The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 06, Number 11 — November 2006


Official On-Sale Date Nov. 14. Available Now at many locations!


Since its debut in 1868, The World Almanac and Book of Facts has become the best-selling American reference book of all time, with more than 80 million copies in print. This essential household and workplace desk reference is "the most useful reference book known to modern man," according to the L.A. Times. Renowned New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz calls it his "#1 reference work for facts."

Completely updated, The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2007 provides reliable, authoritative information on a wide range of topics from science and technology, to education and entertainment, to world history and sports. In its browseable, completely indexed format, this book helps you find essential facts that could take hours or days to hunt down online, if you could find them at all.

This year’s special features include a new "World at a Glance" roundup of key facts; the annual favorite "Top Ten News Stories of the Year"; a historical and statistical rundown of "The Oil Price Rollercoaster"; and a window into the lives of our armed forces through "Blogs from Soldiers and Their Families: Voices of Service to America." Plus, this year, for the first time ever, The World Almanac offers readers free bonus content online at, through a password provided with the book. World Almanac buyers can peruse classic World Almanac essays, facts and figures from past presidential elections, sports biographies, and cover art from The World Almanac‘s 139-year history.

What's in this issue?

November Month Events
November Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — November
November Birthdays
Travel - Cayman Islands
Obituaries - October 2006
Special Feature: The Decline and Fall of Enron
Chronology - October 2006
Sports Feature
Science in the News: Tree Rings: Decoding Messages from Nature
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

November Events

November 3-5 - National Farm Toy Show (Dyersville, IA); Pacific DanceSport Championships (Los Angeles)
November 4 - Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships (Louisville, KY)
November 5 - New York City Marathon
November 7 - Melbourne Cup (Melbourne, Australia)
November 9-11 - Longhorn Championship Finals Rodeo (Murfreesboro, TN)
November 10-12 - Four Corner States Bluegrass Festival (Wickenburg, AZ); Waterfowl Festival (Easton, MD)
November 11 - Lord Mayor’s Show (London, England)
November 13 - National Gingerbread House Competition (Asheville, NC)
November 13-December 20 - Triple Crown of Surfing (Oahu, HI)
November 15-21 - NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer National Championships (Daytona Beach, FL)
November 16 - Great American Smokeout
November 17 - Fantasy of Light Parade (Wheeling, WV)
November 18 - Custer State Park Buffalo Auction (Custer, SD)
November 19 - Mother Goose Parade (El Cajon, CA)
November 23 - Atlanta Marathon
November 24 - "Black Friday"/Buy Nothing Day
November 24-25 - World’s Championship Duck-Calling Contest and Wings Over the Prairie Festival (Stuttgart, AR)

November Holidays — National and International

November 1 - All Saints’ Day
November 1-2 - Da de los Muertos (Brazil, Mexico)
November 2 - All Souls’ Day
November 5 - Guy Fawkes Day (UK)
November 7 - Election Day
November 11 - Veterans Day; Remembrance Day (Canada)
November 14 - Children’s Day (India)
November 15 - Shichi-Go-San (Japan)
November 23 - Thanksgiving Day

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


The most medals won in Olympic competition, by either a man or woman, is 18 by Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union. She won a total of nine gold medals, five silver, and four bronze between 1956 and 1964.

This Day In History — November

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1981 Antigua and Barbuda, a group of islands in the West Indies, becomes independent.
02 2003 The U.S. Episcopal Church consecrates Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, its first openly gay bishop.
03 1493 The West Indies islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe are sighted and named by Christopher Columbus.
04 1979 Militant followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini take 63 Americans hostage at the American embassy in Tehran, Iran.
05 1914 Great Britain and France declare war on Turkey during World War I.
06 1999 In a national referendum, Australian voters choose, 55%-45%, to retain the British monarch as head of state.
07 1659 The Peace of the Pyrenees ends 24 years of warfare between France and Spain.
08 1889 The Bronx Zoo, one of the world's largest zoos, opens to the public.
09 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte and fellow conspirators seize power and establish a new regime in France.
10 1871 Explorer Henry Stanley finds the missing missionary David Livingstone in Africa.
11 1965 In Rhodesia, the white government of Ian D. Smith declares independence from Great Britain.
12 1918 After Charles I, the emperor of Austria-Hungary, abdicates, Austria and Hungary are proclaimed republics.
13 1956 The Supreme Court overturns Alabama laws requiring racial segregation on intrastate buses.
14 1885 Serbia declares war on Bulgaria.
15 1935 The Philippines' commonwealth status, a stage on the way to full independence, is formally established with Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina as the first president.
16 1933 The United States and the Soviet Union begin diplomatic relations.
17 1558 England's Queen Mary I dies and is succeeded by Elizabeth I.
18 1993 South Africa adopts a new constitution that grants blacks basic civil rights.
19 1620 The Pilgrims reach Cape Cod, MA.
20 1789 New Jersey becomes the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
21 1995 After talks outside Dayton, OH, the warring parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina reach agreement to end their conflict.
22 1497 Explorer Vasco da Gama rounds the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.
23 2005 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is confirmed as the winner of the Liberian presidential elections, becoming the first woman to be elected as a head of state in modern Africa.
24 1995 Irish voters narrowly agree to end the Irish Republic's constitutional ban on divorce.
25 1975 Suriname is granted independence by the Dutch Parliament.
26 1789 The U.S. celebrates Thanksgiving Day for the first time.
27 1095 The Crusades begin formally when Pope Urban II preaches a sermon in Clermont-Ferrand, France outlining his plan for a Crusade and calling on his listeners to join its ranks.
28 1916 During World War I, the first German airplane raid on London takes place.
29 1929 Richard E. Byrd and Brent Balchen pilot the first flight over the South Pole.
30 1939 The Soviet Union invades Finland.

November Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1935 Gary Player, golfer (Johannesburg, South Africa)
02 1953 Alfre Woodard, actress (Tulsa, OK)
03 1956 Phil Simms, football quarterback and sportscaster (Lebanon, KY)
04 1946 Laura Bush, First Lady (Midland, TX)
05 1941 Elke Sommer, actress (Berlin, Germany)
06 1946 Sally Field, actress (Pasadena, CA)
07 1926 Joan Sutherland, opera singer (Sydney, Australia)
08 1916 June Havoc, actress (Seattle, WA)
09 1936 Mary Travers, singer (Louisville, KY)
10 1944 Tim Rice, lyricist (Amersham, England)
11 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr., novelist (Indianapolis, IN)
12 1961 Nadia Comaneci, Olympic champion gymnast (Romania)
13 1963 Vinny Testaverde, football player (New York, NY)
14 1922 Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN Secretary-General (Cairo, Egypt)
15 1942 Daniel Barenboim, musician/conductor (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
16 1946 Jo Jo White, basketball player (St. Louis, MO)
17 1944 Tom Seaver, baseball pitcher (Fresno, CA)
18 1974 Chlo Sevigny, actress (Springfield, MA)
19 1936 Yuan Tseh Lee, chemist and Nobel laureate (Hsinchu, Taiwan)
20 1926 Kaye Ballard, actress (Cleveland, OH)
21 1966 Troy Aikman, football quarterback (West Covina, CA)
22 1941 Tom Conti, actor (Paisley, Scotland)
23 1933 Krzysztof Penderecki, composer (Debica, Poland)
24 1925 William F. Buckley Jr., columnist/author (New York, NY)
25 1920 Ricardo Montalban, actor (Mexico City, Mexico)
26 1939 Tina Turner, singer (Brownsville, TN)
27 1976 Jaleel White, actor (Los Angeles, CA)
28 1908 Claude Lvi-Strauss, social anthropologist (Brussels, Belgium)
29 1918 Madeleine L'Engle, children's author (New York, NY)
30 1955 Billy Idol, singer (London, England)

Travel - Cayman Islands

The Caymans - three elongated islands bathing in the Caribbean less than 500 mi (800 km) south of Miami, Fla. - are a magnet for vacationers. The limestone tips of an underwater mountain chain, they offer just the right conditions for snorkeling and diving, with visibility often exceeding 125 ft (38 m). Needless to say, the fishing is great. Add to the mix the islands' fine beaches, the opportunities for bird-watching and enjoying the lush scenery, and the British flavor (they are classed as a British overseas territory), and you can see why the Caymans boast the highest ratio of visitors to residents in the Caribbean. Helping to energize the local tourist industry is the islands' other major industry - offshore financial services. More than 300 banks reportedly have offices in the capital, George Town, and over 900 issues are listed on the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange.

The islands are further enlivened by special events. One of the most popular comes toward the end of the year - in 2006 from November 8 to 19 - when islanders stage their national festival. Pirates Week, as it is called, features music, street dances, fireworks, a parade, parties, costume contests, and sports events, along with an actual (so to speak) pirate invasion, watched by thousands. (You could also prepare for the trip two months ahead, or imagine it instead of going, if you observed International Talk Like a Pirate Day, held every year on September 19).

Grand Cayman


Grand Cayman

The biggest of the Caymans, at 76 sq mi (200 sq km), is Grand Cayman. It is home to the overwhelming majority of the islands' 40,000 or so residents. George Town offers enough sights for a pleasant walking tour, although not many of interest to history buffs. The 18th-century Fort George, built of coral rock, is represented only by a bit of wall, along with a plaque. On the waterfront the city's oldest major building, the 19th-century Old Courts Building, is worth a visit. It houses the Cayman Islands National Museum, whose exhibits focus mainly on natural history and the islands' cultural history. Also on the waterfront, in Harbour Place, is the Caymans' small National Gallery.

North of George Town lies Grand Cayman's celebrated Seven Mile Beach. The area is heavily developed - hotels, condos, and the like - but the beach's white sands lie there unscathed for visitors to enjoy. And there are two key attractions at the northwest end of the island. One is Hell. That's the name given to a patch of jagged black rocks that, equipped with a little red post office, has become a popular tourist trap. The other is what is reputed to be the world's only turtle farm, home to thousands of green turtles ranging in size from a few ounces to hundreds of pounds. The farm was devastated (along with much of the rest of Grand Cayman) by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but it has been relocated to a new 23-acre (9-ha) marine park called Boatswain's Beach, which also features two snorkel lagoons, a tank for predators such as sharks and eels, an aviary, and a nature trail.

The bulk of Grand Cayman lies east of George Town. A new residential resort development called Cayman Grand Harbour is taking shape there. The Black Pearl Skate & Surf Park, located there, has 52,000 sq ft (4800 sq m) of concrete bowls and half and quarter pipes; it ranks as the world's biggest outdoor concrete skateboarding facility. The Surf Park boasts a surf machine reputed to be the only one of its type capable of producing 11-ft (3.4-m) waves.

Also east of George Town is the Pedro St. James National Historic Site, a restoration of an 18th-century Caribbean plantation house that was the Caymans' "birthplace of democracy." Now a museum, the house was the site of an 1831 meeting that marked the beginning of representative government in the islands. Farther east lies the 65-acre (26-ha) Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park; it houses specimens of half of all the various plants native to the islands, along with birds and other wildlife, including the endangered Cayman blue iguana. Other vantage points for bird watchers, in the area east of George Town, are the Mastic Trail, a two-century-old 2-mi (3-km) footpath through a woodland reserve, and the Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary.

Sister islands

About 89 mi (143 km) east-northeast of Grand Cayman are two smaller, less-populated, more tranquil sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. They lie about 7 mi (11 km) apart. The 10-sq-mi (26-sq-km) Little Cayman is flat, like Grand Cayman. But a limestone ridge or bluff (brac is "bluff" in Gaelic) runs along the length of Cayman Brac, which measures some 14 sq mi (36-sq-km) in area and has about 1600 residents. The bluff reaches a height of 140 ft (43 m) at the eastern end, where it breaks off at the sea in a sheer cliff. There are numerous caves in the bluff; they were once used, according to legend, by pirates for hiding their treasure. The small Cayman Brac Museum at Stake Bay displays artifacts from the island's past. A 180-acre (73-ha) Parrot Reserve protects the breeding area of the rare emerald green Cayman Brac parrot. Other species of note that one can espy on the island include brown boobies, frigate birds, and peregrine falcons.

Little Cayman's population is much smaller--under 200, and much of the island is untouched wetland. The 203-acre (82-ha) Booby Pond Nature Reserve is the nesting ground for as many as 10,000 red-footed boobies, making it the biggest breeding colony of the seabirds in the western hemisphere. Also nesting here are magnificent frigate birds. The island has dozens of fine dive sites, but Bloody Bay Marine Park constitutes one of the most spectacular in the world: a coral wall beginning at 20 ft (6 m) drops quickly to 6000 ft (1800 m).

Festivities and other events

Pirates Week may be the Caymans' best-known festival, but it is not the only one. Grand Cayman celebrates its version of the colorfully costumed carnival, which it calls Batabano, around Easter. A week later, Cayman Brac holds its own party, known as Brachanal. The Cayman National Cultural Foundation stages Cayfest, the Cayman Islands Arts Festival, in April. Another major event on the annual calendar is the monthlong Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament at the beginning of summer.

Cayman National Cultural Foundation
Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
Cayman Islands Government
Pirates Week Festival

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


The Japanese construction company Kongo Gumi spans 40 generations, back to 578 AD. A Korean carpenter named Shigemitsu Kongo was hired in 593 to build a Buddhist temple in Osaka, by Prince Shotoku, who was one of the first in Japan to embrace what was then a new religion. Kongo stayed in Japan and his descendants have been building Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines ever since.

Obituaries in Past Month 2006

Auerbach, Red, 89, basketball coach who guided the Boston Celtics to a record eight consecutive NBA championships from 1959 to 1966; Washington, DC, Oct. 28, 2006.

Botha, P(ieter) W(illem), 90, leader of South Africa’s white-minority government, as prime minister and, later, president, from 1978 to 1989; he struggled vainly to preserve apartheid, which totally unraveled under the government of his successor, F. W. de Klerk; Wilderness, South Africa, Oct. 31, 2006.

Fender, Freddy, 69, Tex-Mex vocalist who successfully crossed over to mainstream pop and country music; Corpus Christi, TX, Oct. 14, 2006.

Geertz, Clifford, 80, cultural anthropologist who helped establish the field of interpretive, or symbolic, anthropology; Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 30, 2006.

Hill, Arthur, 84, actor who created the role of George, the college professor trapped in a miserable marriage in Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962); his abundant work in TV included playing the title role in "Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law" (1971-74); Pacific Palisades, CA, Oct. 22, 2006.

Khan, Ghulam Ishaq, 91, president of Pakistan, 1988-93, who notably dismissed two elected governments on corruption charges; Peshawar, Pakistan, Oct. 27, 2006.

Lidle, Cory, 34, journeyman MLB pitcher, most recently for the New York Yankees; New York, NY, Oct. 11, 2006, in the crash into a building of a small plane owned by him.

Niekro, Joe, 61, knuckleball-throwing right-handed pitcher who won 221 MLB games in 22 seasons, and combined with his brother Phil, also a knuckleballer, for 539 wins, the most by any pair of brothers in MLB history; Tampa, FL, Oct. 27, 2006.

O’Neil, Buck, 94, baseball player/manager in the segregated Negro Leagues (1938-54) and the first black manager of an MLB team (Chicago Cubs, 1962); Kansas City, MO, Oct. 6, 2006.

Pontecorvo, Gillo, 86, Italian film director best known for The Battle of Algiers (1965), a fictionalized account of the brutal realities of Algeria’s war for independence from France; Rome, Italy, Oct. 12, 2006.

Russell, Anna, 94, singer and comedian who, in solo performances, TV shows and best-selling recordings, mocked various aspects of classic music, notably the cult status of the operas of Richard Wagner; Batemans Bay, Australia, Oct. 18, 2006.

Simmons, Silas, 111, pitcher in baseball’s segregated Negro Leagues in the early decades of the 20th century who was believed to have been the longest-lived professional ballplayer ever; St. Petersburg, FL, Oct. 29, 2006.

Studds, Gerry, 69, 12-term Democratic congressman from Massachusetts (1973-97) who in 1983 became the first member of Congress to openly declare his homosexuality, doing so after a former congressional page claimed to have had an affair with him; Boston, MA, Oct. 14, 2006.

Wyatt, Jane, 96, actress best known for her role as an exemplary wife and mother in the 1950s TV situation comedy "Father Knows Best"; Bel Air, CA, Oct. 20, 2006.

Special Feature: The Decline and Fall of Enron

Joe Gustaitis

Five years ago - on November 28, 2001 - Enron, the biggest energy-trading concern in the U.S. - fell apart when a rival company named Dynegy pulled back from a deal to buy the Houston-based firm. The withdrawal caused Enron's stock price, which had once been $90 a share, to fall to just 61 cents. Shortly before Dynegy's withdrawal, Enron's credit had been downgraded to junk-bond status, which made $3.9 billion of Enron debt come due immediately.

Four days later, Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history, and wiped out some $30 billion in shareholder value. However, the situation was to get even worse. Enron had about 21,000 employees and many of them had a substantial amount of Enron stock in their retirement plans, which the company had barred them from selling. Outrage grew when it became known that the company chairman, Kenneth Lay, had sold tens of millions of dollars worth of Enron shares in the months before the bankruptcy, while assuring investors and employees that Enron stock was a solid-gold asset. Soon after Enron's fall, committees in both the House and Senate scheduled hearings and ordered an investigation.

Enron's Early History

The story of Enron began in 1985, when Houston Natural Gas merged with InterNorth, a natural gas company based in Omaha, Nebraska. The result was Enron, which four years later began trading natural gas commodities. The firm became the largest natural gas dealer in North America and then became involved with trading other commodities, such as water, steel, and coal. The company put it this way: "It's difficult to define Enron in a sentence. But the closest we come is this: we make commodity markets so that we can deliver physical commodities to our customers at a predictable price ... Most of the things we do have never been done before ... We initiated the wholesale natural gas and electricity markets in the United States, and we are helping to build similar markets in Europe and elsewhere."

On August 23, 2000, Enron's stock hit its all-time high of $90 a share and it appeared as if the company could do no wrong. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ken Lay said, "We like to think of ourselves as the Microsoft of the energy world." For six years in a row Fortune magazine named it the most innovative company in the U.S. Unfortunately, some of its actions, such as fraudulent accounting and establishing complex partnerships to conceal its debts, were later found to be illegal.

"A Risky Place to Work"

In mid-December of 2000, Enron announced that president and chief operating officer Jeff Skilling, generally considered the mastermind of the company's ascent, would take over in February 2001 as chief executive from Lay, who would remain as chairman. Surprisingly, Skilling resigned after only six months. He claimed that his resignation was because he needed "to spend more time with my family," but he did admit that Enron's stock was dipping. Lay became CEO again—a move that observers largely applauded.

However, things began to look menacing in late August 2001, when Enron Vice President Sherron Watkins sent Lay a memo she had written about questionable accounting practices. The first sentence of the document asked, "has Enron become a risky place to work?" She went on to state, "I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals ... We are under too much scrutiny and there are probably one or two disgruntled 'redeployed' employees who know enough about the 'funny' accounting to get us in trouble ... I firmly believe that the probability of discovery significantly increased with Skilling's shocking departure. Too many people are looking for a smoking gun."

On October 16, 2001, Enron reported a $618 million third-quarter loss and revealed a $1.2 billion drop in shareholder equity. By November 19, the company was in the process of revealing that its debts, which were coming due in the next year, were much larger than the cash it had available. If Enron could not raise collateral for a loan, a loan payment of $690 million was due on November 27. Much hope, therefore, was placed on the merger with Dynegy. However, Dynegy withdrew its offer citing that there had been a "material adverse change" in Enron's situation and that it had misrepresented its financial condition. Dynegy's Chief Executive Chuck Watson said the company had "no choice but to act to protect our shareholder interests" - Enron was doomed.

Enron Executives on Trial

Enron's collapse did not end with the bankruptcy. Congress and the Justice Department began examining the situation and criminal charges followed. The first Enron executive to face charges was Michael Kopper, the erstwhile managing director, who in August 2002 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. He faced up to 15 years in prison, but agreed to cooperate with the criminal investigation into the accounting fraud. His sentence would depend on how much he aided the prosecutors. (Kopper's sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 3, 2006). By May 2003, the Justice Department had brought charges against 18 former Enron officials.

The first Enron executive to receive a prison sentence was Ben Glisan Jr., the company's former treasurer. He pleaded guilty in September 2003 to one count of criminal wire fraud for taking part in a plot to hide almost $1 billion in company losses. He was sentenced to five years in a low-security prison and three years of supervised release. However, the names that were most prominent in the news were Lay, Skilling, and Andrew Fastow, Enron's former chief financial officer (CFO).

On October 2, 2002, Fastow was arrested on charges of fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. He was eventually sentenced to six years in prison plus two years of community service. Skilling was indicted in February 2004 on charges of fraud, insider trading, and conspiracy. Lay's indictment followed in July. At the time, Lay took the unusual step of holding a press conference. He placed all the blame on Fastow, claiming that Fastow had kept him completely uninformed about his attempts to hide Enron's enormous losses.

On May 25, 2006, a jury found Skilling guilty on 19 charges of fraud, conspiracy, and insider trading (he was acquitted on nine additional charges of insider trading) and convicted Lay on all six counts of fraud and conspiracy he had faced. About six weeks after the verdict, Lay died of a heart attack in Colorado. In September the Labor Department reported that Lay's estate had agreed to pay as much as $12 million to former Enron employees covered by the company's pension plans. On October 23, 2006, Skilling was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in prison. It was the most severe sentence given to any Enron executive. After the sentencing, Skilling told reporters outside the courthouse, "I believe, deep down, and this is no act or anything, I believe I'm innocent." Sherron Watkins, the author of the famed warning memo, commented that day to CBS News, "Jeff Skilling to this day does not accept responsibility for Enron's fraudulent activities or for its demise, and he was the CEO, he was the man at the helm."

More Corporate Scandals

Although the fall of such a mighty company as Enron, and the scandals that attended its fate, shook the business world, Enron's calamity was not the only corporate scandal of its time. Enron's record for the largest bankruptcy in history remained unbroken for only a little more than half a year. The telecommunications company WorldCom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 21, 2002, after admitting that it had overstated its cash flow by $3.8 billion, by falsely classifying operating costs as capital expenditures. The $107 billion in assets listed in its bankruptcy petition were nearly twice as much as Enron's $64 billion. Eventually, WorldCom's CEO, Bernard Ebbers, was convicted on nine criminal counts, including conspiracy, securities fraud, and seven counts of filing false securities documents.

A series of other corporate failures and scandals had preceded WorldCom's bankruptcy. The Bermuda-based telecommunications company Global Crossing was accused of using accounting methods that exaggerated revenue and collapsed in January 2002. Adelphia Communications Corp, the sixth-largest cable-television company in the U.S. filed for bankruptcy in June 2002. Its founders, the Rigas family, had borrowed more than $2 billion from the company, and used the money to buy Adelphia stock in order to keep their stake.

The accounting firm Arthur Andersen was charged with destroying Enron-related documents and was convicted of obstruction of justice in June 2002, forcing it to end its operations. Three months later, in September 2002, three former executives of Tyco International Ltd., a Bermuda-based industrial conglomerate, were indicted on charges of allegedly defrauding the company of hundreds of millions of dollars. In June 2005, former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz were each convicted of 22 charges in connection with the plundering of some $600 million from Tyco, and sentenced to eight and one-third to 25 years in prison.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act


White House

U.S. President George W. Bush shakes hands with Congressman Mike Oxley, (R, OH) during the signing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the White House on July 30, 2002.

A major feature of the legislation was the creation of a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board under the auspices of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The new entity would be permitted to impose fines of up to $750,000 on individuals or $15 million on companies. Chief executives and chief financial officers of public firms had to certify the honesty of their companies' financial statements. An executive who "knowingly or wilfully" permitted misinformation to be included in financial reports faced a prison term of up to 20 years. Business executives would not be allowed to secure loans on special terms from their company and they could not employ bankruptcy to protect themselves from paying damages in securities-fraud lawsuits.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act also established a fund that would use the fines paid by corporate wrongdoers to compensate cheated investors. It addressed the crimes of Arthur Andersen by banning accounting firms from doing most consulting services for public companies that they also audited. Finally, the Act established protections for corporate whistle-blowers. In signing the legislation, Bush remarked that "The era of low standards and false profits is over; no boardroom in America is above or beyond the law."

Although Lay and Skilling were the faces usually seen on the nightly television news, their high-profile convictions were just the tip of the iceberg. At the time of their convictions, the Justice Department reported that it had secured more than 1,000 convictions or guilty pleas in corporate fraud cases since 2002, including the prosecution of more than 200 CEOs and other top corporate officers. This impressive statistic could be interpreted in more than one way. On one hand, it could be said that it demonstrated that the federal government was acting vigorously to remove duplicity from U.S. businesses. On the other hand, such numbers might imply that corporate scandal was not confined to a few "bad apples" like Lay and Skilling but that it had spread much more originally feared.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


On March 11, 1965, a 14-year-old Canadian high school student named Gary Duschl began stringing Wrigley's gum wrapper's together. He hasn't stopped! As of March 2006, his world-record gum wrapper chain was reported to be 48,077 feet - 9.1 miles long made up of 1,124,044 wrappers. That's as long as 160 football fields, or 32 Empire State Buildings. Now living in Virginia Beach, VA Duschl keeps the chain at his home in specially made cases. He extends it 3 feet nearly every day, and has no plans to stop working on it. To mark the milestone of his one-millionth wrapper, Duschl used a Spearmint antique wrapper printed on June 30, 1905, that he bought on eBay.

Chronology — Events of Past October 2006


     Congressman’s Messages to Boys Are Investigated - The U.S. House and the FBI began investigations into electronic messages sent by Rep. Mark Foley (FL), a Republican House member, to teenage boys who had served as pages on Capitol Hill. Foley had resigned his House seat Sept. 29 when ABC News first revealed the contents of some of the messages.
     Foley’s lawyer, David Roth, said Oct. 3 that Foley had entered a treatment center for alcohol and mental health problems; Roth also said that Foley was gay, and that he had been abused sexually as a teenager. Some conservatives called for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (IL) to step down for having known about Foley’s problem and not taking decisive action. Hastert Oct. 4 declared that he would not resign, and that he had not known of Foley’s inappropriate communications to any pages before the spring of 2006, although members of his staff reportedly had been warned earlier.
     Leaders of the House Ethics Committee Oct. 5 said that they would investigate whether House leaders had responded correctly to reports about Foley. Pres. George W. Bush Oct. 12 expressed confidence in Hastert during a campaign stop in Illinois. On Oct. 24 several members of the House testified before the House Ethics Committee behind closed doors. They included Hastert and Rep. Thomas Reynolds (NY), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The committee also heard from House staff members and others who had made conflicting public statements about what House leaders knew, and when they knew it.
     Rev. Anthony Mercieca, a retired Roman Catholic priest who lived in the Republic of Malta, said in an interview reported Oct. 19 that he had fondled Foley when Foley was 12 or 13 years old, apparently confirming an assertion made by Foley that he had been abused by a cleric.

     Dow Jones Average Tops 12,000 - The Dow Jones Industrial Average, an index of 30 major stocks, closed at record-breaking levels throughout October. The month’s first all-time high came on Oct. 3, when the Dow closed at 11,727.34; the index set even higher records in the following weeks, and on Oct. 19 closed above 12,000 for the first time, at 12,011.73. The Dow set a new all-time high on Oct. 26 at 12,163.66, and ended the month on Oct. 31 at 12,080.73.
     Prior to October 2006, the Dow’s record high was 11,722.98, on Jan. 14, 2000. The current leg of the stock rebound had begun in July 2006 when a decline in crude oil futures, resulting in lower auto gas prices, stimulated investing. Despite the Dow’s new milestone, broader stock market indexes remained below their all-time highs.

     Congresswoman Pleads Guilty as Abramoff Scandal Spreads - Susan Ralston, a special assistant to Pres. Bush and executive assistant to Karl Rove, Bush’s top adviser on politics, resigned Oct. 6 after the report revealed her frequent contacts with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The report said that Abramoff had often asked Ralston to ask Rove to act on behalf of Abramoff’s clients.
     In U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, Oct. 13, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R, OH) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and making false statements. He admitted he had taken gifts and favors from Abramoff and used his influence to aid his clients. Neil Volz, Ney’s former chief of staff, had pled guilty to similar charges in May. Ney was not seeking re-election. On Oct. 27, in Washington, DC, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman sentenced David Safavian, who had been head of federal procurement policies in the Bush White House budget office, to 18 months in prison for lying about his relationship with Abramoff, including the circumstances of a golfing trip to Scotland.

     Google Acquires YouTube - Search engine Google bought the popular video-sharing web site YouTube for a reported $1.65 bil in stock Oct. 9. The deal, the single biggest acquisition in Google’s eight-year history, united the internet giant with the 19-month-old upstart YouTube, which draws about 72 mil monthly visitors who view more than 100 mil user-created videos every day. Soon after the deal was made, YouTube announced that it had created partnerships with Universal Music Group, CBS Corp., and Sony BMG Music Entertainment to counter the threat of copyright-infringement lawsuits. According to Google, the two companies will operate independently and Google will continue to run its own video service, Google Video, as a separate entity.

     Ex-Virginia Governor Declines to Run for President - John Warner, a former governor of Virginia who had explored running for president in 2008, said Oct. 12 that he would not seek the Democratic nomination. Warner had been seen as a centrist who could have given his party a lift in southern states.

     U.S. Population Hits 300 Million - Based on calculations by the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population reached a total of 300 mil on the morning of Oct. 17; only China and India had more people. The U.S. had attained a population of 100 mil in 1915 and 200 mil in 1967. An accelerated rate of immigration had contributed to the more rapid climb in population in recent decades.

     Ex-Enron CEO Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison - Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of Enron Corp., was sentenced Oct. 23 to 24 years and four months in prison following his May 2006 conviction for fraud, conspiracy, and insider trading. Judge Simeon Lake, in U.S. District Court in Houston, also ordered that Skilling’s $60 mil in assets be liquidated, with $45 mil going into a restitution fund for victims of Enron’s bankruptcy. Skilling was appealing the sentence.

     New Jersey Court Backs Equal Rights for Gay Couples - The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded unanimously in the case of Lewis v. Harris Oct. 25 that, under the state constitution, gay couples were entitled to all the rights and benefits accorded to opposite-sex married couples. In addition to the ruling, a 4-judge majority within the 7-member court held that the state legislature must decide whether gay unions would be designated as marriage or by some other term. Three dissenting judges argued that any status other than the right of gays to marry would be discriminatory.


     Situation in Iraq Brings Calls for New Strategy - As evidence mounted that the U.S.-led coalition’s effort to control violence in Iraq was failing, demands grew in the U.S. for a new strategic approach. The U.S. Army lost 8 soldiers in Iraq Oct. 2, 4 in a roadside bomb attack and 4 in individual shooting incidents. Seventeen soldiers and marines had died in the 4 days ending Oct. 3. Iraqi officials said Oct. 4 that a police brigade had been suspended because of suspicion that some members had allowed or joined in death-squad killings. John Warner (R, VA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the U.S. should consider a "change of course" in Iraq unless violence was curtailed.
     A controversial Johns Hopkins University study published Oct. 11 presented claims that an estimated 600,000 Iraqi civilians had died violently between March 2003, when the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, and July 2006. Pres. Bush had estimated in December 2005 that 30,000 Iraqis had died in the war. The U.S. military acknowledged Oct. 19 that a 12-week campaign in Baghdad against insurgents and sectarian militias had failed to reduce violence. The Mahdi Army, a militia led by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, briefly seized the city of Amara on Oct. 20, and then yielded it to the Iraqi army.
      In Baghdad Oct. 24, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, announced a plan that established a sequence of "political and security milestones" for the Iraqi government. Casey said that if the government implemented the planned measures, Iraqis could take over the country’s security within 18 months. Iraqi Premier Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, however, said Oct. 25 that only the Iraqi government had the right to "make time limitations."
      Bush, at a press conference Oct. 25, said he was "not satisfied" with the war, and also signaled a possible shift. The president, who had abandoned his oft-repeated "stay the course" slogan, said he was willing to adjust tactics. He also noted that U.S. military deaths in October 2006 were the most since October 2005. A total of 104 U.S. soldiers had been killed in October 2006.

     North Korea Says It Conducted Underground Nuclear Test - Brushing aside widespread international condemnation, North Korea Oct. 9 announced that it had conducted an underground detonation of an atomic weapon. The official news agency said that the test was successful and that no radiation had leaked aboveground. Geological instruments in other countries recorded seismic data that appeared to confirm the explosion.
     The UN Security Council Oct. 14 approved unanimously a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. The Council demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program and suspend ballistic missile development, and that it return to multilateral talks with its neighbors and the U.S. The resolution also barred trade with North Korea in materials usable in weapons of mass destruction and other military equipment. It asked governments to inspect goods going in and out of North Korea. China said Oct. 14 that it would not take part in inspections, but began to do so Oct. 16.
     North Korea Oct. 14 rejected the resolution and on Oct. 17 called it a "declaration of war." The U.S. Oct. 16 confirmed that North Korea had tested a nuclear weapon, based on radioactive air samples, but said that it had been unusually small, with a blast of less than one kiloton.

     South Korean Foreign Minister to Become UN Secretary General - Foreign Min. Ban Ki Moon of South Korea was formally nominated Oct. 9 by the UN Security Council to be the UN’s next secretary general. An informal poll Oct. 2 had showed him to be well ahead of 6 other aspirants, all of whom subsequently withdrew. Ban would succeed Kofi Annan, whose 2nd term was set to expire Dec. 31, 2006. After receiving a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Univ. in 1985, Ban went to work in the South Korean ministry of foreign affairs, and became foreign minister in 2004. As such, he was involved in the 6-nation talks seeking to resolve the dispute with North Korea over nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly Oct. 13 approved Ban’s nomination by acclamation.


     Gunman Kills 5 Girls at Amish Schoolhouse - The driver of a dairy truck shot and killed five girls and seriously wounded five others in a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, PA, Oct. 2. The gunman, Charles Roberts, brought a semiautomatic pistol, 2 shotguns, and other weapons into the school. He ordered the boys and adults present to leave, then tied up the girls, who ranged in age from 6 to 13 years old, and shot them. As police closed in, he shot and killed himself. Roberts, 32, who had a wife and 3 children, lived just over a mile from the school, which was about 50 miles west of Philadelphia. He left a suicide note saying he was distraught about an incident that occurred 2 decades ago.

     Small Plane Crashes Into New York Apartment Building - Both occupants of a small single-engine plane were killed Oct. 11 when it crashed into an apartment building in the borough of Manhattan, in New York City. Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the New York Yankees who had been a pilot for less than a year, and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, were on the plane, which struck the 42-story building, on East 72nd Street near the East River, between the 30th and 31st floors. Fourteen firefighters and several occupants of the building were injured.

     Frontier Nun Canonized by Pope - Mother Theodore Guerin (1798-1856) a French-born nun who established schools and orphanages on the American frontier, was canonized along with 3 others by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 15. Guerin established Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a women’s college, in Indiana in 1841; by the time of her death she had established many more schools and orphanages throughout the state. Others canonized included a priest and a nun from Italy and a bishop from Mexico.

     St. Louis Cardinals Win First World Series in 24 Years - The St. Louis Cardinals won their 10th World Series, 4 games to 1, Oct. 27, defeating the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in Game 5 in St. Louis. It was the Cardinals’ first World Series win since 1982. In the regular season, the Cardinals had an 83-78 record, the poorest of any team that had ever gone on to win the Series. Tony La Russa managed the Cards, and shortstop David Eckstein was named most valuable player.

     Mission to Repair the Hubble Space Telescope - NASA announced Oct. 31 that it would send a space shuttle to repair the 16 year-old Hubble Telescope. Without repair, the Hubble was expected to function for no more than a few more years. After the 2003 Columbia disaster, in which seven astronauts were killed when the shuttle burned up on re-entry, a mission to fix the orbiting observatory was deemed too risky. However, with new shuttle safety mechanisms in place, NASA changed course and ordered a Discovery mission to repair Hubble in 2008. The crew will add two new cameras, replace batteries, and upgrade sensors and stabilizing equipment, extending the life of the telescope through at least 2013.

Sports Feature — Vincent G. Spadafora

Arnold "Red" Auerbach (1917-2006)

Sport is more about people than events. Sure we remember key stats, the greatest teams, and toughest games, but it’s almost always the personalities that define the moments and the times in which they happen. Arnold "Red" Auerbach, who passed away Oct. 28, 2006, defined the Boston Celtics for more than half a century. Over the course of his 56-year affiliation with the team, which began in 1950, the tough talking, cigar smoking, basketball guru from Brooklyn, NY, with his knack for spotting talent as both a coach and later a general manager, made the Boston Celtics into the greatest basketball dynasty of all time. Red Auerbach was the mind behind Celtics’ domination throughout the 1950s and 60s, and the guiding force behind the team’s (and to some extent the NBA’s) resurgence in the 1980s. He was a motivator, a tactician, a shrewd diplomat, a disciplinarian, a teacher, a storyteller, and above all, Red was a basketball man.

Those of us who grew up in New England in the 1980s weren’t around during Red Auerbach’s coaching days but we always felt his presence as a team president and leader every time the Celtics took to the court. And with each championship the C’s brought home in ’81, ’84, and ’86, Red Auerbach would always be right there amid the celebrations, surrounded by legendary players Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, with a smile on his face and a victory cigar sticking out of his mouth.

It’d be impossible to write enough about Red in this space, but here are a few notable facts about his long career in the NBA:
· Coach of the Boston Celtics 1950-1966, led them to 8 consecutive championships, 9 overall.
· Drafted the first African-American player in NBA history in 1950 (Chuck Cooper)
· Served as team president and general manager 1966-1984; team president 1984-1997; 2001
· Auerbach’s starting lineup in 1964 was composed of five African-American players; the first all African-American starting lineup in NBA history.
· Promoted player Bill Russell to the position of player/coach in 1966; Russell was the first African-American coach in NBA history
· 14 former players whom Auerbach brought to the team became hall of famers; 30 of his former players became coaches.

For a more complete look at Red Auerbach’s life and accomplishments, take a look at the following links:
Boston Globe special section on Arnold "Red" Auerbach
Basketball Hall of Fame Profile
ESPN: "Memories of Red" by Bill Simmons

Science in the News: Tree Rings: Decoding Messages from Nature

Katya Poltorak


Henri D. Grissino-Mayer

Tree rings form because of seasonal weather changes—in the winter slower growth gives rise to a dark layer, while in the summer faster growth results in a light band. Storms, fires and other atmospheric events also leave their mark on tree trunks. The dark, irregular lines on the rings (above) indicate fire damage.

At one time or another, most children learn how to find the age of a tree: count the number of rings in the trunk and you'll know how old the tree is. The correspondence between rings and years exists because rings form due to seasonal changes - slower growth during the winter months gives rise to a dark layer, while faster growth during the summer results in a light band.

It's a neat fact: simple and revelatory. But it's not the end of the story. Science progresses by pushing the bounds of knowledge, and two recent studies do this with tree rings. One study uses the rings as a tool for learning about hurricanes - specifically, for determining when hurricanes occurred in the past. (Developing an accurate historical record of hurricane activity is of major importance for studies of the Earth's climate - computer models need to be tested against known past weather patterns.) The study, by Dana Miller and her colleagues, appeared in the September 26, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A separate study took on a different and seemingly paradoxical challenge: it was devoted to finding rings in tropical trees that don't have rings - or rather, don't have visible rings. That research, by Pascale Poussart (of Princeton University in New Jersey) and her colleagues, was published in the 33rd volume of Geophysical Research Letters. The scientists found they could determine the age of a tree via "invisible rings" caused by fluctuations in calcium content.

Writing in Invisible Ink

In the past, the age of trees lacking visible rings has been determined through measurements of oxygen and carbon isotopes - a laborious procedure that doesn't always yield satisfactory results. Poussart's team found an easier solution: since trees absorb trace elements through their roots, foliage and bark, their xylem offers a physical record of the changes in the world around them. Knowing that the amount of calcium taken up by trees varies with seasons, the researchers used X-ray beams to track calcium content across the trunk of a particular ringless Miliusa velutina tree from Thailand.

The trees absorb calcium during their main growth season. Using X-ray beams from the Synchrotron Light Source at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the researchers determined that the calcium density along the cross-section of the trunk showed an annual pattern of rise and fall, with the peaks indicating times of increased growth. Specifically, the maxima corresponded to peak rainfall during dry season. When Poussart and her colleagues used the number of calcium peaks to determine the age of the Miliusa velutina sample, they concluded that the tree dated back to 1909. This estimate agreed with radiocarbon dating results by a margin of 2 years or less.

It remains unclear whether this technique can be applied to other trees and whether periods of drought might make the results less accurate. Nevertheless, the findings are an important step in learning more about trees that hold information about tropical climate. Compared with analyzing oxygen and carbon isotopes, it was also far less onerous. "It took us just one afternoon in the synchrotron to produce the record," Poussart told BioEd Online. "The isotope record cost four months of lab time."

This improvement in efficiency is important. For researchers, the motivation in studying tree rings - invisible or not - is usually not to determine how old individual trees are, but rather to use the chronological record the trees may provide to assemble a record of the past climate of a region, going back possibly hundreds of years. (This in turn is of great significance for helping determine such questions as the overall direction of the Earth's climate - the extent of global warming, for example.) Given the inherent variability of weather, to arrive at a reliable chronological record, many trees must be examined.

Paul Colinvaux, a research scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, told BioEd Online that "identifying the incidence of dry seasons from calcium content is a most welcome development. Calcium content clearly offers the chance of obtaining records from many more species than the miserable few with visible rings."

Traveling Back in Time

While Poussart and her colleagues worked on improving techniques for detecting tree rings per se, Miller, of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Geography at the University of Tennessee, found a way of analyzing visible rings to augment our knowledge of past hurricanes.

With scientists debating whether global climate changes are responsible for an increase in the number of hurricanes, it's clearly vital to assemble a systematic record of hurricane activity. Unfortunately, such a record has been difficult to piece together. Miller and her colleagues approached this problem by looking at tree rings. Since storms, fires and other atmospheric events all leave their mark, tree trunks hold valuable information about the past.

Oxygen: A Weighty Matter

Specifically, Miller's team looked at variations in oxygen isotopes present in α-cellulose of longleaf pine. (a-cellulose is the main constituent of paper pulp and wood.) They found that the observed variations in proportions of oxygen isotopes correlated well with records of hurricane activity.


Henri D. Grissino-Mayer

Tree ring variations in the longleaf pine seen in normal proportion against the size of a nickel.

Why do storms cause this variation? When hurricanes start, water vapor that contains the O18 - the heavier oxygen isotope - is the first to condense and fall. This usually happens when the hurricane is still over the sea; by the time it makes landfall, the water in the remaining precipitation contains more of the lighter isotope. Longleaf pine has a shallow root system - such trees draw much of their water from soil water that itself comes from precipitation. The water is incorporated into the trees' cellulose, and so the tissue provides a physical record of the composition of the water the trees were exposed to. The O18 - depleted precipitation lasts for several weeks after a large storm, long enough to make a detectable difference in the cellulose; afterwards, the composition of rain returns to normal - a change which, in turn, gets reflected in the constitution of the tree.

By looking at oxygen-isotope composition changes along the pine tree trunk, Miller's team was able to piece together a record of hurricane activity around southern Georgia for the last 220 years. In their study, they divided this into three sub-intervals: the most recent period (for which good records of precipitation are available), going back to 1940; the period from 1855 to 1940, when solid rainfall records are lacking but newspapers and other historical records provide considerable information about major hurricanes, and the period longest ago, for which the historical information is sketchiest. By and large, the results from the analysis of tree rings gibed with information from other sources on the occurrence of hurricanes.

Of course the point is not merely to confirm what is already known but to add to our knowledge. The researchers contend that, by studying older trees, we could extend (with some uncertainty) our record of hurricanes 500 or 600 years back. While the magnitude of the storms cannot be determined by looking at the isotope composition of the rings, the findings mark a significant advance in the task of developing a chronology of hurricane activity. This in turn can help scientists better understand how these enormous and devastating storms come to be, and whether global warming is affecting their frequency or intensity.

Peering into the Future

While the two studies were not related, they conceivably have implications for each other. If reliable chronologies for ringless tropical trees can be constructed (using Poussart's technique), then perhaps these trees can be used to bear witness to past cyclone activity in the tropics (using Miller's methodology). Thus a record of the past found in invisible tree rings might help chart the future of the tropics, notorious for their destructive and unpredictable climate.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


Stuart Weitzman designed a pair of the diamond-studded stiletto "Cinderella" sandals with a 4½ inch heel, and 565 diamonds (including one 5-carat amaretto stone) set in platinum. The shoes, estimated to be worth $2 million, were worn by singer Alison Krauss at the 2004 Academy Awards ceremony.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Grade School Bags Tag
On the heels of dodgeball and tetherball bans, one Massachusetts elementary school has taken litigation avoidance a step further by outlawing tag at recess. Willett Elementary School, in Attleboro, MA, about 40 miles south of Boston, banned all unsupervised ‘chase’ games, including tag and touch football, out of concern for students’ safety and over potential lawsuits. Willett Principal Gaylene Heppe, who championed the ban, called recess, "a time when accidents happen."

Even as concerns about childhood obesity gain prominence, recess activities are being curbed at many schools nationwide. Schools in Wyoming, Washington, and South Carolina have instituted similar bans. But some Willett parents aren’t giving up their kids’ right to be ‘it’ without a fight, and have introduced a petition drive to bring tag back to Willett, including a website,

"I think that it’s unfortunate that kids’ lives are micromanaged and there are social skills they’ll never develop on their own," said Debbie Leferriere, whose two children attend Willett Elementary, told reporters. "Playing tag is just part of being a kid."

Fried What?
As any fairgoer could tell you, just about everything edible can be fried, put on a stick, and eaten while meandering down the midway. From candy bars and pickles, to Reuben sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, state fair concessionaires have tried all things fried.

This year, concessionaire Abel Gonzales Jr. took the love of fried fair foods to new heights - he fried the soda that usually washes them down. At fairs from Arizona to Dallas to North Carolina, Gonzales’s prize-winning specialty was Fried Coke - gooey Coca-Cola-battered nuggets topped with cola syrup.

Gonzales had expected his ultimate junk food would be even more popular than his 2005 offering - fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches - and proved himself right. In two weeks of the Texas State Fair alone, Gonzales sold 16,000 cups of his fried cola globules.

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


I grew up in the Bronx (New York City) and have always had an affection for all things Bronx including the Bronx Zoo. There is some family connection with the zoo too - my sister Barbara worked as a camel leader one summer in the 1970s. This month, the Bronx Zoo is celebrating its 117th birthday. Home to over 4,000 animals, this 265 acre nature park, is operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, formerly known as the New York Zoological Society. It was one of the first zoos to take animals out of cages and put them in naturalistic settings. Learn more about the zoo at

3-Dimensional photography has origins in stereoscopy, which was first described by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838, when he invented a stereoscope. Early stereoscopes used mirrors to recreate the illusion of depth in drawings. The 1850's saw the rise of stereoscope photographs, which still exist in several formats, including Viewmasters (invented in 1938) used by children. The process has advanced since the 19th century and you can now take 3D photographs that are layered into one photograph. I have a 3D camera myself. Learn more about stereography at, and view images at and see turn of the 20th century presidents in 3D at


LOC P&P Ref#LC-USZ62-52000

John Muir in 1902

My friend John wants to know why everybody else's name appears in the E-Newsletter and not his, so since it's his birthday this month, I'm going to be including biographies of famous Johns. J(ohn) Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was an American criminologist and government official and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for 48 years. Hoover instituted many of the techniques and procedures that made the FBI famous for its efficient apprehension of criminals. During the 1930s he supervised the investigations that led to the capture of many criminals, including the bank robber John Dillinger (1902?-34). Learn more about Hoover at Learn more about Dillinger at John Muir (1838-1914) was American explorer and naturalist, born in Dunbar, Scotland. Muir was authority on forestry and forest management, and in recognition of his efforts as a conservationist and crusader for national parks, Muir Woods National Monument, near San Francisco, was established in 1908. Learn more about Muir at John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) was an American industrialist who organized the Standard Oil Co. in 1870 with his brother William, and went on to have a personal fortune estimated at almost $1 billion; the total amount of his philanthropic contributions was about $550 million. Learn more about Rockefeller at John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), sixth president of the U.S. (1825-29), combined brilliant statesmanship with skillful diplomacy. As secretary of state (1817-25) he ranks among the ablest holders of the office, and he played a major role in formulating American foreign policy. As an eight-term member of the House of Representatives (1831-48) he was a leading defender of freedom of speech and a spokesman for the antislavery cause. Learn more about Adams at John Steinbeck (1902-68), an American writer and Nobel laureate, described in his work the unremitting struggle of people who depend on the soil for their livelihood. A major literary figure in the 1930s, Steinbeck took as his central theme the quiet dignity he saw in the poor and the oppressed. Although his characters are often trapped in an unfair world, they remain sympathetic and heroic, if defeated, human beings. Learn more about Steinbeck at John Brown (1800-59) was an American abolitionist, whose attempt to end slavery by force greatly increased tension between North and South in the period before the American Civil War. Learn more about Brown at

My co-worker Alan sent me this website and it's right up my alley - a collection of life & death masks that is at Princeton University. The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks consists of plaster masks of a number of famous people from the 16th-20th centuries. Visit this site and you'll be absolutely fascinated to look upon the faces of Ludwig van Beethoven, Sir Isaac Newton, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Check it out at

It took me several tries, but Songtapper actually works. What you do is tap out the beat of a song with your space bar, and then the database suggests songs that it might be. Give it a try at

I got my first autograph when I was in 7th grade and met U Thant, then Secretary-General of the United Nations at a UN Day event. Then in my early 20s I began writing and sending photographs to film actors/actresses from the silent era and later years, and amassed a nice collection which includes letters from Lillian Gish and Katharine Hepburn, as well as autographed pictures of legends including Lana Turner, James Cagney, and Gloria Swanson. If you're interested in writing your favorite stars, visit for help in locating addresses.

Quote of the Month

"I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough...The more one reads the more one sees we have to read.."
     - John Adams (1735-1826), U.S. President


What's cool, fun and makes you think?


First published in 1996, The World Almanac for Kids has more than 3.5 million copies in print. The latest edition boasts new sections on magic, volunteering and technology plus more "On-The-Job" interviews. There are new science experiments, homework help tips, a sudoku puzzle and games. Kids will be up-to date on all things "Hurricane" for the new storm season, with an expanded Disaster section that includes: Facts About Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Names, records, and the science of tornadoes. Kids can even meet a meteorologist from New Orleans in the "On-the-Job" interview section!

The ever-popular "Faces and Places" section is populated with action photos of top athletes drawn from pro teams, the X-Games and the Winter 2006 Olympics, plus mini-posters of LeBron James and Jeff Gordon. There are also screen and stage celebrities - Reese Witherspoon, Black-Eyed Peas (mini-posters!), Wallace and Gromit, High School Musical and significant events from the news, including the swearing in of Samuel Alito, the funeral of Rosa Parks and our continued efforts in Iraq.

Expert at making it cool to be smart, The World Almanac for Kids 2007 has twice as many jokes as before (Why is Alabama the smartest state? Because it has four A's and one B!), and fascinating information on hundreds of topics, from American Idol to Zimbabwe, with everything else - Camping to the Environment, Books to Birthdays, Dancing to Flags, Sports to Nations, and Fashion to Disasters - in-between.

Available in stores right now, this book will make a great gift!

© World Almanac Education Group

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

Newsletter Contributors:
Jane Flynn, C. Alan Joyce, Walter Kronenberg & Bill McGeveran.

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