The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 05, Number 10 — October 2005

What's in this issue?

October Events
October Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — October
October Birthdays
Travel: Guanajuato
Obituaries - September 2005
Special Feature: The U.N. at 60
Chronology - Events of September 2005
Science in the News: Science in the News — Age Really Is Just a Number
Offbeat News Stories
From The World Almanac — The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 1969-2004
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

October Events

October is Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, National Book Month, and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October 1-2 - Fell’s Point Fun Festival (Baltimore, MD)
October 2-9 - Fryeburg Fair (Maine)
October 4-8 - World Dairy Expo (Madison, WI)
October 5-8 - Nottingham Goose Fair (England)
October 6-20 - Chicago International Film Festival
October 7-9 - Apple Butter Makin’ Days (Mt. Vernon, MO)
October 7-9 - St. Charles Scarecrow Festival (St. Charles, IL)
October 8-9 - Fireant Festival (Marshall, TX)
October 9 - Chicago Marathon
October 11-15 - Norsk Hostfest (Minot, ND)
October 14-23 - Parke County Covered Bridge Festival (Rockville, IN)
October 19-22 - East Texas Yamboree (Gilmer, TX)
October 19-24 - Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany)
October 20-23 - Biketoberfest (Daytona Beach, FL); Oktoberfest (Tulsa, OK)
October 22 - Rock Paper Scissors International Championships (Toronto, Ontario)
October 27-29 - Great Pumpkin Carve (Chadds Ford, PA)
October 28 - Ugly Pickup Parade and Contest (Chadron, NE)
October 29-31 - Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers Festival (Rehoboth/Dewey Beaches, DE)
October 30 - Daylight Saving Time ends
October 31 - Big 10 Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championship (Iowa City, IA)

October Holidays — National and International

October 4-5 Rosh Hashanah (began at sundown, Oct. 3)
October 4-November 2 - Ramadan
October 6 - Ivy Day (Ireland)
October 9 - Leif Ericson Day (U.S.)
October 10 - Columbus Day (U.S.); Thanksgiving Day (Canada)
October 12 - Día de la Raza (Mexico)
October 13 - Yom Kippur (began at sundown, Oct. 12)
October 18 - Persons Day (Canada)
October 24 - United Nations Day
October 31 - Halloween; National UNICEF Day


The first coin to feature an African-American was the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar.

This Day In History — October

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1961 Roger Maris of the NY Yankees hits his 61st home run of the season, setting a new record that stands until 1998.
02 1950 The "Peanuts" cartoon strip makes its first appearance.
03 1990 East and West Germany are formally reunified.
04 1669 Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn dies in Amsterdam at the age of 63.
05 1983 Solidarity leader Lech Walesa of Poland is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
06 1981 Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat is assassinated in Cairo during a military parade.
07 1985 Palestinian hijackers seize the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro at sea as it approaches Port Said, Egypt.
08 1997 Kim Jong Il is officially named general secretary of the Communist Party in North Korea, a year after the death of his father, strongman Kim Il Sung.
09 1967 Che Guevara is killed in Bolivia while leading Cuban-sponsored leftist guerrillas.
10 1928 Chiang Kai-shek is inaugurated as president of China in Nanking.
11 1614 The New Netherlands Company is chartered.
12 1899 The Boer War begins in southern Africa when the Boers of Transvaal and the Orange Free State declare war on the British.
13 1923 The administration of Calvin Coolidge announces that it intends to enforce Prohibition through the Volstead Act.
14 1947 Captain Chuck Yeager, flying in an X-1 rocket plane, becomes the first person to break the sound barrier.
15 1945 Pierre Laval, who was premier of occupied France during World War II, is shot by a French firing squad for having committed treason.
16 1995 Hundreds of thousands of African-American men meet in the Million Man March in Washington, DC.
17 1854 Henry Bessemer receives a patent for his steel-making process.
18 1867 Alaska is formally transferred from Russian to U.S. hands at Sitka.
19 1781 British General Lord Cornwallis surrenders to George Washington at Yorktown.
20 1999 Abdurraham Wahid is elected president of Indonesia by the national legislature-marking the first democratic transition of power there in the nation's 49-year history.
21 1805 In the Battle of Trafalgar, the British Royal Navy under Lord Horatio Nelson destroys the French-Spanish fleet.
22 1964 French writer/philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre refuses to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature.
23 1956 Hungarians revolt against the Communist dictatorship.
24 1260 France's Chartres Cathedral is consecrated.
25 1854 The "Charge of the Light Brigade" takes place during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.
26 1951 In Britain, Winston Churchill is named prime minister for the 2d time.
27 1795 The Treaty of San Lorenzo is signed by the United States and Spain, providing for free navigation of the Mississippi River.
28 1871 Explorers David Livingstone and H. M. Stanley meet in Ujiji, Africa.
29 1998 Hurricane Mitch strikes Central America, eventually killing at least 10,000 people.
30 1905 Tsar Nicholas II issues the October Manifesto in St. Petersburg, giving Russia a constitution, legislature, prime minister, and civil liberties.
30 1517 Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, beginning the Reformation in Germany.

October Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1953 Grete Waitz, marathon runner (Oslo, Norway)
02 1945 Don McLean, singer/songwriter (New Rochelle, NY)
03 1925 Gore Vidal, author (West Point, NY)
04 1976 Alicia Silverstone, actress (San Francisco, CA)
05 1975 Kate Winslet, actress (Reading, England)
06 1973 Ioan Gruffudd, actor (Cardiff, Wales)
07 1955 Yo-Yo Ma, cellist (Paris, France)
08 1943 R. L. Stine, children's book author (Columbus, OH)
09 1948 Jackson Browne, singer/songwriter (Heidelberg, Germany)
10 1955 David Lee Roth, singer/musician (Bloomington, IN)
11 1925 Elmore Leonard, mystery writer (New Orleans, LA)
12 1975 Marion Jones, track star (Los Angeles, CA)
13 1925 Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England (Grantham, England)
14 1979 Usher, singer (Chattanooga, TN)
15 1959 Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and former wife of Prince Andrew (London, England)
16 1925 Angela Lansbury, actress (London, England)
17 1980 Nick Cannon, actor (San Diego, CA)
18 1950 Wendy Wasserstein, playwright (Brooklyn, NY)
19 1945 Patricia Ireland, feminist leader (Oak Park, IL)
20 1925 Art Buchwald, humorist (Mount Vernon, NY)
21 1949 Benjamin Netanyahu, former prime minister of Israel (Tel Aviv, Israel)
22 1917 Joan Fontaine, actress (Tokyo, Japan)
23 1935 Chi Chi Rodriguez, golfer (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico)
24 1962 B.D. Wong, actor (San Francisco, CA)
25 1971 Midori, violinist (Osaka, Japan)
26 1947 Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. first lady (Chicago, IL)
27 1920 Nanette Fabray, actress (San Diego, CA)
28 1955 Bill Gates, Microsoft executive (Seattle, WA)
29 1968 Johann Olav Koss, Olympic champion speedskater (Norway)
30 1945 Henry Winkler, actor (New York, NY)
31 1922 Norodom Sihanouk, former Cambodian king (Cambodia)

Travel: Guanajuato

Of all the cities in Mexico showcasing the architectural legacy of the country's Spanish colonial past, Guanajuato is quite possibly the most picturesque. Indeed the word “gorgeous” comes to mind. Built on the slopes of a ravine in Mexico's central highlands, a little over 200 miles (350 km) north of Mexico City, Guanajuato offers a charming medley of cobblestone streets, pastel houses, narrow alleyways decked with flowers, seemingly countless plazas, and edifices inherited from its glorious past - after its founding in the 16th century it became one of the world's leading silver-mining centers, and a not insignificant portion of the wealth it generated remained there. Today, the city has a population in the neighborhood of 100,000, is the seat of one of Mexico's most prestigious universities, and enjoys UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site. Its elevation of about 6500 ft (2000 m) helps ensure a moderate climate year-round, but autumn is a particularly good time to visit, since that's when Guanajuato hosts the annual International Cervantino Festival, a medley of music, theater, dance, and art events that ranks as the largest cultural festival in Latin America. The 2005 edition is scheduled for October 5–23.

Guanajuato's heart is best explored on foot. In view of the narrowness of some of the streets - opposing balconies in the famously romantic Callejón del Beso (Alley of the Kiss) are just 2 feet (60 cm) apart - walking sometimes is in fact the only option. But as long as you're not averse to negotiating hills, walking is a pleasure, since vehicular traffic is largely relegated to underground tunnels. What you'll see, among other things, are splendid instances of Mexican baroque and neoclassical architecture.

Regarding baroque - particularly the churrigueresque style with its elaborately adorned surfaces - probably the finest example is the Church of La Compañía de Jesús (1747-65), remarkable also for its interior spaces and vaulted ceiling, along with its collection of paintings. Also boasting an outstanding churrigueresque facade is the Church of San Diego de Alcalá at the central public garden known as the Jardín de la Unión, noted for its sidewalk cafés where you can enjoy mariachi in the evenings. Among Guanajuato's three dozen old churches, another especially noteworthy example is the mannerist-baroque apricot-hued Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato (1671-96) at the Plaza de la Paz (Peace Plaza). The statue of the Virgin, patron of the city, was given to Guanajuato in 1557 by King Charles I of Spain and his son Phillip II. Guanajuato's most celebrated baroque church (rivaling La Compañía) is located in the city's outskirts, near the La Valenciana mine. Known as the Church of San Cayetano (1765-86), and also as La Valenciana, it was built by a silver magnate. Its opulent pink facade is matched by a profusion of gilded wood carvings from floor to ceiling in the interior.

Back in the core of the city, the Plaza de la Paz is rimmed by several notable buildings in addition to the basilica, including the Legislative Palace and the Casa de Gobierno, where Mexican President Benito Juárez resided in 1858. The monument at the plaza's center was erected to mark the end of the War of Independence.

One of the city's best-known native sons was the painter Diego Rivera. The 18th-century colonial building where he was born in 1886 is now the Diego Rivera House Museum. Along with works from different periods of his career, the museum displays furniture and other household items of the Rivera family, among them the bed where the artist entered the world.

Guanajuato's most significant historical monument is the imposing, fortress-like neoclassical Alhóndiga de Granaditas (1809). Originally a granary, it was the site of the first major battle in Mexicans' struggle for independence. The building now houses a historical museum with exhibits ranging as far back as the pre-Columbian period.

The great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes has long been a favorite in Guanajuato - hence the name of the great cultural festival the city holds every October. In 2005, in connection with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the publication of Cervantes's novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, Guanajuato was designated Cervantine Capital of the Americas by the Unesco Center of Castilla-La Mancha. The city's Don Quixote Iconographic Museum specializes in works dedicated to the character Don Quixote, including art by the likes of Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Pedro Coronel.

Visitors with a yen for more offbeat fare should stop by the Museum of the Inquisition. Housed in a 17th-century hacienda, it exhibits original torture devices used during the Inquisition. Another option, and a tourist favorite, is the Museum of Mummies, where you can see displayed scores of corpses that were mummified naturally by the peculiar mineral makeup and dryness of the ground at the town’s cemetery. Speaking of minerals, the Mineralogical Museum at the Faculty of Mining of the University of Guanajuato is said to have one of the largest collections in the Americas.

The Cervantino takes place at the Teatro Juárez and other venues throughout Guanajuato, as well at a few sites in other parts of Mexico. It is intended as a celebration of world culture, but each year one region in Mexico and one part of the world are singled out for special attention. In 2005, these are Yucatán State and Japan. Among Japanese performers scheduled to appear are the Osaka-based theater company Ishinha; the three-girl ensemble Rin’, which plays traditional Japanese instruments with a pop flair; and the butoh dancer Akira Kasai. Groups from other parts of the world on the agenda include the Philharmonic Orchestra of Zagreb (Croatia), the National Orchestra of Spain, Greece's Attis Theater, the Santiago (Chile) Ballet, the Peking (China) Opera, and Britain's Out of Joint theater company with its infamous production of Macbeth (in which the setting of the Scottish tragedy is moved to modern war-ravaged Africa).



A group of toads is known as a knot.

Obituaries in September 2005

Adams, Don, 82, comedian who portrayed bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in the TV situation comedy "Get Smart" (1965-70); Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 25, 2005.

Bondi, Sir Hermann, 85, Austrian-born British cosmologist, mathematician and government science adviser; Cambridge, England, Sept. 10, 2005.

Bronfenbrenner, Urie, 88, psychologist and child-development expert who helped create the U.S. Head Start program for disadvantaged children in the 1960s; Ithaca, NY, Sept. 25, 2005.

Brown, Clarence "Gatemouth", 81, Grammy-winning guitarist and singer whose music blended jazz, country music, rhythm and blues, and Cajun elements; Orange, TX, Sept. 10, 2005.

Charles, Dame Eugenia, 86, prime minister of Dominica, 1980-95, and the first woman leader of any Caribbean nation; Fort-de-France, Guadeloupe, Sept. 6, 2005.

Dancer, Stanley, 78, dominant figure in harness racing - as trainer, driver, owner and breeder - for five decades; Pompano Beach, FL, Sept. 8, 2005.

Denver, Bob,, 70, actor who portrayed Gilligan, the inept first mate of a shipwrecked charter boat, in the classic TV situation comedy "Gilligan’s Island" (1963-67, and rerun countless times thereafter); Winston-Salem, NC, Sept. 2, 2005.

Luft, Sid, 89, film producer who was the third husband of legendary singer and actress Judy Garland and the producer of her "comeback" movie, A Star Is Born (1954); Santa Monica, CA, Sept. 15, 2005.

Motley, Constance Baker, 84, first black woman to become a federal judge (in 1966) and the only woman member of the NAACP legal team that successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education(1954); New York, NY, Sept. 28, 2005.

Peck, M. Scott, 69, psychiatrist who wrote the landmark best-selling self-help book The Road Less Traveled (1978) and two companion volumes; Warren, CT, Sept. 25, 2005.

Rehnquist, William H., 80, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court since 1986; he had been elevated to the post after serving as an associate justice for 14 years; Arlington, VA, Sept. 3, 2005.

Schenkel, Chris, 82, pioneering radio and TV sportscaster who was the voice, for 36 years, of the Professional Bowlers Association Tour; Fort Wayne, IN, Sept. 11, 2005.

Settle, Mary Lee, 87, novelist from West Virginia whose "Beulah Quintet," published between1956 and 1982, was a sweeping fictional recreation of three centuries of her state’s history; Charlottesville, VA, Sept. 27, 2005.

Wiesenthal, Simon, 96, Jewish survivor of World War II Nazi concentration camps who became the world’s best-known hunter of high-ranking Nazi fugitives; Vienna, Austria, Sept. 20, 2005.

Wise, Robert, 91, director of the Oscar-winning musicals West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), and many other films; Los Angeles, CA, Sept. 14, 2005.

Yard, Molly, 93, lifelong liberal activist who took over the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1987, at age 75, and led it until 1991; Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 21, 2005.

Special Feature: The U.N. at 60

Joe Gustaitis

This month the United Nations turns 60 years old. On October 24, 1945, at 4:50 p.m. (EST) U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes signed the protocol formally attesting that the Charter of the United Nations World Security Organization was in force following the deposit a short time before of the Russian instrument of ratification, which was the twenty-ninth one needed. Byrnes then declared that the charter was now a "part of the law of nations." Since 1947, October 24 has been known as "United Nations Day."

The League of Nations

The United Nations was the successor to the League of Nations, an international organization of states that was founded in 1920 after the shattering experience of World War I as a hopeful attempt to prevent any such future catastrophes. The League was still in existence when the U.N. Charter went into effect and was not officially superseded by the U.N. until April 8, 1946. The League had had some successes, such as settling several minor disputes in Europe, aiding World War I refugees, and improving health and labor conditions. But otherwise it was a failure, partially because the United States never joined.

The U.N. Begins

However, that was not to be the case with the establishment of the U.N. because U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fully supported it. He was one of the earliest statesmen to back the formation of a new international organization and he had enough influence in Congress to be able to see it through.



UK Prime Minster Churchill and US Pres. Roosevelt at Atlantic Charter, 8/14/41

In the Atlantic Charter, which President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed in August 1941, the two leaders pledged "to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field" and agreed that eventually all nations must "come to the abandonment of the use of force." The term "United Nations" was proposed by Roosevelt, and was first used in the Declaration by United Nations, which was signed on January 1, 1942, by representatives of 26 allied countries, including the United States, Britain, Russia, and Canada. The declaration stated that the allied countries would unite to defeat the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan, and would uphold the Atlantic Charter in the postwar world.

The actual structure of the new organization was first discussed at the World Security Conference held at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington D.C. from August 21 to October 7, 1944. Under the program, decided upon by the World Security Conference, the United Nations would be empowered to take such air, naval or land action as might "be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security." Virtually all power would belong to an 11-nation Security Council dominated by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and France as "permanent members." There would be a General Assembly of all nations (whose powers were mainly advisory), an International Court of Justice, a Secretariat, an Economic and Social Council, and a Military Staff Committee, which would work with the Security Council in using force to maintain peace. Roosevelt issued a message saying that the results, although incomplete (the member nations still had not agreed on a method of voting in the Security Council), were astonishing and that the way was being prepared to prevent future aggression that could lead to war.

The U.N. was officially founded at the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in April 1945. At the conference, a 111-article charter was drawn up, which declared that the U.N.’s purpose was to "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and work towards achieving "friendly relations among nations." President Harry S. Truman signed the charter on August 8, 1945, which made the United States the first nation to complete action on joining the U.N., but it did not go into effect until the charter was finalized in October.

A New Home

However, the U.N. still did not have a permanent home. Offers came from many countries, including the United States to house the new organization. The General Assembly held its first session in January 1946 in London, but decided after that meeting to place the new organization in the United States. A site committee began to search for a suitable location, and examined sites in places such as Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco--Manhattan had not been considered because it was thought to be too crowded. However, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., offered $8.5 million to buy a shabby area of slaughterhouses, barge docks, and tenement houses on the east side of Manhattan. The city of New York also agreed to buy some additional land in order to complete the construction of a new headquarters. In December 1946, the U.N. voted 46-7 to accept the gift, and to make New York its new home. The construction contract was awarded in January 1949 and the first Secretariat workers moved in 19 months later, on August 21, 1950.

Success or Failure?

Whether or not the U.N., in its 60 years of existence, has been a success depends very much on one’s definition of success. It has been unable to prevent some ghastly conflicts, such as the Iran-Iraq War in 1980 or the slaughter in Cambodia that took place throughout the 1980s.. However, the U.N. has also had some successes. the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has won the Nobel Peace Prize twice--in 1954 and 1981--for alleviating the plight of millions of suffering people, and UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) has implemented valuable programs in vaccination, AIDS prevention and education, basic education (especially for girls), preventive care, emergency assistance, and other beneficial functions. Other constructive work has been carried on by such agencies as the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the U.N. Disaster Relief Organization (UNDRO), and the World Food Program (WFP), among others. Examples of special U.N.-sponsored conferences include the Conference on the Human Environment (1972), the World Population Conference (1974), the World Conference of the International Women's Year (1975), the Conference on Human Settlements, or Habitat (1976), the Conference on Desertification (1977), the World Assembly on Aging (1982), and the World Summit for Children (1990).

One thing that the founders did not count on, however, was the Cold War. The emerging hostility between the Western bloc and the Communist world, exemplified by the two major World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, inevitably colored much of the U.N.’s activities. With political cooperation between the superpowers now effectively at an end, the U.N.’s ability to keep the peace became much more limited. When North Korean forces attacked South Korea in June 1950, the Security Council established a U.N. command and asked member nations to provide military units to help repel the attack. This would not have happened except for the fact that the Soviet representative had left the council to protest the presence of the Nationalist Chinese delegate in the seat designated for China and was not there to veto the council’s decision. The Soviet representative, however, soon returned, bringing with him his nation’s veto power. When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the U.N. was effectively powerless, and when Soviet Union forces entered Afghanistan in 1980, the Soviets vetoed a Security Council ruling that censured the intervention.

During U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s terms in office, , the U.N. became a favorite target of American conservatives, who tended to see the body as siding with anti-American third-world regimes. One U.N. measure that seemed to reflect the organization’s bias and that earned particular condemnation in the United States and other Western nations was an Arab-inspired resolution passed in November 1975 that defined Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination." Although the U.N. repealed that resolution in 1991, as recently as August 2001 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell] declined to attend the U.N. World Conference Against Racism because of "offensive language" about Israel that some Arab nations wanted to include in a conference document--those proposals condemned Israel as racist in its policies towards Palestinians.

The U.N. also was unable to bring about a resolution of the Vietnam War or foster productive negotiations in the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, by the time Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the Soviet Union was beginning to dissolve and the United States was able to engineer two U.N. resolutions, one condemning the invasion and the other permitting member states to take action. By now, there was just one superpower.

Another historical development that vastly affected the U.N.’s activities was the breakup of the great European colonial empires. In many regions a political vacuum ensued, along with hostilities between rival factions and parties. Stepping into the breach were U.N. peacekeeping forces. U.N. peacekeeping missions have been carried out in the Middle East since 1956 and in Cyprus since 1964. In Africa a force was maintained in the region of present-day Congo in the early 1960s and more recently peacekeeping missions have been dispatched to Angola, Western Sahara, South Africa, Mozambique ,and Liberia.

In the early 1990s the U.N. staged a major operation in Somalia, involving about 30,000 troops, and at the same time it sent a large contingent to Cambodia, where it sought to end a civil war and establish a freely elected government. It has also intervened in Haiti, where it helped to restore the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide; in the former Yugoslavia, where a savage civil war had erupted; in Albania; and in East Timor, where peacekeepers moved in to establish order after the population had voted for independence from Indonesia.

Reforms at the U.N.



Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Recently, the U.N. has been hit by a series of corruption issues that necessitated the formation of an independent committee headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker. The key concern was the U.N.’s handling of the oil-for-food program, under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (which had been under U.N. sanctions before the U.S.-led invasion,) had been permitted to sell certain amounts of oil in order to buy food for its suffering population, but analysts were also troubled by the discovery of prostitution rings run by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo and staff unions' votes of no-confidence in senior management.

U.N. staff had privately accused U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan of protecting top U.N. officials facing misconduct allegations. The Volcker Commission released its report on September 7, 2005; it found "corrosive corruption" at the U.N. and concluded that "thoroughgoing reform" was urgently needed. Although Annan was not personally found guilty of any wrongdoing, he received some sharp criticism, as did the member states of the Security Council. The report charged that Annan's oversight had been lax and his management ineffective and that he had largely ignored a conflict of interest involving his son, Kojo Annan, and an oil-for-food contract with a firm that kept the younger Annan on its payroll. In addition, Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette had failed to report Saddam Hussein's kickback scheme, which allowed him to collect billions of dollars from companies holding oil-for-food contracts. The report concluded that the U.N. had suffered from "a grievous absence of effective auditing and management controls," and "neither the Security Council nor the Secretariat leadership was clearly in command."

The U.N., then, seems headed toward serious and overdue reform. A restructuring of the Security Council, for example, appears to be imminent. In November 2004, a panel submitted a report containing 101 recommendations for changes to U.N. structure and policy and suggested two possible models for restructuring the Security Council. Under both plans, the size of the full council would increase to 24 members, from 15, and veto power would be held exclusively by the 5 current permanent members.

Under one option, six of the nine additional seats would be permanent, and three would be for members elected to two-year terms. Two of the new permanent seats would go to Africa, two to Asia, and one each to Europe and the Americas. Under the other option, there would be eight "semipermanent" seats--two each for Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas--whose holders could be reelected to successive four-year terms. Leading candidates for seats on an enlarged Security Council are Germany, Japan, Brazil, Egypt, India, and either Nigeria or South Africa. In March 2005, Secretary General Annan presented a package of reforms for the broadest overhaul in U.N. history. The plan included a call for the U.N.'s first-ever definition of terrorism, a mandate for wealthy nations to commit 0.7% of their gross national incomes to aid for developing countries, replacing the Human Rights Commission with a smaller council, and establishing a fund to promote democratic change and strengthen democracies where they existed.

Like many humans, the U.N. is not turning 60 without its share of problems. But also like many humans, it seems to be grasping the fact that it’s not too late to give up some bad habits, and rejuvenate itself.


An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem. The word itself is derived from al-Khwarizmi, a 9th-century mathematician working in Baghdad.

Chronology — Events of September 2005


     Two More Airlines Declare Bankruptcy - Delta and Northwest airlines both filed for bankruptcy, Sept. 14, joining United and US Airways, which were already operating under bankruptcy. Delta and Northwest cited a sharp increase in the cost of fuel as decisive in their choice of bankruptcy.

     2nd Hurricane Pounds Gulf Coast Seeking to Recover From Hurricane Katrina; Bush Acknowledges Slow Katrina Response - The Gulf Coast, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in late August, suffered a 2nd, lighter blow when Hurricane Rita hit land at the Louisiana - Texas state line Sept. 24.
     The Katrina rescue operation had proceeded slowly and erratically, especially in New Orleans, where thousands could not or would not heed warnings to evacuate, or were stranded for days on upper floors or rooftops, or crowded into the Superdome and convention center in unsanitary conditions. By late September the death toll was being put at more than 1,000, mostly in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Many blamed the inadequate response on federal, state, and local authorities; Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was a major focus of criticism. Brown had said publicly Sept. 1 that he had only just learned many New Orleans residents were stranded at the convention center, long after the media had reported that fact.
     After criticism that he was not fully engaged in the rescue and recovery effort, Pres. George W. Bush visited Mobile (AL), Biloxi (MS), and New Orleans (LA) Sept. 2, and conceded that the government’s efforts were "not acceptable." The same day he signed a $10.5 bil disaster-recovery bill approved by Congress. The president revisited the area Sept. 5, and signed a $51.8 bil relief measure on Sept. 8.
     National Guard and active-duty troops had begun to arrive in New Orleans in force Sept. 2, and by Sept. 3 the thousands who had jammed the convention center and the Superdome had largely been evacuated, mostly to Houston, TX. Gov. Rick Perry (TX) said Sept. 3 that at least 230,000 evacuees from Louisiana had taken shelter in Texas. In New Orleans Sept. 4, police shot and killed 4 people after being fired upon. It was reported Sept. 5 that 500 of 1,500 New Orleans police officers were not reporting for duty.
     On Sept. 5, Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, announced that Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen would take over Brown’s major responsibilities in the Gulf region; Brown returned to Washington, DC, and on Sept. 12 resigned as FEMA director, saying that he did not want controversy over his continuance to be a distraction. With oil production and refining heavily impacted by Katrina, the price of gasoline at the pump hit an all-time high of $3.06 a gallon on Sept. 5. The Environmental Protection Agency reported Sept. 7 that bacteria and other contaminants in the water standing in New Orleans far exceeded safe levels. FEMA Sept. 8 awarded contracts for recovery projects to 5 companies.
     On Sept. 12, Pres. Bush, speaking from New Orleans, dismissed claims that the National Guard was impeded in its response because many in the Guard were serving in Iraq. Prosecutors Sept. 13 charged the operators of St. Rita’s Nursing Home in Violet, LA, with negligent homicide in the deaths of 34 people at the home, who had apparently been left to the mercy of the floods. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Sept. 13 that he hoped to reopen 4 city districts within days.
     On Sept. 15, responding to the widespread criticism of federal efforts, Pres. Bush, speaking from Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans Sept. 15, acknowledged responsibility for an inadequate federal response, and outlined major proposals for recovery. He called for a Gulf Opportunity Zone offering tax incentives and small-business loans and an Urban Homesteading Act that would provide land, job-training, and education to people seriously impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Estimates of the cost of his plans ran into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
     As hurricane Rita approached the Gulf coast, Nagin reversed himself Sept. 19 and ordered New Orleans evacuated again. Rita passed 50 miles south of Key West, FL, on Sept. 20. On Sept. 21, Gov. Perry ordered residents along the Texas coast to evacuate. A mass exodus began from Galveston, an island city, and Houston, the nation’s 4th-largest city. On Sept. 23, a bus transporting elderly people from a senior center caught fire south of Dallas; exploding oxygen tanks added to the chaos, and 23 aboard died.
     By the time Rita touched land Sept. 24, nearby areas had been largely evacuated, and the death toll was expected to be low. Immense rainfall created rising waters inland, and parts of New Orleans that had dried out were reflooded. On Sept. 25, even as some small coastal towns remained underwater, residents of Houston were streaming back home. With energy costs projected to remain high, Bush Sept. 26 urged Americans to drive less.
      Brown, testifying in an often contentious House committee hearing, Sept. 27, said he hadn’t realized soon enough that Louisiana was “dysfunctional,” and blamed state and local officials for much of the slow response to Katrina. On Sept. 28, officials estimated Katrina’s death toll at 1,130—896 in Louisiana, 219 in Mississippi, 11 in Florida, 2 in Alabama, and 2 in Georgia.

     Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies; Roberts Is Named and Confirmed to Replace Him - William H. Rehnquist, the 16th chief justice of the United States, died Sept. 3. He had been suffering from thyroid cancer. Pres. Bush announced Sept. 5 that he would nominate U.S. Circuit Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to succeed him. He had already nominated Roberts to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, with confirmation hearings for that position still pending.
     Pres. Richard Nixon had nominated Rehnquist to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1971, and Pres. Ronald Reagan had nominated him for chief justice in 1986. Highly regarded especially for his collegial approach to leading the Supreme Court, Rehnquist was generally regarded as conservative. He presided over the impeachment trial of Pres. Bill Clinton, and he was part of a 5-4 majority in 2000 that left George W. Bush as the winner of the 2000 presidential election. After funeral services Sept. 7, Rehnquist was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
      From Sept. 12 to 15, Roberts testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Like many past nominees to the Court, he declined to answer specific questions on issues that the court might take up in the future, but he did say he would respect precedents, which seemed to encourage supporters of Roe v. Wade, the controversial 1973 decision that upheld abortion rights.
     The committee approved the Roberts nomination, Sept. 22, by a vote of 13-5, with 3 Democrats joining all 10 Republicans in support. On Sept. 29 Roberts easily won confirmation by the full Senate, 78-22, with half of the Democrats (22) and 1 independent joining all 55 Republicans to support him. Roberts was sworn in the same day as 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court; at 50 years of age he became the youngest chief justice since John Marshall was installed in 1801 at the age of 45.

     Female Private Convicted in Abu Ghraib Abuse Case - Pfc. Lynndie England was convicted Sept. 26 of conspiracy and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. She had been photographed posing with prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In one, she held a captive on a leash. A jury of 5 Army officers at Ft. Hood, TX, found her guilty of 6 of 7 counts. On Sept. 28 she was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

     House Majority Leader Indicted - Rep. Tom DeLay (R, TX), majority leader of the U.S. House, was indicted in Texas Sept. 28 for allegedly conspiring to violate a state fundraising law. Ronnie Earle, a prosecutor in Austin, TX, charged that DeLay had conspired with 2 associates to launder illegal corporate political campaign donations through the Republican National Committee, using the funds in support of GOP candidates for the Texas legislature. DeLay denounced the indictment as political and said he was innocent of the charges. Complying with a GOP House rule, he resigned as leader after being indicted. The GOP House caucus chose Rep. Roy Blunt (MO) as interim leader.

     Reporter Freed, Testifies in CIA Leak Case - New York Times reporter Judith Miller was freed Sept. 29 after 12 weeks in jail, when she agreed to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA agent’s name to the media, having been released from a pledge of confidentiality by a source.


     U.S. Troops in Iraq See Action Near Syrian Border - On Sept. 2, 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops entered Tal Afar, a northern city controlled by insurgents. Elsewhere in northern Iraq, on Sept. 3, 17 Iraqi soldiers and 4 civilians were killed in insurgent attacks. Near the Syrian border, Sept. 5, insurgents seized the town of Qaim. Iraqi and U.S. officials said Sept. 11 that most insurgents had fled from Tal Afar, and that about 150 had been killed. In the south, 2 bombings in Basra Sept. 7 killed 20 people. Twelve suicide bombings in Baghdad Sept. 14, aimed at Shiites and apparently carried out by Sunnis, claimed at least 167 lives and wounded nearly 600. A suicide car bombing was the most lethal attack, killing at least 112. A bomb in a Shiite suburb of Baghdad killed 30 people Sept. 17. Among other incidents a wave of bombings in late Sept. killed more than 150 people, including more than 60 Iraqis killed by car bombs Sept. 29 in the Shiite city of Balad.

     Mubarak Wins Egypt’s First Contested Presidential Election - Pres. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt won election Sept. 7 to his 5th 6-year term. Under internal and international pressure, he had agreed for the first time to allow a contested election for president. Official results announced Sept. 9 gave him 88.6% of the vote. The turnout was low, with only 23% of registered voters going to the polls.

     Report Cites Corruption in UN Oil for Food Program -An independent committee, headed by former U.S. Fed chairman Paul Volcker, issued a report to the United Nations Sept. 7 on the oil-for-food scandal. The report described “corrosive corruption” in the UN administration of the program, which allowed Iraq under Saddam Hussein to sell limited amounts of oil supposedly to purchase humanitarian supplies such as food and medicine. The report found that the program had been laxly and corruptly administered, enriching the regime of Saddam Hussein as well as some UN personnel and others. UN Sec.-Gen. Kofi Annan was blamed for lax oversight and ineffective management, but not accused of intentional wrongdoing. Deputy Sec.-Gen. Louise Frechette was criticized for not mentioning in her reports a kickback scheme in which Saddam Hussein got billions of dollars from companies to which the regime awarded lucrative oil-for-food contracts. On Sept. 1, Vladimir Kuznetsov, a Russian and chairman of the UN General Assembly’s budget oversight committee, was indicted in New York City on money-laundering charges.

     Israel Completes Pullout from Gaza Strip The last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip Sept. 12, under a pullout plan adopted by the Israeli government. Palestinians immediately reclaimed the area, which Israel had controlled since the 1967 war. On Sept. 15, in his first-ever address to the UN General Assembly in New York, Prime Min. Ariel Sharon of Israel said the withdrawal showed Israel was serious about making peace with the Palestinians.

     German Parliamentary Election Is Inconclusive - Germans voted in a national parliamentary election Sept. 18, but no clear winner emerged. Incumbent chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his party, the Social Democrats, had been the underdogs, primarily because of a slack economy and an 11% unemployment rate. The leader in the polls had been Angela Merkel, leader of the more conservative Christian Democrats. Although the voting in Dresden was delayed for 2 weeks, a nearly complete tally did give a plurality to the Christian Democrats, but only a small one. 225 seats over the Social Democrats’ 222 seats in the 613-seat Bundestag. Neither side initially appeared able to form a government; a coalition between the 2 leading parties was considered possible, but it was uncertain who would then be chancellor.

     North Korea Agrees to Abandon Nuclear Weapons Programs - North Korea and 5 other nations Sept. 19 signed a statement in which North Korea agreed in principle to forgo its nuclear-weapons development in return for economic assistance. The agreement, in Beijing, China, appeared to bring an abrupt end to years of negotiations and back-and-forth salvos of accusations.
     In 1994, North Korea and the United States had agreed that the former would dismantle its nuclear programs, but North Korea abandoned that agreement in 2002. Six-way talks, also including China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, began in 2003. North Korea said in February 2005 that it had nuclear weapons. The current round of talks resumed Sept. 13.
     A breakthrough occurred Sept. 16 when the parties agreed in principle to discuss giving North Korea a light-water nuclear reactor, which was designed to meet energy needs but which was not a likely component of an arms program. In the Sept. 19 statement, North Korea agreed to give up all its existing nuclear weapons and ongoing programs and also to rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and allow inspection of its facilities. In the statement, the United States said it had no nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea and did not intend to attack North Korea.


     Federer Repeats as U.S. Open Tennis Champion - Roger Federer of Switzerland won his 2nd straight men’s U.S. Open tennis title in New York Sept. 11, defeating Andre Agassi of the United States, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1. On Sept. 10, Kim Clijsters of Belgium won the women’s title, defeating Mary Pierce of France, 6-3, 6-1.

     More than 450 Die in Plane Crashes - Commercial plane crashes claimed 317 lives in August. On Aug. 23, A Peruvian airliner crashed during a storm in Peru, killing at least 31, while 57 escaped. On Sept. 5, an Indonesian airliner crashed soon after takeoff in the city of Medan, killing 104 aboard and 39 on the ground; 13 on the plane survived.

Science in the News — Age Really Is Just a Number

How old are you? The answer may be more complicated than you think. Whatever age you may be, many of the cells in your body are much, much, younger: on average, a mere 7 to 10 years old. Scientists have always known that certain cells - such as gut, blood and bone cells - regenerate, while others - such as brain cells - seem not to. Now, thanks to a revolutionary new method of cell dating, researchers can finally determine how old people - and all their parts - really are. The method was pioneered by Jonas Frisen and Kirsty Spalding of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, who published their results in the July 15, 2005 issue of Cell.

Though your body may seem to be a stable entity, in reality, it’s always changing; older cells are dying, and new ones are constantly arising to take their place. Some types of cells have a pretty tough life - red blood cells, for example, have to travel nearly 1,000 miles through the body’s circulatory system, and liver cells must detoxify all of the poisons and drugs their hosts come into contact with. Cells like these simply don't last too long.

Where, then, do new cells come from? Cells are "born" through a process known as mitosis, where a parent cell divides to become two daughter cells that are genetically identical to it. During the period right before mitosis, all of the cell’s DNA (which is arranged in distinct units called chromosomes) replicates itself. One copy of each chromosome - and therefore, the full set of DNA of the cell - goes into each of the two daughter cells. Though many of the molecules in the cell are replaced as it gets older, the DNA molecule is not; each cell contains the exact same set of DNA that it was born with.

Frisen, Spalding and their colleagues figured out how to date that DNA. They used a method called carbon dating, which measures the ratio in an organism of normal carbon to a radioactive form of the element called carbon-14 (C-14). C-14 is naturally present in the environment; the food an organism eats and the air it breathes all contain some C-14. This C-14 becomes incorporated into many of the molecules in its cells. Since these molecules (except for DNA) are constantly being replaced, the ratio of C-14 to regular carbon in the organism is the same as that in the environment at any given time. Once the organism dies, however, it stops longer taking in new C-14; the C-14 that it contained begins to decay.

Traditionally, carbon dating has been used to determine the age of fossils. Since paleontologists know the rate at which C-14 decays, by observing the amount of C-14 in a fossil, they can tell how long an organism has been dead. As C-14 decays very slowly, however, (it halves every 6,000 years), this method is impractical for determining the age of modern creatures such as human beings.

So how do you carbon date a person? Frisen and Spalding had two major insights. First, they realized that because the DNA in a cell is not renewed, it contains the exact amount of C-14 that was present in the environment when the cell was born. As Frisen told, "Most molecules of the cell will turn over all the time. But DNA is a material that does not exchange carbon after cell division, so it serves as a time capsule for carbon."

Once they had their time capsule, Frisen and Spalding needed something to compare it to. Their second breakthrough was the realization that they could use nuclear testing that took place almost 50 years ago to their advantage. Between 1945 and 1963, above-ground nuclear testing regularly occurred around the world. These tests led to a sharp increase in atmospheric C-14; by the time most of the blasts ceased following the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 , the level of C-14 in the environment had doubled. After the ban, the amount of C-14 decreased dramatically, halving every 11 years.

By determining the ratio of C-14 to regular carbon in a sample of DNA from a cell, Frisen and Spalding were able to tell how much C-14 had been in the environment at the time the cell was born. They then compared this amount to the C-14 that was present in the rings of Swedish pine tree trunks (C-14 gets incorporated into plants too). Scientists can determine how old a tree is by counting its rings; Frisen and Spalding were therefore able to use this comparison to ascertain the year the cell was born.

Once their method was perfected, Frisen and Spalding went to work. They examined tissue samples from the organs of more than a dozen deceased subjects, half of whom were born before the nuclear test ban, and half of whom were born after. For cells of each tissue type, they were able to determine birth dates to within two years. They discovered that rib muscle cells and most gut cells last about 15 years, while the average human skeleton is around a decade old. The average age of all the cells in an adult body is between 7 and 10 years old.

One of the most interesting organs that Frisen and Spalding examined was the brain. For years, scientists have debated whether or not the brain generates new neurons. Although the prevailing view is that the brain does not continue to produce cells, some researchers have insisted that neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) is indeed possible. So far, Frisen and Spalding have only tested neurons from the visual cortex. These have been found to be the exact same age as the donor. They plan to test brain cells from other regions in the future. As Jeffrey Macklis of Harvard Medical School in Boston told, "[Frisen and Spalding’s work] could help to address long-standing questions of just how rigid or just how flexible our brains are at the cellular level."

In time, Frisen and Spalding’s work may reveal crucial information about cells that could shed light on why the human body cannot regenerate indefinitely. Until then, their innovative method of carbon dating has certainly given us a new way to think about what it means to get older. And the next time someone tells you to act your age, you might just want to ask them exactly which age they mean.


Rated one of the most memorable quotes of the last century by an American was Yogi Berra's "It ain't over 'til it's over," a statement made while he was NY Mets manager during the National League pennant race in 1973.

Offbeat News Stories

Where There’s Smoke...
An Australian man charged up with static electricity left a trail of burnt carpet and plastic as he strolled though an office building on a September morning in Warrnambool, Victoria, completely unaware. Firefighters summoned to investigate the source of the burning smell and scorch marks thought at first that the problem was caused by an electrical surge, and evacuated the building. The cause of it all, a man named Frank Clewer, headed to his car, but returned for help from the firefighters upon discovering that he had scorched a piece of plastic on the car’s floor. Firefighters tested his clothes - a wool short and nylon jacket--with a static electricity meter and measured an electrical current of 40,000 volts - "one step shy of spontaneous combustion," according to one fire official. The fire department confiscated Clewer’s jacket, and noted that it continued to give off strong electrical current while being stored in the fire station courtyard.

No Quarter Given
The rear end of an armored truck caught fire Sept. 13, spilling its cargo - 39,000 pounds of quarters, worth some $800,000 - over an Alabama highway. Firefighters arriving on scene around 2:30 AM were greeted by Jim Starr Jr., an armed guard and one of the truck riders, who explained that a grease fire had sparked one of the truck’s tires, which ignited the bags of quarters in the trailer. The highway remained partially closed for 12 hours as workers used a front-end loader, shovels, and buckets to collect millions of singed coins. Another armored truck headed to the wreck site to collect the quarters, all of which were newly-minted Kansas editions of the U.S. Mint state coins series.

From The World Almanac — The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, 1969-2004

The Booker Prize for fiction, established in 1968, is awarded annually in October for what is judged the best full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, or the Irish Republic. In 2002 sponsorship of the award was taken over by Man Group PLC, the name was changed to the Man Booker Prize, and the amount was increased from £20,000 to £50,000. The prize money for being named to the shortlist of six was also increased from £1,000 to £2,500.

1969: P. H. Newby, Something to Answer For
1970: Bernice Rubens, The Elected Member
1971: V. S. Naipaul, In a Free State
1972: John Berger, G
1973: J. G. Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur
1974: Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist; Stanley Middleton, Holiday
1975: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat & Dust
1976: David Storey, Saville
1977: Paul Scott, Staying On
1978: Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea
1979: Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore
1980: William Golding, Rites of Passage
1981: Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
1982: Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark
1983: J. M. Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K
1984: Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
1985: Keri Hulme, The Bone People
1986: Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
1987: Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
1988: Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
1989: Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
1990: A. S. Byatt, Possession
1991: Ben Okri, The Famished Road
1992: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient; Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger
1993: Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1994: James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late
1995: Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
1996: Graham Swift, Last Orders
1997: Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
1998: Ian McEwan, Amsterdam
1999: J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace
2000: Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
2001: Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
2002: Yann Martel, Life of Pi
2003: DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little
2004: Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty

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


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Pelourinho, the oldest part of Salvador


I worked 7-1/2 days in the month of September due to the fact that I was on vacation, and have now been traveling on business related to the printing of The World Almanac 2006. So I'm going to take you on the trips I've taken during the last month.

For my vacation I went to Brazil, where I visited interesting sights, enjoyed good food, and met many of my cousins for the first time at a family wedding. The language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese, and prior to my visit, it was suggested that I study a phrase book, but I didn't have enough time; thus my vocabulary was restricted to such phrases as Bom Dia ("Good Day") and Obrigado ("Thank you"). Next time I go, I'll be better prepared; I might even, try a Portuguese 101 course such as:


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio

The first stop on the trip was the city of Salvador, the capital of Bahia State, Brazil's oldest city. Tourists are drawn by the city's colonial architecture, excellent beaches, African-influenced culture, and vibrant musical life. A season of annual festivals culminates in the pre-Lenten carnival, for which Salvador is world famous. The city is filled with many Baroque churches dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, and has beautiful beaches. To visit Salvador on the internet, go to: Although I didn't see this myself, the city is also known for those who practice capoeira, and art form that combines martial arts with dance. To learn more about this, visit: You couldn't walk along a street in Salvador without seeing the bright ribbons called "fitas do Senhor do Bonfim." The idea behind the fitas is to tie them around your wrist with three knots, the knots corresponding to three wishes that you make. When the fabric wears out and the fita drops off...your wishes will be granted. I'm told I'll be wearing my green fita for over six months. I'll let you know if my wishes come true.


(c) Timothy N. Bryk

Teatro Municipal in Rio

Who remembers Tom Jobim's 1962 song, "Girl from Ipanema?" Next stop on the trip was Rio de Janeiro, where I stayed a block from the beach in Ipanema. Rio was the capital and dominant city of Brazil from 1763 to 1960. Beyond its famous beaches in Ipanema and Copacabana, the city's famous landmarks include Sugarloaf Mountain, and the large statue called Christ the Redeemer, atop Corcovado Mountain, in the Tijuca Forest. Built 1926-1931, the 30-meter (98-foot) sandstone statue, is reachable by train. On a clear day, you can have an impressive view of Rio. To learn more about the statue and its railway, visit: And what if it rains? I visited the old "centro" in town, and got a guided tour of the magnificent Teatro Municipal, a performing arts center built in Parisian style, from its grand foyer to the restaurant downstairs, designed in the style of Babylonian art. To view the Teatro Municipal pay a visit to: The sun did come out when I was in Rio, and unlike U.S. beaches, Ipanema beach was filled with vendors selling everything under the sun, from fresh pineapples to bathing suits-- which by the way, are stylish and skimpy.


(c) Timothy N. Bryk

Mercado Municipal in São Paulo

After the beaches of Rio, my last stop was São Paulo, where I was warmly received as the first American cousin to visit in 46 years. It was a pleasure meeting and getting to know my cousins in this city of 18 million. Now the largest city in Brazil and South America, São Paulo is the hub of a metropolitan region comprising 39 separate municipalities. After the wedding of my cousin Alexandre, and his bride Ana, I was taken to hear the São Paulo Symphony in the Sala São Pauloa, a recital hall which is built within a grand Victorian railway station. I also visited the Mercado Municipal, an impressive marketplace in a neo-classical building, which was filled with fruit, vegetables, cheese, and meats. To learn more about São Paulo, visit:

While I was in São Paulo, my cousins José and his wife Monica prepared a meal of traditional Brazilian food. It consisted of "freijoada," a black beans and pork stew, and rice, "farofa," a side dish made with manioc flour, "couve," which is the vegetable kale (collard greens), and the traditional drink, "caipirinha," limes and sugar mixed with cachaça liquor. To learn how to make these and more delicacies, visit:

When it came to sending thank you notes to Brazil, I found a helpful website which translated my English into Portuguese at

As the family genealogist, meeting more of my cousins was a dream come true. After initial contact with a family member by mail, e-mail has for several years been the source of connection with my Brazilian relatives. Through genealogy sites, I have hooked up with family members in other countries, and I recommend as a starting point for those who want to do genealogical searches. I have more cousins who live in exotic and interesting places in the world, so cousins, be on notice; one day I might show up at your doorstep too! For the time being, I need to begin deciding where and how many of the 1,000 photographs I took while in Brazil to share with family and friends online.

This past Thursday I met two nice staff members, Lindsay and Allen, while eating dinner at Ruby Tuesdays in Lafayette, Indiana. Lindsay figured I was experiencing culture shock in the Midwest after having visited Brazil, but I told her that I like to find historical things to do wherever I travel (Note to my boss: that is IF I have the spare time). The area I visited is famous for its Covered Bridge Festival, which occurs this time of year. With 32 covered bridges, Parke County, in Indiana, is known as the Covered Bridge Capital of the World. To learn more about the Festival, visit:

Useless website of the month:

Quote of the Month

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page."

- Saint Augustine (354-430), Roman theologian, Bishop of Hippo.

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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

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