Volume 07, Number 12 — December 2007

What's in this issue?

December Events
December Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — December
December Birthdays
Travel - Instant Grand Gorge
Obituaries - November 2007
The Best of the World Almanac Blog
Chronology - November 2007
It's All in the Numbers
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

December Events

December 1 - Chester Greenwood Day Parade (Farmington, ME)
December 2-January 6 - Midwinter Horn Blowing (Netherlands)
December 5 - Martin Van Buren Wreath Laying (Kinderhook, NY)
December 7 & 9 - NCAA Division I Soccer: Women's College Cup (College Station, TX)
December 8-9 - Dickens of a Christmas (Franklin, TN)
December 9-11 - International Irrigation Show (San Diego, CA)
December 10 - Nobel Prize Ceremony (Stockholm, Sweden)
December 14 & 16 - NCAA Division I Soccer: Men's College Cup (Cary, NC)
December 15 - NAIA Football National Championship Game (Olathe, KS)
December 17-23 - Saturnalia
December 22 - Winter Begins (Northern Hemisphere)
December 22-31 - Colonial Christmas (Williamsburg and Yorktown, VA)
December 27 - Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA)
December 30-31 - Ocean Dance (Hollywood, FL)
December 31 - Hogmanay (Scotland)
December 31 - New Year's Eve; Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)

December Holidays — National and International

December 4 - First Day of Hanukkah (begins at sunset)
December 10 - Human Rights Day
December 12 - Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Mexico)
December 20 - Eid al-Adha
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day (Australia, Canada, UK)
December 26-January 1 - Kwanzaa

It's a Fact!

Haiti is the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere according to the U.S. State Department. It ranked 154th of 177 countries in the UN's Human Development Index for 2006.

This Day In History — December

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1933 In Germany, a law is enacted by which the Nazi party is "indissolubly joined to the state."
02 1982 Dentist Barney Clark becomes the first recipient of a permanent artificial heart.
03 1967 Dr. Christiaan Barnard performs the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa.
04 1997 Representatives of 121 nations conclude a meeting in Ottawa, Canada at which they sign a treaty banning the use and manufacture of land mines.
05 1492 Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the New World, lands on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
06 1790 Philadelphia becomes the U.S. capital, succeeding New York City. (It remains the nation's capital until Washington, D.C., takes on the function in 1800.)
07 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, HI, killing 2,300, sinking or damaging 19 ships, and precipitating U.S. intervention in World War II.
08 1980 Former Beatle John Lennon is shot and killed outside his New York City apartment building.
09 1986 Students in China begin large-scale demonstrations for democracy.
10 1911 American aviator Calbraith P. Rodgers lands his Wright airplane in Long Beach, CA, completing the first transcontinental flight across the U.S. in 84 days total, and about 3 days 10 hours actual flying time.
11 1936 Britain's King Edward VIII abdicates so that he can marry twice-divorced American Wallis Warfield Simpson.
12 1917 Father Edward Flanagan founds Boys Town in Omaha, NE.
13 1577 Sir Francis Drake begins his voyage to circumnavigate the globe.
14 1918 In Great Britain, women vote for the first time.
15 1890 Sioux leader Sitting Bull is killed in a skirmish with U.S. soldiers.
16 1773 To protest a British tax on tea, patriots dressed as Indians board a British vessel and throw 350 chests of tea overboard, in what becomes known as the Boston Tea Party.
17 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright pilot the first successful flights of a heavier-than-air mechanically propelled airplane, at Kitty Hawk, NC.
18 1956 The UN General Assembly votes unanimously to admit Japan to the UN.
19 1777 During the American Revolution, the Continental Army establishes a camp at Valley Forge, PA.
20 1606 Three ships set sail from London, England, en route to America, where colonists will establish the first European colony at what is now Jamestown, VA.
21 1913 The first crossword puzzle is published, in a supplement to the New York World.
22 1928 In India, Mahatma Gandhi calls for mass civil disobedience if India is not given dominion status within a year.
23 1947 Three Bell Labs scientists—John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley—invent the transistor.
24 1942 German engineer Werner von Braun launches the first surface-to-surface guided missile.
25 1868 Pres. Andrew Johnson grants an unconditional pardon to everyone involved in the South's rebellion against the Union.
26 1620 The Pilgrims, aboard the Mayflower, land at Plymouth, MA.
27 1927 Leon Trotsky and his followers are expelled from the Communist Party by the Soviet Communist Congress.
28 1732 Poor Richard's Almanack is published for the first time by Benjamin Franklin.
29 1890 At the Battle of Wounded Knee, SD, the last major conflict between the Indians and U.S. troops, about 200 Indian men, women, and children are killed, along with 29 soldiers.
30 1862 During the Civil War, The Union ironclad USS Monitor sinks in a storm off Cape Hatteras, NC.
31 1879 Thomas Edison publicly demonstrates his electric incandescent light for the first time, in Menlo Park, NJ.

December Month Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1945 Bette Midler, singer/actress (Paterson, NJ)
02 1967 Lucy Liu, actress (New York, NY)
03 1925 Kim Dae Jung, South Korean president and Nobel laureate (near Mokpo, South Korea)
04 1970 Jay-Z, musician (Brooklyn, NY)
05 1932 Little Richard (Penniman), singer/songwriter (Macon, GA)
06 1920 Dave Brubeck, jazz musician (Concord, CA)
07 1947 Johnny Bench, baseball player (Oklahoma City, OK)
08 1964 Teri Hatcher, actress (Sunnyvale, CA)
09 1916 Kirk Douglas, actor (Amsterdam, NY)
10 1957 Michael Clarke Duncan, actor (Chicago, IL)
11 1918 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, novelist (Kislovodsk, Russia)
12 1924 Ed Koch, former New York City mayor (New York, NY)
13 1953 Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve (Augusta, GA)
14 1922 Don Hewitt, TV producer (New York, NY)
15 1942 Dave Clark, musician, member of the Dave Clark Five (London, England)
16 1917 Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author (Minehead, England)
17 1945 Chris Matthews, TV journalist (Philadelphia, PA)
18 1964 Brad Pitt, actor (Shawnee, OK)
19 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, actor (Los Angeles, CA)
20 1946 Uri Geller, psychic/clairvoyant (Tel Aviv, Israel)
21 1937 Jane Fonda, actress and exercise proponent (New York, NY)
22 1945 Diane Sawyer, TV journalist (Glasgow, KY)
23 1933 Akihito, emperor of Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
24 1957 Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan (Kandahar, Afghanistan)
25 1947 Barbara Mandrell, singer (Houston, TX)
26 1914 Richard Widmark, actor (Sunrise, MN)
27 1943 Cokie Roberts, TV journalist (New Orleans, LA)
28 1913 Lou Jacobi, actor (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
29 1947 Ted Danson, actor (San Diego, CA)
30 1957 Matt Lauer, TV anchor (New York, NY)
31 1937 Anthony Hopkins, actor (Port Talbot, South Wales)

Travel - Instant Grand Gorge


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library

Aerial view of Canyon Lake and Dam on the Guadalupe River in Comal County, Texas.

The heart and soul of the Hill Country of central Texas, say locals, are the Guadalupe River and the reservoir known as Canyon Lake. Since the completion of the Canyon Dam in the mid-1960s, the area, situated between San Antonio and Austin, has become a magnet for outdoors enthusiasts. Attractions range from swimming, boating, inner tubing, and fishing, to hiking, biking, and horseback riding, along with more sedate pursuits like camping and picnicking.

In July 2002 it acquired a major new feature when torrential waters swept over the dam's spillway. The flood sliced through an existing valley, washing away vegetation, soil, and limestone to form a spectacular crevasse, exposing virgin springs, stunning rock formations, and ancient fossils. For years access to the gorge was restricted, as authorities sought to protect the site and avoid exposing visitors to possible injury in the rough terrain. In October 2007 it finally became possible for the general public to view the gorge, as the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which oversees water resources in the region, began allowing guided tours.

Sudden slash
Usually water needs ages to carve out a substantial canyon. The Colorado River took several million years to form Arizona's Grand Canyon; Canyon Lake Gorge was created in a matter of days. The Canyon Dam's spillway had never been overrun prior to the catastrophic flood of 2002, set off by a downpour that brought in almost as much rain in one week as normally falls in a year. The resulting gorge may not be in the same league as the Grand Canyon, but it is still huge, measuring 1½ mi (2.4 km) long and reaching depths as great as 80 ft (24 m). It's wider and deeper than the only other major U.S. gorge to have been carved out rapidly in recent times - Iowa's Devonian Fossil Gorge, formed by a spillway overflow in 1993.

Experts say the rock exposed in Canyon Lake Gorge dates from roughly 110 million years ago. Among the fossil traces of ancient life-forms uncovered by the flood are several dinosaur footprints.



Canyon Lake Gorge

Visiting the canyon
To safeguard the gorge's treasures, and minimize the risk of injury from its brittle limestone walls, access to the site is still strictly controlled. Research groups can apply to gain access on their own. For the general public, the only way to see the scenic canyon is to take one of the occasional three-hour guided tours, led by trained "docents," that the Gorge Preservation Society began conducting in October 2007. Initial response to the tours was enthusiastic. A web page set up to take reservations received so many hits after the tours were publicized in a San Antonio paper that it had to be shut down. For now, tour groups are limited to 25 people, including two docents. Children must be accompanied by adults, and those under the age of seven are not allowed.

Eventually it will be possible to view the canyon from above: development of a trail along its rim was expected to get under way in coming months. Later on an education center may be built.

Canyon Lake and beyond
Visitors are drawn to the area by the recreational activities available along the local stretch of the Guadalupe River (said to be the top trout-fishing stream in Texas) and at Canyon Lake, which boasts a long shoreline of some 80 mi (130 km). But there is more to see and do. The Canyon Lake area houses the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country Association, which displays Native American and early pioneer artifacts. Here too, you can learn about the history of the Canyon Dam, walk a garden trail of native Texas plants, and see what is believed to be the richest collection of dinosaur tracks in the state. Also of interest are the region's vineyards.

Among tourist destinations nearby, probably the most famous is the Schlitterbahn Waterpark at New Braunfels. Covering 65 acres (26 ha), it boasts more than 40 water attractions, including the six-story Master Blaster Uphill Water Coaster; the Raging River Tube Chute, the world's longest tube chute; the Boogie Bahn Surfing Ride, confronting surfers with 50,000 gallons of water a minute; and the five-story Han's Hideout, offering four body slides along with water cannons, dumping buckets, net crawls, and tunnels. The New Braunfels Schlitterbahn is the Travel Channel's pick for the No. 1 water park in the U.S.

Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce
Canyon Lake Gorge
Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority
Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

It's a Fact!

Denver is the only location to ever turn down the Olympic Games, choosing not to host the 1976 Winter Olympics because of concerns over the accompanying pollution and population boom.

Obituaries in November 2007

Cade, Dr. J. Robert, 80, professor of medicine who invented the sports drink Gatorade to help University of Florida's football players replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweating during games; Gainesville, FL, Nov. 27, 2007.

Day, Laraine, 87, actress who was best known for her role as nurse Mary Lamont in seven Dr. Kildare movies from 1939 to 1941, and starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940); Ivins, UT, Nov. 10, 2007.

Hyde, Henry, 83, former U.S. Representative (R-IL), in office for 32 years, who championed legislation cutting off federal funding for abortion and led impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton; Chicago, IL, Nov. 29, 2007.

Knievel, Robert Craig "Evel," 69, motorcycle daredevil known for his extreme stunts, including a failed 1974 attempt to jump Idaho's Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered motorcycle; Clearwater, FL, Nov. 30, 2007.

Levin, Ira, 78, author of the best-selling suspense novels Rosemary's Baby (1967), The Stepford Wives (1972), and The Boys from Brazil (1976), and the Broadway thriller Deathtrap (1978); New York, NY, Nov. 12, 2007.

Mailer, Norman, 84, author best known for his creative nonfiction, beginning with The Naked and the Dead (1948), based upon his military experiences during World War II; he won Pulitzer Prizes for The Armies of the Night(1968) and The Executioner's Song (1979) and co-founded the alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice (1955); New York, NY, Nov. 10, 2007.

Mann, Delbert, 87, film and television director and producer who won an Academy Award for Best Director for Marty (1955); Los Angeles, CA; Nov. 11, 2007.

Moiseyev, Igor, 101, Russian choreographer known for applying ballet techniques to traditional folk dance and founder of a folk dance ensemble known as the Moiseyev Dance Company; Moscow, Russia, Nov. 2, 2007.

Nuxhall, Joe, 79, baseball pitcher and announcer with the Cincinnati Reds who in 1944 became the youngest player to appear in a major league baseball game in the modern era, at the age of 15; Fairfield, OH, Nov. 15, 2007.



Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, waves from his cockpit before the takeoff, 6 August 1945

O'Neill, William, 77, Connecticut governor 1980-91; East Hampton, CT, Nov. 24, 2007.

Ringo, Jim, 75, Pro Football Hall of Fame center for the Green Bay Packers (1953-63) and Philadelphia Eagles (1964-67); Virginia Beach, VA, Nov. 19, 2007.

Smith, Ian, 88, prime minister of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe; 1965-79) and a steadfast advocate of white rule, he led the country's ruling white minority to declare its independence from Britain (1965), a move that resulted in UN sanctions and civil war; ; Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 20, 2007.

Smith, Roger B., 82, chairman and CEO of General Motors 1981-90 and the subject of the 1988 Michael Moore documentary "Roger and Me"; Detroit, MI, area, Nov. 29, 2007.

Taylor, Sean, 24, football player who played safety for the Washington Redskins; shot by an apparent intruder at his home; Miami, FL, Nov. 27, 2007.

Tibbets, Brig. Gen. Paul W., 92, American pilot and commander of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic bomb - the world's first used in war - on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945; Columbus, OH, Nov. 1, 2007.

The Best of the World Almanac Blog

The Growing Collection of E-Waste - Andrew Steinitz

New to the World Almanac 2008 is a table on computer products disposal from 1999 to 2006 (page 351). In just 2005, Americans threw out 1.4 million tons of computers, monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, and other peripherals. Only a sixth of that was recycled. The rest went into landfills or sometimes an incinerator.

A caveat: the Environmental Protection Agency considers any electronics not sent to the dump as recycled. This includes pieces sold to developing countries for reuse or just dismantling and chemical recovery.

The Electronics Takeback Coalition aims to raise awareness among consumers about this growing problem and have electronics manufacturers take on greater responsibility in disposing of this waste. In September, Sony Electronics USA became the first to sign their Manufacturers Commitment To Responsible Recycling, which means they won't send toxic e-waste to developing countries, use prison labor in disassembling electronics, or send hazardous chemicals to landfills or incinerators.



Rushing the holidays - Edward A. Thomas

It seems that the holiday season starts a little bit earlier each year here in the U.S., and so it's not so unusual to see Christmas lights and decorations up before Thanksgiving.

Edward H. Johnson, an assistant to inventor Thomas Edison, is generally credited with creating the first set of electric Christmas lights, and exhibiting them on his tree in 1882. The auspicious beginning to the decorating age began with a rotating tree with flashing red, white and blue lights. For some, it's been down hill ever since!

The proliferation of websites exhibiting ugly Christmas lights and tacky decorations grows each year, and if you think you've found the worst, you can go ahead and submit a photo to a multitude of ugly Christmas light contests.

Word of the Year - Sarah Janssen

The year is winding down, which means it's time for media outlets everywhere to start summarizing 2007 with variously-themed lists. While we don't yet know who the Time "Person(s) of the Year" will be, one of my favorite lists has already been released: the Oxford Word of the Year and its runners-up. I like the Word of the Year lists because they provide an interesting perspective on what people have been talking about during the year, and how they've chosen to talk about it.


Flickr photo by Pay No Mind

The 2007 Oxford Word of the Year is locavore, which defines the movement, becoming more popular in some regions of the country, toward committing to eating only locally grown food.

A few Word of the Year runners-up:
     * bacn: email notifications, such as news alerts and social networking updates, that are considered more desirable than unwanted "spam" (coined at PodCamp Pittsburgh in Aug. 2007 and popularized in the blogging community)
     * colony collapse disorder: a still-unexplained phenomenon resulting in the widespread disappearance of honeybees from beehives, first observed in late 2006
     * tase (or taze): to stun with a Taser (popularized by a Sep. 2007 incident in which a University of Florida student was filmed being stunned by a Taser at a public forum)

Check out the rest of Oxford's list, which includes a nice etymology for locavore, at the link below. Or grab a copy of The World Almanac 2008, where you'll find Merriam-Webster's list of new words for 2007 on page 722.

It's a Fact!

The Labrador Retriever is by far the most popular registered dog breed in the U.S. with 123,760 registered in 2006.

Chronology — Events of November 2007


     Mortgage Meltdown Causes Upheavals at Top Financial Firms - The subprime mortgage crisis continued to send shock waves through the U.S. financial community. Citigroup, a leading financial services firm, revealed Nov. 4 that Chairman and CEO Charles O. Prince III was stepping down and that the company would take a write-down of $8-11 bil in assets because of bad subprime mortgage investments, on top of a $5.9 bil write-down in Oct. Former Treasury Sec. Robert E. Rubin replaced Prince as Citigroup's interim board chairman. Citigroup announced Nov. 26 that it would sell a 4.9% stake in the firm to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. The ADIA, which represents the government of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates in the UAE, paid $7.5 bil for securities that would yield 11% annually. On Nov. 14, Merrill Lynch, the world's largest brokerage firm, named John A. Thain as its new CEO. Thain, who was credited with revitalizing the New York Stock Exchange, replaced Merrill Lynch's former CEO, E. Stanley O'Neal, who had resigned Oct. 30 after the company announced an asset write-down of $8.4 bil.



Rep. Ron Paul

     Underdogs Show Strength in GOP Presidential Campaign - Supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R, TX), who has trailed in the polls and is the lone antiwar candidate in the Republican race, raised more than $4 mil over the Internet Nov. 5; with another $200,000 in phone contributions, the sum was the highest single-day haul to date for any GOP presidential hopeful. A Nov. 13 poll of likely caucus-goers in Iowa showed another Republican underdog, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, challenging former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the lead in Iowa.
     Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was endorsed Nov. 7 by prominent conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, who said that their difference of opinion on social issues, including abortion, "pale[d] into insignificance" when measured against the issue of terrorism. Federal prosecutors Nov. 9 unsealed an indictment detailing corruption charges against Bernard Kerik, who had been Giuliani's police commissioner and business partner. Another scandal surfaced Nov. 28, when The Politico published an article describing the unorthodox handling of Giuliani's security expenses while he was mayor.

     Hostage Situation at Clinton Office Ends Peacefully - Leeland Eisenberg, a 46-year-old with a history of mental illness, entered Sen. Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign office Nov. 30 and took 5 people hostage. Clinton was not present. Eisenberg claimed he had a bomb strapped to his chest, but the crisis ended peacefully after a standoff of more than five hours. The "bomb" was a vest made of duct tape and road flares.

     Democrats Gain in Off-Year Election - Though few major races were on the ballot Nov. 6, Democrats achieved gains in several states. In governorship contests, the scandal-plagued Kentucky incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) was ousted by Steve Beshear (D), while Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) won a second term over challenger John Eaves (D). Democrats claimed control of the Virginia state senate and won mayoral races in Baltimore, MD; Columbus, OH; Houston, TX; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, PA; Salt Lake City, UT; and San Francisco, CA. In one of the day's biggest upsets, anger at rising tax and crime rates led voters in Indianapolis, IN, to elect political novice Greg Ballard (R) over two-term incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson (D).

     Congress Overrides Bush Veto - Congress voted, Nov. 6 and 8, to overturn a veto by Pres. George W. Bush for the first time in his presidency. The House of Representatives Nov. 6 voted 361-54 to override Bush's veto of a measure authorizing hundreds of water projects valued at more than $23 bil. The Senate followed suit Nov. 8, by a 79-14 margin. The bill, which included projects for hurricane recovery, wetlands restoration, and flood control, had been vetoed Nov. 2 by Pres. Bush, who had said the bill "lacks fiscal discipline." The veto was Bush's fifth; all but one came after the Democrats took control of Congress in Jan. 2007.

     Senate Confirms Mukasey as Attorney General - The Senate Nov. 8 confirmed Michael B. Mukasey to head the Department of Justice by a 54-40 vote. He was sworn in Nov. 9 and publicly took the oath of office in ceremonies conducted Nov. 14 by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. One of Mukasey's first acts after taking office had been to reopen an inquiry by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility into the administration's warrantless surveillance program. The probe had been blocked in 2006 when OPR staff could not get the required security clearances.

     Leading Republican Lawmakers Retire - Sen. Trent Lott (R, MS), the second-ranking Republican leader in the Senate, said Nov. 26 that he planned to resign his seat before the end of the year. Lott's racially insensitive remarks had cost him the majority leadership post in December 2002, but he had won re-election in 2006. He was the sixth Republican in recent months to indicate that he was leaving the Senate. Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R, IL), who had announced Aug. 17 that he would not run for reelection, said Nov. 26 that he would leave Congress immediately.

     Wall Street Rebounds After "Correction" - The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 546 points Nov. 27-28, reversing a market "correction" that had seen major stock averages drop by more than 10% since Oct. 9. Analysts attributed the initial decline to a combination of rising oil prices, the sagging dollar, and large losses by major U.S. financial institutions; they credited the late-month recovery to an oil price drop, bargain hunting by investors, and indications that the Federal Reserve would take further steps to forestall recession. The Dow closed the month at 13,371.72; crude oil futures, which earlier in the month had flirted with $100, closed Nov. 30 at $88.71.


     Weather Disasters Strike the Caribbean, Mexico - Tropical Storm Noel drenched the Caribbean region Oct. 29-Nov. 1, triggering widespread floods and mudslides. The storm claimed more than 150 lives, mostly in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In southern Mexico, heavy rains Oct. 28-Nov. 1 inundated the states of Tabasco and Chiapas, killing at least 33 people. At their peak, the floodwaters covered nearly all of low-lying Tabasco and swamped more than 1 million homes. A levee project initiated after a devastating 1999 flood had never been completed.

     Pakistani President Declares Emergency Rule - Pres. Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule in Pakistan Nov. 3, suspending the constitution, dismissing the chief justice, deploying security forces, and clamping down on the mass media. The emergency declaration cited threats posed by Islamic extremists, terrorist attacks, and "some members of the judiciary who are working at cross-purposes with the executive and legislature." Musharraf's drastic action came as Pakistan's Supreme Court was preparing to rule on the constitutionality of his reelection as president a month earlier. Security forces began arresting members of opposition groups Nov. 4; an estimated 2,500 people had been arrested by Nov. 13.
     The events posed a dilemma for the U.S., which since 2001 had provided Pakistan with more than $10 bil in aid, which was chiefly intended to support antiterrorist activities. U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, who had personally warned Musharraf not to suspend the constitution, declared his actions "highly regrettable." Pres. Bush said Nov. 7 that he had spoken to Musharraf and had urged him to return the country to civilian rule.
     Faced with mounting international pressure and opposition from two former Pakistani prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (who returned from exile in Saudi Arabia Nov. 25), Musharraf gave up his army post Nov. 28 and was sworn in as civilian president the following day. He pledged to lift the emergency decree by Dec. 16 and to allow parliamentary elections in early Jan. 2008.

     Taliban Insurgents Pose Serious Challenge in Afghanistan - According to Afghanistan's Education Ministry, a suicide attack by insurgents Nov. 6 against a parliamentary delegation touring the northern part of the country killed at least 77 people, including 61 schoolchildren. According to a preliminary UN report released Nov. 17, some of the casualties were caused by the delegation's bodyguards. By mid-month, U.S. troop fatalities in Afghanistan in 2007 exceeded 100, the highest annual total since the war began. Afghan officials reported Nov. 28 that a U.S. air strike two days earlier had mistakenly killed up to 14 road workers in the eastern region.
     The Washington Post reported Nov. 25 that a National Security Council assessment of the war in Afghanistan had concluded that the U.S., its NATO allies, and the Afghan government were failing to meet their strategic objectives for 2007. Seth Jones, an analyst with the Rand Corp., described the U.S. strategy against Taliban insurgents as "clear, hold, and build." The problem, he told the Post, was that after clearing the Taliban from a district, "when you move troops into neighboring districts, you don't have enough to hold what you just cleared."

     Cyclone Sidr Batters Bangladesh - A powerful cyclone slammed into southern Bangladesh Nov. 15, flooding low-lying islands and coastal regions. Statistics released Dec. 4 by the government's Disaster Management Bureau put the death toll at 3,268, with another 872 persons missing. The storm affected an estimated 2 million families, damaged 1.5 million homes, and destroyed more than 4 million trees. Bangladeshi officials said many deaths had been prevented through an early-warning system that moved more than 1 mil people to cyclone shelters the day the storm hit.

     Labor Party Wins in Australia - The opposition Australian Labor Party swept to power in parliamentary elections Nov. 24, crushing conservative John Howard's hopes for a fifth consecutive term as prime minister. Howard, who took office in 1996, had based his reelection campaign on his successful stewardship of the economy. But his support for Pres. Bush and the Iraq war had become increasingly unpopular.
     The new prime minister was Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd, a former diplomat who had promised to pull Australian combat troops out of Iraq. His first official act after being sworn in Dec. 3 was to sign papers ratifying the Kyoto Protocol against global warming.


White House Photos by Eric Draper

President Bush meets with Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas (top) and Israeli Prime Min. Ehud Olmert (bottom) at the White House.

     Middle East Peace Conference Convenes - Representatives of nearly 50 governments and international bodies met Nov. 27 in Annapolis, MD, for U.S.-sponsored talks on Middle East peace. The conference marked the most ambitious effort by the U.S. to push the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians since Pres. Bush took office in 2001. Among Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Syria overcame initial hesitations and chose to participate, but Iraq did not send an envoy. Notably omitted from the invitation list were the government of Iran and the militant groups Hamas (which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza) and Hezbollah.
     During the conference, Pres. Bush announced that Israeli Prime Min. Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas had pledged "to immediately launch good-faith, bilateral negotiations" aimed at concluding a peace treaty that would resolve "all outstanding issues" by the end of 2008. Such issues would include the final status of Jerusalem, the rights of Palestinian refugees, and the disposition of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

     Violence Down in Iraq - According to Iraq's Interior Ministry, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in war-related violence dropped to 538 in November, down from 758 in October; the monthly civilian death toll had decreased significantly since June, when a "surge" of 28,500 additional U.S. troops was fully deployed. Monthly U.S. troop fatalities had also declined, from a 2007 high of 126 in May to 38 in October and 37 in November. American military officials also noted a big decrease in the number of roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
     Rep. John Murtha (D, PA), a frequent congressional critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, said Nov. 29, "I think the surge is working." In a clarification issued the following day, he added that the central government in Baghdad had "failed to capitalize on the political and diplomatic steps that the surge was designed to provide."


     King Tut Unveiled - The leathery black face of the pharaoh Tutankhamen, who died at the age of 19 more than 3,300 years ago, was revealed to the general public for the first time Nov. 4 at Luxor, Egypt. Archaeologists moved the unwrapped remains of the mummified boy-king from his stone sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass case in Tut's underground tomb. For display to tourists, the body was covered by a linen shroud, with only face and feet showing.

     Strikes Darken Hollywood, Broadway - An industry-wide strike by about 12,000 film and television screenwriters began shortly after midnight Nov. 5 in New York City. At issue was the writers' share of studios' DVD and Internet revenues. Late-night comedy programs such the Late Show with David Letterman and The Daily Show were the first to stop producing new episodes. As the dispute between writers and studios dragged on, however, work on many sitcoms, dramas, and other projects halted.
     A walkout by stagehands that began Nov. 10 shut down most Broadway theaters for nearly three weeks. The strike was settled Nov. 28 when the League of American Theatres and Producers and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reached tentative agreement on a new contract resolving differences over work rules and compensation. Shows resumed Nov. 29.

     Shuttle Completes Mission to International Space Station - The space shuttle Discovery touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Nov. 7, completing a challenging construction mission that began Oct. 23. After docking at the International Space Station, the seven-member crew had installed the "Harmony," a module that would contain living quarters for the crew, to which laboratories built by European and Japanese space agencies will eventually be connected. The highlight of the mission was a risky emergency spacewalk to repair the space station's damaged solar array.

     Ship Accidents Cause Environmental Damage - On the foggy morning of Nov. 7, the cargo ship Cosco Busan scraped against the base of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Ruptures in the vessel's fuel tanks leaked 58,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into the bay. The oil slick spread about 20 miles along the scenic shoreline, killing more than 600 birds.
     A much larger oil spill occurred Nov. 11 in the Strait of Kerch, a narrow waterway between Russia and Ukraine. The Volganeft-139 - a freighter meant for use only in rivers - split apart in 18-foot waves caused by a storm, dumping at least 360,000 gallons of fuel oil into the strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. The resulting oil slick killed some 30,000 birds. Russian authorities estimated the damage to hunting and fishing in the area at more than $160 mil.

     Barry Bonds Indicted - A federal grand jury probing athletes' use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs indicted slugger Barry Bonds Nov. 15. Bonds, who holds baseball's single-season (73) and career (762) home run records, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury in 2003 about his use of steroids and human growth hormone. The seven-time National League MVP had recently completed his 15th and final season with the San Francisco Giants, who had let him know they would not be offering him a new contract.

     A-Rod and Rollins Named League MVPs - Capping a season in which he led the major leagues in home runs (54), runs scored (143), and runs batted in (156), Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees earned his third American League MVP award Nov. 19. A-Rod, already baseball's highest-paid player, had reached basic agreement with the Yankees on a new 10-year, $275 mil contract. The Philadelphia Phillies' switch-hitting young shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, claimed the prize in the National League; he had led the league in runs scored (139). Other top award winners included the Cleveland Indians' lefthander C.C. Sabathia, whose 19-7 record earned him AL Cy Young pitching honors; and the San Diego Padres' ace Jake Peavy (19-6), who led all major-league starters in earned run average (2.54) and strikeouts (240) and was the unanimous choice for the NL Cy Young award.

     Scientists Report Progress on Turning Human Skin Cells into Stem Cells - An apparent breakthrough in stem cell research was reported Nov. 20 by scientific teams working independently in Japan and at the University of Wisconsin. The research teams added four specific genes to skin cells in order to reprogram them to act like embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to transform themselves into any cell type. The ability to make such versatile cells without actually creating or destroying any embryos would surmount some of the political controversy that has impeded stem cell research in the U.S. Researchers hope that stem cells may eventually be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injuries, and many other disorders.
     The leader of the Wisconsin team, Prof. James A. Thomson, cautioned against exclusive reliance on the new approach. As coauthor of a Dec. 3 editorial in the Washington Post he wrote, "We're at square one, uncertain at this early stage whether souped-up skin cells hold the same promise as their embryonic cousins do."

     Football Star Fatally Shot - Washington Redskins' defensive back Sean Taylor died at 3:30 A.M. on Nov. 27, a day after he was shot in his house near Miami, FL. The hard-hitting Pro Bowl safety underwent a 7-hour surgery after an intruder's bullet struck him in the groin, severing the femoral artery and causing severe blood loss. Taylor, 24, was at home with his girlfriend and their 18-month-old daughter when the shooting occurred. Police Nov. 30 announced the arrests of four men whom they accused of breaking into the house, attempting to burglarize it, and then shooting Taylor when he confronted them.

It's All in the Numbers


Jupiter Images

The Washington Monument

1,000,000,000 - $ amount of public and private funds that eastern Germany received from western Germany in the five years following reunification.

470,000,000 - $ amount in damages Union Carbide paid as a result of litigation arising from the Bhopal explosion

20,000,000 - $ price the U.S. paid Spain for the Philippine Islands in 1898.

4,500,000 - number of total troops under Gen. Eisenhower's command as Allied Supreme Commander.

181,825 - average number of patents issued annually 2000-2006.

83,000 - approximate number of deaths in Europe's worst recorded earthquake in modern times, in Italy on December 28, 1908.

3,300 - approximate number of people buried at Westminster Abbey, many of them in unmarked graves; Charles Darwin is among the famous scientists buried in the nave.

898 - number of steps to the top of the Washington Monument when it was dedicated; since a wheelchair ramp was added, there are now 896.

20 - the number of Concorde jets constructed. Only 14 provided commercial trans-Atlantic service between 1976 and 2003.

3 - actual number of south poles at the South Pole: the ceremonial pole, the geographical pole, and the magnetic pole.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Not in So Many Words

The U.S. has "In God We Trust"; France has "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" (Liberty, equality, fraternity). But the British search for a motto of its own has been somewhat less somber. The news that Prime Min. Gordon Brown sought a statement of British values to provide the foundation for his proposed constitutional reforms brought a resounding chorus of mostly cynical or sarcastic suggestions. Some of the early candidates included "Sorry, it's all our fault," "Drinking continues until morale improves," "In America We Trust," and "At least we're not French." The relatively few positive suggestions included, "Great people, great country, Great Britain," and "Courage, reason, humanity, democracy, monarchy."

The Times of London took matters into its own hands and held a democratic poll on their Comment Central blog. Some of the leading vote-getters included, "Try Writing History Without Us," "We apologise for the inconvenience," and "Mathematically, we could still qualify." But the winning suggestion, with 20.9% of the vote, seems to speak for itself: "No motto please, we're British."

Blogging Old Age

Only about 2.7 percent of people over age 74 has ever used the Internet in Spain. Thankfully - to her fans, at least - one of them is Maria Amelia Lopez, a 95-year-old great-grandmother whose blog has about 60,000 regular readers so far.

"Today it's my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog," Lopez wrote in Spanish in her first post at http://amis95.blogspot.com. Lopez calls herself "the world's oldest blogger," but a few others, including 108-year-old Olive Riley (http://allaboutolive.com.au) may have her beat.

Though at first she thought a blog was "just a type of paper notebook," Lopez has been pleasantly surprised by her new creative outlet. "No one pays attention to old women anymore. Not many people love us. But I was surprised by the Internet, because young people who were 18 years of age, or 14 or 15, tell me about their lives and what they think and ask my advice."

There is one thing that Lopez finds sad about becoming a blogger so late in life: "I'm going to die before I get broadband."

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


(c) Edward A. Thomas

King Tut Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The public can now see the face of the boy pharaoh, Tutankhamun (1341 BC - 1323 BC), for the first time since his discovery in 1922. Tut's tomb was discovered by Howard Carter, an English archaeologist and Egyptologist, in the Valley of the Kings near the ancient city of Thebes (the modern Luxor), in Egypt. Not a king of great significance, the uniqueness of Tut's tomb is that it was nearly intact when discovered (thieves had broken in soon after his burial, but the tomb was reorganized and resealed). The splendor of tomb's content is extraordinary and is worth the trip to Cairo!

Women in Art - check it out, it's fascinating!


New York City Council

Marquis de Lafayette is by Samuel Finley Breese Morse

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, aka the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) has returned to New York in the form of an exhibition at the New York Historical Society called French Founding Father: Lafayette's Return to Washington's America which highlights Lafayette's triumphant 13-month tour of all our country's 24 states in 1824-25. Lafayette was a French military leader and statesman who fought on the side of the colonists during the American Revolution and later took a prominent part in the French Revolution. He was close to many of America's founding fathers, and was a friend to George Washington. Invited by President James Monroe to revisit the U.S. in 1824, the 67 year old Lafayette, the last surviving Revolutionary War general, was lauded throughout his 6,000-mile, 367-day visit by grateful Americans. This visit saw the creation of many American institutions - including the souvenir industry, and historical reenactments - and led to the restoration of Independence Hall. Lafayette became the sixth person in U.S. history to be voted an honorary citizen of the country in 2002 (others being Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Raoul Wallenberg, and Pennsylvania founder William Penn and his wife Hannah).

I'll admit that I don't get to the movies as often as I have in the past, or as often as I desire, and one of the things I miss is seeing trailers for upcoming movies. At TrailerFan you can watch trailers without going to the movies, find out more about the movies, and view photograph stills. By the way, although we're not in the trailer, The World Almanac makes an appearance in the upcoming Will Smith film I Am Legend. This isn't The World Almanac's first screen appearance - Fred MacMurray talks about it with Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity (1944); Bette Davis screams about it in All About Eve (1950); Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper flirt about it in Love in the Afternoon (1957); it is featured in Miracle on 34th Street when a trial is held to see if Santa Claus really exists; and Rosie Perez continually reads it in the film White Men Can't Jump (1992).

Pop quiz question here; what 1970s television show did the Sleestaks appear on? If you guessed Land of the Lost (1974-1976), you are correct? What, don't remember this "classic" show? It followed the adventures of the Marshall family, a father with his children Will and Holly, who were on a rafting trip when an earthquake sent them over a waterfall where they passed through a "time doorway" into a lost land, filled with dinosaurs, ape-men, and reptile-like creatures. The show was yet another production from brothers Sid & Marty Kroft, who produced children's variety programs in the 1970s and 80s, including The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968-1970), H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1971), The Bugaloos (1970-1972), and the Donny & Marie Osmond Show (1976-1979).


Abraham Lincoln Online.org

Only photograph of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin, taken in New York City, April 24, 1865.

The holidays are quickly approaching and it's time to Elf yourself. Check it out and let me apologize in advance, I couldn't help myself!

I'm not sure if you read the December events, but the Scottish will be celebrating Hogmanay on December 31st. Hogmanay is the word Scots associate with New Year. "First footing," or visiting friends and neighbors bearing gifts, has been a traditional custom, but has given way to massive celebrations in the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other towns throughout Scotland.

Fleetwood Lindley (1888-1963) was the last living person to see the face of Abraham Lincoln. Assassinated in 1865, Lincoln was buried in Oak Ridge cemetery in Illinois, and interred in a receiving vault in 1871; the marble sarcophagus was completed and dedicated in 1874. In 1876, a plot to steal Lincoln's body was discovered. It took a number of years, but in 1901, Lincoln's surviving son Robert Lincoln, decided to bury the dead presidents coffin under 10 feet of concrete. At that time, his coffin was opened for the last time, and 23 people viewed his remains, which were remarkably well-preserved.

Who knew? Keepin Ken will offer you everything you ever wanted to know about Ken dolls. Did you know his full name is Ken Carson and that he was "born" in 1961?

Quote of the Month

"Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality the cost becomes prohibitive."
     - William F. Buckley, Jr., b.1925, columnist and author

© World Almanac Education Group

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

Newsletter Contributors:
Geoffrey M. Horn, Sarah Janssen, C. Alan Joyce, Bill McGeveran and Linda Van Orden.

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

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