BBC'S COOKE STILL GOING STRONG
The BBC's much-respected and articulate correspondent Alistair Cooke is still going strong. His weekly "Letter From America" is now the longest-running broadcast of its kind in the world. In this country he's famous for his hosting of NBC's "Omnibus" in the early days of television, "Masterpiece Theatre" and his Bicentennial-observing "America" series. This week Cooke is celebrating his 93rd birthday this week. His observations of the national scene continue to be keen and his voice still sounds strong. A recent audio letter to the BBC focuses on the incredible display of the Stars and Stripes in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. He takes his listeners on a journey across this country where, he recounts, visitors from abroad have always been impressed at the way Americans display Old Glory for no apparent reason at all. But he also looks at the way the flag has been used for commercial purposes and the way the rules governing its display and care -- and yes, its desecration -- have been debated and changed over the years. By the way, Cooke's weekly broadcast is accessible through bbc.com on the Internet. Ironically, he has been internationally known for his work (his "Letter" has been aired since 1946 on the BBC's World Service), but here in the States few, except for shortwave listeners, have heard it. Now, with the Internet, more are getting a chance.
WHOOPEE! FOR WHOOPI
Popular movie-TV star Whoopi Goldberg has the kind of personality that speaks for itself. A head-strong, outspoken comedienne, Goldberg's image has become a part of the American culture. Don't tread on her, unless you're walking down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In celebration of Goldberg's 46th birthday, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce unveiled its latest star. Goldberg is currently the driving force behind the latest incarnation of "Hollywood Squares."
GRAHAM DEFENDS MINISTRY'S H-Q MOVE
The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and first vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is defending his decision to move the long-time headquarters of the group from Minneapolis to Charlotte, N.C., in the coming months. Speaking with Assist News Service, Graham tells correspondent Michael Ireland that it was a tough decision to make. Graham noted that his father and the ministry have had half a century of good relations with the Twin Cities. The younger Graham said that one deciding factor was the fact that the building housing the crusade's worldwide headquarters had become too expensive to maintain. One other concern is the impact that the move will have the group's employees. Thirty-six of the association's 450 employees have been with Graham for more than 30 years. A new headquarters will be built in the North Carolina capital on the just-named Billy Graham Parkway.
BROOKS ADDS JEWEL TO LINEUP
As Garth Brooks continues his comeback from a self-imposed hiatus his tour continues to add quests. His recent appearance at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles -- his first concert in two years and his first in that city in five -- was greeted by a host of guests, including Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Woody Harrelson, Marlee Matlin and John Travolta. Now his publicist says that popular singer Jewel will appear with the country icon during his Wednesday night appearance on CBS. The broadcast, "Garth Brooks: Coast to Coast Live," will be aired at 10, Eastern Time. Jewel will sing two songs from her latest album, "This Way." She is also slated to accompany Brooks during his upcoming concert for military personnel aboard the USS Enterprise.
WEEVIL EXPERTS' WORK NEARLY DONE
Since the beginning of cotton growing in America, growers have had to put up with the damage done by the boll weevil. So entrenched in southern agriculture, it's been the subject of numerous folk songs. Now, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the pesky weevil is about to be a thing of the past. The agency says that dramatic new harvesting techniques, including the plowing under of crop rows immediately after harvest, have deprived the weevil of its home. Weevils are incredibly prolific, laying up to 800 eggs six to seven times a year. Many cotton growers, particularly in Texas, say that they can walk their fields and not see a single boll weevil, a far cry from the days when they were "thick as files."
PERFORMERS BENEFIT FROM TV APPEARANCES
Don't tell anyone who's ever put out a record or appeared in a movie that the free publicity you get from appearing on an awards show can't help your career. The news provider country.com reports that nearly 20 artists and songs features on the recent Country Music Association Awards telecast have suddenly jumped up on the music charts. All have a "bullet" associated with their rankings. Among the most dramatic gain was George Strait's new CD "The Road Less Traveled." It rocketed to the No. 1 spot, dethroning the soundtrack for "O Brother, Where Art Though?" That album had been at the stop for months.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 207
Today's question was suggested by "super contributor" Melba in Mississippi. She notes that Tom Brokaw once suggested that everyone have at least three weeks of food and supplies in their house ... just in case. Her question is: "Were you to be confined to your home, hunkered down for that length of time, what would be the most difficult aspect of coping for you?" Put SHELTER in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 202
Last week we asked you to send your comments on whatever you like. We got tons of answers, many about the holidays. Here is a sampling of replies: On the topic of Thanksgiving, Cheryl wrote to say that all of her immediate family members, with the exception of her mother, live within 15 minutes of each other. Her mom is only 45 miles away. She says Thanksgiving for her family means serving at least 30 people. Amanda wants us to know how great the new song "Drowning" is, by Backstreet Boys. Amanda, I've never heard it. Why did you note that it "doesn't sound bad at all?" Is there something about the boy band we don't know? ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Quite a few of you are writing to say that you do not get the question part of this column on a consistent basis. Have others been noticing that? I would welcome another review of how you read this and on what Web sites. GBA.