one small step

Jul 20th, 2009 Posted in history, tech | no comment »

A lot of attention has been paid to today’s 40th anniversary of the moon landing.  There are the unsung heroes, the rocket scientists who actually built the Saturn V.  There’s the talk of the future, with the Apollo 11 astronauts urging that we aim for a manned mission to Mars instead of a return to the moon.  There’s the 10-year-old boy who helped NASA maintain radio contact with the returning capsule before it splashed down.  There’s the late Walter Cronkite’s iconic coverage of the mission.  There’s the interesting historical journey from Gil Scott-Heron to the new NASA Administrator.  There are the mirrors that were left on the surface, and the end of one research project that has been using one all this time.  And there’s Google Earth, which now lets you experience the moon landing up close.

indigenous justice

Jul 16th, 2009 Posted in currents, history | 4 comments »

In 1995, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and several others protesting the activities of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria and the effects of those activities on the Ogoni people were executed by the former Nigerian government.  Allegations persisted for years afterward that the oil company was complicit in the killings, and ultimately a lawsuit was filed against Shell in federal court in New York on behalf of the families of the activists.  Recently, Shell agreed to settle the suit, with no admission of wrongdoing, for US$15.5 million.  Part of the settlement will go to the activists’ families, and part will fund social programs for the region’s inhabitants. The case was seen as a bellwether for other companies whose practices in foreign countries may be affecting indigenous peoples.

Note: One of the earliest bits of content on this site was a local copy of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s final statement to the military tribunal that executed him.

history bits

Apr 25th, 2009 Posted in history | no comment »

Jack Johnson’s family fights to clear his name. And newly published photos from the day that Martin Luther King was shot.

inside man

Feb 22nd, 2009 Posted in history | one comment »

Meet William Jackson.  He was a slave of Confederate president Jefferson Davis — and a spy for the Union army.  It turns out that a number of slaves engaged in espionage for the north.  Collecting information wasn’t hard for them; because of their menial status, they were simply ignored as Confederate leaders openly discussed war strategy in their presence.  Because of their tradition of oral history (and reliance on memory since teaching them to read and write was illegal), the slaves were able to remember even minute details.

Another interesting note: In addition to her Underground Railroad activities, Harriet Tubman also led a number of espionage missions, and even an 1863 raid in South Carolina.

the evolution of abolition

Jan 28th, 2009 Posted in history, science | 2 comments »

Interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the work of historians Adrian Desmond and James Moore, who explain in their book Darwin’s Sacred Cause that Charles Darwin’s work on the theory of evolution was actually motivated by his strong moral opposition to slavery.  Darwin set out to refute the commonly held belief that the different races were created inherently unequal (a philosophical basis for slavery) by showing that all humans had, in fact, evolved from a common ancestor.