On December 9, 1979, the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication signed their names to the statement that “smallpox has been eradicated from the world.”
It was the first time that a disease had been banished from the earth by the planning and action of the world’s public health professionals. And it became a model for later (ongoing) efforts to eradicate polio and several lesser known diseases.
The disease only spread from human to human, so there had been an unbroken chain of infection for more than three millennia. In the 1960s, before the eradication program, more than half a million people died every year from the disease.
But in country after country, vaccination and isolation programs lowered rates of infection until the numbers dwindled to one person who was infected, the last patient.
Read more. [Image: World Health Organization]
The duo lives on in film after film because the ordinary couple’s desire for fame, not riches, resonates through the decades.
Read more. [Image: A&E/Joseph Viles]
There are many ways to create iconic moments during protest movements, but perhaps none is as reliable—as fraught with symbolism—as toppling a statue.
On Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets of Kiev in the largest anti-government demonstrations since the country’s 2004 Orange Revolution, protesters did just that—tearing down an 11-foot-high statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin with a steel wire, smashing the monument with sledgehammers, and then carrying off prized pieces of the sculpture.
The massive “Euromaidan” protests, which have been roiling Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in late November in an apparent effort to move the country away from Europe and toward Russia, are led in part by the right-wing, nationalist Svoboda party, which gleefully reported its involvement in the toppling of the Lenin statue (predictably, members of the country’s Communist Party are fuming about the incident).
In October 1794, Alexander Hamilton took time out from his regular duties as secretary of the Treasury to lead 13,000 militiamen into western Pennsylvania. Resistance to a tax on whiskey production, intended to help pay down the government’s $45 million Revolutionary War debt, had been growing since it went into effect in 1791. Tax collectors had been attacked, and at least one was whipped, tarred, and feathered. By early 1794, some 7,000 men had joined the rebellion, and talk swirled about declaring independence from the United States. But in the face of federal bayonets, the revolt collapsed; many of its leaders were arrested, and the rest fled into neighboring states.
The Whiskey Rebellion was a critical moment in the life of the new republic. President Washington’s use of the military to force payment of the tax demonstrated that the fledgling federal government had real power—and was willing to use it.
But to Hamilton, who conceived it, the tax was about more than raising cash or asserting the central government’s authority. It was also a way to reduce alcohol production and consumption. Hamilton wrote in Federalist 12 that a tax on whiskey “should tend to diminish the consumption of it,” and that “such an effect would be equally favorable to the agriculture, to the economy, to the morals, and to the health of the society. There is, perhaps, nothing so much a subject of national extravagance as these spirits.” Washington agreed: Drinking, he said, was “the ruin of half the workmen in this Country”—even though, as the owner of one of America’s largest distilleries, he contributed his share to that ruin.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]
Should you have the misfortune of finding yourself under atomic attack, please, ne paniquez pas!
President Obama’s current travails have diverted attention from his and the Democratic Party’s substantive agendas and longer-term outlook. Democrats currently believe that demographics will doom the Republicans for years to come, and they rate their own chances high in the 2016 presidential elections and beyond. But beneath the surface, Democrats’ problems are at least as serious as Republicans’.
Presidential second terms are historically unproductive, but the botched rollout of Obamacare threatens to overshadow all else in the months ahead. And that’s only the latest stumble for the White House, after alleged NSA, IRS, and Justice Department abuses of power; the aftermath of Benghazi; and disputes over drone strikes. It’s hard to see anything else on the horizon but continuation until 2016 of the partisan polarization and gridlock that have reigned since Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Worse, the party could be facing setbacks comparable to that in next year’s midterm elections.
Long-delayed immigration-reform legislation may be enacted. But, otherwise, the period ahead is likely to be marked mainly by a rolling series of fractious federal-budget battles and transparently inadequate budget compromises.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]
A documentary revisits the iconic 1932 ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ photograph.
iPhones, staplers, aluminum foil. Humans are surrounded and defined by their technologies. We might even say: Technology makes us human.
But that’s not quite true, because we know that other animals employ and deploy tools, too. Primates use twiggy Roto-Rooters to search for bugs. All sorts of creatures make homes for themselves; bowerbirds sculpt fantastical ones.
And now we know it’s not quite true either, historically. New archeological evidence indicates that our ancestors used a certain kind of tool—a “complex tool,” in the parlance of anthropologists—when they were still our ancestors.
That is: They threw spear-tipped javelins, to catch and kill animals.
Read more. [Image: José-Manuel Benito Álvarez]
Abraham Lincoln often spoke and dreamed about being assassinated, convinced that he would not outlast the rebellion when his work would have been done. Prior to his inauguration, he received letters warning him that he would be killed before reaching Washington. After he died an envelope with eighty such letters was found among his eﬀects, and although twice while president he had his hat shot from his head by unknown assailants, he deprecated all attempts to guard his life.
Read more. [Image: Wikipedia]
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