You are browsing the archive for 2019 October 25.

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How Jack O’Lanterns Originated in Irish Myth

October 25, 2019 in History

By Editors

Pumpkins with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating jack-o’-lanterns originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as early canvasses. In fact, the name, jack-o’-lantern, comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.

READ MORE: How Trick-or-Treating Became a Halloween Tradition

The Legend of “Stingy Jack”

People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away …read more


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The Silent Film Star Who Vanished Without a Trace

October 25, 2019 in History

By Greg Daugherty

Marie Empress’s life story was a fabrication. Her death—presumably at sea—was a total enigma.

How did the silent-film star Marie Empress, billed as “the most beautiful woman in pictures,” disappear from the ocean liner R.M.S. Orduña, unnoticed by more than 1,000 passengers and crew?

Had the popular singer, dancer and actress jumped, fallen or been pushed overboard? Or had she used her well-honed acting skills to sneak off the ship in disguise? Even now, a century later, her disappearance remains one of the most tantalizing mysteries of the sea.

There have been many theories, but few answers.

The mystery begins

Early in the afternoon of Monday, October 27, 1919, the Orduña tied up at a Cunard Line pier in New York City. The liner had begun its transatlantic journey 11 days earlier in Liverpool, England, stopping in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before continuing on to New York.

On board when the ship steamed up the Hudson River were an assortment of VIPs, ordinary travelers and immigrants. Among the most celebrated names on the passenger list: 35-year-old Marie Empress.

Since her start in British vaudeville the previous decade, Empress had established herself on both sides of the Atlantic as a singer, dancer and dramatic actress. She was credited as one of the movies’ first “vamps”—a shameless seductress who lured men to their doom. At the same time, she was considered one of the best male impersonators in the business.

What Marie Empress wasn’t, however, was on the Orduña that day. The crew had already searched the ship three times.

READ MORE: The Cruise Ship Nightmare that Ended in Mutiny

The ocean liner R.M.S. Orduña, circa 1914.

The newspapers investigate

Empress’s disappearance was covered by newspapers around the world. Reporters interviewed her fellow passengers and any members of the crew who were willing to talk.

None proved chattier than an unnamed “thin, little, gray-haired stewardess,” whose account was picked up in many papers.

The stewardess said she brought dinner to Empress’s stateroom on their last evening at sea and returned to clear the dishes at 6:30 p.m. Empress, she said, asked that she come back at 9:30 p.m. with sandwiches.

When she returned at the appointed hour, Empress wasn’t there, so the stewardess left the sandwiches for her. The following morning, the stewardess found the food untouched and noticed that the bed hadn’t been slept in.

The stewardess allowed a reporter for William Randolph Hearst’s …read more


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Trump’s ‘Due Process’ Dodge on Impeachment

October 25, 2019 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

It’s a “lynching,” President Trump raged in a predawn tweet on Tuesday: “They can impeach the President without due process or fairness or any legal rights.” This president has never seemed like a stickler for “due process,” but maybe a liberal is a conservative facing impeachment, to paraphrase Tom Wolfe.


Improbably enough, “due process” has become a Trumpist battle cry, and the administration’s excuse for stonewalling the House impeachment inquiry. Trump is free to ignore congressional subpoenas, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone insists, because the House has denied him “basic constitutional rights.”

Due process is an important principle, but in this case, it’s a phony excuse for Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the inquiry. The House inquiry doesn’t deny the president a single right the Constitution grants him.



In a strident letter to the House leadership, Cipollone argues that President Trump, as the target of the impeachment inquiry, should be entitled to be represented by counsel, cross-examine witnesses and present his own evidence.

The president will get these protections should the impeachment process result in an actual Senate trial. But the House’s role in the current phase is like that of a grand jury: It is assessing whether there’s adequate reason to have a trial in the first place.

In the criminal context, grand jury targets get none of the protections the Trump team demands. They have no right to present their side of the case, or even appear before the tribunal. That’s despite the fact that a criminal indictment can result in loss of liberty or even life. By contrast, in the impeachment context, we’re talking about putting someone out of a job.

It’s not obvious that the 5th Amendment’s Due Process Clause — “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” — applies also to impeachment. Trump’s life and liberty would not be at risk; his argument would have to rest on his …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Growing Estrangement between Washington and Beijing

October 25, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The Trump years have not been a good period for relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). There are rising tensions involving multiple strategic and economic issues, and several of those disagreements appear to be intractable. Indeed, knowledgeable observers now worry about the prospect of a full-blown cold war between Washington and Beijing. Some experts even speculate that the two countries may be caught in a Thucydides trap—the historical pattern in which an incumbent hegemonic power seeks to stymie the challenge to its dominance by a rising great power, frequently leading to a major war. Avoiding that outcome will not be easy, however, given the number of contentious issues that defy easy solutions.


The source of bilateral animosity that has attracted the most attention over the past two years is the escalating bilateral trade war. Chinese leaders charge that the Trump administration is responsible for the breakdown in commercial amity, and much of the Western press adopts a similar interpretation. There is no question that Donald Trump is an unabashed economic nationalist and has taken a hard line in trade negotiations with Beijing. Indeed, his position on trade issues globally has been perhaps the most consistent component of his proclaimed America First foreign policy.

The ongoing diplomatic duel of retaliatory tariffs has certainly not benefitted consumers in either country or been healthy for the global economy. But resentment at various Chinese practices – from currency manipulation to intellectual property theft to unfulfilled promises to open its domestic market to more American manufactured goods – has been building in the United States for years, and it is not confined to Trump or the Republican Party.

Without a greater willingness on Beijing’s part to make key concessions, the trade war is likely to continue – perhaps even beyond the years of the Trump presidency. That would be an especially unfortunate development, since the extensive economic ties between the two countries create an important buffer preventing tensions over geostrategic issues from getting out of hand. Unlike the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union when the two powers had minimal commercial links, the economic relationship between China and the United States is vast and mutually lucrative. It would be extremely costly for both sides to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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When New Englanders Blamed Vampires for Tuberculosis Deaths

October 25, 2019 in History

By Crystal Ponti

As families lost one loved one after another in the 19th century, some believed the undead were preying upon them.

More than 200 years after the .

People believed that the spiritual connection that some suspected vampires had with their living relatives allowed them to gain access to their victims without even leaving their graves.

The practice of exhuming the deceased to halt the evil practice of vampires was likely introduced to New England by traveling healers from eastern Europe and Germany. One clue, says Bell, is a 1784 letter to the editor published in a Willington, Connecticut newspaper in which a town official complained about a foreign “quack doctor” who was promoting the consumption ritual and had induced a townsman to exhume the bodies of two his children.

Bell has documented over 80 vampire rituals in New England, and continues to uncover new cases. He estimates the practice began no later than 1784 and persisted through at least 1892. The evidence also suggests that this practice was known and accepted, and sometimes actually endorsed, by the community-at-large, by town authorities and even by clergymen.

After Exhumation, Rituals Varied by Region

Vampire History (TV-PG; 2:39)

In parts of Massachusetts and Maine, bodies were simply flipped over and left alone. In Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont, villagers burned the hearts and livers from bodies of suspected vampires. In the 1990s, archaeologists discovered 29 skeletons in a gravel pit in Griswold, Connecticut, which had once served as a colonial-era graveyard. The bodies showed signs of tuberculosis and had been rearranged into skull-and-crossbones patterns. The case, known as The Jewett City Vampires, revealed one of the more unusual consumption rituals.

“If enough time had passed and there was nothing but skeletal remains and no sign of soft tissue, they [New Englanders] had to make a decision as to whether the corpse was undead,” Bellantoni explains. If villagers believed they had uncovered the undead, they would re-arrange the bones by decapitation and sometimes uproot the legs to prevent the vampire from leaving the grave.

The vampire folk belief started winding down by the end of the 19th century, when German physician and microbiologist Robert Koch identified the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis. Science then slowly began to replace folklore in explaining disease that had claimed so many lives and devastated families.

“These people in early New England history were just trying to stop the deaths,” says Bellantoni. …read more