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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

Source: HISTORY

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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.

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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?

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Barriers Nowhere in the Constitution

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“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

Source: HISTORY

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The Assault on Qatar Was Another Big Saudi Failure

December 19, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

DOHA, QATAR – The small Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar put itself on display last weekend with its annual Doha Forum. The event’s broad theme was governance in a changing world.

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However valuable the conference discussion, another important purpose of the gathering was to showcase the land of just 2.8 million, of whom little more than 300,000 are citizens. I was hosted by the government and treated well, if not quite like visiting royalty.

The emirate has spent more than two years under diplomatic, economic, and cultural assault by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, Qatar has survived and even prospered. Today it looks and feels normal. Even those without oil wealth feel secure. A driver, a Syrian refugee, told me that he and his family were no longer suffering from any impact of the blockade.

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In June 2017, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, along with their financial and military dependents, most notably Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan, broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, expelled Qatari citizens, banned all commerce and travel, denied access to airspace and territorial waters, and punished their own citizens who sympathized with Doha. In what has been called the Second Arab Cold War (in 2014, the Saudis and Emiratis briefly cut diplomatic ties), the coalition issued a baker’s dozen demands. Their acceptance would have turned Qatar into a puppet state, effectively governed by the Saudis and Emiratis.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi hypocritically accused Qatar of funding terrorists, a practice they, as well as other Gulf States, had long tolerated, to Washington’s frustration. The more serious complaint appeared to be over Doha’s relative foreign policy contrariness, refusing to follow Saudi Arabia’s lead and backing different radical Islamist factions in regional political and military struggles. (For instance, Saudi Arabia’s taste runs to fundamentalist Wahhabists, who preach hatred against everyone other than extremist Sunnis, while Qatar prefers the Muslim Brotherhood, which promotes political activism.)

Doha also maintains civil relations with Iran, with which …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Treaty of Versailles

December 18, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

At the end of World War I, during a peace conference held in Paris, France, the victorious Allies concluded a series of peace treaties that would be imposed on the defeated Central Powers. The most important of these was the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919 at the Palace of Versailles in Paris. The treaty, which codified peace terms between the Allies and Germany, held Germany responsible for starting the war, and imposed harsh penalties in terms of loss of territory, massive reparations payments and demilitarization.

Far from the “peace without victory” that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had outlined in his famous Fourteen Points in early 1918, the Treaty of Versailles humiliated Germany while failing to resolve the underlying issues that had led to war in the first place. Economic distress and resentment of the treaty within Germany helped fuel the ultra-nationalist sentiment that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, as well as the coming of a second World War just two decades later.

From the Fourteen Points to the Paris Peace Conference

In a speech to Congress in January 1918, Wilson laid out his idealistic vision for the post-war world. In addition to specific territorial settlements based on an Entente victory, Wilson’s so-called Fourteen Points emphasized the need for national self-determination for Europe’s different ethnic populations. Wilson also proposed the founding of a “general association of nations” that would mediate international disputes and foster cooperation between different nations in the hopes of preventing war on such a large scale in the future.

When German leaders signed the armistice ending hostilities in World War I on November 11, 1918, they believed this vision articulated by Wilson would form the basis for any future peace treaty. This would not prove to be the case.

The Paris Peace Conference opened on January 18, 1919, a date that was significant in that it marked the anniversary of the coronation of German Emperor Wilhelm I, which took place in the Palace of Versailles at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Prussian victory in that conflict had resulted in Germany’s unification and its seizure of Alsace and Lorraine provinces from France. In 1919, France and its prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, had not forgotten the humiliating loss, and intended to avenge it in the new peace agreement.

Did WWI Lead to WWII? …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Tobacco Sales Ban for Those Under 21 Would Make Teen Vaping and Smoking Worse

December 18, 2019 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

At a time when teenage smoking is dropping to unheard-of levels, the federal government this week is likely to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The provision is included in a massive spending package that President Donald Trump is expected to soon sign to pass in the coming days to avert a government shutdown. This move is not only unwarranted and unnervingly paternalistic, but it could also result in more dangerous tobacco use by young adults, as the ban would have the perverse effect of pushing them to consume more traditional combustible tobacco rather than comparatively safer vaping products.

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We sometimes forget that those over 18 are legally adults. Being 18 means you can vote, die for your country, get married, have children, get a credit card and buy a rifle. As with drinking, it is dismaying that there are those who would give a gun to an 18-year-old to kill people in foreign countries, yet they would not let them buy tobacco products.

But even if you don’t have an ideological objection to restricting the sale of tobacco products to younger adults, there is a very practical reason to oppose the pending tobacco ban if you care about public health: Raising the legal purchase age for tobacco and vaping products would encourage young adults to consume more cigarettes, because they are more common and therefore would be more accessible under a ban than the relatively new, smaller supply of vaping materials on the market would be. Similarly, use of combustible tobacco that is more cost-effective (such as rolling tobacco) would also likely increase, as it always becomes more popular when cigarettes become more expensive, a common result of scarcity.

A prohibitionist ban would additionally probably result in more teenage vapers using illicit counterfeit vaping products, because that’s what people turn to when legal channels are shut off. But these products are much more dangerous than regulated products from reputable companies, as demonstrated by the recent wave of vaping-related illnesses and deaths — most of which (though not all) were linked to illegal and off-brand vapes.

Moreover, the unprecedented decline in youth cigarette smoking should be seen as a great public health victory, and vaping should be …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How out of Control Is Our Surveillance State?

December 18, 2019 in Economics

By Julian Sanchez

Julian Sanchez

The F.B.I.’s investigation of the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, we can now say with assurance, was a train wreck. In his report, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz cataloged a damning list of egregious errors, omissions or misrepresentations in filings to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved nearly a year’s worth of wiretaps on Mr. Page.

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Many Republicans have taken this as proof that the investigation was hopelessly contaminated by anti-Trump political bias. That would be the optimistic scenario. Unfortunately, it’s probably much worse than that.

If the F.B.I. botched its applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Mr. Page because of political bias, after all, problems of the sort Mr. Horowitz identified are most likely unique to this case. The bureau obtains about 1,500 FISA warrants each year, and an overwhelming majority have no connection to domestic politics. The solution is also similarly simple: Toss out the bad apples who acted on political motives and add a few layers of safeguards for the tiny fraction of cases that are designated “sensitive investigative matters” because they do intersect with politics.

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That might be a reasonable response if we were confident the Page investigation represented an outlier or aberration. The chilling reality, however, is that we have no idea whether that’s the case.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, zeroed in on this point. When she asked Mr. Horowitz whether finding mistakes in a FISA application was “a fairly unusual occurrence,” he responded, “I would hope so.”

Americans deserve a stronger assurance than “hope” that their Fourth Amendment rights are being respected. The sheer quantity of serious defects in the FISA applications targeting Mr. Page — which officials consistently told Mr. Horowitz received far more review than normal, because agents understood the applications would doubtless attract controversy and scrutiny — raises an obvious and disturbing question: If they’re this sloppy with a target involved in a presidential campaign, how …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Washington Post Still Hasn't Corrected an Obvious Education Blunder

December 18, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

The dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education claimed in a December 10 Washington Post op-ed that “public funding for schools has actually decreased since the late 1980s, adjusting for constant dollars.” However, data from the National Center of Education Statistics shows that real per-pupil spending clearly has not decreased since the 1980s. In fact, inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending has actually increased over the last three decades.

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Robert Pianta’s claim is incorrect regardless of how the data is sliced. According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ database, inflation-adjusted education funding increased by at least 36% since 1989 — whether you look at state, local, federal, or total dollars per pupil. The increases are much larger if you look at overall spending amounts rather than per-pupil totals.

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The subheadline of Pianta’s Washington Post column alleges, “the one thing we haven’t tried in the past 30 years is sufficiently investing in our schools.” In addition to being incorrect, it is also not clear what spending level would qualify as “sufficient” to Pianta. After all, the nationwide data shows the U.S. already spends over $14,700 per student each year.

How much does each state allocate toward education? The Washington Examiner‘s Jason Russell previously summarized this information for each state using Census Bureau data from 2013. We now have more recent data from 2017 showing that about 28% of all state budget expenditures go toward education.

This statistic has remained relatively steady over time. Census Bureau data from 1993, the oldest period of data available, also indicates that about 28% of state government expenditures went toward education across the country.

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Source: OP-EDS

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What Really Happened at Roswell?

December 18, 2019 in History

By Adam Janos

Behind the rumors of America’s Most Infamous UFO incident

In the annals of American UFO history, few incidents have inspired as much fascination—and speculation—as the one in Roswell, New Mexico.

It began in the summer of 1947, at the dawn of the

The government changed its story about the Roswell ‘saucer’—a few times.

The following day, the Roswell Daily Record ran a story about the crash and the RAAF’s astonishing claim. But U.S. Army officials quickly reversed themselves on the “flying saucer” claim, stating that the found debris was actually from a weather balloon, releasing photographs of Major Marcel posing with pieces of the supposed weather balloon debris as proof.

A photograph of Jesse Marcel, the head intelligence officer who initially investigated and recovered some of the debris from the Roswell site, in the Corsicana Daily Sun, July 9, 1947.

For decades, many UFO researchers were skeptical of the government’s changed account, and in 1994, the U.S. Air Force released a report in which they conceded that the “weather balloon” story had been bogus. According to the 1994 explanation, the wreckage came from a spy device created for an until-then classified project called Project Mogul. The device—a connected string of high-altitude balloons equipped with microphones—was designed to float furtively over the USSR, detecting sound waves at a stealth distance. These balloons would ostensibly monitor the Soviet government’s attempts at testing their own atomic bomb. Because Project Mogul was a covert operation, the new report claimed, a false explanation of the crash was necessary to prevent giving away details of their spy work.

Other elements of the Roswell story—namely that some eyewitnesses claimed that there were alien bodies taken from the site—were explained as fallen parachute-test dummies in a more extensive follow-up report in 1997.


An illustration depicting the Roswell incident with aliens being carried away from the UFO crash site

Roger Launius, a historian and retired curator for the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, says those two reports close most of the remaining questions about Roswell.

“This story has been resolved,” Launius says. “Has absolutely every question been answered? I can’t say that. But I’m not sure that there are significant holes.”

“You do not divulge state secrets in the context of national security… My surmise is they probably saw [the initial flying saucer explanation] as a useful cover …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How 25 Christmas Traditions Got Their Start

December 17, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Learn why we decorate trees, swap cookies and hide pickles and elves, among other traditions.

From its Puritan roots to complaints of rampant commercialism (“What is it you want?” Charlie Brown asks Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas. “Real Estate.”), Christmas in America has been filled with traditions, old and new.

According to a . Today’s wreaths, which come in all varieties, from flowers and fruit to glass balls and ribbon to artificial and themed, are most often seen as a secular winter tradition.

A Christmas card from the 1800s.

Christmas Cards – The first official Christmas card debuted in 1843 England with the simple message, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” The idea of a mailed winter holiday greeting gradually caught on in both Britain and the U.S., with the Kansas City-based Hall Brothers (now Hallmark) creating a folded card sold with an envelope in 1915. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, more than 1.6 billion holiday cards are sold annually.


“It’s a Wonderful Life” debuted in 1946.

It’s a Wonderful LifeFrank Capra’s classic Christmas film debuted in 1946, with Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey, a suicidal man who is shown what life would be like without him by an angel. But before becoming an annual TV-viewing tradition, the movie was a bit of a flop at the box office when it premiered, although it did receive five Oscar nominations (but no wins). A lapsed copyright in the 1970s allowed TV stations to air the movie for free. It has aired exclusively on NBC and USA since 1994.

Christmas Light Technology (TV-PG; 1:53)

Christmas LightsThomas Edison may be famous for the light bulb, but it was his partner and friend, Edward Hibberd Johnson, who had the bright idea of stringing bulbs around a Christmas tree in New York in 1882. By 1914, the lights were being mass produced and now some 150 million sets of lights are sold in the U.S. each year.


Santa has helped stores sell since at least 1890.

Department Store Santa - Lining up at the mall to snap a photo of the kids on Santa’s lap may seem like a modern Christmas tradition, but it dates back to 1890, when James Edgar of Brockton, Massachusetts had a Santa suit made for him and dressed …read more

Source: HISTORY