The World Almanac E-Newsletter
Volume 4, Number 4 - April 2004
What's in this issue?
April, fourth month of the Gregorian calendar year. It has 30 days. The Romans gave this month the name Aprilis, derived from aperire ("to open"), probably because it is the season when buds begin to open; it was called Eostre (Easter) month by the Anglo-Saxons. Playing tricks on the first day of April is a custom among European peoples. In France the victim of such practical jokes is called an April fish; in Scotland, a gowk or cuckoo; and in English-speaking countries, an April fool.
April 2 - Dolly's Music on Parade (Pigeon Forge, TN)
April 1 - April Fool's Day
FEATURED LOCATION OF THE MONTH: LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
Location: Capital of Nebraska and the seat of Lancaster County, in the SE part of the state; incorporated 1869. In addition to being the seat of the state government, it is a major grain market and a manufacturing, transportation, and educational center.
Population (2002): 225,581
Mayor: Coleen Seng (Non-Partisan)
April Temperatures: Normal high of 63 degrees; normal low of 39 degrees
Colleges & Universities: Lincoln School of Commerce; Nebraska Wesleyan University; Southeast Community College, Lincoln Campus; Union College; University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Events: A Taste of Spring Fundraiser, Children's Museum (April 2); Lincoln's Largest Garage Sale, State Fair Park (April 3); Kaleidoscope of Krafts, Lancaster Event Center (April 3-4); Spring Scavenger Hunt, Children's Museum (April 10); Prairie Fire Hike, Nature Center (April 10-11); Opening Day, Lincoln Folsom Children's Zoo (April 15); Kiwanis 4-H Carnival, Lancaster Event Center (April 17); 3rd Annual Lincoln Plating Spring Cycling Classic (April 17-18); Earth Day Every Day Hike, Nature Center (April 17-18); QHAN Horse Show, Lancaster Event Center (April 17-18); Holocaust Memorial Observance, State Capitol Rotunda (April 18); Downtown Technology Fair, Lied Center (April 22); Cornhusker Corvette Club, Lancaster Event Center (April 24-25); KFOR Spring Craft Show, State Fair Park (April 24-25); Family Bunny Hop, Children's Museum (April 29); Celebrate Lincoln, downtown (April 30-May 1)
Places to visit: Fairview, home of the politician William Jennings Bryan; Folsom Children's Zoo; the governor's mansion; the Lied Center for Performing Arts; the Nebraska State Historical Society museum; the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; the State Capitol, featuring a 400-foot tower surmounted by a bronze statue called "The Sower"
Tallest Building: Nebraska State Capitol (398 feet, 22 stories)
History: The salt basin in which Lincoln is situated was once the home of several Indian groups, including the Pawnee, Omaha, and Otoe. Chosen in 1859 as the county seat, the community was named after Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, until the present name, in honor of Abraham Lincoln, was adopted in 1867, when it became the state capital. Its selection as the seat of the state government came after 13 years of bitter debate between two groups-the North Platters, who wanted Omaha to be the capital, and the South Platters, who favored a site south of the Platte River.
Lincoln's main economic development began in the 1880s, and by 1900 the city was a major rail junction and meat-packing center. One of the city's most colorful political figures, William Jennings Bryan, lived here from 1887 to 1921. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1890 and ran his unsuccessful campaigns for president from Lincoln in 1896 and 1900. Lincoln enjoyed considerable economic growth in the 1920s and again in the 1960s and '70s.
Birthplace of: Vice President Dick Cheney (1941); anthropologist Loren Eiseley (1907); composer Roy Harris (1898); Senator Bob Kerrey (1943); actress Janine Turner (1962); dancer and choreographer Charles Edward Weidman Jr. (1901)
Abbas, Mohammed Abul, 55 or 56, Palestinian guerrilla leader who allegedly masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro; Baghdad, Iraq, Mar. 8, 2004.
Berry, Jan, 62, member of the duo Jan & Dean, who, with his partner Dean Torrence, produced a string of "surf-music" hits in the 1960s; Los Angeles, CA, Mar. 26, 2004.
Cooke, Alistair, 95, British journalist whose "Letter From America" aired on BBC radio for nearly six decades and who hosted "Masterpiece Theater" on U.S. public TV from 1971 to 1992; New York, NY, Mar. 30, 2004.
Dee, Frances, 96, Hollywood leading lady of the 1930s and 1940s whose co-stars included Joel McCrea, her husband from 1933 until his death in 1990; Norwalk, CT, Mar. 4, 2004.
Gray, Spalding, 62, actor noted for his dramatic monologues, perhaps the most famous of which was Swimming to Cambodia, made into a 1987 film; body recovered March 7, 2004 from New York, NY's East River; he had gone missing Jan. 10.
James, Art, 74, long-time host or announcer for a variety of daytime TV game shows; Palm Beach, CA, Mar. 28, 2004.
Juliana, Princess, 94, queen of the Netherlands from 1948 until 1980, when she abdicated in favor of her eldest daughter, Beatrix, and reverted to being a princess; Baarn, the Netherlands, Mar. 20, 2004.
Koenig, Cardinal Franz, 98, arguably the most influential Roman Catholic prelate in Central Europe during his tenure as archbishop of Vienna (1956-85); Vienna, Austria, Mar. 13, 2004.
McCain, Harrison, 76, longtime head of Canada's McCain Foods, one of the world's leading producers of frozen French fries; Boston, MA, Mar. 18, 2004.
McCambridge, Mercedes, 87, Oscar-winning actress (in 1950, for All the King's Men) who provided the memorably creepy voice of the demon-possessed girl in the 1973 film The Exorcist; La Jolla, CA, Mar. 2, 2004.
Pickering, William H., 93, electrical engineer who oversaw the U.S.'s first successful spaceflight-by Explorer I in 1958-as well as its first missions to the moon, Venus and Mars; La Canada Flintridge, CA, March 15, 2004.
Pople, Sir John A., 78, British mathematician turned chemist who won a 1998 Nobel Prize for his development of computational methods in quantum chemistry; Chicago, IL, Mar. 15, 2004.
Schott, Marge, 75, owner, from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s, of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team who repeatedly got into trouble for remarks construed as racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic; Cincinnati, OH, Mar. 2, 2004.
Ustinov, Sir Peter, 82, British actor, director, comedian, raconteur, novelist, playwright and all-around character; Genolier, Switzerland, Mar. 28, 2004.
Winfield, Paul, 62, one of the first Oscar-nominated black actors (in 1973, for Sounder) and a portrayer of such historic figures as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall in TV dramas and miniseries; Los Angeles, CA, Mar. 2, 2004.
by Joseph Gustaitis
A half-century ago -- on April 22, 1954 -- one of the most sensational episodes in the history of the U.S. Congress began. This was the investigation known as the Army-McCarthy hearings, so-called because they pitted the United States Army against one of the most powerful men in the Senate, Wisconsin Republican Joseph R. McCarthy. As chairman of the Permanent Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, McCarthy had been conducting widely publicized investigations into what he saw as grave Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. Now he was the target of his own subcommittee's investigation.
Background to the Hearings
The essential issue before the Senate subcommittee was whether, as Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens had charged, McCarthy, along with his assistant Roy Cohn and others, had "sought by improper means to obtain preferential treatment" for one G. David Schine. Schine was a former McCarthy consultant who had recently been drafted. This was in itself was nothing all that incendiary, but McCarthy countercharged not only that Stevens and other Army figures had "attempted to discredit" McCarthy's committee and make it stop trying "to expose Communist infiltration in the Army," but also that Stevens had tried "to trade off preferential treatment for Private Schine as an inducement...to halt [the] exposition of the mishandling of Communist infiltration in the military." Adding to the drama was the fact that this was the first hearing in the U.S. Congress to be televised. With McCarthy being such a huge national figure, millions tuned in, and what they saw was dramatic television indeed.
Joseph Raymond McCarthy had been born in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, on November 14, 1908. After attending Marquette University, he was admitted to the bar and then quickly entered politics. He was a circuit judge when World War II broke out, and he then joined the Marines and served in the Pacific. He was elected to the Senate in 1946, where he operated in relative obscurity until 1950, when he gained national attention with a speech in which he claimed to possess a list of a large number of "known Communists" who had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. A committee of the Democratic-controlled Senate looked into the charge and found it to be false, but McCarthy only intensified his efforts. He attacked one of the most revered men in the United States, Gen. George C. Marshall, a former secretary of state and architect of the Marshall Plan, and accused the previous administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the president at the time, Harry S. Truman of "twenty years of treason."
McCarthy had widespread support in the early 1950s, largely because of public anxiety over the Cold War, which was then becoming the major issue in U.S. foreign affairs. The United States was fighting a brutal anti-Communist war in Korea, and the populace was understandably fearful of the power of the Soviet Union and its support of worldwide "Communist aggression."
Anti-Communist investigations by Congress had earlier been concentrated in the House Un-American Activities Committee, which had begun operations in 1938. Although this committee was supposed to investigate subversion from both the right (especially Nazi subversion) and the left, after World War II it concentrated on Communist activities. HUAC investigated many organizations, labeling some of them "Communist fronts." It frequently sought to imply that anyone who had belonged or contributed to such a group was guilt by association. HUAC also looked into Communist subversion in Hollywood, which led to the blacklisting of a group of screenwriters known as the "Hollywood Ten."
Many observers came to believe that HUAC members were overreaching, and the committee's influence waned in the early 1950s. McCarthy's Senate subcommittee, however, leapt into the breach. Using unidentified informers, it recklessly ruined careers, criticized government agencies, and even went after officials in the administration of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which came into office in 1953. That eventually cost McCarthy the support of many in his own party. At the height of his power, however, very few people dared to confront McCarthy. As a newspaper columnist put it, "Many people whose lives are rooted in justice and equity hesitate to speak out against McCarthy for fear of being branded as Communists." Some political analysts opined that McCarthy's ultimate goal was the White House itself, where he would be able to promote himself as the "savior of Democracy." (McCarthy denied this to Newsweek in late 1953.) In the eyes of history, however, McCarthy's legacy lives on in the term "McCarthyism," which originally denoted a type of anti-Communism but has become identified with an overreaching condemnation of individuals with scant regard for due process of law, a reliance on unsubstantiated charges, and the use of personal attacks and blacklisting.
The Investigator Scrutinized
It was in late 1953 that McCarthy decided to challenge the U.S. Army. At first he claimed to know of a spy ring in the Army Signal Corps, but little evidence was forthcoming. He then began looking into the affairs of an Army dentist named Irving Peress, who was charged with recruiting military personnel for the Communist Party and who had taken the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States many times. In the course of this inquiry, McCarthy clashed with a general named Ralph W. Zwicker who, McCarthy implied, lacked "the brains of a five-year-old child." The Army, supported by Eisenhower, fought back by accusing McCarthy and Cohn of pressuring the Army to give favorable treatment to Schine, and the hearings soon began.
What the television audience received during the 36 days of nationally televised hearings was a decidedly unfavorable view of McCarthy. One of the contributing factors was McCarthy's bullying use of the parliamentary procedure known as a "point of order." Properly used, it is meant to allow a speaker to point out a rules violation, but McCarthy employed it over and over to disrupt the proceedings and allow himself to interject his point of view. Most unfortunate for McCarthy, however, was the Army's choice of the avuncular Boston lawyer Joseph Welch as its counsel. At one point, McCarthy decided to go after one Fred Fisher, a member of Welch's law firm who was not even involved with the hearings, and tar him with the Communist brush. Welch's counterattack has been remembered ever since. He said, "Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do injury to that lad. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I'm a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me." And Welch concluded with the now-classic line, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
Although McCarthy and his aides were cleared by the investigating committee, his aura of invincibility had dissolved. Too many people had had a firsthand look at his tactics on television. In fact, the backlash against McCarthy could be said to have begun the month before the start of the Army-McCarthy hearings. On March 9, the broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow had aired an episode of his documentary series See It Now on McCarthy. Although it was, as Murrow explained, "told mainly in [McCarthy's] own words and pictures," it painted a cumulative portrait that was pretty unattractive and made clear Murrow's view that its subject had repeatedly crossed "the line between investigating and persecuting."
A poll taken shortly after the hearings concluded, on June 17, found only 25% of respondents on McCarthy's side of the dispute. The Senate was now emboldened to take some action against McCarthy. In August a committee began censure hearings against McCarthy, and in December the full Senate voted, 67-22, to "condemn" the controversial senator for his earlier contempt of a subcommittee looking into his conduct and for his abuse of certain senators and his insults to the Senate itself. Heavy drinking contributed to his ill health, and he contracted hepatitis (which Time magazine reported as cirrhosis of the liver). On May 2, 1957, he died at the age of only 48.
A Long Aftermath
Ironically, long after McCarthy's death, it was learned that not all of what he said was false. In 1995 the National Security Agency began declassifying the results of what was known as the Venona Project, a highly secret collaboration between the U.S. and British intelligence services that had intercepted some 2,900 encrypted Soviet diplomatic and intelligence messages during and immediately after World War II. It took decades for analysts to decode all the material in Venona, but they uncovered the names of some 200 people in the United States who had in one way or another cooperated with Soviet intelligence. Venona even found that some of the people accused by McCarthy actually were spies. Venona, however, was a long way from a vindication of McCarthy. Few historians believe he had access to any of the Venona material.
As recently as 2003, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee released transcripts of secret testimony given during 161 secret sessions of McCarthy's investigation subcommittee. Although most of the close to 500 witnesses were ordinary citizens, a few well-known figures were represented, including the composer Aaron Copland and the writers Langston Hughes and Dashiell Hammett. Experts who examined the transcripts said they did not support McCarthy's claim of a Communist conspiracy. Donald Ritchie, the associate historian of the Senate, said, "Clearly everyone was considered guilty until proven innocent" and added, "By providing broad public access to the transcripts from this era, we hope that the excesses of McCarthyism will serve as a cautionary tale to future generations."
by Sarah Zielinski
Tutankhamen, or King Tut, ruled Egypt for only 10 years but is perhaps the best-known pharaoh due to the discovery of his remarkable, intact tomb by British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922. In addition to the elaborate sarcophagus containing his mummified remains, Tut's tomb contained over 5000 objects that he would need in the afterlife: jewelry, furniture, clothing, weapons, food and wine.
Archaeologists have wondered whether the wine (which has long since evaporated) was red or white but until now they had no way of knowing. The only clues were Egyptian myths that compared the red color of the flooded Nile to wine. Wine jars were often labeled with details about the wine they contained, including the year it was made, the location of the vineyard and the name of the vintner (wine producer), but the wine's color was never mentioned. A group of Spanish food scientists, led by Rosa Maria Lamuela-Raventós of the University of Barcelona, however, have developed the first method for determining if wine preserved in archaeological remains is red or white. They reported their findings in the March 15, 2004 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Tartaric acid, a chemical rarely found naturally in anything other than grapes, has for years served as an indicator that a vessel once held wine. This is how the oldest traces of wine--from a jar dated to 5,400 BC, which was discovered in Iran in 1994--have been identified. Tartaric acid, however, is found in both red and white wines, so it can't be used to determine a wine's color. Appearance cannot be used either, as the wine residue changes color over time.
Red wine, however, contains a molecule called malvidin-3-glucoside, an anthocyanin (a plant pigment) that is responsible for the red color in young wines. Over time, malvadin chemically reacts with other compounds in wine to produce darker, more stable pigments, so it can't be directly detected in very old wine. But, using a chemical called potassium hydroxide, these pigments can be broken down into smaller chemical compounds-one of which is called syringic acid. The presence of syringic acid in a wine residue sample that's been treated with potassium hydroxide is a sure sign that the wine was red.
Since the researchers only had a small sample of wine residue to work with, they had to develop a way to detect trace amounts of syringic acid. So they turned to a method called liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry in tandem mode, an extremely sensitive technique used to identify compounds. "In those ancient residues, sensitivity is very important because sometimes you really have a very small wine residue sample," Lamuela-Raventós told Wine Spectator Online.
The researchers took a sample from a wine jar from King Tut's tomb labeled "Year 5. Wine of the House-of-Tutankhamen Ruler-of-the-Southern-On, l.p.h, [in] the Western River. By the chief vintner Khaa." The jar is housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The new test, which gives a detailed analysis of the chemical composition of a sample, detected both tartaric acid and syringic acid, proving that the jar once contained red wine.
Having achieved success with this new method, the Spanish researchers plan to use it to investigate other archaeological samples.
Celestial Events for April 2004
Mercury is low in the W after sunset during the first part of the month, before lost in the glare of the Sun.
Kerry Assured of Democratic Presidential Nomination - Sen. John Kerry (MA) emerged as the certain winner of the Democratic presidential nomination after he won 9 of the 10 primaries and caucuses held Mar. 2. He prevailed by wide margins in California, New York, and Ohio, and won narrowly in Georgia. Sen. John Edwards (NC) finished 2nd in those states. In all, Kerry had won 27 of 30 primaries and caucuses. Edwards, viewed as the only serious rival remaining, withdrew his candidacy Mar. 3 and said he would work to get Kerry elected.
The debate between Republican and Democratic campaigns intensified. Kerry asserted Mar. 8 that some foreign leaders had told him they wanted Pres. George W. Bush defeated for reelection, and the president's supporters demanded he identify them, which Kerry declined to do. A Bush TV commercial that debuted Mar. 11 claimed Kerry would raise taxes by $900 billion. Another GOP ad launched Mar. 16 deplored Kerry's vote in Oct. 2003 against funding military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; Kerry said his vote was a protest against Bush's failed policies.
Martha Stewart Convicted of Obstructing Justice - Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. and one of the nation's most successful female entrepreneurs, was convicted Mar. 5 of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Peter Bacanovic, her former broker at Merrill Lynch, was convicted of similar charges in a U.S. district court in New York City.
Prosecutors contended that in December 2001 Bacanovic had told his assistant, Douglas Faneuil to tip off Stewart that ImClone founder Samuel Waksal and family members were selling their shares in the company before ImClone announced that its cancer drug Erbitux failed to win federal approval. Stewart allegedly ordered Bacanovic to sell her ImClone stock on that basis and then tried to cover up evidence suggesting this was an instance of selling on inside information. Faneuil and Stewart's assistant Ann Armstrong both testified for the prosecution; Stewart did not testify. She appealed the conviction; sentencing was scheduled for June.
DC Snipers Sentenced - Two men convicted in Oct. 2002 sniper shootings in the Washington, DC, area were sentenced in March. On Mar. 9, John Allen Muhammad was sentenced to death for killing Dean Meyers near Manassas, VA. On Mar. 10, Lee Boyd Malvo, his accomplice, now 19, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing Linda Franklin near Falls Church, VA. Both faced additional charges in connection with deaths of others.
WorldCom ex-CEO Charged, 2nd Ex-Official Pleads Guilty - Prosecutors in New York City Mar. 2 charged Bernard Ebbers, former WorldCom CEO, with securities fraud, conspiracy, and false regulatory filings. The same day, Scott Sullivan, former WorldCom CFO, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Ebbers, Mar. 3, pleaded not guilty to all charges. The company's 2002 bankruptcy was the largest in U.S. history, costing investors $180 billion.
U.S. Officials Testify on Sept. 11 Terror Attacks - The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, conducted public hearings Mar. 23-24, following more lengthy private hearings. Appearing on Mar. 23, Sec. of State Colin Powell and Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld both said that better use of intelligence available at the time still would not have prevented the attacks. Powell said that the Bush administration wanted to move beyond the Clinton administration approach of containing al-Qaeda: "We wanted to destroy al-Qaeda."
The commission issued preliminary reports Mar. 23, noting that from April to July 2001 "alarming threats" came in about a possible al-Qaeda attack. CIA Director George Tenet testified Mar. 24 that a lack of interagency cooperation had blunted a pre-Sept. 11 Bush administration effort to develop a comprehensive plan to thwart al-Qaeda.
Among commission witness attracting attention was Richard Clarke, chief of counterterrorism under Pres. Clinton and George W. Bush, who had left government service in 2003. Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, published Mar. 22, contended that the Bush administration was preoccupied with Iraq, and delayed approval of a program to deal with al-Qaeda prior to the Sept. 11 attacks; he also contended that the invasion of Iraq served to strengthen the radical Islamic movement worldwide. In an opening statement to the commission Mar. 24, he made an apology, stating that "those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter, because we failed."
Top administration officials and some other Republicans sought to impugn Clarke's credibility, arguing that while in the government he had praised Bush's counterterror efforts. Vice Pres. Dick Cheney said Mar. 22 that Clarke "wasn't in the loop" and "may have a grudge to bear"; Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frisk (R, TN) charged that Clarke was just promoting his book. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, in interviews, disputed Clarke's version of events. The White House initially declined to have her testify publicly under oath, citing executive privilege, but under widespread pressure agreed Mar. 30 to allow it as an exception under the circumstances. The White House also agreed that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would appear privately before the whole panel.
New Regime Seeks to End Chaos in Haiti - Following a month of insurrection during which perhaps 100 people died, Haiti came under control of a new interim government. Rebels entered Port-au-Prince, the capital, Mar. 1, a day after Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile. UN peacekeepers from France and Canada also arrived, joining U.S. troops who were guarding the airport and presidential palace. Guy Philippe, the rebel commander, declared Mar. 2 that he was in control of Haiti, but on Mar. 3 he agreed to disarm his troops and leave Port-au-Prince.
Gunmen shot and killed 6 people in the capital Mar. 7, and U.S. marines killed one of them. U.S. troops killed another man Mar. 8 and 2 more gunmen Mar. 9. Boniface Alexandre, the Supreme Court chief justice, was sworn in as interim president Mar. 8, and on the next day Gerard Latortue, an economist, was chosen as premier by a 7-member council. The death toll continued to rise, with revenge killings between factions claiming hundreds of lives.
Iraq Constitution Approved; Bombings Continue - The Iraqi governing council approved a draft constitution on Mar. 1, but the next day 3 explosions in Baghdad and a single explosion in Karbala killed more than 180 people and injured 400. The victims were Shiite Muslim worshipers who had gathered to observe a holy day. The bomb carried by a 4th man failed to detonate in Baghdad, and he was captured. Iraqi police Mar. 3 arrested 15 people in connection with the bombings.
The draft constitution was intended to be in place until elections in late 2004 or early 2005. It provided for civilian control of the military and equal protection for both sexes and all religions. Islam was declared to be "a source" but not the primary source of law. The members of the council signed the constitution Mar. 8 after 5 Shiite members dropped their complaints asserting that veto power was being given the Kurds.
On Mar. 17, a car bomb killed 7 and wounded 35 at the Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad. As of Mar. 19, the first anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, 571 U.S. troops had been killed. A roadside bomb outside Fallujah, Mar. 31 killed 5 U.S. military personnel. In a second attack the same day in the so-called Sunni triangle, a stronghold for remaining supporters of Saddam Hussein, 4 Americans working for a security company were killed when their SUVs were ambushed and attacked with grenades; their corpses were dragged through the streets by a mob and 2 of them were hanged from a bridge.
Bombs in Madrid Kill 191, Soon Before an Election Won by Anti-War Party - Ten bombs exploded almost simultaneously on 4 commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, Mar. 11, killing 191 people and wounding 1,400. Most of the bombs had been placed in backpacks carried by passengers who debarked before they exploded. Police later that day found a van with detonators and an audiotape of Koran verses, and a group allied with al-Qaeda claimed responsibility that day. From 8 to 11 million people demonstrated in Madrid and other cities Mar. 12 against the terrorism. The government of Prem. Jose Maria Aznar, which had supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, initially blamed the Basque terrorist group ETA; critics charged that this view was motivated by fear that if al-Qaeda were responsible the government would be blamed in forthcoming elections for its pro-U.S. policy on the war. By Mar. 31, 23 people had been arrested, as investigation continued, focused on a Moroccan Islamic extremist group.
The Socialist Workers Party scored an upset victory in Spain's parliamentary elections Mar. 14. The results ended 8 years in power for the Popular Party (PP) led by Aznar. The Socialists won 164 of 350 seats in Parliament to 148 for the PP, which had been leading in polls up until Mar. 11 The incoming premier, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, had pledged to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops stationed in Iraq unless conduct of the occupation were to be turned over to the UN. Polls showed that most Spaniards opposed the war. Zapatero Mar. 15 called the war and the postwar occupation "a disaster," and on Mar. 17 he indicated he favored the Sen. John Kerry (MA) for U.S. president.
Putin Easily Reelected in Russia - Pres. Vladimir Putin Mar. 14 won reelection as president of Russia, with 70% of the vote. The result had not been in doubt, and in fact Putin had announced his 2nd-term cabinet before the election. A Communist Party candidate got about 15%. Recent moves by Putin had left him with effectively no political opposition.
Pakistan's Army Pursues "High-Value Target" - On Mar. 16, 7,000 Pakistani military forces began attacking some 500 enemy fighters in a rugged region near the Afghan border. The area was thought to be a bastion of support for the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan and for al-Qaeda. Pres. Pervez Musharraf said Mar. 18 that the defenders, whose nationality was not clear, were fighting ferociously because they were guarding a "high-value target." No such top figure was found, but tunnels were discovered that might have provided an escape route.
Taiwan's President Reelected - Taiwan's Pres. Chen Shui-bian was re-elected Mar. 20, according to official returns, with about 50% of the vote. A referendum on calling for Taiwan to obtain antimissile systems if China did not withdraw missiles aimed at Taiwan failed to attract sufficient support. The opposition Nationalist Party charged fraud in the presidential vote, and some called for a recount, but on Mar. 28, after talks between political parties, such demands were dropped. On Mar. 19, the day before the election, both Chen and Vice Pres. Annette Lu were slightly wounded by gunshots while riding in an open vehicle in a motorcade.
Israelis Kill a Top Terrorist Leader - Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of the militant Palestinian organization Hamas, was killed by an Israeli missile Mar. 22 as he left a mosque in Gaza City; 7 other Palestinians were also killed. Prime Min. Ariel Sharon said Yassin was the foremost terrorist leader responsible for bombings in Israel and the occupied territories; Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza and the West Bank to mourn Yassin and call for revenge. The next day, Hamas named Abdel Aziz Rantisi as a new leader. The U.S. expressed reservations about the killing of Yassin but on Mar. 25 vetoed a UN resolution condemning Israel for the assassination. On Mar. 7, 14 Palestinians were killed when Israeli troops attacked 2 Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza in a search for weapons.
Violence Claims Lives in Uzbekistan - More than 40 people were reportedly killed in a series of bombings and gun battles, Mar. 28-30 in the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan. The attacks, including a suicide bombing in a bazaar, an assault on a police station, and an explosion at a bomb assembly factory, were blamed by the government on terrorists linked to al-Qaeda. Uzbekistan, a heavily Muslim country where militancy has been on the rise, had allied itself with the U.S. in battling terrorism; at the same time, the government has been accused of using repressive measures against dissidents, and U.S. aid policy toward the country was under review.
OPEC Cuts Production - OPEC ministers meeting Mar. 31 in Vienna agreed to implement planned production cuts, ignoring concerns in some countries about crude oil prices, which were near their highest level in 13 years. Cuts totaling 1 million barrels a day were to begin April 1, although observers considered a full implementation unlikely. As high gasoline prices continued to be a campaign issue in the U.S., Pres. Bush expressed disappointment but did not directly criticize the OPEC decision.
Government Warns of Obesity Dangers - Obesity could soon become the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., according to a government report issued Mar. 9. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that in 2000 435,000 Americans died from smoking-related causes while a poor diet and failure to exercise claimed some 400,000 lives. The CDC reported Mar. 5 that from 1971 to 2000 American women increased their caloric intake by 22%, while men increased their consumption by 7%.
"Planetoid" Discovered Circling the Sun - Astronomers announced Mar. 15 that an object with a diameter of 800 to 1,100 miles was circling the sun far beyond the orbit of any known planet. Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology called it a planetoid. The object was smaller than the known planets circling the Sun, and much farther away than the outermost solar planet previously known. The object, officially named 2003 VB12, was first discovered Nov. 14, 2003 at Cal Tech's Palomar Observatory. Brown said it probably consisted of rock and ice. It was now 8 billion miles from Earth, but its elongated orbit takes it to a maximum distance of 84 billion miles. The planetoid makes a complete revolution around the Sun once in 10,500 years.
Mitch Seavey, of Seward, AK, won his 1st Iditarod sled dog race, Mar. 16, in his 11th time racing the event (his best previous finish was 4th in 1998). Seavey finished the 1,100-mile course from Anchorage to Nome, AK, in 9 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes. He collected $69,000 and a new Dodge pickup truck for his win.
In the 1st LPGA major tournament of 2004, Grace Park birdied the 18th hole to hold off 17-year-old Aree Song (who eagled 18) by a stroke on Mar. 28, to take the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, CA. The win was Park's 1st in a major.
Russia's Evgeny Plushenko won his 3rd world title at the World Figure Skating Championships in Dortmund, Germany, on Mar. 25. France's Brian Joubert took the silver and Germany's Stefan Lindemann took the bronze. In the women's competition, completed Mar. 27, Japan's Shizuka Arakawa won the gold medal. Americans Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan finished 2nd and 3rd. It was the first bronze medal at the World Championships for Kwan, who had previously won 5 gold medals and 3 silver medals in her career.
Yes sir, that's my baby! The D'Onofrio family of Brewster, New York, can keep going and going, to the bank, thanks to the curiosity of their 21-month-old son, Billy. In spite of their efforts to keep things out of his reach, Billy got his hands on the TV remote last January, and shook its batteries onto the floor. Not an uncommon occurrence-this remote had replaced one Billy threw away, and had tape on its buttons to deter him from pushing them-but the outcome was certainly unique. When Billy's mother, Lisa, picked up the batteries she noticed one was purple and marked "winner," something she hadn't seen when she put them in. It was one of 12 batteries put into packages as a promotional campaign for Duracell. Expecting a year's supply of batteries, or something similar, imagine the jolt Lisa got when she found out the prize was $100,000. That's one long-lasting battery.
Low-carb TV? As an ever more diet-conscious nation scrutinizes its food intake, a new study suggests there are other things Americans should watch-or not watch. The study, from the University of California at Berkeley, has shown that Americans spend more time driving, watching TV, and working in the office than the rest of the world. This, researchers believe, along with a lack of exercise, is contributing to the nation's epidemic of obesity. Based on a survey of about 7,500 people from 1992 to 1994, the results showed the average person spent 170 minutes a day watching television, and about 101 minutes driving. Most experts recommend about 60 minutes of physical activity a day. The average person spent about nine times the number of minutes watching TV than in exercising. Researchers did note, however, that with Americans spending more time at work, they have less time, and energy, to devote to working out.
Rank Title, Artist (in millions)
*As of Aug. 25, 2003; sales figures represent RIAA multi-platinum certifications, albums ranked by latest sales certification.
Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief
Sometimes, just hearing a tune from the past, can awaken long forgotten memories. At TV Land (a U.S. cable station), http://www.tvland.com/theme_songs/, you can listen to theme songs from your favorite shows of the past, including "The Andy Griffith Show," "Bewitched," and "The Munsters." The site offers loads of other information, including show synopses', trivia, games, and pictures from the recent TV Land Awards (gee it was great seeing the casts of "The Andy Griffith Show," "Gilligan's Island," and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" again).
I bet you think you're hot stuff! Well, there is a non-scientific way to find out. At Hot or Not http://www.hotornot.com/ you can post your photograph and you will be judged on a scale of 1-10, ten being the hottest. If you are interested in rating pictures of other people, visit the site, and see how your vote rates with others. The site claims that 8 billion votes have been counted and 10,700,000 photographs submitted. Isn't it time for you to join the ranks? Inevitably there are the parody sites, so you can visit Monkey Hot or Not http://www.modernhumorist.com/mh/0011/monkey/.
My cousin-in-law (am I the only one who uses this term?) Tom has a birthday in April, so we celebrate Tom's this month. Tom Thumb (Charles Sherwood Stratton), 1838-1883, was a dwarf who achieved great fame under circus pioneer P.T. Barnum. To see photographs of Thumb, and learn more about his life, visit http://www.missioncreep.com/mundie/gallery/little/little1.htm and http://chnm.gmu.edu/lostmuseum/searchlm.php?function=find&exhibit=thumb&browse=thumb. A Tom of a higher stature, Thomas Jefferson, was the writer of the Declaration of Independence, who later became our 3rd president of the United States. His home Monticello was built and rebuilt over a period of 40 years. To learn more about Jefferson and Monticello, visit http://www.monticello.org/. Thomas Edison was one of the most prolific inventors ever. Among his many patents, was the kinetoscope, a motion picture peephole viewer, in which early short films were shown. To learn more about Edison and view some of his early motion pictures, visit http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/edhtml/edhome.html. During the 1960s, Tom Jones, a Welsh singer, rose to fame with his baritone voice, and his infamous tight pants. Forty years later, he's still singing. To learn more about Jones, visit his site at http://www.tomjones.com/. And here's a stretch, how about Tom-Tom, played by Felix Knight in the 1934 classic film Babes in Toyland (aka March of the Wooden Soldiers). To learn more about this film, visit http://www.wayoutwest.org/toyland/cast.html.
Okay, so, I collect a few things-PEZ dispensers, snow globes, presidential and First Lady biographies, cameras, radios, autographs, and unintentionally, dust bunnies. During my search of a good Tom Thumb site, I found a site that peeks into the world of a pair of compulsive collectors, http://brightbytes.com/collection/collect.html. A photograph of Thumb can be found in the "Special People" collection. Other interesting areas include the couples collection of spirit photographs, other early photography processes, memorabilia of 19th century strongman Eugen Sandow, and a Sherlock Holmes collection.
Google is my favorite search engine (and I am not alone in this), so I want to introduce you to some features you many not know about, as well as some take-offs on it. Let's say you have a particular interest in snow globes for instance; you can set up a news alert, and all stories pertaining to this subject will be e-mailed to you, after you set up the alert at http://www.google.com/newsalerts. At http://www.googlism.com/ you can find out what Google thinks of you. They take information about a person, place, or thing, and give a synopsis of information about it. So, Edward Thomas is....raising your adrenalin (I'm not sure how), is widely regarded as a major poet whose posthumous influence on English poetry has been considerable (obviously there is a dead Edward Thomas), is in jail (not true, nor have I ever been), and is a senior linebacker for the Eagles (yeah, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn). Then you can try http://www.googlefight.com where you enter one name or object versus another, and see who wins in the number of Google results. So in a match-up of the 3 little pigs vs. the big bad wolf, the big bad wolf wins, 1,330,000 to 793,000, and a match-up between Edward Thomas and Jim Keenley (one of my co-workers), I win an overwhelming victory (ha), 5,600,000 to 184. Another challenge can be to find a combination of words that yields the fewest hits on Google. Visit http://www.googlewhack.com/, and try the words funicular dingbats.
I've seen it before, and perhaps I've done it too. What's that? Take an object on a trip, and photograph it at famous locations. I have a picture of myself holding a World Almanac cover in front of the Sphinx. Some people take stuffed animals; others take Stew Leonard plastic bags, and then there are the people who travel with their sea monkey's. Did you have them as kids? They are back. To learn all about sea monkey's visit http://www.seamonkeyworship.com/, and perhaps you too can begin a photographic journey.
Unusual Website of the Month: Virtual Food Fight http://www.virtualfoodfight.com/.
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