FLUSHED WITH EXCITEMENT
Sunday may or may not have been the 165th birthday of the flush toilet. But home improvement giant Home Depot wasn't taking any chances -- it launched a public relations effort last week urging shoppers to celebrate by remodeling their bathrooms and by installing a new toilet.
The Feb. 3, 1837, date could be an approximation of the birth date of Sir Thomas Crapper, who is widely credited with inventing the valve-and-siphon arrangement that made the modern toilet possible.
But Adam Hart-Davis, BBC personality and author of "Thunder, Flash and Thomas Crapper," says it seems unlikely Crapper invented the siphonic flush, and it is certain he did not patent it.
Some people claim the modern toilet was invented in ancient times -- 4000 years ago in Crete. Archaeologists in China discovered a water closet in the tomb of a 2,000-year-old king in central China.
In short, nobody seems to know, so the aptly named Crapper -- who Hart-Davis says was never really knighted -- seems to be the choice.
The devices are named after the plumber in the United States, but oddly enough not in Great Britain. A group of U.S. soldiers brought the term back with them after World War I.
Since the time of Crapper, or World War I for that matter, Home Depot points out that many changes have been made. "Today's bathrooms are becoming more like our own personal spas with an increase in overall squre footge, more sunken bath tubs with jets and other amenities,' said Home Depot's Ray Crivello.
THINGS WE DON'T UNDERSTAND
But the congressman said he will continue his lawsuit against the fraternal twin brothers he claims are behind the scheme.
Rep. Jackson, 36, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., has called the second Jackson's candidacy a dirty trick orchestrated by his political enemies -- namely, Dolton, Ill., Mayor Bill Shaw, a state senator, and his brother, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Bob Shaw. He said the Shaw brothers are just trying to create confusion for voters.
The Shaws deny any involvement.
NEWS OF OTHER LIFE FORMS
Punxsutawney Phil and Brookfield Zoo's Cloudy both agree -- six more weeks of winter.
But Gen. Beauregard Lee of Georgia's Yellow River Game Ranch is predicting an early spring.
So which groundhog do you believe?
The tradition of Groundhog Day -- with the rodent seeing his shadow and predicting six more weeks of winter or not seeing his shadow and forecasting an early spring -- comes from Candlemas Day, 40 days after Christmas, when Mary was consider well and clean enough after the birth of Jesus to enter the temple. In the Catholic rite, it is known as the Feast of Purification.
According to an English ditty: "If Candlemas day be fair and bright / Winter will have another flight / If Candlemas day be clouds and rain / Winter is gone, and will not come again."
Cloudy made her forecasting debut last year at the suburban Chicago zoo with a correct prediction of extended winter temperatures. 12-year-old Beau, meanwhile, has been right 10 out of the past 11 years, according to a ranch spokesman. Residents of Punxsutawney, Pa., have been celebrating Groundhog Day since 1886.
Spring officially begins this year at 2:16 p.m. EST on March 20.
TODAY'S SIGN THE WORLD IS ENDING
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin celebrated his 71st birthday last Friday -- receiving dozens of visitors bearing gifts -- but his hometown snubbed him for the first time by not even sending a telegram of congratulations.
It seems there was a good reason why the village of Butka in the Ural Mountains broke with tradition and ignored its most famous son's birthday -- Butka was itself snubbed by the ex-president last year.
Residents of Butka -- population 4,990 -- had hoped Yeltsin would attend lavish celebrations last November to mark Butka's 325th anniversary. But the former president ignored their invitation and didn't even send a note.
Despite the snub, Galina Filimonova, the deputy head of the local administration, clung to the hope that Yeltsin and his hometown might still patch things up one day. "Maybe our invitation and other telegrams didn't reach him?" she asked The Moscow Times.
AND FINALLY, TODAY'S UPLIFTING STORY
The U.S. national snowboarding champion in 2001 is hoping to claim a first at this month's Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. He wants to be the first organ transplant recipient to win a gold medal.
Chris Klug, 29, had been diagnosed at age 20 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver ailment that killed football legend Walter Payton. The Chicago Bear's condition had spread beyond his liver, making a transplant futile.
But Klug was luckier. 18 months ago, a donor liver was found and he underwent a transplant in July 2000. He was snowboarding again seven weeks after the operation.
Klug now takes anti-rejection medication and never has had any problems. "He feels 120 percent," said spokesperson Missy April, adding that Klug no longer has symptoms of disease.