The World Almanac E-Newsletter

Volume 06, Number 12 — December 2006



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What's in this issue?

December Month Events
December Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — December Month
December Month Birthdays
Travel - Gocta
Obituaries - November 2006
Special Feature: Remembering Pearl Harbor
Chronology - Events of November 2006
Sports Feature
Science in the News: Social Bee-havior: It's in the Genes
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

December Events

December 1-15 - Asian Games 2006 (Doha, Qatar)
December 3 - NCAA Men’s Division I Soccer Championship Final (St. Louis, MO); NCAA Women’s Division I Soccer Championship Final (Cary, NC)
December 9-10 - Dickens of a Christmas (Franklin, TN)
December 10 - Nobel Prize Ceremony (Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway)
December 16 - NAIA Football National Championship Game (Hardin County, TN); Winterfest Boat Parade (Fort Lauderdale)
December 18 - Nuts Fair (Bastogne, Belgium)
December 21 - Winter Solstice (First day of winter, Northern Hemisphere)
December 26-30 - Daytona Kart Week (Daytona Beach, FL)
December 28 - Pacific Life Holiday Bowl Parade and Game (San Diego, CA)
December 29 - Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)
December 31 - New Year’s Eve

December Month Holidays — National and International

December 6 - St. Nicholas Day
December 10 - Human Rights Day
December 12 - Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Mexico, Puerto Rico); Constitution Day (Russia)
December 16-23 - Hanukkah (begins at sundown on December 15)
December 25 - Christmas
December 26 - Boxing Day (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK)
December 26-January 1 - Kwanzaa
December 30 - Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


China has been the world's fastest growing economy in recent years, and now ranks second in GDP, after the U.S. It is also the second largest exporter to the U.S., behind Canada, supplying 12% of America's imported goods. Chief exports include electronics, clothes, toys, and over 90% of America's fireworks. Two out of three imported U.S. flags comes from the Communist nation, which, despite its official atheism, is also the leading exporter of artificial Christmas trees and ornaments.

This Day In History — December

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 2000 Vicente Fox Quesada, a conservative reformer, is inaugurated as president in Mexico, ending more than seven decades of rule by the PRI party.
02 1956 Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, with some 80 insurgents, invades Cuba. His forces are crushed by the army, but Castro escapes into the mountains and leads an ultimately successful guerrilla movement.
03 1984 Deadly gas leaks from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring 200,000.
04 1783 Gen. George Washington bids farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York City.
05 1996 Pres. Bill Clinton announces his choice of Madeleine Albright as secretary of state, making her the highest-ranking woman government official in U.S. history.
06 1973 Gerald Ford is sworn in as vice president following the resignation of Spiro Agnew.
07 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, HI, killing 2,300, sinking or damaging 19 ships, and precipitating U.S. intervention in World War II.
08 1941 The United States declares war on Japan.
09 1986 Students in China begin large-scale demonstrations for democracy.
10 1911 American aviator Calbraith P. Rodgers lands his Wright airplane in Long Beach, CA, completing the first transcontinental flight across the U.S. It has taken him 84 days total, and about 3 days 10 hours actual flying time.
11 1816 Indiana is admitted to the Union as the 19th state.
12 2003 Liberal Party leader Paul Martin becomes Canada's 21st prime minister.
13 1981 In Poland, the government decrees martial law and suspends the activities of the Solidarity labor union.
14 1911 Norwegian Roald Amundsen, with 4 men and sled dogs, becomes the first explorer to reach the South Pole.
15 1961 An Israeli court convicts Adolf Eichmann of war crimes committed during World War II.
16 1773 To protest a British tax on tea, patriots dressed as Indians board a British vessel and throw 350 chests of tea overboard, in what becomes known as the Boston Tea Party.
17 1777 France recognizes the independence of the 13 American colonies.
18 1916 The longest battle of World War I, the Battle of Verdun, ends with 750,000 casualties.
19 1984 Chinese Prem. Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Min. Margaret Thatcher sign an agreement granting China sovereignty over Hong Kong as of July 1, 1997.
20 1606 Three ships set sail from London, England, en route to America, where colonists will establish the first European colony at what is now Jamestown, VA.
21 1913 The first crossword puzzle is published in a supplement to the New York World.
22 1928 In India, Mahatma Gandhi calls for mass civil disobedience if India is not given dominion status within a year.
23 1948 Tojo Hideki, prime minister of Japan from 1941 to 1944, is executed for war crimes.
24 1951 King Idris I proclaims the independence of the federal United Kingdom of Libya.
25 1868 Pres. Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional pardon to everyone involved in the South's rebellion against the Union.
26 1991 The Soviet Union is officially broken up.
27 1979 The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
28 1981 The first American test-tube baby is born in Norfolk, VA.
29 1916 Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin, a Russian mystic who had acquired great powers over the imperial family and the government, is assassinated on the night of December 29-30 by a group of aristocrats.
30 1947 King Michael of Romania abdicates under Communist pressure and the government at once proclaims Romania a people's republic.
31 1999 Boris Yeltsin officially resigns as Russia's president, handing over power to Vladimir Putin as acting president.

December Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1966 Larry Walker, baseball player (Maple Ridge, Canada)
02 1924 Alexander Haig, Secretary of State (Bala-Cynwood, PA)
03 1960 Julianne Moore, actress (Fort Bragg, NC)
04 1946 Michael Ovitz, entertainment executive (Encino, CA)
05 1934 Joan Didion, writer (Sacramento, CA)
06 1920 Dave Brubeck, jazz musician (Concord, CA)
07 1915 Eli Wallach, actor (Brooklyn, NY)
08 1964 Teri Hatcher, actress (Sunnyvale, CA)
09 1916 Kirk Douglas, actor (Amsterdam, NY)
10 1960 Kenneth Branagh, actor/director (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
11 1913 Carlo Ponti, film producer (Milan, Italy)
12 1923 Bob Barker, TV personality (Darrington, WA)
13 1969 Sergei Federov, hockey player (Pskov, Russia)
14 1946 Patty Duke, actress (New York, NY)
15 1931 Edna O'Brien, author (Tuamgraney, Ireland)
16 1962 William ("the Refrigerator") Perry, football player (Aiken, SC)
17 1946 Eugene Levy, comedian/writer (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)
18 1978 Katie Holmes, actress (Toledo, OH)
19 1944 Cicely Tyson, actress (New York, NY)
20 1911 Hortense Calisher, writer (New York, NY)
21 1954 Chris Evert, champion tennis player (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
22 1912 Lady Bird Johnson, first lady of the United States (Karnack, TX)
23 1933 Akihito, emperor of Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
24 1931 Mary Higgins Clark, author (New York, NY)
25 1946 Jimmy Buffett, singer/songwriter (Pascagoula, MS)
26 1956 David Sedaris, author and radio personality (Johnson City, NY)
27 1943 Cokie Roberts, TV journalist (New Orleans, LA)
28 1934 Maggie Smith, actress (Ilford, England)
29 1936 Mary Tyler Moore, actress (Brooklyn, NY)
30 1935 Sandy Koufax, baseball pitcher (Brooklyn, NY)
31 1930 Odetta, singer/musician (Birmingham, AL)

Travel - Gocta

The Chachapoyas region of northern Peru is a remote mountainous area in the upper Amazon River basin, marked by deep canyons, cloud forests, and rushing streams. The region, along with the small city of Chachapoyas (founded in the 16th century), is named for a people that flourished there centuries ago. Many visitors have been archaeology enthusiasts drawn by the remarkable structures, tombs, and mummies left by the Chachapoyas people; a number of others have been serious birders attracted by the wealth of bird life there. In early 2006 there came word of a new natural attraction in the region--one of the highest waterfalls in the world. Extreme waterfalls are tourist magnets, and the authorities promptly launched a project to improve access to the falls, which were given a name for the first time, after the nearby village of Gocta.

Super cataract

Local residents had of course known that the waterfall was there, but they had not realized its world-class status. People seldom visited it, and there was a legend that a beautiful blonde siren or mermaid who hung out there would invoke a curse on anyone who disclosed the location. According to some accounts, she has a gold chalice, and a huge serpent for a bodyguard.

The waterfall became famous after German engineer Stefan Ziemendorff, who was working on a water project in the region, arranged for measurements to be made. Its height was found to be 2530 ft (771 m), give or take 43 ft (13 m) - which would make it about as tall as a 250-story building. Based on comparative statistics from the National Geographic Society, Ziemendorff claimed this made Gocta the third highest waterfall in the world, trailing only Venezuela's Angel Falls at 3212 ft (979 m), and South Africa's Tugela Falls, at 3110 ft (948 m). Waterfall ranking, however, is not an exact science. Aside from the fact that published heights sometimes reflect estimates rather than accurate measurements, opinions differ as to what criteria need to be met for a sharp drop in stream elevation to qualify as a waterfall. Among questions that might bear on the issue are: Does the water flow abundantly year-round? How sharp is the angle of drop? To what extent is the water free-falling? Is there a series of cascades? Depending on such considerations, Gocta might rank 3, or 5, or perhaps considerably lower on the scale. (The Internet's World Waterfall Database puts it at No. 14.).

Regardless of Gocta's exact rank among the world's waterfalls, the fact remains that it is colossally high. It consists of two sections, falling first to a cliff shelf, then to the valley floor. Even outside the rainy season you can hear the falling water from a distance of a couple of miles. A recent visitor who tried to get close enough to the bottom of the waterfall to touch it said that the surging mist almost blew him off his feet when he was still some 60 ft (18 m) away. At times of peak flow, you simply can't get into that portion of the valley.

Welcoming tourists

Despite Gocta's remote location - even after you get to the village of Cocachimba, the trek through the jungle to the lower portion of the falls can take five hours - the volume of visitors has begun to increase. Peruvian authorities are working on trail improvements, and a comfortable new lodge is slated for construction northeast of Gocta at Abra Patricia Pass, which is also one of Peru's finest birding areas. Among other natural treasure are creatures unique to the region around Gocta, such as the yellow-tailed woolly monkey.

At the same time, steps are being to protect biodiversity and safeguard unique species. The Peruvian government and the nonprofit group ECOAN (Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos) are cooperating to make the region a protected area.

Archaeological treats

In addition to the exotic natural assets - including waterfalls, monkeys, orchids, and avian species from toucans to hummingbirds - the growing numbers of travelers to Chachapoyas will find a land rich in archaeological remains. From about 800 to after 1400 - that is, prior to its incorporation into the Inca Empire - the area was controlled by the Chachapoyas people, who lived in stone cities. Their ruins are among the archaeologically richest in South America.

Of the sites discovered so far, the best known is the walled mountain-top fortress-city called Kuélap, located between two major Amazon tributaries, the Marañon and Utcubamba rivers. Containing more than 400 round stone houses and covering an area of nearly 20 acres (8 ha), Kuélap is larger than Machu Picchu, a celebrated Incan tourist destination in southern Peru. Another Chachapoyas site of particular interest is the little village of Leymebamba, which has a charming museum. In addition to artifacts such as pots and textiles, the museum features more than 200 mummies, generally folded in fetal-like positions, which were found several years ago in burial buildings on a ledge above the Lake of the Condors (Laguna de los Condores). Other noted cliff-side burial sites include the burial towers of Macro, the burial buildings of Revash, and Karajia, where funerary statues loom from the cliff side.

InkaNatura Travel,
Vilaya Tours,
Welcome to Peru,
World Waterfall Database,

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


Michigan has won the most games of any college team. Including bowl games, the Wolverines have won 849 games out of 1,165 played, from 1879-2005.

Obituaries in November 2006

Altman, Robert, 81, maverick Hollywood film director whose densely structured movies were known for their improvisational quality, large ensemble casts and frequent use of overlapping dialogue; five of his films, including M*A*S*H (1970), Nashville (1975) and The Player (1992), netted him Oscar nominations for best director, but the only Oscar he ever won was an honorary one for lifetime achievement, presented to him in March 2006; Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 20, 2006.

Boyd, Gerald, 56, onetime managing editor of the New York Times - the first black journalist to hold that post - who resigned in 2003, after Times reporter Jayson Blair, whom he had taken under his wing, was found to have repeatedly made up or plagiarized stories; New York, NY, Nov. 23, 2006.

Bradley, Ed, 65, much-honored TV journalist who in 1981 became the first black correspondent for CBS’s long-running weekly newsmagazine "60 Minutes"; he continued working for the show until shortly before his death; New York, NY, Nov. 9, 2006.

Brown, Ruth, 78, rhythm-and-blues singer, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, who in the 1950s recorded a string of hits for Atlantic Records, which came to be known as the "house that Ruth built"; Henderson, NV, Nov. 17, 2006.

Campbell, Bebe Moore, 56, author of best-selling novels exploring social issues from the standpoint of upwardly mobile African Americans; she also wrote for children, and wrote about mental illness in books aimed at both adults and children; Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 27, 2006.

Comden, Betty, 89, lyricist and writer who, with longtime collaborator Adolph Green, helped create such hit Broadway musicals as On the Town (1944) and Bells Are Ringing (1956), as well as screenplays for a number of film musicals, most notably Singin’ in the Rain (1952); New York, NY, Nov. 23, 2006.

Ecevit, Bulent, 81, leading Turkish politician since the 1970s who championed socialist democratic principles and was generally regarded as incorruptible; he also made his mark as a journalist, cultural commentator, poet and translator; Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 5, 2006.

Friedman, Milton, 94, arguably the most influential 20th-century economist since Britain’s John Maynard Keynes, whose government-interventionist views he forcefully challenged in such landmark works as Capitalism and Freedom (1962); he helped turn the University of Chicago, where he taught for many years, into a bastion of free-market economics; San Francisco, CA, Nov. 16, 2006.

Hassan Gouled Aptidon, 90, first president of Djibouti, who served from 1977, when the African nation gained its independence from France, until 1999; Djibouti city, Djibouti, Nov. 21, 2006.

Lockwood Jr., Robert, 91, Mississippi Delta blues singer and guitarist who became the torchbearer of blues legend Robert Johnson’s legacy and a celebrated artist in his own right; Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 21, 2006.

Noiret, Philippe, 76, French actor who appeared in many international - especially Italian - productions; one of his best-known starring roles was as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in Il Postino (1994); Paris, France, Nov. 23, 2006.

O’Day, Anita, 87, jazz singer, renowned for her scat-singing prowess, who rose to fame with drummer Gene Krupa’s band in the early 1940s and continued to perform well into her 80s; her sex appeal and long history of drug and alcohol abuse earned her the nickname the Jezebel of Jazz; Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 23, 2006.

Palance, Jack, 87, hulking actor memorably villainous in such films as Sudden Fear (1952) and Shane (1953) who also turned out to have a flair for comedy, especially in City Slickers, for which he won a supporting-actor Oscar in 1992; Montecito, CA, Nov. 10, 2006.

Pep, Willie, 84, featherweight boxer celebrated for his speed and defensive prowess; he was world featherweight champion for most of the period from 1942 to 1950, and had a career record of 230 wins and only 11 losses; Rocky Hill, CT, Nov. 23, 2006.

Puskas, Ferenc, 79, Hungarian soccer player widely regarded as his sport’s first international superstar; he was the mainstay of Hungary’s national team in the decade after World War II and extended his career for another decade as a star of Spain’s Real Madrid team; Budapest, Hungary, Nov. 17, 2006.

Schembechler, Bo, 77, one of the winningest coaches in college football history, who during his 21 seasons at the University of Michigan (1969-89) led the school to 13 Big Ten championships and two Rose Bowl victories; Southfield, MI, Nov. 17, 2006.

Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Jacques, 82, French journalist, author and politician; he co-founded (1953) what became France’s first weekly newsmagazine, L’Express, wrote best-selling books on foreign relations, and was president of France’s Radical Socialist Party during the 1970s; Fécamp, France, Nov. 7, 2006.

Styron, William, 81, author of a relatively small number of compelling novels, including The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) and Sophie’s Choice (1979), that brought him both critical acclaim and popular success; he chronicled his struggle with clinical depression in a nonfiction work, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990); Martha’s Vineyard, MA, Nov. 1, 2006.

Wolf, Markus, 83, longtime spymaster for the foreign-intelligence service of communist East Germany’s dreaded Ministry of State Security, or Stasi; he retired in the late 1980s, shortly before German reunification; Berlin, Germany, Nov. 9, 2006.

Special Feature: Remembering Pearl Harbor

Joe Gustaitis


US Navy

Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water beside the sunken USS West Virginia during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Sixty-five years ago - on December 7, 1941 - almost 400 Japanese planes attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing the United States into World War II. Japan's surprise attack, which was one of the most pivotal events in U.S. history, has since been commemorated with many books and films, as well as a memorial over the sunken battleship, the USS Arizona.

World War II Begins

Although Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939 is generally considered to be the beginning of World War II, some historians have argued that it actually started with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Imperial Japan had vast expansionist ambitions, and when war broke out in Europe, Japan saw it as an opportunity to further widen its Asian empire. In September 1940, after signing an alliance with Germany and Italy, Japanese forces moved into French Indochina. Ten months later, Japan took control of southern Indochina, provoking the U.S., Great Britain, and the Netherlands to establish a ruinous embargo of oil and other materials on Japan. Negotiations took place between the United States and Japan, but it appeared as if an agreement would not be reached. Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo secretly set November 29, 1941, as a deadline for negotiations to end with the U.S, and when that date passed, Japan decided on war.

Day of Infamy


U.S. Naval Historical Center

A Japanese plane takes off from an aircraft carrier on the morning of December 7, 1941

On November 26, 1941, a fleet of 33 Japanese ships set sail for Hawaii. Six Japanese aircraft carriers, along with 11 destroyers, three cruisers, and two battleships were part of the fleet. (Ten months previously, Japan had begun working on a plan to attack Pearl Harbor). Early in the morning of December 7, 1941, some 360 aircraft took off from the Japanese aircraft carriers, and traveled toward Pearl Harbor. Although U.S. radar operators detected the planes at around 7 a.m., they thought that they were a scheduled flight of U.S. B-17 bombers. Several hours before the Japanese attack, U.S. intelligence officials who had broken Japan's encryption code, decoded a message suggesting an immenent attack. However, their warning message was not received until after the attack had begun. The Japanese planes attacked at 7:55 a.m. local time.

Within hours, two U.S. battleships - the USS Arizona and the USS Oklahoma - were completely destroyed. Six other battleships were damaged, as were three cruisers and three destroyers. The Japanese had wanted to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet's three aircraft carriers - the Lexington, Enterprise, and Saratoga - but they were out of port that morning. By the end of the attack, 18 U.S. ships had been sunk or severely damaged, some 200 U.S. aircraft had been destroyed, and the U.S. had lost more than 2,300 people - about half of them sailors aboard the Arizona. That vessel was hit by a 1,760-pound bomb that struck its forward ammunition supply, causing it to sink in less than nine minutes. Out of the USS Arizona's crew of 1,511, only 334 survived. In contrast, Japanese losses were small. Fewer than 60 planes and a small number of submarines were destroyed, and about 100 Japanese pilots and sailors died.


US Navy

The USS Arizona sank in less than nine minutes after being hit by a 1,760-pound bomb that struck its forward ammunition supply.

On December 8, 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared before Congress to ask for a declaration of war. In one of his most famous speeches, Roosevelt described December 7 as "a date which will live in infamy." Less than an hour after Roosevelt's address, the Senate voted to declare war on Japan, by a vote of 82-0. The House also passed the war resolution, by a vote of 388-1. (Montana's Jeannette Rankin (R) was the only representative to vote against the declaration of war). That same day, Canada and Britain declared war against Japan, and three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the U.S. The war would continue for almost four years, ending after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Following the Pearl Harbor attack, some U.S. military leaders faced criticism. Two military leaders, Navy Admiral Husband Kimmel and Army Lieutenant General Walter Short, were ousted. In July 1946, a congressional panel that had probed the attack found that Kimmel and Short's mistakes did not amount to dereliction of duty, but were errors of judgment. The report also found that Roosevelt and members of his cabinet had not "cajoled" Japan into launching an attack. Roosevelt and some in his administration had faced allegations that they purposely provoked an attack because they wanted the U.S. to enter the war.

The USS Arizona Memorial


U.S. Geological Survey

The sunken USS Arizona and the memorial over it.

In the immediate postwar years, the USS Arizona lay on the ocean floor, the tomb of more than 1,000 servicemen. Public sentiment for some kind of memorial grew when the Pacific War Memorial Commission was established in 1949. Nine years later, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the construction of a memorial over the Arizona. Fundraising then commenced (in 1961, Elvis Presley headlined a fund-raising concert at Pearl Harbor) and, after U.S. President John F. Kennedy secured federal funds to complete the Arizona memorial, it opened in 1962.

Three years later, it was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1980 the memorial's museum and visitors' center were opened. Since the early 1980s, the cremated remains of service men who served aboard the battleship have been deposited at the memorial. Those who were formally assigned to the ship on December 7, 1941, are entitled to have their ashes placed inside the vessel, and other Arizona veterans have the right to have their ashes scattered on the water over the ship. Today, a 184-foot-long memorial structure stands above the sunken wreck, and every day the ship still leaks some two quarts of fuel, which Pearl Harbor survivors call "black tears."

Commemorating the Greatest Generation

When the Arizona memorial was built, Pearl Harbor finally had a permanent monument. However, as Emily Rosenberg points out in her book A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory, during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the anniversaries of the attack, though reverent, tended to be low-key and not heavily covered by the press, nor was there a large influx of tourists to the memorial site. This has partly been credited to the wrenching experience and memory of the Vietnam War, which left many young people with a distrust of the military that did not dispose them to commemorate martial episodes.

However, this began to change in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. In 1984, Studs Terkel published The Good War: An Oral History of World War II, a collection of the reminiscences of 121 participants in World War II, which won its author the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. In 1998, Steven Spielberg released his World War II epic and box-office smash Saving Private Ryan, and Terence Malik's film adaptation of James Jones's autobiographical novel The Thin Red Line, which depicted the battle of Guadalcanal, debuted in theaters.

That same year, television news correspondent Tom Brokaw published The Greatest Generation, a collection of World War II stories that gave an indelible name to the generation that fought that conflict. Brokaw followed that book with The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections (1999) and An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation (2001). Other books of a similar kind were also published, including Charles Day's Greatest Generation Anecdotes, Paul E. Morgan's Dial "M" for Memories: Of the Greatest Generation, and Larry King's Love Stories of World War II In 2001, the cable network Home Box Office (HBO) broadcast the 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers, which told the story of Easy Company of the U.S. Army Airborne Paratrooper division.


National Park Service

A group of Pearl Harbor survivors at the Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration in December 2004.

Pearl Harbor's profile also began to rise in the early 1990s. On the 50th anniversary of the attack, U.S. President George H.W. Bush presided over a reunion at the site that was attended by 2,000 veterans of Pearl Harbor. In that same year Congress established the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Medal to "commemorate the sacrifices made and service rendered to the United States by those veterans of the Armed Forces who defended Pearl Harbor and other military installations in Hawaii against attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941." Veterans who served in Hawaii during the attack are eligible for the medal, as are civilian employees of the Army or Navy if they were present and either killed or wounded during the attack (the next of kin of deceased veterans may be given the medal on their behalf).

However, probably nothing did more to raise consciousness about December 7, 1941, than the film Pearl Harbor, which was released in the 60th anniversary year. Although the special effects were spectacular (the Navy actually allowed the producers to blow up some inactive ships), the movie itself was neither a critical nor a box-office success. However, the publicity campaign that preceded it was intense and inescapable. Toy companies produced Pearl Harbor action figures, women's magazines touted a 1940s fashion look, cable TV stations flooded the airwaves with Pearl Harbor documentaries, magazines profiled Pearl Harbor veterans, and reporters were flown to Hawaii and feted at parties.

The year 2006 marks Pearl Harbor's 65th anniversary. As they have on anniversaries past, a group of Pearl Harbor survivors is meeting in Hawaii, but the Pearl Harbor Survivors Project has announced that "given the age of survivors and their limited ability to travel, the 65th anniversary will mark the last planned Survivors Summit," which makes this anniversary particularly special.

In early 2006, a similar occurrence took place in France. At the event that marked the 90th anniversary of the colossal Battle of Verdun of World War I, the ceremonies were held without the presence of a single survivor for the first time. (A handful of World War I veterans are still alive, but all are well over 100 years old). As the Verdun organizers stated, that great battle is passing "from memory into history." That situation will also apply to Pearl Harbor although, of course, no one knows when. But to say that some day no one will remember Pearl Harbor is not to say that it will be forgotten. Memorials, books, films, memorabilia, museums, and ceremonies will ensure that Pearl Harbor will have its special place in the consciousness of many future generations to come.

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


A survey published by the Churchill Insurance Company in Britain in August 2000, reported that more lost luggage goes astray in Egypt than in any other country. According to the survey, more than one in ten travelers in Egypt reported lost luggage that was subsequently found miles away from the intended destination.

Chronology — Events of November 2006


     Democrats Win Control of Both Houses of Congress - Democrats made big gains in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, taking majority control of the U.S. Senate and House, and picked up 6 governorships. Public displeasure with the Iraq war appeared to be the single most important factor in the election, but other hotly debated issues included corruption, immigration, and the uneven economic recovery.
     In Ohio, incumbent Republican Representative Mike DeWine lost to Democrat Sherrod Brown. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, Jr., son of a popular former governor, easily defeated 2-term Sen. Rick Santorum, a leading advocate of conservative principles. In Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, a former state attorney general, defeated Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican moderate.
     In a narrow, 7,000-vote upset in Virginia, Democrat Jim Webb, former Navy secretary under Pres. Ronald Reagan, edged out Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen. Allen had been damaged by remarks, made on the campaign trail in August, that were widely perceived as racially insensitive. In Montana, Democrat Jon Tester, president of the state Senate and a conservative on some social issues, thwarted a bid by Republican Sen. Conrad Burns for a 4th term. In Missouri, Democratic state auditor Claire McCaskill unseated GOP Sen. Jim Talent in another close race.
     Running as in independent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman was re-elected in Connecticut, defeating Ned Lamont, who had beaten him in the Democratic primary. Lieberman said he would caucus with the Democrats. U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, elected to the Senate from Vermont as an independent, said he would also ally himself with the Democrats. The Republicans held the open Senate seat in Tennessee, where former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker Jr. defeated U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. In all, the Democrats, along with Democrat-leaning independents, came away with a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
     Without losing a single seat of their own, the Democrats took about 30 House seats from the Republicans. Democratic gains were scattered across the country, led by 4 in Pennsylvania and 3 each in Indiana and upstate New York. In 3 districts where Republican House members - Tom DeLay (TX), Bob Ney (OH), and Mark Foley (FL) - had resigned because of scandals, Democratic candidates won. Other Republicans touched by scandal - Richard Pombo (CA), Don Sherwood (PA), and Curt Weldon (PA) - ran for re-election but were defeated. Jim Leach (IA), Charles Bass (NH), and Nancy Johnson (CT) were among long-time GOP stalwarts who lost. The Democrats ended up with 231 House seats to the Republicans’ 202. Two seats were still undecided at month’s end.
     In gubernatorial races, there were sweeping victories for state Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer (D) in New York and U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D) in Ohio. Other Democratic wins came in Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, and Massachusetts, where former U.S. assistant attorney general Deval Patrick became the nation’s 2nd black governor since Reconstruction. At the end of November, 28 governors were Democrats, and 22 were Republicans.
     A wide range of ballot propositions were considered in 37 states. Voters in 7 states approved state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages. In Arizona, however, that prohibition failed narrowly, the first time any state had in a referendum rejected a gay marriage ban. South Dakota voters overturned a controversial new state law that forbade almost all abortions. In Missouri, a state constitutional amendment to protect stem-cell research was ratified narrowly. Six states approved minimum-wage increases.

     Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Resigns - Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose competence had long been criticized by opponents of the war in Iraq, resigned Nov. 8, the day after the midterm elections. In making the announcement, Pres. Bush said that both he and Rumsfeld agreed that it was time for "a fresh perspective" on Iraq. Bush introduced Robert Gates, a former Director of Central Intelligence and now president of Texas A&M University, as his nominee to succeed Rumsfeld. His Senate confirmation is widely viewed as likely.

     New Leaders for the New Congress - Washington, DC, was in a state of transition throughout November. The outgoing 109th Congress returned for a post-election "lame duck" session with the Republicans still in a majority. In bipartisan gestures, Pres. Bush met Nov. 9 with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Nov. 10 with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. On Nov. 14, the Democratic Senate caucus chose Reid, who was currently minority leader, to be Senate majority leader in the new Congress. Sen. Richard Durbin (IL) was named majority whip.
     House Democrats made history Nov. 16 when, as expected, they elected Pelosi to be their candidate for Speaker of the House in the 110th Congress. She will be the first female House Speaker in U.S. history. Pelosi backed John Murtha (PA), a longtime ally and an outspoken advocate of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, for the position of majority leader, but the caucus, by 149-86, chose Steny Hoyer (MD). James Clyburn (SC), an African-American, was elected majority whip.
     Republican senators Nov. 15 chose Mitch McConnell (KY) to be minority leader; current GOP majority leader Bill Frist (TN) had not sought re-election for his house seat. By a margin of one vote, the Republicans chose Trent Lott (MS) as minority whip; Lott previously served as majority leader from 1996 to 2001, and then as minority leader until 2002, when he resigned after making controversial remarks. House Republicans chose their leaders Nov. 17. Speaker Dennis Hastert, widely criticized for his handling of the Mark Foley scandal, had announced that he would not seek a leadership position. Republicans elected John Boehner (OH) as minority leader and Roy Blunt (MO) as minority whip. 32-year-old Adam Putnam (FL) was elected conference chairman.


     Diplomatic ‘Fallout’ From North Korea’s Nuclear Test Continues - Diplomats from many nations continued to discuss appropriate responses to North Korea’s first underground nuclear weapon test (Oct. 9). China said Nov. 1 that it would continue to refrain from some financial dealings with North Korea, and would also support new UN trade sanctions. Also Nov. 1, North Korea said its Oct. 31 decision to rejoin regional 6-party talks was based on the assumption that more direct talks with the U.S. would occur within that framework. South Korea was pursuing a more conciliatory policy aimed at closer economic ties, with North Korea, and on Nov. 13 said it would not join a U.S.-supported plan that sought to intercept North Korean ships carrying contraband.

     Bush Travels to Asia; Russia Closer to Joining the WTO - Pres. George W. Bush focused heavily on North Korea in discussions with Asian leaders, during a trip that began in Singapore Nov. 16. Arriving in Vietnam Nov. 17, he toured Ho Chi Minh City and met with Vietnamese leaders. At the 21-nation Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), in Hanoi, Nov. 18-19, Bush lobbied unsuccessfully for tougher action against North Korea. The APEC did, however, call on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.
     While in Hanoi, U.S. and Russian representatives Nov. 19 signed a bilateral agreement clearing the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization. In Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, Bush met Nov. 20 with Pres. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

     After Long Deadlock, Panama Elected to UN Security Council - A month-long contest over a seat on the UN Security Council ended in a compromise. Venezuela and Guatemala had vied for the seat on the Council, which was traditionally reserved for a Latin American nation. Venezuela had become harshly critical of U.S. foreign policy under its left-wing Pres. Hugo Chavez. Seeking to block Venezuela, the U.S. had backed Guatemala for the seat. After 47 ballots, neither country obtained the necessary two-thirds majority of the 192-member General Assembly. Venezuela and Guatemala withdrew Nov. 1 and supported Panama for the council. Panama was elected Nov. 7.

     Iraq’s Ex-Pres. Saddam Hussein Sentenced to Death - Saddam Hussein, who had been ousted as president of Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, was unanimously sentenced to death by hanging Nov. 5. The 5-judge Iraqi High Tribunal found him guilty in connection with the 1982 execution of 148 men and boys in the Shiite town of Dujail. The brutal reprisal had come after a failed attempt on Hussein’s life. Seven other men were on trial for the same crime. Three - including Hussein’s half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti - were also sentenced to death. One defendant was sentenced to life in prison, three others received 15-year terms, and one defendant was acquitted. The death sentences and the life sentence will be automatically reviewed. Pres. Bush hailed the verdict against Hussein as "a major achievement for Iraq’s young democracy." Hussein was still on trial for a separate incident where he allegedly murdered thousands of Kurds.

     Ortega, Former Foe of U.S., Regains Power in Nicaragua - Daniel Ortega, the former president of Nicaragua whom the U.S. sought to overthrow in the 1980s, was elected the country’s president on Nov. 5 with only 38% of the total vote. He had been one of the leaders of the Sandinista movement that overthrew Nicaragua’s government in 1979. The U.S. had provided financial backing to Contra rebels who sought to topple Ortega’s Marxist junta. Elected president in 1984, Ortega was voted out in another election in 1990, and failed in 2 subsequent elections to reclaim the presidency. Ortega said that he had since adopted more moderate views.

     Bomber Kills 41 Military Trainees in Pakistan - A suicide bomber Nov. 8 detonated explosives killing 42 Pakistani soldiers who were being trained at a base in Dargai, in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier province. The worst such attack in the country’s history, it was believed to be a reprisal for an Oct. 30 missile attack by the Pakistani government on a suspected terrorist training facility, which resulted in at least 80 deaths. Local Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility.

     Israeli Shelling Kills 18 in Gaza - Sporadic violence continued along the northern edge of the Gaza Strip. On Nov. 8, at least 11 Israeli artillery shells hit the town of Beit Hanoun, killing 19 Palestinians and wounding 50. The UN General Assembly, by a 156-7 vote Nov. 17, officially "deplored" Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and called for an end to all violence between Israel and Palestine.

     As Death Toll Rises in Iraq, Bush Endorses a Speedy Handover of Control to Iraqis - The Iraq interior ministry said Nov. 2 that 1,289 Iraqi civilians had been killed in October. A UN report released Nov. 22 put the total number of of Iraqis killed in October at 3,709, a monthly record.
     The U.S. army Nov. 11 offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of Ahmed Kousay al-Taie, an Iraqi-born U.S. solder who had been kidnapped Oct. 23. Also Nov. 11, Sunni gunmen killed 10 Shiites and kidnapped 50 more. Two suicide bombers Nov. 12 killed 35 at a police recruitment center in Baghdad. Also Nov. 12, the Iraqi government reported the discovery of 50 bodies near Baquba that had been dumped behind a provincial electrical company. A bomb detonated on a minibus in Baghdad Nov. 13 killed 20. Gunmen Nov. 14 entered a government research institute in Karrada and kidnapped at least 30 men. Some were later freed. Four U.S. security contractors and an Austrian were abducted Nov. 16 near the Iraq-Kuwait border. A minivan loaded with explosives Nov. 19 exploded in the Shiite city of Hilla killing 22.
     Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command and leader of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Nov. 15 that the Bush administration had not sent enough troops to Iraq after Pres. Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003. He also said that more U.S. troops would be needed to train Iraqi troops. Abizaid opposed setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, saying it would limit the flexibility of U.S. commanders in Iraq.
     Iraq and Syria re-established diplomatic relations, which were broken in 1982 when Syria backed Iran in its war with Iraq, Nov. 21 when Syria's foreign minister visited Baghdad.
     In the Shiite district of Sadr City, in Baghdad, Nov. 23, car bombs and an artillery shell killed more than 200 and wounded many more.
     NBC announced Nov. 27 that it would now use the term "civil war" to describe the fighting among various sectarian factions. Pres. Bush Nov. 28 declined to agree with the assessment that Iraq was in a state of civil war.
     Pres. Bush and Iraqi Premier Nouri Kamell al-Maliki Nov. 30 agreed to a speedy U.S. turnover of military responsibility to Iraqi government forces. Maliki went on to say that he hoped Iraqi forces would be ready to take over full control of the country by June 2007; however, no official timetable was set.
     A total of 65 U.S. troops were killed in action in Iraq throughout November. Six U.S. soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan.

     Former Russian Spy Dies from Poisoning in London - Former Russian KGB intelligence agent Aleksandr Litvinenko, who had sought asylum in Great Britain in 2000, died Nov. 23 of radiation poisoning. Doctors confirmed Nov. 24, that the substance used to poison Litvinenko was polonium 210, a rare and highly radioactive element that in tiny doses can kill a person. They stated that Litvinenko had probably been poisoned on Nov. 1. The former agent, a critic of the Russian government, had been looking into the murder in October of a Russian journalist. Relatives said that from his deathbed, Litvinenko had accused Pres. Vladimir Putin of Russia of being behind his poisoning. By November 30, traces of radioactivity had been found at 12 sites around London, including 2 British Airways 767s, which were being searched by British authorities; authorities expected to find traces in other locations as the investigation continued.

     Lebanese Cabinet Minister Assassinated - Lebanese Minister of Industry Pierre Gemayel and one of his bodyguards were killed by gunmen in Beirut Nov. 21. Gemayel, whose father had been president, was the latest in a series of anti-Syrian leaders to be assassinated. Syria, which has tremendous influence in Lebanese politics, condemned the killing. Pres. Bush said Nov. 21 that he would support Lebanon’s efforts to resist attempts by Syria, Iran, and others to destabilize Lebanon. The U.N. Security Council pledged to assist Syria in investigating the assassination.


     Evangelical Leader Resigns, Admits "Immorality" - Pastor Ted Haggard president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigned Nov. 2 after a former male prostitute made public accusations against him. Haggard, who also resigned as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, had denied the claims made by Mike Jones, who said that Haggard had paid him for sex about once a month for 3 years, and that Haggard had also bought methamphetamines through him. Jones said that he revealed his relationship with Haggard because the pastor had publicly endorsed a Colorado ballot proposal that would ban gay marriage in the state. In a letter to his congregation Nov. 5, Haggard, who is married and has 5 children, called himself "a deceiver and a liar."

Sports Feature — Vincent G. Spadafora

Basketballs Ain’t What they Used to be

NBA basketballs have always ranged in color from dark brown to a brownish orange, and they’ve always been made of leather. When you gripped a new one, it could be a little slick and hard to hold at first, but once you broke it in or got your hand a little sweaty, they were pretty easy to handle. This year, the NBA decided to move away from leather when it officially introduced its new "technologically advanced" basketball - a cheap-looking orange ball, made of a synthetic composite microfiber, instead of good old fashioned cowhide. NBA officials say that the balls are easier to grip, will bring uniformity to the game, and won’t need a breaking-in period (leather balls need to be bounced around for a few practices to get them into game shape). Overall, it will make for a better game.

Well, players and science disagree.

Among others, players such as LeBron James, Steve Nash, and Shaquille O’Neal have all complained about the grip on the new ball. They say it slips out of their hands. One can dismiss their complaints simply as a natural response to change, however, there’s actual scientific evidence to support their position. A group of researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington, tested old basketballs against new basketballs to see which were easier to grip, or rather were less slippery. They did this by sliding the balls along sheets of silicon (which is a lot like the human hand in terms of friction when sliding). The researchers found that when dry, the new basketball was much less slippery than the old leather one, and were a huge improvement. However, when just a little bit of moisture was added to the surface of each, the leather ball was overwhelmingly easier to grip. Considering these results, the new balls would be fine to use if we could just stop athletes from sweating. But since that cannot be done, officials may have to keep switching and drying balls during games. In the end, the researchers recommended switching back to the leather balls until more adjustments could be made to the new ones. Spaulding, which produces the new balls (as well as the old leather ones) disputes the group’s findings.

So far, there hasn’t been any noticeable change in the game as a result of the new ball. Players like Nash say they cannot make certain passes that they used to, but that could change as they get used to the new ball. Otherwise, except for the occasional lack of pop when the ball comes off the backboard, it’s true impact on the game won’t known at least until after the season. But I still have to wonder, did they really need a new ball?

For more on this, check out the following links:
USA Weekend article where they compare the two balls side by side
Article about the Texas study
NBA’s press release about the new ball

Science in the News: Social Bee-havior: It's in the Genes - Matthew Early Wright

You have more in common than you might think with one of humanity's distant insect cousins. If you have picked up a younger sibling from day care, gone for milk and bread at the local grocery store, or communicated an idea using gestures or body language, then you have crossed paths, behaviorally speaking, with a honeybee.

Scientists are now one major step closer to understanding the similarities, and many of the important differences, that make a honeybee a honeybee, and a human a human. An international team of more than 150 scientists has determined the entire genetic sequence of Apis mellifera, the western honeybee. The results appear in the October 26 issue of the journal Nature.

According to Gene Robinson, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-leader of the team,"Honeybees are important models to study the regulation and evolution of life in a society, especially social behavior itself."

This study, along with a raft of others published in journals such as Science, has revealed some surprises about the genetics of social behavior. It has also confirmed a few long-held suspicions about our honey-making cousins and left other questions tantalizingly open for further study.

Not Your Average Insect


Honeybees are highly social; they live in complex, stratified colonies, and divide the work among specialized groups.

Compared with fruit flies and mosquitoes, the only other insects whose genomes have been entirely sequenced, honeybees are highly social. They live in complex, stratified colonies, and divide the work among specialized groups. The queen is the only individual in the hive that reproduces, while nurse bees tend to the developing larvae. Meanwhile, the workers gather and store pollen from flowers, and are renowned among entomologists (insect scientists) for using elaborate dances - wagging their body in carefully orchestrated ways - to communicate the location and quality of food sources to other workers.

Yet for all this complexity, honeybees appear to have evolved more slowly than many other insects. They share many genes with the fruit fly, for example, but it appears that honeybees regulate these genes in ways specific to honeybees. The researchers found 65 different spots in the honeybee genome that code for microRNAs, or miRNAs, that turn specific genes on or off. The activity of these miRNAs differs between bees that perform various jobs, suggesting that the miRNAs help determine which social role an individual will play.

In recent years, genome studies have often borne out the old saw, "It's not what you have, it's what you do with what you have." To an extent, this seems true of honeybees.

"At the level of the brain, the parts list is pretty much the same as the fruit fly, yet there are these radical differences in behavior and social organization," George Weinstock, a team member and genome biologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, told "That makes you think that regulation is probably more important than the parts list."

Simply Scent

Still, the unraveling of the genome did yield significant findings relating to genes themselves. One of the most striking discoveries is that honeybees possess 170 genes that code for scent receptors. Compared with most of their insect brethren, this is a huge number: fruit flies have 62, while mosquitoes have 79, for example. Of these 170 receptor genes, at least 157 appear to be unique to honeybees.

This emphasis on smell is not surprising, however, since the sense plays a crucial role in the honeybee's search for food sources. Scent is also important in communication, since bees rely on pheromones to pick up on important social cues, such as the rank and health of other members of the hive.

On the other hand, bees have relatively few genes that produce taste receptors - just 10, compared to 68 in fruit flies, and 76 in mosquitoes. According to the researchers, the special relationship that bees have with plants could be a possible explanation for this.

For many species of animals, taste receptors evolved as a defense mechanism to detect poisonous compounds in plants. For example, humans have a large number of taste receptors that detect bitter alkaloid compounds, many of which are toxic. Because bees have a cooperative relationship with plants - bees spread pollen and are rewarded with food in exchange - there was not much evolutionary pressure to develop such defenses.

Also, compared to other insects, honeybees possess only half as many genes for processes that help to detoxify dangerous compounds.

"I don't want to go so far as to say [honeybees have] done a better job of evolving," Kim Worley, a team member from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, told National Geographic News. "The honeybees have got a lot of interesting biology, and we're seeing genes that can explain some of it."

Honeybees also have a much simpler immune system than their insect relatives, with only about one third as many genes devoted to fighting pathogens. However, the colony fights disease in other ways. For example, sick individuals are quickly banished from the hive, and elaborate grooming rituals ensure cleanliness, especially among those that care for developing larvae. In these ways, it appears that honeybees have evolved behavioral methods for ensuring the health of the collective, rather than the health of individual bees.

Worley suspects that the handful of genes that makes up the honeybee immune system might have evolved to fight specific, co-evolved microbes. "The other hypothesis is that we just don't know," she told National Geographic News


The researchers were also surprised to find two types of genes that have more in common with genes in humans and other vertebrates than they do with those in fruit flies or mosquitoes. These are the genes that control circadian, or 24-hour, rhythms, and those that govern gene regulation pathways.

Out of Africa?

The genome also supplied information regarding the origin of honeybees. Long believed to have come from Asia, it now appears, Apis mellifera came from Africa in the early 17th century. The now infamous "killer" bee subspecies, Apis mellifera scutellata, came to Brazil in the 1950s. It has since spread through much of Latin America and the southwestern United States by displacing, rather than breeding with, "normal" honeybees.

Bees are important to humans for a number of reasons. First, they are used in a great number of medical studies, including research into immunity, allergies, antibiotic resistance and stages of development. They are also hugely important to agriculture, since they pollinate billions of dollars worth of crops every year. Our fortunes are thus linked to the fortunes of bees, and consequently concern has been voiced over studies in recent years that suggest that honeybee populations in the U.S. and elsewhere might be in decline.

For now, researchers will have their hands full just decoding the honeybee's genes and determining how they contribute to the distinct character and behavior of the species. As Hugh M. Robertson, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told The Washington Post, "We can use this genome to go looking for any and every gene that might be involved in the evolution of sociality. But that is down the road."

A World Almanac Book of Records Fact


The annual Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, often claims to be the home of the world's largest Christmas tree. Though Dortmund's Christmas symbol has impressive proportions (145 ft high, 45 ft wide) and is visited by over 2 million people every holiday season, it is not actually a tree. The "World's Largest Christmas Tree" is, in fact, about 1,700 fir trees, stacked closely together in the shape of a giant tree, adorned with over 13,000 twinkling lights.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Seven (Newfangled) Wonders of the World

Other than the Pyramids, the ancient Seven Wonders of the World - including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and others - disappeared long ago from everywhere but the pages of history. Now a "New 7 Wonders of the World" campaign, begun in 2001 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, seeks to identify the exemplary accomplishments of "global cultural heritage." Over 20 million people have voted for nearly 200 nominated global landmarks; nominees were further reduced by a panel of architectural experts led by former United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization chief Federico Mayor. The remaining 21 finalists include the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin, the Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge. Weber and a team of ten experts will be visiting each site individually over the next few months, with the final list to be announced on July 7, 2007 (7/7/07), in Lisbon, Portugal. And if you missed it earlier, the public’s votes are still being tallied up through July 6, 2007. Go to to see the rest of the nominees and to cast your vote.

Blogging, from Genesis to Revelation

"What happens when an ignoramus reads the Good Book?" asks "Blogging the Bible," new feature online magazine Slate’s website. For however long it takes, the writer David Plotz, who is Jewish, will be reading each chapter and verse of the Bible, pausing along the way to write blog entries. Plotz got the idea when, bored at a bat mitzvah, he began reading parts of Genesis that he never had before - despite having attended Hebrew school and a rigorous Christian high school - and realized he was "fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document."

So he sought to look at the text that forms the foundation of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with fresh eyes. "My goal is not to find contradictions, mock impossible events, or scoff at hypocrisy. Nor am I quite stupid enough to pretend that Judaism (or Christianity) is just the Bible," Plotz wrote in explanation of his decision. But his commentary is, at times, irreverent.

On Genesis, Chapter 4, the story of Cain and Abel, Plotz writes, "First murder - that didn't take long. I never realized there was a vegetarian angle to Cain and Abel. Cain offers God the fruit of the soil as an offering, while Abel brings the choicest meat. God scorns Cain's vegetarian platter, so Cain jealously slays his brother."

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


AIDS Ribbon

Today is World AIDS Day, a day set aside for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS. This year marks 25 years since the first case of AIDS was identified, according to statistics from the U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS. About 4.3 million people were infected with AIDS this year and about 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses, the U.N. estimates. The United Nations says the virus is the leading cause of death among men and women between the ages of 15 and 59. Nearly two out of every three new infections occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is considered the greatest challenge of this generation. Learn more about World AIDS Day at

I was recently in Ohio, which is sometimes referred to as the "Mother of Presidents" because it was the birthplace of seven U.S. Presidents. They are Ulysses Simpson Grant (Point Pleasant), Rutherford Bichard Hayes (Delaware, OH), James Abram Garfield (near Orange), Benjamin Harrison (North Bend), William McKinley (Niles), William Howard Taft (Cincinnati), and Warren Gamaliel Harding (Corsica, now Blooming Grove). This is by no means the record - Virginia is the birthplace to eight.There are people who want to run marathons in every state, but one of my desires is to see every Presidential birthplace, house, library and burial location. Before you begin judging me, know that there are several books on the market on this subject, so I'm not alone in this interest. I keep a spreadsheet of the places I've visited. You too can visit the Grant birthplace, the Rutherford B. Hayes Home & Presidential Center in Fremont (I've been there), the James A. Garfield birthplace, home, and monument at Lakeview Cemetery There are no Benjamin Harrison sites in Ohio (you have to go to Indiana to see his home at, but you can see the gravesite of his grandfather, President William Henry Harrison at You can visit the home where William McKinley held his "front porch campaign" in Canton (now the National First Ladies' Library, his birthplace in Niles, and visit his grave at You can visit the house William Taft was born and raised in at In Marion, Ohio, you'll find the home of Warren G. Harding, and his impressive tomb Harding's tomb was complete in 1927, 4 years after his death, by which time his reputation was completely tarnished. The tomb was not dedicated until 1931, after the Coolidge administration, by President Herbert Hoover, who had served as Harding's Secretary of Commerce. And if you're interested in seeing the gravesites of our U.S. Presidents then visit I have, by the way, been to the gravesites of all these men.


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Ohio Presidents: Grant, Hayes, Garfield, B. Harrison, McKinley, Taft & Harding

Here's my subliminal message for a good gift suggestion. Hit the ZOOM IN button:!UszYk+p2KaumO+c4vm-1S+vriOk. The holiday season is upon us, and that means that for many of us it's time to get some shopping done. I stumbled upon a great site which offers printable coupons for stores around the country, and allows you to see the Sunday ads anytime, as well as do comparison pricing.

One of the gifts I got for my birthday this year was an mp3 player, which I am enjoying immensely. It has a capacity to hold 20,000 songs, so I'm in the process of downloading all of my CD's (which could take a while), and started with "A" groups, and thus I am currently listening to ABBA. ABBA (an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's name: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid), was a Swedish pop group which was active for a decade from 1972 to 1982.The popularity of their music in Europe and the United States continues to this date, and the music inspired the musical Mamma Mia. Learn more about ABBA at, and about the ABBA Museum which will be completed in 2008 If you are looking for an mp3 player, get some advice at,1874,2359,00.asp.


Notre-Dame Basilica

At the end of October I was in Montreal, which is a beautiful city in the Canadian province of Quebec. Among the many historical sites I visited was the Notre-Dame Basilica, which was originally built in 1830, with major work done inside the church occurring in the 1870s which resulted in a dramatic and stunning interior. This is truly an architectural gem. Learn more about the church and other sites to see in Old Montreal at

Ever want to get updated on a subject matter which you are interested in? At Google Alerts you can type in a subject whether it be about your favorite celebrity, or a competitor, and Google will e-mail you as often as you want, with links to the information you seek.

I had lunch with a young co-worker a few weeks ago and we were talking about a cousin of mine and he asked, "Is she on FaceBook?" I will admit to being ignorant of knowing what FaceBook was, but discovered that it is a social networking website that connects people around the world. When I asked if it was like, he replied, "oh, that's for people "your age." (Ouch). So I'm probably the oldest person around, but if you look hard enough, you'll see profile of me on

Last month saw the release of the 21st James Bond movie. Bond, a fictional British agent, codenamed 007 was created by writer Ian Fleming in 1952, and has been portrayed by six actors in the past 44 years - Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and currently Daniel Craig. The appeal of these movies is the suave leading man, spy scenarios, and the use of gadgetry. Learn more about James Bond at the James Bond International Fan Club, and about Fleming's creation at And here's a curious fact you probably didn't know about Ian Fleming; he wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Quote of the Month

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us."
     - Marcel Proust (1871-1922), French writer

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Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

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