Coming soon: “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
From Cats Dressed as People, 100 Years Ago, one of 15 photos. The Aviator. (Harry Whittier Frees/Library of Congress)
Earlier this month, local police, backed by Interpol, fanned out across the Philippines, busting nearly 60 people allegedly connected to cyber “sextortion” syndicates. These groups, investigators say, tricked thousands of victims on at least four continents into participating in sexually explicit online videos and chats, only to then demand money from them to keep the material secret.
It was a crime nearly a century from being invented when the first International Criminal Police Congress gathered in Monaco in the spring of 1914, for a meeting that would ultimately result in the creation of the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol (the organization traces its lineage to the conference, though Interpol itself wasn’t established until 1923). At the time, European nations wanted to collaborate against anarchists and terrorists who were supposedly plotting the overthrow of the political order across the continent. Nowadays, Interpol has 190 member states and a much broader cast of shadowy transnational criminals to combat—from pharmaceutical counterfeiters to football-match fixers to a modern generation of terrorists.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/The Atlantic]
When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable. On this 100-year anniversary, I’ve gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. Today’s entry is part 3 of a 10-part series on World War I, which will be posted every Sunday until June 29.
Benjamin Ferencz was 27 when the Einsatzgruppen trial began in 1947. There were 22 defendants, all men, all members of the German SS. “One of the counsel has characterized this trial as the biggest murder trial in history,” the military tribunal wrote. “In this case, the defendants are not … charged with sitting in an office hundreds and thousands of miles away from the slaughter.… These men were in the field actively superintending, controlling, directing, and taking an active part in the bloody harvest.” Put simply, the Einsatzgruppen were exterminators: Their squads traveled to towns throughout Eastern Europe, rounding up Jews and shooting them with mechanized efficiency. Some mass graves were filled with hundreds of bodies; others, thousands.
Otto Ohlendorf, Paul Blobel, and almost two dozen others led these divisions of Hitler’s army; after the war, they were indicted for crimes against humanity. Benjamin Ferencz was 27, and he was the chief prosecutor responsible for convicting 22 men on trial for murdering 1 million men, women, and children.
In the nearly 70 years since he took part in the trials at Nuremberg, Ferencz has lived a remarkable life.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
When we think of World War I, images of the bloody, muddy Western Front are generally what come to mind. Scenes of frightened young men standing in knee-deep mud, awaiting the call to go “over the top”, facing machine guns, barbed wire, mortars, bayonets, hand-to-hand battles, and more. We also think of the frustrations of all involved: the seemingly simple goal, the incomprehensible difficulty of just moving forward, and the staggering numbers of men killed. The stalemate on the Western Front lasted for four years, forcing the advancement of new technologies, bleeding the resources of the belligerent nations, and destroying the surrounding countryside. On this 100-year anniversary, I’ve gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. Today’s entry is part 2 of a 10-part series on World War I, which will be posted every Sunday until June 29. This installment focuses on Early Years on the front, part II will focus more on the final year of trench warfare. Come back next week for Part 3.
It’s not news that for over 100 years, history has been taught as little more than a callous exercise in regurgitation and rote memorization, with teachers rewarding how much information students can cram into their already stuffed heads. But as we go farther into the 21st century, with changes almost too numerous to fathom, I find it mindboggling that any teacher would still treat history class as boring preparation for a quiz show. This is no way to make learning about the past relevant and engaging. It really never was.
Read more. [Image: Luther College Archive/Flickr]
In a country scandalized and outraged so easily, the sperm bank has been naturalized. To say one works at a sperm bank would cause no more of a commotion than to say one works at an investment bank, surely.
But it was not always so.
There had to be a first sperm bank, and those early bankers felt the excitement and fear of the new.
The year was 1952. They were two doctors in Iowa. And they had figured out how to freeze sperm, thaw it back to active life, and use it to help families to conceive.
The year after they began, a nationwide poll found 28 percent of Americans approved of artificial insemination. That winter, three babies born from thawed sperm were born.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
A century ago, an assassin, a Serbian nationalist, killed the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary as he visited Sarajevo. This act was the catalyst for a massive conflict that lasted four years. More than 65 million soldiers were mobilized by more than 30 nations, with battles taking place around the world. Industrialization brought modern weapons, machinery, and tactics to warfare, vastly increasing the killing power of armies. Battlefield conditions were horrific, typified by the chaotic, cratered hellscape of the Western Front, where soldiers in muddy trenches faced bullets, bombs, gas, bayonet charges, and more. On this 100-year anniversary, I’ve gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world. Come back next week for part 2.
Science-fiction “contemplates possible futures.” So says a new Smithsonian article, and it doesn’t seem like a particularly controversial thesis. As the piece says, sci-fi tries to think about what’s to come for civilization. “The future is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in,” as Ursula K. Le Guin says.
But it’s worth remembering that in sci-fi, the future actually isn’t safe or sterile at all. On the contrary, with its alien invasions, evil empires, authoritarian dystopia, and new lands discovered and pacified, the genre can look as much like the past as the future. In particular, sci-fi is often obsessed with colonialism and imperial adventure, the kind that made the British Empire an empire and that still sustains America’s might worldwide.
Read more. [Image: Paramount]