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Who Was the Real St. Valentine? The Many Myths Behind the Inspiration for Valentine's Day

January 9, 2019 in History

By Livia Gershon

There were multiple St. Valentines (including decapitated ones), but it was a medieval poet who first linked the name to the romantic tradition.

On February 14, when we share chocolates, special dinners, or doily cards with our loved ones, we do it in the name of Saint Valentine. But who was this saint of romance?

Search the internet, and you can find plenty of stories about him—or them. One Saint Valentine was supposedly a Roman priest who performed secret weddings against the wishes of the authorities in the third century. Imprisoned in the home of a noble, he healed his captor’s blind daughter, causing the whole household to convert to Christianity and sealing his fate. Before being tortured and decapitated on February 14, he sent the girl a note signed “Your Valentine.”

Some accounts say another saint named Valentine during the same period was the Bishop of Terni, also credited with secret weddings and martyrdom via beheading on February 14.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a tidy, romantic backstory to the holiday, scholars who have studied its origins say there’s very little basis for these accounts. In fact, Valentine’s Day only became associated with love in the late Middle Ages, thanks to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

“The two stories that everybody talks about, the bishop and the priest, they’re so similar that it makes me suspicious,” says Bruce Forbes, a professor of religious studies at Morningside College in Iowa.

Saint Valentine, who according to some sources is actually two distinct historical characters who were said to have healed a child while imprisoned and executed by decapitation.

Multiple Martyred Saint Valentines

Valentine was a popular name in ancient Rome, and there are at least 50 stories of different saints by that name. But Forbes said the earliest surviving accounts of the two February 14 Valentines, written starting in the 500s, have a whole lot in common. Both were said to have healed a child while imprisoned, leading to a household-wide religious conversion, and they were executed on the same day of the year and buried along the same highway.

The historical evidence is so sketchy that it’s not clear whether the story started with one saint who then became two or if biographers of one man borrowed details from the other—or if either ever existed at all.

READ MORE: 6 Facts About St. Valentine

Perhaps more disappointing for the …read more


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Seen a UFO? In the ‘50s, You Could Report It In This Easy Questionnaire

January 9, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Say you’re out walking in the desert and see a flash of light in the sky that you can’t identify. If this happened between 1952 and 1969, you could report that light to Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force’s project to investigate unidentified flying objects—aka, UFOs.

Project Blue Book was the longest-running official government inquiry into UFOs. Based at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, the project investigated thousands of incidents. An official questionnaire asked UFO sighters to describe exactly what they saw and when they saw it. A section of the questionnaire instructed:

“Draw a picture that will show the shape of the object or objects. Label and include in your sketch any details of the object that you saw such as wings, protrusions, etc., and especially exhaust trails or vapor trails. Place an arrow beside the drawing to show the direction the object was moving.”

View the 3 images of this gallery on the original article

One of the most famous sightings reported to Project Blue Book was the 1964 Lonnie Zamora incident just south of Socorro, New Mexico. Zamora was a policeman who, while on patrol, saw an egg-shaped craft fly over his car and land. He drove over to it and spied two figures outside of the craft, who then entered it and took off again. Of the more than 12,000 UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969 that the Air Force investigated, the Zamora incident remains one of the 701 unexplained sightings.

The Air Force’s investigation of UFOs started in 1948 with Project Sign. The year before, a businessman named Kenneth Arnold had claimed that, while flying a plane near Mount Rainier in Washington state, he’d spied nine crescent-shaped objects speeding along “like saucers skipping on water.” Newspaper accounts that mixed up his words helped popularize the term “flying saucer.”

After the Mount Rainier incident, UFO sightings increased, and the Air Force decided to study them. The country was in the early stages of the Cold War, and some officials suspected that these mysterious objects were secret Soviet Union aircrafts that posed a threat to the U.S.

The Air Force’s first UFO investigation, Project Sign, was succeeded in 1949 by Project Grudge, which shut down at the end of that year after concluding that UFO sightings were the result of hysteria, hoaxes, mental illness or the misidentification of known objects. …read more


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No, Economists Don't Agree a 70 Percent Top Marginal Tax Rate Is a Good Idea

January 9, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Economic commentators
Matt Yglesias
Paul Krugman
, and
Noah Smith
believe Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.)
call for a 60 to 70 percent top marginal income tax rate is
uncontroversial. According to all three, the New York Democrat’s
proposal simply reflects the consensus of mainstream economics.

Their argument rests on two historical factoids. The first is
that the rich paid higher taxes in the 1950s, and the economy grew
just fine. The second “fact” is that an array of economists, from
Nobel Prize winner
Peter Diamond
, to
Thomas Piketty
Emmanuel Saez
, have produced peer-reviewed research showing
combined marginal rates as high as 70 to 80 percent are

But dig into these
three papers, and you’ll find the
results reflect philosophy as much as economics. These economists
think they can plan the distribution of income to maximize “social
welfare.” But they arrive at the decision to impose extremely high
top marginal tax rates because they uniformly decide to put almost
zero weight on the welfare of the rich.

That means the sole aim of this cluster of economists is to
maximize revenue collected from high earners in order to transfer
to others. Presuming we could design a tax system from scratch that
eliminates the possibility of people avoiding taxes or hiding or
reclassifying income, they estimate the single combined marginal
tax rate that would generate maximum revenue to “soak the rich.”
Incorporating other wishful thinking about how the rich respond to
taxes, these economists wind up calculating that the “optimal” top
tax rate is about 70 percent, if you are also willing to
imagine closing off special treatment for capital gains and the
possibility of incorporation.

The astute reader can probably see some problems with
extrapolating from this theoretical calculation.

First, what if one thinks the welfare of the rich is actually an
important policy consideration? According to
a paper by Jonathan Gruber and Emmanuel Saez
, if we instead
pursued a “compassionate conservative” agenda—caring about
the very poor a bit more than others in society, but everyone else
equally, the optimal top rate might be as low as 30 percent. If we
were philosophically opposed to redistribution altogether, the
optimal rate tumbles to 3 percent. What counts as optimal varies
tremendously based on the philosophical assumptions the economist
starts with.

Second, what if we were not able to redesign the tax code to
eliminate avoidance? A 73 percent rate, the optimal rate calculated
by Diamond and Saez in 2011, is a combined rate (not just a
marginal federal income tax rate, as Ocasio-Cortez seems to be
proposing) that assumes we …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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One of the Hillside Stranglers Sentenced to Life

January 9, 2019 in History

By Editors

Angelo Buono, one of the Hillside Stranglers, is sentenced to life in prison for his role in the rape, torture, and murder of 10 young women in Los Angeles. Buono’s cousin and partner in crime, Kenneth Bianchi, testified against Buono to escape the death penalty.

Buono, a successful auto upholsterer, and Bianchi began their serial crime spree in 1977 when Bianchi moved from New York to live with his cousin. They started talking about how the prostitutes that Buono often brought home would hardly be missed by anyone if they disappeared. Idle speculation quickly led to action and the pair raped and strangled their first victim, Yolanda Washington, on October 17.

Within a month Buono and Bianchi had attacked three other women and developed a trademark method of operation. They picked up the women in their van, drove them back to Buono’s house where they were sexually assaulted in all manners, tortured, and strangled to death. The duo then thoroughly cleaned the bodies before taking and posing them in lascivious positions on hillsides in the Los Angeles area, often near police stations. Thus, they earned the nickname the “Hillside Strangler.” The press assumed that it was the work of one man.

Following the death of the 10th victim in February 1978, the murders suddenly stopped. Buono and Bianchi were no longer getting along, even with their common hobby. Bianchi moved to Washington and applied for a job at the Bellingham Police Department. He didn’t get the job, but became a security guard instead. However, he couldn’t keep his murderous impulses in check and killed two college students. A witness who had seen the two girls with Bianchi came forward and the case was solved.

Bianchi, who hadseen the moviesSybil and The Three Faces of Eve many times, suddenly claimed to have multiple personalities. He blamed the murders on “Steve,” one of his alternate personalities. Psychiatrists examining Bianchi quickly dismissed his ruse and Bianchi then confessed to the Hillside Strangler murders, testifying against Buono to avoid the death penalty in Washington.

During his trial, Buono fiercely insisted on his innocence, pointing to the fact that there was no physical evidence tying him to the crimes. Buono’s house was so clean that investigators couldn’t even find Buono’s own fingerprints in the home. But after more than 400 witnesses testified, Buono was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Angelo …read more


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Columbus mistakes manatees for mermaids

January 9, 2019 in History

By Editors

On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. Mermaids are closely linked to sirens, another folkloric figure, part-woman, part-bird, who live on islands and sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths.

Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren’t made up, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting). Manatees are slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, bulbous faces and paddle-like tails. It is likely that manatees evolved from an ancestor they share with the elephant. The three species of manatee (West Indian, West African and Amazonian) and one species of dugong belong to the Sirenia order. As adults, they’re typically 10 to 12 feet long and weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds. They’re plant-eaters, have a slow metabolism and can only survive in warm water.

Manatees live an average of 50 to 60 years in the wild and have no natural predators. However, they are an endangered species. In the U.S., the majority of manatees are found in Florida, where scores of them die or are injured each year due to collisions with boat.

…read more


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Valentine’s Day Quotes

January 9, 2019 in History

By Editors

From Shakespeare to Aristotle to Dr. Seuss, see how writers through history have expressed the power of love.

Love is among the greatest muses, inspiring the world’s most famous romantics, from Shakespeare, who wrote 154 sonnets dealing with love, time, beauty and mortality, to Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda. The work of these authors, poets and playwrights speaks to the enduring power of love across the ages of human history.

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.Aristotle

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.– Lao Tzu

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.William Shakespeare

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you … I could walk through my garden forever.Alfred Tennyson

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.Henry Ward Beecher

Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.– Anais Nin

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires; To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.Kahlil Gibran

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.Helen Keller

Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.— Rainer Maria Rilke

Love does not dominate; it cultivates.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.Zora Neale Hurston

Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.Leo Tolstoy

Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. …read more


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Using Emergency Powers to Seize Property and Build the Wall Would Set a Horrible Precedent

January 9, 2019 in Economics

By Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

Last night, President Trump restated his desire to build a
border wall, despite Congress’ refusal to appropriate funding
for it. Fortunately, he did not declare a “national
emergency,” as he had previously threatened to do. But
administration officials indicate that option remains on the table if
Congress refuses to give in to Trump
, as is highly likely. The
claim that emergency authority can be used to build the wall and
seize property through the power of eminent domain is highly
dubious. If the President succeeds, it would set a dangerous

One of the fundamental principles of the Constitution is that
Congress is the only branch of the federal government that has the
power of the purse. The President cannot spend money for purposes
not authorized by the legislature. That rule prevents any one
person from controlling the nation’s public funds.

Trump cannot use “emergency” powers to get around
the requirement of congressional authorization. if doing so
involves using the military to build the wall, he would run afoul of longstanding laws barring the
use of troops for domestic law enforcement purposes
includes enforcing immigration law).

Conservatives who cheer
Trump now may regret it if the next Democratic president uses the
same powers to appropriate funds and take property for liberal

Congress has unwisely granted the President a wide range of easily abused emergency powers.
But, so far, it does not seem any of them cover this situation.

Some point to 10 U.S.C. 2808 and 33 U.S.C. 2293 as possible sources of authority. Yet
neither actually grants it. Section 2808 states that, if the
President declares a “national emergency” that
“requires the use of the armed forces,” he can use
certain military funds to “undertake military construction
projects… that are necessary to support such use of the armed

It is far from clear whether any supposed emergency caused by
undocumented immigration really “requires the use of the
armed forces” or that a wall would be “necessary to
support such use.” Indeed, the law forbids the use of the
armed forces for domestic law enforcement. Section 2293 likewise
only applies to a declared war or emergency that “requires or
may require use of the Armed Forces.”

Another federal law allows the military to
condemn property for “fortifications.” But that only
extends to projects for which funding has been appropriated by
Congress. And a wall intended to keep out migrants hardly qualifies
as a “fortification” preventing armed attack.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of a legal battle over
emergency powers. Courts often give Presidents <a target=_blank href=",%20military%20construction,%20and%20civil%20defense%20projects%20that%20are%20essential%20to%20the%20national%20defense." …read more

Source: OP-EDS