The World Almanac E-Newsletter
Volume 3, Number 3 - March 2003
What's in this issue?
March is American Red Cross Month and Women's History Month
March 1 - Beer Day (Iceland); St. David's Day (Wales)
This Day in History - March
FEATURED LOCATION OF THE MONTH: MOBILE, ALABAMA
Location: Seat of Mobile County, southwestern Alabama, a port of entry on Mobile Bay at the mouth of the Mobile River; incorporated 1814. Alabama's only seaport, and one of the busiest in the U.S., Mobile is an outlet for the agricultural and mineral products of the state.
Population (2000 Census): 198,915
Mayor: Michael C. Dow (Republican)
March Temperatures: Normal high of 70.9 degrees Fahrenheit; Normal low of 50.1 degrees Fahrenheit
Colleges & Universities: Bishop State Community College; Spring Hill College; University of Mobile; University of South Alabama
Events: Mobile Mardi Gras (February 14-March 4); Family Fun Days, Ft. Conde Village district (March 1-4); Port City Arts & Crafts Show, Fairgrounds (March 7-9); 35th Annual Historic Homes Tour, downtown Mobile (March 13-15); Spring Golf Tournament, TimberCreek Golf Course (March 14); A Celtic Celebration of St. Patrick's Day, Oakleigh Historic Complex (March 16); 10th Annual Festival of Flowers, Spring Hill College (March 20-23); USTA/Mobile Men's Professional Tennis Classic, Mobile Tennis Center (starts March 21); Azalea Trail 10K Run (March 22); Old South 41st Annual Open Car Show (featuring antiques, classics and street rods), Ft. Conde (March 22); Spring Break Art Camp (for children 8-12), Mobile Museum of Art (March 24-28); 9th Annual American Heart Association Gumbo Cookoff, Hank Aaron Stadium (March 29)
Museums: Conde-Charlotte Museum House; Gulf Coast Exploreum Museum of Science; Mobile Museum of Art; Museum of Mobile, Phoenix Fire Museum; Museum of Mobile, Southern Market; Victorian Teal Art Gallery
Places to visit: Admiral Semmes Monument; Bienville Square public park; Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; Christ Episcopal Church; Church Street Graveyard/Boyington Oak; City Hall; Fort Condé (Mobile's official welcome center, featuring sprawling bastions, cannons and fire arms, museum area, exhibit rooms, powder magazine, and dioramas); Government Street Presbyterian Church; Oakleigh Mansion; Spanish Plaza municipal park; USS Alabama (a World War II battleship anchored in the harbor)
Tallest Building: AmSouth Bank Building (424 feet, 33 stories)
History: A French colony was established near the site of Mobile in 1702; it was relocated here in 1711 after a flood, and served as the capital of French Louisiana until 1718. The settlement passed to Great Britain in 1763 and was taken by the Spanish in 1780. The U.S., which made a disputed claim to Mobile as part of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), seized the city in 1813, during the War of 1812. It grew in the 19th century as a great cotton port. During the American Civil War the port remained open until August 1864, when a federal fleet scored a decisive naval victory in Mobile Bay. Union troops captured the city in April 1865. The city's name is derived from the French version of the name of the Indians who lived in the region in the early 18th century.
Birthplace of: baseball player Hank Aaron (1934); baseball player Satchel Paige (1906?)
Freeman, Orville L., 84, Minnesota Democrat who after serving three two-years terms as his state's governor served as U.S. secretary of agriculture from 1961 to 1969; Minneapolis, MN, Feb. 20, 2003.
Gavilan, Kid, 77, flamboyant Cuban-born boxer who was world welterweight champion from 1951 to 1954; Miami, FL, Feb. 13, 2003.
Harrison, Lou, 85, U.S. composer of highly melodic music heavily influenced by Indonesian gamelan and other Asian musical traditions; Lafayette, IN, Feb. 2, 2003.
Hines, Jerome, 81, bass vocalist who had the longest career-41 years-of any principal singer in the history of New York City's Metropolitan Opera; New York, NY, Feb. 4, 2003.
Longden, Johnny, 96, one of horse racing's winningest jockeys ever and winner of the 1943 Triple Crown aboard Count Fleet; Banning, CA, Feb. 14, 2003.
Merton, Robert K., 92, Columbia University sociologist who coined such terms as "role model" and "self-fulfilling prophecy" and pioneered the development of focus groups; New York, NY, Feb. 23, 2003.
PayCheck, Johnny, 64, rebellious country music singer best known for his 1977 recording of the song "Take This Job and Shove It"; Nashville, TN, Feb. 18, 2003.
Rogers, Fred, 74, creator and longtime host of the award-winning PBS children's TV show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"; Pittsburgh, PA, Feb. 27, 2003.
Rostow, Walt W., 85, economic historian who in the 1960s was one of the main advocates and planners of U.S. military action in Vietnam; Austin, TX, Feb. 13, 2003.
Santamaria, Mongo, 80, Cuban-born conga player and percussionist who brought a distinctive Latin beat to jazz; Miami, FL, Feb. 1, 2003.
Wilson, Kemmons, 90, founder of the Holiday Inn hotel chain; Memphis, TN, Feb. 12, 2003.
Ziegler, Ronald L., 63, presidential press secretary throughout the Nixon administration (1969-74); Coronado, CA, Feb. 10, 2003.
SPECIAL FEATURE: Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General
By Erik Gopel
In 1987, Congress officially designated the month of March, National Women's History Month, as a time to honor extraordinary women around the world and the achievements they have made. Ten years ago this month, on March 12, 1993, Janet Reno was sworn in as the seventy-eighth Attorney General of the United States, making her the first woman in American history to hold the high-level cabinet position. Janet Reno was the longest-serving Attorney General in the twentieth century, and the second longest in the 200-plus year history of the office, presiding over the Department of Justice for eight years. Serving her role as the nation's chief law enforcement officer in one of the most politically turbulent and controversial periods in American government, Attorney General Reno remained strong, determined, and accountable for her actions. Unlike many past Attorneys General, she was never the "president's lawyer" and remained impartial to any party, office, or branch of government.
Janet Reno was born on July 21, 1938, in Miami, Florida and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in chemistry in 1960. She received her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1963 as one of only 16 female students among a class of more than 500.
Returning home to Florida, she practiced law privately for several years, and from 1971 to 1972 was staff director of the Florida House judiciary committee. There she worked diligently to revise the Florida state court system. In 1973 she joined the Florida State Attorney's office in Dade County (which includes Miami) as a public prosecutor, eventually becoming a top aide to State Attorney Richard Gerstein. She was appointed as Florida's first female State Attorney in 1978. As State Attorney, Reno earned a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor of drug offenders, along with many family and juvenile cases involving child abuse and the enforcement of paternal child-support payment. She was elected to this position five times.
In 1993, as newly elected President Clinton assembled his cabinet, filling the office of Attorney General became entangled by revelations that two candidates for the position had hired illegal aliens as nannies. After corporate lawyer Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba A. Wood withdrew their names from consideration, Clinton offered Janet Reno as his third selection to the Senate. In an attempt to avoid further delays in filling the position and to assuage the embarrassment of the new administration, the Senate held immediate hearings to question Ms. Reno, and suspended a grace period usually observed between the hearings and the confirmation vote. Reno was unanimously approved on March 11, and sworn in as Attorney General the next day.
"The Buck Stops With Me"
Upon assuming the position, Reno inherited a dangerously deteriorating situation involving David Koresh's Branch Davidian religious cult. The cult's compound near Waco, Texas had been under siege by federal agents since February 28 (before Reno was confirmed) following a gun battle that killed four agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The ATF agents had attempted to seize an illegal stockpile of weapons there, and to free cult members who they believed were being imprisoned against their will, including several children. Authorities had also obtained evidence leading them to believe these children were being physically and sexually abused.
On April 19, after 51 days of tense and unsuccessful negotiations, Reno ordered the ATF and FBI to fill the compound with tear-gas and use armored vehicles to puncture holes in the locked building so that people could escape. Intended mainly to pressure cult leader David Koresh into surrendering himself, the results were catastrophic. As federal agents began their assault, the compound burst into flames. Unprepared for this scenario, there were no fire trucks at the scene, and the compound completely burned down within hours, killing about 80 people. During a press conference later that day, Reno took full responsibility for the decision and its outcome, declaring, "I made the decision, I'm accountable. The buck stops with me." Her subsequent offer to resign was rejected by President Clinton.
Investigators later determined that the fire had been purposely set by leaders of the cult to induce an apocalyptic mass-suicide and cleared both Janet Reno and the FBI of any wrongdoing. Only ATF Director Stephen Higgins was forced to step down. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on April 28, Reno responded to questions regarding the deaths of children inside the compound with a determination that would come to characterize her demeanor: "I feel more strongly about (the children's' deaths) than you will ever know," Reno replied. "But I will not walk away from a compound where ATF agents had been killed. Most of all, congressman, I will not engage in recrimination. I will look to the future."
In August 1993, Janet Reno announced that the Department of Justice would investigate whether Microsoft, Inc., the world's largest software company, was violating the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act by using illegal methods to monopolize the software market. Only a month earlier, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had completed a yearlong investigation of the corporation's practices, and concluded that Microsoft had not violated any antitrust law. In 1994, Microsoft and the Justice Department signed a consent decree to limit the company's dominance of the market. However, about a year later, a Federal judge rejected the agreement, and the investigation continued, against Reno's wishes, for another five years. On June 7, 2000 Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled that Microsoft was in fact monopolizing the software market and would be forced to separate into two smaller companies. A less stringent settlement was approved in November 2002. It was the largest anti-trust case since the government broke up AT&T in 1982.
Adhering to the independent statute of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act (now expired), Reno was obligated to launch an unprecedented number of investigations into alleged misconduct of many high-level executive officers of the federal government. This forced her into the middle of one of the most politically divisive episodes in the history of the U.S. government, with Republicans in Congress calling for more aggressive action, and Clinton officials pressing for less intrusion. During Clinton's first term in office, Reno investigated the President and First Lady Hillary Clinton in the White House Travel Office scandal and appointed special prosecutor Kenneth Starr to delve into the Clintons' involvement in the Whitewater real estate venture. This investigation of course eventually led to Clinton's impeachment and cost tens of millions of dollars.
Throughout both of Clinton's terms, Attorney General Reno initiated inquiries into the financial and political dealings of six of her fellow cabinet members: Commerce secretary Ron Brown (now deceased), Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. These were mainly based on allegations of financial improprieties or misuse of office.
In 1997, Congress pressured her to investigate alleged Democratic party fund-raising violations committed by both President Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore during the 1996 election, but eventually decided the allegations were unsupported. In 1998, GOP members of Congress were incensed by this decision and demanded that Reno furnish memorandums relating to the matter. When she refused to comply, Congress threatened to invoke an obscure 1857 law that would have held Reno in contempt of Congress for withholding the information, and for not invoking the independent counsel law. Faced with this threat, Reno opened several new inquiries into the matter, but determined a year later that Clinton and Gore had not violated any campaign fund-raising laws.
Besides the controversial outcome of the Waco standoff, and the numerous independent counsel investigations, Attorney General Reno will also be remembered for her role in the Elian Gonzalez case. On November 23, 1999, two American fishermen rescued a six-year-old Cuban boy named Elian Gonzalez from a boat that had capsized in the Straits of Florida, the waters separating Cuba from the U.S. mainland. The eleven other refugees on the doomed boat, including the boy's mother and stepfather, had perished before the rescuers arrived. After discovering that Elian had relatives living in Miami, the fishermen turned the boy over to his great uncle Lazaro and his family, who then filed an application for political asylum on the boy's behalf.
While granting Cuban citizens political asylum in America is encouraged by the federal government, and very common in Florida, the INS ruled on January 5, 2000 that Elian was too young to apply for asylum, and that he should be returned to his father Juan Gonzalez in Cuba. Attorney General Reno stated the next day that she agreed with the INS ruling and would not seek to reverse it. Winning several appeals and court injunctions allowing temporary custody of the boy, Lazaro refused to transfer him over to the INS and Elian's father. Numerous requests by the Justice department to surrender Elian to authorities went ignored by the family. In the early morning hours of April 22, 2000, almost seven years to the day of Reno's controversial decision to storm the Waco compound, Reno ordered federal agents to seize the boy from his relatives--at gunpoint--and reunite him with his father, who was in the United States seeking custody.
After the U.S Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal by the Miami relatives on June 28, father and son returned to Cuba. The case received extensive media coverage and became a favorite subject for candidates running in the 2000 presidential election. The famous Associated Press photo of Elian being held in front of a federal agent arrayed in riot gear and carrying an automatic rifle generated intense negative publicity for Reno. She was criticized once again as she was after the Waco standoff for using excessive force to resolve the situation. Although President Clinton publicly supported her decision, Congress considered opening an inquiry, but eventually decided against it.
Another Florida Election
Nearing the end of her term in the outgoing Clinton administration, Reno announced in September 2000 that she would seek the democratic nomination in the upcoming race for governor of Florida. The election instantly gained media attention after polling difficulties resulted in a week-long delay of the outcome, evoking memories of the Presidential election of 2000, when polling problems in Florida forced the decision to Reno's home state for several grueling months. In order to prevent rifts within the Democratic Party, Reno decided not to file a lawsuit to contest the results, and on September 17, she conceded the election, only slightly over the one-percent differential needed to qualify for a legal recount.
Goodbye, Dolly: Cloned Sheep Passes
Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult, was euthanized (killed to end her pain) February 14, 2003, according to her creators at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Dolly was only 6 1/2 years old and suffered from a progressive lung disease common in older sheep, particularly ones that are kept indoors, as she was, said the institute's Dr. Harry Griffin to the Associated Press. Sheep typically live 11 to 12 years. The institute decided to end Dolly's life after a veterinarian examined her and concluded she would not recover. "A full post-mortem is being conducted and we will report any significant findings," Griffin said.
Born on July 5, 1996 at the research institute, she was created from the frozen udder cell of a long dead six-year-old ewe. Before Dolly, researchers had only cloned sheep from fetal and embryonic cells and had wondered if it was possible to reprogram an adult cell to develop into an entire animal. A cloned animal is produced by taking the nucleus out of an adult cell, a mammary gland cell in the case of Dolly, and fusing it, with the help of an electrical current, into another animal's egg cell that has had its nucleus removed.
Dolly's life introduced questions about the effects of cloning and whether it was possible for a cloned animal to develop normally. In 1999, researchers discovered that Dolly's telomeres were 20% shorter than those of other sheep her age. Telomeres are repeating DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that get shorter over the lifespan of an organism and are thought to contribute to aging. Researchers have theorized that animals cloned from adults may have shorter lifespans because they start out with the shorter telomeres of the adult.
In January 2002, researchers announced that Dolly had developed arthritis at the young age of 5 1/2, further deepening concerns about the effects the cloning process. Dolly's premature death is sure to continue the debate on the safety of cloning.
Since Dolly, hundreds of animals, including cows, pigs, mice and cats, have been cloned and all seem to be developing normally. But many attempts have ended in failure, with deformities and early deaths. And researchers have been unable to clone some species, such as monkeys and other primates, despite hundreds of attempts.
Dolly is survived by a daughter, Bonnie, born in April 1998, and five other offspring, all produced by natural birth. According to the Roslin Institute, Dolly will eventually be put on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Virus vs. Virus: Common Infection Slows HIV
A common but harmless virus may slow the effects of HIV and prolong the lives of AIDS patients, according to evidence presented at a February meeting. The virus known as GB virus C, or GBV-C, was discovered in 1995 and was known as hepatitis G. Research has shown, however, that the virus does not cause hepatitis and does not have any known negative effects on humans or animals. Researchers were tantalized, though, by evidence that AIDS patients also infected with GBV-C seemed to live longer.
In one of the studies presented at the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases examined the blood of 271 men who gave blood samples in 1985 and who had been recently infected with HIV. They then examined blood samples from the same men from 1990 and looked at what happened to the men over the next five years.
Men who had GBV-C in their blood the whole time were the most likely to survive. About 80% lived until the end of the study period while only 36% of men who were never infected with the virus survived. Men who had been infected with GBV-C but had cleared the virus -- they only had antibodies in their blood -- were the least likely to survive. Only 16% lived. These findings, however, were only partially supported by a Swedish study. This study found similar results for patients who had been infected with GBV-C but had cleared it, but found no survival advantage in patients who still had the virus.
A possible mechanism for the effects of GBV-C on HIV infection was presented in a third study by a University of Iowa researcher. GBV-C and HIV were added to human blood cells in the laboratory. The researchers found that the GBV-C blocked the docking sites on CD-4 white blood cells that HIV uses to cause infection. The GBV-C-infected white blood cells also produced large amounts of chemokines, a substance known to inhibit HIV. And overall, fewer new copies of HIV were produced after GBV-C infection.
It has been estimated that 2% of Americans are infected with GBV-C and that 12 to 15% have been infected at some time in the past. But, due to the lack of research on the virus, it is not known how often people recover from the virus, how the virus is transmitted, or at what age infection is likely to occur.
Researchers do not intend to infect AIDS patients with the GBV-C as a treatment. Instead, they hope to identify a protein that could be used to act like the virus and slow the activity of HIV.
CHRONOLOGY - Events of February 2003
Space Shuttle Disintegrates, 7 Astronauts Die - The space shuttle Columbia broke apart in space Feb. 1 over the southwestern U.S. after it had begun its descent toward a landing at Cape Canaveral, FL. All 7 crew members were killed. Debris was scattered over a wide area in Texas and Louisiana. The last voice communication from Air Force Col. Rick Husband, the commander, 16 minutes before the scheduled landing, had given no indication of trouble.
This was the 113th U.S. space shuttle mission, and the 2nd to end in tragedy. Flights by the 3 remaining shuttles were suspended. Columbia had been launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral on Jan. 16. Its 80 scientific projects included many experiments on the impact of space travel on living organisms. The other 6 crew members were: Navy Cmdr. William McCool, Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, Navy Capt. David Brown, Navy Cmdr. Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Indian-born engineer Kalpana Chawla, and Israeli Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon - the first astronaut from his country. A memorial service was held at Cape Canaveral Feb. 10.
By Feb. 18, some 3,700 pieces of shuttle debris, including a nose cone and portion of the left wing, had been found and taken to Cape Canaveral, still only a small portion of the vehicle. As investigations got underway, several theories were considered, including one that blamed the failure on material that had fallen off an external fuel tank after liftoff and struck the left wing. At a congressional hearing Feb. 27, NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe came under fire because e-mails raising the possibility of a shuttle disaster had not reached top management.
Bush Budget Plan Projects Large Deficits - Pres. George W. Bush Feb. 3 submitted a federal budget for the 2004 fiscal year. It included major new tax cuts and a big increase in defense spending, all previously proposed, and projected a deficit of $307.4 billion; the budget outline covering the next 5 years foresaw total deficits slightly exceeding $1 trillion. The cost of any war with Iraq was not included. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D, SD) called the administration the most fiscally irresponsible ever. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, in congressional testimony Feb. 11 and 12, maintained that spending cuts should have been made to offset the tax cuts.
U.S. Raises Warning on Terrorist Attacks - Citing increased level of "chatter" in terrorist communications, the Bush administration Feb. 7 temporarily raised the national terrorist threat alert level from yellow, for "elevated risk," to orange, or "high risk," the second-highest level out of five. On Feb. 10, the Dept. of Homeland Security issued guidelines for preparing for an attack involving chemical, biological, or radiological weapons; the public was urged to keep some basic emergency supplies on hand, be able to seal windows and doors, and prepare a family communication plan. The level was changed back to yellow, Feb. 27, as administration officials cited a drop in the level of chatter.
Leader of Islamic Charity Pleads Guilty to Fraud - The leader of an Islamic charity based in the U.S. admitted Feb. 10 that he had illegally diverted donations made for humanitarian purposes to Islamic militants in Chechnya and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Enaam Arnaout entered his guilty plea in U.S. district court in Chicago.
Democratic Presidential Field Becomes Crowded -Three more names joined the list of aspirants for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. On Feb. 18, both former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (IL) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) said they were forming campaign exploratory committees. On Feb. 19, Rep. Richard Gephardt (MO), who had just stepped down as House minority leader, declared his candidacy in a speech in St. Louis, MO.
Havel Steps Down as Czech President - Vaclav Havel, the playwright who had led the intellectual resistance to Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, concluded his 2nd 5-year term as president of the Czech Republic, Feb. 2. He had been president of Czechoslovakia for 3 years before Slovakia split off in 1992. As his term ended, the Czech parliament remained deadlocked on the selection of a successor. Vaclav Klaus, a former Czech prime minister, Feb. 28, won the presidency, by two votes, replacing his old rival, Vaclav Havel, as the president of the Czech Republic.
Debate on a War Against Iraq Intensifies - As U.S. military forces moved into position for a possible strike against Iraq, a worldwide debate on the merits of war intensified. Sec. of State Colin Powell, addressing the UN Security Council Feb. 5, presented the administration's case for UN-endorsed military action. Drawing on intelligence information from a variety of sources, he said that the regime of Pres. Saddam Hussein had deliberately and repeatedly failed to cooperate with UN inspectors; he also maintained that there were ties between Iraq and al Qaeda terrorists and that Iraq harbored its own terrorist cell.
After he spoke, 10 East European countries voiced strong support for the U.S. position, but China, France, and Russia remained opposed to military action at the present. On Feb. 6, 3 NATO members-Belgium, France, and Germany-blocked deployment of military equipment to Turkey that the Turks could use in defense against an Iraqi attack.
Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Feb. 6 approved deployment of the Army's 10lst Airborne Division and the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk to the Persian Gulf region. On Feb. 9, after inspectors met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, Hans Blix, one of the chief inspectors, said Iraq was showing more signs of cooperation. Documents had been provided describing the destruction of anthrax and nerve agent stockpiles, and Iraq Feb. 10 authorized surveillance overflights by U.S., French, and Russian planes. On Feb. 13, UN missile experts revealed that the range of Iraq's al-Samoud 2 rocket exceeded the 150-km (93-mi) limit imposed by the UN; given a deadline to destroy them, Iraq agreed "in principle," Feb. 27, to begin doing so.
On Feb. 15, millions of people opposing war demonstrated in cities around the world. Police in London and Rome estimated crowds there at 750,000 and 600,000, respectively. At least 200,000 reportedly turned out in Berlin, and at least 100,000 in Paris and New York. At least 150,000 rallied in San Francisco Feb. 16. Bush said he was not swayed by protesters and argued that no new UN resolution was needed to authorize an attack; however, the administration pursued efforts to get a second resolution, in apparent deference to British Prime Min. Tony Blair. Blair, who strongly supported military action, sought the resolution as backing.
NATO Feb. 16 reached agreement on helping Turkey arm itself against a possible Iraqi attack, with assistance going not from NATO directly but through its Defense Planning Council. Meanwhile, Turkey, seeking U.S. financial support as a basis for its participation in the war, Feb. 19 rejected a $26 billion U.S. aid package as inadequate.
North Korea Continues Its Nuclear Confrontation - North Korea said Feb. 5 that its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon had resumed operation, but that it would be used only to generate electricity. Deputy Sec. of State Richard Armitage said Feb. 4 that the administration would talk directly with North Korea after the inauguration of South Korea's new president. The U.S. director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, said Feb. 12 that North Korea had an untested ballistic missile that could threaten the western U.S.
New Bin Laden Tape Is Aired; Other Terrorism Developments - In an audiotape played on the Arab TV network Al Jazeera Feb. 11, a person claiming to be Osama bin Laden called for suicide attacks against the U.S. and its supporters. The same day, the British sent several tanks and 450 troops to Heathrow Airport, near London. At Gatwick Airport, south of London, on Feb. 13, police arrested a Venezuelan man arriving from Colombia who was carrying a live hand grenade.
Five judges in a Hamburg, Germany, court Feb. 19 convicted a Moroccan as an accomplice in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. The judges found that Mounir el-Motassadeq was a member of al-Qaeda and had assisted a Hamburg terrorist cell that included 3 of the Sept. 11 hijackers. He was found guilty of 3,066 counts of being an accessory to murder, and sentenced to 15 years.
Killings Blamed on Colombian Rebels - More than 30 people were killed and many others injured Feb. 7 when a bomb exploded at a social club in Bogota; the attack was blamed on the country's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC was also blamed in killings that occurred after a U.S.-operated plane reportedly involved in anti-drug activities crashed in southern Colombia Feb. 13. It was thought possible that the plane was downed by gunfire; also, a U.S. Defense Dept. contractor and a Colombian army sergeant were found shot to death, and the FARC later reported it had abducted 3 other U.S. contractors. A Colombian Army Black Hawk helicopter searching for guerrillas crashed in the northern Colombian mountains, Feb. 26, killing all 23 soldiers on board.
Israeli-Palestinian Violence Continues - Sporadic killings of Israelis and Palestinians continued. A bombing carried out in Gaza Feb. 15 by the militant group Hamas killed 4 Israeli soldiers inside a tank. An explosion in Gaza City Feb. 16 killed 6 members of Hamas. On Feb. 17, Israeli tanks demolished the Gaza home of a Hamas leader as soldiers killed 2 Palestinians. Israeli incursions in the West Bank and Gaza Feb. 19 left 12 Palestinians dead. By Feb. 23, at least 40 Palestinians had died in the wake of the killing of the 4 soldiers.
U.S. Troops to Fight Philippine Muslim Extremists - The Pentagon announced Feb. 20 that 1,700 American troops would be sent to the Philippines to take on an extremist Muslim group, Abu Sayyaf, operating in the south. About 750 ground troops would participate, supported as needed by about 1,000 Marines on board 2 ships.
Archbishop of Canterbury Installed - In an elaborate ceremony, Feb. 27, Most Rev. Rowan Williams was enthroned in Canterbury cathedral, the mother church of Anglican Christianity, as 104th archbishop of Canterbury.
Snowstorm Smothers Northeastern U.S. - A heavy storm swept through the Northeast Feb. 16 and 17, setting records for snow accumulation in many localities. Flooding, exposure, and collapsed buildings contributed to the deaths of 59 people. The heaviest snowfall, 48.5 inches, was reported in Garrett County, MD. Boston's 27.5 inches was a record. Thousands of airline flights were canceled.
21 Die at Chicago Club After Crowd Panics - A rush to the exits at a Chicago social club Feb. 17 resulted in 21 people being crushed to death. About 50 others were injured. Witnesses said security guards at the 2nd-floor club, E2, had used pepper spray to break up a fight. In the ensuing stampede, the stairwell to the first floor became jammed. Other exits may have been locked or obstructed. Club owners were charged with contempt Feb. 18 for having disobeyed a court order to close the club.
At Least 196 in South Korea Die in Arsonist's Subway Attack - A man reportedly angry at doctors who had treated him for a stroke ignited a fire on a subway train in Taegu, South Korea, Feb. 18, causing the deaths of at least 196 people, with many others injured and some listed as missing. Witnesses said he used a cigarette lighter to ignite a carton containing liquid. The arsonist, who survived, was arrested.
289 Killed in Crash of Iranian Military Plane - All 289 aboard an Iranian military transport plane, a Russian-made Ilyushin, were killed Feb. 19 when it crashed in mountainous terrain in southeastern Iran. The passengers were members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
Fire at Rhode Island Nightclub Kills At Least 98 - A fire at a nightclub in West Warwick, RI, Feb. 21 enveloped and destroyed the building within minutes, taking at least 98 lives and leaving many injured. Some 350 people were packed into the nightclub for a concert by the heavy metal band Great White. A pyrotechnic display had released a shower of white sparks that ignited soundproofing materials near the stage; flames quickly spread to walls and the low suspended ceiling. A band member later claimed the club had granted permission for the display; club owners denied that.
Quake Kills Hundreds in China - An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale flattened thousands of houses and other buildings Feb. 24 in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China. By Feb. 25 the death toll had reached 266, and many survivors were left homeless.
The 75th Academy Award nominees were announced on Feb. 13. The awards show will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday, Mar. 23. Below is a list of nominees in the major categories:
Best Picture: CHICAGO, GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE HOURS, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS & THE PIANIST.
Best Director: Rob Marshall for CHICAGO, Martin Scorsese for GANGS OF NEW YORK, Stephen Daldrey for THE HOURS, Roman Polanski for THE PIANIST & Pedro Almodóvar for TALK TO HER.
Best Leading Actor: Adrein Brody in THE PIANIST, Nicholas Cage in ADAPTATION, Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN, Daniel Day-Lewis in THE PIANIST, & Jack Nicholson in ABOUT SCHMIDT.
Best Leading Actress: Salma Hayek in FRIDA, Nicole Kidman in CHICAGO, Diane Lane in UNFAITHFUL, Julianne Moore in FAR FROM HEAVEN & Renee Zellweger in CHICAGO.
Best Supporting Actor: Chris Cooper in ADAPTATION, Ed Harris in THE HOURS, Paul Newman in FAR FROM HEAVEN, John C. Reilly in CHICAGO & Christopher Walken in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
Best Supporting Actress: Kathy Bates in ABOUT SCHMIDT, Julianne Moore in THE HOURS, Queen Latifah in CHICAGO, Meryl Streep in ADAPTATION & Catherine Zeta-Jones in CHICAGO.
For a complete list of nominees, please visit: http://www.oscar.com/nominees/nomineelist.html
At the 45th Annual Grammy Awards, Feb. 23, held in New York City, Norah Jones, a jazz-pop vocalist, came away with 5 Grammy's, for Record of the Year (single): "Don't Know Why," Album of the Year, Song of the Year (Jesse Harris, songwriter), New artist, and Pop vocal performer, female. For a complete list of winners, visit http://grammy.aol.com/awards/winners2003.html.
On Feb. 2, the West defeated the East, 6-5, in overtime in the NHL All-Star Game in Sunrise, FL. It was the 4th overtime in All-Star history, with the West winning the shootout, 3-1. Atlanta's Dany Heatley was named the MVP. He became the 5th player in the 53-year history of the All-Star Game to score 4 goals, joining such greats as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
The American Football Conference defeated the National Football Conference, 45-20, on Feb. 2, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI. Miami running back Ricky Williams, who rushed for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns, was named MVP.
In the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, GA, on Feb. 9, the West beat the East, 155-145, in double overtime. Minnesota's Kevin Garnett scored 37 points and was named MVP.
Ch. Torums Scarf Michael, a Kerry Blue Terrier, won Best In Show at the 127th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Feb. 11.
Michael Waltrip won a rain-shortened Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, in Daytona, FL. The race ended after 109 of the scheduled 200 laps. It was the 2nd Daytona 500 win for Waltrip, who also won the tragedy-marred 2001 race in which his team owner and fellow driver Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap crash.
OFFBEAT NEWS STORIES
- Kevin Seabrooke
A Sign of Things to Come? It's redundant to say that advertising in the 21st century is ubiquitous. Ads have nearly saturated daily life, appearing on every available surface - including hats, shirts, and shoes - and in every print and electronic medium in existence. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before ads are broadcast directly into people's brains. A British company called Cunning Stunts has taken sort of a step in that direction, by allowing university students to use their heads, but not their brains, to make money. The premise is simple. A vegetable dye is used to apply a brand name logo to the students' foreheads. The "walking billboards" are paid about $138 per week. In return, they must promise not to alter or remove the logo and must spend a minimum of 3 hours "out and about." Sitting in the library doesn't count.
A Sign of a Different Kind: Stealing mail is a serious offense. In a modern twist on The Scarlet Letter, that's the message U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker intended to send when he sentenced Shawn Gementera, 24, to spend 100 hours standing outside a San Francisco post office wearing a sandwich sign reading "I have stolen mail. This is my punishment." According to the U.S. attorney's office, Gementera admitted in his plea agreement that he stole mail from boxes at homes and apartment buildings in Burlingame and San Francisco in May 2001. When arrested, he had 42 pieces of stolen mail and a U.S. Treasury check for $1,525. Gementera will also have to serve 2 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release.
Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief
You're planning a trip to the video store, but how can you find the best movie pick for you? Sure, some periodicals list the top 10 rentals of the week, but just because a video is popular, doesn't quite mean that it is any good. A visit to http://www.metacritic.com might be just the help you are looking for. At Metacritic, reviews from respected critics and publications are gathered together in one location for films, dvd/videos, music and games. A scoring system shows the critical consensus at a glance by taking a weighted average of critic grades. Currently the film "About Schmidt," starring Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates, has a score of 86. Beyond the reviews, a great deal of additional information is supplied about the movie, including casting, theatrical release, rating, length of film, and awards it has been nominated for. (Not that anyone is asking, but Edward Thomas gives this movie thumbs up!)
I finished a bunch of long-term projects this past January, including I'm sad to say, my 2002 Holiday letter at the end of the month. So I've moved on to something new. I am now searching for the kids I was in 6th grade with, for a reunion (last June was a significant anniversary). So far I've been in contact with my 6th grade teacher and five students. I've used the search engine athttp://www.classmates.com/ to find many of my former classmates (I also found a college friend living in Greece). Then at US Search http://www.ussearch.com/ I was able to narrow down people with common names by ages, which helped me search by name and specific locations at http://www.switchboard.com/. I've also used the Internet to search for addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of relations in Europe; I can do this at: http://www.infobel.com/world/, where there are listings for 184 countries in all.
Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight, or keep it lost, knows what a challenge it is. At http://www.foodfit.com/ healthy eating and exercise are discussed in an effort to help keep you fit. The information at this site ranges from the vitamin benefits of certain vegetables, recipes, to what to eat prior to exercising. Speaking of food, do you want a completely fat-free, calorie-free way to enjoy donuts? Visit http://www.krispykreme.com to learn the 66-year history of their donuts. There is a store locator on the site, but that of course is irrelevant.
March 3rd is Read Across America Day, so get out those green eggs and red-striped hats! Educators across America celebrate the birth of Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, who would have turned 99 on March 2nd, by getting them excited about reading. My parents and siblings were always reading when I was a child, and while it took me quite awhile to have interest, and join them, I now am an avid reader. To learn more about the day visit http://www.nea.org/readacross/. I encourage kids and adults alike, to pick up a book on March 3rd, and start reading a book!
Who doesn't want to be a Millionaire? I get a great deal of e-mail daily at my editorinchief e-mail address, and at least three times a day, I'm offered an opportunity to send a person in Nigeria my bank account number, so that they can temporarily transfer up to $30,000,000 into the account, and give me a 20% share of it. Yeah, right, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Someone in Germany has posted 309 of these letters and you can read them online at http://www.nigeria-connection.de/inhalt_a_z.html. Additionally, I found a contest online http://www.rantsinyourpants.com/spam_scam_contest.htm where you forward the letters you receive, and a tally of the money you have been promised is added up. This contest ends on May 31st, and the leading entrant so far has received 114 e-mails totaling promised money of $2.1537 BILLION DOLLARS!
Oddest Site of the Month: The pictures celebrities don't want you to see: http://www.celebrities-eating.com/.
World Almanac E-Newsletter
Newsletter Contributors: Louise Bloomfield, Erik Gopel, Walter Kronenberg, Chris Larson, Bill McGeveran, Kevin Seabrooke and Lori Wiesenfeld
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