Almanac -- December 1996
The December Almanac
Much of the country's baby food will become more nutritious by the end of this
month, when Gerber Products, which manufactures approximately 70 percent
baby food sold in the United States, stops using chemically modified starch and
sugar in many of its items. The Center for Science in the
Public Interest, a
consumer-advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., issued a report last year
criticizing baby-food manufacturers for using excessive amounts of fillers in
products for older infants and toddlers (it charged, for example, that Gerber's
best-selling baby food, bananas with tapioca, was only 44 percent bananas).
According to Gerber, its reformulations, which will affect 42 of the company's
190 products, are independent of the report, and were inspired simply by the
growing demand among health-conscious parents for additive-free baby food.
No. 3,997,927. Irrigated Sunbathing
Mat. "A sunbathing mat assembly comprising
a compressible mat sufficiently flexible so that the weight of the body of a
person lying on the mat will form depressed channels . . . , a water conduit .
. . having a row of perforations . . . , means for securing said conduit to
said mat . . . , and means for . . . supplying water to . . . flow into
the conduit and out through the perforations thereof and directly downward onto
the upper surface of the mat and along some of said depressed channels to cool
a lower portion of said body without wetting an upper portion of said body
exposed to the sun's rays."
This month six California
condors, bred and raised in captivity, are scheduled
to be released in the Vermillion Cliffs area of northern Arizona and southern
Utah. The release begins a new phase of a 17-year, $20 million campaign to
establish two wild populations of 150 condors each (31 condors have been
released in southern California since 1992). Condors have been dwindling in
number since the 1890s, owing to human activity and the birds' unusually slow
rate of reproduction. By 1985 only nine remained in the wild, all of which were
added to the captive-breeding program. The program so far has met with only
modest success: five of the condors reintroduced to southern California have
died, and nine others have been returned to captivity. In an effort to boost
survival rates, biologists have used aversion therapy to teach the birds to
avoid power lines, and have also trained them to fear human beings.
December 31, the Presidential
Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans'
Illnesses will submit its final report to President Bill Clinton by
committee was established in May of 1995 to study the host of unexplained
symptoms, such as fatigue, rashes, muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal
disorders, headaches, and memory loss, that have affected thousands of Gulf War
veterans--and to evaluate the responses of the Department of Veteran Affairs,
the Department of Defense, and the Department of Health and Human Services to
the complaints. It is also expected to address the question of whether, as some
have argued, these symptoms constitute a distinct syndrome, popularly known as
Gulf War Syndrome. Among the causes postulated for the veterans' illnesses are
exposure to burning desert oil fields, contamination by Iraqi chemical or
biological agents, vaccines given prior to departure for the Gulf, insecticides
and repellents, sand, and fumes from the paint used to recoat vehicles and
equipment with desert rather than jungle camouflage.
Option Red, a $43 million "ultrasupercomputer," will be installed at the
Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, in New
Mexico, this month.
It is the first in a series of high-powered computers intended to help the
government maintain its nuclear arsenal without violating the United Nations'
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed by the United States last
computers will design and carry out mathematical simulations of nuclear-weapons
detonations. Next in the series, scheduled for complete delivery by 1998, are
Option Blue Pacific, for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in
California, and Option Mountain Blue, for the Los Alamos National Laboratory,
in New Mexico. They will cost $93 million and $110 million respectively, and
are expected to be the most powerful computers in the world.
December 8, just before dawn the waning crescent Moon passes very close
to Venus, which is found in the morning skies all month long. 13-14, the
Geminid meteor shower, which usually rivals the Perseids of August in numbers
and brilliance, peaks tonight. The young Moon sets early and so will not
obscure the display. 21, at 9:06 A.M. EST, the Winter Solstice occurs.
Winter officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere, even as daylight starts to
lengthen. 24, Full Moon, also known this month as the Long Night Moon or
the Moon Before Yule.
E. L. Godkin, writing in the December, 1896, issue of The Atlantic
Monthly: "Nothing requires a more delicate combination of qualities than
the creation and conduct of a great business. The conditions of success are
often too minute for observation. The life is full of terrible anxieties,
especially in what is called 'hard times,' when money is difficult to get. The
penalty of failure is tremendous, and yet the number of us who are ready to
tell the capitalist how to carry on his business, how to pay his men, whom to
employ, and on what terms, is very large. If those who can carry on business
themselves were only one thousandth part as numerous as those who can tell how
it ought to be carried on by others, the happiness of man would be well
Illustrations by David Bamundo
Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights
The Atlantic Monthly; December 1996; The December Almanac; Volume 278, No.