You are browsing the archive for 2019 November 04.

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Battle of the Somme

November 4, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

The Battle of the Somme, which took place from July to November 1916, began as an Allied offensive against German forces on the Western Front and turned into . (Penguin Random House, 2000)

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Source: HISTORY

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Who Is a 'Kafir'?

November 4, 2019 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

AT the magnificent St Peter’s Square in Rome recently, Pope Francis welcomed a group of unusual guests: members of Nahdlatul Ulema (NU) from the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia. The head of the delegation, Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf, gave the pontiff documents outlining the vision of a “humanitarian Islam” his organisation has been promoting.

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The tenets of this vision reject Islamism — the politicised version of Islam that aims to establish the caliphate as a political system, and to make Sharia the law of the land, despite the diversity in modern societies. It also includes a proposal that is quite new and ambitious: that Muslims should stop calling non-Muslims ‘kafirs’. This is necessary, the Indonesian Sheikh Staquf said, so that Muslims can “view others as a fellow human beings, fellow brothers in humanity”.

‘Kafir’ is an Arabic word that comes from the root K-F-R, which means to ‘cover’ something. The implied meaning is that a kafir sees the truth of Islam, but still ‘covers’ it. Moreover, kafirs are seen as the sworn enemies of Islam and Muslims. That is why God will punish them by putting them into eternal hellfire.

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All these themes can be found in the Quran, but we should not miss that there was a context to these verses. The Quran’s kafirs were mainly polytheists who persecuted early Muslims and came close to assassinating the Prophet (PBUH) as well. While condemning these kafirs the Quran urged Muslims to see nuances between them and other non-Muslims that are not hostile. “God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes,” a verse notes.

Other verses honoured Jews and Christians as fellow monotheists — the “People of the Book” — and even promised salvation for them in the afterlife. The Quran also embraces some religious pluralism, noting, “If God had so willed, He would have made you one community.”

As Muslims built empires, the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Samuel Adams

November 4, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Samuel Adams was a Boston-born political leader who played a vital role in moving colonial America to its decisive break with Britain during the American Revolution. The second cousin of President John Adams, Sam Adams helped organize opposition to British taxation, including the Boston Tea Party. In his home state of Massachusetts, Adams held a number of political offices, and served as governor from 1793 to 1797.

Who Was Samuel Adams?

Samuel Adams was born September 27, 1722, the son of Boston merchant and brewer Samuel Adams Sr. and his wife Mary. The Adams family were devout Puritans, and Adams Sr. was a deacon in the Congregational Church.

His parents hoped that the younger Samuel would pursue a life in the church, but it was his father’s other role, as a rising influential local politician, that caught Sam’s attention.

He attended Boston Latin School, then Harvard University, where he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While at Harvard, he wrote a thesis – controversial for its time – that questioned the rights of the British government and supported the right of colonists to resist laws they deemed harmful to their interests.

Adams’ thesis stated that it is “lawful to resist the Supreme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved.”

Boston Revolutionaries

Adams worked in a variety of jobs after graduating, including stints at a bank and his family’s malthouse. He and several friends founded a local newspaper in 1748, which featured Adams’ political essays.

He married the following year, to Elizabeth Checkley. The couple had six children, but only two lived to adulthood. Following Elizabeth’s death in 1757, Adams remarried. He and his second wife, Elizabeth Wells, had no children.

Rising through the ranks of local Boston politics, in 1756, Adams was elected as a tax collector. However, his failure and refusal to collect taxes from some of his fellow citizens left him liable for the due payments. Friends eventually helped him pay off some of the debts.

The incident did little to dampen Adams’ popularity with the people, however. Already, he was showing the strong sense of character that drew people to both him and his ideas.

Adams’ politics were deeply influenced by the work of Enlightenment philosopher John Locke. Adams was also inspired by fellow Bostonian James Otis, a lawyer and activist who championed colonial rights and became famous for his …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Lend-Lease Act

November 4, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

The Lend-Lease Act stated that the U.S. government could lend or lease (rather than sell) war supplies to any nation deemed “vital to the defense of the United States.” Under this policy, the United States was able to supply military aid to its foreign allies during World War II while still remaining officially neutral in the conflict. Most importantly, passage of the Lend-Lease Act enabled a struggling Great Britain to continue fighting against Germany virtually on its own until the United States entered World War II late in 1941.

Neutrality in Wartime

In the decades following World War I, many Americans remained extremely wary of becoming involved in another costly international conflict. Even as fascist regimes like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler took aggressive action in Europe the 1930s, isolationist members of Congress pushed through a series of laws limiting how the United States could respond.

But after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, and full-scale war broke out again in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that while the United States would remain neutral by law, it was impossible “that every American remain neutral in thought as well.”

Before passage of the Neutrality Act of 1939, Roosevelt persuaded Congress to allow the sale of military supplies to allies like France and Britain on a “cash-and-carry” basis: They had to pay cash for American-made supplies, and then transport the supplies on their own ships.

Great Britain Asks for Help

By the summer of 1940, France had fallen to the Nazis, and Britain was fighting virtually alone against Germany on land, at sea and in the air. After the new British prime minister, Winston Churchill, appealed personally to Roosevelt for help, the U.S. president agreed to exchange more than 50 outdated American destroyers for 99-year leases on British bases in the Caribbean and Newfoundland, which would be used as U.S. air and naval bases.

That December, with Britain’s currency and gold reserves dwindling, Churchill warned Roosevelt that his country would not be able to pay cash for military supplies or shipping much longer. Though he had recently been re-elected on a platform promising to keep America out of World War II, Roosevelt wanted to support Great Britain against Germany. After hearing Churchill’s appeal, he began working to convince Congress (and the American public) that providing more direct aid to Britain was in the nation’s own interest. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Blitzkrieg

November 4, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Blitzkrieg is a term used to describe a method of offensive warfare designed to strike a swift, focused blow at an enemy using mobile, maneuverable forces, including armored tanks and air support. Such an attack ideally leads to a quick victory, limiting the loss of soldiers and artillery. Most famously, blitzkrieg describes the successful tactics used by Nazi Germany in the early years of World War II, as German forces swept through Poland, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France with astonishing speed and force.

Blitzkrieg Definition

Blitzkrieg, which means “lightning war” in German, had its roots in earlier military strategy, including the influential work of the 19th-century Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz. Clausewitz proposed the “concentration principle,” the idea that concentrating forces against an enemy, and making a single blow against a carefully chosen target (the Schwerpunkt, or “center of gravity”) was more effective than dispersing those forces.

In the wake of their defeat in World War I, German military leaders determined that a lack of mobile, maneuverable forces and flexible tactics had led that conflict to bog down in the attrition of trench warfare. As a result, while France focused its efforts between the wars on building up its defensive border, known as the Maginot Line, the Germans decided to prepare for a shorter conflict won through military maneuvers, rather than in the trenches.

This focus on mobile warfare was in part a response to Germany’s relatively limited military resources and manpower, as a result of the strictures imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and made clear his intention to rearm the nation, he encouraged younger commanders like Heinz Guderian, who argued for the importance of both tanks and aircraft in this mobile approach to warfare.

Uses of Blitzkrieg in World War II

German forces employed some tactics associated with blitzkrieg in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the invasion of Poland in 1939, including combined air-ground attacks and the use of Panzer tank divisions to quickly crush the poorly equipped Polish troops. Then in April 1940, Germany invaded neutral Norway, seizing the capital, Oslo, and the country’s main ports with a series of surprise attacks.

In May 1940 came Germany’s invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands and France, during which the the Wehrmacht (German army) used the combined force of tanks, mobile …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Missouri Compromise

November 4, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

In 1820, amid growing sectional tensions over the issue of slavery, the U.S. Congress passed a law that admitted Missouri to the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state, while banning slavery from the remaining Louisiana Purchase lands located north of the 36º 30’ parallel.

The Missouri Compromise, as it was known, would remain in force for just over 30 years before it was repealed by the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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CFPB Can Do Better by Fintechs Than a 'Policy Tool'

November 4, 2019 in Economics

By Dan Quan

Dan Quan

The CFPB recently finalized three policy tools meant to promote financial innovation by offering some regulatory certainty. But the agency may need to go further to convince fintechs such tools are safe and beneficial.

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Two of those tools — the no-action letter and the compliance assistance sandbox — equip the CFPB with broad authorities to address various regulatory questions, including fair-lending risk associated with the use of machine learning and alternative data in credit underwriting.

One example of this is in an August blog post that updated its first issued no-action letter to Upstart Network, an online marketplace lender that uses alternative data for underwriting. In the post, the CFPB encouraged fintech lenders to take advantage of such policy tools to reduce their own fair lending compliance risk.

More of these no-action letters that offer a “safe harbor” from the CFPB might benefit a handful firms, but the market as a whole will not reap the rewards until the agency issues generally applicable guidance.

When Upstart applied for the no-action letter in 2017, there was a tremendous amount of regulatory uncertainty around disparate impact testing — when disparities are found between groups, though unintentional — as related to the use of machine learning and nontraditional data.

Regulatory agencies had little experience with those new and innovative credit models. And there was little regulatory guidance to help new fintech lenders monitor and manage the enhanced fair-lending risk inherent in those models.

It was against that backdrop that CFPB staff issued a no-action letter to Upstart in 2017. In addition to market signaling, one primary goal of the letter was to afford the CFPB a ringside seat to gain experience and expertise that would enable the agency to formulate a sound, general policy in the future.

The Upstart letter has a number of novel ideas.

For example, a (very welcome) regulatory innovation is the use of a hypothetical model that contains traditional application and credit variables, but does not use machine learning as the baseline for credit-access analysis and disparate impact testing.

Too often, regulators compare the outcomes of innovation to a distant ideal rather than an imperfect status quo. Regulatory realism that recognizes the value of incremental improvements and gradual harm reduction is a step in the right direction.

The Upstart no-action letter for the first time provides a …read more

Source: OP-EDS