Volume 07, Number 07 — July 2007

What's in this issue?

July Events
July Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — July
July Birthdays
Travel - Calgary: The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth
Obituaries - June 2007
Special Feature: The CIA Turns 60
Chronology - Events of June 2007
Science in the News: Atlantis Rock(et)s!
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us

July Events

July 1 - Ducktona 500 (Sheboygan Falls, WI)
July 1-31 - Just For Laughs Festival (Montreal, Quebec)
July 4 - Boom Box Parade (Willimantic, CT)
July 5-8 - U.S. Senior Open Championship (Kohler, WI)
July 6-8 - Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant (De Smet, SD)
July 6-22 - Newport Music Festival (Rhode Island)
July 7-8 - Old-Time Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival (Smithville, TN)
July 7-14 - Running of the Bulls (Pamplona, Spain)
July 7-29 - Tour de France
July 13-14 - Wayne Chicken Days (Nebraska)
July 14-22 - Three Rivers Festival (Fort Wayne, IN)
July 16-29 - Folkmoot USA (Waynesville, NC)
July 17-21 - Snake River Stampede (Nampa, ID)
July 19-22 - British Open Golf Tournament (Carnoustie, Scotland)
July 20-22 - Great Wellsville Balloon Rally (New York)
July 22-28 - W.C. Handy Music Festival (Florence, AL)
July 26-28 - Great Texas Mosquito Festival (Clute, TX)
July 27-29 - Lumberjack World Championships (Hayward, WI)
July 27-August 8 - World Scout Jamboree (Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex, England)

July Holidays — National and International

July 1 - Canada Day
July 4 - Independence Day (U.S.)
July 5 - Independence Day (Venezuela)
July 14 - Bastille Day (France)
July 25 - Constitution Day (Puerto Rico)

Did You Know?

The first escalator was manufactured in 1900.

This Day In History — July

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1867 The Dominion of Canada is formed by the confederation of Upper and Lower Canada and some of the Maritime Provinces.
02 1937 Aviator Amelia Earhart and her copilot Fred Noonan disappear during a flight while over the Pacific.
03 1976 At Entebbe airport in Uganda, an Israeli commando unit stages a raid on an Air France airliner that was hijacked en route from Tel Aviv to Paris; 103 hostages are rescued, while 3 hostages, 7 hijackers, and 20 Ugandan soldiers are killed.
04 1826 Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die.
05 1811 Venezuela's independence is formally proclaimed.
06 1957 Althea Gibson becomes the first black tennis player to win a singles title at Wimbledon.
07 1865 Four conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln are hanged.
08 1942 Anne Frank and her family go into hiding during the Holocaust.
09 1497 Portuguese explorer and navigator Vasco da Gama, commissioned by the king of Portugal to reach India by sea, sails from Lisbon with four ships.
10 1997 British scientists, using DNA from a Neanderthal skeleton, back a theory that humanity descended from an "African Eve" over 100,000 years ago.
11 1804 Alexander Hamilton is shot by Vice Pres. Aaron Burr in a duel in Weehawken, NJ; he dies the next day.
12 1871 Rioting between Irish Catholics and Protestants in New York City leaves more than 50 dead.
13 1977 A 25-hour blackout hits the New York City area, leaving some 9 million people in darkness and resulting in looting and disorder.
14 1881 Outlaw William H. Bonney Jr., better known as Billy the Kid, is shot and killed in Fort Sumter, NM, by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
15 1997 Serial killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan kills fashion designer Gianni Versace outside his Miami home.
16 1790 Pres. George Washington signs legislation naming the District of Columbia as the permanent capital of the United States.
17 1955 Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California.
18 1925 Adolf Hitler publishes his manifesto, Mein Kampf.
19 1848 A seminal women’s rights convention opens in Seneca Falls, NY.
20 1871 British Columbia becomes part of the Confederation of Canada as the sixth province.
21 1925 John T. Scopes is found guilty of having taught evolution in a Dayton, TN, high school, after the "Monkey Trial" pits Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan.
22 1934 Notorious bank robber John Dillinger is killed by FBI agents as he leaves a Chicago movie theatre.
23 1974 The Greek military junta collapses.
24 1847 Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers arrive at Utah's Salt Lake Valley.
25 1978 The first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, is born in England.
26 1947 Pres. Harry Truman signs a law uniting the Army, Navy, and Air Force as the National Military Establishment, directed by the secretary of defense, and creating the National Security Council and CIA.
27 1866 A telegraph cable across the Atlantic is completed, establishing communication between the United States and England.
28 1914 World War I officially begins when Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
29 1907 Sir Robert Baden-Powell forms the Boy Scouts in England.
30 1619 The House of Burgesses, the first representative assembly in the New World, is elected at Jamestown, VA.
31 1877 Thomas Edison receives a patent for his phonograph.

July Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1916 Olivia De Havilland, actress (Tokyo, Japan)
02 1929 Imelda Marcos, former Philippine first lady/political leader (Manila, Philippines)
03 1970 Audra McDonald, actress/singer (Berlin, Germany)
04 1927 Gina Lollobrigida, actress (Subiaco, Italy)
05 1951 Huey Lewis, singer (New York, NY)
06 1923 Nancy Reagan, former first lady of the United States (New York, NY)
07 1972 Lisa Leslie, basketball player (Inglewood, CA)
08 1970 Beck (Hansen), musician (Los Angeles, CA)
09 1929 Hassan II, king of Morocco (Rabat, Morocco)
10 1931 Alice Munro, writer (Wingham, Ontario, Canada)
11 1936 Giorgio Armani, fashion designer (Romagna, Italy)
12 1937 Bill Cosby, comedian/actor and writer (Philadelphia, PA)
13 1957 Cameron Crowe, screenwriter (Palm Springs, CA)
14 1966 Matthew Fox, actor (Crowheart, WY)
15 1946 Linda Ronstadt, singer/songwriter (Tucson, AZ)
16 1956 Tony Kushner, playwright (New York, NY)
17 1917 Phyllis Diller, comedian/actress (Lima, OH)
18 1927 Kurt Masur, conductor (Brieg, Germany)
19 1922 George McGovern, former SD senator and presidential nominee (Avon, SD)
20 1919 Sir Edmund Hillary, explorer/mountaineer and first to reach the summit of Mount Everest (Auckland, New Zealand)
21 1952 Robin Williams, actor (Chicago, IL)
22 1947 Danny Glover, actor (San Francisco, CA)
23 1989 Daniel Radcliffe, actor (London, England)
24 1951 Lynda Carter, actress (Phoenix, AZ)
25 1967 Matt LeBlanc, actor (Newton, MA)
26 1943 Mick Jagger, singer and member of the Rolling Stones (Dartford, England)
27 1975 Alex Rodriguez, baseball player (New York, NY)
28 1941 Riccardo Muti, conductor (Naples, Italy)
29 1953 Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker (New York, NY)
30 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor/bodybuilder, CA governor (Graz, Austria)
31 1965 J.K. Rowling, author (Bristol, England)

Travel - Calgary: The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

Calgary has come a long way in a short time. Located in the area where the Canadian prairies begin to give way to the Rocky Mountains, it was founded as a North West Mounted Police outpost in 1875 and evolved into a cattle-ranching and grain-farming center. But Alberta’s oil and natural gas boom in the second half of the 20th century took Calgary in a different direction. Today it is a vast metropolis, bedecked with skyscrapers and blessed with a prosperous economy driven by energy, transportation, and manufacturing industries. Home to some 1 million people, it’s the biggest city in Alberta and the third most populous in Canada, and bills itself as the Heart of the New West. Calgary also happens to be the healthiest and most sanitary big city in the world. That’s according to a survey reported in April 2007 by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, which examined such factors as air-pollution, levels of infectious disease, and availability of quality hospital and medical supplies.




Calgary Stampede

Despite Calgary's modernity, residents hold fast to their cow-town heritage. Every summer, the city hosts the celebrated Calgary Stampede, a.k.a. the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Combining top-level rodeo with a concert series, midway rides, and an agricultural fair, the festival regularly draws more than a million people. The 2007 edition was scheduled to take place July 6-15.

The Stampede's rodeo is said to be the richest in the world, drawing world-class cowboys and cowgirls with prize money in 2007 adding up to $1.75 million (Canadian). Main events on the agenda included saddle-bronc, bareback, and bull riding; tie-down roping; steer wrestling; and ladies’ barrel racing. Another favorite attraction was the Rangeland Derby, with chuckwagon drivers and their teams taking part in nine heats of racing every night in hopes of snagging a major portion of a purse that in 2007 topped $1 million. Other competitions on tap included lumberjacking, art, marching bands, youth talent, and various agricultural events. Musical entertainment at the Stampede runs the gamut from country to pop to rock; among major names slated to appear in 2007 were Reba McEntire, Gretchen Wilson, Bon Jovi, the Tragically Hip, and Good Charlotte. As usual, plans also called for an Indian Village, featuring tepees, native clothing, and First Nation foods, such as pemmican.

The Stampede Grounds, on the edge of downtown Calgary, are the chief venue for the annual festivities, but the whole city gets into the spirit of things. Countless Calgarians dress in cowboy style, stores and restaurants adopt a western decor, and barbecues are everywhere. Free pancake breakfasts - a longstanding Stampede tradition - can be found throughout town.

Sports and shopping

While the Stampede's appeal is undeniable, it lasts only ten days, and Calgary has much to offer in the rest of the year. For one thing it's a mecca for sports, especially winter sports. The famous mountain resort of Banff is only 80 mi (130 km) or so to the west. Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, and many of the Olympic venues are still around and in use. They play a key role in a Winter Festival the city stages every February.

Shopping opportunities are abundant as well. Calgary boosters claim that there's more shopping in their downtown than in the gigantic West Edmonton Mall, North America's biggest shopping center, which happens to be located just 185 mi (300 km) to the north, in Edmonton, Alberta's capital. Visitors are protected from the winter chill by a network of enclosed pedestrian bridges - called +15 because the walkways are generally 15 ft (4.6 m) above street level. About 10 mi (16 km) long, the system connects more than 10 downtown buildings and is the largest of its type in North America.

Seeing the sights



Calgary Tower

The best way to get a feel for Calgary is go to the observation deck high up in the Calgary Tower, 525 ft (160 m) above the ground, and take a look at the city sprawling around you (and below you - there's a glass floor), with the Rockies in the distance.

The tower is conveniently accessible from the +15 system, as are such major attractions as the Devonian Gardens, the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Glenbow Museum. The Devonian Gardens, situated on the fourth floor of TD Square, occupy about 2.5 acres (1 ha), and thus rank among the world's largest urban indoor gardens. Along with thousands of subtropical plants and trees, they feature fountains, waterfalls, and a reflecting pool. The Epcor Centre is home to several theater groups as well as the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Glenbow is the biggest museum in Western Canada, encompassing a library and archives along with collections of artifacts in such fields as cultural history, ethnology, military history, mineralogy, and art. In March 2007 the museum opened a new 24,000-sq-ft (2200-sq-m) gallery devoted to Alberta history. The exhibition "Mavericks - An Incorrigible History of Alberta" explores the province's past through the stories of 48 eccentric characters hat helped shape it, among them traders, entrepreneurial cowboys, wildcatters, and politicians. Other permanent galleries of note are devoted to the Blackfoot Indians (the area's original inhabitants), West Africa, and Asian sculpture.

A number of other major attractions, such as the Heritage Park Historical Village, a re-creation of a pre-1914 local village, are located at a distance from the downtown area. But Fort Calgary Historical Park is not. That 40-acre (16-ha) riverside site houses a reconstruction of the 1875 fort and an 1888 barracks, as well as an interpretive center with historical exhibits. Just a bit farther east is the Calgary Zoo, Botanical Garden, and Prehistoric Park. Already the second-largest zoo in Canada, it is undergoing expansion, with an arctic ecosystem exhibit, featuring a large saltwater aquarium, in the works.

Other websites:

Travel Alberta
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Calgary Downtown Association
Calgary Stampede
Mercer Human Resource Consulting

Did You Know?

In 1970, during commercial transport, a Tupolev Tu-144 aircraft exceeded Mach 2, reaching about 1,335 mph at 53,475 ft.

Obituaries in June 2007

Claiborne, Liz, 78, clothes designer who built a fashion empire by addressing the needs of working women; New York, NY, June 26, 2007.

Evans, Bob, 89, founder of a national chain of sausage restaurants bearing his name, with nearly 600 outlets in 18 states; Cleveland, OH, June 21, 2007.

Ferre, Gianfranco, 62, Italian fashion designer, trained as an architect, whose clothes were known for their strong emphasis on seams and other structural elements; from 1989 to 1996, he was the first foreign-born artistic director of France’s illustrious Christian Dior fashion house; Milan, Italy, June 17, 2007.

France Jr., Bill, 74, sports executive who turned NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) into a far-flung, multi-billion-dollar enterprise; Daytona Beach, FL, June 4, 2007.

Graham, Ruth, 87, wife of evangelist Billy Graham since 1943 and a major behind-the-scenes influence on his globe-trotting Christian ministry; near Montreat, NC, June 14, 2007.

Herbert, Don, 89, longtime popularizer of science for children as TV’s Mr. Wizard; he originated the character on NBC in the early 1950s and revived it for the Nickelodeon cable network in the 1980s; Los Angeles, CA, June 12, 2007.

Rothschild, Baron Guy de, 98, leader, for decades, of the French branch of Europe’s banking dynasty and a leading figure in both thoroughbred racing and winemaking; Paris, France, June 12, 2007.

Sembene, Ousmane, 84, Senegalese novelist turned filmmaker widely regarded as the father of African cinema; Dakar, Senegal, June 9, 2007.

Siegel, Joel, 63, film critic who had appeared regularly on ABC’s "Good Morning America"” daytime TV show since 1981; New York, NY, June 29, 2007.

Thomas, Craig, 74, prominent conservative Republican from Wyoming who had served in the U.S. Senate since 1995; Bethesda, MD, June 4, 2007.

Vander Jagt, Guy, 75, Michigan Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1966 through 1992 and chaired the Republican National Committee for most of that time; Washington, DC, June 22, 2007.

Waldheim, Kurt, 88, Austrian diplomat who served two full terms as U.N. secretary general (1972-82), before serving as president of Austria, a largely ceremonial post, from 1986 to 1992; in that latter post, he was largely shunned by the international community after being linked to World War II Nazi atrocities in the Balkans; Vienna, Austria, June 14, 2007.

Special Feature: The CIA Turns 60

Mary Funchion

On July 26, 1947 - 60 years ago - U.S. President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while aboard the presidential aircraft, the Sacred Cow. The act, which created the National Security Council (NSC), the National Military Establishment (the predecessor of the Department of Defense), and the Air Force, also laid out the groundwork for the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA officially began operating on September 18, 1947, when the National Security Act took effect.

The Creation of the CIA



CIA Headquarters, Langley, VA

The CIA was not the first U.S. intelligence agency. The first formal, organized intelligence agencies, such as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the U.S. Army's Military Intelligence Division were established in the 1880s. In 1903, the Army created the Military Information Division (MID), which played an important role during World War I. In June 1942, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an order that created the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Led by New York lawyer, William J. Donovan, the OSS collected and analyzed information needed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and helped to plan special military campaigns.

Throughout World War II, Donovan had advocated the creation of a peacetime intelligence agency that would report only to the president, would "correlate the intelligence material collected by all government agencies," would have "no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad," and would conduct "subversive operations abroad." Although Roosevelt had seemed willing to consider transforming the OSS into a permanent intelligence service, Truman felt there was no place for the OSS. On October 1, 1945, the OSS was disbanded and its functions put under the control of the State and War Departments. It is unclear why Truman chose to shut down the OSS - one of his aides even said that he had "prematurely, abruptly, and unwisely disbanded the OSS" - but some critics claim that he abolished it because he would have to have sought Congressional appropriation to retain it, because he was concerned that Donovan wanted to create an "American Gestapo," or simply because he disliked Donovan.

However, Truman did realize that the nation needed an intelligence service, and according to one of his aides, believed that the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor would not have occurred had intelligence been centralized. In January 1946, Truman established the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) and appointed Sidney W. Souers as the first Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). Under the direction of the National Intelligence Authority (NIA), Truman directed CIG to provide strategic warning (to guard against another Pearl Harbor) and coordinate clandestine activities abroad.

The National Security Act replaced the NIA with the NSC and the CIG with the CIA. Under the direction of the NSC, the CIA's main mission was to coordinate the collection of all information related to foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence. It also was responsible for correlating, evaluating, and disseminating intelligence related to national security to the executive branch. The act also gave the DCI three different roles: the president's main adviser on security issues, the leader of the U.S. intelligence system, and head of the CIA. The DCI was also given authority to protect all information sources and methods. In August 1947, Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter became director of the CIA.

A Different Type of Agency

From its creation, the CIA was a very different type of federal agency. The Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949, which amended the 1947 act, allowed the CIA to keep its administrative procedures, staffing, salaries, and employee statistics secret. The act also permitted the CIA to keep its budget secret and exempted it from most of the restrictions placed on federal funds. A 1984 law permitted the CIA to exempt its operational files from requests under the Freedom of Information Act.


Truman Presidential Museum & Library

President Harry Truman signs the National Security Act Amendment on August 10, 1949.

In 1997, following a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act by the Federation of American Scientists, CIA Director George Tenet released a figure for intelligence-related spending for the first time. The intelligence budget for fiscal 1997 was $26.6 billion the following year, the figure was reported to be some $26.7 billion. Since then, the intelligence budget has been classified.

At first, the CIA's main function was information gathering by secretly recruiting foreign agents. However, by the late 1940s, it had become involved in organizing covert operations, whose main purpose was to try to topple states that were considered "hostile" - namely Communist nations or those countries considered likely to turn to a Communist system of government as a way to rebuild their nations. In 1948, the CIA helped the pro-Western Christian Democratic Party win the Italian National Assembly elections by supplying the party with money. Later that year, a 1948 NSC directive would instruct the CIA to continue to "plan and conduct covert operations . . .against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups . . . [through the use of] propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups."

Cold War Activities

Following the Communist takeovers of China and several Eastern European countries in the late 1940s, the CIA's mission shifted toward containing Communism and the Soviet Union - a mission that would endure throughout the Cold War. From 1953 until 1961, the CIA was at the peak of its Cold War activities, with its agents undertaking hundreds of counterintelligence, foreign intelligence, and political missions. However, not all of the CIA's operations were successful, and a series of failed missions led to much criticism and multiple official inquiries.

On April 17, 1961, a group of 1500 Cuban exiles, aided by the CIA, landed at the Bahěa de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) and attempted to invade Cuba and oust its leader, Fidel Castro. However, the invasion was soon stopped by Cuban forces, and by April 19, 90 of the exiles had been killed while the remainder had been taken prisoner. The CIA received widespread criticism for its role in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and, soon after, U.S. President John F. Kennedy appointed a group to analyze the CIA's actions.

The CIA had been conducting intelligence-gathering operations in Vietnam since the early 1960s. Although the agency received some criticism for failing to recognize that South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem could not manage a democratic, social revolution, and for allegedly playing too "prominent" a role in the creation of U.S. foreign policy, the CIA received the most criticism for the part it played in the Phoenix Program. Phoenix was a counter-insurgency program in which Vietnamese believed to be sympathetic to the North Vietnamese and Communist Vietcong were captured or assassinated. Often, the information supplied by South Vietnamese soldiers or village chiefs was inaccurate, and some of those assassinated had nothing to do with the war.

In 1979, Soviet military forces invaded Afghanistan. During the 1980s, the CIA helped to train, arm, and support the mujahedeen, or Afghan resistance fighters, in their war against the Soviets. The Soviet troops began to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1988, but the CIA-trained Afghan resistance fighters remained. Part of the mujahedeen would later form the core of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization.

Some of the CIA's greatest allegations of misconduct took place in the U.S. In May 1973, DCI James Schlesinger, concerned by allegations that the CIA was involved in the Watergate scandal, ordered a report from all current and ex-CIA agents detailing "any activities now going on, or that have gone on in the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency." (The Watergate scandal began with the 1972 arrest of five men with reported links to the CIA for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. U.S. President Richard Nixon later tried to use the CIA to stop a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inquiry into the Watergate break-in, by claiming that the burglary was a national security matter.)

The report Schlesinger ordered, which covered illegal operations from the 1950s to the 1970s, would become known as the "family jewels," and was long kept as classified information. In June 2007, the CIA released the "family jewels" report to the public for the first time.

In September 1973, Schlesinger gave the report to his successor William E. Colby. Details of the CIA's illegal operations remained secret until December 1974 when the New York Times published an article by Seymour Hersh which stated that the CIA had conducted domestic intelligence-gathering activities. That same month, Colby confirmed that the CIA had broken the terms of the 1947 act. In a report that he submitted to U.S. President Gerald Ford, Colby admitted that the CIA had been involved in domestic spying missions, including gathering files on about 9,000 U.S. citizens, break-ins, and wiretapping. However, in a later report to a Senate subcommittee, Colby denied that the activities had amounted to "a massive, illegal domestic intelligence operation," as the New York Times report had alleged.

In response to these reports, Ford set up the Rockefeller Commission in 1975 to investigate the CIA's domestic activities. While that commission found that a "great majority" of the CIA's domestic activities legal, it concluded that the CIA had undertaken activities that were "plainly unlawful and constituted improper invasions upon the rights of Americans." The U.S. Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence went even further in its probe. The Senate's committee, which became known as the Church Committee because it was led by Senator Frank Church (D, Idaho), was set up to investigate the workings of the CIA and the FBI, and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The Church Committee, which issued its final report in April 1976, uncovered more than just domestic intelligence - gathering activities - it also discovered that the CIA had monitored and infiltrated anti-war dissident groups, plotted assassinations of Castro and Congolese Premier Patrice Lumumba, opened mail to and from the Soviet Union and China, and conducted tests of drugs on American citizens.

Dismayed by what he had learned, Church would later describe the CIA as a "rogue elephant rampaging out of control." As a result of the investigations, the U.S. Congress set up special panels, including the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to oversee the CIA's activities. Three months earlier, Ford issued an executive order, forbidding intelligence agents to spy on U.S. citizens, infiltrate domestic groups, or tamper with the mail for any reason except counterintelligence activities. The order also said that federal employees should not "engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination." Later intelligence measures such as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which restricted wiretapping, and the subsequent creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which ruled solely on electronic surveillance requests by FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) employees, were also inspired by the findings of the Church Committee.

The CIA Today

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the CIA changed its mission once again. This time, it began to concentrate on the fight against international terrorism. In trying to establish a new mission, the agency would again face criticism - this time for failing to gather and analyze information correctly. In 1998, the CIA failed to discover India's plans to test nuclear weapons. The following year, because of a failure to update its database, the CIA mistakenly informed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces who were attacking Belgrade, then capital of Yugoslavia, that the Chinese embassy in that city was a building used for storing military supplies.

However, the September 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S. placed the CIA under some of its toughest scrutiny. The CIA and other intelligence agencies drew criticism for failing to foresee or prevent the attacks. Poor communication between intelligence agencies was seen as a major problem. In 2002, Congress passed a bill that created the Department of Homeland Security. The new department was devoted to preventing or responding to terrorism and would also allow the CIA and FBI to share information on terrorist threats.


White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush meets with, from left, CIA Director George Tenet, Secretary Andy Card (not pictured), Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the Oval Office Oct. 7, 2001.

The intelligence that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq has also stirred controversy. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush had cited Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as the main rationale for invading the country. However, no such weapons have been found in the country. In 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report on the CIA's role in the Iraq conflict. Although it praised the CIA for its accurate evaluation that there was no link between Al Qaeda and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it criticized the CIA for its part in the war stating that "what the president and the Congress used to send the country to war was information that was provided by the intelligence community, and that information was flawed."

Later that year, reports of illegal CIA transfers of detainees from Iraq to undisclosed locations began to emerge. A year later, suspects who had been held under the CIA's program reported that they had allegedly been tortured while in custody. Controversy erupted again for the CIA when The Washington Post published an article claiming that the agency was maintaining secret prisons in other countries for the purpose of detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects. Human rights groups, the United Nations (UN), and members of the European Union (EU) criticized the CIA's practices, fearing that the existence of secret prisons could lead to the mistreatment of prisoners or break the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In September 2006, Bush acknowledged that the CIA was operating secret overseas prisons for terrorism suspects.

In December 2004, Congress approved an extensive restructuring of the intelligence community designed to "better protect the American people and defend against ongoing threats." Under the terms of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the CIA, along with 14 other intelligence agencies, reports to the director of national intelligence (DNI). The DNI, instead of the CIA director, now acts as the president's main adviser on security issues and as head of the U.S. intelligence community. The creation of new DNI position and many other elements of the landmark intelligence community restructuring stemmed from the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission in July 2004 had issued a final report that also called for improved congressional oversight of intelligence and counterterrorism.

Today, the CIA continues to work to prevent or respond to terrorism. Because so many of the CIA's activities are not in the public eye, the public usually only hears of the agency's failed operations and rarely knows anything about its "important contributions to the nation's security." However, as the agency approaches its 60th anniversary, the American public can be certain that the country would be much less secure today if it were not for the CIA.

Did You Know?

The modern birthstone for July is the ruby; in the ancient world it was the onyx.

Chronology — Events of Past Month Year



U.S. Congress

Fred Thompson

     Ex-Tennessee Senator Eyes Presidential Race; Other Election News - Former Sen. and actor Fred Thompson (R-TN) filed papers June 1 that allowed him to set up a committee to raise money for a possible 2008 presidential bid. Thompson is popular among conservatives. Within weeks, he was already running second (to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani) in some public-opinion polls on the GOP nomination.
     At a debate among Democratic presidential candidates in New Hampshire June 3, Ex-Sen. John Edwards (NC) criticized Sens. Hillary Clinton (NY) and Barack Obama (IL) for not showing more leadership in opposing a military spending bill that did not require a timetable for U.S troop withdrawal from Iraq. Obama replied that he had opposed the war before it began, while Edwards had voted to authorize Pres. George W. Bush to launch the war.
     At a Republican candidates’ debate in New Hampshire June 5, Sen. John McCain (AZ), while supporting the current U.S. troop surge in Iraq, said that the war had been "very badly mismanaged for a long time." Most of the candidates opposed the compromise immigration bill, which Bush and McCain supported, that later failed in the Senate.

     NYC Mayor Leaves GOP - On New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg June 19 announced that he had left the Republican Party and became an independent. Some observers speculated that his move was in anticipation of a presidential bid in 2008. Should he choose to run for president as an independent, Bloomberg, a billionaire, could finance his own campaign without need for party funding. Bloomberg was a Democrat until he ran on the Republican ticket for New York City Mayor in 2001.

     Four Charged in Alleged Plot to Bomb New York Airport - Authorities June 4 charged four men with plotting to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Russell Defreitas, who was thought to be the ringleader of the group, had been arrested in Brooklyn, NY, June 1. The U.S. citizen and native of Guyana had been a cargo handler at the airport in the 1990s. In Trinidad and Tobago, 2 men (Kareem Ibrahim & Abdul Kadir) were arrested June 1 and another (Abdel Nur) turned himself in June 5. All four were indicted on June 29.

     Ex-Aide to Cheney Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison - U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton June 5 sentenced I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby Jr., a former chief of staff to Vice Pres. Richard Cheney, to 30 months in prison. In March, Libby had been convicted of lying and obstructing justice during the investigation into who might have leaked the undercover status of former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Walton also fined Libby $250,000. Some leading supporters of the Bush administration - pointing out that Libby had not been found guilty of leaking her status, and claiming that the sentence was too harsh - urged Pres. George W. Bush to pardon Libby. Walton June 14 ordered Libby to report to prison within 6 to 8 weeks.

     Immigration Reform Bill Fails in Senate - Voting on a comprehensive immigration reform bill was stalled June 7 when supporters were unable to move to a final vote. Supporters got only 45 of the 60 votes needed to end debate. Although Pres. Bush backed the bill, only 7 Republicans supported it. Sen. Harry Reid (D, NV), the majority leader, temporarily withdrew the bill from consideration. Bush met with GOP senators June 13 and sought to assure them that the bill would provide the enhanced border security that many of their constituents were demanding. He announced June 14 that he would spend an additional $4.4 bil to protect U.S. borders. The bill was revived June 26 by a 64-35 vote, with 24 Republicans in the majority but failed to secure enough votes to end debate (46-53) on June 28. Reasons for the failure were split: some believed immigrants’ rights weren’t ensured, while others thought the bill would guarantee amnesty to illegal immigrants.

     Chairman of Joint Chiefs to Be Replaced - Sec. of Defense Robert Gates announced June 8 that he would not renominate Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a 2nd term. Pace said June 16 that he had declined to voluntarily retire. Pace was the first chairman in more than 40 years to serve only one 2-year term. Gates said that he had consulted senators from both parties and had concluded that renominating Pace would result in a divisive confirmation hearing related to the conduct of the Iraq war. Pres. Bush said June 8 that he would accept Gates’ recommendation that he nominate Adm. Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, to succeed Pace. Sen. Harry Reid (D, NV) said June 14 that Pace "had not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren’t going right in Iraq."


U.S. Supreme Court

Chief Justice John Roberts

     Vote of No Confidence in Gonzales Fails in Senate - A Democratic-led effort to adopt a motion of no confidence in Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales failed in the Senate on June 11. A vote of 53-38 fell short of the 60 necessary to end debate. The Senate and House judiciary committees June 13 subpoenaed former White House officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor to testify about the firing of U.S. attorneys in 2006.

     U.S. Supreme Court Rulings - The Supreme Court ruled June 25 in a 5-4 decision that a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was unconstitutional. Under a provision of the law, corporations, interest groups (including activist organizations), and unions could not run any political advertising in the last 30 days before a primary election or the last 60 days before a general election. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. held that the only ads that could be kept off the air during those periods were those that were "susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate."
     The Supreme Court June 28 ruled, 5-4, that two school districts could not use race as a factor in school placement programs designed to encourage diversity, because the practice violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. The cases were Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1 and Meredith v. Jefferson Country Board of Education.
     Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said while the intent of the districts was to foster integration between races, they could not use "racial classifications in making school assignments." In his opinion, Roberts cited the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public schools. He said, "Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again - even for very different reasons." The liberal side of the court delivered a strongly worded dissent that was twice as long as Roberts's opinion. Justice Stephen G. Breyer read the dissenting opinion from the bench, a practice used to signal the seriousness of a justice's disagreement. He said the plurality opinion was a "cruel distortion" of Brown, and argued that the school districts' programs were local efforts at fulfilling the promise of racially integrated schools made by Brown


     Putin Warns U.S. on Missile Defense Bases - On June 1, Pres. Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. that if it went ahead with plans to place missile defense bases in eastern Europe, Russia would target European sites with its own missiles. Pres. Bush said June 5 that the missile plans were "a purely defensive measure." At a private meeting during the summit, Putin proposed to Bush that the U.S. use a Russian-managed radar base in Azerbaijan to guard against a missile attack from Iran.

     U.S. Destroyer Attacks Militants in Somalia - A U.S. Navy destroyer June 1 fired cruise missiles into a suspected stronghold for Islamic militants on the northeast coast of Somalia. Dozens of Islamists had been arriving at the site from southern Somalia. The U.S. believed that al-Qaeda fighters were present.

     U.S. Troop Buildup in Iraq Complete; Death Toll Rises - The U.S. military said June 3 that 127 U.S. troops had died in May, which was the 3rd highest monthly total for the war so far. Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a U.S. commander in southern Iraq, said June 10 that field commanders were being allowed to give arms, equipment, and cash to Sunni militants who were antagonistic toward al-Qaeda in Iraq, providing that the supplies were used against that group.
     The Defense Dept quarterly report released June 13 said that the joint U.S.-Iraqi security drive had reduced violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province but that attacks were up elsewhere. Suicide attacks had more than doubled from January to March, and attacks utilizing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) against U.S, forces were at a record high in April. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad June 15, urged him to move faster on constitutional reforms and political reconciliation. Sen. Richard Lugar (R, IN), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, broke with the Bush administration on Iraq June 25, saying, in a Senate speech, "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term."
     A military spokesman June 15 said that the U.S. surge, which had begun in February, was complete. U.S. forces had been increased by 28,500 to an overall strength of about 160,000. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said June 17 that 40% of Baghdad was "really very safe on a routine basis." U.S. and allied soldiers June 16 began Operation Phantom Thunder, a new offensive against extremists, including a group known as "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," around Baghdad. June 18, they fought Shiite militants north of Basra and clashed with the Mahdi army, a force allied with the militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, southeast of Baghdad. On June 19, 10,000 Americans and 3,000 Iraqis, supported by 2 Sunni units that had turned against al-Qaeda, began an offensive on an al-Qaeda stronghold in the Baquba area. Odierno said June 21 that 80% of the top al-Qaeda leaders had fled Baquba. On June 20 and 21, 15 U.S. soldiers were killed, mostly in roadside bomb attacks around Baghdad. Eleven died on June 23.
     A Sunni Muslim insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq, declared June 4 that 3 U.S. soldiers captured in May were all dead. One of their bodies had been found in the Euphrates River. The group’s video displayed the identity cards of the 2 missing soldiers. On June 9, the ID cards were found during a raid on an al-Qaeda safe house near Samarra.
     In Samarra June 13, explosions destroyed the twin golden minarets at the Askariya mosque. A bombing in 2006 had destroyed the golden dome of the mosque, one of the holiest Shiite shrines. A suicide truck bomber in Baghdad June 19 killed 87. A suicide bomber killed 12 in a Baghdad hotel June 25; 6 Sunni sheiks who had been working against al-Qaeda in Anbar Province were among the dead.


Photo European Parliament

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

     Leaders of Industrial Nations Meet in Germany - The heads of government of the world’s leading industrial nations, the Group of Eight (G-8) met in Heiligendamm, Germany. In a joint statement June 7, the leaders agreed to "seriously consider" a proposal from the European Union, Canada, and Japan that global greenhouse gas emissions be cut in half by 2050. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had wanted each nation to commit to cutting its own emissions by 50% by 2050. A meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in Germany, would begin negotiations on an agreement on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which would expire in 2012.
     On June 8, the 8 leaders agreed to commit $60 bil to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in developing countries.

     Hamas Faction Wins Bloody Struggle to Control Gaza Strip - The Palestinian Authority violently split in June as Hamas, which opposes Israel’s right to exist, seized control of the Gaza Strip on June 14 after fighting with Fatah that left more than 100 dead. In Gaza City, Hamas captured the police station June 13 and the president’s compound June 14. Some Fatah officials were reportedly executed.
     On June 14, Pres. Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Fatah-Hamas unity government; dismissed the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya; and declared a state of emergency. On June 15 he named Salam Fayyad as prime minister. Hamas rejected the new government. U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice said June 18 that Bush fully supported Abbas and the U.S. would resume full assistance to his government. Hamas rejected June 30 Fatah’s offer for early elections moderated by an international force.

     Sudan Opens Darfur Region to Peacekeepers - Negotiators from Sudan tentatively agreed June 12 to allow more than 20,000 peacekeepers from the UN and the African Union into the Darfur region, where civil strife had caused the deaths of 200,000 people since 2003. The current AU force of 7,000 had been unable to control a marauding Arab militia, the Janjaweed.

     Lebanese Critic of Syrian Influence Is Assassinated - Walid Eido, a member of Lebanon’s parliament and an opponent of Syrian involvement in Lebanon’s affairs, was killed by a bomb that exploded in a parked car June 13 on a road near Beirut. One of his sons, 2 bodyguards, and 6 passersby were also killed. Eido was the 7th prominent critic of Syria to be killed since 2005. A car bomb killed 5 UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon June 24.

     ‘Chemical Ali’ Sentenced to Hang in Iraq - The Iraqi High Tribunal June 24 sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid, known by the nickname "Chemical Ali," to be executed by hanging. Al-Majid, cousin of former Pres. Saddam Hussein, was convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He had overseen the poison gas attacks that had killed thousands of Kurds in 1987-88. Two former high-ranking Iraqi army officers were also sentenced to death June 24.


International Monetary Fund

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

     Tony Blair Steps Down as British Prime Minister - Prime Min. Tony Blair of Great Britain submitted his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II on June 27. In a final appearance before the House of Commons, Blair said he was sorry for the dangers faced by British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he offered no regrets for entering the Iraq war. The queen June 27 invited Treasury chief Gordon Brown to form a new government. Blair June 27 was named envoy of the so-called quartet of mediators between Israel and the Palestinians - the UN, European Union, Russia, and the U.S.

     Suspected Bomb Plot Pushes Britain to "Critical" Alert Level - British police defused two car bombs in London’s theatre district June 29, the first of them just a few hours after new Prime Minister Gordon Brown named his cabinet. Police reported that the bombs were designed to be set off by remote control using cell phones, but that multiple calls to at least one of the cars had failed to trigger a detonation. The next day, June 30, a four-wheel-drive vehicle exploded at Glasgow airport after being driven into the main terminal. Police arrested two men after the attack, one of whom was reported to have a "suspect device" on his body. Britain raised its national alert level to "critical," indicating that new attacks were expected imminently; the U.S. security level remained unchanged, but security was increased at many U.S. airports in advance of the busy July 4 holiday.


     Anaheim Wins National Hockey League Title - The Anaheim (CA) Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators, 6-2, June 6 to win the Stanley Cup. The Ducks, coached by Randy Carlyle, beat out the Senators 4 games to 1 to win their first title. Scott Niedermayer, an Anaheim defenseman, was named the most valuable player of the playoffs.

     Filly Wins Belmont Stakes - On June 9, for the first time since 1905, a filly, Rags to Riches, won the Belmont Stakes. The winner covered the 1.5-mile distance in 2 minutes and 28.74 seconds.

     San Antonio Wins NBA Title in a 4-Game Sweep - The San Antonio Spurs June 14 won their 4th NBA title in 9 years, sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games. San Antonio was coached by Gregg Popovich. The Spurs’ Tony Parker, a point guard and a native of France, was named the most valuable player of the final series. The MVP award for the regular season had gone to a forward for the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki, from Germany. This was the first time that either MVP award had gone to a European.

     Collapsing Roof Kills 9 Firefighters - Nine firemen died in Charleston, SC, June 18 when the roof of a furniture warehouse collapsed during a fire. The men were scattered through the Sofa Super Store when the roof fell. Thousands of firefighters from across the United States attended a memorial service June 22.

Science in the News: Atlantis Rock(et)s! — Chris Larson



Smoke billows away from the launch pad as Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on mission STS-117. This is the 118th space shuttle flight, the 21st flight to the station and the 28th flight for Atlantis.

Space Shuttle Atlantis landed safely in California's Mojave Desert on June 22, 2007, nearly two weeks after it rocketed into space from Florida's Cape Canaveral on June 8. The shuttle spent most of its time aloft docked with the International Space Station. In the course of four spacewalks, the astronauts added a new truss segment to the space station, spread one new solar cell array and folded up a different array of solar panels, preparatory to its relocation.

The mission lasted 13 days, 20 hours and 11˝ minutes. Original plans called for the shuttle to land in Florida, but bad weather there caused delays and the eventual decision to divert to the California landing site. The Atlantis was commanded by Rick Sturckow, and Lee Archambault piloted the craft. Sunita Williams returned to Earth on the Atlantis after a stay aboard the Space Station; she now holds the record for the longest-lasting spaceflight by a woman. Also aboard the Atlantis when it landed were mission specialists Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Jim Reilly and Steven Swanson. Clay Anderson had flown into space aboard the Atlantis, but he remained at the space station, taking Williams's place.

A Computer Scare

In shuttle missions, something often doesn't go according to plan; this time it was a computer crash at the International Space Station. Most of us have experienced times when the computer screen freezes. It's one thing, however, not to be able to IM when you want to and something else entirely when the system fails that controls the supply of oxygen, or the steering that keeps you properly oriented in orbit. It was this more serious scenario that confronted the occupants of the International Space Station during the visit of Atlantis.

In the Russian part of the space station are two computers, each with three redundant "lanes." The point of the redundancy is so that the lanes can check each other and so guard against wrong answers. The computers are German-made, using Russian software. On June 12 the astronauts began having difficulties with the computers. The computers control the thrusters that are one of the means used to maintain the space station's orientation; gyroscopes in the U.S. module of the space station also serve that purpose. Proper orientation is vital to the functioning of the station, since if the solar panels are turned away from the Sun, for example, they will not be able to generate the power that the station relies on. The Russian computers, besides their thruster control function, also help regulate oxygen generation. (Oxygen generation can be controlled manually.) A long-term loss of the Russian computers would have posed serious problems, but, with the Atlantis docked to the space station at the time, the shuttle was able to serve as a backstop. Specifically, instead of using the space station thruster, the thrusters on the shuttle could be employed to keep the station in proper position. This unexpected duty meant that certain systems had to be powered down aboard the shuttle to conserve fuel, but the astronauts were still able to perform their key tasks.



Smoke billows away from the launch pad as Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on mission STS-117. This is the 118th space shuttle flight, the 21st flight to the station and the 28th flight for Atlantis.

It took a while to get the computers back online. Ground-based Russian engineers were able to trace the crash back to power switches that served as surge protectors for the computers. With that information, the astronauts aboard the craft were able to bypass the switches. By June 16, all six lanes of the computers were back on line. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov said that day, "In the very beginning, we were a little bit worried about the state of the computers . . . Now we have a good set of computers and station again looks pretty good and in good shape."

Still, the original source of the problem - the reason for the malfunction by the switches - continued to elude engineers, and would be a major focus of analysis for ground crews after the shuttle landed. The trouble developed after astronauts installed new solar panels. One theory was that static electrical charge had built up on the space station or the newly installed solar panel. The space station does not orbit in perfect vacuum - there are many charged particles at that level, and these can cause a build-up of charge, which in turn could have resulted in the problem with the switches. The space station includes features designed to deal with the problem, but the new panel might have been vulnerable, according to some experts. Still, it was not clear that this was the ultimate source of the problem, and NASA officials declined to speculate.

Mending a Thermal Blanket

The problem with the computers aboard the space station was the most serious mishap during the mission, but it was not the only unexpected problem that had to be dealt with. During the launch of the space shuttle, a 4-by-6 inch (10-by-15 centimeter) portion of the thermal blanket that protects various parts of the craft peeled away from where it belonged.



During the launch of the space shuttle, a 4-by-6 inch portion of the thermal blanket on the outside of the craft peeled away. The solution to this vexing problem—repairs with a medical stapler and pins from an on-board first aid kit.

Ground-based technicians conducted computer simulations to decide whether the damage was sufficient to warrant an in-flight repair. The consensus was that it was worth the trouble and risk. The blanket is designed to give protection against the fearsome heat of re-entry into the atmosphere. NASA officials indicated that they did not think the damage was enough to put the shuttle itself at risk, although after the 2003 disaster with the Columbia, that possibility certainly was at the forefront of everyone's mind. A more likely scenario, they indicated, was that an unrepaired thermal blanket could lead to damage that would be costly, in terms of both time and money, to repair.

With the decision taken to go ahead, the question turned to how specifically to proceed. The universal household fixer - duct tape - was considered, but discarded. "Duct tape doesn't work in the vacuum of space," deputy shuttle program manager John Shannon said June 12. In the end, Olivas used pins and a medical stapler from an on-board first aid kit.

An early inspection after the Atlantis landed indicated the makeshift repairs had largely done the job of protecting the shuttle against damage.

Mission Accomplished

Despite the mission's problems, NASA officials noted that the astronauts were able to complete all its major objectives.

"There were a lot of challenges on this mission and they were all surmounted," was how Sturckow, commander of the Atlantis, put it. Williams, whose stay aloft gave her a place in the record books, said she was looking forward to a big slice of pizza.

Did You Know?

Whoopi Goldberg was originally named Caryn Johnson.

Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Lost in Translation, Part 1: A Rose By Any Other Name

Who are you planning to vote for in the presidential primaries? Virtue Soup? Oh Bus Horse? Sticky Rice? Massachusetts State Secretary William Galvin has pointed to these candidates names as a few of the ways identities are lost in translation when candidates’ names are translated into Chinese characters on the ballot as required by a justice department agreement. Finding no Chinese character for Romney, however, translators select characters that could be used to match the sound of each syllable, muddying the meaning of names. "Virtue Soup" is a potential transliteration of Fred Thompson. Barack Obama might be read as "Oh Bus Horse," and Mitt Romney could be either "Sticky Rice" or "Uncooked Rice." Galvin’s own name could be construed as "High Prominent Noble Educated," for one, or as "Stick Mosquito."

While the translations are amusing, there are serious issues at stake, most prominent among them keeping voters from being disenfranchised for lack of a readable ballot. Galvin advocates translating the ballots into Chinese for the most part, but wants the names to remain in Roman characters. But voting rights advocates say there are other options to avoid awkward translations, such as allowing candidates to offer their own character variations or mimicking the way Chinese newspapers transliterate the names.

Lost in Translation, Part 2: And John Smith Thought He Had It Hard

China is a country of more than 1.3 billion people, and despite the nation’s large population about 85 percent share only 100 different surnames, making for considerable confusing situations in public and personal daily life. Now authorities are considering changing the law that limits surnames to that of a child’s father or mother to encompass more diverse options and avoid future confusion. A nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Security found that 93 million Chinese people share the last name Wang; 92 million, Zhou; and 88 million, Li. To say nothing of over 100,000 named Wang Tao - the most popular name combination in China. The rule change would allow couples to combine last names to create a new surname for their offspring. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a father by the name of Zhou and a mother named Zhu could choose to identify their child with the surname Zhou, Zhu, Zhouzhu, or Zhuzhou. The new draft of the rule would also encourage ethnic minorities to eschew the common practice of taking a more common Han Chinese surname.

Links of the Month — Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

I've just returned from an 8 day cruise in the Caribbean with my family, a pre-celebration for my father's upcoming 90th birthday. Sailing out of New York City upon the deck of a cruise ship was exciting, and it was fun to see the Navarre building (1930) in which our headquarters are located. As we sailed down the Hudson, I glimpsed a Staten Island Ferry. Staten Island was sighted by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524. According to some authorities it was named Staten Eylandet by the English navigator Henry Hudson in 1609 for the States-General (Staten Generaal), the Dutch legislature; Hudson's sponsor on his voyage of exploration was the Dutch East India Company. Regular water service to Manhattan began in 1712. The American industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt began his business career in 1810 with a Staten Island-Manhattan ferry operation. On the FREE 25 minute ride from Manhattan to Staten Island you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Narrow street in Old San Juan

Taking cruises seems to be a vacation destination for many these days, and with ships sailing out of New York City and New Jersey on a regular basis, it was an easy choice, not having to fly anyplace first. Our ship, held 2,600 passengers, and there were plenty of activities on board including a miniature golf course (9 holes). There are many plans in the work for construction of new cruise ships during the next five years, including two Royal Caribbean ships that will weigh in at 220,000 gross registered tons and hold 5,400 passengers each. Carnival Corp.'s Cunard Line currently has the world's largest cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2 at 151,400 gross registered tons. One of the interesting things about cruise ships is that the crew consists of mainly international employees. Our ship had quite a large number of reprsentatives from South Africa, Romania, and Indonesia. Cruise ship jobs entail long days, often weeks of straight work without time off, but offers up opportunities including free room and meals, and travel throughout the world. Hey, it's beginning to sound better and better!

Our first stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico. The historical heart of the city, referred to as Old San Juan, lies on a small island connected to the mainland by bridges and a causeway. It is characterized by narrow, crooked streets and a number of buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The region's first European settlement, called Caparra and located W of the present-day city of San Juan, was begun in 1508 under the direction of Ponce de León. Taíno Indians lived in the area at the time. In 1521 the original settlement was abandoned and moved to the site of what is now called Old San Juan. Interestingly, this settlement was originally known as Puerto Rico (rich port), whereas the island had been named San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) by Christopher Columbus in 1492; later the names were reversed. The oldest part remains partly enclosed by massive walls and contains several notable forts, such as El Morro (begun 1539) and San Cristóbal (17th cent.), both part of San Juan National Historic Site.


(c) Edward A. Thomas


While visiting San Cristóbal we were startled to come upon three very large green iguanas. I guess I just never thought they grew so big! The one pictured here was probably five feet long from head to tail. Iguanas are part of the lizard family and are reptiles that grow to about 1.8 m (about 6 ft) and have compressed bodies with a row of leathery spines from the neck to the tail. Iguanas have distinct eyelids, large external eardrums, and conspicuous throat pouches, or dewlaps. Each limb has five free toes ending in sharp claws. Unlike most other lizards, iguanas are vegetarians. Their habitats vary; some live in trees, some in water, and some on land.


(c) Edward A. Thomas

Magens Bay, St. Thomas

Our next stop was St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands. For some (I won't mention names...Barbara), this was a shoppers paradise, since it is outside the U.S. Custom zone. Downtown Charlotte Amalie is filled with streets of shops, but for me, beautiful architecture. Three miles north of the capital lies the gorgeous white sandy beach of Magens Bay. Christopher Columbus sighted the Virgin Islands in 1493, on his second voyage to America, and named them for St. Ursula and the other virgin martyrs associated with her. Denmark colonized St. Thomas and St. John after 1670. Intermittently ruled by the Danish and British for two centuries, the U.S. bought the islands for $25 million in 1917, after negotiations that were begun in 1867. The U.S. Virgin Islands are unincorporated territories and include 3 islands - Saint Thomas (83 sq km/32 sq mi), Saint John (52 sq km/20 sq mi), and Saint Croix (207 sq km/80 sq mi). In 1968, the U.S. Congress in 1968 passed a law granting the people of the Virgin Islands the right to elect their own governor.

The last destination on our trip was the Tortola, one of the 36 British Virgin Islands. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the islands were settled by the Dutch in 1648 and acquired by England in 1666. During the 17th century, buccaneers frequented the Virgin Islands. From 1871 to 1956 the islands were part of the Federation of the Leeward Islands. The capital and largest town in the group of islands is Road Town, situated on the SE coast of Tortola. The island is very mountainous (and I thought the hairpin turns on our ride up to the top of St. Thomas were bad!), with beautiful beaches. I spent the morning at the beach, amazed at how clear the water was, and seeing coconuts being sold on the beach.


(c) Edward A. Thomas

George Washington watermelon sculpture

We celebrated the Fourth of July on the cruise ship, and it wasn't quite like being in the United States. That night however, was the 12:30 am buffet, which showed the culinary artistic talents of the chefs aboard ship. Among these delights stood something which would be commonplace on July 4th, but not necessarily together - George Washington and watermelon. Who knew there was such art in watermelon sculpture?

While I can't remember the first book I ever read, I can put a time and place to when my interest in books began. My parents and sisters were readers, and I was the slacker in the family. During family vacations, each of my sisters would take 10 library books with them (none for me), and our first night we'd always stop at a bookstore to buy books to read on the beach. My mother had a difficult time getting me interested, but the year aviator Charles Lindbergh died (1974), she brought home The New York Times obituary, and finally, the spark ignited interest in reading for me. What book got you hooked? First Book, an organization trying to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books is taking a survey to see what book got you hooked, and you can also vote for which state should receive 50,000 new books...Continuing on the subject of books, Better World Books is an organization which was created by three University of Notre Dame graduates in May 2002. This group collects donated books and sells them to raise money for funding that supports world literacy efforts. Their website lists the books they want and don't want; think of it as a good way to give away books and help others....The last book I read was Irčne Némirovsky's "Suite Française," a brilliant book written during the German occupation of France (1940-1941). The two novellas are amazing because they were written contemporaneously with the events that they portray. Némirovsky and her husband Michael Epstein both died in Auschwitz, and their eldest daughter, Denise, carried her mother's leatherbound notebooks from location to location throughout the war. It was not until the late 1990s that Denise read what was in the notebooks and discovered the novellas....I'm currently reading Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," a detective story which presents an alternative history - one in which a Yiddish-speaking reservation for Jewish refugees was established in Sitka, Alaska in 1941, Berlin was the target of the atomic bomb in 1946, and Israel no longer exists. It's proving to be an interesting read, and Chabon continues to be one of my favorite authors.

Quote of the Month

"O liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!" (liberte! Que de crimes on commet dans ton nom!)
      - Jeanne-Marie Roland (1754-1793), a supporter of the French Revolution -- last words before being guillotined (8 November 1793)

© World Almanac Education Group

World Almanac E-Newsletter
Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

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Jane Flynn, C. Alan Joyce, Walter Kronenberg, Bill McGeveran and Linda Van Orden.

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