucks comes with “level-4” auto-driving technology. Company officials say the demonstration was the first in Japan using the technology. The truck can travel on its own in limited areas. UD Trucks says it’s pre-programmed with data on routes and road width. GPS pinpoints its location. Cameras and sensors on its body detect other vehicles and obstacles. The vehicle can slow itself down and park. Officials say they aim to commercialize the vehicle by 2020 for use at factories and ports.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Izdubar Slays the Midannu in the Festive Hall, [Part 18]; Assyrian

[and Heabani Declares Him to be a God]

The guests are seated round the festal board;
Heabani takes his seat beside his lord.
The choicest viands of the wealthy plain
Before them placed and fishes of the main,
With wines and cordials, juices rich and rare
The chieftains all enjoy–the royal fare.
This day, with Izdubar they laugh and joke
‘Mid courtesies and mirth, and oft provoke
The ringing merry laughter through the halls.
When all are satisfied within the walls,
Their fill have eaten of the royal fare,
With wine they banish from them every care.

The Su-khu-li[1] with tinkling bells proclaim,
“Our Sar would speak! Our king of mighty fame,”
Who says: “My chieftains, lords, our seer requests
A test of strength before assembled guests;
Unarmed requires your Sar-dan-nu to slay
The Mid-an-nu[2] which he hath brought to-day.
So stand aside, my friends, behold the test!
Your Sar will satisfy his seer and guest.”
The monster now is brought before the king,
Heabani him unchains to let him spring
Upon the giant king. His chieftains stand
In terror looking at their monarch grand,
Who smiling stands, his eyes on the beast fixed;
While they in wildest terror are transfixed.

Heabani claps his hands towards the king,
And the wild beast upon his form doth spring.
The giant grasps its throat in high mid-air,
[3]And holds it ‘neath his arm without a fear.
With sullen choking roars it struggling dies,
While shouts of joy from all the guests arise.
The mighty deed of strength the seer appals,
And at the feet of Izdubar he falls:
“Immortal king! illustrious of men!
Thy glorious strength reveals the gods again
On earth. To thee I bow in reverent fear,
A god returned thou art! O Erech, hear!
Of kingdoms thou art blessed with grandest fame,
That thou among thy kings a god can name.”
Again they gathered round the festal board,
And joy and revelry they soon restored.
The revels high are raised o’er sparkling wine;
Through all the night they praise their king divine.

[Footnote 1: “Su-khu-li,” the attendants.]—[Footnote 2: “Mid-an-nu,” carnivorous animal, supposed to be a lion, the pet of the seer.]—[Footnote 3: This feat of Izdubar is portrayed on the bas-relief in the Louvre Museum, Paris, from the Khorsabad sculpture, and is also copied in Sayce’s edition of Smith’s “Chaldean Account of Genesis.” opposite p. 175.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac: 2018–2019 WINTER WEATHER FORECAST



Sunshine or snow? Be in the know! Read the official 2019 Winter Weather Forecast from North America’s #1 almanac to see the prediction for your area. Here’s a sneak peek.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is North America’s most popular and longest-continuously-running almanac. Now on our 227 edition, we’ve been a trusted source for weather, astronomy, folklore and more since 1792, when George Washington was president!

Order your copy of The 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac today to see monthly forecasts for your region—for winter, spring, summer, and fall.



This winter, we expect to see above-normal temperatures almost everywhere in the United States, except in the Southwest, where we’re predicting a colder-than-normal season. It’s still going to be wintery, of course, but it won’t be an especially frigid year. Our milder-than-normal forecast is due to the expected arrival of a weak El Niño, which will prevent cold air masses from lingering in the North. Despite a decrease in solar activity, we predict that the other factors that contribute to winter weather will keep temperatures above normal.


In terms of precipitation, we are predicting above-normal levels for most of the country, except in the Southeast, southern California, the nation’s midsection, and parts of Alaska and Hawaii, where normal or below-normal precipitation amounts are expected instead.

As for snow, we expect to see below-normal levels of snowfall in areas that normally get snow, with the interior West and a small part of the nation’s midsection being the snowier-than-normal exceptions.



Thanks to a decrease in solar activity and the weak El Niño moving in, we are predicting colder-than-normal winter temperatures for most of Canada. The exceptions to this are northern Atlantic Canada, where temperatures will be milder than normal, and Pacific Canada and the southern two-thirds of Ontario, where temperatures are expected to be within the normal range.


An above-normal level of snowfall is predicted for all of Canada this winter. Prepare the sleds and snowplows!


SOURCE: The Old Farmer’s Almanac




Chris Burnett
Like clockwork, the weather forecasters at NOAA have released an update for their annual winter weather outlook. So, how do their predictions compare to those of The Old Farmer’s Almanac? Let’s take a look.

Just like the annual Old Farmer’s Almanac, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) releases a winter outlook each year, looking specifically at winter temperatures and precipitation. Despite the recent cold and snow seen in some parts of the country, both the Almanac and NOAA are still predicting a less severe winter for most of the United States!

Notably, NOAA’s winter outlook is made just a few months before winter, whereas the Almanac’s long range forecasts—which have a historical average accuracy rate of 80%—are created more than twelve months in advance.


In the Almanac’s 2018–2019 Winter Forecast, we’re predicting the development of a weak El Niño early this winter, which is expected to prevent cold air from making lasting inroads into the northern half of the country. Similarly, NOAA’s winter outlookgives El Niño conditions a “70 to 75 percent chance” of developing. To put it simply, this means that warmer-than-normal winter temperatures are likely in store for most of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.

But what does “most of the United States” mean, exactly? Well, that’s one place where our forecasts disagree: NOAA predicts that everywhere except for the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Appalachians, and Ohio Valley will see warmer-than-normal temperatures, while we believe that the Southwest part of the country will be the only area to see below-normal temperatures. Generally speaking, though, a majority of states should expect milder winter temperatures.

Our winter predictions also differ when it comes to precipitation, specifically in terms of where and how much precipitation certain areas should expect to get:

  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting drier-than-normal conditions for the Southeast and Texas-Oklahoma regions, while NOAA’s outlook gives the entire southern part of the U.S. a good chance of being wetter than normal.
  • The Almanac also believes that the Northeast, Ohio Valley, West Coast, and most of the Intermountain region are in for a wetter winter this year, whereas NOAA gives these areas equal chances of being wetter or drier than normal.
  • Finally, although NOAA refrains from making predictions of snowfall in their winter outlook, the Almanac expects the Desert Southwest, Intermountain region, and parts of the Heartland to see a snowier season than normal.

Both the NOAA outlook and our own forecast point towards a less severe winter for most of the United States this year. In any case, we hope that you get the weather you want!


To see our full predictions for this winter, see our 2018–2019 Winter Weather Forecast—or pick up a copy of The 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac for detailed monthly forecasts of winter, spring, and beyond!

Additionally, find two months of free forecasts on our Long Range Weather Forecast pages.

Today’s Holiday: Burkina Faso Republic Day

Burkina Faso Republic Day

December 11

On this day in 1958 Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) voted to become an independent republic within the French community.It was then internally self-governing until it achieved independence in 1960 ( see Burkina Faso Independence Day). This is considered the most important national holiday in Burkina Faso, with many events held in the capital city of Ouagadougou.
Embassy of Burkina Faso
2340 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-332-5577; fax: 202-667-1882
AnnivHol-2000, p. 206
NatlHolWrld-1968, p. 224

This Day in History: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Established (1946)

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Established (1946)

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II. The Polish physician Ludwik Rajchman is widely regarded as the founder of UNICEF and served as its first chairman from 1946. On Rajchman’s suggestion, the American Maurice Pate was appointed its first executive director, serving from 1947 until his death in 1965.[1][2] In 1950, UNICEF’s mandate was extended to address the long-term needs of children and women in developing countries everywhere. In 1953 it became a permanent part of the United Nations System, and the words “international” and “emergency” were dropped from the organization’s name, making it simply the United Nations Children’s Fund, retaining the original acronym, “UNICEF”.[3]

UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. UNICEF’s total income for 2015 was US$5,009,557,471 . Governments contribute two-thirds of the organization’s resources. Private groups and individuals contribute the rest through national committees. It is estimated that 92 per cent of UNICEF revenue is distributed to program services.[4] UNICEF’s programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 and the Prince of Asturias Award of Concord in 2006.

Most of UNICEF’s work is in the field, with a presence in 190 countries and territories. UNICEF’s network of over 150 country offices, headquarters and other offices, and 34 National Committees carry out UNICEF’s mission through programs developed with host governments. Seven regional offices provide technical assistance to country offices as needed.

UNICEF’s Supply Division is based in Copenhagen and serves as the primary point of distribution for such essential items as vaccines, antiretroviral medicines for children and mothers with HIV, nutritional supplements, emergency shelters, family reunification, and educational supplies.[5] A 36-member executive board establishes policies, approves programs and oversees administrative and financial plans. The executive board is made up of government representatives who are elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, usually for three-year terms.


Each country office carries out UNICEF’s mission through a unique program of cooperation developed with the host government. This five-year program focuses on practical ways to realize the rights of children and women. Regional offices guide this work and provide technical assistance to country offices as needed. Overall management and administration of the organization takes place at headquarters, where global policy on children is shaped. Guiding and monitoring all of UNICEF’s work is an Executive Board made up of 36 members who are government representatives. They establish policies, approve programs and decide on administrative and financial plans and budgets. Executive Board’s work is coordinated by the Bureau, comprising the President and four Vice-Presidents, each officer representing one of the five regional groups. These five officers, each one representing one of the five regional groups, are elected by the Executive Board each year from among its members, with the presidency rotating among the regional groups on an annual basis. As a matter of custom, permanent members of the Security Council do not serve as officers of the Executive Board. Office of the Secretary of the Executive Board supports and services the Executive Board. It is responsible for maintaining an effective relationship between the Executive Board and the UNICEF secretariat, and helps to organize the field visits of the Executive Board.[6][7][8]

UNICEF national committees

There are national committees in 38 [industrialized] countries, each established as an independent local non-governmental organization. The national committees raise funds from the public sector.

UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions,[9] and the National Committees collectively raise around one-third of UNICEF’s annual income. This comes through contributions from corporations, civil society organizations around six million individual donors worldwide.

Promotion and fundraising

In the United States, Nepal and some other countries, UNICEF is known for its “Trick-Or-Treat for UNICEF” program in which children collect money for UNICEF from the houses they trick-or-treat on Halloween night, sometimes instead of candy.

UNICEF is present in 191 countries and territories around the world, but not involved in nine others (Bahamas, Brunei, Cyprus, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, and Singapore).[10]

Many people in developed countries first hear about UNICEF’s work through the activities of one of the 36 National Committees for UNICEF. These non-governmental organizations (NGO) are primarily responsible for fundraising, selling UNICEF greeting cards and products, creating private and public partnerships, advocating for children’s rights, and providing other support. The US Fund for UNICEF is the oldest of the national committees, founded in 1947.[11]

On 19 April 2007, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg was appointed UNICEF Eminent Advocate for Children,[12] in which role she has visited Brazil (2007),[13] China (2008),[14] and Burundi (2009).[15]

In 2009, the British retailer Tesco used “Change for Good” as advertising, which is trademarked by UNICEF for charity usage but not for commercial or retail use. This prompted the agency to say, “it is the first time in Unicef’s history that a commercial entity has purposely set out to capitalise on one of our campaigns and subsequently damage an income stream which several of our programs for children are dependent on”. They went on to call on the public “who have children’s welfare at heart, to consider carefully who they support when making consumer choices”.[16][17]


Inspiration of the Day: You Never Know Who You’ll Meet

You Never Know Who You’ll Meet


Everyone is valuable in their own way and capable of expanding our horizons.

Our individual journeys take us into many unexpected situations where we encounter a wide variety of people–some quite like ourselves and some very different. We cannot anticipate these meetings, but we can make the most of them when they take place. When we are courteous as a matter of course and open-minded in our assessment of the individuals whose lives briefly touch our own, we are more apt to stumble upon surprising gems of wisdom that open our eyes to new worlds of possibility. Every person we meet can affect us profoundly, just as every situation we find ourselves in can teach us something new.

To fully embrace this fact, it is essential that we acknowledge that everyone is valuable in their own way and capable of expanding our horizons. Since we never know when we will happen upon those individuals who will unveil truths before us, we should extend to all people the same generous level of kindness, care, compassion, and understanding. When we assume everyone we meet is special and treat them as such, we can develop a strong rapport quickly. By making an effort to adopt a positive attitude toward others at all times, we ensure that our emotions do not blind us to wisdom that may be lurking in difficult or distressing situations. We are accordingly receptive to knowledge that comes to us in the form of examples, advice, and direct teaching.

These brief relationships ultimately have the potential to enrich our lives in a very concrete way. But the wisdom we gain is proportional to the attention we pay to the world around us. The responsibility is on us to maintain a state of awareness that allows us to recognize when we are in the presence of someone consciously or unconsciously in possession of knowledge that will change us significantly. When we are cognizant of the potential for unexpected enlightenment, we make a habit of turning strangers into friends, thus ensuring that we are never without a font of wisdom from which to draw.

Daily OM