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Friday the 13th: “a day so infamous”

Friday the 13th

Fun Facts/Legends About Friday the 13th

Superstition surrounds Friday the 13thThere are several theories about why Friday the 13th has its reputation:

  • The number 13 suffers from its position after 12, according to numerologists who consider the latter to be a complete number — 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas and 12 eggs in a dozen.
  • It may date back to Biblical times. Some say Friday’s bad reputation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It was on a Friday, supposedly, that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit. Adam bit of the fruit and they were both ejected from Paradise.
  • Tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus
  • To the ancient Egyptians, life was a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in stages — twelve in this life and a thirteenth beyond, thought to be the eternal afterlife. The number 13 therefore symbolized death, not in terms of dust and decay but as a glorious and desirable transformation. Though Egyptian civilization perished, the symbolism conferred on the number 13 by its priesthood survived, we may speculate, only to be corrupted by subsequent cultures who came to associate 13 with a fear of death instead of a reverence for the afterlife.
  • Pythagoras

    Pythagoras

    “You can trace it all the way from the followers of Pythagoras, whose maxim to describe the universe was ‘all is number,'” says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and author of “The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved” (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Thinkers who studied under the famous Greek mathematician combined numbers in different ways to explain everything around them, Livio said.

  • The Crucifixion of Jesus is said to have place on a Friday
  • The number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric  goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the “perfect” number 12 over the “imperfect” number 13, thereafter considered anathema.
  • In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman’s Day in Britain), but in other pre-Christian cultures it was the sabbath, a day of worship, so those who indulged in secular or self-interested activities on that day could not expect to receive blessings from the gods — which may explain the lingering taboo on embarking on journeys or starting important projects on Fridays.
  • Loki, Norse god of evil and trickery

    Loki, Norse god of evil and trickery

    An old Norse tale tells of twelve gods invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

  • By the Middle Ages, both Friday and 13 were considered bearers of bad fortune.
  • Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995) wrote:
Knights Templar

Knights Templar

On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force “confessions,” and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake.

  • In 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition (Avalon, 2004), author Nathaniel Lachenmeyer argues that the commingling of “unlucky Friday” and “unlucky 13” took place in the pages of a specific literary work, a novel published in 1907 titled — what else? — Friday, the Thirteenth. The book, all but forgotten now, concerned dirty dealings in the stock market and sold quite well in its day. Both the titular phrase and the phobic premise behind it — namely that superstitious people regard Friday the 13th as a supremely unlucky day — were instantly adopted and popularized by the press.

Some other items to ponder…

  • ThirteenA study conducted in the UK regarding Friday the 13th and health yielded some interesting results. Incredibly, they found that in the region sampled, while consistently fewer people chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicular accidents was significantly higher than on “normal” Fridays. Their conclusion:

“Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

  • The British Navy is said to have built a ship named Friday the 13th, or the HMS Friday, which on its maiden voyage left dock on a Friday the 13th, and was never heard from again.
  • The HMS Friday story seems to be a legend, however. The Royal Navy Museum states on its web site that this story, which has been told before, is a hoax. “There has never been a Royal Navy ship named HMS Friday – or after any other day of the week for that matter,” the museum states.
  • Apollo 13 crew

    Apollo 13 crew

    The ill-fated Apollo 13 launched at 13:13 CST on Apr. 11, 1970. The sum of the date’s digits (4-11-70) is 13 (as in 4+1+1+7+0 = 13). And the explosion that crippled the spacecraft occurred on April 13 (not a Friday). The crew did make it back to Earth safely, however.

  • Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor.
  • Fear of Friday the 13th — one of the most popular myths in science — is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.
  • Quarterback Dan Marino wore No. 13 throughout his career with the Miami Dolphins. Despite being a superb quarterback (some call him one of the best ever), he got to the Super Bowl just once, in 1985, and was trounced 38-16 by the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana (who wore No. 16 and won all four Super Bowls he played in).
  • Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy, notorious American train and bank robber, was born on Friday, April 13, 1866.

  • Fidel Castro was born on Friday, Aug. 13, 1926.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.
  • Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.
  • Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. “It was bad luck,” Twain later told the friend. “They only had food for 12.”
  • Woodrow Wilson considered 13 his lucky number, though his experience didn’t support such faith. He arrived in Normandy, France on Friday, Dec. 13, 1918, for peace talks, only to return with a treaty he couldn’t get Congress to sign. (The ship’s crew wanted to dock the next day due to superstitions.) He toured the United States to rally support for the treaty, and while traveling, suffered a near-fatal stroke.
  • Eagle seal on the back of a dollar bill

    Eagle seal on the back of a dollar bill

    The seals on the back of a dollar bill include 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 stars above the eagle’s head, 13 war arrows in the eagle’s claw and 13 leaves on the olive branch. So far there’s been no evidence tying these long-ago design decisions to the present economic situation.

 

Special thanks to livescience.com and urbanlegends.about.com

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Valley Forge: Washington’s Frost-bitten Army Encampment During the American Revolution

General George Washington at Valley Forge

General George Washington at Valley Forge

Facts About Valley Forge

 

“To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes … without a house or hut to cover them until those could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled.”
-George Washington at Valley Forge,
April 21, 1778

 

  • General Washington's headquarters

    General Washington's headquarters

    g the winter of of 1777-1778 the prospect of more fighting during the war for Independence, was not possible because of the weather, and the poor condition of Washington’s troops. They had fought their last battle of 1777 at White Marsh, and he had decided to rest his troops at a relatively safe and secure position at Valley Forge.

  • Named for an iron forge on Valley Creek, the area was close enough to the British to keep their raiding and foraging parties out of the interior of Pennsylvania, yet far enough away to halt the threat of British surprise attacks.
  • The poorly fed, ill-equipped army, weary from long marches, struggled into Valley Forge, and the winds blew cold, as the 12,000 Continentals prepared for winter’s fury.
  • The first properly constructed hut appeared in three days. Within six weeks, more than a thousand huts were finished to provide shelter for the rag-tag army. But everything thing else, food, clothing, shoes, and medicines were left wanting.
  • Because of the harsh conditions, and lack of supplies, it is hardly remembered that over 2000 men died, without a shot being fired.
  • Disease at Valley Forge was rampant. Sanitary conditions in the 18th Century were very poor. Small pox, typhoid or typhus (known as putrid fever), pneumonia, and dysentery were some.
  • Valley Forge Arrival

    Valley Forge Arrival

    Most of the troops were inoculated for small pox at Valley Forge, but these men were usually on an inactive status because they were quarantined.

  • It is a little known fact, that more Americans died during this winter, than at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined.
  • It is also a little known fact, that over 5000 Americans of African descent served in Washington’s army. African American men were active members on the battlefield, a mixture of freed and enslaved men who took up arms.
  • After the war had ended, a resolution passed by Congress in 1779 decreed that any enslaved man serving with the Continental Army, upon the termination of their service, would be a freed man. And while a majority of men of African descent were freed, a large portion of them were not.
  • Also not widely known is the fact that a great number of Native Americans from the Oneida Indian Nation in particular had a crucial impact during the Valley Forge encampment.
  • Washington’s troops were the most racially integrated of any American army fielded, up until Vietnam.
  • So severe were conditions at times that Washington despaired that the army might have to be disbanded, and every man let go to forage for himself. But with the help of men like General Christopher Ludwig, Friedich Von Steuben, Henry Knox, and a host of Camp followers that consisted of the families, wives, children, mothers, and sisters of the soldiers, who were continually trying to help and raise the morale of Washington’s men, the army survived.
  • Huts for the soldiers

    Huts for the soldiers

    On June 19 1778, after training all winter and their ordeal finally over, they left Valley Forge to pursue the British, and continue the war for Independence.

  • One of Valley Forge’s first tourist attractions was the historic house now called Washington’s Headquarters, dedicated in 1879 by the Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge.
  • One of the earliest people to come as a tourist (and write about the experience) was John Fanning Watson who visited in 1828.
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania established its first state park at Valley Forge in 1893.
  • Valley Forge became a National Park in 1976, for the Bicentennial.

 

Special thanks to authorsden.com and ushistory.org

 

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OPEC: Influential Oil Producing Cartel with “Diplomatic Immunity”

OPEC Cartel Logo

OPEC Cartel Logo

Fun Facts About OPEC

Members of OPEC meet

Members of OPEC meet

 

 

Current Members: Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela

Cartel: By definition, OPEC is a cartel — a group of producers which tries to restrict output in an effort to keep prices higher than the competitive level.

It no longer sets crude oil prices: OPEC admits to setting crude oil prices in the ‘70s and’ 80s — they would look ridiculous to try and deny it. However, the oil market underwent a transformation in the 1990s and today, prices for crude oil are established according to three markets: 1) The New York Mercantile Exchange; 2) The International Petroleum Exchange in London; and, 3) The Singapore International Monetary Exchange.

This isn’t to suggest that OPEC has no influence on prices; quite the contrary. Prices established by the exchanges are based on supply and demand; therefore any decision OPEC makes concerning restricting production, for example, will have some effect on prices. These decisions, however, can have a direct consequence on profit margin, so it isn’t always in their best interests.

Its practices are considered to be illegal: Simply put: Cartels are illegal in many countries. In the U.S., for example, OPEC is in direct violation of antitrust laws, such as the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 — the same act that broke up Standard Oil, American Tobacco and Ma Bell. Antitrust laws don’t criminalize monopolies per se, only if the monopoly is used to eliminate its competition through methods of production or price-fixing.

Ordinarily, U.S. antitrust laws explicitly prohibit dealing with cartels. What makes OPEC so special? Simple: Congress grants OPEC diplomatic immunity from prosecution and in essence treats it as though it were a sovereign nation, even though this is not remotely the case. This status was tested in 1978, when the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), a non-profit labor organization in the U.S., filed suit against OPEC under the Sherman Act. In 1981, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the case, claiming OPEC was protected by its sovereign immunity status.

In 2007, a pair of controversial bills were introduced in Congress designed to amend antitrust laws to include OPEC. If the measures are approved in both houses and the president doesn’t veto it, individuals harmed by OPEC in the U.S. can begin to sue the organization. If this were to happen, few expect OPEC to continue doing business with the U.S.

It isn’t the only game in town: If one only paid passing attention to the media, you might get the impression that OPEC is the only oil game in town. Granted, its member countries control anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of the world’s proven oil reserves and over 40% of the globe’s oil production; however, there are other sets of somewhat substantial oil-producing groups.

Originally formed as an agent of the Marshall Plan following World War II, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a vast and all-encompassing organization with all sorts of arms and legs. Of its 30 member countries, a minority are oil producers, including the USA, Canada, Mexico, and the UK. Together they account for about 23% of the world’s oil production.

Additionally, the Russian Federation and a handful of former-Soviet states, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, are responsible for about 15% of global oil production.

OPEC Member Nations

OPEC Member Nations

It was formed to fight the “Seven Sisters”: The world’s wealthy oil barons have not always resided in the Middle East. In fact, for most of the 20th century, the member nations of OPEC were at the mercy of the so-called “Seven Sisters,” a non-organizational set of oil producers and distributors which, perhaps due to that non-organizational status, somehow eluded antitrust prosecution. The Seven Sisters was composed of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Royal Dutch Shell, Anglo-Persian Oil, Standard Oil of New York, Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil, and Texaco.

By 1960, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela had grown tired of exporting their oil and then having to buy it back at higher prices. They formed OPEC to assert their “legitimate rights in an international oil market,” and by the 1970s, thanks in part to strategic maneuvers such as the Arab oil embargo, began to dominate the market.

It’s “customers” see bigger oil prices than its members: Oil taxes by countries that regularly import oil from OPEC, such as the U.S., the UK, Japan, and Italy, are often as much to blame for high oil prices as OPEC. Such taxes allow some countries to see oil-related revenues that are three or four times higher than some OPEC members see from exports. In addition, the production and development of oil requires huge investments, a fact that further chips away at OPEC-member profit margins.

As gasoline prices soar, more and more attention gets paid to OPEC. In the Western press its easily vilified and is a common ”fall guy“ for every issue related to oil and oil prices — not always unjustifiably so.

More than a few people would be pleased to see OPEC’s influence reduced or even made moribund. However, proven oil reserves are defined in the industry as the amount of oil that can be recovered and produced using today’s technologies, and as of 2006, the world total was 1,195,318 million barrels of crude oil; OPEC’s share of that amount was 922,482 million barrels or 77.2% (if you accept OPEC’s figures; hardly everyone does). Thus, unless a drastic change occurs in the energy-consumption habits of much of the world’s oil-hungry population, interest in OPEC is unlikely to recede for some time.

Special thanks to www.askmen.com

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The U.S. Federal Reserve: Determining Monetary Policy Since 1914

Fun Facts About the U.S. Federal Reserve


  • The 12 Federal Reserve Banks

    The 12 Federal Reserve Banks

    The U.S. Federal Reserve System began on November 16th, 1914

  • The Federal Reserve is a private institution. It is owned by the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, which are each in turn owned by a combination of regional banks, commercial banks, foreign banks, and miscellaneous individuals who have inherited pieces passed down through generations. (Rockefellers, Rothschilds, etc.)
  • The Federal Reserve holds a monopoly on the issuance of currency in the USA. In essence, this is the power to borrow an infinite amount of money at 0%. The dollar bill in your pocket is a 0% loan to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve then uses these 0% loans to purchase income-producing assets. Before 2008, the assets purchased were primarily Treasury debt, which is backed by the taxation power of the US Government. In other words, we are exchanging the property rights to our valuable assets (land, labor, entrepreneurship) for little slips of green paper to buy trinkets with. The government can then tax these valuable assets to pay for our excess. The more we spend, the more the Fed owns.
  • If all money created is debt and counts as principal, where does the money come from to pay interest on this debt? It comes from the money that gets printed in the future. This is why inflation is a natural result of our current monetary system.
  • Prior the the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act/TARP Act of September 2008, commercial banks were required to hold 10% of deposits as reserves. This placed a limit on the potential amount of money creation at around 9x the original deposit. An obscure clause in the TARP Act changed the reserve requirement to 0%, immediately making the potential money supply infinite.
  • The reason for the credit spread blowups of October/November 2008 was because in the same TARP Act the Fed was allowed to pay interest on deposits without publicly stating the interest rate. Before the TARP Act, there was around $20 billion deposited by commercial banks at the Fed. After the TARP Act, deposits immediately jumped 50x to $1 TRILLION. This resulted in a disappearance of demand for risky assets, which led to blowouts in credit spreads.
  • As a result of various acts of Congress in 2008, the Federal Reserve now has the authority to buy all sorts of assets (commercial paper, corporate bonds, mortgage loans, etc.). A cynical person would say this essentially allows the Fed to seize all valuable assets in this country directly by exchanging fancy bits of green paper for them without having to go through the intermediate step of coercing the US Government into spending more money and taking on more debt.
  • Much of the Fed’s activity is not made public because of the use of off-balance sheet vehicles.
  • There is debate over the constitutionality of the Fed’s various awesome powers.

What does this all mean? This economic crisis will not become a depression. By employing the new tools of monetary policy that the Fed has created for itself (interest on reserves and direct asset purchases), the money supply can be jerked around as if on a string. Initially, this means we will soon experience another period of easy credit and unsustainable economic growth.

However, the end result of current policies is that the Fed will be powerless to stop the next economic crisis. Assuming no outside shocks (another big war, nuclear attack, etc.), the dollar will over time lose its status as the reserve currency, and we will experience a currency crisis followed by rampant inflation at some point down the road.

Special thanks to www.seekingalpha.com 

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The Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941: Living in Infamy

The Pearl Harbor Memorial rests atop the sunken U.S.S. Arizona

The Pearl Harbor Memorial rests atop the sunken USS. Arizona

Facts About the Attack on Pearl Harbor

  • Japanese attack routes on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii
    Japanese attack routes on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

    Although the aerial attack was very successful, the submarines failed to finish off any wounded ship inside the harbour.

  • The attack’s success surprised the Japanese as much as the Americans.
  • The last part of the decoded Japanese message stated that U.S. relations were to be severed.
  • The Japanese attack force was under the command of Admiral Nagumo.
  • Japansese force consisted of six carriers with 423 planes.
  • At 6 a.m. the first Japanese attack wave of 83 planes took off.
  • Nickname for Pearl Harbor is “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”
  • Eighteen U.S. ships were hit.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy,” in reference to the attack.

  • Three prime targets escaped damage, the U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, the Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga. They were not in the port when the attack took place.
  • Another target, the base fuel tanks also escaped damage.
  • Casualties included 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians.
  • 1178 people were wounded.
  • The day after the attack the U.S. and Britain declared war on Japan.
  • Pearl Harbor is the Naval Base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
  • Pearl Harbor is the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
  • Pearl Harbor has 10 square miles of navigable water.
  • The harbour is on the southern coast of Oahu.
  • Naval vessel placement at Pearl Harbor during the attack
    Naval vessel placement at Pearl Harbor during the attack

    The harbour is artificially improved.

  • The attack was the climax of a decade of worsening relations between the U.S. and militaristic Japan.
  • A U.S. embargo on necessary supplies for war prompted the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • The Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku planned the attack with great care.
  • All of the planes on the Japanese ships were fully fueled and armed.
  • The Japanese planes took off about 90 minutes from Pearl Harbor.
  • The president at the time of the attack was Franklin D. Rooselvelt.
  • The attack brought the United States into World War II.
  • The Japanese fleet had 30 ships.

  • The Japanese were interested in the Hawaiian islands since the islands were annexed by the U.S. in 1898.
  • An admiral said, “leaving aside the unspeakable treachery of it, the Japanese did a fine job.”
  • Japanese suffered just small losses.
  • The attack crippled the United States fleet.
  • The Japanese deceived the U.S. by saying false statements and expressed interest in continued peace.
  • Americans think of the attack as very dishonorable.
  • The attack was planned weeks in advance.
  • The main reason for the attack was over economic issues.

  • Because of the unpreparedness of the U.S. military, Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short were relieved of duty.
  • The attack severely crippled the U.S. naval and air strength in the Pacific.
  • Of the eight battleships, all but the Arizona and Oklahoma were eventually repaired and returned to service.
  • On December 8, 1941, Congress declared war on Japan with only one vote against it. The vote against it was of Represenative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who had also voted against U.S. entry into World War I.
  • Once the fleet was out of action, Japan would be able to conquest a great area.
  • A U.S. Army private who noticed the large flight of planes on his radar screen was told to ignore them because a flight of B-17s from the continental U.S. was expected at the time.
  • More than 180 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.
  • Pearl Harbor Memorial
    Pearl Harbor Memorial

    During the attack the USS Arizona sank with a loss of more than 1,100 men.

  • A white concrete and steel structure now spans the hull of the sunken ship as a memorial.
  • The memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1962.
  • U.S. officials had been aware that an attack by Japan was probable, but did not know the time or place it would occur.
  • Pearl Harbor was not in the state of high alert when the attack started, Anti-Aircraft guns were left unmanned.
  • The Americans were taken completely by surprise.
  • The main targets for the first wave was the airfield and battleships.
  • The second wave targets were other ships and shipyard facilities.
  • The air raid lasted until about 9:45 a.m.

 

 

 

Special thanks to  www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com and www.absoluteastronomy.com

 

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