Nov 9, 2016

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) - designed to guarantee equal rights for women: Initiated in 1916 was finally approved by US Congress in 1972

Alice Paul
A proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States to provide for the equality of sexes under the law. The central language of the amendment states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The ERA would have made unconstitutional any laws that grant one sex different rights than the other.

In 1916 Alice Paul, a leader in the suffragist movement, founded the National Woman's Party (NWP), a political party dedicated to establishing equal rights for women. Paul viewed equality under the law as the foundation essential to full equality for women. Along with her colleagues, Paul began to work on constitutional amendments recognizing equal rights for women at both state and federal levels. In 1921 various groups, which two years before had been close allies of the NWP, fiercely opposed the NWP's proposed language banning “political, civil or legal disabilities or inequalities on account of sex, or on account of marriage unless applying alike to both sexes.” Labor organizers and others fighting for women's economic welfare believed this push for legal equality threatened legislation that had been passed to protect exploited women working in factories. While Paul was not opposed to improving oppressive conditions in industry, she and other like-minded women argued that the laws designed to protect women could be used to restrict their employment opportunities.

Oct 31, 2016

Madeleine Albright: The first woman to become US Secretary of State

On January 23, 1997, Madeleine Albright, who had earlier served as U.S. ambassador to the UN, assumed under President Bill Clinton the office of secretary of state, becoming the first woman to hold that cabinet post. She was the 64th United States Secretary of State. 
(Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia)

Oct 24, 2016

Kava – The root of Relaxation

Native to the South Pacific islands, kava root was traditionally brewed into a drink for royalty. Over time it was taken medicinally to relieve anxiety, combat fatigue, alleviate weakness, and treat chills and colds. In the 1770s, it was introduced to explorer Captain James Cook, who in turn introduced it to Europe. Predominately used to relieve tension and anxiety, kava has been subjected to rigorous clinical trials and shown to be as powerful as prescription antianxiety drugs. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia for its sedating effects.

Oct 15, 2016

Mysterious Winds of the Mediterranean

Winds have carried mariners across the seas since before recorded time. They so affected early seafaring that ancient sailors personalized them with names and built legends around them. And still today, of course, because winds influence weather on both a local and global scale, they affect our everyday existence.

Wind Belts
Great belts of wind encircle the Earth. These bands of global winds and lulls are created by the uneven way in which the Sun heats the Earth, and by the mixing of air between the equator and the poles. Winds follow several general patterns within certain zones, or belts. The northeast trades and the southeast trades blow between 15 and 30 degrees latitude, the  westerlies between 45 and 60 degrees latitude, and the polar northeasterlies and polar southeasterlies between 60 and 90 degrees latitude.

Between the wind belts lie zones of still air - the horse latitudes between 30 and 45 degrees latitude, and the equatorial doldrums, which cover the area extending 15 degrees north and south of the equator. In the equatorial latitudes, the Sun's rays are nearly perpendicular to the Earth's surface, while in higher latitudes, the Sun's rays strike the Earth at an angle. The result is a greater concentration of solar energy per unit area in the tropics than in the polar regions, and therefore greater warming in the tropics.

Oct 1, 2016

What are mosquitoes good for?

There are approximately 3,500 species of mosquito just a few rank among the deadliest creatures on Earth. They include Anopheles gambiae, which transmits the malaria parasite that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Historians believe the mosquito arrived in the New World on slave ships from Africa in the 17th century, bringing with it yellow fever, which has killed millions of people. Today the mosquito also carries dengue fever, which infects as many as 400 million people a year, as well as such increasingly threatening pathogens as chikungunya, West Nile virus, and Zika.

Mosquitos, like all other life forms, are part of a complex food web. Many fish feed on mosquito larvae, which are aquatic, and plenty of birds and spiders and other insects feed on the adults. Dragonflies and damselflies love mosquitoes. Frogs eat adult mosquitoes, tadpoles eat the larvae.

There isn't much love lost between people and mosquitoes. At the very least, these bloodthirsty insects are major annoyances, biting us with a persistence that can be maddening. If insects can be credited with evil intent, mosquitoes seem determined to wipe the human race out. As carriers of deadly diseases, mosquitoes are the deadliest insect on Earth. Each year, millions of people die from malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever after being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. Mosquitoes also carry diseases that pose serious threats to livestock and pets.

Sep 20, 2016

Ancient bathing – up to about 10th Century

Archaeological evidence suggests 5,000-yearold bathing facilities in Gaza. Soaplike material found in clay jars of Babylonian origin has been dated to about 2800 B.C. From before the time of Abraham in Middle Eastern desert climes, custom dictated that hosts offer washing water to dusty-footed guests. But one of the first known and indisputable bathtubs comes from Minoan Crete. Supposedly built for the legendary King Minos around 1700 B.C. and found in the great palace at Knossos, it's of a shape similar to modern tubs. Even more impressive is the palace plumbing system that served the royal tub. Interlocking pieces of terra-cotta pipes-each tapered at one end to give water a shooting action to prevent the buildup of clogging sediment -- were jointed and cemented together. Their technology put Minoans in the hydrological vanguard.

Egyptians
Although the ancient Egyptians didn't develop such plumbing, they had a penchant for hygiene, evident in their use of fresh linens and body ointments, skin conditioners and deodorants of the day. As described in the 1500 B.C. Ebers Papyrus, these ancients washed, and treated skin diseases with a soapy material made of animal and vegetable oils and alkaline salts. From bas-reliefs and tomb excavations, there's evidence that Egyptians sat in a shallow kind of shower bath while attendants poured water over the bather.

Sep 6, 2016

Who Discovered the Panda?

Until 1869, few had heard of the giant black-and-white creatures hiding in China’s forests. Decades later, pandamania gripped the world.

Though today giant pandas are known and loved worldwide, it wasn’t always so.

Ancient Chinese texts rarely mention the native animals. Westerners first learned of them in 1869 when French missionary Armand David, while in China, laid eyes on a distinctive black-and-white pelt and then bought a complete, dead specimen from local hunters. A zoologist in Paris wrote up the official description of Ailuropoda melanoleuca (literally, “cat foot, black and white”).

In 1929 Chicago’s Field Museum put two mounted pandas on display courtesy of the Roosevelt brothers, Theodore Jr. and Kermit. The two were sons of the 26th U.S. president, whose love of sport hunting ultimately propelled major conservation reforms. With the help of Sichuan Province locals, they brought home the first panda shot by white men for the museum’s new Asian Hall. Their feat prompted copycat expeditions funded by other museums.

Aug 3, 2016

Families work and live at site – a factory in Myanmar

At a brick factory on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, a swaddled baby sways in a makeshift hammock. The child’s mother works at the kiln, where she’s paid for each brick she manufactures. Many families work—and live—at the site. (National Geographic magazine)

Jul 18, 2016

Nasir'd-Din Shah - King of Persia 1831-1896

Nasir'd-Din Shah in London at the Garden-Party given at Hatfield House in 1889
(The Illustrated London News May 16, 1896)

Jul 2, 2016

Fath- ‘Ali Shah - King of Persia 1797-1834

Fath-‘Ali Shah (1771-1834) whose reign coincided with rivalry among France, Great Britain, and Russia over eastern affairs, ruled Iran from 1797 to 1834. Under him, Iran became involved in a war with Russia in 1804 concerning the sovereignty of Georgia, whose ruler had transferred his allegiance from Persia to Russia. Fath- ‘Ali Shah purchased peace by abandoning his claim in 1813, after several years of war. He also lost Dagestan and Baku to Russia. In 1826 he took advantage of the recent death of Tsar Alexander I to renew the war but was compelled by the peace of 1828 to make an additional cession of territory acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the entire area north of the Aras River, present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan. 
(Adapted from Encyclopedias Britannica and Encarta)

Jun 27, 2016

How Hurricanes Form

Tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons) form and grow over warm ocean water, drawing their energy from latent heat. Latent heat is the energy released when water vapor in rising hot, humid air condenses into clouds and rain. As warmed air rises, more air flows into the area where the air is rising, creating wind. The Earth’s rotation causes the wind to follow a curved path over the ocean (the Coriolis effect), which helps give tropical cyclones their circular appearance.

Hurricanes and tropical cyclones form, maintain their strength, and grow only when they are over ocean water that is approximately 27°C (80°F). Such warmth causes large amounts of water to evaporate, making the air very humid. This warm water requirement accounts for the existence of tropical cyclone seasons, which occur generally during a hemisphere’s summer and autumn. Because water is slow to warm up and cool down, oceans do not become warm enough for tropical cyclones to occur in the spring.

Oceans can become warm enough in the summer for hurricanes to develop, and the oceans also retain summer heat through the fall. As a result, the hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin, which comprises the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, runs from June 1 through November 30. At least 25 out-of-season storms, however, have occurred from 1887 through 2003, and 9 of these strengthened into hurricanes for at least a few hours.

Jun 15, 2016

Sperm whales exhibit cultural component to their lives

New ways to grab dinner, the trick to using a tool, and learning the local dialect. These are behaviors that animals pick up from each other. Killer whales, chimpanzees, and birds seem to have a cultural component to their lives. Now a new study suggests that sperm whales should be added to that list.

The ocean around the Galápagos Islands hosts thousands of female sperm whales and their calves that have organized into clans with their own dialects. (Mature males congregate in colder waters near the poles.) How these clans form has been something of a mystery until now.

A study published recently in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ suggests that culture—behaviors shared by group members—keeps these sperm whale clans together. Specifically, these deep-diving whales have a distinct series of clicks called codas they use to communicate during social interactions.

Sperm whales with similar behaviors spend time together, and they pick up vocalizations from each other. Scientists call this social learning. Whales that "speak the same language" stick together, giving rise to the clans that researchers have observed for more than 30 years.

Jun 10, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt - 26th President of the United States (1901-1909)

(October 27, 1958 – January 6, 1919)
A writer, naturalist, and soldier. He expanded the powers of the presidency and of the federal government in support of the public interest in conflicts between big business and labour and steered the nation toward an active role in world politics, particularly in Europe and Asia. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1906 for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, and he secured the route and began construction of the Panama Canal (1904–14).

Roosevelt was the second of four children born into a long-established, socially prominent family of Dutch and English ancestry; his mother, Martha Bulloch of Georgia, came from a wealthy, slave-owning plantation family. In frail health as a boy, Roosevelt was educated by private tutors. From boyhood, he displayed intense, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. He graduated from Harvard College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, in 1880. He then studied briefly at Columbia Law School but soon turned to writing and politics as a career. In 1880 he married Alice Hathaway Lee, by whom he had one daughter, Alice. After his first wife's death, in 1886 he married Edith Kermit Carow (Edith Roosevelt), with whom he lived for the rest of his life at Sagamore Hill, an estate near Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. They had five children: Theodore, Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin.

Jun 5, 2016

Clouds

Clouds are condensed form of atmospheric moisture consisting of small water droplets or tiny ice crystals. Clouds are the principal visible phenomena of the atmosphere. They represent a transitory but vital step in the water cycle, which includes evaporation of moisture from the surface of the earth, carrying of this moisture into higher levels of the atmosphere, condensation of water vapor into cloud masses, and final return of water to the surface as precipitation.

The formation of clouds caused by cooling of the air results in the condensation of invisible water vapor that produces visible cloud droplets or ice particles. Cloud particles range in size from about 5 to 75 micrometers (0.0005 to 0.008 cm/0.0002 to 0.003 in). The particles are so small that light, vertical currents easily sustain them in the air. The different cloud formations result partly from the temperature at which condensation takes place. When condensation occurs at temperatures below freezing, clouds are usually composed of ice crystals; those that form in warmer air usually consist of water droplets. Occasionally, however, supercooled clouds contain water droplets at subfreezing temperatures. The air motion associated with cloud development also affects formation. Clouds that develop in calm air tend to appear as sheets or stratified formations; those that form under windy conditions or in air with strong vertical currents have a towering appearance.

May 10, 2016

Europeans initial contact with North America

When the glaciers retreated at the end of the last Ice Age, about 25,000 B.C., Indians and Eskimos (Inuit) gradually made their way across the land bridge that once connected Asia and North America (where the Bering Strait now separates the Soviet Union from Alaska).

Europeans did not voyage to the North American continent until the 11th century A.D. About the year 1000 the Viking, Leif Ericson, came across the Atlantic Ocean and probably landed at L' Anse aux Meadows in what is now northern Newfoundland. Another 500 years passed before any permanent European settlements were made in Canada.

In 1497, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), an Italian explorer, set out in an English ship, the Matthew, to find a western route to Asia. Instead he discovered a "New Found Land," teeming with fish. Cabot had stumbled on the great cod fisheries of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.

Throughout the 1500's, fishermen from England, France, Spain, and Portugal ventured in ever-growing numbers to fish in Newfoundland's waters. The French and English set up permanent bases on shore. They salted and dried the cod so it would not spoil on the voyage to Europe. French fishing stations spread out toward the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The English tended to remain in eastern Newfoundland. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an English explorer, formally claimed that territory for England in 1583.

Trading with the local Indians developed at the fishing stations. In exchange for pots, axes, knives, and other implements, the natives offered various furs, particularly beaver pelts. Soon shiploads of beaver skins were bound for Europe. As the fur trade developed in the New World, it spread westward, eventually reaching both the Arctic and the Pacific coasts. 
(Grolier New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)

May 1, 2016

Threat to the survival of Greater Adjutant storks

Indian Greater Adjutant storks sit on garbage as waste pickers collect usable goods from a garbage dumping site on the eve of the World Environment Day on the outskirts of Guwahati city, Assam, India, on June 4, 2016. Fast vanishing wetlands in and around Guwahati city have now become a major threat for the survival of Greater Adjutant stork. (MSNBC)

Apr 24, 2016

Snowy Oal

Snowy Owl lives in the upper latitude of North America, Europe, and Asia. (National Geographic 2016)