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Four Pieces of Land Not Worth Fighting Over (But That Never Stopped Anyone)

The Falkland Islands

Anybody who's seen Wag the Dog knows that the best way to distract the public from incompetent leadership is with a war. That was the philosophy that General Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina took in 1982. His military junta had left Argentina in economic crisis and the people were ready to rebel. So he decided to bring everyone together by attacking, of all countries, Britain. He decided that it was time to occupy the Falkland Islands, a rocky crop of islands off the Argentine coast that, depending on who you asked, belonged to either the Argentines or the British. The islands had once provided a strategic spot for naval bases for various European countries, but Argentina had always figured the islands belonged to them after they declared independence in 1816. The British, meanwhile, took them back in 1833 and never relinquished control. The issue even came up in the UN in 1945, but it was never resolved, leaving the territory in ambiguous hands. However, the Argentines always felt a good deal of pride about their "control" of the islands (which, by this point, had little value), even stating it in the National Constitution.
Playing off these feelings, the Galtieri junta hired a group of scrap metal workers to raise an Argentine flag on the island of South Georgia. This led to a military invasion on April 2, ready for a quick takeover and subsequent celebratory parade. The Argentines had a fatal error in their plan, though; they never expected the British to actually care. But care they fighting in falkland.jpgdid, to the tune of a full-scale counter-force. The resulting battles left more than 900 soldiers dead, 649 of them Argentine. The fiasco of the "Dirty War" led to the military government being pushed out of Argentina. Meanwhile, the British celebration over the victory helped Margaret Thatcher get reelected in 1983 and partially inspired Pink Floyd's album The Final Cut.

Hans Island

hans island.jpgHans Island is a barren island so small a person could run across it in a few minutes, if there were any people on it to do the running. But it's become the center of a bitter dispute over ownership of land in the Arctic. Situated in the Kennedy Strait, it was a sticking point in 1972 negotiations over maritime boundaries between Canada and Denmark, so both countries decided to just forget about it. Then, in 1983, as the two countries were again discussing land in the Arctic, a Canadian newspaper reported that a Canadian petroleum company was doing research on Hans Island unbeknownst to both governments. This reportedly prompted the Danish minister to helicopter over to Hans Island, where he left a bottle of cognac and a flag that said "Welcome to the Danish Island."
The issue was pretty much buried until 2004, when a Canadian newspaper printed an article about Canada's plan to control all land in the North, with a brief mention of Danish warships being sent to Hans Island. The Canadians seized on this, blaming the government 0_61_arctic_hans_island.jpgfor not having a large enough military budget and not doing enough to control the Arctic waters. Canada sent a military expedition through the waters around Hans, prompting the Danes to assert that Hans Island was theirs and only theirs. The conflict has taken on more of a cultural role, prompting a series of dueling ads on Google and a lampoon Hans Island Liberation Front. Most recently, satellite imaging allowed the governments to map out the border, when they found that Hans was split right down the middle between the two countries.

A Strip of Mud in Oxfordshire, England

When Ian Fleming penned the first James Bond novel, he had no idea the very land he sat on would later be the center of one of Britain's most expensive land disputes. He probably just complained about the mud. The whole conflict started decades later, when Victor Bingham, who lived in Kiln Cottage, started chopping down trees on a 5-foot wide strip of land bordering the Fleming family's Nettlebed Estate. The Flemings claimed the trees were on their land and got a court injunction to stop Bingham. But Bingham wasn't just any neighbor- he was a member of the noble Lucan line, famous for the disappearance of Lord Lucan. In his aristocratic pride, he continued chopping down the trees, prompting the Fleming family to bring the issue to court. Finally, in 2005, a judge ruled in favor of the Flemings, ending a case that had legal fees totaling $24 thousand. Bingham vows that he'll continue fighting, though, saying that any profits he makes from selling Kiln Cottage will finance his appeal.

Gran Chaco

200px-GranChacoApproximate.jpgThe Gran Chaco is a dry region between Bolivia and Paraguay where the temperatures are hot, the people are few and the insects are diseased. But for Paraguay, the land represented the last chance for glory. Even though the region was technically under Bolivian control, Paraguay saw fit to use it to grow crops. Then, the discovery of oil in the Andes prompted many to assume there was oil in the Gran Chaco, so Bolivian president Daniel Salamanca sent in troops in 1932 to take back the region. He hadn't anticipated how determined the Paraguayans would be, though. They fought a brutal guerrilla war, whipping up national support for the war and getting military help from Argentina. Bolivia, meanwhile, sent a half-interested army of indigenous settlers who were more interested in not dying of malaria than in protecting the desert. Three years later, a ceasefire was reached, giving Paraguay control of most of the region. Meanwhile, about 100,000 soldiers had been killed and both countries were put in economic turmoil. And as if that weren't bad enough, it turns out there wasn't oil in the region after all.

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12 Pieces of 100-Year-Old Advice for Dealing With Your In-Laws
Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

The familial friction between in-laws has been a subject for family counselors, folklorists, comedians, and greeting card writers for generations—and getting along with in-laws isn't getting any easier. Here are some pieces of "old tyme" advice—some solid, some dubious, some just plain ridiculous—about making nice with your new family.

1. ALWAYS VOTE THE SAME WAY AS YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW (EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE).

It's never too soon to start sowing the seeds for harmony with potential in-laws. An 1896 issue of one Alabama newspaper offered some advice to men who were courting, and alongside tips like “Don’t tell her you’re wealthy. She may wonder why you are not more liberal,” it gave some advice for dealing with prospective in-laws: “Always vote the same ticket her father does,” the paper advised, and “Don’t give your prospective father-in-law any advice unless he asks for it.”

2. MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

According to an 1886 issue of Switchmen’s Journal, “A greybeard once remarked that it would save half the family squabbles of a generation if young wives would bestow a modicum of the pains they once took to please their lovers in trying to be attractive to their mothers-in-law.”

3. KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF.

In 1901, a Wisconsin newspaper published an article criticizing the 19th century trend of criticizing mothers-in-law (a "trend" which continues through to today):

“There has been a foolish fashion in vogue in the century just closed which shuts out all sympathy for mothers-in-law. The world is never weary of listening to the praises of mothers ... Can it be that a person who is capable of so much heroic unselfishness will do nothing worthy of gratitude for those who are dearest and nearest to her own children?”

Still, the piece closed with some advice for the women it was defending: “The wise mother-in-law gives advice sparingly and tries to help without seeming to help. She leaves the daughter to settle her own problems. She is the ever-blessed grandmother of the German fairy tales, ready to knit in the corner and tell folk stories to the grandchildren.”

4. IF RECEIVING ADVICE, JUST LISTEN AND SMILE. EVEN IF IT PAINS YOU.

Have an in-law who can't stop advising you on what to do? According to an 1859 issue of The American Freemason, you'll just have to grin and bear it: “If the daughter-in-law has any right feeling, she will always listen patiently, and be grateful and yielding to the utmost of her power.”

Advice columnist Dorothy Dix seemed to believe that it would be wise to heed an in-law's advice at least some of the time. Near the end of World War II, Dix received a letter from a mother-in-law asking what to do with her daughter-in-law, who had constantly shunned her advice and now wanted to move in with her. Dix wrote back, “Many a daughter-in-law who has ignored her husband’s mother is sending out an SOS call for help in these servantless days,” and advised the mother-in-law against agreeing to the arrangement.

5. STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. AND CLOSETS. AND CUPBOARDS.

An 1881 article titled "Concerning the Interference of the Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law in Domestic Affairs," which appeared in the Rural New Yorker, had a great deal of advice for the father-in-law:

“He will please to keep out of the kitchen just as much as he possibly can. He will not poke his nose into closets or cupboards, parley with the domestics, investigate the condition of the swill barrel, the ash barrel, the coal bin, worry himself about the kerosene or gas bills, or make purchases of provisions for the family under the pretence that he can buy more cheaply than the mistress of the house; let him do none of these things unless especially commissioned so to do by the mistress of the house.”

The article further advises that if a father-in-law "thinks that the daughter-in-law or son-in-law is wasteful, improvident or a bad manager, the best thing for him to do, decidedly, is to keep his thought to himself, for in all probability things are better managed and better taken care of by the second generation than they were by the first. And even if they are not, it is far better to pass the matter over in silence than to comment upon the same, and thereby engender bad feelings.”

6. NEVER COHABITATE.

While there is frequent discussion about how to achieve happiness with the in-laws in advice columns and magazines, rarely does this advice come from a judge. In 1914, after a young couple was married, they quickly ran into issues. “The wife said she was driven from the house by her mother-in-law,” a newspaper reported, “and the husband said he was afraid to live with his wife’s people because of the threatening attitude of her father on the day of the wedding.” It got so bad that the husband was brought up on charges of desertion. But Judge Strauss gave the couple some advice:

“[Your parents] must exercise no influence over you now except a peaceful influence. You must establish a home of your own. Even two rooms will be a start and lay up a store of happiness for you.”

According to the paper, they agreed to go off and rent a few rooms.

Dix agreed that living with in-laws was asking for trouble. In 1919, she wrote that, “In all good truth there is no other danger to a home greater than having a mother-in-law in it.”

7. COURT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

The year 1914 wasn’t the first time a judge handed down advice regarding a mother-in-law from the bench. According to The New York Times, in 1899 Magistrate Olmsted suggested to a husband that “you should have courted your mother-in-law and then you would not have any trouble ... I courted my mother-in-law and my home life is very, very happy.”

8. THINK OF YOUR IN-LAWS AS YOUR "IN LOVES."

Don't think of your in-laws as in-laws; think of them as your family. In 1894, an article in The Ladies’ Home Journal proclaimed, “I will not call her your mother-in-law. I like to think that she is your mother in love. She is your husband’s mother, and therefore yours, for his people have become your people.”

Helen Marshall North, writing in The Home-Maker: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine four years earlier, agreed: “No man, young or old, who smartly and in public, jests about his mother-in-law, can lay the slightest claim to good breeding. In the first place, if he has proper affection for his wife, that affection includes, to some extent at least, the mother who gave her birth ... the man of fine thought and gentle breeding sees his own mother in the new mother, and treats her with the same deference, and, if necessary, with the same forbearance which he gladly yields his own.”

9. BE THANKFUL YOU HAVE A MOTHER-IN-LAW ... OR DON'T.

Historical advice columns had two very different views on this: A 1901 Raleigh newspaper proclaimed, “Adam’s [of Adam and Eve] troubles may have been due to the fact that he had no mother-in-law to give advice,” while an earlier Yuma paper declared, “Our own Washington had no mother-in-law, hence America is a free nation.”

10. DON'T BE PICKY WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A WIFE; CHOOSE A MOTHER-IN-LAW INSTEAD.

By today's standards, the advice from an 1868 article in The Round Table is incredibly sexist and offensive. Claiming that "one wife is, after all, pretty much the same as another," and that "the majority of women are married at an age when their characters are still mobile and plastic, and can be shaped in the mould of their husband's will," the magazine advised, “Don’t waste any time in the selection of the particular victim who is to be shackled to you in your desolate march from the pleasant places of bachelorhood into the hopeless Siberia of matrimony ... In other words ... never mind about choosing a wife; the main thing is to choose a proper mother-in-law,” because "who ever dreamt of moulding a mother-in-law? That terrible, mysterious power behind the throne, the domestic Sphynx, the Gorgon of the household, the awful presence which every husband shudders when he names?"

11. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

As an 1894 Good Housekeeping article reminded readers:

“Young man! your wife’s mother, your redoubtable mother-in-law, is as good as your wife is and as good as your mother is; and who is your precious wife's mother-in-law? And you, venerable mother-in-law, may perhaps profitably bear in mind that the husband your daughter has chosen with your sanction is not a worse man naturally than your husband who used to dislike your mother as much as your daughter’s husband dislikes you, or as much as you once disliked your husband’s mother.”

12. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MARRY AN ORPHAN.

If all else fails, The Round Table noted that “there is one rule which will be found in all cases absolutely certain and satisfactory, and that is to marry an orphan; though even then a grandmother-in-law might turn up sufficiently vigorous to make a formidable substitute.”

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A Secret Room Full of Michelangelo's Sketches Will Soon Open in Florence
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images

Parents all over the world have chastised their children for drawing on the walls. But when you're Michelangelo, you've got some leeway. According to The Local, the Medici Chapels, part of the Bargello museum in Florence, Italy, has announced that it plans to open a largely unseen room full of the artist's sketches to the public by 2020.

Roughly 40 years ago, curators of the chapels at the Basilica di San Lorenzo had a very Dan Brown moment when they discovered a trap door in a wardrobe leading to an underground room that appeared to have works from Michelangelo covering its walls. The tiny retreat is thought to be a place where the artist hid out in 1530 after upsetting the Medicis—his patrons—by joining a revolt against their control of Florence. While in self-imposed exile for several months, he apparently spent his time drawing on whatever surfaces were available.

A drawing by Michelangelo under the Medici Chapels in Florence
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Museum officials previously believed the room and the charcoal drawings were too fragile to risk visitors, but have since had a change of heart, leading to their plan to renovate the building and create new attractions. While not all of the work is thought to be attributable to the famed artist, there's enough of it in the subterranean chamber—including drawings of Jesus and even recreations of portions of the Sistine Chapel—to make a trip worthwhile.

[h/t The Local]

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