You are browsing the archive for 2019 February 12.

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A 14th-Century Nun Faked Her Own Death to Escape Convent Life

February 12, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

A newly translated letter from an archbishop reveals the nun’s shenanigans.

Medieval nuns.

In the early 14th century, a nun named Joan of Leeds faked her own death with a “dummy” and a bogus burial. Scholars in the United Kingdom .)

Unfortunately, we don’t know what Joan’s background was, why she became a nun or why she ran away. We don’t even know her age, which could be anywhere from early teens to mid-30s, since most people didn’t live past then.

“I’ve always imagined her as being at the younger end of that spectrum,” Rees Jones says, “just because of other similar stories where we known that women abscond, even from the same religious house, in order to get married. It suggests that maybe they’re in their later teens, early twenties.”

The archbishop’s letter about Joan was translated from the original Latin by Paul Dryburgh, a principal record specialist with the U.K.’s National Archives, for a project with the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives. The project involves combing through the registers of the 14th-century Archbishops of York and posting them online. Gary Brannan, the access archivist at the institute, says the project will likely reveal more individual people like Joan whose stories don’t appear anywhere else.

READ MORE: The Middle Ages

Rees Jones is the project’s principal investigator, and she’s particularly interested in discovering the political roles that archbishops played in the 14th century. For example, the last archbishop in the project’s purview, Richard le Scrope, was executed in 1405 for rebelling against King Henry IV. She says we still don’t really know what Richard’s motivations were, and hopes the project will shed some light on this.

And because one of the archbishops’ duties was “disciplining the religious who had lapsed,” Rees Jones says “there are a huge number of stories of this sort” that the project will probably uncover.

…read more


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How Economic Turmoil After WWI Led to the Great Depression

February 12, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

World War I’s legacy of debt, protectionism and crippling reparations set the stage for a global economic disaster.

Nearly two decades after leaving the White House, Herbert Hoover knew precisely where to place the blame for the economic calamity that befell his presidency—and it wasn’t with him. “The primary cause of the Great Depression was the war of 1914-1918,” the former president wrote in his 1952 memoirs. “Without the war there would have been no depression of such dimensions.”

The president scapegoated by many for the economic disaster certainly had the motive to point the historical finger away from himself, but some economists and historians agree with Hoover’s assessment that World War I was the foremost of several causes of the Great Depression.

“There can be little doubt that the deepest roots of the crisis lay in the several chronic infirmities that World War I had inflicted on the international political and economic order,” wrote historian David M. Kennedy. “The war exacted a cruel economic and human toll from the core societies of the advanced industrialized world, including conspicuously Britain, France and Germany.”

“World War I and its aftermath is the dark shadow that hangs over the entire period leading up to the Great Depression,” says Maury Klein, professor emeritus of history at the University of Rhode Island and author of Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929. “Pick any policy you want, and you can see how it leads back to World War I.”

America Retreats From the World

While the United States emerged from World War I not only as the world’s leading economic power, but scarred by its involvement in what many Americans saw as a purely European conflict. The disillusionment with World War I led to a retreat from international affairs.

“America was going to make the world safe for democracy and came out disgusted with the whole thing,” Klein says. “The United States emerged as the logical leader on the world stage and then cut out of that role.”

Not wanting to be saddled with the cost of a European war, the United States demanded that the Allies repay money loaned to them during the conflict. “The Allies took the position that if they had to do that, then they would have to collect reparations from Germany that could be used to repay the war loans,” Klein says.

German …read more


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Let America’s Radical Socialists Be a Warning to British Politics

February 12, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

It is said that when America sneezes, the world catches a

Let us hope that the American left’s recent publication of
its “Green New Deal” (GND) won’t be contagious
enough to infect Labour here.

Just over a week ago, Jeremy Corbyn had an in-depth phone
conversation with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rising socialist
congresswoman. The aim, it was said, was to “build a movement
to take on the billionaires, polluters, and migrant

US politics is generally considered to sit to the right of the
UK landscape. But Ocasio-Cortez’s GND makes the 2017 Labour
manifesto look like Thatcherism on steroids.

Labour hasn’t succumbed
to the allure of this model just yet. But the mood is

Consider how radical Labour’s proposed policies seemed
just two years’ ago. The party pledged rail, energy and water
sector nationalisation, and to reverse the privatisation of Royal

It would have reintroduced or strengthened price controls, with
an energy price cap, a £10 minimum wage by 2020, and private sector
rent regulation. In energy, it would have banned fracking, but
invested in nuclear and supported renewables to hit existing carbon
emissions targets.

Now consider the GND, endorsed — unbelievably — by
declared Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris,
Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand. It would put the US on a
national war footing to collectively achieve a net zero emissions
society within one decade.

That requires gargantuan public investment to ensure that power
demand is met 100 per cent by renewables within 10 years. The
domestic transport system would be completely electrified, new
high-speed rail built, flight availability curbed, and research
programmes into sustainability and renewable technology funded.

Not content with this energy transformation to a near
carbon-free utopia, the GND pledges a social transformation too.
Vital in the fight against climate change, apparently, is free
healthcare and higher education, a jobs guarantee for all who want
to work, economic security for those who don’t, family leave,
extra resources for pensioners, and a family living wage.

One could well think of the GND’s emissions-reducing
veneer as a Trojan Horse for a progressive social policy wet

The document is, for want of a better term, bonkers. But it is
being treated as a serious proposal that must be assessed on its
merits. The branding helps to insulate it from well-deserved
criticism: if you’re opposed to the “Green New
Deal”, then you want to kill the planet.

The truth though is that the GND goes far beyond reasonable
carbon mitigation, completely denying the existence of trade-offs
or the costs of programmes that it recommends.

While Labour’s 2017 election manifesto would be supremely
damaging to the UK economy, at least there was some economic
reasoning in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Humanization of Human Rights

February 12, 2019 in Economics

By Matt Daniels, Doug Bandow

Matt Daniels and Doug Bandow

Not too long ago, no one would have heard of the plight of a
Saudi teenager seeking refuge from family and cultural oppression
in her home country. But the power of social media made Rahaf
Mohammed al Qunun’s struggle into an international news story.

Junta-ruled Thailand is not known for its fidelity to human
rights norms. But international public attention led Immigration Police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn
to allow Rahaf Mohammed temporary refuge in Thailand. She is
one of several Saudi women who has turned to
social media to publicize domestic abuse and seek international

After traveling with her family to Kuwait, al Qunun broke away
and boarded a flight to Thailand. Upon arriving in Bangkok, she was
escorted to a hotel room and told she would be placed on a flight
back to Saudi Arabia the next morning.

Social media is the
window that Saudi Arabian women are increasingly able to open to
reveal to the world the gross injustices that pervade their

But a woman with the courage to flee her family and board a
flight to an unfamiliar country alone for the first time was not to
be deterred so easily. After barricading her hotel room door, she
sent out a series of calls for help over Twitter that caught eyes around the world – she amassed over 66,000
followers within 48 hours. As a result, the Thai authorities did
not force onto the Saudi-bound flight.

Perhaps most notable about this story is the absence of any
appeal to traditional pre-digital channels of human rights redress.
No one contacted the UN Human Rights Council or any other
international agency. Instead, a desperate teenager electronically
recruited an online following large enough to change the power
calculus facing Thai officials, who would otherwise have routinely
acquiesced to Saudi demands.

At the heart of this story is a beautiful synergy: ordinary
human beings working together to advance human
in ways that were impossible in a pre-digital era.

The oppression is real. The Associated Press reports that “Saudi
females who flee their families are almost always running away from
abusive male relatives, often a father or brother… In other cases,
a woman’s father might be barring from her marriage or forcing her
into marriage. In other cases her salary is being confiscated, or
she’s facing sexual or physical abuse.”

Al-Qunun was at even greater risk. She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and
feared she would be killed by her family if forced to return.
Renouncing Islam is …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Poor Results in Overdose Crisis Management Call for a Shift to Harm Reduction

February 12, 2019 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

A recent report reveals California’s “Death
Certificate Project,” is terrorizing doctors into
under-prescribing or even abruptly terminating medication for acute
and chronic pain patients. The project investigates doctors who
have treated patients identified as overdoses on death certificates
and considers rescinding their licenses or charging them with

It is scandalous that we doctors and our patients are the latest
victims of America’s war on drugs, while deaths from
nonmedical use of licit and illicit drugs continue their
exponential and perpetual climb—with no end in sight. It is
time to change the prevailing approach to the crisis. The goal
should shift from reducing production and prescription of
painkillers to reducing death and harm.

Harm reduction strategies begin with the realistic,
nonjudgmental premise that there has never been and will never be a
drug-free society. Akin to my profession’s
credo—“First, do no harm”—harm reduction
seeks to mitigate the harms caused by black market drugs, fueled by
drug prohibition. Instead it aims at reducing the spread of disease
and death from drug use.

It is scandalous that we
doctors and our patients are the latest victims of America’s war on
drugs, while deaths from nonmedical use of licit and illicit drugs
continue their exponential and perpetual climb-with no end in

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently
released the latest results of the current strategy: opioid-related
overdose deaths in 2017 continued their steady climb, increasing 13
percent over 2016 totals. This happened despite the fact that per
capita high-dose opioid prescriptions fell 58 percent from 2008 to
2017, while the number of all opioids dispensed fell 29 percent
from 2010 to 2017.

The focus on prescription opioids has only served to change the
make-up of the overdose numbers. In 2017, fentanyl or heroin
accounted for 75 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths and,
according to CDC data, 68 percent of deaths from prescription
opioids involved heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, barbiturates,
benzodiazepines, or ethanol. More people take increasingly greater
risks with nonmedical drug use. Some might even be self-medicating
to deal with stress or despair.

But while the prohibition strategy has been unsuccessful, harm
reduction strategies have been used in much of the developed world,
and to a very small degree in the U.S, for over forty years. A deep
dive into the data from decades of experience with harm reduction
shows a range of methods that are successful in reducing overdose
deaths, the spread of infectious diseases, and, in many cases, the
nonmedical use of dangerous drugs.

Medication-assisted treatment is one harm reduction technique in
use since the 1960s. This employs a medical replacement for the
opioid on which a patient has become dependent, allowing …read more

Source: OP-EDS