You are browsing the archive for 2019 September 23.

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Astronaut Ellen Ochoa becomes the first Hispanic woman in space

September 23, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 8, 1993, the space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center. On board is astronaut Ellen Ochoa, soon to become the first Hispanic woman in space.

Ochoa started at NASA in 1988 after receiving a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Two years later, she was selected as an astronaut. On her first mission, Ochoa served as a Mission Specialist on a 9-day space flight, the primary mission of which was to study Earth’s ozone layer. She went on to fly three more space shuttle missions, one of which conducted further atmospheric research and two of which carried components to the International Space Station. Over the course of her four flights, Ochoa compiled a total time of 40 days, 19 hours, and 35 minutes in space.

In addition to her extra-planetary contributions, Ochoa has served the cause of space exploration in a number of ways from Earth. She holds several patents for technologies related to automated space exploration and served as Director of the Johnson Space Center—the first Hispanic director and the second woman to hold the position—from 2013 to 2018. Among numerous other awards, she has received NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.

READ MORE: When Sally Ride Took Her First Space Flight, Sexism Was the Norm

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Source: HISTORY

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Hispanic-American voting rights advocate Willie Velasquez awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

September 23, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On September 29, 1995, voting rights advocate Willie Velasquez is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Velasquez and the organizations he founded are credited with dramatically increasing political awareness and participation among the Hispanic communities of the Southwestern United States.

The son of a union organizer, Velasquez was one of five founders of the Mexican-American Youth Organization, or MAYO. Beginning with voter registration drives and walkouts on college campuses around San Antonio, MAYO expanded to organizing high school students and even succeeded in electing several candidates to local school boards. Inspired by groups like the Black Panthers and leaders like Malcolm X, some of MAYO’s members went on to form the Raza Unida Party, a party that aimed to elect Hispanic candidates without relying on either the Republican or Democratic establishments.

Velasquez worked as a boycott coordinator for the United Farm Workers, a union that organized farm workers across the Southwest and drew national attention to their working conditions in the late 1960s. He then went to work for Raza before embarking upon the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in 1972. SVREP, whose motto was “Su vota, su voz” (Your vote is your voice), sought to address the poor voter turnout, voter apathy, and institutional disenfranchisement that affected the Hispanic-American community – Velasquez believed that the Hispanic community had much to learn from the Civil Rights Movement and sought to address many of the same systemic issues as prominent leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

Though he would not live to see the full effects of his work—he died suddenly of cancer at the age of 44—Willie Velazquez certainly achieved his goal of activating the Hispanic electorate. Today, SVREP claims to have registered over 2.7 million voters, trained over 150,000 political activists, and won over 100 civil rights lawsuits. Though Hispanic voter turnout is often significantly lower than turnout among whites, it has risen sharply in recent decades, increasing tenfold from 1.3 million in the 1994 general election to 13.5 million in 2016. In his White House speech honoring Velasquez, then-President Bill Clinton called Willie “a name synonymous with democracy in America.”

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Source: HISTORY

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Fidel Castro announces that Cubans are free to leave the island

September 23, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On September 28, 1965, six years after he led the Cuban Revolution and four years after the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion, Fidel Castro announces that any Cuban who wished to leave the island was free to do so. With Cuban forces no longer blocking civilians from leaving, a massive wave of emigration ensued, bringing hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants to Florida.

Poverty and political repression had brought about Castro’s revolution, but much remained the same under the new regime. As Castro became increasingly vocal about his belief in socialism and opposition to American imperialism, he faced dissent from political opponents at home and hostility from the American political establishment. The year after the Bay of Pigs, the United States and Soviet Union nearly went to war over the latter’s placement of nuclear missiles on the island. Due to the recent hostilities, many Americans assumed Castro was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, although no such evidence has ever emerged. Castro refused to allow Cubans to leave for America, although a number of dissenters and supporters of the deposed Batista regime did succeed in escaping.

With further anti-government protests and widespread poverty, due in no small part to the American embargo on all trade with Cuba, Castro believed his society was close to the breaking point. He therefore announced on September 28th that those who wished to leave were free to do so. Immediately, several thousand refugees boarded boats at the port of Camiorca, leading to a haphazard crossing that threatened to overwhelm the U.S. Coast Guard and immigration authorities. As the continuation of such perilous crossings was in neither’s interest, the U.S. and Cuba engaged in surprisingly cooperative negotiations, resulting in the “Freedom Flights” airlift program.

For the next eight years, ten flights a week left Cuba for Miami, and many Cubans waited years for their spot on the planes. Roughly 300,000 made the trip. This mass movement of people had several major effects on both countries. Castro was able to rid the island of many dissenters, although their departure was a propaganda victory for the Americans and may have led to significant “brain drain” in Cuba. It also markedly changed the demographics of Miami—it was during this period that the city’s Little Havana neighborhood became a permanent enclave for Cuban culture, and as of the 2010 census …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Crisis at the Supreme Court

September 23, 2019 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

When Justice Charles Evans Whittaker retired in March 1962 after just over five years on the Supreme Court—he had suffered a nervous breakdown and was famously paralyzed with indecision—John F. Kennedy had his first opportunity to shape the high court. The youthful president selected a man of his own generation, Byron White. White had met JFK in England while on a Rhodes Scholarship—after having been runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and spending a year as the highest-paid player in the NFL—and the two became fast friends.

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White was a vigorous 45 and serving as the deputy attorney general under Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy formally nominated him on April 3, 1962. Eight days later, White had his confirmation hearing, a quick 90 minutes including introductions and supporting testimony from various bar-association officials (during which the nominee doodled on his notepad). What questioning there was largely concerned the nominee’s storied football career. The Judiciary Committee unanimously approved him, and later that day so did the Senate as a whole, on a voice vote. My, how times have changed.

The battle to confirm Brett Kavanaugh reminded us yet again that the Supreme Court is under the same toxic cloud that has enveloped all of the nation’s public discourse. Ironically, Kavanaugh was nominated in part because he was thought to be a safe pick, more easily confirmable than other short-listers and with a long public career that had been vetted numerous times. Despite attempts to portray him as extreme, he was firmly part of the legal establishment, specifically its conservative mainstream—and had displayed a political caginess that made some on the right worried that he would be more akin to Chief Justice John Roberts than Justices Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. As it turned out, of course, 11th-hour sexual-assault allegations transformed what was already a contentious process into a partisan Rorschach test. All told, Kavanaugh faced a smear campaign unlike any seen since at least Robert Bork more than 30 years ago.

In 1987, Senate Democrats had warned President Ronald Reagan that nominating Bork—then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after having had a storied career as an academic and government lawyer—would provoke an unprecedented fight. On July 1, 1987, the very day that Reagan announced this pick, Senator Edward Kennedy went to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why the Great Steel Strike of 1919 Was One of Labor’s Biggest Failures

September 23, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Mike Connolly had a dream: an eight-hour day. A Pennsylvania steel worker for 41 years, he toiled for 12 or more hours a day behind the locked doors of a steel mill with no days off and little hope for the future.

If he worked eight hours a day, he imagined, “I could have a garden, a couple of hundred chickens and know my family…This way one doesn’t want to live long. What is the use of living, since one doesn’t enjoy life?”

Connolly was not alone in his dream. In 1919, hundreds of thousands of workers like him walked off their job in steel mills all around the country. Their strike hampered one of the nation’s largest industries, taking over 365,000 workers off the job and onto the picket lines.

But though the strike was a bold move in a moment of social foment, it was destined to become one of labor history’s most crushing defeats. For workers like Connolly, the Great Strike of 1919 was a huge bust.

A large crowd of workers outside the US Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana, 1919 during the nationwide steel strike.

At the time, inflation was rampant and social tensions flared. World War I had stoked nationalism, and in October 1917 Bolsheviks had taken over the Russian government and installed a socialist state. This alarmed Americans who worried that socialists in the U.S. might try to violently overthrow the government or seize private businesses.

For many, those fears focused on unionized workers. During World War I, labor had become a crucial part of the war effort, but materials shortages and the draft threatened the nation’s ability to keep up with its labor needs. Tensions ran high between workers and employers. If the United States wanted to win the war, it had to smooth over those disputes.

In response, representatives from labor unions, the government and industrial employers banded together to form the War Labor Board, an entity designed to fend off strikes and mediate in labor disputes. The board brokered a critical deal: Employers promised to improve labor conditions and recognize unions in exchange for a moratorium on strikes. In response, union membership surged.

It was the first time the government had ever protected labor unions, and workers learned to love their improved working conditions. People who had toiled nearly all day long now worked for just eight hours; …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Equal Educational Opportunities Act is signed into law

September 23, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

The Equal Educational Opportunities Act is signed into law by President Richard Nixon on August 21, 1974. The new law addressed civil rights issues in education, barring states from discriminating against students based on gender, race, color, or nationality and requiring public schools to provide for students who do not speak English.

In many ways, the EEOA was an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in schools as well as businesses and outlawed the segregation of schools. The Civil Rights Act was one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history, but it did not singlehandedly put a stop to discrimination in public education. Aside from the famous “Massive Resistance” campaign against desegregation in the South, schools continued to fail racial minorities and students for whom English was not their first language.

The EEOA mandated that schools accommodate students regardless of nationality and that they provide adequate resources for students who did not speak English. In effect, this meant that schools must now offer both English classes for non-native speakers and classes in other subjects taught in students’ native languages. Subsequent Supreme Court cases clarified the full extent of the law. In 1974, the Court ruled that the EEOA mandated that schools offer classes in students’ first languages while they learned English as a second language. In 1982, it ruled that, based on the EEOA, undocumented students not only had the right to attend public schools but were obligated to do so, the same as all American children.

Thanks to the EEOA, schools across the country now offer classes in languages other than English, in addition to teaching English to non-native speakers. The act also provided legal recourse for students facing discrimination in public schools, greatly bolstering the progress that was made during the Civil Rights Era.

READ MORE: The Mendez Family Fought School Segregation 8 Years Before Brown v. Board of Ed

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Source: HISTORY

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It’s Time for Trump to Update His Supreme Court Short List

September 23, 2019 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

One of the key innovations of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was his public list of potential Supreme Court nominees. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing thrust the court into the forefront of the presidential election, candidate Trump produced a list of judges that held the Republican coalition together and ultimately attracted swing voters in key states.

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Three years later, after appointing two justices, the president heads into a reelection campaign where the Supreme Court is no less of an issue. Eighty-six-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent cancer treatment is just the latest health concern this leftist icon has faced. She’s vowed to outlast the current president, but if Trump is reelected, the odds seem to be against her. And don’t forget that Justice Stephen Breyer is 81 years old.

So it would be both smart politics and good governance to update the list of SCOTUS contenders. When a vacancy emerges, whether before or after the election, who will be considered?

Let’s start with the old list of 24 judges: the original 11 from May 2016, another 10 added that September, and another five added in 2017, minus Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. From that group, subtract the six who are older than 60; when longevity is the coin of the realm, you’re not gonna see a repeat of Justice Ginsburg, the only sexagenarian to join the high court in nearly 50 years (not counting the unsuccessful nominations of Robert Bork, Harriet Miers, and Merrick Garland).

Also remove the two young’uns, Eleventh Circuit Judge Britt Grant (41) and Oklahoma district judge Patrick Wyrick (38). I think the world of these two, and they’re perfectly suited to be federal judges, but it’s just too early to elevate them.

That leaves 16, but before we start evaluating them, let’s pause and take into account the last three years. A lot has changed, including President Trump’s record number of appointments to the circuit courts of appeal.

Among those who don’t already appear on the list, I would add the following superstars: Third Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, Fifth Circuit Judge James Ho, Fifth Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham, D.C. Circuit Judge Neomi Rao, and my dark-horse, Walmart general counsel Rachel Brand (previously associate attorney general, the number-three Justice Department official, and destined for future high office, judicial or otherwise). Of those, the erudite …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Time Bomb: How the Growing Hong Kong-Taiwan Axis Is Riling Beijing

September 23, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations appear to be having a major impact on Taiwan’s presidential campaign in advance of its January 2020 election.

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Protest leaders urge the Taiwanese to express emphatic vocal support for Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations. To a large extent, that is already happening. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, frequently speaks out in favor of the Hong Kong demonstrators and their demands, infuriating Beijing. Protests in Hong Kong have made the Taiwanese “increasingly treasure” their democracy and “deeply feel” what it would be like if China treated them the way it’s handling Hong Kong, Tsai said in June.

The emergence of a de facto Hong Kong-Taiwan democratic political axis has heightened Beijing’s nervousness and paranoia. Not only do Communist Party leaders have to deal with the rising popular defiance in Hong Kong to Beijing’s authority, but the prospect of any negotiations for Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland now looks utterly remote. Xi Jinping’s government is not likely to tolerate high-profile policy defeats on two fronts, yet that outcome is a growing possibility. The situation has become a ticking time bomb.

Joshua Wong, a prominent figure in Hong Kong’s street protests, is stepping up his efforts to enlist the Taiwanese. “We hope that before Communist China’s National Day on Oct. 1, our friends in Taiwan can express their support for Hong Kong through street protests,” Wong said at a news conference on September 3. “A lot of people in the past have said ‘today Hong Kong and tomorrow Taiwan.’ But I think the most ideal thing we’d say is ‘Taiwan today, tomorrow Hong Kong.’ Hong Kong can be like Taiwan, a place for freedom and democracy.”

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Such sentiments by themselves are enough to enrage Beijing. But Wong also urged Taiwan’s government to let Hong Kong protesters seek political asylum. Worse from Beijing’s standpoint, he made those statements not in Hong Kong or some neutral location, but in Taipei following meetings with Taiwan’s governing, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Communist Chinese leaders are likely to …read more

Source: OP-EDS