Traveling Spy Show Offers Unique Gadgets & My E-Books About U.S. Traitors

Have you ever wondered if those amazing spy gadgets that you’ve seen in James Bond movies are real? Do operatives working for the Brit’s  MI-6, the CIA, and the Russian SVR (formerly known as the KGB) really have access to sleek sports cars with ejecting passenger seats and wristwatches with hidden laser beam torches? 

My friend, H. Keith Melton, owns the largest collection of spy artifacts in the world – more than ten thousand items. Many of the 007 inspired spy gizmos on display at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. are on loan from his personal collection. 

Melton recently decided to show off some of his most prized items in a traveling exhibit called “Spy: The Secret World of Espionage”  which opened in mid-May in Discovery Times Square in Manhattan.

Featured in his traveling show is the trick umbrella that Bulgarian intelligence operatives used to shoot a pellet that contained ricin into the leg of Georgi Ivanov Markov,  a dissident writer, while he was waiting for a bus in London. The so-called “deadliest poison” known to man was sealed by wax in a tiny pellet and was released when Markov’s body temperature melted the seal.

The traveling collection also contains a CIA manufactured robotic dragonfly, the smallest operational submarine used in World War II, a robot catfish and pigeon made for spying and a pick axe that Soviet Ramon Mercader drove into the skull of Leon Trotsky  in Coyoacan, a borough of Mexico City, in 1940.

When he was preparing the exhibit, which will tour 10 cities during the next several years, Keith asked me if I would share some of the artifacts that I collected while doing research for my books, Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Jr. Spy Ring; Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames; and Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War.


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My Son Tells His Side of Crazy

For the first time, my son and I both gave speeches recently about mental illness and our journey together to recovery. I couldn’t have been prouder of his talk. There was a time — when he was repeatedly hospitalized, arrested and even shot twice with a taser by the police — when I wasn’t sure that we would ever reach this day.  I wondered if he would survive or join the ranks of the nearly 600,000 persons with severe mental illnesses in our jails and prisons, the thousands of homeless wandering our streets or the departed who fell victim to suicide.

Thankfully, my friends in the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other mental health advocates offered me hope. My wife, Patti, became my rock and we were blessed because my son got help from a dedicated case manager who finally got him the meaningful treatment that he needed.

But the real hero in our story is my son, who many of you know as “Mike” from my book.  He calls his speech RESILIENT, which is a fitting title.  Unfortunately, our actual presentation did not get filmed because of a snafu with the camera. Luckily,  Mike made his own tape. The T-Shirt that he is wearing is in honor of a friend who recently died.

If you take the time to watch this two part video, you will not be disappointed.

No one should be defined by an illness. Recovery is not only possible –we should demand it.

What Makes A Place A Home?

A recent speaking engagement in Denver reminded me of three things.

The first is how we define home.  I spent most of my childhood in Colorado and my sister is buried there. Because of that, I feel a strong attachment to the state even though I haven’t lived in  Colorado  since 1970. For nearly forty years, I’ve been a resident of  Northern Virginia. This is where I’ve worked and reared my family. Just the same, I don’t think of myself as being an “Easterner” or, for that matter, a “Virginian.” I remember hearing Vance Packard speak once about our mobile society and how difficult it was to chose a burial plot for a family member.  The idea of a family plot in a local cemetery was out-dated because generations no longer spent their lives in one location.  During his speech, he asked: “How do we define home?”

The second thought that came to me during my trip was about the importance of jobs in helping persons with severe mental disorders recover. This seems so obvious that writing about it shouldn’t be necessary. But during the past several years that I have spent traveling across our country, I’ve  noticed that securing employment for persons who have been diagnosed with mental disorders is rarely a priority.

This is a huge MISTAKE!

It is especially wrong to tell family members or persons with disorders that mental illnesses make it  impossible for a person to work. Click to continue…

Father and Son: Telling Our Stories Together for the First Time

I am excited this week because my son, known to most of you as Mike, and I will speak for the first time together about his mental illness, our family’s struggle, and his recovery.

We will be appearing this Thursday, May 24th,  at the Loudon County Public Library’s Cascades branch at 7 p.m.

I will offer my perspective as a father,  discuss how his breakdown impacted my relationship with him, and how his illness led to me writing my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. I’ve also been asked to describe successful recovery programs that I have seen as a journalist who has visited and spoken in every state except Hawaii, Mississippi and Arkansas, and has visited mental health services in Brazil, Portugal and Iceland.

Mike will speak about what it is like to have the symptoms of a mental illness, the many challenges that he faced and  how he eventually came to grips with his disorder.  He will talk about what did and didn’t help him — including things that I did that backfired!

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Happy Graduate and Proud Father

My youngest daughter, Traci, graduated from Virginia Tech University this weekend with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology. She maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average her entire college career, was awarded Summa Cum Laude in her class of more than 5,000 graduates, and spent countless hours working on a suicide hotline as a volunteer. She plans to obtain a Master’s Degree in clinical mental health counseling.

My son’s diagnosis and breakdown changed our entire family. I became an advocate for mental health reform. My son works now as a peer to peer specialist for a county diversion program that helps persons, who have mental disorders and are arrested, by getting them into treatment programs rather than having them languish in jail. And now Traci has chosen a career in the mental health field.

Along with her siblings, Patti and I are tremendously proud of her achievements.

The Better Side of Columnist George Will

I can’t remember now if the tip came in first to Howie Kurtz  or to me when we were both reporters at The Washington Post. But one of us heard that members of the Reagan Administration were taking part in a nifty little boondoggle that Charles Z. Wick had approved at the United States Information Agency.  Here was the scam. If a high-ranking government employee was willing to drop by the U.S. Embassy when he and his family jetted off to London, Paris, or some other exotic city on vacation, the government would pick up the cost of his airfare. All he had to do was give an hour long “briefing” to embassy employees to qualify for the taxpayer paid ticket.

Wick was furious when we confronted him and during our exchange he blurted out that Reagan staffers were not the only Washingtonians who were getting free airfare courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Journalists were too.

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