Archive for December 3rd, 2008

03
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-3-2008: Bhopal

December 3, 1984

The Bhopal-Union Carbide disaster

In the early morning hours, one of the worst industrial disasters in history begins when a pesticide plant located in the densely populated region of Bhopal in central India leaks a highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air. Of the estimated one million people living in Bhopal at the time, 2,000 were killed immediately, at least 600,000 were injured, and at least 6,000 have died since.

The leak was caused by a series of mechanical and human errors in the pesticide producing plant, operated by the Union Carbide Corporation, a U.S.-based multinational. For a full hour, the plant’s personnel and safety equipment failed to detect the massive leak, and when an alarm was finally sounded most of the harm had already been done. To make matters worse, local health officials had not been educated on the toxicity of the chemicals used at the Union Carbide plant and therefore there were no emergency procedures in place to protect Bhopal’s citizens in the event of a chemical leak. If the victims had simply placed a wet towel over their face, most would have escaped serious injury.

The Indian government sued Union Carbide in a civil case and settled in 1989 for $470 million. Because of the great number of individuals affected by the disaster, most Bhopal victims received just $550, which could not pay for the chronic lung ailments, eye problems, psychiatric disorders, and other common illnesses they developed. The average compensation for deaths resulting from the disaster was $1,300. The Indian government, famous for its corruption, has yet to distribute roughly half of Union Carbide’s original settlement. Union Carbide, which shut down its Bhopal plant after the disaster, has failed to clean up the site completely, and the rusty, deserted complex continues to leak various poisonous substances into the water and soil of Bhopal.

“The Bhopal-Union Carbide disaster.” 2008. The History Channel website. 3 Dec 2008, 12:14 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5571.

On This Day

1833 – Oberlin College in Ohio opened as the first truly coeducational school of higher education in the United States.

1931 – Alka Seltzer was sold for the first time.

1947 – The Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire” opened at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theater.

1948 – The “Pumpkin Papers” came to public light. The House Un-American Activities Committee announced that former Communist spy Whittaker Chambers had produced microfilm of secret documents hidden inside a pumpkin on his Maryland farm.

1964 – Police arrested about 800 students at the University of California at Berkeley. The arrest took place one day after the students staged a massive sit-in inside an administration building.

1973 – Pioneer 10 sent back the first close-up images of Jupiter. The first outer-planetary probe had been launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, on March 2, 1972.

1992 – The UN Security Council unanimously approved a U.S.-led military mission to help starving Somalians.

1997 – In Ottawa, Canada, more than 120 countries were represented to sign a treaty prohibiting the use and production of anti-personnel land mines. The United States, China and Russia did not sign the treaty.

1997 – South Korea received $55 billion from the International Monetary Fund to bailout its economy.

1999 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lost radio contact with the Mars Polar Lander as it entered Mars’ atmosphere. The spacecraft was unmanned.

December 3, 1818

Illinois becomes the 21st state

Illinois achieves full statehood on this day. Though Illinois presented unique challenges to immigrants unaccustomed to the soil and vegetation of the area, it grew to become a bustling and densely populated state.

The strange but beautiful prairie lands east of the Mississippi and north of Lake Michigan presented a difficult challenge to the tide of westward-moving immigrants. Accustomed to the heavily forested lands of states like Kentucky and Tennessee, the early immigrants to Illinois did not know what to make of the vast treeless stretches of the prairie. Most pioneers believed that the fertility of soil revealed itself by the abundance of vegetation it supported, so they assumed that the lack of trees on the prairie signaled inferior farmland. Those brave souls who did try to farm the prairie found that their flimsy plows were inadequate to cut through prairie sod thickly knotted with deep roots. In an “age of wood,” farmers also felt helpless without ready access to the trees they needed for their tools, homes, furniture, fences, and fuel. For all these reasons, most of the early Illinois settlers remained in the southern part of the state, where they built homes and farms near the trees that grew along the many creek and river bottoms.

The challenge of the prairies slowed emigration into the region; when Illinois was granted statehood in 1818, the population was only about 35,000, and most of the prairie was still largely unsettled. Gradually, though, a few tough Illinois farmers took on the difficult task of plowing the prairie and discovered that the soil was far richer than they had expected. The development of heavy prairie plows and improved access to wood and other supplies through new shipping routes encouraged even more farmers to head out into the vast northern prairie lands of Illinois.

By 1840, the center of population in Illinois had shifted decisively to the north, and the once insignificant hamlet of Chicago rapidly became a bustling city. The four giant prairie counties of northern Illinois, which were the last to be settled, boasted population densities of 18 people per square mile. Increasingly recognized as one of the nation’s most fertile agricultural areas, the vast emptiness of the Illinois prairie was eagerly conquered by both pioneers and plows.

“Illinois becomes the 21st state.” 2008. The History Channel website. 3 Dec 2008, 12:13 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4356.

On This Day in Wisconsin

1947 – First TV Station in Wisconsin Established
On this date the first TV station in Wisconsin, WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, was established. The seventeenth television station in the country, WTMJ-TV was the first in the Midwest. [Source: University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Libraries]

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