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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