Mount Diablo High School (Concord, Calif.) students met in racial groups in February to prepare for upcoming statewide tests, to motivate them to improve their race’s “team” score from the year before. Principal Bev Hansen defended the strategy of dividing whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians, pointing out both its previous successes (increases of 46 points for whites to 80 points for Hispanics) and its ability to motivate by positive ethnicity (rather than allowing intergroup taunting over scores to fester).
THE MONEY DROP
Germany saw a birth boom during the first days of the New Year, attributed mainly to the government’s child-bearing incentives like bonuses of up to the equivalent of $33,000, leading mothers to attempt to delay December delivery until the law kicked in on Jan. 1. Meanwhile, in the U.S., a December New York Times feature reported an estimated six percent of the annual 70,000 babies scheduled to be born the first week of January were once again induced early, for late December delivery, to take advantage of tax breaks worth at least $4,000 per child.
Zimbabwe’s almost comically sad hyperinflation rate reached 1,593 percent in January—the dollars that bought a brick house with pool and tennis court in 1990 would today buy a single brick—but that did not stop President Robert Mugabe from ostentatiously celebrating his 83rd birthday on Feb. 24 at a party estimated to cost the equivalent of about $1.2 million. In early February, the government attempted to halt inflation by passing a law declaring it illegal.
CUTTING EDGE SCIENCE
A January National Geographic TV special revisited an underreported Cold War struggle between Soviet and U.S. scientists rushing to perform head transplants. Russian Vladimir Demikhov, working in secret in the 1950s, grafted the head and upper body of a puppy onto the neck of a large mastiff (and both reportedly bemusedly tolerated the other for the four days that the “puppy” lived). American Robert White of Cleveland, Ohio, reportedly transplanted a dog’s brain into another dog’s neck and noted which characteristics transferred with the brain, until the dog died days afterward. When even limited word got out about White’s 1970 rhesus monkey head transplant, the public outcry forced his lab to close.
Denver International Airport was reputed to be an “all-weather” facility that would operate seamlessly in a blizzard, but when it failed during the January snowstorms—closed for 45 hours—embarrassed airport spokesman Chuck Cannon admitted he’d like “to choke the person who came up with [the ‘all-weather’] term.” The Associated Press then discovered a 1992 interview with Chuck Cannon, bragging to reporters about his new “all-weather” airport.
The U.S. Navy announced in February that it is planning to use 30 trained dolphins and sea lions for port security in Puget Sound near Seattle. Dolphins’ sonar ability makes them excellent at detecting swimmers, and they are being trained to signal via a beacon when encountering one. According to an Associated Press dispatch, sea lions can carry special cuffs in their mouths and are being trained to clamp the cuff around a swimmer’s leg. MTW