It’s also National Black Cow Root Beer Float Day, National Kool-Aid Day, National Potato Day, National Soft Ice Cream Day, International Orangutan Day,National Aviation Day, and World Humanitarian Day.
Stuff that happened on August 19 includes:
- 1561 – Mary, Queen of Scots, aged 18, returns to Scotland after spending 13 years in France.
- 1612 – The “Samlesbury witches“, three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, are put on trial, accused of practicing witchcraft, one of the most famous witch trials in British history.
They were all acquitted, which, sadly, was not the fate of the people accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts (see next entry):
- 1692 – Salem witch trials: In Salem, Province of Massachusetts Bay, five people, one woman and four men, including a clergyman, are executed after being convicted of witchcraft.
Bridget Bishop was the first person executed in these trials; here’s a memorial to her that I photographed in Salem three years ago. Note that she was hanged in June before the others. A decade later–too late–she was exonerated.
- 1839 – The French government announces that Louis Daguerre‘s photographic process is a gift “free to the world”.
You may have seen this already, but it’s the earliest known photograph of a human being. The Wikipedia caption:
View of the Boulevard du Temple, taken by Daguerre in 1838 in Paris, includes the earliest known photograph of a person. The image shows a busy street, but because the exposure had to continue for four to five minutes the moving traffic is not visible. At the lower right, however, a man apparently having his boots polished, and the bootblack polishing them, were motionless enough for their images to be captured. There is also what appears to be a young girl looking out of a window at the camera.
- 1848 – California Gold Rush: The New York Herald breaks the news to the East Coast of the United States of the gold rush in California (although the rush started in January).
This small item started it all. (Caption: “The Herald’s correspondent produced a long report on California’s climate, trade, agriculture, and mining prospects on that day. This one sentence on gold being located in a streambed was the first indicator of the fine that lead to the California Gold Rush of 1849.”)
One of the men onthe first ascent was the Irish physicist John Tyndall, who discovered the connection between carbon dioxide and atmospheric condition that led to the “greenhouse effect”. Here’s the West Face of the Weisshorn:
Here’s a video of this famous event, which has not been free of cheating (read about the “1973 scandal”, involving a nefarious plot to cheat).
- 1934 – The German referendum of 1934 approves Adolf Hitler‘s appointment as head of state with the title of Führer.
- 1944 – World War II: Liberation of Paris: Paris, France rises against German occupation with the help of Allied troops.
Do read Matthew’s excellent book on the few days when Paris was liberated. It’s below; click on the image to go to Amazon:
- 1960 – Cold War: In Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union, downed American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers is sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Soviet Union for espionage.
- 1989 – Several hundred East Germans cross the frontier between Hungary and Austria during the Pan-European Picnic, part of the events that began the process of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
*Presumably in the judicial interest in transparency, the government is going to release more documents connected with the raid on Mar-a-Lago. The list of what was sought has been made public, but so far the affidavit—the government’s case for seeking the documents that reveals what criminal activity was suspected—has remained sealed. Well, some of it will be made public, as the NYT notes:
A federal judge ordered the government on Thursday to propose redactions to the highly sensitive affidavit that was used to justify a search warrant executed by the F.B.I. last week at former President Donald J. Trump’s private home and club, saying he was inclined to unseal parts of it.
Ruling from the bench, the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart, said it was “very important” that the public have as “much information” as it can about the historic search at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida residence, noting that there were portions of the affidavit that “could be presumptively unsealed.”
“Whether those portions would be meaningful for the public or the media,” Judge Reinhart added, was not for him to decide. He acknowledged that the redaction process can often be extensive and effectively turn documents into “meaningless gibberish.”
I suspect that the redaction will be thorough, as Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice don’t want to show their hand until they absolutely have to. They’ve fought the release so far, but news organizations are baying for information. Don’t expect to learn much.
*Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to be the go-between for Putin and Zelensky—a man to negotiate the end to the war. No matter that Erdogan is a pretty vile leader who can’t be trusted, he’s the only person trying to do this. But, as the AP reports, not much is happening.
Turkey’s leader and the U.N. chief met in Ukraine with President Volodymr Zelenskyy on Thursday in a high-powered bid to ratchet down a war raging for nearly six months. But little immediate progress was reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would follow up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, given that most of the matters discussed would require the Kremlin’s agreement.
With the meetings held at such a high level — it was the first visit to Ukraine by Erdogan since the war began, and the second by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres — some had hoped for breakthroughs, if not toward an overall peace, then at least on specific issues. But none was apparent.
Meeting in the western city of Lviv, far from the front lines, the leaders discussed such things as expanding exchanges of prisoners of war and arranging for U.N. atomic energy experts to visit and help secure Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, which is in the middle of fierce fighting that has raised fears of catastrophe.
Erdogan has positioned himself as a go-between in efforts to stop the fighting. While Turkey is a member of NATO, its wobbly economy is reliant on Russia for trade, and it has tried to steer a middle course between the two combatants.
Erdogan is the last person I’d trust to forge a peace between Russia and Ukraine. All he cares about is what he can get for himself and his reputation.
*From the Economist via Wayne: “Questioning America’s approach to transgender health care.” The article contrasts the “affirmative care” approach of the U.S. (the American Association of Pediatrics, or AAP, is a big booster of it, while Europe is now taken a more cautious approach to put children questioning their gender on a treadmill that leads from non-objective therapy to puberty blockers to hormone treatment and often to surgery. A woman whose daughter stepped on the treadmill (at first thinking that she might be gay, but then, well, you know the rest. . ) was shocked
Looking for support, she turned to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), but found the gender clinic was, in fact, following AAP guidelines. They state that children should be affirmed in the gender they say they are, and treatment can comprise social and medical transition, including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery. “I feel completely betrayed by the AAP,” says Dr Clark.
She is one of a growing number of doctors who are starting to push back against the apparent medical consensus on transgender issues. Some paediatricians are trying to get the AAP to change its guidelines at its leadership conference that opens on August 4th. They accuse the academy of trying to suppress debate on the subject.
The current guidance, written in 2018, has been influential. But opponents say it is not based on evidence. Julia Mason, a paediatrician in Oregon (and a lifelong Democrat), says research suggesting improved outcomes from “affirmative care” is weak. She points to the review of worldwide research done by Britain’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2020. It found that studies on the impact of puberty blockers are “either of questionable clinical value, or the studies themselves are not reliable”. On cross-sex hormones, it found some short-term benefits but said these “must be weighed against the largely unknown long-term safety profile of these treatments”.
Genspect, an international group of clinicians and parents, wrote to the AAP calling for a “non-partisan and systematic review of evidence”, saying: “Many of our children have received this care and are anything but thriving.” Without long-term data, says Dr Mason, “We’re flying blind. We’re conducting uncontrolled experiments on the bodies of children.”
When the AAP policy came out, James Cantor, a psychologist, wrote a peer-reviewed article that took apart the statement’s sources. “It is remarkable that a small group of activists is commandeering the most influential organisations affecting children in America,” says Dr Mason.
You know the rest:
The American situation contrasts with Europe, where some medical groups are moving in the opposite direction. In 2022 Sweden said it will not give blockers or hormones to anyone under 18, with a few strict exceptions. Finland discourages medicalisation for those under 25. Both now prioritise therapy. Britain has launched a review of child services by Hilary Cass, a former head of the Royal College of Paediatrics. Her interim report this year appeared to distance itself from the “affirmative model” that “originated in the USA”.
That’s why there’s now a class-action lawsuit against the Tavistock Clinic in London, which practiced nearly unrestrained “affirmative care.” Lawyers expect that at least 1,000 plaintiffs will join the suit against Tavistock for “failures in their duty of care towards young children and adolescents”.
*In the NYT, Dwight Garner acidly reviews Jared Kushner’s new book in a review called “Jared Kushner’s ‘Breaking History’ Is a Soulless and Very Selective Memoir.” The review is Mencken-like in its unbridled sarcasm and insult. We don’t often see book reviews that sound like this:
“Breaking History” is an earnest and soulless — Kushner looks like a mannequin, and he writes like one — and peculiarly selective appraisal of Donald J. Trump’s term in office. Kushner almost entirely ignores the chaos, the alienation of allies, the breaking of laws and norms, the flirtations with dictators, the comprehensive loss of America’s moral leadership, and so on, ad infinitum, to speak about his boyish tinkering (the “mechanic”) with issues he was interested in.
This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes: the two singed bathtubs, the gravel driveway and the mailbox. Kushner’s fealty to Trump remains absolute. Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo
Yuck! But there’s more:
This book ends with Kushner suggesting he was unaware of the events of Jan. 6 until late in the day. He mostly sidesteps talking about spurious claims of election fraud. He seems to have no beliefs beyond carefully managed appearances and the art of the deal. He wants to stay on top of things, this manager, but doesn’t want to get to the bottom of anything.
You finish “Breaking History” wondering: Who is this book for? There’s not enough red meat for the MAGA crowd, and Kushner has never appealed to them anyway. Political wonks will be interested — maybe, to a limited degree — but this material is more thoroughly and reliably covered elsewhere. He’s a pair of dimples without a demographic.
This is one book that will probably get a pass from most of us.
*Speaking of books, Pamela Paul has another swell column in the NYT (she was previously its book-review editor), “A word of gratitude for Salman Rushdie’s readers.” (You can now subscribe to Paul’s column.) Paul was 17, and working at the B. Dalton bookstore when the fatwa was issued against Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. To its credit, B. Dalton continued to sell the book, though it kept the copies hidden. And Paul remembers the many customers who would ask for it as a way of supporting Rushdie. First she calls up a memory that links to a nice memorial to one magical realist from another:
Twenty-five years later, by that point working at The Times as the editor of the Book Review, I was having drinks with Salman Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, on the day Gabriel García Márquez died. Wylie suggested that Rushdie write an appreciation of García Márquez for the Book Review. There was no other possible answer than yes. Rushdie’s essay, which he filed the next day, needed no editing. When it ran on our cover, the response was gratifyingly, overwhelmingly positive.
In that essay, Rushdie wrote about how, despite their different countries of origin and languages (for him, India and English; for García Márquez, Colombia and Spanish), he saw his own life in his peer’s work: “I knew García Márquez’s colonels and generals, or at least their Indian and Pakistani counterparts; his bishops were my mullahs; his market streets were my bazaars.” As well, he wrote, “in both places religion is of great importance and God is alive, and so, unfortunately, are the godly.”
I never succeeded in persuading Rushdie to write for the Book Review again, no matter how many times I asked him. . .
And she returns to the reasons why she admires those customers who supported Rushdie:
Because it’s not only vital that authors continue to write books that may challenge and possibly offend some people’s sensibilities or sanctimonies. It’s not only vital that publishers continue to stand by those authors, to protect and promote and be proud of them, and that translators continue to make those words available to global audiences. It’s not only vital that bookstores continue to sell those books, even if their staff members disagree with or disapprove of them or even if they fear that some in their communities will oppose them.
It’s also vital that readers continue to read the works that sustain those authors. Ultimately, it’s readers’ willingness to tackle challenging books that allows a culture to remain open and flourishing.
It’s Rushdie’s readers, after all, who last week may have literally helped save him. “We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defense and administered first aid, along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world,” Rushdie’s son Zafar said in a statement after the attack. It’s readers who will continue to read his novels years from now who will always keep Salman Rushdie’s words alive.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is pretending to hunt:
A: Are you resting?Hili: No, I’m lying in wait.
Ja: Odpoczywasz?Hili: Nie, czaję się.
From Marie, a cartoon by Matthew Diffee:
From Stash Krod, an excellent cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez:
From Thomas, a cartoon by Wiley Miller:
God’s taking the Kuhnian approach to the world:
Sometimes in life all you need is a worldwide paradigm shift in human consciousness.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) August 17, 2022
From Simon: A pumped-up cat:
tired: gym rat
wired: gym cat pic.twitter.com/R2yHwqoWmt
— cats being weird little guys (@weirdlilguys) August 17, 2022
Also from Simon. Hard to believe that crows, smart as they are, have learned this. I heard they’ve also learned when the light is red so they can retrieve the nuts:
Crows are widely regarded as some of the smartest animals on the planet. In this clip a wild crow in Japan is seen dropping nuts at a crosswalk, using car traffic to crack them & taking advantage of a safer opportunity to retrieve the food
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) August 16, 2022
From Malcolm: Dreams DO come true! (I may have posted this a long time ago.) Do you think that the cat was dreaming of shrimp?
When dreams come true.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/wtlckazjKH
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) August 17, 2022
From Luana: An unsuccessful game of “find the duck”:
I’m going to need five or six of you to volunteer to do this with me, and one duck. pic.twitter.com/gPyEwZpdbK
— Justine (@justinehouyaux) August 17, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial: an escapee who was recaptured and still survived the war:
19 August 1917 | A Polish woman, Janina Nowak, was born in Błędów.
In #Auschwitz from 12 June 1942.
After 12 days she escaped.
She was arrested in March 1943 & after two months imprisoned in the camp again .
Transferred to Ravensbrück. She survived the war. pic.twitter.com/De23FuuzVe
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 19, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. Panda maternal care!
Panda mom care. 💞
— Figen (@TheFigen) August 17, 2022
Well, which one would you press? The expected return with the green button is $25 million, but you might lose.
You only have one button press to receive a potentially nice monetary award. Which do you press? pic.twitter.com/2n2CbqmLKA
— Cliff Pickover (@pickover) August 16, 2022
The false idea that if an event occurs, it makes the occurrence of alternative events more probable, is called the “gambler’s fallacy.” When I was a kid my dad taught me this fallacy but called it the fallacy of “the maturity of the chances”. I don’t know if that’s a name for it.
On this day in 1913, at the Monte Carlo casino, black came up 26 times in a row. Supposedly the house made a fortune against people betting that the long overdue red had to show up.
— Mathematics & Statistics St Andrews (@StA_Maths_Stats) August 18, 2022