Good News in History, July 30

1,260 years ago today, the city of Baghdad is founded following a decisive victory by the Abbasid Caliphate over the Umayyads. It took four years to build, and the Caliph Al-Mansur assembled engineers, surveyors, and art constructionists from around the world to come together and draw up plans for the city. The wealth of water from the Tigris kept the city nourished and hygienic, with over a thousand public baths called hammams. READ about the Baghdadi golden age… (762)

Within a generation of its founding, Baghdad became a hub of learning and commerce. The city flourished into an unrivaled intellectual center of science, medicine, philosophy, and education, especially with the Abbasid translation movement began under the second caliph Al-Mansur. It may have been the largest city in the world at one point, with over 1 million inhabitants. It may have contained a library with the world’s largest selection of books as well.

Baghdad at its founding.

Notable scholars based in Baghdad during this time include translator Hunayn ibn Ishaq, mathematician al-Khwarizmi, and philosopher Al-Kindi. When the city was sacked by the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the societal and cultural value of the city had become so great, its economic command so vast, that scholars today suggest that it was only this great blow which allowed the European Renaissance to take over the world, and that more amazingly, the sacking of Baghdad is something which even the recent Hussein regime was struggling to recover from.

News on this Day:

The French national anthem, “La Marseillaise” by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, was first sung in Paris (1792)
Foreign ministers from Greece, Turkey and the UK signed a Cyprus Peace Agreement and Cease Fire to end weeks of shelling on the Mediterranean island (1974)
One final ‘old style’ Volkswagen Beetle rolled off an assembly line (2003)
Top of the Pops, the world’s longest running music show, was broadcast for the last time on BBC Two after airing for 42 years (2006)
2009 Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle and starring Dev Patel first premiered at the Telluride Film Festival (2008)

Happy 61st Birthday to Laurence Fishburne, the producer and actor best known for playing the iconic resistance fighter Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy, offering Neo (Keanu Reeves) a red pill or a blue pill.

Born in Atlanta, Fishburne also starred in Boyz n the Hood (1991) and the John Wick film series, which is bringing him back as The Bowery King in John Wick 4—currently filming toward a release date of May, 2022.

For his portrayal of Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993), Fishburne was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He won a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play, Two Trains Running, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor for TriBeCa. He’s co-starred in dozens more films and TV shows, including the heartwarming Akeelah and the Bee, and he shows off his comedic chops in the currently-running ABC sitcom Black-ish.

He’s a big fan of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho and plans to produce a movie based on his novel The Alchemist. Fun Fact: He also played ‘Cowboy Curtis’ in Pee-Wee’s PlayhouseWATCH a recent interview where he compares his role in Contagion to the current pandemic, and talks about his new films, like Ice Road with Liam Neeson… (1961)

MORE Good

Happy 64th Birthday to Kate Bush, the pioneering English singer-songwriter, musician, dancer and record producer, who became the first female artist to achieve a UK number one hit with a self-written song in 1978 when, still a teen, she topped the chart for four weeks with her debut single, Wuthering Heights. She has since released 25 UK Top 40 singles, including the Top-10 hits Man with the Child in His Eyes, Babooshka, Running Up That Hill, Don’t Give Up (with Peter Gabriel) and King of the Mountain. Eclectic, experimental, and theatrical, after she announced her first concerts in 35 years, the 22 shows sold out in a record 15 minutes. (1958)

Photo by Philip Chappell aka squidney, CC

Having released ten studio albums in five decades, (three at No. 1, including Hounds of Love), she was the first British solo female artist to top the UK album charts, and the first female artist to enter the album chart at number one. With the hype over the new London shows in 2014, she had eight albums in the UK Top 40 Albums Chart simultaneously, placing her third behind Elvis Presley (with 12 albums in 1977), and The Beatles (in 2009 with 11). A 3-disk live recording from the shows is called Before the Dawn. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for honors in the service to music… HEAR about her remarkable comeback, and WATCH her perform…

Also, on this day in 1619, in a church in Jamestown, Virginia, the first ever representative government in the Americas convened for the first time to establish local law as “the House of Burgesses.”

The original church, rebuilt after a fire; and Patrick Henry addressing the House

Governor George Yeardley, installed by royal charter, gathered 22 elected Burgesses, representing the 11 plantations and settlements in Virginia. King James I, who believed in the divine right of monarchs, attempted to later dissolve the assembly, but the Virginians continued to meet at least once a year with their royal governor to decide local laws and determine taxation. All the great powers in the world at that time—China, France, Rome, Japan, Russia–were all ruled by kings, czars, and emperors, but in Virginia a new precedent was being set—and four centuries later, their elected representatives are still deciding matters with a vote and pen, rather by sword or bloodline. Some of the Burgesses elected later became household names.

Significantly, the House of Burgesses decided, contrary to instructions, that their decisions would be immediately binding, rather than held in limbo for months until London had reviewed them. Each of the other 13 new English colonies in America followed suit, demanded their own legislatures and resisting London’s demands for more control. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, colonists had already a century and a half of practice in establishing democracy, and notable new members of the Virginia assembly—Patrick Henry, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—would lead the charge to secure full independence from the British throne. The six-day debut of the legislative session was cut short due to an outbreak of malaria.

57 years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed two national health programs into law, so that family savings were no longer in jeopardy of being wiped out.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill with Former President Harry S. Truman seated with Lady Bird Johnson standing behind the president – White House

Medicare was important because, at that time, nearly half of all Americans over 65 had no health insurance. Medicaid has since provided coverage for some 68 million children, parents, pregnant mothers, and people with disabilities. (1965)

And, Happy 75th Birthday to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor, bodybuilder, and former 2-term governor of California who is now fighting to bring redistricting reform to the American political system. “Born in Austria and Made in America”, the ‘Governator’  became the youngest man ever to win the Mr. Universe contest at age 20, then pursued a film career, starring in in Conan the Barbarian,Predator, the Terminator series, andTotal Recall.

Photo by Nate Mandos, CC

In 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act, creating the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions, which targeted utilities, refineries and manufacturing as part of a plan to reduce the state’s levels by 25 percent by 2020. In 2011, Schwarzenegger founded the R20 Regions of Climate Action to develop a sustainable, low carbon economy. In 2012, he helped to found the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at USC to boost bi-partisanship cooperation in finding solutions to the country’s most serious challenges. Beyond his well-known support for the Special Olympics, he founded the Inner City Games Foundation in 1995 to provide cultural, educational and community enrichment programming to over 250,000 youth in 15 cities and 400 schools countrywide. (1947)

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