The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 06, Number 09 — September 2006

What's in this issue?

September Events
September — National and International
This Day In History — September
September Birthdays
Travel - São Paulo, Brazil
Obituaries - August 2006
Special Feature: Shannon Lucid Sets the Record
Chronology - August 2006
Sports Feature
Science in the News: No Sponge Left Behind
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

September Events

September 1-4 - Marshall County Blueberry Festival (Plymouth, IN)
September 1-4 - Odyssey, A Greek Festival (Orange, CT)
September 1-3 - Oregon Trail Rodeo (Hastings, NE)
September 1 - Toy Tips Executive Toy Test (New York, NY)
September 3 - Joust of the Saracen (Arezzo, Italy)
September 4 - Columbia River Cross Channel Swim (Hood River, OR)
September 7 - Harvest Moon/Lunar Eclipse (eclipse only visible in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia)
September 9 - Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival (Albany, NY)
September 10 - Lisco Old-Timers Day (Lisco, NE)
September 13 - Fortune Cookie Day (San Francisco, CA)
September 13 - 17- Kentucky Bourbon Festival (Bardstown, KY)
September 14 - 17- Newport International Boat Show (Newport, RI)
September 16 - Big Whopper Liar’s Contest (New Harmony, IN)
September 21-24 - World Beef Expo/Harvest Fair (Milwaukee, WI)
September 23 - First day of Autumn (Northern Hemisphere)
September 28-30 - Great American Beer Festival (Denver, CO)
September 30 - Tri-State Band Festival (Luverne, MN)

September Holidays — National and International

September 4 - Labor Day (U.S., Canada)
September 7 - Independence Day (Brazil)
September 10 - Grandparents’ Day
September 16 - Independence Day (Mexico)
September 17 - Citizenship Day, (U.S.)
September 18 - Independence Day (Chile)
September 21 - Independence Day (Belize)
September 23 - Rosh Hashanah (first full day)
September 23 - Ramadan (first full day)

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), said by many to have been the greatest of all classical composers, noticed he was losing his hearing while still in his 20s, and in the last eight years of his life was totally deaf. In those years he kept a slate for visitors to communicate with him, and composed some of his greatest music, including the Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis, often "singing, howling, and stamping" in a self absorbed fashion that led some to conclude he was crazy.

This Day In History — September

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1870 The Battle of Sedan is fought in northern France. Napoleon III surrenders himself and his army the next day, ending the Franco-Prussian War.
02 31BC The Battle of Actium, fought between the Roman fleet of Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) and the combined Roman-Egyptian fleet of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, ends in Octavian's victory.
03 1976 Viking II lands on Mars and begins sending back photographs.
04 1951 Transcontinental television begins with Pres. Truman's address at Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco.
05 1939 The United States declares its neutrality in World War II.
06 1899 Sec. of State John Hay sends a letter to countries with interests in China, proclaiming an Open-Door Policy to make China an open international market.
07 1822 In São Paolo, the independence of Brazil from Portugal is proclaimed.
08 1664 British troops seize New Netherland from the Dutch; the English later rename it New York.
09 1976 Chinese leader Mao Zedong dies in Beijing.
10 1846 Elias Howe receives a patent for his first sewing machine.
11 1814 In the War of 1812, the United States wins a naval victory at the Battle of Lake Champlain.
12 1918 Gen. John J. Pershing leads the first U.S. Army against the Germans in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the first major U.S. offensive of World War I.
13 1788 Congress picks New York City to be the capital of the new federal government.
14 1984 Joseph Kittinger makes the first solo transatlantic crossing by balloon when he flies his helium-filled Rosie O'Grady's 5690 km (3536 mi) from Caribou, Maine, to the Italian Riviera near Savona.
15 1821 Guatemala, which includes present-day Central America from Chiapas to Costa Rica, proclaims its independence.
16 1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest in the small village of Dolores, Mexico, raises the standard of revolt against the colonial government, demanding the abolition of Indian serfdom and caste distinctions.
17 1796 President George Washington delivers his Farewell Address as president, and warns against permanent alliances with foreign powers, a big public debt, a large military establishment, and the devices of a "small, artful, enterprising minority."
18 1830 The Tom Thumb, the first U.S.-built locomotive, loses a celebrated race with a horse when its boiler springs a leak.
19 1676 Colonist Nathaniel Bacon, leading planters against the autocratic British Gov. Sir William Berkeley, defeats Berkeley's forces and burns Jamestown, VA.
20 1792 During the French Revolution, the monarchy is supplanted by the First Republic.
21 1981 Belize finally attains full independence, but Guatemala refuses to recognize the new nation; about 1500 British troops remain to protect Belize from the Guatemalan threat.
22 1776 Nathan Hale is executed as a spy by the British, proclaiming, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
23 1806 The Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the West ends with their return to St. Louis.
24 1964 The Warren Commission submits its report, finding that Lee Harvey Oswald, "acting alone and without advice or assistance," fired the shots that killed President John F. Kennedy.
25 1956 The first transatlantic telephone cable is activated.
26 1918 The Battle of the Argonne, the last major battle of World War I, begins.
27 1998 St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire sets an all-time major league season home run record when he hits his 70th, far surpassing the 61 homers hit by Roger Maris in 1961.
28 1924 Two planes land in Seattle, Washington, after completing the first flight around the world.
29 1949 Iva Toguri D'Aquino (Tokyo Rose) is found guilty of treason for making radio broadcasts for Japan during World War II.
30 1946 The judgment of the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders is handed down on Sept. 30-Oct. 1. Twelve defendants are sentenced to death.

September Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1946 Barry Gibb, singer/songwriter and member of the Bee Gees (Isle of Man, England)
02 1968 Salma Hayek, actress (Coatzacoalcos, Mexico)
03 1915 Kitty Carlisle Hart, actress/TV personality (New Orleans, LA)
04 1968 Mike Piazza, baseball player (Norristown, PA)
05 1929 Bob Newhart, actor/comedian (Oak Park, IL)
06 1939 Tonegawa Susumu, biologist and Nobel laureate (Nagoya, Japan)
07 1956 Michael Feinstein, singer/pianist (Columbus, OH)
08 1954 Marilyn Mims, opera singer (Collins, MS)
09 1966 Adam Sandler, actor/comedian (Brooklyn, NY)
10 1927 Yma Sumac, singer (Ichocan, Peru)
11 1965 Bashir al-Assad, Syrian president (Damascus, Syria)
12 1951 Bertie Ahern, prime minister of Ireland (Dublin, Ireland)
13 1938 Judith Martin, author and etiquette expert as "Miss Manners" (Washington, D.C.)
14 1964 Faith Ford, actress (Alexandria, LA)
15 1921 Jackie Cooper, actor/director/producer (Los Angeles, CA)
16 1956 David Copperfield, magician (Metuchen, NJ)
17 1916 Mary Stewart, novelist (Sunderland, England)
18 1971 Lance Armstrong, world-champion cyclist (Plano, TX)
19 1946 Twiggy (Leslie Hornby), model/actress (London, England)
20 1917 Red Auerbach, basketball coach/executive (Brooklyn, NY)
21 1931 Larry Hagman, actor (Weatherford, TX)
22 1956 Debby Boone, singer (Hackensack, NJ)
23 1920 Mickey Rooney, actor (Brooklyn, NY)
24 1921 Jim McKay, sportscaster (Philadelphia, PA)
25 1931 Barbara Walters, TV journalist (Boston, MA)
26 1946 Mary Beth Hurt, actress (Marshalltown, IA)
27 1984 Avril Lavigne, singer (Napanee, Canada)
28 1977 Se Ri Pak, golfer (South Korea)
29 1931 Anita Ekberg, actress (Malmo, Sweden)
30 1928 Elie Wiesel, scholar/author (Sighet, Romania)

Travel - São Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo in southeast Brazil, not far from the Atlantic Ocean, is the biggest metropolitan area in South America and indeed in the entire southern hemisphere, as well as one of the top three or four (depending on who's doing the counting) in the world. It's a dynamic business and industrial center. The port of Santos, on the coast some 64 km (40 mi) away, is the largest port in Latin America.


If you like the ethnic diversity of a place like New York City, you'll love São Paulo, which is a real melting pot. Although older than New York City, São Paulo emerged as a mega-city much later. Founded as a mission in 1554 by a couple of Jesuit priests and named after Saint Paul, it remained of modest size until the second half of the 19th century, when coffee growing in the region touched off an economic boom, and an influx of immigrants, especially from Europe and Japan, seeking work. The population, totaling only about 32,000 in 1872, reached 600,000 in 1920, and passed 1.3 million by 1940.

Today, there are 18 million residents of metropolitan São Paulo (more than half of whom live in the city proper). The metropolitan area has more people of Italian ancestry than anywhere outside Italy, the most people of Japanese ancestry outside Japan, the most of Lebanese ancestry outside the Mideast, and one of the biggest Jewish communities in South America. With the variety of cuisines represented in São Paulo, food buffs will feel themselves in seventh heaven. The city is said to offer the finest pizzas in the world.


(c) Edward A. Thomas

MASP, The Museum of Art of São Paulo

Art museums

Visual treats will be found in the city's many art museums. Among them, the Museum of Art of São Paulo, or MASP, boasts the largest collection in Latin America, including works by such Europeans as Vincent Van Gogh, Goya, El Greco, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt, as well as such notable Brazilian masters as Anita Malfatti, Portinari, and Tarsila do Amaral. The remarkable holdings of the Museum of Contemporary Art, associated with the University of São Paulo, reflect a variety of contemporary trends both in Brazil and internationally. This museum is Latin America's biggest in the area of 20th Century western art.

Historical notes

To get an idea of how today's Brazil came to be, visit the exhibits at the Memorial of the Immigrant, housed in a complex that served the same function for Brazil as Ellis Island for the U.S. Over nine decades, ending in 1978, it served as a processing center for new arrivals, receiving almost 3 million of them from some 60 nations.

For those interested in sampling a bit of old São Paulo, walking tours are available through the city's historical center, which includes reconstructions of some fine 16th-century structures.

A bit of nature

If you get tired of traffic, skyscrapers, and urban bustle, you can find relief in Ibirapuera Park, a few kilometers south of downtown. One of São Paulo's biggest parks, it was designed by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, together with landscape artist Burle Marx. Among Ibirapuera Park's attractions are several lakes, a plant nursery, a planetarium, a Japanese pavilion, the Folklore Museum, and a few art museums, including Brazil's oldest devoted to modern art.

Snake fans will not want to pass up the Butanta Institute, a major reptile research center with a world reputation. Some 14 km (9 mi) south of the city center are the city's botanical gardens and its zoo, which is one of worlds biggest.

São Paulo Convention and Visitors Bureau

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


A Princeton Review survey conducted in 2004-05 asked students and parents, "What college would you most like to attend (or see your child attend) were prospects of acceptance or cost not issues?" Students chose New York University in bustling downtown New York City, while parents opted for prestigious Stanford University in Stanford, CA.

Obituaries in August 2006

Butcher, Susan, 51, four-time winner (1986-88, 1990) of Alaska’s grueling Iditarod dog-sled race; Seattle, WA, Aug. 5, 2006.

Douglas, Mike, 81, singer turned TV host whose syndicated "Mike Douglas Show" ran from 1961 to 1982; Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Aug. 11, 2006.

Ferguson, Maynard, 78, Canadian-born jazz trumpeter known for his ability to hit exceedingly high notes; he was also a bandleader who toured ceaselessly and made scores of recordings; Ventura, CA, Aug. 23, 2006.

Ford, Glenn, 90, actor who starred in a wide range of Hollywood movies, including westerns (Cowboy, 1958), comedies (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, 1963) and films-noirs (The Big Heat, 1953); Beverly Hills, CA, Aug. 30, 2006.

Hayden, Melissa, 83, Canadian-born dancer who won international acclaim as a principal dancer with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet from 1955 to 1973; Winston-Salem, NC, Aug. 9, 2006.

Kirby, Bruno, 57, character actor known for his work in two films starring comedian Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally (1989) and City Slickers (1991); Los Angeles, CA, Aug. 14, 2006.



"Flag raising on Iwo Jima." Joe Rosenthal, February 23, 1945.

Mahfouz, Naguib, 94, Egyptian novelist who in 1988 became the first (and to date only) Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature; Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 30, 2006.

Rosenthal, Joe, 94, photojournalist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for his iconic World War II photograph of the U.S. flag being raised over the Japanese island of Iwo Jima by six American servicemen; Novato, CA, Aug. 20, 2006.

Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth, 90, German lyric soprano who was one of the leading opera and lieder singers of her time; late in life, her image was tarnished by her admission that she had once been a member of the Nazi Party; Schruns, Austria, Aug. 3, 2006.

Stroessner, Alfredo, 93, Paraguayan general who ruled his country with an iron fist from 1954 to 1989; after being overthrown in a coup, he went into exile in Brazil; Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 16, 2006.

Van Allen, James, 91, physicist who in the late 1950s discovered that Earth was surrounded by two belts of charged particles trapped by the planet’s magnetic field; those belts were named after him soon after he found them; Iowa City, IA, Aug. 9, 2006.

Special Feature: Shannon Lucid Sets the Record

Joe Gustaitis

Ten years ago - on September 26, 1996 - the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis completed a mission during which it docked with the Russian space station Mir, and returned to Earth with a U.S. astronaut who had been stationed there. In one sense this was nothing unusual - it was the U.S. space shuttle program's 79th mission, the 17th launch for Atlantis, and the fourth time that Atlantis had docked with the Russian craft. In another sense, however, the mission was historic. The passenger being taken home was a 53-year-old biochemist named Shannon Lucid, who was returning to Earth after 188 days in space - the longest stay in space ever achieved by a woman. The previous record of 169 days had belonged to the Russian cosmonaut Yelena Kondakova.

Lucid's accomplishment was significant in two ways: first, it gave scientists important data on human ability to withstand long space flights, which would be crucial to know in order to stage missions to other planets. Second, it demonstrated that women had come very far since the early days of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), when it was simply assumed that women could never be astronauts. Indeed, in the 1950s, the general consensus was that, even though 25 women were tested among the first manned space program volunteers, including women in the astronaut corps would actually slow U.S. efforts in the "space race" with the Soviet Union.

Space Pioneers



NASA's first six women astronauts in 1980. From left to right, Margaret R. Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith Resnick, Sally K. Ride, Anna L. Fisher, and Shannon Lucid.

The first woman in space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, who in 1963 orbited the Earth 48 times in a flight that lasted nearly three days. At the time, some saw her flight as something of a propaganda stunt by the Soviets, who hailed it, as Premier Nikita Khrushchev stated, as "a triumph of Leninist ideas." Nevertheless, Tereshkova's flight put the U.S., which was slow to catch up, on the defensive. As NASA’s space program evolved in the 1970s, and astronauts became more than pilots who bravely circled the Earth in cramped spacecraft, it became apparent that scientists were needed on space missions, thus opening the door for qualified women. (Lucid, in addition to her background in biochemistry, is a commercial, instrument, and multi-engine rated pilot.)

The first six women graduated from the NASA astronaut program in 1978. One of those women was Sally K. Ride, who in 1983 became the first U.S. woman to travel in space. A physicist, Ride was a "mission specialist" on the six-day mission of the space shuttle Challenger in June 1983, during which she helped to deploy two communications satellites and used the shuttle's mechanical arm to retrieve a satellite that was drifting in space. Lucid was also a member of the 1978 graduating class, as was Judith Resnik, who died, along with six other crew members, when the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28, 1986. Another woman aboard, high school social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe, had been chosen to be NASA's first citizen-in-space. The first woman to pilot a space shuttle was Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Eileen M. Collins, who, in February 1995, flew the space shuttle Discovery to within 37 feet (11 m) of Mir in a test run for subsequent dockings.

Lucid's Flights

Even before Lucid completed her record-setting mission, she was a veteran of space flight. Her first mission was aboard the shuttle Discovery in June 1985, during which the crew deployed communications satellites for Mexico, the Arab League, and the U.S. She returned to space in 1989 and again in 1991 aboard the shuttle Atlantis. During that mission, the crew launched a satellite called TDRS, for Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. The TDRS was built to allow huge amounts of information to be easily transferred between orbiting spacecraft and ground stations. After that had been completed, the crew spent the rest of the mission conducting technical experiments on equipment for possible use in a planned space station. They also studied how the human body functions in space.

In 1993 Lucid flew aboard Columbia on a 14-day mission, then the longest in shuttle history, and a mission that NASA considered the most successful and efficient Spacelab flight it had ever flown. The crew focused on studying the human body's reaction to a zero-gravity environment, and, to that end, the crew performed neurovestibular, cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, and musculoskeletal medical experiments on themselves and 48 rats. By the time the mission was completed, Lucid had logged nearly 839 hours in space, making her NASA's most seasoned woman astronaut.



U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid aboard Mir.

On March 23, 1996, the space shuttle Atlantis carried Shannon Lucid to Mir. Although Lucid was not the first U.S. astronaut to live aboard the space station (U.S. astronaut Norman E. Thagard had completed a 110-day mission on Mir the previous June), she was the first U.S. woman to live aboard Mir. NASA planned to send a total of five astronauts to live on Mir in order to learn more about the effects of long space stays on the body. Lucid was the first of these astronauts, and was slated to live aboard Mir for 140 days. During her stay, she performed many life science and physical science experiments, including taking blood and urine samples from herself and her crewmates.

In July, NASA planned to launch the space shuttle Atlantis to ferry Lucid back to Earth, but was forced to delay the launch in order to replace booster rockets. The scheduled launch was again delayed when Hurricane Fran threatened Cape Canaveral with high winds and rain. On September 7, Lucid completed her 169th day in space, breaking Kondakova's previous record. Two months earlier, she had broken the record for longest stay in space by a U.S. astronaut (The current U.S. space flight endurance record of 196 days is held by astronauts Carl Walz and Dan Bursch). On September 19, Atlantis docked with Mir and delivered about 3,400 pounds (1,550 kg) of equipment, food, and other items. In return, samples collected by Lucid and other equipment were loaded on to Atlantis, and on September 23 the shuttle separated from Mir, leaving U.S. astronaut John Blaha in Lucid's place.

Three days later, Lucid, contrary to biologists' expectations, walked from Atlantis. Because of the detrimental effects of long space stays, scientists had assumed that she would need to be carried. Soon afterward, NASA physicians began monitoring Lucid for signs of loss of muscle strength, body fluids, and calcium from her bones. They also tested her breathing, balance, coordination, and strength to determine how her record-breaking stay in space had affected her.

Effects of Space Travel



Astronauts average about two hours less sleep each night than they do on Earth, hence fatigue is a considerable problem.

There was a time when people had serious doubts whether any living creatures could even survive a voyage into space. Today, of course, we recognize that humans can endure more than a year in space (the Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, the current record holder, lived aboard the Mir space station for nearly 438 days). However, long stays in space involve many challenges. For example, in a weightless environment, the fluids in the body, which gravity no longer pulls toward the feet, move upward, creating sinus and nasal stuffiness. Also, since they no longer need to resist gravity, the muscles, including the heart, gradually weaken, as do the bones, which lose density because they no longer need to bear any weight. When an astronaut returns to Earth, the weakened muscles and bones need to readjust to gravity, and fluids that have moved and been expelled by the body need to be replaced. For this reason, astronauts in space exercise regularly, using leg cycles, treadmills, and resistance devices, as well as weights. While aboard Mir, Lucid logged about 400 hours on its stationary bicycle and treadmill in an attempt to retain as much muscle mass as possible. Much of this science is in flux, and researchers are still learning how to use exercise effectively.

Sleep is another concern. Astronauts average about two hours less sleep each night than they do on Earth, and on some space shuttle missions as many as half of the crew take sleeping pills. Hence, fatigue is a considerable problem. Many astronauts also experience disorientation due to disruptions in sensors in the inner ear, which are part of the body's vestibular system. On Earth, these delicate sensors can feel the pull of gravity and inform the brain of the body's orientation. Disruption of the sensors leads to the common phenomenon of "space adaptation sickness," which can cause irritability, malaise, and occasional vomiting.

Other areas of concern include the weakening of the immune system, the effects of space radiation, and the need to maintain proper nutrition (the cuisine on a space station often leaves a lot to be desired). Finally, when Norman Thagard, the astronaut who previously held the U.S. record for the longest time in space, was asked what he found most challenging about his long-term space flight, he said that his "impression is that psychological aspects probably loom largest." It is not easy to thrive in such a cramped environment with so few people with whom to interact, and feelings of isolation are customary.

A Mission to Mars?

Does all this analysis and research on long-term sojourns in space have a practical value beyond speculation? In the early days of space travel it was assumed that humans would quickly venture deeper and deeper into the cosmos. Consider, for example, the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which premiered in 1968, a year before the first man set foot on the moon. Audiences had no problem finding it credible that by the dawn of the 21st century five astronauts would be traveling to Jupiter in a massive spacecraft guided by a talking computer named HAL, a menacing apparatus, as it turned out, with a mind of its own. That vision proved wildly optimistic. The last moon landing was in 1972, and there have been no manned space missions to other planets.

However, in January 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush announced an ambitious plan to set up a colony on the moon that would evolve into a base for a manned Mars voyage. His proposal foresaw the development by 2014 of a manned space exploration vehicle designed to travel outside Earth's orbit. His proposal also called for manned lunar voyages to restart between 2015 and 2020. The lunar expeditions would result in the establishment of a permanent base where astronauts could stay for long periods and from which a mission to Mars might later be launched. "We do not know where this journey will end," Bush said, "yet we know this: Human beings are headed into the cosmos." In September of the following year, NASA revealed details of its plans for a "crew exploration vehicle" that would replace the space shuttle for manned spaceflight missions, and detailed how the new spacecraft would be used as one of several modules in manned missions to the moon. NASA is planning to have the vehicle ready for use by 2012.

In order to fulfill Bush’s vision, scientists are going to need to know, first, how long humans really can live and work in space and, second, how they will be able to maintain good health on truly epic voyages. If they do someday set foot on the red planet, it will be because of the contributions of those astronauts - like Shannon Lucid - who spent long, difficult months so far from Earth.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


The Winchester House in San Jose, CA, took 38 years to build, from 1884 to 1922, at a cost of $.5 million. Erected by Sarah Winchester, the widow of millionaire rifle manufacturer Oliver Winchester, the 160-room mansion is an architectural marvel. It includes 13 bathrooms, 52 skylights, 10,000 windows, and 40 bedrooms. It's said that Mrs. Winchester constantly remodeled the house, adding secret passageways and blank walls to fool the resident ghosts. She believed the house was haunted by victims of her husband's guns.

Chronology — Events of August 2006


     Sen. Lieberman Loses Democratic Primary - Sen. Joseph Lieberman (CT), who had served in the U.S. Senate for 18 years and was his party’s 2000 vice-presidential nominee, was defeated in the Democratic senatorial primary in Connecticut on Aug. 8. Businessman Ned Lamont won 52% of the vote to Lieberman’s 48%. Lieberman’s loss was attributed mostly to his support for the war in Iraq, which Lamont opposed. Lieberman filed petition signatures Aug. 9 to run for re-election in November as an independent candidate.

     Incumbents Across the Country Face Difficult Challenges - In other primary elections where voter dissatisfaction was running high, incumbents had more difficulty than usual in trying to retain their offices. Two members of the U.S. House, Cynthia McKinney (D, GA) and John Schwarz (R, MI) lost primary elections Aug. 8. Gov. Frank Murkowski (R, AK) Aug. 22 finished last in a 3-way contest after receiving only 19% of the primary vote. U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R, OH), who had been linked to a scandal involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, said Aug. 7 that he would not seek re-election.
     The U.S. Supreme Court, through Circuit Justice Antonin Scalia, Aug. 7 rejected an appeal from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) to be taken off the November ballot in Texas. DeLay had resigned from Congress after being indicted, but had previously been chosen by his party to run on the ballot. The ruling meant that DeLay had to remain on the Texas ballot for re-election, even though he claimed that he had moved to Virginia. Texas Republican leaders said they would look for a replacement to serve as a write-in candidate.

     Rules That NSA Wiretap Program Is Illegal - A National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping program was ruled illegal Aug. 17 in U.S. District Court in Detroit, MI, by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor. In an approach backed by Pres. George W. Bush, the NSA had been secretly monitoring telephone conversations between persons in the U.S. with suspected terrorist links and persons in other countries. Taylor, the first judge to strike down the NSA’s program, said that such wiretaps violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which required authorities to get warrants from a special court that was set up specifically to facilitate this process. She said the wiretapping had also violated the Constitution’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. The U.S. Justice Dept. appealed the ruling.


     Israel, Hezbollah End Hostilities After 34 Days - The conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah ended in mid-August after 34 days of fighting. In an escalation Aug.1, Israel sent thousands more troops into Lebanon to attack sites from which Hezbollah was launching rockets. Undeterred, Hezbollah fired more than 200 rockets into northern Israel Aug. 2. Most fell harmlessly, but a similar barrage Aug. 3 killed 8 Israelis. Lebanon said Aug. 4 that 28 farm workers had died in an Israeli air raid. Hezbollah rockets Aug. 6 killed 12 soldiers in northern Israel. On Aug. 7, more than 40 died in an Israeli air attack on southern Beirut. Israel Aug. 8, announced the evacuation of 15,000 civilians living in the northernmost part of the country; in all, about 250,000 civilians had fled their homes because of the fighting in northern Israel. On Aug. 9, 15 Israeli troops were killed in Lebanon. Israeli’s security cabinet Aug. 9 voted to expand the offensive up to the Litani River, 18 miles north of the Israel-Lebanon border.
     The UN Security Council Aug. 11 unanimously approved Resolution 1701, which brought the war to an end when it became effective on Aug. 14. It called for "a full cessation of hostilities" by the opposing parties and expanded the UN Interim Force in Lebanon from 2,000 troops to 15,000. Also, Lebanon would deploy 15,000 troops in the Hezbollah-controlled southern part of the country. The resolution also called on all unofficial armed groups to disarm. Before the cease-fire became effective, an Israeli ground offensive pushed deeper into Lebanon while the Israeli air force resumed bombing in Beirut and elsewhere. On Aug. 12, 24 Israeli soldiers were killed, their highest daily total. Hezbollah fired more than 220 rockets Aug. 13.
     Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah claimed victory Aug. 14. Israel did the same, although it failed to secure the release of the 2 Israeli soldiers whose capture had started the conflict. Thousands of refugees on both sides of the border began returning to their homes in the war-torn regions on Aug. 14. Lebanon Aug. 17 began to deploy its army south of the Litani River, and some soldiers reached the Israeli border Aug. 18. On Aug. 22, Italy pledged up to 3,000 troops to the UN force. Pres. Jacques Chirac said Aug. 24 that France would contribute 2,000 troops.
     Most of the estimated 843 Lebanese people killed during the fighting were civilians. Among the 157 Israeli dead, 118 were soldiers. The human rights organization Amnesty International charged Aug. 23 that Israel had committed war crimes by targeting civilians and by its "indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks."

     Undergoes Surgery After Temporarily Ceding Power to Brother - Cuban dictator Fidel Castro underwent intestinal surgery Aug. 1, a day after he formally transferred temporary power to his brother Raul. The state-run television news reported that Fidel Castro was in stable condition after the operation. On Aug. 13, Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday, a Cuban newspaper printed photographs of the recuperating leader and a message from him saying Cubans should be prepared for "whatever adverse news." A video on television Aug. 14 showed the Castro brothers meeting with Pres. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

     Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Continues - Israelis launched new air strikes Aug. 4 against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, Israeli troops Aug. 6 seized the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Dweik, who was also a Hamas official. On Aug. 27, militants in the Gaza Strip released 2 Fox News journalists who had been held captive for 13 days.

     Civil War Remains a Concern in Iraq - Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Aug. 3, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said, "Sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it in is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war." At the same hearing, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he thought civil war was possible but not probable.
     Bombings and shootings across the country Aug. 1 led to the deaths of 44 civilians. A suicide bomb attack in Najaf Aug. 10 killed at least 35. Bombings in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad Aug. 13 killed 63 and wounded 140. About 50 Iraqis were killed in scattered violence Aug. 12. That same day U.S. troops killed 26 insurgents in west Baghdad. A suicide car bomber killed 9 at the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Mosul. In Karbala, 12 people were killed in battles between Iraqi security forces and insurgents. At least 19 were killed in bomb attacks across Baghdad Aug. 16. Seven people were killed and 20 others were wounded Aug. 17 when a car bomb exploded in Sadr City. At a news conference Aug. 21, Pres. Bush acknowledged that Iraq was "straining the psyche of our country," but he declared, "we’re not leaving so long as I’m the president." On Aug. 26, hundreds of tribal chiefs signed a "pact of honor" supporting national reconciliation and opposing sectarian strife. Bombs and gunfire killed 100 Iraqis Aug. 27 and 28. Nine U.S. service personnel were killed Aug 28. Insurgent bombings on Aug. 30 killed at least 47 people.
     Former Pres. Saddam Hussein and 6 others went on trial in Baghdad Aug. 21 on charges related to the deaths of thousands of Kurds in 1988. Other defendants included Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, who allegedly ordered chemical gas attacks on Kurds. The prosecutor charged that the campaign against the Kurds amounted to genocide.

     Lethal Violence Grows in Afghanistan - Combat deaths and other acts of violence claimed a growing number of victims in Afghanistan throughout August. Three British NATO force soldiers were killed in action Aug. 1. In the Panjwai district, 21 civilians died Aug. 3 in a suicide bombing. From Aug. 3 to 11, 7 Canadian soldiers in the NATO force were killed. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Nuristan Aug. 11. A U.S. air strike in Kunar Aug. 17 resulted in the accidental deaths of 12 Afghan policemen. A suicide bomber killed 17 in Helmand Province Aug. 28.

     British Arrest 24 in Airplane Bomb Plot - British authorities Aug. 9 arrested 24 people in London, Birmingham, and High Wycombe, breaking up a major terrorist plot to bomb airplanes flying from Britain to the U.S. Police said that the suspects, all Muslims born in Britain, were going to set off liquid explosives that they would carry onto the airplanes possibly in shampoo and water bottles; as many as 10 planes were thought to be targets. Evidence seized included chemicals to make liquid explosives and so-called martyrdom videos - taped messages made by would-be suicide bombers to be played after their deaths. Many flights into and out of Britain were cancelled, and many others were delayed.
     Pakistani police Aug. 11 arrested a British-born man Aug. 9 in the same plot. That same day, Britain released one of the 24 who had been arrested. By Aug. 30, a total of 12 of the suspects were formally charged with conspiracy to commit murder and preparing acts of terrorism, and 3 others were charged with lesser crimes.

     Iran Replies to UN on Nuclear Technology - Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Aug. 21 that Iran would continue its current nuclear technology program without regard to pressure from other nations. The next day, the Iranian government responded to the June UN proposal aimed at turning Iran away from the enrichment of uranium. The text of Iran’s response was not immediately made public. The UN had threatened sanctions if Iran did not, by the end of August, halt enrichment, a necessary step in the construction of atomic weapons. Iran expanded its nuclear program Aug. 26 by inaugurating a heavy-water plant.


     JonBenet Ramsey Murder Confession Proved False - Authorities in Bangkok, Thailand, arrested John Mark Karr Aug. 16, for the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a 6-year-old beauty queen from Boulder, CO. Then, 12 days later, the case collapsed when DNA evidence found at the murder scene did not match Karr’s. Karr became a suspect after Michael Terry, a professor of journalism at the University of Colorado who had made documentary films on the death of JonBenet Ramsey, notified Boulder authorities that he had received emails from Karr showing great interest in the murder.
     Speaking to reporters Aug. 17 after his arrest, Karr claimed he had been with JonBenet when she died and that her death was an accident. Karr had been arrested in 2001 for possessing child pornography. Disputing his confession, Karr’s ex-wife, Lara Knutson, said she had no recollection of him being gone from their Alabama home at the time of the murder, Dec. 26, 1996. Karr Aug. 20 was flown to Los Angeles where he was held pending trial. In Boulder, Aug. 28, County Dist. Atty. Mary Lacy announced that DNA tests had failed to connect Karr with the crime, and she asked that the arrest warrant be dismissed.

     Pluto Demoted to Status of ‘Dwarf Planet’ - Pluto, known since its discovery in 1930 as the smallest and most distant planet in the solar system, suffered a hit to its reputation Aug. 24. The International Astronomical Union, meeting in Prague, redefined Pluto as a dwarf planet. The 8 remaining planets, in the order of their distance from the sun, are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune were designated as classical planets.

     Tiger Woods Takes PGA Golf Title - Tied for the lead after 54 holes, Tiger Woods shot a 4-under-par 68 in the final round to win the PGA title by 5 strokes at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois Aug. 20. With his 12th victory in a major tournament, Woods trailed only Jack Nicholas, who had won 18 "majors."

Sports Feature — Vincent G. Spadafora

The 3-4 Defense

Last month, I described in this space the 4-3 defense, the most commonly used defense in the NFL today. You may want to read that piece before diving into this one since so much of what follows requires some knowledge of the 4-3.

The best way to explain the 3-4, is to compare it to the 4-3. The 3-4 is so named because the formation calls for three defensive linemen, and four linebackers, which is the opposite of the 4-3. That much is easy. The bigger differences lie in the personnel used and the overall strategy. More than a formation, the 3-4 is a general philosophy toward defense. Unlike the attacking style of the 4-3, the 3-4 takes more of a team approach toward defense with players relying on each other more to do their jobs in order for the scheme to work. The most visible difference between the schemes is seen when defending the pass. When passing the ball against the 4-3, the offense knows that 4 linemen will rush the quarterback and they can coordinate their blocking assignments accordingly. Against the 3-4, the offense knows that 3 players will be rushing the quarterback, but it doesn’t know where the fourth one will come from. It can be any one of the linebackers coming in on any angle. Though not an insurmountable problem for seasoned offensive linemen, it does add another wrinkle.

In the 4-3, the defensive tackles’ jobs are to rush into the gaps between the offensive linemen to shut down running lanes and make a tackle (this is called "1-gap style" because the linemen are only responsible for their assigned gap to cover), while the defensive ends, try to rush on the outside and generally harass the quarterback. It’s basically a sort of a "kill the guy with the ball" mentality. Linemen in the 3-4 are told to do almost the opposite. Their job is to take on blocks and force offensive linemen to double team them. To the casual fan, or disinterested party forced to watch this stuff, this difference may not seem like much because essentially, the players in both schemes are trying to pig-pile on the quarterback. But the difference is huge to those on the field. The 3-4 forces defensive linemen to play differently from the way they’ve (likely) been taught throughout their careers. Many players dislike the 3-4 because they have to switch to a style that doesn’t allow them to make as many tackles as they would in a 4-3 scheme.

The defensive line in the 3-4 is made up of two defensive ends, which line up opposite offensive tackles, and a nosetackle, which lines up directly in front of the center (or "on the nose" as they like to say). Linemen in the 3-4 are generally bigger than their counterparts in the 4-3. As for the associated jargon, you may hear TV announcers talk about the "2-gap" style of play that is indicative of the 3-4. All this means is that defensive linemen are responsible for the two gaps on either side of the offensive lineman in front of them as opposed to the "1-gap" style mentioned above.

The key to a successful 3-4 is the nosetackle. They are responsible for the gaps between the center and guards. Good nosetackles are vicious beasts. When the ball is hiked, the nosetackle’s job is to launch his body into the center and force the offensive line to double or even triple team him. Though it’s always a plus if he makes a tackle, the nosetackle is there to punish the offensive line, and eliminate any hope the offense has of running the ball up the middle. Nosetackles are generally huge. Ted Washington, nosetackle for the Cleveland Browns and one of the best ever, weighs more than 365 lbs.

The job of the defensive ends is similar to the nosetackle in the sense that they have to occupy offensive linemen. But they are also expected to shed their blocks and rush the quarterback when he goes back to pass. Richard Seymour of the New England Patriots is arguably the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

The linebackers of the 3-4 are the real playmakers. The outside linebackers (OLBs) line up on the line of scrimmage, standing, just outside of the defensive ends. OLBs are hybrid players typically in the 235-260 lb weight range. In a 4-3 they wouldn’t be linebackers but instead they would be pass-rushing defensive ends. OLBs in the 3-4 must be big enough to take on blockers, but fast enough to run at the quarterback or fall back into pass coverage. Cleveland Browns’ OLB Willie McGinest started out as a defensive end early in his career, but later became an incredible OLB in the 3-4.

The inside linebackers (ILBs) each stand about 4 yards off the line of scrimmage in the gaps between the nosetackle and defensive ends. Their counterparts in the 4-3 are mike linebackers, but their jobs are very different. ILBs have to "hold the point of attack," which is coach-speak for not letting the offensive guys get past the line of scrimmage. To further simplify their job, if it’s a run, ILBs have to charge into the running gap, shed blockers, and tackle the guy with the ball; if it’s a pass, they have to drop back into coverage. The difference for linebackers in the 4-3, is that they have more of a "see the ball, run to the ball" mentality, and worry more about ripping the head off the ballcarrier than they do about holding the point of attack. Zack Thomas of the Miami Dolphins is a particularly ferocious ILB in the 3-4 who is equally adept at holding the point of attack and ripping the head off the ballcarrier.

(As for strong-side and weak-side linebackers and how such designation affects their roles in the 3-4, it’s simply too complicated to get into in this space. One thing that can be said is that its effect on linebacker play is almost, but not quite, the same as it is with linebacker play in the 4-3.)

Cornerbacks and safeties in the 3-4 do the same things that they do in the 4-3. So we don’t need to get into that.

There you have it, the 3-4 defense.

Here are a few teams that run the 3-4 defense:
Cleveland Browns
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers

Science in the News: No Sponge Left Behind - Elisheva Coleman

It sounds like a ludicrous sitcom plotline, but unfortunately it’s all too real. Every year, about 3,000 Americans leave the operating room with an unwanted souvenir—a piece of surgical equipment left behind in the body cavity. Most often, the forgotten item is a surgical sponge, a simple piece of gauze used to absorb blood or hold tissues in place while surgeons work. A sponge gets left behind about once every 15,000 operations, and though that number is low, these rare mistakes can cause nasty infections, require additional surgery, and occasionally kill. Now, doctors are turning to a technology used to prevent shoplifting to spot misplaced sponges before patients leave the OR.

Turn the Radio Up

Radio frequency ID (RFID) tags are microchips that act as tiny transponders. When a tag is exposed to radio waves of a certain frequency, it emits a signal - either a radio signal beamed back to the transmitter, or an audible beep. Retailers affix them to clothing and place scanners at exits, so that if a customer tries to swipe merchandise, the RFID beeps as the thief leaves the store. Alex Macario, a surgeon at Stanford University School of Medicine, thinks the same concept could be applied to surgical sponges. Every sponge would carry an RFID tag, and before surgeons closed up, they would scan patients with a handheld, radio wave-emitting detector. If a sponge were hiding in the wound, it should let out a radio holler and give itself away.

Certain features make RFID tags ideal for use in sponge-detection. For one thing, they're small - about the size of a penny. They derive all the power they need to send a radio signal from the scanner’s incoming radio waves, so they don't need batteries. Finally, each tag emits a unique signal, so that the scanner can't pick up the same tag twice.

As things stand now, it’s not as if OR staffs just throw sponges around willy-nilly. Nearly all hospitals have strict protocols meant to keep track of sponges and other equipment and ensure that at the end of an operation everything is accounted for. Nurses count sponges three times: before surgery begins, before surgeons start sewing an incision, and before the skin is closed. But in complicated operations, and especially in emergency situations when personnel are working under pressure, keeping tabs on dozens, sometimes hundreds, of small gauze squares can get dicey. Humans make mistakes, and Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public health specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, believes that the rate of retained foreign bodies (a fancy term for objects left inside a body that don't belong there) is as low as it can go without taking human error out of the equation. "If we want to reduce errors," Gawande told, "we have to think of technological solutions."

Surgical Scavenger Hunt

Collaborating with ClearCount Medical Solutions, a company that manufactures medical equipment, Macario put the RFID idea to the test. ClearCount produced sponges with a 20 millimeter (about ¾ of an inch) RFID chip sewn into one corner, and devised a handheld detector that consists of a foot-long wand attached to a transceiver about the size of a toaster oven. Working in pairs, Macario’s colleagues at Stanford tested the equipment by engaging in the surgical equivalent of a hunt for pirate’s gold. While one surgeon looked away, the other hid zero, one, or two tagged sponges inside a patient’s open incision. (All patients consented to be part of the trial.) The hiders also planted regular, untagged sponges as controls. Then the first surgeon used the detector wand to sniff out hidden sponges.

RFID proved far more effective than a metal-detector on a beach - in fact, it was 100% successful. In all 8 trial patients, the wand-wielding surgeon found every tagged sponge in 3 seconds or less. There were no false positives or false negatives - meaning that the wand never beeped when there was no RFID tagged sponge, and never failed to beep when one was present. (In ClearCount’s RFID setup, the tags emitted an inaudible radio signal that the detector picked up, causing the wand, rather than the tag itself, to beep.) Macario had worried that patients’ bodies might block the radio signal, or that other electric equipment in the operating room might interfere, but the tiny RFID tags were apparently unfazed by conditions in the OR.

Eliminating Error

While Macario is eager to see RFID tags in every surgical sponge in America, he acknowledges that there is more to be done before the idea can be implemented on a large scale. For one thing, the tags will need to be super cheap, since U.S. operating rooms run through about 2 billion sponges per year. Some of the cost, Gawande pointed out, may be offset by savings on legal fees related to forgotten sponges. He estimates that hospitals spend about $300 million a year settling retained-foreign-body lawsuits. Even at current prices (20-40 cents apiece), $300 million will buy a lot of RFID tags!

Beyond economics, further testing will be required to ensure that RFID tags and scanners are totally reliable and are not prone to failure. Doctors who participated in the study complained that the wand was bulky and cumbersome, so ClearCount is working on a more streamlined prototype. Gawande would like to see a scanner that is operated automatically rather than by humans, to eliminate the possibility of human error from improper handling of the scanning device.

One day, Macario imagines, every instrument and article in the OR will be RFID tagged. For now, he'll have to stick with sponges, since today’s RFID tags are larger than some surgical devices. Experts say RFIDs can be shrunk further, and ClearCount is working on developing tinier tags.

With Macario, Gawande and other surgeons working to get RFID tags off the ground, the telltale beep that has long foiled would-be shoplifters may soon be ringing for patients in operating rooms across the country. If it does, it'll be music to their ears.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


The total deforestation of Easter Island in the southern Pacific Ocean led to the collapse of the civilization that had constructed the island's famous stone monuments. Easter Islanders completely deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues, as well as in constructing fishing boats and buildings. With no timber, fishing ceased and starvation followed. A new forest (of mostly eucalyptus trees) began to grow there only recently.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Guard Dog Attacks Elvis’s Teddy Bear

On August 2, 2006, a Doberman Pinscher guard dog destroyed one of the "Hound Dog" singer’s childhood mementos. The guard dog named Barney, of the British museum Wookey Hole Caves, attacked Mabel, a teddy bear Presley had owned as a child, severing its head.

About 100 other bears were damaged in the attack, and some of them had "quite devastating injuries," according to Daniel Medley, the museum’s general director.

"Barney has been a model guard dog for over 6 years. I still can’t believe what happened," explained his handler, Greg West, of Bristol. "Either there was a rogue scent of some kind on Mabel which switched on Barney’s deepest instincts, or it could have been jealousy: I was just stroking Mabel and saying what a nice little bear she was."

One witness said the dog went crazy, growling as it leapt at the collection of hundreds of rare teddy bears, reportedly worth $900,000.

The Elvis bear was owned by British aristocrat Benjamin Slade, who bought it at an auction in Memphis, TN, for over $50,000 and had loaned it to the museum for the exhibition.

Mabel’s head, the museum reported, was later recovered.

Toss a Phone, Win a Prize

Have you ever wanted to hurl a phone? You’re not alone. In Savonlinna, Finland, on August 26, 2006, phone-hurling aficionados competed for prizes at the seventh annual Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships. The Finns aren’t known for conventional competition (they originated the World Wife-Carrying Competition, after all), but 100 contestants showed up from as far away as Canada to ‘recycle’ castaway cell phones.

Finland’s own Lassi Etelatalo, who trained for the competition with a javelin, brought home the gold in the men’s competition after chucking a discarded Nokia about 292 feet. The women’s champion, who admitted she’d thrown a phone several times - and not to train for the contest - set a new record at 167 feet. The freestyle contest was nearly won by Dutchman Elie Rugthoven, who won the judges over with his phone juggling prowess, but his phone landed outside the designated area and he had to settle for silver.

Contest founder Christine Lund gathers old cell phones destined for the dump and provides them for entrants. "People choose by size, by color or by how it fits in the hand....Some believe a heavy model will ensure a long throw, some want a light one," said Lund.

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

As the 5th anniversary of September 11th approaches next week, I’m listing some groups that want to use the positive spirit that emerged after that tragic day to create an environment of remembrance, while at the same time encouraging people to do something positive as a way to honor those lost. My Good Deed is the official website of One Day’s Pay, an organization which was created to honor those who died on September 11th, their rescuers, their survivors, and all of those who volunteered their time that day and afterwards. Their goal is to make September 11th a National Day of Volunteering Service. Learn more about this group at: The September 11th Project is a group that encourages groups worldwide to host discussions, dialogue, and talks in libraries - public, academic and school - on democracy, citizenship, patriotism, and other issues that matter. Check it out at: Peaceful Tomorrows is an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn their grief into action for peace. Learn more about this organization at Families of September 11th (R) is a group that seeks to raise awareness about the effects of terrorism and public trauma, and to support domestic and international policies that respond to the threat of terrorism. This group also has a listing of events that will occur surrounding the 5th anniversary. Visit the site at:


U.S. National Archives

Buchenwald, 1945. Wiesel is on the second row, seventh from the left.

Last month I read Elie Wiesel's moving work Night, a memoir of the Holocaust. Wiesel was born in Transylvania (now Romania), and in 1944 when he was fifteen, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp. He was immediately separated from his mother and one of his sisters, who he never saw again. Wiesel and his father survived together for a year under harsh conditions, until January 1945, when his father died of dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion, after being beaten by a guard. In 1955 Wiesel wrote a 900-page work in Yiddish titled Un die welt hot geshvign (And the world kept silent); it was later adapted into a 127-page book in French titled La Nuit, and then published in English under the name Night. Wiesel has spent his life bearing witness for those who died and was awarded the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, because it was felt that Wiesel had delivered a powerful message "of peace, atonement and human dignity" to the world. Learn more about Wiesel at The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity:

My friend Chuck suggested I use the Popularity Dialer as a website this month. At this site you can schedule a specific time to receive a prerecorded phone call that provides one half of a phony conversation–so that you can get out of a meeting, a date or anything else you think a phone call would help you with. Hmmm, I wonder how often Chuck has used this site? Check it out at:


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Malouf Family Reunion, August 2006

During the twelve month period from September 2005 to August 2006 I met 48 cousins for the first time through my travels to São Paulo, Brazil; Longarone, Italy; and Salt Lake City, Utah. It's been an exciting time for me. On my last trip of the summer, to Salt Lake City, over forty family members and their families met at a reunion of my paternal grandmother's twin. If you are thinking of having a family reunion, here are ten steps to planning one, along with other interesting tips: A number of my cousins at the reunion wanted to know how we were related, and I had a family tree listing which showed the different generations. If you want to know just how your cousins are related to you, check out a table of consanguinity (people who are related to a single ancestor at

American Andre Agassi said a tearful goodbye to tennis at the US Open on Sunday, September 3rd, after playing his 21st consecutive tournament, which resulted in a loss to German Benjamin Becker. Agassi turned professional at the age of 16 and developed into a tenacious competitor, with what many consider one of the best service returns in the history of the game. He ultimately won eight Grand Slam singles titles during his career. In 2001 he married tennis player Steffi Graf, the winner of 22 Grand Slams. Outside of his tennis career, Agassi has been honored for his many charitable efforts. In 1994 he established the Andre Agassi Foundation to help at-risk youth in his hometown, Las Vegas, Nevada. Learn more about the organization at:


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Rep#LC-DIG-pga-03226

President George Washington

On September 19th, two hundred and ten years ago, many U.S. newspapers printed President George Washington's carefully prepared farewell address, marking the end of his presidency. The address, initially prepared in 1792 with the help of James Madison (in the event that Washington had not accepted a second term), was updated with the help of Alexander Hamilton. Washington addressed three themes, which included a call for Americans to unite for the good of the country and to overcome party rancor, for the U.S. to avoid entangling alliances, and for the preservation of a national morality. Read the original address at: at

Hey, did you pick up your free iced grande beverage at Starbucks last week? Several of my co-workers showed up at Starbucks with their coupon in hand only to discover that it had originally been a real coupon for a limited group of Starbucks employees, but it was redirected on the internet "beyond the original intent and modified beyond Starbucks control." It was thus cancelled and no longer valid. Okay, so if you didn't get the free coffee, then you certainly must have gotten the free cash or merchandise from Microsoft? Okay, so that's fake too. If you get an e-mail with an offer than seems too good to be true, or promises you something unrealistic, pay a visit to a website that attempts to provide you with accurate information about rumors and urban legends.

I must admit that my experience with video games doesn't extend much beyond Pac-Man, which I played during college (a few years ago!). Video games have become a multi-billion dollar business and new generations of kids have grown up playing them. If you want to know about the history of video games visit:

I have collected various items during my life, including (in alphabetical order): autographs, books, cameras, commemorative flattened pennies, floaty pens, kitchen utensils, matchbooks, Mr. Peanut stuff, PEZ dispensers, photographs, pinback buttons, presidential and first lady memorabilia, radios, salt & pepper shakers, snow domes, spoons, and World's Fair memorabilia… but one thing I have not collected is toothpaste. Other people, however, do:


Quote of the Month

"One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak".
     - G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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