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William Briggs and His Cigarette Machine

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 13, 1909, William Briggs patented the first automatic cigarette vending machine.

Born in Maine, Briggs came to North Carolina by way of New York and New Jersey. Settling first in Fayetteville and then in Winston, he worked in a machine shop there before perfecting a machine that could produce 300,000 cigarettes a day in 1898.

Briggs formed his own company, and began to market his machines to the R.J. Reynolds Company, which used them to compete with its much larger rival, the American Tobacco Company.

Briggs quickly sold his machines and the related intellectual property to a Japanese company and was soon thereafter sued by United Cigarette, a larger manufacturer of tobacco machinery in Virginia, for patent infringement. After successfully defending the suit in an Asheville court, Briggs was hired by United Cigarette. He would go to invent a more efficient machine for them.

The new company moved Briggs to Virginia where he lived the rest of his life. He died in 1918, and his other inventions include the first return carriage for a typewriter and a stamp vending machine.

The original patent is available online via Google Patents.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Halifax Day Celebrates Embrace of Independence

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 12, 1776, 83 delegates to North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress, meeting in Halifax, passed a unanimous resolution now known as the Halifax Resolves. The resolves advocated severing North Carolina’s ties with England and indicated support for independence for all American colonies.

North Carolina became the first colony to officially commit such intentions to paper, striking the first blow for an independent America.

As the colonies joined forces to oppose British legislation, citizens initially asserted their rights as Englishmen against unfair taxation and exploitation. After events such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773 prompted a British occupation of Massachusetts, North Carolina and other colonies began to dissolve ties with England and create new systems of local government.

At the Fourth Provincial Congress, a committee led by Cornelius Harnett was appointed to draft a document declaring North Carolina’s support for American independence from England. Eight days after the congress convened, the Halifax Resolves were adopted.

Today, at least two original copies of the Halifax Resolves exist. One can be found in the State Archives. The other, sent to North Carolina’s delegates to the Continental Congress, is held by the National Archives.

The full text of the Resolves is available online from LEARN NC.

Visit: Historic Halifax State Historic Site will be celebrating the 240th anniversary of the Resolves all day today.

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Sports Journalists Honored in Salisbury

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 12, 1960, the first National Sportscasters & Sportswriters awards program was held in Salisbury. At that program, those in attendance formed the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. The group added a Hall of Fame two years later.

The idea for the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association started with local restaurant owner Pete DiMizio, who appreciated the regional sports media and decided to honor them. He hosted a banquet for them at his restaurant in 1953. The event launched the North Carolina Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and, after DiMizio’s death in 1958, a small group of Salisbury citizens continued and expanded upon DiMizio’s dream. The association went national the next year.

Today the association is dedicated to honoring, preserving and celebrating the legacy of sportscasters and sportswriters in the United States with the knowledge that what they do helps American sports fans form lifelong connections to sports. The organization also develops educational opportunities for those who are interested in pursuing a career in sports media. Salisbury remains the group’s national headquarters.

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Stoneman in Salisbury, Liberator and Scourge

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 12, 1865, Union Gen. George Stoneman and his forces burned the already abandoned Salisbury Prison, as well as the town’s other public buildings, industrial structures and supply depots as part of raid through western North Carolina.

The raid began on March 24 when Stoneman led 6,000 cavalrymen from Tennessee into western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia to disrupt Confederate supply lines by destroying sections of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, the North Carolina Railroad and the Piedmont Railroad. He also sought to liberate Union prisoners-of-war held in Salisbury, cut off avenues of retreat available to Confederate armies and encourage Unionists in western and central North Carolina to rise up.

Stoneman struck Boone on March 28, then divided his force and sent part of it into Virginia. On April 12, the Federals occupied Salisbury. Stoneman moved west the next day, dividing his command again. Other than a fight at Swannanoa Gap, Stoneman and his cavalrymen encountered only bushwhackers and isolated groups of Confederate soldiers.

Stoneman’s forces approached Asheville on April 23, negotiated a truce and then rode through the streets on April 26. Two days later, part of Stoneman’s force returned to Asheville to loot. Other elements either continued to Tennessee or joined the pursuit of Confederate President Jefferson Davis into Georgia.

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Charles B. Aycock and His Mixed Legacy

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 11, 1900, Charles B. Aycock was unanimously nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor of North Carolina.

Aycock practiced law and co-founded the Daily Argus newspaper in Goldsboro, but it became clear that politics was his true passion. He distrusted the Republican Party, which supported African American involvement in government and endorsed the idea that politics should be reserved for the white race.

As he sought to build a political reputation, Aycock worked tirelessly on behalf of the public schools, believing that education was the key to social change. After serving as a federal prosecutor, he toured the state in 1898, pressing his views on race and education in a statewide series of debates with Populist Cyrus Thompson.

Aycock handily defeated his Republican opponent in the general election, and his inauguration in 1901 launched a 72-year Democratic hold on the state’s highest elected position. As governor, Aycock touted the “Dawn of a New Day” and continued to press for educational progress. He also advocated strongly for child labor reform and temperance laws, but met mixed success on those initiatives with the legislature.

His restored birthplace in Wayne County is now a state historic site.

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Governor Thomas Holt, Textile Magnate, Friend of Education

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 11, 1896, industrialist and Progressive Era governor Thomas Michael Holt died at age 64.

Born to a prominent Alamance County family of textile manufacturers, Holt worked in his family’s factories while climbing the political ladder. He got his start in politics as an Alamance County commissioner, before serving in both houses of the General Assembly and rising to the post of Speaker of the House.

Holt was lieutenant governor when Governor Daniel Fowle died in office in 1891, so the state’s top job fell to him. He served as governor until 1893, filling out Fowle’s term. He chose not to seek re-election for health reasons.

Throughout his career, Holt was interested in education. He helped found, among other institutions, two colleges in Greensboro and what’s now N.C. State University. He was also active in business and agriculture, serving as the North Carolina Railroad Company’s president, directing the North Carolina State Fair and transforming his family’s business into one of the leaders in the textile industry.

He died at his family home in Haw River and is buried in Graham.

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Stoneman’s Troops Crossed the Yadkin River at Shallow Ford

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 11, 1865, as part of Stoneman’s Raid, troops under the command of Colonel William J. Palmer split from the main force and engaged in a skirmish with Confederate forces at Shallow Ford. The ford is a landmark on the Yadkin River and is rich in history.  In the mid-1700s immigrants used Shallow Ford as a crossing point on the river for the Great Wagon Road. That route, along an ancient Indian trading path, extended from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Essentially a rock-bottomed section of the river, the ford was also where Lord Charles Cornwallis led his troops across the Yadkin River in 1781.

During the closing months of the Civil War, General George Stoneman led about 5,000 troops through western North Carolina in one of the longest cavalry raids in history. He sent detachments throughout the region, securing the destruction of factories, bridges and railroad lines.

After a brief foray into southwestern Virginia, Union troops turned southward to North Carolina.  Stoneman divided his forces, sending a detachment to destroy textile factories and rail lines farther south while his other men marched to Shallow Ford.

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The North Carolina Arts Council: Advancing the Arts Across the State

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 11, 1967, the North Carolina General Assembly created the North Carolina Arts Council as a statutory agency.

Established in 1964 by executive order of Governor Terry Sanford, the Arts Council began its work by documenting architecture, design, visual arts, crafts, theatre, music, dance, opera, creative writing, communications, film, concert series, school programs, statewide organizations, local arts councils and support throughout the state.

Phillip Hanes, Jr. chaired the state’s effort to advance the arts, in conjunction with the National Arts and Cultural Development Act that led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The state Arts Council quickly built on the 17 local arts councils and more than 200 arts organizations already working in North Carolina, organizing poetry readings throughout the state, beginning an artists-in-schools program and supporting nonprofit arts organizations and exemplary artists through grants.

Today a strong arts infrastructure provides opportunities for citizens to experience the arts in their own communities, reflecting and sharing the state’s diversity. New initiatives include literary, Blue Ridge Music and African American Music cultural tourism guides, the addition to the model arts education program, A+ Schools, and the creation of an arts-based economic development, the SmART Initiative.

In 2017, the Arts Council will celebrate 50 years of service as a statutory state agency, building on the arts to develop an economic engine that accounts for 6 percent of North Carolina’s workforce.

Audiences at arts and culture events during 2016 will have an opportunity to be surveyed in the national Arts & Economic Prosperity study, documenting the impact of the nonprofit part of the creative economy sector.

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Kenneth Noland and Abstract Art

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 10, 1924, abstract artist Kenneth Noland was born in Asheville. Noland devoted much of his career to the artistic genre of color field abstraction. He studied and painted the interaction of contrasting and complementing colors. His most famous paintings feature a circle or chevron pattern that contains a distinct array of colors.

After a four-year stint in the Air Force, Nolan enrolled at Black Mountain College, not far from his hometown. The experimental liberal arts college challenged students to learn through their own creative approach. During his time at Black Mountain College, Noland learned Professor Josef Albers’ color theory and was greatly influenced by geometric abstractionist Ilya Bolotowsky. From Black Mountain, he went on to Paris to study artist Ossip Zadkins in 1949 before returning to the United States and teaching in Washington, D.C. and New York for the remainder of his career.

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ew kind of American abstraction based on the primacy of color.”

Mycologist Moses A. Curtis of Hillsborough

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 10, 1872, prominent botanist, author and Episcopal priest Moses A. Curtis died in Orange County.

Born in Massachusetts, Curtis attended Williams College before beginning his ministry in Wilmington. He soon moved to Raleigh to teach at what’s now St. Mary’s School and worked at a parish in Washington for a short time before coming to St. Matthew’s Church in Hillsborough in 1841. He would remain there for much of the rest of his life.

A dedicated priest and talented musician and composer, Curtis is best known for his contributions to botany, particularly in the field of mycology, the study of fungi. He was widely considered a national authority on the subject at the time and corresponded with other well-known scientists of the day including Asa Gray, H. W. Ravenel, William Sullivant, Edward Tuckerman and A. W. Chapman. He contributed to numerous publications and regularly identified specimens harvested on expeditions by others.

Curtis reported eating forty different species of mushrooms collected within two miles of his house and believed that if people had a better knowledge of edible fungi, food shortages for southern armies during the Civil War would have been less severe.

He is buried at St. Matthew’s in Hillsborough.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Radio Broadcasting Began in North Carolina

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 10, 1922, WBT in Charlotte received a broadcast license, becoming the first commercial radio station in North Carolina. Advances in radio took place in three North Carolina cities in 1922. In Raleigh, on the campus of what is now N.C. State University, engineers installed a transmitter and initiated experimental broadcasts in March 1922. Regular transmission began on October 16, the day before the State Fair. Later that year the campus registered the call letters WLAC, but the following year the station left the air after campus funds were no longer available.

In Charlotte initial broadcasts began on March 25, in the kitchen of radio enthusiast Fred Laxton. Within weeks WBT had set up a studio in the Independence Building downtown. In Asheville, WFAJ, owned by the local newspaper, began broadcasts on May 4 but failed the following year. WBT was thus the only startup that prospered.

WPTF in Raleigh originated as WFBQ in October 1924. Later known as WRCO, that station adopted its present call letters in November 1927. FM radio broadcasts in North Carolina began in 1942.

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Unraveling the Mysteries of Psywar

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 10, 1952, the United States Army moved the Psychological Warfare Center and School from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Fort Bragg, where it remains to this day.

The term “psychological warfare” originated during World War II, although the practice has been around since human beings first engaged in conflict with each other. Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and other historic military leaders often spread exaggerated rumors of their own armies’ prowess and savagery to intimidate enemies.

Any dissemination of propaganda to targeted enemy groups with the intention of sapping their morale and willingness to fight could be considered psychological warfare.

As communications grew more sophisticated, soldiers needed superior skills to employ effective psychological warfare. To accommodate this increasing complexity, the training program at Fort Bragg has evolved into its current form, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS).

JFKSWCS chooses elite recruits for advanced, intense education in unconventional special operations techniques and tactical skills that can shape foreign political milieu. Soldiers are trained in world languages, international cultural norms and methods for using information to influence the activities of governments and individuals.

Lane Expedition Sails to America

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 9, 1585, Sir Ralph Lane sailed with 107 colonists to America. A native of Devonshire, England, Lane entered into the service of Queen Elizabeth I in 1563. After serving as a courtier, soldier and sheriff, he was invited by Sir Walter Raleigh to command an expedition to America. By the end of June 1585 they had arrived at Wococon, now Plymouth Island, on the Outer Banks. A colony was established there with Lane as the governor.

The colony later moved to Roanoke Island and established Fort Raleigh. In 1586, Lane and a group of colonists explored the Choanoac Indian country and the Chowan River. Thomas Harriot, a mathematician and scientist, and John White, an artist, were members of the expedition. Raleigh had sent Harriot to study the native inhabitants and explore the region’s plants, animals and minerals. White was hired to make maps and paint watercolors. Their findings were preserved in a book, A Briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia.

By June of 1586, the colony’s supplies were running short. Sir Francis Drake arrived on June 11 and the discouraged Lane and other colonists abandoned the colony and boarded Drake’s ships to return to England.

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Latecomer Strikes Gold at Reed, 1896

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 9, 1896, the last large gold nugget was found at Reed Gold Mine, the focal point of the nation’s first gold rush. The discovery came 97 years after John Reed first found a large nugget on his land.

Gold from the Reed property realized more than $2 million in sales by 1824. By the late 1800s, the mine had been mostly exhausted, and the prospectors who worked it had departed for other places like Colorado, Alaska and California.

Jake Shinn, though, hadn’t lost hope. On April 9, Shinn struck something hard only three feet underground. He ran off to clean what he had hit and see what he found, ignored by the fellow miners around him who were used to many false alarms. When he returned, it was clear that he was holding a 22-pound gold nugget. He eventually sold the nugget for around $4,800, which would be more than $100,000 today.

Mining at Reed continued to dwindle until the last operation closed in 1964. The property was acquired by the state in 1971 and opened as a state historic site in 1977.

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W. H. Thomas’s “Legion of Indians and Mountaineers”

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 9, 1862, William Holland Thomas joined the Confederate army and brought his Cherokee recruits with him. Thomas’s Legion, as Thomas and his men came to be known, was a Civil War unit unlike any other. Made up of both whites and Cherokees, the Legion fought in western North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

A native of Waynesville, Thomas became close to the Cherokees at an early age and was adopted into their tribe. He studied law and successfully represented the tribe against the federal government during Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal efforts.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas recruited soldiers from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee to serve in the Confederate army. His Legion was made up of several infantry and artillery units, including an Indian Battalion. After fighting throughout the region, Thomas’s Legion was given the task of protecting the local people in the North Carolina mountains, a task made especially difficult by the high concentrations of active Union sympathizers in the area.

Toward the end of the war, Thomas negotiated the surrender of his troops in Waynesville. When his men returned home, the region was still a no-man’s-land with pro-Union and pro-Confederate factions skirmishing throughout the area.

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Baseball Legend “Catfish” Hunter

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 8, 1946, famed baseball player James “Catfish” Hunter was born in Perquimans County.

Though Hunter excelled in a variety of sports in high school, his pitching skill was what stood out. Word spread fast, and soon major league scouts began to make the trip to Hertford to see him play. Though wounds from a hunting accident jeopardized Hunter’s prospects in the eyes of many professional scouts, the Kansas City Athletics had faith in the young pitcher and signed him to a contract.

Hunter was an immediate success with Kansas City, earning his first major league victory in July 1965 in Fenway Park in Boston. He pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins after the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968. After a contract dispute in 1974, he left the Athletics for the New York Yankees. He was the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the team in 1975. After retiring from baseball in 1979, Hunter returned to his native Herford, where he lived until his death in 1999.

Hunter’s numerous accolades include spots in the National Baseball and North Carolina Sports Halls of Fame, five World Series titles, and eight All-Star team appearances.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Karastan Rugs, Product of Carolina

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 8, 1928, the first machine-made oriental design rug came off the loom in Leaksville in Rockingham County. Branded Karastan, the process used to make the rug replicated the detailed craftsmanship of a hand-woven rug.

The Karastan method has its roots in 1912 when retailer Marshall Field acquired several textile mills in Rockingham County. His employee Eugene Clark, a New England inventor, began to modify a spool Axminster power loom in 1926 to pull pile yarns through the back, making it possible to weave up to 50 colors with a soft feel and hand-knotted appearance on both sides.

The advanced manufacturing process led to Karastan rugs becoming known as “mystery rugs.” At the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago more than 5 million people walked on a large Karastan traditional Persian-patterned rug, which when cleaned displayed its original luster, earning the brand a reputation for producing ”wonder rugs.”

Karastan expanded to produce carpets woven with its innovative Kara-loc process and on computer controlled Van de Wiele Wilton looms. Now a subsidiary of Mohawk Industries, Karastan still makes wool rugs in Eden and is the only U.S. maker of Axminster spool rugs.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Poor Naomi Wise, “Sacrificed to the Beast in Man”

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 8, 1808, Jonathan Lewis was arrested for the murder of Naomi Wise. Wise, an orphan, cook and an occasional field hand noted for her beauty and her innocence, lived in the household of William Adams in Randolph County. Lewis was a frequent visitor to the Adams house.

Courting Naomi while promising marriage to another woman, Lewis led the pregnant Wise to the Deep River and pushed her off a bluff, drowning her. Jailed in Asheboro, he escaped and made his way to Ohio. He was eventually tracked down by a bounty hunter and returned North Carolina, where he was acquitted of murdering Wise for lack of evidence. Legend has it that he confessed to the crime on his deathbed.

Much of what we know of the murder comes from an account by Braxton Craven, president of nearby Trinity College, who researched the story. Craven based his 1851 retelling of crime on the memories of local residents. Lewis, by Craven’s account, was a “merciless wretch, a hyena.”

The site of Wise’s death came to be known as Naomi Falls. The story was brought to people nationwide largely through the folk ballad, “Naomi Wise,” which was a favorite of Doc Watson’s.  Like “Tom Dooley” and “Frankie and Johnny,” the song relates the story of a North Carolina murder with drama and pathos.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Oak Ridge, Military Prep School in Guilford County

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/13/2017 - 01:00

On April 7, 1850, citizens in northwestern Guilford County met and appointed a board of trustees to erect a schoolhouse. The school would eventually become Oak Ridge Academy, the first coeducational military high school in the nation.

Three years later the school opened with a traditional curriculum and 63 male students. In 1861 and 1862, the entire student body and faculty enlisted in the Confederate army. The loss necessitated the school’s closing. Set to reopen in September 1865, the school’s main building burned the night before classes were to resume. The school was moved to nearby cabins and private homes.

Many senior students volunteered for service during World War I, and the U.S. Army began recruiting graduates for service as officers. In 1926, the Army organized a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps there.

The school changed its name to Oak Ridge Military Academy in 1971, and that same year the school became the first military academy in the United States to admit females. Women had attended the school’s secondary courses since about 1929, but never in a military capacity.

In 1983, the 101-acre campus became a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Surfers Catch a Wave in Wrightsville Beach, 1909

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/13/2017 - 01:00

On April 7, 1910, the Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser published a letter that Wrightsville Beach resident Burke Haywood Bridgers had written to the national magazine Colliers Weekly requesting information about building surfboards.

Bridgers wrote to Colliers in response to Alexander Hume Ford, founder of the Outrigger Canoe and Surfboard Club in Hawaii, who penned an article for the magazine the previous year encouraging readers to try the sport.

Bridgers wrote that people in Wrightsville Beach tried out surfing during the summer of 1909 without great results. The Lumina Pavilion, then one of the area’s premiere attractions, hosted a “surf board riding contest” over Labor Day, in fact.

Bridgers went on to describe the kinds of boards that the locals were using and the nature of the Atlantic Coast surf. The surfboards he described were built with local juniper wood, a traditional favorite of boat and ship builders, as it is resistant to wood-boring worms.

It is impossible to claim a “first” in East Coast surfing, but Bridgers’ experiments certainly would have been among the earliest appearances of surfboards in the Atlantic Ocean. The surfing that occurred in the Wrightsville Beach area in the early 1900s is the earliest documented in the state of North Carolina.

Recently Wrightsville Beach was named as one of the top 20 surfing towns in the world by National Geographic.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.