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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

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The psychological condition that best explains Donald Trump's twisted worldview

December 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Jeremy Sherman, AlterNet

Think of our president as a hoarder. But instead of objects, he collects victories and vendettas.

Trump’s ghostwriter put these words in the president’s mouth: “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”

I believe it about the money, though not about playing the game being his real excitement. If that were true, Trump wouldn’t be such a sore loser. He wouldn’t have said, on the last days of the campaign, that if he loses, “this will be the greatest waste of time, money and energy in my lifetime, by a factor of 100.” He wouldn’t have said of John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” And he wouldn’t have said, “That makes me smart,” when Hillary Clinton accused him of not paying taxes for 18 years.

Trump’s sole value is being an impressive winner of the game. A neutral psychological assessment of his motivations wouldn't rule out the possibility that he ran for president because he was frustrated to see other people winning more than he was. He saw dictators around the world who had amassed more billions and had more power than he did. He realized that if he really wanted to win, he might do the same.

The evidence is overwhelming; Trump is a pathological climber. The self-declared “ratings machine” suffers from “impressive compulsive disorder,” a condition that is like hoarding, not of stuff but of impressive power.

You know that burning, sinking feeling you get when you're around someone who's more impressive than you? That's Trump's sole driver. There's nothing in him to upstage it, no greater good to temper it. Read between the lines, his worldview goes something like this:

Life is nothing but a dog-eat-dog game. The only value is being top dog. Winning is its own reward and the only reward. The power you gain by winning isn’t for anything else. Winners play the game undistracted by other values. All other supposed values are just means to that end. Duping others into thinking …read more


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The 8-Hour sleep myth: How I learned that everything I knew about sleep was wrong

December 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

We've been told over and over that the 8-hour sleep is ideal, but our bodies have been telling us something else.

I’ve always been at odds with sleep. Starting around adolescence, morning became a special form of hell. Long school commutes meant rising in 6am darkness, then huddling miserably near the bathroom heating vent as I struggled to wrest myself from near-paralysis. The sight of eggs turned my not-yet-wakened stomach, so I scuttled off without breakfast. In fourth grade, my mother noticed that instead of playing outside after school with the other kids, I lay zonked in front of the TV, dozing until dinner. “Lethargy of unknown cause,” pronounced the doctor.

High school trigonometry commenced at 7:50am. I flunked, stupefied with sleepiness. Only when college allowed me to schedule courses in the afternoon did the joy of learning return. My decision to opt for grad school was partly traceable to a horror of returning to the treadmill of too little sleep and exhaustion, which a 9-to-5 job would surely bring.

In my late 20s, I began to wake up often for a couple of hours in the middle of the night – a phenomenon linked to female hormonal shifts. I’ve met these vigils with dread, obsessed with lost sleep and the next day’s dysfunction. Beside my bed I stashed an arsenal of weapons against insomnia: lavender sachets, sleep CDs, and even a stuffed sheep that makes muffled ocean noises. I collected drugstore remedies — valerian, melatonin, Nytol — which caused me “rebound insomnia” the moment I stop taking them.

The Sleep Fairy continued to elude me.

Recently I confessed my problem to the doctor, ashamed to fail at something so simple that babies and rodents can do it on a dime. When I asked for Ambien, she cut me a glance that made me feel like a heroin addict and lectured me on the dangers of “controlled substances.” Her offering of “sleep hygiene” bromides like reserving my bedroom solely for sleep was useless to a studio apartment-dweller.

Conventional medical wisdom dropped me at a dead end. Why did I need to use a …read more


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Stumped by the stock market slump? Start by picturing a used car dealership

December 25, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Trading stocks can be a lot like buying a used car.

Stocks have been slumping on a variety of concerns, from President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China to worries about an economic slowdown and rising interest rates.

Given the many factors driving shares up or down on any day or week, it’s hard to make sense of what’s happening on Wall Street.

Based on my many years of experience teaching and writing about financial markets and frauds, I believe the best way to understand what’s happening on Wall Street – and puncture its mystique – is to imagine it as a used car dealership.

Stock markets 101

Stock exchanges are places where people trade ownership in corporations by buying and selling shares.

Partial ownership of a company comes with benefits, such as a cut of future profits and rising stock prices. But there are risks and costs as well. Share price can fall, reducing the value of one’s wealth; even worse, businesses can go under, reducing the value of ownership to zero.

About half the population owns at least some stocks, mostly in their 401(k)s. But, except for the richest 10 percent of Americans, stock holdings are usually on the smaller side.

The New York Stock Exchange, one of several in the U.S., is the largest securities exchange in the world. At a current market value of almost US$23 trillion, it’s worth more than the GDP of the U.S. and the world’s other big economies.

Stock exchanges play an important economic role by helping companies finance new investments. When a large company wants to expand, it goes to an exchange like the NYSE and offers investors a stake in its business through what is known as an initial public offering. That’s exactly what ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber plan to do at some point in 2019.

Selling used cars

However, this is not what stock trading is mainly about. Virtually all the $80 trillion or so in daily trading on the NYSE and other exchanges around the world involves someone who already owns shares of …read more


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This could stop congress from forcing shutdowns

December 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has the right idea

US Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for congressional salaries to be put on hold during the next government shutdown.

The US government went into a partial shutdown at midnight on Friday after President Trump refused to sign a spending bill that did not include $5 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He had long claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall.

“It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

“Have some integrity,” she added, calling for salaries to be furloughed for the next shutdown.

Members of the House and the Senate are paid $174,000 a year. According to Roll Call, 153 House members and 50 senators are millionaires.

More than 420,000 federal workers who are considered “essential” will continue working — but without pay, according to CBS News. Those employees may eventually receive back pay. However, an additional 380,000 workers will be furloughed and may miss a paycheck depending on how long the shutdown lasts.

Ocasio-Cortez, who will join Congress in early January  as the new representative for New York’s 14th District, has been a vocal critic of the demand for $5 billion for a border wall. When the House passed a short-term spending bill with $5.7 billion for border security, Ocasio-Cortez challenged the GOP trope that the federal government simply doesn’t have the money to implement bold progressive policies such as Medicare for All or a Green New Deal.

“And just like that, GOP discovers $5.7 billion for a wall,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “But notice how no one’s asking the GOP how they’re paying for it.”

On Friday, she outlined another way the $5.7 billion could be spent instead of Trump’s proposed wall.  “For the wall’s $5.7 billion, every child in America could have access to Universal Pre-K. Yet when we propose the SAME $, we’re told Universal Edu is a ‘fantasy’ & asked ‘how are you going to pay for it.’ Education is an investment in society that yields returns,” she tweeted. “Walls are waste.”


<Img align="left" border="0" …read more


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'Shame on this President': Trump cuts off funds for 'vital services and protections' for women who face abuse

December 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Julia Conley, Common Dreams

“This shutdown is directly impacting the safety and lives of women and families across the country.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) was among those condemning the government shutdown's impacts on the safety of women and families, as funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired at midnight on Friday as the shutdown went into effect.

Along with nearly 400,000 federal employees who face a furlough thanks to President Donald Trump's decision to shut down the federal government, programs that support women who have survived violence may now face funding shortages due to the turmoil on Capitol Hill. Congress's failure to negotiate a spending bill over the weekend left programs that rely on the law without federal funding until at least Thursday, when lawmakers reconvene.

“Because of the Trump Shutdown, millions of survivors who rely on programs funded by the Violence Against Women Act will not have the resources they need to stay safe right before the holidays,” Lee tweeted over the weekend as it became clear that the government would not reopen Monday. “Shame on this President.”

Due to the lapse in funding for the landmark legislation which was passed in 1994, funding requests for a wide array of programs supporting women will be delayed. VAWA helps to fund rape education and prevention programs, strengthens public housing protections for survivors of domestic abuse, enables native tribes to prosecute non-native offenders who abuse and assault women, and provides funding for numerous other programs. 

A number of lawmakers expressed anger over the funding lapse brought on by the president's refusal to sign the spending bill that was passed by the Senate late last week, as it did not include $5 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border aimed at keeping asylum seekers out of the country. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who refused to budge on her opposition to the wall funding, called the expiration in VAWA funding “nothing short of an abdication of our responsibilities to women in our country.”

The Trump administration's xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda has previously affected domestic violence victims when former Attorney General Jeff Sessionsannounced in June …read more


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Noam Chomsky: Social media outlets have 'become major forces for undermining democracy'

December 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

“The Internet does allow us to….overcome the impact of the concentration of media—and in fact, can be done pretty effectively.”

One of the most ludicrous—and debunked—claims of the far right is that the mainstream media in the United States has an inherent liberal/progressive bias. But Noam Chomsky tore that claim apart in his 1988 book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (which he co-wrote with the late economist/media scholar Edward S. Herman). The real media bias, Chomsky stressed, was a corporate bias dictated by advertising and soundbites. And 30 years later, the 90-year-old Chomsky revisited his book during a recent interview with Al Jazeera English.  

“The myth is that the media are independent, adversarial, courageous, struggling against power,” Chomsky told Al Jazeera, stressing what while the United States often has “very fine reporters, correspondents” who do “an honest, courageous job,” they “must operate within a framework that determines what to discuss, what not to discuss. What we try to demonstrate in the book is that if you simply look at the institutional structure of the media within a state capitalist society like ours, they are performing pretty much the way you would expect.”

Soundbites, Chomsky told Al Jazeera, are an effective propaganda tool because propagandists “can say anything they want in two minutes, but they can’t be exposed in two minutes.”

Much has changed technologically since the release of “Manufacturing Consent” 30 years ago, including the rise of the Internet. Chomsky told Al Jazeera that having so much of the mainstream media owned by giant corporations “cheapens and reduces the access to information.” But he quickly added, “There is a way to compensate for that. The Internet does allow us to….overcome the impact of the concentration of media—and in fact, can be done pretty effectively.”

Chomsky described social media outlets like Facebook as “double-edged,” noting, “Sometimes, they are used for constructive purposes. But they have also become major forces for undermining democracy.” Chomsky cited Brazil as an example, noting how effectively the far-right Jair Bolsonaro used social media to win Brazil’s presidential election this year.

In addition to interviewing …read more


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Mother of jailed NSA contractor rips Manafort, Flynn and Cohen: Those 'responsible for threatening our election continue to get off easy'

December 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The 27-year-old Winner is serving a five-year federal prison sentence for releasing a National Security Agency (NSA) document.

Not since Richard Nixon in the 1970s has a U.S. president been surrounded by as many scandals as Donald J. Trump. And in a new article for the Intercept, Billie Winner-Davis—mother of imprisoned U.S. Air Force veteran Reality Leigh Winner—asserts that her daughter has been treated much more harshly than Michael Cohen, Rick Gates and other Trump associates who have admitted to serious federal crimes. 

The 27-year-old Winner is serving a five-year federal prison sentence for releasing a National Security Agency (NSA) document detailing cyber attacks on U.S. election officials by Russian military intelligence. Winner-Davis stresses that although her daughter was “wrongly portrayed” as a “traitor and spy” and a “Taliban sympathizer” for “unlawful disclosure of national defense information,” her actual motivation was showing the American public the degree to which the United States’ election system had been under attack by a foreign power.

Winner-Davis writes, “It is maddening to watch my daughter in prison as the so-called justice system interacts in such drastically different ways with Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen.” And she goes on to discuss their cases, noting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has recommended no prison time for Flynn (who admitted to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late 2016) and that Papadopoulos was sentenced to only two weeks of incarceration. 

Winner-Davis explains, “Gates’ fate is not yet known, but we do know that he has not spent time languishing in a jail or prison after he was charged, unlike Reality, who is now on day 568 behind bars.”

Cohen, Winner-Davis points out, pled guilty to everything from tax evasion to lying to Congress and was sentenced to three years in prison compared to five years for her daughter. And she has a lot to say about Manafort, noting that initially, Trump’s former campaign manager “was allowed to remain out of jail on bond.” 

“Manafort’s bond was revoked only when he was accused of tampering with …read more


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‘I am all alone (poor me) in the White House’: Trump goes off the rails in pre-Christmas tweetstorm

December 24, 2018 in Blogs

By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

He did find time to praise Saudi Arabia, the country responsible for the assassination of a Washington Post journalist.

It's Christmas Eve. The markets are tanking after the Treasury Secretary posted a statement causing even greater panic. The partial shutdown of the federal government has entered its third day.

President Trump over the past 24 hours or so has posted 22 tweets, including some just minutes before midnight. He's attacked the Federal Reserve, Democrats, foreign allies, his own anti-ISIS coalition chief, the “FAKE NEWS,” and his outgoing Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis.

He did find time to praise Saudi Arabia, the country responsible for the assassination of a Washington Post journalist.

Trump's own administration is in tatters. His Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Interior, UN Ambassador, and Chief of Staff are all exiting in the next week. He has only acting officials heading up the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

That's just for starters.

And yet, the President of the United States, unable to travel to Mar-a-Lago for a 16-day planned vacation, is stuck in the White House – only for optics – because he shut his own Republican-majority government down.

So he's tweeting.

His latest – no joke: “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House,” as he attacks Democrats for the shutdown he proudly boasted he would not only cause, but take credit for.

…read more