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Boston University Students Discover 1915 Time Capsule Hidden in Storage

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While sorting through old files at their summer job, three Boston University students discovered an exciting relic: a time capsule from 1915, which had sat forgotten in storage for 15 years, according to Boston.com.

As BU Today reports, undergrads Sarah Mankey, Emma Purtell, and Adam Mumford were tasked with sorting, recording, and re-packing hundreds of boxes filled with old university records while working for the college’s Facilities Management & Planning (FM&P) organization. The project took up much of the summer, but in early August, Mankey and Purtell—along with their work supervisor, Jeff Hoseth—came across a toaster-sized copper container, buried in a box along with university building records.

The time capsule had been buried in June 1915, the student workers later learned, when the cornerstone was laid for a Massachusetts Army National Guard Armory. In 2002, the building—called the Commonwealth Armory— was razed to build BU’s John Hancock Student Village complex. The armory’s original cornerstone was reset into one of the arena’s new walls, but the hidden box was stored away and presumably lost to memory with the passing years.

Mumford helped Mankey and Purtell unpack the time capsule, which had previously been pried open. It was filled with historic records, including a 1915 newspaper with articles about World War I and a map of the newly-constructed MTA subway to Harvard Square; old coins, including an 1894 quarter; construction records; antique photos; and rosters of men based in the armory.

BU officials said they were contacting the National Guard for guidance on what to do with the time capsule and its contents. In the meantime, the student workers who found the relic say it was a fitting reward for a summer of hard work.

[h/t Boston.com]

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How Much Does a Missing Comma Cost? For One Dairy in Maine, $5 Million
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Copy editors aren’t the only ones who should respect the value of the Oxford comma. Since 2014, a dairy company in Portland, Maine has been embroiled in a lawsuit whose success or failure hinged on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The suit is finally over, as The New York Times reports, and die-hard Oxford comma-lovers won (as did the delivery drivers who brought the suit).

The drivers’ class action lawsuit claimed that Oakhurst Dairy owed them years in back pay for overtime that the company argues they did not qualify for under state law. The law reads that employees in the following fields do not qualify for the time-and-a-half overtime pay that other workers are eligible for if they work more than 40 hours a week:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish product; and

(3) Perishable foods

Notice that it says the “packing for shipment or distribution” and not “packing for shipment, or distribution of.” This raised a legal question: Should dairy distributors get overtime if they didn’t pack and distribute the product?

The case eventually made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which ruled that the lack of comma made the law ambiguous enough to qualify the drivers for their overtime pay, overturning the lower court’s verdict that the state legislature clearly intended for distribution to be part of the exemption list on its own.

In early February, the company agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers, ending the lawsuit—and, sadly, preventing us from ever hearing the Supreme Court’s opinions on the Oxford comma.

Future delivery drivers for the dairy won’t be so lucky. Since the comma kerfuffle began, the Maine legislature has rewritten the statute. Instead of embracing the Oxford comma, though—as we at Mental Floss would recommend—lawmakers decided to double down on their semicolons. It now reads:

The canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

Come on, guys. What do you have against the serial comma?

[h/t The New York Times]

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Flights Grounded After World War II Bomb Discovered Near London City Airport
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Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

London City Airport grounded all flights on the night of February 11, after a World War II bomb was found in the neighboring River Thames, The Guardian reports.

The half-ton bomb was revealed Sunday morning by development work taking place at the King George V Dock. Following its discovery, police set up a 702-foot exclusion zone around the area, closing local roads and shutting down the London City Airport until further notice. According to the BBC, 261 trips were scheduled to fly in and out of London City Airport on Monday. Some flights are being rerouted to nearby airports, while others have been canceled altogether.

The airport will reopen as soon as the explosive device has been safely removed. For that to happen, the Met police must first wait for the river's tide to recede. Then, once the bomb is exposed, they can dislodge it from the riverbed and tow it to a controlled explosion site.

The docks of London’s East End were some of the most heavily bombed points in the city during World War II. Germany’s Blitz lasted 76 nights, and as the latest unexpected discovery shows, bombs that never detonated are still being cleaned up from parks and rivers more than 75 years later.

[h/t The Guardian]

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