Yuri Andropov: A Missed Opportunity For Reform Of The Soviet Union?

One of the forgotten names of recent history is Yuri Andropov, the fourth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the successor to Leonid Brezhnev.  In the West at least, his name seems to have become buried among the pile of relics that accumulated in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.  As far as I can determine, there is still no comprehensive English language biography of him currently in print; what studies do exist were written years ago and do not incorporate the latest research.  This is unfortunate.  His career spanned an important period of Soviet history, and his policies have proven to be more influential than is generally believed.  The student of modern Russian history owes it to himself to examine his life and career diligently.

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Fray Bernardino de Sahagún: The New World’s First Ethnographer

Little known today is the courageous Catholic friar, linguist, and ethnographer Fray Bernardino de Sahagún.  He was born in Sahagún, Spain, in 1499 and drank deeply from the well of Renaissance humanism that had been washing over Europe for several decades.  Mastering Latin at an early age, he startled his instructors with the intensity and depth of his observational powers.  He arrived in Mexico (New Spain) in 1529 with a group of Church prelates whose job it would be to convert the natives to Catholicism.

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To Curb North Korean Provocations, Pressure Must Be Placed On China

There is a steady stream of news these days about North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests.  Accompanying this news are debates and discussions about how the United States should handle the situation.  I wanted to offer my own assessments and opinion on the matter.

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The Trial Of Galileo (Podcast)

The Italian astronomer Galileo was examined by the Inquisition for heresy in 1633. At issue was his advocacy of the heliocentric (sun-centered) view of the solar system. What was the significance of the trial, and what were the motivations of the participants?

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Robert Leckie’s “Helmet For My Pillow” (Review)

I very much enjoy reading war memoirs.  I think it’s because I recognize that the authors have tapped into special knowledge that the rest of us cannot access.  They have seen beyond, somehow.  Their experiences have stamped on them an indelible impression that neither time nor distance can erase.  I will be honest:  I am envious of the special knowledge they have, and which I do not have.  Having been in the military is one thing, but having been in real combat is something very different.  Deep down, I regret that I never was given the opportunity to experience what they experienced.

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Catching Birds In Anzio, Italy

The Italian humanist Biondo Flavio of Forli (1392-1463) was one of the great names of Renaissance humanism.  His extensive Description of Italy (Italia Illustrata) collected anecdota and geographical information about every region of the country from ancient times until his own day.  It was first published in 1451, but saw frequent additions and revisions until Flavio’s death.  Book II, section 7 of his treatise provides some details on how the natives of Nettuno (a town in the region of Lazio, south of Rome) go about netting birds.  The passage attracted my attention for some reason, and I thought it might be worth relating; it may even be of interest to modern hunters.  Flavio himself can provide the specific details:

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The Loss Of The Liner “Empress Of Ireland”

I have long had a fascination with nautical lore.  It is one of these interests that comes as a residue from having spent much time–perhaps too much time–by the ocean as a boy, toying with sailboats and motorboats, quahogs, crabs, bluefish, and what lies beyond the surf.  It is impossible for me not to be entranced by the sea; one is drawn to its primeval magnetism, and by the knowledge that it represents the origin of life on earth.  Perhaps it also represents the destiny of earthly life; when H.G. Wells’s time traveler hurls himself forward hundreds of thousands of years into the future, he finds himself on a ghastly blood-red beach, accompanied by monstrous crabs and eternal silence.

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