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Spies for Peace?

By Nigel Young
By the time I first moved into peace research in 1963, I had become aware of the State’s interests (or often several States’ interests) in the anti-war movement: McCarthyist informers, Cold War agent provocateurs, intelligence sniffers, as well as plain opportunists, con-men, the confused, and mavericks – it was not only phone taps and men in macs. And then there were some odd characters in the peace movement itself, like Bertrand Russell’s secretary, R. Schoenman, and on the margins Pergamon Press’ Robert Maxwell, or the MP John Stonehouse in the U.K. The Quakerly dictum, “think the best of everyone you meet”, was certainly the one that many of us aspired to, but how many “strikes” before someone was out of the reach of trust and credibility? During the anti-draft movement in the U.S.A., the “plants” were obvious, their jeans and denim didn’t fit, they were awkward and not very with it, and their sunglasses were not cool. But they sowed mutual suspicion and that was enough. Many groups broke up. And during and after McCarthyism, in the 1960s, I directly experienced the entry of agents, often ex-military, into peace studies and action roles – not so much to gain information as much as to disrupt, divide and dismantle.

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This Day in History: Burmese Independence

By David A. Steinberg
London essentially determined Burmese independence, although the cry for an independent Burma by the Burmese was long, loud, and clear. Following World War II, there were thousands of Burmese with arms who might have made retention of British control very tenuous. Winston Churchill said he was not about to see the dissolution of the British Empire, but the Labour Party won the postwar elections. India was bound to become independent, and Burma would certainly follow. England was exhausted by the war; holding onto their colonies in the face of rising nationalism seemed impossible. Inevitable independence, then, should be gracefully granted. What kind of independence, and whether independent Burma would be divided between Burma Proper and a separate minority area was unclear. Some in England wanted to try Aung San as a traitor because he backed the Japanese before and during most of the war,

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When a Language Dies

By David Crystal
There’s a language dying out somewhere in the world every two weeks or so. It’s a far greater crisis, proportionately speaking, than the threat of extinction facing plants and animals. Half the world’s languages are so seriously endangered that they are likely to disappear this century. That’s 3000 languages, maybe.

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Perceiving Death in the News

Images of people about to die surface repeatedly in the news and their appearance raises questions: What equips an image to deliver the news; how much does the public need to know to make sense of what they see; and what do these images contribute to historical memory? These images call on us to rethink both journalism and its public response, and in so doing they suggest both an alternative voice in the news – a subjunctive voice of the visual that pushes the ‘as if’ of news over its ‘as is’ dimensions – and an alternative mode of public engagement with journalism – an engagement fueled not by reason and understanding but by imagination and emotion.

In About to Die: How News Images Move the Public, Barbie Zelizer suggests that a different kind of news relay, producing a different kind of public response, has settled into our information environment.
Click through to watch a video from the Annenberg School for Communication.

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Cleopatra’s true racial background (and does it really matter?)

Racial profiling and manipulation have existed for a long time. It has become an issue in modern politics, and over 2500 years ago the Greek historian Herodotos wrote that ethnicity was often turned to political ends. Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt, is often a victim of racial profiling.

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The Centennial of the World’s First Social Revolution in Mexico

Tweet By William H. Beezley November 20, Mexicans everywhere will celebrate the centennial of their epic revolution. A century ago, a generation of young, largely provincial Mexican men and women initiated and carried out a social revolution that preceded the Russian Revolution (1917), had greater educational and public health successes than the Chinese Revolution (1948), […]

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Witchcraft!

In 2004, workmen digging in Greenwich, near London, uncovered a sealed stone bottle that rattled and splashed when they shook it. It was sent to a laboratory where X-rays revealed metal objects wedged in the neck, suggesting that it had been buried upside down, and a scan showed it to be half filled with liquid. Chemical analysis confirmed this was human urine containing nicotine and brimstone. When the cork was removed, scientists discovered iron nails, brass pins, hair, fingernail parings, a pierced leather heart, and what they believed might be navel fluff.

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When the Stasi Came for the Doctor

Gary Bruce is Associate Professor of History at the University of Waterloo. His newest book is The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi. The book is based on previously classified documents and interviews with former secret police officers and ordinary citizens and is the first comprehensive history of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, at the grassroots level. In the excerpt below Bruce looks at how the Stasi impacted one ordinary man’s life.

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The State of ‘Judenpolitik’ Before the Beginning of the War

Peter Longerich is Professor of Modern German History at Royal Holloway University of London and founder of the College’s Holocaust Research Centre. His book, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews, shows the steps taken by the Nazis that would ultimately lead to the Final Solution. He argues that anti-Semitism was not a mere by-product of Nazi political mobilization or an attempt to deflect the attention of the masses. Rather, from 1933 onwards, anti-Jewish policy was a central tenet of the Nazi movement’s attempts to implement, disseminate, and secure National Socialist rule. In the excerpt below Longerich analyzes the state of Jewish citizens of Germany right before the start of the war.

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Gypsy Rose Lee Vindicated by Catalina Ban on Bull Fighting

By Noralee Frankel
In late July, Catalonia a region in Spain outlawed bull fighting. The vote in parliament was spurred by a petition signed by 180,000 people. The burlesque queen and author, Gypsy Rose Lee would have been pleased. What has a famous strip tease artist have to do with bull fighting? In 1950, Gypsy Rose Lee was blacklisted from radio and television, not for sexuality, but for her liberal politics. She had been a very successful moderator of two silly game shows, all the rage in the fifties. Unable to work on the new media, she left for Europe where she performed her strip tease.

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Remembering Hiroshima

Today, it is 65 years since the United States first dropped the nuclear weapon “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. Soon after, on August 9th, 1945, the United States released “Fat Man” over Nagasaki. The aftermath, of course, was predictably horrific.

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Special Envoys in the Middle East, Thousands of Years Ago

By Amanda H. Podany
In President Obama’s speech last December when he received the Nobel Prize, he observed that, “War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease—the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.” This comment almost seems to need no supporting evidence; it’s just common knowledge and common sense. And, for the most part, it’s true. That point, though, about war being the way that ancient civilizations “settled their differences”—that isn’t in fact the whole story. Ancient kings could, and did, send their armies into battle against one another. But some of them also talked to one another, wrote letters, sent ambassadors back and forth between their capitals, and drew up peace treaties. Sometimes, as a result, they avoided war and benefited from peaceful alliances, often for decades at a time.

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The Essential Stonehenge

Stonehenge was begun about 2800 B.C. by a people who had no written language, no wheeled vehicles, no draft animals, and no metal tools. To dig holes in the ground, they used the antlers of deer. The initial Stonehenge consisted of a circular embankment 350 feet (107 meters) in diameter, four marker stones set in a rectangle, some postholes, and the Heel Stone. The Heel Stone was apparently the first of the great boulders brought to this site as construction commenced. But it may not have stood alone. A similar huge stone stood just to its left as seen from the center of Stonehenge. In that ancient time, the Sun at the beginning of summer probably rose between the famed Heel Stone and its now-vanished companion, and the alignment with sunrise at the summer solstice was probably exact.

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