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Revolutionary Mobs Almost Destroyed the Notre-Dame Cathedral

April 15, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Anti-Christian forces all but tore down one of France’s most powerful symbols

It’s one of France’s most powerful religious, architectural and cultural symbols—and images of Notre-Dame de Paris in flames evoke questions about how the city, and the cathedral, will move forward. But the fire isn’t the first time the cathedral has faced destruction. In the 1790s, revolutionaries and angry mobs looted the church and even declared that it wasn’t a church at all during a bloody push to remove France’s close ties to the Catholic church.

Before an angry revolutionary mob stormed the Bastille in Paris in 1789, the Church wielded extraordinary power in France. The vast majority of French people were Catholic, Catholicism was the state religion, and the Church owned vast swaths of property and collected heavy tithes from most people’s incomes without paying taxes of its own. But a growing number of French people had tired of the Church’s almost inconceivable power.

As the monarchy toppled, then fell, a small group of radical revolutionaries who had been influenced by Enlightenment-era philosophies of freedom of religion and a reason-based society saw their chance to strip the Church of much of its authority. They embarked on a dechristianization campaign, confiscating Church property, trying to get all clergy to swear their loyalty to the new state, and removing the Church’s control over the birth, death and administrative records it had held for so long.

The Revolution gained steam, and so did its attempts to strip the Catholic Church of its authority over French life. Parisians massacred jailed priests during the September Massacres of 1792, and clergy were put on trial during the Reign of Terror. In 1793, the new government announced that public worship was illegal. In response, people rushed into churches, stripping them of religious symbolism.

Pieces of the statues of the kings of Judah which adorned the facade of Notre Dame, that had been missing since the French Revolution, shown at a museum in 1977.

Notre-Dame de Paris had long been a symbol of the monarchy, too—a place where kings were coronated and state holidays celebrated. But revolutionary Parisians had had enough of its royal resonance. The cathedral’s west facade featured 28 statues that portrayed the biblical Kings of Judah. In fall 1793, the new government ordered workers to remove them. They didn’t portray French kings, but no matter: The 500-year-old statues …read more


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Chernobyl Timeline: How a Nuclear Accident Escalated to a Historic Disaster

April 15, 2019 in History

By Jesse Greenspan

Critical missteps and a poor reactor design resulted in history’s worst nuclear accident.

A safety test, which took place on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, was deemed so routine that the plant’s director didn’t even bother showing up. It quickly spiraled out of control, however, as an unexpected power surge and steam buildup led to a series of explosions that blew apart the reactor.

Considered history’s worst nuclear accident, the Chernobyl disaster killed 31 people directly, including 28 workers and firefighters who died of acute radiation poisoning during the cleanup. Experts believe it likewise caused thousands of premature cancer deaths, though the exact number is disputed. To this day, the area around the plant remains so contaminated that it’s officially closed off to human habitation.

Below is a blow-by-blow account of how this catastrophic meltdown occurred.

A view of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant three days after the explosion. Considered history’s worst nuclear accident, the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986 killed 31 people directly, many due to radiation poisoning during the cleanup. The area around the plant remains so contaminated that it’s officially closed off to human habitation.

View the 10 images of this gallery on the original article

September 26, 1977: The Chernobyl nuclear power station, located about 65 miles north of Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union), begins supplying power to the grid.

February 1986: A Soviet official is quoted saying that the odds of a nuclear meltdown are “one in 10,000 years.” By this time, the Chernobyl site contains four 1,000-megawatt reactors, plus two additional reactors that are under construction.

A Safety Test Sets the Stage for a Meltdown

April 25, 1986, 1 a.m.: Chernobyl’s operators begin reducing power at reactor No. 4 in preparation for a safety test, which they have timed to coincide with a routine shutdown for maintenance. The test is supposed to determine whether, in the event of a power failure, the plant’s still-spinning turbines can produce enough electricity to keep coolant pumps running during the brief gap before the emergency generators kick in. Ironically, this safety test brings about the reactor’s destruction.

April 25, 1986, 2 p.m.: Reactor No. 4’s emergency core cooling system is disabled to keep it from interfering with the test. Though this doesn’t cause the accident, it worsens the impact. At around the same time, the test and shutdown are temporarily delayed …read more


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Putin, Xi, Assad, and Maduro vs. the American Hegemon

April 15, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The American foreign policy Blob’s latest worry is that
Venezuela’s radical leftist government is reaching out to the Middle East for support
against growing pressure from Washington.

Specifically, President Nicolás Maduro is reportedly trying to
establish extensive political and financial links with Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad and his ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah. The latter has repeatedly condemned U.S. policy towards Maduro, and
already appears to have shadowy economic ties to Caracas. There are
indications that Maduro’s regime may be utilizing Hezbollah to
launder funds from the illegal drug trade.

Washington’s fear is that lurking behind an
Assad-Hezbollah-Maduro alliance is America’s arch-nemesis, Iran,
which has close relations with both Assad and Hezbollah. Tehran’s
apparent objective would be to strengthen the Venezuelan regime,
boost anti-U.S. sentiment in the Western Hemisphere, and perhaps
acquire some laundered money from a joint Maduro-Hezbollah
to ease the pain of U.S. economic sanctions
re-imposed following the Trump administration’s repudiation of the
nuclear deal.

Although Iran, Assad, and Hezbollah remain primarily concerned
with developments in their own region, the fear that they want to
undermine Washington’s power in its own backyard is not unfounded.
But U.S. leaders should ask themselves why such diverse factions
would coalesce behind that objective.

It is hardly the only example of this to emerge in recent years,
and the principal cause appears to be Washington’s own excessively
belligerent policies. That approach is driving together regimes
that have little in common except the need to resist U.S. pressure.
Washington’s menacing posture undermines rather than enhances
American security, and especially in one case—provoking an
expanding entente between Russia and China—it poses a grave

The current flirtation between Caracas and anti-American
factions in the Middle East is not the first time that American
leaders have worried about collaboration among heterogeneous
adversaries. U.S. intelligence agencies and much of the foreign
policy community warned for years about cooperation between Iran and North Korea over
both nuclear and ballistic missile technology. During the Cold War, a succession
of U.S. administrations expressed frustration and anger at the de
facto alliance between the totalitarian Soviet Union and democratic
India. Yet the underlying cause for that association was not hard
to fathom. Both countries opposed U.S. global primacy. India was
especially uneasy about Washington’s knee-jerk diplomatic and military support for Pakistan, despite
that country’s history of dictatorial rule and aggression.

Alienating India was a profoundly unwise policy. So, too, has
been Washington’s longstanding obsession with weakening and
isolating Iran and North Korea. Those two countries have almost
nothing in common, ideologically, politically, geographically, or
economically. One is …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump's Remarkable Diplomatic Efforts in North Korea

April 15, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Negotiations between the United States and North Korea appear to
be on life support. President Donald Trump’s talk of another summit
led the North’s Kim Jong-un to condition such a meeting on
Washington’s willingness to loosen sanctions.

Yet official Washington earlier greeted President Donald Trump’s
explanation for cancelling another round of proposed sanctions on
North Korea with guffaws. However silly it is for him to say he
“likes” the North’s Kim Jong-un, the president apparently
understands that diplomacy is better than war and American
escalation is likely to trigger North Korean retaliation. That
would be in no one’s interest.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea long has been a
difficult actor. Yet over the last year there have been no violent
attacks, no missile or nuclear tests, no threats of annihilation
and destruction, and even few insults. That obviously is a major
improvement. And it suggests the possibility of the DPRK evolving
from a heavily-armed, aggressive, and threatening state to a still
heavily-armed, but mostly satiated, even vaguely responsible

Obviously, the North’s history suggests skepticism when
assessing any apparent change in Pyongyang. Nevertheless, Kim
appears different than his father and grandfather — no
liberal, but nevertheless more interested in economic growth and
diplomatic engagement. Moreover, he may have decided that the best
strategy to deter an American attack is to appear nonthreatening
and reasonable.

Ultimately, such a transformation may be more important for the
United States and especially for South Korea than denuclearization.
Washington policymakers do not fear France, Israel, or the United
Kingdom because they possess nuclear weapons — nor India or
even Pakistan, since their nukes are not aimed at America.

Denuclearization remains
a worthy and potentially obtainable objective, but other diplomatic
efforts that have fruitful should not be overlooked.

The end of the Cold War reduced the potential for a nuclear
holocaust because the militarized ideological rivalry with the
Soviet Union, which Ronald Reagan famously called an “evil empire,”
disappeared — not because Moscow abandoned its nuclear
weapons. The People’s Republic of China also possesses nuclear
weapons, but few Americans imagine themselves being targeted by
Beijing, which suggests that genuine reconciliation —
admittedly hard to assure — could deliver both stability and
peace to the Korean peninsula.

There is another reason to pursue diplomacy so long as there is
any chance of success. The Trump administration’s “maximum
pressure” campaign has hurt the DPRK economy and state. However,
North Korean officials insist that the regime will not capitulate,
and history gives their claim credibility. In the late 1990s a half
million or more people died of starvation; neither regime nor
policy changed as a result. Additional U.S. sanctions are unlikely
to force …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Tensions on the Supreme Court Are Spilling into View

April 15, 2019 in Economics

By Josh Blackman

Josh Blackman

Early Friday morning, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled that Alabama could execute
Christopher Lee Price. In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer took
an unusual step: He criticized his colleagues for not meeting in
person before resolving the appeal, which had been filed late
Thursday night.

Generally, the justices are extremely secretive about the
workings of the court. But not here. Breyer and his three
progressive colleagues made the conscious decision to peel back the
curtain, and in the process, cast doubt on the majority’s
decision-making process.

Tensions on the post-Kennedy Court are now spilling into view.
Maybe we can mediate. My recommendation: Conservatives should agree
to a three-day delay to handle last-minute capital punishment
appeals; liberals should resist the urge to go public. The court,
and the country, would be better for it.

Every year, the Supreme Court decides about 80 cases. Some take
a year from start to finish. Most death penalty appeals, however,
are resolved in hours, not months. Consider Dunn v. Price.
The prisoner was scheduled to be executed before midnight on
Thursday, April 11. Earlier that day, a district court judge put
the execution on hold for 60 days. She found that Alabama’s
proposed execution protocol would likely be more painful than an
alternative method, known as nitrogen hypoxia. The state appealed.
Several hours later, the Court of Appeals declined to disturb the
lower court’s ruling, given the looming deadline.

Conservatives should
agree to a three-day delay to handle last-minute capital punishment
appeals; liberals should resist the urge to go public. The court,
and the country, would be better for it.

Around 9 p.m. Thursday, the state filed an emergency motion with the Supreme Court.
Early Friday morning, five justices voted to authorize the
execution: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence
Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M.
Gorsuch. In a single paragraph, the majority suggested that Price
waited too long to pursue his claim. This order on the
court’s so-called shadow docket allowed the justices to quickly
and quietly resolve a controversial matter. Or at least that was
the plan.

But in response, Breyer wrote an impassioned dissent, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He shined light on the shadow docket and
explained the justices’ late-night deliberations. Breyer
“requested that the Court take no action until” its
regularly scheduled conference on Friday. He said the “delay
was warranted” so the justices could hash out the issue in
person. His conservative colleagues disagreed. They wouldn’t
wait a few more hours, even though Alabama …read more

Source: OP-EDS