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April 2007 Archives

April 30, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 30

This Day in History

1789: George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the United States at Federal Hall in New York City.
1798: The U.S. Navy is created by act of Congress as the Department of the Navy, a separate executive department of the federal government.
1803: Representatives of the United States and France conclude negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase.
1812: Louisiana enters the Union as the 18th state.
1900: An act of Congress establishes Hawaii as a U.S. territory.
1945: German dictator Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin bunker.
1948: The Organization of American States (OAS) is founded by 21 nations at the ninth Pan-American Conference, held in Bogotá, Colombia .
1967: Muhammad Ali is stripped of the world heavyweight boxing title for refusing military service.
1973: Three top aides to Pres. Richard Nixon --H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and John Dean--and Attorney Gen. Richard Kleindienst resign, amid charges of White House efforts to obstruct justice in the Watergate case.
1975: The South Vietnamese government officially surrenders to Communist forces.
1993: Tennis player Monica Seles is stabbed in the back by a spectator at a tournament in Germany .
2002: The U.S. deploys 1,000 more troops to Eastern Afghanistan to prevent elements of al-Qaeda and the Taliban from regrouping.
2003: A "road map" for peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that would lead to Palestinian statehood in 2005 is published.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 30" »

April 29, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 29

This Day in History

1429: Joan of Arc lifts the siege of Orleans, France.
1945: U.S. troops liberate the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany.
1952: Workers go on strike immediately after a court declares Pres. Harry Truman's April 8 seizure of the nation's steel mills unconstitutional.
1957: Congress approves the first civil rights bill for blacks since Reconstruction, to protect voting rights.
1975: At the end of the Vietnam War , the United States begins evacuating Americans and some South Vietnamese from Saigon as Communist forces complete their takeover of South Vietnam.
1992: Riots sweep south-central Los Angeles after a jury acquits 4 white policemen on all but 1 count in the videotaped 1991 beating of black motorist Rodney King.
2002: The Israeli cabinet refuses to allow a UN fact-finding mission to carry out an inquiry into alleged Israeli atrocities at the Jenin refugee camp in early April.
2004: Pres. George W. Bush and Vice Pres. Richard B. Cheney meet with the 9/11 Commission.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 29" »

April 28, 2007

This Day In History: April 28

This Day in History

1788: Maryland enters the Union as the seventh of the 13 original states.
1789: British sailor Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny against Capt. William Bligh aboard the HMS Bounty.
1817: The United States and Britain begin signing the Rush-Bagot treaty, limiting armaments on the Great Lakes.
1945: Italian partisans kill Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
1952: Full sovereignty is restored to Japan , but U.S. troops remain as security forces. The ANZUS mutual-defense pact between Australia, New Zealand (until 1986), and the U.S. comes into force when all three signatories ratify it.
1965: Some 14,000 U.S. troops are sent to the Dominican Republic to support the government in a civil war.
1969: Charles De Gaulle resigns as president of France.
1990: The musical A Chorus Line closes on Broadway after 6,237 performances.
1993: Defense Sec. Les Aspin removes restrictions on aerial combat roles by women in the armed forces.
2001: Wealthy businessman Dennis Tito becomes the first tourist in space after paying the Russian Space Agency up to $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station.
2004: The CBS program 60 Minutes II broadcasts photographs documenting physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.

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April 27, 2007

Visualizing Genocide

Crisis_in_Darfur.jpgFor those not yet initiated into Google Earth, a new feature might make the software worth checking out.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum recently unveiled Crisis in Darfur, which it created in collaboration with Google. The first project in the museum's Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative, Crisis in Darfur intends for users "to visualize and better understand the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. The Museum has assembled content—photographs, data, and eyewitness testimony—from a number of sources that are brought together for the first time in Google Earth."

The project allows people through Google Earth to see the location of damaged and destroyed villages, track the sites of refugees and internally displaced persons, and access links to photos, videos, and testimonies from the genocide. (Via National Geographic News)

Google Earth (free download)
Crisis in Darfur (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
C. Alan Joyce's previous blog entry, "Internally Displaced Persons, 2006"

Image: Screenshot of Crisis in Darfur layers loaded into Google Earth.

Edward’s Untimely Death Series: Entry #6

Ray_Chapman_Baseball.jpgRaymond Johnson Chapman (1891-1920) spent his career as a shortstop on the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Joining the team in 1912, he was considered one of the fastest men in baseball. He led the league in sacrifice hits for three years, setting a major league record with 67 sacrifices in 1917. In 1,303 baseball games with Cleveland, his batting average was .278.

While playing the New York Yankees in New York on August 16, 1920, Chapman was hit in the head with a ball thrown by pitcher Carl Mays, and died 12 hours later. Chapman is the only major league baseball player to die due to an injury during a game. Dedicating the season to the memory of "Chappie," the Indians won the league and world championship for the first time.

Check out Chapman’s obituary here.

This Day In History: Apr. 27

This Day in History

1521: While circumnavigating the globe, explorer Ferdinand Magellan is killed by natives in the Philippines.
1805: U.S. Marines captured Derna, a city on "the shores of Tripoli."
1865: The steamboat Sultana explodes in the Mississippi, killing some 1,450 passengers.
1947: Babe Ruth , fatally ill with cancer, makes an appearance at Yankee Stadium, while Babe Ruth Day is celebrated in ballparks around the country.
1960: Togo becomes independent.
1961: Sierra Leone becomes independent.
1969: President Charles de Gaulle of France loses a referendum on two constitutional reforms and resigns the next day.
1981: A Maryland judge finds former Vice Pres. Spiro Agnew guilty of having taken bribes from contractors when he was the state's governor and later as vice president.
1987: Because of his alleged involvement with Nazi war crimes, the United States bars Austrian Pres. Kurt Waldheim from the country.
1992: The formation of a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is proclaimed by Serbia and Montenegro.

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

April 26, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 26

This Day in History

1865: John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Pres. Abraham Lincoln, is fatally wounded in a farmhouse near Washington, DC , after being hunted down by federal troops.
1937: German planes bomb the city of Guernica in Spain .
1964: The United Republic of Tanzania is formed by an Act of Union between Tanganyika, on the mainland, and the island of Zanzibar.
1985: The Warsaw Pact is renewed for 20 years.
1986: A major explosion occurs at the Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear power plant, sending radioactive material into the air that exposes many to dangerous radiation levels.
1994: South Africa begins holding multiparty elections in which blacks are allowed to vote for the first time in the nation's history.
2000: Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) signs a controversial bill granting same-sex couples the right to enter into "civil unions."

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

April 25, 2007

New Postage Rates

Forever_stamp.jpgI'd heard rumors of yet another postage rate increase (the last one was on Jan. 8, 2006), but I hadn't realized how close we were to an actual change. The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that price changes would occur May 14. Postage for a piece of domestic first-class mail (not over one ounce in weight) would rise from 39 cents to 41 cents. Postage for international first-class mail to most countries would increase from 84 cents to 90 cents.

Complementing these changes is the release of the Forever stamp, "which will always be valid as first-class postage on standard envelopes weighing one ounce or less, regardless of any subsequent increases in the first-class rate." Furthermore, the stamps will always be available for sale at the price of a first-class stamp at the time of purchase.

The USPS helpfully notes that "there are no limits on customer purchases."

Domestic Rates and Fees (effective May 14, 2007) (USPS)
International Rates, Fees, and Country Listing (effective May 14, 2007) (USPS)

Image: Forever stamp with image of the Liberty Bell.

This Day In History: Apr. 25

This Day in History

1859: Work began on the Suez Canal.
1862: Union troops under David Farragut capture New Orleans, LA.
1915: Allied troops in World War I begin the disastrous invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
1945: U.S. and Soviet troops meet on the Elbe River in Germany. Delegates from 50 nations meet in San Francisco for what is officially known as the United Nations Conference on International Organization. Over two months, they draw up the United Nations charter.
1953: A journal article by scientists James D. Watson and Francis Crick describes the structure of DNA for the first time.
1959: The St. Lawrence Seaway opens.
1982: In accordance with the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the last Israeli soldiers withdraw from the Sinai peninsula.
1995: A strike by major league baseball players, begun in August 1994, finally ends.
2003: Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials in Beijing, China, about nuclear weapons break down.

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

April 24, 2007

A New Space Race (and other news)

ISS%20Marathon.jpgI’ve read some interesting news about the International Space Station over the past week as the 14th expedition crew was replaced by the incoming 15th expedition. It has been overshadowed by much more important breaking news, and rightfully so. But I thought I’d give a bit of a recap of some of the more notable events:
  • Michael Lopez-Alegria set two U.S. space records. He spent 215 days in space, setting the U.S. record for one trip. He also completed five spacewalks, which gave him a total of 10 for his career, the most by any American. (NASA incorrectly cites his total time 57 hours, 40 minutes as another record but Jerry Ross spent 58 hours and 18 minutes in space during 9 walks.)
  • Charles Simonyi, chief designer of Microsoft’s Word and Excel programs, became the fifth space tourist. He arrived with the incoming 15th crew on April 9 and left with the departing 14th crew on April 21. He brought a meal of quail, duck, rice pudding and dried fruits catered by his friend Martha Stewart.
  • On April 16, Sunita Williams ran a marathon in space in conjunction with the Boston Marathon, the first time any person has run that long a distance in zero gravity. She ran all 26.2 miles on a treadmill with an official time of 4:23:10. NASA has posted footage of Williams running the marathon.

The marathon woman will also handily beat Lopez-Algeria’s time in space record if she remains on board until the current crew departs in October.

ISS News and video from NASA
Charles Simonyi’s Webpage for the trip

Suni running the marathon. Image credit: NASA

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I don't know how it's possible, but I know a lot of people who don't like minor league baseball. If you ask me, it's the best way to enjoy a (semi-)professional baseball game without losing an arm and a leg on peanuts and Cracker Jack. And then there's the goofy promotions—both between the innings and the attendance incentives. I recall going to Saint Paul Saints games and seeing Mudonna—an actual pig mascot—race Saints fans around the bases between innings. (Mudonna often won. She was pretty fast.)

So, without further adieu, some assorted links about the quirks and perks of minor league baseball:

biscuit.jpg jammers.jpgMinor League Logo Awards: Not an official honorific by any means, but Darren Rovell collects a ridiculous assortment of minor league logos, from the Savannah Sand Gnats to the Jamestown Jammers (left) to the Montgomery Biscuits (right), which Rovell describes as, "essentially a running Egg McMuffin with a piece of butter as a mouth." Rovell also posted a follow-up here.

Top 10 Minor League Promotions (Sports Illustrated): This list is a few years old, so I'm sure a few more recent promotions have topped the ones here. But some would be pretty hard to beat. The Saint Paul Saints sold an at-bat on eBay: the winner popped up, but the manager liked him and started him the next day. He went 0 for 4. The Charleston Riverdogs held a 'Silent Night' at which talking wasn't tolerated. Fans with duct-taped mouths held up signs reading "YEAH!," "BOO!," or "HEY BEER MAN!" You can also keep up with crazy promotions at MiLB.com: each week they list their favorite ten for the week ahead. This week's list includes a "McDreamy" night (don't ask).

MiLB.com: The official site of minor league baseball includes an interactive map to find teams in your area—some of which, I guarantee, even rabid baseball fans will not recognize.

I know I have to be missing a bunch of good minor league dirt. Comment with links or stories about your favorite farm teams.

This Day In History: Apr. 24

This Day in History

1795: Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle composes "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem.
1800: Congress passes an act to establish the Library of Congress.
1898: Spain declares war on the United States, beginning the Spanish-American War .
1916: The Easter Uprising begins in Dublin, Ireland , as Irish nationalists seize several sites.
1955: The Bandung Conference of Asian and African Countries, a landmark international gathering noted for its strong opposition to colonialism, ends in Indonesia .
1980: Eight Americans are killed and 5 wounded in an ill-fated attempt to rescue the hostages held by Iranian militants.
1981: IBM introduces its first personal computer .
1997: Timothy McVeigh goes on trial for conspiracy and murder in connection with the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK.
2003: Veteran Iraqi diplomat and deputy foreign minister Tariq Aziz surrenders to coalition forces.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 24" »

April 23, 2007

Gun Deaths in America

guns.jpgA recent New York Times graphic does a great job of visualizing a surprising statistic about the U.S.: that firearm deaths by suicide outnumber those by homicide.

We called attention to this in the 2007 World Almanac (see also this previous The World at a Glance), drawing on National Safety Council data, but the NYT graphic is well worth a look.

Link: An Accounting of Daily Gun Deaths (The New York Times, April 22, 2007)

This Day In History: Apr. 23

This Day in History

1014: In the Battle of Clontarf, an Irish army wins a decisive victory over the Vikings, permanently destroying their power in Ireland.
1908: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt creates the U.S. Army Reserve.
1910: Sicily's Mount Etna erupts.
1956: Elvis Presley made his first appearance in Las Vegas, NV. U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules against racial segregation on intrastate buses.
1964: When the Cincinnati Reds beat the Houston Colt .45s, 1-0, on 2 9th-inning errors, Ken Johnson becomes the first major league baseball pitcher to hurl a complete game no-hitter and lose.
1985: Coca-Cola announces a change in formula to produce New Coke.
1994: Physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announce evidence of the top quark, the last such undiscovered subatomic particle.
1996: Sotheby's begins an auction of some 5,900 items owned by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
2002: Pope John Paul II and U.S. cardinals begin a meeting to discuss the unfolding sex scandals involving Catholic priests in the United States.

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

April 22, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 22

This Day in History

1500: Pedro Cabral becomes the first European to see what is now Brazil.
1889: The United States opens Oklahoma to white settlement; claims for 2 million acres are rapidly staked by 50,000 settlers.
1898: The United States blockades Cuba in aid of independence forces.
1954: Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R, WI) begins holding televised hearings into alleged Communist influence in the Army.
1970: Millions of Americans participate in the first Earth Day.
1987: The Supreme Court upholds the death penalty after a challenge that its use is influenced by race.
1997: Peruvian soldiers storm the Japanese ambassador's residence in Peru, where members of the Tupac Amaru guerrilla group have held hostages for several months. All but one of the hostages are rescued.
2000: Armed U.S. Immigration agents stage predawn raid to seize 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elián González from his Miami relatives and reunite him with his father in Cuba.
2004: Football player Pat Tillman, who gave up a career in the NFL to serve in the U.S. Army, is killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire.

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

April 21, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 21

This Day in History

1836: Gen. Sam Houston's Texans defeat the Mexicans in the Battle of San Jacinto, winning Texas its independence.
1855: The first railroad train crosses the Mississippi on the river's first bridge, from Rock Island, IL, to Davenport, IA.
1918: The Red Baron-- German flying ace Baron Manfred von Richtofen--is shot down and killed during World War I's Battle of the Somme.
1960: The U.S. Congress approves a strong voting rights act. The new city of Brasilia officially became Brazil's capital.
1967: In Greece, a group of army officers overthrow the government and seize power.
1971: François ("Papa Doc") Duvalier, president for life of Haiti, dies and is succeeded by his son.

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

April 20, 2007

Up in Flames

sanfran.jpgOne-hundred-and-one years ago tomorrow, the last of the fires resulting from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake were quelled, but only after destroying nearly 28,000 buildings spread over nearly five square miles of the city and surrounding county. Though the April 18 earthquake was one of the greatest in magnitude the continental U.S. has ever seen, the subsequent fire, fueled by ruptured underground gas lines, was far more destructive. By the afternoon of April 18, San Francisco's mayor had authorized a series of escalating measures to halt the blaze, from a "shoot-to-kill" order regarding looters or people interfering with firefighters to the use of explosives to create firebreaks. Unfortunately, the explosives used were themselves flammable, and only served to feed the blaze.

The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco has a fantastic amount of information about the 1906 disaster, including eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, seismic information, and photographs of the aftermath that have to be seen to be believed. I particularly liked one eyewitness account: an article by Jack London, who after witnessing the disaster firsthand told his wife, "I'll never write about this for anybody, no, I'll never write a word about it. What use trying? Only could one string big words together and curse the futility of them."

Of course, London changed his mind when Collier's magazine offered a then-unheard-of 25 cents per word for his 2,000+ word article. (The per-word rate would be the highest amount London ever earned for any of his writing.) Read the article, or check out the rest of the exhibit, at the links below.

Jack London's "The Story of an Eyewitness"
Earthquake Exhibit [Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco]

The Science of Pet Food Labels

Friskies_cans.jpgThe pet food recall initiated by Menu Food on Mar. 16 was expanded once again on Thursday. The chemical melamine, previously found to have contaminated wheat gluten used in pet food production, is now believed to have also contaminated rice protein concentrate. Both the wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate were imported from China.

The list of over 100 recalled dog and cat food products runs the gamut from store brands, such as Meijer's Main Choice, to more expensive brands like Nutro and Science Diet. Regardless, the labeling of all pet food products is regulated at the federal level as well as the state level in some states.

Here are a few of the regulations:

  • 95% rule: Applies to pet food products consisting primarily of ingredients of animal origin. At least 95% of a product must be the named ingredient (e.g., "beef dog food," "tuna cat food"), not counting water added for processing. (At least 70% of the product must be the named ingredient if water is counted.) If a product is a combination of two named ingredients (e.g., "chicken and liver cat food"), then they must in combination make up at least 95% of a product. The predominant ingredient is named first. Because this rule only applies to products that are primarily meat, the name "chicken and rice cat food" would only be accurate if the product were at least 95% chicken.
  • 25% or "dinner" rule: If a named ingredient makes up at least 25% but less than 95% of a product, not counting water added for processing, the ingredient must be accompanied by a "qualifying descriptive term" (e.g., "beef dinner for dogs," "tuna platter for cats"). The ingredient label will reveal whether or not the primary ingredient is the same as the named ingredient.
  • 3% or "with" rule: Applies to ingredients that are "highlighted on the principal display panel, but outside the product name" or qualified with the term "with." Both "beef dinner for dogs" that has a "with cheese" side burst and "dog food with cheese" must include at least 3% cheese.
  • Flavor rule: As long as it's detectable (e.g., "beef flavor dog food").
  • Use of terms such as "premium" and "gourmet" is not regulated. That is, pet food products labeled as such are not required to have higher quality ingredients.

Interpreting Pet Food Labels (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Pet Food Recall, including list of recalled pet food products (FDA)

Photo: Cat food cans by malingering.

This Day In History: Apr. 20

This Day in History

1770: Captain James Cook discovers Australia.
1792: In France, the Legislative Assembly declares war on the Austrian part of the Holy Roman Empire, beginning the series of conflicts known as the French revolutionary wars.
1912: Boston's Fenway Park baseball stadium opens with a Red Sox victory.
1916: Chicago's Wrigley Field baseball stadium opens with a Cubs victory.
1968: Pierre Trudeau is sworn in as prime minister of Canada.
1983: Pres. Ronald Reagan signs a compromise bipartisan bill designed to save Social Security from bankruptcy.
1999: Two teenagers--Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold--kill 12 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, then kill themselves.
2003: The Chinese goverment admits it has drastically underreported the number of cases of sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), increasing fears of a worldwide epidemic.

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

April 19, 2007

Through the Eyes of Degas and Monet

Artistic%20Vision.jpgAn ophthalmologist professor at Stanford University has proposed that those broad brushstrokes and impressionistic, fleeting scenes painted by Edgar Degas and Claude Monet in their later years were caused more by vision troubles than artistic vision. Basing his research on historical documents, Michael Marmor simulated with Photoshop how the artists may have perceived their own paintings.

According to Marmor, Monet was diagnosed with cataracts “that worsened steadily over the decade from 1912 to 1922” before he had surgery in 1923. Cataracts blur vision and can add a yellowish hue to sight, two handicaps that Monet attempted to compensate for in his art.

Marmor diagnosed Degas as having “progressive retinal disease that caused central (macular) damage” that resulted in less detailed, and more splotchy paintings, like After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself to the right with Marmor’s rendering of how Degas might have seen it below.

The full article and more photos can be found in the Archives of Ophthalmology but a subscription is required. The San Francisco Chronicle has also posted some images along with an interview.

Vision vs. visionary -- see what Monet, Degas saw (SF Chronicle)
Eye diseases gave great painters different vision of their work, Stanford ophthalmologist says (press release)
Ophthalmology and art: simulation of Monet's cataracts and Degas' retinal disease (Pub Med)

The World of Wal-Mart

More guerrilla art project than serious statistical study (and somewhat dated at this point), Benjamin Edwards' The World of Wal-Mart is nevertheless an interesting and vivid glimpse at where many familiar consumer items come from. Edwards' mission, on October 15, 2001:

Visit as many Wal-Marts as possible in one day by following the rule: “Go to the nearest Wal-Mart from your present location.”

Inside each store, count as many objects as possible while noting their countries of origin.

The end result is an entertaining travelogue and a big, colorful map, where countries are sized in proportion to the percentage of products they contributed to Edwards' sampling of Wal-Mart locations.

For much more on U.S. trade with and investment in other countries, see pages 74-79 of the 2007 World Almanac and Book of Facts.

This Day In History: Apr. 19

This Day in History

1775: The British fire the "shot heard 'round the world" in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, starting the American Revolution .
1897: The first running of the Boston Marathon is won by John J. McDermott of New York.
1943: A revolt begins by Jewish residents of Poland's Warsaw Ghetto against German troops.
1988: On his way to the Democratic presidential nomination, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis defeats Jesse Jackson and Al Gore in the New York primary.
1993: A 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, TX, ends when the compound burns down, leaving more than 70 cult members dead.
1995: A truck bomb explodes outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, killing 168.
2005: The Roman Catholic Church's College of Cardinals elects Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany to succeed Pope John Paul II.

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

April 18, 2007

Racing for Survival

Great_Turtle_Race.gif It's day 3 of the race, and Windy is in first with only 356 miles left to go. But Billie and Stephanie Colburtle are fast on her heels. Both are about 381 miles from the finish zone around the Galapagos Islands.

Of course, the participants I'm referring to are leatherback sea turtles--the largest sea turtles and the largest reptiles in the world by weight--and what they're "competing" in is the Great Turtle Race.

The race started from their nesting grounds on Playa Grande beach in Costa Rica. There, 11 turtles were outfitted with satellite tracking devices. Scientists have synced up each turtle's data so that over the course of 14 days, race observers will be able to compare the turtles' routes. (I'd wondered the same thing, but no, the turtles weren't forced to leave the beach together on April 16.)

Leatherbacks are among the most migratory and wide-ranging species of sea turtles, found in warmer waters around the world. Unfortunately, hunting, smuggling, entanglement in fishing gear, and pollution have greatly reduced the leatherback population. Some estimate that their numbers in the Pacific Ocean have dropped 80 to 90 percent in the last two decades. They are considered endangered (as are the six other species of sea turtles).

The Great Turtle Race (hosted by The Leatherback Trust)
The State of the World's Sea Turtles

This Day In History: Apr. 18

This Day in History

1775: Paul Revere and William Dawes make their historic rides to alert American patriots that the British are coming to Concord, MA.
1949: Éire becomes the Republic of Ireland , formally free of allegiance to the British crown and no longer a member of the Commonwealth of Nations .
1906: A huge earthquake and subsequent fires begin in San Francisco , with 500 dying in the earthquake and another 200 in the fires.
1923: New York's venerable Yankee Stadium opens in the Bronx with a Yankee victory.
1942: U.S. planes, led by Gen. James Doolittle, bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities.
1949: Éire becomes the Republic of Ireland , formally free of allegiance to the British crown and no longer a member of the Commonwealth of Nations .
1949: The republic of India is formally proclaimed.
1983: Much of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon , is destroyed by a bomb, killing at least 60.

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

April 17, 2007

Internally Displaced Persons, 2006

IDP_2006.jpgJust out from The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council: Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2006.
By publishing this report, the IDMC hopes to raise awareness of the still often-overlooked plight of some 25 million people internally displaced by conflict and persecution and to draw attention to existing gaps in response at both the national and international level.

[. . .] The year 2006 saw a sharp increase in the number of people newly uprooted by conflict, with the Middle East particularly hard hit by new internal displacement. As the global internal displacement crisis worsened considerably, the international community continued its efforts to set up a functioning system capable of responding to the needs of internally displaced persons in a timely, predictable and comprehensive manner when national governments are not able or willing to do so. Although progress was made during the year to establish an improved response mechanism – the so-called cluster approach – in a few of the worst humanitarian emergencies, implementation of the new approach remains a challenge.

Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2006 (Full report, 3.8MB PDF)
Internally Displaced People Worldwide 2006 (Map, 534k PDF)

This Day In History: Apr. 17

This Day in History

1524: Explorer Giovanni Verrazano discovers New York harbor.
1861: Virginia becomes the eighth state to secede from the Union.
1956: The Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), an instrument of Stalin's policy towards European Communist parties, is dissolved by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
1961: Cuban exiles--trained, armed, and directed by the United States--unsuccessfully try to invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs to overthrow Fidel Castro.
1969: Sirhan Sirhan is convicted by a Los Angeles jury of having assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
1970: The crew of the Apollo 13 spacecraft successfully returns to earth using the lunar module after their mission was aborted because of a rupture of the service module oxygen tank.
1980: Zimbabwe becomes independent.
1989: The Polish government grants legal status to the Solidarity labor union.
1991: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 3000 for first time.
2003: The panel investigating the breakup in February of the space shuttle Columbia issues its first recommendations.

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

April 16, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 16

This Day in History

1777: American forces defeat the British at the Battle of Bennington in Vermont during the American Revolution.
1862: All slaves in the District of Columbia are freed.
1917: Vladimir I. Lenin returns to Russia in a sealed train after years in exile.
1947: Nearly 600 are killed after an explosion on the nitrate-laden freighter Grandcamp at Texas City, TX.
1972: Two giant pandas arrive from China at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
1987: The U.S. Commerce Dept. approves the granting of patents for new genetic forms of animal life.
1999: The NHL's Wayne Gretzky, who holds or shares 61 league records, announces his retirement from ice hockey after 21 seasons.

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

April 15, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 15

This Day in History

1865: Pres. Abraham Lincoln dies after having been shot the night before; Andrew Johnson becomes president.
1912: The luxury liner Titanic, which hit an iceberg the night before, sinks in the early morning hours; more than 1,500 die.
1924: Rand McNally published its first road atlas.
1955: The first McDonald's opens, in Des Plaines, IL.
1959: The new Cuban leader, Fidel Castro , arrives in the United States.
1972: In the Vietnam War , the United States resumes bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong after a 4-year lull.
1998: Cambodian despot Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, dies.

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

April 13, 2007

The Slipper Queen


Ida Saxon, born in 1847, was the daughter of a banker and was considered a catch—educated, bright and beautiful. The dashing Civil War hero William McKinley married Ida in 1871, and they subsequently had two children. The deaths of both children within a three-year period broke Ida’s spirits, and she was never quite the same again. From 1876 on, she complained about a variety of ailments, ranging from migraines to stomach problems, and it is likely that she suffered from epilepsy.

McKinley's fortunes within the Republican Party began to rise after he was elected to the House of Representatives, and he never wavered in his care for his wife. As President, McKinley always had time for Ida, and made every effort to make her comfortable, including breaking tradition and allowing her to sit next to him at state dinners. Listening for the sounds prior to an epileptic fit, McKinley would simply drape his handkerchief over her face, and remove it once the episode was over. Although heavily medicated, Ida McKinley insisted on participating in White House life and refused to let any other female family member take over the role of official hostess.

When not giving her opinions on matters of state, Ida spent much of her time crocheting; it is estimated that she crocheted over 3,500 pairs of house slippers!

When President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, his first thoughts were of his wife Ida; he exclaimed to his secretary, “My wife—be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her—oh, be careful." McKinley had been very attentive to his frail wife for over 25 years, but Ida not only held it together and made most of the funeral arrangements, she lived another six years!

Photo: McKinley Museum and National Memorial

This Day In History: Apr. 13

This Day in History

1598: Huguenots are granted religious tolerance when Henry IV of France promulgates the Edict of Nantes.
1742: Composer George Frideric Handel's Messiah has its premiere in Dublin, Ireland.
1919: In Amritsar, India , nearly 400 demonstrators are killed when British troops fire upon a political gathering.
1941: The Soviet Union and Japan sign a non-aggression pact.
1964: Sidney Poitier becomes the first African American to win an Oscar for Best Actor.
1970: An accident cripples the Apollo 13 spacecraft on its way to the moon .
1972: Baseball's first major league players' strike ends after 13 days.
1986: Golfer Jack Nicklaus wins a record 6th Masters title, at age 46, by shooting a final-round 65, coming from 4 shots down with 4 holes to play.
1997: Tiger Woods, at 21, becomes the first black and youngest man ever to win the Masters golf tournament, setting a record for fewest strokes.
2004: Attorney General John Ashcroft testifies before the 9/11 Commission ; he states that a "legal wall" between the CIA and FBI hindered intelligence gathering.

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

April 12, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 12

This Day in History

1709: The first number of the Tatler, a journal featuring essays and brief sketches on politics and society, appears in England. It is edited by Sir Richard Steele.
1776: North Carolina became the first colony to instruct its delegates in Congress to vote for independence.
1782: In a three-day naval battle, British Adm. George Rodney decisively defeats a French fleet off Dominica, ending French hopes for supremacy in the West Indies.
1861: In the first major engagement of the Civil War, Confederate troops open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC.
1934: The strongest wind ever reliably measured on the surface of the earth (225 mph) is recorded on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
1945: Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt dies at age 63 in Warm Springs, GA; Harry S. Truman becomes president.
1955: The development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk is announced.
1961: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin makes the first human orbital flight aboard Vostok 1.
1980: At the request of Pres. Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Olympic Committee votes against U.S. participation in the Moscow Summer Olympics in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
1981: The first space shuttle, Columbia, is launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
1983: Harold Washington is elected the first black mayor of Chicago.
1999: District Judge Susan Webber Wright finds Pres. Bill Clinton in civil contempt of court for testifying falsely about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in a 1998 deposition.

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

April 11, 2007

Cime and Punishment at the Old Bailey

In our continuing efforts to present useful research tools, well-organized historical records, and egregious time wasters sure to get you fired, I offer the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1834. Branding_WEB.jpg The site is absolutely fascinating! For those of you less familiar with English history and law, the Old Bailey is the name of the central court in London. To preserve the early history of the Old Bailey, a group of English historians (backed by several universities and the U.K. government) scanned most of the surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1834, and put them into a searchable database designed to help you find all sorts of trials including offenses against the king, murder, pickpocketing, perverting justice, and vagabonding.

After messing around with a few search terms, I found cases involving some of the worst scumbags to ever walk the streets of London, as well as some of the worst injustices imaginable. Here’s one of the more tame and common entries:

Woman, theft, 29th April, 1674.
There was also a Woman tryed for stealing a Silver Cup , the manner thus; she went to a Victualling House to drink a pot of Ale, and after having tarried some time, she desired the Woman of the House to lend her a Chamber pot, which she going to fetch it for her, she ran away with a Silver Cup that then stood on a Shelf in the Kitchen, and afterwards being taken by the Watch a night-walking, she was carried to Bridewell, where the Cup was found under her Arm, between her Arm and her Wastcoat, which she confessing where she stole it was sent to Newgate, and from thence to Justice-Hall in the Old-Baily, where being Arraigned, she was examined by the Court what she did intend to do with the Cup to which she answered, that she did intend to bring it again, whereupon she was Convicted, and put by to be transported.

Being transported meant the guilty party was sent abroad to the colonies, likely America. Not a good thing back then. But at least it wasn't this.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London, 1674 to 1834

Working at the White House

whitehouse.jpg As if it weren't already hard enough to be president of the United States—now former, current, and prospective holders of the nation's highest office have something else to worry about: loose-lipped servants. The Working White House, a Smithsonian exhibition scheduled to be featured around the country as a traveling exhibit in 2008, chronicles the lives of White House employees, in their own words, from 1800 to the present. Some of the reminiscences are mundane, such as a story about First Lady Sarah Polk's inattention to napkin folding. Others are quite attuned to their era: shortly after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision condoned a system of "separate but equal" treatment, the White House servants' dinner tables were realigned on racial lines rather than job function. There's even a story about the lengths employees went to to meet Lyndon Johnson's shower preferences: according to White House employee Howard Arrington, "He wanted [the jets] to hit all parts of his body with the same force. . .Rex Scouten in the usher's office got in the shower to test it out, and it pinned Rex right to the wall."

But my favorite is a story about Pres. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower's growing addiction to a new "electronic novelty":

According to [Assistant Chief Usher J.B.] West, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower regularly watched the evening news while having their meals on tray-tables. He notes that Mrs. Eisenhower's enjoyment of As the World Turns "initiated the Television Era in the White House."

The Working White House
Workers at the White House Time Line [first-hand accounts]

This Day in History: Apr. 11

This Day in History

1713: In one of the treaties of the Peace of Utrecht, which ends the War of the Spanish Succession, France made peace with Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Prussia, Savoy, and Portugal.
1947: Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking major league baseball's color barrier.
1951: Gen. Douglas MacArthur is relieved of command in Korea by Pres. Harry Truman.
1968: Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law.
1979: Dictator Idi Amin is overthrown in Uganda.
1996: Jessica Dubroff, a 7-year-old trying to become the youngest person ever to pilot a plane across the nation, is killed when her plane crashes in Cheyenne, WY.
2002: Sitting Democratic congressman James Traficant is convicted in a Cleveland court of racketeering and corruption. A general strike in Venezuela against President Chávez turns violent, leaving at least 17 people dead and more than 100 injured.

Continue reading "This Day in History: Apr. 11" »

April 10, 2007

Sometimes, Change is Good

Slots.jpgApparently gamblers at the Sands Casino in Atlantic City, NJ didn’t just lose their money at the slot machines. A lot was lost underneath them too. After the casino closed on Nov. 11, 2006, movers collected $17,193.34 in tokens and loose change (and loose bills) from underneath 2,350 slot machines. The casino had been open for 26 years and some of the money had to be pried out of the floor. The casino’s new owners, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., get to keep whatever is left after the New Jersey government takes 8% in taxes.

In recent years, most casinos have ditched the bucket and now use coinless slot machines that track winnings with paper tickets and barcodes. The Sands is slated to be demolished later this year and replaced with a new casino.

One Last Jackpot for Casino (AP)

The Money Guy from TangoPango's Flickr photo stream

This Day In History: Apr. 10

This Day in History

1606: The Virginia Company and the Plymouth Company are chartered to colonize in North America.
1862: During the Civil War, Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, Georgia, is bombarded by a Union force using rifled cannons, a type of weapon never before used in combat. The fort is extensively damaged. On President Abraham Lincoln's initiative, Congress declares the federal government will compensate slave owners who free their slaves.:
1896: Greek runner Spiridon Louis wins the gold medal in the first modern Olympic marathon, in Athens, Greece.
1916: Golfer Jim Barnes wins the first PGA championship.
1933: The U.S. government creates the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to put unemployed young men to work.
1942: Japanese soldiers herd American and Filipino prisoners together to begin the Bataan Death March.
1945: Allied troops enter and liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.
1963: The USS Thresher, a nuclear submarine, is lost with 129 men aboard during deep-diving tests in the Atlantic about 200 miles east of Boston.
1972: Famed film comedian and director Charlie Chaplin receives an honorary Oscar.
1996: Pres. Bill Clinton vetoes a bill that would have banned "partial-birth" abortions.
1998: A "Good Friday accord" is announced on solving the long dispute over the future of Northern Ireland.
2003: North Korea formally withdraws from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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

April 9, 2007

A Most Delicious Law

equation.jpgWe added a page of basic laws of physics to The World Almanac in 2007 (p. 277)...for the first time ever, I believe, though you might have to ask Rich Gruber to be certain. Newton's laws of motion? Check. Law of gravity? Affirmative. Law of electric power? Yes, sir.

Sadly, however, we went to press too early to capture this equation, the direct result of more than 1,000 hours of testing some 700 different experimental subjects:

N = C + {fb(cm) . fb(tc)} + fb(Ts) + fc . ta

Does this represent some exotic quantum-mechanical discovery? A revolutionary new find about the role of dark matter in the universe?

Naaah. Hit the jump for the key to the equation.

Continue reading "A Most Delicious Law" »

U.S. Enters the Great War

Lyrics from “Don’t Take My Darling Boy Away,” written by Will Dillon (music by Albert von Tilzer) in 1915, recorded by J. Phillips and Helen Clark in 1917:

Don't take my darling boy away from me,
Don't send him off to war
You took his father and brothers three,
Now you've come back for more

[Recording from firstworldwar.com]

On April 6, 1917, the U.S. officially entered WWI. To mark this anniversary, check out this vintage audio from 1917 on www.firstworldwar.com. There you’ll find both speeches and music from the year Americans went “Over there.” You can find similar audio for the other war years, but for today we're sticking with 1917.

ww_ustroops_rest_01.jpg For the first three years of the war, which began in 1914, the U.S. remained neutral. U.S. businesses and banks sold supplies and granted loans to the allied countries, but the government didn't send troops. Americans at the time had little interest in joining that “European conflict” and were content to stay on their side of the Atlantic. The lyrics posted above were written almost as an anti-war protest song two years before the U.S. entered. But once the U.S. became engaged, the song sort of got pushed aside for more pro-war pieces such as “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way.”

This is definitely one of the best sites out there for historical information and resources for those looking to learn more about “The War to End All Wars.” It does a good job of presenting the political, military, social, and cultural aspects of the War.

For a basic synopsis of the First World War, turn to page 127 in the 2007 World Almanac. For casualty figures from all U.S. wars, skip over to page 135.

Photo: U.S. troops resting on the road to the Front lines in France from www.firstworldwar.com.
Original source: Liberty's Victorious Conflict: A Photographic History of the World War, (Woman's Weekly, Chicago, 1918)

This Day In History: Apr. 9

This Day in History

1548: Gonzalo Pizarro, Spanish colonial governor of Quito (now in Ecuador ) and leader of a rebellion against Spain, is defeated at Jaquijaguana.
1682: Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, claims the lower Mississippi River region for France and calls it Louisiana.
1865: The Civil War ends when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders 27,800 Confederate troops to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, VA.
1917: The Allies begin their first attempt to break through German lines near Arras, France during World War I.
1939: After not being allowed to sing in the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, opera singer Marian Anderson delivers an open-air concert from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
1940: Germany invades Norway and Denmark.
1941: An agreement is reached with Denmark giving the U.S. "protective custody" over Greenland during World War II.
1948: The assassination of Colombian Liberal party leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogotá sparks a nationwide uprising against the Conservative government; some 1500 were killed and more than 20,000 injured.
1970: Paul McCartney announces that the Beatles are to break up.
1992: A U.S. jury finds Panamanian leader Manuel Antonio Noriega guilty of drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering.
2003: Joyous Iraqis, helped by Americans, topple a 20-foot statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Firdos Square.

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

April 8, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 8

This Day in History

1864: Union forces under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee fight inconclusively and with heavy losses at Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia, just days after the Battle of the Wilderness.
1886: The first Coca-Cola is sold in Atlanta, GA.
1902: The eruption of Mont Pelée, a volcano on the island of Martinique, destroys the city of Saint-Pierre and kills about 30,000 people.
1945: At the end of World War II, Americans celebrate Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day.
1953: Pres. Dwight Eisenhower announces that the United States has given France $60 million for fighting the Indochina War.
1954: After a 55-day siege by Viet Minh forces, the French surrender the fortress of Dien Bien Phu in northern Vietnam.
1972: Pres. Richard Nixon announces United States will begin mining North Vietnamese ports.
1973: A standoff in South Dakota between federal authorities and American Indian Movement activists ends with the surrender of the activists.
1984: The Soviet Union announces it will not participate in the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, fearing uncontrolled anti-Soviet protests.
1987: Democrat Gary Hart pulls out of the 1988 U.S. presidential race.

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

April 6, 2007

President Nixon Kissinger

kiss.jpg Of course we know that Henry Kissinger has never entered a room to the tune of "Hail to the Chief." And he never will. (He was born in Furth, Germany, and moved to the U.S. as a teenager, making him ineligible for this country's highest office. Unless Schwarzenegger has something to say about it.) But a fascinating collection of documents and transcripts recently made available from the Nixon administration archives shows that as the White House began unraveling in the wake of the Watergate investigation, Kissinger wielded more power than perhaps any other senior administration official in the history of the executive branch.

Historian Robert Dallek's new book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power examines over 20,000 pages of candid telephone transcripts that lend an almost frightening level of transparency to the decision-making process in the Nixon White House. (In the case of these transcripts, President Nixon had nothing to do with the conversations being recorded; Kissinger's standard operating procedure was to have an assistant listen in on conversations and transcribe them verbatim.)

As National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Kissinger made decisions of utmost importance, sometimes without even consulting the President. When Russia was threatening to land troops in Israel to enforce the Yom Kippur War cease fire in 1973, Kissinger was the one who made the decision to force them to back down by going into elevating the U.S. to DEFCON 3 (Defense Condition 3). The U.S. had only raised its military readiness to that point once before, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and twice since, during the first Iraq War and on September 11, 2001.

The transcripts also reveal a quite a bit about Nixon's state of mind as his presidency waned—in one, also during the height of the Yom Kippur War crisis, Kissinger refuses to let the British Prime Minister speak with the president because Nixon is intoxicated.

You can find an excerpt of Dallek's book below, or view PDFs of the transcribed conversations at the National Security Archive—including a side-by-side comparison of a Kissinger transcription with Nixon's tape of the same conversation.

Note: Both links contain language that may offend some readers.

Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (excerpt)
The Kissinger Telecons

The X Prize and Beyond

ss1-wkMention the X Prize, and people might recall SpaceShipOne. In 2004, SpaceShipOne became the first privately sponsored craft to carry a person into space. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen provided significant funding for the project, which was competing for and won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

A slew of other challenges have since been established to encourage scientific innovation. This week, the X Prize Foundation announced an Automotive X Prize for the team that could "design, build, and sell super-efficient cars that people want to buy."

NASA also maintains a list on its Web site of challenges related to space exploration, including the Beam Power Challenge and the Tether Challenge. These annual challenges are part of the Elevator:2010 project. The project seeks the creation of a "space elevator" to transport material via a "physical stationary tether between the ground and an object in space, and a set of vehicles that can travel to space and back, moving on the tether using electric motors."

Automotive X Prize (X Prize Foundation)
Centennial Challenges (NASA)
Elevator:2010 (The Spaceward Foundation)
"X-Prize Sets Sights on 100 mpg Cars" (National Public Radio interview with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation)

Photo: SpaceShipOne and White Knight by Beige Alert.

This Day In History: Apr. 6

This Day in History

1199: King Richard the Lionhearted is killed at the siege of a castle in France.
1793: During the French Revolution, the Committee of Public Safety becomes the executive organ of the republic, and the period known as the "Reign of Terror" begins.
1814: Napoleon abdicates as emperor of France, accepting exile on Elba.
1830: The Mormon church is organized by Joseph Smith in Fayette, NY.
1862: The Battle of Shiloh, an engagement of the American Civil War fought near Savannah, Tennessee, begins. It ends inconclusively the next day with more than 10,000 casualties on either side.
1866: The Grand Army of the Republic, an American patriotic organization composed of Union veterans of the American Civil War, is founded. It lasts until 1956.
1896: After a lapse of 1,500 years, the first modern Olympic Games open in Athens, Greece.
1909: Admiral Robert E. Peary claims to have reached the North Pole, accompanied by Matthew Henson, a black man, and 4 Eskimos.
1917: The United States officially enters World War I, declaring war on Germany.
1924: The first successful flight (with stops) completely around the world begins.
1941: During World War II, German operations against Greece and Yugoslavia begin.
1947: The first Tony Awards are presented for theatrical achievements.
1980: The NHL 's Gordie Howe plays in his final game at the age of 51.
2005: Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani becomes the Iraqi president; Shiite Arab Ibrahim al-Jaafari is named premier the next day.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 6" »

April 5, 2007

The Five Least Visited National Parks

We’re wrapping up The World Almanac for Kids 2008 and already starting work on the next World Almanac (*phew*). While looking up the most-visited sites administered by the National Parks Service in 2006, I decided to scroll down to see what were the least-visited of the 359 areas. I was wondering if they’d be mundane or just completely bizarre. I guess it’s no surprise that the least visited places are actually some of the most remote. They are neither mundane nor bizarre, just crazy inaccessible.

Looking for a place to truly get away from it all? Read on:


#355 Alibates Flint Quarries (1,882 visits) in northern Texas, you got lucky! The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (1,559 visits) in Brookline, MA stole your spot on a technicality. The home to the landscape architect and co-creator of New York’s Central and Prospect Parks closed in late 2006 for major renovations.


#356 The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (1,265 visits) is pure wilderness in the far northwest of Alaska, just 3 miles from Russia. It’s not for the rookie backpacker. I liked this subtle smackdown from the webpage: “For those looking for a more predictable adventure into remote Alaska, the Administrative Offices… have a small interpretive center that offers limited exhibits and films as well as special programs.” (Translation: Hey girlie man, here’s a nice predictable museum. Leave the real hiking to us.)


#357 The National Park of American Samoa (1,239 visits) was created in 1988 and doesn’t have many amenities but the 13,500-acre tropical park does offer rainforest, pristine shorelines, coral reefs, and secluded villages. Too bad airfare from Los Angeles is more than $1000 on special.

Click through for the bottom two...

Continue reading "The Five Least Visited National Parks" »

Size Matters

planetsize.jpg Via the always-enlightening Information Aesthetics, here are two different looks at the relative size of objects in the Solar System and beyond.

First is a straightforward lineup of objects in our astronomical neighborhood, from the Sun down to the 203-mile asteroid Davida (click at right to view the full image). I've seen graphics like this before, but can't recall seeing one that included so many moons and other small bodies. The zone from Callisto through Ceres was oddly surprising to me.

Second, a cool little video that sends you spinning in the opposite direction, from the smallest planets to the most massive stars. The first half left me thinking, again, "Seen it before," but once you pass the Sun, the leaps in size become truly mind-boggling.

So a Coyote Walks Into a Quiznos ...

Quiznos_coyote.jpgOver the years, I'd heard various stories about coyotes visiting Chicago, but I found this week's story particularly amusing.

Shortly after lunchtime on Tuesday, a young male coyote walked through the open door of a Quiznos sandwich shop in downtown Chicago. It tried unsuccessfully to jump over the counter, coming to rest instead inside an open beverage cooler. It remained there for about an hour before animal control took it away.

No one was injured, and two patrons who were there when the coyote entered the shop didn't leave until after they'd finished eating. The other patrons and employees fled outside.

The coyote--which was released Wednesday on private property in the suburbs--was the third one captured in Chicago in recent weeks. The director of Animal Care and Control is quoted in one article as saying that about 10 to 15 are captured every year in the city.

Coyotes were originally inhabitants of middle America, found as far north as Canada south to central Mexico. Scientists attribute the coyote's expansion into other habitats, including cities, to their versatility. They may live alone, in mated pairs, or in packs. The size of their territories may vary. They eat a variety of food. They may be more active at different times of the day. One researcher estimates that within 10 years, beginning in the 1990s, the coyote population in Chicago grew by about 3,000%. He credits coyotes with keeping the Canada geese population in check by eating their eggs.

The majority of coyote attacks on humans have been bites, frequently inflicted when owners have tried to protect their pets. Typically, though, coyotes keep a low profile. Maybe this one was just looking to become a star.

"Coyote Visits Loop Restaurant But Doesn't Eat" (Chicago Tribune, includes photos and video)
"City Slinkers" (Smithsonian)
"On the Loose: Urban Coyotes Thrive in North American Cities" (Ohio State research news)

Image: Still from WGN news footage.

This Day In History: Apr. 5

This Day in History

1768: The first Chamber of Commerce in the United States is founded in New York City .
1792: George Washington casts the first presidential veto, concerning representative apportionment among the states.
1794: Georges Jacques Danton, a leader of the French Revolution , is sent to the guillotine by more radical leaders.
1795: Prussia and a number of allied Germanic states conclude the Treaty of Basel with the revolutionary French government.
1799: During the Napoleonic Wars , Austrians defeat the French in the battle of Magnano in Italy .
1818: With the defeat of a Spanish army at Maipú, Chilean independence is assured.
1862: During the American Civil War , the month-long seige of Yorktown, Virginia by Union forces under Gen. George B. McClellan begins.
1915: Boxer Jess Willard defeats the Jack Johnson, world heavyweight champion, in Havana, in a fight that lasts 26 rounds (1 hr 44 min).
1917: In World War I , the Germans complete their strategic retreat along the Western Front to the Hindenburg Line.
1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for espionage.
1955: Winston Churchill resigns as prime minister of Great Britain .
1972: The 11-week trial of the "Harrisburg 7," activists against the Vietnam War , ends in a mistrial.
1999: Russell Henderson pleads guilty in the 1998 beating death of gay student Matthew Shepard.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 5" »

April 4, 2007

Uninsured Twenty-Somethings

Often when we think of people who don’t have health insurance, we picture young children, the poverty stricken, or the elderly. But what about working 20-somethings? Usually, this particular demographic doesn't get much sympathy from policymakers because it is not a very influential or moneyed group. But there are many other social and economic factors that come into play. An April 2 New York Magazine article examines the phenomenon of young, educated workers in New York City who lack health insurance. Although the article focuses on New York's uninsured, the problem exists all over the U.S.

A few stats to throw at you: according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 30% of people in the U.S. ages 18-24 have no health insurance--the highest percentage of uninsured of any age group. A close second are people ages 25-34, of whom 27% are not insured.

Many of the uninsured in NYC are college-educated people who work not just in artistic fields, but also in fields such as software design or public relations. Some 20-somethings may believe (or at least hope) that their youth translates to “immunity from all diseases and afflictions.” But what happens when a medical problem arises out of nowhere?

As a person who spent a significant portion of his 20s either without insurance or stuck paying annoyingly high premiums, I can definitely relate. It's tough for anybody to afford health care these days, but it was frustrating to think that one slip on the sidewalk could have landed me in financial ruin.

The Young Invincibles,” April 2, 2007. New York Magazine
Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January – September 2006. CDC Release, March 2007. (PDF).
Table: Percentage of persons under age 65 years without health insurance coverage at the time of interview, by age group and sex. CDC Release March 2007; page 9. (PDF)

For those of you with your 2007 World Almanac and Book of Facts handy, take a look at pages 166-168 for more information and statistics about health coverage in the U.S.

The Rollercoaster of Home Prices

No, seriously, it's a rollercoaster. A virtual one, but a rollercoaster nonetheless, showing changes in U.S. home prices, adjusted for inflation, from 1890 to 2007. I haven't double-checked the data, but it's such a cool idea, we'll share it anyway.

Someone please turn this into a webapp... I want to chart every piece of data in the World Almanac as a rollercoaster.

From magnetbox via kottke.

This Day In History: Apr. 4

This Day in History

1581: Sir Francis Drake and his men complete their round-the-world voyage.
1841: Pres. William Henry Harrison dies after only 1 month in office.
1862: The Peninsular Campaign, a Civil War attempt by Union forces to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA, begins.
1947: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is created by the United Nations for the purpose of promoting international cooperation in developing techniques and principles of air navigation and transport.
1949: A treaty is signed authorizing NATO.
1964: All five songs at the top of U.S. charts are by the Beatles.
1968: Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed by James Earl Ray in Memphis, TN.
1969: CBS cancels a popular but controversial TV show starring the Smothers Brothers.
1979: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former president and prime minister of Pakistan, is executed by the military government, which has removed him from power.
2002: Angola's decades-long civil war ends with the signing of a cease-fire at the National Assembly in Luanda.
2003: U.S. military forces encircle the Iraqi city of Baghdad and gain control of the airport.
2004: Shiite militias begin an uprising in cities across Iraq following the arrest of an aide to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 4" »

April 3, 2007

This Day In History: Apr. 3

This Day in History

1860: The first Pony Express run begins when a rider leaves St. Joseph, MO, bound for Sacramento, CA.
1865: The Confederate capital of Richmond, VA, surrenders to Union troops during the Civil War.
1882: Jesse James is killed by his cousin Robert Ford.
1918: On behalf of the American people, the House of Representatives accepts "The American's Creed" written by William Tyler Page.
1920: Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald marries Zelda Sayre in New York City.
1933: Two airplanes, manned by British crews, fly over the top of Mt. Everest for the first time.
1936: Bruno Hauptmann is executed for the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the son of Charles Lindbergh.
1948: President Harry Truman signs the Marshall Plan, a program designed to help rebuild war-torn Europe.
1949: Israel and Jordan sign an armistice, recognizing each other's holdings in Jerusalem.
1982: In retaliation for Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands , British Prime Min. Margaret Thatcher orders a large force to the colony.
1996: Theodore Kaczynski is arrested in Montana in the Unabomber case. Commerce Sec. Ron Brown is killed in a plane crash in Croatia.
2004: Four suspects in the Madrid train bombings kill themselves with a bomb after police surround their apartment in a suburb of the Spanish capital.

Continue reading "This Day In History: Apr. 3" »

April 2, 2007

Where Are All The Black Baseball Players?

robinson.jpg Baseball's opening day has come and the boys of summer (and fall) are back in the sporting spotlight. You’ll probably be hearing a lot about this year being the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first season in the Major Leagues. Especially on April 15th, which will be the actual anniversary of Opening Day 1947.

While you’re looking around the baseball diamond during this season, thinking about the great Robinson and all he did for both sports and civil rights, count the number of black players you see. Odds are you won’t see many: a 2006 report by the University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that only 8.4% of major leaguers are black! Not only that, but numbers of black athletes in baseball have been steadily falling since the 1980s. In this anniversary year, the report has gotten (and likely will get) a lot of attention. I first read about this a year ago, and I almost couldn’t believe it until I tried to name a few black players. After about 15 names, I began to struggle. Many players who have dark skin are actually of a Caribbean or Hispanic background, not African-American or black (as defined by the Census Bureau).

Definitely something to think about as we honor one of history's greatest baseball seasons.

Links: "2006 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball," University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (PDF)
"Sabathia pitches for more African-Americans in game," March 14, 2007. ESPN.com
"Fewest blacks in major leagues since '80s," March 29. 2007. MSNBC.com
"African-American Presence Has Been Shrinking Throughout Baseball," July 3, 2006. The Ledger Online

Photo from rgusick's Flickr stream.

This Day In History: April 2

This Day in History

1513: Juan Ponce de León discovers Florida and claims it for Spain .
1739: John Wesley , English preacher and founder of Methodism, begins preaching open-air sermons to enthusiastic crowds.
1792: The Coinage Act establishes the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
1865: After a 10-month siege during the Civil War, Petersburg, Virginia, falls to federal troops. Jefferson Davis flees Richmond as Union forces close in on the Confederate capital during the Civil War.
1871: Paris is bombarded by the French government as part of the suppression of a revolutionary government, the Commune of Paris.
1877: The first White House Easter Egg Roll is held.
1917: President Woodrow Wilson asks Congress to declare war on Germany.
1974: French Pres. Georges Pompidou dies and is succeeded by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
1982: Argentina invades the nearby Falkland Islands , a British colony.
1992: Mafia boss John Gotti is found guilty of murder, racketeering, and other charges by a New York jury.
2003: U.S. forces in Iraq advance to within 30 miles of Baghdad.
2005: Pope John Paul II dies 26 years after he became the first non-Italian to be elected pope in 456 years, and the first pope from Poland.

Continue reading "This Day In History: April 2" »

About April 2007

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

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