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6 Big Events That Were Upstaged

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Here are some major events that passed under the radar because, on the same day, something even greater (or at least, more noticeable) was happening. In some cases, the event might not have grabbed our attention anyway, but has proven its worth in hindsight.

1. August 5, 1914: Introducing"¦ Traffic Lights

Early in the twentieth century, new inventions would often be big news, as people excitedly paid attention to the technology that would soon change their lives. The installation of the first electric traffic lights in Cleveland was a good example "“ or it would have been, except that the previous day, Germany had invaded Belgium. In response, Great Britain declared war on Germany, and World War I was under way. Though the US wouldn't join the war until 1917, all eyes were turned to Europe. For the record, those historic traffic lights, designed by James Hoge, had only two colors: red and green.

2. October 25, 1929: Senator Fall goes down

Political corruption in America was nothing new even in 1929, but it was unprecedented for a Presidential cabinet member to be sent to prison for his actions in office. In 1929, however, Albert B. Fall, Secretary of the Interior under President Harding, was convicted of bribery for his role in the Teapot Dome scandal. Fall had accepted generous bribes from oil executives Edward Doheny and Harry Sinclair, in return for which he had granted them control of U.S. Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming.

The subsequent investigation had shamed Fall. The experience could have been even more humiliating, however, except for the fact he was convicted a day after Black Thursday, when 13 million shares changed hands on Wall Street. Over the next few days, as Fall adjusted to life in prison, investors (and most other citizens) had more pressing problems, as the notorious Wall Street Crash wiped out more than $30 billion from the New York Stock Exchange (ten times greater than the annual budget of the federal government). Fall was released from jail after a year, to find himself heavily in debt and unemployable, in the Great Depression.

3. September 2, 1945: The Birth of Communist Vietnam

When General MacArthur accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanese on the U.S.S. Missouri, it was a time of celebration: the end of World War II. (Japan's Emperor Hirohito had announced the surrender a few weeks earlier, but the treaty made it official.)

Given these circumstances, it was forgivable that few people noticed, in another part of Asia, as communist Chairman Hồ Chí Minh read another momentous document: the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam (now renamed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam), declaring Vietnam independent from France. This was followed by an upsurge in violence between rival Vietnamese factions and French forces, forcing the British commander, General Sir Douglas Gracey, to declare martial law.

Despite negotiations, the conflict would continue "“ especially after 1950, when China and the Soviet Union backed Hồ's government. Eventually, it would result in the Vietnam War, which led to millions of deaths. So on the day that one major conflict ended, the seeds were sown for another.

4. November 22, 1963: The Rise of Beatlemania

In the mid-1960s, it took a lot to upstage the Beatles. Tragically, one of the few people to achieve this dubious feat was President John F. Kennedy, whose assassination in Dallas happened on the same day that, in Britain, the Beatles released their second album, With The Beatles.

Music historians believe that it forever changed rock albums, using songs hand-picked to complement each other (rather than a disparate collection of singles, B-sides and cover versions, as was the usual practice). The best songs included "I Wanna Be Your Man" (which also became the Rolling Stones' first hit song), "Hold Me Tight" and "It Won't Be Long." The next year, with Beatlemania taking over the world, it became the first Beatles album available in the US "“ with a new title (Meet the Beatles) and a few replacement tracks "“ like "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which didn't make the original album because it was recorded as a single.

5. February 14, 1989: The GPS lifts off

Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini had a nasty Valentine's Day message for British author Salman Rushdie in 1989. After Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, was accused of blaspheming Islam, Khomeini decreed that the author "and all those involved in its publication" were sentenced to death. It was a shocking message to the world (and fortunately, one that has never been carried out).

But meanwhile, something of far greater long-term effect was happening in Cape Canaveral, where the first of 24 satellites of the Global Positioning System were placed into orbit. The GPS, of course, has since become a fact of life. At the time, however, it barely raised an eyebrow.

6. June 4, 1989: Quite a few things

Have you ever had one of those days when everything happens? Take June 4, 1989 "“ the day the world learned Ayatollah Khomeini had died. Though he had provoked headlines four months earlier for his fatwa on Salman Rushdie (and had caused many more headlines over the past decade), the death of America's public enemy number one was not the biggest story of the day in most western media. Nor were the first partially free elections in Poland, won by Lech Walesa and his Solidarność (solidarity) party. And nor was a gas explosion in Ufa, Russia, which derailed two trains, killing 575 people (including many children setting off for their summer holidays).

On most other days, any of these stories would have easily been front page news. However, on the same day, the Chinese Government decided to teach a lesson to student pro-democracy demonstrators. Up to 2,600 people were thought to be dead, and 10,000 injured, when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately on the demonstrators. It was unexpected, shocking, and upstaged any other major world events on that incredible day.


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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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