A paramedic was asked on a local TV talk-show program:
"What was your most unusual and challenging 911 call?"
"Recently we got a call from a John Kerry Rally," the paramedic said. "A frantic volunteer was very concerned that during the speech an elderly man passed out in a pew and appeared to be dead. The volunteer could find no pulse and there was no noticeable breathing."
"What was so unusual and demanding about this particular call?" the interviewer asked.
"Well," the paramedic said, "we carried out 12 guys before we found the one who was dead."
The value of the euro has risen steadily since entering circulation in 2002. Today the euro is challenging the dollar's position as the world's reserve currency, a privileged status that has been held by the dollar ever since the Bretton Woods agreement over 60 years ago.
At present, approximately two thirds of world trade is conducted in dollars and two thirds of central banks' currency reserves are held in the American currency which remains the sole currency used by international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. This confers on the US a major economic advantage: the ability to run a trade deficit year after year. US always spends more than it earns, whereas the rest of the world always earns more than it spends. A move away from the dollar towards the euro could have a disastrous effect on the US economy. A rapid and wholesale move to the euro might even lead to a dollar crash as everyone sought to get rid of some, or all, of their dollars at the same time. But that is an outcome that no one, not even France or Germany, is seeking because of the effect it would have on the world economy.
The strength of the dollar is closely related to the fact that oil, the most important commodity traded in the world, is priced in US currency. The majority of countries that are oil importers have to buy their oil in dollars, which forces them to keep most of their foreign currency in dollars. However that could change. Iran is planning to open a commodity exchange, often reffered to as the International Oil Bourse or the Iranian Oil Bourse, for the express purpose of trading oil, petrochemicals and gas in various non-dollar currencies, including euros. The opening date was initially planned for March 20, 2006, however the launch was delayed due to "technical glitches."
The European Union has steadily moved forward in its attempt to unite Europe politically and economically. It has succeeded in unifying and strengthening its economic market, creating a common currency, and establishing both a European legislative and judicial system. It has been suggested by some that the European Union may be the revived Roman Empire. Thus it is interesting to note that the introduction of the Euro is the first time since the days of Caesar and the Roman Empire that Europe has had a common currency, others have tried, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte, but none were successful.
Over the last few years we have watched closely as the European Union has emerged as a growing world power. In 2004 the EU welcomed 10 new member states, bringing the total number of member nations to 25. Bulgaria and Romania have signed accession treaties and are set to join the EU next year. Meanwhile, Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia, and several of the Balkan states have petitioned for membership.
We will continue to observe with anticipation the historic developments taking place in Europe. There are still many obstacles the European Union must face on the road to solidarity, but in the eyes of some they have already accomplished the impossible. The once impenetrable wall between east and west, communist and free, is now gone, and in its place is a growing economic and political force.
Sometimes, I cast my memory back to that childless period that my husband calls BK (Before Kids). Back when, for all we knew, the acronym PTA stood for Pizza Takeout Activities. We were young and ignorant then.
But in the fullness of time, we became fruitful and multiplied, and lo, we brought forth fruits who had the temerity to exhibit a need for education. And so, we sent them to school. That's when my adventures with the Parent Teacher Association began. And that's when I realized I'm probably not cut out to be a PTA mom.
Don't get me wrong. PTA is a worthwhile organization. God bless the moms who donate their time and talents to the schools. But the group has a serious flaw in its screening process, proven by the fact that it allowed ME to join. In a few short months, I inadvertently managed to sock it to my local unit. I don't think the PTA ladies have yet recovered.
It started with the best of intentions. I dutifully joined PTA when my oldest child started school. At open house, a group of relentlessly energetic moms surrounded me, thrusting a sheaf of volunteer sign-up sheets my way, and I obediently scribbled my name on sheet after sheet.
Soon after, I opened my door to an unexpected visit from the PTA president, a well-coiffed woman in sensible shoes. Naturally, my house was a disaster: dirty dishes in the sink, partially folded laundry on the table, crushed Cheerios adorning the furniture. And the new puppy had just pooped on the floor.
There are those who "pop over" without warning and those who know better, and never the two should meet. I was flushed in embarrassment, but invited her in. Her dismayed eyes swept over my domestic disarray, but she continued her recruitment speech.
She was clearly an uber-parent, bent on marshalling her troops for the task at hand. I felt my parental confidence ebbing away, and good old guilt setting in. I obviously needed to do more. By the time she left, I'd been conscripted into her volunteer army. I was eager to prove my maternal mettle, anxious to impress.
So I tried to be a stereotypical PTA mom. I really did. I put on a saccharine smile and covered myself in cute, volunteering in the classroom while wearing a school bus sweater in September, a candy corn necklace in October and a turkey broach in November. In December, I was a walking festival of kitsch, swathed in yuletide apparel.
I became an aide-de-camp to the homeroom mom (who happened to also be the hard-charging PTA president), holding up the walls while she ran the show. I was assigned to crafts and gamely did my best, wrestling with felt and fabric, glue and glitter. But I proved to be severely craft-challenged, bungling the carefully planned projects and snickering at all the seriousness.
So I was moved to food. I cooked a soggy spinach quiche for a teacher breakfast and Kitchen Sink cookies for the first PTA meeting. Those treats turned literal when they actually fell into the sink as I tried to juggle a cookie-laden plate and a crying child at the same time. They were slightly damp, but still perfectly edible. (The rash of reported illness among parents the next day was a mere coincidence.) My giant Jello monster at Halloween was more funny than frightening. By Thanksgiving, I was a confirmed bottom-feeder, instructed to bring turnips (turnips!) to the class Pilgrim feast. I tried to redeem myself at Christmas, but my cupcakes collapsed into a gooey mess.
I managed to fall short at every turn, forgetting the spoons for the Chili Cookoff, knocking over a display at the Book Fair and spilling the soda at the Fall Festival. Clumsy and barely competent, I was clearly an abomination to the bake sale set.
That's when Madame President transferred me to fundraising. I gave it my all, schlepping shoddy merchandise and tacky trivia in the name of education. But my lack of enthusiasm must have shown, because the sales numbers were lackluster.
So I was switched to membership. My job was to get up at school functions and community events and beg people to join. They couldn't have picked a worse spokesperson: my voice squeaked, my hands trembled, and I began to giggle uncontrollably. Plus, I kept nervously touching my pants zipper, convinced my fly was open. Audience members gave each other alarmed glances as they headed for the door, and membership plummeted.
Madame and her cabal of Super Moms were not amused.
So by mutual agreement, the Parent Teacher Association and I parted ways. I was a round soul trying to fit into a square PTA. I discovered that I can be a better mother by marching to my own drum. And as long as I'm moving away from them, the patrons of the PTA think that's just fine.