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Why Poland Wants Germany to Pay Billions for World War II

March 7, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Prisoners of Majdanek concentration camp, as they have been found by the allied troops, 1944. (Credit: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images)

If you’d visited Warsaw in 1945, you might not have recognized it as a city at all. Destroyed by the Nazis in retribution for a 1944 uprising, the city was pocked by craters and reduced to miles and miles of rubble. It wasn’t just the capital: Much of Poland was rubble by the end of the war.

In the decades since, Poland has rebuilt and regrown. But the memory of its six-year Nazi occupation still stings—and for years, a spat over whether Germany owes reparations for its actions toward Poland during World War II has threatened diplomatic relations between the two countries. In March 2018 the issue boiled over again when Arkadiusz Mularczyk, a Polish lawmaker, asserted that Germany owed reparations that could be worth as much as $850 billion.

The claim rests on the breadth of destruction and suffering the country withstood between its invasion by Nazis in 1939 and the conclusion of the war, in 1945. Eighteen percent of Poland’s population perished during World War II: The Nazis murdered 3 million Polish Jews and killed another 3 million Poles, including civilians and military members. In addition, cultural objects were looted by the Nazis, industrial sites were razed, and cities were destroyed.

Prisoners of Majdanek concentration camp, as they have been found by the allied troops, 1944. (Credit: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images)

But Poland itself thinks it may have a claim for additional compensation from Germany for World War II. Lately, some right-wing politicians have contended that the land and resources seized as reparations by the USSR, which assisted Poland after the war, and restitution paid by reunified Germany to Polish victims of the Nazis, was hardly sufficient for the country’s wartime suffering.

“There’s a sense of victimhood,” says Anna Grzymala-Busse, a professor at Stanford who studies the country’s post-Communist policies and political parties. She says right-wing politicians like Mularczyk use Poland’s victimization during World War II as a way to appeal to their political base. By arguing that Poland’s sovereignty can be reclaimed through reparations, she says, the country’s Law and Justice party can curry favor among Poles who long for their country to be taken more seriously on the European stage.

As of yet, Poland hasn’t made an official demand for the reparations from its most important trading …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Conservatives in D.C. Are Sad Because They Can't Get Dates

March 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Ilana Novick, AlterNet

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It's hard out there for a right-wing snowflake looking for love.


Pity the single Republican in D.C. Not only do many of them have to work for a man who starts trade (though hopefully not nuclear) wars because he didn't get enough sleep, but as a few GOPers anonymously complained to the Washingtonian, they can't get a date, especially not across party lines. It turns out that as the opportunities for bipartisanship decline in Congress, so do the chances of millennial dating

Conservatives appear to be bearing the brunt of this social sorting—or, at least, complaining about it the most. Contrary to rumors about “coastal elites” and their “bubbles,” it turns out the so-called snowflakes are better at dealing with the idea that one can be a Republican and not a Trump supporter. As reporter Mimi Montgomery explains, “While Republicans say the line between textbook conservatism and Trumpism is blurred frequently, most Democrats I spoke with say they can distinguish a difference between those in favor of the administration and Never Trump-ers.”

“A lot of times you’ll connect with someone [on an app] and they’ll Google you, find out you worked for Trump’s campaign, and then it’s pretty much all downhill from there,” an anonymous Trump administration official told Montgomery. For those working in conservative media, “the political divide has gotten so wide that a lot of younger liberals don’t have any interest in meeting conservatives,” an anonymous journalist told Montgomery. He doesn't even list his employer on dating app profiles, and won't mention it until he meets potential paramours in person. 

A co-worker explained, “The policies and these things that are attached to the right whether or not you’re a supporter of Trump have been pre-supposed on you, and it’s like a black mark.” Yet another …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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When the Media Cover Mass Shootings, Would Depicting the Carnage Make a Difference?

March 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Nicole Smith Dahmen, The Conversation

If Americans could see the bloodshed, we might finally say, enough is enough.


Since 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, we’ve seen public calls for the release of crime scene photos, the idea being that the visceral horror evoked by images of young, brutalized bodies could spur some sort of action to combat the country’s gun violence epidemic.

The day after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, a Slate article echoed the demand for crime scene photos to be released, arguing that if Americans could actually see the bloodshed, we might finally say, enough is enough.

As a scholar who specializes in photojournalism ethics, I’ve thought extensively about how journalism can responsibly cover gun violence, balancing the moral imperatives of seeking truth while minimizing harm. I’ve also studied how images can galvanize viewers.

Fundamental questions remain: What is the line between informing audiences and exploiting victims and their families? Should the media find a balance between shocking and shielding audiences? And when it comes to mass shootings – and gun violence more broadly – if outlets did include more bloody images, would it even make a difference?

The limitations of a photo

On the same day of the Parkland shooting, my research on news images of mass shootings was published. Given the intense yet fleeting nature of media coverage, I wanted to examine how news outlets cover these crimes, specifically through the lens of visual reporting.

The study analyzed nearly 5,000 newspaper photos from three school shootings: Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Umpqua Community College. Of those images, only 5 percent could be characterized as graphic in nature.

Most depicted the shock and grief of survivors, family and friends. These elements certainly make up an important part of the story. Nonetheless, they create a narrative where, as the Slate article put it, “mass shootings are bloodless.”

Does that matter?

Research has shown that when audiences feel emotionally connected with news events, they’re more likely to change their views or take action. Photographs of violence and bloodshed can certainly serve as a conduit for this …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Will Congress Pass a Bloated Farm Bill?

March 7, 2018 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Federal spending is on a tear. The February budget deal hiked
discretionary spending by $300 billion over two years, and rapid
growth in entitlement programs continues unabated. The government
will spend $1 trillion more next year than it collects in revenue,
and rising amounts after that. The gusher of red ink is remarkable
given that we are in the ninth year of economic expansion.

Republican control of the House, the Senate, and the White House
is failing the test of fiscal sanity. Another trial for
policymakers will be a new farm bill, which is on the agenda
because some current farm programs expire in September. In his
latest budget, President Trump proposed cuts to farm subsidies, but
congressional agriculture committees may try to move ahead on
legislation devoid of any reforms.

After the 1996 farm bill made reforms, every farm bill since
— 2002, 2008, 2014 — went in the opposite direction and
increased subsidies. The 2008 bill was so bad that even
big-spending President George W. Bush vetoed it, although he was
overridden by Congress.

Agricultural subsidies
distort markets, harm the environment, line the pockets of the
rich, and cost billions of dollars.

The 2014 bill ended one major subsidy program but added two new
ones — called ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) and PLC (Price
Loss Coverage) — that have ended up costing billions of dollars more than promised.
And the largest subsidy program — crop insurance — now
costs $8 billion a year, or double the average cost during the Bush
years. All in all, farm subsidies cost taxpayers more than $20
billion a year.

Each farm bill rejiggers the subsidy structure, but the programs
have not become any more sensible. Farm subsidies are welfare for
the well-to-do. The average income of farm households in 2016 was
$117,918, or 42 percent higher than the $83,143 average of all U.S.
households.

Those figures are for all farmers, but federal subsidies are
tilted toward the largest and wealthiest farmers — mainly
growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. New estimates by scholars at the American
Enterprise Institute find that 60 percent of subsidies from the
three large crop programs (insurance, ARC, and PLC) go to the
largest 10 percent of farms. Politicians claim to support small
farmers, but the opposite is true.

Many billionaires have received farm subsidies. Looking from
1995 to 2014, the Environmental Working Group found that 50
people on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans have
received farm subsidies. But today the largest pot of subsidies is
laundered through crop-insurance companies, a practice that hides
the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why Have Americans Always Been So Obsessed with the Land?

March 7, 2018 in History

By H. W. Brands

his painting from 1795 depicts 'Mad Anthony' Wayne and his officers negotiating a treaty that opened up most of present-day Ohio to settlers, after Wayne's legion won a decisive victory over a confederation of Indian warriors. (Credit: Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

History Reads is a weekly series featuring work from Team History, a group of experts and influencers, exploring history’s most fascinating questions.

Something about land lies deep in the American psyche. Since the early 20th century most Americans have resided in cities and suburbs, yet the mystique of agrarian life draws millions to farmers’ markets and makes the family farm a touchstone of American politics. The cowboy, that rugged knight of the open West, remains an icon of American culture. Squabbles between developers and preservationists over land use become battles over the meaning and destiny of America.

That’s because they are battles over the meaning and destiny of America. The history of America’s land is the history of the country itself. America grew into its defining institutions even as it grew into its land. The land inspired American independence; it spawned American democracy; it undergirded America’s rise to world power. Land symbolized opportunity to generations of Americans, starting with colonists who never had the chance of owning property in Europe; the vast continent gleamed in their eyes and its frontier drew them west. When the open spaces filled up, Americans suffered an identity crisis: Without the frontier of open land, who would we be?

Colonel Washington Questions His Allegiance

George Washington knew the frontier well as it existed in 1763. He had surveyed lands of the Ohio Valley, then deep in Indian territory, and he had led a Virginia regiment in the French and Indian War, fought primarily on the frontier. At the war’s end, he expected to capitalize on his knowledge of the frontier by gaining legal title to thousands of acres in the West, which he would hold for resale at a higher value.

But then the British imperial government issued a proclamation declaring all territory west of the Appalachian mountains closed to settlement. The war had thrown Britain deeply in debt, and cost-cutting was imperative. Western settlement would cause further friction with the Indians, necessitating new spending on frontier defense. London couldn’t afford the latter, so it wouldn’t allow the former. The West was closed.

Washington already bristled under British rule. Though a gifted soldier, his colonial origins limited his advancement in the British army. This personal slight was suddenly compounded by the proclamation’s blow to his business plans. He had spent a great deal of effort—and no small amount of money—on his Ohio …read more

Source: HISTORY

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World’s Oldest Message in a Bottle Discovered in a Gin Bottle

March 7, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Painting of German merchant sailing barque Paula in 1880 by Edouard Adam. (Credit: Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum-Unterweser/Western Australia Museum)

The oldest message in a bottle ever discovered has washed up on a shore in Western Australia. Only this wasn’t sent by a castaway as an S.O.S. message—rather, it’s a vestige of an old German experiment, thrown into the ocean 132 years ago.

A woman named Tonya Illman discovered the 19th-century Dutch gin bottle while walking along a beach north of Wedge Island. She originally picked it up because she thought it looked pretty, and wanted to place on her bookcase. But then her son’s girlfriend found a note inside that was written in German, and dated June 12, 1886.

When they got home, Tonya’s husband, Kym, put the message in the oven for a few minutes to dry it off, according to The Guardian. Using his basic knowledge of German, he then determined that the message was asking whomever found the bottle to write down the date and time of discovery, and then mail the bottle’s original message with this information to an address in Germany or the nearest German Consulate.

After doing some research online, Kym hypothesized that the bottle was part of a 69-year-old study of global ocean currents by the German Naval Observatory. To see if this theory was correct, the couple took the bottle to the Western Australian Museum, which investigated its origins with the help of researchers in Germany. And it turns out, Kym was right.

“From 1864 until 1933, thousands of bottles were thrown into the world’s oceans from German ships, each containing a form on which the captain would write the date it was jettisoned, the exact coordinates at the time, the name of the ship, its home port and travel route,” reported the Western Australian Museum, where the bottle is currently on display. “On the back, it asked the finder to write when and where the bottle had been found and return it.”

Painting of German merchant sailing barque Paula in 1880 by Edouard Adam. (Credit: Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum-Unterweser/Western Australia Museum)

The message in the recently discovered bottle says it was thrown into the Indian Ocean from the deck of the German ship Paula on its journey from Cardiff, Wales, to Makassarm, in modern-day Indonesia. Researchers in Germany corroborated the information on the note with the ship captain’s Meteorological Journal, which recorded the jettisoning of a bottle on the same date and at the same coordinates as was listed on …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Two Trade Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

March 7, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

President Trump’s plan to impose import tariffs on steel
and aluminium has provoked righteous anger from the EU. The
Commission wants to respond with targeted tariffs on US
goods
such as motorcycles, jeans and bourbon whiskey —
tradeables with major producers in GOP areas. The thinking? To put
maximum political pressure on Republicans to change Trump’s
mind.

Early indications suggest though that this strategy is doomed to
fail. Yesterday’s resignation of President
Trump’s top economic advisor Gary Cohn
(a free trader,
who was organizing downstream manufacturers to lobby to dissuade
the President) is as good a leading indicator as any that the
President’s mind is set. Today US Secretary to the Treasury
Steve Mnuchin has reportedly confirmed tariffs will happen. And if the EU goes
ahead with its “proportionate response”? Well, Trump
says he’s ready for more tariffs, this time on EU cars. An import
tax arms race becomes an out-and-out trade war pretty quickly.

The spectacle is rather depressing. As my colleague Dan Ikenson has outlined, in
isolation Trump’s tariffs would not be that economically
significant. After all, the EU imposes over 12,500 tariffs of its
own, some of which are high. But Trump’s use of a
“national security” justification and his broader
gunboat diplomacy threatens to open a Pandora’s Box of global
risks and retaliation.

Of course, the President’s reasoning for protectionism is
not sound. Given the origins of US imported steel includes major
military allies, a “national security” justification is
absurd. By increasing the input prices for downstream producers,
tariffs on steel and aluminum are a wanton act of domestic
self-harm. And all this to notionally “protect” jobs in
two industries, when independent economic analysis suggests each
extra job “saved” in these sectors would cost five
times more lost in others, with a net loss of 146,000 jobs
overall
.

As dangerous as President Trump’s policy undoubtedly is,
any game theorist will tell you that under the assumption of
commitment to this course — or worse — the optimum
strategy for the EU changes. Tit-for-tat retaliation risks
exacerbating the economic pain at an already precarious moment, and
taking us to a mutually destructive equilibrium. Instead of goading
Trump with punishment tariffs and rejecting his “national
security” argument out of hand, the EU should do, well,
nothing. At least not on tariffs.

This sounds counterintuitive. If a trade war is underway,
shouldn’t the EU, as a major player, bring its big guns to town?
No. Politicians may enjoy the military analogy. But in actual wars,
countries try to blockade rivals, to prevent the goods wanted and
needed …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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‘A Wrinkle in Time’s’ Long Religious Controversy

March 7, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Author Madeleine L’Engle, circa 2000. (Credit: Everett)

Since its publication in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time has become one of the most frequently banned or challenged books, for multiple reasons. People have argued that it’s too complicated for children, and earlier critics disapproved of its plucky female protagonist. Among conservative Christians, one of the biggest objections has historically been the way that the book’s author, Madeleine L’Engle, mixes science and religion.

A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of Meg Murry, a girl who travels through time and space to save her father from evil forces. L’Engle, an Episcopalian, imbued her novel with religious elements and ideas. Yet at the time, many Christians viewed them as unorthodox.

“She was engaged in this project of revisioning Christianity, pretty much like C.S. Lewis was with The Chronicles of Narnia,” says Marek Oziewicz, a professor of literacy education at the University of Minnesota. It was “a vision of Christianity as a form of science, and science as a form of search for spirituality.”

Author Madeleine L’Engle, circa 2000. (Credit: Everett)

The idea that science and religion can coexist may seem less controversial today, in an era where the Pope has publicly stated that scientific concepts like evolution and climate change are not at odds with Christianity. But in the decades following the book’s release, many U.S. Christians believed there was a conflict between contemporary scientific findings and the Bible’s vision of the world, particularly as astronomers and physicists learned more about the cosmos.

L’Engle felt differently. “She believed that there’s overlap between science and spirituality, and that new Christianity would be fully compatible with what modern science tells us about the universe,” Oziewicz says. To her, newly discovered parts of the universe didn’t represent a challenge to the Bible. Rather, she viewed them as part of God’s creation.

A Wrinkle in Time also sparked religious controversies because of the type of characters it included. Three of the main characters—Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which—are witches portrayed as angelic, spiritual figures. This led some to claim that the book encouraged witchcraft, or heretically conflated Christianity with the occult. One scene in particular—which depicts Jesus, Gandhi, Einstein, and the Buddha standing together against the forces of evil—offended Christians who thought L’Engle was equating these four figures.


Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which in Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, 2018. (Credit: …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Fresh Violence Threatens Sri Lanka's Reconciliation Process

March 7, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

On Monday, the Sri Lankan government declared a
10-day state of emergency
—the first since the civil
war ended in 2009
—following clashes between Muslims and
Buddhists on Sunday. This latest clash took place in
Kandy
, a tourist city in the center of island, after a
Sinhalese truck driver succumbed to his injuries following a

non-racial altercation with some Muslim youth
. Hardline
Buddhist monks arrived in Kandy allegedly to pay their respects,
but Sri Lankan authorities believe they were there to incite
violence, as
they

have done
in the past.

This fresh wave of communal violence has the potential to derail
an already
unsteady

reconciliation
process, unless the Sri Lankan government takes
active measures
to increase the public’s faith
—specifically the Tamil and
Muslim communities’ views—in its political system and law
enforcement agencies. Actions must include preventing police
brutality by reforming the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act
(PTA) and using its current hate speech legislation to legally
targeting militant Buddhist monks from inciting violence.

Sri Lanka is
recovering from
30 years of
civil war
. From 1983 to 2009, Tamil
separatists fought
to establish an independent state in the
north and east of the island, killing approximately
40,000 people
—not including victims of enforced
disappearances. Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, which is about 10
percent of the population, opposed the Tamil separatist movement,
creating a rivalry between the two minority communities. Tamil
rebels
routinely targeted Muslims
during the war, evicting over 60,000
Muslims from the Northern Province. The Tamil defeat in 2009, and
consequently the end of the war, has resulted in a period
of triumphalism,
where militant Buddhist groups like
Bodu Bala Sena
(Buddhist Power Force or BBS), formed in 2012,
have pushed an anti-Muslim agenda, fueling the divide—a trend
that is evident in
Myanmar
.

The Sri Lankan government
must avoid appeasing hardliners and protect minorities to avoid
squandering progress.

In the meantime, the government of Sri Lanka has been more
focused on short-term political gains rather than advancing a
much-needed post-conflict reconciliation process. For example,
President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration
has been slow
in developing confidence-building measures to
reduce ethnic tensions with Tamils and setting up a system for
transitional justice.
Reforms
to the PTA have
fallen short
, and preventive detentions continue unabated.

While Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe immediately
denounced
the violence, stating that
an investigation has already been launched
to ensure justice,
Mano …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump Returns to His Democratic Roots

March 7, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

It has largely slipped under the radar screens of partisan
hatred in Washington, but has anyone noticed that in the last
couple of months Donald Trump has become … a Democrat? Of
course, for most of his life, Trump was a Democrat, a faithful
fundraiser for Chuck Schumer and Hilary Clinton, and comfortably
liberal in most of his positions. But once he decided to run for
president as a Republican, he underwent a total transformation,
becoming an arch-conservative. And during his first year in office,
he governed like a conservative Republican, slashing taxes and
regulations, appointing conservative judges, and throwing money at
the military.

Since January, though, President Trump has been returning to his
Democratic roots. In the past two months, he has embraced a
big-spending budget deal that funds nearly all the Democrats’ top
priorities and pushes deficits over $1 trillion for as far as the
eye can see. He also proposed a massive new infrastructure program.
And now, he has embraced a trade policy right out of the Bernie
Sanders playbook.

The president’s recently
voiced support for tariffs and infrastructure spending should
please Bernie Sanders fans.

In fact, during the 2016 campaign, Bernie had explicitly called
for tariffs on steel. Hillary Clinton had also adopted a remarkably
anti-trade posture. Many people are rightly pointing out that
Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has left
the United States dangerously isolated and economically
disadvantaged in Asia, but they forget that Hillary too had
campaigned on pulling out of the trade pact.

Indeed, while Trump’s call for a trade war has shocked
Republicans, it has been praised by Democrats, including extreme
leftists such as Sherrod Brown.

For Democrats, of course, opposition to trade fits in with their
worldview. Both Hillary and Bernie believed that government should
manage the economy and pick winners and losers. Republicans, on the
other hand, have at least argued in favor of free markets, the
ability of Americans to buy and sell with whomever they choose.
President Trump has now firmly embraced the “government knows
best” position. The regulation-cutting president now supports
regulation of large segments of the economy, a move that will harm
countless American industries that rely on affordable steel to
manufacture products sold at home and abroad

Likewise, Republicans have long been nothing if not the anti-tax
party. It is a staple of Republican campaigns — from local
sheriff to presidential — to accuse their Democratic opponent
of wanting to raise taxes, especially taxes on the middle class.
But tariffs are nothing more than a tax — a tax that will hit
the working poor and middle class the hardest. Some estimates
suggest that steel …read more

Source: OP-EDS