They’ll Let Women Drive !

A woman behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia in 2013. . CreditFaisal Al Nasser/Reuters

By Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy Associated Press Chicago Tribune 9.27.17

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia —

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced that women will be allowed to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom next summer, fulfilling a key demand of women’s rights activists who faced detention for defying the ban.
The kingdom was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban.
The move, which has been welcomed by the United States, represents a significant opening for women in Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights have slowly gained ground over the years. Saudi women remain largely under the whim of male relatives due to guardianship laws.
King Salman and his young son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have tested the waters though, allowing women into the country’s main stadium in the capital, Riyadh, for national day celebrations this month. The stadium had previously been reserved for all-male crowds to watch sporting events. The king and his son have also opened the country to more entertainment and fun.
Women’s rights activists since the 1990s have been pushing for the right to drive, saying it represents their larger struggle for equal rights under the law.
Some ultraconservative clerics in Saudi Arabia, who wield power and influence in the judiciary and education sectors, had warned against allowing women to drive. They argued it would corrupt society and lead to sin.
Women will not be allowed to obtain licenses immediately. A committee will be formed to look into how to implement the order, which is scheduled to begin in June 2018.

Building Walls


About 100,000 years ago, the glacier dropped an enormous number of stones  it had been grinding and carrying a very long time on New England. Most stones were buried but rose to the surface with thawing and freezing.  After white settlers cut down all the trees for farming, there was more freezing and thawing,  pushing more stones up to litter the farm fields.  They had to be removed and were used  for building fences/walls, marking off property, enclosing pastures and barnyards, and for building houses.  The walls had to be rebuilt, mended, from time to time.  RJN

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Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Robert Frost


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Bring Back Bulls?

Spanish Court Overturns Catalonia’s Ban on Bullfighting  source                                                                                  Julia Zorthian @jzorth Oct. 20, 2016

The Constitutional Court of Spain overturned Catalonia’s 2010 ban on bullfightingi in a ruling on Thursday.

(  Catalonia, in the northeast of Spain, including the seaside city of Barcelona, is one of 17 autonomous communities in Spain and is officially designated a natiionality.  It has its own language and other cultural distinctions. In 2014, 81% of votes cast in a referendum, were YES for separatiion from Spain, but only 41% of eligible voters took part,  Several years ago, a festival of Catalan literature was being planned, and there was an argument as to whether just any writers in the Catalan language could participate or only those who were Catalonian citizens,

Readers may want to see our  May 14, 2014,   blog post “Our Bullfight” about the one Alice and I suffered with six bulls in Spain.  Enter “bullfighting” in the search box, upper righthand corner of page.

RJN  )

The decision angered Catalonian separatists and animal activists


spain overturn catalonia bullfighting ban

Bullfighter Jose Tomas performs during the last bullfight at the La Monumental on September 25, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain, following the vote by the Catalan regional Parliament to ban bullfighting.   David Ramos—Getty Images

The court ruled that the ban Catalonia’s parliament enacted six years ago violated a national ruling that bullfighting is an integral part of Spain’s heritage and identity. The decision angered Catalonian separatists and animal activists, as both groups supported the region’s ban on the practice, the AP reports.

The ruling stated that Catalonia could regulate bullfighting, but would not be able to ban it outright due to the region’s responsibility to preserve “common cultural heritage.”

“The constitutional court can decide what they want, but we have already decided that there will be no bullfights in Catalonia,” Catalan Minister for Public Works Josep Rull said in a statement. “We want a country where it is not possible to make a public spectacle of death and suffering to an animal.

Within the region, some see this as a way for Spain to undermine Catalonia’s authority. Catalonia was the second region in Spain to ban bullfighting, following the Canary Islands in 1991, but Rull pointed out that Spain’s constitutional court did not move to overturn that ruling.


Wedding Emergency

An Act Of Kindness, From One Immigrant To Another

Ibrahim Halil Dudu is a master tailor. He’s also a Syrian refugee living in Ontario, and when the bride next door’s zipper broke, he came to the rescue.                     Lindsay Coulter/Lindsay Coulter Photography

Jo Du was being helped into her gorgeous white wedding dress this week when a tooth on the zipper broke. It was Sunday in Guelph, Ontario, and no tailor shop was open.

Jo Du didn’t want to walk down the aisle to marry Earl Lee with pins in the back of her dress. But no one in the wedding party knew how to make the repair.

An enterprising bridesmaid knocked on a neighbor’s door to ask David Hobson if he might have a pair of pliers they could borrow. Mr. Hobson took in the situation — the bridesmaid, the lacy white dress, and a request for pliers — and said, “I’ve got better than tools. I’ve got a master tailor.”

David Hobson had a family of Syrian refugees from Aleppo living in his home for a few days: a mother, father, and 3 children. A local businessman, Jim Estill, has helped 50 Syrian families enter Canada and settle in the Guelph area — people from one of the most hellish landscapes on earth, brought to live in one of the safest, tidiest, and most serene towns in Canada.

The father of the Syrian family is Ibrahim Halil Dudu. He was indeed a master tailor in Aleppo for 28 years, and as soon as he saw the dress, Ibrahim Dudu got out his sewing kit and set to work.

“He literally sewed her wedding dress back onto her,” Lindsay Coulter, the wedding photographer, told CTV News. “Everyone was so grateful. They said thank you a million times.”

As it turns out, both the Du and Lee families are immigrants to Canada, too.

“Many of the bridesmaids were from China and were bowing to say thanks,” said Lindsay Coulter, who posted photos and wrote on her Facebook page, “Every weekend I take photos of people on the happiest days of their lives, and today one man who has seen some of the worst things our world has to offer came to the rescue.”

“I was so excited and so happy,” Ibrahim Halil Dudu said through a translator. “I like to help Canadian people from my heart.”

Earl Lee called the master tailor’s masterly repair, an “incredible act of kindness” from a “complete stranger who had only stepped foot in this country days ago.”

The master tailor and his family, the wedding party and theirs: immigrants and families of immigrants, who came to Guelph from opposite ends of the world, and made new homes, and look after each other.

Eating Deer, Elk, and People Spreads Disease

A sign said DEPOSIT DEER AND ELK HEADS HERE at a government building next door to our hotel in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The heads were to be used in the study of chronic wasting disease which is related to mad cow disease and kuru.  RJN



In 1962, a local leader in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea asks Fore men to stop the sorcery that he believes is killing women and children.  Courtesy Shirley Lindenbaum

Most of the world didn’t know anyone lived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea until the 1930s, when Australian gold prospectors surveying the area realized there were about a million people there.

When researchers made their way to those villages in the 1950s, they found something disturbing. Among a tribe of about 11,000 people called the Fore, up to 200 people a year had been dying of an inexplicable illness. They called the disease kuru, which means “shivering” or “trembling.”

Once symptoms set in, it was a swift demise. First, they’d have trouble walking, a sign that they were about to lose control over their limbs. They’d also lose control over their emotions, which is why people called it the “laughing death.” Within a year, they couldn’t get up off the floor, feed themselves or control their bodily functions.

Many locals were convinced it was the result of sorcery. The disease primarily hit adult women and children younger than 8 years old. In some villages, there were almost no young women left.

“They were obsessed with trying to save themselves because they knew demographically that they were on the brink of extinction,” says Shirley Lindenbaum, a medical anthropologist with the City University of New York.

But what was causing it? That answer eluded researchers for years. Afterruling out an exhaustive list of contaminants, they thought it must be genetic. So in 1961, Lindenbaum traveled from village to village mapping family trees so researchers could settle the issue.

But Lindenbaum, who continues to write about the epidemic, knew it couldn’t be genetic, because it affected women and children in the same social groups, but not in the same genetic groups. She also knew that it had started in villages in the north around the turn of the century, and then moved south over the decades.

Lindenbaum had a hunch about what was going on, and she turned out to be right. It had to do with funerals. Specifically, it had to do with eating dead bodies at funerals.

In many villages, when a person died, they would be cooked and consumed. It was an act of love and grief.

As one medical researcher described, “If the body was buried it was eaten by worms; if it was placed on a platform it was eaten by maggots; the Fore believed it was much better that the body was eaten by people who loved the deceased than by worms and insects.”

Women removed the brain, mixed it with ferns, and cooked it in tubes of bamboo. They fire-roasted and ate everything except the gall bladder. It was primarily adult women who did so, says Lindenbaum, because their bodies were thought to be capable of housing and taming the dangerous spirit that would accompany a dead body.

“So, the women took on the role of consuming the dead body and giving it a safe place inside their own body — taming it, for a period of time, during this dangerous period of mortuary ceremonies,” says Lindenbaum.

But women would occasionally pass pieces of the feast to children. “Snacks,” says Lindenbaum. “They ate what their mothers gave them,” she says, until the boys hit a certain age and went off to live with the men. “Then, they were told not to touch that stuff.”

Finally, after urging from researchers like Lindenbaum, biologists came around to the idea that the strange disease stemmed from eating dead people. The case was closed after a group at the U.S. National Institutes of Health injected infected human brain into chimpanzees, and watched symptoms of kuru develop in the animals months later. The group, whichwon a Nobel Prize for the findings, dubbed it a “slow virus.”

But it wasn’t a virus — or a bacterium, fungus, or parasite. It was an entirely new infectious agent, one that had no genetic material, could survive being boiled, and wasn’t even alive.

As another group would find years later, it was just a twisted protein, capable of performing the microscopic equivalent of a Jedi mind trick, compelling normal proteins on the surface of nerve cells in the brain to contort just like them. The so-called “prions,” or “proteinaceous infectious particles,” would eventually misfold enough proteins to kill pockets of nerve cells in the brain, leaving the cerebellum riddled with holes, like a sponge.

The process was so odd that some compared it to Dr. Jekyll’s transformation to Mr. Hyde: “the same entity but in two manifestations — a ‘kind’, innocuous one and a ‘vicious’, lethal one.”

The epidemic likely started when one person in a Fore village developed sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a degenerative neurological disorder similar to kuru. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in a million people in the U.S. develop CJD the difference is that others rarely come into contact with infected human tissue.

Though the Fore stopped the practice of mortuary feasts more than 50 years ago, cases of kuru continued to surface over the years, because the prions could take decades to show their effects.

According to Michael Alpers, a medical researcher at Curtin University in Australia who tracked kuru cases for decades, the last person with kuru died in 2009. His team continued surveillance until 2012, when the epidemic was officially declared over. “I have followed up a few rumoured cases since then but they were not kuru,” he wrote in an email.

When Shirley Lindenbaum visited a South Fore village in 2008, one man said excitedly, “See how many children we have now?”  Courtesy Shirley Lindenbaum

But while they remain rare, transmissible prion diseases did not die out with the last kuru case, as people have found repeatedly in recent decades. People have developed variant CJD after eating the meat of cattle infected with mad cow disease. Dr. Ermias Belay, a prion diseaseresearcher with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that’s the only scenario in which there is “definitive evidence” that humans can develop a prion disease after eating the infected meat of another species.

But, he says, there are still a lot of open questions about how and why humans get prion diseases.

For one, it’s still a mystery why animals, including humans, have those proteins in the first place — the Jekylls that can be so easily turned into Hydes. One leading hypothesis, described recently in the journal Nature, is that they play an important role in the protective coating around nerves.

But here’s the bigger question, says Belay: “How many of these diseases actually jump species and affect humans?”

Kuru showed that people could get a prion disease from eating infected people. Mad cow disease showed that people can get a prion disease from eating infected cow. But what about other prion diseases in other animals? Could, say, hunters get sick from eating infected deer? That’s what researchers in North America, including Belay, are trying to find out right now.

Chronic wasting disease in North America is spreading fast,” says Belay. The disease causes infected wild deer and elk to starve to death. “In early 2000, we had about three states that reported CWD in the wild in deer and elk. Today, that number is 21.”

Belay says the disease is “a little bit concerning” because, unlike mad cow disease and kuru, where infectious prions were concentrated in the brain and nervous system tissue, in an animal with chronic wasting disease, the misfolded prions show up all over the body. They can even be found in saliva, feces and urine, which could explain how the disease is spreading so quickly among wild deer and elk.

The CDC is working with public health authorities in Wyoming and Colorado to monitor hunters for signs of prion disease.

“Unfortunately, because these diseases have long incubation periods, it’s not easy to monitor transmission,” says Belay. He says he and his colleagues have yet to find any evidence that hunters have picked up chronic wasting disease from the meat of infected wild animals.

“And that, in itself, is good news for us,” he says.

But, as with kuru, it will take years — maybe even decades — before he can know for sure.


A Most Interesting Man


NPR logo

National Public Radio All Things Considered  source

David Bald Eagle, Lakota Chief, Musician, Cowboy And Actor, Dies At 97

Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle during the opening of the Days of '76 Museum in Deadwood, S.D. Bald Eagle died on Friday at the age of 97.

Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle during the opening of the Days of ’76 Museum in Deadwood, S.D. Bald Eagle died on Friday at the age of 97.  Tom Griffith/Rapid City Journal via AP

In the U.K., the headlines note the passing of a “Dances With Wolvesactor.”

But appearing in an Oscar-award-winning film was one of the least interesting things David William Beautiful Bald Eagle ever did.

Bald Eagle died last Friday at 97. In his long, extraordinary life, he was a champion dancer — both ballroom and Lakota styles — a touring musician, a rodeo cowboy, a tribal chief, an actor, a stunt double, a war hero.

He danced with Marilyn Monroe. He drove race cars. He parachuted into enemy gunfire at Normandy. He played professional baseball. He was a leader not just of his tribe, but of the United Native Nations. He was an advocate for Native people.

And he was a bridge between the past and present — a man who, in his childhood, heard stories from survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Bald Eagle — whose full Lakota name translates to Wounded in Winter Beautiful Bald Eagle, the BBC reports — was born in 1919. At the time, he couldn’t be a U.S. citizen. He was 5 when America finally extended citizenship to indigenous people.

He lived with his grandfather White Feather as a child, the Rapid City Journal has written. His other grandfather was Chief White Bull, a relative of Sitting Bull and one of the leaders in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Both would tell young David their war stories, and exhort him to remember them.

Bald Eagle only spoke Lakota until he was 12, when he started school. He spent his teenage years learning English, playing sports — everything from pole vault to baseball — and competing in the rodeo.

He saw the West before barbed-wire fences and roads arrived, says his son, Kili Bald Eagle. “He used to tell me about how he could ride across the state and he’d never have to open a gate,” Kili says.

As a young man Bald Eagle enlisted in the horse cavalry. A few years later it was mechanized: The Army swapped his horse for a motorcycle, and made him a messenger.

He was discharged on Dec. 7, 1941. After he’d signed his papers, he heard the news about Pearl Harbor. At his commander’s request he reenlisted, joining as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.

Sgt. Bald Eagle’s first combat jump was during the invasion of Anzio, Italy. He was part of a regiment that fought so fiercely a captured German soldier called them “Devils in Baggy Pants.”

Then he parachuted into Normandy, suffering severe injuries when he was accidentally dropped directly over German troops, an easy target for gunfire.

“We were just like clay pigeons, coming down. Most of my outfit was wiped out,” he told the Rapid City Journal in 2001.


“The first medics to reach him left him for dead,” the paper wrote. “But some British commandos came along and found he still had a pulse.”

Bald Eagle survived. He started a musical career, as a drummer for Cliff Keyes’ Big Band, the BBC reports.

While he was in the Army, he’d met and fallen in love with an English dance teacher named Penny Rathburn. After he returned from the war, they were married.

As a couple, they were competitive ballroom dancerschampion ballroom dancers, in fact, dancing in St. Paul and Chicago.

Penny was pregnant with their first child when she died in a car crash. Bald Eagle was devastated.

“I became pretty much suicidal from then on,” he once said in an interview. “Why her, not me?”

So he took up dangerous pursuits.

He started race car driving, tried skydiving, returned to the rodeo circuit, took up bareback bull riding, became a stunt double in the movies.

But when chasing death, he came across success. His work as a stunt double “made his name,” according to Richard Bullock, who has written an obituary of Bald Eagle.

Shooting Westerns required “people who can actually ride horses,” as Sonny Skyhawk puts it. Skyhawk is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation who has been a film actor for nearly four decades.

So Bald Eagle, a talented rider, went on to appear in dozens of Hollywood films — which is how he met, and danced with, Marilyn Monroe.

The Westerns he was in represented Native people as less than human, Skyhawk says: “We were always being shot down or killed. With one bullet five or more Indians would fall.”

But Bald Eagle always tried to teach people about Native American history and life, whatever was happening around him, Skyhawk says.

“He excelled at being an educator, and did whatever it took, whatever his own power and talents, to bring that to the forefront,” Skyhawk says.

Dave Bald Eagle, at 95, playing the role of Dan in Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

Dave Bald Eagle, at 95, playing the role of Dan in Neither Wolf Nor Dog.  Courtesy of Steven Lewis Simpson

At one point in his life, he played semi-pro baseball in Minnesota, as a catcher. He was also a Lakota dancer — a champion in that, too.

And he toured with Casey Tibbs’ Wild West Show as a rodeo performer, under the name “Chips Warner,” because crowds didn’t like Indian names.

It was with Tibbs in Europe, at the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1958, that he met the second love of his life: Josee Kesteman, a young Belgian actress.

“When she came into my life, my life changed again,” Bald Eagle told theRapid City Journal. “She was the one who kept me alive.”

Their courtship spanned years and thousands of miles. And as described ina profile of one of the couple’s sons, it featured a movie-worthy parting line:

“Before he left Belgium … David told Josee that he had a cave in South Dakota waiting for her if she ever wanted to come live with him.

“All Josee could think about was that cave in South Dakota … she decided to leave Brussels behind in 1972.”

The cave comment was a joke, Bald Eagle later explained, but Josee seemed totally game for the plan. The two married the next year, and instead of a cave, they lived on a horse ranch on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

They raised a large family together, one that grew even larger when they adopted many children. Several of their children have served in the military, including two who served in the 82nd Airborne, like their father.

At times 20 to 30 people would be living at the ranch at a time, says Bald Eagle’s son, Kili Bald Eagle.

“We had teepees that were always set up in the back yard and we grew our own, so we had food always available,” he says. “If you came to the Bald Eagle Ranch you were going to earn your keep, but you were always welcome.”

After settling down, Bald Eagle became the chief of the Miniconjou Lakota. Then he became First Chief of the United Native Nations, an organization representing a number of tribes.

Chief Bald Eagle had extraordinary exploits and adventures, but Skyhawk says his greatest attribute was something quieter: his “silent compassion.”

“He loved children, he loved teaching, he loved educating people — he loved it all. He loved life to its extreme,” Skyhawk says. “No matter who you were, child, man, woman, he made you feel special. And that is a huge, huge mark on the telling of who you are as a human being, and he exemplified that.”

Bald Eagle continuously advocated for indigenous people and worked to preserve Lakota stories.


“I know we can’t go back there, back to where we were,” he told the Rapid City Journal in 2003. But we can tell the young ones how it was and they can remember, and they can bring it back. They can return.”

He was always adventurous.

“He rode his last bucking horse when he was 72 years old, on a dare,” Kili Bald Eagle says. “That’s my dad.”

He kept acting, too. There was that appearance in Dances with Wolves, after all. For decades, The Associated Press writes, Bald Eagle was the face of the Lakota in tourism ads for South Dakota.

And at the age of 95, he had his first lead role, after all those years as a stunt double: He starred in the independent film Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

He threw his heart into the role, director Steven Lewis Simpson said. At a key point in the plot, he improvised — speaking off the cuff about the massacre at Wounded Knee and how it affected his people.

“At that point he’s not acting — he is just literally a great Lakota elder sharing with us the historical trauma of his people,” Simpson says.

“He was an extraordinary human being,” Simpson says, pointing to Bald Eagle’s mischievous humor and his fearlessness. “His biography is filled with things that would have killed lesser men.”

He says Bald Eagle would reminisce about his days with Casey Tibbs and his time on the rodeo circuit, but that he was most proud of his family with Josee. They’d host huge family gatherings at their ranch, Simpson says.

How huge? Kili Bald Eagle estimates one Bald Eagle family reunion hosted 5,000 people. Two bands came to play.

Even in his late 90s, David Beautiful Bald Eagle was every bit the active head of the family.

“The funny thing is that normally when a 97-year-old passes you go, ‘Well, they had an incredible long life.’ You kind of think it’s the end of it,” Simpson said. “And yet in a strange way with Dave … You just didn’t feel there was an end to him.”

Skyhawk, too, says it’s hard to believe that Bald Eagle is gone — and nearly impossible to find the words to describe him.

“He was a short man in stature but he was immeasurable in what he has done for his fellow man and for his native people,” Skyhawk says.

“If I had to describe, him I’d say tatanka, which is the Lakota word for buffalo. And the male buffalo in the course of a storm, a blizzard, will stand there and face it head-on. He won’t lie down and he won’t hide behind anything. That’s what this man did: he faced everything with integrity and everything that he had in his own heart.

“And it would have taken a big heart.”

The Real Muhammad Ali


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What Happened To The Muhammad Ali I Idolized, Blackistone Asks

Growing up, sports commentator Kevin Blackistone idolized Muhammad Ali. With Ali’s death last week, he wonders why the man he sees in the obituaries is so different than the Ali he remembers.


Muhammad Ali will be laid to rest this Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. And all the remembrances since the passing of this legend have left commentator Kevin Blackistone wondering – what happened to the Ali he idolized?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: What I remember most about the 1996 Olympics, when Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta, wasn’t Parkinson’s shaking him as he stood on what appeared a precarious perch with a flaming torch in one hand.


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Instead, it was Bob Costas later telling the millions watching on NBC that Ali would receive a gold medal to replace the one from the 1960 Rome Games that he lost. Lost, not that he chucked into the Ohio River, as he recounted many times, after being slighted because of his skin color, no matter the pride he’d won for his country.

It wasn’t Costas’ intent, of course. But it did accelerate the disfiguration of the Ali narrative. It began when Parkinson’s increasingly muted his righteous audacity 20-plus years ago. It is all but being cemented in the days since his death last Friday. Everybody loves the post-black power, post-anti-war movement, not-so-militant Ali who was being highlighted.

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But this is what happens to transcendent, radical, black figures. Image-makers, accidentally or intentionally, reconstruct their radicalism into something more digestible.Nelson Mandela becomes an avuncular figure rather than the mastermind of Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the African National Congress. Jackie Robinson is no longer the strident race man who was court-martialed for refusing to surrender a bus seat in the Jim Crow South. And as Harriet Tubman moves onto our $20 bill, it will be for the Underground Railroad, not for leading armed freedom fighters on attacks against Confederate slave states.

The remembrances of Ali in the immediate wake of his death remind me that he must be reclaimed for what made him – for being defrocked of his first world heavyweight championship because he dared exercise his religious freedom, reject his given name Cassius Clay as a slave name and openly taking counsel from Malcolm X; for becoming a target of Hoover’s FBI; for mustering the boldness April 29, 1967, to refuse conscription into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and saunter from the Houston induction center despite threat of imprisonment; for suffering reams of defilement from media like the Los Angeles Times, which refused to call him by his name and denounced him as a black Benedict Arnold.

And still, Ali stood.

Most observers since Friday noted Ali as a singular personality, unique in our history. But he was part of a lineage of militant, black athletes. These include athlete-turned-activists Paul Robeson and Jack Johnson, the first black man allowed to fight for and win the heavyweight championship. Both wound up exiled for their boldness in challenging majority American, that is to say white, societal norms. And like Ali, most importantly, they came to inspire and energize radical activism, particularly among people of color, here and abroad. This is their story. It shouldn’t be so hard to tell.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Kevin Blackistone is a columnist for The Washington Post and teaches journalism at the University of Maryland.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.orgfor further information.










Indian Nations of Oklahoma

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Oklahoma: Reclaiming Native America?

Listen to Radio show (52 min.)    BBC News Hour Extra                           Experts discuss relations among  Indian nations, the U.S., and the state and the  conditions of life for the people.


How did the Indians get there?  They walked!

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of Native American nations in theUnited States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The relocated people suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route, and more than ten thousand died before reaching their various destinations. The removal included members of theCherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Native Territory.  Wikipedia

See a map of tribal lands in Oklahoma.

Someone might wonder about my using the term Indian instead Native American. For one thing, Indian is easier to say or type.  Further, I have heard Indians on the radio refer to themselves that way in serious conversations.  Also, on the radio show noted above, one Indian, a university professor,  listed acceptable terms, including Indian.  An intolerable term she said is redskin, which refers to a time when there was a bounty for killing Indians.  Killers seeking to be paid would present a red skin.

By the way, Joanne and I lived in Oklahoma in 1958-9 while I was in the army serving at Fort Sill in western Oklahoma.  Once we attended an exhibition of Indian dance in which Joanne noticed a delightful boy about 9 years old.  She wanted to take him home.

Susan was born in the Commanche County Hospital.  It was interesting to see one white baby in the nursery among the Indians.  They all had black hair 3 or 4 inches long.

I remember that rural gas stations had 3 outhouses in back labeled WHITE, COLORED, and INDIAN.

In the city of Lawton, the black people, army or civilian, lived on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Fort Sill was racially integrated–President Truman had fixed that by executive order in 1948, integrating all the armed forces.




Why Do Brits Drive on the Left ?

Why Do the Brits Drive on the Left?

 Note:  A man we worked with was killed trying to cross a street in London.  He looked to the left before stepping into the street, never saw the bus coming on his right.  rjn


 Let’s be honest, this question is only phrased this way to appease the two-thirds of the drivers of the world that now drive on the right-hand side of the road. The real question, the question that deserves to be asked, is this: why did everyone else stop driving on the left?

Taking the left hand side in traffic is a habit that goes back hundreds of years, possibly as far as the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans, but certainly to an era when people habitually carried swords when traveling. As around 85-90% of humans are right-handed, passing on the right-hand side would leave carriage and cart drivers more open to attack from people coming the other way. Knights with lances, squires with knives, peasants with pitchforks, everyone had to be ready for a dust-up at a moment’s notice, and that meant keeping to the left so you could get a good swing at your assailants. Granted, this did mean they were more vulnerable to be attacked from the pavement, but no system is entirely foolproof.


Note: It’s said that horses are trained to be handled and mounted on the near-side (left) because in olden times riders would have swords on their left hips with right hip and leg free to swing over in mounting.  rjn


In 1773, the British Government introduced the General Highways Act, which encouraged horse riders, coachmen and people taking their vegetables to market (while carrying swords) to drive on the left, and that was that. The Highway Act of 1835 later reinforced this, making it the law of the land.

However, things were slightly different elsewhere. Russian authorities, for example, had already noticed that their people tended to favor the right (maybe swords are less of a worry if you have to wear heavy coats all the time), so their first edicts on the topic were that they continue to do so. The pre-revolutionary French were on the left, but having revolted, they moved over as part of a general reordering of all society, and when Napoleon took over the army and began invading nations, he ordered them to stay on the right hand side too. Popular myth suggests this was also because he was left-handed, but there were other advantages; it would prove unsettling for his enemies, it would show him to be a great military tactician, and it would irk the British. Perfect!

Everyone else kept left, but with increasing traffic on the roads in mainland Europe, this began to cause confusion, and slowly, over the course of the next hundred years or so, the European nations began to move over too.

Also, this divergent approach occurred at a time when the British and the French were very busy colonizing the world. Every country occupied by the Brits—like Australia, New Zealand, India and the West Indies—kept to the left, and the ones occupied by France moved over to the right. The Americas were split, with the new arrivals from Britain, Holland, Spain and Portugal keeping to the left, and the French colonies insisting on the right.

look rightFrom Alice in Sidney, Australia:  “Still having trouble crossing streets. In tourist areas there are signs- see picture . . . On the sidewalks most people walk on the left. I have to keep moving over.”

However, two vehicles were about to force this situation to change. In the late 1700s freight wagons (including the great Conestoga wagons) became more and more popular, particularly in America. These were pulled by a chain of horses, arranged in pairs. The best place to sit in order to control these mighty beasts was on the back of the left-hand horse at the back, so you could whip the others with your right hand. With the postilion driver in position, the best way for one wagon to pass another without accidentally banging wheels was the right hand side of the road. And where the wagons went, everyone else followed. So driving on the right became more common.

And then the motor car arrived. While original designs for cars put the driver in the front and center of the vehicle, it wasn’t long before the advantages of having the driver able to see down the middle of the road became clear. And in those countries where car manufacturing became an essential industry for export (America, this means you), right-hand-drive vehicles with the steering column on the left quickly became a worldwide norm, forcing relative latecomers like Sweden to give in and move over too.

Although it’s interesting to note that this arrangement does favor the left-handed driver somewhat, as their dominant hand is the one that never leaves the steering wheel. A right-handed driver in a British car spends a good deal of their time steering with his or her right hand while fiddling with the gear stick with their left, which seems the safest way.

This may account for the relative popularity of stick-shift gearboxes in British cars to this day.

Oh and one last thing. In Japan, they historically drove on the left—partly by choice, partly because British engineers built their railway network to be left-hand drive—until 1945, when U.S. rule forced the Okinawa Prefecture to switch to the right. They returned to the left in 1978.