Volume 07, Number 10 — October 2007

What's in this issue?

October Events
October Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — October
October Birthdays
Travel - Bedford, Pennsylvania and the War That Made America
Obituaries - September 2007
The Best of the World Almanac Blog
Chronology - September 2007
It's All in the Numbers
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

October Events

October 2-6 - World Dairy Expo (Madison, WI)
October 4 - Cowboy Hall of Fame Ceremony and Banquet (Wilcox, AZ)
October 4-18 - Chicago International Film Festival (Chicago, IL)
October 5-14 - Alabama National Fair (Montgomery, AL)
October 5-14 - Oktoberfest (Kitchener and Waterloo, Onario)
October 5-6 - Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention (Athens, AL)
October 6-15 - Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Albuquerque, NM)
October 12-14 - Apple Butter Makin' Days (Mt. Vernon, MO)
October 12-21 - Parke Countay Covered Bridge Festival (Rockville, IN)
October 14 - AIDS Walk Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)
October 19-21 - Sugarloaf Art Fair (Novi, MI)
October 20 - Romp in the Swamp Fun Walk (Appleton, WI)
October 26 - Sea Witch Halloween & Fiddlers Festival (Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach, DE)
October 27 - Blue Ridge Folklife Festival (Ferrum, VA)
October 27 - Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race (Manitou Springs, CO)
October 31 - Halloween Parade (New York, NY)

October Holidays — National and International

October 5 - Republic Day, Portugal
October 8 - Columbus Day
October 8 - Native Americans Day (South Dakota)
October 12 - Dia de la Raza, Mexico
October 20 - Kenyatta Day, Kenya
October 24 - United Nations Day
October 31 - Halloween

It's a Fact!

The world’s biggest bird is the ostrich, which can reach a height of 9 feet and a weight of 300 pounds.

This Day In History — October

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1908 Henry Ford introduces the Model T car, priced at $850.
02 1967 Thurgood Marshall is sworn in, becoming the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
03 1990 East and West Germany are formally reunified.
04 1669 Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn dies in Amsterdam at the age of 63.
05 1947 President Harry S. Truman delivers the first televised presidential speech to the nation.
06 1927 The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson--the first successful film with prerecorded sound--opens in New York.
07 2003 California voters recall Gov. Gray Davis (D) from office and replace him with action film star-turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
08 1871 The Great Chicago Fire begins.
09 1962 Uganda becomes independent from Great Britain.
10 1928 Chiang Kai-shek is inaugurated as president of China in Nanking.
11 2002 A day after the House votes, 296-133, to authorize military force against Iraq; the Senate passes an identical measure, 77-23.
12 1973 Gerald Ford is named vice president by President Richard Nixon after the resignation of Spiro Agnew; he became the first-ever appointed vice president under the terms of the 25th Amendment.
13 1792 The cornerstone of the White House is laid.
14 1947 Captain Chuck Yeager, flying in an X-1 rocket plane, becomes the first person to break the sound barrier.
15 1964 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev is removed from all of his Communist Party and government posts.
16 1793 Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, is beheaded.
17 1931 Gangster Al Capone is convicted of tax evasion.
18 1867 Alaska is formally transferred from Russian to U.S. hands at Sitka.
19 1781 During the American Revolution, British General Lord Cornwallis surrenders to George Washington at Yorktown, VA.
20 1999 Abdurraham Wahid is elected president of Indonesia by the national legislature-marking the first democratic transition of power there in the nation's 49-year history.
21 1805 In the Battle of Trafalgar, the British Royal Navy under Lord Horatio Nelson destroys the French-Spanish fleet.
22 1962 In a television address, President John F. Kennedy reveals that he has ordered a naval and air quarantine of Cuba because of a Soviet buildup of offensive missiles there.
23 1983 A suicide bomb attack at U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, kills 241 American Marines and sailors, and an almost simultaneous blast nearby kills 58 members of the French peacekeeping force.
24 1861 Pony Express service ends with the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph line.
25 1854 The "Charge of the Light Brigade" takes place during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War.
26 1881 The "Gunfight at the OK Corral" takes place in Tombstone, AZ, with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday facing the Clanton brothers.
27 1904 The first part of the New York City subway system opens.
28 1886 The Statue of Liberty is dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.
29 1998 Hurricane Mitch strikes Central America, killing at least 10,000 people.
30 1905 Tsar Nicholas II issues the October Manifesto in St. Petersburg, giving Russia a constitution, legislature, prime minister, and civil liberties.
31 1984 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by Sikh members of her bodyguard and is succeeded by her son Rajiv.

October Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1924 Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States (Plains, GA)
02 1949 Annie Leibovitz, photographer (Westbury, Connecticut)
03 1969 Gwen Stefani, rock musician (Anaheim, CA)
04 1941 Anne Rice, author (New Orleans, LA)
05 1959 Maya (Ying) Lin, American architect and sculptor (Athens, OH)
06 1973 Rebecca Lobo, basketball player (Southwick, MA)
07 1931 Desmond Tutu, archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner (Klerksdrop, South Africa)
08 1949 Sigourney Weaver, actress (New York, NY)
09 1953 Tony Shalhoub, actor (Green Bay, WI)
10 1973 Mario Lopez, actor (San Diego, CA)
11 1939 Maria Bueno, tennis champion (São Paulo, Brazil)
12 1977 Bode Miller, skier (Easton, NH)
13 1925 Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England (Grantham, England)
14 1974 Natalie Maines, singer (Lubbock, TX)
15 1959 Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and former wife of Prince Andrew (London, England)
16 1925 Angela Lansbury, actress (London, England)
17 1956 Mae Jemison, astronaut/scientist (Decatur, AL)
18 1926 Chuck Berry, singer/songwriter (St. Louis, MO)
19 1937 Peter Max, artist/designer (Berlin, Germany)
20 1934 Empress Michiko, empress of Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
21 1956 Carrie Fisher, actress/novelist (Beverly Hills, CA)
22 1942 Annette Funicello, actress/singer (Utica, NY)
23 1940 Pelé, soccer player (Tres Coracoes, Brazil)
24 1926 Y. A. Tittle, football quarterback (Marshall, TX)
25 1971 Midori, violinist (Osaka, Japan)
26 1947 Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. first lady (Chicago, IL)
27 1967 Matt Drudge, internet journalist (Tacoma Park, MD)
28 1967 Julia Roberts, actress (Smyrna, GA)
29 1938 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia (Monrovia, Liberia)
30 1960 Diego Maradona, soccer player (Lanus, Argentina)
31 1922 Norodom Sihanouk, former Cambodian king (Cambodia)

Travel - Bedford, Pennsylvania and the War That Made America

Celebrations are now under way of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War, and will continue for several years, as did the war. The conflict itself lasted from 1754 to 1763. It was sparked by a military operation launched by a later-to-be-famous young officer named George Washington. Dubbed "the war that made America," it created the political landscape in which the U.S. and Canada later emerged.


Lieutenant-Colonel George Washington of the Virginia Militia raises his hat to the British flag over Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River in November 1858.

While much of the fighting took place in New York State, the initial skirmishes of the French and Indian War took place in western Pennsylvania. History-minded travelers interested in exploring locations associated with the war would do well to begin their trek there. In particular, Bedford, a small "borough" of about 3000 people that serves as the seat of Bedford County, would be a good place to start, and even stay for a while. Bedford came into existence just before the war and is full of historic sites. Picturesquely situated among the ridges of the Allegheny Mountains, it has recently begun to recapture some of the fame it once enjoyed as a spa center.

World war starts in Pennsylvania

The French and Indian War pitted Britain against France for control of much of North America and led to fighting in venues as distant as India. In the area that later became the U.S., the American colonials supported the British against the French, and Native Americans fought on both sides. Britain eventually won the war, but at great expense. The taxes it imposed on the colonials to pay off its debt helped provoke them to fight for independence.

Early in the war the British took the strategic French stronghold known as Fort Duquesne, establishing there a fortification of their own called Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh). The supply road to Fort Pitt ran through a fledgling settlement known as Raystown. There the British in 1758 built a protective outpost called Fort Bedford. The name came to be attached to the whole area.

Bedford continued to play host to events of note in later decades. Soon after the creation of the United States, a move by the new federal government to impose an excise tax on whiskey met with fierce resistance, especially in western Pennsylvania. Washington, by then president, came to Bedford to lead the suppression of this Whiskey Rebellion. He made his headquarters at the Espy House, now a national historic landmark.

Mineral springs resort

Early in the 19th century the elegant Bedford Springs Hotel, just south of town, was built to capitalize on the local mineral waters. It was the summer White House for President James Buchanan, and in 1855 the U.S. Supreme Court convened there, the only known time that the Court ever met outside Washington, D.C. Toward the end of the 20th century the hotel was designated as a national historic landmark. With its grandeur having long since faded, it actually closed soon after. But after extensive renovations, it was reincarnated as the Bedford Springs Resort, and began receiving guests in July 2007. The resort occupies more than 2200 acres (900 ha), and boasts, among other attractions, hiking and mountain biking trails, a mineral springs spa, and a classic 18-hole golf course originally designed by golf architecture luminaries Spencer Oldham, A. W. Tillinghast, and Donald Ross.

Reliving history

History inevitably imposes a strong claim on visitors’ attention. The old Fort Bedford of 1758 no longer exists. But on its site, in the heart of town at the Juniata River, is the Fort Bedford Museum. Built in imitation of an early blockhouse, it features a wide variety of historical artifacts from the Indian period and later, plus a scale-model reconstruction of the fort.



World's Largest Coffeepot

Bedford’s center is a national historic district with scads of 19th-century structures, many in Greek Revival or Federal style. Among the architects represented is local master Solomon Filler, whose works include the country courthouse (1828, Pennsylvania’s oldest functioning country courthouse), as well as the Bedford Springs Hotel’s huge Colonial Building. The Common School Building (1859) in the historic district houses the National Museum of the American Coverlet. Opened in mid-2006, the museum describes itself as" the first independent, year-round institution devoted to American woven coverlets." Coverlets are a special category of bedcovers. In contrast to quilts, which are usually made by cutting and sewing pieces onto a backing, they are woven on looms.

Just north of town, in Old Bedford Village, you can see what life was like in a Pennsylvania settlement between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries. There are some three dozen structures, including log cabins and traditional shops and schoolhouses, with people in period costumes reenacting tasks of yesteryear.

Fans of times past will want to explore other parts of Bedford Country as well. Of special interest are more than a dozen century-old covered bridges, ranging from Palo Alto Bridge, which is located south of Hyndman and is just 56 ft (17 m) long, to the 136-ft (41.5-m) Herline Bridge, near Manns Choice. Bedford, incidentally, lies on U.S. Route 30, part of the Lincoln Highway, the country’s first transcontinental highway. Some of the period charms of old U.S. 30 can still be sampled along the route, and some have been preserved elsewhere. For example, a celebrated roadside lunch stand built in 1927 in the shape of a coffee pot measuring 18 ft tall (5.5 m) can now be seen at the county fairgrounds.

Bedford County Chamber of Commerce
Bedford County Visitors Bureau
French and Indian War
Seven Years War
The War That Made America

It's a Fact!

In 1936, spinach growers in Wisconsin erected a statue to Popeye.

Obituaries in September 2007

Ghostley, Alice, 81, actress best known for her television roles including Bernice Clifton on Designing Women, and Esmeralda on Bewitched. She won a Best Actress Tony in 1965 for The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window; Studio City, CA, Sept. 21, 2007.

Humbard, Rex, 88, pioneer televangelist whose preaching from marble and glass Cathedral of Tomorrow, reached worldwide audiences for over 40 years; Atlantis, Fla, Sept. 21, 2007.

L'Engle, Madeleine, 88, author best known for her children's novels, notably A Wrinkle in Time (1962); Litchfield, CT, Sept. 6, 2007.

Marceau, Marcel, 94, well-known french mine-artist; Cahors, France, Sept. 22, 2007.

Pavarotti, Luciano, 71, celebrated Italian tenro who often appeared on television and sold millions of recordings; Modena, Italy, Sept. 6, 2007.

Wyman, Jane, 90, actress best known for her roles in Johnny Belinda and , as well as her marriage to Ronald Reagan; Palm Springs, CA, Sept. 10, 2007.

The Best of the World Almanac Blog


Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln's Funeral March

Lincoln's Long Funeral Procession - Andy Steinitz

Pres. Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, but his body didn’t rest until May 4, when he was buried in his hometown of Springfield, IL. In between was an epic 1,662-mile, 14-day funeral procession by railroad that passed through 442 communities in nine states. The winding route actually retraced, in reverse, Lincoln’s "whistle stop" tour to Washington D.C. before his inauguration in 1861.

That gave mourners (and opportunists) plenty of time to make mourning badges, ribbons, cards, poems, and other mementos. The Smithsonian has some examples in their Life and Death in the White House online exhibit. It seems that many state and local historical societies have their own collections.

I was surprised by how many people wrote funeral marches. The Library of Congress has digitized the sheet music of several compositions.

The Five Least Visited National Parks - Andy Steinitz

While looking up the most-visited sites administered by the National Parks Service in 2006, I decided to scroll down to see what were the least-visited of the 359 areas. I was wondering if they’d be mundane or just completely bizarre. I guess it’s no surprise that the least visited places are actually some of the most remote. They are neither mundane nor bizarre, just crazy inaccessible.

Looking for a place to truly get away from it all? Read on:
#355 Alibates Flint Quarries (1,882 visits) in northern Texas, you got lucky! The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (1,559 visits) in Brookline, MA stole your spot on a technicality. The home to the landscape architect and co-creator of New York’s Central and Prospect Parks closed in late 2006 for major renovations.
#356 Bering Land Bridge National PreserveThe (1,265 visits) is pure wilderness in the far northwest of Alaska, just 3 miles from Russia. It’s not for the rookie backpacker. I liked this subtle smackdown from the webpage: "For those looking for a more predictable adventure into remote Alaska, the Administrative Offices...have a small interpretive center that offers limited exhibits and films as well as special programs." (Translation: Hey girlie man, here’s a nice predictable museum. Leave the real hiking to us.)
#357 The National Park of American Samoa (1,239 visits) was created in 1988 and doesn’t have many amenities but the 13,500-acre tropical park does offer rainforest, pristine shorelines, coral reefs, and secluded villages. Too bad airfare from Los Angeles is more than $1000 on special.
#358 Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River (135 visits) runs 196 miles between the Texas and Mexico border. It starts in Big Bend National Park and flows an additional 127 miles. The Lower Canyons are known for sheer walls, tricky rapids, and complete isolation, making for what the National Park Service calls "some of this country’s most inaccessible terrain."
#359 Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve (60 visits) at the beginning of the Alaskan peninsula is 586,000 acres centered on Aniakchak, the most active volcano in the region. An explosion 3,500 years ago left a 6-mile-wide caldera 2,500 feet deep. It last erupted in 1931. There are no facilities, campgrounds, or even trails. Visitors must arrive by air taxi or boat. What NPS wants you to know before you go: "No visitor to Aniakchak should attempt to plan and carry out a trip based solely on the information in this website. For a safe and successful Aniakchak adventure, however, all visitors must be prepared for extreme weather and the likelihood of encounters with brown bears."


Raymond Chapman

Edward’s Untimely Death Series: Entry #6

Raymond Johnson Chapman (1891-1920) spent his career as a shortstop on the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Joining the team in 1912, he was considered one of the fastest men in baseball. He led the league in sacrifice hits for three years, setting a major league record with 67 sacrifices in 1917. In 1,303 baseball games with Cleveland, his batting average was .278.

While playing the New York Yankees in New York on August 16, 1920, Chapman was hit in the head with a ball thrown by pitcher Carl Mays, and died 12 hours later. Chapman is the only major league baseball player to die due to an injury during a game. Dedicating the season to the memory of "Chappie," the Indians won the league and world championship for the first time.

It's a Fact!

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, built in 1889,was the world’s tallest structure for 41 years, until it was eclipsed by the Chrysler Building in New York City.

Chronology — September 2007



U.S. Senate

Senator Larry Craig

     Amid Controversy, Senator Wavers on Resignation - Under pressure from many of his Senate Republican colleagues and GOP party leaders, Larry Craig (R, ID) announced Sept. 1 that he intended to resign from the U.S. Senate. On Sept. 5, however, Craig launched a new effort to clear his name, saying he would remain in the Senate if he could withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct for alleged improper advances to an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport men’s room. Lawyers for Craig Sept. 10 filed court papers asking that the guilty plea be overturned.

     Fred Thompson Joins Republican Presidential Field - Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R, TN) announced Sept. 5 on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Thompson, a film and television actor who had frequently appeared on the "Law & Order" TV series, had filed papers June 1 that had allowed him to set up a committee to raise money for a possible 2008 presidential bid. Even before formally announcing his candidacy, Thompson had been among the Republican front runners in several national polls.
     In the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) was forced to deal with a scandal surrounding Norman Hsu, a Democratic fundraiser who had raised $850,000 for her presidential campaign. In a complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan Sept. 20, Hsu was accused of having swindled hundreds of investors out of $60 mil. Clinton’s campaign had said Sept. 10 that it would return the funds to some 260 donors whose gifts had been funneled through Hsu.

     Gen. Petraeus Reports Military Progress in Iraq - Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, told congressional committees that he saw progress on the ground as a result of the troop "surge,"and said he supported a drawdown of 30,000 in U.S. troop levels in Iraq by mid-2008. Petraeus appeared before joint sessions of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees Sept. 10 and the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees Sept. 11.
     Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, appeared with Petraeus. Both officials faced tough questioning from members of both parties on the committees. Petraeus disagreed with several other recent official reports that were more pessimistic on the levels of sectarian violence and insurgent attacks and bombings. Asked by Sen. John Warner (R, VA) if U.S. strategy was "making America safer," Petraeus replied, "Sir, I don’t know, actually."
     In a televised address Sept. 13, Bush endorsed Petraeus’s recommendations, and said that a drawdown in troops was possible because the surge strategy had worked. He warned that this "return on success" principle would not work if troop cutbacks were too deep or carried out too quickly. He advocated an "enduring relationship" with Iraq that would see U.S. forces remain in Iraq after his term ended.


The White House

Attorney General Nominee Michael Mukasey

     Bush Chooses Former Federal Judge for Attorney General - Pres. Bush Sept. 17 nominated former U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as U.S. attorney general. Mukasey, a Yale Law School graduate and a friend and adviser to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, had presided over a number of terrorism cases from the bench of the Southern District Court in New York City. His nomination was subject to approval by the Senate.

     Interest Rate Drops, and So Does the U.S. Dollar - On Sept. 18 the Federal Reserve cut the Federal Funds rate from 5.25% to 4.75%, bringing to some debtors the promise of lower borrowing costs for home mortgages and autos. The Dow Jones average gained over 335 points that day. But for 7 consecutive sessions Sept. 20-28, the dollar reached record lows against the euro and fell to parity with the Canadian dollar - for the first time in more than 30 years.
     Interviewed Sept. 17 in connection with the publication of his book, The Age of Turbulence, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan said that odds of a recession were greater than one in three. In the book, Greenspan criticized Pres. Bush for not vetoing spending bills.

     "Jena 6" Protest Draws Thousands - An estimated 20,000 people marched in Jena, LA, Sept. 20, to draw attention to the treatment of the so-called "Jena 6" - six African American high-school students who were accused of beating a white classmate in Dec. 2006 and were initially charged with attempted murder. Protesters focused on what they saw as unequal treatment in a series of earlier racially charged incidents at the school and in Jena, with a population that was 85% white. One incident, in Sept. 2006, occurred when several white students hung 3 nooses from a tree, known informally as "the white tree," where a black student had asked to sit. One of the Jena 6, Mychal Bell, was convicted of aggravated battery in the beating case. The conviction was overturned on appeal Sept. 14, 2007.

     Auto Workers Strike - In the first large-scale auto industry strike since 1970, 73,000 workers for General Motors walked off the job Sept. 24. Contract negotiations with GM had faltered over the issue of funding health care for current and retired employees. The strike lasted less than 2 days, with a deal reached early Sept. 26.


     Lebanese Troops Oust Palestinian Militants from Refugee Camp - Factional violence continued in Lebanon, as the Lebanese army Sept. 2 defeated militant Islamists based in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in the northern part of the country. The army action climaxed a 3-month siege in which more than 400 people died. Most of the camp’s 30,000 residents had fled in late May, when the conflict erupted. In the latest of a series of assassinations of anti-Syrian leaders, Lebanese legislator Antoine Ghanem of the Christian Phalange Party was killed by a car bomb Sept. 19 in Beirut.

     Bush Visits Iraq - Pres. George W. Bush visited Iraq for the 3rd time Sept. 3, meeting with officials and U.S. troops at Al Asad Air Base in the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar. He conferred with Prime Min. Nouri al-Maliki and with local Sunni leaders who had joined with U.S. forces to fight the jihadist group al-Qaeda in Iraq. One of the Sunni Arab leaders with whom Bush met, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, was killed in a bomb attack on Sept. 13. A group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for a blast Sept. 24 that killed at least 18 people at a banquet intended to mark the reconciliation of provincial officials and former Sunni insurgents.
     The British Army Sept. 2-3 carried out its planned withdrawal from its last base inside the southern Iraqi city of Basra, which was predominantly Shia and situated in an oil-rich region. The 550 soldiers joined Britain’s other remaining 5,000 troops at a base at the Basra airport outside the city. About 170 UK troops have died in Iraq since the beginning of military operations in 2003. The U.S. death toll for Sept. was 63, the lowest monthly total since mid-2006.

     Israeli Warplanes Attack Secret Target in Syria - Israeli warplanes struck one or more targets in northeastern Syria Sept. 6. Syria accused Israel of a "flagrant violation" of its airspace, but Israel made no official statement about the attack. The U.S. Defense Dept. confirmed the strike on Sept. 11. Press reports suggested that the target was what the Israelis believed to be a Syrian nuclear-related facility supported by North Korea.

     Bombings in Algeria Kill More Than 50 - Bombs at Batna in northeastern Algeria Sept. 6, and at a barracks in Dellys, 30 miles from Algiers, Sept. 8, killed a total of more than 50 people. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed re¬sponsibility for both attacks Sept. 9.


White House photo by Eric Draper

Shinzo Abe

     Japanese Prime Minister Resigns - After just a year in office, Prime Min. Shinzo Abe of Japan resigned Sept. 12. His government had been embarrassed by financial scandals; 4 cabinet ministers had resigned and a 5th had committed suicide. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party Sept. 23 chose Yasuo Fukuda, the son of a former prime minister and a veteran party leader, to head the government.

     Iraq Denounces U.S. Security Contractor After Baghdad Shootings - On Sept. 16, at least 8 Iraqi civilians died as a result of a shootout in Baghdad involving employees of Blackwater USA, a private security contractor. The company said that a convoy was ambushed before its employees returned defensive fire, but later investigations cast doubt on the claim. The Iraqi government cited a series of other incidents in which it accused Blackwater of using excessive force, and on Oct. 7 the prime minister’s office labeled the Baghdad shootings "deliberate murder."

     Ex-President Returns to Peru to Face Charges - Former Pres. Alberto Fujimori arrived in Peru Sept. 22 from Chile to face charges involving corruption and human rights abuses. He had been living in exile for nearly 7 years.

     Government Suppresses Mass Protests in Myanmar - The Myanmar (Burma) military junta cracked down on the growing antigovernment movement, violently breaking up demonstrations and killing at least 9 people (according to the state-run media) Sept. 27. Protests had escalated throughout Sept., sparked by an Aug. cut in gas subsidies that more than doubled prices in the impoverished nation. Demonstrations had culminated Sept. 24 when an estimated 100,000 protesters, led by some 20,000 Buddhist monks and nuns, marched against the military junta in Yangon (Rangoon). The government imposed a curfew, raided monasteries, and made hundreds of arrests. The nation’s government-controlled Internet access was shut down Sept. 28.
     Pres. Bush had announced stricter sanctions against Myanmar at the opening of the UN General Assembly Sept. 25.

     President of Iran Gets Frosty Welcome - In New York City to address the UN General Assembly, Iranian Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a less than enthusiastic greeting from city officials, who turned down his request to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center memorial. Invited to speak to stu¬dents at Columbia University Sept. 24, he was introduced by university Pres. Lee Bollinger, who said the Iranian leader had been behaving like "a petty and cruel dictator." At the UN General Assembly Sept. 25, Ahmadinejad said "arrogant powers" would not force Iran to give up its nuclear program.


     Federer Wins 4th Straight U.S. Open Tennis Title - Roger Federer of Switzerland won his 4th straight U.S. Open men’s tennis singles title in New York Sept. 9. He defeated Novak Djokovic of Serbia, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4. The win gave Federer 12 Grand Slam titles. Justine Henin of Belgium won her 2nd U.S. Open singles title Sept. 8, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-1, 6-3. To reach the final, Henin had to beat Serena and Venus Williams.

     O.J. Simpson Charged in Hotel Incident - Following a confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room Sept. 13, O.J. Simpson was charged Sept. 16 with a number of felonies, including robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. He and 5 others allegedly took sports memorabilia that Simpson said had been stolen from him. Simpson, who was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his former wife and her friend, was re¬leased from jail Sept. 19 on $125,000 bail.

     Leader of Polygamy Group Guilty of Aiding Rape - Warren Jeffs, the "prophet" of a splinter Mormon sect that practiced polygamy, was convicted Sept. 25 in St. George, UT, of being an accomplice to rape. He had forced a girl, 14, to marry her 19-year-old cousin against her will. Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, had officiated at the ceremony.

It's All in the Numbers

$3.5 trillion - combined wealth of the world’s 946 billionaires in 2007.
3,700,000 - estimated deaths caused by flooding of China’s Huang He River in August 1931.
450,000 - weight, in pounds, of the Statue of Liberty.
69,764 - number of people wait-listed for kidney transplants as of January 2007.
3,987 - length in miles of the border between Canada and the lower 48 U.S. states..
714 - miles of track in the New York City subway system.
75 - rounds fought by John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain in the last bare knuckles boxing championship (1889).
2 - price of a first-class U.S. stamp from 1919 to 1932 (when it rose to 3 cents).

It's a Fact!

The "Black Death," or plague, killed an estimated three-fourths of the population of Europe and Asia in the 14th century.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

How Unfortunate

After years of issuing lucky numbers, warmed-over wisdom, and banal advice to groaning diners in Chinese restaurants nationwide, fortune cookies may finally be biting back. Or so it seemed in an International Herald Tribune article, which pointed to a new crop of fortunes that aren’t exactly desirable. After polishing off some dim sum, who would really want to read, "Perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on yourself."? Or be told, "It’s over your head now. Time to get some professional help," after eating one too many egg rolls?

According to Derrick Wong, sales vice president at Wonton Food, the largest U.S. fortune cookie-maker, the company had recently introduced about 600 new fortunes into their traditional catalog of about 10,000. About 2,500 fortunes circulate at any given time. Most of the new fortunes fit into the "fortune-telling" category, as opposed to "humor" or "motivational sayings." "It’s very hard to come up with more fortunes," said Wong. "Some people may not like them."

That was definitely true of two fortunes that Wonton planned to remove from circulation after receiving complaints: "Today is a disastrous day. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em." and "Your luck is just not there. Attend to practical matters today."

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


Goodyear Blimp

Goodyear blimp Spirit of Goodyear over "The Horseshoe" at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

It's always been one of my dreams to fly in a blimp. I can't necessarily explain why, but being high up in what seems like a quiet vehicle, is appealing. Goodyear blimps have been flying since 1925, and are operated by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for advertising purposes. These days the blimps also include television cameras to offer aerial views of sporting events. Blimps are airships that are considered non-rigid because they are basically large gas balloons, without an internal framework. Goodyear doesn't offer rides, so I might just have to get myself a personal blimp.

I don't recall where I found the following website, but it piqued my interest. The subject? Lawn mowing racing. Here's an affordable motorsport (the blades are removed for safety reasons), for kids and adults alike.

The book I'm currently reading, The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, presents, in alternating chapters, the life of Irina McGovern, a woman who in one existence stays in a relationship with a solid, but perhaps boring partner, and the other marries a world famous snooker player. (Snooker is a form of pool that is very popular in the UK and China.) I've chosen Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin as my reading groups selection for the month, a provocative novel which explores the nature-nurture debate through the letters of a mother of a high school student who went on a murder rampage.

Eeck, I'm creeped out even writing this entry about giant insects. I can predict nightmares tonight when I get to bed about the giant borneo walking stick which can grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) long. If that doesn't do it, how about a 4.5 inch (11 cm) Goliath beetle?

Two weeks ago I attended the dedication of a new pipe organ at a local church that was rebuilt after a devastating fire. This impressive instrument boasts 3,742 pipes, and the facade was designed by an architect to fit aesthetically with the design of the church. Check out the photographs of the year-long building and installation of this organ. Pipe organs are keyboard musical instruments in which compressed air vibrates within tuned pipes to produce sound. It consists of flue pipes and/or reed pipes, an air supply, and the keys and other controls.


Library of Congress

Samuel F. B. Morse

I spent a lot of time online in recent months searching for more former classmates for a 35th anniversary reunion that was held on September 30th. Of the 40 kids who were in my 5th & 6th grade classes (28 of the same kids were in both), we've tracked down 20, using a variety of websites including Classmates.com, Reunion.com, USSearch.com, PeopleFinder.com, ZabaSearch.com, as well as Google.com. Some find the idea of a grade school reunion odd, but all those who attended will agree that it was a unique group of kids, and that it was an honor to recognize two very special teachers (who were in attendance). Teachers can touch our lives and shape our futures - why don't you track one of yours down and let them know how much you appreciated them.

Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) was an American artist who is best known more as the inventor of the electric telegraph and the Morse code. Born in Massachusetts, he attended Yale University and studied painting in London, and he became a noted sculptor and portrait painter. In the early 1830s Morse developed an apparatus for an electromagnetic telegraph. He also invented a code (with Alfred Vail), now known as the Morse code, for use with his telegraph instrument. In 1843 the U.S. Congress appropriated $30,000 for Morse to construct an experimental telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md. The line was successfully installed, and on May 24, 1844, Morse sent the first message: "What hath God wrought!" Morse also became enamored with photography and was a daguerreotypist for two years.

IMg (instant messaging) can be addictive, and if you're away from your home computer, it's not always easy to do. So Meebo.com, allows you to access a variety of IM accounts - AIM, Yahoo, WindowsLive, Google Talk, ICQ and Jabber.

Quote of the Month

"Fashion fades, only style remains the same"
     - Coco Chanel, (1883-1971), French fashion designer

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World Almanac E-Newsletter
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