31 de enero de 2009

PHILLIS WHEATLEY

PHILLIS WHEATLEY (1753-1784)
A slave ship brought Phillis Wheatley from West Africa to Boston in 1761. John Wheatley, a wealtliy tailor, and his wife, Susannah, purchased her and gave her an American name. Her first poem appeared in print in a Newport, Rhode Island, newspaper in 1767. In 1773, thirty-nine of her poems were published in London as Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. This, her only collection of poems, was the first published book by an African-American. She was freed in 1778 and married a freedman, John Peters, but the marriage turned out badly.
Abandoned by Peters, she lived in penury in Boston. She had already lost two children, and a third lay mortally ill, when she died and was buried in an unmarked grave.
See also: philip-freneau

29 de enero de 2009

GANDHI, MOHANDAS

GANDHI, MOHANDAS (1869–1948), political leader, social reformer, and religious visionary of modern India. Although Gandhi initially achieved public notice as a leader of India’s nationalist movement and as a champion of nonviolent techniques for resolving conflicts, he was also a religious innovator who did much to encourage the growth of a reformed, liberal Hinduism in India. In the West, Gandhi is venerated by many who seek an intercultural and socially conscious religión and see him as the representative of a universal faith.
RELIGIOUS INFLUENCES ON GANDHI. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born into a bania (merchant caste) family in a religiously pluralistic area of western India—the Kathiawar Peninsula in the state of Gujarat. His parents were Vaisnava Hindus who followed the Vallabhācārya tradition of loving devotion to Lord Krnsa.
His father, Karamchand Uttamchand, the chief administrative officer of a princely state, was not a very religious man, but his mother, Putalibai, became a follower of the region’s popular Pranami cult. This group was founded in the eighteenth century by Mehraj Thakore, known as prananath (“master of the life force”), and was influenced by Islam. Prananath rejected all images of God and, like the famous fifteenth-century Hindu saint Narsinh Mehta, who came from the same region, advocated a direct link with the divine, unmediated by priests and ritual.
This Protestant form of Hinduism seems to have been accepted by Gandhi as normative throughout his life.
Other enduring religious influences from Gandhi’s childhood came from the Jains and Muslims who frequented the family household. Gandhi’s closest childhood friend, Mehtab, was a Muslim, and his spiritual mentor, Raychandbhai, was a Jain. Early contacts with Christian street evangelists in his home town of Porbandar, however, left Gandhi unimpressed.
When Gandhi went to London to study law at the age of nineteen he encountered forms of Christianity of quite a different sort. Respecting vows made to his mother, Gandhi sought meatless fare at a vegetarian restaurant, where his fellow diners were a motly mix of Theosophists, Fabian Socialists, and Christian visionaries who were followers of Tolstoi.
These esoteric and socialist forms of Western spirtuality made a deep impression on Gandhi and encouraged him to look for parallels in the Hindu tradition.
When, in 1893, Gandhi settled in South Africa as a lawyer (initially serving in a Muslim firm), he was impressed by a Trappist monastery he visited near Durban. He soon set up a series of ashrams (religious retreat centers) supported by Hermann Kallenbach, a South African architect of Jewish background, whom Gandhi had met through Theosophical circles. Gandhi named one of his communities Tolstoi Farm in honor of the Christian utopian with whom he had developed a lively correspondence. While in South Africa Gandhi first met C. F. Andrews, the Anglican missionary to India who had become an emissary of Indian nationalist leaders and who eventually became Gandhi’s lifelong friend and confidant. It was through Andrews that Gandhi met the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1915, after Gandhi had returned to India to join the growing nationalist movement. Tagore, following the practice of Theosophists in South Africa, designated Gandhi a mahatma, or “great soul.”
GANDHI’S RELIGIOUS THOUGHT. Although the influences on Gandhi’s religious thought are varied—from the Sermon on the Mount to the Bhagavad Gita his ideas are surprisingly consistent. Gandhi considered them to be Hindu, and in fact, they are all firmly rooted in the Indian religious tradition.
His main ideas include the following.
1. Satya (“truth”).
2. Ahimsa (“nonviolence”).
3. Tapasya (“renunciation”).
4. Swaraj (“self-rule”).

In addition to these concepts, Gandhi affirmed the traditional Hindu notions of karman and dharma. Even though Gandhi never systematized these ideas, when taken together they form a coherent theological position. Gandhi’s copious writings are almost entirely in the form of letters and short essays in the newspapers and journals he published. These writings and the accounts of Gandhi’s life show that he had very Little interest in what is sometimes regarded as emblematic of Hinduism: its colorful anthropomorphic deities and its reliance upon the rituals performed by Brahmanic priests.
It is not his rejection of these elements of Hindu cultura that makes Gandhi innovative, however, for they are also omitted by the leaders of many other sects and movements in modern India. What is distinctive about Gandhi’s Hinduism is his emphasis on social ethics as an integral part of the faith, a shift of emphasis that carries with it many conceptual changes as well. Gandhi’s innovations include the use of the concept of truth as a basis for moral and political action, the equation of nonviolence with the Christian notion of selfless love, the broadening of the concept of karmayoga to include social service and political action, the redefinition of untouchability and the elevation of untouchables’ tasks, and the hope for a more perfect world even in this present age of darkness (kaliyuga).
Gandhi’s religious practices, like his ideas, combined both social and spiritual elements. In addition to his daily prayers, consisting of a simple service of readings and silent contemplation, he regarded his daily practice of spinning cotton as a form of mediation and his campaigns for social reform as sacrifices more efficacious than those made by priests at the altar. After Gandhi retired from politics in 1933, he took as his central theme the campaign for the uplift of untouchables, whom he called harijans (“people of God”). Other concerns included the protection of cows, moral education, and the reconciliation of Hindus and Muslims.
The latter was especially important to Gandhi during the turmoil precipitated by India’s independence, when the subcontinent was divided along religious lines. It was opposition to Gandhi’s cries for religious tolerance that led to his assassination, on January 30, 1948, by a fanatical member of the Hindu right wing.

See also: Darwin, Charles Robert

26 de enero de 2009

Darwin, Charles Robert

Darwin, Charles Robert
(1809–1882)
Charles Robert Darwin, the British biologist whose theory of organic evolution revolutionized science, philosophy, and theology, was born at Shrewsbury. He atended the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge but was not attracted by his medical studies at the first or by his theological studies at the second. Near the end of his undergraduate days he formed a friendship with J. T. Henslow, professor of botany at Cambridge, “a man who knew every branch of science” (Autobiography of Charles Darwin).
This association, together with an enthusiasm for collecting beetles and a reading of works by Wilhelm von Humboldt and John Herschel, generated in him “a burning zeal to contribute to the noble structure of Natural Science.” The opportunity to do so on a large scale arose when Henslow secured for him the post of naturalist “without pay” aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, then about to begin a long voyage in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus, between 1831 and 1836 Darwin was able to make extensive observations of the flora, fauna, and geological formations at widely separated points on the globe. This experience determined the course of his life thereafter and laid the foundation for many of his fundamental ideas. On his return he lived in London for six years, where he became acquainted with leading scientists of the day. Sir Charles Lyell, Sir Joseph Hooker, and T. H. Huxley were among his most intimate friends. In 1842 he took up residence at Down, a secluded village in Kent.
Here, during the forty years until his death, he conducted the researches and wrote the works that made him famous. He was buried in Westminster Abbey close to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.
Darwin’s productivity, despite recurrent bouts of illness, was prodigious. His publications ranged over such diverse subjects as volcanic islands, coral reefs, barnacles, plant movement, the fertilization of orchids, the action of earthworms on the soil, the variation of domesticated animals and plants, and the theory of evolution. Even if he had never written The Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), he would still be regarded as one of the great biologists of the nineteenth century. Of course, it was these two books that made him the initiator of a revolution in thought more far-reaching than that ushered in by Nicolas Copernicus. He established beyond reasonable doubt that all living things, including man, have developed from a few extremely simple forms, perhaps
from one form, by a gradual process of descent with modification. Furthermore, he formulated a theory (natural selection), supporting it with a large body of evidence, to account for this process and particularly to explain the “transmutation of Species” and the origin of adaptations. As a result, the biological sciences were given a set of unifying principles, and man was given a new and challenging conception of his place in nature.
It was characteristic of Darwin that he came to these conclusions by his own observations and reflections.
When he embarked on the Beagle, his outlook was “quite orthodox.” He accepted without question the fixity of species and their special creation as depicted in Genesis.
Doubts began to arise in his mind during the ship’s visit to the Galápagos Archipelago in 1835, when he noticed that very small differences were present in the so-called species inhabiting separate islands. The doubts were reinforced by his observation of fossils on the Pampas and the distribution of organisms on the South American continent as a whole. He was “haunted” by the idea that such facts “could be explained on the supposition that species gradually became modified.” In July 1837 he “opened his first notebook” to record additional facts bearing on the question, but it was not until he happened to read Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on Population in October 1838 that he found an explanatory theory from which the above “supposition” followed. He then proceeded to formúlate the principle of natural selection, which is simply “the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms.”Darwin never professed to have invented the idea of organic evolution, of the mutability of species, or even of natural selection.
What he did profess was to have produced the first scientific proof that these ideas apply to the living world.
Unlike some lesser men of science, Darwin was not inclined to rush into print in order to establish a proprietary right to his theory. His modesty and single-minded desire to find out the truth forbade any such action.
Accordingly, the theory underwent several preliminary formulations. It was first set down in a short abstract in 1842 and two years later was expanded into an essay that both Lyell and Hooker read. Early in 1856 Lyell advised Darwin to write a full-length account of his views. It was when this manuscript, which would have been “three or four times as extensive” as The Origin of Species, was about half finished that Alfred Russel Wallace’s paper, which contained virtually the same ideas that Darwin was working out, arrived at Down from the Malay Archipelago.
The resulting crisis was resolved by having a joint communication from the two men read at a meeting of the Linnaean Society on July 1, 1858. Between September of that year and November 1859, Darwin “abstracted” the large manuscript and produced his classic. The Origin of Species appeared on November 24 in an edition of 1,250 copies, all of which were sold on the first day. Ultimately, six editions containing many revisions were published.
Despite the interest that The Origin of Species excited, it was by no means universally approved at first. In the scientific world support for it came from Darwin’s friends, but others expressed opposition that often took the form of objections to the modes of explanation and proof employed in the work. Darwin’s use of historical or genetic explanations, his implicit adoption of statistical conceptions (“population thinking,” as it is now called), and his practice of introducing conjectures or “imaginary illustrations” to buttress his argument were repugnant to biologists who held that scientific explanation must consist in bringing directly observed phenomena under general laws. Believers in this oversimplified model also disliked his notion of “chance” variations and his repudiation of “any law of necessary development.” Before long, however, the cumulative force of Darwin’s arguments, augmented by the case put forward in The Descent of Man, convinced the great majority of biologists, so that opposition from this quarter had disappeared by 1880.
The popular reaction to Darwin’s theory focused on its religious and ideological implications. These were recognized to be hostile to the Establishment. Hence, Darwin found himself enthusiastically supported by radicals, rationalists, and anticlericals and vehemently attacked by reactionaries, fundamentalists, and priests. He shrank from entering into this controversy, which was altogether distasteful to him, but T. H.Huxley, who enjoyed crossing swords with theologians, took a different stand. Appointing himself “Darwin’s bulldog,” he relentlessly pursued such antievolutionists as Bishop Wilberforce and W. E.
Gladstone.His efforts had a good deal to do with creating the image of Darwin as an enemy of the Bible, the church, and Christianity.
This image was, in fact, fairly close to the truth. Darwin’s religious beliefs, as he relates in his Autobiography, underwent a change from naive acceptance of Christian doctrines to reluctant agnosticism. In the two years following his return from the voyage of the Beagle he was “led to think much about religion.” Doubts were engendered in his mind about the historical veracity of the Gospels, the occurrence of miracles, and the dogma of everlasting damnation of unbelievers (which he calls “a damnable doctrine”). By reflection on such matters he “gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity” and wondered how anybody could wish it to be true.
A similar erosion occurred in connection with his belief in the existence of a personal God.When he wrote The Origin of Species, Darwin accepted a vague theism or deism. In the last chapter he speaks of laws having been “impressed on matter by the Creator” and of life’s powers “having been breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.”He was thus able at the time to deny that it was his intention “to write atheistically.”Yet it was also clear to him that the theory of natural selection exploded the old argument for theism based on the presence of design in the organic world. The vast amount of suffering and misery that exists seemed to him a strong argument against any belief in a beneficent First Cause. He had moods in which it seemed difficult or impossible to conceive that “this immense and wonderful universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance.” In the end, however, he concluded “that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect.… The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”
Darwin’s reflections on religion, although not systematic, provide a good example of his intelectual integrity. “I have steadily endeavored,” he wrote in his Autobiography, “to keep my mind free, so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject), as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it.” That statement might well serve as his epitaph.

See also: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN 2

23 de enero de 2009

Julian and Gregorian Calendars

The Julian calendar, also called the Old Style calendar, is a dating system established by Julius Caesar as a reform of the Roman republican calendar. Caesar, advised by the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, made the new calendar solar, not lunar, and he took the length of the solar year as 365¼ days. The year was divided into 12 months, all of which had either 30 or 31 days except February, which contained 28 days in common (365-day) years and 29 in every fourth year (a leap year, of 366 days). Because of misunderstandings, the calendar was not established in smooth operation until AD 8. Further, Sosigenes had overestimated the length of the year by 11 minutes 14 seconds, and by the mid-1500s, the cumulative effect of this error had shifted the dates of the seasons by about 10 days from Caesar’s time.
This inaccuracy led Pope Gregory XIII to reform the Julian calendar. His Gregorian calendar, also called the New Style calendar, is still in general use. Gregory’s proclamation in 1582 restored the calendar to the seasonal dates of AD 325, an adjustment of 10 days. Although the amount of regression was some
14 days by Pope Gregory’s time, Gregory based his reform on restoration of the vernal equinox, then falling on 11 March, to the date (21 March) it had in AD 325, the time of the Council of Nicaea. Advancing the calendar 10 days after 4 Oct 1582, the day following being reckoned as 15 October, effected the change.
The Gregorian calendar differs from the Julian only in that no century year is a leap year unless it is exactly divisible by 400 (e.g., 1600, 2000). A further refinement, the designation of years evenly divisible by 4,000 as common (not leap) years, will keep the Gregorian calendar accurate to within one day in 20,000 years.
See also: Poverty 1534

22 de enero de 2009

Poverty 1534

Chronology of Poverty until 1534:
10th century B.C.E.: The first use of the word poverty surfaces in the biblical world, referring to landowners who forced peasants to sell land.
495–429 B.C.E.: Under the rule of Pericles, Athens undertakes large-scale public works projects as a means of providing employment for the poor.
550 C.E.: Pope Gregory I of the Roman Catholic Church establishes the world’s first orphanage in the city of Milan, Italy.
1349: King Edward III of England issues the Statute of Labourers, giving greater power to feudal lords and prohibiting begging and giving, except for senior citizens
and the physically disabled. Edward made a distinction between the “worthy poor,” which included widows, dependent children, and the disabled, and the “unworthy poor,” which included able-bodied adults.
1351: Pedro the Cruel of Castile orders all able-bodied, unemployed men in his kingdom to be flogged.
1381: Wat Tyler leads a peasant revolt against King Richard II of England. Following the invasion of the city of Canterbury, where Tyler’s mob murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury, England’s leading religious figure, King Richard was forced to abolish feudal serfdom. The decision was later reversed.
1500–1600: The population of Europe nearly doublés in size, from 30 million to 60 million people.
1526: Juan Luis Vives publishes De Subventione Pauperum, in which he provides a theoretical justification for state-run poverty relief.
1529: The city-state of Venice (Italy) enacts a law requiring impoverished people to perform community service in order to receive a license for relief.
1531: England passes a law requiring local officials to interview people to determine whether they are suitable applicants for poverty relief. Emperor Charles V bans begging in the territories of Spain, Austria, Mexico, and Peru.
1534: The French city of Lyons creates a comprehensive system of relief for the worthy poor and banning begging by those deemed unworthy.

See also: pobreza

18 de enero de 2009

30.000-13.000 aC prehistoria

30.000 aC, prehistoria : Los arcos y flechas aparecen representados en las pinturas rupestres[i] a partir de este año; obviamente por ser de madera no aparecen ejemplos reales.
Derivación necesaria de las pinturas rupestres es la creación de las primeras brochas, la más simple de las cuales hubo de haber sido una ramita mascada en un extremo para separar las fibras o tal vez atados de plumas o cerdas de animal.
También en esas pinturas rupestres vemos que usaban ya las cuerdas (ejemplos reales de las mismas son muy difíciles de hallar porque se podrían pronto); pero en Lascaux hay evidencia además en una impresión en arcilla.
28.000 aC : Esta fecha puede ser un promedio; ya que sabemos que las primeras viviendas se construyeron alrededor del año 30.000 aC (BCE). En Dolnl Vestonice, República Checa, arqueólogos hallaron restos de casas construidas en piedra, madera y huesos de mamut que datan del año 25.000 aC .
27.000 aC : En lo que actualmente llamamos Alemania, un escultor anónimo esculpe a la Venus de Willendorf, una de las primeras esculturas de un ser humano. Tiene formas femeninas exageradas y está pintada de rojo.
23.000 aC : El hielo azota con más fuerza a la tierra a medida que la era glacial se acerca a su época de apogeo. Mientras más agua queda atrapada en los glaciares, el nivel del mar continúa disminuyendo. En esta remota época estaba 90 metros bajo el nivel actual.
19.000 aC : De nuevo esta fecha es promedio. El primer bumerán del que hay razón se halla en una cueva al sur de Polonia y data del 21.000 aC (BCE) aproximadamente. Originalmente era solo una vara pesada que se lanzaba contra un animal para lastimarlo y facilitar su captura.
18.000 aC : Los habitantes de Australia cubren las rocas con miles de elaborados diseños grabados. Crean también imágenes de colores.
13.000 aC. La alfarería fue una realidad como consecuencia del dominio del fuego. La alfarería más antigua encontrada data el 15.000 aC (BCE) en Japón.

Leer también: 50.000- 35.000 aC
[i] En 1878 fueron descubiertas las cuevas de Altamira por parte de una niña, María de Sautuola. Desde entonces se han descubierto pinturas incluso más antiguas en Chauvet, Francia.

16 de enero de 2009

ADVENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH

The Advent Christian Church is an evangelical denomination that arose in the United States during the mid-1800s. The church was formally established as the Advent Christian Association in 1860 by a group of former Millerites—followers of WILLIAM MILLER who had predicted Christ’s literal return for October 22, 1844. Advent Christians were distinguished from most other adventist groups by their belief in conditional immortality, and from the conditionalist SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS by the Advent Christian’s Sunday observance and the decision not to recognize the prophetic ministry of ELLEN GOULD WHITE. Conditional immortality, the view that immortality is granted to the righteous only through the grace of God at the resurrection, is a belief the Advent Christian Church still holds and was originally advocated by George Storrs.
Two related doctrines are that of “soul sleep,” the view that death is a state of unconsciousness lasting until the resurrection; and annihilationalism, the belief that the unrighteous are annihilated permanently rather than suffering eternally in hell.
The Advent Christian Church is congregational in nature, with regional conferences and institutions coordinated, although not controlled, by the Advent Christian General Conference of America. Missionary activity was begun in 1891 and remains an important focus, with the Advent Christian Church active in more than 30 countries. According to 2003 figures, the world membership of the Advent Christian Church is 61,000 with 26,000 members in the United States, 17,000 in India, and 5,000 in Nigeria. In 1964 the Life and Advent Union, another denomination with Millerite roots, merged with the Advent Christian Church.

See also: CHRISTIAN POETRY

14 de enero de 2009

Al-Qaeda


Al-Qaeda (pronounced al KYE-dah; Arabic for “the base”) is a worldwide terrorist network of organizations and individuals dedicated to jihad (“struggle” or “holy war”) for the cause of Islam. Its goal is to rid Muslim countries of what it perceives is the corrupting influence of Western culture and to install fundamentalist Islamic regimes—governments that rule according to a literal interpretation of the Muslim sacred texts (the Koran and the Hadith) and enforce sharia (Islamic law). Al- Qaeda is only one of a number of closely linked Islamic terrorist and insurgency groups. The size of al-Qaeda is not known, but estimates run between several hundred to several thousand members. Some scholars believe, however, al-Qaeda is actually a small group that has received undue publicity for acts that have originated with other, connected terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda became notorious in the United States for its actions in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when members of the group hijacked four U.S. airplanes. Two of the aircraft destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City; a third crashed into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.; and the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Roots of al-Qaeda.
In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Muslim leaders around the world called for a jihad, fearing the Soviets would establish a secular (nonreligious) government in the Muslim country. Thousands of Muslim men, primarily of Arab origin, volunteered to assist the Afghan resistance fighters against Soviet troops. With assistance from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, the Afghans and foreign fighters— or mujahideen (holy warriors), as they came to be known—defeated the Soviet Union in February 1989. The victory was celebrated as a triumph for God by the “Afghan Arabs,” Muslims who had traveled to Afghanistan from Arab countries and joined the war in the name of Islam.
Osama bin Laden (1957–) was among the thousands of mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan. From a wealthy and prominent Saudi Arabian family, bin Laden brought financial support to the cause. After the war with the Soviet Union, bin Laden and his associates started to recruit soldiers and develop training camps. Bin Laden believed that defeating the Soviet Union was only the first step in a worldwide jihad campaign to support Muslims and promote Islamic governments. In Afghanistan, bin Laden’s early supporters included members of the radical Egyptian group al- Jihad al-Islami, which was involved in the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat (1918–1981) of Egypt in 1981. Bin Laden soon joined forces with the prominent al-Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (1951–), who favored terrorism and violence as the means by which to wage this international jihad.
Many “Afghan Arabs” returned home after the defeat of the Soviet Union ready to spark jihad in their own societies. Bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia for a short period, but he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 because of his extremist views. He set up his organization briefly in Sudan, but soon international pressure forced Sudan to crack down on him. Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan in 1996, where he was sheltered by the Taliban, the tyrannical ruling Islamist group.
In Afghanistan, bin Laden set up new training camps for militant recruits from all over the world, and his organization came to be known as al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was one of several primary leaders, including al- Zawahiri. Al-Qaeda represents itself as an Islamic group based on religious ideas, but its versions of the fundamental teachings of the Koran (the Muslim holy book) often differ greatly from mainstream interpretations.
For example, bin Laden reinterpreted the concept of fatwa, a formal legal opinion. In Islam, believers are encouraged to seek answers to questions they have about Islam by submitting them to an Islamic cleric, or teacher. The teacher issues a fatwa in response to the question, clarifying the issue based on the writings of the Koran. Bin Laden issued his own “fatwas,” which were neither responses to questions nor issued by Islamic clerics.
Declaration of jihad against the United States.
During the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War (1991) against Iraq, the United States established military bases in Saudi Arabia. In bin Laden’s view, this was an occupation of the holy land of Islam in Arabia, where the holy Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina are located. On August 23, 1996, bin Laden issued his first fatwa identifying the United States as an enemy and urging Muslims to kill American military personnel abroad. In 1998, he issued a second fatwa, this time in the name of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders, urging all good Muslims to kill not only U.S. military personnel but also U.S. civilians.
Operations.
Al-Qaeda’s structure is based on secrecy. It is a worldwide network of organizations and cells (small groups of three to five people, who are secretly part of the organization but live undercover in society). Terrorist attacks are often planned, organized, and carried out by small groups called “sleeper cells,” which remain dormant, or inactive, in foreign countries for long periods of time. Some of the September 11 hijackers, for example, lived in the United States for several years, using the time to plan the attack and learn the skills they needed (in this case, piloting commercial aircraft). To ensure secrecy, most members of terrorist cells do not know the identity of or the nature of the tasks carried out by other members of the organization or even their leaders. By maintaining secrecy in this way, al-Qaeda has been able to evade most counterterrorism efforts.
Al-Qaeda has a sophisticated structure. A primary factor has been bin Laden’s access to money. He inherited about $250 to $300 million from his father. With a college education in business, bin Laden was able to set up a complex financial network. To collect money under the guise of religious purposes, he created a number of Muslim charities around the world, including in the United States. Although stationed in remote areas, al-Qaeda employed satellite communications (the use of artificial satellites stationed in space for communications using radio technology at microwave frequencies) for access to the Internet, television, radio, and other international media. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri used the international media to voice their beliefs and goals and, most importantly, to gain worldwide attention. Some experts believe that they placed hidden messages in their media statements to communicate to al-Qaeda cells awaiting instructions.
History.
The U.S. government began to identify bin Laden publicly as an international terrorist in the mid-1990s, when evidence connected him to attacks
on U.S. military personnel and assets in Somalia (1992) and Saudi Arabia (1995–96). In addition, bin Laden was tied to several unsuccessful terrorist plots, including plans to assassinate Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) in 1994 and U.S. president Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001) in 1995.
On August 20, 1998, in the wake of the al-Qaeda–led bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured thousands, President Clinton added al-Qaeda to the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. On June 7, 1999, bin Laden was added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Ten Most Wanted list, with a $5 million reward offered for his capture. The U.S. government displayed his picture on wanted posters, matchbooks, and leaflets distributed worldwide in nearly a dozen languages. Unfortunately, this led many to believe that bin Laden was single-handedly taking on the most powerful country in the world, turning him into a popular hero in some places. In response to the embassy bombings in Africa, President Clinton ordered air strikes against a bin Laden camp in Khost, Afghanistan, as well as what was believed to be an al-Qaeda chemical weapons facility in Sudan.
Bin Laden evaded capture and continued his campaign of terror. Nineteen U.S. servicemen and women were killed when the USS Cole, a navy destroyer ship, was bombed in Yemen in October 2000. The bombing was eventually connected to al-Qaeda and is now seen as a forerunner
of what was to come on September 11, 2001. On that day nineteen al-Qaeda members hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania. It was the worst single terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the country’s history, killing nearly three thousand people.
Al-Qaeda links have been cited for most of the large terrorist acts worldwide since then, but other powerful and deadly terrorist organizations may be responsible for some of the violent deeds.
On the run?
After the attacks on September 11, a U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan forced al-Qaeda into hiding in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda’s operations were
damaged, but the organization remained powerful. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and deposed its dictator, Saddam Hussein (1937–2006). (See Iraq Invasion.) Iraq quickly grew unstable, partly due to differences between the two major Muslim groups, the Shiites and the Sunnis. As the Iraqi conflict grew, al-Qaeda operators apparently moved into the country and recruited Iraqi rebels into the organization, attempting to further destabilize Iraq by igniting sectarian conflict. A new terrorist group arose called al-Qaeda-in-Iraq.
In mid-2007 the location of al-Qaeda leaders bin Laden and al- Zawahiri remained unknown. Individual cells remained secret, and many financial assets were in the hands of al-Qaeda members. Political and social conditions around the world continued to produce anger and resentment against the West, resulting in a constant supply of new recruits for al-Qaeda and connected terrorist groups.
See also: Hamas, MOSSAD, AYYASH, YAHYA

13 de enero de 2009

AYYASH, YAHYA

AYYASH, YAHYA (1966–1996)
aka the Engineer .
Palestinian Yahya Ayyash, a notorious Hamas commander, is said to have been as greatly loved by Palestinians as he was hated by Israelis. Ayyash achieved a near-mythical status as a man who always escaped detection by Israel’s intelligence service. He is said to have masterminded multiple suicide attacks in Israel that killed nearly 70 civilians and injured more than 300. Ayyash was assassinated on January 5, 1996, by a booby-trapped cellular phone allegedly planted by Shin Bet, Israel’s security service. Nearly 100,000 people, about 11 percent of Gaza’s population, marched at Ayyash’s funeral. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat gave him a 21-gun salute.
The son of a farmer, Ayyash was born in Rafat, a village in the West Bank highlands. He studied electrical engineering and chemistry at the Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, Saudi Arabia. In the first large attack allegedly planned by Ayyash, in 1994 a Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up near a bus in Afula, Israel, killing eight people. Five more attacks followed, but Ayyash continued to escape detection for more than three years. Linked to 11 suicide bombings, he became known as “the Engineer” for his skill in building bombs and planning attacks. Press accounts before his assassination reported that he earned the name “the man with seven souls” in the Palestinian territories after escaping death many times. He is even said to have posed as a Jewish settler in Israeli territory while escaping from Nablus in the West Bank to Gaza.
In late December 1995, Hamas promised Arafat and the Palestinian Authority that it would cease military operations. At that time, Ayyash was staying in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip with Osama Hamad, an old friend and college roommate. Press accounts of Ayyash’s murder indicate that Hamad worked for his uncle Kamal Hamad, a contractor and suspected Shin Bet informer with close ties to the former Israeli military government. Kamal Hamad had lent his nephew a mobile phone months before the attack, saying that he wanted to be able to reach him easily.
On January 4, 1996, Kamal Hamad asked for the phone, when he returned it, he asked his nephew to leave the phone turned on at all times. The next morning around 9:00, Ayyash’s father called his son—first on the house’s standard phone line and then, as the call would not go through, on the cell phone. Osama Hamad answered the cell phone and passed it to Ayyash. Hamad later said he walked away to give his friend more privacy; he heard an explosion and looked back to see smoke. The blast had decapitated Ayyash.
Following Ayyash’s assassination, rumors circulated that he had, in fact, escaped. A loyal follower, the rumors suggested, had answered the cell phone in his place and died for his leader.
In the two months following Ayyash’s death, suicide bombings instigated by Hamas in retaliation for his murder killed more than 40 people. The bombers targeted buses and bus stops in Jerusalem and Ashkelon.
The international press widely reported that Kamal Hamad, who fled Gaza after the bombing, believed that the phone he gave to his nephew was rigged with a listening device, not explosives. Kamal Hamad subsequently sued Shin Bet for financial losses and the threat to his own life for playing a role in the murder.
Further Reading
Brown, Derek. “A War of the Shadows; Obituary: Yahya Ayyash.” The Guardian (London), January 8, 1996, 11.
Cockburn, Patrick. “How the Phone Bomb Was Set Up.” The Independent (London), January 9, 1996, 10.
Greenberg, Joel. “Slaying Blended Technology and Guile.” New York Times, January 10, 1996, A3.
Roy, Sara. “The Reason for Rage in Gaza.” Christian Science Monitor, January 12, 1996, 20. [1]

See also: MOSSAD
[1] Kushner Harvey W. Hamas. In encyclopedia Of Terrorism. Sage Publications, Inc. London, 2003.

10 de enero de 2009

Guerra biológica, siglo XV

La historia de la guerra biológica[1] en la antigüedad, hasta el siglo XV, se escribió con muchos muertos.
Sabemos que los hititas, entre el 1500 y 1200 AC, expulsaban a las víctimas de la peste a los campos enemigos.
De los asirios se decía que conocían un hongo de centeno, el ergot (Claviceps purpurea) cuyos efectos serían semejantes al LSD; de lo que no hay pruebas concluyentes es que lo hayan empleado para envenenar las fuentes de agua de sus rivales.
Según Homero, en su tiempo se envenenaban las puntas de las flechas cuando sucedió la guerra de Troya.
Llegado el 590 AC, sabemos que Grecia conocía una variedad de plantas para envenenar las fuentes enemigas, la helleborus.
Durante el siglo IV AC los escitas lanzaban flechas envenenadas a las que untaban de heces de tal forma que las heridas causadas se infectaran.
En el 184 AC Aníbal hacía lanzar ollas llenas de víboras en las cubiertas de los barcos enemigos, etc.
Durante la edad media las víctimas de peste bubónica eran catapultados a territorio rival como armas biológicas.
Destacamos durante el siglo XV a Vlad Dracul (1431-1476), más conocido como El empalador y el personaje histórico de referencia para la creación del Drácula de Bram Stocker[2]. Estando en guerra contra los turcos, Vlad Dracul ideó un plan sencillo pero efectivo en su lucha: ordenó reunir a todos los tuberculosos, sifilíticos y demás enfermos contagiosos que habitaban su reino, proporcionándoles vestimentas turcas e infiltrándolos en las líneas enemigas. Eran ellos unas verdaderas bombas biológicas. Por si acaso fueron motivados fehacientemente: por cada turco que muriese, recibirían una recompensa. ¿Cómo lo demostrarían? Debían regresar a presencia de Vlad Dracul con el turbante del turco fallecido. He ahí pues, a mi juicio, la primera guerra biológica.
[1] Biological warfare (BW), en inglés. Es el uso de agentes patógenos, bacterias y virus, como armas biológicas.
[2] Vlad Tepes (Vlad III) había nacido en Transilvania y fue conocido por la defensa de su país y por sus extremos de crueldad. Se le decía el empalador porque uno de los sistemas preferidos de tortura elegidos por él para sus contrincantes era insertarles por el ano o la vagina un palo largo sin punta y colgarlos para que agonizaran y fallecieran entre dolores impensables.

3 de enero de 2009

Artes liberales

“El sistema educativo de la Antigüedad tardía griega y romana y de la Edad Media, propio de los «hombres libres» (puesto que eran las ejercitadas por la razón) en oposición a las artes serviles, o manuales, propias de los siervos (ejercitadas con el cuerpo). Agustín de Hipona las denominó artes saeculares, enumerando entre ellas la gramática, la retórica, la dialéctica, la aritmética, la geometría y la astronomía. Esta denominación partía de la acepción del término arte entendido como conjunto de reglas idóneas para dirigir una determinada actividad, es decir, como sinónimo de una de las acepciones del término técnica, no en el sentido contemporáneo de actividad orientada a la belleza. El primero en fijarlas en número de siete (septem artes liberales) es, no obstante, Marciano Capella, en el s. V. Esta división sirvió para establecer los estudios durante la Edad Media. Así, a partir de la reforma de las enseñanzas efectuada en el siglo XI por Alcuino, las tres primeras artes liberales ,gramática, retórica y dialéctica, formaban el trivium, artes del decir, y las cuatro restantes geometría, aritmética, astronomía, música, formaban el quadrivium, artes de lo dicho .
En el transcurso de la Edad Media se dio importancia ora a uno de los grupos ora al otro, según los períodos y sus enfoques doctrinales. Escoto Eriúgena, por ejemplo, da mayor importancia al quadrivium, mientras que los dialécticos del s. XII favorecen el estudio del trivium. La entrada de todas las obras lógicas de Aristóteles impulsa el trivium, mientras que los estudios árabes de carácter positivo favorecen el desarrollo del quadrivium, al que pronto se unen los diversos conocimientos sobre medicina, óptica, mecánica y de tipo técnico. Con la llegada de las universidades, la enseñanza de las artes liberales se efectúa en las «facultades de artes», que existen junto a las de teología, derecho y medicina. Una de estas facultades, la de las artes de París, recibió con entusiasmo las obras físicas y metafísicas de Aristóteles, dando lugar al averroísmo latino.
Con el tiempo, las artes quedaron subsumidas en el mismo estudio de la filosofía. En la obra De divisione philosophiae, de Domingo Gundisalvo, las artes del trivium figuran en la propedéutica a la filosofía, como distintas de la lógica, y las del quadrivium en la correspondiente a la filosofía teórica, como física y matemáticas. A partir del Renacimiento, la noción de arte liberal va ligada, por una parte, a un nuevo sentido de las artes consideradas como forjadoras de belleza y, por otra parte, como pertenecientes a profesiones liberales, no sometidas a la disciplina de las corporaciones de los artesanos. En este sentido, se consideraban la pintura, la escultura y, en general, lo que actualmente se conoce como bellas artes.”[1]
[1] Tomado de Artes Liberales, en Diccionario de filosofía en CD-ROM. Copyright © 1996. Empresa Editorial Herder S.A., Barcelona. ISBN 84-254-1991-3. Autores: Jordi Cortés Morató y Antoni Martínez Riu.