Breaking NewsFollow Breaking News updates on RSS and Twitter
This page features brief excerpts of news stories published by the mainstream media and, less frequently, blogs, alternative media, and even obviously biased sources. The excerpts are taken directly from the websites cited in each source note. Quotation marks are not used.
This page features brief excerpts of news stories published by the mainstream media and, less frequently, blogs, alternative media, and even obviously biased sources. The excerpts are taken directly from the websites cited in each source note. Quotation marks are not used. Because most of our readers read the NYT we usually do not include the paper's stories in HIGHLIGHTS.
Name of source: Times (UK)
SOURCE: Times (UK) (1-13-10)
The Scottish First Minister made the comments during an appearance before the Commons Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, which is examining relations between the UK and Scottish governments after controversy over Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi’s release from life imprisonment on compassionate grounds last year.
Mr Salmond indicated that Mr Blair’s failure to tell Lord Falconer of Thoroton, one of the former Prime Minister’s most trusted political friends, and Jack Straw, Lord Falconer’s successor as Justice Secretary, was an explanation for their claims to the Scottish government that al-Megrahi was not included in the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) negotiated in 2007 between Britain and Libya.
Mr Salmond said that in communications with his Nationalist government at Holyrood, both Lord Falconer and Mr Straw appeared to believe that the UK would block Libya’s demands for al-Megrahi to be included.
SOURCE: Times (UK) (1-13-10)
So the question arises: is it better to use resources to prop up the buildings of an evil place in southern Poland — or into education to improve the understanding of the Nazis’ systematic massacre of Jews and other minorities?
A survey found that one in six British 9 to 11-year-olds thought that Auschwitz was a theme park. We have to do better. To his credit Gordon Brown saw the gap in the knowledge of the over-16s and, as Chancellor, allocated funds to allow two teenage pupils from every secondary school in the country to make an annual visit to the camp.
SOURCE: Times (UK) (1-12-10)
In a devastating rejection of the position of the British and Dutch governments, the inquiry, led by the former head of the Netherlands' Supreme Court, decided that the United Nations resolutions did not provide a legal basis for the use of force.
Dutch ministers were further criticised in the report of the Davids Commission, which sat for ten months, for using intelligence from Britain and the US that showed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), rather than the "more nuanced" assessment of its own secret services.
The eagerly awaited assessment cleared the Dutch Government of Jan Peter Balkenende of providing active military support to the invasion of March 2003. It said that it could find no evidence to support rumours that Dutch Special Forces helped the US-led attack on Iraq, a claim which has been repeatedly denied by Mr Balkenende, whose Government gave political but not military support to the invasion.
SOURCE: Times (UK) (1-12-10)
The existence of the letters, sent from Downing Street in 2002, was revealed by Mr Blair's chief spin-doctor, Alastair Campbell, as he gave evidence to an independent inquiry into the origins of the Iraq war.
The former director of communications at No 10 was the biggest name yet to testify before Sir John Chilcot's panel, where he was questioned for almost five hours – two hours more than originally scheduled.
Mr Blair will appear before the panel at a later date, as will Gordon Brown, who Mr Campbell said today had been part of Mr Blair's "inner circle" on Iraq.
Name of source: Fox News
SOURCE: Fox News (1-12-09)
The book is written with confidence, describing the drama-packed scenes that filled the race with fly-on-the-wall precision -- though many of the sources are never identified and the bulk of the book is written with no attribution. According to the authors, the accounts were based on more than 300 interviews with more than 200 people over the course of more than a year. With those "deep background" interviews, the authors have provided a tapestry of accusations and juicy tidbits to, well, fill a book.
Except for Barack Obama, who in this and all campaign histories is ever the embodiment of cool, the major camps in the 2008 race come away from this book wounded, looking more like their public caricatures than ever. There's already been some collateral damage, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid having to apologize for a passage in which he said Obama does not have a "Negro dialect" unless he wants one.
SOURCE: Fox News (1-10-10)
Now, in a clear break from the past, a new prime minister has gone where none of his predecessors dared go: He has ordered a panel of ministry officials and academics to investigate the secret agreements.
The findings, due out this month, are part of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's wide-ranging campaign to wrest power from the bureaucracy and make government more open than under the conservatives, who ruled Japan for most of the past 50 years.
They also could intensify public debate about the future of Japan's long-standing security alliance with the U.S., which has bases here. Hatoyama, a liberal who took office in September, has called for making the relationship more balanced, starting with efforts to evict an unpopular U.S. base from the island of Okinawa.
That Japan agreed to let nuclear-armed ships enter its ports and waters ceased to be a secret some years ago with the declassification of American documents. Such ships had routinely docked in various Japanese ports since the 1960s, sometimes setting off protests.
But in a nation where memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki drive a fierce aversion to nuclear weapons, a formal admission of the secret agreements would be a stunning reversal, and confirm that previous governments systematically lied to the public.
"The Foreign Ministry repeatedly denied their existence, even in statements before Parliament," lawmaker Muneo Suzuki said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Suzuki held top political posts at the Foreign Ministry, yet although he had heard about the secret documents, he said that even he could not pry them out of his officials.
"The Foreign Ministry should be held deeply accountable," said Suzuki, who has switched sides and is now a member of Hatoyama's coalition.
Historical accounts show that Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, who died in office in 1980, considered going public on the secret pacts, but was advised against it by his aides as politically too dangerous.
Only a few Foreign Ministry bureaucrats have spoken out in recent years.
One, Kazuhiko Togo, said he and other high-ranking officials kept quiet for fear that disclosure of the agreements would trigger riots and perhaps topple the prime minister.
"The political costs were too great," Togo told the AP.
Even after American officials acknowledged the pacts in the 1990s, leaders of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party persistently denied them, right up to Taro Aso, the last LDP prime minister before Hatoyama's Democrats took over.
"They did not exist," Aso said in a nationally televised response to a reporter's question last July.
"It all goes to show how far behind Japan is in administrative transparency," said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.
Even the name of revered Eisaku Sato, the prime minister viewed as the architect of Japan's postwar pacifism and resistance to nuclear weapons, has been thrust into the debate.
Three weeks ago, Sato's son revealed a document he found in Sato's desk after his death in 1975 and which he kept hidden.
The 1969 document, signed by Sato and President Richard Nixon, showed they agreed that U.S.-occupied Okinawa would be returned to Japan, but the U.S. would retain the right to have nuclear weapons on the island if the necessity arose. The agreements on Okinawa were a key part of the secret pacts that also covered U.S. warships entering ports throughout Japan.
Back then, it was the height of the Cold War, and the U.S. felt it needed a free hand to confront nuclear-armed China and the Soviet Union.
But the deal with Nixon was a clear violation of Sato's pledge that Japan would not make, own or allow the entry of nuclear weapons. Sato won the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize in large part for pushing those principles. According to Japanese media accounts, the trade-off drove him to tears of remorse. But the principles became policy all the same.
The previously declassified U.S. documents include State Department papers on the 1960 U.S.-Japan security pact, accounts of meetings at which the entry of warships with nuclear weapons was discussed and a memorandum on the 1969 Nixon-Sato meeting, where the Okinawa deal was discussed.
And even in the 1990s, after U.S. warships stopped carrying battle-ready nukes and the issue became moot, it remained sensitive enough for governments to go on misleading the public.
Japanese today are more shocked by the cover-up than by the deed itself, but they remain attached to the non-nuclear principle.
A survey by the Mainichi newspaper, which interviewed more than 4,500 people, found 72 percent of the 2,600 respondents want to stick with the principles, and the number rose to about 80 percent among Japanese in their 20s and 30s. No margin of error was given.
Shoji Niihara, a scholar of U.S.-Japan relations, said Japanese are hoping their new reformist prime minister will redefine Japan's relationship with the U.S. and work with President Barack Obama in his call for a world free of nuclear weapons.
"There's a strong feeling that Japan was never truly treated as an independent country," he said.
Robert A. Wampler, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive, an American group that seeks to declassify historical documents, welcomed Hatoyama's investigation.
"The longer they denied this, the harder it was for them to come forward and say they weren't telling the truth. They backed themselves into a corner on this one," Wampler said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
Bunroku Yoshino, a former Foreign Ministry official who oversaw relations with the U.S., did his part on Dec. 1.
Testifying in a lawsuit brought by a former newspaper reporter, 91-year-old Yoshino reversed his earlier denials and acknowledged signing some of the Okinawa agreements.
"It is a major historical truth," he said afterward.
Name of source: Civil War Interactive Newswire
SOURCE: Civil War Interactive Newswire (1-7-10)
“Despite the worst economy in recent memory, we pressed onward with our mission and achieved a level of success that surpassed all expectations,” noted CWPT President James Lighthizer. “We posted one of the most successful years in this organization’s history — including our second-highest-ever tally for acres preserved in a calendar year.”
With 30 acres of Civil War battlefield land lost to development each day, there has long been a pressing need to see these hallowed grounds protected, but many preservation projects in 2009 took on an added sense of urgency. In 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia approved $5.2 million in matching grants for battlefield preservation, specifying a limited time frame for use of the landmark allocation....
Name of source: NYT News Service
SOURCE: NYT News Service (1-10-10)
She was a young law student when her beloved maternal grandmother, Seher, took her aside and told her a secret she had hidden for 60 years: that Seher was born a Christian Armenian with the name Heranus and had been saved from a death march by a Turkish officer, who snatched her from her mother’s arms in 1915 and raised her as Turkish and Muslim.
Cetin’s grandmother, whose parents later turned out to have escaped to New York, was just one of thousands of Armenian children who were kidnapped and adopted by Turkish families during the Armenian genocide, the mass killing of more than a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918. These survivors were sometimes called “the leftovers of the sword.”
“I was in a state of shock for a long time — I suddenly saw the world through different eyes,” said Cetin, now 60. “I had grown up thinking of myself as a Turkish Muslim, not an Armenian. There had been nothing in the history books about the massacre of a people that had been erased from Turkey’s collective memory. Like my grandmother, many had buried their identity — and the horrors they had seen — deep inside of them.”
Now, however, Cetin, a prominent member of the estimated 50,000-member Armenian-Turkish community here and one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers, believes a seminal moment has arrived in which Turkey and Armenia can finally confront the ghosts of history and possibly even overcome one of the world’s most enduring and bitter rivalries.
She already has confronted her divided self, which led her from Istanbul to a 10th Street grocery store in New York, where her Armenian relatives had rebuilt their broken lives after fleeing Turkey. (Many of the Armenians who survive in Turkey today do so because their ancestors lived in western provinces during the killings, which took place mostly in the east.)
The latest tentative step toward healing generations of acrimony between the countries took place in October on a soccer field in the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa, when President Serzh Sargsyan became the first Armenian head of state to travel to Turkey to attend a soccer game between the national teams. In this latest round of soccer diplomacy, Sargsyan was joined at the match by President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, who had traveled to a soccer match in Armenia the year before.
“We do not write history here,” Gul told his Armenian counterpart in Bursa. “We are making history.”
The Bursa encounter came just days after Turkey and Armenia signed a historic series of protocols to establish diplomatic relations and to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border, which has been closed since 1993. The agreement, strongly backed by the United States, the European Union and Russia, has come under vociferous opposition from nationalists in both Turkey and Armenia.
Armenia’s sizable diaspora — estimated at more than 7 million — in the United States, France and elsewhere is alarmed that the new warmth may be misused as an excuse to forgive and forget in Turkey, where even uttering the words Armenian genocide can be grounds for prosecution.
Also threatening the deal is Armenia’s lingering fight with Azerbaijan, its neighbor and a close ally of Turkey, over a breakaway Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
The agreement, which has yet to be ratified in the Turkish or Armenian parliaments, could have broad consequences, helping to end landlocked Armenia’s economic isolation, while lifting Turkey’s chances for admission into the European Union, where the genocide issue remains a crucial obstacle.
But Cetin argued that the most enduring consequence could be helping to overcome mutual recriminations. She said Armenians had been battling a powerful and collective denial in Turkish society about the killings.
“Most people in Turkish society have no idea what happened in 1915, and the Armenians they meet are introduced as monsters or villains or enemies in their history books,” she said. “Turkey has to confront the past, but before this confrontation can happen, people must know who they are confronting. So we need the borders to come down in order to have dialogue.”
Cetin, who was raised by her maternal grandmother, said the borders in her own Muslim Turkish heart came down irrevocably when her grandmother revealed her Armenian past.
Heranus, she said, was only a child in 1915 when Turkish soldiers arrived in her ethnically Armenian Turkish village of Maden, rounding up the men and sequestering women and girls in a church courtyard with high walls. When they climbed on each others’ shoulders, Heranus told her, they saw men’s throats being cut and bodies being thrown in the Tigris River, which ran red for days.
During the forced march toward exile that followed, Heranus said, she saw her own grandmother drown two of her grandchildren before she herself jumped into the water and disappeared.
Heranus’ mother, Isguhi, survived the march, which ended in Aleppo, Syria, and went to join her husband, Hovannes, who had left the village for New York in 1913, opening a grocery store. They started a new family.
“My grandmother was trembling as she told me her story,” Cetin said. “She would always say, ‘May those days vanish, never to return.’ ”
Cetin, a rebellious left-wing student activist at the time of her grandmother’s revelation, recalled how confronting Armenian identity, then as now, had been taboo. “The same people who spoke the loudest about injustices and screamed that the world could be a better place would only whisper when it came to the Armenian issue,” she said. “It really hurt me.”
Cetin, who was imprisoned for three years in the 1980s for opposing the military regime in Turkey at the time, said her newfound Armenian identity inspired her to become a human rights lawyer. When Hrant Dink, editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was prosecuted in 2006 for insulting Turkishness by referring to the genocide, she became his lawyer. On Jan. 19, 2007, Dink was killed outside his office by a young ultranationalist.
Cetin published a memoir about her grandmother in 2004. She said she purposely omitted the word “genocide” from her book because using the word erected a roadblock to reconciliation.
“I wanted to concentrate on the human dimension,” she said. “I wanted to question the silence of people like my grandmother who kept their stories hidden for years, while going through the pain.”
When her grandmother died in 2000 at age 95, Cetin honored her last wish, publishing a death notice in Agos, in the hope of tracking down her long-lost Armenian family, including her grandmother’s sister Margaret, whom she had never seen.
At her emotional reunion with her Armenian family in New York, several months later, Margaret, or “Auntie Marge,” told Cetin that when her father had died in 1965, she had found a piece of paper carefully folded in his wallet that he had been keeping for years. It was a letter Heranus had written to him shortly after he had left for the United States.
“We all keep hoping and praying that you are well,” the note said.
Name of source: Chicago Sun-Times
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times (1-12-10)
Thirteen years after absolving Mrs. O’Leary’s cow of responsibility for the Great Chicago Fire, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) wants to set the record straight about the role O’Hare played in Capone’s conviction — and possibly shed new light on O’Hare’s gangland-style 1939 murder.
At Burke’s behest, the deputy chief of detectives in charge of the Chicago Police Department’s Cold Case Squad agreed to take a fresh look at the 70-year-old murder case, with help from a soon-to-be-released book about Capone that just might provide a few clues.
Asked how much time he expects police to spend on the case, Burke replied, “Very little.” The alderman said he’s more concerned about setting the record straight about the role played by Edward J. O’Hare, Capone’s business partner-turned-federal informant.
“O’Hare was the linchpin in the criminal investigation that led to the conviction of Capone. But for his cooperation, Capone may never have been brought to justice,” Burke told the Police Committee...
Name of source: AP
SOURCE: AP (1-11-09)
Peru rejects the argument, saying Yale never owned the artifacts and that its claim is not subject to a statute of limitations under Peruvian law. Peru also says Yale did not assert ownership of the artifacts until late 2008.
The South American nation filed the lawsuit in December 2008 demanding the Ivy League university return artifacts taken by famed scholar Hiram Bingham III between 1911 and 1915. The claim accuses Yale of fraudulently holding the relics for decades.
SOURCE: AP (1-11-10)
The rare rocks from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions were found last week during a routine inventory of gifts to the Hawaii governor's office over the years....
SOURCE: AP (1-12-10)
Spisak was convicted of three murders at Cleveland State University over a seven-month period in 1982 — crimes he said were motivated by his hatred of gays, blacks and Jews. At the same time, Spisak claimed his crimes were sparked by mental illness related to confusion about his sexual identity. He wants to have surgery to become a woman.
The 1983 trial became a public spectacle as Spisak celebrated his killings in court and openly discussed his hateful views. He even grew a Hitler-style mustache, carried a copy of Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" during the proceedings and gave the Nazi salute to the jury.
Name of source: The Boston Globe
SOURCE: The Boston Globe (1-11-09)
The archeological digs at Egypt’s Wadi Gawasis have yielded neither mummies nor grand monuments.
But Boston University archeologist Kathryn Bard and her colleagues are uncovering the oldest remnants of seagoing ships and other relics linked to exotic trade with a mysterious Red Sea realm called Punt.
SOURCE: The Boston Globe (1-11-10)
Dr. Sevcenko, the Dumbarton Oaks professor emeritus of Byzantine history and literature at Harvard, died of cancer Dec. 26 in his Cambridge home. He was 87.
At Harvard, Dr. Sevcenko was on the classics department faculty from 1973 to 1992 and was associate director of the university’s Ukrainian Research Institute from 1973 to 1989. His writing and scholarly research were renowned for ranging widely among topics in the ancient world.
Name of source: The Seattle Times
SOURCE: The Seattle Times (1-11-09)
With nature claiming so much, it seemed only fair that it offer something in return. Now it has — the buried wreckage of an old vessel revealing more of itself with every outgoing tide.
According to maritime experts and others, the wreckage could be part of the Canadian Exporter, a freighter that broke in two in August 1921 while carrying 3 million board feet of lumber and 200 tons of general cargo, as noted in a contemporary issue of American Shipping magazine. If so, the remains could belong to whoever bought salvage rights, or to a private landowner, or to the state.
If ownership cannot be determined, the wreckage could become a salvageable piece of history. But even as the Assessor's Office tries to sort that out, the worst fears of museum officials and maritime buffs are being realized as scavengers reap the sea's rewards on their terms, stripping the remains for usable or sellable scrap.
Name of source: AFP
SOURCE: AFP (1-12-09)
They also discovered a "mysterious" underground compartment with a blocked entrance that appeared to be a tomb, Agha said.
The Palestinian Authority has been carrying out archaeological excavations since the 1990s, but this was the first major find to be announced by the Hamas-run government.
SOURCE: AFP (1-11-10)
The scrolls, some of which are as old as the third century BC, were part of a display at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum in Canada that ended on Sunday.
Jordan has asked Canada to seize the scrolls, invoking the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which the two countries are signatories.
Name of source: Guardian (UK)
At a press conference today in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, director Ashley Herman said: "There are laws regarding the use of animals and children in theatre. It's hard enough doing Oliver!, but when you get them into a public arena it's a nightmare."
Herman, together with a group of devout Christians, is putting on The Passion of Jesus this Easter in Trafalgar Square. With a cast of about 150 actors, donkeys, horses and an artificial tomb, the organisers anticipate some 25,000 spectators. It is less ambitious than the Life of Christ, a six-hour epic performed annually at the Wintershall estate in Surrey involving camels, a lake acting as both the River Jordan and the Sea of Galilee, more than 200 actors and 30 sheep.
The painting – which represents a key turning point for the artist – is being sold in what the auction house says is one of the most eye-catching sales of impressionist and modern art it has ever held. As well as the Klimt, conservatively valued at £15m-£18m, there is a quintessential Cézanne still life estimated at £10m-£15m and a similarly valued Giacometti life-size sculpture. It will be the first London sale of its type to include a trio of £10m-plus masterpieces.
All three were today displayed at the auction house's London headquarters; but it was the gorgeousness of the Klimt that was turning heads.
The government's decision to abandon, on cost grounds, a plan to bury roads around Stonehenge in a tunnel underground and the consequent collapse of the plans for a new visitor centre, have put the site on the Threatened Wonders list of Wanderlust magazine, along with the 4x4-scarred Wadi Rum in Jordan, and the tourist-eroded paths and steps of the great Inca site at Machu Picchu in Peru.
Lyn Hughes, editor in chief of Wanderlust, said the A303 and A344 junctions near Stonehenge meant the site was "brutally divorced from its context". She said: "Seeing it without its surrounding landscape is to experience only a fraction of this historical wonder. The fact that the government and various planning bodies cannot agree on implementing a radical solution to this problem is a national disgrace."
The first great earth banks and ditches of the monument date back 5,000 years, and it was then repeatedly remodelled, with the addition of the circle of sarsen stones the size of doubledecker buses, and smaller bluestones brought from west Wales, and said to have healing powers.
Hughes was echoing the words 21 years ago of the parliamentary public accounts committee, which in 1989 damned the presentation of the site and the facilities for tourists as "a national disgrace".
Name of source: Telegraph (UK)
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (1-12-10)
Nixon's initiative, however, was blocked by the then attorney general John Mitchell because Sinatra had long been alleged to have personal and professional links with organised crime, including prominent figures such as Lucky Luciano.
The singer had been under watch by the FBI since the late 1940s. He was never prosecuted and documents released after his death revealed that he had been the target of death threats and extortion schemes.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (1-12-10)
The recording was made on October 25 1956 in a courtroom in Berchtesgaden, site of the Fuehrer's mountaintop home in Bavaria. The court was convened to officially declare the former leader of Nazi Germany dead so that his fortune and rights to his book "Mein Kampf" could be seized by the state government.
Among those giving evidence that day were Otto Guensche, an SS officer, and Heinz Linge, a valet, who first discovered the corpses of Hitler and his new bride Eva Braun.
On the recording, discovered by researchers for the German Spiegel TV channel, the men speak under oath of entering the Fuehrer's study after hearing shots ring out on April 30 1945.
"When I entered to my left I saw Hitler on the sofa," said Linge, who died in 1980.
"Hitler had his head bent forward somewhat and I could see a bullethole approximately the size of a penny on the right side of the temple."
Guensche, who went to his death in 1983 refusing to give details about the dictator's end, said: "Hitler sat on the arm of the sofa with his head hanging down on the right shoulder which was itself hanging limp over the back of the sofa. On the right side was the bullethole."
Martin Bormann, Hitler's secretary, was with them when they first entered Hitler's study, the pair testified.
They arrived at 3.30pm and participated in removing the bodies, carrying them upstairs to the devastated garden of the Reich Chancellery and assisting in their cremation.
Both men were captured by the Soviets after the fall of Berlin and shipped off to Moscow for over a decade. It fuelled the myth which Russian leader Josef Stalin wanted to perpetuate that Hitler might somehow have escaped and was on the run. They came back to Germany in 1955.
The testimony of Guensche and Linge lay hidden in the Munich public records office. Spiegel has restored the recordings to allow them to be heard by scholars and historians.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (1-10-10)
Under Egyptian law, it is illegal to remove any item from a cultural heritage site without the Egyptian government's permission. An international Unesco convention also prohibits the removal of cultural artefacts without the country of origin's knowledge and permission.
In 2008, Mr Holden returned to Egypt and attempted to replace the rock in the exact spot from where it was taken, enlisting the help of a tourist to film his efforts.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (1-11-10)
Arguments over the origins of Portrait of a Woman Called La Belle 3 have raged since 1920 when it was given as a wedding gift to a car salesman in Kansas City, Missouri, by a family friend who said it was by Leonardo.
Sotheby's, which is selling the painting in New York later this month, believes the painting is not by him and, unable to say exactly who did paint it, is basing its estimate of $300,000 to $500,000 partly on the portrait's notoriety.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (1-10-10)
But the two women – Sally Bedell Smith and Isabelle Rivère – are going head to head in an attempt to write the definitive biography of the Queen to be published to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
As the Queen prepares to celebrate 60 years on the throne, both authors are being quietly helped by Buckingham Palace but this falls well short of access to confidential papers or, of course, the subject herself. The Queen never gives interviews and access to the secret documents and letters of a member of the Royal family is only provided to the official biographer after the subject's death.
Name of source: Daily Mail (UK)
SOURCE: Daily Mail (UK) (1-12-10)
Ulrich Busch told the Munich hearing that German law can't be applied to the case of the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk.
He also argued that the trial should be suspended because documents from earlier proceedings against his client in the US, Israel and elsewhere weren't given to the defence.
'The defence couldn't be prepared because of the missing documents," Mr Busch told the state court.
The defence team has portrayed Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio car factory worker who was deported from the US in May 2009, as a victim of the Nazis and then of judicial authorities in several countries.
SOURCE: Daily Mail (UK) (1-12-10)
But it has emerged that the US President was secretly envious of Winston Churchill's way with words and instructed his speechwriters to learn from the former British Prime Minister.
Preparing for an address to the Canadian Parliament in early 1972 the president worried that his rhetoric was so tedious it would cost him politically.
'The speeches I make are to the great credit of the speech writing team generally highly literate, highly responsible and almost invariably dull,' he wrote in a memo to his top aides.
'Now I don't mean to suggest that I should write or sound like Churchill,' Nixon said.
'He is one of those rare birds where God broke the mold when he died. On the other hand, we can at least learn from him.'
SOURCE: Daily Mail (UK) (1-10-10)
The former president allegedly claimed during the hard-fought Democratic primary race: ‘A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.’
He is said to have made the racist remark in a phone call entreating Senator Teddy Kennedy, the party’s vastly influential elder statesman, to endorse his wife, Hillary, in the delicately balanced 2008 nomination battle.
But the call so offended Senator Kennedy that it backfired and helped make up the veteran Washington power broker’s mind to throw his complete support behind Mr Obama’s historic bid for the White House, according to a new book.
Mr Clinton was once lauded by African-American admirers as America’s ‘first black president'.
But the ‘coffee’ controversy has opened old wounds from the campaign trail when Mr Clinton was accused of being racially dismissive about the underdog who went on to derail his wife’s White House dreams.
Coffee jibe: Mr Clinton has waded into fresh controversy over his comments about US President Barack Obama
At the time, Mr Clinton scorned Mr Obama’s primary election victory in South Carolina, noting that Jesse Jackson had also carried the state in his failed presidential bid two decades earlier.
The former two-term president angrily denounced critics who suggested the comments were racially motivated and still seethes about the rumpus it caused to this day.
Last night, he was unavailable for comment about the new claim, which is featured in a new book about the presidential election called ‘Game Change.’
American political writers John Heliemann and Mark Halperin claim in the book, which is published in the US today (Mon), that Mr Clinton made the call to the late ‘Lion of the Senate’ on the day after Mr Obama won a key primary in Iowa.
‘He phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy,’ they wrote.
‘Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, ‘A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.’
The book also claims Mrs Clinton, now in Mr Obama’s Cabinet as US Secretary of State, was keen to seize on claims of her rival’s past drug use to try and press home an advantage.
She is depicted as being pleased when her New Hampshire campaign chairman Bill Shaheen mentioned that Mr Obama took drugs as a young man. ‘Good for him,’ she is quoted as saying. ‘Let’s push it out.’
She was later persuaded by her staff not to try and capitalise on the controversy.
The top Democrat in the US Senate was also in hot water last night over racially insensitive comments he made during the campaign about Mr Obama that are quoted in ‘Game Change.’
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday apologised for describing the then Senator Obama as ‘light-skinned’ and ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’
He said: ‘I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologise for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments.
‘I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda,’ he added.
Senator Reid remained neutral during the nomination contest, but is said to have initially urged Mr Obama to make a run for the presidency.
The book also quotes aides to Republican nominee John McCain describing the difficulties they faced with vice presidential pick Sarah Palin. ‘You guys have a lot of work to do,’ one of Mr McCain’s top advisors reportedly said, adding: ‘She doesn’t know anything.’
Name of source: Chronicle of Higher Education
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (1-11-10)
Father O'Connell, president of the Catholic University of America, noticed a picture frame jutting out from underneath a pile of junk in one of his office building's bathrooms last January, the university says. He pulled out an etching and thought it looked familiar.
An appraiser confirmed that the 4.5-inch-by-5-inch piece is an original by the 17th-century Dutch painter. The etching isn't well known, but owning a Rembrandt is worth more than just its appraisal value, says Paul Westley Bush, a graduate student....
Name of source: MyRecordJournal.com
SOURCE: MyRecordJournal.com (1-7-10)
Though the letters were dated nearly a century and a half in the past, they were in fine enough shape to convey a sense of immediacy.
"You'd be surprised," she said. "The paper quality back then was excellent."
Some still showed the stain of peach preserves from a spilled container sent from a Southington farm to a war front nearly 150 years ago.
The writing was equally fresh, and Secondo found herself submerged in the words, so much so that when she read the last of the 152 missives, she felt a mood of depression at having reached the end. It was as though the letters had been written to her, as though she'd been with the person who had written them.
Secondo spent the following year, 2005, mostly in her spare time, transcribing the letters, and they're now available for anyone to peruse via the Web site of the Southington Public Library: www.southingtonlibrary.org.
Readers are likely to find themselves just as entranced with the story of Capt. Andrew Upson, as told mostly through his letters to his wife in Plantsville during the Civil War. Upson was involved in many of the major battles of the conflict and was wounded and taken prisoner in one of its most significant. Because he was an educated man, a graduate of Yale College, his writing is erudite and insightful, often touching, and at moments rises to poetic sublimity....
Name of source: Yomiuri (Japan)
SOURCE: Yomiuri (Japan) (1-9-10)
The pieces, which belonged to 13 different kinds of mirrors, were the largest number to be excavated as burial items from an ancient tomb in the nation. The tomb dates to between the late third century and early fourth century.
Some of the pieces had been made in the same mold as Sankakubuchi Shinjukyo mirrors, which are engraved with Seishi Gannen (in the Japanese reading), a period name of Wei-dynasty China, meaning the first year of the Seishi era, or 240.
Himiko, a female ruler of the Yamatai-koku kingdom, is said to have received 100 mirrors from the Wei dynasty in that year.
The Kashihara Archeological Institute in Nara Prefecture believes the discovery may help directly link the Yamataikoku kingdom with the Yamato dynasty, in the present-day Kinki region, that was later to be known as the Imperial Court.
According to the institute, the largest piece discovered in the tomb is 11.1 centimeters long and 6.3 centimeters wide. With the new discovery, the institute's research now covers 384 items, including those in private collections and others recovered from the tomb during an excavation 60 years ago.
Because the institute could not completely reconstruct any of the mirrors, they believe most of the mirrors originally buried in the tomb were either stolen or destroyed when the tomb was robbed in medieval times and later.
Through three-dimensional analysis, the institute confirmed the pieces are part of 26 mirrors known as Sankakubuchi Shinjukyo, and 19 mirrors known as Naiko Kamonkyo that were made in Japan and China.
The institute has not yet identified the mirror types for the remaining 180 broken pieces.
Forty mirrors from Hirabaru No. 1 tomb in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, dating back to the late second century, were the most excavated from a tomb until the recent discovery.
One of the recently unearthed pieces bore kanji with the Japanese reading of "ze" or "kore," as had another mirror excavated from Kanizawa Tomb in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, leading the researchers to believe the piece came from a mirror made in the Gunma mirror mold that also bears the Seishi Gannen inscription. Three mirrors bearing the year Seishi Gannen have been found in the nation, but this is the first time a mirror assumed to have been engraved with a date from the period was found in Nara Prefecture.
Among the mirror fragments was a piece from a 40-centimeter Naiko Kamonkyo mirror, the largest known class of domestically made mirrors from that time.
"We could assume the tomb had more than 100 mirrors. It suggests the power held by the King of Wa [an ancient name for Japan]," said Taichiro Shiraishi, director of the Chikatsu Asuka Museum in Osaka Prefecture, specializing in archeology.
"Since burial items of kings and other high-ranking people have yet to be identified, this discovery is expected to greatly impact Kofun period research," he said.
Name of source: BBC News
SOURCE: BBC News (1-12-10)
The map was created by Italian missionary Matteo Ricci in 1602. It is one of only two copies in existence in good condition.
Because of its rarity and fragility - the map is printed on rice paper - the map has become known as the "Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography".
This is the first time it has been on public show in north America.
Ricci created the map at the request of Emperor Wanli who wanted it to help scholars and explorers.
'Revered by Chinese'
The map was purchased by the James Ford Bell Trust in October for $1m (£0.62m), making it the second-most expensive rare map ever sold.
It denotes different parts of the world with annotations and pictures.
In the Americas, for example, several places are named including Chih-Li (Chile), Wa-ti-ma-la (Guatemala) and Ka-na-ta (Canada), and Florida is described as "the Land of the Flowers".
Ford W Bell, a trustee for the James Ford Bell Trust, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper, that the map was "one of the two best in terms of quality, as far as we know".
"Ricci was a very smart missionary. He put China right at the centre of this new universe, this new globe, to underscore its importance," he said.
"Ricci, of course, was the first Westerner to enter Beijing. He was revered by the Chinese, and he was buried there."
The first secretary for cultural affairs at the Chinese embassy in the US, Ti Ban Zhang, said in a statement that the map represents "the momentous first meeting of East and West".
Name of source: Science News
SOURCE: Science News (1-8-10)
Human ancestors that left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago to see the rest of the world were no landlubbers. Stone hand axes unearthed on the Mediterranean island of Crete indicate that an ancient Homo species — perhaps Homo erectus — had used rafts or other seagoing vessels to cross from northern Africa to Europe via at least some of the larger islands in between, says archaeologist Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island.
Several hundred double-edged cutting implements discovered at nine sites in southwestern Crete date to at least 130,000 years ago and probably much earlier, Strasser reported January 7 at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Archaeology. Many of these finds closely resemble hand axes fashioned in Africa about 800,000 years ago by H. erectus, he says. It was around that time that H. erectus spread from Africa to parts of Asia and Europe.
Until now, the oldest known human settlements on Crete dated to around 9,000 years ago. Traditional theories hold that early farming groups in southern Europe and the Middle East first navigated vessels to Crete and other Mediterranean islands at that time.
Questions remain about whether African hominids used Crete as a stepping stone to reach Europe or, in a Stone Age Gilligan’s Island scenario, accidentally ended up on Crete from time to time when close-to-shore rafts were blown out to sea, remarks archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Only in the past decade have researchers established that people reached Crete before 6,000 years ago, Tykot says.
Name of source: Discovery News
SOURCE: Discovery News (1-11-10)
A Kevlar-like armor might have helped Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.) conquer nearly the entirety of the known world in little more than two decades, according to new reconstructive archaeology research.
Presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Anaheim, Calif., the study suggests that Alexander and his soldiers protected themselves with linothorax, a type of body armor made by laminating together layers of linen.
According to the researchers, there is further evidence that linen breastplates were standard equipment in the Macedonian army.
SOURCE: Discovery News (1-8-10)
Found during the 1831 excavations in the lava-buried town of Pompeii, the Alexander mosaic (now on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples) is the most famous example of an early tessellated mosaic.
Measuring 19 feet by 10 feet, the piece was made around 100 B.C. out of roughly 4 million tesserae (small mosaic tiles).
The artwork once decorated the floor of a room in the House of the Faun, one of Pompeii's grandest residences.
The tiny tesserae, applied following the "opus vermiculatum" technique (basically set in worm-like rows), depicted a dramatic scene from a battle between Alexander the Great and the Persian king Darius III.
"Although there is some disagreement as to exactly which battle the mosaic depicts [either the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C. or the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C.], we know many things about this mosaic. For example, it is uniformly agreed [that the mosaic is] a copy of a famous Hellenistic painting executed sometime around 300 B.C.," Martin Beckmann, of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, told Discovery News.
"What is less know is the mosaic's role as a floor surface in an Italian house. In this role, it has the potential to provide evidence of the tastes, interests and desires of the wealthy Romans during the late Republic," Beckmann said.
In his study, presented today in Anaheim, Calif., at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, Beckman looked at some large, entirely destroyed areas of the mosaic.
These areas were filled in ancient times with mortar and have been in the same condition since they were originally discovered.
Beckmann identified four mains pattern of wear: a large, crescent-shaped area around the portrait of Alexander, two patches in the upper portion of the mosaic and two other patches in the lower portion.
"The patches basically show us the mosaic through the Romans eyes, and tell us what interested the ancient viewer. Although Darius is the most prominent figure in the mosaic, the Romans were much more interested in Alexander," he said.
"They were also apparently fascinated by the plight of two Persians crushed beneath Darius' chariot, especially one who is shown with his face turned from the viewer but reflected in a shield -- a skillful artistic trick," he added.
"There is clear evidence of multiple ancient repairs in these damaged areas. The most recent restorations filled the gaps with mortar, while more ancient repairs used tesserae," Beckmann said.
According to Beckmann, the repairs tell a story. They indicate that the mosaic had been damaged by overuse, and often in exactly the same areas.
"Over time, even careful footsteps would have loosened the very small stone tesserae from their tenuous hold in the mortar of the mosaic's bedding. At least once, substantial repairs were attempted, but clearly by the first century A.D., these had been given up in favor of simple patching with plain mortar," Beckmann said.
The two upper patches of wear even allowed Beckmann to reconstruct a theoretical "tour" of the mosaic. Here is Beckmann's explanation:
Once the visitors had entered the room -- we might imagine a group of dinner-guests led by their host -- the tour would begin with Darius and his Persians.
The host would have stood above Darius' horses, explained why the great king was fleeing, and pointed out the artistic novelties in the lower portion of the mosaic.
The guests would have milled about at the foot of the mosaic, taking in the overall scene, and then briefly concentrated themselves around the figures of the two doomed Persians.
Then the host moved to the left and stationed himself in the area above the figure pair composed of Alexander and the unfortunate Persian he is spearing.
The guests marched right onto the mosaic and crowded around the image of the Macedonian king, standing right on top of his body, being careful however not to step on his head or that of his horse.
The guests arranged themselves in a semicircle, so as to leave a line of sight open between them and their host, who was also able to see Alexander's head from his vantage point above.
Here the guests stayed the longest and here is where the ancient tour would end.
Name of source: Bloomberg News
SOURCE: Bloomberg News (1-11-10)
On Jan. 5, inscriptions similar to the Cylinder’s were found on two pieces of cuneiform tablets from Babylonia in the museum’s collections. The pieces will be studied to shed light on the Cylinder’s “missing” or “obscure” passages, the museum said, and presented at a London workshop involving Iranian colleagues.
The British Museum promised to loan the Cylinder to Iran after its 2005-6 exhibition, “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia.” Yet in October, the museum said it was monitoring the Iranian political situation to make sure the loan was made in the best possible conditions.
Name of source: BBC
SOURCE: BBC (1-12-09)
Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill are to give evidence to the Scottish affairs committee at Westminster.
The Scottish Affairs Committee will question Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill on Tuesday as part of an investigation into co-operation and communication between the Scottish and UK governments.
In particular MPs are looking at how this worked in the case of the Lockerbie bomber.
SOURCE: BBC (1-9-10)
The team report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that shells containing pigment residues were Neanderthal make-up containers.
Scientists unearthed the shells at two archaeological sites in the Murcia province of southern Spain.
The team says its find buries "the view of Neanderthals as half-wits" and shows they were capable of symbolic thinking.
SOURCE: BBC (1-10-10)
Images of the wreck, more than 2km (1.3 miles) below the sea, were captured by a remote-controlled underwater camera.
The ship's location was discovered last month following a hi-tech search.
Australia says the ship, which went down in May 1943, was torpedoed by the Japanese. Japan says the circumstances surrounding its sinking are unclear.
Name of source: Associated Press
Gies' Web site reported that she died Monday after a brief illness. The report was confirmed by museum spokeswoman Maatje Mostar, but she gave no details. The British Broadcasting Corp. said she died in a nursing home after suffering a fall last month.
Gies was the last of the few non-Jews who supplied food, books and good cheer to the secret annex behind the canal warehouse where Anne, her parents, sister and four other Jews hid for 25 months during World War II.
After the apartment was raided by the German police, Gies gathered up Anne's scattered notebooks and papers and locked them in a drawer for her return after the war. The diary, which Anne Frank was given on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life in hiding from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944....
As his lieutenants built an ambitious political espionage operation that tapped scribes as spies, Nixon is shown preoccupying himself with the finest details of dividing friend and foe.
The Nixon Library, run by the National Archives, released some 280,000 pages of records Monday from his years in office, many touching on the early days of political spycraft and manipulation that would culminate in a presidency destroyed by the Watergate scandal.
The latest collection sheds more light on the long-familiar determination of Nixon's men to find dirt on Democrats however they could. Memos attempt to track amorous movements of Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat whom Nixon's operatives apparently feared the most. Journalists secretly hired by Nixon's men reported on infighting among Democratic presidential contenders....
The North has long demanded a peace treaty, but President Barack Obama's special envoy for human rights in North Korea said in Seoul on Monday that the communist regime must improve its "appalling" human rights record before any normalization of relations.
Washington and Pyongyang have never had diplomatic relations because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, thus leaving the peninsula technically at war. North Korea, the U.S.-led United Nations Command and China signed a cease-fire, but South Korea never did....
Name of source: LA Times
SOURCE: LA Times (1-3-10)
"It's one thing to find a coin, a slave tag, a person's ring," Bohrn said. "It's way different to turn your shovel blade over and see a human being."
Feeling as though he is a caretaker for that soldier and the 18 others whose skeletons were found at the lonely outpost, Bohrn, 53, now is working with South Carolina to erect a historical marker near the site.
He has been fascinated with Civil War history since he was just 5 years old. At 14, he got his first metal detector and combed in and around Charleston, S.C. -- uncovering slave tags, Confederate coins and Union buttons....
Name of source: Reuters
SOURCE: Reuters (1-10-10)
Films and media have long depicted slaves toiling away in the desert to build the mammoth pyramids only to meet a miserable death at the end of their efforts.
"These tombs were built beside the king's pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves," Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist heading the Egyptian excavation team, said in a statement.
"If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king's." ...
Name of source: Deutsche Welle
SOURCE: Deutsche Welle (1-10-10)
Between 20,000 - 25,000 blacks lived in Nazi Germany under Hitler's rule.When asked about blacks in the Third Reich, Germans are most likely to talk about the Afrika Schau. In his book, "Hitler's Black Victims," American University researcher, Dr. Clarence Lusane writes that the Africa Schau was a traveling show that began in 1936. The show's owners were Juliette Tipner, whose mother was from Liberia and her white husband, Adolph Hillerkus. The aim of their spectacle was to showcase African culture in Germany.
In 1940, the Afrika Schau was taken over by the SS and Joseph Goebbels who "were hoping that it would become useful not only for propaganda and ideological purposes but also as a way to gather all the blacks in the country under one tent," writes Lusane. For blacks who joined the Afrika Schau, it became a means of survival in Nazi Germany.
Duke University historian, Dr. Tina Campt, whose research deals with the African Diaspora in Germany said that "it was possible that blacks who were involved in it used it for purposes that were not the intention of those who organized it. So if the Afrika Schau dehumanized people, there were ways that blacks involved in it could use it as an opportunity to make money, as a site to connect to other black people," she told Deutsche Welle.
However, the show was unsuccessful and was shut down in 1941. Also, it could not gather all the blacks in the country under one tent possibly because it only accepted dark-skinned blacks who appealed to the stereotype of what was considered African.
The fate of the "Rhineland Bastards"
German cover of Hans J. Massaquoi's biography.Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Afro-German Hans J. Massaquoi tried to join the Nazi youth
Most of the light-skinned blacks living in Germany during the Third Reich were of mixed blood, and a good number of them were the children of French-African occupation soldiers and German women in the Rhineland. The existence of these children is and remains common knowledge because they were mentioned in Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle"). In Nazi Germany, the derogatory term, Rheinlandbastard (Rhineland Bastard), was used to describe them.
Deutsche Welle spoke to leading German historian Prof. Reiner Pommerin to find out what happened to these children. "I published a book in the 70s, which told the reader about the sterilization of mixed blood children. These were children who had been fathered by occupation forces - mostly French occupation forces," he said. His book, "Sterilisierung der Rheinlandbastarde. Das Schicksal einer farbigen deutschen Minderheit 1918 - 1937" ("Sterilization of the Rhineland Bastards: the fate of a colored German minority 1918 - 1937") publicized the sterilization of the Black minority in Nazi Germany.
Prior to the publication of the book in 1979, this information was unknown to the public. The sterilization of biracial children was carried out secretly because it went against 1938 Nazi laws and procedures. The exact numbers remain unknown, but it is estimated that 400 children of mixed blood were sterilized - most without their knowledge, Pommerin said.
Today, the fate of the "Rhineland Bastards" still remains largely unknown. The lack of public knowledge regarding their fate may have to do with the "lack of public interest in minorities," said Pommerin. Campt attributes it to the secrecy behind the sterilization program and the nature of the Afrika Schau. "It has to do with the status of the Afrika Schau as a spectacle. So that was set up as a visual spectacle that was supposed to get people to notice something as a display. In that way, it was really publicized in order to get people to think about," she said.
Recognition of the black experience in Nazi Germany
Image of German soldiers marching on Hitler's birthday. Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Afro-Germans were excluded from aspects of daily life in the Nazi eraAccording to Campt, the major difference between the experience of blacks and that of other groups in the Third Reich is the lack of a systematic Nazi extermination plan. Moreover, because of the small number of blacks living in Germany, few people are ready to recognize that there was even a population whose experience can be discussed.
Furthermore, there is little or no support in Germany for researchers working in this area. Unlike in the United States where research on minorities is well-funded due to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, "black German scholars who have been doing this work for years don't necessarily get the recognition on the basis of qualifications, on the basis of whether or not they are working within a certain kind of academic scholarly structure for the study of minority cultures," Campt said.
All the same, it should be noted that even though the publication of Pommerin's book on the sterilization of the "Rhineland Bastards" did not generate much public interest at the time, it received some attention from a German politician. The member of the Social Democratic Party asked if he could obtain the names of the victims, so that they could be compensated.
Pommerin told Deutsche Welle that "(the politician) wanted to hand over 3,000 German marks ($2,190). I knew where they were living, but I didn't want to bother these people because I could tell that this was more a political interest. And I could see the TV cameras standing in front of the house in the village and money is handed over. And all of a sudden the sensation is great in the village - here is someone who had been sterilized."
Name of source: The Sunday Times (UK)
SOURCE: The Sunday Times (UK) (1-10-09)
But in a handwritten letter sent to The Sunday Times, the Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca insisted this weekend that there was "great interest from Japan to Canada" in film and television documentary projects.
Almost three decades after he shot the Polish Pope in St Peter’s Square, Rome, in 1981, it remains a mystery whether he acted alone or was part of a Soviet-led plot to eliminate a threat to communist rule in eastern Europe.
Name of source: NPR
SOURCE: NPR (1-9-10)
They're here to learn the consequences of their actions.
"Should we change another culture?" she asks the class. "The reality is, the second you land on the ground with 100,000 troops eating and using the materials of the area, you've changed the economy; you've changed the environment."
"It's not should we," she tells them, "it's what are we doing — and is that what we want to be doing?"
An anthropologist, Holmes-Eber trains American warriors to be sensitive to other cultures. She teaches operational culture at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va. It's her job to get soldiers to think through how every move they make on the battlefield has a consequence — not just for enemy forces, but for ordinary people.
If the Marines blow up a bridge, for example, then the local people can't get over the river, either. "You've changed the environment by knocking the bridge out," Holmes-Eber tells her class.
"That changes the economy, because the farmers can't bring their fruit to market." The food spoils and the farmers lose their income. The entire village is suddenly poor, she explains — just by the loss of that one bridge.
Holmes-Eber hopes that what she's teaching won't just end up scrawled in a spiral notebook. She wants it to inform decisions that military commanders make on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marines: A Foreign Culture
Her mission might seem intimidating, particularly because the students have considerably more experience in a war zone than the teacher. "It is a challenge to gain credibility," Holmes-Eber tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly after the class. "The hardest part was learning how to speak and understand Marine-speak."
Anthropologist Paula Holmes-Eber .
Not understanding local culture is a huge detriment for the military, anthropologist Paula Holmes-Eber says, because troops will be working at a disadvantage.
Marines are like a foreign culture themselves, she says. "They have a foreign language; they have their own ceremonies; they have their own rituals; they have everything — just a perfect foreign culture."
"So I'm actually an anthropologist in two ways," she says. "Trying to teach the principles of culture to Marines, but I'm also an anthropologist studying the Marine Corps." The more she understands their culture, the better she can communicate in a way that makes sense to them, she says.
Holmes-Eber hopes what they learn from her goes beyond the consequences of just blowing up a bridge. Given the "bloody, horrible, protracted" history of conflict in Afghanistan, Holmes-Eber would like to see American troops in the region take a different path — and that means understanding local culture well enough to build cooperative relationships.
"The goal is mission effectiveness," she explains. "If they fail because they don't understand the culture, then they didn't do what we asked them to do. So it's not about being touchy-feely and sweet and 'don't we like the natives.' "
"I really hope that we don't kill as many people this way."
Breaking The Anthropologists' Code?
Holmes-Eber's mission puts her in a conflict of her own with some fellow anthropologists, who see collaborating with the military as a traitorous act. The issue makes her squirm. "It's awkward," she finally laughs.
Anthropologists used to work closely with the military during conflicts in the 20th century, she explains. But during the Vietnam era, some of that support had controversial results.
"Anthropology was used as intelligence, used to destroy certain villages and harm populations," Holmes-Eber says. Horrified that their knowledge had hurt a culture, anthropologists set a do-no-harm standard. For many, that means not working with the military.
But Holmes-Eber says it's not a black-and-white issue. "Not working with them is not without ethical implication," she points out. "It's not 'I don't cooperate with the military, therefore I'm innocent' — you do. I think that we're all implicated. It's just a question of where that line is."
She's found hers. "I don't know what is morally wrong about teaching Marines about Islam, about Arab culture, about understanding tribal structures," she says. "I can't think of anything that I could go to bed at night and say, 'Oh, I've really done something wrong.' "
Meanwhile, Holmes-Eber says, it's an issue that's made the Marines more sympathetic to her. "They realize that I've had to run against my own field, my own profession, and go against the current and stand up and say and do something that really isn't popular," she says. "And they respect me."
Name of source: New York Times
SOURCE: New York Times (12-31-09)
Scalia’s social conservative sensibility was shaped at Xavier High School, a Jesuit academy in Manhattan where he attended military drills after school (and fondly recalls carrying his rifle on the subway). He went on to graduate first in his class at Georgetown and then attended Harvard Law School; during a series of interviews, he told Biskupic that the lasting lesson he took from his time with the Jesuits was: “[Do] not . . . separate your religious life from your intellectual life. They’re not separate.”
Scalia’s formative political experience was his tenure as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Ford Justice Department, where he zealously defended executive power in the wake of what he viewed as post-Watergate assaults by a Democratic Congress. In 1974, along with Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, Ford’s chief of staff and his deputy, Scalia persuaded Ford to veto an expansion of the Freedom of Information Act as an intrusion on the president’s “exclusive” authority. Congress promptly overturned the veto; but Scalia maintained his friendship with Cheney who continued, as George W. Bush’s vice president, to assert similarly broad claims of executive secrecy.
A legal Zelig, Scalia pops up at the center of other 1970s-era debates over executive power. He served as the point man for the Ford administration in opposing a federal shield law for journalists, testifying before Congress that “I do not see any great First Amendment problems” in forcing reporters to identify their sources. He called warrantless wiretapping “a practical necessity” and opposed the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He would later tell the editor of Time magazine that he favored overturning New York Times v. Sullivan, perhaps the most important free speech decision of the 20th century, which made it hard for government officials to sue their critics. Because of Scalia’s dismal record on secrecy and surveillance as a federal appellate judge, the libertarian New York Times columnist William Safire attacked him in 1985 as “the worst enemy of free speech in America today.” Yet when Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court a year later, the Senate, giddy at his heartwarmingly ethnic rags-to-meritocracy story, voted to confirm him 98-0.
On the court, Scalia has shown a disdain for elites that keeps him not only in the Dick Cheney but also the Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party. He is nostalgic for a 1950s world that he believes the court is dismantling in front of his eyes. But in addition to being nostalgic, Scalia can also be bitter. As the grandson of an Italian factory worker, Scalia has said repeatedly that he empathized not with African-American beneficiaries of affirmative action but with “the Polish factory worker’s kid” who lost a job or a university slot because of “reverse discrimination”; as a Supreme Court justice, he has written a series of decisions striking down affirmative action. “You have to be prepared to be regarded as idiots by sophisticated, modern society,” he told Biskupic in explaining his 1996 speech urging a Christian audience to “pray for the courage to endure the scorn” of the “worldly wise,” who don’t believe in miracles and the resurrection of the dead. And he also told Biskupic how much he lamented the decline of the recreational hunting culture of his youth. He then wrote a 5-4 decision declaring the right to bear arms to be a fundamental, individual right.
[Excerpt - Continue reading at the New York Times website]
SOURCE: New York Times (1-4-10)
Although the church, dedicated to St. Peter, is arguably the sole architectural jewel in this town of 2,400 people, the town has decided to tear it down and replace it with a new one that will be far cheaper to keep up.
Erected in stages to accommodate 900 people, the formidable stone building has stood sadly empty since 2006. Completing the picture of dereliction, it is surrounded by a wire fence to protect visitors from the very real threat of crumbling stonework.
“Because of its size and complexity it will always be costly to maintain,” said Jean-Pierre Léger, 61, a retired engineer who is Gesté’s part-time mayor. “It is a victim of its considerable size. It is too big.”
The mayor and the town council voted, 17 to 16, two years ago to demolish the church, saying it would cost $4.4 million to renovate, against $1.9 million to demolish it and erect a new one.
But many of Mr. Léger’s townsfolk fiercely disagree, arguing that the town has overstated the cost of the restoration work.
“We reject their cost estimates,” said Alain Durand, 50, a mason and metalworker who is treasurer of a movement to preserve the church. “It’s very political; if they tear down and rebuild, it’s only to fight unemployment.”
The struggle is not unique to Gesté. Across France, villages are being forced to ask hard questions about their churches, many of them deteriorating, as the number of parishioners and priests dwindles and the cost of upkeep mounts.
Béatrice de Andia, the founder and president of the Religious Heritage Observatory, in Paris, estimates that there are about 90,000 church buildings in France, of which about 17,000 are under government protection for their historic or architectural value, giving France the greatest density of religious buildings of any European country. About 10 percent of the protected churches are in perilous condition, she says, because of a lack of government financing for their preservation, as are a far larger percentage of the remaining churches.
“The Church may be eternal, but not the churches,” said Ms. de Andia, a retired government cultural official who founded the observatory in 2006 to raise awareness of the parlous state of the country’s religious heritage. “In the past, these buildings were sacred, but today there is no sense of the sacred.”
In St. Georges des Gardes, not far from here, the 19th-century church of St. Joseph was torn down in 2006; earlier, in nearby Le Fief-Sauvin, the church was razed and replaced.
Occasionally, townspeople opposing demolition have prevailed: in Arc sur Tille, near Dijon in the east of France, the 19th-century parish church remains standing after bitter protests.
The struggle over the future of village churches coincides with a national debate on the issue of French identity, which is taking place against the backdrop of large numbers of Muslim immigrants. And it is complicated by a 1907 measure — when anticlerical government leaders were trying to rein in the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church in France — that made all the country’s churches and cathedrals the property of local governments.
In other countries, notably England and Italy, disused houses of worship have been converted into homes, stores or museums. In France, there is an emotional resistance to the practice, though in Dijon, an abandoned church now serves as a theater, and in Alsace, also in the east, former synagogues now serve as museums.
Gesté’s neo-Gothic church was completed in 1870 on the ruins of a 16th-century church that was destroyed in the French Revolution. Deeply Catholic Anjou, where Gesté lies, resisted the revolution, and its church buildings suffered when the resistance was suppressed.
As French identity becomes increasingly secular, some see the crumbling of village churches as a symbol of crumbling faith.
The Rev. Pierre Pouplard, 69, pastor of Gesté’s parish church, disagrees. “I see no connection,” he said. “People cling to their church here. Church attendance here is very strong.”
Yet Father Pouplard spoke in the rectory of a neighboring town, which is also part of his parish. For the last 12 years he has been responsible for four village churches, in addition to Gesté, because of a dwindling number of priests. France counts only 9,000 priests today, compared with 40,000 in 1940. He supports the destruction of the church in Gesté and its replacement.
“There is the emotional attachment; all the people of Gesté are attached to their church,” he said. “A majority would have preferred to keep it.” But he accepts the mayor’s budgetary arithmetic, and points to the example of Fief-Sauvin, where 15 years ago a modern church replaced a crumbling 19th-century building.
The debate over the future of the church has split the town into two camps. Had Father Pouplard supported the restoration of the church, Mr. Durand says, a majority would have followed him. “It’s a question of taste,” he said. But in the last local elections, in 2008, when the future of the church was the main issue, a slight majority supported Mr. Léger and his majority on the town council.
Mr. Durand shows a visitor the plans of a contemporary church built nearby with a circular ground plan that he says will resemble Gesté’s new church.
“It’s for entertainment, it’s a music hall,” he said dismissively. “You could put a sign on it saying, ‘Groceries.’ ”
SOURCE: New York Times (1-9-10)
Legal scholars said the administration’s new approach, which avoids repeating claims of executive power that the White House has previously voiced, could avoid setting off fights with lawmakers. But the approach will make it harder to keep track of which statutes the White House believes it can disregard, or to compare the number of laws challenged by President Obama with former President George W. Bush’s record.
In Mr. Obama’s first months in office last year, he followed recent precedent and frequently issued statements, when signing bills into law, that the executive branch could disregard provisions that he considered unconstitutional restraints on executive power.
But Mr. Obama has not issued a signing statement since last summer, when one claim set off a bipartisan uproar in Congress. And the administration has decided that Mr. Obama will sometimes sign bills containing provisions it deems problematic without issuing a signing statement that challenges those sections.
Still, the administration will consider itself free to disregard new laws it considers unconstitutional, especially in cases where it has previously voiced objections elsewhere, officials said.
The White House disclosed its shift when asked why it had not put out a signing statement last month, when Mr. Obama signed a $447 billion spending bill for 2010. It contained several provisions that restricted executive power in ways that the administration had previously asserted were unconstitutional — including in signing statements attached to similar bills and in policy statements it issued about the spending bill as lawmakers drew it up.
“The administration’s views about certain provisions in the omnibus spending bill had previously been publicly communicated,” said Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, “so it wasn’t necessary to duplicate them in a signing statement.”
Since the 19th century, presidents have occasionally used signing statements to declare that parts of a bill were unconstitutional and need not be enforced or obeyed as written. But the tactic was rare until the second term of President Ronald Reagan, whose legal team developed a strategy of issuing the statements more frequently to increase presidential power.
Reagan’s successors continued that approach. And the practice escalated again under Mr. Bush, who used it to advance expansive theories of executive power. He challenged about 1,200 sections of bills — more than all predecessors combined — including a ban on torture and oversight provisions of the USA Patriot Act.
Mr. Bush’s assertive use of the tactic set off a national debate over its propriety. The American Bar Association declared that signing statements “undermine the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers,” and argued that the Constitution gave presidents only two choices: veto a bill, or sign it and obey all of it.
But other scholars said the tactic was appropriate if a president cited only mainstream legal theories. Mr. Obama, whose advisers sided with the latter camp, has characterized Mr. Bush’s use of signing statements as an abuse and pledged greater restraint.
Mr. Obama nevertheless challenged dozens of provisions early last year. The last time was in June, when his claim that he could disobey a new law requiring officials to push the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to adopt certain policies angered Congress. The White House sought to reassure lawmakers that it intended to take those negotiating positions anyway and was merely noting its view that Congress cannot control foreign negotiations. Many lawmakers rejected that theory, and the House quickly voted 429 to 2 to bar officials from disobeying the restrictions.
Although the recent spending bill received no signing statement, it contained a similar provision about World Trade Organization negotiations, as well as several other types the administration had previously challenged. The White House issued several “statements of administration policy” warning that those provisions raised constitutional concerns while the legislation was pending, but Congress did not change them.
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who led last summer’s backlash, said the White House risked losing Congressional support for international economic organizations. Mr. Frank also said it was “outrageous” to contend that if Congress disagreed with the administration’s opinion that a provision would be unconstitutional, the president could sign the bill and disobey it.
“They have a legitimate right to tell us their constitutional concerns — that’s different from having a signing statement,” Mr. Frank said. “Anyone who makes the argument that ‘once we have told you we have constitutional concerns and then you pass it anyway, that justifies us in ignoring it’ — that is a constitutional violation. Those play very different roles and you can’t bootstrap one into the other.”
But Peter M. Shane, an Ohio State University law professor, praised the approach as a step toward a return to the “normalcy” of how presidents used signing statements through Reagan’s first term. Mr. Shane has previously criticized the administration over its frequent early use of the device.
Still, Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2003-04, argued that an approach of issuing fewer signing statements would “not be terribly consequential” in practice because the executive branch could still override a provision that its legal team later pronounces unconstitutional.
Last year the Obama administration disregarded a statute that forbid State Department officials to attend United Nations meetings led by nations deemed state sponsors of terrorism. Congress has included that restriction in several recent bills.
When Mr. Bush signed one such bill, he issued a signing statement instructing officials to view the law as merely advisory, and they attended at least one such meeting on his watch. By contrast, when Mr. Obama signed another bill with an identical provision, he did not specifically single it out for challenge. But his administration later obtained an Office of Legal Counsel opinion pronouncing it unconstitutional, and officials continued to attend such meetings.
Unlike signing statements, opinions from the Office of Legal Counsel are often secret. Mr. Goldsmith said the administration’s approach of issuing fewer signing statements would mean “somewhat less accountability.”
“I think it’s a bad development if they are not going to highlight for the nation in all these new statutes where they think there are problems,” he said.
The White House, however, said it had given clear public notice about its views.
“Each piece of legislation,” Mr. LaBolt said, “is considered on an individual basis to determine whether a signing statement is necessary, and communications regarding the administration’s views on legislation such as Statements of Administration Policy will continue to be publicly available for Congress and all Americans to evaluate.”