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Ask the Times: How are U.S. time zones determined?

Keeping track of U.S. time zones

How are time zones determined in the United States, and how many states have two time zones?

Standardized time was instituted in 1883 by the U.S. and Canadian railroads. It was codified when Congress passed the Standard Time Act of 1918, and the Interstate Commerce Commission was put in charge of the time zone boundaries. That responsibility eventually shifted to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Congress amended the law in 1966 and again in 2007. The 2007 law lengthened daylight saving time by four to five weeks. It now extends from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. This year, it started March 10 and ends Nov. 3.

There are 13 states that have two time zones. Florida is one. The vast majority of the state is in the Eastern time zone. But that bit of the Panhandle that lies on the other side of the Apalachicola River — including the cities of Panama City, Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach — is in the Central time zone.

Other states with both Eastern and Central time zones are Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota are divided between Central and Mountain time zones.

Oregon and Idaho have both Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Alaska has the Alaska and Hawaii-Aleutian time zones.

Using 'pontiff,' 'pope,' 'papacy'

Are the terms "pontiff," "pope" and "papacy" interchangeable? What are the correct word usages of each of those words?

The word "pontiff" can be interchanged with pope, according to the Associated Press stylebook, which is used by a majority of media outlets. "Pope" is the formal title, but "pontiff" can be used when referring to the pope.

"Papacy" is used when referring to the office and jurisdiction of the pope, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The word also can be used to describe "a succession or line of popes," "the term of a pope's reign" or "the system of government of the Roman Catholic Church of which the pope is the supreme head."

Decal numbers show distance

I see cars with white decals with various numbers in black on them. I have asked around and no one seems to be able to explain. Can you help explain these?

The numbers on those decals or magnets — such as 26.2 or 13.1 — often represent race distances. The 26.2 represents the number of miles in a marathon and 13.1 is the distance of a half-marathon. Other decals might include these numbers: 5K (a 5-kilometer race), 10K or 140.6 (the distance in miles of an Ironman triathlon). The stickers tell others that someone participates in those races.

Ask the Times: How are U.S. time zones determined? 03/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 6:44pm]
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