Grand Canyon airline collision, June 30, 1956

June 30, 2008

[2008] Today’s the 52nd anniversary of a horrendous accident in the air over the Grand Canyon. Two airliners collided, and 128 people died.

In 1956 there was no national radar system. When commercial flights left airports, often the only contact they had with any form of air traffic control was when the pilots radioed in for weather information, or for landing instructions. Especially there was no system to avoid collisions. As this 2006 story in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City) relates, the modern air traffic control system was spurred mightily by this tragedy.

About 9 a.m. Saturday, June 30, [1956], the TWA flight bound for Kansas City, Mo., and the United flight bound for Chicago left Los Angeles International Airport within three minutes of each other. The TWA flight, carrying 70 people, filed a flight plan to cruise at 19,000 feet. The United flight, with 58 people on board, planned to cruise at 21,000 feet.

About 20 minutes into the flight, TWA pilot Capt. Jack Gandy requested permission to climb to 21,000 feet. An air traffic controller in Salt Lake City turned down Gandy’s request. Then Gandy asked to fly “1,000 on top,” meaning at least a thousand feet above the clouds, which that morning were billowing as high as 30,000 feet. That request was granted.

By the time both planes were over the Grand Canyon, the pilots were flying in and out of the clouds, on visual flight rules and off their prescribed flight plans, apparently typical in those days as pilots veered off course to play tour guide.

No one knows exactly what happened.

It was the last big accident before instigation of the “black box,” so investigators had to piece together details from debris on the ground.

They decided that the left wing and propeller of the United plane hit the center fin of the TWA’s tail and cut through the fuselage, sending Flight 2 nose-first into the canyon, two miles south of the juncture of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. The United DC- 7, which had lost most of its left wing, began spiraling down. Capt. Robert Shirley radioed Salt Lake City a garbled message that controllers understood only after they slowed down the recording: “Salt Lake, ah, 718 . . . we are going in.” Flight 718 smashed into a cliff on Chuar Butte.

The accident plays a key role in a Tony Hillerman mystery, Skeleton Man — Hillerman writes about two Navajo Nation policemen.

I’m thinking of the crash today for two reasons. I’m off for a tour of canyons, including both rims of the Grand Canyon, in the next two weeks. The last time I was there was 1986, with the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. We flew in on a Twin Otter, coming up from Phoenix, over the Roosevelt Dam, up over the Mogollon Rim, over the Glen Canyon Recreation area and stopping it Page. From Page to Grand Canyon, we took full advantage of the huge windows in the Otter — seeing first hand the sights that the controversial tourist flights were designed to reveal. Safety was a key concern, and we talked about it constantly with the pilots.

A few weeks later, on June 18, 1986, that DeHavilland Twin Otter collided with a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter over the Canyon. 25 people died in that crash.

I have flown over the Canyon a dozen times since then — no longer will airliners dip down to give passengers a better view, not least because airliners cruise tens of thousands of feet higher now than they did then. I think of those airplane accidents every time I see the Canyon.

We’re driving in. We’ll spend a day and a half on the South Rim, and another couple of nights on the North Rim. We’re taking our time on the ground. But if we had time, and we could afford it, I’d love to get up in an airplane or helicopter to see the Canyon from the air again.


Independence Day quiz

June 30, 2008

An ISP called Toast.net has an interactive Independence Day Quiz — feeling patriotic? Go see how your knowledge of U.S. history and lore stacks up against others. The questions are very good, really.

Remember to fly your flag on the 4th of July!


“Louisiana’s exorcist governor”

June 30, 2008

I love the headline: “Anti-science law signed by Louisiana’s exorcist governor.”

Tony Whitson’s quick analysis is good, too.

One might begin to think Louisiana really is cursed. Katrina, Rita, other political troubles — and then they elect the bright, young reformer as governor, and he turns out to be a voodoo history and voodoo science practitioner — heck, maybe he practices just plain old voodoo.

All this comes at a time when it may have saved John McCain from making a mistake that would make George McGovern’s selection of Tom Eagleton look like wisdom of the ages (when news came out that Eagleton had undergone convulsive shock therapy for depression, he was replaced on the ticket by Sargent Shriver, but not after much damage had been done to the credibility and viability of the McGovern campaign — why Nixon thought it necessary to sponsor burglary to defeat this ticket is one of the mysteries of the ages of Shakespearian tragedy come to life in in American politics).

Mind you, I like and respect McGovern, and I found working with Tom Eagleton on the Senate Labor Committee a great joy.


India, 100 years ago

June 30, 2008

World history and geography teachers take note: This site, Chat and Chai, has an interesting slide show of what appear to be stereoscope and post card photos from India, 100 years ago. The link may be useful for on-line demonstrations — you may be able to use the images in other presentations.

The slides show people in a lot of everyday activities, providing good, visual examples of how people lived then. An instructive comparison: Can your students find photos of Indians carrying out similar activities today? How has India changed, for how much of its population? I suspect you can find cases where Some Indians have leaped into the 21st century, and other examples where the lives of many millions of people have not changed all that much.

Several of the photos remind that they were taken 40 years or more before India won independence from Britain. These may pertain to discussions of empires and imperialism, and other economic issues, too.

One commenter asked the blogger to share the slides, but I don’t see a positive response.

Don’t ask me to explain the music the blogger selected for the slides.

Here is the actual slide show.

more about “India 100 Years Ago “, posted with vodpod


Dobson group pushes religious nature of intelligent design, in New Zealand

June 29, 2008

In the end, Dr. James Dobson and other ideological Christians may be the worst enemies of the idea that intelligent design should be taught as science. They just can’t resist emphasizing that ID is, to them, good Christian doctrine.

In the latest outbreak, the New Zealand chapter of Dobson’s group Focus on the Family has sent copies of the DVD, “The Privileged Planet,” to 400 New Zealand high schools. Why?

Focus on the Family’s executive director Tim Sisarich said the material was intended to expose pupils to an alterative theory of cosmology.

“We’re a Christian organisation so we believe that God made the planet and God made the cosmos … Science takes a theory and tries to establish it as the truth, and that’s all this is.”

Education Ministry senior manager Mary Chamberlain said parents had a right to withdraw children from religious instruction.

This undercuts the lobby group, Discovery Institute (DI), which argues that intelligent design should be considered good science and not religiously related. The DVD in question features an intelligent design advocate, Guillermo Gonzalez, who was denied tenure at Iowa State University in 2007 — in that flap, DI argued that the DVD was good science, not religion.

Creationism does tend to require being flexible on the truth. When fundraising, or when trying to defend Christian ideas, intelligent design is Christian doctrine. When DI and others are trying to sneak ID into science curricula in the U.S., it’s not religion at all, but scientifically related.

Treating subjects in that fashion is a form of moral relativism, or to most people, simple dishonesty.

(The discussion at the site of the Dominion Post is quite lively; see what New Zealanders think of intelligent design.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Bumsted at Grassroots Science.

Update: P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula was already on it. Morris, Minnesota is just such a hub of scientific activity, it’s difficult to stay ahead of Dr. Myers when we’re stuck here in what appears to be the scientific backwater of Dallas.


Legacy of 1968: USS Pueblo still shadows North Korean relations

June 29, 2008

It’s clear that U.S. relations with North Korea (the Peoples Republic of Korea, or PRK) still suffer from institutional memories of the USS Pueblo incident. For both sides the Pueblo incident remains a sore point from 1968, a very trying year for the U.S. anyway.

PRK was scheduled to detail its nuclear activities in a report last Thursday when I started pondering this issue — part of the continuing negotiations to close down nuclear weapons production in PRK. PRK hoped to get off the U.S. list of “terrorist nations.

Al Jazeera featured this story, below, in September 2007. In addition to footage of the Pueblo, still illegally held by PRK, and used as tourist site and propaganda opportunity, the piece explores the effects of the incident on more recent events, the negotiations to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

And now we know the rest of the story. PRK delivered the report; Bush announced the nation would be taken off the list of supporters of terrorism.  (Report below from CBS News)

PRK destroyed the cooling towers to their offensive reactor.

And now we’re right back where we were in 1995. Eight years of Bush’s work pushed us backwards 13 years.  Partial compliance by PRK, but the bomb-building project is on hold.

Nuclear non-proliferation mades some strides this last week. Still I can’t help the feeling that January 21, 2009, cannot arrive quickly enough.

Remember the Pueblo veterans. The Pueblo Affair still dogs relations between the U.S. and the PRK, through no fault of the crew of the Pueblo who endured a year of brutal captivity, and then seem to have been forgotten by the nation they served so well.


Quote of the moment: T. H. Huxley

June 29, 2008

From Smithsonian.com:
June 29, 1895: T.H. Huxley Dies

Thomas Henry Huxley, a British biologist and firm believer in evolution, dies at age 70. The greatest defender of Darwinism in Britain, he once said,

“The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.”


How to start a hoax against a presidential candidate

June 29, 2008

Hoax complaints against presidential candidates are old ideas. In 1796, Alexander Hamilton paid newspaper editors to print stories saying Thomas Jefferson was atheist. It was a minor theme in that campaign, but after John Adams’ political fortunes foundered on the Alien and Sedition Acts, among other missteps, Hamilton stepped up the attacks in the election of 1800.

Jefferson’s great biographer, Dumas Malone, estimates that by election day, fully half the American electorate believed Jefferson was atheist. Jefferson made a perfect target for such a charge — staunch advocate of religious freedom, he thought it beneath the dignity of a politician to answer such charges at all, so he did not bother to deny them publicly. Ministers in New England told their congregations they would have to hide their Bibles because, as president, Jefferson would send troops to confiscate them.

In a warning to hoaxers, we might hope, Americans elected Jefferson anyway.

Such nefariousness plagues campaigns today, still. Boone Pickens, who helped fund the Swiftboat Veterans’ calumny against war hero John Kerry, has an offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can show the charges false. In a replay of Holocaust denial cases, Pickens refuses to accept any evidence to pay the award, last week turning away the affidavits of the men who were present at the events.

At the Bathtub, we’ve already sampled a crude and steady attempt to brand Hillary Clinton a Marxist with creative editing of a few of her speeches.

The assaults on Barack Obama are already the stuff of legend. The comic strip, “Doonesbury,” is running a story line with a volunteer for the internet rumor stopping part of the campaign, FighttheSmears.com. The smears are real.

Doonesbury strip 6-28-2008

Matthew Most of the Washington Post wrote a lengthy piece in yesterday’s paper, “An attack that came out of the ether,” on the research done by a woman at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, on the origins of the internet hoax that Barack Obama is a Muslim — a rumor so potent that Georgetown University Prof. Edward Luttwak repeated it in a New York Times op-ed article, without the fact checkers catching it (the Times consulted five scholars of Islam who all agreed the foundation for the claim is incorrect).

Danielle Allen has tracked the rumor back to its sources, in a failed campaign against Obama in Illinois and a candidate who admittedly was looking for mud, and one constant sniper at FreeRepublic.com. It’s impressive sleuthing, and the article would be a good departure for study of how media affect campaigns in a government or civics class.

The “how to” list is really very short:

  • Pick an area of a candidate’s life that is not well known. As the Hamilton campaign against Jefferson demonstrates, it’s useful if the candidate does not feature the issue in official biographies, and more useful if the candidate doesn’t respond. Michael Dukakis let several issues slide in his campaign for the presidency, saying that he didn’t think the public would be misled. The public was waiting for a rebuttal.
  • It helps if there is a factoid that is accurate in the rumor. Obama’s father was Muslim. Most Americans were receptive to the false claim that in Islam, a child is considered Muslim unless there is a conversion. A part of the rumor claims Obama was never baptized Christian. Of course, no one has asked to see John McCain’s baptismal papers. One wonders whether a rumor about McCain’s not being born inside the U.S. could get similar traction among voters (McCain was born in Panama while his father was serving in the Panama Canal Zone in the Navy; children of U.S. citizens are automatically U.S. citizens regardless where they are born. The issue was litigated during Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, since Goldwater was born in Arizona before Arizona was a state.)

According to the Post story: [A] search showed that the first mention of the e-mail on the Internet had come more than a year earlier. A participant on the conservative Web site FreeRepublic.com posted a copy of the e-mail on Jan. 8, 2007, and added this line at the end: “Don’t know who the original author is, but this email should be sent out to family and friends.”

Allen discovered that theories about Obama’s religious background had circulated for many years on the Internet. And that the man who takes credit for posting the first article to assert that the Illinois senator was a Muslim is Andy Martin.

Martin, a former political opponent of Obama’s, is the publisher of an Internet newspaper who sends e-mails to his mailing list almost daily. He said in an interview that he first began questioning Obama’s religious background after hearing his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

  • Repeat the claim, as often as possible, to audiences that are inflamed by it. No one would dare make such a claim before an audience of Democratic delegates from the Texas 23rd Senatorial District Democratic Convention, almost 80% of whom were black — at least not at the convention. However, flyers making the charge might show up on windows of cars parked during church services at Christian churches where delegates attend. A speaker at the Republican convention for the same district might not be hooted down. This rumor of Obama’s faith went to right-wing forums known for rumor hospitality, notably Free Republic. In forums at that site, rumors frequently appear to be judged on just how damaging they might be if true, not on their veracity.
  • Repeat the claim, even after denials.

The story is well worth reading. It can help educate us to how to avoid being victims of such rumors in the future.

Tip of the old scrub brush to e-mail correspondent MicahBrown.


Redefining “root canal”

June 28, 2008

It happens.  Last night I had a semi-emergency root canal. That’s not why I haven’t blogged, though — I feel fine.  I haven’t used any of the pain medication.  I’ve been able to work without the headache I thought was sinus, but now appears to have been an infected tooth.

But the story is Harry Sugg’s dental practice at Wheatland Dental.

There’s a lesson there for health care.  There’s a lesson there for professional services, like law offices.  There’s a lesson there for schools.

After a half-day wrangling with the dental insurance company — a phone system very unfriendly to clients asking questions, a fellow with bad information about which dentists in the area are on the plan — I got through in the late afternoon to Sugg’s office.  I’m a new patient, and I more than half expected them to offer an appointment late next week.

Instead, the receptionist said the entire staff, but for her, were out celebrating Dr. Sugg’s birthday.  But they’d be back in an hour, and I should be there when they arrived.

The waiting room has massaging chairs, two televisions running different, intrigueing DVDs, and a coffee pot.  Before I’d finished the paperwork I was offered a bottle of water.  Zip, zip, zip.  Oh, and no out-of-date magazines (a few interesting books, on history mostly, and astronomy).  The waiting room was not full at all — not a lot of waiting.  One group appeared to be there to support an aging family member.  They kept up a lively and often funny line of patter with the staff.  It was as if a co-ed barber shop had broken out in the waiting room.

The exam was quick, with digital x-rays, from a woman who noted most of the staff was in a training session in the lunchroom — the Guinness Book of World Records‘s champion speed reader was offering reading tips to the staff.  A quick diagnosis from Dr. Sugg — could I be back at 8:00 p.m. for the procedure?

That’s right:  8:00 p.m.  The office hours run until 9:00 p.m.  Other options were Saturday and Sunday.  It’s a ’round-the-clock, through-the-week operation.

I mortgaged our grandchildren, took the prescriptions to the pharmacy, got a quick dinner and headed back.  Dr. Linda Cha performed the procedure.  She deadened everything before I got a needle — didn’t feel any pain at any time.  Obviously highly skilled, she explained as much of the procedure as I needed, always solicitous to my comfort.

As I left the office at about 10:15 p.m., an attendant gave me a fresh red rose.  Today they called to check on my progress and spend a significant amount of time answering questions.

Could I get used to that kind of care?

So I thought back to the days I aided intake at Legal Services of North Texas — the cattle-call features, the crowded hallways, the lack of restrooms, the vending machines that often didn’t work, the impossible tasks of trying to match a sticky legal situation with an attorney to do the work for free.  Clients weren’t happy with much of anything there.  I did this often while I worked at Ernst & Young — free coffee, free soft drinks, free pastries, client-effusive hospitality.  Lots of training.   And at bigger lawfirms in town, with restroom attendants, shoeshine machines, on-site concierge for employees and clients if needed.

At one of our high schools in Dallas, men’s restrooms for faculty went without water to the sink for months.  The teachers’ “lounge” doubled as a site for a major computer node, so the ambient temperature was generally close to 90 degrees.  A coffee maker looked as though it hadn’t been used in months, nor that it could produce any coffee that wouldn’t resemble industrial sludge.  But teachers only get 30 minutes for lunch anyway.

Anyone who doubts there is a War on Education hasn’t been in most schools lately.

Harry Sugg runs a great business.  Professional offices and other businesses could learn a lot from how he operates his dental clinic.  Schools could learn a lot, too.  He could consult with school districts on how to treat employees and get good results.  I’ll wager the school districts wouldn’t listen.

Teacher meetings?  Frankly, I’d rather have a root canal.  And I’ll pay for the service.


Creationists win in Louisiana. What’s the prize?

June 27, 2008

According to the Associated Press, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the latest creationism bill to come out of the Louisiana legislature “in the last few days.”

Discovery Institute operatives claimed credit for authoring the bill and provided close support to advocates of the bill in Louisiana.  Oddly, now that the bill has become law and is likely to be a litigation magnet, DI has backed off of supporting the bill.

That is an object lesson, which may be lost on Louisiana school boards.  The bill is a bit of a stealth creationism bill.  It doesn’t directly advocate creationism by name.  It adopts the creationist tactics of claiming that criticism of evolution is critical thinking, a confused statement of what critical thinking is if ever there was one.  Critical thinking should involve real information, real knowledge, and serious criticism of a topic.   The bill is designed to frustrate the teaching of evolution.  The part Louisiana school boards need to watch is this:  The bill passes the buck on litigation to the school boards.

In other words, the Louisiana legislature, Louisiana Family Forum, and Discovery Institute will not support any school district that allows a teacher to teach the religious dogma that commonly passes as creationism and intelligent design.

As part of the War on Education and the War on Science, this is effective tactics in action.  If any teacher in Louisiana seeks approval for anti-evolution materials as the law encourages, school boards are put on the spot.  If the school board approves the anti-evolution material, it is the school board’s action that will be the subject of the suit; if the board disapproves the material, but the teacher teaches it, the teacher can be fired and would be personally liable for any lawsuit.

But if a science teacher teaches evolution as the textbook has it, the Louisiana Family Forum will complain to the school board that “alternative materials” were not offered.

So to avoid trouble, evolution will be left out of the curriculum.  The kids are failing the tests anyway — who will notice, or care?  Not the Louisiana lege, not the Louisiana governor.

As America slips farther behind the rest of the industrialized world on education achievement in science, Louisiana’s legislature has sided with those who promote the “rising tide of mediocrity.”  If a foreign government had done this to us, we’d regard it as an act of war, the Excellence in Education Commission said in 1983.

So what is it when the Louisiana legislature and Gov. Jindal do it to us?  Treason?  Maybe Bill Dembski will ask Homeland Security to investigate this attack on America by Louisiana’s elected officials.


Suzuki: 50 years of science makes a difference

June 27, 2008

Dr. David Suzuki is a Canadian scientist who writes popular science chiefly for Canadians. We in the U.S. might do well to pay more attention to him.

Below, his e-mail newsletter/column, with observations about the 50 years of science progress since his graduation from college. FYI.

Dear Friend:

Here’s your weekly Science Matters column by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola.

What a difference 50 years makes

Last month, I attended the 50th anniversary of my college graduation. A week later, I celebrated my grandson’s graduation from high school. I don’t think I was much different from the kids in my grandson’s class when I went away to college in 1954 (give or take a few rings and tattoos). Like them, I was filled with trepidation but also excitement about testing my physical and intellectual abilities beyond high school. But my how the world has changed in 50 years!

I began my last year of college in 1957. On October 4 that year, the Soviet Union electrified the world by successfully launching a satellite, Sputnik 1, into space. Little did we dream that out of the ensuing space race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. would come 24-hour television news channels, cellphones, and GPS navigation. In 1958, the only trans-Atlantic phone lines were cables laid on the ocean floor, so phone calls to England had to be booked hours or sometimes days in advance. I flew from Toronto to a roommate’s wedding in San Francisco on a propeller plane that made several stops during the 22-hour trip.

In 1958, scientists were still debating about whether genetic material was DNA or protein, we didn’t know how many chromosomes humans have or that the Y chromosome determines sex, and the Green Revolution was yet to come. Polio was still a problem in North America, smallpox killed hundreds of thousands annually, and oral contraceptives, photocopiers, personal computers, colour TV, and DVDs didn’t exist. In 1958, parts of the Amazon, Congo, and New Guinea had not been explored. We were yet to learn of species extinction, depletion of fish in the oceans, the effects of CFCs on the ozone layer, acid rain, global warming, PCBs, and dioxins.

In half a century our lives have been transformed by scientific, medical, and technological advances, as well as a host of environmental problems. No one deliberately set out to undermine the planet’s life-support systems or tear communities apart, but those have been the consequences of our enormous economic and technological “success” over the past five decades. Beset by vast problems of wealth discrepancy, environmental issues, poverty, terror, genocide, and prejudice, we are trying to weave our way into an uncertain future.

I began speaking out on television in 1962 because I was shocked by the lack of understanding of science at a time when science as applied by industry, medicine, and the military was having such a profound impact on our lives. I felt we needed more scientific understanding if we were to make informed decisions about the forces shaping our lives. Today, thanks to computers and the Internet, and television, radio, and print media, we have access to more information than humanity has ever had. To my surprise, this access has not equipped us to make better decisions about such matters as climate change, peak oil, marine depletion, species extinction, and global pollution. That’s largely because we now have access to so much information that we can find support for any prejudice or opinion.

Don’t want to believe in evolution? No problem – you can find support for intelligent design and creationism in magazines, on websites, and in all kinds of books written by people with PhDs. Want to believe aliens came to Earth and abducted people? It’s easy to find theories about how governments have covered up information on extraterrestrial aliens. Think human-induced climate change is junk science? Well, if you choose to read only certain national newspapers and magazines and listen only to certain popular commentators on television or radio, you’ll never have to change your mind. And so it goes. The challenge today is that there is a huge volume of information out there, much of it biased or deliberately distorted. As I think about my grandson, his hopes and dreams and the immense issues my generation has bequeathed him, I realize what he and all young people need most are the tools of skepticism, critical thinking, the ability to assess the credibility of sources, and the humility to realize we all possess beliefs and values that must constantly be reexamined. With those tools, his generation will certainly leave a better world to its children and grandchildren 50 years from now.

Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.


From the basest of things, art: Scott Wade

June 27, 2008

A generalization:  Many creationists complain that evolution “can’t be true” because it doesn’t exalt humans enough.  This is the old Bishop Wilberforce whine, about whether you are related to the monkeys on your mother’s side or father’s side.

Nothing good can come from humble beginnings” is the thrust of the creationist argument, apparently with the creationists who make the claim losing every neuron they ever had that held the story of Jesus in their memory.

Nature, art, and life, keep pounding home the fact that the creationist argument is seriously in error.  But as Robert Frost wondered, how many times did the apple have to fall before Newton took the hint?  Scott Wade has taken the rebuttal to the creationists’ argument to new heights, and made art out of it.  From dust, is art:

Einstein, by Scott Wade

Credit Barcroft Media via The Daily Telegraph.

Click the thumbnail picture for a larger view:  Scott Wade creates Albert Einstein out of dust

Britain’s Daily Telegraph has a slide show with seven of Wade’s works.

Mr. Wade’s own website features a slide show demonstrating the creation of artworks, step by step.  Wade lives on a dirt road, a  half-mile from pavement.  In the course of coming and going, he gets a lot of material to work with.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  If life gives you dust, make art.  If life gives you limes, make margaritas.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Science Notes.


Quote of the Moment: John Kennedy, June 26, 1963 (Encore Post)

June 26, 2008

President Kennedy addresses Berlin citizens, 6-26-1962 (photographer unidentified)

From the Smithsonian Magazine site:

June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner”

In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivers the famous speech in which he declares, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Meaning literally “I am a citizen of Berlin,” the statement shows U.S. solidarity with democratic West Berlin, surrounded by communist territory.

View a video of President Kennedy’s speech at American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches.

Photo of President Kennedy addressing Berlin’s citizens, photographer unidentified; from American Rhetoric site.

[end of encore post]

Kennedy’s entire speech was good. It was well drafted and well delivered, taking advantage of the dramatic setting and the dramatic moment. John Kennedy well understood how to give a speech, too.

Below is most of the speech, nearly five minutes’ worth, from a YouTube file — another indication that schools need to open up their filters to allow at least some of the best YouTube material through:

You may also want to note these posts:


(Sex + Education) – Education = ?

June 25, 2008

From a blog called Teachers Count:

A middle-school health teacher (in a small, conservative [read that religious] community) was put on administrative leave for teaching details about sexuality. The original story inferred that she was holding forth on details on homosexuality, masturbation, and oral sex. The truth is that she had taught the regular curriculum and thereafter fielded student questions, which turned to these things.

On the one hand, the outraged and prolix parents had every right to wax eloquent, loud and long on the violation of their parental rights in teaching their offspring about sex. It is even possible that some of those innocent students were hearing details theretofore unimagined by them

On the other hand–probably not. I teach junior high students, the same age as the endangered middle school kids in question. My students know lots about sex, far more than I ever knew at that age. For sure, these students see very explicit material on prime-time TV, and they surely see plenty of sex in the movies they watch. From time to time we discuss cinema in art class, and I am often floored at the kinds of movies these young kids view, both for violence and for sexuality. Furthermore, they watch and rewatch very explicit music videos–and many of them use outright porn. And furthermore, walking around the art room as kids work and talk, I overhear that many of them are sexually active at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

No wonder they have questions about sexual practices. I believe the young health teacher caught herself in a trap. Experienced teachers know that there are certain things you never say, never discuss, because of community reaction. Young teachers, hoping to help kids understand a sexual world they really are much too young for, can get tripped up on answering questions.

No doubt our Utah middle school health teacher will not have her contract renewed next year. I think that is a shame. Obviously, the offended parents have no clue about what their kids’ lives are really like. They do not realize the misinformation–and the pressure–these young students experience. I would not be surprised to find that these offended parents have not given their kids much information on sex. Maybe the teacher crossed a line–and maybe a few students pushed her there. Still, I’d rather see her keep her job and learn the hard lesson of staying very conservative on certain subjects, like sex.

Accusations included the charge that the teacher distributed a list of 101 ways to have sex.  In a heated meeting at the school, it turned out that the list was of 101 things to do instead of having sex.  Ooops.  And for this, parents want the woman fired?

Good analysis and background data in column by in the Salt Lake Tribune.

From that column, a list of what can and cannot be taught:


Careful what you say

What teachers can, and cannot, teach
as part of Utah’s human sexuality curriculum:
Teachers can:
* Stress the importance of abstinence from sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage.
* Provide factual, unbiased information about contraception and condoms with prior written parental consent.
They cannot:
* Discuss the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation or erotic behavior.
* Advocate homosexuality.
* Advocate or encourage contraceptive methods or devices.
* Advocate sexual activity outside of marriage.

Source: Utah State Office of Education

Who knows what’s really going on? It will be interesting to see how this case is resolved.  It’s been hanging fire for a month now.

Other resources:


USAID allows DDT use in Africa

June 25, 2008

Africa Science News Service reports that USAID signed a contract that allows U.S. money to be used to purchase DDT for Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

If so, this is one of the final barriers to use of U.S. funds for DDT use. Oddly, the news report offers no details on when or where the contract was made.

DDT use in Uganda was halted pending a suit by Uganda agricultural businesses to stop the spraying. The contract discussed would allow purchase of other insecticides to be used in place of DDT for IRS.

It’s important to note that no environmental organizations have expressed opposition to the limited use of DDT in IRS applications. It may be significant to note that the programs involving indoor spraying fall into the category of integrated pest management, which is what Rachel Carson urged in her 1962 book, Silent Spring.


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