May 16, 2017

Participants in World War I


Map of the world with the participants in World War I in 1917. Allies are in green, the Central Powers in orange and neutral countries in grey. 
(Wikipedia)

Apr 5, 2017

Where did the term marathon come from?

The 1896 Olympic Games featured the first Olympic marathon, which followed the 25-mile route run by the Greek soldier who brought news of a victory over the Persians from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. Fittingly, Greece's Spyridon Louis won the first gold medal in the event. In 1924, the distance would be standardized to 26 miles and 385 yards. 
(http://www.history.com)

Mar 18, 2017

Seneca Falls Convention 1848 – first US women’s rights convention

At the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, N.Y., a women’s rights convention was the first ever held in the United States. Almost over 200 women attended this convention. The convention was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mott and Stanton were two abolitionists who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London over a cup of tea. As women, Mott and Stanton were not allowed on the convention floor. The anger and disappointment these women felt was the driving force that helped them start the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. At the convention, Stanton read a treatise she had wrote called the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances, which was heavily based on the Declaration of Independence. It called women to recognize their rights as US citizens. Its purpose was "to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” Organized by women for women, many consider the Seneca Falls Convention to be the event that triggered and solidified the women's rights movement in America. Historians and other scholars agree that the leaders of the Seneca Falls Convention played a significant role in shaping the first wave of feminism in the United States and starting the fight for women’s suffrage.  (https://votesforwomennhd.weebly.com, and https://www.biography.com/)

Mar 6, 2017

Saturn – one of its moons is bigger than Mercury

Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball of mostly hydrogen and helium. Surrounding by 53 confirmed and nine provisional moons, Saturn is home to some of the most fascinating landscapes in our solar system. Like Jupiter, Saturn is mostly made of hydrogen and helium, the same two main components that make up the sun. Saturn rotates in the same direction as the Earth, which is west to east, but it does this far faster than Earth, spinning around once in just 10.7 hours. While the days on Saturn are short, the years are long. The sixth planet from the sun takes 29 Earth years, or 10,756 Earth days, to complete one revolution around the sun. As a gas giant, Saturn doesn't have a true surface. The planet is mostly swirling gases and liquids. While a spacecraft would have nowhere to land on Saturn, it wouldn't be able to fly through unscathed either. The extreme pressures and temperatures deep inside the planet would crush, melt and vaporize a metal spacecraft trying to fly through the planet. Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. At Saturn's center is a dense core of rock, ice, water, and other compounds made solid by the intense pressure and heat. It is enveloped by liquid metallic hydrogen, inside a layer of liquid hydrogen -- similar to Jupiter's core but considerably smaller. It's hard to imagine, but Saturn is the only planet in our solar system that is less dense than water. The giant gas planet could float in a bathtub -- if such a colossal thing existed. Saturn's largest satellite, Titan, is a bit bigger than the planet Mercury. Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system; only Jupiter's moon Ganymede is bigger. 
(Adapted from Encarta Encyclopedia and NASA site https://solarsystem.nasa.gov)

Feb 14, 2017

Condition of women in the 19th century Islamic world

Among the Muslim communities of the Middle East, women lived entirely under the domination of men and were not allowed to take part in public affairs. Girls grew up in the home of their parents, lived most of their time indoors and had no contact with the public. When they were given in marriage to their husbands (an event over which they had no control), they moved into a different house and spent most of their time in complete seclusion until they died. No man, except a very close relative, was ever allowed to see the face of a woman. She had to wear a chadur [1] and veil her face. It was considered a sin for a woman to show her face to any man. When a male guest arrived at a home, all the women had to retire into the inner apartment, their sanctuary where no strange man would ever be admitted.  

Another restriction was that women, especially unmarried girls, were not to talk to men. Neither would they be permitted to go out for shopping or other services; these were the exclusive preserve of men. Such acts would have necessitated women taking part in public affairs and coming into contact with men. So strong was this restriction that if ever a woman was seen talking to a strange man she would receive very severe punishment from her parents or husband. The stigma attached to this behaviour was so repugnant that sometimes the poor victim would commit suicide. Some Muslim clergy in Persia are known to have inflicted torturous chastisements upon a man who was accused of talking to a woman. Usually a much more severe punishment awaited a non-Muslim man if he was found speaking to a Muslim woman.         

Jan 11, 2017

World conditions worsened during 1968 and 1969

The years 1968 and 1969 were racked with war, violence, terrorism, and civil unrest around the world. Wars raged in Vietnam and Nigeria; Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished in a continuing border dispute; Soviet troops entered Czechoslovakia to quell a movement toward liberalization; and El Salvador invaded Honduras. Coups d'etat toppled governments in 'Iraq, Syria, Sierre Leone, Dahomey, the Congo, Mali, the Sudan, Libya, the Netherlands Antilles, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia; states of emergency were declared in Spain, Malaysia, and Chile; violent unrest occurred in West Germany, Spain, Bombay, Pakistan, Argentina, Kenya, and the United States; and student protests erupted in Paris, Mexico City, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, and the United States. United States and Israeli airliners were hijacked, and two Israeli airliners were attacked by terrorists.  Moreover, a number of leaders were assassinated, including Somalian president Abdirascid Ali Scermarche; US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.; US presidential candidate Robert E. Kennedy; US ambassador to Guatemala John Gordon Mein; and Mozambique Liberation Front leader Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. 
(Geoffry Marks)

Dec 15, 2016

Hong Kong’s Kowloon Park

The area which was formerly the site of the Whitfield Barracks of the British Army was developed into a park in 1970. More than 70 buildings were demolished to make way for the park. The first stage of the park was officially opened on 24 June 1970 by the then Governor of Hong Kong, Sir David Trench. The first phase comprised 18 acres out of a planned 26 acres. It featured a floral clock as well as a Chinese garden set within an English landscape, which a government spokesman called "a reminder of Hong kong's cosmopolitan cultural heritage." The remaining three stages of the park development were completed by 1989.

The park houses an indoor sports centre and a large aquatics centre. The pool complex is the most heavily used in Hong Kong, serving over 2000 swimmers daily. It includes four indoor heated pools, including an Olympic sized 50-metre main pool. The swimming complex opened on 12 September 1989 and can accommodate a maximum of 1530 swimmers, and has an annual attendance of more than 1 million visitors.

One preserved historic barrack is used as a warehouse of Hong Kong Museum of History. Three other preserved buildings of the former barracks are used as museums. 
(Adapted from Wikipedia)

Nov 24, 2016

1889 Persia: Qajar Kings maintained the threefold functions of government, legislative, executive, and judicial

Fath-Ali Shah and his sons
In theory the king may do what he pleases; his word is law. The saying that ‘The law of the Medes and Persians altereth not’ was merely an ancient periphrasis for the absolutism of the sovereign. He appoints and he may dismiss all ministers, officers, officials, and judges. Over his own family and household, and over the civil or military functionaries in his employ, he has power of life and death without reference to any tribunal. The property of any such individual, if disgraced or executed, reverts to him. The right to take life in any case is vested in him alone, but can be delegated to governors or deputies. All property, not previously granted by the crown or purchased—all property, in fact, to which a legal title cannot be established—belongs to him, and can be disposed of at his pleasure. All rights or privileges, such as the making of public works, the working of mines, the institution of telegraphs, roads, railroads, tramways, etc., the exploitation, in fact, of any of the resources of the country, are vested in him, and must be purchased from him before they can be assumed by others. In his person are fused the threefold functions of government, legislative, executive, and judicial. No obligation is imposed upon him beyond the outward observance of the forms of the national religion. He is the pivot upon which turns the entire machinery of public life.

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)