When I came upon these weird facts recently I just knew they were things I had to pass along. I did some research and all appear to be valid. You never know when you’ll be playing a trivia game or will really want to stump someone or show your vast knowledge with this information. Now you’ll have the ammunition.
Weird fact No. 1. In 1952, claims that smoking causes cancer moved Kent cigarettes to come out with an asbestos filter to protect smokers.
Seriously now, that seems insane! Of course, later we learned that asbestos was very bad for the lungs, too, and could cause mesothelioma. So the cigarette company had added a deadly carcinogen to a product that already caused cancer. By 1956, Kent had removed the asbestos, but it took four years to decide to do that. Kent widely touted its famous “micronite filter” (I remember the commercial jingle associated with it) and promised consumers the “greatest health protection in history.”
Sales of Kent skyrocketed, and it has been estimated that in the first four years Kent was on the market, the Lorillard company sold some 13 billion Kent cigarettes. It has been suspected that many cases of mesothelioma were directly related to smoking the original Kent cigarettes. Lorillard quietly changed the filter material from asbestos to the more common cellulose acetate in mid 1956.
Weird fact No. 2. During the Vietnam War, American sniper Carlos Hathcock volunteered to crawl for three days across 1,500 yards of open field containing an enemy headquarters. He had bedsores from staying motionless for so long. He could only move when the wind blew the grass around him. Enemy patrols came so close they actually stepped on his knuckles and stopped to smoke within feet of him.
He fired a single shot that killed a North Vietnam Army general and then had to backtrack the same way while enemy patrols were swarming, looking for him. He was only able to move inches at a time and made it back without being spotted. The assignment took four days and three nights with no sleep.
After learning of this interesting story, I looked for more on Carlos. It turns out he learned to hunt and shoot at a very young age, growing up in Arkansas and dreaming of becoming a Marine. He began his career as a sergeant and MP in Vietnam and was quickly moved to sniper status, so important in that war. He killed hundreds of the enemy with his skill at the rifle, including one cruel female interrogator (nicknamed Agatha by Americans) who tortured U.S. Marines, letting them bleed to death. Her kill was a major morale victory, because she was terrorizing the troops around Hill 55.
Hathcock’s career as a sniper came to a sudden end in September 1969 when the LVT-5 vehicle he was in struck a mine. He pulled seven Marines from the burning vehicle and was severely burned himself before jumping to safety. He received a Purple Heart for his injury and 30 years later the Silver Star. This American hero died of complications from multiple sclerosis at age 56 in 1999.
Weird fact No. 3. The year 1835 was the only time in U.S. history when the country was debt free. That was when President Andrew Jackson paid off what he called the “National Curse” or national debt. He ran for that office promising to do so. Being debt free lasted exactly one year. Of course, the debt began its long accumulation after that.
Ending the debt was a very unpopular move with the Whig-controlled Senate and Jackson was censured for assuming power not conferred upon him by the Constitution. That was the first and only time for such a censure by Congress. Jackson was also the first president to be a victim of an assassination attempt.
As of this writing, for the first time in history, the current U.S. debt is more than $18 trillion. It’s a staggering amount and as you may know, China is our biggest creditor. Simply said, the debt occurs because we spend more for services in the country than we take in from taxes. We hear about the national debt rising all the time and generally we know it is not a good thing, but the public seems basically unconcerned about this fact. But economists really want Congress to pay attention!
Next week – more useful weird facts.
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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