Sunday, August 31, 2014
America – He’s Your President for Goodness Sake!
by William Thomas
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Brazil is the largest country in South America.
The official name of the country is Federative Republic of Brazil.
Brazil’s official motto is Ordem e Progresso, meaning "order and progress". The motto appears on Brazil's flag.
Brazil was given to Portugal as part of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 and the first person to officially claim Brazil for Portugal was Pedro Álvares Cabral.
The name Brazil comes from an Amerindian word , which describes a dark rosewood type of tree common in the country. At a time, the wood was Brazil's main export and thus gave the country its name.
However, since 1968 the export of Brazilian rosewood has been banned.
It is called Brasil in Portuguese, the official language spoken in Brazil.
There are more than 180 native languages spoken in Brazil.
Brazil is the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese.
Portugal claimed the land of Brazil in the year 1500. Independence was declared in 1822.
Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world by both land area and population.
In area, Brazil measures 3,287,612 square miles (8,514,877 sq km).
The coastline of Brazil is 4,655 miles (7,491 km).
Brazil’s highest mountain is the Pico da Neblina (Mist Peak), on the border with Venezuela, at 2,994 meters (9,823 feet) above sea level. Because it is almost permanently shrouded in cloud, it was not discovered until the 1950s. It was first ascended in 1965,12 years after Mount Everest.
The population in 2012 was around 194 million people.
Brazil is a diverse country with ethnic groups including: 54% European, 39% mixed European-African, 6% Africa, and 1% other.
Between 1.5 million and 2.5 million Brazilians are of Japanese ancestry. Many immigrants brought with them seedlings of cherry trees and cherry blossoms can be viewed outside homes in Sao Paulo and in public parks in Curitiba.
With 82% of its population tracing their ancestry back to the days of slavery, the Brazilian city of Salvador is described as “the biggest African city outside Africa".
Brazil's literacy rate is 86.4% which is the lowest of all South American countries.
The capital city is Brasilia but the largest city in the country is Sao Paulo.
Brasilia, the country’s capital, Is a planned city. It took just 41 months to build, from 1956 to 1960. (Rio de Janeiro had been the capital for the previous 197 years).
Sao Paulo has the largest economy by GDP of any city in the Southern Hemisphere.
Other major cities in Brazil include Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Fortaleza.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro which dominates the skyline above the city weighs 635 tones, is 38 meters high including its pedestal and was named one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” in 2007. It was damaged by a lightning strike early in 2014 and reports have suggested that repairs could make it darker because of a shortage of replacement stone.
São Vicente, near Sao Paulo, is the oldest city in Brazil and was Portugal’s first permanent settlement in the Americas. The city was established in 1532.
Brazil has 13 cities with over one million residents.
The most popular surname in Brazil is Silva.
In Brazil people drive on the right side of the road.
Oscar Niemeyer, the chief architect of Brasilia’s public buildings, has designed more than 500 structures, most of which can be found in Brazil. The Catholic Cathedral of Brasilia is one of his most famous. It features 16 90-ton columns and a 66-foot bell tower, entrance is via an underground tunnel, and inside are three angels suspended by steel cables.
Brazil has a large coastline on the eastern side of South America, stretching 7491 kilometres (4655 miles) in length.
Brazil shares a border with all South American countries except for Chile and Ecuador.
Brazil covers 3 time zones.
Brazil has one of the largest economies in the world.
Brazil has been the world’s biggest exporter of coffee for the last 150 years. It supplied around 80% of the world’s coffee in the 1920s but that figure has fallen to around a 33% today.
Brazil is one of the 77 founding members of the United Nations.
The Amazon River flows through Brazil. It is the 2nd longest river in the world (after the Nile).
Around 60% of the Amazon Rainforest is located in Brazil.
The climate in the majority of Brazil is tropical.
Brazil is one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries, with a total of an estimated four million plant and animal species. It has more species of monkey than any other nation and has a wide range of other animals including armadillo, tapirs, jaguars and pumas.
Human activities such as logging, mining fishing and agriculture are important to the Brazilian economy but are also a serious threat to Brazil's diverse environment.
Six million tourists visit Brazil every year- the lowest number in the Western Hemisphere. About half of the tourist go only to Rio.
There are around 4000 airports in Brazil- more than any other country except the U.S.
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Brazil with the national team consistently among the best in the world, winning the World Cup a record 5 times.
A number of Nazis fled to Brazil after the Second World War, among them, Josef Mengele (the “Angel of Death”), known for his horrifying experiments on Jews, the mentally retarded and twins in Nazi Germany. Brazil along with its neighbor, Argentina, allowed the German Nazi to live their countries out in the open and free from prosecution.
The Land of Nod
According to book of Genesis in the Bible, the first human being who was ever born was Cain, the son of Adam and Eve. He later killed his younger brother Abel because Cain's sacrifice of meat being more favored by God than Cain’s sacrifice of fruit. As a result of killing his brother, God put a mark on Cain and cursed the ground he farmed and forcing him into a life as a wandering fugitive. But, later we are told that he settled in the Land of Nod where he married an unnamed woman. Absolutely nothing else is mentioned about her. Questions: Where was the Land of Nod? If God created only Adam, Eve and their off-spring, who created the people of Nod? If God created the people of Nod too, why and when did he do it? Some people have proposed the idea that God created other tribes of people after Adam and Eve. And others who take the Bible literally maintain that in order to populate the world, Adam and Eve had many unnamed sons and daughters. They further maintain the "theory of permissible incest", i.e.: God temporarily permitted humans to mate with siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. As to Cain's wife's name the Bible never says it but the apocryphal Book of Jubilees tells us exactly who was Cain’s wife. It was one of his sister, Awan, who latter bore his son, Enoch. But, the Book of Jubilees is considered unauthentic and heretical by Christians and Jews.
The story of Samson is well know but did he ever exist? According to the Biblical story, God gave him supernatural strength and an angel told his parents that his hair should never be cut or shaved or his strength would be lost. Samson defeated the Philistines, an enemy of the ancient Hebrews, several times. He also managed to kill a lion with his bare hands, slay an entire army with the jawbone of an ass, and destroy a pagan temple singlehandedly. But, then he fell in love with Delilah. Under instructions of the Philistine rulers, Delilah had Samson’s hair cut while he slept thereby destroying his super-human strength. Then, his eyes were pierced out and he was forced to work like a slave. Eventually, his hair grew back and one day the Philistine leaders led him to a temple. Samson destroyed the temple by destroying its columns, thereby killing himself and many of the Philistines. Though we never learn what finally became of her, to this day, the name Delilah is synonymous with a dangerous seductress. Most scholars maintain that neither Samson or Delilah ever existed and the story is a myth. Many ancient and even some modern people have stories about a super-human demi-god. Examples of this include Hercules, Enkidu, Paul Bunyan and Superman.
Onan was the second son of Abraham’s grandson Judah, the patriarch and namesake of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. His older brother, Er was “wicked in the sight of the Lord,” so God killed him. What he did to deserve such an execution remains a mystery. Tradition at that time dictated that Er’s widow, Tamar, become Onan’s wife and he had to impregnate her to keep the lineage alive. However, for unstated reasons, Onan did not want to do it. To get around the tradition, Onan committed the first recorded act of coitus interruptus. Genesis 38:9: God was so angry about the incident that He killed Onan. So, what did Onan do that was so wrong? Was it to defy tradition? Was it premature withdrawal? Was it attempting to deceive God? Was it spilling his semen on the ground and/or wasting it? Or, was it all of the above? And, the whole tale gets even more sordid. Onan had a younger brother, Shelah. Customarily, he would have been next in line to impregnate Tamar, but Judah ( the fourth son of the Biblical patriarch, Jacob) forbade it. So, Tamar who was faced with a life as a spinster was seduced by Judah, an old man. Judah fathered twins Zerah and Perez, the latter of whom was listed by Matthew as an ancestor of Jesus' earthly father Joseph. Finally, in an ironic twist, history’s first recorded deliberate withdrawal became synonymous with masturbation and “Onanism” became a euphemism for sexual self-gratification, an act of sinfulness contraception and/or sex only for purposes of reproduction and not for pleasure. However, a careful reading and analysis of the story cannot support any of these conclusions.
Did Jesus have a brother? Next to Paul and Peter, James (aka: James, the Just) is the most important apostolic figure in Church’s history. The Book of Acts specifically names him the head of the Christian church in Jerusalem, and he is frequently cited, both scripturally and apocryphally, as being consulted by both Paul and Peter. But, who is he? Traditionally, he is thought of as Jesus’ brother (or half-brother).Although the Catholic Church denies it and maintains that Mary died a virgin, the Gospels clearly say that Jesus had siblings and one was named James. But James was a common name at that time and there are several mentioned in the Bible. Two of the 12 disciples were named James, but both are listed as having different fathers than Jesus, and neither went on to become James the Just. James the son of Zebedee went on to be known as James, the Great, and James the son of Alphaeus was called James, the Less. It is known that James, the Just was a contemporary of Jesus, although he seems to have had no real inner-circle status during Christ’s ministry. The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas says Christ Himself designated James to lead the movement upon His death. The Apostle Paul initially seems respectful, even subservient, to “James the Lord’s brother,” calling him a “pillar” of the movement, even though he was later to disagree with him on matters of doctrine. The Catholic Church maintains the use of the word “brother” was spiritual term and not a physical one but this is mere conjecture and there is no evidence to back this up. St. Jerome, among others, suggested that the doctrine of perpetual virginity indicated James could be a cousin, which, given the tribal associations and clannishness of the Jewish community of the time, may have some validity but again is ultimately conjecture.
Is there a devil? Lucifer is the King James Bible rendering of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל in the Book of Isaiah:14 :12. This word occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible. The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate Bible and means "the morning star", (aka: the planet Venus). It also means "light-bringing" or "bringer of dawn". Later Christian tradition came to use the Latin word for "morning star", lucifer, as the proper name, Lucifer, for Satan as he was before his rebellion and fall. As a result, Lucifer has become a synonym for Satan or the Devil in Christian Churches and in popular literature. Most of the stories about Lucifer do not appear in the Bible. For example, it does not say that the serpent who tempted Even in the Garden was the devil in disguise. Most of the stories of Lucifer come from Dante Alighieri's Inferno and John Milton's Paradise Lost. As far as the seven deadly sins are concerned, Lucifer is only responsible for pride in mortals. This sin comes from Lucifer’s own pride resulting in his downfall from Heaven. Lucifer loved himself above anything, and without ignorance as an excuse. Ranked highest of angels in heaven and with his seat in next to God, God allowed him some power over the earth. But, when God left his seat, Lucifer sat himself on the heavenly throne. This arrogant display of Lucifer’s pride started a war among Angels, and when Michael finally succeeded in banishing Lucifer from heaven, he was cast down to Earth and called Satan. The angels that followed him in the fall became the demons currently causing all the afflictions of human nature, with Lucifer as the reigning King. However, some modern theologians call the story a myth or a total fabrication. And, some maintain that ordinary people do not have to worry too much about Lucifer’s strong hold on Earth because he targets more prominent figures to be victims of his direct company. Historically his presence has been seen in the prideful tyrannical rulers of Rome, but some could make arguments that his charisma is making a resurgence in more recent world leaders.
Twice cited in the Bible but also alluded to frequently, the Nephilim were a race of violent giants who lived before and after Noah and The Great Flood but they were not on the ark. And, no one knows who or what they were. Were they the offspring of demons and human women? Were they a separate race of humans? Were they a group of fallen angels? Or, were they the descendants of Adam and Eve's third son, Seth, that were mentioned in the Dead Sea scrolls, a tribe of cranky cases cursed by God for their rebelliousness? What we know is they were known by other names, like the Raphaim, and frequently battled humans for land and power. The most famous of them was Og, the King of Bashan. He was killed, along with his entire army, his kingdom was ransacked, and all of the survivors, men, women, and children, were put to death. However, some Nephilim bloodlines continued to do battle with the Israelites, though they were becoming less powerful and dying out. One tribe, the Anakim, allied themselves with the human tribes in Philistia. Goliath was thought to have been one of the last few descendants of the Nephilim. Goliath’s height is given in the earliest manuscripts as 275 centimeters (9 feet). That is hardly as awe-inspiring as a creature named Og which according to the biblical book of Deuteronomy was 400 centimeters (13 feet, 6 inches) and according the biblical book of Amos was in height like "the cedars and whose strength was like the oaks. Biblically, the descendants of the Nephilim could not have survived the Flood, even though Og and other giants are post-Flood figures. Some biblical literalists have attributed their later existence to the descendants of Noah’s family hooking up with demons. Or, because they were fallen angels and therefore not human, they did survive the flood. Jewish tradition gets deeper into information about the Nephilim and their descendants. It maintains that Og booked passage on the Ark by promising to act as a slave to Noah and his family. Other stories have him hanging on to the side of the Ark and riding out the rain and the flood. Talk about super-human strength! Also, when and where did he sleep? And, what did he eat?
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Woody Guthrie wrote more than 1,000 songs, including This Land Is Your Land, So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh and Union Maid. After serving in WWII, he continued to perform for farmer and worker groups. His autobiography, Bound for Glory (1943), was filmed in 1976.
Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma, and he was the second son of Charles and Nora Belle Guthrie. He was named after Woodrow Wilson and he was born a few weeks after Woodrow Wilson was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president in 1912. My father was a hard, fist-fighting Woodrow Wilson Democrat, so Woodrow Wilson was my name, he later said.
Both of his parents were musically inclined and they taught young Woody a wide array of folk tunes, songs that he learned to play on his guitar and harmonica. However, he experienced frequent tragedy and personal loss throughout his childhood which provided a bleak context for his future songs and supplying him with a wry perspective on life.
While he was young, Guthrie experienced the accidental death of his older sister Clara, a fire that destroyed the family home, his father's financial ruin, and the institutionalization of his mother, who was suffering from Huntington's Disease. At the age of just 14, Guthrie and his siblings were left to fend for themselves while their father worked in Texas to repay his debts. As a teenager, Guthrie turned to performing on the streets to get money for food or money. He also was developing his skills as a musician and developing a social conscience that would later be reflected in his music.
When Guthrie was 19, he married his first wife, Mary Jennings, in Texas. They eventually had three children, Gwen, Sue and Bill. The Great Depression hit the Guthrie family hard, and when the drought-stricken Great Plains transformed into the infamous Dust Bowl, Guthrie left his family in 1935 to join the thousands of "Okies" (Oklahomans) who migrating West in search of work. And, like many other so-called "Dust Bowl refugees," Guthrie spent his time hitchhiking, riding freight trains, and singing. Using his guitar and harmonica, Guthrie sang in the hobo and migrant camps and developed into a musical spokesman for labor and other left-wing causes. It was also during these years that Guthrie developed a taste for travelling that would never leave him.
In 1937, Guthrie arrived in California, where he landed a job with his partner Maxine "Lefty Lou" Crissman as a radio performer of traditional folk music on KFVD in Los Angeles. The duo soon had a loyal following from the disenfranchised "Okies" living in migrant camps across California. I t wasn't long before Guthrie's populist sentiments found their way into his songs.
In 1940, Guthrie arrived in New York City where he was warmly embraced by leftist artists, union organizers and folk musicians. Through collaborations with Alan Lomax, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Will Geer and others, Guthrie's career blossomed. He took up social causes and helped establish folk music not only as a force for change, but also as a viable new commercial genre within the music business. And, between his songs he often stated his personal opinions always starting with the phrase, Woody sez. However, his fame and the hardships of constant travelling led to the end of Guthrie's marriage in 1943. A year later, he would go on to record his most famous song, This Land is Your Land, an iconic populist anthem which remains popular today and is regarded by many as a kind of alternative national anthem.
During World War II, Guthrie joined the U.S. Merchant Marine and began composing music with a strong anti-fascist message. He became famous for performing with the statement, "This Machine Kills Fascists," scrawled across his guitar. While he was on furlough from the Merchant Marine, he married Marjorie Greenblatt Mazia who was Jewish, and when the war ended, the couple lived in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn in New York City. They had four children: Cathy, Arlo, Joady and Nora.
By the late 1940s, Guthrie began to show symptoms of the neurological disease, Huntington's Chorea, a disease that had killed his mother. The extremely unpredictable physical and emotional symptoms Guthrie experienced shook him deeply, so he decided to leave his family to hit the road with his protégé, Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Guthrie arrived in California and began living in a compound owned by activist and actor Will Geer. The compound was populated mostly by performers who had been blacklisted during the Red Scare of the early Cold War years. Soon, Guthrie met and married his third wife, Anneke Van Kirk, with whom he would have his eighth child, Lorina Lynn.
Guthrie's health continued to deteriorate in the late 1950s, and he was hospitalized until his death in 1967. His marriage to Van Kirk collapsed because of his disease and the couple divorced. During the last years of his life, Guthrie was in New York and his second wife, Marjorie, and their children would visit him in the hospital regularly.
Folk singer, Bob Dylan, moved to New York City to seek out Guthrie and also frequently visited him in the hospital. Guthrie warmed to the young singer who would later say of Guthrie's music, The songs themselves were really beyond category. They had the infinite sweep of humanity in them.
At the age of 66, Woody Guthrie died of complications from his Huntington's Chorea on October 3, 1967. But, his music and musical legacy did not die. A generation of folk singers inspired by him contributed to the social changes of the 1950s and 60s. A modest man who never let his fame go to his head, he once said, I like to write about wherever I happen to be. I just happened to be in the Dust Bowl, and because I was there and the dust was there, I thought, well, I'll write a song about it.
Woody Guthrie Quotes
I love a good man outside the law just as much as I hate a bad man inside the law.
The books of the holy Bible never say but one time just exactly what God is, and in those three little words it pours out a hundred million college educations and says, God is love.
If we would just take the profit out of war, there wouldn't be any.
Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don't change some of your old notions for new ones, that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow.
Civilization is spread more by singing than by anything else, because whole big bunches can sing a particular song where not every man can join in on the same conversation. A song ain't nothing but a conversation fixed up to where you can talk it over and over without getting tired of it.
You might say that Wall Street is the street that keeps you off Easy Street.
You can find Woody Guthrie singing This Land is Your Land at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaI5IRuS2aE
Sunday, August 24, 2014
The word "Einstein" has become synonymous with the word "genius" - and, rightly so.
Albert Einstein (1879 -1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist and philosopher. He developed the general theory of relativity and is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula, E = mc2. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect which was pivotal in establishing quantum theory.
He was visiting the United States when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and because he was Jewish, he did not return to Germany. He became an American citizen in 1940. Einstein supported the Allied forces but denounced the idea of using the newly discovered nuclear fission as a weapon. Later, with the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, Einstein signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto, which highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons. Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers along with over 150 non-scientific works and died in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
Einstein and Maliva Marić had an out-of-wedlock daughter whose real name and fate is unknown. Einstein probably never saw his daughter and the contents of a letter he wrote to Marić in 1903 suggest that daughter was either adopted or died of scarlet fever in infancy The couple married in 1902 and in 1904, the couple's first son, Hans Albert Einstein, was born in Bern, Switzerland. Their second son, Eduard, was born in Zurich in July 1910. In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin while his wife remained in Zurich with their sons. They divorced on 1919, having lived apart for five years. Einstein then married Elsa Löwenthal in 1919 after having had a relationship with her since 1912. She was his first cousin maternally and his second cousin paternally. In 1933, they both emigrated to the United States. In 1935, Elsa Einstein was diagnosed with heart and kidney problems and died in December 1936.
Einstein offered and was called on to give judgments and opinions on matters often unrelated to theoretical physics or mathematics. He actively supported racial tolerance and joined National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Princeton, where he campaigned for the civil rights of African-Americans. He considered racism America's "worst disease". As part of his involvement, he corresponded with civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois and was prepared to testify on his behalf during his trial in 1951. When Einstein offered to be a character witness for Du Bois, the judge decided to drop the case.
Einstein was a figurehead leader in helping establish Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which opened in 1925, and was among its first Board of Governors. And, after the death of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, in 1952, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion offered Einstein the position of President of Israel, a mostly ceremonial post. Einstein declined, and wrote in his response that he was "deeply moved", and "at once saddened and ashamed" that he could not accept.
Einstein's political view was in favor of socialism and critical of capitalism, which he detailed in his essays such as Why Socialism?
Einstein's views about religious belief have been collected from interviews and original writings. He called himself an agnostic and disassociated himself from the label atheist. He said he believed in the "pantheistic" God of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal god, a belief he criticized.
Einstein developed an appreciation of music at an early age. When he turned thirteen, he discovered Mozart's violin sonatas, and music assumed a pivotal and permanent role in Einstein's life from that period on. Although the idea of becoming a professional himself was not on his mind at any time, among those with whom Einstein played chamber music were a few professionals, and he performed for private audiences and friends.
The Wit and Wisdom of Albert Einstein
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.
It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
When the solution is simple, God is answering.
Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.
A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
Information is not knowledge.
Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.
The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
As far as I'm concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.
Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
Force always attracts men of low morality.
Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.