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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Origins of the Olympics Merge With Myth

The Origins of the Olympics Merge With Myth

There’s a big discrepancy between the origins of the Olympics in ancient Greece and the modern Olympics which began anew in 1896, accented by a time lapse of more than 1,500 years.

Prior to Greek Emperor Theodosius halting the ancient games in AD 391, the Greeks had held the Olympics at four-year intervals for nearly 1,200 years, and Greek mythology says the athletic and early-on music event began long before that.

Myth, history, and miscellaneous comments concerning the ancient and modern Olympics include:

* One myth says the first Olympics occurred before recorded history when Cronos and Zeus wrestled at Olympia

* Another myth says Pelops founded the Olympic games either to purify himself or thank the gods after, with the help of Poseidon, he killed King Oenamaus of Pisa in a rigged chariot race, then married the king’s daughter

* A third Greek myth says Hercules held the first Olympic Games to honor his father, Zeus

* 776 BC Traditional date of first Olympics

* 750-550 BC Colonization period in Greece emphasized athletic and musical competitions; early games attended by athletes from Greece, Italy, Sicily, Asia, Africa, and Spain

* Olympic winners, representing polis (city-states) crowned with olive wreaths; sometimes fed for remainder of their lives, but never paid

* Only female allowed to watch Games, Priestess of Demeter

* Ancient Olympic sports included running, boxing, equestrian, jumping, wrestling, discus, javelin, pankration (old martial art where only biting and eye gouging were illegal)

* 708 BC Introduction of pentathlon (discus, javelin, jumping, running, and wrestling combined)

* 391 AD Greek Emperor Theodosius ends Ancient Olympic Games

* 1896 First modern Olympics in Athens includes athletes from 14 nations

* April 6, 1896 James Connolly, U.S., wins triple jump; first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years

* 1924 First Winter Olympics, in Chamonix, France

* 1968 Politicized Olympics in Mexico City … hundreds of Mexican protesting students killed by government troops 10 days before Olympics; U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stage Black Power protest on awards stand

* 2008 205 countries participate in Summer Olympics, Beijing, China

The name Olympics is derived from the name of a district in southern Greece where the original Olympics were held, Olympia.

What began thousands of years ago as a religious athletic and musical event for Greeks, then lay dormant for more than 1,500 years, came back to life in 1896 thanks to a wealthy Greek architect, Georgios Averoff.

The Olympics were cancelled in 1916, 1940, and 1944 because of wars, and has been hindered by political unrest in other years. In addition to the troubles of 1968, U.S. President Jimmy Carter refused to allow U.S. athletes to attend the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The origins of the Olympics have evolved from one country to more than 200, and from religion and musical flavors to ones tasting more and more of politics.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Great Sphinx of Giza, in Egypt

The Great Sphinx of Giza, in Egypt

Few landmarks of history are steeped in as much legend, mystery, and undefined grandeur than the Great Sphinx of Giza, in Egypt.

Archaeologists have far-differing opinions regarding the origins, timeline, and purpose for the 241-foot long replica of a lion with the head of an Egyptian pharaoh that literally was carved from stone; and is considered to be the largest stone structure in-the-round ever made by man.

Facts, theories, and other information about the Great Sphinx of Giza include:

* The word ‘sphinx’ was coined by Greeks to denote a creature with a woman‘s head, lion’s body, and wings of a bird

* It’s commonly believed the Great Sphinx was constructed about 2,500 BC

* However, recent studies have determined erosion marks on the Great Sphinx are vertical, not horizontal as would be expected from sand and wind erosion in the Sahara

* Hence, scholars such as Graham Hancock, originally of Scotland, and Robert Buvaul, of the United Kingdom, suggest the Great Sphinx could have been carved as early as 10,500 BC

* It’s 241-feet long, and 65-feet high in places

* Throughout history, it’s believed much of the monument often was buried in sand, helping preserve its softer lower layers

* The Great Sphinx is located by Khafre’s pyramid at Giza, near Cairo

* Many archaeologists contend rock removed to shape the Great Sphinx was used to help build the nearby pyramids

* The limestone bedrock from which the Great Sphinx was carved originated fifty million years earlier during the Middle Eocene period when sea waters covered northeast Africa

* The Great Sphinx faces the rising sun

* It’s thought the monument once was bearded, but likely the beard was added long after original construction, and since has eroded away

* The lion’s body includes paws, claws, and a tail

* There are more Egyptian sphinxes, at least one attributed to Pharaoh Djedefre thought to be older, but the Great Sphinx is the largest

* There are three passages into or under the Great Sphinx

Much of the monument’s nose has worn away, and legend says Napoleon’s soldiers used it for target practice when he was at the site in 1798. Yet, archeologists generally agree that much of the nose’s damage was evident hundreds of years earlier.

The pharaoh’s head of the Great Sphinx is built on a scale of 30 to 1 compared to a human head, and the lion’s body on a scale of 22 to 1 compared to a lion. Possible explanations for such disparities in proportional size, like much about the large monument, open new questions. Was the lion made bigger proportionally to accent the monument’s power? Was it designed thusly to give onlookers a more aesthetically pleasing view from up close? Or did they simply run out of high-quality, hard rock while constructing the head?

Anyway one looks at it, the Great Sphinx of Egypt is both a wonder and a mystery.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Essay on Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay

An Essay on Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay

Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay not only was one of, if not the greatest boxer of all time, but still is one of the most influential men of his day.

Though slowed by Parkinson’s syndrome now, Ali long has been a political activist and champion for the cause of Black Americans. He not only won the World Heavyweight Boxing title three different times over a 15-year span, but challenged the world of traditionalism when he joined the Islam faith, changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, then refused to enter the U.S. Army and fight in the Vietnam War.

Some key dates and events in regards to the life of Muhammad Ali include:

* January 17, 1942 Born in Louisville, Kentucky

* 1954 At age 12 begins boxing

* 1959 Wins national Golden Gloves championship as middleweight

* 1960 Wins Gold Medal in Rome Olympics as light heavyweight

* 1964 Defeats “Sonny” Liston for his first World Heavyweight Championship

* 1964 Announces conversion to Islam; changes name to Muhammad Ali

* August 1966 Petitions to become conscientious objector

* April 1967 After petition denied, refuses induction in U.S. Army

* June 1967 Sentenced to five years in prison; appeals decision, released on bail

* 1967 Stripped of heavyweight title; only boxes in exhibitions for more than three years

* 1971 Loses in 15 rounds to undefeated heavyweight champion, Joe Frazier, in “Battle in Manila:” Supreme Court reverses draft evasion conviction

* 1974 Defeats George Foreman to win World Heavyweight title second time; wins Frazier rematch

* 1975 Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year; wins another rematch with Frazier

* 1975-76 Successfully defends title seven times in fourteen months

* June 29, 1977 Participates in six exhibition boxing matches in one day

* 1978 Loses World Heavyweight Title to Leon Spinks, then wins title back for third time later in year

* 1980 Campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter

* 1981 Final boxing match: ends career with 56 wins (37 knockouts) and five losses

* 1982 Initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s syndrome

* 1996 Lights opening torch for Summer Olympics in Atlanta

Renowned for his quick hands, speed in the ring, punching power, and ability to take a punch, Cassius Clay became an American favorite until, inspired by human rights activist Malcolm X, in 1964 he embraced the Black Muslim faith and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Always outspoken and controversial, Ali became more popular again when he defied the U.S. government by refusing to be inducted in the U.S. Army when such service likely would have sent him into the unpopular Vietnam War.

Nicknamed “The Greatest,” Ali became known as a poet who regularly wrote poems predicting outcomes of upcoming boxing matches. After retiring from the ring, he became a diplomat and a philanthropist.

So when one researches Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay, what you find is a gifted, multi-dimensional Black man who revolutionalized the sport of boxing.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Facts About the Country of Ecuador

Facts About the Country of Ecuador

On the equatorial west coast of South America, the country of Ecuador once was populated by the Inca civilization: is noteworthy because its topography ranges from sea level to 20,555-foot high Mount Chimborazo; and became independent from Spain in 1822.

Slightly smaller than the state of Nevada, Ecuador is home for about fourteen million people--about 38 percent of them impoverished--and gains much of its revenue from the petroleum industry.

Major dates, events, and facts about Ecuador include:

* 3,500 B.C. Earliest signs of Valdivia culture

* 100 A.D. Esmeralda, Manta, Huancavilca, and Puna people groups fish, farm, trade along coast

* 980 A.D. Prosperous Cara tribe founds Quito

* by 1500 A.D. Inca Empire based in southern Peru had conquered all of Ecuador

* 1534 Incas, beset by civil war, easy prey for Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro; Ecuador comes under Spanish rule

* 1822 Modern-day countries of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama withdraw from Spanish rule and form the Republic of Greater Colombia

* 1830 Republic of Ecuador is born

* 1941 Disastrous war with Peru; support allies in World War II

* 1967 Substantial oil reserves discovered in interior

* 1979-2004 Civilian governance and political instability

* January 2007-present under leadership of President Rafael Correa Delgado

Stretching from the Pacific Coast to the highlands of the Andes Mountains, and on to the Amazonian jungle lowlands to the east, Ecuador boasts the highest active volcano in the world, 19,393-foot high Mount Cotopaxi, located about 50 miles south of Quito.

Beset by natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, and droughts, Ecuador’s major natural resources include petroleum, fish, and timber.

The nation’s people are 65 percent Mestizo (mixed American Indian and White), claim Roman Catholic as their primary religion (95 percent), and are relatively healthy with a life expectancy after birth of nearly 77 years.

In 1999-2000, Ecuador’s economy entered a time of severe crisis. The nation’s banking system collapsed, poverty increased, Ecuador defaulted on its external debt, and within a short period of time the nation’s gross domestic product dropped by more than 6 percent. In an effort to meet that crisis, the Ecuadorian Congress adopted the U.S. dollar as legal tender, and positive results practically were immediate. During the five-year span 2002 through 2006, Ecuador’s economy grew 5.5 percent, the highest five-year average in the past 25 years.

Although Ecuador officially is listed as a Republic, its 100-member unicameral National Congress has been on indefinite recess since late 2007 while waiting for a new Constituent Assembly to convene; and its entire Supreme Court was replaced in late 2004 by a majority resolution from Congress.

Because of its geographical location between cocaine -producing countries Colombia and Peru, Ecuador, and especially its Pacific waters, provides a common illicit trafficking route for cocaine bound to the U.S.

The country of Ecuador sends 42 percent of its exports to the U.S., mostly petroleum, bananas, and cut flowers. The U.S. also is Ecuador’s largest import partner.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Boston Tea Party, 1773

The Boston Tea Party, 1773

Disgruntled American colonialists, in response to Great Britain’s tax on tea, dumped about forty-five tons of tea into Boston Harbor during what’s called the Boston Tea Party, 1773; a pivotal event leading into the Revolutionary War that triggered birth of the United States of America.

Tensions had been brewing for ten years prior to the Tea Party, based on the theme of taxation without representation. Because colonialists refused to pay high taxes imposed by the Townshend Acts of 1767, the British rescinded all taxes except a tax on tea, then made certain the taxed tea sold for a lower price than imported tea colonists could buy on the black market from growers in Holland. The ploy was that colonialists would purchase that tea, and in so doing endorse Britain’s right to tax the colonies. But the colonialists didn’t bite.

Key dates and events relating to the Boston Tea Party, 1773, include:

* 1763 French and Indian War with Britain concludes; Britain’s King George III looks to recoup war costs by placing heavy taxes on colonies

* 1767 British Townshend Acts levied to raise revenue, tighten customs enforcement, and assert imperial authority

* March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre: British soldiers guarding Boston Customs House kill three, injure eight more colonialists who are throwing snowballs at them

* May 1773 British rescind Townshend Act, with exception of tax on tea

* December 16, 1773 200 colonialists dressed as Mohawk Indians board three British ships and dump tea into Boston Harbor, aka the Boston Tea Party

* March 1774 With Massachusetts being the focal point of colonial unrest, Great Britain closes Boston Harbor

* April 19, 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, both near Boston, mark beginning of Revolutionary War

* July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence signed

* 1783 End of Revolutionary War

Although taxation without representation was the battle cry of colonialists leading up to the decisive Revolutionary War, it was a lingering tax on tea that, in essence, put fuel on a simmering fire and led to lawlessness and, eventually, to war.

Being inept at collecting taxes on paint, paper, glass, lead, and tea imported into the colonies as legally required according to the Townshend Acts of 1767, in May 1773 the British Parliament rescinded all such taxes except on tea, then granted a virtual monopoly on tea imports into the colonies to the British East India Company. The Parliament did this by granting the British East India Company authority to sell tea directly to colonialists; in doing so bypassing colonial wholesale tea merchants.

But colonialists reacted by refusing to allow British East India Company ships laden with tea to dock in Philadelphia and New York. Although tea-laden ships did dock at Charleston, South Carolina, that tea was stored in warehouses for three years, then sold by patriots to help finance the revolution.

In essence, The Boston Tea Party 1773 wasn’t about tea, but instead about the taxes Great Britain was imposing on that tea.

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