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Posts Tagged ‘History’

Crimean parliament votes to join Russia, hold referendum in 10 days on ratifying

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 7, 2014

AFP Photo/Vasily Batanov

AFP Photo/Vasily Batanov

The Crimean parliament has voted for the region to join Russia. The decision will only come in force if approved by the Crimeans at a referendum which will be held in 10 days.

Crimean MPs voted on Thursday for the region to “to become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory,” says the text of the regional parliament’s statement.

78 MPs said yes to Crimea joining Russia, while 8 abstained from voting. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nobel Prize: A tale of ignoble peace laureates

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 11, 2012

One man introduced indefinite detention and expanded the deadly global drone war. Another was the architect of the deliberate mass killing of civilian populations in Indochina. What do they have in common? Both are Nobel Peace laureates.

Gandhi never got one. Al Gore did. In one of the stranger ironies befitting of both Kafka and Orwell, sometimes the makers of permanent war are awarded for bringing temporary peace. Sometimes they don’t even get that far.

With the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize set to be announced in Oslo, Norway on Friday, the shadow of Barack Obama still looms large. In 2009, the committee awarded the current US president “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Nominations for the award are due by February 1, meaning Obama had served as America’s executive for less than two weeks when the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected him. Perhaps it was wishful thinking.

Since then, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, making it legal to indefinitely detain US citizens. There are also the deadly drone wars in Yemen and Pakistan, the war waged in Libya, the Afghan surge and a secret “kill list” revealed this year by The New York Times, which grants a select few American officials the option to mark perceived national security threats – foreign citizens or otherwise – for assassination. Ironic, yes, but they never could have known.  Read the rest of this entry »

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A Vibrant Past: Colorizing the Archives of History

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 26, 2012

Photo colorization by Sanna Dullaway for TIME / Original image by Alexander Gardner / Library of Congress 1862. Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand at Antietam.

Technology has given us an incredibly wide-ranging view of modern presidents; chief White House photographer Pete Souza’s images of Barack Obama show him in countless locations and situations, from meetings in the Oval Office to candid shots of the president eating ice cream with his daughters on vacation.

The photo archive of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of this week’s cover story, is a much smaller set due to the technological limitations of the time; most of the existing photographs of the 16th president are posed portraits, the majority of which only show Lincoln from the chest up—and all are black-and-white. Read the rest of this entry »

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HSBC exposed: Drug money banking, terror dealings

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 17, 2012

AFP Photo/Lionel Bonaventure

AFP Photo/Lionel Bonaventure

The international banking giant HSBC may have financed terrorist groups and allowed Mexican drug money into the US economy through its lax policies, a damning Senate report reveals.

The findings are the results of a year-long Senate probe into HSBC’s activities, highlighting negligence throughout the bank’s international structure. The probe will be published in a 340-page report in Washington on Tuesday, and senior members of the bank will be called to account for the allegations.

“HSBC used its US bank as a gateway into the US financial system for some HSBC affiliates around the world to provide US dollar services to clients while playing fast and loose with US banking rules,” said Senator Carl Levin in a press release. He added that the US branch of the corporation “exposed the United States to Mexican drug money, suspicious travelers’ checks, bearer share corporations, and rogue jurisdictions.”

“The culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time,” Senator Levin said. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Stalin was like Facebook’: Viral ad sparks controversy

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 3, 2012

Poster inscription reads: "Stalin was like Twitter: he kept it brief." The image is part of a graduate project, commemorating victims of Stalinist repressions. Artwork by Nox-13

Poster inscription reads: “Stalin was like Twitter: he kept it brief.” The image is part of a graduate project, commemorating victims of Stalinist repressions. Artwork by Nox-13

“Stalin was like Facebook: he always wanted you to share information.” That is just one of the controversial posters aimed at showing the Internet generation the horrors of Stalin’s regime. Others compare him to Twitter and YouTube.

The posters, which were created for the Victims of Illegal Political Repressions Organization, use contemporary social platforms to illustrate to younger generations how much they have, and translate the awful reality of Soviet political repressions into a language they understand and can relate to.

The posters draw parallels between popular social networks and typical repressions of Stalinist times, and all provide historical details on this very dark period in Soviet history.

The Facebook poster describes how thousands of people regularly snitched on their neighbors, friends and relatives, filing reports with the NKVD or Secret Police. In the two years of the worst oppressions, from 1937 to 1938, the NKVD was flooded with so many reports, they physically couldn’t handle them.

A similar poster comparing the Soviet dictator to YouTube plays on the Russian words for “upload” and “send”, saying that Stalin let people get picked up and sent off. During the period of the Great Purge, known as Yezhovshchina in Russia (after the head of the Secret Police, Nikolay Yezhov), millions were sent off to labor camps and left to rot in Siberia. Their families were evaluated, and if deemed ‘capable of anti-Soviet actions’, they too were packed off to the camps, travelling for months in freight trains, like cattle.

The project started as a graduation work for communications studies student Ilya Tekhlikidi, who chose the Victims of Illegal Political Repressions Organization because of his own family history. His great-grandfather was executed by firing squad in 1937, and his great-grandmother and her children survived three labor camps. Read the rest of this entry »

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Amazing video: Transit of Venus across the Sun 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 6, 2012

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Buried Treasure: World War II Spitfires to Be Unearthed in Burma

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 23, 2012

Paging Indiana Jones: a British farmer’s 15-year quest to find a squadron of legendary fighter planes buried in a far-off land has finally paid off
Michael Dunning/Getty Images

Spitfire aircraft in flight

It’s like something out of an Indiana Jones film, if you take away the religious overtones and ophidiophobic adventurer. After 15 years, a British farmer’s quest to find a squadron of legendary fighter planes lost in Burma during World War II has finally paid off.

Lincolnshire farmer David Cundall, 62, has spent about $207,000, traveled to Burma a dozen times and negotiated with the cagey Burmese government, all in the hopes of finding a stash of iconic British Spitfires buried somewhere in the Southeast Asian country.

(PHOTOS: Burma’s Landmark Elections and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Path to Victory)

Buried planes? It sounds odd, but in fact this was fairly common toward the end of the war; as the conflict wound down and jet aircraft promised to make propeller-driven fighters obsolete, many aircraft were scrapped, buried or sunk by Allied Forces in order to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

(PHOTOS: Europe Then and Now)

Cundall started his search after his friend heard from a group of U.S. veterans that they had stashed Spitfires in the region. “We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires,” the veterans said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sea Changes: Ocean Acidification Is Worse Than It’s Been for 300 Million Years

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 3, 2012

Oxford Scientific / Getty Images

White coral skeleton, Cocos Island, Pacific Ocean. Such coral bleaching events are one consequence of ocean acidification

Human beings doing unprecedented things to the Earth, which is sort of impressive when you realize that the planet has existed for more than 4.5 billion years. But that’s what happens when 7 billion people produce and consume more and more stuff, emitting enormous amounts of gases like carbon dioxide and generally making of muck of things for everyone else.

Take the oceans. Researchers already know that the seas are becoming more acidic, thanks largely to the increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon. (Much of the carbon in the air is absorbed by the oceans—think of the fizz in a soda can—which over time makes them more acidic.) Over the last hundred years, the ocean pH—which measures the relative acidity of a liquid—has fallen by 0.1 unit to 8.1 That may not sound like much, but according to a new study published in Science, it’s all but unprecedented. Ocean acidification is now almost certainly occurring faster than it has for at least 300 million years—and as the rate of manmade carbon emissions increases in the future, acidification will likely only accelerate. That will have dire effects on corals and other ocean life that will struggle to adapt to a marine environment that will be changing—by geological standards at least—at breakneck pace.

(SPECIAL: Saving Our Oceans)

Lead author Barbel Honisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University, put the situation in rather grim perspective:

What we’re doing today really stands out. We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out — new species evolved to replace those that died off. But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.

The Science researchers reviewed hundreds of studies of paleoceanographic studies to try to get a consensus on how the pH levels of the ocean has changed over time. It’s a bit like paleontology—scientists have to look for fossils and other physical proxies to get a sense of how changing carbon levels in the atmosphere has affected the oceans. Read the rest of this entry »

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The end of American atom smashing

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 2, 2012

Photo from United States Department of Energy

Photo from United States Department of Energy

After a quarter of a century, scientists operating underneath the surface of the Earth today will pull the plug on Tevatron, bringing the massive atom smasher to a screeching halt.

And just like that, another nail is hammered into the coffin for the American scientific community.

Many scientists have touted Tevatron as the most successful atom smasher in the history of physics. Since 1985 it has been operating outside of Chicago, Illinois and its technology has allowed experts to pinpoint some of the building blocks of the universe.

Abroad, however, the Large Hadron Collider, a similar structure underneath the ground at the French/Swiss border, has usurped the Tevatron as the most powerful machine of its type. Its accomplishments since its construction in 2009 have been remarkable, and American investments domestically cannot compete with the research being carried out by the LHC.

In other words, the Tevatron is no match for what lies across the pond and underneath the Earth.

“The machine has discovered what it could discover within its reach,” Gregorio Bernardi tells The Washington Post. Bernardi is a physicist at Fermilab, the Energy Department facilities that has overseen the Tevatron for years.

At 2pm this afternoon, Bernardi will pull the plug on Tevatron. “That will be it,” he tells The Post. “Then we’ll have a big party.”

Other scientists don’t necessarily see a reason to rejoice, however. Read the rest of this entry »

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Congressmen’s incomes triple while America gets poorer

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 28, 2011

The US Capitol (AFP Photo / Karen BLEIER)

If you feel like Congress fat cats can’t relate to their fellow Americans anymore, the truth behind the matter might just be that they can’t.

While Americans have seen a recession ravage savings accounts, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have only gotten richer.

Between the US Senate and House of Representatives, the median net worth for a member of Congress is around $913,000, reports The New York Times. That man in the middle is Ed Pastor (Dem-AZ), and although he makes a pretty penny nowadays, his income today is gigantic when gauged with what he was worth when he first came to Washington. Twenty years earlier, Pastor pulled in enough to have only $100,000 saved up, a figure he has magnified nearly tenfold in the two decades since.

Comparing the mean in 2009 with the mean for lawmakers’ assets in 1984, the figure has tripled.

Off of the Hill, however, others aren’t so lucky. Taking into account all of America, the median net worth today is roughly $100,000 — what Congressman Pastor pulled in 20 years earlier. And while lawmakers have seen their wallets only fatted in recent times, the incomes of average Americans have dwindled as a recession and depression downturned the American economy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kim Jung-who? Ten facts – or rumors – about North Korea’s new leader

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 20, 2011

Kim Jong-Un (AFP Photo / KCNA VIA KNS)

With the youngest son of the late “Supreme Leader” of North Korea set to take the reins of the world’s most secretive state, little is known about a man who has been described as an out-of-shape heavy drinker who is the spitting image of his father.

1. No one knows exactly how old Kim Jung-un is, though North Korean officials give his official birth date as January 8, 1984.

2.  Prior to 2010, only one grainy black-and-white photograph of the younger Kim existed outside North Korea.

3.  He is believed to have attended the International School of Berne in Switzerland until 1998 under an assumed name.

4.  Classmates said he was an avid lover of skiing, basketball and James Bond.

5.  According to an anonymous high-ranking North Korean source, once Kim got older and put on weight, he started playing 15-ball pool instead of basketball, the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Information Service reports.

“The game of pool has become increasingly popular among North Koreans in the past five years, in large part thanks to Kim Jung-un being an avid player. He even installed four Chinese brand-name pool tables in his grand mansion,” the source said.   Read the rest of this entry »

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‘We have lost respect’ – former US Senator

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 23, 2011

The US is like a drunkard who charges to war with anyone who might pose a threat, ex-Senator and former US presidential candidate Mike Gravel says.

“I like the US. But at the same time I think my country is an imperial country that is going downhill, and our leadership does not even acknowledge the problem,” confesses Gravel.

“Phony triumphalism has turned into a device to make Americans live in fear of a terrorist attack, yet you are a thousand times more likely to catch cancer than ever be hurt by that,” he points out.

“All I can say about what the US is doing – it‘s immoral,” Gravel says, explaining that “as a result of 9/11, we have altered our moral compass. And people began to get used to brutalizing each other.”

“We Americans used to think ‘oh, what happened in Germany could never happen with us!’ Well, it is happening with us. And it is happening to the detriment of our global position.”

“In Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Vietnam at the era, all American soldiers died in vain,” Gravel claims, recalling the millions of war victims in Vietnam, which is now developing along its own path, regardless.

New American policies enable US military or security officials to take a decision and dispatch a drone to kill a suspect without trial – together with all civilians who happen to be close to the target, Gravel says.

“The morality of that is removing responsibility – those who drop bombs [from remotely operated robot drones] do not see people die,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

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Professor Cornel West arrested in DC

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 19, 2011

Acclaimed professor and activist Dr. Cornel West was arrested with 18 others on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington DC on Saturday during a local demonstration with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement.

Dr. West says that he was in Washington earlier in the day to witness President Barak Obama’s dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, only to join protesters hours later at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is there that activists have been congregating for over a week down as part of the October 2011 Stop the Machine protest that hopes to draw attention to the ongoing war in Afghanistan — which earlier this month reached the 10-year mark, making it the longest-going American war ever.

Once at Freedom Plaza, West and dozens others marched through Washington to the Supreme Court building. A spokesperson for the high court confirmed that West was one of 19 people arrested for refusing to the leave the grounds. Video shows that protesters remained peaceful as they sat on the steps of the courthouse awaiting arrest. Read the rest of this entry »

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China threatens US with trade war over currency bill

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 5, 2011

A woman exchanges money at a currency exchange shop in Hong Kong on September 15, 2011. (AFP Photo / Laurent Fievet)

Anger is erupting out of Beijing this week after lawmakers in Washington are aiming to force Chinese currency to rise to put both nations on level ground with trading.

Politicians on Capitol Hill are hoping that a proposed bill could keep currency in China from getting any lower and thus giving what they say is an unfair advantage to business in the Far East. China, however, has responded that the legislation would just be Washington’s way of putting the rest of the world’s economies at risk.

Before Congress this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that China’s “deliberate actions to devalue its current gives its good an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Earlier this summer, solar panel manufacturers Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after they revealed that they could no longer generate a profit in an industry in which foreign competition, particular that in China, can create goods at a cheaper cost. The downfall of Solyndra came despite heavy backing by governmental loan guarantees. They were one of several related companies to recently close its doors.

In a response to the proposed legislation, China’s central bank and its ministries of commerce and foreign affairs all said that DC lawmakers are “politicizing” currency issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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Americans face new recession

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 18, 2011

People look at a list of companies attending the job fair (Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP)

Hold onto your money, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Economists predict that the odds of entering another recession are pretty good — or pretty terrible, depending on how you look at it.

The latest survey from the Wall Street Journal suggests that the odds of entering another economic recession are at one-in-three, the most likely they’ve been since the United States rebounded from the last one and went into recovery.

That recovery, however, has been a staggering one, marred with an unemployment epidemic and a schizophrenic market. Now, says The Journal, odds of going into a double-dip recession are 4 percentage points higher than they were last month,

John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics, tells the Fiscal Times that if the unemployment problem in America continues, another recession seems inevitable. “The trend in jobless claims is an important input into our recession probability model, and if this trend were to continue for a number of weeks it would raise a warning flag on the state of the economy,” Ryding says.

Figures released this week from the Labor Department show that applicants filing for unemployment benefits in America surged last week up to 417,000 claims; earlier predictions on Wall Street had signaled a number substantially less. A total of 7.144 million Americans are currently receiving governmental benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

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