The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 05, Number 12 — December 2005

What's in this issue?

December Events
December Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — December
December Birthdays
Travel - Montgomery, Alabama
Obituaries - November 2005
Special Feature: Montgomery Bus Boycotts, and Rosa Parks, Remembered
Chronology - Events of November 2005
Science in the News: Science in the News — A Passport to Never-Never Land
Offbeat News Stories
From The World Almanac — Air Distances Between Selected World Cities in Statute Miles
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

December Events

December 1 - Liberace Museum Christmas Tree Lighting (Las Vegas, NV)
December 2-4 - Dickens on the Strand (Galveston, TX)
December 4 - NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship (College Station, TX)
December 5 - Electric Light Parade (Lovington, NM)
December 9 - Wassail Celebration (Woodstock, VT)
December 10 - Nobel Prize Awards Ceremonies (Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway)
December 11 - NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship (Cary, NC)
December 17 - NAIA Football National Championship Game (Hardin County, TN)
December 17 - Winterfest Boat Parade (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
December 17-18 - African American Holiday Expo (Washington, DC)
December 19 - Nuts Fair (Belgium)
December 24 - Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade (Winter Park, CO)
December 25 - Blue-Gray All Star Football Classic (Montgomery, AL)
December 30 - Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA); Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
December 31-January 1 - Ocean Dance (Hollywood, FL)

December Holidays — National and International

December 1 - United Nations World AIDS Day
December 2 - National Day (Laos)
December 5 - Krampuslauf (Austria)
December 6 - St. Nicholas Day
December 8 - Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 10 - Human Rights Day
December 12 - Virgin of Guadalupe Day (Mexico)
December 13 - St. Lucia Day (Sweden)
December 21 - Winter Solstice and First Day of Winter
December 25 - Christmas
December 26 - Boxing Day (Australia, Canada, UK)
December 26-January 1 - Kwanzaa
December 26-January 2 - Hanukkah (begins at sundown Dec. 25)
December 31 - New Year’s Eve


In 2002, American adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to fly a balloon alone around the world. It took him 14 days, 20 hours, and 1 minute.

This Day In History — December

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, AL. She is arrested, triggering boycotts against racial segregation.
02 1942 The first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction is produced at the Univ. of Chicago by a team of physicists led by Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton.
03 1967 Dr. Christiaan Barnard performs the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa.
04 1961 Floyd Patterson retains the world heavyweight title by knocking out Tom McNeeley.
05 1955 The AFL-CIO is created by the merger of the nation's 2 largest labor organizations, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
06 1973 Gerald R. Ford is sworn in as vice president, following the resignation of Spiro Agnew.
07 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, HI, killing 2,300, sinking or damaging 19 ships, and precipitating U.S. intervention in World War II.
08 1980 Former Beatle John Lennon is shot and killed outside his New York City apartment building.
09 1941 China declares war on Germany, Italy, and Japan.
10 1958 National Airlines operates the first domestic jet passenger service in the United States, between New York and Miami.
11 1936 Britain's King Edward VIII abdicates so that he can marry twice-divorced American Wallis Warfield Simpson.
12 2003 Liberal Party leader Paul Martin becomes Canada's 21st prime minister.
13 1577 Sir Francis Drake begins his voyage to circumnavigate the globe.
14 1911 Norwegian Roald Amundsen, with 4 men and sled dogs, becomes the first explorer to reach the South Pole.
15 1890 Sioux leader Sitting Bull is killed in a skirmish with U.S. soldiers.
16 1773 To protest a British tax on tea, patriots dressed as Indians board a British vessel and throw 350 chests of tea overboard, in what becomes known as the Boston Tea Party.
17 1996 Kofi Annan of Ghana is elected UN secretary general.
18 1916 The longest battle of World War I, the Battle of Verdun, ends with 750,000 casualties.
19 1958 The satellite Atlas transmits the first radio voice broadcast from space, containing Christmas greetings from Pres. Dwight Eisenhower.
20 1803 The Louisiana Purchase is completed; under its terms, the United States doubles its area by taking title to more than 800,000 square miles of land previously owned by France, for a price tag of $15 million.
21 1913 The first crossword puzzle is published, in a supplement to the New York World.
22 1928 In India, Mahatma Gandhi calls for mass civil disobedience if India is not given dominion status within a year.
23 1947 Three Bell Labs scientists--John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley--invent the transistor.
24 1942 German engineer Werner von Braun launches the first surface-to-surface guided missile.
25 1989 Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, ousted in an uprising, are executed after being tried and found guilty of genocide.
26 1898 French scientists Pierre and Marie Curie discover the element radium.
27 1927 Leon Trotsky and his followers are expelled from the Communist Party by the Soviet Communist Congress.
28 1732 Poor Richard's Almanack is published for the first time by Benjamin Franklin.
29 1890 At the Battle of Wounded Knee, SD, the last major conflict between the Indians and U.S. troops, about 200 Indian men, women, and children are killed, along with 29 soldiers.
30 1916 The Russian monk Grigori Rasputin, who has great influence with Nicholas and Alexandra, the emperor and empress, is assassinated in St. Petersburg.
31 1999 Boris Yeltsin officially resigns as Russia's president, handing over power to Vladimir Putin as acting president.

December Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1935 Woody Allen, actor/writer/director (Brooklyn, NY)
02 1925 Julie Harris, actress (Grosse Pointe Park, MI)
03 1965 Katarina Witt, Olympic champion figure skater (Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany)
04 1970 Jay-Z, musician (Brooklyn, NY)
05 1985 Frankie Muniz, actor (Ridgewood, NJ)
06 1920 Dave Brubeck, jazz musician (Concord, CA)
07 1915 Eli Wallach, actor (Brooklyn, NY)
08 1930 Maximilian Schell, actor (Vienna, Austria)
09 1916 Kirk Douglas, actor (Amsterdam, NY)
10 1952 Susan Dey, actress (Pekin, IL)
11 1945 Teri Garr, actress (Lakewood, OH)
12 1970 Jennifer Connelly, actress (Catskill Mountains, NY)
13 1925 Dick Van Dyke, actor/comedian (West Plains, MO)
14 1922 Don Hewitt, TV producer (New York, NY)
15 1931 Edna O'Brien, author (Tuamgraney, Ireland)
16 1938 Liv Ullmann, actress (Tokyo, Japan)
17 1945 Chris Matthews, TV journalist (Philadelphia, PA)
18 1980 Christina Aguilera, musician (Staten Island, NY)
19 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, actor (Los Angeles, CA)
20 1935 William Julius Wilson, sociologist, writer (Derry Township, PA)
21 1935 Phil Donahue, TV personality (Cleveland, OH)
22 1912 Lady Bird Johnson, first lady of the United States (Karnack, TX)
23 1948 Susan Lucci, actress (Scarsdale, NY)
24 1971 Ricky Martin, singer (San Juan, PR)
25 1949 Sissy Spacek, actress (Quitman, TX)
26 1914 Richard Widmark, actor (Sunrise, MN)
27 1943 Cokie Roberts, TV journalist (New Orleans, LA)
28 1913 Lou Jacobi, actor (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
29 1946 Marianne Faithfull, singer (London, England)
30 1945 Davy Jones, actor/singer and member of the Monkees (Manchester, England)
31 1948 Donna Summer, singer (Boston, MA)

Travel - Montgomery, Alabama

With a population in the neighborhood of 200,000, Montgomery is only a middle-sized community. But over the course of the past 150 years the city, Alabama's capital, has been the location of events of monumental significance in the development of the U.S. Montgomery was the first seat of government of the secessionist Confederate States of America during the Civil War. A century later an act of civil disobedience in the city marked the beginning of the civil rights movement.

The arrest of African-American seamstress Rosa Parks in 1955 after she refused to give up her bus seat to a white touched off a yearlong boycott by blacks of the local bus system, leading to a momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision barring segregated buses. Parks, subsequently deemed by the U.S. Congress the Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement, died in Detroit in October 2005 at the age of 92. Her death focused national attention once again on Montgomery, where an official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the boycott was scheduled for December. Montgomery also saw in late 2005 the opening of a new Civil Rights Memorial Center, which added one more site to a plethora of history-related attractions awaiting visitors to the city.

Remembering the struggle for civil rights


Library of Congress Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-01269

Martin Luther King in 1964

Right downtown is the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, located in a building of Troy University's Montgomery campus. Exhibits in this interactive museum deal with Parks's arrest (which occurred nearby) and later developments in the struggle for civil rights and include a replica of the bus Parks was seated in and a street reconstruction along with video segments and historic documents. A children's annex to the library and museum was slated to open in early 2006.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize-winning champion of nonviolent protest, first gained national exposure when he played a leading role in the bus boycott as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. From 1954 to 1960 he was pastor of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, which is still in operation. As part of the city's official commemorations of the historic boycott, a special traveling exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution - "381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott" was slated to begin its tour at the Alabama State Capitol in early December.

Near the Dexter Avenue Church and the Capitol lies a Civil Rights Memorial paying homage to 40 people who died between 1954 (the year of the U.S. Supreme Court's epochal Brown v Board of Education decision barring school segregation) and 1968 (when King was assassinated) in the struggle for racial equality. The black granite monument features a circular table covered with flowing water and backed by a 40-ft (12-m) waterfall streaming over words from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It was designed by Maya Lin, who also created the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. A new Civil Rights Memorial Center adjacent to this monument was dedicated in October 2005, containing a small theater, a classroom, exhibits, and a Wall of Tolerance, down which flow the digitally displayed names of individuals who have pledged themselves to work for equality, justice, and human rights.

The 54-mi (87-km) Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail memorializes a protest march carried out by thousands of voting-rights advocates under King's leadership from Selma to Montgomery in 1965; the march helped galvanize national support for the Voting Rights Act passed by Congress later that year.

Earlier Days

Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederated States, was sworn into office in 1861 on the territory of the Alabama State Capitol, which functioned as the Confederacy's capitol during the initial months of the Civil War. The two-story Italianate-style house where Davis lived - the "First White House of the Confederacy" - was later moved close to the Capitol. It is open to visitors, offering 19th-century furnishings and belongings of Davis's for view.

Insight into what life was like in the past for a broad range of area residents can be gained by visiting Old Alabama Town, one of the finest history villages in the South. It boasts some 50 restored structures dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries and is located along six blocks in downtown Montgomery.

Cultural pleasures

History may be Montgomery's chief claim to fame, but the city also has cultural attractions of note. Blount Cultural Park in the eastern part of town affords a pleasantly landscaped natural milieu adorned with sculptures. It is the setting for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Also located there is the Carolyn Blount Theatre, home of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. One of the world's largest Shakespeare festivals, it functions nearly throughout the year, mounting more than a dozen productions, including usually at least three by the bard after whom it is named. In the Shakespeare Garden in Blount Park you can see plants and flowers that figure in the bard's plays.

Visiting Montgomery


Six of the ten tallest buildings in the world are in China.

Obituaries in November 2005

Berenstain, Stan, 82, co-author and co-illustrator, with his wife, Jan Berenstain, of about 250 books in the Berenstain Bears series of children’s books; Doylestown, PA, Nov. 26, 2005.

Best, George, 59, first British soccer superstar, nicknamed "the fifth Beatle"; London, England, Nov. 25, 2005.

Bujones, Fernando, 50, Cuban-American ballet dancer who achieved an international reputation while still in his teens; Miami, FL, Nov. 10, 2005.

Cummings, Constance, 95, U.S.-born actress, long based in Britain, who, though she made a number of films, was perhaps best known for her work in the theater on both sides of the Atlantic; Oxfordshire, England, Nov. 23, 2005.

Deloria Jr., Vine, 72, Native American activist and author who wrote the seminal work Custer Died for Your Sins (1969); Denver, CO, Nov. 13, 2005.

Drucker, Peter F., 95, pioneering management theorist who in such books as The Future of Industrial Man (1942) and The Practice of Management (1954) stressed the importance of employee participation in corporate decision-making; Claremont, CA, Nov. 11, 2005.

Edwards, Ralph, 92, radio and TV pioneer who created, produced and hosted the hit shows "Truth or Consequences" and "This Is Your Life" in both mediums and produced or co-produced such later TV hits as "Name That Tune" and "The People’s Court"; West Hollywood, CA, Nov. 16, 2005.

Fowles, John, 79, British author who made a splash in the 1960s with his novels The Collector (1963), The Magus (1965) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), all of them made into films; Lyme Regis, England, Nov. 5, 2005.

Henderson, Skitch, 87, British-born conductor, pianist, and radio and TV personality who was the first music director of NBC’s "The Tonight Show"; New Milford, CT, Nov. 1, 2005.

Lichfield, Lord (Patrick), 66, British society photographer related to Queen Elizabeth II who was the official photographer at the 1981 wedding of her eldest son, Prince Charles, and Lady Diana Spencer; Oxford, England, Nov. 11, 2005.

Morita, Pat, 73, Japanese-American actor who became well-known for his portrayal of a diner owner in the TV situation comedy "Happy Days"and then won acclaim for playing a wise martial arts instructor in the film The Karate Kid (1984) and three sequels; Las Vegas, NV, Nov. 24, 2005.

Narayanan, K.R., 85, president of India, 1977-2002, and India’s first head of state from the lowest Hindu caste, the Dalits (formerly known as the "untouchables"); New Delhi, India, Nov. 9, 2005.

North, Sheree, 72, actress who was briefly a Hollywood sex symbol along the lines of Marilyn Monroe but settled into a career as a highly respected character actress; Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 4, 2005.

Taube, Henry, 89, Nobel laureate in chemistry, honored in 1983 for his discovery of the "bridge" transferring electrons between molecules in chemical reactions; Palo Alto, CA, Nov. 16, 2005.

Tisch, Bob, 79, New York City-based businessman and philanthropist who once served as U.S. postmaster general and, since 1991, had been co-owner, with Wellington Mara, of the New York Giants football team; New York, NY, Nov. 15, 2005; he died three weeks after Mara.

Special Feature: Montgomery Bus Boycotts, and Rosa Parks, Remembered

Joe Gustaitis

In December 2005, people in the United States commemorate the 50th anniversary of that historic day in Montgomery, Alabama, on which Rosa Parks lit a spark that helped ignite the civil rights movement. Her actions have been made all the more poignant by the death of that great woman in October. Thus 2005 has brought two connected remembrances: the events in Montgomery that led to the end of the Jim Crow South and the life of a hero.

Life in the "Jim Crow" South

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black 42-year-old seamstress for the Montgomery Fair department store, her back and shoulders aching from working all day, let one full bus pass so she could get a seat on the next one. At that time, the front four rows of seats were reserved for white riders only, and, since some two-thirds of the bus riders in Montgomery were black, black passengers would often stand while the first four rows were empty. Black riders could sit in the middle section of the bus, but only if no white person needed a seat there. If a single white rider wished to sit there, all black passengers had to vacate this middle part.

Rosa Parks found a place in the middle section of the next bus, but a few minutes later, when a white man boarded and needed a seat, the bus driver ordered her and three other black passengers to move. The others complied, but Parks refused. When the bus driver told her he would have her arrested, she said simply, "You may go on and do so." Her arrest began a black boycott of Montgomery buses that lasted for an astonishing 381 days. The boycott brought to prominence a young Montgomery minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., and initiated a movement that would eventually bring down racial segregation laws in the United States.


New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted

Rosa McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913; at age 20 she married a barber named Raymond Parks. They both worked and their lives were fairly comfortable, although Rosa always chafed under the restrictions of segregation--she would, for example, walk up flights of stairs rather than take an elevator reserved for "colored" passengers or go thirsty rather than drink from a "colored" water fountain. The public transportation system earned her special ire. Not only were the seats segregated, but in those days black riders had to enter a bus at the front, pay the fare, and then descend to get on again at the rear (sometimes the bus would depart before they could reenter). This was practiced to spare white passengers the "discomfort" of having a black person walk by them. Such injustices were one reason why Parks, who had attended Alabama State Teachers College, joined the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) along with her husband.

Parks once recalled, "I worked on numerous cases with the NAACP, but we did not get the publicity. There were cases of flogging, peonage, murder, and rape. We didn't seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens." By December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was already much more than a seamstress. She was a civil rights advocate who, like Montgomery’s black leaders, was seeking a test case to challenge segregation on public transportation. In fact, she had already had an altercation with the bus company. Twelve years earlier she had refused to get off and reboard through the back of the bus, and, ironically, the driver was the same one who had her arrested in 1955. "He was still mean-looking," she once said.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

It is easy to forget how dangerous it was then to threaten the white establishment’s belief about the separation of the races. Before the civil rights era, a white person could murder a black individual with little fear of being severely punished. In 1950, for example, a black soldier named Thomas Edward Brooks entered a Montgomery bus through the front door. For this outrage, a white policeman clubbed him and then shot him to death.

By 1955 the civil rights leaders were ready for a confrontation. The NAACP wanted to file a lawsuit against the city of Montgomery for its bus segregation law. However, in order to effectively challenge the law, the organization needed a spokesperson that could stand up to intense media scrutiny. Earlier in 1955 two young black women, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, had been separately arrested for noncompliance with bus segregation laws, but in both cases NAACP members decided to search for a more ideal candidate. After hearing that Parks was arrested, a local civil rights leader named E. D. Nixon said, "My God, look what segregation has put in my hands!" Parks was married, employed, dignified, presentable, and brave -- the perfect candidate. Nixon contacted Clifford Durr, a white lawyer who agreed to help Nixon bail Parks out of jail, and she consented to challenge the bus segregation law.


Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama

Code of the City of Montgomery, Alabama, 1952

Jo Ann Robinson, a black college professor and co-founder of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), along with Nixon and some members of the NAACP, had wanted to organize a bus boycott. They decided that the Monday following Parks’s arrest (which was also the day of her court appearance) was the perfect time for the boycott to begin. Although Robinson and other members of the WPC only had 3 days to prepare, they delivered boycott notices to schools and businesses on the day following Parks’s arrest, and asked black ministers to announce the message at church services on Sunday.

The Monday of Parks’s court appearance saw a nearly total black boycott of the city buses, as Montgomery’s black citizens carpooled, walked, or used a black cab service--black taxicab drivers had lowered their fares to 10 cents per trip, which was the same as the bus fare. At her court appearance, Parks was represented by Fred Gray and Charles Langford. She was found guilty of violating bus segregation law and fined $14 ($10 fine plus $4 court costs). Gray and Langford appealed the ruling. Later that day, an organization called the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed to coordinate the boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr. was elected president of the new association.

At a meeting later that evening, the group decided to continue the boycott indefinitely, though it had originally been planned to last just one day. The bus system was used mainly by blacks, so the bus company would feel the financial pinch. The MIA drew up a list of three demands of the bus company and the city, which were: courteous treatment on the buses; first-come, first-served seating with whites in front and blacks in back; and the hiring of black bus drivers for black bus routes. For the duration of the boycott, black citizens faced threats and much harassment. In February 1956, 90 boycott leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., were arrested on charges of violating anti-boycott laws. A month previously, King's home had been bombed by anti-boycott protesters.

Subsequently, a federal court, in a split decision, ruled that the city ordinance requiring racial segregation on buses violated the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court unanimously upheld that decision on November 13, 1956. On December 20, U.S. marshals served on state, city, and bus company officials a federal injunction barring segregated Montgomery buses. The boycott was called off, and the following day desegregated buses drove onto the city streets.

Parks's Later Career

Although this desegregation was a great triumph for African Americans, the Montgomery boycott victory was not altogether positive for Parks. She and her husband both lost their jobs and fell on difficult times. In addition, the family faced hundreds of menacing threats and nearly constant telephone harassment. In 1956, after her husband experienced a nervous breakdown, Rosa Parks moved to Hampton, Virginia, where she lived for a short time before settling with her husband and mother in Detroit, Michigan, where she worked as a seamstress. She remained politically interested and active, and in 1964 endorsed a black politician named John Conyers, Jr. for Congress.

After his election victory, Conyers hired Parks as an assistant and receptionist in his office. He always maintained that he got much more out of the arrangement than she did. Her presence gave his office considerable prestige, and people came there not to see him, but to see a living legend. She worked for Conyers until retiring in 1988. A year earlier she had founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, a nonprofit organization that teaches life skills to young African Americans. In 1999, Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. She remained in Detroit until she died, laden with honors, on October 24, 2005.

Boycott as Protest

The success of the Montgomery boycott not only achieved one of the first civil rights victories, but the very tactic itself soon proved a popular method of contesting perceived injustice. The boycott has a long history; the term comes from a British army captain, Charles Boycott, who was the target of actions by Irish tenant farmers in the 1880s. However, the device itself had long before been employed by the American colonists against the Stamp Act of 1765, a law which was passed by the British Parliament and increased the cost of printed matter including legal documents, newspapers, and even playing cards. The financial damage caused by the boycott prompted British merchants to ask Parliament to reconsider the law, and it was repealed the following year.

The boycott became a staple of the U.S. labor movement in the late 19th century, with many trade unions publishing a list of "We Don’t Patronize" boycott targets, but this use was challenged in court and its use declined. However, in the 20th century the boycott began to regain some of its popularity as civil rights leaders realized its potential. Interestingly, a bus boycott first took place in 1953 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After that boycott, civil rights organizations succeeded in forging a compromise with the city council whereby the first two seats on a bus were reserved for white riders, the last two were exclusively for black riders, and anyone could sit in between. In 1955, Martin Luther King contacted the Baton Rouge organizers for advice about boycott strategy. The Montgomery boycott was followed by other bus boycotts--for example, in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1956 and in Macon, Georgia, in 1962. In both cases, racial segregation was declared to be illegal and the buses became desegregated.

In March 1960 students at Tuskegee Institute began a full-scale boycott of white merchants in protest against a 1957 Alabama law that changed the city boundaries of Tuskegee to exclude all African Americans as residents and voters. A month later, amid racial violence in Biloxi, Mississippi, blacks boycotted stores whose policies were considered racist. In May 1960, after successful boycotts in Nashville, Tennessee, department store lunch counters were desegregated, and in 1961 activists in Clarksdale, Mississippi called for a boycott against merchants for alleged discriminatory practices, which led to the arrests of seven protesters, including the head of the Mississippi NAACP, on charges of "withholding trade" from white merchants. Blacks boycotted downtown stores in Birmingham, Alabama in 1962, and in the same year black ministers organized a successful boycott of a newspaper, the Philadelphia Bulletin, on charges of employment bias, thus demonstrating that the tactic could be effectively applied outside the South.

Boycotts Today

Boycotts have been used as a nonviolent way of expanding civil rights in other spheres as well as in fighting racial discrimination. Women, homosexuals, and other groups have successfully applied the boycott tactic. One of its most effective employments was a boycott of companies conducting business in South Africa during the apartheid era, when more than 160 corporations withdrew their financial support from the racially segregated country. It is believed that this boycott helped to bring an end to apartheid in the early 1990s.

Conservatives have also used boycotts, most notably to protest sexually explicit television shows. The psychologist Monroe Friedman studied 90 boycotts that took place in the 1970s and found that they were most popular among labor unions, racial minorities, women’s rights groups, and consumer organizations, but that they were also employed by gay rights activists, antiwar groups, antiabortion groups, health advocates, and environmentalists. At one point it became a popular joke that students who were ecologically minded, against discrimination, prolabor, and health conscious had few products left to buy. In 2005 firms such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Kraft Foods, Microsoft, Disney, and the American Girl doll stores have been boycott targets by both liberals and conservatives, leading to what Friedman has recently called the "boycott of the week." Its popularity may not be some indication of its effectiveness. Sometimes the mere threat of a boycott is enough to force a company to seriously review its practices. As was the case in 1955, boycotts can cause financial damage and slash sales, which is why they are taken so seriously. The wider use of the boycott in modern times can be traced directly to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Civil Rights in the 21st Century


U.S. State Department

Colin Powell

Even before Parks died, it was not unusual to hear the complaint that the civil rights leaders of today pale in comparison to the giants of the 1950s and 1960s--not only Parks, but also personages like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, James Farmer, Philip Randolph, and many more. Shortly after Parks’s death, the Detroit News interviewed African Americans in that city and found that many found it challenging even to name a contemporary civil rights leader. One teenager said that "All of them were either assassinated or died," and a policeman commented, "To be honest, there aren't too many true leaders out there today. Someone really needs to step up and fill that void."

One reason for that is that society today has greatly changed. It is no longer likely that protesters will be clubbed, whipped, and tear gassed by policemen, as they were during the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965, or that a civil rights leader will be assassinated, as Medgar Evers was in 1963 and Martin Luther King was five years later. The laws of segregation have been overturned, the black middle class has broadened, and African Americans have risen to very high positions in education, business, and government. For example, in 2001 Colin Powell became the first African American U.S. Secretary of State, and that position is held in 2005 by Condoleezza Rice.

Of course, vast problems continue to remain--notably a towering unemployment rate, especially among young African Americans; high rates of incarceration; police abuse; and, as the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina so vividly revealed, poverty of third-world dimensions. Although segregation laws have been overturned, segregation itself has not. In fact, Detroit, Parks’s longtime home, is the most segregated metropolitan area in the United States.

One difference the past 50 years have made is that, in the words of Jamal-Harrison Bryant, former director of the NAACP's youth and college division, today much of the work is "nuts and bolts" labor that has to be carried out, not in front of television cameras, but behind the scenes. The Detroit News quoted Rev. Wendell Anthony along similar lines: "It's not as clear and distinct as it was 40 years ago. You saw people getting held down. You saw the signs and segregated lunch counters. Today, Jim Crow and Jim Crow Esq. have on three-piece suits. They don't bar you from their restaurants. They pass laws and hike up insurance rates to force you out of the communities."

One last facet of Rosa Parks’s legacy bears on that very issue. As many commentators pointed out, her story shows that you do not have to be prominent or wealthy in order to change history. You can be mild and you can be modest, as long as you have character, conviction, and courage.


The modern birthstone for December is the turquoise or zircon; in the ancient world it was the ruby.

Chronology — Events of November 2005


     Conservatives Back New Supreme Court Nominee - Judge Samuel Alito, Pres. George W. Bush’s latest nominee for Supreme Court associate justice, enjoyed strong support among political conservatives as he awaited his Senate confirmation hearings. However, several issues relevant to his nomination arose. The Washington Post reported Nov. 1 that Alito was one of three judges to preside over a 2002 case involving the Vanguard Group, Inc., an investment firm, even though he had substantial investments in Vanguard and its affiliates. Alito, however, asserted that he did not have enough of a financial stake in the company to require his recusal. The White House Nov. 14 disclosed Alito’s 1985 application for deputy assistant to the U.S. attorney general, in which he said he was proud that he had contributed to cases opposing racial and ethnic quotas and contending that no right to abortion could be found in the Constitution.

     Bush Seeks to Thwart Bird Flu Pandemic Threat - Pres. Bush Nov. 1 announced a $7.1 bil plan to head off any threat to the U.S. posed by avian influenza, or bird flu. The goal would be to make a vaccine available to every American within 6 months of the onset of a pandemic. No U.S. cases of bird flu had yet been reported.
     China said Nov. 15 that it would seek to vaccinate all of its 5.2 bil chickens, ducks, and geese in order to stop bird flu. China Nov. 16 confirmed its first 3 cases of bird flu in humans; 2 of the 3 victims had died and the third had recovered.

     Democrats Elect Governors in New Jersey, Virginia - The Democrats maintained control of governorships in elections in 2 states Nov. 8. In New Jersey, U.S. Sen. John Corzine, with 53% of the vote, defeated his Republican opponent, businessman Douglas Forrester, who won 43%, after an expensive and bitter campaign. Corzine will succeed Richard Codey, who had led the state since James McGreevey resigned in 2004. In Virginia, Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine defeated former state Atty. Gen, Jerry Kilgore (R), winning 52% of the vote to Kilgore’s 46%.
     Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. In California, voters rejected a package of reforms proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In Dover, PA, voters ousted all 8 members of the school board who supported the promotion of so-called "intelligent design" to be taught as an alternative to evolution in public schools.

     War of Words Over Iraq Heats Up in U.S. - The domestic debate over the Iraq war continued. In a Veterans Day speech on Nov. 11, Pres. Bush charged that those who accused him of manipulating intelligence to get the U.S. into war were "irresponsible" and were damaging U.S. troop morale. Pres. Bush also said his critics had believed, as he did, based on intelligence at the time, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In a Nov. 16 speech given in Washington, DC, Vice Pres. Richard Cheney asserted in a speech given in Washington D.C. that those who claimed the administration had lied the nation into war were making "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
     The Senate Nov. 15 defeated, 58-40, a Democratic-supported resolution that would have called on the administration to provide a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. The Senate then passed, 79-19, a GOP resolution asking the administration to provide Congress with a report on the situation in Iraq every 90 days.
     Rep. John Murtha (D, PA), a Vietnam combat veteran long known as a supporter of the military, called Nov. 17 for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 6 months. He said the war was not winnable and that Americans "have become a catalyst for the violence." White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded to Murtha’s statement, saying, "he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party." However, Pres. Bush was less critical, referring to his fellow Republican as "a good man."
     On Nov. 20, Sen. Joe Biden (D, DE) said, "The fact of the matter is that the vice president and the administration took the portion of the evidence that was questionable and offered it as if were a fact and I believe hyped the rationale to go to war." Cheney Nov. 21 responded that those who accused the administration of manipulating evidence were engaging in "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety." On Nov. 22, freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D, IL) said, "Members of both parties and the American people have now made clear that it is simply not enough for the president to simply say 'We know best' and 'Stay the course.’"

     CIA Leak Investigation Continues - Bob Woodward, a reporter for the Washington Post, revealed Nov. 16 that a Bush administration official had told him in mid-June 2003 that Valerie Plame Wilson, wife of administration critic Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA. Woodward’s statement came as Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor involved in the CIA leak scandal, prepared to present evidence to a new grand jury. Thus it appeared that Woodward had learned about the connection before I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and had kept his knowledge secret, even from his editor. Woodward provided sworn testimony to Fitzgerald Nov. 14.

     Two Plead Guilty to Corruption Charges - Michael Scanlon, a former partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Nov. 21 pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials. He agreed to repay $19.6 mil to former clients, an Indian tribe. His plea bargain and cooperation with the investigation was expected to lead to more indictments. Scanlon had also been an aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R, TX), the former House Majority Leader, who had been indicted in a separate case.
     Rep. Randy Cunningham (R, CA) Nov. 28 pleaded guilty to tax evasion and to conspiring to commit bribery, tax evasion, wire fraud, and mail fraud. He resigned from Congress. He was charged with taking $2.4 mil in bribes, which he did not report as income, to help friends and supporters get military contracts.

     U.S. Citizen Charged as Supporter of Jihad - Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member who had converted to Islam, was charged by the Justice Dept. Nov. 22 with supporting violent jihad campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The charges came after Padilla, who is a U.S. citizen, had been held in a military prison for more than 3 years on suspicion of terrorist activities. Critics argued that he should not have been held so long as an "enemy combatant" without being charged. The charges ultimately filed did not include any reference to previous allegations that he had been involved in a "dirty bomb" plot.

     Bush Defends Iraq War in Speech; Refuses to Set Timetable - Pres. Bush defended his Iraq policy Nov. 30 in a speech given at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, to an audience of midshipmen. In response to growing skepticism from Democrats and some Republicans and polls showing diminished public support, Bush reiterated his position that the U.S. cannot leave until there are enough trained Iraqi forces to secure the country; while not ruling out troop reductions, he vowed not to pull out based on any "artificial timetable set by politicians." The speech coincided with the release of a 35-page report outlining the Bush administration’s plan for winning the war. Democrats renewed calls for deadlines and charged that Bush had not laid out a realistic strategy for success.


     Rioting Sweeps France; Property Damage High - France was rocked by 3 weeks of almost constant rioting mostly by disaffected young Muslims of North African descent living in high-unemployment suburbs isolated from the mainstream. Rioters battled police and burned thousands of vehicles in more than 300 cities and towns across the country. The protests began in a Paris suburb Oct. 27, following the accidental deaths of 2 teenage boys who were electrocuted in a power station where they apparently had been hiding in flight from police. The situation then exploded into full-blown insurrection. Ten police officers were shot and wounded in the Paris suburb of Grigny Nov. 6. One man died Nov. 7 after being beaten by rioters. Prem. Dominique de Villepin Nov. 7 announced plans to assist immigrants and their families, including job training, better educational opportunities, and renovated housing. The French government declared a state of emergency Nov. 8.
     By Nov. 17, the violence mostly ended and the police announced a return to "a normal situation." Nearly 9,000 vehicles had been burned and 3,000 people arrested. Due to the economic and social isolation, unemployment among young Muslims in France had run as high as 25%. In addition, perceived police profiling and racism contributed to the unrest.

     Insurgent Attacks in Iraq Continue - Insurgent bombings and attacks in Iraq continued unabated. Among other incidents, at least 20 died in a bombing at a market and Shiite mosque south of Baghdad Nov. 2. Northeast of Baghdad Nov. 4, gunmen killed 9 Iraqi police officers. Gunmen Nov. 8 targeted 2 attorneys defending former Baathist officials on trial with ex-Pres. Saddam Hussein in Baghdad; one was killed, the other wounded. A suicide bombing at a Baghdad restaurant Nov. 10 killed at least 34 people.
     On Nov. 5 U.S. and Iraqi forces had opened a new offensive against insurgents in western Iraq, near the Syrian border. Some 50 insurgents were reported killed in that offensive Nov. 14; 2 U.S. Marines were killed the same day, 5 others in an ambush 2 days later.
     Suicide bombers wearing explosives on their belts Nov. 18 killed at least 70 worshippers in 2 mosques in Khanaqin, in Kurdish Iraq. A car bomb went off at a funeral in Baghdad Nov. 19 killing 18 mourners. A car bomber killed 16 people in Kirkuk Nov. 22, and another killed 30 in Mahmudiya Nov. 24. U.S. military deaths were averaging 3 per day in November, the highest level since January.
     In other developments, Italy’s state-run TV network Nov. 8 showed corpses from Fallujah that had been burned by flammable white phosphorous; the U.S. military said Nov. 15 that it had used that substance in its assault on insurgents in Fallujah in 2004, while denying it was used against civilians. On Nov. 13, U.S. forces in Baghdad found a detention facility where at least 160 detainees were being held by Iraqi’s Interior Ministry. Some showed evidence of malnutrition or torture. Sunni leaders and human-rights organizations called for an international investigation.
     At a meeting in Cairo Nov. 21, about 100 Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders from Iraq called for withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable.

     Free Trade Debated at Summit of the Americas - Leaders from 34 Western Hemisphere countries attended the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Nov. 4 and 5 to discuss economic issues. Pres. Bush advanced a U.S. proposal for a free trade area of the Americas. Some 25,000 protesters attended a "people’s summit" Nov. 4 at which Pres. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela rebuked Bush on the Iraq war and denounced the free trade proposal, claiming it would mostly benefit U.S. exporters and multinational corporations. In a Nov. 5 communiqué, the U.S. and 28 other nations agreed to resume trade talks in 2006. Bush met with leaders in Brazil Nov. 5 and Panama Nov. 6 before returning to the U.S. Nov. 7.

     Suicide Bombers Strike 3 Hotels in Jordan - Suicide bombers wearing explosives on their belts set off blasts Nov. 9 that killed at least 57 bystanders and injured 300 in 3 hotels in Amman, the capital of Jordan, a country that has been supportive of U.S. policy in Iraq. Many of the dead and wounded were members of a wedding party. Al-Qaeda operatives claimed responsibility Nov. 10 in a posting on an internet site often used to post announcements by the terrorist network.
     On Nov. 13, Jordanian authorities arrested an Iraqi woman, Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, who confessed on Jordanian TV that she had accompanied her husband, one of the bombers, to the Radisson, one of the hotels hit, and had attempted to detonate a bomb concealed in her belt. Many Jordanians reacted in shock to the bombing and confession, while some said they did not believe the confession or that al-Qaeda could have been involved.

     Woman Elected President of Liberia - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist, was confirmed Nov. 23 as the winner of the first presidential election in Liberia since the end of the nation’s long, bloody civil war. The voting had taken place Nov. 8; figures released by the Elections Commission Nov. l5 showed her well ahead of her opponent, George Weah, a retired international soccer star. Although there were allegations of fraud made by Weah, the Elections Commission, under the protection of U.S. peacekeepers and newly-trained Liberian police, found no evidence of tampering and proclaimed Johnson-Sirleaf the winner. She is the first woman to be elected as a head of state in modern Africa.

     Bush Tours Far East - Pres. Bush began a tour of Asia Nov. 16. During a press conference in Kyoto with Japanese Prime Min. Junichiro Koizumi, Bush spoke about support of a more free society in China; he went on toalso renewed his call for a peaceful re-unification of China and Taiwan. Koizumi avoided saying whether Japan would withdraw its troops from Iraq in 2006. At a press conference in Kyongju, South Korea, Nov. 17, Bush and Korean Pres. Roh Moo Hyun discussed their common interest in dealing with North Korea and its nuclear threat. South Korean government Nov. 18 announced that it would withdraw a third of its 3,200 troops in Iraq in 2006.
     Pres. Bush and Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin were among leaders attending the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Pusan, South Korea. The two leaders Nov. 18 asked Iran to accept a compromise that would allow it to enrich uranium for domestic energy-production use but in Russia, and using Russian technology. Bush spoke Nov. 19 to U.S. troops at Osan Air Base, 48 miles south of the border between North and South Korea. In Beijing Nov. 20, he pressed Hu Jintao of China to increase political freedom in China; Chinese authorities did not appear responsive and had placed some dissidents under house arrest or detained them prior to Bush’s arrival to stem any demonstrations. Bush Nov. 21 became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Mongolia.

     Israeli Prime Minister Forms New Party - In a huge political shake-up, Israeli Prime Min. Ariel Sharon Nov. 21 quit the Likud Party, which he had helped found, and formed a new political party, National Responsibility, which he said would "lay the foundations for a peace agreement in which we will determine the permanent borders of the state." Sharon had feuded for years with hard-line Likud leaders who resisted steps he had taken or advocated in an effort to reach a settlement with the Palestinians.

     Angela Merkel Becomes Chancellor of Germany - The German Parliament Nov. 22 elected Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, as chancellor of Germany, after two months of negotiation among parties within her coalition. She took office immediately, after the Social Democratic Party of outgoing chancellor Gerhard Schroeder got 8 of the 16 cabinet posts in the new coalition government. Merkel was Germany’s first woman chancellor and the first to have lived under Communism in East Germany.

     Saddam Trial Resumes, Briefly - The trial of former Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein resumed for a few hours in Baghdad Nov. 28. He was charged specifically in an incident in which 148 men and boys were executed in Dujail after an assassination attempt against Hussein in 1982. A videotape was played of the testimony of Wadah al-Sheik, a former secret police officer, who stated that he had received no orders from Hussein during the investigation after the assassination attempt. The witness had since died of lung cancer. A recess in the trial was ordered to give other defendants a chance to meet with lawyers of their choice. Two of Hussein’s lawyers had been assassinated.

     Vote in Canadian Parliament Brings Down Government - The government of Canadian Prime Min. Paul Martin was ousted by a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons Nov. 28. The vote, supported by members of 3 opposition parties, came a month after an investigative report charged that the ruling Liberal Party had benefited from kickbacks, money laundering, and other corrupt practices. A new election would be held in January.


     Problems Continue in Wake of Gulf Hurricane - Pres. Bush Nov. 1 appointed Donald Powell, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., to coordinate recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico region. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Nov. 4 that satellite imagery showed that Hurricane Katrina had left 60,000 homes beyond repair, and hence eligible for $26,200 in aid per household. By late November, Louisiana leaders complained that relief legislation was stalled in Congress and that the national political establishment was losing interest in the state’s recovery.

     Makybe Diva Wins a Record 3rd Melbourne Cup - Makybe Diva won the Melbourne Cup Nov. 2 in Melbourne, Australia, and became the first horse in the 145-year history of the prestigious horserace to win 3 times in a row. The 7-year-old mare, with jockey Glen Ross in the saddle, beat out On a Jeune and Xcellent, who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, in front of a crowd of over 100,000 spectators. Makybe Diva’s trainer, Lee Freedman, overcome with excitement following the win, said of the achievement, "Go find the smallest child on this course, and there will be the only example of a person who will live long enough to see that again." During her 36-race career, Maybe Diva won 15 races and pulled in over A$14 mil in earnings. She is owned by Croatian-born Tony Santic.

     Vatican Bans Gays From Priesthood - The Roman Catholic Church, in a document officially issued Nov. 29, banned most homosexual men from becoming priests. Specifically, it forbade candidates "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’" The document would allow ordination to candidates who had experienced "transitory" homosexual tendencies that had been "clearly overcome" for at least 3 years.

Science in the News — A Passport to Never-Never Land

Sarah Taber

Forget white noise machines and warm milk before bed. According to researcher Hans-Peter Landolt, the key to a good night's sleep may be in your genes. Landolt and his team at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, have identified the "slumber gene" - a particular variant of a gene that produces an enzyme called adenosine deaminase (ADA). In a groundbreaking study published in the October 25, 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Landolt demonstrated that individuals carrying the slumber variant ADA gene sleep considerably more soundly than everyone else. In addition to providing new insight into the biological mechanisms surrounding sleep, Landolt's work may someday lead to new treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Most of us sleep for several hours each night; however, only a part of that slumber is slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep). During slow wave sleep (SWS), the brain's electrical activity is at its lowest. As Malcolm von Schwantz of the Surrey Sleep Research Center in the U.K. told, "Slow-wave sleep is beyond dreaming. You're completely knocked out, and it takes noise greater than 65 decibels to waken you." (Decibels are a standard unit of loudness; 65 decibels is approximately the level of normal conversation.) Though no one knows exactly why slow wave sleep is so important, body temperature and immune system functions become unstable without it.

Although everyone gets some deep sleep, the amount of time spent in SWS differs from person to person. Researchers believe that this variation is due at least in part to the activity of a neurotransmitter called adenosine. While a person is awake, adenosine builds up in his or her brain as a natural product of the breakdown of adenosine triphosphate and adenosine monophosphate (two molecules that release energy). Once the person goes to bed, the adenosine binds to special receptors that facilitate SWS. Caffeine, the well-known accessory to all-nighters and long drives, blocks adenosine receptors and thus prevents the neurotransmitter from inducing slow wave sleep.

Many of us are roused each morning by alarm clocks; however, even under the most optimal sleeping conditions, no one would sleep forever. So what wakes us up? An enzyme called adenosine deaminase (ADA) breaks down the adenosine in the brain. Since adenosine receptors, when bound to adenosine, cause slow wave sleep, this has the effect of a wake-up call. Roughly ten percent of the population has a mutant variant of the gene that produces ADA, and as a result, has a less efficient version of the enzyme. The mutant ADA breaks down adenosine more slowly, allowing neurotransmitter to remain bound to the deep sleep receptors longer. Landolt and his team postulated that people with the mutant ADA variant - the slumber gene - would get more zzz's than their fellow sleepers.

To test his theory, Landolt determined the genotypes of almost 120 individuals. He selected 32 subjects - half with the normal ADA gene and half with the slumber gene - to sleep over in his lab, and hooked them up to machines that measured their brain waves. Landolt found that the subjects with the slumber gene spent roughly 30 minutes more in slow wave sleep than their normal counterparts. They also reported far fewer awakenings during the night.

As Landolt told, "The study provides the first direct evidence in humans that the adenosinergic system indeed modulates sleep." Not only does the research give scientists a better understanding of how we slumber, it may also hold the key to ending those sleepless nights. As Landolt wrote in PNAS, "The adenosinergic system may be an important target for the pharmacological improvement of disturbances of sleep and alertness, which are highly prevalent in the general population." Until then, those of us without the slumber gene will just have to hope the sandman comes on his own.


It is estimated that 180 million people spoke Hindi as their first language in 2004.

Offbeat News Stories

Sarah Janssen

One Man’s Trash...

Maybe you would have thrown it away with the garbage, but curators at the National Toy Hall of Fame are honoring an unconventional, low-tech addition to their collection - the cardboard box! "I think every adult has had that disillusioning experience of picking what they think is a wonderful toy for a child, and then finding the kid playing with the box," said chief curator Christopher Bensch. He noted that one simple box can convert to a castle, fort, or spaceship at the whim of an imaginative child. The no-frills plaything accordingly joined the collection of 34 classic toys - from Mr. Potato Head and Barbie to Play-Doh and Silly Putty - maintained by the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY. The more conventional jack-in-the-box and Candy Land board game were fellow inductees.

Pet Project
Feeling guilty about leaving Fido and Spot alone for the day? Forget about doggie day care: the new solution for bored pets is, an Internet radio station with playlists and programming especially for pets. DogCatRadio, which broadcasts from a customized RV in a Los Angeles parking lot, has 6 DJs streaming live programming 17 hours a day, including a "Spanish Hour" for "bilingual" animals. "How are all my furry friends doing out there? We hope you’re doing great and not chewing on anything but your toys," one DogCatRadio disc jockey barked out recently between songs. The station got its start when Adrian Martinez (owner of 6 dogs and 2 cats) realized that music, especially 80s rock, had a calming effect on one of his cats. Popular requests from listeners include the Baha Men’s "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and Elvis Presley’s "Hound Dog." DJs also offer sage advice to four-legged creatures: "Remember, be kind to your mailman...He only wants to deliver the mail."

From The World Almanac — Air Distances Between Selected World Cities in Statute Miles

Point-to-point measurements are usually from City Hall.

  Bangkok Beijing Berlin Cairo Cape
Caracas Chicago Hong
Honolulu Lima
Bangkok ... 2,046 5,352 4,523 6,300 10,555 8,570 1,077 6,609 12,244
Beijing 2,046 ... 4,584 4,698 8,044 8,950 6,604 1,217 5,077 10,349
Berlin 5,352 4,584 ... 1,797 5,961 5,238 4,414 5,443 7,320 6,896
Cairo 4,523 4,698 1,797 ... 4,480 6,342 6,141 5,066 8,848 7,726
Cape Town 6,300 8,044 5,961 4,480 ... 6,366 8,491 7,376 11,535 6,072
Caracas 10,555 8,950 5,238 6,342 6,366 ... 2,495 10,165 6,021 1,707
Chicago 8,570 6,604 4,414 6,141 8,491 2,495 ... 7,797 4,256 3,775
Hong Kong 1,077 1,217 5,443 5,066 7,376 10,165 7,797 ... 5,556 11,418
Honolulu 6,609 5,077 7,320 8,848 11,535 6,021 4,256 5,556 ... 5,947
London 5,944 5,074 583 2,185 5,989 4,655 3,958 5,990 7,240 6,316
Los Angeles 7,637 6,250 5,782 7,520 9,969 3,632 1,745 7,240 2,557 4,171
Madrid 6,337 5,745 1,165 2,087 5,308 4,346 4,189 6,558 7,872 5,907
Melbourne 4,568 5,643 9,918 8,675 6,425 9,717 9,673 4,595 5,505 8,059
Mexico City 9,793 7,753 6,056 7,700 8,519 2,234 1,690 8,788 3,789 2,639
Montreal 8,338 6,519 3,740 5,427 7,922 2,438 745 7,736 4,918 3,970
Moscow 4,389 3,607 1,006 1,803 6,279 6,177 4,987 4,437 7,047 7,862
New York 8,669 6,844 3,979 5,619 7,803 2,120 714 8,060 4,969 3,639
Paris 5,877 5,120 548 1,998 5,786 4,732 4,143 5,990 7,449 6,370
Rio de Janeiro 9,994 10,768 6,209 6,143 3,781 2,804 5,282 11,009 8,288 2,342
Rome 5,494 5,063 737 1,326 5,231 5,195 4,824 5,774 8,040 6,750
San Francisco 7,931 5,918 5,672 7,466 10,248 3,902 1,859 6,905 2,398 4,518
Singapore 883 2,771 6,164 5,137 6,008 11,402 9,372 1,605 6,726 11,689
Stockholm 5,089 4,133 528 2,096 6,423 5,471 4,331 5,063 6,875 7,166
Tokyo 2,865 1,307 5,557 5,958 9,154 8,808 6,314 1,791 3,859 9,631
Warsaw 5,033 4,325 322 1,619 5,935 5,559 4,679 5,147 7,366 7,215
Washington, DC 8,807 6,942 4,181 5,822 7,895 2,047 596 8,155 4,838 3,509
  London Los Angeles Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Montreal Moscow New Delhi New York Paris
Bangkok 5,944 7,637 6,337 4,568 9,793 8,338 4,389 1,813 8,669 5,877
Beijing 5,074 6,250 5,745 5,643 7,753 6,519 3,607 2,353 6,844 5,120
Berlin 583 5,782 1,165 9,918 6,056 3,740 1,006 3,598 3,979 548
Cairo 2,185 7,520 2,087 8,675 7,700 5,427 1,803 2,758 5,619 1,998
Cape Town 5,989 9,969 5,308 6,425 8,519 7,922 6,279 5,769 7,803 5,786
Caracas 4,655 3,632 4,346 9,717 2,234 2,438 6,177 8,833 2,120 4,732
Chicago 3,958 1,745 4,189 9,673 1,690 745 4,987 7,486 714 4,143
Hong Kong 5,990 7,240 6,558 4,595 8,788 7,736 4,437 2,339 8,060 5,990
Honolulu 7,240 2,557 7,872 5,505 3,789 4,918 7,047 7,412 4,969 7,449
London ... 5,439 785 10,500 5,558 3,254 1,564 4,181 3,469 214
Los Angeles 5,439 ... 5,848 7,931 1,542 2,427 6,068 7,011 2,451 5,601
Madrid 785 5,848 ... 10,758 5,643 3,448 2,147 4,530 3,593 655
Melbourne 10,500 7,931 10,758 ... 8,426 10,395 8,950 6,329 10,359 10,430
Mexico City 5,558 1,542 5,643 8,426 ... 2,317 6,676 9,120 2,090 5,725
Montreal 3,254 2,427 3,448 10,395 2,317 ... 4,401 7,012 331 3,432
Moscow 1,564 6,068 2,147 8,950 6,676 4,401 ... 2,698 4,683 1,554
New York 3,469 2,451 3,593 10,359 2,090 331 4,683 7,318 ... 3,636
Paris 214 5,601 655 10,430 5,725 3,432 1,554 4,102 3,636 ...
Rio de Janeiro 5,750 6,330 5,045 8,226 4,764 5,078 7,170 8,753 4,801 5,684
Rome 895 6,326 851 9,929 6,377 4,104 1,483 3,684 4,293 690
San Francisco 5,367 347 5,803 7,856 1,887 2,543 5,885 7,691 2,572 5,577
Singapore 6,747 8,767 7,080 3,759 10,327 9,203 5,228 2,571 9,534 6,673
Stockholm 942 5,454 1,653 9,630 6,012 3,714 716 3,414 3,986 1,003
Tokyo 5,959 5,470 6,706 5,062 7,035 6,471 4,660 3,638 6,757 6,053
Warsaw 905 5,922 1,427 9,598 6,337 4,022 721 3,277 4,270 852
Washington, DC 3,674 2,300 3,792 10,180 1,885 489 4,876 7,500 205 3,840
  Rio de Janeiro Rome San Francisco Singapore Stockholm Tehran Tokyo Vienna Warsaw Wash., DC
Bangkok 9,994 5,494 7,931 883 5,089 3,391 2,865 5,252 5,033 8,807
Beijing 10,768 5,063 5,918 2,771 4,133 3,490 1,307 4,648 4,325 6,942
Berlin 6,209 737 5,672 6,164 528 2,185 5,557 326 322 4,181
Cairo 6,143 1,326 7,466 5,137 2,096 1,234 5,958 1,481 1,619 5,822
Cape Town 3,781 5,231 10,248 6,008 6,423 5,241 9,154 5,656 5,935 7,895
Caracas 2,804 5,195 3,902 11,402 5,471 7,320 8,808 5,372 5,559 2,047
Chicago 5,282 4,824 1,859 9,372 4,331 6,502 6,314 4,698 4,679 596
Hong Kong 11,009 5,774 6,905 1,605 5,063 3,843 1,791 5,431 5,147 8,155
Honolulu 8,288 8,040 2,398 6,726 6,875 8,070 3,859 7,632 7,366 4,838
London 5,750 895 5,367 6,747 942 2,743 5,959 771 905 3,674
Los Angeles 6,330 6,326 347 8,767 5,454 7,682 5,470 6,108 5,922 2,300
Madrid 5,045 851 5,803 7,080 1,653 2,978 6,706 1,128 1,427 3,792
Melbourne 8,226 9,929 7,856 3,759 9,630 7,826 5,062 9,790 9,598 10,180
Mexico City 4,764 6,377 1,887 10,327 6,012 8,184 7,035 6,320 6,337 1,885
Montreal 5,078 4,104 2,543 9,203 3,714 5,880 6,471 4,009 4,022 489
Moscow 7,170 1,483 5,885 5,228 716 1,532 4,660 1,043 721 4,876
New York 4,801 4,293 2,572 9,534 3,986 6,141 6,757 4,234 4,270 205
Paris 5,684 690 5,577 6,673 1,003 2,625 6,053 645 852 3,840
Rio de Janeiro ... 5,707 6,613 9,785 6,683 7,374 11,532 6,127 6,455 4,779
Rome 5,707 ... 6,259 6,229 1,245 2,127 6,142 477 820 4,497
San Francisco 6,613 6,259 ... 8,448 5,399 7,362 5,150 5,994 5,854 2,441
Singapore 9,785 6,229 8,448 ... 5,936 4,103 3,300 6,035 5,843 9,662
Stockholm 6,683 1,245 5,399 5,936 ... 2,173 5,053 780 494 4,183
Tokyo 11,532 6,142 5,150 3,300 5,053 4,775 ... 5,689 5,347 6,791
Warsaw 6,455 820 5,854 5,843 494 1,879 5,689 347 ... 4,472
Washington, DC 4,779 4,497 2,441 9,662 4,183 6,341 6,791 4,438 4,472 ...

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


Library of Congress Reproduction Number: LC-USZ61-236

Richard Francis Burton

My co-worker Richard has a birthday in December, so this month we honor people named Richard. Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), was an English explorer, writer, and linguist, who became famous after making a trip to Mecca in 1853. In 1858 with John Speke, he went to eastern central Africa to seek the source of the Nile. A celebrated writer, he is best known for his translation of Arabian Nights, which he published under the name The Thousand Nights and a Night in 16 volumes. To learn more about Burton visit: Another famous Richard Burton was the Welsh actor born Richard Walter Jenkins (1925-1984); he is well known for his career in theatre and film as well as his volatile personal life and five marriages, including two consecutive ones to actress Elizabeth Taylor (March 15, 1964-June 26, 1974 and October 10, 1975-July 29, 1976). To learn more about this Burton visit: The 37th president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994), was the only U.S. president to resign from office, in the face of impeachment charges stemming from the Watergate scandal. His administration was also known for its opening to China and détente with the Soviet Union, as well as for continuing but eventually ending the Vietnam War. Learn more about Nixon at One of the great American composers of musical theatre, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979), wrote more than 900 songs and 40 Broadway musicals. His writing partnerships, first with Lorenz Hart, and then with Oscar Hammerstein II, helped create the famous musicals Pal Joey, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King And I and The Sound of Music. Learn more about Rodgers at Richard Wright (1908-1960), was a writer, whose outspoken protest against racial prejudice made him perhaps the most eloquent spokesperson for his generation of blacks in America. In the autobiographical Black Boy (1945), Wright revealed in bitter personal terms the devastating impact of prejudice. Learn more about Wright at Richard Avedon (1923-2004), was an American fashion and portrait photographer. Avedon's elegant, innovative fashion work brought him international renown, as did his sharply focused, bluntly realistic portrait photographs of presidents, writers, and celebrities. Learn more about Avedon at

My sister Marie plays in a Gamelan group. A what you ask? Gamelan refers to any one of several types of instrumental ensembles found on the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia. The ensembles typically include tuned percussion instruments, metallophones (bronze-keyed xylophones), chimes and gongs. Exposure to the music of the gamelan influenced the work of such 20th-century Western composers as Claude Debussy (1862-1918) in France, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) in England, and Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and Lou Harrison (1917-2003) in the U.S. To learn more about gamelan visit: Hear some music and play instruments at

There is money to be made by the stuff sitting in your attic, and eBay is a good place to offer some of it for sale. People around the world use this auction site to buy and sell objects ranging from glass eyes to cars. Millions of items are sold daily, and one gentleman, Robert E. Bull, has a site which offers new and old sellers, advice for using ebay. Visit Bob's site at


LBJ Library Photo by Frank Wolfe

Lady Bird Johnson in a field of wildflowers, 1990

Former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, will celebrate her 93rd birthday this month. As First Lady, she started a beautification project to improve physical conditions in Washington, DC, both for residents and tourists. She was also instrumental in promoting the Highway Beautification Act, which sought to make the nation's roads more scenic and safer by removing offensive advertising billboards. On Mrs. Johnson's 70th birthday, in 1982, she and actress Helen Hayes established the National Wildflower Research Center. Dedicated to protecting and preserving North America's native plants and natural landscapes, the center is now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. To learn more about the center visit: h

My buddy Jim, a voracious reader, sent me the following link last week and told me that it was clearly an "Eddie site." He was so right, if only I had the time. The site, Library Thing, allows individuals to catalog their books online. You can share the catalog with anyone or everyone, and can also "tag" your books, so that if someone puts a specific word into a search engine, your list might come up. To learn more about this catalog system visit

Someone, who shall go unnamed, several years ago, was telling me about a movie and blurted out that the main character died at the end. Geez, thanks a lot! I'm not going to ruin your day and tell you the end of any current movies, however, I will offer up a website that does. Check out and be up on current movies without actually seeing them.

I've been reading a book, "Word Freak," by Stefan Fatsis. The subtitle of the book says it all - "Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players." I'm not all that competitive, and most often play against the computer in my Palm Pilot, but as the book shows, it helps to know a lot of words, and I found a Website that lists highest scoring words, 2 letter words, "Q" words that don't use the letter "U" and an assortment of other acceptable words. After I finish cataloging my books, I'll begin memorizing the lists at

What would it be like if you met people from around the world by connecting with them on the Internet, and then got to stay with them? The concept behind CouchSurfing is that it "helps you make connections worldwide. You can use the network to meet people and then go and surf other members couches! When you surf a couch, you are a guest at someone's house. They will provide you with some sort of accommodation, a penthouse apartment, or maybe a back yard to pitch your tent in. Stays can be as short as a cup of coffee, a night or two, or even a few months or more. When you offer your couch, you have complete control of who visits. The possibilities are endless and completely up to you."

Stupid Website of the Month: When Office Supplies Attack

Quote of the Month

"It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well."
     - René Descartes (1596-1650), Philosopher and Mathematician

THE WORLD ALMANAC FOR KIDS is available in bookstores or online at


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