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By Nathan Bierma

Content & Context

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Like a beauty mark on a model's cheek, Venus appeared, for the first time in over a century, as a black dot on the chin of the sun last month. Known as the transit of Venus, it was a historic journey in a month that was full of them. Soon after, SpaceShipOne became the first private vehicle to reach space. The Cassini orbiter reached the end of its voyage to Saturn, and prepared to become the first craft to orbit the ringed planet. Hindu sadhu Ludkan Baba continued his own journey, rolling his body along the ground as he has for 19 years in an attempt to free his soul.

Former President Clinton took over 900 pages to tell the story of his personal journey, a tale of squandered ambition.

President Ronald Reagan, whose fervent ideology met opponents and the public with a disarming sense of humor, died last month at age 93. Ray Charles won 12 Grammys and once said, "Music to me is just like breathing." Archibald Cox prosecuted President Nixon. George S. Patton was the son of the legendary World War II commander. Emma Buck, who lived until the day of her death in her Illinois log cabin with no running water, died at age 100 or 101.

Timeline: May 2004


From the Valparaiso Cresset:

To get to the Batak region of Indonesia today, you must first fly into Medan, the major city of the province of North Sumatra and make your way up west into the hill country by car, bus or inter-city taxi. On paved roads, through rice paddies and recently logged rain forests, today's traveler can make the roughly 100-mile journey in about four hours. The heartland of the Batak people is centered around Lake Toba, a fresh-water, inland lake about 50 miles long and 25 miles wide. This is the mundial axis for a nine-million member ethnic group who today are predominantly Lutheran, educated, and relatively prosperous. Although largely unknown outside Indonesia, except to some Western regional specialists and missionary historians, the Batak churches represent the largest Lutheran group in Asia and are prominent members of the Lutheran World Federation.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Settled by the Payaya Indians more than 300 years ago, San Antonio was originally named Yanaguana, or "place of refreshing waters," because of the richness of the resource.In those abundant waters, local developers recently saw the potential for emerald golf greens and 800 permanent jobs in recreation. But here, where water has always been fiercely protected, the idea of building a huge golfer's paradise atop the Edwards Aquifer … may have been [stopped] by a group that is hardly known as the local power brokers: Latina women. The 2,600-acre project, known as the PGA Village, would have been set over the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, one of the world's most pristine and profuse aquifers. At 180 miles long, it is the water source for 1.7 million people. … . [Environmental concerns] eventually unseated a developer-friendly city council.


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Nathan Biermais editorial assistant at Books & Culture. He writes the weekly "On Language" column for the Chicago Tribune.

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