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This page features brief excerpts of news stories published by the mainstream media and, less frequently, blogs, alternative media, and even obviously biased sources. The excerpts are taken directly from the websites cited in each source note. Quotation marks are not used.
This page features brief excerpts of news stories published by the mainstream media and, less frequently, blogs, alternative media, and even obviously biased sources. The excerpts are taken directly from the websites cited in each source note. Quotation marks are not used. Because most of our readers read the NYT we usually do not include the paper's stories in HIGHLIGHTS.
Name of source: Christian Science Monitor
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (3-30-10)
But here’s the kicker: Reagan will be engraved on US money anyway. The US Mint is issuing four presidential $1 coins every year, featuring images of deceased chief executives in the order in which they served.
This year, it’s Presidents Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln. Next year, it will be Presidents Johnson, Grant, Hayes, and Garfield. Reagan’s turn for the $1 coin issue will almost certainly come in 2016....
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (4-1-10)
So, without any April Fools pranks today, let's remember the best from past years.
Ever hear about the April Fools prank that Uday pulled on his dad Saddam Hussein? Or how about the time a Boston University professor pranked the entire American media into believing he'd discovered the origins of April Fools Day? And don't forget how the BBC in 1965 claimed someone had invented of “smellovision,” which allowed TV-viewers to interact with their noses.
Here’s our list of Top 10 April Fools’ pranks from around the world, much of it inspired by the Museum of Hoaxes website.
10. ENGLAND: 1957: A BBC news show announced Swiss farmers had grown spaghetti, showing footage of peasants pulling spaghetti down from the trees. Viewers believed it, calling into the BBC to ask how they could enjoy their own spaghetti crop. The BBC replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”...
Name of source: Telegraph (UK)
A swastika was reportedly found carved into one of the wooden beams of the Wegmacher Chapel, which was built in 1997, while local residents claim a number of shaven-headed, leather jacket-wearing 'pilgrims' leave behind notes of praise to Hitler and candles burning in his memory.
It was only recently that the Bavarian government admitted that material from the wreckage of Hitler's retreat, the Berghof in Berchtesgaden, was used in the construction of the chapel.
Some of the stones are from the terrace of the Berghof - quarried by Jewish slave labourers in concentration camps....
Auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull believed the sale would attract the interest of collectors of ''Victoriana''.
The hand-stitched stockings went under the hammer for £690 at the auction house's Edinburgh sale, surpassing an initial valuation of around £400.
Lyon and Turnbull said they were snapped up by a dealer on behalf of a third party.
The seven wartime leaders were executed 61 years ago and some of their remains later surreptitiously transferred to the Koa Kannon temple, overlooking the coastal resort of Atami, 90 miles southwest of Tokyo.
The priestess of the temple says it is a place to contemplate peace, but the photo on the altar is of General Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister who sanctioned the attack on Pearl Harbor, and a painting in an adjoining building shows Japanese soldiers standing guard over a group of Chinese labourers.
In December 1948, the seven men were cremated in Yokohama before most of their ashes were scattered at sea. The Allied occupation authorities hoped to ensure their burial site could never become a rallying point for the extreme right. That effort failed and more people are beginning to ask questions about Japan’s imperial past.
“This is a symbolic place for us Japanese and it is becoming an important place for thinking people in their 20s, 30s and 40s to visit,” said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, a senior member of the nationalist Issuikai organisation. “All we are taught in school and hear about from the media is that Japan is bad, the Japanese are bad, and more and more people want to know the truth.
“Japan was trying to free other Asian nations and the reasons for the war are misunderstood,” he said. “We are bowing to the Chinese too much now. It’s about time that someone stood up for Japan and told the truth about the past.”
Wilting flowers are in a pot before a 3-metre tall statue of the goddess of mercy, while the stone monument dedicated to the “seven warriors” still bears the marks of left-wing extremists who blew it up in 1971. The five pieces of the original slab have been concreted together again and it is near here that the urn containing the remains of the seven men – including Tojo, prime minister from the outbreak of the war to July 1944, and General Iwane Matsui, who masterminded the 1937 Rape of Nanjing – was buried.
Three days after the men were cremated, the manager of the crematorium and the representative of Kuniaki Koiso, a former prime minister convicted as a war criminal and sentenced to life in prison, secretly collected the remaining ashes and gave them to Ninrei Itami for safekeeping.
A decade later, he buried them at Koa Kannon and erected a stone monument on the spot.
Itami’s daughter, Myojo, is the Buddhist priestess who today oversees the temple and performed a memorial service for the seven war criminals on August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II.
She declined to be interviewed by The Telegraph, but told the Asahi newspaper shortly after the anniversary that, “There are no such words as ’war criminals’ here. There is no right or left. This is a venue for giving prayers to ponder peace.”
The wooden shrine has an offerings box and two rising sun flags flank the entrance. Incense is burning on the altar and traditional offerings of fruit have been placed in front of a picture of General Tojo in uniform. Justice Radhabinod Pal, the Indian judge who protested Japan’s innocence at the Tokyo war crimes trials and is revered by the far right here, is awarded a similar honour.
As well as Tojo and Matsui, the political and military leaders remembered at the temple include General Seishiro Itagaki, who stepped up Japan’s military aggression in China in 1931, General Kenji Doihara, who created the puppet state of Manchukuo in China, and General Heitaro Kimura, who fought the British in Burma.
The remaining two executed for their part in the conflict were Lieutenant General Akira Muto, who argued for escalating the war against China and attacking the United States, and Koki Hirota, the former prime minister who signed the Japan-Germany Anti-Commintern Pact in 1936.
Relatives of all seven of the men who were executed have reportedly paid their respects at the temple, a far more private place than Yasukuni Shrine, in central Tokyo, that is regarded as the last resting place of all the men and women who have died in the service of the emperor.
A grandmother has the world's oldest hot cross bun - baked on Good Friday in 1821.
Nancy Titman, 91, was given the incredible 189-year-old bun when her mum died and amazingly it shows no traces of mould.
The bun, which was made the same year as Napoleon died, George IV was crowned king and poet John Keats passed away has been in her family for generations.
"It's a relic which has been passed down through the family. My mum said our ancestors worked in a baker's shop and they believed buns baked on Good Friday didn't go mouldy," said Nancy.
"It is rock hard and the currants have disintegrated but you can tell it's a hot cross bun and you can still see the shape of the cross."
The bun, which has the date March 1821 on its base, was made by Nancy's great, great, great grandfather, William Skinner, who owned a bakery in London.
His son was helping in the shop that Easter and made the fruity bun as a present for his mum, but she never ate the gift and instead preserved it in a box.
Sir Edmund, who climbed Everest in 1953 along with Nepal's Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, died in 2008 at the age of 88 in New Zealand.
He had wished that his ashes be scattered on the mountain and on Auckland's harbour, his former aides said.
The ashes destined for Everest have lain in a monastery in the sherpa village of Thame, in the shadows of the mountain, for the past two years.
"I will carry the ashes to the top of Mount Everest as per Hillary's wishes," said Apa Sherpa.
"I met Hillary many times, he was a wonderful man who helped so many local people.
"Without him we would have no clinics, and we would have no schools. So I am very happy to take his ashes with me to the summit."
Sir Edmund opened the Himalayan Trust in 1960 to help build schools, hospitals, an airport and pipelines in the remote Solukhumbu district, home to Mount Everest and the Sherpas known for their climbing skills.
Apa Sherpa is trying to make his 20th ascent of the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) mountain this summer.
He already holds the record for the most successful Everest ascents, said he would also carry a small statue of Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, to the summit to pray for the "eternal piece" of Sir Edmund's soul.
Apa is leading an expedition to clean up Everest, which activists say is littered with the detritus of past expeditions, including human waste and mountaineers' corpses, which do not decompose because of the extreme cold.
The 17-member Eco Everest Expedition team will set off from Kathmandu on April 6 and hopes to bring seven tonnes of rubbish down to Base Camp, where it will be sorted for disposal.
It will be the third such expedition – the first, in 2008, brought down 965 kilos (about a ton) of rubbish, while last year's collected six tonnes, including the wreckage of an Italian army helicopter that crashed on the mountain in 1973.
Name of source: AP
To one former law enforcement official who investigated the case in the 1980s, there is no mystery.
The FBI considered the Giants Stadium tale "a dead issue" by the time Playboy printed its interview with Donald "Tony The Greek" Frankos in late 1989, according to retired FBI agent Jim Kossler.
The fate of Raoul Wallenberg, whom the Soviet army arrested in Budapest in January 1945, has remained one of the great mysteries of World War II.
The Soviets claimed he was executed in 1947 but never produced a reliable death certificate or his remains. Witnesses claim he was seen in Soviet prisons or labor camps many years later.
Tzannetakis' office said he died in an Athens hospital Thursday but gave no other details.
During his three-month tenure as prime minister, Tzannetakis headed a coalition government that included his conservative New Democracy party and the Greek Communist Party.
Name of source: Times Online (UK)
SOURCE: Times Online (UK) (3-28-10)
When the story broke that one of the organisation’s most prominent and vocal members of staff might be a collector of Nazi-era military memorabilia it felt like some sort of sexual scandal had erupted in the Victorian church. For a lobbying group accustomed to adulatory coverage in the media, it was a public-relations catastrophe....
Unlike Amnesty, HRW, as it is known, gets its money from charitable foundations and wealthy individuals — such as the financier George Soros — rather than a mass membership. And, also unlike Amnesty, it seeks to make an impact, not through extensive letter-writing campaigns, but by talking to governments and the media, urging openness and candour and backing up its advocacy with research reports. It is an association that is all about influence — an influence that depends on a carefully honed image of objectivity, expertise and high moral tone. So it was perhaps a little awkward that a key member of staff was found to have such a treasure trove of Nazi regalia.
By day, Marc Garlasco was HRW’s only military expert, the person that its Emergencies Division would send to conflict zones to investigate alleged war crimes. He wrote reports condemning the dropping of cluster bombs in the Russia-Georgia war, the alleged illegal use of white phosphorus by the Israeli army in Gaza and coalition tactics that he said “unnecessarily” put Iraqi or Afghan civilians at risk. An enthusiastic source of quotes for the media, he was incessantly on the phone to journalists.
But by night, Garlasco was “Flak88”, an obsessive contributor to internet forums on Third Reich memorabilia and an avid collector of badges and medals emblazoned with swastikas and eagles....
An interest in Nazi memorabilia does not necessarily suggest Nazi sympathies — but it is hardly likely to play well in the salons where Garlasco’s employer might solicit donations....
Name of source: Live Science
SOURCE: Live Science (3-31-10)
A giddy spurt of practical joking seems to have coincided with the coming of spring since the time of the Ancient Romans and Celts, who celebrated a festival of mischief-making. The first mentions of an All Fool's Day (as it was formerly called) came in Europe in the Middle Ages.
Some trace April Fool's Day back to Roman mythology, particularly the story of Ceres, Goddess of the harvest, and her daughter, Proserpina.
Pluto, God of the Dead, abducted Proserpina and took her to live with him in the underworld. The girl called out to her mother, but Ceres could only hear the echo of her daughter's voice and searched for her in vain.
The most widespread theory of the origin of April Fool's Day is the switch from the old Julian to the Gregorian calendar (now in use) in the late 16th century. Under the Julian calendar, the New Year was celebrated during the week between March 25 and April 1, but under the Gregorian calendar, it was moved to Jan. 1. Those who were not notified of the change, or stubbornly kept to the old tradition, were often mocked and had jokes played on them on or around the old New Year.
In France, this took the form of pranksters sticking fish on the backs of those who celebrated the old custom, earning the victims of the prank the name Poisson d'Avril, or April Fish.
Name of source: BBC
SOURCE: BBC (4-1-10)
Calum Jones, 45, was described as being "shaken" after the incident, which was said to have happened as he made his way to a railway station.
As a result he did not make it to the High Court in Edinburgh on time and no evidence was heard for the day.
Mr Jones and four others deny seeking to extort money for the safe return of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder.
SOURCE: BBC (4-1-10)
The court said the trial would resume on 13 April after rejecting Mr Karadzic's bid to have it postponed until 17 June.
Mr Karadzic had argued he needed more time to prepare himself.
He is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide - all of which he denies.
Name of source: CNN
SOURCE: CNN (3-31-10)
hospital Wednesday, four days after being admitted for a series of tests.
Doctors believe the 84-year-old wife of former President George H.W. Bush may have suffered a mild relapse of Graves disease, a thyroid condition for which she was first treated in 1989, according to a statement released from Houston's Methodist Hospital.
In response, Mrs. Bush's medication levels have been adjusted, the statement said. "Upon discharge she was alert, talkative and appeared to be getting stronger as she prepared to return home," it said.
Name of source: NYT
SOURCE: NYT (3-31-10)
For that, the E.U. foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, indicated, Serbia must hand over Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander indicted more than 15 years ago on war crimes charges but still on the run.
After 13 hours of heated debate, the Serbian Parliament late Tuesday passed a resolution that apologized for Srebrenica and acknowledged that more could have been done to prevent the tragedy, but fell short of calling the killings a “genocide.”...
Name of source: Press Release from Duke University
SOURCE: Press Release from Duke University (4-1-10)
A Duke University graduate student has discovered what is believed to be the only known printed copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence.
While researching the early independence of Haiti in February, Julia Gaffield found the document, an eight-page pamphlet dated Jan. 1, 1804, in the British National Archives in London. It is only the second declaration of its kind in the world, the first being the U.S. Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson and others.
Gaffield, who is researching early 19th century Haiti for her doctoral dissertation in history, said the document had been overlooked in the British archives, even as researchers spent decades searching for it in Haiti.
“I wasn’t specifically looking for it, but I had an eye out for it because I knew it was missing,” Gaffield said. “We figured there was an original somewhere, but didn’t know if it still existed.”
“I suspect there will be immense interest in this discovery,” said Ian E. Wilson, Librarian & Archivist of Canada Emeritus and president of the International Council on Archives. “To bring this document to light in Haiti's darkest hour may be seen as a symbol of renewal and rejuvenation, helping Haiti rebuild its national spirit following the recent earthquake. Julia’s achievement in recognizing the significance of this printed document deserves high recognition.”
“It’s incredible that the long search for this important document should finally end at The National Archives,” said Oliver Morley, acting chief executive at The National Archives. “This declaration sent to the British Government by Haiti’s first independent leader is of great historical importance to both Haiti and the British people, and provides unique insight into the first successful slave rebellion of modern times. We’re grateful to Duke University in bringing this fascinating document to our attention and pleased to be able to make more people aware of its existence.”
(Duke University has established a special website about the discovery, with additional information about Gaffield, the document and early Haitian history. The site is at http://news.duke.edu/haitideclaration. The National Archives has posted a copy of the document at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/haiti.asp.)
For her doctoral project, Gaffield did research in France, Haiti and then Jamaica, where she saw a handwritten copy of the declaration in the papers of then-Governor of Jamaica George Nugent.
“There was a letter saying the Declaration of Independence was enclosed, not more than one hour off the press,” Gaffield said, noting the only document she saw at that time was handwritten, not printed on a press.
In late January, Gaffield went to London to look at “the British side of things.” That’s where she found the printed version of what she had seen in Jamaica.
“It was not misplaced; it had been there for a long time. This period has not been studied in as much detail, so these are documents few people have looked through, and if they saw it, they didn’t realize the significance,” said Gaffield, who was thrilled by the discovery but continued her research until the end of the day.
“The archives are not the place to make a big scene,” Gaffield said. Instead, she dutifully returned the documents to the archives and then rushed to notify her advisers at Duke.
Among them was Deborah Jenson, a professor of French Studies at Duke who has researched the U.S. publication of Haiti's independence documents. Jenson said Gaffield’s discovery “is extremely important as it clarifies that the Haitian government's printing apparatus was fully functional at every moment of the new nation’s independence. Although it is possible that the document had not been printed as of the Jan. 1 Independence ceremony, it is now clear that an authentic government-issued full version had been printed by the third week of January 1804, at which point it was brought to Jamaica."
In 1804, when Haiti announced its independence from France, Jamaica was a British colony. Its governor was in regular contact with the British government, which helps explains how this copy of the declaration ended up in a London archive.
“While we had many reprints of this declaration from 1804, researchers have long looked for an original printed copy issued by the government itself,” said Laurent Dubois, a Duke professor of French studies and history, and another of Gaffield’s advisers.
Dubois noted that in 1952 Haitian intellectual Edmond Mangonès was asked by the government commission planning for the 150th anniversary of Haiti’s birth to find an original or printed copy of the Declaration of Independence to put on display. After an unsuccessful search in many archives in Haiti and elsewhere, he wrote with exasperation that “all searches” for the document had been “in vain.”
“It is really beyond belief,” Mangonès added, “that not even a copy of the original printed version has been found in France, or in England, or in the United States.” As Dubois noted, “Julia’s discovery has finally changed that.”
Documents from this early period of Haiti’s history have not been well-preserved and have been scattered in various places, said Dubois, who is working with historians in Haiti and other countries to help rehabilitate Haiti’s archives following the Jan. 12 earthquake. He and Gaffield consulted with Patrick Tardieu, a noted Haitian archivist who is now a fellow at Brown University’s John Carter Brown Library, to confirm the document’s authenticity.
“I was so happy to find out it was true,” said Tardieu, the chief conservator of one of Haiti’s oldest libraries. “It is an important document and its discovery is important news for Haiti's scholarly community, and more broadly for the people of Haiti.”
Gaffield hopes the discovery will remind historians, Haitians and the world about the early history of the only country in the Western Hemisphere where slaves successfully revolted to gain national independence.
“The Haitian Revolution was of immense consequence to Jamaica and other colonies in the Caribbean, as well as to the United States,” Gaffield said. “This find is further evidence that there was contact and negotiations going on between them. Haiti was not isolated after independence and it played a complicated role in a world based on colonialism and slavery.”
Name of source: BBC News
Plunging numbers of gamblers mean operations have been halted at the Cal Neva Lodge, one of Nevada's most fashionable casinos in the early 1960s.
The venue was once popular with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, before the rise of the Las Vegas Strip.
Its owner hopes to reopen, but analysts fear the landmark attraction has seen the last throw of the dice.
Marilyn's final weekend
Gaming ceased this week at Sinatra's old resort, which straddles the Nevada-California border on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.
The venue where Marilyn Monroe spent her last weekend before her death from a drug overdose in Los Angeles in 1962 has struggled in the face of recession and competition from Las Vegas and Indian reservations.
The small cabin where she stayed still stands, and is part of a tour offered by the resort.
But gambling revenues at Lake Tahoe casinos last year were about half of what they were in 1992, when corrected for inflation, according to William Eadington, economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"The realities are when you have that kind of decline the weakest operators typically get pushed out," Mr Eadington said. "The older, tired casinos - and the Cal Neva is a great example - don't have much to offer for gaming."
Sinatra owned the Cal Neva from 1960 to 1963 - during its heyday - drawing fellow Rat Pack members Martin, Davis and Peter Lawford, and stars such as Joe DiMaggio.
Mobsters and celebrities
Richard Bosworth, of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, said the Los Angeles-based financial institution that has owned the resort since last year has held discussions with gambling-licence holders interested in managing the casino.
The rest of the property, including restaurants and the showroom now named after Sinatra, would remain open, Mr Bosworth added.
"Ol' Blue Eyes" renovated the Cal Neva, adding the "celebrity showroom", where his showbiz friends would perform, and a helicopter pad on the roof.
He used tunnels to shuffle mobsters and celebrities beneath the resort so they would not be seen by ordinary guests and gamblers, said Carl Buehler, a bartender who leads tours at the resort. "This was one of the hottest casinos in Nevada when Frank owned it," Mr Buehler said.
Former Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha said he doubted whether the casino would be able to reopen because of the decline in Nevada's gambling business.
"People just aren't coming in the numbers to gamble like they used to," Mr Rocha said. "The Cal Neva doesn't capture people's imagination the way it once did."
Heavy rains and landslides at the end of January destroyed rail access to the 15th Century Inca ruin - the most visited site in Latin America.
Every day the monument was closed, Peru lost $1m (£660,000) in tourism revenue.
The damaged railway line linking the citadel to the rest of Peru was mended with an urgency rarely seen before.
For all its other tourist attractions, Peru has had a tough lesson in just how central Machu Picchu is to its tourist industry.
"This incident with the train to Machu Picchu has definitely had an impact on us… I would say our sales have been reduced by 50%," said Bernard Schleien, director of the Latin America For Less travel agency.
Ninety percent of Peru's tourist revenue comes from the Cuzco region, where Machu Picchu's two-month closure meant the loss of around 60,000 tourists.
The local chamber of commerce says more than half the population of the regional capital Cuzco works directly or indirectly in tourism.
The re-opening of Machu Picchu is hugely important, not just for Peru's economy, but also its image abroad.
The musician, who had Alzheimer's disease, died at his home, his son told the Los Angeles Times.
Ellis, whose career spanned six decades, performed with what is regarded as the classic line-up of the acclaimed Oscar Peterson Trio.
He also worked with jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Dorsey and Louis Armstrong.
Ellis - who was born in 1921 in Farmersville, Texas - was performing in the trio Soft Winds in a concert in Buffalo, New York, in 1952, when pianist Peterson spotted his talent.
"He liked it," Ellis told the Los Angeles Times in 1993.
"So he and I went out later that night and jammed at some place in Buffalo.
"I didn't see him again until 1953 when [guitarist] Barney Kessel left his group - that's when he called me for the job."
Peterson and Ellis performed with bassist Ray Brown in the ensemble between 1953 and 1958 before they reunited in the 1980s.
"That time was very special to all of them," his son, Mitch Ellis, told the Los Angeles Times.
"He and Ray roomed together - they were really best friends."
The trio worked hard and practised for "hours and hours", he added.
"When they got back together in the '80s it was a lot more fun, a lot more relaxed."
Grammy organiser The Recording Academy said, in a statement, that Ellis, who won two of the awards, was "devoted to playing what he called straight-ahead mainstream jazz".
"As jazz has changed through the years and different styles have developed, Ellis always remained true to the form he played from the beginning," the statement added.
"The jazz world has lost a great musician and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and all who enjoyed his work."
Name of source: BBC Radio 4
SOURCE: BBC Radio 4 (3-31-10)
This was a question I came up against in researching my book The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel that Defined the Renaissance.
The book tells how, from 1504 to 1506, these two titans of art were challenged to paint vast battle scenes in the Great Council Hall in the heart of Florence. Michelangelo, who was only 29 when their standoff started, had never fought in a war and, although verbally violent, seems to have been of a physically gentle and far from militaristic disposition.
Leonardo da Vinci on the other hand was fascinated by violent men - by the soldiers and warrior princes who dominated Renaissance Italian politics.
By the time he took on his commission to paint The Battle of Anghiari in the Florentine civic hall he was in his fifties and had worked nearly twenty years for the Milanese usurper Ludovico Sforza, "Il Moro", then for the warrior prince Cesare Borgia.
In a job application which survives from about 1480, Leonardo introduces himself to Sforza as a military inventor for whom art is a sideline.
He boasts of his superiority to other "masters of war" and offers to share with the ruler of Milan "my secrets", which include an armoured car, techniques for undermining fortresses, and other "means both of offence and defence."
Leonardo filled much of Manuscript B and other notebooks with such designs during his time in Milan, then after Sforza's fall proposed a daring submarine stratagem to the Venetian Republic before working with Borgia.
But do all the drawings of tanks, giant crossbows, fireships and even a steam-powered cannon in his notes bear any relation to reality?
Considering how many such drawings survive, they get shorter shrift than his more benign inventions - television programmes have reconstructed his parachute - but I have yet to see a modern reconstruction of his design for an incendiary dart with a "warhead" packed with combustible matter designed to blaze on impact.
It is even sometimes suggested that his war machines were satires or surreal entertainments. Perhaps this is because Leonardo da Vinci has become a hero of modern science: his curiosity was indeed heroic but perhaps he also anticipated the darker side of scientific knowledge, the lust for power over nature.
Or perhaps, then as now, that was the easiest way to get funding for research.
Stone and fire
In pondering the relationship between Leonardo's inventions and the reality of war in what was the first gunpowder age, I pursued a tradition of Italian military engineering that took up his example and was influential across 16th century Europe.
In 1588 - year of the Spanish Armada - a compilation of these Italian works was translated in London that - remarkably - mentions Leonardo's close associate Francesco di Giorgio as a pioneer of military science.
Leonardo worked closely with this Sienese polymath: it's tantalisingly close to seeing Leonardo himself cited by the English warriors who used fireships against the Armada.
And even without such a suggestive reference, the "fireworks" or incendiary weapons described in the book are very similar to some of Leonardo's. The many Italian works it draws on are full of engravings of such devices that simplify his brilliant designs.
Henry VIII's battleship the Mary Rose carried handguns with shields, made in Italy, that also resemble Leonardo drawings; a multi-barrelled gun in the Royal Armouries again uncannily resembled a Leonardo design. But, this is not surprising.
My point is not that Leonardo was some solitary guru to whom all these horrible Renaissance innovations can be traced back. Rather it is that he was a working engineer whose ideas are part of the mainstream of warfare in an age of disturbing change.
When the French invaded Italy in 1494 they brought cannon and their victory proved once and for all that gunpowder was the arbiter of battle: it hurt Leonardo directly as the bronze allotted to cast his giant statue of a horse in Milan was instead used to cast guns.
Leonardo and all his contemporaries were trying to make sense of the new artillery age and this was why they explored so many horrible incendiary devices.
Above all, Leonardo and - later in his life - Michelangelo designed fortifications whose capacity to resist artillery fire by being low, squat, and radically angled helped to transform defensive architecture throughout Europe.
Look at Renaissance forts and they resemble not castles, but modern concrete bunkers: here is the modernity of the Renaissance written in stone and fire.