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Archive for October, 2007

Silent running

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In the distant future the Earth can no longer sustain plants & animals, so the last vestiges of flora & fauna are conserved in huge bio-spheres mounted on space ships orbiting Saturn. Unfortunately, orders are given that the domes are now to be destroyed.

The Brethren

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The Exclusive Brethren are a secretive religious cult masquerading as a church. They refuse to vote yet spend millions of dollars endeavouring to influence elections around the world. Their political sway has now become a divisive issue in many countries. Members follow a rigid code of conduct based very strictly on Bible teaching, which provides a firm moral framework and is focussed on a strong family unit. They keep themselves separate from other people (including other Christians) as far as possible, because they believe the world is a place of wickedness. They regard ‘exclusiveness’ as the only way to keep away from evil.

The main group of Exclusive Brethren are called ‘Taylorites’ after James Taylor Senior and Junior who led the church for much of the twentieth century. Most of the information available about the group comes from people who have left it. As a result the Exclusive Brethren often gets a bad press and is referred to using phrases like “an exclusive and secret religious sect” or “a secretive church”. There are thought to be approximately 42,000 (2006 figure) in the Taylorite branch of the Exclusive Brethren worldwide. There are up to 15,000 Exclusive Brethren in Britain, with congregations in 98 towns (2002 figure).

Israel

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Everyone has their own perception of what Israel is about: it’s a travel-agency package of beaches and sun; it’s the Promised Land of the Jews; it’s a ticking time bomb. And while it is all of these things, it’s much more besides. So be sure to look beyond the larger-than-life figures of the past.

Israel can be visited at any time of the year, but there are a few factors to consider when planning your trip. Weather-wise, the best time to visit is in the spring (April and May) or autumn (September and October) when temperatures are mild in most areas. November and March are likewise pleasant but do see some rain, especially in the coastal areas and up north.

Winter (mid-November to mid-March) can be surprisingly chilly, with heavy rain along the coast and frost in the highlands. Summertime temperatures in the far south are extreme. In Tel Aviv the humidity will make you sweat standing in the shade. This is a good time to visit Jerusalem or other highland areas that are less affected by coastal humidity. Summer is also the peak season for tourists – hotel prices are at their highest and it can sometimes be difficult to find accommodation.

You might also want to avoid major Jewish holidays, as the country fills up with pilgrims, accommodation prices go up and it’s almost impossible to travel between cities.

Six degrees Thailand

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Lonely Planet Six Degrees is a new flagship series produced by Lonely Planet. Playful, sassy, streetsmart and unexpected, Lonely Planet Six Degrees connects its viewers to what makes each city special – the people that live in it. Lonely Planet Six Degrees explores the world’s coolest cities by connecting with the people who live in them. By emphasising the human dimension of travel, Lonely Planet Six Degrees moves beyond sightseeing and offers the surest way of being whisked off your feet and fast-tracked to the heart of the city. Avoiding the well-known tourist attractions, each Lonely Planet Six Degrees journey begins with a traveller arriving in a new city with just a single point of contact. From this initial encounter a chain of connectivity is forged across the city as one person leads to another and another another. Meeting six strangers in sixty minutes, our travellers experience the city through the eyes of some of its most colourful and clued-in residents, proving that it’s the people, the lives they lead, and the stories they tell that give a city its soul, rather than just the bricks and mortar.

Ionia

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Ionia is an ancient district in what is now Turkey, comprising the central portion of the west coast of Asia Minor, together with the adjacent islands. The region received its name from the Ionians, Greeks who emigrated from the mainland of Greece probably before 1000 bc. The area is mountainous and includes three fertile valleys, watered by the rivers Gediz, Ergene, and Büyükmenderes (Menderes). Ionia was extremely prosperous in ancient times because of a flourishing agriculture and commerce. In the 7th and 6th centuries bc Ionia made important contributions to Greek art and literature, and particularly to philosophy. Great cities grew up, of which Ephesus, Clazomenae, Erythrae, Colophon, and Miletus were the most celebrated. Several cities, such as Miletus and Phocaea, became important commercial centers and sent out colonies westward as far as present-day Spain and northward to the Black Sea.

Common interests led the 12 Ionian cities to form a confederacy, within which each city remained autonomous. Smyrna (now Ä°zmir) was originally settled by the Aeolian Greeks, but was later occupied by colonists from Colophon and became an Ionian city. In the 7th and 6th centuries bc the cities of Ionia were involved in a series of wars with the kings of Lydia, to whom Ionia yielded a nominal submission. Ionia exercised a powerful influence on Lydian culture, its own culture being influenced in turn by Lydia. In 546 bc the Ionians came under the sway of Persia, but revolted from Persian rule in 499 bc, assisted by the Greek cities of Athens and Eretria. The revolt was put down, but the participation of Athens and Eretria gave the Persians a pretext for declaring war on Greece. With the defeat of Persia by the Greeks in 479 bc, the Ionian cities became nominally free, but in reality they were dependent on Athens. Around 334 bc Alexander the Great annexed the cities to his Greco-Macedonian empire. Subsequently, Ionia was incorporated into the Roman and Byzantine empires. The culture of the area continued to flourish but was destroyed in the 15th century, following the conquest of the area by the Ottoman Empire.

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