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How the Civil War Changed Christmas in the United States

December 13, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

As the Civil War’s first Christmas neared, a pair of young lovers, Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, a Confederate soldier and his eventual bride, wrote to one another with increasing melancholy. They were separated by hundreds of miles, and their communication was often interrupted by delays in the mail and the desperation of the Civil War.

“I wish I could be with you at Christmas, the festal season, where age is rejuvenated and lives again in the merry carols of youth,” Dawson wrote to Todd (sister of Mary Todd Lincoln) on December 22, 1861. On the holiday itself, he wrote to describe his regiment’s rowdy celebrations. “Bad whiskey is abundant and pleasure and sorrow drowned in large potations,” he said.

Dawson and Todd’s lives changed dramatically during the war, as the Confederacy crumbled and their personal lives stretched to their limits. But they weren’t alone in wishing they could celebrate Christmas together. As the fractured United States fought, the holiday took on new meaning.

By the end of the war in 1865, Christmas had gone from a relatively unimportant holiday to the opposite—a day rooted in an idealized vision of home. The way Americans observed the holiday changed too, setting the stage for the more modern Christmas holiday we know today.

READ MORE: Mary Todd Lincoln Became a Laughingstock After Her Husband’s Assassination

Before the Civil War, Christmas was not an official holiday in the United States. Nor was it celebrated uniformly across the country. In early New England, Christmas was looked down upon by Puritans and Calvinists, who felt the day should be observed for strict fasts and rituals, if it was observed at all. During the 17th century, Massachusetts imposed a fine on colonists who celebrated the holiday, and after it became a state, its businesses and schools did not observe the holiday at all.

Elsewhere, Christmas was celebrated in a variety of ways, most depending on the country of origin of the immigrants who celebrated it. But by the mid-19th century, the holiday’s importance—and distance from religious tradition—was already starting to grow. Songs and carols like “Jingle Bells” (1857) and poems like “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1823) set the stage for a fun, secular holiday that revolved around gift-giving and celebration with food and drink.

READ MORE: When Massachusetts Banned Christmas

Strange Christmas Traditions (TV-PG; 2:05)

In the antebellum South, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Here are 5 ways the National Enquirer helped Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016

December 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

AMI has admitted the payment was made “in concert with” Trump’s campaign.


On Wednesday, December 12—the same day President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, was sentenced to three years in federal prison—federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York revealed that American Media, Inc. (publisher of the National Enquirer) had admitted to its role in hush money paid to Playboy model Karen McDougal during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. One of the crimes that Cohen pled guilty on August 22 was campaign finance violations, and prosecutors said in an official statement that a $150,000 payment to McDougal was made “to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” AMI has admitted the payment was made “in concert with” Trump’s campaign.

Founded in 1926, the Enquirer has been specializing in tabloid sleaze journalism for 92 years—and during the last presidential election, the Enquirer was a consistent, unwavering ally of Trump. Here are five of the ways in which the National Enquirer helped the Trump campaign in 2016.

1. The Enquirer had a ‘catch and kill’ agreement with Trump supporters

In tabloid journalism, a “catch and kill” agreement is one in which the publisher agrees to pay for exclusive rights to negative stories but suppress them—and in 2015 and 2016, according to federal prosecutors, AMI CEO David Pecker had such an agreement with Trump’s allies, including Cohen. The Enquirer would look for negative stories on Trump and pay for exclusive rights to them (that’s the “catch” part) but would not publish the information (that’s the “kill” part). 

2. AMI paid Karen McDougal $150,000 in hush money

In June 2016, two of the main people at AMI, Pecker and Vice President/Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard, informed Cohen that Karen McDougal was trying to sell them a story on her alleged extramarital affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. And Cohen asked them to go ahead and purchase the story, offering to reimburse them. In August 2016, American Media offered McDougal $150,000 for the story it had agreed to suppress.

3. The Enquirer kept quiet about Trump’s …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Manhattan federal prosecutors are now investigating Trump's shady inauguration spending and potential criminal bribes: report

December 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The inaugural funds have long raised suspicions — now it looks like investigators have the matter in their sights.


If you thought Thursday morning that President Donald Trump's legal peril was as bad as it could get, you were wrong.

A new report from the Wall Street Journal published Thursday afternoon revealed yet another legal threat to the president and those in his orbit, in addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Southern District of New York's campaign finance case, and the New York attorney general's ongoing scrutiny of his untoward business and foundation practices.

This criminal investigation, still in its early stages, is being pursued by Manhattan federal prosecutors and focuses on Trump's inauguration spending, the Journal reported.

The inquiry reportedly arose out of the federal raids on the offices of Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen. According to the Journal, investigators uncovered a recording between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who worked on the inaugural committee. Wolkoff reportedly said she was concerned about how the committee's funds were being spent.

Many observers have long been expecting some sort of investigation to focus on the inauguration, which was highly suspicious for a variety of reasons.

As the Journal noted, the committee rose more than twice as much money as President Barack Obama's inauguration did in 2009, despite the fact that there weren't twice as many events or attendees. No one has been quite sure where all that money ended up. Because the committee was a nonprofit, the funds must be spent in accordance with federal law.

The Journal also raises the possibility that the investigation could uncover corruption or potential bribes. It explained:

The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.

The investigation represents another potential …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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HISTORY is Now on Apple News

December 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

HISTORY is now on the Apple News app for iOS and macOS. Follow us

How to find HISTORY on Apple News

  • If you own an Apple device, open up your Apple News App and tap on “Channels” at the bottom of the Apple News landing screen.
  • Scroll to the top of the screen to reveal the search bar and type “HISTORY” into the search field. Tap on our logo to access all of our great content.
  • Don’t forget to subscribe, so that all of our news gets directly sent to you!
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…read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Senate sends a bipartisan rebuke of Trump's corrupt and deadly alliance with Saudi Arabia and support of the war in Yemen

December 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

“This vote immediately diminishes U.S. political support for the war and puts more pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end their brutal tactics and negotiate an end to the war.”


After defeating two last-minute amendments by ultra-hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that would have completely gutted the measure, the Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) resolution to end U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's years-long assault on Yemen by a bipartisan vote of 56-41.

The vote—which marks the first time the Senate has passed a War Powers resolution—was applauded by anti-war groups as an important first step toward ending America's complicity in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

“This vote immediately diminishes U.S. political support for the war and puts more pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end their brutal tactics and negotiate an end to the war,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action's senior director for policy and political affairs.

Martin added that the passage of Sanders' resolution—which was also sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah)—”is a testament to the power of political activism, and a reminder that we must continue the struggle for a just and responsible foreign policy, because that struggle makes a difference.”

Despite the fact that—with the help of five Democrats—the GOP succeeded in passing a rule that effectively kills the possibility of a House vote on the Yemen War Powers resolution this year, Sanders nonetheless celebrated the vote as a “historic victory” in the fight to end America's major role in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen.

In a statement, Kate Gould, legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said the incoming House Democratic leadership must “pledge to hold a vote in early January on ending support for this war.”

If the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'It's a crime': Fox News' Judge Napolitano horrifies the Fox & Friends hosts as he explains the damning case against Trump

December 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

This can't have been the president's favorite episode of the show.


The case that President Donald Trump was involved in a serious criminal violation of campaign finance laws is so strong that even Fox News' legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano believes he faces real legal peril.

And on Thursday morning, he tried to explain why the evidence against Trump is so damning, which the co-hosts on “Fox & Friends” had an apparently hard time believing. The case in question involves crimes to which Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty: the hush money payments during the 2016 campaign on the president's behalf to two women who said they had affairs with Trump.

“Donald Trump has said that that was not a campaign violation because it wasn’t involving the campaign,” said host Steve Doocy. “It was a damage control payment.”

But Napolitano pointed out that both Cohen and American Media, Inc., which helped facilitate one of the payments, claim the payments were primarily because of the campaign — and the judge in the case agreed.

“So, if you make an honest mistake in failing to report something, or if you take $100,000 and you’re only supposed to take $2,500, you can correct that by returning the money, paying a fine and correcting the report,” Napolitano said. “If you do this as part of a scheme to hide it, then it’s not a civil wrong, then it’s a crime. That’s what the judge found yesterday.”

He also noted that, despite the claims of those citing the failed case against former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, this precedent actually undermines Trump.

“The John Edwards case actually hurts the president, because John Edwards’ lawyers made a motion to dismiss the indictment saying it’s not a crime, and the judge published an opinion saying why it’s a crime,” he explained. “Now, the jury didn’t believe the government and believed John Edwards.”

He continued: “The fact of the matter is, any scheme to defraud the government by failing to report what must be reported is a crime, unless it’s an honest mistake, in which case it’s not a scheme.” 

Watch …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here comes hemp: Congress votes to unleash a billion-dollar industry

December 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, Independent Media Institute

Marijuana’s lanky, straight-laced country cousin is about to get legal.


The Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday gave final approval to the massive 2018 Farm Bill, including a provision that will end an eight-decade ban on industrial hemp, that non-psychoactive but extremely useful member of the cannabis family. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

Even though you could smoke a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole and get nothing more than a cough and a headache, for decades the DEA has refused to recognize any distinction between hemp and marijuana that gets you high. That meant that American farmers could not legally produce hemp for a hemp products industry worth $820 million last year and expected to break the billion-dollar mark this year.

That’s right: Thanks to a federal court case brought against the DEA more than a decade ago, farmers in countries where hemp is legal can export it to the U.S., and companies in the U.S. can turn that hemp into a variety of products ranging from foods to clothing to auto body parts to building materials and beyond, but U.S. farmers can’t grow it. That’s about to change.

“For too long, the outrageous and outdated ban on growing hemp has hamstrung farmers in Oregon and across the country,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). “Hemp products are made in America, sold in America, and consumed in America. Now, hemp will be able to be legally grown in America, to the economic benefit of consumers and farmers in Oregon and nationwide.”

Wyden and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) teamed up with Kentucky Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to sponsor the bill and guide it through Congress. McConnell’s role as Senate Majority Leader certainly didn’t hurt the bill’s prospects.

As well as guiding the bill forward, McConnell took to the Senate floor on various occasions to support it. In his statement on the passage of the farm bill, he touted “the new opportunities available with the full legalization of industrial hemp.”

“Finally we are recognizing …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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President Wilson makes first U.S. presidential trip to Europe

December 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

After nine days at sea aboard the SS George Washington,Woodrow Wilson arrives at Brest, France, on December 13, 1918, and travels by land to Versailles. There, he headed the American delegation to the peace conference seeking a definitive end to World War I. The visit marked the first official visit by a U.S. president to Europe.

Although the president’s political opponents criticized his European visit as a sign of egotism, Wilson worked tirelessly during the proceedings to orchestrate an agreement that would encourage a lasting peace in Europe. During the stay, Wilson also led the effort for the establishment of the League of Nations, an international organization designed to seek diplomatic solutions to future conflicts.

At Versailles, Wilson’s hopes for a “just and stable peace” were opposed by the other victorious Allies, and the final treaty, which called for stiff war reparations from the former Central Powers, would be regarded with increasing bitterness in Germany in the years to come. President Woodrow Wilson was awarded the 1920 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace to Europe.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Saddam Hussein captured

December 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured on this day in 2003. Saddam’s downfall began on March 20, 2003, when the United States led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than 20 years.

Saddam Hussein was born into a poor family in Tikrit, 100 miles outside of Baghdad, in 1937. After moving to Baghdad as a teenager, Saddam joined the now-infamous Baath party, which he would later lead. He participated in several coup attempts, finally helping to install his cousin as dictator of Iraq in July 1968. Saddam took over for his cousin 11 years later. During his 24 years in office, Saddam’s secret police, charged with protecting his power, terrorized the public, ignoring the human rights of the nation’s citizens. While many of his people faced poverty, he lived in incredible luxury, building more than 20 lavish palaces throughout the country. Obsessed with security, he is said to have moved among them often, always sleeping in secret locations.

In the early 1980s, Saddam involved his country in an eight-year war with Iran, which is estimated to have taken more than a million lives on both sides. He is alleged to have used nerve agents and mustard gas on Iranian soldiers during the conflict, as well as chemical weapons on Iraq’s own Kurdish population in northern Iraq in 1988. After he invaded Kuwait in 1990, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 1991, forcing the dictator’s army to leave its smaller neighbor, but failing to remove Saddam from power. Throughout the 1990s, Saddam faced both U.N. economic sanctions and air strikes aimed at crippling his ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. With Iraq continuing to face allegations of illegal oil sales and weapons-building, the United States again invaded the country in March 2003, this time with the expressed purpose of ousting Saddam and his regime.

Despite proclaiming in early March 2003 that, “it is without doubt that the faithful will be victorious against aggression,” Saddam went into hiding soon after the American invasion, speaking to his people only through an occasional audiotape, and his government soon fell. After declaring Saddam the most important of a list of his regime’s 55 most-wanted members, the United States began an intense search for the former leader and his closest advisors. On July 22, 2003, Saddam’s sons, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Al Gore concedes presidential election

December 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on this day in 2000.

In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White House, Gore said that while he was deeply disappointed and sharply disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict that ended his campaign, ”partisan rancor must now be put aside.”

“I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College” he said. “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Gore had won the national popular vote by more than 500,000 votes, but narrowly lost Florida, giving the Electoral College to Bush 271 to 266.

Gore said he had telephoned Bush to offer his congratulations, honoring him, for the first time, with the title ”president-elect.”

”I promised that I wouldn’t call him back this time” Gore said, referring to the moment on election night when he had called Bush to tell him he was going to concede, then called back a half hour later to retract that concession.

Gore only hinted at what he might do in the future. ”I’ve seen America in this campaign and I like what I see. It’s worth fighting for—and that’s a fight I’ll never stop.”

Among the friends and family beside Gore were his wife, Tipper, and his running mate, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and his wife, Hadassah.

A little more than an hour later, Bush addressed the nation for the first time as president-elect, declaring that the “nation must rise above a house divided.” Speaking from the podium of the Texas House of Representatives, Bush devoted his speech to themes of reconciliation following one of the closest and most disputed presidential elections in U.S. history. ”I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation,” Bush said.

Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, took office onJanuary 20, 2001. They were re-elected in 2004 over Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards.

…read more

Source: HISTORY