It’s Friday – TGIF! Did you know…
* 1976 – Commons votes to abolish the death penalty by a free vote of 132-124. (Throughout history, certain crimes have been judged to be so heinous as to result in the state requiring the perpetrator to be put to death. Over centuries though there have been (in most countries) fewer and fewer crimes worthy of a death sentence.
In countries and colonies of the British Empire in the 16th to 19th centuries, there were hundreds of crimes deemed punishable by death. In Canada’s early history, such things as stealing turnips, or even being found in disguise in a forest, were deemed capital offenses.
By Confederation, in 1867 and the birth of Canada as a country (Dominion) the number of capital crimes had dropped from 230 of about a decade earlier to just three: murder, treason, and rape.
The idea that the state should not take the life of one of its citizens began in 1914, with a private member’s bill in Parliament. Member of Parliament, Robert Bickerdike called for its abolition, but the bill went nowhere. Yet Canada was slowly moving towards abolition. In 1954, rape was removed as a capital offense. By 1960, death sentences were regularly commuted to life in prison, which was also when the government introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights.
In 1961, the government introduced a classification system instituting the concept of degrees of murder. The last execution for murder was on December 11, 1962, when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were hanged together at the Don Jail in Toronto in relation to two separate murders. That hanging resulted in a public outcry against hanging.
A very lengthy debate on the issue was held in Parliament and a free vote (Members were allowed to vote according to their own consciences and the will of their constituents rather than vote according to party policies) was held on Bill C-84 to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except those under the National Defence Act. This allowed the death penalty for military personnel for cowardice, desertion, unlawful surrender, or spying.
The abolition of the death penalty was passed by Parliament on this day in 1976 by a relatively narrow margin of 131 in favor to 124 against. It became law on July 26.
* 1789 French revolutionaries storm Bastille. (Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress, and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed.
By the summer of 1789, France was moving quickly toward revolution. Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, the military governor of the Bastille, feared that his fortress would be a target for the revolutionaries and so requested reinforcements. On July 12, royal authorities transferred 250 barrels of gunpowder to the Bastille, and Launay brought his men into the massive fortress and raised its two drawbridges.
At dawn on July 14, a great crowd armed with muskets, swords, and various makeshift weapons began to gather around the Bastille. Launay’s men were able to hold the mob back, but as more and more Parisians were converging on the Bastille, Launay raised a white flag of surrender over the fortress. Launay and his men were taken into custody, the Bastille’s gunpowder and cannons were seized, and the seven prisoners were freed. Upon arriving at the Hotel de Ville, where Launay was to be arrested and tried by a revolutionary council, he was instead pulled away by a mob and murdered.
The capture of the Bastille symbolized the end of the ancien regime and provided the French revolutionary cause with an irresistible momentum. In 1792, the monarchy was abolished and Louis and his wife Marie-Antoinette were sent to the guillotine for treason in 1793.)
* 1995 A revolutionary new technology is christened “MP3″. (Representatives of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) were not in attendance at the 1995 christening of the infant technology that would shake their business model to its core just a few years later. Known formally as “MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3,” the technology in question was an efficient new format for the encoding of high-quality digital audio using a highly efficient data compression algorithm. In other words, it was a way to make CD-quality music files small enough to be stored in bulk on the average computer and transferred manageably across the Internet. Released to the public one week earlier, the brand-new MP3 format was given its name and its familiar “.mp3″ file extension on this day in 1995.
The importance of MP3, or any other scheme for compressing data, is made clear by some straightforward arithmetic. The music on a compact disc is encoded in such a way that a single second corresponds to approximately 176,000 bytes of data, and a single three-minute song to approximately 32 million bytes (32MB). In the mid-1990s, when it was not uncommon for a personal computer to have a total hard-drive capacity of only 500MB, it was therefore impossible to store even one album’s worth of music on the average home computer. And given the actual connection speed of a then-standard 56K dial-up modem, even a single album’s worth of music would have taken literally all day to transfer over the Internet. In this way, the nature of the CD format and the state of mid-90s computer and telecommunications technologies offered the music industry a practical barrier to copyright infringement via Internet file-sharing. But then came MP3.
Over the course of the late 1980s and early 1990s, several teams of audio engineers worked to develop, test and perfect the standard that would eventually gain the blessing of Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG). Their approach took advantage of certain physical and cognitive characteristics of human hearing, such as our inability to detect the quieter of two sounds played simultaneously. Using a “perceptual” compression method, engineers were able to eliminate more than 90 percent of the data in a standard CD audio file without compromising sound quality as perceived by the average listener using standard audio equipment.
Suddenly, that digital copy of your favorite pop song took up only 2-3 MB on your hard-drive rather than 32MB, which in combination with the growth in average drive capacity and the increase in average Internet connection speed created the conditions for both the rampant, Winamp- and Napster-enabled copyright infringement of 1999-2000 and for the legal commercial distribution of digital music via the Internet. In the eyes of the RIAA, those are the conditions that also explain the 29 percent decline in the sales of music CDs between 2000 and 2006.)
* 1986 “Father of Streamlining” Raymond Loewy dies. (Raymond Loewy, the hugely influential industrial designer who put his mark on the American automobile industry with groundbreaking vehicles such as the Studebaker Champion, Starliner, and Avanti, dies on this day in 1986 at his home in Monte Carlo at the age of 92.
Born in France, Loewy served as an engineer in the French army during World War I before completing his degree in engineering and moving to New York City. He had found success as a fashion illustrator by 1929, when Sigmund Gestetner, a British manufacturer of duplicating machines, commissioned him to improve the appearance of his company’s product. Loewy revamped the look of the Gestetner duplicator, covering its protruding parts with a smooth shell mounted on a simple base. The design’s success earned him a product design job at the Hupp Motor Company, where he began his long association with American automobile manufacturers.
Loewy advocated longer, lighter vehicles that would be more fuel-efficient, a bias that was ahead of its time and clashed with the prevailing attitudes in Detroit. Among his design contributions over the years were slanted windshields, built-in headlights, and wheel covers. The Loewy-designed 1947 Studebaker Champion, was dubbed the “coming or going” Studebaker, as it looked very similar whether viewed from the front or the back. His 1953 Starliner Coupe made a splash with its clean lines, lightweight body, and relative lack of chrome—quite a contrast from the large, shiny vehicles popular in that era. (In 1972, a poll of American car stylists would pick the Starliner as the industry’s best: As Automotive News announced, “The 1953 Studebaker, a long-nosed coupe, with little trim and an air of motion about it, was acclaimed the top car of all time.”) Loewy also designed the classic Avanti and Avanti II sports cars for Studebaker.
Founded in the 1930s, Raymond Loewy Associates grew into the largest industrial design firm in the world. Among Loewy’s other famous designs were the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the slenderized Coca-Cola bottle, the U.S. Postal Service emblem and the Exxon logo. His signature streamlined look spread to hundreds of products, from toothbrushes and ballpoint pens to refrigerators, but was particularly influential in the transportation industry. Loewy went from streamlining the trash receptacles at New York’s Pennsylvania Station to designing the first all-welded locomotive (in 1937). Loewy also designed the modern Greyhound bus (and logo), the interior of NASA’s Saturn I, Saturn V, and Skylab spacecraft, and Air Force One, which he redesigned for President John F. Kennedy, giving it the sleek white missile-like exterior it has today.)
* 1099 Jerusalem captured in First Crusade. (During the First Crusade, Christian knights from Europe capture Jerusalem after seven weeks of siege and begin massacring the city’s Muslim and Jewish population.
Beginning in the 11th century, Christians in Jerusalem were increasingly persecuted by the city’s Islamic rulers, especially when control of the holy city passed from the relatively tolerant Egyptians to the Seljuk Turks in 1071. Late in the century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, also threatened by the Seljuk Turks, appealed to the West for aid. In 1095, Pope Urban II publicly called for a crusade to aid Eastern Christians and recover the holy lands. The response by Western Europeans was immediate.
The first crusaders were actually undisciplined hordes of French and German peasants who met with little success. One group, known as the “People’s Crusade,” reached as far as Constantinople before being annihilated by the Turks. In 1096, the main crusading force, featuring some 4,000 mounted knights and 25,000 infantry, began to move east. Led by Raymond of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert of Flanders, and Bohemond of Otranto, the army of Christian knights crossed into Asia Minor in 1097.
In June, the crusaders captured the Turkish-held city of Nicaea and then defeated a massive army of Seljuk Turks at Dorylaeum. From there, they marched on to Antioch, located on the Orontes River below Mount Silpius, and began a difficult six-month siege during which they repulsed several attacks by Turkish relief armies. Finally, early in the morning of June 3, 1098, Bohemond persuaded a Turkish traitor to open Antioch’s Bridge Gate, and the knights poured into the city. In an orgy of killing, the Christians massacred thousands of enemy soldiers and citizens, and all but the city’s fortified citadel was taken. Later in the month, a large Turkish army arrived to attempt to regain the city, but they too were defeated, and the Antioch citadel surrendered to the Europeans.
After resting and reorganizing for six months, the crusaders set off for their ultimate goal, Jerusalem. Their numbers were now reduced to some 1,200 cavalry and 12,000 foot soldiers. On June 7, 1099, the Christian army reached the holy city, and finding it heavily fortified, began building three enormous siege towers. By the night of July 13, the towers were complete, and the Christians began fighting their way across Jerusalem’s walls. On July 14, Godfrey’s men were the first to penetrate the defenses, and the Gate of Saint Stephen was opened. The rest of the knights and soldiers then poured in, the city was captured, and tens of thousands of its occupants were slaughtered.
The Crusaders had achieved their aims, and Jerusalem was in Christian hands, but an Egyptian army marched on the holy city a few weeks later to challenge their claim. The Egyptians’ defeat by the outnumbered Christians in August ended Muslim resistance to the Europeans for the time being, and five small Christian states were set up in the region under the rule of the leaders of the crusade.)
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/
* Radio Canada International http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2016/07/14/history-july-14-1976-canada-votes-to-end-the-death-penalty/