The August Almanac

DEMOGRAPHICS

Partly because people are spending more time than usual away from home—and perhaps too because of the sultry weather—the incidence of serious crime in America will reach its annual high this month. Last August saw an 11 percent increase above the average in crimes categorized as “serious,” The evening of Tuesday, August 9, is likely to be the safest time of the month. Nationwide from 8:00 to 10:00 P.M. on that day some 18 million people in 7,000 communities will participate in the fifth annual National Night Out, when local Neighborhood Watch organizations will sponsor block parties and other events designed to keep law-abiding citizens on the streets—and criminals at bay. In Houston last year, according to the chief of police, the incidence of serious crime in the city on the evening of Houston Night Out was 30 percent lower than what is experienced on an average August night.

FOOD

Everywhere in America, August is the peak month for locally grown corn, the kind you buy at roadside stands and rush into the pot before the sugar turns into starch—just about the only corn, that is to say, worth eating. The biggest producer of the corn eaten by human beings during the rest of the year in this country is, surprisingly, Florida. Florida holds the No. 1 spot even though growers there, bowing to the strong seasonal harvest in northern states, do not plant a summer crop.

ARTS & LETTERS

This month marks the end of the first year in which network ratings were determined solely by A. C. Nielsen’s controversial new People Meter. People Meter ratings have logged primetime network viewership at nearly 10 percent below previous ratings, which were based on the diary system—resulting in a loss to the networks of as much as $30 million in advertising revenues.

NEW STAMPS

August 8, a 45-cent “Love” stamp to be issued in Shreveport, Louisiana. This stamp and a 25-cent “Love” stamp issued earlier share a rose motif. Love is good business: the U.S. Postal Service expects the new stamps to be popular for wedding invitations, most of which weigh more than an ounce (hence the 45-cent stamp) and most of which also require regular first-class postage for the reply card (hence the 25-cent stamp).

ENVIRONMENT

August 27, most places in the country will move up and down about two feet today. Spring tides (which come not only in spring but with every Full and New Moon) bring the highest highs and the lowest lows of the tide cycle. When, as is the case today, a spring tide coincides with the Moon’s perigee—the point in its orbit when the Moon is closest to Earth—the planet’s tides are at their most extreme. The same forces that create ocean tides also cause Earth’s crust to shift, albeit less dramatically than the oceans do. Land tides, unlike ocean tides, do not have much effect on the biological world—Michael Dukakis will remain five feet eight inches tall—but some geologists suspect that they may be linked to earthquakes.

GOVERNMENT

In an increasing number of states, collegiate football players rejoining their teams this month will find that National Collegiate Athletic Association rules governing professional contracts and the behavior of agents have become a matter of law. College athletes who have signed contracts with agents, agreed to play their sport professionally after college, or ignored any of dozens of other association regulations are supposed to be ineligible to participate in NCAA games. Eleven states now require the registration and regulation of sports agents (who hitherto could scout out players without restriction), and legislation toward similar ends is pending in nine other states. Several states, including Texas, have enacted legislation that, in effect, makes the violation of NCAA rules an outright violation of state law. August 15, Congress begins its three-week Labor Day recess. 15-18, the Republican National Convention meets in New Orleans.

EXPIRING PATENT

No. 3,600,807. Orally concealed aromatic device. “An oral apparatus for making the mouth pleasantly tasteful and exhaled air aromatically pleasant. The apparatus is adapted to be provided in an artificial tooth or other dental appliance.”

THE SKIES

August 11, at 8:00 P.M., the Perseid meteor shower peaks. 12, New Moon. 22-23, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all hover over a waxing Quarter Moon. 27, Full Moon, also known this month as the Green Corn Moon. A partial umbral eclipse of the Moon can be seen today by observers west of a line from Winnipeg to Houston.

HEALTH & SAFETY

The annual peak season for hay fever begins during the latter half of this month, brought on by the rising volume of ragweed pollen in the air. Sensitivity to allergens is believed to be genetic, although only the tendency to be allergic and not the specific allergy gets passed on. There is some good news about allergies: according to Dr. Michael Kaliner, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, researchers are homing in on figuring out how to suppress immunoglobulin-E antibodies, which are a product of exposure to allergens and are essential to the production of histamine, the substance that causes the familiar sneeze and runny nose.

25 YEARS AGO

Martin Luther King, Jr., writing in the August, 1963, issue of The Atlantic Monthly. “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’”