DNA analysis and genealogy

Genealogy is getting a boost from DNA analysis, which both sparks interest and helps people to know where to look.

The genes that build America makes some good points, some of them not obvious. One is that black Americans who are descended from slaves depend on white families keeping and allowing them access to records, since their family histories are found in wills and bills of sale.

“The Crusades through Arab Eyes”

Steve Smith says:
[I recommend] “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” by Amin Maalouf. This is religious, political, and strategic history as it should be written. It’s a pithy and honest history of a subject that continues to highly relevant. And it can be read in its original French or the very good English translation. It also quotes this gem from 10th c. “Muslim” poet al-Ma’arri:

The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: Those with brains, but no religion, And those with religion but no brains.

Little has changed over a thousand years.

Ronald Reagan

Christopher Hitchens on Ronald Reagan:

He should certainly have been impeached and removed from office over the Iran-Contra racket, in which he was exposed as the president of a secret and illegal government, financed with an anti-constitutional hostage-trading and arms-dealing budget, as well as of the ostensibly legitimate one. … Even now I can easily remember the things that outraged me: his easy manner when lying and his sometimes breathtakingly reactionary views. These extended from the whitewashing of the SS graves at Bitburg to his opinion that Americans fighting for the Spanish Republic had been on the “wrong” side, to his discovery that apartheid South Africa had always been an ally of the United States. Then there was the abject scuttle from Lebanon and the underhanded way in which Reagan tried to blame it on the Democrats. Perhaps worst of all was an apparent fusion of two things: his indulgence of fundamentalist and millennial priestly crooks like Jerry Falwell and his seeming flippancy about nuclear war. He once maintained that intercontinental missiles could be recalled after being launched, made on-air jokes about blasting the Soviet Union, and fatuously intoned “May the Force be with you” after announcing his plan for a Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars.” The coincidence between his superstitious interest in “End Times” theology and his insouciance about nuclear matters seemed dire in the extreme. And then there was Alexander Haig as secretary of state, and Oliver North as confidant.…


Talks and trash in Cairo

Promising news: Landmark talks in Cairo about the future government of Egypt are held.

Speaking of Cairo I watched a show on The History Channel about its sanitation history: Trashopolis. It has been the largest city in Africa for centuries. The city now houses eighteen million people who produce 25,000 tons of garbage each day. Garbage collection and disposal was, and is, part of the city’s ecosystem, including people and animals. There used to be pigs eating dead animals and food waste. There were dogs. There’s hand garbage collection and a whole recycling industry depending on hand labour. There’s also, since about 2000, a fleet of trash collection trucks. Here’s the teaser from the show:

Cairo’s Zabaleen – the traditional garbage people – collect the city’s trash by hand and haul it home on donkey drawn carts. Vast slums in the heart of the city are filled with mountains of stinking garbage, and in the alleys and roof tops, Zabaleen women and children sort trash for recycling. 300,000 pigs raised by the Zabaleen eat what can’t be re-sold, a practice that began in the days of King Tut.

Following the Romans, a tribe of slave warriors called the Mamelukes defeat the Christian Crusaders. Under Islamic rule, Cairo flourishes with strict laws regulating the disposal of trash, and public sanitation. Napoleon invades, and a large section of Cairo is rebuilt – inspired by the architects and engineers who rescued Paris from its own sewage and trash. Today, Cairo awards sanitation contracts to multinational corporations, and the Zablaeen take to the streets and begin a desperate fight to protect their livelihood.

The Zabaleen, who would be deprived of a livelihood by municipal trash collection, are employed along with the trucks to collect trash. Most of their pigs, who helped to recycle the garbage into meat, were slaughtered during a swine flu scare.

The show mentioned that the birth rate exceeded the death rate for the first time only after sanitary sewers were installed in 1915. (That was true of most cities, which is why going to the city to seek your fortune was so risky. It’s also what kept cities from depopulating.) By 1930 the population exceeded one million.

What’s up with Egypt?

The Sri Lanka Guardian has a summary of recent statements:” Egyptians want rule of law in Islamic democracy.”

The following extracts from two statements issued by Dr.Mohamed Badie, Chairman of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB), on the protest demonstrations since January 25,2011 and from some commentaries on the developments carried by the web site of the MB give an indication of how it views the mass protests and what would be its role in a post-Hosni-Mubarak era. The MB projects the mass uprising as a people’s revolution and not an Islamic revolution. It describes the objective of the people’s revolution as a rule of law in an Islamic democracy and not a rule by clerics in a theocracy. It seeks to assure the American people that they have nothing to fear from the success of the revolution. While expressing its readiness to participate in talks to bring about the end of the Mubarak regime, it says it has no desire for political power for itself. It does not want to contest in the elections for a new President. Nor is it interested in joining any interim political set-up. The only demand of a religious nature it makes is that the clerics should have a role in vetting all laws to be passed by the Parliament. It says that what Egypt needs is democracy moulded by historic and sacred values. It points out that the religious faith of the people always plays a role in popular movements even in the US and says one should not worry about any role of the religious faith of the people in the Egyptian revolution.

Read more.

England, Great Britain, United Kingdom, Commonwealth…

What’s the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom? A rapid-fire video explains all.

Posted in world. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

On reputation and history

Fritz Leiber

Fritz Leiber, 1951 (“Poor Superman”):

Everyone knows Newton as the great scientist. Few remember that he spent half his life muddling with alchemy, looking for the philosopher’s stone. That was the pebble by the seashore he really wanted to find.

Source: Heinlein, Robert A. (ed.), Tomorrow, the Stars, p. 208. SBN 425-01426-6, Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Quoting John Adams

John Adams, one of the men who wrote the U.S.Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, wrote:

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses…

Then there is the treaty with Tripoli, which Adams signed into law, which bluntly declared that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

Hat tip to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, in “Chuck Baldwin’s Christian Nation nonsense.”

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