Q & A on the News

Do you have a question about the news? Joey Ledford will try to get an answer. Email (include your name and city). Sorry, individual responses are not possible.

Q: What is the temperature inside airliners’ cargo holds? As planes go up and the temperature drops, is the belly "climate controlled"? I am wondering if lotions and mascara in checked baggage will freeze.

A: Anthony Black, a spokesman for Delta Air Lines, said the luggage compartments of airliners are climate controlled. You should have no concerns about temperatures in the cargo hold.

According to a 1996 New York Times story, Federal Aviation Administration tests showed that temperatures inside pressurized luggage compartments ranged from 65 to 70 degrees, comparable to passenger compartments. At cruising altitude, the temperature outside the plane is about 50 degrees below zero.

Note that many airlines allow passengers to transport their pets in the luggage compartment. The most difficult time for animals and other temperature-sensitive cargo is at the beginning and the end of each trip. When the cargo hold doors are open, the temperature cannot be controlled. That is why some airlines don’t allow the transportation of pets in the luggage compartments when outdoor temperatures are too high or too low.


Q: Do the airlines have any plans for moisturizers and bottles of water to their customers in light of the new carry-on restrictions? Even doctors will tell you that the most important things to do when you fly are moisturize and hydrate yourself.

A: You cannot take lotions aboard a passenger flight, and the airlines currently aren’t allowed to have them in passenger compartments, said Judy Graham-Weaver, a spokeswoman for AirTran Airways.

Water is another matter entirely. Graham-Weaver said AirTran’s standard is to start serving drinks as soon as passengers board. On longer flights, "We serve drinks several times so they aren’t at risk for dehydrating on those," she said.

Delta’s Black said his employer also has arranged for extra beverages aboard its flights.


Q: What is a Katyusha rocket?

A:? The Katyusha, which is Russian for "little Katie," was designed in the late 1930s by Swedish rocket engineer Georgy Langemak for the Red Army. It was initially used in 1941 during the early stages of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Lebanon and Syria acquired a stockpile of Katyushas from Soviet and Chinese arsenals left over from World War II. Hezbollah, and before it the PLO, has been firing the rockets into Israel since the 1950s, the Jerusalem Post has reported.

According to CNN, Katyushas can be hugely destructive, but are slow to load and not very accurate.

According to Israeli officials and military experts, Hezbollah had about 10,000 Katyusha rockets before the current war began.


Q: My husband and I often sit outside during the warm summer evenings and count satellites in the sky. We were wondering how long it takes a satellite to orbit the Earth and do we know how many satellites are orbiting?

A:? According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, there are more than 8,000 artificial objects orbiting Earth. More than 2,500 of them are satellites, operative and inoperative. The other objects are orbiting debris – hatch covers, rocket bodies, even objects that have floated away from manned spacecraft.

The speed at which any orbiting object moves depends on its distance from the Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope, for example, which is 347 miles above the Earth, orbits every 97 minutes.

Communications satellites, used for TV, radio and Internet signals, among other things, are in geosynchronous orbits, appearing to stay above the same spot on Earth. Moving the same speed as the planet, they orbit once every 24 hours.


Q: What is the origin of the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant?

A:? The widespread use of both animals as symbols can be traced to Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly.

Andrew Jackson was the first to use the donkey, however, in 1828 after his opponents labeled him a "jackass."

According to William Safire’s New Political Dictionary, the donkey gained wide acceptance in the 1870s. In addition to Nast’s work, Ignatius Donnelly fired off a one-liner in the Minnesota Legislature. "The Democratic Party is like a mule," he said, "without price of ancestry or hope of posterity."

Nast’s first depiction of a Republican elephant was published on Nov. 7, 1874. He drew a donkey clothed in a lion’s skin that scared away all the animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled "The Republican Vote." That single reference was enough to make the pachyderm the GOP symbol.


Q: Does the wind usually blow in one direction, say from west to east, across the United States? Or does it blow in different directions?

A:? Yes and yes. Q&A shot the breeze, so to speak, with Trisha Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service . In the upper atmosphere, she said, the prevailing strong wind – west to east – is called the jet stream.

"That’s where jets fly; that’s why it’s called the jet stream," she said.

However, at the Earth’s surface, at any time the wind can blow from any direction, Palmer said. In a low-pressure system, circular winds blow counterclockwise. North of the low’s center, you’ll experience a easterly wind; south of it, an westerly breeze.

High pressure systems are completely opposite, with winds blowing clockwise around the system.

Tropical storms that brew off the coast of Africa tend to generate winds that move the systems from east to west, Palmer said.

You can go to weather school at – click on Education/Outreach.


Q: Whatever happened in the Scooter Libby case?

A:? I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, is scheduled for trial in January.

Libby has been charged with five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. Libby is accused of making false statements about how he learned the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame and what he told reporters about Plame.

According to published reports, Libby began talking to journalists shortly after Plame’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence information to make its case for the war in Iraq.


Q: Has the U.S. Mint released the quarters for Colorado, Oregon, North Dakota and South Dakota? If not when will they be released?

A:? The Oregon quarter was released in 2005, and the Colorado quarter debuted in June, said Carolyn Fields, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mint. The Nevada and Nebraska quarters also first appeared this year.

There will be two new state quarters before the end of 2006. The North Dakota quarter is scheduled for release on Aug. 28, she said. The South Dakota quarter is to debut in November.


Q: Isn’t there somewhere you can register to have unwanted mail solicitations for credit cards stopped?

A: The Federal Trade Commission outlines the process in an online "consumer alert." The nation’s three credit bureaus offer a toll-free number that allows you to opt out of preapproved credit offers for two years.

Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) . You’ll be asked for personal information, including your home telephone number, your name and your Social Security number. Don’t worry, said the FTC: "The information you provide is confidential and will be used only to process your request to opt out."

The same FTC Web page notes that consumers can notify the credit bureaus in writing that you do not want personal information shared for promotional purposes, a key in eliminating unsolicited mail. The Web site contains several other helpful tips:


Q: Today I read in my newspaper that Rhode Island is the only state that celebrates V-J Day. I was just wondering why.

A: Rhode Island still celebrates Victory over Japan Day each Aug. 14 because veterans groups want it to, said George Panichas, a former state lawmaker and World War II B-17 bomber gunner. "They fought against the Japanese and they just don’t forget it," The Associated Press quoted him as saying.

There have been several attempts to change the holiday’s name, but each time lawmakers met overwhelming opposition, said state Sen. Rhoda Perry.

Arkansas is believed to be the last state to eliminate V-J Day, back in 1975, the AP reported. It had been called World War II Memorial Day.


Q: How long can you keep bottled water without opening it? What are the guidelines for bottled water left in a car? Or bottles on your desk all day? Can you put an open bottle back in the fridge?

A: Bottled water often carries an expiration date, but that’s because it is considered a food product and many retailers want a date on all products, said Stephen Kay, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. "Bottled water does not have ingredients or contents that will spoil," he said.

The association recommends bottled water be stored away from direct sunlight, at room temperature or below, away from gasoline or other chemicals, he said.

There is no danger in recapping an opened bottle and keeping it on your desk, in your car or in the refrigerator, Kay said. One cautionary note: If you have a cold, you could leave germs on the bottle.


Q: A recent letter to my newspaper indicated it took more power to turn on a light than it does to burn it for 15 minutes. I ask my employees to turn off lights when they are not in the stockrooms. Am I spinning my wheels? Is there a Web site on this?

A: The type of light you’re using will determine what you should do to slow that spinning wheel in your electric meter. In short, if your room is illuminated by incandescent lighting – or bulbs – you should turn off the lights if you’re not in the room. Up to 85 percent of the power used by bulbs is wasted as heat.

But if the room is lighted by fluorescent lighting, the rule of thumb is to turn off the light only if no one needs it for at least 15 minutes.

Georgia Power’s Tiffany Gilstrap turned us on to a U.S. Department of Energy Web site with plenty of illumination on power and cash conservation:–home/lighting–daylighting/ m/mytopic12280.


Q: I have read that some states, like New Jersey, pay a lot more in taxes to Washington than they receive in benefits. For other states the opposite is true. Is there a Web site that shows, state by state, what percentage of federal tax money is retrieved?

A:? Those ratios are calculated regularly by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan educational organization founded in 1937. Economist Curtis S. Dubay used fiscal year 2004 data for his special report released in March.

The report shows how much each state got back for each dollar sent to Washington. The top 10 donor states in 2004 were New Jersey (55 cents), Connecticut (66 cents), New Hampshire (67 cents), Minnesota (69 cents), Illinois (73 cents), Nevada (73 cents), Massachusetts (77 cents), California (79 cents), New York (79 cents) and Colorado (79 cents).

The top 10 beneficiaries of federal funding were New Mexico ($2), Alaska ($1.87), West Virginia ($1.66), Mississippi ($1.77), North Dakota ($1.73), Alabama ($1.71), Virginia ($1.66), Hawaii ($1.60), Montana ($1.58) and South Dakota ($1.49)

Georgia was a donor in fiscal 2004, getting back 96 cents per dollar. It ranked 35th among beneficiaries.

Dubay noted that most of the high-paying states "are the so-called blue states that have generally elected politicians who support a more steeply progressive tax system even though their own constituents bear a greater share of the burden."

      The report:


Q: I have never heard John Madden mention his family. Is he married and where does he live?

A: Madden, 70, mentioned his family at length on Aug. 5 when he was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He is married to Virginia Madden, and has two grown sons, Joe and Mike. He has five grandchildren.

"If there was a Hall of Fame for families, my family would be in the Hall of Fame," said Madden, who noted that since coaches work such long hours, they aren’t always there for their families. "The coach’s wife, she has to be mother, father, driver, doctor, nurse, coach, everything, because the coach is out there working," he said.

Madden coached for 10 years, winning Super Bowl XI. His career record of 103-32-7 represents the highest winning percentage of any coach in NFL history, nosing out the legendary Vince Lombardi. Madden, who joined NBC this year, has now broadcast NFL games for every major U.S. broadcast network.

John and Virginia Madden have lived in a historic restored adobe in Pleasanton, Calif., an upscale community east of San Francisco, since 1966.

The original adobe was built by Agustin Bernal in the late 1840s. The Maddens’ restoration was featured in Home & Garden magazine in April 2004.


Q: How can I write to Bill Gates?

A: Probably the best way to try to contact the billionaire founder of Microsoft would be through his charitable foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its mailing address is P.O. Box 23350, Seattle, WA, 98102.

The listed telephone number is 206-709-3100, and the e-mail address is listed as infogatesfoundation.

org. For more information, see


Q: Will former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell lose his right to practice law now that he has been convicted of tax evasion and is serving a sentence in a federal penitentiary in Florida?

A: Jan Wichrowski, chief disciplinary counsel for the Florida Bar in Orlando, said Campbell’s license to practice law in Florida was immediately suspended upon his federal conviction.

"The Florida Bar has begun proceedings to begin disbarment," she said.

A disbarred attorney can apply for reinstatement, but it is a long and complex process. Success is "very, very rare," she said.

 Copyright 2006 Cox News Service.