Commemorate the Centennial of the Panama Canal

August 12, 2014
Roosevelt on a digging machine During Construction in 1906 (Library of Congress)

Roosevelt on a digging machine During Construction in 1906 (Library of Congress)

On August 15, 1914 the Panama Canal officially opened, and the SS Ancón was the first vessel to pass through. This August marks the 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal. Congress began to consider a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the 1880s. It was determined essential for commerce and defense. There are several online guides commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Canal. You can follow 100 Days in Honor of 100 Years with a countdown to the anniversary and posts about significant moments in history from the Embassy of the United States in Panama. Also check out the online resource guide from a GPO partner, Panama and the Canal that is a joint project from the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries and the Panama Canal Museum. It contains a wealth of information about digital history records, maps, and documents. To celebrate the Centennial, University of Florida has put together a Web site about special exhibits and the anniversary.

History

Signing of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty from Embassy of the United States Panama

Signing of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty from Embassy of the United States Panama (http://panama.usembassy.gov)

After much debate on where to build the canal, on February 23, 1904, a Senate Resolution ratified the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which gave the United States control of the Canal Zone in perpetuity. This overruled an earlier treaty, The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which was negotiated with the British in 1850 to stop hostilities in Latin America over control of a Canal Zone. That treaty agreed the countries would work together towards the goal of a Canal. (A statue of John Middleton Clayton stands in the U.S. Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.)

Official Panama Canal HandbookOnce Panama was agreed as the location and the U.S. determined to go the project alone, construction continued on an attempt in the 1880s by a French Expedition to build a canal through Panama. An overview of the history of the building of the Canal is available on the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian Web site.

Some Official Handbooks from early days of the Canal are available online. See the 1913 edition or the 1915 edition available from the depository collection of the University of Florida, or this 1911 edition from the Internet Archive. You can also visit Federal depository libraries nationwide to see what documents are available in their collections.

The Library of Congress Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room provides some links to history and some historic articles about the Canal.

Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos at the ceremony for signing the Panama Canal Treaty (1977) - U.S. Department of State

Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos at the ceremony for signing the Panama Canal Treaty (1977) – U.S. Department of State

The Panama Canal was administered by the United States until 2000 when control was passed back to the Republic of Panama. This was set as an agreement signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, The Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty.

Honoring The Past By Building The FutureIn 1989, a publication was produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Canal. You can read Honoring the Past by Building the Future: The Panama Canal 75th Anniversary online through GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. It contains some great photographs, and information about the history and vision of the future of the Canal.

Legislation

Several Hearings have been held and legislation passed on Canal construction and management. Hearings about the project have been held in Congress since the beginning in the 1850s. You can visit a Federal depository library to research the legislative history. You’ll find reports such as the 1909 Hearing concerning estimates for construction of the Isthmian Canal, fiscal year 1911.

In 1986, a briefing report was submitted to the House of Representatives from the Government Accountability Office to study alternatives to the Canal in preparation for returning control of the zone to the Republic of Panama. In 1999 a Hearing before the Committee on Armed Forces discussed the Security of the Panama Canal. In 2002 an agreement between the U.S. and Panama was signed to outline response and assistance in responding to environmental issues that would impede trade and commerce in the Canal. A 2014 Hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation discussed what expansion of the Canal will mean for American freight and infrastructure.

The Panama Canal Commission was established in 1979 as an independent agency, purposed with operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The commission was transferred to the Republic of Panama with control of the Canal in 2000. The Federal Register has a list of the Panama Canal Commission publications available in electronic format back to 1994. You can also access some documents in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, such as the Constitutional Title of the Panama Canal and the Organic Law Panama Canal Authority from 1997. Some of the commission reports are also available, such as the 10 year report (1980-1989).

In addition to the Panama Canal Commission records, The National Archives holds many records from the Panama Canal. This blog post from 2013 discusses the employee services records cards collection, and this blog post discusses a component of the personnel files that can be mined for genealogy and other research.

Several amendments and pieces of legislation can be found in the documents at Federal depository libraries, or through a search in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. You could also browse GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). Just last year a resolution was put to the House (H.R. 2760) to celebrate the centennial of the Panama Canal by minting commemorative coins.

GPO’s FDsys has a wide array of documents related to the Canal:

Panama Canal in the Federal Register:

Role in Trade

The Panama Canal has always been intended as an economic resource. You can see from this report, Panama Canal traffic and tolls from 1912 that the value in commerce and trade were at the forefront of reasons for the U.S. to invest in the project. For more about the role of the canal in trade, check out U.S. Free Trade Agreements: 20 Ways to Grow Your Business, available from the GPO Bookstore in print or eBook. It includes a chapter on Panama and discusses trade through the Canal.

This January 2000 report, The Panama Canal in Transition: implications for U.S. Agriculture, discusses the impact of the Canal transition on U.S. Agriculture. The total volume of trade between the U.S. and Panama reached $10.5 Billion in 2012, according to a fact sheet on this important economic partnership from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce article also links to a discussion on the Panama Canal Expansion Project from the Acting Secretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank.

The U.S. – Panama Trade Promotion Agreement was signed in 2011. It is an expansive free trade agreement and covers trade in goods and services, including financial services. You can read more about the agreement on the Office of the United States Trade Representative Web site. The U.S. Trade Representative Web site has a useful key facts page about U.S. – Panama Relations. The White House Web site also has a fact sheet about U.S. – Panama Relations.

For further reading, see this article in Environmental Health Perspectives from the National Institutes of Health about the Canal Expansion and its impact on Port Cities.

Role in Health

The building of the Panama Canal was a massive undertaking by the United States. A historical vignette from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Web site discusses the project’s chief engineer, George W. Goethais. In addition to feats of engineering, the project involved overcoming the diseases common in tropical regions. You can read about Public Health in Panama in the early 20th Century in this Public Health Report available on PubMed Central, The Public Health Service in the Panama Canal: A Forgotten Chapter of U.S. Public Health. You can also read the 1906 Short Account of the Sanitary Department of the Isthmian Canal Commission from PubMed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a fascinating article about the Panama Canal within its online resource about Malaria.

The Isthmian Canal Commission was created to oversee construction of the Panama Canal. Some of the Reports of the Department of Health of the Panama Canal may be available in Federal depository libraries. Some are also available online. For more about the commission, check out the 1911 publication Executive Orders relating to the Isthmian Canal Commission: March 1904 to June 12, 1911, inclusive. The Commission also authorized schools in the Canal Zone. Check out this Library of Congress finding aid to locate records in those collections about the Isthmian Canal Commission.

Role in War

The Panama Canal is a strategic passage for commerce, but also for military maneuvering by the United States. During times of war, the Canal Zone has been an important passage way and has been strategically guarded by the U.S. Military. The United States Army in World War 2, Western Hemisphere, Guarding the United States and its Outposts includes a section on the role of the Panama Canal in World War 2 and the military efforts to guard this important transportation and commercial outpost.

Submarines in the Panama Canal (1914-1918) - North Carolina Digital Collections

Submarines in the Panama Canal (1914-1918) – North Carolina Digital Collections

Construction of the Panama Canal included immense effort from the U.S. Military. The Panama Canal: An Army’s Enterprise is available in Paperback and ePub from the GPO Bookstore. This pamphlet describes the military history of the Canal and the efforts of Army officers to bring the Canal to completion.

The future of the Canal

Image of the Panama Canal Today (Department of Transportation)

Image of the Panama Canal Today (Department of Transportation)

The Panama Canal is undergoing an expansion, set to be completed in 2015. The U.S. Department of Transportation released a report in 2013, Panama Canal Expansion Phase 1 Report: Developments of Trade and National and Global Economies. This article from the U.S. Department of Transportation provides a short summary of the report. You can read more about the expansion project from the Canal De Panamà Web site.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE PUBLICATIONS?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy featured publications in this article (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:

Click Here to Purchase The Panama Canal: An Army’s Enterprise

Click Here to Purchase United States Army in World War 2, Western Hemisphere, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts

Click Here to Purchase U.S. Free Trade Agreements: 20 Ways to Grow Your Business

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for these in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the author: Cathy Wagner is an outreach librarian with the Education & Outreach team in the Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) division at the Government Printing Office.


“Now You’re Speaking My Language”: Teaching English as a Second Language in the U.S. and Abroad

January 31, 2014

Teaching-American-English-wordleThe English language, according to Wikipedia, is the third-most-common native language in the world after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish and is the most widely learned second language. Not only is it widely used in technology and entertainment, it is also an official language of the European Union, many British Commonwealth countries and the United Nations, as well as in many international organizations.

The U.S. Department of State recognizes that promoting the learning and teaching of English as a foreign or second language both within the United States and around the world is an essential step towards increasing cultural understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries.  The Department of State created the Office of English Language Programs, under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to encourage English language education for non-native English speakers.

As a former Business English professor for Spanish Masters of Marketing graduate students in Spain and a volunteer tutor for young Hispanic ESL (English as a Second Language) students in the United States, I had a hard time finding resources for my students or connecting with other teachers with whom I could exchange best practices and ideas for lesson plans that took into account the cultural differences of non-native speakers,” says Michele Bartram, Government Book Talk Editor and Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

English Teaching Forum, the quarterly journal for professionals teaching ESL or EFL English as a Foreign or Second Language, published by the U.S. State Department's Office of English Language ProgramsFortunately, the State Department’s Office of English Language Programs publishes the English Teaching Forum, a quarterly journal that serves as a resource for professionals teaching English as a foreign or second language all over the globe. This publication connects teachers of English as a second language across the many countries in which they are teaching by allowing them to submit articles and share their experiences working towards their common goal of helping others learn the English language worldwide. In fact, the majority of articles featured in the English Teaching Forum are authored by English language classroom teachers. Each new issue of the journal has a distribution of over 85,000 copies across more than 130 countries!

Teachers of English as a second language will find a number of useful articles in the pages of the English Teaching Forum. Topics covered in this quarterly publication include classroom language learning activities, teaching methods and tools, informational articles on potential teaching topics related to American culture, and understanding the needs of the diverse group of students that these teachers encounter.

In the most recent issue of the English Teaching Forum (Volume 51, Number 4, 2013), “Raising Cultural Awareness in the English Language Classroom” tackles the question of how to introduce American sociocultural elements into the language curriculum to enhance the students’ ability to grasp the cultural nuances of the language. It has been said that students cannot master a foreign language without understanding the cultural context in which the language is spoken, and in this article, author Jerrold Frank explores this theory and suggests methods of introducing cultural lessons to language students.

Another particularly interesting feature from English Teaching Forum can be found in Volume 50, Number 1, 2012, in the article “A Call to Service”  by William P. Ancker, which introduces an interview with Dr. James Alatis, a leader in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) community. The interview with Dr. Alatis, originally conducted in 2004 but reprinted in this issue in honor of the English Teaching Forum’s 50th anniversary, follows this introduction.

The journal even includes classroom exercises and printables, such as this fun quiz displaying the confusion caused by English-language homophones–words that are spelled differently but are pronounced similarly (like there and their).

ETF_Lighter-Side_Homophones-QuizImage: Speak and Spell Quiz from English Teaching Forum 2012, Volume 50, Number 3. See answers at bottom of the post.

If you are a teacher or a student of English as a foreign or second language, or even if you just find language and learning to be topics of interest to you, US-State-Department-American-English-Mobile-Appthe English Teaching Forum is a worthwhile publication to explore!

For more resources for teachers of American English, visit the State Department’s American English website, including downloading their new American English Mobile App for both teachers and students.

How do I subscribe to English Teaching Forum: A Journal for the Teacher of English Outside the United States?

About the Authors: Stephanie Jaeger is Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division that markets GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector. Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.

Answers to The Lighter Side “Speak and Spell” homophones quiz from above:

Answers-to-Homophones-Quiz 


Understand How the U.S. Government is Organized

January 13, 2014

The United States Government Manual 2013

United States US Government Manual 2013 ISBN: 9780160919510 Available from http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/069-000-00216-1?ctid=38The Government Manual is an essential guide to the United States Federal Government, where one can find the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and information on every U.S. Government agency. This official handbook on the Federal Government is published annually by the National Archives and Record Administration’s Office of the Federal Register.

Two years ago, Government Book Talk featured the Government Manual with the post “Browsing the Government Manual”. Here, we will take another look at this ultimate resource on the U.S. Government.

The 2013 Government Manual begins with the country’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and then goes on to profile each agency, quasi-official agency, international organization in which the United States participates, board, commission, and committee found in the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches of the U.S. Government. The profiles include:

  • Organizational charts
  • List of principal officials
  • Summary statement of the agency’s purpose and role in the Federal Government
  • Brief history of the agency, including its legislative or executive authority
  • Description of its programs and activities
  • Information on consumer activities, contracts and grants, employment, publications, and contact information.

This organizational structure is beneficial for large executive branch agencies that have several departments each with their own mission and function.  For example, 20 pages of the manual are devoted to the nearly 40 different divisions, offices, and bureaus that make up the Department of Justice, which seems complex but pales in comparison to the Department of Defense and its behemoth structure.

The Government Manual concludes with the History of Agency Organization Structures. This section of the manual is arguably the highlight of this publication, as it provides a history of the lifetime and timeline of each agency as the U.S. Government grows with the country. For example, the Bureau of Immigration was created in 1891 as a branch of the Department of Treasury and cycled through to the Department of Commerce and Labor, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and finally, after losing its name but keeping its functions, landed in the newly established Department of Homeland Security in 2002.

The Government Manual is not only a great resource on the United States Federal government and its functions, but also a goldmine of new information and interesting facts that are not commonly known about the U.S. Government and the country’s history.  So, if you would like  to understand how the U.S. Government is organized, then this is the book for you!

How can I get a copy of “The United States Government Manual 2013”?

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Stephanie Jaeger, Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division and is responsible for marketing GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector.


Take Notice: The 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

January 9, 2014

2014-NCTC-Counterterrorism-Calendar-spiral-boundIf you didn’t catch the Washington Post “In the Loop” article by Al Kamen this week entitled “Counter terror calendar 2014 is out!,” you’ll be pleased to know that yes, the 2014 edition of the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual Counterterrorism Desk Calendar is now available for ordering on the U.S. Government Bookstore.

Image: Cover of the 164-page 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar from the National Counterterrorism Center depicts the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon. Photo Credit: David L. Ryan / Boston Globe.

The goal behind the Counterterrorism Calendar is to educate and inform both professionals– first responders, military, intelligence, law enforcement and other counterterrorism personnel– as well as civilians about the threats of international terrorism and how to prevent, respond or mitigate these threats against the United States both at home and abroad.

History of U.S. Government Inviting Citizen Involvement in Domestic Security

Since its founding, America has had a history of inviting its citizens to participate in its own defense. Even with the danger of British sympathizers turning them in, brave revolutionaries posted recruiting posters on behalf of the Continental Congress such as the one below that invited Americans to “Take Notice” and help General Washington and the Continental Army defend against “the hostile designs of foreign enemies.”

revolutionary-war-take-notice-recruiting-posterImage: This Revolutionary War recruiting poster urged brave and able-bodied young men to “take notice” and join forces with General Washington and the Continental Army in the fight against “foreign enemies,” in this case, the British. Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS

In World War 2, the Federal Government issued numerous similar domestic campaigns reminding citizens that it was their civic duty to “defend America” and inviting citizens to help support the war industry and to be vigilant against spies, saboteurs and other actions by the enemy both at home and abroad.

Defend-American-Freedom It's Everybody's-Job- World War II 2 propaganda poster for civilian workersImage: U.S. Government World War II propaganda poster urging civilians to participate in the war effort. Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

Today, the war is a War on Terror, and the U.S. Government still needs involvement and vigilance of its citizens and allies, whether in the United States or abroad, to identify and protect against terrorists.

The 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

Under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center or NCTC serves as the primary organization in the U.S. government for integrating and analyzing all intelligence possessed or acquired by the U.S. government about international terrorism, including data from U.S. Federal agencies like the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the FBI as well as other domestic and international sources.

First published in a spiral-bound daily planner format in 2003, just two years after the World Trade Center attacks, the Counterterrorism or CT Calendar from the NCTC is published annually. According to the NCTC, their 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar:

…provides information on known terrorist groups, individual terrorists, and technical information on topics such as biological and chemical threats.This edition, like others since the Calendar was first published in daily planner format in 2003, contains many features across the full range of issues pertaining to international terrorism: terrorist groups, wanted terrorists, and technical pages on various threat-related topics.

Features of the Calendar

In addition to serving as a desk calendar / event planner, the 164-page 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar also serves as a tutorial on international terrorism and a gallery of “most wanted” terrorists.

The right-hand page of the planner has the event planner dates along with key historical events of significance to terrorists that might be used to plan future terrorist activities. For example, on January 8, 1998, terrorist Ramzi Ahmed Yousef was sentenced to life plus 240 years for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

On the left-hand pages are photos, maps and/or data on terrorists and terrorist organizations around the world, from Africa and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas.

Map-Somalia-based-al-Shabaab-terror-attacksImage: Map denoting locations of major terrorist incidents likely committed by the Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin—commonly known as al-Shabaab, a “clan-based insurgent and terrorist group” operating in and around Somalia. Source: NCTC 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

“Terrorism tutorial” information ranges from cultural—details about the Islamic Calendar; the spelling of Arabic names and terms; lists of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), and logos used— to technical –  information about Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear-Explosive (CBRNE) weapons commonly used by terrorists, from suicide bombs to sarin gas, and how to detect and mitigate them.  For example, who among us would recognize the terrorist threat from these innocent-looking beans?

Castor-beans-used-to-make-ricinImage: Photo of castor beans from which the deadly toxin ricin is extracted. Ricin is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested. Source: NCTC 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

“Wanted” Terrorists

Providing the real drama of the calendar are the full-page “Wanted” poster-style pages of an individual terrorist, complete with photo (if available), aliases, his terrorist activities, the reward offered, and how to report information about him.

One of the largest rewards, $25 Million, is offered for information leading to the capture of Ayman al-Zawahiri, also known as “The Teacher” or “The Doctor” who is a physician and the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. According to the CT Calendar:

“This organization opposes the secular Egyptian Government and seeks its overthrow through violent means. Al-Zawahiri is believed to have served as an advisor and doctor to Usama Bin Ladin. He has been indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The embassy bombings killed 224 civilians and wounded over 5,000 others.”

Wanted-page-of-terrorist-Ayman-al-Zawahiri-of-Egyptian-Islamic-JihadImage: Extract from the “wanted” page of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaida leader and founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Source: NCTC 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

Civilian Involvement

Finally, the NCTC carries on the civilian involvement tradition by including instructions for citizens of the U.S. and other countries on how they can help fight terrorism. Pages on” Indicators of False Travel Documents”, “Radicalization”, and how U.S. residents can report suspicions are provided. Additionally, the  Rewards for Justice (RFJ) Program is described in detail, wherein the U.S. Secretary of State may offer rewards for information that prevents or favorably resolves acts of international terrorism against US persons or property worldwide.

On the last page is a Bomb Threat Call Procedures form with valuable details of questions to ask and information to note about the caller, such as his or her voice (accent, age, tone, language) and background sounds. Did you note if the caller was clearing his throat or had an accent? Were there sounds of machinery in the background? What kind? Any and all details could help law enforcement.

Aspects-to-note-about-Bomb-Threat-CallerImage: Table from the Bomb Threat Call Procedures form. Source: Page 160 of the 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Like the tradition of the best Government civilian campaigns since the founding of the Nation, the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual Counterterrorism Calendar is simultaneously meant to alert and inform us, making both civilians and professionals alike aware of the very real dangers around us and educating us on what—and whom—to look for. With the cover photo depicting the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon– where ordinary citizens were instrumental in identifying and locating the terrorists responsible– the importance of having an informed and involved citizenry has never been clearer.

How can I get a copy of the National Counterterrorism Center’s 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar?

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Remembering Camelot: Best of the old and new official publications about John F. Kennedy

November 19, 2013

For the World War II generation, it was December 7, 1941 that was a “date which will live in infamy.” For today’s Americans it is September 11, 2001. For my parents’ generation, November 22, 1963, is the infamous day that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of the most historic—and horrific— days of the 20th century, and its impact is still being felt today.  It’s hard to believe it has been 50 years this week since the tragic events unfolded in Dallas, Texas.

In commemoration of this important milestone in our Nation’s history, the U.S. Government Printing Office has assembled a number of Official Federal publications that help us reflect on the huge legacy left by “JFK” in his short but impactful 1,000 days in office.

JFK as a Senator and Presidential Candidate

When John F. Kennedy was running for President, he was a United States Senator from Massachusetts.  These publications give insight to the man during this period of transition from active Senator to President-elect.

Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004, including John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton. ISBN 9781929667192Senate, 1789-1989, Volume 3: Classic Speeches, 1830-1993 contains the text of some of the most famous speeches by United States Senators, including a young Senator John F. Kennedy.

Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004 (Paperback) and the Audiobook-MP3 edition are new publications that tell the story of how the CIA and the US Intelligence Community begin to brief Presidential candidates and Presidents-elect, including JFK and Lyndon Johnson, on vital intelligence issues even before they take office.

JFK’s Army for World Peace

?????????Image: Candidate Senator John F. Kennedy at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Source: JFK Library

Two weeks after an improvised presidential campaign speech in October 1960 to a crowd of 10,000 cheering students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he asked “How many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?” Senator Kennedy proposed “a peace corps of talented men and women” who would dedicate themselves to the progress and peace of developing countries.  Encouraged by more than 25,000 letters responding to his call, newly elected President Kennedy took immediate action to make the campaign promise a reality and established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, with his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, as its leader.

A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps ServiceThe lasting legacy of the Peace Corps’ and its ongoing inspiration to America’s younger generations is clearly shown in these two books. A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service (Paperback) (it also available as an eBook) is a collection of autobiographical reminiscences by 28 former Peace Corps volunteers, while Crossing Cultures With the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Letters From the Field is a collection of actual letters from Peace Corps volunteers serving in various nations.

JFK’s Foreign Policy: Cold War Warrior

President Kennedy was confronted with some dramatic foreign policy issues from his first days in office, not least of which was how to avoid nuclear war with the Soviet Union over their missiles in Cuba.

History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The McNamara Ascendancy, 1961-1965 (eBook) John F. Kennedy isbn 999-000-55551-6History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The McNamara Ascendancy, 1961-1965 (eBook) tells the story of Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, including his relationship with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the transformation of the Department of Defense as a part of Kennedy’s New Frontier, and the Pentagon’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs episode, and the onset of the Vietnam War.

More than a mere historical text, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964 provides a fascinating inside look at the Joint Chiefs’ participation and their point-of-view in dealing with the following foreign crises from the U.S.S.R. arms race, Berlin Wall construction, Cuba, to Laos, expansion of NATO, support for Israel, and more – while working with new thinking in the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations.

Part of the Department of State’s famous Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) Series, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, V. 5, Soviet Union presents a full accounting of the overall nature and structure of United States-Soviet relations that made up the Kennedy Administration’s Cold War diplomacy. It also refers to some of the intelligence and analysis of the initial build-up of Soviet missiles in Cuba that ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as the complete official record of President Kennedy’s meetings with Soviet Chairman Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit Conference, June 3-4, 1961.

Penetrating the Iron Curtain: Resolving the Missile Gap With Technology (Book and DVD)  ISBN: 9780160920547For more in-depth information about the Cuban Missile crisis and Cold War Kennedy style, read the new Penetrating the Iron Curtain: Resolving the Missile Gap With Technology (Book and DVD)  from the CIA which contains analysis and hundreds of recently declassified intelligence documents about the Soviet missile build-up and perceived US missile gap.

CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting (Book and DVD)  ISBN: 9780160920509Also interesting is the recently released CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting (Book and DVD) which studies the reaction by the Soviets to the West’s formation of NATO including West Germany by establishing a military bloc of Communist nations with the Warsaw Treaty of May 1955. This study continues CIA’s efforts to provide a detailed record of the intelligence derived from clandestine human and technical sources from that period.

A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall (Book and DVD) ISBN: 9780160920455Many around the world have heard the famous quote from the Kennedy anti-Communist speech at the Berlin Wall on June 26, 1963, in which he says: “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’” The Berlin Wall became a symbol of Cold War hostilities between the US and the Soviets.  A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall (Book and DVD) is a new multimedia book with DVD that covers the period of 1945 to the end of 1961, during the Kennedy administration with a vast collection of recently declassified CIA documents, videos, and photographs that show Berlin’s journey from a battered post war region occupied by the Allies to a city literally divided – with its western half becoming an island of freedom surrounded by a sea of Communist repression.

How JFK inspired America to “Send a Man on the Moon”

In response to both real and perceived Soviet threats, President Kennedy gave his “Urgent National Needs” speech to Congress on May 25, 1961, where he stated that “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this [1960s] decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”  This statement turned to real policy and eventually manned missions to the moon. JFK’s lasting legacy to the U.S. space program is incalculable.

Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the United States Civil Space Program: V. VII: Human Spaceflight: Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo NASA History Series ISBN 780160813818the U.S. Civil Space Program: V. I: Organizing for Exploration  is part of the NASA historical collection and provides a selection of expert essays and key official documents about the organizational development of NASA and the U.S. civil space program, including Senator then President Kennedy’s memos and inspirational speeches and Vice President Johnson’s early involvement that intensified after becoming President.

Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the United States Civil Space Program: V. VII: Human Spaceflight: Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo  expands Kennedy’s vision of manned spaceflight into reality with Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, providing essays and the key documents that outlined manned space program budgets, proposals, and even the selection of lunar landing spots and choices of symbolic items to bring to the moon.

NASA's First 50 Years: Historical Perspectives; NASA 50 Anniversary Proceedings ISBN: 9780160849657In this thoughtful retrospective, NASA’s First 50 Years: Historical Perspectives; NASA 50 Anniversary Proceedings, a wide array of scholars turn a critical eye toward the achievements of NASA’s first 50 years, probing an institution widely seen as the premier agency for exploration in the world, carrying on a long tradition of exploration by the United States and the human species in general.

Civil Rights and the Brothers Kennedy

After the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, desegregation was a slow process in many Southern school districts and universities.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library's account of James Meredith, the African-American student whose attempt to register at the University of Mississippi in 1962 led to a showdown between state and federal authorities and the storming of the campus by a segregationist mob. JFK Library "Ole Miss" micrositeImage: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s account of James Meredith, the African-American student whose attempt to register at the University of Mississippi in 1962 led to a showdown between state and federal authorities and the storming of the campus by a segregationist mob. Source: JFK Library “Ole Miss” microsite

By President Kennedy’s election, civil rights activists were pushing for more equality, resulting in violent attacks and confrontations by staunch segregationists that required Federal involvement such as Federal marshals being called in by JFK’s brother and Attorney General Robert Kennedy to protect Alabama freedom riders, as well as forced integration at “Ole Miss” University of Mississippi.

Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992 ISBN: 0-16-072361-2 and 0-16-072364-7The book Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992 (Paperback) and (Hardcover) chronicles the U.S. Army’s response to major social events in contemporary American society, particularly the civil rights movement, including the integration showdown at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and other racial disturbances of the 1960s, all the way to the 1992 race riot in Los Angeles.

The End of Camelot

The practice of referring to the Kennedy Administration as Camelot came from a post-assassination interview for Life magazine with First Lady Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy, who referred to the years of Kennedy’s presidency before his assassination as an “American Camelot.”  She said that President Kennedy was fond of the music to the popular 1960-63 smash Broadway musical, Camelot, the lyrics of which were penned by Kennedy’s Harvard classmate, Alan Jay Lerner.  The First Lady mentioned that the President and she often listened to a recording of the hit title song before going to sleep, with JFK  particularly enjoying the phrase: “Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” Once the article was released, other journalists picked up on Mrs. Kennedy’s reference, and the world has used it ever since.

First Ladies by the White House Historical Association ISBN 9780912308838Jackie Kennedy’s historic role as First Lady is outlined in the beautifully done First Ladies of the United States of America book by the White House Historical Association which profiles the many courageous First Ladies, from Martha Washington to Jacqueline Kennedy, up to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush.

The end of Camelot came with President Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. Afterwards, President Lyndon Johnson created a commission, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the events that led to the assassination and any possible conspiracies.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) produced, in what was perhaps its single most important publication of the 1960s, the official results of this investigation in the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.  It became known unofficially as the Warren Commission Report or the Warren Report, named for Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren who chaired the commission.

C732-1-WH64Image: Chief Justice Earl Warren presenting the Final Report of The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy– printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office. September 24, 1964. Source: White House

Before it was released to the public on September 27, 1964, special security measures were set up at GPO to prevent any unauthorized disclosure of the manuscript.  A half century later, GPO is releasing a FREE digital version of the full, 900-page original Warren Commission Report from GPO’s FDsys (Federal Digital System) database.

Today it is still fascinating to re-live the events surrounding the events in Dallas in 1963 from eye witnesses.  In addition to witness testimony, the Report contains numerous photos, maps, diagrams, and illustrations.

The post-President Kennedy assassination audio tape recordings of conversations between various individuals in Washington, DC, and Air Force One pilots and officials on board during the flight from Dallas to Andrews Air Force Base are also available on FDsys.

johnjr-salutes-dad-jfkImage: John F. Kennedy, Jr. salutes his father’s coffin at President Kennedy’s funeral, with his widow First Lady Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy, daughter Caroline, and brothers Edward (Ted) Kennedy and Robert (Bobby) Kennedy.

These Official publications are part of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy and help us remember his 1,000 days of an American Camelot.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE JFK PUBLICATIONS?

You can find these official John F. Kennedy publications by clicking on the links above or through any of these methods:

  • Shop Online Anytime: Buy them online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore under the 35- John F. Kennedy collection (found under the US & Military History category Presidential History section).
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Go to a Library: GPO provides copies of these publications to Federal Depository libraries worldwide. Find them in a library near you.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Hawks vs. Doves: The Joint Chiefs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

October 18, 2012

50 years ago this week, the world stood on the brink of nuclear war as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded. The United States finally decided to first blockade rather than immediately attack Cuba to prevent the Soviet Union from finishing installation of missiles that could reach the continental United States. This article introduces the little-known story of the battles between the “hawks” and the “doves” in the Kennedy Administration as related in a new publication, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964.

When President John F. Kennedy finally announced the naval blockade of Cuba and the reasons for it on national television, Americans huddled together, practiced nuclear drills, and prayed for some peaceful solution to prevent all-out nuclear war. Only decades later did the full story of brinkmanship, bravado and brilliance come out about what really happened behind the scenes during those two weeks.

Image Credit: The Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records

A little known side of the story comes from the top military commanders who were serving the Kennedy administration during the crisis, found in the surprisingly fascinating book titled The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964, from the Office of Joint History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy Administration

This accounting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during this tumultuous period in the history of American foreign affairs goes beyond the normal third party historian’s post mortem, since the author was actually able to meet with several members of the joint chiefs in the 1970’s to add more of their personal insights, including Admiral Arleigh Burke, Admiral George Anderson, General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman during 1960-1962, and the Chairman who succeeded him, General Maxwell D. Taylor.

Image: President John F. Kennedy meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photograph includes: (L-R) United States Marine Corps General David Shoup; United States Army General Earle Wheeler; United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay, President Kennedy; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor; United States Navy Admiral George Anderson. West Wing Lawn.  White House. Washington, D.C. Credit: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

What results is an interesting amalgam of history and a peek into the tensions between military joint chiefs and the civilians to whom they reported. Describing the relationship of the Kennedy administration and the military establishment, author Walter S. Poole says: “During 1961-1962, relations between the JCS and their civilian superiors were often awkward and even confrontational” particularly between Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Lemnitzer.

The old-school Joint Chiefs were concerned about the new approach to foreign policy being espoused by the Kennedy administration, and tensions grew. According to the author:

“What most concerned the JCS was an apparent erosion of US credibility that emboldened communist leaders to pursue more adventurous policies. President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara pursued what they conceived as more flexible approaches to strategy and crisis management.”

Quick Background on the Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1962, the Soviet Union was losing the arms race with the United States. In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba to double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union from the Jupiter missiles the U.S. had just placed in Turkey.  Ever since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year, Fidel Castro felt a second attack by the U.S. on Cuba was inevitable, so he agreed to host the missiles as protection.

Image: Initial U.S. intelligence estimates of possible U.S. targets within range of the nuclear-capable Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballisticmissiles (MRBMs) and SS-5 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) found by the U-2 spy plane surveillance photographs if they were launched from Cuba.  Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS

On October 15, 1962, the National Photographic Intelligence Center confirmed that secret reconnaissance photographs from an American U-2 spy plane flight the day before were finally able to definitively prove the suspicion that Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Atlanta, the Midwest, Washington, DC, and even Los Angeles and Seattle were indeed in place and in the process of being installed and ready in Cuba within days. In response, President Kennedy and Secretary McNamara assembled the Executive Committee of the National Security Council call “ExComm” as a task force that, together with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and experts from the State Department and other intelligence agencies, would debate the United States’ options to deter the Soviets from nuclear escalation.

To Blockade, Strike or Invade?

Earlier in September 1962, after cloud-obscured U-2 photos had hinted at Soviet build-up in Cuba, the Joint Strategic Survey Council had submitted a recommendation for blockading rather than invading Cuba, on grounds that a blockade would be less dramatic, require smaller resources, cause fewer casualties, and be more plausibly related to upholding the Monroe Doctrine. In his 1823 annual message to Congress, President James Monroe had established this doctrine followed by the U.S. ever since that warned European countries not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere, stating “that the American continents… are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

However, as the crisis unfolded, the primary debate among the military commanders of the Joint Chiefs was over whether to carry out an all-inclusive attack against Soviet and Cuban forces on the island or a surgical strike confined to just attacking the missiles themselves, the nuclear storage sites, and Soviet MiG planes.

Both President Kennedy and McNamara thought that an all-inclusive attack would inevitably lead to invasion of Cuba, and then possible counter-attacks elsewhere by the Soviets or escalation to all-out war.

But General Taylor reported that the Joint Chiefs and the combatant commanders felt “so strongly about the dangers inherent in [only] the limited strike that they would prefer taking no military action. They feel it’s opening up the United States to attacks which they can’t prevent, if we don’t take advantage of surprise.” Taylor added that his personal inclination was “all against invasion, but nonetheless trying to eliminate as effectively as possible every weapon [present in Cuba] that can strike the United States”.

According to the reports by the author, the Joint Chiefs were opposed to only attacking the medium-range ballistic missiles themselves, saying it would incur “an unacceptable risk” and that not attacking the enemy’s planes would expose the continental United States and Puerto Rico to air attack and could cause unnecessary casualties among the garrison at Guantanamo and the forces assembling for invasion.  Instead, the JCS initially recommended “also hitting tactical missiles, aircraft, ships, tanks, and other appropriate targets, as well as imposing a ‘complete’ blockade.


Image: A meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 29, 1962, 10:10-10:58am. Clockwise from left: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (standing); Assistant Sec. Defense Paul Nitze; Dep. USIA Dir. Donald Wilson; Special Counsel Theodore Sorensen; Exec. Sec. NSC Bromley Smith; Special Assistant McGeorge Bundy; Sec. Treasury Douglas Dillon; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; Ambassador  Llewellyn Thompson; William C. Foster; CIA Dir. John McCone (hidden); Under Secretary of State George Ball (hidden); President John F. Kennedy; Sec. State Dean Rusk; Sec. Defense Robert McNamara; Dep. Sec. Defense Roswell Gilpatric; Chairman JCS Gen. Maxwell Taylor. Credit: Photo by Cecil Stoughton, JFK Library ST-A26-18-62

The Blues vs. the Reds

Even more fascinating was the story of the war gaming techniques used. To quickly develop two alternative scenarios for the President to consider, the ExComm task force split into two groups that constantly exchanged position papers and critiqued each other’s work. The “Blues,” who were to prepare the scenario for a surprise air strike, included General Maxwell Taylor, Robert Kennedy, Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, Director McCone, Dean Acheson, and McGeorge Bundy. The “Reds,” drafting the blockade option, included Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Adm. George Anderson, Marine Corps Commandant David Shoup, Secretary Rusk, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, and Theodore Sorensen.

Image: On October 11 last week, certain documents from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s personal papers about the Cuban Missile Crisis were declassified. In it was the above personal list of who RFK thought among the ExComm were the “Hawks” who favored an air strike (shown in the right column labeled “Strike”) vs. the “Doves” who favored a blockade of Cuba (in the left column). Note that the “Chiefs” meaning the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with General Taylor are shown on the “Hawks” Strike side of his list on the right.  Source: The National Security Archive

In less than two days, two complete scenarios were prepared and presented to President Kennedy on October 20, with competing input coming from the Pentagon and the State Department.

From this insider accounting of events, we learn that the Chairman thought that the probable sequence of events to be green-lighted would be: a political approach; a warning; air attack on the missile sites; blockade; and, if necessary, invasion, with the earliest air strike date set for October 21 (optimally the 23rd), and an invasion to begin on October 28.

However, to find out exactly what happened and how the drama played out behind the scenes, pick up a copy of this fascinating book.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Find this and other Government publications about Cuba in our Cuba collection.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

August 15, 2012

After watching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interview about the State Department’s release of their Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010, I had to blog about this important annual publication.

Image: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presents latest Annual Human Rights Report (Read her remarks here.). Source:  State Department

In its 35th year for 2010, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are Congressionally mandated reports produced by the U.S. Department of State that provide encyclopedic detail on human rights conditions in each of the 194 countries that are members of the United Nations.

The 2010 version available from GPO is a two-volume set that provides an overview of the human rights situation around the world as a means to raise awareness of human rights conditions, in particular as these conditions affect the well-being of women, children, racial and religious minorities, trafficking victims, members of indigenous groups and ethnic communities, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, refugees, and members of other vulnerable groups.  Grouped by region, the country reports detail the situation in each member nation, and the set also provides an introduction and preface describing overall trends as well as detailed appendices.

What are Human Rights?

With the end of World War II, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed to never allow atrocities like those experienced during the war to happen again. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere, with the resulting document becoming The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 Image: In 1950, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students at the UN International Nursery School in New York viewed a poster of the historic document. Source: United Nations

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proposed 64 years ago next month and adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. This defines the following universal human rights across all members of the United Nations:

Image: Universal human rights. Source: Jayara9re

The Best and the Worst List

The Country Reports also serve as a progress report in relation to previous years by outlining which countries are improving and which are backsliding as far as human rights are concerned. The 2010 reports praise Colombia, Guinea, and Indonesia for their marked improvements shown that year, and notes Ukraine for backsliding. Check the book for details on each country’s status.

Image: Human rights protestor in Syria holds sign in English aimed to worldwide audiences and media. Source: My San Antonio blog.

Three Trends Affecting Human Rights

The 2010 report discusses three important trends from the year including:

1)      Persecution of Vulnerable Groups: the continuing rise of violence, persecution, and official and societal discrimination of members of vulnerable groups, often racial, religious, or ethnic minorities or disempowered majorities;

2)      Repression of Civil Society and Growth of Advocacy Groups: the repression of civil society in different countries and the explosive growth of non-governmental advocacy organizations focused on a wide range of democracy and human rights issues and causes; and

3)      Rise of Web and Mobile Technology: “the dramatic growth of the Internet, mobile phones, and other connective technologies that allow instantaneous communications to billions of people across the globe.”

Further information on all three of these trends is more fully documented in the Introduction to this year’s report, as well as in specific country reports.

Persecution of “Vulnerable Groups”

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010 outlined the negative trend of the continuing escalation of violence, persecution, and official and societal discrimination of members of vulnerable groups, often racial, religious, or ethnic minorities or disempowered majorities.

In many countries this pattern of discrimination extended to women; children; persons with disabilities; indigenous; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; and members of other vulnerable groups who lacked the political power to defend their own interests.

The report also notes that “often members of these groups were denied economic opportunity or the ability to abide by their social or cultural traditions or practices or were restricted in their ability to speak freely, to assemble peacefully, or to form associations or organizations.”

For example, the report notes that there is increasing exploitation of laborers and threats against workers for attempting to unionize in many countries, as well as increasing violence against members of the LGBT community.

Image: LGBT Human rights protestors in Honduras hold sign saying “Nuestros derechos también son humanos.” (“Our rights are also human.”). Source:  Ultima Hora (Honduras)

Civil societies rebel against repression: The rise of the “Arab Spring”

By the end of 2010 which is when this report finishes, the issues relating to repression of civil society were giving rise to the so-called “Arab Spring.” Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the U.S. State Department, noted that this report captured these conditions in Egypt and Iran that were leading to protests, and “some of the areas we are seeing changing in the Middle East as demonstrating the inability in those of societies of civil societies to express themselves as one of the problems that emerged.”

Tools of rebellion: The Internet, social media and mobile technology

One of the more interesting trends that added fuel to these rebellions was a key theme in the 2010 report, namely “the explosive way in which the Internet, mobile phones, and other types of types of technologies have emerged in order for different groups to be able to use them to promote democracy and to promote human rights.”

Image: Protestor holds sign that points out the importance of social media today to civil protests and movements. Source:  Linney Group

Smartphone-based social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs played a critical role in extending the reach of opposition messages, which was validated by the University of Washington’s Project on Information Technology and Political Islam which assembled and analyzed data from more than 3 million tweets, gigabytes of YouTube content and thousands of blog posts about Tunisia and Egypt prior to the crisis in each country.

Image: Protester in Egypt holds up home-made sign at a protest rally that mentions both Facebook and the Egyptian uprising organizers’ Twitter hashtag #jan25. Inspired by the successful Tunisian Arab Spring revolution hashtag, #sidibouzid, the Egyptian hashtag #jan25 stands for January 25, 2011, the date the organizers launched the Egyptian civil uprising in Tahir Square. Photo by Essam Sharaf.

Who should read this?

Maria Otero says the State Department team sees this report as a “way of providing credible thoughtful, analytical information to all of those people around the world, whether it is non-governmental organizations, universities, other governments who are specifically looking at this issue.”

But in addition to serving scholars, reporters and analysts looking at the past, Otero says the State Department uses these reports as a source of information for present and future U.S. policy making, and sees them as a way activists and policy developers in this and other countries can help their own governments identify and decrease whatever abuses may exist, while at the same time increasing their own capacity to protect and to address the issues of human rights in their own countries.

It shows that there’s nothing wrong with reading about rights!

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN a copy of the two-volume set of Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010?

  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

To find more U.S. government reports and publications about human rights reports,browse our online bookstore and search on “human rights”.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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