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2005 1-January to February

Week of 2-28-05

Nixon Library/Vietnam: In a surprise move that has left many scholars aghast and baffled, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace has abruptly cancelled an academic conference scheduled for April that was to examine the history of Nixon and Vietnam. The conference, already advertised in the American Historical Association's newsletter and other places, was to have featured a score of prominent Nixon scholars and critics including Stanley Kutler, Richard Reeves, Jeffrey Kimball, and Larry Berman.

Historian Barred from US: The woman who epitomised the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza has been denied entry to the US to take up her post as a Harvard professor on the grounds that she had been involved in"terrorism". The decision to bar Dora Maria Tellez, one of the best-known figures in recent Latin American history, who has frequently visited the US in the past, has been attacked by academics and writers. Last year Ms Tellez, now a historian, was appointed as the Robert F Kennedy visiting professor in Latin American studies in the divinity department at Harvard, a post which is shared with the Rockefeller Centre for Latin American Studies. She was due to start teaching students this spring. She was Commander 2' in 1978 when a group of guerrillas took over the National Palace and held 2,000 government officials hostage in a two-day standoff. After negotiations, she and the other guerrillas were allowed to leave the country. The event was seen as a key moment that indicated the Somoza regime could be overthrown.

Historic Sites/Endangered Battlefields: Noting that some 20 percent of of America's Civil War battlefields have already been destroyed, on 24 February 2005 the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) -- a nonprofit battlefield preservation organization -- released its annual report"History Under Siege: A Guide to America's Most Endangered Civil War Battlefields." The report identifies the ten most endangered battlefields that are scattered from southern Missouri to northern Virginia. The group also identified an additional fifteen sites they deemed to be"at risk."

Japan/Korea: A South Korean website reports ... Japan claimed sovereignty over the Dokdo Islets in the 1620s and 1880s only to admit on both occasions that the rocks were Korean, a century-old Japanese geography book reveals. After the sovereignty issue flared up again, historian Park Byeong-shik, who specializes in the history of Koran-Japanese exchanges, on Friday drew attention to the eight-volume"Dai-nihon-chimei-jisho (Geographic Dictionary of Japan)" that devotes a special section to the topic.

Historian Barred from Indonesia: A respected Australian academician was barred from entering Indonesia in a move that hearkened back to the strict days of the New Order when Soeharto was in power. The immigration authorities sent Dr. Edward Aspinall, an Australian citizen, back to Sydney on Tuesday shortly after he arrived on a business visa at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. He was on his way to Aceh to help an aid agency there. Aspinall, a historian and the author of The Last Days of Suharto, is the first foreign scholar to be banned from Indonesia since Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono assumed the presidency. His name turned up on a blacklist,"possibly due to some contact with separatists in Aceh."

Alan Brinkley/Columbia:The Village Voice's Nat Hentoff has taken Alan Brinkley and Lee Bollinger to task for the handling of the controversy involving the Middle East studies department, calling their approach"a model of how to confuse and worsen a situation while trying to resolve its core problems." Among other things, Hentoff complains that the proceedings of the committee appointed to investigate charges of bullying will not be tape-recorded, and the report will not be for the public.

CBS Memogate: Fired CBS News producer Mapes to write"Memogate" book. Mary Mapes' book proposal includes 40 pages of analysis and documentation that she offered to CBS's independent panel to back up the Guard documents' authenticity. Joe Hagan reports her pitch to publishers avoids direct discussion of fonts and character spacing."Instead, she argues that the substance of the memos meshes with [President] Bush’s known records (the panel had claimed the documents clashed) and that inconsistencies in their format could have reflected the work of different typists -- as found, she argues, in some of the official records."

Hitler and the Bomb: Adolf Hitler had the atom bomb first but it was too primitive and ungainly for aerial deployment, according to a new book that indicates the race to split the atom was much closer than previously believed. Nazi scientists carried out tests of what would now be called a"dirty" nuclear device in the waning days of World War II, writes German historian Rainer Karlsch in the book, entitled Hitler's Bomb, which hits booksellers across Germany later this month. Concentration camp inmates were used as human guinea pigs and"several hundred" died horribly in the tests, which were conducted on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen and at an inland test in wooded hill country about 100 km south of Berlin in 1944 and early 1945. Karlsch, 47, author of a number of books on Cold War espionage and the nuclear arms race, supports his findings on what his publishers call hitherto unpublished documents, scientific reports and blueprints. American historian Mark Walker, an internationally recognised expert on the Third Reich's atomic weapons program, lent his support to Karlsch's claims today."I consider the arguments very convincing," Walker told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

TV History: The Associated Press reports:"On 'Deadwood' set, history comes alive HBO's hit Western is built on a mountain of research." For creator David Milch, “Deadwood” is not a TV show; it’s living history. “This is where the Chinese prostitutes were kept,” he says, pointing to small bamboo cages along the Chinese Alley section of the set, one of the largest ever built for a TV series. “They were kept in these ‘cribs,’ dressed in burlap sacks, and literally sexed to death.” Disturbing stuff, yet just some of the many gritty details depicted with unvarnished realism on “Deadwood,” the HBO series about life in a Black Hills mining town that begins its second season 9 p.m. EST Sunday.

History Channel's Top History Film Award: The History Channel Nominations for the HARRY AWARD are ... The Alamo, Troy, King Arthur, Alexander and The Aviator. This year's nominees were selected from among all the historical films of 2004. The HARRY AWARD, named after Herodotus, Greek Father of History, is awarded annually by The History Channel® to the film of the previous year that contributed the most to the public's understanding and appreciation of history. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 6th at 8 a.m. ET/PT during a special edition of HistoryCENTER which is anchored by Steve Gillon.

Japan/Korea: Just a month ago, South Korea and Japan launched a series of gala ceremonies to kick off the"Year of Korea-Japan Friendship." Leaders from both countries vowed to end long-standing disputes over the past and forge a"future-oriented friendship" to mark the 40th anniversary this year of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The two neighbors designated 2005 the friendship year and agreed to finalize a free trade agreement this year. But relations suffered a major setback as a history and territory row is reviving deep-seated antagonism caused by Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula. A new wave of anti-Japanese sentiment has been sweeping South Korea after the top Japanese envoy in Seoul claimed last week that a small South Korean island belongs to Japan. In a press conference in Seoul, Japan's Ambassador Toshiyuki Takano said that Dokdo islets"historically and legally" belong to Japan.

Women's History Month: March is officially Women's History Month. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) :"we honor the women who have changed the course of American history. Whether by raising their families, defending our nation or opening businesses, women all across America play a unique role in strengthening our country and our values."

Selma March: People from throughout the world will meet in central Alabama this weekend to remember the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March. Activities to mark the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma begin today and continue through March 12, when a reenactment of the march will conclude at the steps of the Alabama state Capitol, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed more than 25,000 people in 1965. Historians, civil rights leaders and former presidents believe the march and Bloody Sunday, in which 17 people were hospitalized after they were beaten by state troopers and local law enforcement officers, galva nized national support for voting rights for all Americans.

Franco: Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, famous for bringing criminal cases against Latin American military regimes and al Qaeda, now says the spotlight should be turned on Spain's own dictatorial past. In an interview with Reuters, Garzon called for a"truth commission" to investigate crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from the end of civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975. Garzon said Franco-era victims were free to seek criminal charges against survivors of the dictatorship -- in Spain or abroad -- as long as the statute of limitations had not expired."It is obvious there were excesses and real crimes against humanity in the first years of this dictatorship and it is necessary at some time to establish a truth commission, at least, to establish what happened and uncover this part of Spanish history," Garzon said in the interview late Friday.

Nazis/Austria: The Sound of Music is to be staged for the first time in the country where the real-life events happened. It is the first full production of the musical to be staged in Austria. And that is curious, because the musical is actually set in Austria, in the city of Salzburg. All the characters in the play are supposed to be Austrian. The whole look of the film, from the introductory aerial view of Salzburg to the final dramatic escape over the mountains, is a paean of praise to the Austrian landscape. The historical event around which it revolves is the Anschluss of 1938, in which Nazi Germany swallowed Austria whole. And yet for all these years the Austrians have wanted nothing to do with The Sound of Music. Curious. They could not keep it out altogether, of course. Sound of Music tours of Salzburg have been an important source of tourist dollars for many years. Everyone in Austria has probably heard of the play. They know it is popular abroad and they know roughly what it is about. But it has never been staged before, and the film has never been screened in Austrian cinemas. It has been shown once, and once only, in the mid-1990s, on state television.

Schwarzenegger: Declaring that state lawmakers"have not done their job," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger began collecting signatures on Tuesday for a series of statewide ballot measures that he said would" create true reform" in California. In pushing for the changes in a special election that would be held in November, Mr. Schwarzenegger is fashioning himself as a modern Hiram Johnson, the progressive California governor of nearly a century ago who ended the railroads' political dominance in the state and helped introduce the initiative and recall processes. Mr. Schwarzenegger has said that he sees the reform-minded Johnson as an inspiration.

Holocaust Denier: After more than four decades in Canada, Ernst Zundel, the internationally known Holocaust denier and white supremacist, was deported to his native Germany. A German judge ordered him held in jail after arraigning him Wednesday on charges of denying the Holocaust and inciting hatred. German prosecutors accuse Zundel of decades of anti-Semitic activities, including repeated denials of the Holocaust -- a crime in Germany.

Astronomy Fake?:One of Germany's most acclaimed archaeological finds - a 3,600-year-old disc depicting the stars and the planets - is at the centre of a dispute following claims that it is a modern forgery. According to Germany's museum establishment, the Sky Disc of Nebra is the oldest depiction of the heavens discovered and offers an insight into the Bronze Age mind. But the authenticity of the disc has been challenged by one of the country's leading archaeologists, Peter Schauer of Regensburg University. He told a court in Halle that the artefact was nothing more than an amateurish forgery."My colleagues don't want to believe it. But there is little doubt that the disc is a fake," he told the Guardian yesterday."It looks very nice. It has the sky and the stars. You can even see the Pleiades. But I'm afraid it's a piece of fantasy."

New York Public Library On-line: The New York Public Library is putting hundreds of thousands of its images online, allowing free personal downloads of material including maps, Civil War photos and illuminated medieval manuscripts. The NYPL Digital Gallery will have 250,000 images available beginning Thursday, and the collection will grow to 500,000 images over the next several months, library officials announced Wednesday.

Senator Byrd Criticized For Nazi Remark: A Jewish Republican group accused Sen. Robert Byrd on Wednesday of making an"inappropriate and reprehensible" comparison between Adolf Hitler's Nazis and a Senate GOP plan to block Democrats from filibustering. Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin denied that Byrd, D-W.Va., had compared Republicans to Hitler. He said that instead, the reference to Nazis in a Senate speech on Tuesday was meant to underscore that the past should not be ignored."Terrible chapters of history ought never be repeated," Gavin said."All one needs to do is to look at history to see how dangerous it is to curb the rights of the minority."

Beaded Mummy Discovered: Archaeologists uncovered three coffins and a remarkably well-preserved mummy in a 2,500-year old tomb discovered by accident after opening a secret door hidden behind a statue in a separate burial chamber, Egypt's chief archaeologist said Wednesday."Inside one coffin was maybe one of the best mummies ever preserved," Hawass told reporters at the excavation site in the cemetery of Saqqara, a barren hillside pocked with ancient graves about 15 miles south of Cairo.

Evangelical Education: Energised by last year's election victory which mobilised the Christian Conservative vote, the American Right has been confidently pushing a moral agenda which puts education at the heart of a battle to change US culture. An example is Patrick Henry College, America's first university established primarily for evangelical Christian home-schooled children, was founded in 2000 and with ambitious plans for expansion.

Ten Commandments Monument: History is being used in the defense of a Ten Commandments monument in Texas. Solicitor General Ted Cruz has been arguing with success in the courts that the statue may be religious but its setting and context are not."The Ten Commandments are indisputably a historical document that has an important secular impact on the development of Western legal codes and Western civilisation, and under US law it is sensible to acknowledge that," Mr Cruz says. The Bush administration has also entered the fray, filing a brief in support of the Texas government."Religion has played a leading role in the history of the United States. Government may commemorate the Decalogue's influence on American legal and cultural history," the Bush administration says in its brief.

Winston Churchill:Historian Andrew Roberts has taken on the daunting task of picking up where Churchill's 4 volume history of the English-Speaking Peoples left off, at the dawn of the 20th century. Roberts is writing a fifth volume to add to the four Churchill wrote. It will trace the main events of the 20th century chronologically, with the wartime leader himself a dominant figure, and is due to be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in September 2006. Clement Attlee, mocked Churchill’s narrative as 'Things in History that Interested Me.' Says Roberts: “I'm not going to adopt the grandiloquent style either. He might have got a Nobel prize in literature, but I don't think you can get away with that kind of thing any longer.” Roberts, a leading right-wing historian, is likely to be upbeat about the roles of Britain and America in the world. “I think the English-speaking peoples have done pretty well in the 20th century. The astonishing thing is that they ended the century as powerfully as they began it,” he says. Sir Roy Strong, author of The Story of Britain: A People's History , said: “Andrew Roberts is a brave man, but he's a very good historian and will probably bring it off.”

WW II/Dresden: HITLER and the Nazi leadership may have known beforehand about the massive Allied raid on Dresden, according to new evidence from Germany. Military investigators are checking a letter written by a German anti-aircraft gunner to his parents in the city, which gave the date of the raid two weeks before the fateful bombing in which 35,000 civilians lost their lives. The letter has opened a debate in Germany as to whether the Nazi leadership, including Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goring, might have decided to leave the city to its fate for propaganda reasons, or even as part of Hitler’s belief that the German people, having"failed" him, deserved to be left to their fate.

Lost Documents/Great Britain: MORE THAN 1,600 historical records, some of which date back to the 12th century, have gone missing from the National Archives in Kew. Details obtained by The Sunday Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 1,672 original documents have disappeared. The papers, which span more than 800 years of British history, include 21 records from the private offices of various prime ministers and 24 Cabinet Office documents.

Stalin: Russians are rallying to a Stalin revival. Once dismissed as the rabid opinions of a few eccentrics and elderly nostalgics, statements glorifying Stalin can now be heard among those born long after his death in 1953. At least three Russian cities have announced plans to erect monuments marking his war record -almost half a century since they were torn down in a progamme of de-Stalinisation initiated by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev. A recent poll has shown that half of all Russians consider Stalin a wise leader, while one in four say they would vote for him if he were standing for office today. A plethora of books seeking to burnish the dictator's image have been published in recent months. One, entitled Builder of a Superpower by Gennady Zyuganov, the communist leader, focuses on his role in defeating Hitler while brushing aside or minimising his crimes.

China: SIX HUNDRED years after Admiral Zheng He, the intrepid naval explorer, took to the high seas, a modern-day Admiral Zheng has embarked on a mission to retrace seven voyages that reached as far as the east coast of Africa. The original Zheng He, who was known as the"Three Jewelled Eunuch", sailed to South East Asia, India, the Gulf and the Red Sea. Some historians claim that he even made it to America. Now Rear-Admiral Zheng Ming, retired, of the People's Liberation Army navy, is building a replica of one of Zheng He's"treasure ships" and plans to follow his routes across the world.

Bush Tapes: Doug Wead, the author who secretly taped conversations in which George W. Bush indicated he had used marijuana, has turned the tapes over to the president's private counsel, the White House said on Tuesday.

Ari Fleischer Memoir:The attitude that reporters are more a special-interest group than guardians of the public interest has informed the Bush administration's dealings with the national press, and it's reflected in"Taking Heat," the tedious and tendentious new book by Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary."Taking Heat" takes a lot of potshots at the press (including The New York Times), and it reads like the very embodiment of the administration's disciplined, corporate-style message control.

Ward Churchill:Emma Pérez, Chair of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, argues in an op ed that CU-Boulder has been made the national frontline of the neocon battle for dominance in academe. The Colorado governor, Bill Owens,"is an activist leader in their battle for higher education through his role in ACTA, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA is Lynne Cheney's organization, which hit the headlines a few years ago for creating the rightwing National Association of Scholars).""The general strategy in forcing and then manipulating this"investigation" of Ward's scholarship shares key tactics with the neocon sinking of Emory historian Bellesiles in 2001."

Environmental History: The first European explorers returned from the New Founde Land with stories of buckets lowered over the sides of their ship and hauled up teeming with cod. Until now, such tales of the abundance of cod in the North Atlantic were just that - stories. But a landmark study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire has, for the first time, quantified the species prior to intensive commercial fishing and the subsequent collapse of stocks.

Einstein: There was no sign, other than the patience to build card houses 14 stories high, that little Albert Einstein would grow up to be"the new Copernicus," proclaiming a new theory of nature, in which matter and energy swapped faces, light beams bent, the stars danced and space and time were as flexible and elastic as bubblegum. No clue to suggest that he would help send humanity lurching down the road to the atomic age, with all its promise and dread, with the stroke of his pen on a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, certainly no reason to suspect that his image would be on T- shirts, coffee mugs, posters and dolls. The New York Times explores the character of Einstein, and asks, will there ever be another scientist like him?

Italy to Return Axum Obelisk: Italy will return to Ethiopia the first piece of the ancient Axum obelisk by the end of March, a government spokesman said Tuesday, ending a dispute over the religious monument taken to Rome 70 years ago. The top piece of the 1,700-year-old obelisk will be flown to Ethiopia, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Solomon Abebe. In 1937, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered the seizure of the 82-foot obelisk from the religious city of Axum, some 530 miles north of the capital.

Donner Party: A newly discovered cache of bones may shed light on one of the most ghoulish and enduring mysteries of the West - whether members of the Donner party resorted to cannibalism during their snowbound months of starvation atop the Sierra Nevada mountains, and if so, how they carried out the macabre deed.

British History Exams: British school history exams have"serious flaws" and risk penalising the brightest pupils, a government-funded report says. The Historical Association recommends a" complete overhaul" of teaching of the subject at GCSE and A-level. Much of the curriculum is speculative and unhistorical, its report adds. In one exam, pupils were asked what ancient Romans would have made of a 19th-Century cartoon about the quality of London's drinking water.

The Real World of James Bond: Documents and photographs released by MI5 have given a fascinating insight into the real-life intrigue which inspired James Bond's creator Ian Fleming - from exploding fountain pens to human torpedoes. The papers at the National Archives document the secret war to defend Gibraltar from German, Spanish, and Italian spies during WWII. They are a story of brilliant impersonators, femme-fatale agents and exploding fountain pens. What's more, they provide the full story of how an Italian plan for human torpedoes inspired Fleming to write Thunderball, made into one of the earliest Bond films.

Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington's poetic writings have come to light in a fascinating, 39-page typescript, polished and sometimes poetic, and mostly written in free verse. The"Black, Brown and Beige" scenario allows a rare glimpse behind Ellington's usual studied diplomacy and restraint providing evidence that while Ellington was reluctant to directly and openly challenge American racism, this suave, successful musician was using his celebrity status to bring issues of racial equality to a broader audience.

Japan and South Korea: South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called on Japan Tuesday to make a sincere apology and compensate for its past wrongdoings so as to"find the truth about the past"."Japan should apologize for its past wrongdoings, if any, and make due compensation," Roh said in a speech at a ceremony marking the 1919 Independence Movement. In global terms, this is a general method of"liquidating past histories," Roh added. Japan exercised colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula between1910-1945, which inflicted great pain to Korean People.

Chinese War with Vietnam: By official reckoning, 20,000 Chinese died during the first month of fighting in China's war with Vietnam, which began with intense combat in mid-February of 1979 when this country's forces invaded Vietnam in the face of spirited resistance, and untold others died as the war sputtered on through the 1980's. There are no official estimates of Vietnamese casualties, but they are thought to have been lower. Sixteen years on, China has produced no"Rambo," much less a"Deer Hunter" or"Platoon." There have been a few movies, novels and memoirs about the suffering of the soldiers and their families. But no searing explorations of the horror or moral ambiguity of war. There are no grander monuments than cemeteries like these, found mostly in this remote border region. China, in short, has experienced no national hand-wringing, and has no Vietnam syndrome to overcome.

California Goldrush and Italy: A gold nugget labeled ''California U.S. 1853'' has revealed a little-known insight into the making of modern Italy. According to newly publicized research, gold dug up by Italian immigrants in the 1849 California gold rush found its way to Giuseppe Garibaldi and his ''Spedizione dei Mille'' -- the Expedition of the Thousand -- that conquered southern Italy. Alessandro Trojani, a history professor at Florence University, said he found the gold nugget in the house of Andrea Sgarallino, one of Garibaldi's officers, in the Tuscan port city of Leghorn.

Tsunami Oral History: When the massive earthquake rattled the remote Simeulue Island in Indonesia - the closest inhabited land to the epicenter of the devastating temblor - its islanders reacted with historical memory: unlike hundreds of thousands of others who thought the worst was over when the shuddering stopped, the islanders remembered their grandparents' warnings and fled to higher ground in fear of giant waves known locally as"semong." Within 30 minutes, Simeulue became the first coastline in the world to experience the awesome force of the Dec. 26 tsunami. But only seven of the island's 75,000 people died - saved by the stories passed down over the generations.

Lawrence Summers/University Presidents: In some ways, the flap over Harvard President Lawrence Summers' now infamous comments was less about whether women lack an innate aptitude for science and math than it was about whether a university president should even dare discuss such a volatile issue. These days we're not used to hearing university presidents inject themselves into hot-button social debates. In recent years, the presidents of American universities have stepped away from the national stage; their primary responsibility is the all-important business of fundraising, which means saying nothing that might shut off the cash flow.

Watergate/Howard Hughes: Former Watergate investigator Terry Lenzner told Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes in his first television interview that he believes Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in out of concern that Larry O'Brien, the head of the Democratic Party, was aware of a secret Hughes bribe to Nixon of $100,000. O'Brien worked for Hughes before he headed the party.

Week of 2-21-05

Ward Churchill: An exclusive report by CBS4 News indicates embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill may have broken copyright law by making a mirror image of an artist's work and selling it as his own. Placing Churchill's work beside that of renowned artist Thomas E. Mails and the two look like mirror images. But one is a copyrighted drawing. The other is an autographed print by Churchill.

Nixon Papers: The transfer of Richard M. Nixon's papers and tapes to his presidential library in Yorba Linda, Calif., may be delayed until 2007 because President Bush's budget did not include money for it. A recent change in law allowed the Nixon archives to leave the Washington area for the first time since Watergate. The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace had hoped to begin receiving the material, along with federal staff employees, later this year.

White House Press Room/Gannon Scandal:A look back at more than 200 years of the Washington press corps and its relationships with previous presidents shows that relations have never been as even-handed and unconflicted as many would like them to be today. So says Donald A. Ritchie, a U.S. Senate historian and author of the new book,"Reporting From Washington: The History of The Washington Press Corps.""Almost all presidents have allowed people in the White House who couldn't pass muster to get a regular press pass but served the purposes of the administration," Ritchie told E&P, noting Guckert's need to obtain daily press passes after failing to obtain a permanent “hard pass'” credential."Press secretaries for many presidents have winked at people they knew would ask soft questions, even though they didn't meet the same criteria." Ritchie cited Walter Winchell, the famed gossip columnist who was unable to get a hard pass, but whom Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted in press briefings."I don't think anyone would consider Walter Winchell a Washington journalist," Ritchie noted."But Roosevelt wanted him to be on his side because his column was read by everyone under the sun." Ritchie reminds readers that every time a new technology -- from radio to television to the Web -- has emerged to report on Washington, access has come only after much determination:"The definition isn't set in stone and it changes every time a new form of technology emerges," Ritchie said. The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of Capitol Hill reporters who determine which reporters receive congressional press passes, and indirectly which get White House hard passes, has held that power since 1880, Ritchie notes. In each case over time, those reporting for new technologies have had to convince the group that they were deserving.

12,000 Year Old Bones Found in Kansas: Scientists say mammoth and camel bones unearthed in northwest Kansas that date back 12,200 years could be part of"one of the most important archaeological sites in North America." The bones, found last June in Sherman County near the Colorado border, were alongside a piece of stone that archaeologists say was the kind used in tools that humans once used.

Island Storms Uncover Medieval Bones/Scotland: SEVERE storms which hit Orkney last month have exposed human skeletons at a historic burial site. Now a team of archaeologists are racing against time to excavate and study the site before the sea destroys it altogether.

The great spiral minaret of the 9th century al-Mutawakkil mosque in Samarra.

Iraqi Antiquities: US army snipers have been positioned at the top of the great spiral minaret of the 9th century al-Mutawakkil mosque in Samarra. Armed with 50 calibre rifles and working in 24-hour two-man shifts, the soldiers watch over this turbulent city in the Sunni triangle north of Baghdad, which continues to be a hotbed of resistance against the Coalition. The 172-foot-high minaret, known as the Malwiya (spiral in Arabic), has a commanding view of the surrounding area, and the US army says that positioning snipers at its summit has drastically reduced the number of roadside bombs targeting military vehicles.

Plagiarism: A geography professor at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater who plagiarized numerous times over his long career will no longer be allowed to teach after a university investigation confirmed allegations that were first revealed in The Chronicle of Higher Ed. The professor, George O. Carney, has 15 days to appeal the university's decision. (Chronicle subscribers only)

Nazi/CIA: On 16 February 2005, the Senate approved legislation to extend the duration of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records for another two years. To date, the work of the IWG has resulted in the release of more than 8 million pages of documents.

American Secularism: Susan Jacoby, author of “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism” and the director of the Center For Free Inquiry in New York City, was invited by the Humanist Chaplaincy of Harvard to speak on the much-publicized “moral values” issue in American politics. She claimed that “secular civic values are in greater danger than they are at any other point” in the country’s history, endangered by the views of the religious right and the policies of the Bush Administration.

Coffee: For years, sociology professor Beau Weston has held informal office hours off campus in a local coffee shop, sipping his mocha latte while advising students. As he did, he formed relationships with other coffee shop regulars who might otherwise have remained strangers. That caused a sort of academic epiphany, and now he's one of a handful of teachers across the nation who have developed courses that study coffee and its effect on society.

Civil War Battlefields: One historic Civil War battlefield was put on sale on eBay, preservationists reported yesterday. Others are threatened by suburban sprawl, commuter traffic and other hallmarks of modern America, warned the Civil War Preservation Trust. The nation loses"an acre of battlefield every hour" to development, said Libby O'Connell, chief historian of the History Channel and a trustee of the preservation group."The Civil War is arguably the most important watershed in American history. Now over 60 percent of our major battlefields are in imminent danger."

Gulag: U.S. military service members may have been imprisoned and died in Soviet forced-labor camps during the 20th century, according to a Pentagon report to be released Friday. Researchers for the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs have been investigating unconfirmed reports of Americans who were held prisoner in the so-called gulags."I personally would be comfortable saying that the number [of Americans held in the gulags during the Cold War and Korean War] is in the hundreds," said Norman Kass, executive secretary of the commission's U.S. section.

The South: A school board declines to name a new high school in Cherokee County after Georgia's Civil War governor. Floridians question why Confederate soldiers adorn a water tower. Even the word"South," in some quarters, has become a slur — a convenient repository of national guilt over the exploitation of Africans in the Cotton Belt a century and a half ago. It's part of a deepening homogenization of Southern culture that's causing anger and resentment among many in a proud region with perhaps 65 million people who consider themselves Southerners. Some observers see a note of irony in the growing suppression of conservative Southern memorials at a time when old Confederate values like militarism, chivalry, gentility, and religiosity are gaining political prominence. The cause? Migration of Northerners to the South.

Wright Brothers/France: years after the first flight in North Carolina, Wilbur Wright staged a flight in France that finally convinced a skeptical public on both sides of the Atlantic that humans really could fly. Now French citizens from Le Mans — where Wright made that two-minute journey on Aug. 8, 1908 — want to commemorate its 100th anniversary. Several visited the Outer Banks last week to launch the effort to commemorate aviation's worldwide coming-of-age.

Rise and Fall of Civilizations: Jared Diamond's, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, is a catalog of past environmental ruin. But despite the abundance of bad news, its message is one of cautious optimism: if modern society can learn from the failures of its predecessors, it can avoid their fate.

Mexico/1971 Student Massacre: The Supreme Court dealt a setback to efforts to punish former officials for the murder of leftists three decades ago as it ruled that an international genocide treaty signed in 2002 could not be used to charge former President Luis Echeverría in connection with a 1971 student massacre. Prosecutors said they still held out hope the court would rule in their favor on the question of whether Mr. Echeverría, 83, can be tried for genocide under Mexican law.

Presidential Papers: The National Archives and Records Administration has announced the opening of selected documentary records from the papers of former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton."Approximately 9,700 pages of George H.W. Bush Presidential records that were previously withheld under the Presidential Records Act restrictions for appointments to federal office and/or confidential advice are now open for research," NARA said in a February 18 news release. Meanwhile,"The William J. Clinton Presidential Library ... Is making over 100,000 pages of Clinton presidential records available for research. They represent the first public release of Clinton presidential records since the end of the Clinton Administration," according to another NARA news release. Click here for more on the Clinton records.

Watergate: Its unique architecture coupled with a national scandal that changed the world of politics and the media caused the Watergate complex to receive status today as a historic landmark in the District of Columbia. The unanimous vote by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board comes five months after