Volume 08, Number 07— July 2008

What's in this issue?

July Events
July Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — July
July Birthdays
Travel - Québec City Turns 400
Obituaries - June 2008
Chronology - June 2008
It's All in the Numbers
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

July Events

July 2-5 - National Tom Sawyer Days and Fence Painting Contest (Hannibal, MO)
July 4 - Anvil Mountain Run (Nome, AK)
July 5-27 - Tour de France (Brittany, France, to Paris, France)
July 6 - Ducktona 500 (Sheboygan Falls, WI)
July 7-12 - Kimberley International Old-Time Accordion Championships (British Columbia)
July 8-20 - International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition (Leipzig, Germany)
July 10-12 - Turkey Rama (McMinnville, OR)
July 10-13 - Hodag Country Festival (Rhinelander, WI)
July 11-12 - Wayne Chicken Days and National Cluck-Off (NE)
July 11-13 - San Francisco Silent Film Festival (CA)
July 12-13 - Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Days and Chainsaw Sculpturing Contest (NY)
July 12-20 - Three Rivers Festival (Fort Wayne, IN)
July 15-19 - National Baby Food Festival (Fremont, MI)
July 18-20 - Yarmouth Clam Festival (ME)
July 24-27 - Comic-Con International (San Diego, CA)
July 25-27 - Gilroy Garlic Festival (CA)
July 25-29 - World Future Society Annual Conference (Washington, DC)
July 25-30 - National Scrabble Championship (Orlando, FL)
July 28-August 4 - World Footbag Championships (Portland, OR)
July 31-August 1 - Melville Marathon (Mystic, CT)

July Holidays — National and International

July 1 - Canada Day
July 4 - Independence Day
July 9 - Independence Day (Argentina)
July 14 - Bastille Day (France)
July 23 - Revolution Day (Egypt)

It's a Fact!

The New York Sun published P.T. Barnum's obituary two weeks before he died so that he would get to read it.

This Day In History — July

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1963 The United States introduces the ZIP code for mail.
02 1937 Aviator Amelia Earhart and her copilot Fred Noonan disappear during a flight while over the Pacific.
03 1775 George Washington takes command of the Continental Army.
04 1939 Baseball player Lou Gehrig, dying from the disease that will bear his name, is honored at Yankee Stadium and tells the crowd of more than 61,000, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
05 1811 Venezuela's independence is formally proclaimed.
06 1885 Louis Pasteur successfully tests his vaccine against rabies.
07 1937 Japanese troops open fire on the Chinese Army at the Marco Polo Bridge in a Beijing suburb, marking the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War.
08 1942 Anne Frank and her family go into hiding during the Holocaust.
09 2006 Italy's soccer team defeats France 5-3 to win the World Cup final.
10 1913 Death Valley, California, temperatures reach a whopping 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 Celsius), the hottest on U.S. record.
11 1804 Alexander Hamilton is shot by Vice Pres. Aaron Burr in a duel in Weehawken, NJ; he dies the next day.
12 1967 Riots by blacks begin in Newark, NJ; by July 17, 26 are killed, 1,500 injured, and more than 1,000 left homeless.
13 1985 Live Aid, a rock concert in London and Philadelphia broadcast around the world, raises $70 million for African famine relief.
14 1789 The French Revolution begins with the fall of the Bastille in Paris.
15 1099 During the First Crusade, Jerusalem is taken by the Crusaders, who massacre virtually every inhabitant.
16 1918 In Russia, Czar Nicholas II and his family are executed by a firing squad on the order of the Bolsheviks.
17 1955 Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California.
18 1925 Adolf Hitler publishes his manifesto, Mein Kampf.
19 1848 A seminal women's rights convention opens in Seneca Falls, NY.
20 1969 After making the first lunar landing, astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 mission, becomes the first person to set foot on the Moon; he is followed by Edwin Aldrin.
21 1925 John T. Scopes is found guilty of having taught evolution in a Dayton, TN, high school, after the "Monkey Trial" pits Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan.
22 1943 In World War II, the Allies capture the city of Palermo, some two weeks after invading Sicily.
23 1829 William Austin Burt of Michigan receives a patent for his typographer, the precursor to the typewriter.
24 1847 Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers arrive at Utah's Salt Lake Valley.
25 1909 French engineer Louis Blériot flies across the English Channel in a monoplane that he has designed and built.
26 1948 An executive order signed by Pres. Harry Truman ends racial segregation in the armed forces.
27 1866 A telegraph cable across the Atlantic is completed, establishing communication between the United States and England.
28 1914 World War I officially begins when Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
29 1907 Sir Robert Baden-Powell forms the Boy Scouts in England.
30 1619 The House of Burgesses, the first representative assembly in the New World, is elected at Jamestown, VA.
31 1975 Former Teamster leader James Hoffa is reported missing by his family.

July Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1916 Olivia De Havilland, actress (Tokyo, Japan)
02 1929 Imelda Marcos, Philippine first lady (Manila, Philippines)
03 1930 Pete Fountain, jazz musician (New Orleans, LA)
04 1910 Gloria Stuart, actress (Santa Monica, CA)
05 1951 Huey Lewis, singer (New York, NY)
06 1976 50 Cent, rapper (Queens, NY)
07 1940 Ringo Starr, singer/drummer and member of the Beatles (Liverpool, England)
08 1958 Kevin Bacon, actor (Philadelphia, PA)
09 1956 Tom Hanks, actor (Oakland, CA)
10 1921 Jake LaMotta, boxer (Bronx, NY)
11 1931 Tab Hunter, actor (New York, NY)
12 1971 Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic champion figure skater (Hayward, CA)
13 1942 Harrison Ford, actor (Chicago, IL)
14 1930 Polly Bergen, actress (Knoxville, TN)
15 1946 Linda Ronstadt, singer/songwriter (Tucson, AZ)
16 1947 Alexis Herman, former labor secretary (Mobile, AL)
17 1917 Phyllis Diller, comedian/actress (Lima, OH)
18 1918 Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist/political prisoner and South African president (Gunu, Transkei, South Africa)
19 1922 George McGovern, former SD senator and presidential nominee (Avon, SD)
20 1938 Diana Rigg, actress (Doncaster, England)
21 1938 Janet Reno, attorney general (Miami, FL)
22 1913 Licia Albanese, musician (Bari, Italy)
23 1967 Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor (Fairport, NY)
24 1970 Jennifer Lopez, actress/singer (Bronx, NY)
25 1978 Louise Brown, first test-tube baby (Oldham, England)
26 1943 Mick Jagger, singer and member of the Rolling Stones (Dartford, England)
27 1975 Alex Rodriguez, baseball player (New York, NY)
28 1948 Sally Struthers, actress (Portland, OR)
29 1953 Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker (New York, NY)
30 1974 Hilary Swank, actress (Bellingham, WA)
31 1965 J.K. Rowling, author (Bristol, England)

Travel - Québec City Turns 400

It's no accident that Québec City gets millions of visitors every year. It has a European-like charm unique for North America. The capital of Canada's mainly French-speaking province of Québec, it is the cradle of French culture on the continent, with great restaurants and shopping to match. It's also is the only remaining walled city north of Mexico and contains an Old Town with narrow cobbled streets suitable for strolling. In addition, it has a beautiful setting, lying both along the St. Lawrence River and on a promontory or cliffs overlooking the river. In 2008 there's yet another big reason to visit: The historic city is celebrating its 400th anniversary with a series of exhibits, festivals, concerts, and other special events.

Champlain and the Plains of Abraham


Library of Congress

Samuel de Champlain

Québec City considers its date of birth to be July 3, 1608, when the French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived to set up a permanent settlement there. The site has natural strategic value thanks to its cliffs and its location at a point where the St. Lawrence narrows. (The name "Québec" is said to come from the Algonquin Kebec, meaning "where the river narrows.") The town became the capital of New France - the huge territory claimed by France in the New World. A surprise attack by the British in 1759 led to a brief but famous battle on a patch of land outside the walls known as the Plains of Abraham. The British soon gained control of the city and, not long after that, of most of New France. Under British rule the people of Québec were still able to retain their French language and traditions and their Catholic faith. Another legacy of the British period is a major portion of the fortifications - built, among other reasons, for defense against possible attack by the U.S., and still visible today.

Upper and Lower

In 1985, Québec City's historical district was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which found it "one of the best examples of a fortified colonial city" and "the only North American city to have preserved its ramparts, together with the numerous bastions, gates, and defensive works."

The original settlement was founded by the river, in the area now called the Lower Town. Major fortifications and most of the historical area, including many of the city's most famous sights, are higher up, in the Upper Town, overlooking the river. Notable attractions in the Lower Town include the Quartier du Petit-Champlain, with its charming boutiques, cafés, and restaurants; the Place Royale, for many the most appealing of Québec's squares, with its steep-roofed, granite-walled houses in Breton style; the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, dating originally from 1688 but destroyed in the siege of Québec and subsequently restored; and the Museum of Civilization.



Chateau Frontenac

The skyline of the Upper Town is dominated by a prominent castle-like building in medieval French style with stone turrets and gables. It is actually a luxury hotel, the Château Frontenac. The fortification known as the Citadel, built in 1820-52, is said to be biggest in North America in which regular troops are still stationed. It also is one of two official residences of Canada's governor-general. The Plains of Abraham, right outside the city walls, have been incorporated into a large park known as National Battlefields Park, which, incidentally, marked the centennial of its establishment in 2008. The National Museum of Fine Arts of Québec, at the park's southwestern end, chronicles the entire history of the province's art. In addition, for the 400th anniversary it is showing until late October a remarkable collection of some 270 works lent by the Louvre in Paris - including drawings, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and other works from roughly 5000 years of art history. To the north of the National Battlefields Park lies the Parliament Building, built in 1886 in the Second Empire style.

Feting 400 Years

The centerpiece of the jubilee year festivities was July 3, the day Champlain landed. Among events scheduled on or around that day were a massive midnight fireworks show on the St. Lawrence; a new film made for the anniversary, called Infiniment Québec; and the musical Rencontres/Encounters, focused on Champlain and the founding of Québec. Events planned for later in the year included a free outdoor concert on August 22 by French-Canadian superstar Celine Dion and others at the Plains of Abraham and a show in mid-October by Le Cirque du Soleil, specially created for the anniversary. Also in connection with the jubilee, La Francophonie, the international organization of French-speaking countries and regions, was to hold its biennial summit in Québec City in mid-October.

The venue for many anniversary event is Espace 400e, on the river at the Louise Basin in the Lower Town. Espace 400e is a substantial renovation of the Old Port of Québec Interpretation Centre. The multimedia interactive exhibition "Passengers" was set to run here from early June to mid-October; it deals with the 5 million immigrants who have passed through or settled in Québec City since its origin. Here, too, from early June to late September, are the Ephemeral Gardens, 11 gardens designed by individuals from Britain, Canada, France, and the U.S. Meanwhile, from vantage points around the city, visitors for most of the summer will be able to view the Image Mill, created by celebrated Québec-based playwright and filmmaker Robert Lepage. It involves nighttime projection of images from Québec's history on some 80 concrete silos, resulting in an immense "screen," 2000 ft (600 m) wide and 100 ft (30 m) high.

Annual festivals

Aside from special 400th birthday celebrations, there is the usual Québec City Summer Festival, running in 2008 from July 3 to 13. Called Canada's biggest outdoor arts fest, it features a wide range of music genres, as well as theater, street entertainers, puppet shows, and dances. The town's best known annual event, however, is probably the annual winter carnival, celebrating the coldest season with parades, ice sculptures, races, and more, under the guidance of the 7-ft (2-m) snowman Bonhomme. Reputed to be the biggest winter carnival in the world, the Carnaval de Québec is scheduled in 2009 to run from January 30 to February 15.

Carnaval de Québec
My Québec 2008
Québec City
Québec City Guide
Québec City Tourism

It's a Fact!

The Papahanaumokuakea National Monument in Hawaii (pronounced Pa-pa-hah-now-mo-koo-ah-keh-ah) is America's single largest conservation area, covering 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Obituaries in May 2008

Carlin, George, 71, profane and prolific comedian whose "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" routine led to a landmark Supreme Court indecency ruling in 1978; slated to receive (posthumously) the 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor; Santa Monica, CA, June 22, 2008.

Charisse, Cyd, 86, dancer and actress who waltzed through MGM musicals of the 1950s, notably with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon (1953) and Silk Stockings (1957), and Gene Kelly in Brigadoon (1954); she was married to the singer Tony Martin for 60 years; Los Angeles, CA, June 17, 2008.

d'Harnoncourt, Anne, 64, historian of modern art and director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1982-2008; Philadelphia, PA, June 2, 2008.

Diddley, Bo, 79, pioneer rock ‘n' roll guitarist and songwriter who combined rhythm and blues with rock and roll in a unique beat; best known for his songs "Who Do You Love," and "Bo Diddley;" Archer, FL, June 2, 2008.

Ferrer, Mel, 90, actor, director and producer who starred in the films Lili (1952), War and Roses (1956) and The Sun Also Rises (1957), and appeared on television in Falcon Crest (1981-84); directed Audrey Hepburn, his fourth wife, in several movies; Santa Barbara, CA, June 2, 2008.

McKay, Jim, 86, television sports journalist who covered 10 Olympic Games for ABC television, and hosted the series Wide World of Sports (1961-98); Monkton, MD, June 7, 2008.

Russert, Tim, 59, television journalist who moderated the political affairs show Meet the Press (1991-2008), and served as NBC's Washington Bureau Chief; earlier, served as chief of staff (1977-82) for NY (D) Sen. Daniel Moynihan, and counselor (1983-84) to NY Gov. Mario Cuomo; Washington, DC, June 13, 2008.

Saint-Laurent, Yves, 71, French fashion designer who transformed fashion, notably emphasizing pants and military-inspired peacoats in early collections, and often drawing inspiration from street styles as well as artists such as Picasso and Matisse; Paris, France, June 1, 2008.

Tudor, Tasha, 92, author and illustrator of nearly 100 children's books; Mother Goose (1944), and 1 is One (1956) named Caldecott Honor books for her illustrations; Marlboro, VT, June 18, 2008.

Winston, Stan, 62, Academy Award-winning special effects and make up artist, best known for his dinosaur creations in the Jurassic Park films (1993 & 1997), and work on The Terminator films (1984, 1991 and 2003); Malibu, CA, June 15, 2008.

It's a Fact!

The French revolutionaries were called "sans-culottes," which means "without breeches," which referred to their preference for wearing long trousers rather than the breeches of the aristocracy.

Chronology — June 2008




Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama

     Obama Clinches Democratic Presidential Nomination - The final Democratic primaries took place June 3, with Sen. Barack Obama (IL) winning Montana 56%-41%, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) taking South Dakota 55%-45%. As dozens of Democratic superdelegates - mostly public officeholders and party officials - moved to endorse him, Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination at a rally that night in St. Paul, MN. Obama and Clinton met privately June 5 at the Washington, DC home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, CA). Two days later, Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama in a valedictory speech in Washington, DC. The two former rivals held their first joint campaign rally in Unity, NH, June 27.
     Obama immediately began preparing for the general election campaign against the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (AZ). On June 19, Obama announced that he would become the first major-party candidate to pass up $84.1 mil in public funding (and its associated spending limits), relying instead on his own fundraising. Citing Obama's earlier pledge to accept public financing and spending limits if his opponents did likewise, McCain accused the Democratic senator of breaking "the commitment he made to the American people." McCain - who, like Obama, had opted out of the federal finance system in the primaries - said he still expected to accept public financing. Although McCain and Obama had each raised close to $22 mil in May, Obama held a wide lead in cumulative fundraising, having collected more than $295 mil to McCain's $122 mil since the primary season began.
     Antoin (Tony) Rezko, a prominent fundraiser and supporter of both Obama and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), was convicted June 4 by a federal jury in Chicago on bribery, fraud, and money laundering charges in connection with an influence-peddling scandal. Obama's name came up several times at the trial, but he was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

     Top Air Force Officials Dismissed - Condemning in blunt terms a "pattern of poor performance" in the handling of sensitive military technology, Defense Sec. Robert Gates shook up the Air Force's civilian and military leadership June 5, securing the resignations of Air Force Sec. Michael W. Wynne and Gen. T. Michael (Buzz) Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff. Gates said the dismissals were triggered by a "chain of failures" that had led to the accidental transfer of ballistic-missile components to Taiwan and an Aug. 2007 incident in which a B-52 bomber had mistakenly flown six cruise missiles armed with nuclear weapons from Minot Air Force Base (AFB) in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. On June 9, Gates named Michael B. Donley to replace Wynne as the Air Force's civilian leader, and Gen. Norton A. Schwartz to follow Moseley as chief of staff.
     The service suffered further embarrassment June 18 when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) upheld an appeal by Boeing that held that the Air Force had mishandled the bidding on a $35 bil contract for KC-X aerial refueling tankers. The contract had been awarded to a U.S.-European partnership that included Northrop Grumman and the parent company of Airbus. The GAO recommended that the Air Force reopen the bidding process.


The Supreme Court Historical Society

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy

     Supreme Court Rules on Guantánamo Detainees, Death Penalty, and Gun Rights - The U.S. Supreme Court concluded its 2007-08 term with major rulings in which 5-4 majorities affirmed habeas corpus rights for terror suspects, outlawed capital punishment in child rape cases, and held that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants individual citizens the right to own a gun.
     In a decision issued June 12, the Court held in Boumediene v. Bush that foreign prisoners detained at Guantánamo Bay may challenge their detention by filing a writ of habeas corpus before a federal judge. The majority decision, written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (with Associate Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer concurring), overturned a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that had barred federal courts from hearing habeas corpus pleas from prisoners classified as enemy combatants. Kennedy noted that some of the petitioners had been held for six years without any judicial determination as to whether their detention was lawful. In a stinging dissent, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) warned that the decision undermined the powers of the nation's commander-in-chief and would "almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
     The Court divided along the same lines in Kennedy v. Louisiana, in which a 5-4 majority on June 25 threw out laws in Louisiana and five other states allowing the death penalty as punishment for the rape of a child. The case involved a Louisiana man named Patrick Kennedy, who had been convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 for sexually assaulting his eight-year-old stepdaughter. In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy found that the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishments" made the death penalty inapplicable in individual cases "where the crime did not result, and was not intended to result, in death of the victim."
     Justice Kennedy again cast the deciding vote, this time siding with the four more conservative justices, in the term's most anticipated decision, which addressed gun rights. In D.C. v. Heller, a landmark ruling issued June 26, the Court held that individuals have a constitutional right to own a gun for purposes of self-defense. In striking down a Washington, DC ban on handguns, Justice Scalia's majority decision (joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) held that the Second Amendment "surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home." However, Scalia's decision cautioned that the Court's opinion should not be taken to "cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." In two dissents, both of which were signed by the Court's four more liberal justices, Justice Stevens assailed the majority's Second Amendment interpretation as "overwrought and novel," and Justice Breyer warned that the decision "threatens to throw into doubt the constitutionality of gun laws throughout the United States."

     Congress Overrides Veto on Farm Bill; War Funding Measure Enacted - By votes of 80-14 in the Senate and 317-109 in the House of Representatives, Congress overrode Pres. George W. Bush's veto of a $290 bil farm bill on June 18. The measure - which provides for agricultural subsidies, federal food stamps, foreign food aid, and other farm-related programs for a five-year period - had already been passed in May over an earlier presidential veto. But Congress held a new series of votes to prevent legal challenges to the measure, which had been sent to the White House in May missing 34 pages dealing with international aid and trade because of a clerical error.
     Pres. Bush June 30 signed legislation providing an additional $162 bil for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The new measure raised the cumulative amount provided by Congress for the war in Iraq to more than $650 bil and the cumulative funds allocated to military operations in Afghanistan to nearly $200 bil. Under a compromise negotiated with the White House, the bill also provided for an extension of unemployment benefits and a major expansion of benefits available to veterans under the G.I. Bill, along with $2.7 bil in funds for flooded regions in the Midwest. House members cast a separate vote on the war funding, which passed June 19 by a vote of 268-155; the domestic spending provisions passed by 416-12. The Senate cleared the entire measure June 26 on a 92-6 vote.

     Justice Dept. Settles Lawsuit in Bioterrorism Cases - The Justice Dept. announced the resolution June 27 of a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill, a biological weapons researcher who claimed U.S. government officials had violated his rights and ruined his career when they linked him with a series of deadly anthrax attacks in 2001. Under the settlement, the government admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay Hatfill $2.8 mil in cash and an annuity of $150,000 a year for 20 years. Five people died and at least 17 people were sickened when letters containing anthrax were mailed to U.S. lawmakers and members of the news media during the autumn of 2001. Hatfill, who had worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, MD, was the target of intensive FBI surveillance; in 2002, his name was leaked to reporters, and Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft then publicly called him a "person of interest" in the ongoing criminal inquiry. Hatfill was never charged in the case, which remains unsolved and under investigation.

     Nashiri to Face Capital Charges in 2000 Bombing of USS Cole - Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann said June 30 that U.S. military prosecutors would seek the death penalty against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen of Yemeni descent who had been captured by the U.S. in 2002. Nashiri was accused of "organizing and directing" the Oct. 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole, in which 17 American sailors were killed. Nashiri had confessed to having had a role in the attack, but recanted his confession in March 2007, claiming it was extracted from him by torture prior to his transfer to the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Sept. 2006. CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged in Feb. 2008 that al-Nashiri had been waterboarded. Nashiri is expected to stand trial before a military commission at Guantánamo.



Mays Island in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 2008

     Floods Inundate Iowa, Other Midwestern States - Heavy downpours that began in late May caused rivers throughout the Midwest to overflow their banks in mid-June, claiming at least 24 lives. The floods - the worst to hit the nation's agricultural heartland since 1993 - damaged millions of acres of corn and soybeans and contributed to a worldwide rise in feed and livestock prices. Especially hard hit was Iowa, where more than 38,000 people were forced to evacuate and 83 of the state's 99 counties were declared disaster areas. Iowa's Cedar River crested June 13 at a record 31 ft, damaging more than 4,000 homes in Cedar Rapids and leaving most of the downtown area under water. The flooding also disrupted traffic on the Mississippi River, which was temporarily closed to commercial shipping from Clinton, IA, to south of St. Louis, MO.

     Oil Prices Spike Above $140, as U.S. Stock Values Slide - Rising energy prices, falling home values, declining consumer confidence, and continuing woes in the banking sector contributed to the worst June losses for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) since the Great Depression. U.S. stocks lost $2.1 tril in value during the first half of 2008, and $1.4 tril in June alone. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed June 30 at 11,350.01, down 14.4% since the beginning of the year, and the tech-dependent NASDAQ Composite closed at 2,292.98, a decline of 13.5%.
     In oil futures trading June 30, prices surged above $143 per barrel on international markets before settling at about $140. From April through June, crude oil prices rose 38%, corn 28%, and soybeans 34%. Reflecting the upward pressure in energy and food prices, data released June 13 by the Labor Dept. showed a Consumer Price Index jump of 0.6% in May, the biggest one-month hike since Nov. 2007. As of July 1, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.087, 38% more than a year earlier.
     Pres. Bush June 18 renewed his call for Congress to increase domestic petroleum production by repealing the federal ban on offshore oil drilling and opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, a former supporter of the offshore drilling ban, had called for an end to the federal moratorium June 16, prompting Democrats to accuse him of flip-flopping on the issue.


     Agreement to Resume U.S. Beef Imports Spurs Antigovernment Protests in South Korea - More than 100,000 protesters filled the streets of Seoul June 10, denouncing the government's decision to lift a ban on imports of U.S. beef. South Korea, along with Japan and other nations, had imposed the embargo in 2003 after a U.S. outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad-cow disease." The demonstrations capped weeks of discontent over the economic and trade policies of Pres. Lee Myung-bak's government, particularly developments in its political and economic relationships with the U.S. Despite continuing protests, the Seoul government lifted the last barriers to the entry of American beef June 26 after the U.S. agreed to restrict exports to cattle younger than 30 months, which were believed to pose a reduced risk of BSE.

     Irish Voters Reject Treaty to Strengthen European Union - In a national referendum June 12, voters in Ireland rejected by 53-47% a plan to streamline the European Union. The proposal, known as the Lisbon Treaty, called for appointment of a full-time EU president, strengthening of the EU foreign ministry, and revision of voting procedures so that fewer decisions would require unanimous consent by the EU's 27 member countries. Although the treaty had the support of most of Ireland's government and business leaders, opponents said the complex document would cede too much power to bureaucrats at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Eighteen governments had already ratified the agreement, which replaced a proposed EU constitution that French and Dutch voters had rejected in 2005. The Lisbon Treaty cannot take effect unless all member countries approve it.

     Hundreds Die in Philippines Typhoon, Ferry Disaster - Typhoon Fengshen lashed the Philippines June 21-22, leaving at least 540 people dead, destroying more than 80,000 homes, and displacing 3.6 mil people. Hundreds more apparently died June 21 when the ferry Princess of the Stars ran aground off Sibuyan Island and capsized in the storm, also known in the Philippines as Tropical Cyclone Frank. The ferry carried at least 865 people, of whom only 57 were known to have survived. Rescue efforts were suspended June 27, following the discovery that the ferry had been illegally transporting at least 10 tons of the pesticide endosulfan, which is toxic to humans. In a meeting presided over by Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Philippine cabinet decided July 1 to refloat the vessel in order to complete the recovery effort.

     North Korea Discloses Details of Nuclear Weapons Program, as U.S. Eases Sanctions - In a major step toward easing nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea on June 26 submitted to China a long-awaited declaration describing its nuclear weapons development program. North Korea had pledged in Oct. 2007 to disclose all its nuclear activities as part of six-nation talks coordinated by Beijing and also including the U.S., Russia, Japan, and South Korea. Responding quickly to the North Korean declaration, U.S. Pres. Bush - who in Jan. 2002 had called North Korea part of an "axis of evil" - said the U.S. would immediately exempt the Pyongyang regime from sanctions under the Trading With the Enemy Act and would move in 45 days to rescind the U.S. designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terror. On June 27, North Korean officials allowed international television crews to record the destruction of the cooling tower at the nation's main nuclear weapons facility at Yongbyon, about 60 miles north of the capital. A further sign of a thaw between North Korea and the U.S. was the arrival June 29 of an American ship carrying 37,000 tons of wheat. The Bush administration had pledged some 500,000 tons in food aid to North Korea in May.



Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai

     Mugabe Wins Discredited Election in Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe, 84, who has ruled the southern African nation of Zimbabwe since 1980, was sworn in June 29 for his sixth term as president, after a June 27 runoff vote that was widely condemned by international observers. Mugabe claimed a "sweeping victory," with more than 85% of the votes cast, but official voter turnout was reported at 42%. His lone opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, had withdrawn from the election five days earlier, calling it a "sham," though his name had remained on the ballot.
     At least 86 opposition activists and supporters had been killed and another 3,000 injured in the weeks preceding the runoff. Militias from the ruling ZANU-PF party had issued threats to Zimbabweans who failed to show up at the polls; those who cast votes were highly monitored by election monitors. A 400-person observer mission from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community concluded that the election "did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe." At an African Union summit meeting attended by Mugabe in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the AU passed a resolution July 1 calling for the continuation of regional mediation efforts leading toward a government of national unity. The following day, Tsvangirai said he would refuse to serve as Mugabe's junior partner in a unity government.

     Allied Troop Deaths in Afghanistan Increase, as Iraqi Toll Declines - For the second consecutive month, more U.S. and allied forces were killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq. According to the Associated Press, at least 45 coalition troops, including 27 Americans, died in Afghanistan in June - the highest one-month total since the U.S.-led invasion of Oct. 2001. In Iraq at least 31 coalition troops died in June, of whom 29 were U.S. soldiers. The U.S had about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan; other members of the 40-nation coalition collectively contribute an additional 38,000 troops. U.S. forces in Iraq numbered 144,000; the UK provided about 4,000 troops, with fewer than 6,000 from all other coalition members combined.
     Meeting in Paris June 12, international donors pledged new funding of more than $21 bil to assist Afghan reconstruction projects and help the country fight drugs, poverty, and violence; the U.S. accounted for nearly half the total. Only about $15 bil of some $25 bil in earlier international pledges since 2002 had been delivered. Some of the month's fiercest fighting took place around Kandahar, where Taliban insurgents freed up to 1,200 inmates from Sarposa Prison in a nighttime raid June 13; an estimated 300 freed inmates were considered members of the Taliban. In a report released June 27, U.S. defense officials concluded that the Taliban had "coalesced into a resilient insurgency" and was "likely to maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008." According to UN data, some 700 Afghan civilians were killed during the first half of the year, an increase of more than 60% over the corresponding period in 2007.
     Although still far higher than in Afghanistan, the number of civilian casualties in Iraq continued to decrease. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, the fighting claimed 448 civilian lives in June; that figure represented a significant drop from June 2007. On June 30, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told a press conference that 35 international oil firms had been selected to bid on long-term contracts to raise petroleum production at six of the country's biggest oil fields. Iraq hoped to increase its oil output from the current 2.5 mil barrels to 4.5 mil barrels per day within five years.


     Detroit Red Wings Take Stanley Cup - The Detroit Red Wings won their fourth Stanley Cup championship in 11 years, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, on June 4. After going down three games to one in the best-of-seven series, the Penguins had kept their hopes alive in Detroit two days earlier with a thrilling 4-3 victory in triple overtime, and a desperation shot by the Penguins on home ice in the last seconds of the sixth and final game came within inches of tying the score. Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg, who had 13 goals and 14 assists in the postseason, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
     In NHL regular-season awards announced June 12, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals won the Hart Trophy as MVP, as well as the Lester B. Pearson Award, given to the players' choice for MVP. Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom won his sixth Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman; his teammate Pavel Datsyuk won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward and his third consecutive Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. Hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe received the first-ever NHL Lifetime Achievement Award.

     Big Brown Fails in Triple Crown Bid, as Da' Tara Wins Belmont - Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, wilted at the final turn in the Belmont Stakes June 7 as Da' Tara, a 38-to-1 long shot, took the final jewel in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY. Big Brown trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. criticized jockey Kent Desormeaux, who eased Big Brown to a last-place finish when the horse did not respond to his signals to break ahead of the pack.
     Previously undefeated, Big Brown had been the heavy favorite to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. Varying explanations were offered for his disappointing showing, including a quarter-crack in his left front hoof, a loose shoe on his right hind foot, the stifling heat at the Belmont track, and discontinuance of the regular steroid injections the horse had been receiving through Apr. 15. Michael Iavarone, co-president of International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, owner of Big Brown, said June 22 that all of the more than 50 horses owned by IEAH would be free of steroids and other unnecessary medications by Oct. 1.

     Ivanovic, Nadal Win French Open Singles Titles - Ana Ivanovic of Serbia captured her first Grand Slam women's singles crown June 7, defeating Dinara Safina of Russia, 6-4, 6-3, to win the French Open (Roland Garros) in Paris. Ivanovic, 20, had lost the 2007 French Open to Belgium's Justine Henin, who retired unexpectedly in May 2008. In the men's championship June 8, clay-court master Rafael Nadal won at Roland Garros for the fourth consecutive year. As in 2006 and 2007, the Spaniard's final-round opponent was Roger Federer of Switzerland. But unlike those closely fought matches, the 2008 final was shockingly one-sided, with Nadal beating Federer in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. Federer, who holds 12 career Grand Slam singles titles, has never won the French Open.


Los Alamos National Laboratory

The Roadrunner high-performance computer

     U.S. Supercomputer Breaks "Petaflop Barrier" - The U.S. Department of Energy announced June 9 that a supercomputer jointly developed by IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico had broken the "petaflop threshold," processing more than one quadrillion (or 1,000,000,000,000,000) floating-point operations per second. The Roadrunner, a 250-ton machine, makes use of enhanced Cell microprocessors, which were originally designed for the Sony PlayStation 3 video-game platform. Built at a cost of $133 mil, Roadrunner was developed for use by the National Nuclear Safety Administration to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, but can also be applied to other complex calculations, such as those associated with global climate change or fluctuating financial markets.

     Ken Griffey Jr. Hits 600th Homer - Left-handed slugger Ken Griffey Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds reached a career milestone in Miami June 9, becoming the sixth player in major league baseball history to hit 600 homers. His 413-foot blast came with one man on base in the top of the first inning against Florida Marlins left-hander Mark Hendrickson. Griffey, a 20-year veteran who had spent his first 11 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Sammy Sosa as a member of the 600-home run club.

     Space Shuttle Discovery Completes 14-Day Mission - The space shuttle Discovery touched down June 14 at the Kennedy Space Center, successfully concluding its two-week mission to the International Space Station. The seven-member crew, led by Navy Cmdr. Mark E. Kelly, installed the second of three sections of Japan's Kibo Laboratory. The crew also brought replacement parts to repair the space station toilet's liquid-disposal system, which had failed a week before the shuttle arrived.

     Tony Awards Honor August: Osage County and In the Heights - Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning tragicomedy August: Osage County took home five Tony Awards June 15, including honors for best play, leading actress (Deanna Dunagan), featured actress (Rondi Reed), direction (Anna D. Shapiro), and scenic design (Todd Rosenthal). The Latin-pop musical In the Heights, set in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood, won four awards: best musical, original score (Lin-Manuel Miranda), orchestration (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman), and choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler). The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific won seven Tonys, the most ever for a musical revival, and Stephen Sondheim received a special award for lifetime achievement in the theater.

     Tiger Woods Triumphs at U.S. Open; Knee Problems End 2008 Season - Sidelined for two months following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Tiger Woods roared back to win the U.S. Open June 16 in a sudden-death playoff over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, CA. After Woods and Mediate finished the first 72 holes tied at 283, Tiger birdied the final hole in an 18-hole playoff round to again tie the par 71 posted by the 45-year-old Mediate, who had never won a major championship in his 23 years with the PGA. A par 4 by Woods and a bogey by Mediate on a sudden-death playoff hole gave Tiger the victory, in what Woods called "probably the greatest tournament I've ever had."
     Plagued by pain in his left knee throughout the tournament, Woods announced June 18 that he would miss the remainder of the 2008 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Doctors performed reconstructive surgery on the knee six days later.

     Boston Celtics Win NBA Championship - The Boston Celtics crushed the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, at Boston's TD Banknorth Garden June 17, winning the best-of-seven playoff series, four games to two. Veteran Boston captain Paul Pierce took playoff MVP honors, as the Celtics, coached by Glenn "Doc" Rivers, won their first NBA title since 1986 and the 17th in franchise history. Playing the same relentless defense that had made them the league's top team during the regular season, the Celtics held Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the regular-season MVP, to a 41% field-goal percentage during the Finals.

     Spain Captures Euro 2008 Soccer Title - Spain defeated Germany, 1-0, to win the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Euro 2008 soccer championship in Vienna, Austria, June 29. Fernando Torres's first-half goal provided the margin of victory as Spain won its first UEFA soccer title since 1964. The Spanish team had fallen to France in the 1984 finals and had failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals in the quadrennial tournament from 1988 through 2004.

It's a Fact!

In 1969, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts honored Neil Armstrong and associates with its Best Foreign Television award for their telecast from the Moon.

It's All in the Numbers


278,200,000 - estimated number of pounds of fireworks used in the U.S. in 2006; the figure is up from just 29 million pounds in 1976.

23,400,000 - estimated number of U.S. veterans living in the U.S. in 2008.

688,621 - approximate area, in square miles, of the Northwest Territory (later divided into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota).

3,129 - number of functioning satellites orbiting Earth in January 2008, as counted by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

156 - number of years Hong Kong was formally controlled by Great Britain.

24 - number of years Thurgood Marshall served as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

2 - number of cities in which the Senate met before settling permanently in Washington, DC (New York City, Philadelphia).

1.21 - cost in cents to make and distribute one penny in fiscal year 2006.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Fried in Gold?

Restaurateurs have more on their minds these days than just pleasing customers and monitoring their registers. They are also keeping an eye on their waste bins - specifically, the bins that store their used grease. As cooking oil prices continue to climb, so does frequency of grease robberies from restaurants nationwide. Some of the bandits are merely opportunists seeking a convenient source of biodiesel; others are thieves hoping to profit on the rising price of grease on the market. The price of the oil, which trades as yellow grease on the commodities market, has nearly tripled since 2006, to about 33 cents per pound. A typical fast food restaurant produces 150-250 pounds of used grease every week.

"Fryer grease has become like gold," Mr. Damianidis, a Washington restaurateur whose used grease has disappeared from its 50-gallon storage container at the hands of bandits at least seven times in the last year. "And just over a year ago, I had to pay someone to take it away," he told the New York Times.

Griffin Industries, one of the largest grease collection companies in the country, employs two detectives to investigate thefts around the country. "Theft is theft," said Christopher Griffin, the company's director of legal affairs. "I don't care if you're stealing grease or if you're stealing diamonds."

Houston, We Have a Microblog

The Phoenix Mars Lander is a marvel of technology: assembled mostly from parts built for other spacecraft, it traveled 9 months and about 422 million miles to land on Mars, where it is performing unprecedented tests on the planet's environment and ability to sustain life. But as far as some people are concerned, the real accomplishment is how successful it's been at transmitting its activities via Twitter, the microblogging service that limits messages (referred to as ‘tweets') to 140 characters.

More than 27,000 people follow the Phoenix's Twitter feed - making it the service's seventh most popular. The feed is written by Veronica McGregor, the news services manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the first person. On the run-up to its landing on the surface of Mars, a quick succession of tweets kept users current with developments, such as "Atmospheric entry has started. time to get REALLY nervous. Now I'm in the ‘seven minutes of terror.'"

The Twitter is seen as a way to spread NASA news to "a new generation of folks," said Rhea Borja, a member of McGregor's team. The content of the messages is very much shaped by the medium. Consider a recent tweet that had space enthusiasts and twitterers alike cheering: "Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!"

It's a Fact!

John Dillinger saw the film Manhattan Melodrama starring Clark Gable the night he was shot.

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


© Edward A. Thomas

The Mermaid Parade, riding the Cyclone, the Parachute Jump, and the Child's Restaurant Building - Coney Island 06/14/08

I learned about Blue Star families on Memorial Day. The Blue Star Service Banner was created during World War I to be hung in the window of a family with a member who is serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The American Legion is still providing these banners to families today. The term The Blue Star is also the title of the Tony Earley book I just finished reading, a beautifully written coming-of-age story about 17-year-old Jim, whose family is emerging from the Depression as the country heads towards World War II.

Last month I mentioned that I planned to attend the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island; it proved to be an interesting day. The costumes ranged from very impressive to very bizarre. That day I got to ride the Cyclone for the first time in my life (which is a thrilling ride), and got to see two historic relics of years gone by. The steel ribcage of the Parachute Jump, which was created for the 1939-40 World's Fair (held in Queens), and moved to Brooklyn in 1941, where it continued serving as a ride until 1968, stands in Coney Island. The ride has been designated a landmark, as has the former Child's Restaurant building, built in 1924, which has some wonderful architectural details including column heads with a range of sea creatures, and beautiful medallions of nautical themes.

Some people in the news include Lt. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, who Pres. Bush has nominated to be the first female four-star general, in charge of the Army Materiel Command. Typically, the way to becoming a four-star general is through the military, but women are excluded from combat jobs. Today, women represent 14% of all those on active duty... If Oscar Pistorius makes the South African team, he will become eligible to compete in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games considered a feat because he is a double-amputee record-holding runner. There has been some controversy about his prosthetics - the "Cheetah Flex-Foot" - because some fear that they give him an unfair advantage, but an international court ruled that he'll be eligible to run... Marc Ecko, a clothing designer, paid $752,467 for Barry Bond's record-breaking 756th home run ball in 2007, and then marked it with a laser-cut asterisk - a reference to Bonds possibly using performance-enhancing drugs to obtain his record - before donating the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It was finally accepted by the Hall on July 1, 2008.

People are talking about potential U.S. medal winners in swimming events at the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics, especially Michael Phelps who makes the top of the list. Phelps, who has 8 medals from the 2004 (6 gold) games, will be trying to compete for 8 gold medals this time around. Others being talked up include; Dara Torres, who won 9 medals in four prior Olympic Games and continues to set records, and Katie Hoff, who set freestyle records in this year's Olympic trials.

I listen to my iPod at work all day, and heard Mikis Theodorakis' Canto Olympico earlier today, just one of many stirring pieces on the album Summon the Heroes, music which was featured in the 1996 Olympic Games. Theodorakis is a popular Greek composer who also composed the score for the film Zorba the Greek. With nearly 13,000 songs and very diverse taste, one minute I'll be listening to Kristin Chenoweth singing Popular from the show Wicked, then The Plain White T's performing Hey There Delilah, and then a complete switch in gears to selections from Gustav Holst's The Planet Suites.


Left to right: The Grand Duchesses Olga & Maria, Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Tsarevich Alexei, and Grand Duchess Tatiana.

I'll admit it, I coupon shop. If you're looking for a discount you might want to check out Coupon Mountain and perhaps you'll find the deal of the day!

On my Facebook page there's an application called "My Sandbox" that allows you to post photographs that represent things that interest you, so here are a few of the things in the box: something I had as a child and still have - Barrel of Monkeys; Denny Crane, the colorful character played by William Shatner on Boston Legal; a chimpanzee because I think they're so cute; PEZ Dispensers, because it's something I collect; an old camera, because I collect them too and love to take photographs; a Broadway street sign, because I love New York theatre; Lucy, because I Love Lucy; Hermey, the dentist from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Helen Keller, because she did amazing things in her lifetime; and The Amazing Race, a show I continue to love watching, with the knowledge that I probably wouldn't make it one day on the show!

Ninety years ago this July, Russia's last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family, were executed in Yekaterinburg in the Urals. For nearly three quarters of a century, mystery surrounded the deaths and burial of the Tsar's family until the remains of all but two of the family (as well as their physician and 3 servants) were discovered in 1991. Subsequently, the two remaining children were found in 2007. A state funeral was held on the 80th anniversary of their death, and the Tsar now lies with every Tsar back to Peter the Great. In April 2000 the family was canonized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and passion bearers of the Russian Orthodox Church. During the years before the discovery of the remains, many "pretenders" stepped forward representing themselves as some of the children of the last Tsar. The most famous were those who suggested they were Grand Duchess Anastasia. Anna Anderson, who spent nearly 64 years trying to prove herself (she was in fact a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska) was the inspiration of the film Anastasia (1956) with Ingrid Bergman, and Eugenia Smith, the author of Autobiography of HIH Anastasia Nicholaevna of Russia.

Quote of the Month

"Pro football gave me a good sense of perspective to enter politics, I'd already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy."
     - Jack Kemp, (1935- ), former professional football player and NY congressman, vice presidential candidate (1976)

© 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 Andy Steinitz.

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

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