Search This Blog

Friday, December 13, 2013

Who was he? Xpo ferenS - the authentic man behind the signature

The end. On May 20, 1506, the Admiral, the Conqueror, the Discoverer Columbus, died without the fanfare and respect afforded other explorers of the day. 
No picture from his time has survived, only written accounts

 He was buried, with only a handful in attendance, in a small monastery at Valladolid, Spain, wearing the habit of the third order of Saint Francis and, according to his wishes, in the chains he wore upon his arrest after his third voyage to the New World. Only three lines of text marked his obituary in the official record [Hevesy 1929].

To start with, no historical figure's origins has been arguibly more written about than him, perhaps the outcome of an illegitimate birth.

What's more, some historians have asserted that 

he was a  great hero, while others have painted 

him as a greedy villain  (Check Columbia University in NY page). 

Xpo ferenS The man was for real, flesh and bones a true sailor.

Who else made 4 journeys and back from America -without GPS - and reaching the same destination! A feature difficult to repeat even in 1913. Columbus was a master seaman as well as being a great salesman, but on the other hand he was a poor geographer. 

Geography, the subject I failed so many times in my high school years.

  • Had he read the "Pizzigano Map"? It was  first discovered in 1953, among the thousands of manuscripts (currently held at the University of Minnesota)
  • Was the Piri Reis revelations true? "a book fell into the hands of the said Columbo" in the Arabic year 890. Had Columbus  made a secret voyage to America, the real discovery voyage, six years before 1492, with Pope's backup as the Piri Reis map leads to.

Anyway, I for one engross reading "speculative history," history about conspiracy theories, speculation, and possible discoveries and explorations, which is why I have so many books on 1421, Columbus, Marco Polo, etc. On other genuine fakes, check here)

‘The sheer weight of the evidence presented makes the old tale of a Columba-named, cheese-stall Genoese or wool-weaver so obviously unbelievable that only a fool would continue to insist on it,’.

Answer these two idle questions

IDLE questions?

A) Some people told me that Christopher Columbus 

was British,  is he British, or Spainsh?

Well it wasn't called British yet. He was English. 

He was originally from england, he travelled across the continent 

looking for a country that would sponsor his voyage ...

B) Wasn't the Polish mariner Jan of Kolno the first to discover America? 
Christopher Columbus był POLAKIEM – tak twierdzą najnowsze badania!
No. It was COLOMBOWICZ, the son of Vladislav III, an exiled King of Poland.
"An international team of distinguished professors have completed 20 years of painstaking research into (Christopher Columbus') beginnings.
The fresh evidence about Columbus’ background is revealed in a new book by Manuel Rosa, an academic at Duke University in the United States.

If doubting which answer to pick up, the are so many theories about her kinship) the answerr my friend is -perhaps- blowing in Chios winds, a red land in the border of the Aegean Islans. He stated he was Chistoferens de Terra Rubra (Latin for Red Earth) and for that he may have well meant Nikolaos Ypsilantis , a Byzantine prince, you may recall that the Paleologos Dynasty. Columbus never said he was from Genoa. He said he was from the Republic of Genoa, something much different.  Chios was back then  was part of it. 

Go back to dates and facts.
due to the circumstance of his birth, to protect his father’s self-exiled identity, Columbus, who died in 1506 after four voyages to the New World, was required to conceal his own identity by changing his real name and hiding his true origin.

Columbus signature
Columbus (Colon) had as well a cryptic blessing, his monogram (the Cipher of a person's initials) and his own Sigla (a Trademark) in all his correspondence with his son Diogo Columbus. 

This is based mostly on an analysis of his signature. Since he never signed his name conventionally, the pseudonymus theory is reinforced,
his name meaning in Latin "Bearer of Christ" (Christo ferens) "and
of the Holy Spirit" (Columbus, dove in Latin).

Las Casas continued, that Columbus bore the name Christopher

Christo-ferens, that is, “Christ-Bearer.” 

After his third voyage, Columbus made the name 

Christoferens an official part of his signature

FACT_2#:Accounts form his time: Madeira
Columbus's stay in Portugal and Madeira from 1476 to 1485

Although much has been written about Columbus's life in Italy and Spain, little has been written about his formative years in Portugal. This work is the first book-length analysis of Columbus's stay in Portugal and Madeira from 1476 to 1485 and his later experiences in the Portuguese islands of the Azores and the Madeiras. The work stresses the influence the Portuguese had in educating Columbus about the sea, and it depicts his famous voyage to the New World as a logical sequence of the pioneering voyages of the Portuguese in the North Atlantic and along the West Coast of Africa. The work attempts to sort legend from fact and debunks the many myths about Columbus's stays on the island of Madeira.

Military Studies #39: Christopher Columbus and the Portuguese, 1476-1498

They found two papal bulls dated May 4, 1493, written in Latin by Pop Alexander V1 referring to the discoveries of the Western Hemisphere by Crisrofom Colon. Dr da Silva points out that the name is written in Portuguese and not Spanish (Cristobal Colon), is not written in Latin like the rest of the manuscript (Christopher Columbus), and is not written in Italian (Cristoforo Colombo.) 
Historians at work:
Dr da Silva added after a full analysis:  
Christopher Columbus was Portuguese!
This peculiar signature of Columbus is attached to various documents written :
Proposed authentic identity
Salvador Fernandes Zarco, son of Fernando, Duke of Beja, and Isabel Sciarra. 
Alfredo De Melo has also published a book titled "Columbus" (Carlton Press Corp.)

The Portuguese Columbus, Secret Agent of King John II

The amazing investigative work of Barreto proves Columbus was 
(1) a spy, 
(2) Portuguese (NOT Italian), and 
(3) JEWISH! Barreto breaks the secret code of Columbus' signature and exposes the explorer's covert life. 

FACT_4#: Authentic Letters of Columbus. 
William Eleroy Curtis, 
Honorary Curator, Department of Columbus Memorial. 
Chicago, U. S. A.          May, 1895. 

There is one letter in the handwriting- of Columbus, BUT the greater portion having 
been written by several different amanuenses. The penmanship of his brother Bartholomew and his son Fernando are identified in several places. 

The signature or rubric of Columbus which appears at the close of all his communications, as the sign of the cross appears at the begin- 
ning, has never been satisfactorily interpreted. It was the custom in his time for men of importance to adopt sign manuals of a peculiar 
sort, as they adopted mottoes for their escutcheons, which had some apparent or concealed significance. 

The signs used by Columbus are generally interpreted to mean 
"Servus Suplex Altissimi Salvatoris Christus Maria Vosef," 
which in English reads, 
"The humble servant of Christ, the Supreme Savior, 
Mary and Joseph, Christ-bearer."  
The last line was often written " Christo Ferens," and several signa- 
tures appear without it, and with " El Almirante," (the Admiral) 
instead. These were written after his appointment as admiral in the 
Spanish navy. 
The most plausible rendering of the signs seems to be, 
"Salvo Sanctum Supulcrum Xriste Maria Yesus Xristo Ferens." 

FACT_5#: Alonso Sanchez (de Huelva??)

HUELVA, Alonso Sanchez de (wail'-va), Spanish navigator, lived in the latter part of the 15th century. He was born in the small town of Huelva, near Moguer, and from that town he took his surname. He is generally credited with the first discovery of the New World, as it is asserted that he was cast by a tempest on the shores of North America, and, being saved with three or four sailors, returned to the island of Madeira; and that from him Columbus obtained his first information of the continent, and was guided by this in his discovery. As Huelva's original manuscript was lost, the tradition of his voyage was set down as fabulous ...

"(1485) ...And because of the delay they ran out of water and supplies. For this reason and because of the great privations they had suffered on both journeys, they began to sicken and die, and of seventeen men who left Spain, no more than five reached Terceira, among them the pilot Alonso Sanchez de Huelva. They stayed at the house of the famous Genovese Christopher Columbus, because they knew he was a great pilot and cosmographer and made seamen's charts. He received them kindly and entertained them lavishly so as to learn the things that had happened on the long and strange voyage they said they had undergone. But they arrived so enfeebled by hardships that Christopher Columbus could not restore them to health despite his attentions, and they all died in his house, leaving him the heir to the hardships that had caused their death" 
(Royal Commentaries of the Incas, vol. 1, pp. 12-14).

also mention Huelva's discovery:
later researches seem to confirm the tradition, and such writers as
George Horn, Laet, Alderete, Jose de Acosta, Grotius, and Hakluyt
appear to give it full credit.
Mariana affirms that there are authentic proofs of Huelva's landing at Madeira.
Ferdinand Denis, in his "Articles critiques,"
Fray Geronimo de la Concepcion, in his "Cadiz Ilustrado," and
Diego da Costa, in "Ocios de Espanoles Emigrados,"

Some believe that the information provided by Sánchez, concerning headings and distances, influenced Columbus's plans. Others believe that Alonso Sánchez never existed and that he was simply part of an attempt by the Pinzón brothers to discredit Columbus's skills as a navigator.
Indeed, no document from the time tells about any Alonso Sánchez, and everything known about him comes from the writers that told his story well after Columbus death.

EPILOGUE that predates other sources

To end the trade routes of the world at the year 990
 (before the vikings decided to set in Normandy and occupy England and Sicily)

There is, in any event, additional credible evidence of Jewish activity in China that goes back to the latter part of the 9th century, when ibn Khurdadbih, the so-called Postmaster of Baghdad and a northern Persian Geaographer, alluded to Jewish traders known as Radanites who traveled from such distant points as Spain and France all the way to China and back by any of four already well-established land and sea routes. I

How to Spot a Fake at CNBC

An increasing number of wealthy collectors are investing in art, rare collectibles and even wine. But when buying rare, trophy bottles, even the most educated connoisseur can get duped. Jamie Ritchie, President of Sotheby's Wine in the U.S. and Asia, explains how to spot a fake.

Did you know the world's most valued treasures are vanishing in a multibillion-dollar black market business? 
From artwork and counterfeit wine to valuable pieces of history -- we'll take you inside the business that is 'Ripping off the Rich.'
cnbc -fakes   Published: Monday, 11 Mar 2013 
Some fake paintings have been so convincing, they've made it all the way into auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses.
A lot of the fakes and forgeries today — Warhols, Da Vincis and more — are made in China. In this clip from the CNBC reality series "Treasure Detectives," art detective Curtis Dowling, says that famous artworks are copied by the thousands in places like Shenzen.
In an age of perfect digital reproductions that can be doctored to look like valuable original paintings, there are a few factors buyers can consider to determine a painting's authenticity.
First, Dowling says, potential buyers need to know the artist and their body of work. Look at the signature and the frame to see if anything is off. Look at the colors in the painting – not all paint colors were available in the past. That's why savvy buyers will bring a color chart to see if they spot a color that wasn't possible in the era the painting was made. 
But don't just look at the front. Flip that painting over. What surface is it painted on, and how does it sit on that? How does it feel and does it look aged enough? Considering these aspects are a few ways to avoid paying too much for a copycat.
Check out the clip and see if you can learn how to spot a fake.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

the news behind the lines - Politics of the NEWSROOM

the newsroom -quotes 

Q1. What is the first question Jenny asks?
Q2. What are the first two answers to her question?
Q3. How does the moderator react when Will snaps " The New York Jets"?

Q4.  When the moderator  insists on a straight answer with 

 I'm not letting you go back to the airport without answering the question." 

what does Will say about 

US Constitution .............  

James Madison ................... and 

 The Declaration of Independence  ........................

Q5. How does Will emphasize the US are NOT 

the only ones in the world who have freedom? 

Q6. How does Will states that there is NOT

 evidence to support her initial  statement?
world figures in these concepts: 
life expectancy. 
 infant mortality. 
 median household income
labor force exports. 

Q7. Which are the only three categories the US excell?

Q8. How does he emphasize the sentence 

"you are a member of the worst generation" 

Q9. Why does Will say "Yosemite?"?

Q10. How can you solve a problem according to Will

Explain what is his real idea about his country.







Q1. Jenny:  Can you say in one sentence or less...what... you know what I mean:

“Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”

Sharon: Diversity and opportunity.

Louis: Ah freedom and freedom, let’s keep it that way.

Q3. Debate Moderator: No, I’m gonna hold you to an answer on that. 

Q4. our Constitution is a masterpiece

James Madison was a genius

The Declaration of Independence is for me

the single greatest piece of American writing....

Q5. (to Lewis): And with a straight face, you tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K. France. Italy. Germany. Spain. Australia. 
BELGIUM has freedom. (laughs) out of 207 sovereign states in the world, like,  180 of them have freedom.

Q6. We're seventh in literacy. Twenty-seventh in math. Twenty-second in science. Forty-ninth in life expectancy. A hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality. Third in median household income. Number four in labor force and number four in exports. 

Q7. We lead the world in 
Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, 
number of adults who believe angels are real, 
and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six 
countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.

Q8.  you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the worst, period, generation, period, ever, period. 

Q9 . Physical empty space !! Ironic

Q10. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. 
America is not the greatest country in the world anymore

For a full activity on accuracy homework, visit

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

soothsayers had the very best

Don't go West young man. (Advice to Columbus.)

I. A Voyage to Asia would require three years.
II. The western Ocean is infinite and perhaps   
III. If he reached the Antipodes he could not get back.
IV There are no Antipodes because the greater part 
   of the globe is covered with water, and because 
  St. Augustine said so.
V. Of the five zones, only three are habitable.
VI. So many centuries after the Creation,
    it is unlikely that anyone could find unknown lands      of any value.
- Report of the committee organized in 1486
 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella  to study Columbus' plans

Aeroplanes and fear of flying

Samuel Langley's experiments with airplanes

Comment in the New York Times one week before the successful flight of the Kitty Hawk by the Wright brothers:

"...We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time and the money involved, in further airship experiments. Life is short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly....For students and investigators of the Langley type there are more useful employments."

Source: New York Times, December 10,1903, editorial page

I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville
that man would not fly for fifty years.
Two years later we ourselves made flights.
This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet
gave me such a shock that ever since
I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.
- Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) 
[In a speech to the Aero Club of France (Nov 5, 1908)]

Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
- Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French military strategist, 1911. He was later a World War I commander.

Space travel

  • A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.

  • The New York Times, January 13, 1920.

    The Times offered a retraction on July 17, 1969, (Apollo 11)

 Nuclear energy

There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] 
will ever be obtainable. It would mean that 
the atom would have to be shattered at will.
- Albert Einstein, 1932.


manufacturing cars

  • With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, 
  • the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.           Businessweek, August 2, 1968.


There is no reason for any individual
to have a computer in their home.
- Kenneth Olsen, president of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The planet in numbers: urban life outgrows rural life

A new vision for the city of the future

As the world population expands, cities will have to transform to meet the challenge. Here come foldable cars and flexible apartments.
By Alex Konrad, reporter
A new vision for the city of the future
FORTUNE -- A small vehicle that looks like a Jetsons version of a smart car rests in a room at MIT's Media Lab. Here's how it works. When parking, the rear of the electric CityCar slides under the chassis, allowing the body to fold up into a compact shell. Once folded, the CityCar will fit into a space just one-third the size of a standard parking spot. A single door on the front of the car pops open, allowing the driver to step out onto the sidewalk.
The CityCar is just one example of how MIT's Changing Places group envisions the urban lifestyle of 2022. In October the world population hit 7 billion, and now for the first time in history more than half of the world's population lives in urban centers. MIT is studying how to house and move all those people in ways that will make urban living still bearable. Says Kent Larson, the program's director: "We're focusing on more efficient uses of resources, on ways to lower costs and energy use and at the same time increase personal space."
Arguments Against:
  • Large modern cities are too big to control.
  • Trains are packed; streets are crowded; busses are full. There are bus queues and traffic jams everywhere.
  • Unforeseen events (e.g. power-cut, heavy snowfall, etc.) can cause conditions of utter chaos.
  • City-dwellers are barely conscious of seasons. 
  • The cost of living is higher in big cities.
  • Cities breed crime and violence; houses are burgled; bicycles stolen.
  • Tension in big cities shortens people's lives.
  • Pollution in big cities is becoming dangerous to your health.
  • City people are not a warm-hearted and friendly as country people.
  • The country is a better place for children and much safer.
  • People lose too much time getting to work.
  • Contagious diseases become a serious health hazard.
  • Too many temptations present potential trouble for young people.
  • Too many evil people flock to the cities for better opportunities for their crimes.
Arguments in Favor:
  • Modern man is too sophisticated for simple country pleasures.
  • Commuting does not affect those who live in cities; it is only a small inconvenience.
  • People easily adapt themselves to city life; noise, traffic, etc. are hardly noticed.
  • there are more places for entertainment.
  • Life is never dull; there is always something to do.
  • There are better schools and services in big cities.
  • There is a greater range of jobs and the pay is higher.
  • There is more opportunity to succeed in life.
  • There is more opportunity to meet a variety of interesting people.
  • The educational level is higher; it is a better place for children.
  • There is more choice of schools.
  • The shopping has a wider variety and prices are better.

B2 -tests links

Try these three links to train for the B2 tests

Cambridge First Certificate in English - FCE

oficial site CAE

Sample papers and other materials are available for all the exams listed on the page. 
The FCE has samples of Speaking performance. These enable you to hear what a typical learner at that level can achieve in terms of spoken communication

2 Full Tests here

What is the FCE test like?
The test has five sections. Try these three:
  1. Reading - 60 minutes
  2. Use of English - 45 minutes
  3. Listening - 40 minutes 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Those tapas away from home at El Mediterraneo

16-22 August 2013 #669   Nepali Times Buzz

El Mediterraneo    Time to savour those tapas

The first time I stepped into El Mediterraneo was for an evening of beer with friends. Food clearly wasn’t the focus of the night. However, chef and owner Bibushan Raj Joshi kept pouring yummy complimentary tapas and even a baked apple. By the end, I was convinced that I had to put it on my review list. This week I finally got around to going in again.
El Mediterraneo has a simple and inviting decor, white walls, blue ceiling, and wooden furniture, with a bar on the side. The menu was quite refreshing, sans the long list of regular Nepali favourites along with Chinese, Thai, and Italian as dished out by most restaurants in Kathmandu. 
But El Mediterraneo is what it says it is: a Spanish restaurant with tapas.
  • With gazpacho (Rs 220) on the list, we decided to forgo drinks and order straight. In simple terms gazpacho is a tomato-based soup, served cold. We were very impressed by El Mediterraneo’s gazpacho - cold, refreshing, and smooth. The tomato, vegetables, and herbs had been puréed to a smooth consistency and the flavours blended well in every spoonful. The start was good.
  • Next we had tortilla de patatas (Rs 220), Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions. The eggs had been beautifully layered with potatoes and cooked just right. There wasn’t much to complain about the dish, although personally I would have preferred a side of salsa or sauce to add a bit of spice to the bland combination.
For the mains we ordered seafood paella (Rs 480) and vegetarian fideos (Rs 400). Although we were wowed by the starters, the mains didn’t excite us much. 
  • When our seafood paella (like Biriyani, it says on the menu) arrived, it looked like the cook had simply dropped a dollop of rice on a white plate without any effort to improve its appeal. The dish certainly tasted better than it looked and I could feel the ingredients of the sofrito as I took a mouthful. But since the rice had not been cooked in seafood broth it lacked that specific flavour. I should also mention, I almost had to fish for the seafood in my seafood paella.
  • Our vegetarian fideos looked even less appealing than the paella and unfortunately this time we were correct to judge the food by its cover. The noodles had been broken into inch-long pieces and cooked fine, but the dish lacked flavour. And I understand if the restaurant had to be stingy with seafood, but vegetables? The fideos could have used a little more.
  • The mousse de lima (Rs 170) or lemon mousse was the saving grace. It had been beautifully set in a glass and set to a fine consistency. The sweetness was just right and you could taste the delightful lemon flavour of the mousse. Highly recommended.
  • We also tried natillas, a Spanish custard made with milk and eggs, and topped with a biscuit. The custard hadn’t set very well but the flavour was quite good. However, I think the restaurant was supposed to add the biscuit only at the time of serving. Our biscuit had spent a while in the fridge with the custard. It was soggy and didn’t add anything to the dessert.
  • Our beginning and end at El Mediterraneo was great, but the mains were disappointing. 
  • The restaurant has a unique positioning and can garner a niche if it pays attention to the details of a dish. 
  • Also, Chef Joshi would do well to train his staff in hospitality skills, which was the reason that bought me here in the first place. 
  • And a side note to diners: specify what kind of water you want, otherwise you will end up paying for an expensive mineral water. 

Buena suerte!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Detroit, the case of the shrinking city

A case in point, DETROIT

All sorts of things are happening in Detroit that don’t seem to be happening in many, if any, other places.
The best-known of those is the city’s depopulation trend. That’s been happening for a while now, but over the first decade of the 21st century, just as we started to read stories about how Detroit had turned a corner after 40 years or so and was finally ready for a comeback, the bottom fell out. 
  • In 1950, it had nearly 1.9 million people and was the fifth-largest city in the US. 
    • In 2000, the city had just under a million residents and was the tenth-largest city in the US by population. 
    • By 2010, Detroit’s population cratered to 713,777 – a 25% decline in a single decade.

    One thing about this data that catches my eye is that the population of the larger Detroit region doesn’t change that much between 1970 (about 4.5 million) and 2010 (about 4.3 million)
    I don’t really see how a city can lose 25% of its population and be healthy. It’s possible that Detroit is now at its optimal size, but I’m going to wait for some concrete results before I’ll believe that the city has finally risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes.

REACTIONS. Defend them
The Telegraph visits the abandoned skyscrapers of Detroit, USA, 
 Alastair Good meets the residents who are searching for solutions.
  •  Everyone has left the city, and the government remains. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the problem is government? 
  • I have been telling the people that I have the solution for Detroit: Lease Detroit  to the chinese for 99 years. They would transform it into an emporium of manufacturing, financial mecca and a mega distribution neural center.
  • That GM, Ford and all of the other companies that used to reside here are now gone because of rules, regulations and policies implemented by government? 
  • I wonder what would happen if the Detroit government relocated somewhere? 
  • I can only imagine the industriousness that would return, once all of the barriers to entry were dismantled and free enterprise/free reign on ideas was allowed to flourish. 
  • Liberals wince and foam at the mouth at a notion like that. However, that is what this nation was founded upon. 
  • Maybe we could create a 'private property/free enterprise zone' within Detroit.....ONLY Detroit.....and watch and wait to see what happens. If it fails, the city would be no worse off than it is now. If it succeeded, Michigan could slowly extend this zone out to encompass larger and larger areas and become a powerhouse.

New trends: changes in populating cities Lisbon and Birmingham (US)

The biggest trends: metropolis and con-urban areas and shrinking cities.

1- Europe:  Abandoned Lisbon

A recent piece written in El País talks about how Lisbon has lost 100,000 people per decade for the last 30 years.  The reasons they list include:
  •  poor condition of public services like schools and hospitals, 
  • and the fact that property in Lisbon costs 3 times more than in surrounding municipalities. 

It is such factors that have landed both Lisboa and Portugal’s second city, Porto, in the EU’s top ten most quickly shrinking cities.
Speaking with neighbors and friends, you hear the frustration that something more isn’t being done to renovate, restore, or above all – make use of these spaces somehow.  Through the eyes of someone who has seen the beauty of Amsterdam’s squat movement, or Copenhagen’s Christiania, there is a lack of creativity is this legendary capital city when it comes to reclaiming abandoned and forgotten spacesBut what is being done on a small or large scale in Lisbon? And why can’t more be done? Why not get radical and yes, a little crazy, when it comes to policies regarding abandoned property 

2. USA -The rust belt
Medium size towns  BIRMINGHAM (USA)

The population drained from a peak of 340,887 in 1960 to about 231,000 today.
Birmingham is one of the nation's fastest-shrinking cities, yet it has an ever-growing, world-class medical center. The metro area's growth lags, but many suburbs prosper. Middle-class flight has left pools of concentrated poverty.   By Jeff Hansen
On any given weekday, the corner of University Boulevard and 20th Street South is jammed with people and traffic. The bustling intersection is the doorstep of the University of Alabama at Birmingham -- and the heartbeat of the region's economy.
Just four miles away, in Birmingham's Ensley neighborhood, abandoned homes and businesses scar block after block. At 20th Street Ensley and Pleasant Hill Road are the remains of the Ensley Works, furnaces where thousands of people once made steel. Today, 18 rusting smokestacks stand sentry above fields of waist-high grass, the lost heart of a community whose population has plunged more than any other in the city.
Both intersections show the realities of life today in metropolitan Birmingham: 
  • One hails the best hopes for the future of Alabama's largest urban region -- a robust economic center built around a cutting-edge medical center and university. 
  • The other exposes the poverty and abandonment that is the Rust Belt of the South.

Between these extremes is Birmingham's struggle to thrive as a city and region.
Of the 15 American cities that have lost the largest share of their populations since 1960, 14 are in the industrial Northeast and upper Midwest -- areas traditionally known as the Rust Belt. No. 15 on that list is Birmingham