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Archive for August, 2013

Putin in Women’s Underwear Seized in Russian Raid

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Police in Russia have confiscated a painting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear from an art gallery in the city of St Petersburg.

The artwork depicts President Putin combing the hair of the prime minister.

The gallery owner said he had been given no formal warrant or explanation for the removal of the paintings.

 

China’s New Leadership Takes Hard Line

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they are being told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.

These seven perils were enumerated in a memo referred to as Document No. 9 that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civil society, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past…

The warnings were not idle. Since the circular was issued, party-run publications and Web sites have vehemently denounced constitutionalism and civil society, notions that were not considered off limits in recent years. Officials have intensified efforts to block access to critical views on the Internet…

“Constitutionalism belongs only to capitalism,” said one commentary in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily. Constitutionalism “is a weapon for information and psychological warfare used by the magnates of American monopoly capitalism and their proxies in China to subvert China’s socialist system,” said another commentary in the paper.

More from the NY Times

Places Actually Discovered by Europeans

Monday, August 19th, 2013

120815_MOTW_discoveries

Frederick Douglass: New Tea Party hero?!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Last week, Frederick Douglass — who escaped slavery at 20 years old and whose words would help bring an end to the institution — was honored with a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s and ’70s, far left activists like Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panther Party and Angela Davis of Communist Party USA incorporated Douglass’ call to agitation in their various causes’ platforms. Yet in a fascinating turnaround, the brilliant abolitionist, writer and orator is developing a new – and perhaps, unexpected – political identity: Tea Party hero.

The recent rise in interest in Douglass by conservatives stems from their belief that his life epitomizes the self-reliance they champion, and his writings help provide justification for small government. It may be surprising to some that the fiery, black radical abolitionist of the 19th century, who once called Fourth of July celebrations “a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages,” could be inspiring to a Tea Party patriot. Or that social conservatives could find common cause with the man who bitterly attacked America’s Christianity as “a lie.” But that is exactly what is happening.

…But as Republican Speaker John Boehner took the stage, leading the ceremony that pushes Frederick Douglass deeper into icon status, calling Douglass “one of the greatest Americans who ever lived,” it became less clear than ever who will win the battle to claim the legacy of Frederick Douglass.

In the Middle Ages, animals that did bad things were tried in court.

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In the fall of 1457, villagers in Savigny, France witnessed a sow and six piglets attack and kill a 5-year-old boy. Today, the animals would be summarily killed. But errant 15th-century French pigs went to court. And it wasn’t for a show trial—this was the real deal, equipped with a judge, two prosecutors, eight witnesses, and a defense attorney for the accused swine. Witness testimony proved beyond reasonable doubt that the sow had killed the child. The piglets’ role, however, was ambiguous. Although splattered with blood, they were never seen directly attacking the boy.  The judge sentenced the sow to be hanged by her hind feet from a “gallows tree.” The piglets, by contrast, were exonerated.

Such a case might seem bizarre to modern observers, but animal trials were commonplace public events in medieval and early modern Europe. Pigs, cows, goats, horses, and dogs that allegedly broke the law were routinely subjected to the same legal proceedings as humans. In a court of law, they were treated as persons. These somber affairs, which always adhered to the strictest legal procedures, reveal a bygone mentality according to which some animals possessed moral agency.

Former Governor, Now Purdue President, Wanted Howard Zinn Banned in Schools

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who more or less appointed the Board of Trustees that ultimately decided to hire him on as the President of Purdue University in January, is facing a new round of scrutiny for some heavy-handed moves he underwent as governor to remove ideas he didn’t like from school classrooms. According to a series of documents obtained by an Associated Press Freedom of Information Act request, Daniels also tried to use his position as governor to punish his enemies, including a professor at a local university. At the center of the story, however, is Daniels’ special hatred for historian Howard Zinn.

Zinn, in case you’re not familiar, was the author of A People’s History of the United States, a book he described to the New York Times as a “history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated.” It was, and still is, a controversial book, both as a work of history and as a work embodying a particular kind of radical approach to confronting injustice. But it’s a bestseller, hugely influential, and still used often in the classroom. Zinn died in 2010, while Daniels was in office. According to the Associated Press, here’s how Daniels marked his passing in an email:

This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away…The obits and commentaries mentioned his book, ‘A People’s History of the United States,’ is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?

The former governor is the subject of criticism from many faculty, staffers, and alums of the college, both because of his conservative politics and because of his lack of academic credentials, given Purdue’s status as a major, science-focused research center.

Is the British Royal Family Worth the Money?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Calls for the U.K. to abolish the monarchy and become a republic are ever-present, but they tend to tick up during big, royal-centric events. Still, about 80 percent of Britons approve of the monarchy fairly consistently.

And that may be for good reason — there’s at least some evidence that the monarchy brings in heaps of tourism revenue.

According to Buckingham Palace, sustaining the royal family costs Britons 53 pence, or about 81 cents, per person, per year. The total came to about 33.3 million pounds (about $51.1 million) for 2012-2013, according to the Palace, up from 32.4 million pounds the previous year.

Calls for the U.K. to abolish the monarchy and become a republic are ever-present, but they tend to tick up during big, royal-centric events. Still, about 80 percent of Britons approve of the monarchy fairly consistently.

And that may be for good reason — there’s at least some evidence that the monarchy brings in heaps of tourism revenue.

According to Buckingham Palace, sustaining the royal family costs Britons 53 pence, or about 81 cents, per person, per year. The total came to about 33.3 million pounds (about $51.1 million) for 2012-2013, according to the Palace, up from 32.4 million pounds the previous year.

British Porn Ban Is on the Way

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In order to (supposedly) protect women and children, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is going to announce a set of measures designed to curb Brits’ appetite for porn. Sometime around the end of this year, those living in the British Isles will have to let their Internet providers know if they want access to porn, and by the end of next year, it’ll be against the law to have “violent” porn.

The “moves” being enacted will include the following:

  • Every household in the U.K. will have its access to porn blocked by default. People will have to ask their ISP provider to opt out of this block.
  • “Extreme” pornography which involves violent scenes or simulated rape is going to be outlawed.
  • An organization called Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre Internet will come up with a set of search terms in relation child abuse/child porn that will then be blocked

“I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence,” reads Cameron’s expected speech today, which primarily will focus on children.

The Chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In devastating detail, an excerpt from a controversial new book reveals how the big studios, desperate to protect German business, let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.

Color Footage of Hiroshima, Rebuilding from the Rubble

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

This video, taken at the direction of the US Air Force in March 1946 and now held in the National Archives, shows Hiroshima seven months after the bomb, when the city was under U.S. occupation and in the process of rebuilding.

After the war, General MacArthur ordered that the results of the air campaign against Japan be documented.

But these seventeen silent minutes, once classified along with the rest, aren’t at all grisly. Rather, they show the tasks of daily life in a city reduced to ruin.

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