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History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.


Christian Persecution?

Source:  Daniel Pipes, at his blog (Aug. 24, 2004)

Bethlehem and Nazareth, the most identifiably Christian towns on earth, enjoyed a Christian majority for nearly two millennia, but no more. In Jerusalem, the decline has been particularly steep: in 1922, Christians slightly outnumbered Muslims and today they make up less than 2% of the city's population.

Bush's Strained Relationship with Wall Street 

Source: NYT (Aug. 22, 2004)

On the stump, the president can come across as a prairie populist, describing investment-banking practices as"fancy footwork" and calling the stock market boom of the 1990's feckless,"pie in the sky" investing.

Yet, as the grandson and nephew of patrician East Coast bankers - on his mother's side as well as his father's - President Bush has raised millions of dollars from Wall Street to finance his brief career as an oil wildcatter and his two presidential campaigns. And his fiscal policies, which include sweeping cuts in dividend and capital gains taxes, could be the most pro-Wall Street since Ronald Reagan began cutting taxes in 1981.

Still, for the most part, President Bush has kept bankers at arm's length in his administration. In fact, he is the first Republican president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to not appoint a Treasury secretary from Wall Street, though there is speculation that this may change if he is re-elected.

FOIA's Anniversary Celebrated

From the newsletter of the Coalition for History (July 9, 2004)

4 July 2004 marked the 38th anniversary of President Johnson signing the Freedom of Information Act into law. To commemorate the event, the George Washington University's National Security Archive posted on its website interesting FOIA facts. Here one can learn that last year over 4,000 news stories were released as a result of federal, state, and local freedom of information acts. Included among these were revelations about bacteria infested meat, misuse of government funds, conflicts of interest in the personal finances of public officials, technical flaws in space equipment, and many more. In 2002 over 2.4 million people used FOIA; critics say this cost the government over $300 million. With an estimated increase of use in 2003, the United States Census Bureau projects that FOIA will cost approximately $1.03 per person -- a relatively low expense, the archives implies, for ensuring an open and honest government. For more information including directions on how to use FOIA, tap into: http://www.nsarchive.org.

Chief Justices of the Supreme Court

Source:  Ohio News Now (May 18, 2004)

In a speech in Columbus to hail the opening of a new building for the Ohio Supreme Court, U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted that three Ohioans have held his post."No state has had more, and only New York boasts as many.

Do Oil Price Hikes Cause Recessions?

Source:  Robert D. McTeer, in the WSJ

The U.S. once again finds itself grappling with high energy prices. Oil has jumped to nearly $40 a barrel, pushing gasoline to record levels. Natural gas has been selling for more than $6 per million BTU, pricey for this time of year.

Nine of the 10 U.S. recessions since World War II followed spikes in oil prices, so many Americans might worry that today's energy prices have risen enough to scuttle a recovery that has just begun creating a significant number of jobs. Paying more for oil and natural gas can sap growth, but this time around the recovery appears robust enough to withstand the higher energy bills. Rising prices without recession isn't unprecedented: The oil markets gave four false signals during the 1980s and '90s.

There's little mystery in the link of energy prices to recession. Consumer spending takes a hit as budgets stretch to pay more for filling up at the gasoline pumps and heating homes. Just as important, oil products and natural gas are key inputs for electricity, airlines, trucking, petrochemicals, fertilizer and a host of other industries. Those vulnerabilities haven't gone away, and that's why the recovery slows.

Who Pays More in Taxes?

Source:  Matthew Miller n the NYT (April 11, 2004)

WITH April 15, comes the perennial debate over the fairness of the tax burden. Liberals say the rich pay too little; conservatives argue that the rich get soaked. Conservatives often cite these statistics: the top 5 percent of taxpayers pay 57 percent of federal income taxes, the top 1 percent 36 percent, and the bottom 80 percent a trifling 17 percent.

But this argument ignores the payroll tax, which finances Social Security, as well as excise taxes on things like liquor or tobacco. These take their biggest bite, proportionally, from lower-income Americans. Income tax will account this year for 42 percent of federal revenue; the payroll tax, 41 percent. If you count the payroll tax paid by employers (which economists generally agree comes out of workers' wages), four in five workers pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes.

The chart ... shows what happens when you consider this data: the top 1 percent of taxpayers earn 17 percent of the income and pay 23 percent of federal taxes; the top 5 percent earn 31 percent of the income and pay 40 percent of the taxes; the bottom 80 percent make 41 percent of the income and pay 31 percent of the taxes. In other words, the tax system is modestly progressive.

Corporate Profits

Source:  NYT (April 5, 2004)

The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University reports that "This is the first time we've ever had a case where two years into a recovery, corporate profits got a larger share of the growth of national income tha labor did. Normally labor gets about 65 percent and corporate profits about 15 to 18 percent. This time profits got 41 percent and labor got 38 percent."


Source:  John Podesta in Salon (March 22, 2004)

How many secrets does the United States government have? According to an article by, in 2002 "the government created more than 23 million official secrets at a cost of $5.7 billion."

Influenza Deaths, 1918

Source:  NYT (March 14, 2004)

The numbers astonish and horrify. According to the earliest estimates, 20 million people died during the flu pandemic of 1918. That figure is still used in classrooms and textbooks, but as John M. Barry tells us in ''The Great Influenza,'' it's certainly too low. Modern experts say that 20 million may have died in India alone, and they calculate the total number of victims at somewhere between 50 million and 100 million worldwide. No disease in human history has caused so many fatalities, not even the Black Death. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has in 24 years.

In the United States, about one-quarter of the population, more than 25 million people, took ill, and about 675,000 died (a comparable figure for today's population would be 1,750,000). Undertakers ran out of coffins. Morgues ran out of space. Corpses were placed in spare rooms, in closets, on porches, until they could be collected for mass graves. The odor must have been unbearable.

John Kerry -- Skates into History

Source:  Chicago Tribune (2004)

Tuesday's voting could make John Kerry the inevitable Democratic nominee and the first passionate in-line skater running for president."

Tarheel's Idea of History: Clay Aiken

Source:   Arizona Republic (2004)

[The] white Italian shirt, black pinstriped pants and shoes that singer Clay Aiken wore on American Idol will be displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History.