Volume 07, Number 02 — February 2007


What's in this issue?

February Events
February Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — February
February Birthdays
Travel - Celebrating Europe's "Greater Region"- Luxembourg
Obituaries - January 2007
Special Feature: Slavery in the Americas
Chronology - January 2007
Sports Feature: Highlights from the 2006 NFL Season
Science in the News: As Dingoes Go, So Go Wallabies
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us


February Events

February 2 - Groundhog Day
February 2-4 - Moosestompers Weekend (Houlton, ME)
February 2-11 - Ontario Winter Carnival Bon Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, ON)
February 4 - Super Bowl XLI (Miami, FL); Liberace Memorial Mass (Las Vegas, NV)
February 8 - Reenactment of Cowtown’s Last Old West Gunfight (Ft. Worth, TX)
February 8-18 - Berlin International Film Festival (Germany)
February 9-11 - Yuma Square and Round Dance Festival (Yuma, AZ)
February 10 - NFL Pro Bowl (Honolulu, HI)
February 11 - Grammy Awards (Los Angeles, CA)
February 12-13 - Westminster Dog Show (New York, NY)
February 16-18 - NBA All-Star Weekend (Las Vegas, NV)
February 16-19 - Great Backyard Bird Count
February 18 - Daytona 500 (Daytona Beach, FL)
February 20 - Mardi Gras; Shrovetide Pancake Race (Olney, Buckinghamshire, England)
February 22-25 - Charro Days Festival (Brownsville, TX)
February 23-25 - Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Alpine, TX)
February 24 - Golden Dragon Parade and Chinese New Year Festival (Los Angeles, CA)
February 24-25 - Paul Bunyan Sled Dog Races, Skijoring, and Mutt Races (Bemidji, MN)
February 25 - Academy Awards (Los Angeles, CA)
February 27 - Spay Day USA
February 27 - March 18 - Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (Texas)


February Holidays — National and International

February 5 - Constitution Day (Mexico)
February 14 - Valentine’s Day
February 17-20 - Carnival (Brazil)
February 18 - Chinese New Year
February 19 - Presidents’ Day
February 21 - Ash Wednesday


Did You Know?

The International Jugglers Association was founded in 1947 and is headquartered in Carrollton, TX. It has 2,500 members.

This Day In History — February

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1960 Sit-ins begin when 4 African-American college students in Greensboro, NC, refuse to move from a Woolworth lunch counter after being denied service.
02 1974 A new Cultural Revolution begins in China.
03 1917 The United States cuts diplomatic ties with Germany following the sinking of the Housatonic by a German submarine.
04 1763 The Skating Club of Edinburgh, in Scotland, holds the first speed skating competition, a 15-mile race held on the Fens in England.
05 Year Gen. John J. Pershing enters Mexico to pursue Pancho Villa, who had raided U.S. border areas.
06 1778 Britain declares war on France, and France signs a treaty of alliance with the United States.
07 1821 An American sealer, Capt. John Davis, makes the first known landing on Antarctica.
08 1587 Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, is beheaded in England on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I.
09 1984 Soviet leader Yuri Andropov dies after only 15 months in power.
10 1899 Pres. William McKinley signs the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Spanish-American War.
11 1945 The Yalta Conference ends in the Crimea, with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin agreeing on occupying Germany.
12 1961 Civil war breaks out in the Congo when former premier Patrice Lumumba is slain.
13 1960 France detonates an atomic bomb, becoming the world's fourth nuclear power.
14 1946 The development of ENIAC, an "electronic numerical integrator and computer," is announced by the War Department.
15 1965 Canada officially adopts a new flag, with the maple leaf replacing the Union Jack.
16 1923 The recently discovered burial chamber of King Tutankhamen's tomb is unsealed in Egypt by archaeologists.
17 1600 Italian Renaissance thinker Giordano Bruno is burned at the stake as a heretic for his philosophical ideas.
18 1861 Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as president of the Confederacy's provisional government.
19 1987 The United States lifts economic sanctions against Poland in place since 1981 and 1982.
20 1962 John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7.
21 1885 The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, D.C.
22 1819 Spain cedes Florida to the United States.
23 1997 Scottish researchers announce the first cloning of an adult animal - a sheep named Dolly.
24 1991 The ground war begins in the Persian Gulf War, as Allied troops launch a ground offensive against Iraq.
25 1986 In the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos flees the country as Corazon Aquino is inaugurated president.
26 1993 A bomb explodes in a parking garage beneath New York City's World Trade Center, killing 6 people and injuring more than 1,000.
27 1972 During his trip to China, Pres. Richard Nixon and Chinese Prem. Zhou Enlai issue a joint communique agreeing to work toward normalizing relations.
28 1986 Swedish Prime Min. Olof Palme is shot and killed while walking down a Stockholm street.
29 45BC The first Leap Day was recognized by proclamation of Julius Caesar. Under the old Roman calendar the last day of February was the last day of the year.

February Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1967 Laura Dern, actress (Santa Monica, CA)
02 1937 Tom Smothers, comedian (New York, NY)
03 1940 Fran Tarkenton, football quarterback (Richmond, VA)
04 1947 Dan Quayle, former vice president of the United States and IN senator (Indianapolis, IN)
05 1934 Hank Aaron, baseball player (Mobile, AL)
06 1917 Zsa Zsa Gabor, actress (Budapest, Hungary)
07 1962 Garth Brooks, country singer (Tulsa, OK)
08 1970 Alonzo Mourning, basketball player (Chesapeake, VA
09 1922 Kathryn Grayson, actress (Winston-Salem, NC)
10 1927 Leontyne Price, opera singer (Laurel, MS)
11 1934 Tina Louise, actress (New York, NY)
12 1938 Judy Blume, children's author (Elizabeth, NJ)
13 1923 Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke the sound barrier (Myra, WV)
14 1942 Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor, financial information/media entrepreneur (Medford, MA)
15 1954 Matt Groening, cartoonist and creator of The Simpsons (Portland, OR)
16 1920 Patty Andrews, singer (Minneapolis, MN)
17 1930 Ruth Rendell, mystery writer (London, England)
18 1957 Vanna White, TV personality (North Myrtle Beach, SC)
19 1967 Benicio Del Toro, actor (Santurce, Puerto Rico)
20 1927 Sidney Poitier, actor (Miami, FL)
21 1947 Tyne Daly, actress (Madison, WI)
22 1932 Edward M. Kennedy, MA senator (Brookline, MA)
23 1965 Michael Dell, founder and chairman, Dell Computers (Houston, TX)
24 1921 Abe Vigoda, actor (New York, NY)
25 1971 Sean Astin, actor (Santa Monica, CA)
26 1973 Marshall Faulk, football player (New Orleans, LA)
27 1932 Elizabeth Taylor, actress (London, England)
28 1962 Rae Dawn Chong, actress (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
29 1972 Antonio Sabato, Jr., actor (Rome, Italy)

Travel - Celebrating Europe's "Greater Region"- Luxembourg

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Grand Ducal Palace

Despite its location in the heart of Western Europe, the whole grand duchy of Luxembourg is not so densely populated. Fewer than 500,000 people live in an area of about 1000 sq mi (2600 sq km), where there are rugged hills, rolling lowlands, and rustic valleys, including the Moselle Valley well known to wine connoisseurs. In addition to the grand duchy - whose official languages are Luxembourgisch (a German dialect), German, and French - the Greater Region also encompasses territories whose cultural roots are mainly Germanic (Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate states in Germany) or Latin (the Lorraine region in France and the Walloon region in Belgium). Overall the Greater Region covers an area of about 25,000 sq mi (65,000 sq km), where some 11 million people live. Among other attractions, it has over 1200 museums and other cultural facilities.

A walk around town

Luxembourg City's architectural attractions include the 16th-century Grand Ducal Palace, with a renaissance facade reflecting the influence of the Spanish who once ruled the area; Notre Dame Cathedral, a 17th-century Gothic church; St. Michael's Church (17th century and later), which boasts a stunning baroque altar; and the medieval houses of the Grund quarter along the Alzette River. Most of the city's fortifications were dismantled in the 19th century, giving way to parklands and boulevards. But still surviving are large portions of a 14-mi (23-km) network of tunnels and chambers - "casemates" - that were hollowed out of cliffs in the 17th and 18th centuries to house troops, horses, workshops, kitchens, and so on. They are worth a visit. So is the 18th-century Fort Thüngen, which has been restored on the basis of its surviving foundation walls and three towers dubbed the Three Acorns.

Exhibitions and performances

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Jean-noël Lafargue

Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean

Fort Thüngen is also the site of a new modern-art museum, the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, commonly known as MUDAM. Designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, it opened in 2006. From December 2006 through the following May it was offering a special exhibit of the work of Luxembourg artist Michel Majerus (1967-2002). Majerus worked with paintings, installations, digital formats, and more, and had a yen for pop art and minimalism. The Majerus show will be followed, from May to September by "Tomorrow Now" - a multimedia vision of the future offering entrance to "the land of aliens, robots, mutants, and cyborgs."

Among other venues of note are the Villa Vauban, the Casino Luxembourg - Forum of Contemporary Art, and the Rotondes, two recently restored 19th-century railroad maintenance roundhouses that will focus on themes of migration, cross-border change, and globalization. Besides MUDAM, major museums include the National Museum of History and Art, recently refurbished and expanded; the National Museum for Natural History; the Post and Telecommunications Museum; and the Luxembourg City History Museum, which offers a high-tech interactive look at a thousand years of the city's development, as reflected in four restored townhouses from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Among special performances slated for the cultural capital year is the world premiere of British composer Jonathan Harvey's modern electronic opera Wagner Dream, scheduled for April 28 at Luxembourg's Grand Theater. Another, announced for July 27 at the former Neumünster Abbey, is a production of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

Beyond Luxembourg

A slew of special events are on the cultural capital calendar throughout the Greater Region. Some of the biggest attractions are planned for Trier, which is Germany's oldest city, dating back to Roman times. From June to November, three museums there are staging a blockbuster exhibition devoted to Constantine the Great, first Christian ruler of the Roman Empire. (He was based for a time in Trier.) Performances of note in Trier include a presentation of Edward Elgar's oratorio The Apostles in the St. Matthias Abbey courtyard, in late May, and a production of Camille Saint-Saens's massive opera Samson and Delilah in the gladiator arena by the old Roman baths, in late June and early July.

Websites
Luxembourg City Tourist Office http://www.lcto.lu/html_en/index.html
Luxembourg National Tourist Office http://www.ont.lu
Luxembourg 2007 http://www.luxembourg2007.org/GB/index.html


Did You Know?

Dancing burns about 330 calories per hour.

Obituaries in January 2007

Abbé Pierre (Henri-Antoine Grouès), 94, French priest who founded the worldwide Emmaus movement benefiting the homeless; Paris, France, Jan. 22, 2007.

Ando, Momufuku, 96, Japanese businessman who in 1958 invented instant, or ramen, noodles; Ikeda, Japan, Jan. 5, 2007.

Bo Yibo, 98, last of China’s "eight immortals," veteran Communist Party officials purged during the Cultural Revolution who regained power after Deng Xiaoping became China’s leader in 1978; Beijing, China, Jan. 15, 2007.

Brecker, Michael, 57, jazz saxophonist widely regarded as the leading such figure since John Coltrane, who died in 1967; New York, NY, Jan. 13, 2007.

Buchwald, Art, 81, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who poked fun at politicians, and at himself, in a long-running syndicated newspaper column; Washington, DC, Jan. 17, 2007.

Coltrane, Alice, 69, jazz pianist and composer, Hindu mystic and manager of the estate of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, to whom she was married for about two years before he died; Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 12, 2007.

De Carlo, Yvonne, 84, actress whose roles included the wife of Moses (played by Charlton Heston) in the Biblical film epic The Ten Commandments (1956) and the vampire-like Lily Munster in the TV series "The Munsters" (1964-66), which acquired a cult following; Woodland Hills, CA, Jan. 8, 2007.

Doherty, Dennis (Denny), 66, Canadian singer who was one of two male members of the seminal 1960s folk-pop quartet the Mamas and the Papas; the other, John Phillips, died in 2001; Mississauga, ON, Jan. 19, 2007.

Drinan, Robert, 86, five-term Democratic congressman from Massachusetts (1971-81) who was the first Catholic priest elected to Congress and who in 1973 filed the first impeachment resolution against then-President Richard Nixon, amid the Watergate scandal; he decided not to run for a sixth term after Pope John Paul II ordered him to get out of politics; Washington, DC, Jan. 28, 2007.

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E. Howard Hunt

Hunt, E. Howard, 88, onetime Central Intelligence Agency operative who engineered the 1972 Watergate burglary that ultimately led to the collapse of Richard Nixon’s presidency; he spent 33 months in prison for his Watergate role; Miami, FL, Jan. 23, 2007.

Ivins, Molly, 62, syndicated columnist who poked fun at the politicians, and the political and cultural climate, of her adopted native state, Texas; Austin TX, Jan. 31, 2007.

Kapuscinski, Ryszard, 74, Polish journalist known for his widely translated articles and books about political hot spots in Africa and elsewhere around the world; Warsaw, Poland, Jan. 23, 2007.

Kollek, Teddy, 95, longtime mayor of Jerusalem (1965-93) who presided over the expansion of the city’s infrastructure and its emergence as a cultural center; Jerusalem, Israel, Jan. 2, 2007.

Olsen, Tillie, 94, author of a small yet highly acclaimed body of work, both fiction and nonfiction, on feminist and working-class themes; Oakland, CA, Jan. 1, 2007.

Ponti, Carlo, 94, prolific Italian film producer known for his long partnership with actress Sophia Loren, legally recognized as his wife since 1966; he was the executive producer of most of her films, including Two Women (1960), for which she won a best-actress Oscar; Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 9, 2007.

Sardi Jr., Vincent, 91, New York City restaurateur who for decades ran Sardi’s, a legendary restaurant in the city’s Broadway theater district; Berlin, VT, Jan. 4, 2007.

Sheldon, Sidney, 89, best-selling novelist whose books often featured powerful but vulnerable female characters; quite a few of his 18 novels - including Rage of Angels (1980) and Memories of Midnight (1990) - were turned into TV movies or miniseries; Rancho Mirage, CA, Jan. 30, 2007.

Smathers, George A., 93, three-term Democratic senator from Florida (1951-69) who was a prominent anticommunist and opponent of civil rights legislation; Indian Creek Village, FL, Jan. 20, 2007.

Tetley, Glen, 80, choreographer who fused elements of modern dance with ballet; he worked mostly in Europe from the late 1960s on, becoming known as "Europe’s favorite American choreographer"; West Palm Beach, FL, Jan. 26, 2007.


Special Feature: Slavery in the Americas

Joe Gustaitis

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Library of Congress

Slaves on a plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862.

February is Black History Month, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), which founded Black History Month, has chosen "From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas" as its theme for 2007. The choice expressed the association's conviction that "the transition from slavery to freedom represents one of the major themes in the history of the African Diaspora in the Americas."

The U.S. is one of several countries in the Americas where the battle to end slavery was fought. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, in an 1864 letter to a Kentucky newspaperman, stated simply, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."

The Origins of Slavery

Slavery appears to be so embedded in human culture that historians cannot determine its origins beyond being able to say that it predates recorded history. Very early agricultural societies employed a form of slavery, and we know that it existed in ancient India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and, especially, Korea, where it achieved considerable economic importance, especially on large agricultural estates. Ancient Egyptians used slaves as servants among the upper classes, as was the case in ancient Mesopotamia. Slave labor was also used on a large scale by the Maya, Inca, and Aztec in pre-Columbian America in both agriculture and warfare. According to Leland Donald in his work Aboriginal Slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America (1997), slavery was also prevalent among the Indians on the northwest coast of North America.

Our knowledge of slavery in ancient Greece and Rome is extensive from literature, although the numbers are unclear. Some historians, however, maintain that in ancient Athens about one quarter to one third of the population were slaves, whose condition was partly ameliorated by laws barring cruelty or abuse. Greek slaves could obtain their freedom in several ways - by purchasing it, by being set free in their owner's will, and by earning it as a reward for good work.

The Roman system of slavery was extensive. The empire's many triumphant wars provided abundant human resources in the form of prisoners, who were typically put to work on latifundia, or large estates. It has been estimated that by the beginning of the Christian era, there were about 2 million slaves in the Roman Empire - about 35 percent of the population. After the fall of the Roman Empire, slavery gradually declined in Europe because of a change in economic conditions. During that time, agricultural slavery gave way to the semifree condition of serfdom, although slavery persisted in some forms (galley slaves, for example) until the late Middle Ages in Italy, Portugal, and the Byzantine Empire.

Slavery was also prevalent in the Islamic world. At first, conquering Islamic armies captured many slaves in Europe, especially in Slavic areas, but eventually, as did Europeans, Muslims began acquiring slaves from Africa. Historians estimate that Muslims obtained as many slaves from Africa as Europeans did, although the practice differed in that Muslim slaves were usually employed as servants or soldiers, not agricultural workers.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade

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Library of Congress

This 1774 broadside advertises the sale of slaves and a reward for anyone who captured two runaway slaves.

The beginning of the transatlantic slave trade is usually listed as 1441, when Portuguese sailors brought a cargo of 12 black slaves from Cape Blanc on the west coast of Africa to Lisbon. Before it ended in the late 19th century, what is now known as the African Diaspora resulted in the forced migration of some 10 million people from west central Africa to European colonies in North America, the Caribbean Islands, and Central and South America. About 5% of the slaves seized in Africa were brought to the British colonies in what is now the United States, while 42% went to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, 38% went to Brazil, and some 15% went to the rest of Latin America.

More than half of the slaves brought to the Americas came during the 18th century. In that century alone, more than 6,100,000 Africans survived the horrors of the Atlantic passage and found themselves in bondage in the New World. Estimates vary, but historians believe that as many as one-third of the African slaves never reached the Americas, but died as a result of the unspeakable conditions on board the packed slave ships. The slave trade has been called a "triangular" trade. Ships carried goods from Europe to Africa, where they were traded for slaves. In the Americas, the slaves were either sold for cash or traded for diverse products, especially cotton and sugar, which were then shipped to Europe for sale.

Meanwhile, free or partially free Africans had also been coming to the Americas since the 16th century. In the areas that later became Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia, free Africans vastly outnumbered the number of African slaves in 1789. Brazil also was home to more free blacks than slaves. Over the years, some slaves were also able to buy their freedom, while others were set free by their owners.

A Life of Enslavement

The lives of slaves in the New World varied. In Brazil, there were both plantation slaves and urban slaves. Historians debate the severity of conditions in Brazil, where most slaves labored on sugar and coffee plantations, but it is generally agreed that slaves were permitted to marry and masters were enjoined not to separate married couples. Nevertheless, plantation conditions were harsh and it has been estimated that a slave's average life span was eight years. Escapes were common, and escaped slaves formed what were known as Maroon communities. Such groups also existed elsewhere - in the Caribbean, the southeastern United States, and Peru - and were called various names, such as cumbes, mambises, palenques, quilombos, mocambos, and ladeiras. Some Maroon communities grew powerful and lasted for generations.

Slaves in the Caribbean served many masters - the French, Spanish, British, Dutch, and Danes all had slave colonies there. On many of the islands, the vast majority of the population were slaves (unlike in the United States), which explains why many Caribbean nations, like Jamaica, have predominately black populations. Slavery in the French territories was governed by the Code Noir, which was established by Louis XIV in 1685. The influence of Catholicism is clear in the code, which mandated that slaves be baptized, given religious instruction, and allowed to rest on Sundays and holy days. Slaves were permitted to be beaten and whipped, but not tortured. Masters were required to "nourish" and "care for" slaves who were ill or old, and the code also decreed that "husband, wife and prepubescent children, if they are all under the same master, may not be taken and sold separately." It is not at all clear if every slave owner adhered to the code, but its provisions are somewhat more humane than those normally followed in the American South.

The Spanish also baptized slaves into the Catholic Church and allowed them church weddings. The Spanish equivalent of the Code Noir was the fairly similar Código Negro Español, although the Spanish rules were more liberal in that they permitted slaves to own property, to earn money by doing odd jobs or by selling the produce from their tiny plots of land. Slaves could also purchase their freedom if an owner agreed to sell (they could even buy their freedom in installments). These features of the Código probably explain why Spanish territories generally contained larger populations of free blacks than British ones.

"The Peculiar Institution"

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Library of Congress

A group of African men and women crowded onto the slave ship Wildfire, April 1860.

The transition from temporary servitude to permanent slavery in the British mainland colonies occurred gradually in the latter half of the 17th century. The expansion of the plantation system, with its need for a large labor force, had much to do with this transition. Indentured servants were freed every few years and new workers had to be found and trained - permanent servants (slaves) solved that problem. Also, a plantation owner had a greater degree of control over the life of slaves than he did of servants (one could not dispose of the children of servants, for example). Finally, white servants who escaped could blend in with the larger population elsewhere - an option not accessible to blacks. Slavery having all these advantages, the British government established the Royal African Company in 1672 to conduct the slave trade from Africa, and slave trading became a big business.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the slave labor system was firmly established in the U.S. South. In 1861, the year when the Civil War began, slaves comprised more than one-third of the South's population. (By the 1820s, all the states in the northeast had outlawed slavery.) Although some slaves were house servants and nurses to white children, most - both male and female (even pregnant women) - worked in the plantation fields raising such crops as hemp, rice, tobacco, sugar, and cotton. How they were treated depended greatly on who owned them. Although it was not in the owner's interest to injure slaves or let illness keep them from labor, but the cruelties and brutal mistreatments - beatings, whippings, drownings, and hangings - are well documented. The hours were long; during harvest time, for example, the work day could be 15 to 16 hours, seven days a week.

Slave cabins generally consisted of one room with a dirt floor. The clothing provided was limited - during the winter, for example, male slaves were given two shirts, one pair of woolen pants, and a jacket, and the cloth was the cheapest kind. Slaves were typically allotted a weekly food allowance of a peck of corn meal and three to four pounds of bacon or salt pork, although some augmented their diets with fruits and vegetables grown on their own small plots of land and occasional fish or game. One of the most distressing aspects of slave life was the break-up of marriages caused by one of the partners being sold - sometimes to a location hundreds of miles away. It has been estimated that nearly one out of three slave marriages in the American South were sundered in this fashion.

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Library of Congress

One of the most distressing aspects of slave life was the break-up of marriages caused by one of the partners being sold.

Some slaves staged revolts against their masters or escaped. Tens of thousands of slaves followed the Underground Railroad - a network of mostly black slavery opponents who helped guide escaped slaves north. Other slaves took part in less visible forms of resistance, such as staging work slowdowns or carrying out other forms of sabotage.

A Rich and Vital Culture

Deprived and exploited as they were, Africans in the American South managed to preserve and transform their culture into something rich and vital. For many slaves, religion became a source of comfort. They adapted their masters' Christianity with a distinct African overlay and reflected selectively on the Bible, esteeming especially the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. Some African traditions - such as naming children after grandparents and maintaining extended families -were preserved, as were oral narratives and folktales. Several African words, such as okra, gumbo, yam, banana, and bogus, were introduced into American English.

Another African word now well-known in English is banjo, an instrument carried by slaves from Africa that is often called today the only truly American instrument. Music was an important release for slaves, and from an early stage they developed the tradition of "spirituals," or religious songs, with distinctive and memorable melodies and harmonies. Some slaves became celebrated fiddle players. The jazz scholar Gunter Schuller, in his seminal work, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (1968), spent many pages demonstrating how elements of jazz music, like "swing," derive from West African roots. When one reflects on how crucial the blues, ragtime, jazz, soul music, gospel, and hip-hop are to popular musical tradition, it is no understatement to say that without the contributions of African Americans, American music as we know it would be unthinkable.

Abolishing Slavery

In the Americas, antislavery sentiment strengthened in the 18th century. Earlier criticism of slavery had come from Spanish missionaries in the 16th century and also from British Quakers in the 17th century.

By the late 18th century, abolitionists in Great Britain and elsewhere were focused on eliminating the slave trade. Slavery was drawing criticism on religious, philosophical, and economic grounds. The first European country to abolish the slave trade was Denmark in 1792. The following year, a group of Quakers in Great Britain established the first English abolitionist organization. Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and the United States followed suit a year later.

Actual abolition - that is, the end of slavery itself - took decades longer. In 1824, British abolitionist Elizabeth Heyrick published a pamphlet titled Immediate, Not Gradual Abolition, one of the first calls for the immediate emancipation of the slaves in the British colonies. Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire in 1834; the French ended slavery in 1848.

In the U.S., some slaves were freed after fighting on the side of the British in the Revolutionary War. Antislavery efforts were boosted following the war and the proliferation of revolutionary ideology.

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Library of Congress

Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth

In the U.S. there were nearly 900,000 slaves in 1800. By the late 18th century, the small population of free blacks had started forming social institutions including churches. In 1787, for example, the precursor to the African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Philadelphia. African Americans, who faced strong discrimination and restrictions, had also started to push for better status and conditions. For some, the goal was to have free blacks go back to Africa or leave the U.S. for other countries.

The U.S. abolitionist movement was underway in earnest in the 1830s, which was a period of increasing militancy. In 1831, a violent rebellion by the slave Nat Turner in Virginia led to stronger restrictions against slaves. Some blacks joined with William Lloyd Garrison in the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison had become a proponent of complete and immediate emancipation for slaves, but sought that end using moral arguments. Some blacks instead wanted to pursue abolition using the political system and even violent resistance, and later parted ways with Garrison.

During the 1840s, various strategies for the abolition of slavery were pursued. Some black abolitionists called for slaves to rise up against their masters. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, became a famous orator, worked for the Underground Railroad, and started the abolitionist newspaper North Star. Other notable black abolitionists included Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.

The 1850s saw increasing violence in the abolitionist movement. The decade ended with white abolitionist John Brown's armed seizure of the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va.

The national disagreement over slavery was a key cause of the Civil War. What to do about slavery spurred an ongoing debate as the war was fought. Slavery ultimately ended in the U.S. following Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which freed slaves in the states that were rebelling against the federal government, and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery in the entire country and was ratified in 1865.

As slaves and other opponents of slavery sought its end in the U.S., it was also being dismantled in other parts of the Americas. In 1794, the Haitian general François Toussaint L'Ouverture helped free the slaves of what was then the French colony of Saint Domingue. Despite later efforts to reinstate slavery, the former slaves remained free, and in 1804 Haiti gained independence from France as a black-led republic.

As the Spanish colonies of the New World gained their independence, they tended to couple their newly won liberty with emancipation. Chile emancipated the country's slaves in 1823, and Mexico abolished slavery six years later. The last New World countries to end slavery were Puerto Rico (1873), Cuba (1880-1886), and Brazil (1888), which had been under Portuguese rule until 1823.

In Brazil, the importation of slaves had been halted in 1853. Some slaves had been freed in phases, such as those who were granted their freedom in 1870 for their service in the Paraguayan War. A law passed in 1871 called for freedom, under certain conditions, for children of slaves. However, abolitionists continued to seek full emancipation, and by 1887 members of the military were refusing to cooperate with efforts to catch runaway slaves. Brazil's Senate in 1888 approved a complete abolition of slavery.

ASALH, in explaining its choice to focus on slavery and freedom for this year's Black History Month theme, says it is honoring historian John Hope Franklin, whose 1947 book From Slavery to Freedom, is a key source on African-American history.

Did You Know?

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York has the longest span in the U.S. - 4,260 ft.


Chronology — Events of January 2007

National

     Pres. Gerald Ford Buried in Michigan - National and world dignitaries Jan. 2 attended a funeral ceremony in Washington’s National Cathedral for former Pres. Gerald R. Ford. Pres. George W. Bush, former Pres. George H.W. Bush, former Sec. of State Henry Kissinger, and former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw gave eulogies. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also attended. After a smaller ceremony Jan. 3, Ford was buried at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI, where he grew up.

     Congress Convenes With Democrats in Control - The 110th Congress met for the first time Jan. 4 with the Democrats holding majorities in both the Senate and House. The House elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) as Speaker. Pelosi is the first woman to hold the office. Sen. Harry Reid (D, NV) was elected majority leader of the Senate.
     Pelosi had pledged that the Democrats would take a number of actions within the first 100 working hours after assuming House control. The House approved Jan. 4, 430-1, new ethics rules forbidding its members from accepting gifts or paid travel from lobbyists. The new rules also required members to identify themselves when requesting so-called earmarks, or spending for special pet projects for their districts. The Senate Jan. 18 adopted similar rules.
     On Jan. 9, the House approved, 299-128, a bill that incorporated some recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Notably, it required that the government scan all cargo entering the U.S. for explosives and other hazardous materials.
     The House, Jan. 10, voted 315-116 to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. On Jan. 11, the House voted, 253-174, to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Pres. Bush had previously vetoed the same bill in 2006. A bill passed Jan. 12, 255-170, would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers on behalf of Americans covered by Medicare.
     A bill passed Jan. 17, 356-71, would cut the interest rates on federally subsidized student loans. On Jan. 18 the House voted, 264-163, to roll back tax breaks and subsidies for oil drillers.

     Bush Makes Changes in His Administration - With his popularity slipping to new lows, Pres. Bush made a number of changes in his administration and military command. He said Jan. 5 that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte would become deputy secretary of State. He had been the national intelligence director for just 19 months, from the time the position was created. Bush said he would nominate Adm. John McConnell (ret.), former head of the National Security Agency, to replace Negroponte.
     Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice said that Zalmay Khalilzad, currently ambassador to Iraq, would replace John Bolton as ambassador to the UN. Ryan Crocker, ambassador to Pakistan, would replace Khalilzad.
     On Jan. 9, Bush named Fred Fielding to succeed Harriet Miers as White House counsel. Fielding had previously served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.
     Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, whom Pres. Bush had named to become the new top U.S. commander in Iraq, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 23 that the situation in Iraq was "dire" but not hopeless. He strongly backed Bush’s planned troop increase.

     Early Candidates Declare for the 2008 Presidential Race - The 2008 presidential race nearly became a stampede as a number of aspirants, both front-runners and dark horses, made early overtures. On Jan. 3, outgoing Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney announced that he was filing papers to set up an exploratory committee to consider a run. Sen. Christopher Dodd (CT) said Jan. 11 that he would seek the Democratic nomination. Sen. Barack Obama (IL) announced Jan. 16 that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for the Democratic nomination.
     In an email to supporters Jan. 20, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D, NY) declared her intention to seek her party’s nomination. Clinton, wife of former Pres. Bill Clinton, had just been re-elected to the Senate. She was leading in national polls of Democrats for the nomination.
     Sen. Sam Brownback (KS), a fiscal conservative and strong critic of abortion and same-sex marriage, announced Jan. 20 that he would seek the Republican nomination. Gov. Bill Richardson (NM) joined the Democratic field on Jan. 21. Richardson, whose mother was from Mexico, had also served in the U.S. House, as Energy secretary, and as U.S. ambassador to the UN. Sen. John Kerry (MA), the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, declared Jan. 24 that he would not run again. On Jan. 28, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (R) a Baptist minister, announced that he was forming an exploratory committee. Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA), former chair of the House Armed Services Committee and a supporter of the war in Iraq, declared his candidacy Jan. 25 for the GOP nomination. After months of speculation, Sen. Joe Biden (D, DE) announced Jan. 31 on NBC’s Meet the Press that he would seek his party’s nomination.

     Bush Troop Plan for Iraq Stirs Furor in Congress - Pres. Bush announced Jan. 10 that he was sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Most would be deployed in Baghdad, the capital, in support of Iraqi security forces who were struggling to curtail sectarian violence there. Some 4,000 U.S. personnel would be sent to Anbar Province, where Sunni Muslim insurgents and al-Qaeda terrorists had created chaos. Bush said he had told Pres. Nouri Kamel al-Maliki and other Iraq leaders that they must meet certain benchmarks, including sharing oil income among all Iraqis and more support for reconstruction in order for U.S. aid to continue.
     Pres. Bush’s proposal to send more troops to Iraq set off intense debate in Congress. Almost all Democrats opposed it, and Republicans were divided. On Jan. 22, Sen. John Warner (R, VA) and 3 other senators (including 2 Republicans) said they supported a resolution opposing any escalation of U.S. involvement in the Iraqi civil war. Warner, a leading authority on military affairs, was a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Jan. 24 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted, 12-9, a resolution opposing the troop surge. One Republican, Chuck Hagel (NE), joined the Democrats in favor of the resolution and he harshly rebuked senators for their timidity on the issue.

     Court to Oversee Controversial Wiretapping - The Bush administration announced Jan. 17 that henceforth the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court would have jurisdiction over the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program. At issue was the monitoring of international communications between people in the U.S. and suspected terrorists. The Justice Dept. said that the FISA court could act with the necessary speed to approve wiretap warrants. The administration had come under heavy fire for over the last year for its practice of warrantless wiretapping.

     Ex-Congressman Sentenced to Prison - On Jan. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in Washington sentenced former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R, OH) to 2.5 years in prison. He was the only member of Congress to plead guilty in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Ney had admitted that he had taken bribes from Abramoff and others in exchange for official favors.

     Trial of Ex-Aide to Vice President Begins - I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, former chief of staff to Vice Pres. Richard Cheney, went on trial Jan. 23 in Washington, DC, on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. The investigation, by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, had been launched to determine who had revealed to the press that Valerie Plame Wilson was employed by the CIA as an undercover agent. Libby himself was not accused of leaking that information. His lawyer, Theodore Wells, asserted in his opening statement Jan. 23, that Libby had been made a scapegoat by the White House to protect Karl Rove, Pres. Bush’s top political adviser. Fitzgerald in his opening statement said Libby had lied under oath to a grand jury about his conversations with 3 reporters.
     Cathie Martin testified Jan. 25 that in 2003, when she was a spokesperson for Cheney, she remembered telling Cheney and Libby that Plame worked for the CIA before Libby claimed to have first learned about Plame.
     Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified Jan. 31 that Libby had spoken with her about Plame’s CIA connections, several weeks before Libby claimed to have heard Plame’s name from another reporter.

     Bush Gives Annual ‘State of the Union’ Address - Pres. Bush delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Jan. 23. It was the first time during the Bush presidency that both houses were in Democratic control. Bush appealed to Congress to back his proposal to increase troop strength in Iraq, emphasizing that the U.S. could not afford to fail there. On the domestic front, Bush called for a 20% cut in gasoline consumption over the next 10 years. He also warned of "the serious challenge of global climate change," and appealed to Congress to reform immigration laws and work toward a balanced federal budget.
     In the Democratic response to the address, Sen. Jim Webb (VA) criticized the president for "recklessly" waging war in Iraq, and urged that a formula be found "that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."

International

     U.S. Gunship Attacks Islamists in Somalia - In Jan. 1, forces of the Somali transitional government, joined by Ethiopian troops, captured Kismayo, an Indian Ocean port town and the last stronghold of the Council of Islamist Courts guerilla group. As the guerillas fled into the forest, U.S. Navy warships of the 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, began patrolling the coast to prevent any from escaping by sea. The U.S. alleged that the Islamists were harboring al-Qaeda terrorists. After Kenya closed its northern border Jan. 3, the Islamists were trapped in the southern tip of Somalia.
     On Jan. 5, in a tape played on an Islamist web site, a man’s voice thought to be that of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, urged Islamists to rise up against the Ethiopians.
     In Mogadishu, the Ethiopians were met with violent demonstrations on Jan. 6. During the night of Jan. 7-8, a U.S. gunship helicopter attacked sites in southern Somalia. The U.S. Defense Dept. said Jan. 9 that al-Qaeda leaders were thought to be in the area, but a U.S. official said Jan, 11 that none of the main targets had been killed. Ethiopian troops began to withdraw from Somalia on Jan. 23.

     Bulgaria, Romania Join European Union - Membership in the European Union grew to 27 countries and 489 million people Jan. 1 when Bulgaria and Romania joined. Also Jan. 1, Slovenia officially adopted the euro as its standard of currency, becoming the 13th EU country to do so.

     Fallout From Hussein Execution Continues - On Jan. 3 and 4, the Iraqi government announced the arrest of 2 guards who allegedly recorded the execution of ex-Pres. Saddam Hussein without authorization. Their footage, unlike that released by the government, included audio that revealed that some of those present had taunted Hussein before he died. Pres. Bush said Jan. 4 that he wished that the execution had been done "in a more dignified way." Protests against Hussein’s execution and the way it was handled flared among Sunni Muslims.
     Two other men convicted with Hussein were hanged in Baghdad Jan. 15. They were Hussein’s half brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, former head of the secret police; and Awad Hamad al-Bandar, former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court.

     Iran Pushes On With Nuclear ProgramPres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Jan. 3 that, despite world opinion, Iran would continue its nuclear program and would soon begin to produce nuclear fuel for industrial uses. In defiance of warnings from the Bush administration not to meddle in Iraqi affairs, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said, Jan 28, that Iran would expand its economic and military ties in Iraq.

     Cease Fire Reached Between Rival Palestinian Factions - A cease fire between rival Palestinian factions was reached Jan. 30 after several weeks of bloodshed. Palestinian Authority Pres. Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas met and agreed to end all violence, remove checkpoints, and end all tensions. In addition, both sides agreed to bring to justice those who had been involved in the recent killings, which resulted in the deaths of at least 30 Palestinians.

     Venezuela President to Nationalize Major Companies - Hugo Chavez, the left-wing president of Venezuela, announced Jan. 8 that he would nationalize the country’s telecommunications and electric power industries, which had been controlled by Verizon Communications Inc. and the AES Group, respectively. Both are U.S. companies. Chavez was sworn in for a 3rd presidential term Jan. 10. On Jan. 30, the Venezuelan congress voted to give Chavez the power to rule by decree over the next 18 months, giving him more control over the economy as he forces through plans to nationalize the utilities. Pres. Bush Jan. 31 expressed concern over the "diminution of democratic institutions" in Venezuela.

     Fighting Continues in Iraq; 34,000 Iraqis Killed in 2006U.S. and Iraqi forces fought an all-day battle with insurgents in Baghdad Jan. 9. On Jan. 11, U.S. troops raided an Iranian diplomatic office in Erbil and detained 5 Iranian workers. Kurds regarded the raid as an affront to their sovereignty, and a tense standoff between Kurds and Americans ensued. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Jan. 12 that Pres. Bush had authorized recent raids on Iranians in Iraq. The administration believed that Iran was providing weapons and training to Shiites in Iraq.
     The UN reported Jan. 16 that in 2006, about 34,000 Iraqis had met violent deaths as a result of fighting and terror attacks in Iraq.
     At least 70 were killed Jan. 16 when 2 car bombs and a suicide bomber struck at the main gate of Mustansiriya University as students were leaving classes. On Jan. 17, the Iraqi government announced that it had arrested several dozen leaders of a powerful Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army, led by the virulent anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. A U.S. helicopter crashed north of Baghdad Jan. 20, killing all 13 aboard. At least 88 Iraqis died Jan. 22 when 2 car bombs exploded in a Baghdad market. In a major battle near Najaf, in southern Iraq, Jan. 28, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed at least 250 enemy fighters.

General

     Florida Upsets Ohio State for NCAA Football Title - After leading in the polls and computer ratings throughout the 2006 college football season, the Ohio State Buckeyes lost to the Florida Gators, 41-14, in the NCAA Division I-A title game in Glendale, AZ, Jan. 8. The Buckeyes’ Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, but Florida, led by quarterback Chris Leak, was ahead by 34-14 at the half. Leak completed 25 of 36 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Florida, which finished 13-1, was coached by Urban Meyer.

     Beckham to L.A. Galaxy - English soccer star David Beckham inked a five-year $250 million deal with the L.A. Galaxy Jan. 11. Beckham, who plays for Real Madrid in Spain, will join the Galaxy in the summer after Real’s season ends. The 31-year old midfielder had previously played for English soccer powerhouse Manchester United before he joined Real Madrid. His contract with the Galaxy is the biggest ever signed in the history of American pro team sports in terms of annual payment.

     Cisco Sues Apple Over iPhone Trademark Infringement - Apple Inc. Jan. 9 introduced its new iPhone, a multimedia cell phone. The next day, Cisco Systems Inc. filed suit against Apple for trademark infringement. Cisco acquired the trademark in 2000 after it bought Infogear, a company that made and marketed a product under the name iPhone. Since 2006, Linksys, a division of Cisco, had been selling wireless products under the name iPhone. Apple contends that several companies have used the name iPhone; however, Apple is the first to use the name for a cell phone. According to Cisco, Apple had previously asked for permission to use the iPhone name and that the two companies were in negotiations before the launch of Apple’s iPhone.

     Abducted Teen Found After Four Years of Captivity -Fifteen-year-old Shawn Hornbeck and 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who had been abducted by 41-year-old Michael Devlin, were rescued by FBI agents from Devlin’s Beaufort, MO, apartment Jan. 12. Hornbeck was abducted by Devlin in 2002, and had lived in captivity since then. Ownby was abducted Jan. 8, 2007. Years of psychological trauma resulting from the captivity caused Hornbeck to cooperate with Devlin, and actually guard Ownby to keep him from leaving while Devlin was at work. Investigators are checking into other cases of missing or murdered children for which Devlin may have been responsible.


Sports Feature: Highlights from the 2006 NFL Season — Vincent G. Spadafora

With Super Bowl XLI coming up, I figured it was time to look back at some of the feats and firsts of the 2006 NFL regular season.

- San Diego Chargers’ running back LaDainian Tomlinson broke Paul Hornung’s 46-year-old NFL record for points in a season with 186. Tomlinson also set the record for total touchdowns in a season with 31, and rushing touchdowns in a season with 28 (the other three were passes he caught). If that wasn’t enough, Tomlinson also THREW for 3 touchdowns!

- Last year, Nathan Vasher, cornerback for the Chicago Bears, returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown, and set the record for the longest play in NFL history. Apparently, big plays have become a specialty for the Chicago secondary. On November 12, 2006, in a game against the New York Giants, Vasher’s teammate, Devin Hester repeated the feat. Hester, a rookie cornerback/punt returner/kick returner out of Miami, returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown, tying Vasher for the longest play in NFL history. Besides that one huge play, Hester set the regular-season record for touchdowns scored on returns with six: three on punts, two on kickoffs, and one on the missed field goal.

- For the first time in NFL history, three teams went from "worst to first" in their divisions. The Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, and Philadelphia Eagles each finished last in their respective divisions in 2005, but finished first in their divisions in 2006.

- Seattle running back Shaun Alexander extended his record streak of games with a rush of 10 yards or more to 64 games.

- New York Giants running back Tiki Barber became the 20th player in NFL history to rush for more than 10,000 career yards (10,449).

- Drew Bledsoe, quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys became the 13th player to record 250 career touchdown passes (251).

- Reggie Bush, running back for the New Orleans Saints, set the rookie record for passes caught by a running back with 88, surpassing Earl Cooper (83).

- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison became the first QB-WR duo to combine for 100 touchdowns.

- Rod Smith, wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, became the first undrafted player to record 800 career receptions (849). He now ranks 11th in all-time career receptions.

- Vinny Testaverde, backup quarterback with the New England Patriots, extended his record streak of consecutive seasons with at least one touchdown pass to 20.

- Michael Vick, quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, set the single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,039, surpassing Bobby Douglas who recorded 968.


Science in the News: As Dingoes Go, So Go Wallabies — Matthew Early Wright

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Photos.com

Australia's largest land predator, the dingo is feared and hunted by humans. The result is not only the disappearance of dingo populations but the unforeseen decline of native marsupials.

Proud as Australians are of their continent's unusual natural attractions, including animals, many draw the line at dingoes. The wild dogs, which once were found throughout Australia, are that country's biggest land predator. Like the gray wolf in North America (a close relative), the dingo is feared and hunted by humans. This has resulted in the disappearance of dingo populations in many parts of Australia.

But, as students of the environment know, introducing or removing a species from an area can have unforeseen consequences. A forthcoming study in Proceedings of the Royal Academy suggests that dingoes are vital for maintaining the balance of native marsupial mammals, such as wallabies and kangaroos, many species of which have become seriously endangered or extinct in the last 200 years.

A Counterintuitive Finding

It seems odd, to say the least. Dingoes prey on marsupials, so why wouldn't getting rid of dingoes be a good thing for the wallabies of the world?

According to the researchers, from James Cook University in Queensland and Australian National University in Canberra, the answer lies in the fact that dingoes provide an important check on populations of smaller non-native predators, such as foxes and feral cats. These two species, introduced by European settlers around 200 years ago, prey on marsupials but are kept at bay by the larger, deadlier dingo (Canis lupus dingo). In all, 18 mammal species have gone extinct in Australia in the last 200 years; this represents half of all mammal extinctions worldwide over that time.

The researchers performed a statistical analysis of animal populations across the country, and found some clear correlations. In areas where dingoes have been hunted to the point of disappearance, marsupial populations have seriously declined. On the other hand, in areas where dingo populations have been allowed to remain, marsupials have a much better shot at survival.

Unwanted, Dead or Alive

Ever since European settlers arrived in Australia in the late 18th century, dingoes have been saddled with a bad reputation. Commonly regarded as aggressive, the wild canines often prey on valuable livestock such as sheep, goats and cattle. Worse yet, there are cases (both rumored and documented) of dingoes attacking people. The result has been that, in areas inhabited by farm animals and humans, there have been organized efforts to eradicate dingoes.

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Photos.com

The results of the study suggest that dingoes are a "keystone" predator species, but any attempt to relax controls would be futile in the sheep farming areas.

"The experience is that you really can't succeed as a sheep farmer if there are dingoes around," Chris Johnson, lead author of the study and a professor at James Cook University, told BBC News. "For much of southeast and southwest Australia - where there are sheep - farmers attempt to completely eliminate them."

The results of the study suggest that dingoes are a "keystone" predator species, which means they are largely responsible for maintaining species diversity in the ecosystem. By keeping the populations of other predators in check, either by preying on them or restricting their territory, keystone species ensure the survival of animals lower down on the food chain.

Though previous studies had suggested a keystone role for other predators - for example, there is evidence that wolves and bears are keystone species in North America - the Australian study is the first to clearly demonstrate the keystone effect of a particular predator - the dingo - on a continent-wide scale.

Johnson and his colleagues claim that their findings suggest that it might be useful to relax dingo controls in a few populated areas. The researchers want to see whether foxes and cats would go away, allowing marsupial species to return, and perhaps even flourish, as a result.

But Johnson cautions that such areas would have to be chosen carefully. "It probably won't happen across sheep land, but it can happen with cattle," he explained to BBC News. "In cattle country, by and large, dingoes will hunt kangaroos or rabbits. If there's an alternative prey available, they'll leave the cattle alone. Sheep are so easy to kill; they will be the preferred prey."

Did You Know?

The word "ensure" (to make certain) is often confused with "insure" (to protect against) and "assure" (to inform positively or confidently).


Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Congressional Crisis: Endangered Senate Sweets

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U.S. Senate

The candy desk drawer

Most of the chatter over the new session of Congress focused on the transition of party leadership, the first-ever female Speaker of the House, and the "100 Hours" legislation package. But most people missed the really important story at the Capitol: What would happen to the candy desk?

The Wall Street Journal reported January 5 that the traditional ‘candy desk’ - located on the Republican side of the Senate chamber near its busiest entrance - was imperiled for the first time since 1965, when Sen. George Murphy (CA) began stocking the desk with sweets for his fellow legislators to enjoy.

For the last dozen years, Sen. Rick Santorum (PA) sat at the desk and stocked it with about 400 pounds annually of Pennsylvania-born donations from companies like Hershey’s and Just Born (the makers of Hot Tamales and Marshmallow Peeps). But Santorum lost his bid for reelection, and ethics rules preclude those donations from continuing: there is a $100 limit on donated goods unless the company is from the senator’s home state.

The desk’s new resident, candy lover Sen. Craig Thomas, is from Wyoming - a state with a dearth of confectioners. Some small businesses there sell repackaged candy with a regional flair, like "bison balls" (chocolate covered Rice Krispie treats) and "moose doodles" (chocolate covered almonds) whose maker swears are "shaped just like moose droppings." Those businesses cannot afford to make the large donations that Pennsylvania’s candy cartel could. But Sen. Thomas’s spokesman insists, "I’m sure we’ll get through it somehow."


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

Cedar Point amusement park, in Sandusky, Ohio, is one of the largest amusement parks (by rides) in the world. With 68 rides and 16 roller coasters, the 364 acre park can certainly offer up enough fun for those who are thrilled by exciting rides. Opened first as a public bathing beach in 1870, it got its first roller coaster in 1892, the Switchback Railway, standing 25 feet tall and reaching a top speed of 10 mph. Maverick, their newest roller coaster, is scheduled to open in May, and will reach a height of 105 feet and a top speed of 70 mph. Learn more about the park at http://www.cedarpoint.com/.

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Chang and Eng Bunker

James Brown (May 3,1933-Dec. 25, 2006), was known for flamboyant performances in which he worked himself, and his audiences, into a frenzy - accounting for one of his nicknames, "the hardest-working man in show business." Brown was better known as "the godfather of soul"; originally a gospel singer, he soon switched to rhythm and blues, a genre in which he was to have many hits, starting with "Please, Please, Please" (1956) the funk hit with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (1965) and his song "Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud" (1968) which became a civil rights movement anthem. Learn more about Brown at http://www.godfatherofsoul.com/.

I’ve just completed reading a book titled by Lori Lansens titled, The Girls, a fictional autobiography of conjoined twins who are attached at the head. Conjoined twins, once called "Siamese twins," occur approximately once every 100,000 births or so; they develop from a single fertilized egg like ordinary identical twins, but the embryo for some reason fails to completely divide into two separate individuals. The most famous conjoined twins were Chang and Eng Bunker, who were attached by a band of cartilage (their autopsy showed that they didn't share any vital organs, and would likely have survived surgery), and were exhibited around the country. They married sisters, having 21 children between them. Learn more about the Bunkers at http://blueridgecountry.com/newtwins/twins.html. Learn more about conjoined twins at: http://www.channel4.com/health/microsites/H/health/magazine/conjoined/history.html#1.

This entry is not for the squeamish! Another recent book I read was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See, a story of a friendship between two women in 19th century China. So, what did I pick up from this novel? I learned all about foot binding, a painful practice which was inflicted on girls for over a thousand years in China. Considered a symbol of identity and status, the procedure began when a child was 5, and restricted the growth of her feet so that they were no bigger than 3-4 inches (7.6 cm-10.2 cm). Small feet were considered beautiful and elegant. Specially crafted shoes - lotus shoes - covered their feet, but the smallness of the feet made walking difficult. Learn more about foot binding at http://www.csuchico.edu/~cheinz/syllabi/fall99/linzey/index.html.

Okay, here's something I don't collect; old bottle caps. I will admit to having a handful from my childhood days in the Bronx playing the game scully http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/skelly_or_skelsy_skellzies_scully_tops_caps/, but that's it. Someone named Kevin DOES however collect them, and has quite a large collection of caps from around the world, as you'll see at http://home.att.net/~kbulgrien/bottlecp.htm.

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US Mint

Washington $1 Coin

From the World Almanac Blog
Third time's a charm? The U.S. Mint is set to give the $1 coin another go, but this time they’re using the power of dead presidents. Starting with Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison in 2007, the Mint will release four presidents each year, in the order in which they served - much like the state quarters, which were released in the order in which states joined the union. If the next president in line is still living, however (read: Jimmy Carter in 2016), the program will "pause." The coins will be similar in shape and color to the Sacagawea dollar already in circulation. The Statue of Liberty will be on the back, and the phrases "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust," and the mint mark will be on the side. Laws have also been passed to encourage more widespread use of the coins. Washington will be heading into circulation Feb. 15. Adams will follow in May. Already a presidential dollar disciple looking for a new use for those paper bills? Buy them in sheets for wallpaper at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing store. Check out the Presidential $1 Coin Program at http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/$1coin/index.cfm?flash=yes - Andy Steinetz

Get your daily dose of facts from the World Almanac at http://www.worldalmanac.com/blog

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National Park Service

Assateague Island horses

While there are some who would consider having a convict in the family undesirable, it's something of interest to the people of Australia. From 1787 through 1868, various parts of Australia were considered penal colonies, and by the time it halted, 806 convict ships had delivered 162,000 men and women to the continent. Learn more about this historical legacy of Australia at http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/convicts/ and how to research your convict relatives http://www.convictcentral.com/.

Wild horses, in the United States? Yes, it's true; you can find wild horses on Assateague Island off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. The horses are descended from domesticated stock, brought to the island by Eastern Shore planters in the 17th century. Most are practically the sizes of ponies (average 12- 13 hands), due to poor diet. The nearby Chincoteague ponies were memorialized in Marguerite Henry's award winning children's book Misty of Chincoteague, a story of the annual "pony penning" event when the ponies swim from Assateague to Chincoteague, where an auction is held to sell most of the foals. Learn more about the ponies at http://www.nps.gov/asis/naturescience/horses.htm.


Quote of the Month

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find our how far one can go.
     - T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), poet, dramatist and literary critic


© World Almanac Education Group

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

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