You are browsing the archive for 2019 June 04.

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American Women Fought for Suffrage for 70 Years. It Took WWI to Finally Achieve It

June 4, 2019 in History

By Abigail Higgins

Helen Dore Boylston was a young American nurse serving on the front lines of World War I, so she was no stranger to chaos. But the steady drone of hundreds of motors advancing towards her hospital in France in 1918 was unlike anything she had ever heard before. An air raid was underway and the shells came “so low that her hair stood on end with every screech,” she’d write later, but this sound was something else.

When she looked to the horizon, she saw the source of the noise: illuminated only by the moonlight were an endless string of black ambulances, snaking as far as the eye could see. When the men they carried began arriving, their faces were ghost white and their wounds gaping and uncovered. Rows of them, blinded by their injuries, clung to each other to stay upright. Many of them, she noted, were mere teenagers.

It was going to be a long night but she wasn’t daunted. Boylston’s unit would go on to treat more casualties than any other group of American doctors and nurses. When the Great War ended later that year, claiming a staggering 40 million lives, Boylston—who had attained the rank of captain—was distraught.

“What are we all to do now? How can we go home to civilian life, to the never ending, never varying routine?” She wrote in her diary. “And the Twenty-second General Hospital, that vital living thing, saturated with the heights and depths of human emotion, will become a slowly fading memory of days when we really lived.”

Boylston was one of over nine million American women who joined the war effort. Not all of them faced the ravages of war firsthand––though many did, working as ambulance drivers who hurtled through artillery fire to rescue the wounded from the battlefield or to deliver emergency medical supplies to the front lines. Many women stayed home but worked in munitions factories or stitched surgical masks and gauze as Red Cross volunteers. Even librarians mobilized for war, building makeshift libraries in camps that would distribute nearly 10 million books and magazines to soldiers.

In total, the number of American women who joined the war effort dwarfed the 5 million men who served in the armed forces.

World War I poster in support of woman’s service, 1917. ’

Women’s sudden entrance en masse into both the war and public life …read more


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Who's Afraid of Arabic Numerals?

June 4, 2019 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

Should Americans, as part of their school curriculum, learn
Arabic numerals?

CivicScience, a
Pittsburgh-based research firm, put that
to some 3,200 Americans recently in a poll seemingly
about mathematics, but the outcome was a measure of students’
attitudes toward the Arabworld. Some 56 percent of the respondents
said, “No.” Fifteen percent had no opinion.

Those results, which quickly inspired more than 24,000 tweets,
might have been sharply different had the pollsters explained what
“Arabic numerals” are.

There are 10 of them: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Western conservatives
retreat to tribalism themselves when they deny the wisdom in, and
the contributions of, sources that are not

That fact prompted John Dick, the chief executive of the polling
company, to label the
finding “the saddest and funniest testament to American
bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data.”

Presumably, the Americans who opposed the teaching of Arabic
numerals (Republicans in greater proportion than Democrats) lacked
the basic knowledge of what they are and also had some aversion to
anything described as “Arabic.”

Which is indeed sad and funny — and also a reason to pause
and ask a simple question: Why is the world’s most efficient
numerical system, also standard in Western civilization, called
“Arabic numerals”?

The answer traces to seventh-century India, where the numerical
system, which included the revolutionary formulation of zero, was
developed. Some two centuries later, it moved to the Muslim world,
whose magnificent capital, Baghdad, was then the world’s best
city in which to pursue an intellectual career. There, a Persian
Muslim scholar named Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi developed a
mathematical discipline called al-jabir, which literally means
“reunion of broken parts.”

In the early 13th century, an Italian mathematician named
Fibonacci, who studied calculation with an Arab master in Muslim
North Africa, found the numerals and their decimal system much more
practical than the Roman system, and soon popularized them in
Europe, where the figures became known as “Arabic

Meanwhile, the discipline of al-jabir became
“algebra,” and al-Khwarizmi’s name evolved into

Today, many words in English have Arabic roots; a short list
would include admiral, alchemy, alcove, alembic, alkali, almanac,
lute, mask, muslin, nadir, sugar, syrup, tariff and zenith. Some
scholars think that even the word “check,” which you
get from a bank, comes from the Arabic word sakk, which means
“written document.” (Its plural, sukuk, is still used
in Islamic banking to refer to bonds.)

There is a reason these Western terms have Arabic roots: Between
the eighth and 12th centuries, the Muslim world, whose lingua
franca was Arabic, was much …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Black Medic Saved Hundreds on D-Day. Was He Deprived of a Medal of Honor?

June 4, 2019 in History

By Jesse Greenspan

Waverly Woodson treated at least 200 injured men on D-Day, despite being injured, himself.

Waverly Woodson, Jr. served as a medic on Omaha Bach during Operation Overlord in 1944.

Heavy machine-gun fire greeted a nauseous and bloody Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. as he disembarked onto Omaha Beach the morning of

The Army, in response to Van Hollen, acknowledged Woodson’s story as “compelling,” but said it could not move forward without “corroborating primary source material.” Unfortunately, nearly all of Woodson’s military records—and those of millions of other veterans—were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, making that documentation all but impossible to obtain.

“The problem is they need a clear records trail, and those records are gone,” Hervieux says. “They need a first-hand witness, and they’re never going to get it, because these men are all dead.” She feels Woodson deserves the award, explaining that at least one white Medal of Honor recipient “did pretty much the same thing.”

Woodson on the beaches of Normandy, 50 years after D-Day.

Van Hollen has asked the Army to waive its normal rules in Woodson’s case and, as a start, to upgrade his Bronze Star to a Silver Star. In a statement, he says he plans on partnering with the Congressional Black Caucus to bring attention to this issue.

Meanwhile, Woodson’s advocates hope to drum up long-overdue interest in the black soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. “The conventional wisdom of D-Day is that there were no black soldiers who landed on those beaches,” Hervieux says, pointing out that they’re virtually never depicted in World War II movies, such as Saving Private Ryan. “But the truth is that there were almost 2,000 black soldiers who landed by the end of the day on June 6.”

EXPLORE: How Allied Forces Overcame Disastrous Landings to Rout the Nazis

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Woodson was a pre-med student at Lincoln University prior to enlisting in the still-segregated Army in December 1942, a year after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. Although he passed an exam to enter officer candidate school, he was reportedly prevented from becoming an officer on account of his race.

The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion preparing to deploy a barrage balloon on Utah Beach during the …read more


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The Crusade for Trump's Tax Returns Turns Mccarthyist

June 4, 2019 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

House Democrats have pulled out every stop trying to get six
years’ worth of President Trump’s tax returns. Their efforts have
been relentless and should alarm every American who cares about the
security and privacy of their own tax documents and the personal
information they contain.

Let’s start with some facts. During the February 7, 2019
hearing that House Ways and Means Committee
Democrats held on Trump’s tax returns, the witness list contained
zero former IRS commissioners. That was the first indication that
Democrats were not interested in actually learning whether or not
the IRS had found any evidence of tax fraud by Trump, which might
have led to a criminal referral to the Justice Department. Indeed,
to date, no former IRS official with knowledge of Trump’s finances
has come forward to accuse the president of tax fraud or

House Democrats’ efforts
are reminiscent of the HUAC witch hunts many years ago.

No experts from the privacy and civil liberties communities were
invited to the February 9 hearing either. That’s significant
because if anyone familiar with the Lois Lerner episode from Barack Obama’s
presidency had been in attendance, committee members would have
been reminded that IRS officials have on their own gone after
groups across the political spectrum for wholly inappropriate
reasons. And who says this congressional quest for individual tax
returns will stop at the presidential level?

Indeed, there is a well-documented history of congressional
committees using tax return data for political witch hunts.

On July 14, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7933-A, which gave the Dies
Committee—predecessor to the infamous House Un-American
Activities Committee (HUAC)—access to the tax returns of
individuals, groups, and businesses that the committee suspected of
having communist connections. The committee chairman, Democrat
Martin Dies of Texas, misused that authority to hound individuals
and groups that he alleged—never with credible documentary
evidence—to be in league with Soviet Russia. Dies went so far
in October 1939 to order his investigators to raid the offices of the League for Peace and
Democracy to seize not only tax information but membership and
contributor rolls. He later published the names of 600 federal
employees who were League members.

Between 1938 and 1975 (when it was finally abolished by
Congress), HUAC either attempted to obtain or actually utilized
sensitive personal information on American citizens to conduct
anti-communist persecutions that destroyed the professional and
personal lives of thousands of citizens. The irony is that the
current chairman of the Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee,
civil rights veteran Congressman John Lewis, was one of those
targeted for political repression by the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sparkling Opal Preserved This New Dinosaur Species for 100 Million Years

June 4, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Ancient cultures have long considered opal a special gemstone because of its ability to capture so many different colors. Turns out, that’s not all it can capture: researchers in Australia have identified at least four members of a new dinosaur species whose bones were preserved for 100 million years in opal, the country’s national gemstone.

Australia is a major source of the world’s opal, particularly the black opal found in the town of Lightning Ridge, New South Wales. That’s where miner Bob Foster was working in 1984 when he stumbled on a small, semicircle-shaped bone. Only this wasn’t like the ordinary fish bones Foster had found before in Sheepyard opal field, where he worked. It was vertebrae of a previously unknown dinosaur.

Before long, Foster had found a lot more sparkly, gem-like fossils that were clearly from something unique. And because paleontologists at the Australian Museum in Sydney had asked the public to turn over any dinosaur bones they found, Foster packed the fossils into two suitcases and traveled to the state capital to hand them over.

“I said, ‘I’m the bloke who rang you up, I’ve got two bags of dinosaur bones here,’ and they looked at each other like, ‘Here’s another one’—they get people coming in all the time,” Foster told The New York Times. But then he showed the scientists the distinctive, opal-encrusted fossils. “I opened them and threw the bones all out on the table and they were diving to catch them before they landed on the floor. They changed their approach.”

A preserved opalized toe bone of the Fostoria dhimbangunmal.

The museum sent army reservists to excavate more fossils at Lightning Ridge. Yet for a long time, nobody studied them. In fact, Foster later found some of the fossils on display at an opal store in Sydney. He recovered some and donated them to the Australian Opal Center in 2015. After this, other scientists started examining them. On June 3, 2019, they published the first study of Foster’s fossils in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The fossils represent at least four members of Fostoria dhimbangunmal, a new species named after Foster as well as the opal field where he found the bones. ‘Dhimbangunmal’ means ‘sheep yard’ in the Indigenous language of the Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaalayaay and Gamilaraay peoples near Lightning Ridge. Foster’s wife Jenny, who is Gamilaraay Aboriginal, chose the name to honor them.

The F. …read more


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A Ship of Jewish Refugees Was Refused U.S. Landing in 1939. This Was Their Fate

June 4, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

As the M.S. St. Louis cruised off the coast of Miami in June 1939, its passengers could see the lights of the city glimmering. But the United States hadn’t been on the ship’s original itinerary, and its passengers didn’t have permission to disembark in Florida. As the more than 900 Jewish passengers looked longingly at the twinkling lights, they hoped against hope that they could land.

Those hopes would soon be dashed by immigration authorities, sending the ship back to Europe. And then, nearly a third of the passengers on the St. Louis were murdered.

Most of the ship’s 937 passengers were Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany. Though World War II had not yet begun, the groundwork for the Holocaust was already being laid in Germany, where Jewish people faced harassment, discrimination and political persecution. But though the danger faced by the passengers was clear, they were turned down by immigration authorities, first by Cuba, then the United States and Canada. For many on the St. Louis, that rejection was a death sentence.

Refugees aboard the M.S. St. Louis. Here, they are seen arriving in Antwerp, Belgium after over a month at sea, during which they were denied entry to Cuba.

The voyage took place as German persecution of Jews reached a fever pitch. After Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, Germany embraced a series of laws that isolated Jewish people from daily life, by restricting their ability to move freely, shutting down their businesses and slashing educational opportunities. In November 1938, Kristallnacht, a state organized pogrom known as the “night of broken glass,” left Jewish businesses, homes and places of worship in shambles.

For many Jews, Kristallnacht was a clear signal to leave. At the time, German Jews were being pushed by the Nazis to emigrate, and the danger faced by Jews elsewhere in Europe led some to find ways to leave the continent for good. The Jewish people aboard the St. Louis had made the difficult decision to start new lives thousands of miles away. The ship’s destination was Cuba, where most passengers planned to live while awaiting entry into the United States.

It took two weeks for the St. Louis, which flew a Nazi flag, to reach Havana. But the voyage didn’t end on Cuban soil. Rather, Cuban officials refused to let the passengers disembark. Though the majority of passengers had …read more