March 2, 2005

NPR provided a wonderful background piece on the Supreme Court case involving the display of The 10 Commandments on government property. Until I heard this story, I had not known that thousands of these monuments were placed in conjunction with a promotion for Cecil B. DeMille’s movie “The 10 Commandments.”

The group known as the Fraternal Order of the Eagles was also deeply involved in the placement of the plaques and tablets. A Minnesota judge, a member of the FOE, was instrumental in starting a FOE program in the early 1950’s to place paper copies of the 10 Commandments in schools and courthouses. DeMille heard about the program and wanted to take it a step further. He suggested the Commandments be posted on bronze plaques, the old judge said they should be in granite and the two — the judge and the moviemaker — had a deal to work together to place granite monuments around the countryside. (See 2003 Star-Tribune story)

In fact back when the movie was being released, Charlton Heston (who played Moses), Yul Brynner (who played Rameses II), and Martha Scott (who played Yochabel, Moses’ mother)are reported to have made public appearances to dedicate the placing of the granite monuments in cities nationwide.

There are various accounts of how many of the slabs actually were placed in parks, capital lawns and courthouses. I have seen some stories place the figure as high as 4,000 while The Washington Post said the number was about 200. The FOE Web site says the program of placing the 10 Commandments in public places drew praise from President Harry S. Truman and F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The NPR story said the Texas monument in question before the Supreme Court is one of them.

I can only imagine that you can search some newspaper photo archives to develop pieces in your city/state about how local 10 Commandments plaques got there in the first place.

The City of Everett, Wash., was the recipient of one of the granite plaques, just for example and found itself in an expensive legal battle over it.

The City of Boise, Idaho, also received one of the monuments. Last year, when the city moved its 10 Commandments monument from a city park, the city explained how it came by the monument in the first place:

It was given to the city during the 1960s, one of an estimated 4,000 similar markers donated to communities across the nation by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. According to the Rev. Mark H. Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, the fraternal organization began distributing the monuments during the 1950s as part of a campaign against juvenile delinquency. A decade later, Creech writes, Cecil B. De Mille got in on the campaign by making his own contribution with the release of “The Ten Commandments” a movie classic featuring Charlton Heston as Moses. De Mille promoted the movie by placing granite slabs of the commandments in parks, state capital lawns, and courthouses around the country.

Lead in Dishes

KCBS-TV (Los Angeles) looked into a surprising amount of lead showing up in dishes that the station bought at name brand department stores. In a follow-up story, the station found that in some cases they found that while the dishes may have been legal when they were new, with use, the lead can leech and cause a health risk.

The Alameda County lead poisoning prevention program explains some important points:

The amount of lead that leaches from a dish depends on how the dish is used and what kind of food is put in it.

For example:

  • Acid foods and drinks will leach lead out of dishes much faster than non-acid foods. Spaghetti sauce, salsa, orange juice, applesauce, coffee, tea, cola drinks and salad dressing are examples of acid foods.

  • If you aren’t sure about the lead in your dishes, you should not use them for storing food. The longer the food stays in contact with a dish surface containing lead, the more lead will be leached into the food.

  • Heating up food in a lead-containing dish can speed up the lead-leaching process.

A combination of these factors will make the problem even worse. An example would be storing spaghetti in a lead-containing ceramic dish and then heating it in the microwave.

Soldier Food Changing

Al’s Morning Meeting reader Michelle Michael at the American Forces Network Europe has a great story tip for us today. She tells me:

The MRE’S, or “Meals Ready to Eat” that soldiers are used to getting in the field are undergoing changes.

There is a new one called “First Strike Rations.” (Link includes photos) Instead of soldiers getting three combat rations per day, soldiers will now start getting just one of the First Strike Rations.

It’s saving taxpayers and making soldiers who have to live on this stuff pretty happy. Here’s some of what it includes for the first time:

-A heater to make a piping hot cup of coffee anywhere at anytime!

–A water purifying bag. The solider can pour a special powder into the bag and dip the bag into the scummiest pond water he or she can find. In less than two hours, the water is crystal clear and safe to drink!

There’s also a new “kitchen in a carton.” (Learn more about “kitchen in a carton” including pictures.) It’s a box that can be air dropped anywhere, no matter what the temperature or conditions. The “kitchen” contains everything needed to feed up to 18 soldiers. This is already being tested in some of the most dangerous, remote areas of the Afghan/Pakistan border, where no military dining facilities exist.

These new combat rations are being handed out already state-side. So, I thought it was something stateside stations could jump on at their local military bases.

There is some interesting background to these changes. When troops hit the ground in Afghanistan, they shed as much weight from their packs and pockets as they could. They held on to a few MRE’s but nutrition experts became concerned when they discovered the troops were leaving behind about half of their total food supply. The American Forces Press Service says:

First-strike rations are lighter and more compact than standard MREs. A single pouch holds a full day’s food supply and weighs about 2 1/2 pounds. By comparison, three MREs are about 2 pounds heavier.

The American Forces Press Service also explains:

Besides increasing servicemembers’ mobility, the new rations are designed to enhance their physical performance and mental acuity. They contain food easily eaten on the go, she said: a pocket sandwich, beef jerky, nuts, dried cranberries, applesauce and bread or crackers with a cheese spread. Extra energy comes packed into a fudge bar, a high-carbohydrate bar, an enriched beverage mix and caffeine-laced chewing gum.

“They’re a combat-driven ration that has more carbohydrates, less packaging and no luxury items,” Janice Rosado from the Defense Department’s combat-feeding program said. “They’re based on what warfighters say they most frequently take with them when they’re on the go.”

The new rations are not intended for noncombat operations or field-training exercises, Rosado said.

They are “not nutritionally complete” and do not meet all the dietary standards required of MREs, she said. In addition, first-strike rations have fewer calories than MREs — 2,900 to 3,000 in a one-day pouch, compared to 3,600 to 3,900 calories in three MREs.

Crane Cam

Gibbon, Neb., is the place to go to see Sandhill Cranes migrating. You can watch it happen online.

Math Help for Journalists

Here is your salvation oh fellow math-challenged journalists.

The Bible Diet

WCVB in Boston says a religion based diet is attracting some interest.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts, and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

More News

Back to News