Random Posts

Monday, December 30, 2019

Charley Reese

     I never heard of Charley Reese (January 29, 1937 – May 21, 2013) until recently, but he seems like somebody that would have been worth knowing.
     Reese was a syndicated columnist known for his conservative views. He was associated with the Orlando (Florida) Sentinel from 1971 to 2001, both as a writer and in various editorial capacities. King Features Syndicate distributed his column, which was published three times per week. Here is his last poem

Tax his land
Tax his bed
Tax the table
At which he's fed

Tax his tractor
Tax his mule
Teach him taxes 
Are the rule

Tax his work
Tax his pay
He works for peanuts anyway! 

Tax his cow
Tax his goat
Tax his pants
Tax his coat
Tax his ties
Tax his shirt 
Tax his work
Tax his dirt

Tax his tobacco
Tax his drink
Tax him if he 
Tries to think

Tax his cigars
Tax his beers
If he cries Tax his tears

Tax his car
Tax his gas
Find other ways 
Taxes to pass 

Tax all he has 
Then let him know 
That you won't be done 
Till he has no dough

When he screams and hollers
Then tax him some more
Tax him till He's good and sore

Then tax his coffin
Tax his grave
Tax the sod in which he's laid... 
Put these words 
Upon his tomb
Taxes drove me to my doom...

When he's gone
Do not relax
Its time to apply 
The inheritance tax

Accounts Receivable 
Tax Building Permit 
Tax CDL license Tax 
Cigarette Tax 
Corporate Income Tax 
Dog License Tax 
Excise Taxes 
Federal Income Tax 
Federal Unemployment Tax 
Fishing License Tax 
Food License Tax 
Fuel Permit Tax 
Gasoline Tax
Gross Receipts Tax 
Hunting License Tax 
Inheritance Tax 
Inventory Tax 
IRS Interest Charges 
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax) 
Liquor Tax 
Luxury Taxes 
Marriage License Tax 
Medicare Tax 
Personal Property Tax 
Property Tax 
Real Estate Tax 
Service Charge Tax 
Social Security Tax 
Road Usage Tax 
Recreational Vehicle Tax 
Sales Tax 
School Tax 
State Income Tax 
State Unemployment Tax 
Telephone Federal Excise Tax 
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes 
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax 
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax 
Telephone State and Local Tax 
Telephone Usage Charge Tax 
Utility Taxes 
Vehicle License Registration Tax 
Vehicle Sales Tax 
Watercraft Registration Tax 
Well Permit Tax 
Workers Compensation Tax 

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

What Would a Trip to the Mariana Trench Be Like

Friday, December 20, 2019

Electric Space Heaters

     In the 1800s, engineers and inventors were fascinated by electricity and could see that it had far reaching potential to change our lives. One of the applications they foresaw for electricity was to provide convenient and reliable heat for the home. 
     Attributing the birth of the electric heater is an impossible task because its invention is the culmination of research from more than one source. The earliest electric heaters used bulbs, but because electric heaters also needed a durable, high-resistance wire in order to work, Albert Leroy Marsh who developed the alloy chromel in 1905 deserves a lot of the credit. Chromel, or nichrome as it is now known, was over 300 times stronger than other available alloys at the time and revolutionised electrical engineering. It’s still widely used even today. 
     Some of the earliest heaters were created by General Electric in the early 1890’s. These first heaters used elongated glass bulbs to output heat. In England the Dowsing Radiant Heat Company produced some of the earliest electric heaters using similar long cylindrical bulbs. 
     The heaters often had copper backing to help radiate the heat outwards into the room. The early 1900s saw other British innovations in the field of electric heating and the beginnings of portable technologies. In 1912, Charles Reginald Belling set up his own business out of his shed in Enfield manufacturing electric heaters. Early models of these heaters looked like table lamps with a copper reflective dish at the back to project heat out into the room. 
     The post-World War II economic boom and surge in consumerism saw electrical appliances proliferate in the home. Electric radiators began to see widespread adoption and by this point portable oil-filled models were also available. 
     One of the most iconic electric heating appliances had bars of coiled wire that are used as heating elements. When in use, these bars give off a bright orange glow and radiant heat. 
     They became a popular heating choice from the 1950s because most were portable and could be plugged in anywhere. Their heat was almost instantaneous and had none of the dangers associated with burning fuels. This didn’t mean they were completely safe though! Early bar heaters were notorious for having inadequate guards around the heating elements and as a result, burns and fires were a real danger. 
     Though they were not terribly efficient, their popularity lasted for years due to their simple plug-in design. Even today, though they might seem old fashioned by modern standards, but they are still being manufactured, although they have much higher safety standards. 
     With cold temperatures having arrived you may be tempted to turn on a space heater...but do you know how much it costs to operate? Find out HERE

How Do Space Heaters Work?
The Best Space Heaters

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


     Most Christians today probably can’t imagine Christmas on any other day than December 25, but it wasn’t always celebrated then. 
     As the name implies, people originally intended to honor Jesus Christ with this holiday. 
     The Bible is silent on the day or the time of year when Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. For the first three hundred years Jesus birth wasn’t celebrated at all. Christianity’s most significant holidays were Epiphany on January 6, which commemorated the arrival of the Magi after Jesus’ birth and Easter, which celebrated Jesus’ resurrection. 
     The first official mention of December 25 as a holiday honoring Jesus’ birthday appears in an early Roman calendar from 336 A.D. There are actually a number of different accounts as to how and when December 25th became known as Jesus’s birthday. 
     By most accounts, the birth was first thought to have taken place on January 6th because...well, nobody knows for sure. In the Nativity story in the Bible the presence of shepherds and their sheep suggest a spring birth. When the Catholic church officials settled on December 25 at the end of the third century, they likely wanted the date to coincide with existing pagan festivals honoring Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture) and Mithra (the Persian god of light). That way, it became easier to convince Rome’s pagan subjects to accept Christianity as the empire’s official religion 
     The celebration of Christmas spread throughout the Western world over the next several centuries, but many Christians continued to view Epiphany and Easter as more important. 
     The Puritans arrived in the United States in 1630 and settled Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were a large group of settlers and were quite wealthy and by the 1640s, there were at least 10,000 Puritan colonists in America. 
     They banned the observance of Christmas because they viewed its traditions such as the offering of gifts and decorating trees, etc. as linked to paganism. In the early days of the United States, celebrating Christmas was considered a British custom and fell out of style following the American Revolution. 
     It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday. Even though Christmas is for many Americans a religious holiday, the federal courts have upheld its status as a legal holiday. As one court reasoned, “by giving federal employees a paid vacation day on Christmas, the government is doing no more than recognizing the cultural significance of the holiday.” 
     The commercialized Christmas began to emerge in the 1800s with the new custom of purchasing gifts for children and Christmas shopping began to assume a huge economic importance. Other Christmas traditions also began during that time such as Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch Sinter Klaas and the German Saint Nicholas) when he appeared as a jolly dispenser of gifts and driving a reindeer-drawn sleigh through. Such works as the 1823 poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" helped popularize Santa as we know him today.
     Germany is credited with starting the tradition of Christmas trees in the 1500s and according to legend, the Protestant reformer Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree to remind his children of the wonders of God’s creation. Christmas trees became popular in Britain and the United States in the 1800s. 
     Mass-produced Christmas cards began to appear in the last quarter of the 1800s and today Americans will mail some 16.6 billion Christmas cards, letters and packages over the holidays. 
     For many it’s all about a family celebration when the whole family is gathered and has a sense of togetherness, gifts and food. In reality, preparation can be stressful and even present a financial burden. Preparing the meal, cleaning the house etc. can be a lot of work. People can be under a lot of pressure, trying not to forget to send anyone Christmas cards and making sure they buy presents even if they have to go into debt.That's the power of advertising.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pistachio nuts

Strange fact: The improper storage of pistachio products in bulk containers has been known to start fires. Because of their high fat and low water contents, the nuts and especially kernels are prone to self-heating and spontaneous combustion when stored with the oil-soaked fiber/fibrous materials.

     Pistachio nuts are not only tasty and fun to eat but also super healthy. They are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and various nutrients, including vitamin B6 and thiamine. Their health effects may also include weight loss benefits, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and improved gut, eye, and blood vessel health. What's more, they're delicious. 
     Pistachio nuts are a member of the cashew family and the tree has been variously described as being native to Central Asia (including Afghanistan), Iran and Western Asia. 
     Archaeology shows that pistachio seeds were a common food as early as 6750 BCE. Pliny the Elder wrote about them in his Natural History and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to have contained pistachio trees during the reign of King Merodach-Baladan about 700 BC. 
     Originally cultivated in Central Asia, more recently, the pistachio has been cultivated commercially in parts of the English-speaking world, such as Australia and in the United States in New Mexico and California. 
     The tree grows up to 33 feet tall and has deciduous leaves (they fall off) 4–8 inches long. The trees are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees. 
     The fruit is a drupe. i.e. it has a fleshy fruit with a thin skin and a central stone containing the seed...like a plum, cherry, almond or olive. 
     The fruit has a hard, cream-colored exterior shell. The seed has a mauve-colored skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavor. When the fruit ripens, the shell changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and abruptly splits partly open. This is known as dehiscence, and happens with an audible pop. 
     The shell of the pistachio is naturally a beige color, but it is sometimes dyed red or green in commercial pistachios. At one time pistachios were dyed red. Why? Originally, dye was applied by importers to hide stains on the shells caused when the seeds were picked by hand. Most pistachios are now picked by machine and the shells remain unstained, making dyeing unnecessary except to meet ingrained consumer expectations. 
     The pistachio tree is long-lived, possibly up to 300 years. The trees are planted in orchards and take approximately seven to ten years to reach significant production. Production is biennial-bearing, meaning the harvest is heavier in alternate years. Peak production is reached around 20 years. Each pistachio tree averages around 110 pounds of seeds. 
     After hulling and drying, pistachios are sorted according to open-mouth and closed-mouth shells, then roasted or processed by special machines to produce pistachio kernels. 
     Pistachio nuts contain healthy fats and are a good source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. What’s more, they contain several essential nutrients and can aid weight loss and heart and gut health. 

Some benefits: 
# Pistachios are very nutritious. They are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Pistachios are one of the most vitamin B6-rich foods around. Vitamin B6 is important for several bodily functions, including blood sugar regulation and the formation of hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Pistachios are also rich in potassium, with one ounce containing more potassium than half of a large banana. 
# High in antioxidants. They prevent cell damage and play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer. Pistachios contain more antioxidants than most other nuts and seeds. In fact, only walnuts and pecans contain more. Among nuts, pistachios have the highest content of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are very important antioxidants for eye health. They protect your eyes from damage caused by blue light and age-related macular degeneration. 
# Low in calories yet high in protein. Pistachios are among the lowest-calorie nuts. They also have a higher ratio of essential amino acids than any other nut. Amino acids are considered essential because your body cannot make them, so you must obtain them from your diet. 
# May aid weight loss. Pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, both of which increase feelings of fullness and help you eat less. 
# Promote healthy gut bacteria. Pistachios are high in fiber. Fiber moves through your digestive system mostly undigested and some types of fiber are digested by the good bacteria in your gut, acting as prebiotics. Gut bacteria then ferment the fiber and convert it into short-chain fatty acids, which may have several health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing digestive disorders, cancer, and heart disease. 
# May lower cholesterol and blood pressure thus lowering your risk of heart disease. 
# May promote blood vessel health. Pistachios are a great source of the amino acid L-arginine. Therefore, they may play an important role in promoting blood vessel health. 
# May help lower blood sugar. Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don't cause large blood sugar spikes. Studies have shown that eating pistachios can help promote healthy blood sugar levels. 

Culinary and Botanical nuts. What’s the difference? 
Nuts vs. Drupes. What’s the difference?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Propeller Beanies

     In the United States, a beanie is a head-hugging brimless cap, with or without a visor, made from triangular panels of material joined by a button at the crown and seamed together around the sides. Commonly made of cloth or felt material, beanies may also be made from leather or silk. In some U.S. regions and parts of Canada the term "beanie" refers to a knitted cap (often woollen), alternately called a "stocking cap". 
     Early ads during World War II for propeller hats targeted parks, skating rinks and carnivals for prices of $2.50-3.50 per dozen and were probably intended to be given as prizes for the games at county fairs, etc. 
     It is generally accepted that beanie caps originated in Cadillac, Michigan in 1947 by Ray Faraday Nelson. They quickly became a favorite of science fiction fans and a national fad. 
     In the summer of 1947, Nelson was holding a regional science fiction convention in his living room when he and some others dressed up in improvised costumes to take joke photographs simulating the covers of science fiction magazines. 
     That’s when Nelson made the cap for a space hero that was made out of pieces of plastic, a piece of coat-hanger wire, some beads, a propeller from a model airplane; it was held together with staples. Shortly thereafter, it was worn by George Young of Detroit at a world convention, where it was an enormous hit. 

    After that Nelson frequently drew cartoons for science fiction magazine that portrayed science fiction fans wearing the propeller beanies. Artist Guy Pene du Bois even painted “Boy with a propeller beanie” in 1948.
     Beanie caps were further popularized by a television program, Time For Beany, a hugely popular with children. 
     Beany was a propeller beanie-wearing puppet with a sock-puppet friend called Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. Starting in 1949, it ran five times a week for five years. Soem adults, including Albert Einstein, also found the show entertaining. Beany's propeller enabled him to fly.  
     The Beany-Copter hat by Mattel featured a circular, spinning, flying propeller which could be wound up and released from the top of the dome of a plastic hat by pulling on the chinstrap. A paper label on it identified it as “Official” hat for the Beany and Cecil cartoon characters.
     Nelson went on to become a professional writer of novels and short stories. He made no profit from the fad of sales of beanie hats that followed from his idea. 
     By 1958, how the propeller beanie had become established and was even demonstrated as part of the U.S. pavillion exhibit of “How America Lives” at the Brussels Fair. Other gadgets, including glamour sunglasses, drew laughs from the Belgian workers unpacking display shipments. The U.S. pavilion seemed a joke when compared to the Russian pavilion which promoted their progress in education, heavy machinery and space exploration with the satellites. 
      In 2007, a trademark was issued to Schyling for the Copter Cap, which features a baseball style cap with a wind up circular propeller of the same principle as the earlier Mattel toy. 
     These days propeller beanies are rarely seen and are primarily worn for satirical or comedic purposes.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Power Causes Brain Damage

     I saw a post somewhere that power causes brain damage and I was somewhat skeptical of the veracity of that statement. The article explained how leaders lose mental capacities, most notably for reading other people, that were essential to their rise to power. If power were a prescription drug, it would come with a long list of side effects, but can it actually cause brain damage? 
    Historian Henry Adams described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” It turns out that professor at UC Berkeley, Dacher Keltner, drew the same conclusion after years of lab and field experiments. 
     He found that the subjects he studied that were under the influence of power acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury. How’s that?! They became more impulsive, less aware of risk and less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view. 
     Keltner was not alone in his findings. Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, described something similar. 
     Obhi put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine and found that power impairs a specific neural process. 
     He found that once a person has power they lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place. For example, powerful people do worse at identifying what someone in a picture is feeling, or guessing how a colleague might interpret a remark. 
     Blame subordinates for a lot of the problem. People tend to mimic the expressions and body language of their superiors which aggravates the problem because it provides the boss with few reliable cues. Mimicking the boss. The powerful end up with what Keltner calls an “empathy deficit.” 
     Mirroring goes on entirely within our heads and without our awareness. When we watch someone perform an action, the part of the brain we would use to do that same thing lights up in sympathetic response...vicarious experience, it you will. Normally this effect wears off, but if it goes on long enough, it causes “functional” changes to the brain. Power, the research says, primes our brain to screen out peripheral information. 
     Author Jonathan Davidson called it the Hubris Syndrome, defined it in a 2009 article published in Brain, as a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” 

It manifests itself in: 
# contempt for others # loss of contact with reality 
# restless or reckless actions 
# displays of incompetence 

Does Power Make You Mean? 
Don’t Let Power Corrupt You 
Are Power-Hungry People Inherently Corrupt? 
14 Symptoms of the Hubris Syndrome

Friday, December 13, 2019

Will You Go Blind In The Dark?

     I was watching a program on the History Channel the other day and there was a comment that spending three days in total darkness will lead to permanent blindness. Is that true? 
     A question that has long intrigued scientists and been the subject of hot debate is why do animals that live in caves become blind? There are thousands of underground and cave-dwelling species, from naked mole rats to bats, and many have lost their sense of sight. 
     Darwin originally suggested that eyes could be lost by "disuse" over time, but Reed Cartwright, an evolutionary biologist in the School of Life Sciences and researcher at the Bio-design Institute has suggested that eyes are not lost by disuse, but rather by natural selection - blindness was selected as favorable and the best for living in a cave. 
     It is claimed that if an individual is left in dark for three or more days, then the individual is at risk of losing his eyesight permanently.  However, I also read that there is no practical research supporting this fact and it’s only a myth like sitting too close to the TV for long enough makes you blind. More info...
     There was an article on the American Optometric Association’s website that stated soccer team members rescued from a Thailand cave could face temporary vision struggles. 
     In June and July of last year a widely publicized cave rescue was carried out where members of a junior soccer team were successfully extricated from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand after heavy rains partially flooded the cave, trapping the 12 boys and their coach inside.
     According to the article, in the dark, not only is your central vision greatly affected, but also peripheral vision. As a result it was expected that they would experience a relatively short period of light sensitivity after their rescue. 
     One optomotrist who comes from a long line of coal miners and practices optometry in West Virginia expected them to be extremely uncomfortable when they arrived at the surface, seeing light for the first time in weeks, as the pupil attempts to constrict and limit the amount of light entering the eye. He explained that light can be blinding in the same way as when a patient has their eyes dilated and they find light to be extremely bright, leaving them with spots in their vision. This blindness does not last as retinal pigment is regenerated.
     Doctors of optometry didn'texpect any long-term effects for the boys. In the dark, not only is your central vision greatly affected, but also peripheral vision which is an integral part of our body's balance system. If you stand on one leg with both eyes open, then shut both eyes, almost immediately you begin to wobble while the only thing that has changed is your visual input. 
     So, these young men also may have had issues with not only seeing in the cave, but also trying to remain balanced and feeling balanced, especially with the uneven terrain of the cave. This, added to an already compromised situation both mentally and physically, would have added significantly to their stress levels.
     Some insight into their eyes' reaction to being deprived of light for an extended time was gleaned from the 2010 rescue of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for two months. They emerged reportedly wearing special sunglasses and their hospital rooms were kept in low light for a few days. Only one miner had reported experiencing long-term effects. 
     Paul Barney, a Doctor of Optometry that practices in Alaska, a state known for its extended periods of sunshine and darkness, stated, "Total light deprivation might cause a temporary loss of vision after a few days of being in the dark, but their vision would return to normal after a few hours of being in light." 
     Researchers at the Laboratory for Magnetic Brain Stimulation, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts report the occurrence of visual hallucinations of varying complexity in 13 normal subjects after sudden, complete, and prolonged visual deprivation. 
     The subjects wore a specially designed blindfold for a period of five consecutive days (96 hours) and were asked to record their daily experiences using a hand-held micro-cassette recorder. Ten of the subjects reported visual hallucinations, which were both simple (bright spots of light) and complex (faces, landscapes, ornate objects). The onset of hallucinations was generally after the first day of blindfolding. Subjects were insightful as to their unreal nature. 
     These results indicate that rapid and complete visual deprivation is sufficient to induce visual hallucinations in normal subjects. However, the study noted that vision returned to normal approximately 30 to 60 minutes after sight restoration. This would seem to relegate the theory that you will go blind after three days in totally darkness to a busted myth. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Operation Northwoods

     We all know the conspiracy theories...we never landed on the moon and the photos were all shot in Arizona, the government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attack, there was a second gunman who shot JFK, etc., etc. In spite of all the books and television programs, these ideas usually can't be proved with any degree of certainty. That’s not to say the government wasn’t involved in it’s share of skulduggery and outright criminal behavior. 
     When I was a kid in elementary school in the 1950s our teachers told us that unlike the Russian government, the United States government never lies to its people. You know what? I think our teachers really believed that themselves. 
     I remember the shock many people felt when President Eisenhower went on record saying we were not making spy flights over Russia and shortly afterwards the Russians shot down a U.S. spy plane and put the pilot on public trial. The shock people felt was that the president lied. 
     In recent years many government documents have become declassified and some of the things they reveal aren’t pretty. They evidence government dirt, some of which involved actual crimes committed against its own citizens. 
     One plot, thankfully, never happened...Operation Northwoods. Military leaders reportedly planned terrorist attacks in the U.S. to drum up support for a war against Cuba. 
     For many years Cuba was a sore point with the U.S.  In 1964, on the fifth anniversary of Castro's takeover, I was with the Marines aboard a Navy aircraft carrier in the Caribbean and the government was afraid Castro was planning an attack on the Naval base at Guantanamo.  We were issued ammunition for our weapons and spent all one day and one night sitting in helicopters on the flight deck.  We were allowed to go to chow only one platoon at a time.  We were prepared to go in if the Cubans attacked the base.
     In 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Northwoods, a covert plan to create support for a war in Cuba that would oust communist leader Fidel Castro. Declassified government documents show plans were included such as:
* funerals for "mock-victims" 
* start rumors (many) 
* blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba 
* a suggestion was made that should astronaut John Glenn's rocket explode during his space trip, sabotage could be blamed on communists in Cuba. 
     President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, that dirtbag Robert S. McNamara, was presented with the plan. His response is unknown, but fortunately a few days later President Kennedy told Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, the nut job who originated the plan and which was approved by the other nutters on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the U.S. would not use overt force to take Cuba. A few months later Lemnitzer left his job as Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO.
     Operation Northwoods showed that the U.S. military was willing to deceive and attack its own citizens for political reasons. 
     In the 1950s and 60s, the U.S. was in the grip of the Cold War and terrified by the threat of Communism. And, there was a growing panic over the possibility that the Russians would launch an atomic attack. 
     If you were in elementary school in the U.S. in the 1950s you will remember the “duck and cover” drills. Schools across the United States were training students to dive under their desks and cover their heads. These drills were to teach kids what should be done in case of an atomic attack. They were part of President Harry Truman’s Federal Civil Defense Administration program aimed to educate the public about what ordinary people could do to protect themselves. Seriously though, how was ducking under your desk and covering your head really going to protect you from a nuclear bomb detonating nearby? 
     But, back to this Operation Northwoods. Cuba, a Communist nation right on our doorstep, was deemed such a threat that a huge amount of intelligence and military activity was devoted to finding ways to depose of or even assassinate Fidel Castro. 
     After the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco these activities were collected under a CIA program known as Operation Mongoose, also called the Cuban Project. It was lead by General Edward Lansdale of the U.S. Air Force. Lansdale was at various times an officer in the Army and the Air Force, but those jobs were usually covers. For much of his career, he worked for the C.I.A.

     It wasn’t until 1997 when the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board released a pile of records from the Kennedy era. Among them was a 1962 document titled Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba. 
     The memorandum concerned Operation Northwoods, an egregious plan to create fake attacks on friendly defected Cubans, U.S. military bases and U.S. citizens that were designed to appear as though they were conducted by Cuba. 
    This action, known as a "false flag" operation, would be used to garner the public and political support necessary for direct military intervention against Cuba. 
     An aircraft at Eglin AFB in western Florida would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization in the Miami area. At a rendezvous point with a drone, the aircraft would descend to minimum altitude and secretly land at an auxiliary field at Eglin AFB. The drone would continue on the filed flight plan and when when it got over Cuba, it would transmit a Mayday signal stating it was under attack by a Cuban MIG. Then it would be blown up by transmission of a radio signal. 
     The document also outlined an elaborate plan for a fake attack on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base that included a suggestion to sink ship near the harbor entrance and conduct funerals for the mock victims. The idea was that the casualty list would cause a helpful wave of national indignation. 
     Also included were plans to refit an American jet to resemble a Cuban MIG then use it to harass commercial aircraft, attack ships and attack and shoot down U.S. military drone aircraft. These fake attacks on U.S. military jets involved cloak and dagger stuff like quickly repainting tail numbers in a hangar while a submarine jettisoned burned jet parts and a parachute. 
     This was not a plan where there would be no casualties! The plan also included a fake Communist Cuban terror campaign in which it was suggested that a boat load of Cubans escaping to Florida be sunk. Or, it was possible to foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the Unites States even to the extent of wounding some. It was also suggested that bombs could be exploded in carefully chosen places where they probably wouldn’t injure or kill anyone.
     Ultimately, Operation Northwoods never went beyond the planning stage, but the idea that the military and government even considered such a thing is creepy. That's why the concept of civilian control of the military was written by the Founding Fathers into the Constitution.  It's also the reason for the requirement in the National Security Act of 1947 that the head of the Defense Department must be a civilian and any nominee with prior military experience must have been retired from active duty for seven years. Unfortunately, there is nobody to watch the politicians who are watching the military.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Silver Tooth Fillings

     Dental amalgam is a dental filling used to fill cavities that has been used for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of people around the world. Some have raised concerns that dental amalgam, as silver fillings are technically known, contains elemental mercury that has adverse effects. 
      At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration, known for lax oversight, bad decision making and even making decisions based on politics, has reviewed the "best available scientific evidence" to determine whether the low levels of mercury vapor associated with dental amalgam fillings are a cause for concern. They consider dental amalgam fillings safe for adults and children ages 6 and above. 
     I've had some for over 60 years that were put in by an old German dentist and they're still holding up and there never was any physical ailments associated with them. These fillings are supposed to last 10-15 years before they need to be replaced. So they say, but I had one fall out about 30 years ago and one is starting to show signs of wear and tear and needs to be replaced. The other 5-6 are still good. 
     Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid elemental mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin, and copper. Approximately 50 percent of dental amalgam is mercury by weight. The chemical properties of elemental mercury allow it to react with and bind together the silver/copper/tin alloy to form an amalgam. Dental amalgam fillings are also known as “silver fillings” because of their silver-like appearance. 

     When placing dental amalgam, the dentist first drills the tooth to remove the decay and then shapes the tooth cavity. Next, the dentist mixes the powdered alloy with the liquid mercury to form an amalgam putty and this softened amalgam putty is placed and shaped in the cavity where it rapidly hardens into a solid filling. 
     The first known use of amalgam was recorded in the Chinese literature in the year 659, but it wasn’t until 1819 that a mercury-based dental amalgam as we know it today was invented by an English chemist named Bell. However, it wasn’t until 1826 that the filling was first used in England and France. When they were first used in the United States in 1830, numerous harmful effects were soon widely reported. 
     In 1840 the American Society of Dental Surgeons denounced the use of amalgams due to concerns about mercury poisoning and members of the society were required to pledge to avoid mercury amalgam fillings. Nevertheless, many dentists continued using amalgams since they were cheaper, faster and easier to place than gold materials. 
     As early as 1850, some U.S. dentists claimed that removing amalgam fillings could bring miraculous cures in patients with chronic disease. Today, some dentists remove amalgam fillings from patients as a result of claims that such fillings result in serious adverse health effects.  
     The controversy continued and in 1859, those who were determined to continue using the mercury amalgam in the United States formed its own dental society, first called the National Dental Association; it later became the American Dental Association. 
     In 1926, a prominent German chemist, Alfred Stock, discovered that mercury was the source of his own health problems and after having his own amalgams removed, Stock then studied the health problems of many of his friends and advised them to have their amalgams removed. He studied the release of mercury vapor from amalgams and published his findings in over thirty scientific papers. Stock led an international movement to halt the use of mercury amalgam fillings. 
     In the 1930s, Stock’s laboratory and most of his records were destroyed in a World War II bombing raid, derailing the anti-amalgam mercury movement that he had led. 
     In 1957, Dr. Karl Frykholm of Sweden published a study claiming (some say wrongly) that when saliva covers an amalgam filling, the mercury is no longer released and ever since then, the ADA has cited his paper as a proof that amalgam fillings are stable and safe. 
     A dentist suffering from multiple sclerosis named Hal Huggins met a Brazilian dentist, Olympia Pinto, at a conference in Mexico City in 1973. Dr. Pinto shocked Huggins by telling him that amalgam fillings are unstable and mercury from them can trigger illnesses like Hodgkin’s disease and sickle cell anemia. After learning about the amalgam health issues from papers Dr. Pinto sent him, Dr. Huggins researched and wrote a book on the hazards of amalgams. 
     In 1979, researchers at the University of Iowa reported there was a measurable release of mercury vapor from amalgam fillings and when they were stimulated by chewing, brushing or hot beverages the release was far greater. Those findings were confirmed in 1981 by research at Ohio State University. 
     Researchers in Sweden and the United States, in 1987, did autopsy studies on victims of sudden unexpected death in which they confirmed a strong correlation between brain levels of mercury and the number of amalgam filling surfaces in the teeth. Researchers published an autopsy study in 1989 showing that mercury levels were much higher in the pituitary glands and the thyroid glands of dental staff as compared to a non- dentist control group. The mercury level in the pituitary glands of the dental group was about forty times higher than that of the controls. 
     Other studies found dentists to have a higher rate of irritability, depression and mood disorders. Dentist have a much higher suicide rate than other white collar professionals. 
     In 1990 researchers at the University of Calgary School of Medicine placed amalgam fillings with radioactive mercury into pregnant sheep and monkeys. After 29 days the mercury was found in the kidneys, the liver, the gastrointestinal tract, the brain and many other parts of the body including the unborn fetus. For both the mother and the fetus, the highest mercury level was in the pituitary gland, explaining the clinical association between amalgams and depression and mood disorder. 
     The same year the CBS television show Sixty Minutes exposed the hazards of mercury amalgams. According to the source, the program also exposed the biased attacks by state dental licensing boards on mercury free, holistic dentists. The ADA spokesman squirmed under cross-examination by the host. This sort of dental amalgam expose was never repeated again on any TV network. 
      A 1991 survey conducted by the American Dental Association, which revealed that nearly half of the 1,000 American adults surveyed believed that health problems could develop as a result of dental amalgam.
     The largest German manufacturer of amalgam, Degussa AG, stopped making amalgam in 1993 and the following year Sweden announced phase-out of amalgam fillings, starting with pregnant women and children. Also in 1994, researchers reported that elemental mercury vapor from amalgams fillings is toxic to brain neurons. Low dose mercury causes the neurofibrillary tangles in the brain regarded as a key marker of Alzheimer’s disease. 
     In another 1994 report, human autopsy studies on babies who had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was published at the University of Munich in Germany. They found a strong correlation between the mercury levels in the brains and kidneys of the babies and the number of amalgam fillings in the mother’s teeth. These findings were confirmed by another autopsy study conducted in 1996 that showed mercury from a mother’s amalgam fillings is typically the major source of mercury for the unborn child. 
     The German government then acted to curb the use of amalgams in children and women of childbearing age. In 1996 Health Canada established guidelines for dentist cautioning against the use of amalgams in children, pregnant women, people with kidney disorders and other vulnerable people. 

Health Effects of Mercury Exposure 
Mercury Poisoning 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Botched Execution of Wallace Wilkerson

Wallace Wilkerson
     Execution by firing squad, in the past called fusillading is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war. Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice a gunshot to a vital organ usually kills quickly.
     In the military the firing squad members of the group fired simultaneously, thus preventing both disruption of the process by a single member and identification of the member who fired the lethal shot. To avoid the disfigurement of multiple shots to the head, the shooters are typically instructed to aim at the heart. 
     The prisoner is typically blindfolded or hooded and restrained. Executions were carried out with the condemned either standing or sitting. There is a tradition in some cases where the executions were carried out at sunrise, hence the phrase "shot at dawn". Before the time of firearms, bows or crossbows were often used. 
     The method used to be employed by military courts for crimes such as cowardice, desertion, espionage, murder, mutiny, or treason. In some cases, one or more members of the firing squad may be issued a weapon containing a blank cartridge so that no member of the firing squad knows if he is using live ammunition. This is believed to reinforce the sense of diffusion of responsibility among the firing squad members and makes the execution process more reliable; members are more likely to aim to kill if they are not entirely blamed for it, or if there is a chance they did not fire the lethal shot. It also allows each member of the firing squad to believe afterwards that he did not personally fire a fatal shot. 
     Actually, after the shot is fired it is possible to tell if the round was live or a blank because the absence of any recoil will indicate that the rifle contained a blank cartridge. In more recent times, rifleman may be given a dummy cartridge containing a wax bullet instead of a lead bullet, which provides a more realistic recoil. 
     In the American Civil War, 433 of the 573 men executed were shot by a firing squad. During World War II, Army Pvt. Edward "Eddie" Slovik was the first soldier executed by firing squad for desertion since the American Civil War. It was probably a misscarriage of justice given Slovak’s circumstances. 
     In 1913, Andriza Mircovich became the first and only inmate in Nevada to be executed by shooting. After the warden of Nevada State Prison could not find five men to form a firing squad a shooting machine was built to carry out Mircovich's execution. 
     John W. Deering allowed an electrocardiogram recording of the effect of gunshot wounds on his heart during his 1938 execution by firing squad. Afterwards his body was donated to the University of Utah School of Medicine, at his request. 
     Utah's 1960 execution of James W. Rodgers became the last execution by firing squad in the United States for nearly two decades. 
     Since 1960 there have been three executions by firing squad, all in Utah: Gary Gilmore was executed in 1977. 
     John Albert Taylor chose a firing squad for his 1996 execution. Taylor justifying his choice because he did not want to "flop around like a dying fish" during a lethal injection. 
     Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in 2010, having said he preferred this method of execution because of his "Mormon heritage". Execution by firing squad was banned in Utah in 2004, but as the ban was not retroactive and three inmates on Utah's death row have the firing squad set as their method of execution. 
     Idaho banned execution by firing squad in 2009 temporarily leaving Oklahoma as the only state in the union utilizing this method of execution, but only as a secondary method. Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued in Arthur v. Dunn: "In addition to being near instant, death by shooting may also be comparatively painless ... And historically, the firing squad has yielded significantly fewer botched executions." 
     During the 120-year span from 1890 to 2010, nearly 9,000 people were legally executed in America. Of these, an estimated 276 were “botched” in some way—in other words, the execution didn’t proceed exactly as planned and may have required additional attempts. In many cases, it also involved unplanned suffering on the convict’s part to the point where witnesses were traumatized.
     However, out of the 34 that were by firing squad, none were botched. That’s not to say it can’t happen. 
     Wallace Wilkerson (about 1834 – May 16, 1879) was sentenced to death by the Territory of Utah for the murder of William Baxter. While claiming he was innocent, Wilkerson chose to die by firing squad over hanging or decapitation.
     On June 11, 1877, Baxter stopped at a saloon where he met Wilkerson and the two began to play a card game of cribbage for money. An argument broke out between them over accusations of cheating. Baxter attempted to back out of the argument, but was fatally shot in the forehead and temple by Wilkerson, who then fled. 
     The next morning, the coroner examined the body of Baxter, who was determined to have been unarmed at the time of the shooting. Authorities quickly captured Wilkerson and kept him under guard to prevent him from being lynched. 
     Wilkerson was indicted for premeditated murder by a grand jury. On September 29, 1877, he pleaded not guilty, but was convicted and sentenced to death and set an execution date of December 14, 1877. Wilkerson chose to be executed by firing squad instead of the other options of hanging or decapitation that were legal in the territory at the time. 
     On May 15, 1879, Wilkerson was transferred from Salt Lake City to a jail in Provo and spent his last day together with his wife until half an hour before the execution. He declined visits by the clergy. 
     When Wilkerson was brought out of his cell by the Sheriff, a deputy and a U.S. Marshal he was dressed in black with a white felt hat and a cigar which he kept through the execution. Wilkerson gave a farewell speech thanking the law enforcement officers and shaking hands with some of the 25 people present in the jail yard. About 200 spectators were estimated to have gathered outside. Wilkerson stated that he bore no grudge against anyone except a witness that he accused of committing perjury at his trial. Some of the witnesses of the execution recalled that he appeared to be drunk. 
     Wilkerson was seated on a chair at a corner of the jail yard about 30 feet away from the shooters and declined to be blindfolded. He insisted that restraints were unnecessary, stating: "I give you my word... I intend to die like a man, looking my executioners right in the eye." 
     A white three-inch paper target was pinned on Wilkerson's chest over his heart and Wilkerson yelled, "[A]im for my heart, Marshal!" At approximately noon on May 16, 1879, the marshal signaled the men who were concealed in a shed to shoot. When Wilkerson heard the end of the count, he stiffened up in the chair, unwittingly moving the target and the bullets missed his heart, one of them shattering his arm and the rest hitting his torso. Wilkerson jumped off the chair and screamed, "Oh, my God! My God! They've missed it!" 
     Four doctors rushed to Wilkerson, who was on the ground struggling and gasping on the ground. Officials were concerned at one point that they would have to shoot him again, but he was pronounced dead 27 minutes later, having bled to death. According to some accounts, he appeared to have actually died in about 15 minutes. 
     Wilkerson's body was carried to an office at the county courthouse and after being washed and placed in a coffin covered in black, the body was turned over to his wife. 
     The Deseret News which at the time was published by Brigham Young Jr., the son of the deceased Latter Day Saint movement, proclaimed that "divine law has been executed and human law honored" because Wilkerson "atoned for that deed as far as it is possible so to do by the pouring out of his own blood." The Ogden Junction criticized the botched execution and claimed "...the French guillotine never fails." 
     It could have been worse. In 1979 a Thai woman named Ginggaew Lorsoongnern was executed for conspiracy in a kidnapping and murder plot. She was only the second woman in Thai history to be executed by firing squad.
     She had been fired from her housekeeping and childcare job by a Bangkok couple with a six-year-old son. Her 28-year-old boyfriend, who already had a criminal record, suggested kidnapping the boy ransom. A total of six conspirators were identified by Thai authorities. 
     Sometime around the middle of October 1978 she picked up the boy from school and took him to their hideout. According to the ransom instructions the boy's parents were to look for a white flag marking the drop point while en route between railway stations and deposit a bag there. But, the night was dark and the parents failed to see the flag. 
     The kidnappers stabbed the boy repeatedly before burying him alive. According to authorities, Lorsoongnern attempted to stop the murder but couldn’t. 
     She was was sentenced to death by firing squad on January 12, 1979. She was delivered to be executed on January 13, 1979, but her heart was on a different side than in most humans, so she survived the initial execution rounds. Authorities initially believed she was dead, but they discovered her in the morgue attempting to stand up after hearing her scream. She died after getting shot a second time. One of the others kidnappers sentenced to die by firing squad also died after two rounds of bullets.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Railroad Disaster and a Suicide...Or Was It Murder?

     Ashtabula, Ohio is a city located at the mouth of the Ashtabula River on Lake Erie across from the province of Ontario, Canada and 53 miles northeast of Cleveland. The name Ashtabula is derived from the language of the Indian Lenape tribe and it means always enough fish to be shared. 
     The city became an important destination on the Underground Railroad in the middle 19th century, as refugee slaves could take ships to Canada and freedom. Even in the free state of Ohio, they were at risk of being captured by slave catchers. 
     Beginning in the late 19th century, the city became a major coal port on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Ashtabula River northeast of Cleveland. Coal and iron were shipped here, the latter from the Mesabi Range in Minnesota. The city attracted immigrants from Finland, Sweden and Italy in the industrial period.
     The Ashtabula River railroad disaster (also called the Ashtabula Horror or the Ashtabula Bridge disaster or the Ashtabula Train Disaster) was a derailment caused by the failure of a bridge over the Ashtabula River. It and was the worst rail accident in the U.S. in the 19th century until the Great Train Wreck of 1918. 
     The coroner's report found that the bridge, designed by the railroad company president, had been improperly designed and inadequately inspected. As a result of the accident a hospital was built in the town and a federal system set up to formally investigate fatal railroad accidents. 
     The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Train No. 5, known as The Pacific Express, left Erie, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of December 29, 1876 in deep snow. Two locomotives were hauling 11 railcars, including two express cars, two baggage cars, one smoking car, three coaches and three sleeping cars that carried 159 passengers. 
     At about 7:30 pm the train was crossing over the Ashtabula River about 1,000 feet from the railroad station when the bridge gave way beneath it. The lead locomotive made it across the bridge, while the second locomotive and the rest of the train plunged 76 feet into the water. 
     Some cars landed in an upright position. The wooden cars were set on fire by the heating stoves and lamps and soon small, localized fires became an inferno. Of 159 passengers and crew on board that night, 92 were killed or died later from injuries. Forty-eight of the fatalities were unrecognizable or consumed in the flames. Sixty-four people were injured. Among those killed were the gospel singer and hymn writer Philip Bliss and his wife.  
     The crash was heard in the town and the alarm was raised and by the time the townspeople reached the bridge, many of the injured passengers had made their way to the shore and the fire was burning fiercely. When the Ashtabula Fire Brigade arrived, the immediate instructions from railroad employees were to get the wounded out and to clear a pathway up the side of the ravine. After this no water was put onto the fire, even after reports that there were survivors still trapped in the bruning wreck. 
     At the time Ashtabula had no hospital so the survivors were led, carried and conveyed on sleds to hotels and private homes. Believe it or not, some rescuers and some of those who assisted the injured stole money and valuables from the survivors and dead to the tune of $1,500 (about $35,000 today). At least that’s how much those with a guilty conscience returned following an investigation by detectives and after the mayor had made a proclamation. 
     The following day an investigative coroner's jury, made up of six men, was appointed. Their investigation was to take 68 days. The Ashtabula bridge designer, Amasa Stone, who had been president of the railroad company that had built the bridge, had taken a well-established wooden bridge pattern (the Howe Truss) and adapted it as the pattern for an all-iron bridge. 
     Built in 1865 to span 165 feet, the engineer employed to draft and construct the bridge resigned it after saying the braces were too small. The Railroad's Engineer in Charge, Charles Collins, saw it as an "experiment" and objected but left matters to the company president who built it anyway using wrought iron in a new iron design. 
     The coroner's jury report strongly criticized the design of the bridge, as the failure of one part led to its collapse. It was found that the bridge had been badly maintained, poorly inspected, and not properly designed with respect to the truss members. The diagonals of the bridge were somewhat loosely fitted to the joints during assembly and the diagonals could carry only reduced loads and were not able to withstand a full load due to inadequate fastening. 
Howe Truss Bridge

     Some recent authors have attributed the accident to fatigue of the cast iron lug pieces which were used to anchor the wrought iron bars of the truss together. The entire load-carrying capacity rested upon the small cast-iron lugs at the truss joint angle block. Many were poorly made and needed shims of metal inserted to hold the bars in place. The quality of iron was also questioned. Cold weather may also have played a part in the metal fatigue. In any case, the exact reasons for the disaster have not been determined even to this day. 
     The report also noted that an inspection by a competent bridge engineer during the 11 years the railroad had used the bridge would have spotted these defects. 
     The jury also criticized the way the trains had been heated, and censured the Ashtabula Chief Fireman for failing to attempt to put out the fire. 
     The State Legislature of Ohio appointed engineers to look at the use of iron for the bridge, then a new material, and they concluded that the material had no inherent defect. 
     Days after testifying to the State Legislature Committee, the railroad's Engineer in Charge, Charles Collins was found dead in his bedroom of a gunshot wound to the head. 
     He had tendered his resignation to the Board of Directors the previous Monday, but it had been refused. Collins was believed to have committed suicide out of grief and feeling partially responsible for the accident.  But here’s something interesting...a police report at the time suggested the wound had not been self-inflicted and documents discovered in 2001 and an examination of Collins' skull suggest that he had indeed been murdered. 
     Ashtabula General Hospital was built because of the accident. About ten years later, steam heat was adopted by the railroad, replacing the wood and coal stoves in passenger cars. 
     In 1887 a federal system was set up to formally investigate fatal railroad accidents. 
     Twenty years later, in Ashtabula's Chestnut Grove Cemetery, a monument was erected to all those "unidentified" who died in the Ashtabula Railroad disaster. 

More on Charles Collins... 
     Charles Collins was the man for whom the Cleveland neighborhood of Collinwood was named. He was one of the best railroad construction engineers in the country and helped bring rail service to northern Ohio. 
     The history books say his death was suicide caused by guilt over the bridge failure, but in 1975, a man in Northeast Ohio discovered a box of papers his mother had bought at an auction and when he leafed through them, he found documents showing a pair of New York medical college doctors had done an independent autopsy and determined Collins had been shot in the head while sleeping. 
     There was never a followup on their report. So who killed Charles Collins? Someone connected to the railroad company fearful over what he might know, a victims family member, or did the New York medical team get it wrong? Nobody will ever know.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Florence Gunderson Klingensmith and a Killer Airplane

     She flew the Gee-Bee racing airplane which was perhaps one of the most recognized and unique air racers ever built. And, at the time it was the fastest and most dangerous airplane ever built. 
     The first, the Model Z, was built in Springfield, Massachusetts by the Granville Brothers Aircraft in 1931 and was followed in 1932 by the Model R1 and R2 Super Sportsters. 
     All three of the difficult to operate machines had crashed and killed two men by 1933. The first, may have been caused by the pilot fitting a larger engine, the second was pilot error in landing and the third crash was caused by the second owner fitting larger fuel tanks. 
     The airplane was billed as "the fastest and most maneuverable licensed airplane for its horsepower in the United States" and it kept up to its name winning the 1932 race for pilot Jimmy Doolittle and setting a new world land plane speed record of 295.8 miles per hour. It also had a reputations as being the most dangerous airplane ever built. The Gee Bee Sportsters soon became a prized possession and were frequently shown off at airshows by their owners, attracting much attention wherever they appeared. 

     The planes had a long history of crashes from the beginning. The aircraft had a very peculiar design characterized by a thick fuselage, low-set monoplane wings and lack of a conventional tail assembly. The airframe was essentially built around the massive radial piston engine mounted at the extreme forward of the design. The cockpit was located very far aft, just in front of the vertical stabilizer, in order to give the racing pilot better vision while making crowded pylon turns. However, his extreme rearward placement allowed the forward fuselage to block all forward-low views over and out past the engine. Similarly, the small cockpit window areas forced the pilot to work harder than most. 
     The Gee Bee Model R also had a natural tendency to lift, allowing for the racer to make fast turns around pylons while maintaining or gaining altitude as opposed to losing it. This design, although beneficial, provided for some deadly flying experiences for many pilots. The airplane soon earned a reputation for being dangerous to fly. The small control surfaces, steering difficulties and unforgiving flight characteristics made sure that only the most experienced pilots could fly it, and even so, it killed many of them. 
     Florence Gunderson Klingensmith (September 3, 1904 – September 4, 1933), also known as “Tree Tops”, was one of them. She was first licensed female pilot in North Dakota and a pioneer of aviation. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she made a name for herself in air racing circuits, winning several prizes and setting records. 
     She was born in Oakport Township, Minnesota where her parents owned a small farm and her father also worked as a janitor and school bus driver at the school Florence and her three siblings attended. 
     The family to Moorhead, Minnesota in 1918 where the 14-year-old Florence scandalized the neighbors by racing her motorcycle around the town’s streets. She was married to Charles Klingensmith at the age of 22; the marriage lasted for only a year and a half before ending in divorce. 
     When Charles Lindbergh landed in Fargo, North Dakota on August 26, 1927, she witnessed the event and decided right then to become a pilot, a radical decision for a woman at the time. 
     In early 1928, Klingensmith started taking classes at an auto school in Fargo, North Dakota, and worked as a mechanic’s apprentice at the air field.  These experiences gave her a broad knowledge of airplanes and she began taking flying lessons. The same years her instructor asked her to be his stunt girl in area flying exhibitions; she agreed to take the job in exchange for more lessons. 
     Klingensmith’s first skydive was in June of 1928 and nearly ended in disaster. She was unconscious when she hit the ground, but survived. After the accident, she was more determined than ever to get back in the air. 
     While she was gaining experience, she was not making money and realized she needed her own plane if she wanted to make a living as a pilot. She persuaded local Fargo businessmen to donate money for a plane in exchange for free advertising space on it. 

     In April 1929, she bought a Monocoupe she named “Miss Fargo.” She earned the nickname, “Tree Tops,” when she became the first licensed female pilot in North Dakota. She then set out to break records. On April 19, 1930, she broke the women’s record for inside loops, completing 143. Since no officials witnessed the loops, however, the record stood at 46. On June 22, 1931, with 50,000 spectators and officials watching, Klingensmith flew for over four hours and completed 1,078 loops at Wold Chamberlain Field, an air field in Minneapolis. 
      At the same tiem Klingensmith competed against men and women in various races throughout the country. In 1932, she was the first winner of the Amelia Earhart Trophy. 
     On September 4, 1933, Klingensmith was in fourth place in the Frank Phillips Trophy Race outside Chicago. After completing the eighth lap, Klingensmith’s aircraft malfunctioned due to stress from the race. 
    The plane was a Bee Gee Model Y Senior Sportster had been modified by Klingensmith and was overpowered. She veered off course and flew steadily for several miles before the plane nose-dived from an altitude of 350 feet, killing her instantly. A parachute tangled in the fuselage indicated that she had attempted to bail out. The crash was used as an excuse to try to bar women from flying in future races. 
     Klingensmith’s funeral in Minnesota for burial was attended by dozens of her fellow pilots, and the Fargo businessmen who had financed her first plane served as her pallbearers. In June 2015, a monument to Klingensmith was placed at her grave site.