Technology to reduce speeding trains absent from many train lines, including the section of the most recent derailment. Just one day after the Philadelphia train derailment, the House votes against increased Amtrak funding [more inside]
Many American, Canadian, and British military veterans opposed to the actions of ISIS in Iraq have been, individually, going over to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga for some time now, bringing thousands of dollars of military gear and irreplaceable training. There have been so many of them fighting that the Peshmerga are now actively recruiting military veterans online. Not to be internet-outdone, military veterans have begun investigating forming units of their own to fight ISIS -including notable and controversial science-fiction author John Ringo, who suggested trying to crowdfund for 'a brigade of soldiers'. [more inside]
"More than sixty years have passed since Israel started its nuclear venture and almost half a century has elapsed since it crossed the nuclear weapons threshold. Yet Israel's nuclear history still lacks a voice of its own: Israel has never issued an authorized and official nuclear history; no insiders have ever been authorized to tell the story from within. Unlike all seven other nuclear weapons states, Israel's nuclear policy is essentially one of non-acknowledgement. Israel believes that nuclear silence is golden, referring to its nuclear code of conduct as the policy of amimut ("opacity" in Hebrew)." A special collection of declassified documents was published by the National Security Archive this Wednesday, that sheds some light on How Israel Hid Its Secret Nuclear Weapons Program.
Happy Tax Day, US MeFites. Here's Tax Man Max (yt) to explain taxes for Schoolhouse Rock.
The Highwayman (1987-88) was a 60-minute sci-fi/action tv series from Glen A. Larson starring Sam J. Jones (1980's Flash Gordon). Jones played a federal marshall with a high-tech 18-wheeler "supertruck" that had advanced weaponry, the ability to turn invisible and a cab that turned into a helicopter. He patrolled America's highways and fought crime in the futuristic world of... 1992. A pilot movie, Terror on the Blacktop (starring Claudia Christian, G. Gordon Liddy, Jimmy Smits and Rowdy Roddy Piper) kicked off the series, which lasted nine episodes before driving off into the cancellation sunset. [more inside]
The Local Eyes Project is an effort to explore the Americas through the eyes of 12 local residents in Canada, the United States, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, by sending them a disposable camera and asking them to take "travel photos." [more inside]
With all the upheaval in the skies and on the ground, here is one person's opinion on why the U.S. is fighting beside Iran in Iraq and against it in Yemen. Putin tells Iran that an immediate ceasefire is needed in Yemen. All the while...negotiators from six world powers (the P5+1) are attempting to strike a deal with Iran to restrict its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. As Iran nuclear talks 'enter endgame' in Switzerland...China and Russia say they will show up tomorrow. Keeping things cloaked in intrigue: the US accuses Israel of spying on nuclear talks with Iran and Putin says Western spies plot against Russia before polls, blurs the picture further.
Irish-American Dining. A history of and guide to food that is expressly Irish-American, by Mefi's own Max Sparber. Irish Egg Rolls! Early onion-based pub food! The hidden history of the Shamrock Shake! [via mefi projects]
Today marks the 70th anniversary of what is considered the single most deadly bombing raid in history, the 1945 US napalm firebombing of Tokyo. Today, there are still victims seeking redress and recognition from the Japanese government for the ‘unparalleled massacre’ of that horrific night.
Gone With A Trace (pop-up audio warning): a 20-min. audio documentary about photographer Richard Misrach (previously) and the objects he finds along the US/Mexico border, which are then turned into musical instruments by Guillermo Galindo. There's an accompanying photo slide on cbc's The Current site.
The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map. [more inside]
Kochs Plan to Spend $900 Million on 2016 Campaign - "an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history... These donors represent the largest concentration of political money outside the party establishment, one that has achieved enormous power in Republican circles in recent years. Now the Kochs' network will embark on its largest drive ever to influence legislation and campaigns across the country, leveraging Republican control of Congress and the party's dominance of state capitols to push for deregulation, tax cuts and smaller government."
My name is Omar ibn Seid (pdf, 163 kb). My birthplace was Fut Tûr, between the two rivers. I sought knowledge under the instruction of a Sheikh called Mohammed Seid, my own brother, and Sheikh Soleiman Kembeh, and Sheikh Gabriel Abdal. I continued my studies twenty-five years. Then there came to our place a large army, who killed many men, and took me, and brought me to the great sea, and sold me into the hands of the Christians, who bound me and sent me on board a great ship and we sailed upon the great sea a month and a half, when we came to a place called Charleston in the Christian language. There they sold me to a small, weak, and wicked man.[more inside]
Republicans in state governments plan juggernaut of conservative legislation - "Enjoying a majority of unprecedented breadth, Republicans plan a new tide of conservative initiatives targeting the Common Core, abortion, income taxes, labor unions and the EPA." (via) [more inside]
The Shocking Savagery of America's Early History, a look at historian Bernard Bailyn's book.
Bailyn has not painted a pretty picture. Little wonder he calls it The Barbarous Years and spares us no details of the terror, desperation, degradation and widespread torture—do you really know what being “flayed alive” means? (The skin is torn from the face and head and the prisoner is disemboweled while still alive.) And yet somehow amid the merciless massacres were elements that gave birth to the rudiments of civilization—or in Bailyn’s evocative phrase, the fragile “integument of civility”—that would evolve 100 years later into a virtual Renaissance culture, a bustling string of self-governing, self-sufficient, defiantly expansionist colonies alive with an increasingly sophisticated and literate political and intellectual culture that would coalesce into the rationale for the birth of American independence. All the while shaping, and sometimes misshaping, the American character. It’s a grand drama in which the glimmers of enlightenment barely survive the savagery, what Yeats called “the blood-dimmed tide,” the brutal establishment of slavery, the race wars with the original inhabitants that Bailyn is not afraid to call “genocidal,” the full, horrifying details of which have virtually been erased.[more inside]
41 men targeted, but 1,147 people killed: New analysis of data conducted by the human rights group Reprieve raises questions about the accuracy of intelligence guiding 'precise' drone strikes.
In an unexpected move, Alan Gross is being exchanged with the (remaining) Cuban Five and the US and Cuba plan to start talks on normalizing relations. [more inside]
Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of the slipperiest holidays in the American tradition. Costumed masquerading and trick-or-treating used to happen on Thanksgiving, while Halloween was mostly devoted to vandalism. As Americans did they best to stamp out the vandalism, they also cleaned up the unruly traditions of Turkey Day, banishing the Thanksgiving Ragamuffins to October. [more inside]
The Marshall Project launched Sunday to provide "high-quality journalism about the American criminal justice system" and "amplify the national conversation about criminal justice." Helmed by Bill Keller, their first investigative piece was published in August and their second in October, but today they have several new feature pieces: Obama's Prison Crisis, Waiting for Ferguson, Right and Left Unite on Drug Sentencing. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, The Men Who Should Have Been Free, Eric Holder on His Legacy, His Regrets, and His Feelings About the Death Penalty, and Dying in Attica. (Previously) [more inside]
Recently on The Blue we've had discussions about American Chop Suey and New Jersey Pork Roll, but what about other regional favorites, like Lutefisk, Scrapple, or the French Dip Sandwich? Just in time for Thanksgiving, here are a few links to get you started:
The Death of the Southern White Democrat Hurts African-Americans the Most (previously) while the South’s Republicans Look a Lot Like Its 1970s Democrats
"Barajas and the veterans staying with him are establishing a new life in Tijuana — a life after deportation. Their stories are similar: Each was honorably discharged from the military, but was later charged with a deportable offense — for example, drug possession, discharge of a firearm or perjury...Most have spent the vast majority of their lives in the United States and are now starting over in a country they barely know." (Aj Jazeera)
I am on the western edge of the United States-Mexico border to understand more about the most publicised and most crossed border in the world. Ben Stubbs visits one of the most notorious borders in the world and reflects on Australia's frontier issues.
Gun Wars: the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America, in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation. An investigative report from "29 students from 16 journalism schools, as well as an experienced staff of editors" for Carnegie-Knight News21. [more inside]
Republican legislators in Missouri are pushing to expand abortion restrictions in the state. A bill mandating a 72-hour waiting period, vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon in July, is likely to become law on Wednesday in a special legislative session. [more inside]
"In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a "screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire." " - Johannah King-Slutzky for The Awl on the 'Metrosexual' situation a decade later
The Sad State of America’s Aging Sisters: Why are there so few nuns today?
You may wonder whether the global church the sisters belong to is interested in keeping the convents open. It sure seems like it isn't. By 2005, the Catholic Church had spent $1 billion on legal fees and settlements stemming from priests sexually abusing children. Yet church leaders have allocated no funds to take care of elderly sisters, and while priests’ retirement funds are covered by the church, the sisters have no such safety net. When their orders run out of money, that’s it.[more inside]
“Why would you want to be a nun if the archdiocese is going to treat you like they do?” Ann Frey at the Wartburg said. “Their whole lives they’ve been obedient and done what they were asked to do, and now nobody is helping them?”
"International fast food behemoth Burger King Worldwide Inc. confirmed Tuesday that it will pay about $11 billion to buy Canadian chain Tim Hortons Inc., which sells coffee, donuts, and other breakfast food fare. The deal would merge America's second-largest burger chain, which is valued at nearly $10 billion, with the Canadian equivalent to Dunkin' Donuts, which is valued at more than $8 billion. It would also move the new company's headquarters to Canada, where corporate taxes are significantly lower." [more inside]
First world war – a century on, time to hail the peacemakers "On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, we should remember those who tried to stop a catastrophe" [more inside]
The US GAO Flickr page features selected photos and graphics from US Government Accountability Office reports that are searchable, viewable, and downloadable by visitors to their site. [more inside]
The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States (PDF); prospectus (PDF); press coverage (YT) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..." [more inside]
Francis Fukuyama on 'The End of History?' twenty-five years later: "liberal democracy still doesn't have any real competitors," but to get there... [more inside]
There was a time when the US was a marijuana friendly country but the Roosevelt administration thought it was killing America's youth and future so in 1937 pot was banned. By an ironic twist of fate, five years later the Department of Agriculture encouraged farmers to grow hemp to help the country defeat the nazis. Of course, the mirage didn't last long. Cannabis was banned and rebanned. The US pushed forward the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Drugs and 9 years later President Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act. War on Drugs was at full throttle. Now, after six months of Colorado's green experiment, money is flowing and crime is decreasing. Please, let me try to predict the future: Ironically, curiosly and logically, the US will be marijuana friendly again and a bunch of countries will follow its path... again.
Her image was built on the infrastructure of the status quo — a straight, white, doting mother engaged in a long-term monogamous relationship — but made just extraordinary enough to truly entice but never offend. [SLBF]
Portrait of a Young Man with Down Syndrome. A father reflects on his son's search for employment.
"With over 200 breweries, Oregon is often considered the craft beer capital of America. Beer geeks and casual drinkers across the country can also thank the state’s farmers for their brews: hops, the essential ingredient that gives beer its bitter flavor, is a rare crop throughout the U.S. but not in Oregon. Last year, Oregon State University established the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives (OHBA), the first archive in the U.S., dedicated to preserving and telling the intertwined story of hop and beer production and the craft brewing movement. They're posting materials from their collection to Tumblr, Flickr and Zotero.
Military infographics are completely insane -- An analysis of some of the baffling infographics that the US military have made public on the web for some reason.
The most recent story in ProPublica's Living Apart: Examining America's Racial Divide series is "Segregation Now," which focuses on the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, city school district "and its fleeting experience with the challenges and virtues of integration." But beyond Tuscaloosa, "almost everywhere in the United States, the gains of integration have been eroded. And nowhere has that been more powerfully and disturbingly true than in the South – once home to both the worst of segregation and the greatest triumphs of integration. Freed from the federal oversight that produced integration, schools districts across the 11 former states of the Confederacy have effectively re-instituted segregation for large numbers of black students, in practical terms if not in law." [more inside]
The New York Public Library has released more than 20,000 high resolution cartographic works (maps!) for free, to view and download. "We believe these maps have no known US copyright restrictions." All can be viewed through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections page and downloaded through their Map Warper. (Via) [more inside]
Thank Goodness We Don't Have To Do That Anymore: a selection of US social customs and rituals that have mercifully passed on. Spinster Etiquette! Paying Calls! Hand Kissing! Bathing Machines! Wedding Gift Displays!
Lifehacker: "One of the more annoying things about Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon's television streaming libraries is the vast difference between the selection available. It would be almost impossible to get a thorough idea of who has the better library without searching for hundreds of TV shows on each service and comparing them manually. So we did just that." [more inside]
Do the Apollo flags remain where they were planted or have they fallen or have they disintegrated after four decades of intense UV and heat? James Fincannon investigates flags left behind from Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions.
Dozens of armed men in Russian-marked military uniforms occupied an airport in the capital of Ukraine's strategic Crimea region early Friday, Obama warns Russia against any military intervention in Ukraine. But what is so dangerous about Crimea, and what is 'The Budapest Memorandum?'
Music Machinery presents a map of each U.S. state's most distinct favorite band or recording artist, as well as an app for playing with the data.
John Cleese: "I remember at a party I met these chaps from Viacom, who said they were working on a new Fawlty Towers. My ears pricked up at the sound of cash registers and said, 'That's wonderful, are you going to change anything?'. They said, 'Well we have changed one thing, we've written Basil out'. And that's absolutely true, they took Basil and Sybil's lines and gave them all to Bea Arthur." The resulting effort was a 1983 ABC series called Amanda’s By the Sea which could charitably be described as a fiasco. [more inside]