November 30th 1993: Brady Bill signed

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James Brady looks on as Clinton signs the Brady Bill

On this day in 1993, US President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (the Brady Bill) into law. The law provides for federal background checks on gun purchases. The bill, despite its limited scope, remains a centerpiece of American gun control legislation.

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Brady lies wounded after being shot in 1981 while Hinckley is wrestled to the ground behind

It was named for James Brady, Ronald Reagan’s Press Secretary who was shot by John Hinckley Jr in an attempted assassination of then President Reagan in 1981. Brady was paralyzed and he and his family became active members of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

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Logo of the Brady Center

The Brady Bill was signed into law 20 years ago on this day, but today’s America remains in dire need of further gun control legislation. The Bill provides an important basis, but does not solve America’s gun problem.  Too many people can still buy guns without a background check and sufficient waiting period, as seen all too painfully with recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut. All too often innocent people are killed or left severely injured, just like James Brady, as a result of gun violence in the United States.

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November 29th 1972: Pong released

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On this day in 1972, the game Pong was released by Atari Incorporated, and went on to become the first commercially successful video game. Pong is one of the earliest arcade video games. The aim is to defeat the opponent in a simulated table tennis game. After its release, other companies began trying to make similar games, forcing Atari and other companies to innovate. Thus the video game industry was born. The video game industry is now one of the most profitable industries in the world is still on the rise. The release of Pong should therefore be considered an important milestone for the entertainment industry.

November 28th 1919: Astor elected

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On this day in 1919, Nancy Astor was elected as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, making her the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. Lady Astor represented the Conservative Party and was the wife of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor. She sat in Commons from 28th November 1919 to 5th July 1945. She worked to bring more women into the civil service, the police force, education reform, and the House of Lords.

November 27th 1978: Milk and Moscone assassinated

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On this day in 1978, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by Dan White. White was angry that Moscone had refused to re-appoint him to the Board of Supervisors and that Milk lobbied against his re-appointment. White went to San Francisco City Hall to meet with Moscone and make a final plea for his re-appointment. When Moscone declined, White pulled a gun and shot him. White ran into Milk on his way to his former office and shot and killed him. The bodies were found by Supervisor, and current US senator, Dianne Feinstein.

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Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, making his death a symbolic blow to the gay rights movement but also making him a martyr for the gay community. As we remember the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, and the symbolic power that event had by striking down the symbol of youthful hope for a generation, we must also remember the assassinations of Milk and Moscone.

35 years ago today

November 26th 1922: Tutankhamun’s tomb opened

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On this day in 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter and his financer Lord Carnarvon became the first people to enter the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. On 26th November, Carter made the famous “tiny breach in the top left hand corner” of the doorway, and was able to peer into the antechamber by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. When Carnarvon asked “Can you see anything?”, Carter replied: “Yes, wonderful things.”

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The first item was removed from the tomb on December 27th and on February 16th 1923, the Burial Chamber was oficially opened, where the team found the sarcophagus and the mummified remains of Tutankhamun.

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This was a hugely significant development in the study of world history, as Carter’s discoveries drew the world’s attention to Egypt and its rich history. Tutankhamun’s tomb can be considered the birth place of modern Egyptology.

November 25th 1984: Band-Aid recorded

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On this day in 1984, a group of prominent musicians recorded Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ to raise money to help famine victims in Ethiopia. The performers included George Michael, Sting, Bono, Phil Collins, Paul Weller and many more. The song was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, and upon release on November 28th quickly became one of the best selling singles in UK history. It continues to be a popular Christmas song.

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November 24th 1859: ‘On the Origin of Species’ published

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On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published his ground-breaking book ‘On the Origin of Species’. The book introduced the idea that organisms evolve through natural selection. Darwin included evidence he gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s, where he traveled widely recording his encounters. The concept of evolution revolutionised science, and was very unpopular at its time for its supposed ignoring of God’s role in man’s history. His ideas were widely ridiculed and satirised, however now his theory is the foundation of modern scientific thinking.

 

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November 23rd 1963: Doctor Who debuts

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On this day in 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast by the BBC. The original series starred William Hartnell as the protagonist known only as ‘the Doctor’, a Time Lord who travels through time in his blue police telephone box called the TARDIS with his companions. Since Hartnell, there have been 10 other actors who have played the iconic role, the current being Matt Smith. Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction drama in the world. It remains an immensely popular show, and an integral part of British culture. Today at 7.50pm on BBC One a 50th anniversary special will air.

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50 years ago today

November 22nd 1963: JFK assassinated

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On this day in 1963 in Dallas, Texas, the President of the United States John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Also injured was Texas Governor John B. Connally who was in the motorcade with the President. Kennedy was killed by a shot to the head, and was pronounced dead at hospital at 1pm.

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Conspiracy theories persist as to who the killer was, but the common story is that it was Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald never stood charge as he was killed by Jack Ruby whilst in custody two days later.

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Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President aboard Air Force One hours after the assassination. Kennedy’s assassination devastated the world, as he was symbol of hope and optimism in a troubled time.

 

50 years ago today

November 21st 1694: Voltaire born

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On this day in 1694, the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire was born. His full name was François-Marie Arouet, and he was born in Paris. He chose the name ‘Voltaire’ because it is an anagram of ‘Arovet Li’, which is the Latin spelling of his surname and and the initial letters of ‘le jeune’. He adopted the name after his imprisonment in the Bastille for criticising the government. He is best known for his writings promoting civil liberties and his overall writings amount to over 2000 books and pamphlets. His work influenced the thinkers of the American and French Revolutions.