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Jockstrip: The World As We Know It

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International   |   Dec. 24, 2001 at 4:45 AM   |   Comments

TIME'S PERSON OF THE YEAR

Rudy Giuliani -- the outgoing New York City mayor who rose to the occasion after the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center Sept. 11 -- is Time Magazine's Person of the Year. The Person of the Year edition of Time magazine arrives on newsstands Monday.

The magazine's editors praised Giuliani for having "more faith in us than we had in ourselves, for being brave when required and rude when appropriate and tender without being trite, for not sleeping and not quitting and not shrinking from the pain all round him."

Among those who were considered for Time's Person of the Year were President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But bin laden was "too small a man to get the credit for all that has happened in America in the autumn of 2001," the magazine said. "It is what came after his men had finished their job that has come to define this year."

Giuliani, 57, will leave the mayor's office in about a week after eight years in office. Michael Bloomberg will be sworn in as mayor at midnight on Dec. 31.


THINGS WE DON'T UNDERSTAND

It's just a theory, but a new analysis of the amount of gift-wrap sold this year may indicate a gloomy Christmas for retailers.

Peter Appert, an analyst with Deutsch Bank Alex Brown, told the Los Angeles Times that sales of Christmas gift-wrapping paper ordered by retailers were down this year to their lowest level in more than 10 years. "On our scale of ho-ho, ho-hum and humbug, 2001 is clearly shaping up as a big humbug for both retailers and certain gift-wrap manufacturers," he said.

Appert polled retailers this year about the amount of packaged wrapping paper ordered by retailers, which presumably is an indicator of the level of business that stores were expecting to pull in from Christmas shoppers. Based on the amount of paper ordered, overall Christmas retail sales were projected at a flat 0.2 percent over last year's sales.

While largely unscientific, the DBAB report was reflected by a single-digit decline in paper sales from last Christmas season in overall sales reported by Hallmark at its 4,700 independent Gold Crown stores.

But representatives of the $3 billion wrapping industry told the Times there were other factors at work that might be contributing to the slump in paper sales -- including the purchase of smaller gifts such as compact CDs and DVD discs that do not require large amounts of paper, and the growing popularity of decorated gift bags that were not included in the gift-wrap survey.


NEWS OF OTHER LIFE FORMS

The first test of a California law protecting elephants from abuse by their human handlers ended late Friday with the acquittal of a circus trainer accused of beating one of his behemoth performers.

A Santa Clara County jury deliberated two hours before finding Mark Oliver Gebel, the star elephant trainer for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, innocent of a misdemeanor charge that could have landed him in jail for up to six months.

Gebel, 31 -- the son of the late venerable Ringling Brothers trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams -- had been accused by members of the Humane Society of the United States of repeatedly striking a recalcitrant elephant named Asia with a hooked metal tool known as an ankus during a circus performance in San Jose last summer. The blows were alleged to have been hard enough to draw a small amount of blood.

Christine Berringer, the president of the humane society's San Jose chapter, said the verdict was "disappointing."

"It was a very cut and dry case," she said. "Mark Gebel struck Asia (the elephant). He drew blood and he did it in a punishing manner, which is against the law."

California is the only state with a statute on its books specifically prohibiting the abuse of elephants.

(Thanks to UPI's Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)


TODAY'S SIGN THE WORLD IS ENDING

A new study by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory suggests that the idyllic white Christmas is fast becoming a thing at the past. They gathered data on 16 northern cities since 1960, and found that the number of white Christmases per decade -- defined as at least one inch of snow on the ground -- declined from 78 during the 1960s to 39 in the 1990s.

New York saw five white Christmases in the 1960s but only one in the 1990s, while Chicago dropped from seven to two in the same time frame. However, a number of other cities have had consistent numbers of white Christmases over the years.

Not too much should be read into the analysis, said Bob Cushman, who is director of the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge. "After all, we're only looking at one aspect of weather on one specific day each year. Whether there is snow on the ground on Dec. 25 may or may not relate to the larger issue of whether the U.S., or any region in the country, is experiencing an overall warming trend."

(Thanks to UPI Science News Writer Jim Kling)


AND FINALLY, TODAY'S UPLIFTING STORY

About 2,000 underprivileged kids will have smiles on their faces Christmas morning because of some Texas prison inmates.

For the past three years, the men and women incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the State Jail Division have built stick horses, teddy bears and other toys for distribution by the Salvation Army in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Construction of the toys began in the early fall and the toys were distributed in late November to the Salvation Army for Christmas delivery. The program is a collaboration of the department of criminal justice, Texas Correctional Industries, Windham School District and the Salvation Army.

"It made me feel good inside knowing that I was able to bring a smile to a child's face," said Joey D. Myles, an inmate at the Polunsky Unit, in a statement released by the prison Friday. He said he was honored to help with the program and that he and other inmates have a "feeling of accomplishment" when they build the toys for the kids every Christmas season. "Giving comes from the heart, with no reward in return," he said.

Dallas, Houston and San Antonio Salvation Army offices, Monahan Handles, Inc., of Arcola, Ill.; Ripley's Shirt Company in Dallas, and prison employees donated various materials for the toys. "The toy-making project gives the offenders something worthwhile to do while also benefiting society," said Estelle Unit Warden Rick Thaler. "That's not to mention all of the smiles that result from these gifts."


JOCKSTRIP is taking the holiday off. It will return Wed., Dec. 26. Merry Christmas from UPI Features.

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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