Monthly Archives: January 2018

Nauru, World's Smallest Island Nation, Gains Independence (1968)

Annexed by Germany in 1888, controlled by Great Britain since World War I, occupied by Japan during World War II, and administered by Australia until the late 1960s, the tiny, phosphate-rich island of Nauru flourished in the years following its independence. However, after the island exhausted its primary phosphate reserves, living conditions deteriorated. Today, it has a 90 percent unemployment rate, and much of the island is uninhabitable. What percent of Nauruan citizens are obese? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Tu Bishvat

Tu Bishvat, also known as New Year for Trees, is a minor Jewish festival similar to Arbor Day. It is first referred to in the late Second Temple period (515 BCE-20 CE), when it was the cut-off date for levying the tithe on the produce of fruit trees. Today the children of Israel celebrate Tu Bishvat with tree planting and outdoor games. In other countries, Jews observe the festival by eating fruit that grows in the Jewish homeland—such as oranges, figs, dates, raisins, pomegranates, and especially almonds, the first tree to bloom in Israel’s spring. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

William Charles Lunalilo (1835)

The shortest-reigning monarch in Hawaiian history, Lunalilo was unanimously elected by the legislature after the death of Kamehameha V, who had declined to name an heir. Just 13 months later, the similarly heirless Lunalilo died of alcoholism and tuberculosis. His goal of a more democratic Hawaii had earned him the nickname “the People’s King,” and he was buried in a common cemetery rather than in the royal mausoleum. What was his reward for having composed Hawaii’s first national anthem? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Speed Skating

Although the first organized speed skating competitions were held around the 1860s, the fast-paced sport was not added to the Olympics until the early 20th century. Today, two types of tracks are used in international competition: the long track, on which two skaters race simultaneously, and the short track, on which four to six skaters race during a heat. Top skaters can reach speeds of 37 mph (60 km/h) over short distances. How has the development of body suits impacted the sport? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

First Attempted Assassination of a US President (1835)

US President Andrew Jackson was leaving a congressional funeral held at the Capitol when an unemployed, mentally ill housepainter named Richard Lawrence made an attempt on his life. Fortuitously, Lawrence’s pistol misfired. Improbably, the second pistol he produced did too. The 67-year-old president attacked Lawrence with his cane, and the deranged gunman was caught and institutionalized. What surprising discovery was made when the guns were tested to determine what had caused them to misfire? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Franklin D. Roosevelt's Birthday

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) was the 32nd president of the United States. His administration encompassed the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt’s birthday is observed by family members, friends, and representatives of various organizations at his home at Hyde Park, New York. Wreaths are laid, and a family member places cut flowers on the grave. The superintendent of the military academy presents the “President’s Wreath,” a prayer is offered, and the event concludes with three volleys from a ceremonial firing squad. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Richard Brautigan (1935)

Born in Tacoma, Washington, and raised in abject poverty, Brautigan became a counterculture hero of the 1960s and 70s with his surrealistically random novels and poems about alienation. His extremely original, loosely connected fiction includes A Confederate General from Big Sur, In Watermelon Sugar, and the 1967 bestseller Trout Fishing in America. Suffering from alcoholism and depression, Brautigan committed suicide in September of 1984. When was his body discovered? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary