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October 2007 Archives

October 31, 2007

Halloween Origins, With a Side of Whoopi

Pirate KeyboardBetter late than never (I hope): here's last week's visit with the Wake Up With Whoopi crew, wherein I gave a little spiel about the origins of Halloween, Trick-or-Treating, and other seasonal delights. For more details, click on over to The World Almanac for Kids site for some more kid-friendly facts about Halloween and other holidays.

Oh, and since I missed "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and haven't found another excuse to post the attached picture, I think Halloween is at least reasonably appropriate. So please enjoy the Corsair Ergonomic Keyboard for Pirates. Arrrrrrrr!


Links:
Birthdays and Holidays (The World Almanac for Kids)
Post Like a Pirate (Language Log)
Wake Up With Whoopi, Oct. 25, 2007 (5MB mp3)

Powers of 10

Powers_of_10.jpg I still recall seeing the short documentary Powers of 10 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as a kid. I hadn't realized until recently that the 1977 documentary was made by Charles and Ray Eames. The husband-and-wife team are perhaps best known for their furniture designs, but they also directed, produced, or wrote more than 100 short films.

For those not familiar with the film, the Powers of 10 was so called because it showed the following:

Starting at a one meter square image of a picnic, the camera moves 10 times further away every 10 seconds, reaching to the edge of the universe; then the journey is reversed, going 10 times closer each 10 seconds, ultimately reaching the interior of an atom.

In 1998, the Library of Congress selected Powers of 10 for inclusion in the National Film Registry of significant American works (and you can find a listing of the complete Registry in The World Almanac 2008, available Nov. 13).

Links:
Powers of 10 (documentary can be viewed on this official site)
Eames Office
The Work of Charles and Ray Eames (Library of Congress exhibition)
National Film Registry (Library of Congress)

Image: Production art for the Powers of 10, depicting 10^0.

This Day In History: Oct. 31

This Day in History

1517: Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, beginning the Reformation in Germany.
1864: Nevada is admitted to the Union.
1941: South Dakota's Mount Rushmore National Memorial is completed.
1968: President Lyndon Johnson announces that the United States will stop all bombing of North Vietnam.
1984: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by Sikh members of her bodyguard and is succeeded by her son Rajiv.
1992: Pope John Paul II declares that the Roman Catholic Church was wrong in 1633 when it condemned Galileo for arguing that the earth goes around the sun.
1999: An EgyptAir jetliner en route from New York to Cairo, Egypt plunges into the Atlantic shortly after takeoff, killing all 217 people on board.
2001: A New York City hospital worker dies of pulmonary anthrax, the fourth death in the anthrax outbreak.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 31" »

October 30, 2007

Open in Case of Emergency

cannedchicken.jpg

The days of fallout shelters may be blissfully behind most of us (excluding the most cautious/paranoid in our ranks, of course), but that doesn't mean that we necessarily need to stop considering what we would stock in our doomsday sanctuaries. Or maybe that's just what this Wired blog post on their top ten curious canned goods (a list that includes jellied eels, stewed silkworms, and tinned haggis) had me contemplating. Call me an unadventurous eater with an underdeveloped palate, but I'm not sure any of these will become a staple in my stockpile of nonperishables.

Curious Canned Goods [Wired]

Aliens Use Death Rays (Again)

0710toasterfire.jpgOn Oct. 30, 1938, the Associated Press sent a notice to all of its editors on the newswire:
"Queries to newspapers from radio listeners throughout the United States tonight, regarding a reported meteor fall which killed a number of New Jerseyites, are the result of a studio dramatization."

Of course, the meteor carrying Martians with flame-shooting guns and poisonous gas was just Orson Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast. Old history from the time of cure-all elixirs and eugenics. Right?

Well, maybe not. The major Italian magazine L'espresso ran an article on Friday (in Italian, "E.T. Speaks Sicilian") that aliens may have caused hundreds of unplugged household appliances to burst into flames in northern Sicily back in 2004. It cited a leaked interim report by the Italian government that either a secret military test or alien experiments caused a brief electromagnetic emission between 12 and 15 gigawatts.

The Cabinet of Wonders delves into British newspaper reports for an answer.

Without a real report it's pointless to speculate about the source of this event. To add a little solid science to this entry I should mention that electromagnetic waves from solar superstorms have been known to cause problems with electric grids, a phenomena we briefly covered on page 302 of the 2007 World Almanac.

Links:
Solar Storms and Their Human Impacts (NASA)
War of the Worlds broadcast (Internet Archive)

Flickr photo by The Redbird

This Day In History: Oct. 30

This Day in History

1905: Tsar Nicholas II issues the October Manifesto in St. Petersburg, giving Russia a constitution, legislature, prime minister, and civil liberties.
1938: Orson Welles causes a nationwide scare with his radio broadcast of a fictitious Martian invasion in War of the Worlds.
1941: The U.S. destroyer Reuben James is torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Iceland.
1973: The House Judiciary Committee begins deliberating on procedures for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
1995: In a referendum, Quebec voters narrowly elect not to secede from Canada.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 30" »

October 29, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 29

This Day in History

1966: The National Organization for Women is founded.
1969: The Supreme Court rules, in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, that there be no delay in ending school desegregation.
1998: At age 77, Senator John Glenn returns to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
1998: Hurricane Mitch strikes Central America, killing at least 10,000 people.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 29" »

October 28, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 28

This Day in History

1636: Harvard College is founded, the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.
1776: In the Battle of White Plains, an engagement of the American Revolution, the British miss the chance to destroy the Continental Army and win the war in a single battle.
1886: The Statue of Liberty is dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.
1918: The republic of Czechoslovakia is founded.
1919: The Volstead Act is enacted to enforce the 18th Amendment on Prohibition.
1962: President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agree on a formula to end the Cuban missile crisis.
1997: After falling more than 554 points the previous day, the Dow Jones industrial average rebounds, surging a record 337.17 points in a single day.
2002: A U.S. diplomat, Lawrence Foley, is assassinated in Amman, Jordan.
2005: Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby resigns after being indicted in an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity to the press.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 28" »

October 27, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 27

This Day in History

1492: Christopher Columbus and his crew land in Cuba.
1787: The first of the Federalist Papers appears in a New York newspaper.
1795: The Treaty of San Lorenzo is signed by the United States and Spain, providing for free navigation of the Mississippi River.
1904: The first part of the New York City subway system opens.
1997: The Dow Jones industrial average falls 554.26 points, its largest one-day decline to date.
2002: The Anaheim Angels win their first baseball championship by defeating the San Francisco Giants 4-1 in the seventh and final game of the World Series.
2003: In five coordinated suicide bombing attacks at least 35 people are killed in Baghdad, Iraq; more than 200 others are wounded.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 27" »

October 29, 2007

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Baseball pitch visualizationNaah, not chocolate and peanut butter: baseball and coffee. If it doesn't seem like the most natural combination, you probably haven't been to Lokesh Dhakar's website, where he features two marvelous visualizations:
  1. Coffee Drinks: I've seen charts like this before, but Dhakar's version is exceptionally tight, clean, and uncluttered. A nice guide to espresso drinks for those who find the ordering experience intimidating due to "the vast number of ordering options and new words with accented characters to pronounce."

  2. Baseball Pitches: This is even better, for my money—"a fan's guide to identifying pitches," showing the path of the ball in twelve common pitches, from both the batter's POV and from one side. Gorgeous stuff, and quite handy for those of us who couldn't tell a changeup from a hole in the ground.

Link: Lokesh Dhakar

October 26, 2007

Checking Up On Your Favorite Candidates*

(* And the other ones, too.)

Romney / GiulianiI'm surprised we haven't blogged about this one before: FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, which holds political candidates (no matter what party they represent) to task for mis-statements, distorted facts, and outright untruths in major speeches, debates, and other appearances. It's the kind of detailed fact-checking you expect, but rarely get, from major media outlets—and it's an incredibly useful resource as we head for a contentious primary season. An example of a recent summary:

Tongues were sharpened before Sunday night's GOP presidential debate in Orlando, with the candidates drawing blood right out of the gate. We found them factually challenged in several areas:
  • Giuliani stretched till he broke, in calling Thompson "the single biggest obstacle to tort reform" in the Senate.
  • Romney boasted of his Massachusetts health care plan and criticized Hillary Clinton's, although her plan is strikingly similar to Romney's Massachusetts program. He also falsely accused her of favoring "all-government insurance."
  • Giuliani claimed the price of health insurance would drop more than 50 percent if millions more people purchased it directly, a statement unsupported by any evidence he's offered so far.
  • Thompson said the most affluent 40 percent of Americans pay "about 99 percent of the taxes." Actually, they pay less than 85 percent, and also have nearly 74 percent of all the income.
  • Giuliani made an inflated boast about bringing down crime in New York "more than anyone in this country - maybe in the history of this country." But the decline started before he took office, continued after he left, and even the FBI itself warns against attributing crime statistics to any specific cause.

Link: FactCheck.org

This Day In History: Oct. 26

This Day in History

1774: The First Continental Congress ends in Philadelphia with a call for civil disobedience against the British.
1795: The rule of the National Convention during the French Revolution comes to an end and is replaced the next day by the Directory.
1825: The Seneca Chief leaves Buffalo, NY, the first boat to travel through the Erie Canal.
1881: The "Gunfight at the OK Corral" takes place in Tombstone, AZ, with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday facing the Clanton brothers.
1944: During World War II, the Battle of Leyte Gulf ends in the Philippines with the Japanese soundly defeated.
1949: President Harry Truman signs a bill raising the minimum wage to 75¢ an hour.
1951: In Britain, Winston Churchill is named prime minister for the 2nd time.
1967: The shah of Iran is formally crowned.
1976: Transkei becomes the first homeland to be made nominally independent of South Africa.
1979: The World Health Organization announces that smallpox has been eradicated.
2000: The New York Yankees defeat the New York Mets 4-2 in Game 5 of the World Series, wrapping up the first "Subway Series" in baseball since 1956.
2001: Anthrax spores are found in Washington, D.C. area mail centers serving the CIA, the Supreme Court, and Walter Reed Medical Center.
2001: In an apparent targeting error, U.S. planes bomb a Red Cross facility in Kabul, Afghanistan.
2002: Russian troops attack a theater which had been occupied Oct. 23 by 50 armed Chechen militants, killing all but 4 of the terrorists, along with 120 hostages, all but 2 from the effects of gas used by the Russian forces.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 26" »

October 25, 2007

The Bright Side of the Moon

Moon: Apogee and PerigeeNASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a constant source of pleasure and enlightenment—many images are chosen just for their beauty, but sometimes timely and informative gems pop up, like today's entry about the Moon's perigee.
Tonight, those blessed with clear skies can enjoy a glorious Full Moon, (exact full phase at 0452 UT, October 26). In fact, the Moon will reach its full phase within a few hours of perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit, making it the largest Full Moon of 2007. ... The difference in apparent size between the largest and smallest Full Moon is quite dramatic and similar to this side by side comparison of the lunar apogee/perigee apparitions from 2006.
For serious skywatchers and casual Hubble-hounds alike, the APOD is a treasure trove of gorgeous space imagery. Hit the links below to explore the site, or subscribe to the RSS feed. NASA's official feed of thumbnail images is provided, for those who prefer a "lite" version; also available is an unofficial feed that delivers full-size images to your feed reader.

Links:
Astronomy Picture of the Day (NASA)
APOD RSS Feed (official NASA feed, thumbnail images)
APOD RSS Feed (unofficial feed, full-size images)

The Ig Nobels

Every October, announcements are made revealing the year's Nobel Prize winners. Not as well known (but possibly of moderate importance to a few) is the release around the same time of the names of Ig Nobel Prize winners.

The magazine the Annals of Improbable Research first organized these awards in 1991 to honor "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative—and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." Among this year's winners were researchers who studied the side effects of sword swallowing (prize in medicine), the science of how sheets become wrinkled (physics), and the possibility of using a net to catch bank robbers (economics).

Previous recipients have included the "Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters" (literature, 2005); the Coca-Cola Company of Great Britain for its discovery of how tap water can be converted into Dasani (chemistry, 2004); and the inventor of karaoke (peace, 2004).

A full list of winners and links to their research can be found at improbable.com/ig, the website for the Ig Nobel Prizes.

Links:
Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) magazine
Nobel Foundation

Image: Poster advertising this year's Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, the theme of which was chicken.

The American Sweet Tooth

To get you in the right frame of mind for next week's candy gorge-a-thon, otherwise known as Halloween (or maybe to snap you out of it), here are a few quick graphs of candy production and consumption trends in the U.S.—data courtesy of the Census Bureau, and graph technology via Swivel.

First up: per capita consumption of confectionery products (chocolate and non-chocolate) from 2001 to 2006. There aren't any truly dramatic changes happening here, but still—despite Atkins, Sugar Busters, and every other voice telling us to cut back on sugar consumption, our consumption of candy was up 2 pounds per person in 2006, compared with 2001.

Per capita consumption (lbs and $) of confectionery products, 2001-2006

Continue reading "The American Sweet Tooth" »

This Day In History: Oct. 25

This Day in History

1854: The "Charge of the Light Brigade" takes place during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.
1971: The UN General Assembly votes to admit China and expel Taiwan.
1983: U.S. troops invade Grenada.
1993: The Liberal Party under Jean Chrétien overwhelmingly defeats the Conservatives in Canadian parliamentary elections.
2001: The day after it was passed by the House, the U.S. Senate passes, 98-1, an antiterrorism bill which some critics allege infringes on civil liberties.
2001: In a setback for the U.S.-led coalition, Taliban troops ambush and execute prominent Afghan opposition leader Abdul Haq.
2002: Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, in the midst of a difficult reelection battle, is killed along with 7 others in a plane crash on a campaign trip.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 25" »

October 24, 2007

Genetics and Eugenics

eugenics.jpg

The geneticist James Watson discovered, with partner Frances Crick, the structure of DNA in 1953, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 (along with Crick and Maurice Wilkins). But with his recent controversial comments--for which Watson later apologized--concerning inherent ability as it relates to genetics and race, the attention focusing on the laureate became somewhat less laudatory. Watson was suspended from his duties at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, now one of the premier cancer and genetic research facilities in the country, but formerly "the center of American eugenics research from 1910-1940."

Today, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory hosts Internet exhibits acknowledging, documenting, and exploring this darker part of scientific history. The exhibits and archives display the history and eventual discrediting of the eugenics movement, which used pseudoscience to advocate for, among other things, exclusionary immigration policies and laws in 33 states that provided for sterilization of the criminal or "unfit."

Eugenics Archive

Mrs. President?

3a23818r.jpg

With Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) running for president in the 2008 elections, many wonder if she will become the first woman to lead the United States; but we may have already had a female leader from 1919-1921!

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson (1872-1961), a descendant of Pocahontas, was a well-to-do widow when she met the recently widowed president, Woodrow Wilson, in 1915. A swift romance followed, and they married by year's end, a scant 16 months after his first wife's death. Edith took on a public political role, and remained close by the president's side, keeping up to date on state matters. After Wilson's reelection in 1916, Edith did all she could to keep Wilson healthy under the tremendous strain caused by the U.S. entry into World War I. With the war's end in 1919, the Wilsons sailed to Europe for the international peace treaty agreements. Upon returning to the U.S., Wilson embarked on a cross-country train trip to drum up support for the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations), for which he needed the Senate's approval. At the end of September, he collapsed, and on October 2 he suffered a massive stroke which left him paralyzed on his left side and with difficulty in speaking. The tour was stopped, and the president was rushed back to the White House.

Wilson's doctor and secretary of state Robert Lansing wanted to inform the public of the president's critical situation, but Edith refused, and the public never learned that he had suffered a stroke or paralysis. Edith took control, and limited her husband's exposure to leaders of government, including his cabinet and vice president Thomas Marshall, and acted as a "steward" between them. With the president's health being her number one priority, Edith decided what matters of state would be presented to Woodrow. She later claimed in her memoirs that she never made any decisions, but this seems unlikely since she was the person who discussed matters with the president and relayed information back to interested parties. Many historians believe that her take on what had occurred was simply a matter of revisionism.

After leaving office in 1921, Edith continued caring for Woodrow until his death in 1924. For the remaining years of her life, she devoted her time to honoring her husband, and supporting democratic candidates. Her last public appearance was at the inaugural of President John F. Kennedy in January 1961, and she died 37 years to the day after her husbands' death.

This Day In History: Oct. 24

This Day in History

1260: France's Chartres Cathedral is consecrated.
1861: Pony Express service ends with the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph line.
1918: In the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in Italy (October 24-November 4), an engagement of World War I, the Allies completely shatter the Austrian army.
1929: On "Black Thursday," stock market prices collapse because of panic selling.
1940: The 40-hour workweek goes into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
1947: Muslim insurgents proclaim a "Provisional Government of Kashmir." Fighting quickly breaks out with India.
1949: The permanent United Nations headquarters is dedicated in New York.
2002: Police arrest former soldier John Allen Williams, 41, and John Cole Malvo, a Jamaican youth, in connection with a string of sniper killings in and around Washington D.C. which killed 10, wounded 3, and terrorized the region between Oct. 3 and Oct. 22.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 24" »

October 23, 2007

"A Patchwork of Jurisdictions and Rights"

The Territory of the United States...is the best way to describe the "territory" of the United States, according to mapmaker Bill Rankin, proprietor of the marvelous Radical Cartography.
As the subtitle suggests, what I think emerges isn't a unified system of territoriality, but a hodgepodge of different attitudes toward the land and its inhabitants. Different areas under U.S. control have very different relationships to government, both in terms of democratic representation and in terms of land control. (I also show all the areas of the world -- land and water -- that are, or were, influenced by the U.S. government using equal-area projections.)
This is a unique and fascinating way of visualizing a lot of different information, from the big North American territorial acquisitions of the 19th century to modern-day military installations around the world. My only complaint? There's no option to purchase a big, glossy, full-size printout to hang on the wall at World Almanac HQ. Kinko's, here I come!

Link: U.S. Territory (Radical Cartography)

This Day In History: Oct. 23

This Day in History

1944: During World War II, the Battle of Leyte Gulf begins in the Philippines.
1956: Hungarians revolt against the Communist dictatorship.
1980: Alexei Kosygin resigns as head of the Soviet Council of Ministers because of ill health.
1983: A suicide bomb attack at U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, kills 241 American Marines and sailors, and an almost simultaneous blast nearby kills 58 members of the French peacekeeping force.
1987: The Senate rejects the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
1998: Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sign the Wye Accords peace agreement in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 23" »

October 22, 2007

And... We're Back.

I know, I know—the blog has been content-light for several weeks. But now that several hundred thousand copies of The World Almanac 2008 are being bound and shipped out to retailers across the country, your trusty editors can finally turn their attention to... well, to thinking about the 2009 edition, but also to keeping up with our daily blog-posting schedule again.

In case you missed any of it the first time around, here's a recap of some of the new facts and links we managed to squeeze out over the past couple of months, in the midst of our book-producing insanity. Stay tuned for more (and also for a redesign of the blog and the main World Almanac website, due later this week:

Map Mashups: Yahoo's funky new map tool continues to grow; check out the nifty overlay at right, showing a map of the Forum overlaid on a modern-day map of Rome.

Wikiscandal: Virgil Griffith's online tool for tracing the IP addresses of anonymous contributors to Wikipedia.

To Read or Not to Read: That is the question, especially since 27 percent of Americans haven't read a single book in the last year.

Superfund365: Weeks later, this project is still going strong—cataloging a tour of 365 toxic sites in the U.S.

Coaching Pays: And it pays better than you might think, even at the college level.

This Day In History: Oct. 22

This Day in History

1836: Sam Houston is sworn in as president of the Republic of Texas.
1962: In a television address, President John F. Kennedy reveals that he has ordered a naval and air quarantine of Cuba because of a Soviet buildup of offensive missiles there.
1964: French writer/philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre refuses to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1979: The Shah of Iran flies to New York for medical treatment, and the Ayatollah Khomeini demands his return.
1981: The U.S. government debt passes the $1 trillion mark for the first time.
2001: U.S. bombing raids reportedly claim 25-35 civilian victims in Afghanistan.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 22" »

October 17, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 17

This Day in History

1777: During the American Revolution, English General John Burgoyne surrenders with 5,000 men at Saratoga, NY.
1854: Henry Bessemer receives a patent for his steel-making process.
1931: Gangster Al Capone is convicted of tax evasion.
1941: The U.S. destroyer Kearny is attacked by a submarine off the coast of Iceland while escorting British ships.
1989: A major earthquake strikes the San Francisco Bay area moments before a World Series game is to begin.
1998: Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is arrested in London.
2001: The six U.S. House and Senate office buildings are closed for anthrax detection.
2003: The U.S. Congress approves $87 billion for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 17" »

October 16, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 16

This Day in History

1793: Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, is beheaded.
1853: The Crimean War begins when the Ottoman Empire declares war on Russia.
1859: Abolitionist John Brown seizes the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, WV.
1949: The Greek civil war ends when the rebel leadership proclaims that military operations against the government have been halted.
1978: Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, Poland, is elected pope, taking the name of John Paul II.
1987: Toddler Jessica McClure is rescued after being trapped in a well for 2 days.
1995: Hundreds of thousands of African-American men meet in the Million Man March in Washington, D.C.
2002: The Bush administration announces that North Korea has acknowledged having a nuclear weapons program.
2003: The UN Security Council unanimously endorses the U.S.-led multinational force's control of Iraq.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 16" »

October 11, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 11

This Day in History

1614: The New Netherlands Company is chartered.
1776: Benedict Arnold's Lake Champlain fleet is defeated at Valcour.
1890: The Daughters of the American Revolution is founded.
1962: Pope John XXIII convenes Vatican Council II in Rome.
1968: Apollo 7 is launched from Cape Kennedy, FL, with three astronauts aboard; it will orbit the earth 163 times before landing on October 22.
2002: A day after the House votes, 296-133, to authorize military force against Iraq; the Senate passes an identical measure, 77-23.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 11" »

October 10, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 10

This Day in History

1845: The U.S. Naval Academy opens in Annapolis, MD.
1920: Baseball player Bill Wambsganss turns the first unassisted triple play in the World Series.
1928: Chiang Kai-shek is inaugurated as president of China in Nanking.
1935: Porgy and Bess opens in New York.
1973: Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns after pleading no contest to a charge of income tax evasion.
1986: Earthquakes in El Salvador kill more than 1,000 people.
1997: Major tobacco companies agree to a settlement in a class-action suit brought against them by 60,000 current and former flight attendants.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 10" »

October 8, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 8

This Day in History

1871: The Great Chicago Fire begins.
1956: Don Larsen of the NY Yankees baseball team pitches a perfect game in the World Series.
1982: The U.S. unemployment rate reaches 10.1%, the highest since 1940. The Polish Parliament officially bans Solidarity and other labor groups.
1997: Kim Jong Il is officially named general secretary of the Communist Party in North Korea , a year after the death of his father, strongman Kim Il Sung.
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 258-176, authorizes a House committee inquiry into the possible impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
2001: U.S. planes drop 37,000 meals into starvation-stricken areas of Afghanistan; it is the first in a series of daily food drops.
2005: A major earthquake strikes the northern reaches of South Asia, causing death and destruction in Pakistan, India and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of people are killed, and several million made homeless.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 8" »

October 7, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 7

This Day in History

1765: The Stamp Act Congress begins in New York to protest the British Stamp Act.
1777: During the American Revolution, the Americans defeat General Burgoyne at Bemis Heights in the second battle of Saratoga.
1780: American militiamen defeat the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain, NC.
1944: The Dumbarton Oaks Conference ends in Washington, D.C., where representatives of the United States, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union have discussed the future United Nations.
1949: The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is established under Soviet auspices.
1958: Martial law is declared in Pakistan, and Gen. Muhammad Ayub Khan soon takes power.
1985: Palestinian hijackers seize the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro at sea as it approaches Port Said, Egypt.
2001: U.S. and British jets strike targets in Afghanistan in the first military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.
2002: In a speech in Cincinnati, Pres. George W. Bush says that only Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein's removal from power can end the confrontation with Iraq .
2003: California voters recall Gov. Gray Davis (D) from office and replace him with action film star-turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

October 6, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 6

This Day in History

1781: During the American Revolution, the siege of Lord Cornwallis begins in Virginia.
1849: 14 leaders of the Hungarian independence movement are executed by Austria, which imposes centralized rule.
1863: The first Turkish bath in the United States opens, in Brooklyn, NY.
1876: The American Library Association is founded in Philadelphia.
1927: The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson—the first successful film with prerecorded sound—opens in New York.
1973: Egypt and Syria attack Israel, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
1981: Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat is assassinated in Cairo during a military parade.
2000: Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic concedes defeat in the presidential election to opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, ending the dictator's 13-year reign.
2001: The U.S. rejects an offer by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to release eight Western aid workers on trial for trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, in exchange for the U.S. dropping preparations to attack Afghanistan.
2004: A report by the U.S.'s chief weapons inspector concludes that Iraq had "essentially destroyed" its unconventional weapons capability by the end of 1991, contradicting claims made by the U.S. and allies when Iraq was invaded in 2003.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 6" »

October 5, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 5

This Day in History

1813: The United States, under General William Henry Harrison, wins the Battle of the Thames in Ontario, defeating the British and Indians. Shawnee Chief Tecumseh is killed.
1937: In a major foreign policy speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes that aggressor nations be quarantined.
1947: President Harry S.Truman delivers the first televised presidential speech to the nation.
1960: An all-white referendum in the Union of South Africa decides that South Africa should become a republic.
1983: Solidarity leader Lech Walesa of Poland is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
2001: Robert Stevens, a photo editor for a Florida tabloid publisher, dies of inhalation anthrax; he is one of three of the firm's employees to be diagnosed with the disease, sparking an FBI investigation and a nationwide bioterrorism scare.
2003: Israeli warplanes bomb what the government calls terrorist training camps near Damascus, Syria, a day after a suicide bomber kills herself and 19 others in a Haifa restaurant.
2004: The supply of flu vaccine for the U.S. is cut in half when production is halted by British regulators amid contamination concerns.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Oct. 5" »

October 4, 2007

Wake Up With Whoopi, Sept 21 (OS) Edition

Coverdale BibleWith deadlines for the next edition of The World Almanac looming over us, it's tempting to switch back to the Julian calendar—which would make today's date September 21, and give us two extra weeks to work on the book... assuming, of course, that we could get the fine folks at the printing press to make the same switch.

Speaking of printing presses: Whoopi asked if I had any insight into a "fact of the day" about the first English Bible being printed in Switzerland—something that didn't make much sense to her. Why not just print in England? My guess, on the spot, had to with printing technology being more advanced at the time in Switzerland, yadda yadda yadda. But now that I listen back to that segment, and actually hear the date in question (1535) I realize my off-the-cuff speculation was way off the mark. By that time, Gutenberg's technology had spread all across Europe, so that wouldn't have been the reason... what would have been problematic was the English clergy's abhorrence of the idea of translating scripture into the vernacular. Myles Coverdale (who I think is the translator of the Bible in question) would have found a more hospitable climate in Switzerland for such an endeavor... or anyway, that's my second guess after a few more cups of coffee. Corrections to my shoddy half-remembered history of Bible-printing are most welcome, in the comments.

Anyway. It was still fun to talk with Whoopi & Crew about the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, back in 1582 (or 1752, for Britain and the American colonies). Pope Gregory decreed that the day following Oct. 4, 1582, would not be Oct. 5, but rather Oct. 15—establishing what we now call the Gregorian calendar, and bringing the calendar year in line with the solar one. Fun stuff, if a little confusing. Enjoy....

Download: Wake Up With Whoopi, Oct. 4, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 4

This Day in History

1669: Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn dies in Amsterdam at the age of 63.
1777: George Washington carries out an unsuccessful surprise attack on the British in the Battle of Germantown, an engagement of the American Revolution.
1830: Belgium becomes independent from the Netherlands.
1931: The "Dick Tracy" comic strip first appears.
1957: The Soviets launch Sputnik, the first successful artificial satellite to orbit the earth.
1993: Troops loyal to Russian President Boris Yeltsin attack the Parliament building, which is being held by anti-Yeltsin activists. Approximately 140 people are killed.
1997: Hundreds of thousands of Christian men gather in Washington, D.C. in a rally organized by the Promise Keepers.
2001: Pres. George W. Bush announces that the U.S. will try to get $320 million worth of humanitarian relief to the Afghan people.
2005: Hurricane Stan hits southern Mexico and generates heavy rainstorms in northern Central America, causing landslides and floods that kills far over 1,000 people.

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October 3, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 3

This Day in History

1922: After being appointed by the governor of Georgia, Rebecca Felton becomes the nation's first female senator.
1935: The Italian invasion of Ethiopia begins.
1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs a bill abolishing the national immigration quota system.
1974: Frank Robinson becomes the first black manager in major league baseball, signing with the Cleveland Indians.
1990: East and West Germany are formally reunified.
1993: President Boris Yeltsin declares a state of emergency in Russia after activists opposed to him rampage in Moscow.
1995: A jury finds former football star O. J. Simpson not guilty of the 1994 murders of his former wife and her companion.

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October 2, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 2

This Day in History

1889: The first Pan American Conference convenes in Washington, D.C.
1919: Woodrow Wilson suffers a severe stroke, which will virtually incapacitate him for the remainder of his presidency.
1950: The "Peanuts" comic strip makes its first appearance.
1958: Guinea gains its independence from France.
1967: Thurgood Marshall is sworn in, becoming the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
2001: NATO announces that there is "clear and compelling" evidence to link al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to the September 11 terrorist attacks and to justify a joint military response.

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October 1, 2007

This Day In History: Oct. 1

This Day in History

1903: The first baseball World Series game in history is played; the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Boston Americans, 7-3.
1908: Henry Ford introduces the Model T car, priced at $850.
1949: The People's Republic of China is proclaimed under Mao Zedong.
1961: Roger Maris of the NY Yankees baseball team hits his 61st home run of the season, setting a new record that stands until 1998.
1962: James Meredith becomes the first black student at the University of Mississippi, after 3,000 troops put down riots.
1971: Walt Disney World opens in Orlando, FL.
1981: A car packed with explosives blows up outside headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in West Beirut, Lebanon, killing more than 80 people and injuring more than 300.
2001: A Muslim militant group attacks the state legislature in Srinagar, Kashmir. At least 40 people are killed. In preparation for military action against Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the U.S. sends a third aircraft carrier to the Middle East; 29,000 military personnel and 349 aircraft have now been sent to the area.
2002: Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein agrees to allow international inspectors into the country to search for weapons of mass destruction, but refuses access to a number of sites.

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About October 2007

This page contains all entries posted to The World Almanac in October 2007. They are listed from newest to oldest.

September 2007 is the previous archive.

November 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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