Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East. History nerd, linguistic geek, and devoted news junkie.
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Americans Horrified to Learn about their ‘Mexican DNA’ in Hilarious Aeroméxico Campaign 😂

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Screenshot by Óscar Gutiérrez

Aeroméxico is offering Americans hefty discounts to travel to Mexico. How hefty? Well, this depends –says Aeroméxico– on said Americans’ percentage of “Mexican heritage,” whatever this means.

The problem? Judging from this new campaign (executed by Ogilvy), not all of these die-hard Americans seem to be thrilled to learn they are, well, part Mexican –even if this means they can fly to Mexicou on the cheap.

Oh, the horror!


Via: Ogilvy.

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13 hours ago
Washington, DC
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This Day in Labor History: January 17, 1915

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On January 17, 1915, the radical Lucy Parsons led an unemployed march of 10,000 workers in Chicago. Suppressed by the police, the size of the march impressed the city’s more establishment reform organizations and inspired a second march led by them that ended up in a sizable jobs program for the city’s workers.

Chicago workers were having a hard time of it in the winter of 1915. While the 1913 recession doesn’t get the same publicity as the Great Depression or Panic of 1893, it still caused serious hardship to workers in an era when employment was often tenuous. When periods of low employment took place, especially in the West and Midwest, where you had large amounts of seasonal and itinerant labor in farming (and logging in the Northwest), huge masses of unemployed people flooded into the cities. The winter of 1915 was also extremely cold, exacerbating the unemployment crisis in Chicago. With all of this combined, you had thousands of homeless people, including increasing numbers of women and children. A crisis was at hand.

Lucy Parsons was a fascinating if problematic individual. She was born a slave, probably in 1853. Parsons later claimed to be entirely Mexican and Native American heritage and not African-American. This is almost certainly not true and was likely created by her in Reconstruction-era Texas to escape the political and personal dangers of blackness. In 1872, she married a young newspaper reporter named Albert Parsons, a former Confederate soldier who now identified as a Republican supporter of Reconstruction. Parsons was white, and he and Lucy had to flee the South because of their interracial marriage. They went to Chicago, where they became involved in the growing socialist political scene there. Much of this was run by German immigrants, some of whom had fled to the U.S. to escape political repression in Germany. Despite their indifference and often even hostility to the Americans they saw as saps and suckers for capitalism, Parsons managed to get in with these Germans, particularly as he began embracing anarchism. Lucy was right there with him in this political journey. She wrote for several socialist and anarchist newspapers in the 1880s. Her life changed forever when Albert was arrested after the Haymarket bombing and unjustly charged with conspiracy to murder, for which he was executed. Being the activist wife of a Haymarket martyr brought her great personal tragedy but certainly also gave her a lot of political credence. A tough person who would not back down from any fight, Parsons was also ideologically rigid and held Victorian gender norms, so when younger women such as Emma Goldman challenged gender and sexual norms as part of their critique of society, Parsons vocally opposed them as taking away from the core class struggle. She attended the founding convention of the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905 and was arrested many times for distributing seditious literature, inciting a riot, and other charges frequently used during this era to repress organizers.

But Parsons knew how to organize a public protest. She decided to hold an unemployment march. Chicago had no shortage of radicals so she was able to get organizers to put it together. They printed up handbills and passed them around the city. About 15,000 people showed up at Hull House, headed by Jane Addams, who was sympathetic to this movement. This was the first time that Ralph Chaplin’s legendary labor song “Solidarity Forever” was publicly sung, as he had only finished writing it two days earlier. The speeches at the rally were relatively tame. They unfurled banners that read “Hunger” and “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.” The march had barely started when the cops cracked down with their batons and firing shots over the heads of the protestors. Mind you, this was an entirely peaceful protest that had nothing radical about it except for who was in charge. Parsons and twenty others, six women and fifteen men, were arrested and overall, the protest itself didn’t add up to much thanks to the cops. The picture that tops this post was taken after her arrest. The next day, the local papers used incredibly overheated rhetoric. One paper ran a headline that stated, “I.W.W.’s Start Riot at Meeting in Hull House. Led by Widow of Haymarket Anarchist, Smash Windows and Maul Cops.” Really, you should never believe mainstream media coverage of labor movements, then or now, especially when they report negatively on unions. At the bail hearing the next day, Hull House workers said what really happened, but the police just lied about it.

But what Parsons did was get the local liberal and union community to take unemployment seriously. Parsons herself led another march on January 31. Addams didn’t really approve of this, seeing the public relations victory of the January 17 march, but Parsons didn’t care. This was more radical, even though the Socialist Party and the IWW didn’t bother showing up. Yet it still attracted a lot of people. Seeing the success of the march and concerned about unemployment generally, a second march was scheduled for February 12. This had the backing of not only Jane Addams, but also the American Federation of Labor and the Socialist Party, which was pretty moderate in its actions. Parsons was of course there as well. The city of Chicago was never going to acquiesce to a woman they hated; when she died, the city confiscated her library because they were scared of what she had in there. But they would deal with Addams and the AFL. After that second march, which also had tens of thousands of people attending, the city agreed to a temporary employment program that would build sidewalks, shovel snow, and fill pot holes.

In the end, it is usually radicals who lead moderates and liberals, despite all the denigration those radicals face from said moderates and liberals. That is largely true then and it is largely true today.

Some of this post is borrowed from the recent biography of Parsons by Jacqueline Jones, Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical.

This is the 295th post in this series. Previous posts in this series are archived here.


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2 days ago
Washington, DC
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Atlas Obscura Headlines That Weren't

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Often, before pressing the publish button on one of our stories, we'll do a quick headline brainstorm. Sometimes, said brainstorming yields phrases we wish we could share with you, dear reader. But there is only room for one headline atop every post, so we simply say goodbye to the excess words and move on.

Until now.

Here's a look at some of the headlines that weren't, but could have been.

The Questionable Rewards of a Visit to Inaccessible Island

  • The Aptly Named Inaccessible Island Is Really Rather Hard to Visit
  • Welcome to Inaccessible Island, the Island That Hates You
  • Maybe Inaccessible Island Is Inaccessible for a Reason
  • It Looks Cool, But Don't Bother Trying to Go to Inaccessible Island
  • We Usually Give You Places to Travel to, Here's One Place You Shouldn't
  • Inaccessible Island Is Like Jurassic Park Without the Dinosaurs: Not Worth It
  • Inaccessible Island Didn’t Ask You to Go There
  • Inaccessible Island Does Not Deserve Your Scorn
  • Inaccessible Island Doesn't Care If You Visit or Not
  • People Keep Calling Inaccessible Island Aloof But Maybe It’s Just Shy
  • Well, Hell, I Love You Inaccessible Island
  • Island: I’m Not Inaccessible, You’re Inaccessible

96 Rare Baby Sea Turtles Just Hatched in Queens, New York

  • If Little Turtles Can Make It There, They’ll Make It Anywhere
  • World’s Rarest Sea Turtle in Limited New York Engagement
  • Hardened New York Sea Turtles Waddle Their Little Butts to Water
  • Heroes in a Half Shell Survive the Sands of New York
  • Everything Is Bad, Except These Wonderful Baby Turtles
  • Watch Rare Baby Turtles Be Evicted From Manhattan
  • Maybe You Need to See Some Baby Turtles Today
  • Baby Non-Mutant Non-Ninja Turtles

After the Last Great Auks Died, We Lost Their Remains

  • How to Find Great Auk Skin
  • How Do You Lose Extinct Bird Skin?
  • Who Let the Aux Out?
  • Losing the Remains of Extinct Birds Can Be Auk-ward

Margarine Once Contained a Whole Lot More Whale

  • The Secret to Old-Timey Margarine? Whales
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Whale Oil
  • Surprise! Your Toast Was Buttered With Whale Oil
  • The Rumors Are True, Margarine Was Made From Mammals
  • Is Margarine More or Less Disgusting When It's Made With Whale Oil?
  • Margarine's Mammalian Past
  • There Are No Whales in Your Margarine... Anymore

All the Bizarre Things Our Readers Have Found on the Beach

  • We Asked What You Find on the Beach, and It’s Mostly Dentures
  • You All Found Teeth On The Beach, You Freaks
  • If You Can’t Find Your Dentures, Have You Checked the Beach Yet?
  • Did the Beach Steal Your Teeth? Our Readers Found Them.
  • "Found Your Dentures" and Other Things We Thought We'd Never Say at The Beach
  • What Kinds of Beaches Are You All Going To? Jeez
  • We’re All Beach Trash, In Our Heart of Hearts
  • Our Beach Trash, Ourselves
  • What Your Beach Finds Tell Us: Fixadent Doesn't Work

What Is an Island, Exactly?

  • Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Islands (But Were Too Landlocked to Ask)
  • Am I an Island? And Other Important Questions
  • What to Do If You Think You Might Be an Island
  • Hang On a Sec, What IS an Island?
  • Aren't We All Islands, When You Think About It?
  • Islands, Youlands, We All Are Ignorant About Islands
  • Islands: Not Just Beaches and Whaling

Cool, There’s Water on Mars. But Does It Make Good Pickles?

  • So You Want to Make Pickles Out of Martian Water
  • Martian Water Is Your Sandwich's Missing Ingredient
  • Trend Alert: Organic Martian Pickles
  • Red Planet, Gross Pickles
  • Today in the Hubris of Man: Should We Make Martian Pickles?
  • There’s Water on Mars, but Don’t Use It to Make Pickles
  • What Sort of Pickles Would Martian Microbes Make?
  • A Short Guide to Pickling on Mars
  • Who Cares If There’s Life on Mars; Are There Pickles on Mars?
  • Mars’s Briny Water Makes for a Real Pickle

The Only Mammals Reckless Enough to Eat Hot Peppers Are Humans and Tree Shrews

  • Tree Shrews Keep It Spicy
  • Tree Shrews Cannot Be Tamed... In Their Love of Hot Sauce!
  • We Are Not Special Even In This One Way
  • Tree Shrews Could Outlast You in a Hot Sauce Eating Contest
  • The Flaming of the Shrew
  • With Shrews I Share This Spicy Stew
  • Tree Shrews Love Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Blood Sugar Sex Tree Shrews

When Dentures Used Real Human Teeth

  • Would You Wear Corpse Teeth in Your Mouth?
  • Waterloo Dentures, For a Mouth Full of Secondhand Teeth
  • For Every Set of Waterloo Dentures, There Was Someone Walking Around Without Their Teeth
  • Smile, Your Head Is Full of Corpse Teeth

The 17th-Century Nursery Rhyme About Kneading Bread With Your Butt Cheeks

  • Cockle Bread Probably Never Existed, Butt We Can Dream
  • This Bread Will Warm the Cockles of Your Butt
  • What Better Way to Impress Your Love Than Kneading Bread With Your Bottom?
  • When You Knead Dough With Buttocks, You Get Cockle Bread
  • The Legend of Cockle Bread Involves Butt Cheeks and Rhyme
  • Cockle Bread Is a Bawdy, Butt-Built Carb

Dispatches From Inside a Record-Breaking Bird Migration

  • 721,620 Warblers Can’t Be Wrong
  • 721,620 Warblers: How Do You Measure a Day in a Life
  • 721,620 Warblers Is a Strangely Specific Number to Have Countered
  • Let the Sound of 721,620 Warblers Drive You Mad
  • How Many Warblers Is Too Many? 721,620
  • ‘I Don’t Think Anyone Got Pooped On:' Dispatches From Inside a Bird Migration
  • ‘Three Species Flew Between My Legs:' Dispatches From Inside a Bird Migration
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3 days ago
Washington, DC
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The Sultan’s Gift

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(The following is a post by Joan Weeks, head of the Near East Section and Turkish specialist, African and Middle Eastern Division.)

At this time of the year, many have thoughts of finding the perfect present for their loved ones or friends, and often a cherished book or a subscription to a favorite magazine for the recipient comes to the donor’s mind. One of the most unique and unusual gifts that the Library of Congress has received came from Sultan Abdul-Hamid II regent of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909.

Sample front and back Abdul-Hamid II gift book covers. Photos by Joan Weeks.

Sample front and back Abdul-Hamid II gift book covers. Photos by Joan Weeks.

In 1884, through the auspices of Abram Hewitt, Member of Congress from New York’s 10th district March 4, 1875-March 3, 1879, March 4, 1881 – December 30, 1886, Sultan Abdul-Hamid II gifted the Library of Congress a collection of 300 books and periodicals in Ottoman Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and French on a wide range of subjects, including cosmology, cooking, bridge building, geography, military history, and poetry. The covers of each book were bound in red Morocco with gilt edges and engraved in Ottoman Turkish on the back and in English and French on the front, with the words “Gift made by H.I.M. the Sultan Abdul-Hamid II to the national library of the United States of America through the Honorable A.S. Hewitt Member of the House of Representatives A.H. 1302-1884 A.D.”

Why did this Member of Congress receive such a remarkable gift collection? According to an article in the July 13, 1884 New York Tribune, the story unfolded on a sultry day on the grounds of Yildiz Palace in Istanbul, formally Constantinople where Abram Hewitt was sightseeing when his young son fainted.  While the boy was being given medical attention in a nearby guard house, two other young lads peered in and saw the commotion. They reported what was happening to their father who happened to be the Sultan.

Abram Stevens Hewitt. Created between 1855 and 1865. Brady-Handy photograph collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The palace guards appeared at Hewitt’s hotel the next day asking about his son’s health and with an invitation to visit the Sultan. After the two met, a remarkable friendship developed with the Sultan intrigued with the workings of Congress and asking about tobacco in America. When Hewitt took notes with an indelible pencil, the Sultan tried it out and, to his amazement, he could not erase what he had written. The Sultan gifted Hewitt with carpets and swords. Upon returning home, Hewitt, in turn, sent the Sultan the special pencils trimmed in gold, as well as Virginia tobacco.

The exchange of gifts didn’t stop here though. Within months, Abram Hewitt was advised that he would owe duty on a collection of books that the Sultan intended to gift. To this he replied to the Sultan that he couldn’t accept such a wonderful gift and that he should send to the the Library of Congress instead. As such, the Sultan prepared a set for his American friend that is now in New York University, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, as well as a set for the Library of Congress.

Abdul-Hamid II, Sultan of the Turks, 1842-1918. [ca. 1890]. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection arrived in 1884 at a time when the Library of Congress was located in the U.S. Capitol and the Jefferson Building was under construction. By 1907 Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress, was able to report: “About 400 volumes, bound in red Morocco with gilt edges, have been given by the present Sultan, Ghasee Abdul-Hamid II.”

With emerging photographic innovations, the Sultan became an avid early adapter with the use of photography to record images of daily Ottoman life as well as their use in identity documents and official transactions. He gifted 51 large-format albums that date from about 1880 to 1893 to the Library of Congress to highlight the modernization of the Ottoman Empire. They depict buildings, monuments, education (particularly girls’), military facilities, and the imperial stables and horses.

Sample front and back Abdul-Hamid II Gift Photograph Album covers. Photos by Joan Weeks.

Like a family heirloom that has been passed down to younger generations, preservation has been a challenge for the Library for both the photograph albums, as well as the books. The albums became very fragile with the risk of light damaging the photos beyond recognition. With the advances in scanning, the Library curated and digitized the photo albums in 2003, which are available here.

The collection of books and serials were printed on acidic paper which deteriorated and the books became so brittle that they would break and tear when handled. As a preservation strategy, in 1984, 308 books were microfilmed. However, using the microfilm proved difficult for researchers with cataloging cards filmed before each book and sometimes two or three books captured on a single reel.

“Çocuklara kiraat.” Necip Necati. Abdul-Hamid II Collection (Library of Congress). Istanbul: Kitapcı Arakel, 1315 [1882]. Image 6.

In 2016, a proposal was approved to digitize the entire microfilm collection, as well as the 26 existing original books, using new scanning equipment that the Library had just acquired. Abdul-Hamid II had given his friend Abram Hewitt over 260 titles that were the same as he gave the Library of Congress. Hewitt donated his collection to New York University, which were recently cataloged using modern standards. These records were matched to the Library’s catalog cards for each item, then used to create the metadata needed in the digital environment. The Library’s catalogers produced the remaining metadata required for the collection.

The entire Abdul-Hamid II Collection of Books and Serials Gifted to the Library of Congress recently launched. Many have beautiful engraved illustrations such as this one in “Çocuklara kiraat.

Images are available in 5 formats and can be easily downloaded. A high-resolution format would allow the user to zoom in on the text and images, a particularly helpful feature if the Ottoman script is difficult to view normally.

It is rare for a gift to have enduring value but Abdul-Hamid II’s remarkable gift to the Library of Congress through Abram Hewitt now keeps on giving.

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3 days ago
Washington, DC
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Supreme Court torches appeal in giant, toxic burn pit on front steps

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Supreme Court building provided by Supreme Court.gov
Washington — In a stern rebuke to 60 veterans’ lawsuits, all eight fuctioning Supreme Court justices dismissed “burn pit” appeals by torching them in a massive blaze on the front steps of the court’s building Monday. The military used burn pits, located in Afghanistan and Iraq, to destroy waste, including batteries, tires and millions of […]
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3 days ago
Washington, DC
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This Town Loves RBG

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Photo by Emma Keane

Thanks to Emma for sharing:

“Only in DC would someone build a Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead your run-of-the-mill snowman”

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3 days ago
Is that a gavel or a microphone
Bend, Oregon
3 days ago
Washington, DC
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