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  • Originally published 08/09/2013

    Hey, Reince, Lay Off NBC and CNN for the Hillary Movies

    Credit: Wiki Commons.Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, recently told NBC and CNN television executives that he would request that his party shut the two networks out of the GOP’s presidential debates during the 2016 primary race. Priebus issued the threat because NBC had a drama in production about Hillary Clinton and CNN planned to release a documentary film about her. The GOP chairman pointed out that Mrs. Clinton was the Democrats’ likely candidate for president in 2016. By depicting her life and activities, these movies might bolster Mrs. Clinton’s fortunes in the next presidential race. Others, including several GOP state party chairmen, warned that the two film productions could influence voters. They stressed that television networks with reputations for objectivity should not sponsor films that masquerade as unbiased productions.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Julian Zelizer: Crunch Time for Immigration, Budget Fights

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America." (CNN) -- August is going to be a crucial month for President Barack Obama.As the 113th Congress takes its recess, legislators will be returning to their states and districts to hear from constituents.The stakes are particularly high for Obama and Democrats, who have one last chance to sway the House Republicans before two hugely important issues are resolved: the immigration bill and the budget.As politicians in both parties begin to prepare for the 2014 midterms and think about the 2016 elections, this fall might be the last real opportunity for the president to win congressional support for these big measures....

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    Timbuktu's manuscripts face new threat

    (CNN) -- For the second time in five months, Timbuktu's treasured collection of ancient manuscripts is under threat.Earlier this year, it was thought that most of the 300,000 precious documents were destroyed by Islamic fundamentalists when the northern Mali conflict entered the fabled city.But as it turns out, only 4,000 documents were burned by the rebels. The rest were smuggled out of Timbuktu six months before the incursion by a team of local families who have long safeguarded their city's famous library, often in their own homes....

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    African roots of the human family tree

    Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- How would you feel knowing you are related to your boss, your neighbor, or better yet your partner? Don't worry, you may have to go back 1,000, 20,000 or maybe even 100,000 years to find a common ancestor, but generally speaking it is true.Advanced DNA testing combined with recently unearthed discoveries are bolstering the belief that if you look back far enough, all living human beings are the descendents of a small, innovative and ambitious set of people on the African continent.With the mapping of the human genome in 2003, combined with thousands of people around the world submitting their DNA for testing, there's now mounting physical proof we all started in Africa before migrating around the world....

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    Julian Zelizer: Chris Christie's Weight -- Why It Matters

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America." Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made headlines last week when one of his aides admitted that he had surgery to lose weight. Christie said that the surgery had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with his health and his family. Christie said: "It's not a career issue for me. It is a long-term health issue for me and that's the basis on which I made this decision. It's not about anything other than that."It is impossible to know whether we should take Christie at face value. Given that there has been ongoing speculation about his presidential aspirations for 2016, often coupled with discussions of his struggle with weight, it is certainly not unreasonable to wonder whether these are related.Why do Americans care about the weight of a candidate and why is appearance an issue in presidential elections? There is very little chance that the issue will go away. Certainly, old-fashioned bias has something to do with this concern....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Minaret destroyed at 12th-century Syrian mosque on World Heritage list

    (CNN) -- Both sides in Syria's civil war were in rare agreement Wednesday: The minaret at a 12th-century mosque in Aleppo has been obliterated.Unclear, however, was who destroyed the tower at the Great Umayyad Mosque, which has witnessed the march of nine centuries. It was just last month that a United Nations official expressed concern about the two-year war possibly damaging the mosque, a World Heritage site.An opposition group blamed the government."Regime forces have committed today a new crime against human and cultural heritage by targeting the minaret of the mosque and completely destroying it," the Local Coordination Committees said. The group released a photograph of the mosque without its signature minaret, apparently reduced to rubble....

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Daniel Altman: The Wealthy Elizabethan Merchant Who Explains CNN’s Bad Boston Coverage

    Daniel Altman teaches economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and is chief economist of Big Think.Last week, during the frantic hunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, CNN wrongly reported that a man had been arrested. The news network soon corrected its error, but not in time to avoid a chorus of "how could this happen?" from, mostly, other media. Their explanations centered mainly on the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle. But for the real reason, you'd have to ask Sir Thomas Gresham.Gresham was an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and an exceptionally wealthy London merchant. Having realized that British money was losing its value because of the shoddy coinage standards of the queen's predecessors, Gresham suggested she create a new, more trustworthy money that could not be confused with the old specie. This act -- though not the first of its kind in recorded history -- gave rise to what is now known as Gresham's Law: "Bad money drives out good."

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Julian Zelizer: History's Jury is Still Out on George W. Bush

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."(CNN) -- On Thursday, President Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are due to attend the grand opening of President George W. Bush's presidential library and archive in Dallas, Texas.The opening of the library offers an opportunity to think again about the legacy of the Bush presidency. As Obama and the former presidents look around the museum, they will see many exhibits that symbolize how the jury is still out on most of the major issues. Events in the coming years will play a huge role in how history is likely to remember Bush's White House.There are four big questions about his presidency.1. How effective and how just were Bush's counterterrorism policies? Bush came into office much more concerned about domestic issues like education and taxation, but after the 9/11 terror attacks, he invested a great deal of his power in the counterterrorism program.

  • Originally published 04/22/2013

    Nancy Unger: When Helping Earth was Women's Work

    Nancy Unger is professor of history at Santa Clara University and the author of "Beyond Nature's Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History."(CNN) -- Earth Day is the time of year to hear the usual polarized debates between liberals who lament humanity's reckless use of natural resources and conservatives who deny any human role in climate change and echo Sarah Palin's call for industry to "drill, baby, drill."This division is familiar, but it hasn't always been this way. After all, it was President Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clean Air Act. Long before that, social conservatives were in the vanguard of environmental activism in the United States, in part because of their traditional views about women.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Julian Zelizer: Health Care Will Be an Obama Legacy

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."(CNN) -- The politics of health care is changing fast. President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act was vulnerable during his first term when Republicans demanded repeal of the law. Even after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, there were still many voices who objected to it.However, with each passing day, it appears that the program is in good shape, slowly becoming part of the fabric of American government.Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the main potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said that his state would accept the Medicaid expansion that is part of the ACA. Christie had been one of the president's toughest critics, frequently lambasting the program as a prime example of big government liberalism. But he has changed his tune.

  • Originally published 03/01/2013

    David M. Perry: Echoes of Past in Pope's Resignation

    David M. Perry is an associate professor of history at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.(CNN) -- On July 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Sulmona for his second visit to venerate the relics of his long-ago predecessor, Pope and St. Celestine V, who died in 1296. Few predicted then that just a few years later, Benedict and Celestine would be locked together in history as the two popes who retired, theoretically voluntarily, because of their age.Here is what Celestine wrote: "We, Celestine, Pope V, moved by legitimate reasons, that is to say for the sake of humility, of a better life and an unspotted conscience, of weakness of body and of want of knowledge, the malignity of the people, and personal infirmity, to recover the tranquility and consolation of our former life, do freely and voluntarily resign the pontificate."

  • Originally published 02/25/2013

    Jim Cullen: With Lincoln, A New Frontier for Day-Lewis

    Jim Cullen is chairman of the history department at the Fieldston School in New York and author of "Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions" (Oxford University Press).(CNN) -- If, as many observers believe, Daniel-Day Lewis wins the Academy Award for best actor on Sunday, he will become the first man to win three (Meryl Streep has done this; Maggie Smith might match her if she wins for her turn in Quartet). Such an honor would ratify Day-Lewis' standing not simply as one of the greatest actors of his time, but for all time.Like Robert De Niro, Day-Lewis is seen as the quintessential method actor, a commitment he has taken to extremes in his well-known penchant for embodying his characters even when the cameras aren't rolling. Day-Lewis also is notable for the extraordinary breadth of roles he has played.He first came to global attention in 1985 when he appeared simultaneously as the priggish Cecil Vyse in the Merchant-Ivory film adaptation of E.M. Forster's 1907 novel "Room with a View" as well as Johnny, the gay East End punk, in Stephen Frears' brilliantly brash "My Beautiful Launderette."...

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Timothy Stanley: Why Benedict XVI Will Be Remembered for Generations

    Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's The Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan."(CNN) - Journalists have a habit of calling too many things "historic" - but on this occasion, the word is appropriate. The Roman Catholic Church is run like an elected monarchy, and popes are supposed to rule until death; no pope has stepped down since 1415.Therefore, it almost feels like a concession to the modern world to read that Benedict XVI is retiring on grounds of ill health, as if he were a CEO rather than God's man on Earth. That's highly ironic considering that Benedict will be remembered as perhaps the most "conservative" pope since the 1950s - a leader who tried to assert theological principle over fashionable compromise.

  • Originally published 02/21/2013

    Why bogus quotations matter in gun debate

    (CNN) -- The Founding Fathers are frequently quoted in the gun control debate, but many of those quotations turn out to be fake.The most popular comment on a recent story about gun control featured a purported quotation from Thomas Jefferson. More than 2,000 votes pushed it to the top."When governments fear the people, there is liberty," reads the quotation. "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

  • Originally published 02/12/2013

    Julian Zelizer: Obama, Think Big for State of the Union

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of "Governing America." (CNN) -- President Obama is set to deliver the first State of the Union Address of his new term. On Tuesday evening, he will step before a joint session of Congress and a nation in difficult times.Unemployment rose in January to 7.9%. There are signs of economic progress, but millions of Americans are struggling to find a job while others are desperate to keep the one they have.Other kinds of economic challenges face many people. The Pew Research Center recently released a study showing the growing number of adults who are struggling to support grown children and their parents, the "Sandwich Generation" as they are called....It may be tempting to list a series of measures Obama wants Congress to pass, but the president should use this speech to do something more than provide a laundry list, and the historical record offers some guidance about how.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Mark N. Katz: Leaving Syria Ship Before It Sinks?

    Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia, USA), and is the author of Leaving without Losing: The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan (Johns Hopkins University Press).(CNN) -- As numerous news organizations have reported, Russia has sent two planes so that about 100 of its citizens who want to can leave Syria. Tellingly, the planes were not sent to Damascus where the security situation around the airport has reportedly deteriorated, but to Beirut instead to which the Russians departing Syria traveled by bus.In its characteristic fashion, the Russian government has denied that this is an evacuation. An unnamed Russian diplomat in Damascus, though, did not rule out the possibility of further flights. Russian naval exercises in the Mediterranean may also be the prelude to a seaborne evacuation from the Syrian coast.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Stephen Prothero: Obama Delivers Lincoln's Third Inaugural

    Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.Equality. That's what today's inauguration was about. And we have Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to thank for it.President Obama took his oath of office on two Bibles: one used by Lincoln during his 1861 inauguration, the other the “traveling Bible” of Dr. King. And during his second inaugural address, Obama read U.S. history through the words and actions of these two men.In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln turned to Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence to argue that the United States was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King argued that our national commitment to equality demanded that we emancipate ourselves from segregation as well as slavery.

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Julian Zelizer: America Lives Under the Shadow of George W. Bush

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of "Governing America."Although some Democrats are pleased that taxes will now go up on the wealthiest Americans, the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff entrenches, rather than dismantles, one of Bush's signature legacies -- income tax cuts. Ninety-nine percent of American households were protected from tax increases, aside from the expiration of the reduced rate for the payroll tax.In the final deal, Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to preserve most of the Bush tax cuts, including exemptions on the estate tax.When Bush started his term in 2001, many of his critics dismissed him as a lightweight, the son of a former president who won office as result of his family's political fortune and a controversial decision by the Supreme Court on the 2000 election.

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