Welcome to Monday, August 17, 2020: National Vanilla Custard Day, which of course is means it’s a blah day. But in Australia it’s Cupcake Day, in which cupcakes are sold with the proceeds going to the RSPCA. In the U.S. it’s National Black Cat Appreciation Day. Although Octavia Sadie and Alcestis Jerry , the two sister cats of readers Laurie and Gethyn (adopted from Feline Friends London), are British rather than American felids, I’ll put them up to symbolize all black cats (I had one for 18 years). In my quest to have cats named after me on every continent, Alcestis shares my name, and “Sadie” was my grandmother’s first name.
Look at these lovely moggy sisters!
It’s also National #2 Pencil Day (the best grade of pencil lead), and Baby Boomers Recognition Day. (I block anybody on Twitter or Facebook who says “OK Boomer” to me, as that is not an argument but an ageist slur!)
News of the Day: Good news: have a look at this cartoon paean to British libraries during the lockdown sent by reader Graham. Let’s hear it for librarians, some of the most dedicated people I know.
Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has been President of Belarus for 26 years—perhaps the only true dictator in Europe. After he won an election last week that was apparently rife with fraud, the populace is taking to the streets of the capital, Minsk, in protest (his opponent has fled the country). This is an important story not just because of Lukashenko’s threats to destroy the country if he’s deposed, but because Russia could intervene as it did in Ukraine.
There are rumors that Trump may pardon Edward Snowden, accused of leaking classified information and violating the Espionage Act. But why would he do it, especially after having accused Snowden of being a “traitor”? I may be obtuse, but I can’t figure this one out.
Here’s a disaster in the making. As the Washington Post reports, “In 2018, nearly 17 million children lived in homes without high-speed Internet, and more than 7 million did not have computers at home, according to a report prepared by a coalition of civil rights and education groups that analyzed census data for that year.” As a huge proportion of secondary schools go to virtual, online education, these children will be shut out. But the government has made no provision to give these children access to computers.
The New York Times reports that at least 6600 cases of coronavirus have been linked to college campuses—and the school year hasn’t even started yet. Here’s a map of where the most cases occurred (the University of Chicago is reported as having 28 cases, a figure I haven’t seen anywhere else). Texas, Florida, and Georgia have been particularly hard hit, as one might expect given their flouting of masks and social distancing.
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 169,910, an increase of about 500 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 774,816, an increase of about 4500 deaths from yesterday.
Stuff that happened on August 17 include:
- 1560 – The Catholic Church is overthrown and Protestantism is established as the national religion in Scotland.
- 1585 – A first group of colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh under the charge of Ralph Lane lands in the New World to create Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of present-day North Carolina.
- 1896 – Bridget Driscoll became the first recorded case of a pedestrian killed in a collision with a motor car in the United Kingdom.
- 1915 – Jewish American Leo Frank is lynched in Marietta, Georgia after a 13-year-old girl is murdered.
Frank was almost certainly innocent; the evidence points to a janitor as the murderer. Here’s Frank in court before he was convicted:
You can see a picture of the lynching here. It’s ironic that a white man was, at that time, convicted from the testimony of a black man, but of course Frank was a Jew.
A first edition of this classic will run you over $12,000. Note that it’s called “A Fairy Story”:
The partition took effect very quickly, with the result that populations of Muslims headed northwest and east, and Hindus south. Here’s the line (dividing green from orange); most of it is still in effect. None of the Brits who drew the line expected that people would flee to be with their coreligionists, and violence and murders were rife. About 14 million people were displaced, and up to 2 million died or were killed. It was a total disaster.
Fechter, only 18, was shot in the pelvis by East German border guards, who let him lie by the wall, scream, and finally bleed to death for about an hour. Nobody on the West side could help him. Here’s his body:
- 1977 – The Soviet icebreaker Arktika becomes the first surface ship to reach the North Pole.
- 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: US President Bill Clinton admits in taped testimony that he had an “improper physical relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky; later that same day he admits before the nation that he “misled people” about the relationship.
- 2008 – American swimmer Michael Phelps becomes the first person to win eight gold medals at one Olympic Games.
- 2017 – Barcelona attacks: A van is driven into pedestrians in La Rambla, killing 14 and injuring at least 100.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1786 – Davy Crockett, American soldier and politician (d. 1836)
- 1887 – Marcus Garvey, Jamaican journalist and activist, founded Black Star Line (d. 1940)
Here’s Garvey. He was tried and convicted for fraud (he sold stock in a ship that didn’t exist), spent two years in jail, and then spent the rest of his life in Jamaica and England:
- 1893 – Mae West, American actress, playwright, and screenwriter (d. 1980)
Here are a few zingers from Mae West uttered on screen:
- 1930 – Ted Hughes, English poet and playwright (d. 1998)
- 1932 – V. S. Naipaul, Trinidadian-English novelist and essayist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2018)
- 1943 – Robert De Niro, American actor, entrepreneur, director, and producer
- 1960 – Sean Penn, American actor, director, and political activist
Those who turned up their toes on August 17 include:
- 1786 – Frederick the Great, Prussian king (b. 1712)
- 1973 – Conrad Aiken, American novelist, short story writer, critic, and poet (b. 1889)
- 1983 – Ira Gershwin, American songwriter (b. 1896)
- 1987 – Rudolf Hess, German soldier and politician (b. 1894)
- 1990 – Pearl Bailey, American actress and singer (b. 1918)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is lazy. Malgorzata’s explanation: “Andrzej wants Hili to come and help with solving difficult problems. Lazy Hili doesn’t want to move, so she says that she will solve whatever problems there are from a distance, without moving.”
A: Come on, we have new challenges.Hili: I will repel them remotely.
Ja: Chodź, mamy nowe wyzwania.Hili: Będę je odpierać zdalnie.
Szaron is resting, and, as you see, he’s got a fancy resting spot. It was a cat bed that Malgorzata bought to try to keep Hili from sleeping on Malgorzata’s face at night. It didn’t work, so now it’s Szaron’s.
And here’s Kitten Kulka frisking about. The caption: “Youth is not equally lazy” (she means “as lazy as Hili”).
From reader Barry:
From Jesus of the Day. If you know what this is about, you’re “of a certain age”:
An accurate meme:
Posted by Ziya Tong. A savvy parrot gets a drink of coconut water:
mad skillz pic.twitter.com/23kpDXWvNl
— Earthling (@ziyatong) August 16, 2020
From reader Barry. I would love to pet an otter; look how soft its fur is!
Two tweets from Simon. Sound up to hear this cheetah meow:
An unfortunate egress:
Leaving the office early without anyone noticing pic.twitter.com/HZYP2OXnQ9
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) August 15, 2020
Tweets from PROFESSOR Matthew Cobb. Note the title of the record shop. The installation was done by an artists’ collective, and you can read the story here.
there's a record shop for mice in Sweden pic.twitter.com/r5Zy2wW5fD
— Ian Wade (@WadeyWade) August 15, 2020
It’s amazing that we have actual photographs of soldiers who fought in America’s Revolutionary War. Here are four of the old geezers (they’d have to be given the dates of the war and of photography):
Faces from History: These four remarkable revolutionaries were all soldiers in the War of American Independence (1775-83) which led to the formation of the United States. pic.twitter.com/oZdinmKLQf
— BabelColour 🎞 (@StuartHumphryes) August 16, 2020
Why is Pleurosaurus so cool. pic.twitter.com/gzP9nO82CU
— Sassy PaleoNerd (@LikesPterosaurs) August 16, 2020
Yep, it’s a colony of amoebas that aggregate at one stage of the life cycle.