Current Events

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Some years are filled with rainy and snowy days, while others are drought filled, like this one. Each can have their consequences, if things go too far. As drought in the United States has progressed this past year, lakes and rivers have dried up, including the widest river…the great Mississippi River, which is not nearly as wide or as deep as it used to be. The reality is that suddenly, the Mississippi is bone-dry in some places. The average depth of the Mississippi River is normally 9 to 12 feet, with the deepest point being 200 feet. As with any river that is deep enough to run big boats or even little ones, invariably, there comes a sinking or two.

Sometimes, boats that sink can be recovered, and sometimes they can’t. The ship might be at a depth that makes it impossible, or the right equipment might not be available. Whatever the reason, in just about any body of water, there are bound to be a few mysterious finds hiding beneath the surface. As the Mississippi River has gone through the drought this year, there are the expected myriad of boats that are now stranded and languishing on dry land, but there are also a few surprises that are starting to appear. Some of the ships are old, but some are not as old, like the Diamond Lady, a casino boat that used to grace the mighty river. The Diamond Lady was christened in 1991, and was used in Iowa for a time, but in 2019, as things in Iowa got tough, the beautiful casino boat sailed south to an unknown fate in the mighty Mississippi River. The boat had been stored in Lake McKellar, but sank in 2021 during a freeze. Now it has resurfaced again. It’s not the oldest relic in the Mississippi River and the surrounding waterways, but it might have been the most majestic.

Unfortunately, there are sad finds in the river too. The drought has unearthed a sunken 19th-century shipwreck and human remains in the Mississippi River. I’m sure these won’t be the only human remains that suddenly surface, because while drowning victims are often found, there comes with a gambling a certain element that often brings the mysterious deaths, whether they are murders or just mysterious deaths whose cause cannot be determined. I’m sure there will be more ship, and possibly more bodies that turn up too. Then, before too long, the waters will return, and the mysteries will once again be hidden beneath the surface of the rivers and lakes.

During World War II and even earlier really, Adolf Hitler was in the middle of his plan to take over the world. He was ruthless, and when he invaded a country, he didn’t care how many people died, as long as he got his way. The Battle of France took place between May 10, 1940 and June 25, 1940. The surrender of France to the Nazis in 1940 was a complex situation. The German invasion left metropolitan France at the mercy of Nazi armies. Really, once Paris fell on June 14, 1940, the German conquest of France was complete. Part of the problem was that Marshal Henri Petain replaced Paul Reynaud as prime minister and proved to be a weak leader who announced his intention to sign an armistice with the Nazis.

While not very well known at the time, French General Charles de Gaulle, made a broadcast on June 18, 1940, to France from England, where he would help with the resistance. The Appeal of June 18 was the first speech made by Charles de Gaulle after his arrival in London in 1940 following the Battle of France. The speech was broadcast to Vichy France by the radio services of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). This speech is considered to have marked the beginning of the French Resistance in World War II. It is regarded as one of the most important speeches in French history. General de Gaulle said in his speech, “The leaders who, for many years, were at the head of French armies, have formed a government. This government, alleging our armies to be undone, agreed with the enemy to stop fighting. Of course, we were subdued by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which made us retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point to bring them there where they are today.

But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!

Believe me, I speak to you with full knowledge of the facts and tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us to a day of victory. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of United States.

This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not finished by the battle of France. This war is a world wide war. All the faults, all the delays, all the suffering, do not prevent there to be, in the world, all the necessary means to one day crush our enemies. Vanquished today by mechanical force, we will be able to overcome in the future by a superior mechanical force.

The destiny of the world is here. I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who would come there, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the special workers of armament industries who are located in British territory or who would come there, to put themselves in contact with me.

Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.”

His work with the French Resistance made Charles de Gaulle almost a household word in France. It gave the people hope for freedom. The French Resistance fought to the death to beat the Nazis. This makes me think of current times, and all the freedoms that we have lost. These lessons from the French Resistance are valuable to this day. Never give up. You only lose a battle when you quit fighting. We must never quit fighting.

Looking back to September 10, 2001, it seemed that all was right with the world, but in fact, it was not, as we would all find out the very next morning. There were warning signs that terrorists were plotting something, but then weren’t they always. That’s what terrorists do…plot evil, plan to kill as many people as possible, and plan to bring a greater measure of fear into the world. September 11, 2001 would be no different. When 19 al Qaeda militants, hijacked 4 US airliners that morning, the terror had begun. In years past, a hijacked plane was used to take the hijackers to some other country, preferably one without extradition. The passengers were told that this was going to be a hijacking like that, but when the terrorists began slashing people with box cutters, and took over the cockpit, the people knew that this was not a normal hijacking. We all know far too well what the end result of this horrific act of brutal terrorism was.

In all, 2996 people, including the 19 terrorists, lost their lives at four locations that day. Of those 2996 people, only 291 bodies were found intact. A total of 21,906 body parts were found, and 1717 families got no remains at all. In addition, 25,000 more people were injured, and a large number of them have died of 9-11 related illnesses since then. The smoke and debris that came out of the burning jet fuel and buildings was so toxic, and those who helped with the searches and cleanup were exposed. It was a deadly combination. No one knew, or if they did, they disregarded the danger, in an effort to save lives. A few lives were saved. A few people were pulled out of the buildings alive. Theirs was a miracle, and they knew that for the rest of their lives, they would be a walking miracle. Of course, they would also most likely feel some degree of survivor’s guilt, although they shouldn’t. Nevertheless, it is a natural phenomenon, that people tend to struggle with for years, if not the rest of their lives. It never leaves.

For those who lost loved ones on that horrible day, it goes without saying that they will never forget, but the reality is that no one should ever forget. How could we forget, when we see that pictures of the planes going into the towers, or the walls of the Pentagon destroyed, or the massive hole in the Pennsylvania earth. Those aren’t just pictures…they are lives. They are lives lost, and families forever changed. They are children who will grow up without parents, people who with grow old without the spouse they had planned to have with them. They are sons and daughters, whose lives were stolen from them…whose promise was snuffed out before it could be fulfilled. For all of those people…it is our duty to “never forget!!” Our nation lost the feeling of safety that we had before. We don’t trust those we don’t know as much as we used to. We will always be forever changed. Never forget that!! Ever!!

Sad news has surfaced today out of Scottland, as Queen Elizabeth of England has passed away at the age of 96 years. She became the Queen of England in 1952 at the very young age of 25, when her father, King George VI passed away on February 6, 1952, at just 56 years old. Queen Elizabeth would later become the longest reigning British monarch in history, reigning for 7 decades. The queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee (70 years as reigning monarch) on February 5, 2022. She knew that her time was short, and she spoke of her wishes for the time following her death. Now that time has come.

The family will not have to make any arrangements for her funeral, because everything has already been planned from the service to the grave, and even the timeframe. The only unknown, until now, was the date of the service, which will be held eleven days after her passing…on September 19, 2022. I think it is comforting when the deceased has already planned their own funeral. It is to their tastes and preferences, and there is no question as to their wishes. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral will be televised across the world, with the only restriction being that the royal family is not to be filmed. That makes sense. They need to be able to grieve privately.

The royal line of succession now changes, with Prince Charles becoming King Charles III (it was announced earlier). He has the right to change his name, but it appears that he won’t. Prince William is now first in line to the throne and takes on his father’s title of Prince of Wales. Duchess Camilla becomes Queen Consort, and Duchess Catherine becomes Princess of Wales. Prince George is second in line to the throne, followed by Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. It is so strange to think of so many changes happening all at once, but that is how things work in the world of the monarchy. How people feel personally about any part of the changes really doesn’t matter, because they are what they are.

For the world, this is a sad day. It is the end of an era. Many people, including me, have never known a time when Queen Elizabeth II was not the queen. She began her reign four years before I was born. Queen Elizabeth II was much loved and well respected. She had a way of making people feel at ease. She had a very human type of nature, and really never presented herself as anything so special. She went out and shook the hands of the people, in what was deemed a “walkabout” like the Australians do. She considered her office one of service to the people, rather than a ruler over them. I’m sure that is why she was so loved by all. The end of her reign has brought much sadness to the world. Rest in peace Queen Elizabeth. You will be missed by so many people.

We were watching the Denver Broncos in their huge (19-3) defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs. The game had really just gotten started (it had a 4:00pm start time) when the crash, that took the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, occurred in Paris at 12:23am (4:23pm Mountain Time). The news of the tragedy was aired shortly thereafter, and by 3:00am, Paris time, she was dead. That news was announced at 6:00am Paris time.

Diana was a distant cousin of mine…(specifically my 12th cousin 2 times removed), so the news held some significance to my family. There have been many questions concerning the crash that took Diana’s life, and while the powers that be say that they have all been answered, there are many people, including me, who still have questions. I’m sure that we will never have our questions fully answered, and I’m sure that is partly due to the fact that when it comes to Diana, we aren’t sure that the British Crown is telling us everything they know. The mere fact that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were divorced, and at that time, and to many people, his claim to the throne was in question, we naturally doubted the validity of the answers we were given. Nevertheless, no further answers will likely be forthcoming, so we will have to accept the answers we were given…or not accept them, as you please. After the divorce, Princess Diana became known as Diana, Princess of Wales, as a supposed concession by the crown.

Diana, affectionately known as “the People’s Princess,” was 36 years old at the time of her death. Her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born socialite Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, died as well. The lone survivor of the crash was Diana’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, who was seriously injured. The car left the Ritz Paris just after midnight, intending to go to Dodi’s apartment on the Rue Arsène Houssaye. As soon as they departed the hotel, a swarm of paparazzi on motorcycles began aggressively tailing their car. About three minutes later, the driver lost control and crashed into a pillar at the entrance of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. It was later decided that because the driver had alcohol and prescription drugs in his system, the paparazzi held no fault in the matter. That is where I disagree. While the driver had alcohol and prescription drugs in his system, he would not have felt the need to speed through the streets if the paparazzi had left them alone. As a retired insurance agent, I know contributory negligence when I see it. Nevertheless, a “formal investigation” concluded the paparazzi did not cause the collision. Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul, the driver, were pronounced dead at the scene. Diana was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital and officially declared dead at 6:00am. Diana’s former husband Prince Charles, as well as her sisters and other members of the Royal Family, arrived in Paris that morning. Diana’s body was then taken back to London.

Because Diana was one of the most popular public figures in the world, her death brought a massive outpouring of grief. Mourners began leaving bouquets of flowers at Kensington Palace immediately. The piles of flowers reached about 30 feet from the palace gate. As in her life, her death demanded the attention of the world. She was so loved, and many felt, so mistreated during her marriage. Following her funeral on September 6, 1997, an event that was watched by 2.5 billion people, she was laid to rest on an island at Althorp Estate, which is her childhood home, and is which is where her brother, Earl Charles Spencer lives to this day. The island is off limits, but the estate is open to the public during July and August each year.

Diana was survived by her two sons, Prince William, who was 15 at the time, and Prince Harry, who was 12. Today she has two daughters-in-law, Duchess Catherine and Duchess Meaghan, as well as five grandchildren, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis; as well as; Archie and Lillibet. Today marks 25 years since the passing of Princess Diana. Gone but not forgotten.

These days, we have probably seen more “shortages” of the staples needed for daily life than ever before. Things like food, water, toilet paper, sugar, gasoline, and so many other things that most people use every day, are suddenly missing from our shelves or stations. Today’s “shortages” are mostly caused by forced blocking of shipping channels, and other political maneuvering…at least these days. There are as many reasons for most shortages as there are shortages, in reality, but some shortages have been stranger over the years than others. Sometimes, it’s even for our own good or if it is “perceived” to be for our own good.

Things have been pulled off the shelves because of recalls, like vegetables that may have Salmonella, and even if the source was confined to one small area of one plant, as was the case with baby formula. The government shut down all the plants, causing a serous baby formula shortage. No one wants to buy unsafe formula, but that was really never the case, and they knew it. Excedrin was pulled off the shelves because it “might” have an ingredient that was unsafe, and then weeks later, it was back, in exactly the same formulation.

The closing of a business is one of the biggest reasons for items to suddenly be missing from the shelves. Twinkies is a prime example. When Hostess Brands Inc, the maker of Twinkies and other cherished American treats, announced bankruptcy and closure in 2012, consumers made a mad rush to their local supermarkets to get their hands on the cream-filled pastries before they were gone for good. It is that act that prompted the myth that Twinkies have an unlimited shelf life. The snacks were back on the shelves by summer, when Hostess and all of its brand holdings, including Twinkies, were purchased out of bankruptcy by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos and Company in 2013.

One of the funniest shortages, though not funny at the time or in the repeat of it in recent times, was the 1973 toilet paper shortage. It happened as the result of a joke by Johnny Carson. He said, “You know, we’ve got all sorts of shortages these days. But have you heard the latest? I’m not kidding. I saw it in the papers. There’s an acute shortage of toilet paper.” The remarks that were meant as a joke, caused people to rush to the stores and buyout all the toilet paper. To make matters worse, some stores began rationing. Finally, Carson took to the airwaves to apologize, saying, “I don’t want to be remembered as the man who created a false toilet paper scare. I just picked up the item from the paper and enlarged it somewhat…there is no shortage.”

There are so many ways a shortage can get started. Some are real events, while others are manufactured. While some are not exactly detrimental, as was the case with Twinkies, some can cause serious harm and even death…even many deaths. Some shortages cannot be helped, but those that can, in all prudence, should be avoided at all costs.

As a kid, I remember going to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Lake Mead. I particularly enjoyed Lake Mead, because the water was warm, unlike most lakes. At the time, and for many years afterward, I really didn’t know much about the lake, its origins, or its secrets. These days, I maybe know too much about its secrets. In fact, some of them are really creepy. Many lakes sport hidden ghost towns, underground ranches, and various sunken boats. There are probably more bodies in them that we know or want to think about too, but when a drought occurs and we find ourselves hearing about body after body being found in a lake that is close to one of the big mob-controlled areas of the nation, it makes you wonder exactly what happened here and just how many more bodies will surface. Well, in the case of Lake Mead, the answer is a total of five bodies…so far. Who knows how many more will surface.

One body was found in a barrel, with a gun nearby, causing speculation of a mob killing, and possibly making people who might have been the perpetrators of mob murders…if they are still alive, to become a little nervous about their crimes being found out. Of course, the police aren’t telling us much, but it is said that the body in the barrel, discovered in May, had been shot in the head and after being stuffed in the barrel it was thrown overboard, in the hope that it would never be seen again. It was the type of killing that was classic mob style, or so we’ve been told in the movies. Las Vegas was, and maybe still is, a big mob crime city, and this type of killing was a trademark in the 1970s and 19802. So, it is entirely possible that the killer is still alive and could be brought to justice.

Shortly after the body in the barrel was found, another body surfaced, and then in July a third body was found. Days after the body in the barrel surfaced, another corpse was reported. A third was discovered in July. Now, the skeletal remains of two more people were found just this month in the Swim Beach area. It makes me wonder how many more bodies will surface, if the drought continues and the lake level continues to drop. The lake level has dropped nearly 200 feet due to two decades of drought. Right now, the lake is very close to the level it was when it was originally filled after the building of Hoover Dam. I guess the old saying about the truth finding you out is true. the bodies, some long hidden, are coming out to tell of their demise.

Georgia is a small nation that borders Russia, and in fact, was part of Russia at one time. The two nations had been at odds for a long time, and tempers just seemed to be simmering, with a deep heat that threatened to boil over into an all-out war. On August 8, 2008, the conflict finally hit the boiling point. What followed was a shooting war that while brief, was the most violent episode in a conflict that began more than a decade before.

As the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was breaking up in 1991, the nation of Georgia decided that it was time to declare their independence. A group of pro-Russian separatists decided that they were going to take control of two regions a short time later. The regions were composed of a combined 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That, being unacceptable to Georgia, created a stalemate. In addition, in 2008, President George W Bush announced his support for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, something that should never have happened, and a move that Russia viewed as tantamount to putting a hostile military on its borders. I would have to agree with that assessment, and I think we are seeing the continued effects of that move to this day. I’m not saying that the people of Georgia and Ukraine are bad people, but the governments are questionable, causing Russia to take the steps it has taken.

With relations between the two nations already tense in 2008, and the aggressive nature of Vladimir Putin, who is in power in Russia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, declared his intent to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under Georgian control. This didn’t go over very well. Putin and Saakashvili accused each other of acts of aggression throughout the spring and summer of 2008. On August 1st, South Ossetian troops violated the ceasefire by shelling Georgian villages. Sporadic fighting and shelling ensued over the coming days, until Saakashvili declared a ceasefire on August 7th. The separatists refused to honor the cease fire, so Georgia’s military launched an attack on Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Russian troops had already illegally entered South Ossetia, and so they responded quickly to the Georgian attack. The fighting spilled over into Abkhazia when Georgian troops seized Tskhinvali. The initial Georgian advance was pushed back and within a few days Russia seized most of the disputed territory and was advancing into Georgia proper. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in the early hours of August 13th. While the war was short lived, it was fierce. During the five-day conflict, 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed and 1,747 wounded. In addition, 67 Russian servicemen were killed and 283 were wounded, and 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians (combined) were killed.

After the war, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, but stayed in occupation of them, in violation of the ceasefire. They took similar action concerning Ukraine in 2014, when they annexed the Crimean Peninsula, backing separatists in the west of the country. The Russo-Georgian War displaced an estimated 192,000 people, many of whom fled ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the separatist territories. The situation remained tense, and then once again came to a boiling point in 2022, as we have all seen.

My brother-in-law, Mike Reed is starting out on a new life adventure and a new phase in his life. On July 12, 2022, after 39 years, almost to the day, with Sinclair Oil Company, Mike began his retirement. Sinclair had been purchased by a company called Holly, and it seemed like a good time for Mike to take his next life steps. Mike, and my sister, Caryl have been working toward and looking forward to this day for about five years now. They bought some land outside Casper, where Caryl was born, and we, all of her sisters still live. They built a house and barn on the property and have been raising crops for a couple of years now…long distance. The first year they raised oats, and this year it’s a mixture of alfalfa, oats, and grass. I never knew this, but that is how you get to where you can raise hay. Since they lived too far to handle the day-to-day care, they have worked a deal with a neighbor to help with the watering so far, but they really want to be able to handle that job themselves instead to relying on the neighbor. While that has worked ok, their hearts desire is to be in Casper, even though, they will be leaving their two daughters and two grandchildren in Rawlins. Thankfully, Rawlins isn’t too far away, and they can make the trip back and forth periodically to visit.

Retirement might be a bit of adjustment for Mike, who is used to being in charge of quite a few men and women…for about five minutes, I would guess. For most people, retirement doesn’t take very long to “get used to” and find that you really love. Mike will have lots to do anyway. He is an avid hunter and fisher, and now he can head out to the lake and fish to his heart’s content. He can also get hunting licenses here and be able to go on day hunts, if he wants to. There is always work to be done on their little ranch. They have been beautifying their yard, and they had renters in the other house on the property who had horses, but they don’t anymore. They’ll take down the corral, because they aren’t going to raise horses.

Mike loves classic cars. And he owns several. He has also fixed up and sold some cars that needed love and refurbishing. Some of the cars they’ve had are really nice. He also loves their trike and traveling around on them with the wind in their faces. They are slowly phasing out their lives in Rawlins and transferring their lives to Casper. We are all so excited about having them move to Casper. We are all looking forward to spending time together. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Construction began on the White House on October 13, 1792, and was finally finished on November 1, 1800. Construction was slower in those days, because they didn’t have the equipment we have today. The current White House has 132 rooms. The original White House had 100 rooms. The White House has 54,900 square feet. The White House sits on 18 acres of land. It all it is an impressive building, but there is more to it than just that.

There have been a number of rooms that began as one thing, only to become something else later on. One of the rooms that has had a couple of identities is the Press Briefing Room. These days it is the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It was so named after White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot and permanently disabled during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. That room, located in the West Wing of the White House was not always such a necessary room, mostly because press briefings are really more of a modern-day thing. The room has always existed, however. In 1909, it was the White House laundry, and during President Truman’s time in office (April 12, 1945 – January 20,1953) it was the White House pool.

By 1950, the White House was 150 years old and in a serious state of disrepair. In order to make is inhabitable again, the entire building was gutted and rebuilt to make it more stable. It also seemed like a good time to improve on its design, so some improvements and additions were made. White House architect Lorenzo Simmons Winslow designed and built an air raid shelter under the East Terrace on the orders of naval aide Rear Admiral Robert Dennison. There had been a bomb shelter before, but it was built in 1942 and with the invention of the atomic bomb, the old shelter was not strong enough to withstand such an assault. Because little research had been conducted into how to withstand such an assault, construction of the shelter took more than two years and required the removal of the East Terrace entirely. Unfortunately, the 1952 shelter was rendered obsolete when the first test produced a force of 10.4 million tons. This shelter was designed to withstand a force of only 30,000 tons, so this would never work.

In addition to the new nuclear shelter, a tunnel was added. These days those tunnels are big in the news, but back then, they were probably a little-known addition. This reinforced concrete channel ran from the West Wing to the East Wing. Though not enough to stop a nuclear incident itself, the tunnel allowed quick passage from one end of the White House to the other, as well as access to the new air raid shelter. The presence of the tunnel demonstrates just how concerned the Truman White House was about securing itself against air assaults at that volatile time in history. That first tunnel inside the White House isn’t the only underground feature. In 1987, a second tunnel was built under the name Project ZP. That tunnel, accessible from a secret passage within the Oval Office, leads to the basement of the East Wing and on to the Treasury Building. Its construction, which was largely secret, created a large sinkhole in the White House rose garden. The tunnel was reportedly built to quickly get the president out of the office during an incursion, but it was also used at least once to sneak former president Richard Nixon into a foreign policy meeting. I’m sure there are other changes to the White House, that we are not privy to, and may never know, because there are always secrets in this kind of building.

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