The September Almanac


Military reunion

September is the busiest month of the year for military reunions, largely because hotel rooms are widely available at off-season rates (many veterans are retired and have limited incomes) and yet the weather is still generally clement. Such gatherings, however, appear to be a fading tradition: whereas there were some 6,000 across the country in 1992, only about half that number are expected this year. The aging and deaths of veterans -- particularly veterans of the Second World War, who hold the great majority of reunions -- and the modest U.S. military involvement in armed conflicts of recent decades are the chief reasons for the decline. In addition, several significant anniversaries -- for example, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War -- have now passed. Finally, the largest group of living veterans -- the more than 8 million veterans of the Vietnam War -- are markedly less enthusiastic about reunions than other veterans have been, presumably because of negative experiences both during combat and after their return home.


Clean-fuel taxi

September 1: The federal Clean Fuel Fleet Program (CFFP) begins today, as 1999 vehicles start rolling off assembly lines. Under amendments to the 1990 Clean Air Act some of the metropolitan areas that have been classified as "serious," "severe," or "extreme" in terms of ozone pollution must require, with some exceptions, operators of fleets of 10 or more vehicles to include a set percentage (initially, 30 percent for light-duty vehicles and 50 percent for heavy-duty vehicles) of "clean-fuel vehicles" in their annual purchases over the next few years. Manufacturers may use any fuel that enables the vehicles to meet stringent tailpipe-emissions standards. Among the areas affected are Atlanta, Denver-Boulder, and Washington, D.C. The Environmental Protection Agency hopes that the CFFP will encourage the development of a clean-fuel infrastructure.
Health & Safety

Testing newborns

This month the Institute of Medicine will release the results of a two-year study of states' efforts to reduce HIV transmission from mothers to newborns. The study was required under 1996 legislation that also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine this fall whether the testing of newborns of untested mothers, along with follow-up measures, has become routine. If so, in order to receive federal funding in 2000, states will have to meet one of the following general conditions: a reduction in new pediatric AIDS cases from perinatal transmission to half the number recorded in 1993, a voluntary-prenatal-testing rate of at least 95 percent, or the implementation of mandatory testing for all babies born to untested mothers. If not, paradoxically, funding will not be contingent on such conditions. Some argue that mandatory testing could drive women from the health-care system. However, there is no evidence that this has happened in New York, which has a successful mandatory newborn-testing program.

Arts & Leisure

Opera in China

September 5-13: Puccini's opera will be performed for the first time in the locale in which it is set -- Beijing's Forbidden City. The opera, about a Chinese princess and the tests she devises for her suitors, will involve more than 1,000 singers and musicians and be conducted . Its Beijing premiere is the result of years of work by the organization Opera on Original Site, known for the 1987 production of Aïda in Luxor, Egypt. The opera and related festivities are expected to contribute at least $100 million to the local economy. Because even the cheapest regular ticket, at $150, is several times the average monthly salary in China, two performances will be given for Beijing residents at drastically reduced prices.

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