Indiana’s Deadliest Tornadoes

Three days ago, on March 2nd, several tornadoes struck southern Indiana. Washington, Jefferson, Ripley, Clark and Scott counties were affected, and more than 14 people were killed.

These were certainly not the first twisters to hit the region, nor were they the worst. Here is a list of some of the deadliest tornadoes in Indiana history:

 

  • The ‘Tri-State Tornado’ struck in March, 1925, sweeping from southern Missouri to southwestern Indiana at more than 200 miles per hour. More than 730 people were killed across the two states, while more than half of Princeton was wiped out.

 

  • In April of 1965, Palm Sunday saw ten tornadoes strike Indiana. This disaster was the most deadly in the state’s history, causing more than 137 casualties and 1,700 injuries, as well as over $30 million in property damage. As a result, the state worked to develop more efficient tornado safety plans.

 

  • In 1974, more than twenty tornadoes struck in April, killing at least fifty citizens and injuring more than one thousand, a tragic but significant improvement on earlier crises.

 

  • Sixteen years later, in June of 1990, no less than 37 tornadoes struck Indiana, affecting 31 counties and killing at least ten people in Petersburg and Bedford.

 

  • In November of 2005, more than 22 people were killed by a tornado in Vanderburgh and Warrick counties, also in southwestern Indiana.

Astronaut Builds LEGO Model in Space

It would be hard to find more of a dream-come-true story for any child who enjoys building with LEGO.  Most children, when putting together a model, don’t envision that they’ll ever put that model together while actually sitting in that exact location.

But that’s exactly what Satoshi Furukawa, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, just had the pleasure of doing. While living in space at the International Space Station, Furukawa was recently given the task of building a LEGO model of this location.

Picture from NASA

The catch, of course, is that there is zero gravity in space.  The LEGO set, measuring two feet in length, was constructed inside a special “glovebox” that the Space Station has where things are kept from floating away.

Fellow astronaut Michael Fossum explained that,

“A lot of the work dealing with the small pieces had to be done in an enclosure. Otherwise, as he explained, there would be a problem with “all of these little pieces getting loose and becoming either lost or potentially getting jammed in equipment or even becoming a flammability hazard.”

Furukawa built the LEGO ISS set in September while living at the 360 foot long space station. This was part of a join educational program between NASA and LEGO, and his progress was documented in the video below.

Furukawa seemed less exuberant than some would have been about the project as he explained, “I enjoyed building it.” Perhaps it wasn’t the most exciting part of his space adventure – but it sure would have ranked up there for LEGO lovers around the world!

US Education and Funding: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

 

It’s not clear whether Angelo State University is doing well or going down the pan, since it boasts extremely good statistics in some areas, yet has disastrous reports in others.  The University – a member of the Texas Tech University System – offers undergraduate and graduate programs in a wide variety of disciplines.  Ultimately though its mission is to prepare its students to “be responsible citizens and to have productive careers.”  While last year witnessed higher student enrollment than ever before at the educational institute, things aren’t so optimistic for those graduates trying to enter the job market in Texas’ less-than-stable economy.  In addition, those studying at ASU are struggling to survive financially.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Nonetheless, the college did receive a $5m award, to be put towards the enhancement of its programs in the following areas: engineering, math, science and technology as part of its Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status.

As noted in the Progress 2012 report, because of the nation’s economic environment, ASU lost huge state funding (totaling 10 percent from its budget) per annum.  So what did this mean for the college that was bringing in increasingly more students because it is becoming so much more attractive due to what it can offer?  It had to forfeit this privilege.  It was forced to cut over 30 positions in faculty/staff and merge two of its colleges in an effort to reduce costs.

And then things took a turn for the worse.  Looking at the 2012 edition of Best Colleges from U.S. News and World Report, ASU came in fourth in the West for regional universities with the lowest levels of debt owed by graduates.  Thus losing all this financial backing was incredibly demeaning, disappointing and yes, could even be termed ugly, as the college had worked so hard and been so successful.  In addition, its six-year graduation rate is approximately 10 to 15 percent lower than its peer institutions.

Surely there should be some kind of solution for a college such as ASU that is clearly working hard to be the best it can be, proving itself by attracting tons of students to its campus?  Why does education have to be just about money?  Why can’t it be more about student talent, faculty dedication and a constant strive for improved quality in everything being offered under its tutelage?  This is “Progress 2012”?  If that’s the case then there’s clearly something wrong with the system; the system that loses funding apparently in spite of its greater efforts and success which ultimately acts as a boomerang effect on what it has – successfully – set out to do.

What is Presidents Day?

Presidents Day has come to an end, and with it the amazing sales and shopping sprees that are associated with the three-day weekend. In a generation where knowledge is so easily accessed, it seems rather sad that the true reason for the day is little known. Many assume the day is to commemorate America’s presidents, but the tradition was initially founded in honor of the United States’ patriarch, President George Washington, on his birthday, February 20th. In fact, though the day is known as Presidents Day, or President’s Day, it is officially known as Washington’s Birthday.

President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the law for the federal holiday in 1879, and only federal workers of the District of Columbia were affected. In 1885, the holiday was extended to federal workers in thirty-eight states by President Grover Cleveland.

A century later, according to Congressional Record, the holiday was moved to the third Monday in February. The change came in order to reduce governmental employee absenteeism, as well as to provide citizens with more family time and increase industrial and commercial production. The same move was made for Columbus, Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

As for the name of the Day, the change was suggested by Representative Robert McClory, who believed the holiday should commemorate both Washington and President Abraham Lincoln. The opposition to the Presidents Day amendment took the form of William Moore McCulloch, who claimed it “would be unwise. Certainly, not all Presidents are held in the same high esteem as the Father of our Country. There are many who are not inclined to pay their respects to certain Presidents.”

Though today the holiday is known as Presidents Day, the amendment to the bill actually fell short of the required votes, and the name was not officially changed. Still, federal holidays only affect the District of Columbia and the Federal Government, and so the individual states have since decided their own legal holidays.

States including California, Texas, Alaska, Massachusetts and others celebrate President’s Day in honor of both Washington and Lincoln, while others commemorate Washington’s birthday alone.

 

Expanding School Dinners

Obama’s Law

At the end of 2010, President Barack Obama enacted the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to ensure there is adequate federal funding to ensure all kids who qualify receive their free after-school dinner program.  Prior to this, only 13 states in the District of Columbia were privy to this.  Today, districts have started developing dinner programs in states that are able to provide them and those states in which funding was available previously but were unaware of this privilege.

More School Dinners

Due to additional funding, this year, the Kansas City School District was able to expand its school meal program.  In addition, various districts – such as Memphis, Tenn., and Oakland, Calif., – also had dinner programs.  The Oakland Unified School District began a pilot program four months ago, providing after school dinners for 11 of its 101 schools. This is expected to expand to another 19 schools by the end of this academic year.  Likewise, Memphis City Schools are providing approximately 14,000 after-school meals daily. Around 84 percent of the district's 110,000 students qualify for free- or reduced price lunches as well.

School Dinner Funding

So where is all this funding coming from for additional school dinners?   The Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Care Food Program provides the resources which also finances day care programs for children and adults, as well as emergency shelters.

Improved Nutrition Standards

Since for some time now, there has been criticism of the meals not providing adequate nutrition for kids in school, at the end of last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) committed to new nutrition standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Thus meals will include: fresh produce daily; more emphasis on whole-grain foods; low-fat dairy produce and ensuring correct portion size standards are met. These new standards on nutrition mark the first major changes in over a decade-and-a-half to improve nutrition for the 32 million school children.

Mrs. Obama’s Influence?

Perhaps these new standards have to do with the influence of the President’s wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.  In June of last year, she introduced MyPlate as a core part of her campaign against obesity and as a reminder to people about the basics of a healthful diet, before they start eating.  So, perhaps not surprisingly, on January 25th, together with Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, the First Lady announced these new standards for school  meals that are now required by law.

Lincoln’s Humility Memorialized in Shapell Manuscript Foundation Letter

Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln

Today marks the 203 anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, and one of the country’s most beloved. The Between the Lines project of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, offers several documents that help to shed some light on the special character of Lincoln that makes him such a favorite among all the American presidents.

As we all know, only too well, this year is an election year, and candidates right and left, liberal and conservative, wish to be seen as men of integrity, honesty and character. But who, more than any other of the US presidents, stands out as a model of these praiseworthy attributes other than Lincoln, whom today’s candidates can’t help but pale in comparison to?

But is that how Lincoln saw himself? According to original letters of Lincoln in the Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s collection, Lincoln’s self-identity was of a man of humble character from a humble background. Lincoln saw himself as unexceptional, revealing that his egalitarianism was intrinsic, and the golden rule was the standard by which he behaved.  Lincoln’s modesty was so profound that he wrote, in 1859, “I do not think myself fit for the presidency.”

In one letter, written to the Honorable William D. Kelley, the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Lincoln accepts the honor having a law book dedicated to him with an inscription, but only if, “that inscription may be in modest terms, not representing me as a man of great learning, or a very extraordinary one in any respect.”

Lincoln’s humility was an extremely rare thing among politicians, as it is still today. This is one of the fundamental reasons why Walt Whitman said of Lincoln that he was, “”the grandest figure on the crowded canvas of the drama of the nineteenth century.”