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The Spill: Dream Tablet

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Returning a Stolen Relic

History is an important part of our present and future. It not only teaches us about the past, it can also help us to prevent repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, ancient artifacts are worth a lot of money on the black market, and a lot of precious relics have been sold to private collectors and corporations. One such heirloom has been found and will be returned to Iraq, where it was stolen from an archaeological dig site many years ago.

The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet is made of hard clay and dates back to around 1600 B.C. The writing on it is what’s known as cuneiform, an ancient writing system of wedge-shaped characters that were used in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Ugarit. This piece is one of only 12 and is part of the Gilgamesh poem where the hero describes his dreams to his mother. The tablet is thought to have the oldest literature in recorded history. It was discovered in 1853 in the Assyrian ruins in Iraq.

Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain, got in trouble for buying the Gilgamesh Tablet and had to return it to Iraq. In 2014, it bought the item for $1.6 million at an auction and then displayed it at the Museum of the Bible, which is owned by Hobby Lobby. The auction house that sold the piece had gotten it through an antiquities dealer in London. The dealer supposedly gained the relic from Ghassan Rihani, a man who sold items that had been looted by Iraqi soldiers.

In 2007, the rare tablet was sold for $50,000, and the buyer got a forged letter stating it had been legally purchased at an auction house. After Hobby Lobby purchased it, authorities found it in the museum and sued to have it returned to Iraq.

Michigan Devastated by Floods

On March 19, residents in Michigan, suffered a shock when the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam collapsed about 140 miles north of Detroit. Heavy rainfall was partially to blame, causing record flooding in the area. However, weak infrastructure was also to blame. The Edenville Dam was built in 1924 and the state, in 2018, rated it as unsatisfactory. The Sanford Dam, built in 1925, was rated to be in fair condition.

The Tittabawassee River reached more than 35 feet in height by the morning of May 20. Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared an emergency, warning residents that downtown Midland could find itself under nine feet of water. “To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable,” the governor said.

More than 10,000 people were evacuated, and teams screened people at shelters to help prevent the spread of disease.

In a time of crisis, people show how generous they can be. Dwayne Richard and his family showed this as they drove 19 hours from Lafayette, Louisiana, on Memorial Day to cook for the victims of the flood.

Richard suffered a fall and he promised himself that if he could ever recover enough to get out of his wheelchair, he would help others. And he has kept his oath. So, the family packed up a U-Haul truck, drove to Michigan, and prepared a nice meal of gumbo for the victims.

Mayor Maureen Donker of Midland was impressed with how people came together during a time of crisis. “The mayor of Baton Rouge called. And the Cajun Navy came here,” she said. “If you would see our streets, it’s so sad. You’re seeing families and their whole house out on the curb. And then you have to manage your emotions, your kids’ emotions … It’s a lot of grieving and anger. But it’s also beautiful – in that you can really see how people care and work to take care of one another.”

Finding Food for Elephants

Limits on travel during the Coronavirus pandemic have made it hard for places that depend on tourists for their income. This has had a huge impact on the animal kingdom as well, as many creatures depend on restaurant scraps. In Nepal, elephants work hard giving rides to travelers. These majestic creatures need a huge amount of food, but without tourists around, elephant owners say they are having trouble finding food for the animals.

One answer was to allow these creatures into Chitwan National Park, where they are normally forbidden. The national park is a famous and popular tourist attraction because of its wildlife that includes rhinos, tigers, and wild elephants. Privately owned elephants are now allowed inside the park during the day to graze, but these giant creatures eat for about 20 hours a day, so there was still the problem of how to get them food at night.

Luckily, Carol Buckley’s organization, Elephant Aid International (EAI), came up with an idea that not only provided the elephants with enough food, but it helped local farmers as well. The closure of restaurants has hurt the agriculture business, and many farmers have had to let their crops rot without enough customers to buy them. EAI found a way to help the farmers get workers to harvest the fields and then sell the produce to elephant owners.

“I have provided assistance to the elephants of Sauraha for 10 years,” Buckley said. “Seeing them enjoy the delicious produce is heartwarming. Working together with the farmers, locals, and mahouts [elephant riders and keepers] has improved the lives of these hard working elephants,” she added. “It is a joy to know that our efforts are pleasing to the elephants and their mahouts.”

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