You are browsing the archive for 2019 April 17.

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The Mysterious Fate of the Romanov Family's Prized Easter Egg Collection

April 17, 2019 in History

By Ella Morton

After the Russian Revolution, the country’s new leaders, looking to make some quick rubles, started selling off the dazzling imperial treasures.

In 2010, an American scrap-metal dealer visited an antiques stall somewhere in the United States and purchased a golden egg sitting on a three-legged stand. The egg was adorned with diamonds and sapphires, and it opened to reveal a clock. Intending to sell the object to a buyer who would melt it down for its component metals, the dealer purchased this egg-clock for $13,302. He then had trouble selling it, as potential buyers deemed it overpriced.

The dealer had valued it incorrectly—but not the way he originally thought. In 2014, the man—who remains anonymous—discovered that his little golden objet d’art was one of the 50 exquisitely bespoke . No two were even slightly similar, and each contained a surprise meaningful to the recipient.

The Faberge Imperial Coronation Egg at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, 1993.

In 1897, Nicholas II gave his wife Alexandra the Imperial Coronation Egg. The shell is made of gold embellished with translucent yellow enamel and overlaid with black enamel double-headed eagles. Inside the white velvet-lined egg is an exquisitely detailed miniature 18th-century golden carriage. The object, which took more than a year to create, is a replica of a coach once owned by Catherine the Great and used in Nicholas and Alexandra’s own 1896 coronation procession.

The 1901 Gatchina Palace egg, which Nicholas II gave to his mother Maria Feodorovna, has a pearl-encrusted shell of gold, enamel, silver-gilt, portrait diamonds and rock crystal. It opens to reveal a faithful rendering of the palace Maria called home.

The Fabergé Gatchina Egg pictured on display in an exhibit, called ‘Palaces of St. Petersburg: Russian Imperial Style’ at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion.

How the eggs fared after the Revolution

All was shiny and beautiful in the imperial palaces, but by the early 20th century, Nicholas II was contending with international conflicts, nationwide impoverishment, a population boom and a growing number of former serfs eager to overthrow a czar they saw as oppressive and out of touch. In 1904 and 1905, when Russia was at war with Japan, Nicholas suspended his annual Fabergé egg commission. He resumed the tradition in 1906, though, and had one delivered every Easter until 1917. That year, Fabergé worked on two eggs, but before they could be presented, the …read more


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Ancient Pee Suggests Agricultural Revolution Whizzed By

April 17, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

The only decided to use pee residue because they were having trouble reconstructing a timeline with feces and bone.

“We thought, well, humans and animals pee, and when they pee, they release a bunch of salt,” said lead author Jordan Abell, a graduate student at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in a university press release. “At a dry place like this, we didn’t think salts would be washed away and redistributed.”

Though it’s not possible to distinguish human pee salts from those of other animals, the researchers used the salts to estimate population density. They found there was a turning point about 10,000 years ago when concentrations of urine salts in the archaeological layer became 1,000 times higher than those in previous layers. They estimate that between between 8450 and 7450 B.C., an average of 1,790 people and other animals lived and peed at Aşıklı Höyük every day.

This would’ve been too many people for the settlement buildings to support, which is why a lot of those urinators were probably sheep and goats. The sharp increase in pee salts around 10,000 years ago “may be new evidence for a more rapid transition” toward animal domestication, Abell said in the press release.

There are still a lot of questions remaining about where, when and how the Neolithic Revolution occurred. The pee salt study may be just a drop in the bucket, but it nevertheless helps us narrow the timeline for this region.

…read more


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How a Sex Worker's Murder Brought Down Tammany Hall's Corrupt Political System

April 17, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

To the naked eye, it was nothing more than a case of simple prostitution: When the police officer burst into Vivian Gordon’s New York hotel room in 1923, he found her in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. Believing her lover had paid her for sex, the police officer hauled her off to jail. She was imprisoned, convicted, and sentenced to time at an upstate reformatory.

But Vivian Gordon knew there was more to the story. She suspected that her estranged husband, a U.S. marshal, had arranged the arrest in retaliation for their upcoming divorce. And like hundreds of other women caught up in New York’s vicious cycle of “frame-ups,” she couldn’t do anything to fight it.

The cops were in on it. The judges were in on it. Even the lawyers who represented women accused of prostitution and petty crimes were in on it. But what Gordon could never have suspected was that her 1923 arrest would one day take down an entire political machine.

The front page of the New York Daily News on May 25, 1931, regarding the solved murder of Vivian Gordon.

Not that she lived to see it happen. When she was murdered on February 25, 1931, Gordon unknowingly became part of one of the city’s most famous corruption investigations—and a central figure in a scandal that helped put an end to the dominance of New York’s Democratic political machine.

Tammany Hall, the outgrowth of an 18th-century political society, had ruled New York’s Democratic Party (and the city itself) for over a century. In a time before public welfare, Tammany’s political bosses helped their hangers-on with everything from heating to health care, negotiating with landlords and sometimes paying in exchange for constituents’ votes. Party members provided strength in numbers, voting their candidates into office over and over again.

By the 1930s, Tammany had woven its way into every level of city politics—and it was controlled by the New York Mob. Graft and cronyism ruled many facets of city government, including the judicial system and police department. Elected officials handed out appointments to their friends, providing them with access to bribes and power, and most institutions prioritized helping Democrats who had shown their loyalty to Tammany instead of serving all constituents equally.

READ MORE: How Prohibition Put the ‘Organized’ in Organized Crime

Allegations of judges and politicians beholden to gangsters prompted New York’s …read more


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The Questions Medicare for All Supporters Must Answer

April 17, 2019 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie
Sanders has officially unveiled the latest version of his plan for
a government-run health-care system. This year, his Medicare for
All legislation is co-sponsored by at least five of his fellow
presidential contenders: Senators Corey Booker, Kamala Harris,
Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Eric
Swalwell. Several other prominent Democrats have voiced their
support for the concept, if not Sanders’s specific version of it.
And the polls show that voters might be receptive.

What’s more, there is a genuine need for health-care reform.
Obamacare remains deeply troubled, with costs rising, choices
restricted, and its promise of universal coverage unrealized.
Meanwhile, Republicans are divided, dispirited, and largely
clueless — opposed to Obamacare, but unable to formulate a
plan of their own.

Medicare for All, to a large extent, has filled the vacuum
created by that inability. But before we take it too seriously,
there are a few questions that supporters must answer:

How will you pay for it? We don’t yet know
exactly how much Sanders’s plan will cost, but the price is bound
to be high: Previous versions of the plan were estimated to cost
$32-38 trillion over the next ten years, and the senator’s latest
version would provide even more generous benefits. In fact, both
the legislation and the Sanders campaign’s summary of it are
extremely detailed about all the benefits the plan would provide.
It would cover virtually all hospital and physician care,
preventive services, mental-health services, dental and vision
care, prescription drugs, and medical devices. And, except for
brand-name drugs, there would be absolutely no deductible,
co-payment, or other out-of-pocket expenses. The plan would not
only provide far more extensive benefits than private insurance
plans or today’s Medicare; it would provide benefits in excess of
those offered by other national-health-care plans around the

Bernie Sanders may
currently be riding a wave of political momentum, but his new
health-care plan remains untested.

But when it comes to paying for all these goodies, Sanders is
exceedingly vague. Neither the legislation nor his summary includes
a funding mechanism. Instead, Sanders calls for “a vigorous debate
as to the best way to finance our Medicare for All legislation.” As
far as I know, vigorous debates don’t pay the government’s

Sanders does provide a helpful list of possible tax hikes that
could be considered: a 7.5 percentage point increase in the payroll
tax; an income-based premium paid by all Americans (roughly a 4
percent income tax); significant increases in tax rates for those
earning more than $250,000 per year; increased corporate taxes; big
increases in the capital-gains tax; and a new wealth tax. Of
course, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Analysis: Charter Schools Yield 53% Greater Return on Investment Than Traditional Public Schools

April 17, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis, Patrick J. Wolf, Larry D. Maloney, Jay F. May

Corey A. DeAngelis, Patrick J. Wolf, Larry D. Maloney, & Jay F. May

Charter schools are the object of intense national debate. They
shouldn’t be. The data show that public charters are a good

In five studies that we’ve conducted during the past
several years, we’ve compared traditional schools and charter
schools in a diverse roster of U.S. cities where a substantial
portion of families are choosing charters. We’ve examined how
much funding each sector receives and how much learning each
produces. The facts are quite clear:

Charter schools do more with less.

Our first report, “Charter School Funding: Inequity in the
,” identified a significant funding gap between
traditional and chartered public schools. In 14 cities spanning the
country, from the nation’s capital to Memphis to Los Angeles,
charter schools received considerably less funding — an
average of $5,721 per pupil — than traditional schools. To
put it another way, families sacrificed about one third of their
educational resources when they chose to enroll in charter

Two years later we revisited these same 14 cities and found that
the funding gap between traditional and charter schools had
increased slightly to an average of $5,828 per pupil. Local funding
sources, including property and sales taxes, were the biggest
contributors to the disparity. (A third report that focused on
New York City’s charter and traditional schools
yielded similar findings.)

At the same time, we wanted to factor in academic achievement.
In 2018 we completed a study measuring the cost-effectiveness
— the amount of learning per educational dollars spent
— of charter and traditional schools. To determine academic
performance, we used results from the National Assessment of
Educational Progress and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at
Stanford University.

For that study, we focused on eight cities that, despite their
different sizes and demographics, all have substantial charter
sectors: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, New York
City, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C. In each city, we found that
charter schools were more academically
than traditional schools.

We found that charter schools continued to demonstrate greater
value than traditional schools in a follow-up report released
earlier this month. “A Good Investment: The Updated Productivity of
Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities
” reports that
in reading, charter schools averaged 4.80 points higher — per
$1,000 funded — than traditional schools, making charters 40
percent more cost-effective in reading. In math, charters average
5.13 points higher per $1,000 funded, making them 40 percent more
cost-effective in math.

We also measured the taxpayer return-on-investment generated by
each sector. Our most recent report …read more

Source: OP-EDS