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Monday, 31 August 2015


In 1998 the American computer engineer and entrepreneur William S. "Bill" Kincaid created the MP3 player SoundJam MP with Jeff Robbin. Two years it was purchased by Apple and renamed iTunes.

Apple launched iTunes on January 9, 2001 at Macworld San Francisco. At first, the service was available only to Mac users and the music files were encoded in Apple's proprietary format restricting where they could be played.


On April 28, 2003, version 4.0 introduced the iTunes Store; six months later version 4.1 added support for Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Introduced at Macworld 2005 with the new iPod Shuffle, Version 4.7.1 introduced the ability to automatically convert higher-bitrate songs to 128kbit/s AAC. Thanks to the emergence of the iPod, iTunes became the first widely-successful legal music download site.

"Hey Ya" by Andre 3000 was the first song to be downloaded one million times on iTunes.

There are now over 800 million accounts on iTunes, meaning Apple has access to more credit cards than any other company in the world.

Using iTunes to build nuclear weapons is against their terms of service.



Since ancient times, Etruscan, Celtic, Greeks and other cultures have flourished in the territory of present-day Italy. Rome began as a small farming community in the tenth century BC, eventually emerging as the dominant power on the peninsula and conquering most of the then known world.

Construction of the campanile of the cathedral of Pisa (now known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa) begun in 1173. It would take two centuries to complete.

Italian culture thrived during the Renaissance, producing artists, architects, engineers, scientists and thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Italian explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci discovered new routes to the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery.

The first official Italian tricolour flag was adopted by the government of the Cispadane Republic in 1797.

Before 1861,  Italy was made up of smaller kingdoms and city-states. In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi took control of Sicily, creating the Kingdom of Italy the following year. Vittorio Emanuele II was made the King.

After three years of political turmoil in Italy, Benito Mussolini took power by having his "Black Shirts," march on Rome and threaten to take over the government. King Vittorio Emanuele III gave in, asked him to form a government on and made him prime minister on October 31, 1922.

Mussolini had established a fascist dictatorship by the end of 1927. Only the King and his own Fascist party could challenge his power.

On June 10, 1940, Mussolini sent Italy into the Second World War on the side of the Axis countries. After initially advancing in British Somaliland and Egypt, the Italians were defeated in East Africa, Greece, Russia and North Africa.

Allied forces launched the first of four assaults on January 17, 1944 on Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey founded in AD 529 by Benedict of Nursia. The intention was break through the Winter Line held by Axis forces and seize Rome, an effort that would ultimately take four months and cost 105,000 Allied casualties.

In a referendum, Italians voted to turn Italy from a monarchy into a Republic on June 2, 1946, when for the first time, women were able to vote. After the referendum the King of Italy, Umberto II di Savoia, was exiled.

Ballot paper used in the referendum.

The current form of the Italian flag has been in use since June 19, 1946. The flag of Italy is often referred to in Italy as il Tricolore because of its three colors. Green represents hope, white represents faith, and red represents charity

In February 1947, Italy signed a peace treaty with the Allies losing all the colonies and some territorial areas (Istria and parts of Dalmatia).


In 2010, the Italian government had a fleet of 629,000 official cars: ten times as many, as the US government.

Italy is home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites – more than 40.

The Italians speaks a national language, which was based on the Tuscan dialect, but each region still speaks its own dialect.

With almost 40 million visitors, Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world.

Italy is unique in that, there are two microstates that are fully independent even though they are surrounded by Italy. Such is the case of the Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino.

The Italian Wolf is considered the national animal of Italy.

87.8% of Italians said in a 2006 poll that they were Roman Catholic. Only just over a third said they were active members (36.8%).


Sunday, 30 August 2015


Founded around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city was re-built over six years, and consecrated as Constantinople on May 11, 330.

For nearly sixteen centuries following its re-establishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, the city served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The Republic of Turkey established its capital in Ankara.

Map of Constantinople (1422) by Florentine cartographer Cristoforo Buondelmonti is the oldest surviving map of the city

Pope Constantine visited Constantinople in 710-11 where he compromised with Justinian II on the Trullan canons of the Quinisext Council. Constantine was the last pope to visit Constantinople until Pope Paul VI did in 1967.

Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was the largest church in the world for about 900 years until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

Constantinople fell to the crusaders on April 12, 1204, the Monday before Easter. The crusaders set up their own kingdom based in the city, but within ten years it had collapsed.

Constantinople had 1400 public toilets around the city when it was capital of the Ottoman Empire, at a time when the rest of Europe had none.

In 1710 Constantinople (Istanbul) lost its crown as largest city by population in the world, a position it had held for seven decades, when Beijing's population reached 770,000.

On October 13, 1923 Angora replaced Istanbul as Turkey's capital.

The name of Constantinople was changed to Istanbul on March 28, 1930. The city of Angora was changed to Ankara on the same day.

The Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, was completed on October 30, 1973 connecting the continents of Europe and Asia over the Bosphorus. The cost of the bridge was US$200 million.

Upon the bridge's opening, much was made of its being the first bridge between Europe and Asia since the pontoon bridge of Xerxes in 480 BC.

Upon its completion, the Bosphorus Bridge had the fourth-longest suspension bridge span in the world, and the longest outside the United States It remained the longest suspension bridge in Europe until the completion of the Humber Bridge in 1981, and the longest suspension bridge in Asia until the completion of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (Second Bosphorus Bridge) in 1988.

The Bosphorus Bridge after sunset. Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is the oldest and largest historical bazaar in the world with over 4,000 shops covering 61 streets. With more than 91 million visitors it was listed as the world’s most-visited tourist attraction in 2014.

Istanbul is actually in two continentsAsia and Europe. Istanbul is the only major transcontinental city. Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives in Asia.

With a population of 14.1 million, Istanbul is the fifth-largest city in the world by population within city limits.

Approximately 11.6 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2012, making the city the world's fifth-most-popular tourist destination.

The best known song about the Turkish city is “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which was originally a hit for The Four Lads in 1953 and later revived by They Might Be Giants. Other tunes about Istanbul include: “Istanbul” by The Breeders, “She Took My Soul In Istanbul” by Marc Almond, "Istanbul" by Morrissey and “City Of Black & White” by Mat Kearney. 


The name "Israel"originally referred to the patriarch Jacob, The Book of Genesis tells us he was given the moniker meaning, "one who strives with God," after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord. Jacob's twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Children of Israel.

The earliest known archaeological artifact to mention the word "Israel" is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated to the late 13th century BC.

In 586 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered Judah and exiled the Jews to Babylon.

The first Christian writer to mention the term "holy land" was Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 160). Justin was explaining that the land God promised to Abraham would be inherited by Christians when Christ returned and built a new Jerusalem.

The concept of the return to the Holy Land was first developed in Jewish history during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BC.

From the early 18th century, German Pietists had promoted the view that the Jews were "God's time-piece" and that the conversion of the "Jewish nation" was key to the evangelization of the world. These ideas found fertile soil in England, during the early 19th century as British evangelicals became fascinated with the Jews.

Large-scale immigration to Palestine began in 1882 beginning with the arrival of Jews from Russia. Between 1882 and 1903, approximately 35,000 Jews immigrated to the southwestern area of Syria, then a province of the Ottoman Empire. The majority came from the Russian Empire with a smaller number arriving from Yemen.

Tel Aviv was founded on April 11, 1909 by Jewish immigrants on the outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa. It was planned as an independent Hebrew city with wide streets and boulevards, running water at each house and street lights. It is the second most populous Israeli city after Jerusalem.

Sarona, Tel Aviv

The British general Edmund Allenby retook Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917. In the resulting November 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration, (Arthur Balfour being the British Foreign Secretary), Britain pledged itself to use her best endeavors to facilitate in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people.

The United Nations unanimously confirmed in 1922 the Balfour Declaration as a mandate and Great Britain was temporarily entrusted with administrating Palestine on behalf of its Arab and Jewish inhabitants.

Portrait of Lord Balfour, along with his famous declaration

The United Nations General assembly adopted the UN Resolution to divide Western Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs in 1947. The Arabs rejected this plan out of hand refusing to accept an independent Palestinian Jewish state and declaring their intention to "drive the Jews into the sea" once the British Mandatory powers left.

The Jewish state of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948. The day after the British left Palestine, six Arab armies attacked the fledgling nation. Contrary to every expectation the Jews were victorious and threw back the attacking Arab armies.

Declaration of State of Israel 1948

The rebirth of the Jewish state was a unique event in history. Never before has a nation been resurrected two thousand years after being destroyed with its people dispersed and its land occupied by others.

An ardent supporter of Zionism, Winston Churchill was instrumental in setting up the Jewish homeland and consequently some Jews believed he was the promised Messiah.

In 1952 Albert Einstein was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel. He declined, saying that as a scientist trained to deal with objective facts, he lacked the aptitude and experience to deal with people.

In the 1967 Six-Day War Arab armies again attacked Israel but they were repelled to the line of the Jordan River and Israel occupied Judea and Samaria. The Israelis found  themselves back in control of the Old City of Jerusalem thus fulfilling the prophecy in Luke 21 v 24 that the "times of the Gentiles" would end.

The 1973 Yom Kippur War began, as the name suggests, on the Jewish High Holy Day (October 6, 1973). A coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack, assuming that the Israeli army's defenses would be down. They made quick gains in the disputed Palestinian regions but within a couple of days Israel launched smashing counter-attacks that negated Arab progress.

Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and US President Jimmy Carter signed the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in Washington, D.C on March 26, 1979, ending three decades of hostilities.

Israel admitted in 1985 that it has been secretly resettling Ethiopian Jews in Israel since 1977. They had been escaping the country's communist regime and the recent famine by being secretly airlifted to Israel. It is claimed Ethiopian Jews are descendants of the tribe of Dan.

In order to rescue the Ethiopian Jews, the Mossad bought and ran a profitable scuba diving resort in Sudan between 1982 and 1984. Between 8,000 and 10,000 of them were safely smuggled to Israel.

Russian is spoken in Israel by about 20% of the total population.

Israel has almost no fresh water of their own. Only the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River that comes out of it. They need it from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Israel is the only first world country that has enough children to replace its own population.

The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher.


Robinson Crusoe spent almost 339 months (28 years, two months and 19 days) on his desert island. Alexander Selkirk, on whom the 1719 book by Daniel Defoe was based, spent more than four years on his castaway island, 400 miles off Chile’s coast. Selkirk's long-awaited deliverance came on February 2, 1709 by way of the Duke, a privateering ship piloted by William Dampier, and its sailing companion the Duchess.

The rescued Selkirk, seated at right, being taken aboard the Duke.

Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean is the most remote island in the world. It was discovered by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier on January 1, 1739 and claimed for Norway on December 1, 1927. The nearest land is the uninhabited Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, over 1,600 km (994 mi) away to the south. The nearest inhabited lands are Tristan da Cunha, 2,260 km (1,404 mi) away and South Africa, 2,580 km (1,603 mi) away.

The 1856 Guano Islands Act gave Americans the right to mine bird dung on any uninhabited island.

The volcanic island of Surtsey, just south of Iceland, did not exist until 1963. The island, now a nature reserve, was formed by the eruption of Surtur, an underwater volcano, which for four months emitted ash and pumice in a column rising more than 1,000ft (305m).

Mayda Insula is an island in the Kraken Mare, a body of liquid composed primarily of methane, on Saturn's largest moon Titan. Mayda Insula was discovered by the Cassini–Huygens mission to Saturn on April 11, 2008. It is the first island (insula) to be named on a planet or moon other than Earth.

The world's smallest island nation is Nauru in the Pacific (see aerial view below) with an area of 8.1 square miles. Nauru's population is 9,945 according to a 2011 census. The only nation with fewer people is Vatican City.

The Bishop Rock is a small rock in the Atlantic Ocean known for its lighthouse. It is an archipelago 28 miles (45 kilometers) off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. It is the world's smallest island with a building on it.

There are 1,040 islands in total around Great Britain.

There are 179,584 islands within the territory of Finland. No other country has as many.

The world’s largest island, Greenland, is 103,000 times larger than the smallest island country, Nauru.

Santa Cruz del Islote, an island located off the coast of Colombia, has 1247 people living on it  .It is just 012 square km, the size of a baseball field, making it the most densely populated island in the world.

Marajó is an island located at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. With a land area of 15,500 square miles (40,100 square kilometres) it is s the largest river island in the world, Marajó is comparable in size to Switzerland.

Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron is the largest freshwater lake island in the world at 1068 square miles. It has a population of around 12,600.

The largest island on a lake which is itself on an island in a lake (are you still with us...?) is Treasure Island in Lake Mindemoya, which is on Manitoulin Island.

Treasure Island from the south. By Janzbran - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3

Fraser Island off the coast of Australia, is the largest sand island in the world covering around 163,000 ha and has a beach 40 miles long.

The Russian island of Big Diomede and the U.S. island of Little Diomede located in the Bering Strait are separated by the International Date Line, making Big Diomede 21 hours ahead of Little Diomede even though they are separated by about 2.4 miles (3.8 km)

The island of Faisans in the middle of the Bidasoa river, on the border of France and Spain, switches countries every six months. This was agreed to as part of the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. This sort of joint sovereignty is called a condominium.

"Cat Island," an island off the coast of Japan, is home to 22 residents and over 120 cats — that's six cats a person.

Here is a list of songs with an island theme.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is a Sunni jihadist militant group, which is influenced by the Wahhabi version of Islam.

ISIS was started in the early years of the Iraq War and was composed of different insurgent groups. Its aim was to establish a caliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq, later expanding this to include Syria.

In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIL It has since denounced the actions of ISIS as anti-Islamic.

On June 29, 2014, the group self-declared its caliphate in Syria and northern Iraq, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being named its caliph. It renamed itself ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah "Islamic State" (IS).

Flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS). This flag is also used by al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Boko Haram.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies.

ISIS publishes an actual glossy, full-color magazine called "Dabiq," complete with articles and photo spreads about their terrorist acts.

The CIA believes that ISIS has between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters on the ground.

According to leaked ISIS data, only 5 percent of recruits had an advanced knowledge of Islam before joining the group.

ISIS members believe that they will go directly to hell if they are killed by a woman, so they are terrified of female soldiers.

ISIS militants have been using plastic Darth Vader masks to protect their faces from shrapnel.



Islam is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qur'an, a religious text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God (Allah). Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 AD until his death twenty two years later.

In 605 The Black Stone, which was said to have been given by Archangel Gabriel to Abraham, was standing in a shrine called the Kaabi. The Kaabi flooded and the 35-year-old Muhammad was entrusted the job of setting the Black Stone back in it's place. After successfully doing this he started going out into the desert to meditate about God. Muhammad prayed much in solitude and fell into trances and heard voices. He  met some heretical Arab Christians whose hypocrisy put him off Christianity but encouraged his belief in Monotheism. All he saw was crucifixions and priests and vestments and images and he said that it was as adulterous as the then Arab religion.

Muhammad is said to have received the first verses of the Quran in a cave on the Jabal-al-Nour mountain (see below). It is believed that Muhammad experienced his first revelations from the Archangel Gabriel on August, 10, 610.

   "Jabal Nur" by Adiput Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
Muhammad started teaching that God had revealed himself to Christians and Jews but both had misinterpreted his word. He advised his followers to respect Jews and Christians because they too were “people of the book”.

Muhammad's preaching met with much opposition and at times he was stoned, so he concluded that Allah intended the divine message and call to be vindicated by political means. Muhammad moved his base from Mecca to Medina, arriving there on September 20, 622.

The Islamic calendar began on July 16, 622  during the year in which the emigration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijra, occurred.

At Medina, Muhammad taught Islam must be spread if necessary by Holy War. His victory at the Battle of Badr, on March 13, 624 with a mere 300 men aided by a sandstorm, enabled the Prophet to reach a wider area with his new religion.

Scene from the Turkish epic Siyer-i Nebi, Hamza and Ali leading the Muslim armies at Badr. 

On December 11, 630 Muhammad entered Mecca with a force of 10,000 and the city submitted to him. Within two years all of Arabia was united under Islam.

Muhammad's entry into Mecca . He is shown as a flame in this manuscript. Bazil's Hamla-i Haydari.

Islam was rapidly spreading through military expeditions, or Jihads. Within twelve years after Muhammad's death, that strategy had resulted in the occupation of Egypt, Syria, and parts of the Persian and Byzantine territories and by 678 all North Africa had succumbed to the Islam military might. In 714, Spain fell to the Muslim Moors.

By the late fifteenth century, the Moorish caliphate in Spain was evaporating as Christian armies pushed the borders of Moorish Spain southwards.


The prophet Muhammad's teachings were recorded by his followers on stones, bits of leather and camel’s shoulder bones or memorized  as he uttered them. In 650 Othman, the second Islamic leader after the death of Muhammad, saw the need for a single Islam text so he assembled a committee headed by one of Muhammad's old secretaries to assemble the scattered texts. By the following year, the Qur'an had come into being.

The Qur'an is the size of a New Testament, consists of 114 chapters called Suras, each shorter than the one before it.

The Five Pillars of Islam are five basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life. The five obligations are:
To offer seventeen cycles of prayer each day, usually spread out over five periods of time.
Charitable giving of at least 2.5% of one's income.
The reciting of the "Shahadah," which is when you say "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet."
Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, from Sunrise to Sunset
To make the pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca.

Muslims face in the direction of Islam's holiest place, the Kaaba in Mecca, during their prayers.

On one occasion in his younger pre-revelation days Mohammed drank too much and made a fool of himself. Later he decided that Allah prohibited the consumption of alcohol because it distracts the believer from focusing on God and causes medical and social problems. As a result the Qur'an forbids Muslims to drink alcohol.

The Muslims declared the Saluki dog sacred and believe this breed was given to them by Allah for their amusement and benefit, permitting Muslims to eat the meat of the game. It is the only dog allowed to sleep on the carpet of a sheikh's tent.

In 1947, Pakistan was created an independent nation for Muslims from the regions in the east and west of the Subcontinent where there was a Muslim majority. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a new constitution nine years later. On March 23, 1956 it became the first country in the world to declare itself an Islamic Republic.


A comprehensive 2009 demographic study of 232 countries and territories reported that 23% of the global population, or 1.57 billion people, are Muslim.

Most Muslims are of two denominations: Sunni (75–90%) or Shia (10–20%). About 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country, 25% in South Asia, 20% in the Middle East, and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

Friday, 28 August 2015


Iron is the most common element (by mass) on Earth, forming much of the outer and inner core, as well as the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust.

The Earth has enough Iron to make three new planets, each with the same mass as Mars.

It is the most widely-used metal because it is very strong and cheap. Iron is used to make bridges, buildings, nails, screws, pipes, girders, and towers.

Genesis 4 v 22 contains the first mention of iron in the Old Testament of the Bible; "Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron."

Cast iron is an alloy of iron. As early as 1848 cast iron was used for a building constructed in New York City. By about 1855 architects had developed a type of construction that used a skeleton of metal--cast iron. Cast iron made possible floor spans of greater width than ever before.

Iron is plentiful because it is the final element formed out of a star's death.

Iron increases in weight as it rusts.

Iron is present in meat and is also found in hemoglobin in red blood cells.

Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.

The human body has enough iron to make a 3-inch long nail.

Some breakfast cereals, like Wheaties, are fortified with enough iron that individual flakes can be lifted and carried using common magnets.

Iron is toxic when large amounts are swallowed and can damage the body. When too many vitamins that have iron in them are consumed, people get sick.


In 1901 the Scottish company, A.G. Barr of Glasgow, developed a new caffeinated soft drink called Iron Brew. The formula for the beverage with an eccentric orange color was a closely guarded secret, but it proved popular among the Scots.

There is iron in the drink but it is not brewed.

In 1946, a change in laws required that the word brew be removed from the name, as the drink is not brewed. The chairman of  A.G. Barr came up with the idea of changing the spelling of both halves of the name, giving the Irn-Bru brand.

Today Irn-Bru is the best selling soft drink in Scotland. Scotland is one of the the few countries in the world where Coca-Cola is not the best selling soft drink. 

Irish Wolfhound

The origins of the Irish Wolfhound breed dates back to 100 BC. The ancestor of this breed was the Cu, a massive, shaggy-looking dog that was used to hunt wolves, elk and wild boar, which was mentioned by Julius Caesar.

It was reported that the King of Ulster in the 1100s traded 4,000 cattle for one wolfhound.

During the English conquest of Ireland, only the nobility were allowed to own Irish Wolfhounds. They were much coveted and were frequently given as gifts to important personages and foreign nobles. King John of England, in about 1210 presented an Irish hound, Gelert to Llewellyn, a prince of Wales. The poet The Hon William Robert Spencer immortalised this hound in a poem.

Almost extinct by the 1800s, the Irish Wolfhound was revived again by Capt. George Augustus Graham. The captain devoted his life to ensuring the survival of the breed and in 1885 Graham, with other breeders, founded the Irish Wolfhound Club.

The name originates from its purpose (wolf hunting with dogs) rather than from its appearance.

Irish Wolfhounds can be an imposing sight due to their formidable size; they are the tallest of all dog breeds, sometimes reaching 7 feet tall on their hind legs.

The Irish Wolfhound is the national dog of Ireland and is sometimes also called the Wolfdog, the Irish Greyhound, or the Great Dog of Ireland.

Famous Irish Wolfhound owners have included Richard III, Anne Boleyn, Henry VII, Queen Elizabeth I, George Washington, the singer Sting and composer Leonard Bernstein.

An Irish wolfhound called Keon, has a 2.6-foot-long tail, the Guinness World Record for the longest tail on a dog.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

Irish troubles

The Irish troubles began in the late 1960s and was primarily political but with strong ethnic and sectarian dimensions. A key issue was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Unionists/loyalists, who are mostly Protestants and generally want Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalists/republicans, who are mostly Roman Catholics, generally want it to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland.

On Sunday January 30, 1972, members of the British Parachute Regiment shot twenty-six civil rights protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing at least thirteen people. This "Bloody Sunday" massacre fermented fresh grievances for the Irish against the English and Catholics against Protestants.

Murder victims of Bloody Sunday" by Vintagekits at English Wikipedia. 

By 1976, the animosity between the two groups had deteriorated to such an extent that Northern Ireland was close to a civil war. Two Roman Catholic women, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire and Betty Williams, founded a movement for peace in Northern Ireland known as the 'Peace People'. The movement involved people from both the Catholic and Protestant communities who wished to see an end to the sectarian violence that was plaguing the province. As a result of their efforts the two women shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

The decision of the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in 1988 to allow members the freedom to call the pope "Antichrist", or not as they preferred, won approval from the Rev D.H. Porter. He laughably described it as "a victory for Christian charity".

During a visit to Northern Ireland, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke on November 30, 1995 in favor of the "Northern Ireland peace process" to a huge rally at Belfast City Hall. He called terrorists "yesterday's men".

IRA members showing an improvised mortar and an RPG (1992)

The Provisional Irish Republican Army resumed a ceasefire to end their 25-year campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland on July 19, 1997.

The conflict is deemed by many to have ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998. . UK prime minister Tony Blair said: "A day like today is not a day for soundbites, really. But I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders."

In 2005 the IRA declared a formal end to its campaign and had its weaponry decommissioned under international supervision.

In July 2007, the British Army formally ended Operation Banner, their mission in Northern Ireland which began 38 years earlier, in 1969.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Irish coffee

Irish coffee was invented by Joe Sheridan,  a barman in Foynes port, the precursor to Shannon International Airport, in the west of Ireland. Sheridan conceived this hot, adult beverage after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in the in 1942. He had many tired and exhausted customers at his bar, who after a long flight across the Atlantic needed a "pick-up." His remedy was a strong cup of coffee fortified with a dash of whiskey, and topped with whipped cream.

The travel writer Stanton Delaplane started publicizing Sheridan's Irish coffee in 1952 after he discovered it during one of his trips.

Most recipes say the Irish Coffee is made with hot, black coffee, sugar, a shot of Irish whiskey and whipped cream, but there are endless variations.


Ireland’s oldest city is Waterford, which was founded by the Vikings back in 853.

Norman mercenaries first landed at Bannow Bay in Leinster on May 1, 1169, marking the beginning of the Norman invasion of Ireland. The invasion was at the request of Diarmait Mac Murchada (Dermot MacMurragh), the ousted King of Leinster, who had sought their help in regaining his kingdom. Diarmait and the Normans seized Leinster within weeks and launched raids into neighboring kingdoms.

Henry at Waterford", from A Chronicle of England (1864) by James Doyle

When Pope Alexander III wanted to eradicate Irish customs that conflicted with the teaching of the Catholic Church, he declared Henry II of England to be the rightful sovereign of Ireland in 1172. Henry accepted the title of Lord of Ireland which the English monarch conferred on his younger son, John Lackland, in 1185. This defined the Irish state as the Lordship of Ireland. It took seven and a half centuries for the Irish to regain their freedom.

Ireland is sometimes known as the Emerald Isle, a term coined by an Irish political radical and poet in 1795. Belfast born William Drennan (1754 – February 5, 1820), wrote in When Erin First Rose. "Let no feeling of vengeance presume to defile. The cause of, or men of, the Emerald Isle."

The Kingdom of Ireland was formally merged with the Kingdom of Great Britain, adding Saint Patrick's Saltire to the Union Flag. From 1801 until 1922, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The Great Famine in the mid-1840's forced many to leave Ireland; it is estimated almost a million people died of starvation, and a million more emigrated. From a maximum of over 8 million in 1841, the total Irish population dropped to just over 4 million in the 1940s. The population of Ireland still hasn't returned to where it was before the Great Famine.

The Government of Ireland Act was passed on May 3, 1921, dividing Ireland into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Northern Ireland has stayed within the United Kingdom since then. The full name of the UK is 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.'

One year to the day after The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London by British and Irish representatives, the south of Ireland became the Irish Free State on December 6, 1922. Fifteen years later, the Irish Free State was replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.

Ireland stayed neutral during World War II,

Ireland's link with the Commonwealth was terminated with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on April 18, 1949 and declared that the state was a republic.

At midnight on April 17, 1949 the 26 Irish counties officially left the British Empire. A 21-gun salute on O'Connell Bridge, Dublin, ushered in the Republic of Ireland.

In 1995, a referendum in Ireland legalized divorce by 50.3 per cent to 49.7 per cent.

Over 8 million St. Patrick's Day cards are exchanged in America making today the ninth-largest card selling occasion in the US.

The Irish flag is green, white and orange. The green symbolizes the people of the south, and orange, the people of the north. White represents the peace that brings them together as a nation.

34.5 million U.S residents claim Irish ancestry, that is 9 times the current population of Ireland.

More than 40 percent of all American presidents have had some Irish ancestry.

Today almost 80 million people around the world are descended from Irish immigrants.


Iraq was once known by the Greek name Mesopotamia which means 'Land between the rivers' and has been home to continuous successive civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. The region between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers is often referred to as the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of writing.

At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires.

Iraq's modern borders were mostly demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by the Treaty of Sèvres. Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established the following year.

The Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932 and on July 14, 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq was created. Faisal II, the last king of Iraq, was overthrown by a military coup d'état led by Abd al-Karim Qasim.

From 1968 to 2003, Iraq was run by the Ba'ath Party. Saddam Hussein was the President from 1979 until the disbandment of the Ba'ath Party.

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, Pakistan, and others fought to free Kuwait.

In the early hours of the March 20, 2003 morning, an invasion led by American, British, Australian, Danish and Polish forces commenced against Iraq to disarm them of weapons of mass destruction deployment and remove Saddam Hussein from power. It was claimed by a Palestinian official that the American president George W Bush told him that he was instructed by God to end the tyranny in Iraq.

By Photo: Photograph by Cpl Paul Jarvis/MOD, OGL, Wikipedia Commons

Iraqi Muslims accused President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of waging a crusade against Islam comparable to the Middle Ages.

Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005.

Iraq took 289 days to form a government after its 2010 elections — setting a new record for the longest that any country has been without a government as a result of conflict.

There were many U.S., British and multi-national troops in the country until December 18, 2011 when the Iraq War ended. Tensions between religious groups (Shia and Sunni Muslims, as well as attacks on Christians) lead to a great deal of instability and the Iraqi insurgency intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country.

Suicide bombings in Iraq killed 60 times as many civilians as it did soldiers.

In 2013, more than 800,000 international tourists visited Iraq, despite the fact that it was still a war zone.

The town of Tikrit in Iraq erected a monument of the shoe thrown at George W. Bush. The footwear was hurled by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi during a press conference in Baghdad. Though Al-Zaidi was jailed for his actions, his angry gesture touched a defiant nerve throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

The design of the current Iraqi flag was confirmed by the Iraqi Parliament on January 22, 2008. It includes the three equal horizontal red, white, and black stripes of the Arab Liberation flag. This basic tricolor has been in use since 1963, with several changes to the green symbols in the central white stripe; the most recent version bears the takbīr rendered in green.

Iraq is the world's number four in petroleum production and the world's number two in petroleum reserves.

Iraq is the only country that ends with a Q.


Iran is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, with settlements dating back to 4,000 BC.

The Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC stretched from the Balkans in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east, making it the largest empire the world had yet seen. The empire collapsed in 330 BC following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Historically, Iran has been referred to as Persia by the West, mainly due to the writings of Greek historians who called Iran Persis, meaning "land of the Persians." In 1935, Reza Shāh Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, "Iran". This was done to show that Iran belongs to all the non-Persian Iranians as well as to Persian Iranians.

The name Iran means land of the Aryans. It is used in the ancient book of the Zoroastrians, the Avesta. The "Aryan Race" was a term that Hitler used to describe his "Superior" or "perfect" race, but it originally meant Iranians.

In 1953 the US and UK overthrew the first Iranian democratic government because Iran wanted to nationalize the petroleum reserves.

In 1979, the Islamic Revolution of Iran established an Islamic theocracy under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The flag of Iran is a tricolor comprising equal horizontal bands of green, white and red. The tricolor flag was introduced in 1906, but after the Islamic Revolution the Arabic words 'Allahu akbar' ('God is great'), written in the Kufic script of the Qur'an and repeated 22 times, were added to the red and green strips where they border the white central strip. The new "holy" flag was adopted on July 29, 1980.

November 4th is national "Death to America" day in Iran, and it's an official national holiday.

Tehran is the capital of Iran and home to 12 million people. Tehran means "warm slope."

Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world per capita, since the mandatory hijab tend to highlight the female face.

There is a rain forest in northern Iran, which stretches from the east in the Khorasan province to the west in the Ardebil province, covering the other provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan.

Iran is the only country that has both a Caspian Sea and an Indian Ocean coastline.

Nearly half of Iran has an arid desert climate. It receives less than 4 inches of rainfall per year.

The natural gas reserves of Iran are about 1,046 trillion cubic feet, about 15.8% of world's total reserves. It is the world's second largest reserves after Russia.

Iran has one of the largest rates of "brain drain" in the world. Up to 180,000 specialists and academic elite leave the country every year.

Iran is the only country in the world where it is legal to sell your kidneys — the government regulates the market.


Apple Inc unveiled its iPod portable player on October 24, 2001. The first iPod cost $399 when introduced. It had 5 GB of storage - worth about 1,000 songs - and only connected with Apple Mac computers.

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they showed it to Apple CEO Steve Jobs for his approval. He dropped the iPod in an aquarium and used the air bubbles to prove there was empty space and it could be made smaller.

1st generation iPod. at English Wikipedia

The first iPod's price and Mac-only compatibility caused sales to be relatively slow until 2004.

The iPod Mini was the first version to come in different colors - a total of five.

The fifth generation iPod Nano was the first iPod to have a built-in camera.

The iPod line as of 2014; from left to right: iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, iPod Touch

 Two versions of the iPod have been discontinued: the Mini and the Classic.

The iPod Shuffle is the only version still made featuring the famous wheel.

An iPod has 256 billion transistors — that’s almost two and a half times more than the number of neurons in the human brain (100 billion).


Wednesday, 26 August 2015


On January 9, 2007, Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone—a touch screen mobile phone with an iPod, camera and Web-browsing capabilities—at the Macworld convention in San Francisco.

Jobs called the iPhone a "revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone."

During the first live iPhone presentation, Steve Jobs had to frequently switch phone to an identical one behind his desk because it would otherwise run out of RAM and crash.

When it went on sale in the United States on June 29, 2007 amidst huge hype, thousands of customers lined up at Apple stores across the country to be among the first to purchase an iPhone.

The 4GB phone retailed for $499 and the 8GB model debuted at $599.

In 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said there was "no chance the iPhone is going to get any significant market share."

During the middle of 2010, iPhone sales overtook those of the iPod.

The top and side of an iPhone 5S, By Calerusnak at English Wikipedia,

Apple recovered 2,204 pounds of gold from broken iPhones in 2015. That's worth about US$40 million.

The most expensive iPhone is a solid gold, diamond-studded model commissioned by an Australian tycoon at a cost of £1.92 million.

The RAM-memory of an iPhone is much more than what NASA's Apollo spaceships used to take the man to the Moon.

George Hotz, a 17-year-old hacker, was the first to unlock a first generation iPhone—he traded it for a Nissan 350z and three locked iPhones.


The first known European explorers to document Iowa were Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet who traveled the Mississippi River in 1673 documenting several Native American villages on the Iowa side. The area was claimed for France and remained a French territory until 1763.

Its name comes from the Ioway people, one of the Native American tribes that lived in Iowa.

After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Iowa was placed under United States control, but it was not until the construction of Fort Madison in 1808 that the U.S. established tenuous military control over the region.

On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa. President Martin Van Buren appointed Robert Lucas governor of the territory, which at the time had 22 counties and a population of 23,242.

On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union when President James K. Polk signed Iowa's admission bill into law. Its first settlers were mostly farmers.

The first Iowa State Fair was held in the more developed eastern part of the state at Fairfield between October 25–27, 1854, at a cost of around $323. The principal attraction was an equestrian exhibit by ten young ladies. In 1886 it found a permanent home in Des Moines.

Iowa had a population of just 600,000 when the Civil War started. 76,534 Iowan men fought for the Union; no other state had a higher percentage of its male population serve.

The State Fair has been held every year since except for the year 1898 due to the Spanish–American War and the World's Fair being held in nearby Omaha, Nebraska. The fair was also a World War II wartime casualty from 1942–1945.

Herbert Hoover was the first US president born west of the Mississippi. He was born  in 1874 in West Branch, Iowa.

Some towns in Iowa sold their jails on the eve of Prohibition, as they were so certain crime was caused by alcohol.

In 1934, Oskaloosa, Iowa, became the first municipality in the United States to fingerprint all of its citizens.

On February 3, 1959  a small plane crashed in a cornfield 8 miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa, killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson with it. The phrase "The Day the Music Died" was first coined to describe the incident by Don McLean in his 1971 hit "American Pie."

The memorial marking the crash site, 2003

Iowa is bordered by the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri River and the Big Sioux River on the west; it is the only U.S. state whose eastern and western borders are formed entirely by rivers.

In Iowa, pigs outnumber people seven to one.

It is illegal to accept a gratuity or tip in Iowa.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015



J.C.R. Licklider, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher and professor, outlined his vision of a Galactic Network of computers that allowed users to gather data and access programs anywhere in the world in a series of papers. The first his seminal paper on Man-Computer Symbiosis written in 1960, foreshadowed interactive computing. The second, On-Line Man Computer Communication, was published two years later and took the Galactic Network idea further, promoting the concept of social interaction through the networking of computers.  Licklider's Galactic Network concept proved to be influential in early development of the ARPANET.

The first-ever computer-to-computer link was established by the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency" (DARPA) on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet at 10:30pm on October 29, 1969. UCLA student programmer Charley Kline sent the first message from one computer to another on that day.

Charley Kline sent 1st message from one computer to another, recorded here Wikipedia

The message was intended to be the word "login," but the ARPANET connection crashed in the middle, so the first message was just “lo."

The first thing ever sold on the internet was a bag of weed. In the early 1970s Stanford students used ARPANET accounts at Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to engage in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The students used the network to quietly arrange the sale of an undetermined amount of marijuana.

CompuServe launched the first consumer internet service on September 24, 1979. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major player through the mid-1990s, when it was sidelined by the rise of services such as AOL with monthly subscriptions rather than hourly rates.

In 1983 the ARPANET officially changed its core networking protocols from NCP to TCP/IP, marking the beginning of the Internet.

The Internet's Domain Name System was created in 1985. The first domain ever registered was on March 15, 1985.  It was registered by the Symbolics Computer Corporation in Massachusetts. The domain was purchased by in 2009.

France had a "proto-internet" called Minitel during the 1980s, to which half the population had access. It allowed for buying airplane tickets, shopping, 24-hr news, message boards and adult chat services. It was used to coordinate a national strike in 1986. Some believe it hindered the internet's adoption in France.

The Morris worm, the first internet-distributed computer worm to gain significant mainstream media attention, was launched from MIT in 1988.

Tim Berners-Lee released files describing his idea for the World Wide Web, a publicly available service on the Internet on August 6, 1991. This date also marked the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the Internet, although new users could only access it after August 23rd.

WorldWideWeb, c. 1993

The first recorded use of 'surfing' as a mode of using the internet is attributed to internet pioneer Mark McCahill, who used the phrase in February 1992.

The term was popularized a few months later by the upstate New York librarian Jean Armour Polly, aka “Net Mom."  Polly was the author of an article called "Surfing the INTERNET", published in the University of Minnesota Wilson Library Bulletin in June, 1992.

Oscar Nierstrasz at the University of Geneva wrote a series of Perl scripts that periodically mirrored these pages and rewrote them into a standard format. This formed the basis for W3Catalog, the web's first primitive search engine, released on September 2, 1993. The search site lasted for about three years before more modernized search engines began appearing.

In 1993 CERN announced World Wide Web protocols would be free.

In December 1993 there were just 623 websites on the internet.

WXYC, the student radio station of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provided the world's first internet radio broadcast in 1994.

It took radio broadcasters 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, TV 13 years, and the Internet just four years.

Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, predicted in 1995 that the Internet would suffer a "catastrophic collapse" the next year, promising to eat his words if it did not. In 1997, he blended a printed copy of his prediction with some liquid and drank it.

David Bowie's "Telling Lies" was released on his website in 1996, the first single by a major recording artist released exclusively on the Internet. Over 300,000 people downloaded the original Internet-only release.

In Britain, Tesco became the first supermarket in 1996 to offer Internet shopping and within a few years, housewives all over the world could buy groceries without ever leaving their homes.

The first recorded use of the term 'silver surfer' for an over-50 browsing the internet was in 1997.

The number of worldwide Internet users increased 566% between 2000 and 2012.

In 2010, Finland became the first country to make Internet access a legal right. A year later, the United Nations declared Internet access a human right, and disconnecting people from it is against international law.

100% of Iceland's population has the internet, the only country in the world.


Every minute 345 new internet virus threats are released — or almost six a second.

It is estimated that it would take 400 billion trees to print out the Internet.

It would take 136 billion sheets of A4 paper to print out the entire internet.

The largest Internet café is ChamsCity Digital Mall in Abuja, Nigeria, offering 1,027 computer terminals.

54.9% of the Internet is in English, 5.9% is in Russian, 5.7% is in German, 5% is in Japanese, and 4.6% is in Spanish.


The Bible and the Qur'an both have passages that denounce and in many cases downright prohibit collecting interest on loans.

The First Council of Nicaea, in 325 AD, forbade clergy from engaging in usury, which was defined as lending on interest above 1 percent per month.

The Pilgrim Fathers borrowed £4,000, to be repaid at the rather hefty rate of 43% .from a London company of investors for their voyage to  New England. They spent the next 23 years repaying their loan.

At the beginning of 1974, interest rates in Britain were precisely equivalent to those which the bankrupt Philip II of Spain had to pay after the loss of the Armada.

In November 2013 the European Central Bank cuts its bank rate to 0.25%, an historic low point.


The first insurance contracts were created around 4,500 years ago by merchants in Ancient China in case goods were damaged at sea.

When insurance on ships and their cargoes was introduced in 14th-century Europe, it met opposition on the grounds that it was an attempt to defeat financial disasters willed by God.

Hamburger Feuerkasse was established in Hamburg, Germany on December 17, 1676. The first officially established fire insurance company in the world, it is the oldest existing insurance enterprise available to the public.

The first successful insurance scheme in the UK was The Insurance Office for Houses founded by Nicholas Barbon in 1681.

The Amicable Society was founded in London in 1706 by William Talbot (Bishop of Oxford) and Sir Thomas Allen, 2nd Baronet. It is considered the first life insurance company in the world.

:Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street, London, 1801
Benjamin Franklin established his Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire in 1752. It was the first ever insurance outfit to be established in America.

The first ever travel accident policy was issued in July 1864. The Travellers Insurance Company issued the policy to James Batterson, who also received the first general insurance policy issued by the firm.

The first motor insurance policies were issued in Britain in 1896, but they excluded damage caused by horses frightened by the new "horseless carriages".

The first motor insurance policy issued by Lloyd's of London described the car as a “ship navigating on land.”

The Travelers Insurance Company of Hartford, issued the first automobile insurance policy in America in 1898. Dr. Truman Martin of Buffalo, paid $11.25 for the policy which gave him $5,000 in liability coverage.

The Apollo 11 astronauts didn't have life insurance, so they signed hundreds of autographs and sent them to their families to sell if they died.

Alien abduction insurance has been available in the USA since 1987.

Tom Clancy wrote The Hunt for Red October in his spare time while working as an insurance salesman.

Lloyd's of London issued the first ‍ever insurance policy to protect Santa Claus. The policy covers Santa until December 25th in the event of accident and illness, in the run up to and during his worldwide travels to deliver presents to good children.

Alien abduction insurance is only redeemed if the insured person can prove they were abducted by aliens and returned to Earth. Some insurance companies offer policies for alien abduction, alien pregnancy, alien examinations, and even death by aliens.


In Japan, avid golfers buy insurance to protect themselves on the course. They purchase it because if they get a hole-in-one, they have to buy gifts and drinks for their friends. The policy covers them for a party worth up to $4,900.