Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Le Bristol

 From Harper's Bazaar Arabia:
Although surrounded by elegance on Paris’ Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Le Bristol stands proudly in the knowledge that it is the main attraction. The Parisian palace is rich with century-old stories and is bursting with furniture plucked straight from Marie Antoinette’s mood board (presumably).

You wouldn’t know it was a family-run hotel by the opulence that fills each and every room – the only giveaway would be Fa-Roun, the live-in Burmese cat, sleeping atop the concierge desk. Through Le Bristol’s gleaming double doors, held open by staff with equally gleaming smiles, you’ll find the pièce de résistance: a courtyard so perfect you would almost be shocked to learn the grass wasn’t cut by hand.  (Read more.)

Gardening and Health

From Penn-Live:
It’s already possible to get out there and plant cool-season vegetable seeds, such as peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, kale, and kohlrabi, as well as onion sets, potatoes, and transplants of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce.
Greenhouses have been exempted from the state’s guidelines for the closing of non-essential businesses since access to food (i.e. seeds and vegetable plants) is considered essential. On warm days, get out there and cut back last season’s dead ornamental grasses and perennial foliage. Overgrown perennials also can be dug and divided now. While you’re out there, enjoy the season’s first-blooming bulbs and shrubs that are two to three weeks ahead of schedule because of the warm winter. Pick up fallen branches, edge your garden beds, rake debris off the lawn, and go ahead and seed/overseed any bare or thinning areas of the lawn. (Read more.)

Tomb of Alexander the Great

From Ancient Origins:
In 2004, scientist and author Dr Andrew Michael Chugg wrote The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great in which he explained how Alexander the Great’s tomb was initially located near Memphis at the Serapeum complex in Egypt where a temple was built by the last native pharaoh of Egypt, Nectanebo II .

Oddly, this temple entrance was guarded by sculptures of Greek poets and philosophers, including Pindar, Homer and Plato, all of whom are associated with Alexander the Great. The 2004 book made the point that the temple of Nectanebo II at the Serapeum, guarded by Greek statues, is the obvious candidate for an initial tomb of Alexander. Now, Chugg claims, the match of the piece of tomb from Venice for the sarcophagus of Nectanebo II in London shows it was used to entomb Alexander at Memphis.

Alexander’s body disappeared when the Roman emperor banned pagan worship in AD 392 and a tomb of St Mark appeared at the same time in what was previously a region occupied by Alexander’s tomb.

In a 2011 episode of the National Geographic Channel television series  Mystery Files , Andrew Chugg claimed that Alexander the Great's body had been stolen from Alexandria, Egypt, by Venetian merchants who mistook it for that of  Saint Mark the Evangelist . When they smuggled the remains to Venice, the remains soon after became venerated as Saint Mark the Evangelist in the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco.

According to Mr Chugg, the shocking inference following his new evidence is that the remains of St Mark the Evangelist within a coffin in the high altar in St Mark s in Venice might be that of Alexander the Great. (Read more.)

From The Vintage News:
According to ancient reports, the king’s body was first buried in Memphis, Egypt, and then moved to Alexandria. After his death, many believed Alexander was a god and came to worship at his tomb. There is a reference to Alexander’s body being moved to Alexandria around 280 BC. Also mentioned is a memorial building constructed to house the body. Alexander had proclaimed himself Pharaoh of Egypt while alive. Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian in the first century BC, wrote that Alexander’s body was mummified in ancient Egyptian style. The body was then placed in a gold sarcophagus. (Read more.)

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Monday, March 30, 2020

Your Guide to the Black Death

The Great Mortality. From History Extra:
In the Middle Ages, the Black Death, or ‘pestilencia’, as contemporaries called various epidemic diseases, was the worst catastrophe in recorded history. Some dubbed it ‘magna mortalitas’ (great mortality), emphasising the death rate. It destroyed a higher proportion of the population than any other single known event. One observer noted ‘the living were scarcely sufficient to bury the dead.’ No one could be sure what caused it.

Breaking out in ‘the east’, as medieval people put it, the Black Death came north and west after striking the eastern Mediterranean and Italy, Spain and France. It then came to Britain, where it struck Dorset and Hampshire along the south coast of England simultaneously. The plague then spread north and east, then on to Scandinavia and Russia. (Read more.)

From National Geographic:

The plague was once the most feared disease in the world, capable of wiping out hundreds of millions of people in seemingly unstoppable global pandemics and afflicting its victims with painfully swollen lymph nodes, blackened skin, and other gruesome symptoms
In 17th-century Europe, the physicians who tended to plague victims wore a costume that has since taken on sinister overtones: they covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease.

During that period's outbreaks of the bubonic plague—a pandemic that recurred in Europe for centuries—towns gripped by the disease hired plague doctors who practiced what passed for medicine on rich and poor residents alike. These physicians prescribed what were believed to be protective concoctions and plague antidotes, witnessed wills, and performed autopsies—and some did so while wearing beaked masks. (Read more.)

From Ancient Origins:
The reason the cause of death is so important is that many archaeological researchers have suspected Africa was struck by a historic bubonic plague, and the Iroungou bones might hold an answer. According to a March 2019 article published on Science , in the 14th century Black Death swept across Europe, Asia, and “North Africa,” killing up to 50% of the populations of major cities, but archaeologists and historians have assumed that the plague, Yersinia pestis, carried by fleas infesting rodents, didn't make it across the Sahara Desert . (Read more.)

What Will Come After

From Return to Order:
No one should be shocked at what will come next. Nothing should be ruled out. The only exception to this rule is a return to chastity and modesty. Such moral practices are deemed impossible to practice—even though they were observed for centuries during the times of Christian civilization.

Two things are certain. There will be new behavior, and its introduction will be gradual. This revolution always progresses only to the extent that it finds acceptance by society. It thrives by wearing down the resistance of moral structures, habits and practices. It finally seeks to give each new phase the protection of the law. When one aberration is accepted, everyone thinks there will be no further developments. However, this lie is soon unmasked when the next phase is proposed. (Read more.)

Will there be a second wave of socialism? From The Hill:
Forecasting the aftermath of the current crisis is nearly impossible, but here is one prediction you can take to the bank: However deep the economic carnage and regardless of its source, those who seek to drive this country towards socialism will exploit it for all it’s worth. President Trump recently declared himself a wartime president, as well he should. He is fighting an unprecedented two-front domestic war — one a health crisis, the other economic. In the coming days, the economy will further decline, perhaps in unprecedented ways. And since economic upheaval usually precedes political upheaval, he will soon need to fight a third front: the inevitable propagandizing that will flow from forces of the far left who will lay many resulting economic inequities, real or perceived, at the feet of free markets and capitalism.

The catalyst for the ascendancy of socialism in our recent politics was the financial crisis of 2008. In its wake — sparked by Occupy Wall St., encouraged by hard leftists and enabled by the media — a majority of millennials and Gens X, Y and Z now look favorably upon the movement, according to most polls. They were the base that put a Democratic socialist within a hair’s breadth of the Democratic presidential nomination. And because political views formed in youth tend to last a lifetime, this voting bloc will be the pig in the electoral snake for decades to come. (Read more.)

From PJB:
The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest crisis since the Cuban missile confrontation of 1962. After that crisis, John F. Kennedy sought to use the world’s brush with Armageddon to establish a detente with the Soviet Union of the Communist dictator who had put the missiles in Cuba. Following our Cold War victory, we have not done that. Instead, we plunged into wars that were none of our business to deal with imagined threats and advance utopian causes like establishing Jeffersonian democracy in lands where tribalism and dogmatism are rooted in the very soil. The coronavirus is the enemy Saddam Hussein never was. And the ayatollahs never had tens of millions of Americans “sheltering in place.” (Read more.)

Numbering the Kings and Queens of Britain

From Royal Central:
One aspect of the evolution of monarchy that I find interesting is the development of Ordinal numbers, or regnal numbers, and also called post-nominal numbers used to differentiate between monarchs of the same name within the same territory. In the British system of numbering the monarchs, a king or queen will not get a regnal number unless there is another monarch with the same name. For example, King John of England (1199-1217) (known as John Lackland) isn’t called John I because there has never been another King John. If there is another King John, he will be John II while John Lackland will become John I.

The practice of ascribing a regnal number to the sovereign was a later development with each monarchy in Europe having its own rules and practices. However, there were times this practice wasn’t always accurate. In this article, I will focus on the numbering of the Kings and Queen of Britain.

Prior to the development of regnal numbers, contemporary monarchs were known by either their territorial designations or a sobriquet, a nickname, that developed over time. An example of a territorial designation is Henry III of England (1217-1272) who was also known as Henry of Winchester during his 50-year reign. Generally, a sobriquet was given by others. For instance, William I of England (1066-1087) is more well known as William the Conqueror but prior to having that sobriquet, he was known as William the Bastard due to his illegitimacy. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Medieval Cats

From Medium:
The sheer absurdity of these drawings raises some flags. Were cats simply body snatched for a few hundred years? Were they ephemerally replaced by humanoid fur demons, or did the monks who wrote manuscripts just really prefer dogs? All cats are a little demonic, as their humans would probably attest to. It turns out Medieval scribes were maybe just a little more on the nose about it. 
“In the Medieval period, animals were understood to be the mirror of human society,” historian Damien Kempf, who is writing a book on Medieval depictions of animals, told me. “Even though animals were believed to be irrational beings, they were given human traits and characteristics.” Dogs, for example, were lauded for being loyal companions, created to guard the house and assist in the hunt. Cats? Not so much. 
“Sources emphasize the rather unruly nature of cats,” Kempf said. “Unlike dogs, cats cannot be trained to be loyal and obedient. As one author complains, they will go to whoever gives them food.” So that’s one reason cats probably got such an unflattering edit. (Read more.)

Public Health and the Dangers of Porn

From Return to Order:
The roots of the AJPH’s position goes back to the “do your own thing” attitude of the late sixties and early seventies. Cohabitation gained social approval. Many people saw “trial marriages” as a way to test compatibility. Soon activity once been reserved for marriage became a recreational activity like any other.
During the sixties, pseudo-intellectuals argued that all morality was “personal,” and that standards of behavior were up to the individual. They repeated the phrases “You can’t legislate morality” and “I don’t care what you do in your bedroom” until the general public accepted them. That, in turn, gave rise to the superficial “Who am I to judge?” attitude that is so common today.
Underlying this attitude was an even more profound shift was at work. The worship of youth replaced respect for the experience of elders. A permissive culture sough to convince people to discard the Church’s moral system. In the process, moral protection for the young disappeared. Indeed, too many people old enough to know better looked enviously on their children’s immoral lives and imitated them. Divorce, adultery, abortion, and child abandonment proliferated. (Read more.)

Andrew Klavan’s Experimental Fiction

From First Things:
Several years ago, Klavan embarked on another experiment: a novel in the form of a podcast. Then someone suggested that the podcast could be turned into a book—or, as it played out, a trilogy. The first volume, Another Kingdom (the title of which is also the name of the trilogy as a whole), was published a year ago, and I wrote about it here. The second volume, The Nightmare Feast, is just out.
You recall those YA novels by Klavan I mentioned? They were quite obviously—brazenly, even—written primarily for boys. Now imagine those boys some years later, about the age of Austin Lively, the thirty-year-old would-be screenwriter who is the protagonist of Klavan’s trilogy. Such readers, I speculated when Another Kingdom was published, are the ones Klavan has most immediately in mind for this project: not all young men, of course, but the many who seem to be drifting, seem to have lost their way. And this in no way implies that other readers (seventy-plus old men like me, for instance, not to mention women of all ages) will find nothing of interest here. In fact, the “lostness” of many young men these days, much analyzed in various sharply differing contexts, is a particular case of the lostness, the fallenness, that all humans share.
If you’ve read Philip K. Dick, you’ll recall his fondness for shuttling his protagonists back and forth between different realities (sometimes accomplished by positing parallel “time-streams”). This is at once powerfully disorienting (evoking the uncertainty about bedrock reality that most of us experience from time to time) and—for the reader, as opposed to the character who is being jerked around—very entertaining, sometimes comical. Near the start of the first book in the trilogy, as I explained last year, Austin Lively passes through a doorway in Hollywood “and suddenly finds himself in a vaguely medieval setting (‘Galiana’) and in immediate peril. Before long (via another doorway), he finds himself back in Hollywood. And so it goes through the course of the book, back and forth.” That pattern persists in Book Two, The Nightmare Feast. And the trick never goes stale: Disorientation and comedy are perfectly balanced. (Read more.)

From HIT:
Alfred Hitchcock had a big influence on me, and he was always the first guy to use some new development in a creative way: sound, color, slackening censorship. He didn’t just use it, he worked with it. I love writing prose and when I started out, novelists were the top of the creative food chain. Who would be the next Hemingway and so on. 
That’s changed. 
The novel reaches fewer people now, very few young people. But at the same time, these new technologies have come along. I’d be crazy not to use them. Plus, it forces me to examine what my strengths are, which will make the transition, which not. I preach this kind of creative flexibility to other artists, so yeah, I want to practice it myself. (Read more.) 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Madame de Montespan and the Affair of the Poisons

From All That's Interesting:
The Marquise de Montespan continued to reign over the card tables and dance halls of Versailles. Louis XIV may have been the “Sun King,” but the Marquise de Montespan had an orbit all her own. According again to the Duc de Saint Simon, the marquise: “became the epicenter of the court, its pleasures and its fortunes, a source of both hope and terror for ministers and generals.”

Of course, this kind of power is seldom without a price, particularly for women in history. Like Marie-Antoinette after her, the Marquise de Montespan’s proximity to power was just kindling for her critics. As the maîtresse-en-titre, Madame de Montespan represented all that was hedonistic and amoral about Versailles. While this reputation undoubtedly made her desirable to men, it was also damning in an overwhelmingly Catholic 17th-century France. (Read more.)

One Doctor's Clinical Perspective

From Vox Populi:
I am an ER MD in New Orleans. Class of 98. Every one of my colleagues have now seen several hundred Covid 19 patients and this is what I think I know. Clinical course is predictable. 2-11 days after exposure (day 5 on average) flu-like symptoms start. Common are fever, headache, dry cough, myalgias(back pain), nausea without vomiting, abdominal discomfort with some diarrhea, loss of smell, anorexia, fatigue. Day 5 of symptoms- increased SOB, and bilateral viral pneumonia from direct viral damage to lung parenchyma. 
Day 10- Cytokine storm leading to acute ARDS and multiorgan failure. You can literally watch it happen in a matter of hours. 81% mild symptoms, 14% severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, 5% critical. Patient presentation is varied. Patients are coming in hypoxic (even 75%) without dyspnea. I have seen Covid patients present with encephalopathy, renal failure from dehydration, DKA. I have seen the bilateral interstitial pneumonia on the xray of the asymptomatic shoulder dislocation or on the CT's of the (respiratory) asymptomatic polytrauma patient. Essentially if they are in my ER, they have it. Seen three positive flu swabs in 2 weeks and all three had Covid 19 as well. 
Somehow this ***** has told all other disease processes to get out of town. China reported 15% cardiac involvement. I have seen covid 19 patients present with myocarditis, pericarditis, new onset CHF and new onset atrial fibrillation. I still order a troponin, but no cardiologist will treat no matter what the number in a suspected Covid 19 patient. Even our non covid 19 STEMIs at all of our facilities are getting TPA in the ED and rescue PCI at 60 minutes only if TPA fails. (Read more.)

From RealClearPolitics:
Please for the reassurance of people around the world, to wake up this morning and look at people talking about creating DNR situations, Do Not Resuscitate situations for patients, there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion. You can be thinking about it in the hospital. Certainly, hospitals talk about this on a daily basis, but to say that to the American people and make the implication that when they need a hospital bed it's not going to be there or a ventilator, it's not going to be there, we don't have evidence of that.

It's our job collectively to assure the American people, it's our job to make sure that doesn't happen. You can see the cases are concentrated in highly urban areas and there are other parts of the states that have lots of ventilators and other parts of New York state that don't have any infected. We can meet the needs by being responsive.

There is no model right now -- no reality on the ground where we can see that 60% to 70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I want to be clear about that. We are adapting to the reality on the ground and looking at the models of how they can inform but learning from South Korea and Italy and from Spain and I know you will look up my numbers. (Read more.)

California Screaming

From Charles Coulombe at Crisis:
This is a sad development in a place that has traditionally been the land of opportunity. Compare the hacks who rule from Sacramento to St. Junipero Serra and his gallant Franciscans, Spanish soldiers, and Mexican settlers who pioneered El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma with its chain of 21 missions—to say nothing of the countless Indian souls saved thereby. Short as it was, the mission era in California history laid deep foundations that were not undone by the American conquest. They even gave rise to a Romantic literature of sorts, as embodied by Zorro and Ramona, as well as the Mission and Monterey Revivals in architecture.

Shortly after American annexation, the Gold Rush of 1849 brought thousands of would-be gold barons from all over the nation—and the world. When the dust had settled, San Francisco’s Barbary Coast was a city as proud as any in the East. In the years following the Civil War, hordes of Easterners and Midwesterners came out in search of good weather, health, and El Dorado. This would continue into the 1960s, and my family and I were in the last wave. Dreams dreamt in more established states could come to fruition out here. So it was that the cult-spawning center of the country, which had shifted from New England to the Midwest after the Civil War, moved to Southern California in the 1890s. So it was that Pentecostalism, Theosophy, the Great I AM, and literally dozens of others were either born or prospered out here. But more mundane—if more successful—visionaries also came: Missouri’s Dr. Hubert Eaton, founder of the Forest Lawn chain of user-friendly cemeteries; Chicago’s Walt Disney; and rural Illinois’s own Ronald Reagan. Such men made as much of the raw clay of California as their intellect and drive allowed. (Read more.)

Origins of Horse Domestication

From The Conversation:
Tracing the origins of horse domestication in the prehistoric era has proven to be an exceedingly difficult task. Horses – and the people who care for them – tend to live in remote, dry or cold grassland regions, moving often and leaving only ephemeral marks in the archaeological record. In the steppes, pampas and plains of the world, historic records are often ambiguous or absent, archaeological sites are poorly investigated and research is published in a variety languages. At the heart of the issue is a more basic struggle: How can you distinguish a “domestic” animal from its wild cousin? What does it even mean to be “domesticated”? And can scientists trace this process in archaeological sites that are thousands of years old and often consist of nothing more than piles of discarded bones? As an archaeozoologist, I work in a field that seeks to develop ways to do just this – and with the aid of new technologies, recent research is turning up some surprising answers. (Read more.)

Friday, March 27, 2020

George IV: Art and Spectacle

Coronation of George IV
George IV
Maria Fitzherbert
From The Royal Collection Trust:
Both in his role as Prince of Wales and, from 1820, magnificent king, George IV purchased paintings, metalwork, textiles, furniture, watercolours, books and ceramics in vast numbers, many of these works by the finest artists of the day. Through the spectacular interiors of his houses and palaces in London and Brighton, numerous flattering portraits, carefully choreographed state occasions and consciously ostentatious fashion choices, George IV attempted to shape public perception of his role as heir to the throne and as king. To celebrate next year as the 200th anniversary of George IV's accession to the throne, this beautifully illustrated monograph examines the man behind the crown through his unrivalled art collection. (Read more.)

From Royal Central:
Her king called her his ”wife of heart and soul” even though their actual, secret union was declared invalid. Now the woman who cast a shadow over the reign of George IV and even the succession to his throne has returned to Buckingham Palace. A portrait of Maria Fitzherbert, who wed the future George IV after they fell hopelessly in love, is now displayed at the Queen’s home as part of an exhibition about the king. The pencil drawing of Maria was commissioned by George in 1789 and features in George IV: Art and Spectacle which is open at Buckingham Palace until the beginning of May.

Maria and George met in 1784 and went through a marriage ceremony on December 15th 1785. Both knew it would be illegal under British law. George, who was then Prince of Wales, had to obtain the permission of his father, King George III, to get married and hadn’t even asked as he knew the answer would be no.

Maria was far from an ideal royal bride. For a start, she had no blue blood of her own and she had already been married twice by the time she fell in love with George. She was also a Catholic so even if George III had been swayed by the young couple’s romance, their wedding would have meant his son and heir giving up his rights to the throne. (Read more.)

The Road Not Traveled

From Just the News:
A lot of opportunities were missed," said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University and Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health. "A lot of opportunities were squandered. Global pressure was not where it should be." Experts said the decision to prioritize a pandemic flu over the coronavirus was based on risk assessments, some which failed to adjust to the reality that a growing economy and increased airline travel in recent years changed some of the risk assumptions.
"We knew a pandemic was coming at some point," said Dr. Sarah Fortune, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Given our experiences with SARS1, MERS versus the various modern flu epidemics, I do not think it was unreasonable to put our bets on flu. And in many ways, the investments that we made — and those we failed to make — in flu preparedness are bearing fruit now." Hal King, the chief executive officer for the nonprofit Public Health Innovations and an infectious diseases scientist formerly at the Center for Disease Control and at Emory University School of Medicine, agreed.
"I believe the COVID-19 pandemic was more difficult to prepare for because the majority of the global preparation before this was centered on pandemic flu," King told Just the News. "Pandemic Flu was expected to spread much faster and become more lethal because of the natural spread by birds across continents and via significant human travel by air (of which the models predicted it to kill millions quickly). COVID-19 does not spread across continents by natural spread via birds but only via human to human contact, which we would expect to be more easily containable."  
"However," he continued, "because air travel has so significantly increased in the last 10 years, we need to rethink preparedness (including drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines) for all human to human infectious diseases that could be pandemic." 
This tale of inaction and inertia dates to a period after the 2002-03 eruption in China of SARS, a coronavirus sister to today's pathogen. After the SARS virus peaked, the Chinese Ministry of Health invited scientists, researchers, and doctors to participate in reflective discussions about what was learned and what could be done to thwart future pandemics.
Barry Bloom, an infectious disease researcher and Harvard professor, was one of the attendees and remembers a clarion call to close wildlife markets known to spread the coronavirus to humans. “Everyone knows they are extremely dangerous,” Bloom said. And yet the markets, after a brief pause, were allowed to resume operations.
Equally alarming was the lack of followup after early drug studies found some promising treatments that worked anecdotally during the SARS outbreak in 2003, two smaller coronavirus outbreaks in 2004-05, and MERS in 2012. The anti-malarial drug known as chloroquine was one of a handful flagged as a potential treatment. One such study in 2005 found “chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-Cove infection of primate cells. These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage.” (Read more.)

A Taste of Socialism

The empty shelves themselves become the reason for the panic buying. We’re not used to this. We’ve never before seen this. Aside from some empty bread and bottled water aisles during hurricane seasons, and some difficulties finding shovels at Home Depot during snowstorm warnings, Americans by and large are a buy-what-we-want, when-we-want-it lot. And if it ain’t in the store, we’ll get it online, shipped overnight. 
We get pizza delivery by drone, for crying out loud. 
Now, Nike has shut doors. States have declared emergencies. Toilet paper is on backorder — tissue boxes, too. Meat bins are emptied; canned goods are dwindling; milk is a luxury that can’t be found for sale anywhere. In other words: It’s a good teaching moment for millennials. For Sen. Bernie Sanders’ fans. For Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s advocates. 
If you like socialism — well, here’s socialism, upfront and personal. 
“The first time I couldn’t buy food at the grocery store,” wrote Daniel Di Martino, in USA Today in February, 2019, “I was 15 years old. It was 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela, and I had spent more than an hour in line waiting. When I got to the register, I noticed I had forgotten my ID that day. Without the ID, the government rationing system would not let the supermarket sell my family the full quota of food we needed. It was four days until the government allowed me to buy more.” 
Di Martino said that socialism, which he lived with until 2016, when he came to the United States as a student, destroyed his country. The government, seeking to distribute necessary products in a fair and equitable manner, “imposed price controls,” “nationalized the most important private industries,” took over the free market and hampered the individual’s ability to create and produce. Shortages, predictably, were the result. (Read more.)

From the Ruth Institute:
After China, Italy has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus. Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., said, “Italy’s aging population is a factor in the spread of a disease to which the elderly are particularly susceptible.” 
Morse noted, “As of March 17, there were almost 28,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,158 deaths in Italy. Only China has more cases. And while China has the world’s largest population, Italy’s cases are concentrated in a numerically much smaller population than China’s. The number of total cases in Italy is roughly 460 per million population,* far higher than China’s 56 cases per million population. Worse, while the growth of new cases has slowed in China, it’s speeding up in Italy.” 
Italy’s demographic problem of falling fertility should be seen as the backdrop to its coronavirus crisis. “Italy’s fertility rate is now 1.33 children per woman, far below the replacement level of 2.1,” Morse explained. As a result, Italy has a rapidly aging population. Almost a quarter, 23% of Italy’s population is now over 65 years of age. In 2019, the median age was 46.3 years, projected to rise to 51.4 years by 2050. This in turn has given Italy a shrinking economy and rising public sector costs, due to pensions and health care. The nation’s growing elderly population has also put a strain on its health care system, as the coronavirus situation illustrates. 
“The answer is obvious,” Morse said. “Italy should be (and should have been) promoting procreation. Russia has a National Conception Day to address its fertility crisis. Hungary has recently introduced birth incentives. Instead of trying to get more women into the workforce or admitting more migrants– both short term solutions, at best – Italy should be encouraging Italian families to have more children. A nation without children has no future.” 
“We must do everything we can to limit the spread of the disease,” Morse said. “But we must also understand the role of demographics in creating the sort of population prone to the coronavirus and other pandemics. With any luck, and by the grace of God, Italy will experience a post-COVID baby boom. Any new baby is a sign of renewed hope in the future. Certainly, new babies conceived in Italy now are a great sign of hope.” (Read more.

A Brief History of Hand-washing

From History Extra:
Contrary to the popular belief that people in the Middle Ages were disgustingly smelly and dirty, medieval people frequently washed their hands, usually on rising and before and after meals. This was not just a case of good manners; they were well aware of the link between dirt and illness. Consequently, the 14th-century surgeon John of Arderne required prospective apprentices to have “clene handes and wele shapen nailes…clensed fro all blaknes and filthe”. Hand-washing mattered because it was seen to remove both external dirt and harmful bodily excretions.

This dual concern with dirt and bodily excrement continued into the Renaissance. Italian physician Tommaso Rangone (1493–1577) advised that hands must regularly “be cleaned of superfluities, sweat and grime that nature often deposits in those places”. Other medical writers also recognised that hands could transmit disease, although their concerns focused on skin diseases such as scabies, rather than the more well-known plague. Therefore, hand-washing was thought to be necessary for good health. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Legendary Courtesan

From Architectural Digest:
“She was a very naughty girl,” Manhattan gallerist Adam Williams says of the presumed subject of Étienne Aubrey’s 1779 painting La Turque, which is being offered at $485,335. Dressed in fashionable Ottoman-style garb and suggestively reclining on cushions, the beautiful young woman is believed to be Rosalie Duthé (1748–1830), a legendary courtesan who counted Louis XVI’s brother the Comte d’Artois among her monied lovers. (Read more.)

Coronavirus and the Sun

From Medium:
When new, virulent diseases emerge, such SARS and Covid-19, the race begins to find new vaccines and treatments for those affected. As the current crisis unfolds, governments are enforcing quarantine and isolation, and public gatherings are being discouraged. Health officials took the same approach 100 years ago, when influenza was spreading around the world. The results were mixed. But records from the 1918 pandemic suggest one technique for dealing with influenza — little-known today — was effective. Some hard-won experience from the greatest pandemic in recorded history could help us in the weeks and months ahead.

 Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients; and infections among medical staff.[1] There is scientific support for this. Research shows that outdoor air is a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu virus.

During the great pandemic, two of the worst places to be were military barracks and troop-ships. Overcrowding and bad ventilation put soldiers and sailors at high risk of catching influenza and the other infections that often followed it.[2,3] As with the current Covid-19 outbreak, most of the victims of so-called `Spanish flu’ did not die from influenza: they died of pneumonia and other complications.
When the influenza pandemic reached the East coast of the United States in 1918, the city of Boston was particularly badly hit. So the State Guard set up an emergency hospital. They took in the worst cases among sailors on ships in Boston harbour. The hospital’s medical officer had noticed the most seriously ill sailors had been in badly-ventilated spaces. So he gave them as much fresh air as possible by putting them in tents. And in good weather they were taken out of their tents and put in the sun. At this time, it was common practice to put sick soldiers outdoors. Open-air therapy, as it was known, was widely used on casualties from the Western Front. And it became the treatment of choice for another common and often deadly respiratory infection of the time; tuberculosis. Patients were put outside in their beds to breathe fresh outdoor air. Or they were nursed in cross-ventilated wards with the windows open day and night. The open-air regimen remained popular until antibiotics replaced it in the 1950s.
Doctors who had first-hand experience of open-air therapy at the hospital in Boston were convinced the regimen was effective. It was adopted elsewhere. If one report is correct, it reduced deaths among hospital patients from 40 per cent to about 13 per cent.[4] According to the Surgeon General of the Massachusetts State Guard:
`The efficacy of open air treatment has been absolutely proven, and one has only to try it to discover its value.’
Fresh Air is a Disinfectant
Patients treated outdoors were less likely to be exposed to the infectious germs that are often present in conventional hospital wards. They were breathing clean air in what must have been a largely sterile environment. We know this because, in the 1960s, Ministry of Defence scientists proved that fresh air is a natural disinfectant.[5] Something in it, which they called the Open Air Factor, is far more harmful to airborne bacteria — and the influenza virus — than indoor air. They couldn’t identify exactly what the Open Air Factor is. But they found it was effective both at night and during the daytime.
Their research also revealed that the Open Air Factor’s disinfecting powers can be preserved in enclosures — if ventilation rates are kept high enough. Significantly, the rates they identified are the same ones that cross-ventilated hospital wards, with high ceilings and big windows, were designed for.[6] But by the time the scientists made their discoveries, antibiotic therapy had replaced open-air treatment. Since then the germicidal effects of fresh air have not featured in infection control, or hospital design. Yet harmful bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
Sunlight and Influenza Infection
Putting infected patients out in the sun may have helped because it inactivates the influenza virus.[7] It also kills bacteria that cause lung and other infections in hospitals.[8] During the First World War, military surgeons routinely used sunlight to heal infected wounds.[9] They knew it was a disinfectant. What they didn’t know is that one advantage of placing patients outside in the sun is they can synthesise vitamin D in their skin if sunlight is strong enough. This was not discovered until the 1920s. Low vitamin D levels are now linked to respiratory infections and may increase susceptibility to influenza.[10] Also, our body’s biological rhythms appear to influence how we resist infections.[11] New research suggests they can alter our inflammatory response to the flu virus.[12] As with vitamin D, at the time of the 1918 pandemic, the important part played by sunlight in synchronizing these rhythms was not known. (Read more.)

From Return to Order:
A virus is also a-religious. However, that does not prevent it from having a religious dimension. The coronavirus comes at a time when most in society feel they do not need God. For these, God has long been replaced by bread and circuses. The modern pleasures point to no need for heaven. The postmodern vices proclaim no fear of hell.

And yet the coronavirus has the uncanny ability to turn our material paradises into hells. The cruise ship, the symbol of all earthly delights, became an infected prison for passengers who did everything possible to get out. Those who have made sports their god now find empty stadiums and canceled tournaments. Those who adore money now find decimated portfolios and quarantined workforces. The worshippers of education look at their empty schools and universities. The devotees of consumerism face bare supermarket shelves. The world we worshipped is tumbling down. The things for which we glory are now in ruins.

A small microbe has toppled the idols that were once thought so stable, powerful and enduring. It has brought their worshippers to their knees. And we still insist that we do not need God. We will spend trillions of dollars in the futile hope of patching our broken idols.

However, one aspect of the coronavirus crisis is still worse. It is bad enough that God is replaced or ignored. We have gone one step further. God is banished from the scene; He is forbidden to act. Among the draconian measures decreed, government officials are forbidding public worship. In Italy, they have banned Masses, stopped communion and confession. The Church and its holy sacraments are considered an occasion of contagion, treated no different than a sports event or music concert. In their turn, the media mock the Church claiming that even God has been self-quarantined. (Read more.)

Bones of a Princess

Bones of a saint. From Ancient Origins:
Scientists have finally managed to solve a centuries-old mystery. They have been able to show with a high degree of probability that some bones located in a church wall belonged to a medieval saint and princess who played a very important role in the development of Christianity in England. The team of experts believe they have found the remains of St Eanswythe, who lived in the 7th century AD. In 1885 a number of human bones were found in in the wall of the Church of St Mary & St Eanswythe, on Church Street, Folkestone. Folkestone is a historic town in the County of Kent on the south coast of England. The bones were something of a mystery - no one was sure of their origin or who they belonged to. Recently a group of archaeologists used radiocarbon dating technology to study the remains. A team comprised of local archaeologists and experts from Kent along with scientists from Queen’s University Belfast collaborated on the project. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Angelic Salutation And The Black Death

The Annunciation ~ Frederic James Shields
From Aleteia:
This second part (“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death”) is believed by many to have been added during the plague to ask for the Blessed Mother’s protection from the fatal disease. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen explains this origin in his book The World’s First Love.
Since it seizes upon the two decisive moments of life: “now” and “at the hour of our death,” it suggests the spontaneous outcry of people in a great calamity. The Black Death, which ravaged all Europe and wiped out one-third of its population, prompted the faithful to cry out to the Mother of Our Lord to protect them at a time when the present moment and death were almost one.
An expert in Marian devotion, Fr. Donald H. Calloway, confirms this conclusion in his book Champions of the Rosary and explains how, “After the Black Death, the second half of the Hail Mary began to appear in the breviaries of religious communities, especially those of the Mercedarians, Camaldolese, and Franciscans … the people of the 14th century greatly needed the ‘hope-filled’ dimension of the second half of the Hail Mary prayer.” (Read more.)

Trianon Revisited

A view of Marie-Antoinette's Temple of Love at Petit Trianon during a visit by Louis XVIII and the Duc and Duchesse d'Angoulême in 1815. Engraving by Michon after Henri Courvoisier-Voisin. Share

This Is Not The Flu

A healthcare worker speaks out. To die of coronavirus sounds like a slow drowning. May God deliver us. From ProPublica:
“With our coronavirus patients, once they’re on ventilators, most need about the highest settings that we can do. About 90% oxygen, and 16 of PEEP, positive end-expiratory pressure, which keeps the lung inflated. This is nearly as high as I’ve ever seen. The level we’re at means we are running out of options.
“In my experience, this severity of ARDS is usually more typical of someone who has a near drowning experience — they have a bunch of dirty water in their lungs — or people who inhale caustic gas. Especially for it to have such an acute onset like that. I’ve never seen a microorganism or an infectious process cause such acute damage to the lungs so rapidly. That was what really shocked me.”
“It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube and out of his mouth. The ventilator should have been doing the work of breathing but he was still gasping for air, moving his mouth, moving his body, struggling. We had to restrain him. With all the coronavirus patients, we’ve had to restrain them. They really hyperventilate, really struggle to breathe. When you’re in that mindstate of struggling to breathe and delirious with fever, you don’t know when someone is trying to help you, so you’ll try to rip the breathing tube out because you feel it is choking you, but you are drowning. (Read more.)

The Jewish Descent of Hispanics

Spain had a large Jewish community from ancient times until the 15th century. At one point there were more Jews living in Spain than there had ever been in Israel. From The Jerusalem Post:
There has long been speculation of significant Jewish ancestry among the populations of Latin and North America and Europe. Much of that was consistent with historical data, in that we know that extremely large numbers of those Jews who had been forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal – referred to variously as Anousim, Marranos, Conversos and Crypto-Jews – fled the Iberian Peninsula to the New World during the Age of Discovery, beginning late in the 15th century.

Throughout the years, many tried to place a number on the descendants of these Jews, the progeny of a couple of hundred thousand who were forced to the baptismal font to regain kidnapped children held hostage or as a result of repressive legislation and oppression.

Now, unprecedented genetic research undertaken by dozens of professors from around the world has provided evidence that almost a quarter of Latinos and Hispanics have significant Jewish DNA. The study, published in Nature Communications in December 2018, revealed that the number of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities is far higher than even the largest estimates previously suggested. The last official approximation of the number of people in Latin America, conducted by the United Nations in 2016, resulted in a figure of over 650 million. Add to that assessment the 60 million or so Latinos and Hispanics in the U.S., as well as the data from earlier genetic research showing that around 20% of the current population of 60 million people in the Iberian Peninsula have Jewish ancestry and the statistic becomes staggering. There could be as many as 200 million descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities around the world today. (Read more.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fall of Rome

Romulus Augustulus resigns Roman crown to Odoacer
From Heritage Daily:
With the fall of the Western Empire in 476 CE, Odoacer had gained the support of the remnants of the Roman Senate in Rome and was crowned the first King of Italy, forming the first Ostrogothic Kingdom. His rule, although stained with conquest adopted the Roman administrative system and the law of the Empire remained as ruling the Roman population (though Goths were ruled under their own traditional laws). And so, the Roman way of life continued, albeit a shadow of the glory that was Imperial Rome. But by the Reign of Theoderic the Great (493–526), the relationship with the Byzantine Empire and this fledgling Ostrogothic Kingdom begun to strain. Even the native Roman populous of Italy was feeling an increasing alienation of their cast from the Gothic regime. (Read more.)

What Freedom Can Do

From FEE:
Thirty years ago, on March 11, 1990, Lithuania unilaterally declared independence from the Soviet Union. More precisely, it declared that the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, enabled by secret agreements between the Soviets and Nazi Germany, was unlawful, and restored the independent Lithuania of 1918. Latvia and Estonia soon followed. This set off a chain of events that, together with the Fall of Berlin Wall (1989) and an attempted military coup in Russia (August 1991), led to dissolution of Soviet Union. Just like that, the evil empire was no more.  (Read more.)

Tunic of a Martyr

From Aleteia:
Canterbury Cathedral is preparing to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, one of England’s most revered medieval saints. To honor the occasion, the Vatican has agreed to loan Canterbury a holy relic of the patron saint of the city of London: the bloodied garment he was believed to have worn at the time of his murder. The Guardian reports that the garment is a religious vestment known as a tunicle, an article of clothing similar in style to a dalmatic, which was worn by a priest over his alb when celebrating Mass. The relic is encased within a 17th-century glass reliquary, which will be on display from July 4 to August 3, 2020. (Read more.)

Monday, March 23, 2020

Emma. (2020)

Emma and Mr. Knightley
 Drink to me only with thine eyes,  
And I will pledge with mine;  
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,   
And I’ll not look for wine. 
~from To Celia by Ben Jonson

Emma. is based upon Jane Austen's novel of the same name and revolves around a young lady who is the center of her family and community. Amid so many perfections, she must somehow learn to face her own shortcomings. During her often painful journey to maturity she discovers the meaning of true love and sacrifice. I saw this wonderful film on Prime and it is truly a work of art. It is definitely a film to own. From Screen Rant:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every few years, Hollywood will produce a new adaptation of one of Jane Austen's classic novels. This year comes Emma., the feature-length film debut of director Autumn de Wilde that adapts Austen's comedy about romance and marriage in Regency England. Originally published in 1815, Emma has been adapted many times, perhaps most famously in Amy Heckerling's 1995 film Clueless, though Gwyneth Paltrow's period piece Emma released the following year. Now, de Wilde's Emma is another period adaptation, but one with some modern sensibilities and style. Emma offers a stunningly crafted and uproarious adaptation of Austen's novel, with gorgeous costumes and delightfully charming performances.

 The movie follows Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), a "handsome, clever and rich" young woman who has a knack for meddling in the romantic lives of her friends, much to the chagrin of her father, Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy). The film opens on the day of a wedding Emma helped orchestrate, between her friends, Mr. (Rupert Graves) and Mrs. Weston (Gemma Whelan). Emma next sets her sights on the young Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), though she is unsuccessful in creating a match with Mr. Elton (Josh O'Connor). For herself, Emma is interested in Frank Churchill (Callum Turner), but discovers she may in fact have feelings for George Knightley (Johnny Flynn). Emma's meddling creates a difficult situation that involves not only her feelings, but those of her friends, and she'll have to figure out a way to untangle it in order to ensure she and her friends find love and happiness.

 Emma's script is adapted by novelist Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries) and manages to capture much of Austen's own comedy, translating it elegantly to the screen. There is, of course, a reason that Austen's novels are adapted time and again - it's because the stories are so engaging and compelling that it's easy for each new generation to fall in love with the characters and be transported to the time of Regency England for some fun and romance. There's an escapist nature to our love of Austen, as in many tales of romance, and both Catton's script and de Wilde's direction only further elevates that escapism. The setting of the fictional Highbury is beautifully picturesque - except, of course, when the story calls for a rainstorm, though even then, it's still quaint - while the costumes in Emma are absolutely exquisite. On the whole, Emma adapts Austen's original story with such love that it's as equally a celebration of her work as of the romance at the heart of it. (Read more.)

From Newsroom:
The most important decision Catton has to make is whether to take liberties with the book she has in front of her. It’s irritating for the viewer to see too many liberties being taken with the original. But Catton is too clever a writer not to give Jane Austen due deference, and too engaged in the now, not to draw from the novel what is there already, but which resonates today.
We are currently living in a time which decades ago we were told would be one of great leisure. Robots were not only going to be doing our jobs, they were going to cook and clean and make the beds and we’d have time to do what we please. Instead, people are working crazy hours with no job security just to make ends meet. So here we are, in Emma, back in the olden days. We are watching two hours of people who’ve never done an honest day’s work in their lives. They get up and get dressed, they socialise, they wander into the village, they scheme, write letters, they eat their dinner, dance or play the piano, then go to bed. They are not, of course, a large percentage of the population. And it’s hard not to feel both a little guilty and bitterly jealous. This is life as Winston Peters imagined it for retirees.
It’s the class theme on which Catton has chosen to concentrate. Emma’s pernickety father, masterfully played by Bill Nighy playing himself again, says to Mr Knightley that if he walks to the Woodhouse mansion, rather than coming in his carriage, his boots will get covered in mud.  They haven’t, as it turns out, but if they had, you can be assured that it wouldn’t have been Mr Knightley who gave them a damn good brush. The beautiful houses that we, along with the lesser characters, can’t help but admire, are dust-free.
Every surface glows. Every fire is set, every meal is placed upon the table. Every awkward piece of clothing – as of course no one hangs around in trackpants and hoodie – has not only been laundered by someone else, but the person wearing it has been assisted by someone else to actually put it on. And those ringlets do not curl themselves. It’s not that this isn’t in the novel already; it’s just that Catton with her clear eye has noticed it. (Read more.)
Another excellent review from The Washington Post.

And more HERE. The soundtrack is marvelous, too, HERE.

Emma and Harriet
Jane Fairfax
Mr Frank Churchill
Reverend and Mrs. Elton

Hostage of the North

From PRI:
Ivanova's plight clashes with Russian President Vladimir Putin's quest to conquer the warming Arctic. In April, he promised that the Northern Sea Route between Murmansk and Vladivostok would grow to rival the Suez canal as a shipping lane. Seven military bases have been built or reopened along the northern coast since 2013. Last month, the government approved huge tax breaks for oil and gas development in the Arctic, including offshore projects.

But the paradox is that the north is emptying out even as Russia tries to develop it. Vorkuta was built during Joseph Stalin's reign on the backs of starved Gulag prisoners, 200,000 of whom died. After Stalin's death, the Soviet Union lured more willing workers north with doubled wages and early retirement. But since the fall of the communist system that developed the region, 1 million people have left the Arctic zone. Far more have fled Siberia and the far east. Today, northern resources are being dug and drilled by dormitories of fly-in laborers rather than cities of Soviet shock workers. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, hyperinflation vaporized Russians' savings overnight, including what workers in places like Vorkuta had put away to retire in the “middle latitudes.” The average apartment in central Russia costs 30 times as much as in Vorkuta.

“Money people saved to buy an apartment turned into only enough to buy a sausage,” said Nadezhda Zamyatina, a geography professor at Moscow State University who has consulted several northern cities on development. (Read more.)

Remembering The Alamo

From Texas Standard:
I saw John Wayne’s film, “The Alamo,” when I was a kid and for years I had in my mind that the men who fought there were mostly in their 40s and 50s. Legends like Crockett and Bowie who dominated the film, and dominated the actual siege, too, were rightfully played by actors who were about their age. Crockett was 50 in his last days at the Alamo and John Wayne was 52 when he played him. Bowie was 39 and Richard Widmark was 46. And many of the other actors who surrounded them on screen were also over 40.
But the reality was something quite different. Well over half of the defenders of the Alamo were under 30. Fourteen were teenagers. 14! Two 16-year-olds died for Texas’ liberty there. The typical Alamo fighter was 26 years old, which was the age of their commander. That’s right, William Barret Travis was just 26 years old and the sole commander of the Alamo, at least in the last days. Bowie was originally a co-commander but he was so very sick – bedridden from typhoid or pneumonia – and that left Travis fully in charge.
Eighty percent of the men at the Alamo were 34 and under. Today we would consider folks their age millennials. And the gift they gave was all the more precious because they knew in the last days, when Santa Anna raised the pirate flag, that no surrender would be accepted. They had to win or die. And as they looked across the prairie at a force ten times their size, they knew these were likely their last days. They could have left. There were chances to get out under the cover of darkness. But they stayed, knowing that they were giving up not just their lives, but all the long years that generally awaited young men. There were even men from Gonzales who actually fought through the Mexican lines to join their brothers in arms in the Alamo. Astonishing.
And the Alamo men came from all over. Numbers can be tricky with this history, but here’s what we know based on the Alamo’s official website, 32 were from Tennessee, 15 each came from Pennsylvania and Virginia, and 14 were from Kentucky. Eight were Hispanic -– born in Mexican Texas. And Europe was involved, too: ten came from England, ten from Ireland, four from Scotland, two from Germany. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

NYC’s Best Speakeasies and Hidden Cocktail Bars

 Places to visit after the plague subsides. From the New York Post:
In the back of HALL — the popular Japanese café and cocktail bar in Manhattan’s Flatiron district — is an unmarked door that opens onto a secret world: Odo, the kaiseki (multiple-course) restaurant of Hiroki Odo, who was formerly head chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Kajitsu. Serving nine courses, from an amuse-bouche of uni with caviar to sushi to sake ice cream, for $200 (not including drinks, tax or tip), the backroom spot is consistently packed. But walk past the restrooms of Odo to a sliding door, and you’ll find an even more exclusive place: The Backroom, a members-only club devoted to hard-to-find Japanese whiskey — like a 20-year Kujira Ryukyu or Yamazakura 963 from 2002. Chef Odo keeps the eight-seat room open until the wee hours for his friends in the food industry and other A-list insiders — a highly controlled list that’s kept strictly confidential — and it’s he who decides who gets to taste the rare spirits.

“It’s tough to find as substantial of a selection of Japanese whiskeys as you do [at Odo],” journalist and whiskey and spirits expert Liza Weisstuch told The Post of the collection served up by whiskey master Jordan David Smith, formerly of Le Coucou and Atomix. And whiskey is all that matters here — as evidenced by the spartan walls, dim lighting and wood plank tables. “It’s almost as though the minimalism is a trick to make sure you focus on the whiskey,” said Weisstuch. (Read more.)

“Abuses, Torture, and Killing”

From Marco Respinti at Bitter Winter:
On March 11, the US State Department, led by Secretary Mike Pompeo, issued the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2019. This is an American tradition, now in its 44th year, whose main motivation has been stated by Secretary Pompeo upon the release of the document: “As our founding documents remind us, nothing is more fundamental to our national identity than our belief in the rights and dignity of every single human being. It’s in our Declaration of Independence.”
Based on facts gathered by team members in Washington, D.C., and US embassies throughout the world working with and through experts, the 2019 Report virtually covers the whole world. Publicly, Secretary Pompeo singled out four countries to exemplify what violation of human rights means today, out of which three are run by socialist regimes (only the first in the following list isn’t): Iran. Venezuela, Cuba, and of course China.
The report’s section on “China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet,” as its title reads, offers an effective “cold list” of trespasses committed by the CC-led regime in its executive summary: arbitrary or unlawful killings, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions, arbitrary interference with privacy, physical attacks on and criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others as well as their family members; censorship and site blocking; interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association including overly restrictive laws that apply to foreign and domestic NGOs, severe restrictions of religious freedom; substantial restrictions on freedom of travel within the country and overseas; refoulement of asylum seekers to North Korea (where they have a well-founded fear of persecution). The Report notes substantial problems with the independence of the judiciary, totally dominated by the CCP, which controls the appointment of all judges and even sometimes directly dictates courts’ rulings, and the widespread corruption that plagues the country. It also underlines the coercive birth-limitation policy that in some cases included forced sterilization or abortion, trafficking in persons, severe restrictions on labor rights, and child labor. (Read more.)