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Hitler’s invasion of Poland started World War II, but Stalin’s changed the country forever.

On September first, 1939, Hitler’s army crossed Germany’s eastern border and entered Poland, an invasive act of aggression that marks the official beginning of World War II. The invasion and subsequent occupation by German forces would become internationally well-known during the conflict and following its end. But the Germans weren’t alone.

Sixteen days after the German invasion started, the Soviet Union, Poland’s gargantuan neighbor to the East, followed suit, the motherland emulating the fatherland. The Red Army that rapidly canvassed Poland included some four thousand tanks…

It’s 1884 and we’re in Berlin. We’re all in Berlin, “we” being the major powers of Europe. Europe has a problem: it’s Africa. We all want it, and we’re trying to decide who gets it. We decide we all get some of it, as long as we’re there already, but there’s a problem: the middle of Africa is a dense rainforest and everyone who goes there gets malaria. Who gets that part?

Amid appeals from contestants for the prize of the Congo, the King of Belgium rises from his seat. “I will take it.” he says

“Ah!” the council exclaims…

Madagascar is an island 260 miles off the eastern coast of Africa. Geographically, the island is African, but its people aren’t, not originally. By that, I mean they didn’t get there, in a historical sense, by sailing from the African coast, even though that’s the nearest major landmass. Instead, the people who would become Madagascar’s first inhabitants arrived on boats they’d built and boarded 4,000 miles away in Indonesia.

Here’s a map for reference, because there’s no way the human mind can properly conceptualize 4,000 miles. For comparison, Northeastern Maine to San Diego, the length of the contiguous United States…

Navigation is hard. The world is big and there are things and places everywhere. Today, we’re pretty lucky; when I need to go anywhere, I can plug my destination into Google Maps and the quickest route is immediately beamed to my brain. Before Google, I have no idea how people navigated. My parents used to print out longform directions from MapQuest numerated across two or three sheets of paper. That was post-internet (so, after 1800, or whenever the internet was invented), and they still ran the risk of missing an exit and jeopardizing the whole plan. Before that, what did…

How much do you know about Bhutan? If you’re like me, until relatively recently, your answer is “not a lot”. If you’re not like me, your answer is also probably “not a lot”. Most folks don’t know about Bhutan. It’s a small, landlocked country in the Himalayas nestled softly between the ultracolossal nations of China and India. It’s by Nepal, but the two don’t border each other — there’s a little strip of India in the way.

On the world stage, Bhutan’s a pretty minor player — you’d be forgiven for not knowing much about it. In terms of population…

Part 1: “Q” & A

Hear me out: The Democrats are full of shit. We all know that. They’re trying to ruin this country. But do you know why? It’s obvious: They’re devil-worshiping pedophiles. That, or friends of pedophiles. And celebrities who support the Democrats? They’re pedophiles, too, part of a worldwide network involved in trafficking children all over the globe. Where do they do their business? Secluded, Medici-era villas in the Italian countryside? Million-dollar New York penthouses? No, you fool, it’s so obvious: pizzeria basements.

They’ve been at it for decades. Centuries, maybe. So why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? As it happens…

Democracy is important. The ancient Greeks knew that. Everyone else forgot it for a couple thousand years, and then America remembered. Suffering beneath the widespread paw of the British tea-and-taxes machine, a spunky bunch of would-be American patriots found common ground in vanquishing the evil empire and building atop its ashes a democratic nation.

Similar to their plight, I find myself under the collective weight of the internet’s political bros, banded together to remind me that the newly-conceptualized United States was never intended to be a proud democracy, but instead a rudimentary republic, one built out of equal parts compromise…

Thanksgiving is late this year. It’s actually the latest it can be. Set by Congress in 1942 as the fourth Thursday in November, a Thanksgiving this late in the month requires that November 1st falls on a Friday. The result is a truncated Christmas season and maybe a comment here and there. Hardly notable. But there’s a history here that not many know about, dating back to another late Thanksgiving in 1939.

Before we go back 80 years, it’s necessary to first go a little bit further. History is linear, right? I think it’s fair to assume that we all…

The apocalypse is here for North American cervids. It arrived no fewer than five decades ago and its progress has been… slow. Make no mistake, the zombie deer are here. As their range extends throughout North America, it’s become increasingly likely that you’ve heard something about them. It’s 2019, though, and evidence of impending doom falls at our door every day. Are “zombie deer” really a threat?

To understand our risk, we should first understand the affliction itself. What some media sources are calling the “zombie deer disease” isn’t particularly unique to deer or the current year. Sure, the disease…

Murals might encourage vandalism. This is art.

South Dakota’s getting ornery again. A new Rushmore State law mandates the display of the United States motto, “In God We Trust” in every one of the state’s 697 public schools. Displaying the motto is required by law, but, schools are allowed to get fun creative with the new rule, which gives school principals the authority to choose between mounted plaque, student artwork, or other. …

Ben Grapevine

Writer, Minneapolitan

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