World Views Putin More Favorably Than Trump on World Affairs

Posted August 17th, 2017 at 12:15 pm (UTC-4)
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FILE – In this July 7, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump has made clear who he considers to be his friends, and his foes, on the international stage. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

While neither Donald Trump nor Vladimir Putin are very popular around the world, a new Pew Research Center survey finds people in countries around the world have more confidence in the Russian leader on handling international relations.

“Although confidence in Putin’s handling of foreign affairs is generally low, in many countries he is more trusted than American President Donald Trump,” the non-partisan survey group wrote in the poll which focused on global perceptions of Russia.

Of the 36 countries surveyed, Pew said 22 said they have more confidence in Putin.  That included countries such as Germany, Mexico, South Korea and Japan.  Thirteen countries said they had great confidence in Trump.  Those included Australia, Canada, the UK, India and Poland.

Tanzanians were equally split about Trump and Putin.  China was not polled.

In the United States, Pew found 53 percent of Americans had confidence in Trump compared to 23 percent for Putin.

The survey was conducted between February 16 and May 8 and was before Trump used the words “fire and fury” when talking about a possible U.S. reaction to an attack by North Korea on the United States or any of its territories.

The survey was also done before Trump signed a bill strengthening sanctions on Russia and Russia’s expulsion of U.S. diplomats in retaliation.

Despite the tension, Pew found Russians and Americans have improved impressions of one another . Pew found that 41 percent of Russians view the United States favorably, which was up 15 points from 2015.  Twenty-nine percent of Americans said they had a favorable view of Russia, up seven points from 2015.

Overall 60 percent of those surveyed said they lack confidence in Putin compared to 26 percent who said he was doing a good job.

Nearly one in three countries see Russia as a threat to their country, which is about on par with how the US and China are viewed.

Confederate Statues Explained

Posted August 16th, 2017 at 12:57 pm (UTC-4)
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Confederate Statue

A memorial to Confederate president Jefferson Davis is seen along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. (Creative Commons)

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday reignited a long simmering debate about Confederate statues, with many people demanding their removal and many arguing history should not be erased.

The Charlottesville protests centered around Emancipation Park where there is a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee. White supremacists say the reason they wanted to hold their rally in that park was to protest efforts to take the statue down.

According to Slate magazine, there are about 13,000 Confederate statues and other commemorative items around the United States, and they’re not only in the former Confederacy. For example, overlooking Washington, D.C., from the Virginia side of the Potomac River and right in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery sits Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Lee, the South’s leading general, owned the plantation there prior to the Civil War.

In the surrounding Virginia suburbs, there are schools named after southern Civil War figures, like Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, who were prominent Confederate generals. Local officials recently voted to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School.

Lee House

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, is seen in this photo from the National Park Service (NPS)

Just 90 minutes from Washington, in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, a major thoroughfare called Monument Avenue, is lined with statues and memorials to Confederate soldiers and politicians.

How did this happen, especially considering the South lost the Civil War?

Historians told VOA the memorials are the result of an organized effort by some groups in the South, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), which set about revising the history of the Civil War, starting nearly immediately after hostilities ended.

Stone Mountain

A rock carving in Stone Mountain, Ga., depicts Confederate Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, two prominate generals, as well as Jeffereson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. (Creative Commons)

The UDC website says the group seeks to “collect and preserve the material necessary for a truthful history of the War Between the States and to protect, preserve, and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor” and to “assist descendants of worthy Confederates in securing a proper education.”

“The South reversed the dictum that the winners write the history books,” Brian Matthew Jordan, an associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Texas and author of the book Marching Home about Union veterans in the post-war era told VOA in 2015. “They won the battle over the peace.”

Called the “Lost Cause” movement, it set out to divorce the Confederacy from slavery and make the war about states’ rights and self-government.

A statue of a Confederate officer is seen splattered with orange paint near a park in Louisville, Ky. on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. The vandalism was discovered a day after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (AP)

In turn, Confederate soldiers were portrayed as heroes for fighting with honor and courage in the face of overwhelming numbers on the battlefield — ideals that all Americans admire and respect.

Much of that was a revisionist interpretation, but Jordan says there was enough of a kernel of truth in the Lost Cause myths to spur its widespread attraction. And in the North, too, there was a desire to put the war behind the country as quickly as possible.

“The Lost Cause took effect immediately,” said Jordan. “It was a mainstream historical memory for at least the first half century after the war.”

It was during this time that many of the statues and memorials went up.

This Tuesday June 27, 2017, photo shows the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that stands in the middle of a traffic circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. As cities across the United States are removing Confederate statues and other symbols, dispensing with what some see as offensive artifacts of a shameful past marked by racism and slavery, Richmond is taking a go-slow approach. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“In the years after the war, there was a concerted effort, made by mostly children of Confederate veterans to try to memorialize the war their fathers had fought, and to valorize and glorify the Confederate cause,” said Carole Emberton, a University at Buffalo history professor and author of the book Beyond Redemption, which is about the early post-war years in the South.

Groups like the SCV and UDC collected money to build memorials and commemorated famous battles, while giving Civil War history a spin more palatable to southerners.

Reconstruction in the immediate post-war years helped galvanize the Lost Cause movement because it was seen by southerners as an attempt by the north to destroy their way of life.

“By and large, Americans couldn’t agree on exactly how treasonous secession was,” said Emberton. Jefferson Davis was never charged with treason and was released from prison after two years. Among those paying his bail were prominent northerners, including abolitionist Horace Greeley.

In 1870, just five years after the war, the funeral of Robert E. Lee was attended by prominent politicians from the north and, according to Emberton, Lee was “talked about like an American hero.”

Now, as the city of Baltimore and New Orleans have removed Confederate statues, there are those who say honoring those who fought for the South shouldn’t be seen as offensive or racist. They also argue that removing the statues could have unintended consequences.

Durham Statue

Claire Meddock, 21, stands on a toppled Confederate statue on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, in Durham, N.C. Activists on Monday evening used a rope to pull down the monument outside a Durham courthouse. The Durham protest was in response to a white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Va, over the weekend. (AP)

“What’s next, burning books with offensive content?” wrote author Cheryl K. Chumley in a recent editorial in the conservative leaning Washington Times newspaper. “Burning books written by those who used to own slaves? At the very least, museums will have to go.

“The problem with revising history based on a standard of ‘feeling offensive,’ as this anti-Confederate craze is rooted, is that someone, somewhere will always take offense at something,” she added.

In a fiery news conference Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump weighed in on the issue.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Five Weird Things to See in the United States

Posted August 14th, 2017 at 12:22 pm (UTC-4)
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Travelers to the United States are likely familiar with some of the top tourist spots like Times Square in New York, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park, but if you’re interested in seeing some things off the beaten path, here are five spots you should check out, according to alternative travel website Atlas Obscura.

City Hall Station

City Hall Station

New York’s City Hall Station was built in 1905 and closed in 1945. (Flickr: Joe Wolf)

The first is New York’s no-longer-used City Hall subway station. It was opened in 1904 and closed in 1945 after it was no longer able to service longer trains and handle increasing numbers of riders. The station features tiled vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, dramatic sky lights and a unique curved platform.
According to the New York Transit Museum, entering the station is like time traveling back to 1904.
Tours are only available to members of the museum. You can find membership information here.

Abandoned LA Tunnels

LA Tunnels

Some abandoned tunnels were used to host alcohol parties during Prohibition. (Flickr: Alissa Walker)

According to Atlas Obscura, abandoned tunnels in Los Angeles were once used to host drinking parties during Prohibition, the time alcohol was banned in the United States from 1919 to 1933. Now, they’re mostly sealed off, but you can still access some of them.
Inside, you’ll find “mysterious street art, rusted machinery, and iron gates that limit your exploration to areas deemed earthquake safe,” Atlas Obscura says.
While officially closed to the public, Atlas Obscura says people can still access some of the tunnels from behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street.

Wave Organ

Wave Organ

The Wave Organ in San Francisco uses the flow of water to create eerie sounds. (WikiCommons)


What may look like a ruined Roman temple is actually an organ that uses the ocean’s waves to create eerie sounds.
The organ located on a jetty in San Francisco Bay was built in 1986 out of materials leftover after a cemetery was demolished.
According to Atlas Obscura, the organ “includes more than 20 pipes that extend into the water of the Bay. When the waves roll in, the pipes resound with liquid music: low, gurgling notes that ebb and flow with the restless movement of the ocean and the changing of the tides.” The sounds come from the pipes being filled and emptied of water as the waves and tides roll in.
Take a listen here.

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester House

The odd Winchester House was built by a gun fortune heiress. (Flickr: dalvenjah)


Not too far away from the Wave Organ is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.
The odd house was built by Sarah Winchester, the heiress of the Winchester gun fortune and was built over 36 years starting in 1886. It reportedly cost about $5.5 million.
The house has 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms and more than 2,000 doors.
More bizarrely, the house has numerous secret passages, doors that go nowhere, flights of stairs that lead into the ceilings and stained glass windows that never see sunlight.
Some say it was built this way because Winchester feared ghosts. More probable is that she had no architectural background.
Tours of the house are available.
Evolution Nature Store

Evolution Store

New York’s Evolution Store is home to a wide variety of fossils, seashells and skulls. (Flickr: Ryan Somma)


New York’s Evolution Nature Store is a throwback to another era, making you think you’ve walked into the laboratory of a Victorian naturalist. Nearly every space is covered with specimens of insects, animals, humans and more. You’ll also find fossils and seashells and even the skeleton of a giant sloth.
Atlas Obscura said the owners get their objects from the same dealers who supply museums.

For more information, check out Atlas Obscura.

Survey: Most Americans View Openness to Foreigners as ‘Essential’

Posted August 10th, 2017 at 9:17 am (UTC-4)
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Immigration is an important topic in the United States, with a new poll showing that most Americans are open to foreigners.

“The belief that openness to people from around the world is essential is widely shared across most demographic groups,” the Pew Research Center said in an online post. “However, Democrats and younger people are considerably more likely than others to hold this view,” according to Pew, which said more than 2,500 people were polled for the national survey, conducted between June 27 and July 9.

Nearly one-third of Americans polled, however, said, “If America is too open to people from around the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

Eighty-four percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents said, “Openness is essential to who we are as a nation.” That compares to 47 percent among Republican and Republican-leaning respondents.

Conservative Republicans were more concerned with openness than their more moderate counterparts, with slightly more than half  saying openness is a threat to the national identity. Among more moderate and liberal Republicans, the figure stood at 41 percent.

About 90 percent of liberal Democrats called openness to people from other countries essential to who Americans are as a nation. Among conservative and moderate Democrats, the figure stood at close to 80 percent.

Openness to foreigners was more common among younger Americans, with just over 80 percent of adults under 30 saying it is essential. For those aged 50 and older, about 60 percent said they felt that way.

The difference in opinion among whites, blacks and Hispanics was only modestly different at 66 percent, 74 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

There was only a modest difference in opinion among education levels. Just over 80 percent of people with a postgraduate degree said openness is essential, compared to 74 percent with a college degree and 64 percent among those without a four-year degree.

While there is widespread support for openness, the numbers begin to change when Americans are asked about illegal immigration.

According to a March survey by Gallup, about 3 out of 5 Americans worry “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about illegal immigration, a number it says has been fairly steady for 17 years since it has been asking the question. Gallup says there was a noticeable increase in worry about illegal immigrants from 2006 to 2011, when nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they had worries.

Hispanic-Americans, according to Gallup, had the highest level of worry, with 67 percent saying they worry a great deal or a fair amount about the subject. That compared to almost 60 percent for both whites and blacks.

“Hispanics’ slightly greater concern about illegal immigration does not appear to be motivated by politics because Hispanics are a Democratic-leaning group politically,” Gallup said. “Whereas Republicans’ heightened concern with illegal immigration appears to focus on limiting it, Hispanics’ greater concern may reflect worries about the treatment of immigrants who are illegally in the U.S.”

Gallup also noted that Hispanics tend to favor policies that help illegal immigrants.

“Hispanics may be growing more concerned in reaction to the increased focus on dealing with immigrants in the country illegally, which could affect themselves, their family members or their neighbors,” Gallup said.

According to Pew, about 11 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2015, a large percentage of whom are Hispanic; however, the percentage is dropping, compared to other groups.

Watermelon? There’s a Day for That. Doughnuts? That too.

Posted August 7th, 2017 at 10:00 am (UTC-4)
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Today is National Raspberry ‘N’ Cream Day.

Monday is National Raspberries N’ Cream Day. Tuesday is National Frozen Custard Day, and Wednesday is National Rice Pudding Day. In fact, if you look at, you’ll see that pretty much every day of the year celebrates some kind of food.

These “holidays” are seemingly popular, often trending on Twitter, and featured prominently in the media. They also give people a chance to indulge in something they might not eat normally, like National Onion Ring Day. They also offer a chance for companies and restaurants to promote their products.

But where did these uniquely American “holidays” come from?

June 22 is National Onion Ring Day.

A huge chunk of these days are purely the invention of an Alabama food writer named John-Bryan Hopkins, who told Time magazine that when his food popular site, launched in 2006, there were only 175 “holidays.”

“I filled in the rest,” he told the magazine.

Moreover, he said he regularly cancels the days and creates new ones.

They’re just like my little children,” Hopkins told Time. “I might wake up a little groggy one morning and decide that I don’t like what’s being celebrated that day. So I make it a new one.”

Some of his favorites include National Oreo Cookie Day (March 6), which he changed from National Frozen Food Day, and National Tater Tot Day (February 2).

March 6 is National Oreo Cookie Day.

Don’t see a day for your favorite food? Don’t fret. National Day Calendar, which lists all the various food and non-food related “holidays,” used to let anyone create their own day–for a price. However, the website says because of an overwhelming number of requests, it now is only accepting applications from businesses and other organizations.

If you’re discouraged that all of these national food holidays are fake, take heart. Many of them are rooted in history.

For example, National Beer Day (April 7), marks the end of the 1920 to 1933 prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. National Doughnut Day (June 1) was started by the Salvation Army charity in 1938 to commemorate women who served soldiers doughnuts during World War 1.

National Doughnut Day, June 1, is actually rooted in history.

While popular for the most part, not everyone is a fan of these holidays.

“I get that some people might be excited by, say, National Doughnut Day. But you really can have a doughnut any day you want!” wrote Bethany Jean Clement, a food writer for the Seattle Times newspaper. “And as part of the food media, seeing the National This or That Food Day machine crank up over and over doesn’t make me want to tweet about anything at all.”

But Tavi Juarez, also of Foodimentary, thinks national food holidays are here to stay.

“In my humble opinion, I believe that food holidays will continue to grow in popularity online because there’s a lot of negativity out there,” she told the Seattle Times. “Why not choose to celebrate food instead?”

US Top Destination for Wealthy Chinese

Posted August 2nd, 2017 at 12:04 pm (UTC-4)
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The United States is the preferred destination for wealthy Chinese investment and emigration, according to a survey.

According to the annual Hurun Research Institution report of over 300 “high net worth” Chinese, the United States tops the list of where they’d want to live for the third year straight.

Hurun said the US was the top choice because of “eight criteria, namely education, investment destination preferences, immigration policy, property purchasing, tax, medical care, visa-free travel, and ease of adaptability.”

Hurun found that depreciation of the Yuan was a key driver for 84 percent of those who said they’d move. That was up 50 percent from last year, the survey found.

Pollution is another driver.

“Education and pollution are driving China’s rich to emigrate,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report.  “If China can solve these issues, then the primary incentive to emigrate will have been taken away.”

Among the most popular cites for Chinese investment emigrants and real estate investment, four U.S. cities topped the list, including Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and New York.

According to Forbes, Chinese investors were the largest group of foreign investors in commercial real estate in 2016, having invested some $19.2 billion, a 10 percent surge from 2015.





So far, this is the first pet-less White House in 150 years

Posted July 31st, 2017 at 3:21 pm (UTC-4)
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President Barack Obama arrives with his dog Bo to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom during activities at the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

One aspect of White House life that sets President Donald Trump apart from several of his predecessors is that the sitting commander-in-chief does not have a pet.
According to the Presidential Pet Museum, Trump is the first president since Andrew Johnson, who served from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869, to not own a pet of any kind.
The Presidential Pet Museum does say Johnson was known to leave flour on the floor for a family of mice, but that doesn’t really count as pets.
Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had two Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny. Before him, George W. Bush had several animals, including Miss Beazley, a Scottish terrier, Spot, an English springer spaniel, Barney, a Scottish terrier, India, a cat and Ofelia, a longhorn cow at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

FILE – In this Feb. 3, 2003 file photo, President Bush slows his pace to wait for his dog Barney as he walks to the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 3, 2003. Barney, former White House Scottish Terrier and star of holiday videos shot during President George W. Bush’s administration, has died after suffering from cancer, the former president announced in a statement Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. He was 12. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Dogs remain the most popular presidential pet, but cats have also been popular among commanders-in-chief.
In the post-World War II era, John F. Kennedy appeared to have been the biggest animal lover. According to the museum, Kennedy had 22 pets, including several dogs, birds, a rabbit and a pony. One of the dogs, Pushinka, was a gift from former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton looks on as President Clinton holds first Socks who is petted by a Washington area elementary school student in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Friday, Dec. 17, 1993. The President and Mrs. Clinton hosted the students with the President reading ?The Night Before Christmas.? (AP Photo/Joe Marquette)

Some of the more exotic presidential pets, according to the museum, include Calvin Coolidge’s pet goose, Enoch, Theodore Roosevelt’s flying squirrel and snake and Benjamin Harrison’s opossums, just to name a few.
The New York Post reported that Trump was about to get a pet, a goldendoodle, which is a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle, from friend Lois Pope, a Florida philanthropist.
“Every president has had a first dog, and he did not have a dog,” Pope, 83, told the Post. “I wanted to find a dog with a great disposition, and I didn’t want a small dog. He’s a guy who is 6-foot-2. He doesn’t want a small dog.”

FILE– Richard Nixon is seen with his dog “Checkers,” at his home in Spring Valley neighborhood of Washington, DC., in this July 2, 1959 file photo. Not even a president should be separated from his faithful dog, especially if the canine helped save his political career. The body of Richard Nixon’s cocker spaniel, Checkers, may be exhumed from a New York cemetery and reburied near the former president and his wife Pat in California. (AP Photo/ FILE)

In the end, however, Pope decided to keep “Patton” despite the animal having been chosen for Trump because of its temperament, lack of shedding and burnt orange color.
“Donald said, ‘But, Lois, I can’t take the dog,’” Pope told the Post. “He said, ‘Look at what I do. I’m here, I’m in New York, I’m in Washington. What am I going to do with the dog?’ And I said, ‘Well, you can’t have him!’”
It is not clear why Trump does not have a pet. Some say his alleged germophobia is the reason, but no one really knows.

Pushinka, a gift to Presdient John F. Kennedy from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, stands her ground on the White House lawn, Aug. 14, 1963, while the rest of the family’s dogs vacation with the first family at Cape Cod. Pushinka was the offspring of Soviet space dog Stelka. (AP Photo/William J. Smith)

The pet museum wrote in a blog post that they think Trump will eventually get a pet.
“We at the Presidential Pet Museum suspect this will quickly change when President-elect Trump gets to the White House. Why? Because every single presidency since Theodore Roosevelt’s (1901–09) has had a dog at the White House. So for that reason, we’re certain we’ll see a wagging tail soon after the inauguration.”
Given the stress of the job, it might be a good idea for Trump to get a pet, as they are reportedly good for people’s health.
According to The Huffington Post, pets can improve heart health, help a person remain active and maintain a healthy weight, and reduce stress, among benefits.

What take-out food reveals about US history

Posted July 28th, 2016 at 12:54 pm (UTC-4)

Chuck Hammers, owner of Pizza My Heart, in one of his shops in San Jose, California on March 28, 2016. (AP Photo)

Chuck Hammers, owner of Pizza My Heart, in one of his shops in San Jose, California on March 28, 2016. (AP Photo)

From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food can tell us plenty about American history because what we eat and how we eat it, often reflects the changes taking place in society at any particular time.

“You can learn a lot from food,” says Emelyn Rude, a food historian and author of Tastes Like Chicken. “Everyone eats and it’s one of those unique ways in which agriculture, science, health, nutrition and culture all comes together in one single plate.”

Take pizza, for example. Americans were initially suspicious of dishes favored by Italian immigrants, in part because some of the ingredients were foreign to them.

“For the longest time, Italian food was looked at by most non-Italian Americans as something inferior,” says Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University. “In fact, nutritionists and social workers were endlessly complaining about how Italians eat such terrible food, such spicy food, which gives them a craving for alcohol, which is presumably a problem.”

Fast forward to after World War II, when American soldiers returned from Europe raving about the Italian food they’d eaten there. Once a box was invented — in the 1940s — to keep pizza hot, the flat, round cheesy pie was on its way to becoming a staple in the U.S. diet. Today, 1-in-8 Americans eats pizza on any given day.

African-American patrons outside of an eatery in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1939. (Library of Congress)

African-American patrons outside of an eatery in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1939. (Library of Congress)

Take-out food can also teach us about the darker periods in American history.

“In the South, it was common to see current and former slaves vending food on the side of the road,” says Rude. “Masters would allow their slaves to go out and sell food on the side of the road…so this was a very common occurrence and people knew if you wanted the tastiest food, you’d go find the American-American vendors. And its largely because there’s no other opportunity. They couldn’t work in shops, they couldn’t set up, really, their own enterprises, but being a street-side vendor was something that was available to them.”

African-Americans not only sold take-out food — fried chicken was a popular offering — they were also among the first consumers of it.

Jim Crow laws, enacted by Southern states from the 1880s until the mid 1960s, legalized segregation between blacks and whites. If African-Americans wanted to eat at a particular restaurant that didn’t have a designated section for people of color, they’d go around back and see if the restaurants would give them food to go.

In 1849, during the California Gold Rush, enterprising Chinese food entrepreneurs set up near where the forty-niners were searching for gold. As Rude says, the fortune hunters didn’t make any money, but the people who fed them did. One of the first American restaurants to offer food delivery is believed to be a San Francisco Chinese eatery that began offering the service in the 1920s.

Everything changed for restaurants when their Number 1 enemy — television — was invented and, by the 1950s, had infiltrated millions of American homes.

Almost overnight, people became more interested in staying home and watching TV, rather than going out to eat. When restaurants experienced a dramatic drop in sales, they knew it was time to adapt or die.

Television became Public Enemy Number 1 for American restaurants as more people opted to stay home in the 1950s. (Photo by Paul Townsend via Creative Commons license)

Television became Public Enemy Number 1 for American restaurants as more people opted to stay home in the 1950s. (Photo by Paul Townsend via Creative Commons license)

“They all started developing these take-home menus and delivery,” Rude says, “just so people wouldn’t have to leave their homes. They could do both: eat restaurant food and watch television.”

Then, once everyone had cars, fast food became the next big thing.

“The car really revolutionized how everyone eats because we could get food conveniently, we could get it super cheaply,” Rude says. “And so, yes, we owe fast food to cars.”

Today, roughly 6 percent of Americans eat take-out food on any given day. For the first time in U.S. history, restaurant spending is higher than grocery spending for the average American.

The internet age has given more obscure restaurants increased exposure and access to potential patrons who might not have found them otherwise, but the actual food consumed hasn’t changed much. The most popular food ordered via apps or the mobile internet is — you guessed it — pizza.


More About America
Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha! How Immigrants Transform US Cuisine
Does Bias Impact Price of US Ethnic Foods?
American Food Has Surprising Military History

Tennessee Pyramid Brings Outdoors Inside

Posted May 27th, 2016 at 1:52 pm (UTC-4)

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Online retail sales in the U.S. keep rising, reaching nearly $93 billion in the year’s first quarter, as the Department of Commerce reported this month. Their annual growth has outpaced that of in-store retail by a rate of at least 15 percent to 3 percent since 2010, Marketplace reports.

But consumers sometimes want an immersive shopping experience. Keyboard clicks can’t deliver the sweet immediacy of a fudge sample, the rousing “ack-ack” of a duck call or the thrill of a free-standing elevator rocketing up 28 stories to a restaurant and river-view observation deck.

Those are among the options at Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World at the Pyramid, a massive specialty store on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. The Southern city is better known for Elvis Presley’s Graceland and bluesy Beale Street.

Not exactly a souk by the Nile, this riverside pyramid nonetheless holds a bounty of attractions for outdoor enthusiasts or wanna-bes. Merchandise ranges from hip boots to camouflage-upholstered recliners to Beretta firearms to bass boats lining lagoons where trout swim. There are live alligators, stuffed grizzlies, restaurants, a hotel, bowling alley and Ducks Unlimited Heritage Center.

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Bass Pro Shops has drawn roughly 3 million visitors to its Pyramid complex of restaurants, retail stores, ‘cypress swamp’ and other attractions, in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

The stand-alone site, part of a chain headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, falls in the category of destination shopping. It’s not on the scale of Minnesota’s Mall of America or Dubai’s Mall of Emirates, which represent numerous retailers and draw international crowds. Instead, it’s comparable to Cabela’s, another U.S. chain specializing in outdoor equipment, or Ohio grocer Jungle Jim’s International  Market, both with a singular focus and at least regional appeal.

“Somebody would make a concerted effort to get there,” explains Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). He added, “This is a niche component within the industry.”

Bass Pro Shops launched Outdoor World in April 2015 in the Pyramid, a giant structure that opened in 1991 as a sports and entertainment complex but sat vacant from 2004. The company got tax breaks from Memphis to redevelop the site.

In its first year, it drew 3 million people from all 50 states and at least a dozen countries, manager David Hagel said.

Chris Horsley of Texarkana, Texas, watches his children take aim at the shooting gallery in Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, a retail center in Memphis, Tennessee. From left are Jordana, Christa, Corbin and Mason. (C. Guensburg/VOA)

Chris Horsley of Texarkana, Texas, watches his children take aim at the shooting gallery in Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, a retail center in Memphis, Tennessee. From left are Jordana, Christa, Corbin and Mason. (C. Guensburg/VOA)

Spectacle and sales bring people in

Chris Horsley and Emily Haaland brought their four children from Texarkana, Texas, testing their skills at the Bass Pro shooting arcade and later taking the elevator – at $10 for adults and $5 for kids – to The Lookout restaurant. “It’s a little vacation,” Haaland said during their [February] visit.

Cody Cox of Paragould, Arkansas, drove two hours with a couple of buddies, lured by a sale on outdoor sporting equipment. He left with a Rich N Tone duck call. His pal Joe Whitman found a carbon rod and reel marked at half price.

Sites like Outdoor World are likely to get repeat business, though infrequent, Tron said. But customers “spend significantly more time and money because of the effort to get there.”

To draw crowds, Bass Pro Shops also organizes special events, such as the World’s Hunting and Waterfowl Expo last October or the upcoming U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship in July.

They can stay at the elegantly rustic Big Cypress Lodge, with some “treetop” cabins and 103 rooms. Many have porches, and rockers, overlooking the surreal landscape of fake 100-foot cypress trees in an eerie twilight. At least lodgers don’t need sunscreen or bug spray.

Perhaps the biggest hit has been the ground-floor General Store. As of late April, its fudge counter had dispensed 27 tons of fudge.

Carol Guensburg
Carol Guensburg is a Washington-based VOA writer and editor. Contact her at

When Can Older Americans Expect to Retire? Maybe Never

Posted May 11th, 2016 at 3:25 pm (UTC-4)

FILE -- A relaxing retirement might not be achievable for many Americans. (AP Photo)

FILE — A relaxing retirement might not be achievable for all Americans. (AP Photo)

Both of the leading presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, 68, and Donald Trump, 69, are pushing 70, an age when most Americans traditionally contemplate retirement, rather than seek one of the world’s most stressful and demanding jobs.

But Clinton and Trump could be on to something. More than half of older Americans are expected to keep working past the traditional retirement age of 65, according to a recent survey. The reasons vary: some can’t afford to retire while others prefer to stay active.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates and Projections/US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates and Projections/US Department of Health and Human Services

As the baby boomers — people born between 1946 and 1964, who are currently between 52 and 70 years old — begin to reach age 65, the United States’ general population will have more older people than ever before.

The 65-and-older crowd jumped from 35.5 million in 2002, to 43.1 million in 2012, an increase of 21 percent. That number is expected to more than double by 2060, to 92 million. By 2040, there will be twice as many older people living in America than there were in 2000.

The survey included interviews with 1,075 people who were age 50 and older. One-fourth of the older workers said they never plan to retire, and that’s truer among low-income earners than high earners. Thirty-three percent of people earning less than $50,000 a year said they’ll keep working indefinitely, while 20 percent of those with salaries over $100,000 said they’ll never retire.

Sixty percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they expect to work past their 65th birthday. More than half of those who are already older than 65 said they plan to keep working, too. However, many of these older workers are putting in fewer hours, an average of 31 per week.

Being older doesn’t necessarily mean these employees are complacent. A majority of older workers — especially those who are 65 and older — plan to switch employers, or move into an entirely new profession, as they head off into the twilight years.


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