February 7, 2008

February 7, 2008 - Space Shuttle Atlantis Scheduled to Launch

NASA Space Shuttle Mission STS-122, scheduled to launch today, will be journeying to the International Space Station to expand the station's utilization by international partners.

That utilization comes in the form of Columbus, a 23-by-15-feet research laboratory and the future center of the European Space Agency’s activities in space. It will be followed over the next two missions by components of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s module, called Kibo. But for now the focus is on Europe. In addition to the Columbus module itself, Atlantis will deliver experiments to be performed in orbit and two astronauts to perform them – one to visit and one to stay.

Additional Resources:

* Mission Overview
* Space Shuttle Atlantis
* Kennedy Space Center
* NASA Launch Schedule

Photo Source: NASA Mission STS-122

September 18, 2007

September 18, 2007 - Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act

Getting frustrated by dropped calls? Have you wondered why your cell phone has a signal one minute then no bars the next when driving down the interstate? Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would require cell phone companies to

* provide prorated rates for ending contracts,
* allow 30 days for consumers to test the service before signing a contract, and
* provide street level maps of the service's coverage.

Check out the text of the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act for more information.

September 9, 2007

2000 - Who really won ?

Only three times in American history has the presidential election been won by the Electoral College and not the popular vote counts. The 2000 Election was one of these cases where George Bush won 271 electoral votes and Al Gore, 266. Yet the popular vote went for Gore with 50,156,783 votes to 49,819,600 for Bush. Ultimately the tight race came down to Florida, with the press first calling for Gore, then for Bush, as the victor. The count on November 8, 2000, had Bush winning by under 2000 votes and receiving Florida's electoral votes.

When Gore called for a manual recount of the votes in four Florida counties, it set off arguments over the constitutionality of the recount based on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause states that no state "shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". As counties counted the votes differently, was this a violation of the law? The final decision on the constitutionality of the Florida vote count went to the United States Supreme Court with Bush v. Gore. The Supreme Court sided with Bush and the vote count stood with Bush winning the state and the election.

September 8, 2007

1999 - Panama Canal

The Isthmus of Panama was the perfect place for a canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The French tried to build one in the late 19th century, but the effort was taken over by the United States in 1904. Opened in 1914, the United States controled the Canal Zone in return for helping Panama acheive their independence. However by the 1970's, Panama wanted control of its land returned so the Torrijos-Carter Treaty of 1977 set out a timeline for transfering ownership. On December 31, 1999, the management of the canal was turned over to the Panama Canal Authority.


September 7, 2007

1998 - Impeachment of President Clinton

On December 19, 1998 the U.S. House of Representatives issued House Resolution 611 - Articles of Impeachment against President Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. These charges were related to Independent Council Kenneth Starr's investigations related to Clintons relationships with former staff and an White House intern, Monical Lewinsky. Clinton was acquitted of all charges on February 12, 1999.


September 6, 2007

1997 - Presidential Apology for the Tuskagee Syphilis Study

On May 16, 1997 President Clinton formally apologized to the men and families involved in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. From 1932 to 1972, in Macon county, Alabama, the United States Public Health Service treated a group of 600 black men for syphilis. However, the treatment never actually occurred, although the participants were told they were being treated. While information from the study was published throughout the forty years it was in effect, it was an Associated Press story in 1972 that raised national awareness to shut down the study and led to revised federal rules on human subjects research.


Additional information: National Archives - Tuskegee Study

September 5, 2007

1996 - Communications Decency Act

Part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, also called the Communications Decency Act with reference to Title V of the law, was the first attempt by Congress to regulate pornograhic material on the Internet. Obscenity and indecency had long been regulated on television and the radio by the Federal Communications Commission, but the Internet, only a couple years old in 1996, had no such oversight. Within days of passage, the law was challenged based on the right of free speech. Challengers pointed out that Internet sites contained the written word as such should have the same rights to free speech as a written text in a book or magazine. In 1997 the United States Supreme Court agreed and the indecency clauses of Title V were declared unconstitutional.

September 4, 2007

1995 - 50th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima

Monday morning, August 6, 1945 dawned clear and sunny in Hiroshima, Japan. By the end of the day, four square miles of the city were destroyed and an estimated 70,000 citizens were dead. The missing piece of this equation ... a 9,700 pound uranium bomb called "Little Boy".

Between 1942 and 1945 top secret tests took place first in the mountains of Northern New Mexico at Los Alamos, then in the flat desertscape by Socorro leading up to the first test of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at Trinity Site. Here in the arid Southwest, the United States was developing a weapon to end the war, and Hiroshima was the first location to learn firsthand it's deadly power. Even fifty years after the dropping of the bomb, researchers continue to pull together the history of Trinity Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Manhattan Project, as well as the effects of the atomic bomb that still linger today.


September 3, 2007

1994 - North American Free Trade Agreement

On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement went into affect, establishing a free trade zone between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Most tariffs for products traded between the three counties were eliminated, with all being phased out by 2008. As you might guess, NAFTA is a complicated document incorporating rules and regulations from all three countries. The FAQ section on the NAFTA Secretariat site answers many of the basic questions about the treaty, but its main objectives are:

* eliminate barriers to trade between the countries,
* promote fair competition,
* increase investment opportunities,
* protect and enforce intellectual property rights,
* create procedures for implementation, administration and dispute resolution, and
* establish a framework for future cooperation.


September 2, 2007

1993 - Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act

On November 30th, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Named after James Brady, former press secretary for Ronald Reagan, the law required gun purchasers wait up to five days for a backgroun check before purchasing a handgun. In 1998 the five day waining period was replaced by a computerized criminal background check. James Brady was shot during the attempted assassination of former President Reagan in 1981.

brady press briefing room.jpg

This photo of James Brady and President Clinton is from the dedication of the James Brady Press Briefing Room.

Additional information: Firearms and Crime Statistics - Bureau of Justice Statistics

September 1, 2007

1992 - 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

On September 25, 1789, then Representative James Madison presented to the House of Representatives an amendment that barred Congress from giving itself a midterm or retroactive pay raise. On May 5, 1992 it became the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. No that isn't a took over 200 years for this particular amendment to be ratified. Between 1789 and 1791, six states ratified the amendment (Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont, and Virginia). Three more states joined the ratification process between 1972 and 1982. The effort was rejuvenated in 1982 when a University of Texas at Austin Gregory Watson found the amendment text and began to research whether it was still an active amendment proposal. He contacted state legislatures and on May 5th, Alabama became the 38th state to ratify the amendment and meet the 3/4 states limit needed to make it law.


August 31, 2007

1991 - Operation Desert Storm

It started the previous year on August 2nd, 1990, when the Iraqi Republication Guard invaded Kuwait and seized control of the county. Six days later Operation Desert Shield began to stop the Iraqi army from entering Saudi Arabia. In November, The United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 678 stipulating that Saddam Hussein remove troops from Kuwait by January 15, 1991 or a U.S.-led coalition would drive them out.

When Iraq did not comply, Operation Desert Storm began on January 16, 1991 with air strikes agains Iraq. Six weeks later Kuwait City was liberated and on February 28th, a cease fire took affect. Simple facts, but the events of 16 years ago continue to affect the world today.


National Security Archives - Operation Desert Storm: Ten Years Later

August 30, 2007

1990 - Americans with Disabilities Act

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, and sex. On July 26th, discrimination based on disability was added to the prohibited list. The Americans with Disabilities Act covered discrimination in

* employment,
* public services and public transportation,
* public accommodations, and
* telecommunications.


Extensive information about the law is available through the U.S. Department of Justice site,

August 29, 2007

1989 - Neptune

While on planet Earth Communism in Eastern Europe was collapsing (the fall of the Berlin Wall and Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution), NASA was looking towards the heavens. Voyager II, an unmanned interplanatary spacecraft, was launched in 1977. By 1989 it had reached the planet of Neptune where it photgraphed the planet up close. These photos are most comlete set of images to date of the planet.


NASA - Solar System Exploration - Neptune

August 28, 2007

1988 - Hustler Magazine v. Falwell

The 1980's saw the growth of a new form of religious movement, televangelism. One of the key members of this front was Jerry Falwell, founder of the the Moral Majority, a political Christian lobbyist group. In 1983 Hustler Magazine featured a parady of a recent ad campaign entitled "Jerry Falwell talks about his first time." Falwell sued Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, and the magazine itself for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Lower courts awarded Falweel $150,000 for the last count but dismissed the first two. Larry Flynt appealed the case up to the United States Supreme Court and on February 24, 1988, the court overturned the lower courts decision. The main question of the case, does the 1st amendment's freedom of speech extend to making offensive statements about public figures? Because the parady did not contain a false statement made with "actual malice," nor was it written in such a way that construed actual fact, it fell under freedom of speech and damages could not be awarded to Falwell. The case has set the standard for statements about public figures ever since.

Hustler Magazine v. Falwell - 485 U.S. 46 (1988)


August 27, 2007

1987 - Iran Contra Affair

Little is known about the events surrounding the Iran Contra Affair are unknown (the documents were destroyed by insiders), but general concensus is members of the Reagan administration shold weapons to Iran and used the profits to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The program was coordinated by Oliver North of the National Security Council and circumvented both Administration policy and the Boland Amendment which limited US assistance to rebel contras to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.

The President formed the Tower Commission (see excerpts) to look into the issue and they released their report on February 26, 1987. It criticized several members of the Reagan administration but could not determine the level of President Reagan's knowledge of the affair. It did criticize Reagan's apparent lack of knowledge regarding his staff's actions. Several Congressional hearings have looked into the Iran Contra Affair and can be found in the Government Publications Library.


Other Information:

National Security Archives - Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On

August 26, 2007

1986 - Space Shuttle Challenger

On January 28, 1986 Americans across the U.S. watched the launch of Space Shuttle Challenger from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A high percentage of those watching were school children for one member of the shuttle crew was a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, the first Teacher in Space Program participant. Just over a minute into the flight, Challenger exploded, killing all seven crew members. Several investigations concluded the cause was eventually found to be an O-ring in the solid rocket booster.


NASA's Challenger STS 51-L Accident

Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (Rogers Commission)

Selected Congressional Hearings and Reports from the Challenger Space Shuttle Accident: Main Page

August 25, 2007

1985 - Obscenity in rock music

Take one record, in this case Prince's Purple Rain, and throw in a Senator's wife, a couple rock musicians, and a Senate hearing. What do you get......record labeling. Tipper Gore, wife of then Senator Al Gore, purchased the Prince album for her daughter only to be outraged by some of the lyrics on it. Together with several Washington DC friends, she formed the Parents Music Resource Center to advocate for labels on music warning the consumer of the violent and sexual content of lyrics. The group made their way to Capitol Hill when on September 19, 1985, Gore testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Frank Zappa, Dee Snyder (of Twisted Sister) and John Denver represented the musicians side. Shortly after the hearing, the Recording Industry Association of America voluntarily began putting warning labels on music.


For more information, see Record labeling: hearing on contents of music and the lyrics of records (Gov Pubs fiche Y 4.C 73/7:S.hrg. 99-529).

August 24, 2007

1984 - Reagan re-elected!

He had 58.8 % of the popular vote and by the end of the night Ronald Reagan carried 49 states with a record 525 electoral votes out of 538. One other president, Richard Nixon in 1972, carried as many state in a presidential election. The economic upswing and changing conservative nature of the country helped keep Reagan in the White House for another four years.

The holdout state.....Minnesota, home of the Democractic candidate, Walter Mondale.


August 23, 2007

1983 - The Evil Empire

"So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride -- the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil."

Presidents throughout history have been known for coining a phrase that defines their legacy. With Dwight Eisenhower, it was the "military-industrial complex"; Richard Nixon, "I am not a crook." For President Ronald Reagan, it was in his remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983 where he described the Soviet Union as the "evil empire." Reagan's terminology brought the complicated issues of the Cold War and nuclear weapons to the easily understood level of good (U.S.) vs. evil (U.S.S.R.).


August 22, 2007

1982 - Vietnam Veterans Memorial



In 1979, Jan Scruggs, a Vietnam veteran, began the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), an organization that wanted on the National Mall a monument dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives or were missing in action during the Vietnam War. The national design competition brought in 1,421 entries based on four criteria: the design must be reflective, harmonious with the site, inscribed with the names of the dead and missing in action, and make no political statement. Maya Ying Lin, an architecture student from Yale University, was chosen.

Three years after Scruggs began his mission, on November 13, 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated. Listed on its black granite walls are 58,249 names.

August 21, 2007

1981 - First report on AIDS

The June 5, 1981 issue of Morbiity and Mortality Weekly Report published a report entitled 5 cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) - Los Angeles. The report prompted the Centers for Disease Control to instigate reporting from New York City, San Francisco and other cities, and in June 1981 to form an investigative team to look into risk factors and to define this disease for national surveillance. What started as five identified cases in Los Angeles has grown to an estimated 38.6 million cases worldwide in 2005, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

Additional reports and articles detailing the early years of the AIDS epidemic can be found at In their own words...NIH Researchers recall the early Years of AIDS and 25 Notable HIV and AIDS Reports Published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).


August 20, 2007

1980 - Mount St. Helens Eruption

May 18, 1980 started out peaceful for most of the country. But in eastern Washington, seismic activity reached the eruption point literally. Mount St. Helens, dormant since 1857, became active a couple months earlier in March. Geologists focused on the north face where a bulge could be seen growing. There had been small eruptions leading up to May 18th, but nothing measured the same level as the eruption on that Sunday. At 8:32 am (Pacific time), Mount St. Helens erupted blowing down or burying 230 square miles of forest and shooting ash thousands of feet into the air. Fifty-seven people were killed and the ecosystem on the mountain destroyed.

In the nearly 30 years since the eruption, the USGS has studied the eruption and many of its reports are available online. In 1982, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created as an education, research, and recreation center.


August 19, 2007

1979 - Crisis of Confidence

"Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny." President Jimmy Carter spoke these words July 15, 1979 in response to high gas prices and long lines waiting for gasoline. It was not a new problem, but many Americans had reached their personal limits in dealing with it. Carter's speech, coined the "Crisis of Confidence," outlined the steps he saw as the cause for the current energy crisis, steps that would affect energy issues for the future. Most Americans did not agree and Jimmy Carter lost to presidency to Ronald Reagan the next year.


August 18, 2007

1978 - Camp David Accords

In early September 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel to meet at Camp David, Maryland, to discuss peace between the two countries. The outcome of this historic meeting were two documents. The Framework for Peace in the Middle East established an autonomous sel-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and oulined principles of negotiation between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel presented plans for Israeli withdrawl from Sinai and and input into the number of military forces Egypt could place in the area. These two documents have helped form Middle Eastern policy ever since.

More information is available at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum.


August 17, 2007

1977 - Project MKULTRA

Jump back to 1974 when a New York Times article alerted Americans to secret CIS programs funded during the 1950's and 60's. One such program was Project MKULTRA where research involved "covert drug tests on unwitting citizens at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreigns. Several of these test involved the administration of LSD to unwitting subjects in social situtions." Details of the program were outlined in Senate hearings in 1977 when additional materials about MKULTRA came to light. Most documents had been destroyed in 1973 but new information pointed to the disturbing fact that "the extent of experimentation on human subjects was unknown" but nearly 90 universities and research institutions across the country had been involved.

Check out the Project MKULTRA, the CIA's Program of Research in Behavioral Modification Senate Hearing from August 3, 1977 (Wilson Gov Pub Y 4.In 8/19:M 69) for more information.

March 8, 2007

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS)

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) is the official record of the United States' foreign policy. The Department of State has published FRUS since 1861. FRUS can be found in the libraries for 1870-1931 and 1932-present. You can find online versions for 1861-1960 at University of Wisconsin Digital Collections and for 1952-present at the Department of State.