Tuesday, July 31, 2012
James L. Stanfield/National Geographic/Getty Images
The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan drew international attention a few years back for saying gross national happiness should trump gross domestic product when measuring a nation's progress. If you're going to prioritize happiness, the Bhutanese thinking goes, you'd better include the environment and spiritual and mental well-being in your calculations. (Not everyone in Bhutan is happy, and many leave as refugees, as Human Rights Watch and others have noted.)
But Bhutan, which has only 700,000 people — most of whom are farmers — has another shot at international fame if it can make good on a recent pledge to become the first country in the world to convert to a 100 percent organic agricultural system.
Last month at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley said his government is developing a National Organic Policy because the country's farmers are increasingly convinced that "by working in harmony with nature, they can help sustain the flow of nature's bounties."
Going all-out organic is a lofty goal for any country given that many farmers — and poor farmers in particular — covet chemical fertilizers and pesticides to enrich their soil, boost production and keep diseases and pests at bay.
But Andre Leu, an Australian adviser to the Bhutanese government and the president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, says it's very doable.
"I don't think it's going to be that difficult given that the majority of the agricultural land is already organic by default," Leu tells The Salt.
Indeed, the synthetic chemicals and fertilizers that are used so widely in countries like the U.S. are only available and affordable to a few of Bhutan's farmers who are widely dispersed across the rugged and mountainous terrain sandwiched between India and China. But very few of the organic-by-default farmers have been certified as such by third-party institutions. (Certified organic food, by the way, makes up less than 1 percent of the world's calories, and is mostly available to wealthy consumers.)
According to the World Food Program, Bhutanese farmers mainly grow rice and corn, as well as some fruits and vegetables, including potatoes and oranges. But as demand for food has grown in recent years, the country has been forced to import rice and other foods from India, and today Bhutan is a net food importer.
One of the few products Bhutan exports to the U.S. is red rice; Lotus Foods sells it to chains like Whole Foods. Bhutanese red rice is more nutritious and tastes nuttier than white rice, its boosters say, and is well-suited to pilaf, as Monica Bhide reported for NPR's Kitchen Window earlier this year. The rice does not have organic certification, but Lotus Foods says it been grown without the use of pesticides or other chemical inputs for centuries.
The Ministry of Agriculture says the organic program, launched in 2007, is not just about protecting the environment. It will also train farmers in new methods that will help them grow more food and move the country closer to self-sufficiency. The ministry is now training extension workers in organic methods and giving farmers who go organic priority for government assistance.
Not everyone is so sure that a 100 percent organic Bhutan is a great idea. Leu says he's found some resistance among researchers at the Ministry of Agriculture who've been trained in conventional farming techniques abroad.
And an article last year in the Bhutan Observer notes that many farmers who grow export crops like apple, Mandarin orange, and potato already rely heavily on chemical fertilizers and could be reluctant to give them up.
Still, Leu is optimistic that Bhutan's burgeoning organic agriculture research centers will eventually be able to come up with organic methods to boost yields and manage the problems of these crops.
"All these problems are solvable, they just need a few more years of research to come up with some more effective solutions," Leu says.
(CBS/AP) So, Michael Phelps has now won more Olympics medals than any other athlete in history. But do you know who had held the record until Tuesday?
It was Larisa Latynina, a small, white-haired former gymnast who hasn't been in action for nearly 50 years.
She won nine gold medals as a gymnast for the Soviet Union, and her 18 total medals had stood since 1964.
The 77-year-old Latynina was in the crowd at North Greenwich Arena on Tuesday to watch the women's gymnastics team final, and she received a warm ovation when her face was shown on the scoreboard late in the competition. She stood up and waved, a big smile on her face as she was introduced by the arena announcer.
Latynina's Olympic career ended after she took home six medals -- two of each -- from the 1964 Tokyo games.
Phelps over took Latynina's record after swimming the anchor leg for the United States in a gold medal-winning performance of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay Tuesday night.
Teammate Rick Berens handed off a lead of nearly 4 seconds to Phelps, who lingered a bit on the blocks, knowing the only way he could blow this one was to get disqualified. Then he set off on what amounted to four victory laps of the pool -- down and back, then down and back again, the roar in the Olympic Aquatics Centre getting louder as he approached the finish.
"I thanked those guys for helping me get to this moment," Phelps said. "I told those guys I wanted a big lead. I was like, 'You better give me a big lead going into the last lap,' and they gave it to me. I just wanted to hold on. I thanked them for being able to allow me to have this moment."
About an hour earlier, Phelps tied Latynina's record when he took silver in his signature event the 200 butterfly, after making a shocking blunder at the finish and settling for second.
Phelps has 15 golds in his career, six more than anyone else, to go along with two silvers and two bronzes. Latynina retired with nine gold medals.
The New York Times reports Latynina has joked recently that it was time for a man to be able to do what a woman had done long ago. And that it was too bad Phelps was not Russian.
"Forty-eight years is almost enough time to hold a record," Latynina told the Times. "Among women, I'm sure I will stay No. 1 for a long time."
(AP) Gore Vidal, the author, playwright, politician and commentator whose novels, essays, plays and opinions were stamped by his immodest wit and unconventional wisdom, has died at the age of 86, his nephew said Tuesday.
Vidal died at his home in the Hollywood Hills at about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday of complications from pneumonia, Burr Steers said. Vidal had been living alone in the home and had been sick for "quite a while," he said.
Along with such contemporaries as Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, Vidal was among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities — fixtures on talk shows and in gossip columns, personalities of such size and appeal that even those who hadn't read their books knew who they were.
His works included hundreds of essays; the best-selling novels "Lincoln" and "Myra Breckenridge"; the groundbreaking "The City and the Pillar," among the first novels about openly gay characters; and the Tony-nominated play "The Best Man," revived on Broadway in 2012.
Tall and distinguished looking, with a haughty baritone not unlike that of his conservative arch-enemy William F. Buckley, Vidal appeared cold and cynical on the surface. But he bore a melancholy regard for lost worlds, for the primacy of the written word, for "the ancient American sense that whatever is wrong with human society can be put right by human action."
Vidal was uncomfortable with the literary and political establishment, and the feeling was mutual. Beyond an honorary National Book Award in 2009, he won few major writing prizes, lost both times he ran for office and initially declined membership into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, joking that he already belonged to the Diners Club. (He was eventually admitted, in 1999).
But he was widely admired as an independent thinker — in the tradition of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken — about literature, culture, politics and, as he liked to call it, "the birds and the bees." He picked apart politicians, living and dead; mocked religion and prudery; opposed wars from Vietnam to Iraq and insulted his peers like no other, once observing that the three saddest words in the English language were "Joyce Carol Oates." (The happiest words: "I told you so").
The author "meant everything to me when I was learning how to write and learning how to read," Dave Eggers said at the 2009 National Book Awards ceremony, when he and Vidal received honorary citations. "His words, his intellect, his activism, his ability and willingness to always speak up and hold his government accountable, especially, has been so inspiring to me I can't articulate it." Ralph Ellison labeled him a "campy patrician."
Vidal had an old-fashioned belief in honor, but a modern will to live as he pleased. He wrote in the memoir "Palimpsest" that he had more than 1,000 "sexual encounters," nothing special, he added, compared to the pursuits of such peers as John F. Kennedy and Tennessee Williams.
Vidal was fond of drink and alleged that he had sampled every major drug, once. He never married and for decades shared a scenic villa in Ravello, Italy, with companion Howard Austen.
Vidal would say that his decision to live abroad damaged his literary reputation in the United States. In print and in person, he was a shameless name dropper, but what names! John and Jacqueline Kennedy. Hillary Clinton. Tennessee Williams. Mick Jagger. Orson Welles. Frank Sinatra. Marlon Brando. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.
(Credit: CBS Photo Archives)
AFP - Power has been fully restored to three electricity grids which had failed in India, causing a blackout affecting more than 600 million people, a senior power official told AFP Wednesday.
"Power has been restored fully across the northern, eastern and north-eastern grids," Power System Operation Corporation chief S.K. Soonee told AFP, referring to the systems which collapsed on Tuesday in an unprecedented outage.
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department says Republican lawmakers are engaging in distortions with a report on Operation Fast and Furious.
In their report on the flawed gun-smuggling investigation, Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley said the administration had shifted the emphasis in fighting Mexican drug cartels from merely seizing firearms to identifying the networks that traffic them.
The report concluded that Operation Fast and Furious "was born from this strategy."
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the reality is that "the pattern of flawed tactics dates back to 2006 and the prior administration."
In Operation Fast and Furious and at least three earlier probes during the Bush administration, agents in Arizona employed a risky tactic called gun-walking. The goal of the tactic was to track the guns to major weapons traffickers and drug cartels.
In Operation Fast and Furious, many of the weapons weren't tracked and wound up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including the site of a shootout that resulted in the death of a border agent, Brian Terry.
Western strikes on Al Qaeda have shown progress in taking out the terror group's core in Pakistan, but affiliates still are increasing "operational capabilities," the State Department said in releasing its annual Country Reports on Terrorism.
Highlights of the 2011 report include the death of Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda's relative lack of influence on the so-called Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East, the State Department's top counterterrorism official, Daniel Benjamin, said Tuesday.
He warned, however, that the United States has "no illusions" that further progress against terrorism will be easy or quick, and certain Al Qaeda affiliates remain a troubling threat.
"The report’s narrative notes, among other things, the continued weakening of the Al Qaeda core in Pakistan, but it also demonstrates that the Al Qaeda affiliates, while also suffering losses, increased their overall operational ability," Benjamin said. "And this is particularly true of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
"So for all the counterterrorism successes that we’ve seen against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the group and violent extremist ideology and rhetoric continue to spread in some parts of the world."
The report also notes the threat from other terror groups, including the Lebanese-based Hezbollah, which is "engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s," Benjamin said. He also noted that Iran "remains the pre-eminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world."
The report counted more than 10,000 terrorists attacks in 70 countries in 2011, which resulted in more than 12,500 deaths, though that measurement is down from 2010. The worst regions for terrorist attacks are South Asia and the Near East, and most of the victims are Muslim.
In fact, Benjamin noted that 64 percent of all attacks worldwide occurred in just three countries, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, though the numbers logged in the first two declined from 2010 to 2011.
The rise of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is one of the most alarming trends in terrorism.
"That’s a group that benefited from the long political transition, the turmoil that was going on in Yemen," Benjamin said. "And I’m optimistic because in President Hadi we have a very committed, very reliable partner now. ... So while the group did exploit that period of uncertainty, we think the trend lines are going in the right direction now in Yemen."
He also said officials think the number of Al Qaeda fighters participating in the bloodshed in Syria remains rather small, though there remains the risk of unaffiliated foreign fighters traveling to the country and posing the threat of greater violence.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline had contacted the catering company which prepared the sandwich served on board the Victoria to Toronto flight. (Tony Avelar/Associated Press)
Air Canada is investigating after what appeared to be a sewing needle was found in a sandwich served on board a flight from Victoria to Toronto on Monday, CBC News has learned.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline contacted the catering company which had prepared the meal immediately after the discovery. He said a passenger had reported finding the object.
Fitzpatrick said safety is a top priority and Air Canada is working with the food company to ensure that heightened security measures are put in place.
Fitzpatrick said Air Canada was co-operating with police and that there have been no further reports of similar incidents on its flights.
U.S. authorities, meanwhile, launched an investigation after a number of needles were found on board four Delta Air Lines flights from Amsterdam, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.with files from Hannah Thibedeau
WASHINGTON | Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:40pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.
NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad's departure with increasing vehemence.
Indications are that the U.S. government, which has said it opposes arming the rebels, is not responsible for the delivery of the missiles.
But some U.S. government sources have been saying for weeks that Arab governments seeking to oust Assad, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been pressing for such missiles, also known as MANPADs, for man-portable air-defense systems, to be supplied to the rebels.
In recent days, air operations against the rebels by Syrian government forces appear to have been stepped up, particularly around the contested city of Aleppo, making the rebels' need for MANPADs more urgent.
Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.
And even if the rebels do have the weapons, it is unclear whether they have the training to operate them effectively against Assad's air forces in the immediate future.
Some conservative U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad's opponents.
The White House, at least until now, has taken a considerably more cautious approach.
As of last month, U.S. officials warned that if any Middle Eastern nation was "even considering giving arms to the Syrian opposition," it ought to "take a measured approach and think twice about providing arms that could have unintended consequences."
Nonetheless, even at that time, U.S. and allied officials acknowledged that officials of Saudi Arabia and Qatar were discussing whether surface-to-air missiles might help Syrian rebels bring down Russian-made helicopters and other aircraft the Syrian army was using to move troops between trouble spots.
Following the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, some intelligence experts estimated that as many as 10,000-15,000 MANPADs sets were looted from Libyan government stockpiles. The whereabouts of most of these are unknown.
Many U.S. officials have been wary of the notion of arming Syrian rebels with MANPADs, noting that they could be easily turned on targets other than the Syrian government, including civilian airliners.
After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the CIA, with Saudi backing, provided sophisticated shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Islamic militants seeking to oust Soviet troops.
The missiles proved deadly against Soviet helicopter gunships, but subsequently became a major headache for U.S. and western counter-terrorism agencies when anti-Soviet militants morphed into anti-Western militants.
Recent intelligence and news reporting has suggested a growing number of militants, including some affiliated with al Qaeda, have traveled to Syria to try to join anti-Assad forces. U.S. officials have said, however, that they do not believe the militants yet play a dominant role in the Syrian opposition.
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(AP) AUSTIN, Texas - Tea Party darling Ted Cruz convincingly defeated the Republican establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in Texas' runoff election Tuesday, capturing the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as fiercely conservative voters shook one of America's reddest states to its political core.
The race had been closely watched nationally as one of the nation's most-vivid contrasts between the GOP mainstream and grassroots, conservative activists. But as results began to pour in, it turned out to be no contest. Cruz grabbed early leads in key cities around the state where Dewhurst had once enjoyed stronger name recognition, fundraising and political organization just weeks earlier.
Overseeing the state Senate from the powerful lieutenant governor's post since 2003, Dewhurst was long considered a slam dunk in his race with Cruz, the former state solicitor general and son of a Cuban immigrant. Dewhurst had the endorsement of much of Texas' Republican mainstream, including Gov. Rick Perry, who despite his failed run for president was still widely popular back home. He also had a $200 million personal fortune he could dip into at will and did, loaning his Senate campaign at least $24.5 million.
But Cruz has a fiery stage presence that made Tea Party supporters across the state swoon, and received millions from national, conservative organizations which targeted Dewhurst as too moderate. Even though the lieutenant governor oversaw some of the most-conservative state legislative sessions in Texas history and helped speed the passage of laws requiring women to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion and voters to show identification at the polls, he also occasionally compromised with Democratic lawmakers to keep the legislative agenda moving.
Meanwhile, former Democratic state Rep. Paul Saddler easily bested perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough to capture his party's nomination and face Cruz in November's general election, but Cruz begins that race the overwhelming favorite.In Texas, a test for the Tea Party
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Cruz memorized the U.S. Constitution while in high school and successfully painted his opponent as wishy-washy — even though they actually disagree on little, either politically or ideologically.
The 41-year-old Cruz had never run for political office but bolstered his political credentials arguing in front of the state Supreme Court as the longest-serving solicitor general in Texas history.
Cruz's father Rafael is a pastor outside Dallas. He fought with Fidel Castro's rebels in Cuba before Castro took power and eventually embraced communism, and the elder Cruz fled to the U.S. with nothing but $100 sowed into his underwear.
Texas Republicans aren't used to losing: The state has not elected a Democrat statewide since 1994. But Cruz attacked Dewhurst from the right, and the lieutenant governor's campaign had no real answer.
The state primary was pushed back from Super Tuesday to late May due to a legal fight over redistricting maps drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislature. The 66-year-old Dewhurst beat Cruz by 10 percentage points in the primary but fell about 70,000 votes short of the majority needed for an outright win in a nine-Republican field vying for the party's nomination.
Besides Perry and other state GOP big guns, Dewhurst was endorsed by former baseball great Nolan Ryan. Dewhurst also won the endorsements of former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who finished third in the Republican primary, and ex-NFL running back and ESPN commentator Craig James, the primary's fourth-place primary finisher.
None of it was enough.
Cruz got millions from national Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations including the Washington-based Club for Growth. He was endorsed by ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, radio talk show host Glen Beck, U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Kentucky's Rand Paul, as well as former GOP presidential hopeful and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
At a morning campaign stop in Houston, Cruz said he heard from voters statewide interested in changing what they view as insider-politics in Washington.
"That's the way the democratic process is supposed to work. It's not supposed to be a bunch of guys in a smoky room in Austin picking the next senator," Cruz added.
Just blocks away a few hours later, Dewhurst said, "This is a tough race, but if we remind voters I'm the only true conservative in the race," we can win, Dewhurst said, promising to "turn Washington upside down" if elected.
Natache Reeves, a 42-year-old nurse from the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine, said she voted for Cruz because he had Palin's support and was less likely to restrict handgun use.
"I love Sarah Palin, and she's backing Ted Cruz," Reeves said. "I pretty much agree with everything that rolls out of her mouth."
But Cruz wasn't for everyone. Frank Martinez of Dallas said despite finding Dewhurst's campaign ads "very mean" he couldn't support Cruz, even though they share Cuban roots.
"I think (Dewhurst) has more experience, and he's not a lawyer. So the ad worked," said Martinez, 54, who is unemployed after a workplace accident two years ago left him disabled.
Cruz has drawn comparisons to Indiana, where state Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeated incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary. But in Texas, the nation's second-most populous state, a win by a Tea Party-backed candidate is likely to resonate even more.
(CBS/AP) All Jordyn Wieber needed to bounce back from the biggest disappointment of her career was a little pep talk.
Teammate McKayla Maroney was only too happy to provide one.
Thanks to a few kind words from her best friend, Wieber returned to her world-championship form in the women's gymnastics team finals on Tuesday, helping the U.S. to its first gold medal since Atlanta in 1996.
Wieber missed out on the all-around finals after finishing as the third American during qualifying. Coach John Geddert said Wieber was given five minutes to regroup.
She certainly looked rejuvenated in the team finals. Wieber drilled her meet-opening vault and the U.S. rolled. The 17-year-old called her performance "redemption."
Wieber can add a second medal next week in the floor exercise finals.
The Americans lived up to their considerable hype, routing silver medalist Russia and everybody else on their way to their first Olympic title in women's gymnastics since 1996. Their score of 183.596 was a whopping five points ahead of Russia and made their final event, floor exercise, more like a coronation. Romania won the bronze.
The Americans had come into the last two Olympics as world champions, only to leave without a gold. But this team is the strongest, top to bottom, the USA has ever had and the rest of the world never stood a chance. After the U.S. opened with a barrage of booming vaults, everyone else was playing for silver.
"This is the best team all-time," said U.S. coach John Geddert, who is also Jordyn Wieber's personal coach. "Others might disagree. The '96 team might disagree. But this is the best team. Difficulty-wise, consistency wise, this is USA's finest."
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Jean McNear Powers stands between the twin headstones for her great-, great-, great-grandparents — pioneer couple Isaac and Polly Sullivan.
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The headstone for Benjamin Taylor, who died in 1873. Taylor helped drive a wagon train for pioneers who settled in Northern California's Green Valley in 1850. His headstone has been pieced together after being found under a foot of dirt. Caretaker Tony Pires says he hopes to find the missing piece.
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Tony Pires uses a metal rod to find a grave marker. Decades of growing plants, pecking birds and digging gophers can make things strangely "disappear" in old cemeteries like Gilliam.
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The repaired headstone for Jonas Turner and his wife, Lewhettie, shows that he was a native of Tennessee and she was a native of Maine. They died just four months apart, in 1860.
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The partially restored headstone for Thomas C. Potter, who traveled west from Rhode Island, shows that he died on July 21, 1871, at age 25. The inscription reads, "He has gone from the earth, With its pain and care: He is safe in a realm That is bright and fair."
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Tony Pires (right) inspects a repaired headstone for Mitchell Gilliam (Polly's father) with Jack Boatwright of the U.S. Geological Survey.
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The repaired headstone for Stephen Dovey notes that he died on July 12, 1870, at age 33.
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Some of the oldest headstones at the Gilliam Cemetery were broken and buried by two factors: the 1906 earthquake that also hit nearby San Francisco, and plant and animal life that mounded dirt over broken stones.
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Seismologist Jack Boatwright checks his notes from 2006, when he determined that two-thirds of Gilliam's headstones had very likely been shattered during the 1906 earthquake. Back then, he didn't know that Tony Pires had been resurrecting buried headstones at the cemetery.
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The Gilliam Cemetery, near Sebastopol, Calif., received its first grave in 1852. Many of its older headstones have disappeared over the years.
The Gilliam Cemetery, which lies 60 miles north of San Francisco, appears to be gaining residents lately. But it's not only because new people have been interred there. Instead, headstones that wound up being buried a century ago have been found and resurrected.
The cemetery's story begins in 1850, when a wagon train of pioneers left Missouri and settled near what is now Sebastopol, Calif. The Gilliam Cemetery was started in 1852, when Polly Gilliam Sullivan and her husband, Isaac, needed a place to bury their stillborn son.
Many of the town's pioneers rested peacefully in the cemetery until the morning of April 18, 1906. That's when the San Andreas Fault ruptured offshore from San Francisco, picking up speed as it traveled north.
An Analysis, 100 Years Later
U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Jack Boatwright first visited the graveyard in 2006, for the earthquake's centennial. The trip was part of his attempt to create the first digital "ShakeMap" of the quake. He confirmed that some of the strongest shaking happened in this part of Northern California.
And the evidence is still visible in old graveyards like Gilliam, where Boatwright found 3-foot marble headstones that had been broken in the 1906 quake — including one for pioneer Elizabeth Crowe, who died in 1889. Her grave marker looks as though it was shattered into five pieces.
At the time of his research, Boatwright noted that the quake had fractured as many as two-thirds of the gravestones in this cemetery — as NPR reported in 2006. But back then, Boatwright didn't know that some missing headstones were being found and repaired by caretaker Tony Pires.
More than a decade ago, Pires, 75, volunteered to mow the cemetery's lawn. And over the years, he found partially buried pieces of headstones as he crossed the turf. Eventually, he started trying to piece them together.
So Pires investigated further, using a skinny welding rod or poker to push gently into the ground. Sometimes he'd come upon a hard object, possibly a bottle or a can. "And sometimes," he says with a wide grin, "it's a stone. And that's when I get all excited." Often, the stone would be a long-lost part of a broken headstone.
Despite the powerful earthquake, the ground did not open up and swallow the headstones in 1906. A graveyard has a way of consuming all on its own. And it can actually be quite a lively place, as plant roots grow and birds peck for seeds — both activities loosen the dirt around broken stones.
And then, Pires says, there's the larger culprit. He points to clues all around the graveyard.
"Gopher holes and gopher trails," he says. "The stones fall into the dirt and [the pieces] get buried even more."
When Jack Boatwright was here in 2006, he never imagined the effect gophers would have on his research. "So, any stones Tony has unearthed," he says, "would increase the estimate of ground shaking that I had previously."
Descendants Of California Pioneers
So far, Pires has pieced together and reinstated close to 30 headstones, including those for the pioneer couple who started the cemetery, Isaac Sullivan and his wife, Polly Gilliam Sullivan.
They are the great-, great-, great-grandparents of Jean McNear Powers, who says she used to visit the Gilliam Cemetery with her grandmother. "I ran around and chased gophers," she recalls.
Powers believes about 40 of her relatives are buried in the cemetery. But until Pires started poking around, she didn't know where some of them were.
"It brings me peace and contentment and gratitude, because as I look at the stones, there were so many children," she says. "I have family members, like my daughter, who because of modern medicine are still alive today — and would have been one of those tiny headstones years ago."
Benjamin Taylor is another of Powers' ancestors. He drove the wagon train from Missouri and died in 1873.
"This stone was under a foot of dirt and it's missing one small triangle," Pires says. "I may never find it, but I keep looking, 'cause it's fun."
It's a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. But Pires says he knows he's likely to find something. According to records and family accounts, there are dozens more old markers and headstones missing in the Gilliam Cemetery — presumably buried and waiting to be exhumed and reassembled.