You are browsing the archive for 2019 January 02.

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The French Resistance's Secret Weapon? The Mime Marcel Marceau

January 2, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Marcel Marceau was known worldwide as a master of silence. The world-famous mime delighted audiences for decades as “Bip,” a tragicomic figure who encountered the world without words. But during World War II, his skills as a mime came in handy for another reason: He used them to save Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Marceau was recruited to help the French Resistance by his cousin, Georges Loinger, a commander in the secret unit who was part of the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a Jewish relief group that smuggled Jewish children from occupied France to neutral countries. Loinger, who was credited with saving around 350 children, died on December 28, 2018 at the age of 108.

Marcel Marceau, circa 1950.

Their mission was to evacuate Jewish children who had been hiding in a French orphanage and get them to the Swiss border, where they would sneak to safety. But traveling with large groups of children was anything but easy. Marceau had a secret weapon: His training as a mime.

“The kids loved Marcel and felt safe with him,” Loinger told the Jewish Telegraph Agency in 2007, after Marceau’s death. “He had already begun doing performances in the orphanage, where he had met a mime instructor earlier on. The kids had to appear like they were simply going on vacation to a home near the Swiss border, and Marcel really put them at ease.”

Marceau, who was Jewish, didn’t just use his acting skills to make the kids comfortable: He used them to save their lives. He mimed “to keep children quiet as they were escaping,” Philippe Mora, the son of one of Marceau’s Resistance comrades, told The Age. “It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life.”

The actor also posed as a Boy Scout leader to trick the authorities. “I went disguised as a Boy Scout leader and took 24 Jewish kids, also in scout uniforms, through the forests to the border, where someone else would take them into Switzerland,” he recalled in 2002. And when he unexpectedly ran into a group of German soldiers near the end of the war, he pretended he was a member of the French Army and demanded they surrender. They did—all 30 of them.


Jewish children from Paris caught by the police before being deported to a camp …read more

Source: HISTORY

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When the Jamestown Colony Placed Ads to Attract Brides

January 2, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

In .

Many Jamestown settlers would “come to the colony, make their fortune, and go home to get married,” she says. A small portion abandoned “the colony to go live in the Indian villages, where obviously there were plenty of women and life was better.” This latter outcome was especially troubling to English religious leaders, who preached sermons about “the sexual availability of the Indian women,” she says.

“Obviously there are women in Virginia, they’re just not white women,” Yablon-Zug continues. “The Jamestown brides were supposed to be sort of the antidote to that.”

The Virginia Company advertised that if English women agreed to come to Jamestown in search of a husband, the company would loan them clothing, transportation and a plot of land. In Jamestown, they could have their pick of wealthy bachelors. Once they chose a husband, he would reimburse the Virginia Company for her expenses with 120 to 150 pounds of “good leaf” tobacco.

An illustration of the arrival of the first women to the Jamestown colony.

This exchange helped earn these women the nickname “tobacco wives,” and has also led to allegations that the Virginia Company “sold” these women. However, unlike the Africans who began arriving in Jamestown in 1619, no one bought or sold these English women. In fact, for women who couldn’t afford a good dowry to attract a husband, becoming a tobacco wife was a fairly attractive option.

“Women of all classes except the vagrant poor attempted to amass a dowry to attract a husband,” writes Nancy Egloff, a historian at the Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg, Virginia (Jamestown’s new Tenacity exhibit highlights the tobacco wives as part of a 400-year commemoration of significant events in 1619). “However, it seems that if a family sent their daughter overseas, they absolved themselves of the need to provide a dowry for [her].”

Little is know about the first group of 90 brides, but Egloff says that some of the 56 women in the second group had lost both of their parents, meaning that they didn’t have a good chance of amassing a suitable dowry to entice a husband. At least 16 women in this second group had worked “in service” to other English households in order to amass a dowry, meaning that they hadn’t had a good one in the first place.

Choosing to become a tobacco wife certainly came with risks. After all, these …read more

Source: HISTORY

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An Entire Layer of Earth's History Could Have Been Ripped Away by Ice

January 2, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

The Earth’s crust is a visual timeline that goes back billions of years. But all over the world, there’s a gap in the timeline—a huge chunk of crust that should be there yet isn’t. Now, scientists say that the crust may have been destroyed during Snowball Earth, a hypothetical period in which the globe was covered in ice.

The gap in Earth’s timeline is known as the Great Unconformity, and represents 250 million to 1.2 billion years of lost time. The crust timeline abruptly jumps from the Cambrian Period, which saw the most intense burst of evolution, and the Precambrian time, during which the Earth was formed—meaning that it skips over about one-fifth of Earth’s geological history.

So what happened? Well, that crust could have been ripped away by moving glaciers during Snowball Earth, argue scientists in a December 2018 article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Glaciers’ intense weight causes them to scrape and erode land that they move across. After being scraped up by Snowball Earth glaciers, the missing crust could have fallen into the ocean as sediment, and then disappeared into one of Earth’s lower layers.

The scientists argue that a big geochemical shift happened around the time Snowball Earth’s worldwide glaciers formed, something that suggests Earth’s crust was being recycled. “Although this erosion didn’t apply evenly across the world, it amounts to an average sediment layer 1.9 to 3.1 miles deep being swept away,” reports National Geographic.

If correct, this theory explaining the Great Unconformity could help shed light on other aspects of Earth’s history, like why Earth lost most of its craters around 600 to 700 million years ago.

It could also help connect the dots between Earth’s formation and “Cambrian explosion” of life between 541 million and 530 million years ago. So far, we know there were large animals before the explosion—the oldest is the 558 million-year-old Dickinsonia, a sci-fi looking creature that could grow up to four and a half feet long. But there are still a lot of questions about what was going on before that, in the Earth’s gap years.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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How the Misery of the Great Depression Helped Vanquish Prohibition

January 2, 2019 in History

By Jesse Greenspan

During the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition seemed here to stay. Then the economy collapsed, and the “noble experiment” crumbled along with it.

Disenchantment with Prohibition had been building almost from the moment it first took effect in 1920. Politicians continued drinking as everyday people were slapped with charges. Bootleggers were becoming rich on the profits of illegal alcohol sales and violence was on the rise. But it wasn’t until the Great Depression that the repeal movement truly gained steam.

“The Depression has a huge impact,” says Garrett Peck, author of The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet. “We got Prohibition because of an emergency, the emergency being World War I, and we lost Prohibition because of another emergency, the Depression.”

By arguing that the country needed the jobs and tax revenue that legalized alcohol would provide, anti-Prohibition activists succeeded in recruiting even noted teetotalers to their cause. As the economy crumbled and the Democratic Party gained power, the demise of Prohibition eventually became a fait accompli.

Barrels of beer emptied into the sewer by authorities during prohibition.

Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related diseases did decrease overall due in large part to the expense of procuring illicit booze. Still, just about anyone who wanted a beer could easily get one at the countless speakeasies that popped up around the country. (There may have been more than 30,000 in New York City alone.)

READ MORE: The Improbable Prohibition Agents Who Outsmarted Speakeasy Agents

Even politicians who supported Prohibition in public continued imbibing in private. President Warren G. Harding, for example, stocked the White House with whiskey for his infamous poker nights, while his Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover liked to stop for a drink at the Belgian Embassy—where U.S. law technically didn’t apply.

As for the legislative branch, one prominent bootlegger estimated that he supplied two-thirds of Congress with liquor. “There’s a lot of hypocrisy,” says Garrett Peck, author of The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet. “Everyone thinks that Prohibition is for someone else to obey.”

Though power brokers drank with impunity, enforcement could be strict for the masses, particularly once the Jones Act of 1929 increased penalties for liquor law infractions. The courts became backlogged with alcohol-related cases, and newspapers ran wild with stories of prosecutorial excess, such as a Michigan mother of 10 …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Football fans crushed in stadium stampede

January 2, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1971, 66 football (soccer) fans are killed in a stampede at a stadium in Glasgow, Scotland, as they attempt to leave a game after a late goal by the home team. Initial reports suggested that the disaster was caused by fans returning to their seats after hearing of the last goal, but in fact it was simply the crush of spectators all leaving at the same time on the same stairway that led to tragedy. This was not the first time that disaster had struck the stadium.

Ibrox Stadium was built on the south side of Glasgow in 1900 and suffered its first serious incident only two years later. Just minutes into a match between England and Scotland on April 5, 1902, the weight of the fans on the stadium’s wooden west terrace caused a partial collapse of the structure. Dozens of spectators fell 45 feet to the ground. To make matters worse, the collapse caused a general panic and hundreds of people were injured in the subsequent rush to the exits.

In September 1961, a crush of fans on stairway 13 killed two people and injured scores of others. This same stairway was the site of eight serious injuries at a match in September 1967 and 24 more injuries in January 1969. Still, no design or safety changes had been made to the stairway by the time the Rangers played a home match against Celtic on January 2, 1971, in front of 80,000 fans.

The game was a scoreless tie until Celtic took the lead with minutes left. However, Ranger Colin Stein scored the equalizer with just seconds remaining and the excited home crowd exited quickly on the cold, misty afternoon. At the top of stairway 13, a few metal railings bent and collapsed with the weight of the crowd, and people began to fall forward down the stairs. Sixty-six people–65 men and one woman, 18-year-old Margaret Ferguson–were suffocated and crushed to death in the resulting chaos. Another 145 were seriously injured.

This was the worst soccer disaster in Scottish history and the worst ever in the United Kingdom until 96 people died in Hillsborough in 1989.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Some 'Big Ideas' for the President Two Years In

January 2, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Trump presidency is nearing its halfway mark. Contrary to
the dire predictions of many pundits, the country still survives.
But whether the president is able to win reelection remains a huge
question. Satisfying his base is not enough. He needs to win votes
from those who might not have warmed to him personally.

To attract those marginal supporters, many of whom chose him
over Hillary Clinton, he should offer a few compelling “big
ideas,” rationalizing his so far disjointed approach to
policymaking. Make the Democrats fight him on his own ground.

Cut Corporate Welfare. One of Hillary
Clinton’s great weaknesses was her membership in the infamous
one percent, having acquired wealth the old-fashioned way, using
political power to grab it. Denizens of Wall Street
weren’t paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to hear her
speeches because of the peerless wisdom and Periclean eloquence.
The Clinton Foundation wasn’t vacuuming up contributions from
foreign governments because of its abstemious commitment to the
global good.

The president should target corporate welfare. Uncle Sam is
bankrupt — sad to say, the GOP blew out the deficit last year
and it will near a trillion dollars in 2019. In a decade the red
ink will run over $1.5 trillion absent some serious cuts. A good
place to start slashing would be with those who collect cash
because of who they are, not based on need or merit.

In doing so President Trump could undermine the incipient
left-wing populist opposition by challenging Democrats to cut money
going to business and other well-heeled interests —
Export-Import Bank, Economic Development Administration, Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac, and much more. The president should argue for a
level playing field for all and explain that is why he has been
cutting taxes, rolling back regulations, challenging foreign trade
restrictions, and the like. One of Washington’s worst kept
secrets is that Democrats are not against enriching special
interests, as long as they are compliant and supportive of
Democrats. Like Wall Street barons who fill Chuck Schumer’s
campaign coffers and labor union leaders who do very well by
pretending to do good, with government’s aid.

The president needs to do
more than simply repeat his old talking points. If he wants both to
change America and get reelected, he needs to advance some grand
new ideas.

Defend America. The world is dangerous, but not
particularly to America. The president has grasped the essential
point, ignored by Obama progressives and Bush neoconservatives
alike: Virtually everyone everywhere wants America to take care of
their problems and otherwise do their bidding. That includes
fighting their wars.

In the Middle East, for instance, Syria really isn’t
America’s problem. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why Trump's Advisors Keep Quashing His Realist Whims

January 2, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Over a period of mere days in late December, the Trump
administration made two troop withdrawal decisions that startled
Washington. The first was announced in a tweet by Trump stating
that the United States had accomplished its mission in Syria of
defeating ISIS and that he was ordering the immediate withdrawal of
U.S. troops from that country. Just days later, leaks from both the
White House and the Pentagon indicated that a substantial draw-down
of forces from Afghanistan was imminent. Some reports suggested
that 7,000—roughly half of the current deployed U.S.
force—would be removed.

The reactions were predictable. Advocates of a more realistic and
restrained
American foreign policy praised the moves as a key
step in jettisoning two frustrating and counterproductive missions.
A larger faction, consisting of neoconservative hawks along with liberal
proponents of humanitarian military crusades, condemned Trump’s actions. They often did so in
emotional and vitriolic terms about undermining crucial American interests in both
countries. A frequent assertion was that the president’s Syria
withdrawal would hand over that country and much of the Middle
East to Vladimir Putin. Matt Purple, managing editor at the
American Conservative, observed correctly that the Washington
foreign policy establishment was in full meltdown over the troop withdrawal. Indeed,
Secretary of Defense James Mattis mentioned the president’s
decisions as one reason for his abrupt resignation.

Donald Trump has time and
again allowed his advisers to talk him out of his realist
foreign-policy positions.

The latest lurch in Trump’s foreign policy views and actions
reflects an all-too-familiar inconsistency and volatility. During
the 2016 presidential campaign, he condemned the missions in both
Syria and Afghanistan (as well as those in Iraq and
Libya) as impractical ventures that had wasted American treasure
and lives. But once in office, Trump’s actual policies regarding
those countries did not change in any significant way. In August
2017, he explicitly embraced and even escalated the Afghan mission. He not only kept
U.S. troops in Syria, but he twice launched missile strikes against
Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Just a few months ago, he warned Assad against attacking the last major
rebel stronghold in Idlib province or risk U.S. military
retaliation.

Similar erratic moves took place with regard to other foreign
policy arenas. Trump began his administration with an
uncompromising, highly confrontational policy toward North Korea.
He then reversed course and held a cordial summit meeting with
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. During the election campaign,
Trump repeatedly described the North Atlantic Treaty …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Afghanistan, the Longest War in American History

January 2, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

When President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing
troops from Syria, shock and hysteria filled Washington. The
screaming grew louder when it was reported that the president also
intended to remove half of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with the
rest likely to come home at the end of 2019.

Afghanistan is the longest war in American history, outlasting
the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and
Korean War combined. U.S. soldiers will soon be deploying
to a war that started before they were born. Today the Taliban is
advancing while the Kabul government is in disarray. Few believe
that the latter, irrespective of who is president, can survive
absent Washington’s support.

Both President Barack Obama’s and President Trump’s
Afghan strategy appeared designed to push the inevitable collapse
onto a future administration. Never mind that Americans still die
in Afghanistan. No official wants to be the one to declare that
thousands of lives and billions of dollars to have been wasted.

The issue is not how much
we invested and wasted in 17 years, but whether spending more in
the future can be justified.

Yet going into his presidency Trump stated: “Let’s
get out of Afghanistan.” However, he surrounded himself with
conventional thinkers as national security advisers, unwilling to
admit the obvious. Then he allowed himself to be talked into
temporarily increasing U.S. force levels.

However, the infusion of some 4,000 personnel could only slow
the Afghan government’s decline. The situation was bad in
2011, when I visited and allied force levels had peaked at 140,000
(110,000 of them American). The insurgency was barely contained and
virtually everyone I met outside of official briefings, including
U.S. troops, allied personnel, civilian contractors, and Afghan
officials, was pessimistic.

Today the totals are down to 30,000 and 14,000, respectively. In
theory the allies have trained a large Afghan security force, both
military and police, but estimates of the number of
“ghost” personnel, existing only for payroll purposes,
range up to a third. Casualties, attrition rates, and desertions
have soared. Kabul is constantly relying on its limited number of
better trained special forces. Moreover, observed Anthony Cordesman
of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “U.S.
Special Operations troops increasingly [are] being deployed into
harm’s way to assist their Afghan counterparts.”

Is there any prospect of Kabul taking over its own security?
“Progress toward peace remains elusive,” admitted Glenn
A. Fine, the Pentagon’s acting inspector general. Gen.
Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., Director of the Joint Staff and nominated
to head U.S. Central Command, stated: “If we left
precipitously right now, I do not believe they [the Afghans] would
be able to successfully defend …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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China’s Gulag for Muslims

January 2, 2019 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

One of the darkest episodes of the 20th century was the gulag
— the Soviet system of forced labor camps where dissidents
were imprisoned in terrible conditions, often to perish. The camps
were established by Lenin, expanded by Stalin and finally exposed
to the world by the great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
with his 1973 masterpiece, “The Gulag Archipelago.”

“Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island
of Archipelago,” he wrote, and “it is enough if you
don’t freeze in the cold, and if thirst and hunger
don’t claw at your insides.”

Today, Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union that operated them. But now another
dictatorship, ruled by another Communist Party, is operating
a new chain of prisons that evoke memory of the
gulags
- more modern, more high-tech, but no less
enslaving.

In modern-day
“re-education” prisons, Beijing is forcing ethnic Uighurs to
forsake their religion. Why don’t Muslim governments rise up in
anger?

These are China’s “re-education camps,”
established in the far-western Xinjiang region, where up to a
million Chinese are reportedly imprisoned in order to be indoctrinated. People are
forced to listen to ideological lectures, sing hymns praising the
Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism”
essays. Survivors also tell about military-style discipline, sleep
deprivation, solitary confinement, beatings and torture.

The target of this mass persecution is China’s Muslim
minorities — especially the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people
based in Xinjiang. They follow a mainstream, moderate
interpretation of Sunni Islam. But that is enough of a
mental illness” for Chinese Communists,
whose ideology considers all religions, including Christianity, to
be backward superstitions that must be diluted and nationalized.
That is why they go as far as forbidding people from having beards or fasting
during Ramadan, and forcing them to consume pork and alcohol, both of which are
forbidden in Islam.

Chinese authorities say they are alarmed about extremists among
the Uighurs — and, in fact, a handful of terrorists have
carried out attacks against government targets over the years. But
those extremists arose partly in response to a decades-old policy
of subjugation, along with ethnic colonialization, that Beijing has
pursued against the Uighurs. That history suggests that
Beijing’s current “counterterrorism” campaign
will be only counterproductive — deepening a vicious cycle
that authoritarian minds are often unable to understand, let alone
break.

And here is the strangest aspect of this story: China’s
“re-education” policy is a major attack on Muslim
people and their faith, Islam, yet the Muslim world has remained
largely silent. While the policy has been condemned by human rights
groups and the …read more

Source: OP-EDS