The White House – WIF Fun Facts

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Fascinating Facts

About

the White House

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One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Presidential homes in the world is the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Over 6,000 people visit it every day, and it is one of the top tourist attractions in America’s capital. Of course, besides being a famous monument, it is also a home that is steeped in history.

 These are 10 of the most fascinating facts about the White House and the people who lived in it.

10. They Had A Design Contest To Build It

In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which established Washington, D.C. as the capital of the United States. Congress also ordered that the capitol buildings, including the President’s House needed to be built within 10 years.

In order to find architectural plans for the house where the President would live, Congress held a contest. At the urging of George Washington, Irish-born architect James Hoban submitted his plans, which Encyclopedia Britannica said was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin.

Hoban won the contest and his reward was $500 and a lot in D.C. He was also hired on to oversee the construction of the President’s House, which started in 1793. The second President, John Adams, moved into the house in 1800, before it was actually finished.

The total cost of building the President’s House (its name before the White House) was$232,372, which is the equivalent of about $100 million today.

9. It Was Built By Slaves, Freed Slaves, And Immigrants

In July 2016, former First Lady Michelle Obama made some waves during her speech at the Democratic National Convention when she said “…I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” After the comment, several prominent people said it wasn’t true, or justified the use of slavery by saying they were “well-fed” slaves. However, Obama’s statement was totally correct.

According to the book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, about 400 of the 600 people who built the Capitol, including the White House, were slaves. The other 200 were about 50 freed slaves and the remainder were poor immigrants.

The White House Historical Association confirms that slaves did help build the White House, but they weren’t government owned. Instead, they just rented them out from slave owners. Because that totally makes it OK, right?

8. The British Burned It Down

In June 1812, the United States, which was only 36-years-old at the time, declared war on Great Britain. There were several underlying reasons for the war, but one of them was to take over Canada, which was a British colony, and make it part of America.

Throughout the war, each side had major victories and suffered terrible losses. One of the biggest military defeats for the Americans happened on August 24, 1813, when British forces invaded Washington, D.C. In retaliation for sacking York, which is now Toronto, the President’s House was relieved of a few souvenirs before it was set ablaze. The ensuing fire nearly destroyed the building. After torching the President’s House, several other prominent buildings in Washington were burned to the ground.

Rebuilding started soon afterwards and the White House was restored to its original architectural plans. In fact, James Hoban, who oversaw the original construction, was rehired to oversee the reconstruction to make it as close to the original as possible. The reconstruction was completed by 1817, just in time for President James Monroe to move in.

After the Burning of Washington, the Americans fought back against the British and won several important victories. This led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. Part of the treaty was that any captured territory by either side would be returned.

What’s interesting is how this part of history is taught in schools in the United States and Canada, who have had uninterrupted peace with each other since the War of 1812. In the United States, students are taught that the War of 1812 was a war that earned the respect of the British and strengthened the nation as a whole, allowing them to expand westward.Canadian students, on the other hand, learn that the War of 1812 was the one time that the aggressive Americans tried to invade Canada and for their troubles, they got their capital and the White House burned down.

7. Why Is The White House White?

One myth about the White House is that it’s white to cover up the fire damage that was caused when it burned down in 1814. However, that isn’t true because it was white before it was set on fire. In 1798, a lime-based whitewash was painted on to protect the porous stone from cracking. Usually, the whitewash would have weathered and faded away. However, instead they kept reapplying the whitewash until 1818, when it was painted with lead-based white paint.

The house was originally called the President’s House, but since it was distinctively white, its nickname was the white house for almost a century. It wouldn’t officially become the White House until 1901 under President Theodore Roosevelt.

6. Pets There Have Included Alligators, Badgers, Bears, and a Dog Named Satan

Besides being home to the First Family, the White House has also had its fair share of pets. Out of 45 Presidents, there are only three Presidents who have no record of owning a pet: Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and Donald Trump.

In most cases, the pets were dogs or cats. Abigail Adams had a dog named Satan, for instance. However, it’s also been home to some more exotic pets. Calvin Coolidge had a menagerie and the main attraction was a 600 pound pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Two different Presidents had alligators roam the White House grounds – Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams. Supposedly Adams kept a gator in the bathroom in the East Room and used it to scare guests.

Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman. However, supposedly Congress made him donate the cubs to a zoo.

Finally, Theodore Roosevelt had a badger named Josiah and was given a bear, which his children named Jonathan Edwards, by a group of voters in West Virginia. However, he didn’t have the proper accommodations for the bear, which Roosevelt called “queer-tempered,” and he ended up donating the bear to the Bronx Zoo.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Shower

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was a relentlessly hard worker who was known for getting things done. He was also a man with a strong sexual appetite who seemed to be obsessed with his own genitals. He was known to whip it out whenever and where ever he wanted to. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that he had some odd requests when it came to his shower.

According to Kate Andersen Brower’s book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, Johnson wanted to have several nozzles that switched from hot to cold. He also wanted the pressure to be intense, like a fire hose. Finally, he wanted a nozzle pointed directly at his genitals and to shoot up his rear end.

When the plumber said it couldn’t be done, Johnson himself called the plumber and chewed him out. To inspire him, Johnson said, “If I can move 10,000 troops in a day, you certainly can fix the shower.” So the plumber tinkered with the shower and it ended up with four nozzles. One time, an usher apparently tried the shower and it pinned him to the wall.

When Nixon moved into the White House in 1969, he ordered the plumber to get rid of Johnson’s shower.

4. Market Value

Before Donald Trump was elected President, we could say with certainty that the White House would never go on sale; but now, who knows what will happen? He is a real estate mogul, after all.

If he were to put it on the market, what would be a fair asking price? Well, the real estate website Zillow came up with an estimate for the house, which is a single family home with 142 rooms on six floors and about 55,000 square feet, and sits on an 18 acre lot. If you were to include all the historical artifacts with it and the hot tub that was installed under Bill Clinton (because of course Slick Willie installed a hot tub), then it would cost $398 million. Or if President Trump wanted to rent it out, it would cost $2,079,473.

3. The White House’s Deadly Water Supply

The ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, holds two Presidential records and the common belief is that these two records are connected. The first is that Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech, which he did outside on a cold and miserable March day without a coat. The second record is that he was President for the shortest amount of time. He died on April 4, 1841, 32 days into his presidency, from what was believed to be pneumonia, which he caught while giving his long inauguration speech.

However, according to Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who did a modern-day medical investigation, Harrison most likely died of Typhoid Fever and not of pneumonia. The source of the typhoid fever was the White House’s water supply. Mackowiak also thinks that the water in the White House killed President James K. Polk, who died in 1849, three months after leaving the White House, and president Zachary Taylor, who died in office in 1850.

2. Does It Have Secret Passages?

One of the most mythical elements of the White House is its secret passages and tunnels. For example, it was rumored that John F. Kennedy used the tunnels to sneak out of the White House to meet Marilyn Monroe. However, that’s all they appear to be – myths.

While there have been renovations of the White House over the years, including additions, the White House wasn’t really designed to house things like tunnels and secret passages. The closest thing to a secret lair is the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which was built after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Council of National Defense urged Franklin D. Roosevelt to move out of the White House because they thought it was a “firetrap.” His compromise was to build a bomb shelter in the White House.

The Presidential Emergency Operations Center is in the basement of the East Wing. It serves as the communication center and it is able to withstand a nuclear blast. It’s also important to note that the shelter is not the same as the Situation Room, which is in the basement of the West Wing.

One notable time it was used was on September 11, 2001. Vice President Dick Chaney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, were evacuated from their offices into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

1. It Was Almost Torn Down In 1945 Because It Was In Such Bad Shape

By 1945, the White House had been lived in for 145 years and it was in rough shape. Besides being nearly destroyed in 1814, there was another fire in the White House on Christmas Eve 1929. The White House was hosting a party and when the fire started in the West Wing, Herbert Hoover left the party to oversee the removal of papers and documents from the Oval Office, while the First Lady kept the party going. The fire ended up gutting the West Wing, including the Oval Office.

Another problem was that the White House wasn’t constructed to have indoor plumbing and electricity and that was all added well after it was built. This added a lot of stress to the structure of the building. It got to be so bad that Harry S. Truman thought it was going to collapse. In fact, his daughter’s piano fell through a floor into the room below it.

The condition of the White House got to be so bad that it would have been cheaper to tear it down and build something new in its place. However, since it was a national monument Truman was against the idea. They chose to gut the interior of the White House and rebuild it as close to its original design as possible. The reconstruction took four years, during which time Harry and Bess Truman lived in Blair House, which is across the street from the White House.


The White House

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– WIF Fun Facts

Get to Know Mexico – WIF Fun Facts

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Facts About Mexico

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Mexico’s international reputation isn’t exactly the greatest. Plagued by drug violence, hampered by poverty, and constantly getting bashed by US politicians, it can seem like a scary, far-away place where bad things happen. Even in the carefree days before the drug war, lots of Americans just saw it as the land of tequila, siestas and rowdy spring breakers.

 Well, we’re here to tell you that there’s a lot more to Mexico than its popular reputation suggests. A lot more. Stretching over nearly 2m km2, and with a history that goes back to the Aztecs and ancient Mayans, Mexico is a place of endless fascination. It has dozens of indigenous peoples. Its capital has more museums than any other city on Earth. It’s a place of culture, history, and great, historic achievements. Here are ten fascinating facts about North America’s only Spanish-speaking nation that you rarely hear north of the border:

10. It Used to be the 5th Biggest Nation on Earth

Modern Mexico is a big place. While it might pale beside Canada and the USA, it dwarfs the nations of Europe, and is bigger than all but one of Africa’s countries. Ranked, it would be the 13th biggest nation on Earth. But that’s just modern Mexico. The Mexico of the 19th century used to be much, much bigger. Go back to 1821, and you’d find yourself standing in one of the biggest countries in the world.

That map there is independent Mexico at its fullest extent. As you probably remember from history class, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California were all once part of the US’s southern neighbor. But Mexican territory extended further south, too. Modern Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were all part of Mexico. Taken altogether, the Mexico that existed at independence was larger than the entire European Union. If it existed today, it would be the 5th largest nation on Earth.

This super-Mexico didn’t last long. Before the 1820s were out, it had lost most of the nations that now make up Central America. About 25 years after that, the Mexican-American War eliminated its territory in the modern US.

9. It Has the Oldest University in North America

Quick, what’s the oldest university in North America? A good number of you just yelled ‘Harvard!’ at your tablet screens. Sure, Harvard is pretty old; it was founded in 1636. But even that august institution is a baby compared to its Mexican equivalent. The National Autonomous University of Mexico, based in Mexico City, was opened in 1553.

To demonstrate just how mind-blowingly old that is, consider this: NAUM was opened when Mexico was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. It was given its charter by Emperor Charles V, who headed both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Empire (dynasty was a complicated thing back then). At that time, Shakespeare was still over a decade away from being born. Isaac Newton was over a century away. Right now, you are closer in time to George Washington’s last breath than NAUM was at its founding.

Not that it was called NAUM back then. It was the Royal and Pontifical University of New Spain. Unlike Harvard, it also hasn’t been in continuous operation. The dictatorship closed it down in 1867, and it wasn’t reopened until the Revolution.

8. There are Over 60 Official Languages

Ask most people to name the official language of Mexico, and they’ll say ‘Spanish’. And they’d be right… to a degree. See, while Spanish is the most widely-spoken official language in Mexico, it’s not the only one. Ever since the government enacted the Law of Linguistic Rights, over 60 indigenous tongues have been recognized as co-official languages.

The largest of these is Nahuatal. About 1.3 million people speak the language, roughly equivalent to the entire population of New Hampshire. This is the language of the Aztec Empire, the language that once dominated the whole of Mexico. But it’s far from being the only one. Over 700,000 people speak the Yucatec Maya language, and another half a million or so speak Mixtec. Over all, nearly 7 million Mexicans speak a language other than Spanish (although most are bilingual).

Interestingly, not all co-official languages are so widely-spoken. While the next 30 most popular are all spoken by between 10,000 – 400,000 people, some like Aguacatec are spoken by less than 30.

7. They Had the Shortest Presidency in World History

William Henry Harrison is famous in the US for his horrendously short presidency. The 9thPresident contracted pneumonia on Inauguration Day and died a single month later. But even WHH’s reign lasted longer than that of Mexico’s 34th president. By one count, it lasted nearly three thousand times longer. Pedro José Domingo de la Calzada Manuel María Lascuráin Paredes was President of Mexico for anywhere from an hour to just 15 minutes. So basically he was president just long enough for someone to get through his name.

The reason for this was the crazy politics of Revolution-era Mexico. General Victoriano Huerta had just overthrown President Madero in a coup. Under Mexico’s constitution, power of a deposed president automatically passed to either his vice-president, attorney general, foreign minister or interior minister. At the time, Lascuráin was foreign minister. To make his coup look less like a coup, Huerta convinced the government to appoint Lascuráin president. The two men then cut a deal, and he moment he was sworn in Lascuráin appointed Huerta his interior minister and then resigned. Power automatically, and legally, passed onto Huerta.

To date, no other world leader has ruled for such a short time. The closest is Diosdado Cabello, who ruled Venezuela for around six hours in 2002. His reign was still over twenty times longer than Lascuráin’s.

6. In Some States, There are Three Genders

Mexico’s relationships with LGBT rights is… complicated, to say the least. While drugs gangs have been known to shoot up gay bars in some states, places like Mexico City have legalized same-sex marriage. Then there’s Oaxaca. The southern state has an approach to trans-people that is possibly unique in North America. Among the indigenous Zapotec people, they’re legally recognized as a third gender.

 Known as Muxes (Moo-Shays), the third gender are people born as men, who choose to live instead as women. Concentrated around the town of Juchitan, they’re treated as a fact of life, in the same way men and women are. They own businesses, are admired for their cookery skills, and even have a yearly ball which the mayor of Juchitan attends. For American readers, this might seem like PC gone mad. But the Muxes are far from a modern invention. They’ve been around as long as the Zapotec themselves.

Pre-Columbian societies in Mexico tended to have a third gender of men who lived as women. While most traditions died off with the coming of the Spanish, among the Zapotec it thrived. In short, the Muxes have been around since long before anyone could say what the acronym LGBT stood for.

5. It’s Home to the World’s Smallest Volcano

So, apparently Mexico has an aptitude for leading the world in the ‘unlikely smallest things’ stakes. After the record beating barely-a-presidency of Lascuráin, the country has since thrown up yet another tiny marvel. Welcome to Cuexcomate, the smallest volcano in recorded history.

Now, pay attention, kids, because just looking at images of Cuexcomate is about as exciting as watching your toenails grow. It’s the facts behind it that make it fascinating. Cuexcomate formed way, way back in 1664, an offshoot of the bigger Popocatépetl volcano. Somehow, it began to grow… and then just stopped. Like a kid who doesn’t get any bigger after their first birthday, Cuexcomate topped out at a mere 43 feet. That’s tiny. You could stack 7 averagely-tall dudes on one another’s shoulders, and the top guy would be able to peer into the crater.

So small is the long-dormant volcano that no-one thought twice about building around it. If you want to visit Cuexcomate, you have to drive out into a suburb of Puebla, work your way around the Volkswagen factory, and locate it among people’s yards.

4. Net Mexican Migration to the US is Actually Negative

Mexican immigration has become a political flashpoint in the US. While we don’t want to get into the politics of it here, it’s worth noting that things may not be quite so explosive as they seem. While plenty of Mexican still travel to the US looking for a better life, plenty more come to the US, look around, then decide to go back to Mexico. We know this because, according to PEW Research, net Mexican immigration to the US over the last decade has fallen to negative levels.

This means there are actually more Mexicans permanently leaving the US than there are arriving. Prior to the recession, it was the other way. The period 1995-2000 saw a net migration of 2.27 million Mexicans to the US. The period 2009-2014, on the other hand, saw a net migration of minus 140,000.

The factors for this are manifold. Better border policing, the Great Recession, and increasing job opportunities in Mexico have all played a part, as has the desire to reunite with family members still in Mexico.

3. Mexico Once Went to War With France Over Pastries

In the annals of warfare, there can’t be many dumber reasons for attacking another state than the fate of a pastry shop. Yet that’s exactly what transpired between France and Mexico in 1838. After a rioting mob ransacked a Mexico City bakery owned by a Frenchman named Remontel, he sued the nation of Mexico for compensation. When Mexico laughed him out, he returned to France and demanded an audience with King Louis-Philippe. Amazingly, he got it. Even more amazingly, Louis-Philippe agreed to help him.

Paris wrote to Mexico and demanded payment of 600,000 pesos, some 600 times the value of Remontel’s shop (to be fair, some of it was for unpaid Mexican debts incurred a decade earlier). When Mexico balked, the French navy invaded. They bombarded  San Juan de Ulua, captured Veracruz, and blockaded the entire country. It was only thanks to a British-brokered agreement that the war ended in early 1839. Remontel got his money. All in all, the Pastry War dragged on for four months, killed over 100 people, and injured nearly 200 more.

2. They Briefly Had the Most-Deluded Emperor in History

Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph has the distinct honor of being just Mexico’s second and final Emperor. A member of Europe’s royal Habsburg line (the guys who ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Maximilian was just drifting along when, in 1863, he received a letter telling him the people of Mexico had voted to make him their king. Rather than treat it as we would an email from a Nigerian prince, Maximilian hightailed it to Mexico and declared himself Emperor. Bad move.

The letter had been issued by Napoleon III of France, who was conspiring with conservative Mexicans to place a loyal French puppet on the throne. Unknown to Maximilian, they’d chosen him as their useful idiot. When Maximilian crowned himself emperor, it triggered a civil war in Mexico that lasted three years. Apparently, Maximilian didn’t realize this, and thought he was a beloved, paternal figure who’d finally found his true calling. When the US intervened to push France’s pro-Maximilian troops out, the Emperor even refused to leave, saying the Mexican peasants needed him.

Those same peasants executed him on a hillside outside Querétaro in 1867. The deluded reign of Mexico’s last Emperor was over.

1. Their Capital City is Sinking

At 2,240 meters above sea level, Mexico City is one of the highest capital cities on Earth. Only seven other capitals (out of nearly 200) sit at a higher altitude. Pretty neat, huh? Well, wait till you get a load of this next part. If things keep going the way they are, Mexico City may not hold its coveted 8th position much longer. This is for the simple reason that the capital is sinking at an incredible rate.

Yeah, sinking. Every year, this vast megacity, home to over 21 million people, loses roughly one meter (3 feet) in altitude. In the last 60 years, the entire city has dropped 10 meters closer to sea level. That might not sound like much, so let’s put it this way. The 7thhighest capital city in the world is Sana’a in Yemen. It stands at 2,250 meters above sea level, ten meters higher than Mexico City. Over the course of six decades, the entire Mexican capital sank so low that it passed Sana’a, dropping from 7th to 8th place in the ranking of capitals by altitude.

 The reason for this is simple: water. Mexico City’s residents draw their water from beneath the capital, draining the water table and causing it to subside. As the city’s population keeps growing, it will sink faster and faster, until eventually dropping out of the top 10 highest capitals altogether. While that’s still a way off yet, (Nairobi, the current #10, is nearly 450 meters lower than Mexico City), the simple fact it could happen is mind-blowing.

Get to Know Mexico

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– WIF Fun Facts

Air Force One Fun Facts

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Things You Probably

Didn’t Know About

Air Force One

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Air Force One, a.k.a. that enormous plane that carts the president around, is one of the most enduring symbols of American power. To this end, the planes carrying the Air Force One designation are filled to the brim with bleeding edge technology and a bunch of other cool stuff we’re going to talk about… well, right now. For example, did you know…

 10. There are Massive Rolls of Carpet for it Lying Around Somewhere

most of the things aboard Air Force One come fitted as standard, like bulletproof windows and, we presume, high-tech anti-ninja technology, the President and his spouse have some control over what the interior of the plane looks like so it better suits their tastes. Much like a fancy car, the President, or more specifically the First Lady, can choose the color of the interior of the plane. To this end, they can make it as pimp or spartan as they like.

This, coupled with the fact the plane is specially equipped with the ability to communicate via everything from morse code to email, and can fly thousands of feet higher than even most military planes, means it could theoretically stay aloft, beaming down freedom, forever. In reality the plane could probably only stay aloft for a few months before it needed to stop for food (in a pinch even this could be delivered in mid-air), which is probably a good thing considering…

9. It Can Fly Forever

In the event these systems all fail, Air Force One is built sturdy enough to weather an undisclosed number of direct missile hits and could probably smash into the ground at Mach 3 and still not kill anyone aboard. Not that you’d ever get anywhere near the plane, given that it can fly in the upper stratosphere and secretly call on supersonic jets to aid it over any allied country. Even if you managed to do enough damage to hurt the President, he’d probably be fine, because it can stay in the air forever.

8. Everybody Aboard is a Picky Eater

Like with everything else, no expense is spared when it comes to the kitchen aboard Air Force One and prior to a flight, secret service agents will painstakingly seek out and purchase the freshest, highest-quality ingredients one at a time from nearby stores to minimize the risk of the President being poisoned.

The gourmet chefs working aboard Air Force One are said to be able to cook virtually any foodstuff known, are trained in virtually all culinary disciplines, and have access to every kind of cooking implement possible (except a deep fat fryer, for safety reasons). This is an issue because the most popular foodstuff aboard is burger and fries. Yes, despite Air Force One being basically a flying 5-star restaurant, most people aboard, including the President, normally just order burgers and sandwiches.

While the food has gotten healthier, mostly thanks to the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama, it’s noted that journalists still mostly opt for sandwiches, coffee and soda, with the kitchen going as far as stocking peanut butter for especially picky eaters who don’t want to eat any of the fancier fare Air Force One’s chefs can cook up. While officially Air Force One does serve balanced meals, anecdotally most people just eat junk food, partly because everyone except the President is charged for their meal, with the exception of a free bag of M&M’s every person aboard is given after a flight.

Not that the President is immune from encountering food they don’t like. For example, George H.W. Bush is said to have literally ordered that brocoli be banned from Air Force One because he hated it that much, once stating: “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

7. They Destroy Everything that Doesn’t Work

As a symbol of the American presidency, most everything aboard Air Force One is fittingly adorned with either the presidential seal, the current sitting president’s initials, or both. On top of this, every item aboard is polished, cleaned and meticulously maintained to avoid the embarrassment of a foreign leader or diplomat being given a chipped mug to drink out of, or a journalist tweeting a picture of a dirty towel. You know, stuff that would make the President and, by extension, America look bad.

To deter thieves, extensive checks are carried out on everyone leaving Air Force One and you can be sure anyone selling an official Air Force One toilet roll holder on eBay would be soundly detained and questioned by the FBI. As an added measure, anytime anything stops working on Air Force One or becomes unacceptably damaged or dirty, it is quickly removed, pulverised into dust and then burnt. An extreme measure we’ll admit but one that ensures the air of mystique about the impossibly high-standards aboard Air Force One is maintained. Hey, speaking of that…

6. Every Member of the Staff Could Kick Your Ass

 Like any plane, Air Force One has flight attendants and other staff who perform basic custodial duties aboard the plane, like telling you where the emergency exit is and handing out little bags of peanuts. Unlike a regular plane, these staff members are all highly trained military personnel with spotless records, who are carefully screened and subsequently trained to handle nearly any conceivable emergency. As a result, every member of the crew aboard Air Force One is well versed in emergency survival techniques, weapons handling, and generally messing up your day.

In other words, every member of staff aboard Air Force One, from the pilot to the guy who cleans the toilet, could snap your neck with a rolled up newspaper or beat you to death with a shoe without breaking a sweat. Essentially, while flying through the air in his big plane, the President is surrounded by an entourage of highly capable killing machines who also just so happen to be able to make a mean margarita or whip up a steak on the presidential grill. As if this wasn’t enough, when he takes off he is also…

5. Being Watched by a Special Team of Snipers

The President is an important dude, and spends much of his time being flanked, shadowed and watched over by an elite team of bodyguards versed in 80 plus ways to obliterate a human testicle at 80 yards, with their eyebrows. Specifically, whenever the Commander-in-Chief is about to board Air Force One, though, he is also being protected by a special team of sharpshooters armed with 50 caliber sniper rifles. Why 50 caliber? So that in case someone tries to hijack the plane, they can shoot through the normally bulletproof windows and decorate the cockpit with the part of their brain that thought hijacking Air Force One was a good idea.

These snipers are amongst the best, if not the best the US has at its disposal, and are said to be able to hit a target the size of a dog’s butthole from a half mile away. Their identity is obviously a secret, and they’re additionally used to protect the President during speeches and possibly while he checks his mail. And while we’re on the subject of secrets…

4. Who Made the Toilet is a Big Secret

As noted, everything aboard Air Force One is (usually custom) made to the highest possible standard of quality, using the finest available materials. Now, you’d think any company making a product that was being used aboard freaking Air Force One would boast about that fact because, well, why they hell wouldn’t you? As it turns out though, no company involved with manufacturing anything involved with the plane is permitted to advertise that fact, mostly due to it being a possible security risk, and partly because it’s kind of tacky. This means that we have literally no idea who made the toilet, or indeed any item aboard Air Force One.

The government is such a stickler for this that it sent a very stern letter to the company that manufactured the oxygen masks aboard Air Force One after they advertised that fact in a magazine in 2001. This is a shame for the companies who do make the items aboard Air Force One, because along with being associated with the presidency, they would also get to advertise their products fly…

3. On a Nuclear Bomb-Proof Plane

Like the staff, Air Force One is prepared for virtually any possible emergency scenario and is equipped to deal with nearly any potential threat, from a rogue jet firing sidewinder missiles at it, to a nuclear explosion. Along with being immune to the effects of an EMP blast, such as one produced by an exploding nuclear warhead, Air Force One is shielded against conventional damage in the form of bulletproof plating and flares to deter heat seeking missiles.

 But here’s the best part: after the First Lady or President picks out a particular style of carpet or type of soft furnishing they want to decorate the plane with, some hapless sap from the Secret Service has to go get a special fire-retardant version specially made, because regular carpet is seldom thermite proof. Because everything aboard Air Force One has to be spotless, this carpet is replaced frequently, leading to a massive stockpile of it being kept in a secret location in case someone spills beer all over the floor or something.

 2. There’s a Special Fridge Full of Blood on Board

The full specs of Air Force One have never been disclosed but we do know that it has a fully stocked medical bay staffed by seasoned medical professionals. So prepared is this medical bay that it carries, at all times, an emergency supply of blood, drugs and vaccines for most known diseases, poisons and illnesses and is specially stabilized so that doctors aboard could give someone open heart surgery during an emergency take off. You know, if they really had to.

Even better, if they had to, all the potential assassin would see is a fiery ball of freedom ascending to the heavens because…

1. Air Force One is Polished to a Mirror Sheen

The extreme efforts the government goes to in maintaining Air Force One can be no better summed up than by the exterior of the plane itself, which is said to be polished to such an offensively bright mirror sheen, you can use it to make sure your hair is suitably on point.

 Though it’s likely few people reading this will ever get all that close to Air Force One, people who have are often shocked by just how perfectly clean and shiny the exterior of the craft is, with some noting that workers sometimes wear sunglasses while polishing, buffing and otherwise maintaining it. Are there more interesting facts about Air Force One? Probably, but we think the fact that the plane is maintained to such an extent it could potentially blind foreign leaders with sheer bling is a pretty strong note to end on.

Air Force One

Fun Facts

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 19

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 19

…May the name of Aldona Afridi hereby be erased from Talibanistan records, as if he never existed!…

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“He must be dead Sheikh Nutkani. No one can survive in water that cold… what a fool!” Nae Tan-Dan assumed he would play by the rules, finding it hard to believe that Aldona Afridi would act so rashly.

Shaikh Nutkani

“If he is dead, we must act on our plan sooner than we wanted. If he isn’t dead, he will wish he were.” The former Taliban tribesman is outraged, appalled that this scientist would betray his duty. He is not however, without his wits. “You must find another source for the laser access codes. Surely there is a failsafe protocol built into the system.

May the name of Aldona Afridi hereby be erased from Talibanistan records, as if he never existed!

“The United Korea will honor its end of the bargain, Sheikh. Nae Tan-Dan has the loyalty of all his people.” Third person references denote self-importance.

The reprehensible twosome reassembles their entourage of cars and men, speeding off into the Near East dawn, each to his own clandestine objective.horizontal-line5

Fading automobile noises signal a reprieve for the severely exposed Aldona Afridi. He has spent the last hour clinging to the drive shaft of his ferry refuge, giving e tenuous lease on life. Bleeding from a flesh wound to his upper arm, due solely by regaining dry land, he needs to come with a more well thought out plan. There are signs that he has not been completely forgotten, the fresh siren sounds of activity, likely not from concerned ambulance medics, not mention the helicopters.

Where will he go, is the question of the moment? This nondescript and aptly unnamed tribal village has some 500,000 clansmen/women and not one would open their drafty homes to help a stranger, let alone a hunted one. The logical thing to do is to change his identity, but that is currently a longshot option.escape2-001

He decides that his best chance is on the other side of the river, bridges being few and far in-between, then take his chances from there. He needs to convince himself that lowering his body temperature once again is a good idea.

But that he does with a polar bear’s approach, so he tackles the fifty meter swim to provisional independence; independence not freedom, with freedom attained only with asylum status for him and his family at a rare Western Embassy.


THE RETURN TRIP

No Safe Haven by Larry Selman

No Safe Haven by Larry Selman

Episode 19


 

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Contents TRT

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #325

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #325

…He continues to sit on the Sheriff Joyce’s covert sex-life for all these years, but that’s not the best part – it turns out that this diddly-do continues to this day…

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“Now, tell me about that Joyce fellow, Lyn.” Robert Ford needs to know enough of the facts, to be of able support. He trusts Carolyn implicitly, not knowing her to bother with things she cannot influence, with an accent on success.

“Winthrop Joyce… Sheriff Joyce now, has been holding onto a potentially blockbuster secret.” Lyn sheriff-001Hanes knows of what she knows.

“What, did he beat a confession out of some totally innocent black man? Do you have proof about one of his cases, something that would bring him down?”

“No, I don’t know of his police work, at least nothing that would help us here. I bet that he has a spotless record, otherwise how could he have been elected Leon County Sheriff?”

   Folks in the South cherish and revere their law enforcement. Would you want one of those heavily medaled uniformed types walking up to you saying, ‘Boy, you ain’t been stealin’ watermelons from farmer Jones’ field, have ya?’ That may get you thirty days on a chain gang.

“County Sheriff is an elected position?”

“Why Robert Ford! I thought you knew all things uniformed –military or cop.”  She loves to keep her husband humble. What she has to say next would be of great interest to State, County, or local officials alike. “There was a time, before the war, really before the Depression, that then Sergeant Joyce enjoyed his visits to the county jail.”

“Okay, he loved being a policeman, what’s wrong with that?”

          “Nothing wrong with liking your job, but taking personal interest in inmates is.”

          “What do you mean by personal?”

       draw-me-a-story   “Like you are personal with me,” Index and middle fingers on both her hands are raised, implying closed quotes.

          “Ohhhh…&?*&%$#@!

          “I wouldn’t say it quite like, &?*&%$#@, but I think you get the picture, Kodak.”

          “Wow, that is intriguing, but how can you prove something like that? Isn’t the evidence trail a bit cold?”

“Normally it would, yes, excepting that head jailer is still the head jailer and the head jailer is my cousin. He continues to sit on the Sheriff’s covert sex-life for all these years, but that’s not the best part. It turns out that this diddly-do continues to this day.

“Why did your cousin bother to tell you, Lyn? Oh, I get it. He knew about you and Sara didn’t he?”

“Before I came to my senses, yes, Curt knew and he is very good at keeping secrets.” Carolyn still blushes, when the subject of her and Sara together comes up. “Cousin Curt is retiring this year and he told me that he would love to blab about now. His pension is vested and cannot be revoked by the Sheriff.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

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Episode #325


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode # 320

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode # 320

…On an otherwise quiet day in September, the eighth to be exact, Doctor Alpha Omega Campbell is indicted on one count of manslaughter (Franich) and two counts of abortion (Pyle/Evans and (Bailey/Ferber)…

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  In all three of these cases of needy white girls, there are more-than-sufficient reasons to turn down the money, turn his back on future problems and turn his clinic back into a legitimate hospital.

Image result for humanitarianAfter all, he had invited his fellow black doctors to practice their medicine there at Laura Bell Memorial Hospital. Instead of coming alongside this good humanitarian, standing tall and strong in solidarity for the poor and disadvantaged of Florida, they turn their collective backs, choosing the safe sheltering walls of Florida A & M’s University Hospital.

A.O. Campbell is getting old. He could have used the help; help with keeping his skills current, help with not being the lone private practicing physician in the Frenchtown community.

Instead, this kind and good man is left to his own devices, even traveling to the remotest regions of North Florida, virtually giving away his services. Those he treated did not have the resources of their Image result for no butswhite counterparts. His reputation grew, but his personal wealth leaked away with every passing year.

 

And yes, he was now drawing attention, but not for the good he was doing, but for violating Florida’s anti-abortion laws. But, but, but he was helping girls in trouble.

No buts about it.

 

On an otherwise quiet day in September, the eighth to be exact, Doctor Alpha Omega Campbell is indicted on one count of manslaughter (Franich) and two counts of abortion (Pyle/Evans and (Bailey/Ferber).

  Thus began the fall of this 67 year old doctor, failing in health, with an unlikely Florida avalanche of evidence poised to bury him. No looking back for what ifs.

          Listen closely, there on Virginia Street and you will hear, “Things are looking down, Maggie.”

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Alpha Omega M.D.

indictment

 

Episode # 320

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page 301 (end ch. 18)

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Spy vs. Spy – WIF Espionage Handbook

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Fascinating Facts

about Spies

Spies have long captured the public imagination. Books and movies have been based around the imagined lives and exploits of secret agents. Sometimes, these tales stray far from reality. But sometimes, the truth can be stranger than fiction. Below are 10 facts that detail the real drama, and some surprising truths, about the world of spies.

10. Spies’ Families Often Don’t Know Their Real Identities

It’s pretty obvious why spies have to conceal their true identities from the general public, but often their subterfuge goes much further. Spies’ own family members, including parents and children, may have no idea about what their loved ones actually do for a living. One ex-CIA agent told his parents and girlfriend that he was a low-level salesman to cover his 8 years of undercover work. Covering up his double life involved thwarting attempts by his parents to visit him in Hawaii, where he supposedly worked (he was actually in Afghanistan) and fielding girlfriends’ accusations of infidelity and illicit behavior when they found gaps in his stories.

Even that degree of deception pales in comparison to keeping your true identity from your own children. This situation isn’t just a construct of The Americans, a TV spy drama where KGB agents pose as husband and wife, complete with two unknowing kids, to spy on the US government. In fact, the show’s premise is based on a real-life dilemma many spies who are parents face: when, or if, to tell their children who they really are.

 In one illustration of how this situation can play out, in 2010, 20-year old Tim Foley and his 16-year old brother Alex discovered, after their family home in Cambridge, MA was raided by the FBI, that their parents were part of a Russian spy operation. The Foley brothers claim they had no idea that their parents had any vocations outside of consultant and real estate agent. They knew their parents had been born outside the US, but thought they were from Canada (as both brothers were). They were shocked to discover that the parents they knew as Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, were actually Russian nationals whose real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova.

9. Sex is a Tool of the Trade

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We all know sex sells, but evidently, sex also spies. There are numerous examples of spies using their feminine (and masculine) wiles to dupe targets, create blackmail material, and occupy the enemy. One of the most well-known spies to have employed seduction is Margaretha Zelle Macleod, better known by her stage name,Mata Hari. Depending on which side of the contested story is believed, Mata Hari, a Dutch national, was either passing French secrets to the Germans, or passing false information to the Germans in hopes of abetting the French. Either way, in 1917, a French court declared Mata Hari, “one of the greatest spies of the century,” sentencing her to death. She retained her sexuality to the moment of her death, reportedly forsaking a blindfold and blowing a kiss to the firing squad that executed her.

More recent examples include the seduction of CIA clerk Sharon Scranage by Ghanian official Michael Agbotui Soussoudis, a relationship that allowed him to acquire a list of all CIA employees in Ghana. The information acquired through this “honey trap” is believed to have resulted in the death of at least one CIA informant in Ghana. While there are no facts and figures around the commonality of the use of sex in espionage, government spies in Russia, China, and the United States are reported to have employed hanky-panky in the service of their nations.

8. Not All Spies are Adults

Clearly, not all spies are going to fit the James Bond mold. It’s critical for a spy to blend into his or her environment seamlessly. A suave, handsome man in expensive suits and cars would surely stand out far too much to take on, say, the role of a clerk in a foreign tax office. But in some settings, any adult would stand out. And, at least on occasion, governments and insurgent groups around the world have relied on child spies to get the information that adults cannot reach.

Generally, when children are used as spies, the situation is pretty bleak. Recruiting and using children under 15 to support armed forces/groups in any capacity is against international law. Children from 15-18 are only allowed to serve voluntarily. Nonetheless, children have been employed as spies in numerous conflicts, recently serving as informants to the Somali government on the identities of insurgents and as messengers, spies, and suicide bombers for the Taliban in Afghanistan. In some cases, as in North Korean gulags or under the East German Stasi intelligence agency, children are encouraged to report to the government on friends and family members’ actions and ideologies.

7. Suicide is Sometimes Part of the Job

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Obviously, capture is a bad situation for both the spy and the government he or she represents. The spy faces the very real possibility of torture to gain intelligence details and the names of other operatives, and perhaps execution. The spy’s government faces the fallout from the loss of any sensitive information its agent gives up. But as bad as being caught spying is, is it really a fate worse than death? The existence and use of suicide pills by some spies suggests that at least some (and/or their sponsors) view death as preferable to capture.

In 1987, after planting bombs on a South Korean passenger plane, an attack that took the lives of all 115 passengers on board, the two North Korean agents behind the act of terror were taken in for questioning in Bahrain. Following the instructions of their regime, the pair promptly bit into cyanide capsules hidden in their cigarettes. Kim Hyun-hee, one of the agents, described her decision, saying, “I knew when an operation failed, an agent had to kill themselves. So I bit down on the cyanide ampoule.” Kim survived her suicide attempt. While the South Korean government initially sentenced her to death, she was later pardoned under the view that she had been brainwashed by the North Korean State.

6. There are Celebrities Among Their Ranks

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At first glance, a career in the spotlight would appear to appear to be the polar opposite of the covert work of espionage. However, there are some famous people who have worked as spies, both before and after they became famous.

Before her career in the kitchen, chef Julia Child worked as a typist, then research analyst for the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the US intelligence agency during WWII. She earned the “Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service” for her work. Before becoming a US Supreme Court Justice, Arthur Goldberg also served in the OSS, where his work involved organizing European labor unions and dissident groups to resist the Nazis. Children’s author Roald Dahl earned a reputation as a ladies’ man during his undercover work with the British embassy in Washington D.C., as part of the British campaign to draw the US into WWII.

While, for obvious reasons, there are more spies who later became famous than celebrities who later became spies, there are still several famous people who also worked as secret agents. Jazz Age performer Josephine Baker used her travel schedule and position as a star to support the French Resistance during WWII. She reported on the identities of French Nazi supporters, conversations she overheard from German officers in her audiences, and even smuggled secret documents written in invisible ink on her music sheets.

US baseball catcher Moe Berg was known for being one of the smartest men to ever play the game. A Princeton graduate, Berg spoke 8 languages and had passed the bar before turning to baseball and joining the Washington Senators. Berg’s intelligence career began when he traveled to Japan as part of an all-star baseball exhibition tour. During his tour, he took home movies of Tokyo’s skyline and shipyards, which were reportedly used to help plan US bombing raids during WWII. After leaving baseball, Berg joined the OSS, where his work included parachuting into Yugoslavia to evaluate resistance groups and evaluating Nazi progress towards a nuclear weapon.

5. Not All Spies are Human

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Spies often need to blend into the background and to be able to quickly get in and out of tight spaces to get the information they need without being detected. In some cases, the spy who best fits the parameters of the mission may have four legs, flippers, or even wings and a beak. Robert Wallace, who led the CIA’s office of Technical Services in the ’90s notes the appeal of turning to other species for espionage dirty work: “Animals can go places people can’t Animals are unalerting.”

Animal spies have been trained for a variety of roles, dependent on both the capabilities of their species and the intelligence needs of the country. Homing pigeons were used during WWI to dispatch messages between divisions, and in a pilot program, to take aerial photographs using automatic cameras. The US Navy, through the ongoing Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) has trained dolphins to detect and report underwater mines. An outfit called Animal Behavior Enterprises(ABE) worked with the CIA and Army during the Cold War, employing animals including ravens and cats to retrieve documents and serve as living listening devices.

While ABE has ended its intelligence work and one of its former employees suggests that technology has rendered many applications of animal spies superfluous, the same employee continues to work training dogs to perform tasks for European security agencies. Their ranks may be diminished, as the NMMP shows, but there still continue to be some intelligence roles that are best filled by non-human agents.

4. Spy Agencies Can Employ Very Aggressive Hiring Practices

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It doesn’t come as a surprise that authoritarian regimes can have very heavy-handed methods of persuading their citizens to become spies. One former North Koreanagent says she was simply plucked from her school as a teenager to become a spy: “One day a black sedan showed up at my school. They were from the central party and told me I’d been chosen…I was just told to pack.”

However, even democratic countries can make potential spies offers they can’t refuse. When describing how the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, pressured his brother, Eli Cohen, to join their ranks and spy on Syria, Maurice Cohen noted, “Even as the Mossad was recruiting my brother, they secretly went to his employer and got him fired. He had a wife and kids to support.”

In 2002, the Russian Security Service accused the US of using drugged drinks and cookies to try to recruit a Russian defense worker who visited the US Embassy in an ex-Soviet Republic. Russia insisted that the ploy had backfired, with the defense worker subsequently working with Russian intelligence to feed misinformation to his US handlers.

3. Spies Sometimes Assume the Identities of the Dead

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How does a spy come up with a believable cover identity? Some spies maintain their existing identities, just disguising their real professions. Most US spies overseas operate under “official cover,” which is to say they are given fake jobs in US agenciesor embassies that offer diplomatic immunity. “Non-official cover” is more dangerous, requiring the use of an assumed name and profession, without the protection of diplomatic immunity in the event of discovery.

 In cases where spies need to assume a realistic identity, assuming the identity of someone else, usually someone who died as a child, can be a useful shortcut to create a backstory and official documentation to support the cover identity. In Britain, undercover police seeking to infiltrate protest groups used the identities of 80 dead children between 1968 and 1994. The identities of these children served as cover identities for officers, allowing them to easily obtain drivers’ licenses and passports that would stand up to scrutiny if anyone checked.

A similar strategy, the theft of the identity of a dead Canadian infant, appears to be how a Russian spy (mentioned in #10) created his cover identity, Donald Heathfield. This practice is reportedly on the decline due to the digitization of death records.

2. Spies May Kill Their Own to Protect Their Cover

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You’d think that spies working on the same side would try to help each other out, or at least not hurt each other. Usually, that’s what happens, but sometimes things go awry, and the life of one agent is deemed to be less important to the mission than the cover of another.

When British intelligence was attempting to infiltrate the IRA, their agent Freddie Scappaticci (pictured above) managed to work his way up to head the IRA’s internal security force. In that role, he was responsible for the death of a number of people. British press reports say as many as 40, and a former British handler says, “well into the tens.” Among those deaths were at least a few fellow British agents. The blood on his hands helped bolster Scappaticci’s credibility within the IRA, since it was believed that no one who had killed for the cause could be a British agent.

Kevin Fulton, another undercover British asset within the IRA, believes he almost became another casualty of Scappaticci’s cover story. As an an article in The Atlanticputs it, “his handlers decided he would make a good sacrifice: another mark of credibility for their prize agent.” Fulton escaped death at the hands of his fellow British spy by fleeing and going into hiding.

 1. Even When Spies Retire, They May Not Die of Natural Causes

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Once their spying days are over, some agents enjoy a quiet retirement. Ex-CIA spy Jason Matthews recently described his decision to spend his retirement writing spy novels to counter the restlessness he felt when his intelligence career ended, saying that, “Being in the Agency is a very experiential career, like being a policemen or a fireman or a jet pilot, and when it stops, it really stops.”

However, some spies don’t share that experience. Remnants of their professional lives follow them into retirement, and perhaps, to their unnatural deaths. In 2002, 17 years after defecting to Russia, former CIA agent Edward Lee Howard met his end in Moscow, after reportedly breaking his neck in a fall down the steps in his house. The death that was ostensibly accidental, but certainly raises questions.

In the case of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvenenko, the evidence of murder is incontrovertible. Litvenenko published an expose of the misdeeds of the Russian intelligence service before fleeing to the UK in 2000, where he was granted asylum. However, in 2006 he died after being poisoned with radioactive polonium, allegedly while meeting two former agents for tea. For some spies, retirement isn’t a respite. It’s just another terrifying chapter in their danger-filled lives.


Spy vs. Spy

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– WIF Espionage Handbook