Monthly Archive: April 2015

6

When Montana Residents Lost Their Right To Free Speech

After the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001, the Patriot Act was enacted, causing some Americans to fear that their days of free speech were over. However, Montana residents had already experienced a frightening loss of their free speech rights in the early 1900s during World War I. At that time, Montana’s new Sedition Law made it a crime to criticize the US government, including any opposition to the war. Even trivial infractions could be punished with fines and long prison sentences. The convicted were finally pardoned in 2006, but they were all dead by that time and the pardons couldn’t undo the damage to their lives.

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How A Swiss Mountain Town Ended Up In Africa

From finding hills in Kansas to palm trees in British Columbia, many places on Earth look nothing like you think. Well, we’ve found another one for you: Ifrane, Morocco, also known as Africa’s “Little Switzerland.” It was established by French colonialists in the 1930s as a hill station, a mountain retreat reminiscent of the Swiss Alps that served as an escape in the summer months from the uncomfortably hot conditions below. Africa’s lowest recorded temperature, –24 degrees Celsius (–11 °F), happened here. When Morocco gained its independence from France, local Moroccans began to move in, bringing some of their own culture to Ifrane. Nevertheless, the town remains a vacation playground for the wealthy.

1,608

The CIA’s Shady Connection To Hollywood

The CIA is always watching, but they know you’re watching, too … in movie theaters anyways. The Central Intelligence Agency is constantly showing up in films and TV shows, and the folks back in Langley really appreciate it when their agents come off looking like heroes. That’s why the CIA established the Entertainment Liaison Office, to encourage filmmakers to make their agents look good.

1,931

The Mystery Of The First Successful Submarine Attack

On a February night in 1864, military history was made with the first sinking of a ship by a submarine. The submarine was the H.L. Hunley, and after signaling to shore that the mission was successful and they were on their way back, they never returned. The wreck of the submarine was only recently found and recovered, and divers were greeted by the eerie sight of the long-dead crew still at their posts. Still, the Hunley hasn’t given up its secrets as to what happened to it.

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When Governments Try To Prohibit Dancing

Like the movie, Footloose, where religious zealots in a small US town banned their kids from dancing, some countries are unexpectedly overreacting when their citizens want to dance publicly. For example, if bar patrons in Sweden begin to sway to the music, the bar can be fined if it doesn’t have a dance permit. Apparently, officials in Sweden believe that spontaneous dancing causes fights and other situations that may require a police response. China has cracked down on dancing grannies, and Germany bans loud music and dancing during certain holidays.

665

The Great Slacks Showdown

Today, women wear pants all the time, but back in the 1930s, it wasn’t quite as common. Sure, movie stars like Marlene Dietrich were known to sport slacks, but some people still had pretty outdated ideas on the matter. That’s something Helen Hulick found out the hard way when she stepped into an LA courtroom and encountered an incredibly angry judge. Well, as any good person would, she fought for her right to wear what she pleased.

2,519

All Humans Have Alien Genes

Conventional science tells us that our genes are passed down from our parents in a vertical, tree-of-life structure. But new research suggests that humans have experienced horizontal gene transfer (HGT)—meaning we’ve acquired foreign or “alien” genes from other organisms in our environment—in at least 145 cases. However, our human DNA has also invaded other organisms, including the genome of the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. Even the oxygen we breathe exists because of HGT.

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The Forgotten Integration Of The US Army In World War II

Until 1948, black soldiers served in segregated units in the US military. However, during the final months of the European theater of World War II, the military experimented with integrated companies. Although Hollywood and many historians would forget this experience, the success helped turn the US military into the most integrated element of society from what was one of the most segregated.

19

The Secret Public Servant Who Turned A Freeway Sign Into Art

Richard Ankrom is more than just an artist. He’s a guerrilla public servant. In 2001, he singlehandedly replaced a Los Angeles freeway sign with a near-exact replica that he’d made himself. Why? Because years before, the sign had made Richard miss his exit.

17

Tolkien Created Elvish Before He Wrote His Famous Novels

Most people are aware that J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. However, he was first and foremost a philologist, one who studies language. He had an immense interest in language syntax and construction and began creating his Elvish languages many years before he published the now-famous novels.