Archive for March 11th, 2008

11
Mar
08

Urban Legend: The Watchful Painting

About 15 years ago, a man was attending university outside of London. The school is famous for its art gallery that draws visitors from all over England. His final exams were given in a cavernous hall with dozens of enormous oil paintings covering the walls, from floor to ceiling.

He noticed that one painting hanging to his right had been covered with a large British flag. Although he didnt think much of it at the time, he asked several of the 3rd year students if they knew anything about it and they told him the following story.

Apparently, the university had always given exams in this hall because it was the largest building on campus. A number of years ago, there was one student who could not concentrate on his final exams. He just kept staring at a certain painting, oblivious to everything around him. He stared and stared at this one particular painting.

While everyone else was scribbling down answers, he took two of his sharpened pencils, inserted them into his nose and slammed his head into the desk. The pencil tips penetrated straight into his brain, killing him instantly.

Ever since then, there has always been one painting in the gallery that is covered up during final exams. He went into the gallery one day to see the painting, and it is a portrait of a British nobleman from the 19th century. It is utterly unremarkable except for the fact that his eyes stare straight back at you the kind of painting that follows you wherever you move.

The only certainty in this story that he can vouch for is that every year hundreds of students shuffle into the hall to take their final exams and try, against all instincts and urges, to keep from continually glancing up at the British flag hanging from the wall above them.

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11
Mar
08

On This Day, 3-11-08: Johnny Appleseed Day

First cases reported in deadly influenza epidemic

Just before breakfast on the morning of March 11, Private Albert Gitchell of the U.S. Army reports to the hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, complaining of the cold-like symptoms of sore throat, fever and headache. By noon, over 100 of his fellow soldiers had reported similar symptoms, marking what are believed to be the first cases in the historic influenza epidemic of 1918. The flu would eventually kill 675,000 Americans and more than 20 million people (some believe the total may be closer to 40 million) around the world, proving to be a far deadlier force than even the First World War.

The initial outbreak of the disease, reported at Fort Riley in March, was followed by similar outbreaks in army camps and prisons in various regions of the country. The disease soon traveled to Europe with the American soldiers heading to aid the Allies on the battlefields of France. (In March 1918 alone, 84,000 American soldiers headed across the Atlantic; another 118,000 followed them the next month.) Once it arrived on a second continent, the flu showed no signs of abating: 31,000 cases were reported in June in Great Britain. The disease was soon dubbed the “Spanish flu” due to the shockingly high number of deaths in Spain (some 8 million, it was reported) after the initial outbreak there in May 1918.

The flu showed no mercy for combatants on either side of the trenches. Over the summer, the first wave of the epidemic hit German forces on the Western Front, where they were waging a final, no-holds-barred offensive that would determine the outcome of the war. It had a significant effect on the already weakening morale of the troops–as German army commander Crown Prince Rupprecht wrote on August 3: “poor provisions, heavy losses, and the deepening influenza have deeply depressed the spirits of men in the III Infantry Division.” Meanwhile, the flu was spreading fast beyond the borders of Western Europe, due to its exceptionally high rate of virulence and the massive transport of men on land and aboard ship due to the war effort. By the end of the summer, numerous cases had been reported in Russia, North Africa and India; China, Japan, the Philippines and even New Zealand would eventually fall victim as well.

The Great War ended on November 11, but influenza continued to wreak international havoc, flaring again in the U.S. in an even more vicious wave with the return of soldiers from the war and eventually infecting an estimated 28 percent of the country’s population before it finally petered out. In its December 28, 1918, issue, the American Medical Association acknowledged the end of one momentous conflict and urged the acceptance of a new challenge, stating that “Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all—infectious disease.”

537 – The Goths began their siege on Rome.

1665 – A new legal code was approved for the Dutch and English towns, guaranteeing religious observances unhindered.

1824 – The U.S. War Department created the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Seneca Indian Ely Parker became the first Indian to lead the Bureau.

1847 – John Chapman ‘Johnny Appleseed’ died in Allen County, Indiana. This day became known as Johnny Appleseed Day.

1861 – A Confederate Convention was held in Montgomery, Alabama, where a new constitution was adopted.

1865 – Union General William Sherman and his forces occupied Fayetteville, NC.

1888 – The “Blizzard of ’88” began along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard shutting down communication and transportation lines. More than 400 people died.(March 11-14)

1901 – U.S. Steel was formed when industrialist J.P. Morgan purchased Carnegie Steep Corp. The event made Andrew Carnegie the world’s richest man.

1907 – U.S. President Roosevelt induced California to revoke its anti-Japanese legislation.

1927 – The Flatheads Gang stole $104,250 in the first armored-car robbery near Pittsburgh, PA.

1941 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the Lend-Lease Act, which authorized the act of providing war supplies to the Allies.

1946 – Communists and Nationalists began fighting as the Soviets pulled out of Mukden, Manchuria.

1965 – The Rev. James J. Reeb, a white minister from Boston, died after being beaten by whites during a civil rights disturbances in Selma, Alabama.

1977 – More than 130 hostages held in Washington, DC, by Hanafi Muslims were freed after ambassadors from three Islamic nations joined the negotiations.

1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev was named the new chairman of the Soviet Communist Party.

1986 – Popsicle announced its plan to end the traditional twin-stick frozen treat for a one-stick model.

1993 – Janet Reno was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the first female attorney general.

2002 – Two columns of light were pointed skyward from ground zero in New York as a temporary memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

2004 – In Madrid, Spain, several coordinated bombing attacks on commuter trains killed at least 190 people and injured more than 2,000.




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