Wednesday, August 19, 2009

TIME FOR A BREAK-FOR EVERYONE

The Island

It's time for a late summer holiday. We shall return on September 4th. See you then. Be happy and safe.

PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE

The 10-year-old West Side girl who got a $50 ticket for selling lemonade in Riverside Park was back in business yesterday and had a special customer -- Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. Clementine Lee set up her stand in Columbus Circle, where Benepe bought three cups at 50 cents a pop. "He was nice," said the girl, who sold 80 cups, raising $40 for the World Wildlife Federation. Meanwhile, the parks enforcement-patrol officer who gave the little girl the summons has been temporarily removed from enforcement and is being retrained in park rules and regulations. Benepe quashed the ticket.

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DUMPSTER POOL


On an industrial lot in Brooklyn, N.Y., three garbage bins have been transformed into swimming pools. They're set in what looks like an urban country club — with tent cabanas, barbecue grills and a dozen plastic beach chairs.


The idea of swimming in a trash container grosses you out? Think again. They're clean. The bins are lined with thick sheets of plastic, and the water is chlorinated and filtered, just like what goes in an inground pool.

The company behind the pools is Macro Sea, a Manhattan real estate developer. Jocko Weyland, the guy in charge of the pool project, says Macro Sea got the idea from a rock musician in Georgia.

The pools are behind a chain-link fence in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood. The 5 1/2 foot-deep containers are in an H-formation with a wooden deck built around them. There's also a shallower kiddie pool.

News of the Brooklyn trash bin swimming pools first surfaced on a blog for ReadyMade magazine, which helps do-it-yourselfers use familiar objects in new ways.

"It's a Dumpster. It's not trying to pretend it's not a Dumpster, you know," Weyland says.

Access to the Carroll Gardens pools is by invitation only, but there is no fee to swim. Brooklyn resident Isabella Hill and her friend recently scored an invitation to the pools, which Hill thought were an art installation.

"I didn't really hear the exact details about it being a Dumpster and we just, like, walked over here and there's all these, like, warehouses, junkyards and, like, industrial stuff," says Hill. "We live in the neighborhood, and so I'm not going to trek out to the beach for an hour when I can sit around and watch TV all day and go to the pool."

The Carroll Gardens pools are a prototype. Macro Sea is thinking about putting garbage-container pools in its redeveloped strip malls and also making them available to rent for private parties.

Weyland says he hopes more people make these DIY pools.

"We wanted to show that this is not that hard. If you got a Dumpster donated or found one or stole one, you could do it for under $1,000. Show some initiative. Get off your ass and put it together," Weyland says.


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NAMING YOUR VERY FAST HORSE

Picking a name for a newborn can be an agonizing process for parents, but it’s a whole lot easier than naming a racehorse. While Thoroughbred owners may not have to worry about the risk of subjecting their foals to ridicule on the playground, they must select names that sound good when shouted but that also meet strict guidelines. Here’s an overview of the naming process:
Since 1894, the Jockey Club has been charged with maintaining The American Stud Book, a registry of all Thoroughbreds foaled in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, as well as Thoroughbreds imported into those countries. North American breeders register approximately 37,000 Thoroughbreds each year and the Jockey Club has an online database of more than 430,000 names in active use, all of which must first be approved by the organization’s censors. One of the most common naming conventions is to combine the names of the foal’s sire and dam. For instance, 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch was the son of Gulch and Line of Thunder. A cleverer example of this sort is the name Inside Information, which was derived from Private Account and Pure Profit. Of the roughly 60,000 name requests submitted annually, about one-third are rejected because they fall into one or more of the Jockey Club’s 15 classes of names that are strictly forbidden. The Guidelines The first rule of naming a horse is that a name may consist of no more than 18 letters, and spaces and punctuation marks count as letters. Eighteencharacters is acceptable (and is, in fact, a registered horse name) but Eighteen Characters is not. Other ineligible submissions include names consisting entirely of initials; names clearly having commercial, artistic, or creative significance; names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups; and names of living persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club.
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TUNE IN TONIGHT

LONESOME DOVE

AMC, 8 p.m. ET

This 1989 Western is one of the best miniseries ever made – next to The Singing Detective, it may be THE best. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones star, and if you’ve never seen it, or are eager to see it again, AMC is making it easy: two episodes tonight, the remaining two tomorrow night. Twenty years later, it’s still brilliant

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

JUST FOR PUN

I could not pull out of my parking space, so I used my back up plan

TRIBUTE TO PRESIDENT SAM

(This tribute to our first club president appeared in the August 18th issue of The (Alton) Telegraph)
Civic leader Sam Zangori dead at 86
By CYNTHIA M. ELLIS The Telegraph
WOOD RIVER - Sam Zangori lived a life filled with love, respect and admiration from those who knew him. The prominent 86-year-old businessman and civic leader died Monday at Alton Memorial Hospital after losing a battle to cancer. "Sam was one of the few people I've ever known that no one ever had anything bad to say about him," Wood River Mayor Fred Ufert said. Zangori was a gentle and kind man who found it easy to talk with politicians, as well as paupers. He was a man who loved his town and spent his entire life serving the community. He also was a man with a great sense of humor. He needed it, too. Zangori's height - or lack of it - caught the attention of a lot of people. However, it was the personality and heart of the nearly 5-foot-tall man that made him a giant. Zangori once said in an interview with The Telegraph that he was razzed and kidded with every "short" joke ever told - but he loved it. "I always say, 'If they rolled me out, I would be six feet high,'" Zangori said. Jim Simonds of Bethalto, a friend and former co-worker of Zangori, said he would miss the man who was good at making people laugh. "I know that when he passed, he went straight to heaven," Simonds said. "He was a wonderful person and was someone who went out of his way to help people." Simonds said that the expression "salt of the earth" best described his friend. He said he was a man who was humble and lacked pretension. Simonds worked with Zangori at the Madison County Courthouse in Edwardsville for more than 10 years. Zangori worked as a deputy circuit clerk from 1990 until 2001. "I broke him in on his first trial," said Simonds, who at one time worked as a clerk and now is a bailiff. He said that everyone around the courthouse knew Zangori and his infectious personality. "He was always so upbeat," Simonds said. "He was one of the most pleasant people I knew. A judge one time said that Sam was one of the greatest ambassadors the courthouse had." Before working at the courthouse, Zangori worked for 31 years as an insurance salesman with Metropolitan Life Insurance before retiring in 1995. He also served 14 years on the Roxana School Board from 1968 to 1981. Zangori became the first president of the East Alton Rotary Club in 1971, following the disbanding of the Roxana Rotary Club. He also was a charter member of the Wood River Knights of Columbus. Most recently, Zangori served as president of the Wood River Senior Citizens organization and also the East Alton-Wood River High School Hall of Fame Selection Committee. John Pearson, superintendent of the East-Alton Wood River High School District, said that when Zangori was asked earlier this year to serve on the Hall of Fame committee, he was enthusiastic, to say the least. "He was tickled to be a part of it," Pearson said. "Sam was a real energetic person and contributed greatly to the panel. He really was a joy to be around." Ufert said Zangori was a man always willing to lend a helping hand. "He would do what he could to help a friend, neighbor or a complete stranger," Ufert said. Zangori leaves behind his wife of 62 years, Sarah, and their three children - Mary Ann Kelly, Josephine Tardino and Michael Zangori - along with seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

AND I QUOTE

"Do what you love, love what you do, leave the world a better place and don't pick your nose."-Jeff Mallett

TODAY IN HISTORY

1994: President Bill Clinton bans Cuban refugees from entering the United States, ending a 35-year open-door policy.

1953: Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq escapes from his home after his supporters clash with the shah’s, leaving a reported 300 people dead in one afternoon.

1969: Miles Davis begins recording his album Bitches Brew, marking a dramatic change in direction for the trumpeter.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

STRANGE BOARD GAMES


Board games and table-top games have been around for at least 5,000 years, so it's understandable that some of the best ideas like Chess, Checkers, and even Monopoly were used up pretty early. But that still doesn't explain the bizarre minds that came up with the 12 weirdest board games ever. Counting down to the strangest:

12. QUACKSHOT: Goliath B.V., 2001.
Ready! Aim! Fowl! With a 4-way setup, players aim plastic arrows at color targets around a spinning centerpiece. A direct hit will cause the targets to blow up. For real. Miss, however, and someone may lose an eye. Wonder how this one passed safety-standards.

11. CAMEL: THE GAME: RJRTC, 1992.
Played on a handy table-top, this game included dice with the letters C-A-M-E-L and corresponding Camel cards. Players then attempted to match their rolled letters with a selected card. Smokin' fun, right? But that's not what's so strange: the game came packaged in a giant cigarette hardpack!

10. POP YER TOP: Milton Bradley, 1968.
Players took a chance on this late 1960s Milton Bradley concoction that forced them to progress a Koo-Koo bird across the board just as many spaces as they dare before causing the top of the Koo-Koo’s head to blow off. Extinction awareness, anyone?

9. ANT FARM GAME: Uncle Milton, 1969.
Now this is more like it, environmentally sound craziness. In this classic, plastic ants were used to simulate an ant farm. Putting a pair of tweezers into young player’s hands, the object was to move over-sized plastic ants along a “subterranean” colony game board. Spin the dial and advance your ants through the underground hospital, do dirty laundry, go to the underground theater, and prevail past turn stopping “cave ins.”

8. POISON IVY: Ideal, 1969.

Kids were itching to play this game that had them picking green leaves from a plastic patch, hoping they didn’t get a red stemmed leaf with poison ivy. Plucking the ivy meant placing a white thimble (a bandage) on their fingertip.

7. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: Hammerhead Enterprises, 1981.
What were they thinking? Capital Punishment offers 4 players the grizzly job of cleaning up our violent streets. With pardoning liberals at your disposal and “innocent” victims at stake, the first player to imprison all felons on Death Row – or send them to the electric chair – wins. (Warning: handcuffs not included).

6. OH, NUTS!: IDEAL, 1989.
Kids had to sort through identical plastic walnuts to collect an assortment of marbles concealed inside them. Gather 3 matching marbles and you win. How many kids lost their marbles trying to act like squirrels? Not enough to make this one a hit.

5. POPPIN HOPPIES: Ideal, 1968.
This trippy game featured spring loaded, suction cupped “hoppies” (dome-headed plastic with eyes) that, when squashed, would pop up for players to catch. For every caught hoppie, the player received a plastic piece used to assemble a man. The first one to make the man was the winner. Dunno what the guys were on when they came up with this.

4. PAIN DOCTORS: THE GAME OF RECREATIONAL SURGERY: Dreamsville, 1996.
This “14 and older” board game puts your wits (and queasiness) to the test. As a surgeon, you have to bolster your patient’s health before performing numerous surgeries. Meanwhile, competing players are enlisted to make your patient sicker! The patient wasn't the only thing sick about this one!

3. SMESS: THE NINNY'S CHESS: Parker Brothers, 1970.
A whacked-out version of chess, players had to take the other player’s “brain” piece (or king). With the help of single-space moving Ninny’s (like pawns) and multiple moving Numskull pieces (like castles and bishops), players followed directional arrows printed on each square. So why not just play chess? A classic ‘no brainer.’

2. I VANT TO BITE YOUR FINGER: Hasbro, 1979.
Time is of the essence in this vampire inspired dice-roller in which players have to hope “Dracula” doesn’t wake up. Taking turns turning ahead the hands of a clock, inevitably the vampire electronically awakens to claim his next victim – your fingertip! Doomed players must stick a finger in his mouth to receive twin bites from an actual red marker. While surely one of the most pointless games of all time, it definitely made an impression.

1. SWACK!: Ideal, 1968.
Definitely not for the squeamish, this game required players to test their nerve against the board itself, which was a giant, functioning mousetrap! Like mice, players attempted to retrieve a piece of plastic cheese from the unpredictable snapping trap. Successfully removing cheese meant points, but getting caught meant a “swack” from the trap.

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WATCH THAT SPIKE

The game of volleyball, originally called "mintonette", was
invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan, after the invention
of basketball by only 4 years. Morgan, a graduate of the
Springfield College of the YMCA, designed the game to be a
combination of basketball, baseball, tennis and handball.



The first volleyball net, borrowed from tennis, was only
6'6" high.



The offensive style of setting and spiking was first
demonstrated in the Philippines in 1916. Over the years
that followed, it became clear that standard rules were
needed for tournament play, and thus the USVBA (United
States Volleyball Association) was formed in 1928.



In 1930, the first 2-man beach volleyball game was played,
though the professional side of the sport did not emerge
until much later.


The first beach volleyball association appeared in
California (1965), and the professional players united
under the auspices of the AVP (American Volleyball
Professionals) in 1983.


In 1984, the US won their first medals at the Olympics in
Los Angeles. The men won the Gold, and the women the Silver.
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PLAN AN EVENT AROUND WORLD POLIO DAY-OCT.24TH

World Polio Day is an ideal time for your club or district to raise awareness about polio and to garner support for the eradication effort. To share Rotary's commitment to a polio-free world with local media, use the PolioPlus Headliner Kit, which contains a sample opinion piece, letter to the editor, and several press releases that can be customized to reflect your club's involvement in PolioPlus.

Clubs can also arrange screenings of The Final Inch, the Academy Award-nominated, 38-minute documentary that follows health workers, including Rotarian volunteers, as they immunize children in India. The Google Foundation will donate US$2 from the sale of each DVD through the end of 2009 to PolioPlus. Find more resources at www.rotary.org.

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AND I QUOTE

"The smaller the mind the greater the conceit."-Aesop

TODAY IN HISTORY

1920: Women win the right to vote as the Tennessee legislature passes a bill to become the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

1963: James Meredith, whose entry into the University of Mississippi sparked a riot quelled by federal troops and marshals, becomes the first African American to graduate from Ole Miss.

1969: Jimi Hendrix performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” on guitar during the last set of the last day at Woodstock.

PRESIDENT SAM 1913-2009


With a heavy heart we report the passing of our first club president, Sam Zangori, on Monday August 17th. We were fortunate to have Sam attend our first club history session in June and share his thoughts about the early days of our club. Visitation will take place from 4-8P.M. on Wednesday August 19th at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alton, where a funeral mass will be held at 10A.M. on Thursday August 20th. Our condolences to Sam's family. He was a wonderful man and an outstanding Rotarian.

Monday, August 17, 2009

THE HISTORY OF HOME OWNERSHIP


(This article from the Wall Street Journal does a fine job of briefly summarizing the history of home ownership in the United States.)

The New American Dream: Renting
It's time to accept that home ownership is not a realistic goal for many people and to curtail the enormous government programs fueling this ambition.

By Thomas J. Sugrue

"A man is not a whole and complete man," wrote Walt Whitman, "unless he owns a house and the ground it stands on." America's lesser bards sang of "my old Kentucky Home" and "Home Sweet Home," leading no less than that great critic Herbert Hoover to declaim that their ballads "were not written about tenements or apartments…they never sing about a pile of rent receipts." To own a home is to be American. To rent is to be something less. Every generation has offered its own version of the claim that owner-occupied homes are the nation's saving grace. During the Cold War, home ownership was moral armor, protecting America from dangerous outside influences. "No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist," proclaimed builder William Levitt. With no more reds hiding under the beds, Bill Clinton launched National Homeownership Day in 1995, offering a new rationale about personal responsibility. "You want to reinforce family values in America, encourage two-parent households, get people to stay home?" he said. George W. Bush similarly pledged his commitment to "an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, 'welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property.'"
Surveys show that Americans buy into our gauzy platitudes about the character-building qualities of home ownership—at least those who still own them. A February Pew survey reported that nine out of 10 homeowners viewed their homes as a "comfort" in their lives. But for millions of Americans at risk of foreclosure, the home has become something else altogether: the source of panic and despair. Those emotions were on full display last week, when an estimated 53,000 people packed the Save the Dream fair at Atlanta's World Congress Center. Its planners, with the support of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, brought together struggling homeowners, housing counselors, and lenders, including industry giants Bank of America and Citigroup, to renegotiate at-risk mortgages. Georgia's housing market has been devastated by the current economic crisis—338,411 homes in the Peachtree state went into foreclosure in May and June alone. Atlanta represents the current housing crisis in microcosm. Since the second quarter of 2006, housing values across the United States have fallen by one third. Over a million homes were lost to foreclosure nationwide in 2008, as homeowners struggled to meet payments. The number of foreclosures reached an all-time record last month—when owners of one in every 355 houses in the country received default or auction notices or were seized by creditors. The collapse in confidence in securitized, high-risk mortgages has also devastated some of the nation's largest banks and lenders. The home financing giant Fannie Mae alone held an estimated $230 billion in toxic assets. Even if there are signs of hope on the horizon (home prices ticked upward by 0.5% in May and new housing starts rose in June), analysts like Yale's Robert Shiller expect that housing prices will remain level for the next five years. Many economists, like the Wharton School's Joseph Gyourko, are beginning to make the case that public policies should encourage renting, or at least put it on a level playing field with home ownership. A June 2009 survey commissioned by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, found a deep-seated pessimism about home ownership, suggesting that even if renting doesn't yet have cachet, it's the only choice left for those who have been burned by the housing market. One third of respondents don't believe that they will ever be able to own a home. And 42% of those who once purchased a home, but don't own one now, believe that they'll never own one again.
Some countries—such as Spain and Italy—have higher rates of home ownership than the U.S., but there, homes are often purchased with the support of extended families and are places to settle for the long term, not to flip to eager buyers or trade up for a McMansion. In France, Germany, and Switzerland, renting is more common than purchasing. There, most people invest their earnings in the stock market or squirrel it away in savings accounts. In those countries, whether you are a renter or an owner, houses have use value, not exchange value. For most Americans, until the recent past, home ownership was a dream and the pile of rent receipts was the reality. From 1900, when the census first started gathering data on home ownership, through 1940, fewer than half of all Americans owned their own homes. Home ownership rates actually fell in three of the first four decades of the 20th century. But from that point on forward (with the exception of the 1980s, when interest rates were staggeringly high), the percentage of Americans living in owner-occupied homes marched steadily upward. Today more than two-thirds of Americans own their own homes. Among whites, more than 75% are homeowners today. Yet the story of how the dream became a reality is not one of independence, self-sufficiency, and entrepreneurial pluck. It's not the story of the inexorable march of the free market. It's a different kind of American story, of government, financial regulation, and taxation. We are a nation of homeowners and home-speculators because of Uncle Sam. It wasn't until government stepped into the housing market, during that extraordinary moment of the Great Depression, that tenancy began its long downward spiral. Before the Crash, government played a minuscule role in housing Americans, other than building barracks and constructing temporary housing during wartime and, in a little noticed provision in the 1913 federal tax code, allowing for the deduction of home mortgage interest payments. Until the early 20th century, holding a mortgage came with a stigma. You were a debtor, and chronic indebtedness was a problem to be avoided like too much drinking or gambling. The four words "keep out of debt" or "pay as you go" appeared in countless advice books. As the YMCA told its young charges, "If you can't pay, don't buy. Go without. Keep on going without." Because of that, many middle-class Americans—even those with a taste for single-family houses—rented. Home Sweet Home didn't lose its sweetness because someone else held the title.
In any case, mortgages were hard to come by. Lenders typically required 50% or more of the purchase price as a down payment. Interest rates were high and terms were short, usually just three to five years. In 1920, John Taylor Boyd Jr., an expert on real-estate finance, lamented that "increasing numbers of our people are finding home ownership too burdensome to attempt." As a result, there were two kinds of homeowners in the United States: working-class folks who built their own houses because they couldn't afford mortgages and the wealthy, who usually paid for their places outright. Even many of the richest rented—because they had better places to invest than in the volatile housing market. The Depression turned everything on its head. Between 1928, the last year of the boom, and 1933, new housing starts fell by 95%. Half of all mortgages were in default. To shore up the market, Herbert Hoover signed the Federal Home Loan Bank Act in 1932, laying the groundwork for massive federal intervention in the housing market. In 1933, as one of the signature programs of his first 100 days, Frankin Roosevelt created the Home Owners' Loan Corporation to provide low interest loans to help out foreclosed home owners. In 1934, F.D.R. created the Federal Housing Administration, which set standards for home construction, instituted 25- and 30-year mortgages, and cut interest rates. And in 1938, his administration created the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) which created the secondary market in mortgages. In 1944, the federal government extended generous mortgage assistance to returning veterans, most of whom could not have otherwise afforded a house. Together, these innovations had epochal consequences.
Easy credit, underwritten by federal housing programs, boosted the rates of home ownership quickly. By 1950, 55% of Americans had a place they could call their own. By 1970, the figure had risen to 63%. It was now cheaper to buy than to rent. Federal intervention also unleashed vast amounts of capital that turned home construction and real estate into critical economic sectors. By the late 1950s, for the first time, the census bureau began collecting data on new housing starts—which became a leading indicator of the nation's economic vitality. It's a story riddled with irony—for at the same time that Uncle Sam brought the dream of home ownership to reality—he kept his role mostly hidden, except to the army banking, real-estate and construction lobbyists who rose to protect their industries' newfound gains Tens of millions of Americans owned their own homes because of government programs, but they had no reason to doubt that their home ownership was a result of their own virtue and hard work, their own grit and determination—not because they were the beneficiaries of one of the grandest government programs ever. The only housing programs prominently associated with Washington's policy makers were underfunded, unpopular public housing projects. Chicago's bleak, soulless Robert Taylor Homes and their ilk—not New York's vast Levittown or California's sprawling Lakewood—became the symbol of big government. Federal housing policies changed the whole landscape of America, creating the sprawlscapes that we now call home, and in the process, gutting inner cities, whose residents, until the civil rights legislation of 1968, were largely excluded from federally backed mortgage programs. Of new housing today, 80% is built in suburbs—the direct legacy of federal policies that favored outlying areas rather than the rehabilitation of city centers. It seemed that segregation was just the natural working of the free market, the result of the sum of countless individual choices about where to live. But the houses were single—and their residents white—because of the invisible hand of government. But by the 1960s and 1970s, those who had been excluded from the postwar housing boom demanded their own piece of the action—and slowly got it. The newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development expanded home ownership programs for excluded minorities; the 1976 Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to channel resources to underserved neighborhoods; and activists successfully pushed Fannie Mae to underwrite loans to home buyers once considered too risky for conventional loans. Minority home ownership rates crept upward—though they still remained far behind whites. Even at the peak of the most recent real-estate bubble, just under 50% of blacks and Latinos owned their own homes. It's unlikely that minority home ownership rates will rise again for a while. In the last boom year, 2006, almost 53% of blacks and more than 47% of Hispanics assumed subprime mortgages, compared to only 26% of whites. One in 10 black homeowners is likely to face foreclosure proceedings, compared to only one in 25 whites.


During the wild late 1990s and the first years of the new century, the dream of home ownership turned hallucinogenic. The home financing industry—at the impetus of the Clinton and Bush administrations—engaged in the biggest promotion of home ownership in decades. Both pushed for public-private partnerships, with HUD and the government-supported financiers like Fannie Mae serving as the mostly silent partners in a rapidly metastasizing mortgage market. New tools, including the securitization of mortgages and subprime lending, made it possible for more Americans than ever to live the dream or to gamble that someone else would pay them more to make their own dream come true. Anyone could be an investor, anyone could get rich. The notion of home-as-haven, already weak, grew even more and more removed from the notion of home-as-jackpot. And that brings us back to those desperate homeowners who gathered at Atlanta's convention center, having lost their investments, abruptly woken up from the dream of trouble-free home ownership and endless returns on their few percent down. They spent hours lined up in the hot sun, some sobbing, others nervously reading the fine print on their adjustable rate mortgage forms for the first time, wondering if their house is the next to go on the auction block. If there's one lesson from the real-estate bust of the last few years, it might be time to downsize the dream, to make it a little more realistic. James Truslow Adams, the historian who coined the phrase "the American dream," one that he defined as "a better, richer, and happier life for all our citizens of every rank" also offered a prescient commentary in the midst of the Great Depression. "That dream," he wrote in 1933, "has always meant more than the accumulation of material goods." Home should be a place to build a household and a life, a respite from the heartless world, not a pot of gold.

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JUST FOR PUN

Two fonts, Arial and Calibri, were in the midst of a bad breakup. Calibri said, 'I'm sorry, you're personality is too bold.' Arial responded, 'You're just not my type...

ORIGINS-BUTLER


Butler originally referred to a male servant in charge of wine and liquors, the word entered English in about 1250. It came from the French boutellier, "bottle bearer," which in turn derives from the French bouteille, "bottle." Today, a butler is the chief male servant in a household.

KEEPIN' IT GREEN

ANOTHER VACATION ANGLE

SAN DIEGO - For their one-and-only family getaway this year, the Billingtons checked in to an upscale San Diego resort on Sunday with many of the usual vacation accessories -- bathing suits, board games and golf clubs.

But they also brought flashlights, sleeping bags and an inflatable mattress because the pool-side room they booked for just $19 comes with a tent where the beds normally would be. They even had to pack their own toilet paper.

While many of Southern California's luxury hotels are battling a severe slump in business by offering extra services and more amenities, the Rancho Bernardo Inn is luring guests with the exact opposite -- no frills and barely any basics.

Called the "Survivor Package," the hotel's deeply discounted promotion lets patrons trim its standard $219-per-night rate on a sliding scale of deprivation, lowering charges with each amenity stripped from the room.

The most basic version: a room for $19 with no bed, toilet paper, towels, air-conditioning or "honor bar," and only a single light bulb in the bathroom for safety. The next level up adds in a bed -- sans sheets -- for $39 a night. For a bed plus toiletries and toilet paper, the rate is $59.

Maureen Carew, assistant general manager of the four-star inn, called the promotion "clever marketing in a downtime."

THRIFTY VACATIONS

Herman Billington, 39, a personal trainer who owns his own business, says it's the only vacation he, his wife and their two sons, aged 9 and 10, plan to take this year as they concentrate on "keeping it lean."

"The boys get to feel like they're camping, and I get to go to the spa," said their mother, Erica Billington, 37.

Luxury hotels and resorts have fallen on hard times during the recession, as corporate travel planners shy away from lavish spending and consumers plan thrifty, if any, vacations.

Across the industry, occupancy rates have dropped about 10 percent Carew said. The slump has pushed room rates down, with many of California's more luxurious properties throwing in a breakfast, a round of golf or extra night's stay for free.

The outlook for the rest of 2009 is bleak, according to Smith Travel Research, which predicts that U.S. hotel revenue per available room will fall 17 percent and demand will drop 5.5 percent by the end of the year.

Carew said Rancho Bernardo's promotion drew more than 420 reservations, including 240 bookings at the $19 rate and 116 at the $39 rate.

Like the Billingtons, mortgage banker Brian Sciutto, 36, is watching his pennies. His Sunday night stay at the hotel is his first getaway in two years, though he brought his iPhone and mail from home to keep busy.

"I feel like I'm on vacation but I'm not," Sciutto said as he enjoyed the cool breeze blowing in from the golf course outside. "I feel like I'm being spoiled for 19 bucks."

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TODAY'S WORD-PROTAGONIST

protagonist

(noun) [proe-TAG-ah-nist]

1. the principal character in a work of fiction: "I loved Tim's novel, despite being utterly repulsed by the protagonist."

2. in ancient Greek drama, the first actor to interact with the chorus

3. a leading or principal figure in an event or cause

AND I QUOTE

"An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it."-Jef Mallett

TUNE IN TONIGHT

WOODSTOCK: NOW & THEN

History, 8 p.m. ET

Barbara Kopple’s new documentary about the famous music festival of 1969.

TODAY IN HISTORY

1998: President Bill Clinton admits to having an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in a televised address, saying: “I misled people, including my wife. I deeply regret that.”
1896: George Carmack and Skookum Jim find gold along the Klondike River in present-day Alaska, resulting in the Klondike gold rush.
1969: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young play their second gig together—at Woodstock.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE


A motorist sits precariously on the Maple-Oregon Bridge in Sturgeon Bay after getting stuck on the bridge as it opened Thursday. The motorist safely went on her way after the bridge was lowered. Police are hoping she’ll call to explain how she managed to get stuck in that position.

EXTREME MAKEOVER-ROTARIAN EDITION


S am Clifton isn't letting his 15 minutes of fame go to his head. In fact, if he had his way, no one would know his company led the build on the TV reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which provides new homes for families in need.

"I asked the producers if I could do this without being known. I didn't want the media attention. But then I thought about how great it would be to get other people in front of the camera, especially guys in the construction business who've been going through a rough time," says Clifton, a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast, Missouri, USA.

The rest is showbiz history. More than 600 skilled laborers -- some unemployed and many from competing firms -- volunteered to help build a 3,300-square-foot home in just six days starting 14 July. As co-owner of Millstone Custom Homes with his wife, Michelle, Clifton estimates that a project this size, which included building a barn, chicken coop, and greenhouse, would normally take a crew of 50 about six months.

The five-bedroom house in Ash Grove replaces the 800-square-foot home where Chris and Niki Hampton and their six children had been living. As with every episode of the award-winning program, the family was selected from a group of families in need.

Clifton not only managed the job around the clock, often sleeping in a trailer on-site to be available for late-night questions, but also found volunteers and donors for every phase, to do everything from providing food to landscaping. He says he learned early on the importance of having the right people beside you.

Among the key players were two members of Clifton's Rotary club, Judy Bilyeu and Michael Wehrenberg. The corporate marketing director of Metro Builders Supply, Bilyeu helped with fundraising and recruiting volunteers. She also worked with the show's designers to select $30,000 worth of lighting and appliances from her company's inventory to donate to the project.

Wehrenberg, who is president of Wehrenberg Design Company, developed the project's Web site .

"Through the site, he also was responsible for volunteer recruitment, donor recognition, and scheduling updates, as well as supplying a visual timeline through photos," Michelle says.

It takes a village to raise a house

In addition to the construction crew, the Cliftons estimate that between 1,500 and 1,700 people volunteered over the six days. The community donated 95 percent of the materials for the build, and raised enough money to help pay off the family's existing mortgage.

Clifton admits he'd never organized a community service project before. But he'd do it again.

"It's a fun thing to do and definitely rewarding," says Clifton, who was asked by the show's producers if he'd help with another build.

A Rotarian since 2008, he says he'd also like to help with a service project through Rotary. "It's imperative you have the right heart. You can't be an ‘I' person. If you go into this looking to get something out of it, then it's not going to work."

The episode is scheduled to air during the show's seventh season on the ABC Television Network.
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BEWARE "THE DEAL"

The car rental promotion that actually costs you double
Quiz time: When is a $20 daily car rental rate promotion a rip-off?

Answer: When you could just as easily be paying $10 a day.


Or this one?
Long ago, I signed up to receive promotional "Hot Deals" e-mails from Alamo Rent A Car. Recently, I received a message alerting me to "Weekend Rentals from $10 a Day."

Hmm…

Curious about how truly "hot" this deal was, I opened a new window on my computer to check out Alamo's website, where I found a similar-looking weekend promotion. Only this one had the headline "Weekend Rentals from $20 a Day."

I clicked on the $20 promotion and saw a blond model with a gray tank top, standing and smiling in front of a Chevy. Around her were the details to the promotion: compact cars from $20 a day, mid-size cars from $24 a day, full-size cars from $28 a day, premium cars from $30 a day, with restrictions including a four-day maximum rental and validity dates of August 20 to September 21.

Next, I went back to the e-mail that heralded the $10 weekend promotion. I clicked through the link provided, and saw the exact same blond model, same Chevy, same restrictions, same validity dates. The only differences were the words "EMAIL EXCLUSIVE" on the top of the web page, and the prices listed for cars: $10 for compacts, $14 for mid-sizes, and $18 a day for full-sizes, and $20 a day for premium cars.

The lesson? If you've ever thought that all promotional e-mails do is clog your in-box, here's a case for signing up for them. The bigger point is that you should never assume that a "deal" is actually a deal. Sometimes, you can do much better than a "special" promotional rate.

TUNE IN TONIGHT

MAD MEN

AMC, 10 p.m. ET

SEASON PREMIERE: One of TV’s best shows demands, and deserves, your attention and presence.

TODAY IN HISTORY

1977: The King is dead. Elvis Presley is found dead at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn. He was 42.
1954: Milwaukee Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews appears on the cover of the first issue of Sports Illustrated.
1969: War protester Abbie Hoffman storms the Woodstock stage during the Who’s set, prompting guitarist Pete Townsend to bash him with his guitar until Hoffman falls off the stage.

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LES PAUL 1915-2009

(This remembrance appeared in the Wall Street Journal)

The Father of Modern Guitar Spanned and Shaped Genres

By JIM FUSILLI
Les Paul, who died Thursday at age 94 from complications of pneumonia at a hospital in White Plains, N.Y., was one of the most influential figures in the history of popular music. Guitarist, engineer, inventor, entertainer and hit-maker, Mr. Paul's influence extends far beyond his fluid, distinctive guitar style and the use of his signature Gibson Les Paul electric guitar by the likes of Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Slash and others. Mr. Paul pioneered the use of multitrack recording, essentially inventing the precursor to today's recording studio. His style of playing with special sound-shifting effects and overdubbing established a school of guitar playing that shaped rock and jazz. In 2007, Weekend Journal's John Jurgensen spoke with Les Paul about how the legendary guitarist played well into his 90's. Originally recorded in New York City, September 2007.With his then-wife Mary Ford, Mr. Paul scored several No. 1 hits in the early 1950s in which he played guitar and she sang, overdubbing her voice several times to create distinctive harmonies. In his 1947 hit, "Lover (When You're Near Me)," Mr. Paul overdubbed eight guitar parts. The Les Paul-Mary Ford version of "How High the Moon" was a smash hit in 1951, spending nine weeks in the top slot on the Billboard charts. "When you go back and listen to 'How High the Moon,' it's so different than anything else from that time," said Bruce Swedien, a Grammy-winning engineer who first met Mr. Paul in the late 1950s. "The only natural sound on that song is Mary's voice. His concept was to take music, bust it down to its elements and build it back up again."

Born June 9, 1915, in Waukesha, Wis., as Lester William Polfuss, Mr. Paul dropped out of high school to become a professional guitarist. He played country music, but soon gravitated toward his great love, jazz. In the 1930s and 1940s, he played with Fred Waring's orchestra, fronted jazz trios -- often playing a version of a solid-body electric guitar he invented known as the Log -- and supported the Andrew Sisters and Bing Crosby, who endorsed Mr. Paul's recording experiments. In 1948, Mr. Paul had an automobile accident that shattered his right elbow, almost ending his career. A right-handed player, he had his arm reset at almost a right angle, a position that permitted him to pluck the guitar strings. He hosted a radio program in which he demonstrated his recording inventions, playing with Ms. Ford and guitarist Eddie Stapleton. Later, he and Ms. Ford hosted a TV program that ran from 1953 to 1960. Mr. Paul withdrew from performing in the late 1960s, around the time when his Gibson Les Paul guitar seemed a mandatory component of rock music and a badge of honor for guitarists. "When I was young, I'd meet guys who had them," recalled Ace Frehley of Kiss. "I couldn't afford it. I got my first Les Paul when Kiss got its first record contract. It was such a special instrument."
Mr. Paul continued to record -- including a 1976 album with Chet Atkins titled "Chester and Lester" -- and in the late 1980s, he returned to the stage. From 1996 until earlier this year, he played a regular Monday set at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. According to owner Ron Sturm, such musicians as Mr. McCartney, Keith Richards, Mr. Beck and Al DiMeola dropped in to play with Mr. Paul. "To them, it was a huge thrill," Mr. Sturm said. "People will tell you how technically brilliant he was, but he was much more than that. He was such a cool human being." In 2005, he recorded an album with many guitarists he influenced. "Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played" also showcased his recording innovations. That same year, many guitarists, including his godson Steve Miller, paid tribute to him at an event at Carnegie Hall. According to Gibson, Mr. Paul is the only person who was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, which summarizes both the how diverse and interconnected his achievements were. "He was such a sweet, humble man," said Mr. Frehley. "I don't think he understood how big an impact he had on music. He always had his chops down. He never lost his talent or his sense of humor." Mr. Swedien added, "He was an absolute artist when it comes to performing. Ninety-four years old. Boy, that's a lot of picking."

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

FROM THE ARCHIVES

This photo dates from June 1989. It looks like an installation dinner, but I can't be sure.Where? I don't know. The smilin' faces-L-R:Don, Mike, John, Charlie, Paul, Red and Jim. Four are still active members, John and Jim are deceased and are missed. If anyone can provide any more details, please do so in the comments section below.

Banerjee is choice for 2011-12 RI president





Kalyan Banerjee is the selection of the Nominating Committee for President of Rotary International in 2011-12. Rotary Images

Kalyan Banerjee, a member of the Rotary Club of Vapi, Gujarat, India, since 1972, is the selection of the Nominating Committee for President of Rotary International in 2011-12. Banerjee will become the president-nominee on 1 October if there are no challenging candidates.

Banerjee said he would like to see Rotary "blossom from being the world's most recognized service organization to being the most important NGO [nongovernmental organization] in the world.

"Rotary, it is said, has the strength of a government and the tenderness of a parent," he added.

Banerjee is a director of United Phosphorus Limited, the largest agrochemical manufacturer in India, and the chair of United Phosphorus (Bangladesh) Limited. He is a member of the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Chemical Society, a past president of Vapi Industries Association, and former chair of the Gujarat chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industry. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, in 1964.

Banerjee has served Rotary as a director, Rotary Foundation trustee, committee and task force chair, International Assembly group discussion leader, president's representative, and district governor.

The chair of the Southeast Asia Regional PolioPlus Committee, Banerjee has served as a member of the International PolioPlus Committee for many years and has attended international meetings with the World Health Organization and UNICEF in that capacity.

Banerjee is a Major Donor, Benefactor, and Bequest Society member, and has been awarded the Foundation's Citation for Meritorious Service and its Distinguished Service Award.

Banerjee also serves as a trustee of Rotary club-sponsored trusts that support many educational and community development programs in India, including a 250-bed hospital.

He noted that Rotary's strengths include its ability to attract leaders from different vocations around the world, as well as its role in promoting peace. "Rotary needs to become the preferred organization for today's generation to join and participate in, to make the world better and safer and happier," he said.

Banerjee's wife, Binota, is a social worker and Inner Wheel club member. The couple have two children and four grandchildren.

DVD ALERT: 'On the Road With Charles Kuralt'

Sunday Morning fans will appreciate this DVD announcement: On the Road With Charles Kuralt comes out Oct. 27 from our friends at Acorn Media


Kuralt started doing ordinary-life vignettes in 1967 for CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite about toothpick artists, covered bridges and other generally heartwarming subjects across America. Then he launched CBS' equally laid-back Sunday Morning broadcast, back in 1979, setting a reassuring tone and wonder-filled tenor still upheld by current host Charles Osgood. Kuralt retired from Sunday Morning in 1994 and passed away in 1997.

The DVD set includes three discs with 18 episode compilations of Kuralt's memorably personal reports. Read more about it here. Also check out the Remembering Charles Kuralt web site.

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TUNE IN TONIGHT

HOT FUZZ

Comedy Central, 10 p.m. ET

Simon Pegg co-wrote, and stars in, this 2007 comedy, in which a rugged London cop is punished by being transferred to a small town and assigned a dim partner. It’s a very funny movie, with a delightful cast: Watch for Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Billie Whitelaw, Edward Woodward, Timothy Dalton and others.

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GOOD LUCK GENE!

This photo appeared in the August 9th issue of the The Telegraph newspaper, Alton, Illinois. Gene has been serving as our Assistant District Governor for the past couple of years. I have had the personal pleasure of knowing him since 1987. You may not know that he was the long time Postmaster of Jerseyville, Illinois. Gene's commitment to Rotary has always been high, in fact, Rotary was included in our first conversation about Postal Service business. I'm delighted to see that his former club recognized his dedication. I wish him and his wife Candy only the best as they relocated closer to family members. I sure hope he finds some way to stay involved with Rotary.

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PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE

MY FACEBOOK LIFE

PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE

Zhou and his wife were on a ferry on the Yangtze River when it all became too much for him, reports the Chongqing Evening Post. Members of the ship's crew saw the man suddenly run out of his cabin with his hands covering his ears, and shouting: "I can't stand it any longer." They initially thought he was suffering from an ear injury and went to help him but found he was unhurt. "While we were still puzzling over the this, his wife ran up and continued nagging him," said one crewmate. "The husband covered his ears again and said: 'I need a break' before jumping over the side into the rushing river. "We immediately found lamps to light up the water but found nobody. The possibility of survival can be zero." However, later that night, police found the man who had managed to swim more than a mile across across the broad river. "I felt I was dying, but even that's better than my wife's nagging," he reportedly told the police. The couple were reunited the following morning at the local police station where Zhou's wife promised to give up her habit of nagging him.


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JUST FOR PUN

Since they started paying dog catchers by the pound, they're feline the pinch.

AND I QUOTE

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."-Peter Drucker

WOODSTOCK @ 40

Woodstock had an undeniable impact on the music and the culture of its day. But its ripple effects through the business of music continues. Festival co-creator Michael Lang, Metropolitan Talent Co-CEO John Scher and WSJ music critic Jim Fusilli talk about Woodstock’s legacy.

For most music fans, the film “Woodstock, the album “Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More,” both released in 1970, and “Woodstock 2,” out 14 months later, were the definitive documents of the three-day festival. But in a few cases, the albums and the film substituted live performances recorded elsewhere for the actual performances at Woodstock. They are yet another illustration that much of the music at the festival was pretty subpar, as I wrote today. Audio links are below. Arlo Guthrie’s “Coming into Los Angeles” is an example. The performance featured in the Woodstock film and album is fairly pristine, but during his actual performance, his vocal mike cut out for the entire first verse and chorus. (For music fans, a small comfort is we get to hear jazz drummer Paul Motian behind Guthrie at the festival.) In the film, you’ll notice we never actually see Guthrie singing. Mountain’s reading of “Theme for an Imaginary Western” at Woodstock is less powerful than the one included in the “Woodstock 2” album. Felix Pappalardi’s vocal mike cut out briefly and guitarist Leslie West was a bit tentative until the chorus. The substitution of a different “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is baffling. The one on the original Woodstock album is fine, but the performance at Woodstock is better, if a bit ragged. During the real Woodstock performance, you can hear Neil Young’s guitar surrounding Stephen Stills’ vocal entrance.

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TODAY IN HISTORY

1969: Woodstock. Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in upstate New York is overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of music lovers.
1994: Bob Dylan finally makes an appearance at Woodstock. Aerosmith, the Allman Brothers Band and Metallica also perform at the 25th anniversary festival.
1998: Joni Mitchell performs her song “Woodstock” during a three-day rock festival called “A Day in the Garden,” held at the site of the original.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

TAKE YOUR OFFICE ON THE ROAD




Dell Latitude E6500 with 15.4-inch screen, price varies with options.

Three well-traveled Rotarians recommend their field-tested essentials

Laptop

Think frequent fliers prefer superlight laptops? In fact, business travelers often need more computing power than a superlight can offer. Both Michelle Hayes, of the Rotary Club of Odessa, Texas, USA, and Thomas Hsieh, of the Rotary Club of Pomona, California, tote Dell Latitude computers. “No one’s going to look at it and go ‘ooh,’” says Hsieh, CEO of SplinterRock, a technology consulting firm, “but it’s sturdy and reliable, and that’s what’s important to me.”

Hayes, a software consultant who spends almost all her time on the road, also carries a Maxtor 250-gigabyte portable hard drive. “It’s a little bit bigger than a deck of cards,” she says. “I have my whole laptop backed up on this.” The new ultrathin product from the same company is the Seagate FreeAgent Go, which offers a cable-free docking option and up to 500 gigabytes of memory.

Phone/personal digital assistant

Lotay Yang, of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, was an early fan of the BlackBerry, with its famed QWERTY keyboard and reliable e-mail server. Yang, who founded a social networking organization called Black Card Circle, remains loyal: He likes being able to synch up several e-mail accounts and coordinate appointments with other Outlook and BlackBerry users. “The BlackBerry is the one thing I wouldn’t go anywhere without.”

Hsieh likes the Treo smartphone by Palm. It also features a QWERTY keyboard, which he says makes e-mailing on the run easier. “Sometimes I have my luggage in one hand, and I’m typing e-mail with the other,” he explains. “I have 20 minutes to send any urgent e-mails before I’m on the plane for another three hours.” The Palm Treo Pro has a touch screen and myriad applications that let you watch movies, listen to music, and edit documents.

Both Hayes and Hsieh also like the Plantronics Bluetooth headset for hands-free phoning. “It’s been very reliable,” says Hsieh. “It’s got a long battery life, and it synchronizes and picks up with my phone very quickly.”

Power supply

A single charger that works with all your gizmos is a great luggage lightener. Hayes likes one from iGo. The newest model weighs less than one pound and can charge a laptop and mobile device at the same time, whether you’re in a car, on a plane, or in a hotel room. Interchangeable tips fit a multitude of gadgets. For travel abroad, the iGo adapter works in more than 150 countries and features an integrated USB outlet.

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DEEP SPACE INDEED

TODAY'S WORD-OBTUSE

obtuse

(adjective) [ob-TOOS, ob-TYOOS, ahb-TYOOS]

1. slow to learn or understand; 'he was either normally stupid or being deliberately obtuse': "I spent two hours explaining how to use the machine, but the obtuse intern botched up the order anyway."

2. lacking in insight or discernment; 'too obtuse to grasp the implications of his behavior'

3. not sharp or acute; blunt

4. having an angle between 90 and 180 degrees

5. of a leaf shape; rounded at the apex

adverb form: obtusely
noun form: obtuseness

TUNE IN TONIGHT

NEIL DIAMOND -- HOT AUGUST NIGHT NYC

CBS, 8 p.m. ET

A worthwhile new TV special in August? Yes – because Neil Diamond has a new DVD, keyed to his Madison Square Garden concerts, and wants to publicize it by presenting a TV companion. He runs through all his hits, which ought to appeal strongly to the CBS demographic.

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TODAY IN HISTORY

1945:President Harry S. Truman’s announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender marks the effective end of World War II.
1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, establishing better financial security for older people.
1941: FDR and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue the Atlantic Charter—an agreement to work together against Adolf Hitler—after the two leaders forge a personal and political friendship during secret meetings off the Newfoundland coast.

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