The Conservatives Win The UK General Election!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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UK General Election 2015

 

Like the last election in the UK, this one was a close run thing – but nowhere near as close as the pollsters predicted. At least this time there is an outright winner, the Conservative Party, with David Cameron still as Prime Minister.

No hung Parliaments, no dodgy coalitions between parties that obviously did not really like each other, and no more general elections for another five years.

Stability is always good.

Indeed the Conservative victory is already being seen as a positive step for the UK economy, with both shares and the pound sterling rising in value.

But during the next five years, although a degree of stability has been achieved, the UK is still in for challenging times economically.

Like the Unites States, the UK has been living well beyond its means for far too long. Eventually these delusions end in harsh reality. America will find this out too, but not until after their election next year.

austerity measures sign

 

At the start of the campaigning there was an unexpected degree of sense in being shown the two main parties. Election messages were warning of the need to cut spending, that Britain was still living beyond its means, and that there would be ‘difficult’ choices ahead.

However, as the election campaign progressed and the pollsters warned how tight the result was likely to be, all the political parties regressed into doing what they do best, regardless of what country they are in. In their desperation to get votes they ignored reality once again, started hiding the truth from their voters, and promised more goodies that the country can’t afford.

You know the sort of thing, better education, better health service, more jobs, etc., and to pay for it all less taxes.

Huh?

Yes, elections are full of ‘spend more and collect less’ promises.

In the non-political world we call them lies, because that’s what they are.

The smaller parties never suffered from the same restraints. Even from the beginning of their campaigns small parties like the Scottish SNP promised massive spending. They knew they would never be in a position to have to follow through on these boasts, but their message got out and, as always happens, many voters fell for it. The Scottish National Party (SNP) had a landslide victory in Scotland, winning 56 of the 59 seats – and all they promised was extra £180 billion ($280 billion) more spending over the next five years.

The two main parties soon countered with their own promises – the Conservatives talking about things like 30 hours of free child care a week for parents of 3 & 4-year-olds, no tax for people earning the minimum wage, an extra £8 billion (US$12 billion) for the National Health Service, free access to a doctor seven days a week, and a freeze rail ticket price increases for five years.

debt

 

On the face of it, the past five years have seen the UK economy growing, unemployment down below 6% and a booming housing market, particularly in the South East of the country. All part of the reason why the Conservatives have their victory.

But, returning to reality for a moment, Britain is now in the most debt it has been in, relative to its economy, since 1967. The financial crisis hit the UK hard. From 2009 to date, British government borrowing has been at a higher level than at any time since World War II.

The scariest part is that, whilst the governments all talked about “cuts” and “austerity”, not a penny of this money has been paid back.

And like American politicians, and others, they use deliberate deceit to cover their lack of progress. Well-worn phrases like “cutting the deficit” are designed to make people think that the government is paying back its debt, but in fact all that has been happening is that they have been borrowing a little less money this year than they did the year before.

If you are any good at math at all, you will know that in reality this means that the debt burden is increasing, not decreasing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Britain would, in all probability, not even begin to pay back its debts until sometime after 2020 – and that was even before all these new election promised of spending more!

eu referendum in uk

 

In addition to all that, one of the fundamental platforms that helped the Conservative Party to get elected was the promise of a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. The result of that will have its own impact economically too.

Personally if I were them I’d drop the EU like a hot poker. For more than forty years Britain has been paying more into Europe than they have got out, a situation that is likely to continue as rafts of the poorer European nations continue to join.

So the next five years are shaping up to be very interesting for both Britain and America.

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Give That President A Cigar …er… A Great Big Cuban One!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Cuban American flags

Strangely, when President Barack Obama was elected with ease in 2008 and had a comfortable Congressional majority he didn’t really capitalize on his advantage. He may have gotten elected promising ‘change’ but he didn’t make many when he made it into the big seat.

Now, perhaps sensing the end of his term as President, and in spite of the Democrats’ recent crushing defeat, he is becoming ‘Obama the bold’, maker of decisions, changer of things.

Hence his recent decisions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and an amnesty for five million illegal immigrants in the US.

JFK imposed the embargo on Cuba way back in 1962, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In JFK’s day the embargo was America’s way of thumbing its nose at the Soviet Empire. Cuba was less than 100 miles from the continental US and its defiance of the mighty Uncle Sam was an embarrassment, particularly after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Cuban missile crisis

Curious therefore that Obama cannot see the similarities with Putin’s stance in the Ukraine, but that’s another story.

However, getting back to the Cuban embargo, it was a decision that has been condemned by almost every nation in the world ever since. I think it smacked too much of the big rich kid in the schoolyard picking on the little poor kid.

But, like a lot of things that are half a century old and more, the Cuban embargo was well past its sell-by date. Not least because it didn’t work!

Neither of course did the Cuban system, which failed mainly due to the disintegration of the Soviet Empire that had kept Cuba financially afloat long after Castro’s communism would have bitten the dust if left to its own devices.

In Cuba today there is a realism and a recognition of that very fact. Fidel Castro himself admitted that their model “….no longer works even for us,” when he was speaking in support of his brother Raúl’s “liberal” reforms announced a few years ago.

For the moment, that ‘liberalization’ in Cuba means allowing employees, most of them former civil servants, to become the owners of the small businesses that employ them.

I call that capitalism. What do you think?

Lots of US corporations are queueing up to develop their business interests in Cuba. Big names, like American Airlines, Hilton Hotels and PepsiCo are already in the starting blocks.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the new US regime sweeps into power.

In the meantime I think I’ll buy a nice big box of cigars.

A-Box-Of-Cigars

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Chain Stores, Axes And Earthquakes Are Just Some Of Today’s Facts.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Yes, chain stores, axes and earthquakes are just some of today’s random selection of fabulous facts here at the fasab blog.

Hope find a few things new and interesting.

Enjoy.

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did you know5

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NASA’s New Horizons mission will

be the first probe to study Pluto.

It was launched on January 2006,

and will be near Pluto on July 2015.

New Horizons mission

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The world’s largest Axe is located

in Nackawic, New Brunswick, Canada.

It stands 15 metres (49 ft) tall,

weighs over 55 tons and the

axe-head is 7 metres (23 ft) wide and

has a time capsule embedded within it.

It sits on a concrete stump 10 metres (33 ft) in diameter.

The axe was commissioned, designed and

built in 1991 by a company in Woodstock and it

symbolizes the importance of the forest industry in the region.

world's largest Axe Nackawic, New Brunswick, Canada

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There is a small town in Estonia (actual name ‘Tartu’)

that has been nicknamed of ‘Souptown’ because most

of its streets are named after various vegetables,

such as Kartuli (Potato), Herne (Pea), Oa (Bean),

Marja (Berry) and Meloni (Melon).

Souptown Estonia

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The town of ‘Superior’ in Wisconsin in the USA

is also known as ‘Soup Town’

but this is simply because the name was shortened

to ‘Soup’ and then ‘Town’ added later.

Superior Wisconsin

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The first recorded chain store was British-owned W H Smith,

founded in London in 1792 by Henry Walton Smith and his wife.

The store sells books, stationery, magazines, newspapers,

and entertainment products.

W H Smiths

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In the U.S., chain stores began with the founding of

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) in 1859.

By the early 1920s, the U.S. boasted three national chains:

A&P, Woolworth’s, and United Cigar Stores.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company

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Ants are known to be able to lift and carry

about 50 times their own bodyweight,

but a recent scientific research study by

Ohio State University suggests it can be up

to an incredible 5000 times their bodyweight.

cartoon ant carrying heavy load

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It was during the stupid ‘Prohibition’ period

in the Unites States (1920-1933),

when there was a nationwide Constitutional ban

on the sale, production, importation, and

transportation of alcoholic beverages,

that  ‘cocktails’ gained popularity.

They were offered to mask the flavor of poorly made

alcohol and popular versions included

‘Mary Pickford’, ‘French 75’, ‘Barbary Coast’,

‘Bee’s Knees’, and the ‘Sidecar’.

cocktails

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And, by the way,

it is still illegal in Ohio to get a fish drunk.

drunk-fish

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Barack Obama is the USA’s 44th President,

but there actually have only been 43 presidents:

Grover Cleveland was elected for two non-consecutive terms

and is counted twice, as the 22nd and 24th President.

President Grover Cleveland 22nd and 24th POTUS

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Although the Great Wall of China has

existed for more than two thousand years,

most of the rest of the world didn’t know

about it until after the first European,

a Portuguese explorer named Bento de Gois,

discovered it in 1605.

Great Wall of China

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Not quite as old as the Great Wall of China,

but nonetheless impressive, was Brazilian woman

Maria do Carmo Jeronimo who for a while

was the oldest living person on earth.

She was the last Brazilian slave,

and one of very few people in history who

managed to live during three different centuries;

she was born in Brazil in 1871 and

she died on June 14, 2000,

at the incredible age of 129 years and 102 days.

Unfortunately lack of a birth certificate,

which were not often issued in those days especially for slaves,

prevented her official recognition as the world’s oldest woman.

Maria do Carmo Jeronimo

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If you ever wondered what it would be like

trying to eat your dinner during an earthquake

then you should book a table at

Disaster Café, in Lloret de Mar, Spain.

At the “disastrous” dinners customers experience

an artificial 7.8 magnitude earthquake

so don’t wear your best gear as there are likely

to be spilled food and drinks during the meal.

Disaster-Cafe

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When James Wan agreed to direct the horror movie ‘Saw’

he also agreed not to receive an “up front” salary

but instead opted for a generous percentage

of the movie’s box office earnings.

‘Saw’ made over $100 million globally and it is

considered one of the most profitable horror movies of all time.

Wan’s risk also enabled him to become one of the youngest

and highest-earning directors in movie history.

James_Wan

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The world’s shortest commercial flight takes place

between the two Orkney Islands, Westray and

Papa Westray, north of Scotland.

Operated by Loganair,

the flight covers a distance of only 1.7 miles (2.7 km)

and if the weather conditions are favorable,

it can be completed in just 47 seconds.

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Playing With Statistics

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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It’s Sunday so time for another Sunday Sermon.

There’s a famous quote from US President Abraham Lincoln that goes something like, “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time”.

On the face of it Lincoln’s words seem rather clever and profound – and true. And so they are.

Up to a point.

But what Lincoln didn’t say (and he was a politician after all) is that you don’t have to fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.

What you have to do is fool them long enough to do what you need to do – for example, in the case of a politician, to get yourself elected.  

 

graph Miss Universe

Which brings me to statistics.

Because the best people in the world at playing with statistics are politicians and governments.

Some people believe everything they are told. Others call the figures governments produce ‘disingenuous’ which is being very kind. And some don’t believe a word or a number that they produce. (Take a wild guess at which camp I am in.)

Government statistical results are in effect lies. You can’t call them that – although I just did – because they can find figures to back up what they say, it’s just that they choose the figures that tell the story they want to promote and ignore all the rest that tell a different story.

For example, to get on to one of my favorite rant subjects, there is a thing which I am sure most of you have never heard of called the ‘Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program’ or ‘SIGTARP’ for short.

When the government is challenged about what is has been doing to bring to justice the banksters, who stole and recklessly gambled away our money, they can quote you a statistic or two saying that over the last few years, SIGTARP has put over 100 senior bank executives in jail, each of whom was convicted of stealing from taxpayers.

Although that fact is ‘technically’ or ‘statistically’ true, what they don’t tell you is that the people they have gone after and convicted are all small time crooks, guilty of small time frauds that are seldom above $1m or $1.5 million in value.

All the super crooks who embezzled hundreds of $ billions and almost brought down the entire financial system aren’t even being seriously pursued. More than six years into the SIGTARP investigations there are literally still hundreds of billions of outstanding ‘loans’, from banks including Citi, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

They can quote figures all day long to try to mislead the people and make themselves look good, but a few small time crooks thrown in jail for stealing a million or two dollars here and there isn’t ever going to make much of a dent in the $ billions that were stolen. The politicians know that as well as anyone.

Perhaps Mark Twain’s “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” might have been a better quote!

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Another Quiz For Monday.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Hi, and welcome to another quiz for Monday.

A random mixture of general knowledge, history, geography, politics, sport, movies, etc., all designed to get you thinking.

As usual, if you get stuck, the answers can be found waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down below, but please NO cheating!

Enjoy and good luck.

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quiz 8

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Q.  1:  Name the only boxer to knock out Mohammed Ali?

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Q.  2:  In what Clint Eastwood movie did Gene Hackman appear as the President of the United States?

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Q.  3:  When Steve Jobs set up the Apple computer company in 1976 who was his partner?

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Q.  4:  What phrase was used to describe the German empire under Hitler?

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Q.  5:  Which Shakespearean character, haunted by the ghost of his murdered father, shares his name with a small settlement of people?

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Q.  6:  Which group was made up of a cowboy, an Indian, a policeman, a biker, a GI and a builder?

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Q.  7:  Which war drama, first seen on British Television in October 1972, depicted life in a German castle used for prisoners of war?

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Q.  8:  Who murdered the well known singer Marvin Gay?

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Q.  9:  What is the Spanish word for ‘Conqueror’?

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Q. 10:  The term “Expletive Deleted” came into fashion as a result of the publication of the transcript of what?

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Q. 11:  Which notorious gang were involved in the famous gunfight against the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday at the O.K Corral?

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Q. 12:  How did David kill Goliath?

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Q. 13:  Which island volcano is west of Java, unless in the movie where it is east of Java, and erupted in 1883 causing 36,000 deaths?

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Q. 14:  Who published ‘Centuries’ in 1555, a book of rhyming prophesies going up to the year 3797?

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Q. 15:  The Clayton Bulwer Treaty signed in 1850 concerned the construction of what?

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Q. 16:  In which year was the first Afro-American elected to the US Congress?

            a) 1870,           b) 1906,           c) 1928           d) 1960

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Q. 17:  Who is the only US president to have never been elected?

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Q. 18:  Which company owned most of what is now called Canada in the early colonial days?

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Q. 19:  Which country has the world’s oldest flag?

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Q. 20:  Which famous actor sang ‘We Are Ready’ at the end of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games?

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ANSWERS

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Q.  1:  Name the only boxer to knock out Mohammed Ali?

A.  1:  Larry Holmes, in 1980.

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Q.  2:  In what Clint Eastwood movie did Gene Hackman appear as the President of the United States?

A.  2:  Absolute Power.

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Q.  3:  When Steve Jobs set up the Apple computer company in 1976 who was his partner?

A.  3:  Stephen Wozniak.

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Q.  4:  What phrase was used to describe the German empire under Hitler?

A.  4:  It was known as the ‘Third Reich’.

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Q.  5:  Which Shakespearean character, haunted by the ghost of his murdered father, shares his name with a small settlement of people?

A.  5:  Hamlet.

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Q.  6:  Which group was made up of a cowboy, an Indian, a policeman, a biker, a GI and a builder?

A.  6:  Village People.

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Q.  7:  Which war drama, first seen on British Television in October 1972, depicted life in a German castle used for prisoners of war?

A.  7:  Colditz.

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Q.  8:  Who murdered the well known singer Marvin Gay?

A.  8:  His father.

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Q.  9:  What is the Spanish word for ‘Conqueror’?

A.  9:  Conquistador.

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Q. 10:  The term “Expletive Deleted” came into fashion as a result of the publication of the transcript of what?

A. 10:  The Watergate Tapes.

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Q. 11:  Which notorious gang were involved in the famous gunfight against the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday at the O.K Corral?

A. 11:  The Clantons.

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Q. 12:  How did David kill Goliath?

A. 12:  With a stone from a sling.

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Q. 13:  Which island volcano is west of Java, unless in the movie where it is east of Java, and erupted in 1883 causing 36,000 deaths?

A. 13:  Krakatoa.

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Q. 14:  Who published ‘Centuries’ in 1555, a book of rhyming prophesies going up to the year 3797?

A. 14:  Nostradamus.

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Q. 15:  The Clayton Bulwer Treaty signed in 1850 concerned the construction of what?

A. 15:  Panama Canal.

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Q. 16:  In which year was the first Afro-American elected to the US Congress?

            a) 1870,           b) 1906,           c) 1928           d) 1960

A. 16:  a) 1870.

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Q. 17:  Who is the only US president to have never been elected?

A. 17:  Gerald Ford.

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Q. 18:  Which company owned most of what is now called Canada in the early colonial days?

A. 18:  The Hudson Bay Company.

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Q. 19:  Which country has the world’s oldest flag?

A. 19:  Denmark. (Maybe we should have a whip round and buy them a new one?)

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Q. 20:  Which famous actor sang ‘We Are Ready’ at the end of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games?

A. 20:  Jackie Chan.

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Did You Know? Another Fifteen Fabulous Fasab Facts!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Fifteen fabulous and very random facts.

I don’t know how much of this information you retain, probably not that much if you’re like me, but hopefully you enjoy reading them all the same.

Here we go….

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did you know2

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The city of Austin, Texas,

was originally named “Waterloo.”

austin texas-panorama

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The term “couch potato”

is the legal property of Robert Armstrong,

who trademarked it in 1976.

(I wonder where he got the energy?)

couch-potato

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Al Gore (1992, 1996),

Dick Cheney (2000, 2004)

and Joe Biden (2008, 2012)

are the first three consecutive vice presidents

to be elected to two terms.

Joe Biden

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Worcestershire sauce was invented accidentally

when a British company was trying to recreate

the flavors in Indian food.

Lea_&_Perrins_worcestershire_sauce_150ml

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The term “dogfight” originated during WWI.

The pilot had to turn off the plane’s engine from time to time

so it would not stall when the plane turned quickly in the air.

When a pilot restarted his engine midair, it sounded like dogs barking.

WWI dogfight

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Jim Henson said he made the first Kermit

out of his mom’s old coat.

He used Ping-Pong balls for eyes.

Actual Kermit

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The concept of community service as a form of probation

originated in Alameda County, California, in 1966.

It was first used as an alternative punishment for female traffic offenders.

community service

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The name “The Birdman of Alcatraz” is not strictly accurate

because Robert Stroud was allowed to keep birds

when he was incarcerated at Leavenworth,

not when he was transferred to Alcatraz.

Robert Stroud

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Will Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix.

Instead he starred in Wild Wild West.

Will_smith_west

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Mayan tradition dictated that a mother

should cover her newborn’s face for the first year of life

in order to drive away evil spirits.

The practice is still carried out in rural Guatemala.

ancient_mayan_ruins_chichen_itza_mexico1

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The modeling compound Play-Doh started out in the 1950s

as a wallpaper cleaner for coal residue.

Sales began to fall as coal was used less frequently in furnaces,

but the owner’s sister-in-law, a preschool teacher,

suggested it be used as a children’s toy.

Play-Doh

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The 100-ounce pyramid-shaped capstone on top of

the Washington Monument is made of aluminum.

At the time it was placed (December 6, 1884)

it was the largest aluminum object cast.

In those days aluminum was very hard to produce

and was worth as much as silver.

Washington Monument aluminium capstone

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Chicago is America’s skyscraper capital.

The city has more 1,000-foot tall buildings

than any other U.S. city.

chicago_skyscrapers

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If we define the “highest spot on the Earth”

as that which is closest to the moon, stars, etc.,

then Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador is an

incredible 1.5 miles higher than Mt. Everest

due to the oblate spheroid shape of the earth.

(Y’all clumb the wrong mountain boyz!)

mount-chimborizo-ecuador-equator-tallest-mountain

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The spooky theme song for Alfred Hitchcock Presents

is titled “Funeral March of a Marionette.”

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