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A handful of coins unearthed from a pick-your-own-fruit orchard in rural Rhode Island and other random corners of New England may help solve one of the planet’s oldest cold cases.
The villain in this tale: a murderous English pirate who became the world’s most-wanted criminal after plundering a ship carrying Muslim pilgrims home to India from Mecca, then eluded capture by posing as a slave trader.
“It’s a new history of a nearly perfect crime,” said Jim Bailey, an amateur historian and metal detectorist who found the first intact 17th-century Arabian coin in a meadow in Middletown.
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That ancient pocket change — among the oldest ever found in North America — could explain how pirate Capt. Henry Every vanished into the wind.
On Sept. 7, 1695, the pirate ship Fancy, commanded by Every, ambushed and captured the Ganj-i-Sawai, a royal vessel owned by Indian emperor Aurangzeb, then one of the world’s most powerful men. Aboard were not only the worshipers returning from their pilgrimage but tens of millions of dollars worth of gold and silver.
What followed was one of the most lucrative and heinous robberies of all time.
Historical accounts say his band tortured and killed the men aboard the Indian ship and raped the women before escaping to the Bahamas, a haven for pirates. But word quickly spread of their crimes, and English King William III — under enormous pressure from a scandalized India and the East India Company trading giant — put a large bounty on their heads.
“If you Google ‘first worldwide manhunt,’ it comes up as Every,” Bailey said. “Everybody was looking for these guys.”
Until now, historians only knew that Every eventually sailed to Ireland in 1696, where the trail went cold. But Bailey says the coins he and others have found are evidence the notorious pirate first made his way to the American colonies, where he and his crew used the plunder for day-to-day expenses while on the run.
The first complete coin surfaced in 2014 at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, a spot that had piqued Bailey’s curiosity two years earlier after he found old colonial coins, an 18th-century shoe buckle, and some musket balls.
Waving a metal detector over the soil, he got a signal, dug down, and hit literal paydirt: a darkened, dime-sized silver coin he initially assumed was either Spanish or money minted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Peering closer, the Arabic text on the coin got his pulse racing. “I thought, ‘Oh my God,'” he said.
Research confirmed the exotic coin was minted in 1693 in Yemen. That immediately raised questions, Bailey said, since there’s no evidence that American colonists struggling to eke out a living in the New World traveled to anywhere in the Middle East to trade until decades later.
Since then, other detectorists have unearthed 15 additional Arabian coins from the same era — 10 in Massachusetts, three in Rhode Island, and two in Connecticut. Another was found in North Carolina, where records show some of Every’s men first came ashore.
“It seems like some of his crew were able to settle in New England and integrate,” said Sarah Sportman, state archaeologist for Connecticut, where one of the coins was found in 2018 at the ongoing excavation of a 17th-century farm site.
“It was almost like a money-laundering scheme,” she said.
Although it sounds unthinkable now, Everyone was able to hide in plain sight by posing as a slave trader — an emerging profession in 1690s New England. On his way to the Bahamas, he even stopped at the French island of Reunion to get some Black captives so he’d look the part, Bailey said.
Obscure records show a ship called the Sea Flower, used by the pirates after they ditched the Fancy, sailed along the Eastern seaboard. It arrived with nearly four dozen slaves in 1696 in Newport, Rhode Island, which became a major hub of the North American slave trade in the 18th century.
“There’s extensive primary source documentation to show the American colonies were bases of operation for pirates,” said Bailey, 53, who holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Rhode Island and worked as an archaeological assistant on explorations of the Whydah Gally pirate shipwreck off Cape Cod in the late 1980s.
Bailey, whose day job is analyzing security at the state’s prison complex, has published his findings in a research journal of the American Numismatic Society, an organization devoted to the study of coins and medals.
Archaeologists and historians familiar with but not involved in Bailey’s work say they’re intrigued, and believe it’s shedding new light on one of the world’s most enduring criminal mysteries.
“Jim’s research is impeccable,” said Kevin McBride, a professor of archaeology at the University of Connecticut. “It’s cool stuff. It’s really a pretty interesting story.”
Mark Hanna, an associate professor of history at the University of California-San Diego and an expert in piracy in early America, said that when he first saw photos of Bailey’s coin, “I lost my mind.”
“Finding those coins, for me, was a huge thing,” said Hanna, author of the 2015 book, “Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire.” “The story of Capt. Every is one of global significance. This material object — this little thing — can help me explain that.”
Every’s exploits have inspired a 2020 book by Steven Johnson, “Enemy of All Mankind;” PlayStation’s popular “Uncharted” series of video games; and a Sony Pictures movie version of “Uncharted” starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and Antonio Banderas that’s slated for release early in 2022.
Bailey, who keeps his most valuable finds not at his home but in a safe deposit box, says he’ll keep digging.
“For me, it’s always been about the thrill of the hunt, not about the money,” he said. “The only thing better than finding these objects is the long-lost stories behind them.” (VOA/KB)
After canceling plans for undersea cables connecting the United States with Hong Kong because of U.S. government pressure, Facebook and Google now say they will run similar cables to Singapore and Indonesia.
“Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea, and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-Pacific by about 70%,” Facebook’s vice president of network investments, Kevin Salvadori, told the Reuters news agency.
Salvadori would not comment on the cost of the project.
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He said the Echo cable, which is being built in partnership with Google and Indonesian telecommunications company XL, would be completed by 2023.
Bifrost, which is being done in partnership with Telin, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Telkom, and Singapore’s Keppel Corporation, should be completed by 2024, he said.
Both projects will need regulatory approval.
Most Indonesians who have internet access get it via mobile phones, Reuters reported, adding that only 10% have broadband access. Many have no access at all.
Facebook said plans for the cable to Hong Kong were scrapped because the U.S. government cited national security concerns about direct communication links to Hong Kong.
Facebook and Google are involved in other cable projects around the world.
Facebook announced last May that it was going to build a 37,000-kilometer-long undersea cable around Africa.
Google’s project, the Equiano undersea cable, could connect Europe and Africa when finished. (VOA/KB)
Americans stockpiled more toilet paper than Europeans following the fast spread of Covid-19 across Europe and North America in March, says a study according to Covid-19 pandemic updates.
The researchers decided to probe who were more likely to stockpile after some companies reported an increase of up to 700 per cent in toilet paper sales, despite calls from the government to refrain from “panic buying”.
In the new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers surveyed more than 1,000 adults from 35 countries who were recruited through social media.
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Between March 23-29, participants completed the Brief HEXACO Inventory — which ranks six broad personality domains — and shared information on their demographics, perceived threat level of COVID-19, quarantine behaviours, and toilet paper consumption in recent weeks.
The most robust predictor of stockpiling was the perceived threat posed by the pandemic, meaning that people who felt more threatened tended to stockpile more toilet paper.
“Subjective threat of Covid-19 seems to be an important trigger for toilet paper stockpiling. However, we are still far away from understanding this phenomenon comprehensively,” said co-author of the study Theo Toppe from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
Around 20 per cent of this effect was also based on the personality factor of emotionality – people who generally tend to worry a lot and feel anxious are most likely to feel threatened and stockpile toilet paper.
The personality domain of conscientiousness — which includes traits of organisation, diligence, perfectionism and prudence — was also a predictor of stockpiling.
Other observations were that older people stockpiled more than younger people. (IANS)
Facebook has released new visualisations and datasets publicly along with a new survey to help researchers and healthcare providers combat the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Technology News.
These include a Covid-19 map and dashboard which include international results from Facebook’s symptom survey as well as its movement range datasets “that are informing the public sector response to Covid-19 around the world”.
In 2017, the company launched ‘Data for Good’ with the goal of empowering partners with data to help make progress on major social issues.
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Over the past few months, public health researchers have used data sets released by Facebook to inform decisions around Covid-19 across Asia, Europe and North America.
The company said it has also made publicly available mobility datasets that show the rates at which different communities are reducing their mobility or remaining in the same place.
“These use aggregated data and we’ve applied a differential privacy framework to protect people’s privacy in creating and sharing these datasets,” the social networking giant said in a statement.
The new map showing travel patterns between countries and states to help researchers and NGOs understand how long distance travel continues to impact the spread of COVID-19.
The new survey about people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding Covid-19 was conducted in partnership with the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT and advised by Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programmes and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Earlier this month, Facebook said that ‘Data for Good’ simply aggregates data it collects from its apps and shares it in a de-identified way to help researchers, academics and others address humanitarian crises and social issues.
Facebook said the research partners enrolled in the ‘Data for Good’ programme only have access to aggregate information from Facebook and it does not share any individual information.
Some datasets are being shared publicly, but these are formatted to help prevent re-identification, it added. (IANS)