The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 2, Number 12 - December 2002

 

 

What's in this issue?

December Events
Holidays - National and International
This Day in History - December
December Birthdays
Featured Location of the Month: Richmond, VA
Obituaries - November 2002
Special Feature: Frontiers of Heart Medicine
Science in the News
Chronology - Events of November 2002
Offbeat News Stories
75 Years Ago in the World Almanac: Chronology December 1927
Links of the Month
How to Reach Us

December Events

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month

December 4 - Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center, New York
December 5-22 - Lantern Light Tours, Mystic, CT
December 5-January 12 - Christmas Lights Across Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
December 6-7 - Dickens of Christmas, Franklin, TN; Parade of Lights, Denver, CO
December 6-8 - Christmas Stroll, Nantucket Island, MA; Tempe (AZ) Festival of the Arts
December 6-15 - Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association National Finals Rodeo, Las Vegas, NV
December 6-January 1 - Fantasy of Lights, Wichita Falls, TX
December 10 - Nobel Prizes awarded
December 13 - Friday the 13th!!!
December 14 - Heisman Trophy awarded; Winterfest Boat Parade, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
December 16 - Nuts Fair, Bastogne, Belgium
December 17 - New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans, LA
December 18 - GMAC Bowl, Mobile, AL
December 21 - 1st day of Winter (northern hemisphere)
December 23 - Tangerine Bowl, Orlando, FL
December 25 - Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, HI
December 26 - Junkanoo Festival, Bahamas; Motor City Bowl, Pontiac, MI
December 27 - Holiday Bowl, San Diego, CA; Houston Bowl, Houston, TX; Independence Bowl, Shreveport, LA
December 28 - Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, TX
December 30 - Music City Bowl, Nashville, TN
December 31 - Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN; Peach Bowl, Atlanta, GA; Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX

December Holidays

December 1 - 1st Sunday of Advent; World AIDS Day
December 6 - Eid al-Fitr (Shawwai 1)
December 7 - Pearl Harbor Day
December 8 - Lady of Camarin Day, Guam
December 10 - Human Rights Day
December 12 - Jamhuri Day, Kenya; Guadalupe Day, Mexico
December 13 - Santa Lucia Day, Sweden
December 15 - Bill of Rights, U.S.
December 17 - Wright Brothers Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - 1st day of Kwanzaa; Boxing Day, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand; Day of Goodwill, South Africa
December 31 - New Year's Eve; First Night

IT'S A FACT!

In 2002 there are a projected 1 billion cellular telephone subscribers worldwide, a stunning jump from more than 650 million in 2000.

This Day in History - December

Day

Year

Event

01

1955

Rosa Parks refuses to give her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, AL. She is arrested, triggering boycotts against racial segregation.

02

1982

Dentist Barney Clark becomes the first recipient of a permanent artificial heart.

03

1984

Deadly gas leaks from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring 200,000.

04

1783

Gen. George Washington bids farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

05

1996

Pres. Bill Clinton announces his choice of Madeleine Albright as secretary of state, making her the highest-ranking woman government official in U.S. history.

06

1917

Much of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is destroyed by a tidal wave caused when 2 ships, 1 loaded with explosives, collide in Halifax Harbor.

07

1988

An earthquake in the Soviet province of Armenia kills 55,000.

08

1941

The United States declares war on Japan, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

09

1941

China declares war on Germany, Italy, and Japan.

10

1958

National Airlines operates the first domestic jet passenger service in the United States, between New York and Miami.

11

1946

UNICEF is established by the UN General Assembly.

12

1913

Italian authorities announce that the Mona Lisa, stolen from the Louvre in Paris in 1911, has been recovered.

13

1577

Sir Francis Drake begins his voyage to circumnavigate the globe.

14

1911

Norwegian Roald Amundsen, with 4 men and sled dogs, becomes the first explorer to reach the South Pole.

15

1890

Sioux leader Sitting Bull is killed in a skirmish with U.S. soldiers.

16

1944

At the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans launch an offensive in France's Ardennes Forest.

17

1996

Kofi Annan of Ghana is elected UN secretary general.

18

1997

South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae Jung is elected president.

19

1986

The Soviet Union releases dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner from internal exile in Gorky.

20

1606

Three ships set sail from London, England, en route to America, where these colonists establish the first European colony at what is now Jamestown, VA.

21

1968

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon, is launched.

22

1968

North Korea releases the crew of the USS Pueblo, captured in the Sea of Japan in January.

23

1947

Three Bell Labs scientists--John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley--invent the transistor.

24

1865

The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee.

25

800

Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.

26

1898

French scientists Pierre and Marie Curie discover the element radium.

27

1947

Howdy Doody, the first popular children's TV show, premieres.

28

1981

The first American test-tube baby is born, in Norfolk, VA.

29

1940

In World War II, Germany begins dropping incendiary bombs on London.

30

1862

The Union ironclad USS Monitor sinks in a storm off Cape Hatteras.

31

1961

The Marshall Plan ends, after distributing foreign aid worth some $12 billion.

December Birthdays

Day

Year

 

01

1910

Alicia Markova, ballerina (London, England)

02

1981

Britney Spears, singer (Kentwood, LA)

03

1948

Ozzy Osbourne, singer/songwriter (Birmingham, England)

04

1949

Jeff Bridges, actor (Los Angeles, CA)

05

1932

Little Richard (Penniman), singer/songwriter (Macon, GA)

06

1953

Tom Hulce, actor (Whitewater, WI)

07

1932

Ellen Burstyn, actress (Detroit, MI)

08

1930

Maximilian Schell, actor (Vienna, Austria)

09

1916

Kirk Douglas, actor (Amsterdam, NY)

10

1952

Susan Dey, actress (Pekin, IL)

11

1913

Carlo Ponti, film producer (Milan, Italy)

12

1952

Cathy Rigby, Olympic gymnast and actress (Long Beach, CA)

13

1920

George Shultz, former secretary of state (New York, NY)

14

1922

Don Hewitt, TV producer (New York, NY)

15

1942

Dave Clark, musician, member of the Dave Clark Five (London, England)

16

1917

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author (Minehead, England)

17

1946

Eugene Levy, comedian/writer (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

18

1917

Ossie Davis, actor (Cogdell, GA)

19

1972

Alyssa Milano, actress (New York, NY)

20

1928

Bo Diddley, singer/songwriter/musician (McComb, MS)

21

1954

Chris Evert, champion tennis player (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

22

1912

Lady Bird Johnson, first lady of the United States (Karnack, TX)

23

1948

Susan Lucci, actress (Scarsdale, NY)

24

1931

Mary Higgins Clark, author (New York, NY)

25

1954

Annie Lennox, singer (Aberdeen, Scotland)

26

1914

Richard Widmark, actor (Sunrise, MN)

27

1943

Cokie Roberts, TV and radio journalist (New Orleans, LA)

28

1946

Hubie Green, golfer (Birmingham, AL)

29

1972

Jude Law, actor (London, England)

30

1942

Michael Nesmith, singer/songwriter and member of the Monkees (Dallas, TX)

31

1948

Donna Summer, singer (Boston, MA)

IT'S A FACT!

The phrase "barking up the wrong tree" is probably derived from nocturnal raccoon hunting, when dogs often lost track of their prey.

FEATURED LOCATION OF THE MONTH: RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Location: Capital of Virginia. Seat of, but administratively independent of, Henrico County, in the eastern part of the state; incorporated as a city 1782. Richmond is a seaport at the head of navigation on the James River.

Population (2000 Census): 197,790

Mayor: Rudolph C. McCollum Jr. (Democrat)

December Temperatures: Normal high of 50.2 degrees; Normal low of 29.9 degrees

Colleges & Universities: J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University

Events: GardenFest of Lights, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (December 1-30); Jefferson Hotel's Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony (December 2); Lunch with Santa Aboard the Annabel Lee Riverboat (December 2); Tree Lighting Ceremony, Fort Lee (December 3); 12 Days of Christmas, 17th Street Farmers' Market (December 4-15); Annual 17th Century Christmas Celebration and the James River Parade of Lights, Henricus Historical Park (December 7); 27th Annual "A Victorian Christmas at Maymont" (tours of the decorated Maymont House; December 8); Church Hill Holiday Festival & House Tour (December 13-15); First Flight Celebration, Virginia Aviation Museum (December 14); Historic Christmas in Essex County Tour (December 14); Cooper Vineyards Holiday Open House (December 14-15); Celebrate Richmond! (New Year's party), Greater Richmond Convention Center (December 31); New Year's Eve Family Extravaganza, Children's Museum of Richmond (December 31)

Museums: Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia; Children's Museum of Richmond; Edgar Allan Poe Museum; Museum of the Confederacy, on the grounds of the Confederate White House; Science Museum of Virginia, which includes the Virginia Aviation Museum; Valentine Museum, with displays on Richmond and Virginia history; Virginia Historical Society Museum; Virginia Holocaust Museum; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Places to visit: Agecroft Hall, a 15th-century Tudor estate originally built in England; Canal Walk, which winds 1.25 miles through downtown Richmond along the banks of the Haxall Canal and the James River and Kanawha Canal; Farmer's Market at 17th and Main streets, said to be one of the oldest in the U.S.; Hollywood Cemetery, with the graves of U.S. Presidents James Madison and John Tyler and Confederate President Jefferson Davis; homes of U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site; Monument Avenue, a boulevard with statues honoring Confederate leaders; Old City Hall, Victorian Gothic building, completed as Richmond's city hall in 1894; Saint John's Episcopal Church, where in 1775 the American statesman Patrick Henry made a speech containing the famous words "...give me liberty or give me death"; State Capitol (1785-1788), designed by Thomas Jefferson and modeled after the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple in Nîmes, France (the rotunda contains a marble statue of George Washington by the French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon). Richmond National Battlefield Park, commemorating Civil War battles, is located near the city.

Tallest Building: James Monroe Building (29 stories; 449 feet)

History: The area including the site of present-day Richmond was visited by the English colonizer Capt. John Smith in 1607. The first permanent non-Indian settlement here was established at the falls of the James River in 1637, and Fort Charles was constructed in 1644 to protect the settlers from Indian attack. The community developed as a trading center, and in 1737 it was laid out under the patronage of William Byrd, a colonial statesman. It was named for Richmond upon Thames, England. Richmond became the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1779. The settlement was partly burned by the British under the leadership of Benedict Arnold in 1781.

In 1861 Richmond was made the capital of the Confederate States of America and as such was a major objective of Union forces during the Civil War. On April 3, 1865, after many attempts, Union troops, led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, succeeded in occupying the city, but only after it had been evacuated and principal sections had been burned by its own residents. In 1888, the first electric streetcar system in the U.S. was started in the city.

Tobacco helped Richmond recover from the Great Depression. Within five years, Richmond's economy bounced back. The year 1946 was a crucial turning point for Richmond's economy. That year marked the highest level of business activity in the history of the city. Within one year, Richmond was the fastest-growing industrial center in the U.S. Between 1963 and 1965, the "downtown boom" led to the construction of more than 700 buildings. A multi-million dollar floodwall, completed in 1995, now protects Richmond and its downtown businesses from the rising waters of the James River. Completion of the floodwall opened the doors for the development of the Richmond Riverfront. The new, expanded Greater Richmond Convention Center is slated for full completion in 2003.

Birthplace of: Arthur Ashe (1943), Warren Beatty (1937), James Bridger (1804), James Branch Cabell (1879), U.S. Rep. Eric I. Cantor (1963), D'Angelo (1974), Ellen Glasgow (1874), U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (1946), Shirley MacLaine (1934), Aimee Mann (1960), Debbie Matenopoulos (1974), Gen. George Pickett (1825), Fran Tarkenton (1940), L. Douglas Wilder (1931), Tom Wolfe (1931)

Websites: http://www.ci.richmond.va.us/index.asp; http://www.richmondva.org; http://www.grcc.com/index.asp

Obituaries in November 2002

   Augstein, Rudolf, 79, founder, publisher and chief editorial writer of Der Spiegel, Germany's leading weekly news magazine; Hamburg, Germany, Nov. 7, 2002. Bracken, Eddie, 87, veteran character actor who starred in two great Preston Sturges film comedies, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero (both 1944); Montclair, NJ, Nov. 14, 2002.

   Coburn, James, 74, versatile character actor who did notable work in films ranging from The Magnificent Seven (1960) to Affliction (1998), for which he won a 1999 best supporting actor Oscar; Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 18, 2002.

   Eban, Abba, 87, eloquent Israeli statesman who was his country's charter United Nations representative and foreign minister from 1966 to 1974, as well as a scholarly author and the creator and host of a well-received TV series on Jewish history; Petah Tikva, Israel, Nov. 17, 2002.

   Guy, Billy, 66, exuberant baritone who was one of the original members of the Coasters, the black vocal quartet that in 1987 became the first singing group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Las Vegas, NV, Nov. 12, 2002.

   Hindley, Myra, 60, one of two people convicted in connection with the notorious "moors murders" of English children in the early 1960s, she had been Britain's longest-serving woman prisoner; Bury St. Edmunds, England, Nov. 12, 2002.

   Matta, Roberto, 90 or 91, Chilean artist who painted large, haunting canvases regarded as major examples of Surrealist art and who influenced the first generation of U.S. Abstract Expressionists; Tarquinia, Italy, Nov. 23, 2002.

   Rawls, John, 81, Harvard University political philosopher and legal theorist whose book A Theory of Justice (1971) was credited with reviving moral philosophy; Lexington, MA, Nov. 24, 2002.

   Rostow, Eugene V., 89, dynamic Yale law school dean turned presidential adviser who helped shape U.S. foreign policy during the Vietnam War; Alexandria, VA, Nov. 25, 2002.

IT'S A FACT!

If a grizzly bear and a common household cat were to have a footrace, they would likely finish in a tie -- both have a top speed of 30 mph.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Frontiers of Heart Medicine

By Joseph Gustaitis

It was 35 years ago, December 3, 1967, to be precise, that medical history was made when a team of surgeons in South Africa performed the first successful human heart transplant. The patient was Louis Washkansky, 55, a Lithuanian-born businessman who had diabetes, and the donor was Denise Ann Darvall, 24, who had died in an automobile accident. The medical team was headed by Dr. Christiaan Neethling Barnard, who swiftly became world famous.

Although Washkansky lived just 18 days before succumbing to a lung infection, Barnard was optimistic about the future of the technology he had pioneered. "A heart transplant is no more difficult than any other transplants," he said at the time. "We were not sure what to look for or how to treat things as they came along, but it was not as difficult as anticipated."

Barnard had good reason to consider his experience promising. Today, hospitals in the United States alone routinely perform more than 2,000 heart transplants every year, and the five-year survival rate is nearly 70%, according to the American Heart Association. Barnard himself wasted little time and performed his second heart transplant on January 2, 1968. The patient, Dr. Philip Blaiberg, 58, a retired dentist, had a better outcome and lived for 19 months and 15 days before dying on August 17, 1969. During that time, he was able to live almost normally at home; indeed, his wife said he "was running around like a machine." Hospitals in the United States and Europe also were beginning to perform heart transplants. By the end of August 1968, 34 had been performed, and as of December 6, 100 hearts had been transplanted into 98 patients.

Making the transplantation of the heart (and other organs) possible involved not only the perfection of surgical techniques, but also the solving of an even thornier problem: the rejection process. When foreign tissue is introduced into a host, an immunological reaction occurs in which specific substances in the donor organ are recognized as being different. The recipient's immune system reacts against this foreign material by producing antibodies and rejecting it. Such an outcome is fine when the foreign matter is something like a virus; it's not desirable when the outside material, such as a transplanted organ, has a healing purpose. Understandably, the body can't discern the new material's motives. This difficulty was finally overcome by the development of immunosuppressive, or antirejection, drugs that suppress the activity of the lymphocytes, the cells that create antibodies. The most commonly used immunosuppressive drugs today are cyclosporin and glucocorticoids.

As exciting as heart transplant technology was becoming, it was understood that as transplants became routine there would inevitably be a donor shortage. Therefore researchers simultaneously looked into another exciting area of heart medicine: the development of an artificial heart. The first experiments along this line involved an artificial heart pump that didn't replace the heart entirely but relieved it of most of its work. Such a device had been used as early as 1963 by a medical team at Baylor University.

Then, in April 1969, a 16-man team at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas, headed by Dr. Denton A. Cooley, implanted an artificial heart in the chest of Haskell Karp, 47. This heart, which had been developed by Dr. Domingo Liotta, was a replacement, not an aide, although it was used only as an emergency measure until a human heart donor could be found, and it functioned well for three days until a heart transplant was performed. At the time, Cooley said that the artificial heart "could function a month or more, but more realistically a week or 10 days."

Little progress occurred in the artificial heart field during the 1970s, but in 1981 Cooley again performed an emergency artificial implant, and this time the heart sustained the patient for 54 hours. There was some controversy because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not approved the apparatus, but the hospital argued that an FDA provision permitted the use of experimental devices "in emergency situations," which this was. Then, in December 1982, the first artificial heart intended to be permanent, and not a temporary replacement, was implanted by doctors at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City. The recipient, a retired dentist named Barney Clark, had been considered, at age 61, to be too old for a human heart transplant. The team that implanted the heart was led by Dr. William DeVries, and the heart itself, which was made of polyurethane plastic and aluminum, had been developed by Dr. Robert Jarvik, a member of the surgical team. The device was not completely self-contained, and Clark's mobility was considerably restricted because the heart was connected by six-foot-long hoses to a 375-pound compressor, which was contained in what doctors described as "a grocery cart." Clark died on March 23, 1983, after surviving with the artificial heart for 112 days. The Jarvik-7 heart kept working right up until the end, and Clark's death was attributed to "vascular collapse resulting from a multitude of causes."

DeVries transferred his artificial heart program from Utah to the Humana Heart Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, where the second artificial heart implant occurred in November 1984. The Jarvik-7 had by then been redesigned, with an improved valve and a smaller external drive system. At the time, skeptics were subjecting artificial heart technology to considerable criticism. The deans of the Schools of Public Health of Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and Boston University all condemned the technology as a misapplication of medical research funds that could be better be spent on preventive health. As Boston University's Norman Scotch put it: "It's a bad investment, no two ways about it." Similarly, at a conference on heart replacement held in Washington, D.C., in October 1985, out of four surgeons who had experience with mechanical hearts, only one, DeVries, defended long-term use of the device. Dr. Bjarne Semb suggested stopping further implants until the design and construction of the devices were improved, and Dr. Jack G. Copeland, along with Cooley, stated that artificial hearts should be used only as temporary sustaining devices.

In 1988 the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which had once supported a federal effort to develop a battery-powered artificial heart and had sponsored almost $240 million of mechanical heart research, announced that the U.S. government would no longer finance research aimed at developing full-scale artificial hearts. Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said at the time that "the biology didn't work . . .. The human body just couldn't seem to tolerate it."

Yet the momentum was unstoppable, and the development of the artificial heart went on. In April 1985 doctors in Sweden performed the first artificial heart implant outside the U.S., and by October six people had received artificial hearts. Also, the NIH, responding to congressional pressure, quickly reversed its decision to halt funding on the artificial heart.

A very promising breakthrough occurred in June 2000, when a new device, the Jarvik 2000, was given to a British patient, Peter Houghton, 62, who thus became the first person ever to have an electric heart permanently implanted into his body. The Jarvik 2000, a battery-operated device, got its power from a battery that was plugged into a "socket" embedded in the patient's skull. This device did not entirely replace the patient's natural heart but took the burden of pumping off the heart muscle, thereby enabling it to rest and recuperate. Then, in July 2001, Doctors at the University of Louisville's Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, placed the first fully implantable artificial heart into a patient. This device was called AbioCor, and the procedure marked the first time in 18 years that doctors had run a clinical test of an artificial heart designed to entirely and permanently replace a human one.

The patient, Robert Tools, lived for five months with the device, and died on November 30. In the meantime, five other patients had received AbioCors, and doctors said they were optimistic about the device's future. One of those five patients, Tom Christerson, was discharged from Louisville's Jewish Hospital in April 2002. Hundreds of people welcomed him to his home in Central City, Ky., and Christerson, who previously could walk only short distances, was able to stroll around his house and visit with friends. In October 2002 he and his wife celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.

Another promising, though controversial, frontier in the quest for replacement hearts has to do with the cloning of animals for the purpose of harvesting transplantable organs. In March 2000 scientists at the Blacksburg, Virginia laboratory of PPL Therapeutics PLC announced that they had cloned an adult pig and that their long-term goal was to create pigs that were genetically altered so that their organs could be used for transplantation into humans.

Following that success, in 2002 scientists at two separate laboratories said that they had been able to clone a litter of pigs that lacked a gene that caused human recipients to reject transplanted pig tissue. However, animal-rights groups and others came out in opposition to the idea of raising animals solely to harvest organs from them.

What with concurrent research into artificial blood and an artificial liver, along with the ability to replace body parts such as hips and heart valves (see diagram), some observers have evoked the image of the "bionic man" and asked what would happen to Social Security and other safety nets for the elderly if science acquired the ability to keep people alive until they were 120 or so. Others wondered if it made sense to prolong a person's life for a relatively short period of time if the expense ran into the thousands of dollars. Although these questions were worth asking, they remained the province of ethicists. The science of prolonging life, it was clear, would keep going forward.

SCIENCE IN THE NEWS

Scientists Puzzle Out Tetris

A group of computer scientists have now proved what anyone who has ever played the game knows: Tetris is hard.

In the best-selling video and computer game, invented in 1985 by Russian mathematician Alexey Pajitnov, players begin with a rectangular game board initially occupied by a random configuration of squares. One at a time, blocks called tetrominoes fall at a constant speed as the player manipulates them, rotating the pieces or moving them sideways, so that the blocks fall where the player chooses. A tetromino is a set of four squares that can be arranged in a variety of shapes. When the player completely fills a row, the row disappears and the player scores points. Over time, the pieces fall faster and faster, increasing the difficulty of the game.

Three computer scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed a modified, simpler version of the game, and focused on how many computer resources, running time or amount of memory, were required to solve the game. They used the simpler version "because its hardness captures much of the difficulty of playing Tetris," they told Science News Online. In other words, by analyzing the simpler version of the game, the researchers were able to give some insight into the difficulty of the real thing. They discovered that Tetris falls into a category of problems that are among the most difficult to solve: NP-complete problems.

The classic NP-complete problem is that of the traveling salesman. In this scenario, the object is to find the shortest route for a salesman traveling between many cities. The only way to solve this problem, and any NP-complete problem, is to try all possibilities and then check to see which is the shortest or most efficient, a time-consuming and laborious process, even when using a computer to generate the possibilities and check them.

The MIT scientists discovered that all of the goals of Tetris fell into this category. "There is no simple strategy," computer scientist David Eppstein of the University of California Irvine explained to Nature Science Update.

The game is so difficult for players because "you're really solving big problems," Erik Demaine, one of the MIT researchers, said to Nature Science Update. But, the intellectual challenge of the game, Demaine believes, is one of the reasons that players find it so addictive.

IT'S A FACT!

With an average annual precipitation of just 0.2 inches, Lima Peru is one of the driest places on Earth -- drier than even Cairo, Egypt, which get an inch of precipitation a year.

CHRONOLOGY - Events of November 2002

NATIONAL

     Judge Approves Microsoft Settlement -Federal District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, in Washington, DC, Nov. 1, approved the antitrust settlement between the Microsoft Corp. and U.S. Justice Dept. The settlement, reached in November 2001, had prompted some state attorneys general to seek stiffer sanctions, most of which Kollar-Kotelly denied. She did add provisions requiring Microsoft to share more information with competitors on its Windows operating system and directed the company to set up a compliance committee composed of Microsoft board members.

     Republicans Retake Senate, Gain Seats in House - The Republican Party emerged from the 2002 off-year elections, Nov. 5, with a majority in the U.S. Senate and an increased margin in the U.S. House. Democrats made slight gains in gubernatorial elections. An energetic nationwide campaign by Pres. George W. Bush, in which he appealed to voters to send him more allies, was widely credited with lifting the Republicans. Before the voting, Senate Democrats held a 50-49 majority (there was 1 independent). After the election the GOP held 51 seats, the Democrats 47, with 1 independent; and an incumbent Democrat, Mary Landrieu, faced a runoff in Louisiana. In Missouri an appointed Democrat, Jean Carnahan, lost her seat to former House member Jim Talent. Another Democratic incumbent, Sen. Max Cleland, lost in Georgia to U.S. Rep. Saxbe Chambliss (R), who made an issue of his opponent's failure to support Bush's version of a homeland security bill. In Minnesota, former Vice Pres. Walter Mondale (D), running as a stand-in for Sen. Paul Wellstone, who had died Oct. 25 in a plane crash, lost to former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (R). In Arkansas, however, Atty. Gen. Mark Pryor (D) ousted incumbent Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson, who had angered his conservative base by divorcing his wife and marrying a younger woman. In the 435-member House, Republicans increased their total from 223 to at least 228, with the victor in 3 districts not determined in late November. Redistricting following the 2000 census had created a number of open seats or ones in which incumbents were pitted against each other. In most other districts, incumbents won easily. Democrats captured governorship from the GOP in 4 major northern states--Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Govs. Gray Davis (D) and George Pataki (R) were reelected in California and New York, respectively. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry (R), who had succeeded Bush when the latter was elected president, won a full term, and the president's brother Jeb Bush (R) was easily reelected governor of Florida, despite being a principal target of the Democrats. Complete results of the House, Senate, and Gubernatorial elections can be found at: http://www.worldalmanac.com/2002elections.

     Securities & Exchange Chief Resigns Under Fire- Harvey Pitt, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, submitted his resignation to Pres. Bush Nov. 5. Pitt's closeness to the accounting industry had proved embarrassing, and he was criticized for failing to reveal that William Webster, his choice to head the newly created accounting profession oversight board, had headed the audit committee for U.S. Technologies, which was under criminal investigation. Pitt himself became the subject of 4 investigations into his selection of board members. On Nov. 12, Webster resigned as head of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

     Pelosi Chosen to Lead House Democrats - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) was elected by House Democrats to head their caucus in the new Congress, succeeding Dick Gephardt (MO), who resigned as leader after Democrats lost seats in the Nov. 5 election. The first woman to lead either party in the House, she comes from the liberal wing of her party.

     Bush Signs Homeland Security Bill - Pres. Bush Nov. 25 signed the Homeland Security Bill on which Congress had just completed action. The new cabinet department, focused on internal security against terrorism, was to include a variety of agencies under its umbrella. On the same day, Bush named former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who had headed up the homeland security effort for the past year, as secretary of the department. The bill had won overwhelming approval from the Senate and House after being hung up for months over a dispute relating to the civil-service status of federal workers affected by the reorganization. Bush appointed former secretary of state Henry Kissinger chairman, Nov. 27, of a commission to investigate possible intelligence and security flaws, prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

INTERNATIONAL

     CIA Missile Kills Top al-Qaeda Leader - The CIA Nov. 3 used a missile fired from an unmanned aircraft to kill Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization in Yemen, along with 5 lesser operatives riding in the same automobile. The strike was the first of its kind to target al-Qaeda figures outside Afghanistan. On Nov. 21, U.S. officials announced that Abd al-rahim al-Nashiri, said to be a principal planner of the 1998 U.S., embassy bombings in Africa, had been captured. They did not disclose details of where or how he had been captured.

     Party Tied to Islam Wins Turkish Election - A political party that was an outgrowth of an Islamic party won the Turkish national election Nov. 3. The Justice and Development Party got 34%, and the Republican People's Party got 19%. No other party got enough votes to qualify for seats in parliament. The party of Premier Bulent Ecevit got only 1.2% of the vote. Recip Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the winning party, had been barred from holding office because of a 1998 conviction for inciting hatred. Thus, the identity of the next premier remained in doubt. Erdogan said his party was committed to secularism, joining the European Union, and good relations with the United States.

     Israeli Prime Minister Calls for New Elections, as Bombings Continue - Israeli Prime Min. Ariel Sharon Nov. 5 called for new elections, which would take place early in 2003. Sharon had found it increasingly difficult to maintain his leadership in a deeply fractured parliament. A faltering economy and the frequent suicide bombings perpetrated by Palestinian extremists would be issues in the campaign. Former Prime Min. Benjamin Netanyahu, who joined the government Nov. 6 as foreign minister, planned to challenge Sharon for leadership of the Likud Party. Meanwhile, among other instances of violence on both sides, snipers in Hebron ambushed and killed 12 Israelis Nov. 15, and 11 Israelis were Nov. 21 in a suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus. On Nov. 22 a British UN official was shot to death at a refugee camp in Jenin, in an apparent error by an Israeli soldier.

     UN Security Council Gets Tough With Iraq - After weeks of negotiation, the UN Security Council Nov. 8 voted unanimously, 15-0, to give Iraq a "final opportunity" to comply with previous disarmament resolutions. The resolution also established a strict timetable for full Iraqi cooperation with the UN weapons inspectors. Arab League foreign ministers, meeting Nov. 10 in Beirut, supported the inspection of Iraq's weapons sites, but not a U.S. invasion if Iraq did not cooperate. On Nov. 12, the Iraqi parliament, under the control of Pres. Saddam Hussein, unanimously rejected the UN resolution; the next day, however, Iraq agreed to inspections, while reiterating claims that it did not have weapons of mass destruction. At a NATO summit meeting in Prague, Nov. 21, leaders of the 19 member nations united in condemning Iraq. However, Germany remained opposed to war with Iraq. In St. Petersburg, Russia, Nov. 22, Pres. Vladimir Putin expressed concern to Pres. Bush that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were shaky allies in the conflict with terrorism. Speaking in Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 23, Bush appealed to a large crowd for support against Iraq. The first weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, Nov. 25.

     Bin Laden Heard on New Recording - A voice that U.S officials identified as that of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was heard on an audiotape broadcast over the Al Jazeera TV channel Nov. 12. The 4-minute message threatened that other nations faced attack if they supported any U.S. invasion of Iraq. The references to recent events indicated the tape had been made recently, and thus, assuming it was genuine, showed that Bin Laden was still alive.

     Communist China Gets New Leadership - A transition to new leadership occurred at the 16th congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The long-anticipated retirement of Jiang Zemin as general secretary of the party and effective leader of the country was confirmed Nov. 14. In all, 6 members of the party' s 7-member inner council were stepping down, and the body was expanded to 9 members. The only incumbent to remain on the council, Hu Jintao, was promoted to general secretary Nov. 15. Also retiring along with Jiang were Prime Min. Zhu Rongji and Li Peng, the leader of parliament. But Jiang continued as head of the powerful Central Military Commission. The new Hu regime would have to deal with government corruption, rising unemployment, and demands for political change.

     More than 215 Die in Rioting Over Miss World Pageant - A decision by organizers to hold the Miss World beauty competition in Nigeria proved calamitous, as rioting by Muslims opposed to the pageant claimed more than 215 lives in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. The riots, which began Nov. 20 and lasted for several days, were ignited by an article Nov. 14 in a Lagos newspaper speculating that the prophet Muhammad "would probably have chosen a wife" from among the contestants. On Nov. 22, the organizers announced that the pageant would be moved to London. On Nov. 26, officials of the state government of Zamfara (a largely Muslim state in northern Nigeria neighboring the state where the riots took place) said they had endorsed a "fatwa" or Islamic religious edict calling for the death of the woman, Isioma Daniel, whose newspaper article had offended Muslim beliefs.

     Terrorists Bomb Israeli-owned Hotel in Kenya--Israelis abroad were target of terrorism on Nov. 28, when 3 suicide bombers demolished an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya, near Mombasa; 10 Kenyans and 3 Israelis lost their lives. Minutes earlier, 2 shoulder-fired missiles narrowly missed an Israeli jetliner carrying 261 Israelis, as it took off from the airport in Mombasa. In the wake of the attacks, more than 250 Israelis were flown back to Israel from Kenya. U.S. and Israeli officials suspected involvement by al-Qaeda, although Kenyan authorities, who held a dozen foreigners for questioning, reported no clear links to al-Qaeda in the days following the attacks.

GENERAL

     Sniper Suspects Charged in Virginia - Murder charges were filed Nov. 6 in Virginia against John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo in connection with shootings in the region that had killed 10 and wounded 3. Muhammad was charged in connection with the killing of a man outside a gas station in Manassas, while Malvo faced trial for the slaying of an FBI analyst in Falls Church. Although shootings linked to the 2 had also occurred in Maryland and the District of Columbia, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, Nov. 7, supported the choice of Virginia as a venue, saying that it was imperative that the death penalty be available. Malvo was 17; under Virginia law a 17-year-old is eligible for the death penalty. The 2 were also under investigation for shootings in other states.

     Tornadoes Claim Heavy Toll in Mid-U.S. - Dozens of tornadoes swept through the central United States Nov. 10, killing 36 and causing widespread destruction. Seventeen died in Tennessee, 12 in Alabama, and 5 in Ohio.

     U.S. Catholic Bishops OK New Plan in Abuse Cases - After the Vatican in October rejected portions of their original plan, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops in Washington, DC, Nov. 13 agreed to revised rules for dealing with child sex-abuse accusations against priests, which had been formulated by a committee of U.S. and Vatican bishops. The new plan, approved 246-7, provided that priests be judged by church tribunals under canon law. Review boards helping bishops evaluate accusations would work in secret; an accused priest would be suspended from duties immediately, pending resolution of his case. Bishops would not be permitted to transfer an accused priest to a new ministry in a new diocese. The definition of sexual abuse was narrowed, and an individual alleging past abuse as a child would generally be required to file a complaint by age 28. The new plan was criticized by abuse victims, who argued that it unduly diluted the original plan.

SPORTS

     On Nov. 3, Boston Marathon Champ Rogers Rop, leading a Kenyan sweep, won the New York City Marathon in 2 hrs., 8 mins., and 7 secs. Christopher Cheboiboch trailed Rop by 10 seconds, and Laban Kipkemboi came in 3rd at 2:08:39. After placing in the top 4 for 3 consecutive years in New York, Kenya's Joyce Chepchumba finally won the women's race, finishing in 2:25:56. Russia's Lyubov Denisova finished 2nd, 21 seconds back, and Yugoslavia's Olivera Jevtic set a national record of 2:26:44, taking 3rd.

     Between Nov. 4 and Nov. 12, Major League Baseball announced its annual awards. In the American League, the Oakland A's won 2 awards (Miguel Tejada, MVP; Barry Zito, Cy Young). Mike Scioscia, manager of the world-champion Anaheim Angels, was the Manager of the Year, and Eric Hinske, of Toronto, was named Rookie of the Year. In the National League, pitcher Jason Jennings (Colorado) won Rookie of the Year, and Barry Bonds (San Francisco) was named the MVP a record 5th time. Tony La Russa (St. Louis) won Manager of the Year a record 4th time, and Randy Johnson (Arizona) took home his 5th Cy Young Award.

     On Nov. 17, Tony Stewart clinched the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship with an 18-place finish at the Ford 400, in Homestead, FL. It was the 1st title for Stewart, in his 4th year on the Winston Cup circuit.

     The Montreal Alouettes held off a late rally from the Edmonton Eskimos, taking the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup championship game, 25-16, on Nov. 25 in Edmonton.

IT'S A FACT!

Film star Cary Grant's original name was Archibald Leach.

OFFBEAT NEWS STORIES

- Kevin Seabrooke

Got Advertising? Part 1: To celebrate 10 years of its "Got Milk?" advertising campaign, the California Milk Processor Board contacted about 20 small towns in the state to see if they'd be willing to change the name of their municipality to Got Milk? Perhaps not surprisingly, the response was far from overwhelming. But Sharleta B. Callaway, mayor of Biggs, CA, population, 1,793, thought the idea could at least be put before the city council for consideration. Right away, this small town north of Sacramento got a lot of publicity. The mayor even appeared on "Good Morning America," making the town appear ridiculous in the eyes of some of the residents. Hundreds showed up at the Nov. 18 council meeting, and applauded when the proposal was rejected. The people of Biggs just couldn't stomach the thought of their kids going to "Got Milk? High School."

Got Advertising? Part 2: While the citizens of Biggs, CA, rejected the California Milk Processor Board's offer, many police departments around the U.S. were tempted by another promotional idea--selling ad space on patrol cars. A Charlotte, NC, based company called Government Acquisitions LLC is offering the departments new patrol cars for only $1, which they would replace every 3 years. In return, the police would allow ads to be placed on the trunk, hood, or sides of the cars, and let Government Acquisitions keep the ad revenue. The ads cannot come from alcohol, tobacco, gun, or gambling interests, and police departments will have leeway to reject ads they deem inappropriate. "Due to lack of government funding and tight budgets, police departments across America don't have the equipment they need," said Ken Allison, president of Government Acquisitions. "If you're home at night with your wife and kids and some maniac breaks into your house, you call 911, and you want a police car there. You don't care if there is a Burger King logo on the trunk."

About 20 municipalities across the U.S. have expressed interest. The first to approve the deal was Springfield, FL, population 9,000.

75 Years Ago in the WORLD ALMANAC - Chronology December 1927

Date    

 

Dec 10

Congress welcomed Col. C.A. Lindbergh and voted the Congressional Medal of Honor to him.

Dec 17

The U.S. Submarine S-4, with 40 men aboard, came in collision when rising to the surface with the U.S. Coast Guard destroyer, and rum chaser, Paulding, and sank in 101 feet of water, just outside of the harbor of Provincetown, Mass., off the tip of Cape Code. The Paulding crushed in her lower holds was aided to port. Divers heard tapping on the inside of the S-4 hull for 3 days, saying 6 were still alive, and asking for air and flood. Air was forced into the submarine on Dec. 22; on Jan. 4 the first bodies were taken from the sunken craft -- those of Lieut. Commander R.K. Jones, Lieut. Joseph McGinley, and Chief Machinist's Mate Hodges.

Dec 30

At Tokio (Tokyo), Japan, the first underground railway in the Far East was opened to the public running one and a half miles. It is constructed on the pattern of the N.Y. subway system and is said to be proof against earthquakes. It connects the railway terminus at Euno with Asakusa Park, the Coney Island of Tokio (Toyko).

Links of the Month

Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

I have always enjoyed the company of people older than I am. A number of my favorite relatives are in their 80s and even 90s, and I also have friends who are way into the upper age brackets. I like spending time with them, hearing the stories of their lives, looking at pictures, getting their perspective on the era we now live in. You too can enjoy this experience, by getting a senior citizen pen pal at Write a Senior Citizen http://www.writeseniors.com/. This site was begun by John Thomas (17), and Kelly Thomas (20), who were concerned about senior citizens, and wanted to help them. The site is free, and you can select a pen pal by country, or age, or interest. I'm going to start writing to someone today.

My friend Lucile will turn 100 this coming July. Lucile introduced me to the world of the Ziegfeld Follies. She was a dancer in the 1922 Follies, and fondly remembered going on tour with the humorist Will Rogers. The show also featured the vaudeville comedy team of Gallagher & Shean, (the inspiration of the duo in "The Sunshine Boys"). At http://www.musicals101.com/ziegfeld.htm you can learn about the show originator Florenz Ziegeld, and the shows he produced in the early twentieth century.

Being considered crafty once meant that you were sly. These days it also means that you a big into craft projects. With stores dedicated to supplies for everything from scrapbooking to making candles, it's only natural that you can find websites that offer suggestions, and message boards to help you along the process of crafting. At http://www.craftfreebies.com/index.html you can hear about rubber stamping, and the types of papers you should use, get quilt patterns, and even learn how to crochet.

One hundred and twenty years ago, the USS Monitor, a Civil War Union ironclad, sank off of Cape Hatteras, VA. Best known for its March 1862 battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (converted from hull of the frigate Merrimac), the Monitor, the first of a new breed of battle machinery, sank during a storm. At http://monitor.nos.noaa.gov/ you can learn about the ship and the efforts which have been made for its preservation. This past summer, the gun turret from the Monitor was raised, and inside researchers found human remains, as well as an assortment of other items.

Ever been spelunking? Spelunking is the hobby or practice of exploring caves. There are caves around the world that you can explore, and at http://clik.to/speleo, you can begin your exploration by clicking on a continent, and finding a site of interest. At the Virtual Cave http://www.goodearthgraphics.com/virtcave.html you can explore hundreds of caves.

In 1993, I joined two hundred singers, and performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, at Carnegie Hall, as part of a United Nations chorus. It was a thrill of a lifetime. At ChoralNet http://www.choralnet.org/index.shtml you can find information about global choral societies. There are nearly 3,300 choir sites listed, so whether you are looking to join a chorus in Rome, Italy, or Anchorage, Alaska, you should be able to find one listed here. You can also find repertoires of choral music artists, composer listings, rehearsal tips, and a host of other tips.

Stupid Website of the Month: http://www.holdthebutton.com/

© World Almanac Education Group

World Almanac E-Newsletter
Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

Newsletter Contributors: Walter Kronenberg, Bill McGeveran, Kevin Seabrooke and Lori Wiesenfeld

Comments and suggestions can be sent to: editorinchief@waegroup.com

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