Volume 07, Number 05 — May 2007

What's in this issue?

May Events
May Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — May
May Birthdays
Travel - Denver, Colorado: The Mile-High City
Obituaries - April 2007
Special Feature: Lindbergh Flies Across the Atlantic
Chronology - April 2007
Sports Feature: The First Kentucky Derby
Science in the News: Remembrances of Roses Past
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

May Events

May 1-13 - Contraband Days Pirate Festival (Lake Charles, LA)
May 3-5 - Emmett Kelly Clown Festival (Houston, MO)
May 4-6 - Josey’s World Champion Junior Barrel Race (Marshall, TX)
May 4-6 - Toad Suck Daze (Conway, AR)
May 5 - Karfluki Fest (Auburn, CA)
May 6 - Five Boro Bike Tour (New York, NY)
May 5 - Kentucky Derby (Louisville)
May 11 - America’s Anniversary Weekend (Jamestown/Williamsburg, VA)
May 17-20 - Aspencash Motorcycle Rally (Ruidoso, NM)
May 18-20 - Maifest (Covington, KY)
May 19 - Preakness Stakes (Baltimore, MD)
May 19 - New Jersey State Chili & Salsa Cook-Off (Toms River, NJ)
May 19 - O. Henry Museum Pun-Off (Austin, TX)
May 22-23 - National Geographic Bee Finals (Washington, DC)
May 25-28 - Mudbug Madness (Shreveport, LA)
May 25-28 - World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest (Peoria, IL)
May 26 - Grubstake Days (Yucca Valley, CA)
May 27 - Mad City Marathon (Madison, WI)
May 27-June 10 - French Open Tennis Tournament (Paris)

May Holidays — National and International

May 1 - May Day
May 5 - Cinco de Mayo (Mexico)
May 8 - National Teacher Day
May 13 - Mother’s Day
May 19 - Armed Forces Day
May 21 - Victoria Day (Canada)
May 24 - Buddha’s Birthday (Korea, Hong Kong)
May 28 - Memorial Day

Did You Know?

The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth is 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, on Sept. 13, 1922.

This Day In History — May

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1707 England and Scotland unite to form Great Britain.
02 1939 NY Yankees great Lou Gehrig ends his playing streak of 2,130 consecutive baseball games.
03 1946 The Tokyo war-crimes trial opens.
04 1493 Pope Alexander VI defines the spheres of Spanish and Portuguese possessions in the New World by drawing the Line of Demarcation.
05 1862 The Mexican army defeats the French army in the battle of Puebla; this day later becomes the "Cinco de Mayo" holiday.
06 1937 The dirigible Hindenburg explodes while landing in New Jersey after a transatlantic flight, killing 36 people.
07 1915 The British ship Lusitania, traveling from New York to Liverpool, is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland.
08 1973 A standoff in South Dakota between federal authorities and American Indian Movement activists ends with the surrender of the activists.
09 1907 Mother's Day is unofficially observed for the first time.
10 1994 Nationalist leader Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as president of South Africa.
11 1997 World chess champion Garry Kasparov is defeated by a computer, IBM's Deep Blue, in a 6-game match.
12 1932 The son of Charles Lindbergh, kidnapped on March 1, is found dead.
13 1846 Following a border clash, the United States declares war on Mexico.
14 1607 Jamestown, VA, is founded, becoming the first permanent English settlement in America.
15 1970 Pres. Richard Nixon names the first 2 female generals in U.S. history.
16 2005 The Kuwaiti parliament votes to remove the word "men" from the country's election law, allowing women to vote and run for office in local and parliamentary elections for the first time.
17 1792 The New York Stock Exchange is formed.
18 1969 Apollo 10 is launched, the first lunar module to orbit the Moon.
19 1536 Anne Boleyn, the 2d wife of England's King Henry VIII, is beheaded.
20 1902 Cuba gained its independence from Spain.
21 1927 Capt. Charles A. Lindbergh reaches Le Bourget airfield in Paris, completing the first nonstop flight from New York in 33 hours.
22 1807 Former vice president Aaron Burr is indicted for treason.
23 1618 Protestants in Prague, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), invade the royal palace, seize two of the king's ministers, and throw them out a window. This act, known as the Defenestration of Prague, is the beginning of a national Protestant uprising.
24 1844 Samuel Morse sends the first official message over a telegraph line--"What hath God wrought?"--from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore.
25 1946 Transjordan (later called Jordan) is proclaimed an independent kingdom under King Abdullah.
26 1940 World War II, the evacuation of 200,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian soldiers from Dunkirk on the northern coast of France begins.
27 1937 The Golden Gate Bridge is opened in San Francisco, CA.
28 1539 Explorer Hernando de Soto lands in Florida.
29 1453 In a battle that marks the end of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople falls to the Turks, who rename it Istanbul.
30 1431 French heroine and leader Joan of Arc is burned at the stake by the English after having been convicted of heresy.
31 1889 After heavy rains cause the Connemaugh River Dam to burst, a huge flood engulfs Johnstown, PA, killing 2,200.

May Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1960 Steve Cauthen, jockey (Walton, KY)
02 1952 Christine Baranski, actress (Buffalo, NY)
03 1937 Frankie Valli, singer and member of the Four Seasons (Newark, NJ)
04 1979 Lance Bass, singer and member of 'N Sync (Mississippi)
05 1927 Pat Carroll, actress (Shreveport, LA)
06 1953 Tony Blair, British prime minister (Edinburgh, Scotland)
07 1950 Tim Russert, TV journalist (Buffalo, NY)
08 1945 Keith Jarrett, jazz pianist (Allentown, PA)
09 1960 Tony Gwynn, baseball player (Los Angeles, CA)
10 1944 Judith Jamison, dancer/choreographer (Philadelphia, PA)
11 1933 Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam leader (New York, NY)
12 1937 George Carlin, comedian (New York, NY)
13 1961 Dennis Rodman, basketball player (Trenton, NJ)
14 1977 Roy Halladay, baseball pitcher (Denver, CO)
15 1937 Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state (Prague, Czechoslovakia)a
16 1957 Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic champion marathon runner (Cape Elizabeth, ME)
17 1956 Sugar Ray Leonard, champion boxer (Washington, D.C.)
18 1955 Yun-Fat Chow, actor (Hong Kong)
19 1941 Nora Ephron, writer/director (New York, NY)
20 1972 Busta Rhymes, rapper (Brooklyn, NY)
21 1944 Mary Robinson, former Irish president, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland)
22 1922 Judith Crist, film critic (New York, NY)
23 1954 Marvelous Marvin Hagler, champion boxer (Newark, NJ)
24 1944 Patti LaBelle, singer (Philadelphia, PA)
25 1971 Sheryl Swoopes, basketball player (Brownfield, TX)
26 1951 Sally Ride, astronaut and first U.S. woman in space (Encino, CA)
27 1915 Herman Wouk, novelist (New York, NY)
28 1944 Gladys Knight, R&B singer (Atlanta, GA)
29 1947 V. Gene Robinson, first openly gay Episcopal bishop (Lexington, KY)
30 1927 Clint Walker, actor (Hartford, IL)
31 1965 Brooke Shields, actress/model (New York, NY)

Travel - Denver, Colorado: The Mile-High City

Denver is a mid-sized place with major league attractions. Home to some 500,000 people (the sprawling metropolitan region totals more than 2 million), it serves as the capital of Colorado and the commercial, financial, industrial, and transportation center of a multistate region. Located about a mile above sea level and blessed with a ubiquitous vista of the snow-peaked Rocky Mountains, Denver enjoys a relatively dry, mild climate featuring, it is said, 300 or more days of sunshine a year. While Denver traces its origins back to the mid-19th century, and you can still spy bits and pieces of Victorian architecture, the visitor's eye is more likely to be caught first by its modern aspect. The city is replete with contemporary steel and glass buildings, one of the newest and most spectacular being a jagged titanium-clad extension of the Denver Art Museum designed by the Polish-born U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind.

Outdoors bliss



Visitors at Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Needless to say, the city is a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts of nearly all stripes, from golfers to hikers to bikers to skiers to fishers to whitewater rafters and beyond. The vicinity's attractions include Rocky Mountain National Park and several national forests, along with many recreation areas and parks owned by the state and by Denver itself. Counting areas both within and outside the city limits, Denver's park system encompasses more than 200 parks and ranks as the biggest of any city in the U.S.

The largest park in the city lies some 2 mi (3.2 km) miles east of downtown. Called City Park, it covers 330 acres (134 ha), contains lakes, gardens, a golf course, fountains, and monuments, and affords stunning views of the mountains. Band concerts are presented here in the summer. The park also is the site of the celebrated Denver Zoo, which has almost 4000 different animals, from more than 700 species. The zoo stresses exhibits with natural habitats, and its primate collection is particularly noteworthy. Another major attraction located in the park is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The fourth biggest natural history museum in the U.S., it features an IMAX theater and a planetarium in addition to numerous exhibits.


But you don't have to venture so far afield to get a taste of the Denver area's natural charms. Downtown, the concise (4-block) Civic Center Park offers flower gardens, fountains, and a Greek amphitheater. It's the location of such major public gatherings as the city's annual Cinco de Mayo festival (said to be the largest in the U.S.). Also here is the gold-domed Colorado State Capitol. If you climb up to the 15th step on the building's west side, you will be exactly 5280 ft (1609 m) above sea level - that is, exactly 1 mile high. Keep going up the winding stairway in the rotunda and you will be rewarded at the top with a marvelous view of Denver and the region beyond, from Wyoming in the north to Pikes Peak in the south.

If you head northwest from the Capitol, you'll come to the place where Denver was born. Now called Lower Downtown, or LoDo, it is a major component of the wave of rejuvenation that has given Denver in recent decades everything from a new airport and light-rail transit system to a downtown amusement park. But LoDo is an example more of renovation than of fresh construction. Toward the end of the 20th century it was a seedy area of decrepit warehouses, many dating from as long ago as the Victorian period. The neighborhood, covering some 25 blocks, was then transformed into a trendy historic district filled with condominiums, restaurants, outdoor cafés, bars, brew pubs, clubs, and art galleries. The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau calls it "the largest concentration of restored historic turn-of-the-century buildings in the nation."

One definitely new addition to LoDo was Coors Field, which opened in 1995 and is the home stadium of major league baseball's Colorado Rockies. Even it, however, is a throwback to the past, having been designed in the traditional style of mid-20th century ballparks.

More new attractions

Just west of LoDo is Pepsi Center, the arena for Denver's pro basketball, hockey, and lacrosse teams; it opened in 1999. A bit further west, across the Platte River, lies the Downtown Aquarium, which also opened in 1999. It is noted for interactive exhibits, and you can see more than 500 species there. South of the aquarium, just beyond the opposite end of Gates Crescent Park, lies the third, and most recent (2001), of Denver's new major sports facilities: INVESCO Field at Mile High, home field of the Denver Broncos pro football team and also the location of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum.

Cultural institutions have figured in several of Denver's most interesting construction projects of recent years. One example can be seen at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Situated to the south of LoDo, this claims to be the largest performing arts complex in the world under one roof. Its ten performance spaces are connected by an 80-ft (24-m) tall glass roof and can accommodate 10,000 people (a capacity exceeded only by New York City's Lincoln Center). Its primary theater, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, opened in 2005 after a major renovation of a hall originally constructed in the beginning of the 20th century. Today's Ellie Caulkins is adorned with cherrywood paneling and a stunning flower-like gold-and-green chandelier by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, offers splendid acoustics, and is one of the very few opera houses in the world to provide a seat-back titling system for every seat.



Denver Art Museum

Another example is the striking building just south of Civic Center Park that opened in 1995 and houses the Denver Public Library, Designed by U.S. architect Michael Graves, it is a mélange of rotundas, towers, and turrets in southwestern hues of green, red, and sand.

Next to the library stands an even more fantastical concoction: the Denver Art Museum. It boasts strong holdings particularly in Native American and Western art, but recently its architecture has attracted the most attention. What is now called the North Building opened in 1971. Designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti, it is a 28-sided seven-story structure covered with more than 1 million faceted gray glass tiles that shimmer in the sun. Desperately needing more exhibition space, the museum commissioned Libeskind to design an extension. The result, known as the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, opened in October 2006. It is joined to the North Building by a glass-covered bridge. Its titanium cladding shimmers, but while the North Building resembles a fortress, Libeskind's building goes to the opposite extreme. It's an explosion of peaks, with one section even thrusting forth over a sidewalk. "I was inspired by the light and the geology of the Rockies, but most of all by the wide-open faces of the people of Denver," said the architect.

City of Denver
Colorado Travel and Visitor Information
Denver Art Museum
Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau

Did You Know?

Three of the five longest underwater vehicular tunnels in North America are in New York City: the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, and the Lincoln Tunnel.

Obituaries in April 2007

Avis, Warren E., 91, founder (1946) of the rent-a-car company bearing his name, which grew into the U.S.’s second-largest such business, after Hertz; his enterprise originally and innovatively focused on car rentals at airports; Ann Arbor, MI, April 24, 2007.

Browne, Roscoe Lee, 81, rich-voiced character actor in many films and TV shows and a force in New York theater, both on and off Broadway, including in a landmark 1960s off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks that ran for more than 1,400 performances; he was the narrator in the 1995 hit film Babe and its 1998 sequel, Babe: Pig in the City; Los Angeles, CA, April 11, 2007.


The Jimmy Carter Library

Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich performing at the White House, on Sunday, September 17, 1978.

Carlisle Hart, Kitty, 96, actress and singer who often appeared on Broadway, starred in the Marx Brothers’ film comedy A Night at the Opera (1935), was a ubiquitous presence on TV game shows in the 1950s and 1960s, chaired the New York State Council on the Arts for two decades, and was still performing in her 90s; she was married to playwright and director Moss Hart from 1946 until his death in 1961; New York, NY, April 17, 2007.

Halberstam, David, 73, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of many books, on subjects ranging from the Vietnam War to civil rights to sports; Menlo Park, CA, April 23, 2007.

Hart, Johnny, 76, cartoonist who created the long-running comic strip "B.C." in 1958 and co-created another hugely successful newspaper cartoon, "The Wizard of Id," in 1964; Nineveh, NY, April 7, 2007.

Ho, Don, 76, Hawaiian singer who frequently appeared on U.S. television in the 1960s and 1970s; a fixture on the Waikiki Beach nightclub scene for decades, his signature song was "Tiny Bubbles," which he recorded in 1966; Honolulu, HI, April 14, 2007.

LeWitt, Sol, 78, painter and sculptor who was a pioneer of both minimalism and conceptualism; his works included wall paintings and drawings executed by his assistants and eventually painted over; New York, NY, April 8, 2007.

Poston, Tom, 85, comic actor best known for his work on TV, which included playing the confused "man in the street" on "The Steve Allen Show" (1956-61) and bumbling handyman George Utley on "Newhart" (1982-90); Los Angeles, CA, April 30, 2007.

Robinson, Eddie G., 88, legendary football coach at historically black Grambling State University in Louisiana for more than five decades (1941-97); Ruston, LA, April 3, 2007.

Rostropovich, Mstislav, 80, preeminent cellist of his era, whose vast repertoire included works written for him by some of the leading composers of the 20th century, including Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten; after being exiled from the Soviet Union, he was also the principal conductor of Washington, D.C.’s National Symphony for 17 years (1977-94); Moscow, Russia, April 27, 2007.

Scott, Gordon,, 80, actor who portrayed Tarzan in five films released between 1955 and 1960, including Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957), the first Tarzan film in color; Baltimore, MD, April 30, 2007.

Valenti, Jack, 85, onetime special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson who for nearly four decades (1966-2004) was president of the Motion Picture Association of America, making him Hollywood’s chief lobbyist; soon after assuming that post, he help draw up the "G" to "X" movie-rating system; Washington, DC, April 26, 2007.


George Bush Presidential Library

Boris Yeltsin

Vonnegut Jr., Kurt, 84, author of the classic antiwar novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and of such other well-known novels as Cat’s Cradle (1963) and Breakfast of Champions (1973), which freely mixed satirical with science-fiction elements; New York, NY, April 11, 2007.

Walton, Helen, 87, matriarch of one of the world’s richest families, whose fortune stemmed from the success of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the retailing giant founded by her husband, Sam Walton, in the early 1960s; Bentonville, AR, April 19, 2007.

Yeltsin, Boris, 76, first freely elected leader of Russia in the post-Soviet era, from 1991 to 1999, when his protégé, Vladimir Putin, took over; Moscow, Russia, April 23, 2007.

Learn more about some of the people who died this past April:
Kitty Carlisle Hart
Johnny Hart
Don Ho
Eddie G. Robinson
Mstislav Rostropovich
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Boris Yeltsin

Special Feature: Lindbergh Flies Across the Atlantic

Joe Gustaitis


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-22847]

Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis

On May 20, 1927 - 80 years ago - a 25-year-old pilot named Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field, New York, in his monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. The following day, he landed in Paris, France, making history by becoming the first pilot to complete a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. The flight was a sensation, and turned Lindbergh into one of the most popular personalities of an age abounding in them.

An Historic Step

Today, it might be difficult to comprehend why those who were alive in 1927 viewed Lindbergh's exploit as a defining moment of their lifetimes - even as one of the most momentous feats in history. Lindbergh's flight was met with acclaim for several reasons, the first being "Lucky Lindy" himself. Lindy was the kind of person that Americans wished to believe represented their culture—an individualist (he was dubbed the "Lone Eagle"), an achiever, a self-starter and a straight-shooter. As U.S. President Calvin Coolidge put it at a ceremony honoring Lindbergh, he was "a boy representing the best traditions of the country." A writer for a contemporary aviation magazine also said of him that, "It isn't Lindbergh the person who inspires them [the public], so much as it is Lindbergh as an ideal. They recognize in him qualities they would like to possess - courage, quiet confidence, modesty, and spiritual freedom."

Second, the thrill of aviation captured the public's attention. Since the beginning of history, humanity has dreamed of being able to fly. The Greeks invented the myth of Icarus and Daedalus, who fashioned wings of feathers, wax, and wood in order to escape from the Labyrinth of Crete. When Orville and Wilbur Wright fulfilled that vision of flight with the first heavier-than-air aircraft in 1903, it marked one of the turning points in history - it has been argued, for example, that future generations will remember the 20th century primarily for being the age in which humans began to fly.

The Wrights inspired a generation of young men - and women - to take flying lessons by any means necessary, to ascend into the sky in rickety, untested machines, and to pursue ambitions of soaring ever higher and faster. Lindbergh was just one of this legion of aeronauts, and, to the public, his flight represented a hopefulness that modern technology was creating advances that would enrich the lives of everyone and bring the world closer together.


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, LC-DIG-ppprs-00626]

First flight, 120 feet in 12 seconds, 10:35 a.m.; Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

Finally, the 1920s was a time in which the focus on celebrities was assuming its present structure. The "Roaring Twenties" has been called the first "modern" decade, an age that witnessed the growth of the mass media, consumerism, and a truly national popular culture fostered not only by newspapers and magazines but also by new media, such as motion pictures, radio, and recordings. As a result, the qualifications for fame shifted.

Amy Henderson, an historian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., found that from 1901 to 1914, 74 percent of the biographical articles published in the popular magazines Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post covered personages in the fields of politics, business, and the professions. However, by the 1920s, more than 50 percent of those pieces covered sports and entertainment personalities. The heroes of the 1920s were no longer tycoons, politicians, and generals, but celebrities like Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Jack Dempsey, Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow, and Will Rogers. Charles Lindbergh fit this mold perfectly (as did the woman flier Amelia Earhart, who, along with two male aviators, flew across the Atlantic in June 1928).

The Aviation Industry Grows


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, LC-DIG-ggbain-04101]

Louis Blériot's monoplane in flight.

By the time Charles Lindbergh was old enough to climb into a cockpit, aviation had come very far since the Wright brothers' first successful flight on December 17, 1903. The development of the new technology was remarkably swift, and the Europeans quickly began to catch up to the Americans' head start. In 1907, Henri Farman became the first European to pilot an aircraft for more than a minute, and just two years later Louis Blériot flew across the English Channel in his No. XI monoplane.

By 1910, there were many competitions and races in both Europe and the United States, and, in that year, a test pilot named Eugene Ely took off from the deck of a ship. The following year, American pilot Calbraith P. Rodgers completed the first transcontinental flight across the U.S., flying from Brooklyn, New York, to Long Beach, California over the course of 84 days (the actual flying time was slightly more than 3 days and 10 hours). By 1913, pilots had learned the art of aerial acrobatics as the first "loop-the-loop" was achieved.

The beginning of World War I in 1914 forced airplane designers to create and build new faster, lighter airplanes for reconnaissance, attack, bombing, and other military missions. At the beginning of the war, the top speed for most planes was well under 100 mph; by the end of the war in 1918 they were easily flying at more than 140 mph. Plane design itself also improved. During World War I, German engineer Hugo Junkers developed the first all-metal plane, one built from duralumin, a lightweight aluminum alloy with great tensile strength. The number of planes produced during the Great War was huge; France alone manufactured more than 44,000 airplanes during the conflict. Indeed, because of war needs, more planes were built during those four years than in all the years since the Wright brothers' first flight.

By the time World War I had ended, aviation was a fully mature industry. In May 1919, a U.S. Navy crew of six made the first crossing of the Atlantic. Flying in a Curtiss NC4 flying boat and accompanied by 21 naval ships stationed at 50-mile intervals along their route, the airmen traveled from Newfoundland to the Azores, where they refueled, and then flew to Lisbon, Portugal. There they refueled again and continued on to England.

A month later, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown won a $50,000 London Daily Mail prize for the first nonstop transatlantic crossing when they co-piloted a modified Vickers Vimy long-range bomber from Newfoundland to Ireland, a distance of 1,890 miles. By 1920, airplanes were already being used to carry passengers and mail; daily passenger service between London and Paris, for example, was launched as early as August 1919. This increased focus on flight would help set the stage for Lindbergh's later achievement.

A Born Pilot

Although Americans liked to think of Lindbergh as an average citizen, he came from an advantaged background. His father, Charles Sr., or "C.A.", was a prominent lawyer and was elected to the U.S. Congress when Charles was four, and his grandfather, August Lindbergh, had been a member of the Swedish Parliament before emigrating to the United States in 1859. Lindbergh's mother, the former Evangeline Land, had earned a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Michigan, which was most unusual for her time. Her father, who encouraged young Charles's interest in things mechanical, was a renowned dentist who had developed a widely used method of manufacturing porcelain crowns.

The future "Lone Eagle" was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 4, 1902. The family soon moved to Little Falls, Minnesota, where Charles was raised. As a boy, he was enthralled by science and technology, and, when he was just 11 years old, he learned to drive (and repair) his father's Model T Ford. Later, he acquired an Excelsior motorcycle that he raced along the banks of the Mississippi. It was not surprising that he would be drawn to aviation, but his reading the newspaper accounts of the exploits of the valiant air aces of World War I was what sealed Lindbergh's interest in flight.

After witnessing the success of pilots such as Alcock and Brown, Lindbergh was determined to learn how to fly. Although his father attempted to dissuade him by informing him of an article he had read that stated that an average pilot would fly only about 900 hours before being killed in a crash, Lindbergh dropped out of the University of Wisconsin, where he had been studying mechanical engineering, in 1922. That same year, he enrolled in flying school at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lindbergh learned how to fly and how to use a parachute, and he became a barnstormer - one of those daredevils who flew around the country performing aerial stunts and giving airplane rides to the adventurous.

After two years as a wing-walker and parachute jumper, he decided to begin his own barnstorming business and bought his first plane - a Curtiss JN-4D, or "Jenny," for which he paid some $500. After an additional year of barnstorming, he became eager to learn about more advanced aircraft, and joined the U.S. Army Air Service in 1924. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in March 1925, coming in first in his class. Having learned what he needed, Lindbergh, like many other young army fliers, then resigned his commission, while remaining in the reserve. By 1926, Lindbergh was flying the mail between Chicago and St. Louis. It was a dangerous job, but one that Lindbergh excelled at - his delivery rate was 99% and he earned his nickname "Lucky Lindy" for having survived two emergency parachute landings. However, his ambitions were much greater.

The Orteig Prize

In 1919, a hotel owner named Raymond Orteig had offered a prize of $25,000 for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris or vice versa - a span of 3,600 miles. It was a distance much greater than that traversed by Alcock and Brown, and it was not until about 1925 that the science of aircraft engines had arrived at the point where such a flight was even possible. However, once it had, the race was on. The French pilot René Fonck, along with three crew members, attempted the long flight in September 1926, but his three-engine plane crashed on takeoff, killing two, although Fonck himself survived. Two Americans, Noel Davis and Stanton H. Wooster, were killed in April 1927 when their plane crashed during take-off of what was to be their last test flight, and early the following month French pilots Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli disappeared over the Atlantic while trying to make the crossing from east to west.

Although the prize did not require the pilot to fly solo, Lindbergh thought that a small single-engine plane carrying a great deal of fuel would have a better chance. He began searching for a suitable airplane in 1926, and was informed that businessman Charles Levine owned such a plane, the Wright Bellanca, that could hold enough fuel to fly for more than 4,000 miles. Although Levine was willing to sell the plane to Lindbergh, he wanted to choose the pilot himself so Lindbergh refused his offer.

In February 1927, the Ryan Airlines Corporation of San Diego, California heard of Lindbergh's search for an airplane, and offered to build him a single-engine plane for $6,000 (excluding the cost of the engine). Lindbergh accepted the offer, and traveled to San Diego to help design the plane. The aircraft was not intended for standard aviation, but had only one aim - to cross the Atlantic. It had extra fuel tanks, and, for safety reasons, the main tank was placed in front of the pilot's seat, not behind it, which meant that there was no front window. Lindbergh would be forced to use the side windows and a periscope to see where he was going.

Lindbergh was obsessed with reducing the craft's weight, knowing that less weight meant the plane would use less fuel. The plane carried no parachute, radio, gas gauge, or navigation lights. Even the seat was factored in, being made of wicker rather than heavier leather. Lindbergh also designed special lightweight boots for his trip and cut his navigational maps - only bringing those sections he needed.

The plane was finished on April 28, 1927. It weighed 2,150 pounds when empty, stood 9 feet 8 inches high, and was 27 feet 8 inches long. The wings measured a total of 46 feet - they had been expanded in the early stages of the airplane's design in order to help lift the plane, heavy with extra fuel, from the ground. Ryan engineers also outfitted the airplane with a Wright Whirlwind engine that would work for more than 9,000 hours. Lindbergh named the airplane the Spirit of St. Louis because his backing came from the head of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, Harold Bixby, who hoped to see his city become a major aviation hub.

Crossing the Atlantic


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Divisioin, [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-106867]

An aerial view of Charles Lindbergh's airplane the Spirit of St. Louis  about to take off, 1927.

On May 12, 1927, Lindbergh took off from San Diego and landed in St. Louis 14 hours and 25 minutes later - a new record for that flight. After a brief stopover, he continued to New York, breaking yet another record for the fastest transcontinental flight. His transatlantic flight began at 7:52 A.M. on May 20 at Roosevelt Field, Long Island. Weighted down with extra fuel, the plane struggled to rise above the telephone wires at the end of the field and cleared them by just 20 feet.

By noon, Lindbergh had reached Nova Scotia and by 6 P.M. he was leaving the coast of Newfoundland and setting out across the open sea. During the flight, a storm stirred below him, fog set in, and ice formed on the plane's wings, but Lindbergh, who had not slept the night before, found that his greatest challenge was staying awake. Despite the frigid temperature, he kept the windows open, relying on the cold air to keep him alert, which it did for the most part, although he occasionally dozed off and had hallucinations. At around 10 the next morning he spotted some fishing boats, and an hour later he recognized the southern tip of Ireland. The flight ended at 10:22 P.M., Paris time, when Lindbergh landed at the Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris. He had spent 33 hours, 30 minutes, and 29.8 seconds in his wicker seat and had not slept in 55 hours.

To Lindbergh's amazement, a crowd estimated at almost 100,000 people was at the airport. With difficulty, he made his way through the throng and was taken to the American embassy, where, after a meal and a brief press conference, he went to bed. The next day he appeared on the balcony with the American ambassador, as thousands cheered and an army of photographers snapped their shutters. The onetime mail pilot from Minnesota was now a celebrity of global proportions.

Lindbergh's Later Life


Library of Congress

Thousands of people travel to Springfield, Vermont, to meet Charles Lindbergh on "Lindbergh Day," July 26, 1927.

Lindbergh's renown ensured that he remained very much in the public eye for the next decade and a half - and not always of his own choosing. Upon his return to the United States in June 1927, Lindbergh was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City and he then embarked on a national tour of 92 cities to promote interest in aviation. In 1929, he married Anne Spencer Morrow, the daughter of the American ambassador to Mexico. She shared her husband's love of aviation (she was the first woman in the U.S. to get a glider pilot's license), and they made several long flights together, surveying landing fields and mapping air routes that are still used today.

Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., the first of their six children, became the center of one of the most sensational crime stories of the 20th century, when the 19-month-old infant was kidnapped from the Lindberghs' New Jersey home in 1932. Two and a half months later, the baby's lifeless body was discovered; a German-born carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann was eventually charged with the crime, found guilty, and executed. The outcry over the murder led to the passing of a federal law, known as the "Lindbergh Law," that made it a federal crime, punishable by life imprisonment, to kidnap someone and transport that person to another state.

The Lindberghs themselves were dismayed by what Charles viewed as the public's "morbid curiosity" and by the prying of the press, which was especially eager for stories about their second son, Jon. To escape the glare of notoriety, the Lindberghs moved to England in 1935, where they lived for three years before settling on the small island of Iliec off the Brittany coast of France.

In 1936, Lindbergh was invited to visit Nazi Germany by Hermann Göring, the former World War I ace who was now head of the German Air Force. The military attaché at the U.S. embassy in Berlin encouraged Lindbergh to make the trip, hoping that much could be learned about the progress of Adolf Hitler's rearmament program. Lindbergh was impressed by what he found, and he and his wife came to regard Hitler as a "visionary," as Anne Lindbergh expressed it. Two visits to the Soviet Union produced just the opposite impression, and Lindbergh described the country as being near to "hell on earth."

In 1938, Lindbergh accepted a German medal of honor, an act that brought pervasive criticism in the United States. After war broke out in Europe, Lindbergh became a prominent backer of the America First Committee, a group that opposed U.S. participation in the conflict, and he made some inflammatory remarks, implying that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the urging of British and Jewish groups, was forcing the United States into an unwinnable war. A brochure titled Is Lindbergh a Nazi? was published, and the Lone Eagle's reputation suffered. He was disparaged for telling an America First rally that "I would a hundred times rather see my country ally herself with England, or even with Germany with all her faults, than with the cruelty, the godlessness and the barbarism that exist in Soviet Russia." He was also criticized for making statements widely seen as anti-Semitic.

Lindbergh's differences with the Roosevelt administration led him to resign from the Air Corps reserves, but when the United States entered the war in 1941, Lindbergh quickly eschewed his isolationism. When his attempt to reenlist was rejected, he became a civilian advisor and test pilot for the Ford Motor Company and the United Aircraft Corporation. In 1944, Lindbergh was awarded a post as a civilian observer with the U.S. Army Air Force in the South Pacific. Although it was forbidden, he flew some 50 combat missions, even bringing down a Japanese Zero fighter plane over Borneo, until the authorities found out and stopped him from flying further missions.

Although Lindbergh's standing never entirely recovered from his America First involvement, his autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954. Three years later, the film version of his autobiography, which depicted Lindbergh in the gallant and flattering days of his youth and starred Jimmy Stewart, was also a success.

In the 1960s, Lindbergh became involved in the conservation movement. He believed that aviation technology was somewhat responsible for the destruction of the natural environment, stating, "If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes." In the mid-1960s, he joined the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and The Nature Conservancy and became especially interested in the protection of whales. The Lindberghs had two homes - one in Switzerland and one in Hawaii - which Lindbergh called his "favorite place in all the world." He died in his home on Maui on August 26, 1974. His wife, Anne, who had become a best-selling author, lived to the age of 94 and died in Vermont on February 7, 2001.

Transatlantic Flight After Lindbergh

Transatlantic flight continued to develop in the years following Lindbergh's achievement. In 1936, two airlines - British Imperial Airways and Pan American Airways - began developing transatlantic flight service. Juan Trippe, the Chief Executive Officer of Pan American, realized the importance of commercial transatlantic service, and set about gaining landing rights in countries such as Newfoundland, Greenland, the Azores, and Bermuda.

By June 1939, Pan American had launched the world's first transatlantic service between New York and Marseilles, France. Six years later, another two U.S. airlines - American Export Airlines and Transcontinental & Western Airlines (TWA) - also began offering transatlantic service. In August 1947, Pan American introduced regularly scheduled non-stop flights between New York and London. By the end of that decade, European airlines such as Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), Air France, and Swissair all offered transatlantic service.

The introduction of the jet engine in the late 1940s revolutionized air travel. Jet engines allowed airplanes to travel at very high speeds, thus cutting down on travel time. In 1949, British engineers released Comet 1 - the first commercial jet engine. An airplane powered by a Comet 1 could travel at 480 miles per hour.

In October 1955, Pan American's Trippe bought 45 jet airplanes from Boeing (the 707) and Douglas (the DC-8), and, three years later, Pan American launched a New York-London transatlantic jet service. A total of 111 passengers traveled on that first flight - the most ever to board a single scheduled flight. In 1966, Boeing introduced the 747, which could carry up to 490 passengers. Ten years later, the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (BOAC) and Air France began operating the Concorde - a passenger jet that could fly at twice the speed of sound. However, following an accident in 2000 and continued loss of revenue, the service was discontinued in 2003. Critics noted that the loss of the Concorde marked an end to a time of great progress in air travel.

In May 2002, the Lindberghs' grandson, Erik R. Lindbergh, commemorated the 75th anniversary of his grandfather's feat by flying solo across the Atlantic from New York to Le Bourget in a Lancair Columbia 300 in 17 hours and 7 minutes, about half the time of the flight of the Spirit of St. Louis. By that time, of course, thousand of air travelers were crossing the Atlantic every day in much less time than that. Two weeks before Erik Lindbergh's flight, the space shuttle Atlantis returned from an 11-day mission to the International Space Station, which may serve as a telling symbol of the great distance flight technology has traversed since the flight of the "Lone Eagle" mesmerized the world.

In honor of Lindbergh's 80th anniversary, museums and schools will hold special events and screenings of The Spirit of St. Louis. The Lindbergh Foundation will also present astronaut Eugene Cernan with the Spirit Award for his achievements in aviation. It is worth remembering that aviation - and, by extension, space exploration - would not have come so far, so fast, without pioneers like Charles Lindbergh.

Did You Know?

With top running speeds of 45 and 39 miles per hour respectively, an elk can outrun a greyhound.

Chronology — Events of April 2007


     Presidential Campaign Funds Break First-Quarter Records, While More Enter the Race - Campaign contributions reported by several Democrat and Republican presidential candidates in the first quarter of 2007 broke past records for that period. Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) led the Democrats with $26 mil as of Apr. 1, to which she added $10 mil from her U.S. Senate re-election campaign account. Sen. Barack Obama (D, IL) reported Apr. 4 that he had raised $25 mil, receiving money from about 100,000 donors, twice the number of those who gave to Clinton. Former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards (D, NC) reported $14 mil in contributions as of Apr. 1.
     Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R, MA) led the Republican slate with campaign funds of $20.6 mil as of Apr. 2. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani followed with $16 mil, and Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) reported $13.7 mil.
     In all, Democratic aspirants raised about $78 mil, compared with $51 mil for Republicans, a reversal of the usual GOP advantage. The reports on income were required by law.
     As these front-runners moved to cement their positions, the ranks of presidential aspirants continued to grow. On the Republican side, former Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin entered on April l and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado joined the GOP contest on Apr. 2. McCain, who had not yet formally joined the race, announced his candidacy Apr. 25.


Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Photographer: Steve Petteway

Justice John Paul Stevens

     Supreme Court Rules that EPA Can Regulate ‘Greenhouse Gases’ - On Apr. 2, reversing a U.S. Court of Appeals decision, the Supreme Court held 5-4 in the case Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had the power to regulate the emission of "greenhouse gases" by motor vehicles under the provisions of the Clean Air Act, and that the EPA would have to provide a rationale based on science in order not to do so. The Bush administration contended that the Clean Air Act did not allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, and that even if it did, any enforcement authority would be discretionary. In his opinion for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the EPA could not choose to ignore the Act without a reasonable explanation, and that all reasons given by the EPA were not grounded in science.

     Talk Show Host Fired After He Insults Female Athletes - Don Imus, host of the radio talk show "Imus in the Morning," who had developed a wide following over 30 years, lost his job after making a sexually and racially offensive remark on the air Apr. 4 about the predominantly black Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Rutgers had just lost the national championship game to Tennessee. Soon after, Imus repeatedly apologized, but a national debate on gender and race ensued. Some of his advertisers said they would drop the show, and some civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, demanded his dismissal. Imus’s morning talk show, whose guests included many political leaders and journalists, was simulcast on CBS Radio and cable channel MSNBC. NBC, Apr. 11, and then CBS, Apr. 12, announced that they were canceling the show.
     To convey his apology directly, Imus met Apr. 12 with the Rutgers team and coach C. Vivian Stringer at the governor’s mansion in Princeton, NJ. After a three-hour meeting, coach Stringer announced that the team had accepted Imus’s apology, but that more had to be done to combat racism and sexism in society.
     New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, while on his way to attend the meeting, was involved in an auto accident and was reported to be in critical but stable condition.

     Pressure Grows on Attorney General to Resign - Congress in April pressed an investigation into the firing of 8 federal prosecutors in 2006, amid growing demands that U.S. Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales resign. On Apr. 6, Monica Goodling, counsel to the attorney general and White House liaison, became the 3rd official to resign as a result of the inquiry. She had said that if called to testify she would refuse. The House Judiciary Committee Apr. 10 subpoenaed all Justice Dept. records related to the dismissals.
     On Apr. 19, Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee chairman, Sen. Pat Leahy (D, VT), criticized Gonzales and said that the department was facing a crisis of leadership perhaps unrivaled in its history. Gonzales countered that there was "nothing improper" in the dismissals. He acknowledged that he had "misspoke" when he said in March that he had not been involved in any discussions about the dismissals. In fact, he said he had discussed a plan to remove some prosecutors with Pres. Bush and Karl Rove, the top White House political strategist. During the proceedings, Sen. Tom Coburn (R, OK) said that Gonzales’s resignation would be the best way to end the situation.


U.S. Senate

Sen. Harry Reid

     Bush and Congressional Democrats Spar Over Iraq Funding Bill - Throughout April, Pres. Bush and Democrats in Congress continued to argue over the wording of a bill that would provide supplementary funding for the war in Iraq. In March, the Senate and House had approved different versions of the bill, which was to be reconciled by a conference committee. Bush repeatedly pledged to veto any bill that established a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. On Apr. 19, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid (D, NV), declared, "This war is lost," triggering an angry backlash from Republicans. The conference committee Apr. 23 approved a compromise funding bill that ordered the administration to begin pulling troops from Iraq by Oct. 1. The Iraqi government would be obliged to show progress in developing its own security forces, disarming sectarian militias, reconciling factions, and deciding on distribution of oil income. Vice Pres. Richard Cheney Apr. 24 accused Reid of "defeatism." The House Apr. 25 approved the conference bill, 218-208.

     Shooting Rampage at Virginia Tech Leaves 33 Dead - A senior at Virginia Tech shot 27 students and 5 faculty members to death on Apr. 16 before he shot himself fatally. All the deaths occurred on the university campus in Blacksburg, VA. 24 others were wounded or injured in jumps from a building in what was thought to be the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history.
     The killer was identified Apr. 17 as Cho Seung Hui, 23, an English major. Born in South Korea, and still a citizen of that country, he had come to the U. S. with his parents and older sister in 1992 and lived in Centreville, VA, as a permanent legal resident. Faculty members and fellow students recalled him as withdrawn and uncommunicative; one professor said he wrote plays and poetry with violent themes. A doctor at a psychiatric facility had concluded that he was mentally ill but posed no threat to himself or others.
     Cho used 2 semiautomatic guns in his killing spree - a Walther .22 caliber pistol purchased from a pawnshop, and a 9mm Glock handgun. In both cases he had passed required background checks.
     The spree began at about 7:15 a.m. on Monday, Apr. 16, when Cho entered a dormitory, West Amber Johnston Hall, and killed 2 students, one a freshman and the other a senior who had been her resident adviser. Investigators on the scene believed that the shootings had involved a domestic dispute and that the perpetrator probably had fled the area. No classes were canceled on the 2,600-acre campus, although at 9:26 a.m. a campus-wide email sent by school administrators reported the shootings and warned students and faculty to be cautious.
     At about 9:45 a.m. Cho entered Norris Hall, a classroom building some distance from the first shootings, and went from classroom to classroom on the 2nd floor, shooting victims at random. Liviu Librescu, 76, a professor of engineering and a Holocaust survivor, blocked his classroom door as some students jumped from windows, before he himself was killed.
     Pres. and Mrs. Bush attended a memorial service on the campus Apr. 17.
     On Apr. 18, NBC received at its New York City offices a package Cho had mailed from a Blacksburg post office at 9:01 a.m. on Monday. The contents included a long, rambling video statement in which Cho blamed others for his actions and described himself as a martyr akin to Jesus Christ and to the 2 teenaged killers at Columbine (CO) High School in 1999. NBC copied the materials in the package, gave the originals to authorities, and broadcast excerpts from the video. This led to protests and widespread discussion over whether it was proper for the network to air such footage. Classes at the school resumed Apr. 23, but Norris Hall remained closed for the rest of the semester.

     Supreme Court Upholds Ban on ‘Partial-Birth’ Abortion - On April 18 the Supreme Court upheld, 5-4, a decision related to a 2003 act of Congress that forbade a procedure commonly called partial-birth abortion. The medical name for the rare procedure is intact dilation and extraction, and it is usually performed late in the pregnancy term. This marked the first time the court had supported a ban on a particular kind of abortion, as well as one that made no exception for the mother’s health. The underlying right of a woman to an abortion, as established in Roe v. Wade (1973) remained intact. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted that the government - has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life.

     Abramoff Scandal Grows Bigger - Mark Zachares, a former member of the staff of Rep. Don Young (R, AK), pleaded guilty Apr. 24 to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who was in prison for his central role in an influence-peddling scandal. Zachares admitted engaging in official acts on Abramoff’s behalf. He was the 11th person to be convicted in the Justice Dept. investigation of Abramoff’s activities.

     Dow Industrials Close Above 13,000 - On Apr. 25, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 13,000 for the first time in its history. Strong company earnings reports encouraged investors to buy in to the bull market that had been rolling for 4 and one-half years. The Dow closed the day at 13,089.89.




House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

     House Speaker Pelosi Meets with Syrian President - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of House members that met with Syrian political leaders, including Pres. Bashar al-Assad, in Damascus, Syria, Apr. 3 and 4. The six other House members present included 5 Democrats and one Republican. After the April 4 meeting, Pelosi told reporters that Assad had said that he was ready to resume peace talks with Israel, and that she had relayed a message to Assad from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel that he too was ready to talk. Israeli officials said Apr. 4 that talks were possible only if Syria ended its support of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Both U.S. Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney criticized Pelosi’s meeting with Assad, with whom the administration had no current direct diplomatic contacts. During their Mideast tour, the House members also visited Israel, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.

     Iran Frees 15 British Crew Members After 13 Days - Iranian Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad April 5 freed 14 members of a British Navy crew that Iranian units had seized in the Persian Gulf on Mar. 23. Ahmadinejad asserted that Iran had a right to try the captives, but that he was granting them amnesty. Iran claimed that the British crew - 14 men and one woman - had been captured in Iranian waters, but Britain contended that they were on a UN-approved patrol in Iraqi territory. Through Apr. 3, lran broadcast statements by the sailors and marines in which they said that they had entered Iranian space. The crew members met with Ahmadinejad Apr. 4, then flew home to Britain on Apr. 5. At an Apr. 6 news conference, the crew members said they were outnumbered and that resistance to capture would have been futile. The crew members also said that they were subjected to aggressive interrogations, and were coerced into making favorable statements to the media about their treatment and their alleged guilt.

     Limited Progress in Iraq; Fighting Continues - Reports from the U.S. military Apr. 4 claimed that sectarian violence in Iraq had declined in March over the previous month by 26%. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander, said that while the stepped-up security effort was showing progress in Baghdad, the capital, attacks continued to occur elsewhere.
     The U.S. military said Apr. 11 that Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, was aiding Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell asserted that Iranian intelligence operatives were providing weapons and training to Shiite insurgents. Iran denied the claims.
     A suicide truck bomb rigged with chlorine gas exploded April 6 in Ramadi, killing 27, many of whom were children. U.S. and Iraqi security forces fought members of the Mahdi Army during house-to-house searches in Diwaniyah, killing at least 3 people and arresting 27 more. U.S. jets joined the fighting in Diwaniyah April 7. The U.S. military April 8 announced that 10 U.S. soldiers had been killed in five attacks April 7 and 8. A female suicide bomber in Muqdadiya April 10 detonated a bomb amid a crowd of police recruits killing 16 and wounding 33. U.S. and Iraqi forces battled gunmen April 10 in a Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad. Six people, including an Iraqi soldier were killed, and 20 more, including 16 U.S. soldiers, were wounded.
     In Baghdad, on Apr. 12, in a shocking breach of the heavily fortified Green Zone, a suicide bombing in a cafeteria adjacent to Iraq’s parliament killed a member of the legislature and wounded 22. Another bomb Apr. 12 destroyed an historic bridge across the Tigris in Baghdad and killed 6.
     British forces in southern Iraq Apr. 13 killed eight gunmen who were laying mines. Two British helicopters collided Apr. 14 near Baghdad, killing two service members. A bomb in Karbala Apr. 14 exploded near a bus station close to a Shiite shrine killing 47 people. Four bombings in Baghdad Apr. 15 killed at least 37 people, mostly in a Shiite market. Gunmen near Mosul Apr. 16 attacked an army checkpoint killing 13 Iraqi soldiers.
     In one of the bloodiest days to date in Iraq, 127 were killed and 148 were wounded Apr. 18 in a suicide car bomb explosion near a Baghdad market. Other attacks occurred in Baghdad and in Sadr City. In all that day, 233 were killed or found dead in Iraq. A Web site video posted Apr. 19 showed the execution of 20 captured members of Iraq’s security forces.
     U.S. forces near Fallujah killed five insurgents Apr. 18. A suicide car bomber killed at least 11 and wounded 28 in Karrada Apr. 19. Gunmen killed 23 members of an ancient religious sect in northern Iraq on Apr. 22. Nine U.S. soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division were killed and 20 were wounded in a suicide car bombing in Diyala Province Apr. 23. A U.S. soldier was killed Apr. 28 by small arms fire during a patrol in eastern Baghdad. A roadside bomb Apr. 29 killed three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in Baghdad. That same day, in Anbar, a U.S. marine was killed during combat operations.

     Longer Tours for U.S. Troops - Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Apr. 11 that the standard tour of duty for Army soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan would be increased from 12 to 15 months, due to the difficulties in keeping the necessary force levels. Congressional democrats assailed the move saying that it would hurt morale among the troops, some of whom have served as many as three tours already.

     New UN Report Paints Grim Picture on Climate Change - A report from the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued Apr. 6, discussed the worldwide buildup in so-called greenhouse gases. The findings represented the consensus of hundreds of scientists and gained the endorsement of 120 countries. The report said that if emission of the gases continued at present levels, temperatures and sea levels would continue to rise, changing the weather, drowning islands and coastal areas, and impacting agriculture. The report foresaw worse droughts, more hunger and disease, and the potential extinction of up to 30% of the world’s species. The report also recommended that governments begin preparing for the effects of climate change, warning that as many as 50 mil environmental refugees could be created by 2010.
     Several scientists involved in the report described efforts to alter the conclusions of the report by certain national governments - notably China and the U.S., two of the biggest polluters, and Russia and Saudi Arabia, two of the world’s biggest energy exporters. One of the report’s authors said that changes made at the request of these governments made the final summary less quantified and more vague.

     Iran Announces New Moves in Nuclear Program - Pres. Ahmadinejad announced Apr. 9 that Iran had the ability to produce uranium for use in nuclear power generation on an industrial scale. He said that opposition from the UN would not deter Iran from continuing its program. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said Apr. 9 that 3,000 centrifuges had been installed at the nuclear facility at Natanz and were enriching uranium gas.

     Al-Qaeda Bombers Kill 33 in Algerian Capital - A group with known ties to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for two Apr. 11 bombings that killed 33 and wounded 200 in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. One bomb exploded near the Government Palace office of Prem. Abdelaziz Belkhadem, who was not there. The other bombing occurred at a police station in an eastern suburb of Algiers.

     5 British Get Life for al-Qaeda Bombings - A British judge in London Apr. 30 sentenced five men - Omar Khyam, Anthony Garcia, Jawad Akbar, Waheed Mahmood, and Salahuddin Amin - to life in prison for plotting al-Qaeda bombing attacks across the United Kingdom. The men, who were officially charged with plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life, were arrested in 2004. During the trial, links were found between the accused and the Islamists responsible for the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings in London, which killed 52 people.


     Florida Repeats as NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion; The Lady Vols Take Home the Women’s Title - The Florida Gators, led by coach Billy Donovan, won the NCAA Division I men’s basketball title Apr. 2 for the second year in a row. With the same starting lineup from the previous season, they defeated Ohio State, 84-75, in the title game in Atlanta. Forward Corey Brewer, who scored 13 points, was named most outstanding player of the Final Four. Freshman Greg Oden of Ohio State led all scorers with 25 points. Florida had also defeated Ohio State for the NCAA Division I football title in January.
     The Tennessee Lady Volunteers took the women’s NCAA title Apr. 3, defeating Rutgers, 59-46, in the final in Cleveland. It was the 7th title for Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. Tennessee forward Candace Parker, who scored 17 points in the game, was named the most outstanding player in the Final Four.

     Zach Johnson Wins Masters Title With a High Score - Zach Johnson won the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA, Apr. 8 with a one-over-par total of 289. That equaled the highest number of strokes ever made by a Masters winner. Four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods was among 3 players who tied for second at 291.

     Charges Against 3 Duke Lacrosse Players Dropped - North Carolina Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper announced Apr. 11 that all charges were dropped in a sexual-assault case involving three members of the Duke men’s lacrosse team. The players had been accused in March 2006 of raping an exotic dancer during a team party, along with kidnapping and other sexual-offense charges.
     Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong had previously dropped rape charges against the three in December, and was forced to recuse himself from the case in January amid charges of unethical conduct filed against him by the North Carolina Bar Association. Cooper called Nifong a "rogue prosecutor."

Sports Feature: The First Kentucky Derby — Vincent G. Spadafora

The 2007 Kentucky Derby will take place May 5 in front of a mint-julep-drinking crowd of tens of thousands. With that in mind I thought this would be a good month to take a look back at the first Kentucky Derby and how it came about.

The first Kentucky Derby took place on May 17, 1875, in front of a crowd estimated at 10,000 at newly built track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. The race was the brainchild of a local businessman and horseracing fan named Merriweather Lewis Clark. While traveling in England and France between 1872 and 1873, Clark became enamored with the European style of horseracing. Though horseracing was known in America since the earliest days of settlement, Clark wanted to establish prestigious races in America similar to those in Europe.

When he returned to his home in Kentucky after his European trip, Clark along with several local businessmen established the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association in 1874. This would be the official name of the track to begin with. It didn't become known as Churchill Downs until 1883, when it was referred to as such in a local newspaper. The aim of the association was to build a track that would showcase some of the finest racing horses in Kentucky. To build their track, the group raised about $32,000 by selling track membership subscriptions at about $100 a pop, which was a hefty load of money in those days. The land on which the track was built was leased from two of Clark's uncles, John and Henry Churchill. This, of course, is where the name "Churchill Downs" comes from.

On the first meet at the downs, three major stakes races were run: the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby, and the Clark Handicap. Clark designed his three major races after the three biggest races in England: the Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby, and St. Leger Stakes. The winner of the first race of the day was Bonaventure. But the first winner of the Kentucky Derby, which came after, was Aristides.

Aristides was a three-year-old chestnut colt owned by H.P. McGrath, and ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis. Aside from being the first horse to win the prestigious Derby, the horse team is also historically significant because the jockey was African American, as was the horse's trainer Ansel Williamson. In fact, 13 of the 15 jockeys racing in the first Kentucky Derby were African American. These events have each been held continuously at Churchill since their debut in 1875, except for the Clark Handicap which was moved to the fall in 1953. As for Churchill Downs, even though it had been unofficially known as such since it’s opening, it didn’t become officially incorporated as Churchill Downs until 1937.

Science in the News: Remembrances of Roses Past — Matthew Early Wright



A recent study has found that our sense of smell has a strong connection to our memory.

A woman catches a whiff of freshly baked sourdough bread outside a bakery, and is immediately reminded of a vacation to San Francisco decades earlier. A man walks by a woman wearing the same perfume his high school sweetheart used to, and his mind is flooded with memories. As either of these people can tell you, our sense of smell has a strong connection to memory.

Scientists have known for decades that sleep is also important for forming memories. Now, a study appearing in the March 9 issue of the journal Science has described the first solid link between sleep, scent and memory. Subjects exposed to bursts of rose-scented air while performing a memory test, and again as they slept, performed better on the same test the next day than did others who did not smell roses in their sleep.

The finding is sure to attract the attention of time-starved students looking for a leg up in their studies, but it also reveals much about how the brain processes new memories. In particular, it appears that familiar scents stimulate the hippocampus - the region of the brain responsible for storing and processing the events of the day.

Robert Stickgold, a psychiatrist at Harvard University who was not involved with the study, told the New York Times that the result "shows not only that sleep is important for declarative memory, but also allows us to look at exactly when and how this process might happen."

Timing it Right



Subjects exposed to bursts of rose-scented air while performing a memory test, and again as they slept, performed better on the same test the next day than did others who did not smell roses in their sleep.

Scents can apparently reinforce memory-making if detected by a sleeper at the right time. Sleep has two distinct major stages. Deep slumber is known as slow-wave (SW) sleep, and light, dream-filled snoozing is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Previous research suggests that most facts and events are committed to memory during the slow-wave phase.

Neuroscientists from the University of Lübeck and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, both in Germany, asked medical students to play a computerized version of a card-memorization game similar to "Concentration," in which the location of matched pairs of cards has to be memorized. Each time a student made a correct match, a burst of rose-scented air would be delivered through a mask.

Soon afterwards, the students had electrodes mounted on their heads to track their brainwave activity, and then they went to sleep. Within about 20 minutes or so, they entered the first of two or more hour long stretches of deep sleep. Some students received a puff of rose scent during this phase, and some did not. Still another subset of students got a whiff of roses during REM sleep, or just before deep sleep set in. None of the students reported any memory of smelling roses while sleeping, and there was no disruption of the students' sleep patterns as a result of the transmission of the odor.

The researchers then asked the students to repeat the card game. Those who smelled roses during deep sleep did remarkably well, remembering card locations 97% of the time. In comparison, the other students - those who smelled no roses, or smelled them during REM sleep or before deep sleep - were correct, on average, only 86% of the time.

The Work of Sleep

As in previous research, the finding suggests that during deep, slow-wave sleep the hippocampus communicates new memories to the cortex - the outer layer of the brain where long-term memories are stored. The authors of the study suggest that, during this phase, the cortex commands the hippocampus to replay memories by re-firing neurons in the same order as when the original memory was recorded. In the process, the memory is transcribed by the cortex in a process known as "memory consolidation."

The neural pathways responsible for processing smells in the brain appear to be closely tied both to the hippocampus and to specific regions of the cortex, as the researchers found by studying MRI images of some of the test subjects' brains while they slept. When the rose-scented cues were detected, there was a spike in the activity of both areas.

"By presenting the rose odor cues we intensified this activation and enhanced the transfer of these memories," University of Lübeck neuroscientist Jan Born told the New York Times.

Facts, Not Feelings

The scent cues seem only to enhance factual memories - the type of memories that involve the hippocampus - and not emotional memories. The researchers suggest that different sleep phases might be specialized to consolidate different types of memories, and that REM sleep might play a bigger role in remembering emotions and artistic impulses.

This study seems to suggest that deep sleep strengthens neural connections by re-firing specific pathways. But other research has suggested just the opposite - that deep sleep is a time for brain cells to rest, and to weaken connections that became too strong during the day. But the German researchers have not ruled out the possibility that both could happen at the same time, as if the brain is fiddling with its own contrast knob to make important memories stand out against a background of static.

Given the newly-discovered connection between scent and memory, should we expect to see scented alarm clocks selling like hotcakes in electronic stores, with both students and would-be "Jeopardy" contestants grabbing them up?

"We use an apparatus to sense the onset of slow-wave sleep and deliver the odor," Born told the New York Times. The device issues small, alternating puffs of odor because the scent receptors in the nose adjust to, and soon ignore, persistent strong smells. "I suppose for some students it would not be too difficult to develop something like this," Born added.

Did You Know?

The world's largest army, by active-duty troop strength, is the Chinese army, at 2.3 million.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Transportation Alternatives, Part 1
As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. But for Betty and Bob Matas, lifelong New Yorkers, their 2,400-mile journey began when they hailed a cab. The Matases, neither of whom knows how to drive, are retiring to Sedona, AZ, and needed a way to transport themselves and their two cats from Queens, NY, to their new home without subjecting the kitties to the discomfort of an airplane cargo hold.

Bob Matas, a 72-year-old former audio and video engineer, explained that what started as a joke with a friendly cabbie taking the couple home from a shopping trip turned serious. Taxi driver Douglas Guldeniz agreed to drive the couple (and the cats) across the country three months later, for a flat fee of $3,000 (plus gas, lodging, and meals) - a savings of $7,000 over the round-trip metered rate. "This job is not easy, and I want to do something different. I want to have some good memories," explained Guldeniz, who is a two-year yellow-cab veteran.

Guldeniz and the Matases arrived in Sedona, AZ, on April 16, less than a week after they departed in Guldeniz’s hybrid-electric SUV taxi, eager to get settled into their new home. But with no plans to learn how to drive and little public transportation in Sedona, Bob Matas said that the journey won’t be their last taxi ride. "There are taxi services to take us around...I’m sure we’ll manage. There shouldn’t be any problem. We can always get a golf cart."

Transportation Alternatives, Part 2
Martin Strel, a 52-year-old Slovenian, swam 3,272 miles down the Amazon in just nine weeks in what could set a new Guinness long-distance swimming record. Along the way, Strel escaped piranhas, bull sharks, and the "toothpick fish," which swims into body orifices and sucks blood. Plagued by cramps, diarrhea, insomnia, larvae infections, dehydration, and sores from the friction of his wet suit against his skin, Strel nonetheless swam an average of 50 miles each day.

Strel overcame his greatest challenge early in his journey: a second-degree burn from the sun on his face and forehead that his support team feared would become infected. Scabs and blisters formed on his cheeks, nose and lips. His support team created a mask from a pillowcase that protected his face somewhat, but it was too cumbersome and hot to wear all the time. People around the world that were following the quest sent creams and suggestions, and gradually Strel improved.

Guinness has estimated that it will take 6-8 weeks to review Strel’s data and determine if a new distance record has been set. Strel holds the current record, for a 2,487-mile swim down China’s Yangtze River. But he says the Amazon has been his greatest challenge, and possibly not his last. "I’ll find some other crazy swim, maybe in a lake or in an ocean," said Strel. "I am not going to do the Nile. It’s long but not challenging enough, it is just a small creek."

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



Ian Somerhalder

Have you been working for the same company all of your life, but are thinking of making a move? I bet you don't know the first thing about job hunting at this point, do you? Finding jobs in the newspaper want ads is a thing of the past. At Job Hunt you'll be offered an assortment of tools to put you on the right track, from what to include in your online resume, through the art of schmoozing, and recommendations as to which online sites to visit to help you get a job.

Here are some stats for you: 76% Val Kilmer, 74% Adam Brody, 71% Pierce Brosnan, 69% Jim Carrey, 67% Vin Diesel, 65% Ian Somerhalder, 63% Mark Wahlberg, 58% Orlando Bloom, and 56% David Schwimmer. And what do these percentages mean? They are the celebrity matches to a photograph of me. You know how people sometimes tell you that you look like a celebrity? At Stars In You, you can upload a photograph of yourself to see which celebrities look like you. Oh yeah, for those of you who have never met me, Ian Somerhalder could be my twin!

We live in a world where practically anything can be a collectible. Monica Amar collects tea bags; no, not used tea bags, but instead, the covers of the individual tea bags. She has a collection of over 6,000 tea bags from around the world, and you can check them out at Monica Teas.

Sixty one years ago, on May 8, 1945, millions of people around the world celebrated V-E, or Victory in Europe, Day. On May 7, Germany signed an unconditional surrender with representatives of the Allied forces, ending almost six years of conflict on an unprecedented scale that had engulfed most nations of the world. Although the defeat of Nazi Germany and its dictator Adolf Hitler meant victory for the Allied troops, it did not mean the end of World War II. Japan was still very much involved in the global conflict, and the war in the Pacific would not come to an end until August 1945. Listen to the victory addresses of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI from that day.


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Totem Bight

When traveling in Alaska several summers ago, I learned about totem poles, the wood carvings of the Northwest Coast Indians. These tall logs are carved and painted to represent the noted ancestors of a clan and figures from mythology. The southeastern city of Ketchikan has the world's largest collection of standing totem poles located at three major locations: Saxman Village, Totem Bight State Historical Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. You can learn more about totems at Totem Poles: An Exploration by Pat Kramer.

Just in case you flew through the May Events at the beginning of this E-Newsletter, and didn't give the events another thought, I thought I'd "flesh-out" two of the events. Contraband Days Pirate Festival, is Lake Charles, LA, celebration of the legend of the pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte (c. 1780-c. 1826), was a Gulf coast pirate who with his band of pirates once sailed the area's waterways and are said to have buried contraband treasure somewhere in the vicinity of the lake...The Emmett Kelly Clown Festival in Houston, Texas, celebrates the life of Emmett Kelly, a clown whose forlorn and wistful characterization of a tattered hobo delighted audiences for more than 40 years. His most memorable clown figure "Weary Willie," was based on the hobos of the Depression era.

Best of the World Almanac Blog: Working at the White House - Sarah Janssen
As if it weren't already hard enough to be president of the United States - now former, current, and prospective holders of the nation's highest office have something else to worry about: loose-lipped servants. The Working White House, a Smithsonian exhibition scheduled to be featured around the country as a traveling exhibit in 2008, chronicles the lives of White House employees, in their own words, from 1800 to the present. Some of the reminiscences are mundane, such as a story about First Lady Sarah Polk's inattention to napkin folding. Others are quite attuned to their era: shortly after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision condoned a system of "separate but equal" treatment, the White House servants' dinner tables were realigned on racial lines rather than job function. There's even a story about the lengths employees went to meet Lyndon Johnson's shower preferences: according to White House employee Howard Arrington, "He wanted [the jets] to hit all parts of his body with the same force. . .Rex Scouten in the usher's office got in the shower to test it out, and it pinned Rex right to the wall." But my favorite is a story about Pres. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower's growing addiction to a new "electronic novelty": According to [Assistant Chief Usher J.B.] West, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower regularly watched the evening news while having their meals on tray-tables. He notes that Mrs. Eisenhower's enjoyment of As the World Turns "initiated the Television Era in the White House." Get facts daily at The World Almanac Blog.


National Archives/Library of Congress

The Hindenburg / The Lusitania / The Johnstown Flood

When I was younger, I was fascinated with disasters. May is a month with a number of famous disasters of the 19th & 20th century. The Hindenburg, a hydrogen-filled German zeppelin, at 803.8 feet in length and 135.1 feet in diameter, was the largest aircraft ever built. After 10 successful transatlantic flights, it was destroyed by a fire while landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937. Thirty-six people died in the accident....The Lusitania, a British steamship of the Cunard Line, was torpedoed without warning during World War I by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, off the southern coast of Ireland. The ship sank in less than 20 minutes with the loss of 1198 persons, including 128 Americans. The Germans asserted that the ship was carrying arms for the Allies (which later research proved to be true) and that Americans had been warned against taking passage on British vessels in a notice that had appeared in morning newspapers on the day the ship sailed from New York City....After several days of heavy rainfall, the South Fork Dam - 14 miles upstream of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania - failed, sending a torrent of 20 million tons of water into the town below, killing over 2200 people and causing $17 million dollars of damage. The Johnstown Flood was the first major peacetime effort of the American Red Cross led by Clara Barton.

Quote of the Month

"The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."
     - Muhammad Ali (b. 1942), American boxer and former three time World Heavyweight Champion.

© World Almanac Education Group

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

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

Comments and suggestions can be sent to: editorinchief@waegroup.com

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