West German Chancellor Willy Brandt Resigns (1974)

Brandt fled his native Germany for Norway after the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s. Returning after the war, he became involved in politics and, in 1969, was elected chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. As chancellor, he greatly improved relations with East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Poland, and in 1971 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1974, he was forced to resign after an embarrassing scandal in which one of his close aides was exposed as what? Discuss
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The Deadly Yellow River

Stretching 3,395 miles (5,464 km), the Yellow River, or Huang He, is the world’s sixth longest river. Called the “the cradle of Chinese civilization” because its basin is the birthplace of the northern Chinese civilizations, the oft-flooding river has also earned the nickname “China’s Sorrow.” Its floods—more than 1,500 in the last 3 to 4 millennia—have caused some of the deadliest natural disasters in human history and claimed millions of lives. How was the river once used as a weapon of war? Discuss
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Robert Browning (1812)

Browning was a leading Victorian poet known for his dramatic monologues. In 1846, he secretly married Elizabeth Barrett, whisking her away from her despotic father to Italy. Barrett was already a famous poet, but Browning’s poems—such as “Fra Lippo Lippi” and “The Bishop Orders His Tomb”—gained recognition slowly. Long after his beloved wife’s death, his novel in verse about a murder, The Ring and the Book, finally earned him wide acclaim. In 1890, he became the first dead man to do what? Discuss
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Vertigo

Derived from a Latin phrase meaning “a condition of turning about,” the term vertigo is used in medical circles to describe the sensation of spinning or swaying while the body is stationary. Usually associated with a disturbance in the inner ear balance mechanism, the brain, or nerve connections between the two, vertigo is a major symptom of a balance disorder. There are two types of vertigo: subjective and objective. What is the difference between the two?
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The Hindenburg Disaster (1937)

Launched in 1936 in Germany, the Hindenburg was the largest rigid airship ever constructed and was promoted by the Nazis as a symbol of national pride. It started the first commercial air service across the North Atlantic and made several trips to the Americas. On one such trip, the hydrogen-filled airship violently and unexpectedly exploded in flames and crashed in New Jersey, killing 35 of the 97 people on board. What non-flammable gas was originally supposed to provide the airship’s lift?
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Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (1758)

Robespierre was one of the leading figures of the French Revolution. He was elected to the National Assembly in 1789 and became an influential orator. After calling for the execution of the king in 1792, he led the Jacobins and the Committee of Public Safety in establishing the Reign of Terror, during which hundreds of thousands of political opponents were arrested and thousands were guillotined. In 1794, he was overthrown and executed. What was his role in the Cult of the Supreme Being?
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Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the greatest and most glamorous horse race in America, run since 1875 in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a one-and-one-quarter-mile race for three-year-old thoroughbreds and is the first race in the Triple Crown. The Derby became Louisville’s major social occasion of the year; women to this day wear their most stylish hats to the racetrack, and there are numerous lavish Derby breakfasts and parties. And, of course, the Derby wouldn’t be the Derby without mint juleps, the bourbon-and-mint drink served in cold silver cups.
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marionette

Definition: (noun) A jointed puppet manipulated from above by strings or wires attached to its limbs.
Synonyms: puppet.
Usage: They appeared to me clear-cut and very small, with affected voices and stiff gestures, like a procession of rigid marionettes upon a toy stage.
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The Hollow Earth Theory

Popularized by adventure, fantasy, and sci-fi literature, Hollow Earth theories advance the notion that Earth has a hollow interior and, possibly, a habitable inner surface. Although direct knowledge of Earth’s structure extends only 15 m (24 km) down—the deepest humans have ever drilled—the Hollow Earth hypothesis has long been refuted by the modern understanding of planet formation. However, in ancient times, subterranean realms seemed plausible and became linked with what religious concepts? Discuss
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Thailand Coronation Day

On May 5, 1950, King Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned Rama IX of Thailand, the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. Ever since, the day has been celebrated as Coronation Day in Thailand. On May 4th, the Chief of Brahmin priests reads out the official proclamation of Coronation Day. On May 5, the Buddhist monks are given a feast and the king wears his full regalia. At noon, the Royal Thai Army and Navy each give a 21-gun salute. Later in the day, the king awards medals and decorations to those citizens who have done outstanding services for …read more

Elizabeth Cochrane, AKA Nellie Bly (1864)

Cochrane was a pioneering female journalist who wrote under the pseudonym Nellie Bly. She wrote investigative articles on topics such as the plight of female factory workers, and as a young woman worked as a foreign correspondent in Mexico. She later feigned insanity to gain access to an asylum and wrote an exposé that prompted much-needed reforms. In 1889, she circumnavigated the globe in 72 days, besting the fictional feat conceived by Jules Verne. What famous figure did she meet on the way? Discuss
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Cinco de Mayo (1862)

Cinco de Mayo, the “Fifth of May,” is a Mexican holiday that commemorates the Mexican army’s unexpected victory over invading French troops at the Battle of Puebla. It is widely observed in Mexico and the US, particularly as a celebration of Mexican culture. However, it is distinct from Mexico’s Independence Day, which is held annually on September 16 and commemorates Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule in 1810. What became of the French after the Battle of Puebla? Discuss
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apodal

Definition: (adjective) Having no limbs, feet, or footlike appendages.
Synonyms: apodous.
Usage: Eels are apodal and well adapted for wriggling in the mud, through the crevices of reefs, and along rocky shores.
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The Kent State Shootings (1970)

In 1970, the US was in the midst of the Vietnam War, and antiwar demonstrations among students were common. When students at Ohio’s Kent State University decided to protest the incursion of US forces into Cambodia, no one imagined it would end in tragedy. But National Guard troops called in to disperse the crowd opened fire, killing four and wounding nine others. The shooting sparked nationwide outrage and became a rallying point for antiwar activists. Where else were student protesters killed? Discuss
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Richard le Gallienne

They are the good Samaritans that find us robbed of all our dreams by the roadside of life, bleeding and weeping and desolate; and such is their skill and wealth and goodness of heart, that they not only heal up our wounds, but restore to us the lost property of our dreams. Discuss
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Rhode Island Independence Day

Rhode Island was the first and only state to declare its independence from England entirely on its own. On May 4, 1776, both houses of the General Assembly renounced the colony’s allegiance to Great Britain—a full two months before the rest of the colonies followed suit on July 4. Rhode Islanders celebrate this event during May, which is Rhode Island Heritage Month, with flag-raising ceremonies, cannon salutes, and parades of local patriotic, veterans’, and scouting organizations. Discuss
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Leprosy

Identified primarily by the skin lesions it causes, leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that affects the skin, peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes. Because of the deformities associated with it, leprosy has been one of the most feared diseases since biblical times. Contrary to popular belief, however, the leprosy mentioned in the Old Testament is likely an entirely different ailment than the one known today. Is leprosy treatable? Discuss
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Horace Mann (1796)

Mann overcame limited early education to enter law and politics. He became secretary of Massachusetts’ new board of education in 1837, at a time when the public school system was in poor condition. In his 12 years there, he established high schools, enhanced teacher training and pay, curbed child labor, and improved facilities and equipment. He fought for free, nonsectarian, universal schooling, greatly advancing education in the US. What quote is engraved on his monument at Antioch College? Discuss
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Ulysses S. Grant (1822)

Though he served with bravery in the Mexican-American War, Grant resigned his post several years later, possibly due to his heavy drinking. However, he returned to serve in the US Civil War and won a string of brilliant victories. Three years after Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to him, ending the war, Grant was elected president. Still, he spent his final years in poverty after being swindled by a friend. Days before his death, he did what to secure his family’s finances? Discuss
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shutout

Definition: (noun) A defeat in a game where one side fails to score.
Synonyms: skunk.
Usage: The coach knew that if his team could score just one point, it would avoid the humiliation of a shutout.
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Syria Ends Occupation of Lebanon (2005)

In 1976, with his country embroiled in a deadly civil war, the Lebanese president turned to Syria for assistance. At his request, Syrian forces entered Lebanon. Despite their 29-year presence, the Syrians were unable to secure lasting stability. By 2005, Syrian influence in Lebanese government had provoked protests, which intensified after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and Syrian troops finally withdrew in April. When did the two countries re-establish diplomatic relations? Discuss
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Operation Praying Mantis

In April 1988, US naval forces launched Operation Praying Mantis, attacking several Iranian targets in retaliation for the mining of an American warship in the Persian Gulf. The battle, the largest for American surface forces since World War II, was the first surface-to-surface missile engagement in US Navy history. It resulted in the sinking of two Iranian warships and three speedboats and helped pressure Iran into a ceasefire that ended its eight-year war with what neighboring country? Discuss
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John Audubon Day

John James Audubon (1785-1851) was America’s foremost ornithological illustrator. After his death in 1851, Audubon’s wife Lucy returned to teaching to support herself. One of her students, George Bird Grinnell, in 1886 organized the Audubon Society for the study and protection of birds. Today there are many branches of this organization, known as the National Audubon Society, and its members honor Audubon on his birthday, April 26. In some states, Audubon Day and Arbor Day are celebrated together by planting trees in bird sanctuaries. Discuss
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