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The most important battle you’ve probably never heard of

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Exactly 800 years ago on Sunday, in a field next to what is now the airport of Lille, a battle was fought which determined the history of England.

Today few people in the UK have heard of Bouvines. It has none of the ring of an Agincourt or a Crecy. Probably that is because England lost it. But the battle of 27 July, 1214, was just as significant as England’s later victories over the French. Maybe more so.

“Bouvines is the most important battle in English history that no-one has ever heard of,” says John France, professor emeritus in medieval history at Swansea University.

“Without Bouvines there is no Magna Carta, and all the British and American law that stems from that. It’s a muddy field, the armies are small, but everything depends on the struggle. It’s one of the climactic moments of European history.”

Source: BBCNews Read more

Royally Photobombed

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queenphotobomb

Image: BBCNews

Isis militants ‘seize Iraq monastery and expel monks’

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The Mar Behnam monastery is a place of Christian pilgrimage

Islamist militants in Iraq are reported to have seized an ancient monastery near Mosul and expelled the monks.

Local residents said monks at the Mar Behnam monastery were allowed to take only the clothes they were wearing.

The monastery, which dates from the 4th Century, is a major Christian landmark and a place of pilgrimage.

Christians have fled Mosul after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

Isis has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate.

Mosul itself is now said to be empty of Christians.

The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of Mosul.

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Analysis by BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher

Ancient landmarks like Mar Behnam show how deeply embedded Christianity is in the culture and history of Iraq. Just as in many other Arab countries, churches and monasteries are a timeless part of the landscape.

For years, though, Christians have been warning that their hold in parts of the Middle East is weakening. In Iraq, the lightning seizure of large parts of the country by Isis has been a frightening new threat. Thousands have fled Mosul, leaving it for the first time without a Christian community, after Isis gave them an ultimatum to submit to its authority or face death.

But if Iraqi Christians face penalties and discrimination under Isis, other religious sects are faring even worse. Yazidis and Shia Muslims risk being taken out and killed on the spot for their beliefs.

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A member of the Syriac clergy quoted the militants as telling the monastery’s residents: “You have no place here any more, you have to leave immediately.”

He said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery’s relics but the fighters refused.

Local Christian residents told AFP news agency that the monks walked for several miles before they were picked up by Kurdish fighters.

Earlier this month, Isis issued an ultimatum in Mosul, citing a historic contract known as “dhimma,” under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a “jizya”.

“We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the Isis statement said.

Isis issued a similar ultimatum in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, calling on Christians to pay about half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.

Iraq is home to one of the world’s most ancient Christian communities but its population has dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Source: BBCNews

No seatbelts allowed

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Europe’s longest ice road

I’m sitting behind the wheel of an idling car, waiting at a lonely red traffic light on an isolated strip of the Estonian coastline.

To my left is a small hut in which a gruff-looking road controller sits, peering out of a frosty window to check on the conduct of the passing vehicles. To the right is a sign that sets out the road rules for the journey ahead.

No seatbelts No driving after sunset No vehicles heavier than 2.5t No driving between 25km/h and 40km/h

They’re not your normal kind of traffic rules. On this particular road, it is forbidden to wear a seatbelt: you might have to make an unexpected and speedy exit from your car.

You can’t drive here after sunset, or with a vehicle over 2.5 tonnes. And it is strictly illegal to travel at between 25 and 40km/h (16-25mph). At those speeds, your car tyres will create dangerous vibrations that could crack the surface of the road, sending you and your vehicle to a watery grave.

The road ahead of me is made of ice. It stretches across the frozen surface of the Baltic Sea, connecting the Estonian coastline to the island of Hiiumaa. At 25km (16 miles), it is the longest ice road in Europe.

Wolves

There are six official ice roads around Estonia. This past winter has been particularly harsh, allowing them to stay open for longer than usual.

Even in mid-March, with the warm spring sun beginning to melt the snow in the fields, the ice roads were still half a metre thick, enough to carry a steady stream of several hundred vehicles each day.

Travelling on the ice is part of the history and culture of the Estonian islands.

Teutonic knights thundered across the ice on horseback to conquer the isles in the 13th Century. Villages here have been constructed by pulling supplies across from the mainland. Bears, wolves and moose venture to and from the islands in search of food.

These days locals look forward to the ice-driving season as it provides a cheaper and more convenient method of travel, compared to paying for passage on a vehicle ferry.

The traffic light turns green, and timidly I drive out onto the surface of the sea.

It’s bumpy and slippery at the same time. A speed sign instructs me to drive at 70km/h (43mph), and as I accelerate the speedometer needle passes through the danger zone of 25-40km/h.

The ice surface stays firm. Perhaps the vibration warning is a myth, but I’m not willing to challenge it.

Source: BBCNews Read more about the journey

What Is the Piri Reis Map?

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“In 1929, a group of historians found an amazing map drawn on a gazelle skin. Research showed that it was a genuine document drawn in 1513 by Piri Reis, a famous admiral of the Turkish fleet in the sixteenth century, whose passion was cartography. His high rank within the Turkish navy allowed him privileged access to the Imperial Library of Constantinople. The Turkish admiral admits in a series of notes on the map that he compiled and copied the data from a large number of source maps, some of which dated back to the fourth century BC or earlier.

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The Controversy: The Piri Reis map shows the western coast of Africa, the eastern coast of South America, and the northern coast of Antarctica. The northern coastline of Antarctica is perfectly detailed. Most puzzling is how Piri Reis managed to draw such an accurate map of the Antarctic region 300 years before it was discovered, and that the map shows the coastline under the ice. Geological evidence confirms that the latest date Queen Maud Land could have been charted in an ice-free state is 4000 BC. Officially, science claims that the ice-cap which covers the Antarctic is millions of years old.

The Piri Reis map shows that the northern part of that continent had been mapped before the ice did cover it. The last period of ice-free condition in the Antarctic ended about 6000 years ago. There are still doubts about the beginning of this ice-free period, which has been put by different researchers between year 13000 and 9000 BC. The question is: Who mapped the Queen Maud Land of Antarctic 6000 years ago? Which unknown civilization had the technology or the need to do that? It is well-known that the first civilization, according to traditional history, developed in the Mideast around year 3000 BC, soon to be followed within a millennium by the Indus Valley and the Chinese ones. Accordingly, none of the known civilizations could have done such a job. Who was here 4000 years BC, able to do things that only NOW are possible with modern technologies?

Source: Running ‘Cause I Can’t Fly Read more about more fantastic maps that shouldn’t exist.

Four-winged flying dinosaur unearthed in China

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Newly discovered Changyuraptor yangi lived 125m years ago and was like ‘a big turkey with a really long tail’

An artist’s impression of the new species of four-winged, microraptor dinosaur Changyuraptor yangi. Illustration: Stephanie Abramowicz/Dinosaur Institute, NHM

A new species of prehistoric, four-winged dinosaur discovered in China may be the largest flying reptile of its kind.

The well-preserved, complete skeleton of the dinosaur Changyuraptor yangi features a long tail with feathers 30cm in length – the longest ever seen on a dinosaur fossil. The feathers may have played a major role in flight control, say scientists in the latest issue of Nature Communications, in particular allowing the animal to reduce its speed to land safely.

The 125m-year-old fossil, believed to be an adult, is completely covered in feathers, including long feathers attached to its legs that give the appearance of a second set of wings or “hind wings”. It is the largest four-winged dinosaur ever found, 60% larger than the previous record holder, Microraptor zhaoianus, in the family of dinosaurs known as microraptors.

These beasts were smaller versions of their closely related, larger cousins, the velociraptors made famous in the Jurassic Park movies. They belong to an even wider group including the king of all dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex. At 1.3 metres long and weighing 4kg, the meat-eating C. yangi is one of the largest members of the microraptor family, which tended to weigh 1kg or less.

Microraptors, which are close relatives of modern birds, had many anatomical features that are now only seen in birds, such as hollow bones, nesting behavior, feathers and possibly flight. They were dinosaurs rather than pterosaurs, the more well known flying prehistoric reptiles.

C. yangi was [like] a big turkey with a really long tail,” said Dr Alan Turner from Stony Brook University, one of the authors of the paper. “We don’t know for sure if C. yangi was flying or gliding, but we can sort of piece together this bigger model by looking at what its tail could do. Whether or not this animal could fly is part of a bigger puzzle and we’re adding a piece to that puzzle.”

The fossil was discovered in Liaoning province, northeastern China, an area noted for the large number of feathered dinosaurs found over the past decade, including the first widely acknowledged feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx prima, in 1996.

Before this study, it was thought that the small size of microraptors was a key adaptation needed for flight, but the discovery of C. yangi suggests that aerial ability was not restricted to smaller animals in this group.

Source: TheGuardian

Born in 1888, and still going strong

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Is this the oldest person in the world? Brazilian receives birth certificate showing he turned 126 last week (… and his secret may be that he doesn’t like taking baths)

  •  Jose Aguinelo dos Santos was born on July 7, 1888, in Ceara state
  •  Mr dos Santos was 52 when Brazil football legend Pele was born
  •  Even now he’s so lucid he still amuses others by cracking jokes
  •  He has lived his entire life without documents proving his age 
  •  But the old people’s home he lives in hopes to provide evidence

A Brazilian man whose parents were African slaves could be the oldest living person ever documented after receiving a birth certificate showing he turned 126 last week, it was reported today.

Jose Aguinelo dos Santos was born on July 7, 1888, just two months after slavery was abolished in Brazil – the last country in the world to outlaw the trade.

Yet the batchelor, who never married or had children, still walks without a stick, eats four meals a day and has no health problems – despite smoking a packet of cigarettes a day for the last 50 years.

126 not out: Jose Aguinelo dos Santos, who claims he was born on July 7, 1888, could be the oldest living person ever

126 not out: Jose Aguinelo dos Santos, who claims he was born on July 7, 1888, could be the oldest living person ever

Source: DailyMail Read and see more

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