Of Human Interest: News-lite

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  Dec. 14, 2001 at 5:20 AM
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On a day when most of Washington's attention was focused on a disturbing videotape, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks found a way to provide a few lighthearted television moments Thursday.

Schilling and Johnson -- who shared World Series Most Valuable Player honors -- got things started by barging in on White House spokesman Ari Fleisher's afternoon news briefing as he was discussing the release of a videotape of terrorist Osama bin Laden. "These are members of the world champion Arizona Diamondbacks, I'm chagrined to report," the normally stoic Fleisher, a huge New York Yankees fan, told reporters.

Johnson poked fun at Fleisher's balding pate, suggesting it could be lucky. "It may be just a rumor, but I heard if we rub your head, we'll be back here next year," he said.

"I suspect I'll have even less hair next year, and the Yankees will be back," Fleisher retorted.

The players then met with President Bush, who once was part owner of the Texas Rangers, and presented him with a baseball jersey.


The Arabian Sea is coming to resemble a nautical parking lot.

Nearly 50 warships from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Australia are patrolling the waters -- conducting military operations and stopping merchantmen to search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaida members who may try to flee by sea.

The American and British contingents dominate, with two U.S. aircraft carrier task forces, the British carrier HMS Illustrious and the assault ship HMS Fearless. A three-vessel French squadron led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has just passed through the Suez Canal. Four more French warships are on the way, including the nuclear submarine Rubis.

(From UPI Hears)


A 20-year-old Canadian man employed a network of 210,000 computers to find a prime number with 4,053,946 digits -- making it the largest ever discovered, according to ZDNet News.

Michael Cameron used a relatively ordinary computer with an 800MHz chip from Advanced Micro Devices to run software from a San Diego, Calif., company, Entropia, that allowed participants worldwide to contribute their unused online time and computer processing power to the project.

A prime number is only divisible by 1 and itself. The number Cameron discovered is 2 to the 13,466,917th power minus 1.

Retailer Perfectly Scientific (www.perfsci.com) is selling a 29-inch-by-40-inch poster that contains the number, printed in 1.37-point type. It must be read with a magnifying glass.

(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)


Serbian Royal Princess Jelisaveta (Elizabeth) Karadjordjevic is asking Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica to help her reclaim ownership rights to the White Court in Belgrade. That's according to a source close to the royal family, who tells UPI Kostunica has not yet replied to her appeal.

The princess is offended by Crown Prince Alexander's having barred her from the White Court, the source said.

Last July, Belgrade town fathers handed the keys to the Royal Court and the White Court over to the prince for use until the ownership issue is legally sorted out. Alexander moved into the Royal Court with his wife and three sons but uses the White Court for ceremonial purposes.

Prior to last summer, the most recent resident in the stately palace was ousted Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, who moved in the moment he was inaugurated the country's president in 1997. Milosevic is now at The Hague accused of war crimes.


FRIDAY: There's an annular eclipse of the sun today. It begins at 1:03 p.m. (EST) and ends at 6:40 p.m. (EST), and is visible in the Pacific Ocean, northwestern South America, Central America, the United States and western and southern parts of Canada.

And today through Dec. 28 are the Halcyon Days, traditionally the seven days before and after the winter solstice. The ancients believed it was a time when a fabled bird known as a halcyon calmed the wind and waves -- a time for peace and tranquility.

SATURDAY: This is Bill of Rights Day, by presidential proclamation. It was on this date in 1791 that the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, became effective with their ratification by Virginia.

Today through Dec. 21 is International Language Week.

And Curacao celebrates Kingdom Day and Antillean Flag Day today.

SUNDAY: It's Tell Someone They're Doing A Good Job Week, today through Dec. 22.

This is Barbie and Barney Backlash Day. If you need an explanation, then you obviously don't have kids. (Web site: wellcat.com)

Muslims around the world celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting with Eid-al-Fitr: Celebrating the Fast. The festivities usually last several days.

Bahrain celebrates its Independence Day today. The country achieved independence from British protection in 1971.

This is also Independence Day in Kazakhstan, which achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Philippine Christmas Observance begins today and runs through Jan. 6. It's said to be the world's longest Christmas celebration.

And today is Reconciliation Day in South Africa.

MONDAY: This is Pan American Aviation Day, by presidential proclamation, observed on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first successful flight.

It's also Wright Brothers Day.

The Nuts Fair, a traditional cultural observance, is held today in Bastogne, Belgium.

And if we were in Rome, we'd be doing what the Romans did beginning today through Dec. 23 -- which is celebrate Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture.

(Thanks to Chase's 2001 Calendar of Events)


Who was the first person to fly across North America in less than a day?

American aviator and World War II hero Gen. James Doolittle, who was born on this date in 1896.

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