Buried for 100,000 years at Xujiayao in the Nihewan Basin of northern China, the recovered skull pieces of an early human exhibit a now-rare congenital deformation that indicates inbreeding might well have been common among our ancestors, new research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis suggests.
The skull, known as Xujiayao 11, has an unusual perforation through the top of the brain case - an enlarged parietal foramen (EPF) or 'hole in the skull' - that is consistent with modern humans diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation in the homeobox genes ALX4 on chromosome 11 and MSX2 on chromosome 5. These specific genetic mutations interfere with bone formation and prevent the closure of small holes in the back of the prenatal braincase, a process that is normally completed within the first five months of fetal development. It occurs in about one out of every 25,000 modern human births....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 14:20
Julia Pierson was sworn in Wednesday as the first female director of the Secret Service in its 148-year history. She took the standard federal oath administered by Vice President Joe Biden with President Obama holding the Bible in the Oval Office.
"As Joe Biden pointed out, this person now probably has more control over our lives than anyone else, except for our spouses, and I couldn't be placing our lives in better hands," Obama told reporters after the swearing-in....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 14:18
When Nobel Prize-winning writer William Faulkner’s works went on sale in 2010, auction house Christie’s said the collection of 90 items “was nearly a complete representation of Faulkner’s work,” according to the Huffington Post. But last year, Lee Caplin, executor of Faulkner’s literary estate, and others discovered a “treasure trove of these literary papers” in the Faulker family barn in Virginia. Now, the papers, which include a story Faulkner wrote in college, along with Faulkner’s Nobel medal, are going up for auction with Sotheby’s....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 11:49
Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy have dated the shroud to ancient times, a few centuries before and after the life of Christ.
Many Catholics believe that the 14ft-long linen cloth, which bears the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, was used to bury Christ's body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified 2,000 years ago.
The analysis is published in a new book, "Il Mistero della Sindone" or The Mystery of the Shroud, by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 10:39
Construction workers backed by German police have removed a section of the Berlin Wall to make way for a building project, despite calls for the historic site to be preserved.
Residents expressed shock at the removal of the East Side Gallery, as that section is known, which followed a series of protests, including one attended by the actor David Hasselhoff.
A police spokesman, Alexander Tönnies, said there were no incidents as work had begun at about 5am to take down four sections of the wall, each about 1.2 metres wide, to make way for an access route to the planned high-rise luxury flats along the Spree river....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 10:31
They beat her, bound her and led her from home. She knelt before the crowds as they denounced her. Then they loaded her on to a truck, drove her to the outskirts of town and shot her.
Fang Zhongmou's execution for political crimes during the Cultural Revolution was commonplace in its brutality but more shocking to outsiders in one regard: her accusers were her husband and their 16-year-old child.
More than four decades on, Fang's son is seeking to atone by telling her story and calling for the preservation of her grave in their home town of Guzhen, central Anhui province, as a cultural relic....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:41
As soon as the travelling crate was opened and the shroud of white tissue paper carefully peeled away, it was clear there was damage to the dark blue coat: a hole in the left shoulder, and some of the gold braid on the epaulette torn away. The damage happened more than two centuries ago, and the coat's arrival in France was one of the most unusual days in the history of the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, south London, and the Musée de l'Armée, at Les Invalides in Paris.
"I think it's a wonder," said Emelie Robbe, a curator of the Paris museum's new exhibition on Napoleon and Europe. "It is astonishing that it should be here."
The coat, an undress uniform of the Royal Navy, already slightly old fashioned when it was made in the late 18th century, had never left England since 1805, when it came back in a sea chest on the same ship that carried the body of Horatio Nelson preserved in a barrel of brandy. It has now voyaged again, through the Channel tunnel, into the heart of his enemy's empire....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:40
A poem inspired by her late mother's stories of the first world war, which has drawn comparisons with Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, has won the poetry journal Agenda's editor Patricia McCarthy the National Poetry Competition.
McCarthy, who has published several poetry collections of her own, beat 13,040 other entries to win the anonymously-judged prize. Her winning poem, "Clothes that escaped the Great War", tells of the plodding carthorse who would take boys away to war, and then return, later, with just their clothes. "These were the most scary, my mother recalled: clothes / piled high on the wobbly cart, their wearers gone," writes McCarthy.
Judges and poets Vicki Feaver, Nick Laird and WN Herbert said they were first struck by the poem's unusual title, but then drawn in by its atmosphere. "We loved the journey it takes – both literally, as the horse and cart piled high with old work-clothes trundles down the lanes, and metaphorically, as these clothes come to represent the ghosts of all the young men lost in the Great War," said Feaver. "It follows on from the wonderful poems written by poets like Owen and Sassoon about their war experience, to show the grief of the women left behind."...
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:39
"Do Jews have big noses?", "Are they particularly business savvy?", "Can you make jokes about the Holocaust?", "Is 'Jew' a curse word?"
Seconds after visitors have stepped through the sliding doors and into the exhibition space at Berlin's Jewish Museum, they are confronted by these and other often equally disquieting questions, beamed onto the floor in front of them.
They were collected from comments in the 800 visitors' books the museum has compiled since it opened in 2001, and whittled down to 32 of the most frequently asked, to form the backbone of its latest show, The Whole Truth – What You've Always Wanted to Know About Jews (but might have been too afraid to ask, the title could have added)....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:38
Nelson Mandela has been admitted to hospital with a recurrence of a lung infection, the South African government said on Thursday.
A statement said the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader and former president was admitted shortly before midnight. It gave no further details other than to say he was receiving the "best possible expert medical treatment and comfort". Mandela has a history of lung problems dating back to when he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:37
Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833) was a highly influential religious and anti-slavery leader. Among Haynes’s many firsts, he was the first African-American to be ordained to the Christian ministry and the first African-American to receive a college degree (an M.A. from Middlebury in 1804). After serving in the Continental Army during the Revolution, Haynes began his career as a minister in Rutland, Vermont, where he remained for thirty years. It was during this ministry that Haynes delivered his famous sermon, Universal Salvation, a Very Ancient Doctrine: with Some Account of the Life and Character of Its Author. Delivered as a response to a lecture by Hosea Ballou on the doctrine of universal redemption, Haynes’ Universal Salvation stands as one of the most famous and reprinted works of religious satire. This copy of the sermon, in Haynes own hand, contains more than sixty textual differences and three deletions from the printed copies. Including this copy, only three sermons in Haynes’s own handwriting are known to exist.
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:31
In the fall of 1799, George Washington wrote to his nephew: “Two hundred gallons of Whiskey will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better, as the demand for this article (in these parts) is brisk.”
The whiskey Washington spoke of was produced in his own distillery, at Mount Vernon, and the popularity of the spirit (in these parts) remains. Mount Vernon historians-turned-distillers have been busy making Washington’s unaged rye whiskey, following his recipe and manual methods, since early this month and will put 1,100 bottles up for sale in April.
The team, led by former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell, has perfected the craft since they began distilling at the old mill twice a year beginning in 2009. (A $2.1 million grant from the distilled spirits industry helped fund the project.) And the demand for their product has grown: The waiting list is more than 4,000 for this year’s batch....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:28
WASHINGTON — The National Portrait Gallery will host a trivia night in honor of Women’s History Month.
Women’s History Month is recognized during the month of March.
The gallery’s event, titled Pop Quiz!, convenes Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Kogod Courtyard....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:27
BEIJING — A photo of China’s new first lady Peng Liyuan in younger days, singing to martial-law troops following the 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, flickered across Chinese cyberspace this week.
It was swiftly scrubbed from China’s Internet before it could generate discussion online. But the image — seen and shared by outside observers — revived a memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the softer side of China.
The country has no recent precedent for the role of first lady, and also faces a tricky balance at home. The leadership wants Peng to show the human side of the new No. 1 leader, Xi Jinping, while not exposing too many perks of the elite. And it must balance popular support for the first couple with an acute wariness of personality cults that could skew the consensus rule among the Chinese Communist Party’s top leaders....
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:23
Ahn Sehong had to go to China to recover a vanishing — and painful — part of Korea’s wartime history. Visiting small villages and overcoming barriers of language and distrust, he documented the tales of women — some barely teenagers — who had been forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese Army.
Starting in 2001, he began tracking down 13 of these women who had been stranded in China after the war. Now in their 80s and 90s, some were childless, others penniless. Most lived in hovels, often in the same dusty rural towns where they had endured the war. They had been away from their native land so long, some could no longer speak Korean.
Mr. Ahn had no doubts about their identity.
“Each one of these women is history,” he said. “They have suffered the biggest pain created by the war. Everyone forgot about the suffering these women went through. But I want to embrace them. As Koreans, we have to take care of them.”...
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 09:16
New research into Thonis-Heracleion, a sunken port-city that served as the gateway to Egypt in the first millennium BC, is being examined at an international conference at the University of Oxford. The port city, situated 6.5 kilometres off today’s coastline, was one of the biggest commercial hubs in the Mediterranean before the founding of Alexandria.
The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford is collaborating on the project with the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) in cooperation with Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities...
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 16:40
A stunning historical discovery was made at the first meeting of the revived Russian Military History Society when President Vladimir Putin asserted that the Bolsheviks used Finnish “armed formations” for executing the coup in October 1917 (Rossiskaya Gazeta, March 14). Even more remarkable was his reinterpretation of the Winter War with Finland (1939–1940) as not an act of aggression aimed at subjugating a neighbor that rejected the Communist model, but merely an attempt to correct earlier mistakes of drawing the border too close to St. Petersburg (Vedomosti, March 14). Putin conceded that the first months of that war were “bloody and inefficient” but concluded on a positive note that necessary forces were eventually mobilized and “everything fell into their right places” so that “the other side felt the entire might of the Russian—then Soviet—state” (RIA Novosti, March 14). This glorification of Stalin’s militaristic expansionism adds only a tiny fresh dose of poison to Russian-Finnish relations, but it speaks volumes about Putin’s perception of the modern world and Russia’s place in it....
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 16:38
With its inspiring images of citizens around the Middle East taking to the streets to demand an end to dictatorship, the Arab Spring rekindled our faith in democracy. As the dramatic events unfolded on television, it was impossible not to believe that however tightly autocrats may try to hold on to power, and however messy transitions may be, in the end, despotism must yield to the will of the people....
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 15:51
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Even life-long St. Louis residents may not realize that a big battle was once fought on what is now the site of Ballpark Village, which is in the early stages of development just north of Busch Stadium.
Interestingly, this wasn’t a conflict during the U.S. Civil War, but the Revolutionary War.
The “Battle of St. Louis” — also known as the “Battle of Fort San Carlos” — took place in May 1780, and downtown looked much different 233 years ago.
“The early French city of St. Louis had a wall that enclosed it on three sides, and the fourth side was the Mississippi River,” notes Michael Fuller, history professor at St. Louis Community College-Meramec and one of the foremost experts on the battle....
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 11:14
There were “the Shooter” and “the Point Man.” Now a third member of SEAL Team 6 offers another account of the raid on Osama bin Laden that led to his death in 2011.
The report from CNN appears to contradict Esquire’s widely circulated story, "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden," by Phil Bronstein. The unnamed source from CNN calls the Esquire account "complete B-S."
The SEAL team member in the Esquire profile, who was described simply as the Shooter, claimed that he entered the compound and found bin Laden with a gun in reach and shot him....
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 08:41
It couldbe the year for discovering notorious monarchs.
Just weeks after remains found under a car park were confirmed as Richard III, archaeologists now believe they may just have stumbled on Alfred the Great.
Amid great secrecy, a team exhumed an unmarked grave at a more fitting location for a Royal burial - a churchyard in Winchester named in ancient documents as his burial place.
After a delicate 10-hour operation on Monday, human skeletal remains were unearthed in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s in the Hyde area of the city, and taken for storage at an undisclosed location....
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 08:40
CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is spending his time in federal prison teaching Civil War history and learning to play the guitar, while his attorneys work on an appeal, his wife said on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the beginning of his 14-year term for corruption.
"All that we have been left with is a aching hole in our lives," Patti Blagojevich also said in a Facebook post. Glenn Selig, a longtime spokesman for Rod Blagojevich, confirmed the posting was from Patti Blagojevich.
Blagojevich reported to a Colorado federal prison on March 15, 2012. Jurors had convicted him on 18 counts, including charges that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.
Patti Blagojevich wrote that attorneys are "working diligently" on her husband's appeal but they wouldn't have any answers for at least six months....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 19:27
It's the barely-known disaster which claimed the lives of four Birmingham seamen at the height of the Second World War.
But the sinking of HMS Dasher is still at the centre of mystery and intrigue, 70 years later.
A total of 379 lives were lost when the aircraft carrier went down in just eight minutes off the coast of Scotland on March 27, 1943.
The tragedy was put down to an explosion caused by petrol fumes igniting....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 16:21
We've all heard the story of the "40 acres and a mule" promise to former slaves. It's a staple of black history lessons, and it's the name of Spike Lee's film company. The promise was the first systematic attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves, and it was astonishingly radical for its time, proto-socialist in its implications. In fact, such a policy would be radical in any country today: the federal government's massive confiscation of private property -- some 400,000 acres -- formerly owned by Confederate land owners, and its methodical redistribution to former black slaves. What most of us haven't heard is that the idea really was generated by black leaders themselves....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 16:03
(Reuters) - The French dubbed it the neglected "Cinderella" of their African colonial empire; modern observers have called it a "phantom state".
Landlocked, isolated and poverty stricken, despite its reserves of gold, timber, uranium and gemstone quality diamonds, Central African Republic has been racked by debilitating rebellions for more than a decade.
In the latest revolt, fighters from a loose rebel alliance demanding an end to years of exclusion from government seized control of the riverside capital Bangui on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 15:40
(Reuters) - King Richard III is at the center of a new fight over the location of his final resting place, just weeks after the remains of the last English king to die in battle were found underneath a council car park.
Archaeologists announced one of the most remarkable finds in recent English history last month when they confirmed the discovery of the body of Richard, who was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, during excavations in Leicester.
The discovery generated massive interest internationally as the monarch was famously cast by William Shakespeare as a deformed tyrant who murdered his two nephews, known as the princes, in the Tower of London....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 15:37
Two secret documents signed by China’s Mao Zedong during the 1930s sold for almost a million dollars at a New York auction on Wednesday, reported the state-run news agency China News Service.
The rare documents are related to the famous 1936 Xi’an Incident, a turning point in Chinese history when one of Chiang Kai-shek’s most trusted generals, the “Young Marshal” Zhang Xueliang, placed him under house arrest — forcing the leader of the nationalist Chinese Republic of China to negotiate a cease-fire with Mao’s Communists, in order to fight a joint war against the Japanese invasion....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 15:07
Karl Marx was supposed to be dead and buried. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s Great Leap Forward into capitalism, communism faded into the quaint backdrop of James Bond movies or the deviant mantra of Kim Jong Un. The class conflict that Marx believed determined the course of history seemed to melt away in a prosperous era of free trade and free enterprise. The far-reaching power of globalization, linking the most remote corners of the planet in lucrative bonds of finance, outsourcing and “borderless” manufacturing, offered everybody from Silicon Valley tech gurus to Chinese farm girls ample opportunities to get rich. Asia in the latter decades of the 20th century witnessed perhaps the most remarkable record of poverty alleviation in human history — all thanks to the very capitalist tools of trade, entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Capitalism appeared to be fulfilling its promise — to uplift everyone to new heights of wealth and welfare.
Or so we thought. With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.
A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right. It is sadly all too easy to find statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. A September study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington noted that the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the U.S. in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973. Between 1983 and 2010, 74% of the gains in wealth in the U.S. went to the richest 5%, while the bottom 60% suffered a decline, the EPI calculated. No wonder some have given the 19th century German philosopher a second look. In China, the Marxist country that turned its back on Marx, Yu Rongjun was inspired by world events to pen a musical based on Marx’s classic Das Kapital. “You can find reality matches what is described in the book,” says the playwright....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 14:53
Forty years after its release, Pink Floyd’s groundbreaking album “The Dark Side of the Moon” has found a permanent home in the United States Library of Congress. The prog rock opus is one of 25 recordings being added to the National Recording Registry, the Library announced today.
Since 2000, the Library has been tasked by Congress with building a registry of sound recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” to American society and at least a decade old. The 350 recordings already in the registry span the gamut of the aural experience, from an 1888 recording of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” made for a children’s doll by Thomas Edison to “Dear Mama,” a 1995 release by hip-hop star Tupac Shakur. This year’s new additions also include “The Twist” by Chubby Checker, the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever and a broadcast near the shores of Normandy on D-Day by radio correspondent George Hicks. A similar registry was established for film in 1989....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 14:47
One of the most enduring myths associated with Swiss banks is the money of “unknown” origin that has been hidden in their coffers for generations. Because of a number of laws enacted in the past 15 years, Switzerland’s financial institutions are now tightly regulated, but at least one mystery still remains: who owns hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of unclaimed assets languishing in the nation’s banks — and how long will they be kept there?
Earlier this month, Switzerland’s parliament set a 62-year deadline for the recovery of unclaimed assets, which are roughly estimated at anywhere from $100 million to $600 million. This means that the banks must keep inactive accounts for six decades after the last contact with the customer, and then turn the assets over to the Swiss government. The new time limit is longer than allowed in most other countries, which liquidate dormant accounts after five to 30 years. And while the deadline is part of larger reforms of the banking sector, it is born out of the scandal that erupted in the 1990s over the dormant World War II accounts stashed in Swiss banks by Jews fleeing Nazi persecution....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 14:45
The remains of an American World War II soldier missing in action for nearly 70 years have reportedly been identified after they were found on the Pacific’s Northern Mariana Islands.
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command confirmed to FoxNews.com that its team currently working in Saipan has received “possible human remains” and material evidence consistent with an unresolved case from World War II.
“At this point, we cannot confirm the identity of these remains,” an email to FoxNews.com read. “Our next step is to get the remains and evidence back to JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and conduct the appropriate forensic analyses.”...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 13:04
Before Vietnam became synonymous to 1970s Americans with a seemingly endless war, it might have conjured images of French wines and big game hunting. In the early 1960s, the U.S. government tried to encourage tourism in Vietnam in elsewhere in Southeast Asia as a sort of travel diplomacy.
"Tourism's proper development, it was believed, could serve important U.S. geostrategic objectives," writes University of Minnesota history professor Scott Laderman in his 2009 book Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory. Friendly American faces could soften the reputation of the U.S. overseas, it was thought, and their souvenir purchases might bolster emerging economies....
[H]ere are some highlights from a 1961 travel brochure for the country, aptly titled "Visit Fascinating Vietnam," stored at archive.org and apparently housed at one point by the University of Texas....
Saigon is "the cleanest, most fascinating city in the Orient," it says, with traffic jams made "not by cars, but by scooters," and it comes complete with "vendors of soup, dried meat, and sugar cane juice," "the best French cooking in the Orient," and, "above all, the doe-eyed shapely Vietnamese girls dressed in the most gracious way." (Emphasis theirs.)...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:59
Her name has been put forward for inclusion in the organisation’s scheme by a member of the public and her case is being considered by a panel including Sir David Cannadine, the historian, and Sir Andrew Motion, the former Poet Laureate.
The plaques, which are attached to birthplaces and former homes of prominent figures, are not traditionally associated with royalty, as the scheme does not cover royal buildings or palaces.
However, in the case of the late Queen Mother, other addresses could be considered, including her parents’ house near Victoria Station in London, where she lived as a child, and a property in Sloane Street. She also lived at a house in Bruton Street, near Berkeley Square, where the Queen was born....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:20
...It has been a year that has seen the popularity of King Juan Carlos plummet to unprecedented depths - to the point that even die-hard "JuanCarlistas", as his supporters are known, are now openly discussing the need for abdication in favour of his heir, Prince Felipe....
The King, long extolled for his role in bringing democracy to Spain following the death of dictator Francisco Franco, had for decades enjoyed the sort of respect and privacy from the press that would have been the envy of his British relatives, the Windsors.
The King's playboy reputation and love of expensive pursuits including fast cars and sailing were tolerated even with an annual bill of around 9 million euros to the taxpayer.
But a turning point in his popularity came last April when it emerged - after a nocturnal accident that left him with a broken hip - that he had been enjoying a luxury safari in Botswana hunting elephants....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:19
Livingstone Fagan is waiting for the end of the world as we know it, which he believes is coming soon.
“The tables will turn,” he says, pacing his bare council flat in a tower block in Nottingham. “We endure what is thrown at us, no matter how extreme, because the day will come, as David says.”
This trim 53-year-old with ashen dreadlocks is talking about David Koresh, the self-declared messiah who was holed up in a compound in Waco, Texas, with an armed group of followers, 20 years ago today.
Fagan was there, willing to fight in defence of his family and the man he believed was a second Christ. He had done so in the gunfight at the beginning of the siege in late February 1993, when federal agents attempt to storm the compound and were repelled. And when it all finished with another attack, 51 days later, Fagan lost his wife, his mother, and many of his friend....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:17
Some of Margaret Thatcher's closest policy advisers voiced strong concerns that the Falklands Islands were not worth the fight, from the earliest days of the campaign, according to the latest release of files from the former Conservative prime minister's personal papers.
The papers show that, contrary to the jingoistic spirit at the time, the divisions over the Falklands went to the very heart of Downing Street with both Thatcher's senior economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters, and her chief of staff, David Wolfson, proposing schemes offering to buy-out the 1,800 islanders rather than send a taskforce to the South Atlantic. The scepticism extended to the head of the Downing Street policy unit, Sir John Hoskyns, who voiced the fear of making "almighty fools of ourselves" and worried that an essentially minor issue could precipitate the downfall of the Thatcher government.
Hoskyns also told her press secretary, Bernard Ingham, that it was "rather unwise" to talk about the islanders' wishes being paramount, and criticised the public tone being struck: "If we talk about it as a combination of Stalingrad and Alamein we risk looking absurd. This is not a battle for our homeland and civilisation."...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:09
Congressional Republicans have condemned Barack Obama for designating five new national monuments at a time when sequester funding cuts are hitting existing national parks and landmarks.
Doc Hastings, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement on Monday criticising the president for spending at a time when the sequester has forced the cancellation of White House tours.
Obama signed proclamations on Monday establishing the five new monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
"These sites honour the pioneering heroes, spectacular landscapes and rich history that have shaped our extraordinary country," Obama said. "By designating these national monuments today, we will ensure they will continue to inspire and be enjoyed by generations of Americans to come."...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:03
'I was saved by the grace of the devil," Holocaust survivor Perla Ovitz told us. Again and again, she recounted in detail how she and her family were taken to the gas chamber and ordered to strip naked. A heavy door opened and they were pushed inside. "It was almost dark and we stood in what looked like a large washing room, waiting for something to happen. We looked up to the ceiling to see why the water was not coming. Suddenly we smelled gas. We gasped heavily, some of us fainting on the floor. With our last breath we cried out. Minutes passed, or maybe just seconds, then we heard an angry voice from outside – 'Where is my dwarf family?' The door opened, and we saw Dr Mengele standing there. He ordered us to be carried out and had cold water poured on us to revive us."
The Ovitz family, from the village of Rozavlea in Transylvania, was the largest recorded family of dwarves: a dwarf father who sired 10 children, seven of them dwarves. Perla, born in 1921, was the youngest. In that remote part of Romania in the early 20th century, it was difficult for anyone to eke a living from the land and livestock, and impossible for someone standing less than 3ft tall.
Their mother, anxious for her children's future, guided them towards a common skill, a profession in which they could together make a living and would be neither isolated nor ostracised. As the five sisters and two brothers were all good-looking and musically gifted, the stage seemed the perfect choice: for where else could they be applauded, courted, honoured?...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:44
Max Mannheimer will never forget the words of his block leader when he entered the gates of Dachau concentration camp on 6 August 1944. "You're veterans at this by now," said the prisoner, a communist. "You know that the most important thing is not to draw attention to yourselves if you want to survive."
Behind Max, then aged 24, and his younger brother Edgar had lain a long and gruelling trudge through Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, and the Warsaw ghetto, during which the siblings had lost their entire family, most of them in Auschwitz, simply for being Jewish.
In Dachau, Mannheimer was assigned the prisoner number 87098. "It was the last camp number I would ever have," the 93-year-old said. "But I took the block leader's message on board: 'You've got this far, just keep your head down, as the SS will pounce on you for the smallest violation'." He was liberated nine months later by US troops from a Dachau sub-camp, where one of his last jobs had been to cart the corpses of prisoners into the mortuary. Stricken with typhus, he had been reduced to skin and bones, weighing just 47kg. "I was a skeleton," he said. "I cried with both joy and despair."...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:42
At the turn of the last century, Manhattan’s Lower West Side was a bustling hub of life for Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants who set up shops and moved into tenements in a community known as Little Syria.
Now, there is little left marking the old neighborhood, seen as an epicenter of Arab immigration that was once home to stores like Brooklyn favorite Sahadi’s. But advocates are lobbying the Landmarks Preservation Commission to change that.
“Every Arab-American who would have come to the United States would have probably spent some time or had ties to the Lower West Side of Manhattan,” said Todd Fine, co-founder of Save Washington Street. He calls Little Syria “the beating heart of Arab immigration to the United States,” with an important literary community and restaurants and cafes selling Lebanese food and pastries as the Ninth Avenue El whirred by....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:35
Mohammed Fairouz has never been shy about using his musical platform to explore political and social issues. Nor is the young New York-based composer allergic to popular culture in its most colorful forms. So for his latest work, "Symphony No. 4, In the Shadow of No Towers," which will make its world premiere Tuesday at Carnegie Hall, he is grappling with the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by adapting the 2004 graphic novel "In the Shadow of No Towers" by Art Spiegelman.
Mr. Fairouz, who is 27 and grew up in New York and London, said he was initially attracted both to the book's structure and to its contemplative treatment of the events. "Graphic novels have a kind of architecture that is musical," he said. "I thought the way that it dealt with the event and its aftermath wasn't overly sentimental, but at the same time was respectful."
But when he pitched the "No Towers" idea to Mr. Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and illustrator of "Maus" was hesitant. A previous effort by another composer to create a multimedia production had yielded mixed results, so the artist's expectations were tempered. After hearing Mr. Fairouz's completed symphony, though, he was moved....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:34
When she returned from the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Air Force nurse Denise Nichols experienced sudden aches, fatigue and cognitive problems, but she had no idea what was causing them. They grew worse: Even helping her daughter with multiplication tables became difficult, she says, and eventually she had to quit her job.
Nichols wasn’t alone. About a third of Gulf War veterans — possibly as many as 250,000 Americans — returned with similar symptoms.
Now an imaging study has found that these veterans have what appear to be unique structural changes in the wiring of their brains. This fits with the scientific consensus that Gulf War Syndrome, or GWS, is a physical condition rather than a psychosomatic one and should be treated with painkilling drugs instead of counseling.
Military authorities in various countries consistently denied in the past that there was a physical basis to GWS. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs now accepts that the disorder is physical, the issue has been mired in controversy....
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:28
So few people do favors for NASA these days. So when Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com founder, announced last week that an expedition he financed had hoisted two F-1 rocket engines from an Apollo mission off the ocean floor, the agency was understandably grateful.
“We look forward to the restoration of these engines by the Bezos team and applaud Jeff’s desire to make these historic artifacts available for public display,” the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., said in a statement.
The engines may have been among the five that helped launch Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 shipmates to the Moon in 1969, while Mr. Bezos, then 5, watched on television. Today Mr. Bezos, one of a lineup of millionaires keen on space and underwater adventure, noted in a blog post that the F-1 rocket engine is “still a modern wonder — one and a half million pounds of thrust, 32 million horsepower, and burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second.”...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:20
WASHINGTON — The struggle for African-Americans’ rights, symbolized by the bloody 1965 Selma march, is as old as the nation. The effort for American women’s rights began at Seneca Falls, N.Y., more than 150 years ago.
The modern fight for gay rights is, by contrast, less than a half-century old, dating from the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York. But this week, as the Supreme Court hears two landmark cases on same-sex marriage, the speed and scope of the movement are astonishing supporters.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” President Obama said in his Inaugural Address in January, in a moment of history for gay men and lesbians, who were included in such a speech for the first time. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:11
One of the genuine pleasures of teaching African-American Studies today is the satisfaction of being able to restore to the historical record "lost" events and the individuals whose sacrifices and bravery created those events, never to be lost again. Few institutions from the black past have attracted more attention recently from teachers, students, museum curators and the tourism industry than the Underground Railroad, one of the most venerable and philanthropic innovations in our ancestors' long and dreadful history in human bondage. But in the zeal to tell the story of this great institution, legend and lore have sometimes overwhelmed historical facts. Separating fact from fiction -- always an essential part of telling it like it really was -- has required a great deal of effort from a number of scholars. Doing so only makes the sacrifices and heroism of our ancestors and their allies all the more noble, heroic and impressive....
Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:28
The construction fence is down; the heavy equipment is gone.
After 2 1/2 years of construction -- and several years of planning -- work on the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the edge of Southern Methodist University is down to the finishing touches.
Workers are busy arranging exhibits, beginning the last phase of landscaping and addressing other final details before the center, a tribute to the 43rd president, is unveiled to an invitation-only audience April 25 and to the general public May 1.
"What was a dream four years ago is today a reality," Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation, has said.
The reality is a 226,560-square-foot center that houses a library and a museum, presidential archives, a public policy institute, the Bush foundation and a 15-acre park, all honoring Bush's two terms in office....
Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:20
Lots of people know about how Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine or how Pepsi was the hip drink in the 1960s. Few realize that Coke marketed assiduously to whites, while Pepsi hired a "negro markets" department. Put more bluntly, Coke was made for white people. Pepsi was made for black people. Over the course of the decades and the seemingly limitless growth of the soft drink industry, the companies have expanded their marketing departments and launched myriad campaigns to discourage the idea that either appealed to a specific race. And now, in 2012 as Mayor Bloomberg plays tough against continued opposition to his ban on soft drinks, the complicated racial dynamics of the industry are exposed once again, as the NAACP works to reverse the ban, thanks, in part, to donations from Coca-Cola....
Monday, March 25, 2013 - 16:08
A RECENTLY discovered DNA marker suggests that 10 per cent of Scottish men are directly descended from the Picts, it is revealed today.
Mystery has long surrounded the fate of the tribe of fierce enigmatic people who battled with Rome’s legions before seeming to disappear from history.
Now new research from ScotlandsDNA, an ancestry testing company, has found a marker strongly suggesting for the first time that a large number of descendants of these northern tribes, known as “Picti” by the Romans meaning “Painted Ones”, are living in Scotland....
Monday, March 25, 2013 - 15:41
Archaeologists in Mexico say they have uncovered three ancient playing fields at a pre-Hispanic site in the eastern state of Veracruz.
They found the courts, dating back some 1,000 years, at the Tajin World Heritage site by using laser scanners (LiDAR).
They believe the fields would have been used to play pelota, a game in which players used their hips to propel a rubber ball through stone hoops. The sport was widely played by Mayan and other pre-Columbian people.
Experts from the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) said the use of aerial photography, remote sensors and laser scanners had made it possible to find the ancient structures, hidden by layers of soil and dense vegetation....
Monday, March 25, 2013 - 14:03