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10 Other People Ronald Reagan's Diary Only Mentions Once

During last night's GOP debate, Mitt Romney attempted to minimize Newt Gingrich's connection to President Reagan:

"I looked at the Reagan diary. You're mentioned once in Ronald Reagan's diary. And in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn't a very good idea and he dismissed it. That's the entire mention."

We had a copy of The Reagan Diaries handy. Here's what the Gipper wrote about young Newt on January 3, 1983:

"Met with a group of young Repub. Congressmen. Newt Gingrich has a proposal for freezing the budget at the 1983 level. It's a tempting idea except that it would cripple our defense program. And if we make an exception on that every special interest group will be asking for the same."

But the former Speaker is in good company. The Reagan-Mentioned-Me-Once-in-His-Diary Club includes lots of big names. For example:

1. Drew Barrymore (October 17, 1984)

"Out on the South Lawn a ceremony recognizing the Young Astronauts program. Little Drew Barrymore — the child in 'E.T.' — was one of the children. She's a nice little person."

2. The A-Team (May 3, 1986)

"Dinner alone in my suite. I'll be glad when Nancy joins me. CNN has an English language channel in Japan. I ate dinner watching 'The A-Team' & 'Hart to Hart.' Then word came to me that we'd had our 3rd calamity in the Space program. A Delta missile carrying a $57 mil. weather satellite had to be blown up when it malfunctioned. You can't help but wonder about sabotage."

3. Harry Caray (September 30, 1988)

"...threw out the first ball at Wrigley Field, joined in play-by-play with announcer Harry Caray."

4. Vinny Testaverde (December 12, 1986)

"Noted military team in Holland cooperating on Suriname situation; photo session with Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde; Domestic Policy Council meeting with reports on reforming welfare program."

5. Shelley Long (February 28, 1984)

"...Cabinet meeting on containing 'Beltway Bandits,' advisory and consulting groups gaining unnecessary government contracts; greeted actress Shelley Long; state dinner, entertainment by Mel Torme and Peter Nero."

6. Muhammad Ali (January 24, 1983)

"Visit from Muhammad Ali, 'gave me an autographed Muslim Prayer Book.'"

7. Juice Newton (August 26, 1984)

"Picnic for female appointees, entertainment by Juice Newton; Vice President Bush learned by telephone that his daughter had a baby son."

8. Wayne Newton (June 28, 1984)

"Photo sessions with Bay Buchanan and with Wayne Newton; met with former secretaries of the Treasury and current secretary Regan in support of appropriation for International Monetary Fund."

9. Pat Riley (June 30, 1988)

"...meeting with congressional leaders on drug policy; lunch with basketball coach Pat Riley; desk work; cabinet briefing on nuclear power stations, commented, 'some were shut down because countries & or states refused to submit plans for emergency evacuation."

10. Burt Reynolds (March 21, 1982)

"Dined with Burt Reynolds, noted, 'Had not known him well in Hollywood so surprised at his seriousness and his sincere crusade spirit against drugs, etc.'" [I cheated here. Burt's mentioned twice.]

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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