Five things we learned last month

Photos: Eric Risberg/AP/Press Association Images, Magnus Manske, Aram Dulyan, Hapal, Boris Yurchenko/AP/Press Association Images

With just one month to go until issue #18 of Delayed Gratification comes out, our research for features and infographics has once again transformed us into kings and queens of trivia. Here are five of the most interesting facts we stumbled across in the previous month.

1) After the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan employed the services of an astrologer, Joan Quigley. In her 1990 book, ‘What Does Joan Say?’ Quigley claimed that she had a huge influence on policy decisions in the Reagan administration. This was backed up by a former chief of staff, Donald T. Regan, who said that “virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.”

2) In 1912 it was decided that the soldiers of the French army would be kitted out in a newly-commisioned ‘tricolor cloth’, made of white, blue and red threads. Just before production of huge quantities of the new cloth went ahead it was discovered that the only companies making the red dye (a product called alarizin) were German. The high command decided to drop the red and add in another shade of blue instead.

3) The largest recorded gold nugget found in California weighed 109.2 lb and, if melted down, would be worth $1,905,701 at today’s prices.

4) Since 1974 Tehran has had its own Beautification Organisation, an affiliate of Tehran Municipality which is tasked with making the heavily polluted Iranian capital more beautiful. The organisation has supported the creation of 800 murals since 2004. Mural art is particularly well-suited to Tehran because on most buildings three of four walls are left blank and grey.

5) In 1988, secondary school history exams were cancelled in the Soviet Union because textbooks had to be rewritten first. The existing school textbooks were found to be useless after Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost – or, transparency – had revealed their many inaccuracies. An article written at the time in the LA Times claimed that “even historians, social scientists and Communist Party theoreticians are uncertain what was correct, what was fantasy and what was a cover-up of crimes in the material taught Soviet students.”

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