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Smorgasbord 1
Friday, November 14, 1997
© Copyright 1997 by NewHeavenNewEarth

smorgasbord (smor-gos-bord) n.
A buffet meal featuring a varied number of dishes.

Another NHNE publication --
albeit more loosely knit than most

=================


Hello Everyone,

Everyday, all kinds of interesting news and information finds its way to our doorstep. Normally, this material is shared with you through our weekly News Brief, Wind & Wings and other publications. But with all of these publications now on hold while we get our financial act together, alot of news is beginning to pile up. So I am going to relieve some of the pressure by putting together a new, more laid back and informal publication. Called "Smorgasbord," it will include a little bit of everything: online news stories with URLS that take you to the complete story (rather than summaries or compilations), interesting quotes, inspirational stories, dreams, jokes, personal observations and experiences, basically anything that comes my way that I think you might find interesting that doesn't require alot of effort on my part to "package." Most of the news that comes to us through offline sources will have to wait until we are up and running again at full steam. So, too, will our own in-depth Special Reports, articles and future issues of Wind & Wings. Since I will be putting this more personable and less professional publication together without the proofreading skills of James Gregory and some of my other friends who can actually spell and edit (skills I am still developing), you can also expect more typos and misspellings.

I plan to publish Smorgasbord every Friday. Its content and size will vary from issue to issue, depending on what kind of news and inspirations find their way to my doorstep the preceding week -- and how much time I have to put everything together.

Like everything we publish these days, Smorgasbord will be coming to you free of charge. Those of you who are interested will, however, be able to sponsor it. In keeping with the loosely-knit focus of Smorgasbord, I'll be accepting ads, quotes, messages to special friends and loved ones, favorite links, pretty much whatever you can think of as ad copy (within reason). Smorgasbord sponsors will be able to reach everyone on the NHNE Mailing List and, at the same time, provide us a little extra income. Smorgasbord will also cost less to sponsor than our other publications. For details, you can send a message to "nhne@nhne.com" and write "Sponsor Smorgasbord" in the SUBJECT FIELD of your message.

And that's it. I hope all is well in your part of the world. Please keep NHNE, and everyone else involved in our work and growing network, in your prayers.

With Love & Best Wishes,
David Sunfellow

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Smorgasbord 1
Friday, November 14, 1997

smorgasbord (smor-gos-bord) n.
A buffet meal featuring a varied number of dishes.

Another NHNE publication --
albeit more loosely knit than most

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Total Subscribers:
This week: 935
Last week: 928

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"The important thing is not to stop questioning."

--- Albert Einstein

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CONTENTS:

NEWS WATCH:
Mary's Resting Site Believed Found in Jerusalem
Prehistoric English Ceremonial Site Uncovered
Egypt Considers Creating Underwater Museum
Gene Therapy Seen to Work on Heart Disease
Robotics: The Next Frontier in Operations
"Gattaca" Could Foretell Reality
World's "Smartest" House
"Mugspot" Can Find a Face in the Crowd
Plucking Music Out of Thin Air
World's Most Detailed Weather Forecaster
Devastating Losses to Florida's Coral Reefs
Rare Predators Threatening East Coast Fish
Dangerous Jewelry
Britain Bans Cosmetic Tests on Animals
"Free Willy" Star's Fate

UPCOMING EVENTS:
FIRING LINE: Evolution-Creation Controversy

NHNE NETWORKING:
Calling All Holistic-Health Practitioners

THE LIGHTER SIDE:
Guyness Quotient

NOTES FROM THE HOME PLANET:
Lewis, Clark & Sacagawea

INSPIRATIONAL STORY:
Joan of Arc

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NEWS WATCH:

MARY'S RESTING SITE BELIEVED FOUND IN JERUSALEM
(Source: REUTERS, 11/9/97)

Archaeologists have uncovered the spot where Christians believe Mary rested on her way to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus, Israeli officials said on Sunday. Church tradition has historically held that Mary rested three miles, or midway, into her journey from the Old City of Jerusalem to Bethlehem. A second century text by St James said she had a vision there, which prompted her to stop at the spot. A fifth century Byzantine church, with well preserved mosaic and marble floors, is built around a rock that is known as Kathisma (the seat) in Greek. This rock is believed to be Mary's resting place.

http://www.yahoo.com/headlines/971109/news/stories/mary_1.html

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PREHISTORIC ENGLISH CEREMONIAL SITE UNCOVERED
(Source: BBC ONLINE, 11/10/97)

Archeologists have found the remains of a prehistoric ceremonial site which has been described as the biggest in Britain. ENGLISH HERITAGE officials say it is as old and comparable in significance to the megalith monument in Stonehenge, although twice as large. Traces of the temple, in well-defined pits, were found in Stanton Drew, near Bristol. Dr Geoffrey Wainwright, ENGLISH HERITAGE'S chief architect, said the discovery was the most significant in British pre-history archeology in 30 years. He explained: "We have about 3,000 stone circles in Britain but previously only seven timber temples."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_29000/29225.stm

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EGYPT CONSIDERS CREATING UNDERWATER MUSEUM
(Source: Michael Holmes, CNN ONLINE, 11/9/97)

Off the coast of Alexandria lies an array of archaeological treasures dating back before the days of Antony and Cleopatra. Archaeologists believe more than 3,000 artifacts may be scattered along the seabed. There, say some Egyptian officials, is precisely where they should stay. "I prefer to let everything (stay) under the water and people can go and make the museum to be the first museum in the world for antiquities under the water," says Ibrahim Darwish, director of the DEPARTMENT OF UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGY. As officials mull over the notion of creating such a museum, archaeologists are faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to raise more of the precious finds from the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. Thirty-six relics raised from the site in 1995 are stored in a Roman theater in Alexandria. Some are still being treated for desalination, a preservation step that wouldn't be needed for items that remain under water.

http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9711/09/egypt.underwater.museum.ap/index.html

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GENE THERAPY SEEN TO WORK ON HEART DISEASE
(Source: REUTERS, 11/9/97)

Scientists reported Sunday that genetic engineering had been used successfully for the first time in human beings as part of two projects designed to treat blocked arteries. One research team said DNA injected into 10 patients caused eight of them to grow new arteries bypassing blockages, while a second team used genetic engineering to keep heart bypass grafts from getting clogged up. "This is the first time that gene therapy has been proven to work," says Dr. Jeffrey Isner of ST. ELIZABETH MEDICAL CENTER and TUFTS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE in Boston, who worked on the study involving new artery growth.

http://www.yahoo.com/headlines/971109/news/stories/gene_2.html

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ROBOTICS: THE NEXT FRONTIER IN OPERATIONS
(Source: EUREKALERT, 11/ 12/97)

Robots are being tested as a new way to help surgeons perform heart operations. The robots control miniature instruments such as scissors, needle holders, graspers and a camera through 5 or 10 millimeter (about one-quarter inch) incisions, or ports. Once developed and perfected, the robotic port-access technique might allow mini coronary bypass surgery to be performed with small puncture wounds, about three milllimeters in size. Individuals would have a very short hospital stay and a return to work sooner. And there wouldn't be as much scarring. During the procedure, the surgeon sits before a screen several feet away from the operating table, viewing the heart on a television monitor. Large handles are used by the surgeon to control the instruments. The handles are interfaced with a computer that processes and maps every movement. This is translated down to the robotic arms and surgical instruments. The advantage here is that the robotic arms can hold things absolutely steady. The motion is filtered to eliminate tremors. In addition, the physician can scale his motion so that large movements of the controls produce fine movements in the patient.

http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/robot-ahasurg.html

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"GATTACA" COULD FORETELL REALITY
(Source: USA TODAY ONLINE, 10/28/97)

In the new movie Gattaca, science has made it possible to engineer a class of genetically superior human beings. Race and ethnic backgrounds are no longer causes for discrimination. People are judged only by their genes. Children conceived through natural means are treated as second-class citizens - the toilet-scrubbers of the engineered elite. But fiction could become reality, as the genetics field makes advances and new discoveries everyday. The ability to engineer humans is many years in the future, but will society be ready?

http://www.usatoday.com/life/science/genetics/lsg020.htm

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WORLD'S "SMARTEST" HOUSE
(Source: EUREKALERT, 11/ 13/97)

What may be the world's "smartest" house, a dwelling whose environment is controlled by a computer system that learns the occupant's daily habits and preferences, is unknown to most residents of Boulder, Colorado. A former schoolhouse more than 90 years old, the structure was purchased in 1991 by Associate Professor Michael Mozer of the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO at Boulder's computer science department. It was then renovated and retrofitted with high-technology hardware. Using data gleaned by sensors installed by Mozer and his students, the computer system essentially "programs itself" by observing his lifestyle and habits over time, eventually learning to anticipate and accommodate his needs. Mozer and more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate students have installed 75 sensors and nearly five miles of conductor in the home, as well as actuators to control lighting, ventilation and air and water heating. The sensors continually monitor temperature, ambient light, sound and motion in each room, the opening of doors and windows, outdoor environmental conditions, boiler temperature and hot water usage. The system predicts Mozer's behavior and movements, including which rooms will be occupied at what times, when he will leave the house and return, and when hot water will be needed in the boiler.

http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/mozer-house.html

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"MUGSPOT" CAN FIND A FACE IN THE CROWD
(Source: EUREKALERT, 11/ 5/97)

Computer "eyes" are now up to such tasks as watching for fugitives in airline terminals and other busy locations. A sophisticated face-recognition system that placed first in recent Army competitive trials has been given the added ability to pick out faces in noisy or chaotic "street" environments.

http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/mugspot-crowd.html

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PLUCKING MUSIC OUT OF THIN AIR
(Source: BBC ONLINE, 11/ 13/97)

People who once were prevented by this debilitating disease from even picking up an instrument, can now pluck sounds out of the air. The music is created by using a sound beam which is projected over an open space. The beam source is linked up to a sampler and loudspeakers. When something is placed in front of the beam and breaks it this sends back a signal which produces a musical note. The beam can be divided up in the same way as a musical keyboard. Different notes are produced depending on how far away from the beam source the beam is broken. And as the beam is linked up to a sampler it is possible to play a variety of different instruments using the same method.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_30000/30842.stm

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WORLD'S MOST DETAILED WEATHER FORECASTER
(Source: EUREKALERT, 11/5/97)

First it was the Chinese, then the Egyptians who more than 3,000 years ago began studying and predicting the weather. Then in the 16th and 17th centuries meteorology became a science with the invention of instruments to measure the elements. Now a supercomputer is ushering in a new era of high-precision local weather forecasting. The UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON has just switched on the latest version of its MM5 weather forecasting system, the first in the world to diagnose and forecast local weather on a scale of a few thousand yards. The computer is able to picture the rises and slopes of the region's topography so accurately that it "sees" the effects of Mount Rainier, including the rain showers on one side of the mountain and the rainshadow on the other. It is also able to calculate wind directions with considerable accuracy. In time, the system might also include forecasting the amount of water available to a region. Another important use of the MM5 system, possibly within a year, will be its coupling to regional air-quality monitoring systems to forecast levels of ozone and pollutants in the atmosphere.

http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/detweather-sys.html

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DEVASTATING LOSSES TO FLORIDA'S CORAL REEFS
(Source: EUREKALERT, 11/13/97)

New information gathered last summer shows that diseases on Florida's coral reefs have dramatically increased with potential long-term consequences for the coral reef ecosystem. The study, part of the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY'S Coral Reef Monitoring Program, found that the incidence of the disease has increased by 276 percent from 1996 to 1997. Perhaps even more ominous, the number of coral species with diseases has increased 211 percent in the same time period. "In the late 1980s, we were following five or six diseases on Florida's coral reefs, but we now know of 13, some of which are entirely new to science," said Dr. James W. Porter, an ecologist from the University of Georgia who is a principal investigator for the project. "We are really stunned at what we found. There is no precedent for what has happened in the past year."

http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/coralrf-lossfla.html

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RARE PREDATORS THREATENING EAST COAST FISH
(Source: EUREKALERT, 11/12/97)

Tiny, tentacled sea creatures, rarely seen drifting in the ocean, have been discovered thriving by the millions off New England's vulnerable Georges Bank over the past few years, threatening valuable cod and haddock, species that have already been decimated by overfishing in the area. Normally rooted to the sea bottom, the voracious animals, called hydroids, have been found floating free in concentrations as high as 100 per gallon of water, said Steve Bollens, associate professor of biology at SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY and a leader of the team studying the predatory animals. Each about a tenth of an inch across, they eat most of the daily production of small crustaceans, or copepods, which the fish larvae rely on. As a result, the hydroids have become one of the chief competitors of the commercial fish and may threaten their survival, Bollens said. Adding insult to injury, the hydroids also appear to kill the young fish directly. "We've seen them with their tentacles engulfing the head of larval cods," Bollens said. "When you add their potential impact as a predator of the fish, you can't ignore their importance." The hydroids may have been ripped from their moorings by seasonal storms, or, more ominously, by commercial trawlers, Bollens said. Every square foot of the massive Georges Bank region has been scraped by the heavy chains used to hold down trawling nets and stir up fish. The chains are known to disturb the habitat, and they may account for a sizable number of the dislocated predators that plague the fish and their prime food source.

http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/rarepred-threatfish.html

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DANGEROUS JEWELRY
(Source: REUTERS, 11/11/97)

Hundreds of dangerously radioactive gemstones are circulating in Asian markets and some have found their way into finished jewelry, gemologists say. Tests conducted in Bangkok showed radiation levels in some stones were more than 50 times the U.S. safety limit and could cause health problems, including cancer. The concerns center on batches of a popular semi-precious stone called a "cat's eye" that are believed to have been irradiated to change their color from yellow, when they are worth a few hundred U.S. dollars per carat, to an unusual chocolate hue priced at thousands of dollars per carat.

http://www.yahoo.com/headlines/971111/news/stories/gems_1.html

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BRITAIN BANS COSMETIC TESTS ON ANIMALS
(Source: CNN ONLINE, AP, 11/6/97)

Companies in Britain have voluntarily stopped testing cosmetics on animals at the request of the Labor government, but animals will still be used in medical research tests. Lord Williams described Thursday's move as a major step forward, but he conceded that the 2,800 cosmetic tests on animals last year amounted to 0.01 percent of the number of experiments carried out. And many of the ingredients used in makeup, including ultraviolet filters and preservatives, will still be tested because they also are used in therapeutic products. Still, the action was hailed by Anita Roddick, founder of THE BODY SHOP, a natural cosmetics company that last year presented a petition bearing more than four million signatures to the EUROPEAN UNION demanding a ban on animal testing in the European cosmetics industry.

http://www.cnn.com/EARTH/9711/06/britain.animal.ap/index.html

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"FREE WILLY" STAR'S FATE

(Source: Rusty Dornin , CNN ONLINE, 10/ 26/97)

When he splashed down in the OREGON COAST AQUARIUM in 1996, the star of the movie "Free Willy," was in bad shape -- underweight and covered with skin growths. Nearly two years later, Keiko the killer whale is a thousand pounds heavier, but his health is now being bitterly disputed."We know that Keiko was being treated for a fungal respiratory infection, and we know that he has tapeworms and roundworms and nematodes," said Phyllis Bell of the OREGON COAST AQUARIUM. But Keiko's owners, the FREE WILLY KEIKO FOUNDATION, claim the whale has been given the once over by several experts, and they have given him a clean bill of health. The finger-pointing on all sides has the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an independent medical evaluation. Meanwhile, Keiko's owners still want to eventually release him to the wild, although they too have questions. "We need to know whether he can see well? Can he echo locate? Can he hear? Is he going to be fully capable of hunting successfully on his own?"

http://www.cnn.com/EARTH/9710/26/free.willy.update/index.html

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UPCOMING EVENTS:

FIRING LINE: EVOLUTION-CREATION CONTROVERSY

On December 19, 1997, the well-known PBS program FIRING LINE will air a two-hour special on the evolution-creation controversy. The program will be a debate, taking place on a college campus before a student audience. Host William Buckley has once again invited Michael Kinsley, editor of the on-line magazine Slate, to moderate. Buckley will join other debaters arguing in favor of the resolution, "Resolved: The evolutionists should acknowledge creation." All but one guest has been chosen from the best-known anti-evolutionists, and the leading defenders of evolution. Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION; Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE; philosopher Michael Ruse, author of But Is It Science? and Monad to Man; and Kenneth R. Miller, Div. of Biology and Medicine, BROWN UNIVERSITY. Buckley will be joined by law professor Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial; biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box; and mathematician David Berlinski, whose anti-evolution article in Commentary drew considerable attention last year. (Miller and Johnson have already participated in an online debate sponsored by the television science series NOVA.)

The live broadcast of FIRING LINE will be at 8:00 PM Eastern time on December 19; be sure to check your local listings for broadcast times in your area.

For more information:
http://www.natcenscied.org/firlin.htm

For a cyberspace debate between Kenneth Miller and Phillip Johnson:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/odyssey/debate/index.html

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NHNE NETWORKING:

CALLING ALL HOLISTIC-HEALTH PRACTITIONERS

Mary Oberg and her husband, Mike, recently spent a few days visiting their family in Sedona, Arizona. While they were here, I had a chance to get together with them and hear about some of their adventures and dreams. Mary, who is both a nurse and a Therapeutic Touch Practitioner, told me about her struggle to introduce alternative therapies into the mainstream health establishment of the Kansas City area. Knowing that many other people are having similar difficulties in other parts of the country (and world), I thought it would be a good idea to start a mailing list for folks interested in this topic -- and Mary has agreed to facilitate it. If you are someone who has experience introducing holistic-health therapies into mainstream health establishments, or simply wants to connect with others who are working to transform the health care system from the inside out, I encourage you to write Mary at "obergm@classic.msn.com". Mary will be creating a mailing list of holistic-health-minded people that can share experiences, pool resources, and help one another find effective ways to offer their particular gifts to the world.

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THE LIGHTER SIDE:

GUYNESS QUOTIENT

Take This Scientific Quiz to Determine Your Guyness Quotient:

1. Alien beings from a highly advanced society visit the Earth, and you are the first human they encounter. As a token of intergalactic friendship, they present you with a small, but incredibly sophisticated device that is capable of curing all disease, providing an infinite supply of clean energy, wiping out hunger and poverty, and permanently eliminating oppression and violence all over the entire Earth. You decide to:

A. Present it to the president of the United States.
B. Present it to the secretary general of the United Nations.
C. Take it apart.

2. As you grow older, what lost quality of your youthful life do you miss the most?

A. Innocence.
B. Idealism.
C. Cherry bombs.

3. In your opinion, the ideal pet is:

A. A cat.
B. A dog.
C. A dog that eats cats.

4. You have been seeing a woman for several years. She's attractive and intelligent, and you always enjoy being with her. One leisurely Sunday afternoon the two of you are taking it easy -- you're watching a football game; she's reading the papers -- when she suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, tells you that she thinks she really loves you, but she can no longer bear the uncertainty of not knowing where your relationship is going. She says she's not asking whether you want to get married; only whether you believe that you have some kind of future together. What do you say?

A. That you sincerely believe the two of you do have a future, but you don't want to rush it.
B. That although you also have strong feelings for her, you cannot honestly say that you'll be ready anytime soon to make a lasting commitment, and you don't want to hurt her by holding out false hope.
C. That you cannot believe the Bears called a draw play on third and seventeen.

5. Okay, so you have decided that you truly love a woman and you want to spend the rest of your life with her -- sharing the joys and the sorrows, the triumphs and the tragedies, and all the adventures and opportunities that the world has to offer, come what may. How do you tell her?

A. You take her to a nice restaurant and tell her after dinner.
B. You take her for a walk on a moonlit beach, and you say her name, and when she turns to you, with the sea breeze blowing her hair and the stars in her eyes, you tell her.
C. Tell her what?

6. One weekday morning your wife wakes up feeling ill and asks you to get your three children ready for school. Your first question to her is:

A. "Do they need to eat or anything?"
B. "They're in school already?"
C. "There are three of them?"

7. What, in your opinion, is the most reasonable explanation for the fact that Moses led the Israelites all over the place for forty years before they finally got to the Promised Land?

A. He was being tested.
B. He wanted them to really appreciate the Promised Land when they finally got there.
C. He refused to ask directions.

8. What is the human race's single greatest achievement?

A. Democracy.
B. Religion.
C. Remote control.

How to Score: Give yourself one point for every time you picked answer "C." A real guy would score 8 on this test.

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NOTES FROM THE HOME PLANET:

LEWIS, CLARK & SACAGAWEA
By David Sunfellow

I happened to catch the new PBS Special about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its efforts to find a passage through the wilds of North America to the Pacific Ocean. While the entire show was very interesting, one part, in particular, sent chills up and down my spine. The special described how Sacagawea, a young indian woman, had been born in the Pacific Northwest as a Shoshone. As a child, she was captured by another tribe, the Hidatsas, and sold to a Canadian trapper, whom she married at a young age. Lewis and Clark met her while she lived in a village of still other indians, the Mandans. Lewis and Clark hired Sacagawea's husband, so she could accompany them west and be an interpreter when they reached the part of the country where her tribe lived.

The expedition reached Shoshone territory in the fall. Desperate to get across the Rockies before winter set in, they needed horses, but the Shoshone weren't interested in helping them. And then something remarkable happened. Sacagawea, who had been separated from her tribe and family since she was a small girl, realized the Shoshone chief they were dealing with was her brother. Once he realized who she was, the chief did an aboutface and gave his little sister, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, everything they needed to continue their perilous journey. This meeting was described as one of the most significant turning points in the Lewis and Clark Expedition which, in turn, was one of the most significant events in U.S. history. Fate had taken Sacagawea from her loved ones, introduced her to new, often brutal cultures and circumstances, and then brought her back on an expedition that was destined to open up vast stretches of land to a nation that would eventually change the world.

In my mind, this story is evidence that there are forces greater than ourselves at work in our lives. They propel us through all kinds of experiences -- sometimes refreshing and wonderful, other times exceedingly difficult. Living in the moment, we see strangers come and carry us away from friends and loved ones; we see ourselves struggle to survive, to make sense of our lives, to fit in, to scrape by, to make the best of bad situations. And then one day, perhaps when we least expect it, something happens that makes all our trials make sense: our little life and seemingly insignificant experiences, end up serving a purpose greater than anything we could have imagined.

Have any of you had moments like this in your life? I would like to hear about them if you have.

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Here's what "InfoPedia2" has to say about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I thought the comment about the successful blend of American culture was especially insightful:

Planning and recruitment of personnel took place in 1803, but the expedition did not actually set out until May 1804. Its composition ranged from 30 to 45 soldiers and frontiersmen, including one black, and it eventually included one woman. The latter, a Shoshoni Indian named Sacagawea, joined the company in April 1805 and earned her subsequent share of fame as an interpreter and peacemaker.

The expedition started at Saint Louis and headed north along the Missouri River. In the summer and fall of 1804 its members proved themselves equal to all challenges-finding food, managing equipment, navigating unknown rivers, surmounting natural obstacles, pushing through wilderness, preserving specimens, making peaceful contact with the native inhabitants, and, above all, maintaining physical and mental health. The first winter was spent among the Mandan Indians of the Dakotas. In the spring of 1805 the expedition again toiled up the Missouri to its headwaters, then across the eastern slopes of the Rockies, over the Continental Divide, and in November 1805 it reached the Pacific.

The winter of 1805-6 was spent on the banks of the Columbia River. The return journey presented difficulties of its own-protracted winter weather, occasional conflicts with Indians, growing physical and mental fatigue. Despite everything, the expedition, representative of American culture in its successful blend of self-reliance and collaboration, of hierarchical authority and democratic equality, rose to every occasion. Once having reached the Missouri, they made rapid progress downstream. On Sept. 23, 1806, Lewis and Clark, two years and four months and more than 12,900 km (more than 8000 mi) after starting out, returned to St. Louis.

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INSPIRATIONAL STORY:

JOAN OF ARC
By Thomas Fleming

At noon on a summer day in the troubled year 1424, a 13-year old girl named Joan of Arc was in her family's garden in the village of Domremy when she heard a voice speak to her. She turned to her right and saw a large glowing light. The voice belonged to a man. It had what she later called a "venerable" sound.

The voice told her she had been chosen by God to deal with "the pity which was in France." In the center of the glowing light the bewildered, astounded girl saw the majestic figure of the Archangel Michael.

France in 1424 was a country riven by chaos and brutality. Half the nation was occupied by English armies. A third of the French under the traitorous Duke of Burgundy had allied themselves with the invaders. Assassinations of princes and kings and dukes were almost commonplace occurrences.

Bands of soldiers roamed the countryside, killing and robbing innocent people. Lean, spindle-shanked Charles VII, the uncrowned young French king, retreated from city to city, his demoralized army more of a threat to him and his people than the enemy. He was afraid to accept his crown because he feared assassination. He preferred to remain the Dauphin, the heir to the throne -- and stay alive.

While the Christians killed and maimed each other, the armies of militant Islam, led by the fearsome Turks, were threatening Vienna and promising to water their horses in Rome.

What could a simple farm girl do about this horrendous turmoil? During the next four years, the Archangel returned many times and told Joan how she would perform her mission. She would take command of Charles's army, defeat the British and crown the king at Reims. Then she would drive the British out of the rest of France.

At times Joan argued with this formidable being. How could she learn to ride a warhorse and wield a sword and lance? How could she give orders to veteran soldiers? The Archangel assured her that he would be at her side. With him would be Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine, who would give her the gift of prophecy.

Except for these visions, Joan's neighbors remembered her as a normal, good-natured young girl who went to church regularly, visited the sick and the bereaved, and often brought gifts of food and clothing to the poor. Her father, Jacques of Arc, was a fairly substantial farmer. Along with her two brothers, Peter and John, Joan often helped her father in the fields. Jacques was the Doyen of Domremy -- a public official who summoned jurors, posted public notices and the like. He fretted over his daughter's visions and her talk of saving France. At one point Jacques tried to arrange a marriage with a young man in a neighboring town, but Joan firmly refused.

Finally, there was a crisis. An English army began besieging Orleans, the key to central France. If Orleans surrendered, Charles would soon be a king without a country. The Archangel told Joan it was time to act.

Accompanied by her father's cousin, she rode to the nearby fortress of Vaucouleurs and informed its commander, Robert de Baudricourt, that she had been summoned to save France. She demanded a squad of soldiers to escort her to the king.

A gruff, hardened captain, Baudricourt told Joan's cousin to take her home and give her a beating. Joan was not in the least surprised. Her heavenly guides had told her Baudricourt would refuse her. While she waited for the captain to change his mind, she converted most of the town of Vaucouleurs to her cause. They bought her a warhorse and, at her request, men's clothes. Soon some of Baudricourt's officers were urging him to listen to this astonishing young woman, whom they began calling la Pucelle -- the Maid.

Joan convinced Baudricourt of her divine mission by telling him the French army had just suffered another disastrous defeat. Thanks to her guides, she brought the news to the surly captain on the day it happened, although the battle took place about a hundred miles away.

When a royal herald confirmed Joan's information many days later, Baudricourt assigned two officers and four soldiers to escort the Maid to the king. Probably to his own amazement, he brought her a sword.

Riding most of the way at night to avoid the British, who controlled the roads, they found the dispirited Charles in a castle outside Chinon. Thanks to a letter from Baudricourt, Joan was soon conducted into the royal presence.

It was an awesome scene for a farm girl. In a great hall illuminated by 50 blazing torches, Charles was surrounded by no fewer than 300 of his nobles, all of them splendidly dressed. One of them, trying to test Joan, pretended to be the king. Joan did not give him more than a passing glance. She walked directly to Charles, whom she had never seen.

"Gentle Dauphin," she said. "The King of Heaven has announced to me that you will be crowned in Reims. And I tell you on the part of my Lord that you are the true heir of France and son of the king."

This declaration was the one thing the timid Dauphin needed to hear. His mother, who had sided with the English and been disloyal to the French, had spread a slander through the kingdom that he was illegitimate, the son of one of her many paramours. Overwhelmed, the king gave Joan command of his army, ordering one of his most trusted generals, the Duke d'Alencon, to serve at her side. At Tours the king bought her a suit of armor and Joan requested a special banner depicting Jesus with two angels.

Joan told many people that she loved her banner more than her sword. As long as she carried the banner, she "never had to kill anyone." Under this sign, she led the French army into battle to raise the siege of Orleans. She began by sending the startled British a letter, urging them to leave France peacefully. They scornfully refused -- but in a few weeks they wished they had accepted Joan's advice.

On both sides of the battle line, men could only express amazement at Joan's military skill. The Duke d'Alencon, who had been a soldier for most of his life, said: "In all things, excepting war, she was as simple as any young girl, but in war she was most expert, either in wielding the lance or massing the army and preparing the battle. She made excellent use of artillery. One would have thought her a captain of twenty or thirty years experience." What else can explain such a display of military genius, except the presence of the Archangel?

Others expressed amazement at her endurance. She wore her heavy armor for days at a time. Once, halfway up a siege ladder, she was struck in the head by a rock and crashed to the ground. She sprang up and mounted the ladder again without the slightest sign of injury. Another time, d'Alencon was standing beside her when she told him to move. He obeyed her and minutes later an arrow killed a soldier who had been standing in the same place. Again, Joan's guardians were at her side, giving her superhuman strength -- and prophetic vision.

In a series of bold maneuvers, Joan took Orleans and routed English armies from several other cities between Orleans and Reims. In these ferocious battles, she displayed a constant pity for the casualties on both sides. In one hot pursuit, she saw and English soldier struck on the head and mortally wounded. Joan leaped from her horse, cradled the dying man in her arms, and ordered a priest to hear his last confession.

The triumphant Maid led Charles to Reims and stood at his side while he and his queen were crowned at the high altar of the great cathedral, where the kings of France had been crowned for centuries. Now she gave him wise counsel as well as military support. It was time to restore unity to France. She insisted on a general amnesty for all Frenchmen who had fought on the English side. She exhorted the king to administer justice to the rich and the poor with an even hand.

Joan and her followers also urged the king to march on Paris and seize the capital while the enemy was in disarray. But Joan's guardians, while they could help her make Charles king, could not change his fainthearted, irresolute nature. Instead of marching, he listened to so-called diplomats in his entourage. With their help, the Duke of Burgundy talked him into a truce. The British took advantage of it to pour thousands of reinforcements into Paris.

When Joan finally persuaded the king to attack the capital, she and her men met a bloody repulse. Instead of summoning every soldier he could find and continuing the assault, Charles retreated and negotiated another truce with Burgundy which lasted almost a year. Meanwhile, the diplomats who resented Joan's influence with the king, saw to it that her allies such as the Duke d'Alencon were ordered to other parts of France.

Isolated and unhappy, Joan could only plead with the king to resume their mission. When he finally realized that the Duke of Burgundy and the English had done nothing but build up their army, Charles denounced them. but he had scattered his own army, and when Joan resumed fighting, she was badly outnumbered. In a struggle outside the town of Compiegne, her soldiers were routed and she was captured.

The Archangel had warned her that she would meet a hard fate. More than once, Joan had told her friends that they had only a year in which to use her powers. Her Burgundian captors handed her over to the British, who convened a court to try her for witchcraft.

Throughout the trial, she steadfastly testified to the reality of her angelic voices. Asked about angels, she said: "They come many times among Christians but are not seen. And I have many times seen them among Christians." One judge asked her if she was in a state of grace. "If not, may God put me into it," she said. "Nothing on earth would pain me more than not to be in it. If I were in sin, I believe the voices would not come."

The well-bribed judges declared Joan's voices came from the devil and condemned her to be burned at the stake. She died at Rouen with the same courage and the same faith that had animated her life, calling out the name of Jesus.

One of the English leaders returned from the execution weeping and groaning: "We are all lost. We have burnt a good and holy person." This turned out to be very close to a prophecy. After Joan's death, many of her followers returned to the battle with renewed vigor. By 1450 the last English soldier had been driven from France.

By that time, a guilt-ridden Charles VII had convened a court to rehabilitate Joan's reputation. After lengthy hearings at which dozens of people testified to Joan's spotless character, the proceedings of the mendacious court that had condemned her were denounced and a copy of them publicly torn to shreds.

For most of the French people, the verdict was irrelevant. They had long since taken Joan into their hearts. They had no difficulty accepting her as the bearer of a divine call to justice and peace.

---From the magazine, ANGELS ON EARTH, March/April 1997

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