brdgt: (Evil by call_me_daisy)
Yesterday, I took a break from researching to go to a talk that sounded interesting, “Slave Medicine and the Banality of Evil.”

I have to say, I don't usually find historical talks given by physicians that interesting, but this was not only fascinating, but it also gave me some really great ideas about teaching race and medicine in the future.

A brief summary of the talk: Starting with a physician's bill, Halperin discussed the role of doctors in slavery - from ship physicians who got paid more if slaves arrived here alive and healthy, to plantation physicians who were kept on retainer by slave owners to treat their slaves. He then transitioned to the issue of the "banality of evil," a term you are probably familiar with from Hannah Arendt and the Nuremberg Trial. Arendt's point is that while we often ascribe evil to sociopaths (like Hitler), the greatest evil is when ordinary people participate in evil because they think it is normal. In regards to physicians who treated slaves, they partipated in the perpetuation of a system that they saw, perhaps more than any other class of persons, how evil it was and still considered themselves objective, above politics, and "doing no harm."

When I teach this subject the go-to topic is the Tuskeegee Syphillis Study - we try to break student's (especially pre-med students') belief that it was an isolated incident (in fact, it is *very* represenative of medicine at the time) and that physicians and medicine reflect the society they live in. The analogy to Halperin's talk seemed obvious at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized his example was so much more powerful - his physicians wanted their patients to live and be healthy - the Tuskeegee physicians wanted to bring their patients to autopsy.

It's easy for students to black box the Nazis or Tuskeegee as an exception carried out by evil people, but physicians who treated slaves? They actually gave their patients the best care they could (it was in their financial best interest to do so) - in order to send those slaves back to work...
brdgt: (History by iconomicon)

How Christian Were the Founders?
By RUSSELL SHORTO, The New York Times, February 14, 2010

LAST MONTH, A WEEK before the Senate seat of the liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy fell into Republican hands, his legacy suffered another blow that was perhaps just as damaging, if less noticed. It happened during what has become an annual spectacle in the culture wars.

Over two days, more than a hundred people — Christians, Jews, housewives, naval officers, professors; people outfitted in everything from business suits to military fatigues to turbans to baseball caps — streamed through the halls of the William B. Travis Building in Austin, Tex., waiting for a chance to stand before the semicircle of 15 high-backed chairs whose occupants made up the Texas State Board of Education. Each petitioner had three minutes to say his or her piece.

“Please keep César Chávez” was the message of an elderly Hispanic man with a floppy gray mustache.

“Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world and should be included in the curriculum,” a woman declared.

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.

McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagan’s “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.

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F, 18, Seeks Victorian Gentleman
By PAM EPSTEIN, The New York Times, February 14, 2010

VALENTINE’S DAY 2010: Singles search for love by creating profiles on dating Web sites or posting ads on Craigslist or connecting to a far-flung network via social media. It sounds so ... futuristic. Except it’s not.

Americans have been writing and reading personals — anonymous love notes, laments of missed connections, offers of marriage — for generations. In the 19th century, as cities experienced enormous population growth, men and women invented new ways to find partners in an increasingly atomized world. Amorous advertisements abounded in newspapers around the country; the ads became so popular that one letter-writing manual even offered model replies.

Victorian critics derided the mostly male advertisers as wicked seducers, but the ads were a favorite among readers, who found them titillating glimpses into the hearts of strangers. Though the ads below, taken from the pages of The New York Herald, are certainly less racy than what readers might find in publications today, they also feel surprisingly familiar, reminding us, perhaps, that we are not so different from our 19th-century counterparts — at least when it comes to looking for love.

If the young lady wearing the pink dress, spotted fur cape and muff, had light hair, light complexion and blue eyes, who was in company with a lady dressed in black, that I passed about 5 o’clock on Friday evening in South Seventh Street, between First and Second, Williamsburg, L.I., will address a line to Waldo, Williamsburg Post Office, she will make the acquaintance of a fine young man.

Jan. 19, 1862

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brdgt: (Skeletons by iconomicon)
Basics: Skipping Spouse to Spouse Isn’t Just a Man’s Game
By NATALIE ANGIER, The New York Times, September 1, 2009

In the United States and much of the Western world, when a couple divorces, the average income of the woman and her dependent children often plunges by 20 percent or more, while that of her now unfettered ex, who had been the family’s primary breadwinner but who rarely ends up paying in child support what he had contributed to the household till, climbs accordingly. The born-again bachelor is therefore perfectly positioned to attract a new, younger wife and begin building another family.

Small wonder that many Darwinian-minded observers of human mating customs have long contended that serial monogamy is really just a socially sanctioned version of harem-building. By this conventional evolutionary psychology script, the man who skips from one nubile spouse to another over time is, like the sultan who hoards the local maidenry in a single convenient location, simply seeking to “maximize his reproductive fitness,” to sire as many children as possible with as many wives as possible. It is the preferred male strategy, especially for powerful men, right? Sequentially or synchronously, he-men consort polygynously.

Or is it... )

First Trace of Color Found in Fossil Bird Feathers
By CARL ZIMMER, The New York Times, September 1, 2009

Birds, more than any other group of animals, are a celebration of color. They have evolved to every extreme of the spectrum, from the hot pink of flamingos to the shimmering blue of a peacock’s neck. Yet, for decades, paleontologists who study extinct birds have had to use their imaginations to see the colors in the fossils. Several feather fossils have been unearthed over the years, but they have always been assumed to be colorless vestiges.

Now a team of scientists has discovered color-producing molecules that have survived for 47 million years in the fossil of a feather. By analyzing those molecules, the researchers have shown that they would have given a bird the kind of dark, iridescent sheen found on starlings and other living birds.

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Essay: Finding a Scapegoat When Epidemics Strike
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr., The New York Times, September 1, 2009

Whose fault was the Black Death?

In medieval Europe, Jews were blamed so often, and so viciously, that it is surprising it was not called the Jewish Death. During the pandemic’s peak in Europe, from 1348 to 1351, more than 200 Jewish communities were wiped out, their inhabitants accused of spreading contagion or poisoning wells.

The swine flu outbreak of 2009 has been nowhere near as virulent, and neither has the reaction. But, as in pandemics throughout history, someone got the blame — at first Mexico, with attacks on Mexicans in other countries and calls from American politicians to close the border.

In May, a Mexican soccer player who said he was called a “leper” by a Chilean opponent spat on his tormentor; Chilean news media accused him of germ warfare. In June, Argentines stoned Chilean buses, saying they were importing disease. When Argentina’s caseload soared, European countries warned their citizens against visiting it.

“When disease strikes and humans suffer,” said Dr. Liise-anne Pirofski, chief of infectious diseases at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an expert on the history of epidemics, “the need to understand why is very powerful. And, unfortunately, identification of a scapegoat is sometimes inevitable.”

Read More... )
brdgt: (History by iconomicon)
The latest issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine has an article about a physician in nineteenth century America. He married the daughter of Fanny Kemble, who sounded like a fascinating woman so I looked her up on Wikipedia:

"A member of the famous Kemble theatrical family, Fanny was the oldest daughter of actor Charles Kemble and the niece of noted tragedienne Sarah Siddons and of the famous actor John Philip Kemble. Her younger sister was opera singer Adelaide Kemble. Fanny was born in London, and educated chiefly in France.

On 26 October 1829, Fanny Kemble first appeared on the stage as Juliet at Covent Garden. Her attractive personality at once made her a great favorite, her popularity enabling her father to recoup his losses as a manager. She played all the principal women's parts, notably Portia, Beatrice and Lady Teazle, but perhaps her greatest role, not as a lead part, was especially written for her when she played Julia in James Sheridan Knowles' The Hunchback....

In 1834, she retired from the stage to marry an American, Pierce Butler, grandson of the Founding Father Pierce Butler, and heir to a large fortune founded on cotton, tobacco and rice. When the couple married, he was not a slaveholder, but by the time their two daughters, Sarah and Frances were born, Pierce Butler had inherited his grandfather's sea island plantations and the several hundred slaves who worked them. Fanny accompanied him to Georgia during the winter of 1838-39, and was shocked by the conditions of the slaves and their treatment. She tried to better their conditions and complained to her husband about slavery. When she left his plantations in the spring of 1839, debates about slavery and marital tensions continued. The couple were divorced in 1849, with Butler keeping custody of the two daughters until they came of age. Fanny was reunited with each of her girls when they turned 21.

In 1847, Fanny returned to the stage. This was due more to a need to find a way to support herself following her separation and eventual divorce from Butler than to any real interest in acting. Later, following her father's example, Fanny Kemble appeared with much success as a Shakespearean reader, touring from Massachusetts to Michigan, from Chicago to Washington, winning new audiences to the Bard.

Butler squandered a fortune estimated at $700,000, but was saved from bankruptcy by the March 2-3, 1859 sale of his 436 slaves at Ten Broeck racetrack, outside Savannah, Georgia -- the largest single slave auction in American history.[1] Following the American Civil War, he tried to make his plantations profitable with free labor, but was unsuccessful. Butler died in Georgia, of malaria, in 1867. Neither he nor Fanny ever remarried.

She kept a diary about her life on the Georgia plantation, which was circulated among abolitionists prior to the American Civil War, and was published both in England and the United States once the war broke out. She continued to be outspoken on the subject of slavery, and often donated money from her readings to charitable causes.

In Journal of A Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, published in 1863, Kemble wrote, "I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty. Knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution."

In 1877, Fanny returned to England, where she lived using her maiden name till her death. During this period, Fanny Kemble was a prominent and popular figure in the social life of London. She became a great friend of and inspiration for Henry James during her later years. His novel Washington Square (1880) was based upon a story Fanny had told him concerning one of her relatives.

Besides her plays, Francis the First (1832), The Star of Seville (1837), a volume of poems (1844), and an Italian travel book, A Year of Consolation (1847), she published the first volume of her memoirs, Journal in 1835, and in 1863, another, Journal of Residence on a Georgian Plantation (dealing with life on the Georgia plantation), as well as a volume of plays, including translations from Alexandre Dumas, père and Friedrich Schiller. These were followed by Records of a Girlhood (1878), Records of Later Life (1882), Notes on Some of Shakespeare's Plays (1882), Far Away and Long Ago (1889), and Further Records (1891). Her various volumes of reminiscences contain much valuable material illuminating the social and dramatic history of the period.

Her elder daughter Sarah married a doctor, Owen Jones Wister, and they had one child, Owen Wister (b. 1860), the popular American novelist and author of the 1902 western novel, The Virginian."

brdgt: (Pollen death balls by iconomicon)
In Maryland, Focus on Poultry Industry Pollution
By IAN URBINA, The New York Times, November 29, 2008

WILLARDS, Md. — Standing before a two-story-tall pile of chicken manure, Lee Richardson pondered how times had changed.

“When I left school and started working the land, this stuff was seen as farmer’s gold,” said Mr. Richardson, 38, a fifth-generation chicken grower, explaining that the waste was an ideal fertilizer for the region’s sandy soil. “Now, it’s too much of a good thing.”

How to handle the 650 million pounds of chicken manure produced in the state each year has sparked a fierce debate between environmentalists and the state’s powerful poultry industry. State officials hope to bring Maryland in line with most other states next month by enacting new rules for where, how and how long chicken farmers can spread the manure on their fields or store it in outdoor piles.

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Preserving the City: Preservationists See Bulldozers Charging Through a Loophole
By ROBIN POGREBIN, The New York Times, November 29, 2008

Hours before the sun came up on a cool October morning in 2006, people living near the Dakota Stables on the Upper West Side were suddenly awakened by the sound of a jackhammer.

Soon word spread that a demolition crew was hacking away at the brick cornices of the stables, an 1894 Romanesque Revival building, on Amsterdam Avenue at 77th Street, that once housed horses and carriages but had long served as a parking garage.

In just four days the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was to hold a public hearing on pleas dating back 20 years to designate the low-rise building, with its round-arched windows and serpentine ornamentation, as a historic landmark.

But once the building’s distinctive features had been erased, the battle was lost. The commission went ahead with its hearing, but ultimately decided not to designate the structure because it had been irreparably changed. Today a 16-story luxury condominium designed by Robert A. M. Stern is rising on the site: the Related Companies is asking from $765,000 for a studio to $7 million or more for a five-bedroom unit in the building.

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A Land Rush in Wyoming Spurred by Wind Power
By FELICITY BARRINGER, The New York Times, November 28, 2008

WHEATLAND, Wyo. — The man who came to Elsie Bacon’s ranch house door in July asked the 71-year-old widow to grant access to a right of way across the dry hills and short grasses of her land here. Ms. Bacon remembered his insistence on a quick, secret deal.

The man, a representative of the Little Rose Wind Farm of Boulder, Colo., sought an easement for a transmission line to carry his company’s wind-generated electricity to market. His offer: a fraction of the value of similar deals in the area. As Ms. Bacon, 71, recalled it: “He said, ‘You sure I can’t write you out a check?’ He was really pushy.”

A quiet land rush is under way among the buttes of southeastern Wyoming, and it is changing the local rancher culture. The whipping winds cursed by descendants of the original homesteaders now have real value for out-of-state developers who dream of wind farms or of selling the rights to bigger companies.

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brdgt: (Bag of Trouble by iconomicon)
Findings: In Bias Test, Shades of Gray
By JOHN TIERNEY, The New York Times, November 18, 2008

Last year, a team of researchers at Harvard made headlines with an experiment testing unconscious bias at hospitals. Doctors were shown the picture of a 50-year-old man — sometimes black, sometimes white — and asked how they would treat him if he arrived at the emergency room with chest pains indicating a possible heart attack. Then the doctors took a computer test intended to reveal unconscious racial bias.

The doctors who scored higher on the bias test were less likely than the other doctors to give clot-busting drugs to the black patients, according to the researchers, who suggested addressing the problem by encouraging doctors to test themselves for unconscious bias. The results were hailed by other psychologists as some of the strongest evidence that unconscious bias leads to harmful discrimination.

But then two other researchers, Neal Dawson and Hal Arkes, pointed out a curious pattern in the data. Even though most of the doctors registered some antiblack bias, as defined by the researchers, on the whole doctors ended up prescribing the clot-busting drugs to blacks just as often as to whites. The doctors scoring low on bias had a pronounced preference for giving the drugs to blacks, while high-scoring doctors had a relatively small preference for giving the drugs to whites — meaning that the more “biased” doctors actually treated blacks and whites more equally.

Does this result really prove dangerous bias in the emergency room? Or, as critics suggest, does it illustrate problems with the way researchers have been using split-second reactions on a computer test to diagnose an epidemic of racial bias?

Read More... )

Observatory: Using a Variety of Tools, Researchers Unravel Tale of German Graves
By HENRY FOUNTAIN, The New York Times, November 18, 2008

Three years ago, archaeologists in Germany made what they described as a lucky find: a group of four graves near the Saale River, dating back to the Late Stone Age, 4,600 years ago. The graves contained two to four bodies each, adults and young children, all buried at the same time. The bodies were arranged in such a way — face to face in some cases, with arms and hands linked — that clearly the site told a tale.

Using DNA analysis and other techniques, Wolfgang Haak and Guido Brandt of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and colleagues have pieced together parts of the story. Their findings are in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One of the graves contained a woman with three children, at least two of whom were not hers. The researchers suggest the woman might be their aunt or a stepmother. Another grave contained a family of four, according to the analysis — making it the oldest molecular genetic evidence of a nuclear family ever obtained.

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Found: An Ancient Monument to the Soul
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, The New York Times, November 18, 2008

In a mountainous kingdom in what is now southeastern Turkey, there lived in the eighth century B.C. a royal official, Kuttamuwa, who oversaw the completion of an inscribed stone monument, or stele, to be erected upon his death. The words instructed mourners to commemorate his life and afterlife with feasts “for my soul that is in this stele.”

University of Chicago archaeologists who made the discovery last summer in ruins of a walled city near the Syrian border said the stele provided the first written evidence that the people in this region held to the religious concept of the soul apart from the body. By contrast, Semitic contemporaries, including the Israelites, believed that the body and soul were inseparable, which for them made cremation unthinkable, as noted in the Bible.

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For Tasmanian Devils, Hope Against a Wily Cancer
By ERICA REX, The New York Times, November 18, 2008

They’re inky black, pointy-eared, furry and, in a fierce sort of way, cute. And in May of this year, they were added to Australia’s endangered species list.

Ordinarily solitary, Tasmanian devils commune only to feast on carrion and to mate in short-lived passionate couplings during which they tear each other to ribbons. Their spine-decalcifying caterwauls — a sequence of whuffings, snarlings and growlings — have evoked satanic visions since the first European settlers arrived on the island of Tasmania over a century ago.

“Parents used to tell their kids: ‘Don’t go out into the bush because the devil will get you,’ ” recalled Dr. Greg Woods, an associate professor of immunology at Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital.

But in the past decade, the Tasmanian devil has been trapped in a purgatory of its own. Since 1996, a deadly cancer, devil facial tumor disease, has preyed on the devil. Its population plummeted to fewer than 50,000 from about 150,000, said Dr. Hamish McCallum, senior scientist with the Devil Facial Tumour Disease Program at the University of Tasmania.

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Personal Health: Caring for Family, Caring for Yourself
By JANE E. BRODY, The New York Times, November 18, 2008

Whether you choose to be a family caregiver or the job is thrust upon you by circumstances, your most important responsibility beyond caring for your ill or disabled relative is caring for yourself.

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F.D.A. Scientists Accuse Agency Officials of Misconduct
By GARDINER HARRIS, The New York Times, November 18, 2008

WASHINGTON — Top federal health officials engaged in “serious misconduct” by ignoring concerns of scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and approving for sale unsafe or ineffective medical devices, the scientists have written in a letter to Congress.

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brdgt: (Mammoth love by iconomicon)
Findings: As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen
By JOHN TIERNEY, The New York Times, September 9, 2008

When men and women take personality tests, some of the old Mars-Venus stereotypes keep reappearing. On average, women are more cooperative, nurturing, cautious and emotionally responsive. Men tend to be more competitive, assertive, reckless and emotionally flat. Clear differences appear in early childhood and never disappear.

What’s not clear is the origin of these differences. Evolutionary psychologists contend that these are innate traits inherited from ancient hunters and gatherers. Another school of psychologists asserts that both sexes’ personalities have been shaped by traditional social roles, and that personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.

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Urology Field Slowly Altered, by Women
By BARRON H. LERNER, M.D, The New York Times, September 9, 2008

The urology rotation during my third year of medical school might best be described as a boys’ club, often characterized by infighting, one-upmanship and sexual humor. It was a little off-putting to many students, but always entertaining.

So imagine my surprise when a female medical student recently told me that she loved her urology rotation, in which she found the doctors to be especially humanistic and caring. A big part of the reason, she believed, was the growing presence of women among her teachers. It turns out that the field of urology is undergoing a gender transformation.

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Observatory: Dual Citizenship for Woolly Mammoth
By HENRY FOUNTAIN, The New York Times, September 9, 2008

It is common to think of the land bridge that existed from time to time across what is now the Bering Strait as a one-way affair. After all, the route through the area known as Beringia is thought to be how many animals and humans made their way out of Asia and into North America.

But there were no “Eastbound Only” signs. Some animals — camel ancestors, for example — went the other way, from North America into Asia. And there is no reason that a species could not go both ways, if conditions were right. That appears to be the case with the woolly mammoth, according to a major phylogenetic analysis.

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ROCK OF AGES Ekkehart Malotki, at top with Archaic paintings in New Mexico, studies rock art in the Southwest. His photographs include a labyrinth design near Wintersburg, Ariz., above, and meanders, left, near Perry Mesa.

Down Canyons and Up Cliffs, Pursuing Southwest’s Ancient Art
By ANNE MINARD, The New York Times, September 9, 2008

In his mid-60s, Ekkehart Malotki, a retired linguistics professor, willingly dangled from a rope tied to a car that was backed to the edge of a cliff. A half-dozen times, he descended with his rope, photographed the cliff face and climbed back up.

He was documenting a rock art panel a quarter-mile long in northern Arizona. These adventures are commonplace for Dr. Malotki, a German-born American who is now 69.

Dr. Malotki fell in love with America’s desert Southwest as a 20-something graduate student of languages at the University of California, San Diego. There, he debunked the longstanding notion that the Hopi tribe of northern Arizona did not talk about time. He believes time is a fundamental, universal concept that is likely to appear in the words of any human culture, and with respect to the Hopi, he was right. As a linguist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Dr. Malotki spent decades chronicling the nuanced Hopi tongue.

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brdgt: (But Here's What Really Happened by Icono)
Handle With Care
By CORNELIA DEAN, The New York Times, August 12, 2008

Last year, a private company proposed “fertilizing” parts of the ocean with iron, in hopes of encouraging carbon-absorbing blooms of plankton. Meanwhile, researchers elsewhere are talking about injecting chemicals into the atmosphere, launching sun-reflecting mirrors into stationary orbit above the earth or taking other steps to reset the thermostat of a warming planet.

This technology might be useful, even life-saving. But it would inevitably produce environmental effects impossible to predict and impossible to undo. So a growing number of experts say it is time for broad discussion of how and by whom it should be used, or if it should be tried at all.

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Surpassing Nature, Scientists Bend Light Backward
By KENNETH CHANG, The New York Times, August 12, 2008

Using tiny wires and fishnet structures, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found new ways to bend light backward, something that never occurs in nature.

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Prescriptions for Health, the Environmental Kind
By AMANDA SCHAFFER, The New York Times, August 12, 2008

In a bright studio at New York University, Natalie Jeremijenko welcomes visitors to her environmental health clinic. She wears a white lab coat with a rotated red cross on the pocket. A clipboard with intake forms hangs by the door.

Inside, circuit boards, respirators, light bulbs, bike helmets and books on green design clutter the high shelves. In front of a bamboo consultation desk sits a mock medicine cabinet, which turns out to be filled with power tools.

Dr. Jeremijenko, an Australian artist, designer and engineer, invites members of the public to the clinic to discuss personal environmental concerns like air and water quality. Sitting at the consultation desk, she also offers them concrete remedies or “prescriptions” for change, much as a medical clinic might offer prescriptions for drugs.

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Science Visuals: How the First Farmers Colonized the Mediterranean
By NICHOLAS WADE, The New York Times, August 11, 2008

The invention of agriculture was a pivotal event in human history, but archaeologists studying its origins may have made a simple error in dating the domestication of animals like sheep and goats. The signal of the process, they believed, was the first appearance in the archaeological record of smaller boned animals. But in fact this reflects just a switch to culling females, which are smaller than males, concludes Melinda Zeder, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution.

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brdgt: (Pollen death balls by iconomicon)

Scientist at Work | David Pritchard: The Worms Crawl In
By ELIZABETH SVOBODA, The New York Times, July 1, 2008

Can hookworms protect against allergies? In a quest to find out, David Pritchard infected himself. )

Uncovering Evidence of a Workaday World Along the Nile
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, The New York Times, July 1, 2008

A new excavation sheds light on the living and working spaces of ordinary Egyptians. )

Really? The Claim: Mayonnaise Can Increase Risk of Food Poisoning
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times, July 1, 2008

Food poisoning typically spikes this time of year, and mayonnaise always attracts suspicion. )

The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating
New York Times, June 30, 2008

The 11 best Foods you aren't eating )
brdgt: (Pollen death balls by iconomicon)

For Alien Life-Seekers, New Reason to Hope
By NATALIE ANGIER, The New York Times, June 24, 2008

To some theorists, an announcement last week virtually guarantees the existence of other Earthlike worlds. )

Homecoming of Odysseus May Have Been in Eclipse
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, The New York Times, June 24, 2008

Two scientists have concluded that the homecoming of Odysseus possibly coincided with a solar eclipse in 1178 B.C. )

Vital Signs: Safety: Deaths Soar After Repeal of Helmet Law
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR, The New York Times, June 24, 2008

In 2003, Pennsylvania legislators repealed a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Researchers who studied deaths and injuries over the next two years say that decision had lethal, and expensive, consequences. )

Drug-Resistant High Blood Pressure on the Rise
By BRENDA GOODMAN, The New York Times, June 24, 2008

High blood pressure, the most commonly diagnosed condition in the United States, is becoming increasingly resistant to drugs that lower it, according to a panel of experts assembled by the American Heart Association. )

Tropical Diseases Add to Burden Among the Poor in the U.S.
By DONALD G. McNEIL JR, The New York Times, June 24, 2008

Ailments of poverty, including some tropical diseases, are a burden in several regions of the United States, a new analysis finds. )

Home Depot Offers Recycling for Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM, The New York Times, June 24, 2008

Home Depot’s move will create the nation’s most widespread recycling program for the energy-saving bulbs, which have to be properly disposed of since they contain small amounts of mercury.The New York Times )
brdgt: (Scientist by wurlocke)

Hair Analysis Deflates Napoleon Poisoning Theories
By WILLIAM J. BROAD, The New York Times, June 10, 2008

Was Napoleon poisoned?

For decades, scholars and scientists have argued that the exiled dictator, who died in 1821 on the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, was the victim of arsenic, whether by accident or design.

The murder theory held that his British captors poisoned him; the accident theory said that colored wallpaper in his bedroom contained an arsenic-based dye that mold transformed into poisonous fumes.
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Among Scientific Treasures, a Gem
By DENNIS OVERBYE, The New York Times, June 10, 2008

One thing you can say about the copy of Nicolaus Copernicus’s book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”), on sale next week at Christie’s auction house, is that it looks and feels old.

Its cover is dented and stained. The pages are warped. You could easily imagine that this book had sat out half a dozen revolutions hidden in various dank basements in Europe.

In fact this book, published in 1543, was the revolution. It was here that the Polish astronomer laid out his theory that the Earth and other planets go around the Sun, contravening a millennium of church dogma that the Earth was the center of the universe and launching a frenzy of free thought and scientific inquiry.
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Physicists in Congress Calculate Their Influence
By CORNELIA DEAN, The New York Times, June 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — According to the Congressional Research Service, there are only about 30 scientists among the 535 senators and representatives in the 110th Congress, and that is counting the psychologist, the psychiatrist, a dozen other M.D.’s, three nurses, an engineer, two veterinarians, a pharmacist and an optometrist.

But physics is on a roll.
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Well: Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage
By TARA PARKER-POPE, The New York Times, June 10, 2008

For insights into healthy marriages, social scientists are looking in an unexpected place.

A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. Most studies show surprisingly few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships.

The findings offer hope that some of the most vexing problems are not necessarily entrenched in deep-rooted biological differences between men and women. And that, in turn, offers hope that the problems can be solved.
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Really? The Claim: Ice Is Good for a Skin Burn
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times, June 10, 2008


Like a cup of tea for a cough, a batch of ice for a sunburn may seem like the perfect remedy for millions of Americans who will spend a little too much time in the sun this summer.

But many home remedies that seem like common sense are less than helpful, and the old ice-for-a-burn technique is no exception. It can help soothe some initial pain, but in the end it will slow the healing process.
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brdgt: (Pollen death balls by iconomicon)

Who Is the Walrus?
By NATALIE ANGIER, The New York Times, May 20, 2008

I was about to meet a walrus for the first time in my life, and I felt fabulous. After all, Ronald J. Schusterman of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has studied them for years, had assured me over the phone that to meet a walrus was to fall in love with walruses — the mammals were that smart, friendly and playful. “They’re pussycats!” he said.

Phoenix Lander Is Ready for Risky Descent to Mars
By WARREN E. LEARY, The New York Times, May 20, 2008

To get to the ice, you have to go through the fire.

A spacecraft now completing a nine-month journey from Earth to Mars must survive a fiery, risky descent to the Red Planet to have a chance to scoop up water ice believed buried under an arctic plain.

After traveling 422 million miles since its launching last Aug. 4, NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander is aiming for a touchdown on Sunday in the unexplored northern regions of Mars. But first, it must survive what its developers call the final “seven minutes of terror” to reach the surface.
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Project Digitizes Works From the Golden Age of Timbuktu
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, The New York Times, May 20, 2008

From Timbuktu to here, to reverse the expression, the written words of the legendary African oasis are being delivered by electronic caravan. A lode of books and manuscripts, some only recently rescued from decay, is being digitized for the Internet and distributed to scholars worldwide.

These are works of law and history, science and medicine, poetry and theology, relics of Timbuktu’s golden age as a crossroads in Mali for trade in gold, salt and slaves along the southern edge of the Sahara. If the name is now a synonym for mysterious remoteness, the literature attests to Timbuktu’s earlier role as a vibrant intellectual center.
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Basics: Noble Eagles, Nasty Pigeons, Biased Humans
By NATALIE ANGIER, The New York Times, April 29, 2008

The other day I glanced out my window and felt a twinge of revulsion delicately seasoned with indignation. Pecking at my bird feeder were two brown-headed cowbirds, one male and one female, and I knew what that meant. Pretty soon the fattened, fertilized female would be slipping her eggs into some other birds’ nest, with the expectation that the naïve hosts would brood, feed and rear her squawking, ravenous young at the neglect and even death of their own.

Hey, you parasites, get your beaks off my seed, I thought angrily. That feeder is for the good birds, the birds that I like — the cardinals, the nuthatches, the black-capped chickadees, the tufted titmice, the woodpeckers, the goldfinches. It’s for the hard-working birds with enough moral fiber to rear their own families and look photogenic besides. It’s not meant for sneaky freeloaders like you. I rapped on the window sharply but the birds didn’t budge, and as I stood there wondering whether I should run out and scare them away, their beaks seemed to thicken, their eyes blacken, and I could swear they were cackling, “Tippi Hedren must go.”

In sum, I was suffering from a severe case of biobigotry: the persistent and often irrational desire to be surrounded only by those species of which one approves, and to exclude any animals, plants and other life forms that one finds offensive.
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Essay: A Great Pox’s Greatest Feat: Staying Alive
By MARLENE ZUK, The New York Times, April 29, 2008

The findings were hardly earth-shaking. They dealt with an obscure bacterial infection found in an equally obscure group of natives in Guyana. Nonetheless, they made headlines.

Why? Because the disease was syphilis. The new research suggested that syphilis originated as a skin ailment in South America, and then spread to Europe, where it became sexually transmitted and was later reintroduced to the New World.

The origin of syphilis has always held an implied accusation: if Europeans brought it to the New World, the disease is one more symbol of Western imperialism run amok, one more grudge to hold against colonialism. Sexually transmitted diseases have always taken on moralistic overtones — they seem like the price of pleasure. We tell ourselves that if we can just make everyone behave responsibly, we can halt the attack.
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Really? The Claim: Tilt Your Head Back to Treat a Nosebleed
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times, April 29, 2008


Most people know the right way to stop a nosebleed: lean the head back and apply pressure to the nose.

But medical experts say that what most people know about nosebleeds is wrong. Tilting the head back, a technique widely considered proper first aid, can create complications by allowing blood into the esophagus. It risks choking, and it can cause blood to travel to the stomach, possibly leading to irritation and vomiting.
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brdgt: (Scientist by wurlocke)
Hermaphrodite Frogs Found in Suburban Ponds
By FELICITY BARRINGER, The New York Times, April 8, 2008

Just as frogs’ mating season arrives, a study by a Yale professor raises a troubling issue. How many frogs will be clear on their role in the annual springtime ritual?

Common frogs that make their homes in suburban areas are more likely than their rural counterparts to develop the reproductive abnormalities previously found in fish in the Potomac and Mississippi Rivers, according to the study by David Skelly, a professor of ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

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A New York City subway car being added to an artificial reef off the coast of Delaware. The reef’s success has led to crowding for marine life and fishermen.

Growing Pains for a Deep-Sea Home Built of Subway Cars
By IAN URBINA, The New York Times, April 8, 2008

SLAUGHTER BEACH, Del. — Sixteen nautical miles from the Indian River Inlet and about 80 feet underwater, a building boom is under way at the Red Bird Reef.

One by one, a machine operator has been shoving hundreds of retired New York City subway cars off a barge, continuing the transformation of a barren stretch of ocean floor into a bountiful oasis, carpeted in sea grasses, walled thick with blue mussels and sponges, and teeming with black sea bass and tautog.

“They’re basically luxury condominiums for fish,” Jeff Tinsman, artificial reef program manager for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said as one of 48 of the 19-ton retirees from New York City sank toward the 666 already on the ocean floor.

But now, Delaware is struggling with the misfortune of its own success.

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The ruins of an Anasazi home near the Chimney Rock buttes in southern Colorado.

Vanished: A Pueblo Mystery
By GEORGE JOHNSON, The New York Times, April 8, 2008

Perched on a lonesome bluff above the dusty San Pedro River, about 30 miles east of Tucson, the ancient stone ruin archaeologists call the Davis Ranch Site doesn’t seem to fit in. Staring back from the opposite bank, the tumbled walls of Reeve Ruin are just as surprising.

Some 700 years ago, as part of a vast migration, a people called the Anasazi, driven by God knows what, wandered from the north to form settlements like these, stamping the land with their own unique style.

“Salado polychrome,” says a visiting archaeologist turning over a shard of broken pottery. Reddish on the outside and patterned black and white on the inside, it stands out from the plainer ware made by the Hohokam, whose territory the wanderers had come to occupy.

These Anasazi newcomers — archaeologists have traced them to the mesas and canyons around Kayenta, Ariz., not far from the Hopi reservation — were distinctive in other ways. They liked to build with stone (the Hohokam used sticks and mud), and their kivas, like those they left in their homeland, are unmistakable: rectangular instead of round, with a stone bench along the inside perimeter, a central hearth and a sipapu, or spirit hole, symbolizing the passage through which the first people emerged from mother earth.

“You could move this up to Hopi and not tell the difference,” said John A. Ware, the archaeologist leading the field trip, as he examined a Davis Ranch kiva. Finding it down here is a little like stumbling across a pagoda on the African veldt.

For five days in late February, Dr. Ware, the director of the Amerind Foundation, an archaeological research center in Dragoon, Ariz., was host to 15 colleagues as they confronted the most vexing and persistent question in Southwestern archaeology: Why, in the late 13th century, did thousands of Anasazi abandon Kayenta, Mesa Verde and the other magnificent settlements of the Colorado Plateau and move south into Arizona and New Mexico?

Scientists once thought the answer lay in impersonal factors like the onset of a great drought or a little ice age. But as evidence accumulates, those explanations have come to seem too pat — and slavishly deterministic. Like people today, the Anasazi (or Ancient Puebloans, as they are increasingly called) were presumably complex beings with the ability to make decisions, good and bad, about how to react to a changing environment. They were not pawns but players in the game.

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brdgt: (Pollen death balls by iconomicon)
A short one to start off with - I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to pay more attention to heat waves; they kill more people in the United States every year than all other natural disasters combined. And, as this article indicates, it's not just a matter of "sucking it up, it's summer."

Heat Waves Are Getting Longer
By ANDREW C. REVKIN, The New York Times, August 7, 2007

Researchers studying western European temperature records have found that the length of heat waves there has doubled since 1880, from 1.5 days to 3 days on average. They also say that the number of summer days that are far hotter than the average for a particular date has tripled. The team described its work in the current issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. The scientists, led by Paul M. Della-Marta of the University of Bern in Switzerland, said the findings supported the idea that global warming from human activities could be making Europe more prone to extreme conditions. They recommended that health agencies in the region work on ways to limit human health risks from summer heat.

This is one that I've noticed anecdotally. I have very fair skin and burn easily, but even after SPF 15, I don't notice much of a difference in protection.

Really? The Claim: With Sunscreens, High SPF Ratings Are Best
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times, August 7, 2007


Everyone knows that an SPF rating of 60 provides double the protection of SPF 30 — or does it?
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I just love Natalie Angier...

Basics: Its Poor Reputation Aside, Our Fat Is Doing Us a Favor
By NATALIE ANGIER, The New York Times, August 7, 2007

In this country, the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure is liposuction: doctors vacuum out something like two million pounds of fat from the thighs, bellies, buttocks, jowls and man-breasts of 325,000 people a year. What happens to all that extracted adipose tissue? It’s bagged and disposed of as medical waste; or maybe, given the recent news about socially contagious fat, it’s sent by FedEx to the patients’ old college chums. But one thing the fat surely is not, and that is given due thanks for serving as scapegoat, and for a job well done.
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I especially like her because she's an evolutionary psychologist without the determinism, unlike many others *cough*see below*cough* If you haven't read her book, Woman: An Intimate Geography you really should.

In Dusty Archives, a Theory of Affluence
By NICHOLAS WADE, The New York Times, August 7, 2007

For thousands of years, most people on earth lived in abject poverty, first as hunters and gatherers, then as peasants or laborers. But with the Industrial Revolution, some societies traded this ancient poverty for amazing affluence.

Historians and economists have long struggled to understand how this transition occurred and why it took place only in some countries. A scholar who has spent the last 20 years scanning medieval English archives has now emerged with startling answers for both questions.

Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.
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brdgt: (Goodbye by lipsofpoison)

"We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another."

-J. Robert Oppenheimer, describing the initial reactions to the very first nuclear bomb, Trinity (the second one was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945), in an interview in 1965.

A victim of the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare is seen in September 1945, at the Ujina Branch of the First Army Hospital in Hiroshima. The explosion's thermic rays burned the pattern of this woman's kimono upon her back.

At the memorial service held at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial 5,221 more names were added to the list of dead, bringing the total number to 253,008. There are currently a total of 251,834 hibakusha (survivors).
brdgt: (Pollen death balls by iconomicon)
A Conversation With Barry Commoner: At 90, an Environmentalist From the ’70s Still Has Hope
By THOMAS VINCIGUERRA, The New York Times, June 19, 2007

Before Al Gore became synonymous with global warming, Barry Commoner was warning the public about the delicate condition of planet Earth. Long associated with the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, Dr. Commoner has for decades been agitating to restore ecological balance to the biosphere, whether by outlawing nuclear testing or spreading the practice of recycling. Time magazine once nicknamed him “the Paul Revere of the environmental movement.”
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Really? The Claim: Hydrogen Peroxide Is a Good Treatment for Small Wounds
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times, June 19, 2007


It is a staple in medicine cabinets everywhere, a first-line treatment for the small cuts and scrapes that a hazardous world can inflict upon our skin. But does hydrogen peroxide really make a difference?
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Archaeologists are finding widespread evidence that the kingdom of Kush once had influence over a 750-mile stretch of the Nile Valley.

Scholars Race to Recover a Lost Kingdom on the Nile
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, The New York Times, June 19, 2007

On the periphery of history in antiquity, there was a land known as Kush. Overshadowed by Egypt, to the north, it was a place of uncharted breadth and depth far up the Nile, a mystery verging on myth. One thing the Egyptians did know and recorded — Kush had gold.

Scholars have come to learn that there was more to the culture of Kush than was previously suspected. From deciphered Egyptian documents and modern archaeological research, it is now known that for five centuries in the second millennium B.C., the kingdom of Kush flourished with the political and military prowess to maintain some control over a wide territory in Africa.

Kush’s governing success would seem to have been anomalous, or else conventional ideas about statehood rest too narrowly on the experiences of early civilizations like Mesopotamia, Egypt and China. How could a fairly complex state society exist without a writing system, an extensive bureaucracy or major urban centers, none of which Kush evidently had?
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UN warns on impacts of biofuels

A UN report warns that a hasty switch to biofuels could have major impacts on livelihoods and the environment.

Produced by a cross-agency body, UN Energy, the report says that biofuels can bring real benefits.

But there can be serious consequences if forests are razed for plantations, if food prices rise and if communities are excluded from ownership, it says.

And it concludes that biofuels are more effective when used for heat and power rather than in transport.

"Current research concludes that using biomass for combined heat and power (CHP), rather than for transport fuels or other uses, is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade - and also one of the cheapest," it says.

The European Union and the US have recently set major targets for the expansion of biofuels in road vehicles, for which ethanol and biodiesel are seen as the only currently viable alternative to petroleum fuels.

brdgt: (Textbooks by iconomicon)
Communist Party USA Gives Its History to N.Y.U.
By PATRICIA COHEN, The New York Times, March 20, 2007

The songwriter, labor organizer and folk hero Joe Hill has been the subject of poems, songs, an opera, books and movies. His will, written in verse the night before a Utah firing squad executed him in 1915 and later put to music, became part of the labor movement’s soundtrack. Now the original copy of that penciled will is among the unexpected historical gems unearthed from a vast collection of papers and photographs never before seen publicly that the Communist Party USA has donated to New York University.
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Diamonds Move From Blood to Sweat and Tears
By LYDIA POLGREEN, The New York Times, March 25, 2007

KOIDU, Sierra Leone — The tiny stone settled into the calloused grooves of Tambaki Kamanda’s palm, its dull yellow glint almost indiscernible even in the noontime glare.

It was the first stone he had found in days, and he expected to get little more than a dollar for it. It hardly seemed worth it, he said — after days spent up to his haunches in mud, digging, washing, searching the gravel for diamonds.

But farming had brought no money for clothes or schoolbooks for his two wives and five children. He could find no work as a mason.

“I don’t have choice,” Mr. Kamanda said, standing calf-deep in brown muddy water here at the Bondobush mine, where he works every day. “This is my only hope, really.”

Diamond mining in Sierra Leone is no longer the bloody affair made infamous by the nation’s decade-long civil war, in which diamonds played a starring role.

The conflict — begun by rebels who claimed to be ridding the mines of foreign control — killed 50,000 people, forced millions to flee their homes, destroyed the country’s economy and shocked the world with its images of amputated limbs and drug-addled boy soldiers.

An international regulatory system created after the war has prevented diamonds from fueling conflicts and financing terrorist networks. Even so, diamond mining in Sierra Leone remains a grim business that brings the government far too little revenue to right the devastated country, yet feeds off the desperation of some of the world’s poorest people. “The process is more to sanitize the industry from the market side rather than the supply side,” said John Kanu, a policy adviser to the Integrated Diamond Management Program, a United States-backed effort to improve the government’s handling of diamond money. “To make it so people could go to buy a diamond ring and to say, ‘Yes, because of this system, there are no longer any blood diamonds. So my love, and my conscience, can sleep easily.’
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Jamestown aims for prominence on anniversary
By Steve Szkotak, Associated Press, USA TODAY

JAMESTOWN, Va. — The first permanent English settlement in North America has more personality than many historic attractions.

Capt. John Smith, the pint-sized adventurer, left a breathless narrative of his exploits.

Commerce took root here, and so did tobacco and slavery.

Then there was the cannibalism.

Still, as the nation prepares to commemorate Jamestown's 400th anniversary in May, many say this swampy outpost on the James River pales in comparison to the Pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock, though fans of the buckled shoe will have to wait until 2020 to mark Plymouth's fourth century.

New Englanders easily tick off why the Massachusetts settlement trumps Jamestown — the Thanksgiving feast, the Pilgrims' pure pursuit of religious freedom, and the Mayflower.

Jamestown, on the other hand, "is the creation story from hell," writes historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman in a new book on the settlement, The Jamestown Project. Conflict, disease, horrific killings and starvation — including a man dining on his pregnant wife — are all part of the back story of Jamestown, founded in 1607 as a business venture.
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brdgt: (Cleopatra by Iconomicon)
On the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, some history related news stories...

Assessing the losses to Iraq's heritage
Source: AFP (3-15-07)

CAIRO -- Archaeology in Iraq these days, explains the new caretaker of the country's 5,000-year-old heritage, is less about making new discoveries than finding out what has already been stolen.
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