history

Chernobyl and ‘the summer without children’

Apr 26, 2016
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Gleb Garanich/Reuters

On April 26, 1986, a routine test on reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went horribly wrong. The reactor in Ukraine, in the old Soviet Union, went into meltdown. It became the world’s worst peacetime nuclear disaster.

A power surge during the test led to a rupture and a series of steam explosions. There was a massive leak of radiation, leading to fallout eventually landing all across Europe.

Dozens died in the struggle to contain the disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated.

Editor's note: This week, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we will be running a series of stories examining the links between food and the Bard.

In Shakespeare's time, England was a hungry and volatile nation.

A statue of Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.
Flickr Photo/Martin Deutsch CC By-NC-ND-2.0 http://bit.ly/1MIuGBF

Washington state and Seattle have a reputation as left-leaning – most recently because of the election of Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant and our adoption of the $15 an hour minimum wage.

But our lefty reputation is older than that. (Exhibit A: statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in Fremont.)

(This post was last updated at 6:15 p.m. EDT.)

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced on Wednesday that the countenance of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman will grace a new $20 bill.

The decision caps a public campaign asking for a woman to be placed on American paper currency and months of deliberation by the Treasury to replace either Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill or Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

Los Angeles is home to the largest Thai community outside of Thailand. This week, Thai-Americans are celebrating the traditional three-day water festival called Songkran to mark the new year. And many of them regularly shop at LA's landmark Bangkok Market, the first Thai food store in the U.S.

The first Trump tower? Donald Trump's grandfather, Frederick Trump, leased a business that offered "private rooms for ladies" in Seattle's red light district.
Puget Sound Regional Archives

Donald Trump, the presidential candidate, is 100 percent Queens. But his grandfather, Frederick Trump, built his nest egg in the Northwest.

In the 1940s, an elite team of mathematicians and scientists started working on a project that would carry the U.S. into space, then on to the moon and Mars. They would eventually become NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (or JPL), but here's what made them so unusual: Many of the people who charted the course to space exploration were women.

Nathalia Holt tells their story in her new book, Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. Holt tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that the women worked as "computers."

During the 1930s, as Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany, the man who would turn out to be his most implacable foe was drowning — in debt and champagne.

In 1936, Winston Churchill owed his wine merchant the equivalent of $75,000 in today's money. He was also in hock to his shirt-maker, watchmaker and printer — but his sybaritic lifestyle, of a cigar-smoking, horse-owning country aristocrat, continued apace.

Baked Alaska: A Creation Story Shrouded In Mystery

Mar 29, 2016

On March 30, 1867, for a mere $7.2 million — about two cents per acre — the U.S. bought land from Russia that would eventually make Alaska its 49th state, gaining a delicious fringe benefit in the process: Baked Alaska.

A classic Craftsman in Seattle's Mount Baker neighborhood. Most of the neighborhood was developed in the early 20th century when architecture was in its heyday.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Look around almost any Seattle neighborhood and you’ll see them: Modest one-story homes, with large, covered porches and eaves that shield wooden siding from the rain.

They’re Craftsman-style bungalows, and you’ll find hundreds of them here, from Wallingford and Ravenna to Mount Baker and over the bridge in West Seattle.

Photo by Frank Shaw, and used with permission by Paul Dorpat.

In 1965, a local businessman towed a giant orca into Elliott Bay. Namu the Killer Whale became a huge hit with the public, inspiring local musicians and even a movie.

Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War.

But what few know is that the writer, reformer and mother of six who wrote those stirring words – "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" – was adrift in a lonely war of her own, against a husband who sought to control every aspect of her life, from what she wrote to what she ate.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump, pictured here 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Flickr Photo/Gage Skidmore (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e41ELr

Bill Radke speaks with University of Washington historian Margaret O'Mara about mud slinging and crudeness in American politics.

After Donald Trump defended the size of his penis during a Republican primary debate, some people asked, have we hit a new low? According to O'Mara, the answer is no. Things like this have been happening for centuries.

And often, the vulgarity is a smoke screen that distracts from the real issues, O'Mara said. 

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, by a vote of 8 to 1, to uphold a state's right to forcibly sterilize a person considered unfit to procreate. The case, known as Buck v. Bell, centered on a young woman named Carrie Buck, whom the state of Virginia had deemed to be "feebleminded."

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for president in 2016.
Flickr Photo/Brookings Institution (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Bill Radke speaks with University of Washington historian Margaret O'Mara  about how Bernie Sanders' campaign reminds her of Henry Wallace, Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice president who lost to Harry Truman  in the 1948 Democratic primary. O'Mara is the author of the book, "Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century."

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