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World War I Centennial: Confusion Reigns in Constantinople

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The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere.

With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 25th installment in the series. (See all entries here.)

July 9, 1912: Confusion Reigns in Constantinople

Turkish fortunes took a sharp turn for the worse in 1911-1912, as the ailing multinational Ottoman Empire was first attacked by Italy, then assailed by an Albanian uprising, while the members of the Balkan League plotted to liberate their ethnic kinsmen under Turkish rule (and grab big chunks of land). Suffering reverses on all fronts, it’s no surprise that the ruling party, the Committee of Union and Progress – better known as the “Young Turks” – started looking around for a scapegoat.

That scapegoat turned out to be the Minister of War, Mahmud Shevket Pasha (pictured), who had been described by foreign observers as “the most capable and energetic of contemporary Turkish statesmen,” but who had only loose ties to the CUP and was therefore forced to take the blame for a military situation that was frankly beyond his (or anyone’s) control. On July 9, 1912, Shevket Pasha was forced to resign as Minister of War.

Shevket Pasha’s ouster was engineered in part by the Grand Vizier (prime minister) Mehmed Said Pasha, who ran the empire on behalf of the figurehead Sultan under the newly-restored constitution. To replace Shevket Pasha as Minister of War, Said Pasha wanted to appoint an army colonel with closer ties to the CUP, which would allow the CUP to consolidate control over the Turkish military.

No Confidence

But the Ottoman government was far from stable (as attested by the fact that this was Said Pasha’s eighth turn holding the office of Grand Vizier) and by cashiering Shevket Pasha, Said Pasha doomed his entire government. Indeed, the government was in such bad standing with the Turkish elite that no one who was qualified to be Minister of War would accept the position, leading Said Pasha to dissolve the government – even after he obtained a vote of confidence. He famously explained his decision to the Sultan: “They have confidence in me, but I have no confidence in them.”

Under pressure from a group of young military officers known as “The Savior Officers” – who mostly hailed from Macedonia and were concerned about the erosion of Turkish power in the Balkans – Said Pasha and his whole cabinet were forced to resign on July 16, 1912. On July 22, 1912, Gazi Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, a military hero, was appointed Grand Vizier, but stability continued to elude the beleaguered Turkish government: in the wake of the military disasters of the First Balkan War, Muhtar Pasha was replaced by Kamil Pasha in October 1912, and Kamil Pasha himself was deposed at gunpoint in January 1913.

Kamil Pasha’s replacement as Grand Vizier was none other than Mahmut Shevket Pasha (Ottoman government at this time was something of a revolving door). But Shevket Pasha was no more able to stop the process of decay as Grand Vizier than he had been as Minister of War: following even more military setbacks, Shevket Pasha agreed to an unfavorable peace treaty, and was assassinated by radical military officers on June 11, 1913.

See previous installment, next installment, or all entries.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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