The Almanac

Almanac --

The November Almanac

Arts & Letters

November 16, by today all federally funded museums and agencies housing Native American artifacts must supply detailed inventories of all human remains and associated funerary objects to the tribes affiliated with those items, according to the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The inventories are the second phase of a process that began in 1993, when institutions provided general summaries of many types of Native American holdings. The tribes may at any time reclaim inventoried items of cultural and ritual importance. Tens of thousands of artifacts stand to be returned, and many kinds of objects that are often displayed --pipes, medicine bundles, and masks among them--will cease to be exhibited unless tribes consent. However, the majority of holdings, consisting of everyday items such as clothing and pottery, will not be affected.

Health & Safety

November 1, New York City's sidewalks may be even denser with smokers after today, when employers must post a smoking policy. The requirement is part of the city's Smoke-Free Air Act, adopted last April and designed to limit exposure to secondhand smoke. It affects all employers and will serve to ban smoking in most parts of the workplace, including lounges, restrooms, cafeterias, and company vehicles. Unlike the hundreds of U.S. cities and towns that have wholly eliminated smoking in the workplace, however, New York still permits smoking behind closed doors in private offices--so long as no more than three people, all consenting, are present--and in ventilated smoking rooms. These provisions have raised the ire of the anti-smoking lobby, which contends that they unfairly accommodate the habits of superiors, who are more likely to have private offices, and the interests of the world's three largest tobacco-producing companies, RJR Nabisco, Philip Morris, and Loews, which are all headquartered in Manhattan.


November 10, starting today all foods regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture--that

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is, all meat and poultry products--that bear the word "healthy" or any of its derivatives on their labels must meet a new definition of the word constructed by the department and the Food and Drug Administration. (All foods regulated by the FDA must comply by January 1.) "Healthy" foods cannot exceed specified amounts of fat, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol per serving, and they must contain at least 10 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber--a stipulation that will rule out some items, such as some fruit juices, that are generally considered appropriate to a balanced diet. The joint definition is an effort to assure consumers of consistency; however, the FDA will allow a broader use of the word "healthy" in some instances, such as in a product's name, as long as it is not linked to specific nutritive content and is not grossly misleading.


According to the Statistical Assessment Service, in Washington, D.C., media estimates of the chance of being struck by lightning range from a comfortable one in five million to a somewhat disconcerting one in 10,456. Dividing the population of the United States in a given year (248,709,873 in 1990) by the number of people killed by lightning (89) gives odds of one in 2.8 million. But this figure doesn't mean much, because some regions have more lightning than others, and individual behavior is also a factor. Defying all odds, however imprecise, is Roy Sullivan, a forest ranger who survived a world-record seven lightning strikes.

The Skies

November 7, Full Moon, also known as the Beaver, Frosty, or Falling Leaves Moon. 17, the best time to observe the Leonid meteors comes just before midnight. This shower, although variable in intensity, has produced some spectacular displays, including, in 1966, an outburst that reached the rate of some 144,000 meteors an hour--the heaviest in recorded history. 18, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter gather low in the southwest just after sunset, joined November 23 by the crescent Moon.


November 7, the first 1996 presidential primary of sorts will be held today. At least 20 cities, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, Newark, Pasadena, and Tucson, and Spokane County, Washington, will participate in CityVote, a nonbinding "presidential preference balloting" open to all voters regardless of their party affiliation. The project is headed by Larry Agran, a former mayor of Irvine, California, and a 1992 Democratic presidential candidate; its goal is to prompt candidates to address urban concerns earlier and more substantively than they have done in the past. The composition of the ballots will be determined by CityVote and city officials; undeclared as well as declared candidates are likely to be included.

125 Years Ago

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, writing in the November, 1870, issue of The Atlantic Monthly: "It is the charm of pedestrian journeys that they convert the grandest avenues to footpaths. Through them alone we gain intimate knowledge of the people, and of nature, and indeed of ourselves. It is easy to hurry too fast for our best reflections, which, as the old monk said of perfection, must not be sought by flying, but by walking. . . . The thoughts that the railway affords us are dusty thoughts; we ask the news, read the journals, question our neighbor, and wish to know what is going on, because we are a part of it. It is only in the footpath that our minds, like our bodies, move slowly, and we traverse thought, like space, with a patient thoroughness."