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How Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Became a Part of the U.K.

December 20, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

It’s a story of conquest and political union.

The United Kingdom is made up of four constituent states: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. But there have long been tensions between England and the other three U.K. states, in part because England has always been the dominant political power among them. England brought all the states together through conquest and political union. Here’s how that happened.

England Annexes Wales, Fails to Conquer Scotland

Robert the Bruce reviewing his troops before the Battle of Bannockburn, a decisive battle in the First War of Scottish Independence.

The Kingdom of England, formed in 927, gained the first U.K. state other than itself through invasion. In the late 13th century, King Edward I conquered the western Principality of Wales, claiming it as a territory of England. Next, he invaded the northern Kingdom of Scotland, kicking off the ).

There were several reasons for this union, says Christopher A. Whatley, a professor of Scottish history at the University of Dundee and author of The Scots and the Union: Then and Now. One was the fact that Scotland was in debt after trying to establish a colonial empire in the Americas the same way that England, Portugal and Spain had done.

“The Scots recognized that the Realpolitik, if you like, of the situation was that if they were to establish markets overseas, contacts overseas, they needed the support of a stronger maritime power, which was England,” he says.

Many Scots also saw the union as a way of preventing the Catholic Stuarts from reinstating an absolute monarchy, and securing Scotland’s future under a Protestant constitutional monarchy. For England, there was concern that if it didn’t unite with Scotland, the country might side against England with France in the War of the Spanish Succession. So in 1707, England agreed to give Scotland money to pay off its debts, and both countries’ parliaments passed the Acts of Union to become one nation.

Great Britain Forms Union with Ireland, then Southern Ireland Leaves

Map of the United Kingdom.

Remember how King James IV of Scotland was also King James I of England? Well, he was actually King James I of Ireland, too. Back in the 1540s, Ireland become a dependent kingdom of England, and the 1542 Crown of Ireland Act mandated that the king of England was now also the king of Ireland. The first person to hold …read more


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Area 51's Most Outrageous Top Secret Spy Plane Projects

December 20, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Their designs were so radical that test flights over the Nevada desert often prompted a rash of ‘UFO’ sightings.

In 1955, the , starting just after the A-12 made its official first flight over Area 51 in April 1962.

Declared fully operational in 1965, after attaining a sustained speed of Mach 3.2 (just over 2,200 m.p.h.) at 90,000 feet of altitude, the A-12 began flying missions over Vietnam and North Korea in 1967. The following year, it was retired in favor of its Air Force successor, the SR-71 Blackbird.

A U.S. Air Force SR-71A, also known as the “Blackbird”, is put through it”s paces during a test flight over Beale Air Force Base in California. The aircraft is a strategic reconnaissance plane by Lockheed and is the world”s fastest and highest flying operational aircraft.

Longer and heavier than the A-12, the SR-71 paired supersonic speed with a low radar profile, due to its sleek tapered design and black radar-absorbing paint. On July 28, 1976, pilots flew an SR-71 at a record speed of Mach 3.3, or 2,193 mph. At 400 feet per second, this was literally faster than a speeding rifle bullet. Retired in 1990, after more than three decades of service, the SR-71 remains the world’s fastest aircraft.

READ MORE: Interactive Map: UFO Sightings Taken Seriously by the U.S. Government

Soviet MiG-21

USSR supersonic fighter jet MiG-21, seen taking off in October 1968.

In addition to testing new aircraft technologies, Area 51 was also used to study foreign warplanes that the U.S. government obtained covertly during the Cold War. In the late 1960s, according to now-declassified CIA documents, the Air Force obtained “Fishbed-E,” a Soviet MiG-21 jet fighter that was loaned to the United States after an Iraqi pilot used it to defect to Israel. Under the program codenamed Have Doughnut, Area 51 personnel inspected and reverse-engineered the Mach-2 fighter in order to learn how it performed and compare it to select U.S. fighter planes.

Over 40 days in 1968, U.S. pilots flew the MiG in 102 test flights, logging 77 hours of total flying time. They found that while the Soviet plane was slower than American planes like the F-5 and F-105, it had a tighter turning radius than any of them; this finding led analysts to warn U.S. pilots to avoid “prolonged maneuvering engagements,” or dogfighting.

The top secret …read more


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Don't Freak out About Impeachment

December 20, 2019 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Nobody likes losing his job, but if there’s any country on Earth that’s copacetic about firing people, it’s these United States of America. Almost alone among industrialized democracies, the U.S. hews to the old-school regime of employment at will, which means most of us can be frogmarched out of the building at any time—for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.


Further up the food chain, “for-cause” termination is the norm; but with contracts that allow removal for offenses as vague as “moral turpitude” or “failure to perform,” that doesn’t shield CEOs from getting turfed out unceremoniously when they misbehave or don’t live up to expectations.

Does it bother us when an old lech like Les Moonves of CBS or some new economy manchild like Adam Neumann of WeWork gets the business end of creative destruction? Like hell it does: This is the country that pioneered the idea of firing people as entertainment. For 14 seasons of NBC’s reality TV game show The Apprentice, Americans tuned in eagerly to see which contestants would be shown the door with the signature line “You’re fired!” Then, in 2016, we went and elected the game-show host president of the United States.

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump’s tenure has been a whirlwind of self-dealing, management pratfalls, and public meltdowns of the sort that might get a mere captain of industry summarily canned. Luckily for him, he’s failed upward into a post that comes with more job protection than the vast majority of American workers enjoy. Somehow we’ve decided that the one job in America where you have to commit a felony to get fired is the one where you also control nuclear weapons. Given the damage an unfit president can do, shouldn’t it be easier to get rid of one?


Barriers Nowhere in the Constitution


“Four CEOs Were Dethroned Just This Week,” Forbes reported one day before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she was opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct. In fact, 2018 saw a record 18 percent of large-company chiefs forced out, according to the article. “Mercurial, flamboyant and self-destructive CEOs” are increasingly being told to hit the bricks “when their questionable ethics pose a threat to the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Amid the Holocaust's Horrors, Many Jews Found Ways to Mark Hanukkah

December 20, 2019 in History

By Natasha Frost

From carving menorahs on stolen blocks of wood to creating makeshift wicks from scraps of fat and used loose threads, concentration camp inmates devised covert ways to celebrate the holiday.

There was little room for light in Theresienstadt—especially in the darkness of early December. Some 140,000 Czech Jews came through the , Yaffa Eliach describes how Rabbi Israel Shapiro chanted the blessings to the assembled inmates: “On the third blessing, in which God is thanked for having ‘kept us in life and preserved us and enabled us to reach this time,’ the Rebbe’s voice broke into sobs, for he had already lost his wife, his only daughter, his son-in-law, and his only grandchild.”

All over Europe Jews found ways to celebrate the holiday. After arriving at Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, in late 1943, the Elchanan family used recycled battery parts to make a menorah out of wood and aluminum foil. Grease and cotton wicks served as candles.

Holocaust survivor Yechezkel Hershtik, then a boy of about 12, remembers stopping on a bridge as they were transported on foot between the Romanian camps of Sacel and Iliora. They lit candles along the wall of the bridge, said the Hanukkah prayers, and then continued on their way.

After the Jews were liberated, many spent months or years in camps for displaced persons, before being rerouted to Israel or the United States, among other countries. Here, Hanukkah could be celebrated openly, with real candles replacing the makeshift grease or engine oil.

In the German Landsberg/Lech displaced persons camp, Jews fashioned a Hanukkah lamp out of cartridge scraps and shell casings, and dedicated it to U.S. commander-in-chief General Joseph T. McNarney. On this hanukkiah, a Hebrew inscription is hammered into the brass: “A great miracle happened there.”

…read more