Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

 

Dear Readers,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the inspiring support you’ve shown me on Words To Captivate since February of this year. I have enjoyed bringing you my own blogs each day and sometimes blogs of friends that I follow. I appreciate all the comments I have received and I continue to learn from you.

I have decided to take a 2-3 week hiatus to recharge my intellectual and emotional batteries and to focus on where I wish to go with my writing. I need the time to reflect and to make some decisions so I won’t be haunting the Internet beginning tomorrow.

I wish you and your loved ones great blessings during and beyond this Holiday Season. I wish you peace, prosperity, and good health in 2018.

 

Sincerely,

John Fioravanti

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 23rd

* 1983 – Jeanne Sauvé named as Canada’s first female Governor General. * 1888 Van Gogh chops off ear. * 1968 Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea. * 1959 Chuck Berry is arrested on Mann Act charges in St. Louis, Missouri. * 1993 Hanks stars in first major Hollywood movie about AIDS.

It’s Saturday! Did You Know…

* 1983 – Jeanne Sauvé named as Canada’s first female Governor General.

Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé PC CC CMM CD (née Benoît) (April 26, 1922 – January 26, 1993) was a Canadian journalist, politician, and stateswoman. She was the first woman in Canadian history to become Governor General. She was a notable first female in a variety of additional positions, including Speaker of House the Commons, and was dedicated to the pursuit of peace and the advancement of youth.

Sauvé had been a long-time sufferer from cancer. In the weeks leading to her inauguration she unexpectedly became ill, and nearly died in the hospital. She made a surprising recovery, however, and was ultimately able to be sworn in on May 14, 1984, without delay.

Sauvé was a staunch advocate of issues surrounding youth and world peace, and the dove of peace is one of the elements incorporated into Sauvé’s coat-of-arms. Long before her vice-regal mandate, she worked as assistant to the Director of the Youth Secretariat of UNESCO, served as Secretary of the Canadian Committee for the World Assembly of Youth, and initiated and hosted a discussion show for youth. At Rideau Hall, she established two awards for students wishing to enter the field of special education for exceptional children. And at the end of her mandate, she established the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation, dedicated to the cause of youth excellence in Canada.

Sauvé’s concern for youth and peace were two of the three central themes of her mandate—the third was national unity. She traveled extensively, making her role as Governor General—a largely symbolic office—accessible to all Canadians. In her installation speech, she spoke about the need for Canadians to forgo a narrow sense of their nation and to become more tolerant. “This is the price of our happiness,” she said, “but happiness will never be found in the spirit of ‘every man for himself’.”

Sauvé was an honorary member of the Royal Military College of Canada Club H16929. Fort Sauvé at Royal Military College of Canada was named in her honor.

In 1986, Sauvé accepted on behalf of the “People of Canada” the Nansen Medal, a prestigious international humanitarian award which is given in recognition of major and sustained efforts made on behalf of refugees. This was the first time since the medal’s inception in 1954 that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees presented it to an entire population. The Nansen Medal is kept at Rideau Hall.

Sauvé’s enthusiasm for the value of sports led her to establish the Jeanne Sauvé Trophy for the world cup championship in women’s field hockey. She also created the Jeanne Sauvé Fair Play Award to recognize national amateur athletes who best demonstrate fair play and non-violence in sport. She also encouraged a safer society in Canada by establishing the Governor General’s Award for Safety in the Workplace.

Jeanne Sauve with her husband on Parliament Hill

* 1888 Van Gogh chops off ear.

On this day in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France. He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Today, Van Gogh is regarded as an artistic genius and his masterpieces sell for record-breaking prices; however, during his lifetime, he was a poster boy for tortured starving artists and sold only one painting.

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in the Netherlands. He had a difficult, nervous personality and worked unsuccessfully at an art gallery and then as a preacher among poor miners in Belgium. In 1880, he decided to become an artist. His work from this period–the most famous of which is The Potato Eaters (1885)–is dark and somber and reflective of the experiences he had among peasants and impoverished miners.

In 1886, Van Gogh moved to Paris where his younger brother Theo, with whom he was close, lived. Theo, an art dealer, supported his brother financially and introduced him to a number of artists, including Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. Influenced by these and other painters, Van Gogh’s own artistic style lightened up and he began using more color.

In 1888, Van Gogh rented a house in Arles in the south of France, where he hoped to found an artists’ colony and be less of a burden to his brother. In Arles, Van Gogh painted vivid scenes from the countryside as well as still-lifes, including his famous sunflower series. Gauguin came to stay with him in Arles and the two men worked together for almost two months. However, tensions developed and on December 23, in a fit of dementia, Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before turning it on himself and mutilating his earlobe. Afterward, he allegedly wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby brothel. Following that incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in Arles and then checked himself into a mental institution in Saint-Remy for a year. During his stay in Saint-Remy, he fluctuated between periods of madness and intense creativity, in which he produced some of his best and most well-known works, including Starry Night and Irises.

In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where he continued to be plagued by despair and loneliness. On July 27, 1890, he shot himself and died two days later at age 37.

Van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear
Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear

* 1968 Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea.

The crew and captain of the U.S. intelligence gathering ship Pueblo are released after 11 months imprisonment by the government of North Korea. The ship and its 83-man crew were seized by North Korean warships on January 23 and charged with intruding into North Korean waters.

The seizure infuriated U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. Later, he claimed that he strongly suspected (although it could not be proven) that the incident with the Pueblo, coming just a few days before the communist Tet Offensive in South Vietnam, was a coordinated diversion. At the time, however, Johnson did little. The Tet Offensive, which began just a week after the ship was taken by North Korea, exploded on the front pages and televisions of America and seemed to paralyze the Johnson administration. To deal with the Pueblo incident, the United States urged the U.N.’s Security Council to condemn the action and pressured the Soviet Union to negotiate with the North Koreans for the ship’s release.

It was 11 long months before the Pueblo‘s men were freed. Both captain and crew were horribly treated and later recounted their torture at the hands of the North Koreans. With no help in sight, Captain Lloyd Bucher reluctantly signed a document confessing that the ship was spying on North Korea. With this propaganda victory in hand, the North Koreans released the prisoners and also returned the body of one crewman who died in captivity. Some Americans criticized Johnson for not taking decisive retaliatory action against North Korea; others argued that he should have used every diplomatic means at his disposal to secure a quick release for the crew. In any case, the event was another blow to Johnson and America’s Cold War foreign policy.

Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea on December 23, 1968
Crew of USS Pueblo released by North Korea on December 23, 1968 (Old Sailors Almanac)

* 1959 Chuck Berry is arrested on Mann Act charges in St. Louis, Missouri.

On December 23, 1959, Chuck Berry is arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, on charges relating to his transportation of a 14-year-old girl across state lines for allegedly “immoral purposes.”

“Never saw a man so changed,” is how the great Carl Perkins described the experience of touring England in 1964 alongside Chuck Berry. “He had been an easygoing guy before, the kinda guy who’d jam in dressing rooms, sit and swap licks and jokes. [But] in England he was cold, real distant and bitter.” The “before” to which Perkins referred was the four-year period from 1956 to 1959, when Berry established his reputation as one of rock and roll’s founding fathers, not only turning out such classic hits as “Maybellene” and “Johnny B. Goode,” but also establishing the very template that nearly every rock and roll guitarist after him would follow. What had changed Chuck Berry, in Perkins’ opinion, was partly the long, hard grind of years and years of one-night-only live performances, but, as Perkins also said, “I figure it was mostly jail.” Between 1960 and 1963, the man who helped invent rock and roll spent 20 months in federal prison following his conviction on charges of violating the Mann Act.

The Mann Act is the common name for a piece of federal legislation originally known as the United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910. Though intended as a tool for cracking down on organized prostitution, the vague language of the Mann Act regarding the transportation of women for “immoral purposes” rendered its provisions broadly unenforceable. It has been selectively applied in various high-profile cases over time, however—most famously in Berry’s and in that of the heavyweight boxing great Jack Johnson.

In Berry’s case, the Mann Act charges stemmed from what Berry contended was his offer of legitimate employment in his St. Louis nightclub to a girl he had met in a bar in Juarez, Mexico. Three weeks after being fired from Berry’s nightclub, 14-year-old Janice Norine Escalanti took a different story to the St. Louis police, and Berry was arrested two days later, on this day in 1959.

Berry’s defense was not found credible by the all-male, all-white jury at his first trial, and he was convicted on March 11, 1960, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Although he would have his conviction vacated and a new trial ordered by a Federal Appeals Court in October 1960 due to disparaging racial comments made by the judge in his original trial, Berry would be convicted again on retrial in March 1961 and serve the better part of the next two years in prison.

Chuck Berry on stage
Chuck Berry (nodepression.com)

* 1993 Hanks stars in first major Hollywood movie about AIDS.

On this day in 1993, Philadelphia, starring the actor Tom Hanks in the first major Hollywood movie to focus on the subject of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), opens in theaters. In the film, Hanks played Andrew Beckett, a gay attorney who is unjustly fired from his job because he suffers from AIDS. Denzel Washington co-starred as Joe Miller, a homophobic personal-injury lawyer who takes on Beckett’s case and comes to terms with his own misconceptions about gay people and the disease.

Directed by Jonathan Demme (Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs) and featuring Antonio Banderas as Beckett’s boyfriend, Jason Robards as his boss and Joanne Woodward as his mother, Philadelphia was nominated for five Academy Awards and collected Oscars for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Song (Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia”). During his Academy Award acceptance speech, Hanks thanked his high school drama teacher and a fellow classmate, calling them, “two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age.” Prior to Philadelphia, only a handful of smaller films, such as 1986’s Parting Glances and 1990’s Longtime Companion, had dealt with AIDS, which emerged as an epidemic in the early 1980s and was initially heavily stigmatized because it was perceived as a disease of gay people and drug users.

Before making Philadelphia, Hanks, who was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California, co-starred in the 1980s TV sitcom Bosom Buddies and rose to fame on the big screen with roles in Splash! (1984) and Big (1988), for which he received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Hanks followed his Best Actor win for Philadelphia with a second Best Actor Oscar for his performance in 1994’s Forrest Gump, in which he played a good-hearted man with a low I.Q. who winds up at the center of key cultural and historical events during the second half of the 20th century. With Forrest Gump, Hanks became only the second man, after Spencer Tracy, to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars.

 

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in "Philadelphia."
Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in “Philadelphia.” (Time Out)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* New World Encyclopedia                                                      http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jeanne_Sauv%C3%A9

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/    

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 22nd

* 1902 – Peter Verigin arrives in Yorkton to lead the Doukhobors after 15 years in Siberian exile. * 1956 First gorilla born in captivity. * 1849 Dostoevsky reprieved at last minute. * 1894 Dreyfus affair begins in France. * 1971 Waldheim elected U.N. secretary-general.

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1902 – Peter Verigin arrives in Yorkton to lead the Doukhobors after 15 years in Siberian exile.

Emerging as the recognized leader of the Christian sect after an internal power struggle, Verigin was banished by Russian authorities to Siberia for some 15 years, but retained influence over his followers from afar. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… December 22nd”

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 21st

* 1968 – Parliament passes Health Minister Allan MacEachen’s Medical Care Act. * 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Scotland. * 1991 Soviet republics proclaim the Commonwealth of Independent States. * 1958 De Gaulle elected. * 1970 Nixon meets Elvis Presley.

It’s Thursday & the Winter Solstice! Did You Know…

* 1968 – Parliament passes Health Minister Allan MacEachen’s Medical Care Act.

The first implementation of public hospital care in Canada came at the provincial level in Saskatchewan in 1947 and in Alberta in 1950, under provincial governments led by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the Social Credit party respectively. The first implementation of nationalized public health care -at the federal level- came about with the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act (HIDS), which was passed by the Liberal majority government of Louis St. Laurent in 1957, and was adopted by all provinces by 1961. Lester B. Pearson’s government subsequently expanded this policy to universal health care with the Medical Care Act in 1966. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… December 21st”

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 20th

* 1861 – Britain Arms Canada During the Trent Affair. * 1957 Elvis Presley is drafted. * 1946 The French crack down on Vietnamese rebels. * 1989 The U.S. invades Panama. * 1995 NATO assumes peacekeeping duties in Bosnia.

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1861 – Britain Arms Canada During the Trent Affair.

The Trent Affair was the most serious diplomatic crisis between Britain and the US federal government during the American Civil War. On 8 Nov 1861 Capt Charles Wilkes of the Northern navy stopped the Trent, a British merchantman and mail packet, in neutral waters between Havana, Cuba, and London, to take captive two Confederate emissaries to London and Paris. In both Britain and British North America news of the seizure (and violation of British neutrality) was greeted by demands for apologies from the US and for its surrender of the diplomats.

War appeared possible between Britain and the North, with Canada bound to be a battleground, and colonial and provincial officials conferred about how best to defend Canada. When British troops, sent to reinforce the meager border garrisons, had to cross through Maine to reach Canada, Canadian leaders recognized Canada’s vulnerability. The crisis passed. The North returned the Confederate commissioners, but without apology, on Dec 26.

Political cartoon about the Trent Affair, during the American Civil War,
(Alamy)

* 1957 Elvis Presley is drafted.

On this day in 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army.

With a suggestive style–one writer called him “Elvis the Pelvis”–a hit movie, Love Me Tender, and a string of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley had become a national icon, and the world’s first bona fide rock-and-roll star, by the end of 1956. As the Beatles’ John Lennon once famously remarked: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” The following year, at the peak of his career, Presley received his draft notice for a two-year stint in the army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment–during which he finished working on his movie King Creole–before being sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958.

After six months of basic training–including an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant. For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends. After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and his most famous client fresh in the public’s mind. Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960.

Despite being a worldwide star, Elvis was called up to do military service.
Despite being a worldwide star, Elvis was called up to do military service. (nydailynews.com)

* 1946 The French crack down on Vietnamese rebels.

The morning after Viet Minh forces under Ho Chi Minh launched a night revolt in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, French colonial troops crack down on the communist rebels. Ho and his soldiers immediately fled the city to regroup in the countryside. That evening, the communist leader issued a proclamation that read: “All the Vietnamese must stand up to fight the French colonials to save the fatherland. Those who have rifles will use their rifles; those who have swords will use their swords; those who have no swords will use spades, hoes, or sticks. Everyone must endeavor to oppose the colonialists and save his country. Even if we have to endure hardship in the resistance war, with the determination to make sacrifices, victory will surely be ours.” The First Indochina War had begun.

Born in Hoang Tru, Vietnam, in 1890, Ho Chi Minh left his homeland in 1911 as a cook on a French steamer. After several years as a seaman, he lived in London and then moved to France, where he became a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920. He later traveled to the Soviet Union, where he studied revolutionary tactics and took an active role in the Communist International. In 1924, he went to China, where he set about organizing exiled Vietnamese communists. Expelled by China in 1927, he traveled extensively before returning to Vietnam in 1941.

There, he organized a Vietnamese guerrilla organization–the Viet Minh–to fight for Vietnamese independence. Japan occupied French Indochina in 1940 and collaborated with French officials loyal to France’s Vichy regime. Ho, meanwhile, made contact with the Allies and aided operations against the Japanese in South China. In early 1945, Japan ousted the French administration in Vietnam and executed numerous French officials.

When Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh felt emboldened enough to declare the independence of Vietnam from France. French forces seized southern Vietnam and opened talks with the Vietnamese communists in the north. Negotiations collapsed in November 1946, and French warships bombarded the northern Vietnamese city of Haiphong, killing thousands. In response, the Viet Minh launched an attack against the French in Hanoi in December 1946. The French quickly struck back, and Ho and his followers found refuge in a remote area of northern Vietnam. The Viet Minh, undefeated and widely supported by the Vietnamese people, waged an increasingly effective guerrilla war against the French.

The conflict stretched on for eight years, with Mao Zedong’s Chinese communists supporting the Viet Minh, and the United States aiding the French and anti-communist Vietnamese forces. In 1954, the French suffered a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu, in northwest Vietnam, prompting peace negotiations and the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel at a conference in Geneva. Vietnam was divided into northern and southern regions, with Ho in command of North Vietnam and Emperor Bao Dai in control of South Vietnam.

In the late 1950s, Ho Chi Minh organized a communist guerrilla movement in the South, called the Viet Cong. North Vietnam and the Viet Cong successfully opposed a series of ineffectual U.S.-backed South Vietnam regimes and beginning in 1964 withstood a decade-long military intervention by the United States, known as the Vietnam War in America but also called the Second Indochina War.

Ho Chi Minh died on September 2, 1969, 25 years after declaring Vietnam’s independence from France and nearly six years before his forces succeeded in reuniting North and South Vietnam under communist rule. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after it came under the control of the communists in 1975.

Dien Bien Phu Battle In Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam In May, 1954-French troops surrendering to the Vietminh forces. May 7, 1954.
Dien Bien Phu Battle In Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam In May, 1954-French troops surrendering to the Vietminh forces. May 7, 1954.

* 1989 The U.S. invades Panama.

The United States invades Panama in an attempt to overthrow military dictator Manuel Noriega, who had been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges and was accused of suppressing democracy in Panama and endangering U.S. nationals. Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) were promptly crushed, forcing the dictator to seek asylum with the Vatican nuncio in Panama City, where he surrendered on January 3, 1990.

In 1970, Noriega, a rising figure in the Panamanian military, was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to assist in the U.S. struggle against the spread of communism in Central America. Noriega became involved in drug trafficking and in 1977 was removed from the CIA payroll. After the Marxist Sandinista government came to power in 1979, Noriega was brought back into the CIA fold. In 1983, he becomes military dictator of Panama.

Noriega supported U.S. initiatives in Central America and in turn was praised by the White House, even though a Senate committee concluded in 1983 that Panama was a major center for drug trafficking. In 1984, Noriega committed fraud in Panama’s presidential election in favor of Nicolás Ardito Barletta, who became a puppet president. Still, Noriega enjoyed the continued support of the Reagan administration, which valued his aid in its efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.

In 1986, just months before the outbreak of the Iran-Contra affair, allegations arose concerning Noriega’s history as a drug trafficker, money launderer, and CIA employee. Most shocking, however, were reports that Noriega had acted as a double agent for Cuba’s intelligence agency and the Sandinistas. The U.S. government disowned Noriega, and in 1988 he was indicted by federal grand juries in Tampa and Miami on drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges.

Tensions between Americans in the Panama Canal Zone and Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Forces grew, and in 1989 the dictator annulled a presidential election that would have made Guillermo Endara president. President George H. Bush ordered additional U.S. troops to the Panama Canal Zone, and on December 16 an off-duty U.S. Marine was shot to death at a PDF roadblock. The next day, President Bush authorized “Operation Just Cause”–the U.S. invasion of Panama to overthrow Noriega.

On December 20, 9,000 U.S. troops joined the 12,000 U.S. military personnel already in Panama and were met with scattered resistance from the PDF. By December 24, the PDF was crushed, and the United States held most of the country. Endara was made president by U.S. forces, and he ordered the PDF dissolved. On January 3, Noriega was arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents.

The U.S. invasion of Panama cost the lives of only 23 U.S. soldiers and three U.S. civilians. Some 150 PDF soldiers were killed along with an estimated 500 Panamanian civilians. The Organization of American States and the European Parliament both formally protested the invasion, which they condemned as a flagrant violation of international law.

In 1992, Noriega was found guilty on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering, marking the first time in history that a U.S. jury convicted a foreign leader of criminal charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison, but after extradition to and incarceration in Panama died in a Panama City hospital on May 29, 2017.

US soldiers ride on a tank and position themselves to secure a neighborhood from Panamanian army.
US soldiers ride on a tank and position themselves to secure a neighborhood from Panamanian army. (Roger M. Richards)

* 1995 NATO assumes peacekeeping duties in Bosnia.

During a brief military ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, French General Bernard Janvier, head of the United Nations peacekeeping force, formally transfers military authority in Bosnia to U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Southern Europe.

The solemn ceremony cleared the path for the deployment of 60,000 NATO troops to enforce the Dayton Peace Accords, signed in Paris by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia on December 14. The U.S.-backed peace plan was proposed during talks in Dayton, Ohio, earlier in the year and was reluctantly accepted by the last of the belligerent parties in November, ending four years of bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which cost more than 200,000 lives.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia began in early 1992, shortly after the war erupted over efforts by the Bosnian Serbs to achieve independence from Bosnia-Herzegovina and unite with Serbia. Although the U.N. force was crucial in distributing humanitarian aid to the impoverished population of Bosnia, it was unable to stop the fighting. Approximately 25,000 U.N. peacekeepers served in Bosnia over three and a half years, and during that time 110 of those were killed, 831 wounded, and hundreds taken hostage.

The NATO force, with its strong U.S. support and focused aim of enforcing the Dayton agreement, was more successful in bringing stability to the war-torn region.

NATO's commitment to a stable and secure Bosnia and Herzegovina was enshrined in the Dayton accords 20 years ago and remains intact today.
NATO’s commitment to a stable and secure Bosnia and Herzegovina was enshrined in the Dayton accords 20 years ago and remains intact today. (NATO)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                                  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/trent-affair/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/                          

Darkness Defines the Light – Guest Post by, Tina Frisco…

Tina Frisco is featured as a guest on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog and gifts us with a beautifully written description of the roles of light and darkness in our growth journey. Please share…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Image courtesy of Ningren

Without darkness, light would have no definition. Without evil, good would never be challenged to expand. Without definition and challenge, there would be no growth. Without growth, our spirits would not evolve.

Many indigenous peoples say the Earth is a schoolhouse and we incarnate here in order to learn. This makes sense only if we view the spirit as separate from the corporeal. If we do, then advancing to higher consciousness and an elevated spiritual plane holds great promise for human transcendence.

The Earth is a bipolar planet. Since all matter converts to energy, we can infer that our lessons will be of a bipolar nature. Darkness and evil are not, in and of themselves, our enemies. When we set up something as the enemy, we constrict and lose all prospect of growth. When we see adversity as our ally, our growth potential expands and accelerates.

View original post 535 more words

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 19th

* 2012 – Chris Hadfield blasts off to serve as first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. * 1998 President Clinton impeached. * 1972 Last lunar-landing mission ends. * 1984 Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China. * 1997 Titanic sails into theaters.

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 2012 – Chris Hadfield blasts off to serve as first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.

Chris Austin Hadfield OC OOnt MSC CD (born 29 August 1959) is a retired Canadian astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space. An engineer and former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, Hadfield has flown two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station.

Hadfield, who was raised on a farm in southern Ontario, was inspired as a child when he watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing on TV. He attended high school in Oakville and Milton and earned his glider pilot licence as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces and earned an engineering degree at Royal Military College. While in the military he learned to fly various types of aircraft and eventually became a test pilot and flew several experimental planes. As part of an exchange program with the United States Navy and United States Air Force, he obtained a master’s degree in aviation systems at the University of Tennessee Space Institute.

In 1992, he was accepted into the Canadian astronaut program by the Canadian Space Agency. He first flew in space aboard STS-74 in November 1995 as a mission specialist. During the mission, he visited the Russian space station Mir. In April 2001 he flew again on STS-100 and visited the International Space Station (ISS), where he walked in space and helped to install the Canadarm2.

In December 2012 he flew for a third time aboard Soyuz TMA-07M and joined Expedition 34 on the ISS. He was a member of this expedition until March 2013 when he became the commander of the ISS as part of Expedition 35. He was responsible for a crew of five astronauts and helped to run dozens of scientific experiments dealing with the impact of low gravity on human biology. During the mission, he also gained popularity by chronicling life aboard the space station and taking pictures of the earth and posting them through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Tumblr to a large following of people around the world. He was a guest on television news and talk shows and gained popularity by playing the International Space Station’s guitar in space. His mission ended in May 2013 when he returned to earth. Shortly after returning, he announced his retirement, capping a 35-year career as a military pilot and an astronaut.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to serve as commander of the ISS, plays his guitar in space.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to serve as commander of the ISS.

* 1998 President Clinton impeached.

After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term.

In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over the course of a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the relationship over, Tripp began secretly to record conversations with Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky gave Tripp details about the affair.

In December, lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing the president on sexual harassment charges, subpoenaed Lewinsky. In January 1998, allegedly under the recommendation of the president, Lewinsky filed an affidavit in which she denied ever having had a sexual relationship with him. Five days later, Tripp contacted the office of Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, to talk about Lewinsky and the tapes she made of their conversations. Tripp, wired by FBI agents working with Starr, met with Lewinsky again, and on January 16, Lewinsky was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel room where she was questioned and offered immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution. A few days later, the story broke, and Clinton publicly denied the allegations, saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”

In late July, lawyers for Lewinsky and Starr worked out a full immunity agreement covering both Lewinsky and her parents, all of whom Starr had threatened with prosecution. On August 6, Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury to begin her testimony, and on August 17 President Clinton testified. Contrary to his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case, President Clinton acknowledged to prosecutors from the office of the independent counsel that he had had an extramarital affair with Ms. Lewinsky.

In four hours of closed-door testimony, conducted in the Map Room of the White House, Clinton spoke live via closed-circuit television to a grand jury in a nearby federal courthouse. He was the first sitting president ever to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That evening, President Clinton also gave a four-minute televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In the brief speech, which was wrought with legalisms, the word “sex” was never spoken, and the word “regret” was used only in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family.

Less than a month later, on September 9, Kenneth Starr submitted his report and 18 boxes of supporting documents to the House of Representatives. Released to the public two days later, the Starr Report outlined a case for impeaching Clinton on 11 grounds, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering, and abuse of power, and also provided explicit details of the sexual relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky. On October 8, the House authorized a wide-ranging impeachment inquiry, and on December 11, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. On December 19, the House impeached Clinton.

On January 7, 1999, in a congressional procedure not seen since the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the trial of President Clinton got underway in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (William Rehnquist at this time) was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors.

Five weeks later, on February 12, the Senate voted on whether to remove Clinton from office. The president was acquitted on both articles of impeachment. The prosecution needed a two-thirds majority to convict but failed to achieve even a bare majority. Rejecting the first charge of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “not guilty,” and on the charge of obstruction of justice, the Senate was split 50-50. After the trial concluded, President Clinton said he was “profoundly sorry” for the burden his behavior imposed on Congress and the American people.

A photograph showing intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton that was submitted as evidence by the Starr investigation in 1998. Getty Images
A photograph showing intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton that was submitted as evidence by the Starr investigation in 1998. Getty Images

* 1972 Last lunar-landing mission ends.

The Apollo lunar-landing program ends on December 19, 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 days before.

In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11. From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions, and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene A. Cernan makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity
Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene A. Cernan makes a short checkout of the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (nasa.gov)

* 1984 Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China.

In the Hall of the People in Beijing, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang sign an agreement committing Britain to return Hong Kong to China in 1997 in return for terms guaranteeing a 50-year extension of its capitalist system. Hong Kong–a small peninsula and group of islands jutting out from China’s Kwangtung province–was leased by China to Great Britain in 1898 for 99 years.

In 1839, in the First Opium War, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic, social, and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British with the signing of the Convention of Chuenpi, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War. At the end of the Second Opium War (1856-1860), China was forced to cede the Kowloon Peninsula, adjacent to Hong Kong Island, along with other area islands.

Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. On July 1, 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over the Hong Kong colony under the Second Convention of Peking. Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese from 1941 to 1944 during World War II but remained in British hands throughout the various Chinese political upheavals of the 20th century.

On December 19, 1984, after years of negotiations, British and Chinese leaders signed a formal pact approving the 1997 turnover of the colony in exchange for the formulation of a “one country, two systems” policy by China’s communist government. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called the agreement “a landmark in the life of the territory, in the course of Anglo-Chinese relations, and in the history of international diplomacy.” Hu Yaobang, the Chinese Communist Party’s secretary-general, called the signing “a red-letter day, an occasion of great joy” for China’s one billion people.

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous international dignitaries, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand citizens of Hong Kong protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful. The chief executive of the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, did enact a policy based upon the concept of one country, two systems, thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang (CNN.com)

* 1997 Titanic sails into theaters.

On this day in 1997, director James Cameron’s epic drama Titanic, the story of the real-life luxury ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew, opens in theaters; it will go on to become the highest-grossing movie in history. Titanic catapulted its young stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to international fame and won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Music (for the song “My Heart Will Go On,” sung by Celine Dion). The film also immortalized the line “I’m the king of the world!”–which Cameron famously repeated during the Oscar ceremony, as he picked up his gold statuette for Best Director.

Titanic centers around a love story, between Rose (Winslet), the reluctant bride-to-be of a rich snob, and Jack (DiCaprio), a working-class adventurer and artist. Although Rose and Jack are fictional, the main events and details of film are largely historically accurate and some of the characters in Titanic are based on real people–including the American millionaire John Jacob Astor and “new-money” socialite Molly Brown–who were onboard the supership on the night of April 14, 1912, when it went down in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

James Cameron, who also penned the Titanic screenplay, reportedly spent months researching the story of the luxury liner. In 1995, he hired two Russian submersibles and conducted a series of dives to shoot interior and exterior footage at the Titanic wreckage site, located off the coast of Nova Scotia. Much of Titanic was shot at a studio custom-built for Cameron near Rosarito Beach in Baja California, Mexico. A 770-foot replica of the Titanic was constructed and held in a 17 million-gallon tank. Manufacturers involved in producing supplies and furnishings for the original Titanic were reportedly consulted during construction of the replica, which was almost as large as the actual 10-story, 882-foot supership. Cameron’s quest to tell the story accurately was a massive undertaking and the project reportedly cost over $200 million, making it one of the most expensive in movie history.

Cameron, born on August 16, 1954, had his first major hit as the writer and director of 1984’s The Terminator, the movie that turned star Arnold Schwarzenegger into a household name. The famously temperamental Cameron went on to helm such hits as Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1992), True Lies (1994) and Avatar (2009).

DiCaprio, who was born on November 11, 1974, began his acting career as a teen, appearing on TV’s Growing Pains and going on to co-star in such films as This Boy’s Life (1993), with Robert De Niro; What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination; and Romeo + Juliet (1996), with Claire Danes. Following Titanic, DiCaprio collaborated with director Martin Scorsese on Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), which earned DiCaprio a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Howard Hughes, and The Departed (2006). Among DiCaprio’s other movies are director Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can (2002) and Blood Diamond (2006), for which he received a second Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Winslet, born on October 5, 1975, in Reading, England, made her big-screen debut in 1994’s Heavenly Creatures and earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for 1995’s Sense and Sensibility. She went on to receive Oscar nominations for Titanic, 2001’s Iris, 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2006’s Little Children and 2008’s The Reader, for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress.

Movie scene: Jack and Rose on the bow of Titanic
(Haunted Theater)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                                                                                             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Hadfield

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 18th

* 1813 – Col John Murray and 562 troops cross the river to capture Old Fort Niagara. * 1620 Mayflower docks at Plymouth Harbor. * 1912 Piltdown Man discovered. * 1878 The death of Molly-ism. * 1961 The Tokens earn a #1 hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1813 – Col John Murray and 562 troops cross the river to capture Old Fort Niagara.

Fort Niagara was an important American post near the outlet of the Niagara River into Lake Ontario. During the early days of the war, it was involved in several exchanges of artillery fire against the British at Fort George on the other side of the river.

On 27 May 1813, the Americans won the Battle of Fort George. This left Fort George in their hands, and they briefly captured the entire Niagara peninsula, but they were then driven back to a narrow enclave around Fort George. Later during the year, almost all the regular soldiers on the Niagara front were redeployed to Sacket’s Harbor to take part in an attack down the Saint Lawrence River against Montreal. They had briefly been replaced by regulars from the western theatre under William Henry Harrison, but in November these too had been ordered to march to protect Sacket’s Harbor, which had been stripped of troops to furnish the Montreal expedition. This left Brigadier General George McClure of the New York militia with only 60 regulars, 40 volunteers from the New York militia and 100 Canadian Volunteers (renegades fighting for the United States) to hold Fort George.

In late 1813, Major General Francis de Rottenburg, the British Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, had been alarmed by defeats in the west (the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames) and American concentrations to the east. On 9 October he ordered the troops on the Niagara peninsula to retreat hastily to Burlington Heights at the western end of Lake Ontario. He intended to abandon even this position and concentrate his forces at Kingston but during the first week in December, de Rottenburg was replaced by the more forceful Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond. Drummond was aware that the American attack on Montreal had been defeated, leaving the American Army stranded in poorly-supplied winter quarters in Upper New York State. He immediately canceled de Rottenburg’s plans for further retreat and ordered the units at Burlington Heights to advance instead.

On 10 December, McClure learned of this advance. He had despaired of receiving any reinforcements and decided his position was untenable. He hastily evacuated his troops to Fort Niagara. The artillery could not be withdrawn from Fort George and was thrown into the ditch surrounding the fort.

Earlier in the year, the United States Secretary of War, John Armstrong, had given permission to destroy the nearby village of Newark if it became necessary to prevent British troops finding cover close to Fort George. The inhabitants were to be given several days’ notice, and care was to be taken that they were not to be left destitute.[6] As the Americans abandoned Fort George, McClure gave the order to burn down the village with only two hours warning, leaving the inhabitants without shelter or possessions in the depths of winter. Part of the village of Queenston was also torched. It was alleged that the pro-American Canadian Volunteers performed most of the destruction.

This action was undoubtedly contrary to the conventions which governed warfare at the time, although several similar acts had already been committed by both sides during the war. The burning of Newark was to be the pretext for the British to carry out several outrages later.

On the night of 18 December, a force consisting of the 100th Foot, the grenadier company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots, and the grenadier and light companies of the 41st Foot, with some small detachments of militia and Holcroft’s Company, 4th Battalion Royal Artillery (now known as 52 (Niagara) Battery Royal Artillery), crossed the river 3 miles (4.8 km) above Fort Niagara. The force numbered 562 and was under the command of Colonel John Murray, the commanding officer of the 100th Foot. They were equipped with axes and scaling ladders and under orders to use the bayonet so as not to lose the advantage of surprise.

They captured American pickets posted in the village of Youngstown, the men having been trying to stay warm instead of keeping watch. One of the prisoners was forced to reveal the American challenge and password. The British force then advanced silently towards the fort. An advance party of some artillerymen and the grenadier company of the 100th under a lieutenant and a sergeant approached the gate, where the sergeant affected an accent from the southern American states and confused the guard long enough to gain entry. By the time the defenders became aware of the deception, it was too late to stop the British from rushing in.

Resistance came mainly from two buildings, the South Redoubt and the Red Barracks, which was being used as a hospital. Some of the defenders barricaded themselves inside the South Redoubt of the fort and held off repeated attempts to break into the building. However, when they refused demands that they surrender, the British commander offered no quarter to the defenders. When the attackers forced their way into the building, the infamous order was given to “Bayonet the whole”.

Fort Niagara in winter.
Fort Niagara in winter. (history-uniforms.over-blog.com)

* 1620 Mayflower docks at Plymouth Harbor.

On December 18, 1620, the British ship Mayflower docked at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers prepared to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.

The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers–heads of families, single men, and three male servants–signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them from docking until December 18. After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease. That winter of 1620-1621 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops–especially corn and beans–that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.

Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony.

'Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor' (1882), oil painting by William Halsall
‘Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor’ (1882), oil painting by William Halsall (walkingwithancestors.blogspot.com)

* 1912 Piltdown Man discovered.

After three years of digging in the Piltdown gravel pit in Sussex, England, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson announces the discovery of two skulls that appear to belong to a primitive hominid and ancestor of man, along with a canine tooth, a tool carved from an elephant’s tusk, and fossil teeth from a number of prehistoric animals.

Despite muted criticism from a minority of paleontologists, the majority of the scientific community hailed the so-called Piltdown Man as the missing evolutionary link between ape and man. The remains were estimated to be up to a million years old. For the next decade, scientists heralded the finding of Eoanthropus dawsoni, or “Dawson’s Dawn-man” in Latin, as confirmation of Darwin’s still-controversial theory of human evolution.

In the 1920s and ’30s, however, the Piltdown gravels were found to be much less ancient than believed, and other finds of human ancestors around the world seemed to call the authenticity of the Piltdown Man into question. In 1953, at an international congress of paleontologists, the Piltdown Man was first openly called a fraud. An intensive study of the remains showed that they were made up of a modern human cranium–no more than 600 years old; the jaw and teeth of an orangutan; and the tooth of a chimpanzee. Microscopic tests indicated that the teeth had been doctored with a file-like tool to make them seem more human. Scientists also found that the bones had been treated with chemicals to make them appear older. Other fossils found in the Piltdown quarry proved to be authentic but of types not found in Britain.

The person who orchestrated the hoax never came forward, but in 1996 a trunk in storage at the British Museum was found to contain fossils treated in the exact same manner as the Piltdown remains. The trunk bore the initials M.A.C.H., which seemed to suggest that Martin A.C. Hinton, a volunteer at the British Museum in 1912 and later a curator of zoology at the institution, was likely the culprit. Some theorized that he was attempting to embarrass Arthur Smith Woodward, curator of the British Museum’s paleontology department because Woodward had refused Hinton’s request for a weekly pay raise.

Dawson (left) and Smith-Woodward search for more bones, Illustrated London News Piltdown
Dawson (left) and Smith-Woodward search for more bones, Illustrated London News Piltdown (History Today)

* 1878 The death of Molly-ism.

John Kehoe, the last of the Molly Maguires, is executed in Pennsylvania. The Molly Maguires, an Irish secret society that had allegedly been responsible for some incidences of vigilante justice in the coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania, defended their actions as attempts to protect exploited Irish-American workers. In fact, they are often regarded as one of the first organized labor groups.

In the first five years of the Irish potato blight that began in 1845, 500,000 immigrants came to the United States from Ireland–nearly half of all immigrants to the U.S. during those years. The tough economic circumstances facing the immigrants led many Irish men to the anthracite (hard coal) fields in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. Miners worked under dangerous conditions and were severely underpaid. Small towns owned by the mining companies further exploited workers by charging rent for company housing. In response to these abuses, secret societies like the Molly Maguires sprung up, leading sporadic terrorist campaigns to settle worker/owner disputes.

Industry owners became increasingly concerned about the threat posed by the Molly Maguires. Franklin B. Gowen, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to infiltrate the secret society and find evidence that could be used against them. James McParlan, who later became the most celebrated private detective of the era, took the high-risk assignment and went undercover within the organization. For more than two years, he established his place in the Molly Maguires and built trust among his fellow members.

Eventually, several Molly Maguires confessed their roles in the murder to McParlan. When he was finally pulled out of the society in February 1876, the detective’s information led to the arrest and conviction of 19 men.

In June 1877, 10 Molly Maguires were hanged on a single day. In December of the following year, Kehoe was arrested and hanged for the 1862 murder of Frank W.S. Langdon, a mine foreman, despite the fact that it was widely believed he was wrongly accused and not actually responsible for anyone’s death. Although the governor of Pennsylvania believed Kehoe’s innocence, he signed the death warrant anyway. Kehoe’s hanging at the gallows was officially hailed as “the Death of Molly-ism.”

Though the deaths of the vigilante Molly Maguires helped quell the activity of the secret society, the increased assimilation of the Irish into mainstream society and their upward mobility out of the coal jobs was the real reason that protective secret societies like the Molly Maguires eventually faded into obscurity.

Illustration entitled 'THE MARCH TO DEATH,' depicting Molly Maguire members on the way to the gallows in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Undated engraving.
Illustration entitled ‘THE MARCH TO DEATH,’ depicting Molly Maguire members on the way to the gallows in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Undated engraving. (gettyimages.com)

* 1961 The Tokens earn a #1 hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

The song that topped the Billboard pop chart on December 18, 1961, was an instant classic that went on to become one of the most successful pop songs of all time, yet its true originator saw only a tiny fraction of the song’s enormous profits.

The story begins in Johannesburg, South Africa, where in 1938, a group of Zulu singers and dancers called Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds stepped into the first recording studio ever set up in sub-Saharan Africa and recorded a song called “Mbube”—Zulu for “the lion.” “Mbube” was a regional hit, and it helped make Solomon Linda into a South African star. But the story might have ended there had a copy of the record not made its way to New York City in the early 1950s, where it was saved from the slush pile at Decca Records by the legendary folklorist Alan Lomax. Without actually hearing any of the records in a box sent from Africa, Lomax thought a friend of his might be interested in the box’s contents. That friend was the folksinger, Pete Seeger.

Unable to understand the lyrics of “Mbube,” Seeger transcribed the central chant as “Wimoweh,” and that became the name of the song as recorded by the Weavers and released in early 1952, just as the group was about to be blacklisted thanks to the McCarthy hearings. Eventually, Jay Siegel, the teenage lead singer of the Tokens, would hear and fall in love with “Wimoweh” through the Kingston Trio’s cover version of the Weavers’ song. The Tokens’ label commissioned English-language lyrics for the song, which was re-titled “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and went on to become not just a #1 song on this day in 1961, but one of the most-covered, most successful pop songs of all time.

In an excellent article for Rolling Stone magazine in 2000, South African journalist Rian Malan followed both the music and the money associated with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” exposing the sequence of business arrangements that ended up making millions for a handful of prominent U.S. music publishers while yielding only a $1,000 personal check from Pete Seeger to Solomon Linda during Linda’s lifetime. Because his composition was treated as public-domain “folk” material by Seeger and by the subsequent writer of the English-language lyrics in the Tokens’ version, Linda never participated in the royalty stream generated by either “Wimoweh” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” And prior to reaching an undisclosed settlement in 2006, his heirs received only a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars they might have been due had Linda retained his songwriting credit on what Malan rightly calls “The most famous melody ever to emerge from Africa.”

Ad showing a sleeping lion with caption: "At any given time, the urge to sing 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' is just a whim away... a whim away, a whim away, a whim away..."
(Imgrum)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                                                                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_Fort_Niagara

John’s Believe It Or Not… December 17th

* 1917 – Khaki Election – Borden Unionists defeat Laurier Liberals 153 seats to 82. * 1903 First airplane flies. * 1843 A Christmas Carol is published. * 1944 U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans. * 1975 “Squeaky” Fromme sentenced to life.

It’s Sunday! Did You Know…

* 1917 – Khaki Election – Borden Unionists defeat Laurier Liberals 153 seats to 82.

After the Battle of the Somme, Canada was in desperate need to replenish its supply of soldiers; however, there were very few volunteers to replace them. The recruiting effort in Quebec had failed, and Canada turned to its only remaining option: conscription.

Almost all French Canadians opposed conscription; they felt that they had no particular loyalty to either Britain or France. Led by Henri Bourassa, they felt their only loyalty was to Canada. English Canadians supported the war effort as they felt stronger ties to the British Empire. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 caused a considerable rift along ethnic lines between Anglophones and Francophones.

After visiting Britain for a meeting of First Ministers in May 1917, Borden announced that he would introduce the Military Service Act on August 29, 1917. The Act was passed: allowing the government to conscript men across the country if the Prime Minister felt that it was necessary.

To solidify support for conscription in the 1917 election, Borden extended the vote through the Military Voters Act to overseas soldiers, who were in favor of conscription to replace their depleted forces (women serving as nurses were also given the right to vote). For Borden, these votes had another advantage, as they could be distributed in any riding, regardless of the soldier’s regular place of residence. With the Wartime Elections Act, women who were the wives, sisters, daughters, and mothers of men serving overseas were also granted the right to vote in this election, as they appeared to be more patriotic and more worthy of a public voice. On the other hand, conscientious objectors and recent immigrants from “enemy countries” were denied the right to vote. In the election, Borden was opposed not only by Bourassa but also by Liberal Party leader Wilfrid Laurier, though he had been abandoned by much of his party. Laurier had opposed conscription from the beginning of the war, arguing that an intense campaign for volunteers would produce enough troops. He privately felt that if he joined the coalition government, Quebec would fall under what he perceived as a dangerous nationalism of Bourassa, which might ultimately lead to Quebec leaving the Canadian confederation.

Borden’s Unionist Party won the election with 153 seats; Laurier’s Liberals secured 82 seats, 62 from Quebec. A classic lesson in rigging an election!

Union Government election poster at Canadian military barracks in Europe: "Borden's bill brings out the slacker and leaves your brother at home."
Union Government election poster at Canadian military barracks in Europe. (YorkRegion.com)

* 1903 First airplane flies.

Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.

Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane.

After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.

In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.

During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.

The historic Wright brothers’ aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Today marks the anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright's first successful flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with Orville as pilot.
Today marks the anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first successful flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with Orville as the pilot. (gizmodo.com)

* 1843 A Christmas Carol is published.

On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.

Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown into debtors’ prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors’ jail became topics of several of Dickens’ novels.

In his late teens, Dickens became a reporter and started publishing humorous short stories when he was 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories, Sketches by Boz, later known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, was published. The same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he would have nine children. The short sketches in his collection were originally commissioned as captions for humorous drawings by caricature artist Robert Seymour, but Dickens’ whimsical stories about the kindly Samuel Pickwick and his fellow club members soon became popular in their own right. Only 400 copies were printed of the first installment, but by the 15th episode, 40,000 copies were printed. When the stories were published in book form in 1837, Dickens quickly became the most popular author of the day.

The success of the Pickwick Papers was soon reproduced with Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In 1841, Dickens published two more novels, then spent five months in the United States, where he was welcomed as a literary hero. Dickens never lost momentum as a writer, churning out major novels every year or two, often in serial form. Among his most important works are David Copperfield(1850), Great Expectations (1861), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

Beginning in 1850, he published his own weekly circular of fiction, poetry, and essays called Household Words. In 1858, Dickens separated from his wife and began a long affair with a young actress. He gave frequent readings, which became immensely popular. He died in 1870 at the age of 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still unfinished.

DECEMBER 17 On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is published
DECEMBER 17 On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is published (Pinterest)

* 1944 U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans.

During World War II, U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issues Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that effective January 2, 1945, Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes.

On February 19, 1942, 10 weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military, in turn, defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards. (The Canadian government did the same thing to west coast Japanese Canadians.)

During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to recompense each surviving internee with a tax-free check for $20,000 and an apology from the U.S. government.

White woman stands under a sign hung from the roof that reads: "JAPS KEEP MOVING This Is A White Man's Neighborhood"
Race prejudice and wartime hysteria. (Professor Olsen @ Large – WordPress.com)

* 1975 “Squeaky” Fromme sentenced to life.

A federal jury in Sacramento, California, sentences Lynette Alice Fromme, also known as “Squeaky” Fromme, to life in prison for her attempted assassination of President Gerald R. Ford.

On September 5, a Secret Service agent wrested a semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol from Fromme, who brandished the weapon during a public appearance of President Ford in Sacramento. “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of incarcerated cult leader Charles Manson, was pointing the loaded gun at the president when the Secret Service agent grabbed it.

Seventeen days later, Ford escaped injury in another assassination attempt when 45-year-old Sara Jane Moore fired a revolver at him. Moore, a leftist radical who once served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a history of mental illness. She was arrested at the scene, convicted, and sentenced to life.

In the trial, Fromme pleaded not guilty to the “attempted assassination of a president” charge, arguing that although her gun contained bullets, it had not been cocked, and therefore she had not actually intended to shoot the president. She was convicted, sentenced to life in prison, and sent to the Alderson Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia.

Fromme remained a dedicated disciple of Charles Manson and in December 1987 escaped from Alderson Prison after she heard that Manson, also imprisoned, had cancer. After 40 hours roaming the rugged West Virginia hills, she was caught on Christmas Day, about two miles from the prison. Five years were added to her life sentence for the escape.

Associated Press Lynette Fromme picture in 1975 during her trial.
Associated Press Lynette Fromme picture in 1975 during her trial.

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                                                                                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_Crisis_of_1917