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World-renowned primatologist Dian Fossey is found murdered in Rwanda

August 8, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1985, primatologist and conservationist Dr. Dian Fossey is found murdered in her cabin at Karisoke, a research site in the mountains of Rwanda. It is widely believed that she was killed in connection with her lifelong crusade against poaching.

An animal lover from a young age, Fossey began her career as an occupational therapist. She would later credit her work with children for helping her earn the trust of the mountain gorillas she studied. In 1963, she borrowed money in order to finance an extended trip to Africa. Her travels brought her into contact with the archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey and wildlife photographers Alan and Joan Root and introduced her to the work of primatologist Jane Goodall. She published several articles about her travels and returned to the United States, but in 1966 the Leakeys helped her secure funding to study gorillas in the Congo.

Political unrest in the Congo led Fossey to flee the country and set up her camp, Karisoke, in the Rwandan foothills of the Virunga Mountains. There, she studied and interacted extensively with the native gorillas. Fossey eventually received a Ph.D. in zoology from Cambridge University and lectured for several years at Cornell. Her research on gorilla societies greatly enhanced mankind’s understanding of one of its closes evolutionary relatives. Fossey is best known, however, as a fierce opponent of poaching. Park rangers were known to accept bribes, allowing poachers to set up traps and routinely kill gorillas in the national park where Fossey worked. After poachers brutally killed her favorite gorilla, Digit, in 1977, Fossey launched a public and somewhat obsessive crusade to protect gorillas and punish poachers. Fossey destroyed traps and was even known to detain poachers, sometimes physically beating them. She cultivated a reputation among the locals as a practitioner of dark magic in an effort to keep people from harming her gorilla friends.

Her efforts garnered worldwide attention to the anti-poaching cause, but may have led to her death. Though an allegedly jealous fellow researcher was convicted in absentia for her murder in Rwanda, many believe that her killing was revenge for her treatment of poachers. She was buried in a cemetery at Karisoke, alongside Digit and other gorillas killed by poachers. Though she had become reclusive and bitter toward the end of her life, the final entry in her journal was a hopeful one: “When you …read more

Source: HISTORY

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First American "test-tube baby" is born

August 8, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1981, the first American “test-tube baby,” a child born as a result of in-vitro fertilization, is born in Norfolk, Virginia. Considered a miracle at the time, births like that of Elizabeth Jordan Carr are now common.

In-vitro fertilization is a process in which doctors fertilize an egg outside of a woman’s body and implant the developing embryo in the womb. In this way, women with damaged or missing Fallopian tubes, which carry fertilized eggs from ovaries to the uterus, are able to become pregnant. Doctors carried out the first successful in-vitro fertilization of a rabbit in 1959, and the first human test-tube baby was born in England in 1978. One of the doctors responsible, Dr. Robert Edwards, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010.

A number of successful IVF-induced pregnancies followed, leading the husband-and-wife team of Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones to open an IVF clinic at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1980. “I think this is a day of hope,” Howard Jones said after Carr and her mother were declared to be in perfect health, citing the roughly 600,000 American women who could theoretically give birth thanks to the procedure.

IVF was not without its critics. Many in the medical community were cautious about “playing God.” IVF drew condemnation from figures like Rev. Jerry Falwell and others in the “Moral Majority,” a socially conservative movement that was in its ascendancy in the early 1980s. The Roman Catholic Church opposes IVF on the grounds that it separates marital sex from the act of conception, while others continue to criticize what they perceive as an industry built around selling IVF to couples with fertility issues. Nonetheless, the procedure has been refined over several decades and is now fairly common, leading to an estimated 5 million total births as of a 2012 study. It is estimated that IVF now accounts for over one percent of American births every year.

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Source: HISTORY

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"Gangnam Style" becomes the first YouTube video to reach one billion views

August 8, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 2012, the music video for “Gangnam Style,” a song by the Korean rapper Psy, becomes the first YouTube video to garner one billion views. The video’s global popularity is a case study in the power and unpredictability of viral internet content.

Psy had been well-known in Korea for a decade, earning awards and acclaim as well as a reputation for controversy. Though Korean pop music, or K-pop, was increasingly popular outside of South Korea, Psy was not an international star until “Gangnam Style.” Released on July 15, 2012 as the lead single to his album Psy 6 (Six Rules), Part 1, the video would make him a global sensation.

“Gangnam Style” is a send-up of “posers and wannabes” Psy observed in Seoul’s fashionable Gangnam District. Though the lyrics are humorous, it was the video that made the song a sensation beyond Korea. Psy and others perform the “invisible horse” dance, in which the singer pretends to ride a horse and occasionally toss a lasso, in a variety of locations including a stable, a bus, a tennis court and other locales around Seoul. The iconic dance, the memorable chorus of “Hey sexy lady!” and the general over-the-top nature of the video caught the attention of a global audience.

The likes of T-Pain, Britney Spears and Katy Perry noticed the video and drew attention to it on social media. By the end of August, it was garnering over 3 million YouTube views a day, and in December it reached its unprecedented 1 billionth view.

Like other viral videos, “Gangnam Style” inspired countless parodies, reaction videos, and flash mobs. Athletes, television personalities and even politicians—U.S. Representative John Lewis recorded a video of himself doing the dance, and then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron reportedly performed it along with future PM Boris Johnson at a conference—joined in the viral craze. Though no longer the most-watched video on YouTube, “Gangnam Style” was an inescapable cultural phenomenon, serving as an introduction to K-pop for millions around the world and as a lasting example of internet virality.

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Source: HISTORY

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Blockbuster sci-fi film "Avatar" opens in theaters

August 8, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

This day in 2009 sees the release of the blockbuster science fiction film Avatar. One of the most expensive films ever made, it was also one of the most successful, holding the title of highest-grossing film of all time for nearly a decade.

Director James Cameron was no stranger to massive, ambitious projects, having achieved acclaim and enormous box office success with films like The Terminator and Titanic. A lifelong science fiction fan, he wrote a treatment for Avatar in 1994 but delayed the project because he felt the technology required did not yet exist. Finally, in 2006, the project began to take shape.

Avatar is the story of a human soldier who takes an alien form in order to explore and infiltrate the Na’vi race of the planet Pandora, which humans intend to exploit for its natural resources. Like Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke—one of its major influences—Avatar is an action-adventure movie with heavy environmentalist and anti-imperialist overtones. Cameron stated that, in addition to warning about environmental degradation, the film was also a critique of the Iraq War, then in its sixth year.

The film made use—in many cases, the first use—of a number of advances in motion-capture technology and computer-generated imagery. Over 900 people worked on the digital effects, and the film officially cost $237 million, although there is speculation that the actual budget ran as high as $310 million. Avatar was not the first major 3D movie, but it contributed greatly to the mainstream release of films in 3D.

Avatar was an immediate hit, supplanting Titanic as the new highest-grossing film of all time. Reviews were largely positive, although some felt the film was heavy-handed or derivative of other stories, most obviously Pocahontas. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Special Effects. Though many of its innovations are commonplace or even outdated today, Avatar is remembered for ushering in a new age of CGI-heavy blockbusters. It was one such film, Avengers: Endgame, which finally surpassed Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time in April of 2019.

READ MORE: The True Stories That Inspired ‘Titanic’ Movie Characters

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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What Type of Criminal Are You? 19th-Century Doctors Claimed to Know by Your Face

August 8, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Can you tell who a criminal is just by looking at them? No you can’t, but that didn’t stop the idea from gaining traction in the late 19th century. Early criminologists in the U.S. and Europe seriously debated whether criminals have certain identifying facial features separating them from non-criminals. And even though there is no scientific data to support this false premise of a “born criminal,” it played a role in shaping the field we now know as criminology.

This idea first struck . “Like rapists, they often have jug ears. Rapists, however, nearly always have sparkling eyes, delicate features, and swollen lips and eyelids. Most of them are frail; some are hunchbacked.”

Before publishing Criminal Man, Lombroso had taught psychiatry, nervous pathology and anthropology at the University of Pavia and directed the insane asylum of Pesaro from 1871 to 1873. After the book, he became a professor of forensic medicine at the University of Turin. To law enforcement figures at the time, he was considered an authority.

Examples of physiognomy of criminals illustrated from L’uomo Delinquente (Criminal Man), 1876, by Cesare Lombroso.

“He was tremendously influential,” says Diana Bretherick, a retired criminal lawyer with a PhD in criminology. “He was the first person to make crime and criminals a specific area of study, so that’s why he’s called the father of modern criminology.” He was also the first person to write about female crime, she explains.

READ MORE: How a Murderer from Italy Remade Himself as an American Renaissance Man

As an expert, Lombroso sometimes provided advice in criminal cases. In a case in which a man sexually assaulted and infected a three-year-old girl, Lombroso bragged that he singled out the perpetrator from among six suspects based on his appearance. “I picked out immediately one among them who had obscene tattooing upon his arm, a sinister physiognomy, irregularities of the field of vision, and also traces of a recent attack of syphilis,” he wrote in his 1899 book, Crime, Its Causes and Remedies. “Later this individual confessed to his crime.”

Translated versions of Lombroso’s books spread his ideas throughout Europe and the U.S. as Social Darwinism—a warped version of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution—took hold in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the scholars who subscribed to his theories was leading American sociologist Charles A. Ellwood, who became president of the American Sociological Society in 1924.

“The …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Mandatory National Service: A Bad Idea That Won't Die

August 8, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Another presidential election, another proposal for mandatory
national “service.” This time, two Democratic
candidates hope to turbocharge their otherwise dubious electoral
prospects by proposing to draft all young people to spend a year or
two working for Washington’s political elite.

That’s not how they put it, of course. But that is what
the national service movement is about.

Sorry Pete Buttigieg, but
government conscription is unconstitutional and poorly thought
through.

Service, real service to real people, is baked into
Americans’ DNA. Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French
classical liberal, cited civic activism as one of the new
republic’s distinguishing characteristics in his famous
Democracy in America. He wrote: “I have seen
Americans making great and sincere sacrifices for the key common
good, and a hundred times I have noticed that, when needs be, they
almost always gave each other faithful support.” The
resulting vibrant civil society was very different from the
enervating monarchies and aristocracies that still dominated
Europe. This commitment to service permeated the
nation—transforming people, creating institutions, and
strengthening America.

But some commentators and politicians view private action as
inadequate. Instead, they believe, “service” should be
organized, planned, and managed by the state. The fount of modern
thought on national service remains Looking Backward, the
1888 publication of lawyer and journalist Edward Bellamy, which
envisioned compulsory employment for men and women between the ages
of 21 and 45.

A couple decades later, philosopher William James issued an
essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War.” In it, he argued
that “the martial virtues, although originally gained by the
race through war, are absolute and permanent human goods,”
and that national service provided a method for instilling those
values during peacetime. He wrote: “Our gilded youths would
be drafted off to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to
come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer
ideas.”

Today his essay is almost entirely forgotten, except for the
title. But a host of philosophers, policy analysts, and politicians
proffer their own very different proposals for “the moral
equivalent of war.” These plans rarely reflect a shared
consensus of the national or public interest. More often, they
involve blatant social engineering for ideological ends. For
instance, sociologist Margaret Mead advocated a universal program
that “would replace for girls, even more than for boys,
marriage as the route away from the parental home.”

Compulsion was essential to such proposals. In 1979, the
Committee for the Study of National Service declared:

International comparisons also fire some American imaginations.
Millions of young people serve social needs in China as a routine
part of growing up, many [are] commanded to leave the crowded
cities and to assist in the countryside. Castro …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Prisons Are Packed Because Prosecutors Are Coercing Plea Deals. And, Yes, It's Totally Legal.

August 8, 2019 in Economics

By Clark Neily

Clark Neily

America is the most prosperous country in the history of the
world. We excel at innovation and mass production — and
nowhere is that more true today than our criminal justice system,
which features a streamlined process for transforming millions of
suspects into convicted criminals quickly, efficiently and without
the hassle of a constitutionally prescribed jury trial.

It’s called coercive plea bargaining, and it’s the secret sauce
that helps us maintain the world’s highest incarceration rate.

According to a
recent study
from the Pew Research Center, of the roughly
80,000 federal prosecutions initiated in 2018, just two percent
went to trial. More than
97 percent
of federal criminal convictions are obtained through
plea bargains, and the states are not far behind at
94 percent
. Why are people so eager to confess their guilt
instead of challenging the government to prove their guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a unanimous jury?

American prosecutors are
equipped with a fearsome array of tools they can and do use to
discourage people from exercising their right to a jury
trial.

The answer is simple and stark: They’re being coerced.

Though physical torture remains off limits, American prosecutors
are equipped with a fearsome array of tools they can use to extract
confessions and discourage people from exercising their right to a
jury trial. These tools include charge-stacking (charging more or
more serious crimes than the conduct really merits),
legislatively-ordered mandatory-minimum sentences, pretrial
detention with unaffordable bail, threats to investigate and indict
friends or family members, and the so-called trial penalty —
what the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers calls the “substantial difference between the
sentence offered prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant
receives after a trial.

Of coercive plea bargaining’s many problems, two are
particularly concerning.

The first is false convictions. Though it was once believed that
a confession in open court — a guilty plea — was
proof-positive of a person’s guilt, we now know that simply
isn’t true. Indeed, of the more than 300 people definitively
exonerated by the Innocence Project using DNA evidence, some

11 percent
pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit since
1989. The National Registry of Exonerations puts the total number at 20 percent since 1989.
But whatever the precise figure, it is clear that innocent people
are routinely coerced into pleading guilty to crimes they did not
commit.

Despite this mounting evidence, however, the U.S. Supreme Court
has steadfastly refused to police the line between permissible
inducements and unconstitutional coercion. For example, in a
notorious 1978 case called
Bordenkircher v. Hayes
, …read more

Source: OP-EDS