Volume 07, Number 01 — January 2007

What's in this issue?

January Events
January Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — January
January Birthdays
Travel - Astana
Obituaries - December 2006
Special Feature: United Nations: A Change at the Helm
Chronology - Events of December 2006
Sports Feature: Early History of the Football Helmet
Science in the News: Wireless That's Really Wireless
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

January Events

January 1 - Polar Bear Swim (Sheboygan, WI); Fiesta Bowl (Tempe, AZ); Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA); Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX)
January 2 - Orange Bowl (Miami, FL)
January 3 - Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA)
January 5-8 - Elvis Presley’s Birthday Celebration (Memphis, TN)
January 6 - Great Fruitcake Toss (Manitou Springs, CO)
January 7-February 20 - Munich Fasching Carnival (Germany)
January 8 - BCS Championship (Glendale, AZ)
January 8-11 - International Consumer Electronics Show (Las Vegas, NV)
January 8-21 - KidFilm Festival (Dallas, TX)
January 12-13 - Bullnanza (Guthrie, OK)
January 12-14 - Art Deco Weekend (Miami Beach, FL)
January 14 - Houston Marathon (Texas)
January 17-20 - Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition (Rockford)
January 18-27 - Augusta Futurity (Georgia); SlamDance (Park City, UT)
January 18-28 - Sundance Film Festival (Park City, UT)
January 20, 27 - Gasparilla Extravaganza and Pirate Fest (Tampa, FL)
January 24-29 - Zehnder’s Snowfest (Frankenmuth, MI)
January 24-February 7 - South Florida Senior Games (Hollywood, FL)
January 26-February 4 - Saint Paul Winter Carnival (Minnesota)
January 27 - AFRMA Annual Fancy Rat and Mouse Show (Riverside, CA)
January 28 - Hula Bowl (Honolulu, HI)
January 29 - Bubble Wrap® Appreciation Day

January Holidays — National and International

January 1 - New Year’s Day; Liberation Day (Cuba)
January 15 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
January 20 - Muharram 1 (Islamic New Year), first full day
January 26 - Australia Day (Australia); Republic Day (India)
January 29 - Ashura

Did You Know?

The garnet is the birthstone for January.

This Day In History — January

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1999 A new currency, the euro, is formally adopted by many European countries.
02 1492 Spanish forces capture the city of Granada from the Moors, ending 700 years of Muslim rule in Spain.
03 1777 George Washington defeats the British under Lord Cornwallis at Princeton, NJ.
04 1964 Pope Paul VI becomes the first pope to leave Italy since 1809 when he flies to Jordan and Israel.
05 1818 The American ship James Monroe, of the Black Ball Line, sails from New York City for Liverpool, inaugurating common-carrier line service on a dependable schedule.
06 1998 The unmanned Lunar Prospector probe is launched to search for frozen water on the moon.
07 1789 The first U.S. presidential election is held, with George Washington the winner.
08 1959 In France, Charles de Gaulle takes office as the president of the newly created Fifth Republic.
09 1793 French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard makes the first balloon ascent in America at Philadelphia.
10 1946 The UN General Assembly meets for the first time.
11 1935 Aviator Amelia Earhart begins a flight from Honolulu to Oakland, CA, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean.
12 1932 Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the Senate.
13 1898 French author Emile Zola's J'accuse, defending Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, is published in Paris
14 1794 Operating on his wife, Dr. Jesse Bennett of Virginia performs the first successful Cesarean section.
15 1559 Queen Elizabeth I is crowned in England.
16 1773 British explorer and navigator Capt. James Cook makes the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle.
17 1995 An earthquake in Kobe, Japan kills 5,000
18 1912 The expedition of England's Robert F. Scott reaches the South Pole, then discovers that Roald Amundsen got there first.
19 1977 Pres. Gerald Ford pardons Iva Toguri D'Aquino, who broadcast as Tokyo Rose in World War II.
20 1649 During the English civil war, the trial of King Charles I begins in Westminster Hall.
21 1977 Pres. Jimmy Carter pardons most Vietnam War draft evaders.
22 1901 Britain's Queen Victoria dies after ruling for more than 63 years.
23 1977 Roots, a TV series based on Alex Haley's best-selling book, makes history January 23-30, when the show is viewed by more Americans than any other program since the invention of television.
24 1965 British leader Sir Winston Churchill dies.
25 1959 The first transcontinental flight occurs, on an American Airlines 707 nonstop from California to New York.
26 1788 The first settlers, mostly a shipload of convicts, arrive in Australia from Britain.
27 1987 Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev opens a plenary session of the Communist Party Central Committee with a stunning call for major political reforms, including new procedures to elect party officials.
28 1547 England's King Henry VIII dies and is succeeded by his 9-year-old son, Edward VI.
29 1847 The U.S. Mormon Battalion arrives in San Diego, CA, having marched 2,000 miles from Iowa to fight in the war against Mexico.
30 1933 Adolf Hitler is named chancellor of Germany.
31 1917 Suffering from a British blockade, Germany declares almost unrestricted submarine warfare in World War I.

January Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1919 J. D. Salinger, author (New York, NY)
02 1915 John Hope Franklin, historian (Rentisville, OK)
03 1969 Michael Schumacher, auto racer (Hurth-Hermuhlheim, Germany)
04 1914 Jane Wyman, actress (St. Joseph, MO)
05 1938 King Juan Carlos I, king of Spain (Rome, Italy)
06 1957 Nancy Lopez, golfer (Torrance, CA)
07 1957 Katie Couric, TV anchor (Washington, D.C.)
08 1937 Shirley Bassey, singer (Cardiff, Wales)
09 1941 Joan Baez, singer and political activist (Staten Island, NY)
10 1945 Rod Stewart, singer/musician (London, England)
11 1934 Jean Chrétien, former Canadian prime minister (Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada)
12 1964 Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO (Albuquerque, NM)
13 1977 Orlando Bloom, actor (Canterbury, England)
14 1943 Shannon Lucid, astronaut (Shanghai, China)
15 1937 Margaret O'Brien, actress (San Diego, CA)
16 1928 William Kennedy, author (Albany, NY)
17 1927 Eartha Kitt, singer (North, SC)
18 1933 Ray Dolby, inventor of the Dolby Sound System (Portland, OR)
19 1946 Dolly Parton, singer (Sevierville, TN)
20 1926 Patricia Neal, actress (Packard, KY)
21 1957 Geena Davis, actress (Wareham, MA)
22 1937 Joseph Wambaugh, author (East Pittsburgh, PA)
23 1957 Princess Caroline, princess of Monaco (Monte Carlo, Monaco)
24 1917 Ernest Borgnine, actor (Hamden, CT)
25 1933 Corazon Aquino, former Philippine president (Tarlac, Philippines)
26 1957 Eddie Van Halen, musician (Nijmegan, Netherlands)
27 1955 John G. Roberts, 17th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Buffalo, NY)
28 1977 Daunte Culpepper, football player (Ocala, FL)
29 1960 Greg Louganis, Olympic champion diver (San Diego, CA)
30 1937 Vanessa Redgrave, actress (London, England)
31 1937 Suzanne Pleshette, actress (New York, NY)

Travel - Astana

It's probably safe to say that the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan was once pretty much off the radar for most people, at least in North America. British comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen single-handedly made it a household word in the United States with his spectacularly popular portrayal of a comically gauche Kazakh journalist called Borat, first on his popular cable TV program Da Ali G Show and then in the hit 2006 movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The invented Borat represents his purported homeland as a backward place populated by racist, sexist, clueless anti-Semitic dolts who avidly drink horse urine.

The reality is a bit different. Kazakhstan is an immense country, the world’s ninth largest in area, featuring vast expanses of steppe and towering mountains. Its natural wonders have long drawn a smattering of travelers with a yen for bird-watching, hiking, or mountain climbing. Kazakhstan is blessed with an abundance of oil, gas, and other resources (such as metals), and the former Soviet republic has emerged in recent years as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Its commercial center, Almaty, is the most cosmopolitan city in Central Asia. Its gleaming capital, Astana, is in the midst of a multibillion-dollar transformation into a futuristic metropolis with edifices designed by noted architects from around the globe.

New capital

Astana is not a new city, but it is a new capital. Established as a fortress in the early 19th century, it remained at best a provincial center for most of its existence. It was named Akmola at first, and then Akmolinsk. In the 1960s it was renamed Tselinograd ("Virgin Lands City"), since it served as the center of a massive Soviet program to develop grain production in the region's virgin lands. With the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan gained its independence, and the city once again became Akmola, but only for a short while. Almaty, then the country's capital, was situated in a valley that limited its potential for growth. It also was plagued by pollution and dense traffic and had the additional disadvantage of being located near the southeastern border, far from the country's heart. President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to move the capital to a more central site, and he picked Akmola, then a town of less than 300,000 people amid the steppe on the Ishim River. In 1998 it was renamed Astana ("capital").

Nazarbayev poured resources into the transformation of Astana into a grand national capital, and the city began growing at a fast rate. In 2006 its population already exceeded 500,000; 1 million residents were expected by 2030. Guiding the city's expansion is a master plan drawn up originally by the distinguished Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, whose leitmotifs for the project were "symbiosis," "metabolic city," and "abstract symbolism." Kurokawa, by the way, also was responsible for the new passenger terminal at the city's international airport.

Religious concord

Contrary to Borat, the nation of Kazakhstan is a harmonious mix of diverse ethnic and religious elements. Nearly half the people are Muslims; most of the rest are Christians (mainly Orthodox); and there are tens of thousands of Jews. Regarding anti-Semitism, according to Israeli ambassador Ran Ichay, "this is one of the only places on earth where it doesn’t exist." Reflecting the denominational mélange, Astana's new buildings include an enormous mosque, a Catholic church, a synagogue, and a 203-ft (62-m) tall Palace of Peace and Accord, a pyramid-shaped granite-clad structure featuring a stained-glass apex and rising from an artificial hill that contains a 1500-seat opera house. This "Peace Pyramid," which opened in late 2006, has become the seat of the Congress of World and Traditional Religions, held every three years beginning in 2003. The complex is also home to the Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan and includes a library, a museum, a university, and hanging gardens. The architect, Britain's Norman Foster, said one reason for using a pyramid shape is that it has an ancient history and is not associated with a particular faith.




Astana-Baiterek, The Astana Tower, Kazakhstan

The iconic Baiterek ("high poplar") observation tower memorializes a Kazakh legend about a bird known as Samruk, that lays its eggs in a high poplar. The tower is 345 ft (105 m) tall. Its observation deck, offering a panoramic view of the city, is at a height of 97 m (318 ft), recalling the year (1997) that Astana became the capital. Crowning the tower is a large sphere, where visitors can find Nazarbayev's palm print in a gold and silver triangle, directed toward the president's huge domed palace. According to tradition, putting your hand in his palm can bring you good fortune and prosperity.

You can get an overview of the entire country at the outdoor museum known as the Atameken Map of Kazakhstan. This 4.2-acre (1.7-ha) exhibit features more than 200 mock-up pieces.

More attractions

Another site of interest to visitors is the Duman Entertainment Center, which offers restaurants, theaters, a casino, and an "oceanarium", reputedly the only aquarium in the world that is located so far - over 1800 mi (3000 km) - from any ocean.

This and other attractions notwithstanding, Astana's most beguiling characteristic remains its architecture. The National Academy of Music resembles a grand piano. The circus is reminiscent of a flying saucer. A 3500-seat concert hall now under construction, designed by Manfredi Nicoletti of Italy, will have slanted sides, giving it a boatlike appearance.

Plans for an enormous new Foster-designed showpiece were announced in December 2006, with construction expected to take not much more than a year. Called the Khan Shatyry Entertainment Center, it is envisioned as a mammoth mast-supported cable-net structure, essentially a transparent tent, that will provide a million sq ft (100,000 sq m) of sheltered space for stores, restaurants, cafés, and the like, along with parking and space for exhibitions and special events, as well as terraced gardens and a "water park" with wave pools, streams, and waterfall.

With a height of 490 ft (150 m), the Khan Shatyry will be the tallest structure in Astana. It will be coated with ETFE, an ethylene and tetrafluoroethylene polymer, that admits light but offers protection from the weather. That can be extreme in Astana, where winter temperatures fall as low as -22° F (-30° C). Conical in shape, the Khan Shatyry will be slightly bent, as if by the area's strong winds.

Astana, a Post-Soviet City http://www.astanamp.kepter.kz.
Borat’s Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan http://www.boratmovie.com
Foster's Pyramid of Peace in Kazakhstan, Wired New York - Forum http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5845
Khan Shatyr http://www.khanshatyry.com
Welcome to Kazakhstan http://www.kz/firsteng.html

Did You Know?

Niacin maintains the health of the skin, tongue, and digestive system. The best sources of niacin are poultry, peanuts, fish, and enriched flour and bread.

Obituaries in December 2006

Barbera, Joseph, 95, animation pioneer who with his longtime partner, William Hanna, created such iconic characters as Tom and Jerry for the movies and the Flintstones and Yogi Bear for TV; Los Angeles, CA, Dec. 18, 2006.

Boyle, Peter, 71, character actor known for his work in such films as The Candidate (1972) and Young Frankenstein (1974) and for playing the father of the title character in the long-running TV situation comedy "Everybody Loves Raymond" (1996-2005); New York, NY, Dec. 12, 2006.

Brown, James, 73, singer, songwriter, bandleader and dancer who sold millions of records in a five-decade-long career and came to be known as the "Godfather of Soul"; Atlanta, GA, Dec. 25, 2006.

Ertegun, Ahmet, 83, Turkish-born founding chairman of Atlantic Records (1947) who made the label a dominant force in popular-music genres ranging from jazz to rhythm and blues to rock to soul; New York, NY, Dec. 14, 2006.

Hunt, Lamar, 74, Texas oil-fortune heir who was a major investor in a number of sports, notably football; he was the founder and owner of the Nation Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs (originally part of the American Football League, which he co-founded) and was credited with coining the term "Super Bowl"; Dallas, TX, Dec. 13, 2006.

Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., 80, first female U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1981-85) and a leading foreign policy hawk during the Reagan administration; Bethesda, MD, Dec. 7, 2006.

Niyazov, Saparmurat, 66, authoritarian leader of Turkmenistan since 1985; his reign began when his country was still the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic; Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Dec. 21, 2006.

Pinochet, Augusto, 91, head of the military government that ruled Chile from the time the Marxist government of Salvador Allende was overthrown in 1973 until 1990; Santiago, Chile, Dec. 10, 2006.

Stafford, Robert T., 93, Vermont Republican politician, known for his efforts on behalf of education and the environment, who was his state’s governor for two years (1959-61), before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (1961-71) and the U.S. Senate (1971-89); millions of college students knew his name through a student loan program named after him in 1988; Rutland, Vt., Dec. 23, 2006.

Stanton, Frank, 98, president of the CBS network from 1946 to 1971; as CBS chairman William S. Paley’s right-hand man, he guided the network into the television era and helped turn it into one of the world’s most powerful media companies; Boston, Mass., Dec. 24, 2006.

Special Feature: United Nations: A Change at the Helm

Joe Gustaitis


UN Photo/Mark Garten

Kofi Annan congratulates new secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon.

Ten years ago - on January 1, 1997 - Kofi Annan of Ghana became the seventh secretary general of the United Nations (U.N.). The U.N. General Assembly had elected Annan, a career U.N. diplomat, the previous month. Annan's successor, Ban Ki Moon of South Korea, tooks over as secretary general on January 1, 2007. Ban is the first Asian secretary general in more than 30 years. (U Thant of Burma was secretary general from 1961 to 1971.) Ban takes the helm of an organization grappling with important global issues, such as nuclear proliferation and terrorism, as well as ongoing internal reform efforts.

Annan Is Elected

When Annan took over as secretary general of the U.N., the organization was facing some difficulties. Secretaries general usually remain in the post for a decade, but the U.S. had strenuously opposed the reelection of Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali to a second five-year term, charging that the U.N needed significant reform, including a series of cost-cutting measures. The U.S. owed the U.N. millions of dollars in arrears (estimates varied from $825 million to $1.5 billion), and the U.S. Congress, which was controlled by Republicans, refused to pay part of the debt unless changes were made at the U.N. Some Republicans, including former Senator Robert J. Dole (Kan.), also charged that Boutros-Ghali had interfered in U.S. policy.

Because of the controversy surrounding Boutros-Ghali, the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton vetoed his reelection. U.S. officials said that if Boutros Ghali won reelection, Congress was likely to hold back on paying money it owed the U.N. The U.N. Security Council had voted, 14-1, in favor of Boutros-Ghali's reelection, with the U.S. the sole dissenter. The veto created bitter feelings at the U.N., where many diplomats resented what they saw as heavy-handed interference by the U.S. in U.N. affairs.

Reforming the U.N.

It came as no surprise that Annan's first official trip after being sworn in was to Washington, D.C. After discussions with Annan at the White House on January 23, 1997, Clinton hailed him as "a man committed to a revitalized United Nations" and said that the White House's budget proposal for the following fiscal year would include a plan for settling the U.N. debt.

In a nontraditional move for a U.N. secretary general, Annan also met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Although Annan would not agree that the U.S. had the right to attach conditions to the payment of the arrears (some committee members wanted to link payment of the U.S. debt to the passing of reform measures at the U.N.), he said he would consult with Congress on reforming the U.N. Earlier that month, Annan had given a speech to the 9,000 employees of the U.N. Secretariat, saying that the U.N. owed it to its member nations to demonstrate that it was using their contributions "wisely and efficiently." Annan said that his reforms would "create a more relevant and more effective organization."


UN Photo/Evan Schneider

In March 1997, Kofi Annan presented a reform package that included cutting 1,000 staff positions at the Secretariat.

Annan wasted little time. In March 1997, he presented a reform package that included cutting 1,000 staff positions at the Secretariat. In addition, Annan set the U.N.'s 1998-99 two-year budget at $123 million less than the current budget of $2.48 billion, which meant that the U.N. would undergo its first budget cut since it was founded in 1945. Finally, he proposed combining the three Secretariat departments that dealt with economic and social affairs and recommended revamping the department of public information. These reforms, he said, were only the beginning; further changes would follow.

A Series of Difficulties

The reform measures and a $1 billion gift from media tycoon Ted Turner to the U.N. were a promising start to Annan's first term as secretary general, but difficulties soon followed. After Rwanda's president was killed in an unexplained plane crash in 1994, civil strife erupted between the two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi. Before the 100-day struggle was over, some 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsi, had been killed and some 2 million Rwandans had fled to Zaire and Tanzania. At the time of the genocide, Annan had been in charge of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

In February 1998, Major General Romeo Dallaire of Canada, a former leader of U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda, charged that the U.N. could have prevented the violence if it had sent a sufficient number of peacekeepers and had permitted them to take offensive action. It was reported that before the conflict began, Dallaire had sent a warning letter to the U.N. and that he had been barred from testifying about his communications with officials at U.N. headquarters. Annan set up an independent inquiry into the U.N.'s actions during the conflict.

The commission's report, which was issued in December 1999, blamed not only the U.N. but also the major world powers, especially the U.S., for not taking preventive action. The U.S., the report said, had essentially thwarted Security Council action in 1993 and 1994 and had failed to grasp that genocide was occurring. The head of the panel commented that it would "always be difficult to explain" the Security Council's decision to severely cut the number of peacekeepers in Rwanda during the conflict and then to increase troop numbers afterward. Although Annan, along with Boutros-Ghali, came in for his share of censure, Annan called the report "thorough and objective." He subsequently apologized for the U.N.'s failure, saying "All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it. There was a United Nations force in the country at the time, but it was neither mandated nor equipped for the kind of forceful action which would have been needed to prevent or halt the genocide. On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my remorse."

In 1998, the U.N. had to deal with a new wave of ethnic violence - this time in Europe. That year, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's forces launched a major offensive against rebellious ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo. By October 1998, more than 700 people had died and as many as 280,000 ethnic Albanians had been forced to flee. Earlier in the 1990s, the U.N. had come under criticism during the hostilities that followed the collapse of Communism in Yugoslavia when the international community proved largely unwilling or unable to counter Serbian atrocities.

After Yugoslavia refused to sign a peace pact with the Albanians and continued its assault, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in March 1999. NATO took action without the backing of the U.N. when it became clear that two of the Security Council's permanent members, Russia and China, would veto any resolution to use military force. Although Annan rebuked NATO for acting without Security Council approval, he endorsed the air strikes, saying "it is indeed tragic that diplomacy has failed, but there are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace." The U.N. later sent peacekeepers to Kosovo.

In the late 1990s, the U.N. became involved in developments in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that had been occupied by Indonesia in 1975, but had been seeking its independence ever since. Pressured by the international community, Indonesia permitted the U.N. to hold a referendum on independence in East Timor. Voters soundly backed independence, but pro-Indonesian militias then initiated a wave of violence in which thousands were killed. The Security Council responded by sending an international peacekeeping force, led by Australia, and East Timor became independent in 2002.

Some critics, however, charged that the U.N. should not have backed the referendum without realizing that violence might follow and without establishing some form of security to protect the voters. East Timorese independence leader José Ramos-Horta went so far as to say, "I don't see how people around the world can trust the U.N. again." Annan countered by stating that the actions following the referendum were by no means predictable: "Let me say the U.N. was not naïve about the history of the violence in East Timor during the past 24 years, [but] nobody in their wildest dreams thought that what we are witnessing could have happened."

East Timor has been just one of many areas to which the U.N. has committed either peacekeeping forces or observers. Today, U.N. personnel are active in Cyprus (where U.N. peacekeeping forces have been in place since 1964), Lebanon, Georgia, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, Burundi, Sudan, and Timor-Leste, and the list of places where they have been dispatched on earlier missions is a long one.

In 2001, Annan and the U.N. were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That year he was also appointed to serve a second term, which began in 2002.

"The World's Most Impossible Job"

The U.N.'s widespread global presence illustrates the worth and effectiveness of the U.N. as a stable force, but may also give a false impression of its actual power. Annan has been quoted as saying "The secretary general's position is very lonely," meaning that the secretary general, despite his position as head of the U.N., has no more power than that which is given him by the nations who control U.N. operations. When a superpower decides to act without the sanction of the U.N., it can do so, as was demonstrated during the prelude to the Iraq War.

The U.S. sought U.N. approval for military action against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and, along with Britain and Spain, introduced a resolution to the Security Council in late February 2003 that declared that Iraq had missed its final opportunity to disarm peacefully. However, when the foreign ministers of France and Russia threatened to veto that resolution, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the U.S. was prepared to lead "a coalition of willing nations" to disarm Iraq, even if it did not have the authority of the U.N. On March 17, 2003 - two days before the U.S. began military operations in Iraq - Annan said "If the action is to take place without the support of the council, its legitimacy will be questioned and the support for it will be diminished," but his warning had no impact. Annan's predicament vividly demonstrated a key challenge facing the modern U.N.

The war in Iraq prompted increased calls for reform of the Security Council. Many say it is not set up to handle the international security threats of the 21st century, particularly terrorism. The U.N. in recent years has studied ways to restructure the Security Council, including possibly increasing the number of members.

The Iraqi situation also affected Annan on a more personal level. When Iraq was under U.N. trade sanctions, the U.N. administered an oil-for-food program that had allowed Iraq to use oil revenues to purchase food and other supplies. That program ended in 2003, but an independent panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker later found mismanagement and corruption in the oil-for-food program. The panel's report was especially embarrassing for the secretary general because his son, Kojo Annan, had received payment from Cotecna Inspection Services SA, a Swiss firm that had won a $10 million contract for work in the oil-for-food program. However, the panel found no evidence that the elder Annan had influenced, or had even known about, the connection between his son and the company.

The U.N.'s inability to prevent conflict in Darfur also strained Annan's second term in office. Although the aftershock of the Rwanda genocide had formed a resolve that such atrocities should not happen again, they appeared to be reoccurring in Sudan's Darfur region. There, informal Arab militias known as Janjaweed began to destroy non-Arab villages, killing civilians and insurgents, and most observers believed that the Sudanese government was aiding them. On the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, Annan said that the "international community cannot stand idle" under the threat of genocide in Sudan. However, in January 2005, a U.N. panel released a report that said that although the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias had committed atrocities on a "widespread and systematic basis," the crimes were not technically genocide. The atrocities continued, and the U.N., although it began a plan to send peacekeepers to the region, proved unable to take direct action.

A New Leader


UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon

The Darfur crisis will be one of the many problems confronting the new secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon. Ban was born in the Korean city of Ch'ungju on June 13, 1944. In 1962, he served in an American Red Cross program and met U.S. President John F. Kennedy; the meeting, he said, encouraged him to pursue a diplomatic career.

Eight years later, Ban graduated from Seoul National University, and, in 1985, graduated from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a master's degree in public administration. He held a variety of positions at the South Korean ministry of foreign affairs and trade, including serving as national security adviser to South Korean President Kim Young Sam in 1996 and ambassador to Austria in 1999. In 2000, Ban was named South Korea's vice foreign affairs minister, and two years later he served as presidential adviser for foreign affairs to South Korean Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun. In 2004, Ban was promoted to the position of foreign minister.

Of six serious contenders for the position of secretary general - including candidates from Afghanistan, Jordan, Thailand, India, Latvia, and Sri Lanka - Ban soon emerged as a favorite. In July 2006, an informal poll of the 15-member United Nations Security Council indicated that he was likely to be elected secretary general. Other polls taken in September and October also showed that Ban had the full support of at least 14 Security Council members. Soon after, the other candidates pulled out of the race and on October 9 the Security Council formally nominated him as the next secretary general. Four days later, the United Nations General Assembly approved his nomination.

Ban's experience with North Korea (he was a key member of the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program) should prove valuable as North Korea will be one of the key problems facing his administration. On October 9, 2006, North Korea announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear explosion, and five days later, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. Ironically, Ban was formally nominated as secretary general on the very day of North Korea's announcement. He said at the time, "This should be a moment of joy, but instead I stand here with a very heavy heart." He also stated "I plan to go to North Korea as soon as I get the chance," and added that "Annan has never visited North Korea during his 10-year term." Ban was sworn in December 14, 2006, in preparation for taking office on January 1.

Many observers were hopeful that, as a Korean, Ban would be able to bring a special expertise to the situation in North Korea. Others wondered if he would be able to stand up not only to regimes like North Korea but also to the U.S., which had, by going into Iraq, demonstrated its willingness to disregard the U.N. To such critics, Ban responded, "I may look soft from the outside, but I have inner strength when it's really necessary." The day he was sworn in, Ban said he would seek to rebuild confidence in the U.N. "You could say that I am a man on a mission. And my mission could be dubbed 'Operation Restore Trust': Trust in the organization and trust between member states and the secretariat."

Did You Know?

The largest office building in the United States is the Pentagon, in Arlington, VA. It covers 29 acres and has about 17.5 miles of hallways.

Chronology — December 2006



U.S. House of Rep.

Silvestre Reyes

     Pelosi Picks Texan to Head Intelligence Committee - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), scheduled to become Speaker of the House in January, announced Dec. 1 that she would name Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D, TX) as head of the Intelligence Committee. She passed over Rep. Jane Harman (D, CA), the committee’s ranking democrat, with whom Pelosi had disagreements.

     John Bolton Resigns as U.S. Envoy to UN - Pres. George W. Bush announced Dec. 4 that he had accepted John Bolton’s resignation as U.S. ambassador to the UN. Bolton had held the position as a recess appointment by Pres. Bush Aug. 1, 2005, and it was apparent that the new Democratic-controlled Senate would not make his appointment permanent. Bolton had firmly supported the administration’s policy on Iraq and had harshly criticized UN policies and alleged corruption.

     Gates Confirmed as Sec. of Defense - The U.S. Senate confirmed Robert Gates as secretary of Defense Dec. 6, in a 95-2 vote. During confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 5,Gates was asked if the U.S. was winning the war in Iraq, to which he responded "No, sir." He later added that the war was not yet being lost either. After Gates was sworn in Dec. 18, he flew to Iraq Dec. 20 to assess the military situation there. He said that senior military commanders were concerned that sending more U.S. troops to Iraq would delay the day when the Iraqi government would assume responsibility for its security.


Dept. of Defense

Robert Gates, United States Secretary of Defense

     Ethics Subcommittee Criticizes House Leaders in Page Scandal - A subcommittee of the U.S. House Ethics Committee in a Dec. 8 report found that House members and staff employees had violated no laws or House rules while dealing with the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R, FL) and former House pages. Foley had resigned in September after inappropriate, sexually explicit computer messages to the young pages became known. The report stated that although House leaders had broken no laws, they had been unwilling to take responsibility for resolving the matter. It criticized Speaker Dennis Hastert (R, IL), Majority Leader John Boehner (R, OH), and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R, AZ) for not acting on what they knew about Foley’s behavior.

     Last Voting in House Elections Gives Democrats a 30-Seat Gain - With the conclusion of several runoff elections, the Democrats finally emerged from the midterm elections with 233 U.S. House seats, with 202 going to Republicans. This was a gain of 31 seats for the Democrats. Rep. William Jefferson (D, LA) won a runoff Dec. 9 to retain his seat. He had gained notoriety when the FBI, while investigating his financial dealings, found $90,000 in his refrigerator. In a runoff in Texas Dec. 12, Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) lost his seat to Ciro Rodriguez (D).

     Two More Democrats Enter Presidential Race, One Bows Out - Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) who had sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, said Dec. 12 that he would try again in 2008. A staunch liberal, he had opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning and had been a vocal opponent of U.S. conduct of the war. Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), who had been testing the presidential waters as a possible middle-of-the-road candidate for the Democratic nomination, removed himself for consideration Dec. 16, saying that his chances of winning were remote. Former Sen. John Edwards (NC), the 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president, announced his 2008 candidacy on Dec. 28.

     U.S. Agents Crack Down on Illegal Aliens - On Dec. 12, more than 1,000 Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided six Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in Greeley, CO; Grand Island, NE; Cactus, TX; Hyrum, UT; Marshalltown, IA; and Worthington, MN, and arrested 1,282 illegal alien workers. The raid was part of a 10-month investigation into identity theft by illegal immigrants. No charges had been filed against the company but 65 immigrants were charged with criminal violations related to identity theft or other violations.

     Senator’s Illness Puts Control of Senate in Doubt - Sen. Tim Johnson (D, SD) suffered a brain hemorrhage Dec. 13 and underwent emergency surgery. The U.S. Capitol physician said Dec. 14 that his condition was critical but stable. In the event that Johnson’s seat became vacant, it was thought likely that South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would appoint a Republican to replace him, thereby giving control of the Senate to the Republicans. As of Dec. 31, however, Johnson remained in critical but stable condition and had not announced plans to step down from his seat.



UN/DPI Photo by Susan Markisz

President Hugo Chavez Frias of the Republic of Venezuela

      Unrest in Lebanon - Beginning Dec. 1, huge throngs of protestors took to the streets in Beirut, Lebanon, in support of the militant organization Hezbollah and against the pro-Western government of Premier Fouad Siniora, which it sought to topple. The demonstrations continued for weeks with protestors calling for Siniora’s resignation. The Arab League, notably Sudan, stepped in to try to bring a diplomatic end to the crisis. Hezbollah is supported by Syria and Iran.

     Adversary of U.S Re-elected in Venezuela - Pres. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was re-elected on Dec. 3, after winning 63% of the vote. Chavez had long criticized Pres. Bush and U.S. foreign policy. He has sought to lead a coalition of left-wing governments in Latin America in an effort to distance itself more from the U.S.

     UN Peacekeepers Face Threat in Somalia - The UN Security Council gave unanimous approval Dec. 6 to a U.S. resolution creating an 8,000-member African peacekeeping force to put an end to political violence in Somalia. A UN-supported transitional Somali government was being challenged by Islamists, whose Union of Islamic Courts already controlled much of the southern half of the country, including Mogadishu, the capital. Leaders of the Islamists responded that the peacekeepers would be seen as invaders and that a war would result. Complicating matters, the deployment of peacekeeping forces was postponed as Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia , forcing the Islamists out of Mogadishu on Dec. 27.


White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush meeting with the Iraq Study Group in the Cabinet Room Wednesday, Dec. 6. 2006. Pictured with the President are the group's co-chairmen former Representative Lee Hamilton, left, and former Secretary of State James Baker.

     Commission Calls Situation in Iraq ‘Grave and Deteriorating’; Violence Continues in Wake of Hussein’s Execution - A bipartisan commission, the Iraq Study Group, concluded Dec. 6 that the military and political situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating." In their report, the commission noted the pervasive violence and corruption, the incompetence of security forces, and the "sectarian prism" through which Iraqi leaders saw the nation’s problems. The commission offered 79 recommendations for the U.S.-led coalition to create a stable and democratic Iraq.
     Early in 2006 [March 15], Congress had created the commission, which consisted of 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats, all eminent public figures. Former Sec. of State James Baker III (R) and Former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) were co-chairs. Neither Congress nor Pres. Bush was obliged to accept their proposals.
     The commission proposed that the administration bring Syria and Iran into negotiations about Iraq’s future, and it urged greater diplomatic efforts to end crises in Lebanon, and between Israel and the Palestinians, as a means of hastening a resolution in Iraq. It recommended that the U.S. aim to withdraw all combat forces not necessary for force protection from Iraq by early 2008. It said that if Iraq did not make progress toward national reconciliation, security, and governance, U.S. support for the government should be reduced. Throughout the month, Bush met with government and military leaders as he considered what to do next in Iraq.
     Bush, at a Dec. 7 White House press conference with British Prime Min. Tony Blair conceded that conditions in Iraq were "bad" but that he still held hope for victory. In commenting on possible scenarios by which the U.S. could end its presence in Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) said Dec. 7 that pulling troops out would bring defeat. Former Sec. of State Colin Powell said Dec. 17 that the U.S. was "not winning, we are losing" in Iraq and that he opposed sending more troops there without defining a goal and a means of attaining it.
     Car bombings in Baghdad Dec. 2 killed 60. Eleven U.S. soldiers died Dec. 6 in 5 incidents. In Baghdad Dec. 12, a truck bomb killed 70 and wounded 230, mostly day laborers seeking work. A U.S. Defense Dept. report Dec. 18 said that attacks on Iraqis and U.S. were rising sharply. It accused Iraqi police of supporting Shiite militias. Blair, in Baghdad Dec. 17, said Britain would keep troops in Iraq until the government there could defend itself. British and Iraqi troops stormed a police station in Basra on Dec. 25, killing 7 defenders and freeing 127 prisoners whom the British believed were falsely imprisoned and likely to be executed.
     On Dec. 26, an Iraqi appeals court upheld a death sentence against Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity. Iraqi officials moved quickly to carry out the sentence, and Hussein was hanged Dec. 30 in a Justice Ministry building in northern Baghdad. Pres. Bush said that "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself." Shortly after the execution, in multiple attacks apparently carried out by Hussein loyalists, four car bombs in Shiite areas of Baghdad and a nearby town killed more than 70 people and wounded dozens more.
     On Dec. 31, the total U.S. military death toll in Iraq reached 3,000 according to the Associated Press; Pres. Bush was reported to mourn the death from his Crawford, TX ranch, and Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros noted that "Every loss is regretted and there is no special significance to the overall number of casualties."

     Ex-Pres. Pinochet of Chile Dies - Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who had seized power in Chile in 1973 with U.S. support and had oppressively ruled the country until stepping down as president in 1990, died of heart failure in Santiago, the capital, Dec. 10. Though his official position was president, Pinochet ruled as a dictator and had many political opponents killed or tortured as he made a free-market economy in Chile. During the bloody 1973 coup, the Pinochet junta had ousted a democratically elected left-wing regime; as many as 3,000 were killed and many others disappeared. In recent years, authorities charged Pinochet in connection with these deaths and for financial crimes including tax evasion.

     Bloody Feud Between Fatah and Hamas Continues - The power struggle between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas continued in Gaza, with 17 deaths. On Dec. 11, 3 young sons of a Fatah leader and their bodyguard were shot dead while on their way to school. A Hamas convey returning from Egypt containing Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh came under fire Dec. 14. On Dec. 16, Pres. Mahmoud Abbas, a member of Fatah, called for early elections for his office and for parliament, and vowed, "We will not allow a civil war." Hamas leaders rejected early elections. Fatah and Hamas pledged Dec. 17 to postpone elections and agreed to a ceasefire, which lasted until Jan. 1 when abductions by both sides resulted in gunfire. A Peruvian photojournalist was kidnapped in Gaza City Jan. 1.

     Iranian Moderates and Reformers Gain in Elections - Elections in Iran Dec. 15 strengthened the hand of reformers and moderates, at the expense of conservative clerics and Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The voting was for local councils and the Assembly of Experts, which advises the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. One of the moderates, former Pres. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had lost the 2005 presidential election to Ahmadinejad, was up for re-election to the Assembly and ended up getting more votes than anyone else. At Amirkabir University in Tehran, Dec. 11, students heckled Ahmadinejad, threw firecrackers, and kicked his car in the first major open protest against the president.
     On Dec. 23, the UN Security Council passed a resolution banning the import to or export from Iran of materials and technology needed for enriching uranium, reprocessing, and ballistic missiles. It also froze the financial assets of 12 Iranians and 10 institutions linked to the nuclear program.

     4 Marines Charged With Murder of 24 Iraqi Civilians - Military prosecutors Dec. 21 charged 4 marines with the murder of 24 Iraqi civilians in the village of Haditha in 2005. Also, 4 officers were charged with dereliction of duty and failure to report accurate information about the deaths up the chain of command.

     Gas Line Explosion Kills 260 in Nigeria - An explosion in a gasoline pipeline in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, killed at least 260 people Dec. 26. Thieves had been tapping the pipeline, stealing gasoline to resell it.


     Death of Princess Diana Found to Be an Accident - A British investigation, Operation Paget, concluded Dec. 14 that the death of Princess Diana in 1997 was an accident and that no conspiracy or foul play was involved. She and her boyfriend, Emad Mohamed (Dodi) al-Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul, were killed when their car crashed in a tunnel in Paris while they were being pursued by paparazzi. Former London Police Commissioner Lord Stevens headed the inquiry. The report said that the driver’s blood alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit in France. Al-Fayed’s father, Mohamed al-Fayed, insisted that the "British establishment" had killed Diana and his son because they planned to marry and she was pregnant.

     Episcopal Congregations Vote to Secede - A long dispute within the Episcopal Church over its attitude toward gays led Dec. 17 to a walkout of some of its congregations. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the 79-mil member worldwide Anglican Communion. Conservative Episcopalians had been displeased by the consecration in 2003 of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire and by the celebration of same-sex weddings in some congregations. On Dec. 17, 2 large Virginia parishes and 7 smaller Virginia churches voted to pull out, and some of them voted to affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which in turn was affiliated with a church led by the archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. In all, more than 40 congregations had seceded since 2003.

     Former Pres. Gerald Ford Dies at 93 - Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States, died on Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA, at the age of 93. He had been hospitalized with pneumonia in January and had returned to the hospital in October. Pres. George W. Bush led the nation in tributes, praising Ford for "his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts. "Ford lived longer than any other president, exceeding the lifespan of Ronald Reagan by 45 days.
     Born in Omaha, NE, Ford had pursued a political career in Michigan, serving many years as a Republican member of the U.S. House, and eventually became the House minority leader in 1963. In 1973, when Vice Pres. Spiro Agnew resigned his office in disgrace, Pres. Richard Nixon nominated Ford to succeed him, and he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. When Nixon, facing the likelihood of impeachment in connection with the Watergate scandal, resigned, Ford became president on August 9, 1974 - the first president who had never been elected to either national office.
     In his effort to get past the turmoil of Watergate, Ford granted a pardon to Nixon for any crimes he may have committed; Ford’s popularity plummeted and never fully recovered. He inherited and contended with economic hard times - high unemployment and high inflation. The final, precipitous U.S. pullout from Vietnam in 1975 ended another dark chapter in U.S. history. An energy crisis and the Cold War with the Soviet Union also burdened the Ford presidency. After fending off a challenge from Reagan in the GOP presidential primaries in 1976, Ford narrowly lost his bid for re-election to Jimmy Carter.


All photographs from Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

Above:   Gerald R. Ford, Jr. (then known as Leslie Lynch King, Jr.) in baptismal gown (1913); University of Michigan football (1933); marriage to Betty Bloomer (1948); President and Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson; Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield; Speaker of the House John McCormack, and others salute House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford in the East Room. (1967). Below:   Being sworn in as President (1974); announcing pardon of Pres. Richard M. Nixon (1974); speaking at the University of Michigan (2004).


     Rape Charges Against Duke Athletes Are Dropped - Recently re-elected Durham, NC, District Atty. Michael Nifong announced Dec. 22 that he was dropping rape charges against 3 former members of the Duke University lacrosse team. He said he would continue to press kidnapping and sexual offense charges against the 3. The accuser originally said she was attacked at a team party in March while performing as a stripper. On Dec. 21, the accuser said she could not testify with certainty that she was raped. The NC state bar association filed charges against Nifong Dec. 28 for violating professional conduct by making improper commentary to reporters.

Sports Feature: Early History of the Football Helmet — Vincent G. Spadafora



The first of any type of football helmet worn during a game was in 1893 during an Army vs. Navy college game in Annapolis, MD. It was worn by a naval cadet named Joseph Mason Reeves. Doctors told him that he would be risking death if he took another kick to the head (which he seemingly took a lot of during his career). So Reeves asked a local shoemaker to fashion a leather helmet to protect him from head trauma. It worked well and Reeves went on to not only coach Navy, but he later became an Admiral and one of the most influential officers in U.S. naval history.

The next innovation was a "head harness," which was developed by halfback George Barclay of Lafayette College in 1896. He asked a harness-maker create a sort of head harness that could give him protection on both his head and ears. As the years went on, players began adding padding and ear flaps with earholes and the head harnesses began to look more like helmets as we know them today. Around 1917, several players began wearing helmets with shock-absorbing suspension. This was a huge improvement over earlier designs where the head rested against the helmet’s outer shell, which didn’t do much to prevent injury.

The next big innovation came in 1939 when the John T. Riddell Company, a manufacturer of sports equipment, developed the plastic football helmet. It was much stronger, more durable, and offered a much greater degree of protection over all previous designs. It also included a better suspension system inside and the first chin strap that was worn on the chin (all previous were worn closer to the neck). Plastic helmets in their early days weren’t perfect. After particularly violent collisions, they had a tendency to crack or break completely in half. This led the NFL to ban plastic helmets in 1948, forcing players to go back to wearing leather ones. However, after some protest, they were reinstated in 1949. That pretty much spelled the end of the leather helmet.

Face protection existed in the 1890s through 1910s, but it was limited to of pieces of thick leather hanging down from the front of the helmet, between the wearer’s eyes, to cover the nose. But the actual facemask was developed in the 1930s by a sporting goods store owner named Vern McMillan in Indiana. It caught on slowly with players, but as time went on, many were adding makeshift facemasks to their own mask-less helmets. Modern facemasks came into being in 1955 when Riddell, at the request of Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown, created a single-bar facemask made from hard plastic covered with rubber.

Since then, stronger materials and better design have led to the helmets we see today. Here are a few more helmet facts:
• In the early days, most football players refused to helmets them thinking that they were unmanly. Some coaches even cautioned against them arguing that helmets could cause more injury than they prevent.
• Helmets in college football were optional until 1939 when they became mandatory equipment. The NFL didn’t make them mandatory until 1943, but by then everyone was wearing one.
• The last pro player to play in a football game without a helmet was Dick Plasman, end, of the Chicago Bears on 12/8/1940 during the NFL championship game against the Washington Redskins. The Bears clobbered the Redskins 73-0.
• Though teams had often painted colors on their team colors on their helmets in the past, the St. Louis Rams in 1948 became the first team to put their logo on their helmet.

Science in the News: Wireless That's Really Wireless — Adam Sales

Do you ever realize, right before an important phone call, that your cell phone is about to run out of battery power? Or does your cell phone ever wake you up in the middle of the night, bleeping to remind you that it needs to be recharged? And if so, have you been inspired to delve into the basic principles of physics to invent a new technology? If your name happens to be Marin Soljačić (pronounced Soul-ya-cheech), and you're an assistant professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then the answer to the cell phone-becomes-an-evil-middle-of-the-night-alarm-clock question is yes. (If the above does not describe you, relax - there are other worthy problems that need to be solved and may have your name written on them.)

In a presentation at the 2006 American Institute of Physics Industrial Physics Forum, Soljačić announced that he, along with colleagues Aristeidis Karalis and J. D. Joannopoulos, had figured out a way to transfer electric power, and hence, automatically recharge batteries, without any wires. The principle behind Soljačić's idea is electromagnetic induction, a phenomenon that physicists have known about for 175 years. Now, Soljačić's main question, which he asked at the end of his presentation, is, "How come no one thought of this before?"

An Ancient Concept, a New Approach


Library of Congress

Nicola Tesla

Marin Soljačić did not invent the idea of wireless energy transfer - the idea is almost as old as life itself. Plants, as well as some bacteria and fungi, harvest energy from sunlight. Slightly more recently, inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla, who was one of the minds behind our modern power grid, thought about how to use wireless energy transfer instead of the ubiquitous electric lines we have today.

The problem with Tesla's plan, and with many other attempts since, is that most of the energy ended up flowing out into nowhere - the method was very inefficient. When the Sun does this, we don't worry about it, but it's a quick ticket to bankruptcy for the typical electric company. Other ideas, along similar lines, involve shooting energy out in a small, directed beam, exactly at the target. While this might work sometimes, there has to be a direct line-of-sight between where the energy comes from and where it's going. Also, whatever device is sending out the energy needs to know exactly where to send it, and that's not always easy to know.

Soljačić's approach combines the efficiency of the directed energy beam with the universality of Tesla's device. Any properly equipped device close enough to a transmitter could receive the energy, with very little energy being lost. What is lost in the new scheme is range: Soljačić's theoretical device would be able to power devices that are only within a few yards of the power source, or within the confines of a room. Powerlines, it seems, need not worry about being replaced any time soon.

You Want It? You Got It

The trick is that Soljačić's device will send out energy only if there is something ready to receive it. Otherwise, no energy will be sent off, and very little energy will be lost.

Soljačić realized that this can be accomplished in a relatively simple way, making use of a basic principle of electromagnetism. The reason physicists study electricity and magnetism together, and consider them as two aspects of the same force, is that they constantly interact. When an electric charge moves, as in electric current, it gives rise to a magnetic field. When a magnetic field changes its direction or intensity, it gives rise to an electric force - this phenomenon is called electromagnetic induction. Soljačić realized that these interactions can be harnessed to transfer energy across a room. A constantly changing magnetic field, supplied by the transmitter, can cause an electric current to flow in whatever device is present, like your cell phone.

The transmitter, which would be plugged into the wall, would start by producing an electric current in a loop. The current will then generate a small magnetic field throughout the room. Since humans, along with almost every object they own, tend to be magnetically neutral, no one would ever notice the field.

The current in the transmitter would not be constant; it would constantly change, moving back and forth regularly. A changing current means a changing magnetic field, and a changing magnetic field means an electric force. If there happened to be an electrical circuit in the room, or any loop of wire, the electric force would cause a current in that wire. This new current could then be used to power your cell phone.

A Scheme That Really Resonates

Of course, we don't want currents to start flowing in every electrical circuit in the neighborhood. Besides potentially ruining computers and TVs, this would be a tremendous waste of energy. Somehow, the magnetic field would need to excite some circuits, without affecting any others.

Again, the solution to this quandary comes from a basic physics concept: resonance. When you dribble a basketball, you have to move your hand up and down at exactly the right frequency, if you want to keep the ball bouncing. Pushing the ball back down to the floor at the right times will keep it bouncing up and down, but if you tried to push it down when it was only halfway up, or already beginning to fall, it would quickly stop bouncing the way you want, and before you knew it the other team would have two more points.

The same applies to almost any system that oscillates, or moves back and forth. If it is pushed at exactly the right frequency, called the resonant frequency, it will oscillate a lot; if it is pushed at the wrong frequency, it will oscillate very little, or not at all.

The system that Soljačić proposed also involves oscillation - the current in the transmitter oscillates in order to produce a changing magnetic field, and the changing magnetic field produces an oscillating current in your cell phone. The magnetic field has to "push" the electric force in the cell phone's circuit at exactly the right frequency in order to cause a current to develop. Other circuits in the room have different resonant frequencies - the frequency that works for the cell phone won't work on the circuits inside a TV or a computer.

It will take a while before engineers seize upon Soljačić's ideas and actually build such a device. They will have to figure out how to make it cheaply, how to market it, and how to make sure that it doesn't have any harmful effects, either on people or their various electronic gadgets. But, if things pan out, we will probably begin to see automatically, wirelessly charging laptops. Mobile robots in factories will no longer need to be plugged in. Electric cars may even be able to benefit from roadside transmitters. And with luck, maybe the forgetful among us will be able to sleep through a night without being woken up by a bleeping cell phone.

Did You Know?

The acronym "AM" stands for the Latin expression "ante meridiem," meaning "before noon."

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

There’s No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk
The sponsors of a new milk ad campaign, which equipped San Francisco bus shelters in December with chocolate chip cookie-scented ads, were left with egg on their faces after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority demanded the ads be taken down. An MTA spokeswoman explained that the issue was a lack of prior consultation, as well as concerns from bus riders that the ads might not be safe, or were disrespectful to the homeless or poor.

The fragrant ads were freshly-baked by the California Milk Processor Board, which also sponsors the mustachioed "Got Milk?" ads, and had been up - at a cost of about $30 per shelter - for only a day when the removal order was handed down. In a statement, the board commented, "The Got Milk? Scented bus shelters were intended to be a tasteful change from the frequent blasts of exhaust that permeate the air around some of San Francisco’s bus shelters."

Fun Is Cheap
Trying to decide whether to buy necessities or that long-pined-for extravagance with your holiday gift cards? A new British study endorses the latter - apparently leisure/entertainment goods are a better bargain. Egg’s Retail Therapy Index (RTI) says the price of "fun" items has fallen by 0.6 percent in the last 10 years, while average UK prices overall have increased a whopping 30.2 percent.

A few examples:
• Audio-visual equipment (such as iPods and TVs) prices have declined 10.9 percent in the last 12 months
• Prices on toys, photographic, and sports equipment fell 4.2 percent
• Items that increased in price over the last year included tobacco products (up 5.7 percent) and books and newspapers (up 6.4 percent)

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

Get your daily dose of facts at The World Almanac Blog. You can visit the blog at http://www.worldalmanac.com/blog, subscribe to the blog via newsreaders like Google Reader, Bloglines, or My Yahoo! at http://feeds.feedburner.com/worldalmanac, or receive a single e-mail once a day at http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=599074.

Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States, who died on December 26th, was a notable individual in many ways, significantly in that he became Vice President and President without being elected to either office. Other interesting facts about Ford: He was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. and named after his biological father, but was renamed after his adoptive father, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Sr.; he was a male model; he was on the University of Michigan football team from 1931 to 1934, and was offered tryouts by both the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears; prior to his passing, Ford was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; Ford had two attempts on his life in California during the month of September, 1975. Both attempts were by women. Learn more about Gerald R. Ford at the library and museum named for him: http://www.ford.utexas.edu/.


National Archives

First page of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

From the World Almanac Blog
It was during my days researching milestones for the Book of Records that I realized that primary sources began to make my heart go aflutter. Well, the National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents website is just swoon-inducing. It provides a scanned image, a transcript, and background notes for 100 history-making American documents from 1776 to 1965, including every constitutional amendment, the Gettysburg Address, the Zimmermann Telegram, even the check that bought Alaska. When the site launched back in 2003, the National Archives, National History Day, and U.S. News & World Report held a public vote to determine the ten most significant documents based on the percentage of voters who cited each doc in their top ten. - Andrew Steinetz

- 75.9% The Declaration of Independence
- 69.3% The U.S. Constitution
- 67.9% The Bill of Rights
- 34.3% The Louisiana Purchase Treaty
- 33.5% The Emancipation Proclamation
- 31.4% The 19th Amendment to the Constitution
- 30.1% The 13th Amendment to the Constitution
- 25.4% The Gettysburg Address
- 25.2% The Civil Rights Act
- 20.9% The Social Security Act

Even celebrities have problems.....with their skin that is. Sure, they look perfect up there on the big screen, but a closer look can reveal their imperfections, and someone has gone to the trouble of posting their moles, wrinkles, and facial lesions at the Dermatology in the Cinema website http://www.skinema.com/.

And now for something different http://www.toothpickart.com/.


Library of Congress

Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Any former Bronxites out there like me? Test your Bronx knowledge at Back in The Bronx http://www.backinthebronx.com/trivia_test/trivia_test_questions.htm. Here's one to try out; What was the name of the Bronx college that initially housed the Hall of Fame? I got 7 out of 20, including the answer to this question (New York University). Learn more about the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (which is a few blocks away from where I grew up) at http://www.bcc.cuny.edu/HallofFame/

Collect something unusual? When I die someone is going to drag a big ole dumpster to drop my belongings in, and it will include theatre and movie ticket stubs. Apparently I'm not alone in saving this stuff. See a collection from around the world at http://www.movieticketstub.com/. As I write this, there's a 1962 Surf'in Wild movie ticket from Pacific Beach, San Diego, on sale at eBay.

If you sing in a chorus, like I do, it's nice to be able to hear the music that you will be performing. The Choral Public Domain Library is one of the world's largest free sheet music sites, from which you can download PDF files of musical scores, as well as listen to midi files of the music. This is an extraordinary resource and can be checked out at http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.



Hot dog with mustard

I pass a hot dog cart on my way to the gym across the street. While I rarely eat hot dogs, consumers in 2005, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, spent more than $3.9 billion on hot dogs and sausages in U.S. supermarkets - that equals more than 1.5 billion hot dogs and sausages bought at retail stores alone. According to the council, sausage is one of the oldest forms of processed food, having been mentioned in Homer's Odyssey as far back as the 9th Century B.C. Learn more about hot dogs at http://www.hot-dog.org/.

It's Dead Pool Season, and that means that some of you are searching the Internet trying to find the world's oldest famous people, or those who are ailing. A Dead Pool is basically a game in which an individual predicts which celebrities are going to die between January 1st and December 31st. A good place to begin is to check out the Personalities section of your World Almanac 2007 or visit such websites as Who's Alive and Who's Dead http://www.whosaliveandwhosdead.com/, or Dead or Alive? http://www.deadoraliveinfo.com/. Okay, so some of you are extremely creeped out by now and find this entry morbid, and it's clearly not for everyone. Check out a famous Dead Pool at http://www.stiffs.com/.

In 1907, 11 men set out in 5 automobiles (still in their infancy), to drive from Peking to Paris. The challenge, raised by the French newspaper Le Martin in January 1907, took two months, in less than ideal conditions, with drives through Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, Siberia and Moscow. After driving nearly 12,000 miles, the winner of the race was Italian Prince Borghese and his Itala. To celebrate the centennial of the race, the Endurance Rally Association is sponsoring a race, following the same route, May 27-June 30, for car enthusiasts, who will make the drive in classic and antique automobiles. Learn more about the 1907 race at http://www.unmuseum.org/autorace.htm and about the upcoming race at http://www.pekingparis.com/.

Quote of the Month

"Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on."
     - Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English novelist

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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Jane Flynn, Mary Funchion, C. Alan Joyce, Walter Kronenberg, Bill McGeveran and Linda Van Orden.

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