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The Lingering Legend of Abraham Lincoln's Ghost

October 17, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors


Mary Todd Lincoln photographed with President Abraham Lincoln’s ‘spirit.’

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States (1861-1865), is remembered for his vital role as the leader in preserving the Union during the Civil War and beginning the process that led to the end of slavery in the United States. He’s remembered for his character, his speeches and letters and as a man of humble origins whose determination and perseverance led him to the nation’s highest office.

He is also remembered for his untimely death—and his supposed afterlife in the White House.

For years, presidents, first ladies, guests, and members of the White House staff have claimed to have either seen Lincoln or felt his presence. The melancholy bearing of Lincoln himself, and several instances of eerie prescience on his part, only add to the legends of the Great Emancipator’s ghost.

Abraham Lincoln Sees His Own Death

Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination (TV-14; 2:08)

By the time of his 1864 reelection, deep lines etched Lincoln’s face and heavy black circles underlined his eyes. During his five years as commander in chief, he had slept little and taken no vacations. There may have been more to his sadness than even he would admit: Lincoln dreamed of his own death.

Ward Hill Lamon, a close friend of the president’s, wrote down what Lincoln told him on an evening in early 1865: “About ten days ago I retired very late…,” the president told Lamon. “I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a deathlike stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs … I arrived at the East Room. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face covered, others weeping pitifully. “‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers. ‘The President,’ was his answer. ‘He was killed by an assassin.’”

It was not the first time Lincoln “saw” his own death. Soon after his election in 1860, he’d seen a double image of his face reflected in a mirror in his Springfield, Illinois, home. One was his “real” face, the other a pale imitation. Lincoln’s superstitious …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How U.S. Employers Have Handled Pregnancy in the Workplace

October 17, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Women working while pregnant in the United States have faced shifting rules and protections through the decades.

As the only industrialized nation in the world with no federal policy mandating paid maternity leave, the United States has a long and complicated history of how employers have handled pregnancy in the workplace.

From mandating reduced hours for pregnant employees to waffling on whether or not to treat pregnancy as a disability, employers have varied widely in how they have accommodated—or not accommodated—expecting women on their payrolls.

From the Progressive Era to the Civil Rights Act

During the , the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) initially determined that maternity wasn’t subject to the same rules as other temporary disabilities under Title VII. Later, the commission argued exactly the opposite: Employers were required to treat pregnancy like any other temporary disability.

This confusion over how employers should treat pregnant workers proceeded to play out in a series of legal battles. Most importantly, in the 1976 case General Electric (GE) v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court determined that an employer-provided plan paying workers part of their wages for short-term disability, but not pregnancy, did not discriminate against women. Employers shouldn’t be required to cover an “additional risk, unique for women,” the Court ruled, adding that pregnancy was “voluntary,” unlike other temporary disabilities.

What the majority decision ignored, as Gardin and Richwald noted, was that GE at the time did not exclude voluntary injuries like cosmetic surgery or attempted suicide, and that it did insure workers against male-only risks, including vasectomies.

READ MORE: Why Royal Women Gave Birth in Front of Huge Crowds for Centuries

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

In 1978, in response to the controversial GE decision and pressure from women’s rights advocates, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The law made it illegal for companies with 15 or more employees to consider pregnancy in hiring, firing or promotion decisions, and required employers to treat pregnant workers the same as non-pregnant workers who are “similar in their ability or non-ability to work.”

Pregnancy discrimination did not end with passage of the new law, however. In court, employers charged with such discrimination were able to successfully argue that workers who got pregnant were similar to workers who were injured off the job, and did not deserve special accommodations.

Young v. UPS (2015)

Peggy Young (right), the plaintiff …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Constitution Is a 'Promesa' to Keep

October 17, 2019 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in cases that might not get as much attention as the culture-war smorgasbord on the docket this term, but that implicate billions of dollars and, even more important, the vitality of our system of government. That’s what’s ultimately at stake in the five cases consolidated under the technocratic name Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment.

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The cases arose from the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s public debt under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act of 2016 (“PROMESA,” the Spanish word for “promise”), which created a seven-member Financial Oversight and Management Board. PROMESA’s practical effect was to require the president to select the board’s members from nonpublic lists submitted to the president by House and Senate leaders, without subjecting those appointments to Senate confirmation. The president ultimately agreed to Congress’ directive and chose six board members from that secret list, plus one member himself. None of these appointees were ever subject to Senate confirmation.

The cases raise fundamental questions about government structure because the appointments clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article II: Section 2) requires all “officers of the United States” to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. After the board began restructuring Puerto Rico’s debt, certain investor-creditors, as well as the labor union that represents employees of the island’s electric utility, challenged the board appointment. As the name creditor, Aurelius Investment, would write in its response to the cert petition in the lead case, “The dubious constitutionality of this scheme was obvious from the beginning.”

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in February, ruled for the challengers but declined to invalidate any of the board’s actions, invoking the de facto officer doctrine. In so doing, the court: (1) effectively denied the challengers any meaningful remedy; (2) improperly expanded the power of Congress at …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Time to Extricate from Ukraine

October 17, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Recently Ukraine has been thrown into the spotlight as Democrats gear up to impeach President Donald Trump. More important, though, is its role in damaging America’s relations with Russia, which has resulted in a mini-Cold War that the U.S. needs to end.

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Ukraine is in a bad neighborhood. During the 17th century, the country was divided between Poland and Russia, and eventually ended up as part of the Russian Empire. Kiev then enjoyed only the briefest of liberations after the 1917 Russian Revolution, before being reabsorbed by the Soviet Union. It later suffered from a devastating famine as Moscow confiscated food and collectivized agriculture. Ukraine was ravaged during Germany’s World War II invasion, and guerrilla resistance to renewed Soviet control continued for years afterwards.

In 1991, the collapse of the U.S.S.R. gave Ukraine another, more enduring chance for independence. However, the new nation’s development was fraught: GDP dropped by 60 percent and corruption burgeoned. Ukraine suffered under a succession of corrupt, self-serving, and ineffective leaders, as the U.S., Europe, and Russia battled for influence.

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In 2014, Washington and European governments backed a street putsch against the elected, though highly corrupt, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. The Putin government responded by annexing Crimea and backing separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region. Washington and Brussels imposed economic sanctions on Russia and provided military aid to Kiev.

The West versus Russia quickly became a “frozen” conflict. Moscow reincorporated Crimea into Russia, from which it had been detached in 1954 as part of internal Soviet politics. In the Donbass, more than a score of ceasefires came and went. Both Ukraine and Russia failed to fulfill the 2016 Minsk agreements, which sought to end the conflict.

In excess of 13,000 people, mostly Ukrainians, are known to have died in this war, and some two million have been forced from their homes. The economy of eastern Ukraine has collapsed. Ukraine has suffered through painful economic dislocation and political division. Meanwhile, several …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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What Warren and Sanders Get Wrong About Wealth Inequality (And Capitalism)

October 17, 2019 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are fueling their presidential campaigns by generating anger toward the wealthy.

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Warren is blasting America’s “extreme concentration of wealth,” while Sanders is condemning wealth inequality as “outrageous” and “grotesque.” Both want to hammer the rich with a new annual wealth tax.

Moderate candidates on the debate stage Tuesday night were right to call Warren’s and Sanders’ tax and spending plans unrealistic. The almost twin leftists are also oblivious that wealth inequality may reflect starkly different economic causes. As such, their broad-brush denunciations of wealth are a useless guide to public policy.

Consider three different causes of wealth inequality: cronyism, crowding out and capitalism.

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Cronyism

Cronyism means businesses gaining subsidies and narrow regulatory benefits at public expense. Farm subsidies, for example, cost taxpayers and go to the wealthiest farmers. Cronyism increases inequality and undermines the economy, and so Warren and Sanders are right to complain about it.

Crowding out

Crowding out refers to government social programs displacing private wealth-building. Social Security, for example, reduces incentives for private retirement saving, and the program’s heavy payroll taxes reduce the ability to save.

Crowding out mainly affects the non-wealthy, so it increases wealth inequality. Warren and Sanders want to expand social programs, but that would make this problem worse.

Capitalism

The two candidates are also wrong about capitalism. The explosion of new technologies in recent decades has made many entrepreneurs rich. The Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans includes many people such as Robert Pera, founder of Ubiquiti Networks, which brings low-cost internet to underserved and rural areas around the globe. Such billionaires help uplift the poor, so punishing them with a wealth tax — as Warren and Sanders propose — makes no sense.

The three causes of wealth inequality are evident in cross-country comparisons. Sanders complains that the United States has more wealth inequality “than any other major country on earth.” It is true that our Gini …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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When a 19th-Century ‘Spirit Photographer’ Claimed to Capture Ghosts Through His Lens

October 17, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

In the post-Civil War era when many Americans were reeling from loss, a photographer claiming to capture ghosts on film enjoyed swift business.

Even 150 years later, the eerie spirit photographs taken by Boston photographer William Mumler pack an emotional punch. A mourning mother is visited by the angelic silhouette of her departed daughter, the young girl resting her tiny hand on her mother’s lap. A mutton-chopped widower, his head hung in grief, is comforted by the glowing soul of his loving wife, her hands draped across his heavy shoulders.

It’s not hard to understand why 19th-century Americans enamored with the growing Spiritualism movement would have believed that these photographic apparitions were real, even as high-profile skeptics like P.T. Barnum , he also doesn’t discount the healing function that Spiritualism served.

“It was a genuine religious movement that meant a lot to people a time when the nation was going through mourning and loss like it had never had before,” says Manseau.

Mumler was, in Manseau’s words, a “kitchen tinkerer”—an amateur chemist and incurable entrepreneur who once peddled his own homemade elixir for curing dyspepsia. Trained as a silver engraver, Mumler decided to try his hand at photography, this wondrous new technology that produced portraits that people would pay a whole dollar to purchase.

While taking self-portraits for practice, one of Mumler’s prints came back with an unexplainable aberration. Although he was “quite alone in the room” when the shot was taken, there appeared to be a figure at his side, a girl who was “made of light.” Mumler showed the photo to a spiritualist friend who confirmed that the girl in the image was almost certainly a ghost.

Manseau says that Mumler had a knack for self-promotion and his otherworldly photo was written up in popular spiritualist newspapers like the Banner of Light and also the mainstream press. Bostoners began lining up at his small portrait studio to pay as much as $10 for their likeness with a lost loved one.

“Mumler sold himself as someone who could not explain what was happening or why he was chosen to take these pictures,” says Manseau. “He was as astonished as everyone else that suddenly his camera could take pictures of ghosts.”

A visitor to Mumler’s studio would be told that there’s no guarantee that a departed soul would appear. Mumler didn’t “command the spirits,” says Manseau, they …read more

Source: HISTORY