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June112013
 
The Fall of Baghdad, 1258. Baghdad had for centuries been the capital of the Caliphate. The Abbasids had in 751 overthrown the Umayyad, and had moved the Caliph’s seat from Damascus to Baghdad. At the city’s peak, it was populated by approximately one million people and was defended by an army of 60,000 soldiers. By the middle of the 13th century, however, the power of the Abbasids had declined but the city still retained much symbolic significance and it remained a rich and cultured city. The Caliphs of the 12th and 13th centuries had begun to ally with the expanding Mongol Empire in the east, and Caliph an-Nasir li-dini’llah, who reigned from 1180-1225, may have attempted to ally with Genghis Khan when Muhammad II of Khwarezm threatened to attack the Abbasids. According to the “Secret History of the Mongols”, Genghis and his successor, Ögedei Khan, ordered their general Chormaqan to attack Baghdad. In 1236, Chormaqan led a division of the Mongol army to Irbil, which remained under Abbasid rule. Further raids on Irbil and other regions of the caliphate became nearly annual occurrences. Some raids were alleged to have reached Baghdad itself, but these Mongol incursions were not always successful, with Abbasid forces defeating the invaders in 1238 and 1245.  Despite their successes, the Abbasids hoped to come to terms with the Mongols and by 1241 they had adopted the practice of sending annual tribute to the court of the khagan. Envoys from the Caliph were present at the coronation of Guyuk Khan as khagan in 1246 and that of Mongke Khan in 1251. In 1257, Möngke resolved to establish firm authority over Mesopotamia, Syria, and Iran. The khagan gave his brother, Hulagu, authority over a subordinate khanate and army, the Ilkhanate, and instructions to compel the submission of various Muslim states, including the caliphate. Möngke ordered Hulagu to destroy Baghdad if the Caliph refused his demands of personal submission and the payment of a tribute. In preparation for his invasion, Hulagu raised a large expeditionary force, what may have been the most numerous Mongol army to have existed and, by one estimate, 150,000 strong. The force was also supplemented by Christian forces, including the King of Armenia and his army, a Frankish contingent from the Principality of Antioch, and a Georgian force, seeking revenge on the Muslim for the sacking of their capital, Tiflis. About 1,000 Chinese artillery experts accompanied the army, as did Persian and Turkic auxiliaries, according to Ata al-Mulk Juvayni, a contempary Persian observer. Hulagu sent word to Al-Musta’sim, demanding his acquiescence to the terms imposed by Möngke. Al-Musta’sim refused, in large part due to the influence of his advisor and grand vizier, Ibn al-Alkami. Historians have ascribed various motives to al-Alkami’s opposition to submission, including treachery and incompetence, and it appears that he lied to the Caliph about the severity of the invasion, assuring Al-Musta’sim that, if the capital of the caliphate was endangered by a Mongol army, the Islamic world would rush to its aid. On 29 January 1258, the Mongol army began its siege of Baghdad, constructing a palisade and a ditch around the city. Employing siege engines and catapults, the Mongols attempted to breach the city’s walls, and, by February 5, had seized a significant portion of the defenses. Realizing that his forces had little chance of retaking the walls, Al-Musta’sim attempted to open negotiations with Hulagu, who rebuffed the Caliph. Five days later, on February 10, the city surrendered, but the Mongols did not enter the city until the 13th, beginning a week of massacre and destruction. The Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated. The caliph was captured and forced to watch as his citizens were murdered and his treasury plundered. According to most accounts, the caliph was killed by trampling. The Mongols rolled the caliph up in a rug, and rode their horses over him. All but one of his sons were killed, who was sent to Mongolia. Martin Sicker writes that close to 90,000 people may have died. Other estimates go much higher. Wassaf claims the loss of life was several hundred thousand. Ian Frazier of The New Yorker says estimates of the death toll have ranged from 200,000 to a million. The Mongols looted and then destroyed mosques, palaces, libraries, and hospitals. Grand buildings that had been the work of generations were burned to the ground. The Grand Library of Baghdad, containing countless precious historical documents and books on subjects ranging from medicine to astronomy, was destroyed. Survivors said that the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river and red from the blood of the scientists and philosophers killed. Hulagu had to move his camp upwind of the city, due to the stench of decay from the ruined city.  The siege is considered to mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age, during which the caliphates had extended their rule from the Iberian Peninsula to Sindh, and which was also marked by many cultural achievements. Baghdad, one of the most brilliant intellectual centers in the world was a depopulated, ruined city for several centuries and only gradually recovered some of its former glory. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never recovered. Already Islam was turning inward, becoming more suspicious of conflicts between faith and reason and more conservative. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed out.

 

The Fall of Baghdad, 1258.
Baghdad had for centuries been the capital of the Caliphate. The Abbasids had in 751 overthrown the Umayyad, and had moved the Caliph’s seat from Damascus to Baghdad. At the city’s peak, it was populated by approximately one million people and was defended by an army of 60,000 soldiers. By the middle of the 13th century, however, the power of the Abbasids had declined but the city still retained much symbolic significance and it remained a rich and cultured city.
The Caliphs of the 12th and 13th centuries had begun to ally with the expanding Mongol Empire in the east, and Caliph an-Nasir li-dini’llah, who reigned from 1180-1225, may have attempted to ally with Genghis Khan when Muhammad II of Khwarezm threatened to attack the Abbasids. According to the “Secret History of the Mongols”, Genghis and his successor, Ögedei Khan, ordered their general Chormaqan to attack Baghdad. In 1236, Chormaqan led a division of the Mongol army to Irbil, which remained under Abbasid rule. Further raids on Irbil and other regions of the caliphate became nearly annual occurrences. Some raids were alleged to have reached Baghdad itself, but these Mongol incursions were not always successful, with Abbasid forces defeating the invaders in 1238 and 1245.
Despite their successes, the Abbasids hoped to come to terms with the Mongols and by 1241 they had adopted the practice of sending annual tribute to the court of the khagan. Envoys from the Caliph were present at the coronation of Guyuk Khan as khagan in 1246 and that of Mongke Khan in 1251.
In 1257, Möngke resolved to establish firm authority over Mesopotamia, Syria, and Iran. The khagan gave his brother, Hulagu, authority over a subordinate khanate and army, the Ilkhanate, and instructions to compel the submission of various Muslim states, including the caliphate. Möngke ordered Hulagu to destroy Baghdad if the Caliph refused his demands of personal submission and the payment of a tribute. In preparation for his invasion, Hulagu raised a large expeditionary force, what may have been the most numerous Mongol army to have existed and, by one estimate, 150,000 strong. The force was also supplemented by Christian forces, including the King of Armenia and his army, a Frankish contingent from the Principality of Antioch, and a Georgian force, seeking revenge on the Muslim for the sacking of their capital, Tiflis. About 1,000 Chinese artillery experts accompanied the army, as did Persian and Turkic auxiliaries, according to Ata al-Mulk Juvayni, a contempary Persian observer.
Hulagu sent word to Al-Musta’sim, demanding his acquiescence to the terms imposed by Möngke. Al-Musta’sim refused, in large part due to the influence of his advisor and grand vizier, Ibn al-Alkami. Historians have ascribed various motives to al-Alkami’s opposition to submission, including treachery and incompetence, and it appears that he lied to the Caliph about the severity of the invasion, assuring Al-Musta’sim that, if the capital of the caliphate was endangered by a Mongol army, the Islamic world would rush to its aid.
On 29 January 1258, the Mongol army began its siege of Baghdad, constructing a palisade and a ditch around the city. Employing siege engines and catapults, the Mongols attempted to breach the city’s walls, and, by February 5, had seized a significant portion of the defenses. Realizing that his forces had little chance of retaking the walls, Al-Musta’sim attempted to open negotiations with Hulagu, who rebuffed the Caliph. Five days later, on February 10, the city surrendered, but the Mongols did not enter the city until the 13th, beginning a week of massacre and destruction. The Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated. The caliph was captured and forced to watch as his citizens were murdered and his treasury plundered. According to most accounts, the caliph was killed by trampling. The Mongols rolled the caliph up in a rug, and rode their horses over him. All but one of his sons were killed, who was sent to Mongolia. Martin Sicker writes that close to 90,000 people may have died. Other estimates go much higher. Wassaf claims the loss of life was several hundred thousand. Ian Frazier of The New Yorker says estimates of the death toll have ranged from 200,000 to a million. The Mongols looted and then destroyed mosques, palaces, libraries, and hospitals. Grand buildings that had been the work of generations were burned to the ground. The Grand Library of Baghdad, containing countless precious historical documents and books on subjects ranging from medicine to astronomy, was destroyed. Survivors said that the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river and red from the blood of the scientists and philosophers killed. Hulagu had to move his camp upwind of the city, due to the stench of decay from the ruined city.
The siege is considered to mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age, during which the caliphates had extended their rule from the Iberian Peninsula to Sindh, and which was also marked by many cultural achievements.
Baghdad, one of the most brilliant intellectual centers in the world was a depopulated, ruined city for several centuries and only gradually recovered some of its former glory. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never recovered. Already Islam was turning inward, becoming more suspicious of conflicts between faith and reason and more conservative. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed out.
June102013
 
The American Civil War: The American Civil War (1861–1865), often referred to as the Civil War and sometimes the “War Between the States”, was a civil war fought over the secession of the Confederate States. Eleven southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (“the Confederacy”); the other 25 states supported the federal government (“the Union”). After four years of warfare, mostly within the Southern states, the Confederacy surrendered and slavery was abolished everywhere in the nation. Issues that led to war were partially resolved in the Reconstruction Era that followed, though others remained unresolved. The Civil War was a contest marked by the ferocity and frequency of battle. Over four years, 237 battles were fought, and many more minor actions and skirmishes. In the scales of world military history, both sides fighting were characterized by their bitter intensity and high casualties. “The American Civil War was to prove one of the most ferocious wars ever fought”. Without geographic objectives, the only target for each side was the enemy’s soldier.  The causes of the Civil War were complex, and have been controversial since the war began. The issue has been further complicated by historical revisionists, who have tried to improve the image of the South by lessening the role of slavery. Slavery was the central source of escalating political tension in the 1850s. The Republican Party was determined to prevent any spread of slavery, and many Southern leaders had threatened secession if the Republican candidate, Lincoln, won the 1860 election. Following Lincoln’s victory, many Southern whites felt that disunion had become their only option. Between 1803 and 1854, the United States achieved a vast expansion of territory through purchase, negotiation and conquest. Of the states carved out of these territories by 1845, all had entered the union as slave states: Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Texas, as well as the southern portions of Alabama and Mississippi. And with the conquest of northern Mexico, including California, in 1848, slaveholding interests looked forward to the institution flourishing in these lands as well. Southerners also anticipated garnering slaves and slave states in Cuba and Central America. Northern free soil interests vigorously sought to curtail any further expansion of slave soil. It was these territorial disputes that the proslavery and antislavery forces collided over In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against expanding slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republicans strongly advocated nationalism, and in their 1860 platform they denounced threats of disunion as avowals of treason. After a Republican victory, but before the new administration took office on March 4, 1861, seven cotton states declared their secession and joined to form the Confederate States of America. Both the outgoing administration of President James Buchanan and the incoming administration rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion. The other eight slave states rejected calls for secession at this point. No foreign governments recognized the Confederacy. Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired on a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property, which led to declarations of secession by four more slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union seized control of the border States early in the war and established a naval blockade. Land warfare in the East was inconclusive in 1861–62, as the Confederacy beat back Union efforts to capture its capital, Richmond, Virginia, notably during the Peninsular Campaign. In September 1862, the Confederate campaign in Maryland ended in defeat at the Battle of Antietam, which dissuaded the British from intervening. Days after that battle, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal. In 1863, Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s northward advance ended in defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. To the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River after the Battle of Shiloh (April 1862) and Siege of Vicksburg, splitting the Confederacy in two and destroying much of their western army. Due to his western successes, Ulysses S. Grant was given command of all Union armies in 1864, and organized the armies of William Tecumseh Sherman, George Meade and others to attack the Confederacy from all directions, increasing the North’s advantage in manpower. Grant restructured the union army, and put other generals in command of divisions of the army that were to support his push into Virginia. He fought several battles of attrition against Lee through the Overland Campaign to seize Richmond, though in the face of fierce resistance he altered his plans and led the Siege of Petersburg which nearly finished off the rest of Lee’s army. Meanwhile, Sherman captured Atlanta and marched to the sea, destroying Confederate infrastructure along the way. When the Confederate attempt to defend Petersburg failed, the Confederate army retreated but was pursued and defeated, which resulted in Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Reconstruction began during the war (and continued to 1877) in an effort to solve the issues caused by reunion, specifically the legal status of the 11 breakaway states, the Confederate leadership, and the freedmen. Northern leaders during the war agreed that victory would require more than the end of fighting. It had to encompass the two war goals: secession had to be repudiated and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated. The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, the experimental use of the first usable predecessor of the machine gun and of trench warfare around Petersburg, all foreshadowed World War I in Europe. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Historian John Huddleston estimates the death toll at ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted to 1877. The Civil War is one of the central events in America’s collective memory. There are innumerable statues, commemorations, books and archival collections. The memory includes the home front, military affairs, the treatment of soldiers, both living and dead, in the war’s aftermath, depictions of the war in literature and art, evaluations of heroes and villains, and considerations of the moral and political lessons of the war. The last theme includes moral evaluations of racism and slavery, heroism in combat and behind the lines, and the issues of democracy and minority rights, as well as the notion of an “Empire of Liberty” influencing the world. Memory of the war in the white South crystallized in the myth of the “Lost Cause”, which shaped regional identity and race relations for generations.

 

The American Civil War:
The American Civil War (1861–1865), often referred to as the Civil War and sometimes the “War Between the States”, was a civil war fought over the secession of the Confederate States. Eleven southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (“the Confederacy”); the other 25 states supported the federal government (“the Union”). After four years of warfare, mostly within the Southern states, the Confederacy surrendered and slavery was abolished everywhere in the nation. Issues that led to war were partially resolved in the Reconstruction Era that followed, though others remained unresolved.
The Civil War was a contest marked by the ferocity and frequency of battle. Over four years, 237 battles were fought, and many more minor actions and skirmishes. In the scales of world military history, both sides fighting were characterized by their bitter intensity and high casualties. “The American Civil War was to prove one of the most ferocious wars ever fought”. Without geographic objectives, the only target for each side was the enemy’s soldier.
The causes of the Civil War were complex, and have been controversial since the war began. The issue has been further complicated by historical revisionists, who have tried to improve the image of the South by lessening the role of slavery. Slavery was the central source of escalating political tension in the 1850s. The Republican Party was determined to prevent any spread of slavery, and many Southern leaders had threatened secession if the Republican candidate, Lincoln, won the 1860 election. Following Lincoln’s victory, many Southern whites felt that disunion had become their only option.
Between 1803 and 1854, the United States achieved a vast expansion of territory through purchase, negotiation and conquest. Of the states carved out of these territories by 1845, all had entered the union as slave states: Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Texas, as well as the southern portions of Alabama and Mississippi. And with the conquest of northern Mexico, including California, in 1848, slaveholding interests looked forward to the institution flourishing in these lands as well. Southerners also anticipated garnering slaves and slave states in Cuba and Central America. Northern free soil interests vigorously sought to curtail any further expansion of slave soil. It was these territorial disputes that the proslavery and antislavery forces collided over
In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against expanding slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republicans strongly advocated nationalism, and in their 1860 platform they denounced threats of disunion as avowals of treason. After a Republican victory, but before the new administration took office on March 4, 1861, seven cotton states declared their secession and joined to form the Confederate States of America. Both the outgoing administration of President James Buchanan and the incoming administration rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion. The other eight slave states rejected calls for secession at this point. No foreign governments recognized the Confederacy.
Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired on a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property, which led to declarations of secession by four more slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union seized control of the border States early in the war and established a naval blockade. Land warfare in the East was inconclusive in 1861–62, as the Confederacy beat back Union efforts to capture its capital, Richmond, Virginia, notably during the Peninsular Campaign. In September 1862, the Confederate campaign in Maryland ended in defeat at the Battle of Antietam, which dissuaded the British from intervening. Days after that battle, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal.
In 1863, Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s northward advance ended in defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. To the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River after the Battle of Shiloh (April 1862) and Siege of Vicksburg, splitting the Confederacy in two and destroying much of their western army. Due to his western successes, Ulysses S. Grant was given command of all Union armies in 1864, and organized the armies of William Tecumseh Sherman, George Meade and others to attack the Confederacy from all directions, increasing the North’s advantage in manpower. Grant restructured the union army, and put other generals in command of divisions of the army that were to support his push into Virginia. He fought several battles of attrition against Lee through the Overland Campaign to seize Richmond, though in the face of fierce resistance he altered his plans and led the Siege of Petersburg which nearly finished off the rest of Lee’s army. Meanwhile, Sherman captured Atlanta and marched to the sea, destroying Confederate infrastructure along the way. When the Confederate attempt to defend Petersburg failed, the Confederate army retreated but was pursued and defeated, which resulted in Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Reconstruction began during the war (and continued to 1877) in an effort to solve the issues caused by reunion, specifically the legal status of the 11 breakaway states, the Confederate leadership, and the freedmen. Northern leaders during the war agreed that victory would require more than the end of fighting. It had to encompass the two war goals: secession had to be repudiated and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated.
The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, the experimental use of the first usable predecessor of the machine gun and of trench warfare around Petersburg, all foreshadowed World War I in Europe. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Historian John Huddleston estimates the death toll at ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted to 1877.
The Civil War is one of the central events in America’s collective memory. There are innumerable statues, commemorations, books and archival collections. The memory includes the home front, military affairs, the treatment of soldiers, both living and dead, in the war’s aftermath, depictions of the war in literature and art, evaluations of heroes and villains, and considerations of the moral and political lessons of the war. The last theme includes moral evaluations of racism and slavery, heroism in combat and behind the lines, and the issues of democracy and minority rights, as well as the notion of an “Empire of Liberty” influencing the world. Memory of the war in the white South crystallized in the myth of the “Lost Cause”, which shaped regional identity and race relations for generations.
June92013
First Spacecraft on Moon:Luna 2 was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon. On September 14 1959 it successfully impacted with the lunar surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus Luna 2 was a spherical spacecraft with protruding antennas and instrument parts. The instrumentation included scintillation counters, geiger counters, a magnetometer, Cherenkov detectors, and micrometeorite detectors. There were no propulsion systems on Luna 2 itself. Mankind has left over 170,000 kg of material on the Moon, and 382 kg of the Moon was taken back to Earth by Apollo and Luna missions.

First Spacecraft on Moon:
Luna 2 was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon. On September 14 1959 it successfully impacted with the lunar surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus
Luna 2 was a spherical spacecraft with protruding antennas and instrument parts. The instrumentation included scintillation counters, geiger counters, a magnetometer, Cherenkov detectors, and micrometeorite detectors. There were no propulsion systems on Luna 2 itself.
Mankind has left over 170,000 kg of material on the Moon, and 382 kg of the Moon was taken back to Earth by Apollo and Luna missions.

June82013
The Priest-King:
The Priest-King from Mohenjo-daro, Indus valley, Pakistan. Built around 2600 BC, Mohenjo-daro  was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements, contemporaneous with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BC, and was not rediscovered until 1922. Significant excavation has since been conducted at the site of the city, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Though there is no evidence that priests or monarchs ruled Mohenjo-daro, archeologists dubbed this dignified figure a “Priest-King”. It has become symbolic of the Indus Valley Civilization.
 

The Priest-King:

The Priest-King from Mohenjo-daro, Indus valley, Pakistan. Built around 2600 BC, Mohenjo-daro  was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements, contemporaneous with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BC, and was not rediscovered until 1922. Significant excavation has since been conducted at the site of the city, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Though there is no evidence that priests or monarchs ruled Mohenjo-daro, archeologists dubbed this dignified figure a “Priest-King”. It has become symbolic of the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

June72013
 
 AK-47, Kalashnikov:
The AK-47 is an automatic assault rifle, first developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is considered to be the most well known weapon in the world. Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year of World War II (1945). After the war in 1946, the AK-46 was presented for official military trials. The original AK-47 was one of the first true “assault rifles” to be manufactured. Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most widely used and popular assault rifles in the world because of their durability, low production cost, and ease of use. It has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces worldwide. The AK-47 was the basis for developing many other types of individual and crew-served firearms. More AK-type rifles have been produced than all other assault rifles combined.  The AK and its variants are among the most commonly smuggled small arms sold to governments, rebels, criminals, and civilians alike, with little international oversight. The weapon has appeared in a number of conflicts including clashes in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.  The Taliban and the Northern Alliance fought each other with Soviet AKs; some of these were exported to Pakistan. The gun is now also made in Pakistan’s tribal areas (Darra copy). Estimated numbers of AK-type weapons vary. The Small Arms Survey suggests that “between 70 and 100 million of these weapons have been produced since 1947.” The World Bank estimates that out of the 500 million total firearms available worldwide, 100 million are of the Kalashnikov family, and 75 million are AK-47s. Only about 5 million of these were manufactured in the former USSR. Because AK-type weapons have been made in other countries, often illicitly, it is impossible to know how many really exist. Mikhail Kalashnikov addressed the United Nations in 2006 at a conference aimed at solving the problem of illicit weapons, saying that he appreciated the AK-47’s role in state-sponsored defense but that counterfeit weapons carrying his name in the hands of “terrorists and thugs” caused him regret.

 

AK-47, Kalashnikov:
The AK-47 is an automatic assault rifle, first developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is considered to be the most well known weapon in the world.
Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year of World War II (1945). After the war in 1946, the AK-46 was presented for official military trials. The original AK-47 was one of the first true “assault rifles” to be manufactured. Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most widely used and popular assault rifles in the world because of their durability, low production cost, and ease of use. It has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces worldwide. The AK-47 was the basis for developing many other types of individual and crew-served firearms. More AK-type rifles have been produced than all other assault rifles combined.
The AK and its variants are among the most commonly smuggled small arms sold to governments, rebels, criminals, and civilians alike, with little international oversight. The weapon has appeared in a number of conflicts including clashes in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
The Taliban and the Northern Alliance fought each other with Soviet AKs; some of these were exported to Pakistan. The gun is now also made in Pakistan’s tribal areas (Darra copy). Estimated numbers of AK-type weapons vary. The Small Arms Survey suggests that “between 70 and 100 million of these weapons have been produced since 1947.” The World Bank estimates that out of the 500 million total firearms available worldwide, 100 million are of the Kalashnikov family, and 75 million are AK-47s. Only about 5 million of these were manufactured in the former USSR. Because AK-type weapons have been made in other countries, often illicitly, it is impossible to know how many really exist. Mikhail Kalashnikov addressed the United Nations in 2006 at a conference aimed at solving the problem of illicit weapons, saying that he appreciated the AK-47’s role in state-sponsored defense but that counterfeit weapons carrying his name in the hands of “terrorists and thugs” caused him regret.
June62013
The Great Depression: The Great Depression was an economic depression which took place worldwide during the decade before World War II started. This economic depression started at the end of the 1920’s and lasted for over a decade. It started in the United States where stock prices fell in September 1929. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crash took place and that day got the name of Black Tuesday. The depression spread all over the world after that. The height of the great depression is thought to have peaked between 1932 to 1933. A lot of people lost their houses during the Great Depression. These people ended up in shanty towns, lot of people survived only because of the food offered by soup kitchens all over the country.  The Great Depression of 1929 had a very severe impact on India, which was then under the rule of the British Raj. The price decline from late 1929 to October 1931 was 36 percent compared to 27 percent in the United Kingdom and 26 percent in the United States.The Government of British India adopted a protective trade policy which, though beneficial to the United Kingdom, caused great damage to the Indian economy. During the period 1929–1937, exports and imports fell drastically crippling seaborne international trade. The railways and the agricultural sector were the most affected. The international financial crisis combined with detrimental policies adopted by the Government of India resulted in the soaring prices of commodities. High prices along with the stringent taxes prevalent in British India had a dreadful impact on the common man. The discontent of farmers manifested itself in rebellions and riots. The Great Depression and the economic policies of the Government of British India worsened the already deteriorating Indo-British relations. When the first general elections were held according to the Government of India Act 1935, anti-British feelings resulted in the Indian National Congress winning in most provinces with a very high percentage of the vote share. Due to the drastic collapse of international trade and the very little revenue obtained for it, India could only pay off her home charges by selling off her gold reserves. From 1931–32 to 1934–35, India exported Rs. 2,330 million worth of gold. By 1931, around 1600 ounces of gold were arriving every day at the port of Bombay. This gold intake was transported to the United Kingdom to compensate for the low bullion prices in the country and thereby revitalize the British economy. United Kingdom was overjoyed as its economy recovered with gold and silver from India-The Viceroy, Lord Willingdon remarked. In most countries, recovery from the Great Depression began in 1933. In the U.S., recovery began in early 1933, but the U.S. did not return to 1929 GNP for over a decade and still had an unemployment rate of about 15% in 1940, albeit down from the high of 25% in 1933. World War 2 began in 1939 which created millions of much needed full time jobs putting tens of millions of people back to work and putting the United States back on top as an industrial power. Unemployment would drop to all time lows by 1944 to 1.2% with only 670,000 unemployed documented. The Great Depression has been the subject of much writing, as authors have sought to evaluate an era that caused financial as well as emotional trauma. Perhaps the most noteworthy and famous novel written on the subject is The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded both the Nobel Prize for literature and the Pulitzer Prize for the work. The novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers who are forced from their home as drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agricultural industry occur during the Great Depression. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is another important novel about a journey during the Great Depression. Additionally, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is set during the Great Depression. Margaret Atwood’s Booker prize-winning The Blind Assassin is likewise set in the Great Depression, centering on a privileged socialite’s love affair with a Marxist revolutionary. The era spurred the resurgence of social realism, practiced by many who started their writing careers on relief programs.

The Great Depression:
The Great Depression was an economic depression which took place worldwide during the decade before World War II started. This economic depression started at the end of the 1920’s and lasted for over a decade. It started in the United States where stock prices fell in September 1929. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crash took place and that day got the name of Black Tuesday. The depression spread all over the world after that. The height of the great depression is thought to have peaked between 1932 to 1933.

A lot of people lost their houses during the Great Depression. These people ended up in shanty towns, lot of people survived only because of the food offered by soup kitchens all over the country.

The Great Depression of 1929 had a very severe impact on India, which was then under the rule of the British Raj. The price decline from late 1929 to October 1931 was 36 percent compared to 27 percent in the United Kingdom and 26 percent in the United States.The Government of British India adopted a protective trade policy which, though beneficial to the United Kingdom, caused great damage to the Indian economy. During the period 1929–1937, exports and imports fell drastically crippling seaborne international trade. The railways and the agricultural sector were the most affected. The international financial crisis combined with detrimental policies adopted by the Government of India resulted in the soaring prices of commodities. High prices along with the stringent taxes prevalent in British India had a dreadful impact on the common man. The discontent of farmers manifested itself in rebellions and riots. The Great Depression and the economic policies of the Government of British India worsened the already deteriorating Indo-British relations. When the first general elections were held according to the Government of India Act 1935, anti-British feelings resulted in the Indian National Congress winning in most provinces with a very high percentage of the vote share. Due to the drastic collapse of international trade and the very little revenue obtained for it, India could only pay off her home charges by selling off her gold reserves. From 1931–32 to 1934–35, India exported Rs. 2,330 million worth of gold. By 1931, around 1600 ounces of gold were arriving every day at the port of Bombay. This gold intake was transported to the United Kingdom to compensate for the low bullion prices in the country and thereby revitalize the British economy. United Kingdom was overjoyed as its economy recovered with gold and silver from India-The Viceroy, Lord Willingdon remarked.

In most countries, recovery from the Great Depression began in 1933. In the U.S., recovery began in early 1933, but the U.S. did not return to 1929 GNP for over a decade and still had an unemployment rate of about 15% in 1940, albeit down from the high of 25% in 1933. World War 2 began in 1939 which created millions of much needed full time jobs putting tens of millions of people back to work and putting the United States back on top as an industrial power. Unemployment would drop to all time lows by 1944 to 1.2% with only 670,000 unemployed documented.

The Great Depression has been the subject of much writing, as authors have sought to evaluate an era that caused financial as well as emotional trauma. Perhaps the most noteworthy and famous novel written on the subject is The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded both the Nobel Prize for literature and the Pulitzer Prize for the work. The novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers who are forced from their home as drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agricultural industry occur during the Great Depression. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is another important novel about a journey during the Great Depression. Additionally, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is set during the Great Depression. Margaret Atwood’s Booker prize-winning The Blind Assassin is likewise set in the Great Depression, centering on a privileged socialite’s love affair with a Marxist revolutionary. The era spurred the resurgence of social realism, practiced by many who started their writing careers on relief programs.

June52013
 
Alexander the Great: Alexander III of Macedon (356 – 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great was born in Pella in Macedon (a state in northern ancient Greece in 356 BC). He was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16. By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful commanders.  Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II of Macedona, to the throne in 336 BC after Philip was assassinated. Upon Philip’s death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father’s military expansion plans. In 334 BC, he invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor and began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles. He subsequently overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire. Seeking to reach the “ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea”, he invaded India in 326 BC. Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes (Jhelum River) in 326 BC. Alexander was impressed by Porus’s bravery, made him an ally and appointed him as satrap.  Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander’s army mutinied at the Hyphasis (Beas) River, refusing to march farther east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander’s conquests. Alexander was eventually forced to turn back at the demand of his troops. Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest back to Persia through the more difficult southern route along the Gedrosian Desert and Makran (now part of southern Iran and Pakistan). Alexander reached Susa in 324 BC, but not before losing many men to the harsh desert. Back in Babylon, Alexander planned a series of new campaigns, beginning with an invasion of Arabia, but he would not have a chance to realize them, as he died shortly thereafter in Babylon in 323 BC on either 10 or 11 June 323 BC at age 32. Details of the death differ slightly – Plutarch’s account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking. He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Hercules, and died after some agony. Given the propensity of the Macedonian aristocracy to assassination, foul play is featured in multiple accounts of his death. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mentioned the theory that Alexander was poisoned.  In the years following his death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, resulting in several states ruled by Alexander’s surviving generals and heirs. His campaigns greatly increased contacts and trade between East and West, and vast areas to the east were significantly exposed to Greek civilization and influence. Some of the cities he founded became major cultural centers, many surviving into the 21st century. Alexander’s legacy includes the cultural diffusion his conquests engendered. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander’s settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. He became the measure against which military leaders compared themselves, and military academies throughout the world still teach his tactics.

 

Alexander the Great:
Alexander III of Macedon (356 – 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great was born in Pella in Macedon (a state in northern ancient Greece in 356 BC). He was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16. By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful commanders.
Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II of Macedona, to the throne in 336 BC after Philip was assassinated. Upon Philip’s death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father’s military expansion plans. In 334 BC, he invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor and began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles. He subsequently overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire. Seeking to reach the “ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea”, he invaded India in 326 BC. Alexander crossed the Indus and fought and won an epic battle against King Porus, who ruled a region in the Punjab, in the Battle of the Hydaspes (Jhelum River) in 326 BC. Alexander was impressed by Porus’s bravery, made him an ally and appointed him as satrap.
Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander’s army mutinied at the Hyphasis (Beas) River, refusing to march farther east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander’s conquests. Alexander was eventually forced to turn back at the demand of his troops. Alexander sent much of his army to Carmania (modern southern Iran) with general Craterus, and commissioned a fleet to explore the Persian Gulf shore under his admiral Nearchus, while he led the rest back to Persia through the more difficult southern route along the Gedrosian Desert and Makran (now part of southern Iran and Pakistan). Alexander reached Susa in 324 BC, but not before losing many men to the harsh desert. Back in Babylon, Alexander planned a series of new campaigns, beginning with an invasion of Arabia, but he would not have a chance to realize them, as he died shortly thereafter in Babylon in 323 BC on either 10 or 11 June 323 BC at age 32. Details of the death differ slightly – Plutarch’s account is that roughly 14 days before his death, Alexander entertained admiral Nearchus, and spent the night and next day drinking. He developed a fever, which worsened until he was unable to speak. Diodorus recounts that Alexander was struck with pain after downing a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Hercules, and died after some agony. Given the propensity of the Macedonian aristocracy to assassination, foul play is featured in multiple accounts of his death. Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian and Justin all mentioned the theory that Alexander was poisoned.
In the years following his death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, resulting in several states ruled by Alexander’s surviving generals and heirs.
His campaigns greatly increased contacts and trade between East and West, and vast areas to the east were significantly exposed to Greek civilization and influence. Some of the cities he founded became major cultural centers, many surviving into the 21st century. Alexander’s legacy includes the cultural diffusion his conquests engendered. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander’s settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. He became the measure against which military leaders compared themselves, and military academies throughout the world still teach his tactics.
June42013
A truly remarkable painting.  The canvas has been computerized. When you click on the picture, a much bigger version of the computerized painting appears. Run your cursor over the people. The program tells you who they are - every single one of them. Click on a person and you obtain the individual’s life history. This is fascinating… Can keep you busy for hours!
 

A truly remarkable painting.
The canvas has been computerized. When you click on the picture, a much bigger version of the computerized painting appears.
Run your cursor over the people. The program tells you who they are - every single one of them. Click on a person and you obtain the individual’s life history.
This is fascinating… Can keep you busy for hours!

 

7PM
Interesting Fact: Fat’h Ali Shah (5 September 1772 – 23 October 1834) was the second king of Qajar dynasty of Iran. In 1797, he was given a set of the Britannica’s 3rd edition, which he read completely. After this he extended his royal title to include “Most Formidable Lord and Master of the Encyclopedia Britannica”. Fat′h Ali later employed writers and painters to make a book about his wars with Russia, inspired by the “Shahnameh” of Ferdowsi. This book, considered by many to be the most important Persian book written in the Qajar period, is called the “Shahanshahnama”.


Interesting Fact:
Fat’h Ali Shah (5 September 1772 – 23 October 1834) was the second king of Qajar dynasty of Iran. In 1797, he was given a set of the Britannica’s 3rd edition, which he read completely. After this he extended his royal title to include “Most Formidable Lord and Master of the Encyclopedia Britannica”.
Fat′h Ali later employed writers and painters to make a book about his wars with Russia, inspired by the “Shahnameh” of Ferdowsi. This book, considered by many to be the most important Persian book written in the Qajar period, is called the “Shahanshahnama”.

12AM

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

image

The Koh-i-Noor, meaning “Mountain of Light” in Persian is a 105.6 metric carats diamond, weighing 21.6 grams in the most recent cut state, and once the largest known diamond. The Koh-i-Nur is believed by some to have originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India together with its double, the Darya-ye Noor (the “Sea of Light”). The diamond has belonged to various Hindu, Rajput, Mughal, Iranian, Afghan, Sikh and British rulers who fought bitterly over it and seized it as a spoil of war time and time again.
The first confirmed historical mention of the Koh-i-Noor by an identifiable name dates from 1526. Babur mentions in his memoirs, the Baburnama, that the stone had belonged to an unnamed Raja of Gwalior in 1294, who was compelled to yield his prized possession to Alauddin of the Khilji dynasty. It was then owned by the Tughlaq dynasty, Lodi dynasty, and until finally coming into the possession of Babur himself in 1526. He called the stone the ‘Babur’s Diamond’ at the time, which was called by other names before he seized it from Ibrahim Lodhi. Aurangzeb brought it to his capital Lahore and placed it in Badshahi Mosque. There it stayed until the invasion of Nader Shah of Khorasan in 1739 and the sacking of Agra and Delhi. Along with the Peacock Throne, he carried off the Koh-i-Noor to Persia in 1739. It was allegedly Nader Shah who exclaimed Koh-i-Noor! When he first saw it and this is how the stone gained its present name. After the assassination of Nader Shah in 1747, the stone came into the hands of Nader Shah’s general, Ahmad Shah Durrani of Afghanistan. In 1830, Shuja Shah Durrani, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan, managed to flee with the diamond. He went to Lahore where Ranjit Singh forced him to surrender it; in return for this, Ranjit Singh won back the Afghan throne for Shah Shuja. It was confiscated from Kharak Singh in 1850 by the British East India Company and became part of the British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in 1877. Under the personal supervision of Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, the diamond was cut from 186 1/16 carats (37.21 g) to its current 105.602 carats (21.61 g) to increase its brilliance. Albert consulted widely, took enormous pains, and spent huge money on the operation, which reduced the weight of the stone by a huge 42 percent—but nevertheless Albert was dissatisfied with the result.
The diamond is currently set into the Crown of Queen Elizabeth and on display at the Tower of London.

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