You are browsing the archive for 2019 May 08.

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'Elephant Man’s’ Grave Discovered in Same Cemetery as Jack the Ripper's Victims

May 8, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

When , had a hunch Merrick might be in the same cemetery as Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols and Catherine “Kate” Eddowes, two of the women Jack the Ripper killed. Merrick lived in the same Whitechapel neighborhood as Polly and Kate, and died just a couple of years after them. Vigor-Mungovin started going through records for the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, and discovered that Merrick was indeed buried there with them.

“It was what we call a common grave,” Vigor-Mungovin says of Merrick’s plot, which she visited in early May 2019. “There are people below Joseph and probably people above Joseph, so he’s not on his own. And because it’s a common grave, it is usual practice not to have a headstone or for it to be marked.”

The discovery confirms that Merrick, who was very religious, was buried the way he would have wanted—with a Christian ceremony in consecrated ground. Vigor-Mungovin says many people, including herself, have petitioned Queen Mary University of London to give up ownership of his bones and bury them in a Christian ceremony. Now that she’s found his grave, Vigor-Mungovin says it’s enough for her to know that he received the burial he would’ve wanted at the end of his short life.

Merrick was born in Leicester, England on August 5, 1862. Accounts tell us he was a kind, sensitive and intelligent man. He could write, and enjoyed reading Jane Austen novels and the Bible. Around age five, his parents began noticing unusual growth in his skin and bones.

In adulthood, the circumference of his right wrist was one foot, and the circumference of his head was three feet. Merrick also suffered heart problems, had difficulty walking and slept sitting up so he wouldn’t suffocate himself. Doctors today still aren’t sure what medical condition Merrick had, since there are no other documented cases like his (there’s some speculation he had Proteus syndrome).

Illustrations of Merrick featured in a 1886 London medical journal.

At age 17, Merrick began work in a brutal workhouse with little food and poor medical facilities, especially for a person with his unique needs. “One of the jobs the workhouse people used to do was called bone crushing, which is where they’d crush bone for fertilizer,” Vigor-Mungovin says. Because the food there was so bad, “it wasn’t unknown for the workers and inmates to eat the putrid remains of the flesh off of …read more


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The Juicy History of Humans Eating Meat

May 8, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

Early man’s diet transitioned to animal flesh with an assist from saber-toothed tigers.

The mouth-watering smokiness of a rack of pork ribs. The juicy gluttony of a medium-rare bacon cheeseburger. The simple pleasure of a salami sandwich on rye. One thing is clear—humans love meat. But why do we eat so much more meat than our primate cousins and why are we wired to drool at the sound and smell of steaks sizzling on the grill?

Scientists still have plenty of unanswered questions about the origins and evolution of human meat-eating, but there are some strong theories as to when, how and why we started to incorporate larger amounts of meat in our omnivorous diet.

READ MORE: Going Paleo: What Prehistoric Man Actually Ate

Blame an ancient climate shift.

Between 2.6 and 2.5 million years ago, the Earth got significantly hotter and drier. Before that climate shift, our distant human ancestors—collectively known as hominins—were subsisting mostly on fruits, leaves, seeds, flowers, bark and tubers. As the temperature rose, the lush forests shrank and great grasslands thrived. As green plants became scarcer, evolutionary pressure forced early humans to find new sources of energy.

The grassland savannas that spread across Africa supported growing numbers of grazing herbivores. Archaeologists have found large herbivore bones dating from 2.5 million years ago with telltale cut marks from crude stone tools. Our ancient hominin ancestors weren’t capable hunters yet, but likely scavenged the meat from fallen carcasses.

“More grasses means more grazing animals, and more dead grazing animals means more meat,” says Marta Zaraska, author of Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Years Obsession With Meat.

Once humans shifted to even occasional meat eating, it didn’t take long to make it a major part of our diet. Zaraska says there’s ample archaeological evidence that by 2 million years ago the first Homo species were actively eating meat on a regular basis.

READ MORE: Hunter Gatherers

Neanderthals hunting a zebra for food.

Tools became our ‘second teeth.’

It’s not a coincidence that the earliest evidence of widespread human meat-eating coincides in the archaeological record with Homo habilis, the “handyman” of early humans. At sites in Kenya dating back to 2 million years ago, archaeologists have discovered thousands of flaked stone “knives” and fist-sized hammerstones near large piles of animal-bone fragments with corresponding butcher marks.

While our ancient human relatives had stronger jaws and larger teeth than modern man, …read more


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'Marsy's Law': The Push to Constitutionalize Crime Victims' Rights

May 8, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

A determined national campaign has resulted in the enactment in
California, Ohio, Illinois, and several other states of state
constitutional amendments promoted as a bill of rights for crime
victims, often known as “Marsy’s Law” after a
murder victim whose brother has backed the campaign. In addition to
spreading the idea to other states — the exact provisions
vary from state to state — proponents seek to take the idea
nationwide through a constitutional amendment.

There are very good
reasons why the Framers included in the Constitution and Bill of
Rights many protections for criminal defendants, but relatively few
for victims. We forget that wisdom at our peril.

Unfortunately, most versions of Marsy’s Law so far impinge
on legitimate rights of criminal defendants, constitutionalize
issues better left to resolution by judges or lawmakers, and create
ongoing tension with the presumption of innocence. Matthew Harwood explores some of these questions in
an excellent new analysis in Reason
, and others have
filled in more examples in recent online discussions. For example:
In the name of protecting their privacy, and especially shielding
them from fear of possible intimidation, the measures restrict
dissemination of personal information about crime victims. While
the impulse involved is understandable, and there have long been
legitimate ways of accommodating it, it is also essential that
accused persons have access to evidence they need to prepare the
case in their defense. Some Marsy’s Law provisions give victims and
their attorneys a basis to resist defendant-side requests for
pre-trial depositions and medical records relevant to the incident
and injury, even when potentially exculpatory.

One generally accepted way to harmonize the legitimate interests
on each side is for judges to review requests for potentially
sensitive personal information in chambers, and decide what
information is needed for the defense and whether a protective
order should attach that would prohibit dissemination beyond the
lawyers themselves. But the laws can override that discretion,
notes Jerome Buting on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the laws can deprive the public of information about
crime that is legitimately important to them, as when, for example,
a murder occurs in their neighborhood. Twitter user Timothy Burke offers a Tampa instance.

Some Marsy’s Law provisions purport to give victims a
right to have the process over and done within a certain time limit
such as two or five years. Trouble is, not every exculpation or
appeal is finished that fast. Note that the Bill of Rights’
Sixth Amendment asymmetrically assigns the accused, but not the
public in whose name he is accused, the right to a speedy

Underlying several of these problems is a point made …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Military Force Will Not Achieve U.S. Objectives in Venezuela

May 8, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Trump administration says it is determined to alleviate the
plight of the Venezuelan people. And they are suffering. The Hugo
Chavez-Nicolas Maduro regime has proved to be a horror show:
undemocratic and brutal, ostentatiously destroying the
nation’s economy in the name of socialism.

But President Donald Trump cares little for those suffering even
more elsewhere. For instance, he backs Saudi Arabia in an
aggressive war which has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni
civilians. He bestows symbolic hugs on Egypt’s President
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who slaughtered hundreds of protestors and
jailed tens of thousands of critics, demonstrators, and stray
Egyptians caught up in ubiquitous dragnets. For the Trump
administration, Venezuela is only about politics. Votes in Florida,

Yet the administration can’t even get the public relations
right. A few weeks ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to
Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia, to strike a Reagan-esque pose
in calling on the Maduro government to open a bridge into Venezuela
to allow entry of humanitarian aid. Alas, few observers saw much
comparison to President Ronald Reagan’s memorable trip to
Berlin when he urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear
down this wall.”

Venezuela’s national
implosion is a tragedy, but it is not Washington’s

Worse, the administration’s grand architects of regime change
have proved to be exquisite blunderers. Their incompetence likely
has made Nicolas Maduro’s ouster significantly more difficult to
achieve. They could be called the gang that can’t shoot straight,
except that they don’t plan to get anywhere near any fighting that
occurs. They see their jobs as organizing other people to do the
hard work, take the risks, and bear the costs of failure.

A few months ago, the administration triggered the current
process, recognizing Juan Guaido as the legitimate president. He
had colorable authority, through the National Assembly, of which he
is president, but the backing of Washington and fifty-three other
governments so far have proved to be worth little more than a cup
of coffee in Caracas.

The Trump administration assumed a quick victory. It invited the
Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro and side with Guaido.
However, Maduro and Chavez before him had transformed the military
leadership after an unsuccessful coup attempt against the latter.
There were a number of low- to mid-level defectors from the armed
services, but not nearly enough to undermine regime control.

Which left the administration fulminating helplessly. It imposed
sanctions, to little effect other than to worsen the suffering of
the Venezuelan people. The president and his officials blamed
everyone else—the Cubans, Russians, and Chinese, as well as
Guaido, for misleading them about his support. After lecturing
Russia that spheres of influence were no longer …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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To Save the USPS, We Must Privatize It

May 8, 2019 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

The U.S. Postal Service has been losing money for more than a
decade. Its financial outlook is bleak, with $110 billion in unfunded retirement costs and
more liabilities accruing every year. Congress is in denial about
the crisis, and there is a growing chance that taxpayers will be
put on the hook for a bailout.

The USPS is a huge enterprise with more than 600,000 employees
and $71 billion in annual revenues. Revenues are supposed to cover
its costs, but it has lost $69 billion since 2007. There are a
couple of culprits. The volume of first-class mail — the
USPS’s most profitable product — has plunged 45 percent since 2001. And while
the company has expanded into package delivery, it faces heavy
competition from UPS and FedEx, and will likely be challenged by
Amazon and other upstarts down the road.

The Postal Service is in
dire financial straits. It needs a makeover for the digital age,
and Europe’s privatization efforts have shown it the way

A Trump-administration task force last year found that the
USPS’s business model “is unsustainable and must be
fundamentally changed if the USPS is to avoid a financial collapse
and a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

There are lots of cost-cutting measures that could temporarily
stave off such a collapse. But in the long run, the USPS needs to
diversify its business to survive and grow, and that is a trickier
problem than it seems.

As a government entity that pays no taxes, the USPS would enjoy
an unfair advantage over potential private competitors in the
markets outside its legal monopoly on mail delivery — the
markets into which it needs to expand to survive. FedEx pays $2 billion a year in federal, state, and
local taxes, while the USPS pays none.

How can we let the USPS diversify and grow without creating
unfair competition? The answer is privatization, and the opening up
of the postal market that would come with it.

Europe has already demonstrated how, practically speaking,
privatization could be a success. Since the European Union mandated
that member nations open their postal markets to competition,
numerous countries have privatized their mail carriers, including
Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. A 2018 report for the European Commission found
that the continent’s postal firms were diversifying revenues,
reducing labor costs, adopting new technologies, cutting delivery
frequency, using cluster boxes for delivery, and closing post
offices — all the steps the USPS needs to take.

Privatization would give the USPS the flexibility to save
itself, allowing access to debt and equity markets …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Stupidest Einstein Meme

May 8, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Don’t let memes do your thinking for you, part CLXXII: In
a controversy I will not rehash here, a local journalist saw fit to
criticize his and my community for not expressing as keen a sense
of outrage about an issue (of historical school-naming) as he
thought it should. His piece went on to attribute a sentiment to
Albert Einstein: “Silence is complicity with the status

Don’t let memes do your
thinking for you.

Now, Einstein was known for having spoken out strongly against
some of the greatest moral evils of his era, including the rise of
Nazism and the Jim Crow laws then at their height in the United
States, where he lived. Even so, this sloganistic formula seemed to
me a suspiciously broad, sweeping, and meme-like assertion for him
to have made. So I went online to check and sure enough, the
attribution to Einstein appears with somewhat different wording in
various widely shared social media memes (“If I Were To
Remain Silent, I’d Be Guilty Of Complicity”).

So what did Einstein say? I could find no credible
attribution of the quoted words to him, but I did find this
seemingly genuine Einstein quote on silence and
complicity from 1954:

[I]n long intervals I have expressed an opinion on public issues
whenever they appeared to me so bad and unfortunate that silence
would have made me feel guilty of complicity.

Let’s compare this seemingly genuine quote, in its proper
context, with the meme version (“If I Were To Remain Silent,
I’d Be Guilty Of Complicity”) and the meme version as
its message was understood by the journalist using it downstream
(“Silence is complicity with the status quo.”)

The introductory phrase “In long intervals” serves
to emphasize that Einstein saved this level of public engagement
for issues that did not come up every day, but only infrequently.
Not every issue was Nazism or Jim Crow. He goes on to speak with
finesse of reaching such a personal decision when silence
“would have made me feel guilty of
complicity.” [emphasis added] Note the central role here of
personal conscience: the quoted Einstein does not prescribe
standards of guilt for others at all, let alone hector them for not
speaking out in response to exactly the same moment or event that
exceeded his threshold.

You might even argue that the meme turns on its head the spirit
of the authentic Einstein quote: Where Einstein stressed the rarity
and gravity of the situations that had prompted him to take a
public stand, the meme in its popular use (as passed on by the
journalist, for example) serves to arraign …read more

Source: OP-EDS