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Fake News & the Importance of Information Literacy

 “If you have a society where people can’t agree on basic facts,
how do you have a functioning democracy?”
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron

ProQuest recently surveyed 217 librarians from university, community college, high school and public libraries in North America for their views and insights on information literacy. While 83% of librarians surveyed agree that information literacy affects college graduation rates and 97% believe that it contributes to success in the workforce, only 21% think that their users recognize information literacy’s effect on lifelong success, and 44% believe that their library does not support information literacy instruction as much as it should. Read a report on the full results of ProQuest’s 2016 Information Literacy Survey.

 What Is Fake News?

Although there are many definitions of fake news, the main characteristic is that it is created with an intent to deceive or mislead. Many fake news items are either largely or completely fictitious, and deliberately so. These stories imitate the look and style of real news articles, and they are published on sites designed to imitate established newspaper websites or political blogs, often with closely-related, similar or slightly misspelled domain names.

Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable. She tags the sites by category–false, misleading, unreliable, clickbait, satire, bias, hate, conspiracy theories, junk science, or sometimes a combination of several categories.

How Does Fake News Spread?

Most web publishers define their success by the amount of traffic their sites receive. They use this information to attract and bill advertisers based on the numbers of “clicks” or “hits” their site generates. Sometimes, the factual information or foundation of the article is not as important as the number of page views, because these can be used to generate more revenue from potential advertisers.

News sharing has become popular because people affirm their identities and affiliations by posting links to articles that reflect and support their own existing opinions and beliefs, and fake news stories are often strongly biased. Sometimes a story that was intended as satire circulates as factual information, or false information can originate when regular people who are misinformed post on social media sites. Web site owners can also pay a fee to have their site’s search results shown in top placement on the results page of different search engines.

Sharing fake news articles pushes them higher up in search result pages, causing others to come across them quickly and trust the content. This is supported by a study conducted at Northwestern University, where 102 college students went online to answer questions about topics relevant to them. How did the students assess the credibility of online content? When using a search engine, many students clicked on the first search result. They ignored the sponsoring organization and the article’s author, blindly trusting the search engine to put the most reliable results first.

Why Is Fake News Harmful?

Prior to the internet age, people relied on information in printed form–newspapers, magazines, journals, books, encyclopedias–or they watched the nightly television news. Doing any type of extensive research usually required a trip to the library to find the resources needed. The internet and social media have made it far easier for powerful entities to directly and quickly spread false or misleading information far and wide. One of the most troubling and dangerous aspects of fake news is the prevalence of private groups pushing their own agendas under the appearance of seemingly unbiased news.

An analysis by the digital media powerhouse BuzzFeed News found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook during the final three months of the 2016 presidential election campaign than reports from 19 major news outlets (including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News) combined.

The recent rise in fake news sites underscores the importance of teaching students independent research and critical thinking skills. It’s not enough to tell them to only use the school’s databases–they must learn how to evaluate the sources they find in the collective media sphere, including both print and digital sources. In its position statement on media literacy, the National Council for the Social Studies, an organization that supports social studies education in U.S. K-12 and higher education, argues that it’s important that students be able to “ask key questions, compare competing claims, assess credibility, and reflect on one’s own process of reasoning,” whether they are reading a printed book, a newspaper article or a Facebook post.

Are your students equipped with the information literacy skills to identify fake news? ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

“Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers….Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964

Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (public domain)
via National Park Service

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a man who spent his life promoting nonviolent methods of social change to end segregation and discrimination and help African Americans gain their civil rights, was himself a victim of violence when he was assassinated outside his Memphis hotel room on the evening of April 4, 1968. Four days later, Michigan Congressman John Conyers introduced the first legislation providing for a Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday to honor King’s life and achievements. Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, headed the mission to rally popular support for a King Holiday. She worked for years, testifying before Congress, launching petition drives, and urging governors, mayors, and chairpersons of city councils across the U.S. to pass resolutions to honor her husband’s birthday on January 15.

While some individual states passed laws honoring Dr. King with a legal holiday, the idea of a federal holiday faced opposition and stirred controversy. Finally, in 1983, the legislation declaring the third Monday in January a federal legal holiday commemorating Dr. King’s birthday was signed by President Ronald Reagan. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, though many states continued to boycott the holiday. It was not until 1999 that New Hampshire became the last state to make it a paid state holiday.

The only federal holiday commemorating an African-American is now celebrated each year as a remembrance of Dr. King’s life and work, and with people joining together to honor the civil rights leader’s memory through volunteer service to make an impact on their local and global communities.

You can learn more about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the King Holiday by visiting these websites, available through SIRS Issues Researcher:

Dr. Martin Luther King Day

The King Center

Martin Luther King Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site

Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute

New Year’s by the Numbers

New Year's Eve Times Square

New Year’s Eve at Times Square
Photo credit: Anthony Quintano / iWoman / CC BY

How do you ring in the New Year? 62 percent of Americans say they stay home on New Year’s Eve, spending it with family and friends, 22% admit to falling asleep before midnight, while around 10% don’t celebrate the holiday at all. Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, watching fireworks displays and making resolutions for the new year. While 45% of Americans make resolutions, only about 8% achieve them. Many people commemorate the arrival of the New Year with a champagne toast, judging by the 360 million glasses of sparkling wine that are consumed in the U.S. each year during the holiday season. Around a million people crowd into New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve to watch the iconic lighted ball drop–joined by nearly 6 in 10 Americans and a billion others globally who view all or some of the televised broadcast of the festivities.

Float at Rose Bowl Parade.

Float at Rose Bowl Parade
Photo credit: Joe Mac1 / IWoman / CC BY

On New Year’s Day, many American cities hold parades. Since 1906, the people of Philadelphia have celebrated the New Year with a parade that features 15,000 Mummers in colorful and lavish costumes who dance, spin and twirl down Broad Street after a year of secret planning. This year marks the 126th Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, which includes floral floats and marching bands and is viewed by over 80 million people around the world. The average float contains more flowers than a typical American florist will sell in five years, with up to 18 million flowers used to create all the floats that appear in the parade.

SIRS Knowledge Source offers editorially-selected and credible internet resources on vital issues and topics. You can search for sites by keyword/natural language, subject headings, or topic. Check out some of the sites below to find more information on the history and traditions of the New Year’s holiday.

New Year’s

New Year’s Traditions

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Pasadena Tournament of Roses

6 Outstanding Libraries in U.S. Prisons

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2014, there were more than 1,500,000 adult prisoners in state and federal correctional facilities in the United States. America has had libraries for prisoners since 1790 when the Philadelphia Prison Society began furnishing books to the inmates in the Walnut Street Jail. The first state prison library was established in 1802 at the Kentucky State Reformatory. It contained primarily religious books and was supervised by the prison chaplain. Prison libraries offer inmates a place to improve reading skills, write a letter home, watch an instructional video or just escape for a while by reading for pleasure. The American Library Association also works to provide library services to prisoners and their families. While many correctional institutions have book lending services or small libraries, some of the best facilities and programs in U.S. prisons are featured below:

Folsom State Prison in California (Credit: Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress) [public domain]

Folsom State Prison in California
(Credit: Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress) [public domain]

1. Angola State Prison, Louisiana. The nation’s largest maximum security prison’s Main Library was dedicated in 1968, but there are actually four other branches that serve Angola inmates as well, called Outcamp libraries. The prison is part of the Inter-Library Loan Program with the State Library of Louisiana.

2. Bucks County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania. Prisoners here work with the local Lions Club to produce reading material for the blind. The program was the first in the country of its type and uses county inmates to transcribe textbooks, worksheets, and tests into Braille for blind students.

3. Folsom State Prison, California. A March 2003 profile of the library noted that its collection included 16,522 fiction and 4,176 non-fiction books, as well as 1,449 law texts. The law library is the most popular and offers a Paralegal Studies Program to train inmates in research skills to help them find forms and legal resources. The library also offers educational programs, as well as a vocational-intern program to prepare certain inmates for the working world outside of jail.

4. Illinois State Prisons. The Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners project accepts request letters from Illinois inmates, finds books that meet their needs and provides them at no cost to the inmates. The community and individual libraries provide donated books, and volunteers staff lending libraries in local jails, interacting directly with the inmates. At last count, they have provided over 120,000 books to more than 18,000 prisoners. They also publish prisoners’ writings and artworks.

5. Norfolk Prison Library, Massachusetts. When a young Malcolm X was incarcerated here in 1948, he taught himself to read and write by copying an entire dictionary page-by-page. He later took advantage of the large library, reading every book available in philosophy, history, literature, and science. Today the library still provides education programs to inmates in the culinary arts, computer technology, HVAC, college transition, ESL, reading enrichment, and getting a GED.

6. Racine Correctional Institution, Wisconsin. In 2006, the Racine Correctional Institution Library hosted a poetry slam and competition. Another program is the Shakespeare Prison Project, a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Fifteen to twenty inmates study and rehearse Shakespeare plays for nine months, working with theater artists and preparing to perform for the other prisoners and for the community.

Leading Issues in the News: Police and Body Cameras

Civil rights activists have long called for police officers to wear body cameras. But recently, after seemingly endless incidents of conflicts between police and citizens–many that led to the deaths of unarmed black men and were recorded on bystanders’ cell phone videos–more cities are implementing the use of body-worn cameras for their law enforcement personnel. About a third of the nation’s 18,000 police agencies are now either testing body cameras or have embraced them to record their officers’ interactions with the public.

Police Officer with Body-Worn Camera via Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)/U.S. Department of Justice [public domain]

Police Officer with Body-Worn Camera
via Office of Community Oriented Policing Services/U.S. Department of Justice
[public domain]

Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology published the first full scientific study of the experiment they conducted on policing with body-worn-cameras in Rialto, California in 2012. The experiment showed that evidence capture is just one output of body-worn video, and the technology is perhaps most effective at actually preventing escalation during police-public interactions: whether that is attacks on or abuse of police officers, or unnecessary use of force by law enforcement. The study found that when the officers wore body cameras, public complaints against police were down 88% compared with the previous 12 months, while the officers’ use of force fell by 60%.

While the hope is that the cameras will increase transparency, accountability and boost police-community relations, their widespread use has also raised concerns about the privacy of people caught in body camera footage. There are also important questions about public access, review, storage, tampering and disciplinary action for officers who don’t use the devices properly. The cameras are also expensive. They can range in price from $300 to $800 per officer, and monthly video storage costs can cost hundreds of thousands more. In September, the Justice Department announced $23 million in grants for a pilot program to help agencies in 32 states to expand the use of body-worn cameras and explore their impact.

Should police officers be required to use body cameras?

This is the Essential Question explored in a recent addition to SIRS Issues Researcher’s list of over 345 Leading Issues: Police and Body Cameras.

Screen Cap from SIRS Issues Researcher

Screen Cap from SIRS Issues Researcher

For all Leading Issues, SIRS Editors create an engaging Essential Question, a summary for context, viewpoint statements, plus supporting articles to help build solid foundations for understanding the issues. Thousands of hand-selected, highly targeted newspaper and magazine articles, graphics, charts, maps, primary sources, government documents, websites, multimedia, as well as critical thinking questions, and timelines help broaden student comprehension of each topic. A Research Guide is offered to help guide each student through their assignment step by step.

Educators, direct your students to the new and updated SIRS Issues Researcher to dig deeper into the topic of Police and Body Cameras. Or they can explore these related issues:

Lincoln, Slavery, and the Emancipation Proclamation

“I never in my life felt more certain that I am doing right than I do in signing this paper…If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”–President Abraham Lincoln, on signing the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet Painted by F.B. Carpenter ; engraved by A.H. Ritchie via Library of congress [public domain]

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet
Painted by F.B. Carpenter; Engraved by A.H. Ritchie via Library of Congress [public domain]

The Republican Party’s platform in the 1860 election specifically pledged not to extend slavery any further westward into the territories. When its candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States, it led to the secession of eleven slave-holding Southern states and the beginning of the Civil War. In a letter to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, dated August 22, 1862, he wrote: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.” Despite this letter, just one month later, on September 22, Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s executive order basically stated that if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be freed. It applied to some 3 million of the 4 million slaves in the United States at the time, and allowed them to join the Union Army.

While Abraham Lincoln is often viewed as the Great Emancipator, his ultimate political aim was to restore and preserve the Union. But as a politician, he was also acutely aware of public opinion. Lincoln’s stated views on slavery, and how they evolved over time to include the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, are reviewed below

Lincoln Wasn’t an Abolitionist.

In a speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, on Sept. 13, 1858, Lincoln said, “Slavery is an unqualified evil to the negro, to the white man, to the soil, and to the State.” While Lincoln did believe that slavery was morally wrong, it was sanctioned by the “the supreme law of the land,” the U.S. Constitution, which he had sworn to “preserve, protect and defend” as President. In his first inaugural address, on March 4, 1861, he stated “I have no purpose directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so.”

Lincoln Didn’t Believe Blacks Should Have the Same Rights As Whites.

Though Lincoln argued that the founding fathers’ phrase “All men are created equal” applied to blacks and whites alike, this did not mean he thought they should have the same social and political rights. His views became clear during an 1858 series of debates with Stephen Douglas, his opponent in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate. In their fourth debate held in Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, after Douglas had accused him of supporting “negro equality,” Lincoln made his position clear. “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.”

Lincoln Thought Colonization Was the Best Way to Confront Slavery.

For much of his career, Lincoln believed that that if a majority of the African-American population would leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America, it could resolve the issue of slavery. Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852 and in a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, Lincoln said, “My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” As president in early 1863, Lincoln also discussed with Register of the Treasury Lucius E. Chittenden his plan to “remove the whole colored race of the slave states into Texas.”

Emancipation Was a Military Strategy.

Band of 107th U.S. Colored Infantry, Arlington, VA, November 1865. Photo by William M. Smith via Library of Congress [public domain]

Band of 107th U.S. Colored Infantry, Arlington, VA, November 1865.
Photo by William M. Smith via Library of Congress [public domain]

Lincoln didn’t see the Civil War as a struggle to end slavery, but as an effort to preserve the Union. But as the war dragged on into its second year in 1862, thousands of slaves had fled Southern plantations to Union lines. Since slaves made up a majority of the South’s labor force, Lincoln viewed emancipation as a way to weaken the Confederacy, while at the same time providing the Union with a new source of manpower to crush the rebellion. By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve in the Union Army and Navy. He issued the preliminary proclamation to his Cabinet on September 22, and it was published the following day. On September 24, Lincoln addressed a cheering crowd from a White House balcony: “I can only trust in God I have made no mistake….It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment on it.”

The Emancipation Proclamation Didn’t Actually Free the Slaves.

Since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure, it didn’t apply to border slave states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, all of which had remained loyal to the Union. In practice, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t immediately free a single slave, since the only places it applied were those where the federal government had no control–the Southern states that had seceded and were currently fighting against the Union. The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to make slavery illegal. Nearly eight months after Lincoln’s assassination, on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery throughout America, and fulfilling Lincoln’s original proclamation that “all persons held as slaves…are, and henceforward shall be free.”

To learn more about Lincoln’s views on slavery, the social and political climate that led to his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, its impact on the Civil War and the eventual passage of a Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery, check out these Research Topic pages available on ProQuest’s eLibrary:

13th Amendment

Abraham Lincoln

Civil War

Emancipation Proclamation

Slavery

96 Years After the 19th Amendment, the First Female Presidential Candidate

“When my mother was born, women did not have the right to vote, so we’ve come,
in really just a few generations, having to fight for the right to vote
to finally a potential woman head of state.”
–Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton

Women Marching in 1913 Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC [public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

Women Marching in 1913 Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC
[public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

The first efforts to achieve women’s suffrage began before the Civil War. In 1848, a group of over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to hold the first women’s rights convention. It took more than 70 years for American women to eventually gain that right.

Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. On August 26, it was formally adopted into the Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.

Though women finally achieved the right to vote, their struggle for equal representation in government has continued, and today they are still largely underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. It took almost a full century for the first woman to be nominated for the office of president by a major political party, when Hillary Rodham Clinton secured the Democratic party’s nomination this year.

Below are a few more firsts by American women in government and politics:

Rankin, Jeanette. Rep. from Montana, 1917-1919. Leaving White House [public domain] via Library of Congress

Rankin, Jeanette. Rep. from Montana, 1917-1919. Leaving White House
[public domain] via Library of Congress

1887: Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.

1916: Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin carries the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

1924: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the Nation’s first female governor when she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross.

1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve as a member of a U.S. presidential cabinet.

1964: Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine becomes the first woman formally nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.

Sandra Day O'Connor Being Sworn in As Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O'Connor Looks On [public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

Sandra Day O’Connor Being Sworn in As Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O’Connor Looks On
[public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.

1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman nominated for vice-president on a major party ticket.

1993: Dr. Sheila E. Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as Secretary of the Air Force. The first female U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno was confirmed 98-0 by the U.S. Senate.

1997: Madeleine Albright https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madeleine-Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of state.

2007: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2016 Democratic National Convention By JefParker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2016 Democratic National Convention
By JefParker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

According to the World Economic Forum, 63 of 142 countries in the world have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years, but the United States has never had one in its 240-year history. Why has it taken so long? And will 2016 finally be the year? We’ll find out on November 8!

This Day in History: NASA Established

This day in history marks the beginning of the United States’ official journey to explore the “final frontier”–outer space. Featured here are a few of the significant events in the history of American manned space flight.

Equipping the United States for Leadership in the Space Age”President Dwight D. Eisenhower

When the Soviet Union put the first human-made object into space by launching the artificial satellite named Sputnik in October 1957, the United States faced mounting pressures to enter the “Space Race.” Fearful of being surpassed in missile technology, Congress quickly passed legislation to create a new government agency to conduct civilian space exploration. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into law on July 29, 1958.

 “Sailor Among the Stars”Dr. Allen O. Gamble

The word astronaut first appeared in the English language in 1929, probably in science fiction, but it wasn’t commonly used until December 1958. That’s when NASA adopted it as the name for the men (and eventually women) it would train to compete in the space race. Dr. Gamble, NASA’s manpower director from 1958-1964, described the selection this way: “Someone found that the term aeronaut, referring to those who ride in balloons and other lighter-than-air vehicles, was derived from ‘sailor in the air.’ From this we arrived at astronaut, meaning ‘sailor among the stars.'”

Why Don’t You Fix Your Little Problem and Light This Candle?”Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr.

NASA introduced the Project Mercury astronauts to the world on April 9, 1959, only six months after the agency was established. (Credit: NASA) [public domain]

NASA introduced the Project Mercury astronauts to the world on April 9, 1959,
only six months after the agency was established. (Credit: NASA) [public domain]

The men who made up NASA’s first astronaut class were called the “Mercury 7.” The seven men chosen from a pool of more than 500 American military aviators were Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. “Wally” Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.

Shepard became the first American man in space, making his historic suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. He made the above statement to Mission Control as he sat in the cramped Mercury capsule atop a Redstone rocket on the launch pad, while the launch was delayed for over four hours. The actual flight lasted only 15 minutes but was a success.

“Not Because They Are Easy, But Because They Are Hard”President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy gave NASA the goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress and proclaimed that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” On September 12, 1962, he gave another speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, outlining his goals for America’s space program. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Less than seven years later, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would fulfill Kennedy’s vision by landing on the moon.

We Came in Peace for All Mankind”Plaque affixed to the leg of the Apollo 11 lunar landing vehicle

(20 July 1969)--Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. The Lunar Module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible. (Credit: NASA) [public domain]

(20 July 1969)–Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., the lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. The Lunar Module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible. (Credit: NASA) [public domain]

When astronauts first landed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission, they left behind evidence that they’d been there. Among these items were an American flag and a plaque, which was signed by President Richard Nixon and astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. The plaque bears a map of the Earth and this inscription:

HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969 A.D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND

The Eagle Has Landed”Astronaut Neil Armstrong

Six Apollo missions landed on the moon during the years between 1968 and 1972: Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. Twelve men actually walked on its surface. Each of the five later Apollo missions also left a flag. Photographs taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite show the five flags still standing in place. (Buzz Aldrin reported that he saw Apollo 11’s flag blown down by rocket exhaust when the lunar lander blasted off the Moon’s surface to rejoin the orbiting command module.) The LRO images also show objects such as the lunar rovers used by some Apollo missions, and even the tire tracks they left behind.

“Okay, Houston, We’ve Had a Problem Here”Astronaut Jack Swigert

Photograph of the adaptor made from duct tape and other materials so that Command Module lithium lydroxide canisters could be used in the LM. (Credit: NASA) [public domain

Photograph of the adaptor made from duct tape and other materials so that Command Module lithium hydroxide canisters could be used in the LM. (Credit: NASA) [public domain]

Apollo 13’s journey to the moon was aborted when two of the oxygen-producing fuel cells exploded 2 days after its launch, with the spacecraft about 200,000 miles from Earth. The lack of oxygen wasn’t a real issue, but there was a problem with the CO2 scrubbers–which meant that the three astronauts on board could be suffocated by their own carbon dioxide exhalations. Guided by engineers on the ground at Mission Control, the astronauts used duct tape and surplus materials to repair air filtration canisters in the lunar module to help them survive the journey back to Earth.

“We Will Never Forget Them, Nor the Last Time We Saw Them”President Ronald Reagan

In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist. (Credit: NASA) [public domain]

In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.
(Credit: NASA) [public domain]

President Reagan addressed the nation on January 28, 1986, after the Space Shuttle Challenger blew apart just 73 seconds after launch. The entire country mourned the loss of all seven astronauts aboard. The tragedy was a huge setback for the program, and the next mission wasn’t launched until almost three years later. The program suffered another catastrophe on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas during re-entry, killing all seven crew members.

The space shuttle program was launched in 1981, designed to be the “world’s first reusable spacecraft“–launching like a rocket, orbiting like a spacecraft, and landing like a plane. Crews ranged in size from five to seven people. NASA’s space shuttles have traveled 542,398,878 miles, making 21,152 Earth orbits. In all, there were 833 crew members in the 135 shuttle missions that were carried out through the end of the program in July 2011.

The history of NASA includes not only manned spaceflight, but also the exploration of our solar system, galaxies, and the entire universe. Scientific advances have been made in astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, aeronautics, Earth and life sciences, as well as lunar and planetary exploration and much more. NASA technology and research have contributed countless innovations and technologies first pioneered in space exploration that benefit everyday life. Among these are cordless power tools, telemedicine, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, satellite television, joysticks and GPS navigation systems. The impact of our nation’s decision to enter the “Space Race” nearly 60 years ago can’t be truly defined or accurately measured.

This Day in History: Mount Pinatubo Erupts (June 15, 1991)

Twenty-five years ago, on June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo, located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, erupted after being dormant for 600 years. Before the eruption, Mount Pinatubo was covered with tropical vegetation and was home to more than 30,000 people who lived in villages on its slopes. Thousands of other people lived in the valleys surrounding the volcano, including 14,000 US military personnel and their families stationed at Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station.

First Explosive Eruption on June 12, 1991

First Explosive Eruption on June 12, 1991 [public domain]
via U.S. Geological Survey

Huge avalanches of searing hot ash, gas, and pumice fragments roared down the sides of Mount Pinatubo, filling once-deep valleys with fresh volcanic deposits as much as 660 feet thick. The eruption removed so much magma and rock from below the volcano that the summit collapsed to form a large volcanic depression, known as a caldera, 1.6 miles across. More than 350 people died during the eruption, most of them from collapsing roofs. Even more devastating than the eruption were the flows of water and debris that resulted when monsoon rains mixed with the accumulated volcanic ash. Disease that broke out in evacuation camps and the continuing mud flows in the area caused additional deaths, bringing the total death toll to 722 people.

Fortunately, geologists from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and the United States Geological Survey had been monitoring the volcano since early April, when earthquakes and an explosion opened up a line of vents and fissures on the side of the mountain. The scientists were able to accurately predict the timing of the eruption and its effects. As a result, the Philippine government and the American military were able to carry out a timely evacuation of the population, saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars in property damage.

Summit Caldera, As Seen August 1, 1991, from the Northeast

Summit Caldera, As Seen August 1, 1991, from the Northeast
(T.J. Casadevall/U.S. Geological Survey) [public domain]

The impact of the eruption lasted long after the initial explosion. The volcano had ejected an estimated 15-20 million tons of sulfur dioxide and ash particles more than 22 miles high into the stratosphere, forming a cloud over the entire earth. Over the next 15 months, scientists measured a drop in the average global temperature of about 1 degree F. The eruption also contributed to ozone depletion–the ozone layer hole over the South Pole reached its largest size yet recorded when observed in 1992, the year following the eruption. Mount Pinatubo is considered the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.

Today, the site is a tourist spot, attracting more than 3,000 visitors each month, who climb and hike near the volcano, enjoying the beauty of the caldera lake created 25 years ago during the eruption.

SIRS Leading Issue: Natural Disasters

SIRS Leading Issue: Natural Disasters
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

For more information on volcanic eruptions, as well as other natural disasters like hurricanes, avalanches, forest fires, floods, droughts, tsunamis and earthquakes, explore SIRS Issues Researcher’s Leading Issues feature on Natural Disasters. Like each one of the over 335 SIRS Leading Issues, the Natural Disasters Leading Issue contains an overview of the issue, a timeline, statistics and an Essential Question with answers and supporting viewpoint articles. Resources are hand-selected by ProQuest editors from more than 2,000 national and international sources–including newspaper and magazine articles, graphics, charts, maps, primary sources, government documents, websites, and multimedia to support comprehension of the pros, cons and everything in-between.

First Sales of Coca-Cola: May 8, 1886

The first glass of Coca-Cola was served on May 8, 1886, in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. John Stith Pemberton was a physician and pharmacist who made and sold medicines, photographic chemicals, and cosmetic products in his state-of-the-art laboratories. Among these were a popular perfume called Sweet Southern Bouquet, and a patent medicine known as French Wine Coca. It was advertised as a “nerve tonic, a mental aid, a headache remedy, and a cure for morphine addiction.” The product contained wine and coca leaves from South America and was served at pharmacy counters.

Old Coca-Cola Sign [public domain] via Library of Congress

Old Coca-Cola Sign [public domain] via Library of Congress

In 1886, Atlanta experimented with an early prohibition law. Since Pemberton’s drink was made with wine, he needed to change the formula. He experimented in his home laboratory to create a new drink that was sweetened with sugar instead of wine. By May 1886, his new formula was ready. Pemberton carried a jug of syrup down the street to Jacobs’ Pharmacy, where it was sold as a soda fountain drink for a nickel a glass. The beverage was later named “Coca Cola”–from its two “medicinal” ingredients: extract of coca leaves and kola nuts. Although the name was used in the marketplace starting in 1886, the Coca-Cola trademark was not registered in the U.S. Patent Office until January 31, 1893.

Ticket for free glass of Coca-Cola, believed to be the first coupon ever. <br/> By Coca-Cola [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ticket for a free glass of Coca-Cola, believed to be the first coupon ever.
By Coca-Cola [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Pemberton never realized the potential of his invention. In failing health, he gradually sold portions of his business to various partners. In 1888, just before his death, he sold his remaining interest in Coca-Cola to Asa Griggs Candler, an Atlanta banker, real estate developer and manufacturer of patent medicines. Candler’s genius was in marketing and promotion. In order to get customers to try the product, he created the first coupon, which offered a complimentary glass of Coca-Cola at any fountain. Between 1894 and 1913 an estimated 8.5 million drinks free drinks had been served, and by 1895 Coca-Cola was being sold in every state.

An Original 1915 Contour Coca-Cola Prototype Bottle Designed by Earl R. Dean. By Gavinmacqueen [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

An Original 1915 Contour Coca-Cola Prototype Bottle Designed by Earl R. Dean. By Gavinmacqueen [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Consumer demand increased even further in the summer of 1894 when the first Coca-Cola was bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This ultimately led to another brilliant innovation–the unique and iconic bottle. Before refrigeration, soft drinks were kept in coolers of ice. Competitors used similar bottles, and the paper labels often fell off as they soaked in ice water, so consumers often couldn’t distinguish the real thing. So in 1915, the company asked bottling partners to design a new bottle.

In the design brief, they called for A bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.The winning design was submitted by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana. Ironically, it was mistakenly based on the shape of a cocoa pod, which is NOT one of the ingredients of Coca-Cola.  The naturally occurring minerals in the sandstone of the local cliffs gave the glass bottle its distinctive green color.

If you want to find out more about the history of this iconic American beverage, view the ProQuest eLibrary Research Topic page on Coca Cola, or visit these websites available on SIRS WebSelect: