In the beginning…

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Everything here on earth has a beginning, and I suppose that means that some day it will also have an ending – one way or the other. Mighty redwoods spring from a very tiny seed. Great rivers start from somewhere and flow downhill toward the sea.

Today’s photo is one such example. While one would be hard pressed to describe the Jordan River along the eastern edge of Israel and bordering on Jordan to be a “great river”, it, like all rivers, has a beginning.

The Jordan River is big in history, but small in size. I was rather taken-aback by how small the river really is. In my mind, I’d always pictured it being bigger…at least 2-3 times as wide as it really is.

During our recent vacation to Israel, we went to the headwaters of the Jordan. While there are three sources for the river, there is a karst spring from which the majority (about 50%) of the river rises. Today’s photo was taken perhaps 500 yards from that karst spring. It was cold…but beautiful.

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1962, Francis Gary Powers, an American who was shot down over the Soviet Union while flying a CIA spy plane in 1960, was released by the Soviets in exchange for the U.S. release of a Russian spy. The exchange concluded one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War.

Powers had been a pilot of one of the high altitude U-2 spy planes developed by the United States in the late-1950s. Supposedly invulnerable to any Soviet antiaircraft defense, the U-2s flew numerous missions over Russia, photographing military installations. On May 1, 1960, Powers’ U-2 was shot down by a Soviet missile. Although Powers was supposed to engage the plane’s self-destruct system (and commit suicide with poison furnished by the CIA), he and much of the plane were captured. The United States at first denied involvement with the flight, but had to admit that Powers was working for the U.S. government when the Soviets presented incontrovertible evidence. In retaliation, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev called off a scheduled summit with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Powers was put on trial, convicted of espionage, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In February 1962, the Soviet Union announced that it was freeing Powers because of a petition from the prisoner’s family. American officials made it quite clear, however, that Abel was being exchanged for Powers—a spy-for-a-spy trade, not a humanitarian gesture on the part of the Soviet Union. The U.S. government announced that in exchange for Powers, it would release Col. Rudolf Abel, a Russian convicted of espionage in the United States. On February 10, Abel and Powers were brought to the Gilenicker Bridge that linked East and West Berlin for the exchange. After the men were successfully exchanged, Powers was flown back to the United States.

In an announcement, the Soviet Union declared that its release of Powers was partially motivated by “a desire to improve relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.” U.S. officials were cautious in evaluating the Soviet overture, but did note that the action could certainly help lessen Cold War tensions. The exchange was part of the ongoing diplomatic dance between Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy. Both men seemed earnestly to desire better relations, and the February 1962 exchange was no doubt part of their efforts. Just a few months later, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the Soviets helped construct missile bases in Cuba, erased the memory of these diplomatic overtures and brought the two powers to the brink of nuclear conflict.

The recent Tom Hanks movie, Bridge of Spies, was about this prisoner exchange (and was a good movie!!!!)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The English word “girl” was initially used to describe a young person of either sex. It was not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that the term was used specifically to describe a female child.

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3 thoughts on “In the beginning…

    1. Yeah, Bridge of Spies was the name of the movie and the guy who played the Russian spy won the best supporting actor for the Oscars last year, I believe. At least he was nominated. And Tom Hanks is in it, so you know it’s gotta be pretty good! I thought it was very well done and very informative. Learned a lot about history, and the character portrayed by Hanks did some amazing things later on as a negotiator with Cuba, I believe, during the freezing cold days of the Cold War.
      You can look him up on Wikipedia.

      1. Hanks is good like that. Maybe we should drop him into North Korea and have him settle down those folks. We can give him a volleyball for company on his trip in case his plane crashes into an island in the Pacific. ;-)

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