Volume 07, Number 04 — April 2007

What's in this issue?

April Events
April Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — April
April Birthdays
Travel - Sibiu
Obituaries - March 2007
Special Feature: Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball
Chronology - Events of March 2007
Science in the News: Animal Magnetism: How Pigeons Find Their Way Home
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

April Events

April 2 - NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship (Atlanta, GA)
April 2-13 - Edinburgh Science Festival (Scotland)
April 3 - NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship (Cleveland, OH)
April 5-8 - Masters Golf Tournament (Augusta, GA)
April 7 - Elmira Maple Syrup Festival (Elmira, Ontario)
April 7 - NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship (St. Louis, MO)
April 9 - White House Easter Egg Roll (Washington, DC)
April 9 - Hallaton Bottle Kicking (Leicestershire, England)
April 10-14 - Branson Fest (Missouri)
April 12-29 - Dogwood Arts Festival (Knoxville, TN)
April 13-15 - Poteet Strawberry Festival (Texas)
April 14 - Prairie Dog Chili Cookoff and World Championship of Pickled Quail-Egg Eating (Grand Prairie, TX)
April 16 - Boston Marathon (Massachusetts)
April 19-26 - USA Film Festival (Dallas, TX)
April 21 - World Cow Chip-Throwing Championship Contest (Beaver, OK)
April 23-29 - National TV Turnoff Week
April 25-May 6 - Tribeca Film Festival (New York, NY)
April 27-29 - Rattlesnake Derby (Columbus, GA)

April Holidays — National and International

April 1 - April Fool’s Day
April 3 - Passover (first full day; ends April 10)
April 5 - Qing Ming Festival (China, Taiwan)
April 6 - Good Friday
April 8 - Easter
April 16 - Patriot’s Day
April 22 - Earth Day
April 26 - Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day
April 27 - Arbor Day

Did You Know?

The deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. was the Galveston Hurricane, which struck on September 8, 1900. Up to 12,000 people were killed.

This Day In History — April

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1939 Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces are victorious in the Spanish Civil War.
02 1877 The first White House Easter Egg Roll is held.
03 1982 In retaliation for Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands, British Prime Min. Margaret Thatcher orders a large force to the colony.
04 1964 All five songs at the top of U.S. charts are by the Beatles.
05 1794 Georges Jacques Danton, a leader of the French Revolution, is sent to the guillotine by more radical leaders.
06 1917 The United States officially enters World War I, declaring war on Germany.
07 1521 Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan, whose ships will become the first to circle the world, lands in the Philippines.
08 1946 The last meeting of the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, is held.
09 1865 The Civil War ends when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders 27,800 Confederate troops to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, VA.
10 1945 Allied troops enter and liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.
11 1947 Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking major league baseball's color barrier.
12 1934 The strongest wind ever reliably measured on the surface of the earth (225 mph) is recorded on Mount Washington, NH.
13 1598 Huguenots are granted religious tolerance when Henry IV of France promulgates the Edict of Nantes.
14 1927 The first Volvo comes off the assembly line in Goteborg, Sweden.
15 1912 The luxury liner Titanic, which hit an iceberg the night before, sinks in the early morning hours; more than 1,500 die.
16 1917 Vladimir I. Lenin returns to Russia in a sealed train after years in exile.
17 1961 Cuban exiles--trained, armed, and directed by the United States--unsuccessfully try to invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs to overthrow Fidel Castro.
18 1949 Éire becomes the Republic of Ireland, formally free of allegiance to the British crown and no longer a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
19 1995 A truck bomb explodes outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, killing 168.
20 1770 Captain James Cook discovers Australia.
21 1918 The Red Baron--German flying ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen--is shot down and killed during World War I's Battle of the Somme.
22 2000 Armed U.S. Immigration agents stage predawn raid to seize 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elián González from his Miami relatives and reunite him with his father in Cuba.
23 1014 In the Battle of Clontarf, an Irish army wins a decisive victory over the Vikings, permanently destroying their power in Ireland.
24 1981 IBM introduces its first personal computer.
25 1859 Work began on the Suez Canal.
26 1994 South Africa begins holding multiparty elections in which blacks are allowed to vote for the first time in the nation's history.
27 1987 Because of his alleged involvement with Nazi war crimes, the United States bars Austrian Pres. Kurt Waldheim from the country.
28 1945 Italian partisans kill Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
29 1957 Congress approves the first civil rights bill for blacks since Reconstruction to protect voting rights.
30 1803 Representatives of the United States and France conclude negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase.

April Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1932 Debbie Reynolds, actress (El Paso, TX)
02 1947 Camille Paglia, literary and cultural critic (Endicott, NY)
03 1934 Jane Goodall, anthropologist (London, England)
04 1979 Heath Ledger, actor (Perth, Australia)
05 1937 Colin Powell, secretary of state (New York, NY)
06 1937 Merle Haggard, singer/songwriter (Bakersfield, CA)
07 1920 Ravi Shankar, musician (Benares, India)
08 1918 Betty Ford, First Lady of the United States (Chicago, IL)
09 1933 Jean-Paul Belmondo, actor (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France)
10 1932 Omar Sharif, actor (Alexandria, Egypt)
11 1932 Joel Grey, actor (Cleveland, OH)
12 1947 David Letterman, TV personality/comedian (Indianapolis, IN)
13 1963 Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion (Baku, Azerbaijan, USSR)
14 1963 Cynthia Cooper, basketball player (Chicago, IL)
15 1957 Evelyn Ashford, Olympic champion sprinter (Shreveport, LA)
16 1955 Ellen Barkin, actress (New York, NY)
17 1972 Jennifer Garner, actress (Houston, TX)
18 1922 Barbara Hale, actress (DeKalb, IL)
19 1937 Elinor Donahue, actress (Tacoma, WA)
20 1920 John Paul Stevens, Supreme Court justice (Chicago, IL)
21 1926 Queen Elizabeth II, queen of the United Kingdom (London, England)
22 1937 Jack Nicholson, actor (Neptune, NJ)
23 1940 Lee Majors, actor (Wyandotte, MI)
24 1942 Barbra Streisand, singer/actress/director (Brooklyn, NY)
25 1969 Renee Zellweger, actress (Katy, TX)
26 1917 I. M. Pei, architect (Canton, China)
27 1938 Earl Anthony, champion bowler (Tacoma, WA)
28 1974 Penelope Cruz, actress (Madrid, Spain)
29 1919 Celeste Holm, actress (New York, NY)
30 1982 Kirsten Dunst, actress (Point Pleasant, NJ)

Travel - Sibiu



Sibiu, one of the European Union’s two picks for its Capital of Culture for 2007, lies in Transylvania in central Romania, a region best known to many as the home stomping ground of Dracula. The ruins of the historical Vlad Dracula’s castle at Poienari are close by, and the Bran Castle, much frequented by tourists drawn by the Dracula legend, is just a few hours away by car. But Sibiu also has charms of its own. A moderate-sized city of less than 200,000 people, it lies on the slopes of the picturesque Carpathian Mountains. Originally founded by German-speaking colonists and long known as Hermannstadt, it retains a medieval Germanic look in its old section, where you find baroque churches, Gothic arcades, and narrow streets lined with pastel houses, along with the remains of old fortifications.

Saxons and Hungarians

Sibiu has a deep-rooted connection with its fellow 2007 European Capital of Culture - Luxembourg City and the associated "Greater Region." It was from the Luxembourg area that the first German-speakers arrived in the 12th century, invited by Transylvania’s Hungarian rulers. The migration led to the establishment of seven cities (chief among them, Hermannstadt), which accounts for Transylvania’s German name: Siebenbürgen ("Seven Cities"). By some accounts the exodus inspired the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The immigrants, then and now often referred to as "Saxons," held fast to their culture, which endured under various overlords and flourished in the two centuries Sibiu spent as part of the Germanic-oriented Habsburg Empire. Sibiu’s German community remains the largest in Romania.

Special events scheduled for 2007 included exhibitions, concerts, theater productions, film festivals, a huge ecumenical conference of European churches, and literary events - such as a European lyric poetry marathon in June, with three days and nights of verse reading by poets in bars, coffee shops, and streets, and an international conference on "The Experience of the Self in European Literature."

Upper Town, Lower Town



Passageway in Sibiu

Old Sibiu lies on two levels, both of which make pleasant walks. Most of the historically important attractions are in the Upper Town. The Lower Town has the oldest streets. Lying between the higher Upper Town and the Cibin River, it is where the earliest fortifications were built. The neighborhood features legions of houses, commonly two-storied, with tall sloping roofs, as well as small cobbled squares. The two levels are connected by a multitude of passageways, tunnels, and stairways. Ocnei Street, the chief road to the Lower Town, is crossed by Sibiu’s celebrated Liars Bridge. Built in the 1850s, it was Romania’s first iron bridge. Some say the odd name comes from the lies lovers told each other on the span. Others point to merchants’ custom of swearing by the span to confirm their truthfulness - a lie would supposedly cause the bridge to collapse.

The Upper Town centers on three neighboring squares. The biggest is the expansive Great Square (Piata Mare), whose northern edge is dominated by a baroque Roman-Catholic church (1726-38). Another major attraction on the square is the late-baroque palace of Samuel von Brukenthal, governor of Transylvania under the Hapsburgs in the late 18th century. It now houses one of Romania’s best collections of art, as well as a library, both of them part of a cultural complex known as the Brukenthal Museum. Among the art gallery’s holdings are paintings by the Flemish masters Rubens, Teniers, and Van Dyck along with notable works by Austrian, German, and Romanian artists, silverware, and a collection of painted glass icons.

A lovely assemblage of medieval buildings lines the nearby Little Square (Piata Mica). One of its attractions is the Museum of Pharmacy, located in a 16th-century building that housed an early apothecary shop. Part of the Brukenthal Museum, it holds more than 6000 artifacts reflecting the history of medicine and pharmacy from the 15th to the 19th century. The pharmacy museum includes a sizeable collection of items relating to homeopathy, whose founder, Samuel Hahnemann, opened a laboratory in Sibiu in 1797. Also on the square are the Emil Sigerus and Franz Binder museums, ethnographic institutions belonging to another Sibiu museum complex, called ASTRA.

The third and smallest of the three central historic squares, Huet Square (Piata Huet), boasts a number of Gothic buildings. Its most imposing structure is the five-towered Evangelical Cathedral, built between 1322 and 1520 on the location of a 12th-century Romanesque basilica. It features a crucifixion fresco 30 ft (9 m) high executed by Johannes of Rosenau in 1445 and a 17th-century organ with 6000 pipes that is Romania’s biggest.

More museums

Another part of the Brukenthal Museum complex is the History Museum, located in Sibiu’s 15th-century Gothic/Renaissance Old Town Hall. Its holdings cover regional history since Neolithic times and include a notable coin collection. Additional Brukenthal components are the Natural History Museum, whose natural science holdings are the largest in Romania, and the Museum of Arms and Hunting Trophies.

The ASTRA complex takes its name from a cultural association founded in 1861 called the Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and the Culture of the Romanian People; in Romanian the name yields the acronym ASTRA. The complex’s flagship component is the Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization, an open-air museum built in Dumbrava Forest in the 1960s. Devoted to folk technology and development in Romania in the preindustrial period, it occupies 237 acres (96 ha), has some 340 buildings, and is said to be the largest open-air museum in Europe.

Train buffs will not want to pass by the Steam Locomotives Museum, across from the main railroad station. It displays about 40 steam locomotives, made between 1885 and 1959 in Germany, Romania, and the U.S.

Romanian Tourist Office
Sibiu - Hermannstadt
Sibiu - Hermannstadt: European Capital of Culture 2007
Sibiu, Sabin Photo Gallery

Did You Know?

Antarctica has about 70 percent of the world's fresh water locked in its ice cap.

Obituaries in March 2007

Baudrillard, Jean, 77, French philosopher and social theorist who argued that the pervasiveness of the media in modern life had, in effect, turned all reality into "virtual reality"; Paris, France, March 6, 2007.

DeForest, Calvert G., 85, quirky character who was a regular on David Letterman’s late-night TV shows for two decades, appearing as Larry (Bud) Melman before Letterman switched networks in 1993, moving from NBC to CBS; Babylon, NY, March 19, 2007.


U.S. Congress

Thomas Eagleton

Eagleton, Thomas F., 77, three-term senator from Missouri (1969-87) who, in 1972, was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate for 18 days, on the ticket headed by Sen. George McGovern (SD); he quit the race after it emerged that he had been hospitalized for depression and given electroshock treatments; Richmond Heights, MO, March 4, 2007.

Gallo, Ernest, 97, cofounder, with his brother Julio Gallo, of California’s E&J Gallo Winery, which became one of the world’s largest winemakers, thanks largely to his marketing skills; Modesto, CA, March 6, 2007.

Hutton, Betty, 86, actress and singer who was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1940s and 1950s, until her film career collapsed after she walked out on her contract with Paramount studios; one of her best-known roles was as sharpshooter Annie Oakley in the 1950 film version of the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun; Palm Springs, CA, March 11, 2007.

Kuhn, Bowie, 80, lawyer who from 1969 to 1984 was Major League Baseball’s fifth commissioner, during an era when baseball underwent many changes, including the introduction of free agency for players; Jacksonville, FL, March 15, 2007.

Lauterbur, Paul C., 77, physical chemist who shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in medicine for research that led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a diagnostic technique; Urbana, IL, March 27, 2007.

Troyat, Henri, 95, French novelist, short story writer and biographer; he had been the longest-standing member of the French Academy, to which he was elected in 1959; Paris, France, March 2, 2007.

Special Feature: Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball

Joe Gustaitis


Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division, [Rep# LC-USZC4-6147 DLC]

Jackie Robinson

Sixty years ago - on April 15, 1947 - Jack Roosevelt ("Jackie") Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers made history at Ebbets Field in New York City by becoming the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era. (In 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker, a catcher, played 42 games for the Toledo Blue Stockings, then considered a major league club. His brother, Welday, played in six games. They were the only two black players to play in the majors until Robinson.) That opening day at Ebbets Field was not a sellout - 25,623 fans showed up. More than half of them were black.

Robinson's breakthrough is rightly considered one of the milestones in the modern history of civil rights in the United States. One reason why Robinson's achievement is so important is because during his era baseball really was the "national pastime" (professional basketball and football had a lower profile than they do today), and what happened in baseball reflected changes in the entirety of American life.

Baseball and Segregation

For a brief period of time, some people believed that the passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted blacks citizenship and equal protection under the law, in 1868 and the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which granted blacks the right to vote, two years later would give African Americans the same rights as whites. However, it soon became apparent that much of white society still considered African Americans to be second-class citizens. Discriminatory practices and segregation remained in effect throughout American society, particularly in the South, where a series of "Jim Crow" laws ensured the separation of the races.

In baseball, a meeting of the National Association of Baseball Players, an amateur association, instituted segregation in December 1868. The group ruled that "any club which may be composed of one or more colored persons" could be left out of the association, effectively barring white and black players from being on the same team. Although the ruling was moot less than three years later when the first professional teams and leagues began to be founded (the rules of an amateur association did not apply to a professional organization), in general, baseball teams reflected American society and remained largely segregated. Some black players, including the Walker brothers, Bud Fowler, and pitcher George Stovey, played on integrated teams for a number of years, but were eventually pushed out.

One incident which is frequently mentioned for its part in building an unofficial "color line" occurred in July 1887 when Adrian (Cap) Anson of the Chicago White Stockings refused to allow his team to play if Newark Little Giants' players Moses Walker and Stovey were on the field. The Newark Little Giants agreed to Anson's request and benched the players. Later that day, the International League banned future contracts with black players although black players currently under contract were allowed to stay on their teams. By the end of the 19th century, all players on major- and minor-league teams were white.

The Negro Leagues


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [Rep# LC-USZ62-114266]

The Morris Brown College baseball team. By the turn of the 20th century, baseball teams were completely segregated.

In response to segregated practices, black players formed their own baseball teams. The Cuban Giants, founded in Long Island, New York, in 1885 was the first professional black baseball team. Although the early teams did not have a league, they traveled across the United States, the Caribbean, and Central America playing exhibition games against each other in a practice known as "barnstorming." The all-black professional teams not only played each other, but also played college and white semi-professional teams. White major league players sometimes barnstormed, but major league executives frowned upon the practice, and the players were eventually banned from wearing their major league uniforms during those games.

In 1920, Andrew "Rube" Foster, a former pitcher of the Cuban X-Giants and the Chicago Union Giants founded the first black baseball league - the National Negro Baseball League (NNBL). Three years later, the Eastern Colored League (ECL) was established, and in 1924 the first Negro World Series was played by the winners of the NNL, the Kansas City Monarchs, and of the ECL, the Hilldale Club. Although the leagues proved popular, they faced many financial problems, and in 1928 the ECL was disbanded. Three years later, the NNBL also stopped playing.

In 1933, Gus Greenlee, the owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, restarted a Negro league and named it the Negro National League (NNL). Four years later, another league named the Negro American League (NAL) was established in the South and Midwest. Although professional black baseball was almost completely ignored by white society, the Negro leagues were immensely popular among African Americans, and the annual East-West All-Star Game, in which the best players from the NNL played against the stars of the NAL, attracted about 50,000 fans. After 1947, when baseball began integrating, many of the Negro League teams lost their best players and interest in the games dropped. In 1948, the NNL was disbanded, and twelve years later, the Negro Leagues folded entirely when the NAL ceased to operate.

A "Noble Experiment"

When World War II ended in August 1945, it was apparent that, at least in some parts of the U.S., attitudes towards racial segregation were shifting. Many black soldiers distinguished themselves during the war, and hundreds of thousands of blacks left the South to take jobs in Northern cities, where they became potential buyers of baseball tickets.

For at least a decade, editorial columnists, both black and white, had been advocating the integration of major league baseball. Wendell Smith of the black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier had actually polled Southern-born major leaguers and was surprised to learn that most of them would accept black players on their teams. Several of the most prominent columnists of the day, including Damon Runyon, Westbrook Pegler, and Ed Sullivan, were also on record as favoring the breaking of the color barrier.

However, at that time, major league baseball was under the control of baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Although he claimed that, "there is no rule, formal or informal, or any understanding . . . against the hiring of Negro players by the teams of organized ball," many people believe that he was opposed to integration and worked to prevent it. Landis died in 1944, and the following year Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler was elected as his successor. Chandler supported baseball integration, and reportedly said that if African Americans "can fight and die on Okinawa, Guadalcanal, [and] in the South Pacific, they can play ball in America."


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [Rep# LC-USZ62-119888]

Branch Rickey

Because of these changes, Branch Rickey, the man who brought Jackie Robinson to the majors, decided that the time was right to conduct his "noble experiment" - signing an African-American player into the major leagues. Branch Rickey had pretty much decided to scout black baseball players when he became president and general manager of the Dodgers in 1942. For the previous two decades, Rickey had served as general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, where he had won renown for his innovations in developing what is known as the minor-league farm system, whereby major league teams purchase and control minor league teams in order to ensure a steady supply of promising young players. That advance, notable as it was, paled in comparison to his later achievements.

When Rickey's career as a Dodger began, World War II was in full swing, and many major leaguers were in the military. Rickey began looking for replacement players in Latin America, but when he proposed scouting the Negro Leagues, Brooklyn's financial backers agreed - although they were probably more interested in getting a return on their investment than in making a social breakthrough.

Rickey's motivation in scouting an African-American player was twofold. He was a believer in civil rights (a portrait of Abraham Lincoln hung in his office), and until now, some powerful forces, including Landis, had prevented him from attempting to break the color barrier. However, Rickey also knew what the bottom line was - excellent ballplayers were needed if any team hoped to defeat the unbeatable New York Yankees - and he always said his deed was more an issue of business than of justice. When he first met Robinson, he was straightforward, "I want to win the pennant, Jackie, and we need ballplayers to do it."

Selecting a player to break the color line was the next step. Rickey considered quite a few but had to reject many fine athletes. The hitter Buck Leonard was already 38. The slugger Josh Gibson, nicknamed the "Black Babe Ruth," was already beginning to show signs of the mental illness that would end his career. The legendary pitcher Satchel Paige's age was undetermined, but a good guess was that he was 40. Besides, as Paige himself pointed out, he was already making more money than any white ballplayer in the majors. The up-and-coming pitcher Don Newcombe was only 19. And so Rickey's search continued, until Robinson emerged as the obvious front-runner. However, before signing Robinson, Rickey had to learn more about him. Because the first black player was certain to be subject to intense public scrutiny, the candidate would have to be much more than just a talented athlete.

Jackie Robinson


Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division, [Rep# LC-USZC4-6144]

The front cover of a Jackie Robinson comic book, 1951.

Jackie Robinson was born on a farm near Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919. His father abandoned the family when Jackie was six months old, and in 1920 his mother moved to Pasadena, California, where Jackie grew up. From an early age, it was apparent that Jackie was a gifted athlete.

Today, a high-school athlete who shines in three sports is considered a marvel. Jackie Robinson was a star in five - football, basketball, track-and-field, baseball, and tennis. His brother Mack was also a talented athlete - he won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finishing second to Jesse Owens. After starring at Pasadena Junior College, Jackie won a scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he became the first athlete in school history to earn letters in four sports - baseball, football, track, and basketball. It is said that he would have competed on the golf team if the area courses were not for whites only.

In addition to Robinson's athletic credentials, there were other aspects of the young man that Rickey liked. For one, when it came to sports and games, there was not much of a color line in Pasadena, and, because of this, Robinson was accustomed to a multiracial environment. Secondly, Robinson was a competitor. He was an athlete who could not stand losing, who was driven to win, and who played all-out all the time. In fact, Robinson acquired a reputation for being a scrapper, even something of a tough case. He was naturally shy and could be a brooder, but this only made him, as one writer put it, "unconquerable." Rickey was well aware that the first black major leaguer was going to be subject to ugly taunts and even death threats. He needed a player who would not be provoked, who would not react to insults with violence, and who could not be intimidated. Robinson was such a player.

Rickey also needed a player who was prepared to fight racial inequality. Robinson had proven himself a true advocate of civil rights. One of the most notable incidents in his life came when he was an Army lieutenant stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1944. Boarding a military bus late one night, he refused the driver's order to move to the rear of the vehicle. The military police were called and Robinson was arrested. Although army regulations dictated that he was free to take any open seat (the army had recently desegregated its buses), he was court-martialed for responding to the arresting officers in a manner that was "insubordinate, disrespectful, and discourteous." He was later acquitted of the charge and forged an agreement with the Army to be "honorably relieved from active duty" - in other words, he received an honorable discharge.

Breaking the Color Barrier


Library of Congress, Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, [Rep# LC-USZC4-6146]

A scene from The Jackie Robinson Story, in which Robinson (as himself) is interviewed by Branch Rickey (played by Minor Watson).

The scene in which Rickey and Robinson first met in Rickey's office on August 28, 1945, has become one of the most famous in American sport. At that time, Robinson was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. At the meeting, Rickey revealed that he wanted Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers (Robinson had been told that Rickey was scouting for black players for a new Negro League team to be called the Brown Dodgers). One of the first items that Rickey questioned Robinson about was if he might get married anytime soon. Rickey advocated that he do so because, he said, "You will need the support for all the trials that lie ahead." (Robinson was married six months afterward.)

Rickey also warned Robinson about the insults, beanball pitches, and death threats that were sure to come. "Do you want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back?" Robinson queried. "I'm looking for a ballplayer with the guts not to fight back!" Rickey answered. Rickey then proceeded to hurl every racial insult he could at Robinson, testing whether he had the fortitude to withstand the abuse that was sure to come from fans and other players without reacting violently. Robinson not only passed the test, but came to acquire an abiding admiration for Rickey that, observers agreed, eventually took on the nature of a father-son relationship.

Rickey did not immediately sign Robinson to the Dodgers; he first placed him in the Dodgers minor league club in Montréal, the first step in Rickey's careful plan to introduce a black player into the major leagues. Although the announcement that Robinson had been signed to the Montreal Royals caused some controversy, in general, the news was accepted.

It took only one game for Robinson to demonstrate that he would not be in the minors long. The Montreal Royals' first game in the 1946 season was an away game against the Jersey City Giants, and the place was packed with sportswriters, photographers, and enthusiastic black fans from the greater New York City region. In his first at bat, Robinson grounded out to the shortstop. In his second at bat, with two men on base, he clouted the ball into the left-field stands for a three-run home run. The Royals won the game 14-1 and Robinson finished with four hits, two stolen bases, a home run, and three singles.

The Royals went on to win the International League pennant by 18 ½ games, and Robinson, with a .349 batting average, was named the league's Most Valuable Player. The following year, at spring training in Havana, Cuba, some of the Brooklyn Dodgers signed a petition, stating that they would not play if Robinson were signed to their team. However, the protest was quickly quashed when Rickey threatened to trade any player that refused to play with Robinson. Later that year - in April 1947 - —Robinson officially joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.

A Major League Career

Jackie Robinson's major league debut was against the Boston Braves. Then, as now, teams feature their best pitcher on opening day, and for the Braves that was the great curveballer Johnny Sain, who had won 20 games the previous year. The Braves' ace baffled Robinson, who went hitless, and said after the game, "If they're all like this, I'm going to have a tough time making this league." Robinson's teammate Pee Wee Reese reassured him saying, "Don't judge 'em all by Sain. You were looking at one of the best." The next day, Robinson got his first hit, a bunt, and then, over the course of a three-game series against the New York Giants, he collected five hits and his first major league home run. After his first week in the big leagues, he had gone 6 for 14, had scored five times, and had played errorless defense.

However, Robinson had yet to face his toughest ordeal, which came on April 22, 1947, when the Dodgers opened a series against the Philadelphia Phillies in Brooklyn. The Phillies' manager, Ben Chapman of Alabama, decided to taunt Robinson with a deluge of racist insults and encouraged a few of his ballplayers to do likewise. Robinson later said that that day "brought me nearer to cracking up than I ever had been," but he remembered his promise to Rickey and remained silent. What particularly buoyed him was the support of his teammates.


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [Rep# LC-USZ62-112029]

Willie Mays (left) and Roy Campanella entered the major leagues in 1951 and 1948 respectively.

After Jackie Robinson showed his talent on the field, other baseball executives followed Rickey's lead. Two more black players entered the major leagues in 1947 - Larry Doby, the first black American Leaguer, joined the Cleveland Indians on July 5, and Hank Thompson took the field for the St. Louis Browns 12 days later. Stars such as Monte Irvin, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Dan Bankhead, Satchel Paige, and Ernie Banks followed, but integration was slower than one might expect. The major leagues were not completely integrated until 1959, when the Boston Red Sox signed infielder Elijah (Pumpsie) Green.

The fact that racial prejudice remained alive was demonstrated by the hate mail and death threats delivered to the black slugger Hank Aaron when he broke Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record in 1974. Nevertheless, the integration of baseball set a pattern for other facets of American life. For example, when President Truman decided to end segregation in the armed forces in 1948, baseball offered convincing proof that blacks and whites could work together and quieted many a skeptic. If baseball could be integrated, why not everything else?

Jackie Robinson went on to play 10 seasons, all for the Dodgers. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, and two years later had his best year when he led the league with a batting average of .342 and was named Most Valuable Player. Rickey's hope that Robinson could help his team win the pennant paid off. During Robinson's 10 seasons, the Dodgers won six pennants and one World Series (1955), beating the New York Yankees four games to three. After several seasons, Robinson also began to speak out against the treatment of black players - protesting against hotels that refused to allow him to stay with his teammates and major league teams that refused to recruit black players.

During the 1956 season, Robinson was offered a position as vice president of community affairs with the Chock Full O' Nuts coffee company and restaurant chain in New York City. He accepted the job offer and decided to retire from baseball. At the end of that year, the Dodgers traded Robinson to the New York Giants, but he turned down the Giants' offer and continued with his retirement plans because, as he would later write in an article in Look magazine, "my legs are gone and I know it." As well as working at Chock Full O' Nuts, Robinson helped establish the Freedom National Bank, and continued to work as a civil rights activist.

Around 1957, Robinson discovered that he had diabetes, a disease that was much less understood and treatable than it is today. His doctor informed him that he had never seen an athlete who never smoke or drank who was in worse shape. Despite his illness, Robinson continued his civil rights work. In 1962, his first year of eligibility, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. (A baseball player must be retired for five years before they can be considered for the Hall of Fame). At the end of 1971, Robinson's health rapidly declined. He began to lose his sight and walking became agonizing. He was told that his legs would have to be amputated, but before that could take place, Jackie Robinson died on October 24, 1972. He was only 53.

According to biographer David Faulkner in Great Time Coming, Robinson had often said that "for the [color] barriers to fall completely, those to the coaching lines, the dugout, and the front office must fall as well." Although Robinson did not live to see the first African-American manager, in 1975 Frank Robinson became manager of the Cleveland Indians. Two years later, Bill Lucas became the first black general manager in the major leagues when he took control of the Atlanta Braves (although Lucas's title was director of player personnel, he is considered the first black general manager because he carried out all a manager's duties).

Throughout the 1970s, players who had been in the Negro Leagues also began to receive national recognition. In February 1971, Satchel Paige became the first Negro League player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Since then, 35 individuals from the Negro Leagues or pre-Negro leagues have been inducted.

In April 1997, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breaking the color barrier, his number 42 was retired from all baseball. To celebrate Robinson's 60th anniversary, Major League Baseball (MLB) officials will hold Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, 2007, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Jackie's wife, Rachel Robinson, and daughter, Sharon Robinson, as well as Robinson's former teammates, baseball executives, and Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars will take part in the festivities, which will include a reception and on-field ceremony before a game between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Other MLB teams will also hold commemorative events and pregame ceremonies.

At the time of Robinson's death, words of praise poured in from all over the world, many of them eloquent. One feels, however, that Jackie would have most liked those from his old foe, Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who, showing his characteristic flair for succinctness, said simply, "He could beat you in a lot of ways."

Did You Know?

In 1953 Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to fly faster than sound.

Chronology — Events of March 2007



White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush meets with former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala in the Oval Office, Wednesday, March 7, 2007, who will co-chair the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors.

     Poor Care for Wounded Soldiers Results in Dismissals - Reports of dilapidated quarters and bureaucratic delays that affected hospital care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, resulted in the dismissal of leading military officials involved. The Walter Reed Center provides care for soldiers and veterans, many of whom are recovering from wounds sustained in combat. Maj. Gen. George Weightman, the commander at Walter Reed, was removed from his post by the Army on Mar. 1. Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army’s surgeon general, was named temporary commander the same day. However, Defense Sec. Robert Gates Mar. 2 rejected the appointment of Kiley, because he had in the past ignored complaints about conditions at the hospital, which included problems with mold, mice, and roaches. Gates in turn appointed Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker as commander of the facility.
     In addition, Gates Mar. 2 also removed Sec. of the Army Francis Harvey for mishandling reports concerning poor treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed.
     On Mar. 6, Pres. George W. Bush announced that he had appointed former Sen. Robert Dole and former Sec. of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala to head a commission to review military health care.
     The discoveries at Walter Reed shed light on widespread problems with the military health care system. The office of the Army inspector general said Mar. 12 that a year-long study revealed shortcomings in the care of injured soldiers. It stated that the training for personnel assisting soldiers was not standardized, and that the army’s database system was inadequate for tracking soldiers’ medical information and determining the disability benefits they were entitled to. The report also showed that the system had been overloaded by thousands of wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
     Pres. Bush, in a speech given at Walter Reed Mar. 30, apologized for the shoddy conditions at the center and promised to "fix the problem."

     Cheney’s Former Chief of Staff Convicted of Perjury, Obstruction - A U.S. District Court jury in Washington, DC, found I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff for Vice Pres. Richard Cheney and adviser to Pres. Bush, guilty Mar. 6 on 4 of 5 counts of perjury and obstructing justice. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had led an investigation into who leaked the name of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to a columnist in 2003. Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson IV, had allegedly incurred the ire of some in the Bush administration because of his criticism of the Iraq war. Though not charged with leaking the name of an undercover agent, Libby was indicted for making false statements about his conversations with reporters to a grand jury and investigators.
     Cheney, Mar. 6, and Bush, Mar. 7, said they were saddened by Libby’s conviction.
     Plame testified Mar. 16 before a House committee, asserting that her name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in a way that "jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents, who in turn risk their own lives … to provide the United States with needed intelligence."


United States Department of Justice

United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

     U.S. Attorney General Snarled in Dispute Over Dismissals - U.S. Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales found himself drawn into a dispute over the firing of 8 U.S. attorneys in 2006. The Justice Dept. claimed that the dismissals had been based on performance issues and were not politically motivated.
     Six of the dismissed attorneys - David Iglesias, John McKay, H.E. "Bud" Cummins, Carol Lam, Daniel Bogden, and Paul Charlton - appeared before House and Senate Judiciary committees Mar. 6. Iglesias testified that Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, both New Mexico Republicans, had asked him about the status of an investigation into alleged corruption by New Mexico Democrats, and whether it would be concluded before the November 2006 elections. According to Iglesias, both expressed dismay that the investigation would not be concluded. Congressional rules bar members from contacting prosecutors about investigations.
     Cummins, former U.S. attorney in Arkansas, testified that he had sent an e-mail to the other fired prosecutors in February warning that he had been told not to make public complaints about his dismissal by Michael Elston, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney Gen. Paul McNulty. Cummins said that Elston had warned him that the Justice Dept. would respond with "public criticisms" and "retaliation" to such complaints. Elston denied that he intended to threaten Cummins.
     The Justice Dept. had previously acknowledged that Cummins had been removed to allow the appointment of Timothy Griffin, an assistant to Karl Rove, Pres. Bush’s chief political adviser. Griffin later removed his name from consideration Feb. 15 because he felt that Democratic senators would block his confirmation.
     Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff, resigned Mar. 12. According to emails released by the Justice Dept., he had coordinated the dismissals with then White House counsel Harriet Miers. Another email revealed that Sampson had planned to install Griffin in Arkansas under a provision of the Patriot Act that would not require Senate confirmation.
     Gonzales in a press conference Mar. 13 acknowledged that "mistakes were made" in the dismissal of the 7 attorneys in December and of another earlier in 2006. He denied that he had been involved in any discussions about what was going on. Bush, Mar. 14, said that the removal of the attorneys had been appropriate but that the explanation of the dismissals before Congress had been mishandled.
     Bush sought to head off a move among Democrats to subpoena Rove and Miers, warning Mar. 20 against subjecting witnesses to "show trials." White House counsel Fred Fielding Mar. 20 proposed that Rove and Miers be granted private interviews, not under oath. But in a voice vote Mar. 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved issuing subpoenas.
     On Mar. 26, Monica Goodling, the Justice Dept. liaison with the White House, said that if she was called to testify before the Senate committee she would invoke her 5th Amendment right not to do so because of possible self-incrimination.
     Sampson, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Mar. 29, said Gonzales had been briefed regularly for 2 years on the removal of federal prosecutors, and that Gonzales and Miers made the final decision on whether to dismiss the attorneys.



Elizabeth Edwards

     Justice Dept. Says FBI Abused Patriot Act - The inspector general of the Justice Dept. issued a report Mar. 9 asserting that the FBI had misused the USA Patriot Act while gathering information on thousands of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. The internal audit found that the FBI had understated the use of national security letters, which were used to get phone records, email addresses, and other data without court approval, on people with suspected links to terrorism and espionage. The audit also said that "exigent letters," used when the need for information was urgent, had often been used in non-emergency situations. FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that he was accountable for the abuses.

     Edwards to Stay in Presidential Race Despite Wife’s Cancer - Former Sen. John Edwards (D, NC) announced Mar. 22 that his wife, Elizabeth, had been diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer, which had first been discovered in 2004. He said he would continue to be a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

     California Shakes Up the Presidential Primaries - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Mar. 15 signed a law that moved the California presidential primary date forward to Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, meaning that the state would likely play a significant role in deciding the nominees. Other big electoral states including New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois, were also considering moving their primary dates forward. A Super Tuesday of primaries, during which the delegates from 20 states will be decided, was seen as likely to favor well-known and well-funded candidates over the lesser known ones.

     House, Senate Set Deadlines for Iraq Troop Pullout - The U.S. House Mar. 23 voted, 218-212, for a bill that would take most U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008. The bill included $124 billion for spending on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next 6 months.
     The Senate Mar. 27 voted, 50-48, to include troop withdrawal date guidelines in their own military spending bill, rejecting a GOP amendment to strip the bill of the withdrawal provisions.
     Pres. Bush had declared Mar. 28 that he would veto any bill containing a timetable for withdrawal. Despite the threat, the Senate approved the complete military spending bill, 51-47, on Mar. 29. The 2 versions of the bill will go to a Senate-House conference committee.

     Ex-Deputy Interior Secretary Pleads Guilty to Lying - On Mar. 23, Stephen Griles, deputy Secretary of the Interior during Pres. Bush’s first term, pleaded guilty to lying under oath to the Senate Interior Affairs Committee to cover up his ties with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Griles had told the committee in 2005 that he had "no special relationship" with Abramoff. However, since then an email from Abramoff surfaced, which referred to Griles as "our guy" at Interior. Ten people linked to him had now been convicted or pleaded guilty to wrongdoing. Griles’s plea was entered in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC.


White House photo by Paul Morse

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, May 2006

     Pentagon Rebukes 4 Generals in Afghanistan Death of U.S. Soldier - The Pentagon announced Mar. 26 the result of an internal investigation into the 2004 death in Afghanistan of U.S. soldier Pat Tillman, who had given up a lucrative pro football career to serve in the Army after the 2001 terror attacks. The report recommended that 9 officers, including 4 generals, be disciplined for not promptly disclosing that Tillman had been killed accidentally by other U.S. soldiers rather than by enemy fire.

     White House Spokesman Faces Recurrence of Cancer—The White House announced Mar. 27 that Press Secretary Tony Snow had been diagnosed with a recurrence of colon cancer, and that it had spread to his liver. Snow underwent surgery Mar. 26 to remove the growths.
     Previously, he had been treated for colon cancer and was declared cancer free in 2005 following surgery and chemotherapy.


     Insurgents Target Pilgrims in Iraq - Sunni insurgents March 4-7 killed and wounded hundreds of Shiite Muslim pilgrims traveling to the holy city of Karbala in Iraq. A bombing in Hilla Mar. 4 killed three women and one child, while 8 more were found dead in the western half of Baghdad. Several attacks by gunmen Mar. 5 killed at least 7 pilgrims in Baghdad. Five more were killed in the Diyala province.
     The worst attack came on Mar. 6, in Hilla, where 2 suicide bombers killed at least 77 pilgrims and wounded at least 125 more. Other attacks Mar. 7 resulted in the deaths of nearly 40 pilgrims.

     U.S. and Iraqi Government Troops Sweep Sadr City; Other Iraq News - Some 1,100 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers began to conduct security sweeps in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, a stronghold of the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Mar. 4. The soldiers conducted door-to-door searches, and set up checkpoints along the way. There were no reports of significant clashes. The Iraqi military said Mar. 14 that since the new U.S. security effort had begun in Baghdad, the violence in the capital had declined sharply, with bombings, mortar attacks, kidnappings, and civilian deaths down from one-third to nearly 90%.
     In other Iraq news, Nine U.S. soldiers were killed Mar. 6 in 2 roadside bombings. A roadside bomb killed 4 U.S. soldiers Mar. 15. Two roadside bombs Mar. 25 killed 5 U.S. soldiers. Two bombings in a Shiite area of Tal Afar Mar. 27 killed 83; in retaliation, gunmen shot 70 Sunnis. On Mar. 29, 5 suicide bombers struck Shiite marketplaces in Baghdad and areas north of the capital, killing 125; the overall death toll in Iraq that day was 181.
     In a short speech Mar. 19 marking the 4th anniversary of the beginning of the war, Pres. Bush said he saw some gains from his recent "surge" of troops but said it would take months for the operation to show real progress. The size of the surge stood at about 28,700 soldiers. Across the U.S., supporters and opponents of the war demonstrated in the streets. On Mar. 20 in Baghdad, former Iraqi Vice Pres. Taha Yassin Ramadan was hanged for his part in the deaths of 148 Shiites in Dujail in 1982.
     In a speech to members of the Arab League in Riyadh, Mar, 28, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said that the U.S. occupation of Iraq was illegal.

     Bush Tours Latin America - Prior to beginning a 5-nation tour of Latin America, Pres. Bush Mar. 5 pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to poor people in the region. Bush arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Mar. 8 and on Mar. 9, after a meeting with Pres. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the two leaders completed an agreement between the two countries aimed at increasing the development of ethanol as a fuel alternative to gas and oil.
     In Uruguay, Mar. 10, Bush met with Pres. Tabare Vazquez. On Mar. 11, he met with Pres. Alvaro Uribe in Bogata, Colombia, and with Pres. Oscar Berger in Guatemala City, Guatemala. On Mar. 13, after Bush discussed immigration problems in Merida, Mexico, with Pres. Felipe Calderon, the latter restated his opposition to a U.S. plan to build a 700-mile fence along the international border. Protesters appeared at all of Bush’s stops during his tour.
     Meanwhile, left-wing Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez was making his own tour of the region, denouncing U.S. policy at each stop. At a rally in Buenos Aires, Mar. 9, he called Bush a "political cadaver."


National Archives

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 plot, at the time of his capture in 2003

     Captured Terrorist Admits Planning 2001 Attacks on U.S. - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a prisoner long suspected by the U.S. of masterminding the September 11 attacks, confessed Mar. 10 that he did in fact plan them. Mohammed, who had been captured in Pakistan in 2003, made his confession during a military hearing at the U.S. prison and naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Through a representative, Mohammad said, "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z." His confession was made public on Mar. 14.
     Mohammad said he was also responsible, wholly or in part, for some 30 other attacks and plots, including the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center, Richard Reid’s attempt to bomb a transatlantic flight in 2001, the Indonesian nightclub bombing in 2002, and the Mombasa, Kenya, hotel bombing in 2002. Some of his schemes were not carried out, including assassination attempts against former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In a revised transcript of his confession, released by the Pentagon Mar. 15, Mohammed admitted to having been directly involved in the beheading of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

     U.S. and Iranian Diplomats Meet in Baghdad - Diplomatic delegations from the U.S. and Iran met with each other in Baghdad Mar. 10 during a conference called by Iraqi leaders to seek help in ending the bloodshed there. All 6 of Iraqi’s neighbors, the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, and 3 international organizations participated. Although the Bush administration had vowed not to talk with the Iranian regime, representatives of the 2 countries did exchange concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, alleged Iranian participation in the Iraqi conflict, and the recent U.S. seizure of Iranian diplomats. Iraq’s neighbors agreed to work together to control the problems that were fueling sectarian and terrorist violence in Iraq.

     French President Announces Retirement - Pres. Jacques Chirac of France announced Mar. 11 that he would not seek a 3d term in the April presidential election. President since 1995, Chirac had been a major opponent of the U.S invasion of Iraq. He was dealt a major political defeat in 2005 when voters rejected a new constitution for the European Union that he had supported. In addition, domestic protests over race and a weak economy marked his last years in office.

     Palestinian Unity Government Establishment - The new Palestinian government, embracing both Fatah and Hamas, took final shape Mar. 17 when a 25-member cabinet was sworn in. Premier Ismail Haniya continued in that office. However, a spokesman for the Israeli government said that the new government’s refusal to recognize Israel’s unequivocal right to exist precluded any significant diplomatic contact or negotiations.

     Iran Seizes 15 British Troops at Sea - Eight British sailors and 7 marines were seized at gunpoint Mar. 23 by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, an elite corps affiliated with Iran’s ruling clergy. The 14 men and one woman were part of a UN-mandated force patrolling the Persian Gulf. They had just searched a cargo ship in Shatt al Arab, a disputed waterway between Iraq and Iran before they were seized. Iran charged that the 15, who were in 2 inflatable boats, were in Iranian waters. Great Britain denied the accusation and insisted their troops were operating in Iraqi territorial waters. Iranian news agencies said Mar. 24 that the 15 had been taken to Tehran; a general said they were being interrogated and had confessed to trespassing; however, their admissions are believed to have been made under duress. British Prime Min. Tony Blair repeatedly demanded the release of the captives.
     On Mar. 24, the UN Security Council, 15-0, approved tougher sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and resume negotiations on its nuclear program. The Council resolution strengthened financial sanctions approved in December 2006.
     Iran had previously agreed to release the female soldier they had in custody, but rescinded the offer Mar. 29, saying that they would not consider releasing the prisoners until the British government admitted fault.

     Catholic and Protestant Adversaries Agree on an Ulster Government - The two dominant political figures in Northern Ireland - Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, representing Roman Catholics, and the Protestant Rev. Ian Paisley - both bitter enemies for decades, announced Mar. 26 that they had agreed to form a joint administration for the region, also known as Ulster, to become effective in May. All parties would have proportional representation in the leadership. Paisley would be first minister and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, would be his deputy. The 2 sides, however, had not abandoned their goals: Sinn Fein wants a united Ireland, and Paisley’s Democratic Unionists want to maintain ties with Britain.


     Prosecutors File Lesser Charge Against Astronaut - Prosecutors in Orlando, FL, Mar. 2 charged Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, an astronaut, with attempted kidnapping with intent to commit bodily harm toward Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman. Nowak confronted Shipman at Feb. 5 at Orlando International Airport. Nowak viewed Shipman as a rival for the affections of Navy Comdr. William Oefelein. A charge of attempted murder, recommended by police, was not filed. On Mar. 7, NASA terminated Nowak’s service as an astronaut; however, Nowak remained in the Navy. Nowak formally entered a plea of not guilty Mar. 22.

Science in the News: Animal Magnetism: How Pigeons Find Their Way Home — Elisheva Coleman


San Diego Zoo

Humans first learned to take advantage of the remarkable navigation ability of homing pigeons in 12th century Baghdad. More recently the Israelis have taken advantage of these birds unusual "talent."

Humans first learned to take advantage of the remarkable navigation ability of homing pigeons (Columba livia) in 12th century Baghdad. A high point for the birds came during World War I, when a pigeon called Cher Ami ("dear friend" in French) was awarded a medal for valor; shot through the breast while flying his 12th mission, Cher Ami managed to deliver his message before succumbing to his wounds. How these pigeons manage to find their way home over unfamiliar terrain, however, has long perplexed scientists. Several years ago, researchers began to suspect that the birds are able to sense Earth's magnetic field and navigate based on magnetic fluctuations, but experimental evidence was inconclusive. Now, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand have used a naturally occurring geomagnetic anomaly to demonstrate that homing pigeons do indeed fly to the beat of a magnetic drummer.

Feeling the Field

Scientists first theorized that homing pigeons rely on magnetism when they noticed the birds flying erratically during electrical storms. Lightning bolts generate magnetic fields, which seemed to scramble pigeons' internal compasses, just as they do manmade compasses. In 2000, researchers discovered crystals of magnetite, a highly magnetic iron compound, in the beaks of homing pigeons. Most experts believe that this magnetite gives the pigeons the ability to detect magnetic fields by sending signals to the brain when fields are present. Research has also suggested that pigeons may derive magnetic information from visible light.

In 2004, researchers first showed experimentally that pigeons can detect magnetic fields, by training them to fly to different spots in the lab depending on whether an artificial magnetic field was turned on or off. That experiment, however, only proved that pigeons can feel the presence or absence of a magnetic field - it didn't provide any information on how the birds use magnetic information to navigate. Furthermore, the artificial field was several times stronger than Earth's magnetic field, so the lab work didn't prove that pigeon's magnetic detection system is sensitive enough to help with routine navigation.

To better understand the way pigeons use magnetic information, the New Zealand researchers looked to a geomagnetic quirk located right in their own backyard. The Auckland Junction Magnetic Anomaly is a naturally occurring cluster of gigantic, magnetic rocks, buried 1.6 km (about a mile) below ground. It behaves just like a huge bar magnet, producing a significant spike in the local magnetic field. Behavioral ecologist Todd Dennis and colleagues strapped tiny GPS trackers to the backs of 92 homing pigeons and released them at various locations around the anomaly. Overlaying the GPS-generated flight patterns on a magnetic field map of the area, the researchers were able to observe how the unusual magnetic phenomenon affected the birds' navigation.

That's Intense

Though the pigeons eventually found their way home, the anomaly definitely jammed their circuits. Birds flew as much as four kilometers (2.5 miles) out of their way before getting their bearings and realigning themselves homeward. Their circuitous routes, however, were not random; 59 of the 92 pigeons flew on paths directly related to the intensity, or strength, of the magnetic field.

Like Earth's magnetic field, the local field caused by the Auckland anomaly is not uniform. Its strength varies over space - it peaks at a certain point and weakens as the distance from that point increases. Dennis' data showed that the pigeons were able to detect subtle changes in magnetic intensity, and aligned their flights in response to those changes. Specifically, the birds flew in one of two directions - either parallel to or perpendicular to the intensity field. Flying parallel to the intensity field means flying along a line where the magnetic intensity is constant. Flying perpendicular, on the other hand, means moving with the field's gradient, the direction in which the intensity changes most rapidly.

Since the pigeons tended to fly either parallel or perpendicular to the field, they made a lot of sharp, 90 degree turns. When they analyzed the GPS data, the researchers found the birds' flight paths chock full of L-shaped and box-like patterns. Without the magnetic field map, these patterns look like birds zigzagging randomly and flying in circles. But when the flight paths are compared to the magnetic field, it becomes clear that the birds' erratic behavior was actually a highly ordered response to magnetic information.

Dennis believes that under normal circumstances, when there is no magnetic anomaly, pigeons take readings of Earth's magnetic intensity, and compare the readings to their memory of the magnetic field strength of their home loft. When they get a reading that is similar, they orient themselves along a line where the magnetic intensity stays constant, allowing the field to guide them home. "We're now confident that pigeons do use the intensity of the Earth's magnetic field to determine position during homing," he said. If magnetic fields seem a bit mysterious, it might be helpful to translate the strategy the birds follow to other phenomena. For example, imagine you live on a mountainside, and are able to sense exactly what your altitude is. If someone transports you to a distant part of the mountain, you can sense whether you are higher or lower than your home; if lower, you climb until you reach the right altitude, and then you stop climbing and instead start circling the mountain, always staying at the same elevation: eventually you'll get home.

In addition to shedding light on the fascinating behavior of a species that has aided humans for centuries, the new research may be useful for developing navigational systems. Humans might benefit from mimicking homing pigeons in situations, like underwater travel, where global positioning satellites don't work well. We're not blessed with beakfuls of magnetite, so we'll have to rely on mechanical magnetometers to read the field.

Did You Know?

If a chunk of material, ice or rock, enters the Earth's atmosphere and burns up in a fiery display, it is a meteor; while still in space, it is known as a meteoroid.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

There’s More to Recycling than Curbside Pickup

Starbucks may consider itself an environmentally conscious enterprise, with organic, shade-grown coffees available at some locations. But when it comes to recycling, the company has nothing on Ethiopian inventor and repairman Azemeraw Zeleke. According to a Reuters story this month, Zeleke and his six-person crew fashion complicated coffeehouse-style coffee machines out of the remnants of war.

The territorial war between Eritrea and Ethiopia (1998-2000) left fields near the border littered with mortar shells. Zeleke pays around $40 for each bronze mortar shell, and then repurposes them to form the inner barrel of a coffee maker capable of producing over a dozen different regional coffee concoctions. The finished machines sell for the equivalent of $1,060-1,290.

"We take these objects of war and turn them into objects of pleasure," says Mehany, Zeleke’s 22-year-old son. "Maybe, this is a message for the rest of the world."

From the World Almanac Blog: No Impact Man

Last week, the New York Times (03.22.07) published an article that quickly jumped to the top of the 'most-emailed' list. The story profiles Colin Beavan, who, with his wife and daughter, are making scads of sacrifices (think: in-house composting and no toilet paper) to live a "no impact" lifestyle and reduce their ecological footprints. Now, this is something that's been done by others in the past - insert obligatory reference to kooky commune-dwellers here - but not, to my knowledge, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. This makes the process different when you consider a lot of the changes the family has made - they've walked up many, many flights of stairs, they have no backyard for the compost heap (it's in the kitchen), and they're limited to eating only locally-grown food, even though there's only so much that can be produced locally in a New York December.

Check out the article and visit Beavan's blog at the links below. Or measure your own impact on the earth with an ecological footprint quiz. You can also read the first chapter of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices online, which contains a less life-altering approach to reducing our negative impact on the environment.

The Year Without Toilet Paper
No Impact Man blog
My Footprint quiz
The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices

For more offbeat news stories and other daily facts from the editors of The World Almanac, visit The World Almanac Blog.

As my friends and family know, I'm not the most adventurous eater.

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


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Count Basie, 1981

The famous Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn song, "Take the A Train," has lyrics that say, "You must take the A Train, To go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem." Sugar Hill is a neighborhood in Harlem, in the northern section of New York City’s borough of Manhattan. The village of Nieuw Haarlem (named for Haarlem, the Netherlands) was established in 1658 by the Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant. In the 1920s, Harlem became the center of a black literary and intellectual movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Find out what's going on in Harlem today at Harlem One Stop. My grandfather owned buildings in Harlem in the 1930s and 40s, and among his tenants was COUNT BASIE'S, located on the corner of 132nd Street and Seventh Avenue, a popular club owned by the big band jazz pianist and bandleader, William "Count" Basie. I had met Basie when his orchestra played at my college in 1981. Even after his heyday, it was clear why Basie had been so popular. His piano playing was admired for its economy and elegance and his band epitomized the Southwestern, or Kansas City, style of jazz. Learn more about Basie at Swing Music.net.

My siblings and I, with our respective partners, are treating my Dad to a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean this summer, to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. While my sisters and I have been on cruises before, my Dad has not, so I've checked out some websites to find out information for first-timers. Cruise Mates offers a variety of advice from choosing a cruise, which rooms to pick, places to visit, ship reviews, and just about everything you'll need to know for your cruise. One of the destinations on our cruise is San Juan, Puerto Rico. The historical heart of the city, referred to as Old San Juan, lies on a small island connected to the mainland by bridges and a causeway. It is characterized by narrow, crooked streets and a number of buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The oldest part remains partly enclosed by massive walls and contains several notable forts, such as El Morro (begun 1539) and San Cristóbal (17th cent.), both part of San Juan National Historic Site, and La Fortaleza (begun 1533), which now serves as the governor's mansion. Also on the island is the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (begun 1520s), a Gothic structure that contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. Learn more about San Juan at Welcome to Puerto Rico.


(c) Edward A. Thomas

My E.T. Memorabilia

I do know a few people who don't collect anything. As anyone who has read this column before can attest, I don't fit into that category. Nick Gjoka's obsession is the 1982 Steven Spielberg film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and he has an incredibly large collection of memorabilia related to the film. Check out his collection at I LOVE ET. And yes, while I don't collect this memorabilia, I do have some leftovers from the 80s. Doesn't everyone have an ET alarm clock and camera?

The League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, existed from 1920 to 1946. In 1918, as one of his 14 points summarizing Allied aims in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson of the U.S. presented a plan for a general association of nations. The plan formed the basis of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the 26 articles that served as operating rules for the league. The covenant was formulated as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I in 1919. Although Wilson was a member of the committee that drafted the covenant, it was never ratified by the U.S. Senate because of Article X, which contained the requirement that all members preserve the territorial independence of all other members, even to joint action against aggression. Learn more about the League of Nations at The League of Nations Photo Archives. Listen to sound recordings, from 1918-1920 related to the League of Nations at The Library of Congress: America Speaks Out.

I have finally finished downloading my CD collection onto my mp3 player - all 12,000 songs. My appreciation of music has increased now that I can shuffle the songs and randomly listen to them. It's sort of funny; when I was a kid my sister Marie would put in her ear plug and listen to her transistor radio every time we got into the family car, to avoid listening to my Dad's "music." Thirty years later, with a spin of my fingers I am at one moment listening to the songs of her era, then my Dad's era, and then music from the generation before. Just the other day I was listening to the music of Al Jolson. Jolson, born Asa Yoelson (1886-1950), was an American stage and film performer, born in Russia. As a child he sang in the synagogue where his father was a cantor. He became a circus performer and café entertainer. Then he toured in vaudeville and with a company known as Dockstader's Minstrels; minstrel-style singing in blackface makeup became Jolson's trademark. Jolson achieved wide popularity starring on Broadway in many musicals tailored to his talents. In 1927 he starred in The Jazz Singer, the first important motion picture with synchronized sound and the first of many successful films for the star. A popular radio and recording artist, he had many hits including "You Made Me Love You," "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody," "Swanee," "April Showers," "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye," "California, Here I Come," "Sonny Boy," and "Avalon". Listen to the songs of Jolson at Internet Archive: Al Jolson, and read a biography of him at Musicals 101: Jolson.



Honeybee on flower

Beekeepers appeared before the U.S. Congress last week to discuss the decline in honeybee colonies as a result of an unexpected disease that is wiping them out. Between 1947 and 2005, University of Illinois entomology professor May Berenbaum estimated a decline from 5.9 million to 2.4 million honeybee colonies. The disappearance of those busy, buzzing insects might seem like a blessing to children afraid of getting stung. However, honeybees are much more important to humans than it might seem at first glance. Many flowering plants, including plants grown for food, depend on their interactions with small animals such as bees. Those animals pollinate their flowers. Pollination leads to the growth of fruit and seeds. Without the help of the pollinators, the plants would produce no fruit, no seeds and therefore no food for animals or people. Learn more about honeybees at the Texas A&M University Honey Bee Information Site.

Best of The World Almanac Blog: The World Almanac's Biggest Fan - Sarah Janssen
Fans of The World Almanac often tell us that our book is a longstanding family tradition--in some cases, a tradition that spans decades (and generations) of annual purchases and gift-giving. Rich Gruber, however, has gone one step beyond. He bought his first World Almanac in 1962, at age 8 (for $1.35), and diligently picked up the new edition every year since then. But about four years ago, he started to wonder if he might be able to work his way backwards from the first copy he bought, all the way back to our first edition in 1868.He's only missing 5 editions now, in a collection that is nearly as complete as our own. I caught up with our biggest fan recently for a conversation that covered the history of The World Almanac, a personal grudge against Jeopardy!, and the missing link between the Almanac and Beanie Babies. Download an audio file of the interview, or read a transcript at the World Almanac Blog The World Almanac's Biggest Fan.

If you think you're the World Almanac's biggest fan, let us know why by writing me at editorinchief@waegroup.com.

Quote of the Month

"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
     - Samuel Johnson, (1709-84), English writer and lexicographer

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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