DNA Link Colonial-era family

DNA links 1991 killing to Colonial-era family – CNN.com

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — DNA may help Seattle-area sheriff’s deputies find a suspect in a 20-year-old killing after a comparison with genealogy records connected a crime-scene sample to a 17th-century Massachusetts family.

The DNA sample was taken in the death of 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough, who was killed on her high school campus in Federal Way, Washington, in December 1991. The King County Sheriff’s Office has circulated two composite sketches of a possible suspect — a man in his 20s at the time with shoulder-length blonde or light brown hair — but had been unable to put a name to the sketch.

In December, though, the department sent the DNA profile to California-based forensic consultant Colleen Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick compared the profile to others in genealogy databases and found the closest match was to the family of Robert Fuller, who settled in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630 and had relatives who came over before him on the Mayflower.

While the descendents of Robert Fuller are likely to number in the thousands after nearly 400 years, geography and physical characteristics can help detectives narrow their search, Fitzpatrick said. In fact, Fitzpatrick said, since the DNA trace follows male descendants, there was “a high degree of probability” that the man police are looking is named Fuller.

“The most important thing is having a last name,” Fitzpatrick told CNN. “People get excited about having a Mayflower connection, but the most important thing is having a probable last name for this guy.”


King County investigators disclosed the test results Monday.

Fitzpatrick said the DNA she used came from one of several major collections of genetic profiles, a practice she said was “really hot these days for genealogy.” She said the people who donated DNA profiles to the database had either done their genealogy or had their DNA tested to trace their connections.

“It allows you to connect with relatives you can’t trace through traditional documentation,” she said.

CNN’s Matt Smith contributed to this report.

Preserving the Moon

January 9, 2012

To Preserve History on the Moon, Visitors Are

Asked to Tread Lightly

moon walk


California’s catalog of historic artifacts includes two pairs of boots, an American flag, empty food bags, a pair of tongs and more than a hundred other items left behind at a place called Tranquillity Base.

The history registry for New Mexico lists the same items.

That might be surprising, since Tranquillity Base is not in New Mexico or California but a quarter of a million miles away, in the spot where Neil A. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon in 1969.

But for archaeologists and historians worried that the next generation of people visiting the moon might carelessly obliterate the site of one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments, these designations were important first steps toward raising awareness of the need to protect off-world artifacts.

“I think it’s humanity’s heritage,” said Beth L. O’Leary, a professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University. “It’s just an incredible realm that archaeologists haven’t begun to look at until now.”

Dr. O’Leary herself had not given much thought to historic preservation on the Moon until a student asked her in 1999 whether federal preservation laws applied to the Apollo landing sites.

“That started the ball rolling,” she said.

It turned out to be a tricky question. Under international law, the United States government still owns everything it left on the moon: the bottom half of the first lunar lander, the scientific experiments, the urine bags. But 100 nations, including the United States, have signed the Outer Space Treaty, in which they agree not to claim sovereignty over any part of the moon.

For most of the last decade, the effort by Dr. O’Leary and her students to seek formal protection for the Apollo sites was a lonely pursuit. NASA, by its nature, looks more to its future than its past. “There’s a tendency of NASA, when their programs end, they tend to get rid of everything,” said Milford Wayne Donaldson, the historic preservation officer for California.

Federal officials were also wary that other countries would see granting historic protection to the Apollo sites as a ruse by the United States to put down territorial claims. And with no plans to go back to the moon, it all seemed like an academic exercise.

But interest in the moon has perked up again. Russia and India plan to send robotic landers. NASA was going to send astronauts back there until the Obama administration changed course a couple of years ago.

Most crucially, the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition among 26 teams to become the first private organization to put a spacecraft on the moon, offered a $1 million bonus for visiting a historic site there. At least one team announced it was heading for Tranquillity Base.

Suddenly, the prospect of a new little rover’s rolling over Neil Armstrong’s footprints was not entirely farfetched.

So Dr. O’Leary started placing calls to historic preservation officials in states where the space industry looms large. Texas, she learned, couldn’t help her, because to be listed as a historic resource there, an item must lie in Texas.

In early 2009, she called Mr. Donaldson in Sacramento to recruit his help in protecting American relics on the moon, “which I thought was an incredible, great idea right off the bat,” he said. Dr. O’Leary and her students had already tried to get the National Park Service to list the base as a national historic landmark, but “they had been turned down flatly,” Mr. Donaldson said.

When he checked California’s laws, he found that artifacts just had to have an association with the state to be listed. The Apollo program qualified, and the Historical Resources Commission approved the listing in January 2010. New Mexico followed three months later.

NASA became interested, too. Robert Kelso, manager of lunar commercial services at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said he had talked with top officials at the agency: “We said if they’re serious about going, we ought to get some of our best and brightest together and begin looking at this.”

NASA held a workshop a year ago about the preservation issue. Then Mr. Kelso led a team that cataloged what was left on the moon after the six Apollo landings, and it recommended how to balance historic preservation with the likely desire in the future to investigate how well the materials have lasted.

The recommendations, issued in the fall, place greater protections on items from the first moon mission, Apollo 11, and the last one, Apollo 17. For Apollo 11, the recommendations ask that any visitor, robotic or human, stay at least 75 meters from the lander.

“In that case, it would protect every footprint from Neil and Buzz and all the flight hardware,” Mr. Kelso said.

For Apollo 17, the protection bubble is even wider — 225 meters — because a lunar buggy let the last two men on the moon, Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt, cover much more ground.

“We didn’t protect every rover track and footprint,” Mr. Kelso said, “but we protected a lot of them.”

The recommendation for the other landing sites is that visitors can get close but not touch anything.

Mr. Kelso’s team also suggested guidelines for the paths of spacecraft overhead, to limit the chance that rocket exhaust will blow around lunar dust and damage the footprints.

Mr. Kelso said NASA’s recommendations, like the listings by California and New Mexico, have no legal force. “We are hoping that whether it’s an international team or a commercial team, they would honor and recognize the value of these sites and honor these recommendations,” he said.

That may be enough.

“It’s a sea change for NASA to come out with recommendations,” Dr. O’Leary said. “I think that the guidance you provide certainly strengthens the moral sanctions against obliterating some part of the archaeological record.”

The Lunar X Prize team that declared that it was going to Tranquillity Base, run by a company called Astrobotic Technology, now says it will stay away from the Apollo 11 and 17 sites.

Mr. Donaldson would like to add Tranquillity Base to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites. But first he will have to get the rules changed. Currently, nations can nominate only sites that are “on their territory.”


High School Students Curate Exhibit on History and Culture of Brooklyn



High School Students Curate Exhibit on History and Culture of Brooklyn
May 18, 2011: Brooklyn, NY – Fourteen local teens curated the exhibition Inventing BrooklynPeople, Places and Progress at the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS). Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress traces the evolution of Brooklyn into the place we know today. From Native American roots and Dutch colonial influences to icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Dodgers, Inventing Brooklynexamines how various people, places, and historical events have shaped the development of the borough. Drawing on archival documents, photographs, prints, artifacts, and oral histories from the Brooklyn Historical Society collection, Inventing Brooklyn takes on 400 years of Brooklyn’s history. The exhibit includes items relating to the Battle of Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s first newspapers, and Brooklyn’s diverse immigrant populations in order to capture the complexity and dynamism of the process of Inventing Brooklyn.
Inventing Brooklyn is curated by high school students from Brooklyn Technical High School, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, The Packer Collegiate Institute and Saint Ann’s School as part of the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Exhibition Laboratory (Ex Lab) after-school museum studies program. Ex Labintroduces high school students to the art of exhibition development: conducting research, selecting artifacts, writing text and working with scholars and curators to understand how to communicate ideas through an exhibition. Check out Brooklyn Tech junior Neil Alacha’s blog post about Inventing Brooklyn.
Students in the program were excited about using BHS’s collection to piece together the exhibition. “Working on the Inventing Brooklyn exhibit has allowed me to form an even deeper connection with this incredible borough. In reading through letters from Brooklyn soldiers during the Civil War and perusing newspaper articles from the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride to be a part of the iconic legacy that is Brooklyn,” says Neil Alacha, Junior at Brooklyn Technical High School.
WHO: Student curators from Brooklyn Technical High School, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, The Packer Collegiate Institute and Saint Ann’s School.
WHEN: See the exhibit and meet the student curators of Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places and Progress at the exhibit opening June 2, 2011 with a reception from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. The exhibition opening is free and open to the public.
WHERE: Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St. (at Clinton St.) Brooklyn.
HIGHLIGHTS: The exhibit will include cannonballs from the Battle of Brooklyn, original copies of the Long Island Star from 1827, Civil War soldiers’ letters, and posters from Brooklyn movies such as It Happened in Brooklyn and Moonstruck.
Exhibition Laboratory is made possible through the generous funding of Martha A. & Robert S. Rubin, Con Edison, and an anonymous funder. Additional funding is provided by Astoria Federal Savings Bank, The Ferriday Fund, and The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation. Special thanks to Brooklyn Technical High School, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, The Packer Collegiate Institute and Saint Ann’s School

The Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
Plans for a bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin County were more than a decade in the making when, on this day in 1933, construction finally began. For about a century before the bridge’s construction, ferries were the primary means of travel across the bay. Though the idea of a bridge was circulating as early as 1872, it wasn’t until the 1920s that people thought the idea was feasible, in terms of both bridge technology and costs. The final suspension design was the result of a collaboration among Joseph Strauss, Irving Morrow, Charles Alton Ellis, and Leon Moisseiff. The bridge opened with much fanfare in 1937; its 75th anniversary will be marked this May. Above, the early stages of the bridge’s construction, taken in 1934.


Titanic artifacts set to go up for auction


The crows nest bell from the Titanic on exhibit in London in 2010. The owner of more than 5,000 artifacts from the ship plans to auction them off as a group in April.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The owner of more than 5,000 artifacts recovered from the Titanic intends to auction them off in April on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the famous ship.

But don’t expect to be able to bid on any one item from the ship. The artifacts will only be sold as a single lot, according to a filing by Premier Exhibitions (PRXI), an Atlanta-based company that now exhibits the artifacts at various locations around the world.

Premier Exhibitions, the owner of the artifacts which disclosed the sale plans in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, was not available for comment Thursday. Its New York auction house, Guernsey’s, did not have a comment.

The filing from Premier said that the collection had an appraised value in 2007 of $189 million. It said it has added to its collection since that time.


The Man Who Invented Christmas

Written by Chip Wood
Saturday, 24 December 2011


During this season of massive over-commercialization, you may find it hard to believe there was a time when Christmas was no big deal. There were no stores full of toys, no songs playing 24 hours a day, and no Christmas trees with so many presents under them that they fill most of the room.

In fact, there were no Christmas trees at all. For most of the 2,000 years since the birth of Christ, Christmas was not a special holiday. If it was commemorated at all, it was with a candlelight service at the local church or cathedral and a special dinner at home. And that was pretty much it until the middle of the 19th century, when one man’s novella helped to transform the celebration.

He has been called “the man who invented Christmas.” His name is Charles Dickens. He is the author of a simple story he called A Christmas Carol.

Although Dickens is rightly regarded as one of the greatest writers in the history of the English language — he is the author of 20 novels, none of which has ever been out of print — there was a time when his popularity was at an all-time low.

The year was 1843. Dickens’ books and columns weren’t selling very well, his bank account was overdrawn and he was facing the possibility of declaring bankruptcy.

Frantic, he sat down a few weeks before Christmas and wrote a novella that he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. But his publishers flatly rejected his offering. No one would pay to have it printed and distributed.

So Dickens took an amazing gamble: He printed it himself. It was an exercise in vanity publishing long before the world knew that term. The author told friends of the risk he was taking and said it might mark the end of his career as a writer.

He should have had more confidence in the story he told. The book was an instant sensation, selling out the first printing of several thousand copies in just four days. A second printing was rushed through and sold out before the new year began. In no time at all, Dickens was forced to order a third and then fourth and fifth printing.

Then, someone adapted the story for the stage and A Christmas Carol became one of the most popular theater productions of all time. I dare say you can’t find a city of any size in the English-speaking world where there isn’t at least one production of Dickens’ immortal play being performed this holiday season. And Hollywood has produced dozens of versions, including more than a few knock-offs, copycats, parodies and pastiches. If Dickens were still collecting royalties today, he would be one of the wealthiest billionaires on Earth.

By the way, A Christmas Carol was not only an incredible commercial success, it was also a critical hit, too. William Makepeace Thackeray, at the time Dickens’ most severe critic, acknowledged the incredible power of the story:

The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, “God bless him!” What a feeling this is for a writer to be able to inspire … and what a reward to reap!

Today, we are all familiar with the story of the tight-fisted miser who said of Christmas, “Bah! Humbug!” Yet after visits by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Scrooge was transformed. As Tiny Tim says at the end, “God bless us all, every one.”

But A Christmas Carol did more than restore Dickens’ reputation and bank account. It also transformed what had been, up until then, a relatively minor holiday.

As historian Les Standiford has noted, in the early 19th century in England, the Christmas holiday “was a relatively minor affair that ranked far below Easter, causing little more stir than Memorial Day or St. George’s Day today. In the eyes of the relatively enlightened Anglican Church, moreover, the entire enterprise smacked vaguely of paganism and, were there Puritans still around, acknowledging the holiday might have landed one in the stocks.”

Dickens’ biographer Peter Ackroyd and others have credited the novelist with single-handedly creating the modern Christmas holiday. Oh, not the contemporary orgy of shopping, spending and ostentatious display. In A Christmas Carol there are no gaudy decorations, no Christmas trees and, except for “the big prize turkey” at the end, no presents at all.

The only “gifts” exchanged are love, friendship and goodwill. Yet in this one small book, Dickens inspired his contemporaries, transformed a holiday and created an immortal message for us all. The lesson of A Christmas Carol is one of kindness, consideration and charity. Let us hope it lasts another 150 years — or even longer.

I am indebted to my good friend Alex Green for the inspiration for today’s column. I have not only used many of the thoughts and ideas he expressed in his own column, I have shamelessly (but with his permission) borrowed his headline.

His column is called “Spiritual Wealth.” Sadly, you cannot subscribe to it. It is available only to members of the Oxford Club, where he serves as investment director.

However, some of his most powerful columns have been published in a book you can get. It is called Beyond Wealth: The Road Map to a Rich Life, and it is available wherever books are sold. In fact, it is currently on sale at Amazon.com. I encourage you to order at least one copy now (new or used, printed or electronic) for yourself and many more next year, when it will make a wonderful Christmas present.

Please accept my very best wishes for a most joyous Christmas, surrounded by friends and family and filled with the true meaning of Christ’s Mass.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

Chip Wood was the first news editor of The Review of the News and also wrote for American Opinion, our two predecessor publications. He is now the geopolitical editor of Personal Liberty Digest, where his Straight Talk column appears weekly. This article first appeared in PersonalLiberty.com and has been reprinted with permission.