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  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    Forgotten tape of King ‘thinking on his feet’

    There are hundreds of thousands of carefully preserved manuscripts and recordings that chronicle every speech, interview and public appearance made by one of America’s greatest orators, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At least one of his appearances, however, seems to have slipped through the cracks of time, only to be discovered nearly 50 years later in the archives of the New School.And it still seems as relevant today as it was back then.“I think America, somehow, must face her moment of atonement.” Dr. King said, in response to a question about “preferential treatment” for African-Americans. “Not just atonement for atonement’s sake, but we must face the fact that we’re going to pay for it somehow. If we don’t do it, we’re going to pay for it with the welfare rolls, we’re going to pay for it in many other ways.”...

  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    Zheng Wang: It’s All About Mao

    Zheng Wang, an associate professor of diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is the author of “Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations.”WASHINGTON — The trial of Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese Communist Party official and former member of the ruling Politburo, is attracting the world’s attention with its tales of corruption, sex, murder and political intrigue. But while such details are riveting, they divert attention from the real meaning of the case.

  • Originally published 08/22/2013

    JPMorgan Chase not as bad as the Nazis, report finds

    An outside review of Bloomberg L.P.’s practices found that a controversial article that compared the damage in an Italian town after a bad deal with JPMorgan Chase to the fallout from the Nazis’ occupation in World War II went “too far.”The 2011 article, which JPMorgan complained about at the time and Bloomberg declined to change, has long been a sore spot between the bank and Bloomberg and was recently mentioned in a New York Times article that focused on the friction between Wall Street and Bloomberg.“In one of the great campaigns of World War II, Monte Cassino was completely destroyed in a wave of battles that claimed 75,000 casualties and the lives of hundreds of townspeople. To suggest that a bond deal gone sour, curtailing daycare for 60 children and services for the poor, is comparable to the terror and cataclysm of war is inconsistent with BN’s high standards,” Clark Hoyt, an editor-at-large at Bloomberg News and a former public editor of The Times, found in his review, which focused on the relationship between Bloomberg’s news and commercial operations....

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    Second act for the Temple of the Stars

    LOS ANGELES — It was known as the Temple of the Stars: a soaring sanctuary capped by a 100-foot-wide Byzantine dome, built by Hollywood moguls on the eve of the Depression and splashed with the kind of pizazz one might expect at a movie palace rather than a synagogue.But over the last 80 years, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple has become a monument to neglect, its handsome murals cracked, the gold-painted dome blackened by soot, the sanctuary dark and grim. A foot-long chunk of plaster crashed to the ground one night.The congregation, too, has faded; while still vibrant and active, it has grown older, showing no signs of growth. This once proud symbol of religious life in Los Angeles seemed on the brink of becoming a victim of the steady ethnic churn of the city, as its neighborhood grew increasingly Korean and Hispanic and Jews moved to the west side.

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    CCP document condemns Western ideas; Chinese historian says "ramifications very serious"

    ...Condemnations of constitutional government have prompted dismayed opposition from liberal intellectuals and even some moderate-minded former officials. The campaign has also exhilarated leftist defenders of party orthodoxy, many of whom pointedly oppose the sort of market reforms that Mr. Xi and Prime Minister Li Keqiang have said are needed.The consequent rifts are unusually open, and they could widen and bog down Mr. Xi, said Xiao Gongqin, a professor of history at Shanghai Normal University who is also a prominent proponent of gradual, party-guided reform.“Now the leftists feel very excited and elated, while the liberals feel very discouraged and discontented,” said Professor Xiao, who said he was generally sympathetic to Mr. Xi’s aims. “The ramifications are very serious, because this seriously hurts the broad middle class and moderate reformers — entrepreneurs and intellectuals. It’s possible that this situation will get out of control, and that won’t help the political stability that the central leadership stresses.”...

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    George Orwell’s letters fill out a complex personality

    In a life that was relatively brief but exceedingly active, George Orwell was, among other things, a police officer in Burma, a dishwasher in France, a tramp in England, a combatant in Spain, a war correspondent in Germany and a farmer in the Hebrides. Like many people of his era — he was born in 1903 and died in 1950 — he was also a prolific letter writer, and a particularly captivating and thoughtful one at that, thanks partly to the wealth of experience he had acquired.“George Orwell: A Life in Letters” is a judiciously chosen selection of some of the most interesting of these casual writings, from a 20-year period that included both the Great Depression and World War II. Peter Davison, who selected and annotated the letters, was also the lead editor of Orwell’s 20-volume “Complete Works” and has sought here to distill Orwell’s essence, as man and thinker, into a more manageable size and format.

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    Rome’s start to architectural hubris

    Granted that Rome was not built in a day, the unresolved question among scholars has been just how long did it take. How early, before Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered, did Romans begin adopting a monumental architecture reflecting the grandeur of their ambitions?Most historians agree that early Rome had nothing to compare to the sublime temples of Greece and was not a particularly splendid city, like Alexandria in Egypt.Any definitive insight into the formative stages of Roman architectural hubris lies irretrievable beneath layers of the city’s repeated renovations through the time of caesars, popes and the Renaissance. The most imposing ruin of the early Roman imperial period is the Colosseum, erected in the first century A.D.

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    Apaches’ dispute with American Museum of Natural History

    Four years ago, the American Museum of Natural History agreed to return to the Apaches 77 objects from its collection, including headwear, feathers, bows and arrows, medicine rings and satchels containing crystals and charms.But none of the items have gone back because of an unusual, if persistent, disagreement with representatives of the Apaches over whether the museum will officially designate the items as sacred relics that should never have been taken.At first glance, the dispute would seem to hinge on semantics: the museum is prepared to refer to the objects, many more than a century old, as “cultural items,” while the Apaches insist that they be designated as “sacred” and “items of cultural patrimony,” legal classifications set out under federal law. The Apaches say this is hardly a case of being fussy. They say the items are imbued with their religion’s holy beings, that tribal elders attribute problems like alcoholism and unemployment on reservations to their unsettled spirits, and that the museum’s position is insulting to them and their deities....

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    James Sterling Young, oral historian, dies at 85

    James Sterling Young, who established the country’s only program dedicated to compiling comprehensive oral histories of the American presidency, and who also amassed a vast oral history of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s career, died on Aug. 8 at his home in Advance Mills, Va. He was 85.His death was announced by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, which studies politics, policy and the presidency. The center houses the Presidential Oral History Program, of which Professor Young was the founder and longtime chairman.An award-winning historian of 19th-century American politics, Professor Young, who retired in 2006, was at his death an emeritus professor of government and foreign affairs at Virginia. He was previously a faculty member and administrator at Columbia University....

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    For kids, a history app meant for museums

    How to get a kid jazzed about the oldest stories in the world in an age of distraction? Make a game of it. That’s the idea behind History Hero, a new app for portable Apple devices that asks children to defend history – for video-game-style points — against an alien group known as the Erasers.Using portable devices, players seek to “save” world culture from an alien breed bent on social obliteration by answering questions or snapping pictures of artifacts.The app combines newfangled gaming rewards with old-fashioned scavenger hunts in institutions like London’s British Museum to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Lawyers hint at possible recovery of stolen Dutch art

    BRUSSELS — Paintings worth tens of millions of dollars that were stolen last October from an art museum in the Netherlands have not been burned, and a Romanian gang behind the theft wants to cut an unspecified deal with the authorities so the artwork can be returned, lawyers for the defendants said on Tuesday as they went on trial in Romania.“Our clients want to tell where the paintings are, but they want to make a deal,” one of the lawyers, Radu Catalin Dancu, told reporters in Bucharest after a judge ordered the trial adjourned until next month. “We cannot say anything more than that.”

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Potent memories in the Indian 1947 Partition Archive

    BERKELEY, Calif. — Growing up, Guneeta Singh Bhalla heard a terrifying story from her grandmother. In August 1947, as British India was being partitioned into independent India and Pakistan, her grandmother fled Lahore, in what was soon to become Pakistan, for Amritsar, in what was soon to become India. All around her was carnage. Clutching her three young children, she looked out the train window to see bodies strewed along the tracks. The memory haunted her until she died.For years afterward, Ms. Bhalla regretted not recording her grandmother’s story, and it spurred her to begin recording other people’s memories of that time. The project, known as the 1947 Partition Archive, has grown far bigger, far quicker than she ever imagined. Since its inception here two years ago, its dozens of volunteers have video-recorded 647 oral histories from more than seven countries and stored them digitally. It describes itself as “a people’s history” of that wrenching time.

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    Sign by sign, history is told on London's walls

    LONDON — Not that it is unusual to see shabby old buildings being gutted by construction workers in a rapidly gentrifying area of east London like Hackney Road, but I felt a pang of regret when I spotted them starting work on one last week. I wasn’t concerned about its architecture, which is much the same as that of any of the other 19th-century terraced houses in the neighborhood, but about the signage.“To all responsible person” is painted in big black letters on the front of the building, and a description of a locksmith and safe maker is engraved on the side wall. “John Tann’s Reliance Locks, Fire & Burglarproof, Safes, Iron Doors,” it begins. Both signs have long outlived their usefulness: like the missing “s” at the end of “person,” Tann’s workshop disappeared decades ago.Will those signs survive the house’s renovation? I doubt it. The only reason they are still there is because the building has been neglected for so long, and was not deemed to be worth repairing or rebuilding until recently. Yet if the signs are removed, the neighborhood will be the poorer, having lost part of its character and some poignant symbols of its history....

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    A coin is historic, priceless, and no longer in a vault

    For 10 months, the world’s most valuable coin sat wrapped in plastic on a folding chair in a little cagelike compartment behind a bright blue door at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It was only a step or two away from billions of dollars’ worth of neatly stacked bars of gold bullion.On Monday, a man in a dark suit stashed the coin in his briefcase and coolly walked out of the Fed’s heavily guarded limestone-and-sandstone building, a couple of blocks from the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan. He nodded politely to the guards on the front steps of the Fed. They did not stop him.The man with the briefcase, David N. Redden, an auction-house executive, was not pulling off a heist. He was taking the coin on a 6.7-mile ride to the New-York Historical Society on Central Park West....

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    Paul Kennedy: The Great Powers, Then and Now

    Paul Kennedy is Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University. His books include “The Rise and Fall of The Great Powers,” and, most recently, “Engineers of Victory.”So President Obama won’t have a one-on-one conference with his Russian equivalent, Vladimir Putin, at the time of the G-20 meeting in Moscow, partly because of a nondescript “leaker,” Edward Snowden — that is not good. So Chinese public opinion (however that is cooked up) seems to be ever more nationalistic these days, while Japan launches its first aircraft carrier since the Pacific War — surely also not good.So America’s National Security Agency looks as if it is spying on everyone, domestic and foreign, producing bouts of outrage — that is a bad business. So the European Union is as divided, confused, angry and leaderless as, say, the former Holy Roman Empire — this is surely not good. There’s more: Argentina is huffing and puffing about the Falklands, and Spain is huffing and puffing about Gibraltar. Not good at all.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Veterans group, flying Gadsden flag, ruffles a city

    NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — The way Moises Valencia describes things, it began with a simple idea.Seeing that the American flag flying outside the old military armory in the city needed replacing, he took it upon himself to contact local veterans about putting up a new one. For good measure, he shelled out about $16 online for a yellow Gadsden flag, bearing an image that dates back to 1775, of a coiled rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me,” in case the veterans wanted to use that one, too.The way city officials see things, a group whose agendas go beyond purely patriotic ones decided to use a public space, the flagpole at the city-owned armory, to fly a banner that has come to symbolize the Tea Party and antipathy to government....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Jesmyn Ward: A Cold Current

    Jesmyn Ward is the author of the novel “Salvage the Bones” and the forthcoming memoir “Men We Reaped.”DeLisle, Miss.There are moments from childhood that attract heat in our memories, some for their sublime brilliance, some for their malignancy. The first time that I was treated differently because of my race is one such memory.As a child of the ’80s, my realization of what it meant to be black in Mississippi was nothing like my grandmother’s in the ’30s. For her it was deadly; it meant that her grandfather was shot to death in the woods near his house, by a gang of white patrollers looking for illegal liquor stills. None of the men who killed her grandfather were ever held accountable for the crime. Being black in Mississippi meant that, when she and her siblings drove through a Klan area, they had to hide in the back of the car, blankets thrown over them to cover their dark skin, their dark hair, while their father, who looked white, drove.Of course, my introduction to racism wasn’t nearly as difficult as my mother’s, either. She found that being black in Mississippi in the late ’50s meant that she was one of a few who integrated her local elementary school, where the teachers, administrators and bus drivers, she said, either ignored the new black students or spoke to them like dogs....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Early film by Orson Welles is rediscovered

    In 1941, Orson Welles made his debut as a feature film director with “Citizen Kane,” a fact well known to everyone who has ever taken Film 101.Less well known is that “Kane” wasn’t Welles’s debut as a filmmaker. That distinction belongs to “Hearts of Age,” an eight-minute parody of an avant-garde allegory that Welles, as the world’s most precocious teenager, codirected with a friend, William Vance, at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Ill. Amazingly, that 1934 effort, in which Welles wears old-age makeup that anticipates the elderly Kane, has survived, and can even be seen on YouTube.But neither was “Kane” Welles’s first professional encounter with the cinema. That happened three years before his Hollywood debut, in the form of about 40 minutes of footage intended to be shown with “Too Much Johnson,” a revival of an 1894 farce that Welles intended to bring to Broadway for the 1938 season of his Mercury Theater.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    John Woodward, Leader of British Navy in Falkland Islands War, Dies at 81

    Adm. John Woodward, who became Britain’s most acclaimed naval officer since World War II when he commanded the Royal Navy battle group sent to retake the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic after they were seized by Argentina in 1982, died on Sunday in Bosham, West Sussex, on England’s south coast. He was 81.His death was announced by Britain’s Ministry of Defense.The Falklands, a British territory comprising a group of windswept islands 250 miles off Argentina’s southeast coast, had been a source of dispute between Britain and Argentina for 150 years when an Argentine military dictatorship staged an invasion in April 1982. The landings on the islands — which the Argentines call the Malvinas but were named by the British in 1690 for Viscount Falkland, treasurer of the British Navy — brought a major military response by the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in support of nearly 2,000 settlers, most of British descent....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    WWII tanks roll in western France ... again

    SAUMUR, France – On a quiet Friday afternoon in western France, German Panzer tanks rolled out at a quick pace. They didn’t go unchallenged. They were met by British Stuart and American Sherman tanks, as well as some impressive armored vehicles that once packed plenty of firepower.That isn’t a description of a battle that happened 70 years ago, but of a mock battle that went down here on Friday and Saturday. It was a part of the annual two-day Carrousel de Saumur, the highlight of which was a 45-minute demonstration of tanks and armored vehicles on the big field at Ecoles Militaires de Saumur.... [Pics follow in original story]

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Documents show Thatcher-Reagan rift over U.S. decision to invade Grenada

    LONDON — Thirty-year-old documents newly released by the British government reveal just how severely America’s decision to invade the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983 tested the warm ties between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan.While the two leaders had a strong and affectionate personal rapport, the British official papers reveal how little warning Mrs. Thatcher was given about the pending military invasion, a move that left the British irritated, bewildered and disappointed. They also show how Mr. Reagan justified the secrecy as a way to prevent leaks, and how the British later concluded that the invasion had in fact been planned long in advance. At one point during tense written exchanges, both leaders claimed, in defense of their opposing approaches to the unrest in Grenada, that lives were at stake....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Japan’s finance minister retracts statement on Nazis

    TOKYO — Japan’s finance minister on Thursday publicly retracted comments he made this week that appeared to call on Japan’s current conservative government to emulate Hitler’s takeover of prewar Germany. The gaffe underscored the potential for disputes over Japan’s own wartime history to derail its popular prime minister, Shinzo Abe.The finance minister, Taro Aso, insisted that his comments on Monday, in which he seemed to say that Japan should learn how the Nazi party quietly rewrote Germany’s Constitution, were taken out of context. Faced with growing criticism in Japan and abroad, he countered that he had never meant to praise the Nazis. He said he had hoped to prompt debate in Japan over whether to change its current pacifist Constitution to allow a full-fledged military, as many conservatives now seek.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Taft Kiser: The Problem with Relic Hunting

    Taft Kiser, an archaeologist, is an author of the forthcoming book “Struggling in the Tide: Robert E. Lee’s Shirley Cousins.”CHESTER, Va. — FOR archaeologists like me, the Flowerdew Hundred Plantation near Williamsburg, Va., is our Woodstock, a sentimental spot where dozens of professionals earned their trowels. The farm’s incredible archaeological wealth ranges from 12,000-year-old Native American tools to a tree that shaded Union soldiers in June 1864.Imagine our dismay, then, when a professed “relic hunter” from Texas named Larry Cissna sold some $60,000 in tickets for his Grand National Relic Shootout — an artifact-hunting competition — at Flowerdew Hundred. The shootout took place in early March, and participants walked away with 8,961 artifacts dating from the Civil War or before.In Virginia, as in many states, relic hunting is illegal on public land, but legal on private land. Flowerdew, it turns out, belongs to the James C. Justice Companies, whose chairman, president and chief executive is James C. Justice II, whom Forbes ranks as the 882nd-wealthiest individual on the planet. (According to a spokesman, Mr. Justice was unaware of the “shootout.”)...

  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    Sculptor removes phrase from memorial to King

    WASHINGTON — The Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin finished removing a contentious phrase on the memorial for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at the end of the month.The phrase came from Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech. It read, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”Critics of the memorial, including the poet Maya Angelou, said the phrase did not show the true nature of the full quotation. The actual quotation was: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”...

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Karima Bennoune: Killing the Arab Spring in Its Cradle

    Karima Bennoune, a professor of law at the University of California, Davis, is the author of the forthcoming book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories From the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”...Since it attained independence from France in 1956, Tunisia has had some of the region’s most progressive laws relating to women and families. Many fear that Ennahda is trying to undo those laws. Amel Grami, an intellectual historian at Manouba University, whose campus was besieged last year by Salafi activists opposed to women’s equality and secular education, says the Arab Spring has “triggered a male identity crisis” that has magnified the extreme positions taken by Islamist parties.

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Rebecca Sharpless: The "Soul Sisters" in the Kitchen

    Rebecca Sharpless, an associate professor of history at Texas Christian University, is the author of “Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960.”FORT WORTH — DORA CHARLES and Idella Parker, two black Southern cooks, were born nearly a half century apart and likely never met. But if they did, they would be soul sisters.Ms. Parker, born in 1914, would understand Ms. Charles’s story of cooking for Paula Deen, whose downfall over charges of racism got a little steeper last week, when Ms. Charles detailed her own fraught history with the celebrity chef. She would understand the fabulous food drenched in butter and sugar, the 15-hour days on tired feet, the wages insufficient to pay for health care. She would understand the famous boss with romantic notions of the South and its cuisine.

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Dinosaur skeletons headed to auction, not museum

    Many paleontologists agree that two fossilized dinosaur skeletons found in the Hell Creek formation in Montana might be a major discovery.The fossils apparently show two dinosaurs locked together in mortal combat in a Cretaceous-era grave, an example of fighting that could provide a rare window into dinosaur behavior.Perhaps more important, each of the skeletons may be a new kind of dinosaur — a Nanotyrannus lancensis, a type of pygmy T. rex, and a Chasmosaurine ceratopsian, a close relation of the Triceratops.But scientists may never know for sure. Going against the hopes of many paleontologists, these two nearly complete skeletons, found by commercial prospectors on a private ranch, are not going directly to a museum for further study. Instead, billed as the “Montana dueling dinosaurs,” they will be auctioned in November by Bonhams in New York, for a projected price of $7 million to $9 million, which would be one of the highest prices ever paid for dinosaur fossils....

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Six decades after Korean War, a second rescue attempt for missing airmen

    BEIJING — As more than 100,000 Chinese soldiers swarmed over far fewer American Marines and soldiers in subzero temperatures on treacherous terrain in one of the fiercest battles of the Korean War, two United States Navy pilots took off from an aircraft carrier to provide cover for their comrades on the ground.One of the airmen, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, was the son of an African-American sharecropper from Mississippi. The other, Lt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., was the son of a white patrician merchant family from Massachusetts.An hour into the flight, Ensign Brown’s plane was hit by enemy fire, forcing him to crash land on the side of a mountain at Chosin, north of Pyongyang. Lieutenant Hudner brought his plane down nearby and found Ensign Brown, but could not rescue him.On Monday, nearly 63 years after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Mr. Hudner, 88, arrived in Beijing after a 10-day visit to North Korea aimed at finding his friend’s remains....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    German magazine "Der Landser" criticized over historical views

    FRANKFURT — The Waffen-SS is widely seen as one of the main perpetrators of the Holocaust, but not in the pages of Der Landser, a weekly German pulp magazine.In one recent issue, members of the feared World War II military unit were portrayed as just a bunch of good-natured soldiers doing their jobs and, between battles, sharing rounds of local plonk with Greek villagers grateful to have been invaded. “We conquered them, and they’re still a friendly folk,” remarked one member of the squad, which belonged to Hitler’s personal bodyguard.

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    NYT: Historians defend Zinn against Daniels

    The historian Howard Zinn won a dubious prize of sorts last year when his best-selling “People’s History of the United States” came in second in an informal online poll to determine the “least credible history book in print.”But now some of Mr. Zinn’s strongest scholarly critics have rushed to his defense, following the revelation that former Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana had, while in office, sent e-mails to a state education official asking for assurance that Mr. Zinn’s “truly execrable, antifactual piece of disinformation” was “not in use” in Indiana classrooms....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    William Scranton, Former Pennsylvania Governor, Dies at 96

    William W. Scranton, the moderate Republican governor of Pennsylvania from 1963 to 1967, who lost a run for his party’s presidential nomination in 1964 and later served as the United States representative to the United Nations, died on Sunday in Montecito, Calif. He was 96.The cause was a cerebral hemorrhage, Micheal DeVanney, a family spokesman, said.A descendant of Mayflower colonists and the founders of Scranton, Pa., heir to a fortune in railroads and utilities, the soft-spoken Mr. Scranton was heralded as a “Kennedy Republican” in the early 1960s. His amiable patrician style, and his independence as a fiscal conservative who supported civil rights and other liberal programs, proved popular with voters. He seemed poised for a national political future....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Col. Bud Day, Heroic Pilot in Vietnam War, Dies at 88

    Col. Bud Day, an Air Force fighter pilot who was shot down in the Vietnam War, imprisoned with John McCain in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” and defiantly endured more than five years of brutality without divulging sensitive information to his captors, earning him the Medal of Honor, died on Saturday in Shalimar, Fla. He was 88.His death was announced by his wife, Doris.Colonel Day was among America’s most highly decorated servicemen, having received nearly 70 medals and awards, more than 50 for combat exploits. In addition to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, he was awarded the Air Force Cross, the highest combat award specifically for airmen.In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Senator McCain called Colonel Day “my friend, my leader, my inspiration.”...

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    NYT: Historians Seek a Delay in Posting Dissertations

    FIRST came years of being a foot messenger in New York City and working in data entry. Then, frustrated with his life, and feeling the responsibility of providing for a child, Michael D. Hattem entered the Borough of Manhattan Community College — the only college that would admit him, he says, as a high school dropout with a G.E.D. He succeeded at community college, and, in 2011, graduated from City College.Today, Mr. Hattem, 38, is a graduate student at Yale working on a dissertation in American history that “explores the role of competing historical memories of 17th-century Britain in shaping late colonial political culture.”He told his exceptional story to help explain why he came to the defense of the American Historical Association last week when it issued a statement calling on universities to allow newly minted Ph.D’s to “embargo” their dissertations for up to six years — that is, keep them from being circulated online....

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    A religious legacy, with its leftward tilt, is reconsidered

    For decades the dominant story of postwar American religious history has been the triumph of evangelical Christians. Beginning in the 1940s, the story goes, a rising tide of evangelicals began asserting their power and identity, ultimately routing their more liberal mainline Protestant counterparts in the pews, on the offering plate and at the ballot box.But now a growing cadre of historians of religion are reconsidering the legacy of those faded establishment Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, tracing their enduring influence on the movements for human rights and racial justice, the growing “spiritual but not religious” demographic and even the shaded moral realism of Barack Obama — a liberal Protestant par excellence, some of these academics say.After decades of work bringing evangelicals, Mormons and other long-neglected religious groups into the broader picture, these scholars contend, the historical profession is overdue for a “mainline moment.”

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    National Library of Sweden to recover stolen books

    A chance request in 2004 for a 19th-century German book about the Mississippi River was what alerted the National Library of Sweden that dozens of rare books from its collection had been stolen. Now that volume and another valuable antique book that contains early maps of America have been recovered and are being returned to library officials at a ceremony on Wednesday at the office of the United States Attorney in Manhattan. These books were part of sensational heist engineered by Anders Burius, a senior librarian dubbed the “Royal Library Man,” who committed suicide shortly after his arrest nine years ago. A crack in the case first came last year after a rare atlas from 1597 was recovered. Mr. Burius sold or consigned at least 13 of the books to Ketterer Kunst, a German auction house....

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    ‘Our Nixon’ uses hundreds of reels shot by staff members

    These days, Dwight Chapin shoots movies on his iPad. But in the Richard M. Nixon White House, he and his colleagues John Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldeman were Super 8-wielding auteurs, capturing intimate moments that eluded the press corps: Tricia Nixon before her wedding; the president in Beijing enjoying a ballet about a workers’ insurrection; Pope Paul VI shot sideways (because Haldeman had smuggled his camera into the Vatican).The images, surreptitious and otherwise, are included in “Our Nixon,” the impressionistic documentary directed by Penny Lane that has its premiere Thursday on CNN. The film makes use of hundreds of reels of  home movies shot by Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Mr. Chapin, some of which had been confiscated by the F.B.I. during the Watergate investigation. The footage remained largely unseen for 40 years.“They weren’t being hidden,” Ms. Lane said. “They were being ignored.”

  • Originally published 07/24/2013

    Jennifer Lind: The Limits on Nationalism in Japan

    Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, is the author of “Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics.”...[O]n Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the war, many officials [including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] are likely to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors the nation’s war dead and includes among them convicted war criminals.The way Mr. Abe observes those two anniversaries will be read, especially by China and South Korea, as a measure of his attitudes toward the past and his sensitivities toward Japan’s neighbors.An episode from this spring suggests that nationalism is the last thing Japanese voters want from their government. Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, made comments justifying the use of comfort women by citing soldiers’ hardship. “If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a system like the ‘comfort women’ is necessary,” he said. “Anyone can understand that.”...

  • Originally published 07/24/2013

    Stephen R. Kelly: How French Canadian Immigration Helped Build America

    Stephen R. Kelly is a retired American diplomat and the associate director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Duke University.DURHAM, N.C. — WATCHING the free-for-all in Washington over immigration reform, it’s easy to conclude that an airtight border has always been our national goal.The trouble with this narrative, as I discovered when serving as the American consul general in Quebec City in the late 1990s, is that it flies in the face of our own history.

  • Originally published 07/23/2013

    NYT hightlights N-Y Historical Society's "Civil War in 50 Objects"

    Tracing history through objects is popular these days. Neil McGregor, the director of the British Museum, did it in 700 best-selling pages, and for the last couple of months, the New-York Historical Society has had an exhibition called “The Civil War in 50 Objects.”Finding the 50 objects involves something of a scavenger hunt — they are on display in different places at the society, at 170 Central Park West, at West 77th Street. All 50 came from the society’s collection of about 1 million Civil War-era items, “a definitive record of slavery, secession, rebellion and reunion from the time these movements first roiled the city and the nation,” according to the Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. He made the final decisions on which 50 objects were chosen, and which were not, after members of the museum’s staff had winnowed the possibilities to 75....

  • Originally published 07/23/2013

    Where Police See Looted Antiquities, a Mayor Sees a Museum

    ARANDA DE MONCAYO, Spain — The roads leading to this tiny, hilltop village of 200 inhabitants are so narrow and untraveled that no one has ever bothered to paint a white line down the middle.But lately there has been a bit of international intrigue here. A man, who largely kept to himself but was sometimes seen out at night wandering around with a metal detector, has been arrested.Investigators searched his homes, here and elsewhere, and found more than 4,000 looted antiquities. Most of them, they say, had been dug up from the hill next door, which on close inspection has an unusual array of crumbling stone structures. Two thousand years ago, it seems, a bustling metropolis, called Aratikos, sat atop that hill, only to be destroyed by invading Romans.“You and me, we see stones if we look over there,” said Rosario Cabrera, the mayor of Aranda de Moncayo, as she stood on the village ramparts, nodding in the direction of the Aratikos hill. “But an expert sees a doorway.”...

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Cindy Hahamovitch: The Lessons of Belle Glade

    Cindy Hahamovitch is a history professor at the College of William & Mary and the author of “No Man’s Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor .”WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — IN 1965, the secretary of labor, Willard Wirtz, stood under a porch light in Belle Glade, Fla., facing a crowd of guest workers from the Caribbean. Mr. Wirtz could smell sweat and burned sugar cane on their clothes but couldn’t see them, which was how the workers wanted it. Guest workers were often deported and blacklisted for striking or simply questioning whether they had been paid what they were owed.“I would hear their voices — they would ask questions,” Mr. Wirtz recalled, but “they weren’t going to be identified.”

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Blower Bentley heading to auction was modified

    An extremely rare Blower Bentley will cross the auction block at a Bonhams sale scheduled for Aug. 16 in Carmel, Calif. Experts agree on its rarity, but differ on how pristine an example this machine truly is.In the 94-year history of Bentley Motors, perhaps none of its creations is held in more esteem than the Blower Bentley.The more powerful supercharged version of the 4.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine was the idea of Tim Birkin, who along with Dudley Benjafield and Woolf Barnato, comprised the original “Bentley Boys” team of racers. The Blower was fast, but it consumed profligate amounts of fuel and was not particularly reliable. Ettore Bugatti derided the Blower Bentley as “the world’s fastest truck.”...

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Some Mormons search the Web and find doubt

    In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble....

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    H.R. McMaster: The Pipe Dream of Easy War

    H. R. McMaster is an Army major general and the commanding officer at Fort Benning, Ga., who led the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq as a colonel in 2005 and 2006.FORT BENNING, Ga. — “A GREAT deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote. We should keep that in mind when we consider the lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — lessons of supreme importance as we plan the military of the future.Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past.We engaged in such thinking in the years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances.

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    Robert Zaretsky: Why the French Love a Parade

    Robert Zaretsky is a professor of French history at the University of Houston Honors College, in Texas....[Bastille Day] was the Age of Reason’s Woodstock — even with the presence of the National Guard, the citizen militia born in the creative chaos of 1789. Sporting their blue, white and red cockades, Guard detachments from across France came to affirm their region’s attachment to the Revolution. For the French nation in 1790, the Guard was no less the authentic representative of the popular will than, say, Jimi Hendrix (wearing red, white and blue) riffing on the Star-Spangled Banner was the authentic expression of Woodstock Nation.While the Guard’s role in the festival partly explains the military’s presence in today’s parade, there’s another source. With the advent of Napoleonic and Restoration France, July 14 became the date whose historical significance dared not be spoken. It was the fledging Third Republic, born in the rubble of defeat left by the Franco-Prussian War, which resurrected the parade in 1880.

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Glenn David Brasher: Striking the Blow at Fort Wagner

    Glenn David Brasher is an instructor of history at the University of Alabama and the author of “The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom.” “Today we recognize the right of every man … to be a MAN and a citizen,” Gov. John Andrew of Massachusetts proclaimed on May 18, 1863, to a crowd gathered around the 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment raised in the North. They fight “not for themselves alone,” he insisted, but also for their race. Their military service would refute “the foul aspersion that they [are] not men,” proving that African-Americans deserved their nation’s citizenship rights.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Anton Antonov Ovseyenko, Who Exposed Stalin Terror, Dies at 93

    “It is the duty of every honest person to write the truth about Stalin,” Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, a Soviet historian and dissident, wrote in the preface of his seminal book “The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny,” published illegally in 1981.A survivor of the gulag whose parents died in Stalin’s purges, Mr. Antonov-Ovseyenko spent a lifetime in almost fanatical devotion to that duty, working until his death on Tuesday in Moscow at 93 to expose the darkest truths of the Soviet era.His books cracked through the shell of Soviet censorship that surrounded much of the Stalin-era brutality, offering readers at home and in the West a vivid portrait of tyranny and violence....

  • Originally published 07/10/2013

    In Portugal, a protector of a people is honored

    CABANAS DE VIRIATO, Portugal — Lee Sterling knew that his sister had not survived the harrowing journey 73 years ago that allowed him and his parents to escape Nazism by traveling from their home in Brussels to Lisbon and eventually on to New York.He was just 4 years old and is barely able to recall her now, but after consulting Portuguese archives, he found that his sister, Raymonde Estelle, had spent six weeks in a hospital before dying of septicemia, at age 7. “I hadn’t cried in years, but when I found out, I just couldn’t stop,” he said.Mr. Sterling, who lives in California, was among 40 people who made an emotional pilgrimage last month to retrace their families’ pasts. They also wanted to pay homage to the man who saved their lives: Aristides de Sousa Mendes....

  • Originally published 07/10/2013

    Derek Sayer: A Scandal in Bohemia

    Derek Sayer, a professor of history at Lancaster University, is the author, most recently, of “Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History.”PRAGUE — A MIDDLE-AGED man sits in a cafe, sipping absinthe, the newspaper before him untouched. He stares at a shapely young woman perched mysteriously on the corner of his table. Naked as Eve, she is a translucent green. A waiter hovers nearby. Painted in 1901, Viktor Oliva’s “Absinthe Drinker” hangs in the venerable Cafe Slavia, which opened in 1884 and was a redoubt of dissident artists, from Vaclav Havel to Jiri Kolar, during the Communist era. Its temptress seems a fitting muse for a city where the absurdities of the public realm have often encouraged a retreat into the alcoholic and the erotic.

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    At Gettysburg, a battle of history vs. modernity

    GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Like thousands of other re-enactors, Eric Mueller honors the sacrifices of soldiers in the Civil War by going to great lengths to live as they did — sleeping beneath a canvas sheet suspended on wooden posts, eating hardtack and salt pork, carrying 60 rounds of ammunition in a cartridge box and a backpack, and marching long distances in heavy woolen tunics.But in the interests of safety and perhaps a little comfort, Mr. Mueller, 40, allows modest divergences from the 19th-century soldier’s life.Last week, for example, Mr. Mueller packed in his knapsack two sweet potatoes and two small onions, foods that he conceded may not have been in season in southern Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, and so would not have been available to Civil War troops even if they had tried to forage them from nearby farms.Still, he subjected himself to discomforts like not washing for a week and squeezing his six-foot frame into a 5-foot-8-inch-long tent that he shared with another re-enactor. Mr. Mueller, a civil servant from Hawaii, said he stayed “reasonably dry” during four nights of camping out on Cemetery Ridge in the heart of the Gettysburg battlefield....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    As Mandela lies dying, disputes over his legacy are taking hold

    JOHANNESBURG — The nasty family squabble over where three of former President Nelson Mandela’s children, and eventually the leader himself, will be buried drew to a close on Thursday morning in a small village on the Eastern Cape.But not before it had thrown into relief the perhaps inevitable disputes over the revered leader’s legacy — both the financial legacy, which his family is wrestling over, and more broadly, the political legacy of how Mr. Mandela will be remembered and how his story will guide the country he led.Mandla Mandela, the former president’s eldest grandson and heir as tribal leader in the region, held a news conference in his compound in Mvezo saying that he would cease his legal battles to have the bodies kept there. In 2011, he moved the bodies to Mvezo from another small village, Qunu, where the rest of the Mandela family wanted them and where the anti-apartheid leader is said to wish to be buried himself. By late afternoon, the bodies were reburied in Qunu....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Mandela: Inspiration for an era of activism

    LONDON — In the welter of passion and memory surrounding the decline of Nelson Mandela, a more modest commemoration slipped by a week ago that said much about the role he played as an inspiration in his long years of imprisonment, when the daily grind of struggle against apartheid fell to others who fought in his name.It was a reminder, too, that the battle to end white rule was fought on many levels, ranging from the activism of anti-apartheid exiles here in London to a brutal shadow war in South Africa itself that offered no quarter to those seeking a new order.The events of June 27, 1985, offered a particular insight.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Where Mandela Kept Hope, Guide Tells Their Shared Saga

    CAPE TOWN, South Africa — As Ahmed Kathrada led President Obama and his family recently through the prison on Robben Island where Mr. Kathrada had spent much of his life, he explained how the rules of apartheid had granted him, because of his Indian ancestry, long pants and socks. One of his fellow inmates, Nelson Mandela, as a black man, received short pants and no socks.Mr. Kathrada, 83, also showed the Obamas the sign listing the different amounts of sugar, coffee, soup and other foods that South Africa’s prison system had apportioned to blacks; mixed-race inmates, who were known as coloreds; Indians; and whites.“In everything there was apartheid,” he said in an interview on Thursday in his small apartment here in the shadow of Table Mountain....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    John XXIII, John Paul II to be made saints

    VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sped two of his predecessors toward sainthood on Friday: John Paul II, who guided the Roman Catholic Church during the end of the cold war, and John XXIII, who assembled the liberalizing Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.In approving the sainthood of John XXIII even without a second miracle attributable to the pontiff, Francis took the rare step of bypassing the Vatican bureaucracy. Francis also said a Vatican committee had accepted the validity of a second miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul.The canonization cause for John Paul began almost immediately after his death in 2005. At his funeral, crowds in St. Peter’s Square began shouting “Santo subito,” or “Sainthood now,” for the beloved pontiff....

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Derek Waters Explains His TV Series ‘Drunk History’

    For an inebriated storyteller, enthusiasm often outpaces execution. “They have to get it out, no matter how many times they mess it up,” said Derek Waters, a creator of “Drunk History,” beginning Tuesday on Comedy Central.He would know. Since 2007, this actor (“Suburgatory,” “Married to the Kellys”) and writer has asked friends to throw back a few, then tell him their favorite historical tale as a camera rolls. The resulting videos, hits on Funny or Die, pair the sloppy narratives with self-serious re-enactments — including the drunken flubs and profanity — by famous actors. “The tone is, these are guys who are trying as hard as they can to make a history show, but it’s just not going that well,” Mr. Waters said.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Shaila Dewan: Has ‘Caucasian’ Lost Its Meaning?

    Shaila Dewan is an economics reporter for The New York Times.AS a racial classification, the term Caucasian has many flaws, dating as it does from a time when the study of race was based on skull measurements and travel diaries. It has long been entirely unmoored from its geographical reference point, the Caucasus region. Its equivalents from that era are obsolete — nobody refers to Asians as “Mongolian” or blacks as “Negroid.”And yet, there it was in the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The plaintiff, noted Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in his majority opinion, was Caucasian.To me, having covered the South for many years, the term seems like one of those polite euphemisms that hides more than it reveals. There is no legal reason to use it. It rarely appears in federal statutes, and the Census Bureau has never put a checkbox by the word Caucasian. (White is an option.)

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Thom Bassett: Rashomon at Vicksburg

    Thom Bassett is writing a novel about William Tecumseh Sherman. He lives in Providence, R.I., and teaches at Bryant University.The fall of Vicksburg, Miss., on July 4 sent a shock wave through both North and South – it split the Confederacy in two and gave the Union nearly unfettered control of the Mississippi River. Less clear was what brought about the surrender. Indeed, the principal players in the surrender drama — John C. Pemberton for the South and Ulysses S. Grant for the North — insisted on very different accounts.On the night of July 2, Pemberton laid out for his divisional commanders a dismal set of options. According to his subordinate S.H. Lockett, Pemberton said that they had the stark choice “either to surrender while we still had ammunition enough to demand terms, or to sell our lives as dearly as possible” in a doomed assault against the Yankees.

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Robert Hicks: Why the Civil War Still Matters

    Robert Hicks is the author of the novels “The Widow of the South” and “A Separate Country.”FRANKLIN, Tenn. — IN his 1948 novel “Intruder in the Dust,” William Faulkner described the timeless importance of the Battle of Gettysburg in Southern memory, and in particular the moments before the disastrous Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, which sealed Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat. “For every Southern boy fourteen years old,” he wrote, “there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon.”That wasn’t quite true at the time — as the humorist Roy Blount Jr. reminds us, black Southern boys of the 1940s probably had a different take on the battle. But today, how many boys anywhere wax nostalgic about the Civil War? For the most part, the world in which Faulkner lived, when the Civil War and its consequences still shaped the American consciousness, has faded away.Which raises an important question this week, as we move through the three-day sesquicentennial of Gettysburg: does the Civil War still matter as anything more than long-ago history?...

  • Originally published 07/02/2013

    David Brooks cites Allen C. Guezlo in op-ed column

    David Brooks is an op-ed columnist for the NYT.Tuesday is the 150th anniversary of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In his eloquent new account, “Gettysburg: the Last Invasion,” the historian Allen Guelzo describes the psychology of the fighters on that day.A battlefield is “the lonesomest place which men share together,” a soldier once observed. At Gettysburg, the men were sometimes isolated within the rolling clouds of gun smoke and unnerved by what Guelzo calls “the weird harmonic ring of bullets striking fixed bayonets.” They were often terrified, of course, sometimes losing bladder and bowel control. (Aristophanes once called battle “the terrible one, the tough one, the one upon the legs.”)But, as Guelzo notes, the Civil War was fought with “an amateurism of spirit and an innocence of intent, which would be touching if that same amateurism had not also contrived to make it so bloody.”...

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Jefferson Cowie: The Future of Fair Labor

    Jefferson Cowie is a professor of labor history at Cornell and the author of “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class.”ITHACA, N.Y. — SEVENTY-FIVE years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act to give a policy backbone to his belief that goods that were not produced under “rudimentary standards of decency” should not be “allowed to pollute the channels of interstate trade."The act is the bedrock of modern employment law. It outlawed child labor, guaranteed a minimum wage, established the official length of the workweek at 40 hours, and required overtime pay for anything more. Capping the working week encouraged employers to hire more people rather than work the ones they had to exhaustion. All this came not from the magic of market equilibrium but from federal policy.For decades afterward, Congress brought more people under the law’s purview and engaged in perennial struggles to maintain or increase the minimum wage. Fifty years ago this month, John F. Kennedy signed its most important amendment, the Equal Pay Act, which guaranteed women and others equal pay for equal work....

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Genome of horse buried 700,000 years is recovered

    Researchers have reconstructed an ancient genome that is 10 times as old as any retrieved so far, and now say that DNA should be recoverable from animals that lived one million years ago. This would greatly extend biologists’ ability to understand the evolutionary past.The genome was that of a horse that lived some 700,000 years ago in what is now the Yukon Territory in Canada, and its reconstruction has already led to new insights. The researchers who sequenced it then analyzed DNA from a less ancient horse, one that lived 43,000 years ago, as well as five contemporary horse breeds and a donkey named Willy that resides in the Copenhagen zoo. They concluded that the genus that gave rise to modern horses, zebras and donkeys — Equus — arose about four million years ago, twice as far back as had been thought.Before this work, the oldest genome that had been recovered was that of a Denisovan human who lived 70,000 years ago. The new finding, if accepted, would extend by tenfold the reach of paleogenomics, the study of ancient genomes reconstructed from fossil bones. Within the last few decades this young science has become a powerful complement to paleontology, the study of fossils, as a way of reconstructing evolutionary history....

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    George Chauncey: The Long Road to Marriage Equality

    George Chauncey, a professor of history and American studies at Yale, was an expert witness in both same-sex marriage cases decided Wednesday.NEW HAVEN — THE Supreme Court’s soaring decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional is a civil rights landmark, but the history leading up to it is poorly understood. Marriage equality was neither inevitable nor, until recently, even conceivable. And the struggle to secure it was not, as is commonly believed, a natural consequence of the gay liberation movement that gained steam in the late 1960s.It was not until the 1980s that securing legal recognition for same-sex relationships became an urgent concern of lesbians and gay men. In the 1950s, such recognition was almost unimaginable. Then, most states criminalized gay people’s sexual intimacy. Newspaper headlines blared the State Department’s purge of homosexual employees during the McCarthy-era “lavender scare.” Police cracked down on lesbian and gay bars and other alleged “breeding grounds” of homosexuality.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Frank Lloyd Wright's NY showroom a memory

    A small landmark of New York City architectural and automotive history disappeared recently, almost without notice. The theatrical auto showroom designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at 430 Park Avenue, at 56th Street, had displayed a number of European brands over the years, notably Mercedes-Benz from 1957 to 2012.The space, with a spiral ramp and turntable interior, was designed in 1954 for the pioneering auto importer Max Hoffman.In early April, the Wright interior was demolished by the owners of the building, Midwood Investment and Management and Oestreicher Properties. Debra Pickrel, a preservationist and co-author of “Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years, 1954-1959” (Gibbs Smith, 2007) wrote about the showroom’s destruction in Metropolis magazine....

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Verlyn Klinkenborg: The Decline and Fall of the English Major

    Verlyn Klinkenborg has taught writing at Fordham, St. Olaf, Bennington, and Harvard, among other universities....In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics.Parents have always worried when their children become English majors. What is an English major good for? In a way, the best answer has always been, wait and see — an answer that satisfies no one. And yet it is a real answer, one that reflects the versatility of thought and language that comes from studying literature. Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise....STUDYING the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience. Instead, now it feels as though people have retreated to tiny cabins in the bowels of the ship, from which they peep out on a small fragment of what may be a coastline or a fog bank or the back of a spouting whale.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Roger Lowenstein: The Federal Reserve’s Framers Would Be Shocked

    Roger Lowenstein is writing a history of the Federal Reserve.ONE hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress and demanded that it “act now” to create the Federal Reserve System. His proposal set off a fierce debate. One of the plan’s most strident critics, Representative Charles A. Lindbergh Sr., the father of the aviator, predicted that the Federal Reserve Act would establish “the most gigantic trust on earth,” and that the Fed would become an economic dictator or, as he put it, an “invisible government by the money power.”

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Richard N. Haass: America Can Take a Breather. And It Should.

    Richard N. Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author, most recently, of “Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order.”THE United States is currently enjoying an unprecedented respite in the foreign policy arena — a temporary relief from the normal rigors of history that allows us to take stock at home and abroad.It may seem outlandish to claim that we’re in the midst of a lull, given that America faces a civil war in Syria, an Iran that seems to be seeking nuclear weapons, an irresponsible North Korea that already possesses them, continuing threats from terrorists, a rising China and rapid climate change.Yet the United States enjoys a respite all the same. For the three and a half centuries of the modern international era, great powers have almost always confronted rivals determined to defeat them and replace the global order they worked to bring about. In the last century, this process unfolded three times. The results were violent, costly and dangerous, and included two world wars and a cold war....

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Nelson Mandela in critical condition for second day

    JOHANNESBURG — President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that Nelson Mandela remained in critical condition for a second day in a hospital in Pretoria where he is being treated for a lung infection.“Doctors are doing everything possible to ensure his well-being and comfort,” Mr. Zuma said at a news conference in Johannesburg, but he gave few details about the condition of Mr. Mandela, who was hospitalized on June 8.Mr. Zuma spoke as South Africans and admirers around the world awaited word on the condition of Mr. Mandela, the iconic leader who played a towering role in his country’s transition from white minority rule under the system of apartheid to multiracial democracy in 1994....

  • Originally published 06/23/2013

    Martin Bernal, ‘Black Athena’ Scholar, Dies at 76

    Martin Bernal, whose three-volume work “Black Athena” ignited an academic debate by arguing that the African and Semitic lineage of Western civilization had been scrubbed from the record of ancient Greece by 18th- and 19th-century historians steeped in the racism of their times, died on June 9 in Cambridge, England. He was 76.The cause was complications of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder, said his wife, Leslie Miller-Bernal.“Black Athena” opened a new front in the warfare over cultural diversity already raging on American campuses in the 1980s and ’90s. The first volume, published in 1987 — the same year as “The Closing of the American Mind,” Allan Bloom’s attack on efforts to diversify the academic canon — made Mr. Bernal a hero among Afrocentrists, a pariah among conservative scholars and the star witness at dozens of sometimes raucous academic panel discussions about how to teach the foundational ideas of Western culture....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Statue unveiled, Douglass hailed for equality fight

    WASHINGTON — Frederick Douglass, the slave turned abolitionist, believed in freedom and equality for “all of us, regardless of our race, gender, religion or sexual orientation,” his great-great-granddaughter said Wednesday at the unveiling of a statue of Douglass in the Capitol.The descendant, Nettie Washington Douglass, spoke beneath the bronze statue of Douglass in Emancipation Hall on the day known as Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, before a crowd of 600 visitors that included Congressional leaders, relatives, current and former city officials, rights activists and historians.Ms. Douglass’s nod to her ancestor’s support of equality came as the Supreme Court, in chambers just across the street, was preparing to decide cases involving same-sex marriage, affirmative action and voting rights....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Archivists in France fight privacy initiative

    SERRAVAL, France — As a European proposal to bolster digital privacy safeguards faces intense lobbying from Silicon Valley and other powerful groups in Brussels, an obscure but committed group has joined in the campaign to keep personal data flourishing online.One of the European Union’s measures would grant Internet users a “right to be forgotten,” letting them delete damaging references to themselves in search engines, or drunken party photos from social networks. But a group of French archivists, the people whose job it is to keep society’s records, is asking: What about our collective right to keep a record even of some things that others might prefer to forget?The archivists and their counteroffensive might seem out of step, as concern grows about American surveillance of Internet traffic around the world. But the archivists say the right to be forgotten, as it has become known, could complicate the collection and digitization of mundane public documents — birth reports, death notices, real estate transactions and the like — that form a first draft of history....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Audit finds sexual abuse was topic in 1930s

    A regional province of the Capuchin religious order that had fought allegations of sexual abuse for decades decided last year to open its files dating to the 19th century to three independent auditors, in what the order claimed to be a first in the long-running Roman Catholic Church abuse scandal in the United States.The auditors’ report, released on Tuesday, found that sexual abuse by friars in the St. Joseph Province of the Capuchin Order was discussed at meetings as far back as 1932, the first year for which minutes of meetings were available.After more than a dozen students at the province’s St. Lawrence Seminary in Wisconsin accused nine friars of abuse in 1992, it cost the province’s insurer nearly a million dollars — but 89 percent of that went to lawyers to defend the Capuchins and only 11 percent to victims for settlements and therapy, the report said....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Amartya Sen: Why India Trails China

    Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate, is a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard. He is the author, with Jean Drèze, of “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions.”

  • Originally published 06/12/2013

    Outpost on pampas where Jews once found refuge wilts as they leave

    MOISÉS VILLE, Argentina — At its height in the 1940s, this outpost on Argentina’s grasslands had four synagogues for a population of 5,000, a theater for Yiddish-language acting troupes, a newspaper filled with feverish debates about the creation of the state of Israel and saloons where Jewish gauchos galloping in from the pampas could nurse a drink alongside fellow cowhands.Now, Moisés Ville, founded in 1889 by Jews fleeing the pogroms of the Czarist Russian empire, has only about 200 Jews among its 2,000 residents. The last regularly functioning synagogue lacks a rabbi. The Hebrew school halted classes this year because of the dwindling number of Jewish children. Some of the last remaining Jewish gauchos have swapped their horses for Ford pickup trucks, and they now ponder the future of their way of life.

  • Originally published 06/11/2013

    Edward Hotaling, 75, TV reporter who shed light on black history, is dead

    Edward Hotaling, a television reporter whose question about racial progress ended the career of the CBS sports commentator Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder in 1988, but who may have made a more lasting mark by documenting the use of slave labor in building the nation’s Capitol, died on June 3 on Staten Island. He was 75.The cause was a heart attack, his son Greg said. He had lived in a nursing home since suffering serious injuries in an auto accident in 2007.Mr. Hotaling (pronounced HO-tail-ing) was a television reporter at the NBC affiliate WRC-TV in Washington when he interviewed Mr. Snyder on Jan. 15, 1988, for a report commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Bumping into Mr. Snyder in a restaurant, Mr. Hotaling asked him to assess racial progress in professional sports.Mr. Snyder’s reply careered into his theory that blacks were better athletes than whites because their slave ancestors had been “bred to be that way” and that soon “there’s not going to be anything left for the white people” in sports. The comment created a national stir and got him fired by CBS. He died in 1996....

  • Originally published 06/11/2013

    Kennedy’s Finest Moment

    June 11, 1963, may not be a widely recognized date these days, but it might have been the single most important day in civil rights history.

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    Brendan Simms: The Ghosts of Europe Past

    Brendan Simms is a professor of history at Cambridge University and the author, most recently, of “Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy From 1453 to the Present.”CAMBRIDGE, England — THE cheerleaders of the European Union like to think of it as an entirely new phenomenon, born of the horrors of two world wars. But in fact it closely resembles a formation that many Europeans thought they had long since left to the dustbin of history: the Holy Roman Empire, the political commonwealth under which the Germans lived for many hundreds of years.Some might take that as a compliment; after all, the empire lasted for almost a millennium. But they shouldn’t. If anything, today’s Europe still has to learn the lessons of the empire’s failures.

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    When presidential words led to swift action

    WASHINGTON — These days it is hard to imagine a single presidential speech changing history.But two speeches, given back to back by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this week, are now viewed as critical turning points on the transcendent issues of the last century.The speeches, which came on consecutive days, took political risks. They sought to shift the nation’s thinking on the “inevitability” of war with the Soviet Union and to make urgent the “moral crisis” of civil rights. Beyond their considerable impact on American minds, these two speeches had something in common that oratory now often misses. They both led quickly and directly to important changes.

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Arts and Sciences Academy defends leader’s honesty

    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the prestigious 233-year-old scholarly society in Cambridge, Mass., said on Tuesday that it is standing behind its president, Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, after accusations that she had falsely claimed on at least two grant proposals to have a doctorate....The accusations, reported in The Boston Globe on Tuesday, sent shock waves through intellectual circles in Cambridge and beyond, along with speculation that a leader who has long weathered criticism about her sharp-elbowed management style might be out the door....Few ... associated with the academy were willing to speak on the record, though even some who spoke warmly of Ms. Berlowitz suggested that a deliberate attempt to inflate credentials would be unforgivable.“I have enjoyed a good working relationship with her for many years, and appreciate many of the things she has done for the academy,” David Hollinger, a historian at the University of California, Berkeley, and a fellow since 1997, said via e-mail. “But if it comes to be clearly proven that she has systematically deceived the academy, she should resign forthwith.”

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Akhil Reed Amar and Neal K. Katyal: Why the Court Was Right to Allow Cheek Swabs

    Akhil Reed Amar is a professor of law and political science at Yale. Neal K. Katyal is a former acting solicitor general of the United States, a professor of national security law at Georgetown and a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells.SOMETHING astonishing happened Monday: Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s longest-serving member and one of its most conservative justices, joined three liberal justices in a sharply worded dissent arguing for the rights of criminal suspects.The court decided, 5 to 4, that the Constitution permits the police to swab the cheeks of those arrested of serious crimes, and then do DNA tests on the saliva samples to see if the suspects are associated with other crimes. Justice Scalia joined three liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in dissenting.

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Rep Dingell to break HR record

    In an institution where seniority has long been prized, Representative John D. Dingell Jr. of Michigan is about to set a new standard with 57 years, 5 months and 26 days of House service — a remarkable tenure that spans more than a quarter of the existence of Congress.On Friday, Mr. Dingell, 86, the former Democratic powerhouse who asserted jurisdiction over vast expanses of federal policy as the intimidating chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, will become the longest-serving member of Congress in history with his 20,997th day as a representative, surpassing the record held by Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia. Unlike Mr. Byrd, who rose from poverty in the Appalachian coalfields, Mr. Dingell was, in his own words, “a child of the House.” He made his first appearance on the House floor at the age of 6, when his father was elected in 1933; he went on to become a Congressional page; and after his father died in 1955 he successfully ran for his seat at the age of 29....

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Paying tribute to Medgar Evers

    ARLINGTON, Va. — Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, said her husband was a man who saw a job that needed to be done, and he answered the call, “not just for his people but for all people.”Ms. Evers-Williams and a group of about 300 visitors, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and former President Bill Clinton, observed the 50th anniversary of Mr. Evers’s assassination on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery, where Mr. Evers is buried.Mr. Evers was working as a field secretary for the N.A.A.C.P. when he was gunned down in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Miss., on June 12, 1963, at the age of 37. Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist, was convicted of the murder in 1994, 30 years after two all-white juries deadlocked on earlier charges....

  • Originally published 06/03/2013

    Niall Ferguson and Pierpaolo Barbieri: The E.U.’s Feeble War on Unemployment

    Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard and author of “Civilization: The West and the Rest.” Pierpaolo Barbieri is Ernest May Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. His book, “Hitler’s Shadow Empire: The Nazis and the Spanish Civil War” will be published this fall. EUROPEAN leaders have declared war on youth unemployment. At a meeting we attended in Paris last week organized by the Berggruen Institute on Governance, President François Hollande of France called on his fellow E.U. leaders to “act urgently” to address the problem. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, warned of an impending “catastrophe” that risks losing “the battle for European unity.” Italy’s labor minister, Enrico Giovannini, added, “We have to rescue an entire generation of young people.” Only a few days ago, his boss, the newish Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, declared he wanted to make the European summit that begins on June 28 about “the fight” against youth unemployment.

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Japanese Politician Reframes Comments on Sex Slavery

    TOKYO — Seeking to quell an uproar over his recent comments suggesting that sexual slavery was a necessary evil in Japan’s imperial past, a populist party leader said Monday that he had not meant to justify wartime brothels or deny the women’s suffering at the hands of Japanese soldiers.But the politician, Toru Hashimoto, who is a co-leader of the opposition Japan Restoration Association and the mayor of Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, also argued that Japan was being unfairly singled out for its use of so-called comfort women, and that other nations needed to examine the mistreatment of women by their own militaries before pointing the finger at Tokyo.“We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women,” Mr. Hashimoto said, speaking to journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. But, he added, “it is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to Japanese soldiers.”...

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Robert Zaretsky: France, Algeria and the Ties That Bind

    Robert Zaretsky is a professor of French history at the University of Houston Honors College, in Texas....From the moment [Algerian president Abdelaziz] Bouteflika arrived in Paris nearly a month ago after suffering a minor stroke, Algerians have suffered a news blackout. The Algerian government has treated the event rather like its military operation during the hostage crisis at a gas facility in the Sahara earlier this year: with intense secrecy and overwhelming force.Two newspapers were censured last week for reporting that Bouteflika’s health was worsening, while the government, under the eye of the president’s brother Said Bouteflika, insists all is well. Predictably, his blandly reassuring words have persuaded most Algerians that little is well, either with Bouteflika’s condition or Algeria’s future.

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Karl W. Eikenberry and David M. Kennedy: Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart

    Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired Army lieutenant general, was the United States commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and the ambassador there from 2009 to 2011. He is a fellow at Stanford, where David M. Kennedy is an emeritus professor of history. They are, respectively, a contributor to and the editor of “The Modern American Military.”STANFORD, Calif. — AFTER fighting two wars in nearly 12 years, the United States military is at a turning point. So are the American people. The armed forces must rethink their mission. Though the nation has entered an era of fiscal constraint, and though President Obama last week effectively declared an end to the “global war on terror” that began on Sept. 11, 2001, the military remains determined to increase the gap between its war-fighting capabilities and those of any potential enemies. But the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy — it’s the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.

  • Originally published 05/24/2013

    William Miles, maker of films about black history, dies at 82

    William Miles, a self-taught filmmaker whose documentaries revealed untold stories of black America, including those of its heroic black soldiers and of life in its signature neighborhood, Harlem, where he himself grew up, died on May 12 in Queens. He was 82.The cause was uncertain, but Mr. Miles had myriad health problems, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia, said his wife of 61 years, Gloria.Mr. Miles was part historical sleuth, part preservationist, part bard. His films, which combined archival footage, still photographs and fresh interviews, were triumphs of curiosity and persistence in unearthing lost material about forgotten subjects....

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    George Packer: Celebrating Inequality

    George Packer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, is the author, most recently, of “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.”THE Roaring ’20s was the decade when modern celebrity was invented in America. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” is full of magazine spreads of tennis players and socialites, popular song lyrics, movie stars, paparazzi, gangsters and sports scandals — machine-made by technology, advertising and public relations. Gatsby, a mysterious bootlegger who makes a meteoric ascent from Midwestern obscurity to the palatial splendor of West Egg, exemplifies one part of the celebrity code: it’s inherently illicit. Fitzgerald intuited that, with the old restraining deities of the 19th century dead and his generation’s faith in man shaken by World War I, celebrities were the new household gods.

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Spanish Jews still waiting for citizenship

    MADRID — Six months after announcing a significant easing of the naturalization process for Sephardic Jews, the Spanish government has yet to put the rules into practice, leaving many applicants for citizenship frustrated.The change, announced in November by the foreign and justice ministers, was presented at the time as a conciliatory gesture toward Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors were expelled more than five centuries ago during the Spanish Inquisition, one of the darkest chapters in Spanish history.Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said the time had come “to recover Spain’s silenced memory.”...

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Suharto's legacy disputed

    JAKARTA, Indonesia — Tree-lined Cendana street in an upscale neighborhood in central Jakarta has not changed much in recent decades, save for the demolition of a few Dutch colonial homes in favor of modernist villas. Yet the former resident whose home once took up the entire middle of the block initiated dramatic changes in his country, and 15 years after he disappeared from Indonesia’s political scene, debate still rages about whether they were for better or worse.Cendana is synonymous with Suharto, the army general-turned-president who ruled Indonesia for 32 years while residing in the houses at Nos. 6, 8 and 10, which were renovated and connected. After his death in 2008, an Indonesian Web portal dedicated to paranormal activity published an account by an elderly servant who said that Mr. Suharto’s ghost was still there and occasionally pinched and poked him.Perhaps. But more certain is that Mr. Suharto’s spirit continues to loom over modern-day Indonesia....

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Masha Gessen: Are Totalitarianisms Like Snowflakes?

    Masha Gessen is a journalist in Moscow and the author of “The Man Without a Face,” a biography of Vladimir Putin.MOSCOW — Just saying that a Jew should have been made into a lampshade does not make you an anti-Semite, or so a prominent columnist asserted recently. And just because both Nazism and Soviet Communism were totalitarian regimes does not mean they are comparable. Such arguments, counterarguments and variations of them have dominated Russian blogs, social networks and some of the traditional media for the last week.

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93

    Boruch Spiegel, one of the last surviving fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943, in which a vastly outgunned band of 750 young Jews held off German soldiers for more than a month with crude arms and Molotov cocktails, died on May 9 in Montreal. He was 93.His death was confirmed by his son, Julius, a retired parks commissioner of Brooklyn. Mr. Spiegel lived in Montreal.The Warsaw ghetto uprising has been regarded as the signal episode of resistance to the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum calls it the first armed urban rebellion in German-occupied Europe.As a young man, Mr. Spiegel was active in the leftist Jewish Labor Bund, and when it became clear that the Germans were not just deporting Jews but systematically killing them in death camps like Treblinka, Bundists joined with other left-wing groups to form the Jewish Combat Organization, known by its Polish acronym ZOB....

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Mary Louise Roberts on the dark side of the liberation of France

    The soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.”This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity....

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    New research tools kick up dust in archives

    Seated recently in the special collections room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology library, Anders Fernstedt raced through an imposing set of yellowing articles and correspondence.Several years ago Mr. Fernstedt, an independent Swedish scholar who is studying the work of the 20th-century philosopher Karl Popper and several of his colleagues, would have scratched out notes and set aside documents for photocopying.Now, however, his tool of choice is the high-resolution camera on his iPhone. When he found a document of interest, he quickly snapped a photo and instantly shared his discovery with a colleague working hundreds of miles away. Indeed, Mr. Fernstedt, who conducts his research on several continents, now packs his own substantial digital Popper library on the disk of his MacBook Air laptop computer — more than 50,000 PDF files that he can browse through in a flash.

  • Originally published 05/20/2013

    Paul Krugman: The Mythical '70s

    Paul Krugman is a Princeton economist and an op-ed columnist for the New York Times.Matt O’Brien is probably right to suggest that Michael Kinsley’s problems — and those of quite a few other people, some of whom have real influence on policy — is that they’re still living in the 1970s. I do, however, resent that thing about 60-year-old men …But it’s actually even worse than Matt says. For the 1970s such people remember as a cautionary tale bears little resemblance to the 1970s that actually happened.In elite mythology, the origins of the crisis of the 70s, like the supposed origins of our current crisis, lay in excess: too much debt, too much coddling of those slovenly proles via a strong welfare state. The suffering of 1979-82 was necessary payback.None of that is remotely true.There was no deficit problem: government debt was low and stable or falling as a share of GDP during the 70s. Rising welfare rolls may have been a big political problem, but a runaway welfare state more broadly just wasn’t an issue — hey, these days right-wingers complaining about a nation of takers tend to use the low-dependency 70s as a baseline.

  • Originally published 05/20/2013

    Kenneth Waltz, international relations theory giant, dies at 88

    Kenneth N. Waltz, a pre-eminent thinker on international relations who was known for his contrarian, debate-provoking ideas, not least his view that stability in the Middle East might be better served if Iran had a nuclear weapon, died on May 12 in Manhattan. He was 88.The cause was complications from pneumonia, said Columbia University, where Mr. Waltz was a senior research scholar.Leslie H. Gelb, emeritus president of the Council on Foreign Relations, characterized Mr. Waltz as one of five “giants” who shaped the study of international relations as a discrete discipline, the others being Hans Morgenthau, Henry A. Kissinger, Samuel P. Huntington and Zbigniew Brzezinski.The field developed in the 1950s, when the experiences of two world wars and the beginning of the cold war drove scholars to try to explain more precisely how nations interacted. The goal was to build a conceptual framework on which international politics could be analyzed, something earlier courses on military and diplomatic history had not offered....

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    Argentine dictator Videla dies at 87

    Jorge Rafael Videla, the military junta leader who oversaw a ruthless campaign of political killings and forced disappearances during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War against dissidents in the mid-1970s, died on Friday in the Marcos Paz Prison in Buenos Aires, where he was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity. He was 87.His death was announced by Argentina’s Secretariat for Human Rights.At least 15,000 people were killed or “disappeared” during the junta’s campaign, according to government estimates. Human rights officials say the figure is closer to 30,000.General Videla rose to power in 1976, when he led a largely bloodless coup against President Isabel Martínez de Perón, widow of Juan Domingo Perón, the founder of the country’s populist movement. Whisked away by helicopter in the dead of night, Mrs. Perón was arrested and charged with corruption, and General Videla, the chief of the armed forces, took over the presidency and established a military junta, promising to restore civilian rule promptly....

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    Geza Vermes, scholar of "Historical Jesus," dies at 88

    Geza Vermes, a religious scholar who argued that Jesus as a historical figure could be understood only through the Jewish tradition from which he emerged, and who helped expand that understanding through his widely read English translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, died on May 8 in Oxford, England. He was 88.His death was confirmed by David Ariel, the president of the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, where Dr. Vermes was most recently an honorary fellow.Dr. Vermes, born in Hungary to Jewish parents who converted to Christianity when he was 6, was among many scholars after World War II who sought to reveal a “historical Jesus” by painting an objective portrait of the man who grew up in Nazareth about 2,000 years ago and emerged as a religious leader when he was in his 30s....

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    Unlikely interracial WWII romance

    The nurse and the soldier may never have met – and eventually married – had it not been for the American government’s mistreatment of black women during World War II.Elinor Elizabeth Powell was an African-American military nurse. Frederick Albert was a German prisoner of war. Their paths crossed in Arizona in 1944. It was a time when the Army was resisting enlisting black nurses and the relatively small number allowed entry tended to be assigned to the least desirable duties....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Paul Krugman on Niall Ferguson

    After his Keynesianism-is-gay remarks got him in trouble, Niall Ferguson did the right thing and offered a straightforward, no excuses apology. Unfortunately, it seems that he has reverted to type; sigh.But this does seem to call for an update on a subject I have written about occasionally: the remarkable way in which the Great Recession, by bringing us back into a world of persistent inadequate demand, has unleashed a sort of reign of error among anti-Keynesian economists and pundits. And I’m not talking about the usual Heritage or Cato hacks; I’m talking about people with serious reputations either for research or for seemingly judicious commentary.Oh, and by “error” I don’t mean “views I disagree with”; I mean raw conceptual or empirical banana-peel episodes, the kind of thing that defenders of these men (who have a lot of defenders) try to justify not by claiming that they were right, but by claiming that they didn’t say what they did, in fact, say....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Japan says it will abide by apologies over actions in World War II

    TOKYO — Japan’s conservative government will abide by official apologies that the country’s leaders made two decades ago to the victims of World War II in Asia, top officials said Tuesday, backing away from earlier suggestions that the government might try to revise or even repudiate the apologies.Japan formally apologized in 1993 to the women who were forced into wartime brothels for Japanese soldiers, and in 1995 to nations that suffered from Japanese aggression during the war. Both apologies rankled Japanese ultranationalists, and there were concerns that the hawkish current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, would try to appeal to them by whitewashing Japan’s wartime atrocities, a step that would probably infuriate Japan’s neighbors.The United States shared those concerns, and it urged the Abe government to show restraint on historical issues so that Japan would not further isolate itself diplomatically in the region....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    A historic textile mill begins a new chapter

    After a complicated 20-year effort to save a redbrick mill in North Carolina that was once considered the largest in the world for textiles and that played a significant role in the South’s textile history, the plant is finally moving toward a new life as a multiuse complex.The Loray Mill, which for decades produced fabric for car tires, last month began a $40 million conversion project that will create 190 apartments in its six stories, as well as several floors of shops and restaurants. The mill, which was the site of an famous labor strike in the 1920s, is in the city of Gastonia, a former industrial hub outside of Charlotte.To the delight of preservationists, the development team of JBS Ventures, of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., and Camden Management Partners, of Atlanta, will retain much of the original 600,000-square-feet structure of the complex. This first phase of the redevelopment will reinvent about 450,000 square feet of the mill, including the main section, which dates to 1902....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Ireland pardons wartime deserter "heroes"

    LONDON — The Irish government is to reverse what has been described as a historic injustice by granting a pardon to soldiers who deserted their units to fight the Nazis in World War II.An amnesty and immunity bill, scheduled to be enacted on Tuesday, includes an apology to some 5,000 men who faced post-war sanctions and ostracism after they quit the defense forces of neutral Ireland to join the allied war effort against Hitler.The measure comes too late for most of the deserters — only about 100 are believed to be still alive — but it was welcomed by their families and supporters....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    German outpost born of racism in 1887 blends into Paraguay

    NUEVA GERMANIA, Paraguay — The year was 1887 when two of the best-known German anti-Semites of the time put down stakes here in Paraguay’s remote jungle with 14 German families screened for their racial purity.The team of Bernhard Förster and his wife, Elisabeth, the sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, had an ambitious plan: nothing less than the establishment of a colony from which an advance contingent of Aryans could forge a claim to the entire South American continent.But the continent had other plans for this new Fatherland....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Revisiting LBJ's Austin

    Long before Austin became a bustling hub of live music, technology and food trucks, it was a simple capital city, dominated by politicians and lobbyists. That city was the Austin of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s day. Though Johnson did not live in Austin for much of his life, the city made a mark on him from an early age. He was only 10 when he began accompanying his father, a state representative, to the Capitol, where he became enchanted with the legislative process.Johnson returned to the city frequently for the rest of his life, often for politics but also for refuge.“As soon as father landed in Austin, he began to feel relief,” said Luci Baines Johnson, 65, the president’s younger daughter. “Two days in the Hill Country did more for his soul than two weeks in the Caribbean would’ve done.”...

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    James Horn: Consuming Colonists

    James Horn is the vice president for research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and one of the scholars involved in the recent discovery of Jane’s remains. He is the author of “A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America.”IN the bitterly cold winter of 1607, Capt. John Smith was captured by a large war party of Pamunkey Indians on the banks of the Chickahominy River, in what is now Virginia. Smith was led by his captors to a nearby hunting village, where he was taken to a long house and given enough venison and bread to feed 20 men. The food he did not eat was placed in baskets and tied on a pole over his head. About midnight they set the food before him once more and then in the morning brought as much food again, which made the fearful captain, later describing his capture in the third person, “think they would fat him to eat him.”

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    The NYT Ignores USDA Discrimination

    Sharecroppers in Georgia, 1941. Credit: Library of Congress.The New York Times recently published a report that focused on fraud in disbursing settlements for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discrimination among African American, Indian, Hispanic, and women farmers. Reporter Sharon LaFraniere wrote of “career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination.”

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    The young Salinger, mordant yet hopeful

    On Nov. 18, 1941, a struggling Manhattan author wrote to a young woman in Toronto to tell her to look for a new piece of his in a coming issue of The New Yorker. This short story, he said, about “a prep school kid on his Christmas vacation,” had inspired his editor to ask for an entire series on the character, but the author himself was having misgivings. “I’ll try a couple more, anyway,” he wrote, “and if I begin to miss my mark I’ll quit.”He ended the letter by asking for her reaction to “the first Holden story,” which he said was called “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” and signing, simply, “Jerry S.”The writer was J. D. Salinger, then just 22, with works like “The Catcher in the Rye” still ahead of him and his literary success hardly assured. When Salinger died in seclusion in 2010, at the age of 91, he remained a mystery to his millions of readers, having shared little of himself with the world beyond the few fictional works he had published....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Historian Francis Lieber's unlikely career in the Civil War

    Rick Beard, an independent historian, is senior adviser for the Pennsylvania Civil War 150 and volunteer coordinator of the Civil War Sesquicentennial for the American Association for State and Local History.In October 1861, a legal scholar and historian named Francis Lieber presented the first in a series of lectures entitled “The Laws and Usages of War” at the Columbia College’s new law school in New York City. Though the talks, which ran through the following March, were long and often rambling, they drew up to 100 people each and afterward appeared in The New York Times and other newspapers around the country. The public, eager for insight into how the worsening war would and should be fought, devoured his every word.

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    The $2 billion Wall St. Church

    There has never been any doubt that Trinity Church is wealthy. But the extent of its wealth has long been a mystery; guessed at by many, known by few.Now, however, after a lawsuit filed by a disenchanted parishioner, the church has offered an estimate of the value of its assets: more than $2 billion.The Episcopal parish, known as Trinity Wall Street, traces its holdings to a gift of 215 acres of prime Manhattan farmland donated in 1705 by Queen Anne of England. Since then, the church has parlayed that gift into a rich portfolio of office buildings, stock investments and, soon, mixed-use residential development.The parish’s good fortune has become an issue in the historic congregation, which has been racked by infighting in recent years over whether the church should be spending more money to help the poor and spread the faith, in New York and around the world. Differences over the parish’s mission and direction last year led nearly half the 22-member vestry — an august collection of corporate executives and philanthropists — to resign or be pushed out, after at least seven of them asked, unsuccessfully, that the rector himself step down....

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Rewinding history, Bush museum lets you decide

    ...The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will be officially dedicated on Thursday on the campus of Southern Methodist University in a ceremony that will bring together President Obama and the four living ex-presidents. Leaving aside for a day the partisan rancor that marked Mr. Bush’s tenure, they will help celebrate his eight years as president and six as governor of Texas.The $250 million complex houses the 13th official presidential library, and the third in Texas, but it is the first of the iPad era. The exhibits are filled with modern gadgetry and 25 different films and interactive videos. Many of the artifacts of the period are on display — a butterfly ballot from Palm Beach County, Fla., a replica of Mr. Bush’s Oval Office, the bullhorn he used at ground zero and a gnarled steel beam from the World Trade Center demolished on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Bill Minutaglio: Texas on Fire, Again and Again

    Bill Minutaglio, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of “City on Fire: The Explosion That Devastated a Texas Town and Ignited a Historic Legal Battle.”...The explosion in West, which killed at least 14 people, is now entering a dark pantheon of events in Texas, ones that will surely lead to debates in the state about government regulation and oversight — or the lack thereof. About what “public safety” really means, implies, entails. About Texas’ passionate history of pushing back at what some see as big-government intrusion — a trend that traces back to the regulation-free days of wildcatting in the oil patches.As before, there will be demands that Texas be willing to scrutinize companies so tragedies like the one in West never occur again. But if history is any guide, lawmakers and officials will still err on the side of industry and less so on the side of public safety. And there will be another West in the years to come.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    In testimony, Guatemalans give account of suffering

    MEXICO CITY — They were just children when Guatemalan soldiers rampaged through their villages, often killing their parents and siblings. Many fled to mountain forests, where they foraged for food and watched some of their numbers starve to death.  Some were abducted and sent to other families to be raised, in cities and towns far from the life they had known.Now, the somber Mayan men and women in their 30s and 40s have traveled from their villages to tell their stories for the prosecution during the first month of the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala City. In the tortured logic of military planning documents conceived under Mr. Ríos Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, children included. Officers wrote that the leftist guerrillas fighting the government had succeeded in indoctrinating the impoverished Ixils and reached “100 percent support.”...

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Henry A. Prunier, 91, U.S. Soldier Who Trained Vietnamese Troops, Dies

    Henry A. Prunier taught Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general who withstood the armies of France and the United States, how to throw a grenade.The lesson came in July 1945, after Mr. Prunier and six other Americans had parachuted into a village 75 miles northwest of Hanoi on a clandestine mission to teach an elite force of 200 Viet Minh guerrillas how to use modern American weapons at their jungle camp.The Americans, members of the Office of Strategic Services, the United States’ intelligence agency in World War II, wanted the guerrillas’ help in fighting the Japanese, who were occupying Indochina. The Viet Minh welcomed the American arms in their struggle for Vietnamese independence....

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Marie Arana: Latin America’s Go-To Hero

    Marie Arana, a journalist, novelist and adviser to the librarian of Congress, is the author, most recently, of “Bolívar: American Liberator,” and a guest columnist.Can you name an American founder whose name is shouted in the streets, whose legacy inspires fanatical worship, whose image is used to bolster ideals not his own, whose mantle is claimed by both left and right? There is no Washington party, no Jeffersonian republic. No one runs for president in Madison’s name. But in Latin America, as the Venezuelan election on Sunday reminded us, the question is easy, and the answer is Simón Bolívar.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    ‘Branko: Return to Auschwitz’

    April 15 marks the 68th anniversary of Branko Lustig’s liberation from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when he was not quite 13 years old. In this Op-Doc video, we follow Mr. Lustig back to Poland to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps (where he was also interned) and to celebrate the bar mitzvah he could never have as a young man. [Click here or on link above for video.]

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Gap widens for faculty at colleges, report finds

    For the academic elite — tenured professors at private research universities — average pay this year is $167,118, while at public research universities such professors earn $123,393, according to the annual report by the American Association of University Professors.After three years in which overall increases in full-time faculty pay lagged behind the rate of inflation, this year’s average increase, 1.7 percent, kept pace with consumer prices.But the difficult economic climate of recent years is taking a serious toll on higher education, especially public institutions. As states cut back their support for public institutions, the gap between the pay scales at private and public universities is continuing to grow, the report found. Average pay for assistant professors at private colleges that award only bachelor’s degrees is $62,763, while public colleges paid $58,591....

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Bill Keller: Maggie and Gorby

    Bill Keller is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. Prior to this role he was the executive editor of The Times, a role he held since 2003.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Joseph E. Stiglitz: A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent

    Joseph E. Stiglitz is an economist and professor at Columbia University.LEONA HELMSLEY, the hotel chain executive who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1989, was notorious for, among other things, reportedly having said that “only the little people pay taxes.”As a statement of principle, the quotation may well have earned Mrs. Helmsley, who died in 2007, the title Queen of Mean. But as a prediction about the fairness of American tax policy, Mrs. Helmsley’s remark might actually have been prescient.Today, the deadline for filing individual income-tax returns, is a day when Americans would do well to pause and reflect on our tax system and the society it creates. No one enjoys paying taxes, and yet all but the extreme libertarians agree, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, that taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. But in recent decades, the burden for paying that price has been distributed in increasingly unfair ways....

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Thatcher Funeral Draws Dignitaries and Complaints

    LONDON — A horse-drawn gun carriage bore the coffin of Margaret Thatcher to St. Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday for a ceremonial funeral that divided British opinion, much as the former prime minister known as the Iron Lady stirred deep and conflicting emotions during her lifetime and, in death, triggered an equally passionate debate over her legacy.With hymns and prayers and biblical readings, dignitaries from around the world and from Britain’s political elite gathered in the cathedral for a service regarded as austere and devout reflecting her Methodist upbringing as bells pealed over the city and a gun salute boomed from the Tower of London.Some 700 military personnel from three services — the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force — lined the streets, including guards in scarlet tunics and distinctive black bearskin hats on the 24 cathedral steps as the gun carriage processed along Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill from the church of St. Clement Danes in a closely scripted display of ceremonial precision honed over centuries....

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    An Argentine Tradition Threatens to Crumble With City Architecture

    BUENOS AIRES — As Concepción Martínez, her husband and two daughters pulled into the last subway station here, cheers and clapping erupted from the throngs of people, some wearing turn-of-the-20th-century dress, waiting on the platform.Camera flashes lighted the tunnels as passengers took their final rides in the saloonlike wagons — with their wooden benches, frosted glass lamps and manually operated brass doors — of South America’s first subway line.“Every day, I ride this train into work, so this is a kind of goodbye,” Ms. Martínez said.The antique Belgian-built cars, a symbol of Buenos Aires’s early-20th-century wealth, were taken out of service this year, and their retirement is a poignant example of the city’s struggle to preserve its physical history as some of its icons and infrastructure crumble....

  • Originally published 04/16/2013

    U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes

    WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question....

  • Originally published 04/14/2013

    William Dalrymple: The Ghosts of Afghanistan’s Past

    William Dalrymple is the author, most recently, of “Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42.”...And although few in the West are aware of it, as the United States prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, history is repeating itself. We may have forgotten the details of the colonial history that did so much to mold Afghans’ hatred of foreign rule, but the Afghans have not.

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    In history departments, it’s up with capitalism

    A specter is haunting university history departments: the specter of capitalism.After decades of “history from below,” focusing on women, minorities and other marginalized people seizing their destiny, a new generation of scholars is increasingly turning to what, strangely, risked becoming the most marginalized group of all: the bosses, bankers and brokers who run the economy.Even before the financial crisis, courses in “the history of capitalism” — as the new discipline bills itself — began proliferating on campuses, along with dissertations on once deeply unsexy topics like insurance, banking and regulation. The events of 2008 and their long aftermath have given urgency to the scholarly realization that it really is the economy, stupid....

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    At 97, the oldest living Brooklyn Dodger reflects

    Late one recent night on Bible Street in Cos Cob, Conn., in the carpeted basement apartment of a gray bungalow, Mike Sandlock, 97, had a dream that he was in Yankee Stadium.A tall, white-haired great-grandfather, he stood at the plate, under pressure to hit a home run. “I says: ‘That’s not me! I’m not a home run hitter!’ ” Sandlock protested. Nonetheless, he crushed one into the right-field stands, then woke up.“I have crazy dreams anyway,” Sandlock said dismissively.About 82 years earlier, when Sandlock lived about three miles from where he does now, he took the train one day to the Bronx with his older brother. It was his first time in Yankee Stadium, and Babe Ruth was in his prime. Sandlock sat in the right-field bleachers, and Ruth hit a towering drive well over the teenager’s head....

  • Originally published 04/04/2013

    William Hood: My Dinner With MLK

    William Hood is a professor emeritus of art history at Oberlin College and a visiting professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.FORTY-FIVE years ago, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. went to a small dinner party in Atlanta, not far from the campus of Emory University. It was a quiet January night in 1968. I was one of the guests.Our hostess, Wanda White, was a young public-school teacher. In the fall of 1967, she worked with Mrs. King, helping with her schedule, as well as other personal and professional responsibilities. During a conversation, Wanda asked the Kings over for a low-key dinner. They accepted, and Wanda invited some of her close friends. (All of us were white.)My best friend, Larry Shaw, and I were invited to the dinner. He came from a long line of salt-of-the-earth skilled tradesmen anchored in Appalachian South Carolina and the red clay fields of Georgia. My father was a successful industrialist in Birmingham, Ala. We anticipated the approaching dinner with the empty-headed excitement of young people who rarely think beyond their own self-interest....

  • Originally published 04/02/2013

    T.D. Allman: Ponce de León, Exposed

    T.D. Allman is the author, most recently, of “Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State.”THIS week is the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s purported discovery of Florida. Commemorations include the unveiling of “The First Landing,” a larger-than-life statue of Ponce in Melbourne Beach, as well as the introduction by the Postal Service of “La Florida,” a four-stamp series timed to honor what is being presented as the founding moment in our country’s history.These celebrations are a fiesta of illusion. As Spain’s conquistadors discovered, and we too often forget, Florida is like Play-Doh. Take the goo; mold it to your dream. Then watch the dream ooze back into goo. Contrary to what our school books taught us, Ponce did not discover Florida. He never did much of anything here except get himself killed.

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    When Anthony Lewis stood up to the New York Times and the Clinton crazies

    With the passing of legendary New York Times newsman Anthony Lewis this week, observers have noted that his lasting legacy will likely be his clarion insights and logical, lucid writing style that helped make the courts and the law more accessible for everyday news consumers. From his two Pulitzer Prizes for reporting, to his opinion column which he wrote for more than three decades, Lewis' imprint on the Times was vast.

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Rabbi Herschel Schacter Is Dead at 95; Cried to the Jews of Buchenwald: ‘You Are Free’

    The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    In Sudan, archaeologists unearth hidden kingdoms

    KHARTOUM, Sudan — Every winter they come and go, like birds migrating south. Most of them nest in downtown Khartoum’s old Acropole Hotel, but they’re not here to rest. They’re here to work in Sudan’s blistering deserts, and the past few years have yielded outstanding results.For many people around the world, Sudan conjures images of war, instability, drought and poverty. All of those things exist here, often in tragic abundance. But lost in the narrative are the stories of the ancient kingdoms of Kush and Nubia that once rivaled Egypt, Greece and Rome.Lost to many, that is, but not to the archaeologists who have been coming here for years, sometimes decades, to help unearth that history....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    David George Haskell: Nature’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage

    David George Haskell, a professor of biology at Sewanee: The University of the South, is the author of “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature.”BIOLOGY has returned to the nation’s highest court. It’s not Darwin’s theory of evolution on the docket this time, but the nature of sex. Defenders of Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, base their case on what they call the “objective biological fact” that procreation is an exclusively heterosexual process. Citing the 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, they argue that marriage should be “founded in nature.”

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jennifer L. Weber: Was Lincoln a Tyrant?

    Jennifer L. Weber is an associate professor at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Copperheads, about antiwar Democrats during the Civil War, and Summer’s Bloodiest Days, a children’s book about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath. She is currently working on a book about conscription during the Civil War.When Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861, the executive branch was small and relatively limited in its power. By the time of his assassination, he had claimed more prerogatives than any president before him, and the executive branch had grown enormously.Lincoln’s critics witnessed his expanding power with alarm. They accused him of becoming a tyrant and warned that his assertions of authority under the guise of “commander in chief” threatened the viability of a constitutional democracy.Lincoln ignored his foes and kept moving. And, despite lingering discomfort with some of his actions – particularly around the issue of civil liberties – history has largely vindicated him. Why?

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Forgotten women victims of World War II

    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.”...

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    NASA Engines Found, News About Squid and More

    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.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    David Cole: Deciding Not to Decide Gay Marriage

    David Cole is a professor of law at Georgetown University.THE Supreme Court will begin hearing two days of oral arguments today on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California, and on the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage.DOMA poses easier legal issues. The statute, which President Obama believes is unconstitutional and which has been repudiated by Bill Clinton, who signed it, inserted the federal government into marriage law, historically the domain of the states. It was clearly driven by antigay animus, and as lower courts have ruled, there simply is no good reason for Congress to refuse to treat all state-recognized marriages equally.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    LoC historian publishes history of Renaissance man who named America

    A DECADE AGO, the Library of Congress paid $10 million to acquire the only known original copy of a 1507 world map that has been called “the birth certificate of America.” The large map, a masterpiece of woodblock printing, has been a star attraction at the library ever since and the object of revived scholarly fascination about the earliest cartography of the New World. The research has also rescued from obscurity a little-known Renaissance man, the 16th-century globe maker Johannes Schöner, who was responsible for saving the map for posterity.Five years ago, John W. Hessler, a historian of cartography at the library, published “The Naming of America,” an account of the map’s importance in post-Ptolemy geography, its disappearance for centuries and its rediscovery in a castle near the Black Forest in southwestern Germany. Now, Dr. Hessler has dug deeper into the dynamic of the years between Columbus, in 1492, and Copernicus, in 1543. Science and exploration were stretching minds to distant horizons, once unknown. Copernican astronomy was about to dislodge Earth from the center of the universe, a start to the Scientific Revolution.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Sea change as gay rights gained momentum

    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.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Anthony Lewis, Who Transformed Coverage of the Supreme Court, Dies at 85

    Anthony Lewis, a former New York Times reporter and columnist whose work won two Pulitzer Prizes and transformed American legal journalism, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.The cause was complications of renal and heart failure, said his wife, Margaret H. Marshall, a retired chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.Mr. Lewis brought passionate engagement to his two great themes: justice and the role of the press in a democracy. His column, called “At Home Abroad” or “Abroad at Home” depending on where he was writing from, appeared on the Op-Ed page of The Times from 1969 to 2001. His voice was liberal, learned, conversational and direct....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Shadow of Roe v. Wade looms over ruling on gay marriage

    WASHINGTON — When the Supreme Court hears a pair of cases on same-sex marriage on Tuesday and Wednesday, the justices will be working in the shadow of a 40-year-old decision on another subject entirely: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.Judges, lawyers and scholars have drawn varying lessons from that decision, with some saying that it was needlessly rash and created a culture war.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal and a champion of women’s rights, has long harbored doubts about the ruling.“It’s not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far, too fast,” she said last year at Columbia Law School....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Jammed in Roman caves, ducking Syria’s war

    ...They live a grim existence — a routine of trying to eat, to stay warm and dry, to gather firewood and water out in the elements, all while listening for the sounds of incoming planes and artillery shells.Explanations of the origins of these underground shelters, many of which are set among other Roman ruins, vary from squatter to squatter. Some say they once were pens for livestock. Others say they were temporary quarters, occupied while more impressive dwellings were built in the centuries before Jesus. Perhaps some were crypts.Whatever the intention of those who first dug them, Syria’s caves have become essential once more, restored to modern use because their thick walls offer a chance of survival to a population under fire....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Fifty years of the MetLife Building

    THIS MONTH MARKS the 50th anniversary of the completion of Park Avenue’s Pan Am Building, later renamed the MetLife Building, an occasion that a cursory Google search indicates is receiving no particular celebration. What is to be marked, really, is a half-century of evinced distaste, though some of it waning under the grip of nostalgia, for a building that existed as an assault on Grand Central Station, its visual foundation bifurcating and marring views of Park Avenue and casting dark shadows on crowded streets beneath it. The enmity actually dates back further. From the moment designs for the building were presented, the response in the architectural press was one of displeasure and reproof. Long in its development phase, enormous, expensive, controversial, denounced, the building became, in a sense, the city’s structural “Ishtar.”...

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore: False Historical Consciousness

    Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore is an editor at Time Out Beijing.BEIJING — My courtyard home in the heart of old Beijing has a view of the Drum Tower, which for centuries helped citizens keep track of the time.The tower still rolls its drums daily for tourists. But over the past few weeks a different rumbling could be heard in the public square where it stands: the sound of sledgehammers knocking down surrounding buildings.For years, the government has proposed leveling the zone around the Drum Tower and the neighboring Bell Tower, known in Chinese as Gulou and Zhonglou, respectively. In 2010, local media reported that except for the two towers, the area, a maze of snaking hutong alleyways and ramshackle courtyard homes, would be demolished to make way for a new “Beijing Time Cultural City” and underground mall.That did not come to pass. But in late 2012, the government posted new notices ordering local businesses and residents to vacate by Feb. 24. My home, which is one hutong down from the square, will be spared, but dozens are slated for destruction. Many residents have already left; those who have stayed are demanding more compensation....

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    Dreams of saving Art Deco Havana

    HAVANA — Kathleen Murphy Skolnik gasped one recent morning as she gazed up into the stairwell of a 1939 downtown apartment building here and pointed at the chevron pattern in the ironwork, at the unpolished rust-pink marble and a simple alcove on the stairway crowned by a stepped arch.“It’s so beautiful,” said Ms. Skolnik, an architectural historian who lives in Chicago. “And it’s so run-down.”Ms. Skolnik’s words serve as an unofficial motto for the rich, wide-ranging and often neglected buildings that, experts say, make Cuba one of the world’s most significant but overlooked troves of Art Deco architecture. As some 250 Cuban and foreign connoisseurs gathered last week in Havana for the World Congress on Art Deco, there was hope the event would foster wider recognition of the island’s Art Deco heritage and the urgent need to preserve it. (The gathering, of the World Congress of the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies, ends on Thursday.)...

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    John Dillinger’s terraplane revisits his childhood home

    An eight-cylinder 1933 Essex-Terraplane briefly used by the notorious bank robber and jail escapee John Dillinger is on display at the Indianapolis International Airport, where, according to airport representatives, it is attracting crowds of visitors.The car is owned by the Crime Museum in Washington, but has been shown at various other locations for the past four years. It was a guest at Baltimore-Washington Airport for two years, spent two more at the Richmond Convention Center and has now arrived in Indianapolis, where it appears roped off near the ticket counters. The Essex will be at the airport until March 2015....

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    The era of deep archiving begins

    As a Dartmouth student in the early 1970s, William McDonough went, somewhat casually, to hear a lecture by a visiting celebrity. Mr. McDonough had little idea beforehand who Buckminster Fuller was, but listening to the designer and futurist had a long-term effect.Mr. McDonough was late and took one of the last seats left, in the front row. Three hours later, he realized that the rest of the audience was gone but that Mr. Fuller was still talking. “Do you want me to keep going?” Mr. Fuller asked politely but unnecessarily. They ended up taking a walk around campus, Mr. Fuller expostulating all the way.That evening put Mr. McDonough on the path to becoming a prominent architect, but it exists only in his memory, which used to be where just about everything about our pasts resided. Now Mr. McDonough is in the forefront of efforts to change that, to record instantaneously the major intellectual events in our lives. He will be the first living archive at Stanford University....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    John R. Nagl: What America Learned in Iraq

    John A. Nagl, a retired Army officer and a research professor at the United States Naval Academy, served in both Iraq wars and is the author of “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam.”THE costs of the second Iraq war, which began 10 years ago this week, are staggering: nearly 4,500 Americans killed and more than 30,000 wounded, many grievously; tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis wounded or killed; more than $2 trillion in direct government expenditures; and the significant weakening of the major regional counterweight to Iran and consequent strengthening of that country’s position and ambitions. Great powers rarely make national decisions that explode so quickly and completely in their face.

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Team on the way to collect Congo war crimes suspect

    NAIROBI, Kenya — American officials on Wednesday said that a team from the International Criminal Court was on its way to Rwanda to collect a war crimes suspect who had turned himself in to the American Embassy and that they were hoping Rwanda would cooperate.Rwanda has indicated that it would not interfere with the transfer of the suspect, Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel commander nicknamed the Terminator, to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, where he has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Berlin Won’t Join Effort to Ban Far-Right Party

    BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right government said Wednesday that it would not try to ban a far-right political party deemed “racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist” by domestic intelligence, choosing instead to focus on combating neo-Nazi extremism through other channels.The decision comes as Germany’s main political camps stake out their positions ahead of a general election in September, in which Ms. Merkel is seeking a third term in office. The chancellor’s main rivals, the center-left Social Democrats and the Greens, who control the upper house of Parliament, announced in December that they would seek to have the far-right National Democratic Party, or N.P.D., banned on grounds that it violated the Constitution.

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    Slaves’ forgotten burial sites, marked online

    They have been bulldozed over by shopping centers, crept over by weeds and forgotten by time. Across the country, from Lower Manhattan to the Deep South, are unmarked slave burial sites, often discovered only by chance or by ignominious circumstance as when construction crews accidentally exhume bodies when building a shopping mall.Compounding the problem of preserving and locating slave graveyards, there is no comprehensive list of where they are and who lies within them. The situation troubled Sandra Arnold, 50, a history student at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at Fordham University, who traces her ancestry to slaves in Tennessee.“The fact that they lie in these unmarked abandoned sites,” Ms. Arnold said, “it’s almost like that they are kind of vanishing from the American consciousness.”...

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Capturing the stories of Hurricane Sandy's survivors

    For survivors of Hurricane Sandy in Long Beach, N.Y., the stories have become familiar by now, riveting in spite of — or perhaps because of — their similarities. Deciding not to evacuate, because Tropical Storm Irene was not so bad. Watching the water rise and rise and rise. Losing cars, basements, then more. Spending weeks at a relative’s home.They are all variations on a theme of fear and suffering, of water and darkness, and Mary Anne Trasciatti wants to hear every one of them.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Rashid Khalidi: Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?

    Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, is the author, most recently, of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”WHAT should Barack Obama, who is to visit Israel next Wednesday for the first time in his presidency, do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?First, he must abandon the stale conventional wisdom offered by the New York-Washington foreign-policy establishment, which clings to the crumbling remnants of a so-called peace process that, in the 34 years since the Camp David accords, has actually helped make peace less attainable than ever.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Richard V. Reeves: Shame Is Not a Four-Letter Word

    Richard V. Reeves, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of “John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand.”NEW YORK is deploying a powerful weapon to reduce teen pregnancy: shame. New advertisements around the city dramatize the truncated life chances of children born to teenagers; in one, a tear-stained toddler stares out, declaring: “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”Nobody is arguing the facts. But plenty of people are furious at the decision to highlight them. “Hurting and shaming communities is not what’s going to bring teen pregnancy rates down,” declared Haydee Morales, the vice president for education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City.This is the allegedly “liberal” response. But liberals should think twice: shame is an essential ingredient of a healthy society, particularly a liberal one. It acts as a form of moral regulation, or social “nudge,” encouraging good behavior while guarding individual freedom....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Laurie Edwards: The Gender Gap in Pain

    Laurie Edwards is the author of the forthcoming book “In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America” and a writing teacher at Northeastern University.TO the list of differences between men and women, we can add one more: the drug-dose gender gap. Doctors and researchers increasingly understand that there can be striking variations in the way men and women respond to drugs, many of which are tested almost exclusively on males. Early this year, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was cutting in half the prescribed dose of Ambien for women, who remained drowsy for longer than men after taking the drug.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Ian M. Ross, a President at Bell Labs, Dies at 85

    Ian M. Ross, who helped perfect the transistor and calculate whether the moon’s surface could support a spaceship’s weight, and then went on to lead Bell Laboratories, the legendary fount of technological marvels and Nobel Prize winners, died on March 10 at his home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. He was 85.The cause was complications of pneumonia, his wife, Christina, said.For much of the 20th century Bell Labs was among the world’s largest research institutions. Its mission was to help AT&T, the telephone monopoly and its corporate parent, cope with everything from digital communication to squirrels chewing phone lines. Its thousands of scientists and engineers fostered discoveries like the transistor, the laser and information theory, earning seven Nobel Prizes and 29,000 patents....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    The Cossacks Are Back. May the Hills Tremble.

    STAVROPOL, Russia — Outside this city’s police headquarters on a recent night, a priest in a purple velvet hat and gold stole moved from one man to the next, offering a cross to be kissed and drenching their faces with holy water from a long brush.And so began another night of law enforcement as Cossacks, the fierce horsemen who once secured the frontier for the Russian empire, marched out to join the police patrolling the city....The Kremlin is dipping into a deep pool of history: Cossacks are revered here for their bravery and pre-modern code of honor, like cowboys in the United States or samurai in Japan. But their legacy is bound up with battle and vigilante-style violence, including campaigns against Turks, Jews and Muslim highlanders.These days men in Cossack uniforms are making appearances all over Russia, carrying out blustery raids of art exhibits, museums and theaters as standard-bearers for a resurgent church. But here on Russia’s southern flank, the Cossack revival is more than an idea. Regional leaders are granting them an increasing role in law enforcement, in some cases explicitly asking them to stem an influx of ethnic minorities, mainly Muslims from the Caucasus, into territory long dominated by Orthodox Slavs....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Paul Butler: Gideon's Muted Trumpet

    Paul Butler, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a former federal prosecutor, is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”FIFTY years after the Supreme Court, in Gideon v. Wainwright, guaranteed legal representation to poor people charged with serious crimes, low-income criminal defendants, particularly black ones, are significantly worse off.Don’t blame public defenders, who are usually overwhelmed. The problem lies with power-drunk prosecutors — I know, because I used to be one — and “tough on crime” lawmakers, who have enacted some of the world’s harshest sentencing laws. They mean well, but have created a system that makes a mockery of “equal justice under the law.” A black man without a high school diploma is more likely to be in prison than to have a job.

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On

    The Brooklyn Heights library is neither the oldest nor the most dilapidated branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. But the 52-year-old limestone building is nonetheless ripe for demolition.It sits on land that developers crave, in a fashionable neighborhood where housing is in high demand. And so the library system, desperate for money to pay for $230 million in long-deferred repairs for its 60 branches, has embraced a novel financing model that is increasingly being used around New York City as a way to pay for government services.The library, on Cadman Plaza, along with another library near the Barclays Center, would be sold to developers, torn down and then rebuilt at no public expense on the ground floor of a new apartment tower....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Paul Krugman: Marches of Folly

    Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake — that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Jeffrey P. Kahn: How Beer Gave Us Civilization

    Jeffrey P. Kahn, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, is the author of “Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression.”HUMAN beings are social animals. But just as important, we are socially constrained as well.We can probably thank the latter trait for keeping our fledgling species alive at the dawn of man. Five core social instincts, I have argued, gave structure and strength to our primeval herds. They kept us safely codependent with our fellow clan members, assigned us a rank in the pecking order, made sure we all did our chores, discouraged us from offending others, and removed us from this social coil when we became a drag on shared resources.Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply — and pass along their DNA to later generations.

  • Originally published 03/17/2013

    South's civil rights cold cases

    FERRIDAY, La. — In the spring of 1965, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington received a letter from Concordia Parish in northeastern Louisiana. Addressed to the bureau’s director, J. Edgar Hoover, the letter pleaded for justice in the killing of a well-respected black merchant.A few months earlier, the businessman, Frank Morris, had come upon two white men early one morning at the front of his shoe-repair shop, one pointing a shotgun at him, the other holding a canister of gas. A match was ignited, a conflagration begun, and Morris died four days later of his burns without naming the men, perhaps fearing retribution against his family.The letter expressed grave concern that the crime would go unpunished because the local police were probably complicit. “Your office is our only hope so don’t fail us,” it concluded. It was signed:“Yours truly, The Colored People of Concordia Parish.”

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    Sheila Miyoshi Jager: Domestic Politics, Pyongyang-Style

    Sheila Miyoshi Jager, an associate professor of East Asian studies at Oberlin College, is the author of the forthcoming book “Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea.”ON Monday, North Korea declared that it had nullified the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, a new level of bellicosity that raised, at least on paper, the potential for the resumption of armed conflict on the peninsula.

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Team M.V.P. (Most Valuable Preserver): Historians Are Fans’ Link to Past

    BOSTON — On a concourse behind third base at Fenway Park, silent but for the periodic whoosh of the frigid wind, Dan Rea recently approached a display case devoted to the 1930s-era Red Sox. A ledger inside the case was opened to a page where an accountant once entered players’ salaries.One entry was for Smead Jolley, best known for his “difficulty playing the incline” in left field, Rea said, until the field was leveled during a 1934 renovation.Rea is one of two Red Sox employees who are also club historians. They belong to a small cadre of people with a passion for major league baseball lore who added such roles to their team jobs and later figured out what to do....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Chester A. Crocker and Ellen Laipson: The Latest Front in a Long War

    Chester A. Crocker is professor of strategic studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and served as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs from 1981 to 1989. Ellen Laipson is president of the Stimson Center.HISTORY has often shown that military victories do not automatically translate into political success. This is true in the recent military victory of French and government of Mali forces in their fight against radical Islamist insurgents who tried to seize power in the North African nation. The small victory in Mali is just the beginning of what will likely be a very long struggle for control of the Sahel — the trans-Saharan badlands that stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.We all know now that President George W. Bush was premature when he said in 2003 that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” as he stood in front of a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.” It would be equally premature today to say that success in Mali signals the defeat of jihadist forces in the Sahel.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Hugo Chávez of Venezuela dies

    CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with cancer, the government announced, leaving behind a bitterly divided nation in the grip of a political crisis that grew more acute as he languished for weeks, silent and out of sight in hospitals in Havana and Caracas.His departure from a country he dominated for 14 years casts into doubt the future of his socialist revolution. It alters the political balance in Venezuela, the fourth-largest foreign oil supplier to the United States, and in Latin America, where Mr. Chávez led a group of nations intent on reducing American influence in the region.Mr. Chávez changed Venezuela in fundamental ways, empowering and energizing millions of poor people who had felt marginalized and excluded.But Mr. Chávez’s rule also widened society’s divisions. His death is sure to bring more changes and vast uncertainty as the nation tries to find its way without its central figure....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Paul Finkelman: Francis Lieber and the Law of War

    Paul Finkelman is the President William McKinley distinguished professor of law and public policy at Albany Law School.The philosopher and legal scholar Francis Lieber was born in 1798 in Germany, and as a young man was wounded in the final skirmishes of the Napoleonic wars. He emigrated to the United States in 1827, after twice being imprisoned by Prussian authorities for his pro-reform political activities. A respected jurist in his home country, he eventually became a professor at Columbia, a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War.Lieber had an affinity for soldiering and war, and when conflict broke out in America, he would have happily enlisted, save that he was already 62 years old. Instead, he advised the Lincoln administration on all manner of legal issues, helping to sort out the complexities of how to treat prisoners, guerillas, confiscated property and civilians in a civil war, when none of the traditional rules of international law seemed to quite apply. In this capacity he made immeasurable contributions to the war effort – and the future of the laws of war.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Fabián Bosoer and Federico Finchelstein: Argentina’s About-Face on Terror

    Fabián Bosoer is an opinion editor at the newspaper Clarín. Federico Finchelstein, an associate professor of history at the New School, worked as a researcher at the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires before the 1994 bombing.ON July 18, 1994, a van filled with explosives blew up outside the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. It was the worst terrorist attack ever in Argentina, which has Latin America’s largest Jewish population, and one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks since the Holocaust.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    A. Scott Berg: Wilson to Obama: March Forth!

    A. Scott Berg is a biographer and the author of the forthcoming book “Wilson.”“THERE has been a change of government,” declared Woodrow Wilson in his first sentence as president of the United States, one hundred years ago this Monday. Until 1937, when the 20th Amendment moved Inauguration Day to late January, chief executives took their oaths of office on March Fourth, a date that sounds like a command.Nobody heeded this implied imperative more than Wilson: the 28th president enjoyed the most meteoric rise in American history, before or since. In 1910, Wilson was the president of a small men’s college in New Jersey — his alma mater, Princeton. In 1912, he won the presidency. (He made a brief stop in between as governor of New Jersey.) Over the next eight years, Wilson advanced the most ambitious agenda of progressive legislation the country had ever seen, what became known as “The New Freedom.” To this day, any president who wants to enact transformative proposals can learn a few lessons from the nation’s scholar-president.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Swastikas, slurs drawn on Black History Month posters at Oberlin

    ...In the last month, racist, anti-Semitic and antigay messages have been left around [Oberlin College], a jarring incongruity in a place with the liberal political leanings and traditions of Oberlin, a school of 2,800 students in Ohio, about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland. Guides to colleges routinely list it as among the most progressive, activist and gay-friendly schools in the country.The incidents included slurs written on Black History Month posters, drawings of swastikas and the message “Whites Only” scrawled above a water fountain. After midnight on Sunday, someone reported seeing a person dressed in a white robe and hood near the Afrikan Heritage House. Mr. Krislov and three deans announced the sighting in a community-wide e-mail early Monday morning....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Monica Prasad: Land of Plenty (of Government)

    Monica Prasad, an associate professor of sociology and faculty fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, is the author of “The Land of Too Much: American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty.”Why do European countries have lower levels of poverty and inequality than the United States? We used to think this was a result of American anti-government sentiment, which produced a government too small to redistribute income or to attend to the needs of the poor. But over the past three decades scholars have discovered that our government wasn’t as small as we thought. Historians, sociologists and political scientists have all uncovered evidence that points to a surprisingly large governmental presence in the United States throughout the 20th century and even earlier, in some cases surpassing what we find in Western Europe.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Samuel Rachlin: Stalin’s Long Shadow

    Samuel Rachlin, a Danish journalist based in Washington, was born in Siberia, where his family lived in exile for 16 years, and came to Denmark at age 10. A collection of his essays, “Me and Stalin,” was published in Danish in 2011. SIXTY years after Josef Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, Russia is still struggling whether to view him as mass murderer or a national hero. Although his name and statues have been almost absent from Russia since the de-Stalinization campaign that followed his death, he continues to impose himself onto Russia’s political discourse far more prominently than Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state whose body still lies in the mausoleum on Red Square.Although Russians know more about Stalin’s crimes than they did ever before, many politicians and historians want to pull him out of the shadows and celebrate him for his role in the industrialization of the young Soviet state and the victory over Nazi Germany.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman: Come Home, America

    Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, a professor of American foreign relations at San Diego State University, is the author, most recently, of “American Umpire.”EVERYONE talks about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But what about Germany and Japan?The sequester — $85 billion this year in across-the-board budget cuts, about half of which will come from the Pentagon — gives Americans an opportunity to discuss a question we’ve put off too long: Why we are still fighting World War II?Since 1947, when President Harry S. Truman set forth a policy to stop further Soviet expansion and “support free peoples” who were “resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures,” America has acted as the world’s policeman....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    NYT interviews Garry Wills

    The author of “Nixon Agonistes,” “John Wayne’s America,” “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” “Reagan’s America” and, most recently, “Why Priests?” considers Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” “the best political writing of our time.”What was the best book you read last year?Peter Brown, “Through the Eye of a Needle.” Puts a stethoscope to the fourth through sixth centuries C.E.When and where do you like to read? Anywhere. Everywhere. In high school, I read in the stands through the school’s football and basketball games....

  • Originally published 03/01/2013

    Paul Kennedy: Which Catholic Church?

    Paul Kennedy is Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University; and the author of many books, including “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.”Being about the only professor at a liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan Western university who is known to be a practicing Catholic — baptized at the age of two weeks — I have been asked frequently in recent times about what I think will happen to the church in the light of Pope Benedict’s resignation. Will it split further, between conservatives and liberals? Will there be an African pope? When will there ever be female priests, then bishops? What about declining attendance of the European congregations (as opposed to the surging populations in the southern world)?

  • Originally published 02/26/2013

    2 Female Biographers ‘Find’ 2 Female Historians

    Nineteenth-century female historians with minimal formal education but ambition and numerous servants documented world events in ways that are still admired and quoted.Two new biographies cover female antiquarians who invented themselves and became famous but maddeningly did not preserve their own archives.Sarah Losh, a historian and self-taught architect in a northern English village, traveled around Europe taking notes about streetscapes and rituals. She designed clusters of school and religious buildings near her home in Wreay, partly based on ancient and medieval ruins that she visited. She destroyed much of her writings, but her brilliance was recorded in the remembrances of friends and relatives....

  • Originally published 02/25/2013

    Manisha Sinha: The Forgotten Emancipationists

    Manisha Sinha is a professor of Afro-American studies and history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of “The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina” and the forthcoming “The Slave’s Cause: Abolition and the Origins of America’s Interracial Democracy.”On the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, discussion over who freed the slaves, fueled by movies like “Lincoln,” have become commonplace. While historians have debated the relative roles of Abraham Lincoln and the slaves themselves in the coming of emancipation, few have paid attention to the abolitionists, the forgotten emancipationists in the story of black freedom.

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Richard Parker: The GOP's Lone Star Blues

    Richard Parker writes for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services....Democrats are champing at the bit to turn Texas blue. “People are now looking at Texas and saying: ‘That’s where we need to make our next investment. That’s where the next opportunity lies,’ ” one Democratic state senator told Politico. There’s even optimistic chatter of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s capturing the state in 2016 if she runs for president....Texas was reliably Democratic for more than a century, from Reconstruction through the Lyndon B. Johnson years. Johnson ably — albeit cynically and sometimes illegally — harnessed the Hispanic vote to keep his more reactionary opponents off balance in primaries.But the liberal 1960s drove white conservatives into what was once a minuscule Republican Party. With the help of Rust Belt migrants in the 1970s, Republican strength grew under John G. Tower, Bill Clements and the elder George Bush.... 

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Scholar Finds Flaws in Work by Archenemy of Comics

    For all the colorful adversaries that comic books have yielded, perhaps no figure in the history of that industry is as vilified as Dr. Fredric Wertham.Wertham, a German-born American psychiatrist, stirred a national furor and helped create a blueprint for contemporary cultural panics in 1954 with the publication of his book “Seduction of the Innocent,” which attacked comic books for corrupting the minds of young readers.While the findings of Wertham (who died in 1981) have long been questioned by the comics industry and its advocates, a recent study of the materials he used to write “Seduction of the Innocent” suggests that Wertham misrepresented his research and falsified his results.Carol L. Tilley, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, reviewed Wertham’s papers, housed in the Library of Congress, starting at the end of 2010, shortly after they were made available to the public....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    To Move Wright House to Italy, All It Takes Is a Buyer

    Paolo Bulletti has a dream. The Italian architect wants to transport a house built by the distinguished U.S. architect Frank Lloyd Wright from its current site in New Jersey to the hills of Fiesole, near Florence....Everyone acknowledges that the timing is poor. The economic situation in Italy means public and private funds are in short supply and, with the general election campaign under way, no mayor would lend his name to such an extravagant project.Nonetheless, Fulvio Irace, a professor of history at Milan Polytechnic, thinks that public institutions in Florence or Fiesole or even Venice should consider buying the house....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Protesters in Dresden Block Neo-Nazi March on Anniversary of Deadly Allied Firebombing

    Thousands of anti-fascist protesters blocked a neo-Nazi march in Dresden, Germany, on Wednesday night, on the 68th anniversary of the British and American air campaign that killed an estimated 25,000 people in 37 hours of bombing.In recent years, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports, anti-fascist activists “have outnumbered neo-Nazis who previously had used Dresden’s bombing anniversary to stage large ‘funeral’ marches to recall the demise of Hitler’s Third Reich.” On Wednesday, about 800 neo-Nazis were prevented from marching by thousands of police officers and counter-demonstrators, as more than 10,000 anti-fascist protesters formed a human chain in the city....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    When a Pope Retires, Is He Still Infallible?

    VATICAN CITY — What will he be called? Will he keep his white robes and trademark red loafers? And in the last absolute monarchy in the West, how does the dramatic resignation of Benedict XVI, the first pope to step down willingly in six centuries, change a role long considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be that of God’s representative on Earth?In transforming an office with an aura of divinity into something far more human, Benedict’s decision has sent shock waves through the Vatican hierarchy, who next month will elect his successor. But it has also puzzled the faithful and scholars, who wonder how a pope can be infallible one day and fallible again the next — and whether that might undermine the authority of church teaching....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Assessing the "Feminine Mystique" Fifty Years On

    When the proposal for a book about the plight of the American housewife by a little-known journalist named Betty Friedan began circulating at the publishing house W. W. Norton in early 1959, not everyone was convinced that it was a world-changing blockbuster....“The Feminine Mystique” tends to be hailed simply as “the book that started second-wave feminism,” said Lisa M. Fine, a historian at Michigan State University and a co-editor of the first annotated scholarly edition, just published by Norton. “But it’s a much more complicated text.”

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Should British Politicians Apologize for Colonialism?

    On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain appeared in Amritsar, in the Indian state of Punjab, where he laid a commemorative wreath at Jallianwala Bagh, the site of a 1919 massacre of Indian protesters by British forces that killed about 1,000, according to the Indian government....Here’s what a few historians and political science experts had to say:...Basudev Chatterji, professor of history at University of Delhi:It is something he is doing as a representative of a country. It is a diplomatic and human gesture.It is, of course, a shameful thing to fire at unarmed people.I personally don’t believe in correcting historical wrongs, but it is a perfectly decent thing to do on the part of the British prime minister....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Photographic artifacts of black Civil War troops

    In the year’s most haunting image of black Civil War soldiers, the opening battlefield sequence in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Confederate forces massacre many fallen former slaves.In reality, African-American prisoners of war were killed en masse. Black troops in action endured lower wages and poorer medical care and living conditions than their white counterparts. But soldiers of both races did have surprisingly easy access to the luxury of photography.Photographers ran government-sanctioned booths near encampments, selling souvenir portraits. The images of black personnel, from officers to gravediggers, are now on view widely in 150th-anniversary commemorations of the Emancipation Proclamation. They provide a nuanced view of African-American life at the front, even though some of the subjects can no longer be identified....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Culinary exhibitions add life to museums' period rooms

    The period rooms in art museums have the mustiest, dustiest of reputations. They are often seen as the cultural equivalent of grandma’s overstuffed couch that smelled like a fleet of cats....The traditional period-room model has been the dollhouse, but without Colonial Dame Barbie. Furniture and objects were arranged just so to set the scene for a particular era and then cordoned off for years. Museumgoers did not stumble over one another to take a peek.But some museums have discovered at least one secret ingredient to make their potentially snooze-inducing rooms more palatable to the public: a chef of sorts. Meet Ivan Day, a British food historian who is helping museums satisfy the public’s growing interest in food in all of its cultural manifestations. And why food? That’s because the hardware of cooking and dining usually make up a big part of museums’ decorative arts collections....

  • Originally published 02/15/2013

    Ronald Dworkin, Scholar of the Law, Is Dead at 81

    Ronald Dworkin, a legal philosopher and public intellectual of bracingly liberal views who insisted that morality is the touchstone of constitutional interpretation, died Thursday in London. He was 81.The cause was leukemia, said Richard Revesz, the dean of the New York University School of Law, who announced the death. Professor Dworkin had been a member of the school’s faculty for many years and also taught at University College, London.Professor Dworkin was “the primary legal philosopher of his generation,” said Judge Guido Calabresi, a former dean of Yale Law School who now sits on the federal appeals court in New York. He was also one of the most closely read as a mainstay of The New York Review of Books, to which he contributed articles for decades....

  • Originally published 02/15/2013

    Anger That a Herod Show Uses West Bank Objects

    JERUSALEM — In one room sits a sarcophagus of reddish-pink limestone believed to have held the body of King Herod, painstakingly reconstructed after having been smashed to bits centuries ago. In another, there are frescoes from Herod’s elaborate underground palace, pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. Throughout, elaborate animated videos show the king’s audacious construction — atop the desert fortress Masada; at his burial place, Herodium; and his most famous work, the Second Temple of Jerusalem.The Israel Museum on Tuesday opened its most ambitious archaeological exhibition and the world’s first devoted to Herod, the lionized and demonized Rome-appointed king of Judea, who reigned from 37 to 4 B.C.E. and is among the most seminal and contentious figures in Jewish history. But the exhibition, which the museum director described as a “massive enterprise” that involved sifting through 30 tons of material from Herodium and reconstructing 250 artifacts, has also brought its own bit of controversy.

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    Ishmael Reed: Neo-Classical Republicanism

    Ishmael Reed is a visiting scholar at the California College of the Arts and the author, most recently, of the novel “Juice!” and the essay collection “Going Too Far.”DURING Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama declared that “Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.”Tell that to black Americans, who were hit harder than the rest of the country by the recession and are having a harder time recovering. That struggle is not a coincidence, or merely a result of past inequality. During the housing bubble, blacks were deliberately targeted for subprime loans: as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, the big banks committed “systematic discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.”

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Viewing the Nazis Through Their Children’s Eyes

    One of the curiosities of the current Academy Award season is that Australia was competing in the best foreign-language film category with a German-language film. Cate Shortland’s “Lore,” a drama about the waning days of World War II, did not pick up a nomination, but it has created a stir everywhere it’s been shown, winning audience awards at festivals on its way to opening in New York on Friday.“Lore,” based on one of the novellas in Rachel Seiffert’s three-part “The Dark Room,” is the story of five young brothers and sisters forced to make their way alone across 500 miles of war-scarred territory to their grandmother’s house after their parents, staunch Nazis, are arrested by Allied troops. During that journey, the title character, a 15-year-old girl, and her siblings meet a young concentration camp survivor, also in flight, who both protects and exploits them....

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Richard R. John: How the Post Office Made America

    Richard R. John, a professor of journalism at Columbia, is the author of “Spreading the News: The American Postal System From Franklin to Morse.”THE Postal Service’s announcement that it plans to end Saturday mail delivery reminds us of its vulnerability to the technological convulsions of the information age. The agency lost nearly $16 billion last year; stopping Saturday delivery, starting in August, would save about $2 billion a year. To preserve the letter of the law, which requires six-day service, the agency would continue Saturday parcel delivery — a shrewd decision, since, thanks to booming e-commerce, the parcel business is one of the few sectors that is actually growing.Polls suggest that 7 in 10 Americans support the change, but a predictable outcry has emerged from members of Congress, labor unions, periodical publishers and direct-mail marketers. Other critics warn that ceasing Saturday service will be the first step down an irreversible “death spiral.”

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Justin E. H. Smith: The Enlightenment’s ‘Race’ Problem, and Ours

    Justin E. H. Smith teaches philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal. His most recent book is “Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life.” He is a contributing editor of Cabinet Magazine, and writes regularly on his blog.In 1734, Anton Wilhelm Amo, a West African student and former chamber slave of Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, defended a philosophy dissertation at the University of Halle in Saxony, written in Latin and entitled “On the Impassivity of the Human Mind.” A dedicatory letter was appended from the rector of the University of Wittenberg, Johannes Gottfried Kraus, who praised “the natural genius” of Africa, its “appreciation for learning,” and its “inestimable contribution to the knowledge of human affairs” and of “divine things.” Kraus placed Amo in a lineage that includes many North African Latin authors of antiquity, such as Terence, Tertullian and St. Augustine.

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    History of early Christianity named best scholarly book in arts and sciences

    It may be easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for an 800-page, heavily footnoted scholarly book about early Christianity to enter the best-seller list.But since its release in August, “Through the Eye of a Needle,” Peter Brown’s sweeping study of the changing attitudes towards wealth among Christians of late antiquity, has become something of a commercial hit, selling about 13,000 copies and becoming Princeton University Press’s top-selling book of 2012. Last last week it added another feather to its cap, claiming the R.R. Hawkins Award, the Association of American Publishers’ top honor for a scholarly book in the arts and sciences....

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    France takes step back in history

    ...And, much as President François Hollande of France denies that his country is still the gendarme of francophone Africa, the columns of French soldiers and planeloads of paratroops embroiled in the newest fighting recall much earlier campaigns.“There was a time when General Faidherbe pursued armed bands attacking the forts of the Sahel, and even then they professed radical Islam,” Bertrand Badie, a political science scholar in Paris, wrote in Le Monde, referring to Gen. Louis Faidherbe, who played a central role in solidifying French interests in the broad swath of desert known as the Sahel in the 19th century. “What have we done since then?”

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Ted Widmer: From Obama, a Proudly Liberal Message

    Ted Widmer, assistant to the president for special projects at Brown University, is the editor of “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy.” A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he was recently a consultant to the State Department.THE bright blue tie worn by President Obama to his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening was an accurate barometer of the weather. This was the most Democratic State of the Union in some time, not just in the range of government initiatives he proposed — the annual speech is usually a long laundry list — but because it set a new tone.Mr. Obama was looser than he has been in these previous annual messages to Congress — and unapologetic about his belief in government as an instrument to improve people’s lives. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, might have been right when he snorted, in the blur of televised commentary that followed, that it was the most liberal speech by a president to Congress since Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Garry Wills: New Pope? I’ve Given Up Hope

    Garry Wills is the author, most recently, of “Why Priests? A Failed Tradition.”THERE is a poignant air, almost wistful, to electing a pope in the modern world. In a time of discredited monarchies, can this monarchy survive and be relevant? There is nostalgia for the assurances of the past, quaint in their charm, but trepidation over their survivability. In monarchies, change is supposed to come from the top, if it is to come at all. So people who want to alter things in Catholic life are told to wait for a new pope. Only he has the authority to make the changeless church change, but it is his authority that stands in the way of change.Of course, the pope is no longer a worldly monarch. For centuries he was such a ruler, with all the resources of a medieval or Renaissance prince — realms, armies, prisons, spies, torturers. But in the 19th century, when his worldly territories were wrested away by Italy, Pope Pius IX lunged toward a compensatory moral monarchy.

  • Originally published 02/12/2013

    How the Union’s state got so ‘strong’

    ...Strong, stronger, strongest — one of those words has been used to describe the union in each of the last 17 State of the Union addresses.But it was not always so. Presidents once used other words to describe the state of our union. President Jimmy Carter liked to call it “sound.” President Harry S. Truman liked to call it “good.” President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a lyrical moment, described the state of the union in 1965 as “free and restless, growing and full of hope.”And when things were not going well, they said so.“I must say to you that the state of the union is not good,” President Gerald R. Ford said in 1975, citing high unemployment, slow growth and soaring deficits. He added, “I’ve got bad news, and I don’t expect much, if any, applause.”...What changed? The simple answer is President Ronald Reagan....

  • Originally published 02/04/2013

    Darwin’s birds get new look

    In 1855, Charles Darwin took up a new hobby. He started raising pigeons....Pigeon breeding, Darwin argued, was an analogy for what happened in the wild. Nature played the part of the fancier, selecting which individuals would be able to reproduce. Natural selection might work more slowly than human breeders, but it had far more time to produce the diversity of life around us.Yet to later generations of biologists, pigeons were of little more interest than they are to, say, New Yorkers. Attention shifted to other species, like fruit flies and E. coli.Now Michael D. Shapiro, a biologist at the University of Utah, is returning pigeons to the spotlight....

  • Originally published 02/03/2013

    Jim Sleeper: The King of New York

    Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale and author of “The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York,” is a former columnist for The Daily News.I WAS almost scripted to hate Ed Koch from the moment in September 1977 when I moved, with a new Harvard doctorate, to Brooklyn, on what would become a long activist-writer’s foray into the city’s fiscal crisis and the effects of that summer’s power blackout and looting.Mr. Koch was winning the Democratic mayoral primary, and my cousin James Wechsler, who’d been the editor of The New York Post in its liberal glory days but was then in charge of just the editorial page, was shaking his head in a lonely corner office on South Street as The Post’s new proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, turned it into a virtual press office for the Koch campaign.Throughout his 12 years as mayor I assailed Mr. Koch — in a Brooklyn newspaper that I edited, in Dissent, in The Village Voice and even while working across the hall from him as a speechwriter for the City Council president, Carol Bellamy, whom the mayor at one point denominated, with his customary grace, “a horror show.”...

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Richard Striner: 'Hurrah for Old Abe'

    Richard Striner, a history professor at Washington College, is the author of “Lincoln and Race.”Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, but the immediate reactions for and against it reverberated loudly throughout the following month.Almost all abolitionists and radical Republicans, even those who had condemned Lincoln’s methods as being too cautious, were thrilled. William Lloyd Garrison, the venerable abolitionist, called the occasion “a great historic event, sublime in its magnitude and beneficent in its far-reaching consequences.” The radical Republican Benjamin Wade proclaimed, “Now, hurrah for Old Abe and the proclamation!”Black Americans were naturally likewise jubilant. The minister Henry Highland Garnet called Lincoln “the man of our choice and hope” and said that the proclamation was “one of the greatest acts in all history.” Frederick Douglass said much the same thing: the proclamation was “the greatest event in our nation’s history.”

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    History-rich Georgia island wins second look on taxes

    DARIEN, Ga. — Residents of a tiny barrier island in Georgia on Tuesday won a temporary reprieve from property tax increases that they feared would drive them from their historic community.Taxes rose by as much as 1,000 percent last year on Sapelo Island, where the country’s largest population of Geechees lives. Sometimes called the Gullahs, the Creole-speaking descendants of African slaves have lived on the island and along the coast of the Southeast for more than two centuries.McIntosh County officials say their land has long been undervalued. But on Tuesday, the county’s Board of Equalization sided with the residents and ordered a reassessment of their property....

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Mae M. Ngai: Reforming Immigration for Good

    Mae M. Ngai, a professor of history and Asian-American studies at Columbia, is the author of “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.”IN Las Vegas yesterday, President Obama made it clear that an overhaul of America’s immigration laws was his top domestic priority. He expressed cautious support for a bipartisan plan by eight senators that would create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants in exchange for tougher border enforcement, employment checks and temporary work visas for farmworkers and highly skilled engineers and scientists.Many critical details are still missing, but the general framework is notable for its familiarity. Variations on all of these measures have been tried before, with mixed results. Legalization of the undocumented is humane and practical, but the proposals for controlling future immigration are almost certain to fail.

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Timeless book may require some timely fact checking

    Journalism is meant to be the first draft of history, and newspaper articles fit that mold nicely, fading into the archives. But books are not so neat.The digitization of books has facilitated the rerelease of a spate of nonfiction works years or decades after their initial publication, and in some cases the common interpretation of their subject matter has evolved or changed significantly.Melville House confronted this situation with its decision to reissue in December a 1964 book by A. M. Rosenthal, “Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case.” The book was originally released just months after the murder in March 1964 of 28-year-old Catherine Genovese, known as Kitty, who at around 3 a.m. was returning from her job at a tavern to her apartment in Kew Gardens, Queens, when she was assaulted, stabbed to death and then raped by a psychotic killer....

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Amy L. Fairchild, David Merritt Johns, and Kavita Sivaramakrishnan: A Brief History of Panic

    Amy L. Fairchild is a professor and the author, most recently, of “Searching Eyes: Privacy, the State, and Disease Surveillance in America.” David Merritt Johns is a journalist and doctoral student. Kavita Sivaramakrishnan is an assistant professor and author of “Old Potions, New Bottles: Recasting Indigenous Medicine in Colonial Punjab.” All are with the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.In September of 1873, United States Senator J.R. West of Louisiana received a telegram from his home state whose terse lines spoke of abject desperation:The people are panic-stricken. All that could have left. The poor are nearly all on our hands; no money in the city treasury. All pecuniary aid will be thankfully received. Fever increasing.(Signed) Samuel Levy, Mayor...

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Grace Elizabeth Hale: When Jim Crow Drank Coke

    Grace Elizabeth Hale, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Virginia, is the author, most recently, of “A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love With Rebellion in Postwar America.”THE opposition by the New York State chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s restrictions on sugary soda caught many Americans by surprise. But it shouldn’t: though the organization argues it is standing up for consumer choice and minority business owners, who it claims would be hurt, this is also a favor for a stalwart ally — Coca-Cola alone has given generously to support N.A.A.C.P. initiatives over the years.This is more than a story of mutual back-scratching, though. It is the latest episode in the long and often fractious history of soft drinks, prohibition laws and race.

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    In California, Jerry Brown has chance to restore luster to state's higher ed. legacy

    LOS ANGELES — During a 1960s renaissance, California’s public university system came to be seen as a model for the rest of the country and an economic engine for the state. Seven new campuses opened, statewide enrollment doubled, and state spending on higher education more than doubled. The man widely credited with the ascendance was Gov. Edmund G. Brown, known as Pat....Last year, he told voters that a tax increase was the only way to avoid more years of drastic cuts. Now, with the tax increase approved and universities anticipating more money from the state for the first time in years, the second Governor Brown is a man eager to take an active role in shaping the University of California and California State University systems.

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Ex-Dictator Is Ordered to Trial in Guatemalan War Crimes Case

    MEXICO CITY — A Guatemalan judge on Monday ordered Efraín Rios Montt, the former dictator, and his intelligence chief to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the massacres of villagers in remote highlands three decades ago.The ruling clears the way for a public trial for Mr. Rios Montt, a former general who ruled Guatemala for 17 months in 1982 and 1983 during the bloodiest period of the country’s long-running civil war. It is a stunning decision for Guatemala, where the military still wields significant power behind the scenes and the country’s elected governments have struggled to build democratic institutions....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Murray Polner: Only Part of the Story: The Smearing of Chuck Hagel

    Murray Polner was editor of Present Tense, a liberal Jewish magazine published for 17 years by the American Jewish Committee. He has written and edited four books on Jewish life.“Israel Vows To Use Veto Power If Chuck Hagel Confirmed As U.S. Secretary of Defense.” –the Onion, Jan. 8, 2013.The above headline was a typical Onion gag but like so many of its sarcastic pieces it contained a measure of truth.

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Nancy F. Koehn: Lincoln’s School of Management

    Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration.The legacy of Abraham Lincoln hangs over every American president. To free a people, to preserve the Union, “to bind up the nation’s wounds”: Lincoln’s presidency, at a moment of great moral passion in the country’s history, is a study in high-caliber leadership.In this season of all things Lincoln — when Steven Spielberg is probably counting his Oscars already — executives, entrepreneurs and other business types might consider dusting off their history books and taking a close look at what might be called the Lincoln school of management.Even before “Lincoln” the movie came along, there was a certain cult of leadership surrounding the 16th president. C.E.O.'s and lesser business lights have long sought inspiration from his life and work. But today, as President Obama embarks on a new term and business leaders struggle to keep pace with a rapidly changing global economy, the lessons of Lincoln seem as fresh as ever. They demonstrate the importance of resilience, forbearance, emotional intelligence, thoughtful listening and the consideration of all sides of an argument. They also show the value of staying true to a larger mission....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Donald Hornig, Last to See First A-Bomb, Dies at 92

    In a small shed at the top of a 100-foot-tall steel tower deep in the New Mexico desert, Donald Hornig sat next to the world’s first atomic bomb in the late evening of July 15, 1945, reading a book of humorous essays. A storm raged, and he shuddered at each lightning flash.It was his second trip to the tower that day as part of the Manhattan Project, the secret American effort to build an atomic bomb. He had earlier armed the device, code-named Trinity, connecting switches he had designed to the detonators.But J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the project, had grown nervous about leaving the bomb alone. He told Dr. Hornig to return to the tower and baby-sit the bomb....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    17th-century masterpiece discovered at the Ritz in Paris

    PARIS – The Hôtel Ritz Paris, famous for its bar, its swimming pool and its assignations, had a treasure hiding in plain sight, an exceptional painting that had been hanging on a wall for decades without anyone paying it the least attention.With the hotel shut for renovation, the auction house Christie’s announced this week that art experts had decided that the long-ignored canvas was by Charles Le Brun, one of the masters of 17th-century French painting, and that it would be put it up for auction....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Stanley Karnow, Historian and Journalist, Dies at 87

    Stanley Karnow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist who produced acclaimed books and television documentaries about Vietnam and the Philippines in the throes of war and upheaval, died on Sunday at his home in Potomac, Md. He was 87.The cause was congestive heart failure, said Mr. Karnow’s son, Michael.For more than three decades Mr. Karnow was a correspondent in Southeast Asia, working for Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, The Washington Post, NBC News, The New Republic, King Features Syndicate and the Public Broadcasting Service. But he was best known for his books and documentaries....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Nguyen Khanh, General Who Led Coup, Dies at 86

    Nguyen Khanh, a South Vietnamese general who briefly seized control of the government before being deposed and sent into exile, died on Jan. 11 in San Jose, Calif. He was 86.The cause was health problems related to diabetes, according to a statement from Chanh Nguyen Huu, who succeeded General Khanh as head of a self-described South Vietnamese government in exile in California.General Khanh’s rise to power in the 1960s, and his ultimate defeat, came during a period of deep political turmoil in South Vietnam, marked by several coup attempts in which he played a role....

  • Originally published 01/27/2013

    100 Years of Grandeur: The Birth of Grand Central Terminal

    One hundred years ago, on Feb. 2, 1913, the doors to Grand Central Terminal officially opened to the public, after 10 years of construction and at a cost of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars. The terminal was a product of local politics, bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle and visionary engineering. No other building embodies New York’s ascent as vividly as Grand Central. Here, the tale of its birth, excerpted from “Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America,” by Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, to be published later this month by Grand Central Publishing. The idea for the new Grand Central Terminal came to William J. Wilgus “in a flash of light,” he recalled decades later. “It was the most daring idea that ever occurred to me,” he said.

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Andrew S. Curran: Diderot, an American Exemplar? Bien Sûr!

    Andrew S. Curran, the dean of the arts and humanities and a professor of French at Wesleyan University, is the author, most recently, of “The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment.”THE Enlightenment polymath Denis Diderot turns 300 this year, and his October birthday is shaping up to be special. President François Hollande has indicated that he plans to honor the philosopher and novelist with what may be France’s highest tribute: a symbolic reburial in the Panthéon. In the roughly two centuries since this massive neo-Classical church was converted into a secular mausoleum, fewer than 80 people have been admitted into its gravestone club. If inducted, Diderot will arguably be the first member to be celebrated as much for his attacks on reigning orthodoxies as for his literary stature.

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Nate Silver: Contemplating Obama’s Place in History, Statistically

    Nate Silver blogs at the NYT's 538.With President Obama’s second term under way, we have begun to see more reflections on how he might come to be regarded historically.As common sense might dictate — and as the statistics will also reveal — it is far too soon to conclude very much about this. Second-term presidents may be derided as lame ducks, but it is often in the second term when reputations are won or lost.Still, we can say this much: Mr. Obama ran for and won a second term, something only about half of the men to serve as president have done (the tally is 20 or 21 out of 43, depending on how you count Grover Cleveland). We can also note, however, that Mr. Obama’s re-election margin was relatively narrow. Do these simple facts provide any insight at all into how he might be regarded 20, 50 or 100 years from now?In fact, winning a second term is something of a prerequisite for presidential greatness, at least as historians have evaluated the question. It is also no guarantee of it, as the case of Richard M. Nixon might attest. But the eight presidents who are currently regarded most favorably by historians were all two-termers (or four-termers, in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s case)....

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Europe’s odd couple, France and Germany, 50 years later

    BERLIN — France and Germany recently issued a joint postage stamp as part of a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, the landmark agreement between the two former enemies.The stamp is identical, except for one telling difference. In each country, it bears a picture of a man and woman, side by side, peering through lenses colored in blue-white-red and black-red-gold. But the French stamp costs 80 euro cents, while its German twin sells for only 75.In a year loaded with symbolic gestures and 4,000 commemorative events, including Tuesday’s joint session of Parliament, joint cabinet dinner and a concert, that 5-cent disparity is a reminder that despite the decades of friendship and enormous day-to-day cooperation, significant, often devilish, differences persist.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    German Priests Carried Out Sexual Abuse for Years

    BERLIN — A report about child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, based on victim accounts and released by the church this week, showed that priests carefully planned their assaults and frequently abused the same children repeatedly for years.The report, compiled from information collected from victims and other witnesses who called a hot line run by the church from 2010 until the end of last year, includes the ages of the victims, the locations of the assaults and the repercussions they have suffered since. The accounts were provided in 8,500 calls to the hot line; they are not representative of abuse cases over all and cannot be individually verified. The church said the report contained information from 1,824 people, of whom 1,165 described themselves as victims.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    A White House Aware of Second-Term Perils

    WASHINGTON — As he tucked into a salad and a beef pastry, President Obama looked around the family dining room in the White House and stared into his future. By some forecasts, it may not be a pretty sight.Gathered with him that evening were several of the nation’s leading historians, who reminded him of the sorry litany of second terms — the cascade of scandal, war, recession, political defeat and other calamities that afflicted past presidents after the heady crescendo of re-election.For Mr. Obama, who will be sworn in for another four years in a quiet ceremony on Sunday and then again in more public fashion on Monday, the lessons were familiar if daunting. Embarking on the next half of his presidency, he and his advisers are developing a second-term strategy intended to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors with a robust agenda focused on the economy, gun control, immigration and energy....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Diane McWhorter: Good and Evil in Birmingham

    Diane McWhorter is the author of “Carry Me Home.”FIFTY years ago, Birmingham, Ala., provided the enduring iconography of the civil rights era, testing the mettle of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so dramatically that he was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.During his protest there in May 1963, the biblical spectacle of black children facing down Public Safety Commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor’s fire hoses and police dogs set the stage for King’s Sermon on the Mount some four months later at the Lincoln Memorial. And the civil rights movement’s “Year of Birmingham” passed into history as an epic narrative of good versus evil.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Robert O. Self: Have We Reached a Political Realignment Yet?

    Robert O. Self is a professor of history at Brown and the author, most recently, of “All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s.”BARACK OBAMA has arrived at a historical moment enjoyed by only one other Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt: he gets to deliver a second Inaugural Address.The second inaugurals we remember bear witness to political realignment. The words of Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, in particular, testify to the closing of one era and the opening of another. In 1936 and 1984, Roosevelt and Reagan each won big. Their triumphs consolidated political transformations that had been building for some time and allowed their respective parties to reset the nation’s political center of gravity.Without the benefit of historical distance, how do we judge whether we are in the midst of such a realignment? Are the country’s deepest political instincts undergoing fundamental change? Coming up with an answer is not easy....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Is 2013 the New 1913?

    BEIJING — It’s a provocative idea — and a disturbing one. The world in 2013 looks “eerily” like the world in 1913, writes Charles Emmerson, a senior research fellow at Chatham House.Substitute the United States for the United Kingdom, and China for Germany, and the parallels are fairly clear.“The leading power of the age is in relative decline, beset by political crisis at home and by steadily eroding economic prowess,” Mr. Emmerson writes in “Eve of Disaster,” a piece in Foreign Policy magazine.“Rising powers are jostling for position in the four corners of the world, some seeking a new place for themselves within the current global order, others questioning its very legitimacy. Democracy and despotism are locked in uneasy competition.In his essay, Mr. Emmerson notes that “the United States in 2013 may not be a perfect analogue for Britain in 1913 (nor China in 2013 a perfect analogue for Germany in 1913).” But, he says, “The world of 1913 — brilliant, dynamic, interdependent — offers a warning.”...

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Paul Krugman: Seneca, Selma, and Stonewall

    In his speech, Obama invoked the history of struggles for equality with a remarkable triptych: Seneca (women’s rights), Selma (black rights), and Stonewall (gay rights). And there has been remarkably little blowback — a sign of how much the country has changed.What many people may not realize is how recent those changes are. Gay rights may be relatively obvious — it’s just 8 years since opposition to gay marriage arguably played a significant role in Bush’s victory. But the big changes on the racial front are also more recent than widely imagined (obligatory disclaimer — yes, there’s a lot of racism remaining, and it can be truly ugly; we’re just talking about relative changes)....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    James A. Hood, Student Who Challenged Segregation, Dies at 70

    James A. Hood, who integrated the University of Alabama in 1963 together with his fellow student Vivian Malone after Gov. George C. Wallace capitulated to the federal government in a signature moment of the civil rights movement known as the “stand in the schoolhouse door,” died on Thursday in Gadsden, Ala. He was 70.His death was confirmed by his daughter Mary Hood.On the morning of June 11, 1963, Mr. Hood and Ms. Malone, backed by a federal court order, sought to become the first blacks to successfully pursue a degree at Alabama. A black woman, Autherine Lucy, had been admitted in 1956 but was suspended three days later, ostensibly for her safety, when the university was hit by riots. She was later expelled....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    How high could the tide go?

    BREDASDORP, South Africa — A scruffy crew of scientists barreled down a dirt road, their two-car caravan kicking up dust. After searching all day for ancient beaches miles inland from the modern shoreline, they were about to give up.Suddenly, the lead car screeched to a halt. Paul J. Hearty, a geologist from North Carolina, leapt out and seized a white object on the side of the road: a fossilized seashell. He beamed. In minutes, the team had collected dozens more.Using satellite gear, they determined they were seven miles inland and 64 feet above South Africa’s modern coastline....In any given era, the earth’s climate responds to whatever factors are pushing it to change.Scientists who study climate history, known as paleoclimatologists, focus much of their research on episodes when wobbles in the earth’s orbit caused it to cool down or warm up, causing sea level to rise or fall by hundreds of feet....

  • Originally published 01/19/2013

    The French Way of War

    IN 1966, the French president, Charles de Gaulle, war hero and general nuisance in Allied eyes, wrote President Lyndon B. Johnson to announce that France was pulling out of full membership in NATO and would expel NATO headquarters from France.“France is determined to regain on her whole territory the full exercise of her sovereignty, at present diminished by the permanent presence of allied military elements or by the use which is made of her airspace; to cease her participation in the integrated commands; and no longer to place her forces at the disposal of NATO,” de Gaulle wrote.After the humiliating capitulation to the Nazis, a tremendous shock to a prideful and martial France, it was not especially surprising that de Gaulle should seek to restore France to a place at the top table of nations, capable of defending its own interests with its own means at its own pace and pleasure.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    A Beat Poet’s Colorful Crew, in Black and White

    Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was a great poet but not a great photographer. So while “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg” at the Grey Art Gallery is an interesting exhibition, it is in certain ways disappointing. The best you can say about the pictures Ginsberg took during two periods in which he dabbled in the medium — the ’50s and early ’60s and the ’80s and ’90s — is that they are the works of a competent amateur. The bigger disappointment, however, is that much of the history that Ginsberg lived through and did so much to alter as a countercultural activist is missing.The exhibition was organized by Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photography at the National Gallery of Art, where it had its debut in 2010.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Gen. Yang Baibing Dies at 93; Led Tiananmen Crackdown

    BEIJING — Gen. Yang Baibing, a military strongman who carried out the violent suppression of student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was later purged because of fears that he was accruing too much power, died here on Tuesday. He was 93.His death was reported by the official Xinhua news agency. A statement issued by the party’s Central Committee provided the sort of terse homage typically reserved for a disgraced political figure, saying, “He was a seasoned loyal Communist fighter and a proletarian revolutionist.”

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Prospero Gallinari, a Terrorist, Is Dead at 62

    Prospero Gallinari, who as a member of the Italian terrorist group the Red Brigades was convicted in the kidnapping and assassination in 1978 of Aldo Moro, the Italian prime minister, died Monday after collapsing at his home in Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy. He was 62. He was long believed to have been the gunman in the killing until a comrade took responsibility.Mr. Gallinari had a history of heart trouble, Italian newspapers said, citing police reports confirming his death.The Red Brigades, a vicious and idiosyncratic Marxist-Leninist paramilitary organization, engaged in robberies, assaults and assassinations in the 1970s as part of a campaign to foment leftist revolution in Italy. The group’s most notorious act was kidnapping Mr. Moro in March 1978. It held him for 55 days and then shot him to death. Mr. Moro’s body was found in a car trunk on May 9, 1978, the same day he was murdered....

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    In gun debate, even language can be loaded

    WASHINGTON — When the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wanted to promote more restrictions on firearms after the Connecticut school shootings in December, it turned to a firm to help publicize its position. The firm’s name? Point Blank Public Affairs....The ubiquitous nature of such language has caused people on both sides of the emotional debate in recent weeks to take back, or at least think twice about the phrases they use, lest they inadvertently cause offense in a moment of heightened sensitivity.“It’s almost second nature,” said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association. “They’re such mainstream phrases, you almost have to check yourself and double-check yourself.”But it also says something about the long American romance with guns and the nation’s self image. “All of that ties into the frontier tradition, rugged individualism, a single American with a flintlock or a gun of some kind holding off the Indians or fighting off the British,” said Robert Spitzer, a scholar of gun control at the State University of New York at Cortland....

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    A Fight Over Historic Preservation Brews in Art Deco Country

    MIAMI BEACH — When South Beach was little more than a forlorn chunk of beachfront property, preservationists clung to the idea that the faded, often derelict pastel buildings lining the streets were too precious to knock down.Their campaign to preserve the area’s fanciful Art Deco buildings ushered in one of the country’s most successful urban revivals. Years later, South Beach is still a juggernaut.Preservationists are now pushing hard to bolster historic preservation laws, a move that has ruffled wealthy property owners (and potential buyers) and stepped up pressure on local commissioners who are reluctant to wade into the politically precarious battle....

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    Blain Roberts: The Ugly Side of the Southern Belle

    Blain Roberts, an assistant professor of history at California State University, Fresno, is the author of the forthcoming book “Pretty Women: Female Beauty in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights South.”...From 1921, when the contest began in Atlantic City, through World War II, only one woman representing a former Confederate state won the competition. Then, beginning in 1947, when a woman from Memphis earned the top honor, the fortunes of Southern contestants rose precipitously. From 1950 to 1963, seven southerners were crowned (each served the following year), including back-to-back wins by Mississippians in 1958 and 1959 — though southerners made up only one-fifth of the possible winners.These were, of course, the years when black Southerners opened a full-scale campaign against Jim Crow, prompting a bitter backlash by white Southerners. White resistance began in earnest in 1954, when the Supreme Court issued Brown v. Board of Education, its decision to desegregate public schools.

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    Lawrence M. Krauss: Deafness at Doomsday

    Lawrence M. Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, is the author, most recently, of “A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing.”TO our great peril, the scientific community has had little success in recent years influencing policy on global security. Perhaps this is because the best scientists today are not directly responsible for the very weapons that threaten our safety, and are therefore no longer the high priests of destruction, to be consulted as oracles as they were after World War II.The problems scientists confront today are actually much harder than they were at the dawn of the nuclear age, and their successes more heartily earned. This is why it is so distressing that even Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living scientist, gets more attention for his views on space aliens than his views on nuclear weapons.Scientists’ voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren’t being heard....

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Psychologist Who Studied Depression in Women, Dies at 53

    Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a psychologist and writer whose work helped explain why women are twice as prone to depression as men and why such low moods can be so hard to shake, died on Jan. 2 in New Haven. She was 53.Her death followed heart surgery to correct a congenitally weak valve, said her husband, Richard Nolen-Hoeksema.Dr. Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor at Yale University, began studying depression in the 1980s, a time of great excitement in psychiatry and psychology. New drugs like Prozac were entering the market; novel talking therapies were proving effective, too, particularly cognitive behavior therapy, in which people learn to defuse upsetting thoughts by questioning their basis.

  • Originally published 01/11/2013

    Klemens von Klemperer Dies at 96; Wrote of Nazi Era

    Klemens von Klemperer, a refugee from Nazi Germany who wrote what is widely considered the seminal history of the movement among the country’s conservative elite to overthrow Hitler, died on Dec. 23 at his home in Easthampton, Mass. He was 96.His death was confirmed by his son, James.Dr. von Klemperer, an emeritus professor of history at Smith College, was one of a generation of refugee historians who helped lay the groundwork for modern German and European studies in the United States, a group that also included Hajo Holborn, Fritz Stern and Peter Gay.A privileged child who came from a family of German bankers and industrialists, he had taken a leading role in demonstrations against Hitler as a student in Vienna before fleeing to the United States in 1938....

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