You are browsing the archive for 2019 August 29.

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Stunning Underwater Photos Reveal 1845 Shipwreck Frozen in Time

August 29, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Detailed images show the interiors of the HMS Terror, one of the two ships lost in a doomed Arctic expedition to find the Northwest Passage.

In the frigid waters off King William’s Island, in northern Canada, the wreck of a ship belonging to British explorer Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to find the , archaeologists hope the new images and video of the Terror will help them solve some of the many mysteries surrounding the Franklin expedition, including how the two ships ended up so far apart, and why and how they sunk. They also plan to excavate both wrecks further, suggesting more intriguing revelations may be yet to come.

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Source: HISTORY

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The U.S. national debt reaches $0 for the first time

August 29, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 8, 1835, President Andrew Jackson achieves his goal of entirely paying off the United States’ national debt. It was the only time in U.S. history that the national debt stood at zero, and it precipitated one of the worst financial crises in American history.

The elimination of the national debt was both a personal issue for Jackson and the culmination of a political project as old as the nation itself. Since the time of the Revolution, American politicians had argued over the wisdom of the nation carrying debt. After independence, the federal government agreed to take on individual states’ war debts as part of the unification of the former colonies. Federalists, those who favored a stronger central government, established a national bank and argued that debt could be a useful way of fueling the new country’s economy. Their opponents, most notably Thomas Jefferson, felt that these policies favored Northeastern elites at the expense of rural Americans and saw the debt as a source of national shame.

Jackson, a populist whose Democratic Party grew out of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party, had a personal aversion to debt stemming from a land deal that had gone sour for him in his days as a speculator. Campaigning for re-election in 1832, Jackson vetoed the re-charter of the national bank and called the debt “a moral failing” and “black magic.” Jackson vetoed a number of spending bills throughout his tenure, putting an end to projects that would have expanded nationwide infrastructure. He further paid down the debt by selling off vast amounts of government land in the West, and was able to settle the debt entirely in 1835.

Jackson’s triumph contained the seeds of the economy’s undoing. The selling-off of federal lands had led to a real estate bubble, and the destruction of the national bank led to reckless spending and borrowing. Combined with other elements of Jackson’s fiscal policy as well as downturns in foreign economies, these problems led to the Panic of 1837. A bank run and the subsequent depression tanked the U.S. economy and forced the federal government to begin borrowing again.

The U.S. has been in debt ever since. The debt skyrocketed during the Civil War but was nearly paid off by the early 20th Century, only to balloon again with the onset of World War I. Numerous presidents and politicians have decried the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Ireland grants a divorce for the first time in the country's history

August 29, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

The Republic of Ireland legally grants a divorce for the first time following a 1995 referendum. The first divorce in Ireland, granted to a terminally ill man who wished to marry his new partner, was a harbinger of the decline of the Catholic Church’s power over the Republic.

The Irish Constitution of 1937 specifically forbade divorce. Though the constitution prohibits the state from adopting an official religion, Ireland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and the original document contained many elements of Catholic doctrine. The Church played an outsized role in Irish public life, even by the standards of other heavily Catholic countries. Italy, for example, had legalized divorce by 1970. In 1986, the Irish government put the issue up to a nationwide referendum, but 63.5 percent voted against amending the constitution. A law allowing legal separation passed in 1989. After coming to power in 1994, a “Rainbow Coalition” government composed of center-left parties one again propagated a referendum on amending the constitution to allow divorce.

Both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa publicly endorsed the “No” side, a sign of the seriousness with which the Church opposed this perceived challenge to its authority. Nonetheless, the Church conceded that it would not be a sin for Catholics to vote “Yes.” Ultimately, the “Yes” campaign ran up huge numbers in urban areas, winning by the razor-thin margin of 50.3 percent to 49.7. Numerous attempts were made to challenge the result, but to no avail.

Although the 1995 referendum only legalized divorce in cases where couples had been separated for at least four years, proponents of the separation of church and state hailed it as a victory to build upon.

“We’re bringing Ireland into the 20 Century at the dawn of the 21,” said Mags O’Brien, a pro-divorce campaigner. Similarly “overdue” reforms would follow. 2015 saw the legalization of same-sex marriage with 61 percent of the vote, and 66 percent of voters approved an amendment to legalize abortion in 2018. In 2019, another amendment greatly relaxed the requirements for obtaining a legal divorce, doing away with the period of separation.

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Source: HISTORY

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Princess Diana dies in a car crash

August 29, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales—affectionately known as “the People’s Princess”—dies in a car crash in Paris. She was 36. Her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born socialite Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, died as well.

Princess Diana was one of the most popular public figures in the world. Her death was met with a massive outpouring of grief. Mourners began visiting Kensington Palace immediately, leaving bouquets at the home where the princess, also known as Lady Di, would never return. Piles of flowers reached some 30 feet from the palace’s gate.

Diana and Dodi—who had been vacationing in the French Riviera—arrived in Paris earlier the previous day. They left the Ritz Paris just after midnight, intending to go to Dodi’s apartment on the Rue Arsène Houssaye. As soon as they departed the hotel, a swarm of paparazzi on motorcycles began aggressively tailing their car. About three minutes later, the driver lost control and crashed into a pillar at the entrance of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.

Dodi and the driver were pronounced dead at the scene. Diana was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital and declared dead at 6:00 am. (A fourth passenger, Diana’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, was seriously injured but survived.) Diana’s former husband Prince Charles, as well as her sisters and other members of the Royal Family, arrived in Paris that morning. Diana’s body was then taken back to London.

Like much of her life, her death was a full-blown media sensation, and the subject of many conspiracy theories. At first, the paparazzi hounding the car were blamed for the crash, but later it was revealed that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. A formal investigation concluded the paparazzi did not cause the collision.

Diana’s funeral in London, on September 6, was watched by over 2 billion people. She was survived by her two sons, Prince William, who was 15 at the time, and Prince Harry, who was 12.

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Source: HISTORY

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Afghanistan: Putting Irrational Hope Before Depressing Experience

August 29, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

After September 11, 2001, America was forced to go to war in
Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda, which had killed nearly 3,000 people inside
the United States, was using the central Asian nation as a training
ground, and the Taliban refused to oust its guests. Washington
needed to degrade the group’s capabilities and punish the
government that had given the terrorists sanctuary.

These tasks had been largely completed by December. The United
States then had two options. Put serious effort into creating a
competent, honest, and strong regime that could survive on its own.
Or leave.

Naturally, the Bush administration did neither. Instead, it
turned to the neoconservative lobby, which wanted war with Iraq.
President George W. Bush kept forces in Central Asia, but not
enough to achieve his nation-building ends. The rest of his efforts
went into the catastrophic Iraqi misadventure. By President Barack
Obama’s administration, Afghanistan was long gone as a viable
U.S. protectorate. Yet Obama twice increased American forces
there.

Today officials increasingly speak of the war being unwinnable.
Even veterans, according to the Pew Research Center, believe that
the war “was not worth fighting” and that the U.S.
should withdraw. America has wasted many lives and much money
attempting to create a democracy in Central Asia, and these sunk
costs cannot be redeemed. The only question is whether future
benefits will be worth future gains.

As Trump talks again
about pulling out, the Blob’s justifications for staying sound
hollower than ever.

President Donald Trump began with a clean slate, having run
against his predecessor’s foreign misadventures.
“Afghanistan is a complete waste,” businessman Trump
declared. “Let’s get out.” But in office, he was
besieged by his own appointees and ended up expanding the garrison
to about 14,000 service members (other countries contribute nearly
9,000).

Nothing has been achieved by this escalation except more
American deaths. Now the president is once again talking about
pulling out. In the meantime, his administration is negotiating
with the Taliban. Once Washington and the insurgents finish
talking, the latter are supposed to make a deal with the
U.S.-backed Kabul government.

The negotiations are supposedly going well. The U.S. garrison is
reportedly to be drawn down to between 8,000 and 9,000 when the
agreement is signed. And that number might fall to zero as soon as
October 2020 if the Taliban begins talks with the Kabul
government.

The administration is hopeful. America’s Afghan allies are
fearful. Domestic critics are apoplectic.

The most obvious question is: how will the accord be enforced?
An Afghan official told the Washington Post, “The
Americans call this a peace negotiation, but the Taliban definitely
perceive it as a withdrawal negotiation.” In fact, the pact
is useful primarily for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Competing with Secular Gods in North Korea

August 29, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Some of President Trump’s critics complain that the Republican
party has become a cult. And some GOP apparatchiks have taken the
position that the president can do no wrong. Nevertheless, support
for him still falls decidedly short of the transcendent.

That doesn’t mean that politics cannot become a religion. In
North Korea, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are demigod the father and
demigod son; Juche is the political gospel. Writings of the Kims
are treated as scripture. Which helps explain the North’s position
as the world’s worst religious persecutor.

The Korean Peninsula long hosted a variety of religious beliefs.
Shamanism, Confucianism, and Buddhism go back centuries.
Catholicism arrived in the 16th century; Protestantism was promoted
via missionaries in the 19th. John Ross, a Presbyterian, completed
the first Korean-language New Testament in 1887. The new faith took
particularly strong hold in the north; with hundreds of churches,
Pyongyang was known as the “Jerusalem of the East.”
From there Christianity spread throughout the peninsula and into
adjoining China (Manchuria).

The Korean kingdom resisted the foreign import. The
peninsula’s Japanese colonial overlords attempted to force
adherence to Shintoism, resulting in persecution focused on Korean
Christians, who refused to adopt their oppressor’s faith.
Korean Christian expatriates were among leading independence
activists for Korea. Even the parents of North Korean dictator Kim
Il-sung were Presbyterians, and his grandfather was a minister.

If Kim Jong-un wants the
blessings of foreign commerce, the U.S. and others should press him
to do more to liberalize his society.

During the Soviet occupation, religious persecution in the
northern half of the peninsula went from bad to worse. The
Bolsheviks waged war on Christianity in the USSR and were no more
friendly when occupying Korea. The Soviets chose Kim Il-sung, an
anti-Japanese guerrilla leader, to rule the occupation zone. Once
the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established in
1948, “the regime suppressed religious freedom by arousing
the sense of struggle against anti-revolutionary elements and
spreading anti-religious sentiments far and wide to strengthen the
socialist revolutionary force,” write Yeo-sang Yoon and
Sun-young Han, of the North Korean Human Rights Archives and
Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, respectively.

Kim brutally consolidated power, initiated war, and enforced
uniformity. His government targeted faith in anything other than
the Communist party. After the Korean War, according to Yoon and
Han, “religious organizations were completely dismantled in
the wake of relentless religious suppression, leaving no room for
self-regulating religious activities or collective
resistance.” Over time, Kim’s personality cult became
utterly suffocating, leaving no room for independent thought.

Kim Il-sung, still considered the DPRK’s “eternal
president,” once explained that “we came to understand
that religious persons can only be broken …read more

Source: OP-EDS