Almanac -- January 1997
The January Almanac
January 1, by today most commercial broadcast television and radio
stations must have digital computer equipment capable of automatically
receiving and transmitting emergency messages about natural disasters, such as
earthquakes, storms, and floods, and man-made crises, such as civil disorders
and toxic spills. Cable stations must have the new equipment by July. The
requirement is part of a federal overhaul of the Emergency Broadcast System
(EBS), starting with its name: the system will now be known as the Emergency
Alert System (EAS). Lacking the automatic capabilities of the EAS, the EBS
relied on human operators -- a pitfall especially in rural areas, where
often operate with little staff. Weaknesses in the warning system are believed
to have contributed to 40 deaths that were caused by tornadoes in Alabama and
Georgia in March of 1994.
January 3, the Quadrantid meteor shower, one of the year's most
displays, peaks tonight. During the second half of the month Comet Hale-Bopp
can be seen low in the east about an hour before sunrise. The comet will be
around for several months, but devoted observers may wish to start looking
after April it will be out of view for several thousand years. 23, Full
Moon, also known this month as the Wolf or Winter Moon.
To see daily entries of what to look for in the sky, visit the Skywatcher's
Diary of Michigan
State University's Abrams Planetarium.
January 31, as of today beef from cows aged approximately 30 to 42
months --"B" maturity cattle -- will be ineligible for the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's "select" grade and, unless it has more than "slight" or
amounts of marbling, for the "choice" grade as well (marbling, the flecks of
fat within muscle, contributes to tenderness). Instead it will be considered
"standard" grade and used mainly for ground beef or in processed foods.
Virtually all of the graded beef sold in supermarkets is "select"or "choice"
(the top grade, "prime," is assigned to only two percent of graded beef, that
with extensive marbling). The new standards were requested by the industry, in
an effort to ensure more consistently tender products and boost consumer
satisfaction with beef. U.S. per capita beef consumption is at its lowest
the 1950s, largely because of Americans' wariness of fat; ironically, the new
standards will result in fattier B carcasses in the choice grade.
January 1, by today, according to provisions to implement the 1996
Telecommunications Act, established local telephone companies must
operating and support systems available to new competitors. One consequence:
many area codes, already burdened by the need for numbers for cellular phones,
pagers, fax machines, and modems, will approach or reach exhaustion, because
companies entering the local telecommunications market require blocks of new
numbers. According to Bell Communications' North American Numbering Plan
Administration, at least 14 cities or regions are likely to receive
codes this year, starting with Los Angeles, which will receive its third area
code later this month; 36 more area codes may be assigned by the year
demand for new numbers exists abroad as well: as of this month Finland will
lengthen some new numbers by one digit, and Germany and Hong Kong are
considering similar strategies.
January 1, today President
Bill Clinton acquires the right to use the
line-item veto: he can strip specific spending items (those that
figures) from appropriations bills that he signs into law. He can also cancel
any new entitlement programs, expansions to existing benefits, or narrowly
targeted tax breaks. Previously the President was obliged to sign or veto all
bills in their entirety. The line-item veto was passed by Congress last
It will be in effect for eight years, after which Congress will vote on
or not to extend it. The breadth of its reach remains to be seen: two
federal spending is for items, such as established entitlement programs, that
fall outside its purview.
Parents should have an easier time in the new year locating quality television
programs for their children. Starting January 2, commercial broadcast
television stations must, in information provided for program listings and at
the time of airing, identify "core" programs -- those specifically designed to
serve "the educational and informational needs of children." This requirement
is one of several adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last summer
to strengthen its implementation of the
Children's Television Act, which
ruled that broadcasters must serve the interests of children but did not
specify how. (As a result, some stations considered their obligation met by
shows like America's Funniest Home Videos and The Jetsons.)
Although the new rules leave it to stations to determine what constitutes
educational fare, advocates argue that the public nature of the labeling
is likely to ensure compliance.
John Jay Chapman, writing in the January, 1897, issue of The
Monthly: "Both in language and in elocution
[Ralph Waldo] Emerson was a
practiced and consummate artist, who knew how both to command his effects and
to conceal his means. The casual practical, disarming directness with which he
writes puts any honest man at his mercy. What difference does it make
man who can talk like this is following an argument or not? You cannot always
see Emerson clearly; he is hidden by a high wall; but you always know exactly
on what spot he is standing. You judge it by the flight of the objects he
throws over the wall, -- a bootjack, an apple, a crown, a razor, a volume of
verse. With one or other of these missiles, all delivered with a very
aim, he is pretty sure to hit you."
Illustrations by Marc Rosenthal
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights
The Atlantic Monthly; January 1997; The January Almanac; Volume 279, No.
1; page 12.