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Archive for April, 2009

From the New York Times:

Hoping to take advantage of high global food prices that brought many poor nations to the brink of chaos last year, farmers across West Africa are reaping what experts say is one of the best harvests in recent memory.

But after investing and borrowing heavily to expand their production, these farmers also run the risk of being wiped out as global food prices plummet.

The price of unprocessed rice in Senegal has steadily fallen from its peak early last year of more than $30 per 110-pound sack. The drop has not been as drastic as the ones experienced in corn and wheat markets across the world. But the price for rice needs to be at least $20 for farmers here to make a profit, and as the harvest approached late last year, the price was hovering at $22 a sack.

“I am worried,” said Mrs. Diop, a 57-year-old trader and farmer. “I can double my money. Or I can lose everything.”

<read more>

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SCIENCE-US-BRITAIN-ROMAN-FINDIt’s called the “millefiori” (“a thousand flowers”) dish, and it’s “a miracle to have survived,” according to archaeologists in London.

Dating from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, and acquired by a citizen of the ancient Roman outpost of Londinium, it is made of hundreds of mosaic tiles shaped like petals, blue with white bordering. And nothing like it has ever been found intact in the Western Roman Empire.

The artifact was found 2.5 to 3 meters (yards) down at a sprawling ancient cemetery in Aldgate, east London, just beyond the old city walls. Romans were required by law to bury their dead outside the city gates.

It formed part of a cache of grave goods found close to a wooden container holding the ashes of a probably wealthy Roman citizen of Londinium.

Other artifacts recovered with the bowl included ceramic pottery and glass flasks which once contained perfumed oil used to anoint the body.

<Read more here>

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amazon_will_denimcintyre_getty460Next March, Travel Dynamics International will be embarking upon a tremendous journey up the Amazon – more than 2,000 miles from Belem, on the Atlantic coast, to Iquitos, in Peru.

On Monday, The Guardian brought us this tremendous story about medical researchers who are hunting for natural medicines, and cures for everything from cancer to AIDS, amid the dizzying biodiversity of the Amazon.

Tom Phillips, in Rio, writes:

TODAY, SPURRED on by an obsession with the Amazon and nearly 40 years as an oncologist, Varella leads monthly expeditions up the Cuieiras river in search of natural medicines that he believes could change the future of his profession and eventually bring new hope to cancer victims around the world.

“[As a child] I didn’t even know that [the Amazon] existed,” Varella told the Observer during his latest mission to the group’s base on the Cuieiras river. “I’d heard the children’s stories, about the Indians with two feathers in their hair. But you didn’t even talk about the Amazon back then. It was such a distant thing.”

That changed in October 1992, during a trip to the Amazon with Robert Gallo, the US biomedical researcher credited with co-discovering the HIV virus. (more…)

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Infant stage, but wow – the World Digital Library is now online, a repository for historical and cultural documents from all over the world, supplied by national libraries and prestigious universities everywhere. Take a tour – around a thousand amazing documents are currently available.

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alhambraThe Guardian reports:

One of Spain‘s most enduring historical mysteries is close to being solved as experts decipher and translate more than 10,000 Arabic inscriptions adorning the walls of the Alhambra palace in Granada.

The intricate Arabic inscriptions carved into the ceilings, columns and walls inside the imposing hill-top fortress have long fascinated visitors. They contain everything from snatches of poetry and verses from the Qur’an to clever aphorisms, pious wishes and boastful slogans.

There are so many of them, however…<Read more>

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PBS’s fantastic series “Antiques Roadshow” is all about learning about the hidden treasures in your attic, and valuing them to their fullest. Travel Dynamics International and “Antiques Roadshow” have something in common. Our attic is the world, and we like to rediscover lost places of special worth. Join us on two special “Antiques Roadshow” cruises: The Great Lakes, from August 29-September 5, 2009; or the Classical World, October 7-17, 2009. Enjoy seeing, and participating in, something of great pleasure and worth.

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corinthian-iiCruisecritic.com has published a review of a recent Travel Dynamics International cruise taken by user pisque, who joined us for a journey from Rome to Istanbul aboard the Corinthian II.

Here are some excerpts:

Travel Dynamics International has it all together. This is small-ship cruising designed for a full intellectual barrage. No casino and night club fru-fru….just a great immersion into the world of ancient artifacts and thought.

We heard about this trip via an opera association. It had all the places we wanted to see, a full lecture format, and we wanted to try a smaller vessel….we were amply rewarded…

Fellow passengers were fascinating. Some were experts in Greco-Roman history, others ran the gamut from financial tycoons to physicists…

Local excursions were terrific, with local guides at each port, commodious buses, with two lunches at local places included, with one in Sicily being exceptional, and another in Santorini being adequate.

The staff put together a dinner by candlelight in Ephesus, with local cuisine equal to the ships great dinning room, together with a string ensemble providing music…This was a night to remember.

Disembarkation and transfers were handled with aplomb. We opted for a two night extension in Istanbul. The Hotel was luxurious, and again the tour buses and guide were outstanding.

I would not hesitate to book a cruise with this company in the future.

Read the full review here.

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