General Order No. 11: when Ulysses Grant expelled the Jews

grant cartoon

Ulysses S. Grant , the 18th president of the United States, is generally acknowledged one of the greatest military commanders in U.S. history.  There is one huge negative on his career as a Civil War general, however.  Under General Order No. 11, Grant expelled all Jews from Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.  And although he would spend much of his presidency promoting the rights of Jews (as well as blacks and Native Americans), General Order No. 11 remains a stain on Grant’s reputation.

The immediate cause for issuance of the order was the black market in Southern cotton during the Civil War.  Northern textile mills — as well as the Union Army itself — relied on cotton from the south.  Although President Lincoln allowed limited trade in Southern cotton, it was not enough to satisfy demand.  Cotton prices soared on the black market, and unlicensed traders openly bribed Union officers to allow them to buy cotton without a permit. Continue reading

Elagabulus: the 14-year old transvestite who ruled Rome

elagabulus statute

He was a Syrian transvestite who enjoyed being whipped in public.  He married and divorced at least five women during a four-year period, but his most stable relationship was with a male athlete.  He positively adored his pet rock.

Sounds like just another day in W. Hollywood in the ‘70s.  Only the year was 217, and the transvestite in question happened to be the Emperor of Rome.

Spoiler alert: things didn’t end well for him. Continue reading

Mopane worms taste just like… potato chips

mopane worm

Cruncy, salty mopane worms are a favorite snack in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa.  The “worm” is actually a caterpillar of Gonimbrasia belina, commonly known as the Emperor moth.  It is called a mopane (or mopani) worm from its diet — the leaves of the mopane tree.

Ounce for ounce, mopane worms contain three times as much protein as beef.  They have a whopping 31 mg of iron per 100 grams of dry weight, and are a good source of potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper and B vitamins.

To harvest mopane worms, mature caterpillars are plucked by hand (or shaken from higher branches) and placed into buckets. Stubborn worms are pried loose with a stick. As they are handled, the worms excrete a brown liquid, which leaves the pickers’ hands slippery and wet. Continue reading