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What Happened on November 23?

  • The modern version of "Life" magazine published its first edition. (1936) The magazine was relaunched on this day by Henry Luce, who had been the publisher of Time magazine. Originally, Life magazine was more of a humor publication, containing ironic cartoons and cultural stories. Luce bought it and turned it into the photo-based format known today.

  • US President Ronald Reagan agreed to give $19 million US Dollars (USD) to the CIA so it could help the Contra rebels fight the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. (1981) This was one of the first decisions that led to the Iran Contra Affair. The National Security Decision Directive 17 (NSDD-17) document that President Reagan signed allowed the US's Central Intelligence Agency to recruit and financially support rebel fighters in covertly fighting the ruling Sandinistas.

  • Romania joined the Axis powers in World War II. (1940) The country signed the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany after the Romanian Iron Guard, a fascist and antisemitic party, rose to power in Romania. The union helped better protect Romania against an encroaching Soviet Union.

  • For the first time, a man swam about 328 feet (100 m) underwater using no breathing equipment. (1976) French free diver Jacques Mayol wanted to find out if humans had unknown aquatic abilities that could be realized through physical and psychological training. He set many free-diving records throughout his lifetime.

  • The first character was portrayed on a theater stage. (534 B.C.) Prior to this, people had appeared on stage, but always as themselves. Thespis of Icaria introduced storytelling on stage, with people changing personae by changing masks. His work played a large part in what would become modern theater; the reference to actors as thespians comes from Thespis.

  • The first "jukebox" went into operation in San Francisco. (1889) Entrepreneur Louis T. Glass, along with his business partner William S. Arnold, installed a machine at the Palais Royale Saloon that would play music from a phonograph after a nickel was inserted. He dubbed the device the "nickel-in-the-slot phonograph." The word "jukebox" wouldn't enter the American lexicon until the 1940s.

  • The last execution in Sweden took place. (1910) Johan Alfred Ander was convicted of murder and was the last to be put to death before the practice was prohibited by the Swedish Constitution, which also prohibited torture and corporal punishment.

  • The longest-running science fiction TV show in history debuted. (1963) The BBC launched the popular series Dr. Who on this day. The original series ran until 1989, and was later relaunched. Several spin-off shows have been produced as well.

  • The first ever female expedition team to the South Pole began their journey. (1990) The international team, with women from Russia, the US and Japan, started their journey in Antarctica, trekking about 800 miles (1,287 km) in about 70 days.

  • British artist Rachel Whiteread simultaneously won awards for being the best and worst British artist for her piece House. (1993) Whiteread's piece House was the inside of a Victorian house constructed using a concrete cast. She won the best modern artist award for the work from the Turner Prize committee and was named the worst artist of the year for the same piece by the K Foundation. The art work was controversially destroyed a few months later by the Tower Hamlets London Borough Council.

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