The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 05, Number 02 - February 2005




What's in this issue?

February Events
February Holidays - National and International
This Day In History - February
February Birthdays
Travel: AICHI'S EXPO 2005
Obituaries - January 2005
Special Feature: Obesity - A Killer at Large
Chronology - Events of January 2005
Science in the News: Brand Names Can Activate the Brain
Offbeat News Stories
From The World Almanac - Rulers of China Since 1949
Links of the Month
How to reach us

February Events

February is Black History Month and American Heart Month

February 1-28 - Wells Fargo Winter Games of Idaho
February 2-7 - Zehnder’s Snowfest (Ice-carving and snow-sculpture competitions in Frankenmuth, MI)
February 4-20 - Winterlude (Ottawa, Canada)
February 3-5 - Smoky Mountains Storytelling Festival (Pigeon Forge, TN)
February 5-8 - Carnival (Brazil)
February 6 - Super Bowl XXXIX (Jacksonville, FL)
February 8 - Mardi Gras
February 10-21 - Florida State Fair
February 10-20 - Berlin International Film Festival
February 12 - Darwin Day-An International Celebration of Science and Humanity
February 13 - NFL Pro Bowl; Grammy Awards
February 14-15 - Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (New York City)
February 18-27 - Newport (RI) Winter Festival
February 18-27 - National Date Festival (Indio, CA)
February 19-20 - Klondike Days (Eagle River, WI)
February 20 - Daytona 500; NBA All-Star Game
February 25 - Longhorn World Championship Rodeo (Winston-Salem, NC)
February 26 - Clam Chowder Cook Off (Santa Cruz, CA)
February 26-27 - Big 10 Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships (Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN); Hatsume Fair (Delray Beach, FL)
February 27 - Academy Awards

February Holidays - National and International

February 2 – Groundhog Day
February 5 – Constitution Day (Mexico)
February 9 – Ash Wednesday; Chinese New Year
February 10 – Islamic New Year
February 12 – Lincoln’s Birthday
February 14 – Valentine’s Day
February 21 – Washington’s Birthday (observed)/President’s Day/Washington-Lincoln Day


12,224 air miles separate Lima, Peru from Bangkok, Thailand, one of the largest distances between any two major cities in the world.

This Day In History - February






Thomas Edison completes the first moving picture studio, in West Orange, NJ.



For the first time in nearly 3 decades, the president submits a balanced federal budget.



Rock and roll singer Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and "The Big Bopper" die in a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield.



The Yalta Conference in the Crimea begins with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin.



Klaus Barbie, the World War II Gestapo chief in Lyon, is arrested by French officials after his extradition from Bolivia.



King George VI of England dies and is succeeded by his daughter, who becomes Queen Elizabeth II.



King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for 46 years, dies.



Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, is beheaded in England on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I.



The last Japanese forces are expelled from Guadalcanal by Allied troops.



A peace treaty is signed ending the French and Indian War, with France losing Canada and the Midwest.



South African leader Nelson Mandela is released after more than 27 years in prison.



The NAACP is founded by W. E. B. DuBois and others to fight against lynching and other types of racial oppression.



Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, causes a fire that kills 135,000 and destroys the city.



Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issues a call for the death of author Salman Rushdie because of his novel The Satanic Verses.



Canada officially adopts a new flag, with the maple leaf replacing the Union Jack.



Fidel Castro becomes prime minister of Cuba.



Modern art is brought to America by the opening of the NY Armory Show.



Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovers the planet Pluto.



Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping dies in Beijing at the age of 92.



The Soviets launch the space station Mir.



Civil rights leader Malcolm X is assassinated during a rally in New York City.



Eighty of the people boycotting buses in Montgomery, AL--including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.--give themselves up for arrest, after white city leaders had threatened to begin making arrests.



The U.S. flag is raised at Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.



The U.S. House of Representatives votes to impeach Pres. Andrew Johnson.



Marxist rule ends in Nicaragua as Violeta Barrios de Chamorro upsets Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra for the presidency.



A bomb explodes in a parking garage beneath New York City's World Trade Center, killing 6 people and injuring more than 1,000.



During his trip to China, Pres. Richard Nixon and Chinese Prem. Zhou Enlai issue a joint communique agreeing to work toward normalizing relations.



Swedish Prime Min. Olof Palme is shot and killed while walking down a Stockholm street.

February Birthdays






Muriel Spark, novelist (Edinburgh, Scotland)



Farrah Fawcett, actress (Corpus Christi, TX)



Fran Tarkenton, football quarterback (Richmond, VA)



Dan Quayle, former vice president of the United States and Indiana senator (Indianapolis, IN)



Roberto Alomar, baseball player (Ponce, Puerto Rico)



Kathy Najimy, actress (San Diego, CA)



Ashton Kutcher, actor (Cedar Rapids, IA)



John Grisham, novelist (Jonesboro, AR)



Mia Farrow, actress (Los Angeles, CA)



Leontyne Price, opera singer (Laurel, MS)



Sidney Sheldon, author (Chicago, IL)



Arsenio Hall, TV personality and actor (Cleveland, OH)



Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke the sound barrier (Myra, WV)



Drew Bledsoe, football player (Ellensburg, WA)



Susan Brownmiller, feminist author (Brooklyn, NY)



George F. Kennan, historian and diplomat (Milwaukee, WI)



Hal Holbrook, actor (Cleveland, OH)



Yoko Ono, artist, musician, and widow of John Lennon (Tokyo, Japan)



Benicio Del Toro, actor (Santurce, Puerto Rico)



Nancy Wilson, singer (Chillicothe, OH)



David Geffen, entertainment executive (Brooklyn, NY)



Drew Barrymore, actress (Los Angeles, CA)



Michael Dell, founder and chairman, Dell Computers (Houston, TX)



Abe Vigoda, actor (New York, NY)



Sean Astin, actor (Santa Monica, CA)



Marshall Faulk, football player (New Orleans, LA)



Joanne Woodward, actress (Thomasville, GA)



Charles "Bubba" Smith, football player and actor (Beaumont, TX)

Travel: AICHI'S EXPO 2005

Japan's Aichi Prefecture, located in the central part of Japan, is a place of diversity. It is perhaps best known as a manufacturing center: the metropolis of Toyota, home base of the Toyota Motor Corporation, is here, as are the metropolises of Seto (heart of the nation's ceramics business) and Nagoya, Aichi’s capital and home to various industries. Visitors can take an "industrial sightseeing tour" that acquaints them with industrial museums and sites associated with the development of industry. But there are other aspects to Aichi as well. The area boasts rich farmland and is celebrated for its flowers; plus its seacoast, green mountains, and national parks provide plenty of natural beauty. And it is a must-see for lovers of Japanese traditional culture - historic relics, folk festivals, and crafts venues abound.

This year, from March 25 to Sept. 25, Aichi will offer an additional, very special reason to visit: the first world's fair exposition of the 21st century. More than 120 nations and international organizations are slated to take part in Expo 2005, which is expected to draw upwards of 15 million visitors.

Eco-friendly, high-tech

The exposition will take place in Nagakute, Seto, and Toyota, on sites covering about 427 acres (173 ha). In accordance with Expo 2005’s theme - "Nature's Wisdom" - planners adapted the project to the environment of the region, a hilly area east of Nagoya. The exhibitions of the participating countries are connected by a barrier-free, elevated walkway called the Global Loop that is some 1.6 mi (2.6 km) long. (Shuttle buses and trams will also be available.) The pavilions and grounds in a wooded section called the Seto Area will provide a venue for "people to interact with each other and with nature." Among other things, this area includes a trail where visitors can become acquainted with the traditional culture of satoyama, the natural landscape as sustained by moderate contact with human beings. The upbeat nature-centered spirit of the exposition is reflected in its two official mascots—green bushy cartoon-like figures called Kiccoro ("Forest Child") and Morizo ("Forest Grand Father").

Another focus of Expo 2005 is technology, which finds reflection particularly in the fair's subthemes "Nature's Matrix" (civilization in the space age, applications of information technology and biotechnology to population and environmental problems) and "Development for Eco-communities" (approaches to efficient use of resources, including eco-friendly energy and recycling technologies), but also in the subtheme "The Art of Life" (the leading of an active life in harmony with nature in the 21st century, including issues such as an aging society and creativity of children).

In keeping with the spirit of the exposition, plans are for earth-friendly tableware, made from recyclable organic matter, to be used at the food courts, and the electric power at the Japan pavilions will be produced by an on-site system using even visitors' garbage as fuel. The Japanese love robots, and a bevy of various types of these machines, including both prototypes and working models, will be deployed to give an idea of what future life might be like; they are expected to be used to help clean the site, provide security, give directions, play with children, and, in the case of wheelchair robots, even transport visitors.

Benjamin Franklin plays host

The U.S., in a departure from recent practice, will have substantial representation, as a result of successful fund-raising efforts in the private sector. According to plans, the U.S. pavilion will focus on technological innovation and on unifying motifs of U.S. society. A multimedia show called "The Franklin Spirit" will be hosted by a facsimile of the distinguished American statesman, inventor, and entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin, whose 300th birthday is coming in early 2006. Americans will take part in a large number of musical performances, lectures, symposia, conferences, and the like at Expo 2005. In addition, the New York City Opera is scheduled to visit Tokyo and Nagoya in May.

Special events

Concerts, shows, and other special events will be held not only at individual pavilions but also at such venues as the Expo Hall, Expo Dome, and Expo Plaza, which is an open-air stage equipped with advanced information and digital-imaging technologies. The plaza can accommodate 3000 people in its central grassy area; rising above it is a wall of plants called the Bio-lung. Expo Vision, a massive video monitor at the plaza, will be used for such projects as Merry EXPO, which will help symbolize the plaza's theme of "The World Is One" by showing the smiling faces, accompanied by written messages, of 5000 people from more than 20 countries around the globe.

Among the more high-profile events on the exposition's agenda are "Prayers to the World" (April 17-18), devoted to sacred music of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam; "Harmony" (May 1-8), a musical fantasy staged by the Canadian puppet troupe TDC; "Live! Okuni" (May 5-6), a concert version of the popular Japanese musical Okuni, set in Kyoto in the tempestuous early 17th century with music by the band Shang Shang Typhoon, noted for its multiethnic mixture of Japanese folk and popular music with rock, soul, and other forms; "Amour Takarazuka: Love Goes around the World" (July 13-14), in which performers from the all-female company Takarazuka present scenes from Broadway musicals and Takarazuka shows; "Love the Earth," a series of performances and other events featuring musical artists of the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singer Sarah Brightman; and "The Koi Pond-Night Event," a half-hour experimental theater piece highlighting nature-human interaction and choreographed by the famous American director and theatrical artist Robert Wilson, to be performed each evening at carp-filled Koi Pond.


World tourism brought in $474 billion in 2002, an increase of $15 billion over 2001. World Tourism Receipts, 1989-2002.

Obituaries in January 2005

Carson, Johnny, 79, TV icon who hosted NBC’s “Tonight” show for 30 years (1962-92); Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 23, 2005.

Chisholm, Shirley, 80, New York City Democrat who in 1968 became the first black woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and who in 1972 was the first black person, or woman of any race, to campaign seriously for a major party’s presidential nomination; Ormond Beach, FL, Jan. 1, 2005.

De los Angeles, Victoria, 81, Spanish lyric soprano who appeared in leading roles in opera houses worldwide in the 1950s and early 1960s and was also a noted recitalist; Barcelona, Spain, Jan. 15, 2005.

Eisner, Will, 87, comic-book artist who created “The Spirit,” a crime-fighting superhero with no supernatural powers, in 1940 and pioneered the graphic novel in the late 1970s; Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Jan. 3, 2005.

Forman, James, 76, civil rights activist who as executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1961 to 1966 organized voter-registration campaigns in some of the most violence-prone areas of the South; Washington, DC, Jan. 10, 2005.

Hagedorn, Horace, 89, co-founded Miracle-Gro® plant food in 1950, and later merged the company with Scott's Company, the world's largest lawn and garden company; Sands Point, N.Y. Jan. 31, 2005.

Heilbroner, Robert L., 85, economic historian whose first book, The Worldly Philosophers (1953), became a classic; New York, NY, Jan. 4, 2005.

Janeway, Elizabeth, 91, best-selling novelist who after she became active in the U.S. women’s movement wrote several significant feminist tracts, beginning with Man‘s World, Woman’s Place (1971); Rye, NY, Jan. 15, 2005.

Johnson, Philip, 98. elder statesman of U.S. architecture who exemplified and tirelessly promoted the austere, modernist International Style before abandoning it in favor of an exuberant postmodernism; New Canaan, CT, Jan. 25, 2005.

Kennedy, Rosemary, 86, oldest sister of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Sens. Robert and Edward Kennedy; born mildly retarded, she ended up being institutionalized for the rest of her life after a botched 1941 lobotomy; Fort Atkinson, WI, Jan. 7, 2005.

Matsui, Robert T., 63, congressman from California’s Sacramento area who had been the third-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee and the ranking Democrat on the Social Security subcommittee; Bethesda, MD, Jan. 1, 2005.

Mayo, Virginia, 84, Hollywood film star of the 1940s and 1950s who starred opposite leading men ranging from Danny Kaye to James Cagney to Ronald Reagan; Thousand Oaks, CA, Jan. 17, 2005.

Warrick, Ruth, 88, actress who made a smashing film debut in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) and who for decades portrayed patrician matriarch Phoebe Tyler Wallingford on the TV soap opera “All My Children”; New York, NY, Jan. 15, 2005.

Woods, Rose Mary, 87, Richard M. Nixon’s long-serving private secretary, who was at the center of one of the great mysteries of the Watergate scandal that destroyed his presidency, the erasure of 18˝ minutes of a crucial White House tape; Alliance, OH, Jan. 22, 2005.

Wriston, Walter, 85, chief executive of Citibank (1967-84) who helped transform the New York City financial institution into the world’s largest bank; New York, NY, Jan. 19, 2005.

Zhao Ziyang, 85, Chinese Communist Party general secretary deposed during the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising and kept under house arrest ever since; Beijing, China, Jan. 17, 2005

Special Feature: Obesity - A Killer at Large

by Joseph Gustaitis

On February 13, 1985 - 20 years ago this month - a panel of the National Institutes of Health termed obesity a "killer disease." The panel said that Americans who are "even 5 lbs" overweight should be concerned about the health risks involved, and cited research showing that about 34 million Americans weighed 20% or more above their desirable body weight, the point at which physicians should be treating the problem. It said that obesity should get the same attention as smoking, high blood pressure and other acknowledged health risks.

In the ensuing twenty years the alarm has grown louder and louder. Obesity has become a problem around the globe. Despite the NIH warning and accumulating research supporting it, Americans too have kept on expanding. As of today, almost two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese -- more than double the 1985 statistic. In just five years (1997-2002) the number of obese adults rose 27%. Ominously, just ten years after that NIH report, federal researchers said that the rate of obesity among children in the U.S. had also more than doubled in the previous three decades, with most of the rise occurring since 1980, when 6% of U.S. children were overweight. By 2000 that figure had risen to 15%.

It's not that Americans haven’t tried to do something about it. The number of diets and commercial programs out there - low-fat, no-fat, low-carb, grapefruit, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, LA Weight Loss Centers, along with gym memberships and exercise equipment, not to mention supplements, diet pills, and nostrums of all kinds - seems just about infinite. (The 2002 weight-loss market was estimated at about $40 billion.) Increasing numbers of people are turning to surgery after all else has failed. Sadly, all these remedies have not turned the situation around. Many people find themselves unable to sustain a weight loss over the long term, and some dieters end up even heavier than they were when they started.

In the two decades since the NIH panel’s report, evidence of the dangers of obesity has become more and more - well, weighty. Consider these few examples. A large-scale study of women's health published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in March 1990 found that being overweight by any amount increased the risk of heart disease. In 1992 an Agriculture Department study concluded that overweight teenagers faced a greater danger of health problems later in their lives than did slender teenagers. Three years later another study in the NEJM reported that women who are mildly to moderately overweight, or who experienced mild to moderate weight gain in middle age, increased their risk of premature death. One of the gravest warnings came in March 2004, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that obesity and lack of exercise would soon overtake smoking tobacco products as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Finally, a recent study conducted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and published in the May 5, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that between 1988 and 2000 the average blood pressure of American children and teenagers had risen significantly -- a trend that is most likely the result of the nation's weight problem. Potentially fatal diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, which were once found almost exclusively in adults, are being found in more and more children.

Causes and Effects

What happened? How did Americans get this way? In general, modern life simply asks less physical activity of us than it did just a few decades ago. There’s a big difference between sitting in front of a computer and lifting car parts on an assembly line. Jobs that require physical labor, such as manufacturing and farming, have given way to more sedentary occupations. Improved technology allows Americans to do more with less work. To take one small example: once every homeowner cut the grass with a push mower; today lawn mowers are motorized (a lot of us even ride on the things, which would have astonished our grandparents).

In addition, Americans live in a car culture, and there are plenty of neighborhoods in the land that don’t have sidewalks and where pedestrians are viewed with suspicion. In one study a Canadian researcher asked people to keep a diary recording how and where they traveled. He found that the more sprawling an area was and the more the residents drove, the more likely they were to be overweight. Amazingly, more than nine out of ten diary keepers said they never really walked to any of their destinations. Childhood obesity experts point out that children are more inactive, preferring computer games to activities like bicycling, and also cite issues in schools, where vending machines have proliferated, while physical education classes have dwindled. To compound the problem, the average American child sees about 10,000 food commercials a year, most of which are for fast food, sugary cereals, candy, and soft drinks.

Another thing that researchers know is that there are cultural and ethnic factors. Overweight and obesity tend to be most prevalent among ethnic minorities. For example, the CDC says that although the overall percentage of overweight teens in the U.S. is 15%, some 24% of non-Hispanic black and Mexican-origin teens are overweight. One possible cultural factor was uncovered in a study of African American women who reported that, having grown up where food was scant, they grew appreciative for what they had, learned not to waste food, and associated weight loss with sickness. More generally, researchers say that the poor often turn to fast-food restaurants where high-fat, high-calorie food is cheap and readily available.

Many analysts trace part of the problem to past government action. In the early 1970s the price of food spiked in the U.S. and, in response to vigorous protests, President Richard Nixon directed his secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, to do something - anything - to increase the nation's food supply. Previously, government policy had been to prevent farm overproduction; Butz, it became to encourage it. A new system of agricultural subsidies was put into place and farmers responded eagerly - if the price of grain, for example, dropped dangerously low, it didn’t matter because the government was there with ready cash to make up the difference. The relationship to subsequent obesity is explained in large part by the price of corn. Corn became available in abundance, to be turned into feed for cattle (and thus, ultimately, into fast-food hamburgers) and chickens (that became chicken nuggets), and also into high-calorie, high-fructose corn syrup.

At the same time that Nixon was revolutionizing farm policy, researchers in Japan were discovering how to turn corn into a syrup that was as sweet as sugar. They found a formula that was 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, and the soda manufacturers quickly switched from using liquid sugar to using cheaper (and government-subsidized) corn sugar. It’s no coincidence that the amount of soda Americans drink has more than doubled since 1970 and today the average American guzzles 56 gallons a year. In the 1950s the standard soda bottle contained 6.5 ounces; in the 1960s it held 12 oz., and by the late 1990s it had bulged to 20 oz. A study of more than 50,000 women published in JAMA on August 25, 2004 found that daily consumption of one or more soft drinks sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup raised the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by an alarming 83%.

It's not just soft-drink portions that have increased. A study published in January 2003 found that food portions were increasing in U.S. restaurants, fast-food outlets and meals served at home. It analyzed data on the consumption habits of some 63,000 people that had been collected in three surveys done between 1977 and 1996 and found that the average size of homemade hamburgers had grown by almost 50%, to 8.4 ounces (260 g), from 5.7 ounces. Fast-food hamburgers had grown to 7.2 ounces, from 6.1 ounces. The study was especially interesting because it showed that although consumers often pointed to fast-food restaurants as primary culprits, home-cooked meals were also becoming part of the problem.

Costs, Countermeasures and Accommodations

The national girth is a huge pocketbook issue. The U.S. now spends an estimated $117 billion a year (in direct and indirect costs) on obesity-related diseases, according to U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona's The Obesity Epidemic in The World Almanac 2005. A substantial part of those costs is borne by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid. The government has made efforts to do something and continues to do so. Education is an important part of the strategy, notably the Food Guide Pyramid issued by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which shows the recommended proportions of food groups in visual form. In August 2003 the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services named a 13-member panel to review both the Food Pyramid and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, upon which the Food Pyramid and federal nutrition programs were based. At the time, the USDA lowered its recommended caloric consumption for most Americans.

In the same month the Food and Drug Administration established an Obesity Working Group to study ways of fighting the obesity epidemic; the new group then launched hearings to gather public comment from health experts, consumer advocates and the food and restaurant industry. HHS has also begun a campaign to create advertisements to advise Americans on how to eat more healthfully and to ask restaurants to list voluntarily how many calories are in their food. Among other tactics that obesity experts suggest the government consider, in addition to disseminating health information, are the lowering of agricultural subsidies, especially on unhealthy foods like fats and oils; action to ban vending machines, advertising, and commercial promotions in schools and to restore funding for physical education; and even imposing taxes on unhealthy foods. (High taxation has long been a method of discouraging smoking.) Supporters of taxation argue that a "fat tax" could generate funds that could help cover the medical costs related to obesity. Already, some 17 states have a tax on snack or junk foods in one form or another.

In the meantime, U.S. designers and manufacturers are having to accommodate a heftier population. Seats in theaters, cars, and airplanes are getting wider (they’re even getting bigger on wheelchairs), and many auto manufacturers offer seat-belt extenders. Clothing sizes are going up. When the NIH released its report 20 years ago, the average American woman wore a size 8; today half of American women wear a 14 or larger. A men’s size 46 jacket from 1985 is smaller than a men’s size 46 today. The clothing retailer Lane Bryant, which has served large women for years, has been opening outlets at a record pace, and the company CEO has pointed out that these days "our customer is the average woman, not the minority." One clever mattress manufacturer put a 66-inch-wide platform on its 60-inch queen box spring and enjoyed an 8% growth in sales of its larger mattresses. It makes sense: between 1997 and 2001 the U.S. market share for queen-size mattresses has grown from 31% to 34% and king-sizes have gone up from 6% to 8%. There is even a new bicycle seat, called "Chubby Cheeks," for the ample rider -- which may encourage at least some portly Americans to climb on a bike.


NASA plans to launch a spacecraft in 2006 which will reach Pluto in 2015 and then continue on to the Kuiper Belt.

Chronology - Events of January 2005


     CBS Report on Bush’s Guard Service Found Wanting - In the aftermath of a questionable report presented on the network 2 months before the presidential election, CBS Jan. 10 dismissed Mary Mapes, the segment’s producer, and asked for the resignation of 3 other employees. The segment, aired Sept. 8, 2004, on the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, was reported by CBS news anchor Dan Rather, based on documents given to CBS. He cited 4 supposedly type-written memos said to have been issued by George W. Bush’s commanding officer; they purportedly showed that in the early 1970s Bush was given preferential treatment in the National Guard and questioned whether he had properly discharged his duties. However, examination of the documents suggested that they had been produced on a computer after the fact, and experts consulted by CBS prior to airing of the report said they could not vouch for them. After initially defending the report, Rather had apologized for it on the air. In Nov. 2004, he had announced his retirement as anchor effective Mar. 9, but no linkage was made between the announcement and the controversy.      Louis Boccardi, a former Associated Press executive, and former U.S. Atty. Gen. Richard Thornburgh conducted the inquiry for CBS. They found that the documents had not been properly authenticated, though they did not find proof that the documents had been forged. The inquiry concluded that CBS had rushed the anti-Bush report on the air in its "myopic zeal"” to scoop the competition, while failing to do routine fact checking.

     Bush Picks a 2nd Nominee to Head Homeland Security - A month after his first nominee had withdrawn his name, Pres. Bush Jan. 11 nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Chertoff to head the Dept. of Homeland Security. As head of the criminal division in the Justice Dept. in 2001, Chertoff had helped formulate the government’s response to the 9/11 terror attacks.

     Soldier Found Guilty of Abusing Iraqi Prisoners - U.S. Army Reserve Spec. Charles Graner was found guilty Jan. 14 in connection with the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. He was sentenced Jan. 15 to 10 years in prison and given a dishonorable discharge. Tried at Ft. Hood, TX, before a jury of 10 soldiers, Graner was called the ringleader of the Americans who mistreated Iraqi prisoners. He was convicted of assault, conspiracy, maltreatment of prisoners, committing indecent acts, dereliction of duty, and one count of battery. Graner contended that he had been told by superiors to dish out rough treatment.

     Pres. Bush Inaugurated for a 2nd Term - George W. Bush took the presidential oath of office for the 2nd time on Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, before a large crowd of dignitaries and members of the public. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, although suffering from thyroid cancer, was able to be present to administer the oath to Bush. The 43rd president then gave an inaugural address in which he cast foreign policy in the context of a “moral crusade.” He said the U.S. goal would be to bring freedom to people around the world.
     The president and First Lady Laura Bush then led the inaugural parade to the White House. All of the ceremonies were conducted under tight security. On the evening of Jan. 20, Pres. and Mrs. Bush attended 9 inaugural balls.
     There were several anti-Bush protests around the country.

     Senate Approves Rice, Questions Gonzales - Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Pres. George W. Bush’s nominee to be secretary of state, was approved by the Senate, 85-13, on Jan. 26; she took the oath of office later that day. Rice was the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state. At her confirmation hearings Jan. 18, she received tough questions from Democrats and some Republicans, focusing on the Iraq war, in particular warnings that she had issued that the Saddam Hussein regime posed a threat to the United States. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D, CA) expressed the view that “your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth.” Rice vehemently objected to this characterization.
     Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s nominee for attorney general, was criticized by some senators at a hearing Jan. 6. They cited a controversial draft memorandum he had written as White House consul in 2002 concluding that captive members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not protected by the Geneva Convention, some of whose provisions on interrogation Gonzales had characterized as obsolete. Gonzales told the senators that he stood by his legal reasoning, which the president had adopted. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R, SC) said that the Gonzales approach had undermined the fight against terrorism and endangered Americans who might be captured.
     Gonzales said Jan. 6 that the administration did not engage in or condone torture, and that he would look into reports of prisoner abuse at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Jan. 26 the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended his approval, 10-8, voting along party lines.


     Abbas Elected President of Palestinian Authority - Mahmoud Abbas was easily elected president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Jan. 9, winning 62% of the vote in a field of 7 candidates. Sworn in on Jan. 12, he succeeded Yasir Arafat, who had died in Nov. Abbas supported the Middle East peace process and opposed the suicide bombings and other acts of violence committed by Palestinians against the Israelis.
     By a narrow 58-56 margin, Israel’s Knesset approved Jan. 10 a new coalition government that would allow Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to remain in office and pursue his plan to dismantle all Israeli settlements in Gaza as well as 4 in the West Bank. Abbas said Jan. 10 that he wanted to resume peace talks with Israel. On Jan. 13, Palestinian militants killed 6 Israelis, and the next day Sharon ordered all government authorities to end their contacts with the PA. However, on orders of Abbas, Palestinian security forces were deployed in northern Gaza Jan. 21 to prevent militant groups from firing mortars and rockets at Israeli settlements and towns, and Israel Jan. 28 ordered its army to stop offensive operations in Gaza and reduce them in the West Bank.

     Government of Sudan and a Rebel Group Sign Peace Accord - In a step toward peace in war-wracked Sudan, the Islamic government Jan. 9 signed a peace agreement with one of the country’s principal rebel groups. The rebels were comprised of Christians and southerners who had suffered greatly during the 21-year civil war where an estimated 2 million were killed. Under the agreement, fighting forces would be merged and oil wealth and political offices shared. The agreement did not resolve fighting in the western Darfur region, where another rebel group held out.

     Ukraine Finally Gets a New President - After a first-round election and 2 bitterly contested runoffs, Ukraine got a new president Jan. 23 when Viktor Yushchenko took the oath of office in Kiev. After the 2nd runoff, which showed a clear margin for Yushchenko, his opponent, Viktor Yanukovich, had briefly pursued, then dropped a court challenge. Yushchenko called his election “a victory of freedom over tyranny, of law over lawlessness, of future over past.” He met with Pres. Vladimir Putin in Moscow Jan. 24 and sought to reassure him that Ukraine would remain close to Russia while also seeking closer ties to western Europe.

     Millions Vote in Iraq Election Despite Threats of Violence - Iraq’s first democratic election in more than 50 years took place Jan. 30, despite threats of violence against Iraqi voters, election officials, and security forces.
     There were over 100 political parties on the ballot. Voting was reported heavy in areas occupied by Shiite Muslims and Kurds, and estimates of voter participation for Iraq as a whole ran as high as 60%-70% of those eligible. However, in heavily Sunni Muslim areas turnout was low; the Sunnis who constitute 20% of the population, had dominated the country during the Hussein regime, and the hostility of many of them had made it difficult to establish and open voting sites in Sunni areas. Also participating in the election were hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living outside Iraq.
     Insurgents on election day initiated 38 attacks and suicide bombings that claimed 44 lives in Iraq. Additionally, 10 soldiers died when a British C-130 military plane crashed; it was not clear whether insurgents were involved. Despite insurgent attacks the widespread violence that had been predicted by some did not materialize.
     Prior to the election, insurgents had sought step up the level of violence and create a climate of fear. Supporters of the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Jan. 1 posted a video on the Internet showing the execution of 5 members of the Iraqi security forces. North of Baghdad Jan. 2, a suicide car bomber killed 18 Iraqi National Guardsmen and a civilian. The governor of Baghdad province, Ali al-Haidari, was shot dead Jan. 4. Seven U.S. soldiers died Jan. 6 in a roadside bombing in Baghdad. Insurgents killed Baghdad’s deputy chief of police and his son Jan. 10. Five truck and car bombs exploded in Baghdad Jan. 19, killing 26 people. Fourteen died and 40 were injured Jan. 21 when a car bomb exploded outside a Baghdad mosque.
     Jan. 26 was the deadliest day of the war for American forces. Thirty marines and a sailor were killed when their helicopter crashed near the boarder with Jordan during a sandstorm. Four marines and 2 soldiers were killed the same day in other incidents. The number of American dead since the invasion of Iraq now exceeded 1,400.
     Interim Prime Min. Iyad Allawi, Jan. 31, called the elections “a victory over terrorism” and urged the beginning of a new national dialogue.


     Relief Supplies Rushed to Millions of Tsunami Survivors - A massive worldwide relief effort brought food, water, medicine, and other supplies to millions of people who had survived the Dec. tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. The walls of water, set in motion by an underwater earthquake, had claimed more than 150,000 lives and left and estimated 5 million homeless. By Jan. 1, 40 nations, led by Japan ($500 million), had pledged help totaling $2 billion. On Jan. 5 Australia and Germany raised their pledges to $1 billion and $663 million, respectively.
     Besides pledging $350 million Dec. 31, the U.S. sent the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and smaller American ships, which arrived Jan. 1 offshore from Indonesia’s devastated Aceh Province; helicopters began transporting supplies. and U.S. and other foreign troops on the ground assisted in relief efforts. Pres. George W. Bush’s designated representatives, Sec. of State Colin Powell and Gov. Jeb Bush (FL), the president’s brother, arrived in Thailand Jan. 3 and began a trip aimed at assuring hard-hit countries of American support. The State Dept. Jan. 5 put the number of Americans presumed dead in the tsunami at 36.

     California Diocese to Pay $100 million in Sex Abuse Case - The Roman Catholic diocese in Orange County, CA, agreed Jan. 3 to a $100 million settlement in a case involving 90 plaintiffs who claimed they were sexually abused. The sum was the highest so far in the scandal that had shaken the Catholic Church in the U.S. The plaintiffs alleged abuse between 1936 and 1996 by 44 individuals, including 31 priests and 2 nuns. Payments to individual plaintiffs ranged from about $500,000 to $4 million.

     Southern Cal Wins NCAA Football Title Game - The University of Southern California Trojans routed the Oklahoma Sooners, 55-19, in the NCAA national-championship football game in Miami, FL, Jan. 4. USC’s quarterback, Matt Leinart, who had been awarded the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top college football player, tossed 5 touchdown passes, while running back LenDale White rushed for 118 yards. USC, coached by Pete Carroll, had now won 22 games in a row and 33 of its last 34. Both teams had been unbeaten on the season. Two other teams, Auburn and Utah, also went unbeaten through the regular season and their respective bowl games. On Jan. 5, USC was voted the nation’s best team in both the AP and Coaches polls.

     Bizarre Train Wrecks Claim 20 Lives - A freight train transporting deadly chlorine gas crashed into a smaller train in Graniteville, SC, Jan. 6. The smaller train was parked on a siding; both were Norfolk Southern trains. Nine people, died as a result of the accident, and hospitals admitted more than 50 others, most suffering from respiratory ailments caused by the chlorine. Authorities told some 5,500 people within a mile of the accident to evacuate. Authorities determined that crewmembers on the smaller train had failed to reset a switch that would have prevented any approaching train from entering the siding.
     On Jan. 26, 11 people were killed and 120 hospitalized in a crash involving 3 trains. According to authorities in Glendale, CA, a driver who apparently was attempting suicide drove his sport utility vehicle onto a commuter rail track, then changed his mind about dying and fled from his vehicle. It was struck by a southbound Metrolink train, which then derailed and struck a parked Union Pacific locomotive and a northbound Metrolink train on adjacent tracks. The SUV driver, Juan Manuel Alvarez, was charged Jan. 27 with 11 counts of murder.

     Heavy Rains in California Bring Death, Devastation - By early Jan., more than a week of heavy rains began to create dangerous conditions in southern California. The 15 inches of rain in Los Angeles in the first 10 days of 2005 exceeded the normal total for an entire year. A mountainside saturated with rain crashed into the seaside town of La Conchita Jan. 10, killing 10 people.


     The 62nd Golden Globe Awards, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, were held on Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Globe wins, for motion pictures, often give an early indication of how the Academy Awards will go. Winners were as follows:

Motion Pictures:
Picture, Drama: "The Aviator."
Actor, Drama: Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Aviator."
Actress, Drama: Hilary Swank, "Million Dollar Baby."
Picture, Musical or Comedy: "Sideways."
Actor, Musical or Comedy: Jamie Foxx, "Ray."
Actress, Musical or Comedy: Annette Bening, "Being Julia."
Supporting Actor: Clive Owen, "Closer."
Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman, "Closer."
Director: Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby."
Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, "Sideways."
Original Score: Howard Shore, "The Aviator."
Original Song: "Old Habits Die Hard" from "Alfie," by Mick Jagger and David A. Stewart.
Foreign Language: "The Sea Inside," Spain.

Drama Series: "Nip/Tuck," FX.
Actor, Drama: Ian McShane, "Deadwood."
Actress, Drama: Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Musical or Comedy Series: "Desperate Housewives," ABC.
Actor, Musical or Comedy: Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development."
Actress, Musical or Comedy: Teri Hatcher, "Desperate Housewives."
Miniseries or TV Movie: "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," HBO.
Actor, Miniseries or TV Movie: Geoffrey Rush, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers."
Actress, Miniseries or TV Movie: Glenn Close, "The Lion in Winter."
Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or TV Movie: William Shatner, "Boston Legal."
Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or TV Movie: Anjelica Huston, "Iron Jawed Angels."

Cecil B. DeMille Award: Robin Williams.

     Nominations for the 77th Annual Academy Awards were announced on Jan. 25 by Academy President Frank Pierson and Oscar® -winning actor Adrien Brody. Academy Awards® for outstanding film achievements of 2004 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, at the Kodak Theatre, in Los Angeles, CA, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. EST. Major nominations include:

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda"
Johnny Depp in "Finding Neverland"
Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Aviator"
Clint Eastwood in "Million Dollar Baby"
Jamie Foxx in "Ray"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Alda in "The Aviator"
Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways"
Jamie Foxx in "Collateral"
Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby"
Clive Owen in "Closer"

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Annette Bening in "Being Julia"
Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace"
Imelda Staunton in "Vera Drake"
Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby"
Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in "The Aviator"
Laura Linney in "Kinsey"
Virginia Madsen in "Sideways"
Sophie Okonedo in "Hotel Rwanda"
Natalie Portman in "Closer"

Achievement in directing
Martin Scorsese for "The Aviator"
Clint Eastwood for "Million Dollar Baby"
Taylor Hackford for "Ray"
Alexander Payne for "Sideways"
Mike Leigh for "Vera Drake"

Best motion picture of the year
"The Aviator"
"Finding Neverland"
"Million Dollar Baby"

Best foreign language film of the year
"As It Is in Heaven," Sweden
"The Chorus (Les Choristes)," France
"Downfall," Germany
"The Sea Inside," Spain
"Yesterday," South Africa

Science in the News - Brand Names Can Activate the Brain

Subha Appulingam

In the eternal battle of Coke versus Pepsi, Coke officially has the overwhelming advantage. A recent study, published in Neuron, uses brain-imaging techniques to show that the Coke label is so culturally recognizable, it can actually change the way a person perceives taste.

P. Read Montague of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and his colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to find out what regions of the brain influence a person's preference for Coke or Pepsi. (fMRI involves tracing brain activity by registering the flow of blood to active areas.) Coke and Pepsi are unique products, the researchers note in their paper, "in that, while they have very similar chemical composition, people maintain strong behavioral preferences for one over the other."

In order to understand these preferences, the researchers asked four groups, each with 16 to 18 participants, to undergo taste tests both outside and inside the fMRI machine. First, all subjects were asked whether they preferred Coke or Pepsi. The responses were more or less evenly divided, with about a third favoring Coke, a third favoring Pepsi and a third saying they had no particular preference.

Two groups of subjects then participated in a completely anonymous taste test in which they were given two unmarked cups, one with Pepsi and one with Coke, and asked to decide which soda they preferred. The researchers found no significant preference; as many subjects chose Pepsi as chose Coke. Also, there was no significant correlation between what subjects initially said they preferred and what they chose in the taste test.

The subjects then underwent the same taste test in the fMRI scanner, allowing the researchers to observe the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) region as the subjects made their decision. The VMPFC is a region of the brain associated with reflexive emotions (those that occur without conscious control, like reflexes). It responds to rewards such as sugary, caffeinated drinks; activity in the area means the subject is responding emotionally rather than logically. As expected, the fMRI showed that areas in the subjects' ventromedial prefrontal cortex were engaged whenever they tasted a beverage, regardless of whether it was Coke or Pepsi. This indicated that they were really picking one or the other based on taste.

The third group of participants was similarly tested. However, this group was presented with two cups containing Coke, one of which was labeled "Coke" and the other left unlabeled. The participant was told that the unlabeled cup could contain either Pepsi or Coke. The researchers found that, in this test, "subjects show[ed] a strong bias in favor of the labeled cup"--the one they knew to contain Coke--"when compared with the anonymous taste test."

These participants then went through the same taste test inside the fMRI machine, allowing the researchers to observe how being able to identify a beverage as Coke affected the subjects' decision-making process. This time, Montague and his team observed that, in addition to the VMPFC, other regions of the brain--including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex nd the hippocampus --lit up with activity as well. These regions are associated with cultural knowledge, memory and logical thinking. In their paper, the researchers hypothesize that the subjects recognized the cultural value of the label, recalled information related to it, and thought rationally about their preference instead of just responding emotionally as subjects in the anonymous taste tests did.

The fourth group of subjects underwent the exact same procedure as the third group, although instead of Coke, both cups contained Pepsi and one was labeled Pepsi. In contrast to the Coke label, the presence of the Pepsi label didn't bias subjects one way or the other, meaning they showed no preference for the labeled drink over the unlabeled drink. When these participants underwent the taste test in the fMRI machine, only the VMPFC showed any significant activity, indicating that the Pepsi label made no impact on the parts of the brain governing rational thought.

Simply put, the Coke label is more ingrained in the brain than the Pepsi label and actually has the power to bias taste preferences. In a more general sense, the study suggests that our preferences are dictated by a combination of our basic senses and cultural exposure.

"Everybody's heard of Coke and Pepsi. They have messages and, in the case of Coke, those messages have insinuated themselves in our nervous system," Montague said in the Independent, a London newspaper. "There's a huge effect of the Coke label on brain activity related to the control of actions, the dredging up of memories and self-image. There is a response in the brain which leads to a behavioral effect.


Coca-Cola was by far the leading U.S. beverage business in 2002, with over $19 billion in sales.

Offbeat News Stories

Sarah Janssen

Mommy Dearest

In the midst of devastation and tragedy, the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck in late December also brought forth stories of survival, generosity, and compassion, even from the animal kingdom. A 650-pound baby hippopotamus, separated from his mother by tsunami waves, washed up on the Kenyan coast, where wildlife rangers found him. The traumatized hippo, named Owen by his rescuers, soon adopted an unlikely new ‘"mother"--a century-old giant male tortoise, with which he swims, eats, and sleeps. Rangers say Owen follows the tortoise exactly the way he would follow his real mother, even acting aggressively to protect her whenever other animals try to approach. For her part, observers say, the tortoise seems very happy with its adopted youngster.

Weather Pig

While it may stun some scientists, it appears that the groundhog is not the only animal whose shadow sighting on February 2 conveys knowledge about the weather. Lexington, NC, is planning "Groundhawg Day" festivities featuring Lil Bit, a 65-pound pot-bellied pig. Celebration representatives say the choice of Lil Bit honors the town’s "heritage of barbecue," since Lexington is renowned for it pork barbecue in tomato sauce. The celebration will also include the musical stylings of local group "Whistlepig," and the release of 2,005 pink balloons

Do you smell something burning?

David Dickinson, a cattle feedlot owner in Milford, NE, has a problem you wouldn’t want. It’s not just the mountain of cow dung (100 feet long, 30 feet high, and 50 feet wide) on his property (the byproduct of fattening up as many as 12,000 cows daily); it’s that the unholy heap is on fire - and has been for two months, despite vigorous attempts to put it out. Extinguishing a manure fire is no easy task, since any use of water would threaten nearby water sources with runoff. Dickinson first tried to suffocate the fire by spreading out the hill, but the flames just moved to another section of the pile. It’s not certain exactly how the fire started, but most think it was set off by heat from decomposing dung deep in the heap. When last heard from, Dickinson was still working on the problem, and his neighbors were fervently hoping for his success.

From The World Almanac - Leaders of China Since 1949

Name Position
Mao Zedong Chairman, Central People's Administrative Council, Communist Party (CPC), 1949-1976
Zhou Enlai Premier, foreign minister, 1949-1976
Deng Xiaoping Vice Premier, 1952-1966, 1973-1976, 1977-1980; "paramount leader", 1978-1997
Liu Shaoqi President, 1959-1969
Hua Guofeng Premier, 1976-1980; CPC Chairman, 1976-1981
Zhao Ziyang Premier, 1980-1988; CPC General Secretary, 1987-1989
Hu Yaobang CPC Chairman, 1981-1982; CPC General Secretary, 1982-1987
Li Xiannian President, 1983-1988
Yang Shangkun President, 1988-1993
Li Peng Premier, 1988-1998
Jiang Zemin CPC General Secretary, 1989-2002; President, 1993-2003
Zhu Rongji Premier, 1998-2003
Hu Jintao CPC General Secretary, 2002-; President, 2003-
Wen Jiabao Premier, 2003

Links of the Month - Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

My friend Ann Clark has a birthday this month, and so we’re going to celebrate famous Ann’s. Discovered by George Burns, Swedish born singer Ann-Margret Olsson became a star with her role as an all-American teenager in Bye Bye Birdie. The recipient of two Academy Award nominations, she also starred in Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley, and has more recently spent time devoting much of her time to her husband of 38 years, Roger Smith, who suffers a neuromuscular disorder, myasthenia gravis. To learn more about Ann-Margret, visit With the now famous line made during the keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention, "Poor George (H.W. Bush), he can't help it...He was born with a silver foot in his mouth," (Dorothy) Ann Richards moved into the public spotlight. Elected Texas State Treasurer in 1982, she ran for governor in 1990, but lost that office in 1994 to now President George W. Bush. To learn more about Richards, visit: On the other side of the political spectrum, Ann Coulter made a name for herself as the lawyer who represented Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. She is now a well-known conservative writer, and all of her books have become New York Times bestsellers. To learn more about Coulter visit . At the age of 12, Ann Putnam Jr.helped set something in motion that would ruin the lives of many, and torture her until the day she died. When Salem children Betty Parris and Abigail Williams began acting peculiar in January 1692, a physician suggested they were under Satan’s influence. Soon after, Ann and several other girls began exhibiting the same symptoms. The girls began accusing their neighbors of being witches, which resulted in the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials 20 people had been put to death. To learn more about the witch trials visit . The last Ann to be discussed is Raggedy Ann, who along with her brother Andy (didn’t know they were siblings, did you?) started as book characters, and were followed up with accompanying rag dolls. To learn more about Raggedy Ann visit:

Philip Johnson, who died last month, was an influential 20th century architect, known for his post-modern architecture. His career began with the design of his Glass House, a see-through frame structure that he resided in for the rest of his life, and included such notable structures as the AT&T building in New York, and the Crystal Cathedral in California. To learn more about Johnson, visit

I don’t quite understand the fascination I have with Mr. Peanut, considering I don’t particularly like the taste of peanuts, (truth be told, I’ve never tasted peanut butter). I met Mr. Peanut on the Boardwalk of Atlantic City (NJ) in 1970 (I have a picture to prove it), and 35 years later I own Mr. Peanut promotional items such as a peanut butter maker, banks, cups, straws, a doll, a spoon, and even a Christmas ornament. To learn more about Mr. Peanut and Planter’s Peanuts, visit . To see collectible items make sure you visit

Do you know which train station in the world has more platforms (44 with 67 tracks along them) than any other station? It’s New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, the newest incarnation of three buildings that have stood on the same spot, and served railroad needs since 1871. Built between 1903 and 1913, it is a grand Beaux-Arts style building that includes a vaulted ceiling with the constellations, and the Whispering Corners (When you and a companion stand in opposite corners and whisper, you can hear each other as well as if you were standing a foot apart) outside of the famous Oyster Bar. To learn more about Grand Central visit You can also take an interesting “down under” tour at .

The year of the rooster, for those who celebrate the Chinese New Year, will begin on February 9. It is said, that those born in the year of the rooster, are full of dreams and romantic ideas, and are the most eccentric. It might not be a shock to some to learn that I was born in the year of the rat. BUT after all, they are hard working, have hearty appetites, and maintain close ties with cherished friends and loved ones (okay, give me a break, I only listed some of the nice things!). To learn more about the traditions of the Chinese New Year visit To learn more about the animal you were born under visit

Fashion and the Academy Award presentations go hand in hand. People who watch the Oscar telecasts often enjoy watching the parade of stars on the red carpet, and seeing what they are wearing. Some years provide more fun than others - there was the year the singer Bjork wore a swan inspired gown, or the time Cher showed up revealing more than some people wanted to see in her Bob Mackie gown. To check out those who dress up for the Oscars, be sure to visit . Don’t forget to look at the evolution of fashion, to see how certain celebrities have changed their styles.

Odd Website of the Month: My name is Crusty Gerbilfanny, what's yours? Go to and hit the start button. Follow the instructions from there. If you don't know who Captain Underpants is, then you'll have to visit

Kids can get their own subscription to the World Almanac for Kids E-Newsletter at:

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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

Comments and suggestions can be sent to:

If you have enjoyed this newsletter, and would like your family and friends to subscribe for free, have them send an e-mail to: