The Thing About Today – May 17

May 17, 2020
Day 138 of 366


May 17th is the 138th day of the year. It is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, which aims to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBT rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBT rights work worldwide. It’s also the National Day Against Homophobia in Canada.


In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Pack Rat Day, National Cherry Cobbler Day, National Graduation Tassel Day, National Walnut Day, National Idaho Day, and Take Your Parents To The Playground Day (which is typically observed on the third Sunday in May).


Historical items of note:

  • In 1792, the New York Stock Exchange was formed under the Buttonwood Agreement.
  • In 1875, Aristides won the first Kentucky Derby.
  • In 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was first published in the United States. The first copy was given to the author’s sister.
  • In 1936, actor and director Dennis Hopper was born.
  • In 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the landmark decision U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools were ruled unconstitutional.
  • In 1955, actor and director Bill Paxton was born.
  • In 1961, Irish singer-songwriter and producer Enya was born.
  • In 1962, Scottish-American comedian, actor, and talk show host Craig Ferguson was born.
  • In 1969, actress Paige Turco was born.
  • In 1973, televised hearings began in the United States Senate for the Watergate scandal.
  • In 1977, Nolan Bushnell opened the first Chuck E. Cheese’s in San Jose, California.
  • In 1983, The United States Department of Energy declassified documents showing the world’s largest mercury pollution event in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. There was ultimately found to be 4.2 million pounds of mercury contamination, and the discovery was in response to the Appalachian Observer’s Freedom of Information Act request.
  • In 1990, the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) eliminated homosexuality from the list of psychiatric diseases.
  • In 2004, the first legal same-sex marriages in the United States were performed in the state of Massachusetts.


In 1865, the International Telegraph Union (later the International Telecommunication Union, both known as the ITU) was established in Paris.

The oldest global international organization, the ITU is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies. The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards.

The organization is also active in the areas of broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

World Telecommunication Day, later replaced by World Information Society Day, is observed on May 17th to commemorate the establishment of the ITU. The day also serves to raise global awareness of social changes brought about by the internet and new technologies, as well as helping to reduce the digital divide.

The term digital divide, which was coined and publicized by Larry Irving when he was head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, describes a gap in terms of access to and usage of information and communication technology. Traditionally, it was the question of having or not having access, but the penetration of mobile phones in the global market has changed that a measure of relative inequality with respect to bandwidth.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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