Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Political Silence: Important Issues Ignored by U.S Politicians

While Nero fiddled, Rome burned.
The source of this phrase is the story that Nero (Ancient Roman emperor; 54-68AD) played the fiddle (violin) while Rome burned during the great fire that destroyed Rome in 64AD. The axiom means to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis.
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During a Republican debate in New Hampshire, CNN's John King asked candidate Michele Bachman the following question: Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash? Her replay was that it was a tough choice.

While the two major political parties in the U.S. argue of social issues, gay marriage and reproductive rights, here are some of the issues that they apparently think are unimportant.
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1. Statistically, approximately 48% of all Americans are currently either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.
2. The United States has 845 motor vehicles for every 1,000 people.  (By comparison, Japan only has 593 for every 1,000 people and Germany only has 540 for every 1,000 people.) The overreliance on cars and imported cars and oil contributes to trade deficits and air pollution.
3. The U.S. is the second biggest polluting country on Earth. Only China pollutes more than the U.S.
4. The United States puts a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other nation on Earth.
5. Approximately 25,000 American adults are living with their parents. Among them are a substantial number of college graduates who cannot find jobs or cannot afford to live alone.
6. There are more unemployed workers in the United States than there are people living in the entire nation of Greece (population: 9,903,268).
7. In the middle of the last century, the United States was No. 1 in the world in GDP (Gross National Product) per capita.  Today, the United States is no. 13 in GDP per capita.
8. In 2011, the U.S. trade deficit with China was more than 49,000% larger than in 1985.
9. In 1950, more than 80% of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65% of all men in the United States have jobs.
10. U.S corporations have systematically shipped jobs overseas to contributing to the U.S. jobless rate.
11. Voter fraud in the U.S. counts for less than 0.00004% all votes cast in the country. But, political leaders U.S. use voter fraud as a pretext for purging voter rolls to prevent the poor, the elderly and minorities from voting.
12. The United States has a teen pregnancy rate of 22%- the highest in the world.  New Zealand is number two at 14%.
15. There are 313 million people living in the United States.  46 million of them are on food stamps. And, one out of every four children is on food stamps. Some politicians want to cut food stamp subsidies.
16. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, approximately 167,000 Americans have more than $200,000 of student loan debt.
15. Student loan debt in the U.S. is greater that all types of credit card debt combined.
17. The dollar continues to decline in value.
18. The price of oil is not determine by supply and demand. Driving has declined in the U.S. by over 20% in recent years yet the price of gasoline continues to rise. The price is determined by the desire for increased oil company profit, speculators, and the low value of the dollar. Oil companies continue to make record profits and yet they still get tax-payer subsidies by the U.S. government.
19. According to the U.S. Center of Disease Control, there are 19 million new cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in the United States every single year.
20. More people have been diagnosed with mental disorders in the United States than in any other nation on earth.
21. If billionaire Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.
22. Today, a majority of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana. But, politicians turn a deaf ear  and some want to tighten restrictions on marijuana.
23. In the United States, an average of about $8,500 is spent on healthcare per person each year.
24. Suicide in the United States is the 11th leading cause of death in the country. In 2006, the total number of suicide deaths was 33,300. It was the 7th leading cause of death for males, and 16th leading cause of death for females.
25. In 2012, the suicide rate in the military is nearly one per day.
26. America’s top math students rank 25th out of 30 countries when compared with top students elsewhere in the world. By the end of 8th grade, U.S. students are two years behind in the math being studied by peers in other countries. Seventy percent of 8th graders can’t read at their grade level, and most will never catch up.
27. Nearly 44% of U. S. high school dropouts under age 24 are jobless. And, a dropout is more than eight times as likely to be in jail or prison as a high school graduate and nearly 20 times as likely as a college graduate.
28. There is a trend in U.S. schools to prevent students from indulging in critical thinking skills because it might confuse them and cause conflicts with their parents' points of views. There is also a trend to mix science and religion and to call Biblical stories and teachings science.
29. The United States has the highest rate of gun related injuries among developed countries. It also has the highest rate of gun ownership. There are more guns in the U.S. than bathtubs.
30. The United States has been involved in more wars in the last 120 years than any other nation on Earth.
31. The wealthiest 10% of Americans possess 80% of all financial assets and the bottom 90% hold only 20% of all financial wealth.
32. The U.S. is the only major industrial country which still has the death penalty. It shares that distinction with nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and China. It has been known to execute the mentally retarded, the criminally insane and minors.  Most of those executed are minorities.
33. In 2012, The Supreme Court of the U.S. in a split decision (5 to 4) ruled that corporations have the same rights as citizens.
34. Americans are the fattest people on Earth. In the U. S. today, 66% of all Americans are overweight. And, on average, American drinks more the 600 sodas each year. The sugar in soda contributes to diabetes and obesity contributes to heart disease.
35. The average supermarket in the United States wastes  about 3,000 pounds of food a year. Yet, food banks and soup kitchen are desperate for food, people go to sleep hungry in the U.S., and the principle meal for poor school children is subsidized school luch which many members of the U.S. Congress want to eliminate.
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Why aren't candidates asked about these topics and challenged on their positions with the facts when they are interview or in a debate? And, they should not be let off the hook with  platitudes about "the greatest country in the world" and their often incorrect and/or deliberately vague answers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wars, Dead Soldiers and Hero Worship

Chris Hayes (MSNBC, USA cable television) sparked controversy and debate on Sunday when he said that he felt uncomfortable calling soldiers killed in action "heroes" because the term can be used to justify potentially unjust wars. He later apologized for the statement.

After speaking with a former Marine whose job it was to notify families of the death of soldiers, Hayes turned to his panel and raised the issue of language. He said: I think it's interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words "heroes." Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word "hero"? I feel comfortable -- uncomfortable -- about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don't want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that's fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I'm wrong about that. Hayes' fellow panelists expressed similar discomfort.

Linguist and columnist John McWhorter said that he would almost rather not say 'hero' and called the term manipulative even if it was unintentionally so. And, Liliana Segura of The Nation magazine said that "hero" is often used to paint wars in a righteous way. These wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ... aren't righteous wars, she said. We can't be so afraid of criticizing a policy.

The right wing deliberately ignored the reasons behind Hayes' comments. The Veterans of Foreign Wars released a statement describing his comments as reprehensible and disgusting and demanding a formal apology. Writing for Breibet. com, Kurt Schlichter opens with, Memo to Chris: they are heroes, and you don’t get a vote. Ann Colter tweeted with a vile comment: 'Uncomfortable' Calling Fallen Military 'Heroes'.  Marines respond by protecting his right to menstruate.. And, Delvin Schlichter called Hayes a parasite and likening him to one of my commie grad students trying to impress credulous freshman girls after a choom session in the quad.

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Who and what is a hero?

According to the dictionary, a hero is 1. a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability, 2. an illustrious warrior, 3. a man admired for his great achievements and  noble qualities, or 4. one who shows great courage.

Both the word and the concept of a hero (heroine is usually used for females) is rooted in both the Greek word hero in both mythology and folklore. It originally meant a demigod (half-god, half-man, such as Hercules).  Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to real and mythological people who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display unusual both military courage and moral integrity for the greater good of people. But politicians, both ancient and modern, have employed hero worship to be successful in achieving for their own political ends and in order to deliberately create hero worship in order to enhance the image of their empires or nations both at home and abroad.

Hero cults were one of the features of Ancient Greek religion. In Ancient Greece during the time of Homer, the word hero referred to a man who was fighting on either side during the Trojan War. By the historical period, however, the word came to mean specifically a dead man who was venerated at his tomb or shrine because his fame during life or the unusual manner of death gave him power to support and protect the living.

The precise historical and dictionary definitions have never included the common soldier who died in battle until the politicians many of whom who did not serve in the military dreamed up the idea to sell military service as "heroic". And, if a soldier happen to die in an unnecessary war as in the U.S. war in Iraq, you are then called a "hero".  Unfortunately, this twisted use of the word is both historically and etymologically incorrect.

In the past, the  average foot-soldier who died in battle was not considered a hero unless he died performing an extraordinary and heroic act. To be willing to die for the king or in defense of the nation was not considered heroic. It was considered the duty of the nation's citizens. But, in modern America, definitions a history have become meaningless. And, to those who cheer from the sidelines whenever there is a war is and who want others to sacrifice their lives so they can live comfortably, distort the real intent of the concept  behind the word, hero.

Questions:
1. Was every soldier who died The Civil War a hero, especially those who died to defend to slavery in the South?
2. Was every soldier who died in battle while participating in the Native American genocide a hero?
3. Was every soldier who died in Vietnam  while carrying out orders to kill innocent women, children and the elderly a hero.

Maybe the real heroes are those who stood up to politicians who knowingly create wars of convenience. What exactly was the difference between Hitler's war of convenience and invasion of Poland  on the pretext the Poland was a threat to Germany and George W. Bush's war of convenience and invasion of Iraq over Weapons of Mass Destruction which the U.S.  government knew did not exist? The reason both leaders created their wars was just because they could. In both cases those who opposed these wars were call traitors and worse. And, in both cases those who died in those wars were hailed as "heroes"  in their own countries.

Maybe Chris Hayes is right when he said, Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word "hero"? I feel …  uncomfortable about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bloopers from the Olympics Commentators

Here are nine comments made by commentators covering the 2012 London Olympics on the American network NBC.

1. Weightlifting commentator: This is Gregoriava from  Bulgaria. I saw
    her snatch this morning during her warm up and it was amazing.


2. Dressage commentator:
This is really a lovely horse and I speak
    from personal experience since I once mounted her mother
.

3. Paul Hamm, Gymnast:
I owe a lot to my parents, especially
    my mother and father.


4. Boxing Analyst:
Sure there have been injuries, and even some
    deaths in boxing, but none of them really that serious.


5. Softball announcer:
If history repeats itself, I should think we
    can expect the same thing again
.

6. Basketball analyst:
He dribbles a lot and the opposition doesn't
    like it. In fact you can see it all over their faces.


7. At the rowing medal ceremony:
Ah, isn't that nice, the wife
    of the IOC president is hugging the cox of the British crew.

8. Soccer commentator: Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like
    they've got eleven Dicks on the field.


9. Tennis commentator: One of the reasons Andy is playing so well is
    that, before the final round, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them.
    Oh my God, what have I just said?



   

Monday, August 20, 2012

News You May Have Missed, No. 39

New Insect Discovery
1. Amateur cave explorers have found a new family of spiders in southern Oregon, USA, that scientists have dubbed Trogloraptor (TRA'-gla-rap-tor), or cave robber, because it has some fearsome front claws. The spelunkers (cave explorers) sent specimens to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Entomologists there say the large spider evolved so distinctly that it requires its own taxonomic family. It will be the first new spider family found in North America since 1870. The species name, marchingtoni (mar-CHING'-tow-nee), honors Douglas County sheriff's Deputy Dave Marchington, who led scientists to the cave outside Grants Pass. Academy entomologist Charles Griswold says the spider spins a crude web, but scientists don't know yet what or how it eats. The discovery is described in the online edition of the journal ZooKeys.
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UK Bars Export of Picasso Painting
2. Britain has temporarily barred the export of an early painting by Pablo Picasso valued at 50 million pounds ($78 million) in a bid to keep it in the country and on public display. Child With a Dove was painted in 1901 at the beginning of the Spanish artist's famous Blue Period. The painting is privately owned, but has been on loan to British galleries for many years. Its owners have sought to sell it, but the government halted the sale Friday under laws allowing it to delay export of works judged to be national treasures. Public museums and galleries have until Dec. 16 to come up with the money to buy the painting. It's doubtful whether any will be able to amass such a large sum.
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Huge Dinosaur Discovered
3. A dinosaur dig team has unearthed the skeleton of a massive triple-horned triceratops just east of Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Paleontologists took 12 long days unearthing the 2,000-kilogram  (4,460-pounds) herbivore earlier this summer in a location that is about a 30-minute drive from Drumheller. Dr. François Therrien, curator of dinosaur palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, said it looked like a huge “log jam” of bones in the dirt. He added that a former employee noticed the 65 million-year-old fossil that was poking up after being exposed by erosion. Once unearthed, it was discovered the vertebrae measured more than 60 centimeters and the ribs nearly two meters. Therrien says triceratops bones are more common in Saskatchewan and Montana. It will allow us to compare the Alberta triceratops to those we find in Saskatchewan and those we find in Montana and see if there are some differences. Maybe that discovery will provide us some information as to why triceratops is much rarer in Alberta than in Saskatchewan (Canada) and Montana (USA), he said. Plans are underway to display the skeleton at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
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Man Shoots Himself in the Buttocks
4. Police say a man accidentally shot himself in the buttocks at a Spark City, Nevada, USA, movie theater during a showing of The Bourne Legacy. The moviegoer was at the Century 14 theater Tuesday night when a gunshot rang out. After receiving several calls reporting seven to eight shots, police in Sparks, Nev., dispatched police units as well as fire and medical crews only to find out one shot was fired by accident. Witnesses inside the theater told officers the gun fell from the man’s pocket as he was adjusting himself in the seat, and it fired when it dropped to the floor, striking him in the buttocks. The 56-year-old man then reportedly stood up, apologized to those around him and left the theater before police arrived. He checked himself into a nearby hospital in Reno, Nevada, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to his buttocks, according to a police report. His injury is not considered to be life-threatening. Police say there was no panic in the theater and that only five people reported hearing the gunshot out of the approximately 30 people in the audience and no one else on the scene was injured. The man has a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm. Sparks City Attorney Chet Adams told NBC News the fact that the man had a concealed weapons permit places a higher standard of responsibility on him. You’re supposed to know the laws, you’re supposed to be vigilant in carrying that weapon, and you’re supposed to be trained to use that weapon, Adams said. He also noted that a revised statute in Nevada would warrant a misdemeanor offense for anyone who negligently discharges or causes to be discharged a firearm in public, and, therefore, he said, I would certainly be inclined to prosecute. The potential for harm is very strong whenever the discharge of a firearm occurs. That’s something you can’t ignore. Obviously there was a round chambered and [the man] was in a public place. Those circumstances warrant charges very seriously.The incident in Nevada comes less than a month after a mass-shooting inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead and 58 injured. 
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Australian Beach Toilet Protest
5. Twelve people, dressed in bowler hats and smart suits, carried their own toilets down to the beach, placing them in a line on the beach front before dropping their trousers and sitting. The protesters said they were demanding public toilet facilities, of which there are currently none, in the local area. A local photographer Andrew Baines came up with the idea of the protest, and will paint the scene for an exhibition in January, 2013, after taking photographs at the event on Sunday. He said though that creating this sort of work was about more than just the aesthetics. I think this is the job of an artist to take these issues to the wider community and let people talk about it, he said. Beachgoers often have to ask local cafe owners to use their toilets, disturbing customers and inconveniencing the owners. But Kym Hewitt, a local business owner, said he sympathized with those beachgoers faced with little choice. The public toilets are not up to scratch at all and quiet often we have a lot of people coming through to the cafe, sort of not really dressed for the cafe, he said. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the local council is currently consulting the community about the best place to build the toilets.
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Amputee Swims from Alaska to Russia
6. Philippe Croizon, whose limbs were amputated after a 1994 electrical accident at age 26, completed his swim from Alaska's Little Diomede Island to the Russian maritime border near Big Diomede Island. Croizon had intended to swim all the way to the shoreline of Big Diomede, but regional Russian authorities denied him permission to enter the territory. His swim to Russian waters took about an hour and 15 minutes and he was accompanied by his friend, Arnaud Chassery. Croizon said,  I wanted to say that we both linked the five continents despite one country's objection. Despite the objection, we managed to join America and Asia. Arnaud told me he was proud of what he has done with me and I am proud of what I have done with him. Croizon uses paddle-like prosthetics to swim, and has completed crossing of the English Channel, the Red Sea and other major waterways. His Bering Strait swim was the last in a series of expeditions across waterways that separate continents, according to Handicap International, the nonprofit organization that helped organize Croizon's Alaska undertaking.
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Senate Candidate: Rape Does Not lead to Pregnancy
7. In the US state of Missouri ,Todd Akin, the Republican Party nominee for US Senate,  who is running against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy. First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare, Akin told television station KTVI-TV in an interview. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. He added that even in the worst-case scenario when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim. Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, Akin said. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child. But, a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and is “a cause of many unwanted pregnancies”. It is estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year in the USA.  McCaskill said she was “stunned” by Akin’s comments. After the Akin interview caused a firestorm, Akin said in a statement never apologized for his statement but said  that he simply" misspoke.”  Akin has called for an end to the school lunch program for poor children and a total ban on contraceptions such as the morning-after pill. Nor is this Akin’s first time suggesting some types of rape are more worthy of protections than others. As a state legislator, Akin voted in 1991 for an anti-marital-rape law after questioning whether it might be misused in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband, according to a May 1 article that year in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. The Tracker Poll Average shows Akin leading McCaskill by a margin of 49.7% to 41.3 %.
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Racism, Canadian-Style
8. The Bank of Canada has apologized for removing an image of an "Asian-looking" woman from the design of a new $100 bank note. The woman featured on the sample note's image was substituted for a Caucasian woman after focus groups complained. The Bank of Canada said its designers had unintentionally created an image representing one ethnic group. Critics said that the re-design of the note had been racist. I apologize to those who were offended. The Bank's handling of this issue did not meet the standards Canadians justifiably expect of us, a statement from the Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney said. We will be reviewing our design process in light of these events. Our bank notes belong to all Canadians, and the work we do at the Bank is for all Canadians, he added. Eight focus groups were shown design proposals for new $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 plastic bills. Documents obtained by the Canadian Press suggest there were concerns over the representation of an Asian woman for the largest denomination, which was designed to celebrate Canada's medical advances. Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian. Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes, said a 2009 report commissioned by the bank.  Bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview modifications had been made to the design of the note based on the focus group's feedback. The bank said that the image had been based on an original photograph of a South Asian woman.  May Lui, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Canadian National Council, accused the Bank of caving in to the racist feedback.
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Nude Swimming Congressman
9. About 20 US politicians and staff went for an unplanned swim after an evening of food and drink, according to the newspaper, Politico. But, Kansas, USA, Republican  Representative Kevin Yoder, 36, who had been drinking was reportedly the only one to remove all his clothes to go swimming in the Sea of Galilee, a lake where the Bible says Jesus Christ walked on water. According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, swimming in the lake is permitted, but public nudity is not allowed. I feel incredibly remorseful that I have caused embarrassment to my constituents and I have caused folks who believe in me to be disappointed, Yoder the Kansas City Star newspaper. The gravity of the situation and the actions I've taken are not lost on me, and I feel certainly regretful at what has occurred, and I just want to apologize to my constituents for a momentary lapse in judgment. Yoder added that it had been dark and he jumped into the water thinking nobody could see him. The so-called fact-finding trip was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is affiliated with Aipac, the pro-Israel lobby group. The visit took place from 13 to 21 August 13 to 21, 2011, and reportedly cost the foundation more than $10,000 per person.

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Knowledge Quiz, No. 42

     I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.
*    *    *    *
Knowledge Quiz, No. 42
The answers are at the bottom
1. What is the meaning of the word, epistle?
2. Where is the Gulf of Tonkin?
3. What was the  longest ruling dynasty in Chinese history?
4. According to the Bible, how old was Abraham when he died?
5. What is the biggest city in Syria?
6. Who wrote the novel, The Return of the Native?
7. What is the English translation of the Paris street called the Champs-Élysées?
8. How many letters are there in the Russian alphabet?
9. What is cold sore?
10. What is the main ingredient in brandy?
11. What is the capital of Armenia?
12. Who wrote the opera, The Flying Dutchman?
13. Who invented the first submarine?
14. What was the Hanseatic League?
15. What events comprise the Olympic sport know as the triathlon?    
16. Who wrote the Ancient Greek comedies, The Birds and The Frogs?      
17. Who was Carl Sagan?
18. For how long has the U.S. embargo of Cuba been in effect?
19. What is a micrometer?
20. Who said, So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today ?
 
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Answers
1. Epistle is a Greek word meaning "letter". It is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal letter. The letters in the New Testament of the Bible by the Apostles to the early Christians are traditionally referred to as epistles.
2. The Gulf of Tonkin is a body of water located off the northern Vietnam and southern China.  On August 4, 1964, United States President Lyndon B. Johnson erroneously claimed that North Vietnamese forces had twice attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. Known today as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, it gave rise to Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (August 7,1964). The resolution which was passed by the U. S. Congress lead to open warfare between North Vietnam and the United States.

3. The Zhou Dynasty was the longest dynasty in Chinese history. It existed for about 810 years from 1066 BC to approximately 256 BC. During the Zhou Dynasty, the  use of iron was introduced to China. This period of Chinese history produced what many consider the zenith of Chinese bronze-ware making. The dynasty also spans the period in which the written script evolved into its modern form.

4. According to the Bible, Abraham lived 175 years, and died in a good old age. The Bible says he was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah  (Genesis 25:7-10).

5. The biggest city in Syria is Aleppo and not the capital of the country, Damascus.

6. The classic British novel The Return of the Native was written by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). It was his sixth published novel and it first appeared in twelve monthly installments in1878 in the magazine, Belgravia. The novel contains a deeply flawed heroine and, for the time.  very illicit sexual relationships. It has become one of Hardy's most popular and enduring novels.

7. The name Champs-Élysées is French for  Elysian Fields, the place of the blessed dead in Greek mythology. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, contains monuments like the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de Concorde, cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops and clipped horse-chestnut trees. It is one of the most famous streets and one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world.

8. The modern Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters. The Russian alphabet is a type of alphabetic writing system developed in the medieval First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School. The school developed  what is known as Cyrillic script. 

9. A cold sore (aka: Herpes labialis, orolabial herpes, and fever blister) is an infection of the lip by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). An outbreak typically causes small blisters or sores on or around the mouth. The sores typically heal within 2 to 3 weeks, but the herpes virus remains dormant in the facial nerves following infection periodically reactivating to create sores in the same area of the mouth or face at the site of the original infection. HSV-1 affected 57.7% of Americans tested in a 1999-2004 study. By age 50, 80% to 90% of adults have the virus and  more than 50 million adults in the U.S. develop symptomatic episodes every year.

10. Brandy (from the word: brandywine, derived from Dutch word brandewijn meaning burnt wine) is produced by distilling wine. Its main ingredient is fermented grapes although it can be produced by fermenting other fruits than grapes. Brandy generally contains between 35% and 60% alcohol and is primarily an  after-dinner drink.

11. The capital of Armenia is Yerevan.

12. The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer) is an opera with book and music by the German composer, Richard Wagner (1813-1883).  Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography, Mein Leben (translation: My Life) that he had been inspired to write The Flying Dutchman following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga, Latvia, to London, England, in1839. In his 1843 Autobiographical Sketch, Wagner acknowledged he had taken the story from a legend in the 1833 satirical novel, The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski, by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). The central theme of the opera is redemption through love. Wagner conducted the premiere at the Semper Oper in Dresden, Germany, in 1843.

13. Dutchman Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbel (1572 -1633) was the builder of the first navigable submarine in 1620 while working for the English Royal Navy. Drebbel successfully built and tested three submarines. The third model had 6 oars and could carry 16 passengers. This model was demonstrated to King James I in person and several thousand Londoners. The submarine stayed submerged for three hours cruising at a depth of from 12 to 15 feet (4 to 5 meters). Drebbel took The King in the submarine on a test dive in the Thames River thus making King James I the first monarch to travel underwater. This submarine was tested many times in the but it couldn't attract enough enthusiasm from the Admiralty and was never used in combat. However, the Nautilus, first tested in 1800, is often considered the first practical submarine . It was created by the American inventor, Robert Fulton, was in France at that time. It was built in 1798 and 1799. It became the modern prototype of the modern submarine.

14. The Hanseatic League (aka: the Hanse or Hansa) was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea in Europe from the 13th through the 17th centuries. The League was created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid. In spite of all of this, the organization was not a city-state nor can it be called a confederation of city-states. The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names, for example the German airline Lufthansa (German for Air Hansa) the Hansa University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, The Netherlands.

15. A triathlon is a competition involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events. While variations of the sport exist, a triathlon in its most popular form involves swimming, cycling and running in immediate succession over various distances. The word triathlon is of Greek origin  and it comes from combining the Greek words trei (three) and athlos (contest).

16. The Ancient Greek playwright who wrote the comic plays The Birds(411BC)  and The Frogs (405BC) was Aristophanes (ca. 446 BC - ca. 386BC).  Eleven of his 40 plays survive virtually completely and he is called The Father of Comedy.  Aristophanes has been said to recreate the life of ancient Athens more convincingly than any other author. His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by his influential contemporaries. Among his other surviving works are The Clouds(422BC), The Wasps (423BC), and Lysistrata (411BC)- a play in which the women of Greece withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace during a war. 

17.  Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and television personality. He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University in the U.S. where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientifically skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Sagan narrated and co-wrote an award-winning 1980 television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage and wrote a companion book for the series entitled Cosmos. He also wrote the science fiction novel, Contact (1985), which was the basis for a 1997 film by the same name.

18. The United States embargo against Cuba called by its opponents in Cuba and Latin America, el bloqueo, (translation: the blockade) is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo imposed on Cuba in 1960. It has been in effect for 52 years and by most accounts has been a failure. It was enacted after Cuba nationalized the properties of United States citizens and corporations. It continues partly because of pressure from Cubans (mostly in Florida) who fled the country when the Communists took over.

19. A micrometer (aka: micrometer screw gauge) is a device incorporating a calibrated screw used widely for precise measurement of small distances. It is used in mechanical engineering and machining. Micrometers are often, but not always, in the form of a caliper (a device used to  measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object). The word micrometer is often shortened to mike or mic.

20. Jesus said, So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.  (Matthew 6:34, from the New Living Translation of The Bible)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Great Thinkers, Great Thinkers No. 18

1. What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though. - J. D. Salinger
Jerome David Salinger (1919- 2010) was an American author. He is best known for his only novel, The Cather in the Rye (1951). He last published an original work in 1965, and gave his last interview in 1980. He wrote a collection of short stories in 1953 entitled Nine Short Stories and in 1963 he created a book containing two novellas, Raise Height the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. He had a reclusive nature and died of natural causes at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.

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2. A fool sees not the same tree as a wise man does. - William Blake
William Blake (1757-1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. Considered mad by contemporaries, he produced a diverse and symbolically rich body of  literature and art which was profound and imaginative. Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. He revered the Bible but was hostile to all forms of organized religion.

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3. Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.  - George Sand
Amantine (aka: Amandine) Lucile Aurore Dupin ( aka; George Sand and Baroness Dudevant; 1804-1876) was a French novelist, playwright and memoirist. She is also famous for having an affair with the Polish composer, Frédéric Chopin (1810 -1849). Among her works are the novels Indiana  (1832), Consuelo (1842) and La Petite Fadette (1849). Her plays include Le Pavé (1862) and Le Lis du Japon (1866).

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4. You just have to keep trying to do good work, and hope that it leads to more good work. I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything. Yes, I want to look back and know that I was terrible at a variety of things.  -Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart (aka: Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz; born:1962) is an American political satirist, writer, television host, media critic, stand-up comedian and actor. He is widely known in America as host of The Daily Show, a satirical news program. He has hosted the television show since 1999 and is also. a writer and co-executive-producer of the show. The Daily Show has gained wide popularity, critical acclaim, and has resulted in his receiving sixteen television Emmy Awards. The Daily Show has also been nominated for news and journalism awards.  Stewart has co-authored two books, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy In Action  (2004), and Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (2010).

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5. I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. - James A. Baldwin
James Arthur Baldwin (1924- 1987) was an American novelist, essayist, playwright and poet.  Baldwin's essays explore racial, sexual and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century U.S. Some Baldwin essays are book-length. These include The Fire Next Time (1963) and The Devil Finds Work (1976). His novels and plays fictionalize personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures of blacks and male homosexuals. His novels include Go Tell It On The Mountain (1953) and Giovanni's Room (1956).

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6. A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain. - Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost (1874 -1963) was an American poet. He is highly praised for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech in his poems. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in the New England part of the U.S.A in the early twentieth century and using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes. He is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed American poets and Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry (1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943).

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7. I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate. It's apathy. It's not giving a damn. - Leo Buscaglia
Felice Leonardo "Leo" Buscaglia, Ph.D  (1924 -1998) was also known as Dr Love. He was an author, motivational speaker and a professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California. While teaching at USC, Buscaglia was motivated by a student's suicide to contemplate human disconnectedness and the meaning of life, and began a non-credit class he called Love 1A. His books and numerous recorded and televised lectures were extremely well received. Among his popular books are Love (1972),  Living, Loving and Learning (1985) and Personhood ( 1986).

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8. A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears. - Michel de Montaigne
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533 - 1592) was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. He is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography. His massive volume Essais (translation: Attempts) contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. He is most remembered for his skeptical remark, Que sçay-je? (translation: What do I know?). However, in his own time Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an  author.

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9. I don't think it's possible to have a sense of tragedy without having a sense of humor. - Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Eric Hitchens (1949 - 2011) was an English-American author and journalist whose career was four decades. Hitchens, often referred to colloquially as Hitch, was a columnist and literary critic for the newspapers and magazines: New Statesman, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Daily Mirror, The Times Literary Supplement, Free Inquiry and Vanity Fair. He was the author of twelve books and five collections of essays. As a staple of television talk shows and on the lecture circuit,  and he was famous for his confrontational style of debate. He was known as a very controversial figure.

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10. Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is. - The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita (aka: The Gita) is a 700–verse ancient Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskit language epic The Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is traditionally ascribed to the Hindu sage, Vyasa. Because it is a part of The Mahabharata, The Bhagavad Gita is also ascribed to him. Theories on the date the Gita was written vary considerably. Scholars accept dates from fifth century to second century BCE as the probable range. The Bhagavad Gita has been highly praised not only by Indians such as Mohandas Gandhi but also by others such as Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung and Herman Hesse.