A Package With A Letter And Photo Came To My Doorstep Today From Hillary Rodham Clinton!

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Today I came home to a surprise, a package that was obviously not filled with a book. As someone who writes letters to my heroes, I am used to getting packets back, with autographs from some people such as Senator John Glenn, Walter Mondale, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, but was not expecting this! I opened the packet with my trusty letter opener, and knowing that I had last sent letters to both Clintons, knew that it may have come from one of them.

I pulled out the 2 items in the envelope and was really happy: A letter and photo from Hillary Clinton!

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I looked at the photo first. I was happy that it was my favorite shot of her, and that it was personalized with my name.

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I then looked at the letter. It made me feel good that someone read my letter because it mentioned some of the things I had written to her about. She encouraged me to “bring my energy and ideas to the public square” and “I also admire your ambition”. I also have suspicions that she may have actually signed it herself, due to my careful eye developed over time to spot real and machine autographs. The blue Sharpie ink was on top of the “m” in type in the typed signature, not printed under it, and was comparable to ones that were signed at events from people who watched her sign it.

I will frame both and keep them both in excellent condition and will treasure them all my life. I look forward to hopefully working as an organizer for her campaign in 2016 “if she runs“. It was a refresh knowing that one of our people in power are still in touch with the people, along with the President (who tries to personally reads around 10 letters from everyday citizens every night) and I look forward to reviewing the confirmed book about her time as Secretary Of State in June, published by Simon and Schuster.

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Put Your Name On A NASA Probe That Will Bring A Sample Of An Asteroid To Earth

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NASA wants you to put your name on one of their space probes. No, I’m serious.

NASA and The Planetary Society are partnering together to conduct the “Messages To Bennu” program. Announced on January 15th, 2014, the public can submit their names by September 30th to appear twice on the OSIRIS-REx probe, planned for launch in 2016.

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The probe will travel to the asteroid 101955 Bennu, and will collect a sample of the asteroid and a part of it will bring this sample back to Earth. The main craft, which, after the sample collection will enter solar orbit, will have one of the microchips with the names on it. The other microchip will be on the collection craft, and will be back to Earth around 2023. So, your names will go to space, and if other NASA “Name To Space” programs have anything to say about it, the chip on the return probe may end up in a museum!

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In a statement, Dante Lauretta, an official working on the OSIRIS-REx program at the University of Arizona, said, “We are thrilled to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth, to Bennu and back.”

Other major supporters of this, including someone who made me have a side interest in science, Bill Nye, said, “You will be part of humankind’s exploration of the solar system — how cool is that?”

To send your name to space and back, go to The Planetary Society’s Messages To Bennu Page. I sent my name in and it will be on the space probe, and I hope you will too!

(Credit Goes Here and Here for information)

My Thoughts On What Should Be In The 2014 State Of The Union Address

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On Tuesday, January 28th, President Obama will be giving the 2014 State of The Union Address. With an ambitious 6th year in office ahead, President Obama will be eager to get as much done as he can. Currently the President has an average of a 29% higher approval rating over Congressional Republicans, and he needs to use that, grow it, and pursue these 5, but not limited to, initiatives this year and lay them out on the 28th.

1. Give Power To Justice Department To Prosecute States Who Have The Voter-ID Laws
Last year, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. This lead to currently 35 states pursuing Voter-ID laws, a requirement that requires you to present your ID at the time of voting. I know it sounds simple, but it is far from so. The biggest state to implement this law so far is Texas, and, according to the Justice Department, they have between 600,000 and 795,000 citizens that do not have IDs and do not have the money or time to acquire them. If Voter-ID is implemented in the 35 states currently pursuing it, over 23 Million Citizens may not have the ability to vote. We already have issues getting people out and able to vote. Do we really need to make it harder? These laws disproportionally affect the poor and minorities, and I call on the President to make Voting Rights a major part of 2014 and that he helps Attorney General Holder and other officials in the Justice Department to pressure and prosecute states that have Voter-ID on their books.

2. Universal Pre-School And Teacher Training
The President has been pushing for both of these programs for a long time, and I would like him to use the bully pulpit to pressure Congress to pass them. I would like to see a Pre-K program where we use the power of the Internet to connect classrooms, and help teach culture from an early age. Can you imagine the cultural benefits of using online translators to have little children from Detroit talk to little children in Seoul? Imagine all the possibilities! I also would like to see the Fed. partner with colleges to train 2 million teachers in 10 years. This training should prepare aspiring teachers to be able to teach their future classes to be able to compete with the world to keep the US as the makers and innovators.

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3. Put Pressure On The House To Pass Immigration Reform
The Senate passed the bipartisan immigration reform bill last year overwhelmingly. I hope the President uses the moral argument to put pressure on the House to pass this by the end of the year. We need to make a leap forward on immigration, as it will strengthen our national security, make us a moral nation, and will significantly grow our GDP.

4. Energy Initiatives
Last year, the President and the EPA put historic caps on pollution. I would like to see a reduction in our oil and coal reliance in half in 10 years, even if that means using natural gas as a transition. I would like to see natural gas, solar, wind, nuclear, and hydroelectric power be invested in and take over as our primary source and then our sources of energy. Hopefully, in 25 years, we will be off coal, oil, and other fossil fuels for good. I would also like to see the President’s other proposals put into action, like preparing us for stronger storms and weather, and to train more workers for Green Jobs.

5. Pressure Congress To Pass Senator Gillibrand’s Military Sexual Assault Bill
For the last few years, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been advocating for her bill to change the way sexual assault victims in the military prosecute their perpetrators. Earlier this week, the President gave a speech where he told sexual assault victims that he has their back. I would like him to call on Congress to pass Gillibrand’s bill, as it would be a huge step forward.

I look forward to this year’s State Of The Union Address and I hope you tune in!

(Credit for the photos to the White House)

A Historical Mystery Utilizing Unusual But Intriguing Detectives

The Harlot’s Tale by Sam Thomas takes us back to 1645 York, England. A mystery using unique protagonists, religious fanatics, and the turmoil of the English Civil War, it grips the reader into a wonderfully entertaining mystery.

To end the severe summer heat, and to appease God, the Puritan leaders of York have begun an initiative to change the city’s sinners to “Godly Men”. But as prostitutes, their customers, and adulterers are being murdered, it is up to Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins, both very intelligent and inquisitive midwives, and Will, Bridget’s nephew, to find the killer.

The 3 race against time to root out the killer even as he adds more deaths to his score. As almost everyone is a suspect, even the leaders of the city, the detectives must look at every detail closely and utilize the information they gather as midwives to find the truth and to end the suffering and death in York.

This book was a riveting mystery. I appreciated the author not making the murder scenes too violent; just enough to make the reader understand the evil that is the murderer. Thomas incorporated the religious, societal, and personal beliefs that defined this era into a mystery, using the goal of ending prostitution as the murder motive. Thomas utilized protagonists that were decently respectable but also knew the city’s secrets. This book had all the great twists only a whodunit can provide, and the fact that no one is known to be innocent. Through the inquisitive minds of the midwives of York, The Harlot’s Tale is a mystery involving religious radicals and the hard truth of prostitution in 1645 York, England.

(Sam Thomas-Author of The Harlot’s Tale)

Sam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and in 2013 leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy.

He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa.The Harlot’s Tale is the second book in his series, in which The Midwife’s Tale is the first.

Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information, please visit Sam Thomas’ website and blog.  You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

An Interview With Author Elaine Cougler About Writing, The American Revolution, and Heroic Women In History

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I have conducted an interview with Elaine Cougler, author of The Loyalist’s Wife, which I reviewed recently.

1- Your author bio on the back of your book tells readers that you have family roots connected to the Loyalists. Has family history always fascinated you?

I’d have to say no, Nassem. While my family has always been paramount, the history part of it didn’t really interest me unless one of my great aunts was telling a story. Then I was mesmerized imagining the story in my mind as they told it. My interest in family history has grown as I’ve had more time to give to it now that I’ve retired from teaching.

2- Where did writing this book give you a chance to travel to?

What a good question! The Loyalist’s Wife talks about places in New York State not that far from where I live in southern Ontario. We traveled to Fort Niagara on several occasions, and east along Lake Ontario’s southern shore. Fort Saratoga is magnificent for showing a living history and the French Castle at Fort Niagara is absolutely stunning. It was built by the French long before the Revolutionary War. Since The Loyalist’s Wife has scenes in the French Castle I was enchanted that I was walking where my characters might have walked. And, of course, Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to two forts, Butler’s Barracks, and a host of other historical sites all of which we visited quite often.

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A British Uniformed Soldier At Fort Niagara

3- Your book exposes that both sides of the Revolutionary War committed horrid acts. Do you wish people would write more about the hypocrisy found in the patriots rather than only the King’s men?

Another great question! I wanted to show an evenly balanced look at the American Revolutionary War without the selective reporting that histories written at the behest of countries often have. There was and is good and bad in all of the factions: Loyalists, Patriots, and Natives or as we now call them in Canada, First Nations people. I particularly wanted to show that we little people are powerless against the might of countries; John and Lucy are driven by circumstances way beyond their control.

4- In The Loyalist’s Wife, you have a strong female protagonist. Why do the women left to take charge of the hard work of the homesteads during the War not get the credit they deserve?

Again this goes back to those writing the history, doesn’t it? There are stories of heroic women in history but they are few and far between. This could be for two reasons: their roles were not in the forefront usually and most often men are writing the histories. We tend to write about what we know. I think in many ways being left behind is every bit as dangerous and terrifying as going off to war. Lucy’s situation certainly shows that.

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French Castle At Fort Niagara

5- Will you spill any details about the second book in The Loyalist’s Trilogy, The Loyalist’s Luck?

I am having such a good time writing the second book because John and Lucy’s story is far from over at the end of The Loyalist’s Wife. SPOILER ALERT! Here is the teaser I added on the very last page of the first book, although I must warn those who haven’t read the first that this is a bit of a spoiler so you might want to skip this just now:

John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with her young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip , and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

Nassem, I am so thrilled to have been asked to do this interview with you about my writing. Thank you very much. Your enthusiasm for your work and your intriguing questions have made this a joy for me. I look forward to seeing what else you put on your blog.

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A native of Southern Ontario, Elaine taught high school and with her husband raised 2 children until she finally had time to pursue her writing career. She loves to research both family history and history in general for the stories of real people that emanate from the dusty pages. These days writing is Elaine’s pleasure and her obsession. Telling the stories of Loyalists caught in the American Revolutionary War is very natural as her personal roots are thoroughly enmeshed in that struggle, out of which arose both Canada and the United States.

Visit Elaine At: http://www.elainecougler.com
Click Here To Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife On Amazon

(Credit To The Author For All Photos Here)

My Hopes In 8 Categories For The 56th Annual Grammy Awards

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The 56th Grammy Awards are on this coming Sunday, January 26th. They are my favorite awards show to watch, and I decided that I wanted to do a list of who I wanted to win in 8 categories this year. Enjoy, and comment any that you agreed or disagreed with me on in this post’s comments box!

1. Record Of The Year
There aren’t any real strong contenders in this category, but my pick would be Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars. Though this is not his best song, Mars did perform it well and is probably the most deserving of record of the year.

2. Album Of The Year
My choice in this category would be a resounding pick for The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I absolutely loved the songs on this album, and was inspired by their social connection. The 2 guys also built this album without mainstream support to the top, and they should be commended for that.

3. Song Of The Year
I liked best, out of the nominees, Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Again, Macklemore has a knack for connecting his music to society, and did a great job with this one.

4. Best Rap Performance
I have to go with Tom Ford by Jay-Z. While it isn’t his best song on the album, it does stand out among the others as the strongest.

5. Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
My 2 favorite artists together, and the cutest couple in show business, I choose Part II (On The Run) by Jay-Z and Beyonce. Jay is one of the best rappers to ever live, and Bey may be the greatest voice and star to ever enter Hollywood, so putting them together was a no brainer. They both use their swag to work the song, and it comes out a resounding accomplishment.

6. Best Rap Song
What could I go with other than Holy Grail by Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake? JT and Jay fit together in a song really well, and it was, surprisingly, a beautiful song.

7. Best Rap Album
Well, if my past choices haven’t already told you, it would be Magna Carta…Holy Grail by Jay-Z. With powerhouse collaborations including Beyonce, JT, and Frank Ocean, Jay hit it right with this album. This album has cemented him to the standing as a rapper that only Eminem holds too.

8. Best Song Written For Visual Media
My favorite James Bond movie is Skyfall, and one of my favorite singers is Adele, I have to pick Skyfall by Adele. With her once in a lifetime voice, and its pairing with the awesome opening credit scene of the movie, Skyfall is one of the best songs of the year.

I look forward to performances by Beyonce and Jay-Z, and look forward to seeing if my hopes are fulfilled Sunday night on CBS!

(Credit to the nomination information goes to http://www.grammy.com)

In Honor Of Dr. King, A Reflection on the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed 50 years ago this year. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day today, I would like to discuss this in some detail.

In June 1963, President Jack Kennedy was a changed man. A man who saw that being on the side of civil rights, Kennedy was fed up with the slow progress made in this issue due to it being seen to opponents as, to quote George Wallace, “Segregation Forever”, and to the majority of supporters as solely a legislative issue. On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy gave his nation-changing Civil Rights Address. His address changed many people’s thoughts on civil rights, and transformed it from a legal issue to a moral one. He highlighted that all of America would not be free until every one of its citizens are. This speech helped Kennedy propose his Civil Rights Bill in Congress.

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At first, it was said that it would be detrimental to the movement. They said that there would be violence, hate speech, and an embarrassment. But Dr. King and the rest of the Big 6 in the movement knew that it was what the Bill needed. On August 28th, 1963, one of the most important events in American history occurred: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The gathering of over 250,000 people of all races and genders showed Congress that the nation was vastly in support of Kennedy’s Civil Rights Bill, and that it needed to be passed now. And the Dream speech. One of the most important speeches ever was given mostly off the cuff by Dr. King, to show that this nation was ready for equality and that it was the time now to begin to fulfill the promise of our nation: that all men are created equal.

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On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. At first, this nation was not certain that the Bill would still be in the forefront of American policy. But the opposite occurred. The people of this nation wanted to carry out what Kennedy was going to do as President if he would not have been slain. Citizens went out, made their communities aware of the Bill and persuaded many to support it. The movement attracted people of all races and genders, and due to King’s nonviolent leadership, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2nd.

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Without Martin Luther King’s Dream Speech, it is doubtful that the Act would have ever passed. King gave the speech in a visual way to give the listener a more personal feeling toward the movement, and that was genius. Dr. King defied many to carry on the march, including Malcolm X, who called it a “farce on Washington”. King was the leader of the people on the right side of history, and never gave up hope that people who love their country can change it to benefit all. He also knew that the movement must continue, because the hatred that many thought was eradicated in the 1960’s would still be around as strong as ever. He couldn’t have been more correct.

The one line that sticks out at me most from the Dream speech is: “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote” Our job now is to make sure that all people can vote and have something to vote for. I have written a book on voting rights (not yet published), and I found in my research that Voter ID laws today could take the ability to vote away from over 23 million Americans. This is unacceptable, and we need to work, write, and peacefully protest these laws so that all of our brothers and sisters can exercise their most precious right. We need to encourage people to run for offices that will give Americans what they deserve. We need people who will lead, and will represent the people as they are supposed to. Dr. King needs to be remembered, and we need to take up the torch to continue to defend the rights of all people.

(Credit goes to Wikipedia for all photos except for bottom one, which is from my own collection)