August 12th, this Day in History


Night of Murdered Poets. In Soviet Russia thirteen Jewish poets were put on trial for espionage. Just Stalin’s way of thanking a population that gave its all to beat back Nazi Germany. The thirteen pleaded their cases in front of a jury of their peers, although, in this case, their peers were a three military judge panel. There were no defense attorneys and confessions had been tortured out of twelve of the men. No one knew how the trial was going to turn out. Would they be executed? Or, would they be tortured and THEN executed?

All the men belonged to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, a group dedicated to securing funding for the USSR against the Nazi German army, so they were asking for it. They were executed on August 12th, 1952.

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On this day, during Columbus’ first voyage, he stopped at the Canary Islands (motto: Our Birds Love Working in Your Coal Mines) for a little rest and relaxation before taking his perilous voyage over the vast ocean, to finally arrive at the New World, meet its people, learn their ways and then enslave, rob and kill them…

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Tianjin explosions occurred on this day in 2015, moving inner-city residents just a little bit closer to the suburbs, one tiny piece at a time. Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics and Liquor Store had been storing eight hundred metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is a fertilizer when it isn’t leveling federal buildings in Oklahoma City. Fortunately, there was also a massive amount of sodium cyanide present to absorb the blast and to give the city a protective coating.

During the investigation, the Chinese government imposed a media blackout, which was hardly necessary since most of the media had been blown up… Nearly fifty people were prosecuted by the government; and, the chairman of Ruihai Logistics was sentenced to death. His sentence will probably be commuted because killing 179 people isn’t as bad as writing poetry and fighting Nazis.

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Diamond Jim Brady was born on this day in 1856, delighting his mother, his father and a third-round draft pick to be named later. Brady started at the very bottom as a courier and built a fortune as a salesman. Although a philanthropist, Brady is best known for eating enough food for ten men in one sitting. He might eat three dozen oysters, a bunch of lobsters, a couple of ducks, a steak and a sensible salad. One restaurant-owner called Brady his “best ten customers”.

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Cleopatra died on this day in 30 BCE, leaving a tenured position open. Octavian had defeated Marc Antony’s forces and had issued explicit orders that Cleopatra not be allowed to die. But, Cleopatra was tired of Octavian’s “rules”. Historians don’t really agree on how she died, but considering she was being watched, a snake found in a basket of figs would be just the ticket if she wanted to kill herself.

I tried to find an appropriate painting of the event but, paintings indicate, when women committed suicide in Egypt during the first century BCE, their clothes fell off. They’d clutched a serpent to their bosoms, became envenomed and then their breasts popped out like timers on a Thanksgiving turkey. I respect their culture.

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Glorious Twelfth: The twelfth of August is the first day of grouse season in the UK; so, if you are a grouse, you should look back on a life well lived and get your affairs in order. Grouse are great sport because they are very hard to kill. Lung cancer feels the same way about people.

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