Good Sabbath to you (if you’re Christian): it’s Sunday, January 17, 2021: National Hot Buttered Rum Day (you can find a recipe here; you’ll need rum, butter, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and water). It’s also Ben Franklin Day (he was born on this day in 1706), National Hot Heads Chili Day, and World Religion Day, which we’re not celebrating.
News of the Day:
In the early morning of yesterday, the Trump administration executed its 13th and last federal prisoner (three in the last week), only four days from Inauguration Day. Dustin Higgs, convicted of killing three people, was given a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, maintaining, as he has all along, that he was innocent. Trump could have stayed the execution until Biden took over, but he’s been on a rush to kill people right up to the last minute. A note from CNN:
One-third of the justices on the Supreme Court — which has repeatedly overturned decisions by lower courts to halt executions — were appointed by Trump. The decision to allow Higgs’s execution to proceed came down to a 6-3 split, with the liberal justices opposing the move.
You can see the dissents by Breyer and Sotomayor here (h/t Ken). From Sotomayor’s dissent:
Betty White turns 99 today (see below). How will she spend her birthday? Look at this great headline from Mic (click on screenshot):
When legendary actor and comedian Betty White turns 99 on January 17, she’ll be celebrating her quarantine birthday with a pair of unconventional party guests. “What am I doing for my birthday? Feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day,” she told Entertainment Tonight in an interview published on Thursday.
There’s no need to be alarmed: the Golden Girls star and nonagenarian hasn’t lost her marbles. “Betty has [a] beautiful backyard with a number of wild animals visiting,” a press representative told TODAYvia email back in May. “Two ducks always come by to say hello. They waddle up to her glass door and look in” — which is so wholesome and utterly delightful. Maybe she’ll feed them some fowl-friendly cake on the big day.
Now how awesome is that?
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 395,882, an increase of about 3,300 deaths from yesterday’s figure. In two days we’ll pass 400,000 deaths: double what the most pessimistic pundits thought we’d have. The world death toll is 2,032,342, an increase of about 12,500 deaths over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on January 17 includes:
- 1377 – Pope Gregory XI reaches Rome, after deciding to move the Papacy back to Rome from Avignon.
- 1773 – Captain James Cook leads the first expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle.
- 1904 – Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard receives its premiere performance at the Moscow Art Theatre.
- 1912 – British polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reaches the South Pole, one month after Roald Amundsen.
Here’s a picture of Scott’s disconsolate team at the South Pole, having discovered that Amundsen’s team had beaten them. All of these men died attempting to return to their base:
- 1920 – Alcohol Prohibition begins in the United States as the Volstead Act goes into effect.
- 1945 – The SS-Totenkopfverbände begin the evacuation of the Auschwitz concentration camp as Soviet forces close in.
“Totenkopfverbände” means “death’s head units,” and members of this branch of the SS, identified by wearing the insignia below on their collars, were responsible for the concentration camps:
Here’s a dramatic photo from Wikipedia captioned: “A freed Buchenwald concentration camp prisoner identifies a member of the SS camp guard.”
- 1945 – Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg is taken into Soviet custody while in Hungary; he is never publicly seen again.
Wallenberg, below, saved thousands of Jews from extermination by the Germans during WWII. He is thought to have died in the Lubyanks in Moscow, but why he was arrested or how he died remain mysteries:
- 1950 – The Great Brink’s Robbery: Eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company’s offices in Boston.
- 1961 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers a televised farewell address to the nation three days before leaving office, in which he warns against the accumulation of power by the “military–industrial complex” as well as the dangers of massive spending, especially deficit spending.
- 1977 – Capital punishment in the United States resumes after a ten-year hiatus, as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad in Utah.
- 1991 – Gulf War: Operation Desert Storm begins early in the morning as aircraft strike positions across Iraq, it is also the first major combat sortie for the F-117. LCDR Scott Speicher’s F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-81 is shot down by a Mig-25 and is the first American casualty of the War. Iraq fires eight Scud missiles into Israel in an unsuccessful bid to provoke Israeli retaliation.
- 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: Matt Drudge breaks the story of the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky affair on his Drudge Report website.
Here’s the headline that started it all and ended with Bill Clinton’s impeachment (he was not convicted):
Notables born on this day include:
- 1834 – August Weismann, German biologist, zoologist, and geneticist (d. 1914)
- 1899 – Al Capone, American mob boss (d. 1947)
- 1899 – Robert Maynard Hutchins, American philosopher and academic (d. 1977)
Hutchens became President of the University of Chicago at only 30, and established many of the principles on which the school rests (shakily, I’ll add). He got rid of football, fraternities, and religious organizations, and established free speech and academic freedom as some of those principles. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:
Hutchins was notable as a defender of academic freedom. When the University was accused of fostering communism in 1935 (by Charles Rudolph Walgreen, who claimed his niece had been indoctrinated with communist ideas whilst studying there) and again in 1949, Hutchins defended the right of the University’s faculty to teach as they wished, arguing that the best way to defeat communism was through open debate and scrutiny, rather than suppression. “Hutchins stood behind his faculty and their right to teach and believe as they wished, insisting that communism could not withstand the scrutiny of public analysis and debate.”
- 1911 – George Stigler, American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1991)
- 1922 – Betty White, American actress, game show panelist, television personality, and animal rights activist
Here are some of Betty White’s quips from her later television career:
Happy birthday, Betty! Everyone loves her.
- 1931 – James Earl Jones, American actor
- 1933 – Shari Lewis, American actress, puppeteer/ventriloquist, and television host (d. 1998)
- 1949 – Andy Kaufman, American actor and comedian (d. 1984)
- 1964 – Michelle Obama, American lawyer and activist, 46th First Lady of the United States
Those who “passed” on January 17 include:
- 1705 – John Ray, English botanist and historian (b. 1627)
- 1893 – Rutherford B. Hayes, American general, lawyer, and politician, 19th President of the United States (b. 1822)
1911 – Francis Galton, English polymath, anthropologist, and geographer(b. 1822) CANCELED
- 1961 – Patrice Lumumba, Congolese politician, 1st Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (b. 1925)
- 1977 – Gary Gilmore, American murderer (b. 1940)
Gilmore was the first person executed after a ten-year moratorium on executions. He chose the firing squad over hanging, the only two choices at the time.
- 2007 – Art Buchwald, American journalist and author (b. 1925)
- 2008 – Bobby Fischer, American chess player and author (b. 1943)
Despite being born to a Jewish mother, Fisher wound up as a rabid anti-Semite and white supremacist. I didn’t know that until this morning, when I read the relevant section of his Wikipedia page. He won his World Championship before he was thirty. This photo was about ten years before that:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has a sociological question:
Hili: Is there any research about the level of poverty?A: Of course, plenty.Hili: But I’m asking about the level of poverty of cats.
Hili: Czy są badania nad poziomem ubóstwa?Ja: Oczywiście, mnóstwo.Hili: Ale ja pytam o badania nad poziomem ubóstwa kotów.
Szaron is resting, hoping that Hili won’t chase him:
From Woody: What we saw in the House last week:
A tweet from Barry: Cat pwns dog:
anyway, here's another one of my favorites pic.twitter.com/NlfGOkE5hv
— Ad Infinitum (@Ad_Inifinitum) January 14, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. If you read the article, you’ll find out that forcing scientific lies on children is not limited to evangelical Christianity:
A Jewish private school in London found to be teaching creationism to its pupils has been hit with regulatory action by the Government https://t.co/SsIRDGbrtv
— Chris Stringer (@ChrisStringer65) January 16, 2021
The pandemic drives people to strange extremes:
Right, let's start on the chores… pic.twitter.com/R4230nJGnW
— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) January 16, 2021
A wily kitten:
"ain't no jail can hold me"
— Paul Bronks (@SlenderSherbet) January 16, 2021
And a very noisy kitten:
Me: *screams into the void*
The void: pic.twitter.com/59d7qiKmP2
— Nerd Girl Says (@Rachael_Conrad) January 14, 2021
Translation: “New popular person appeared.” Toy duck pwns toy otter:
— フェレピといたち丸 (@fffandfff) January 7, 2021
I must go here some day:
Just another morning in Mongolia pic.twitter.com/Fp5p5LHC3i
— Ungerni Khooloi (@Nicholastrad) January 15, 2021
Finally, this doesn’t look like a turkey but I have no idea what it is?
– My friend, I can't find anyone around here to show my beauty, I'm glad you're here ❤️ pic.twitter.com/uCCQuHNN27
— Köksal Akın (@newworlddd555) January 14, 2021