The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 06, Number 03 — March 2006

What's in this issue?

March Events
March Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — March
March Birthdays
Travel - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Obituaries - February 2006
Special Feature: The Line-Item Veto
Chronology - Events of February 2006
Sports Feature
Science in the News: Canine Companions Sniff Out Cancer
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us


Available soon!

If you're a fan of the World Almanac and Book of Facts, we think you'll love our brand new title,

THE WORLD ALMANAC BOOK OF RECORDS: Firsts, Feats, Facts & Phenomena.

Spanning more than 500 illustrated pages and 5,000 records, The World Almanac Book of Records is simply the world’s most comprehensive records book, with hundreds more pages and thousands more records than the competitor. The first edition is sure to be a collectors’ item, like the first edition of The World Almanac from 1868. Look for it in late March wherever you buy books.

March Events

March 1 - Beer Day (Iceland);
March 2-4 - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Indiana University, Bloomington);
March 2-5 - Fulton Oysterfest (Fulton, TX);
March 3-4 - All-Northwest Barbershop Ballad Contest (Forest Grove, OR);
March 4 - Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins (Anchorage, AK);
March 5 - Academy Awards Ceremonies (Los Angeles, CA);
March 5-12 - Philadelphia Flower Show;
March 9-12 - Crufts Dog Show (London, England);
March 10-12 - World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup (Sweetwater, TX);
March 10-11 - NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville);
March 10-19 - Paralympic Games (Turin, Italy), South by Southwest (SXSW) festival (Austin, TX);
March 15 - Ides of March;
March 15-21 - NAIA Division I Men’s (Kansas City, MO) and Women’s (Jackson, TN) Basketball National Championships;
March 17-26 - International Cherry Blossom Festival (Macon, GA);
March 23-25 - NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships (Georgia Tech, Atlanta);
March 24-26 - American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Convention (Stamford, CT), United States National Snowshoe Championships (Bolton Valley, VT);
March 25 - Sheep to Shawl Festival (Savannah, GA);
March 25-April 9 - Cherry Blossom Festival (Washington, DC);
March 27-April 2 - Kraft Nabisco LPGA Championship (Rancho Mirage, CA);
March 30-April 2 - Mule Day (Columbia, TN)

March Holidays — National and International

March 1 - Ash Wednesday;
March 13 - Commonwealth Day (Canada);
March 14 - Purim (began at sundown on previous day), Holi (India);
March 17 - St. Patrick’s Day;
March 21 - Benito Juarez’s Birthday (Mexico);
March 22 - New Year’s Day (India)

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact

Gold Medalist - Only one person has won gold medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics: Edward Eagen (U.S.), a Rhodes Scholar who captured the light-heavyweight boxing title at the 1920 Antwerp Games and was on the victorious four-man bobsled team at the 1932 Lake Placid Games.

This Day In History — March

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1961 The Peace Corps is created by Pres. John F. Kennedy's executive order.
02 1836 Texas declares its independence from Mexico.
03 1923 The first issue of Time magazine is published.
04 1933 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt appoints Frances Perkins the secretary of labor, making her the 1st woman cabinet member.
05 1946 Winston Churchill popularizes the phrase "iron curtain" in a speech that lays the boundaries of the Cold War.
06 1836 Mexican troops under Santa Anna capture the Alamo in Texas, killing the entire garrison of defenders.
07 1933 Parker Brothers begins marketing the Monopoly game.
08 1971 Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in 15 rounds for the world heavyweight crown.
09 1959 The first Barbie dolls go on sale.
10 1876 Alexander Graham Bell transmits the 1st telephone message -- "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you"-- to his assistant in the next room.
11 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the new leader of the Soviet Union.
12 1938 Germany invades Austria.
13 1907 A financial panic and depression begin when the stock market drops.
14 2004 Russian president Vladimir Putin is elected to a 2nd term.
15 1939 Nazi troops occupy two provinces in Czechoslovakia.
16 1926 The first liquid-fuel rocket flight takes place, launched by Robert H. Goddard in Massachusetts.
17 1992 Whites in South Africa vote in support of Pres. F.W. de Klerk's policies to end white minority rule through negotiation.
18 1965 Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov makes the 1st space walk.
19 1918 Congress passes the Standard Time Act, authorizing standard time zones and establishing Daylight Savings Time.
20 1995 A nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system leaves 12 people dead and 5,000 injured.
21 1804 The Napoleonic Code, the basis of many European and Latin American legal systems, is approved in France.
22 1960 Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes receive the 1st patent for a laser.
23 1989 Two scientists claim they have achieved "cold fusion"--nuclear fusion at room temperature.
24 1996 U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid begins what will be a 188-day stay on the Russian space station Mir, the first female U.S. astronaut to live on a space station. She broke the record for longest stay in space for a U.S. astronaut.
25 1975 Saudi Arabia's King Faisal is assassinated by his nephew, Prince Faisal ibn Musad.
26 1979 Israeli Prime Min. Menachem Begin and Egyptian Pres. Anwar Sadat sign the Camp David peace accord.
27 1964 A 9.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Alaska, killing 131.
28 1979 Radioactive material is released when a partial meltdown occurs on Three Mile Island near Middletown, PA.
29 1867 England's Parliament passes an act establishing the Dominion of Canada, uniting Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
30 1999 Two balloonists, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, complete the 1st nonstop balloon circumnavigation of the globe.
31 1889 The Eiffel Tower is built in Paris.

March Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1954 Ron Howard, actor/director (Duncan, OK)
02 1931 Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet leader (Privolnoc, Russia)
03 1962 Herschel Walker, football player (Wrightsville, GA)
04 1944 Mary Wilson, singer and member of the Supremes (Detroit, MI)
05 1936 Dean Stockwell, actor (Los Angeles, CA)
06 1926 Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (New York, NY)
07 1938 Janet Guthrie, auto racer (Iowa City, IA)
08 1976 Freddy Prinze Jr., actor (Albuquerque, NM)
09 1926 Irene Papas, actress (Chiliomedion, Greece)
10 1964 Prince Edward, youngest son of England's Queen Elizabeth II (London, England)
11 1936 Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice (Trenton, NJ)
12 1946 Liza Minnelli, singer/actress (Los Angeles, CA)
13 1950 William H. Macy, actor (Miami, FL)
14 1916 Horton Foote, playwright (Wharton, TX)
15 1933 Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice (Brooklyn, NY)
16 1926 Jerry Lewis, actor/comedian (Newark, NJ)
17 1972 Mia Hamm, champion soccer player (Selma, AL)
18 1936 Frederik Willem de Klerk, former South African president (Johannesburg, South Africa)
19 1936 Ursula Andress, actress (Bern, Switzerland)
20 1957 Spike Lee, filmmaker (Atlanta, GA)
21 1962 Rosie O'Donnell, TV personality/actress (Commack, NY)
22 1976 Reese Witherspoon, actress (Baton Rouge, LA)
23 1929 Roger Bannister, runner and 1st man to break the 4-minute mile (Harrow, Middlesex, England)
24 1976 Peyton Manning, football player (New Orleans, LA)
25 1966 Tom Glavine, baseball player (Concord, MA)
26 1931 Leonard Nimoy, actor/director (Boston, MA)
27 1940 Cale Yarborough, auto racer (Timmonsville, SC)
28 1936 Mario Vargas Llosa, novelist (Arequipa, Peru)
29 1976 Jennifer Capriati, tennis player (New York, NY)
30 1913 Frankie Laine, singer (Chicago, IL)
31 1948 Al Gore Jr., former vice president of the United States and presidential candidate (Washington, DC)

Travel - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When the Steelers vanquished the Seattle Seahawks in pro football's Super Bowl in early February 2006, they not only put themselves at the center of the football universe, they gave a publicity boost to their hometown, Pittsburgh. The team's name is a memento of the days when Pittsburgh was a world-class industrial center, the U.S. capital of steelmaking, among other things. Today, it's a different place. The steel mills have disappeared. The black smog that used to hover over the city is gone. Although Pittsburgh still claims to be the largest inland port in the U.S., local residents are now more likely to make their living from services - such as education, finance, or corporate administration - than from manufacturing. The population of the city proper is only about half what it was in 1950, but Pittsburgh remains the second largest town in Pennsylvania, and its metropolitan area has well over 2 million residents. It also boasts a bevy of cultural institutions and architectural treasures that are in large part a legacy of the colossal fortunes amassed by the magnates who once held sway there, among them such famous names as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Henry J. Heinz, and Andrew Mellon.

Pittsburgh is stunningly picturesque, thanks to its location at the confluence of two rivers - the Allegheny and the Monongahela join to form the Ohio - in a pronouncedly hilly region. For visitors who arrive by car, Pittsburgh lies hidden by hills and mountains until it suddenly appears, with the force of surprise. Once you're there, an easy way to take in the marvelous vista afforded by the town's hilly setting is to go on a ride on one of the two funiculars, or "inclines," that rise up the slope of Mount Washington across the river from the so-called Golden Triangle.


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction #LC-USZ62-9456

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1902

The triangle, a flatish area at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela come together, contains the city's skyscraper-studded downtown, along with the 36-acre (15-ha) Point State Park, whose centerpiece is a fountain that is lit at night and reaches a height of 150 ft (45 m), making it one of the tallest in the U.S. The park is also the site of a 1764 blockhouse that is all that is left of the British/French fort from which the city originated. Fort Pitt Museum in the park offers historical exhibits, as does the station at the top of the Duquesne Incline.

Indicative of the area's rugged topography is the fact that Pittsburgh has over 700 public staircases, said to be the most of any city in the U.S. It also reputedly ranks at or near the top among cities of the world with the most bridges, although that sort of figure is hard to determine with precision, depending as it does on what kinds of bridges one counts and what area is included. Pittsburgh proponents point out that because of the interconnectedness between the city proper and its environs, it makes sense to count all the bridges in, say, Allegheny County - in which case the total probably is greater than 2000. If you restrict yourself to the area within the city limit, the number by some counts still exceeds 700.

Among Pittsburgh's more notable buildings are the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail (1888), a monumental Romanesque structure designed by Henry Hobson Richardson with a Bridge of Sighs (echoing the one in Venice, Italy) connecting the courthouse and jail; the University of Pittsburgh's 42-story Gothic-style Cathedral of Learning (1937), said to be the tallest educational building in the western hemisphere; the 30-story Alcoa Building (1953), a daring experiment in using aluminum wherever possible; the 64-story three-sided U.S. Steel Tower (1971), whose shape echoes the Golden Triangle; and PPG Place (1984), a six-building complex in glass designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee and partly inspired by the Allegheny County Courthouse and the Cathedral of Learning.


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction #LC-USZ62-12677

Andrew Carnegie, 1913

Architecturally minded visitors to Pittsburgh should make time for an excursion to Mill Run, about an hour and a half away. It is the location of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous house built on a waterfall, Fallingwater (1936), named in a 1991 American Institute of Architects poll "the best all-time work of American architecture." Just a few miles from there is another Wright masterpiece, Kentuck Knob (1956), constructed on a hexagonal grid.

Andrew Carnegie's imprint on the town is evident in a cluster of institutions near the Cathedral of Learning in the Oakland district. One is the Carnegie Library, whose holdings total more than 4 million items. Another is the Carnegie Museum of Art, said to be the first museum of modern art in the U.S. (The Carnegie International, one of the oldest major shows of contemporary art in the world, continues to be held there every few years or so.) The museum also possesses remarkable holdings of older works. A third high-profile member of the Carnegie ensemble in Oakland is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which ranks among the biggest natural history museums in the U.S. and is celebrated for its collections of dinosaur fossils and of gems and minerals.

Henry Clay Frick's Pittsburgh legacy includes the Frick Art and Historical Center in the Point Breeze district on the east side of town. Here you can see Clayton, Frick's now-restored Victorian mansion; the Frick Art Museum; and the Car and Carriage Museum, with such classic vehicles on display as Frick's 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

Two important institutions established in the 1990s on Pittsburgh's north shore are under the Carnegie umbrella: an interactive science and technology museum known as the Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol Museum, whose holdings of more than 4000 works by the Pittsburgh native - among them drawings, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, film, and videotapes - as well as documents and other Warhol-related archival material enable it to stake a claim to be the world's most comprehensive single-artist museum.

Find out more about Pittsburgh at One of my co-workers who is FROM Pittsburgh offered up the following site, which addresses the language of Pittsburghese

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact

1829: First Police Force - Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police, the world's first modern organized police force. Police officers in London were quickly dubbed "Bobbies" after Sir Robert.

Obituaries in February 2006

Barretto, Ray, 76, master conga drummer who straddled the worlds of jazz and Latin music; Hackensack, NJ, Feb. 17, 2006.

Benchley, Peter, 65, author whose mega-best-selling novel Jaws (1974), about a killer shark, was turned into a blockbuster film by Steven Spielberg; Princeton, NJ, Feb. 11, 2006.

Butler, Octavia E., 58, America’s most acclaimed black female science-fiction writer; Seattle, WA, Feb. 24, 2006.

Chandler, Otis, 78, newspaper publisher who turned a family-owned enterprise, the Los Angeles Times, into one of America’s most respected dailies during the two decades (1960-80) that he ran it; Ojai, CA, Feb. 27, 2006.

Friedan, Betty, 85, feminist leader who wrote the hugely influential book The Feminine Mystique (1963), helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966 and was the group’s first president; Washington, DC, Feb. 4, 2006.

Gowdy, Curt, 86, radio and television sportscaster who hosted ABC’s "American Sportsman" hunting-and-fishing-oriented show for two decades (1966-86); Palm Beach, FL, Feb. 20, 2006.

Knotts, Don, 81, nerdish comedian whose best-known roles were as bumbling deputy Barney Fife on TV’s "Andy Griffith Show" and as landlord (and unconvincing swinger) Ralph Furley on a later TV show, "Three’s Company"; Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 24, 2006.

Laker, Sir Freddie, 83, founder of Britain’s Laker Airways, which in the late 1970s introduced cheap trans-Atlantic air travel; Hollywood, FL, Feb. 9, 2006.

Lewis, Al, 82, actor best known for his role as Grandpa in the mid-1960s TV comedy series "The Munsters"; New York, NY, Feb. 3, 2006.

Lewis, Edna, 89, renowned chef who wrote The Taste of Country Cooking and other definitive works on traditional Southern cuisine; Decatur, GA, Feb. 13, 2006.

Marcinkus, Archbishop Paul, 84, onetime head of the Vatican Bank, toppled in early 1990 after becoming embroiled in Italy’s far-reaching Banco Ambrosiano scandal; Sun City, AZ, Feb. 20, 2006.

McGavin, Darren, 83, actor who played TV detective Mike Hammer in the 1950s series of that name (based on stories by Mickey Spillane) and starred as Carl Kolchak, a Chicago reporter battling dark forces, in two made-for-TV movies and a 1974 series, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker"; Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 25, 2006.

Scott Jr., Robert L., 97, WWII fighter pilot who wrote a best-selling account of his wartime heroics, God Is My Co-Pilot, that was made into a 1945 movie; Warner Robins, GA, Feb. 27, 2006.

Shumway, Norman E., 83, pioneering U.S. heart transplant surgeon who in 1981 performed the world’s first successful heart-lung transplant; Palo Alto, CA, Feb. 10, 2006.

Weaver, Dennis, 81, actor who played Chester Goode, the loyal deputy of Sheriff Matt Dillon (portrayed by James Arness), in the classic TV western series "Gunsmoke" (1955-64) and starred for seven years (1970-77) in "McCloud," portraying a New Mexico lawman on loan to the New York City police; Ridgway, CO, Feb. 24, 2006.

Special Feature: The Line-Item Veto

Joe Gustaitis

On March 27-28, 1996 - ten years ago - Congress passed a law that many supporters believed might finally provide the solution to the federal government’s seemingly chronic inability to balance its budget. The law was known as the line-item veto. Although the bill was signed the following month by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, it was largely an initiative of Republicans. They considered it a key element of the "Contract with America," a Republican campaign manifesto from the 1994 Congressional elections, in which the Republican Party won control of both the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. In September 1994, more than 300 Republican lawmakers and House candidates had signed the contract, which outlined a conservative agenda, including strict limits on federal welfare spending, a $60 billion increase in defense spending, a variety of tax cuts, and a Constitutional amendment that would ensure a balanced federal budget.

Highlights of the Bill

The line-item veto law gave the president authority to veto certain parts of a spending bill without rejecting the entire measure. It also allowed for the president to cut--but not raise or lower--the amount of money allocated for specific items in federal spending bills within five days of the legislation being passed by Congress. However, the president could apply the veto only to spending for new entitlement programs: existing programs such as Medicare and Social Security would be exempt. The veto could also be used to eliminate any tax break that affected 100 or fewer individual taxpayers or 10 or fewer businesses.

If the president vetoed part of a spending bill, Congress could restore spending provisions or tax breaks cut by the line-item veto by passing new measures within 30 days. The president could then veto those measures, but that veto would be subject to an override by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.

History of the Line-Item Veto


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction #LC-USZ62-13018

U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant first proposed the line-item veto in 1876.

The line-item veto was not a new idea. President Ulysses S. Grant had proposed it as long ago as 1876, and over the next century or so similar proposals were introduced into Congress about 200 times. President Ronald Reagan was especially in favor of the idea, arguing that the law would enable him to restrain the budget deficits that were being caused by the "tax and spend" Democrats. However, neither Reagan nor his successor, George H. W. Bush, was able to get the legislation passed by Congress. Reagan's and Bush’s support for the bill did help it to become a Republican cause, and the Republicans’ belief in it did not diminish even when a Democrat, Clinton, became president in 1993.

Although annual federal budget deficits had begun to fall after reaching a record high of $290.2 billion in 1992, many legislators insisted that a line-item veto would make it even easier to balance the budget because it would curtail legislators' attempts to add "pork," or monetary allowances for special projects within their own districts, as well as other spending programs to spending bills. At first, Republican leaders thought the most effective way to pass a line-item veto was to work toward a Constitutional amendment, which would end any argument about the legislation’s legality. The Republicans realized, however, that seeking a Constitutional amendment would be a tedious, lengthy process and chose instead to back Congressional legislation.

Challenges in Court

The Republicans, and some Democrats, were elated when Congress passed the line-item veto. Senator Dan Coats (R, IN), for example, said that the new law revealed "our frustration in our inability to get a handle on spending and curb the insatiable appetite of those who want to use the spending process for their favorite projects," while Representative Gerald B. H. Solomon (R, NY) said that granting the president the line-item veto would "result in lower, more responsible government spending."


Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, chairman of the Judicial Conference of the U.S., opposed the line-item veto legislation.

However, there were more than a few unhappy citizens. The Judicial Conference of the U.S., an organization representing federal judges, attacked the legislation, arguing that it would threaten judicial independence by giving the president power to invalidate particular parts of judicial spending bills. The chairman of the Judicial Conference’s executive committee, Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, said that they also were against the legislation because a president could retaliate against the courts by cutting or reducing their funding if they delivered decisions contrary to the president’s wishes. On April 9, 1996, the same day that Clinton signed the bill, the National Treasury Employees Union filed suit challenging the law’s constitutionality. Gregory O'Duden, the union's general counsel, stated that, "It violates the doctrine of separation of powers. The framers said Congress should be supreme in powers of the purse, and this transfers huge amounts of power to the president." On January 2, 1997, the day after the law took effect, six lawmakers--four senators and two representatives (comprised of five Democrats and one Republican)--filed a suit in federal court challenging it. The group argued that the line-item veto bill would unconstitutionally alter the balance of power between Congress and the president.

The judicial process moved quite quickly. Three months after the suit was filed, on April 10, 1997, Thomas P. Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the line-item veto violated the law-making procedure established by the Constitution, writing that "even if Congress may sometimes delegate authority to impound funds, it may not confer the power permanently to rescind an appropriation or tax benefit that has become the law of the United States. That power is possessed by the Congress alone, and, according to the [Constitution] Framers' careful design, may not be delegated at all." A provision in the line-item veto bill allowed for a direct appeal from trial court to the Supreme Court, bypassing the federal appeals court, and Clinton, who had not yet exercised his powers under the new law, quickly said he planned to appeal Jackson’s ruling.

Although the Supreme Court overturned Jackson's decision on grounds that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing since they had not suffered "personal, concrete injury" because of the law, the line-item veto was again challenged in court after Clinton had issued 82 of them. On February 12, 1998, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ruled that the law violated Article I of the Constitution, which vested all legislative power in Congress. This suit was also appealed, which meant that the Supreme Court would have to decide on its constitutionality.

On June 25, 1998, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that the legislation was indeed unconstitutional. According to the majority opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the law unconstitutionally gave the "president the unilateral power to change the text of duly enacted statutes" that breached the presentment clause of Article I of the Constitution, which described how legislation should move through Congress and be presented to the president. According to Article I of the Constitution, the president was required to return a bill to Congress with his objections if he refused to sign it. Congress could then either rewrite the bill or attempt to override the veto. Stevens argued that the Line Item Veto Act circumvented those legislative procedures. In a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy criticized Congress for trying to impart to the president its own legislative responsibilities, saying that "failure of political will does not justify unconstitutional remedies."

Controlling the Federal Deficit


White House photo by Paul Morse

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks about plans to strengthen the American economy in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 15, 2004.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, the idea was stalled -- it would have taken a Constitutional amendment to revive it. In fact, the initiative did not regain support until 2004, when both George W. Bush and John Kerry endorsed the line-item veto in their presidential campaigns. One reason for the loss of interest until then was that, surprisingly, on September 30, 1998, President Clinton announced that the 1998 fiscal year, which ended that day, had resulted in the first federal budget surplus since 1969. This U.S. surplus was the first in a brief period of budget surpluses, which endured until 2001. However, a combination of factors including an economic slowdown and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. plus vigorous tax cuts and a rise in government spending (particularly for defense) by the administration of George W. Bush soon brought back budget deficits. In May 2003, Congressional analysts announced that the budget deficit for that fiscal year would exceed $300 billion, a record amount. In fiscal 2004, the budget deficit reached $412 billion. It dropped to $319 billion in fiscal 2005, but in January 2006 the White House reported that the federal budget deficit was poised to rise back above $400 billion in fiscal 2006, making Bush’s pledge to cut the deficit in half by the time he left office in 2009 look decidedly uncertain.

A Constitutional amendment, also part of the "Contract with America," was another idea that had been proposed to cut the federal deficit. The amendment would require Congress to balance the annual budgets of the federal government. On January 26, 1995, the House voted, 300 to 132, in favor of that amendment, but on March 2, it fell just one vote short of the two-thirds majority it would have needed to win passage in the Senate. President Clinton was solidly against it, calling it "horrendous economic policy" because it would keep the government from implementing emergency spending in times of crisis. That was one of the major arguments put forth by the measure’s opponents, who also suggested that it could threaten Social Security benefits. The Senate rejected the amendment again in 1996 and 1997. In a similar vein, legislators proposed a Constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress to raise taxes, but that idea was rejected by the House in 1996 and again in 1997.

Today, U.S. voters are witnessing what seems ironically like a party role reversal on this issue. Many Democratic critics of President Bush now assume the role of budget balancers, critics of deficits, and advocates of fiscal restraint. Although this stance is not new for Democrats, especially given Clinton’s success in balancing the budget, it is not the image of the Democratic Party that voters have traditionally maintained. On the other side, Republican legislators, who once stood squarely behind the line-item veto and other measures that would force the federal government to live within its means, still control both houses of Congress, but preside over the largest budget deficit in history. Some find themselves arguing that deficits perhaps are not so important after all, or at least are manageable. For example, in February 2003, when Bush presented Congress with a $2.23 trillion budget blueprint for the 2004 fiscal year--one that projected record deficits of more than $300 billion in both the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years and a total deficit of $1.08 trillion through 2008--the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget argued that the estimated deficit for fiscal 2004 was relatively small, by historical terms, at 2.7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Today, Bush’s supporters tend to assert that deficits are less harmful than his critics charge. Indeed, they say, deficits probably do not really have much of an effect on either economic performance or interest rates. Instead, they assert, the government should push policies that promote growth, such as tax cuts, and not be so concerned with balancing the budget. Whether this is sound or careless economics is a matter for experts, but it is a long way from the orthodoxy of a decade ago, when Republicans so eagerly supported the line-item veto bill.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact

1903: First Game - The first World Series game was played on Oct. 1, 1903, at Boston's Huntington Avenue Base Ball Grounds. Cy Young started for the Pilgrims, Deacon Phillipe for the Pirates. Pittsburgh won the game, 7-3. The Pirates' right fielder Jimmy Sebring hit the first home run in Series history.

Chronology — Events of February 2006


     GOP in U.S. House Chooses a New Leader - Republicans in the U.S. House changed leaders for the second time in 5 months. Tom DeLay (TX) had resigned as majority leader in September after being indicted on a conspiracy charge, and was replaced by majority whip Roy Blunt (MO) as acting leader. Blunt in turn was defeated Feb. 2 in an election for a permanent replacement. The winner, John Boehner (OH), prevailed on the 2nd ballot, 122-109, apparently because of a concern that Blunt was too closely identified with DeLay. Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) remained the top-ranking House Republican.

     Attorney General Defends Warrantless Surveillance - Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 6, argued that Pres. George W. Bush had the power under the Constitution and a 2001 Congressional resolution to approve warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency of communications between terrorism suspects in the U.S. and abroad. He said that the administration could bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required that warrants be obtained. He called FISA a "peacetime" statute that was too slow for implementation of counterterrorism measures.

     Bush Tells of Plot to Attack Los Angeles - Pres. Bush revealed Feb. 9 that in 2002, U.S. foiled a plot by al-Qaeda terrorists to seize control of an airliner and fly it into the Los Angeles Library Tower (since renamed the U.S. Bank Tower), the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Homeland Security officials added that the plot was derailed when the leader of the four-person plot was arrested in an undisclosed Southeast Asian nation. The three other operatives were later captured.

     Congress Continues to Scrutinize Katrina Debacle - Michael Brown, who had been head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, testified to a Senate committee Feb. 10 that the decision to put FEMA in the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) had been a bad one. He noted that DHS was focused more on terrorism, not natural disasters. DHS Sec. Michael Chertoff, testifying Feb. 13, acknowledged that there were "many lapses" in his department. Chertoff also said he had erred in trusting Brown and labeled him a lone ranger.
     The Government Accountability Office Feb. 13 said it had found many examples of waste and fraud in FEMA’s relief and reconstruction work. The DHS inspector general, Richard Skinner, testified Feb. 13 that of nearly 25,000 mobile homes bought at $34,000 each, only 2,700 were being utilized. The House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina Feb. 15 called the relief effort a failure, criticizing national, state, and local governments. Pres. Bush Feb. 16 asked for $19.6 bil more for Gulf Coast reconstruction.

     Vice Pres. Cheney Shoots a Friend in Hunting Accident - Vice Pres. Richard Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a friend while they and others were hunting quail in Texas Feb. 11. The incident occurred on a ranch near Corpus Christi. The wounded man, Harry Whittington, was struck in the face, throat, and upper body by a round containing up to 200 metal birdshot pellets. Cheney had fired his 28-guage shotgun toward where he thought a bird was taking flight, but hit Whittington instead. A lawyer from Austin, TX, who had long been active in Republican politics, Whittington was taken to a nearby hospital. The next morning the ranch owner notified the Corpus Christi Caller-Times of the incident, and word soon spread to the rest of the media. Cheney was criticized by many in the media for the delay in making the accident public.
     On Feb. 14, Whittington suffered a mild heart attack after a pellet from his wound migrated into his heart. In a Feb. 15 Fox News interview, Cheney expressed his regret and took responsibility for the accident. The Kennedy County Sheriff’s Dept. said Feb. 16 that it would not file any charges. Whittington left the hospital Feb. 17.

     UN Report Calls for U.S. to Close Guantanamo Prison - In a report released Feb. 16, UN officials said that treatment of suspected terrorists in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, violated human rights conventions. The report urged U.S. officials to close the camp immediately and to grant the prisoners fair trials or free them. The report also criticized the force-feeding of hunger strikers. The investigators had declined a U.S. offer to visit Guantanamo after they were denied a request to interview the detainees privately.

     Role of Foreign Country in Running U.S. Ports Debated - An agreement by the Bush administration to let a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates manage terminals in 6 U.S. ports created an uproar in the U.S. The administration said Feb. 16 that the deal with the company, Dubai Ports World, was final and that U.S. port security would not be compromised as a result. Critics in both parties noted that the UAE had once recognized the Taliban and that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from the UAE. But in recent years the UAE had supported the war on terror and is considered a U.S. ally in the region. Pres. Bush said Feb. 21 that he would veto any bill passed by Congress that would attempt to block the agreement. The administration said Feb. 26 it would accept an offer by the company to submit to a second, broader U.S. review of potential security risks in its deal.


     Muslims Protest Cartoons Depicting Prophet Muhammad - The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoon drawings Sept. 30, 2005, one showing Mohammad wearing a turban containing a bomb, which, after several months, caused an uproar in the Muslim world. It is considered against Islam to produce any depiction of Mohammad. A Norwegian paper reprinted the drawings Jan. 10. Saudi religious leaders urged a boycott of Danish goods, and on Jan. 30 Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark. The Danish paper Jan. 30 apologized for offending Muslims, but the Danish and Norwegian premiers said they would not apologize for what had been published. In early February, papers and TV stations in other countries began publishing and showing some of the cartoons. In the U.S., the Philadelphia Inquirer Feb. 4 printed one of the cartoons.
     On Feb. 3, in the first of several worldwide protests, Muslims stormed a building in Jakarta, Indonesia, that housed the Danish embassy. In Damascus, Syria, Feb. 4, protestors set the Danish and Norwegian embassies on fire. In Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 5, protestors set fire to the Danish embassy. Between Feb. 6 and 8, 11 people were killed in Afghanistan during protests, one of which occurred outside a U.S. military base. In Tehran, Iran, protestors set fire to the Danish embassy. The editor of the Norwegian paper apologized to Muslims Feb. 10. Demonstrations across Pakistan Feb. 14-16 claimed 5 lives and hundreds were arrested. Eleven died during protests in Libya Feb. 17. By Feb. 23 in Nigeria, the death toll in Nigeria stood at 100 as Christians and Muslims fought each other over this issue.

     U.N. Atomic Energy Agency Moves Against Iran - On Feb. 4, the UN atomic energy agency voted 27-3 to report Iran to the UN Security Council over Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran immediately announced that it would end cooperation with the agency. On Feb. 14, an Iranian official announced that Iran had resumed enriching uranium, the first step for production of either nuclear energy or weapons.

     Former President Declared Winner in Haiti Election - The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) declared Feb. 16 that Rene Preval had won the Feb. 7 presidential election in Haiti. Preval, who had been president from 1996 to 2001, won a bare majority of the votes after it was decided to exclude blank ballots from the tabulation, avoiding a runoff. The UN and the Organization of American States organized the election, while a Brazilian-led force provided security. There had been widespread instability in Haiti since 2004 when Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to resign.

     Deadly Mudslide in Philippines - A mudslide Feb. 17 caused by excessive rain covered the entire village of Guinsaugon on Leyte island in the central Philippines. Over 1,000 people were buried in over 10 feet of mud. The 1.2 sq mile area included a school with 246 students, which became a focus of the search. A multinational rescue attempt that included U.S. marines only recovered 141 bodies.

     Iraqi Violence Raises Fear of Civil War - Iraq seemed on the brink of civil war Feb. 22 after a suspected Sunni bomb battered the golden dome of an important Shiite shrine in Samarra. Shiites then destroyed or damaged dozens of Sunni mosques while Iraqi political and religious leaders pleaded for restraint. By Feb. 28, 379 had died in the new violence in and around Baghdad and Sunnis suspended negotiations on formation of a permanent government.
     In other Iraqi news, car bombs near a Baghdad market killed 16 and wounded 90 Feb. 2. A car bomb in Baghdad Feb. 21 killed at least 21. More than 30 people were killed in 3 explosions across Baghdad on Feb. 28. A coalition of Shiite Muslim parties Feb. 12 nominated, by a one-vote margin, Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be Iraq’s prime minister. He had been interim prime minister since April 2005, and seemed likely to be elected, given the strength in parliament of the Shiite religious bloc.

     Hamas Takes over Palestinian Authority - As a result of the January election, Hamas took over the legislature of the Palestinian Authority on Feb. 18. The Israeli cabinet Feb. 19 froze the transfer of about $50 mil in monthly tax and customs receipts to the authority, saying that it was now in the hands of a group that did not recognize Israel’s right to exist.


     Pittsburgh Steelers Win Their 5th Super Bowl - The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, on Feb. 5 in Detroit to win Super Bowl XL. It was the Steelers 5th title and their first since 1980. Pittsburgh took a 7-3 lead on a short run by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed with extra point), and Willie Parker ran 75 yards, a Super Bowl record, for 6 more points. A pass from Antwaan Randle-El to Hines Ward gave Pittsburgh its 3d touchdown. Ward was named the game’s most valuable player. Bill Cowher won his first Super Bowl. It was his 14th season as coach of the Steelers.

     Avian Influenza Virus Found in Africa, Western Europe - The most worrisome strain of avian influenza, the H5N1 virus, was found for the first time in Africa Feb. 8, on a Nigerian chicken farm. Officials reported Feb. 9 that they detected the virus in 2 more farms. The virus reached Western Europe Feb. 11 when it was found in dead swans in Italy, Greece, and Bulgaria, and on Feb. 12, in a dead swan in Slovenia. On Feb. 14, Germany, Austria, and Iran reported the virus in swans, which are migratory birds. The World Health Organization had tabulated 169 cases of human infection, with 91 fatalities. On Feb. 20 and 21, in an area of India where avian flu had been reported, government workers slaughtered 130,000 chickens.

     U2 Big Winner at Grammy's - The Irish rock band U2 won five awards at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards, Feb. 9 including album of the year and best rock album for "How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb." Other winners included Kanye West, who received three awards, including top rap album for "Late Registration," Mariah Carey who picked up three awards in the R&B category, and the original "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson, who beat fellow nominees Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefani, Bonnie Raitt, and Mariah Carey to win the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
     A complete list of the winners can be found at

     Germany Leads Medal Count in Winter Olympics - The XX Winter Olympics, held in and near Turin, Italy, from Feb. 10 to 26, with more than 2,500 athletes from 84 countries. Germany won the most medals, 29, including 11 gold. The U.S. ranked second with 25 medals including 9 gold.
     The opening ceremony took place in the Olympic stadium Feb. 10. The U.S. speed skater Chad Hedrick won the men’s 5,000 meters Feb. 11. U.S. figure skater Michele Kwan, a 5-time world champion withdrew Feb. 12 from competition because of an injury. Antoine Deneriaz of France won the men’s downhill skiing Feb. 12. Ted Ligety of the U.S. won the men’s combined alpine skiing gold medal Feb. 14. In alpine skiing, Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria won the women’s downhill on Feb. 15. The gold medal in men’s figure skating went to Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia Feb. 16.
     Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S., leading for the gold in the women’s snowboard cross on Feb. 17, fell 100 yards from the finish, and the winner was Tanja Frieden of Switzerland. On Feb. 18, Shani Davis of the U.S. won the 1,000 meters in men’s speedskating, becoming the first black person to win an individual gold medal in any winter Olympics. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto took the silver medal in ice dancing Feb. 20, the first U.S. medal in that event in 30 years. The gold went to Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia. Anja Paerson of Sweden won the women’s slalom Feb. 22.
     In ladies’ figure skating, Shizuka Arakawa of Japan took the gold medal Feb. 23, Sasha Cohen of the U.S. won the silver, and Russian Irina Slutskaya took bronze. In a surprise win, the American Julia Mancuso took home the gold in women’s giant slalom Feb. 24. American alpine skier Bode Miller, a world champion whose performance on and off the slopes had been widely publicized, failed to win any medals in 5 events. In a match between neighbors, Sweden defeated Finland, 3-2, for the men’s hockey gold Feb. 26.

Sports Feature — Vincent G. Spadafora

Spring training is underway so it's time we take a look at some of the more interesting storylines for the coming season:

— San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds ranks third in career home runs with 708. He is only 48 home runs away from beating Hank Aaron’s career record of 755. If Bonds can put his knee troubles behind him, we could be in for some interesting at-bats come September. A more approachable mark is Babe Ruth’s record which stands at 714 career home runs.
— Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio is 205 hits away from 3,000. Barring injury, he has a legitimate shot at reaching the milestone.
— Sammy Sosa is 12 home runs away from 600, but as things are lately, he may elect to retire.
— Trevor Hoffman, closing pitcher for the San Diego Padres, needs 43 saves to set a new MLB record for career saves. Lee Smith currently holds the record with 474.

The Early History of the Baseball Mitt

While the boys of summer are getting ready for the 2006 season or playing in the World Baseball Classic, it’s a good time to take a look at the history of one of the most iconic pieces of equipment in world sports - the baseball mitt.


Library of Congress, Baseball Cards from the Benjamin K. Edwards Collection, LOT 13163-05, no. 54

Chicago White Stockings Catcher (circa 1887)

Baseball players are very attached to their mitts. But in the early days of baseball, they were not looked on too fondly. The first baseball gloves were little more than leather horseriding gloves with some padding in the palms, and early catchers mitts resembled big leather pillows. But back in the old days of baseball, before 1870, wearing a glove was unheard of.

The first person to wear a glove, or gloves in his case, was catcher Doug Allison of the Cincinnati Red Stockings on June 28, 1870. Allison took to the field in a game against the Washington Nationals wearing a pair of leather gloves with the fingers cut at the halfway point on each finger (the fingers were cut out so that he could easily grip the ball to throw it). He wore them not to catch the ball easier, but to protect his hands. His innovation didn't go over well and he was ridiculed by both fans and players alike because back then, the wearing of protective equipment was considered "unmanly." However, others began wearing them, and soon it was considered okay for catchers to wear padded gloves. But anyone else wearing gloves in the field was considered a wimp.

The first player other than a catcher to wear gloves in the field was first baseman Charlie Waitt of the St. Louis Brown Stockings. He took to the field in 1875 wearing a pair of padded, gloves with the finger tips cut out. The gloves were colored Waitt's skin color to make them less noticeable. However, people did notice and they made fun of him for wearing them.

As time went on, more players began wearing gloves, but many still thought they were wimpy until Albert Spaulding, pitcher and first baseman for the Chicago White Stockings, started wearing a black leather glove whenever he played first base, beginning in 1877. Spaulding was one of the best players in the league in his day, so nobody gave him any trouble about wearing the glove. He went on to found the Spaulding Sporting Goods company that exists today.

By the 1890s, all the pros were wearing gloves that somewhat resemble today’s mitts. The last guy in the majors to play without a glove was Jerry Denny who played third base for the Louisville Colonels. What made Denny special was that he could throw equally well with both hands. So for him, it actually made sense not to wear a glove. He retired in 1894. Eventually gloves got bigger and were refined into what we see pros wearing today. Here are a few other facts about the evolution of the baseball glove:

— The term "mitt" was first coined back in the 1870s because some thought the gloves looked like "mittens."
— Webbing between the thumb and index finger was added to baseball mitts in 1903. This made it easier to field balls. Initially, it was simply a leather strap.
— Players used to leave their gloves in the field when they went up to bat. But after the 1953 season, major league baseball banned the practice. All players have to bring their gloves into the dugout when they leave the field.

Ricky Williams Tests Positive for a Banned Substance

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams recently violated the NFL’s substance policy when he tested positive for a banned substance. There was no comment as to what the substance was, but according sources cited in Associated Press stories, it was not marijuana, for which Williams had tested positive three times in the past. The fourth violation could lead to a mandatory one-year suspension depending on the outcome of Williams’ appeal.

Following his third violation, Williams quit football and sat out the 2004 season. In that time he began studying tantric and ayurvedic medicine in, among other places, California and India.

In 2005, new Dolphins coach Nick Saban came on board and brought Williams back to the team. Williams displayed a renewed enthusiasm and his teammates had largely welcomed him back. He still had to sit out the first 4 games as a result of his failed drug test in 2004. But once back playing, Williams and rookie running back Ronnie Brown became a force in the Miami offensive backfield. Because Williams showed such a great work ethic, he was chosen as co-winner of the local media’s annual Good Guy Award.

Many of Ricky Williams’ supporters believe the failed test was the result of supplements he had been taking while studying Yoga. Depending on what happens, this could deeply affect the Dolphins’ strategy in the April 2006 draft.

Here are some facts about Ricky Williams:

— When Williams finished his college career at Texas in 1998, he held 14 NCAA football records and 44 Texas records. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1998.
— He was the fifth pick of the first round of the 1999 NFL draft, taken by the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans coach Mike Ditka wanted Williams on his team so badly that he gave up all six of the Saints’ other draft picks that year, and two in the next year, to the Washington Red Skins to gain the number five pick.
— In 2003, the Dolphins with Williams at running back rushed for a net total of 1817 yards, and their win-loss record was 10-6. The next year, when Williams sat out, the Dolphins gained only 1339 yards on the ground, and their win-loss record was 4-12. In 2005, with the running tandem of Williams and the rookie Ronnie Brown, the team rushing total shot back up to 1898 yards, with Williams accounting for 743 of them on 168 carries (a very respectable average of 4.4 yards per carry). That year, the team’s record was 9-7.

Science in the News: Canine Companions Sniff Out Cancer — Sarah Taber

They chew on sticks, roll in mud and chase their own tails - and according to new research, they may be the most effective cancer-detection systems in the world. From leading the blind to searching for bombs, dogs have long occupied a place in human society far beyond that of mere pets. Now, a team of researchers at the Pine Street Foundation in California have tried training canines to sniff out cancer with - staggering results. Michael McCulloch and his team taught five ordinary dogs to indicate when they smelled certain chemical by-products of cancer in breath samples from 86 lung and breast cancer patients and 83 controls. Their results, if replicable, may someday change the way cancer is diagnosed. McCulloch's research will appear in the March 2006 issue of Integrated Cancer Therapies.


Courtesy of Nicholas Broffman/Pine Street Foundation; Credit: Passionate Productions, United Kingdom

Kobi, a yellow Labrador, sniffs breath samples from cancer patients and from healthy controls to determine which is which.

Ever wondered why your dog spends so much time sniffing the ground, other animals and himself? Chances are he's taking in far more information than you imagined - dogs have a sense of smell between 10,000 and 100,000 times sharper than that of humans. Not only is a larger part of a dog's brain devoted to the sense of smell, but dogs also have more neurons connecting their noses to their brains than people do. Researchers believe the canine nose can pick up the smell of chemicals in concentrations as low as a few parts per trillion molecules. As McCulloch told National Geographic, "The dog's brain and nose hardware is currently the most sophisticated odor detection device on the planet."

All living cells - normal and cancerous - engage in metabolic processes, meaning that nutrients are converted by the cell into energy and necessary materials through various chemical reactions. During these processes cancerous cells release certain chemical compounds, such as alkanes, methylated alkanes, aromatic compounds and benzene derivatives, which are different from those produced by regular healthy cells. As Nicholas Broffman, the executive director of the Pine Street Foundation, told National Geographic, "The differences between these metabolic products are so great that they can be detected by a dog's keen sense of smell, even in the early stages of disease." McCulloch and his team were not the first to try to make use of the dog's extraordinary sense of smell to try to detect these indicators of cancer. Though anecdotes of dogs behaving oddly around people with cancerous moles can be found in abundance, it was not until 2004 that researchers first tested the theory experimentally. In a study published in the British Medical Journal, scientists at Amersham Hospital in England trained dogs to recognize and respond to the scent of cancer-related chemicals in urine samples from people with bladder cancer. Though the dogs had a 41% success rate - far better than if they were just guessing - it seemed the canine nose could not compare to modern medical technology.

The Pine Street Foundation team decided to test dogs in a different way. First, they recruited five dogs - three Labrador retrievers and two Portuguese water dogs - from local owners and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Rather than teaching the dogs to recognize the scent of cancer in urine samples, McCulloch and his team used special tubes to collect breath samples from recently diagnosed lung and breast cancer patients. The tubes were six inches long and an inch in diameter; they were open at both ends, and had a two-inch insert of "wool"-like substance placed inside to capture the trace chemicals from the exhaled breath. Patients - and cancer-free "control" breath donors - exhaled 3 to 5 times into the tubes; then the experimenters capped both ends of the tubes and stored them in Ziplock-type bags at room temperature until it was time for the dogs to sniff them.

In order to ensure that the dogs smelled the cancer and not other chemicals, the experiment did not use patients who had already undergone chemotherapy. (The cancer patients who gave breath samples had typically just been diagnosed.) Using a three-phase training system, the researchers taught the dogs to sit or lie down when they smelled a breath sample from a cancer patient. In the first phase, the dogs were exposed to a lineup of five breath tubes, one of which contained the cancer sample, and four of which were empty. In order to encourage the dogs to seek out the cancer sample, a hidden piece of food was placed in the same station. When the dogs sniffed the tube with the cancer sample, they were told to "sit", praised, and given a food reward. In the second phase, the dogs were not issued the "sit" command; they were praised and rewarded only when they sat by themselves in front of the cancer sample. In the third phase, the food was no longer placed with the cancer sample, in order to train the dogs to detect the chemical smell in the absence of another attractive scent.

After several weeks of training, the dogs were ready for their final exam - a double blind study in which neither the dog handlers nor the experimenters knew which samples were from patients and which were from controls. (This was done to ensure that the dogs' response was not due to subtle hints from the humans in the room.) In the final exam, dogs were confronted with breath samples that they had not previously encountered. Each target sample from a cancer patient was placed in a lineup with four other control samples; the dogs had to ignore the controls and respond only to the target. Amazingly, the dogs were able to detect breast cancer 88% of the time, and lung cancer with 99% accuracy. According to Broffman, "It did not seem to matter which dog it was or which stage cancer it was, in terms of our results." As Donald Berry, the chairman of biostatistics at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told the New York Times, the dogs' performance "is off the charts: there are no laboratory tests as good as this, not Pap tests, not diabetes tests, nothing."

Too Good to Be True? - Some researchers believe that McCulloch's results are a little too impressive. As Berry told the Times, "If true, it's huge. Which is one reason to be skeptical."

Ted Gansler, the American Cancer Society's director of medical content in health information, agreed. "It's biologically plausible, but there has to be a lot more study and confirmation of effectiveness," he said. Even McCulloch admits his results were surprising. "Yes, we were astounded as well," he told the Times. "And that's why it needs to be replicated with other dogs, plus chemical analysis of what's in the breath." McCulloch also hopes to do further experiments to determine whether the dogs are actually sensing cancer, or a more general disease symptom such as inflammation. "The fact that dogs did this is kind of beside the point," McCulloch told the Times. "What this proved is that there are detectable differences in the breath of cancer patients. Now technology has to rise to that challenge."

Though Labrador retrievers are unlikely to replace laboratory tests any time soon, McCulloch's work may someday influence the way that cancer is diagnosed. As James Walker, the director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University in Tallahassee, told National Geographic, "There are lots of experimental treatments [that could be derived from this]. This could be an experimental diagnostic tool for a while, and one that is impossible to hurt anyone with." Broffman, on the other hand, envisions the creation of an electronic sensor that can pick up the same compounds the dogs react to. "Such technology would attempt to achieve the precision of the dog's nose. Such technology would also be more likely to appear in your doctor's office," he said. Unless and until such a device is invented, however, the dog will remain the world's undisputed champion of olfaction.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact

1915: Trans-Continental Call - On Jan. 25, 1915, 1t 4:30 PM EST, Alexander Graham Bell, in New York City, made the first transcontinental call, to San Francisco, CA. After conversing on a modern line, Bell used a model of his first telephone and spoke with his old assistant, Thomas Watson. When the line opened for public service on March 1, the bill for a three-minute call that distance was $20.70, about $400.00 in today's dollars.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Power in...Pooch Poop?
In an effort to cut back on landfill waste, San Francisco’s doggy denizens (and their owners) are being called on to contribute to an unconventional project: turning poop into power. According to a city survey, nearly 4% of all garbage collected from San Francisco homes comes from animal waste. Home to an estimated 120,000 dogs, San Francisco will test the program with biodegradable bags and collection carts in a city park frequented by dog walkers. The collected waste will then go to a "methane digester," which uses microorganisms to convert manure into methane. Methane gas can be used to power turbines for electricity production. With dynamic and more traditional recycling programs already in place, San Francisco’s goal is zero new landfill waste by the year 2020. Dogs and cats in the U.S. produce approximately 10 million tons of waste every year. European cities such as Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich currently utilize biomass programs to turn waste into gas.

Undercover Kitty Gets First Collar
Fred - an alley cat from the mean streets of Brooklyn turned undercover cop - just collared his first perp: a phony veterinarian. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office began investigating 28-year-old Stephen Vassall, a former assistant in a veterinarian’s office, after one canine owner reported that Vassall had nearly killed Burt, his Boston terrier, in a botched operation. The D.A.’s office then brought in 8-month-old Fred to pose as a potential patient. An investigator acting as Fred’s owner summoned Vassall to an apartment fitted with a hidden camera. Vassall told the investigator that the kitten could be neutered for $135 - cash up front. The unlicensed pet doctor was arrested as he left the apartment with Fred and his cash payment. Joyce Clemmons of Animal Care and Control, the agency that had rescued the soon-to-be-sleuth, saw big things in Fred’s future: "He’s going to be the detective for the animal world," she said.

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

Simon Berriochoa's arms are a walking advertisement for what he does in his spare time -- armwrestling. I spotted him as I was boarding a flight to print our World Almanac Book of Records, and he's a champion himself, having finished with a first at both the 2002 Unified Nationals and the Petaluma World Championships at 60 kilos. . Armwrestling is a competition in which two people place either their right or left elbows on a table, grip their hands, and try to force back the other person's hand to the table surface. Organized as a sport in 1952, it has become popular around the world. Learn more about armwrestling at

The rental car I was supposed to pick up two weeks ago was still being cleaned when I arrived at the counter, so I got an automatic upgrade to a 4-door pickup truck. While the vehicle fit well in the mid-west town I was visiting, I am not necessarily the guy you think of as driving one of these trucks. My co-workers got a real laugh when they heard about it, and checked out the photograph I'd taken with my camera-phone. Pickup trucks are light trucks that have an open-top rear cargo area. Such trucks began making their appearances in the U.S. around 1918. Learn more about the history of pickup trucks at:


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction #LC-USZ62-105605

Victor Hugo

In between numerous work trips recently, I've been practicing the score of "Les Misťrables." The chorus I perform with is doing a concert version of the show this March. Based upon the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, "Les Mis" is the story of social injustices of the world, written over a period of 33 years, from 1829-1862. Not well received initially, it is now considered one of the greatest novels ever written. To learn more about the novel and the play, visit:

With the Academy Awards just weeks away I've been feverishly trying to catch many of the movies that I missed during the year, and saw Walk the Line, the story of Johnny and June Carter Cash. I enjoyed the movie, and was impressed that actors Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon both performed all of the singing numbers themselves. My knowledge of the Cashes music was limited, and I discovered that that much of their early music was rockabilly, when they were on tour with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny's music was a reflection of his rocky life. The Cashes are also the subject of an upcoming Broadway musical. Learn more about Johnny and June Carter Cash at

I've been looking to purchase a new computer, having run out of memory on my current one, which I bought in 1999. While I know how to drive a car, I know very little about how one is put together and runs, and purchasing a computer has been a similar experience for me. I'm proficient at using a computer, but didn't have the slightest clue as to what components I needed, or know how to compare requirements. At I found detailed descriptions of computer and technology terms.

If you are reading this E-Newsletter online, then you are taking part in the technological changes of the late 20th/early 21st century. I don't cease to be amazed at the advances of the last decade; you can now get a basic computer for $300 (US), take digital photographs and video with your cell phone, watch the latest television shows on your MP3 player, and even use a remote car starter on your wristwatch. If you are one of those people who need to have the newest and most up-to-date gadget on the market, there's a weblog, Engadget, where you can see what's on the horizon. Check it out at:

Okay, this would seem like a Christmas related site, but as I was surfing the web, an odd Gingerbread Man site came into view, and it reminded me of the time our President's secretary bedecked our office with a Christmas tree, and greenery, and gingerbread men of all sizes. When someone began eating them off the tree and leaving half-bodies, it created quite a stir, and we never saw those gingerbread men again. By the new year, all that was left were some empty hooks. Here's everything gingerbread you need to know:

Joey Cheek, a U.S. speedskater who won a gold and a silver medal at the Winter Olympics last month, donated his $40,000 prize money to a humanitarian group, Right to Play. Right to Play is an athlete-driven organization which uses sports and play to improved the lives of children in disadvantaged countries of the world. Norway's Johan Olav Koss, former four-time Olympic speedskating gold medalist is the president of Right to Play. The world needs more people like Cheek. Learn more about Right to Play at

It's that time of year again, when the original marshmallow PEEPS, those yellow newborn chicks, hit the market in force. Sure, I could give you the link to the official website, but wouldn't it be more fun to check out a sugary candy version of The Lord of the Rings, at

Co-worker website of the month - Sarah: All right, everyone thinks that their pet is the best, cutest, etc. But two websites - and offer you a chance to put your money where your mouth is. Pet owners can upload a picture of their pet onto the site for head-to-head match-ups against the most adorable furry creatures around. In each battle, guests to the site can click on the picture that they think is the cutest to settle each "battle." Pets get a continuous cuteness ranking depending on how many battles each has won, lost, or drawn. If you’re lucky, your puppy might end up on the list of "Top Dogs" (the most unfortunate-looking are available on the ever-changing list "Underdogs"). KittenWar also ranks its "Winningest" and "Losingest" kittens. My dog, Walter, hasn’t made the top ten yet, but we’re working on it. You can see him at

Unusual website of the month: Oops, I thought it read the Weird Beard and Moustache Championships, but it's really World

Quote of the Month

"Only people who are capable of loving strongly, can also suffer great sorrow; but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heal them"
     - Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist & social reformer

© World Almanac Education Group

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

Newsletter Contributors:
Louise Bloomfield, Jane Hogan, ZoŽ Kashner, and Walter Kronenberg.

Comments and suggestions can be sent to:

If you have enjoyed this newsletter, and would like your family and friends to subscribe for free, have them send an e-mail to: with the subject line reading "SUBSCRIBE."