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Inventors of Killing Machines Like the AK-47 Often Regret Their Creations

March 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

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It's hard to know precisely how a tool of destruction will be used.


Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, died in 2013 at the age of 94. Though he often shrugged off criticisms that he'd given the world a tool that has helped murder millions (he once compared himself to a “woman who bears children,” declaring himself “always proud” of his creation), months before his death, he revealed intense remorse. In an April 2013 letter to Russia's Orthodox church, Kalashnikov said a profound sadness had dogged him in the final years of his life. “My spiritual pain is unbearable,” the gun inventor wrote. “I keep asking the same insoluble question. If my rifle deprived people of life then can it be that I…a Christian and an orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?”

The letter was made public in 2014, after being published in the Russian newspaper Izvestia and later picked up by Western outlets. The missive offers an unvarnished look at a man who, taking stock of his life, came to regret what he once considered his greatest achievement and contribution. “The longer I live,” Kalashnikov continued, “the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”

The Russian church—like its American Christian counterpart and religious entities since the beginning of time—reassured Kalashnikov that it was totally okay with murder as long as the act was committed in the name of the state. (“If the weapon is used to defend the Motherland, the Church supports both its creators and the servicemen using it,” a spokesperson noted.) This is not surprising, unfortunately; religion is gonna be religion. What’s more interesting …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What the U.S. Should Do about Putin’s Nuclear Threats

March 1, 2018 in Economics

By Caroline Dorminey

Caroline Dorminey

Vladimir Putin’s Thursday speech about Russia’s new and “invincible” array of nuclear weapons accomplished many of its objectives. It provided a strong image for a politician heading into a presidential election on March 18. It declared Russia triumphant after years of economic turbulence and military stagnation. And its assertions about the “practically unlimited range” of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile cast doubt on the viability of American missile defense systems.

If true, the emergence of this new capability could have serious consequences for U.S.–Russian bilateral relations and implications for nuclear nonproliferation efforts worldwide.

Nuclear analysts rushed to dissect the grainy video of the new technology shown in Putin’s address. Some claimed that the new system could be a ruse intended for promotional campaign purposes. Others wondered why there appeared to be conflicting records of traces of radioactive particles that nuclear weapons tests leave in the atmosphere — raising questions about the timeframe in which Putin claims the system was created and the current stage of its development.

But without more technical information on this missile, it’s difficult to determine the truth of Putin’s boasts. However, the creation of an entirely new nuclear weapon further complicates already-tense U.S.–Russian relations. In 2010 both countries signed the New START Treaty — a bilateral agreement to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals and limit the number of deployed weapons.

New START was intended to be just that — a new start for the relationship between Russia and America, as well as for global nonproliferation efforts. The two countries with the largest arsenals signaled to the world that the time had come to downsize and decommission these weapons. It preserved each country’s viable deterrent, keeping the limit on missiles large enough to dissuade their use in a combat scenario because the costs of starting and finishing that fight would be far too high.

The treaty even allows for the modernization of existing nuclear weapons to that end. But it complicates the creation of new technologies because of how they would be incorporated and counted under New START. Article V dictates that if either country creates “a new kind of strategic offensive arm,” then that country should raise the question of consideration to the Bilateral Consultative Commission that is in charge of implementing the treaty.

If the Russian government developed the new rocket without consultation, it could be seen as a violation of New START. The treaty is already on …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Long Before #TimesUp, Susan B. Anthony Spent 50 Years Dressed in Black

March 1, 2018 in History

By Dan Jones and Marina Amaral

SusanBAnthony_HistoryRecolored

The Past in Color features the work of colorist Marina Amaral, bringing to life black and white photos with color applied digitally.

Just as she had in almost every portrait for the previous 50 years, Susan B. Anthony sat dressed in black. It was a nod to her New England Quaker roots—but it was also the uniform of her movement. The grande dame of female suffrage was at least 80 years old when this picture was taken around the year 1900, and she had abandoned experimenting with her clothes decades ago. Since the 1850s the black dress had been her uniform, and equality for women her cause.

On the other side of the camera crouched Frances ‘Fannie’ Benjamin Johnston, a well-to-do and world-famous photographer who by her 40th birthday had set up her own studio in Washington D.C., exhibited in Paris and photographed presidents, celebrities and the leading artists of the day. More than four decades younger than her subject, Johnston’s life—single, self-determined, bisexual—was in part a tribute to the tireless work that Anthony had done in hers.


Susan B. Anthony. (Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images)

THE PHOTOGRAPH

Frances Johnston’s distinctive style of clean-cut portraiture, shot from slightly below the eyeline, which she practiced with great success on male subjects such as Booker T. Washington, William McKinley and Mark Twain, is perfected in in this image of Anthony. It is a purposefully severe photograph in which brightness and contrast have been ramped up to present Anthony in a traditionally ‘male’ composition. (In her other portraits of women, such as one taken in 1906 of Alice Roosevelt on her wedding day, Johnston almost invariably deployed softer, gentler, greyer tones.)

Restoring color to an image like this is a delicate job—hardest in areas of the frame where the shot has been deliberately over- and under-exposed for effect. Anthony’s dress collar glares, while the right side of her face is in shadow, allowing the texture of the paper on which it was printed to interfere with the image.

ANTHONY’S LEGACY

Through years of tireless campaigning, speech-making, writing, demonstration and advocacy, Anthony hammered the collective American consciousness with her argument that women ought to be paid their worth, and should be free to divorce drunken or abusive husbands and deserved to have the vote. She …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Golden Age Hollywood Had a Dirty Little Secret: Drugs

March 1, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Shirley Temple on set, 1946. (Credit: CBS via Getty Images)

Debbie Reynolds had just landed the role of a lifetime—and she was exhausted. The 19-year-old had been cast as Kathy Selden, the female lead in Singin’ in the Rain, and she had big shoes to fill. Her partner was none other than the very seasoned, astonishingly talented Gene Kelly, and Reynolds was expected to match him step to step.

Reynolds was up to the challenge, but the grueling rehearsal schedule and pressure soon began destroying her health. When her doctor advised her to take a week off of work, MGM studio chief Arthur Freed told her to go to a different doctor.

In her 2013 memoir, Reynolds recalled how Freed instructed her to get “vitamin shots” from his doctor. “These were possibly the same ‘vitamins’ that ruined Judy Garland,” she wrote.

Reynolds had just discovered one of Old Hollywood’s dirty little secrets—that drugs fueled its classic films. Between the 1920s and 1960s, Hollywood studios created some of history’s greatest films. But they often did so at the cost of their stars’ health.

Despite the pressure, Reynolds stuck with her own physician. “My doctor insisted that I stay in bed,” she wrote. “That decision may have saved me from a life on stimulants.”

There was no official policy of drug use within Hollywood studios, but the carefully regimented system that cultivated movie stars often relied on behind-the-scenes drug use to power actors through unthinkably long days.

Shirley Temple on set, 1946. (Credit: CBS via Getty Images)

Child actors were supposed to be subject to strict labor laws that regulated the hours they spent on set; however, actors like Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple recalled that directors and studio heads always tried to push the boundaries of those hours. Seeing kids leave a set early surprised Taylor later in life: “We didn’t have that at MGM,” she said. In her autobiography, Temple recalls the entire studio celebrating her 18th birthday—by working her all night long.

Though Taylor and Temple both got through their child stardom without drugs, Judy Garland did not. She was introduced to “pep pills” by her mother, who insisted The …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Trump's National Security Protectionism Will Open Pandora's Box

March 1, 2018 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

Media report that President Trump intends to announce import
restrictions on steel and aluminum at a press conference or signing
ceremony today. Where exactly that leads is anyone’s guess,
but it is certain to be a place less stable, less predictable, and
less cooperative than the place we are right now.

In reports published last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce
concluded that steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair
the national security” of the United States and recommended a
range of remedies to the president. Those reports were the
culmination of two investigations conducted under Section 232 of
the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, a seldom used statute that
authorizes the president to respond to perceived national security
threats with trade restrictions.

Once Trump opens
Pandora’s Box by rationalizing protectionism as a national security
imperative, the durability of the rules based trading system will
be tested like never before, with global economic security hanging
in the balance.

For steel, the Commerce report recommends moderate to highly
restrictive quotas, and tariffs ranging from 24 to 53 percent; for
aluminum, the recommendations are also for moderate to highly
restrictive quotas, and tariffs ranging from 7.7 to 23.6 percent.
But the supposed “cure” of these restrictions would
prove far worse than the disease.

According to the Commerce Department reports, trade restrictions
would induce U.S. producers to build and use more domestic
capacity, which would reduce U.S. dependence on
foreign—potentially hostile—sources of supply of
materials deemed critical to national defense. Oddly, the reports
say nothing about the adverse effects of steel and aluminum
restrictions on the U.S. producers who purchase those basic inputs
to manufacture the very materials deemed critical to national
defense. Those U.S. producers would be weakened by trade
restrictions, exposing them to competition from foreign rivals with
lower production costs capable of offering lower prices in the U.S.
market.

Of course, the problems wouldn’t end there. Any U.S.
decision to restrict imports based on the argument that an
abundance of low-priced raw materials from a diversity of sources
somehow threatens national security would lower the bar so
significantly as to invite every other member of the World Trade
Organization to invoke national security to protect favored
industries.

Under WTO rules dating back to the establishment of the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, member governments are
permitted to raise trade barriers for purposes of protecting
national security without obligating them to demonstrate that their
rationale conforms to some agreed definition of national security
or national security threat. While the GATT’s original
contracting parties were well aware of the importance of trade
openness to the goals of economic growth and goodwill among
nations, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Pink Emperor Takes Charge in China

March 1, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Officially the Chinese Empire ended in 1912 with the abdication
of Pu Yi. He went on to head the puppet state of Manchukuo under
Japanese occupation during World War II and died as an apparently
loyal citizen of the People’s Republic of China in 1967.

Although Pu Yi was long referred to as the Last Emperor of
China, that title really belongs to the so-called Red Emperor, Mao
Zedong. Mao is credited with creation of the PRC, but his selfish,
unbalanced, and xenophobic rule led to the deaths of tens of
millions of people. He launched the Cultural Revolution, which
unleashed veritable civil war throughout China. Relief at his death
was widespread, since it allowed the PRC to evolve into something
approaching a normal nation — and to subsequently undertake
reforms that turned the PRC into a global economic powerhouse.

Most people believed imperial China was gone forever.
Mao’s successors were willing to use extreme brutality to
maintain power, witness the carnage in Tiananmen Square in June
1989. However, they attempted to prevent the return of personal
dictatorship, ultimately setting a two-term limit on the president,
which was respected by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Neither of them
enjoyed the untrammeled authority of Mao or Deng Xiaoping. The
system wasn’t exactly collective rule, but politics no longer
was uniquely scary.

Xi Jingping goes back to
the future — the U.S. should consider itself duly
warned.

But that is changing. Xi Jinping appears set to become
China’s next de facto emperor. He’s not exactly
“red” — after all, among his political victims
was Bo Xilai, a representative of the “New Left.” As
provincial chief Bo promoted the “red culture” movement
and used Maoist imagery to advance his career. In 2012 Bo was
stripped of his position and put on trial, more for his outsize
ambition than retrograde philosophy. Nevertheless, few of the
PRC’s leaders wanted to return to Maoism.

After serving only one term, however, Xi is positioning himself
to rule for life. Not from behind the scenes, like Deng, who set
China on its reform course. But in front, as president, apparently
the modern Chinese term for emperor.

Xi quickly established his authority, launching a carefully
targeted — meaning mostly against his political opponents and
their support networks — anti-corruption campaign. He upset
the unwritten rule of not prosecuting “Tigers,” top
leaders who had preceded him. He quickly gained authority over the
military and asserted control over economic policy, traditionally
left to the premier. At last fall’s party congress he failed
to nominate a successor, a clear signal that term limits were
kaput. Now the Chinese Communist Party has announced plans …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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'This Is How Your Mind Learns to Accept Atrocities': Psychologist on Trump's Anti-Muslim Agenda

March 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

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Dr. Farha Abbasi breaks down the danger this presidency poses to mental health.


Islamophobia was an issue in the U.S. long before Donald Trump took office, but this administration has worked hard to help spread the disease. Since Trump’s electoral win, 18 state legislatures have introduced 23 totally unnecessary anti-sharia law bills. Anti-Muslim violence has been on a steady rise. An unambiguous ban on Muslims from six countries—which candidate Trump made clear was a “Muslim ban“—is actually in effect. And among the other racist materials he's fond of, Trump regularly retweets anti-Muslim propaganda put out by white supremacists the world over.

This all adds up to an attack on Muslims in America, and people's mental health often ends up in the line of fire. Michigan State University psychiatrist Farha Abbasi has been examining the psychic toll of America’s Islamophobia for nearly 20 years. As the director of the Muslim Mental Health Conference and managing editor of the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, she has genuine concerns about the impact of politically convenient hate messaging in the lives of Muslim-Americans—and in the lives of those perpetuating the cycle of hate. History shows that the normalization of that toxicity can have horrific ends. “This is how your mind learns to accept atrocities,” Abbasi says.

I spoke by phone with Dr. Abbasi, who recently earned an award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for her groundbreaking mental health work with the Muslim community. She offered insights on the manipulation of Muslim identity as a political tool, the trauma caused by anti-Muslim policies, and what it means to be doing such critical work in this often dark moment.

Kali Holloway: I know you immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2000—an election year—but since then you've been witness to …read more

Source: ALTERNET