Saturday, May 19, 2018

Santa Fe Names

From Business Insider:
"These are the victims of the deadly Santa Fe High School mass shooting"

Sabika Sheikh
Sabika Sheikh was a Pakistani exchange student who took part in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program.  Congress established YES in 2002. The program provides scholarships to high school students from countries with populations that are majority Muslim. The Pakistan Embassy in Washington, DC, commented on Sheikh's death on Friday afternoon "Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has expressed heartfelt condolences for the victims of the tragic incident at the Santa Fe High School in Texas this morning. Among the victims was Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika's family and friends". Ambassador Chaudhry. Our Consul General in Houston is in touch with the authorities concerned to ascertain facts"

Chris Stone
Chris Stone was a junior at Santa Fe High School. His family had been searching local hospitals for him shortly after the shooting on Friday.

Ann Perkins
Ann Perkins was a substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School. A local gymnastics club where her daughter is a member posted the announcement on its Facebook page on Friday.

Angelique Ramirez
Sylvia Pritchett, who identified herself as Angelique Ramirez's aunt on Facebook, posted a message earlier Friday, saying that authorities told her family Ramirez had been shot in the leg. She posted an update later announcing Ramirez had died.

Cynthia Tisdale
Cynthia Tisdale was also a substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School. Her brother-in-law, John, posted an update on Facebook, confirmed her death Friday.

Aaron Kyle McLeod
Aaron Kyle McLeod was a student at Santa Fe High School. His family confirmed to the local ABC News affiliate KTRK that he was among the dead on Friday.

Kimberly Jessica Vaughan
Kimberly Jessica Vaughan was a student at Santa Fe High School. She was in art class at the time of the shooting on Friday. Her mother initally wrote online that she was having trouble locating her. She later confirmed to ABC News that her daughter was among those who died.

Jared Conard Black
Jared Conard Black was a student at the Santa Fe High School. His family confirmed to KTRK that he was among the dead on Friday, and his uncle told the station that Black had just turned 17 two days before the shooting.

^ Here are the names of most of the victims of the school shooting in Texas yesterday. People need to remember that the victims aren't merely numbers or some political cause after-the-fact, but they have names and stories. ^

British "The"

"If you listen to a Brit speak you will hear them pause every time in the following sentence: 'He went to - university.' or 'She went to - hospital.' They really want to say the word 'the' as in 'He went to the university.' or 'She went to the hospital.' It doesn't matter what region or what class they are they always have to fight to not use the word 'the.' They have been fighting a loosing battle on that front for centuries." BBT- - - - It's true. I have travelled to the UK (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) many times, I have many British friends and I have watched lots of British movies and shows. They all do that pause where they really want to use the word "the." You should see the look of pure joy when a British actor/actress is playing an American or a Canadian and can finally stop fighting the urge and say "the."

Dambusters Memorial

From the BBC:
"Dambusters memorial unveiled on Dutch beach"

A memorial to an RAF gunner and his fellow crewmen who died while taking part in the Dambusters raids has been unveiled. Sgt Gordon Yeo, 21, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, and his comrades died when their bomber was shot down over northern Holland on their journey home. A memorial ceremony took place on the beach at Castricum aan Zee on Friday. Second cousin Belinda Brown, a teaching assistant at Cardiff's Lakeside Primary School, unveiled the memorial.  She said she was surprised by the scale of the ceremony, which included a flypast. It was attended by families of the other men, armed forces personnel and the Dutch organisers.  A total of 133 airmen participated in the Dambusters mission which saw "bouncing bombs" target dams in Germany in May 1943. Sgt Yeo's aircraft, AJ-A, was just moments from safety when it was shot down by German forces. The bodies of the men were washed ashore over the following days and were buried at nearby Bergen cemetery. In all, eight planes were lost and 53 men died during the mission.

^ The Dambusters of World War 2 are not widely known. Hopefully, this new memorial in the Netherlands will help showcase what the bombers did = especially those that lost their lives while on their mission. ^


Armed Forces Day

Friday, May 18, 2018

Speechless Renewed

From Disability Scoop:
"ABC Orders Up More ‘Speechless’"

Television network executives are doubling down on a comedy centering on the experiences of a teenager with cerebral palsy and his family. ABC said Tuesday that it will renew “Speechless” for a third season. The announcement comes as networks are unveiling their prime-time slate for the upcoming 2018-2019 season, which will start in the fall.  “Speechless” stars Micah Fowler, who has cerebral palsy in real life, as a teenager with the developmental disability who is nonverbal. The comedy focuses on Fowler’s character, JJ DiMeo, along with his brother, sister and parents. Minnie Driver, who plays mom Maya DiMeo on the show, indicated on Twitter that the upcoming season will include 22 episodes. “Speechless” closed out its second season in March with over 4 million viewers. Starting in the fall, the half-hour comedy will air on Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET. 

^  I watch and like this show. ^

Russia's Lineup

From the MT:
"Putin Favors Status Quo With New Government Lineup"

Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed a new government line-up on Friday at the start of his new term in office, sticking in most cases with the incumbents but elevating two newcomers with ties to the intelligence services. Dmitry Medvedev, whom Putin had already reappointed as prime minister, proposed the new cabinet at a meeting with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that was broadcast live on Russian state television. "Almost all the candidates are well-known people with experience and a good track record at their previous places of work," Putin said. "I give my approval," he said. The big-hitters in Putin's team kept their jobs: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Alexander Novak, the country's energy minister who helped mastermind a global deal to prop up crude oil prices. Maxim Oreshkin, appointed economy minister in late 2016, will retain his job, as will trade and industry minister Denis Manturov, and Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov. Medvedev named Yevgeny Zinichev, who served as Deputy Director of Federal Security Service (FSB), as the new emergency minister. Medvedev put forward the son of FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, Dmitry, for the job of agriculture minister. There were no places in the cabinet for Igor Shuvalov and Arkady Dvorkovich, who were deputy prime ministers in the outgoing government. They had positioned themselves as champions of private business, though with limited practical effect. The currency market reacted negatively to the appointments in the minutes after the lineup was unveiled. The rouble pared gains and weakened to 62.19 versus the dollar from levels of 62.08 seen before the announcement. Putin secured a new six-year term in office after more than 70 percent of voters backed him in a March 18 presidential election. He is now in his second consecutive term and his fourth term overall. Putin was sworn in for the new term in early May and signalled he would keep faith with a policy direction that, among other things, has brought Russia into conflict with the West.

The following is a list of the ministers in the new Russian new government:

Prime Minister:
- Dmitry Medvedev - 52. Was reappointed to the position he has held since 2012. Served as Russian president from 2008 to 2012.

Deputy Prime Ministers:
- Konstantin Chuyuchenko - 52, Government Chief of Staff and Deputy Prime Minister. Was Kremlin aide from 2008.
-Anton Siluanov - 55, First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister. Held the finance minister position since the end of 2011.
-Dmitry Kobak - 59, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for energy and industry sectors. Has been a deputy prime minister from 2008.
-Vitaly Mutko - 59, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for construction and regional development. From 2012 to 2016 was Sports Minister than was appointment to Deputy Prime Minister position later.
-Yuri Borisov - 61, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for defense industry complex. Was Deputy Defense Minister since 2012.
-Maxim Akimov - 48, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for transport and communications. Was First Deputy Government Chief of Staff in previous government.
-Alexei Gordeyev - 63, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for agro-industrial complex. He was Agriculture Minister from 1999 to 2009. After this was governor of Voronezh Region and Putin's Envoy in the Central Russian region.
-Tatiana Golikova - 52, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for welfare. Was the head of Russia's Audit Chamber since 2013, also a former Minister of Health and Social Development.
-Olga Golodets - 56, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for culture and sport. Was Deputy Prime Minister in the previous government since 2012.
-Oleg Trutnev - 62, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Russian Far East development. Was Deputy Prime Minister since 2013.

-Finance Minister - Anton Siluanov
-Energy Minister - Alexander Novak, 46. Held this position since 2012.
-Foreign Minister - Sergei Lavrov, 68. Held this position from 2004.
-Defense Minister - Sergei Shoigu, 62. Held this position since 2012.
-Economy Minister - Maxim Oreshkin, 35. Held this position since 2016.
-Industry and Trade Minister - Denis Manturov, 49. Held this position since 2012.
-Agriculture Minister - Dmitry Patrushev, 40 years. Held the position of Chairman of the board of directors of Russian Agricultural Bank.
-Sport Minister - Pavel Kolobkov, 48. Held this position from 2016.
-Minister of Internal Affairs - Vladimir Kolokoltsev, 57. Held this position from 2012.
-Emergencies Minister - Yevgeny Zinichev, 51. Held the position of Deputy Director of Federal Security Service.
-Transport Minister - Yevgeny Ditrikh, 45. Held the position of Deputy Transport Minister since 2015. Education Minister - Olga Vasilieva, 58. Held this position from 2016.
-Science and Higher Education Minister - Mikhail Kotukov, 41. Held the position of the head of Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations.
-Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology - Dmitry Kobylkin, 46. Held the position of governor of Yamalo-Nenets district since 2010. Minister of Health - Veronika Skvortsova, 57. Held this position from 2016. Minister of Labor and Social Development - Maxim Topilin, 51. Held this position since 2012.
-Justice Minister - Alexander Konovalov, 49. Held this position from 2008.
-Culture Minister - Vladimir Medinskiy, 48. Held this position from 2012.
-Minister of Construction - Vladimir Yakushev, 49. Held the position of governor of the Tyumen Region since 2005.
-Minister of Communications - Konstantin Noskov, 39. Held the position of head of Government Analytical Centre since 2012. Minister for development of the Far East - Alexander Kozlov, 36. Held the position of governor of Amur Region since 2015.
-Minister for development of the North Caucasus - Sergey Chebotarev. According to publicly-available information, he held the position of Deputy Head of Presidential administration's department of trans-regional and cultural ties with foreign countries.

No one should be surprised by this. A dictator needs his minions to surround him and keep him in power. ^

Ukraine Remembers

"Ukraine honors victims of 1944 genocide against Crimean Tatars"

Ukraine and the rest of the world are on May 18 honoring the victims of genocide against the Crimean Tatar people and are marking the Day of Struggle for the Rights of the Crimean Tatars. The large-scale deportation of the Crimean Tatars began on this very day way back in 1944. Some 180,000 people were evicted on May 18-20 alone. In addition, 6,000 Crimean Tatar men mobilized by Soviet army enlistment offices in April-May that year were sent to form the reserves in Guryev (Atyrau) in Kazakhstan, Kuibyshev and Rybinsk in Russia. Another 5,000 Crimean Tatars were forced to work at labor camps of the Soviet Moskovugol trust.  According to the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, 191,440 people were relocated from Crimea in the first two days. Separately, 5,989 people accused of alleged cooperation with the army of Nazi Germany and other "anti-Soviet elements" were arrested during the deportation. They were sent to the Gulag [the Soviet forced-labor camps during Joseph Stalin's rule from the 1930s up until the 1950s] and were not taken into account in total reports about the exiles. The deportation of the Crimean Tatars began at 03:00 on May 18, 1944, and ended mostly on May 20. The operation involved 32,000 NKVD [Soviet People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs] officers. The deportees were given from several minutes to half an hour to collect personal belongings, namely clothes, utensils, household equipment and food – all in all up to 500 kg per family were allowed. In fact, they were able to take only 20-30 kg on the average, and most of their property was abandoned and then seized by the state. Numerous cases of looting were reported. Within two days, the Crimean Tatars were transported by road to the railway stations of Bakhchisaray, Dzhankoy and Simferopol, from where they were dispatched in special trains to Uzbekistan and neighboring areas in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and some regions of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Some 46% of the Crimean Tatar population died amid the deportation, half of them were children under 18. Ukraine recognized the Crimean Tatar people's deportation as genocide.

^  This may have happened 74 years ago in the Soviet Union (which no longer exists) but the Crimean Tartars continue to suffer  - especially in the 4 years since Russia annexed the Crimea. ^

Deportation Day

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

American's List

From the BBC:
"American Airlines expands list of banned emotional support animals"

Starting 1 July, passengers on American Airlines flights will be prohibited from flying with frogs, hedgehogs, and goats even if they are therapy animals. The airline published a new policy on Tuesday in response to a rise in people flying with so-called emotional support animals on board with them. In addition to expanding the list of banned creatures, the carrier will also require a doctor's note for any animal. Tusked animals will be banned from flying, but miniature horses will not. The new ruling expands the airline's banned creatures list to include amphibians, spiders, goats, snakes, "non-household birds", or any smelly or unclean animal. Reptiles, hedgehogs, insects, and rodents are also banned, as well as any "animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)". "We support the rights of customers, from veterans to people with disabilities, with legitimate needs for a trained service or support animal," American Airlines (AA) said in a statement announcing the change.  "Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers and working dogs onboard our aircraft."  Earlier this year, Delta and United both launched similar crackdowns. United had said that requests for emotional support animals travelling in the plane cabin had gone up 75% to 76,000 in the past year. American Airlines reported an increase of more than 40% between 2016 and 2017. Photos of a peacock, which a passenger in New Jersey tried to bring onto a plane, went viral earlier this year after United banned the flightless bird from travelling.  AA will also begin enforcing an existing 48-hour advanced notice and pre-clearance policy for emotional support animals. But in a statement, they add that procedures are in place for emergency travel booked within 48 hours of departure. They say that employees have also been trained to ask questions of passengers to determine the animal's classification. If animals are observed exhibiting bad behaviour, and the owner does not attempt to correct it, the animal will be treated as a pet and a fee will be applied, the airline says. 

^ While I think it is a sad commentary on our society it is a fact that people are abusing the Emotional Support Animal Program and airlines have to create these bans and guidelines to make sure the animals in question are really support animals and not just pets whose owners don't want to pay a fee to transport them. People who are abusing this program are making it more difficult for the disabled, soldiers, veterans, victims, etc. who really need a support animal to travel with them and that is just plain wrong. ^

Hero Officer

From GMA:
"'Heroic' resource officer hailed for stopping armed teen at high school, saving lives"
An Illinois school resource officer stopped an armed teenager at a high school this morning, according to the local police chief, who applauded the officer for saving "countless" lives. When the 19-year-old suspect fired several shots this morning near a gym at Dixon High School, the school resource officer reported the incident to authorities and then confronted the gunman, Dixon police chief Steven Howell said at a news conference. When confronted, the suspect started running away, and the officer pursued him, Howell said. The suspect shot several rounds at the officer, and the officer then returned fire, hitting the gunman, the chief added.  The suspect was taken into custody with what's believed to be non-life-threatening injuries, police said. No students or staff were injured but the high school and all other schools in the district were placed on lockdown, Dixon City Manager Danny Langloss said in a statement. The police chief did not name the suspect but said he is a former student at Dixon High School, which is about 100 miles west of Chicago. Dixon police believe the suspect acted alone and that there is no further threat to the safety of students or staff, Langloss added.  Howell said he “could not be more proud” of the officer who ran toward the suspect and said his “heroic actions” saved "countless" lives. The officer, whose name was not released by police, is on paid administrative leave, per policy, police said. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner identified the officer as Mark Dallas, writing on Twitter, "We should all be very thankful to school resource officer Mark Dallas for his bravery and quick action to immediately diffuse a dangerous situation."

^ While a school shooting (or any mass shooting) is awful it is good to see that the school resource officer went after the shooter rather than hiding outside (ie. Florida.) He clearly saved many lives. ^

14% Hit

From the MT:
"Only 14% of Russian Airstrikes in Syria Hit Islamic State Targets, Report Says"
A mere 14 percent of Russian bombs that fell on Syrian soil in the past three years have reportedly struck Islamic State targets, according to a recent defense industry report. Russia deployed air, ground and naval forces in support of the Syrian army in 2015, four years after the start of the civil war and a year after the United States amassed an anti-Islamic State coalition.  Only 960 out of 6,833 Russian and Syrian strikes, or 14 percent, targeted the Islamic State, the Voice of America news website cited an IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center report as saying Tuesday. The majority of the airstrikes were “particularly concentrated in areas where the Islamic State had little or no operational presence.” By contrast, airstrikes against opposition-held areas increased by 150 percent, allowing the Syrian regime to triple the territory under its control from 16 percent in September 2015 to 47 percent in March 2018, according to the report. “Russian intervention has provided the Syrian government with the space and time to concentrate forces at key strategic areas and use overwhelming force to recapture opposition-held territory,” VOA quoted Matthew Henman, the head of the Terrorism and Insurgency Center, as saying. slamic State is a terrorist organization banned in Russia. 

^ This is not very promising for Russia or its military. ^

Missing Pages

From the BBC:
"Anne Frank's 'dirty jokes' found in hidden diary pages"

Two new pages from Anne Frank's diary have been published, containing a handful of dirty jokes and her thoughts on sex. The young Jewish teen's diary, written in hiding from the Nazis, became world-famous when published after her death and at the end of the war. The hidden pages had been covered with gummed brown paper - apparently to hide her risqué writing from her family. New imaging techniques have finally allowed researchers to read them. The entries were written on 28 September 1942, not long after the 13-year-old Anne went into hiding.  "I'll use this spoiled page to write down 'dirty' jokes", she wrote on a page with a handful of crossed-out phrases - and jotted down four dirty jokes she knew. She added a few dozen lines about sex education, imagining she has to give "the talk" to someone else, and mentioning prostitutes - who she wrote elsewhere that her father had told her about. "Anne Frank writes about sexuality in a disarming way," said Ronald Leopold of the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam. "Like every adolescent she is curious about this subject." The sentiment was echoed by Frank van Vree, director of the Niod institute, which helped decipher the pages from new photographs taken in 2016. "Anyone who reads the passages that have now been discovered will be unable to suppress a smile," he said. "The 'dirty' jokes are classics among growing children. They make it clear that Anne, with all her gifts, was above all also an ordinary girl." One of the jokes reads: "Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in the Netherlands? As mattresses for the soldiers." The Anne Frank Museum said this was not the only time the teenage girl wrote about sex - mentioning other jokes she had heard the people in her hidden home tell, or the passages about her periods and sexuality. Writing about the decision to publish pages that Anne clearly wanted to keep hidden, the museum said that her diary - a Unesco-registered world heritage document - held significant academic interest. But it also said that the pages "do not alter our image of Anne". "Over the decades Anne has grown to become the worldwide symbol of the Holocaust, and Anne the girl has increasingly faded into the background," it said in a statement. "These - literally - uncovered texts bring the inquisitive and in many respects precocious teenager back into the foreground." Anne Frank went into hiding in a secret annexe of her father's business on 5 July 1942 - about a month after she received a diary for her 13th birthday. She lived there with her family and their friends, the Van Pels, until their discovery two years later. How they were found after so long in successful hiding remains a mystery. Anne Frank died of disease in a Nazi death camp in 1945, the year the war ended. Her father, the only family member to survive, published her diary in 1947.  

^  Even 73 years since the Holocaust ended we are still learning new things and that includes this new information about Anne Frank. ^

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Crimean Bridge

From the DW:
"Russia-Crimea bridge to be opened by Vladimir Putin"

The controversial Crimean Bridge has been finished six months early and will link Russia's southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch. The massive bridge will help reduce Crimea's reliance on sea transport.  Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to open a 19-kilometer bridge connecting southern Russia to the Crimean peninsula on Tuesday. The controversial Crimean Bridge links the southern Krasnodar region with the Crimean city of Kerch and spans across a stretch of water between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.  The project cost 228 billion rubles ($3.69 billion, €3.1 billion) and will become the longest bridge in Europe, taking over the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. It had been expected to be fully constructed by the end of 2018 but has been completed six months ahead of schedule and will be open to traffic on May 16, according to a Kremlin statement.  Ukraine has criticized the project, saying construction has damaged the environment and that larger ships will be unable to get through to its ports on the Azov Sea. Crimea was annexed from Ukraine following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and takeover of the area by pro-Russian separatists and armed forces.  The results of a referendum deemed unconstitutional by the Ukrainian Constitutional Court on reunification with Russia found most people were in favor of joining Russia. The annexation of the peninsula in 2014 was condemned by Kiev and the West as an illegal land grab.  European Union and US sanctions have targeted those involved in the realization of the bridge, particularly businessman Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally of Putin whose company Stroygazmontazh won the construction contract. The peninsula has until now been difficult to access from southern Russia with long queues of vehicles often trying to board ferries, which are not always able to run during winter storms. The easiest mode of transportation is flying. The blocks imposed by Kiev and Western sanctions have meant a large amount of food is transported from Russia to Crimea by ship, meaning the bridge will play an important role in reducing the region's reliance on sea transport.

^  A new way for the Russians to go to the Russian-Annexed Crimea. The old way was to invade and occupy from the sea and air. 4 years later the Crimean tourist industry (which has always been popular year-round in: Czarist, Soviet and Ukrainian times) is all, but dried-up under the Russians. I don't really see this bridge as helping bring more tourists from Russia there - only basic supplies. ^


From the BBC:
"Catalans elect new separatist leader Quim Torra"

Catalonia's parliament has sworn in a new separatist leader who has pledged to continue the region's battle for independence from Spain.  Catalan MPs elected Quim Torra, 55, as president by the narrowest of margins - 66 votes to 65. The vote had been blocked for nearly five months - yet it remains unclear when Spain will lift its direct rule over Catalonia. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has offered talks with Mr Torra. The prosperous region has been under Madrid's direct rule since the Catalan separatists held a referendum in October and declared independence unilaterally - moves declared illegal by Spain. Separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and five of his allies fled Spain during the crackdown and remain in self-imposed exile. Four others are in pre-trial detention, and 25 in total face charges of rebellion, sedition and corruption. Addressing the parliament on Monday, Mr Torra said "Carles Puigdemont is our president". He said he would "implement the mandate from the October referendum". He said his new government would "build an independent state in the form of a republic". Unionist leader Ines Arrimadas of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party called Mr Torra a mere "puppet for Puigdemont".  Mr Puigdemont nominated Quim Torra on Thursday as a candidate for Catalan president, in a video from his self-imposed exile in Berlin. Mr Torra has been criticised by opponents for writing what some have called an inflammatory article in 2012, in which he said some Catalans from Spanish-speaking backgrounds were "animals in human form who spew out hate". Mr Torra worked as an executive for a multi-national insurance company, before he entered politics by joining the pro-independence civil society pressure group Òmnium Cultural. He also ran a publishing company, dedicated to publishing works of Catalan literature and journalism. 

^  I don't believe that Torra will do anything of importance. He sounds just like a Puigdemont lackey. Puigdemont acted tough and when push came to shove (literally) he back-tracked and fled. I would like to see Catalonia with a good, honest and brave leader - whether he/she is for an independent Catalonia or not. ^

Monday, May 14, 2018

New US Embassy

From MSN:
"United States Opens Its Israeli Embassy In Jerusalem"

The United States officially opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem on Monday, fulfilling a pledge by President Donald Trump who has recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital. "Today we open the United States embassy in Jerusalem, Israel," U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman said at the beginning of the inaugural ceremony, attended by a U.S. delegation from Washington and Israeli leaders. On the Gaza border, at least 38 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire in the latest in a round of protests dubbed the "Great March of Return," health officials said.   Trump's recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December outraged Palestinians, who said the United States could no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process with Israel. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed, as its "eternal and indivisible capital" in a move that has not won international recognition.

Not only does this finally follow the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (that was passed into law on November 8, 1995) which stated that the US Embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999, but it also happens on the 51st Anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.  For any person who thinks this is a bad idea and that we need to return to the way things were in Jerusalem before the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War they should know the history.

- From 634 to 1917: Israel was ruled by different Muslim groups. (From 1517–1917 Israel was part of the Ottoman Empire.) Muslims enjoyed full rights in Jerusalem as well as the rest of what would be Israel. Jews and Christians living there were subjects whose legal status including open discrimination and treatment depended on the different sultans. Christians and Jews did not officially own their religious sites in Jerusalem. In 1192 Sultan Saladin gave the keys to non-Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem to the Muslim family: Nusaybah. Even to this day a member from that family holds the keys and has to open the Jewish and Christian religious sites everyday. 

- From 1917-1920: the French and British occupied Jerusalem and modern-day Israel in an area that was called the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration.

- From 1920-1948: the British territory of Mandatory Palestine was created. The British tended to favor the Muslims in Jerusalem and the rest of what would be modern-day Israel (due to British Anti-Semitism as well as not wanting to upset the Muslims in other British colonies.) Despite a British Government promise in 1917 to create a Jewish State, the British in Mandatory Palestine restricted Jewish movement to the region. That helped lead to millions of Jews being trapped in Europe and later murdered by the Germans during the Holocaust in World War 2. After the War and the Holocaust the British continued their anti-Jewish discrimination. Holocaust survivors fleeing Europe with the hope of going to Palestine were stopped by the British and interned in camps in Cyprus. When the British were leaving Palestine in 1948 they allowed the Arabs/Muslims there to acquire their old weapons while the Jews were forbidden to hold any weapons.

- In 1948: the State of Israel was declared. After the Israeli War for Independence Jerusalem was divided in two. Israel-controlled West Jerusalem and the Jordanians/Muslims controlled East Jerusalem. 

- From 1948-1967: the Jordanians/Muslims controlled East Jerusalem and forbid any Jew from entering the Wailing Wall or any other Jewish site. In the Six Day War of 1967 Israel won control of East Jerusalem and reunited the city.

- From 1967-Present Day: Israel has control over all of Jerusalem. Muslims, Christians and Jews can go to any of their religious sites throughout the city. Israel has made agreements with both Muslims and Christians to allow them to dictate who can visit their religious sites (ie. the Muslims can say that only Muslims can go to a Muslim holy site in Jerusalem, etc.) No religious group is forbidden to visit their own religious site in Jerusalem though.

Knowing the history of Jerusalem, I do not understand the people and world governments that want to return to the way things were before the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 (ie. where the Muslims controlled all access to Christian and Jewish holy sites and refused entry to all Jews and anyone else they wanted to) rather than the 51 years of all religions being able to visit their own religious sites throughout all of Jerusalem. Having the US Embassy in a reunited Jerusalem only helps to keep any official discrimination of any religious group from happening again. ^

Grandparents' Law

From the BBC:
"Call For Rights For Grandparents Law"

MPs are calling for the government to enshrine in law the right for grandparents to see their grandchildren after a divorce.  They want an amendment to the Children Act, which would include a child's right to have a close relationship with members of their extended family. The change would also cover aunts and uncles seeing nieces and nephews.  The Ministry of Justice said it would consider the proposal.  The current rules mean relatives have to apply to court to gain access rights to a child and then have a child arrangement order - or CAO - put in place.   The issue was debated in parliament last week, with MPs sharing experiences of their constituents. Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston said he knew of grandparents who had been accused of harassment and were visited by police after sending birthday cards and Christmas gifts to their grandchildren.  He said: "Divorce and family breakdown can take an emotional toll on all involved, but the family dynamic that is all too often overlooked is that between grandparents and their grandchildren. "When access to grandchildren is blocked, some grandparents call it a kind of living bereavement."  Labour's Darren Jones read out a statement from a couple in his Bristol constituency who had not seen their grandchild for 11 years, saying how the experience had been "heartbreaking" for them. He told the BBC: "I had no idea this was a problem before I became an MP as there is just a presumption that grandparents have a right to see their grandchildren. "It was only when Jane Jackson (who founded the Bristol Grandparents Support Group) walked into my surgery and I heard their story.... the sheer heartbreak of it... that I knew, and joined them in their call for action." Mr Jones said there was now cross-party support for a change to the law. "My expectation is there will be change and things have moved forward, but that is down to the work of those campaigners," he added.   However, Conservative MP Tim Loughton - a former children's minister who has argued for the rights for a number of years - said grandparents "shouldn't hold their breath". "There is unfinished businesses here, with so many control orders themselves being flouted, and no presumption of rights for grandparents," he told the BBC.  "All MPs have completely awful cases in their own constituencies. But there is problems within the judges' lobby who think changing this would interfere with their independence to issue orders.  "Whilst Department for Education staff have often backed the move, there are officials in the Ministry of Justice who do not."  Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government would look at any proposals that could improve the system, but the guiding principle "has to be the wellbeing of the child".  He told the BBC: "We all have had cases in our surgeries of terrible tales of grandparents not being allowed to see their grandchildren, when it is clearly in the interest of the child. "If it is in the child's interest, as it maybe, to see their grandparents, then that is what should happen. If we keep the child front and centre, we will always do the right thing." The issue of access rights for grandparents was last examined in 2011 as part of the independent Family Justice Review. The report recommended that CAOs stay in place to "prevent hopeless or vexatious applications that are not in the interests of the child".  A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The welfare of a child is the primary consideration for the family courts and steps are taken wherever possible to reduce the impact of family conflict on children when relationships end.  "We will consider any proposals for helping children maintain involvement with grandparents, together with other potential reforms to the family justice system, which are currently being looked at." 

^ This is pretty interesting. I am curious to see if it will pass into law and if it does then how the law will affect things in reality - versus only on paper. ^

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Preparing The Opening

From the AP:
"Israel Prepares For Opening Of US Embassy in Jerusalem"

Israel is preparing a series of festivities Sunday to celebrate the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has ignited Palestinian protests and raised fears of a further outbreak of violence. As Israel marks Jerusalem Day, the 51st anniversary of what it refers to as the city's "unification" following the 1967 war, it will also be hosting a gala reception for Monday's embassy dedication that will include members of a delegation led by President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Dozens of foreign diplomats are expected, though many ambassadors of European nations who oppose the move will skip it. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania have reportedly blocked a joint EU statement on the issue.  Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the U.S. as a Mideast peace broker. Trump's decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital ignited months of protests in the Palestinian territories. The weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border are expected to culminate Monday in parallel to the celebrations in Jerusalem.  Since Mar. 30, 42 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the weekly protests aimed primarily against the decade-long blockade of Gaza. More than 1,800 have been wounded. Gaza's Hamas rulers have led the protests, which are aimed to peak this week with the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call the "nakba," or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting during the Mideast war over Israel's 1948 creation. Organizers have indicated they may try to breach the border with Israel. Israel says it has a right to defend its border and has accused Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attacking it. On Saturday, it destroyed the sixth Hamas attack tunnel it has uncovered in as many months. Rights groups say the use of potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters is unlawful. A high-ranking delegation of Gaza's Hamas rulers headed to Egypt on Sunday, amid diplomatic efforts aimed at containing the mass rally. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said Israel would be celebrating Trump's decision.  "President Trump promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and he did so. He promised to move the American Embassy to Israel and he is doing so. Of course we will all celebrate this day, a real celebration, tomorrow," he said at a weekly Cabinet meeting. Most countries have traditionally kept their embassies in coastal Tel Aviv rather than the contested holy site of Jerusalem. But after Trump's move both Guatemala and Paraguay announced that they planned to follow suit.  

^  It sounds like it will be a nice ceremony. ^

Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

CA Mandate

From the BBC:
"California becomes first US state to mandate solar on homes"

California has become the first US state to mandate solar panels on new homes and apartment buildings built after 1 January, 2020. The California Energy Commission unanimously approved the plan, making it the state's next big step towards ending greenhouse gas emissions. State law already requires that 50% of all electricity comes from non carbon-emitting sources by 2030. The mandate still requires approval from the Building Standards Commission. Critics have been quick to note that the solar panel mandate will add between $8,000 (£5,900) and $12,000 to a home's cost. The Energy Commission estimates, however, that homeowners will only see an additional $40 to monthly mortgage payments. At the same time, the commission said they will save $80 on heating, cooling and lighting costs per month.  The new mandate does offer exceptions where solar power is not feasible or cost effective, such as homes located entirely under shade. Builders will have the option of adding solar panels to individual homes, or building shared power systems for a group of homes. Current homeowners would not be required to add solar to existing homes, though many in the state have done so using government rebate programmes. California has invested over $42m in solar energy to date, and the mandate will likely give a further boost to the solar industry statewide.  The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) already ranks California as the top state in the US when it comes to solar energy. Nearly 16% of the state's electricity last year came from solar. Abby Hopper, SEIA president, said on Twitter that California's mandate demonstrates "that promoting home solar makes sense". The California Building Industry Association has been working with the Energy Commission on the new standards for the past decade, according to ABC News. The Building Standards Commission is expected to make a decision later this year.  Lynn Jurich, co-founder of solar installation company Sunrun, told the New York Times that large market expansions like this make it "very cost effective to do". "There's also this real American sense of freedom of producing electricity on my rooftop," Ms Jurich told the Times.  "And it's another example of California leading the way." California is already ahead of schedule with its long-term energy goals: the California Public Utilities Commission reported that they will likely meet the 2030 goal 10 years ahead of schedule.  

^ It is pretty funny to hear about how California is "leading" the way in these kinds of projects while at the same time CA tops many of the top spots in world and country cities list with the most smog. CA tries to portray itself as a health-conscious and environmentally-friendly state yet if you look just below the surface you see it really isn't. Maybe CA should focus on cleaning its own air rather than forcing these kinds of expensive projects on its residents. ^

US-NK Summit

From the BBC:
"Trump-Kim Jong-un summit set for Singapore on 12 June"

US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June, he has said. "We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!" the US leader tweeted. In March, Mr Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Mr Kim for an unprecedented sit-down. The pair had previously exchanged insults and threats. The breakthrough came after landmark talks between North and South Korea. Mr Trump's announcement came hours after he welcomed home three US detainees released by North Korea. Their release came during a visit to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.  No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader. The White House said the American trio were freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which Mr Trump earlier said he thought would be a "big success". "I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful," he said.  At a summit in April, Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to work to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons, although the means of achieving this were not detailed and previous such pledges have been abandoned. Still, the dramatic meeting - which saw a North Korean leader setting foot on South Korean soil for the first time since the end of the 1953 Korean War - marked a historic breakthrough between the two countries.  Singapore, a small and highly prosperous island nation, has been used before for high-profile diplomatic occasions. In 2015, the leaders of China and Taiwan held historic talks in the South East Asian city-state, their first in more than 60 years. It had been seen by top US officials as a good, neutral choice for the Trump-Kim talks.  The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with the country in November last year as international sanctions were tightened. Other locations which had been considered for the Trump-Kim summit included Mongolia and the Korean border's demilitarised zone (DMZ). 

^ I am both optimistic and pessimistic about this. I am optimistic because it is the first real sign between the US and North Korea and over 60 years. I am pessimistic because it is just a meeting and may not lead to anything else. ^

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mormons Out

From USA Today:
"Mormon church to sever its 105-year-old ties to the Boy Scouts at end of 2019"

The Mormon church is ending its 105-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America at the end of next year.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and BSA announced their intention to part ways on Dec. 31, 2019, in a joint statement released Tuesday night.  The LDS Church said it has grown from a "U.S.-centered institution" to an international organization whose members mostly live outside of America's borders. Therefore, it said it needs to start its own youth program that "serves its members globally."  Although the statement did not address it, the announcement comes less than a week after the Scouts announced the organization will drop the word "boy" and change its name to Scouts BSA.  Until the end of 2019, the church said it will remain a "fully engaged partner" in the BSA's program for boys 8-13. Despite the pending separation, the church said it "continues to support the goals and values reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law and expresses its profound desire for Scouting's continuing and growing success in the years ahead."   The church plans to "replace all existing activity programs for girls and boys, young women and young men in 2020."  "For years, Church leaders have been preparing a new initiative to teach and provide leadership and development opportunities to all children and youth, to support families, and to strengthen youth everywhere as they develop faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," the church said in a statement to its members Wednesday. "This new approach is intended to help all girls and boys, young women and young men discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills, and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God."   The BSA and LDS have enjoyed a long, symbiotic relationship. Ties with the Scouts helped the Mormon church in its effort to "mainstream" its image during the 20th century, and "Mormon troops were a backbone component for Scouting," the Deseret News reported.  Mormon teenagers ages 14-18 were already not participating in the BSA as of Jan .1, 2018 when a decision to pull the older boys out of scouting that was approved the year before took effect. According to the Deseret News, that change dropped the number of Mormon boys in the Scouts from 470,000 to about 280,000.  The church said the decision was not in response to the Boy Scouts policy change in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders. At the time that sparked a monthlong debate within the church, but LDS leaders decided to stay because the BSA said religious groups could pick troop leaders in line with their faith.  

^ This seems a little much. If only we could get the Mormons to stop going to people's houses and trying to convert them that would be great/ ^