Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Princess Alice of Battenberg

From Harper's Bazaar:
Born in 1885 at Windsor Castle, and growing up in the UK, the German Empire, and Greece, Alice was at odds with her royal status, preferring to live without a title and focus her time and efforts on her religion and charity work. Alice, who was born deaf, married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903, and when Philip was around 10 years old, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sent to a hospital where she was treated by Sigmund Freud.

She had become deeply religious and converted to the Greek Orthodox Church, proclaiming to be receiving divine messages and have healing powers. Freud claimed her so-called delusions spurred from sexual frustration, and recommended she undergo x-rays of her ovaries in order to stave off her libido, and induce an early menopause.

Princess Alice pleaded her sanity, and tried to leave the sanatorium countless times, before eventually being released in in the mid-30s. Meanwhile, Philip was separated from his four older sisters, Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie, and was sent to live in England with his uncles, Lord Louis Mountbatten and George Mountbatten, and his grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven. After convalescing, Princess Alice ensconced herself in an itinerant existence, travelling around Europe incognito. Tragedy struck the family again in 1937, when her daughter Cecilie, who was 26, son-in-law Georg Donatus, and two of her grandchildren were killed in an air accident at Ostend. (Read more.)

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Terror Attacks in France: A Culture of Denial

From The Gatestone Institute:
On October 3, 2019, a knife-wielding Muslim employee of the Paris Police Department Intelligence Directorate stabbed to death four other employees at police headquarters in the center of Paris, before a trainee police officer shot and killed him. While it was not the deadliest terror attack France has experienced in recent years, the fatal stabbings that took place at the Paris police headquarters were perhaps the most worrisome. Its author (a French public servant employed by the police), its highly sensitive target, and the catastrophic handling of the aftermath of the attack reveal the failure of the French institutions. 
As it was the case for all recent terror attacks, French media and authorities first tried to downplay what happened. The attacker was initially described through potentially mitigating factors, such as his handicap (the killer is partly deaf and mute). It took 24 hours before it was eventually revealed that he was an Islamist militant who had carefully planned his attack. 
That a radicalized militant had been able to remain undetected in a critical security institution for years sent shockwaves throughout the country. Members of the parliamentary opposition asked for the resignation of Home Affairs Minister Christophe Castaner, who at first had said that the attacker "had never shown any warning signs or behavioral difficulties." 
For the record, this "very normal behavior" included cutting down to a bare minimum communication with women (he had for months being avoiding all women but his wife), attending a notoriously radical mosque, and having a phone full of Islamist contacts. His colleagues reported that already in January 2015, he had cheered the murderous Islamist terror attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in front of other police employees. In many countries, a mistake of this scale would be enough for a government minister to resign, but not in France. (Read more.)

When Family Dinners Are Silent

From Return to Order:
Stagnant and sterile silence dominates so many households. This is the conclusion of a recent survey in the U.K. about family habits there. These same bad habits are quite present in America, probably in similar proportions. They can also be found in differing degrees all over our globalized world. One particularly tragic finding of this survey of 2,500 U.K. citizens is that a third of the families sit in complete silence during meal times. A further three in ten respondents report they have problems finding topics for dinner conversation.

Of course, there is also the problem of getting people to eat together in the same place at meals. About four in ten parents generally do not have meals together with their children at the same time. Ten percent of the respondents say they never have meals together as a family. (Read more.)

The death of fine dining. Also from Return to Order:
 Eating in front of screens has gone on for years. When television first entered the home in the fifties, people ate as they watched their favorite shows. They served factory-prepared frozen meals called T.V. dinners on T.V. trays. The Swanson company even pictured its offerings in a frame that simulated the cabinet of a television.

Today, the survey notes that forty-nine percent of Americans say that they regularly watch television while eating. On the other hand, average Americans only eats three meals per week at their kitchen tables. Twenty-two percent of Americans zombie-eat lunch in front of their office computers. “Zombie eating is something most of us can relate to – we’re busy, we’re productive, and we’re constantly on the move,” says Pretzel Crisps’ Senior Brand Manager Syreeta Norwood.

A surprising amount of research is available about social eating patterns. Food plays a huge role in social life.  In the 1995 book, Food and Nutrition, P. Fieldhouse says that “food is a vehicle for expressing friendship, for smoothing social intercourse, for showing concern. It is also ridden with status symbolism and is manipulated, subtly or blatantly, to demonstrate differences in social standing. There might almost be a dictum which says where two or more people gather together then let there be food and drink.”

Eating in groups, especially families, is healthier than zombie eating. Christie Wilcox, a contributor to Nutrition Wonderland, cites statistics in the United Kingdom. She points out that “married women with children are the healthiest group of people, followed closely by married men.” She adds that “the mortality rate for single men between 30 and 59 is 2.5 times higher than their married counterparts.”

Living alone is a major cause of zombie eating. More Americans live alone than ever. USA Today reported that U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2010 show that “The sheer number of Americans living alone has more than tripled since 1970 to 33.2 million.” More than one household out of four is occupied by only a single person. (Read more.)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Blessed Karl: “Poor in Spirit”

From Blessed Karl of Austria:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) 
Blessed Karl was a king who viewed himself as a servant of his people. He did not view himself as an entitled “royal” or as someone who deserved to be given special treatment. He did not isolate himself from his subjects. Instead, Karl was a self-sacrificing man who recognized his kingship as a form of public service to others. Truly, Blessed Karl was a remarkable example of the heroic attribute Jesus described on the Sermon on the Mount as “poor in spirit.”
Karl went out of his way to meet others around him, no matter who they were, to learn of ways he could help their situation. He treated everyone with kindness. Karl did not surround himself with fashionable celebrities or fans of royalty; he did not cut himself off from common people and shrug off the problems of society around him. Unlike other rulers, Karl personally visited and interacted with ordinary people in his country—no matter who they were, what status they lacked or what religion or ethnicity they belonged to. Karl was humble and interested in improving the lives of others around him. His unpretentious approach became especially apparent during World War I. Karl committed himself to personally interacting with all levels of society during the war in order to address their needs—he appeared in so many places at such short notice that people gave him the nickname, “Karl the Sudden.”  
Karl actively practiced charity. Since his youth, he was dedicated to almsgiving and assisting the underprivileged. During World War I, Karl was determined that he and his family should equally share the burdens faced by impoverished Austrian citizens. He denied himself any extra comforts or extra provisions during the war. He gave away his personal belongings, including his clothing, to people in need. Other kings might have demanded more special treatment during this hard time. Not Karl. Even his methods of transportation were simple. While constantly traveling to the frontlines and visiting citizens in far-off places, Karl traveled with his family on ordinary troop transport trains instead of luxury accommodation. Karl stands as an example of courage and humility to all of us. His openhearted and undemanding behavior, especially during times of hardship and distress, is worthy not only of praise but of imitation in our own lives. Blessed Karl was a living witness of Jesus’s words in Chapter 20 of Matthew’s Gospel: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” In the same Gospel chapter, Jesus also said the unforgettable words: “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Read more.)

Trump Wins Every Democratic Debate

 From Bobby Jindal at the WSJ:
 The Republican National Committee should offer to be the official sponsor of a weekly Democratic presidential debate. There would be no better advertisement for President Trump’s re-election. Every time the Democratic presidential contenders gather together, it’s a contest between the merely delusional, the vaguely vindictive and the patently absurd.
There are funny moments, like when Andrew Yang risked the ire of the political-correctness police and told us, “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” There are substantive moments, like when former Vice President Joe Biden reversed himself on China, apparently now agreeing with Mr. Trump that intellectual-property theft is a serious problem. The debates would make for entertaining television, were the ideas discussed not so dangerous.
John F. Kennedy challenged and inspired the nation by exhorting: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Today’s Democrats seem to believe JFK got it backward. They compete to see who can borrow and spend more money to give away more “free” government benefits. Mr. Yang brilliantly cuts out the middleman and, channeling his inner game-show host, showers cash on lucky supporters.
Jeb Bush famously remarked that he might have to “lose the primary to win the general.” Today’s Democrats have reversed that proposition—they seem intent on losing the general election to win the primary. Their radical ideas include open borders, confiscating guns, paying reparations for slavery, adding trillions of dollars in new government spending, taking away employer-based health care and restructuring the entire economy through the Green New Deal.
When it comes to health-care policy, some of the Democratic candidates are lying and some are merely confused, but all are deceiving the American people. President Obama falsely promised that Americans could keep their health care plans if they liked them. Today’s Democrats disagree on whether to kill private insurance quickly through Medicare for All or gradually through a government-run public option. They may differ on candor and strategic timing, but they all seem to want to take away consumers’ ability to choose and keep private health insurance.
Aside from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who at least is honest about how disruptive his plans would be, Democrats won’t tell doctors, hospitals and other providers that Medicare for All will cut their reimbursement rates by at least 11% on average, according to the socialists themselves, and by as much as 40% compared with private insurance rates. Democrats won’t tell taxpayers about the $33 trillion in new government spending projected over 10 years, or the only way to pay for it, which is higher taxes on the middle class.
Mr. Biden is trying to position himself as the moderate alternative to Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders while avoiding the gaffes and unforced errors for which he’s known. This campaign strategy is like a football team playing prevent defense in the first quarter. It’s never a good sign when campaign staffers admit their plan is to hide the candidate from the voters. Upon closer inspection, however, Mr. Biden isn’t the moderate he claims to be. Judging by the policies he now supports, the Joe Biden of 2019 is much more liberal than Hillary Clinton or any other previous Democratic nominee.
Mr. Biden recently remarked that “nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime.” That’s excellent news for Paul Manafort and Bernie Madoff. The former vice president now opposes the death penalty and wants to reverse key parts of his own 1994 crime bill. Like the other leading Democratic contenders, Mr. Biden wants taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion. He wants to spend $1.7 trillion over 10 years to zero out America’s carbon emissions by 2050 and create a public option open to all, not just those on the ObamaCare exchanges. With more than a year to go before the election, there’s plenty of time for Mr. Biden to come out in favor of abolishing the Electoral College or packing the Supreme Court.

When 60% of Democrats want a nominee even more progressive than President Obama, it’s fair to say that these are dangerous times. Only Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders could make the Obama years seem like the good old days. Mr. Trump recently said, “Whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me,” implying that otherwise the left-wing radicals will destroy the country.
Many voters will be happy to vote for Mr. Trump because they approve of what he’s accomplished—cutting taxes, deregulating the economy, unleashing domestic energy production, investing in the military, appointing conservative judges and supporting Israel. There will, however, be voters who are not particularly fond of him but will choose him over the Democrats. Far better to bear four more years of Mr. Trump’s mercurial temperament, these voters will rightly conclude, than risk it all on the Democrats’ radical and destructive policies. (Read more.)

The Horror of Slavery Today

Slavery is alive and well in many parts of the world. From The Federalist:
Every day across the African continent, black men, women, and children are captured, bought, and sold into slavery with the Western world paying scant attention. Human rights groups have marched and battled against abuses noticeably less cruel and evil than human bondage, yet no major organization has attempted to free today’s black slaves, much less taken meaningful steps to raise awareness about their plight. 
For instance, in Mauritania, although slavery has been legally banned five times since 1961, it nevertheless persists with tens of thousands of blacks continuing to be held in bondage. While it is forbidden in the Qur’an for Muslims to enslave fellow Muslims, in Mauritania, racism trumps religious doctrine — as it did in the West — as Arab and Berber Muslims enslave African Muslims. 
Twenty-five years ago, Mohamed Athié, a political refugee from Mauritania, and I broke the story of a modern-day black slave trade in The New York Times. Our nascent American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) mobilized the public, and piqued media interest. In Sudan, tens of thousands of African women and children from mostly Christian villages were being enslaved during the jihad raids of the Second Sudanese Civil War. 
Americans heard stories of abduction, rape, beatings, forced conversions, and genital mutilation. Between 1995 and 2011, Christian Solidarity International, a grassroots human rights group, liberated more than 100,000 of these slaves in European- and American-funded slave buy-backs. 
President George W. Bush, moved by the plight of the slaves, helped the black south split off and eventually form South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, in 2011. It was estimated then that as many as 35,000 blacks remained enslaved in the north. Nobody knows how many are there today. 
The AASG, which led abolitionist campaigns from 1995 to 2005, ceased its activist work when South Sudan won its freedom. But today, the enslavement of black Africans has spread as a result of the growth of violent Islamist movements and anti-black racism. The need for human rights groups’ intervention and efforts has never been greater. 
Americans first heard about Islamist slave raids in Nigeria when Michelle Obama made it a cause célèbre with her “#BringBackOurGirls” hashtag, but interest quickly faded, and Boko Haram continued to kidnap hundreds of Christian girls into jihad slavery. So cruel are the events of their captivity that some girls prefer death as suicide bombers to the life of a slave. Today, Fulani Muslim herdsmen raid Christian villages, massacring their inhabitants. President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, has done relatively little to stop the assaults, even in the face of demands for action from the White House. 
In Algeria, sub-Saharan Africans fleeing violence and poverty are enslaved by Algerian Arabs as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. According to the Global Slavery Index (GSI), 106,000 black Africans are estimated to be enslaved in Algeria. Migrant women and children of both sexes risk being forced into sexual slavery, while men perform unskilled labor. 
Black Africans hoping for a better life in Europe also travel to Libya, where they are caught and trafficked across the Mediterranean, often to Italy. The auction of a black man for $400 was filmed by CNN. The GSI estimates as many as 48,000 migrants are enslaved in Libya, with survivors reporting torture and sexual slavery. (Read more.)

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Lonely and Depressed

From Business Insider:
According to a report analyzing data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index, major depression diagnoses are rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens compared with any other age group. Since 2013, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major-depression diagnoses. The overall rate increased from 3 to 4.4% among 18- to 34-year-olds.

The most prominent symptom of major depression is "a severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair," according to Harvard Medical School. These findings were underscored by an additional Blue Cross Blue Shield report on millennial health. It analyzed the data of 55 million commercially insured American millennials, defined as people ages 21 to 36 in 2017. It found that major depression had the highest prevalence rate, or the likelihood of a person having a disease, among health conditions affecting millennials. (Read more.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Many Lives of the Tsar's Village

From The Moscow Times:
When she came to the throne in 1741, Peter and Catherine’s daughter Elizabeth envisioned a much grander footprint for the palace she named in her mother’s honor. Summoning her favorite architect, Italian Bartolomeo Rastrelli, Elizabeth ordered him to makeover the Catherine Palace much in the way he had assembled a new Winter Palace for her cousin, Empress Anna Ivanovna.

Rastrelli and Elizabeth worked well together, his expansive imagination a perfect match for her generous budget and exacting standards. Catherine the Great, who witnessed Rastelli’s numerous do-overs, likened the renovation to, “the work of Penelope: the next day the previous day’s work [is] destroyed.” But Elizabeth was so delighted with the finished product that she made Rastrelli a Russian count.

Rastrelli created a classic seventeenth-century setting for a French levée. Visitors to the Catherine Palace hardly had time to marvel over the solid marble Formal Staircase before being drawn into one continuous enfilade of rooms leading to the Empress, who was called “the Russian Venus.” This architecture created drama and anticipation and suited Elizabeth’s love of pageantry and ceremony. For formal occasions, Rastrelli created the magnificent Grand Ballroom with eleven high windows to let the sunlight burnish the richly gilded reliefs on the walls and set the mirrored walls glittering.

Rastrelli was a master at making the most of the materials he found in Northern Russia. There was very little suitable stone for masonry in the environs of St. Petersburg, so Rastrelli used plaster, perfecting the art of creating painted façades with elaborate sculptures. The stunning turquoise 1,200-foot façade of the Catherine Palace was set off by almost life-sized caryatids, today no longer gilded in solid gold as in Rastrelli and Elizabeth’s opulent time. Nor are the sculptures which graced the roof, which prompted many of the peasants in surrounding villages to believe that the roof was made of solid gold. (Read more.)