The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 05, Number 07 — July 2005

What's in this issue?

July Events
July Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — July
July Birthdays
Travel: Novi Sad
Obituaries - Month June 2005
Special Feature: Forty Years of Medicare
Chronology - Events of Month June 2005
Science in the News: Earth Lightens Up
Offbeat News Stories
From The World Almanac — Boston Marathon - World's Oldest Annual Marathon
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

July Events

July 1 - Artown (Reno, NV)
July 1-4 - Ice Cream Days (Le Mars, IA)
July 2 - 2005 Half-year point (noon)
July 2-24 - Tour de France
July 4 - Kimberley International Old-Time Accordion Championships (Kimberley, BC, Canada)
July 5 - Earth at Aphelion (point in its orbit furthest from the sun)
July 7-14 - Running of the Bulls (Pamplona, Spain)
July 8-17 - Calgary Stampede (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
July 9-10 - Peddler’s Village Teddy Bear’s Picnic (Lahaska, PA)
July 9-17 - Kaustinen Folk Music Festival (Kaustinen, Finland)
July 9-August 7 - SeaFair (Seattle, WA)
July 10-21 - World Maccabiah Games (Israel)
July 12 - MLB All-Star Game (Comerica Park, Detroit, MI)
July 13-16 - Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo (Vernal, UT)
July 14-17 - British Open golf tournament (St. Andrews, Scotland)
July 15-16 - Sherwood Robin Hood Festival (Sherwood, OR)
July 17 - Feast of the Redeemer (Venice, Italy)
July 19-23 - Snake River Stampede (Nampa, ID)
July 21-26 - San Sebastian Jazz Festival (San Sebastian, Spain)
July 22-24 - BagelFest (Mattoon, IL)
July 22-31 - Cheyenne Frontier Days (Cheyenne, WY)
July 25-Aug. 28 - Wagner Festspiele (Bayreuth, Germany)
July 27-28 - Chincoteague Pony Penning (Chincoteague Island, VA)
July 28-31 - US Senior Open golf championship
July 29-31 - Annie Oakley Days (Greenville, OH)
July 30 - All-American Soap Box Derby (Derby Downs, Akron, OH)

July Holidays — National and International

July 1 - Canada Day; Half-Year Day (China); Midyear Day (Thailand)
July 4 - U.S. Independence Day
July 7 - Tanabata (Star Festival), Japan
July 11 - UN World Population Day
July 14 - Bastille Day (France)
July 17 - National Ice Cream Day
July 24 - Fast of Tammuz; Parents Day


In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier.

This Day In History — July

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1974 In Argentina, Pres. Juan Perón dies and is succeeded by his wife, Isabel.
02 1937 Aviator Amelia Earhart and her copilot Fred Noonan disappear during a flight while over the Pacific.
03 1976 At Entebbe airport in Uganda, an Israeli commando unit stages a raid on an Air France airliner that was hijacked en route from Tel Aviv to Paris; 103 hostages are rescued, while 3 hostages, 7 hijackers, and 20 Ugandan soldiers are killed.
04 1776 The Continental Congress adopts and signs the Declaration of Independence.
05 1988 Pres. Ronald Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese, resigns hours after an independent prosecutor's report says he may have violated the law.
06 1997 NASA's Mars Pathfinder deploys the roving robotic Sojourner, which moves about and analyzes the Martian rocks and soil.
07 1981 Pres. Ronald Reagan announces the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, the first woman ever named to the Court.
08 1998 In a tentative settlement, Dow Corning agrees to pay $3.2 billion to 170,000 women who claim they have become ill from silicone breast implants.
09 1850 Pres. Zachary Taylor dies and is succeeded by Vice Pres. Millard Fillmore.
10 1985 Coca-Cola announces that it will bring back its original Coke formula--replaced by New Coke in April, to a storm of protest--as Coca-Cola Classic.
11 1995 The United States announces it is reestablishing diplomatic relations with Vietnam.
12 1995 A severe heat wave begins in the Midwest and Northeast; by July 17, at least 800 die.
13 1985 Live Aid, a rock concert in London and Philadelphia broadcast around the world, raises $70 million for African famine relief.
14 1853 Comm. Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy is received by Japan, on his mission to negotiate a treaty to open the country to U.S. ships.
15 1912 Amassing 8,412 points--800 more than his nearest competitor--Jim Thorpe wins the Olympic decathlon.
16 1918 In Russia, Czar Nicholas II and his family are executed by a firing squad on the order of the Bolsheviks.
17 1945 The Potsdam Conference begins, with the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain agreeing on the disarmament of Germany, occupation zones, and war crimes trials.
18 1993 Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, in office since 1955, loses its majority in parliament in general elections.
19 1863 Union troops fail to capture Fort Wagner, SC; 1,515 Union troops die, in the battle that marked the first use of black soldiers in the Civil War.
20 1974 Turkey invades the island of Cyprus, which Greek officers seized a week earlier.
21 2002 Communications giant WorldCom becomes the largest U.S. company to declare bankruptcy, and admits overstating its profits since 1999.
22 1981 Mehmet Ali Agca is sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted in Italy of attempting to kill Pope John Paul II.
23 2000 Tiger Woods, 24, becomes the youngest golfer ever to achieve a Grand Slam--winning all 4 major golf tournaments.
24 1925 John T. Scopes is found guilty of having taught evolution in a Dayton, TN, high school, after the "Monkey Trial" pits Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan.
25 1984 Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to walk in space, as well as the first woman to make 2 space flights.
26 1990 The Americans With Disabilities Act is signed by Pres. George Bush, barring discrimination against the handicapped and requiring that public facilities be accessible.
27 1953 Fighting ends in the Korean War with the signing of an armistice in Panmunjom.
28 1932 The Bonus Army--unemployed World War I Veterans who marched on Washington demanding that Congress pay their bonuses in full--is evicted by U.S. Army cavalry, tanks, and infantry upon the order of Pres. Herbert Hoover.
29 1958 Pres. Dwight Eisenhower signs legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
30 1964 A bill establishing Medicare, the government health insurance program for people age 65 or over, is signed.
30 1877 Thomas Edison receives a patent for his phonograph.

July Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1916 Olivia De Havilland, actress (Tokyo, Japan)
02 1923 Wislawa Szymborska, poet (Kornik, Poland)
03 1930 Pete Fountain, jazz musician (New Orleans, LA)
04 1930 George Steinbrenner, NY Yankees owner (Rocky River, OH)
05 1951 Goose Gossage, baseball pitcher (Colorado Springs, CO)
06 1923 Nancy Reagan, former first lady of the United States (New York, NY)
07 1980 Michelle Kwan, champion figure skater (Torrance, CA)
08 1935 Steve Lawrence, singer (Brooklyn, NY)
09 1945 Dean Koontz, writer (Everett, PA)
10 1915 Saul Bellow, author (Lachine, Quebec, Canada)
11 1931 Tab Hunter, actor (New York, NY)
12 1971 Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic champion figure skater (Hayward, CA)
13 1947 Cameron Crowe, screenwriter (Palm Springs, CA)
14 1913 Gerald Ford, 38th president of the United States (Omaha, NE)
15 1950 Arianna Huffington, columnist (Greece)
16 1948 Pinchas Zukerman, violinist (Tel Aviv, Israel)
17 1935 Diahann Carroll, actress/singer (Bronx, NY)
18 1972 Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, basketball player (Memphis, TN)
19 1921 Rosalyn Yalow, medical physicist (New York, NY)
20 1939 Judy Chicago, feminist artist (Chicago, IL)
21 1948 Garry Trudeau, cartoonist and creator of Doonesbury (New York, NY)
22 1940 Alex Trebek, TV personality (Sudbury, Ontario, Canada)
23 1925 Gloria DeHaven, actress (Los Angeles, CA)
24 1970 Jennifer Lopez, actress/singer (Bronx, NY)
25 1955 Iman, model/actress (Mogadishu, Somalia)
26 1956 Dorothy Hamill, Olympic champion figure skater (Chicago, IL)
27 1975 Alex Rodriguez, baseball player (New York, NY)
28 1941 Riccardo Muti, conductor (Naples, Italy)
29 1938 Peter Jennings, TV anchor (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
30 1979 Hillary Swank, actress (Bellington, WA)
31 1966 J.K. Rowling, author (Bristol, England)

Travel: Novi Sad

Novi Sad is one of the better known moderate-sized Eastern European cities around the world—but for an unfortunate reason. A key target of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, the air assault destroyed the city's bridges across the Danube River, damaged its refinery, and caused havoc in other parts of town.

But Novi Sad has a strong claim to attention on more ordinary grounds, and not just because it's the birthplace of tennis star Monica Seles. Possessing a population of more than 200,000 people, it's a commercial and agricultural center - a major international agricultural fair is held there each spring - and the capital of the northern Serbian region of Vojvodina. These days, bridges once again span the Danube, also graced with the city's biggest park and some of the finest river beaches in Europe. And Novi Sad is still a green city - the name translates literally as New Garden - celebrated for its chestnut, plane, and lime trees. And it is the site of Exit, an annual popular music festival that draws performers and fans from myriad countries and caters to tastes ranging from rock to hip-hop, to Latin, to world music, and beyond. Exit 05 was slated to be held July 7-10.

Novi Sad's most famous landmark is the massive Petrovaradin Fortress. At one time familiarly known as Gibraltar on the Danube, it occupies some 278 acres (112 ha) on an elevation high above the river's right bank. The site has been the location of fortifications since before the time of the ancient Romans. The Austrians seized control over the right bank from the Ottoman Turks toward the end of the 1600s and proceeded during the following decades to build a mammoth fortress - the biggest in the Austrian Empire - which can still be seen today.

Novi Sad proper was founded across the river at the end of the 17th century as a place where Orthodox Serbs could live. In the following two centuries, with much of Serbia remaining under Ottoman rule, Novi Sad emerged as the Serbs' cultural center, acquiring the nickname "Serbian Athens." Serbia's oldest cultural and scholarly organization, the Matica Srpska Society, founded in 1826, has been based in Novi Sad since 1864. Hundreds of years of Austrian and Austro-Hungarian rule left a baroque imprint on the city's architecture. An 1849 Serbian uprising resulted in the destruction of much of the town when it was bombarded by the Hungarian Army from the Petrovaradin. Some older structures still remain, however, including a few interesting 18th-century churches.

Novi Sad's central square features a monument erected in 1939 to Svetozar Miletic, a 19th-century leader of the Serbian national movement, as well as the 1894 neo-Renaissance old City Hall and a neo-Gothic Catholic church that also dates from the end of the 19th century. Dunavska (Danube) Street, one of the city's oldest, is the location of what is likely the town's oldest surviving house, called At the White Lion's (1720), as well as the Collection of Foreign Art and the city's largest museum - the Museum of Vojvodina (1900), with holdings in archaeology, ancient history, ethnology, and modern history. Several galleries can be found on the appropriately named Gallery Square, including the Matica Srpska Gallery, featuring Serbian art in Vojvodina from as far back as the 16th century.

An assortment of museums (including the Novi Sad City Museum), galleries, and artists' studios are located at the Petrovaradin, as are the local art academy and such other attractions as a planetarium and cafés. Parts of the complex's 10 mi (16 km) of underground tunnels can be seen by visitors.

The Petrovaradin is also the venue for the Exit festival. It accommodates 18 performance arenas, the largest being the Voda Voda main stage, with a capacity of 35,000. Other facilities include an extreme sports arena and an open-air cinema.

The festival grew out of the student movement opposed to Serbian strongman Slobodan Miloševic. The movement, which became popularly known as Otpor ("Resistance"), played an instrumental role in his ouster in 2000. (Miloševic, charged with genocide and war crimes, is currently on trial in The Hague, Netherlands.)

Roughly 600 performances were scheduled for the 2005 festival by such U.S. groups as White Stripes, Garbage, and Slayer. A sampling of other acts on the agenda included top Bosnian rapper Edo Maajka; Britain's Fatboy Slim, known for his idiosyncratic mix of hip-hop, breakbeat, rhythm and blues, and rock; the British electroclash band Ladytron; Finland's heavy-metal cellists Apocalyptica; the New Zealand rock band known as the Datsuns; Macedonian Esma Redzepova, the queen of gypsy music; and the Bodyrockers, featuring leading Australian house DJ Kaz James and British singer/guitarist Dylan Burns, who have been likened to a - dance version of the White Stripes - and whose improvisations on well-known dance hits are said to charge the crowd with such energy the dance floor is left a "wasteland."


The five Great Lakes contain nearly one-fifth of all the fresh water on the Earth.

Obituaries in June 2005

Alexander, Shana, 79, pioneering woman columnist at Life and Newsweek magazines who gained pop cultural status as a liberal commentator on CBS TV’s "60 Minutes" in the 1970s; Hermosa Beach, CA, June 23, 2005.

Bancroft, Anne, 73, actress who won a Tony for playing Helen Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan on Broadway in The Miracle Worker (1959), won an Oscar for reprising the role in the 1962 film, and became a film legend for her portrayal of seductive Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967); New York, NY, June 6, 2005.

Collins, Larry, 75, U.S. author who collaborated with Frenchman Dominique Lapierre on such best-selling works of historical nonfiction as Is Paris Burning? (1965) and O Jerusalem! (1972); Frejus, France, June 20, 2005.

Eberhart, Richard, 101, prolific lyric poet who won many prizes and was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (precursor to the post of U.S. poet laureate) from 1959 to 1961; Hanover, NH, June 9, 2005.

Foote, Shelby, 88, novelist turned historian who wrote a three-volume study of the U.S. Civil War and made 89 cameo appearances in Ken Burns’s 11-hour public TV documentary about the war, which aired in 1990; Memphis, TN, June 27, 2005.

Giulini, Carlo Maria, 91, Italian conductor who made celebrated recordings of operas by Mozart and Verdi, guest-conducted most of the world’s major orchestras and was principal conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1978 to 1985; Brescia, Italy, June 14, 2005.

Keeling, Charles D., 77, geochemist whose pioneering measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide provided strong evidence of global warming; Hamilton, MT, June 20, 2005.

Kilby, Jack St. Clair, 81, Nobel Prize-winning electrical engineer who in 1958 at Texas Instruments invented the integrated circuit, or microchip, which spurred the computer revolution; Dallas, TX, June 20, 2005.

Mikan, George, 80, pro basketball’s first "big man"­­at a height of 6 feet 10 inches—and the NBA’s dominant player in the decade after World War II; Scottsdale, AZ, June 1, 2005.

Sin, Cardinal Jaime, 76, Roman Catholic prelate who wielded great political influence in the Philippines, he was archbishop of Manila from 1974 to 2003, and had been a cardinal since 1976; Manila, the Philippines, June 21, 2005.

Walton, John T., 58, middle son of three sons of Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton and one of the world’s richest men; Grand Teton National Park, WY, June 27, 2005, in the crash of an experimental ultralight aircraft he had been piloting.

Winchell, Paul, 82, ventriloquist who brought to life the dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff on TV; he was also the longtime voice of the character Tigger in various Walt Disney Co. Winnie-the-Pooh-related productions and was a prolific inventor who patented an early version of the artificial heart; Moorpark, CA, June 24, 2005.

Special Feature: Forty Years of Medicare

by Joseph Gustaitis


LBJ Library

President Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, President Harry S. Truman, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman at the signing the Medicare Law.

One of the most ambitious and far-reaching endeavors ever undertaken by the U.S. federal government became a reality 40 years ago this month. On July 28, 1965 Congress passed the Medicare program to provide medical care for the elderly. (The House passed it on July 27 and the Senate followed suit the next day.) Two days later, 36th U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson made a symbolic flight to Independence, Missouri, so he could sign the bill in the presence of former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who had proposed a system of national health insurance 20 years before. On the occasion, Johnson commented, "We marvel not simply at the passage of this bill, but that it took so many years to pass it." Although it did take time for the legislation to be enacted, the final vote was not all that close. In the House the vote was 307-116, and more Republicans actually supported it than opposed it (70-68). The Senate cleared the bill by a vote of 70-24 (57 D. and 13 R. vs. 17 R. and 7 D).

Some of the keenest opposition to Medicare came from the American Medical Association (AMA), which had been raising fears of "socialized medicine" that would result in long lines and delays for health services. The previous January, the AMA had announced its own "eldercare" plan, which it had vigorously backed in a series of TV and radio commercials. This proposal would pay for drug, doctor, and surgical costs through subsidized Blue Cross Blue Shield or commercial insurance policies for the retired poor on a sliding scale, depending on income, and would be administered by the states, while subsidies would come from federal and state sources. That plan was never realized, but even before Johnson signed the Medicare legislation, the AMA, recognizing that Medicare was going to happen, rejected various proposals that would have encouraged physicians not to participate in the Medicare program. James Z. Appel, who became AMA president in late June 1965, said, "Without the cooperation of the physicians of this nation, the intent of the [Medicare] law cannot be carried out. Such lack of cooperation would be a violation of intent, would disparage respect for law and would stimulate retaliatory regulatory legislation."

When Truman called for national health insurance in 1945, he was not the first chief executive to do so. Theodore Roosevelt, who was the 26th U.S. president in the first decade of the 20th century, had sought such a program, and in his 1944 State of the Union address 32nd U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of "the right to adequate medical care." The two Roosevelts and Truman had envisioned a system of national health insurance for all - an ideal that remains unfulfilled - but Johnson and his supporters trimmed their ambitions and concentrated on a program for the elderly. Today, the elderly in the United States enjoy a variety of benefits (and the support of the American Association of Retired Persons [AARP], the powerful advocacy and lobbying group for senior citizens), but in the 1950s and the 1960s the condition of the aged in American society was not so sanguine. Indeed, one could argue that it was in crisis. The 1950 census showed that the elderly population had grown from 3 million in 1900 to 12 million in 1950 - that is, from 4 to 8 percent of the population. Two-thirds of older Americans had yearly incomes of less than $1,000, and only 1 in 8 had health insurance. Private insurers had deemed the elderly a "bad risk," and even unions found it difficult to buy coverage for retirees through employer-sponsored plans. Even after Medicare was passed, in 1967, Johnson, calling for an increase in Social Security benefits, pointed out that of more than 19 million Americans who were 65 or older, 5.3 million had yearly incomes below the poverty level, only 2 million were on welfare, and only 1 in 5 had a job.

Medicaid, the national health insurance program for low-income persons, was established in the same year as Medicare (as of 2001 both programs have been administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, formerly the Health Care Financing Administration). Medicaid is a federal-state program and is usually operated by state welfare or health departments. Its services include inpatient and outpatient hospital care, physicians' services, nursing-home services for adults, and laboratory and X-ray services. Each state decides who is eligible for Medicaid and what services that person is entitled to.

The first expansion of Medicare occurred seven years after it was born. In 1972, Medicare eligibility was extended to two other groups - people under 65 with disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease. Since then, the program has been widened in many ways however, most of these changes have been fairly minor. For example, things such as hospice benefits, mammography, pap smears, and some physical therapy and speech therapy services have been incorporated into the program.

But Medicare was yet due for a major change. In June 1999, 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton unveiled a plan to add a key new benefit for Medicare beneficiaries: coverage of prescription drugs used outside the hospital. Subsequently, a Congressional Budget Office report said that half of Medicare beneficiaries currently had prescription drug coverage from private sources that was more extensive than Clinton’s proposed plan, adding that Medicare beneficiaries under Clinton's plan would end up paying at least 75% of the cost of the drugs they used.

By that time it was April 2000, Clinton’s remaining days in office were short, and a presidential campaign was in full swing. When George W. Bush, a conservative president ostensibly committed to smaller government, took office in January 2001, one might have expected that the matter of a Medicare drug benefit would be quietly dropped. However, this was not the case. At the time, the media was full of horror stories about elderly people too poor to afford life-saving drugs or being forced to choose between food and medicine. Statistics showed that although the elderly were the highest users of prescription drugs, about one-third of the 40 million Medicare recipients did not have insurance that covered prescription medications. In addition, U.S. consumers were paying more for prescription drugs than consumers in any other country - they were estimated to spend 38% more than consumers in Canada and 45% more than consumers in France. In addition, drug costs were quickly rising. A study released in March 2001 showed that spending on prescription drugs had grown faster in 1999 than expenditures in any other category of health care - in 1999, Americans had spent $100 billion on prescription drugs, a 17% rise from the previous year. Consumer group Families USA estimates that prescription drug prices will increase by more than 72% by 2010. Several solutions to the dilemma were proposed, among them the importation of cheaper drugs from other countries, state and local governments using their purchasing power to negotiate better drug prices for their constituents, and even price controls.

As a result, Bush, recognizing the public mood, decided to strive toward the goal of a Medicare drug benefit. The first attempt failed as the Senate in July 2002 rejected a bill sponsored by Senators Bob Graham (D, Florida) and Gordon Smith (R, Oregon). The legislation would have cost $390 billion over 10 years, and provided comprehensive drug coverage for Medicare recipients with annual incomes below 200% of the poverty level and for those with annual drug costs greater than $3,300. In the previous week, the Senate had also turned down three other drug benefit proposals.

In the federal elections of 2002, however, the Republicans regained control of the Senate. And a year later, in November 2003, after wide-ranging debate, Congress passed the largest expansion of the Medicare program since it was created. The legislation just made it through the House by a vote of 220 to 215, and the Senate passed it 54-44. Under the new legislation, people enrolled in the program would pay an annual deductible of $250 and a monthly premium averaging $35, and then receive coverage for the costs of prescription medications. Polls showed Americans about evenly split on the law’s worth, although older people tended to favor it somewhat more than younger individuals. One of the key factors in the bill’s passage was a controversial endorsement by the AARP. Many democrats and some of AARP’s members opposed the bill seeing it as a giveaway to drug companies and insurers and an attempt to privatize Medicare.

The whole bill sounded like it would be very advantageous for older Americans, which it surely was. However, the cost was enormous. . The price tag was originally put at $395 billion, but in January 2004 the White House released estimates that the bill would cost $534 billion and both Republican and Democratic legislators said that, had they known the actual cost, the legislation would probably not have passed. The estimated cost soared again the following year. . In February 2005, the White House released budget figures indicating that the drug benefit would cost more than $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. The budget deficit was another complication. In October 2004, the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit had grown to a record $413 billion in the 2004 fiscal year. Late in 2004, David Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States, said that the official debt of the United States was over $7 trillion (about $24,000 for every person in the country), but he added that if you count the unfunded liabilities, such as the that on the prescription drug benefit, the debt soars to about $42 trillion, or $140,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. By 2005 the attention of the Bush administration had turned to bolstering the Social Security program, but many analysts were pointing out that Medicare was likely to become insolvent long before Social Security was. Finally, public enthusiasm for the drug benefit bill appeared to be waning. In December 2004, for example, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 46 percent of those 65 and older said they supported the law and only 39 percent were opposed. By March of the following year, however, the percentage of those opposed rose to 48 percent, and many older persons were complaining that they found the program confusing.

So Medicare, as it turns 40, seems to be in one of those classic "good news, bad news" situations. On the one hand, it has just given many people who sorely need it a helping hand in dealing with the vexing problem of drug costs, and in this regard it will undoubtedly save lives. However, it has also left the American taxpayer with a very big bill to pay.


A red-letter day refers to a memorable day; from the custom of using red or purple colors to mark holy days on the calendar.

Chronology — Events of June 2005


     SEC Chairman Resigns - William Donaldson, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced June 1 that he would step down at the end of the month. A Republican, he had often sided with the 2 Democrats on the 5-member SEC, and some business leaders had accused him of going overboard in pursuing corporate abuses. Pres. George W. Bush announced June 2 that he would nominate Rep. Christopher Cox (R, CA) as head of the SEC.

     Washington Governor’s Victory Upheld - The 2004 election of Washington state’s Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire, was upheld June 6 effectively ending appeals by Dino Rossi, the defeated Republican candidate.

     GM to Cut 25,000 Jobs - General Motors announced June 7 that it would cut 25,000 jobs by 2008 and close some factories. At the time of the announcement, GM had 181,000 workers in North America. According to GM, the company was finding fewer buyers for its sport utility vehicles, largely because of soaring gas prices.

     More Bush Federal Court Nominees Approved - A bipartisan May compromise in the Senate over judicial nominations resulted in the confirmation of 4 more Bush nominees. Of these, 2 had been strongly opposed by Democrats: Janice Rogers Brown, confirmed June 8, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 56-43, and William Pryor, confirmed June 9 for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, GA, 53-45.

     Schiavo Autopsy Showed Her Condition Wouldn’t Improve - Results of an autopsy of Theresa (Terri) Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who had died in March after her feeding tube was removed after a series of legal battles, was released June 15. Her parents had sought to keep her alive despite a medical consensus that she would not improve that had drawn in the president and Congress. Pinellas-Pasco County (FL) medical examiner Jon Thogmartin said that Schiavo, who had collapsed in 1990, had a brain only about half of its original size, and that the damage had been irreversible.

     2 Ex-Tyco Executives Found Guilty - Two former executives of Tyco International Ltd. were found guilty June 17 of conspiracy, grand larceny, securities fraud, and falsifying business records. A jury in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan returned convictions on 22 of 23 counts against former CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz. They had sold artificially inflated stock for $430 million, taken out $150 million in unapproved loans and bonuses, and paid a former director an unapproved sum of $20 million. Kozlowski testified that he had forgotten to include a $25 million bonus on his 1999 tax return. Swartz said he did not realize until 2002 that a 1999 bonus of $12.5 million had not been reported on his tax return.

     Ex-Klansman Guilty in Deaths of 3 Civil Rights Workers - A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, Edgar Ray Killen, 80, was found guilty June 21 of manslaughter in the deaths 3 civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi 41 years earlier, to the day. The 3 victims were James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Killen had been one of 19 defendants charged in connection with the 1964 killings 3 years later. Seven were convicted of conspiracy and 8 acquitted, while 3 others, including Killen, went free when the all-white jury deadlocked.
     No state charges were filed until January 2005. The state trial relied mostly on testimony during the federal trial indicating that Killen had plotted the capture and execution of the 3 victims though he had not been present at the murders. Killen, who was in poor health, did not take the stand at the new trial. On June 23, Judge Marcus Gordon sentenced him to 60 years in prison.

     Supreme Court Term Ends With Flurry of Rulings - The U.S. Supreme Court brought its 2004-2005 term to a conclusion June 27, after several noteworthy rulings during the month. No announcement of any retirements was made at that time.
     On June 6, the court ruled 6-3 that Congress had the authority to forbid local, noncommercial production and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The case, Gonzales v. Raich, began in California as an attempt to block enforcement of federal anti-drug laws against uses of medicinal marijuana allowed by California state law. The lower court ruled that Congress had no authority to overrule the state law, but the Supreme Court reversed that opinion and sent the case back to a federal appeals court to consider other constitutional arguments.
     In a case involving municipal use of eminent domain for private development, the court ruled 5-4, on June 23, that the city of New London, CT, could use the power of eminent domain to take, with compensation given to the owners, private property along the Thames River so that private developers could build office space and a hotel. Usually, the power of eminent domain is used to obtain land for public works or transportation.
     The court June 27 ruled 5-4 that a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol that displayed the Ten Commandments was not a violation of the First Amendment prohibition on establishment of a state religion, because it was part of a larger display commemorating state history and culture that had been built for a mostly secular purpose. However, the court found, 5-4, that displays of the Ten Commandments on the walls of 2 Kentucky courthouses must come down, contending that they lacked a secular purpose.
     The court June 27 ruled that software companies producing internet file-sharing software can be sued if they intend for their customers to use the software to share songs, movies, and other software in violation of copyright laws. The unanimous decision sent a case against 2 file-sharing software companies back to a lower court in California which had ruled otherwise.
     Police cannot be sued for how they handle the enforcement of restraining orders, the court said June 27 in a 7-2 ruling. The case in question involved a Colorado woman who sued police for not doing enough to prevent her estranged husband from killing her 3 daughters.
     The court June 27 declined to hear an appeal by 2 reporters who faced jail terms for refusing to reveal their sources of information pertaining to the leak of an undercover CIA agent’s name. Mathew Cooper, reporter for Time magazine, and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, faced up to 18 months in jail for not naming their sources.

     Bush Approves Spy Agency Changes - Pres. Bush June 29 said he would create a national security service within the FBI to focus on intelligence as part of a reform of U.S. spy and investigation agencies. The shake-up comes as part of the recommendations of a White House Commission. Other actions taken by Bush included issuing an executive order to freeze the assets in the U.S. of those involved in the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and forming a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate intelligence on foreign nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

     Fed Boosts Interest Rates Again - The Federal Reserve Board boosted interest rates June 30 by another quarter point, making the federal funds rate 3.25%, compared to 1% a year earlier.

     Bank of America to Buy MBNA - The Bank of America Corp. June 30 announced plan to acquire the credit card giant MBNA for $35 bil in cash and stock. The merger would make Bank of America the biggest U.S. credit card issuer, ahead of J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup.


     Netherlands Opposes European Constitution - Voters in the Netherlands June 1 by a 65% majority rejected a draft constitution for the European Union that would have created a more politically and economically connected Europe. The vote came just 3 days after French voters as well had rejected the constitution. Some Dutch voters said they feared the Netherlands would be swallowed up in a European "superstate." On June 2, Latvia became the 9th country to approve the constitution by parliamentary action. A 10th country, Spain was the only country to have approved the constitution in a referendum. The charter can go into effect only when all 25 EU members ratify it. Government officials in Britain said June 6 that Britain would suspend indefinitely its own planned referendum on the constitution. At a summit meeting in Brussels, June 16, EU leaders voted to drop the Nov. 2006 deadline for ratification. The EU’s problems deepened June 17 when a summit meeting in Brussels to adopt a budget for future years broke up amid acrimony.

     Israel Releases More Palestinians - Continuing its promised prisoner-release program that began in February, Israel June 2 released 398 Palestinians from a prison in the southern Negev desert.

     Debate Over Conditions at Guantanamo Continues - U.S. leaders continued to debate the future of the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo, in Cuba. On June 3, the Defense Dept. released more details about 5 incidents of desecration of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, at the prison, where 540 detainees were being held. In one incident, an interrogator stood on the Koran during an interrogation. In another, a guard inadvertently splashed urine onto the holy book. The investigation into mistreatments of the Koran at Guantanamo came weeks after the retraction of a Newsweek article which erroneously accused guards at the facility of flushing copies of the Koran down the toilet.
     Former Pres. Jimmy Carter June 7 called for the closing of Guantanamo, while Pres. George W. Bush said June 8 that his administration was exploring all options. Deputy Associate Atty. Gen. J. Michael Wiggins told a Senate committee June 15 it was the Justice Department’s position that legally Guantanamo detainees could be held indefinitely.

     North Korea Committed to Nuclear Talks - North Korean delegates to the UN told U.S. diplomats June 6 that North Korea was committed to returning to the 6-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program. Getting the talks restarted was the focus of a meeting between Pres. Bush and South Korean Pres. Roh Moo Hyun in Washington, DC, June 10.

     President of Bolivia Resigns - Pres. Carlos Mesa of Bolivia resigned June 9 after several weeks of public protests. Demonstrators and police had clashed in the central plaza of La Paz, site of the presidential palace and Congress building. The crisis pits laborers and indigenous people from the poorer eastern highlands of Bolivia, against a wealthy population in the oil-rich south, who were calling for greater sectional autonomy. The former demanded nationalization of the country’s energy resources and called for a new constitution that would give stronger representation to indigenous groups. The president of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, was sworn in as president later that day June 9, which helped to quell some of the protest. Rodriguez promised early elections.

     G-8 Countries Lift Debt of Poorest Nations - Finance ministers of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries agreed at a meeting in London June 11 to relieve 18 of the poorest countries of $40 billion in debt. The proposal was part of a British-led campaign to east the debt burdens of poor nations while increasing development aid. Most G-8 nations would replace payments that the World Bank and the African Development Bank would have received. Payments due to the International Monetary Fund would be covered out of “existing sources” according to the agreement. Nine additional nations were expected to qualify soon for debt relief.

     Foes of Syria Win Election in Lebanon - Anti-Syrian candidates won a majority of seats in the Lebanese parliament in elections that ended June 19. The winning bloc was headed by Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim whose father, a critic of Syria and a former prime minister, had been assassinated in February, and by Walid Jumblatt, Druse leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. They would hold 72 of 128 seats.

     Top U.S. General Sees Continuing Struggle in Iraq - Gen. John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee June 23 that the Iraqi insurgency remained strong and that more foreign fighters were entering the country. During a CNN interview later the same day, however, Vice Pres. Richard Cheney, reiterated an earlier assertion that the insurgents were nearing defeat.
     Insurgent activity in June continued to take a heavy toll. On June 2, the Iraqi interior ministry put the death toll among Iraqis at 12,000 during the past 18 months. On that day, 44 people were reported killed in insurgent attacks. Five U.S. marines were killed June 9 in Haqlaniya when a bomb destroyed their vehicle. Marines June 17 opened an offensive near the Syrian border as part of an effort to stop the flow of insurgents and equipment across the border. A bomb at a Baghdad restaurant June 19 killed 23 Iraqis. A suicide car bombing in Falluja June 23 killed 6 U.S. military personnel and wounded 13, mostly marines.
     A government spokesman June 5 said former Pres. Saddam Hussein would likely go on trial within 2 months and would face charges for 12 crimes that could be well documented. Iraqi political leaders agreed June 16 to allow 15 Sunni Muslims to join the committee that will write the new constitution.
     Rep. Walter Jones (R, NC), a supporter of the war, said June 12 that he would introduce a bill asking the Bush administration to set a timetable for U.S. military withdrawal. The New York Times June 22 quoted from a CIA report that Iraq was now a training ground for Islamic fighters. The report noted that fighters in Afghanistan had gone into other countries, and that insurgents in Iraq could also take their struggle elsewhere.
     Pres. Bush June 28 spoke to a military audience at Fort Bragg, NC, and to a prime-time television audience. He said that the Iraqi war was "vital" to U.S. national security, comparing insurgents there to the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He said that setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces would be a "serious mistake."

     Conservative Mayor of Tehran Elected President of Iran - In a June 24 runoff presidential election, Iranian voters, in a landslide, elected religious conservative and mayor of Tehran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He defeated former Pres. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Former Pres. Mohammed Khatami, whose attempts at reform had mostly been thwarted by religious leaders, had served the maximum 2 terms allowed. The 2 finalists had survived the first round of voting June 17 in which none of the 7 candidates got more than about 20% of the vote. The new president said June 25 that he wanted to create a strong Islamic country, and on June 26 that Iran would move forward with its nuclear program while continuing negotiations with Europeans.

     U.S. Helicopter Downed in Afghanistan - A U.S. military CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed June 28 killing 17 American soldiers during a mission in the Konar province in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. Military officials believed the crash was caused by hostile enemy ground fire. The troops, believed to be either Navy SEALS or Army Special Forces, were on their way to reinforce a counterterrorism mission in the region. It was the first reported downing of a U.S. military helicopter since operations began in Afghanistan in 2002.


     Pop Star Michael Jackson Acquitted of Molestation Charges - Michael Jackson was found not guilty of child molestation on June 13 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria, CA. He had been indicted on 10 counts of sexual misconduct, including charges that in 2003 he had molested a 13-year-old boy, a cancer patient, and had given the boy alcohol. The jury, having listened to more than 140 witnesses, including several celebrities, over 14 weeks, began deliberating June 3. Jurors later told the press that they didn’t believe the accuser and his mother, apparently accepting the defense claim that the family was out to get money from Jackson.

     New Zealand Golfer Wins U.S. Open - Michael Campbell of New Zealand won the U.S. Open golf tournament June 19 in Pinehurst, NC. The defending champion, Retief Goosen of South Africa, faded from the lead in the final round. Campbell also outlasted Tiger Woods to win by 2 strokes. Campbell, ranked 80th in the world, was the 2nd New Zealander to win one of golf’s 4 major tournaments.

     San Antonio Takes NBA Title From Detroit - The San Antonio Spurs, playing at home in the 7th and final game of the NBA championship series June 23, defeated the defending champion Detroit Pistons 81-74 to claim the title. It was the Spurs’ 3rd title in 7 years. During the game, Spurs center Tim Duncan led his team in scoring with 25 points and captured the Series MVP award for the 3rd time in his career. The winners were coached by Greg Popovich.

     Rev. Billy Graham Visits New York City - The Rev. Billy Graham, 86 years old and in weakening health, conducted a crusade in New York City June 24-26. The dominant American Christian evangelist of the last 60 years, Graham preached at the former World’s Fair site in the borough of Queens. After acknowledging his advanced years, Graham admonished his audience, "Prepare to meet your God." His organizers said 230,000 had attended the crusade.

     Killer of 10 Pleads Guilty in Kansas - The notorious "B.T.K." killer, Dennis Rader, pleaded guilty June 27 in Wichita, KS, to murdering 10 people during a killing spree that began in 1974. Rader, finally arrested in Feb. 2005, had given himself the nickname B.T.K. for "bind, torture, kill." Speaking in a matter-of-fact manner he recounted lurid details of his attacks on random targets aimed at fulfillment of sexual fantasies.

Science in the News — Earth Lightens Up

Earth was getting darker until about 1990, but that trend has stopped, according to three studies reported in the May 6, 2005 issue of Science.



New studies indicate that "global dimming" has stopped, and that the amount of sunlight reaching Earth's surface is increasing.

Specifically, the studies looked at the amount of solar radiation that has reached Earth's surface in recent years. Previous research had indicated that from 1960 to 1990, the amount of radiation reaching the ground had dropped by 2% to 3% each decade. The new studies indicate that this "global dimming" stopped around 1990, and that the amount of sunlight reaching Earth's surface since then has, on average, increased. (Although a general brightening trend has been observed, in some areas - such as India - the amount of received solar radiation continues to drop, and in other regions the dimming has stopped but no brightening is occurring.)

It's easy to look out the window and see if the Sun is shining, but measuring the total radiation that reaches the planet's surface is a far trickier proposition. One of the Science studies, whose lead author was atmospheric scientist Martin Wild of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, used a network of ground-based detectors placed at a various locations around the globe. A team led by Rachel Pinker, a meteorology professor at the University of Maryland, relied upon data from orbital satellites. The third study, led by Bruce Wielicki of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Langley Research Center in Virginia, used readings from NASA's Aqua satellite.

None of the methods was without problems. The radiation detectors employed by Wild's team are not evenly distributed over the Earth's surface: the oceans - which account for 70% of the surface - are not covered at all, and there are few detectors in Africa and South America. And in Europe, which has the most detectors, the devices are often placed near population centers, where they can be serviced easily; this may have skewed the results, as the concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere is likely to be higher near cities than in rural regions, and such pollutants can block out sunlight.

Meanwhile, although the satellite monitoring systems obtain data from areas over both oceans and land masses, they detect radiation only in the upper atmosphere; computer models are then applied to the data to determine how much radiation is hitting the ground, and these models may not be entirely correct. Moreover, the readings by the NASA satellite did not directly seek to measure sunlight reaching Earth's surface; instead, the study looked at changes in Earth's albedo, or the percentage of light the planet reflects back into space.

Nevertheless, all three studies arrived at the same basic conclusion: that the amount of sunlight hitting the planet's surface is increasing. The study by Wild's team found that, on average, the amount of radiation reaching Earth has increased by a little over half a watt per square meter per year since 1990. Pinker's team measured an increase of about 0.16 watts per square meter per year from 1983 to 2001, after taking into account an actual decrease in radiation until about 1990 followed by "a sustained increase." The NASA study found a slight decline in the albedo since 2000, which could indicate that less light is being reflected by clouds and tiny particles in Earth's atmosphere - and thus that more light is reaching the surface, as Wild's and Pinker's studies suggest. (The NASA results did conflict with separate measurements, reported in 2004, of Earth's albedo. In that study, researchers measured Earth's albedo by monitoring the "earthshine" or illumination of the Moon by light from Earth.)

Brighter or darker - does it really matter? The answer is, it matters a great deal. The amount of radiation that hits the ground unquestionably plays a role in determining Earth's weather and climate. In fact, some scientists believe that the dimming that occurred in earlier decades may have counteracted - to some extent - the "greenhouse effect." The greenhouse effect depends upon the build-up of certain molecules that "trap" heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet; many of these molecules, such as carbon dioxide, are the product of human activities. It's possible that the increase in the amount of radiation reaching Earth's surface could amplify the greenhouse effect, accelerating the process of global warming.

Wild expressed this view: "I think what could have happened is the dimming between the '60s and the '80s counteracted the greenhouse effect. When the dimming faded, the effects of the greenhouse gases became more evident. There is no masking by the dimming anymore."

Given the complexity of interactions in the atmosphere, however, not all scientists think it can be assumed that more sunlight reaching the surface will lead to more global warming. More sunlight could evaporate more water, which would lead to more clouds, and that in turn might cause the Earth to reflect more sunlight, thus inhibiting the warming effect. It is, Pinker observed, "a complex issue." She added, "There are many feedbacks involved."

If there is a lack of agreement on what the consequences of a brightening trend might be, the same holds true for what caused the shift. Scientists do not think the change has anything to do with actual radiation emitted from the Sun; rather, it presumably reflects processes on Earth. Some experts think the trends are related to pollution; according to this theory, the dimming from 1960 to 1990 reflected the increased amounts of pollution from industrial activity, while the brightening since 1990 may be the result of improved anti-pollution technology together with the drop in industrial activity in Eastern Europe that accompanied the break-up of the Soviet Union. Not everyone agrees with this explanation, however.

The greenhouse effect, albedo, and other factors interact in complex ways to produce weather on Earth, and all will require further scrutiny to better understand what is happening with Earth's climate.


In 2003, Lithuania was the nation most reliant on nuclear energy, deriving 79.7% of its electricity from nuclear sources.

Offbeat News Stories

Scent-sible Driving
If your car is a lemon, you’ve got problems. But if it actually smells like lemon, it may make its owner a better driver. Or so concludes the British RAC Foundation for Motoring which has done research on the effects of smells on drivers and claims that certain scents can enhance or diminish driving performance. Psychologist Conrad King explained that because "smell circumnavigates the logical part of the brain...the ability of various smells to over or under stimulate us as drivers can have catastrophic results." Scents like coffee, peppermint, cinnamon, and salty sea air, they claim, can increase alertness and concentration almost imperceptibly. On the other hand, fried food and baking smells can stir up road rage potential because drivers who feel hungry tend toward irritability and excessive speeds. The scents of chamomile, jasmine, and lavender are also dangerous, since they can to cause drivers to relax - possibly too much - and feel sleepy. Natural odors, like pine, cut grass, or wildflowers can distract from the task at hand as well. Before abandoning the air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror for good, however, take note: even scentless car interiors can be problematic; they may heighten irritability and even incite the driver to odor hallucinations.

One for the Books
It was a tough month for would-be record breakers. On July 27, Philip McCabe persuaded only 200,000 (60 pounds worth) black bees to settle on his body. He had hoped to attract more than 350,000 bees, so as to break a record set in 1998. The 59-year-old, clad in only a back brace, goggles, and underwear, blamed the problem on the unseasonably cool weather in Tipperary, Ireland, which made the hive too antsy to follow their queen (perched on McCabe’s chin) as they usually would. Across the pond, however, warm temperatures were wreaking havoc on another record-setting attempt. Snapple Beverage Co. was attempting to show off the world’s largest popsicle in Manhattan’s Union Square Park in a publicity stunt for their new line of frozen treats. The 25-foot-tall, 17.5-ton strawberry-kiwi flavored pop, made in Edison, NJ, the previous evening, was built to withstand summer heat, but something went wrong somewhere. It melted quickly and flooded the park and surrounding streets in pink syrup. Bike messengers wiped out and several pedestrians slipped in the goop, though the worst injury reported was a sprained ankle. Firefighters had to close down several streets to hose off the sticky mess; Snapple has offered to reimburse New York City for the cost of cleanup.

From The World Almanac — Boston Marathon - World's Oldest Annual Marathon

The Boston Marathon, originally the Boston Athletic Association Road Race, is the world's oldest annual marathon; it dates back to Apr. 19 (Patriots' Day), 1897, and was inspired by the first modern Olympic marathon, held in 1896 in Athens, Greece. Later marathons were also held on Patriots' Day (or in some cases, the day after), which in 1969 was changed to the 3d Monday in April. Only 15 runners participated in the first Boston Marathon (10 finished), which covered 24.5 miles and was won by John J. McDermott in a time of 2 hrs., 55 mins., 10 secs. McDermott walked for parts of the last mile; he still holds the record for largest margin of victory--6 mins., 52 secs. Some later highlights in the history of the marathon follow:

1918--Because of World War I, a military relay was run instead of the usual race; a team from Camp Devens in Ayer, MA, won with a time of 2:24:53.

1921--New Jersey plumber Frank Zuna became the first runner to break the 2-hr., 20-min. mark with a time of 2:18:57.

1927--The course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards, to meet an Olympic standard set in 1924. The standard was based on a decision to have runners in the 1908 Olympic marathon travel this distance, from Windsor Castle to the front of the Royal Box at White City Stadium in London.

1939--Ellison "Tarzan" Brown won his 2d Boston Marathon in a time of 2:28:51, the first finish under 2 hrs., 30 mins., since the course was lengthened.

1967--Kathrine Switzer got into the race by entering herself as K. Switzer, and became the first woman to finish.

1969--The race topped the 1,000-runner mark, with 1,342 runners. This was the last time the marathon was open to all; after 1969, runners had to qualify for entry.

1972--Women were officially sanctioned for the race, and New Yorker Nina Kuscsik became the first official women's winner, with a time of 3:10:26.

1975--Boston's Bill Rodgers became the first runner to break the 2 hr., 10 min. mark, with a time of 2:09:55. The Boston Marathon officially recognized Bob Hall as the first wheelchair participant.

1994--Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya finished the race in 2:07:15, and Uta Pippig of Germany finished in 2:21:45, setting men's and women's records that still stand.

1996--For the 100th running of the Boston Marathon it was decided to have an open division, with a limited number of entrants admitted without having to qualify. A record 38,708 runners participated in the race.

1998--The marathon was covered by more than 1,400 media members, representing more than 300 outlets and 12 countries.

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

My friend David is celebrating a birthday this month, and so we are honoring Davids. David O. Selznick (1902-1965) was one of the great producers of films in Hollywood's Golden Age. He received an Oscar for producing the 1939 hit Gone With the Wind, and made other great films including Rebecca and the World War II classic Since You Went Away. To learn more about Selznick, visit David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie (b. 1947), is a British rock and roll musician and actor, who has reinvented his musical style over the years. Finding success with his "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" (1972), Bowie has since capitalized on his gender-bending image. To learn more about Bowie, visit: In 1982, David Letterman (b. 1947) debuted his Late Night with David Letterman show, which followed The Tonight Show. An unpredictable show, it's known for its quirky humor and interesting segments such as its "Top Ten" lists and "Stupid Pet Tricks." To learn more about Letterman and his show visit the official website at Soon after turning 12, David Copperfield (b. 1956), became the youngest person ever admitted to the Society of American Magicians. A well known magician and illusionist, he's famous for making The Statue of Liberty "disappear," and "walking" through the Great Wall of China. In 1987 he became the first person to successfully escape from Alcatraz (in a stunt, not an illegal jailbreak). To learn more about Copperfield, visit his official site at I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of the most famous David's of all time, Michelangelo's David. Started in 1501, and completed three years later, it is considered one of the greatest pieces of sculpture of the Renaissance period. The statue depicts the biblical character David with his sling over his shoulder ready to fight the giant Goliath. Michelangelo's study of the anatomy of cadavers helped him create the ideal male form. To learn more about David and the statues restoration visit


The only time my talking Pee-Wee Herman doll has traveled, is when I've moved from one apartment to another. I know he's safely at home, sitting in Chairy, on top of one of my bookcases. However, that's not to suggest that all Pee-Wee Herman dolls are sitting safely at home. Nope, it seems some of them travel around the world, and at you can see Pee-Wee in front of the Parthenon, at the Sphinx, and even at the Magic Kingdom. As some of my co-workers know, I do have a small gorilla that has traveled in my luggage, and although he's never left the country, he's been photographed in a number of far-flung spots, as far away as the wilds of Alaska.

One of our E-Newsletter readers lives in New Zealand, an independent nation and a member of the British Commonwealth. This South Pacific country has a diverse population of 4 million, spread over two main islands, 268,680 sq km (103,735 sq miles). Known for its clean beaches, green countryside, and lush forests, it is said to be one of the most beautiful countries to visit in the world; its scenic beauties were drawn to the attention of millions of filmgoers who enjoyed the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. For more information visit

My former train companion Janet sent me this interesting site. At you can create a map of the states you've visited in the United States, or even the countries you've visited in the world. I've been in 32 of the 50 states, or 64% of them and have visited 6% of the countries of the world. Check out and map out the places you've visited.

It was a foggy Wednesday evening, around 11:10 p.m., forty-nine years ago, on July 25, when the ocean liners Andrea Doria and Stockholm collided in the Atlantic Ocean, near Nantucket, Massachusetts. Most of the 52 fatalities that night were a direct result of the collision. The ship sank in 11 hours, by which time rescue ships had arrived and removed the remaining passengers. To learn more about the Andrea Doria and other lost liners visit: An interesting note: the first ship to arrive and pick up passengers in the Atlantic after the Titanic sank in 1912 was the Carpathia. Six years later, in 1918, it was torpedoed by a German submarine, and sank off the coast of Ireland. The Carpathia was located in 2000 by NUMA (The National Underwater and Marine Agency), a non-profit, volunteer foundation dedicated to preserving our maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts. It was founded by the adventure action novelist Clive Cussler. To see the ships NUMA has located so far visit

I recently read an advance proof of an upcoming September book release called "The Widow of the South," by Robert Hicks. It's a fascinating fictional account based upon the real life story of Carrie and John McGavock, and a Civil War battle that played out near the fields of their estate, Carnton. On November 30, 1864, 20,000 Union and Confederate troops fought a battle in Franklin, Tennessee, which resulted in 7,000 casualties, and the Carnton Plantation was made into a military hospital. After the war, the McGavocks donated 2 acres of land near their private cemetery, for the burial of about 1,500 soldiers, who had been hastily buried after the battle. To learn more about the history of Carton visit

Jazz is truly an American form of music. Begun in the 1890s, by African-Americans, it combined elements of ragtime, blues, and march music. Since its beginnings jazz has branched into so many styles that no single description fits all of them. Some of its great artists from the past have included Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, and Charles Mingus. To learn more about the history of jazz visit If you like to hear jazz, make sure you click the tab for Jazz Festivals, and see a years worth of listings for Jazz concerts around the world.

When I think about summer as a child in the Bronx, certain memories come to mind, like riding my bicycle in the schoolyard of P.S. 26 across the street from my apartment, and the bells on the Good Humor truck, or the melody of the Mr. Softee truck, and playing skully. Skully, what's skully? In the 1960s we played a game with bottle caps (our mothers loved that we melted crayons in the caps for color, weight, and friction), on a board chalked in the street. Learn about the board and how to play the game at Sidewalk Games We also played a number of games with our Spaldeen balls, including base bell ball, Captain (also called King-Queen), and Spud. To learn more about other street games visit And if you want to learn more about Spaldeen balls, visit

Unusual website of the month: Weird pictures of clothing found by the road at Pavement Gear

Quote of the Month

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

- Margaret Mead (1901-1978), American anthropologist, widely known for her studies of primitive societies and her contributions to social anthropology.

© World Almanac Education Group

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

Newsletter Contributors:
Louise Bloomfield, Jane Hogan, Sarah Janssen, Walter Kronenberg, and Vincent Spadafora.

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