Boy Scouts of America

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Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
Foundation : February 8, 1910
Disappearance : {{{disappearance}}}
Founders : {{{founder}}}
Country : United States of America
President :
Chiefscout : {{{chiefscout}}}
Headquarters : Irving, Texas
Website :
members : 2,938,698 youth
1,146,130 adults (2005)
Affiliated to :

World Organization of the Scout Movement

World Organization of the Scout Movement.

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
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The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a United States Scouting organization, with some presence in other countries. The BSA is the largest youth organization in the United States; over one hundred million Americans have been members. Founded in 1910 as part of the Scout Movement, it had a registered membership of 2,938,698 youth with 1,146,130 leaders in 122,582 units as of the end of 2005.[1] The BSA is administered mostly by committees of volunteers, but employs professionals at the higher levels of administration and for commercial activities.

The BSA sprang from the concerns of the progressive movement in the United States from people who sought to promote the social welfare of young men. The BSA adheres to the Scout method to teach values such as self-esteem, citizenship, and outdoorsmanship through a variety of outdoor activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking.[2][3]

The BSA recognizes the achievements of Scouts through advancement in rank and various special awards. It includes several program divisions, targeted at boys ages seven through seventeen and young men and women ages fourteen through twenty-one. The BSA operates locally, through volunteer-led units such as troops, packs, and crews.


The progressive movement in the United States was at its height during the early twentieth century. With the migration of families from rural to urban centers, there were concerns that young men were no longer learning patriotism and individualism. The YMCA was an early promoter of social welfare and other reforms involving young men. Robert Baden-Powell started Scouting in 1907 in Great Britain and the movement began to grow.[4]

In 1909, Chicago publisher William D. Boyce was visiting London, where he learned of the Scouting movement.[5] Upon his return to the US, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910.[6] The YMCA became interested in the nascent BSA program and provided support. The first managing secretary was John M. Alexander, succeeded by Edgar M. Robinson, both from the YMCA. James E. West took over as managing secretary and later as Chief Scout Executive, beginning a long relationship with the BSA.


The stated objectives of the BSA are referred to as "Aims of Scouting": character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Each of the programs of the BSA pursues these aims through methods that are designed to be appropriate for the age and maturity of the participants.[7] One of these methods is the establishment of ideals. These are statements of goals against which each youth can measure and improve themself. For Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts, these ideals are reflected in the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan. There are similar sets of ideals for Cub Scouts and Venturers.

The Scout Motto[8]
Be Prepared.
The Scout Slogan[8]
Do a Good Turn Daily.
The Scout Oath[8]
On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
The Scout Law[8]
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
The Outdoor Code[8]
As an American, I will do my best to be clean in my outdoor manners, be careful with fire, be considerate in the outdoors, and be conservation-minded.
The Scout Sign[8]
The upper arm is held horizontally out to the right side, and the forearm is held vertically. The palm of the hand faces forward, with the first three fingers extended and the tips of the little finger and thumb joined.
The Scout Salute[8]
A three-finger salute using the same configuration as the Scout Sign, with the tip of the index finger touching the forehead or hat brim.
The Scout Handshake[8]
This is the traditional handshake done with the left hand, because it is the closest hand to the heart, representing friendship.

The BSA Scout Oath and Law have remained unchanged since they were first developed in 1910.[9][8]


The BSA's Scouting program has three membership divisions:

  • Cub Scouting, the largest of the three divisions, is available to boys from first-grade through fifth-grade, (seven through ten years old) and their families. The Cub Scout program uses a fun and challenging system to pursue the aims of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness.[2] The program is divided into age-based programs of Tiger Cubs, Wolf Cubs, Bear Cubs and Webelos.
  • Boy Scouting is the flagship program of the BSA for boys ten through seventeen. The program uses a system of outdoor activities to achieve the aims of Scouting. Varsity Scouting is a modified Boy Scout program available to boys from fourteen through seventeen that adds a system of high Adventure and sporting activities to appeal to the older boy, with an emphasis on team competition. The Order of the Arrow (OA) is the Boy Scout national honor society for experienced campers, based on American Indian traditions, and dedicated to the ideal of cheerful service and brotherhood.
  • Venturing is the program for young men and women ages fourteen through twenty-one.[10] Its purpose is to provide positive experiences to help youth mature and to prepare them to become responsible adults. Venturing is based on a unique and dynamic relationship between youth, adult leaders, and organizations in their communities.[11] Sea Scouting is the nautical oriented part of this division.


National Council

The National Council of the BSA is registered as a non-profit private corporation and is funded from private donations, membership dues, corporate sponsors, and special events. The National Council is led by the National Executive Board, a volunteer board of directors that is directed by the national president.[12] Paid professional Scouters perform the administrative tasks of the organization as directed by the Chief Scout Executive— a position currently held by Roy Williams. The National Council develops programs, sets standards for training, provides for leadership selection, sets uniform policies, maintains registration records, develops supporting literature and establishes advancement standards.[12] The national office is currently located in Irving, Texas.

Regions and areas

The BSA is divided into four regions– Western, Central, Southern and Northeast.[12] Each region is subdivided into areas, about six per region. These are then divided into local councils, the BSA's main administrative level (as of 2006, a total of 304). Councils are subdivided into districts, which in turn directly interact with BSA's units.

Local councils

Main category: Boy Scouts of America Local Councils

Areas are divided into local councils, which receive a charter from the National Council.[12] The vast bulk of councils of the Boy Scouts of America have gone through thousands of name changes, merges, splits and re-creations since the concept was introduced in the 1910s. A council's chief officer is the Scout executive (sometimes called the council executive), a paid employee, who administers a staff of professional Scouters. The council president, a volunteer, serves as the chairman of a volunteer board of directors. The council commissioner, also a volunteer, coordinates the efforts of trained volunteers who provide direct service to the units. These three officials together are known as the "Key 3."

Bruce S. Marks Scout Resource Center

The BSA maintains two councils for Scouts who live overseas, largely on military bases in Europe and Asia. The Transatlantic Council, headquartered in Germany, serves US Scouts in much of Europe, and the Far East Council, headquartered in Japan, serves several nations in the western Pacific. The Direct Service branch makes the Scouting program available to US citizens and their dependents living in countries outside these jurisdictions or in isolated areas. The Hawaiian Aloha Council also services the American territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands and provides Scouting to the sovereign countries of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.


Because of the high density of units, the Greater New York Council is divided into five boroughs with each led by a borough Scout executive.[13] Each borough is then divided into districts.


Councils are divided into districts with leadership provided by the district executive, district chairman, and the district commissioner.[12] Districts are directly responsible for the operation of Scouting units and, except for the district executive, are mostly staffed with volunteers.


The unit is the main program group of the BSA.[12] Cub Scouts are organized as packs, Boy Scouts as troops, Varsity Scouts as teams, Venturers as crews, and Sea Scouts as ships. Each unit is sponsored by a community organization such as a business, service organization, school, labor group, or religious institution. The chartered organization is responsible for selecting leadership, providing a meeting place, and promoting a good program. The chartered organization representative is the liaison between the unit, the chartered organization, and the BSA.

The unit is led by a registered and trained leader (Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Coach, Advisor, or Skipper) with one or more assistants. The unit committee is a group of adults, led by the committee chairman, who plan the unit program and activities and manage record keeping, finance, leadership recruitment, and registration.



The BSA publishes two magazines: Scouting is targeted towards adult leaders while Boys' Life is for the youth. Boys' Life is published in three editions. The low edition is for Tiger Cubs and Cub Scouts through age eight; the middle edition is for Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts above age nine; the high edition is for Boy Scouts and all other subscribers.[14] If the subscription is obtained through registration in the BSA program, the publisher will select the appropriate edition based on the boy's age.


The ScoutReach Division emphasizes service to rural and urban areas and to minority populations. The African American Focus works with the African American population in partnerships with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, the NAACP and other groups. The Hispanic/Latino Focus is the Scouting - Vale La Pena program for Hispanic youth.[15][16] This includes Spanish language resources such as handbooks, training material and videos. The Soccer and Scouting program is a partnership with the NSCAA to provide an alternative program for Cub Scout age Hispanic youth.[17] The Asian American Focus reaches out to Indo-Chinese American, Vietnamese American, Chinese American and Korean American communities. Rural Focus targets small communities and includes the American Indian Scouting Association, a partnership with the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Other divisions

The High Adventure Division administers Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases and Florida National High Adventure Sea Base. Jamboree Division provides support for the world and national jamborees. The International Division is responsible for relations with other Scout and Guide organizations; it includes the Interamerican Scout Foundation and Direct Service.[18] The Relationships Division is responsible for relations with supporting organizations outside the BSA, including the AFL-CIO, Elks, VFW and all religious associations and awards.[19] Supply Division is responsible for uniforms and apparel, insignia, literature and equipment. It includes the National Supply Group that sells equipment through Scout Shops, authorized resellers and the online[20]

The Marketing and Communications Division, Finance Support Division, Human Resources Administration Division, Professional Development Division, Compensation and Benefits Division and Information Services Division provide internal administrative service and support.


In 2004, the BSA ranked as the twelfth-largest non-profit organization in the US, with total revenues of $771 million. As of January 2007, the American Institute of Philanthropy lists the Chief Scout Executive as having the fifth-highest compensation of any nonprofit chief in the United States, at $916,028.[21] In 2005, the Chief Scout Executive's pay was 0.26% of total expenses, whereas the national average among charities stands at a higher 0.34%.[22] The Chief Scout Executive was honored in August 2005 as one of the top fifty most effective non-profit leaders by the Non-Profit Times. By comparison, the Chief Executive Officer of the similar Girl Scouts of the USA earns 0.39% of total expenses.

National Scouting Museum

The National Scouting Museum was founded in 1959 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1986, it was moved to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky and moved to its present location in Irving, Texas in 2002.[23] The museum floor is 53,000 ft² (5000 m²) and is a modern facility, featuring several Norman Rockwell paintings, high Adventure sections, hands-on learning experiences, interactive exhibits, and a historical collection tracing uniforms, themes, and documents from the beginning of the American Scouting movement.[24] Among the museum's artifacts are the Eagle Scout medal of Arthur Rose Eldred, the first Eagle Scout.[25]

Learning for Life

Learning for Life (LFL) is an United States school and work-site based program that is a subsidiary of the BSA. It utilizes programs designed for schools and community-based organizations that are designed to prepare youth for the complexities of contemporary society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-esteem.[26]

Good Turns

In 1912, Scouts began the first of a series of Good Turns that included the promotion of a safe and sane Fourth of July. During the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Scouts provided service to the veterans. Scouts rendered aid during the 1921 floods in Pueblo, Colorado and San Antonio, Texas. President Roosevelt delivered a radio address in 1934 appealing for assistance for the distressed and needy: Scouts responded by collecting almost two millions items of clothing, household furnishings, foodstuffs, and supplies.

The National Conservation Good Turn in 1954 saw Scouts distribute 3.6 million conservation posters, 6.2 million trees, build and place 55,000 bird-nesting boxes, and arrange 41,000 conservation displays. During the height of the Cold War in 1958, the BSA delivered 40 million Civil Defense emergency handbooks and distributed 50,000 posters.

1986 saw the Donor Awareness Good Turn: 600,000 youth members distributed 14 million brochures to families, informing them of the needs for organ donations. In 1997, the President of the United States called for an increase in volunteer service in the US. The BSA developed the Service to America program with a commitment to provide 200 million hours of service by youth members by the end of the year 2000. As part of Service to America, the BSA provided service projects in conjunction with the National Park Service (NPS). In October 2003, the Department of the Interior expanded the program with the creation of the Take Pride in America program, opening service to all Americans.[27]

The BSA developed Good Turn for America in 2004 as a program to address the problems of hunger, homelessness and inadequate housing and poor health in conjunction with the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity.[28]

Advancement and recognition

Advancement is one of the methods used to achieve the aims of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness.

Cub Scouts advance through Bobcat, Tiger Cub, Wolf Cub, Bear Cub and Webelos Scout. The Arrow of Light award is the highest award available to Cub Scouts and helps to prepare Webelos Scouts for the transition to Boy Scouting. The Cub Scouts Academics and Sports Program is designed toward the third aim of Scouting:[29] the development of physical, mental and emotional fitness. It is an optional program for all Cub Scouts and is designed to assist in learning or improving skills.

The advancement program for Boy Scouts has two phases. The first phase of Scout to First Class is designed to teach the boy Scoutcraft skills, how to participate in a group and to learn self-reliance. Scout is the joining rank, and is awarded when the Scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals.[30] Tenderfoot,[31] Second Class[32] and First Class[33] have progressively harder requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit. The second half of the advancement program for Star, Life and Eagle Scout are based on career and avocation exploration through Merit Badges, leadership responsibility in the troop, and performing service projects for the public good.

Although Eagle Scout is the highest rank and one all Scouts should strive for, the number of Scouts achieving First Class within one year of joining is still one of the key measures of unit effectiveness.[34][35] Studies have shown that if a Scout achieves First Class within a year of joining, he typically stays in the Scout program for at least three years. Scouts who do so are more likely to retain Scout values as an adult and achieve the BSA primary mission of "producing useful citizens".

Varsity Scouts can earn any award or recognition that is available to Boy Scouts, including merit badges, ranks advancements, and other awards.[36] The Varsity Letter may be earned by participating in or accomplishing at least one high adventure or sports program, according to guidelines determined by the Varsity Coach, meeting attendance requirements and showing Scout Spirit. The Denali Award is the highest award in Varsity Scouting.

Venturers may earn a Bronze Award from a category of arts and hobbies, outdoor, religious life, Sea Scouting or sports.[37] After earning at least one Bronze Award and meeting tenure, leadership, personal growth and other requirements the Venturer may earn the Gold Award. To earn the Silver Award the Venturer must earn the Gold Award, earn first aid and CPR certifications, show leadership and participate in ethics training.[38][39] Venturers may also earn expert awards that build on some areas of the Bronze Awards. These include the Venturing Ranger Award (outdoors),[40] the TRUST Award (religious life) and the Quest Award (sports). The Venturing Leadership Award and the Venturing Shooting Sports Outstanding Achievement Award may also be earned.

Sea Scouting has a rank progression of Apprentice, Ordinary, Able, and Quartermaster.[41] Sea Scouts may also earn any Venturing award. Advanced certifications include Qualified Seaman, Small Boat Handler, the Long Cruise Badge and Sea Scout Advanced Leader (SEAL).

Adult leaders who complete training, tenure, and performance requirements are recognized by a system of awards.[42][7] The Cub Scouter Award is available to any Cub Scout leader, while the Tiger Cub Den Leader Award, Cub Scout Den Leader Award, Webelos Den Leader Award and the Cubmaster Award are available to those who have held the respective positions. The Scouters Training Award is available to any Boy Scout leader, while the Scouter's Key and Scoutmaster Award of Merit are only available to the Scoutmaster. Varsity leaders may earn the Varsity Letter and activity pins as well as any Boy Scout leader awards. The Venturing Leader's Training Award and the Venturing Leadership Award are available to any Venturing leader, while the Venturing Advisor's Key and Venturing Advisor Award of Merit are only available to the Advisor. The highest recognition for Scout leader training is Wood Badge for all Scouters and Sea Badge for Sea Scouters.

Several programs of religious awards are administered by various religious institutions and recognized, but not sponsored, by the BSA.

Uniform and insignia

The Uniform and insignia of the Boy Scouts of America gives a Scout visibility and creates a level of identity within both the unit and the community. The uniform is used to promote equality while showing individual achievement. While all uniforms are similar in basic design, they do vary in color and detail to identify the different divisions of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venturers and Sea Scouts.

Scouts and adult leaders wear the Boy Scout field uniform.[43]. It generally consists of a khaki shirt, olive green pants or shorts, belt, and neckerchief. The Scouter dress uniform is appropriate for professional Scouters and all Scouting leaders on formal occasions.[44]

Impact on American life

Scouting and Boy Scouts are well known throughout American culture. Eleven of the twelve men to walk on the Moon were Scouts.[45] The "Pinewood Derby," for half a century "a celebrated rite of spring," has been named part of "America's 100 Best" by Reader's Digest magazine.[46] President Gerald Ford said, "I can say without hesitation, because of Scouting principles, I know I was a better athlete, I was a better naval officer, I was a better Congressman, and I was a better prepared President."[47] For a more exhaustive list, see the List of notable Scouts and the List of notable Eagle Scouts.

Membership controversies

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the largest youth organization in the United States, has policies which prohibit or restrict certain people from membership and participation. Some of these membership policies are controversial and have resulted in the dismissal of Scouts and adult Scout leaders from the BSA or a Scouting unit for being an atheist, agnostic, or homosexual.[48]

Advocates of the Boy Scouts of America contend that these policies are essential in its mission "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law".[49][50] Others believe that some or all of these policies are wrong and discriminatory.[51][52]

The organization's right to set such policies has been upheld repeatedly by both state and federal courts. Moreover, in 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that the Boy Scouts of America is a private organization which can set its own membership standards. In recent years, the policy disputes have led to litigation over the terms under which the BSA can access governmental resources including public lands.[53]

In addition to excluding gays and atheists, the BSA does not allow girls to participate in some Scouting programs, and this too has been a source of controversy.

See also

Varsity Scouts preparing to go backpacking


  1. "Year in Review: 2005". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Mission Statement and Vision Statement". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
  3. "Boy Scout Aims and Methods". Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  4. Beardsall, Jonny (2007). "Dib, dib, dib... One hundred years of scouts at Brownsea". The National Trust Magazine (Spring 2007): pages 52-55. 
  5. Peterson, Robert (2001). "The Man Who Got Lost in the Fog". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  6. Rowan, Edward L (2005). To Do My Best: James E. West and the History of the Boy Scouts of America. Las Vegas International Scouting Museum. ISBN 0-9746479-1-8. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Basic Leader Training". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 The Boy Scout Handbook (11th ed.). Irving, TX: Boy Scouts of America. 1998. pp. 7,9. ISBN 0-8395-3105-2. 
  9. Scott, David C. (2006). "The Origins of BSA's 1910 Handbook". International Scouting Collectors Association Journal (ISCA Journal) 6 (4): 6-13. 
  10. Venturer Application 28-303K: "Venturers registered in a crew or ship prior to their twenty-first birthday may continue as members after their 21st birthday until the crew or ship recharters or they reach their twenty-second birthday, whichever comes first."
  11. "What is Venturing". Fact Sheet. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Nelson, Bill. "BSA NATIONAL OFFICE: Organization of the Boy Scouts of America". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  13. "Greater New York Councils". Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  14. "BSA at a Glance". Fact Sheet. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 
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  16. "Scouting - Vale La Pena". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  17. "Soccer and Scouting". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  18. "Interamerican Scout Foundation". Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  19. "Relationships Division". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  20. "". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  21. "Top 25 compensation packages". American Institute of Philanthropy. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 
  22. "CEO compensation". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2006-02-06. 
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  25. "BSA's first Eagle Scout". Eagle Scout Resource Center. Retrieved 2006-07-07. 
  26. "Learning for Life - Exploring". Retrieved 2006-01-15. 
  27. "Take Pride in America". Department of the Interior. Retrieved 2006-03-30. 
  28. "Good Turn for America". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-03-30. 
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  30. "Boy Scout Joining Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  31. "Tenderfoot Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  32. "Second Class Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  33. "First Class Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  34. "Troop Handbook". Boy Scout Troop 8. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  35. "First Class-First Year Tracking Sheet" (420KBPDF). Boy Scouts of America. 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  36. "Boy Scout Advancement". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  37. "Bronze Award Fact Sheet". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  38. "Gold Award Fact Sheet". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  39. "Silver Award Overview". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  40. "Ranger Award Fact Sheet". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  41. "Quartermaster". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  42. "Awards: Adult Leaders". US 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  43. Peterson, Robert (2002). "From Doughboy Duds to Oscar de la Renta". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-01-12. 
  44. "Boy Scout/Varsity Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet". Boy Scouts of America. 2000. #34283. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  45. "Astronauts and the BSA". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-10-09. 
  46. "America's 100 Best: The 2006 List". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
  47. Rumsfeld, Donald R. "Speech: Boy Scout National Meeting Breakfast As Delivered by Secretary of Defense [and Eagle Scout] Donald H. Rumsfeld". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  48. "Case Studies". Inclusive Scouting .NET. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  49. "Core Values". BSA Legal. Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  50. "Duty to God". BSA Legal Issues. Retrieved 2006-10-22. 
  51. "Boy Scouts & Public Funding: Defending Bigotry as a Public Good". Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  52. "Discrimination in the BSA". BSA Discrimination. Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  53. "Supreme Court Won't Review Berkeley Sea Scouts' Case". Retrieved 2006-10-17. 

External links