Secrets of the Samurai Sword (Full Version)

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English archers had their longbows, Old West sheriffs had their six-guns, but samurai warriors had the most fearsome weapon of all: the razor-sharp, unsurpassed technology of the katana, or samurai sword. In this program, NOVA probes the centuries-old secrets that went into forging what many consider the perfect blade.

The beauty and lethality of the curved steel blade became identified with the distinctive culture of those who wielded it so expertly: the samurai warriors of medieval Japan, celebrated in countless Japanese woodcuts, prints, and films. Fifteen traditional Japanese craftsmen spent nearly six months creating the sword that NOVA follows through production, from smelting the ore to forging the steel to sharpening the blade to a keen edge, capable of slicing through a row of warriors at one swoop; although NOVA does not put the super-weapon to this ultimate test.

Not that samurai sword fighting has died out; far from it. The program also traces the schooling of a modern-day devotee of samurai combat: Midori Tanaka, a receptionist for a Japanese electronics firm by day and a blade buff by night. For Tanaka it’s a family tradition, since her father, Fumon Tanaka, is a grand master swordsman.

Father and daughter show their mutual respect with a breathtaking test of skill. Midori draws a bow, aiming an arrow directly at her father’s heart. His only protection is his sword. When she releases the string, he slices the speeding arrow in half, inches from its target.

Japanese sword-making developed centuries ago, before electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and other tools of modern materials analysis enabled scientists to understand exactly why the swords are as good as they are. Professor Michael Notis of Lehigh University, an expert on samurai swords, sheds light on the principles that underlie the weapons’ strength, resilience, beauty, and distinctive shape.

For example, during smelting, iron-ore sand is heated with charcoal, which provides a source of carbon that alloys with the iron to create steel. Ancient craftsmen deliberately stopped just short of a uniform liquid state for the white-hot steel, which resulted in a product with varying amounts of carbon throughout. The harder high-carbon steel was forged into the sword’s edge, which had to be hard and sharp, while the more resilient low-carbon steel was used as the core of the weapon to produce a blade resistant to breaking during combat.

This sandwich of two different types of steel contracted at different rates during rapid cooling, or quenching, which caused the blade to warp lengthwise, giving it its distinctive curve that proved so deadly when wielded in a slashing arc. “The unique aspect of the Japanese sword is that the craftsmen were able to put the right materials in the right place to get optimum properties for the entire object,” Notis tells NOVA.

Without access to the insights of modern science, Japanese craftsmen a millennium ago worked out an exacting method that is still followed by a devoted few and that produces the Stradivarius of swords.

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Dispatches - Iraq's Secret War Files - U.S. Killing Innocent People (Full Version), 4.7 out of 5 based on 12 ratings
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Dispatches – Iraq’s Secret War Files – U.S. Killing Innocent People (Full Version)

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2010 – Dispatches exposes the full and unreported horror of the Iraqi conflict and its aftermath. The program reveals the true scale of civilian casualties, and allegations that after the scandal of Abu Ghraib, American soldiers continued to abuse prisoners; and that US forces did not systematically intervene in the torture and murder of detainees by the Iraqi security services.

The program also features previously unreported material of insurgents being killed while trying to surrender.

Channel 4 is the only UK broadcaster to have been given access to nearly 400,000 secret military significant activities reports (SIGACTS) logged by the US military in Iraq between 2004 and 2009. These reports tell the story of the war and occupation which the US military did not want the world to know.

Initially, the Americans claimed that they were not recording casualty figures and President Bush stated that America would do its utmost to avoid civilian casualties. In the files, Dispatches found details of over 109,000 deaths; 66,000 of these were civilians; 176,000 civilians and others were reported as wounded.

Under rules of engagement, known as escalation of force, anyone approaching the US military was warned to slow down and stop. The analysis reveals more than 800 people were killed in escalation of force incidents: 681 (80%) of these were civilians; a further 2,200 were wounded. Thirteen coalition troops were killed during these incidents. Dispatches found 30 children had been killed when shots were fired near civilians by US troops at checkpoints.

Over a six-year period, the data records the imprisonment of 180,000 Iraqis: one in 50 of the adult male population. Dispatches found more than 300 reports alleging abuse by US forces on Iraqi prisoners after April 2004.

The Americans effectively ignored the torture and murder of many detainees by Iraqi security forces. Dispatches has found evidence of more than 1,300 individual cases of the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqis in police stations and army bases: witnessed or reported on by American troops. Dispatches reveals that US troops were ordered not to investigate Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence.

The data shows that the Americans were aware of the horrific level of violence inflicted by Iraqi sectarian militias: over 32,500 murders; more than 10,000 shot in the head; nearly 450 decapitated; over 160 were children.

One of the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq was the suggestion of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The US told the UN Security Council in 2003 that Iraq ‘harbored’ the terrorist network. However, in the leaked data there are only seven reports mentioning Al Qaeda in 2004, and none of these refer to Al Qaeda killing anyone. By 2008, there are 8,208 reports mentioning Al Qaeda attributing to it the deaths of 45 coalition soldiers, 486 members of the Iraqi Security Services and 1,291 civilians.
 

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