You are browsing the archive for 2019 August 01.

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9 Ancient Sumerian Inventions That Changed the World

August 1, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

The Sumerian people of Mesopotamia had a flair for innovation. Here’s how they left their mark.

The ancient . Goodman says that there’s evidence the Sumerians had such carts for transportation in the 3000s B.C., but they were probably used for ceremonies or by the military, rather than as a means to get around the countryside, where the rough terrain would have made wheeled travel difficult.

The Plow

Imitation of a Sumerian plow.

According to Kramer, the Sumerians invented the plow, a vital technology in farming. They even produced a manual that gave farmers detailed instructions on how to use various types of plows. And they specified the prayer that should be recited to pay homage to Ninkilim, the goddess of field rodents, in order to protect the grain from being eaten.

Textile Mills

A Mesopotamian woman weaving.

While other cultures in the Middle East gathered wool and used it to weave fabric for clothing, the Sumerians were the first to do it on an industrial scale.

“The Sumerians’ innovation was to turn their temples into huge factories,” Goodman explains. He notes that the Sumerians were the first to cross kin lines and form larger working organizations for making textiles—the predecessors of modern manufacturing companies.

Mass-Produced Bricks

An archaeological site in Mari, Syria (modern Tell Hariri) that was an ancient Sumerian city on the western bank of Euphrates river.

To make up for a shortage of stones and timber for building houses and temples, the Sumerians created molds for making bricks out of clay, according to Kramer. While they weren’t the first to use clay as a building material, “the innovation is the ability to produce bricks in large amounts, and put them together on a large scale,” Jones explains. Their buildings might not have been as durable as stone ones, but they were able to build more of them, and create larger cities.


The lion-headed eagle made of copper, gold, and lapis lazuli by Sumerian civilization.

The Sumerians were some of the earliest people to use copper to make useful items, ranging from spearheads to chisels and razors, according to the Copper Development Association. They also made art with copper, including dramatic panels depicting fantastical animals such as an eagle with a lion’s head. According to Kramer, Sumerian metallurgists used furnaces heated by reeds and controlled the temperature with a bellows that could …read more


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Why Are Rabbits—And Rabbits' Feet—Considered Good Luck Symbols?

August 1, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Among the superstitious: FDR carried a rabbit’s foot for good luck and Sarah Jessica Parker says “rabbit rabbit” at the start of every month. Here are some theories behind the rabbit superstition.

If you go on Twitter during the first of the month, you may notice “rabbit rabbit” trending. That’s because of a superstition that if your first words that day are “rabbit rabbit,” you’ll have luck for the rest of the month.

Alleged followers of this tradition have included actress . He explains that in the early 20th century, U.S. companies that sold rabbits’ feet vouched for their authenticity by claiming that a black person had cut them off under specific, unlucky-seeming conditions.

“A 1908 British account reports rabbits’ feet imported from America being advertised as ‘the left hind foot of a rabbit killed in a country churchyard at midnight, during the dark of the moon, on Friday the 13th of the month, by a cross-eyed, left-handed, red-headed bow-legged Negro riding a white horse,’” he writes. “While other collected versions disagree about exactly when the rabbit must be killed, all indicate that the rabbit’s foot historicizes an especially uncanny or evil time: the dark of the moon; a Friday; a rainy Friday; a Friday the Thirteenth.”

It’s hard to say whether these marketing descriptions reference a real tradition, a joke among African Americans or a cruel joke about African Americans (at least one marketing description for a rabbit’s foot used a racist slur). But it is true that other superstitions about body parts can be found among early European and African Americans, as well as in Europe and Africa. Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer, suggest the rabbit’s foot could be connected to a European good luck charm called the Hand of Glory.

The Hand of Glory was considered a European good luck charm.

“The Hand of Glory was a hand cut from a hanged man,” he says. In medieval Europe, authorities sometimes left hanged men’s bodies out in public to warn others against committing crimes; “but oftentimes, people would go and cut off one of the hands…usually the left one, and pickle it.”

Like the Hand of Glory, Ellis writes that rabbit’s feet were sometimes considered lucky because of their association with the body of a criminal. According to the early 20th-century folklorist Newbell Niles Puckett, Grover Cleveland was said to have received the foot of …read more


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Who Betrayed Anne Frank?

August 1, 2019 in History

By Evan Andrews

Multiple people have been suspected of informing the Nazis of the Franks’ hiding place, while one theory suggests it may have simply been bad luck.

On August 4, 1944, police in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam raided a warehouse and arrested eight Jews who were hiding in an annex disguised behind a bookcase. Among those captured was Anne Frank, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who had spent over two years living in the cramped safehouse with her parents and older sister.

The diary Frank kept during her confinement is now considered one of the most important accounts of the Holocaust, but the circumstances of her arrest have always been cloaked in mystery.

It is believed that an anonymous tip helped guide the Nazis to the secret annex, yet despite decades of investigations, the identity of the informant has never been proven.

Copies of Anne Frank’s diaries on display at the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Credit: ADE JOHNSON/epa/Corbis)

Investigators began taking a fresh look at the case in 2016, hoping to provide new answers. A 20-person team for the Anne Frank House was led, in part, by two retired FBI officials; former special agent Vince Pankoke, and behavioral scientist Roger Depue. As The New York Times reported, they hoped to bring new technology, including forensic accounting, computer modeling and even crowd sourcing research, to examine existing evidence such as Anne Frank’s diary and the Amsterdam building where the Franks hid.

Meanwhile, in 2018, a new book claimed to offer evidence that Anne Frank and her family were betrayed by a Jewish woman who was executed after World War II for collaborating with the Nazis.

Multiple Suspects Named in Frank Family’s Betrayal

Anne Frank’s father Otto—the only member of the family to survive their subsequent deportation to the concentration camps—was among the first to assert that a betrayal had led to their capture. The group’s hideout was located inside a warehouse he had once owned, and they were aided by several of his employees as well as other Dutch sympathizers.

Shortly after World War II ended, Otto Frank suggested that the culprit was Willem van Maaren, a warehouse employee who was not in on the secret. Van Maaren was later the subject of multiple investigations related to the betrayal—including one by famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal—but he always maintained his innocence, and none of the cases ever produced any evidence against him.

In the …read more


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Time for Ukraine — and America — to Make a Deal With Russia

August 1, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Ukraine’s political revolution is now complete. The country just
elected as president the comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who crushed
the incumbent by a nearly three-to-one margin. His party won the
first majority in the Rada since the nation was reborn after the
Soviet Union. Zelensky, who largely wiped out parties that favored
continued confrontation with Russia, should now use his substantial
authority to make peace with Moscow.

The United States and Europe can help seal the deal. In
particular, the Trump administration should end the burgeoning cold
war between Washington and Moscow. The conflict is unnecessary and
is in nether side’s interest.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin is neither Western liberal nor American
friend. He pursues his own agenda, disregarding what Washington
wants. Most controversially, he has followed the U.S. example of
intervening in other nations’ elections for political advantage,
tossing a wrench or two into America’s presidential contest.

As bilateral ties began to fray, Moscow took advantage of
opportunities to hinder American policy elsewhere. It helped
preserve the Assad regime in Syria against all enemies, sustained
Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro despite substantial American pressure,
diminished Washington’s economic assault on North Korea, frustrated
President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran,
and manipulated European governments. Some of these actions, such
as the ones in Syria, reflected long-standing Russian policies;
others, such as in Venezuela, were mostly intended to undermine
Washington’s position.

comedian-turned-President Volodymyr Zelensky be the man who finally
brings peace?

However, Putin is not solely at fault for the collapse of
U.S.-Russia relations. Declassified documents make clear that
Washington lied to Moscow about its intention to expand NATO.
Unconcerned about Russian sensitivities, the Clinton administration
moved the border of the Western alliance to within a couple hundred
miles of St. Petersburg. The U.S. ignored Russian interests in the
Balkans and attempted to cut out Moscow while dismembering the
latter’s traditional Slavic partner Serbia. The Clinton
administration used money and influence to keep Boris Yeltsin in
power even as Russia’s economy was being looted in the name, though
not the reality, of a market transition.

The Bush administration continued to promote NATO expansion,
even to Georgia, which started a shooting war with Russia in
apparent expectation of U.S. backing, and Ukraine, long part of the
Russian Empire and Soviet Union. In 2014 came Europe’s attempt to
pull Kiev westward economically and subsequent support from
Brussels and Washington for a street putsch against Ukraine’s
Moscow-friendly president, who had won a fair election. In the
aftermath, U.S. officials openly spoke of their favored candidates
for Ukrainian office.

None of this justified Moscow essentially waging war on Ukraine
and forcibly annexing Crimea. However, Western behavior undermines
the claim that Putin is the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Brave Nuclear World

August 1, 2019 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

On Friday, the United States will complete its withdrawal
from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces
 (INF) Treaty,
an agreement that had prohibited the United States and Russia from
deploying certain kinds of missiles since 1987. Following on the
heels of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, and his
unwillingness to negotiate
an extension to New START
, the collapse of the INF Treaty is
just one more step towards the demise of Cold War-era arms

Of course, though the problem started with Trump, the deaths of
these agreements will outlast his administration; agreements not
negotiated today mean no agreements on arms control tomorrow,
opening up the disturbing possibility of renewed arms races.
Indeed, a survey of global leaders taken last year at
 highlighted nuclear war as a key concern.

Though mutually assured
destruction is still the core strategic logic underlying most
countries’ nuclear arsenals, the structure of the system is no
longer the same.

But figuring out the questions we need to ask may end up being
as important as the answers. As a new
publication from the Cato Institute
 highlights, the
nuclear challenges of today are substantially different than the
ones we faced during the Cold War. In that context, it’s worth
asking which of the assumptions we have about nuclear weapons still
hold up — and which don’t.

1. Is superpower-style mutually assured destruction the
best way to understand the modern nuclear balance?

Not really. Though mutually assured destruction is still the
core strategic logic underlying most countries’ nuclear arsenals,
the structure of the system is no longer the same. In place of the
US and USSR locked in superpower competition, there are a number of
key players and a growing sense of rivalry between the US and
China. Developments in weapons
 - a move towards tactical nuclear weapons, and
to dual-use technologies that can be used for both conventional and
nuclear purposes – are challenging strategic stability in new ways.
All of which suggests that while mutually assured destruction still
exists, the broader strategic situation is more complex than during
the Cold War, increasing the possibility of nuclear use.

2. Are nuclear weapons useful for something other than

Not particularly. Much of the Trump administration’s case for a
harder line on Iran and North Korea was premised around the idea
that these states could
potentially use nuclear weapons
 to make political or
military gains. But while this administration has played up the
fear of ‘nuclear blackmail,’ the historical record reveals how
difficult it is to use
nuclear weapons for coercion
. Most states who seek to acquire
nuclear weapons want a last-ditch backup to protect their country
or ensure regime survival: ironically, as the Nobel
Laureate Thomas Schelling
 once …read more

Source: OP-EDS