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 "small" 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 since 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 make their 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 new area 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 2000. The 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 provide dollar 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 spring. It will be in effect for eight years, after which Congress will vote on whether or not to extend it. The breadth of its reach remains to be seen: two thirds of federal spending is for items, such as established entitlement programs, that fall outside its purview.