Happy New Year 2014
Happy New Year 2014

VA hospital refuses cards saying ‘Merry Christmas’


Boys and girls at Grace Academy in Prosper, Tex., spent most of last Friday making homemade Christmas cards for bedridden veterans at the VA hospital in Dallas.

Fourth-grader Gracie Brown was especially proud of her card, hoping it would “make their day because their family might live far away, and they might not have somebody to celebrate Christmas with.”

“I’d like them to know they’ve not been forgotten and somebody wanted to say thank you,” Gracie told MyFoxDFW.com.  

Gracie’s card read, “Merry Christmas. Thank you for your service.” It also included an American flag.

But the bedridden veterans at the VA hospital will never get to see Gracie’s card. Nor will they see the cards made by 51 other students. That’s because the Christmas cards violated VA policy. Read more

Santa Goes to War


The modern-day image of Santa Claus, icon of peace and goodwill, was actually forged during America’s darkest days when it appeared in a Civil War illustration, and it wasn’t the last time that jolly St. Nick was enlisted to support wartime efforts on the home front.

Although “peace on earth” may never have seemed more elusive than during the Civil War, America’s bloodiest years actually produced our popular image of Santa Claus. Clement Clarke Moore had injected Santa into the American psyche with his 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (more popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas”), but it was four decades later when the modern-day figure of St. Nick first dripped off the pen of noted illustrator Thomas Nast. Read more

The Civil War’s link to Modern Day Christmas’


As the year winds down, it’s interesting to see how much the vortex of the Civil War altered and shaped our Christmas traditions and customs.

 The South celebrated Christmas since colonial days, but Puritanical New England didn’t begin until the early 1800s as new immigrants from Europe began arriving.

The Christmas tree may have origins to the Roman Empire, but we acknowledge the Germans for its popularity. The first American Christmas trees were likely in Pennsylvania.

 In a mid- 19th century English magazine, there appeared a sketch of Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert. The image was of them with their family around a Christmas tree. This brought the acceptance of the tree into homes in England and also the United States.

 Eleanor Custis Lee, a great-great-grand daughter of Martha Washington, described in  Nast put Santa on a sleigh handing out packages to Union soldiers in Civil War camp for the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper’s. It was the first of many Nast Santas.1853 how her family had a Christmas tree on a table at West Point. It was an exciting event for the young girl. Her father, Robert E. Lee, was the superintendent of the prestigious military school.

 German immigrant Thomas Nast, a skilled artist, created many political cartoons for Harper’s Weekly. Eventually his talent would take aim at New York’s politics. Nast is also credited with the elephant image for the Republican Party.

 Among his lasting images is the American image of Santa Claus. Nast put Santa on a sleigh handing out packages to Union soldiers in Civil War camp for the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper’s. It was the first of many Nast Santas.

 St. Nicholas or Santa goes back centuries. But Nast created the American Santa. That image would remain unchanged until 1931 when Coca Cola created a 20th century Santa.

 Southern children were told Santa might not make it through the Union blockade. This reinforced the evil image of the Yankee. One little girl attempted to chart the best way for Santa to avoid the Yankees. Read more

NSA Intercepted Children’s Letters To Santa–Duffel Blog


FORT MEADE, MD – The National Security Agency routinely intercepts children’s letters to Santa, internal agency documents have revealed.

The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex series of algorithms to spot any hidden messages.

Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander had previously testified to Congress in 2011 that the NSA would occasionally collect letters addressed to Santa, but insisted that it was totally accidental and that no one was actually reading or storing them.

The NSA is prohibited from directly monitoring American citizens under both Executive Order 12333 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, because the letters are addressed to the North Pole, which falls outside of U.S. territory, they are considered potential foreign intelligence signals which the NSA is authorized to intercept. Read more

All Quiet


Trench footprint: The still pockmarked landscape of Beaumont Hamel on the Somme where the Newfoundland Regiment were decimated by German machine guns


“Our thoughts are clay, they are moulded with the changes of the days;–when we are resting they are good; under fire, they are dead. Fields of craters within and without.”
― Erich Maria RemarqueAll Quiet on the Western Front