It's only July, but here's a gift idea for that person on your Christmas list who's hard to buy for: eyeglasses with detachable stems that can be used as chopsticks. They're available from a German company, ic!berlin, for $330 a pair, and, according to its advertising, are "flying out of the [opticians'] shops" - especially in Japan. In case you're intrigued, the stems are made of lightweight stainless steel and fit together without those tiny screws that can be so hard to tighten. Don't need prescrption eyewear? They come on sunglasses, too.
Pundits and pollsters are bracing for another down-to-the-wire presidential race on Nov. 2, similar to the last election, one of the closest in history. George W. Bush won the White House in 2000 on the basis of more electoral votes, even though Al Gore prevailed in the popular vote by about half a percent of the total ballots cast. Before there were popular elections, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied with 73 electoral votes in 1800, but the House of Representatives broke the deadlock by electing Jefferson. Since then, in elections in which a popular vote was taken, here are the closest finishes, with years, candidates involved (including party affiliation), and the number of popular votes separating the top two vote-getters:
1876 47,776 Samuel Tilden (D) over Rutherford Hayes (R) (Hayes actually won with more electoral votes)
1916 591,385 Woodrow Wilson (D) over Charles Hughes (R)
1960 118,574 John Kennedy (D) over Richard Nixon (R)
1968 510,314 Richard Nixon (R) over Hubert Humphrey (D)
1976 1,682,790 Jimmy Carter (D) over Gerald Ford (R)
2000 543,895 Al Gore (D) over George W. Bush (R) (Bush actually won with more electoral votes)