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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Twenty Things: Did You Know...?

Hal Lasko's artwork
Legally blind 97-year old Hal Lasko's artwork/July 2013

We often say that truth is stranger than fiction, but which is stranger, the truth of politics or the quirks of life? Below is a hodgepodge of snippets from both, so you can decide for yourselves.

  1. Known by some as "black gold", eating chocolate may make you clever, but consuming too much has always been a problem. Chocoholism may even date back to the 18th Century and beyond.
  2. By 1880, the first ever British phone directory had a mere 285 names - all of them London businesses, and mostly traders, dealing in everything from sugar to ostrich feathers.
  3. Fans of long-running sci-fi drama Dr Who help each other to build their own version of the protagonist's time-travelling machine, called the TARDIS.
  4. July has seen the longest spell of hot weather to affect the whole of the UK since July 2006 as temperatures exceeded 28C somewhere in the country for 19 consecutive days. But this comes with warnings of torrential flooding from thunderstorms.
  5. Human rights officials in France are investigating the American clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for choosing staff based on their physical appearance. The company says it employs models to attract customers but the group suspect the employees are in fact sales people.
  6. So-called lads' mags in Britain - which feature images of scantily clad women on covers - must cover-up their front pages with sealed "modesty bags" or be taken off sale in stores owned by the Co-operative Group and Tesco.
  7. A British female campaigner is threatened with rape on her Twitter account, because she successfully campaigned to get author Jane Austen to feature on the next British £10 note - and so avoid a long-term absence of women being represented on banknotes.
  8. As children as young as two now have access to gadgets connected online, the number of cases in which the Internet plays a part in the grooming and abuse of children is rising.
  9. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak belonged to a group of hackers and hobbyists called the Homebrew Computer Club.
  10. Legally blind 97-year old Hal Lasko can create incredible works of art on the Windows 95 version of Microsoft Paint.
  11. While the Archbishop of Canterbury accused high-interest money lending firms of putting people into more debt, he had no idea that the Church of England invested indirectly in one of them.
  12. At an entrance interview for England's prestigious Oxford University you may have a book thrown at you.
  13. The ancient Greek word "tyrannos" (from which the English language term tyranny comes) was originally a fairly neutral word for a sole ruler, good or bad.
  14. A key part of Britain's iconic White Cliffs of Dover have been bought for over £1m to forestall any future development.
  15. American and European intelligence agencies have often accused China of breaking into the communications of corporations and governments - something they were discovered to be doing from the revelations of the American defector Edward Snowden.
  16. A book titled "Iranian Living Room", which captures images of people's living rooms in the country, had problems with PayPal because of its title.
  17. A female hostage of Somali pirates did pilates to get through her six-month ordeal - much to the confusion of her captors.
  18. There are no official figures on anti-gay crime in Russia, because they are not classified as such by the police.
  19. Do things come in threes? A week after a train crash in Spain, a coach crash in Italy leaves scores of pilgrims dead, while a Swiss train crash leaves just as many injured - severely denting the image of travel safety in Europe.
  20. You could drive on the left or right in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

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