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A Former CIA Tracker Shares the Fine Art of Ferreting Out Fugitives

December 21, 2017 in History

By Sean D. Naylor

Nada Bakos, former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and targeting officer who joined the CIA in 2000, was instrumental in hunting down Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq.

Nada Bakos, who joined the manhunt team on Season 3 of HISTORY’s Hunting Hitler, is a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and targeting officer who joined the CIA in 2000 and began to study illicit finance networks, with a focus on North Korea. But after the September 11 attacks in 2001, she volunteered to work in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, where she was instrumental in hunting down Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, who was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. Bakos talks with HISTORY about the day-to-day business of working for the CIA and strategies for finding people who don’t want to be found.

What are the similarities between your role on ‘Hunting Hitler’ and your work, say, hunting a terrorist like al-Zarqawi?
It really was analogous. Because when you’re trying to paint a picture of where someone might end up going—and what their strategy was and what their intent was—it was basically the same thing. By the end of World War II the Nazi leadership had dissolved into a network from a bureaucracy and a hierarchical structure, which is very similar to what Zarqawi was doing inside of Iraq. He didn’t have a very significant hierarchy. His was literally a network of nodes and power centers, so that was very similar to what the Nazi leadership ended up doing after they were fleeing Germany.

Do you actually believe that Hitler escaped to South America, or to anywhere?
It’s funny, because you take all these history classes, and studying World War II, you’re not really taught the history of what happened at the end, necessarily, with some of the leadership. We talk about the rebuilding of Europe and what happened to the United States and the global economy. We talk about the trials and who was actually caught.

But what I found through doing this show was how much of a significant portion of the Nazis’ leadership escaped. And for me, what was more compelling than the question of whether Hitler could have gotten out was the fact that so many of these [other Nazi leaders] got out and continued to conduct the same type of atrocities in South America that they did in Germany. It looked like [Hitler] could have gotten out of Germany much easier than I ever anticipated. Do I think he did? That’s probably a spoiler, right?

My …read more


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The Personal Tragedy Behind the “Joy of Cooking”

December 21, 2017 in History

By Erin Blakemore

During the 1930s, salespeople went door to door to peddle their wares, desperately trying to make enough cash to get through the Great Depression. One of them was a St. Louis woman with greying hair and a booklet to hawk named Irma Starkloff Rombauer. She was no traditional saleswoman, and her product was no ordinary title. It was the first edition of The Joy of Cooking, a book that would change the way generations of Americans cook.

Rombauer had no formal culinary experience, no publishing experience and no sales background. So how did she translate her booklet on cooking into an American institution? The answer can be found in a tragedy, a financial fix and one housewife’s gritty determination.

Born to a German family in Missouri in 1877, Irma Starkloff studied fine arts and spent her early years in Europe and the United States, enjoying high society, refined culture, and becoming what she called “an artist of life.” As the wife of St. Louis attorney and politician Edgar Rombauer, she did plenty of entertaining, but cooking wasn’t her forte. Instead, the lively hostess prided herself on offering a warm home and great conversation to her guests.

Then, disaster struck the nation—and Rombauer. In 1929, the stock market crash plunged the United States into an economic depression that bled the life savings and investments of many American families. Unbeknownst to Rombauer, her family would be one of them. Her husband of 30 years, who had suffered from periodic bouts of mental illness, killed himself in February 1930.

A stunned Rombauer realized she was near financial ruin. She had just $6,000 in stocks to her name. Her son didn’t live at home, and her daughter was about to marry, leaving Rombauer alone in her household. She needed something to occupy her mourning mind—and money to help her live through the lean Depression years.

Rombauer thought fast. She remembered the cooking class she had taught a decade earlier to a church group. Her best dishes were desserts—a reflection of her duties as a society hostess, which revolved around genteel conversation over a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. She had compiled some recipes for the class, and wondered what she could do with them. At a small inn in Michigan, she came up with the concept that would become The Joy of Cooking.

Marion Rombauer Becker …read more


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How to Save the Internet

December 21, 2017 in Blogs

By David Morris, AlterNet

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Not the Comcasts or the Verizons or the AT&T monopolies of the world.

In late October, Ajit Pai, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, proudly announced, “We’ve been energetic in advancing the public interest…over the past nine months, the Commission has voted on 63 items at our monthly meetings, compared to 103 in the preceding three years.” It now surpasses 70.  

This certainly has been a busy year for the FCC. But Pai is dead wrong that this flurry of activity has been done to advance the public interest. Indeed, as one might expect from a man who once worked for telecom giant Verizon, Pai has directed an unprecedented abdication by the FCC of its responsibility to protect the public welfare.  

In March, Congress, with virtually no debate or publicity, allowed Internet companies to gather and sell our personal data. It was a monstrous and cowardly act. Republicans developed a “secret strategy” to avoid the public spotlight. The Washington Post reports, “While the nation was distracted by the House’s pending vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans would schedule a vote to wipe out the new privacy protections.”

An outraged Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, rightly called the decision “disgusting.”

“(W)hen people use the web what they do is really, really intimate,” he explained. “They go to their doctor for a second opinion; they’ve gone to the web for the first opinion on whether it’s cancer. They communicate very intimately with family members that they love. There are things that people do on the web that reveal absolutely everything, more about them than they know themselves sometimes.”

Internet service providers (ISPs) can now compile a detailed profile of our web behavior and market it. Some may deign to charge …read more


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New Trump Tax Calculator Shows How Much You'll Pay With This New Law

December 21, 2017 in Blogs

By Theo Thimou,

If you're not already rich, you're out of luck.

Tax reform is at the forefront of the nation’s mind as we rush headlong into the height of the holiday season. Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the GOP tax bill today before sending it off to President Trump by December 20. Just one stroke of President Trump’s pen will reshape your… Read the rest of this entry →

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J20 Defendants Found Not Guilty in Trump Protest Case That Tested Free Speech

December 21, 2017 in Blogs

By Emily Bell, AlterNet

All 42 charges resulted in acquittals.

One month and one day after the start of the closely watched so-called J20 trial, the six defendants have all been found not guilty.

The defendants originally faced a felony charge of inciting a riot, multiple felony charges of property damage and misdemeanor charges of engaging in a riot and conspiracy to riot.

Though Judge Lynn Leibovitz acquitted the defendants on the count of inciting a riot December 13—a charge that carries possibly five decades of jail time—the other counts went to a jury and were not announced until Thursday.

The charges originated on Trump’s inauguration day, or J20, when more than 200 people attending protests were “kettled” and arrested. The J20 trial brought to light the extreme conduct of the Metropolitan Police Department on inauguration day.

The six defendants in the first trial included journalist Alexei Wood and two medics.

These unprecedented trials were viewed as an encroachment on freedom of the press and free speech.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rizwan Qureshi said to the jury, “We’ve been here for the last several weeks because these six defendants and these co-conspirators agreed to destroy your city… And now they’re hiding behind the First Amendment.”

The trial was also seen as a sign of allowing a courtroom to decide what counts as journalism or not, especially over a debate about Wood’s livestream of the J20 events.

As the Intercept reported, there were concerns over the trial arguments as a larger commentary on journalism and protest, voiced by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Jim Naureckas: “If these indictments are not rejected by juries, we’ll see even less coverage of dissent than we already do, once it’s established that telling people about anything forbidden by police is the same as committing those acts.”

The role of the medics, two of the defendants, was another focus of the trial. Of one medic, Brittne Lawson, Qureshi said, “As a provider of medical services, she was a co-conspirator. She aided and abetted this …read more


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Trump's State Department Explicitly Doesn't Care About Human Rights Anymore

December 21, 2017 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

In a flashback to Henry Kissinger, U.S. foreign policy no longer even pretends to care about human rights.

America has long had a disconnect between ideals and reality when it comes to human rights. After all, the country was founded on the idea of the inalienable right to life, liberty and happiness, even as it held slaves and stole the land of its Native inhabitants in a genocidal rampage. There were Red scares, Jim Crow, deportations, internment and mass incarceration, some of it still happening today. And that's just what we did in our own country. Indeed, it's obvious that throughout American history, our elegant paeans to freedom and liberty and the rights of man were not universally applied.

Progress on human rights seems to come in fits and starts and is commonly denied to minority populations as long as possible. Still, hypocrisy being the proverbial tribute vice pays to virtue, there is value in having ideals even if you don't entirely live up to them. At least they remain alive and part of the dialogue. When a nation is the world's only superpower, it especially behooves its leaders to make the effort to promote and adhere to such ideals as much as possible, lest the rest of the world gets the wrong idea and decides it is a menace they need to oppose. This is just common sense.

Most people think Jimmy Carter was the first president to put human rights front and center in U.S. foreign policy. But that had actually been coming for some time, mostly from the Congress and at the behest of the public, which had been awakened by the Vietnam War to the downside of American power abroad. This included the ugly revelations about U.S. support for authoritarian right-wing regimes around the world in the name of opposing Communism.

In large part, this new focus was a reaction to the realpolitik philosophy of Henry Kissinger, which saw concern for human rights as an impediment to effective foreign policy that was likely to damage necessary alliances. This was perhaps most vividly illustrated by Kissinger's support for Gen. Augusto …read more


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You Too Can Live in a Knights Templar Castle

December 21, 2017 in History

By Carrie Coolidge

Château in Southern Charente, Angouleme.  ASKING PRICE: €1.54 million ($1.82 million). TEMPLAR CONNECTION: Built by the order during the 13th century as a commanderie, or estate under the control of a commander of a military order.  SELLING POINTS NOW: Small hilltop village location, 9 bedrooms, an architectural blend of Roman and Renaissance styles, a scullery, and a church and refectory on the property. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell-Baynes)

The Knights Templar may have been monastic warriors known as the “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ,” but you probably wouldn’t know it from the real estate they left behind. The imposing manor houses, castles and fortresses they constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries could host crusading kings one week and withstand enemy bombardment the next.

The Templars built scores of impressive piles all over Europe and the near East, with clusters especially in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Given the profusion of myth and legend swirling around the order, it’s not surprising that the structures still intact today can come with titillating extras—think titles, ghosts and hidden treasure.

Château in Southern Charente, Angouleme. ASKING PRICE: €1.54 million ($1.82 million). TEMPLAR CONNECTION: Built by the order during the 13th century as a commanderie, or estate under the control of a commander of a military order. SELLING POINTS NOW: Small hilltop village location, 9 bedrooms, an architectural blend of Roman and Renaissance styles, a scullery, and a church and refectory on the property. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell-Baynes)

“Knights Templar were unusual people: cosmopolitan, driven and often aggressive in nature,” says Richard Hodges, archaeologist and President of the American University of Rome. “Imagine the ghosts such a property might have.”

Only a handful of Templar-related properties are available for purchase at any given time, and the vast majority of surviving châteaux on the market were built after the Renaissance, says Simon Oliver of Gites à la Française, which sells châteaux throughout France. “To find a château dating back to the 11th or 12th century on the market is rare. To find one in good condition is very rare. And to find a Knights Templar château in good condition is extremely rare,” he says.

Château de Douzens, in the Corbières wine region. ASKING PRICE: €890,000 ($1.05 million). TEMPLAR TOUCHES: Donated to the Templars in 1133, it includes secret rooms, hidden passages and possible ghosts. SELLING POINTS NOW: Dominating a small village in the Corbières wine region near Carcassonne, this 900-year-old château has four corner towers, nine bedrooms, a spa room and a swimming pool. (Photo courtesy of GITES a la Française)

One Templar-connected property, known as Château de Douzens, comes with the prospect of several medieval-era bonuses. On the market for €890,000 ($1.05 million), the 12th-century property, located in the Corbières wine region …read more


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The Wrong Number That Launched the Santa Tracker

December 21, 2017 in History

By Christopher Klein

Air Force Lt. Col. David Hanson of Chicago taking a phone call from a child in Florida at the Santa Tracking Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs. (Credit: Ed Andrieski/AP Photo)

When the dreaded red phone rang inside the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) operations center on the last day of November in 1955, the mood at the nerve center of America’s nuclear defense grew nervous. At a time when the Cold War raged and Soviet fighter jets routinely buzzed dangerously close to Alaskan airspace, U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup knew that a call over the top-secret hotline wouldn’t be good news.

Anxious that the caller might be the president or a four-star general warning of an atomic attack on the United States, Shoup steeled himself as he answered the hotline that was directly wired from his command post in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to the

“Yes, sir, this is Colonel Shoup,” he answered in his finest military cadence. Met with only silence, he repeated, “Sir, this is Colonel Shoup.” Still nothing. “Sir, can you read me alright?” Shoup asked before he received a most unexpected reply from the soft voice of a child.

“Are you really Santa Claus?”

Shoup’s eyes immediately scanned the cavernous operations center. Who was the prankster? The deadly serious heart of America’s defense against aerial assault was hardly the venue for a practical joke, and the colonel was not amused.

“Would you repeat that, please?” Shoup barked. On the other end of the line, he heard the frightened youngster sobbing and realized this was no joke. Some mix-up had compromised the top-secret hotline. Rather than admitting he wasn’t Santa Claus, the 38-year-old father of four quickly assumed the part of St. Nick and listened to a Christmas wish list before asking to speak to the child’s mother.

The mother informed the colonel, who passed away in 2009, that her child had dialed the phone number listed in a Sears Roebuck advertisement in the local Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement featured an illustration of Santa Claus and an invitation to call him on his private phone any time day or night. There was a problem with that printed phone number, however.

“They had one digit wrong, and it was my father’s top-secret phone number,” Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, recalls. “So now the phone is ringing off the hook.”

Air Force Lt. Col. David Hanson of Chicago taking a phone call from a child in Florida at the Santa Tracking Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs. (Credit: Ed Andrieski/AP Photo)

Instead of reaching the Santa standing by at …read more


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Why Do Humans Sleep in 8-Hour Cycles?

December 21, 2017 in History

By Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

'Girl with a Candle', late 17th century painting in the collection of the State A Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Get your eight hours. A command so familiar it feels timeless: humans just need their eight hours of sleep. It’s natural. But our past sleep schedules challenge the idea that anything, even our biological needs, truly transcends historical boundaries.

For much of recorded history, humans have actually slept eight hours, but in two distinct phases of approximately four hours each. As scholar Roger Ekirch uncovered through his exhaustive historical study of literature, art, and diaries, people would once head to bed when it got dark, sleep for four hours, wake for a while, and slide into a “second sleep” for another four hours. People didn’t just toss and turn along in between their two sleep sessions: they would contemplate their dreams, read by candlelight, or have sex.

Writers from Livy to Plutarch to Virgil to Homer all referred to this structure, as well as medieval Christian and African tribal cultures. But the “biphasic sleep” pattern, which was governed by the natural timing of nightfall and sunrise, didn’t last in the modern era.

As artificially illuminating the night sky became more affordable, life—and soon sleep habits—changed. Fifty European cities introduced tax-supported street lighting by 1700 and made it safe and socially acceptable to move about publicly after dark, a time of day that had previously been considered the domain solely of prostitutes and other suspicious characters. The assumption that nothing good could go on at night was so widespread that until the arrival of artificial lighting, citizens often freely emptied their “piss-pots” out of windows after dark.

In the United States, Baltimore became the first city to be lit by gas in 1816; a century later, electricity in streets and in growing numbers of homes meant nightfall no longer ensured the inescapable darkness that had dictated beginning one’s first sleep soon after. Going out at night became a fashionable social pastime, pushing bedtime later and bringing the two separate sleep phases closer to the single stretch we know today.

‘Girl with a Candle’, late 17th century painting in the collection of the State A Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

It was industrialization that solidified the single sleep as a social norm. Especially in the cities that increasingly revolved around factory production, a newly formalized workday structured daily life and a fascination with productivity meant that spending hours lolling around in the middle of the night was considered slothful.

School schedules also became …read more


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War Socialism and the Confederate Defeat

December 21, 2017 in Economics

By Chris Calton


By: Chris Calton

In Human Action, Ludwig von Mises writes:

The market economy, say the socialists and the interventionists, is at best a system that may be tolerated in peacetime. But when war comes, such indulgence is impermissible. It would jeopardize the vital interests of the nation for the sole benefit of the selfish concerns of capitalists and entrepreneurs. War, and in any case modern total war, peremptorily requires government control of business.

This doctrine, of course, is one that Mises was objecting to. As he noted a few paragraphs later, a country that substitutes “government control for private enterprise . . . would deprive itself of the most efficient means of defense.”

In the history of the American Civil War, historians laud the successful interventions by Confederate bureaucrats in the economy to hasten Southern industrialization. According to the standard narrative, the Confederate States lost the war despite these tremendous accomplishments.

Mises, of course, would say that the CSA lost the war because of these interventions. “It was in the [American] Civil War,” he writes, “that, for the first time, problems of the interregional division of labor played the decisive role.” In Human Action, Mises is chastising European military leaders for dismissing this conflict as non-instructive prior to the World Wars through which he lived.

Like many warring countries, the Confederacy adopted interventionist measures that “step by step led to full ‘war socialism.’” This is contrary to the standard narrative, both from historians who favor the Union cause but object to laissez faire economics, as well as those who are sympathetic to the Southern states and favor capitalism. The Union, of course, intervened heavily in its own economy as part of the war effort, but Union intervention never reached the full-blown war socialism of the CSA.

Historians who like to applaud government interventions often point to Confederate Chief of Ordinance Josiah Gorgas. Through his efforts, the Confederacy forced industrialization on the agricultural economy, all through government fiat. In his personal diary, Gorgas showed pride in his accomplishments:

I have succeeded beyond my utmost expectations. . . . Large arsenals have been organized at Richmond, Fayetteville, Augusta, Charleston, Columbus, Macon, Atlanta and Selma, and smaller ones at Danville, Lynchburg, and Montgomery. . . . A superb powder mill has been built at Augusta. . . . Lead smelting works were established by me at Petersburg, and turned over to the Nitre and Mining Bureau, when that …read more