Our nation’s most toxic obsession: The violent history of “Real Americans” – HEATHER DIGBY PARTON SATURDAY, JUL 4, 2015 06:30 AM PDT

From its earliest beginnings to its 1st black president, America has seen too much bloodshed over who truly belongs

Our nation's most toxic obsession: The violent history of "Real Americans"

From the early days of our nation, we have been debating what constitutes a “Real American.” If one were to define a real American as a person indigenous to the continent we know as North America, one would certainly have to say that the only Real Americans are native Americans. But since the United States as we know it was formed by the offspring of British colonialists and religious migrants who wanted the colony for themselves, we can fairly say that from the beginning that has never been an accurate definition, even though it probably should have been. (Some people have even described the original “nativists” as the Indians, which I think is wrong. They were defending their own lands against invasion, which isn’t the same thing at all.)

Needless to say the most repressed immigrants in America have always been the descendants of African slaves. They didn’t ask to come here and they certainly didn’t ask to be slaves. But their ancestors were here long before most of the rest of us and their claim to being Real Americans could not stronger. Of course nativists usually don’t see it that way, simply because most nativists are also racists. All you have to do is look at the nonsensical conspiracy theory about the first African American president being a “foreigner”to see how mixed up race and ethnicity are with those folks.

Be that as it may, going all the way back to the beginning, this country has been a nation of immigrants from all over the world. And while we have, at various times and in many different ways, celebrated that fact, we have also been a xenophobic society from the get-go. In the 19th century, the original Americans were upset about Irish catholic immigration. There was fighting in the street over that one for many decades. And soon there was hatred towards German immigrants (the single largest ethnic sub-group in America, by the way) with complaints about their alleged unwillingness to assimilate properly and their habits of speaking their mother tongue, sending their kids to their own schools, and attending their German church (Lutheran, of course). In the 1890s, a Wisconsin Governor said:

“We must fight alienism and selfish ecclesiasticism…. The parents, the pastors and the church have entered into a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, who are denied by cupidity and bigotry the privilege of even the free schools of the state.”

Those Germans just refused to assimilate. And look what’s happened. They’re everywhere.

You don’t even want to think about the hatred toward the Chinese. It was one thing to import them by the thousands to do the heavy scut work of building railroads and the like, quite an other to consider them Real Americans. The Irish Americans who had been the object of xenophobic rage in earlier decades were particularly upset by the Chinese, and they led the way to the Chinese exclusion act in 1882, the first of America’s official federal immigration containment programs.

In the 20th century, all those previously considered unworthy (except the Chinese, of course) were suddenly okay, as a huge influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe decided to come to the land of opportunity. The government went to work to ensure that this didn’t get out of hand. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge proposed literacy tests, making the intention very clear:

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How America became the most powerful country on Earth, in 11 maps by Max Fisher on May 20, 2015 

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at May 21, 2015 7.29

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman sails in the Atlantic in 2012. | Cristina Young/US Navy via Getty

We take it for granted that the United States is the most powerful country on Earth today, and perhaps in human history. The story of how that came to be is long, fascinating, complex — and often misunderstood. Here, excerpted in part from “70 maps that explain America,” are maps that help show some of the key moments and forces that contributed to the US’s rise as sole global superpower.

Because of a war that left North America vulnerable to British conquest — and thus ready for the US’s expansion

So much of America’s power comes from its size: it is one the largest countries on Earth by population and area, and is rich in natural resources and human capital. It is also in many ways an island nation; because it faces no major threats on its borders, it is freer to project power globally.

There was no reason that North America’s borders had to become what they are. A key moment in how that happened came with the French and Indian War, at the time just a sideshow in the larger Seven Years’ War in Europe. The war ended with France giving up its vast territory on the continent to Britain and Spain. Napoleon would seize back Louisiana and sell it to the US in 1803, but New France was lost forever. With the Spanish Empire already declining, the continent was left open to conquest from the British Empire and its successor, the United States.

Image credit: University of Maine

By stealing Native Americans’ land for an entire century

Of course, North America was not empty when European explorers and settlers arrived — it was filled with diverse, long-established societies. They may well have become sovereign nation-states had the US not sought to purge them from their lands, deny them self-rule, and, once they had been reduced to a tiny minority, forcibly assimilate them and their land. These acts are the foundation upon which American dominance of North America, and thus American global power, was built.

This map begins by showing Native Americans’ land in 1794, demarcated by tribe and marked in green. In 1795, the US and Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo, carving up much of the continent between them. What followed was a century of catastrophes for Native Americans as their land was taken piece by piece. By the time the US passed the Dawes Act in 1887, effectively abolishing tribal self-governance and forcing assimilation, there was very little left.

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The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail: Bomb Trains – Published on Jul 28, 2014


It’s estimated that 9 million barrels of crude oil are moving over the rail lines of North America at any given moment. Oil trains charging through Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama, and Canada’s Quebec, New Brunswick, and Alberta provinces have derailed and exploded, resulting in severe environmental damage and, in the case of Quebec, considerable human casualties.

A continental oil boom and lack of pipeline infrastructure have forced unprecedented amounts of oil onto US and Canadian railroads. With 43 times more oil being hauled along US rail lines in 2013 than in 2005, communities across North America are bracing for another catastrophe.

VICE News traveled to the Pacific Northwest to investigate the rapid expansion of oil-by-rail transport and speak with residents on the frontline of the battle over bomb trains.

More on VICE News: Do You Live In A “Bomb Train” Blast Zone? –http://bit.ly/1rLpXDf

Why the first world war wasn’t really – by G.C. Jul 1st 2014, 23:50

George Washington the soldier

THE world—or, at least, those parts of it that participated in the original events—has recently taken great interest in the first world war. Its almost casual beginning, between June 28th 1914, when the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by a Bosnian nationalist and the first days of August, when Germany declared war on Russia and France, drawing in their ally Britain, has fascinated historians, while the horrors that followed have fascinated everyone, though in a rather different way. But does the conflict deserve its title? It was undoubtedly a world war. But it was certainly not the first. That laurel belongs to a war which broke out 160 years earlier, in 1754, and carried on until 1763. Though fighting did not start in Europe until 1756, and for this reason the conflict is known as the Seven Years’ War, it was truly global. Every inhabited continent except Australia saw fighting on its soil, and independent powers on three of those continents were active participants.

The first action of this first global conflict involved a young officer whose name may be familiar to some readers. On May 28th 1754 a small group of soldiers from the British colony of Virginia, under the command of a man called George Washington, engaged a group of French troops who were interloping from New France (ie Canada) into territory the British considered theirs. Instead of peacefully repelling them as he had been instructed, Washington ended up killing several of them, including their commanding officer. This campaign in North America then continued, with both sides in alliance with local Indian nations, until, two years later, Britain’s ally Prussia attacked the small German state of Saxony, bringing Saxony’s ally Austria, and thus Austria’s ally France (and therefore France’s enemy and Prussia’s ally, Britain), into the conflict. It is a sequence of events eerily similar to the way that in 1914 an attack by Germany’s ally Austria on the small Balkan state of Serbia brought in Serbia’s ally Russia, which then threatened Germany, which then declared war on both Russia and Russia’s ally France.

The war rapidly globalised. Both Britain and France reinforced their colonial troops in North America, and started attacking each other’s colonies in the West Indies and trading stations in Africa and India. In India, some of the princely states which had recently emerged from the dying Mughal empire also got involved, and Britain ended up taking over one of them, Bengal. The war came to South America when, near its end, Spain joined the French side and attacked one of the American colonies of Britain’s ally, Portugal.

Like the first world war, this global conflict reshaped the globe. Indeed, it is the reason why the modern world is an English-speaking one. As a colonial power, France was destroyed, and did not return seriously to the business of overseas conquest until it attacked Algeria in 1830. All of North America east of the Mississipi became British, save the city of New Orleans, which became Spanish. And the foundations of British rule in India were laid as well. As for George Washington, he ended up leading a rebel army put together by colonials who, freed from fear of French encirclement, unwilling to help pay for the war that had given them that freedom, and frustrated by British protection of the lands of their Indian allies from encroachment by colonial property speculators (including Washington himself), decided that they would rather go it alone.

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After oil, natural gas may be next on North American rails – BY EDWARD MCALLISTER NEW YORK Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:12am EDT

(Reuters) – As politicians debate the dangers of a massive increase in oil carried by rail in North America, railroads and energy producers are considering the same for natural gas.

Irving Oil workers inspect rail cars carrying crude oil at the Irving Oil rail yard terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick in this March 9, 2014 file photo. REUTERS-Devaan Ingraham-Files
Irving Oil workers inspect rail cars carrying crude oil at the Irving Oil rail yard terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick in this March 9, 2014 file photo.


Buoyed by the unexpected success of crude by rail, companies are beginning to consider transporting natural gas as remote drilling frontiers emerge beyond the reach of pipelines, executives said.

Natural gas by rail is years away and likely to face strong public resistance after a series of explosive crude-by-rail accidents. But the potentially multibillion-dollar development could connect gas-rich regions like North Dakota with urban centers, presenting an opportunity for railroads, drillers and tank car makers already cashing in from hauling oil on trains.

It could also be a cure for environmentally unfriendly flaring, a growing problem in far-flung areas where more than $1 billion of natural gas produced alongside oil is burned off each year for lack of processing plants or pipelines that can take years to build.

“Everyone is talking about moving gas by rail,” said David Demers, chief executive officer of Westport Innovations, which is developing technology for natural gas-powered locomotives. “They see this as a large opportunity and have their pencils out to see how it could work.”

Demers said Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF was one railroad considering the move.

BNSF declined to comment on its plans, but a spokeswoman said it would take time for any development of gas by rail.

Transporting gas by rail, most likely as cryogenic liquefied natural gas (LNG), faces obstacles. The technology is in its infancy, and so far no tank car is permitted to carry the fuel on U.S. rails. Nor are there enough plants that convert natural gas to LNG to support a robust gas-by-rail market, experts said.

More-volatile liquids like ethylene and propane already travel on the rails in growing volumes. But as concerns about the safety of crude by rail intensify, regulators are exercising extreme caution with uncertified fuels like LNG, said executives involved in developing the technology.

Stressing that it is too early to say, many of the major Class 1 railroads that have embraced crude by rail declined to speak about specific plans for gas by rail. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, for example, was just “monitoring any discussions in this area,” a spokesman said.

Breitling Energy Corp CEO Chris Faulkner said he and other gas producers were discussing the idea, but his company was not considering it.

“I can only imagine the amount of pushback we’re going to have on transporting gas by rail,” Faulkner said. “The discussion isn’t about safety and fact, it’s about fear.”

But as railroads team up with companies like General Electric Co and Caterpillar Inc to develop technology to run locomotives on LNG, many say that hauling the fuel as cargo is the next step as a drilling revolution transforms North American energy markets.


LNG, natural gas cooled and shrunk to a liquid for shipping, already powers heavy-duty trucks and boats in the United States and Canada. A network of fueling stations is cropping up with backing from the likes of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Clean Energy Fuels Corp.

Small-scale refrigeration plants that can turn gas to LNG are being built in drilling regions to reduce gas flaring. In remote North Dakota, one-third of the gas produced is flared.

Now, gas by rail is emerging as a possibility. Energy producers have approached Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Corp about moving LNG by rail, said Louis Renjel, vice president of strategic infrastructure initiatives, but the company has no plans to do so.

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GM posts lower profit after recall; truck pricing strong – BY BEN KLAYMAN AND BERNIE WOODALL DETROIT Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:38am EDT

The sign to a Chevrolet automobile dealership is seen down the street from General Motors World Headquarters on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, Michigan April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

The sign to a Chevrolet automobile dealership is seen down the street from General Motors World Headquarters on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, Michigan April 2, 2014.

(Reuters) – General Motors Co said on Thursday that first-quarter profit tumbled 88 percent after a massive recall due to defective ignition switches, but results still topped expectations on strong pricing for its redesigned pickup trucks in North America.

The quarter included a previously disclosed charge of $1.3 billion for the recall, and Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said it was too early to predict whether GM would take more charges. He also said it was still studying its options for the victims of the faulty switches. The faulty switches are linked to at least 13 deaths.

Safety advocates and some lawmakers have called for GM to establish a victims compensation fund, an option being studied.

“Obviously, the recall campaign charges in the first quarter overshadows the headline results, but if you look underneath that, we had strong performance across the board,” Stevens told reporters at the company’s Detroit headquarters.

Some GM ignition switches can make vehicle engines stall while operating, stop airbags from deploying, and power steering and power brakes from operating. The company is under investigation by U.S. safety regulators, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice over its failure to detect the faulty part for more than a decade.

Net income in the first quarter fell to $108 million, or 6 cents a share, from $873 million, or 58 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. The most recent quarter included recall costs of $1.3 billion, or 48 cents a share.

Excluding a charge mostly for the devaluation of the Venezuelan currency, GM earned 29 cents a share, far better than the 4 cents analysts expected, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 1.4 percent from last year to $37.4 billion, but below the $38.4 billion that analysts expected.

GM raised prices for its vehicles, which boosted operating profits by $1.8 billion. The bulk of that increase was in North America, thanks to higher sales of more lucrative versions of its redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks. Stevens said the average transaction price for the trucks rose about $5,000 in the quarter from a year ago, and overall prices were up about $2,000 per vehicle.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)


North America’s fauna and flora Butterfly effect – Feb 19th 2014, 19:07 by H.T. | SAN MATEO ALMOMOLOA

Butterfly effect

EDUARDO ZARZA GARCíA, a 55-year-old Nahuatl indian, remembers that when he was a boy, the arrival of millions of butterflies to the hills above his home in central Mexico was associated with the Day of the Dead on November 2nd. His grandparents would say that the palomas (doves), as they were called, were the spirits of his ancestors, paying an annual visit.

Even after Canadian zoologists discovered in 1975 that the butterflies were in fact the familiar monarchs that laid eggs and hatched during the summer in the United States and Canada, the science was no less alluring. In late autumn, the almost weightless butterflies flutter about 1,500 miles (2,400 km) south to reach a few clumps of fir trees in Mexico where they hibernate and mate. Unlike migrating birds, none has ever made the journey before, making it one of North America’s most extraordinary natural phenomena.

So it should be an inspiring symbol for North America, whose three leaders met on February 19th in Toluca, within 35 miles (56km) of the Piedra Herrada butterfly sanctuary, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But it isn’t. Data collected by the Mexican environment ministry and the World Wildlife Fund, a charity, show that over the last two decades, the size of the monarch population in Mexico has plummeted — at least as measured by the number of hectares they occupy. In a letter ahead of the summit, campaigners urged President Barack Obama and his counterparts to address the issue.

Traditionally, the finger of blame for the declining numbers has been pointed at the Mexicans. Illegal logging has affected much of the fir cover that the butterflies need to keep warm. However, the environmentalists who signed the letter grudgingly acknowledged that the Mexicans were becoming better custodians.

Not so Americans and Canadians, who they blamed for using modern farming methods that wipe out the milkweed on which the butterflies’ larvae feed on the insects’ staggered journey north, also hitting their numbers. The monarchs’ defenders say increasing use of genetically modified crops, which are resistant to herbicides, encourages farmers to spray a weedkiller, glyphosate, on their fields, destroying milkweed. They propose establishing a “milkweed corridor” along roadsides and on the edge of fields along their migratory route, especially in the United States and Canada.

The issue is likely to be ignored at the summit. But it should not have been. At a time when NAFTA is badly in need of a new impetus, the rescue of the monarch could have been a compelling metaphor. It is, after all, an example of seamless borders: the offspring (call them “dreamers”) is born in the United States and Canada; the oldies (call them sun-seekers) flock to Mexico. It also shows shared enterprise: The mating (call it assembly, or maquiladora) occurs in Mexico; the finished product delights everyone further north.

Villagers of San Mateo Almomoloa say the rescue plan would be fairer, too. They are poor yet have done their bit to reduce illegal logging. Americans and Canadians are much richer, and have millions of miles of roadside that could usefully be covered with milkweed.

What is more, thanks to tourists who flock to the monarchs’ winter habitat, they reckon at least 400 locals make a living from the butterflies — taking visitors on horseback, or providing them with tacos, or protecting the sanctuary. If the monarchs were to stop coming, that source of income would dry up. Then they may be the ones migrating north, instead of the butterflies.


North America’s deep freeze set to ease -BBC News 9 January 2014 Last updated at 01:55 ET

Rajini Vaidyanathan has travelled the frozen road to Hell, Michigan

The deep freeze that has left people in North America shivering for days, shattering century-old temperature records, is loosening its icy grip.

The mercury is rising in the US Midwest and East, which has borne the brunt of the so-called polar vortex, but was still below freezing in many areas.

At least 21 people have died since Sunday as a result of the weather, and more than 11,000 flights were grounded.

US natural gas usage hit an all-time record in the US to meet heat demands.

Forecasters predicted weather would return to normal across much of the US in the coming days, after 50 US cities set new record low temperatures on Tuesday.

‘Dramatically warmer’

The US National Weather Service predicted “a much-anticipated warm up” for much of the eastern US on Wednesday.

The US Midwest – which experienced -37C (-35F) in recent days – also warmed slightly, but still faced temperatures 15 to 25 degrees below average.

Atlanta, Georgia, returned to a more temperate 5C (42F) on Wednesday following a record low of -14C (6F) a day earlier.

New York City topped -5C (22F) on Wednesday, after shattering a 118-year-old low temperature record with -15C (4F) on Tuesday.

The US side of the Niagara Falls is pictured in Ontario
The US side of the Niagara Falls is pictured in Ontario
A man walks past a car partially covered in ice in Baltimore, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, where temperatures continue to remain well below freezing
A man walks past a car partially covered in ice in Baltimore
A motorist drives by the ice forming on a cliff along Route 61 in Palo Alto, Pennsylvania
A motorist drives by the ice formed on a cliff in Palo Alto, Pennsylvania

Temperatures in parts of North America plunged so low this week that they eclipsed readings recently recorded on the Red Planet by the Mars Rover.

Even Alabama’s top official was not immune to the extreme cold.

Governor Robert Bentley faced an estimated $50,000 (£30,397) in damage after a water pipe froze and burst in the attic of his home in Tuscaloosa.

In Canada, meanwhile, a 70-year-old Ontario man is recovering in hospital after being buried in a snowdrift in his vehicle for nearly 24 hours, reports CBC.

Guy Walton, a meteorologist at The Weather Channel, told US media that the worst of the Arctic outbreak is over.

“It will be getting dramatically warmer from today,” he said on Wednesday.

“By Thursday temperatures will be almost back to normal.”

Scientists also posited a silver lining to the cold snap, saying it could kill some of the pests that have ravaged northern forests.

The low temperatures may also slow the migration of invasive species and prevent erosion of wetlands, they say.

Map showing how temperatures across the US at the beginning of January 2014 have differed from the average temperatures

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Which of the 11 American nations do you live in? BY REID WILSON November 8 at 1:36 pm

Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine. “Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.”

Take a look at his map:

Courtesy Tufts Magazine

Courtesy Tufts Magazine

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Woodard lays out his map in the new book “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.” Here’s how he breaks down the continent:

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/11/08/which-of-the-11-american-nations-do-you-live-in/?tid=pm_pop