Today in History – October 31

Today is Saturday, Oct. 31, the 304th day of 2009. There are 61 days left in the year. This is Halloween. A reminder: Daylight-saving time ends Sunday at 2 a.m. local time. Clocks go back one hour.

Today’s Highlight in History

On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Palace church, marking the start of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.

On this date

In 1864, Nevada became the 36th state.

In 1887, Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese general and president whose regime collapsed to the Communists in 1949, was born.

In 1926, magician Harry Houdini died in Detroit of gangrene and peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix.

In 1938, the day after his “War of the Worlds” broadcast had panicked radio listeners, Orson Welles expressed “deep regret” but also bewilderment that anyone had thought the simulated Martian invasion was real.

In 1941, the Navy destroyer USS Reuben James was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Iceland with the loss of some 100 lives, even though the United States had not yet entered World War II.

In 1956, Rear Admiral G.J. Dufek became the first person to land an airplane at the South Pole.

In 1959, a former U.S. Marine showed up at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to declare he was renouncing his American citizenship so he could live in the Soviet Union. His name: Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1967, Nguyen Van Thieu took the oath of office as the first president of South Vietnam’s second republic.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a halt to all U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, saying he hoped for fruitful peace negotiations.

In 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh security guards.

In 1991, theatrical producer Joseph Papp died at age 70.

In 1992, it was announced that five American nuns in Liberia had been shot to death near the capital Monrovia; the killings were blamed on rebels loyal to Charles Taylor.

In 1993, Italian movie director Federico Fellini died at age 73.

In 1994, a Chicago-bound American Eagle ATR-72 crashed in northern Indiana, killing all 68 people aboard.

In 1996, a Brazilian Fokker-100 jetliner crashed in Sao Paulo, killing all 96 people on board and three on the ground.

In 1998, a genetic study was released suggesting President Thomas Jefferson did in fact father at least one child by his slave Sally Hemings.

In 1999, ten years ago, EgyptAir Flight 990, bound from New York to Cairo, crashed off the Massachusetts coast, killing all 217 people aboard.

In 2001, a 61-year-old New York hospital worker died from inhalation anthrax.

In 2001, Microsoft and the Justice Department reached a tentative agreement to settle the historic antitrust case against the software giant.

In 2004, five years ago, in the closing hours of their bitter campaign, President George W. Bush and challenger Sen. John Kerry charged through the critical battlegrounds of Florida and Ohio, going from hushed Sunday church services to raucous campaign rallies with promises to keep America safe.

In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

In 2006, P.W. Botha, South Africa’s apartheid-era president, died at age 90.

In 2007, three lead defendants in the 2004 Madrid train bombings were found guilty of mass murder and other charges, but four other top suspects were convicted on lesser charges and an accused ringleader was completely acquitted in the attacks that killed 191 people.

In 2008, one year ago, President George W. Bush signed an executive order restoring the Libyan government’s immunity from terror-related lawsuits and dismissing pending compensation cases.

In 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel died in Chicago at age 96.

Today’s Birthdays

Author Dick Francis is 89. Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk is 87. Actress Lee Grant is 82. Movie critic Andrew Sarris is 81. Former astronaut Michael Collins is 79. Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather is 78. Folk singer Tom Paxton is 72. Actor Ron Rifkin is 70. Actress Sally Kirkland is 68. Actor David Ogden Stiers is 67. Actor Stephen Rea is 63. Olympic gold medal distance runner Frank Shorter is 62. Actress Deidre Hall is 61. Talk show host Jane Pauley is 59. Actor Brian Stokes Mitchell is 51. Movie director Peter Jackson is 48. Rock musician Larry Mullen is 48. Actor Dermot Mulroney is 46. Rock musician Mikkey Dee (Motorhead) is 46. Rock singer-musician Johnny Marr is 46. Actor Rob Schneider is 45. Country singer Darryl Worley is 45. Actor-comedian Mike O’Malley is 44. Rap musician Adrock (Adam Horovitz) is 43. Songwriter Adam Schlesinger is 42. Rap performer Vanilla Ice (aka Rob Van Winkle) is 41. Rock singer Linn Berggren (Ace of Base) is 39. Reality TV host Troy Hartman is 38. Gospel singer Smokie Norful is 36. Actress Piper Perabo is 33. Actor Brian Hallisay is 31. Actor Eddie Kaye Thomas is 29. Rock musician Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) is 28.

Today’s Historic Birthdays

Jan Vermeer
10/31/1632 – 12/15/1675
Dutch painter

Clement XIV
10/31/1705 – 9/22/1774
Italian Roman Catholic pope (1769-74)

William Paca
10/31/1740 – 10/23/1799
American signer of the Declaration of Independence

John Keats
10/31/1795 – 2/23/1821
British poet

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
10/31/1828 – 5/27/1914
English physicist and chemist

Galileo Ferraris
10/31/1847 – 2/7/1897
Italian physicist

Juliette Gordon Low
10/31/1860 – 1/18/1927
American founder of Girl Scouts of America

Andrew Volstead
10/31/1860 – 1/20/1947
American Congressman from Minnesota (1903-23); introduced National Prohibition Act

Eugene Meyer
10/31/1875 – 6/17/1959
American publisher of The Washington Post (1933-46)

Chiang Kai-shek
10/31/1887 – 4/5/1975
Chinese president of Nationalist government (1928-49) and leader of Taiwan (1949-75)

 Sir George Hubert Wilkins
10/31/1888 – 12/1/1958
Australian-born British explorer

Ethel Waters
10/31/1896 – 9/1/1977
American jazz and blues singer and film actress

Wilbur Shaw
10/31/1902 – 10/30/1954
American race-car driver

Michael Landon
10/31/1936 – 7/1/1991
American television actor

Thought for Today

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” – Andre Gide, French author and critic (1869-1951).


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Largest Bat In Europe Inhabited Northeastern Spain More Than 10,000 Years Ago

bat spain

This is what the bat, Nyctalus lasiopterus, looks like nowadays.

Spanish researchers have confirmed that the largest bat in Europe, Nyctalus lasiopterus, was present in north-eastern Spain during the Late Pleistocene (between 120,000 and 10,000 years ago). The Greater Noctule fossils found in the excavation site at Abríc Romaní (Barcelona) prove that this bat had a greater geographical presence more than 10,000 years ago than it does today, having declined due to the reduction in vegetation cover.

Although this research study, published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol, is the second to demonstrate the bat’s presence in the Iberian Peninsula, it offers the first description in the fossil record of the teeth of Nyctalus lasiopterus from a fragment of the left jaw.

“It is an important finding because this species is not common in the fossil record. In fact, the discovery of Nyctalus lasiopterus at the Abríc Romaní site (Capellades, Barcelona) is one of the few cases of fossils existing on the species in the European Pleistocene,” says Juan Manuel López-García, principal author of the work and researcher at the Institute of Social Evolution and Human Palaeoecology at the Rovira i Virgili University (URV).

The analysis of the fossilised remains found at the site during the campaigns from 2004 to 2006 reveals that the largest bat in Europe inhabited north-eastern Spain more than 10,000 years ago. “Nyctalus lasiopterus is a fairly unknown species nowadays, with an indistinct geographical distribution in the peninsula, which does not include the region of Catalonia,” adds López-García.

Distribution due to environmental factors

“The presence of Nyctalus lasiopterus in the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula strengthens the evidence that this species had a wider geographical range during the Pleistocene than today,” says the palaeontologist. During the mild periods, when the development of vegetation gave these animals refuge, the Noctule had a wider territory.

Until now, the large bat had been located in mountainous regions such as the Eastern Pyrenees, the Cantabrian Mountains, the central mountain range or open Mediterranean landscapes where oaks, holm oaks and pines dominate.

However, the study confirms a change from the distribution of the species during the Late Pleistocene and the Holocene (less than 10,000 years ago) to now. “The reduction in vegetation cover could be the reason for the current low densities of the species and its biased geographical distribution,” concluded López-García.


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Don’t turn up the heat on the West

By making Western provinces pay for adventures in global warming policy we will be playing with Confederation.

An article on The Globe’s front page carrying the headline “Canada can meet its climate goals, but the West will write the cheques” raises, among many others, two very interesting points. The article is about a study, conducted by two ardent environmental advocacy groups – the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation – and was sponsored by the Toronto Dominion Bank.

The headline has the virtue of capturing the first point I want to underline. In our new green-genuflecting age any substantial, purely Canadian effort to curb greenhouse gases – any policy, economic or otherwise – will have a massive and negative impact on Alberta and Saskatchewan.

If there are taxes on oil development, if we introduce carbon penalties on industry, if there is a deliberate brake put on the oil sands, or an effort to shut them down altogether – this latter not an unthinkable proposition in certain quarters – whatever is done will, sooner or later, take revenues and jobs, take enterprise, out of Alberta in particular. For purely projected and speculative benefits to the world’s climate a century hence – and, despite the unctuous insistence of many to the contrary, speculative they remain – people are seriously considering policies that will penalize the West for its success as an energy producer now.

This is reckless. The oil industry of some Western provinces has been Canada’s dynamo these past few years. It has been our major shield during this recession. It has given the dignity of jobs to tens of thousands of Canadians. It is all that. But if “Central” Canada, as the political and economic axis of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal is still known in some quarters out West, now – under the impetus of the green craze – is seen to be setting limits, placing penalties, or bleeding disproportionate taxes, particularly in Alberta’s case, it will churn a backlash that will make regional hostilities set loose by the national energy program a few decades ago seem like warm-ups for a yoga class.

It will shape a whirlwind of political discontent, set the West against East, and far from incidentally have deep repercussions in the many other provinces that have their citizens working in one capacity or another in the oil patch. The fury over the national energy program may be spent, but its memory – pardon the word – is green. That fury, I reiterate, will be as nothing compared with the political fury of a second attempt to “stall the West.” Should some global warming action plan attempt to put the oil sands and Western energy development at significant disadvantage, or draw taxes out of the economies of the Western provinces to pay for adventures in global warming policy, we will be playing with Confederation.

That is a prediction it takes no computer modelling to make. If Alberta in particular, and the Western provinces more generally, come to be portrayed as villains in the global warming morality play, more than the climate a century hence is at stake.

Secondly, I would urge a caution to all people working in the oil sands in particular. The TD study – farmed out to the economic specialists of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute – should be seen as a loud, low shot across the bow. The oil sands project, already castigated by every green-blooded organization on the planet, featured in a full-blown National Geographic hit-job some months back, is going to be the great emblem of a world “toxifying” itself, and paving the way for global warming Armageddon. It is now boilerplate in news stories as the “dirtiest project on the planet.” It photographs vividly – as National Geographic’s glossy toss-off demonstrates – because of its scale and makes for wonderful anti-energy posters. The oil sands are a target.

Environmentalists are very good at what they do. They play the news media better than Glenn Gould doing a Bach prelude. They know how to sell their point of view, how to build a villain, how to shortcut an argument. Big Green – and there is a Big Green as much as there is a Big Oil – knows the game. Find a symbol. Find one project that, superficially, can stand for all others. The oil sands, despite the hundreds or thousands of less scrupulous and governed energy projects all over the world, despite China’s spectacular use of coal, or the accelerated developments all over the Third World, will be the emblem of choice for the eco-warriors. The media-smart apostles of Al Gore, the Sierra Club and hundreds of other NGOs and eco-lobbies will turn the oil sands into the blight of our time.

It’s only a number of weeks ago, remember, that the great crisis in the auto industry called forth billions to rescue the great manufacturing base of Central Canada. The West will note the contradiction. Spend billions to save an industry that runs on petroleum – it’s here in Ontario – hit the source industry to “save the planet” – that’s in the West.

Pursue this course and things will get warm. And I’m not talking about the climate.

Rex Murphy, Globe and Mail


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Barack and Michelle Obama: Mr & Mrs show irks voters

As political woes mount, not all have been won over by the first couple’s intimate revelations

With difficult state elections and a crucial military decision looming, President Barack Obama sat down with his wife Michelle last month to give an in-depth magazine interview about a subject that has hitherto not ranked highly on the White House political agenda — the state of the first couple’s marriage.

The president used the occasion to complain that when he recently hopped aboard Air Force One to fly his wife to New York for dinner and a Broadway show, “people made it into a political issue”.

Obama went on to insist that his marriage was “separate and apart from a lot of the silliness of Washington”. He then proceeded to discuss his romantic ups and downs in startling detail with a reporter from The New York Times Magazine.

Publication of that unusually candid interview highlighted an intriguing contradiction that has begun to haunt the Obama White House. The president’s family has become one of his most valuable political assets. Yet the attempts by the Obamas to shield their private lives from scrutiny are increasingly being subverted — by the Obamas themselves.

When the interview appeared on the paper’s website ahead of publication today, it prompted a flood of reader reactions from “They are a beautiful couple” and “exceptional role models” to “Why should I care about their marriage?” and “This stuff is none of my business”.

There were also several expressions of concern, echoed privately by Democratic strategists, that the openness of the Obamas about what Michelle described as the “bumps” in their relationship, may help turn a historic presidency into a soap opera. “All this scrutiny cannot be good for a marriage,” worried one of the readers of the Times.

glamourThe sense that the Obamas are flirting with disaster by parading their happy family life was magnified by Michelle’s Marie Antoinette-like appearance this week on the cover of Glamour magazine — at a time when many Americans continue to lose their homes or jobs every month.

In the interview with Glamour, Michelle discussed her fashion choices and appeared to tease her husband: “One thing I’ve learnt about male role models is that they don’t hesitate to invest in themselves.” The timing and content of the piece prompted Sally Quinn, a veteran Washington style-watcher, to suggest that the first lady had been badly advised.

“I’m not sure if I had been her adviser I would have said for her to do the Glamour cover because it might begin to trivialise her and what her role is,” she said.

The enthusiasm for the Obama family has until now obliged most Republicans to bite their tongues when discussing Michelle and the children, but there were mutterings last week that the president might be using his enviable private life as a diversion from awkward political realities — notably the prospect this week of Democratic defeats in elections for state governors in New Jersey and Virginia.

“Funny how every time there’s a crisis we end up reading about Michelle,” noted one Republican insider. “It’s great to see that the first couple have such a wonderful relationship,” added a Times website reader. “Now can the president please get down to solving the country’s problems?”

Yet even the hardest-nosed Washington operatives confessed last week that reading about the Obamas’ love life was a lot more fun than ploughing through 1,900 pages of the revised healthcare bill.

In their tell-nearly-all interview, the Obamas came across as a thoughtful, sensible and undeniably appealing couple who have nonetheless experienced the professional and personal strains that any working couple would recognise.

At one point Michelle expressed frustration at her secondary role after the years she spent as a high-earning hospital executive in Chicago: “Clearly Barack’s decisions are leading us. They are not mine, that’s obvious,” she said. “I’m married to the president of the United States, I don’t have another job.”

That the marriage experienced “bumps” came as no surprise: Richard Wolffe, a Newsweek journalist, has already described in his book on Obama’s rise how Michelle at one point became “angry at [Barack’s] selfishness and careerism; he thought she was cold and ungrateful”.

Asked if their marriage had come close to rupture, Obama told The New York Times: “That’s over-reaching it. But I wouldn’t gloss over the fact that that was a tough time for us. There were points in time where I was fearful … that she would be unhappy.”

Michelle said the strains had been “sort of the eye-opener to me, that marriage is hard. Going into it, no-one ever tells you that. They just tell you, ‘Do you love him … what’s the dress look like’?”

Valerie Jarrett, the couple’s close friend and White House adviser, said last year’s campaign had initially caused problems when Michelle was depicted as bitter and unpatriotic. Yet she eventually became a valuable surrogate, impressing huge crowds when her husband was absent.

“They both rallied to each other’s defence and support,” said Jarrett. “By having to work hard at it, it strengthened their marriage.”

In the White House, the couple seems to have settled into a comfortable routine of public affection and teasing — Barack sometimes addresses Michelle as Flotus (first lady of the United States) but both sought to dispel the notion that everything in the White House rose garden is pink.

“The strengths and challenges of our marriage don’t change because we move to a different address,” said the first lady. The image of a flawless marriage was “the last thing we want to project . . .this perfection that doesn’t exist”.

Currently condemned to a photogenic but stultifying life as chief fashion plate and do-gooder, Michelle is widely assumed in Washington to be desperate to sink her teeth into a meaty political issue.

Yet she protested, a little too fiercely some thought, that she was “so not interested in a lot of the hard decisions that he’s making … I have never in my life ever wanted to sit on the policy side of this thing”.

Those latter remarks were in striking contrast to the magazine article’s portrayal of the Obamas as the model of a modern presidential couple. Many Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton, now Obama’s secretary of state, have noted that Michelle seems closer to Laura Bush, wife of George W, in choosing a non-political role.

Hillary Clinton, who famously took an aggressive role in presidential policy-making, notably on healthcare, was the “truly modern and transformational first lady”, noted one of her Democratic supporters. “Michelle has proven to be utterly conventional.”

Yet the bottom line for Obama remains the state of the economy and the progress of the wars he is fighting abroad. While Michelle’s approval ratings remain buoyant, the president’s continue to slide. A poll last week showed only 31% of Americans believe he can control federal spending (down from 52% at his election) and only 28% believe he can heal political divisions (down from 54%).

For all Obama’s glamour and sophisticated intellect, he is in danger of being seen as a failing politician. And familiarity with the details of his private life may quickly turn to contempt.

London Times


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Opening Up A Colorful Cosmic Jewel Box

jewel box

The FORS1 instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory was used to take this exquisitely sharp close up view of the colorful Jewel Box cluster, NGC 4755. The telescope’s huge mirror allowed very short exposure times: just 2.6 seconds through a blue filter (B), 1.3 seconds through a yellow/green filter (V) and 1.3 seconds through a red filter (R). The field of view spans about seven arcminutes.

Star clusters are among the most visually alluring and astrophysically fascinating objects in the sky. One of the most spectacular nestles deep in the southern skies near the Southern Cross in the constellation of Crux.

The Kappa Crucis Cluster, also known as NGC 4755 or simply the “Jewel Box” is just bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye. It was given its nickname by the English astronomer John Herschel in the 1830s because the striking colour contrasts of its pale blue and orange stars seen through a telescope reminded Herschel of a piece of exotic jewellery.

Open clusters [1] such as NGC 4755 typically contain anything from a few to thousands of stars that are loosely bound together by gravity. Because the stars all formed together from the same cloud of gas and dust their ages and chemical makeup are similar, which makes them ideal laboratories for studying how stars evolve.

The position of the cluster amongst the rich star fields and dust clouds of the southern Milky Way is shown in the very wide field view generated from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 data. This image also includes one of the stars of the Southern Cross as well as part of the huge dark cloud of the Coal Sack [2].

A new image taken with the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the cluster and its rich surroundings in all their multicoloured glory. The large field of view of the WFI shows a vast number of stars. Many are located behind the dusty clouds of the Milky Way and therefore appear red [3].

The FORS1 instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) allows a much closer look at the cluster itself. The telescope’s huge mirror and exquisite image quality have resulted in a brand-new, very sharp view despite a total exposure time of just 5 seconds. This new image is one of the best ever taken of this cluster from the ground.

The Jewel Box may be visually colourful in images taken on Earth, but observing from space allows the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to capture light of shorter wavelengths than can not be seen by telescopes on the ground. This new Hubble image of the core of the cluster represents the first comprehensive far ultraviolet to near-infrared image of an open galactic cluster. It was created from images taken through seven filters, allowing viewers to see details never seen before. It was taken near the end of the long life of the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 ― Hubble’s workhorse camera up until the recent Servicing Mission, when it was removed and brought back to Earth. Several very bright, pale blue supergiant stars, a solitary ruby-red supergiant and a variety of other brilliantly coloured stars are visible in the Hubble image, as well as many much fainter ones. The intriguing colours of many of the stars result from their differing intensities at different ultraviolet wavelengths.

The huge variety in brightness of the stars in the cluster exists because the brighter stars are 15 to 20 times the mass of the Sun, while the dimmest stars in the Hubble image are less than half the mass of the Sun. More massive stars shine much more brilliantly. They also age faster and make the transition to giant stars much more quickly than their faint, less-massive siblings.

The Jewel Box cluster is about 6400 light-years away and is approximately 16 million years old.


[1] Open, or galactic, star clusters are not to be confused with globular clusters ― huge balls of tens of thousands of ancient stars in orbit around our galaxy and others. It seems that most stars, including our Sun, formed in open clusters.

[2] The Coal Sack is a dark nebula in the Southern Hemisphere, near the Southern Cross, that can be seen with the unaided eye. A dark nebula is not the complete absence of light, but an interstellar cloud of thick dust that obscures most background light in the visible.

[3] If the light from a distant star passes through dust clouds in space the blue light is scattered and absorbed more than the red. As a result the starlight looks redder when it arrives on Earth. The same effect creates the glorious red colours of terrestrial sunsets.


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Keats Speaks

keats speaks

“I have explored all these paths, which are more in number than your eyelashes,” says the John Keats of Jane Campion’s new movie, “Bright Star,” as he escorts Fanny Brawne, the young woman he is about to fall in love with, through a sparse wood. It’s a nice line, and when she tells him that she admires witty men, he comes up with another: “I know these dandies. They have a mannerism in their very eating and drinking, in their mere handling a decanter.” Lost though I was in admiration of the elfin good looks of Ben Whishaw, who plays Keats, and the poise of Abbie Cornish, who plays Brawne, I managed to retain enough presence of mind during this scene to admire their dialogue too, which sounded like authentic Georgian English. This is how they might actually have talked, I thought: playful, delicate, precise. How did Campion, who wrote the deft and artful screenplay herself, come up with it?

The old-fashioned way, as it turns out: Keats came up with it first. As I learned from an edition of Keats’s letters, the poet tried out the line about eyelashes on his friend John Hamilton Reynolds, and the one about mannered decanter-handling on his brothers Tom and George. Campion has cut and pasted masterfully. She has the cinematic version of Keats read aloud the real Keats’s letters, as you might expect, but she also borrows in more subtle ways. When, in the movie, Keats’s friend and roommate Charles Brown asks Brawne the trick question of whether she found the rhymes in “Paradise Lost,” which doesn’t have any, “a little pouncing,” the juicy adjective sounds right because Keats himself used it to complain about the rhyme scheme of the classic English sonnet. When Campion’s Keats asks Brawne’s little sister: “Have you been eating rosebuds again? Where do your cheeks get their blush?” it seems quite likely that Campion was thinking of the song from Keats’s epic poem “Endymion” that begins, “O Sorrow/Why dost borrow/The natural hue of health from vermeil Lips?/To give maiden blushes/To the white Rose bushes/Or is it thy dewy hand the daisy tips?”

So the movie Keats does talk the way the real Keats wrote. But does he talk the way the real Keats talked? Like most moviegoers, I expect early-19th-century characters to speak in sentences more carefully and elaborately structured than the ones I usually hear, but my expectation may be an artifact of the recording technology then available. Georgian English has been preserved only via the written word, and in the act of transcription, spoken errors may be amended — hemming and hawing edited, false starts pruned and simple phrases joined into complex ones. Keats himself was aware of the problem; a friend once charged that in “Endymion,” “the conversation is unnatural and too high-flown.” Indeed, although Wordsworth, a fellow Romantic, called for poetry written in “the language really spoken by men,” the diction and grammar in Keats’s poems is far from workaday.

Perhaps this is because Keats was self-conscious about his everyday speech. In August 1818, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine accused him of “Cockney rhymes,” pointing out that he matched thorns with fawns and higher with Thalia. In poems that he inserted in his letters, he rhymed shorter with water and parsons with fastens. The pattern suggests that he suffered from nonrhoticity — the tendency to drop “R” sounds from the ends of syllables and words. As well he should have, the scholar Lynda Mugglestone wrote in 1991, noting that nonrhoticity was part of “then-current educated usage.” In fact, Mugglestone observed, Blake had rhymed lawn with morn, and Tennyson was to rhyme thorns and yawns.

Mugglestone notwithstanding, some of the spelling mistakes in Keats’s letters look incriminating. He wrote “ax” for ask, “ave” for have and “milidi” for milady. It’s impossible to know, however, whether Keats had the lower-class accent that these spellings evoke or was merely pretending to have it in order to amuse his readers. He underlined to show he was kidding when he wrote to his friend Reynolds that “from want of regular rest, I have been rather narvus” and when he wrote to his sister that “I have been werry romantic indeed, among these Mountains and Lakes.” Even when he didn’t underline, he may have been axing his readers to understand that he was aving a joke all the sime. His ear for dialect seems to have been acute. From Scotland he reported to his brother Tom that whiskey was called whuskey, and when Reynolds went to Devonshire with his family, Keats wrote to him that “your sisters by this time must have got the Devonshire ees — short ees — you know ’em; they are the prettiest ees in the Language.” He was probably too gifted a linguist to have been saddled long with an accent that embarrassed him.

Indeed, after reading Keats’s letters, I wondered if Campion should have let her hero talk a little goofier. He had a weakness for puns, especially dirty ones, and he loved slang. “Stopping at a Tavern they call ‘hanging out,’ ” he gleefully informed his brothers, soon after “getting initiated into a little Cant.” He described a hard-drinking friend as having “got a little so so at a Party,” dismissed a deception as “a Bam” and once recommended to his sister-in-law that she wake his brother up with “a cold Pig,” that is, a dousing. Campion’s greatest misrepresentation, however, is of Keats’s poetic delivery. “You know how badly he reads his own poetry,” one of his friends once complained to another. On this point, Whishaw is completely unfaithful.

Caleb Crain is the author of “American Sympathy: Men, Friendship and Literature in the New Nation.”


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Hillary Clinton says Pakistan does not really want to stop al-Qaeda

clinton pakistan

Hillary Clinton was greeted by Ghalib Iqbal, the Pakistani chief protocol officer, when she arrived for her three-day tour of Pakistan.

Hillary Clinton chastised Pakistan yesterday for not making enough effort to seize senior al-Qaeda leaders who she said were hiding in the lawless tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

“I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and could not get them if they really wanted to,” the US Secretary of State told a group of Pakistani newspaper editors.

Her comments came as the Pakistani military said that Said Bahaji, a member of a Hamburg terrorist cell linked to the 9/11 attacks, could be involved with the militants fighting the Pakistani forces in South Waziristan.

US intelligence officials have repeatedly said they believe that Osama bin Laden and his associates were hiding near the border with Afghanistan but this was the first time a senior American official has accused Pakistan of not trying hard enough to apprehend them.

“May be that is the case, may be they are not getable. I don’t know,” Mrs Clinton said. “As far as we know they are in Pakistan.”

During a visit to the eastern city of Lahore, Mrs Clinton also warned that Pakistanis that they must get their act together to solve the challenges facing Islamabad.

Her outburst has been poorly received by many Pakistanis, who blame US policy for most of their country’s problems in dealing with rising terrorism.

A senior security official said: “Pakistan has done far more than any other country in combating al-Qaeda, capturing at least 700 of its activists.”

Mrs Clinton was on a three-day visit to Pakistan designed to shore up the US relationship with Pakistan and offer help in its military campaign against Taleban militants.

A major purpose of her visit was to heal the widening distrust between the two countries. Part of her efforts were directed at interacting with wider representatives of Pakistani society including the media, politicians and students.

But her charm offensive was derailed when she was confronted by sceptical Pakistanis questioning the US intention to build a long term relationship with the South Asian Muslim nation.

During a meeting at Lahore University one student asked: “What guarantee can the American give Pakistanis that you guys would not betray us like you did in the past?”

In another confrontation, a member of parliament from Pakistan’s tribal region known as FATA said US policy was the main cause of terrorism spilling over into Pakistani cities.

“You have to stop drone attacks and killing our people if you really want peace in the region,” she was told.

An editorial in The Dawn, Pakistan’s most prestigious English language newspaper, read: “Unfortunately, when it comes to strategic issues — the real meat of Pak-US relations — Mrs Clinton’s trip has come perhaps a few weeks too soon.”


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‘Please, send me back to jail’

“A man’s home is where his wife lives,” the chief justice declared in an English case in 1863. But a Sicilian magistrate recently heard a plea from a man who was trying to be sent to jail to avoid living with his wife.

Holy Gambino, a 30-year old builder, had been convicted and sentenced to prison for dumping hazardous waste after being caught by police unloading dangerous materials from a lorry on to public ground. After serving some of his sentence, he was then released back into the community to live at home under house arrest in Villabate, near Palermo.

After suffering what he described as relentless nagging by his wife about his defects as a husband and father, Gambino went back to the police station in Ficarazzi to hand himself in and request a return to prison.

It is the first time in Sicily that someone challenging his sentence has argued for a return to prison rather than release from it.

After hearing his plea, however, the magistrate simply cited him for the summary offence of breaking a condition of his house arrest (in travelling to the police station) and sent him directly back home with an order to try to get along with his wife.

Previously, the Italian courts have heard other unusual marital cases related to nagging. In 2003, a court in Rome heard the case of a 23-year-old woman who had been chronically nagged by her mother-in-law about improving her make-up and her figure. The court ruled that “excessive and unreasonable interference” by the mother-in-law was sufficient grounds for a divorce.

In England, nagging was once recognised as a proper basis for divorce in a case in 1947 where a wife had evidently driven her husband into a significant state of mental ill-health by persistently badgering him for many years often until 3 or 4am. “One knows” the judge said “that dropping water wears the stone”.

But where wives have been accused by husbands of ‘nagging’, the female exhortations are often completely reasonable and wouldn’t be condemned if the relationship were between co-workers or flatmates. In 1975, a court heard how Maureen O’Neill had prevailed on her husband for some time to improve his DIY work. But she wasn’t concerned about a shelf that fell down. For years the husband had all the floorboards up everywhere, regularly mixed concrete in the living room, took 30 tons of rubble from under the house and put it in the garden, rarely washed and refused to put a door on the toilet for eight months. The court wasn’t sympathetic to the husband’s ‘stop nagging me’ attitude and granted the wife a divorce.

Professor Gary Slapper is Director of the Centre for Law at the Open University.


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Obama seeking options on forces

President looks to send fewer additional troops

President Obama has asked the Pentagon’s top generals to provide him with more options for troop levels in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials said late Friday, with one adding that some of the alternatives would allow Obama to send fewer new troops than the roughly 40,000 requested by his top commander.

Obama met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House on Friday, holding a 90-minute discussion that centered on the strain on the force after eight years of war in two countries. The meeting — the first of its kind with the chiefs of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Air Force, who were not part of the president’s war council meetings on Afghanistan in recent weeks — prompted Obama to request another such meeting before he announces a decision on sending additional troops, the officials said.

The military chiefs have been largely supportive of a resource request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that would by one Pentagon estimate require the deployment of 44,000 additional troops. But opinion among members of Obama’s national security team is divided, and he now appears to be seeking a compromise solution that would satisfy both his military and civilian advisers.

Obama is expected to receive several options from the Pentagon about troop levels next week, according to the two officials, who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

Before he can determine troop levels, his advisers have said, he must decide whether to embrace a strategy focused heavily on counterinsurgency, which would require additional forces to protect population centers, or one that makes counterterrorism the main focus of U.S. efforts in the country, which would rely on relatively fewer American troops.

One option under review involves a blend of the two approaches, featuring an emphasis on counterterrorism in the north and some parts of western Afghanistan as well as an expanded counterinsurgency effort in the south and east, one of the officials said. Obama has also asked for a province-by-province review of the country to determine which areas can by managed effectively by local leaders.

The president appears committed to adding at least 10,000 to 15,000 troops in Afghanistan in an effort to bolster the training of Afghan army and police officers in the country. Current plans call for the United States to double the size of the Afghan army and police forces to about 400,000 in the hope that they can take over security responsibilities.

In meeting with the military chiefs, Obama heard their assessment of the how prepared the services are to handle a new commitment. “Each chief discussed the state of their own service, how they are doing today and what the long-term consequences will be for each of their services,” an administration official said. The military advisers also put the troop deployments in the context of the rest of their global deployments, including in Iraq.

It was not a “recommendations meeting,” with concrete options of how to proceed, the official said. That will presumably come in the next such meeting, which has not been scheduled.

The timing of Obama’s decision on Afghanistan remains up in the air. But his request for another meeting with the military chiefs — and the expectation that he will meet again with his top national security advisers before reaching a conclusion — may leave him too little time to decide the issue before he travels to Asia on Nov. 11. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to be overseas for much of that time, except for a brief stint at home from Wednesday to Friday. , giving Obama little opportunity to convene his war council in person. It appears increasingly likely that Obama will not announce his new Afghanistan strategy until after returning to the United States on Nov. 20.

Obama has come under criticism from Republicans, notably former vice president Richard B. Cheney, for deliberating so long, but his advisers have said he is determined to get the decision right rather than satisfy his critics.

In contrast to Iraq, where there was significant dissension on whether to deploy an additional 30,000 troops in 2007, the top brass has been mostly united in the support of McChrystal’s call for more troops in Afghanistan.

Both Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the Middle East, have told the administration that they agree with McChrystal’s dire assessment of the security situation and his call for more forces to wrest the initiative back from the Taliban.

The service chiefs have not publicly voiced either support or opposition. Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps chief, had campaigned hard this year for the Marines to play a much larger role in the country. In internal meetings, Army chief Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has raised concerns about “dwell time” — the periods that troops have at home between deployments.

The Army is particularly concerned that soldiers who spend less than 18 months at home between combat tours do not have enough time to train for high-intensity tank warfare.

A U.S.-Iraq security pact requires the United States to withdraw its forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, which would reduce some of the strain on the American military. But bombings this week in Baghdad, which killed more than 155 Iraqis, raise questions about whether Iraq is stable enough to allow for an accelerated drawdown in advance of that deadline, as some military officials had hoped.


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Kennedy Surprised by ‘Such Strong American Outrage to the Wall’

The Day Berlin Was Divided

DEU Jahrestag Mauer

An elderly East German couple is prevented from crossing the border from East Berlin to West Berlin on Aug. 13, 1961, the day the Berlin Wall went up.

US diplomat William R. Smyser was stationed in Berlin when the Wall went up in 1961. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he explains how President John F. Kennedy was initially relieved by the construction — and even tried to sell it as a success for the West.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Smyser, when the construction of the Berlin Wall began in August 1961, you were serving as a US diplomat in Berlin. What reaction were you expecting from Washington?

Smyser: We all expected President John F. Kennedy to react very strongly to this violation of Allied rights. After all, the Wall — or the barbed wire that was put up first — limited our ability to move around Berlin. We were very disappointed when there was no sharp reaction at all from the White House. But the President had gone through the Vienna summit with Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev a few months before, in June of 1961, where the Soviet leader had told him that he wanted to block all Western access to Berlin and wanted the American troops to leave the city. Kennedy feared such a blockage of transit, which might have led to war over Berlin.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So Kennedy was actually relieved when he “only” saw the Wall going up?

Smyser: Kennedy thought to himself that day: Ah, that is the way Khrushchev will solve the refugee problem in East Germany — where many thousands of people had fled to the West in the previous months. The President said to aides, this is not a very nice solution but it is a hell of a lot better than war. After Kennedy left Vienna, he thought that war was on the horizon. What the Wall showed him was that Khrushchev was solving his refugee problem in a way that would not violate American rights.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The State Department in Washington even tried to frame it as a success for the West.

Smyser: That was one of the craziest things US diplomats ever did. We tried very hard to tell them that this was exactly the wrong message. Dean Rusk, Secretary of State at the time, wanted to say the construction of the wall represents a victory for the West because it showed that the Communists had to imprison their own people. But they only said it once or twice and when everybody scoffed, they retracted it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: To what extent was the West German government aware of Kennedy’s thought process?

Smyser: Not at all. But they knew that the Western powers had agreed shortly before that if there was only a stoppage of the refugee problem, for example by the installation of barbed wire or the construction of a wall, that would not trigger a war.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because Kennedy did not care first and foremost about the people in East Berlin.

Smyser: He was concerned about American lives in Berlin. The President said: German reunification is not an issue. What he worried about in Berlin was Khrushchev’s effort to force the Americans out or to shoot down an American plane flying there. He thought that might be a reason for war since he could not accept such hostility due to the strategic importance of Berlin during the Cold War. Kennedy was very concerned about a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union, much more than his predecessor Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the first US president who had to cope with the fact that the Soviets could reach America with a nuclear missile.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did Kennedy fear Krushchev?

Smyser: He thought that Khrushchev was irrational. He feared that Krushchev might do something that would lead to war — and he seemed to Kennedy like a man he couldn’t deal with. After the Vienna summit, the President refused several invitations to meet with him again.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: When did Kennedy begin to realize that his initial reaction to the construction of the Wall had been too muted?

Smyser: About 48 hours later. He realized it because in the two days after the construction, almost every American newspaper wrote that this was unacceptable and that it was a big defeat for the United States. They accused Kennedy of appeasement. Leading diplomats cabled the President from Europe: Hope is dying here, you have to do something. That was a real blow to Kennedy. Finally he decided he had to send a brigade to Berlin to avoid a public relations disaster. He did not anticipate American outrage over the construction of the Wall to be so strong.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And the Russians relented. They treated the incoming American brigade with the utmost courtesy and did not seek any further escalation.

Smyser: Khrushchev thought he could not go further at that point. Only later, during the Cuban missile crisis, did he dare to provoke the Americans again. Khrushchev would have even been happy with just the construction of barbed wire. He called the Wall “this hateful thing.” The Soviet leader was a strong believer in the glorious future of Communism. And such a future did not include a Wall. When the barbed wire was put up, he did not want more, for fear of economic retaliation by the West.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Kennedy recovered, too. When he travelled to Berlin in the June of 1963, he got a rock star reception. Hundreds of thousands of people cheered him on and listened to his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

Smyser: By then, the people in Berlin had obviously not forgotten the Wall and Kennedy’s silence about it. But they had begun to learn that Kennedy would defend them and would defend the right of the city to be as it was. They had seen that in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, which they had perceived as a Russian effort to threaten Kennedy and challenge him on Berlin. When the US President stood up to Khrushchev to force out the Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, people in Berlin told me: “It’s all about us.” They felt that the Cuban missile crisis had solved the Berlin crisis. Kennedy would have had a very different reception in Berlin just a year earlier. But by 1963, the citizens said: He is a good man, he fought for us. Of course, that only applies to the people in West Berlin. The people in the East continued to be disappointed in him.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Today, we see another young, rather inexperienced president in the White House, Barack Obama. What can Kennedy’s early test and his early stumble teach him?

Smyser: Kennedy himself said about the presidency: This job is overwhelming. The situation is somehow different for Obama, he does not have a Khrushchev or a Cuban missile crisis to deal with. But still, he faces other problems like Afghanistan and Iran. The learning curve for a man that age in the White House is enormous. It is easy to make a wrong decision first, because you don’t see the complexities and you are simply not experienced enough. Afghanistan and also Iran will be questions where Obama has to figure out what he can or cannot do. Foreign affairs should be the same kind of test for him as it was for Kennedy. Obama is following the Kennedy model of a young inexperienced president who has to learn really fast on the job.

Interview conducted by Gregor Peter Schmitz


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