Category: History

The People’s Palace: German Architects Say Buckingham Palace Could Fit 50,000 Londoners

By Spencer Kellogg | @Spencer_Kellogg

German design team Opposite Office have unveiled a wild solution to London’s housing crisis: convert Buckingham Palace’s 775 rooms into a multi-story apartment building that could possibly house up to 50,000 people. Today, many Londoners struggle to find affordable housing in a city that has exploded for businesses but has yet to adequately address its growing rent problems.

The opposite of freedom is captivity. Captivity doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Captivity can also be in our head. Monarchy is something that we associate with captivity. The monarchy in Great Britain is not oppressive but it is still a sign of power and the old days of royalty – days when the difference between social classes was very present. In London, as in other big cities, there is an extreme lack of housing, but the symbol of kingship, extravagance, wealth and wast remain. We understand this as a contradiction and want to blur these boundaries. Blur, to be truly free, because living space for all is freedom!” – Opposite Office Architecture Firm

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Floorplan of updated Buckingham Palace 

Buckingham Palace was first constructed in 1703 and is home to the monarch and administrators. The Palace has stood as a site for mourning and celebration through the four centuries that it has stood in Westminster.

To make space for so many Londoners, certain amenities would have to be curbed. Namely, the projected space would feature no corridors and folding screen walls would be used to divide the floorplan. The architectural drawings also include shared common spaces between single and double bedrooms.

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Architectural drawings of converted Buckingham Palace

The project also includes a projected addition that would sit above the Palace and over 8 staircases that would provide access throughout the converted space. Opposite Office’s co-founder Benedikt Hartl penned a letter to the Queen which read in part: “The refurbishment and extension of the Buckingham Palace will draw great media attention to the issue of affordable housing, whilst improving the social standing of Buckingham Palace.”

Designers throughout England and Europe have been working towards a solution for London’s housing crisis. Engineering firm WSP has suggested that as many as 280,000 homes could be built above unused space along the railroads of London and Cube Haus has proposed modular homes for awkward spaces throughout the city.

Still no insight as to whether prospective renters would get to the keep the guards.


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The Big Fat Lie: How Government Caused the Obesity Crisis

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

If you take a walk through your local grocery store, you’ll find a lot of labels accentuating low-fat foods. “Reduced fat”, “2%”, and “fat-free” signs stick out at consumers anxious about an American health crisis. In fact, for nearly 50 years, lowering your daily total fat intake, as well as cholesterol and saturated fat, has been a staple of American healthy eating, courtesy of the USDA. In 1977, coinciding with a flawed study from the 1960s and 70s by physiologist Ancel Keys, they proposed the first ever dietary guidelines. These recommendations suggested the following:

  • Decrease intake of fat
  • Decrease intake of cholesterol
  • Reduce intake of salt
  • Reduce intake of sugar
  • Increase intake of carbohydrates

Decreased Fat, Increased Obesity

Interestingly, though, these guidelines did not prove to be particularly helpful for the American people. Allegedly, they were supposed to curb the rising rates of obesity and heart disease in the country. But compared to modern standards, obesity was not nearly as problematic 50 years ago.

In fact, throughout the early 1970s, as the below graph indicates, total overweight and obesity rates dropped slightly. Previously, they had risen steadily, though at a relatively low rate. But following the new dietary guidelines, the numbers immediately skyrocketed. From 1976 to 2004, obesity more than doubled, climbing from around 15% to well over 30%. Similarly, the overweight plus obese rate increased. In 1976, the figure was considerably below 50%, but by 2004, it was approaching 70%.

U.S. Overweight and obesity rates over time

Now, it is true that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. The U.S. dietary guidelines were not the only factor influencing health in the 1970s. It would be irresponsible to place the blame on any one particular factor. For example, the 1970s also marked the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup to American markets. It appears that this, too, had a marked impact on obesity rates. Arguably, these two factors were the most critical nutritional changes of the decade. Thus, it is critical to examine the guidelines.

The Flawed Seven Countries Study

All in all, the guidelines took an approach that Dr. Keys would have been quite proud of. But does the science behind it hold up, or did Keys manipulate his data for some reason? His study, the Seven Countries Study, examined the relationship between heart disease and lifestyle. Over the years, Keys collected data and published results that would appear to suggest fat intake raises the risk for heart disease.

However, there was one critical problem with the study; Keys already had access to data from 22 countries. Given previously available scientific data, it is reasonably clear that he selected countries that would help prove his hypothesis. The True Health Initiative, in a 2017 paper defending Keys, articulates that the cherry-picking argument does not apply. This is because Keys had already published one famous graph outlining his correlation in six countries using national data.

Heart disease and fat consumption by country

Yet, this fact actually negates their own point. Yes, it is true that the information was already available, but this is only further evidence of bias. Keys looked at several countries, including Japan, Italy, and the U.S., that he had already collected data on. His previous graph suggested that such a correlation would be likely. What he failed to report on, however, were findings from countries that were not going to fit his narrative. Norway, for example, has low heart disease rates, but Norwegians tend to eat a lot of fat. The opposite is true in Chile, with high rates of heart disease and generally low fat consumption.

The Big Fat Lie: Dangerous Guidelines

Clearly, the belief that fat and heart disease are linked is not necessarily accurate. At the very least, the issue is far more complex than previously believed. In fact, says Zoe Harcombe, a dietary author with a Ph.D. in public health nutrition, there has never been any credible link between lower fat intake and lower cardiac risk. On the contrary, the USDA guidelines appear to be entirely arbitrary. At best, this is an unhelpful mechanism, but at worst, it can turn deadly.

As a result of the guidelines, as well as the Seven Countries Study, a crusade against fat began in the country. Ironically, this battle only led to a doubled obesity rate. Why is it, then, that the USDA continued advocating this particular way of eating? Why did they continue the big fat lie? The answer may lie in the sugar industry.

Dating as far back as Keys, scientists have realized that sugar plays a very harmful role in the American diet. Though processed sugars are worse than naturally occurring sugars, they all can lead to weight gain and heart disease. In fact, sugar plays a greater role in heart disease than saturated fat does. Though the guidelines did note to reduce sugar intake, the recommendation to increase carbohydrates considerably offsets this. So does the clear emphasis on behalf of the government that fat is the devil in food.

The Sugar Industry’s Crony Capitalism

Unfortunately, though, these pushes are fairly unsurprising. In the 1960s, Coca-Cola paid many scientists to research and publish studies that would downplay the role of sugary drinks in heart disease. The candy industry also paid other scientists to publish a study that claimed children who ate candy weighed less than those who did not. But the issues go far beyond a number of independent scientists.

One of the researchers that the industry paid was D. Mark Hegsted. At the time a private worker, he went on to become the USDA’s head of nutrition. Hegsted was heavily involved in the drafting of the nutritional guidelines. It now makes more sense, considering that the sugar industry paid off a leading USDA member, that the government’s policy would harshly condemn fat. Though there was dissent in the scientific and medical communities, the government nonetheless pushed fat as the bane of health. Sugar, on the other hand, was cast to the side, considered not to be the major focus.

Replacing Fat with Sugar

Looking back to the grocery store, what does the influx of low-fat advertising and food production entail? More often than not, it just means there are added sugars. Take peanut butter as a prime example. A standard serving of Skippy’s natural, full-fat peanut butter has around 190 calories and 16 grams of fat. Compare that to the same calorie number and 12 grams of fat for Skippy’s reduced fat peanut butter.

But looking at the carbohydrate and sugar count, it becomes apparent that the reduced fat is actually less healthy. 6 grams of carbohydrates jumps to 14, and the ingredients list shoots from 4 to 17. Generally speaking, unnecessary ingredients like corn syrup solids and soy protein have nothing to do with peanut butter and have little to no nutritional benefit. But to replace the natural, healthy, mono-unsaturated fats in peanut butter and preserve taste, Skippy has to add in something. Sadly, this something comes at the expense of the consumer’s health.

A New Link: Carbohydrates and Heart Disease

Not all carbs are sugars, so they can’t be bad, right? Though carbohydrates in moderation are not unhealthy, there is mounting evidence suggesting a link between elevated levels of carb intake and heart disease. A 2009 study found that swapping saturated fats with carbohydrates did nothing to reduce heart disease. In fact, a 2014 study actually discovered that increased carbohydrate consumption increased the risk of both heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

When food companies follow the archaic advice against eating fat, they inevitably increase the occurrence of highly refined and processed carbs. The Skippy example was not a lone wolf, in this regard. From milk to salad dressing to cheese and chips, reduced fat options nearly always increase the prevalence of processed carbs. This is neither an endorsement nor a criticism of any of those foods, but merely a statement of fact surrounding reduced fat options. After all, to make a food lower in fat, they must add additional ingredients to it, taking away from the wholeness of the product. This violates the one law of nutrition that has almost never come under fire; natural, whole foods are better for you than processed ones.

The Government’s Damage Is Done

Thankfully, the influence of this era of nutritional guidelines is beginning to end. In the past decade, there has been an increase in skepticism surrounding sugar. Likewise, many medical professionals are starting to welcome fat back into the diet, particularly in the form of eggs, fish, and nuts.

But the damage has been done. Thanks to ignorant or even cronyist dietary policies, the government has contributed to a 50-year acceleration in obesity rates. Now, obesity is the second-leading cause of preventable death in the country. There are many instances in which government cooperation with corporations can have negative results, but this is perhaps one of the worst in our country’s history. Admittedly, obesity rates may have risen regardless, as they have in many parts of the world. Without a doubt, though, the failed nutritional paradigm of the later 20th century has led to the deaths of many citizens with good intentions.

Yet, there is still hope. As recognition of fat as an essential macronutrient rises, health may still improve. Hundreds of thousands report success with higher fat diets, such as Paleo and Keto. Though such a strict reduction in carbohydrates is not essential for good health, and healthy eating is a highly individualized topic, these are certainly viable options.

Obesity rates are still rising, thanks to crony capitalist collusions, but in the dawn of the information age, the truth is beginning to spread. With it comes a way forward, out of obesity and into longevity.


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The Remarkable Voyage of Officer De Long and the Jeannette

Nate Galt | United States

The De Long Islands is a group of small, rocky islands in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, off the coast of Russia. During Soviet times, the islands were used as weather stations to better understand the Arctic climate. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, the weather stations were abandoned. Even though the archipelago may be desolate and uninhabited, its discovery has quite an interesting backstory. The island group is named after George W. De Long, a largely forgotten American explorer who risked life and limb to find a warm water route to the North Pole. 

On July 8, 1879, De Long’s ship, the U.S.S. Jeannette, departed with 33 crew members from the harbor of San Francisco. They were searching for an “open polar route” to the North Pole, which had been a popular theory for centuries. The naval commander had experience in far northern waters and knew that winter would be coming when he would pass through the Bering Strait. Although his ship had a reinforced hull to prevent the Arctic ice from cracking it, he was not sure if it would last throughout the whole winter.  In September 1879, the Jeannette was trapped in the ice in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, near the 75th parallel north. The ship’s commander and crew still did not lose hope, even in these dangerous conditions. The current would push the trapped ship towards an island in May of the next year, which would be the first time the crew saw dry land for an entire year. The sighting of the island was a relief for many crew members and boosted their morale. The crew hoped that the onset of the Arctic summer would free their ship from the thick pack ice, allowing them to continue their expedition. They would journey northwest, following their plan to find the “open polar route” to the North Pole.

Unfortunately for them, the U.S.S. Jeannette would still be trapped inside the ice, which was starting to crack its hull. On the evening of June 12, 1880, the ship would sink just north of the 77th parallel. Desperate and running out of options, the crew took three lifeboats and followed the orders of their commander, De Long, to head over to the Lena River delta. He predicted that there would be numerous native Yakut villages which would provide his men with food and shelter. In order to keep their slim hope of survival alive, they needed to brave the harsh winds and march over the frozen East Siberian Sea, all while hauling their boats. They displayed a strong sense of camaraderie, knowing that they needed to support each other if they wanted to have a sliver of a chance at life.

In July, the party spotted small uninhabited islands with cliffs and named them after their ship and after De Long’s family. De Long claimed these newly discovered islands for the United States and planted an American flag on the largest one. Following a brief rest, they set out on foot again. Since the ice was melting, the men had to use their boats in order to get to the Russian coast. Melville, the group’s engineer, was placed in command of one lifeboat, while Lieutenant Chipp, a naval officer, was made the captain of the smallest boat. The third lifeboat was piloted by De Long himself. Everyone was ordered to stay together, no matter how terrible the conditions became. Unfortunately, on September 12, strong gale-force winds tore the group apart. Hope was quickly dwindling for all three parties. The De Long party tried to maintain their path towards the Lena delta and proceeded to land at its northernmost extremity.

De Long kept meticulous records of his experience, from the unique wildlife to the frigid climate of the region. He noted that food was running out, writing in his journal that “there was nothing to eat but a spoonful of glycerine.” The men were in poor physical condition, with many barely walking a mile per day. Even though their decreasing food rations were replenished by shooting the occasional reindeer or bird, morale was low. One by one, De Long’s men were falling, either due to frostbite or starvation. The first casualty of the expedition came on October 6. As the harsh, biting Siberian winter set in, more men died. The last three men desperately tried to set up camp on higher ground. De Long was among them, and on the last day of October 1880, he passed away. Chipp’s party was never found, and it is assumed that the crew disappeared in the frigid waters of the East Siberian Sea due to their boat capsizing. Melville’s vessel landed at the southeastern part of the enormous river delta. He soon found a sizable native Yakut village and rested there. He ordered that everyone in his party except for two of the fittest crewmen should go to the large city of Yakutsk, which was upstream. Melville wanted to search for De Long but had to wait for the biting cold to ease. He began his search in mid- to late March, when the river ice would have melted, bringing along two of his men and two natives. In a village, a group of natives brought Melville several notes written by expedition members. When he discovered De Long’s body, he found several artifacts as well as his commander’s diary. This journal would be invaluable as there were detailed descriptions of everything that his commander’s party had encountered. All but one body of the group would be recovered and buried on top of a hill in the middle of the river delta. Melville heaped some rocks over the men’s graves and planted a large wooden cross over them to mark their resting place. For one more month, he unsuccessfully tried to find any news about Chipp and his men. He returned to Yakutsk in May and began his long journey back to the United States. 

Only 13 of the 33 men that originally sailed from the U.S. survived the perilous expedition. Their return was celebrated by the American public, as their ordeals were not at all in vain. Public interest in the expedition had been high since the crew’s departure. Besides discovering new islands and sailing through uncharted waters, the crew of the USS Jeannette dismantled the theory of an “open polar sea” and the absence of currents in the Arctic Ocean. Early cartographers mapping the Arctic believed that there were no currents in this ocean. As a result of the crew of the Jeannette being trapped in ice that was floating with a current, this myth was debunked. This would change far northern exploration forever, as following explorers learned from the mistakes of De Long and used his journal entries to plan future voyages. The party’s treacherous journey in the high north was commemorated with a memorial cross in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Their exploration would be the first of its kind, as no one had made so many discoveries about the North Pole and the waters around it up to this point. De Long’s contribution was great, but if it weren’t for Melville’s determination and commitment to find his shipmates, we would not have learned all we know today. Melville had given the scientific world so much by recovering artifacts, especially the notes of his comrades and De Long’s diary. The men risked life and limb solely to prove a theory and ended up doing much more. Significant stories like these frequently fall through the cracks of history and should never be forgotten. 


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