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Here's a winning message Democrats could use to clinch the Senate in Georgia runoffs

November 10, 2020 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

For Democrats to win both runoff races planned for January 5 in Georgia and secure a Senate majority, they’re going to need a winning campaign message.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shared a suggestion on social media: “If Democrats take back the Senate,” he said on Monday afternoon, “we will increase the minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to a living wage of at least $15 an hour.”

Sanders’ tweet implied that vocally fighting for a higher minimum wage could be the key to victory for candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia, where 47% of workers make less than $15 an hour and 71% of voters support increasing the federal minimum wage.

As Common Dreams reported last week, voters in Florida—despite casting roughly 370,000 more ballots for outgoing President Donald Trump than President-elect Joe Biden—approved a ballot measure to establish a $15 minimum wage with support from nearly two-thirds of the state’s electorate.

After Floridians passed a minimum wage increase by a margin of 61% to 39% while Biden lost the state by capturing only 47.8% of the vote compared to Trump’s 51.2%, progressives criticized the Democratic Party for what some characterized as an inadequate embrace of progressive positions, ineffective communication, or both.

After all, critics noted, it is Biden, not Trump, who actually supports the $15 minimum wage policy that will give nearly 2.5 million low-income workers in Florida a much-needed raise.

With a major potential victory for progressives in sight, Sanders offered a campaign message for candidates Ossoff and Warnock that could prevent the Democrats from coming up short in Georgia and handing Senate control to the Republicans.

His messaging idea, which seeks to excite people about the possibility of a Democratic-led Senate delivering a minimum wage hike, reflects his desire to see Ossoff and Warnock champion a living wage policy that can generate enthusiasm amongst voters and spark a strong turnout for the special Senate elections in Georgia.

As TIME reported last week, Atlanta’s above-average turnout among young voters (18-29 years old), and particularly young Black voters, 90% of whom voted for Biden, was instrumental in securing victory for the president-elect. If Democrats are to win a Senate majority, replicating a high turnout of voters who …read more


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Brad Meltzer Decodes Four Enduring Historical Mysteries

November 10, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Fort Knox empty? The disappearing White House cornerstone. America’s version of Stonehenge. And Leonardo’s missing notebook page.

Brad Meltzer can pinpoint the moment he became obsessed with conspiracy theories. His 11th grade history teacher had just announced every high schooler’s dream: movie day.

“And then she put on this Kennedy assassination film,” the best-selling author and host of the HISTORY series Decoded and Lost History says. “And not one of those kooky, crazy ones, but one that actually asked the questions that should be asked… I remember it was one of the first times I felt like the foundations of my brain were kind of kicked aside and kicked open because it made me realize that not everything in the world is in the history books they give us in school.” recently caught up with Meltzer, whose latest books include The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America’s 16th President and The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington.

Specifically, we connected with him about his book The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: Decoding History’s Unsolved Mysteries, for a little insight on four lingering enigmas we just can’t shake. From rumors that there actually isn’t any gold in Fort Knox to mysteries surrounding America’s version of Stonehenge to the disappearance of the White House cornerstone to Leonardo Da Vinci’s prophetic visions, he fills us in on his research.

WATCH all of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on HISTORY Vault.

The book explores whether there’s actually any gold at Fort Knox, the U.S. Bullion Depository. In fact, at one point you had it all set up to film inside, when the secretary of the treasury canceled the shoot at the last minute. What do you think is going on there?

What was really amazing to us was how many people who had worked in Fort Knox or said they had a relative in there had said: There’s nothing there. You add those two things together—personal eyewitness accounts mixed with the government truly unwilling to let us show what is ours—and we want to know, why can’t we just prove what is there?

One of my favorite things in the book, though, was when we got to uncover what was held at Fort Knox at different times in history. It’s not only been a home for our gold, but also other items …read more


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Is Joe Biden ready for the urgency of the climate crisis?

November 10, 2020 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

by David Hastings

During his campaign, president-elect Joe Biden declared climate change the “number one issue facing humanity” and vowed a national transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that he said would create millions of new jobs. Now the question is: Will he follow through?

The last Democratic president, Barack Obama, had a mixed environmental record. He signed the Paris climate accord and gave a modest boost to clean energy production. His administration gets credit for issuing higher standards for automobile fuel emissions, and to reduce electricity in appliances, from dishwashers to walk-in freezers. But under Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency dragged its feet against imposing CO2 standards for power plants and oil refineries, and wasted precious time pushing an ineffective cap and trade system, rather than a badly needed carbon tax.

Certainly, Obama was miles better than Trump, but if we have any hope of really tackling this global challenge, Biden will have to be miles better than Obama. Obama 2.0 will not be enough.

The good news is that the candidate Joe Biden had the most ambitious plan addressing the climate crisis ever proposed by a major party nominee for president. His infrastructure and clean energy proposals included a pledge to achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. To a number of observers, setting 2035 as the target appears unrealistic, but it’s what the science tells us we must do. And a recent analysis by Professor Sonia Aggarwal from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Policy shows that 100 percent carbon-free electricity is achievable by 2035 due to plummeting solar, wind and battery costs.

Candidate Biden also has been seemingly undeterred by the $2 trillion price tag over four years, because he proposes the climate crisis as an opportunity to create millions of jobs, address systemic inequities, and correct environmental problems in communities most heavily affected by climate impacts.

But it’s easy to make campaign promises. Now candidate Biden has to pivot to become President Biden. How feasible is it to achieve these goals? And what does it mean for those living in frontline communities?

It’s an uphill climb, to be sure. To achieve his ambitious pillar for a “clean-energy revolution” means doubling the best rate of solar and wind deployment each year from 2020 to 2029—then tripling it each year from 2030 …read more


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Here's what Joe Biden's win reveals about American voters

November 10, 2020 in Blogs

By The Conversation

by Thomas Klassen, York University, Canada

A refrain of American politics is the lack of representation of women, Blacks and Hispanics in the political arena. But almost as striking in 2020 is the exclusion of young people.

Those at the highest levels of the American government have never been older: Joe Biden, the next president, is currently 77 and will celebrate a birthday later this month. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, is 80. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is 78. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is young by comparison at 65, but four of his eight colleagues are older than him.

It hasn’t always been this way. John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama began their terms of office while in their 40s. In contrast, Donald Trump was 70 when he assumed power in 2016 and Biden will be 78.

The age of those holding executive, legislative and judicial power in Washington, D.C., sends a warning. American politicians are much more generous to the old than they are to the young. After all, the country does have public health care, but only for those 65 and older.

Social Security retirement benefits are the third rail of politics that few politicians dare touch. Among the most feared, fierce and well-funded lobby groups in Washington is the American Association for Retired Persons, known as AARP, which advocates for the interests of those 50 and over.

Banned mandatory retirement

The aging of the political class illustrates how (old) age is now accepted in workplaces and more generally in the public domain. The U.S. was the first country to ban mandatory retirement at age 65. This ensures that workers are judged not on their chronological age but, rather, on their performance.

Like politicians, the vast majority of Americans now work in the services sector where most jobs place a premium on social competencies, knowledge and the ability to continue learning, rather than on physical strength.

Whether in politics or outside it, long careers also mean more experience, connections and opportunities to call in favours. Biden ran for president in 1988 and 2008, served for 36 years in the Senate and was Obama’s vice-president for two terms. McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984, and Pelosi to the House of Representatives in 1987.

Older politicians have an advantage at the polls because their fellow older citizens are much more …read more


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Here's how elections are actually stolen in Russia

November 10, 2020 in Blogs

By The Conversation

by Regina Smyth, Indiana University and Sarah Oates, University of Maryland

The 2020 election, in which Joe Biden is the projected winner, is not what a rigged election looks like.

Rigged elections are organized. Vote counts certainly don’t play out in front of the country on television screens. When it’s a decentralized, sprawling affair that is broadcast for many days and nights, you can be pretty sure it’s democracy.

If you want to know what stolen elections look like, look at Russia, where we have studied elections and the media for decades.

The early heyday of Russian democracy was very messy. Just after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Kremlin poured money and resources into a Western-looking pro-market party called Russia’s Choice. Despite the money and help it got, the party failed spectacularly in the 1993 election. Meanwhile, nationalists and Communists, parties with strong connections to voters and their beliefs, won their way into power through the elections. But outcomes were unpredictable and the campaigns were chaotic.

How to steal an election, Russian-style

Over time, the Putin regime systematically consolidated its domination over politics, turning elections from a democratic contest into a controlled system that delivered regime victories.

Russian elections are now state-directed performances that eliminate opposition. Random targeted arrests and violence – especially against those who try to lead alternative political movements – are common. Alexei Navalny, leader of a reform movement and now recovering from a poisoning, could tell us a lot about that. So could Yegor Zhukov, a student blogger who was arrested and convicted of extremism and then beaten outside of his home for his political actions.

Even eliminating viable opposition can’t ensure certain victories at the polls. To eliminate all risk, as Russia demonstrates, autocrats must take four additional steps:

  1. Dominate the media message by controlling major news outlets through ownership, creating laws that stifle press freedom and repressing outspoken journalists.
  2. Assert control over local government officials who then ensure that voters turn out to support the regime.
  3. Build a vote tabulation process that allows ballot stuffing and falsified vote counts.
  4. Declare victory immediately and allow no questioning of the results.

Emerging from a decade of economic and political chaos in 2000, President Vladimir Putin honed his electoral machine to do just that. The Kremlin used its …read more


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'This is a five-alarm fire': Why this reporter is disturbed by the election messages on right-wing media

November 10, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Although some Republicans have congratulated President-Elect Joe Biden on his victory —including Sen. Mitt Romney, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb. Bush — President Donald Trump is refusing to concede, claiming, without evidence, that he has been the victim of widespread voter fraud. And according to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Trump’s supporters in the right-wing media are encouraging his false claims that he really won the election.

In an article published this week by CNN, Stelter explains, “The reality is that Joe Biden is the president-elect…. (But Trump) and his biggest promoters in the media are in denial about the election results, or are pretending to be. And many Republican Party leaders are falling in line. Today’s lies will have consequences tomorrow, because tens of millions of people are being exposed to this stuff through websites like Breitbart and shows like ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on Fox News.”

It’s important to note that at Fox News and Fox Business, there is a separation between the hard news divisions and opinion hosts like Carlson, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Laura Ingraham. Trump is furious that Fox News’ decision desk called Arizona for Biden on Election Day, but Carlson and Hannity have been promoting the conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from Trump through widespread voter fraud — even though there is no evidence to support that claim.

Stelter notes what his colleague at CNN, Oliver Darcy, had to say this week about the claim that Trump really won the election.

“Right-wing media has a firm grip on the Republican Party,” Darcy explained. “GOP senators and other prominent leaders are actively being encouraged to play along with this nonsense. And the ones who don’t actively fuel the fire will likely be less likely to speak out over fear of facing the wrath of people like Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc. This is a five-alarm fire.”

Stelter also notes what Carlson said this week: “We don’t know how many votes were stolen on Tuesday night. We don’t know anything about the software that many say was rigged. We don’t know. We ought to find out.”

Hannity, according to Stelter, has been slamming the mainstream media for reporting legitimate election results —and others on the far right are joining him in that.

“From Mark Levin to Ted Cruz, one of the Trump-might-have-won crowd’s main themes is that the major networks hastily called the …read more


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How Mesopotamia Became the Cradle of Civilization

November 10, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Environmental factors helped agriculture, architecture and eventually a social order emerge for the first time in ancient Mesopotamia.

While human civilization developed in many places around the world, it first emerged thousands of years ago in the ancient Middle East.

“We see the first cities, the first writing and first technologies originating in Mesopotamia,” says Kelly-Anne Diamond, a visiting assistant history professor at Villanova University, whose expertise includes ancient Near Eastern history and archaeology.

Mesopotamia’s name comes from the ancient Greek word for “the land between the rivers.” That’s a reference to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the twin sources of water for a region that lies mostly within the borders of modern-day Iraq, but also included parts of Syria, Turkey and Iran.

The presence of those rivers had a lot to do with why Mesopotamia developed complex societies and innovations such as writing, elaborate architecture and government bureaucracies. The regular flooding along the Tigris and the Euphrates made the land around them especially fertile and ideal for growing crops for food. That made it a prime spot for the Neolithic Revolution, also called the Agricultural Revolution, that began to take place almost 12,000 years ago.

That revolution “transformed human life across the planet, but it was in Mesopotamia where this process began,” Diamond explains.

With people cultivating plants and domesticating animals, they were able to stay in one place and form permanent villages. Eventually, those small settlements grew into early cities, where a lot of the characteristics of civilization—such as concentrations of population, monumental architecture, communication, division of labor, and different social and economic classes—developed.

But the emergence and evolution of civilization in Mesopotamia also was influenced by other factors—in particular, changes in climate and the natural environment, which compelled the region’s inhabitants to become more organized in order to cope.

Watch Engineering an Empire on HISTORY Vault

How Nature Nurtured Civilization

17th century map featuring Mesopotamia and the Tower of Babel.

Civilization didn’t develop in exactly the same way throughout the region, according to Hervé Reculeau, an associate professor of Assyriology at the University of Chicago and an expert in the history of ancient Mesopotamia. As he explains, urban societies developed independently in Lower Mesopotamia, an area in what is now southern Iraq where the early civilization of Sumer was located, and Upper Mesopotamia, which includes Northern Iraq and part of present-day western Syria.

One factor that …read more


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‘Black Rosies’: The Forgotten African American Heroines of the WWII Homefront

November 10, 2020 in History

By Aaron Randle

From shipyards to factories to government administrative offices, Black women worked to battle authoritarianism abroad and racism at home.

, a documentary on the Black Rosies. “The war gave the women a more pointed motivation for leaving and an opportunity to make money in ways Black women had never dreamed before.”

READ MORE: Women of the WWII Workforce: Photos Show the Real-Life Rosie the Riveters

President Roosevelt Intervenes to Address Workplace Inequity

Welders prepare to work on SS George Washington Carver in Richmond, California, 1943.

At first, finding war-related work proved difficult for many prospective Black Rosies, as many employers—almost always white men—refused to hire Black women.

“The war represented this incredible opportunity, but Black women really had to rally and fight for the opportunity to even be considered,” says Dr. Maureen Honey, author of Bitter Fruit: African American Women in World War II and emeritus professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “Many employers held out, attempting to only hire white women or white men, until they were forced to do otherwise.”

That coercion came in the summer of 1941 when activists Mary McLeod Bethune and A. Phillip Randolph brought the widespread hiring discrimination to President Franklin Roosevelt, prompting the Commander-in-Chief to sign Executive Order 8802 banning racial discrimination in the defense industry. The order boosted Black women’s entry into the war effort; of the 1 million African Americans who entered paid service for the first time following 8802’s signing, 600,000 were women.

The roles Black Rosies played in the war effort ran the gamut. They worked in factories as sheet metal workers and munitions and explosive assemblers; in navy yards as shipbuilders and along assembly lines as electricians. They were administrators, welders, railroad conductors and more.

“It was work that you were proud of,” says Ruth Wilson, a 98-year-old Black Rosie living in Philadelphia.

During the war, Mrs. Wilson left her job as a domestic and became a sheet metal worker at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she worked on the yard’s dry dock assembling ship bulkheads. “It made me feel good because my husband was over there in Europe fighting, and here I was doing my …read more


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Broken Treaties With Native American Tribes: Timeline

November 10, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

See a timeline of treaties signed and then broken by the U.S. government with various Indigenous peoples across the North American continent.

Concluded during the nearly 100-year period from the Revolutionary War to the aftermath of the Civil War, some 368 treaties would define the relationship between the United States and Native Americans for centuries to come.

The treaties were based on the fundamental idea that each tribe was an independent nation, with their own right to self-determination and self-rule. But as white settlers began moving onto Native American lands, this idea came into conflict with the relentless pace of westward expansion—resulting in many broken promises on the part of the U.S. government.

Treaty With the Delawares/Treaty of Fort Pitt – 1778

In September 1778, representatives of the newly formed Continental Congress signed a treaty with the Lenape (Delaware) at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania. In the first official peace treaty between the new United States and a Native American nation, both sides agreed to maintain friendship and support each other against the British.

But mutual suspicion continued, especially after Pennsylvania militiamen killed nearly 100 Lenape (most of them women and children) at the village of Gnadenhutten in March 1782, mistakenly believing they were responsible for attacks against white settlers. After the American victory, more and more white settlers moved onto Lenape territory, until the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795 forced them and other Ohio Country Native Americans to surrender most of their lands.

WATCH: Native American History Series on HISTORY Vault

Treaty of Hopewell – 1785-86

In the years following the Revolutionary War, Andrew Pickens and other commissioners of the new U.S. government concluded three highly similar treaties with the Cherokee, Choctaw and Cherokee Nations at Hopewell, Pickens’ plantation home in northwestern South Carolina.

Collectively known as the Treaty of Hopewell, these agreements extended the friendship and “protection” of the United States to the southern Native American tribes; all three ended with the same sentence: “The hatchet shall be forever buried, and peace given by the United States of America.”

Despite this sentiment, white settlers were already moving onto the lands designated for the Cherokee, leading to more conflict and the Treaty of Holston (1791), in which the Cherokee forfeited still more land.

READ MORE: Native American History: Timeline

Treaty of Canandaigua/Pickering Treaty/Calico Treaty – 1794

Red Jacket, chief of the Seneca (Iroquois) tribe, …read more