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National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in US: Adventurer Mikah Meyer Opts for Historic Cross-Country Trek in America

Mikah Meyer has recently wrapped up visits to three national parks, a historic battlefield, a peace memorial and a U.S. presidential home with a famous front porch

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The formal declaration of war against "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dependencies thereof," signed by President James Madison on June 19, 1812. VOA

Sept 19, 2016: In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary this year, adventurer Mikah Meyer is travelling across America with the goal of visiting every one of the more than 400 sites within its jurisdiction.

The young traveller set out from Washington, D.C., in June and has already experienced dozens of sites. And VOA has been following him every step of the way.

He recently wrapped up visits to three national parks… a historic battlefield, a peace memorial and a U.S. presidential home with a famous front porch. All three sites, connected by history, gave Mikah a rare window into America during the 1800s.

The War of 1812 – a short history

In a military conflict that is often referred to as America’s second war of independence against the British, there were no declared winners. But despite humiliating losses for the U.S., especially when the British captured and set fire to much of Washington, including the U.S. Capitol building and the White House, the Americans at the time believed they won the war… and with good reason.

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They had successfully defended their sovereignty against British aggression, British capture of American seamen and British incitement and support of Native American attacks on U.S. citizens along the Northwest frontier. The Royal British navy was shocked by a number defeats at sea in ship-to-ship battles with American frigates.

And the British suffered humiliating losses in the battle of New Orleans, where its army experienced one of its worst defeats in history – at the hands of mostly untrained American volunteers which included blacks and Native Americans.

The war also secured American’s westward expansion – something Britain and Spain were desperately trying to stop.

Ultimately Britain, the world’s foremost military superpower, was forced to settle for a negotiated peace without any territorial concessions. The two sides eventually wound down the war with the signing of a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium, on December 24, 1814.

Native American defeat

The biggest losers of the war of 1812 were Native Americans, who had aligned themselves with the British to defend their territories.

During the two-year and eight-month-long conflict, they lost their revered Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, who had formed a confederation of tribes to block American expansion into their territories.

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They also lost the sovereignty of their lands in the “Old Northwest” – territory that included the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the northeastern part of Minnesota.

During the War of 1812, Native American tribes lost sovereignty of their lands across the “Old Northwest,” eventually leading to removals of Indian communities to reservations west of the Mississippi. VOA

The River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, Michigan, commemorates a series of battles that took place there in the winter of 2013 when it was known as Frenchtown, Michigan.

From January 18–23, the north bank of the River Raisin became a battleground where the Americans and the British fought for control of Michigan and the Lower Great Lakes, and – some say – for the future of Frenchtown, Canada, and Tecumseh’s alliance of Native American tribes. The battles ended with a decisive victory for the British and the indigenous tribes. It took about nine months for U.S. forces to regain their momentum.

Encompassing about 30 hectares (76 acres), River Raisin is one of four national battlefield parks within the national park system and the only one that focuses on the War of 1812.

Atrocities committed on all sides

Mikah said his main takeaway from his experience there was how openly and fairly the National Park Service has handled a battle site where “all sides committed atrocities, including the United States.”

“Usually we talk about ourselves only as the good guys and everything we did was as heroes,” he said. “But they really acknowledge that every side did some really nasty things to each other and they want to make sure that they are telling all those sides of stories.”

To make his point, he gave the example of a painting on display there that depicts Native Americans scalping Americans, which he described as “propaganda by the U.S.”

An 1813 painting by John Blake White that many believe was used as a propaganda tool. The well-regarded artist painted many works depicting military scenes from the War of 1812. VOA

“It was Native Americans scalping Americans but they were holding knives and whisky that was labelled with labels from Britain, so the idea was to try to incite the rest of America into being angry at the British because the British had enlisted the natives to fight for them.”

Mikah got a tour from a park ranger, who told him he had to be careful about his description of the park’s history, “depending on who is visiting – if it’s a native person, if it’s a Canadian or Brit, [Canada was part of the British colony then] or if it’s somebody from the U.S. – because people can get really offended.”

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so it depends on who’s hearing the story,” the ranger added.

“Remember the Raisin!” became a popular rallying cry during the War of 1812 after the battles in River Raisin. The aftermath of the forced removal of Native Americans from the Northwest Territory at the conclusion of the war continues to influence the United States today.

Battle of Lake Erie

A major turning point in the war came on September 10, 1813, when U.S. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet of nine American ships to a victorious battle over six British warships on Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio.

It is considered one of the biggest naval battles of the War of 1812.

By winning control of the lake, the Americans were able to cut off British forces, and their Native American allies, from their supply base. It also allowed the Americans to gain control of the Northwest Territory, recover the city of Detroit, which had fallen into British hands, and kill Tecumseh.

This 1865 painting Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie by artist William Henry Powell depicts the moment when Captain Oliver Hazard Perry made his way from the destroyed battleship Lawrence to the Niagara. It inspired the phrase “Don’t give up the ship.” VOA

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Put-in-Bay.

Mikah pointed out that the focus of the historic site is not to commemorate the battle itself, but “to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S. that still endures,” and also the world’s longest undefended border, about 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles).

“The whole town – and all around the island – they have American flags and British flags, local flags and peace flags,” he said. “So I think as a community, they’ve really taken on this idea of representing this peace that has been lasting since the Treaty of Ghent.”

“Don’t give up the ship”

During his visit to the Peace Memorial, Mikah noticed the recurring phrase “Don’t give up the ship!” posted in various forms throughout the town of Put-in-Bay.

“That was their battle cry,” he explained. “Because the U.S. had nine ships and the British had six – the U.S. lost their flagship right away – the Lawrence – and then ended up transferring the flag over to the Niagara to finish the battle and basically it was this idea of don’t lose this battle.”

A fitting symbol

The park’s centerpiece, a Doric column rising 107 meters (352 feet) over Lake Erie, stands about eight kilometers (five miles) from the U.S.-Canadian border.

A bird’s eye view of the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. VOA

The pillar “is the tallest open-air observation deck in the entire national park system,” Mikah noted, “even taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

It is a fitting tribute, Mikah observed, “that at the base of that peace memorial there are three American sailors and three British sailors buried together in the crypt.”

A two-hour drive along the lakeshore from Put-in-Bay is Mentor, Ohio, home of James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, who served from March 4, 1881, until his assassination later that year.

His home, at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, stands on what remains of the President’s 65-hectare (160-acre) farm, which includes a Visitor Center in a restored carriage barn built in 1894, a windmill and other buildings.

80 percent of the artifacts and items inside President James Abram Garfield’s home are original. VOA

The most interesting part of Mikah’s visit was learning how hard the National Park Service worked to make the interior appear as it would have when the president actually lived there.

Mikah said there had been many changes made to it both during and after Garfield’s life, and he thought the park service did a “fantastic” job of recreating the rooms to their original state.

“So from that perspective, it was the best-maintained and the best-preserved house site that I’ve been to this whole trip,” he said.

Presidential porch

What Mikah also found interesting was Garfield’s “Birth-of-the-front-porch” campaign. In 1880, he would greet thousands of well-wishers during his presidential campaign as they stopped by his front porch.

“That’s because the train let out in the backyard of his farm, so people would get off the train and they would walk to his front yard and they would set up camp, they’d put up tents and wait for the next day to hear him speak on his front porch.”

Mikah remarked how unlikely that scenario would be in today’s presidential campaigns!

Today, the front porch of President Garfield’s home serves as a gateway to the story of the Garfield family. VOA

Coming attractions

In the coming days, Mikah will be visiting Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York and Niagara Falls, which is not part of the US National Park Service, but will make a fascinating story nonetheless.

To follow Mikah and learn more about the places he’s travelling to, he invites you to visit him on his website. (VOA)

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US Shares List of 20 Terrorist Groups Operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Pakistani Authorities

Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, has safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

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According to media reports, US has shared list of terror groups operating in Pakistan with authorities in Islamabad. Wikimedia

Washington, November 2, 2017 : The White House retains a list of 20 terrorist groups that it claims are operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan and is believed to have shared this list with Islamabad, the media reported on Thursday.

However, the list was not given to Pakistani authorities by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visited Islamabad last week, diplomatic sources told Dawn news.

The White House list includes three types of militant groups: those who launch attacks into Afghanistan, those who attack targets inside Pakistan and those who are focused on Kashmir.

Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, has safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistan strongly rejects the charge, saying that there were no such safe havens inside the country.

The US also identified Lashkar-e-Taiba as one of the largest and most active terrorist organisations in South Asia.

The other militant groups in the list include Harakatul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundullah, Lashkar-i-Jhanghvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. (IANS)

 

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John F. Kennedy’s Assassination : Trump Promises to Release all Documents

Trump said he is doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.

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President John F. Kennedy's hand
President John F. Kennedy's hand, visible through the foreground convertible's windshield, reaches toward his head within seconds of the firing of the fatal shot as first lady Jacqueline Kennedy holds his forearm, with the motorcade proceeding along Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. VOA

Washington, October 29, 2017 : US President Donald Trump has promised to publish all documents on John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to guarantee transparency and end any conspiracy theory on the event.

“After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other agencies, I will be releasing ALL JFK files other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living,” Trump said on his Twitter account, Efe news reported.

“I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”

Trump had on Thursday authorised the National Archives to release 2,891 previously unpublished documents on the historic landmark, but decided to retain some of them because of what official sources described as CIA and FBI pressures.

ALSO READ Trump Delays Release of Hundreds of John F Kennedy Assassination Files, Citing National Security

“I have no choice –today– but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security,” Trump said in a memo on Thursday.

However, Trump gave his agencies six months until April 26, 2018, to review the reasons for their decision to keep certain documents related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination hidden and to minimize censored extracts so that they could be published as soon as possible.

He was not satisfied with his agencies’ insistence on keeping some materials secret and decided to give them more time to review them with the idea of publishing more documents, although the White House has not given a clear timeline for the next release. (IANS)

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Ivanka Trump to Talk Tax Overhaul Plan in Pennsylvania

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White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump speaks at the forum Taking Women-Owned Business to the Next Level, on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Washington. VAO

Ivanka Trump is heading to Pennsylvania to promote the Republican tax overhaul plan.

The White House says Trump will appear at a town hall in Richboro Monday, with U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza. The event will be moderated by former Rep. Nan Hayworth.

A key part of the conversation will be the proposal to expand the child tax credit, which the first daughter is backing. Ivanka Trump has been working on the plan to expand the $1,000 credit with the administration and lawmakers. Details on how much the credit should increase to have not been settled and the president’s daughter has not publicly offered a number.

Later in the day, Fox News Channel will air an interview with Ivanka Trump by host Sean Hannity. She is expected to continue discussing taxes.(VOA)