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Archive for February, 2014

Photosessay — World War II After the War

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

This is Part 20 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]

From The Trenches To The Web: British WWI Diaries Digitized

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Most of this trove consists of official diaries, recording the day-to-day activities of British army units in the first world war. The scale of death is huge. Nearly a million British soldiers died in the war, half of them on the Western front in France and Belgium.

Gay Nigerians targeted as ‘un-African’

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Despite evidence of homosexual customs pre-dating the colonial era, intolerant laws are flourishing across Africa.

After news broke that President Goodluck Jonathan had on January 7 signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition bill, unanimously approved by lawmakers in May 2013…

While condemned by the likes of the United Nations and the European Union, the law is praised by a majority of Nigerians, who have united under a banner of patriotism and what many perceive as a fight against Western imperialism. The president’s spokesperson reportedly stated that the law “reflects the religious and cultural preferences of the Nigerian people”.

A 2013 Pew survey that interviewed adult Nigerians found that 98 percent of respondents agreed that homosexuality “should not be accepted into society”…

Amnesty International reported that 16 African countries do not have criminal laws against homosexuality, whereas 38 have made it illegal…

“We don’t ask the Europeans to be polygamists,” President Macky Sall told US President Barack Obama in 2013. “We like polygamy in our country, but we can’t impose it in yours. Because the people won’t understand it. They won’t accept it. It’s the same thing.”

When Pete Seeger Faced Down the House Un-American Activities Committee

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Amid all the tributes and accolades to Pete Seeger today, it’s easy to paper over the extent to which his career was almost destroyed by associations with communism and his refusal to testify to Congress about his time in the Communist Party.

When, in August 1955, he was summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he refused to discuss his political associations and activities, and chastised the committee for the entire inquiry. As he put it that day:

I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.

Seeger was later indicted by a federal jury on 10 counts of contempt of Congress. He was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 10 concurrent one-year prison terms, which he never served. In 1962, the convictions were overturned.

Seeger also discussed this, among other adventures, on Fresh Air in 1985

Putin’s Games: Influence Peddling at the Feeding Troughs of Sochi

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The president has used the spectacle — and the vast construction contracts involved — to secure his own power and to rid himself of rivals.

Just 18 months ago, Putin appeared weakened as a result of ballot box fraud and mass demonstrations. But now he is using the Olympic Games to present himself as a leader who can do everything. And he is using the event to consolidate his rule and shunt aside rivals. Those who serve him unconditionally are allowed to profit handsomely. Those who don’t lose his blessing.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Solution to Poverty

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

When Americans stop to commemorate Dr. Matin Luther King, Jr. each year, we tend to do a great disservice to the man’s legacy by glossing over his final act as an anti-poverty crusader. In the weeks leading to his assassination, King had been hard at work organizing a new march on Washington known as the “Poor People’s Campaign.” The goal was to erect a tent city on the National Mall that, as Mark Engler described it for The Nation in 2010, would “dramatize the reality of joblessness and deprivation by bringing those excluded from the economy to the doorstep of the nation’s leaders.” The great civil rights leader was killed before he could see the effort through.

So what, exactly, was the reverend’s economic dream? In short, King wanted the government to eradicate poverty by providing every American a guaranteed, middle-class income—an idea that, while light-years beyond the realm of mainstream political conversation today, had actually come into vogue by the late 1960s.

Andrew Jackson: Amazing

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

One hundred and seventy-nine years ago today, President Andrew Jackson had a close call. The 67-year-old president emerged from a funeral in the House chamber and was set upon by Richard Lawrence, a housepainter who was off that day. Initiating what would become the first assassination attempt in American history, Lawrence tried to fire his pistol. It made a large bang, but the president did not fall. The percussion cap had detonated, but the gunpowder failed to ignite.

Jackson then brained his attacker with his cane. The blow did not significantly muddle Lawrence, because he was already very muddled in the head. He had attacked the seventh president because he believed that the U.S. government owed him a large sum of money. Jackson, who was engaged in a brutal struggle with the Whigs over the National Bank, was nevertheless not in control of it or any other bank. Still, Lawrence would not be deterred from his belief that if he killed Jackson the funds would be released and he would take his place as the rightful King of England and Rome. Though he was confused about the line of succession, he was thorough. He produced a second pistol, which he also attempted to fire. It too would not discharge. At this point everyone stopped so that a fine pen and ink drawing could be made. Then, Jackson was assisted by others, including Davy Crockett of Tennessee, then a member of Congress, who was apparently serving on the Readiness-in-Case-of-Crazy-Historical-Moments subcommittee of the House It-Can’t-Get-Any-Weirder Committee.

Lawrence was subdued and ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity and very bad luck. It was later discovered that he had asked the Jackson administration for a civil service appointment and was denied. He lived the rest of his life in an institution.

Researchers at the Smithsonian Institution studied Lawrence’s derringers a century after the assassination attempt. Both fired on the first try.

Five months later, Jackson would also receive another threat. A man wrote him a letter from a Philadelphia hotel promising to slit his throat while he slept if he did not release two pirates being held in prison. Nothing became of it. The killing of a president would be left to the correspondent’s son, John Wilkes Booth.

-Thanks John Dickerson at Slate

‘Pope And Mussolini’ Tells The ‘Secret History’ Of Fascism And The Church

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

It’s commonly thought that the Catholic Church fought heroically against the fascists when Benito Mussolini’s party ruled over Italy in the 1920s and ’30s. But in The Pope and Mussolini, David Kertzer says the historical record and a trove of recently released archives tell a very different story.

Why Does Iran Have a Serious Brain-Drain Problem

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Answer by Sam Sinai, theoretical biologist embedded in a computer science program at MIT, has lived in Iran and U.S.:

Since I technically qualify as a “drained brain,” I will give you an anecdotal account, accompanied with a more broad set of reasons why people like me leave and continue leaving. But before we get there, take a look at this excellent infographic on this topic.

A telling Quora response

Old Mexico lives on

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

On February 2nd 1848, following a short and one-sided war, Mexico agreed to cede more than half its territory to the United States. An area covering most of present-day Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, plus parts of several other states, was handed over to gringolandia. The rebellious state of Tejas, which had declared its independence from Mexico in 1836, was recognised as American soil too. But a century and a half later, communities have proved more durable than borders.