" Suffering predisposes the mind to devoutness. "
Honore de Balzac

Back in the day


Minamata Disease Officially Discovered in Japan

Minamata disease is a degenerative neurological disorder characterized by a loss of coordination and peripheral vision, poor articulation of speech, and numbness of the extremities. It was first encountered in 1956, when numerous cases of the then-unknown disease were observed in Minamata, Japan. Investigations showed that the consumption of seafood contaminated by a local chemical factory's mercury-laden wastewater caused the disorder. How many people have fallen victim to the terrible disease?



The Deadly Yellow River

Stretching 3,395 miles (5,464 km), the Yellow River, or Huang He, is the world's sixth longest river. Called the "the cradle of Chinese civilization" because its basin is the birthplace of the northern Chinese civilizations, the oft-flooding river has also earned the nickname "China's Sorrow." Its floods—more than 1,500 in the last 3 to 4 millennia—have caused some of the deadliest natural disasters in human history and claimed millions of lives. How was the river once used as a weapon of war?

Born on a day like today


John Woo

Woo is a Chinese film director known for the balletic violence characteristic of his movies, which belong to a genre originating in Hong Kong called "heroic bloodshed." He first gained international recognition with his 1989 Hong Kong thriller The Killer. Woo moved to the US in the early 1990s and directed a number of films, including the blockbuster action film Face/Off (1997). He was among the first Asian directors to achieve mainstream success in the US. What is "Gun Fu"?

Last updated on Friday, 1st May 2009

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