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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Discover the Island of Corfu, Myth Through History

Discover the Island of Corfu, Myth Through History

Legend has it that the first to discover the island of Corfu weren’t humans, but mythological beings depicted in Homer’s Odyssey. It’s said that the god of the sea, Poseidon, fell in love with the nymph Korkira, made love with her on the island, and gave birth to the Phaeacean race.

Artifacts on what’s now a Greek island go back as far as the Paleolithic period (30,000 BC to 7,000 BC), and the picturesque 229 square-mile island in the Ionian Sea, as near in places as two miles to the Albanian shoreline, has a history of being ruled by many outside forces. They include the Corinthians, Romans, Byzantine Empire, Venice, and Napoleon’s France.

Facts about Corfu, called Kerkyra in Greece, include:

* In Greek mythology, Odysseus, helped by the Goddess Athena, arrives on Corfu, and is aided by King Alcinous only to have Poseidon turn Odysseus’s desired boat to escape the island into stone

* In Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts visit Corfu with the Golden Fleece

* Paleolithic period artifacts, 30,000 BC to 7,000 BC

* Evidence of habitation; Mesolithic, then Neolithic (6,000 BC to 2,500 BC) periods

* Prior to 800 BC, occupied by Illyrians of Albanian descent

* 734 BC Under Corinthian rule

* 664 BC Corfu and Corinth conduct first Greek sea battle

* 500 BC Corfu has second strongest naval fleet in that part of world, next to Athens

* 431 BC Corfu sides with Athens, Corinth with Sparta in Peloponnesian War, won by Sparta

* 40 AD Disciples of Paul, Jason and Sossipatros, introduce Christianity, build first church there

* 229 BC-336 AD Under lax rule of Romans, relatively autonomous Corfu gives Rome access to harbors and becomes vacation home for Roman aristocrats

* 336 AD-1267 Part of Byzantine Empire, yet was raided many times by Goth, Vandal, and Saracen pirates

* 1204 AD-1214 Venice gains ownership as part of Fourth Crusade, but Byzantine Empire soon regains control

* 1402 Venice buys Corfu from Naples, which received ownership as partial bridal dowry; becomes haven for scholars and artists escaping Turkish-controlled Greek mainland

* 1797 Napoleon’s France occupies island, imposes heavy taxes

* 1815 Becomes capital of United States of the Ionian Islands

* 1864 Corfu becomes part of Greece

* World Wars I & II, heavily damaged while fighting on allied side

Now renowned as being one of the most beautiful places on earth, Corfu is the second largest Ionian island, next to Kefallinia, and a tourist destination for many. Its tallest peak, at nearly 3,000 feet, is Mt. Pantokrator, and its fertile soil produces olive oil, currants, figs, wine, and citrus fruit.

Known as Scheria in Homer’s The Odyssey, the island of Corfu is shaped somewhat like a seahorse, is about 40 miles long, and ranges between 2.5 and 17 miles in width.

Those fortunate enough to discover the island of Corfu will find that tourism and agriculture are its biggest sources of revenue.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

President William Taft, A Man of Extremes

President William Taft, A Man of Extremes

Never in U.S. history has there been a man so reluctant to assume the nation’s highest position as President William Taft. Hand picked for the role by his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, and consistently urged forward by his ambitious wife, Helen “Nellie” Taft, Taft served one term as president, 1909-1913.

An 1878 graduate of Yale and 1880 grade of Cincinnati Law School, Taft is the only man in U.S. history to serve both as president and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The heaviest man yet to live in the White House at more than 300 pounds, Taft made more appointments to the Supreme Court (six) than any other one-term president, and is better remembered as a Chief Justice skilled in administrative matters than as the nation’s 27th president.

Additional dates, facts, and events involving the life of William Howard Taft include:

* Alphonso Taft, William’s father, a distinguished judge who served as Secretary of War and Attorney General for President Ulysses S. Grant

* Born September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati

* Eventual wife, Helen Herron, born June 2, 1861, in Cincinnati of “politically connected” parents

* 1878 Intelligent, educated, and ambitious, Helen Herron is a White House guest of then President Rutherford B. Hayes

* 1886 William Taft and Helen Herron marry

* 1892 Taft appointed U.S. Circuit Judge

* 1900 President William McKinley appoints Taft chair of commission to establish civil government in the Philippines; serves three years as Governor-General of the Philippines

* 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt appoints Taft Secretary of War

* 1908 Picked by Roosevelt to succeed him, Taft wins U.S. presidential race against William Jennings Bryan

* 1912 Unhappy with Taft’s administration, Roosevelt again runs for presidency as Progressive candidate, essentially splitting Republican vote with Taft, allowing Woodrow Wilson to win election

* 1913-1921 Presides in Kent Chair of Constitutional Law, at Yale Law School

* 1914 Helen Taft initial First Lady to publish an autobiography, Recollections of Full Years

* 1921 President Warren Harding appoints Taft Chief Justice of Supreme Court; confirmed on same day without matter being referred to committee

* March 8, 1930 Dies one month after stepping down as Chief Justice

* May 22, 1943 Helen Taft passes away

Although amiable and conscientious, Taft lacked the political drive of predecessor Theodore Roosevelt and, during his presidency, experienced a major shift away from liberalism to conservatism that alienated many liberal Republicans and led to the formation of the Progressive, or Bull Moose Party.

As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Taft discouraged dissents from his associates and only wrote four dissents from the 249 opinions he wrote on behalf of the Court during his nine-year tenure.

One of the gems of the career of President William Taft came, as Chief Justice, when he successfully lobbied Congress to enact the Judiciary Act of 1925 that still today gives justices nearly complete discretion to decide which cases need to be resolved, and in what context.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Blessings on Jamie Moyer, Pitcher and Philanthropist

Blessings on Jamie Moyer, Pitcher and Philanthropist

The common thinking on Jamie Moyer is that he’s a venerable major league pitcher who, at age 46, still is outwitting major league hitters with soft pitches and guile.

Less known is the fact that he and wife Karen, the daughter of former, long-time Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps, are co-founders of The Moyer Foundation which has raised more than $16 million for children’s causes since its inception in 2000.

Facts about Jamie Moyer’s ongoing baseball career, Karen Moyer, and The Moyer Foundation include:

* Jamie was born Nov. 18, 1962, in Sellersville, Pennsylvania

* He attended St. Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia, and is the first-ever baseball player there to have his number retired

* Left-handed, he was claimed by the Chicago Cubs in the 6th round of the 1984 amateur draft

* His major league debut was June 16, 1986

* He’s played for seven major league teams: Chicago Cubs, Texas, St. Louis, Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, and Philadelphia

* As of May 15, 2009, Jamie had won 249 career games, lost 188 games, and had an accumulated 4.22 ERA

* Jamie’s best seasons were for Seattle in 2001, when he won 20 and lost 6 with an ERA of 3.42; and in 2003, when he won 21 and lost 7, with an ERA of 3.27

* His weakness always has been giving up home runs … in addition to having surrendered more home runs than any other active pitcher, he gave up the most home runs in the American League in 2004, and currently leads the 2009 National League in that category

* In 2008 Jamie won 16, lost 7, and posted a 3.71 ERA for the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

* Jamie’s philanthropic work has earned him the National Sports Philanthropy Award, Roberto Clemente Award, Lou Gehrig Award, and the Branch Rickey Humanitarian Award

Karen Moyer is a graduate of Notre Dame University and, with Jamie, the mother of seven children. She runs a cycling studio in Seattle and runs Magnolia Baseball, a youth baseball organization.

The mission of The Moyer Foundation is to support children enduring times of emotional, physical, or financial distress by improving their quality of life.

Since 2000, The Moyer Foundation has raised more than $16 million to support more than 170 non-profit organizations that help suffering children.

Examples of organizations supported by The Moyer Foundation include:

* Non-profit organizations that help children in severe distress, with life-threatening illness, or physical limitations

* Camp Erin, a network of 28 bereavement camps in 18 states nationwide that helps grieving children ages six through 17 deal with losses of loved ones

* Camp Mariposa, a two-year-old program partnered with Youth Eastside Services that serves children suffering from addiction in their families

While Jamie Moyer may be making his mark on major league baseball, The Moyer Foundation may be touching even more lives. Future books could be written on Jamie Moyer where baseball merely is a sideline.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Bill of Rights is the Name by Which Freedom is Preserved

The Bill of Rights is the Name by Which Freedom is Preserved

Although the U.S. Constitution was adopted September 19, 1787, the Bill of Rights is the name by which specific individual freedoms are guaranteed in the first 10 constitutional amendments. They were formally adopted December 15, 1791, when three-fourths of all 13 states ratified them.

Between the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, proclaimed in 1783 at the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitutional Convention, 1787, where the U.S. Constitution was drafted, powers of states overrode the authority of a weaker central government.

A young delegate from Virginia, James Madison, promoted the establishment of a stronger central government as realized in the constitution, and liberally borrowed from George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in 1776, to help draft the Bill of Rights.

Important dates, personages, and topics of the Bill of Rights include:

* May 20-26, 1776 George Mason writes Virginia Declaration of Rights

* July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence adopted

* September 3, 1783 Treaty of Paris ends Revolutionary War

* May 25, 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia; George Washington unanimously elected convention president

* 1787 Washington first elected U.S. president

* 1788 Madison shepherds 17 Bill of Rights’ amendments through Congress

* 1789 Senate trims down to 12 amendments

* October 2, 1789 President Washington sends 12 amendments to each state; two involving number of constituents per Representative and compensation for Congressmen not ratified

* December 15, 1791 New Hampshire ninth of 13 states to ratify Bill of Rights, providing required three-quarters majority

The Bill of Rights, in brief:

* #1 Protection concerning choice of religion; freedom of speech and press; right to assemble peaceably; petition government to redress grievances

* #2 Maintain regulated militia; right of people to keep and bear arms

* #3 Soldier, without consent of owner, shall not be quartered in any house

* #4 Right to be secure in persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures

* #5 No person held for capital crime without grand jury indictment, except military matters; private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation

* #6 Right to speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; right to assistance of counsel for defense

* #7 Right to jury trial in common law suits exceeding $20

* #8 No excessive bail, fines, or cruel and unusual punishments meted out

* #9 Constitutional rights cannot be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people

* #10 Powers neither stated in constitution or prohibited there to states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people

Patrick Henry, the renowned orator of “Give me liberty, or give me death” fame, was one who boycotted the Constitutional Convention, fearing the push toward a stronger central government would usurp powers of the of the newly formed states. Yet, even he learned that the Bill of Rights is the name by which state and individual rights are protected.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

The History of Baghdad Linked to Islamic Faith

The History of Baghdad Linked To Islamic Faith

Although Bagdad, Iraq currently is ravaged by strife and warfare, the history of Bagdad includes an interlude of golden years beginning in 762 AD when the Abbasid dynasty assumed control of the vast Muslim world and made Baghdad its capital.

For the following 500 years, Baghdad was the centerpiece of the Muslim world. Because of flooding, fires, and internal strife between rival Shia and Sunni factions, political stability faltered, and in 1258 AD Mongols under the leadership of chief Hulegu sacked the city and slaughtered 100,000 people or more.

Since then, the ancient city with the Tigris River running through it has been subjected to many political overthrows.

Important dates, events, and persons involved with the history of the city of Baghdad include:

* 632 AD Death of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina

* 632-661 Three of four “Righteous Caliphs” who followed Muhammad assassinated

* 661-750 Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty

* 750 Abbasid caliphs murder all but one Umayyad male, who flees to Spain

* 762 Abbasids move Muslim capital to Baghdad

* 836 Muslim caliphs leave Baghdad for Samarra, one of four Iraqui Holy Cities 75 miles north of Baghdad

* 892 Muslim caliphs return to Baghdad

* 945, then 1055 Buyids followed by Suljuqs invade Baghdad, ravage much of city

* 1258 Mongols, led by Hulegu, invade and sack Baghdad, slaughter more than 100,000 people

* 1401 Baghdad sacked by Timur Lenk, another merciless Mongol warlord

* 1534 Sultan Suleyman I conquers city, adds to Ottoman (Turkish) Empire

* 1623 Baghdad conquered by Persians

* 1638 Ottomans regain control of city

* 1917 British take control over Ottomans

* 1920 Baghdad capital of new entity called Iraq, a League of Nations mandate administered by Great Britain

* 1980-1988 Inconclusive war with Iran

* 1991 Gulf War sees much of Baghdad ravaged by bombs

* 2003 U.S. forces bomb Baghdad

During its 500 years of glory, Baghdad was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and the heart of that region’s culture and education. Muslim scholars made major contributions in the fields of medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, and literature. Museums, hospitals, libraries, and mosques flourished. Greek was studied and, in that region, Baghdad was second only in size to Constantinople.

Since Iraq received its independence from Great Britain in 1932, the population of Baghdad has soared from about 360,000 to about 7.5 million people. Long known as the nation’s richest and economically most important city, Baghdad’s industries include oil refineries, food processing, tanneries, and textile mills.

An estimated 97 percent of all people living in Baghdad, like the nation as a whole, are of the Muslim faith.

Baghdad is only about 30 miles east of the Euphrates River, which parallels the Tigris until they join shortly before entering the Persian Gulf about 560 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The history of Baghdad, much of it torn with strife, always has been linked to Muhammed and the Islamic faith.

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