Monday, November 30, 2009


I'm always slightly terrified when I exit our of Word and it asks me of I want to save any changes to my 10 page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.


The presenters of Top Gear, among the finer specimens of British television talent, were this past week engaged in designing and building an electric vehicle purportedly intended to compete with the Chevy Volt. Set a time limit of a mere 18 hours, they produced the marvel of rushed engineering and shoddy workmanship you see above.
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I hate it when I just miss a call by the last ring. Hello? hello?, but when I call right back, it rings nine times and goes to voice mail. what did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?


"The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." – John F. Kennedy


Fifteen years after becoming a Rotarian in 1971, Bob Selinger was seriously injured in an industrial accident and had to use a wheelchair.
Every day for a year, Rotarians drove Selinger to physical therapy. He eventually recovered and was able to leave the wheelchair behind. But the generosity of his Rotarian friends left a lasting impression on him, and a strong desire to give back.
Selinger, a member of the Rotary Club of Newport-Irvine, California, and his wife, Jean, who died in 2005, were among several couples from the United States inducted into the Arch C. Klumph Society in late October at RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. The society honors people who give at least $250,000 to The Rotary Foundation.
"You couldn't ask for a more giving or loving organization," says Selinger, who was inducted during a ceremony on 26 October. "I want to show how much I care about Rotary and the Foundation."
The Selingers hosted more than 25 Rotary Youth Exchange students and supported the Annual Programs Fund, Permanent Fund, PolioPlus, and the Humanitarian Grants Program. Selinger says he made his recent contributions to the Foundation in memory of his wife.
Selinger served as a district Youth Exchange officer and executive director of his regional Youth Exchange organization, and is a 2008-09 recipient of the RI Service Above Self Award.
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Many of us will be throwing holiday parties in the weeks ahead, but for those who aren't regularly party throwers, it can be difficult to know how big of an invite list your place can handle. This simple formula can help.
Clinton Kelly of TV's What Not To Wear suggests a straightforward method for inviting the right amount of people to your party. His easy equation takes your home's space into account and a few simple rules for getting your numbers right.
Divide the square footage of your home by five (the approximate number of feet each guest needs in personal space). That number equals how many people can fit comfortably in your home. Then, assume that 80 percent of your invitees will accept the invitation, but that five of those people won't end up coming. For example, if you've got 100 square feet of space in your home, you can fit 20 guests. But really, you can invite 25 because just 16 will plan to come in the first place, and one will claim to be violently ill the day of the party.



1995:Bill Clinton becomes the first U.S. president to visit Northern Ireland.

1782: In Paris, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and other Americans sign the preliminary articles of peace for a treaty ending the Revolutionary War with the British.

1979: Pink Floyd releases its album The Wall.

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"He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying." – Michel de Montaigne



A hungry traveler stops at a monastery and is taken to the kitchens. A brother is frying chips. 'Are you the friar?' he asks. 'No. I'm the chip monk,' he replies

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Truck-Driving: Phillip Mathews, 73, whose logging truck is equipped with a tall boom arm to facilitate loading, forgot to lower the arm after finishing a job in Bellevue, Iowa, in October, and when he returned to the highway, the boom proceeded to snap lines on utility poles he passed for the next 12 miles until motorists finally got his attention.
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Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVD's? I don't want to have to restart my collection.


"The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life." – William Shakespeare


For years doctors have recommended exercise to enhance our moods, but the reason it actually works has never been that clear. Thanks to a group of overworked rodents, we may be closer to finding out, and it's pretty good news.
Researchers at Princeton University recently conducted a study comparing sedentary rats with active ones. Both were dunked in cold water, which they really hate (uh, yeah, who wouldn't?). It turns out that even though all the rats were equally stressed out swimming around in frigid water, the brain activity of the more active rats was calmer overall. Scientist Michael Hopkins explained it to the New York Times this way:
The "cells born from running," the researchers concluded, appeared to have been "specifically buffered from exposure to a stressful experience." The rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm.
"[T]he positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they're more equipped to handle stress in other forms."
Though it will no doubt take a lot more research to understand whether or not the same effects result from exercise with the human brain, remember its seeming stress-busting effects the next time you don't feel like working out. When things get stressful as work, your stress-resistant exercise cells may help you remain cool as a cucumber.
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When going into a store, get a cart from the parking lot, odds are in your favor that it will not have a stuck or wobbly wheel since other shoppers should have exchanged them inside the store


Saturday, November 28, 2009


NEW BEDFORD, Mass., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Two young Massachusetts men have been charged with posting a threatening video on YouTube that mentioned the names of a state trooper and a probation officer.
Investigators said the rap video featuring Mathew Rufino, 24, of New Bedford and Jason Foley, 28, of nearby Fairhaven would have been protected free speech if it had simply been aimed at police, The Boston Globe said. But throwing in specific names along with footage of a gun and noises of a firearm discharging elevated it to a potential crime.
"When you view the brazenness of the threats in a post-9/11 era, it certainly poses concern and we didn't wait,'' New Bedford Police Lt. Jeffrey Silva said.
Both men were arrested during the weekend and appeared in court Monday, The Boston Herald said. A judge ordered them held pending a hearing next Monday on whether they should remain in jail.
Foley's mother told the Globe her son is no threat to anyone and said he had hoped the rap video might lead to a career in entertainment.
"He thought he was going to make it big one day,'' she said. "They didn't think anything was wrong with what they did.''



The boy's guitar teacher helped him pick up his skills


It all started one day five months ago when Mansour decided to bring his dog to work. He didn’t think much of it at the time — he just wanted to have his best friend with him while he worked the sometimes slow, and occasionally, dangerous, early morning shift. The dog was given free rein of the store, and as a joke, Mansour put a shirt with a BP logo on the dog, and gave him a name tag. “While he’s here, he’s an employee. My rule is, ‘all employees need to wear the shirt,’ ” Mansour said.
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Rotary Peace Fellow Russell Vandenbroucke uses the stage to convey his desire for peace.
"The consequences of violence are always negative," says the author of Soldier Circle, a play that humanizes the effects of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq on the individual soldier, and Atomic Bombers, which was turned into a public radio program for the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.
"To say my plays send a message is too simple. I don't write about things that are simple -- or at least I make them more complicated," he adds. "Most humanitarian problems resist simple solutions."
Vandenbroucke, a professor of theater arts and department chair at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, USA, decided to apply for Rotary's peace and conflict studies certificate program at Chulalongkorn University while he was co-teaching a course on war and conscience in the spring of 2006. In putting together a list of resources for his students, he came upon materials for the program. "I thought, my students do not qualify, but I think I do," he recalls. With the support of his dean and the university, he took a sabbatical to attend in 2007.
One defining moment during the program occurred as he visited a refugee camp near the border of Myanmar and Thailand. "Our presence among the 48,000 refugees made a big impact on them," he remembers. "When the refugees spotted the diversity of our group, they said, 'The world knows we are here; the world is paying attention to us.'
"It was one of many moments that reminded me that Rotary International is an organization to be very proud of."
Vandenbroucke says issues of peace and justice have long been a fundamental part of who he is. He became a conscientious objector in 1969 when, as an ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) student, he listened to discussions of biological and chemical agents. He secured permission from his draft board during the Vietnam War to serve two years of alternative service.
Later, he turned to plays because of their ability to tackle complicated problems in an emotionally gripping manner.
"The appeal of theater is ultimately very simple: telling stories about human beings," he says. "We understand stories of individuals far better and more viscerally than any concept. I am usually attracted to stories that have a broad social dimension to them."
He counts his three months at Chulalongkorn as one of the richest experiences of his life. Since the program, he has written a couple of pieces, including Soldier Circle, and has contributed to the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace.
"I believe the problems of this world are created by men and women and can be fixed by men and women," he says. "This program appeals to people who have that understanding. And then it arms them with skills, expertise, and tools that can help them do this work more effectively.
"If, at the end of the day, I can say I have contributed a few drops to the collective fountain that sustains all of us, I will feel content," he says.
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1943:Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin meet secretly in Tehran to map war strategy and postwar relations. It’s Stalin’s first trip abroad since 1917.

1929: The Chicago Cardinals’ Ernie Nevers scores an NFL-record 40 points as he runs for six touchdowns and kicks four extra points against the Chicago Bears. Today it is the NFL’s oldest standing record.

1994: Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is killed by a fellow inmate in a Wisconsin prison.

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Ever need to repair an awkwardly shaped object but have trouble keeping it steady while you work?  Use sand  to hold odd-shaped objects at just the right angle while your glue dries.

Push the piece far enough into the sand so it no longer wobbles, then begin the repair. Keep a plastic storage bin filled halfway with sand in the garage to use for this purpose, whenever something breaks.
We can also see things like kitty litter or sugar working in this same instance—in case you don't have a bag of sand hanging around your garage. It's a quick fix that doesn't require any added assistance or time spent holding things together while drying.


Did you hear about the guy who got hit in the head with a can of soda? He was lucky it was a soft drink.


"The most profound statements are often said in silence." – Lynn Johnston


They're simple, they're American and come Thanksgiving, everybody saves room for them. But the pies we know today are a fairly recent addition to a history that goes back as long as mankind has had dough to bake into a crust and stuff to put inside it. In medieval England, they were called pyes, and instead of being predominantly sweet, they were most often filled with meat — beef, lamb, wild duck, magpie pigeon — spiced with pepper, currants or dates. Historians trace pie's initial origins to the Greeks, who are thought to be the originators of the pastry shell, which they made by combining water and flour. The wealthy Romans used many different kinds of meats — even mussels and other types of seafood — in their pies. Meat pies were also often part of Roman dessert courses, or secundae mensea. Cato the Younger recorded the popularity of this sweet course, and a cheesecake-like dish called Placenta, in his treatise De Agricultura. Contrary to grade school theater productions across the United States, there was no modern-day pie — pumpkin, pecan or otherwise — at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. Pilgrims brought English-style, meat-based recipes with them to the colonies. While pumpkin pie, which is first recorded in a cookbook in 1675, originated from British spiced and boiled squash, it was not popularized in America until the early 1800s. Historians don't know all the dishes the Pilgrims served in the first Thanksgiving feast, but primary documents indicate that pilgrims cooked with fowl and venison — and it's not unlikely that some of that meat found its way between sheets of dough at some point. The colonists cooked many a pie: because of their crusty tops, pies acted as a means to preserve food, and were often used to keep the filling fresh during the winter months. And they didn't make bland pies, either: documents show that the Pilgrims used dried fruit, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to season their meats. Further, as the colonies spread out, the pie's role as a means to showcase local ingredients took hold and with it came a proliferation of new, sweet pies. A cookbook from 1796 listed only three types of sweet pies; a cookbook written in the late 1800s featured 8 sweet pie varieties; and by the 1947 the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different varieties of sweet pies. There are few things as American as apple pie, as the saying goes, but like much of America's pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes came from England. These pre-Revolutionary prototypes were made with unsweetened apples and encased in an inedible shell. Yet the apple pie did develop a following, and was first referenced in the year 1589, in Menaphon by poet R. Greene: "Thy breath is like the steeme of apple pies." (500 years later, we have "I'm Lovin' It", thanks to McDonald's and its signature apple pie in an individual-serving sleeve.) Pies today are world-spanning treats, made with everything from apples to avocados. The winners of this year's annual APC Crisco National Pie Championship included classic apple, pumpkin and cherry pies, but citrus pies, banana foster crème and Wolf Pack trail mix pies have all made the awards list. Pies have come a long way since the days of magpie and pepper, but many bakeries — including The Little Pie Shop in New York City,  say a classic apple pie is still their top holiday seller.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Bad decisions make for good stories.


Yves Rossy, better known as the ‘Jetman,’ failed in his first attempt to make an intercontinental flight between Europe and Africa. After launching over Morocco, Rossy was heading for Spain over the Strait of Gibraltar when he disappeared from view on the live TV broadcast. Several minutes later the cameras found him swimming in the Atlantic with his parachute.
Rossy has made several successful flights with his jet-powered wing which attaches like a backpack. Last year he crossed the English Channel and he has also made numerous flights in the Alps.
At a press conference in Spain after the ditching, Rossy  thanked his rescuers according to Sky News. It is unclear exactly what led to the ditching, though Rossy said he had attempted to fly over a cloud that was bigger than he expected and ended up going too slow. He ended up flying into the cloud and said he felt he was stabilized at one point despite not having a horizon reference. As an experienced airline pilot, Rossy knows the difference between flying by visual references and flying by reference to instruments. Flying by instrument reference is normal while flying in the clouds in an aircraft. Flying his jet wing, Rossy does not have adequate reference instruments. A lack of either a reference horizon can cause pilots to lose control of their aircraft because of spatial disorientation. In the news conference he says while in the cloud he began to lose stability, but did believe he was able to regain a stable climb. A short time later he says he was once again unstable and his altimeter told him he was at only 850 meters (2789 feet) elevation.
“And unstable at this height, that’s not playing anymore, so I did throw away my wing and open the parachute.” The Spanish Coast Guard is expected to recover the wing from the Atlantic and Rossy’s team has said he will make another attempt at the transcontinental flight.
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If you’re like me, you’ve got a fair number of family and friends who don’t quite share the same level of enthusiasm for technology as you. But the thought of buying someone a gift that wasn’t a gadget? Insanity. Pure insanity. In that spirit, here’s a list of products that ought to make easy-to-use gifts for the technologically ambivalent in your life.
For the Information Junkie: WikiReader ($99)
slide7 The WikiReader is a handheld device loaded up with every Wikipedia article available. It uses two AAA batteries, requires no data connection whatsoever, and features a power-sipping monochrome screen that works in direct sunlight. It’s the perfect gift for your yarn-spinning know-it-all grandpa, except now he’ll actually get his facts straight.
When it’s time to update the WikiReader to the latest articles, Gramps can have a new microSD card sent to him twice a year for $29 (just pop it in behind the batteries) or you can download the update yourself for free and load it up for him.
Product Page |
For the First-Time Computer User: Litl Webbook ($699)
preview As the resident computer expert in your family, to hear that someone who’s never used a computer before wants to “see what all the fuss is about” and wonders if you can teach them how to use it should send chills up and down your spine (and up and down again).
The new Litl Webbook removes an entire layer of the traditional operating system, providing direct access to music, movies, photos, the internet and more. Everything is kept “in the cloud” and all system updates are pushed to the device automatically. Think of it as a smartbook.
There’s a two-year return period, 178-degree viewing angle touchscreen, and the device flips over into “easel mode” to double as a digital photo frame.
Product Page |
For the Music Lover: SanDisk slotRadio ($79.99)
slotRadio_140 Take the portability of an MP3 player, strip out the hassle of loading music onto it, and you’ve got SanDisk’s slotRadio player. Once you’ve grown tired of the 1,000 popular songs included with the player, pick up another card preloaded with 1,000 additional songs for between $30 and $40 apiece and spread across genres such as Classical, Rock, Oldies, Country, and more.
Pop out the old card, pop in the new card. Boom. Simple like tapes and CDs, newfangled like an MP3 player.
Product Page |
For the Bookworm: Amazon Kindle ($259)
kindle You’ll probably want to drop some hints before you gift an e-book reader to someone, just to get an idea about whether or not they’d actually use an electronic gizmo for reading. Our own Devin Coldewey is in his late twenties and he won’t touch an e-book reader with a ten foot pole, opting instead to throw on a cardigan, light up an academic-looking pipe, and read a book the old fashioned way. He likes the smell of paper or something weird like that.
If you’re able to plant the e-book seed successfully, though, the Kindle should be easy enough to use for just about anyone. And it doesn’t require a computer, so there’s that. You could go with one of the other wireless e-book readers, but the Barnes & Noble “nook” is sold out and there’s loose talk that Sony’s Reader Daily Edition might be waylaid until after the holidays.
Product Page
For the Neatnik: iRobot Roomba (starting at $129.99)
roomba It’s a strange world when a robot is a vacuum and the entire combination is as simple to operate as hitting a single button. That’s Roomba for you, though. Perfect for the compulsive cleaner in your life, the Roomba series gets into corners and around furniture, finds its way back to its charging base, and makes the mundane chore of vacuuming a thing of the past. Truly anal neatniks may complain that Roomba misses a spot here and there but, hey, that just gives them something to clean by hand – and that’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Product Page
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Flix, 8 p.m. ET
In 1996, this movie gobbled up nine Oscars, including Best Picture. It’s a WWII romantic drama, about a British cartographer (Ralph Fiennes) who reveals his indiscretions to a very sympathetic nurse. Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche co-star.
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"Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God's final word on where your lips end."-Jerry Seinfeld



1978:Dan White shoots San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk inside City Hall after he was unable to get back his job as supervisor.

1924: Macy’s employees organize a Christmas parade in New York City. It becomes an annual event that transforms into the modern Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

1973: Gerald Ford is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as vice president after Spiro Agnew’s resignation.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009



 The economic news may be gloomy, but unlike President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, President Barack Obama has not tinkered with the date of the holiday.
In 1939, FDR decided to move Thanksgiving Day forward by a week. Rather than take place on its traditional date, the last Thursday of November, he decreed that the annual holiday would instead be celebrated a week earlier.
The reason was economic. There were five Thursdays in November that year, which meant that Thanksgiving would fall on the 30th. That left just 20 shopping days till Christmas. By moving the holiday up a week to Nov. 23, the president hoped to give the economy a lift by allowing shoppers more time to make their purchases and—so his theory went—spend more money.
Roosevelt made his decision in part on advice from Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, who was in turn influenced by Lew Hahn, general manager of the Retail Dry Goods Association. Hahn had warned Hopkins that the late Thanksgiving, Nov. 30, might have an "adverse effect" on the sale of "holiday goods."
In an informal news conference in August announcing his decision, FDR offered a little tutorial on the history of the holiday. Thanksgiving was not a national holiday, he noted, meaning that it was not set by federal law. According to custom, it was up to the president to pick the date every year.
It was not until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln ordered Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, that that date became generally accepted, Roosevelt explained. To make sure that reporters got his point, he added that there was nothing sacred about the date.
Nothing sacred? Roosevelt might as well have commanded that roast beef henceforth would replace turkey as the star of the holiday meal, or that cranberries would be banned from the Thanksgiving table. The president badly misread public opinion. His announcement was front-page news the next day, and the public outcry was swift and loud.
First to complain was Plymouth, Mass., home of the Pilgrims and location of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. "Plymouth and Thanksgiving are almost synonymous," intoned the chairman of the town's board of selectmen, "and merchants or no merchants I can't see any reason for changing it."
College football coaches also objected. The United Press news service noted mildly that coaches would find the date change "a considerable headache." The Associated Press predicted that the Roosevelt plan would "kick up more clamor than a hot halfback running the wrong way." By 1939 Thanksgiving football had become a national tradition. Many colleges ended their football seasons with Thanksgiving Day games, a custom that dated back to the 19th century. In Democratic Arkansas, the football coach of Little Ouachita College threatened: "We'll vote the Republican ticket if he interferes with our football."
FDR's proclamation of the date of Thanksgiving had the force of law only in the District of Columbia and the territories of Hawaii and Alaska. A few states mandated that Thanksgiving be marked on the date set by the president, but in most states governors issued pro forma ratifications of the date the president proclaimed.
Now, however, the celebration became a political hot potato. Governors had to read public opinion, examine the local business climate, consider political loyalties, and decide which date to select as the official Thanksgiving.
Do they stick with tradition and celebrate Thanksgiving on Nov. 30, or follow FDR's lead and change the date to Nov. 23? It wasn't long before people started referring to Nov. 30 as the "Republican Thanksgiving" and Nov. 23 as the "Democratic Thanksgiving" or "Franksgiving."
Public sentiment ran heavily against Roosevelt's plan. Ten days after the president's announcement, Gallup published the results of a national poll finding that 62% of Americans surveyed disapproved of the date change. By the time November arrived, the 48 states were nearly evenly divided. Twenty-three decided to stick with the old Thanksgiving, and 22 decided to adopt FDR's date—Texas, Mississippi and Colorado said they would celebrate on both days.
For the next two years, Roosevelt continued to move up the date of Thanksgiving, and more states resigned themselves to celebrating early. By 1941, however, the facts turned against Roosevelt.
By then, retailers had two years of experience with the early Thanksgiving, and data were available regarding the 1939 and 1940 Christmas shopping seasons. In mid-March 1941, The Wall Street Journal reported the results of a survey done in New York City. The Journal's headline put it succinctly: "Early Thanksgiving Not Worth Extra Turkey or Doll." Only 37% of stores surveyed favored the early date. In Washington, the federal government reported that the early Thanksgiving resulted in no boost to retail sales.
And so, on May 20, 1941, FDR called a press conference at the White House and announced that he was changing Thanksgiving Day back to its traditional date. The early Thanksgiving had been an "experiment," he said, and the experiment failed. It was too late to move the 1941 Thanksgiving back to the traditional date, but in 1942 Thanksgiving would revert to the last Thursday of the month. This was "the first time any New Deal experiment was voluntarily abandoned," a Washington Post columnist wrote.
Thankfully, there is a happy ending to this tale of Washington folly: On Dec. 26, 1941, Roosevelt signed a joint resolution passed by Congress making Thanksgiving a national holiday and mandating that it be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Although the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has faced sobering challenges in the past year, it is moving forward in key political, technical, financial, and operational areas.

Stepped-up efforts to end the disease in the four endemic countries of Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan are paying off, GPEI officials say.

"Rotary International has played an extraordinarily special role [in the GPEI], not just as one of the initiators but in bringing financial resources, political advocacy, and volunteerism on the ground to getting the job done," says Dr. Bruce Aylward, director of the GPEI at the World Health Organization.
According to WHO, the incidence of polio in Nigeria in 2009 dropped by almost half to 383 cases as of 10 November, compared with 753 cases for the same period in 2008. Most dramatic has been the decline in the transmission of the type 1 wild poliovirus, to 73 cases from 692 cases. Also, the proportion of unimmunized children in Nigeria's highest-risk states fell below 10 percent for the first time.
In Pakistan, the incidence of polio decreased to 76 cases from 96 cases. Rotarians there have encouraged the national government to give strong support to ending the disease. This advocacy effort helped prompt the government's decision to launch the Prime Minister's Action Plan for Polio Eradication. On behalf of Rotary International in August, International PolioPlus Committee Chair Robert S. Scott recognized Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, with a Polio Eradication Champion Award for his outstanding support for a polio-free world. Read more.
Although the incidence of polio in India increased to 568 cases, compared with 503 cases a year ago, all but two of India’s 35 states and territories have stopped transmission of the wild polio virus.
Afghanistan recorded the same number of polio cases, 24, as a year ago. The wild poliovirus is endemic only in the south, and about 80 percent of children live in polio-free areas.
In 2010, a new vaccine is expected to be introduced to help stop the transmission of the type 1 and type 3 wild polioviruses simultaneously. This bivalent vaccine, health officials believe, will multiply the gains made during the past year toward eradicating polio.
Worldwide, the number of polio cases has dropped from more than 350,000 in 1988, when the GPEI began, to 1,651 in 2008. The remaining 1 percent of cases are the most difficult and expensive to prevent, however. That is why continued support for Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge, which is close to reaching the halfway mark in funding, is crucial to the GPEI's success.
"Rotary's challenge ends 30 June 2012. Let's push confidently ahead to reach our goal and help ensure that all the children of the world will be forever safe from this devastating disease," says Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Glenn E. Estess Sr.
  • Donate now to help Rotary achieve a polio-free world.
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MYTH: The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
TRUTH: They landed in Provincetown. There was no rock.

MYTH: Thanksgiving dinner was a religious family affair.
TRUTH: It was primarily a community event complete with a local Indian tribe.

MYTH: The first Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.
TRUTH: Texans will tell you that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Spanish explorers on the banks of the Rio Grande in 1598, 23 years before the Pilgrims.

MYTH: The first Thanksgiving dinner took place on the fourth Thursday in November.
TRUTH: The original feast occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9. The event lasted nearly a week and was based on English harvest festivals.

MYTH: The Pilgrims intended to land on Cape Cod.
TRUTH: They were aiming for the Hudson River area of New York state.

MYTH: The Pilgrims lived in log cabins.
TRUTH: Log cabins came years later. They lived in clapboard houses.

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It was a Sunday, 15 years ago, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Down by a twisting creek, off in a flat and treeless corner of a farmer’s pasture, a handful of men had come together, as they did every Sunday before Thanksgiving, for a turkey shoot.
The men carried old guns, the kind they call muzzleloaders. They shot at bulls-eye targets set up by the creek, and on this day, chill and still in the country, the report of a shot rang across the hills. In an ambulance, coming over the hills toward the creek, the man heard the shots, and he smiled.
The man brought these shooters together over the years. There weren’t many, no more than 20. But every Sunday, they came to shoot their muzzleloaders. If it snowed, they wore gloves and cursed the weather, but they came anyway. They shooed away the cows down by the creek, and they shot until the daylight, or the coffee, ran out.
The man who started them shooting was always the first there and the last to leave. He brought the targets and took them home. He kept them in his garage, and he kept them in his house, and, finally, he built a room inside his house for the guns and targets and lead (he made bullets on his wife’s stove).
The man had always been a sports fan. In grade school he was a high jumper. Once, he was proud to say, he made it over the bar and was able to walk back under it without stooping. He played baseball, too, and basketball, but not much. His father died at 41, and he went to work when he finished the eighth grade. He drove trucks for a while, and he was in the Army for a while, and then he was a carpenter.
The man was caught up by guns when he moved his wife, son and daughter into a big, old house and, cleaning it, found a rusting handgun. Sometime later, he began buying the muzzleloaders, one here for $10, one there for $25, and tired, or driving a hundred miles every Sunday to shoot, he made up his own muzzle-loading club.
The man was, by then, an aficionade: he ran advertisements in shooting journals, setting down the dates for his club’s shoots; he took to wearing a buckskin jacket when he shot, and he always wore a black mountaineer’s hat with a pheasant feather stuck in the band; he made, with his own hands, muzzle-loading guns of such precision and beauty that men offered him hundreds of dollars for them, all the while knowing the man would as soon sell his right arm as his guns.
Every spring, the man made the pilgrimage to Friendship, Ind., 300 miles from home, for the national championship muzzle-loading matches. He drove a pickup truck, and his wife sat in front with him, and his son and daughter rode in the back in a cabin he built for them. He entered the benchrest matches, those in which the shooters put their guns on a table to shoot them. He never won, but he never cared, and in the winter, looking at his magazines, he would announce to his family the dates for the spring nationals.
And then, 15 years ago, when the doctors told him he had cancer, and he had two weeks to live, no more, the man thought of his turkey shoot down by the creek. He would go, he said, to the turkey shoot if he had to go in an ambulance. And on that Sunday before Thanksgiving, he went.
Coming over a hill in the pasture, the ambulance rolling silently over a path worn dusty by the shooters’ cars over the years, the man heard the guns of his friends, and he smiled. He wore his black mountaineer’s hat (his wife once caught him unawares and took his picture when he wore white longjohns and the black hat). And when they lifted him out of the ambulance on a stretcher, he told his son he wanted to sit up, damn it, so he could see.
He hadn’t spoken in the ambulance during a half-hour’s drive to the shooting range. Once there, he laughed and talked and had his picture taken with his friends and family making a semicircle on either side of his stretcher.
He didn’t talk going back to the hospital that Sunday before Thanksgiving, and he died on Tuesday, and I thought of all this again on another Sunday before Thanksgiving when, late at night, my son, 16, said, “I love you daddy.” That’s what I said, on that ambulance ride 15 years ago, to my father.
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