On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some pictures and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy today’s outstanding submission. It is a series of wonderful pictures that are part of a courageous and inspiring story.

I have a few more days of old content lined up and some new content – yay – but we need lots of new submissions for soon and for “rainy days” – get cracking!

Note – I’ve gotten a few submissions, so unless I’ve emailed you or you encountered an error, your contribution should show up soon. We’re hoping to improve things, so do give feedback – thank you so much!

Troubleshooting  We have an improved setup and plans for further development. I hope the new setup works as well for you as it has in testing, but should you have issues, please email sitefixer@balloon-juice.com This new submission tool is one of many more we’ve got planned, and your feedback helps us craft them to your needs.


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A Brief History of the Breakup of the Soviet Union

Last night, stinger asked for more information on the causes of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Here’s a short summary of my understanding, with some references, not all (sorry!) links.

The Soviet economic system was faltering from the sixties on. The First Secretaries during that period were slow-moving, sick, and in no way capable of innovating out of that situation. It may have been inherently impossible in any case. Manufacturing of anything but weapons never was a significant part of the economy, which depended on oil exports.

The Soviet Union was made up of 15 Union republics. Some of those republics became part of the Soviet Union after World War II but had fought civil wars for independence from the Russian empire during and after the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Baltic States in particular, but other republics as well, were not happy members of the Union. Moscow went through waves of Russification, in which the Russian language was forced on populations for which it was not native. Social restrictions sometimes accompanied the language crackdowns.

Most of the rest of the world refused to recognize the Baltic republics as part of the Soviet Union. Token embassies were maintained in Washington and London.

By the 1980s, even the Soviets were beginning to realize they had a problem. The arms race with the United States had been partly tamed by the SALT arms control agreements, but an intermediate-missile race was burning. Building armaments was bleeding money and industrial capacity out of the economy. Mikhail Gorbachev, a newcomer with promise, was made First Secretary in March 1985. Read more

What Could a Mysterious U.S. Spy Know About the JFK Assassination?

Records about June Cobb, an American spy in Cuba during the early 1960s, are to be released soon  (Politico) and apparently have some bearing on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She worked in Cuba and Mexico, apparently fairly close to Castro.

I am taking this with a grain of salt, but more information is always good. It was easy then for a female employee to be ignored. As you can see in the article, her attractiveness was part of the discussion. Looking forward to seeing what the documents have to say.

What we know about Cobb so far comes largely from millions of pages of other documents from the CIA, FBI and other federal agencies that were declassified years ago under the 1992 law. Within those documents are dozens of files that identified Cobb as a paid CIA operative when she worked on Castro’s staff in Havana and later when she moved to Mexico. Some of the documents tie her to a lingering questions about Oswald’s trip to Mexico City in late September 1963, not long before Kennedy’s November assassination. In Mexico, Oswald came under CIA surveillance when he met there with both Soviet and Cuban spies. Previously released documents also show Cobb’s involvement in CIA surveillance of a U.S.-based pro-Castro group, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which Oswald championed in the months before Kennedy’s murder.

There is one document about Cobb that has remained completely off-limits to the public all these years: the 221-page file identified as “FOLDER ON COBB, VIOLA JUNE (VOL VII)” on a skeletal index released by the Archives last year. It is one of the 3,600 documents that were withheld from public view entirely in the 1990s at the request of the agencies that originally produced them—in Cobb’s case, the CIA. The index prepared by the Archives shows that, as of 1998, when her file was last officially reviewed, the spy agency said the document was “not believed relevant” to the Kennedy assassination but could do unspecified harm if made public before the October 2017 deadline.

And open thread!

What’s All That Wet Stuff In My Eyes?

I just watched this, and I can’t quite explain why my vision went all damp and blurry for a moment there:

This one rings across so many of the changes being played right now.  I won’t rabbit on about them; I think the film speaks for itself far better than any commentary could.

But I will say that it made me feel moved, sad, redeemed, and reminded of what’s worth fighting for in the here and now.

And with that…over to y’all.

Sort of Maybe a Bit Like Friday Recipe Exchange on Monday: Do NOT Try This at Home Edition!!!!!

Alton Brown has been tinkering again. He’s invented a way to make ice cream in under 10 seconds. The video is below. Whatever you do, do not try this at home!

Bon appetit! And open thread.