Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2009 February 28

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February 28[edit]

Can free newspapers be stolen?[edit]

I have a friend who follows a minority religion (in his neighborhood). In front of his building he has a stand with free issues of a monthly paper. Large quantities have gone in the past couple of months, and while bad times often bring new converts, this is unlikely to be the case here. If he catches whoever has been taking the papers (even if he catches them on video, he wouldn't be able to tell what they plan to do with the stacks they apparently are taking each time), can the police get involved? Thanks. Imagine Reason (talk) 01:05, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

(We can't give legal advice, so I'm going to give some legal guesswork instead!) If someone is allowed to take one, I can't see any reason why they wouldn't be allowed to take many. Your friend could try putting a "one each" sign on the stand to make it clear what permission is being given to take them. Then I guess it probably is theft (there may be an issue over whether your friend actually possess or is in control of the newspapers once they are in the stand - I'm not sure that's necessary, though, I think ownership is enough), but I'm not sure the police would do anything about it. The best way to find out would be to contact the police (or a solicitor). --Tango (talk) 01:21, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
You can't see any reason that there might be reasonable limits on the depletion of "free" stock? I can see lots of good reasons that one could imagine purposefully taking the entire contents of a stock that is implicitly expected to be a "one each" sort of deal could be illegal. A reasonable court, like a reasonable person, would surely recognize that there is a qualitative and quantitative difference between taking one and taking a much larger number. Perhaps no one would want to decide when that particular scale changed (does it change after one, after ten? does the total number originally there matter?) but stealing all of an almost full stand is surely over wherever the line is. -- (talk) 01:37, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
I recall from years back that the Mayor of Berkeley was charged with stealing free newspapers. The article linked to note though that this really varies by jurisdiction, as the laws are often not specific enough to make it clear that this is the case. -- (talk) 01:37, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Whether the newspapers are being "stolen" probably depends on the analysis of who "owns" the newspaper while they are on the stand. If the analysis is that the newspapers are a complete gift to whoever takes them, then the question is whether the gift is complete upon it being placed on the stand, or whether it is complete upon the person taking it *from* the stand. If the latter (I lean towards that view, becuase the stand is the original owner's property; and the good has not been delivered into the hand of the recipient at that time), then you could argue that the donor's intention was for each passer-by to take only one.
If the newspapers are still owned by the donor while they are on the stand, and if it is implied that each passer-by should take only one (or some reasonable variation on that), then it could be argued that taking a whole stack is contrary to the intention of the donor, thus no gift, thus it is larceny.
As above, all of this is legal guesswork. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 01:55, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
It is entirely up to the proprietor of the establishment how he wishes to distribute said items. As an analogy, think about the soda dispensers in fast food restaurants. You get a cup. You fill it yourself. If you drink it all during your meal, its usually OK if you refill your cup during your meal. However, if you pay for a drink during a meal, and then go over to the soda dispenser, and fill up a five-gallon bucket with the soda, that would seem an unreasonable breach of the trust set up in the "serve yourself" arrangement. Its an expectation that when you buy a soda for that meal that your purchase price covers your drinking that soda during the meal, and that you don't get to walk in off the street and fill up a cup without paying, nor do you get to fill a 5-gallon jug when you paid for one cup. Refills during the meal may be reasonable, but other absurd extensions of that trust are not. Likewise, implicit in giving away a newspaper to read for free is that people take what they need. People don't personally need to read more than one paper. If your friend is concerned, perhaps he could move the newspaper dispenser to somewhere where people would need to ask for one. He could still give them away for free, but if he controlled the distribution, it may cut down on people walking off with the whole stack. 02:06, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
The problem with analogising with "free" dispenses in a restaurant is that the latter is a ride-on to a contractual relationship, the meal. Giving away a free newspaper is almost certainly not part of any contractual arrangement. An implied promise to read the newspaper is probably not sufficient to constitute consideration, and in any case, such a term is unlikely to be implied into the putative contract.
From a purely legal viewpoint, the rules governing contractual versus non-contractual relationships can be very different. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 02:20, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
This is a knotty problem. There doesn't seem to be much doubt that "free" newspapers belong to whoever produces them (as with paid-for newspapers) until the point of distribution. If you broke into a warehouse and took a pallet of "free" newspapers from there, it would surely be theft. In the UK, most "free" papers are delivered from door-to-door, and they must surely become the property of whoever receives them in that way. A producer who puts such newspapers out on a news-stand for passers-by to pick up (a rather lazy and low-cost method of distribution) must surely be taking the risk that some passers-by will take several papers. If someone took ten such newspapers from a stand every day to be passed on to ten friends, or even a hundred for passing on to a hundred people in a hospital, then it seems unlikely that a case could be made out for theft. If a rival publication systematically emptied all such news-stands that weren't its own, to take the contents away and pulp them to use in its own works, then I suspect most legal systems would be able to find something unlawful in that; but if the intention of the person concerned is relevant, then a prosecution relying on unlawful intention could only be pursued with evidence of that intention, and in the circumstances of a prosecution I should think it would be very hard to find. Xn4 (talk) 02:46, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Given that it's the publication of a "minority religion" wouldn't it recommend your friend's faith more if he'd try to find a less aggressive means of curbing the misuse of his newspapers than getting the police involved? A couple of "inspiring" posters saying things like "We believe in being frugal, do you?"or "Only truly lost souls are encouraged to take more than one per person." might indicate to the pilferers that their action was discovered and met with displeasure. (He should be able to come up with something much better to write.) If it's pranksters they would be encouraged and then would deserve most anything he threw at them, but someone who took them e.g. as padding for moving boxes or another use might be discouraged. If he fears it's religious zealots of another creed he might get together with his congregation to concoct a message that would make them feel they were going against their own convictions with their action. (talk) 05:20, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, yes, that is why he hesitates to escalate the situation. He suspects that one person has been picking up a couple dozen copies each time he walks by, but contacting the police might bring bad publicity upon the premises. As others have said, it is difficult to discover the intent of the person in this case short of detective work, but who will do that? Imagine Reason (talk) 15:35, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Wouldn't it be better to get people from the other religion to help draft the message? Even better if they are organised, perhaps ask them if they could remind their congregants that such things are unacceptable. I'm sure most would be happy to help since even if they don't agree with your religion, they wouldn't agree with the theft (and I suspect many would consider it theft) Nil Einne (talk) 12:10, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
That'd kind of blow things all out of proportion. It's not like a community problem. Imagine Reason (talk) 18:31, 4 March 2009 (UTC)
It seems to me that a technical solution would be better here than a legal one. There could be a box with two sections, for example, which keeps most of the papers in the upper (locked) section, but drops one into the lower (unlocked) section five minutes after the lower portion has been opened. Thus, someone who intends to stock up on fuel for their wood-stove would need a lot of time and patience. I'd bet someone already has such a device available for sale. StuRat (talk) 16:03, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Even without the five minute delay, it would probably help - someone is much less likely to take several one at a time than to just grab several off the top of the pile. --Tango (talk) 17:00, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
This reminds me of the case of the banana feeder. There was an attempt to feed a starving population of monkeys by leaving bananas out for them. Unfortunately, the first monkey there would take every last one, even though there were far more than he could eat (or even carry). They then tried a timed release mechanism, but that same monkey would guard the machine and grab them when they came out. Greedy little capitalists, aren't they ? StuRat (talk) 17:08, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
This would indeed solve the problem, but the disadvantage--take-up ratio will fall even lower than is the case--seems to outweigh the benefit. Imagine Reason (talk) 01:35, 1 March 2009 (UTC)

In 1993, there was a kind of fad of stealing all of the free student newspapers on US university campuses as a protest against a particular newspaper. For example, an African-American student group at the University of Maryland decided the school newspaper was racist. So they followed the truck delivering the free newspapers and stole all of them from the racks before sun-up, replacing them with a note that, "Due to its racist nature, The Diamondback will not be available today -- read a book!" I don't know if anyone was ever charged in any of these incidents. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 04:52, 1 March 2009 (UTC)

It sounds to me like dishonest misappropriation with intention permanently to deprive the rightful owner. I.e. theft. So the police should be willing to get involved. Kittybrewster 13:30, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
You don't say who funds the printing of your friend's newspaper, but if it's supported by commercial advertising at all then there's a whole other kettle of ball games to consider, since the advertiser's contract with the publisher will include certain commitments about how, and in what quantities, the paper is distributed. Large-scale removal might get the publisher in trouble with advertisers who feel they are not getting the service they have paid for. The opinion of the law on this matter will depend on the jurisdiction, so this should not be construed as legal advice, but if the unnecessary taking of many newspapers might cause somebody actual commercial harm, then it would be sensible to make this clear in any complaint to the police. Karenjc 23:50, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
A similar case is [1] [2] [3]. The interesting thing is that most of the copies were eventually returned with a page removed (the page containing and advertisment the people who took it found offensive), the intention had been to just remove the advertisment (which was just a quarter page) but I guess the people were lazy. While the action was called theft, many people have noted it's questionable if that term is applicable. Do note of course there are two issues, is there criminal action, and could the party who took the paper be subject to civil action? In this case, it doesn't appear we found out, the people who took the magazines were served with trespass orders banning them from student association property (there was also a threat of banning them from the university although I don't know if the university would have cooperated) and were billed for the losses but that appears to be it. This does raise an interesting issue, if your friend moved the papers to inside his store then he could surely similarly ban anyone who took multiple copies but this likely wouldn't be an option if the paper is outside your store. However it would depend on several factors, for example if the friend is legally allowed to put the box containing the papers there and since the box is his property and he may be able to ban someone from using it. The advertisment issue is another interesting issue. If you were subject to losses, whether because you had to pay advertisers or because advertisers withdrew contracts or expected contracts didn't materialise or whatever, you may be able to sue the party responsible for your losses since it's resonable that this person should have realised their actions would cause these losses. Nil Einne (talk) 12:10, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

OP, back to basics: Why would your friend want to convert other people to his religion? DOR (HK) (talk) 02:23, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

The OP never said his/her friend wanted to convert people, simply that bad times usually means more converts but he/she doesn't think the large number of people taking copies is because lots of new converts Nil Einne (talk) 12:19, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but is this the first time you've heard of a religion that seeks converts? The paper in question actually doesn't do that much, but I suppose the action of placing the bin outside the store is an attempt to make it more appealing to passers-by. Imagine Reason (talk) 04:07, 4 March 2009 (UTC)
Would this be The Epoch Times, by any chance? AnonMoos (talk) 13:11, 4 March 2009 (UTC)
If it were, no one would bat an eye. Those people print more copies than the New York Times, it seems. Where do they get all that money? Imagine Reason (talk) 18:31, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

Is the Ganges River drying up?[edit]

I heard that the Ganges River is drying up. If it is, is the Indian government doing anything to save the River? Northern India would be in a lot of troubles if the Ganges River were to dry up. Sonic99 (talk) 06:40, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

The WWF has published a study on large rivers which are at risk here [4]. There is a separate case study on the river Ganga, but the site is currently being reorganised and can´t be accessed. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 11:07, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
According to our Ganges#Ecology section, "A UN Climate Report issued in 2007 indicates that the Himalayas glaciers that feed the Ganges may disappear by 2030, after which the river's flow would be a seasonal occurrence resulting from monsoons.". StuRat (talk) 15:54, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Wow, 2030 is not a long time from now. If the Ganges River dried up, the Northern India would be in chaos because there would be no water to grow their foods. The Indians better do something fast like reducing their population immediately or else. Sonic99 (talk) 22:27, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
It is still expected to flow seasonally, so the secret may be to drain off large amounts into reservoirs during the times when it does flow, to provide water for the rest of the year. StuRat (talk) 16:40, 1 March 2009 (UTC)

World War II. Home Defence. Stopline Red.[edit]

Today I walked the Thames path from Lechlade to Radcot Bridge, passing on the way numerous concrete pill boxes which, I gather, formed part of Stopline Red, the last deperate bid to keep invaders from the Midlands. Can anyone tell me more about this defence line and the strategy it embodied?Kent1940 (talk) 18:18, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

A couple of articles which may help - British hardened field defences of World War II and British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. DuncanHill (talk) 18:49, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Also, GHQ Line and the articles linked from there. DuncanHill (talk) 18:52, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

Roman Empresses[edit]

One more question who would be the direct heir of the Latin Emperors of Constantinople. I notice they don't use the title anymore but I am unsure who is the direct heir of Louis I of Naples. Would it be the heir to the House of Valois-Anjou which would probably be a French or would it be a King of Naples. --Queen Elizabeth II's Little Spy (talk) 08:12, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Louis also inherited the title of King of Jerusalem, and you can see his successors there - it doesn't seem to be a direct descent but the current claimant would be Juan Carlos of Spain. I don't know if the same line of descent applies to the Latin Empire though, and in any case there should be numerous possible claimants just like there is for Jerusalem. Adam Bishop (talk) 14:13, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
The last "recognized" Latin Emperor (recognized at the Angevin court, anyway), was James of Baux. He left his claims on the empire to Louis by testament; by strict rule of descent, the Empire would seem to have passed to John of Artois, Count of Eu, whose heir appears to be Prince William of Windisch-Grätz. (See User:Choess/Latin Empire.) As for the question of Louis, it would really depend on your definition of "direct heir". Choess (talk) 19:13, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

What title did the wife of the Eastern and Western Roman empresses hold beside Augusta, Mater castrorum, Mater patriae, basilissa? I need the entire list both Latin and Greek. Please no English ones such as Empress of Rome.--Queen Elizabeth II's Little Spy (talk) 08:12, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

You may have trouble finding an answer to this because (as usual) you are dealing with a very long period of time. There was no single list of titles that they all used. If you want a list of all the ones that were ever used, I suppose that might be possible, but in many cases the sources simply don't say what titles the empress had, if any. Adam Bishop (talk) 08:01, 1 March 2009 (UTC)

Defense of a kingdom in 8th or 9th century Britain[edit]

I know that William I brought the "motte and bailey" castle to England in the 11th century, but what did they do before that? Did the many small kingdoms have some sort of central defense area or strategy? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Evermaore (talkcontribs) 21:06, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

We have an article, Anglo-Saxon Military, but it doesn't really cover defensive structures, I'm afraid. --Tango (talk) 21:17, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
The use of earthen embankments such as Offa's Dyke seemed somewhat prevalent. 21:30, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
To put it mildly, those centuries weren't exactly the golden age for military Britain. Their defense tactics included surrendering, mostly, as well as some giving up without a fight here and there. Wrad (talk) 21:34, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Alfred the Great was an exception to this. See Battle of Ethandun for a good description of a typical battle for him. Wrad (talk) 21:38, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
Earthen embankments and ordinary fortresses, often defences built/patched up using Roman sites as a foundation. A random search on JSTOR turns up this paper about 8th century fortresses. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 00:58, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
As Palace Guard notes, old Roman structures including forts, milecastles and so forth were adapted to suit the new societies; Hill forts were sometimes used, as were simple wooden keeps. Linear defences (such as Offa's Dyke) were significant. Commonly, settlements would have had timber palisade and ditch (or earthen bank) defences. Motte-and-bailey constructions are often referred to as the first "castles" but that is only when you define "castle" as structures that look like motte and baileys. If "castle" means fortified military constructions, then they go back much further. Google books has Osprey's Fortifications in Wessex c. 800–1066 by Ryan Lavelle. Another Osprey title which might be of interest is British Forts in the Age of Arthur by Angus Konstam ISBN 9781846033629. No preview on google books, but you might find a copy through your local library. Gwinva (talk) 01:30, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
You might also be interested in burhs. (talk) 15:48, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Israel and the Holocaust[edit]

Apologies for the title, but I thought it might attract the most attention :) I'm working on an MA History essay on the commemoration of traumatic events by nations, and part of it is how the State commemorates to create/reinforce national identity. That's my theory anyway; I have evidence for other states, but The Holocaust is such an influential event I can't really ignore it. It's only a shot essay, but I still need some information on how Israel has used the Holocaust to promote its national identity, or at the very least how it's used it to its advantage. That's if it actually has, and my brilliant idea isn't very brilliant in actual fact. So, can anyone help poor ol' History MA student out? There are just so many books on the Holocaust that narrowing it down is getting a tad difficult, and any direction/advice would be greatly welcomed!Skinny87 (talk) 21:53, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

Yom HaShoah, which is the traditional day of Holocaust Rememberance in Isreal, is probably a very good start for you. It is moderately referenced, so you can find stuff beyond Wikipedia as well. 22:00, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
You might take a look at this book. Marco polo (talk) 02:20, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
Also, check out our article on Yad Vashem and follow the links. Marco polo (talk) 02:21, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
In my opinion Israel is probably too easy a case to mean much. They make the Holocaust an explicit reason for their national existence and a lot of other policies. In most cases the action of commemoration is going to be more subtle, I would expect. More subtle instance would be, say, the way in which Ukrainians use the experience of Chernobyl as a nationalizing issue (as is argued in this book). -- (talk) 15:05, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
There are plenty of other cases where a state will commemorate an event to foster a feeling of national identity. For example: Guy Fawkes Night (UK), Bastille Day (France), Anzac Day (Australia/New Zealand), German Unity Day (Germany), Grito de Dolores (Mexico) and all those other independence/revolution commemorations around the world. Astronaut (talk) 00:15, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
Or, with your interest in military history and WWII, investigate the USSR's commemoration of what it dubbed the Great Patriotic War (term). Otherwise, a more recent topic is national commemoration activities in the framework of conciliation in Rwanda a decade-plus after the fratricidal genocide there. And may I note, the opinion expressed by User: about the Holocaust etc. is both superficial and an oversimplification; the Holocaust in Israel is pervasive throughout the society and its history. Focal points such as the national remembrance day and national remembrance authority are only parts of the picture, while entire books and probably a good number of full-blown doctoral dissertations have dealt with aspects of commemoration in the "collective memory" etc. Perhaps your assignment calls for a more discrete topic. -- Deborahjay (talk) 04:11, 2 March 2009 (UTC)