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The Unsolved 1940 World’s Fair Bombing Lives on in Modern Bomb Squad Tech

April 30, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Gadgets. New products. Outlandish seeming inventions. The 1939 World’s Fair was focused on the marvels of the future and tourists were visiting in droves.

Within just six months of its opening, Europe erupted in war when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. And though the United States had not yet entered the war, it was unclear how long it would be able to remain neutral.

In July 1940, tragedy struck at the fair when a seemingly simple device—a time bomb—exploded, killing two NYPD officers. Though it sparked a manhunt and suspicions it had been perpetrated by a pro-Nazi American, no bomber or manifesto was ever found—and no group claimed the crime as their own.

The front page of the New York Daily News on July 5, 1940 about the bomb.

The bomb did inspire something futuristic, though: new technology that set the stage for modern bomb squads to protect the public against explosions.

Built on a former ash dump in Flushing, Queens, the fair’s theme was “Dawn of a New Day.” But though the fair featured tech-heavy attractions that showcased participating countries’ ingenuity and industry, the name of its theme unknowingly highlighted the world war that dawned during the fair.

War may not yet have reached the United States in 1939, but tensions were ramping up in New York, which was the site of pro-Nazi rallies by members of the German-American Bund and increasingly hostile rhetoric on the part of Nazi sympathizers. On June 20, 1940, two bombs exploded near the German Embassy and a building that housed Communist agencies in Manhattan, and up to 400 bomb threats were made in New York every week.

At the time, New York did have a bomb squad. But technology was rudimentary, and it was not well-equipped to deal with credible bomb threats. “The merger of the Bomb Squad and Forgery Squads in the mid-1930s suggests that bombs had generally been reduced in the minds of the higher-ups to a nuisance, albeit a criminal one,” writes Bomb Squad historian J.E. Fishman.

Then, on July 1, 1940, the British Pavilion at the World’s Fair received a bomb threat of its own. In response, plain-clothes detectives patrolled the site, blending in with visitors who had come to see the Magna Carta, Britain’s major contribution to the fair. It was a worker who found the bomb two days later: a canvas bag he heard …read more

Source: HISTORY

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6 Things You Might Not Know About Emperor Akihito and Japan’s Monarchy

April 30, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt


1. Japan is the oldest continuous monarchy in the world.

Though it’s a liberal democracy, Japan is also the oldest continuous monarchy in the world. According to widely accepted (though somewhat legendary) genealogy, Akihito’s family has ruled for some 2,700 years. Though we know little of the first 25 emperors—starting in 600 B.C. with Emperor Jimmu, said to be descended from the sun goddess Amaterasu—there is solid evidence of an unbroken hereditary line stretching from 500 A.D. to today.

2. Akihito is the first Japanese monarch in 200 years to step down.

It didn’t use to be such a big deal for the emperor to abdicate the throne; more than half of Japan’s monarchs throughout history have done so. The last one was Emperor Kokaku, who stepped down in 1817. Japan’s emperor was long known as tenno, or “heavenly sovereign,” with a divine right to rule. But with the rise of the cult of emperor worship in the 19th century—fully encouraged by Japan’s political leaders—the emperor effectively became a demigod, and stepping down became an unthinkable step.

As part of Japan’s surrender in World War II, Hirohito actually had to publicly renounce “the false conception that the emperor is divine.” Though Japan’s 1947 constitution effectively reduced the emperor to a figurehead, the office still has considerable power as a “symbol of the state and the unity of the people.”

3. Akihito broke with tradition when he married, becoming the first Japanese monarch to marry a commoner. His son Naruhito did the same.

Until the 20th century, emperors usually had a chief wife and several concubines (all from noble families). Akihito was the first emperor to have permission to marry a commoner, and he did so, falling in love with Michiko Shoda (now Empress Nagako) after meeting her on a tennis court. They married in 1959, and went on to have three children. Akihito’s elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who became emperor in April 2019, also married a commoner, the former diplomat Masako Owada.

4. Women could once inherit the imperial throne.

Though historically, women could ascend to the Japanese throne and rule in their own right—eight of Japan’s rulers have been women—Japan’s Imperial Household Law now mandates that only male heirs can inherit the throne. Though there had been talk of changing the law to include female members of the royal family in the imperial succession, any plans to do so were dropped …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Elizabeth Warren: Going Big Bailing out the Higher Education Lobby

April 30, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

With President Donald Trump seemingly vulnerable politically,
you would expect the Democratic presidential nomination process to
attract the best and the brightest. Here is one of those fabled
political inflection points, a moment the next president might
engineer a major ideological alignment. Imagine joining Woodrow
Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson on the
progressive pantheon.

So far, alas, the Democratic contenders fail to impress. They
are visiting the usual interest groups and making the usual
promises, with those little radical twists so beloved by activists.
But intellectual heft has yet to make its entrance. Elizabeth
Warren is supposed to be the policy heavyweight, but consider her
grand initiative to bail out the bloated, over-funded, highly
politicized higher education lobby.

This is a winning idea?

Consider it a Marshall Plan for university administrators and
professors. Warren would lavish another $1.25 trillion — why
start at a billion when you can add another three zeroes?! —
on the college sector, which few people mistake as productive or
needy. Everyone involved would be invited to belly up to the
federal trough.

Warren’s educational
lobby bailout is a bad idea. But the biggest problem is principle,
not practical

Washington would eliminate tuition at public colleges and
universities. Government grants for student living expenses would
increase by $100 billion. A special fund of $50 billion would be
created for historically black schools. Write off most student
debt, estimated to be about $640 billion worth. Up to $50,000 in
student loans would be eliminated for students earning up to 100k a
year. A portion would be eliminated for those earning up to a
quarter of a million a year.

“This touches people’s lives,” Warren
exclaimed. But it would be easier to touch them by simply loading
up some B-52s with cash and bombing the countryside!

How to pay for it? Tax the rich, of course.

As giveaways go it’s a great plan. More than 42 million
Americans would benefit. About 75 percent of student debtors would
get a free ride. And the usual suspects employed by the educational
blob would get guaranteed jobs.

What’s not to like?

First, Sen. Warren appears to be spending her “tax the
rich” proceeds multiple times — she also wants
universal childcare, increased affordable housing, and, of course,
Medicare for all. That’s just to start before the first
debate and candidates in the rear begin throwing policy long-bombs
to get attention. As the European welfare states well know,
everyone has to pay more taxes to underwrite generous social
benefits. As a result, the European tax systems are less
progressive than America’s revenue structure. Thus, the rich
wouldn’t pay off the university sector under Warren’s
plan. All …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How a Locksmith, a Dictator and a WWII General Are Connected to $22 Billion in Lost Treasure

April 29, 2019 in History

By Greg Daugherty

First came the diamond-filled golden Buddha and the box of gold bars. Then came the torture.

Roxas v. Marcos was a classic David and Goliath tale, a battle between two wildly mismatched opponents.

Goliath in this case was the ruthless Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a man with a personal fortune estimated in the billions of dollars and an army of thugs and torturers at his command.

David was a 27-year-old Filipino locksmith and amateur treasure hunter named Rogelio Roxas.

At stake in the fight was a golden Buddha statue and other loot Roxas said he had unearthed from a secret underground tunnel. It was believed to be part a long-rumored stash of plunder that Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita had buried in the Philippines in the waning days of World War II. Marcos’ agents had stolen it from Roxas at gunpoint. Roxas wanted it back.

When Roxas v. Marcos finally played out in a Honolulu courtroom, more than 20 years later, Roxas would not only win, but win big. The jury ordered the Marcos family to pay a staggering $22 billion, then the largest award on record.

Jose Roxas, right, holds the Golden Buddha as Henry Roxas, son of Rogelio, the original owner of the buddha, watches at a courthouse in Baguio City, where it was ordered released to the trusteehip of the Roxas family on Monday June 24, 1996.

A treasure map leads to a golden Buddha—and more.

For Roxas, the road to justice was long, winding and often bloody, as he related in his pre-trial deposition. In 1961, he said, he’d met a man whose father served in the Japanese Army and had drawn a map showing where the so-called Yamashita Treasure was hidden. Soon another man, who claimed to have been Yamashita’s interpreter, told Roxas he’d visited tunnels filled with boxes of gold and silver during the war. He’d also seen a golden Buddha.

In 1970, Roxas obtained a permit from Pio Marcos, a local judge and relative of Ferdinand Marcos, to begin excavating one site. Along with a team of laborers, he spent the next seven months searching the area and digging “24 hours a day” until they finally hit a network of underground tunnels. Inside they found weapons, radios and skeletal remains in a Japanese uniform. They continued digging, and several weeks later came upon a concrete enclosure in the floor of a tunnel.

When they broke …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Secret Cold War Program That Airlifted Cuban Kids to the U.S.—Without Their Parents

April 29, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

“What are you doing here?” The social worker peered at Carlos Eire, shocked to find the Cuban 12-year-old in a home for delinquent boys in Miami, Florida. “You’re supposed to be with your uncle.”

By 1963, the preteen had been living in the foster home for months, accompanied by his brother and a revolving cast of characters—boys from troubled backgrounds who constantly tried to convince the Eire boys to join their gangs and commit petty crimes. Carlos knew he was no delinquent, but he figured he had no choice. It had been a temporary solution, a place to live after he had been put on a plane in Havana by his mother, who told him she would rejoin him soon in the United States. But she hadn’t come yet. In fact, nobody had claimed him.

Unbeknownst to Eire, someone had dropped the ball. For months, a Cuban uncle living in the United States had been prepared to claim him and put an end to his time as an exiled child with no guardian. He had simply been lost in the system.

Carlos Eire and his brother Tony, circa 1953.

“They fixed the problem really fast after that,” recalls Eire today. “But we spent many months [in the home for delinquent boys] needlessly. You can multiply these things by the hundreds or thousands.”

Eire is referring to the 14,000 unaccompanied children brought to the United States from Cuba during Operación Pedro Pan, a covert program that helped school-age kids escape repression in Cuba. The program was designed to protect Cuban children whose parents were being targeted by Fidel Castro’s new regime—and to shield them from the Communist ideologies feared by the U.S. at the height of the Cold War.

From 1960 to 1962, Cuban parents who had heard of the program took advantage of visa waivers to put their kids on flights to the United States. Some never saw their children again.

Unlike this century’s unaccompanied minors, thousands of whom have entered the foster care system or been detained in camps after seeking asylum in the United States, Eire and the other children of Operation Pedro Pan were welcomed by the United States government. The program was a U.S.-sanctioned one—and the Eisenhower administration and private citizens who helped make it happen were motivated not just by the human rights of children who faced repression and political retaliation in …read more

Source: HISTORY

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'No Fault Evictions' Ban Epitomizes the Paucity of Tory Economic Thinking

April 29, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Who killed Tory economic thinking? That is the question
addressed in a recent essay by Stian Westlake rippling through
Westminster.

The former Treasury adviser laments the paucity of well
thought-out Conservative economic policy. He speculates on a
culprit: the cultural dominance of “Home Office
thinking” in Theresa May’s administration.

A law-and-order department’s raison d’être, he
notes, is righting wrongs, keeping good people safe and punishing
the bad guys. It cares little for economic concerns such as
incentives or scarcity and considers trade-offs and unintended
consequences unfortunate collateral damage from enforcing its
functions.

The affliction of
believing deeply embedded economic problems can be solved by
whack-a-mole legal remedies is rotting Conservative economic
thinking.

For Home Office veterans such as the PM, economic policy is
therefore often viewed through the prism of “cracking
down”, “tightening up” or “sending a strong
message”: helping the good guys and punishing the bad.
Energy prices unfair? Cap
them
. Wages too low? Hike the minimum wage. Plastic pollution?
Ban the products.

Other Tory tribes aided and abetted in relegating robust
economic reasoning. David Cameron wanted to set economics aside and
focus on social reform prior to the financial crisis. Even many
Tory MPs who pay lip service to the dismal science engage in
“karaoke Thatcherism”, preaching low-tax,
low-regulation mantras divorced from new challenges or detail.

A Government announcement last week though provides grist to the
mill for Westlake’s “Home Office” hypothesis.
With great moralising, James Brokenshire, the Housing Secretary,
announced the Government’s intention to protect renters
against “unethical” landlords by banning so-called
“no-fault evictions”.

Under plans open for consultation, the Tories would abolish
Section 21 notices. These allow landlords to reclaim properties
“without reason” after fixed-term tenancy contracts end
(usually with two months’ notice). Essentially, then, the
Government is proposing moving towards indefinite tenancies.
Landlords could remove tenants
only for Government-prescribed “legitimate
reasons”
, such as a desire to sell the house or for the
landlord to move in.

It’s sadly unsurprising that Tories would not take a
principled stance in favour of individual property rights and free
contract. But this proposed decision goes further. Ministers are
setting up a goody-versus-baddy paradigm. The charitable
explanation is they are oblivious to the potential consequences of
their actions. The less charitable interpretation is that,
unwilling to address broader housing market supply dysfunctions,
they want to set up a landlord bogeyman to send a political signal
to tenants.

Conservative MP George Freeman, for example, celebrated the move
as “a real signal of support by Conservatives for all those
being badly treated by bad landlords”. Brokenshire himself
even claimed that Section 21 evictions were one of the biggest
causes of family homelessness. This is a bit like saying that
shooting …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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'No Fault Evictions' Ban Epitomises the Paucity of Tory Economic Thinking

April 29, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Who killed Tory economic thinking? That is the question
addressed in a recent essay by Stian Westlake rippling through
Westminster.

The former Treasury adviser laments the paucity of well
thought-out Conservative economic policy. He speculates on a
culprit: the cultural dominance of “Home Office
thinking” in Theresa May’s administration.

A law-and-order department’s raison d’être, he
notes, is righting wrongs, keeping good people safe and punishing
the bad guys. It cares little for economic concerns such as
incentives or scarcity and considers trade-offs and unintended
consequences unfortunate collateral damage from enforcing its
functions.

The affliction of
believing deeply embedded economic problems can be solved by
whack-a-mole legal remedies is rotting Conservative economic
thinking.

For Home Office veterans such as the PM, economic policy is
therefore often viewed through the prism of “cracking
down”, “tightening up” or “sending a strong
message”: helping the good guys and punishing the bad.
Energy prices unfair? Cap
them
. Wages too low? Hike the minimum wage. Plastic pollution?
Ban the products.

Other Tory tribes aided and abetted in relegating robust
economic reasoning. David Cameron wanted to set economics aside and
focus on social reform prior to the financial crisis. Even many
Tory MPs who pay lip service to the dismal science engage in
“karaoke Thatcherism”, preaching low-tax,
low-regulation mantras divorced from new challenges or detail.

A Government announcement last week though provides grist to the
mill for Westlake’s “Home Office” hypothesis.
With great moralising, James Brokenshire, the Housing Secretary,
announced the Government’s intention to protect renters
against “unethical” landlords by banning so-called
“no-fault evictions”.

Under plans open for consultation, the Tories would abolish
Section 21 notices. These allow landlords to reclaim properties
“without reason” after fixed-term tenancy contracts end
(usually with two months’ notice). Essentially, then, the
Government is proposing moving towards indefinite tenancies.
Landlords could remove tenants
only for Government-prescribed “legitimate
reasons”
, such as a desire to sell the house or for the
landlord to move in.

It’s sadly unsurprising that Tories would not take a
principled stance in favour of individual property rights and free
contract. But this proposed decision goes further. Ministers are
setting up a goody-versus-baddy paradigm. The charitable
explanation is they are oblivious to the potential consequences of
their actions. The less charitable interpretation is that,
unwilling to address broader housing market supply dysfunctions,
they want to set up a landlord bogeyman to send a political signal
to tenants.

Conservative MP George Freeman, for example, celebrated the move
as “a real signal of support by Conservatives for all those
being badly treated by bad landlords”. Brokenshire himself
even claimed that Section 21 evictions were one of the biggest
causes of family homelessness. This is a bit like saying that
shooting …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Washington's Woeful Maduro Miscalculation

April 29, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

When Washington recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful
president, Trump administration officials clearly hoped that
incumbent Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power would not last long. There
were reasons for such optimism. The socialist regime’s corruption
and grotesque economic mismanagement had reached crisis levels.
Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, had transformed Venezuela
from one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries into a
poverty-stricken horror marked by runaway inflation and severe shortages even of
the most basic consumer necessities. Venezuela was the latest
exhibit in the museum of socialist calamities. Maduro’s popularity
had plunged, and his implementation of ever more autocratic measures to suppress opponents did
not help his situation.

The Trump administration’s efforts to get other nations in the
Hemisphere to recognize Guaido seemed to be paying off as well.
Most governments followed Washington’s lead and rejected Maduro. There
were only a few exceptions. Not surprisingly, the Hemisphere’s
other radical leftist regimes (those in Cuba and Nicaragua)
expressed solidarity with Maduro. And Mexico adopted a position of
uneasy neutrality, trying to avoid taking sides
in Venezuela’s domestic political feud. On the whole, though,
Washington’s diplomatic offensive succeeded in lining-up support
for Guaido, not only in the Western Hemisphere, but in Europe and other regions as well.

The Trump administration
has already pushed the envelope of appropriate outside support for
Venezuela’s President-elect Juan Guaido to the limit.

However, the anticipated collapse of the Maduro regime has yet to occur. Despite massive opposition
demonstrations and pervasive discontent with the domestic economy,
his grip on power remains surprisingly strong. Most crucially,
Venezuela’s military has remained loyal to Maduro, despite U.S. pressure to switch allegiance to Guaido.
In addition, both Russia and China have voiced support for Maduro
and provided some financial assistance. Moscow has gone further,
dispatching two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela along with
more than one hundred military technicians to help restore the
country’s air-defense missile system.

An increasingly annoyed and uneasy U.S. government has tightened
already onerous economic restrictions on Venezuela. U.S.
officials appear worried that Guaido’s bid for power is
faltering—a concern that is well-founded. Washington took a
bold stance in recognizing him as president, even though he and his
backers controlled no meaningful territory. That move may turn out
to be another example of a U.S. foreign-policy initiative based on
little more than wishful thinking.

It wouldn’t be the first time that U.S. leaders assumed
that a foreign client had far more domestic backing than proved to
be the case. During the 1980s …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Book Review: An Empire, If You Can Find It? American Hegemony and Imperial Control

April 29, 2019 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

How to Hide an Empire
By Daniel Immerwahr
Farrar, Strous, and Giroux, 2019, $19.99, 528 pages

he concluding words of Daniel Immerwahr’s new book should leave
no one in doubt as to where he stands. “The history of the
United States is the history of empire,” he observes,
stripping away the pretense of a U.S.-led liberal international
order and demoting the United States from benevolent superpower
into the ranks of greedy European imperial states. America’s
overseas territories and military bases are — in
Immerwahr’s telling — every bit as much shaped by
racist and colonialist forces as their 19th-century forebears.
America today still constitutes what he describes as a
“pointillist empire”: a globe-spanning hegemon enabled
by the tiny specks of land it controls across the globe.

The idea that America is an empire, of course, is not a new one.
It has a long pedigree among authors, intellectuals, and left-leaning critics of American foreign policy. At
least historically, whether it was westward expansion or the
annexation of the Philippines, U.S. leaders repeatedly expanded
America’s territorial footprint and global reach while
simultaneously denying or concealing that they were doing so.

Immerwahr’s book is a
riveting read whose policy implications — despite the
somewhat misguided focus on America’s base network — are as
much about facing the past as suggesting a path for the
future.

But while Immerwahr’s book draws a straight line between
America’s history and its present, reality is fuzzier. Was
America an empire? Undoubtedly. Is America today still an
empire? It’s much harder to say, particularly because the
author steers clear of the political science debates about
hierarchy, imperial systems, and global governance. The concept of
“empire” is fundamentally about political control. But
Immerwahr instead focuses on the physical aspect of
empire: on territory and, specifically, on America’s 800-some
bases around the world. His book thus hews to a more traditional
understanding of empire as territorial control, rather than to
modern conceptions of empire as informal control, “soft
hegemony,” or political and economic influence.

Immerwahr’s territorial focus is a compelling frame for
understanding the injustices of America’s colonial past
— and the fact that the American public has yet to come to
terms with it. But today, if the United States has an empire, it is
not territorial. It is a far subtler network of informal control
that sustains and prolongs America’s privileged political and
economic position in the international system. So while there are
many good strategic, economic, and even moral reasons to downsize
America’s global military footprint, focusing on territory is
misplaced. The real question is whether the United States …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Look Deeper into School Voucher Outcomes

April 28, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

The fourth-year results of the experimental evaluation of the
Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) just came out — and the
effects on math test scores are negative once again. So what went
wrong in Louisiana?

Regulations are likely responsible. Here’s why.

Private schools decide whether to participate in voucher
programs each year. Lower-quality private schools are more likely
to accept heavy packages of voucher program regulations because
they are the most in need of additional revenues.

Heavy regulations also
mean fewer options for families in Louisiana.

The unintended consequence of attaching onerous regulations to
school choice programs is that the best private schools will be
more likely to turn down the voucher offer. The bad news for
Louisiana is that the LSP has several burdensome regulations.

The LSP requires schools to admit students at random, administer
the state’s standardized tests, and maintain what the state
considers a “quality curriculum.” Participating private
schools must also accept the voucher amount as full payment.

This hefty package of regulations could unintentionally reduce
the average quality of participating private schools — which
could compromise the effectiveness of the program. And
there’s plenty of evidence for this theory.

Negative effects from the voucher program were largely driven by
lower-quality private schools. Students who won the lottery to go
to private schools with the highest levels of tuition and
enrollment — two proxies for school quality — did not
experience reductions in academic achievement. In fact, the
researchers found that private schools in the top tercile of
enrollment actually increased math test scores by 68 percent of a
standard deviation in the third year.

Heavy regulations also mean fewer options for families in
Louisiana. Only a third of the private schools in Louisiana chose
to participate in the program in the first year, while over twice
that proportion of private schools choose to participate in
programs with fewer regulations.

A study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also found that
private school participation rates tend to be lower in programs
with higher regulatory burdens. And two survey experiments have
found that randomly assigned regulations substantially reduce
private school leaders’ reported willingness to participate in
hypothetical voucher programs.

But the news isn’t all bad in Louisiana. Competition from the
program led to higher test scores for the kids left
behind in public schools, and giving children the option to exit
segregated neighborhood schools led to racial integration overall.
And the program saved taxpayer money.

What have we learned from vouchers in Louisiana after four
years? It certainly doesn’t look like Louisiana’s regulation-heavy
approach has produced its desired results. On the contrary, the
evidence suggests it is …read more

Source: OP-EDS