22 Aug 2014
The identities of two of the most well-known architects of the CIA's torture program have been scrubbed from the Senate's report
An American Odyssey is a new 612 page book published by Taschen that revisits photochrom and photostint postcard images from the private collection of Marc Walter. Originally produced by the Detroit Photographic Company between 1888 and 1924, these images were created using a photolithographic process that predated the autochrome by nearly 20 years, offering people the very first color photographs of the United States.
Five myths about presidential vacations: "During his eight-year presidency, Bush did take 879 days of vacation, including 77 trips to his Texas ranch. So far, Obama has taken about 150 days off."
You would think that one thing Americans could agree on is that the leader of the free world could occasionally use a day off. But even presidents’ vacations can be controversial, as partisans argue over whether the time away is detrimental to the nation. With President Obama and his family enjoying their annual summer trek to Martha’s Vineyard, let’s examine five myths about presidential vacations.
1. Presidents get vacations.
“Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery,” Nancy Reagan once said in defense of her husband’s frequent trips to his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif.
In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don’t so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go. Some 200 people accompany a president on vacation — including White House aides, Secret Service agents, military advisers, and experts in communications and transportation — to ensure that, while on vacation, the president can do nearly everything he could accomplish in Washington.
He continues to receive daily intelligence and national security briefings while on vacation. Presidents also continue to tape weekly radio broadcasts, hold news conferences, attend political fundraisers and occasionally, as Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan did, entertain British royalty.
Vacations don’t stop presidents from making major decisions. For example, Reagan was enjoying a quiet weekend at Camp David when he decided to fire striking air-traffic controllers in 1981.
2. Presidential vacations harm the national agenda.
This past week, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank accused Obama of “tone deafness” for going forward with his vacation while the world was in crisis. But when is the world not in crisis?
A vacation can provide a president with that most precious and rare of commodities in the Oval Office: time to relax and think — including time to think about how to deal with a crisis.
Shortly after his reelection to a third term in 1940, Roosevelt was criticized for taking a 10-day fishing trip in the Caribbean while Britain was under assault by Nazi Germany. But FDR used that rare opportunity for reflection to devise his ingenious Lend-Lease program, which would provide vital aid to Britain to stave off the Nazi attack.
Presidents often feel the need to assure Americans that they’re using their vacations productively. Karl Rove, adviser to President George W. Bush, always alerted the media to the scholarly books the president intended to read while on vacation.
It is also unlikely that Obama would have held a news conference on Iraqthis past week had he remained in Washington, but he did so while at Martha’s Vineyard to refute claims that he was seemingly “detached as the world burns.”
3. George W. Bush took more vacation days than any other president.
During his eight-year presidency, Bush did take 879 days of vacation, including 77 trips to his Texas ranch. So far, Obama has taken about 150 days off. But our founders were away even more.
During his first two years in office, President John Adams was criticized for making two lengthy trips to his home in Quincy, Mass., taking him away from the capital, which was then Philadelphia, for a total of eight months. Adams left Philadelphia to avoid a yellow-fever outbreak and then to care for his ill wife, Abigail. And his absence came at a time when the United States nearly went to war with France.
Even during the Civil War, historian Matthew Pinsker points out, President Abraham Lincoln spent 25 percent of his time, including fully half of 1862, at the Soldiers’ Home near Washington’s Petworth and Park View neighborhoods. Pinsker says Lincoln especially enjoyed going there on hot days because the cottage where he stayed was shaded and the slightly higher elevation picked up cool breezes absent from the White House.
There seems to be no correlation between vacation days and a president’s legacy. No modern president took less vacation than Jimmy Carter (79 days), while Ronald Reagan spent 335 days at his beloved California ranch. President John F. Kennedy spent nearly every weekend of his shortened presidency at one of his family’s several properties. FDR made 134 trips to Hyde Park and spent an additional six months of his presidency in Warm Springs, Ga., where he treated symptoms of his polio. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.
4. Taxpayers foot the bill for presidential vacations.
Presidents pay for their own and their families’ lodging, food and incidentals while on vacation, which may be why they generally prefer to stay at properties they own, as guests of wealthy friends or at the official presidential retreat at Camp David.
But since presidential vacations are always working vacations, taxpayers cover what it takes to keep the commander in chief working. Lodging and meals are an extra cost, but taxpayers pay the salaries of White House staffers and Secret Service agents whether the president stays in Washington or not, so a presidential vacation does not significantly increase personnel costs.
The biggest additional expense is the use of Air Force One and the support aircraft needed to haul all the equipment and ground transportation the president needs. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the cost of operating Air Force One is nearly $180,000 per hour. Ultimately, a presidential vacation can cost taxpayers an additional $1 million or considerably more than if the president had just stayed put in the White House. How significant this is within a $3.5 trillion federal budget is something voters can decide for themselves.
21 Aug 2014
Suicide Tourism: Terminally ill Britons now make up a nearly one quarter of users of suicide clinics in Switzerland. Only Germany has a higher numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ visiting institutions to end their own lives
Terminally ill Britons now make up a nearly one quarter of users of suicide clinics like Dignitas in Switzerland, new figures have shown.
Only Germany has a higher numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ visiting institutions to end their own lives.
Between 2008 and 2012, 126 Britons chose to die in Zurich, the majority at Dignitas, and a handful via less well known clinics, like Exit.
In 2012, 29 people from the UK travelled to Switzerland to end their own lives, the highest number ever and around one per fortnight.
Experts from the University of Zurich used data from the Zurich Institute of Legal Medicine and the figures were analysed by Oxford University.
They found that the number of people travelling to Switzerland to take their own lives had risen by 40 per cent in four years. In 2008 there were 123 cases of suicide tourism which had increased to 172 by 2012.
Dr Charles Foster, who teaches medical law and ethics at Oxford University, said ‘getting another country to do your dirty work’ had stopped the UK being forced to confront the issue.
“England has been able to outsource its assisted suicides to Switzerland,” he said.
“That has meant that it has had the luxury of being able, usually, to avoid confronting directly the difficulties associated both with liberalising and with not liberalising the existing English law.
“If Switzerland is happy to continue providing this facility, then however intellectually dishonest it may be to allow her to siphon off all our own English pain, fear, angst and debate, it is likely to do less harm overall than introducing any conceivable assisted suicide law in England.”
But charities and campaigners said it was unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to end their own lives.
“Britons forming the second largest group of European residents travelling abroad to Switzerland to die - at a rate of about one per forthright - it does reinforce that there is a problem with the law in this country,” said Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying.
“It’s clearly unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to die through a lack of safeguarded choice in this country.”
The study found that women were more likely to take their own lives than men. 58.5 per cent of ‘suicide tourists’ were women. The average age of those using these services was 69 - although the ages of people seeking help ranged from 23 to 97.
Neurological diseases including paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis were the most common reasons for assisted suicide - accounting for 47 per cent of cases.
In Switzerland, assisted suicide is legal as long as the helper does not personally benefit from the death.
In Britain the 1961 Suicide Act makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales. Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years in prison.
However in 2009 Debbie Purdy asked judges to rule on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he took her to Dignitas, and the Director of Public Prosecutions said it would be unlikely that charges would be brought in such circumstances.