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Why Priceless Lapis Lazuli Was Found in a Medieval Nun's Mouth

January 10, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt


Lapis lazuli pigment entrapped in the dental calculus on the lower jaw a medieval woman.

Scientists just made a major discovery about the role of female artists and scribes in the Middle Ages—all based on some 1,000-year-old dental plaque.

The plaque in question belonged to a middle-aged woman buried in a small women’s monastery in Dalheim, Germany around A.D. 1100. Archaeologist Anita Radini, of the University of York, in England was examining the woman’s dental tartar when she noticed flecks of a brilliant blue substance.

Though Radini and her co-author on the new study, Christina Warinner at the University of Zürich, were both experts in studying ancient tartar, neither of them had seen anything like this before. After enlisting the help of fellow archaeologists, physicists and historians, they were finally able to identify it as ultramarine, a rare pigment made from the semi-precious mineral known as lapis lazuli.

During the German woman’s lifetime, ultramarine was so rare that it would have been worth its weight, or more, in gold. For centuries, lapis lazuli could be found only in a single region of northern Afghanistan, and the pigment painstakingly derived from its stones was among the most revered shades used by artists in Renaissance Europe, who often chose it to color the Virgin Mary’s robes. Michelangelo ordered large quantities of ultramarine for his work on the Sistine Chapel, but reportedly couldn’t afford enough to finish his painting The Entombment.

Due to its high value, ultramarine was used only on the most valuable of medieval manuscripts—richly decorated texts created in monasteries for the use of religious leaders and the nobility. Though many medieval scribes and painters didn’t sign their work, it’s long been assumed that women played a limited role in producing such highly valued documents.

“Picture someone copying a medieval book—if you picture anything, you’re going to picture a monk, not a nun,” Alison Beach, a historian at Ohio State University who worked on the study, told the New York Times.

But through their analysis of the pigment found in the German nun’s tartar, Radini, Warinner, Beach and their colleagues upended this assumption, arguing that the woman most likely worked as a painter and scribe, probably a highly skilled one. The most likely scenario, they concluded, is that she got ultramarine in her mouth by using her tongue to shape the end of her brush.

The pigment was …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Ronald Reagan Had a Record Eight Shutdowns

January 10, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Most government shutdowns happen over hot button issues where the Democratic and Republican parties strongly disagree—abortion in the 1970s, Medicaid and Medicare in the ‘90s; and Obamacare, DACA and a “border wall” in the 21s century. Similarly, the record eight shutdowns that happened during Ronald Reagan’s presidency highlighted some of the biggest political battles of the 1980s, from funding for people on welfare to the Iran-Contra affair.

1. The fight over domestic vs. defense spending: November 20 to 23, 1981

The first shutdown where a large portion of the government actually stopped functioning came in 1981, when Reagan furloughed 241,000 of the government’s 2.1 million employees without pay.

This shutdown concerned what’s known as “Reaganomics.” Reagan had campaigned on a platform of cutting domestic spending without hurting Cold War defense funding, and that’s exactly what this shutdown was over. On one side, Reagan wanted to cut domestic spending by several billion dollars; and on the other, the Democrat-controlled House wanted more defense cuts and higher wages for members of Congress and senior civil servants.

In the end, Congress and Reagan worked out a temporary bill to give them more time to work out a long-term spending plan. This was technically the seventh government shutdown over a spending bill disagreement, but the first to impact federal workers on a large scale.

Tammy Wynette singing to President Ronald Reagan during a barbecue for members of Congress on the South Lawn in 1982.

2. Democrats decide not to ‘stand by their man’: September 30 to October 2, 1982

Reagan’s first 1982 shutdown didn’t happen over a major political issue, but the reason behind it is very 1980s. The reason Reagan and Congress didn’t reach a budget agreement on September 30 was because they all had social functions they needed to get to.

Democrats in Congress had scheduled $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinner far in advance for that night, and Reagan had also invited all of Congress to a White House BBQ on the same evening. This did cause some tensions between Congressional Democrats and Reagan; the Democrats were angry he’d scheduled his party on the same night as theirs, and were worried that they’d lose guests to the president’s BBQ.

One of the featured guests at the White House BBQ was the country singer Tammy Wynette, who sang her hit “Stand By Your Man.” In his remarks that night, the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Spies Who Launched America’s Industrial Revolution

January 10, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

From water-powered textile mills, to mechanical looms, much of the machinery that powered America’s early industrial success was “borrowed” from Europe.

Long before the United States began accusing other countries of stealing ideas, the U.S. government encouraged intellectual piracy to catch up with England’s technological advances. According to historian Doron Ben-Atar, in his book, Trade Secrets, “the United States emerged as the world’s industrial leader by illicitly appropriating mechanical and scientific innovations from Europe.”

Among those sniffing out innovations across the Atlantic was Harvard graduate and Boston merchant, Francis Cabot Lowell. As the War of 1812 raged on, Lowell set sail from Great Britain in possession of the enemy’s most precious commercial secret. He carried with him pirated plans for Edmund Cartwright’s power loom, which had made Great Britain the world’s leading industrial power.

Halfway across the Atlantic, a British frigate intercepted Lowell’s ship. Although the British double-searched his luggage and detained him for days, Lowell knew they would never find any evidence of espionage for he had hidden the plans in the one place they would never find them—inside his photographic mind. Unable to find any sign of spy craft, the British allowed Lowell to return to Boston, where he used Cartwright’s design to help propel the Industrial Revolution in the United States.

Dr. Edmund Cartwright shown next to the Power Loom, which was inspired by machinery he saw in England.

Founding Fathers Encouraged Intellectual Piracy

Lowell was hardly the first American to pilfer British intellectual property. The Founding Fathers not only tolerated intellectual piracy, they actively encouraged it. Many agreed with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who believed that the development of a strong manufacturing base was vital to the survival of the largely agrarian country. Months before taking the oath of office as the first president in 1789, George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson that “the introduction of the late improved machines to abridge labor, must be of almost infinite consequence to America.”

The fledgling country, however, lacked a domestic textile manufacturing industry and lagged far behind Great Britain. The quickest way to close the technological gap between the United States and its former motherland was not to develop designs from scratch—but to steal them.

In his 1791 “Report on Manufactures,” Hamilton advocated rewarding those bringing “improvements and secrets of extraordinary value” into the country. Among those who took great interest …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Shutdown’s Real Lesson: Government Has Taken Hostage Too Much of the Economy

January 10, 2019 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

We are in the third week of the federal government’s
partial shutdown. The shutdown is affecting the lives of many
federal workers and may soon start disrupting the broader economy.
Because the government exerts control over major industries, when
the politicians butt heads, it damages activities such as aviation,
tourism and recreation.

The problem with the shutdown is not that President Trump is holding the government
“hostage,” as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
said
, but that the government has taken hostage of too much of
the U.S. economy.

Consider security screening at the nation’s 450 commercial
airports. The government took over that function in 2001 when it
created the Transportation Security Administration. Over the years,
the TSA has generally done a poor job, caused
congestion and wasted a lot of money.

Political battles would
not impact important activities if they were separated from the
federal government.

And now, because the TSA is the only screening organization we
have, the shutdown may affect the entire nation’s air travel.
A spokesman for the TSA screener’s union said
Tuesday:
“Some of [my members] have already quit and many
are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this
shutdown … The loss of officers, while we’re already
shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American
travelers since we don’t have enough trainees in the
pipeline.”

He’s probably exaggerating the risk, but political battles
would not impact such important activities if they were separated
from the federal government. Many advanced nations, including Britain and
France, have privatized their screening or moved it to the control
of local airports
. If we followed suit, there would not be just
one “pipeline” for trainees because airports could
contract services from numerous companies.

It is a similar situation with our government-run
air-traffic-control system. The spokesman for the federal controller’s union
said the negative “ripple effect” of the federal
shutdown
may last months or years, while the head of the Airline Pilots Association said
“the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening
the safe operations”
of the nation’s airspace.

During the 2013 budget sequester battle, controllers were
furloughed and thousands of flights were delayed before the
politicians cobbled together a budget deal.

All of this is unnecessary. Dozens of nations have separated
their ATC from their government budgets. Canada privatized its ATC system in 1996 as a
self-funded nonprofit corporation. That structure has created
financial stability, improved management, and generated innovation.
The U.S. controller’s union has been so frustrated with
federal budget instability and the slow pace of innovation under
the current structure that <a target=_blank href="https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/atc" …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Mitt Romney, Commander of the Fake Internationalists

January 10, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

No surprise: Senator Mitt Romney does not like President Donald
Trump, as he recently explained in The Washington
Post
. But what, one wonders, was the former GOP presidential
candidate thinking two years ago when he supped with the man he now
claims to deplore while seeking an appointment as secretary of
state?

Much of Romney’s complaint is over manners. Yes, the
president is a boor. Most people, including many of Trump’s
supporters, recognize that. Trump won not because of his etiquette
but because of what he stood for—and against.

Romney also defended The Blob, Washington’s bipartisan
foreign policy establishment. In his article attacking the
president, he offered the usual vacuous bromides that characterize
the interventionist consensus, which poses as internationalism but
with plenty of bombing raids, illegal occupations, and
nation-building. Most importantly, this perspective presumes
permanent American domination, irrespective of cost.

The newly-inaugurated
Senator has been promoted to standard-bearer for the bipartisan War
Party, filling in for John McCain.

Romney wrote: “America has long been looked to for
leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of
course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in
foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and
equal justice, was even more esteemed.” Indeed, “The
world needs American leadership, and it is in America’s
interest to provide it. A world led by authoritarian regimes is a
world—and an America—with less prosperity, less
freedom, less peace.”

In fact, Romney appears more committed to dependence on allies
than American leadership. For him, these are two sides of the same
coin. The only alternative he sees to Washington in control is the
bad guys leading.

Related is Romney’s apparent belief that foreign policy is
fixed, irrespective of circumstance: the very same U.S.-dominated
alliances created in 1950 are needed today. Although
America’s friends have raced ahead economically, politically,
even militarily, Washington must forever treat them as helpless
derelicts. For instance, Russia, a weakened declining power, faces
the U.S. and Europe—which together have more than 20 times
its GDP. Yet Romney sees Moscow as the greatest threat facing
America. It is 1945 all over again.

Romney’s most important omission is Iraq. After the war
there turned bad, he remained silent about his support for it. The
Iraq disaster is an important reason why Trump won and other
Republicans, including Romney, lost. In 2008, Americans rejected
John McCain, the very symbol of promiscuous war-making. Four years
later, Romney criticized President Barack Obama for leaving Iraq
too soon, by which the Republican nominee probably meant leaving at
any time. In saying he would keep more troops in Iraq, he ignored
the fact that the Iraqis had refused to negotiate …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump Just Doesn't Understand the Border: Here Are the Facts

January 10, 2019 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

President Trump took to television on Tuesday to make his case
that the lack of a border wall has caused a “crisis.”
Drugs, terrorism, crime and the illegal immigration of children all
featured prominently as supposed justifications for spending
billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on the project. Yet upon close
examination, the President’s justifications fall flat. The
border has problems, but the President doesn’t understand
them, and some of them he has caused himself.

The President cited stopping drug smuggling as a primary goal of
his border barrier. Far from a crisis, however, the value of drug
seizures by the average Border Patrol agent actually declined 70% since 2013. That’s because
marijuana is the primary drug smuggled between ports of entry,
where a border wall would go, and marijuana has been legalized in
so many states that demand is being filled domestically.

While Trump acted as if the absence of a border wall were the
primary cause of the opioid crisis, the average inspector at ports
of entry in 2018 seized eight times more cocaine, 17 times more
fentanyl, 23 times more methamphetamine and 36 times more heroin
than the average Border Patrol agent seized at the physical border
in early 2018. The hard drugs that Trump claims to care about
aren’t coming where Trump thinks they are.

Trump’s policies have
created a real problem, but his border wall is not the fix the
system needs. America needs to overhaul its outdated immigration
system.

As importantly, building hundreds of miles of border fence from
2005 to 2009 did nothing to deter smuggling between ports of entry
anyway. The average Border Patrol agent was seizing the same quantity of marijuana
after the current fences went up as before. When marijuana was
legalized in several states starting in 2014, marijuana seizures
suddenly dropped 78% — legalization, not the wall, stopped
the narcotraffickers.

The President could not help but raise the specter of terrorists
crossing illegally. The fact is that a foreign terrorist has not carried out a single terrorist attack
in more than four decades after crossing the border illegally.
Trump officials have
cited
a number of “special interest aliens” whom
Border Patrol apprehended, but those aren’t terrorists – they are just
people who come from “countries of interest.” They
could be a family fleeing terrorists, like the Syrian Christians
who showed up at the border in 2015.

It would not be a “security crisis” without numerous
“criminals and gangs.” Yet Border Patrol figures show
that the agency arrested less than 1,000 border crossers who
had …read more

Source: OP-EDS