How Europe Conquered the World – By Philip T. Hoffman October 2015

The Spoils of a Single-Minded Focus on War

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Between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84 percent of the globe, establishing colonies and spreading their influence across every inhabited continent. This was not inevitable. In fact, for decades, historians, social scientists, and biologists have wondered: Why and how did Europe rise to the top, even when societies in Asia and the Middle East were far more advanced?

So far, satisfactory answers have been elusive. But this question is of the utmost importance given that Europe’s power determined everything from who ran the slave trade to who grew rich or remained mired in poverty.

One might think the reasons for Europe’s dominance obvious: the Europeans were the first to industrialize, and they were immune to the diseases, such as smallpox, that devastated indigenous populations. But the latter reason alone cannot explain the conquest of the Americas, since many young Native American warriors survived the epidemics. And it fails to explain Europe’s colonization of India, since the Indians had similar immunity. Industrialization also falls short as an explanation: the Europeans had taken control of more than 35 percent of the planet even before they began to industrialize. Of course, the lead Europeans took in developing the technology of guns, armed ships, and fortifications was critical. But all the other major civilizations in Asia had the same gunpowder technology, and many of them also fought with guns.

So what did contribute to Europe’s success? Mostly, it derived from the incentives that political leaders faced in Europe—incentives that drove them not just to make war, but also to spend huge sums on it. Yes, the European monarchs built palaces, but even the huge Chateau at Versailles cost King Louis XIV less than two percent of his tax revenue. The rest went to fighting wars. He and the other kings in Europe had been raised since childhood to pursue glory on the battlefield, yet they bore none of the costs involved—not even the risk of losing their thrones after a defeat. Leaders elsewhere faced radically different incentives,, which kept many of them militarily weak. In China, for example, emperors were encouraged to keep taxes low and to attend to people’s livelihoods rather than to pursue the sort of military glory that obsessed European kings.

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When Refugees Were Welcome – By Sumit Ganguly and Brandon Miliate September 22, 2015

Europe’s response to waves of refugees from the war-torn Middle East raises serious questions about its commitment to humanitarian values. To be sure, Europe is facing a very difficult set of challenges. But these pale in comparison to those confronting India’s policymakers in 1971, when New Delhi was faced with a refugee surge orders of magnitude greater than the one now on Europe’s borders.Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at Sep 23, 2015 12.25

The crisis arose out of an election gone wrong. In 1970, Pakistan, which then comprised an eastern and western wing, held its first free and fair elections. The more populous eastern wing of the country voted down West Pakistan’s political parties. The election should have led to a genuine power-sharing arrangement between east and west, but that outcome was anathema to the Western-based military regime and to West Pakistan’s leading party, the Pakistan People’s Party.

For three months after the vote, the parties were at an impasse; the military regime and the winning party in West Pakistan, the Pakistan People’s Party, stalled on creating a new and equitable federal mechanism. As secessionist sentiment rose in East Pakistan, the Pakistani military unleashed a reign of terror against the Bengali population. The military systematically targeted university professors, students, and political activists, killing substantial numbers in Dacca (later Dhaka). Faced with widespread atrocities, the Bengali population of East Pakistan, both Hindu and Muslim, fled to various parts of northeast India. By May 1971, some ten million individuals had found sanctuary on Indian soil. As the refugees poured in and an incipient insurgent movement emerged in East Pakistan, India’s principal intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, provided training, weaponry, and logistical support to the rebels.

Refugee camp in India.


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Why gun control is doomed – Jun 19th 2015, 16:16 BY LEXINGTON | WASHINGTON, DC

Charleston and public policy

NO NEW laws restricting access to guns will be passed as a result of Wednesday’s racist shooting rampage, which left nine dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Americans can be confident this is true for several reasons. For starters, Barack Obama more or less admitted it.

Americans need to reckon with the fact that other advanced countries do not have to face this sort of mass violence, the president said in a sombre statement at the White House on Thursday. “It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognising the politics in this town foreclose a lot of the avenues just now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it,” he said, with visible frustration.

The president knows that if it were politically possible to pass new gun laws in Washington, it would have happened after the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. It is hard to imagine a tragedy more calculated to shock American consciences: 20 small children and six staff were gunned down in their elementary school in a quaint New England community by a disturbed young man, wielding a rifle from his mother’s gun collection. Various marginal tweaks to gun laws were tried and failed to gain traction in Congress. Finally, a bipartisan push was made to merely enforce existing laws better. This would have expanded the number of gun-buyers checked for histories of crime or severe mental illness. It failed, too.

Americans can be confident that South Carolina is not about to pass new gun laws, either. For evidence, they can start by contemplating this photograph, tweeted out by a local reporter:

Political awkward moment: Gov. Haley, Sen. Scott, AG Wilson sit during standing ovation after a call for gun control

— Andy Shain (@AndyShain) June 18, 2015

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Gun groups denounce push for handgun licenses – By Tim Devaney – 06/14/15 02:30 PM EDT

Getty Images

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights advocates are assailing Democrats for a controversial legislative proposal that they say would restrict access to handguns.

People would be required to obtain a license before purchasing some firearms under the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, which was introduced Thursday by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and a trio of Connecticut lawmakers.

The legislation also seeks to expand background checks to all handgun sales and block people under the age of 21 from purchasing those firearms.

States could refuse to implement the handgun regulations, but would risk losing federal funding for doing so.

Though the legislation stands virtually no chance of passing the Republican Congress, the NRA expressed outrage at the proposal, calling it an attempt by Democrats to “delay and deny” gun purchases.

“They cannot ban guns because of the Constitution, so they want to make it so difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their constitutional right to self-protection,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.

“Someone should send them a copy of the Constitution — specifically, a copy of the Second Amendment,” she added.

The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act would zero in on handgun purchases, but exempt rifles and other types of firearms.

It is backed by a study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research that found handgun licenses dramatically reduce homicide rates.


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Meet the F-Bomb-Spewing Ex-Cop Behind the NRA’s Move to Topple California’s Gun Laws – —By Dave Gilson | Wed Jun. 10, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

“You don’t like it? Change the fuckin’ Constitution!” says Edward Peruta.

“They can call me a gadfly. They can call me whatever they want to call me.” Courtesy of Edward Peruta

“The NRA asked me to keep my mouth shut, but I’ve never run from a fuckin’ interview in my life,” Edward Peruta barks into the phone. The 66-year-old Vietnam vet, ex-cop, public-access TV host, worm farmer, legal investigator, crime scene videographer, and serial litigant has never been one to hold his tongue, and he’s not about to start now that he’s at the center of a high-profile case that could upend California’s gun laws and wind up before the Supreme Court. “I am who I am,” he says. “People know there’s usually a hurricane comin’ if they step on my rights.”

Peruta is the lead plaintiff in Peruta v. County of San Diego, a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn California’s system of issuing concealed-weapon permits. Currently, the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs may require applicants to show “good cause” for carrying a concealed gun in public. Such discretion is applied arbitrarily and violates the Second Amendment, according to Peruta and his legal team, which is backed by the National Rifle Association.

That argument swayed two judges on the 9th Circuit Court, who ruled in Peruta’s favor in February. For a moment, it seemed that California would join the 37 “shall issue” states that issue concealed-carry permits to anyone who meets basic requirements such as a background check. Then California Attorney General Kamala Harris successfully petitioned the court to reconsider the ruling en banc. Next Tuesday, an 11-judge panel in San Francisco will hear oral arguments in the case.

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The Fortress of the Knights Templar: Mexico’s Hot Land (Dispatch 2) – Published on Mar 10, 2015

While he was the leader of Mexico’s Knights Templar cartel, the late Nazario Moreno González lived in his heavily-guarded ranch, “Fortress Anunnaki.” It was from here that he operated the cartel, as well as a casino and massive rodeo.

VICE News traveled to “Fortress Anunnaki” in Tepalcatepec to find out what has become of the Knights Templar stronghold a year after the death of its leader.

The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership – By EVAN DEFILIPPIS and DEVIN HUGHES January 14, 2015

Guns are more likely to do harm than good.

In the early hours of Nov. 2, 2013, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a pounding at the door startled Theodore Wafer from his slumber. Unable to find his cell phone to call the police, he grabbed the shotgun he kept loaded in his closet. Wafer opened the door and, spotting a dark figure behind the screen, fired a single blast at the supposed intruder. The shot killed a 19-year-old girl who was knocking to ask for help after a car accident.

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 2014, two friends left a party briefly. Upon returning they accidently knocked on the wrong door. Believing burglars were breaking in, the frightened homeowner called the police, grabbed his gun and fired a single round, hitting one of the confused party-goers in the chest.

On Sept. 21, 2014, Eusebio Christian was awakened by a noise. Assuming a break-in, he rushed to the kitchen with his gun and began firing. All his shots missed but one, which struck his wife in the face.

What do these and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.

In 1992, Gary Kleck and Marc Getz, criminologists at Florida State University, conducted a random digit-dial survey to establish the annual number of defensive gun uses in the United States. They surveyed 5,000 individuals, asking them if they had used a firearm in self-defense in the past year and, if so, for what reason and to what effect. Sixty-six incidences of defensive gun use were reported from the sample. The researchers then extrapolated their findings to the entire U.S. population, resulting in an estimate of between 1 million and 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year.

The claim has since become gospel for gun advocates and is frequently touted by the National Rifle Association, pro-gun scholars such as John Lott and conservative politicians. The argument typically goes something like this: Guns are used defensively “over 2 million times every year—five times more frequently than the 430,000 times guns were used to commit crimes.” Or, as Gun Owners of America states, “firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.” Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum has frequently opined on the benefits of defensive gun use, explaining: “In fact, there are millions of lives that are saved in America every year, or millions of instances like that where gun owners have prevented crimes and stopped things from happening because of having guns at the scene.”

It may sound reassuring, but is utterly false. In fact, gun owners are far more likely to end up like Theodore Wafer or Eusebio Christian, accidentally shooting an innocent person or seeing their weapons harm a family member, than be heroes warding off criminals.

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Eric Holder: ‘I take personally as a failure’ the inability to pass gun control – By Cheryl K. Chumley – The Washington Times – Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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`If there’s one thing that Eric Holder regrets during his time as attorney general for the United States, it’s his failure to press through a Second Amendment crackdown on the heels of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead, he said.

“I think the inability to pass reasonable gun safety laws after the Newtown massacre is something that weighs heavily on my mind,” Mr. Holder said during an interview with CNN.

He was speaking of the White House push to pass a federal background check mandate for all commercial gun sales, as well as an outright ban on so-called assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, in the wake of the December 2012 school tragedy.

The last of the legislative efforts to fail was a universal background check law that couldn’t make it out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. President Obama then announced a slew of executive actions to curb gun rights.

But Mr. Holder still reflected over the stronger legislation that never did pass.

“And the thought that we could not translate that horror into reasonable — I mean, really reasonable gun safety measures that were supported by the vast majority of the American people is for me something that I take personally as a failure,” he said, The Hill reported. “And something that I think we as a society should take as a failure — a glaring failure that I hope will ultimately be rectified.”
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US, India eyeing trade breakthrough – By Vicki Needham – 09/28/14 06:00 AM EDT

Expectations are running high ahead of the first meeting between President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the leaders look to resolve issues that have chilled relations in recent years.

White House officials say they expect to make significant progress on a broad range of trade, economic and energy issues during high-level meetings next week with top Indian officials.

Senior Obama administration officials said on Friday that the talks mark a “pivotal time in international affairs.”

“We are looking to seize the opportunity presented by the prime minister’s election to reinvigorate this strategic partnership, but also to elevate and extend the depth and the breadth of the work that we’re doing on issues of mutual interest,” a senior administration official said.

Officials have a broad agenda, with talks on teaming up on infrastructure, manufacturing, trade and boosting India’s energy security.

About 100 days since his election victory, Modi arrives in the United States with a significant mandate to make sweeping changes that can jump start the burgeoning Indian economy.

Modi said in a Thursday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that he is seeking an economic transformation for his country and that the U.S. and India have a “fundamental stake in each other’s success.”

“The complementary strengths of India and the U.S. can be used for inclusive and broad-based global development to transform lives across the world,” he said.

“Because our countries’ values and interests are aligned, though our circumstances are different, we are in a unique position to become a bridge to a more integrated and cooperative world.”

Modi, who was elected in a landslide victory in May, is set to arrive in Washington on Monday after a weekend in New York where he will address the United Nations.

He urged for a “sensitivity to each other’s point of view” and that as friends the two nations can “contribute to more concerted international efforts to meet the pressing global challenges of our times.”

U.S. officials argue they are prepared to play a “strong and supportive role” in reaching those objectives.

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