You are browsing the archive for 2019 January 23.

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Alexander the Great Died Mysteriously at 32. Now We May Know Why

January 23, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

When , most other theories of what killed Alexander have focused on the agonizing fever and abdominal pain he suffered in the days before he died.

In fact, she points out, he was also known to have developed a “progressive, symmetrical, ascending paralysis” during his illness. And though he was very sick, he remained compos mentis (fully in control of his mental faculties) until just before his death.

Hall argues that GBS, a rare but serious autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy cells in the nervous system, can explain this combination of symptoms better than the other theories advanced for Alexander’s death. She believes he may have contracted the disorder from an infection of Campylobacter pylori, a common bacterium at the time. According to Hall, Alexander likely got a variant of GBS that produced paralysis without causing confusion or unconsciousness.

While speculation over what exactly killed Alexander is far from new, Hall throws in a curveball by suggesting he might not even have died when people thought he did.

She argues that the increasing paralysis Alexander suffered, as well as the fact that his body needed less oxygen as it shut down, would have meant that his breathing was less visible. Because in ancient times, doctors relied on the presence or absence of breath, rather than a pulse, to determine whether a patient was alive or dead, Hall believes Alexander might have been falsely declared dead before he actually died.

“I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books by arguing Alexander’s real death was six days later than previously accepted,” Hall said in a statement from the University of Otago. “His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded.”

READ MORE: Why Many Famous Figures Feared They’d Be Buried Alive

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What’s Missing in the War on Poverty?

January 23, 2019 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

This year the federal, state, and local governments will spend
close to a combined $1 trillion to fund more than 100 separate
anti-poverty programs. In fact, since Lyndon Johnson declared
“war on poverty” in 1965, government efforts to fight
poverty have cost more than $23 trillion.

If our goal was to reduce the material deprivation of poverty,
we have undoubtedly been successful. By the metrics, there are
clear signs of success. Conservatives often focus on the
traditional Census Bureau definition of poverty, which has remained
largely stagnant since the 1960s, yet more accurate poverty
measures that consider non-cash government benefits and refundable
tax credits like the EITC suggest that the real poverty rate is 5-6
percentage points lower than the official version. Perhaps not as
successful as we would like, but successful nonetheless.

But is that sufficient?

Reforming criminal
justice, education, and housing policy, while encouraging job
creation, economic growth, and individual savings will do more to
help reduce poverty than anything we are doing today.

President Johnson himself called for something more than simply
fighting material poverty. The War on Poverty was created not only
to meet the “basic needs” of those in poverty, but also
to “replace despair with opportunity.” Yet in focusing
on the material aspects of poverty, we have neglected the more
important aspects of human flourishing. Our tax and spending
policies should be better designed to enable every person to attain
their full potential, to be capable of being all that they can

After all, it wasn’t just government spending that
contributed to the drop in poverty. Although studies suggest that
poverty rates would be considerably higher in the absence of
government benefits, improvements that resulted from spending in
the early years after welfare programs began have plateaued more
recently, and we are no longer seeing marginal declines in poverty
commensurate with increased spending. It seems likely the passage
of the Civil Rights Act, the expansion of economic opportunities to
African-Americans and women, increased private charity, and general
economic growth may all have played a role.

In proposing a better way to fight poverty, we should not
blindly support cutting programs for the sake of cutting. Nor
should we assume that what we are doing now is working just fine
and we should simply do more of it. Rather we should ask whether it
is possible to continue to ameliorate the suffering of those living
in poverty, while also creating the conditions that would enable
people to live a fulfilled and actualized life.

In my new book, The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to
America’s Poor
, I lay out what I …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Chivalry Was Established to Keep Thuggish, Medieval Knights in Check

January 23, 2019 in History

By Livia Gershon

Knights in the Middle Ages were heavily-armed and prone to violence.

In the 21st century, the word chivalry evokes a kind of old-fashioned male respect for women. But during the Middle Ages, the code was established for much grittier reasons.

At a time of routine military violence with massive civilian casualties, chivalry was an effort to set ground rules for knightly behavior. While these rules sometimes dictated generous treatment of the less-fortunate and less-powerful, they were focused mainly on protecting the interests of elites.

The development of chivalry went hand-in-hand with the rise of knights—heavily armored, mounted warriors from elite backgrounds—starting around the time of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The world chivalry itself comes from the Medieval Latin caballarius, meaning horseman.

In the middle of the 11th century, the knight was not a particularly honorable figure.

“He’s a hired thug,” says Jennifer Goodman Wollock, a professor of medieval studies at Texas A&M University who has written two books about chivalry. “He’s got horses. He’s got armor. He’s like a heavy tank.”

READ MORE: Weapons of the Middle Ages

Watch a preview of the new series Knight Fight, premiering Wednesday, January 23 at 10/9c.

Knights Were Heavily Armed and Prone to Violence

These warriors were commanded by warlords and rewarded with land, or with license to plunder the villages where they did battle, looting, raping and burning as they went.

“In the early Middle Ages, church councils were praying to be delivered from knights,” Wollock says. “What develops as you get into the late 11th, 12th century is a sense that knights have to have a professional code if they’re going to be respected and respectable.”

There was never a firm consensus on what it meant to be a good knight. The most common values found in rules that commanders created for knights revolved around the practical needs of a military force: bravery in battle and loyalty to one’s lord and companions.

“You’ve got all these people who are very prone to violence, heavily armed,” says Kelly Gibson, a medieval historian at the University of Dallas and editor of Vengeance in Medieval Europe. “You’ve got to find some way to get them to get along.”

A maiden leads a knight in a suit of armor to a castle.

The Chivalrous Knight Appears in Romantic Fiction

Still, Wollock argues that chivalry did go well beyond the simple need for a disciplined military. Particularly in romantic …read more


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When the Supreme Court Had to Read an 18th-Century Erotic Novel

January 23, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

by D.H. Lawrence and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller—and getting those bans overturned. Eager to fight a similar public battle, G.P. Putnam’s Sons started selling Fanny Hill in 1963.

As expected, the publisher was charged with obscenity, and it took its case to the highest court in the land. In early 1966, the Supreme Court ruled six to three that Fanny Hill was not obscene and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Previously, the court had ruled that obscene works had to be “utterly without redeeming social value.” Justice William Brennan argued in his majority opinion that Fanny Hill’s historical and literary importance gave it social value. (The dissenting Justice Tom Clark, meanwhile, complained in his opinion that the underage Fanny was “nothing but a harlot.”)

G.P. Putnam’s Sons wasn’t the only publisher with this idea. In the mid-1960s, the British publisher Mayflower Books Ltd. also started printing Fanny Hill in the U.K. The government seized tens of thousands of these books until 1970, when the country lifted its centuries-long ban on the novel. Decades later, the novel still draws prurient interest. In January 2019, a Victorian-era copy of Fanny Hill sold for £360 (or $409), nine times the price that Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire estimated it was worth.

…read more


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How Gen. Eisenhower Spun a Humiliating WWII Defeat into Winning Military Strategy

January 23, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

After his first battle in North Africa exposed U.S. weaknesses, Eisenhower regrouped to lead major military victories.

As the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the European theater, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower is remembered as one of the most masterful military figures in history, the man behind the bold and superbly-executed Normandy invasion in June 1944 that led to Nazi Germany’s defeat less than a year later.

But before Eisenhower’s great military successes, there was a great failure. When he first faced the Germans in Tunisia in February 1943, his forces took a brutal beating in the battle of the Kasserine Pass. The battle is regarded by some as the most humiliating U.S. combat setback in World War II, with American forces suffering more than 6,000 casualties.

The loss was so devastating that British allies began to question Americans’ ability to fight. But after figuring out what had gone wrong, Eisenhower made sweeping corrections. He reorganized his forces to work together in a more cohesive fashion, shook up his intelligence operation and brought in the brash, aggressive Gen. George S. Patton to shape up the U.S. Army’s ground combat force in Tunisia.

Just as important, Eisenhower didn’t lose faith in his men. Instead, he was able to see what they did right in the battle, and to build upon those strengths.

“The U.S. Army, the entire Allied force, was restructured from top to bottom after Kasserine,” Robert Citino, the Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, explains. “If Eisenhower wasn’t ready for Kasserine, he also showed that he knew how to jump start things.”

Rommel’s German Troops Launch Counterattack

As the National World War II Museum’s website details, in November 1942 Eisenhower led the American and British forces in Operation Torch, an invasion of Axis-held North Africa. The Allied forces moved eastward, with the British forces under Gen. Bernard Montgomery taking Tripoli in late January. Then the Allies crossed the Atlas mountains, with a plan to head toward the Mediterranean and split the German forces to the north and south.

German military commander Erwin Rommel discussing plans with General Nehring in Tunisia in December 1942.

In response, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel used two of his tank divisions to push back the Allied line. Then, he saw an opportunity. He decided to launch a direct counterattack against the Allies through the …read more


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The Second Trump-Kim Summit: The Devil Is in the Details

January 23, 2019 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un will meet
for a second summit in late February, most likely
in Vietnam. The first Trump-Kim summit, held in
Singapore last June, was a historic event; for the first time, a
sitting U.S. president met with their North Korean counterpart.
There was not much substance to the Singapore summit, however,
which caused a diplomatic stalemate between Washington and
Pyongyang. While a second summit may break the current impasse,
many U.S. arms control experts have expressed concern that another summit will just
bring more pageantry instead of progress.

If Trump can use the
second summit with Kim to move away from sweeping statements of
denuclearization and focus on narrowly-defined issues, he could
break the current impasse and open the door to significant

The Trump administration should take these concerns to heart. A
lack of detail in the first summit was expected given the
increasingly threatening rhetoric and the real risk of armed conflict in 2017. It was
folly to expect Trump and Kim to reverse course entirely and
achieve a breakthrough with one summit after such a tense and
dangerous period. However, a repeat performance that is low on
substance will not be good for the United States, especially if
Trump continues making overly-optimistic statements about what he has

Trump’s primary goal for the second summit should be moving away
from the sweeping declarations and promises made at
Singapore and toward more detailed agreements. To borrow from
baseball, instead of swinging for a grand slam Trump should just
try for a base hit.

Reining in U.S. goals and ambitions for the second summit would
better align the U.S. diplomatic approach with the much more
successful inter-Korean process. For instance, shortly before
Singapore, South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in met with Kim at Panmunjom for a summit that had
more style than substance. However, after this initial meeting, the
two Koreas made substantial progress on establishing working-level
diplomatic communication channels to work toward the lofty goals
set forth at Panmunjom. In late 2018, Moon visited Pyongyang for
another summit where the two Koreas signed a very-detailed military agreement designed to reduce tensions
along the demilitarized zone. North Korea’s implementation of the
inter-Korean military agreement shows that Kim will follow through
on his promises, so long as there are reciprocity and specificity
in the agreement.

The United States and South Korea have a different order of
priorities-the former is focused on denuclearization while the
latter wants denuclearization but sees a stable …read more

Source: OP-EDS