Welcome to Thursday, June 17, 2021: National Apple Strudel Day, a cultural appropriation from Austria. It’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, World Croc[odile] Day, National Eat Your Vegetables Day (didn’t we just have that?), and Global Garbage Man Day (surely there are Garbage Women too!).
News of the Day:
We’ve finally passed the mark of 600,000 deaths in the U.S. due to Covid-19 (see below). I remember when a mark of 200,000 seemed unimaginable, but we’re now three times higher than that. According to the CDC, though, only 44% of Americans have been fully vaccinated. But the range among states is wide: at the top is Vermont, with about 63% of the population fully vaccinated; at the bottom is Mississippi with only 28.5%.
As I predicted (that was a no-brainer), the Putin-Biden summit did not appear to be going well, at least in terms of agreements. Putin denied that the big hacker attacks in the U.S. came from Russia, and Biden pressed an unimpressed Putin on Russia’s human rights record and Navalny’s imprisonment. All Biden could say was, “I did what I came to do.” I was nonplussed by all the news describing the summit as “historic” when, at least for now, there’s little evidence that anything was accomplished.
Trump asserts that he’s writing a memoir, “the book of all books,” he calls it, but the Guardian reports that reputable publishers are unlikely to bite, especially because Trump was only a one-term President. Trump says he’s already had two offers from publishers but turned them both down. The Guardian adds:
On Tuesday, Politico reported that senior figures at Penguin Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster said they would not touch a Trump book.
“It would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually,” one was quoted as saying. “That would be the problem. If he can’t even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?”
The Senate unanimously passed legislation making Juneteenth (June 19) a federal holiday, “Juneteenth National Independence Day”. As I write this on Wednesday evening, the House is expected to approve the bill as well, and of course Biden will sign it into law. Earlier on Wednesday, our own governor, J. B. Pritzker, signed a bill making Juneteenth an Illinois state holiday. By now you should know what the date commemorates, but if you don’t know, go here. It’s a celebration of emancipation from slavery, announced in Texas on this date in 1865, three years after Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Botanical News: A rare “corpse flower” has bloomed, albeit briefly, in Poland. From the Associated Press:
The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, a giant foul-smelling blossom also known as the corpse flower, went into a rare, short bloom at a botanical garden in Warsaw, drawing crowds who waited for hours to see it.
The extraordinary flower, which emits a dead-body odor to attract pollinating insects that feed on flesh, bloomed Sunday. It was already withering early Monday. Those wishing to avoid the smell and crowds could watch it on live video from the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens.
Hundreds, if not thousands, lined up long into the night Sunday and Monday morning at the conservatory just to be able to pass by the flower and take a picture.
Here’s a video of the same species blooming in Cornwall. It’s amazing!
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 600,024, an increase of 332 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We’ve finally passed the 600,000 mark. The reported world death toll is now 3,849,345, an increase of about 10,500 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on June 17 includes:
- 1579 – Sir Francis Drake claims a land he calls Nova Albion (modern California) for England.
- 1631 – Mumtaz Mahal dies during childbirth. Her husband, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan I, will spend the next 17 years building her mausoleum, the Taj Mahal.
And the world’s most beautiful mausoleum (and building):
- 1673 – French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reach the Mississippi River and become the first Europeans to make a detailed account of its course.
- 1767 – Samuel Wallis, a British sea captain, sights Tahiti and is considered the first European to reach the island.
- 1885 – The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor.
Here’s part of it before it was sent to the U.S.
- 1901 – The College Board introduces its first standardized test, the forerunner to the SAT.
- 1933 – Union Station massacre: In Kansas City, Missouri, four FBI agents and captured fugitive Frank Nash are gunned down by gangsters attempting to free Nash.
Nash was being escorted by train to the penitentiary, but was killed in the assault (Pretty Boy Floyd was one of the assailants). Here’s the scene outside the station soon after the attack:
- 1939 – Last public guillotining in France: Eugen Weidmann, a convicted murderer, is executed in Versailles outside the Saint-Pierre prison.
As Wikipedia notes, “The “hysterical behaviour” by spectators was so scandalous that French President Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions. Executions by guillotine continued out of public view until the last such execution, of Hamida Djandoubi on September 10, 1977.” You can see photos of the trial and the guillotine here.
- 1944 – Iceland declares independence from Denmark and becomes a republic.
- 1963 – The United States Supreme Court rules 8–1 in Abington School District v. Schempp against requiring the reciting of Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer in public schools.
- 1967 – Nuclear weapons testing: China announces a successful test of its first thermonuclear weapon.
- 1972 – Watergate scandal: Five White House operatives are arrested for burgling the offices of the Democratic National Committee during an attempt by members of the administration of President Richard M. Nixon to illegally wiretap the political opposition as part of a broader campaign to subvert the democratic process.
- 1987 – With the death of the last individual of the species, the dusky seaside sparrow becomes extinct.
The last aged male, between 9 and 13 years old, died at the Walt Disney World resort. Here’s a photo:
- 1991 – Apartheid: The South African Parliament repeals the Population Registration Act which required racial classification of all South Africans at birth.
Here’s the classification (with numbers) in a South African Identity document during apartheid:
- 1994 – Following a televised low-speed highway chase, O. J. Simpson is arrested for the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Remember watching that ride on television? Here’s a news report with video:
Notables born on this day include:
- 1882 – Igor Stravinsky, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1971)
- 1898 – M. C. Escher, Dutch illustrator (d. 1972)
Here’s a self-portrait of Escher followed by a photograph:
- 1920 – François Jacob, French biologist and geneticist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)
- 1943 – Newt Gingrich, American historian and politician, 58th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- 1943 – Barry Manilow, American singer-songwriter and producer
- 1980 – Venus Williams, American tennis player
Those who reaped their heavenly reward on June 17 include:
- 1631 – Mumtaz Mahal, Mughal princess (b. 1593)
- 1898 – Edward Burne-Jones, English soldier and painter (b. 1833)
There is one picture of a cat and kitten by Edward Burne-Jones (below), but I can’t establish that he really painted it. I doubt it!
- 1986 – Kate Smith, American singer (b. 1907)
- 2008 – Cyd Charisse, American actress and dancer (b. 1922)
- 2012 – Rodney King, American victim of police brutality (b. 1965)
This was captured on video (below, note that it’s distressing), something that is more common these days, for video is powerful evidence:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is once again supervising the gardening:
A: Are you asleep?Hili: No, I’m waiting for you to start weeding the vegetable patch.
Ja: Śpisz?Hili: Nie, czekam aż się zabierzesz za pielenie warzywnika.
And a rare Mietek monologue; he queries Elzbieta as if he was an impatient child:
Mietek: Is it far yet?
In Polish: Daleko jeszcze?
From Jesus of the Day:
From Titania, who must have read the bird article I discussed yesterday:
It won't be easy teaching sparrows about Critical Race Theory, but we have to try. pic.twitter.com/wlEbZihts3
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) June 16, 2021
From reader Ken (via the GOP Twitter feed), who describes this as “Republican self parody”:
Thanks to Joe Biden, it's morning again in Russia. pic.twitter.com/txp53aiYGx
— GOP (@GOP) June 16, 2021
Another urban duck-saving story from Jean. I can’t get enough of these, but only when they have a happy ending:
— Pat Kiernan (@patkiernan) June 15, 2021
A 45-year-old rock photo sent by Ginger K.
Stevie Nicks on stage at Day On The Green, 1976 pic.twitter.com/aqhuVbreif
— Classic Rock In Pics (@crockpics) June 15, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This is not likely to be evolved mimicry, but who knows? Predators could avoid the whole concatenation of eggs since it resembles a snake, and laying in such a pattern might then be adaptive.
My brain thought this was a tiny snake for a split second but these seem to be katydid eggs instead! pic.twitter.com/NHaAWcsrYR
— Angela Chuang (@arachnonaut) June 16, 2021
A double treat: science combined with a clever parody of a Dean Martin song:
When you crawl up the sand
And have sushi on land
That's a moray https://t.co/RVya5klGWQ
— Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz) June 16, 2021
In honor of Stan Laurel, even though his birthday was yesterday:
Stan Laurel was born 131 years ago today, on June 16, 1890
(The Finishing Touch 1928) pic.twitter.com/uGWRlfarIj
— Silent Movie GIFs (@silentmoviegifs) June 16, 2021
One of Matthew’s beloved optical illusions. I’m sure I’ve posted it before, but it’s well worth seeing again. Be sure to turn the sound up and watch the whole thing.
this illusion broke my brain 🤯 pic.twitter.com/BvgO2TcwFE
— drewcoffman.eth 𝕚𝕤 𝕠𝕟𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕖 🟢 (@DrewCoffman) June 14, 2021