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How Pandemics Spurred Cities to Make More Green Space for People

April 27, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

From wider, tree-lined boulevards to lush parks, 19th-century cholera pandemics shaped some of the world’s most famous urban landscapes.

Cholera Transforms London and Paris

A satirical cartoon showing the River Thames and its offspring cholera, scrofula and diphtheria, circa 1850s.

As cholera roared through London in 1854 and took the lives of approximately 10,000 of its residents, British physician John Snow mapped instances of the disease in one neighborhood and found a connection not to contaminated air, but to a public well contaminated by leaking sewage. That same year, Italian anatomist Filippo Pacini, isolated the bacterium that caused cholera, but it would be decades before the discovery was widely accepted.

In the interim, raw sewage continued to overflow into the River Thames, and in the summer of 1858 it caused the “Great Stink,” an odor so repugnant it forced the closure of the Houses of Parliament and the construction of a modern sewer system that transported the city’s waste far enough away from London that the river’s tides took it out to sea. In addition, the muddy shorelines of the Thames were narrowed and replaced with embankments with riverside roads and gardens.

Across the English Channel, Emperor Napoleon III came to power in France in 1848 amid a cholera outbreak that took the lives of approximately 19,000 Parisians. An admirer of the parks and garden squares of London, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte sought to remake Paris in the wake of the pandemic. “Let us open new streets, make the working class quarters, which lack air and light, more healthy, and let the beneficial sunlight reach everywhere within our walls,” he declared.

Under the direction of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, French authorities tore down 12,000 buildings, built tree-lined boulevards and parks, erected fountains and installed an elaborate sewage system that transformed Paris into the modern-day “City of Light.”

“Haussmann’s plans were in part designed to bring fresh air and light into the dense urban grid, and were cited as such when inspiring the plans of Chicago and Washington, D.C.,” Carr says, “but it should also be noted that Haussmann’s long boulevards were also a convenient way to eliminate blighted housing, facilitate surveillance and deploy military quickly to all corners of the city.”

READ MORE: Full Pandemics Coverage

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Source: HISTORY

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How Nixon’s Invasion of Cambodia Triggered a Check on Presidential Power

April 27, 2020 in History

By Jessica Pearce Rotondi

Following months of secret U.S. bombings on Communist bases, American ground troops were deployed to northern Cambodia on April 28, 1970.

When President Richard Nixon ordered U.S. ground troops to invade Cambodia on April 28, 1970, he waited two days to announce on national television the Cambodian incursion had begun. With resentment already building in the country over the conflict in Vietnam, the incursion felt like a final straw.

The news unleashed waves of criticism from many who felt the president had abused his powers by side-stepping Congress. By November 1973, the criticism had culminated in the passage of the War Powers Act. Passed over Nixon’s veto, it limited the scope of the Commander-in-Chief’s ability to declare war without congressional approval.

While the act was an unusual challenge, presidents since have exploited loopholes in the War Powers Resolution, raising questions about executive power, especially during states of emergency.

READ MORE: The US and Congress Have Long Clashed Over War Powers

Why Did the U.S. Invade Cambodia?

Nixon Orders Invasion of Cambodia (TV-PG; 1:02)

LISTEN: Nixon Orders Invasion of Cambodia

Cambodia was officially a neutral country in the Vietnam War, though North Vietnamese troops moved supplies and arms through the northern part of the country, which was part of the Ho Chi Minh trail that stretched from Vietnam to neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

In March 1969, Nixon began approving secret bombings of suspected communist base camps and supply zones in Cambodia as part of “Operation Menu.” The New York Times revealed the operation to the public on May 9, 1969, prompting international protest. Cambodia wasn’t the first neutral country to be targeted by the United States during the Vietnam War—the United States began secretly bombing Laos in 1964, and would eventually leave it the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world.

READ MORE: Why Laos Has Been Bombed More Than Any Other Country

The Cambodian Incursion (April-June, 1970)

Nixon approved the use of American ground forces in Cambodia to fight alongside South Vietnamese troops attacking communist bases there on April 28, 1972. Recent political developments within Cambodia worked in Nixon’s favor. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who had led the country since its independence from France in 1954, was voted out of power by the Cambodian National Assembly on March 18, 1970. Pro-U.S. Prime Minister Lon Nol invoked emergency powers and replaced the prince as head …read more

Source: HISTORY