Saturday, March 29, 2014

12 Top Secret Sites From Around The World

Just the words Top Secret conjure up images of intrigue, conspiracies, and clandestine operations.  These off-limits sites exist all over the world with the various governments keeping activities hidden from public knowledge…safely ensconced behind those closed doors and security fences.  It's a given that most of the secrets probably have to do with research for new weapons and defense systems.

A while back, I came across an article listing 12 top secret locations, certainly not the total number of these sites…not even close…but an interesting list.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex
This bunker near Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a relic from the days of the Cold War.  Located literally inside Cheyenne Mountain, it was originally designed as a combat operations center with its own water, electricity supply, air filtration system and built to withstand a nuclear blast [a 1960s size nuclear blast].  This facility has been given new vitality as a result of nine-eleven.  It currently participates guarding against ballistic attack, supports space operations, and assists in keeping American and Canadian airspace safe.  The U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Missile Defense Agency all maintain a presence at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex…and that's a lot of organizations devoted to secrecy.  But the secrecy of the location?  Well…there is a picture of it on NORAD's website and I recall seeing a kind of mini-tour several years ago on a television documentary.  But, with that many secrecy organizations involved, there's probably a lot more going on there than meets the eye.
Area 51
Undoubtedly the most famous…or infamous…secret facility in the world.  Even though its location in the Nevada desert was known and a topic of much speculation, the government refused to even acknowledge its existence until 1995.  And anything that  secret is ripe for all kinds of conspiracy theories, some going back to Roswell, New Mexico, 1947, and the alleged alien spacecraft crash with the alien bodies supposedly taken to Area 51.  With many of the stealth technology aircraft tested there in secret, it must have looked like strange alien craft flying overhead.  And now you can see Area 51 via Google Earth.  Sort of takes away some of that mystique and secrecy.

Site R
It's official name is Raven Rock Mountain Complex and it's an underground relocation facility for the Department of Defense, sometimes referred to as the underground Pentagon.  It's located in Pennsylvania about 6 miles from the Camp David presidential retreat.  There's speculation that a tunnel connects Camp David and Site R.  Like Cheyenne Mountain, this was a cold war era bunker given new purpose and life following nine-eleven.

The Capitol Visitor Center
Located on the east side of the Capitol, as the name implies its purpose is to welcome visitors to Washington, D.C.  But there is a theory that within or beneath the 580,000 square-foot building is a top-secret area for Congress to use in emergencies.  Giving credence to this theory are 4 bomb-proof skylights, a tunnel system large enough for vehicles to move around and a sophisticated IT infrastructure with thousands of feet of fiber-optic cable.

National Security Agency/Stellar Wind
According to Wired Magazine, the NSA is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah.  This is where the NSA will intercept and inspect billions of calls, email, Google searches, travel itineraries, book purchases, and other miscellaneous digital information.  Stellar Wind is the codename for this surveillance program.  The NSA created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes.  While the CIA is better known as an intelligence gathering agency, the NSA is three times its size and costs more.  The NSA is considered the most powerful intelligence agency in the world today.

This program resulted in public disclosure by whistle blower William Binney in 2002 and most recently Edward Snowden in 2013.

Pine Gap, Australia
This is considered by many to be the Australian Area 51, the ground station for a network that intercepts telephone, radio, and data links from around the world.

Camp Peary
Located near Williamsburg, Virginia, Camp Peary (known as The Farm) is an area of 10,000 acres said to be where CIA agents receive covert training.

Mount Yamantau
Located in the Ural Mountains, the U.S. suspects this Russian site of being a large secret nuclear facility.  It's near one of Russia's last remaining nuclear labs and is part of their Dead Hand nuclear retaliatory command structure.

Liberty Crossing
Based in a complex in McLean, Virginia, this is home to the National Counterterrorism Center.  It utilizes experts from the CIA, FBI, Pentagon, and other agencies, to avoid large scale terror plots.  Each office is essentially a vault.

RAF Menwith Hill
This Royal Air Force station located near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, is said to be the largest electronic monitoring station in the world.  It is operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and is part of ECHELON, created during the Cold War.

Negev Nuclear Research Center
Located in Israel's Negev Desert, the facility was built in 1958 and is widely assumed to be a manufacturing site for nuclear weapons.

Porton Down
This is a government and military science park located near Wiltshire, England.  Although the term science park makes it sound more like a children's learning-can-be-fun type of place, that's not even close.  In World War I, it studied chemical warfare.  With the passing decades, studies changed from mustard gas to nerve agents in the 1940s.  It continued to study biological warfare.

Planet Earth might be a global society out of necessity, but we obviously are not a harmonious global society. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SOME OF HOLLYWOOD'S BEST WHO NEVER RECEIVED AN OSCAR®

There are many people in the movie industry who are considered legends, those who were nominated and deserved the Academy Award but never received that elusive Oscar®.  Some of the names will even strike you as What? That can't be true. He/She must have won at least once.

So, in no particular order, here is a cross-section of deserving but passed over nominees for the movie industry's coveted statuette.

1)  Alfred Hitchcock
With a string of directorial masterpieces to his credit, he never won one of the prized statuettes.  However, in 1968 he was presented an honorary Oscar® for his body of work.

2)  Cary Grant
He made it look easy which sometimes prevented people from realizing just how good he was—adept at light comedy (and even slapstick) as well as drama.  However, in 1970 he was presented an honorary Oscar® for his body of work.

3)  Peter O'Toole
He holds the record for the most Best Actor nominations (8) without a win with his most famous role probably Lawrence of Arabia.  My personal favorite of Peter O'Toole's films is My Favorite Year, one of his few comedy films.  However, in 2003 he was presented an honorary Oscar® for his body of work.

4)  Deborah Kerr
Many outstanding roles, certainly From Here To Eternity and also The King And I, nominated six times but no wins.  However, in 1994 she was presented an honorary Oscar® for her body of work.

5)  Richard Burton
Many outstanding performances including an exceptional one in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.  Six nominations, five of them for Best Actor, but no wins.

6)  Albert Finney
The British actor is probably best known for Tom Jones, one of his earlier films.  He's had five nominations and no wins.  My favorite Albert Finney film (along with an incredible cast including several Oscar® winners) is Murder On The Orient Express with his marvelous portrayal of Hercule Poirot.

7)  Angela Lansbury
Today she's best known for her award winning role of Jessica Fletcher, the retired school teacher turned mystery novelist and amateur sleuth in the long running television series Murder, She Wrote.  In addition to television, she has an impressive award winning string of Broadway productions and before that three nominations for films.  One of her Oscar® nominations was for a riveting performance in the original film of The Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey (she played his mother even though they were only a few months apart in age).

8)  Fred Astaire
Although best known for a stellar career in a long string of very successful musicals (many with his long time partner, Ginger Rogers), his one and only nomination came for a dramatic role in Towering Inferno.

9)  Charlie Chaplin
He is one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood.  Even though he never won for either acting or directing, I wasn't sure whether to add him to this list of never won an Oscar® because he did win one for Best Original Musical Score in 1952 for Limelight.  However, in 1972 he was presented with an honorary Oscar® for his body of work and received the longest standing ovation in Academy Awards history (over twelve minutes).

There are, of course, many more nominated actors/actresses/directors who deserve but haven't yet had their name engraved on an Oscar®. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

REAL LIFE HEROES

Since nine-eleven we have certainly given lots of thought to our emergency first responders—firefighters and police officers—true heroes who respond immediately to the scene when life is threatened.  Every day these brave men and women put their lives on the line to protect us from disasters, whether the result of criminal actions or devastation brought about by natural disasters.

A while back I came across an article titled A Day In The Life Of A United States Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer.  It talked about his training and related the events of his first dangerous sea rescue during a raging storm.

It got me thinking about a Coast Guard rescue I saw covered live on television many years ago.

Summer 1993 (that's right, a little over twenty years ago)—my first Romance Writers of America national conference.  Flood waters inundated the Midwest.  The Mississippi River was way out of its banks.  That year's RWA conference was being held in St. Louis, Missouri.  Prior to the conference, there had been lots of speculation about whether the conference would be cancelled or its location changed due to the flooding.  Even though the Mississippi River flood waters reached almost to the base of the St. Louis Arch, the conference hotel on the other side of the freeway from the Arch was high and dry as was the airport, so the conference went as scheduled.

There were some interesting moments of weather during the conference.  Late one afternoon during a thunderstorm, there was a lightning strike on the sidewalk very close to the hotel…close enough that the noise sounded like a large explosion and you could see the resulting scorch marks and damage on the sidewalk.  Every day television carried live coverage of buildings being swept away, people trying to save whatever personal belongings they could, animals being rescued, etc.

On Sunday morning following the conference, I had television on in my room while I was packing before meeting a friend for lunch then going to the airport to catch my flight back to Los Angeles.  A local helicopter news crew caught a spectacular rescue for live television broadcast.  The images were riveting as I watched them happening live.  A white wood frame two story farmhouse totally surrounded by swift flowing water.  No land in sight, only the tops of trees.  A man on the roof frantically waving both arms in the air to attract the attention of anyone who could help him.

Then, as if on cue, the Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew arrived on the scene.  They lowered a line and pulled the man from the roof of his house. As he dangled in midair, before they could even get him inside the helicopter, the entire house collapsed and was washed away leaving nothing visible other than debris floating on the water.

Two hours later this same rescue crew appeared in the lobby of our conference hotel.  With the helipad on the roof, the hotel had become their temporary staging area for the next twenty-four hours.  These four young men were surrounded by women all wanting to get hero material for their next romance novel—and understandably so.  They were true heroes in every sense of the word.

That same weekend a major league baseball team was in town to play the St. Louis team and were staying at the same hotel as the RWA conference.  Professional jocks in a hotel with 2,000 women—a match made in heaven?

Definitely not!

From my personal observations, several of the baseball players (certainly not all of them) were rude and arrogant, making uncalled for snide comments when they were ignored by the women…in the coffee shop, at the elevators while waiting for one of the cars to make it to the ground floor after stopping on every floor (anyone who has ever attended a conference with 2,000 people knows what a hassle the entire waiting-for-an-elevator thing can be), in the lobby bar and in the lobby in general.

Then the Coast Guard rescue crew arrived.  The baseball players were almost trampled in the stampede to get to the obviously embarrassed Coast Guard crew who were soon surrounded in a corner of the lobby.  Blatantly apparent that the true heroes of the day were the ones in demand rather than those inflated egos whose noses were bent out of shape.

Just an interesting observation that came to mind while reading the article about the Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

MURDER MOST FOUL with guest blogger JoAnne Myers

Please join me in welcoming author JoAnne Myers to my blog this week.  JoAnne will be sharing information about her mystery, MURDER MOST FOUL.  But first, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
AUTHOR BIO:
I hail from the famous Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio. I have worked in the blue-collar industry most of my life. Besides having several novels under my belt, I also canvass paint.
When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, I spend time with relatives, my dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteer my time within the community. I am a member of the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. I believe in family values and following your dreams.

MURDER MOST FOUL—Blurb:  When two dismembered torsos wash up on the banks of the local river in the small industrial town of Pleasant Valley, residents are horrified. Between contradicting statements, police ineptitude, lust, lies, manipulation, incest, the motorcycle gang The Devil’s Disciples, crooked cops, and a botched crime scene, everyone becomes a suspect.

The young beautiful Jackie Reeves, a registered nurse, believes the killer is a man from her past. She contacts the dangerously handsome FBI Agent Walker Harmon. An arrest is made, but Harmon and Jackie believe an innocent man is being railroaded by local cops. Determined to find the truth, before anymore killings, Agent Harmon and Jackie are forced to run a gauntlet of deep trouble and turmoil, which marks them for death.
MURDER MOST FOUL—PG-13 Excerpt: Undaunted and short on patience, the agent stared at the fat jerk sitting before him gleefully puffing on a cigar, most likely homegrown in Detroit, Michigan, not Cuba. “I attend the Kingdom Hall on occasion,” he said.

“Well most of us like Malloy. He's helped rid this town of criminals. He was a volunteer firefighter, and his wife cooks for the annual policeman's ball. Hell, Malloy even coached volleyball for the kids when he wuz younger. Now a person who does that ain't all bad,” the chief declared.

Barstow's sudden burst of energy to safeguard his fishy friend, picqued Harmon's interest. What had Malloy done? He decided he wasn't leaving until he had the full, sordid story.

“So you and Malloy are pals, and he did something he couldn't get out of, and you tried to salvage his job, but the big shots said, ‘No!' Is that how it went?” Harmon asked.

“Yeah, Malloy did somethin’ real stupid.”

“I'm listening,” Harmon replied.

“The rumors of Malloy allowin' his friends and family members to snoop through the cornfield, and photograph the area after the victims were removed, was true. Everyone is curious about this crime. Nothin' this big ever happened in this town before, and the pictures were for souvenirs, you know. Then after the limbs were removed, he brought in a back hoe, and tore up the whole damned crime scene, involving Thomas.” The chief growled in disgust.

“Yeah, that was stupid,” Harmon said. “So Malloy's unethical conduct was the reason the disciplinary board was in session?”

“Yep, they made their decision this mornin',” the chief said. “He's out. There was nothin' I could do for him.”

“You'd think a cop with over twenty years’ experience would demonstrate better reasoning then destroy evidence. Unless he's covering his own tracks,” Harmon said realizing what he was implying. “Do you believe Malloy committed the murders?”

“Now, I didn't say that. A lot of officers were on this case, so a lot of mistakes happened. We never dealt with this type crime before. Many might have made the same mistakes Malloy did.”

Dismissing the chief's excuses for Malloy's incompetence, Harmon demanded an answer. He was tired of being duped by the local cops and wanted the truth, and wanted it now. Standing and placing both palms on the chief's shiny desk, the agent looked the chief square in his squinty brown eyes and said, “Cough it up, Chief! There's more to it then that. If there were numerous mistakes made by officers other then Malloy, why was he the only one kicked off the force? Now spit it out! What the hell did Malloy do?”

“All right, all right!” the chief whined, “Malloy screwed the dead girl three weeks before she was killed–and got caught!”

The Agent was speechless. Walking to the window overlooking Main Street, he stared vacantly. Hadn't one of our witnesses suggested something like that? But–with the crisp wind howling, the citizens dining in the local caf├ęs, others window shopping for Christmas or starting their shift at the town's businesses–this seems unreal. How can such a seemingly sweet country town be so full of bad apples, savage murders, police misconduct and corruption, evidence tampering? This town is certainly no Mayberry, thought Harmon.

Other books available by JoAnne Myers:
“The Crime of the Century” a biography true crime novel
“Wicked Intentions” a paranormal/mystery anthology
“Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between” a poetry collection

Upcoming novels from Melange Books are:
"Love, Myths, and Monsters," a fantasy anthology due out late February
“Flagitious,”  a crime and paranormal novella collection available late 2014

Other books soon available by Black Rose Writing are:
"Twisted Love," a true-crime anthology due Summer of 2014

My books along with my original canvass paintings, can be found at Books and Paintings by JoAnne or http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com

Buy Links for “Murder Most Foul,” a crime/mystery story

Here is the link to buy it directly from LULU:
Also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

To contact me: joannetucker98@yahoo.com

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bizarre and Unique Holidays—March 2014

Just like all the other months, March has its share of bizarre, unusual, and unique holidays.  March also has month long celebrations:  Music in Our Schools Month, National Craft Month, National Frozen Food Month, National Irish American Heritage Month (designated by Congress in 1995), National Nutrition Month, National Peanut Month, National Women's History Month, Red Cross Month, and Social Workers Month.

In addition to the month long celebrations, March also has some week long celebrations.  The second week in March is host to two celebrations: National Bubble Week and also Crochet Week.

March 1      National Pig Day
March 1      Peanut Butter Lovers Day

March 2      Old Stuff Day—always celebrated on March 2.  When asking someone "What's new?" or "What's happening?" you quite often get the stock answer of "Same old stuff."  Old Stuff Day is in recognition of that standard answer indicating a boring life.  This is a day to NOT do the same old stuff and perpetuate your boring routine.  Do something…anything…as long as it's different.

March 3      I Want You To Be Happy Day
March 3      If Pets Had Thumbs Day
March 3      National Anthem Day
March 3      Peach Blossom Day

March 4      Holy Experiment Day
March 4      Hug A GI Day—always celebrated on March 4.  Give a big hug to any and all GIs you see today.  It's a small thanks to the men and women who serve their country.

March 5      Multiple Personality Day.

March 6      Dentist's Day
March 6      National Frozen Food Day

March 7      National Crown Roast Of Pork Day
March 7      Employee Appreciation Day (the first Friday in March)
March 7      National Salesperson Day (the first Friday in March)

March 8      Be Nasty Day
March 8      International (Working) Women's Day

March 9      Panic Day—always celebrated on March 9).  Try to stay calm.  Take a deep breath.  Will you be able to handle today?  Don't worry or fret and, above all, don't panic.

March 10   Middle Name Pride Day

March 11   Johnny Appleseed Day
March 11   Worship of Tools Day

March 12   Girl Scout Day
March 12   Plant A Flower Day

March 13   Ear Muff Day—always celebrated on March 13.  This seems to be doubly appropriate given all the cold, snowy, and icy weather we've had in my part of the country this winter.  In addition to keeping your ears warm, they protect you from ear infections and ear aches resulting from icy cold wind and weather.  They come in a variety of designs and colors to fit almost anyone's personality.
March 13   Jewel Day
March 13   Popcorn Lovers Day

March 14   Learn About Butterflies Day
March 14   National Potato Chip Day
March 14   National Pi Day—celebrated on 3.14, which is the value of Pi.

March 15   Everything You Think Is Wrong Day—always celebrated March 15.  This is the day when nothing goes right and we've all had those days.  This is a special day to recognize that everyone has the occasional bad day.
March 15    Ides Of March, as made famous by Shakespeare when the soothsayer says to Caesar, Beware the Ides of March.
March 15   Incredible Kid Day
March 15   Dumbstruck Day—always celebrated March 15.  This is the day to be dumbstruck over the things you see, hear, and read.  Today is the day to be dumbstruck like the rest of us without guilt or embarrassment.
March 15   National Quilting Day (the third Saturday in March)

March 16   Everything You Do Is Right Day—always celebrated on March 16.  This could be the perfect day.  Some days are good, some are bad, and most are a combination of both good and bad.  Today is the opposite of yesterday…Everything You Think Is Wrong Day.
March 16   Freedom Of Information Day

March 17   Submarine Day (the sandwich or the boat?)
March 17   St. Patrick's Day

March 18   Goddess of Fertility Day
March 18   supreme Sacrifice Day

March 19   Poultry Day

March 20   International Earth Day
March 20   Extraterrestrial Abductions Day—always celebrated March 20.  Keep an eye on the skies and be ready to duck and hide.  Celebrate today by reading and watching science fiction stories about UFOs, but be sure to keep out of sight…just in case.
March 20   Proposal Day

March 21   Fragrance Day

March 22   National Goof Off Day

March 23   National Chip And Dip Day
March 23   Near Miss Day

March 24   National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

March 25   National Agriculture Day (date varies)
March 25   Pecan Day
March 25   Waffle Day

March 26   Make Up Your Own Holiday Day—always celebrated March 26.  The object of this day is to allow one day for a topic or event of your choice that has otherwise escaped special recognition.  Simply declare this to be whatever special holiday you wish.

March 27   National "Joe" Day

March 28   Something On A Stick Day

March 29   National Mom And Pop Business Owners Day
March 29   Smoke And Mirrors Day

March 30   National Doctor's Day
March 30   I Am In Control Day—always celebrated March 30.  This day is closely related to March 9th Panic Day.  Perhaps you went through Panic Day before getting things under control and now you're celebrating.
March 30   Take A Walk In The Park Day

March 31   Bunsen Burner Day

March 31   National Clam On The Half Shell Day—always celebrated on March 31.  Thank goodness someone thought to create this holiday.  Don't hide in your shell today and don't clam up.  Get out and celebrate!