The Thing About Today – October 19

October 19, 2020
Day 293 of 366

October 19th is the 293rd day of the year. It is Constitution Day in Niue, observed in honor of the country’s independence in the form of self-governing in free association with New Zealand starting in 1974.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Kentucky Day, National Seafood Bisque Day, National LGBT Center Awareness Day, and National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day (typically observed on the third Monday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1386, the Universität Heidelberg held its first lecture, making it the oldest German university.
  • In 1469, Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile. The marriage paved the way to the unification of Aragon and Castile into a single country that became Spain.
  • In 1789, John Jay was sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States.
  • In 1900, Max Planck discovered Planck’s Law of black-body radiation. Planck’s Law describes the spectral density of electromagnetic radiation emitted by a black body – an idealized physical body that absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation, regardless of frequency or angle of incidence – in thermal equilibrium at a given temperature T, when there is no net flow of matter or energy between the body and its environment. I know, that’s a lot to handle. At its core, this discovery was a pioneering insight of modern physics and is of fundamental importance to quantum theory.
  • In 1940, Irish-British actor Michael Gambon was born.
  • In 1943, Streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis, was isolated by researchers at Rutgers University.
  • In 1945, actor John Lithgow was born.
  • In 1966, actor, director, and screenwriter Jon Favreau was born.
  • In 1973, President Nixon rejects an Appeals Court decision that he turn over the Watergate tapes.
  • In 1983, Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson was born.
  • In 1990, Dances with Wolves premiered.

As mentioned at the top of the post, today is Constitution Day in Niue. But, I asked myself, what is Niue?

Niue is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,500 miles (or 2,400 kilometers) from New Zealand. The island is about 100 square miles (260 km2) in land area and has a predominantly Polynesian population of 1,600 people.

The island is commonly referred to as “The Rock”, which comes from the traditional name “Rock of Polynesia”, and is is one of the world’s largest coral islands. The two-level terrain is made of limestone on the upper portion and a lower coastal terrace that slopes down to the sea in small cliffs. The coral reef has one major close to the capital of Alofi on the central western coast.

As mentioned before, the state is self-governing in free association with New Zealand, giving New Zealand the power to conduct most diplomatic relations on its behalf. Since it is part of the Realm of New Zealand, Niueans are citizens of New Zealand and Queen Elizabeth II is Niue’s head of state in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand.

Between 90% and 95% of the island’s people live in New Zealand, including about 70% of the speakers of the Niuean language. Niue is a bilingual country, and 30% of the population speak both Niuean and English.

Niue is subdivided into 14 municipalities called villages. Each village has a village council that elects its chairperson, and those villages are electoral districts which send an assemblyperson to the Parliament of Niue. The state holds democratic legislative elections every three years.

The island has a tropical climate and focuses on solar power, but also has one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas production per capita in the world. Consider, of course, that their per capita is based on 1,600 people, so it’s a bit skewed.

Niue is also the world’s first dark sky country as of March 2020. The entire island maintains standards of light development and keeps light pollution limited, so visitors can enjoy guided “Astro-tours” led by trained Niuean community members.

It sounds like quite the place.

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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