The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 4, Number 11 - November 2004

 

 

 

What's in this issue?

November Events
Holidays - National and International
This Day in History - October
October Birthdays
Travel: Madison, Wisconsin
Obituaries - October 2004
Special Feature: The Brady Bill, 1989-2004
Chronology - Events of October 2004
Science in the News: Spinal Cord Research: Reeve's Legacy
Offbeat News Stories
From the World Almanac: Understanding the Electoral College
Links of the Month
How to Reach Us

November Events

November 5-7 - Banff Mountain (Alberta) Film Festival
November 5-7 - National Farm Toy Show (Dyersville, IA)
November 6-7 - Lovington (NM) Fall Arts and Crafts Festival
November 7 - New York City Marathon
November 9 - 15th anniversary, opening of the Berlin Wall
November 12-14 - Four Corner States Blue Grass Festival (Wickenburg, AZ)
November 13 - Lord Mayor's Show (parade in London)
November 14-20 - American Education Week
November 15 - America Recycles Day
November 15-21 - Children's Book Week
November 18 - Great American Smokeout
November 19 - Lincoln's Gettysburg Address anniversary
November 18-28 - Quad City Arts Festival of Trees (Davenport, IA)
November 21 - Mother Goose Parade (El Cajon, CA)
November 21-27 - National Adoption Week
November 26-27 - Dickens Village Festival (Garrison, ND)
November 27-December 5 - Guadalajara (Mexico) International Book Fair

November Holidays

November 1 - All Saints' Day
November 2 - Election Day (U.S.); All Souls' Day; Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead; Mexico)
November 5 - Guy Fawkes Day (UK)
November 6 - Sadie Hawkins Day
November 11 - Veterans Day (U.S.); Remembrance Day (Canada)
November 13 - Eid al-Fitr
November 15 - Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three; Japan)
November 20 - UN Universal Children's Day
November 25 - Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)
November 28 - First Sunday in Advent

IT'S A FACT!

The average January temperature in Montreal, Canada, is under 22 degrees F.

This Day in History - November

Day

Year

Event

1

1950

Two Puerto Rican nationalists fail in their attempted assassination of Pres. Harry Truman.

2

1947

Howard Hughes flies his wooden Spruce Goose for the only time.

3

1992

Bill Clinton is elected president over George Bush and Ross Perot.

4

1825

The first boat to leave Buffalo through the Erie Canal reaches New York City.

5

1968

Richard Nixon is elected president over Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace.

6

1869

The first modern football game is played, with Rutgers defeating Princeton, 6-4.

7

1917

Bolshevik forces under Vladimir Lenin take power in Russia.

8

1895

Physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovers X rays.

9

1976

Chinese leader Mao Zedong dies in Beijing.

10

1969

Sesame Street premieres on TV.

11

2000

155 skiers are killed in the Austrian Alps when a cable car catches fire inside Kitzsteinhorn mountain.

12

1918

After Charles I, the emperor of Austria-Hungary, abdicates, Austria and Hungary are proclaimed republics.

13

1814

In the War of 1812, the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry, Baltimore, begins; the failure of the British fleet to take the fort inspires Francis Scott Key to write the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner."

14

1972

The Dow Jones industrial average closes above 1,000 for the first time.

15

1969

Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations reach a peak with 250,000 protestors marching on Washington, DC.

16

1933

The United States and the Soviet Union begin diplomatic relations.

17

1734

Colonial journalist and printer John Peter Zenger is arrested for libel in New York.

18

1978

In a Jonestown, Guyana, settlement, 911 cult followers of the Reverend Jim Jones drink poison in a mass suicide/murder.

19

1620

The Pilgrims reach Cape Cod, MA.

20

1945

The Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals begin in Germany.

21

1964

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, at the time the world's longest suspension bridge, opens in New York.

22

1988

After years of secrecy, the Air Force displays the B-2 Stealth bomber.

23

1919

The first play-by-play of a football game is broadcast on the radio.

24

1976

Some 5,000 people die when an earthquake strikes along the Iran-Soviet border.

25

1957

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower suffers a mild stroke.

26

1943

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chiang Kai-shek, and Winston Churchill conclude a meeting in Cairo to plan their wartime strategy against Japan.

27

1989

Millions of antigovernment protesters go on strike in Czechoslovakia, demanding free elections.

28

1964

The unmanned Mariner 4 mission to Mars is launched from Cape Kennedy.

29

1929

Richard E. Byrd and Brent Balchen pilot the first flight over the South Pole.

30

1939

The Soviet Union invades Finland.

November Birthdays

Day

Year

 

1

1960

Fernando Valenzuela, baseball pitcher (Navojoa, Mexico)

2

1936

1920 Ann Rutherford, actress (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

3

1918

Bob Feller, baseball pitcher (Van Meter, IA)

4

1916

Walter Cronkite, TV journalist (St. Joseph, MO)

5

1963

Tatum O'Neal, actress (Los Angeles, CA)

6

1948

Glenn Frey, singer/songwriter (Detroit, MI)

7

1926

Joan Sutherland, opera singer (Sydney, Australia)

8

1916

June Havoc, actress (Seattle, WA)

9

1969

Sean "Puffy" Combs (Puff Daddy), rapper/producer/songwriter (New York, NY)

10

1944

Tim Rice, lyricist (Amersham, England)

11

1964

Calista Flockhart, actress (Freeport, IL)

12

1984

Scarlet Johansson, actress (New York, NY)

13

1934

Garry Marshall, producer/director (New York, NY)

14

1948

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne (London, England)

15

1932

Petula Clark, singer (Surrey, England)Maria Muldaur, singer (New York, NY)

16

1964

Dwight Gooden, baseball pitcher (Tampa, FL)

17

1948

Howard Dean, presidential contender, former Vermont governor (East Hampton, NY)

18

1974

Chloë Sevigny, actress (Springfield, MA)

19

1962

Jodie Foster, actress (New York, NY)

20

1923

Nadine Gordimer, writer (Springs, South Africa)

21

1920

Stan Musial, baseball player (Donora, PA

22

1943

Billie Jean King, champion tennis player (Long Beach, CA)

23

1954

Bruce Hornsby, singer/musician (Williamsburg, VA)

24

1938

Oscar Robertson, basketball player (Charlotte, TN)

25

1920

Ricardo Montalban, actor (Mexico City, Mexico)

26

1939

Tina Turner, singer (Brownsville, TN)

27

1957

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, author and daughter of President Kennedy (Boston, MA)

28

1908

Claude Lévi-Strauss, social anthropologist (Brussels, Belgium)

29

1964

Kim Delaney, actress (Philadelphia, PA)

30

1929

Dick Clark, TV personality and producer (Mount Vernon, NY)

Travel: Madison, Wisconsin

A midsize city with a population of more than 200,000, Madison has an appeal well beyond its importance as Wisconsin's capital and as a regional commercial and agricultural center. It enjoys a perennially high rank on best-places-to-live lists, and makes a wonderful destination for visitors. The city has a picturesque, lake-studded setting and offers lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The chief campus of the University of Wisconsin is located in Madison, and there is a lively cultural scene - enhanced in September 2004 with the opening of a massive new arts complex designed by celebrated Italian architect Cesar Pelli.

Laurels

Among recent accolades, Men's Journal in June 2004 named Madison one of the nation's best places to live ("the sexiest, healthiest, most fun towns in America"), rating it second only to Boulder, Colo., as the top small city in the U.S. A May assessment by Forbes magazine gave Madison the No. 1 spot among the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., based on such factors as residents' education level, employment and crime rates, housing costs, and income and job growth. Prevention magazine, in conjunction with the American Podiatric Medical Association, evaluated more than 100 U.S. cities from the standpoint of their attractiveness for walkers. The findings, published in April, found Wisconsin's capital among the 12 best: "There are few cities in the country that combine manageable physical size with pedestrian friendliness as well as Madison does. Serious and recreational walkers alike should put it on their must-visit list."

City of four lakes

Part of Madison's appeal is that it boasts more than 200 parks and has four lakes. Over 18,000 acres (7280 ha) of lake surface lie inside, or just beyond, its city limits. Of the four lakes - Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Wingra - Mendota, some 8 mi (13 km) long, is the biggest. The downtown section lies on an isthmus about eight blocks wide that runs between Lakes Mendota and Monona. To the west, the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison sprawls along the Lake Mendota shore. Picnic Point, jutting into the lake, affords a splendid view of the city.

Capitol and Wright

The State Capitol, a white granite structure dating from 1917, lies on a hill in the middle of the isthmus. Its immense dome, topped by an allegorical bronze statue by Daniel Chester French representing "Wisconsin," is said to be the largest in the U.S. The building's total height, 284.4 ft (86.69 m), falls only about a yard short of that of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Guided tours are available of the State Capitol, which on Saturdays is surrounded by a well-stocked farmer's market.

While the State Capitol is Madison's centerpiece, it is not the city's only architectural claim to fame. Wisconsin was the birthplace and sometime stomping ground of Frank Lloyd Wright. Among Madison's more notable examples of his styles are the Unitarian Meeting House and the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Wright gave the meetinghouse a remarkable curved ceiling and incorporated a rising triangle theme in his design to represent unity and prayer. The five-level community and convention center, located on the isthmus, on the shore of Lake Monona, was completed in 1997, almost six decades after Wright proposed it. Its rooftop garden offers an agreeable vantage point for viewing Madison. Many visitors will want to try out the 7.5-mi (12-km) bike and pedestrian path stretching around the building and along the lake.

Cultural attractions

The University of Wisconsin campus draws thousands of students to the city, along with a diverse population that includes plenty of hippies and academics. Street performers can be found in the area between the Capitol and the campus, notably along the pedestrian strip known as State Street, which is chockablock with shops, crafts studios, pubs, and restaurants. Among other tourist attractions: the Elvehjem Museum of Art, whose wide-ranging holdings contain more than 15,000 works of art, and the arboretum, which covers some 1260 acres (510 ha) along Lake Wingra and is renowned for its lilac collection. Garden aficionados will also want to visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, located on Lake Monona. Olbrich in April 2004 was named by Horticulture magazine as one of "ten gardens that inspire us."

Performing arts organizations in the city include the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, and the Madison Ballet, as well as several theater companies. Many of these groups are or will be based in the immense, privately funded Overture Center for the Arts designed by Pelli. Its grand opening was celebrated with a weeklong festival in mid-September 2004, although certain parts were not yet completed. The Overture Center covers an entire block on State Street. The project involved the revamping of previously existing facilities as well as the addition of new ones. For historical reasons, a couple of the old facades were preserved, but Pelli's design constitutes a remarkable new creation that yokes cube, dome, and triangle motifs with a striking interior featuring a spacious, soaring glass-walled lobby. Performance venues at the center include the 2253-seat acoustically elegant Overture Hall, whose inaugural Madison Symphony Orchestra concert, on September 19, featured pianist Andre Watts; the smaller, medium-sized Capitol Theatre; three "black-box" multipurpose spaces; and the 350-seat Playhouse. The center also provides Madison with increased space for exhibiting artworks. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will occupy a major portion of the sections still to be completed (slated for 2006).

Other websites:
Cesar Pelli & Associates, http://www.cesar-pelli.com
City of Madison, http://www.ci.madison.wi.us/recTourism.html
Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau, http://www.visitmadison.com
Overture Center for the Arts, http://www.overturecenter.com
Virtual Madison, http://www.net-cities.com/virtual/madison

IT'S A FACT!

At 3.5 million square miles, Africa's Sahara Desert is by far the world's largest; the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China is second, with about 500,000 square miles.

Obituaries in October

Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, 102, aunt by marriage, of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and the longest-lived British royal to date; London, England, Oct. 29, 2004.

Avedon, Richard, 81, seminal fashion and portrait photographer who since 1992 had been the New Yorker magazine's first staff photographer; San Antonio, TX, Oct. 1, 2004.

Cooper, Gordon, 77, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and the last U.S. astronaut to fly solo in space; Ventura, CA, Oct. 4, 2004.

Dangerfield, Rodney, 82, self-deprecating stand-up comedian whose signature line since the early 1970s had been "I don't get no respect"; Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 5, 2004.

Derrida, Jacques, 74, French philosopher who was the principal exponent of the deconstructionist method of textual analysis; Paris, France, Oct. 9, 2004.

Hecht, Anthony, 81, much-honored formalist poet whose experiences of World War II and the Holocaust were crucial to his work; Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 2004.

Hickey, Cardinal James A., 84, Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 1980 to 2000 and a cardinal since 1988; Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2004.

Leigh, Janet, 77, actress whose best-known role was as an adulteress stabbed to death screaming in a motel shower in Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho (1960); Beverly Hills, CA, Oct. 3, 2004.

Meader, Vaughn, 68, comedian whose impersonations of U.S. President John F. Kennedy made him a celebrity but whose career tanked after Kennedy's 1963 assassination; Auburn, ME, Oct. 29, 2004

Merrill, Robert, 87, leading baritone at New York City's Metropolitan Opera from 1945 to 1975; New York, N.Y., Oct. 23, 2004.

Nitze, Paul H., 97, diplomat who served under eight U.S. presidents and was a key figure in arms negotiations with the Soviet Union; Washington, D.C., Oct. 19, 2004.

Reeve, Christopher, 52, actor who starred in four "Superman" movies between 1978 and 1987 and became a crusader for medical research, including embryonic stem-cell research, after becoming paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 fall from a horse; Mt. Kisco, NY, Oct. 10, 2004.

Salinger, Pierre, 79, White House press secretary under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and later a foreign correspondent for ABC News; Cavaillon, France, Oct. 16, 2004.

Wilkins, Maurice, 87, British biophysicist who helped James Watson and Francis Crick unravel the structure of DNA, and shared with them the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine; London, England, Oct. 5, 2004.

SPECIAL FEATURE: The Brady Bill, 1989-2004

by Joseph Gustaitis

Fifteen years ago, on November 21, 1989, James Brady, former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, appeared before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, pleading with them to approve a bill that would require a seven-day waiting period on the purchase of handguns. The message was especially emotional coming from Brady, for he addressed the senators sitting in a wheelchair. Eight years earlier he had been shot and partially paralyzed in a handgun attack on Reagan by a would-be assassin named John Hinckley. Now Brady, who had once been part of a conservative administration not known for favoring gun control, was telling Congress that it was imperative to act on the matter. "Too many members of Congress have been gutless on this issue," Brady said. "Those who oppose a simple seven-day waiting period should try being in my wheels just for one day."

The U.S. debate over gun control largely turns on the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads, in its entirety, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Gun-control advocates stress the first part of the amendment, arguing that the founders saw gun ownership in a specific and restricted way -- that is, the amendment was designed to restrict the power of the federal government by giving states, not individual citizens, the power to establish militias. Those opposing gun control, however, stress the second part -- owning arms is a right not to be flouted.

The debate has become an emotional and passionate one. On the one hand, there's the image of Charlton Heston, former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), intoning, "I have only five words for you: from my cold, dead hands." On the other, there are the widely publicized photos of weeping parents after the tragedy in Columbine, Colorado, in April 1999. Two teenagers stormed their Colorado high school and, using guns and bombs, killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others before killing themselves. This episode did much to galvanize anti-gun sentiment, which was reflected in the Oscar-winning 2002 film Bowling for Columbine by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

A Longstanding Controversy

Gun control has been a national issue in the United States for more than 150 years. As long ago as 1837, Georgia passed a law outlawing handguns; the law was later overturned as unconstitutional. In 1876 the Supreme Court ruled, in U.S. v. Cruikshank, that the Second Amendment restricts the U.S. Congress, but not state legislatures, from regulating firearms. In 1934 the National Firearms Act, better known as the machine gun act, went into effect. The legislation put a stiff excise tax on fully automatic weapons, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, which made these weapons much harder to get. Four years later the Federal Firearms Act required gun dealers to get federal licenses and to keep track of out-of-state sales. In 1939 the Supreme Court upheld the National Firearms Act, ruling that taking a shotgun across state lines did not have "a reasonable relationship to the preservation and efficiency of a well-regulated militia." In 1968, Congress passed the Federal Gun Control Act, which required more record-keeping by gun dealers, prohibited the sale of guns to minors, and banned most interstate sales of firearms through the mail.

The trend toward strengthening gun-control measures was reversed somewhat when Congress passed the Firearms Owners Protection Act, which became law in 1986. The legislation, considered a major victory for the NRA, weakened the Federal Gun Control Act by reducing the number of government inspections of dealers, eliminating some record-keeping requirements and relaxing laws regarding the interstate sale of firearms and ammunition. The act inspired James Brady's wife, Sarah, to join a group called Handgun Control, which had been founded in 1974 to "keep handguns out of the wrong hands." James Brady later joined his wife in her efforts, and together they began a fierce battle to get Congress to pass a law mandating a handgun waiting period.

Steps Toward Passage - And Back

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, as it became known, was first introduced to Congress in 1987. Given the pitch of emotion on both sides, the debate was long and loud. The bill failed to pass when Reagan, a lifetime member of the NRA, was president. He had neither supported nor opposed the bill, but his deputy press secretary at the time, Marlin Fitzwater, had commented that Reagan felt that a waiting period "should be a state law, as opposed to a federal law." The legislation was also opposed by Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush, who came into office in 1989.

Reagan then had a change of heart. In March 1991, in a speech commemorating the 10th anniversary of the assassination attempt in which Brady was wounded, he gave his backing to the legislation, saying, "With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases. . . . It's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law-enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to purchase handguns." He then went on, "I am going to say it in clear, unmistakable language: I support the Brady bill, and I urge the Congress to enact it without further delay." A week later the Bush administration hinted that it might drop its opposition to the Brady bill if Congress would support Bush's anticrime proposals. The Washington Post quoted an unidentified senior White House official who commented, "As a result of the Reagan endorsement, there is a strong inclination to accept a version of Brady in exchange for our crime bill."

Only two months later, on May 28, the House passed the Brady bill by the unexpectedly wide margin of 239-186, with 179 Democrats and 60 Republicans supporting it. In July the Senate, by a 71-26 vote, passed an anticrime bill that included a provision for a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases. A bill was then crafted by both houses of Congress, but the $3 billion anticrime measure died in November when a conference committee's version failed to get past the Senate. A similar bill failed the following year, when Senate Democrats failed to get enough votes to stop a Republican filibuster. The Brady bill was still not law.

By 1993, however, a new president, Bill Clinton, was in office. In one of his first speeches as president, he slammed the NRA, saying it was wrong to "oppose every attempt to bring some safety and some rationality into the way we handle some of the serious criminal problems we have." In August, Clinton announced an anticrime legislative package of which many provisions, including the Brady bill, had been contained in the failed bill of 1992. The Brady bill was now considered as a stand-alone bill. It now imposed a five-day waiting period rather than the original seven-day period, and it cleared Congress on November 24, 1993, when Senate Republicans accepted a Senate-House conference committee version. Clinton signed the bill six days later. At the signing ceremony James Brady gave a speech in which he said that the legislation would bring about "the end of unchecked madness and the commencement of a heartfelt crusade for a safer and saner country."

Did the Brady bill work as intended? Did the country become "safer and saner," as Brady hoped? There's no doubt that rates of crime and homicide dropped strikingly in the 1990s, but a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on August 1, 2000, reported that the Brady bill had not significantly contributed to the overall decline in homicide and suicide rates. The study looked at state homicide and suicide statistics and found, as the authors put it, "no evidence that the implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates." However, Clinton administration officials, gun-control advocates and other analysts quickly challenged those findings. For example, James Johnson, the undersecretary of the Treasury for enforcement, pointed out that Justice Department figures showed that handgun crimes had fallen by 52% between 1993 and 1998, a figure that was twice the overall crime drop. A 2003 review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of 51 previously published nongovernmental studies on the impact of various types of gun-control laws found that there was insufficient evidence to determine the laws' effectiveness and that more research was required.

Further Gun-Control Efforts

In addition to the handgun issue, which was the subject of the Brady bill, legislators have been facing the topic of so-called assault rifles. In September 2004, gun-control advocates suffered a major disappointment when a 10-year national ban on certain types of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines expired. Gun-violence victims' groups, law enforcement organizations and many Democratic lawmakers had supported the ban, but most congressional Republicans, along with the NRA, opposed it. Ever since his 2000 election campaign, President George W. Bush had supported extending the ban, but he had apparently taken no action to push the extension through Congress. The law had banned the manufacture and sale of 19 specific semiautomatic weapons, such as the AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, Uzi submachine guns and TEC-DC9 pistols. Also banned had been ammunition clips that held more than 10 rounds and weapons that had two or more military-style features, including a so-called pistol grip for increased firing control, a flash suppressor to reduce visible muzzle-flash, a mount to allow a bayonet to be attached, rifling to permit the attachment of a silencer and a collapsible stock to reduce a rifle's size. Public opinion polls had repeatedly shown that most voters, including most gun owners, supported extending the ban.

Bush had delivered his first major policy address on gun violence in May 2001. At that time he said his administration would focus on enforcing existing gun-control laws rather than adding new ones, a strategy often championed by the NRA. His plan called for spending $234 million on firearms initiatives in 2001. That included funds to hire 113 new assistant U.S. attorneys and 600 new state and local prosecutors to handle gun-crime cases. The plan also committed $75 million in matching grants for state child-safety or trigger-lock initiatives and $44 million to improve state criminal record-keeping. A month later, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced plans to reduce the amount of time the government would retain records on instant background checks of gun buyers. Under his proposal, law enforcement agencies could discard such records after one business day -- down from a maximum of 90 days. The NRA hailed the plan; gun-control advocates condemned it. An amendment to keep the 90-day period for retention of background check records on gun buyers was defeated by a wide margin.

In the meantime, gun-control advocates have adopted a new strategy aimed at suing gun manufacturers and distributors. They have argued that guns lack appropriate safety mechanisms, that the industry has not taken steps to prevent guns from flowing into the illegal market, and that manufacturers have produced cheap weapons that have no legitimate purpose and that often end up in the possession of children and criminals. To counter this new line of attack, gun-rights advocates have sought to pass legislation shielding the gun industry from such lawsuits. In March 2004, however, the Senate voted, 90-8, to quash legislation giving the gun industry immunity from certain lawsuits. Democrats and some Republicans had attached two gun-control amendments that were unacceptable to most Republican supporters of the original bill. The first amendment would have renewed the 10-year ban on assault weapons that lapsed later in the year and the second would have required criminal background checks for all buyers at gun shows. Bush had expressed support for the measures but had urged senators to pass the bill unchanged so it would match a House bill passed a year before.

Gun control became an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign, if not a major one. The ban on assault weapons expired at the height of the campaign, and Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry (D, Massachusetts) roundly criticized President Bush for allowing it to lapse. He also opposed granting gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits, whereas Bush favored such immunity. Their disagreements plainly showed that, though evidence of the effectiveness of gun-control laws may still be elusive, the arguments still go on.

IT'S A FACT!

Comm. Matthew Perry's arrival in Tokyo with warships 150 years ago, in 1854, opened Japan for commerce with the outside world.

CHRONOLOGY - Events of October 2004

National

More Debates Enliven Close Election Contest - Debates between candidates for national office continued to hold the public's attention, and the presidential race appeared close, according to polls. Surveys taken in the days after the Sept. 30 presidential debate showed that Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, had outperformed Pres. George W. Bush.

The vice-presidential candidates debated Oct. 5 in Cleveland. Vice Pres. Richard Cheney strongly defended the U.S. invasion of Iraq, while criticizing his opponent's attendance record in the Senate and his winning of huge settlements for clients as a trial attorney. Sen. John Edwards (D, NC) questioned Cheney's relationship with the Halliburton Corp., which Cheney once headed, while also citing the company's huge no-bid contract to provide services in Iraq.

The Iraq controversy deepened Oct. 6, when Charles Duelfer, the top American arms inspector in Iraq, said in a 1,000-page report that the Saddam Hussein regime had destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles soon after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He said, however, that Hussein had sought to preserve the capacity to reconstitute weapons of mass destruction after sanctions were lifted.

The 2nd presidential debate, in St. Louis Oct. 8, was a town hall format where undecided voters questioned the candidates, who were free to move about the stage. Bush and Kerry clashed on a number of domestic and international issues. Bush claimed that Kerry was not credible as an advocate of fiscal conservatism and that his spending proposals would cost $2.2 trillion. Kerry rejected this figure, and charged that Bush had squandered budget surpluses that he had inherited in order to give a huge tax cut to the wealthy. When Kerry said that Bush had gone to war without the support of many U.S. allies, an angry Bush responded, referring to the British prime minister, "You tell Tony Blair we're going alone."

Pres. Bush and Sen. Kerry faced off in their final debate Oct. 13 in Tempe, AZ. Bush continued to paint his rival as a tax-and-spend liberal, while Kerry repeated an earlier statement that Bush squandered a $5.6 trillion surplus. The two men spent the night returning to topics they had presented in previous debates and stump speeches, including abortion, gay marriage, and the role of religion in their lives.

Job Recovery Continues to Lag - The 2nd Bush-Kerry debate came hours after a report Oct. 8 that employment grew by only 96,000 jobs in September. Although an economic recovery was continuing, Bush would be the first president since Herbert Hoover in 1932 to run for re-election with fewer Americans employed than when he started. Another economic issue was the price of oil, which hit new highs almost daily in early October, moving to around $54 a barrel. The federal deficit hit the $413 billion mark in 2004, the largest budget deficit in U.S. history, though it was smaller than had been anticipated. According to Treasury estimates issued Oct. 14, in total dollars, the government collected $1.88 trillion in revenue, and spent about $2.29 trillion.

Presidential Candidates Hurl Charges in Last Weeks of Campaign - The major-party presidential candidates campaigned aggressively during the last weeks of the campaign, concentrating their efforts in a dozen so-called battleground states, where polls showed the contest was very close. Both parties rushed lawyers to these states and lawsuits began to proliferate. By a week before the election, early voting was underway in a number of states.

The apparent disappearance from an installation in Iraq of 380 tons of explosives triggered a heated debate in the week prior to the election. The New York Times reported the disappearance Oct. 25. Kerry charged that this reflected the Bush administration's failure to secure sensitive sites after winning the war in the spring of 2003. Exactly when the arms were removed from the facility, and whether this was before or after U.S. troops had entered the area, remained unclear. Bush denounced Kerry for having jumped to a conclusion without evidence.

Bush said Oct. 24 that he disagreed with the Republican platform's opposition to same-sex civil unions.

Former Pres. Bill Clinton, who was still recovering from heart surgery, joined Kerry for a huge rally in Philadelphia Oct. 27, where he spoke briefly.

The Associated Press reported Oct. 28 that, as of the previous weekend, 11% of voters across the nation had already voted.

2001 Air Crash Blamed on Pilot Error ad Rudder Design - An airplane crash in the New York City borough of Queens in Nov. 2001 was attributed Oct. 26 to pilot error and poor design of the rudder. The American Airlines Airbus A300, bound for the Dominican Republic, encountered turbulence just after takeoff from Kennedy Int'l.. Airport. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which conducted the investigation, the first officer pushed the rudder too far one way and then too far the other way, causing the crash, in which 265 people were killed. Inadequate pilot training in the use of a poorly designed rudder was cited as a factor.

International

Sporadic Bombings Continue in Pakistan; Hostage Freed - An explosion in a Shiite mosque in Sialkot, Pakistan, Oct. 1, killed at least 23 people. The attack was thought to be in retaliation for the announced killing, Sept. 27, of Amjad Hussain Farooqi, described as a top figure in the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. A car bomb in Multan Oct. 7 killed 40. On Oct. 14, Pakistani commandos stormed an Islamic militant hideout, rescuing 1 Chinese hostage and killing 5 kidnappers. Another Chinese hostage died in the rescue.

Bombs Across Israeli Border in Egypt Kill 33 - On Oct. 7, 3 bombs exploded at tourist resorts in Taba, Egypt, on the Gulf of Aqaba, just across the international boundary with Israel. At least 33 were killed and about 150 injured. Most of the victims were Israelis. One section of the Taba Hilton Hotel was reduced to rubble. Two other bombs exploded in bungalow communities along Egypt's Sinai coast.

On Oct. 1, at least 100 Israeli tanks joined by hundreds of soldiers, rolled into the Jabaliva refugee camp in Gaza City, and 2 Israeli missile strikes there killed 8 Palestinians and wounded 17. Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the next 2 weeks. On Oct. 15, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced a pullback, saying it wanted to ease the burden on innocent Palestinian civilians as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began.

Supporters of Rebel Cleric Turn In Their Arms to Iraqi Police - In an agreement announced Oct. 9, fighters supporting rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr agreed to turn in their heavy weapons to Iraqi police. In return, Americans would end their attacks on Sadr City, the Baghdad slum that provided much of the cleric's support. The militiamen began surrendering weapons Oct. 11.

On Oct. 1, U.S. and Iraqi forces pushed into the center of insurgent-controlled Samarra. More than 5,000 troops, including 3,000 Americans, joined in the operation. About 100 guerrillas were reported killed. The Americans and Iraqis Oct. 3 completed their conquest of insurgent-occupied neighborhoods. On Oct. 12, U.S. troops and airplanes attacked Sunni insurgents in several locations, in a push timed to conclude before the beginning of the Ramadan holy month. A number of mosques thought to harbor terrorists were raided. Insurgent attacks Oct. 12 and 13 killed 6 U.S. soldiers.

Three suicide bombs exploded Oct. 4, 2 in Baghdad and one in Mosul, killing 26 and wounding more than 100. A video delivered to Abu Dhabi TV Oct. 8 depicted the beheading of British hostage Kenneth Bigley. He had been kidnapped in September along with 2 Americans who had also been beheaded.

Insurgents made their way into the American-controlled, high-security Green Zone in Baghdad killing 5 and wounding 20 with a pair of bomb blasts Oct. 14. It was the first attack of its kind in the fortified zone. Witnesses said that the pair of insurgents carried backpacks that possibly contained the explosives and spent time at a café before detonating their bombs. The event led to a security review of the compound by U.S. forces. Marines launched a series of air and ground attacks Oct. 14 on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah after peace talks between city representatives and government officials were suspended.

Afghanistan Holds Presidential Election - Afghanistan, 3 years after liberation from the rule of extreme Islamic fundamentalists, held its first-ever presidential election Oct. 9. Anticipated attacks by insurgents to disrupt the voting failed to materialize, and large numbers of Afghans lined up to vote. Afghan and international observers largely discounted charges of election fraud. By Oct. 24 the vote count showed that Pres. Hamid Karzai had won 55% of all votes cast. He would hold office for 5 years. Not all of his opponents conceded defeat, but in the tabulation none received more than 12%.

Australian Voters Reelect Prime Minister Howard - John Howard, the Australian prime minister who supported the war in Iraq and sent troops to join the U.S.-led coalition, was easily reelected Oct. 9. His center-right Liberal Party ran well ahead of the Labor Party led by Mark Latham. Observers said that the booming economy was the principal reason for Howard's victory.

"Enemy Combatant" Returns to Saudi Family - Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan, labeled an enemy combatant, and held in solitary confinement for nearly 3 years without being charged was returned to his family in Saudi Arabia Oct. 11 after agreeing to give up his U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Abusing Iraqis - At his court-martial trial, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II pleaded guilty in Baghdad Oct. 20 to mistreating Iraqi captives in Al-Ghraib prison. He agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating abuses; he was the third soldier convicted so far. Frederick said he was following the lead of U.S. military intelligence officers, but admitted he knew that what he was doing was wrong. In one photographed incident, he attached wires to a prisoner and made him think he would be electrocuted if he fell from a box. Frederick Oct. 21 was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Iraqi Insurgents Continue Attacks and Atrocities - Forty-nine unarmed Iraqi National Guard trainees were taken from buses on a remote road near Iran Oct. 23, and executed; 3 drivers were also killed. Their captors were disguised as policemen. On Oct. 24, Edward Seitz, a U.S. State Dept. security officer, was killed in a rocket attack near the Baghdad airport. Insurgents also executed 11 captured Iraqi soldiers Oct. 28.

Insurgents bombed 5 Christian churches in Baghdad Oct. 16. Peace talks between the Iraqi government and insurgents in Falluja broke down Oct. 18. On Oct. 27, nearly 800 British troops left their base in southern Iraq for redeployment further north in order to free U.S. troops for planned assaults against insurgent strongholds.

Insurgents fired a rocket into a Tikrit hotel, Oct. 31, killing 15 Iraqis. The day before, 8 U.S. Marines were killed near Fallujah, as U.S. and Iraqi troops prepared for a possible assault on insurgent strongholds in the city.

Arafat's Failing Health Adds to Middle East Uncertainty - Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, who had been in declining health for some time, lapsed briefly into unconsciousness Oct. 27. On Oct. 29, with Israeli permission, Arafat, who had been confined to his headquarters in Ramallah by Israeli troops, left for medical treatment in Paris.

On Oct. 16, Israel completed a redeployment of troops and armored vehicles from the Gaza Strip, but other troops continued to guard refugee camps. On Oct. 26, the Israeli Parliament approved, 67-45, Prime Min. Ariel Sharon's plan to remove all Israeli settlements in Gaza. Opponents argued that Gaza and the West Bank, from which a few settlements would also be removed, were part of the historic Jewish homeland.

Bin Laden Appears in New Tape - In a tape believed to be authentic and recent, obtained by Al-Jazeera and broadcast Oct. 28, al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden warned that al-Qaeda would wage new attacks against the U.S. so long as U.S. policies did not change, but no specific threats were made. The U.S. did not raise the alert level on the basis of the tape, and both major U.S. presidential candidates vowed efforts to capture the terrorist leader.

General

Production of One Flu Vaccine Suspended - British regulators Oct. 5 suspended production of flu vaccine at the Liverpool plant of Chiron, an Emeryville, CA, company. Contamination of the vaccine was cited as the reason. The action resulted in about a 50% reduction in vaccine available for use in the U.S. American health officials asked that flu shots be given on a priority basis to those who needed them most, including children under age 2, the ill, and those over age 65.

Kenyan Environmentalist Wins Nobel Peace Prize - On Oct. 8, for the first time, the Nobel Peace Prize went to an African woman. The recipient was Dr. Wangari Maathai, an assistant minister of the environment who had been jailed by a previous Kenya regime. She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and organized women to plant 30 million trees.

Boston Red Sox Win First World Series Since 1918 - After an 8-game winning streak that included an amazing comeback against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, the Boston Red Sox Oct. 27 won the World Series. In addition, the Red Sox became the first MLB team in history to win 8 playoff games in a row. In the World Series the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in 4 straight games, the last in St. Louis by 3-0. Prior to the Series, the Red Sox became the first baseball team in history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to win a league pennant. One highlight of the comeback was a 3-2, 14-inning marathon Game 5 won by the Sox in Boston Oct. 18. On Oct. 20, the Sox romped in the Game 7 finale, 10-3, in New York. Johnny Damon led the attack driving in 6 runs with 2 home runs (one a grand slam). Boston later disposed of the Cards. Sox pitcher Derek Lowe was the winning pitcher of record in the final game against the Yankees and in the final World Series game. Boston's ace pitcher, Curt Schilling, had also excelled in the post-season, despite an injured ankle. The Sox had not won the World Series since 1918, when Babe Ruth was a star pitcher for them before he was sold to the Yankees. Their decades of frustration, especially for often losing to the Yankees, had become legendary.

SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - Spinal Cord Research: Reeve's Legacy

Christopher Reeve's personal misfortune--a fall from a horse that left him paralyzed from the neck down--was transformed by the actor's energy and determination into a renewed focus on spinal cord research, giving the field a second wind. In the nine years between his accident and his death, of heart failure on October 10, 2004, Reeve (known for his role as "Superman") brought national attention to the reality of spinal cord injuries and the more than 200,000 Americans that live with them everyday.

It has only been within the past twenty years that researchers have discredited the long-held belief that the spinal cord cannot be repaired after injury. The recent focus on giving paralyzed patients the chance to walk again has been heavily credited to Reeve, who was 52 at the time of his death.

"One of the big things Chris did was get everyone to understand that this was a solvable problem--that it wasn't impossible," said Dr. John W. McDonald who had helped rehabilitate Reeve since 1999. "I think that's where we stand now," he told the Baltimore Sun.

The spinal cord (the network of nerve fibers that runs through the spinal column) and the brain constitute the central nervous system (CNS). The spinal cord coordinates movement and sensation in the body by carrying information from nerves in the body to the brain, and directions from the brain to the rest of the body. Specifically, the upper region of the spinal cord carries information to and from the upper part of the body, while the lower region of the cord is responsible for the lower part of the body. Damage to the spinal cord can prevent information from passing through the damaged region, leaving the part of the cord below the injury entirely cut off from the brain. (Spinal cord injuries almost always result in paralysis of the legs because, regardless of where on the cord the injury occurs, transmission to the lowermost part of the cord is usually blocked.) Nerve cells do not regenerate like other cells in our body; this fact explains much of the early pessimism and lack of research into spinal cord injuries.

Scientists are cautious about the possibility of a "cure-all," but progress is now seen as more likely than it used to be. During a spinal cord injury workshop, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported, "While it is unlikely that the complex problem of spinal cord injury will be solved by a single dramatic discovery, small improvements in therapy can combine to improve the quality of life for those who live with such devastating injuries."

One way that Reeve contributed to advances in spinal cord research was by allowing himself to be a test subject for experimental treatments. McDonald, who was then a neurobiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, developed a rehabilitation program that electrically stimulated Reeve's muscles. Three days a week, for one hour Reeve sat on a stationary bike with wires attached to his legs--an electrical current delivered through these wires set his legs pedaling, as a normal impulse from the brain would. Other days, electrodes or devices that carry electric currents, were attached to muscle groups in his abdomen, spine, wrists, triceps, biceps and deltoids. After about a year, Reeve was able to move his fingers and toes, feel a pinprick nearly anywhere on his body, and straighten his arms and legs in water--things that few paraplegics can do. Scientists believe that the electrical activity may have encouraged Reeve's nerve cells to form new connections--going against all current understanding of nerve cells.

"If you could accomplish that type of goal in someone in a worst-case scenario, imagine what you could accomplish in the majority of cases, which are less severe," said McDonald to the Sun.

In 2003, Reeve underwent surgery at the University Hospitals of Cleveland to allow him to breathe without a ventilator, a machine that draws air into and out of the lungs through a hole in the neck. People with spinal cord injuries are often unable to breathe on their own, since the diaphragm (the muscle that controls breathing) communicates with the lower region of the spinal cord. The surgery involved attaching electrodes to four places on the diaphragm; the electrodes then sent electrical impulses to the diaphragm 12 times per minute, stimulating the muscle to contract as if it were breathing on its own. Soon after the surgery, Reeve was able to breathe without a ventilator for up to 10 to 15 minutes every hour. Reeve hoped that this technique could soon be introduced to the public, significantly improving the quality of life for spinal cord injury patients.

After his accident, Reeve became a vocal advocate for spinal injury research, drawing both attention and funding to the field. He and his family founded the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which gives grants for promising research. One of the most fruitful areas, in which Reeve encouraged more exploration, is stem cell research. He hoped that embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to grow into any kind of cell, could be used to replace the damaged nerve cells in the spinal cord.

Other areas of research have flourished as well. Scientists recently found a protein called Nogo, which prevents nerve cells in the brain and spinal column from regrowing. Researchers have been developing a drug that blocks Nogo, hoping that it will allow the damaged nerve cells to regrow, ultimately giving paralyzed people the chance to walk again.

Scientists also have attempted to exploit Schwann cells (which form a protective sheath around nerve cells) in other parts of the body. Some of these cells have been removed from the body, multiplied, and reinserted into the damaged area of the spinal cord, in the hope that the Schwann cells will stimulate the regrowth of the spinal cord nerves.

Other technologies developed to improve the patients' quality of life include equipment to stimulate bladder function and muscle contraction, and techniques to help paralyzed people have children.

The push to revolutionize spinal cord injury research has improved the lives of many paralyzed people within the past decade, partly due to Christopher Reeve's influence, and the research is still only in its early stages.

"He pushed the boundaries as far as he could get them to go. I don't think we would have gotten where we are now without him," said Paul Smith, executive director of the Spinal Injuries Association in England.

IT'S A FACT!

Mapquest.com was the most-visited travel Website in 2003.

OFFBEAT NEWS STORIES

Mutt-Read Magazine: Gatsby Publishing Inc. recently launched New York Dog Magazine, a 100-plus-page glossy publication celebrating all things canine, in dogged pursuit of a niche market. Publisher Gregg Oehler says that the publication has taken "all the standards of a very strong women's magazine" and transferred them to the world of dogs and dog lovers. Features include pet obits, Doggiescopes, and "Queer Eye for the Scruffy Dog" makeovers. Celebrity writers-including Mary Tyler Moore and Shirley MacLaine--will contribute paeans to their pedigreed and mixed-breed companions in "What I Learned From My Dog." Starring on the debut cover were a pair of chihuahuas-one in pearls, the other in a tutu. The magazine comes out six times and sells for $4.99.

Dog Shoots Man. Jerry Allen Bradford of Pensacola, FL, could not find a home for his 7 3-month-old shepherd-mix puppies, so he decided to shoot them with his .38-caliber revolver. He had already killed three of the puppies and was holding 2 others in his arms when one of them managed to put its paw on the trigger, shooting Bradford in the wrist. Bradford was treated at a local hospital, and judicial authorities in Pensacola were considering charging him with felony animal cruelty. The 4 unharmed puppies were to be put up for adoption.

From The World Almanac - Understanding the Electoral College

The president and the vice president are the only elective federal officials not chosen by direct vote of the people. They are elected by the members of the Electoral College, an institution provided for in the U.S. Constitution.

On presidential election day, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in Nov. of every 4th year, each state chooses as many electors as it has senators and representatives in Congress. In 1964, for the first time, as provided by the 23d Amendment to the Constitution, the District of Columbia voted for 3 electors. Thus, with 100 senators and 435 representatives, there are 538 members of the Electoral College, with a majority of 270 electoral votes needed to elect the president and vice president.

Although political parties were not part of the original plan created by the Founding Fathers, today political parties customarily nominate their lists of electors at their respective state conventions. Some states print names of the candidates for president and vice president at the top of the Nov. ballot; others list only the electors' names. In either case, the electors of the party receiving the highest vote are elected. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, allow for proportional allocation.

The electors meet on the first Monday after the 2d Wednesday in Dec. in their respective state capitals or in some other place prescribed by state legislatures. By long-established custom, they vote for their party nominees, although this is not required by federal law; some states do require it.

The Constitution requires electors to cast a ballot for at least one person who is not an inhabitant of that elector's home state. This ensures that presidential and vice presidential candidates from the same party will not be from the same state. (In 2000, Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney changed his voter registration to Wyoming from Gov. George W. Bush's home state of Texas.) Also, an elector cannot be a member of Congress or hold federal office.

Certified and sealed lists of the votes of the electors in each state are sent to the president of the U.S. Senate, who then opens them in the presence of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives in a joint session held in early Jan., and the electoral votes of all the states are then officially counted.

If no candidate for president has a majority, the House of Representatives chooses a president from the top 3 candidates, with all representatives from each state combining to cast one vote for that state. The House decided the outcome of the 1800 and 1824 presidential elections. If no candidate for vice president has a majority, the Senate chooses from the top 2, with the senators voting as individuals. The Senate chose the vice president following the 1836 election.

Under the electoral college system, a candidate who fails to be the top vote getter in the popular vote may still win a majority of electoral votes. This happened in the elections of 1876 and 1888 as well as in the 2000 election.

Links of the Month

Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

This month, a fine young man I know, Andrew, is turning 13, so we're featuring famous Andrews from history. A Pittsburgh, PA native, Andrew Warhola, more commonly known as Andy Warhol, became an influential American artist and filmmaker, and is considered the Father of Pop Art. You can learn more about him, and the Warhol museum at: http://www.warhol.org/. Andrew Albert Christian Edward Mountbatten-Windsor a.k.a. Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, was the first royal born in 103 years, to a reigning monarch (Queen Elizabeth II), in 1960. To learn more about Andrew visit http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page416.asp. Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat, was selected for the Presidential ticket, with Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1864. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Johnson ran afoul of the radical Republicans in Congress, over the issue of Reconstruction. Laws were passed which placed restrictions on the President, and when he dismissed Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, in 1867, Johnson was impeached, but acquitted by the Senate, by one vote. Learn more about the impeachment at http://www.impeach-andrewjohnson.com/. The son of a weaver, Andrew Carnegie, born in Scotland, began working as a bobbin boy in cotton mill, in Pennsylvania at the age of 13. He went on to make his money in the American steel industry, and by the time of his death at 70, he had amassed one of the great fortunes of the 19th century, and had given away $350 million of it. Learn more about Carnegie at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carnegie/. On August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew was the most destructive hurricane to ever hit the United States. It was the cause of 65 deaths, and its destructive nature caused over $25 billion in damage. Learn more about this storm at http://www.noaa.gov/hurricaneandrew.html.

Speaking of hurricanes, I can't seem to find any Hurricane Edwards' (I don't think Edouard in 1996 counts). In 1953, the National Weather Service began naming tropical storms and hurricanes (using women's names), as a way of identifying the storms and tracking them. For several hundred years in the West Indies, hurricanes were named after saints, when a storm fell on the particular saint's name day. Since 1979 the gender bias has been dropped, and storms are named for men and women, which are listed in alphabetic order, alternating between sexes. See the 2004-2009 lists, as well as those names that have been retired, at: http://www.hurricaneville.com/names.html.

I have a confession to make......I like to watch belly dancing. I'm not sure if its a heritage related interest, or some Pavlovian reaction, but when I eat Middle Eastern food, the desire to see belly dancing increases. Raqs Sharqi (pronounced Roks Sharkee) literally translated means 'dance from the East', and has its roots in Middle Eastern fertility ceremonies - a dance performed by women for women. It was originally taught to girls from an early age in order to strengthen their abdominal muscles in preparation for childbirth. At the Art of Middle Eastern Belly Dancing by Shira http://www.shira.net/ you'll learn everything you need to know about this art.

Do you know about Bollywood? Bollywood is an informal term that refers to the very popular film industry in India, created by blending Bombay (now officially known as Mumbai) and Hollywood. Bollywood films are usually musicals, featuring elaborate song and dance numbers, and the industry produces over 800 movies a year, and sells billions of tickets around the world. While my sister Marie has often talked about watching Bollywood films, I had my first "taste" of what it's all about from the Broadway musical Bombay Dreams (http://www.bombaydreamsonbroadway.com/) that explores India's film industry. Since then I've caught some movies on cable television, and they are fun to watch. To learn more about Bollywood visit: http://www.bollywhat.com/ and http://www.planetbollywood.com/.

Edward Thomas is my name, and on numerous occasions I've been referred to as Thomas Edward. Ah, the stigma of having first names for a last name! Which celebrities can you think of who also have two first names? Visit http://www.bigdumptruck.com/lists/ to see a list of famous people with a first name for their last name.

What do Jackie Onassis, Jack Nicholson, and Ray Charles have in common? Hmmmm.....tough one huh? They are (were in the case of Onassis & Charles) celebrities who are/were predominantly seen in public wearing dark sunglasses. Odd list don't you think? At The Free Dictionary http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/List%20of%20famous%20people, there are numerous lists of people in a variety of categories ranging from people known as "The Great" (among them Alexander, Catherine, Ramseses), famous pairs (among them Abbott & Costello, Warren G. Harding and Nan Britton, Mork & Mindy), and people who became famous only in death (such as Anne Frank, Kitty Genovese, and Todd Beamer).

During the month of October I spent 12 days out of the state on business, and I walked through my share of airports. It made me wonder if airports are rated, and I found that a survey taken over a 10-month period of time by Skytrax, an air transport research company showed that the best airport in the world is Hong Kong International Airport. Not one U.S. airport made the top ten list. Passengers were asked to nominate a best airport based upon some key standards, which included terminal comfort, passenger facilities, security, and ground transportation. To see the top 10 list, plus the best by continent, visit: http://www.airlinequality.com/2004/airport_group_results.htm.

What, you've never gotten a toaster greeting card? The Toaster Museum Foundation http://www.toaster.org/ (I don't make this stuff up), was started by a person who was fascinated by artifacts of the 20th century. In addition to the greeting cards, you can learn how toasters work, view toaster art, see toaster toys and accessories (not that I'm remotely odd, but I do have a toaster Christmas ornament), and the history of the device that applies radiant heat directly onto a bread slice.

How impressed would you be if you heard me say, "I'm going to Harvard?" Well, I'm not really going to Harvard, because even if I decided to go back to school, there is some doubt I'd get in; however, there is another way. The Harvard Brain Bank http://www.brainbank.mclean.org/, also known as the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, was established at McLean Hospital as a resource for the collection and distribution of human brain specimens for brain search. If you're over 18, you simply fill out a Brain Donation Questionnaire, and who knows, perhaps you'll end up at Harvard. I could just see my brain, in a jar on a shelf, in some laboratory, waiting to be examined. It makes me think of the lines from "Young Frankenstein":
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Would you mind telling me, whose brain I did put in?
Igor: And, you won't be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will not be angry.
Igor: Abby-someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby-someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby-normal.

Unusual website of the month: Collect Chinese phone cards? http://www.ifrance.com/Shar-Lee/index_tele_uk.html

© World Almanac Education Group

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

Newsletter Contributors:
Louise Bloomfield, Jane Hogan, Walter Kronenberg, and Bill McGeveran

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

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