The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 06, Number 01 — January 2006

What's in this issue?

January Events
January Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — January
January Birthdays
Travel - Greece's Patras - European Cultural Capital
Obituaries - December 2005
Special Feature: Iran-U.S. Hostage Crisis Revisited
Chronology - Events of December 2005
Science in the News: Science in the News — The Chilly Nose Knows More Colds
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

January Events

January is National Mentoring Month and National Hot Tea Month

January 1 - New Year’s Day Parade (London); Mummers Parade (Philadelphia, PA)
January 2 - Tournament of Roses Parade (Pasadena, CA); Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX), Fiesta Bowl (Tempe, AZ), Sugar Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
January 3 - Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
January 4 - Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
January 7 - Great Fruitcake Toss (Manitou Springs, CO)
January 7-22 - National Western Stock Show and Rodeo (Denver, CO)
January 9-22 - KidFilm Festival (Dallas, TX)
January 12 - Icebox Days XXVI (International Falls, MN)
January 13-15 - Art Deco Weekend (Miami Beach, FL)
January 18-21 - Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition (Rockford, IL)
January 19-27 - Slamdance 2006 (Park City, UT)
January 21 - AFRMA Annual Fancy Rat and Mouse Show (Riverside, CA)
January 21 - Gasparilla Extravaganza and Pirate Fest (Tampa, FL)
January 21-February 11 - Chinese New Year Festival (San Francisco, CA)
January 25-29 - Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (Eatonville, FL)
January 26-December 5 - Mozart 250 (Austria)
January 27-February 5 - Ontario Winter Carnival Bon Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada); St. Paul Winter Carnival (St. Paul, MN)
January 28-February 4 - National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Elko, NV)

January Holidays — National and International

January 1 - New Year’s Day
January 16 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
January 17 - Liberation Day (Poland)
January 26 - Australia Day (Australia); Republic Day (India)
January 29 - Chinese New Year
January 30 - Muharram 1 (Islamic New Year), first full day)


Koko, a 33-year old gorilla who lives in Woodside, CA, was able to tell her handlers that her mouth hurt. Koko - who can use 1,000 words in American Sign Language and understands more than 2,000 - told her handlers that she preferred dental surgery over taking pain medication.

This Day In History — January

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1946 Hirohito, the Japanese emperor, publicly denies his divinity, a traditional Shinto idea accepted by many Japanese.
02 1959 The USSR launches the moon probe Luna 1, which becomes the first spacecraft to orbit the sun.
03 1961 The United States severs diplomatic relations with Cuba
04 1896 Utah is admitted to the Union as the 45th state.
05 1914 The Ford Motor Co. raises basic wages so that all workers will receive $5 for an 8-hour day.
06 1941 In a speech to Congress, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt promulgates the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear.
07 1789 The first U.S. presidential election is held, with George Washington the winner.
08 1959 In France, Charles de Gaulle takes office as the president of the newly created Fifth Republic.
09 1987 The White House releases a 1986 memo showing a link between the U.S. sale of arms to Iran and the release of Americans taken hostage in Lebanon.
10 1946 The UN General Assembly meets for the first time.
11 1935 Aviator Amelia Earhart begins a flight from Honolulu to Oakland, CA, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean.
12 1932 Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the Senate.
13 1966 Robert C. Weaver is named secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, becoming the first African-American Cabinet member.
14 1794 Operating on his wife, Dr. Jesse Bennett of Virginia performs the first successful Cesarean section.
15 1559 Queen Elizabeth I is crowned in England.
16 1773 British explorer and navigator Capt. James Cook makes the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle.
17 1377 Pope Gregory XI brings the papacy to Rome from its "Babylonian captivity" in Avignon, France, where it had resided between 1309 and 1377.
18 1912 The expedition of England's Robert F. Scott reaches the South Pole, then discovers that Roald Amundsen got there first.
19 1966 Indira Gandhi is elected prime minister of India.
20 1981 Minutes after Ronald Reagan's inauguration, the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days are released.
21 1976 The supersonic Concorde makes its first flight between Britain and France.
22 1901 Britain's Queen Victoria dies after ruling for more than 63 years.
23 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to receive an MD degree.
24 1848 Gold is discovered at John Sutter's mill in California.
25 1959 The first transcontinental flight occurs, on an American Airlines 707 nonstop from California to New York.
26 1500 The Spanish navigator Vicente Yáńez Pinzón becomes the first known European to reach Brazil, landing near the site of present-day Recife.
27 1973 The Vietnam War officially ends when the United States, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong sign a peace pact in Paris.
28 1547 England's King Henry VIII dies and is succeeded by his 9-year-old son, Edward VI.
29 1847 The U.S. Mormon Battalion arrives in San Diego, CA, having marched 2,000 miles from Iowa to fight in the war against Mexico.
30 1649 Britain's King Charles I is beheaded under the orders of Oliver Cromwell and Parliament.
31 1966 The USSR launches Luna 9, an unmanned spacecraft which makes the first soft landing on the moon.

January Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1940 Frank Langella, actor (Bayonne, NJ)
02 1915 John Hope Franklin, historian (Rentisville, OK)
03 1956 Mel Gibson, actor/director (Peekskill, NY)
04 1914 Jane Wyman, actress (St. Joseph, MO)
05 1946 Diane Keaton, actress (Santa Ana, CA)
06 1931 E. L. Doctorow, novelist (New York, NY)
07 1946 Jann Wenner, publisher (New York, NY)
08 1971 Jason Giambi, baseball player (W. Covina, CA)
09 1928 Judith Krantz, novelist (New York, NY)
10 1953 Pat Benatar, singer (Brooklyn, NY)
11 1946 Naomi Judd, country singer (Ashland, KY)
12 1964 Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO (Albuquerque, NM)
13 1966 Patrick Dempsey, actor (Lewiston, ME)
14 1941 Faye Dunaway, actress (Bascom, FL)
15 1908 Edward Teller, physicist (Budapest, Hungary)
16 1934 Marilyn Horne, opera singer (Bradford, PA)
17 1926 Moira Shearer, ballerina (Scotland)
18 1931 Chun Doo Hwan, South Korean president (Naechonri, Korea)
19 1946 Dolly Parton, singer (Sevierville, TN)
20 1926 Patricia Neal, actress (Packard, KY)
21 1963 Hakeem Olajuwon, basketball player (Lagos, Nigeria)
22 1936 Alan Jay Heeger, American physicist and Nobel laureate (Sioux City, IA)
23 1928 Jeanne Moreau, actress (Paris, France))
24 1925 Maria Tallchief, ballerina (Fairfax, OK)
25 1917 Ilya Prigogine, Russian-born Belgian chemist and Nobel laureate (Moscow, Russia)
26 1958 Ellen DeGeneres, actress (Metairie, LA)
27 1936 Samuel C. C. Ting, American nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate (Ann Arbor, MI)
28 1977 Daunte Culpepper, football player (Ocala, FL)
29 1960 Greg Louganis, Olympic champion diver (San Diego, CA)
30 1968 Prince Felipe, heir to the Spanish throne
31 1956 Johnny Rotten, singer (near London, England)

Travel - Greece's Patras - European Cultural Capital

Patras - or Patra, as the Greeks call it - is a moderate-sized city of some 200,000 people on the Gulf of Corinth, 125 miles (200 km) or so west of Athens. Once an important industrial center, it is noted today more as a transportation hub. It is Greece's second most important port (after Piraeus) - the starting point for ferries to Italy that carry more than 1 million people a year - and it is located right by the stunning Charilaos (or Kharilaos) Trikoupis Bridge, which spans the gulf, connecting Rion (celebrated for its summer bars) and Antirion. When the crossing opened in 2004, it laid claim to the title of longest stayed-cable bridge in the world: with five stayed-cable spans supported by four piers, or towers, it boasts a total continuous deck length of 1.4 miles (2252 m). Patras also has cultural assets. It's the site of a major university and several music conservatories. It traditionally hosts the Patras International Festival in the summer and, a few months earlier, the Patras Carnival, reputedly the biggest "noncommercial" carnival in the world. The city's cultural profile was slated to be sharply heightened in 2006, as the European Union designated it the year's European Capital of Culture.

Patras has roots extending back to ancient times. But the city was essentially destroyed during the Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire that erupted in 1821. It was subsequently rebuilt with a rectangular street grid in a neoclassicist spirit, which remains a leitmotif today. The old city, dominated by the remains of an ancient castle, the "Kastro," lies on an elevation above the newer area along the waterfront. The Kastro - erected in the sixth century high on a hill, on the ruins of the city's ancient acropolis - is surrounded by a park adorned with pine trees and encloses a public garden. It affords superb views of the city and the sea beyond. Another major attraction is an ancient (reconstructed) Roman odeum, or theater, built before the well-known odeum in Athens. With a capacity of some 2,300, Patras's odeum is a chief venue for the city's International Festival.

The lower city's street grid is punctuated by squares and small parks. Here you will find the imposing municipal theater known as the Apollo, built in 1872, and the massive Byzantine-style Cathedral of Saint Andrew, dedicated in 1974. Saint Andrew is said to have been martyred in Patras and is the city's patron. The cathedral, reportedly the biggest church in the Balkans, boasts a central dome 150 feet (46 m) high and can accommodate 5500 worshipers.

The city's most celebrated museum is devoted to archaeology. Its remarkable holdings cover thousands of years of history, ranging from the Mycenean era, through the Hellenic and Roman periods, to the time of the Byzantines). Currently housed in tight confines in a three-story former mansion on Olga's Square (aka "National Resistance" Square), the Archaeological Museum is slated to be housed in a new structure scheduled for completion during the 2006 Year of Culture. Other attractions include the Press Museum, established in the 1950s, and the Historical-Ethnological and Folk Art museums, founded two decades later.

There also are ancient ruins in the area. Surviving from the Roman period are remains of an amphitheater (near the odeum), an aqueduct, and a bridge. The spring known as St. Andrew's well, situated at the small old Saint Andrew's Church, was reputedly once the site of an oracle for the goddess Demeter. According to legend, the apostle was crucified near this spring.

The European Union's Cultural Capital program was originally designed to spotlight individual national cultures and promote cultural cooperation. With the designation of such medium-sized towns as Cork, Ireland, in 2005 and Patras in 2006, the program as also evolved into a mechanism for stimulating development of a region’s cultural infrastructure and economy. Travelers to Patras in 2006 will encounter a menu of concerts, performances, exhibits, and conferences appealing to a wide range of tastes, running the gamut from pop to high culture.

The Capital of Culture year kicks off in mid-January with the exhibitions "Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist" and "Patras Actually: The Labyrinth of Pictures," featuring previously unpublished material relating to the city’s past. Later events include Days of Poetry and Music (from late April to mid-May); Contemporary Approaches to Ancient Drama Days (mid-May to early June); Traveling With . . . Music, Theater, Dance, and Cinema (late June to mid-September); and Europe @ Patras (September), in which four Patras regions each "host" several European countries - the range of interests represented is expected to stretch from street performances, to painting and sculpture, to gastronomy, to folk culture. Religion and Art Days, in November, will focus on the activity of the Apostle Andrew, a Patras resident whose preaching came to resonate in such far-flung places as Scotland and Russia. The year will be capped off, in December, with Children's Art Days.

Also incorporated into the Capital of Culture program is Patras's storied Carnival, in Carnival Days, running from January 21 to March 5. (The Patras Carnival, like Mardi Gras in the West, is a pre-Lenten celebration, but it coordinates with the Orthodox calendar, which often has different dates for Lent and Easter.)


Learn more about Patra at


The first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight was carried out by J. Alcock and A.W. Brown, flying from Newfoundland to Ireland in 16 hours and 12 minutes on June 14-15, 1919.

Obituaries in December 2005

Anderson, Jack, 83, muckraking Washington, D.C., syndicated columnist; Bethesda, MD, Dec. 18, 2005.

Bell, Mary Hayley, 94, British playwright and novelist who was the wife of actor John Mills and the mother of actresses Hayley and Juliet Mills; Dec. 1, 2005, somewhere in England.

Freed, James Ingo, 75, architect responsible for such buildings as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City; New York, NY, Dec. 15, 2005.

Gigante, Vincent (The Chin), 77, New York City mob boss who for years feigned mental illness to avoid prosecution; Springfield, MO, Dec. 19, 2005.

Jaffe, Rona, 74, author whose best-selling novel The Best of Everything (1958) was among the first to deal with the sex and love lives of urban career women; London, England, Dec. 30, 2005.

McCarthy, Eugene, 89, Minnesota senator whose bid for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination as an anti-Vietnam War candidate, though unsuccessful, was largely responsible for the withdrawal from the race of incumbent President Lyndon Johnson; Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2005.

Packer, Kerry, 68, Australian media mogul, worth an estimated $5 billion, who also had gambling and sporting interests; Sydney, Australia, Dec. 26, 2005.

Proxmire, William, 90, Wisconsin Democrat who during his many years in the U.S. Senate (1957-89) bestowed monthly Golden Fleece awards on what he considered particularly egregious examples of government waste; Sykesville, MD, Dec. 15, 2005.

Pryor, Richard, 65, black comedian who dealt with racial, sexual and drug-use issues with great candor, made pioneering comedy-concert films, and released a series of Grammy Award-winning comedy albums; Los Angeles, CA, Dec. 10, 2005.

Spencer, John, 58, character actor who since 1999 had portrayed White House chief of staff Leo McGarry in TV’s political drama series "The West Wing"; Los Angeles, CA, Dec. 16, 2005.

Whitaker, Rodney, 74, author who under the pseudonym Trevanian published such best-selling thrillers as The Eiger Sanction (1972) and The Loo Sanction (1973); Dec. 14, 2005, at an undisclosed location in western England.

Special Feature: Iran-U.S. Hostage Crisis Revisited

Joseph Gustaitis


National Archives

The Shah of Iran and President Nixon, 21 October 1969

Twenty-five years ago -- on January 20, 1981 -- 52 American hostages were released from Iran after 444 days in captivity. Not by coincidence, their release took place on the day a new president was being inaugurated in the United States. It brought to an end one of the most unusual and frustrating episodes in U.S. history.

Roots of the Crisis

The roots of this complicated affair went back to a national uprising in the late 1970s against the ruling shah of Iran, Muhammad Riza Pahlavi, who had been in power since 1941. In 1953 he had fled Iran for a short time after a power seizure by the militant nationalist premier, Muhammad Mossadegh. However, the shah quickly regained his throne with the support of monarchist elements and with covert U.S. aid, a factor henceforth bitterly resented by Iranian nationalists, who largely blamed the United States for the shah’s dictatorial and grandiose rule.

The shah initiated ambitious western-style industrialization and modernization programs, but the result was a large income gap that fostered increasing tension in Iran’s crowded cities and among the impoverished inhabitants of rural areas. The unrest also had a wide religious dimension, and in 1978 Shiite Muslims rioted in several cities. Leading the opposition was an exiled Muslim clergyman named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was directing events from exile in Paris. The shah finally fled in January 1979, and Khomeini returned to Iran as its new leader.

A Long Stalemate


Library of Congress U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Reproduction # LC-DIG-ppmsca-09811

President Jimmy Carter announces new sanctions against Iran in retaliation for taking U.S. hostages.

Although many Iranians considered the shah a U.S. puppet, U.S.-Iran relations might have remained tranquil except that in late October 1979, the shah was allowed to go from Mexico to New York City for cancer surgery. On November 4, some 500 Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran’s capital, along with some 90 hostages, of whom 65 were Americans, and demanded that the shah be returned to Iran to stand trial. Ten days later, U.S. President Jimmy Carter ordered the freezing of Iranian assets in the United States. On November 19-20, Iran released 13 hostages - eight blacks and five women. On December 4 the United Nations Security Council called for the immediate release of all those remaining. The shah left the U.S. for Panama in mid-December, but this did not bring a resolution of the crisis. (He later went to Egypt, where he died of cancer on July 27, 1980.) In April 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini said that the hostages would remain under the control of the militants and would not be turned over to the Iranian government. In response, on April 7 the U.S. cut its diplomatic ties with Iran, banned American exports to that country, and ordered the ouster of Iranian diplomats from the U.S.

U.S. efforts to negotiate the release of the hostages continued fruitless and, in an act of sheer frustration, Carter opted for a limited military solution. On April 24 1980, a flotilla of eight helicopters, ferried in by transport planes, attempted to conduct a rescue from a staging area in the Iranian desert. Three of the helicopters were damaged in a sandstorm, the operation was called off, and eight people died in the evacuation. The whole episode was an embarrassment for the United States, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the operation, resigned. Meanwhile, the Iranians gloated, as a radio broadcast proclaimed that Iran "has inflicted defeat and flight upon the Americans and their mercenaries unprecedented in their history and the history of the world."

The United States did not lack international support. On May 24, for example, the International Court of Justice handed down a six-point decision ordering Iran to immediately release all U.S. hostages, warning it not to put them on trial and holding Iran liable to pay reparations for its actions. The United Nations also formed a commission of inquiry that made two separate visits to Iran, but that body was unable to resolve the quandary.

U.S. Government Changes

As 1980 progressed, the fall U.S. presidential election drew near, a factor that played an important role in the eventual resolution of the predicament, which had all along been getting tremendous coverage in the U.S. media. Carter’s popularity was already in jeopardy due to high unemployment and high inflation; his failure to effect the hostages' release only aggravated his growing image of ineffectiveness. He attacked his opponent, former California governor Ronald Reagan, for being too willing to use military force to handle foreign policy issues. Ironically, whether justified or not, that labeling probably heightened, not lessened, Reagan’s appeal to perturbed voters. Reagan campaigned vigorously on a platform that called for a stronger military and that attacked Carter for his foreign policy weakness. Officials in Iran therefore likely shared the view that Reagan would be more likely to use massive military force and thus decided that the stalemate needed to be broken before he was inaugurated in January 1981.

After Reagan’s landslide victory, Iran began conducting negotiations with Algerian intermediaries -- a process that eventually led to a resolution. On January 19, 1981, after five days of around-the-clock negotiations in Algiers, the United States signed an agreement. Under the accord, the United States would return to Iran $8 billion in frozen assets, would identify and freeze the U.S. assets of the late shah (which Iran would seek to take control of) and promise not to intervene in Iran's internal affairs. The two countries also agreed to set up an International Arbitral Tribunal to decide claims of U.S. nationals against Iran and Iran nationals against the United States. The release of the hostages came just minutes after Carter's term of office expired and Reagan was inaugurated. Although no one actually admitted it, it seemed clear that Iran had drawn out the talks so that the hostages would not be free until Carter was gone.

Hostilities Continue

However, U.S.-Iran relations by no means returned to normal. Iran took to calling the United States the "Great Satan," and the United States continued to maintain economic sanctions, which remain in place to this day. The United States also supported Iraq when war between the two neighbors broke out in 1980. (However, that policy did not prevent the U.S. government from selling arms covertly to Iran for use in that war -- during Reagan's second term as president -- and using some of the proceeds to finance right-wing rebels in Nicaragua, in what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal.)

Tensions became especially inflamed in April 1988, when a U.S. frigate escorting an oil tanker in international waters in the Persian Gulf was struck by a mine apparently placed by Iran. In retaliation, U.S. forces destroyed two Iranian oil platforms and sank or crippled six Iranian naval vessels. On July 3, 1988 a U.S. Navy warship shot down an Iranian passenger airliner over the southern Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people aboard, after mistaking it for an attacking F-14 fighter jet. Reagan called the event a "terrible human tragedy," but the United States defended the decision to fire on the plane and said U.S. gulf policy would not change. In response, Khomeini called for "a real war" against "America and its lackeys," and during funerals for some of the airliner victims large Iranian crowds proclaimed "Death to America."

By the 1990s, some critics began to charge that U.S. sanctions were counterproductive, especially since some maintained that an incipient Iranian reform movement would only be strengthened by opening the country to the West. Nevertheless, the sanctions were expanded. The 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, for example, permitted the United States to penalize individuals and companies that helped Iran obtain weapons of mass destruction. A 1996 U.S. law authorized sanctions on foreign companies that contributed substantially to the energy interests of Iran and Libya.

In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admitted that Iranians had reasons to complain about past U.S. policy decisions and called for enhanced understanding between the two countries. This shift in tone was partly due to what appeared to be the growing strength of reform movements in Iran. In 1997 a new Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami, promised to protect civil rights and civil liberties, and after his reforms were put into place, U.S. President Bill Clinton eased sanctions on some Iranian imports to the U.S. and stated his wish for improved relations. However, Iran's conservative clerics lashed back against Khatami's reforms and between 1997 and 2003 closed down almost 100 pro-reform newspapers and journals.

Although Iran was initially sympathetic toward the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 -- even offering the use of its ports and transit points for supplies in the U.S. assault on Afghanistan -- relations quickly reverted to their former antagonism. In his State of the Union address in January 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush labeled North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil" for helping terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction and for suppressing their own people, adding that the United States would not hesitate to take military action against such regimes. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, Iran’s former mortal enemy, some U.S. analysts charged that Iran had begun to support anti-U.S. Iraqi Shiite guerrilla forces.

Strains Over Nuclear Weapons

Most recently, relations between the U.S. (and other western powers) and Iran have been dominated by Iran’s possible development of nuclear weapons. The suspicion that Iran might be seeking such weapons has been around for some time. In 1992, for example, there were widespread reports that Iran was conducting a secret nuclear-arms program. As a result, a four-man inspection team from the United Nations-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made a seven-day tour of Iran’s nuclear facilities and reported on February 12 that the country’s nuclear program was intended only for peaceful purposes. In May 2003 the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of an Iranian opposition group, Mujaheddin al-Khalq, alleged that it had discovered two previously undisclosed Iranian uranium enrichment facilities under construction. The following month the IAEA called for Iran to comply more fully with the inspections mandated by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which Iran was a signatory.

In November 2004 the IAEA endorsed an agreement between Iran and negotiators from European Union European Union members Great Britain, France and Germany -- collectively known as the EU3 -- according to which Iran said it would halt its activities related to the enrichment of uranium, a key step in making fuel for nuclear power plants and atomic bombs. The U.S. objected, saying that the IAEA had failed to respond adequately to Iran’s "growing threat to international peace and security." In January 2005, U.S. Vice President Richard B. Cheney said that Israel might strike targets in Iran "without being asked" in order to obstruct that country’s alleged efforts to develop nuclear arms, but in March a panel appointed by President Bush said that the intelligence on Iran was insufficient to make final judgments on that country's alleged nuclear weapons program.

In May, after being confronted with the results of tests on Iranian laboratory samples, Iran admitted conducting experiments to create plutonium in 1995 and 1998, even though it had previously claimed to have ended such experiments in 1993. Despite ongoing negotiations with the EU3, Iran proved inflexible on the issue and on August 1 announced that it was set to resume uranium conversion. Negotiators from the EU3 protested and threatened to terminate ongoing nuclear talks between the European Union and Iran. The United States also voiced its displeasure. As 2005 drew to a close, Iran rejected a European proposal that would have allowed Iran's controversial nuclear program to go ahead as long as Iran allowed Russia to enrich uranium on its behalf; and the IAEA declined to take punitive action against Iran over its pursuit of a nuclear program. Meanwhile, the United States continued to harbor suspicions that Iran was fomenting anti-U.S. action in Iraq.

What those Iranian militant students wrought by storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran, then, has been a major international issue ever since. The quarter-century since the liberation of the U.S. hostages in Iran has been one of tension, hostility, and fairly intense rhetoric -- the "Great Satan" vs. the "Axis of Evil." Although Iran has its reformers who would love to see a rapprochement with the United States, and although there are many in the West who encourage greater dialogue and openness with Iran in the hopes of bringing that nation more securely into the international fold, those passions stubbornly refuse to cool down.


The idiom "dyed in the wool" means deeply ingrained as a trait, and comes from the fact that if wool is dyed before being made into yarn, or while still raw wool, the color is more firmly fixed.

Chronology — Events of December 2005


     Bush Defends Iraq War Policy - Responding to increasing calls for a timetable of U.S. troops withdrawal from Iraq, Pres. George W. Bush made speeches and other public appearances to boost support for the war. In Washington, DC, Dec. 7 and 14, Minneapolis Dec. 9, Philadelphia Dec. 12. He reiterated in a nationally-televised address from the White House Dec. 18 that U.S. troops would not pull out until insurgents no longer threatened the Iraqi government. His public appearances brought a reverse in his yearlong decline in public-opinion polls.

     Patriot Act Caught in a Senate-House Snaggle - Renewal of the USA Patriot Act met with strong opposition in Congress; 16 provisions were scheduled to expire at the end of December. A Senate-House conference committee had agreed to renew 14 of them permanently and extend 2 others, which were more controversial, for 4 years. The House, Dec. 14, approved this compromise 251-174, but opponents in the Senate proposed a 3-month extension, instead. Pres. Bush said Dec. 16 that he would veto any temporary extension. After some more wrangling, a new compromise, a 5-week extension, which Bush said he would accept, was approved by both houses Dec. 22.

     Bush Authorized Spying Without Court Approval - Pres. Bush Dec. 17 confirmed media reports from the day before that stated he had authorized the National Security Agency to monitor international communications - phone calls and emails - between Americans and people with suspected links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Bush said he had not obliged the NSA to obtain court approval as required under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and argued that as president he had inherent power to authorize the warrantless wiretaps and cited a need for speed in collecting information. The law allowed the government to engage in electronic surveillance for up to 72 hours before obtaining retroactive approval, and set up a special FISA court to handle such requests quickly. Sen. Arlen Specter (R, PA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dec. 16 called the wiretaps inappropriate and said he would conduct hearings.
     In a related story, U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson resigned from the FISA court Dec. 19, reportedly because he disapproved of the Bush authorization and court circumvention.

     Judge Rejects School Board's Support for "Intelligent Design" - U.S. District Court Judge John Jones, in Harrisburg, PA, Dec. 20, struck down a 2004 requirement by the Dover, PA, Area School District that 9th grade biology students be read a statement promoting intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Eleven parents of schoolchildren had challenged the Dover policy, contending that it constituted state sponsorship of religion. Jones agreed and ruled that the board's purpose "was to promote religion in the public school classroom," and concluded that intelligent design was not science. Six weeks before the decision, the Dover board members had been defeated for re-election.

     New York City Hit by Transit Strike - A strike by the Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union left New York City without bus and subway service for 3 weekdays, Dec. 20-22. Contract negotiations broke down over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s insistence that contribution by new workers to pension funds be increased. A state Supreme Court judge Dec. 20 noted that the strike was illegal and imposed a fine of $1 mil a day on the union. The union sent its workers back on the job without a new contract Dec. 22. On Dec. 27, a deal was struck between the MTA and the TWU; the MTA dropped its demand on pensions, and the union agreed that workers would pay part of their health-insurance premiums.

     Vice President’s Vote Passes Budget Bill - Vice Pres. Richard Cheney cut short an international trip to cast the deciding vote in the Senate Dec. 21 in favor of a bill providing for $39.7 bil in spending reductions. All 44 Democrats, one independent, and 5 Republicans voted against the bill. Opponents deplored cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans at a time when Republicans were seeking to extend tax cuts. Previously, the bill had been approved in the House Dec. 19, but because of a technicality, it will need to be voted on again.

     Attempt to Open Alaska Refuge to Drilling Fails Again - The Senate rejected a measure to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling Dec. 22. Sen. Ted Stevens (R, AK) had attached an ANWR drilling provision to a $453.3 bil Defense Dept. appropriations bill, whose passage was essential to the operation of the military. However, Democrats, supported by a few Republicans, filibustered the bill, and an attempt to shut down debate failed Dec. 21. The bill was passed Dec. 22 after the Arctic drilling was taken out.
     In addition, the defense bill included an amendment offered by Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) that specifically barred cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees held by the U.S. military. Pres. Bush had fought against the amendment claiming that it would hinder the government in its war on terror, but gave in Dec. 15 when it became apparent Congress would override a veto of the bill containing the anti-torture provision.
     Pres. Bush signed the bill into law Dec. 31.

     Thousands of Acres Burned in Texas and Oklahoma Grassfires - Fast-moving grassfires in Texas and Oklahoma ignited Dec. 27, and had killed at least 4 people, consumed tens of thousands of acres, and destroyed at least 250 structures by Dec. 31. High winds and drought conditions have made suppression of the flames difficult. By New Year’s Eve, more fires were reported in northeastern New Mexico. Authorities were able to control some of the blazes, but by Dec. 31, climate conditions had not improved, and there was no end in sight for the fires.

     Winter Storm Pounds N. California - A strong winter rain storm hit N. California Dec. 31 causing extreme flooding and mudslides. As much as 9 in of rain fell in the wine-producing Napa Valley, the hardest-hit area, and caused the Napa River to rise to a record 21.5 ft (8 ft over flood levels). Authorities there asked residents to evacuate to higher ground. In nearby areas, highways were shut down because of mud and rock slides.


     Al-Qaeda Leader Killed In Pakistan - A missile attack in northern Pakistan Dec. 1 killed Hamza Rabia, believed to be the 3d-ranking leader in the al-Qaeda terror organization, and 4 others. A U.S. official said Rabia planned external operations. It was not known who carried out the attack.

     Secretary of State Faces Questions on Torture - Responding to European critics, Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, on a European tour, said Dec. 5 that the U.S. did not "authorize or condone torture of detainees" and that the "rendition" of terror suspects to other countries was "permissible under international law." Pres. Bush added Dec. 6, "We do not render to countries that torture." At a news conference in Kiev Dec. 7 with Pres. Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Rice said U.S. officials abided by the UN Convention Against Torture.
     The European Parliament Dec. 15 asked for an investigation of reports that the CIA had held suspects in secret Eastern European prisons and used airports in Europe to transfer them to places where they faced torture.

     President of Iran Calls Holocaust a Myth - Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Dec. 8 said he doubted that the Holocaust, in which German Nazis and their allies killed millions of Jews during World War II, had taken place. He also suggested that the state of Israel be moved to Europe. The UN Security Council rebuked his statement Dec. 9. On Dec. 14 Ahmadinejad said the Holocaust was a myth.

     Lebanese Journalist Critical of Syria Is Killed - A Lebanese newspaper editor and member of parliament Dec. 12 became the latest critic of Syria to be assassinated. The victim, Gibran Tueni, an outspoken opponent of Syria’s involvement in Lebanon, had just returned from Paris, where he had fled after learning that he was a target.

     Iraqis Vote for a Permanent Government - Iraqis voted in large numbers Dec. 15 in an election that would determine the composition of a 275-seat parliament. The new permanent government would replace the transition national assembly, which was elected in January 2005. Voter turnout was strong among Sunni Arabs, most of whom had boycotted the January election. The Iraqi election commission released preliminary results of the voting Dec. 19-20 and showed that a Shiite Muslim coalition had a strong overall lead, although a Sunni slate won easily in Sunni provinces. Secular Shiites were trailing badly. Despite a Dec. 15 announcement by a UN election observer who said there was no election fraud, Sunni leaders charged Dec. 20 that the voting had been rigged and called for a new election; secular Shiites also claimed that there was election fraud. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq announced Dec. 29 that an international commission made up of former parliamentarians and distinguished scholars from Canada, Europe, and the Arab league will be invited to review the elections.
     Suicide bombings and attacks on U.S. troops continued, but at a lower level. Ten U.S. marines were killed and 11 wounded near Fallujah Dec. 1 when a soldier stepped on planted artillery shells. An attack on an Iraqi convoy north of Baghdad Dec. 3 killed 19. Two suicide bombers killed 36 at a police academy in Baghdad Dec. 6. U.S. and Iraqi forces Dec. 8 found 625 detainees, some of whom showed signs of mistreatment, at a prison in Baghdad run by Iraq’s interior ministry. That same day, an insurgent group claimed that it had killed a U.S. electrician, Ronald Schulz, who had been working in Iraq. Insurgents blocked a highway north of Baghdad Dec. 18, and killed 20 truck drivers and others.
     The Pentagon Dec. 2 confirmed reports that a contractor was planting pro-American articles in Iraqi newspapers and paying Iraqi journalists to write similar articles.
     The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed briefly Dec. 5-7, with 9 witnesses, some concealed behind a screen, describing tortures and executions. Hussein alleged Dec. 21 that his U.S. guards had beaten and tortured him and his codefendants.

     Prime Minister of Israel Hospitalized With Stroke - Israeli Prime Min. Ariel Sharon was hospitalized Dec. 18 after suffering a stroke. Sharon, 77, who was about to run for re-election as leader of a new party that he had formed, the National Responsibility Party, was released Dec. 20. Former Prime Min. Benjamin Netanyahu Dec. 19 was elected the leader of Likud, the party Sharon had abandoned.

     First Indian Elected President of Bolivia -Voters in Bolivia Dec. 18 elected as president a person from an indigenous minority for the first time in the nation’s history. Congressman Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, got 52% in his 2nd try for the presidency. Morales grew up in an Aymaran farm family whose crops included coca leaves - the principal ingredient of cocaine - for medicinal and religious purposes. During a U.S.-supported crackdown on coca production in 1995, which many Bolivians saw as an attack on their culture, Morales helped found the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party and became an outspoken critic of the U.S. In his successful campaign, he opposed the coca-eradication campaign, while also saying he opposed its use in cocaine.

Science in the News — The Chilly Nose Knows More Colds

Sarah Taber


For generations, moms have forced kids to bundle up in the winter, acting on the traditional belief that getting a chill leads to getting a cold. Since the 1960s, researchers have dismissed the notion as an old wives' tale. But Ron Eccles, the director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, set out to show that the wives knew more than the scientists - and he may have succeeded in doing so. After exposing 180 volunteers to either cold or control conditions, Eccles showed that frigid temperatures really do increase the likelihood of falling ill. His research is published in the November 14, 2005 online edition of the Oxford Journal of Family Practice.

Scientists have been trying for decades to establish that despite its name, the common cold is the work of a virus - and that the temperature outside has nothing to do with it. Research on the subject has included drastic measures such as putting people in frigid rooms and deliberately infecting them to see if they got sick at the same rate as controls. All previous studies indicated that mom was wrong about catching colds.

Eccles, however, disagreed. In order to show that illness and cold temperatures really are linked, Eccles recruited 180 courageous volunteers. He randomly selected 90 of them to act as controls by sitting for 20 minutes with their bare feet in empty buckets. The other 90 weren't so lucky - they spent the time with their feet soaking in ice water at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Eccles then monitored the participants to determine the effect on their health.

Within five days of the experiment, Eccles observed that 29% of the ice water group developed a cold - as opposed to only 9% of the control group. According to Eccles, though, the cold water didn't actually make the subjects sick. Instead, it lowered their immune response to the point where they could no longer fight off cold viruses they were already harboring. As he told MedPage Today, "When colds are circulating in the community, for every person you see who is symptomatic, there are two or three who have a sub-clinical infection. It's those people who are prone to developing a common cold when they are chilled - they've already got the virus, but the chilling is actually reducing their respiratory defense."

Eccles believes that the negative effects of a temperature drop may all come down to a chilly nose. As he told the United Kingdom's Press Association, "If [people] become chilled, this causes a pronounced constriction of the blood vessels in the nose and shuts off the warm blood that supplies the white cells that fight infection. The reduced defenses in the nose allow the virus to get stronger and common cold symptoms develop," he said. "A cold nose may be one of the major factors that causes common colds to be seasonal. When the cold weather comes, we wrap ourselves up in winter coats to keep warm, but our nose is directly exposed to the cold air."

In addition to vindicating mothers everywhere, Eccles's research clarifies why we get sick more often in the winter - and provides new motivation for bundling up when it's cold outside. Some day, someone somewhere will probably invent a cure for the common cold. Until they do, however, you'd better follow mom's advice - wear a coat, make sure your feet are dry, and try your very best to keep your nose from getting too cold.


The names of many stars--for example, Altair, Alnitak, Mirfak--have Arabic roots.

Offbeat News Stories

Sarah Janssen

Miss Congeniality?
The last time these women faced a jury, it was to be convicted of a felony and sent to the slammer. But on November 24, 2005, in Săo Paulo, Brazil, a different jury was asked to ignore their misdeeds and award prizes in three categories - beauty, congeniality, and writing skill - to their choices among 603 competing criminals in Brazil’s prison system. In its second year, the Miss Penitenciária pageant gave female inmates the chance to exchange prison-issued drawstring pants for gowns, high heels, and rhinestones, if only for a day. Angélica Mazua, a 23-year-old Angolan incarcerated for smuggling cocaine, won the beauty competition, and Márcia Santana Santos, a 30-year-old behind bars for armed robbery, was named Miss Congeniality. The winners in each category take in only a small haul (350 Brazilian reals, or about $150), but it’s not all about lucre. "The pageant is a message for prisoners and for those on the outside too," said state secretary Nagashi Furukawa, who runs the penal system. "These are people with something to offer who need opportunities to be able to show it." As of now, the pageant is for women only, but administrators were considering holding a musical talent contest for its male inmates in 2006.

Extreme Makeover: Jail Edition
Back in the U.S., jail administrators were getting equally creative. A sheriff in Jackson County, IA, took a leap and decided to paint the jail’s "drunk tank" bright pink. Sheriff Russ Kettman’s artistic endeavors were inspired by former Iowa college football coach Hayden Fry, who drew notice when he had the visitors’ locker room painted pink in a subtle effort to psyche out Hawkeye opponents. Kettman’s motives were less devious, and he added a unique flair, adorning the cell’s ceiling with glow-in-the-dark moons and stars. Jail administrator Mark Pape gave the décor his qualified approval: "I think the color could have an effect on them. They do calm down...But, of course, they are drunk and tend to either sleep or pass out."

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

With the beginning of the new year come New Year's resolutions. Have you made any? My friend Virginia has decided to be more honest with people (I got a deserving dose of it yesterday), and some others will want to lose weight, read more, etc. How about starting the year by teaching someone, a child perhaps, about the importance of charitable giving, whether it be money or time. Giving back makes this world a better place. Find an organization to support that interests you at, or a place close to home where you can volunteer your time, at If you are thinking of doing charitable work abroad, look up Volunteer in Africa, at, or Volunteer Work Abroad at


Library of Congress Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-90327

Rudolph Valentino

Valentino, Rudolph that is, died 80 years ago this coming summer, and I don't think anyone would have thought that his annual memorial services would still be well attended decades later. A native of Italy, Valentino was a silent screen heartthrob, who starred in The Sheik and died at the age of only 31. Thousands filed past his bier in New York City, and then his funeral took place in Los Angeles. I just finished reading a book - Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial by Tracy Ryan Terhune - that details the many memorial services over the years, as well as recounting stories about the "Lady in Black" who for many years appeared at the gravesite. Learn more about the Valentino services at Learn more about Valentino at This leads me to a third site, on the cemetery where Valentino is buried, now known as Hollywood Forever. Formerly known as Hollywood Memorial Park, it was founded in 1899, and is filled with film industry celebrities, including Douglas Fairbanks (Sr. and Jr.), Nelson Eddy, Jayne Mansfield, Tyrone Power, directors Victor Fleming and Cecil B. DeMille, "Our Gang" stars Darla Hood and Carl Switzer, Iron Eyes Cody (most famous as the crying Indian in the Keep America Beautiful ads), and even gangster Bugsy Siegel, not to mention King Kong's first gal, Fay Wray. Purchased by two young brothers, Tyler and Brent Cassity, in 1998, this cemetery offers film video/slide show remembrances of the deceased buried at the cemetery, to preserve their memory. Check out the salute done for Valentino at I know, you're still a little perplexed that I was reading this book, aren't you!

We had a holiday gift exchange at work last month, and my co-worker Brian gave me The Neon Bible, by John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969). There was instant name recognition, but I had been under the impression that only one Toole book, the comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces, had ever been published. The story of how it got in print is legendary. After graduating from college, Toole wrote that novel, about a guy named Ignatius Reilly and his adventures in New Orleans, but was unable to get it published. Following his suicide in 1969, Toole's mother in turn spent years trying to find someone to publish it. Finally, she contacted novelist Walker Percy, who fell in love with the book, and helped get it published in 1980. Toole, and his novel, posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1981). The Neon Bible, which Toole wrote when he was 16, but considered too amateurish to publish, came out in 1989. To learn more about Toole visit:


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Rachel Carson

I'm currently reading The Highest Tide, a debut novel by Jim Lynch, which explores the mysteries of the ocean and the mysteries of growing up, through the eyes of a 13-year old character, Miles O'Malley. Rachel Carson plays an important role in Miles' life. Carson (1907-64), was an American marine biologist, and author of widely read books on ecological themes. Her books on the sea, Under the Sea Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1951), for which she was awarded the 1952 National Book Award in nonfiction, and The Edge of the Sea (1955), are praised for beauty of language as well as scientific accuracy. In her most famous work, Silent Spring (1962), she questioned the use of chemical pesticides and was responsible for arousing worldwide concern for preservation of the environment. To learn more about Carson visit

Each month, starting with this one, I will be getting one of my co-workers to choose a favorite website. Without further ado, let's start with Vin, who came up with Pandora, a site that says its sole mission is "to help you discover new music you'll love." Vin says, "Pandora is like a lot of other music sites, but personally I like it the best. You put in a band name and it creates a radio station based on the genre and the group’s overall sound. You can add other bands to each station to customize your music more. An example: I put in Blondie, the Clash, Peter Paul & Mary, the White Stripes, the Pixies, and Loretta Lynne, to see what would happen and I got some crazy stuff going. Good times all around." Visit the site at

There is no denying that Sudoku has become the most popular game in America recently. You may often run into someone working on one of these number puzzles on the way to or from work. Jeff, a guy I ride the train with is obsessed with the game. What's Sudoku? It’s a logic game that usually has a 9x9 grid of 3x3 boxes containing numbers from 1 to 9. The goal is to fill in the empty cells, one number in each, so that each column, row, and region contains the numbers 1 to 9 exactly once. Check the game out at


Lithograph by Calbert Litho, 1890, Library of Congress Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-2091.

Female acrobats on trapezes at circus.

I was driving down the West Side Highway in New York on New Year’s Day and noticed the New York Trapeze School. That's right; in NYC you can learn the art of trapeze. It’s great exercise, because you hold the entire weight of your body by your hands or knees, which builds strength in the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and back muscles. Houdini started as a trapeze artist, and there was even an 1867 song on the subject, "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," by George Leybourne. Jules Léotard (1839?-1870) invented the flying trapeze act, and also invented the "leotard," which bears his name. Learn more about trapeze artistry at As for eponyms, words derived from names of real persons or fictitious characters, there’s a good bunch in the Language chapter of The World Almanac; you can also find some more by visiting

There is no denying that Sudoku has become the most popular game in America recently. You may often run into someone working on one of these number puzzles on the way to or from work. Jeff, a guy I ride the train with is obsessed with the game. What's Sudoku? It’s a logic game that usually has a 9x9 grid of 3x3 boxes containing numbers from 1 to 9. The goal is to fill in the empty cells, one number in each, so that each column, row, and region contains the numbers 1 to 9 exactly once. Check the game out at

Weird website of the month - Airsickness bag collectors:

Quote of the Month

"Paintin’s not important. The important thing is keepin’ busy."
     - Anna Mary Robertson Moses ("Grandma Moses") (1860-1961), American folk artist who began painting in her seventies.

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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