You are browsing the archive for 2017 December 27.

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How Times Square Became the Home of New Year’s Eve

December 27, 2017 in History

By Christopher Klein

Crowds of people gather in Times Square to celebrate New Year's Eve. (Credit: Truman Moore/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The biggest night of the year was quickly approaching, and Adolph S. Ochs needed to find new entertainment for his New Year’s Eve party. For the previous three years, the New York Times publisher had set the skies above Manhattan ablaze with a midnight fireworks show launched from the roof of his newspaper’s 25-story headquarters. The pyrotechnics had been a hit with the 200,000 revelers who filled the junction around Broadway and 42nd Street—newly rechristened Times Square after its famous tenant—but the hot ash that rained down upon them concerned New York City officials so much that they banned the fireworks from ushering in 1908.

Ochs wasn’t one to be easily deterred. His flashy New Year’s Eve bash had previously drawn crowds away from the traditional celebration in Lower Manhattan, where New Yorkers listened as the bells of Trinity Church rang in the new year. Yet without the fireworks show, Ochs would need a new spectacle to lure the masses to the hinterlands of Times Square for New Year’s Eve.

Crowds of people gather in Times Square to celebrate New Year’s Eve. (Credit: Truman Moore/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The New York Times chief found the inspiration he needed at the Western Union Building downtown, where a metal ball three-and-a-half feet in diameter dropped from the pinnacle of the building to signify the time every weekday at noon. Nearby city dwellers peeked their heads out of horse-drawn carriages and windows, craning their necks skyward as the sun reached its zenith. On the rare occasions that the operation malfunctioned, it was the talk of the town and fodder for the newspapers.

The New York Times publisher decided to put his own spin on the city’s beloved “time ball” to usher in 1908. As people poured out of theaters, restaurants and streetcars into Times Square on December 31, 1907, they gazed up to the top of the Times Tower and saw a dazzling orb made of wood and iron, illuminated with 100 electric light bulbs.

As the crowd counted down the final fleeting seconds of 1907, workers used ropes and pulleys to slowly lower the 700-pound ball down the flagpole crowning New York’s second-tallest building. Unlike the Western Union Building’s time ball and others like it, which signified the time at the moment the ball began to move, the sphere on top of the Times Tower marked the time when it …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Jim Hightower: Why You Should Have Beer For Breakfast

December 27, 2017 in Blogs

By Jim Hightower, AlterNet

What better way to welcome the new year than with a pint of a good craft brewski?


Let's talk about two daily essentials: Breakfast, and of course, beer.

Mass marketers of breakfast cereals have been in a downward sales spiral for about a decade, so they're getting back to their roots (sort of). Few folks know that some of the oldest and biggest brands of today's artificially flavored, neon-colored, empty-calorie cereals started out as health foods, often springing from religious or utopian movements.

For instance, Ralston Purina's Wheat Chex cereal was first packaged in 1937 under the name of Shredded Ralston, specially formulated for followers of Ralstonism. What was that? A strict, bizarre, racist cult with a demonic mission: To make America a nation of Caucasian purity. Webster Edgerly, the unhinged founder of Ralstonism, proposed an efficient means for achieving his pure-white dream world: Castrate all males of “impure” lineages at birth.

The big manufacturers today aren't going full-tilt Ralstonist to reclaim market share, but they are going back to pitching their products as health food, hoping to woo millennials who want cereals with more protein, fiber, and natural ingredients and none of the artificial additives the industry has been dumping into its Choka-Mocha-Salted-Sugar Bombs. Some brands are seeking Good-For-Ya credibility by buying out organic brands such as Kashi (consumed by Kellogg's) and Annie's Homegrown (swallowed by General Mills). But the sweeping shift of this $10-billion market to healthier alternatives is, in fact, an enormous, grassroots victory, driven by the organic movement, groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest, Good Food entrepreneurs, fearless nutritionists and especially by countless moms, dads and kids who simply refused to swallow the industry's crap.

Now that breakfast is out of the way… beer! Last year, Anheuser-Busch InBev mounted a multimillion-dollar coup on America. Not on our country, but on its name. For six months, the beer behemoth expropriated our nation's name for a tacky advertising campaign, rebranding its Budweiser product “America.” But the PR ploy backfired when a flurry of stinging media stories pointed out that Bud is owned by a Brazilian consortium based …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Robert Reich: Surviving a Year with Donald Trump

December 27, 2017 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, RobertReich.org

He's the worst president we've ever had.


Last week, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch stood on the White House lawn, opining that Donald Trump’s presidency could be “the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.”

I beg to differ. 

America has had its share of crooks (Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon), bigots (Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan), and incompetents (Andrew Johnson, George W. Bush). But never before Donald Trump have we had a president who combined all these nefarious qualities.

America’s great good fortune was to begin with the opposite – a superb moral leader. By June of 1775, when Congress appointed George Washington to command the nation’s army, he had already “become a moral rallying post,” as his biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, described him, “the embodiment of the purpose, the patience, and the determination necessary for the triumph of the revolutionary cause.” 

Washington won the war and then led the fledgling nation “by directness, by deference, and by manifest dedication to duty.”  

Some two hundred forty years later, in the presidential campaign of 2016, candidate Trump was accused of failing to pay his income taxes. His response was “that makes me smart” – thereby signaling to millions of Americans that paying taxes in full is not an obligation of citizenship.

Trump also boasted about giving money to politicians so they would do whatever he wanted. “When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” In other words, it’s perfectly okay for business leaders to pay off politicians, regardless of the effect on our democracy.

Trump sent another message by refusing to reveal his tax returns during the campaign or even after he took office, or to put his businesses into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest, and by his overt willingness to make money off his presidency by having foreign diplomats stay at his Washington hotel, and promoting his various golf clubs.

These were not just ethical lapses. They directly undermined the common good by reducing the public’s trust in …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How I Changed My Holiday Traditions to Match My Values

December 27, 2017 in Blogs

By Zenobia Jeffries, YES! Magazine

Five ways to celebrate without feeling financially and emotionally overwhelmed.


Throughout my childhood, my paternal grandmother always made sure the family had a “good” Christmas. For her, that meant everyone received a gift—especially the children. We would meet at a relative’s house each year on Christmas Eve and at midnight exchange gifts. Money was often tight, and sometimes the holidays brought more of a burden when having to choose between buying decorations and gifts and paying bills.

For my own daughter’s and son’s first Christmases, I wanted them to have a good Christmas, too. I went overboard in trying to make this happen by buying unnecessary things. After that, I stopped buying gifts, and although I would still visit family for that holiday, I didn’t exchange gifts.

But these days, I’m starting my own traditions, which include observing the African American cultural holiday Kwanzaa. That doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Christmas; it’s just given me a new approach to doing so.

In 1966, Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa (derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”), a weeklong celebration to introduce and reinforce seven values, called Nguzo Saba, of African culture. Karenga is a professor and chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He said he created Kwanzaa specifically for African Americans, who did not have a day that celebrated their unique history and experience in the United States. While the early years of the holiday was in resistance to racism and White supremacy and rejected Christianity—therefore Christmas outright—the holiday has evolved to embrace all people of African descent no matter their religion.

Not everyone stresses about what the holidays demand of us, but the good news is, no one has to. Here are five ways the Nguzo Saba can inspire you to participate in the holidays without feeling financially and emotionally overwhelmed. Reclaim the holidays as your own. I did.

1. Don’t buy your gifts—make them

You don’t have to give in to the holiday shopping tradition of overspending. Make meaningful gifts. Be creative, be intentional.

The principle of Kuumba (creativity) “teaches us to do always as much as we can, in …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Is a Small Montana Town a Hotbed of Far-Right Activity?

December 27, 2017 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

There are numerous links between the Trump administration and Whitefish, a center of white supremacy.


Something fishy is going on in Whitefish, Montana. The small town of 6,500 is in one of America's most rural regions, but it has occupied a lot of media space this year. Since the beginning of 2017, the town’s name has popped up repeatedly in stories about the far right. Whitefish is the home base for Trump’s potential private spy agency, as well as the tiny company contracted to restore power in Puerto Rico, and early in the year, the town drew media attention as the proposed meeting point for an anti-Semitic rally. On the surface, these may not seem related. But on closer examination, all three are clearly linked to the Trump White House.

Let's begin with Whitefish Energy. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and left the island without power, a tiny company based in Whitefish, operating for less than two years, was contracted to restore power for a hefty fee of $300 million. The Puerto Rican government opposed the Whitefish Energy deal and it ultimately fell through, terminating November 30. The FBI has since launched an investigation into the contract.

It was through the Puerto Rico story that many first learned of the Trump administration's ties to Whitefish. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke grew up in Whitefish and has personal and business ties to the energy group contracted for the work in Puerto Rico, leading many to suspect that Zinke had ulterior motives for choosing the firm over larger, more experienced competitors. The Washington Post reported that Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski and Zinke are acquainted, “but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where 'everybody knows everybody.'…Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.”

Special favors among powerful business owners and local politicians, while unethical, aren’t anything new, and once the relationship between Zinke and Whitefish Energy was revealed in full, Puerto Rican officials called for …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The White House is Taking Down the Iconic Jackson Magnolia

December 27, 2017 in History

By Becky Little

Sheep grazing on the White House lawn, 1918. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

For nearly 200 years, the Jackson Magnolia has been photobombing pictures of the White House’s south lawn. You can see the famous tree in CBS’s coverage of Richard Nixon leaving the office in 1974, pictures from numerous White House Easter Egg Rolls, as well as this photo of Woodrow Wilson’s sheep grazing on the south lawn around 1918.

But the Jackson Magnolia isn’t what it used to be. CNN reports that the tree has been declining for decades. Furthermore, efforts to preserve it by holding it up with cables and filling a hole in it with cement haven’t succeeded. Because of this, the White House announced in the waning days of 2017 that it will remove a large portion of the historic tree from the lawn.

Sheep grazing on the White House lawn, 1918. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

The Jackson Magnolia gets its name from Andrew Jackson, the president who planted it in 1829, during his first year in office. Magnolias were supposedly the favorite tree of his late wife, Rachel, who died just after he won the 1828 election. In honor of her, he chose a Magnolia grandiflora seedling (or little plant) from their Tennessee farm to bring to the White House.

Since then, the Jackson Magnolia has become a recognizable background figure in presidential events and photo shoots. When the U.S. Treasury inexplicably replaced Grover Cleveland with Jackson on the $20 bill in 1928, the Treasury even added an image of the magnolia to the back of the bill, where it remained until 1998.


1990 series of the $20 bill, featuring the Magnolia tree. (Credit: Public Domain)

The Jackson Magnolia is so iconic that in 2013, Barack Obama delivered a seedling from the tree to Israel as “a symbol of strength, perseverance and dignity,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also presented a Jackson Magnolia seedling to Cuba in 2015, the year that the U.S. restored diplomatic relations with the island nation. In addition, Michelle Obama donated one of the tree’s seedlings to the Department of Agriculture’s community garden during her …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Four-Legged Marine Who Became a Korean War Hero

December 27, 2017 in History

By Christopher Klein

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Reckless preparing to go to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California after serving in the Korean War with the 5th Marine Regiment. (Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps Archive)

The United States Marine Corps has endured few firefights as savage as the Battle for Outpost Vegas in the waning months of the Korean War. With a roar that sounded like “twenty tornadoes tearing at a countryside,” according to one serviceman, more than 500 mortar and artillery rounds per minute deluged the mountaintop ridge where the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines attempted to repel a Chinese assault on March 27, 1953. So much ordnance howled overhead that radar screens could only display a giant, useless blur and incoming and outgoing shells collided in mid-flight.

As the sky fell on the Marines defending Outpost Vegas—so named because it would be a gamble to hold—they rejoiced as the silhouette of their beloved comrade emerged once again from the shroud of smoke that cloaked their position. All day long, their fellow Marine had traversed the “smoking, death-pocked rubble” to deliver fresh ammunition along with a badly needed boost of morale.

Traveling alone on 51 rounds trips through a no-man’s land of rice paddies and scaling a 45-degree incline with bowed head and quivering legs, the solitary figure fought the natural instinct to flee and relied on training and fortitude to deliver nearly 9,000 back-breaking pounds of ammunition from the supply point to the gun teams.

The platoon knew their heroic compatriot was no ordinary Marine—and it wasn’t just because she was a horse.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Reckless preparing to go to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California after serving in the Korean War with the 5th Marine Regiment. (Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps Archive)

A calming presence amid the chaos erupting around Outpost Vegas, the mighty mare named “Reckless” lugged six rounds, then eight, at a time up the mountain and evacuated wounded Marines back down the slope for medical treatment—even after sustaining two shrapnel wounds that would earn her a pair of Purple Hearts. On one trip, Reckless even donned flak jackets and shielded four Marines up the mountain.

“Horses are flight animals, but Reckless ran toward the danger because she knew the guys needed her,” says Robin Hutton, author of Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse.

One of those guys was Sgt. Harold Wadley, who was astounded at the sight of the riderless horse. “I looked back at the eastern skyline through all the smoke and swinging flare light and could hardly believe my eyes,” the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Profit Is So Important

December 27, 2017 in Economics

By Frank Shostak

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By: Frank Shostak

In most cultures, profit is seen as the outcome of exploitation of some individuals by some other individuals.

Hence, anyone who is seen as striving to make profits is regarded as bad news and the enemy of society and must be stopped in time from inflicting damage.

Profit however, has nothing to do with exploitation — it is about the most efficient use of real funding or real savings.

Profit as such should be seen as an indicator as it were, with respect to whether real savings are employed in the best possible way, as far as promoting people’s life and wellbeing is concerned.

If the employment of real savings results in the expansion of the pool of real savings, this could be seen as indicative that this employment was done in a profitable manner.

Conversely, if there is a decline in the pool of real savings as a result of the particular actions of individuals then this could be seen as indicative of a loss. These actions caused the squandering of real savings.

Obviously, an expansion in the pool of real savings, which is the heart of economic growth and is manifested through profits, should be regarded as the key factor for raising individuals’ living standards.

Rather than being condemned, individuals that are instrumental in the expansion of the pool of real wealth, which is manifested in terms of profits, should be praised.

For it is these individuals that are instrumental in raising the living standards of the population as a whole.

If anyone is responsible for the lowering of living standards, it is those individuals that squandered scarce real savings thus weakening the process of real savings formation resulting in the weakening of profit formation or in an outright loss.

Profit or loss can be ascertained only in a market economy where prices of goods and various factors of production can be established. Needless to say that the existence of money is the key in establishing the prices of goods and factors of production. The rate of exchanges of various goods and factors are expressed in terms of money i.e. the amount of money per unit of a good or a unit of a factor of production.

Profit emerges once an entrepreneur discovers that the prices of certain factors are undervalued relative to the potential value of the products that these factors, once employed, could pro­duce.

By recognizing the discrepancy and acting upon it, an entrepreneur …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The 7 Most Notorious Nazis Who Escaped to South America

December 27, 2017 in History

By Christopher Klein

After Allied forces defeated Germany in World War II, Europe became a difficult place to be associated with Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich. Thousands of Nazi officers, high-ranking party members and collaborators—including many notorious war criminals—escaped across the Atlantic, finding refuge in South America, particularly in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

Argentina, for one, was already home to hundreds of thousands of German immigrants and had maintained close ties to Germany during the war. After 1945, Argentine President Juan Perón, himself drawn to fascist ideologies, enlisted intelligence officers and diplomats to help establish “rat lines,” or escape routes via Spanish and Italian ports, for many in the Third Reich. Also giving aid: the Vatican in Rome, which in seeking to help Catholic war refugees also facilitated fleeing Nazis—sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.

As thousands of Nazis and their collaborators poured into the continent, a sympathetic and sophisticated network developed, easing the transition for those who came after. While no definitive evidence exists that Hitler himself escaped his doomsday bunker and crossed the ocean, such a network could have helped make it possible.

Below, a list of some of the most notorious Nazi war criminals who made their way to South America.

Adolph Eichmann

WHAT HE’S INFAMOUS FOR: The “world’s most wanted Nazi,” Eichmann was the architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jews from Europe. The notorious SS lieutenant colonel masterminded the Nazi network of death camps that resulted in the murder of approximately 6 million people. Eichmann orchestrated the identification, assembly and transportation of European Jews to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other death camps in German-occupied Poland.

HIS PATH TO SOUTH AMERICA: After World War II ended, Eichmann went into hiding in Austria. With the aid of a Franciscan monk in Genoa, Italy, he obtained an Argentine visa and signed an application for a falsified Red Cross passport. In 1950 he boarded a steamship to Buenos Aires under the alias Ricardo Klement. Eichmann lived with his wife and four children in a middle-class Buenos Aires suburb and worked in a Mercedes-Benz automotive plant.

HOW HE WAS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE: Israeli Mossad agents captured Eichmann in a daring operation on May 11, 1960, then snuck him out of the country by doping and disguising him as an El Al flight crew member. In Israel, Eichmann stood trial as a war criminal responsible for deporting Jews to death …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Election of 1856: A Victorious Defeat

December 27, 2017 in Economics

By Chris Calton

Historical Controversies Podcast: Season 2

By: Chris Calton

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act drove many northerners to form Anti-Nebraska coalitions that ultimately yielded the Republican Party. The election of 1856 did not yield a Republican presidential victory, but it did produce a party that, through compromise and political maneuvering, was able to emerge as the dominant new party to compete with the bitterly divided Democrats.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE