Little Bits of History

Juno Is Found

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 1, 2014
Karl Ludwig Harding

Karl Ludwig Harding

September 1, 1804: Karl Ludwig Harding discovers one of the larger asteroids in the main belt. Juno is given the minor-planet designation 3 Juno and was the third asteroid to be discovered in the region between Mars and Jupiter. The mini planet was named after the Roman goddess. It contains about 1% of the entire mass of the asteroid belt and it is the second most massive S-type asteroid after Eunomia. Even saying that, Juno only has 3% of the mass of Ceres – the largest object in the belt. Ceres was discovered only 3.5 years before Juno.

The irregularly shaped space object is about 199 x 166 x 124 miles. Ceres, on the other hand has a 303 mile radius or is a little over 600 miles across if seen as a full disk. The apparent magnitude or shininess of Juno is 7.4 to 11.55 making it brighter than Ceres (6.64 to 9.34). Juno was originally considered to be a planet as was Ceres, Pallas, and Vesta. As more bodies were discovered in the path between Mars and Jupiter, the “planets” were demoted and reclassified as asteroids. Juno’s small size and irregular shape keep it from being classified as a dwarf planet.

The asteroid belt is called the main belt to keep it from being confused with other asteroids in the Solar System such as near-Earth asteroids and Trojan asteroids. Approximately half the mass of the entire belt in contained in the four largest asteroids: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. Of these, only Ceres is large enough to be considered a dwarf planet. The remaining matter is scattered throughout the area and can be as small as dust particles. There are three types of asteroids: C-type which are carbonaceous, S-type which are silicate and M-type which are metal-rich. Gravitational perturbations from massive Jupiter kept the matter in this orbital range from coalescing into another true planet. As much as 99.9% of the asteroid belt’s original mass was lost in the first 100 million years of the Solar System’s existence.

Karl Harding was a German astronomer born in 1765. He was educated at the University of Gottingen and studied theology, mathematics, and physics while there. In 1796, Johann Hieronymus Schroter hired Harding to tutor his son. Schroter was an avid astronomer and Harding was soon appointed to Schorter’s observatory. It was there Harding found Juno in the night sky. After this great discovery, Harding went to assist Carl Friedrich Gauss at Gottingen. Harding went on to discover three more comets and published works on astronomy. A crater on the moon is named for him as well as an asteroid – 2003 Harding.

If the Earth gets hit by an asteroid, it’s game over. It’s control-alt-delete for civilization. – Bill Nye

It would take an extremely large spacecraft to deflect a large asteroid that would be headed directly for the Earth. – Rusty Schweickart

I don’t want to be the embarrassment of the galaxy to have had the power to deflect an asteroid, and then not and end up going extinct. We’d be the laughingstock of the aliens of the cosmos if that were the case. – Neil deGrasse Tyson

I despise the Lottery. There’s less chance of you becoming a millionaire than there is of getting hit on the head by a passing asteroid. – Brian May

Also on this day: Japan’s Great Earthquake – In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake rocks Japan.
Six Million Dollar Man – In 1980, Terry Fox had to end his Marathon of Hope.
Martha, R.I.P. – In 1914, the last passenger pigeon died.
Walls - In 1836, Narcissa Whitman arrived at Walla Walla Fort.

Air Disaster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 31, 2014
Lovettsville air disaster

Lovettsville air disaster

August 31, 1940: The Lovettsville air disaster takes place shortly after 2.30 PM. Pennsylvania Central Airlines Trip 19 was piloted by Captain Lowell Scroggins with copilot First Officer J Paul Moore beside him. They were flying a new (delivered on May 25, 1940) Douglas DC-3A from Washington, D.C. to Detroit with a stopover in Pittsburgh. They were over Lovettsville, Virginia and flying through a severe thunderstorm. They were flying at 6,000 feet. Aboard the plane was Senator Ernest Lundeen from Minnesota. Several witnesses noted a large flash of lightning immediately prior to the plane nosing over and plunging into an alfalfa field. The four crew members and 21 passengers were all killed.

There were limited investigation tools available in 1940. It was assumed the cause of the accident was wind shear. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigated the crash and noted the probable cause was a lightning strike. This was the first time CAB was called into action. Although the US had taken an early lead in aviation, they lost the competitive edge to Europe early on. After entering World War I, the government helped to expand and very limited aviation manufacturing industry. The government supported air mail usage and hoped it would be a model for commercial industries. Early flight was rife with accidents, some due to daredevil behavior and some due to the vagaries of flight itself. By the 1920s, US government officials began to think about some regulation of the industry in order to increase public confidence. The Air Commerce Act became law on May 20, 1926.

This Act created the Aeronautic Branch of the US Department of Commerce and its name was change to the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1934. They began to take over issues with air traffic control. A new law in 1938 brought the CAB into existence under the Civil Aeronautics Authority. They were now responsible for studying the causes of a crash which would hopefully decrease the incidences as new information could help mitigate further misadventures. As flight technology progressed and jets became the norm, another law was passed and the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 produced the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). Also created that year was NASA.

With the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, more changes came along in three phases. The CAB was eliminated in 1984. As the new millennium began, the FAA was facing many challenges. While airline accidents are rare in statistical form, there was a need for greater safety. The volume of flights stressed the system but showed a popularity of the travel method. The September 11, 2001 attacks brought about another safety issue and a new Aviation and Transportation Security Act was passed in response. Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is tasked with making air travel as well as other transportation modes safe against criminal activity.

Air travel is the safest form of travel aside from walking; even then, the chances of being hit by a public bus at 30,000 feet are remarkably slim. I also have no problem with confined spaces. Or heights. What I am afraid of is speed. – Sloane Crosley

The whole infrastructure of air travel was, and is, part of government policy. It is not a natural development of a free economic system – at least not in the way that is claimed. The same is true of the roads, of course.  – Noam Chomsky

Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal: providing safe and efficient air travel for the millions of people who rely on our aviation system every day. – Janet Napolitano

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. – Alexander Chase

Also on this day: Who Was He? – In 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was brutally murdered.
Try This – In 1900, Coke was first sold in England.
Fairy Tale’s End – In 1997, Princess Diana is killed in a car crash.
Go West – In 1803, Meriwether Lewis began his great Expedition when he left Pittsburgh.

Lone Shooter?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 30, 2014
Fanya Kaplan

Fanya Kaplan

August 30, 1918: Fanya Kaplan gets off three shots from her Browning pistol. Fanya was born in Volhynian Governorate, Russian Empire in 1890. Birth records have disappeared and it is uncertain what name she had at birth. Others give her name as Vera Figner, or perhaps the family name was Roytman in Russia or as Reutemann in German/Yiddish. She was one of seven children born into a Jewish family. She became a political activist at a young age and joined a social group, the Socialist Revolutionaries (Esers). At the age of 16, she was arrested in Kiev when she was implicated in a terrorist bomb plot.  She was sentenced to life in prison at a hard-labor camp. She was sent to Siberia.

At the Akatuy prisons of the Nerchinsk katorga, she was not only subjected to a life of hard labor, but other abuses as well. Fully undressed corporal punishment was not the usual practice, but she was severely caned on her bare body as disciplinary punishment. She lost her sight (which was later partially restored). She was released on March 3, 1917 after the February Revolution overthrew the imperial government. Although freed from prison, she continued to suffer constant headaches and periods of blindness.

With the Imperial government eradicated, a new power struggle ensued between the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik party. In November 1917, the Socialist Revolutionaries were able to win a majority of the Constituent Assembly and they were able to get their man elected President in January 1918. By August 1918, the Bolsheviks banned competing parties including Kaplan’s favored party. She vowed to kill Vladimir Lenin. On this day, Lenin spoke at a Moscow factory called the Hammer and Sickle. As he left the building, Kaplan called out to him and he turned towards her. She fired her three shots. One passed through Lenin’s coat and the other two struck him. One passed through his neck and punctured part of his lung while the other lodged in his shoulder.

Lenin insisted on returning to the Kremlin and was adamant about not going to the hospital. He was certain others would be involved in an assassination attempt. Doctors were brought in, but surgery was needed. He survived, but never fully recovered and it is possible this contributed to his death in 1924. Kaplan was taken into custody and interrogated. She admitted to shooting Lenin and was unwavering in her assertion that she was working alone. She was executed on September 3, 1918 without revealing any other names. Some historians do not accept Kaplan’s avowal of lone wolf. They point out her eyesight as reasons. There are conflicting reports about who and how many were arrested on this day. There is speculation that Kaplan was put forward as the shooter because she was the archetypal enraged woman and nothing less could have harmed Lenin.

My name is Fanya Kaplan. Today I shot Lenin. I did it on my own. I will not say from whom I obtained my revolver. I will give no details. I had resolved to kill Lenin long ago. I consider him a traitor to the Revolution. – Fanya Kaplan

I was exiled to Akatui for participating in an assassination attempt against a Tsarist official in Kiev. I spent 11 years at hard labour. After the Revolution, I was freed. I favoured the Constituent Assembly and am still for it. – Fanya Kaplan

A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution. – Vladimir Lenin

There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel. – Vladimir Lenin

Also on this day: Yesterdays and Todays – In 1909, the Burgess Shale site was discovered.
Thin Red Line – In 1963, a direct link between Washington, D.C. and Moscow was established.
Wreck of the Pandora – In 1791, the Pandora sinks.
Well Being with Sikhs – In 1574, Ram Das Ji became a Guru.

Quebec Bridge Collapse

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 29, 2014
Quebec Bridge collapse

Quebec Bridge collapse

August 29, 1907: The Quebec Bridge collapses. The bridge was part of the National Transcontinental Railway project. The Canadian government was in charge of the entire project. The Quebec Bridge Company was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1887 and revived in 1891 under John Macdonald and again in 1897 under Wilfrid Laurier. He also granted an extension of time in 1900. In 1903, the bond issue was increased to $6 million and at that time the name changed to the Quebec Bridge and Railway Company (QBRC). Another Act of Parliament was needed to guarantee the bond fund. Laurier was MP for Quebec East and Simon-Napoleon Parent was Premier of Quebec as well as the mayor and also the president of QBRC.

Edward Hoare was chief engineer for the Company even though he had never worked on a cantilever bridge structure longer than 300 feet. The total length of the bride is 3,239 feet with the longest span (today) measuring 1,800 feet. Collingwood Schreiber was the Chief Engineer of the Department of Railways and Canals in Ottawa. RC Douglas worked with Schreiber until July 1903 when he was deposed because he opposed the calculations that were submitted by contractors. Schreiber asked for more help and was denied. Contractor Theodore Cooper was completely in charge of the works.

By 1904, the construction was moving along. The preliminary calculations made during the early planning stages were never checked when the design was finalized. The span had been lengthened and no recalculations were done. The actual weight was much greater than the carrying capacity. By the summer of 1907, with construction nearing completion, distortions in key structural members was already in evidence. Norman McLure wrote repeatedly to Cooper who claimed the distortions were minor. The Phoenix Bridge Company officials claimed the beams must have been bent prior to construction. McLure wrote again and then on this day went to New York to meet with Cooper. An urgent telegraph was sent to the building site telling them not to add more load to the bridge.

The message was not passed on. Just before quitting time, after four years of construction work, the south arm and part of the central span collapsed into the St. Lawrence River in just 15 seconds. There were 86 workers on the bridge that day and 75 of them were killed while the remaining 11 were injured. It was the world’s worst bridge construction disaster. The bridge was rebuilt and collapsed again in 1911. Finally, in August 1919 the bridge was completed at a cost $25 million and 89 bridge workers’ lives. After nearly two decades of construction, the completed bridge was the longest cantilevered bridge span in the world and remains so today.

The hardest thing in life to learn is which bridge to cross and which to burn. – David Russell

Every decently-made object, from a house to a lamp post to a bridge, spoon or egg cup, is not just a piece of ‘stuff’ but a physical embodiment of human energy, testimony to the magical ability of our species to take raw materials and turn them into things of use, value and beauty. – Kevin McCloud

But which is the stone that supports the bridge? – Kublai Khan

Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge. – Don Henley

Also on this day: Have You Hugged Your Hog Today? – In 1885, Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler patents the motorcycle.
Last Man Standing – In 1911, Ishi was found.
The Ashes – In 1882, The Ashes rivalry begins.
Day Tripper – In 1966, The Beatles gave their last paid concert.

Stunningly Beautiful

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 28, 2014
Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

August 28, 1859: A great geomagnetic storm disrupts the night sky. On both this day, and on September 2, the Aurora Borealis was visible in more southern latitudes in the US, Europe, and Japan and a more northern latitude for the Aurora Australis in Australia. An aurora is a natural light display in high latitudes in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Solar wind colliding with the magnetosphere’s charged particles create a light show. This usually happens in a 3⁰ to 6⁰ wide latitude band and is usually at 10⁰ to 20⁰ from the geomagnetic poles. Although possible all year long, they are more vivid around the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. A geomagnetic storm can expand the auroral zones.

When a solar wind shock wave and/or cloud of magnetic field interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, there is a geomagnetic storm. The increased solar wind compresses the magnetosphere and the magnetic field from the Sun interferes with the Earth’s magnetic field, transferring energy into the magnetosphere. Both of these events cause an increase in the movement of plasma through the magnetosphere as well as an increased electric current in both the magnetosphere and the ionosphere. The frequency of geomagnetic storms is directly related to the sunspot cycle on our local star.

Auroras or aurorae are classified as either diffuse or discrete. The diffuse pattern is, as the name suggests, diffused across the sky and may not be visible to the naked eye, even on the darkest night. Discrete auroras have sharply defined features and can vary to minimally visible to the naked eye to spectacular light shows. Even so, they are only visible in the night sky. Aurora comes from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora. Borealis comes from the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. Australis or the southern lights, can be seen in Antarctica, South America, New Zealand, and of course, Australia.

The auroras that occurred on this day and on September 2 made quite a stir in the scientifically minded period in which they took place. Balfour Stewart presented a paper to the Royal Society on November 21, 1861 describing the events as documented by a self-recording magnetograph at the Kew Observatory. With this data, Stewart was able to establish a connection between the auroral event and the Carrington-Hodgson flare event the two men had observed. The flare was observed by the scientists, but people around the world noted the disruption in the auroras and the event was described in scientific literature to be sure, but also in ship logs and daily newspapers. Elias Loomis published a series of nine papers on the Great Auroral Exhibition of 1859 in the American Journal of Science in which he collected world-wide reports about the events.

Aurora had but newly chased the night, / And purpled o’er the sky with blushing light. – John Dryden

But when Aurora, daughter of the dawn, / With rosy lustre purpled o’er the lawn. – Homer

The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night. – Haruki Murakami

Some praise the Lord for Light, / The living spark; / I thank God for the Night / The healing dark. – Robert W. Service

Also on this day: First Tornado Photograph - In 1884, the first tornado photograph is made.
Sci Am – In 1845, Scientific American began publication.
Odds and Evens – In 888, the last date written in all even numbers for over a thousand years.
Enceladus - In 1789, William Herschel found Enceladus in the night sky.

Nuclear Power

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 27, 2014
Calder Hall

Calder Hall

August 27, 1956: Calder Hall nuclear power station is connected to the grid. It was part of the Sellafield reprocessing site near to Seascale on the coast of the Irish Sea in Cumbria, England. Windscale and this first-to-the-grid-reactor are both undergoing decommissioning and dismantling at the present time. It was first owned and operated by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and after 1971 by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. Since 2005, it has been owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and operated by Sellafield Ltd. Calder Hall was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October 17, 1956 and was the world’s first power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale.

The plant was both a commercial and military facility. Building began in 1953 and included four Magnox reactors which were each capable of generating 60 MWe of power. This was reduced to 50 MWe in 1973. The four cooling towers were built between 1950 and 1956 and were used to cool water from the station. They were each 290 feet tall and stood for fifty years creating a visible landmark as seen from Seascale. When the power plant closed, there was debate over whether or not to preserve the towers, but it proved to be cost ineffective. They were brought down by controlled implosions on September 29, 2007 and the next twelve weeks were spent romoving the asbestos from the rubble.

Nuclear power or energy includes fission, decay, and fusion but today, fission is the only method capable of generating electricity in quantities worthwhile. Excluding nuclear power contributed by naval reactors, nuclear energy supplies about 5.7% of the world’s power and 13% of the world electricity. In 2013, the IAEA reported there were 437 operational nuclear power reactors in 31 countries. Not all of them producing electricity. There are approximately another 140 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion powered by about 180 reactors. The hope for nuclear fusion power has remained strong, but it is unlikely that fusion will be commercially successful before 2050.

Three famous nuclear plant disasters have taken place. In 1979 the Three Mile Island plant in the US failed. In 1986, the USSR had the Chernobyl disaster. In 2011, following an earthquake/tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan caught the world’s attention. These disasters have been widely studied. However, there are more deaths from coal, petroleum, natural gas, and hydropower (per unit of energy generated) due to both air pollution and energy accidents. The US has the greatest amount of nuclear energy produced from the 104 operational reactors within her borders. France is second both in capacity and the number of operational reactors. Japan is third in capacity, but Russia is third in number of reactors with 33 operating. The UK has 16 reactors still operating.

For 50 years, nuclear power stations have produced three products which only a lunatic could want: bomb-explosive plutonium, lethal radioactive waste and electricity so dear it has to be heavily subsidised. They leave to future generations the task, and most of the cost, of making safe sites that have been polluted half-way to eternity. – James Buchan

provide the electricity that our growing economy needs without increasing emissions. This is truly an environmentally responsible source of energy. – Michael Burgess

No one in the United States has become seriously ill or has died because of any kind of accident at a civilian nuclear power plant. – Joe Barton

The idea that the growing demand for energy worldwide can be met with energy from nuclear power is nonsense. – Sigmar Gabriel

Also on this day: Powerful Industry – In 1859, the modern day oil industry starts.
War is Hell – In 1896, the shortest war in history was fought.
Kǒng Qiū – In 551 BC, Confucius is born.
Sculptor – In 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Pieta.

Up In Smoke

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2014
Harvey’s Resort bombing

Harvey’s Resort bombing

August 26, 1980: Three men plant a bomb at Harvey’s Resort. The leading bomber was John Birges who was a Hungarian immigrant living in California. Birges had flown for the German Luftwaffe during World War II. He was captured by the Russians and sentences to 25 years of hard labor. He was held for eight years after which he escaped by blowing the gulag up. He made his way to the US and California where he operated a successful landscaping business. He wasn’t just interested in plants, however, and developed a gambling addiction. He claimed he had lost $750,000 gambling at Harvey’s Resort and he planted the bomb in an attempt to extort $3 million from the casino.

The bomb contained 1,000 pounds of dynamite and was tamper-proof. Bomb technicians from the FBI studied the bomb via x-rays. Although they were warned by the bomb maker that a shock would trigger the device, they thought a shaped charge of C-4 (a plastic explosive) could separate the detonators from the dynamite. They cleared the area and attempted to disarm the bomb. As advertised, the shock triggered the bomb and it exploded, destroying much of the casino as well as breaking windows in Harrah’s, a casino connected via a tunnel to Harvey’s.

Birges’ son mentioned to a girlfriend that he father had placed the bomb at Harvey’s. After they broke up, the woman began dating another man and they learned about a reward for information given to the FBI. They informed the feds and Birges was arrested. He was found guilty and given a life sentence. He died of liver cancer in prison at the age of 74 in 1996 exactly 16 years and one day after the bombing. The dynamite had been stolen in Fresno to create one of the largest bombs the FBI had ever seen. It remains the most complex improvised explosive device ever created and the FBI continues to use a replica in training.

Harvey’s opened in 1944 and was operated by Sacramento meat wholesaler Harvey Gross and his wife. They opened their first high-rise tower in 1961. There was a three story crater in the building after the FBI detonated the bomb but it was rebuilt. Harvey died in 1983 but the family continued to run the business and expand and improve upon it. It stayed in the family until 2001 when Harrah’s Entertainment acquired it. Today, Harveys Lake Tahoe has 740 rooms and suites, six restaurants, and 87,500 square feet of space for their casino. Caesars Entertainment (Harrah’s changed their name) owns and operates the business.

Heck, what’s a little extortion among friends? – Bill Watterson

There are many harsh lessons to be learned from the gambling experience, but the harshest one of all is the difference between having Fun and being Smart. – Hunter S. Thompson

I love blackjack. But I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi circle. – Mitch Hedberg

Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something. – Wilson Mizner

Also on this day: The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence - In 1928, the first negligence case was started.
Big Chuck – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle entered Paris.

Voyager 1 Left the Building

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 25, 2014
Voyager 1 leaving the Solar System

Voyager 1 leaving the Solar System

August 25, 2012: Voyager 1 crosses the heliopause. There was a plan for a Grand Tour to study the outer planets proposed during the 1960s. NASA began working on the project in the 1970s. Pioneer 10 had been launched on March 3, 1972 and valuable information concerning intense radiation around Jupiter helped in the design of Voyager. Originally, this was to be one more of the Mariner missions but the design on the probe changed dramatically and a new name was adopted. Voyager 1 was launched on September 5, 1977 and the goal was to study the outer solar system and beyond.

Aboard the probe is a gold-plated audio-visual disc which, it is hoped, can be interpreted by intelligent life forms if they should find the probe. The disc has photos of Earth and life forms from the planet. There is a range of scientific information as well as spoken greetings from the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States. There are other sounds included ranging from whale song to human music and other nature sounds. Contained are greeting in 55 different languages. There is a pictorial clue as to how to play the records using a stylus that was also included.

Our Solar System is small when compared to the Universe, but space travel is slow even now. In 1977, the probe was launched and a year later, on September 8, 1977, Voyager began the Jupiter observation phase and observed the planet and four of the moons. On August 22, 1980 the Saturn observation phase began with observing the planet and two moon. Then the extended mission started. On February 14, 1990 the final images of the Voyager Program completed the Solar System Family Portrait. On February 17, 1990, Voyager 1 overtook Pioneer 10 as the most distant spacecraft from the Sun. On December 17, 2004 she entered the heliosheath and on this date, she crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space.

The heliopause is a theoretical boundary where the Sun’s wind is stopped by stellar winds. The force of the solar winds are no longer great enough to push back winds coming from other stars in the galaxy. It was thought that crossing this barrier would result in a sharp drop in the temperature of charged particles, a change in the direction of the magnetic field, and an increase in the amount of galactic cosmic rays. In May 2012, Voyager 1 detected an quick increase in galactic rays, suggesting she was approaching this boundary. In the fall of 2012, after examining returned data and interpreting the numbers, it was determined that at a distance of 121 AU or 18 billion kilometers or 11 billion miles, the probe had left the solar system. Now, if someone finds that record …

Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from. – Eric Hoffer

Perhaps, as some wit remarked, the best proof that there is Intelligent Life in Outer Space is the fact it hasn’t come here. Well, it can’t hide forever – one day we will overhear it. – Arthur C. Clarke

I’ve always wondered what it would be like if somebody from outer space landed with three heads. Then all of a sudden everybody else wouldn’t look so bad, huh? Well, OK you’re a little different from me but, hey, ya got one head. – Cyndi Lauper

Now we are flying off into outer space, there is no clear curb on what can be done in the name of the economy. – Susan George

Also on this day: Swimming the English Channel – In 1875 Matthew Webb becomes the first to swim the English Channel.
Men in the Moon – In 1835, the Great Moon Hoax articles first began to see print.
I See – In 1609, Galileo demonstrated his telescope.
National Parks – In 1916, the US National Park Service was formed.

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Going Up in Flames

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2014
The White House after the fire

The White House after the fire

August 24, 1814: The burning of Washington takes place. During the War of 1812, Britain and the US were once again at war. As part of that engagement, British troops entered what was then called Washington City led by Major General Robert Ross. US troops had just been defeated at the Battle of Bladensburg in Maryland. British troops had been freed up after their conquest of Napoleon and now 2,500 soldiers were available to fight in the US. Ross had arrived in Bermuda aboard HMS Royal Oak with three frigates, three sloops, and ten other vessels. These ships sailed up the Patuxent and troops were offloaded in Maryland on August 19, 1814.

The British leaders threatened to destroy property which led to hesitancy of a military response. They moved on inexperienced troops and won the battle at Bladensburg before an advance contingent moved on to the capital city. The men arrived under a flag of truce but were attacked by partisans from a house on the corner of Maryland Avenue, Constitution Avenue, and Second Street NE. This was the only resistance the British met within the city. The men burned down the house their attackers had occupied.

They went on to set fire to the Capitol building although the central rotunda had not yet been built. The buildings which housed the Senate and the House of Representatives along with Library of Congress all suffered damage. The interiors of the buildings were damaged but due to thick wall construction and torrential rains falling secondary to an offshore hurricane, the exteriors were not damaged. The loss of books in the library would spur Thomas Jefferson to donate his personal library to replace the books lost in the blaze. The arsonists moved up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and also set fire to that building. President Madison and his wife Dolley, along with other slaves and servants fled, saving some of the more important and portable pieces from inside the house.

All the buildings burned were public building (except for the house of the attackers) and the British were quite adamant that no private buildings should be lost. Rear Admiral George Cockburn entered the city the next day and arrived at the National Intelligencer, the local newspaper office and threatened to burn it down. When the ladies present explained their fear of the fire spreading to their houses, the building was spared from fire, but it was destroyed by soldiers tearing it down. The paper had not been kind to Cockburn in the past. The US Treasury building was burned, but the Patent Office was saved – the only government building spared – due to William Thorton’s cooperating with the British. Leaders in Europe were appalled by the attack, but most British supported the sacking of the capital city as a retaliatory move from an attack on a Canadian city earlier in the year.

Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm. – John F. Kennedy

Bad as political fiction can be, there is always a politician prepared to make it look artistic by comparison. – Christopher Hitchens

Many a time I have seen my mother leap up from the dinner table to engage the swarming flies with an improvised punkah, and heard her rejoice and give humble thanks simultaneously that Baltimore was not the sinkhole that Washington was. – H.L. Mencken

Washington isn’t a city, it’s an abstraction.  – Dylan Thomas

Also on this day: Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupts.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.
George Crum – In 1853, George Crum invents potato chips.
Not a Black Hole – Yet – In 1690, Calcutta is founded.

Stockholm Syndrome

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2014
Hostages held in the vault

Hostages held in the vault

August 23, 1973: Jan-Erik “Janne” Olsson attempts to rob yet another bank. He was on leave from prison when he entered the Kreditbanken at Normalmstorg in central Stockholm, Sweden. Police were immediately called and two officers entered the bank. Olsson opened fire, minimally wounding one of the officers. The second officer was told to sit in a chair and “sing something” and complied. Olsson took four people hostage and demanded his friend, Clark Olofsson, be brought to the bank along with 3 million Kroner, two guns, bulletproof vests, helmets, and a fast car. Olofsson was a repeat offender of armed robberies and other violent crimes with his first arrest at age 16.

Olofsson was brought to the bank to help with police communications. The two criminals barricaded the inner main vault and placed their hostages there. Negotiators granted them the use of a car, but refused to allow any hostages to leave the building. Olsson called the Prime Minister and threatened to kill hostages and grabbed one, causing her to scream as he ended the call. The next day, Olsson again called the PM and had hostage, Kristin Enmark, speak. She was unhappy with the government response, the PM’s attitude, and wanted the criminals and the hostages to be given permission to leave.

On August 26, police drilled a hole in the ceiling and took pictures of the hostages. Olofsson fired his weapon into the hole, wounding another police officer and Olsson threatened to kill hostages if gas was used. On August 28, gas was used and after a half hour, Olsson and Olofsson surrendered without permanently injuring any of the hostages. Both men were charged, convicted, and sentenced for their actions. Olofsson maintained he was simply trying to keep Olsson calm and the hostages sided with him to help get his conviction overturned. The term “Stockholm syndrome” was coined in response to this crime.

Stockholm syndrome is also known as capture-bonding and is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy as well as other positive emotions toward their captors. The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that about 8% of victims show some evidence of Stockholm syndrome. The Lima syndrome is the opposite type of behavior wherein the abductors begin to feel kind emotions toward their victims. This is more likely to happen when there are several abductors and one or more of them disagree with the leader and begin to advocate for the better treatment of the hostages. It is named for the abduction at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru.

There is a thin line between peace of the brave and peace of the hostage… between compromise – even calculated risk – and irresponsibility and capitulation. – Ehud Barak

Freeing hostages is like putting up a stage set, which you do with the captors, agreeing on each piece as you slowly put it together; then you leave an exit through which both the captor and the captive can walk with sincerity and dignity. – Terry Waite

The rise of computer crime and armed robbery has not eliminated the lure of caged cash. – James Chiles

But even before that, in 1980 I went so far as to write a book about what had happened. And I wrote all about the bank robbery, I went ahead and printed it even though I had no use immunity for it. – Patty Hearst

Also on this day: The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Holy God – In 1948, the World Council of Churches was founded.
Fannie Farmer – In 1902, Fannie Farmer opened her own cooking school.
French Wars of Religion – In 1532, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres begin.

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