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It's High Time to Reassess the United States’ Relationship with Ukraine

September 26, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Washington’s relationship with Ukraine has become the latest football in America’s partisan politics. Democrats charge that the Trump administration illegitimately put a new military aid package to Kiev on hold, using it as leverage to pressure Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to include in his investigation of the previous government’s notorious corruption the activities of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son.

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The younger Biden had a lucrative post on the board of directors of a large Ukrainian natural gas company with close ties to that government. President Trump vehemently denies the allegation that he was improperly trying to coerce Kiev into harassing the Bidens. Zelensky’s administration emphasizes that it wants to stay out of America’s bitter political warfare.

Largely lost in all the partisan maneuvering and bickering is a more important issue: the nature of Washington’s overall relationship with Ukraine and whether that relationship really serves America’s best interests. To examine that issue it is important to overcome an especially tenacious foreign policy myth: that Trump has engaged in an appeasement policy toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The appeasement accusation was an integral part of the “Russia collusion” narrative that not even the politically biased staff of former special counsel Robert Mueller could substantiate.

The reality is that the Trump administration’s Russia policy has been noticeably more uncompromising and confrontational than the approach Barack Obama adopted, and nowhere is that aspect more evident than with respect to Ukraine. It may not be a wise policy, but it is decidedly hardline.

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Despite explicit congressional authorizations, Obama refused to sell arms to Kiev, believing (with good reason) that such a step would exacerbate already serious Ukrainian-Russian tensions, and even more worrisome, exacerbate U.S.-Russian tensions. Conversely, the Trump administration approved two major arms sales to Ukraine during its first two years. The latter sale in the spring of 2018 even included Javelin anti-tank missiles.

The new arms package that Trump temporarily delayed was the third …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Labor organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez begins hunger strike

September 26, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On May 1, 1972, Mexican-American labor organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez begins a hunger strike. The strike, which he undertook in opposition to an Arizona law severely restricting farm workers’ ability to organize, lasted 24 days and drew national attention to the suffering of itinerant farm workers in the Southwest.

A fervent admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, Chavez had undertaken several hunger strikes before. As a co-founder of the United Farm Workers, he and his strikes had played important roles in many major labor actions, including the five-year Delano Grape Strike in California. In response to the wave of organizing that had swept the region, Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that constricted workers’ rights to organize, outlawed secondary boycotts, and allowed growers to obtain a restraining order to prevent strikes during the harvest. Despite an outcry from farm workers and Chavez’s request that they meet to discuss the bill, Governor Jack Williams immediately signed it into law. Later that day, Chavez began his fast.

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

An increasingly emaciated Chavez appeared regularly at mass, attended by his supporters and others from the civil rights movement. Coretta Scott King, whose husband Martin Luther King, Jr. had supported Chavez in his previous strikes, attended one such mass, as did Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. Chavez referred to the strike as “a fast of sacrifice,” repeatedly reminding observers that his suffering was meant to represent the daily suffering of farm workers. Finally, after 24 days, he ended his fast at a memorial mass for Bobby Kennedy, who had thrown his political support behind Chavez’s cause in the years prior to his 1968 assassination. The following year, Chavez and the UFW organized another major agricultural strike, the Lettuce Growers Strike, and in1975 California passed a landmark law affirming workers’ rights to boycott and to collective bargaining.

READ MORE: Cesar Chavez: His Life and Legacy

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic elected to Congress

September 26, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On September 30, 1822, Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic to be elected to the United States Congress. Born a Spanish citizen, Hernández would die in Cuba, but in between he became the first non-white person to serve at the highest levels of any of three branches of the American federal government.

Hernández belonged to a St. Augustine family that came to Florida as indentured servants. Despite these humble beginnings, records show that his family eventually became wealthy enough to own property and several slaves, and that Hernández was educated both in both Georgia and in Cuba. Throughout the 1810s, the United States made a variety of efforts to take Florida from the Spanish, finally succeeding after Andrew Jackson led an army through the territory in the First Seminole War. What Hernández did during this time is unclear, but he was either very savvy or very lucky—he fought the Americans during the war and received substantial amounts of land from the Spanish government, but then pledged loyalty to the United States and was allowed to keep his three plantations when the territory changed hands in 1819. It was then that Hernández changed his name from José Mariano to Joseph Marion.

The newly-acquired Florida Territory was allowed to elect a delegate to congress, but that delegate did not have voting privileges. Florida’s legislative council elected Hernández to represent the territory. During his brief tenure—he served for less than a year before losing his re-election bid—Hernández was instrumental in facilitating the transition from Spanish to American government in Florida. In addition to securing the property rights of many Floridians who remained after the annexation, he also advocated for roads and infrastructure to bind the new territory together and make it an attractive candidate for statehood.

He went on to fight in the Second Seminole War, helping his adopted nation drive the natives from its new territory. The war saw the loss of two of his plantations, however, as well the destruction of his political ambitions after he was involved in an incident in which an American contingent captured a number of Seminoles despite approaching them under a flag of truce. Hernández later served as Mayor of St. Augustine before retiring to Cuba, where he died in 1857.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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George Washington Warned Us about Saudi Arabia

September 26, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump wants to outsource U.S. policy to Riyadh. After the recent attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, he tweeted that his administration was “locked and loaded,” but was “waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” He later ordered American forces to Saudi Arabia to garrison the Middle East’s most brutally repressive and dangerously aggressive state.

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Since he himself ventured to Riyadh in 2017—his first foreign trip—Trump has consistently sacrificed America’s national interests in catering to the preferences of the Saudi royal family. His administration backed the regime’s brutal attack on Yemen, ignored Riyadh’s continuing support for Islamic radicalism, and said little about their mounting human rights violations. Now he is acting as if American armed forces constitute the royals’ personal bodyguards, at the crown prince’s beck and call.

It was fear of precisely this kind of obsequious subservience to foreign nations and interests that prompted President George Washington to issue his famous 1796 Farewell Address. Obviously America’s position in the world was very different then. The former colonies were still forging their disparate communities into a nation. The United States was a weak, marginal player in a world dominated by empires. Great Britain and Spain retained interests in and forces on the North American continent, while France maintained Caribbean colonies.

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Centuries later, however, Washington’s words still resonate. His message was clear: “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Tragically the Trump administration’s Middle East policy illustrates both sides of the equation. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Venezuelan Refugees May Help Liberalize Latin America’s Closed Economies

September 25, 2019 in Economics

By Gabriela Calderon de Burgos, Alex Nowrasteh

Gabriela Calderon de Burgos and Alex Nowrasteh

Venezuela is at the heart of the worst refugee crisis the world has faced since the Syrian civil war, which in 2017 culminated with an exodus of more than 6 million Syrians. Now, about 4.3 million Venezuelans—equal to 15 percent of those who remain in that country—have fled the ongoing economic and political collapse of their homeland. The United Nations projects that the number could rise to 5.4 million by the end of the year. Many have left legally as immigrants. Others are refugees and asylum-seekers. Still others are taking their chances crossing illegally.

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Latin American countries have responded to the influx in increasingly harsh ways. After an initial open-door policy toward Venezuelan refugees, Ecuador and Peru imposed new border controls. Juan Sebastián Roldán, an Ecuadorian government official, claimed that his government’s new restrictions reduced the inflow from 2,000 daily crossings in August to about 50. And at the beginning of September, Peruvian Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio claimed that Venezuelan migration had fallen by 90 percent since new controls were implemented in mid-June.

Ecuador’s and Peru’s restrictive policies will only push Venezuelans into making dangerous illegal crossings. And given the extent of this crisis, rather than trying to make the problem go away, it is time for Latin American countries to start planning how they’ll accommodate Venezuelans over the long term. Venezuelans need the opportunity to work, both to support themselves and to boost the economies of the countries they’re living in. Ultimately, accommodating these exiles will require that the host countries liberalize their economies so that they are able to absorb the new arrivals.

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Recent economic research shows that it can be done. In new academic papers, one of the authors of this piece, along with other researchers, examined how Israel and Jordan adapted to separate massive refugee surges in the 1990s. In response, both countries were able to open their economies by doing things like lowering trade barriers, securing property rights, and reducing regulations.

For …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Delano Grape Strike begins

September 25, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

September 8, 1965 marks the beginning of one of the most important strikes in American history. As over 2,000 Filipino-American farm workers refused to go to work picking grapes in the valley north of Bakersfield, California, they set into motion a chain of events that would extend over the next five years. We know it as the Delano Grape Strike.

Filipino and Mexican immigrants had worked for decades along the West Coast, moving with the seasons to harvest the region’s crops. The Filipino contingent in particular was growing restless, as many of the workers were aging and anxious for decent medical care and retirement funds. When one of their number, labor organizer Larry Itliong, declared a strike on September 8, he asked for the support of the National Farm Workers Association and its Mexican-American founders, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Although Chavez had reservations about his union’s capacity to pull off the strike, he put the issue to the workers, who enthusiastically joined.

The strike lasted five years and went through a number of phases. From the outset, the already poor farm workers faced opposition from law enforcement and cruel attempts at sabotage by the growers—some reported that farmers shut off the water supply to their meager dormitories. As frustration grew and workers increasingly spoke of violence three years into the strike, Chavez decided to go on a hunger strike, emulating his hero Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to ending the calls for violence, the hunger strike drew further attention to the movement, earning praise from figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The union, by then known as the United Farm Workers, also called for a boycott of table grapes. Individual households stopped buying grapes, and union workers in California dockyards let non-union grapes rot in port rather than load them. Eventually, the industry could take no more, and the growers came to the table. In July of 1970, most of the major growers in the Delano area agreed to pay grape pickers $1.80 an hour (plus 20 cents for each box picked), contribute to the union health plan, and ensure that their workers were protected against pesticides used in the fields.

“We said from the beginning that we were not going to abandon the fight, that we would stay with the struggle if lit took a lifetime, and we …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

September 25, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On August 8, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor is the first Hispanic justice to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Sotomayor’s mother was an orphan from rural Puerto Rico. Her father had a third-grade education, did not speak English, and died when Sotomayor was 9 years old. Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx and claims that watching the CBS legal drama Perry Mason in her youth led her to aspire to a career as a judge. She received a scholarship to attend Princeton University, where she advocated strongly on behalf of the school’s underserved minority communities, and received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979.

READ MORE: How Sonia Sotomayor Overcame Adversity to Become the United States’ First Hispanic and Latina Justice

Sotomayor spent much of her career in private practice but also served on the board of the New York State Mortgage Agency, where she became a vocal proponent of affordable housing and frequently called attention to the effects of gentrification. She also served on the New York City Campaign Finance Board and the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1991, Republican President George H.W. Bush fulfilled her childhood dream by nominating her to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Six years later, she was confirmed to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Over the course of her judicial career, she issued an injunction that ended the 1994 Major League Baseball strike in favor of the players, sided with an employee of the New York Police Department who had been fired for sending racist materials through the mail, and gained a reputation for dealing bluntly with the lawyers who argued before her.

Sotomayor was the first Supreme Court justice nominated by President Barack Obama, who had taken office the previous January. The choice of a Hispanic woman by the nation’s first non-white president led to a backlash that set the tone for her confirmation hearings. In particular, a comment she had made in 2001 about “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences” being a better-qualified than being “a white male who hasn’t lived that life” rankled her opponents. Nearly every Republican on the Senate Judicial Committee—all of whom were white men—brought up the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Hispanics are officially declared the largest minority group in the U.S.

September 25, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 22, 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau releases detailed statistics on race and ethnicity, the first time such numbers had been released since the 2000 census. The numbers showed that the Hispanic population of the United States had increased by 4.7 percent since the last count, officially making Hispanics the largest minority group in the country.

The trends of the last several decades had indicated that this milestone was approaching. The foreign-born population of the United States had been increasing exponentially, from just 9.6 million in 1970 to 31.1 million by 2000, and immigrants from Latin America accounted for a large percentage of those newcomers. The 2000 census showed that 29 percent of immigrants in the U.S. had come from Mexico alone, while immigrants from other Latin American nations made up another 22 percent. Birth rates in the Hispanic-American community were also among the highest in the nation.

The demographic shift was significant for several reasons. Robert Puro from the Pew Hispanic Center told the New York Times that it challenged the way Americans thought about race: “[M]uch of this nation’s history is wrapped up in the interplay between black and white,” he said. “This serves as an official announcement that we as Americans cannot think of race in that way any more.” The announcement marked one of the inciting moments for an undercurrent of racism that has brewed in America every since, as some whites have become increasingly concerned with brith rates and the notion that America will someday no longer be majority-white. But Sonia Perez, from the National Council of La Raza, framed the landmark as a moment for unity. “Rather than comparing groups,” she said, “we should be looking at the status of communities.”

The Hispanic-Americans represented by the census data have had a profound effect on American society. In many parts of the nation Spanish is now on at least equal footing with English, and American music and culture would be unrecognizable without the contributions of its largest minority group.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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How T. Rex Got Its Powerful Bite

September 25, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

With blunt, serrated teeth and a bite powerful enough to crush the bones of its prey, Tyrannosaurus rex has earned a reputation as one of the largest and most terrifying predators of the dinosaur world. Scientists have estimated T. Rex had a maximum bite force of more than six tons (12,000 pounds), more than any other known terrestrial animal.

T. Rex’s bite is known to be so powerful, in fact, that scientists have long wondered how the massive therapod managed to bite down so hard without breaking its own skull. They assumed that, like many modern birds and reptiles, the dinosaur’s skull may have been flexible enough to move around and change shape as it bit down—a trait known as cranial kinesis.

But in a study published in The Anatomical Record in September 2019, scientists at the University of Missouri argue that T. Rex’s jaw was actually fused and stiff, much like the jaws of modern crocodiles, rather than flexible.

An artist’s rendition of the Tyrannosaurus rex with the 3D imaging showing muscle activation in its head.

After studying how the jaws of two modern relatives of T. Rex, grey parrots and geckos, worked when they chewed, the researchers used computer simulations to apply those models to a 3-D model of a T. Rex skull. They observed that the joints and ligaments of the T. Rex skull did not respond well to being moved around in the way the bird and lizard skulls did, and that biting down with the force that T. Rex did would have broken its jaw if it had exhibited the flexibility associated with cranial kinesis.

“When you put a lot of force on things, there’s a tradeoff between movement and stability,” Casey Holliday, associate professor of anatomy at the MU School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, said in a university press release. “Birds and lizards have more movement but less stability. When we applied their individual movements to the T. Rex skull, we saw it did not like being wiggled in ways that the lizard and bird skulls do, which suggests more stiffness.”

The researchers concluded that T. Rex’s joints were likely tightly fused, making its skull extremely rigid and inflexible, able to withstand the tremendous force it used to bite down on its prey. This kind of skull resembles those of other powerful biters such as tigers and …read more

Source: HISTORY

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7 Reasons Why the Chicago 8 Trial Mattered

September 24, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

The arguing that the anti-riot law set a dangerous precedent.

“The effect of this ‘anti-riot’ act is to subvert the first Amendment guarantee of free assembly by equating organized political protest with organized violence,” it read. “Potentially, this law is the foundation for a police state in America.”

The letter was signed by 19 people, including Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Benjamin Spock, Judy Collins and Norman Mailer (Collins and Mailer would also testify at the trial). Because the Chicago Eight had begun referring to themselves as “The Conspiracy,” the 19 signers dubbed themselves the Committee to Defend the Conspiracy. They pledged to raise money to fund the Chicago Eight’s legal defense and encouraged readers to make donations.

3. There was a clear cultural clash between the judge and the defendants.

Judge Julius Hoffman, 1969.

During the trial, yippies Hoffman and Rubin sometimes used unusual tactics to draw attention to their arguments. In one instance, they showed up to court wearing judicial robes to protest Judge Julius Hoffman’s decision to revoke Dellinger’s bail. When the judge demanded they remove their robes, they took them off and stomped on them. Underneath, they were wearing Chicago police uniforms. Another time, Hoffman unfurled a National Liberation Front (aka “Viet Cong”) flag on the defense table, and engaged in a tug-of-war over it with a court marshal who tried to remove it.

Sharman says the media tended to emphasize moments like these because they were so unusual. However, he thinks it’s important to understand these incidents in the context of the judge’s behavior toward the defendants.

“Even on the first day, Tom Hayden gave a fist salute to the jury and he was given a contempt of court citation,” he says. “It was like nothing could be done without the judge sort of stamping on them, so that sort of encouraged them to do it, I think.” By the end of the trial, the judge had charged all of the Chicago Eight as well as defense attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass with contempt of court.

4. The judge ordered Bobby Seale to be chained and gagged in court.


Courtroom drawing of Bobby Seale bound and gagged during the trial, by Franklin McMahon.

Froines argues Hoffman and Rubin’s robe incident “was basically a minor disruption,” and that “the main event in terms of disruption was Bobby Seale being chained and gagged.”

Seale had chosen …read more

Source: HISTORY