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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


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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


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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