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KIM PHILBY

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British Intelligence officer and Soviet spy Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was born on January 1st, 1912 in Ambala, India. (He earned his nickname – Kim – when friends connected his birthplace with the writings of Rudyard Kipling.) Born into a well-to-do family – his father was a diplomat – Philby had all the trappings of a “classic” British upbringing – including prep school and then Trinity College at Cambridge - with no clear indication that he would become one of history’s most infamous spies. It was while at Cambridge that he was exposed to communism through a tutor and then became a fervent follower. By the time he graduated in 1933 he was under Soviet control.

Posing as free-lance journalist Philby made his was to Spain and there provided the Soviets information on Fascist leader Francisco Franco’s plans and security arrangements. There is some historical credence that a plan was concocted to use Philby to assassinate Franco – which was quickly shelved – Philby was a spy, not a murderer. And a good spy he was. After surviving a shell attack on a jeep he was traveling in - the other three passengers were killed – Philby was awarded Spain’s Red Cross of Military Merit personally by Franco, who seemingly had no inkling of Philby’s undercover work.

With the advent of World War II, Philby joined the SIS – later known as MI6 – and his career in the British intelligence community began – all the while still reporting back to Moscow. With a few minor set-backs - Philby tended to upset his British superiors with his “irreverence” - he made his way up the organizational chart and in 1944 was named head of the British anti-Soviet intelligence branch - Needless to say a major Soviet intelligence coup for Philby was now in charge of looking for guys like him.

In 1945, and in a scene right out of a Cold War espionage thriller, a memo skirted across Philby’s desk informing those in the know of the imminent defection of KGB agent Konstantin Volkov. Upon his safe transit Volkov promised to name names, particularly Soviet “moles” within British Intelligence, and thus, most likely Philby’s. Philby got word back to Moscow and Volkov was removed from circulation before his secretly scheduled trip west.

After the Second World War Philby was stationed in Istanbul and then in 1949 – in another Soviet intelligence coup – sent to Washington, DC, to act as liaison with the newly formed CIA. It was here he had access to the Venona intercepts – coded Soviet intelligence – and in 1951, after reading Venona, warned two of his fellow spies, Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean, that their covers had been blown. Both of them quickly high-tailed it to the USSR. Philby was suspected of leaking this info and questioned, but never convicted as the “Third Man” who warned Burgess and Maclean.

Although constantly under suspicion, it was not until 1963 that Philby defected to the Soviet Union from Beirut. British Intelligence lore has it that when confronted by an old friend, Nicholas Elliott, Philby pulled the plug on himself. Under the constant pressure of living a “double-life” Philby’s behavior had become erratic and he was drinking much more than was good for him.

After his defection Philby’s was not a happy existence behind the Iron Curtain. For starters he was not greeted by the Soviets as the hero he thought he was. His heavy drinking continued although he appears to have found some happiness late in his life, cleaning up his act and marrying a young Russian woman. He died in 1988.

It’s difficult to gauge Philby’s importance in the Cold War. What is clear is that he saved his skin as well as his cohorts and kept the Soviets abreast of Britain’s and later America’s nuclear capabilities, as well as foiling espionage attempts to penetrate Soviet intelligence. He and his Cambridge peers kept Stalin well informed of both British and American intentions during the Yalta conference. Stalin being Stalin was always worried that Philby was a double agent and thus analyzed Philby’s information accordingly. Philby’s life has also made for some great literature, case in point LeCarre’s George Smiley series, with poor George on the trail of a Philby-like mole within MI6.



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Comedy Clips of the Week

KEVIN SPACEY

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Producer, director, screenwriter and Oscar award winning actor Kevin Spacey Fowler was born on July 26, 1959 in South Orange, New Jersey. He has starred in such movies as The Usual Suspects, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, L.A. Confidential and American Beauty. One of his many talents is uncanny impersonations of famous people. The clip below is from Inside the Actors Studio as he runs through his repertoire for James Lipton. Highly entertaining and what a mind Mr. Spacey has.

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HERMAN CAIN IS A VERY FUNNY FELLOW….RIGHT!

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If nothing else Mr. Cain has a future in improvisational/sketch comedy.

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Sports

JESSE OWENS

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On August 3rd, 1936 Jesse Owens won the 100 meter sprint in the Summer Olympics held in Berlin. This was the first of his four Gold Medals, which included the Long Jump, 200 meter sprint and as a member of the 4x 100 meter relay team. A record that wasn’t equaled until Carl Lewis did it in 1984.

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JOHNNY EVERS

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Second baseman John Joseph Evers was born on July 21st, 1883.  Known as “The Crab” for his style of play in the field, Evers is also remembered as one of the smaller players to make it in the major leagues, weighing in at 100 lbs as a rookie and never topping out at more than 130 lbs during his career.

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Classic Movies

UNFORGIVEN

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Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Jaimz Woolvett and Saul Rubinek, the film Unforgiven premiered on August 7th, 1993. So often with classic movies the plot here is a simple one, an aging and retired Old West outlaw/gunslinger takes on one more “job” to avenge the brutal beating and disfigurement of a prostitute.

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HANG ‘EM HIGH

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Directed by Ted Post and starring Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley and Pat Hingle, the film Hang ‘Em High premiered on August 3rd, 1968. Fresh from filming the Dollars Trilogy with Sergio Leone in Europe and known to the American TV viewing public from his time on Rawhide, Clint made this movie – which really wasn’t much of a stretch. Playing a man wrongfully lynched – he’s rescued by a US Marshall just in the nick of time – Eastwood goes to work for the “local” judge, (Hingle), as a Marshall with the goal of “finding” the men who strung him up. This theme of frontier revenge/justice one that Clint would “revisit” several more times in his career. In this movie we meet Alan Hale, Jr. – the skipper from Gilligan’s Island – and a young Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper. And even this early in his career Eastwood had an eye on the future; this movie was the first to be produced by Eastwood’s Malpaso Company.

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Dates In History

GULF OF TONKIN RESOLUTION

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On August 7, 1964 Congress passed what is now known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Lyndon Johnson “the power to take whatever actions he deems necessary to defend Southeast Asia, including the use of armed force.”  Although not a formal declaration of war, the Resolution was used by the Johnson Administration as the legal basis for the future conduct and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

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PT-109

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On August 2nd, 1943 the Patrol Torpedo boat skippered by future President John F. Kennedy was rammed and split in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. The PT-109 sank within minutes taking two of its crew with it. The remaining 11 survivors grabbed what they could and began swimming the 3.5 miles to the deserted Plum Pudding Island - in the Pacific among the Solomon Islands. Two of the crew members were badly injured, Kennedy towing one to safety by taking the injured man’s life preserver strap in his teeth while swimming. The crew was rescued six days later after a coconut with the crew’s location carved into it was passed along to a Solomon local who passed it along to the US Navy. The coconut with its SOS message was preserved and adorned the JFK Oval Office as a paperweight.

 

Music

LOUIS ARMSTRONG

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One of the founders of jazz; musician, singer, entertainer, and trumpeter extraordinaire, Louis Daniel Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Much has been written and said about “Satchmo” – genius, friend to many but close to few, comical, optimistic – whatever – to appreciate the man and his legacy listen to his music. Louis Armstrong was one of a kind.

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ADAM DURITZ

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Lead singer and founding member of The Counting Crows, Adam Duritz was born on August 1st, 1964 in Baltimore, Maryland. The son of two Jewish doctors Adam admits he is “impersonating African-Jamaican”, starting with the dreadlock hair extensions. In articles I’ve read Adam described as morose, tortured, melancholy and pretentious. And maybe he is. All I know is that when he and his band mates get together and make music something happens and it’s a good thing. The Counting Crows are still one of the best bands to see live for my money.

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Political Clips

HUNTER S. THOMPSON

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Hunter S. Thompson, the father of gonzo journalism, counter-culturalist, iconoclast, and someone who seemingly took Richard Nixon’s existence on this earth personally, was born on July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, it was his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that combined all that made Thompson either loved or reviled – Drugs, alcohol, guns and contempt for authority – as the protagonist and his attorney make their way through Sin City. His follow up book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail ‘72, tracked that year’s Presidential election and Thompson’s ever growing hatred of President Nixon.

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NOT THAT JOE WALSH …THE CRAZY ONE

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I’ve mentioned our local (Illinois) collective Congressional embarrassment before –

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