Crazy, Fascinating & Horrifying:  Latest Edition

tags: Crazy, Fascinating & Horrifying

Each week we come across stuff that's weird.  Sometimes it's horrifying.  This is where we're sharing what we find. Make of it what you will! The text comes directly from the websites we’re hyperlinking.

That suit, quietly yet clearly, made reference to history, specifically the history of the women’s movement.

White, along with purple and gold, were the official colors of the National Woman’s Party and the suffragist movement. In England, it was white, purple and green, the official colors of the Women’s Social and Political Union started by Emmeline Pankhurst, among others.

According to a history of the National Woman’s Party from the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, an early mission statement for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage noted: “The colors adopted by the union are purple, white and gold, selected for the significance they bear in the work the union has undertaken. Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose.”

See the connection?

While everything may have looked good on paper, more than a few practical problems emerged immediately. Most of the well-known broadcasters of the era — Edward R. Murrow and others — had only a passing familiarity with television and were reluctant to participate, though Murrow was ultimately persuaded by CBS News executives to offer some live commentary from the floor of the conventions. And the now-mundane details of makeup application, proper lighting and the transfer of heavy equipment proved daunting.

But the single aspect of the 1948 conventions that turned them into a near-circus was one that no one could control: the weather. That summer, Philadelphia suffered through its most severe heat wave since 1787, and the combination of bright floodlights, rooms that weren’t air-conditioned and crowded spaces made it nearly unbearable for everyone. “Convention Hall Is Rechristened as ‘the Steamheated Iron Lung,’ ” the New York Times proclaimed. “Perspiring Delegates Look like Sheiks in Handkerchiefs Head Gear.” Delegates, the newspaper said, “were literally glued to their seats.”

The equipment, much of it untested, tended to be uncooperative. An ABC floodlight was so bright as it beamed into a broadcast booth that all images were killed; later, a monitor blew out with a sharp bang.

Math is "contemptible and vile.” That's not from a disgruntled student. It's from a textbook.

The author, 16th century mathematician Robert Recorde, nestled the line just after his preface, table of contents and a biblical quote citing God's command to measure and number all things.

Recorde didn't believe in math's awfulness — quite the opposite. He was simply reflecting popular opinion on his way to a spirited defense of math. Why?

Mathematics was associated with banking and trade and so "was shunned among the upper classes and the educated classes in Europe," explains Houman Harouni of Harvard University.

Benito Mussolini, the fascist prime minister of Italy, at one point reportedly said that were he to broadcast his speeches "in twenty cities in Italy once a week," he would "need no other power." When he was approached about filming a statement for the [Fox] newsreel, he agreed.

Fox promoted the upcoming statement in advertisements in the New York Times in September 1927, with the debut of the speech coming to New York City's Times Square theater later that month.

It’s a time of mourning in Dallas, Texas. Last week, concerns over police treatment of African-American residents and anger about the shootings of men like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile elsewhere in the United States led to a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas. Then, tragedy struck: Five police officers were massacred by a suspect who was later killed by officers after an hours-long standoff. As the city grieves police officers killed while protecting a peaceful protest, it’s worth remembering the life and death of Dallas’ first African-American police officer, William McDuff, whose story reveals the history both of black police officers in Dallas and the racial tensions that have plagued the city over the years.

McDuff was hired in 1896 after years of unsuccessful attempts to get African-American officers on Dallas’ police force failed, police historian W. Marvin Dulaney writes. He was appointed as a “special officer” to Stringtown, a predominantly poor, black neighborhood in the area now called Deep Ellum, in response to a series of disturbances near an AME church in the area. A newspaper report at the time noted that he was commissioned to keep order during services; it is unclear what his other duties may have been.

McDuff, who lived in what the reporter called a “humble cabin” in Stringtown, was an early example of police force diversity during an era when the first African-American police officers were being commissioned around the country. By all accounts, he was an upstanding and well-respected member of Dallas’ growing black community.

But not everyone was enthusiastic about his commission. On the night of December 25, 1896, just two months after he was commissioned, McDuff was accosted at home by two young African-American men whom he had reprimanded for laughing during a debate at the church. Witnesses reported that the young men used racial slurs to refer to the policeman before dragging him from his cabin and shooting him between the eyes. McDuff died instantly. He was soon surrounded by community members who were stunned by his murder.

On May 20, 2000, the legendary actor and president of the National Rifle Association Charlton Heston stood before the podium at the organization’s 129th annual convention with a banner raised behind him featuring the America flag and the words “Vote Freedom.” As he concluded his address, Heston picked up a replica of a flintlock rifle, raised it over his head and declared, in his own dramatic fashion, that anyone who wanted to take his gun would have to pry it “from my cold, dead hands.”

This iconic moment has come to define the NRA, which is now America’s leading pro-gun advocacy group. As the group frames things in a new ad campaign, gun-control laws and politicians who support them are seen as an unconstitutional intrusion on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The NRA’s opposition to gun control, however, is only a few decades , according to Adam Winkler author of the book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “Historically,” writes Winkler, “the leadership of the NRA was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might imagine.” Not only did the NRA support gun control for much of the 20th century, its leadership in fact lobbied for and co-authored gun control legislation.

A treasure trove of artifacts tossed down the loo is revealing the secret life of pre-Revolutionary America.

The nearly 300-year-old privies, which were uncovered in the heart of Philadelphia, have yielded more than 82,000 artifacts that span nearly three centuries, from the city's pre-Revolutionary roots to the modern day. Among the historic treasures were a ceramic punchbowl that provides a snapshot of Revolutionary America, shattered glasses from a back-alley tavern and the foundation of the city's first skyscraper, which was erected in 1850.

A military historian stole a logbook belonging to the widow of one of the heroes killed in the 1943 Dambusters mission, a court heard.

Alex Bateman, 48, persuaded Doris Fraser to hand over the £20,000 piece of memorabilia, which had belonged to her late husband Flight Sergeant John Fraser, for his research….

Mrs Fraser posted him the log book in January 1996, and after several letters and emails pleading for him to return it, reported him to the police in June 2003.

Bateman first posted the family an empty envelope, it is said, before allegedly forging a Christmas card from Mrs Fraser purporting to give him the logbook.

When he was a child, Guillermo’s parents nicknamed him “the Jew”….

According to human rights campaigners, 30,000 people were made to “disappear” by Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, mostly young opponents of the bloody regime. ...

But killing the pregnant women was a crime that even Argentina’s military men – who referred to themselves in self-aggrandising speeches as defenders of “western and Christian civilisation” – couldn’t bring themselves to commit.

Instead, they kept pregnant activists alive until they gave birth, murdering them afterwards and handing their babies to childless military couples to raise as their own. It was, in a macabre sense, the military’s ultimate victory against a despised enemy they had decided to annihilate completely. It is estimated some 500 children were born under these circumstances.

Snog, pash, knutschen: there are terms in many different cultures for what we in English call “French kissing”, or kissing with tongues. But why do we associate this kind of intimate kissing with the French? Indeed, why do the French have a reputation (at least in Anglo cultures) for being more sexually daring and uninhibited?

Anyone who’s watched the BBC2 costume drama Versailles (or, like me, struggled merely to get through the trailer) will have been informed that the celebrated court of the Sun King was a place of non-stop sex, intrigue, glamour, and more sex. Success at the French court, it would appear, required an appetite for ambition matched only in size by an appetite for sexual acts considered outrageous for the time. But were French courtiers any more sexually audacious than anyone else? If not, then where does this stereotype of the French court as debauched and dangerous come from?

We don’t know precisely why the three white officers on board a Confederate transport and gunboat called the CSS Planter decided to go ashore in Charleston, South Carolina, the night of May 12, 1862.

Maybe they went to see their families. Maybe they went drinking or whoring. Certainly they were acting against orders, but they seemed to think the slave they left in charge of the Planter, a skilled 23-year-old harbor pilot named Robert Smalls, would take good care of the ship for them.

On board were pieces of naval artillery, including a 32-pounder on a pivot, a 24-pounder howitzer, and a gun that had been at Fort Sumter. There were 200 rounds of ammunition, and according to several accounts there was a book of codes and signals that were currently in use by the Confederate Navy. Perhaps most importantly, there was Smalls himself, a true fount of information about Confederate defenses around Charleston harbor.

A couple of hours before dawn, the Planter started its engines and its paddle wheel began to turn. It pulled away from the wharf in plain site of the Confederate commanding general's headquarters, but nobody moved to stop it.

Over 1,000 speakers of Esperanto have been expected to gather this week at the 101st World Esperanto Congress in Slovakia to celebrate Tuesday as the 129th anniversary of the “birth” of the language, as July 26, 1887, marked the publication of the first Esperanto textbook by L.L. Zamenhof. The Polish doctor created the language, which is essentially a set of roots that can be turned into words with certain endings that create different parts of speech.

Though Esperanto can be seen as something of a punchline today, its origins can be found in serious world-historical matters.

Zamenhof identified the need for a “neutral tongue,” as TIME once called it, while growing up in Bialystok in northeastern Poland, home of a mostly Jewish population and a few main ethnic groups that were not communicating…. The wave of anti-Semitism underscored Zamenhof’s thinking that the world needed a single language that would make it possible for people to bridge gaps of religion or ethnicity.

It’s been nearly 50 years since British sailors stopped getting a daily ration of liquor.

On July 31, 1970 the British Royal Navy ended a centuries-old hallowed tradition: the issuing a daily dram of liquor to sailors aboard its ships. When the day arrived, sailors around the world gathered for a final tot, and the remnants of the barrels were ceremoniously dumped into the ocean.

Afterwards, the navy’s rum budget was diverted into providing other sort of entertainment for sailors. This included bus excursions, golf outings and equipment for discotheques.

The United States and its allies are waging an existential battle with Hitler in Europe. A letter arrives from the front: An American soldier misses his wife, his orchard, his hammock — and his beer.

 The soldier and his dream were invented by the United States Brewers’ Foundation. In 1944 the foundation coordinated an advertising campaign that made beer part of a tableau of national prosperity that would sustain morale during wartime.

 Beer was presented "as a commodified symbol of the ‘good life’ Americans were fighting to defend," wrote Lisa Jacobson, an associate professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, in a 2009 paper called "Beer Goes to War." The campaign was an effort by brewing companies to transform beer from a working-class vice to a "wholesome American domestic pastime."

 And it worked.

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