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Archive for February 10, 2011

Badakhshan – Gem of Afghanistan

Badakhshan is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, consisting of 28 districts. It is located in the north-east of the country, between the Hindu Kush and the Amu Darya. It is part of the Badakhshan region. Badakhshan’s name was given by the Sassanids and derives from the word badaxš (an official Sassanian title). The suffix of the name means the region belonged to someone with the title badaxš (analogous to Azerbaijan, Isfahan, Tehran, etc.). Feyzabad is the capital of Badakshan Province. Badakhshan is primarily bordered by Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province and Khatlon Province in Tajikistan to the north and east. In the east of the province a long spur called the Wakhan Corridor extends above northern Pakistan’s Chitral and Northern Areas to a border with China. The province has a total area of 44,059 km², most of which is occupied by the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges. Badakhshan was a stopover on the ancient Silk Road trading path, and China has shown great interest in the province after the fall of the Taliban, helping to reconstruct roads and infrastructure in the province.

Economy: Despite massive mineral reserves, Badakhshan is one of the most destitute areas in the world. Opium poppy growing is the only real source of income in the province and Badakhshan has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, due to the complete lack of health infrastructure, inaccessible locations, and bitter winters of the province. Recent geological surveys have indicated the location of other gemstone deposits, in particular rubies and emeralds. Exploitation of this mineral wealth could be key to the region’s prosperity.

Demographics: The population of the province is estimated at 823,000 people.The majority of them are Persian-speaking Tajiks. There are also

  • The following Pamiri languages are spoken in Badakhshan by certain populations of Tajiks:
    • Shughni
    • Munji
    • Ishkashimi
    • Wakhi
  • small Kyrgyz minorities
  • nomadic and semi-nomadic Uzbeks and Pashtuns, who migrate over long distances.

The residents of the province are largely Sunni, but many of the Tajiks who are speakers of one of the Pamiri languages in the northeastern districts of the province are Ismaili.

Helmand – Afghan Opium Paradise

Helmand is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the southwest of the country. Its capital is Lashkar Gah. The Helmand River flows through the mainly desert region, providing water for irrigation. Helmand is the world’s largest opium-producing region, responsible for 42% of the world’s total production.This is more than the whole of Myanmar, which is the second largest producing nation after Afghanistan. Afghan opium would account for more than 90% of the global supply. The Helmand valley region is mentioned by name in the Avesta (Fargard 1:13) as Haetumant, one of the early centers of the Zoroastrian faith, in pre-Islamic Persian times. However, owing to the preponderance of non-Zoroastrians (Hindus and Buddhists), the Helmand and Kabul regions were also known as “White India” in those days. Some Vedic scholars (eg. Kochhar 1999) also believe the Helmand valley corresponds to the Sarasvati area mentioned in the Rig Veda as the homeland for the Indo-Aryan migrations into India, ca. 1500 BC. Much of the fighting between NATO and Taliban forces is taking place in this province and Helmand is said to be a Taliban stronghold.

Border with Pakistan

Helmand has a southern border with the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Many domestic and international observers have criticized Pakistan’s efforts towards securing the border against Taliban insurgents.

Districts of Helmand

  • Lashkar Gah
  • Sangin
  • Musa Qala


The population is 1,441,769 and the area is 58,584 square kilometres. Pashtuns are the majority (92% of the population), and there are also Balochs who are concentrated in the south, as well as smaller minorities of Hazara, Brahui and Tajik, who live mostly in Lashkar Gah.


Prince Albert

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld to a family connected to many of Europe’s ruling monarchs. At the age of 20 he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, with whom he had nine children. At first, Albert felt constrained by his position as consort, which did not confer any power or duties upon him. Over time he adopted many public causes, such as educational reform and the abolition of slavery, and took on the responsibilities of running the Queen’s household, estates and office. He was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert aided in the development of Britain’s constitutional monarchy by persuading his wife to show less partisanship in her dealings with Parliament—although he actively disagreed with the interventionist foreign policy pursued during Lord Palmerston’s tenure as Foreign Secretary.

He died at the early age of 42, plunging the Queen into a deep mourning which lasted for the rest of her life. Upon Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, their son, Edward VII, succeeded as the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, named after the ducal house to which Albert belonged.

Consort: The position in which the prince was placed by his marriage, while one of distinction, also offered considerable difficulties; in Albert’s own words, “I am very happy and contented; but the difficulty in filling my place with the proper dignity is that I am only the husband, not the master in the house.” The Queen’s household was run by her former governess, Baroness Lehzen. Albert referred to her as the “House Dragon”, and manoeuvred to dislodge the Baroness from her position.

Legacy: Albert’s body was temporarily entombed in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.The mausoleum at Frogmore, in which his remains were deposited a year after his death, was not fully completed until 1871. The sarcophagus, in which both he and the Queen were eventually laid, was carved from the largest block of granite that had ever been quarried in Britain. Despite Albert’s request that no effigies of him should be raised, many public monuments were erected all over the country, and across the British Empire.The most notable are the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial in London. The plethora of memorials erected to Albert became so great that Charles Dickens told a friend that he sought an “inaccessible cave” to escape from them. All manner of objects are named after Prince Albert, from Lake Albert in Africa to the city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to the Albert Medal presented by the Royal Society of Arts. Four regiments of the British Army were named after him: 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars; Prince Albert’s Light Infantry; Prince Albert’s Own Leicestershire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry, and The Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade. He and Queen Victoria showed a keen interest in the establishment and development of Aldershot in Hampshire as a garrison town in the 1850s. They had a wooden Royal Pavilion built there in which they would often stay when attending reviews of the army. Albert established and endowed the Prince Consort’s Library at Aldershot, which still exists today.

Biographies published after his death were typically heavy on eulogy. Theodore Martin’s five-volume magnum opus was authorised and supervised by Queen Victoria, and her influence shows in its pages.

Important Events February 10

February 10

  • 1840 – Prince Albert (pictured) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha married Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom at the Chapel Royal, becoming prince-consort.
  • 1930 – The Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang launched the failed Yen Bai mutiny in the hope of ending French colonial rule in Vietnam.
  • 1962 – “Rudolf Abel“, a Soviet spy arrested by the FBI, was exchanged for Gary Powers, the pilot of a CIA spy plane that had been shot down over Soviet airspace two years earlier.
  • 1964 – The Royal Australian Navy aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne collided with the destroyer HMAS Voyager while both were performing manoeuvres in Jervis Bay in New South Wales, Australia, killing over eighty of Voyager‘s crew.
  • 1996 – Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in a game of chess, the first ever game won by a chess-playing computer against a World Chess Champion under chess tournament conditions.
  • 2008 – An arson fire severely damaged the Namdaemun gate in Seoul, the first of South Korea’s National Treasures.

Important Events in February 2nd weak

February 9

  • 1920 – The Svalbard Treaty was signed, recognizing Norwegian sovereignty over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, but all signatories were also given equal rights to engage in commercial activities on the islands.
  • 1950 – U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy accused the U.S. State Department of being filled with communists, sparking a period of strong anti-communist sentiment in the United States that became known as McCarthyism.
  • 1964 – English rock band The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show before a record-breaking audience, beginning a musical phenomenon known as the British Invasion.
  • 1976 – The Australian Defence Force was formed by the unification of the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.
  • 2001 – The American submarine USS Greeneville accidentally collided with the Ehime Maru (wreckage pictured), a Japanese training vessel operated by the Uwajima Fishery High School.

February 8

  • 1837 – Richard Mentor Johnson became the only person to be elected as Vice President of the United States by the Senate.
  • 1910 – Newspaper and magazine publisher William D. Boyce established the Boy Scouts of America, expanding the Scout Movement into the United States.
  • 1971 – Vietnam War: South Vietnamese ground troops launched an incursion into Laos to try to cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail and stop communist infiltration.
  • 1979 – Denis Sassou Nguesso (pictured) was chosen as the new President of the Republic of the Congo after Joachim Yhombi-Opango was forced from power.
  • 2010 – A freak storm in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan triggered a series of at least 36 avalanches that buried over two miles (3.2 km) of road, killed at least 172 people and trapped over 2,000 travelers’.

February 7: Independence Day in Grenada (1974); Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan begins (2011)

  • 1301 – The title of Prince of Wales (badge pictured) was granted for the first time to an heir apparent to theEnglish throne, Edward of Carnarvon.
  • 1795 – The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, limiting the ability of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to sue U.S. states in federal courts, was ratified in order to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chisholm v. Georgia.
  • 1907 – Over 3,000 women trudged through the cold and the rutty streets of London in the Mud March, the first large procession organized by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, to advocate for women’s suffrage.
  • 1948 – Neil Harvey became the youngest Australian to score a century in Test cricket.
  • 2009 – A series of 400 individual bushfires ignited across the Australian state of Victoria on Black Saturday, eventually resulting in 173 total deaths, the highest ever loss of life from a bushfire in Australia.

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