This Day in History

July 5, 1914:

Germany gives Austria-Hungary blank check assurance.

On July 5, 1914, in Berlin, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany pledges his country’s unconditional support for whatever action Austria-Hungary chooses to take in its conflict with Serbia, a long-running rivalry thrown into crisis by the assassination, the previous June 28, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by a Serbian nationalist during an official visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Barely a week after Franz Ferdinand’s murder, the Austrian Foreign Ministry sent an envoy, Alexander, Graf von Hoyos, to Berlin. Hoyos carried a memorandum from the office of the Austrian foreign secretary, Leopold Berchtold, expressing the need for action in the tumultuous Balkans region, as well as a personal letter to the same effect from Emperor Franz Josef to Kaiser Wilhelm. Both documents focused on the need for Austria-Hungary to establish an alliance with Bulgaria, in place of Romania—which Germany had previously favored as a possible Balkan ally—due to the latter nation’s increasing closeness with Serbia and its powerful supporter, Russia. Neither the memorandum nor the emperor’s letter specified that Austria-Hungary wanted war, but the memorandum—a new version of an earlier, less emphatic text written before Franz Ferdinand’s assassination—stressed the need for immediate action, pointed to increased Serbian and Russian aggression and stated as an objective the elimination of Serbia as “a factor of political power in the Balkans.”

Austria’s ambassador to Germany, Ladislaus Szogyeny-Marich, passed Hoyos’ two documents to the kaiser over lunch on July 5, in Potsdam. Wilhelm was outraged by Franz Ferdinand’s murder, and felt a sense of personal loss: the two had met at the archduke’s country estate just two weeks before the assassination to discuss the situation in the Balkans. Though he initially demurred and said he needed to consult the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, he eventually—when pressed by the ambassador—responded with uncharacteristic decisiveness, promising Germany’s “faithful support” for Austria-Hungary in whatever action it chose to take towards Serbia, even if Russia intervened. Later that afternoon, Wilhelm assembled a crown council, attended by Bethmann Hollweg, Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, and War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn, among others. From this meeting, a consensus emerged backing the kaiser’s decision, which Bethmann Hollweg subsequently relayed to the Austrian representatives and Hoyos triumphantly carried back to Vienna.

The kaiser’s pledge, which historians have referred to as the carte blanche or “blank check” assurance, marked a decisive moment in the chain of events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War in Europe during the summer of 1914. Without Germany’s backing, the conflict in the Balkans might have remained localized. With Germany promising to support Austria-Hungary’s punitive actions towards Serbia, even at the cost of war with Russia, whose own powerful allies included France and Great Britain, the possible Balkan War threatened to explode into a general European one.

Taken from:

This Day in History

June 29, 1941:

Germans advance in USSR.

One week after launching a massive invasion of the USSR, German divisions make staggering advances on Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev.

Despite his signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin knew that war with Nazi Germany–the USSR’s natural ideological enemy–was inevitable. In 1941, he received reports that German forces were massing along the USSR’s western border. He ordered a partial mobilization, unwisely believing that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler would never open another front until Britain was subdued. Stalin was thus surprised by the invasion that came on June 22, 1941. On that day, 150 German divisions poured across the Soviet Union’s 1,800-mile-long western frontier in one of the largest and most powerful military operations in history.

Aided by its far superior air force, the Luftwaffe, the Germans raced across the USSR in three great army groups, inflicting terrible casualties on the Red Army and Soviet civilians. On June 29, the cities of Riga and Ventspils in Latvia fell, 200 Soviet aircraft were shot down, and the encirclement of three Russian armies was nearly complete at Minsk in Belarus. Assisted by their Romanian and Finnish allies, the Germans conquered vast territory in the opening months of the invasion, and by mid-October the great Russian cities of Leningrad and Moscow were under siege.

However, like Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812, Hitler failed to take into account the Russian people’s historic determination in resisting invaders. Although millions of Soviet soldiers and citizens perished in 1941, and to the rest of the world it seemed certain that the USSR would fall, the defiant Red Army and bitter Russian populace were steadily crushing Hitler’s hopes for a quick victory. Stalin had far greater reserves of Red Army divisions than German intelligence had anticipated, and the Soviet government did not collapse from lack of popular support as expected. Confronted with the harsh reality of Nazi occupation, Soviets chose Stalin’s regime as the lesser of two evils and willingly sacrificed themselves in what became known as the “Great Patriotic War.”

The German offensive against Moscow stalled only 20 miles from the Kremlin, Leningrad’s spirit of resistance remained strong, and the Soviet armament industry–transported by train to the safety of the east–carried on, safe from the fighting. Finally, what the Russians call “General Winter” rallied again to their cause, crippling the Germans’ ability to maneuver and thinning the ranks of the divisions ordered to hold their positions until the next summer offensive. The winter of 1941 came early and was the worst in decades, and German troops without winter coats were decimated by the major Soviet counteroffensives that began in December.

In May 1942, the Germans, who had held their line at great cost, launched their summer offensive. They captured the Caucasus and pushed to the city of Stalingrad, where one of the greatest battles of World War II began. In November 1942, a massive Soviet counteroffensive was launched out of the rubble of Stalingrad, and at the end of January 1943 German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendered his encircled army. It was the turning point in the war, and the Soviets subsequently recaptured all the territory taken by the Germans in their 1942 offensive.

In July 1943, the Germans launched their last major attack, at Kursk; after two months of fierce battle involving thousands of tanks it ended in failure. From thereon, the Red Army steadily pushed the Germans back in a series of Soviet offensives. In January 1944, Leningrad was relieved, and a giant offensive to sweep the USSR clean of its invaders began in May. In January 1945, the Red Army launched its final offensive, driving into Czechoslovakia and Austria and, in late April, Berlin. The German capital was captured on May 2, and five days later Germany surrendered in World War II.

More than 18 million Soviet soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the Great Patriotic War. Germany lost more than three million men as a result of its disastrous invasion of the USSR.

Taken from:

My All-Time Baseball Team

Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera

1995-2013 for the New York Yankees

652 career saves (most all time)

2.21 career earned run average (ERA)

13-time All Star

5-time World Series champion (closed out 4 different World Series)

1999 World Series MVP

2003 American League Championship Series MVP

5-time American League Rolaids Relief Man Award winner

3-time Delivery Man of the Year winner

3-time Major League Baseball saves leader

Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019 on the first ballot (first inductee ever to receive 100% of the vote)

Pitched in 1,115 regular season games, which is fourth most in MLB history, most in American League history, and most all-time by a right-handed pitcher

2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) are the lowest of any pitcher in the live ball era with at least 1,000 innings pitched

8–1 win–loss record and a 0.76 WHIP in the postseason

Postseason record lowest career ERA (minimum 30 innings pitched) (0.70)

Postseason record 42 saves

Postseason record most consecutive scoreless innings pitched (3313)

Postseason record most consecutive save opportunities converted (23)

Postseason record most games pitched (96)

Almost exclusively threw a cut fastball, which hitters knew was coming, yet couldn’t do anything about

C: Yogi Berra

1B: Lou Gehrig

2B: Rogers Hornsby

SS: Honus Wagner

3B: Mike Schmidt

LF: Ted Williams

CF: Willie Mays

RF: Babe Ruth

SP: Walter Johnson

SP: Christy Mathewson

SP: Warren Spahn

SP: Grover Cleveland Alexander

SP: Lefty Grove

RP: Mariano Rivera

Another Air Fryer Pork Chop Recipe


2 center cut, bone-in pork chops

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat air fryer to 400 degrees

Pat chops dry with a paper towel

In a small bowl, mix together all dry ingredients

Coat the chops in olive oil

Rub chops in the mix (use all of the mix)

Cook at 400 degrees for 14 minutes (flip after 7 minutes)

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Colorado Avalanche 3

This year’s Stanley Cup Finals matchup is an intriguing one, featuring the two-time defending champion Lightning against this year’s consensus favorite, the Avalanche.

The Lightning sort of slept through the regular season and have turned it on during the playoffs, while the Avs used its explosive offense to steamroll through the league in both the regular season and playoffs. There is plenty of star power on both sides, with Tampa Bay featuring Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman, while Colorado counters with Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar.

It’s in the net where I believe the series will be decided. Again, all-world goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has elevated his play to the maximum during the postseason for the Lightning after what some might call a down year in the regular season. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Darcy Kuemper has been hobbled with ailments throughout the playoffs.

I’m taking the Lightning in a tight series to three-peat, primarily due to its sizeable advantage in net.

It’s Over

It was a hot and sticky morning already when my boy and I headed into the piece of woods behind my house.  The thermometer reading 70 degrees at daylight played the deciding hand in how we would approach this day of turkey hunting.  While not my preferred method of going after gobblers, the fact that I was able to come up with an alternative strategy, and seeing that strategy almost work, gave me great confidence as I bid adieu to the 2022 turkey season.

There’s a spot everyone has where they expect success or action simply by being there.  I have a personal area for whitetail deer where I almost cockily think that just by showing up, I will fill my tag on a nice buck.  I also have a similar feeling for this transition line of hardwoods and pines that runs adjacent to a large field.  It seems like every time I go there, turkeys are all around me.  It was there two weeks prior where my boy and I had a close encounter with a longbeard (See “They Are Hung Up” from May 10).

Getting to our spot is no easy task.  We must climb a power line that peaks before rapidly descending to a low gully, and finally taking us on a logging road up another mountainside.  While getting to the spot is difficult, it is tempered somewhat by the anticipation of the turkeys that await us.  No, it’s the return home, and the excruciating climb back up that is the killer.

The blazing sun and climbing temperatures forced us to alter our normal strategy of running and gunning, which is to stay mobile while occasionally calling, hoping to strike a gobble.  There was no way we were trudging through the woods all morning!  We decided to head to the line where the pines give way to hardwoods and park it on the edge of a ridge in order to conserve our energy.

It can be a lonely time in the woods when the birds aren’t gobbling.  Despite my infrequent calling to let any turkey in the area know a “hen” was there, only the serenading of the songbirds and the occasional chatter from the squirrels filled the airwaves.  It’s a time where one can easily close his eyes and drift off to sleep.

The gobble came at about 9:15 AM, arousing us from our slumber.  He sounded approximately 100 yards away from directly in front of us, with the thick springtime vegetation blocking our view of him and his view of us.  Remembering our tough luck on past turkey hunts where the bird hung up just out of shotgun range, we quickly slipped to the flat spot on top of the ridge and set up shop against a perfectly placed blowdown.

The bird sounded off again, only this time he was heading to out left, still quite a ways off.  I decided not to call, hoping the bird would circle to where we were originally seated, which would put him directly in front of us.  He went silent for five minutes, before he bellowed again, this time further to our left and going away.  I couldn’t stand it any longer and softly clucked to him, to which he responded with another call.  He knew where I was now!

Unfortunately, the tom quickly grew tired of me and sauntered off.  Despite waiting it out until the noontime shut off, we didn’t have any more action.  This was the end of the hunt, and with it the end of another turkey season, as youth sports and other commitments prevented us from getting out into the woods again.  While the season was over, it didn’t go away without one last shot at a beautiful northeast bird.

‘Memory’ Review: A Liam Neeson Shooter You’ll Soon Forget

The Reel Deal

I’m convinced Liam Neeson is simply putting out the same movie every six months and waiting to see how long it takes people to catch on.

“Memory” is the latest “Liam Neeson with a gun” film, this time following an aging hitman with early onset dementia who must save an illegal immigrant child from a trafficking ring. Guy Pearce, Monica Bellucci, Harold Torres, Taj Atwal, Ray Stevenson, and Ray Fearon also star while Martin Campbell directs.

This is the 16th film in which Liam Neeson plays a [retired/retiring] [profession involving guns] in which he must battle [disease/personal demon] to rescue a [child/damsel] from a [topical situation]. His last outing was “Blacklight” this past February, and that was among the worst of the bunch. “Memory” is an improvement over that, but still fails to scratch the glory days of “Taken” and “Run All Night.”

Liam Neeson tries in these movies, so…

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