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February 2007 Archives

February 28, 2007

Speaking of Museums...

met.jpg The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is one of the best in the world, and now, thanks to its website, the wealth of art and art history it holds is some of the most accessible.

Ever confuse your Manets and Monets? Forget which is Jasper Johns, and which is Jackson Pollock? The Met website is indexed by artist, and displays pieces of artists' work, as well as essays that reference it, with just a few clicks of the mouse. There's also a separate subject index, which runs the gamut from "Abstract Expressionism" to "Zodiac."

It would be easy to spend hours delving into the interactive Timelines feature, which summarizes not just art history, but other major historical periods and events. The timelines become more detailed with every subdivision. For instance, want to know about artists in Western and Central Sudan during the middle ages? French art during the 20th century? Done and Done.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Flickr photo by T.SC (cc)

Colossal Calamari

Colossal_squid.jpg New Zealand officials announced last week that fishermen had snagged a colossal squid from Antarctica's Ross Sea.

The first confirmed live sighting of a colossal squid occurred only as far back as 2003, when fishermen also in the Ross Sea caught one of these behemoths. Scientists dubbed their catch "colossal squid" (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni).

Colossal squids may possibly grow up to 40 feet in length (including the tentacles). Though giant squids (Architeuthis dux) are believed to reach 35 feet long on average, it's thought that they don't weigh as much as colossals.

This latest specimen--probably only the third intact one to be recovered--weighs about 990 pounds, or nearly half a ton. Scientists still don't know much about this species. The inaccessible nature of their deep-sea habitat makes studying them, as well as giant squids, difficult.

According to one squid expert, the colossal squid "would yield calamari rings the size of tractor tires," though apparently it wouldn't taste very good.

Link: "Photo in the News: Colossal Squid Caught Off Antarctica" (National Geographic News)

This Day In History: Feb. 28

This Day in History

1854: The Republican Party is founded, in Ripon, WI.
1983: The final episode of the TV show M*A*S*H is aired and becomes the most watched TV program of all time.
1986: Swedish Prime Min. Olof Palme is shot and killed while walking down a Stockholm street.
1993: Four federal agents and several cult members are killed during an unsuccessful raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, TX. The last UN peacekeeping troops begin withdrawing from Somalia.:
2001: A 6.8 magnitude earthquake strikes the Seattle, WA area, injuring 250 people and wreaking over $1 billion in damages.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 28" »

February 27, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 27

This Day in History

1951: The 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to 2 terms in office, is ratified.
1963: Juan Bosch is inaugurated president of the Dominican Republic after winning the first free elections in nearly four decades.
1967: The Protocol of Buenos Aires, amending the charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) is signed. The amendments are designed to raise living standards, to ensure social justice, and to achieve economic development and integration among the nations of the western hemisphere.
1972: During his trip to China, Pres. Richard Nixon and Chinese Prem. Zhou Enlai issue a joint communique agreeing to work toward normalizing relations.
1973: Members of the American Indian Movement occupy the reservation of Wounded Knee, SD, demanding an investigation of federal treatment of Native Americans.
1991: Allied troops enter Kuwait City, and Pres. George Bush orders a cease-fire in the Persian Gulf War.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 27" »

Hello Dolley

3g06776r.jpgWhile Dolley Madison may not have technically been the first First Lady to be photographed (that honor may go to sitting First Lady Sarah Polk between 1845-1849), she was the first if ranked by the order in which their husbands held office (Dolley was married to President #4, James Madison).

The beloved Grande dame of Washington, Dolley was renowned as an entertainer during the time of our founding fathers, having assisted the widowed Thomas Jefferson during his tenure as President, and serving as First Lady during her husband's two terms of office. She was also the first First Lady to attend her husband’s inauguration.

During the War of 1812, she fled the White House and saved the treasured Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, as well as state papers and other valuables. She and her husband retired to their home Montpelier, which Dolley sold several years after her husband’s death in 1836. After Congress purchased her husband's papers, she moved to Washington D.C. where she became the center of social life once again. She was the first First Lady to be granted a permanent seat on the floor of the House of Representatives, the first private citizen to transmit a message via telegraph (an honor given her by its inventor, Samuel B. Morse), and was treated with great honor during the Polk administration.

Dolley Madison was photographed on July 4, 1848, the same day she attended the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. When Dolley died on July 12, 1849, Congress immediately adjourned. It is said that President Zachary Taylor paid tribute to Dolley Madison in his eulogy, saying, "She will never be forgotten, because she was truly our First Lady for a half-century,” the first time the phrase “First Lady” was used.

Great Museums: Fast Food Edition

Welcome to the first installment of a new occasional series. Suggestions for future installments are appreciated...

hamburg1.jpg The International Vinegar Museum (Roslyn, South Dakota): "See vinegars from all over the world. Taste vinegars made from all kinds of plants. See paper made from vinegar. Learn how vinegar is made in factories, villages and homes all over the world. Learn all you never knew to ask about vinegar!"

The Mustard Museum (Mount Horeb, Wisconsin): " The Museum features an extensive collection of prepared mustards - over 4,300 jars, bottles, and tubes from all 50 states and more than 60 countries. The Museum also is home to hundreds of items of great mustard historical importance, including mustard pots and vintage mustard advertisements."

The Condiment packet museum (online): "Where do you obtain all these packets? Some of them I obtain myself from restaurants, the fridge at work, other peoples' kitchens. I have many friends on the lookout who live in other areas of the country."

The International Hamburger Hall of Fame (future home in Daytona Beach, Florida): Design (right) from the architect, Eugene Tsui, "The client requirements of this project were that the building must look like a giant hamburger; or at least that it express the interior contents (hamburgers) in a clear fashion."

February 26, 2007

Obsessive Diarists of the World, Unite!

diary.jpgSpeaking of diaries, let's take a moment to consider the extraordinary diary of Robert Shields. Here's a snippet from Monday, April 18, 1994:
6:30-6:35 I put in the oven two Stouffer's macaroni and cheese at 350°.
6:35-6:50 I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary.
6:50-7:30 I ate the Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and Cornelia ate the other one. Grace decided she didn't want one.
7:30-7:35 We changed the light bulb over the back stoop since the bulb had burnt out.
7:35-8:10 I had a conversation with Heidi. She is put out that I don't always follow the doctor's directions. When my hips ache, I don't pay attention to anybody but I take my Voltaren. She said she had mailed the Procardia and the Nitrostat. Edie is otty-trained, or at least began potty training today. She says that Klara should never have married Mike in the first place. Granted. But what is she to do now? Heidi's voice is so low and soft on the telephone that I can hardly make her out.
8:10-8:15 I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary.
And so on, and so on... for roughly 35 million words. Shields devoted at least four hours a day, for more than twenty years (from 1972 to 1996, when he suffered a stroke), recording the tiniest details of his life: conversations, meals, television shows, personal health statistics, dreams, and graphic (yet often funny and even poetic) descriptions of every trip to the bathroom. It's an astonishing record, like Leopold Bloom's running interior monologue in Joyce's Ulysses, only raised to the nth power.

The diary is currently held by Washington State University, and only small bits are available online (if you know of others not listed here, please let me know). But these excerpts, together with a handful of interviews and articles are enough to get a sense of the overall work.

Links: The World's Longest Diary (Athanasius Kircher Society)
Robert Shields, World's Longest Diary (interview transcript, at soundportraits.org)
Page from Shields' diary (.gif image)

George Washington Slept (and Tanned?) Here

gwhouse.jpgA little-known fact about George Washington: his only trip outside the present-day borders of the United States was to Barbados, at age 19, in the company of his tuberculosis-stricken older half-brother Lawrence. He lived at Bush Hill House (now undergoing restoration by the Barbados National Trust, and recently opened to the public as the George Washington House), the only home he ever lived in outside the continental U.S.

Much of the visit was apparently given over to the care of his brother, with whom he enjoyed a good deal of island hospitality, according to his diaries:

November 4 th, 1751.--This morning received a card from Major Clarke, welcoming us to Barbadoes, with an invitation to breakfast and dine with him. We went,--myself with some reluctance, as the smallpox was in his family. We were received in the most kind and friendly manner by him. Mrs. Clarke was much indisposed, insomuch that we had not the pleasure of her company, but in her place officiated Miss Roberts, her niece, and an agreeable young lady. After drinking tea we were again invited to Mr. Carter's, and desired to make his house ours till we could provide lodgings agreeable to our wishes, which offer we accepted.
Washington was right to be reluctant: he did come down with smallpox during the trip, although it proved to be a mixed blessing. The illness consumed three weeks of his six-week stay, but also gave him future immunity to the disease, sparing him from an outbreak of smallpox that ravaged the continental army in 1777-78.

Links:
George Washington House
Barbados National Trust
The Diaries of George Washington (Library of Congress)

This Day In History: Feb. 26

This Day in History

1848: The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, is published.
1919: Congress establishes the Grand Canyon National Park.
1934: Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the creation of a communications commission, which becomes the FCC.
1986: Robert Penn Warren is named the first U.S. poet laureate.
1993: A bomb explodes in a parking garage beneath New York City's World Trade Center, killing 6 people and injuring more than 1,000.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 26" »

February 25, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 25

This Day in History

1964: Cassius Clay (who later takes the name Muhammad Ali ) becomes the world heavyweight boxing champion, defeating Sonny Liston.
1986: In the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos flees the country as Corazon Aquino is inaugurated president.
1990: Marxist rule ends in Nicaragua as Violeta Barrios de Chamorro upsets Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra for the presidency.
1998: Longtime opposition leader Kim Dae Jung is sworn in as president of South Korea.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 25" »

February 24, 2007

This Day in History: Feb. 24

This Day in History

1803: In the case of Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court for the first time overturns a U.S. law.
1868: The U.S. House of Representatives votes to impeach Pres. Andrew Johnson.
1955: Iraq concludes the Baghdad Pact, a mutual-security treaty with Turkey which is later expanded into a Middle Eastern defense system later known as the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO).
1981: In Britain, Buckingham Palace announces the engagement of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.
1991: The ground war begins in the Persian Gulf War, as Allied troops launch a ground offensive against Iraq.
1993: Canadian Prime Min. Brian Mulroney announces his resignation after 8 years in office.
2000: Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to visit Egypt.
2003: The U.S., Spain and Britain sponsor a U.N. Security Council resolution that Iraq has missed its last chance to disarm peacefully; France and Germany counter with proposal to extend weapons inspections for four months or longer.
2004: Pres. George W. Bush pushes for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 24" »

February 23, 2007

Books: Praise and Challenge

Banned_Books_Week.jpg Receiving a Newbery Medal is usually cause for celebration. Aside from the honor bestowed by the award, the increased public attention that accompanies a Newbery allows publishers to ramp up sales of an award-winning book.

But Susan Patron, author of The Higher Power of Lucky, has received ire from certain quarters following her book's win of the 2007 Newbery Medal. Some school librarians have objected to the book's inclusion of the word "scrotum," which the book's 10-year-old protagonist overhears.

A New York Times article quotes a librarian who said she would not be ordering the book for her elementary school: "I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson." In the same article, Pat Scales, a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, is quoted as saying, "The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole."

The American Library Association (ALA), which gives out the Newbery Medal, celebrates Banned Book Week every year. In connection with the event last year, the ALA released the following list, based on the number of formal complaints submitted by schools and libraries:

Most Challenged Books of [the] 21st Century (2000-2005)

  1. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
  9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
  10. Forever by Judy Blume

Links:
Banned Books (ALA)
Newbery Medal Home Page (ALA)
"With One Word, Children's Book Sets Off Uproar" (NYTimes.com)

So, How Are the Kids?

Most people in the U.S. know UNICEF most tangibly from those little boxes trick-or-treaters collect coins in on Halloween. Obviously, the United Nations Children's fund does more than turn kids into double-solicitors for one night every October. In UNICEF's attempts to address the needs of the world's children, they do quite a bit of studying in order to ascertain where those needs might lie. For example, their State of the World's Children 2007 reports on children in almost every nation in the world, with statistics, video profiles of individual children, and interactive charts and graphs.

Last week, UNICEF released another report, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, which specifically addresses childhood in the 21 most-developed nations in the world (including the U.S., U.K., and much of Western Europe). The study uses six categories: material well-being, family and peer relationships, health and safety, behavior and risks, and children's own sense of well-being (educational and subjective).

In overall well-being, the U.S. and U.K. respectively place 20th and 21st out of 21 countries—a sobering thought—and rank in the bottom third in five of the six categories studied. dutchkid.jpg

Top Ten Countries in Overall Child Well-Being
1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Republic of Ireland
10. Belgium

Full Report [UNICEF pdf]
Child Study Finds Big Divisions [BBC]
UNICEF Report: Key Points at a Glance [BBC]

Photo of Dutch child by .eti

DJ, R.I.P.

It’s been a tough year for the Celtics. First, Red Auerbach, the father-figure and spiritual leader of the team died. Then the C’s went on a horrible 18-game losing streak. Now, former Celtic great Dennis Johnson, one of the most underrated guards in NBA history, passed away at age 52.

If you were a basketball fan in Boston during the 80s, you probably loved seeing ol’freckle-faced DJ bringing the ball up the court. If you were a fan in Philadelphia, Detroit, or L.A., you were probably confounded by the way he harassed your guards. Either way you look at it, he was a one of the greats. But if you’re still on the fence about DJ and how good he was, consider the opinion of Larry Bird who once referred to Johnson as “the best teammate I’ve ever played with.” (Or just watch the clip, at right, from game 5 of the '87 Celtics/Pistons playoffs.)

Obituary, Boston Globe, February 22, 2007
He Always Rose to the Occasion,” Boston Globe, February 23, 2007
DJ Should Have Made Springfield While Still Alive,” ESPN.com, February 23, 2007
One Cool Customer,” SI.com, February 23, 2007
Famous clip from Game 5, Celtics/Pistons ’87 playoffs
Same sequence, from a different angle
Here is a great retrospective on Dennis Johnson's career on NBA.com

This Day In History: Feb. 23

This Day in History

1836: Mexico under Santa Anna begins a siege of Texans in the Alamo in San Antonio.
1945: During World War II , the U.S. flag is raised at Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
1981: In Spain, armed civil guards invade the Cortes (parliament) in an attempt to seize power. King Juan Carlos narrowly foils the coup by convincing most of the military units to remain loyal to the government.
1995: The Dow Jones industrial average tops 4,000 for the first time.
1997: Scottish researchers announce the first cloning of an adult animal--a sheep named Dolly.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 23" »

February 22, 2007

Numerologists, Rejoice...

numbers.jpg...because I've got a site that will blow your mind: the rather unassumingly-titled What's Special About This Number? which offers up a handy, hyperlinked guide to...well, to what's special about most numbers from 0 to 9999.

Actually, it's not so much a resource for numerologists as it is for math geeks. No references to Nostradamus, Revelations, or Kabbalah here; instead, you get information like:

1246 is the number of partitions of 38 in which no part occurs only once.
1248 is the smallest number with the property that its first 6 multiples contain the digit 4.
1249 is the number of simplicial polyhedra with 11 vertices.
1250 is the number of lattice points that are within 1/2 of a sphere of radius 10 centered at the origin.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking—who doesn't know how many simplicial polyhedra have 11 vertices? But with hyperlinks on all the really cryptic terms, this makes a nice gateway into some advanced mathematical and geometrical concepts.

I stumbled across this one while doing research for the upcoming 2008 World Almanac for Kids, which will have some interesting new numbers-related material—including an introduction to game theory for kids ages 8-12. Now there's a challenge...

Link: What's Special About This Number?

Image: Squircled numbers from Claudecf's Flickr stream (CC)

This Day In History: Feb. 22

This Day in History

1819: Spain cedes Florida to the United States.
1847: In the Battle of Buena Vista (February 22-23), an engagement of the Mexican War, U.S. Gen. Zachary Taylor defeats some 15,000 Mexicans under Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna and gains control of northern Mexico.
1879: F. W. Woolworth opens his first 5 &10 store, in Utica, NY.
1956: Eighty of the people boycotting buses in Montgomery, AL--including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.--give themselves up for arrest, after white city leaders had threatened to begin making arrests.
1983: The EPA announces that it will buy all the homes in Times Beach, MO, which had been contaminated by dioxin.
2002: Jonas Savimbi, longtime leader of the Angolan rebel group UNITA, is killed in an ambush.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 22" »

February 21, 2007

Girlhood Lost

girls-report.jpg The American Psychological Association this week issued a Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. According to the report, women younger and younger are being bombarded by images, music, and other entertainment, which promote the idea of looking and acting sexy. In short, girlhood is giving way to womanhood earlier, little girls are seeing themselves as sexual beings earlier, and they are developing psychological disorders because of this trend.

It’s not news that girls are being encouraged through mass media to look and act more adult and sexy. It is also well known that this type of constant exposure increases the risk of girls developing low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression. But the report is alarming because it asserts that girlhood is being cut short dramatically, and that girls are starting to think of themselves as sexual beings as early as 6 years old. It’s one thing to depict children acting as adults, but there has to be a limit, which I think was surpassed long before this became the norm:

Ten-year-old girls can slide their low-cut jeans over "eye-candy" panties. French maid costumes, garter belt included, are available in preteen sizes. Barbie now comes in a "bling-bling" style, replete with halter top and go-go boots. And it's not unusual for girls under 12 to sing, "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" (Washington Post, Feb. 20 2007)

Report on the APA Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls , American Psychological Association (PDF download)
"Goodbye to Girlhood," Washington Post, February 20, 2007.

New Visualizations

Hawaii_graphic.jpgYou may have noticed that some of us at The World Almanac are big fans of visualized data and the software involved. In that vein, I wanted to highlight the National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Challenge organizers recognize that images such as those of the double helix or solar flares "have become part of the essential iconic lexicon." Through this competition, they hope to seek submissions that "communicate" science in a similarly accessible way. One of last year's winners was a team from the German Aerospace Center for the informational graphic "Hawaii, the Highest Mountain on Earth" (at right).

The deadline for this year's challenge is May 31, 2007. Winners will be chosen in each of five categories: photographs, illustrations, informational graphics, interactive media, and non-interactive media.

Links: Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge Home
Previous challenge winners

Graphic by Nils Sparwasser, Thorsten Andresen, Stephan Reiniger, Robert Meisner, German Aerospace Center (DLR).

This Day In History: Feb. 21

This Day in History

1885: The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, DC.
1916: The Battle of Verdun begins in World War I when the Germans launch an offensive against France.
1925: The first issue of The New Yorker magazine is published.
1945: At the Chapultepec Conference, held in Mexico City, Mexico from Feb. 21 to March 8, North and South American countries agree to a mutual defense in World War II against aggression toward any one of them.
1961: The UN Security Council authorizes the UN to use force to prevent civil war in the Congo, and demands withdrawal of all foreign military personnel not under UN command.
1965: Civil rights leader Malcolm X is assassinated during a rally in New York City.
1972: Pres. Richard Nixon arrives in Beijing to begin an 8-day visit to China.
1994: Longtime CIA officer Aldrich Ames and his wife are charged with spying for the Soviet Union and Russia.
2002: 16 year-old Long Islander Sarah Hughes shocks the world by besting world champion Michelle Kwan to take the women's figure skating gold medal.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 21" »

February 20, 2007

Happy Year of the Boar

year%20of%20the%20pig.jpg The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, was on Sunday. People are still celebrating through today in most parts of Asia (different countries observe it as a public holiday for different amounts of time). So how did the animals get paired up with their respective years? I liked the explanation from the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco:
According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.
All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.
China Central Television (CCTV) also aired their annual gala and midnight countdown. The variety show of live entertainment and performances is the country’s most watched event (You can watch some clips on Youtube). Apparently, they banned advertisements with pigs from the event.

Photo of pig statues in Singapore from Beggs' Flickr stream (CC)

Who is the Average American and Why Do We Care?

avg_american.jpgWhere did we ever get this concept of the average American or the typical citizen? And how did people get so comfortable telling pollsters their personal information, from what type of laundry detergent they use to how many times per month they have sex? These are important questions for all of us who pay attention to or participate in surveys. They also force us to think about the notion of privacy. Even asking someone who they voted for is a personal question... yet there are plenty of people who willingly give an answer to a pollster, a complete stranger. Just ask Gallup.

Why do so many people answer? To help understand the origins and possible reasons behind America’s poll-hungry culture, take a look at this op ed piece in the L.A. Times, written by UPenn professor Sarah Igo. She gives us a quick & dirty history of America’s love affair with surveys and polls, and she has some great insight and theory as to why and how we came to rely on them. Igo also touches on the limits of polls and early reaction to them.

Link: "Who Are We? Ask a Poll," Los Angeles Times

This Day In History: Feb. 20

This Day in History

1792: Pres. George Washington signs an act that creates the U.S. Post Office.
1962: John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, 3 times in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7.
1986: The Soviets launch the space station Mir.
1998: At age 15, American Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest ever to win Olympic gold in figure skating.
2001: Senior FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen is charged with espionage for allegedly selling classified information to the Soviet Union and Russia.
2002: A videotape delivered to Pakistani officials depicts the graphic murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who had been abducted by terrorists on Jan. 23. 360 are killed as an Egyptian train catches fire outside Cairo.:
2003: A fire caused by a pyrotechnic display kills 98 at a West Warwick, R.I., nightclub during a concert by the heavy metal band Great White.
2004: Conservatives sweep the Iranian parliamentary elections.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 20" »

February 19, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 19

This Day in History

1942: Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt issues an executive order that Japanese-Americans living in the western United States be placed in internment camps.
1945: During World War II , the Marines land on the island of Iwo Jima.
1987: The United States lifts economic sanctions against Poland in place since 1981 and 1982.
1997: Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping dies in Beijing at the age of 92.
2002: U.S. bobsledder Vonetta Flowers becomes the first African-American athlete ever to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics after her team upsets the favored Germans.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 19" »

February 18, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 18

This Day in History

1861: Jefferson Davis is named president of the Confederacy's provisional government.
1915: Germany begins a submarine blockade of waters around Britain in World War I.
1930: Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovers the planet Pluto.
1965: The Gambia becomes independent with Sir Dawda K. Jawara as prime minister.
1970: A federal jury finds the Chicago 7 anti-Vietnam war activists innocent of conspiring to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
1992: Patrick Buchanan makes a strong showing in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, placing 2d to Pres. George H. W. Bush.
2001: Dale Earnhardt, the most popular and successful driver in stock-car racing, is killed in a crash on the final turn of the final lap of the Daytona 500.
2002: Palestinian gunmen kill six Israeli soldiers at a West Bank outpost.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 18" »

February 17, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 17

This Day in History

1600: Italian Renaissance thinker Giordano Bruno is burned at the stake as a heretic for his philosophical ideas.
1897: The National Congress of Mothers, which later becomes the PTA, is founded.
1913: Modern art is brought to America by the opening of the New York Armory Show.
1916: The U.S. sends a formal note to Turkey protesting the massacre of Armenians.
1945: In World War II, American forces retake the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines from the Japanese.
1964: The Supreme Court orders that congressional districts must have equal populations.
1998: The U.S. team takes the gold medal in the first-ever Olympic women's ice hockey competition.
2004: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry edges North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, 40%-34% in the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 17" »

February 16, 2007

America's Favorite Buildings

empire.jpg In celebration of their 150th anniversary, the American Institute of Architects compiled a list of America's favorite buildings. Based on the nominations of Institute members, the public was invited to vote for the 150 most familiar, innovative, and distinctive structures that American architecture has created so far. The top 10:

America's Favorite Architecture
1. Empire State Building (1931): Shreve, Lamb & Harmon
2. The White House (1792): James Hoban
3. Washington National Cathedral (1990): George Bodley
4. Jefferson Memorial (1943): John Russell Pope
5. Golden Gate Bridge (1937): Joseph B. Strauss
6. U.S. Capitol (1793-1865): William Thornton
7. Lincoln Memorial (1922): Henry Bacon
8. Biltmore Estate/Vanderbilt Mansion (1895): Richard Morris Hunt
9. Chrysler Building (1930): William Van Alen
10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982): Maya Lin

The list is bound to generate a lot of controversy: all but two of the top 10 are in New York City or Washington, DC, and only one structure is on the West Coast. I have other problems with the list. (Is the White House really one of the greatest examples of American architecture?) Lucky for those displeased with the selections, the AIA has the complete list on their website, with architectural details about each structure and with an area for people to post comments on the selections suggest omissions.

America's Favorite Architecture

Flickr photo from ljcybergal

This Day In History: Feb. 16

This Day in History

1923: The burial chamber of King Tutankhamen's tomb, which was recently discovered, is unsealed in Egypt by archaeologists.
1945: U.S. troops land on Corregidor in the Philippines during World War II.
1959: Fidel Castro becomes prime minister of Cuba.
1968: The first 911 telephone emergency system in the United States goes into operation, in Haleyville, AL.
2005: The Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gases takes effect for the 141 nations that have ratified it since it was drawn up in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 16" »

February 15, 2007

A Private Zoo (Closer Than You Think)

giantmicrobes.jpg Researchers at NYU's School of Medicine just released a study of a large group of species with whom we are all intimately connected...but of whom we are also mostly unaware. Dr. Martin Blaser and his colleagues have identified about 182 species of bacteria that live on human skin, and estimate that there are probably at least 250:
"In comparison," Blaser added, "a good zoo might have 100 species or 200 species. So we already know that there are as many different species in our skin, just on the forearm, as there are in a good zoo."

"Microbes have been living in animals probably for a billion years. And the microbes that we have in our body are not accidental. They have evolved with us," Blaser said.

Link: Human skin populated by veritable zoo of bacteria (Scientific American)

Previously: The Air That We Breathe

Stuffed bacteria from GIANTmicrobes.com.

This Day In History: Feb. 15

This Day in History

1898: In Cuba , the U.S. battleship Maine blows up in Havana harbor, killing all 260 aboard and leading to calls to "Remember the Maine."
1933: An assassin aiming at Pres.-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt misses, instead killing Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak.
1965: Canada officially adopts a new flag, with the maple leaf replacing the Union Jack.
1989: The Soviet Union completes the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 15" »

February 14, 2007

Starving or Feeding?

cold-virus.jpg I'm a big fan of the New York Times' health column "Really?" Each column is devoted to taking a long-held belief and dissecting it for its veracity.

Yesterday's column, "The Claim: Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever," proved timely. It laid out the facts--scientists have found little evidence that starving or feeding a cold or fever helps--and made its conclusion. Seems like plenty of rest and fluids are still the best medicine. My suggestion? Chicken noodle soup.

Link: "The Claim: Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever"

Photo: Cold viruses.

This Day In History: Feb. 14

This Day in History

1859: Oregon is admitted to the Union as the 33rd state.
1912: Arizona is admitted to the Union as the 48th state. A revolutionary assembly in Nanjing, China elects Gen. Yüan Shih-k'ai the first president of the Republic of China.
1920: The League of Women Voters is formed in Chicago .
1929: The "St. Valentine's Day massacre" takes place in Chicago, with gangsters killing 7 members of a rival crime ring.
1956: At the 20th Communist Party Congress in Moscow (Feb. 14-25) party secretary Nikita Khrushchev condemns Stalin for having replaced the collective leadership proper to Marxism with a cult of himself, with disastrous consequences for the USSR.
1989: Union Carbide is ordered by India's Supreme Court to pay $470 million to victims of the 1984 toxic gas leak at Bhopal. Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issues a call for the death of author Salman Rushdie because of his novel The Satanic Verses.
2005: Rafik al-Hariri, the long-time Lebanese premier who resigned in October 2004 to protest Syrian political hegemony in the country, is killed by a huge bomb amidst his motorcade in downtown Beirut.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 14" »

February 13, 2007

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

As we celebrate this day of love and affection, let us not forget about one of the most famous events in Prohibition-era, gangland history. On Feb. 14, 1929, seven members of Bugs Moran’s Chicago gang were lured to a parking garage by members of Al Capone’s gang, lined up against a wall, and gunned down in a most dramatic fashion.

The whole thing was arranged by Capone’s underling Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn (not to be confused with George “Machine Gun” Kelley) who was actually trying to put the hit on Moran himself. McGurn got a bootlegger associate of his to arrange a sale of whiskey to Moran's gang at a parking garage on Chicago's North Side. While the booze deal was being made, four of McGurn's assassins, who were dressed as policemen, drove up in a stolen police car and pretended they were conducting a raid. They lined Moran's men up against a wall and opened fire. Moran, who was supposed to be there, showed up late. And when he saw the police car outside of the garage, he fled.

It didn't take much for other gangs, the police, and newspaper reporters to figure out that Al Capone had ordered the hit. There was no evidence that would have stood up in court, but the war between Capone and McGurn was well known. The press ended up having a field day with the event they called the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Crimelibrary.com)

FBI files: St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Al Capone, and Bugs Moran.

Disco Island!

disco-island.jpg

Some spell it "Disko," the Inuit call it Qeqertarsuaq (Big Island). But there doesn't seem to be much nightlife on Disco Island. Activities include dog sledding and hiking. According to Henry Rink's Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo (1875), the Inuit weren't too fond of it back in the day and decided to move it with a thread of hair:

Off the southernmost part of Greenland an island was situated which some of the inhabitants of the mainland took a dislike to, because it cut them off from the open sea. Two old men got the idea of removing it by help of some magic lay. Their names were Nevingasilernak and Nivfigfarsuk; but another oldster, called Kiviaritajak, rather inclined to retain the island. The first two went in their kayaks to fasten a hair from the head of a little child to the outside, while the last from shore tried to keep it back by means of a thong of sealskin made fast to it. The two old kayakers then pushed off, chanting their spells and tugging the hair. At length the thong burst, and the island got afloat; and continually singing, they pulled away to the north, and placed it in front of Ilulissat. It is now Disco Island. The translation caused the bottom of the sea to rise all along where they travelled.

Official Tourism Site

This Day In History: Feb. 13

This Day in History

1635: The Boston Latin School, the first public school in America, opens in Massachusetts.
1795: The first state university in the United States, the University of North Carolina, opens.
1945: Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, causes a fire that kills 135,000 and destroys the city.
1975: On the island of Cyprus, a semi-independent Turkish Cypriot state is proclaimed in the Turkish-held sector.
1997: The Dow Jones industrial average tops 7,000 for the first time.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 13" »

February 12, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 12

This Day in History

1733: James Edward Oglethorpe founds the colony of Savannah, in what is now Georgia.
1817: The Battle of Chacabuco, the first major battle of the Chilean War of Independence against Spain, is a victory for the independence forces.
1909: The NAACP is founded by W. E. B. DuBois and others to fight against lynching and other types of racial oppression.
1914: Work begins on the Lincoln Memorial in Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.
1955: The United States agrees to help train the South Vietnamese army.
1973: North Vietnam frees the first group of U.S. prisoners of war, who are flown to the Philippines.
1998: A district judge declares the Line-Item Veto Act unconstitutional.
1999: Pres. Bill Clinton is acquitted by the U.S. Senate on both articles of impeachment voted by the House.
2002: Prosecutor Carla del Ponte makes her opening remarks in the war crimes trial of former Serbian Pres. Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague, Netherlands.
2004: The city of San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Scientists at Seoul National University in South Korea announce the first successful cloning of human embryos. The research is later determined to be fraudulent.:

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 12" »

February 11, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 11

This Day in History

1945: The Yalta Conference ends in the Crimea, with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin agreeing on occupying Germany.
1983: A fierce snowstorm begins, paralyzing the East Coast from New England to North Carolina.
1990: South African leader Nelson Mandela is released after more than 27 years in prison.
1998: A judge rules that golfer Casey Martin is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and can use a cart in PGA tournaments.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 11" »

February 10, 2007

This Day In History: Feb. 10

This Day in History

1763: A peace treaty is signed ending the French and Indian War , with France losing Canada and the Midwest.
1899: Pres. William McKinley signs the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Spanish-American War .
1967: The 25th Amendment , providing for presidential succession in the event of disability or illness, is ratified.
1997: O. J. Simpson is ordered by a civil jury to pay $12.5 million in punitive damages each to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
2000: The PKK, a Kurdish revolutionary group, announces an end to a 15-year insurrection against the Turkish government which resulted in 30,000 deaths.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 10" »

February 9, 2007

Gourmets of the Sky

airplane-food.jpg I'm one of a few who will admit to liking airplane food. Maybe it's the neatness of the presentation. The food is served perfectly proportioned in these rectangular dishes that fit like puzzle pieces on this tiny tray that's sized to stack just so in the meal cart. (Or maybe getting food is just a good way of breaking the monotony of a long flight.)

Airlines have cut back on meal service in an effort to save costs, but one website has dedicated itself to cataloging the array of food that's still being served. AirlineMeals.net bills itself as "the world's first and leading website about nothing but airline food." One can browse thousands of photos of in-flight meals, including special meals (e.g., vegetarian, children's) and meals for the crew. The site also catalogs photos of airline menu cards. There's even a few entries on airplane food appearing in movies.

Flickr photo by nancycallahan (cc).

I Want a New Drug

pills.jpg A few weeks ago, the FDA announced the beginning of a pilot program to issue "report cards" to keep closer tabs on the side effects of new drugs. Coming in the wake of the 2004 Vioxx recall, the program is a response to a report by the Institute of Medicine that criticized the FDA's drug safety tracking. Several senators proposed legislation to form a separate group within the FDA to track already marketed drugs on February 8.

These developments reminded me of an article I read a few months back that looks at the complexities of balancing the need to safeguard the public from potentially harmful new drugs with the desire to market potentially lifesaving treatments as soon as possible. The article also examines whether patients with terminal conditions should have unlimited access to experimental drugs. Pretty fascinating—though labyrinthine—issues.

The Right to a Trial
FDA Proposes Report Cards
FDA Approval Process Explained

Flickr photo by confusedvision (cc)

This Day In History: Feb. 9

This Day in History

1825: After no candidate wins a majority of Electoral College votes, John Quincy Adams is elected president by the U.S. House of Representatives.
1943: The last Japanese forces are expelled from Guadalcanal by Allied troops.
1984: Soviet leader Yuri Andropov dies after only 15 months in power.
1986: In the Middle East, Iran launches a major offensive against its neighbor Iraq.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 9" »

February 8, 2007

Professor, What's Another Word for Pirate Treasure?

PiratesSmall.jpg Yarrr! The Library of Congress has posted what they call “one of the most important books about pirates ever written.” Alexandre Exquemelin’s The Buccaneers of America (Amerikaanse zeerovers), written in 1678, recounts the stories of pirates roving around the Caribbean during the author's stint with the French West Indies Company.

One English pirate was called the Rock:

Rock acquired great renown from this exploit, and in the end became so audacious he made all Jamaica tremble. He had no self-control at all, but behaved as if possessed by a sullen fury. When he was drunk, he would roam the town like a madman. The first person he came across, he would chop off his arm or leg, without anyone daring to intervene, for he was like a maniac.
Several translated pages are dedicated to the story of the real Captain Morgan, who wasn’t such a nice guy either.

Originally in Dutch, the Library offers page by page images with accompanying translation and audio storytelling. They’ve done a good job with the presentation here.

Edward’s Untimely Death Series: Entry #4

20_bg.jpg John Denver (1943-1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr, in Roswell, New Mexico, was a singer and songwriter best known for simple, sincere acoustic guitar-based ballads that drew upon folk, country, and popular styles of music. Among his best known songs were "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (popularized by the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary in 1969), "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (1971), and "Rocky Mountain High" (1972). His recordings, which included 14 gold and eight platinum albums, sold more than 100 million copies, making him one of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s. A supporter of numerous humanitarian and environmental causes, he helped found the Hunger Project, whose goal was to eliminate world hunger by the year 2000. Although his album sales tapered off after the 1970s, he continued to tour internationally. On October 12, 1997, Denver died when the newly-purchased experimental Long-EZ plane he was piloting ran out of gas, and crashed into Monterey Bay.

This Day In History: Feb. 8

This Day in History

1587: Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, is beheaded in England on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I.
1904: The Russo-Japanese War begins with a surprise attack by the Japanese navy on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur, Manchuria.
1910: The Boy Scouts of America is founded.
1955: Soviet premier Georgy Malenkov, who succeeded Joseph Stalin , is forced out of office.
1963: Iraqi president Karim Kassem is overthrown in a Baathist coup and assassinated the next day.
1974: The final Skylab space mission ends after its 3-man crew returns to earth.
1986: A woman in New York dies after taking Tylenol capsules found to be laced with cyanide.
2001: Final results from the 2000 presidential election show that President George W. Bush captured 47.87% of the popular vote to Democratic nominee Al Gore's 48.38%.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Feb. 8" »

February 7, 2007

The World From Another Point of View

worldprocessor.jpg C. Alan Joyce's earlier entry on the Worldmapper project reminded me of something similar that I'd seen. Worldprocessor (1988-2005), a project by artist Ingo Günther, is a collection of more than 300 globes that map different data.

Globes might reflect such data as "Landlocked Nations" and "Refugee Currents" (where the width of arrows indicates the relative amounts of refugees between countries). Some of his globes are more playful. "Hannover" shows places named Hanover after the German town. And, of course, what collection of globes would be complete without "Blank," literally an image of a blank globe?

Link: Worldprocessor

Previously: "'The World as You've Never Seen It Before'"

Getting Through the Sporting Doldrums with Uni Watch

The Super Bowl’s over. My basketball team just lost its 15th straight. I stopped caring about hockey when a team called the Mighty Ducks entered the league (thankfully, it’s just the Ducks now). And spring training doesn’t start for another 8 days. I’m in the sporting doldrums.

uniwatch.jpg To help me beat the between-sports blues, I turn to Uni Watch, which to me is one of the most fascinating and creative sports sites out there. It’s a site that documents, examines, and analyzes the aesthetic aspects of sports uniforms and equipment that players wear in the pros, college, and sometimes high school. Uni Watch is the brainchild of writer Paul Lukas, a man with a strong interest in sports uniforms and sports design. Lukas wrote a Uni Watch column on ESPN’s Page 2. Then last fall, he turned Uni Watch into its own web site (he still writes his column for ESPN).

The reason why I like Uni Watch so much is that it looks at sports from a completely different perspective. I suppose like anything else that focuses on minutiae, it takes a certain eccentric attention to detail to appreciate (eccentric attention to detail is a job requirement here at the Almanac). But Uni Watch is definitely worth the occasional perusal for the sports fanatic, the occasional viewer, or even someone who isn't into sports but likes nice-looking uniforms. At the very least, after reading Uni Watch, you’ll probably start noticing uniforms more when you watch a sporting event. For me it’s a great way to pass the time until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

Link: Uni Watch

This Day in History: Feb. 7

This Day in History

1795: The 11th Amendment is ratified, restricting the power of the federal judiciary in relation to the states.
1821: An American sealer, Capt. John Davis, makes the first known landing on Antarctica.
1973: The Senate establishes the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to investigate the Watergate scandal.
1984: Using jet thrusters attached to their backpacks, Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart become the first men to fly free of a spacecraft , during a space shuttle Challenger mission.
1986: Pres. Jean Claude Duvalier of Haiti flees to exile in France.
1999: King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for 46 years, dies.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 7" »

February 6, 2007

Ten More Years...A Hundred More Movies

shining.jpg The first poll in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Movies" series took place about 10 years ago now, and Citizen Kane, Orson Welles' 1941 classic, was named the Best American Film, with Casablanca (1942), The Godfather (1972), Gone With the Wind (1939), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962) rounding out the Top Five. (See page 238 in your 2007 World Almanac for the full list.)

AFI has also created genre and detail specific lists every year or so for the past decade, from the Funniest (Some Like It Hot), to the Best Songs ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow," in The Wizard of Oz), to the Best Heroes and Villains (To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch and The Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal Lecter, respectively). But now AFI is revisiting their principal list in order to include the last decade or so of American filmmaking—and some surprising nominees are contending for the honor: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and There's Something About Mary, to name a few.

View the 400 nominees on the official ballot, find out Clint Eastwood's and Helen Mirren's (among others') favorite films, or revisit the AFI's past winners at the links below.

AFI Official Ballot (PDF download)
Film Luminaries' Favorites
100 Years...100 Movies

Flickr photo by Dawn Endico

Cooking Healthy on a Budget

Swedish%20Chef.jpg The USDA’s Food Stamp Nutrition Connection Recipe Finder contains more than 400 recipes concocted by nutrition and health professionals and organizations to provide healthy, low cost food choices.

Aside from being a major step up from government-issued cheese, I thought this page could be useful even if you don’t use food stamps. The recipes are simple and concise, so they’re good for beginner cooks or people with limited cooking supplies (and money) like college students.

Some examples:

The recipes have been categorized by important nutrients, the type of dish, audience, cooking equipment, and cost. There is a rating system but it doesn’t seem to get much use. Sure, this isn’t Bon Appétit (for that there’s Epicurious) but you can’t cook Striped Bass with Saffron Vegetables and Spices Broccoli Rabe with $5 and some beginner’s luck.

Photo of the best chef ever at the Smithsonian from oppositeofsuper's Flickr stream (cc)

This Day in History: Feb. 6

This Day in History

1778: Britain declares war on France, and France signs a treaty of alliance with the United States.
1788: Massachusetts enters the Union as the sixth of the 13 original states.
1922: The Limitation of Armaments Conference ends in Washington, DC, with the major powers agreeing to curtail naval construction, outlaw poison gas, restrict submarine attacks on merchant ships, and respect the integrity of China.
1950: Pres. Harry Truman invokes the emergency provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act.
1952: King George VI of England dies and is succeeded by his daughter, who becomes Queen Elizabeth II.
1974: The House of Representatives votes to give the Judiciary Committee broad powers to pursue its impeachment inquiry against Pres. Richard Nixon.
2001: After months of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, Likud hardliner Ariel Sharon is elected prime minister of Israel in a landslide victory over Labor's Ehud Barak.
2004: In Russia , a female suicide bomber kills 39 and wounds more than 200 on a crowded Moscow subway train during the morning rush hour.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 6" »

February 5, 2007

Japan and Storing CO2 Under the Ocean Floor

One method of disposing carbon dioxide produced by industry is ocean disposal or injection. Just like it sounds, it involves collecting carbon dioxide produced by industrial sources and pumping it down into the deepest parts of the world's oceans, or under the sea floor, thus preventing its release into the atmosphere and hopefully slowing global warming. Disposing CO2 in the ocean is environmentally problematic because in short, CO2 can destroy marine habitats. It’s another example of trading one potential environmental catastrophe for another; in this case, possibly destroying deep ocean habitats with CO2 instead of releasing it into the atmosphere, which would cause more global warming.

Last September 2006, a new amendment was made to the 1972 London Convention (an international agreement between 81 countries including the U.S. that set standards for dumping waste in the ocean), adding CO2 to the list of items that countries can dump into or store beneath the ocean. International approval in hand, Japan, the world's 4th largest emitter of CO2, may give ocean CO2 disposal a bureaucratic green light.

Japan's Environment Ministry submitted a law to the Japanese Diet that would allow businesses to get permission from the environment minister to begin projects for storing carbon dioxide in deep down under the seabed. The move is significant because it provides the Japanese government with a framework for regulation, which will hopefully prevent any construction or disposal methods that in the interest of profit, may be too harmful for marine habitats to be worth doing. Whether or not it works, let alone be made law, is another matter. But it will be interesting to see how or if this idea gets much debate over here on our side of the Pacific.

"Japan to embrace CO 2 storage in seabed," The Japan Times Online.
Here's a link to the London Convention web site.
For information on the top CO2-producing nations, take a look at page 283 in the 2007 World Almanac.

This Day in History: Feb. 5

This Day in History

1916: Gen. John J. Pershing enters Mexico to pursue Pancho Villa, who had raided U.S. border areas.
1974: Heiress Patty Hearst is kidnapped in Berkeley, CA by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
1983: Klaus Barbie, the World War II Gestapo chief in Lyon, is arrested by French officials after his extradition from Bolivia.
1993: Pres. Bill Clinton signs legislation requiring large companies to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers with family and medical emergencies.
1994: Byron De La Beckwith is convicted of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
2003: U.S. Sec. of State Colin Powell addresses the U.N. Security Council, alleging attempts by Iraq to conceal weapons programs and links between Iraq's government and the Al Qaeda terorist organization.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 5" »

February 4, 2007

This Day in History: Feb. 4

This Day in History

1763: The Skating Club of Edinburgh, in Scotland, holds the first speed skating competition, a 15-mile race held on the Fens in England.
1787: The first Episcopal bishops in the United States are consecrated by the Church of England.
1861: At a meeting in Montgomery, Alabama , states seceding from the Union form a provisional government, the Confederate States of America.
1899: Unable to get recognition of independence from the United States, Filipino insurgents start a guerrilla war.
1945: The Yalta Conference in the Crimea begins with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin.
1948: Ceylon (now Sri Lanka ), a former British colony, becomes independent.
1988: The United States indicts Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega on drug trafficking charges.
1997: A civil jury finds O. J. Simpson liable in the 1994 murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
2002: Beleaguered Kenneth Lay resigns as Enron CEO after months of damaging speculation about the energy company's swift and scandalous collapse.
2004: Pakistan ’s leading nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admits having provided Iran, North Korea, and Libya with nuclear designs and technology.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 4" »

February 3, 2007

This Day in History: Feb. 3

This Day in History

1870: The 15th Amendment is ratified, stating that the right to vote cannot be denied by states or the federal government on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
1913: The 16th Amendment is ratified, giving Congress the authority to impose an income tax.
1917: The United States cuts diplomatic ties with Germany following the sinking of the Housatonic by a German submarine.
1959: Rock and roll singer Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and "The Big Bopper" die in a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield.
1988: In the "Baby M" case, a New Jersey court rules that surrogate mother contracts that involve payments are illegal.
1998: A U.S. military aircraft severs a ski lift cable in Italy, causing 20 riders to plunge to their deaths.
2002: In football , the underdog New England Patriots shock the St. Louis Rams with a last-minute field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI 20-17.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 3" »

February 2, 2007

The World at a Glance: Changing Times

314854035_5617436462_m.jpgWe're all going full steam ahead on The World Almanac for Kids 2008, so apologies for the late (and light) posting today. To tide you over, here's another "World at a Glance" installment, this time a quick look at some notable changes in agriculture, health, population, and other areas in recent decades. Any other noteworthy trends we missed? Let us know in the comments.

1900-2000: The top country of origin for foreign-born U.S. residents shifted from Germany (26% of the foreign-born population in 1900) to Italy (13% in 1960) to Mexico (30% in 2000).

1940-2005: The total number of U.S. farms fell more than 66%, from 6.4 million to 2.10 million.

1960-2005: Americans’ average savings, as a percent of their disposable income, fell from 7.3% to –0.4%.

1960-2002: The percentage of U.S. adults who were clinically overweight climbed from 45% to 65%, and the number of all U.S. adults considered clinically obese rose from 13% to 31%.

1980-2005: Average annual tuition and fees for a 4-year private college or university were 10 times higher in 2005 than in 1980, rising from $1,809 to $18,838.

1980-2005: The percentage of high school seniors who had at least one heavy drinking episode in the previous two weeks fell from 41% to 28%.

1990-2005: The median price for an existing single family home in the U.S. climbed 138%, from $92,000 to $219,000.

1990-2004: The rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. slowed dramatically: emissions increased by an annual average of 1.7% from 1990 to 2000, but only 0.4% annually from 2000 to 2004.

2006-2050: The population of China, the most populous nation in 2006, will climb from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion in 2050, but India will surpass China by 2030, and is projected to top the list in 2050 with 1.8 billion people.

Preparing for the Next Flu Pandemic

Pandemic_scale.bmpThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define a flu pandemic as a "global disease outbreak," which occurs when a new influenza virus arises to which people have little or no immunity. The last flu pandemic, which occurred in 1968, killed about 34,000 people in the U.S. and 700,000 worldwide.

On Thursday, the CDC released an interim planning guide on how to handle a future flu pandemic. The guide includes a pandemic severity scale. The scale--which many have compared to the hurricane scale--is based on "case fatality ratio," or the numbers of deaths among the ill.

The CDC puts forth guidelines that local governments and communities can follow depending on the severity of an outbreak. It assumes there will be no vaccines in the beginning and insufficient medication for all those infected. Suggestions include isolation and treatment, voluntary quarantine, the closing of schools, and the changing of workplace rules to decrease contact between people.

Links:
PandemicFlu.gov
"Interim Pre-Pandemic Planning Guide" (full CDC report in PDF)

Previously: "1918: La Grippe" (Sarah Janssen's earlier blog entry about the 1918 flu pandemic)

This Day in History: Feb. 2

This Day in History

1848: A treaty is signed ending the U.S. war with Mexico; Mexico cedes claims to Texas, California, and other territory.
1936: The 5 charter members of the Baseball Hall of Fame are announced: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner.
1967: The American Basketball Association is formed.
1974: A new Cultural Revolution begins in China.
1998: For the first time in nearly 3 decades, the president submits a balanced federal budget.
2003: Czech President Vaclav Havel leaves office with no successor; Vaclav Klaus is elected to the office Feb. 28.
2005: President Bush delivers the annual State of the Union address, calling for Congress to act to reform the Social Security retirement system, which he warns will otherwise become insolvent.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Feb. 2" »

February 1, 2007

Last of the Exodusters

nico-ImageF.jpg Since it's the first day of Black History Month I thought I'd present this little bit of trivia about Nicodemus, Kansas from the National Park Service:
An all Black Town settled by former slaves fleeing the south in 1877 after the Reconstruction Period had ended following the Civil war is located in the Northwest corner of Kansas. This living community is the only remaining all Black Town west of the Mississippi River that was settled in the 1800’s on the western plains by former slaves. The families of the original settlers continue to carry on their sense of hard work.

You can read more about Nicodemus and the western migration of African Americans and homesteading during the 19th century at the Library of Congress African American Mosaic website.

Photo of District No.1 Nicodemus School (now closed) from the National Park Service Digital Image Archives.

"The World as You've Never Seen it Before"

That's the tag line for Worldmapper, a novel approach to visualizing global data, and a collaborative project of a group of cartographers, social scientists, and other experts at the University of Michigan and the University of Sheffield. From a recent article on The Daily Telegraph website:
"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," said Prof Danny Dorling, of the University of Sheffield, one of the developers of Worldmapper, a collection of maps — cartograms — that rescale the size of territories in proportion to the value being represented.

On the maps of public health spending, research expenditure and wealth, Africa appears tiny. But in those that show global malaria cases and the deaths due to drought, Africa appears enormous.

You'll find a year's worth of maps on the site, spanning categories from income and housing to pollution and "destruction." Each map is also accompanied by a brief summary of the topic, plus links to labeled territory and population maps, data sheets in Excel or Opendoc formats, and even a downloadable PDF poster showcasing the map and some of its key data points.

Choose a topic, and you're bound to find something interesting. I was struck by two maps, which are as good a place to start as any:

map_childlabor.jpgChild Labor (at left): "Nine of the ten territories with the highest proportions of child labourers are in Africa. . . . The map shows that most child labour occurs in African and Southern Asian territories. India has the highest number of child labourers, twice as many as China where the second highest population of child labourers lives."

map_toyimports.jpgToy Imports (at right): "Most imports of toys (US$ net) are to the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. Toys are fun but not necessities. Thus toy imports give an indication of disposable incomes. The lowest imports of toys (US$ net) per person are to territories in Africa and also Tajikistan (in the Middle East)."

Link: Worldmapper

This Day in History: Feb. 1

This Day in History

1790: The U.S. Supreme Court meets for the first time.
1793: During the French Revolution , the revolutionary government declares war on Great Britain and the United Netherlands.
1865: Pres. Abraham Lincoln approves the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery .
1893: Thomas Edison completes the first moving picture studio, in West Orange, NJ.
1958: The United Arab Republic (UAR), a federation of Egypt and Syria, is formed.
1960: Sit-ins begin when 4 African-American college students in Greensboro, NC, refuse to move from a Woolworth lunch counter after being denied service.
1996: Congress approves a sweeping revision of U.S. communications laws.
2000: Sen. John McCain (AZ) wins the New Hampshire primary on the Republican side, while Vice Pres. Al Gore wins the Democratic contest.
2003: The oldest U.S. space shuttle, Columbia, breaks apart re-entering Earth's atmosphere at the end of a 16-day scientific mission, killing its seven crew members.
2004: More than 100 people die when suicide bombers attack the offices of the two leading Iraqi Kurdish political parties in Erbil.

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About February 2007

This page contains all entries posted to The World Almanac in February 2007. They are listed from newest to oldest.

January 2007 is the previous archive.

March 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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