Letters of a soldier

AdamsonSoldierLetter_1170-770x460-744x420Roman solider Aurelius Polion, an Egyptian serving in a Roman legion in Europe 1800 years ago was desperate after sending six letters that have gone unanswered.

I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind. But I do my part writing to you always and do not cease bearing you (in mind) and having you in my heart. But you never wrote to me concerning your health, how you are doing. I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you.

What did World War I soldiers write in their letters home? Almost the same.

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Out of rum. Why? Why are we out of rum?

rhum-vieux-martinique-brand-rum-labelEm Junho, a Caricom decidiu dar início a um processo jurídico com o objectivo de obter compensações devido à escravatura. Foi formada uma Comissão para as Indemnizações das Caraíbas, presidida pelo historiador Hilary Beckles, e que integra académicos, economistas e advogados. E o caso foi entregue à firma de advogados Leigh Day & Co, que em 2013 ganhou o processo que levou o Reino Unido a pagar 30,5 milhões de dólares às famílias das vítimas e sobreviventes da guerrilha queniana Mau Mau.

De acordo com o documento , por unanimidade, a escravatura é considerada a raiz dos problemas socio-económicos da região. Dessa forma, os 15 países exigem ser recompensados, consideram que os antigos colonizadores devem investir na região através da construção de infraestruturas de desenvolvimento (escolas, centros de saúde, hospitais e estradas) e defendem o não pagamento de dívidas aos antigos colonizadores.

 Os países visados são o Reino Unido, a Holanda, a Espanha, a França e Portugal.

Holodomor

Care-For-A-Real-Life-Bear

The ‘Great Famine’ – known as the ‘Holodomor’ (Hunger) in the Ukraine – was based on the fear Stalin had that the peasants simply could not be trusted to support his government in Moscow and uphold the revolutionary ideals of the Bolsheviks, between 1932 and 1933 may have resulted in the deaths of nine million people. The famine affected the Ukrainian SSR as well as the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (a part of the Ukrainian SSR at the time).

Russia’s gas giant Gazprom has announced it would cancel a price discount for gas supplies to Ukraine. The move follows the overthrow of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych with whom Gazprom agreed the deal.

As Moldova prepares to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, Russia is stepping up attempts to keep the country in its fold. It has found some willing helpers in the country.

Welcome back, brothers

129It is believed that the first Jews settled in the Iberian Peninsula at the time of Nabucodonosor, King of the Chaleans (6th century) or even before, at the time of Solomon who reigned in Israel from 974B.C. to 937B.C. (…) Sephardic Jews in Spain were able to prosper and live in relative peace under both Muslim and Christian rule until Catholics Kings Ferdinand and Isabel issued the Alhambra Decree in 1492. This resulted in forced conversions to Catholicism, killings and expulsion of all Sephardic Jews in Spain. Later, in 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal decreed that all Jews had to convert to Christianity or leave the country, hard times followed for the Portuguese Jews, with deportation, exile, persecution and death.

A few days ago I’ve mentioned “the descendants of Sephardic Jews banished from Spain in 1492 will now be able to regain Spanish nationality“. Also following a recent amendment to Portugal’s “Law on Nationality”, descendants of Jews who were expelled in 1497 can become citizens if they “belong to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin with ties to Portugal.” Now descendents of Moriscos, Muslims expelled in the 17th century, want Spain to do the right thing by them as well. After the last Muslim ruler of the Emirate of Granada surrendered to Ferdinand II and Isabella I, the Catholic Kings it was promptly published an edict mandating conversion to Catholicism or would be facing deportation. Hundreds of those families found a home in the Moroccan cities, where they still preserve their Spanish surnames.

If any Neanderthal expelled from these lands by some Homo Sapiens is out there, just say something! As we say in Portugal ,”Ou comem todos ou há moralidade”, “or everyone eats or there’s a morality” literally. :D

A war of books

books-not-warThe British Foreign Office and the University of Oxford have received a formal request to return a collection of books, which was looted by Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex when his troops sacked the city of Faro in 1596. The authorities in Britain are being tight-lipped at the outset of what could become a prolonged historical wrangle involving the world’s two oldest allies.

The seizure took place while Portugal was under Spanish rule during the 16th century Anglo-Spanish War. A combined British-Dutch fleet under the Lord High Admiral Charles Howard was returning to England after destroying Cádiz when a flotilla pulled into Faro. Troops led by Essex found the city virtually deserted. He occupied the bishop’s palace for a couple of nights and then loaded up the book collection, comprising at least 91 volumes, before leaving the city ablaze. Essex presented the collection to his friend Sir Thomas Bodley and it became part of the library Bodley founded in 1602. The Bodleian is still one of the most acclaimed libraries in the world.

The ownership of the pillaged books is clear because nearly all are uniformly bound and have on their covers the armorial stamp of Ferdinand Mascarenhas, appointed the 5th Bishop of Faro two years before the raid. The request for the books’ return is contained in a motion passed unanimously at the general assembly of a 250-member organization called Faro 1540, which is devoted to protecting and promoting the cultural heritage of the Algarve capital. Copies of the motion have been sent to Buckingham Palace and the British Embassy in Lisbon, as well as Portugal’s secretary of state for culture and senior officials in the Algarve. They are mostly 16th century treatises on theology, scholastic philosophy and canon law. Some had been published in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy just a few years prior to their theft.(Text in portuguese  http://www.faro1540.org/?p=1994)

A criar pobreza desde…

pésResumo duma carta enviada de Bruges, pelo Infante D. Pedro a D. Duarte, em 1426 – “O governo do Estado deve basear-se nas quatro virtudes cardeais e, sob esse ponto de vista, a situação de Portugal não é satisfatória. A força reside em parte na população; é pois preciso evitar o despovoamento, diminuindo os tributos que pesam sobre o povo. (…) É preciso assegurar um salário fixo e decente aos coudéis, a fim de se evitarem os abusos que eles cometem para assegurar a sua subsistência. É necessário igualmente diminuir o número de dias de trabalho gratuito que o povo tem de assegurar, e agir de tal forma que o reino se abasteça suficientemente de víveres e de armas; (…)

A justiça só parece reinar em Portugal no coração do Rei [D. João I] e de D. Duarte; e dá ideia que de lá não sai, porque se assim não fosse aqueles que têm por encargo administrá-la comportar-se-iam mais honestamente. A justiça deve dar a cada qual aquilo que lhe é devido, e dar-lho sem delonga. É principalmente deste último ponto de vista que as coisas deixam a desejar: o grande mal está na lentidão da justiça.

Enfim, um dos erros que lesam a prudência é o número exagerado das pessoas que fazem parte da casa do Rei e da dos príncipes. De onde decorrem as despesas exageradas que recaem sobre o povo, sob a forma de impostos e de requisições de animais. Acresce que toda a gente ambiciona viver na Corte, sem outra forma de ofício.”

Spice wars

rozovphotos001-45«(…)In ancient times, the origins of cinnamon were a mystery to the Western world, and Arab merchants wanted to keep it that way. To hike up the price, they spun an elaborate tale, claiming that giant birds collected cinnamon sticks from far-off lands and used them to build nests on cliffs. To get the precious sticks, traders laid out massive chunks of ox meat, which the birds grabbed and carried to their nests. But because the slabs were so large, the nests would collapse, allowing the clever merchants to collect their prize. Europeans bought this story until the late 1400s when the Portuguese found the real source of cinnamon—lush groves in Sri Lanka. Once they’d figured it out, the Portuguese struck a deal with the Sri Lankans to monopolize the trade and built a fort there to protect their assets. They were displaced by the Dutch in 1658, who were subsequently displaced by the Brits in 1796. But by then, the trees had been exported worldwide, so there was little need to fight for a cinnamon fix.

(…)Grow a Piper nigrum shrub, pick its red berries, boil them until they turn black, dry them in the sun, and you’ve got pepper—the most popular spice in history! Long before shakerfuls hit every diner in America, pepper originated in the mountains of India, where it was referred to as “black gold.” This was a misnomer—pepper was worth more than its weight in gold, and individual peppercorns were even accepted as currency at the time, and it wasn’t just India. In Dutch, the term “pepper expensive” is used to describe something extremely pricey, which explains why the country waged war against the Portuguese in the 1590s to get a piece of the trade. The spice remained costly for centuries.»

Damn Dutch, as I here and here wrote before, in Portuguese.