You are browsing the archive for 2019 September 05.

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12 people die in shooting at "Charlie Hebdo" offices

September 5, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Around midday on January 7, 2015, gunmen raid the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. The attack, a response to the magazine’s criticism of Islam and depiction of Muhammad, demonstrated the danger of homegrown terror in Europe as well as the deep conflicts within French society.

Charlie Hebdo had a history of antagonizing and drawing threats from Islamists. In 2006, the magazine re-printed a controversial cartoon depicting Muhammad from the Dutch newspaper Jyllands-Posten, earning its staff death threats. In 2011, the Charlie Hebdo office was firebombed in response to the “Sharia Hebdo” issue, which contained numerous depictions of the prophet. The magazine’s director of publishing, cartoonist Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnie, was an outspoken critic of religion, particularly radical Islam, and was named to Al-Qaeda’s most wanted list in 2013. Like many in France, the staff of Charlie Hebdo believed in a strictly secular state and was critical of both radical Islam and the Catholic Church.

Two French brothers of Algerian descent, Saïd and Chérif Kouach, carried out the attack. They forced a cartoonist, Corinne “Coco” Rey, to open the door to the office, which was unmarked due to the previous firebombing incident. The gunmen shot and killed Charb and other members of the staff, including columnist Elsa Cayat, but spared the life of another female writer, telling her they did not kill women. After a manhunt that lasted two days, the gunmen were tracked to an industrial estate outside of Paris and killed in a gunfight with police. At roughly the same time, their acquaintance Amedy Coulibaly, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, took hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris. He killed four people, all of them Jewish, before he was killed by police.

In the wake of the attacks, tributes poured in from all over the world, many using the phrase “Je suis Charlie.” The killings were perceived not only as acts of terrorism but also as an attack on free speech and the freedom of the press. “Republican marches” honoring the victims and the right to free speech were held across France on January 10th and 11th. As the phrase “Je suis Charlie” became a rallying cry the world over, some, including the surviving staff, criticized its use by those who disagreed with or were unaware of the publication’s left-wing, atheist worldview. Others asked why the killings received …read more

Source: HISTORY

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President George W. Bush signs No Child Left Behind Act into law

September 5, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act into law. The sweeping update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 created new standards and goals for the nation’s public schools and implemented tough corrective measures for schools that failed to meet them. Today, it is largely regarded as a failed experiment.

NCLB passed both houses of Congress easily and with bipartisan support. Future Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican, and longtime Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy were among its sponsors. The bill aimed to address what both parties agreed was an unacceptable drop in standards in America’s public schools. The new law mandated that states create measures of Adequate Yearly Progress based on standardized tests. Schools that did not meet AYP requirements were subject to increasingly harsher actions by the state, such as giving students the options to transfer after 2 years of missing AYP goals or even the wholesale restructuring of a school after 5 years.

While some schools did see improvements in test scores, the results were uneven and often negative. Teachers complained that standardized testing cut into class time and forced them to “teach to the test” rather than to their students’ needs. Many felt that requiring all schools statewide to achieve the same goals unfairly punished both schools that were already performing well and schools in underserved areas. Others argued in principle against threatening underperforming schools with corrective measures, while some accused Republicans of using the law to turn private schools over to charter school companies or private businesses.

In 2015, NCLB was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which retained parts of the old law but attempted to make it less punitive to underperforming schools. Today, NCLB is often cited as an overly harsh approach to education reform, while many Americans simply remember it as the reason they had to take so many standardized tests.

READ MORE: In Early 1800s American Classrooms, Students Governed Themselves

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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African American men gain the right to vote in Washington, D.C.

September 5, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 8, 1867, African American men gain the right to vote in the District of Columbia despite the veto of its most powerful resident, President Andrew Johnson. The Republican-controlled senate overrode Johnson by a vote of 29-10 three years before a constitutional amendment granted the right to vote to all men regardless of race.

At the time, citizens of D.C. voted for a local council, but had no representation in Congress and no say in presidential elections. Congress was the final authority on many matters for the District, including voting rights—to this day, the capital city’s budget is the only municipal budget in the country subject to congressional approval. At the end of the Civil War, Lincoln’s Republican Party dominated the legislature, which had been reduced in size and drained of Democrats due to the secession of Southern states. Johnson, however, was not a Republican but rather a Unionist Democrat whom Lincoln had chosen as his running mate during the Civil War in the hopes of appealing to Southern Unionists.

As evidenced by his veto, Johnson valued reconciliation with the former Confederacy over racial equality. He also opposed the Fourteenth Amendment, which made freed slaves citizens. Johnson’s opposition to the Republicans’ views on Reconstruction would define his presidency and lead to his becoming the first president ever to be impeached. Though he was unable to stop Congress from granting voting rights to the African Americans of D.C., he spent much of his presidency vetoing the bills of the so-called Radical Reconstructionists.

African American men in D.C.—with some exceptions, including those on welfare—gained the right to vote three years before the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed that right for all American men, regardless of race. As citizens of D.C., however, they did not gain the right to vote in federal elections until 1961. Today, the nation’s capital stands on equal footing with the states in the Electoral College, but its congressional representation remains limited to a single, non-voting member of the House of Representatives. Many official license plates in the district carry the phrase “Taxation without representation,” a nod to the irony that the capital of the United States has roughly the amount of influence in the legislative process as it did before the Revolutionary War.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Free College Will Hike Costs for Taxpayers and Make the System More Opaque

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Russell Rhine

Russell Rhine

“Free, free, free” is the Democratic presidential front runners’ proposed solution to many kitchen-table issues, including the high and rising price of college. Joe Biden indicated his support for 16 years of free public education in a 2015 statementSens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made free college, as well as total or significant student debt “forgiveness,” part of their campaigns. However, prices give students and the public essential information, and we need to let the price system work with minimal distortions to help students tailor their best educational path.

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Past federal attempts to increase higher education affordability — third-party payments of guaranteed private loans and direct federal loans and grants — contributed to non-transparent pricing and fueled rising prices. Free college would make things worse, while simultaneously transferring the entire burden to taxpayers. What American colleges need is more price transparency, not less.

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It’s virtually impossible to know what four or more college years will cost at the time of admission. Prospective students and their families must face the daunting task of combining colleges’ listed price, possible institutional scholarships, government grants, loans, work study, and more to determine the true price. Now add the confusion of third-party payment, out-of-pocket vs. future student-debt payments, and various loan forgiveness programs, and the true price becomes even more obscured.

By having a high “sticker price” and adjusting the amount of aid (needs based or other) for some, colleges charge different prices to different students. Colleges can effectively “price discriminate” in terms of ability to pay, because they know exactly how much families earn. To qualify for financial aid, detailed financial records are required, including tax returns. Because only some students pay the listed price, schools can increase it, not worrying about losing applicants, and choose which students will pay based on their family’s capacity.

Students already have easy access to federal loans, which enable colleges to increase tuition knowing students have access to more debt. President Ronald Reagan’s then-Secretary of Education William Bennett famously explained this relationship in a New York Times …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Free College Will Hike Costs for Taxpayers and Make the System More Opaque

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Russell Rhine

Russell Rhine

“Free, free, free” is the Democratic presidential
front runners’ proposed solution to many kitchen-table
issues, including the high and rising price of college. Joe Biden
indicated his support for 16 years of free public education in a 2015
statement
. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made free college, as well as
total or significant student debt “forgiveness,” part
of their campaigns. However, prices give students and the public
essential information, and we need to let the price system work
with minimal distortions to help students tailor their best
educational path.

Past federal attempts to increase higher education affordability
— third-party payments of guaranteed private loans and direct
federal loans and grants — contributed to non-transparent
pricing and fueled rising prices. Free college would make
things worse, while simultaneously transferring the entire burden
to taxpayers. What American colleges need is more price
transparency, not less.

Fully government
subsidized college wouldn’t solve the problem of rising prices, it
would simply hide it.

It’s virtually impossible to know what four or more college
years will cost at the time of admission. Prospective students and
their families must face the daunting task of combining colleges’
listed price, possible institutional scholarships, government
grants, loans, work study, and more to determine the true price.
Now add the confusion of third-party payment, out-of-pocket vs.
future student-debt payments, and various loan forgiveness
programs, and the true price becomes even more obscured.

By having a high “sticker price” and adjusting the
amount of aid (needs based or other) for some, colleges charge
different prices to different students. Colleges can effectively
“price discriminate” in terms of ability to pay,
because they know exactly how much families earn. To qualify for
financial aid, detailed financial records are required, including
tax returns. Because only some students pay the listed price,
schools can increase it, not worrying about losing applicants, and
choose which students will pay based on their family’s
capacity.

Students already have easy access to federal loans, which enable
colleges to increase tuition knowing students have access to more
debt. President Ronald Reagan’s then-Secretary of Education
William Bennett famously explained this relationship in a New York Times op-ed: “If anything,
increases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges
and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that
federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase.” A
2015 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study
concludes that for every dollar increase in the subsidized loan
maximum, tuition increases by about 60 cents.

Even with higher education’s confusing finance system,
students and families have a sense of the cost and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Deep Roots of Italy’s Coalition Chaos

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Alberto Mingardi

Alberto Mingardi

MILAN — The chaos in Italy has really only just begun.

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The collapse of the government earlier this summer and the byzantine posturing and horse-trading as the country’s major parties struggle to form a new one isn’t just the result of the ambition and fecklessness of individual politicians.

It’s what you get in Italy when you elect a parliament with a proportional system.

Forget policies. What’s at stake is who gets what job.

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The two parties in the ongoing coalition talks have spent much of the last decade tearing each other down. For the anti-establishment 5Star Movement, the Democratic Party epitomized the ancien régime, synonymous for its voters with corruption and nepotism. For the Democrats, the 5Stars, with their calls for direct democracy and cyber populism, represented a vulgar challenge to representative democracy.

Today, the two parties are debating over which is best suited to provide the new defense minister — the 5Stars announced Tuesday that it had secured members’ approval for a new coalition.

Unlikely bedfellows divvying up the plum jobs is hardly a new phenomenon in Italy, the birthplace of political realism, from Machiavelli onward. Italians know that politics is, at all levels, a distributive activity.

You keep people loyal by throwing them buns. The logic of political appointments is key to keep the machine of consensus well-oiled in a complex society.

The new Italian executive being formed under the renewed leadership of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to appoint some 400 people to board positions in different bodies, ranging from independent authorities to state-controlled businesses. Political parties and related interest groups are naturally hungry to grab as many of these as possible for themselves.

But if politics in Italy seems particularly messy this time around it’s because of a recent change in the electoral law — one that restored elements of the nearly pure proportional system that was in place from the end of World War II until 1992.

It’s a system that worked arguably well until the early 1960s, as Italy moved from a backward, agricultural country to an industrial powerhouse. But after an initial …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Deep Roots of Italy’s Coalition Chaos

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Alberto Mingardi

Alberto Mingardi

MILAN — The chaos in Italy has really only just begun.

The collapse of the government earlier this summer
and the byzantine posturing and horse-trading as the country’s
major parties struggle to form a new one isn’t just the result of
the ambition and fecklessness of individual politicians.

It’s what you get in Italy when you elect a parliament with a
proportional system.

Forget policies. What’s at stake is who gets what job.

The state of Italian
politics right now isn’t just the result of the ambition and
fecklessness of individual politicians.

The two parties in the ongoing coalition talks have spent much
of the last decade tearing each other down. For the
anti-establishment 5Star Movement, the Democratic Party epitomized
the ancien régime, synonymous for its voters with
corruption and nepotism. For the Democrats, the 5Stars, with their
calls for direct democracy and cyber populism, represented a vulgar
challenge to representative democracy.

Today, the two parties are debating over which is best suited to
provide the new defense minister — the 5Stars announced Tuesday that it had
secured members’ approval for a new coalition.

Unlikely bedfellows divvying up the plum jobs is hardly a new
phenomenon in Italy, the birthplace of political realism, from
Machiavelli onward. Italians know that politics is, at all levels,
a distributive activity.

You keep people loyal by throwing them buns. The logic of
political appointments is key to keep the machine of consensus
well-oiled in a complex society.

The new Italian executive being formed under the renewed
leadership of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to appoint
some 400 people to board positions in different bodies, ranging
from independent authorities to state-controlled businesses.
Political parties and related interest groups are naturally hungry
to grab as many of these as possible for themselves.

But if politics in Italy seems particularly messy this time
around it’s because of a recent change in the electoral law —
one that restored elements of the nearly pure proportional system
that was in place from the end of World War II until 1992.

It’s a system that worked arguably well until the early 1960s,
as Italy moved from a backward, agricultural country to an
industrial powerhouse. But after an initial grace period, its
dominant characteristic was an extreme form of political
bargaining.

Post-war governments were famously short-lived: they lasted, on
average, eight months. The old joke was: You go to London to see
the changing of the guard; you go to Rome to see the changing of
the government.

Why did governments change so quickly? Not because of great
ideological disputes or passionate debates over public policies.
They fell because they …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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South Korea and Japan: a Mutual Loathing the U.S. Can’t Fix

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

In Washington, there is only one foreign policy position: America must do more. More of what doesn’t much matter. Just more. More money. More troops. More pressure. More sanctions. More wars.

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Such has been the reaction to the unseemly squabble between the Republic of Korea and Japan. Diplomatic hostilities have exploded, with Washington’s two closest allies in East Asia sanctioning each other. Most recently, Seoul has said it plans to withdraw from a bilateral intelligence sharing pact, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which comes up for renewal in November.

The Trump administration has criticized both sides, urging them to “get along.” Alas, these efforts have gone nowhere. So now Washington is being blamed. Complains Slate’s Fred Kaplan, “no U.S. official, certainly not Donald Trump, has intervened to hold [Tokyo and Seoul] together.” Stanford’s Daniel Sneider tells Kaplan that “what’s happening is a consequence of the vacuum of leadership in Washington.”

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But this is no small brush fire that anyone can put out. In 1965, Japan and South Korea normalized relations. Today, Tokyo argues that the resulting agreement barred private claims growing out of the occupation, in this instance, forced laborers used by Japanese companies. (A separate yet equally emotional issue involves the “comfort women” forced into prostitution by the Imperial Japanese Army.)

South Korean judges have long blocked such cases, but the ROK’s Constitutional Court recently reversed course. That could result in large damage awards against Japanese concerns, perhaps totaling in excess of $20 billion. (As part of the 1965 process, Tokyo provided aid worth roughly $8 billion in today’s dollars.) Japan’s government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, responded with the economic equivalent of a nuclear weapon: trade restrictions that threatened large South Korean firms.

Both nations are acting irresponsibly. Both are market-friendly democracies and American allies potentially threatened by North Korea and China. They should work together to promote regional stability and security. Instead they are treating each other as enemies. The basic problem is that Japanese and Koreans are highly nationalistic. And nationalists don’t always like each other.

In this case, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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South Korea and Japan: a Mutual Loathing the U.S. Can’t Fix

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

In Washington, there is only one foreign policy position:
America must do more. More of what doesn’t much matter. Just
more. More money. More troops. More pressure. More sanctions. More
wars.

Such has been the reaction to the unseemly squabble between the
Republic of Korea and Japan. Diplomatic hostilities have exploded,
with Washington’s two closest allies in East Asia sanctioning
each other. Most recently, Seoul has said it plans to withdraw from
a bilateral intelligence sharing pact, the General Security of
Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which comes up for renewal
in November.

The Trump administration has criticized both sides, urging them
to “get along.” Alas, these efforts have gone nowhere.
So now Washington is being blamed. Complains Slate’s Fred
Kaplan, “no U.S. official, certainly not Donald Trump, has
intervened to hold [Tokyo and Seoul] together.”
Stanford’s Daniel Sneider tells Kaplan that
“what’s happening is a consequence of the vacuum of
leadership in Washington.”

There is too much history
here. Maybe it’s time for their longtime benefactor to step
away.

But this is no small brush fire that anyone can put out. In
1965, Japan and South Korea normalized relations. Today, Tokyo
argues that the resulting agreement barred private claims growing
out of the occupation, in this instance, forced laborers used by
Japanese companies. (A separate yet equally emotional issue
involves the “comfort women” forced into prostitution
by the Imperial Japanese Army.)

South Korean judges have long blocked such cases, but the ROK’s
Constitutional Court recently reversed course. That could result in
large damage awards against Japanese concerns, perhaps totaling in
excess of $20 billion. (As part of the 1965 process, Tokyo provided
aid worth roughly $8 billion in today’s dollars.) Japan’s
government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, responded with the
economic equivalent of a nuclear weapon: trade restrictions that
threatened large South Korean firms.

Both nations are acting irresponsibly. Both are market-friendly
democracies and American allies potentially threatened by North
Korea and China. They should work together to promote regional
stability and security. Instead they are treating each other as
enemies. The basic problem is that Japanese and Koreans are highly
nationalistic. And nationalists don’t always like each other.

In this case, residents of South Korea have better historical
reason to be angry. Japanese traditionally viewed Koreans as
inferior, having seized control of their peninsula after defeating
China in 1895 and Russia in 1905. Five years later, Tokyo formally
colonized the Korean Peninsula, during which it attempted to
suppress Korean culture, even pressing Koreans to change their
names and religion. The first presidents of South and North Korea,
political activist Syngman Rhee and military guerrilla Kim Il-sung,
respectively, worked for independence.

I first visited South Korea …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Amtrak Accounting Tricks Cover Up Losses

September 5, 2019 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O'Toole

Amtrak recently announced that it will begin operating nonstop service between New York and Washington in 2 hours and 35 minutes in September. This would be exciting were it not for the fact that this is slower than trains operated before Amtrak 50 years ago. In 1969, the Penn Central Railroad ran trains between New York and Washington in just two hours and thirty minutes.

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Five minutes may not seem like much, but 50 years of progress should have resulted in faster, not slower, trains. This is especially true as Amtrak brags that its trains go “up to 150 mph” while Penn Central’s trains were limited to 120. Amtrak also claims the Acela is profitable, but if that were true, Amtrak would have put some of those profits into improving its infrastructure. Instead, Amtrak acknowledges that the Boston-to-Washington corridor has a $38 billion backlog of maintenance needs. If the route were truly profitable, Amtrak would never have allowed such a backlog to build up.

The reality is that Amtrak can only claim a profit by using an accounting system that, as the Rail Passengers Association charges, is “fatally flawed, misleading and wrong.” This is the same accounting system that Amtrak uses to claim that nationally its trains earn enough passenger revenues to cover 95 percent of their operating costs.

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Amtrak covers up its losses with two major accounting tricks. First, Amtrak counts subsidies it receives from 17 states as “passenger revenues” even though the vast majority of taxpayers who pay those subsidies never ride Amtrak.

Second, Amtrak doesn’t count the second biggest operating cost on its expense sheet: depreciation. Depreciation is not just an accounting fiction; it is a real cost indicating how much a company needs to spend or set aside to keep its capital improvements running. After correcting these two tricks, passenger revenues cover only 55 percent of operating costs and none of the trains earn a profit.

Amtrak’s fantasy that depreciation shouldn’t be counted as a …read more

Source: OP-EDS