Behind the Headlines
Explore our world, one headline at a time.
World Book Editors break down the news in our Behind the Headlines feature allowing for a deeper understanding of the complex events that shape our world today. Behind the Headlines articles are carefully crafted presenting the latest national and world news, science discoveries, current events and other top stories and are simplified for young readers.
Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, followed by English and Spanish. More than 800 million people speak Chinese as their native language. Most Chinese speakers live in mainland China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Late last year, the oldest known human skeleton from Australia, known as Mungo Man, came home. The remains of Mungo Man, who lived more than 40,000 years ago, were transported in a special hearse that had been ritually cleansed with eucalyptus smoke back to his ancestral homeland in the Willandra region of New South Wales.
Last month, the wreckage of HMAS AE1, a Royal Australian Navysubmarine lost early in World War I (1914-1918), was found north of Australia off the coast of Papua New Guinea. HMAS stands for His or Her Majesty’s Australian Ship.
On Dec. 22, 1937, 80 years ago today, the center tube of the Lincoln Tunnel opened to motor traffic, connecting midtown New York City with Weehawken, New Jersey. Funded by the the Public Works Administration (PWA), the tunnel was built beneath the Hudson River by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, putting thousands of people to work during the Great Depression.
Two hundred and forty years ago today, on Dec. 19, 1777, American troops of the Continental Army set up camp at Valley Forge,Pennsylvania. The camp spanned an area between Valley Forge Creek and the Schuylkill River, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia.
The Titans were the earliest gods in Greek mythology. The Greeks generally believed the Titans were giant in size and immensely strong. The word titanic, meaning huge and enormously powerful, comes from their name.
On December 1, in Madrid, Spain, an exhibition opened featuring artifacts and personal belongings of people imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp run by Nazi Germany during World War II (1939-1945).
Today, December 12, marks 100 years since the 1917 opening of Boys Town, a private institution for homeless, abused, neglected, and disabled children. The institution is near Omaha, Nebraska. The town includes housing, recreational facilities, a grade school, a high school, and a career center.
In Greek mythology, Theseus was a young adventurer who became king of Athens. In the most well-known story about Theseus, he slew the fearful Minotaur—a beast with the body of a man and the head of a bull.
The Sphinx «sfihngks» was a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, falcon, or ram. The Sphinx is found in both ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology.
The National Hockey League (NHL) was formed 100 years ago on Nov. 26, 1917, in Montreal, Quebec. The four original teams (reorganized from the National Hockey Association) were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Arenas (later the Maple Leafs).
Today, November 17, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of prolific French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Earlier this year, the Grand Palais in Paris, France, celebrated the anniversary with “Rodin: The Centennial Exhibition” from March through July.
Thor, the powerful god of thunder in Norse mythology, was the mighty defender of gods and goddesses, who were constantly under siege by the forces of chaos. Thor was the most popular god in the Norse pantheon, and his many exploits are recalled in many myths and tales—far more than any other Norse god or goddess.
Today, November 8, is the 180th anniversary of the opening of Mount Holyoke College, the oldest institution for the higher education of women in the United States. Educator Mary Lyon founded the school in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1837, at a time when women had few opportunities to obtain a college education.
Polish-born French physicist Marie Curie was born 150 years ago today on Nov. 7, 1867. Curie, famous for her research on radioactivity, was the first woman awarded a Nobel Prize.
Quetzalcoatl, whose name may be translated as feathered (or plumed) serpent or precious twin, was a great Mesoamerican god. He was also a culture hero, a legendary figure who represents the ideals of a cultural group.
One hundred and twenty years ago today, on Nov. 1, 1897, the new Library of Congress opened its doors to the public for the first time. Previously, the library had been in the Congressional Reading Room of the United States Capitol.
Poseidon was the powerful god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses in ancient Greek mythology. The Romans identified him with their god Neptune. Poseidon was the son of Rhea and Cronus, members of an old race of gods called the Titans.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a legendary character in German folklore. According to a folk story, in 1284 the German town of Hamelin (Hameln in German) was suffering from a plague of rats. One day, a mysterious stranger dressed in a pied (many-colored) suit walked into Hamelin and offered to rid the town of the pests for a sum of money.
A fire rises… But the streaks of red and gold are not flames, they are feathers, and the blaze is a great bird taking flight. The fiery phoenix, the fabled bird of Greek mythology, appeared in many stories and inspired the name of Arizona’s capital and largest city.
Yesterday, September 25, marked the 60th anniversary of the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. On Sept. 25, 1957, nine African American students—remembered as the Little Rock Nine—were escorted into the previously all-white school by United States Army troops.
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superhorse! If you have ever stargazed in the Northern Hemisphere, you might have noticed Pegasus, a constellation resembling part of a horse.
The word horseman is simple enough: in common speech, it means a person who is skilled in riding or taking care of horses. The term may conjure strikingly different images, however, for readers of religious texts, popular fiction of yesteryear, or ancient myths.
The ancient Egyptians told countless stories about their gods and goddesses, but one, called the Osiris myth, was the most popular of them all. In this story, the Earth god Geb retired to heaven and appointed his son Osiris, god of agriculture and fertility, as the new king of Egypt.
Odysseus was a famous king of Ithaca and a brave and cunning hero in Greek mythology. His name is Odysseus in Greek and Ulysses in Latin. Odysseus was especially noted for his cleverness. In early Greek writings, he also was generous and noble.
Odin, the one-eyed Norse god of war and the battlefield was revered by Berserkers, frenzied Viking warriors who fought ferociously without armor and felt no wounds. But Odin was a complex character who also had domain over wisdom and poetry.
Nymphs, in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, were minor goddesses or semidivine beings represented as lovely maidens. The word nymphcomes from Greek and Latin words describing a young girl of marriageable age, or a young bride.
The star of this week’s Mythic Monday is the Minotaur, a fearsome monster from Greek mythology that was half man and half bull. The Minotaur was the oversized offspring of a bull and a woman named Pasiphae.
Today, a new interface looms on the horizon: brain-computer interface(BCI) (sometimes called brain-machine interface, or BMI). BCI technology creates a pathway from the user’s brain to a computer or other device, allowing direct thought communication.
Eighty years ago today, German photographer Gerda Taro was killed covering the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Taro, a close friend and colleague of famed photographer Robert Capa, was the first woman war correspondent killed on assignment. She died during the Battle of Brunete on July 26, 1937, just a few days before her 27th birthday.
This week’s Mythic Monday stars the great god Marduk, a major figure in ancient Babylonian mythology. He was the son of the god Ea, the Babylonian name for Enki, the Sumerian god of wisdom.
Yesterday, July 17, marked the 50th anniversary of the death of jazz legend John Coltrane. Known for his searing saxophone solos and sometimes shocking originality, Coltrane is regarded as one of the finest artists in the history of jazz.
Did you know that Americans eat an estimated 150 million hot dogs over the 4th of July holiday? In the United States, July is National Hot Dog Month.
On June 27, 1977, forty years ago today, in a hot, dusty corner of northeastern Africa, the French Territory of the Afars and Issas became the independent nation of Djibouti. The Afars and the Issas—two traditionally nomadic ethnic groups—make up most of Djibouti’s population of nearly 1 million people. Djibouti gained independence in 1977 from France, which had controlled the Djibouti area since the 1880’s.
Juno was the most powerful goddess of ancient Roman mythology. She was married to Jupiter, the king of the gods, and she was the queen. The Romans considered Juno a protector who would warn them of danger to their empire.
One hundred and thirty years ago today, on June 23, 1887, the Canadian government established Rocky Mountains Park as Canada’s first official national park. Known now as Banff National Park, the park’s spectacular scenery has long made it one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions.
Yesterday, June 19, was Juneteenth, a festival held in many African American and other communities to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The name of the festival refers to the date, June 19—the day the last slaves were freed in the southern state of Texas in 1865.
June is the sixth month of the year, a month that welcomes summer, weddings, and LGBT Pride. June is known for barbecues, baseball, and blossoming flowers. The month includes Independence Day in the Philippines, Father’s Day, Juneteenth, and Midsummer’s Day. In the United States, June is also National Caribbean American Heritage Month. The month recognizes the contributions of Caribbean Americans and celebrates their diverse heritage, languages, and cultures.
Recent studies show that Homo naledi, an intriguing species of prehistoric humans, may have lived far more recently than previously believed. Paleoanthropologists (scientists who study human evolution) say that H. naledi, a primitive hominin (human ancestor) known from a collection of fossils discovered at the Rising Star cave system in South Africa, may have lived at the same time and in the same region as more advanced prehistoric humans.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, events across the United States marked the 100th birthday of former President John F. Kennedy (widely known by his initials, JFK). Kennedy served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his death in 1963. Many Americans saw JFK’s election and brief time in office—often idealized as “Camelot”—as an inspiring national renewal.
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 27, is the 80th anniversary of the opening of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge connecting San Francisco with Marin County, California. One of the largest and most spectacular suspension bridges in the world, it spans the Golden Gate Strait at the entrance of San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrians on May 27, 1937, and thousands of people took in the spectacular views as they crossed the bridge on that first day.
This week’s mythological figures are monstrous creatures called Gorgons. The Gorgons were so ugly that anyone who looked at them would turn to stone. Medusa and her two sisters made up the Gorgons of Greek mythology
This week’s mythology star, Mars, the god of war, held a special place in the hearts of the ancient Romans—not because of the god’s warlike nature but because the Romans considered him the father of the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
This week’s Mythic Monday returns to the misty shores of Ireland. Heroic tales, romances, and sagas make up a major part of early Irish literature. These works are based on legends and were probably recorded from about A.D. 700 into the 1200’s. One of the most familiar figures of early Irish lore is Finn MacCool (or Fionn mac Cumhaill in Irish).
As part of May’s celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), World Book today features the Purple Heart Battalion, the nickname given to a Japanese American unit in the United States Army during World War II (1939-1945). The unit was officially the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Looking ahead to May’s celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), today World Book wishes a happy 100th birthday to renowned Chinese American architect I.M. Pei. One of the world’s greatest architects, Pei is noted for his creative urban designs of skyscrapers, housing projects, museums, and academic and government buildings.
World Book’s final April birthday for Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) is a big one: jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald was born 100 years ago today on April 25, 1917. Fitzgerald was one of the best and most popular singers in jazz history. Often called the “first lady of song,” she was known for her pure and beautiful tone, extended range, flawless intonation, and strong sense of jazz feeling.
In our next installment for Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), World Book celebrates the birthday of music legend Tito Puente. Puente was born on April 20, 1923, in New York City. He ranks among the most important figures in the history of Latin popular music. Puente was an influential bandleader, composer, arranger, and musician.
This week’s Mythic Monday features Anubis, one of the best-known gods of ancient Egyptian mythology. Famously depicted in ancient Egyptian art as a crouching jackal or dog, or as a man with a jackal’s head, Anubis served as the god of mummification, the ancient Egyptian technique of embalming the dead.
World Book’s Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) continues with happy birthday wishes for jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who turns 77 years old today, April 12. Hancock is an influential and versatile musician, bandleader, and composer. He has had some of the best-selling albums in jazz history, and his music has earned him 14 Grammy Awards.
What do wine lovers, farmers, and thespians have in common? All owe a debt of gratitude to this week’s star of Mythic Monday, the Greek god Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of wine and farmers, and the art form of drama was first performed in his honor.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in the United States. Jazz is a kind of music that is often considered the only art form truly native to the United States. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History began JAM in 2002.
On April 6, 1917—100 years ago today—the United States House of Representatives approved a resolution declaring war on Germany, entering the United States into World War I (1914-1918). Four days earlier, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had asked Congress for a declaration of war, warning “the world must be made safe for democracy.” The Senate approved the resolution by a vote of 82-6 on April 4.
Daedalus, a skilled artisan of ancient Athens, was a colorful figure of Greek mythology. If Daedalus were a modern-day comic book superhero, his origin story might include a mad scientist piecing together the inquiring mind of Thomas Edison, the vision of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the versatile genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and the rugged physicality of a rugby star.
World Book continues its celebration of Women’s History Month with a look at Jeannette Rankin, who in 1916—almost four years before women had the right to vote nationally in the United States—became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
Today, March 28, marks 100 years since the death of American artist Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). Ryder is considered one of the most original of American painters. He is best known for his brooding night scenes of the sea and dreamlike landscapes.
Last Friday, March 17, was St. Patrick’s Day. And while each year on that day many people wear shamrocks in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, Hibernophiles (fans of Irish culture) might also want to honor the great mythological defender of all Ireland: Cuchulainn (koo KUHL ihn).
March 16 marks the birthday of British navigator Matthew Flinders, who explored and charted much of Australia’s coast in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Flinders was born in England on March 16, 1774. In 1794, he sailed to the British colony of New South Wales, Australia.
This week, the Spanish city of Valencia hosts one the world’s more unique holiday celebrations: las Fallas (or les Falles). In Valencia, a falla is a type of torch, and for the festival, artistic monuments (also called fallas) are built and ceremoniously burned in the streets. The fire festival of las Fallas celebrates the coming of spring, lasting several days before culminating on the feast day of San José (Saint Joseph), March 19.
World Book continues its celebration of Women’s History Month with a look at Australian feminist (promoter of women’s rights) and campaigner for woman suffrage (voting rights) Vida Goldstein (VY duh GOHLD styn). Goldstein was instrumental in helping to win the right to vote for Australian women in 1902—the second country to grant women full voting rights after New Zealand (1893).
This week’s mythological figure is the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest epic poems in world literature. It tells the adventures of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh. Sumer was an ancient region in southern Mesopotamia (now southeastern Iraq). Historians believe Gilgamesh probably existed, so like King Arthur, he is not technically an entirely mythic figure.
Hard gunk stuck in the teeth of fossil Neandertal jaws shows that the prehistoric human beings had a widely varied diet and a sophisticated knowledge of medicinal plants.
Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and in honor of Women’s History Month, we look at this global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In recent years, the day has also become a call to action for accelerating gender parity. IWD is celebrated around the world with arts performances, conferences, marches, rallies, talks, and networking events.
Brunhild, the beautiful, proud, and headstrong heroine of Teutonic mythology, had a complicated romantic life to say the least. Teutonic mythology, also called Norse mythology, consists of the myths and legends of Germany and Scandinavia that date from about the A.D. 400’s.
It was a night of Oscar firsts on Sunday, February 26, at the 89th Academy Awards, presented at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood,California. But one of those was a first that the Academy would undoubtedly rather forget.
Beowulf is one of the great mythic heroes of medieval literature. His legend is described in the Anglo Saxon epic poem Beowulf. The poem describes the adventures of a mighty warrior who has the qualities the ancient Anglo-Saxons most admired—strength, courage, generosity, loyalty to chief and tribe, and vengeance toward enemies.
In honor of Black History Month, today we look at the Montford Point Marines of World War II (1939-1945). “Montford Point Marines” was the nickname given to the first African American units to serve in the United States Marine Corps.
Whatever the historical truth, it is Arthur’s legend that has captivated people’s imaginations for centuries. The exploits of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are among the most famous of Western literature, and—real or not—Arthur is one of the most admired heroes in the history of British culture.
Orpheus was one of the greatest of all musicians in the mythology of ancient Greece. With his voice and lyre, Orpheus was said to be able to enchant animals and plants, and rivers stopped flowing in order to listen to him.
Today, January 26, Australia celebrates Australia Day, an annual national holiday honoring the country’s past, present, and future. The date commemorates the day in 1788 that Arthur Phillip raised a British flag at Sydney Cove.
A beautiful and versatile star of Greek mythology, Apollo was known as the god of light, the god of shepherds, the god of music, and the god of divination. He was also often thought of as the god of the sun. Considered the ideal of male beauty, Apollo was also associated with archery, healing, poetry, prophecy, purification, and seafaring.
When it comes to matters of the heart, Aphrodite reigns supreme in Greek mythology. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The Romans, who named their gods and goddesses after planets and stars, called her Venus. Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus, the king of the gods, and the goddess Dione.
You have probably heard of Air Force One, the aircraft that carries thepresident of the United States. You have also probably seen the presidential state car, an armored limousine called Cadillac One, or “the Beast.” But did you know that there was once a presidential yacht? That’s right, the president was once furnished with a luxury boat—Sequoia—for personal and official use.
A brief call of nature recently led an Aboriginal man to discover a site preserving some of the oldest known evidence of human settlement in Australia. Clifford Coulthard, an Adnyamathanha elder, stumbled across a rock shelter during a brief bathroom break while surveying in the northern Flinders Range with archaeologist Giles Hamm of La Trobe University in Melbourne.
Today, November 15, is the 700th anniversary of the birth of King John I of France in 1316. Never heard of him? Well, a few things make John I a unique (but also rather obscure) figure in French history. First, he was the last in direct father-son succession of the Capetian dynasty, a line of kings that ruled France from 987 to 1328.
Ninety years ago today, on Nov. 11, 1926, the government of the United States did motorists across the nation a great favor by introducing a national system of numbered highways. Before people started navigating through smartphones with GPS, people actually read maps and road signs to find their way around.
Yesterday, October 31, was the 75th anniversary of the completion of theMount Rushmore National Memorial. Carved into on a granite cliff in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the giant-sized presidential faces on Mount Rushmore have symbolized American creativity and history, as well as the nation’s variety of natural beauty, since the memorial opened in 1941.
Australian forensic science experts recently helped solve a centuries-old murder mystery when they determined that wounds on a prehistoric skeleton were inflicted by a boomerang.
When you see models or illustrations of dinosaurs, have you ever wondered how accurate they are? Bones, skin impressions, and tracks can tell scientists and artists a great deal about the shape, size, and movements of these animals, but how do people know what color patterns the beasts adopted?
On Saturday, September 24, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened to the public in Washington, D.C. Located on the National Mall, the museum details the history of slavery, the period of Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, segregation, and civil rights.
Fifty years ago today, on Sept. 8, 1966, the science-fiction televisionprogram “Star Trek” first aired on NBC in the United States and CTV in Canada.
Today, August 25, is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. It manages the approximately 400 areas of the National Park System.
Monkeys in the Amazon rain forest likely entered their own Stone Agemore than 700 years ago, according to scientists investigating a fascinating site at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeastern Brazil.
August 18, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, Australia’s first major conflict in the Vietnam War. In that battle, a small group of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand defeated a much larger enemy force.
Photo information: British troops go “over the top” during the 1916 Battle of the Somme in northern France. Credit: © Paul Popper, Popperfoto/Getty Images Today, July 1, is the 100th anniversary of...