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Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris

The historical and structural studies, conducted by Bruno Gaudin Architectes to discover the issues specific to the structure, brought to light an extraordinary juxtaposition of spaces within the structure. The assessment also revealed the necessity of including multiple areas within the intervention to restore Bibliothèque Nationale de France to its use and splendor. 

To launch the project for the rehabilitation of the Richelieu Quadrangle was therefore, to accept the challenges of a polymorphic building whose architectural strata required the elaboration of not one but several different projects: one aimed at the great scale of the site, one concerning distribution and reception; and multiple projects targeting the renovation of specific rooms, each having its individual issues and requirements.  The team of Bruno Gaudin Architectes and Virginie Bréga developed different typologies of “weaves”, which set up a dialog between Architecture, History and Techniques. A vision that guided the necessary and profound changes the structure underwent.

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Stubby was a Boston Terrier that wandered into the grounds of Yale University in July 1917. It just so happened that members of the 102nd infantry were training in Yale on this particular day. Thus, the story of the most decorated dog of World War I was born. As the soldiers were training, Stubby refused to leave their side. After growing fond of the friendly pup, Corporal Robert Conroy decided that when it was time to ship out, he would hide Stubby onboard. When they departed in France, Corporal Conroy hid Stubby in his jacket. When he was eventually discovered by the commanding officer, he was aghast to see Stubby salute him. The soldiers had trained him to salute upon request. He was allowed to stay, it was decided.

For 18 months, Stubby served in the trenches of France; he participated in four offended and 17 battles. His first injury was inhalation of toxic gas. As a result, Stubby became very sensitive to the smell - something that came in handy. When Stubby smelt the gas, he would run to all of the soldiers barking to awaken them. Additionally, Stubby would run through the trenches to find wounded soldiers. He was trained to differentiate between English and German language and bark whenever he found an English speaking soldier who was injured. In one of his most impressive endeavours, he captured a German spy. As he was mapping out the allied trenches, the German spy spotted Stubby and called out to him in German. Recognising the language of the enemy, Stubby attacked him. It was this heroic event that promoted Stubby to rank of sergeant.

After the war, he became an American celebrity, even visiting the White House twice and meeting President Woodrow Wilson. He passed away at the age of nine or ten and his body was donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

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February 27th 1933: Reichstag fire

On this day in 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin, which housed the German Parliament, was set on fire. The Nazi government of Adolf Hitler then ordered a thorough hunt to track down the arsonist. The police identified the perpetrator as Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist; he and four other Communist leaders were arrested for their supposed role in the blaze. The Nazis used the event as evidence of a Communist plot in Germany, and Hitler urged President Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree to counter the Communist threat. This Reichstag Fire Decree gave Hitler considerable powers, and is considered a pivotal moment in Hitler’s consolidation of power into a one-party dictatorship. Van der Lubbe was found guilty and executed by guillotine on January 10th 1934. However, his role has been questioned by historians with some even suggesting he was not responsible and that the fire was ordered by the Nazis themselves.

We speak of a manly man, but not of a whaley whale. If you wanted to dissuade a man from drinking his tenth whisky, you would slap him on the back and say, ‘Be a man.’ No one who wished to dissuade a crocodile from eating his tenth explorer would slap it on the back and say, ‘Be a crocodile.‘
—  G.K. Chesterton, The Religious Doubts of Democracy, 1903
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In 1890, Sir Thomas Lipton arrived on the island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to purchase a plot of land that would become the first tea estate in his global tea empire. These days, in the Ambadandegama Valley located just a few miles from Lipton’s original estate, another experiment in tea production is unfolding.

Tucked into the side of a precipitous mountain, Amba Estate is a tea operation that shares 10 percent of its revenues with its workers. That’s a novel approach here in Sri Lanka, a country that’s one of the world’s largest exporters of tea — an industry that employs more than 1 million of its 22 million residents.

“What makes us different is our 10 percent revenue share — not profit share. We decided to do revenue share because even when we’re not making a profit, we felt it was only right that workers and management receives recognition,” says Simon Bell.

Bell purchased the 26-acre Amba Estate in 2006 with three partners – all of whom had previously worked in international development. Their goal, he says, was to create a for-profit social enterprise that could create long-term employment in the region. “It’s thanks to the hard work and innovation [of the workers] that we’ve grown revenue 20 fold over the last few years.”

The estate employs 30 full-time workers from the local village. One elderly Tamil couple resides on the property itself. They had lived in an old line house, a structure built to house tea workers during the days of British rule, since long before Bell and his partners purchased the land. “We didn’t know if they had anywhere else to go,” says Bell. “They asked to stay and we were happy to let them.”

PHOTOS: In Sri Lanka’s Tea Paradise, A Social Enterprise Is Brewing

Photos: Victoria Milko for NPR

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That Close Call Back in 1995 — The Norwegian Black Brant Incident,

In the past 60 years there have actually been several incidents where the world was almost plunged into a nuclear holocaust.  Many of these incidents were purely accidental, caused by things like radar blips resulting from flocks of geese or faulty early warning detection satellites. One of the most interesting close calls occurred in Norway, and is unique in that the incident happened in 1995, after the end of the Cold War.

On January 25th, 1995 a team of Norwegian and American scientists launched the Black Brant VII rocket from the Andøya Space Center in Norway. The purpose of the rocket was to collect scientific data on the aurora borealis over the Arctic Ocean. The rocket reached an altitude of 903 miles and eventually splashed down in the ocean off the coast of Svalbard. At the time most of the world believed the rocket launch was a routine test that occurred without incident. However, little did anyone know, the Russians nearly shit their pants over it.

The rocket traveled over an air corridor that stretches from minuteman III rocket sites in North Dakota. The scientists notified 30 countries, including Russia, of the launch, however the Russian government failed to pass on news of the launch to the Russian President and to the military. Russian early warning radar systems in Murmansk detected the object, which had a similar speed and flight pattern to that of a US Navy Trident missile. Immediately Russian High Command went on full alert, fearing the United States was launching a nuclear missile. While a single missile launch may not seem much of a threat compared to thousands of missiles in an all out nuclear strike, one possible scenario that the Russians feared was that of a high altitude nuclear detonation used as a prelude to all out nuclear war. A nuclear warhead would be detonated high in the atmosphere over Russia, and the resulting electromagnetic pulse would knock out the electrical grid, communications grid, and radar over a large portion of the country, leaving Russia completely vulnerable to an all out attack.

The full alert initiated by the rocket launch went all the way up to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The Russian nuclear briefcase containing command codes was opened, the only time in history a nation’s nuclear briefcase was ever opened. This was especially scary because Boris Yeltsin had a reputation for being a hard drinker. Yeltsin’s alcohol problems were so bad that he was often drunk in public, at one point allegedly being found wandering the streets of Washington D.C. half naked after a particularly hard bender during a diplomatic visit.

As luck would have it, Boris Yeltsin was perfectly sober on January 25th, 1995, and thus he made a very wise decision to not retaliate but take a wait and see approach. Soon, it was realized that the rocket was traveling away from, not towards Russia, and thus was not a ballistic missile being fired at Russia. 24 minutes after launch, the rocket returned to Earth harmlessly. Disaster had been averted once again.

What is especially disturbing about the Norwegian rocket incident was that it occurred in the 1990′s at a time when Russian - American relations were at a peak. This wasn’t the middle of the Cold War, this wasn’t the Cuban Missile Crises with Nikita Khrushchev shouting “we will bury you!” while slamming his shoe on a podium. This was at at time when there was absolutely no reason to go to nuclear war. It just goes to show that in the modern nuclear age, even at the best of times civilization hangs on a very fine thread. 

esterko submitted:

Saw the blue plaque post a few months ago and I’ve finally got round to taking a snap of the plaque comemmorating Ira Aldridge in Łódź, Poland, where I live. It says:

‘This building used to be the ‘Paradyż’ theatre, where Ira Aldridge died before he played Othello (here). Ira Aldridge, born 24.07.1807 in New York - the first ever Black Shakesperean tragic. He achieved world fame. He is buried at the Lutheran cemetary in Łódź.

Fundes by: Barbara Johnson Williams
The President of the city of Łódź
Łódź Museum of Cinematography’