You are browsing the archive for 2019 January 25.

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The Real-Life Rivalry That Inspired 'The Favourite'

January 25, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

In the Oscar-nominated period piece The Favourite, two clever, ambitious ladies-in-waiting in early 18th-century England compete for the favor—and romantic affections—of a mercurial and unstable Queen Anne.

The outlandish, profanity-laden and darkly comic film doesn’t stick to the historical record, however—especially when it comes to the fashion, language or dance styles of the period. But the rivalry in Queen Anne’s court between Sarah Churchill, the formidable Duchess of Marlborough, and her upstart cousin, Abigail Masham, was very real—and very ruthless.

Their power struggle also had important political implications, as England during Anne’s reign was deeply divided between two new political parties, the Whigs and the Tories.

Queen Anne.

Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill were childhood friends—but grew closer in court

Anne was born in 1665, to James, then Duke of York, and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Though her father converted to Catholicism, Anne and her elder sister, Mary, were raised in the Anglican faith, thanks to the influence of their powerful uncle, King Charles II.

Princess Anne was just eight years old when she first met her future aide, Sarah Jennings, who at 13 had just begun serving as a lady-in-waiting to Anne’s stepmother, then the Duchess of York. The beautiful, intelligent and witty Sarah later married an older army officer, John Churchill, whose impressive military record helped make up for his modest background.

When Anne herself married the handsome Prince George of Denmark in 1683, she made Sarah her second lady of the bedchamber, the first of a number of titles she would bestow upon her close friend. At some point, the two of them made up nicknames for each other that put them on equal social footing (at least privately): Anne was Mrs. Morley, while Sarah was Mrs. Freeman.

When Sarah was away from the palace, she and Anne exchanged a flood of letters. “Tis impossible for you ever to believe how much I love you except you saw my heart,” the princess wrote in one letter, as quoted in Anne Somerset’s biography of Anne. “If I writ whole volumes I could never express how well I love you,” read another. Since Sarah convinced Anne to burn her replies, we’ll never know if she responded in kind, or if (as she herself later claimed) Anne’s adoration was one-sided.

Rachel Weisz, as Lady Sarah, and Olivia Colman, as Queen Anne, in ‘The Favourite’.

Anne …read more


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Neanderthals Were Much Better at Spear-Throwing Than We Knew

January 25, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Our understanding of Neanderthals has shifted radically in the past decade. Once thought to be distinct from and far less intelligent than modern humans, Neanderthals have gotten their revenge with studies showing a.) they’re that reconsiders the 300,000-year-old “Schöningen spears,” the oldest weapons ever found. When archaeologists discovered these ten wooden spears between 1994 and 1999 in Schöningen, Germany, they initially thought Neanderthals must have used them to stab at close range because they were too heavy to throw.

“One of the things we’ve been plagued with in understanding these early spears is that researchers have done a lot of the throwing themselves,” Milks says. But there’s “a real skills gap between what hunters in the past would’ve been doing, or even hunters today who use spears as throwing weapons, and what an anthropologist could do by throwing a spear.”

Instead of trying to throw versions of the spears themselves, Milks and her colleagues recruited six javelin athletes to throw replicas of the Schöningen spears. The researchers found the athletes could hit a target as far as 65 feet away and still land with sufficient impact to kill an animal. Milks points out that this doesn’t mean the Neanderthals were throwing the spears as far as these athletes. But it does show that the spears’ design gives them the capability to be thrown by a practiced hand.

Neanderthal men sitting around a fire crafting spears.

“What the research shows us is the importance of skill when we’re assessing technology from the past, whatever period it’s from,” she says. “[It’s important] not to underestimate the humans that made these technologies and spent, probably, their childhoods and lives gaining expertise and the fitness, in this case, necessary to use these technologies.”

Indeed, a Neanderthal who grew up learning how to hunt with a throwing spear would probably be able to hurl it farther than an archaeologist who’d never tried it.

READ MORE: Neanderthals Developed Surprisingly Sophisticated Ways to Hunt

READ MORE: Early Humans Slept Around with More than Just Neanderthals

…read more


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A Federal Shutdown Is an Annoyance — Interest on $22 Trillion in Debt Is a Problem

January 25, 2019 in Economics

By Alan Reynolds

Alan Reynolds

President Trump’s decision to shut down the government
because Congress was supposedly spending $5.7 billion too little,
rather than too much, was hardly a traditional budget priority for
conservatives or libertarians. But the overheated partisan feud
distracted attention from a much larger issue that made the
shutdown possible — namely, that Congress has still not
enacted a budget. And the budget the president proposed is too

When fiscal year 2019 began on Oct. 1, Congress had enacted
only seven of the required twelve
appropriations, and even departments among the seven did not have
full-year appropriations. From Sept. 18 to Dec. 19, Congress only
passed short-term bills to fund neglected agencies for a month or
two. President Trump finally refused to sign another temporary
patch through February 8th unless it included $5.7 billion to
extend and improve the southern border barriers (far less than the
$18 billion Trump had first requested). But
even if Congress added that $5.7 billion to the last temporary
patch, it still would still have left the government with no budget
after February 8th.

Even if the president’s $5.7 billion mission was accepted,
that would soon leave 99.999 percent of the U.S. budget in limbo.
The remaining $4.4 trillion in the budget is the elephant in this
room and that big animal needs a diet. Federal spending rose by a
relatively modest 3.1 percent a year from 1993 to 2000, and the
economy and American citizens seemed content. Federal spending then
increased by 6.6 percent from 2001 to 2006, and by 8.5 percent a
year from 2007 to 2010.

Far from being a “stimulus,” as advertised, runaway
spending from 2001 to 2010 was at the expense of the private
sector, which performed poorly. Rising federal purchases absorbed
resources that would otherwise have been available to expand
private enterprises. Rising transfer payments discouraged people
from participating in the labor force.

With spending rising much faster than the economy, federal
spending jumped from 17.6 percent of GDP in 2001 to a record 24.4
percent in 2009 and 23. percent in 2010-11. Sequester limits
temporarily brought spending down to a still-high level of 20.3
percent of GDP by 2014 though spending rose to 21 percent of GDP
last year.

In just five years, 2007 to 2012, national debt held by the
public (rather than by Social Security and other trust funds)
doubled from 35.2 percent in 2007 to 70.4 percent of GDP by 2012.
The debt/GDP ratio has again been creeping up since 2015 — to
76.5 percent in 2017, 78.8 percent in 2018, and reaching 81.9
percent by 2022.

Allowing the national debt to rise so much faster than …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How the Second Industrial Revolution Changed Americans' Lives

January 25, 2019 in History

By Eric Niiler

The rapid advancement of mass production and transportation made life a lot faster.

Technology has changed the world in many ways, but perhaps no period introduced more changes than the Second Industrial Revolution. From the late 19th to early 20th centuries, cities grew, factories sprawled and people’s lives became regulated by the clock rather than the sun.

“It was a tremendous transformation of people’s lives,” says Joshua B. Freeman professor of history at Queens College and author of Behemoth: The Making of the Factory and the Modern World.

Rapid advances in the creation of steel, chemicals and electricity helped fuel production, including mass-produced consumer goods and weapons. It became far easier to get around on trains, automobiles and bicycles. At the same time, ideas and news spread via newspapers, the radio and telegraph. Life got a whole lot faster.

Factory Jobs Were Grueling

It was an era when industrial growth created a class of wealthy entrepreneurs and a comfortable middle class supported by workers who were made up by immigrants and arrivals from America’s farms and small towns.

“People are coming from rural backgrounds who are used to self-directing their work, which is organized around the seasons and light,” Freeman says. “Now they are working in a factory that is clock-regulated and unchanging.”

A young shrimp picker named Manuel, 1912.

View the 14 images of this gallery on the original article

For many, the shift from rural to factory life was grueling—especially for children.

When social activist Jane Addams threw a Christmas party at the group home she had just founded in Chicago’s slums in 1889, she passed out candy to the impoverished girls who lived there. She was surprised when they refused. The girls said they worked long hours in a candy factory and couldn’t stand the sight or smell of it.

“We discovered that for six weeks they had worked from seven in the morning until nine at night,” Addams later wrote, “and they were exhausted as well as satiated. The sharp consciousness of stern economic conditions was thus thrust upon us in the midst of the season of good will.”

Factory Products Remade Life in America

The first factories were built in the 18th century, with British textile mills that spread to the United States, a time known as the First Industrial Revolution. Then innovations in production line technology, materials science and industrial toolmaking made it easier to mass produce all …read more


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Only Way for Theresa May to Get a Deal Passed Is by Gaining the Support of Brexiteers

January 25, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The Prime Minister, for now, appears to have learnt the correct
lesson from the past fortnight.

Votes cast in the parliamentary no-confidence motion and subsequent MP
manoeuvrings have convinced her that the only way to pass a
withdrawal deal by March 29 — while delivering Brexit and
maintaining her administration — is to harness the support of
Brexiteers and the DUP.

This is a daunting prospect. The vast majority of the 118 Tory
rebels and 10 DUP MPs would need to switch sides, without much
attrition the other way. But with anti-Brexit forces focusing
minds, there might, just might, be a route to a compromise that
could squeeze the deal home.

The Conservative Party,
and the country at large, now needs a full debate about the desired
long-term future economic relationship between the EU and

The first step, and most important, is to convince the EU to
time-limit the proposed “backstop” customs
arrangements. This must be buttressed with tightening the legal
text to make clear that Northern Ireland cannot be kept within such
arrangements without the rest of Great Britain.

Brexiteers don’t like the idea of any backstop and think
its inclusion in the withdrawal deal unnecessary. But if it were a
UK-wide customs arrangement, kicking in after transition for a
maximum of three years in the absence of other agreed border
solutions, many would live it with it. Such a framework could be
renewed if both the EU and UK agree. The important point though is
that a time limit would give the UK the right to unilaterally

Yes, this would require an EU and Irish climbdown and amendments
to the Withdrawal Agreement text. The scale of May’s
parliamentary defeat though appears to have convinced the EU that
movement on this would not get the deal over the line anyway.

So it’s crucial to get an indicative vote on a time limit
through Parliament, with solid support from Conservative
Brexiteers, the DUP and hopefully some open-minded Labour MPs. That
result would show the backstop remains the single biggest near-term
hindrance to passing the deal.

The EU has so far proven intransigent. But members of national
governments, not least Poland, have said a time-limited default
customs arrangement should be on the table. With the EU now
flip-flopping on whether no deal would necessitate border checks in
Ireland, their opposition to a time-limited alternative makes even
less sense.

Commentators talk about the backstop as an insurance policy. But
if you are supremely worried about the hard border you’re
insuring against, you wouldn’t spurn insurance for a few
years on the basis that you weren’t guaranteed insurance

The EU’s current public …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump's Immigration Proposals Would Make the Border More Deadly

January 25, 2019 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

President Donald Trump has shut down the government to address
what he’s calling a “humanitarian crisis” at the border. While the
deaths of two children in Border Patrol custody last year were
tragedies, the evidence, detailed in a new analysis from the Cato Institute, indicates
that the border has grown safer in recent years and that Trump’s
“solutions,” a border wall and an end to asylum, would undo this

Border Patrol records show that from 1998, when the records
begin, to December, 7,529 immigrants died along the border. Deaths
peaked in 2005 with 492. Last year, the number was down to 281, and
based on the first 70 days of the year, the border will see around
167 deaths in budget year 2019, the fewest since the 1990s.

But deaths can increase or decrease simply due to an increase or
decrease in crossings. The total number of crossings is unknown,
but researchers use the number of Border Patrol apprehensions as a
proxy to calculate the annual death rate.

By this measure, a clear trend emerges. From 1998 to 2012, the
death rate rose almost continuously from 17 to 132 deaths per
100,000 apprehensions — a nearly eightfold increase. The
fatal increase closely parallels the construction of the current
border fences. The death rate more than doubled from 1998 to 2006,
while the number of miles of fence tripled. Then, from 2006 to
2012, the fence tripled in length again, and the death rate also

No one should have been surprised. The Government Accountability
Office had already explained to Congress in 2001 that Border Patrol’s
strategy of building fences and deploying manpower in urban areas
“assumed that migrant traffic would shift to more remote areas” and
that “the strategy has resulted in an increase in deaths.” The
office reiterated these conclusions in 2006.

If building out the fence worked, more and more people should
have died. And they did, at first. But then the death rate suddenly
halved from 2012 to 2014 and remained well below its peak through
2018. Though it’s based on just a couple of months, early figures
indicate that the death rate in 2019 could end up being 80 percent
below its peak, the lowest rate since 2000.

The border is much safer than it was, and the reason is simply
that most illegal crossers are not sneaking into the country.
Around 2013, the flow shifted away from Mexico and to Central
America, where families escaping poverty and violence sought asylum
in the U.S.

Rather than evading agents, Central Americans started to seek
them out, turning themselves in so that …read more

Source: OP-EDS