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Of Human Interest: News-lite

June 12, 2002 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

RAY'S 'AMERICA' ON JULY 4

Crossover Records in Los Angeles is hoping every radio station in America will play Ray Charles' rendition of "America The Beautiful" at the stroke of midnight on July 4. The famed music artist, now 71, is commemorating the 30th anniversary of his unique version of the patriotic classic.

Written in 1893 by Wellesley, Mass., college Professor Katharine Lee Bates, "America The Beautiful" was conceived as a poem, not a song. Today, it commonly is accompanied by the music of Samuel Ward's "Materna."

Charles recorded the song on his album, "A Message from the People," and Quincy Jones arranged the music. When released in 1972 as a single, however, it was a slow seller, the music company said. In 1976, it got an unexpected reprise when it was used at the Winter Olympics to accompany U.S. ice skaters and a re-release of the song sent it soaring on the charts.

One of his most requested songs, Charles has sung it at both the World Series and the Super Bowl, as well as at Sugar Ray Leonard's famous match-up in Las Vegas against Roberto Duran.

Asked about his interpretation, Charles has said: "I put a little country backbeat on it and turned it my way."


SECURITY OFFICERS SAY NO IMPROVEMENT SINCE SEPT. 11

A survey of security officers finds lax security procedures continue in U.S. buildings nine months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in Washington and New York. Research from three of the largest U.S. states shows four in 10 private security officers report no new security procedures at their buildings and 7 in 10 report bomb threat drills or natural disaster drills are never conducted at their buildings.

"This research exposes what every security officer in America already knows -- the buildings where we work remain tremendously vulnerable," said Janet Boston, a former security officer at the World Trade Center. "Things won't improve unless we raise standards, improve integration with police and fire departments, and increase compensation. These findings should cause a lot of sleepless nights."

The survey was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and Kroll Inc., a private security consulting firm. Polling was conducted among security officers in Florida, California and Texas.

The survey also showed a majority of security personnel received no training in evacuation or emergency response prior to being hired for their job.


BOOT CAMP WITH A HAPPY HOUR

Raw recruits and generals are all eligible to enlist in summer Wine Boot Camp. It's for wine lovers who want to experience firsthand the joys and frustrations of winemaking.

The camp gives hands-on work in the vineyard and the cellar under the tutelage of top winemakers and viticulturists. Wine workshops and tastings of outstanding wines also are part of the program, of course.

Conducted by Affairs of the Vine, Wine Boot Camp is designed to send graduates out to storm the wine lists of America and the world, impressing friends and colleagues.

Enlistment costs $350 and camps are held in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Monterey County and Santa Barbara in California. For more information go to the Web site at winebootcamp.com.


AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY SUV

In Yucca, Ariz., this month teams of students from 15 top university engineering departments are entering the final stage of the FutureTruck competition at Ford's Arizona Proving Grounds. The idea is to re-engineer a mid-size 2002 Ford Explorer to improve fuel economy and lower emissions -- making it more environmentally friendly while retaining its customer appeal.

All of the teams have used a hybrid electric vehicle design strategy but eight of the re-configured engines were modified to run on ethanol, three on bio-diesel, one ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and one will use reformulated gasoline.

Two other teams are working on a more advanced long-term propulsion solution -- hydrogen fuel cells. Other technical goals include reducing greenhouse gases and the promise of emerging exhaust gas treatment technologies to reduce tailpipe emissions.

The final competition stage involves more than 10 days of intense testing -- including acceleration and off-road performance events -- in Arizona and California. The winning university team will be announced June 21 in Beverly Hills, Calif. More than $200,000 in seed money and cash prizes will be awarded.

Ford Motor Company and the U.S. Department of Energy, through its Argonne National Laboratory, are the headline sponsors for the 2002 FutureTruck competition.


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