You are browsing the archive for 2018 December 26.

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7 Brutal Ways Sailors Were Punished Beyond 'Bread and Water'

December 26, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

In 2019, the U.S. Navy will finally stop allowing officers to punish sailors by limiting their meals to bread and water. The Navy adopted this punishment in its early days from the British Royal Navy and continued using it long after the Royal Navy stopped using it in 1891. Recently, one U.S. skipper imposed the punishment so often for minor offenses that his ship earned the nickname “U.S.S. Bread and Water.”

A modern version of this punishment might mean three days in the brig with nothing to eat with bread and water. A couple centuries ago, it might have meant 30 days shackled in the brig with only those two provisions. Though it seems cruel and unusual today, naval ships once viewed bread-and-water punishment as more humane compared to the other traditional penalties sailors faced at sea.


For minor infractions, a sailor might have to climb the mast and stay there for a set period of time in the cold wind. This could be quite uncomfortable and isolating, but was also known as the best time for a sailor to get a little reading done.


Worse than mast-heading was caning, a punishment in which you hit a sailor across his backside with a solid cane. Yet like bread-and-water punishments, caning was once a less serious consequence for misbehavior on the high seas.

In fact, caning was mostly a punishment for minors in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when boys as young as 12 could join the British Royal Navy. Offenders received six to 12 strokes with a thick three-and-a-half-foot cane; sometimes in private, sometimes in front of the other boys on the ship.


A boy might be caned for minor offenses, like skipping out on roll call. But if committed a more serious offense, his punishment could be a public birching. This usually meant 12 to 24 strokes with a bundle of birch sticks.

“These instruments of correction were usually hung up in the steam of the ship’s galley to make them supple enough to have knots tied in them, though there are also reports of birches being soaked in vinegar or saltwater before being used,” writes Christopher McKee in Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945.


Still, neither caning nor birching compared to flogging, a common adult punishment that could kill a man. Until the …read more


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2018's Top History Stories

December 26, 2018 in History

By History Staff

Zora Neale Hurston’s searing book about the final survivor of the transatlantic slave trade, Cudjo Lewis, is being published nearly a century after it was written. READ MORE

View the 30 images of this gallery on the original article

1. The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced

Zora Neale Hurston’s searing book about the final survivor of the transatlantic slave trade, Cudjo Lewis, could not find a publisher for nearly 90 years. READ MORE

2. Early Humans Slept Around with More than Just Neanderthals

New DNA research has unexpectedly revealed that they were even more promiscuous than we thought. READ MORE

3. This 14th-Century African Emperor Remains the Richest Person in History

Forget today’s tech billionaires, the wealth of Mansa Musa of Mali was too vast to be imagined—or equaled. READ MORE

4. The 5 Most Credible Modern UFO Sightings

Revisit five of the most believable UFO sightings of the 21st century. READ MORE

5. Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick Incident: What Really Happened

The fateful events at Chappaquiddick ended Mary Jo Kopechne’s life and derailed Ted Kennedy’s presidential ambitions for good. READ MORE

6. 9/11 Lost and Found: The Items Left Behind

From a bloodied pair of shoes, to IDs to jewelry, here’s a look at some of the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s more than 11,000 artifacts—and the heavy stories they carry. READ MORE

7. The Brutal History of Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’

Between 1932 and 1945, Japan forced women from Korea, China and other occupied countries to become military prostitutes. READ MORE

8. Mary Todd Lincoln Became a Laughingstock After Her Husband’s Assassination

After President Lincoln’s death, the First Lady’s public grieving was seen as evidence that she was an improper woman. READ MORE

9. DNA from Ice Age Baby Uproots Native American Family Tree

The Ancient Beringians split off from other Native American ancestors 20,000 years ago. READ MORE

10. When Native Americans Were Slaughtered in the Name of ‘Civilization’

Their world views and spiritual beliefs were beyond most white men’s comprehension. READ MORE

11. The Trump Family’s Immigrant Story

For decades, they denied their German roots, claiming to be of Scandinavian origin. READ MORE

12. Why Are There So Many Urban Legends About Mr. Rogers?

If popular folklore is to be believed, he’s a tattooed former sniper with a dark secret. READ MORE

13. Hitler’s Teeth Reveal Nazi Dictator’s Cause of Death

A new analysis of Adolf Hitler’s …read more


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A Ban on Airbrushing?

December 26, 2018 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

When celebrities come out with ideas for passing new laws, it’s
usually polite to avert one’s glance and move on.

But a BBC opinion piece by British actor Jameela Jamil merits a
closer, if critical, look. Jamil, known in this country for her
work in The Good Place, says we should pass a law to ban
photos that have been touched up to make people look better.

Seriously, that’s her idea. “Airbrushing of people in magazines
and especially in advertisements shouldn’t be legal,” as she summed
it up on Twitter.

She isn’t just upset about the occasional weirdly overdone
spread in which someone wielding Photoshop as a laser sword takes a
model who was skinny to begin with and whittles her down to the
sort of size minus-6 that could never survive on planet Earth
because oxygen has too many calories.

No, Jamil objects to the more ordinary use of the technique to
smooth folds and erase wrinkles, “hide blemishes, brighten eyes and
teeth,” and so forth.

She warns BBC readers that, “If you buy the products airbrushing
is used to advertise, you won’t look like the person in the

If this comes as a surprise to you, please exercise caution
before stepping out of doors or in front of a mirror.

She’s against flattering filters too, not just on professional
photographers’ cameras but also in selfies. Those serve, she
writes, to legitimize “the patriarchy’s absurd aesthetic standards,
that women should be attractive to the straight, male gaze.”

It’s not clear that the widely noted female wish to appear
attractive in male eyes is some arbitrary construct that would go
away if we somehow escaped the bonds of patriarchy. But she’s off
and running, sounding like teenage Tumblr when she espies the most
evil of motives: “They are trying to break you, so you will hate

Inevitably, she’s on the bandwagon of those who blame eating
disorders on media portrayals of unrealistic female beauty.

A 2011 article in the Review of General Psychology,
however, found that family and peer influences had the biggest
demonstrated influence on eating disorders, while that favorite
bugaboo, media images, had effects so small and hard to measure
that they might not exist at all.

If the use of craft and artifice in looking good is to be done
away with, it will be only the start to get rid of airbrushing,
filters, soft focus, and lighting secrets.

Cosmetics would be next, along with body-shaping garments, as
well as the practice of curling or stretching one’s body into poses
no one would get into if they didn’t look so cute.

As one Twitter user put it, “A photograph …read more

Source: OP-EDS