Tag Archives: history

Over 7,000 Bodies May Be Buried Beneath Mississippi University

In what sounds like a clichéd horror movie premise, a recent investigation suggests as many as 7,000 bodies are buried across 20 acres at the Mississippi Medical Center Campus—the former site of the state’s first mental institution. Officials at the university now face the grim task of pulling 100-year-old bodies…

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Please Tell Nicolas Cage Researchers Found Another Declaration of Independence

Last week, two Harvard researchers released the findings of a monumental, National Treasure–worthy discovery—the pair had located the only other handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence known to exist, the Harvard Gazette reports.

Researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen made the discovery back in 2015, when Sneff saw an archival office in West Sussex, England, had a listing of a "Declaration in Congress of the thirteen United States of America," on parchment. After nearly two years of pouring over the document, they determined it's a copy of the original 1776 declaration (the one kept in the National Archives) but written sometime in the 1780s.

The second copy, which Sneff and Allen have named the Sussex Declaration, contains a few key features that differentiate it from the original. Both documents are the same size, but the Sussex document is oriented horizontally, rather than vertically. All 56 signatures are also there, but they're all the same size and not separated by state. The original Matlack Declaration had signatures of all different sizes and were arranged by the state that signee was representing. According to the researchers, the signatures on the Sussex document signify that it came from a unified group of people, instead of a collection of separate states.

"This parchment manuscript illuminates in one stroke how the Federalists and anti-Federalists debated the question of whether the new republic was founded on the authority of a single, united sovereign people or on the authority of 13 separate state governments," Allen said. 

According to Gizmodo, Allen and Sneff aren't sure how the document got all the way to England, but they believe it was originally drafted in the States and commissioned by prominent nationalist James Wilson. It then wound up in the hands of Charles Lennox, an English duke who supported American independence. 

Now, having concluded the document came from a tumultuous period in American history, Allen and Sneff want to find out more about Lennox and uncover why he wanted the document.

"Victory was not sweet [after the Revolutionary War]," Allen said. "There was financial disaster, the Articles of Confederation were not working... so the 1780s were a period of great instability, despite victory. And this parchment belongs to that decade."

Second Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence Discovered in England

Harvard researchers have discovered a parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence at a small archive office in the United Kingdom. Only the second parchment copy known to exist, it contains several features that mark it as distinct from the original.

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These Rare Color Photos From the Second World War Are Incredible

A new book published by the Imperial War Museum features a rare collection of color photos from World War II, some of which haven’t been seen in over 70 years. From P-51D Mustangs and Flying Fortresses through to anti-aircraft spotters and flame hurling tanks, these images cast the war in a vibrant new light.

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Secret Medieval Tomb Reveals Resting Site of Five Lost Archbishops

During renovations at the former site of a medieval church in London, England, construction workers uncovered the entranceway to a hidden crypt. Inside lay 30 lead coffins, including the remains of five former Archbishops of Canterbury. It’s a completely unexpected archaeological finding—showing that even London’s…

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Why the Fuck Is No One Talking About Nukes?

Welcome to Why the Fuck Is No One Talking About... our occasional series examining important but under-discussed issues. 

If we talked about things in proportion to their danger, we'd talk a lot more about nuclear weapons. We'd be talking about them so much, in fact, it would be impossible to eat, sleep, or screw without feeling them tug at the back of our minds. We'd debate arms treaties over breakfast, suffer dream visitations by mushroom clouds, and invent new types of benzodiazepines just to manage our nuclear anxiety. We'd make nukes the routine objects of protest movements, nightly newscasts, Hollywood films, and national elections.

We would, in other words, be living in the United States of 1962 or 1983.

As veterans of those Cold War years can attest, it was exhausting. I was in third grade during the 1983 war scare and remember well the humming undercurrent of dread. At any moment—maybe at school, maybe during Saturday morning cartoons—air-raid sirens and TV test patterns could sound, followed by a blinding flash and, if you survived that, a thermonuclear mushroom big as the sky and hot as the sun. The unimaginable misery awaiting the burned and irradiated survivors—that was most terrifying of all.

Naturally, when the chance arrived later that decade to stop worrying about the bomb, we took it and ran, doing cartwheels and somersaults into the post–Cold War sunrise. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, brought a message of peace to foreign capitals in the final years of the USSR and was mobbed in the streets by a grateful public, newly liberated from a half-century on the verge of nervous breakdown. Gorbymania, it was called. But it wasn't really about Gorbachev. We were celebrating our own collective exhalation. Living on a Cold War footing was not a happy or healthy state of mind. A lot of people were deformed by it or just cracked.

Nuclear weapons, meanwhile, quietly waited out the demise of the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and Gorbymania. Despite the stockpile reductions and arms treaties of the 1990s, more than 1,000 nuke-tipped missiles were kept on hair triggers in submarines and silos from Omaha to Omsk. On those vintage Cold War triggers the missiles remain, patiently awaiting orders or perhaps a monumental mistake.

In the late 1990s, things started getting scary again, and in familiar ways. NATO broke its promise to Russia not to expand the military alliance eastward. Then we bombed Russia's ally, Serbia, pouring accelerant on growing mistrust and hostility between the two nuclear powers. George W. Bush pulled out of the ABM Treaty and began deploying missile defenses near Russia's borders, undermining the cornerstone of strategic stability. Russia's early warning system, meanwhile, had degraded badly, to the point where nuclear command centers monitoring radar data could be sent into panic by a research rocket launched innocently from Scandinavia.

Fast-forward to 2017, and we're back to Cold War levels of nuclear danger. Arms reduction on the US side has slowed, Russia is violating an important missile treaty, and tensions continue to wind apace with US pursuit of an ever-evolving missile defense system. (Like any weapons system, it is defensive or offensive depending on which side of the barrel you're looking down.)

And it's not just the Cold War superpowers that possess these weapons anymore. North Korea now has a handful of atom (and possibly hydrogen) bombs, bringing the number of nuclear states to nine. India and Pakistan remain in a staring contest armed with enough mega-tonnage to trigger a planetary nuclear winter. Then there is the growing risk of nuclear terrorism, a threat compounded by the chill in US-Russian relations. Recent years have seen the icing and abandonment of hard-won cooperative efforts to monitor the production and traffic of nuclear materials around the world. And securing this material should be every nation's top anti-terrorism priority: It takes only a grapefruit-sized slab of enriched uranium, shot into a slab of conventional explosive, to trigger a Hiroshima-sized bomb.

All of this is reflected in the hands of the Doomsday Clock, now sitting two and a half minutes from midnight. This is closer than it's been since November 1983. Only this time, we're not talking about it. It's not even clear we'd know how.

In the decades since millions of Americans gathered for community screenings of The Day After, the widely seen apocalypse film, two generations have come of age whose knowledge of nuclear weapons is derived mostly from video games. At the apex of the nuclear command chain sits a man who last year revealed his ignorance of the nuclear triad, which is roughly the equivalent of a sixth-grader being unable to explain a triangle. Former nuclear grandees have been stirred and are speaking out to shake the public from its nuclear stupor. But it's not happening.

Why is it so hard to talk about nuclear weapons the way we did 30 years ago?

For starters, nuclear weapons have always been synonyms for death, and people don't like thinking about death. (This goes triple for "megadeath," the unit-measure for every million people killed in a nuclear war.) Nuclear weapons also involve, not one, but two apparent paradoxes. The first cuts through morality and human nature: How can we be so smart and yet so dumb? How can we barrel down a highway lined with flashing neon signs reading, "Horrific Mass Suicide, 1 mile"? The second paradox is just the physics mindfuck of it all: An atom can flatten a city. Like the vastness of our expanding universe, it doesn't seem real. It can't be.

Even during the Cold War, nobody wanted to think about nukes. It took Hiroshima, Nagasaki, a series of major crises, a superpower standoff, and a media focused on the gruesome details of nuclear war to spark even a modest global disarmament movement. The world of 2017 is a different place. There is no binary Cold War frame. The shared culture that could focus a conversation with something like The Day After is no more. The attention span required for sorting through our nuclear dilemma—also pretty close to gone. Nothing embodies this better than the devolution of the "peace" symbol: Born as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group that organized mass sit-ins in downtown London, it is now hippie marketing shorthand used to sell hazy nostalgia for a nonpolitical counterculture.

Climate change is another factor. Humans have bandwidth for confronting, maybe, one apocalyptic threat at a time. When the Cold War ended, climate change took over the slot. But climate change doesn't supersede the nuclear threat; it only adds to its urgency. Climate change is leading us back to a world of scarcity, of resource wars for water and arable land. Resource war is the most brutal kind of war, and you don't have to be a Pentagon planner to see that climate and nukes are on glide paths to intersect, barring radical intervention, sometime mid-century. Climate pressures are already aggravating the situation in South Asia, where glacial shrinking has reduced water flow to contested rivers supporting 90 percent of Pakistani food production.

So, it isn't a pretty picture. But what else is new? Apathy is an option, but one best suited to rich assholes with luxury bomb shelters. The more difficult and urgent thing to do is to integrate nuclear weapons into the growing movement for systemic change. There are blips of hope. At the UN, most of the world is working to produce a legally binding nuke-ban treaty (though the US is leading a boycott of those talks). 

A 21st-century nuclear-disarmament movement won't look like the one in 1980, when British historian E.P. Thompson inspired an anti-nuclear revival (and a Discharge song) with his pamphlet Protest and Survive. No document could land with that kind of impact in 2017, even if the public was primed for it. But it is possible to imagine such a movement, thanks to the recent emergence of  grassroots causes possessed of vitality and drive, from Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock. This is something to build on, above ground, and without being paralyzed by fear.

Alexander Zaitchik is a freelance journalist living in New Orleans.

Desus and Mero Discuss Trump’s Strange Speech at a Women’s Empowerment Panel

Donald Trump seems to have a propensity for talking about historic figures as if they were still alive today. Take for instance the president's Black History Month speech, where he made it seem like Frederick Douglass was a civil rights newbie with a promising career ahead of him. 

This week, Donald Trump spoke at a women's empowerment panel and gave some of our nation's greatest figures, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman, the same treatment. At one point he lauded Anthony and asked the women in the room if they had ever heard of her. 

Thursday night on Desus & Mero, the hosts discussed Trump's strange speech, and how he would really feel about Harriet Tubman if she actually were around today.

You can watch all of this week's episodes of Desus & Mero for free online now, and be sure to catch new episodes weeknights at 11 PM on VICELAND.

Mice Have Been Mooching off Humans For an Astounding 15,000 Years

The common house mouse is one of the most recognizable creatures on the planet, yet we know surprisingly little about the origins of this crafty rodent. New research shows that house mice first entered human settlements far earlier than previously thought—but they had to fight a rival species to maintain their status…

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