World Almanac Newsletter Archive
February 2008 Newsletter
Volume 08, Number 02 — February 2008
What's in this issue?
February Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — February
Travel - Dallas, Texas
Obituaries - January 2008
The Best of the World Almanac Blog
Chronology - January 2008
It's All in the Numbers
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us
February 2 - Laura Ingalls Wilder Gingerbread Social (Pomona, CA)
February 2-24 - Chinese New Year Festival and Parade (San Francisco, CA)
February 4 - Super Bowl XLII (Phoenix, AZ)
February 5 - Mardi Gras
February 7-9 - Smoky Mountains Storytelling Festival (Pigeon Forge, TN)
February 7-18 - Florida State Fair (Tampa, FL)
February 8 - Reenactment of Cowtown's Last Old West Gunfight (Fort Worth, TX)
February 9-10 - Chocolate Fest (Chicago, IL)
February 10 - NFL Pro Bowl (Honolulu, HI)
February 11-12 - Westminster Dog Show
February 12 - Darwin Day
February 14-16 - Simplot Games (Pocatello, ID)
February 15-18 - Great Backyard Bird Count
February 15-24 - National Date Festival (Indio, CA)
February 16-24 - La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson, AZ)
February 17 - Daytona 500; NBA All-Star Game (New Orleans, LA)
February 21-23 - American Birkebeiner Race (Cable to Hayward, WI)
February 24 - Academy Awards
February 29 - Leap Year Day
February 29-March 2 - American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Convention (Brooklyn, NY)
February 2 - Groundhog Day
February 2-5 - Carnival (Brazil)
February 5 - Constitution Day (Mexico)
February 6 - Ash Wednesday
February 7 - Chinese New Year
February 14 - Valentine's Day
February 18 - Presidents' Day
It's a Fact!
Juneau, Alaska, can be reached by cruise ship, ferry, or air, but it is the only U.S. city that cannot be reached by road.
|01||1865||Pres. Abraham Lincoln approves the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.|
|02||1948||President Truman urges Congress to adopt a civil rights program, including a federal law against lynching and the end of "Jim Crow" legislation.|
|03||1988||In the "Baby M" case, a New Jersey court rules that surrogate mother contracts that involve payments are illegal.|
|04||1948||Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a former British colony, becomes independent.|
|05||1956||A boycott of city buses begins in Montgomery, Alabama after Rosa Parks, a black woman, is fined for refusing to give up her seat when white passengers enter the bus.|
|06||1788||Massachusetts enters the Union as the sixth of the 13 original states.|
|07||1821||An American sealer, Capt. John Davis, makes the first known landing on Antarctica.|
|08||1587||Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, is beheaded in England on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I.|
|09||1825||After no candidate wins a majority of Electoral College votes, John Quincy Adams is elected president by the U.S. House of Representatives.|
|10||1763||A peace treaty is signed ending the French and Indian War, with France losing Canada and the Midwest.|
|11||1945||The Yalta Conference ends in the Crimea, with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin agreeing on occupying Germany.|
|12||2004||The city of San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.|
|13||1945||Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, causes a fire that kills 135,000 and destroys the city.|
|14||1929||The "St. Valentine's Day massacre" takes place in Chicago, with gangsters killing 7 members of a rival crime ring.|
|15||1898||In Cuba, the U.S. battleship Maine blows up in Havana harbor, killing all 260 aboard and leading to calls to "Remember the Maine."|
|16||1968||The first 911 telephone emergency system in the United States goes into operation, in Haleyville, AL.|
|17||1913||Modern art is brought to America by the opening of the New York Armory Show.|
|18||1861||Jefferson Davis is named president of the Confederacy's provisional government.|
|19||1997||Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping dies in Beijing at the age of 92.|
|20||1792||Pres. George Washington signs an act that creates the U.S. Post Office.|
|21||1885||The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, D.C.|
|22||2006||The XX Winter Olympic Games conclude in Turin, Italy.|
|23||1945||During World War II, the U.S. flag is raised at Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.|
|24||1868||The U.S. House of Representatives votes to impeach Pres. Andrew Johnson.|
|25||1986||In the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos flees the country as Corazon Aquino is inaugurated president.|
|26||1848||The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, is published.|
|27||1948||The Soviet Union gains complete control over Czechoslovakia through the Czech Communist Party in a bloodless coup.|
|28||1986||Swedish Prime Min. Olof Palme is shot and killed while walking down a Stockholm street.|
|29||2004||Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigns as President of Haiti following popular rebel uprising.|
|01||1968||Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley and ex-wife of Michael Jackson (Memphis, TN)|
|02||1923||Liz Smith, gossip columnist (Fort Worth, TX)|
|03||1950||Morgan Fairchild, actress (Dallas, TX)|
|04||1948||Alice Cooper, singer/songwriter (Detroit, MI)|
|05||1934||Hank Aaron, baseball player (Mobile, AL)|
|06||1917||Zsa Zsa Gabor, actress (Budapest, Hungary)|
|07||1978||Ashton Kutcher, actor (Cedar Rapids, IA)|
|08||1968||Gary Coleman, actor (Zion, IL)|
|09||1942||Carole King, singer/songwriter (Brooklyn, NY)|
|10||1961||George Stephanopoulos, TV commentator and former presidential adviser (Fall River, MA)|
|11||1934||Tina Louise, actress (New York, NY)|
|12||1968||Josh Brolin, actor (Los Angeles, CA)|
|13||1950||Peter Gabriel, singer/musician (London, England)|
|14||1942||Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor, financial information/media entrepreneur (Medford, MA)|
|15||1935||Susan Brownmiller, feminist author (Brooklyn, NY)|
|16||1920||Patty Andrews, singer (Minneapolis, MN)|
|17||1963||Michael Jordan, basketball player (Brooklyn, NY)|
|18||1931||Toni Morrison, novelist (Lorain, OH)|
|19||1940||Smokey Robinson, singer/songwriter (Detroit, MI)|
|20||1924||Gloria Vanderbilt, fashion designer (New York, NY)|
|21||1963||William Baldwin, actor (Massapequa, NY)|
|22||1950||Julius Erving, basketball player (Roosevelt, NY)|
|23||1965||Michael Dell, founder and chairman, Dell Computers (Houston, TX)|
|24||1921||Abe Vigoda, actor (New York, NY)|
|25||1928||Larry Gelbart, writer/producer (Chicago, IL)|
|26||1928||Fats Domino, singer/songwriter (New Orleans, LA)|
|27||1980||Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Pres. Bill Clinton (Little Rock, AR)|
|28||1948||Bernadette Peters, singer/actress (New York, NY)|
|29||1976||Ja Rule, singer (Queens, NY)|
"Live Large. Think Big."
The city's motto seems apt. The Big D, as Dallas calls itself, is a prosperous Texas metropolis, the biggest component of a sprawling metropolitan area with 5 million-plus people, and the major financial and business center of the U.S. Southwest. It has a larger-than-life image in popular culture. For countless TV viewers it's indelibly linked with the prime-time soap opera of the same name that dominated the air waves for 13 seasons (1978-91). For football fans it's the bastion of the Cowboys, often dubbed America's team. Shopaholics know it as the home of retailing icon Neiman Marcus (which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2007). Aside from all this, the city has been a center of culture ever since the 1850s when a group of Europeans arrived to found an artists' colony called La Réunion. Today's visitors can visit a variety of distinguished museums and gaze at a growing number of well designed buildings by Pritzker Prize-winning architects
Getting the lay of the land
A good way to start a visit to the city is to climb, or ride, to the top of one its tallest structures, the 50-story Reunion Tower. It's crowned by a geodesic sphere with an observation deck and panoramic view. The megalopolis has its share of skyscrapers, but it also has a fair amount of green space - more than 400 parks within Dallas proper. Around White Rock Lake, about 15 minutes from downtown, a 17-mi (27-km) path attracts both hikers and cyclists. Also located in this area is the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, covering some 66 acres (26.7 ha). Perhaps the best known of its features is the 6.5-acre (2.5-ha) Jonsson Color Garden, which puts on a spectacular show especially in the spring (more than 2000 varieties of azaleas) and fall (chrysanthemums).
Interior of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas
Many of the city's cultural attractions are situated in the 19-block downtown Arts District, which covers 68.4 acres (27.7 ha) and is said to be the biggest urban arts district in the U.S. Here you can find the Dallas Museum of Art, with its notable collections of American silver and African works. Across the street from the museum is the Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened in 2003; it offers a stunning selection of modern sculptures, set out in a walled garden and in a glass-roofed gallery designed by Renzo Piano Nearby is the Crow Collection of Asian Art, featuring hundreds of paintings, metal and stone objects, scrolls, and architectural pieces produced in China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia during the past three millennia.Another highlight of the Arts District is the acoustically fine Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by I. M. Pei (who also was responsible for the Dallas City Hall and the 60-story skyscraper Fountain Place). In the offing is an immense, state-of-the-art Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, with a 10-acre (4-ha) Performance Park. Ground was broken in 2005, and the center's opening is expected in 2009. The project includes the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, designed by Norman Foster, and the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, from Joshua Prince-Ramus's New York arm of Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
Piano, Pei, Foster, and Koolhaas are all Pritzker Prize laureates. Another superstar of architecture making a key contribution to the reshaping of Dallas is Spain's Santiago Calatrava, responsible for two (or three, if funding allows) new bridges over the city's Trinity River. The first is scheduled for completion in 2010.
North and east
The Meadows Museum, on the campus of Southern Methodist University, north of downtown, boasts one of the world's best collections of Spanish art outside Spain, including fine works by Goya, Murillo, Picasso, and Velázquez.
Located about 2 mi (3 km) east of downtown is the 277-acre (112-ha) Fair Park, worthy of a visit for many reasons. It was the site of the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 - which accounts for the plethora of Art Deco-style buildings to be seen there. Today Fair Park is a national historic landmark and the venue for the biggest state fair in the U.S. Held annually in the fall, the Texas State Fair in 2008 takes place on September 26 to October 19. Rides at the fair include the Texas Star, at 212 ft (64.6 m) the tallest Ferris wheel in North America.
Fair Park also is the location of the Cotton Bowl stadium and the Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Several museums are there as well, including the African American Museum; the Museum of Nature and Science (result of a 2006 merger by the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Science Place); and the high-tech, interactive Women's Museum, which opened in 2000 and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Last but not least, there is the Museum of the American Railroad; its exhibits include Big Boy, built in the 1940s and the largest and most powerful steam locomotive of its time; The most notable Art Deco structure in the park is the Hall of State, a shrine to Texas history that includes a library, exhibits, and the Hall of Heroes, with bronze representations of prominent figures from the state's period as a republic.
Dealey Plaza with a view back to the former School Book Depository Building
Two major sites of historical interest are located near the heart of the city. The 13-acre (5.3-ha) Old City Park just south of downtown contains the Dallas Heritage Village, a living history museum that shows what life was like in north Texas between 1840 and 1910.
On a sadder note, a red X on the pavement At Dealey Plaza marks the place where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 by gunfire from the sixth floor of what was then the Texas School Book Depository. Today the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza provides exhibits documenting Kennedy's life, murder, and legacy. About a block away is the John F. Kennedy Memorial, designed by Philip Johnson, yet another of the Pritzker laureates represented by works in Dallas.
It's a Fact!
The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, were the first Olympic Games to use artificial snow.
Bowman, Christopher, 40, U.S. men's figure skating figure who won two singles championships in 1989 and 1992, and medals in the 1989 & 1990 world champions; North Hills, CA, Jan. 10, 2008.
Christodoulos, 69, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, he eased tensions with the Catholic church by allowing Pope John Paul II to visit Greece in 2001; Athens, Greece, Jan. 28, 2008.
Margaret Truman (right) with her parents Bess and Harry Truman
Daniel, Margaret Truman, 83, singer and novelist, who was the only child of Pres. Harry S. Truman; she was known for writing Washington, D.C.-based mysteries; Chicago, IL, Jan. 29, 2008.
Fisher, Bobby, 64, considered one of the world's greatest chess players, he was the only American to ever win the official World Chess Championship (1972); he became reclusive and gave up his U.S. citizenship; Reykjavik, Iceland, Jan. 17, 2008
Hillary, (Sir) Edmund, New Zealand mountaineer and explorer who with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay became the first to scale the world's tallest peak, the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest (1953); Auckland, New Zealand, Jan. 11, 2008.
Hinckley, Gordon B., 97, president/prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, who led the Mormons in an era of expansion (1995-2007), increasing membership from 9 to 13 million; Salt Lake City, UT, Jan. 27, 2008.
Knerr, Richard, 82, co-founder of Wham-O, the company that invented the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee; Arcadia, CA, Jan. 18, 2008.
Ledger, Heath, 28, Australian actor nominated as Best Actor for his role as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain (2005); New York, NY, Jan. 22, 2008.
Nettleton, Lois, 80, Emmy and Tony nominated actress known for her comedic and dramatic roles; Woodland Hills, CA, Jan. 18, 2008.
Suharto, president of Indonesia (1967-1998), who presided over a period of economic growth; he was later charged with corruption and human rights abuses and driven from office in 1998; Jakarta, Indonesia; Jan. 27, 2008.
Pleshette, Suzanne, 70, actress best known for her television role as Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), and who appeared in the film The Birds (1963); Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 17, 2008.
Gold! - Andrew Steinitz
California State Library
"Gum Shan Meets El Dorado" Quarter plate daguerreotype by J. B. Starkweather (c. 1852)
James W. Marshall was merely hired to build a sawmill for John Sutter along the American River at what is now Coloma, CA, but when he found small pieces of gold in the mill's tailrace on this day 160 years ago it touched off a rush for riches.
More than 100,000 people moved to California in the following years - so many that it entered the Union on Sept. 9, 1850 with the nickname "The Golden State." Very few made their riches through gold, but some found success in other ways, including Levi Strauss (jeans), James McClatchy (newspapers and publishing), and Leland Stanford (railroad tycoon and founder of Stanford Univ.).
The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco has a chronology of the gold rush and accounts by Marshall, Sutter, and several "Argonauts of 49" (49ers for short).
The California State Library has posted some of their manuscripts pertaining to the gold rush in an online exhibit of ephemera, including some by Marshall and Sutter.
Flickr: The Library of Congress Pilot Project - C. Alan Joyce
Library of Congress
Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Texas
No, it's not a World Almanac editor's meeting, though we do wear remarkably similar uniforms... this is a photo pulled from a terrific new collaboration between the Library of Congress and Flickr. The LOC has placed thousands of images from two major collections on Flickr, and invites the public to browse the collections and contribute tags, notes, and comments to individual photos. User-generated data might (or might not) end up in the LOC's own database; for the time being it's just a test program, focused on three major goals:
* To share photographs from the Library's collections with people who enjoy images but might not visit the Library's own Web site.
* To gain a better understanding of how social tagging and community input could benefit both the Library and users of the collections.
* To gain experience participating in Web communities that are interested in the kinds of materials in the Library's collections.
There's really nothing more to say except: clear a few hours from your schedule, and start browsing some fascinating photographs.
It's a Fact!
The Third Punic War, between Rome and Carthage, led to the destruction of the city of Carthage in 146 BC; some 2,100 years later, on February 5, 1985, the mayors of Rome and Carthage met in Tunis, Algeria, and signed a friendship treaty declaring the end of the war.
First Presidential Primaries and Caucuses Held - By the end of Jan., Sen. John McCain (AZ) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) emerged as front-runners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (IL) vied for the lead in the Democratic contest.
* Jan. 3: Iowa caucuses - In the first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR) captured 34% of the Republican vote, followed by Romney with 25%; former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN) and McCain trailed with 13% each. Among Democrats, Obama won 38% of the state convention delegates awarded, followed by former Sen. John Edwards (NC) and Clinton with 30%. Two Democratic senators, Joe Biden (DE) and Chris Dodd (CT), both received less than 1% of the vote and withdrew from the race that same evening. On Jan. 5, Romney (67%) easily won the Wyoming caucuses over Thompson (25%).
* Jan. 8: New Hampshire primaries - McCain, who had defeated George W. Bush in the New Hampshire Republican primary in 2000, won the Granite State again in 2008, taking 37% of the vote, followed by Romney (32%) and Huckabee (11%). Among the Democrats, Clinton defeated Obama, 39% to 37%, with Edwards trailing at 17%. Gov. Bill Richardson (D, NM), who had finished a distant fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, formally announced that he was ending his presidential campaign Jan. 10.
* Jan. 15: Michigan primaries - Mitt Romney, who was born in Michigan and whose father had been governor there, won the Republican primary with 39% of the vote, followed by McCain (30%) and Huckabee (16%). No delegates were to be awarded from the Democratic primary because Michigan opted to hold it earlier than the national party guidelines allowed. Clinton (55%) defeated an "uncommitted" ballot option (40%); Edwards and Obama had withdrawn their names from the ballot.
* Jan. 19: Nevada caucuses - Romney cruised to victory with 51% of the vote, trailed by Rep. Ron Paul (TX) with 14% and McCain with 13%. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, CA) ended his campaign that night; he endorsed Huckabee Jan. 23. Among Democrats, Clinton was awarded 51% of the state convention delegates, Obama 45%, and Edwards 4%.
* Jan. 19: South Carolina Republican primary - McCain, who had lost South Carolina to George W. Bush in 2000, won this time with 33% of the vote. Huckabee took 30%, Thompson 16%, and Romney 15%. Thompson, whose campaign strategy had depended heavily on winning here, dropped his bid for the nomination Jan. 22. Facing an upcoming primary challenge for his House seat, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) said Jan. 24 that he was also leaving the presidential race.
* Jan. 26: South Carolina Democratic primary - South Carolina Democrats delivered a landslide win to Obama (55%) over Clinton (27%) and Edwards (18%). Former Pres. Bill Clinton's widely publicized criticism of Obama was said to be a key issue in the contest. Obama picked up the endorsement Jan. 28 of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D, MA); Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late Pres. John F. Kennedy, had also endorsed Obama in a New York Times editorial published Jan. 27.
* Jan. 29: Florida primaries - Boosted by a late endorsement from popular Gov. Charlie Crist (R, FL), McCain captured the winner-take-all Republican primary over Romney by 36% to 31%. Among Democrats, Clinton won 50%, Obama 33%, and Edwards 14%. Because Florida, like Michigan, had violated party primary-scheduling guidelines, Democratic candidates had pledged not to campaign there, and no Democratic delegates were at stake. However, in a statement issued Jan. 25, Clinton had said she would ask delegates pledged to her from other states to support reinstating the Michigan and Florida delegations at the national party convention in August.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had led all GOP candidates in national polls for most of 2007, finished a poor third in the Republican primary with 15%; he pulled out of the race and endorsed McCain Jan. 30. Edwards, whose campaign had focused on the problems of poor and working-class Americans, left the Democratic race that same day.
FDA Upholds Safety of Meat and Milk from Cloned Animals - In a final risk assessment issued Jan. 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that meat and milk from healthy clones of cattle, swine, and goats is "as safe to eat as that from their more conventionally-bred counterparts." Federal regulators said they did not expect to require special labeling for products from cloned animals or their offspring, although they left open the possibility that meat that did not come from cloned sources could be labeled as such. The ruling did not cover other species, including sheep, for which the FDA had insufficient data. In a statement issued that same day, Bruce Knight, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, estimated that the nation had about 600 animal clones, mostly breeding stock. He urged U.S. suppliers to "maintain their voluntary moratorium on sending milk and meat from animal clones into the food supply during this transition time."
Congress Passes $696 Bil Defense Authorization Measure - By a vote of 369-46 on Jan. 16, the House passed a measure authorizing $696 bil for national defense in fiscal year 2008. The legislation, which included a 3.5% pay raise for troops and funding for improvements to veterans' health care, passed the Senate Jan. 22 by a 91-3 margin. The new law also contained a provision allowing American victims of state-sponsored abuse to sue a foreign government in court and to be compensated by the seizure of foreign assets in the United States. Pres. Bush had vetoed an earlier version of the measure, citing concerns that it would expose the current Iraqi government to costly lawsuits brought by victims of Saddam Hussein. The revised legislation provided a presidential waiver for Iraq, and Bush signed the bill Jan. 28.
U.S. Department of Justice
Padilla Gets 17-Year Prison Sentence - Convicted in Aug. 2007 of conspiracy to commit murder and of providing material support for international "violent jihad," Jose Padilla was sentenced Jan. 22 to 17 years and 4 months in prison. Addressing a crowded courtroom in Miami, U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke said she would credit Padilla, a U.S. citizen, with the three and one-half years he had been held in a military brig after Pres. Bush declared him to be an enemy combatant. Padilla had been arrested in Chicago in May 2002 on suspicion of plotting to carry out a radioactive "dirty bomb" attack on American soil, but that charge did not appear in the indictment returned in Nov. 2005 by a federal grand jury. Two co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi - who had been indicted the year before Padilla and whose requests to be tried separately had been denied - were convicted along with Padilla. Hassoun, a Palestinian computer programmer who had recruited Padilla, was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months. Jayyousi, a Jordanian-born public school administrator, received a sentence of 12 years and 8 months.
Federal Reserve Slashes Interest Rates, as Recession Fears Grow - The Federal Reserve Jan. 22 cut two key interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point, lowering the target for the federal funds rate to 3.5% and the discount rate to 4%. In taking the emergency action a week before its regularly scheduled meeting, the Fed cited "a weakening of the economic outlook," including slow job growth and deterioration in the housing and credit markets. The rate cuts - announced about an hour before New York exchanges were scheduled to open - also reflected concern over steep drops on European and Asian financial markets and forecasts of a sharp decline in U.S. stock prices, which had already fallen by 15% since Oct. 2007, and around 10% in January alone. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plummeted more than 450 points in early trading that day, but the Fed's action seemed to help reverse the sell-off, and the single-day decline was limited to 1%. The Fed announced an additional reduction of one-half of a percentage point Jan. 30, cutting the federal funds rate to 3% and the discount rate to 3.5%. The DJIA closed Jan. 31 at 12,650.36, down 4.6% for the month. The Standard & Poor's 500 had a January loss of 6.3%, and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 9.9%.
Pres. Bush, House Leaders Agree on Stimulus Plan - Seeking to revive the faltering economy, Pres. Bush and leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives announced Jan. 24 that they had reached agreement on an economic stimulus package. The bipartisan plan called for the Internal Revenue Service to send rebate checks to an estimated 117 mil taxpayers. Most would receive rebates of $600 per individual or $1,200 per couple, plus $300 per child; single taxpayers with adjusted gross income of more than $75,000 ($150,000 for couples) would see their rebates reduced or eliminated. The bill also contained provisions to prop up the mortgage market and help homeowners threatened with foreclosure. Bush had outlined the basic principles of the emergency measure Jan. 18.
In his State of the Union address Jan. 28, Bush urged Congress to pass the stimulus plan as soon as possible. The next day, with little debate, the House approved a $146 bil package by a vote of 385-35. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee began considering a broader measure that would allocate rebates differently, most notably by removing the income cap and including those over age 62 who survive exclusively on Social Security, and would also fund a 13-week extension of jobless benefits.
Sri Lanka Truce Ends, as Fighting Intensifies - The Sri Lanka government Jan. 3 annulled its six-year-old truce with Tamil rebels, due to expire Jan. 16. More than 5,000 people had been killed in clashes between government troops, paramilitary forces, and Tamil insurgents since the ceasefire broke down at the end of 2005. According to the defense ministry, at least 834 rebels and 32 soldiers died in January, as fighting escalated in northern Sri Lanka. Nation Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake was killed Jan. 8 when a roadside bomb blast hit his vehicle north of Colombo.
Boy Scout Thwarts Assassination Attempt in Maldives - Authorities in Maldives credited Mohammed Jaisham Ibrahim, a 15-year-old Boy Scout, with saving Pres. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom from assassination Jan. 8 on the island of Hoarafushi. The teenager, who was wearing his Scout uniform, was waiting to greet Gayoom when he saw a man wielding a knife emerge from the crowd and lunge toward the president. The boy made a grab for the blade, cutting his left hand, before security guards subdued the assailant, later identified as 20-year-old Mohamed Murushid. Police later arrested several others in connection with the attack. Gayoom, who was unhurt, has ruled the Indian Ocean nation since 1978.
UN Photo/Ryan Brown
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
Chief UN Peacekeeper Warns of Failure in Darfur - The UN's under-secretary general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, warned the Security Council Jan. 9 of "a grave deterioration of the security situation" in the Darfur region of Sudan. Guéhenno said international peacekeepers lacked sufficient troops and equipment to improve conditions in war-torn Darfur, where violence had claimed more than 200,000 lives and left 2.5 mil homeless. A joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) had assumed responsibility for Darfur Dec. 31, 2007. UNAMID was supposed to have 26,000 members, but only 9,000 had been deployed.
Guéhenno blamed obstructionism by the Sudanese government for some of the problems the peacekeepers faced. Sudan's minister of federal affairs, Abdel Basit Sabderat, confirmed Jan. 20 that Musa Hilal, a leader of the Arab janjaweed militia, had been appointed as a government adviser. Hilal was described by Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, as "the poster child for janjaweed atrocities in Darfur."
Pres. Bush Tours Middle East - Pres. George W. Bush toured the Middle East Jan. 9-16, making stops in Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. In his first visit to Israel as president, he conferred with Israeli Prime Min. Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas. After visiting Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, Bush called for an end to the Israeli "occupation that began in 1967," endorsed the idea of compensating Palestinian refugees for the loss of their homes when the state of Israel was established, and pressed for a territorial compromise between Israel and the Palestinians that would reflect "current realities." On Jan. 13, while in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Bush welcomed democratic reforms in the Gulf region and called for unity against Iran, which he portrayed as "the world's leading state sponsor of terror." In Saudi Arabia Jan. 14-15, Bush held private meetings with King Abdullah, discussing Saudi support for reconstruction in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the fight against terror. Bush also urged OPEC oil producers to relieve upward pressure on petroleum prices by increasing production.
In a video posted on the Internet Jan. 6, a U.S.-born member of al-Qaeda had encouraged fighters to respond to Bush's Middle East visit and "receive him not with flowers or clapping but with bombs and booby-trapped vehicles."
Legislative Struggles, Military Battles Continue in Iraq - Iraq's parliament passed legislation Jan. 12 dealing with the treatment of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Pres. Bush hailed the measure as "an important step toward reconciliation." After Hussein's ouster in 2003, the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority had ordered a purge of thousands of Baathists from public-sector jobs. Subsequently, many Baathists had been allowed to return to government. The new law, while formally ratifying this policy, also barred some former party members from serving in the Defense and Interior ministries and other key government departments. Under the provision, up to 27,000 ex-Baathists, most of them Sunni Muslims, could lose their jobs in the Shiite-dominated government, while anywhere from 13,000-31,000 former Baathists could re-enter government work. The measure was approved Feb. 3 by Iraq's three-member Presidency Council, despite objections from Sunni Vice Pres. Tariq al-Hashemi.
Much of the military action in Iraq centered on the northern region. In Diyala Province, U.S. and Iraqi troops Jan. 8 launched Operation Iron Harvest, targeting an area that had become a stronghold of the jihadist group al-Qaeda in Iraq. In and around Mosul, insurgents carried out a series of attacks: an apartment building blast killed at least 38 people Jan. 23, a suicide bomber assassinated a provincial police chief and 2 other officers Jan. 24, and five U.S. soldiers lost their lives in a roadside bombing Jan. 28. The death toll among U.S. troops rose to 40 during Jan. The World Health Organization released a study Jan. 9 that estimated that 151,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of violence between March 2003 and June 2006. The study was based on a more general survey of family health in Iraq.
Hamas Breaks Israeli Blockade of Gaza - Israeli Defense Min. Ehud Barak Jan. 17 ordered the closure of all Gaza border crossings to commercial traffic, after a week in which Hamas fighters had intensified their rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli border towns, and Israel had staged retaliatory raids against Gaza militants. As supplies of food, fuel, and electricity ran short, Egyptian Pres. Hosni Mubarak interceded with Barak, who agreed to permit emergency shipments of fuel and medicine to enter the Palestinian territory beginning Jan. 22. The following day, Hamas blew up part of the border wall between Gaza and Egypt at the city of Rafah, allowing tens of thousands of Palestinians to stream across the border and stock up on consumer goods. When Egypt tried to reseal the border, Hamas bulldozed other sections of the wall. The episode became a source of embarrassment for the government of Israeli Prime Min. Olmert, who Jan. 27 told Palestinian Pres. Abbas - a rival of Hamas - that Israel would lift the blockade on essential supplies to Gaza. Egyptian troops succeeded in closing their side of the border Feb. 3.
Thailand Returns to Civilian Rule - The military council that had ruled Thailand for 16 months disbanded Jan. 22, ceding power to a newly elected parliament. The elections, held Dec. 23, 2007, had been won by the party of former Prime Min. Thaksin Shinawatra, whom the military had ousted in a Sept. 2006 coup. On Jan. 28 the Thai legislature chose Samak Sundaravej - a Thaksin loyalist - to head the new government. Southern Thailand faces a continuing Islamic insurgency that has claimed more than 2,800 lives since Jan. 2004.
French Bank Blames Huge Loss on "Rogue Trader" - Société Générale, one of France's oldest and largest banks, revealed Jan. 24 that it had lost more than $7 billion in what bank officials described as unauthorized trading in stock-index futures on European markets. The bank blamed a mid-level employee, Jérôme Kerviel, for carrying out a series of "fictitious and fraudulent" operations that had not been uncovered until Friday, Jan. 18. The bank's efforts to reduce its exposure were believed to have contributed to a dramatic drop in European markets the following Monday. The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index fell 5.8% on Jan. 21 - its steepest decline since Sept. 11, 2001. French prosecutors launched a criminal inquiry Jan. 25 after Société Générale accused Kerviel of computer fraud and falsifying bank records. The bank's own role came into question Jan. 28 when French investigators said Kerviel's trading on the Eurex market had raised outside regulators' concerns as early as Nov. 2007. Kerviel himself told investigators that his first illicit trades had taken place in 2005 and that the company was -complacent- in his actions, telling investigators, "I am convinced my managers turned a blind eye to the means and amounts in question."
Tribal Violence Mounts in Kenya, as Mediation Efforts Continue - Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan convened formal peace talks in Kenya Jan. 29, as the death toll from four weeks of post-election violence was estimated at 900. Melitus Mugabe Were, an opposition legislator, was killed Jan. 29 in Nairobi by armed gunmen. Another opposition lawmaker, David Kimutai Too, was shot by a policeman in Eldoret Jan. 31.
Previous mediators, including Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and African Union leader John Kufuor, the president of Ghana, had been unable to resolve the ethnic conflict that erupted after incumbent Pres. Mwai Kibaki claimed victory over his main challenger, Raila Odinga. By the end of January more than 250,000 people had fled their homes, and the violence had crippled the nation's agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism industries.
Reports Say NATO "Not Winning" in Afghanistan - Two studies released Jan. 30 offered sobering assessments of the war in Afghanistan. "Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said a report by the Atlantic Council of the United States. Chaired by retired Gen. James L. Jones, the Atlantic Council concluded that Afghanistan "remains a failing state" and "could become a failed state" if NATO strategy is not overhauled. Gen. Jones, who retired as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe in 2006, also co-chaired the bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group (ASG) along with former U.S. diplomat Thomas R. Pickering. The ASG study asserted that shortfalls in strategy, military forces, and economic aid had hampered the United States and its allies in confronting "the combined challenges of reconstituted Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a runaway opium economy, and the stark poverty faced by most Afghans." The Defense Dept. had announced Jan. 15 the "extraordinary, one-time" deployment for seven months of an additional 3,200 Marines, to counter a possible Taliban spring offensive. The deployment would raise the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to more than 30,000; allied international forces numbered about 28,000.
U.S. Missile Kills Senior al-Qaeda Leader - U.S. officials said Jan. 31 that an American missile strike in northwestern Pakistan had killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a top commander in al-Qaeda's terror network. The U.S. attack targeted a safe house in the North Waziristan village of Khushali Torikel early Jan. 29. The United States, which had offered a bounty of $200,000 for Libi, accused him of plotting a Feb. 2007 suicide bombing at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, during a visit by Vice Pres. Dick Cheney. The blast killed 23 people, but Cheney was not harmed.
LSU Wins National Collegiate Football Title - Playing Jan. 7 before a home-state crowd at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana State University defeated Ohio State, 38-24, to win the Bowl Championship Series title game. The LSU Tigers were led by quarterback Matt Flynn, who completed 19 of 27 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Finishing the season with a record of 12-2, the Tigers became the first team to top the year-end BCS ranking with 2 losses. The Buckeyes, who had five personal fouls and three turnovers and were given 87 yards in penalties, came up short in the BCS title contest for the second year in a row.
Scientists Create "Bioartificial" Heart - In an article published in the Jan. 13 issue of Nature Medicine, researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair announced that they had succeeded in creating a beating heart from animal tissues and cells. The Minnesota research team, led by Dr. Doris Taylor, used a process called whole organ decellularization. A soap solution was used to drain all cells out of the heart of a dead rat, leaving only a translucent scaffolding, known as the extracellular matrix. The matrix was seeded with cells from newborn rats. Contractions were observed within four days, and within eight days the heart began to pump. Researchers, who had already begun to experiment with using the process on pig hearts, which more closely resemble human hearts, hoped to adapt the technique to create bioartificial organs in humans.
Sharapova, Djokovic Capture Australian Open Singles Championships - Russian-born Maria Sharapova won her first Australian Open Jan. 26, defeating Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, for her third Grand Slam title. In the men's final the following day, another Serb, Novak Djokovic, outlasted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (2). Before beating the unseeded Tsonga, Djokovic had upset three-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer in the semifinal round.
Library of Congress
The first moving assembly line at Henry Ford's automobile factory in Detroit, Michigan
12,345,678,987,654,321 - number that results from multiplying 111,111,111 by 111,111,111.
17,897 - number of Peanuts comic strips penned by Charles Schulz over nearly 50 years.
1,954 - length in miles of the border between the United States and Mexico.
250 - length in feet of Henry Ford's first assembly line.
45.3 - percent of all U.S. TV-owning households tuned in to see The Beatles debut in America on The Ed Sullivan Show, the then-highest rated TV telecast and still the 24th highest of all-time.
96 - number of times in the 120-year history of Groundhog Day that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow.
9 - number of children Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had together; all married into royal houses in Europe.
The next front in the battle for gender equality? Symbolic holiday rodents. The Boston Globe reported Jan. 31 that Massachusetts legislators have nominated a female to be the state's first official groundhog. If successful, Ms. G (short for exactly what you'd expect) will be the first female to hold the title.
From Punxsutawney Phil to Staten Island Chuck, most official Groundhog Day forecasters have been male, because their hibernation tends to end earlier than females'. But supporters say that groundhogs are ready for gender-equality. According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which controls the farm where Ms. G lives, "She's currently running unopposed," said spokesperson Jan Kruse. "But who knows, there may be a strong write-in candidate."
Massachusetts residents have mixed feelings about Ms. G's candidacy. In a letter to the editors of the Boston Globe, Ashland, MA resident Geoffrey Patton wrote,
"Ms. G may well deserve the title of Massachusetts' first official groundhog, a first for a female Marmota monax, but running on the uniqueness of her gender alone is not enough. Where does she stand on the issues of the day? Take healthcare. She sets a good example by nibbling on broccoli for the photo-op, but she also seems capable of casting a shadow that would frighten even an above-ground hog."
Bad News for Bozo
A recent poll of children aged 4-16 found that clowns - floppy shoes, red rubber noses, and all - are disliked by all. Researchers from the University of Sheffield in England found that all 250 children they spoke to while examining how to improve children's hospital décor disliked the use of clowns or thought that the supposedly endearing entertainers were scary. According to one of the researchers involved in the study, which was published by Nursing Standard magazine, "We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."
Of course, clowns across the world have been uniting in their opposition to this finding. "The universe' of 250 children used for the Sheffield University study was miniscule compared to the 250,000 one-to-one bedside visits made by Clown Care to hospitalized children annually," said Joel Dein, director of communications for New York's Big Apple Circus.
Not all clowns have taken the study quite so seriously, though. Heather Myers (otherwise known as PipSqueakTheClown) said that even though most that children in hospitals appreciate the visits, "There are those who are afraid of clowns, this is unavoidable. The same way that there are those afraid of dogs and spiders. It is the responsibility of the clown to know his environment, and take the necessary steps when confronted with a phobia."
Perhaps I'm naive, but I like to think that people are basically honest. At bored.com they did a lost wallet test in which they dropped wallets on the street containing $2.10 in real money, a fake $50.00 gift certificate, some miscellaneous items and a clearly written ID card identifying the lost wallet's rightful owner. They have video tape of the 100 people who picked up the wallets, and it provided some interesting results.
The passing of Margaret Truman Daniels leaves 23 unique living individuals - living children of former U.S. presidents stretching back over nine presidencies. Among them are a number of writers (John Eisenhower, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Susan Ford Bales, Patti Davis, and Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch), an actor (Steven Ford), a former governor (Jeb Bush), a former dancer (Ron Reagan, Jr.), as well as our current president (George Bush).
Nothing beats a real hug when you're down and out, but what if you want to give a hug to someone who is a few thousand miles away? Anything is possible, and sending online hugs is just one of the things you can do to let a friend or family member know that you're thinking of them.
Super Bowl XLII took place in Arizona on February 3rd, which means one thing to people not interested in football - how was the half time show and what were the best commercials? Ah, with the internet, it's never too late to check out the commercials back to 2002.
While I don't surf - well actually, I don't even know how to swim - I enjoy watching surfers when I head to the beach when visiting California. Surfing in the U.S. was limited to the east or west coast, until someone went and invented a surf wave machine, and there's one in San Diego (I know, it should be in Indiana or something), and it's fun to watch.
(c) Edward A. Thomas
Surfer at the Wave House in San Diego
While I figured that I was taller than Danny DeVito, or Mickey Rooney, who would have thought I'm also taller than Joaquin Phoenix or Anthony Hopkins. They look so tall on screen! Check out Tall or Not to see how you stand against other famous people.
Have you ever been watching a movie when you spot something wrong? In the beginning of The Wizard of Oz while Dorothy is still on the farm, she walks along the pig pen fence and then falls in. When Bert Lahr picks her up out of there her dress is perfectly clean. At Movie Mistakes you can check hundreds of movie and television errors.
The sad death of actor Heath Ledger at 28 brings to mind other entertainment figures from the past that died too young. It's simply amazing to me that Freddie Prinze was dead at 22, James Dean at 24, Jean Harlow at 26, Rudolph Valentino at 31, John Belushi at 33? They are all gone, but not likely to be forgotten.
Never been in prison? Me neither, and it just doesn't have that much appeal to me, but I guess it does to some people, because places like the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel, once the home to murderers and thieves, are available for overnight stays. What better than to sleep in a renovated cell. For even harsher conditions, check out the Karosta Prison.
"Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense."
- Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), American writer
World Almanac E-Newsletter
Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief
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