Friday, July 21, 2017

Custody Care

From Disability Scoop:
"State Aims To Help Parents Keep Custody Of Kids With Disabilities"

Of all the anguish that befell Mark Butler as he fought to obtain care for his son with severe autism, the worst came when he and his wife had to sign over their parental rights. So Butler couldn’t help but savor the part of Ohio’s new biennial budget that speaks — finally, he and other advocates say — about parents and guardians “at risk of relinquishing custody of the youth” in order to access badly needed services. “When I saw those words written down, I said, ‘They heard us.’ The dagger that hit us in the heart, this specifically says it wants to pull that out,” Butler said. “No parent should have to go through what we went though.”  For the first time, Ohio is to create a “crisis stabilization fund” that can be tapped to help so-called multisystem youths — those in danger of entering the child-protective or juvenile-justice systems because of their disabilities, mental illnesses and dangerous behavioral problems. State legislators set aside $5 million in federal welfare money each of the next two years to support the fund. County Family and Children First councils will design local plans for administering it. Although the funding is far short of the $30 million supporters had hoped for, they’re celebrating progress in a tight budget cycle. Longtime children’s advocate Gayle Channing Tenenbaum thanked legislators “on behalf of the youth and families who have taken out a second mortgage on their home, sold a second car and are working two jobs each to pay for service for their multi-need children.” Ohio is giving those families hope by saying that custody relinquishment should not be a practice in cases where parents are trying to meet their children’s needs, she said. They now “have a chance to stay together.” The Columbus Dispatch has been reporting on the obstacles and heartbreaking choices families face when Medicaid and private health insurance aren’t sufficient to pay for services and treatment. The Butlers surrendered custody of their teenage son, who cannot communicate verbally, then saw him placed in a residential treatment center hours away in southern Ohio. The Whitehall family waged a two-year campaign to get local care for Andrew, who is now 19 and back in Franklin County, living in a home staffed with aides to keep him and others safe. “Everything we went through with Andrew — custody surrendering and relinquishment, all those drives to Ironton and sitting in committee meetings — then if it helps just one dad like me, then my gosh, it was worth it,” Butler said. “Too many of these families suffer in silence.” The budget provision also calls for a data-collection system to shed light on the number of multisystem youths served and to monitor trends and outcomes. The state hasn’t in the past tracked such cases or counted the number of families who trade or lose custody because of service barriers. But advocates say that more than half of youths in the custody of Ohio’s child-protection agencies are not there because of abuse or neglect. “I think a big problem in all this is that we don’t know how many like Andrew there are out there,” Butler said. In the past year, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities also created a pilot program in central Ohio to aid families whose children have disabilities and volatile behaviors that require expensive treatment. And the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities worked with other local government agencies and a nonprofit organization to designate a four-bedroom residential center on the East Side to serve youths who can’t safely remain in their family homes. “The system can change, it really can,” Butler said. “It just takes the hard work and dedication of a lot of people.”

^ As long as there is no neglect or abuse families should be kept together (whether there is someone disabled or not.) With that said, the disabled and their families require more aid than most and should be given that help. I'm glad to see that Ohio has started this new program to help the disabled that need help to stay with their families rather than go to a group home or institution. I worked for 4 summers at an overnight summer camp for the mentally and physically disabled and you could tell (even without reading the case files) which camper came from an institution, which from a group home and which from their family simply by what they came with. Most people from institutions came for the week with only the close on their backs (nothing extra.) Those that came from a group home usually came with several sets of things for the week. Those that came with their families not only had lots of clothes (enough for 5 weeks even though they were only staying for 1 week) but also money for the camp store and their families would spend a long time with the counselor going over medicines, behaviors, etc. Those from institutions and group homes were usually dropped off first and picked-up last with only the bare minimal being said to the counselors or the campers themselves. I know that is only regarding summer camp, but it gives an example of the individualized  care a family tends to give vs. that of an institution (I have seen group homes that are small and where everyone is given good care and attention.) Hopefully, this program in Ohio will help those that its intended to help and that other states will create or expand these kinds of programs of their own. ^

Free US

"The US is known as the land of the free not only because we have always been the one constant place that everyone from around the world has dreamed of coming to in order to make something of themselves, but also because we don't make you pay for: public bathrooms, soda refills, condiments, shopping bags, compulsory ID cards or licenses for TVs, radios or the Internet."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Seat Act

From Yahoo:
"‘SEAT Act’: Congress set to finally push back against shrinking airline seats"

As most people who’ve flown in an airplane have probably noticed, cabin seats have been shrinking over the past few decades. Since the 1970s, the average economy seat pitch—the distance between the seats—has shrunk from 35 inches to 31 inches, further pressurizing cabins and passengers’ tempers.  This has allowed airlines to squeeze more seats in, or to make more room for larger seats they can sell at a premium. Today, travelers need to purchase premium economy seats for the same amount of legroom they used to get with the old economy. And it’s getting worse: In May American Airlines (AAL) said it would be shaving two inches of legroom in economy class, going from 31 to 29. Public blowback led the airline to partially reverse its decision and only cut one inch from most rows. But passengers’ knees, legs, and elbows are on track to get a reprieve thanks to the dogged efforts of one member of Congress, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). Cohen is finally looking at a win in his third year waging war against shrinking seats, having steered a version of his Safe Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act into the FAA reauthorization bill as an amendment, after failing numerous times. (The FAA’s budget and mandate must be authorized regularly.) The amendment would ask the FAA to study evacuations and issue regulations for minimum safe-seat sizes. The bill is on the House’s agenda for a vote this week.  While many people see comfort as the main problem of cramped seats, Cohen sees a public health and safety disaster waiting to happen. With more cramped and smaller seats—and increasingly large Americans—evacuations may not go as smoothly. “I don’t want to see a day when there’s a plane crash and the [NTSB] ascertains that the plane couldn’t be evacuated in the proper time and people lost their lives from smoke inhalation of fire,” Cohen told Yahoo Finance. “Often it’s a tragedy that gets Congress to act. Safety and health are issues, and that’s the way we’ve framed it to get support.” While every new aircraft model is tested for evacuation by the FAA, Cohen says the evacuations have not been tested with today’s smaller seats. The legislation would direct the FAA to use the results of the study to “issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats…necessary for the safety and health of passengers.”  Though comfort is a concern, Cohen has been careful to focus on safety and less on “legislating comfort,” something that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has thrown his support behind the measure in the Senate, has been accused of recently“This should be a fact-based matter, not an attempt to legislate seat comfort,” former American Airlines president Bob Crandall told Yahoo Finance. “I have no problem with requiring new tests, since 28-inch pitch strikes me as potentially dangerous—unless it has already been tested.”  Cohen’s public-safety slant was enough to mobilize senators like Schumer, Ed Markey (D-MA), and others to push a version of his amendment into the Senate’s reauthorization bill. It was also enough to get support from across the aisle. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) co-sponsored a standalone version of the SEAT Act earlier in 2017. “We must ensure standards are in place to provide safe air travel for passengers,” he said in June. “Cutting down legroom to add more seats to the already crowded planes is simply dangerous.”  Cohen says the airline industry’s friendship with members of Congress and members on the Subcommittee on Aviation has kept his fight protracted. “[Industry groups] are politically savvy enough to be helpful in campaigns and therefore have political leverage,” Cohen said. “So people have been reticent to oppose industry groups that have PACs. So that’s made it difficult.”  In the past, Airline industry groups like Airlines for America have opposed Cohen’s measures to regulate seating in the past, noting that customers can “vote with their wallet” and choose something else if they don’t want to fly. But one glance at the average seat pitch shows that market forces may not be enough. “There’s a limited amount of airlines and not much competition,” says Cohen. “There are lots of people without a choice. Often they have to do it as a necessity for someone’s funeral or to get a job. It’s a big expense.” In a statement reacting to the FAA Reauthorization bill, Airlines for America did not reject Cohen’s amendment, and an A4A spokesperson told Yahoo Finance “we continue to believe the government’s role in seat sizes for all forms of transportation.”  In the wake of airline scandals such as United’s forcible ejection of a paying customer from a plane, Cohen thinks the industry may not have the social capital to fight.  Multiple airlines, including Delta (DAL), Southwest (LUV), and American (AAL), told Cohen’s office they would not lobby against it. United (UAL), star of recent public relations disasters, was the only one of the “big four” absent from this list. A spokesperson for the airline did not comment on the legislation. “The industry, I think, doesn’t want to have themselves look like a sore thumb again after the doctor was taken off the United plane and other highly publicized instances of consumer issues,” said Cohen.  In the wake of airline scandals such as United’s forcible ejection of a paying customer from a plane, Cohen thinks the industry may not have the social capital to fight.  Multiple airlines, including Delta (DAL), Southwest (LUV), and American (AAL), told Cohen’s office they would not lobby against it. United (UAL), star of recent public relations disasters, was the only one of the “big four” absent from this list. A spokesperson for the airline did not comment on the legislation. “The industry, I think, doesn’t want to have themselves look like a sore thumb again after the doctor was taken off the United plane and other highly publicized instances of consumer issues,” said Cohen.

^ The airlines have been allowed to do whatever that like to passengers for far too long. Not only have the comforts been taken away from us (especially those that were once free) but even basic things like a seat. I have flown countless times and know what it's like to fly on an airline that doesn't care about the safety or comfort of its passengers and try my best to not fly on them as well as telling others about my experiences with that airline. While the government can't do much on bringing back the comforts they can do so in this case since it really is about safety. Of course the airlines are going to protest and fight this tooth and nail, but hopefully the government will prevail - especially with ordinary people (us passengers) start standing up for ourselves regarding the continual treatment as cattle. I have flown on airlines where they have given you a good service, treated you like a person and kept you safe. I know it can be done. The question now is why won't all the airlines treat us like passengers and not cattle? ^

Lee Hernandez

From USA Today:
"Text messages overwhelm dying Army veteran's phone"

People from around the world answered the call for help. In doing so, they brightened the day of a dying Army veteran who wanted nothing more than to hear from us. The simple act of sending a text message meant the world to Lee Hernandez, who served the country for 18½ years. The 47-year-old is under hospice care in New Braunfels, Texas. His dying wish is to receive text messages and phone calls from anybody willing to talk to him. So far, his wish has been granted thousands and thousands and thousands of times over. "Had one of the best days in a long time and even danced! This is huge," Hernandez said on a GoFundMe page set up Sunday for him.  Hernandez's wife, Ernestine, who will celebrate her 13th wedding anniversary with him next week, enlisted the help of Caregivers of Wounded Warriors and the Arizona Veteran Forum to spread to word.  In a matter of days, Lee Hernandez’s inbox was filled with more than 100,000 text messages. The response he got was overwhelming — probably a little more than anyone expected — and crashed the Hernandez’s phone, according to the GoFundMe page.   “The fact that people contacted him and there were people who cared has really made a dramatic effect on Lee’s mood and spirit and overall health,” according to the GoFundMe Page, named Support Lee American Hero Campaign.  The page was briefly set up for Lee Hernandez to “fill this season of his life with all the joy that we can.” It was shut down after it quickly met its fundraising goal of $3,000.  Ernestine Hernandez previously said that doctors have not been able to pinpoint a cause for her husband's illness. He suffers from continuous strokes, lose of cognitive abilities and blindness  But all of the love and support has brightened his days. She shared a video Friday of her husband thanking everyone for uplifting him. “I appreciate it all,” she said. The money raised will go toward improving his home accessibility, getting a hitch kit to transport his motorized wheelchair and to visiting places on his bucket list.   "His medical condition is still very fragile, but he loves the support you all are giving him," according to the GoFundMe page.He will be able to get a service dog and a cleaning service, according to the Arizona Veteran’s Forum. "And his old platoon that he lost contact with are going to make a trip to see him after many years,” forum officials said.

^ This is one of those sad stories that actually makes you feel good. ^

British Lockdown Plan

From the BBC:
"Teaching union calls for school lockdown plan"

Schools need a coherent strategy for lockdown procedures in case of a dangerous event taking place on their premises, a teaching union said. The NASUWT said schools currently had ad hoc drills to deal with various threats and called on the government to put together a comprehensive plan. More than 200 head teachers in West Yorkshire have attended council-run seminars providing advice on lockdowns. The government said it "constantly reviewed" security guidance it issues.   The seminars, run in collaboration with police, the fire service and the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, give advice on managing a potentially violent or dangerous event in or around a school.  Five have been held since the beginning of 2016, with organisers aiming to have covered every school in West Yorkshire by Easter 2018.  Scenarios covered include noxious fumes from a fire or chemical incident, weapons in school, animals in school grounds, aggressive pupils or parents and bomb threats.  Huddersfield's Reinwood Junior School is one of several in West Yorkshire which carries out lockdown drills, with pupils and staff practising twice a year. After a pre-recorded alarm and message is played from the tannoy, pupils get under tables, teachers lock classroom doors, lights are turned off and window shutters pulled down. Ian Darlington, Year Six teacher at the school, said it was better to practise so that it "almost becomes second nature" to the pupils. "Initially it might appear that we are raising concerns, raising children's fears, but in actual fact they're quite calm doing it now," he said.  "They understand the importance of doing it and it doesn't worry them."  Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary, said: "Responsibility for ensuring security and terrorism preparedness should be the responsibility of the whole governing body.  "It would not be appropriate for the government simply to require schools to have preparedness plans in place and assume that they are able to do this. "Schools will already have plans in place to respond to a range of emergency scenarios, but it's important that they are given specific advice and support on what additional provisions are considered necessary and the support and advice to implement them." A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Schools have a legal responsibility to ensure staff and pupils are safe. "We provide a range of support for schools and constantly review guidance to ensure it is comprehensive and up to date."

^ Every school around the world should have plans for natural disasters and man-made threats and these plans should be practiced on a regular basis throughout the school year. ^

Polish-Russian Feud

From the MT:
"Russia and Poland Feud Over Demolition of Soviet War Monuments"

Russian and Polish officials exchanged harsh words on Tuesday over Poland’s recent move to demolish Soviet-era war monuments. Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned Poland of “consequences” if the demolition plans are carried out. On June 22, Polish President Andrzej Duda approved amendments to an anti-propaganda law that would lead to the tearing down of Soviet-era monuments, which the Polish side has described as “symbols of a totalitarian regime.” In an official statement released Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry described the move as an "outrageous provocation.” “The monuments of gratitude to the Red Army and the Soviet soldier-liberators remind us that thanks to the victory over fascism, to which the Soviet Union made a decisive contribution, Poland has remained a state and the Polish people were not annihilated or expelled, and remained to live on their lands,” the statement reads. “The Polish authorities, undoubtedly, are well aware of how insulting their actions are to the Russian people.” The statement says that more than 600,000 Soviet soldiers fought and were buried on Polish territory.  Poland’s Foreign Ministry explained, however, that the monuments at burial sites of Soviet soldiers will remain untouched, news outlet RBC reported on Tuesday, citing comments from Polish officials. “Poland has always shown due respect and care for the graves of all fallen soldiers, prisoners of war and internees, regardless of their nationality and the circumstances under which they came to Poland,” the statement reads.  “The same goes for the graves of Russian and Soviet soldiers. This approach is part of Polish national tradition.”

^ This is a constant issue for any country in Eastern Europe that survived the Nazi occupation (1939-1945) as well as the Soviet occupation (194501991.) I believe that the graves of the Germans and Soviets buried in these Eastern European countries should be left untouched while any memorials and monuments to Nazism or Communism should be removed and placed on display in museums (most are now in monument parks.) Doing this you don't show pride in the horrors of Nazism or Communism, but you also don't try and whitewash your history. ^

Stealing History

From the BBC:
"Israeli steals Auschwitz items for student art project"

An Israeli student whose grandparents survived the Holocaust has admitted stealing items from the Auschwitz death camp for her art project. Rotem Bides visited the former Nazi German camp in Poland several times and removed items, including a sign forbidding people from taking anything. She told an Israeli newspaper she had acted out of concern that the Holocaust would over time "turn into a myth". The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum said the student's actions were "outrageous".  The museum also demanded the objects' return.   More than a million people, mostly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz during World War Two. The objects from Auschwitz, which also include shards of glass, small bowls, a metal screw and soil, formed part of the 27-year-old's final project in Jerusalem, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported .  Ms Bides told the newspaper she felt it was "something I had to do". "Millions of people were murdered based on the moral laws of a certain country, under a certain regime," she told the newspaper. "And if these are the laws, I can go there and act according to my own laws.  "I'm not saying I'm allowed to do it because my grandfather was in Auschwitz. I'm simply asking the questions. I'm concerned that after all the survivors are gone, the Holocaust will turn into a myth, something that cannot be perceived." Ms Vides' supervisor at Beit Berl College, the Israeli artist Michal Na'aman, told the newspaper she "did not see anything wrong with it". "The way I see it, she succeeds in creating a unique encounter between art and an event that has passed and has been wrapped in a lot of words, symbols and representations," Ms Na'aman said.  "It's hard to imagine theft being justified in any way, even through art, which can be seen as an attempt to gain publicity," the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum said in a statement. Items have been stolen from Auschwitz in the past. In 2011, an Israeli local government official picked up several items that were lying on the ground next to a display cabinet - but they were discovered by officials at Krakow airport.   Moti Posloshani, the son of Holocaust survivors, later told Yedioth Ahronoth that he had wanted to "safeguard" the objects and perhaps hand them to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. And in 2009 the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free" in German) sign over the entrance to Auschwitz was stolen by thieves - but recovered shortly afterwards.

^ I don't think it is right for anyone to go to a memorial site and take anything from there - especially real artifacts that can never be replaced. I worked at the USHMM and while it is a memorial museum and not an actual site where the Holocaust occurred there are countless artifacts, documents, pictures, etc. that can never be replaced if they are stolen or ruined. If this "artist" really felt so strongly about saving these artifacts so future generations would never be able to question whether the Holocaust ever happened there are many different things that should have been done rather than simply stealing them. Not only is she a thief, but she took the stolen artifacts from Poland to Israel - across international borders. I really hope she is made an example of by Poland and Israel for what she did. ^

Action Over Talk

From the BBC:
"Ukraine conflict: Russia rejects new Donetsk rebel 'state'"

Russia says the declaration of a state called "Malorossiya" (Little Russia) in rebel-held eastern Ukraine is just a rebel leader's "personal initiative". Alexander Zakharchenko announced the new "state" in Donetsk, saying it would replace Ukraine. The pro-Russian rebels broke away from Ukraine in 2014. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "we remain committed to the Minsk accords". The Minsk ceasefire is shaky as shelling and skirmishes continue.  More shelling took place on Tuesday. The Ukrainian military reported heavy rebel fire on its positions in the Avdiivka area, a hotspot just north of rebel-held Donetsk. It said two Ukrainian soldiers had been killed on Tuesday. The self-styled "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR) said one civilian had been killed and two had been wounded in Ukrainian army shelling of some residential areas of Donetsk.   Nearly 10,000 people have died since the eastern Ukraine conflict erupted in April 2014, soon after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. A ceasefire was agreed in February 2015 but its terms are far from being fulfilled. Western governments accuse Russia of helping the rebels with regular troops and heavy weapons. Moscow denies that, while admitting that Russian "volunteers" are helping the rebels.  Politicians outside Donetsk have distanced themselves from Mr Zakharchenko's "Malorossiya" declaration.  Mr Peskov said it was Mr Zakharchenko's "personal initiative" and Moscow had "learnt about it this morning [Tuesday] from media". Pro-Russian rebels in the neighbouring breakaway Luhansk region also dismissed the "Malorossiya" declaration, despite being allies of the DNR rebels. A pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled Ukraine's capital Kiev during violent protests in February 2014 but ties to Moscow remain strong in the Russian-speaking east.  "Malorossiya" in tsarist times referred to Russian imperial territories that later became part of Ukraine. Many Ukrainians today regard the name as offensive and synonymous with Russian imperialism.  The declaration of a new country based on "the state formerly known as Ukraine" seemed to come out of the blue. Even state TV presenters appeared taken aback as they announced the rebels' creation of "Malorossiya". But was this fantastical plan really the "personal initiative" of Mr Zakharchenko, as the Kremlin spokesman claimed? Some here are sure it was. They believe the rebels in eastern Ukraine are getting restless and that this move shows the limits of Kremlin control. Moscow, they point out, wants to look committed to the Minsk peace process - at least in public. Others though dismiss the reaction as theatre: the Kremlin's rejection and even the "surprise" of the TV anchors. To them, the Donetsk rebels remain loyal puppets of Moscow.  The US has just appointed a new envoy for the Ukraine conflict who has already visited Kiev, but not Moscow. So they see this announcement as a warning: that Kiev should be pressured to implement its side of the Ukraine peace deal, or the situation there could get even worse. A"Malorossiya constitution" published on the DNR official website says the new "state" is a successor to Ukraine, with Donetsk as its capital.  It proclaims as its flag the emblem of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, a 17th-Century Cossack who led a revolt against Polish rule and forged an alliance with Russia  The DNR language echoes the "Novorossiya" (New Russia) idea that Russian nationalists and the Donetsk rebels championed earlier in the conflict.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko saw the declaration as further evidence of Russian involvement. "Since the start of military aggression against my nation Russia's goal has been to fragment Ukraine," he said.  "The Novorossiya project included nine regions of Ukraine. This project collapsed utterly." He called the Zakharchenko leadership "a puppet show, parroting messages received from Russia".  The "Malorossiya" declaration was ignored in Russia's main evening TV news bulletins - after Mr Peskov's comments about it. The main channels are state-controlled. But earlier on Tuesday the declaration had been prominent on the Russian TV news.

^ Talk is cheap unless it is followed with action. If Russia really is against this self-proclaimed "state" then they need to stop supporting it with money, equipment and soldiers. ^

More Excuses

From the BBC:
"Justine Damond shooting: Minneapolis police 'feared ambush'"

The lawyer for a US police officer whose partner killed an Australian woman says it would be "reasonable" for the pair to have feared an ambush. Minneapolis officer Matthew Harrity has reportedly said they were startled by a "loud sound" before last Saturday night's shooting of Justine Damond. Police have released the transcript of her call to police, in which the 40-year-old reports a suspected rape. She was fatally shot in the abdomen by one of the officers she had called. Officer Mohamed Noor, who fired the fatal shot in Ms Damond's upmarket neighbourhood, has refused to be interviewed by investigators, as is his legal right.  Fred Bruno, a lawyer for Officer Harrity, said on Wednesday: "It is reasonable to assume an officer in that situation would be concerned about a possible ambush.   "It was only a few weeks ago when a female NYPD cop and mother of twins was executed in her car in a very similar scenario." He was referring to the 5 July shooting of a 48-year-old police officer as she sat in her patrol car in the Bronx bureau of New York City. The attorney's comments come a day after Officer Harrity spoke to investigators with the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is leading the investigation. During the interview, he described seeing a young person on a bicycle pass by moments before Ms Damond pounded on the door of the police car, according to KSTP-TV. Detectives have appealed to the cyclist to come forward with any information he may have.  On Wednesday police released the transcript of her two separate 911 calls, which she made after hearing screams nearby. "I'm not sure if she's having sex or being raped," she told the police operator, before giving her address. "I think she just yelled out 'help,' but it's difficult, the sound has been going on for a while," she continued, before calling back eight minutes later to ensure that police had the correct address. Body cameras, which are worn by all Minneapolis police, had not been turned on at the time of the shooting and the squad car dashboard camera also failed to capture the incident.  Officers Harrity and Noor, who between them have spent three years on the police force, have been placed on paid administrative leave. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday appealed to the US for an explanation. "It is a shocking killing, and yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family," he told Australian TV on Wednesday. Hundreds of friends and family of Ms Damond held a vigil on Sydney's Freshwater beach on Wednesday morning for the slain yoga instructor and spiritual healer, who was engaged to marry an American man. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton told reporters he has been in touch with the Australian embassy, adding that the state may need to review rules covering police use of body cameras.

^ Everything you hear about this makes a reasonable person believe that the officer (Mohamed Noor) who killed Justine Damond did not do his job correctly (the dispatch tapes, the safety not on his gun, both body cameras being off, etc.) Now that Noor is refusing to be interviewed by investigators more red flags are raised. If it was truly an accident and you were sorry you shot and killed an innocent woman then you would do everything in your power to tell your side of the story. By not doing so you are merely adding more "fuel to the fire" and admitting your guilt without really admitting your guilt. Even if it was an accident and he admitted his guilt he should not be allowed to remain a police officer in any jurisdiction. Now that he is hiding things by refusing to talk to the investigators he should be given more punishments when he is found guilty. In a way I'm glad the Australian Government is involved so that the truth will come out (even without Noor talking) and no one in Minnesota can try to simply push this under the rug as though it didn't happen  - because it did. Noor is clearly not sorry he murdered an innocent woman and is only trying to protect himself from his crime. ^

NH Decriminalizes

From WMUR:
"NH decriminalizes marijuana possession"

Penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire have been reduced. Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill Tuesday that makes possession of up to three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana and five grams of hashish a violation, instead of a misdemeanor. The proposal passed the House and Senate in Concord with bipartisan support. New Hampshire had been the only New England state that had not decriminalized marijuana. Earlier this year, Sununu called House Bill 640 "commonsense marijuana reform." Under the bill, any person 18 years of age or older who is convicted of possessing up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish would be guilty only of a violation, punishable by a fine of $100 for the first or second offense, or up to $300 for any subsequent offense within a three-year period. A fourth offense would result in a Class B misdemeanor charge. Anyone younger than 18 who is convicted of less than the threshold amounts of marijuana or hashish would be subject to a delinquency petition. The bill specifically forbids police officers from arresting anyone for a marijuana possession violation. And it requires that all money collected from fines would be deposited in the state’s fund to pay for services to combat alcohol and substance abuse. The bill takes effect in 60 days.

^ I am ok with decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana as well as making medical marijuana legal everywhere. I still don't think it's a good idea to make recreational marijuana legal. I have been to places that have made it legal and haven't seen very good things. ^

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


From the DW:
"Ukraine separatist 'Little Russia' sparks concern over peace deal"

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk have declared all of Ukraine to be part of "Little Russia." Could the move undo the Minsk Protocol aimed at keeping the peace in the region?  Worry in Kiev, criticism from Berlin and Paris and surprise from policy experts: Alexander Zakharchenko's abrupt announcement landed like a stone on still water. On Tuesday, the separatist leader of the self-declared "People's Republic" of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine called his new state Malorossiya, which translates as "Little Russia." Zakharchenko called Ukraine's government in Kiev "illegitimate" and made a plea to the country's various regions to join the new state, with Donetsk as its capital. Crimea, annexed by Russia, was excluded. "Ukraine will disappear," said Alexander Timofeyev, a deputy premiere of Donetsk. "It will be war for those who do not heed our peaceful overtures."  The war in Donbass, which broke out three years ago, finds itself at a possible turning point - and the consequences are unclear. Donetsk's "sister republic" of Luhansk, supported by Russia, was itself unaware of the pending statehood announcement and reacted with caution. Kiev's initial response was a mix of calm as well as concern about possible escalation. President Petro Poroshenko, visiting Georgia, called Zakharchenko "no political figure," but rather a Russian "puppet." Viktor Muzhenko, the head of Ukraine's military, said the statement was one of "sick fantasies." The national security secretary, Oleksandr Turchynov, called the announcement "Russia's aggressive plan" to prevent a peaceful outcome to the conflict.  Germany's government said the move was "completely unacceptable." A government spokesperson told DW that "Zakharchenko has no legitimacy whatsoever to speak for this part of Ukraine" adding, "We expect Russia to see this step the same way, and will neither respect nor recognize it." The French Foreign Ministry responded similarly. "The declaration of the so-called State of Malorossiya is another Russian provocation in its perfidious power game to dominate Europe," Jürgen Hardt, who heads the conservative CDU/CSU faction in the German parliament, told DW. "It once again proves that no one should trust [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He is constantly calling for talks with the West, but his word is clearly unreliable." 
Moscow's official reaction was initially cautious. Some lawmakers expressed understanding for the separatists, but made clear the move violated the Minsk Protocol, which calls for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine's separatist area, followed by the creation of de facto autonomous rule for the region while remaining under the auspices of the central government in Kiev. The announcement from Donetsk came just days ahead of a high-level call among the leaders of the Normandy Format countries - Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Emmanuel Macron met with Russia's President Putin during the recent G20 summit in Hamburg to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine and the possibility of a permanent ceasefire. That is one of Kiev's central demands, which it sees as going unfulfilled by the 2015 peace negotiations.  Experts for the region were puzzled by Tuesday's development. "This is definitely a sick fantasy," Ukraine-based Winfried Schneider-Deters, an author on the conflict, told DW. "I find it hard to believe that this is coming from the Kremlin." Ukraine need not be overly concerned, but should prepare for military escalation, he added. The model is "absurd," said Stefan Meister of the German Council on Foreign Relations, explaining that more and more Ukrainians are turning away from Russia. Unlike Schneider-Deters, Meister sees Russia's fingerprints on the Little Russia plan. "It is an obstruction of and an attempt to distract from the Minsk Protocol," he told DW.  Some experts in Kiev consider the proclamation to be the death of the peace accords. "There can be no talk of elections should martial law be introduced and political parties banned," Mykola Sunhurovsky of the Kiev-based think tank, Rasumkow-Zentrum, told DW. Both are moves Zakharchenko suggested when declaring his Little Russia. Elections for the separatist region, agreed to in the Minsk Protocol, are a key point of contention between Kiev and Donetsk.

^ This is clearly a stint meant to show the world that the Russian rebels in the Donbas are still there 3 years after the war started. Most countries have moved on to: ISIS, terrorism, Russia, Brexit, the economy, etc. and no longer care (if they cared at all) for the Russians fighting in Donbas. If Russia wanted to it could easily stop the rebels in Donbas from wounding and killing innocent men, women and children and yet they seem to do little to nothing except give more money, equipment and troops to the rebels. The Donbas is a puppet state to Russia the same way the Crimea, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are. Since Russian can't recreate the old Czarist Empire or the old Soviet Empire it has to settle for bits and pieces of land here and there  - a patchwork of puppet states  - to try and seem like it is an Empire once again. Instead it just seems like it's trying to "beat an already dead horse." It must be hard knowing that your country was once a Super Power and now has to pull "stunts" like this one in places no one really cares about to feel important once again. It's sad if you think about it.^


^Most people don't even realize we are still in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Africa, etc. fighting (not to mention the 240,000 soldiers deployed in over 150 countries/territories or the 1,010,000 soldiers within the US.) That number doesn't include their families who are usually with them (except in a warzone.) ^

Royal Poland Visit

From the BBC:
"Duke and duchess meet Holocaust survivors in Poland"

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have visited a former concentration camp as they continue their tour of Poland. They described their visit to Stutthof as "shattering", saying the site is a "terrible reminder of the cost of war". The Royal couple met five Holocaust survivors at the camp near Gdansk, where 65,000 people were killed by the Nazis in World War Two. The five-day tour of Poland and Germany will see the Cambridges also visit Berlin and Heidelberg.  Prince George, three, and Princess Charlotte, two, have accompanied their parents on the trip.  During their visit to Stutthof, William and Catherine met British survivors Manfred Goldberg and Zigi Shipper, both 87.  As a teenager, Mr Goldberg spent more than eight months as a slave worker in Stutthof. There he met Mr Shipper, who had previously been at Auschwitz. Days before the war ended, the camp was abandoned and prisoners were sent on a death march to the German town of Neustadt. The pair - both 15 at the time - were liberated at Neustadt on 3 May 1945. They later moved to the UK, where they remained friends. Mr Goldberg said he was "extremely nervous" about returning to the camp, adding: "I agonised before I agreed to come here, because I felt I'd put it all behind me.  "In 1946 when I was a youngster I was admitted to England, I didn't dream I would ever have the privilege of shaking the hand of a future King of this country."  A message left in the visitors' book, which both the duke and duchess signed, said: "We were intensely moved by our visit to Stutthof, which has been the scene of so much terrible pain, suffering and death. "All of us have an overwhelming responsibility to make sure that we learn the lessons and that the horror of what happened is never forgotten and never repeated."  In Germany later this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a private meeting with the royal couple in Berlin before they visit the city's famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate. The duke and duchess will also visit Berlin's Holocaust museum and memorial.  A boat race is planned in the German city of Heidelberg, which is twinned with Cambridge. William and Catherine will cox opposing rowing teams in the race with crews from Cambridge and Heidelberg.  On the second day of the Polish leg of the tour, the royal couple joined a street party at Gdansk's central market square, where they were offered Goldwasser - a Gdansk liqueur - and traditional Polish pierogi dumplings. They also visited the Gdansk Shakespeare theatre, opened in 2014, which has the Prince of Wales as patron.

The Baltic death camp where thousands perished:
Stutthof was the first Nazi camp set up outside German borders, established in September 1939
  • It was originally used for the imprisonment of the Polish intelligentsia for "undesirable Polish elements"
  • By 1942 it had become a concentration camp and grew to include 39 sub-camps which housed 110,000 men, women and children over its five years
  • Some 65,000 inmates - which included 28,000 Jews - were killed by disease, malnutrition and execution by lethal injection, gas chamber, shooting and hanging
  • Stutthof was the last camp to be liberated - on 9 May 1945 by the Soviet Army

  • ^ It's important for every man, woman and child to learn about the Holocaust, It is even more important for royalty and world leaders to see what happens when people or a country do evil things. The Duke will be King of many countries (the UK, Canada, Australia, etc.) and the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations and so he needs to see first-hand (from visiting the concentration and death camps as well as meeting survivors) what it was like since you don't get the whole picture from a book or movie.  ^

    Justine Damond

    From the BBC:
    "Justine Damond: 'Why did the police not use their cameras?'"

    Questions are being raised by officials about why a police officer who shot an Australian woman, and his partner, did not record the fatal incident. Justine Damond, 40, was gunned down on Saturday after calling police to report a possible crime in her quiet Minneapolis neighbourhood. State investigators say the officers whom she encountered failed to activate their body or dashboard cameras. Every police officer and squad car in Minneapolis is equipped with cameras.  "I have the same questions everyone else does. Why weren't the police cameras on?" said Mayor Betsy Hodges. Minneapolis police are required to switch on their body cameras only during certain encounters, unlike in Los Angeles or Washington DC, where cameras must be switched on for any response to a call for service. Instead, there are more than a dozen situations in which cameras should be used, according to the police manual, which adds that failure to use the camera could result in job termination. "If a BWC [body-worn camera] is not activated prior to a use of force, it shall be activated as soon as it is safe to do so," reads the manual.  Local media reported that Ms Damond was dressed in her pyjamas and approached the driver's side door to talk to the officer at the wheel after police arrived. Officer Mohamed Noor, who was sitting in the passenger seat, fired his weapon across his partner and through the driver's door, striking Damond in the abdomen. Her fiancé, Don Damond, said on Monday that the family is "desperate" for answers from officials. Speaking in Sydney, her father John Ruszczyk said: "Justine was a beacon to all of us, we only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death."  Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says he will personally decide whether to charge Officer Mohamed Noor, rather than put the question to a grand jury. And he questioned why the cameras were not turned on. Officer Noor has been with the police force for two years, local media report. Sources say his partner who was at the scene is Matthew Harrity, 25, who joined the force last year. A police radio recording Audio from the incident was released on Tuesday, in which police at the scene can be heard telling dispatchers that they are performing CPR, and that "no suspects are at large". Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau called Damond's death "tragic" in a statement on Monday.  "I've asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can," she said in her first comments on the killing. The two officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave. Ms Damond, nee Justine Ruszczyk, taught meditation classes at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in Minneapolis.  She studied to be a veterinarian before relocating to the US, where she is believed to have been for at least the last three years. According to her website, she is a "qualified yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach and meditation teacher". Her death has made headlines across her native Australia. Over the past few years the US has seen a series of civilian killings at the hands of police that have prompted a national debate.

    ^ You hear all the reports and riots after a white police officer kills a  non-white person, but where are the protests now that a non-white officer has killed a white person? Any police officer who kills any innocent person needs to be addressed and that officer punished. It is clear there is something very fishy with these two police officers since you can understand if 1 body camera was off, but having both off at the same time (not to mention hearing their call for help after the shooting when they are so calm) seems too planned. The officer, Mohamed Noor, who killed the innocent woman needs to be tried and, if found guilty, treated the same way any murderer would be. He definitely should never be allowed to be a police officer in any jurisdiction. As for his partner, they need to example what he did in all of this and steps taken if needed. The has police are supposed to be there when you need them and the trend is that they are not the same protective force they once were. The public has come to not only not rely on them (my local town police aren't 24/7 and haven't been available when I called them) but also to feel they are more dangerous than the criminals/murderers they are supposed to be protecting us against. Once you loose that public trust you have to completely change not only your image, but train and work hard to make sure the mistakes that the police have made in the past are never repeated. Until that happens no one will trust the police. ^

    Monday, July 17, 2017

    GoT Tapestry

    From the BBC:
    "Game of Thrones tapestry unveiled in new tourism drive"

    A 66m tapestry telling the story of TV series Game of Thrones has been unveiled at a Belfast museum as part of a new tourism campaign. Tourism officials use the HBO show to draw visitors to Northern Ireland, where much of the hit series is filmed. The tapestry was woven and hand-embroidered from material provided by Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen in Banbridge. It is one of the last surviving mills in Northern Ireland.  Taking around three months to make, the tapestry depicts scenes from seasons one to six.  Each week the tapestry will be added to with scenes from season seven, which has just been released, taking its final size to 77m. The artwork was unveiled at the Ulster Museum in Belfast on Monday afternoon.   Game of Thrones has been filmed in Northern Ireland since 2010 and has received around £14m in financial support. However, Screen NI estimates the return to the local economy has been in the region of £150m. Since 2014, Tourism Ireland has been using Game of Thrones to help promote Northern Ireland to visitors, aiming to capitalise on the show's huge worldwide appeal. Tourism numbers hit 2.6m in 2016, a rise of 12%.

    ^ I have been to several places where the "Game Of Thrones" is filmed: Iceland, Dubrovnik and Northern Ireland - of course I went to them before I even knew or watched the show - but those places are very interesting and beautiful so it's nice to see more people learning about them and also actually going to them. The hardest part  - especially for Northern Ireland - is to get tourists to come. Once there they will see what a nice place it is. Hopefully this tapestry will bring even more people. ^

    Remebering The Czar

    From the MT:
    "More than 60,000 March to Mark Anniversary of Last Tsar’s Murder"

    Thousands of believers marched in Yekaterinburg on Sunday night to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Nicholas II and the Russian imperial family. According to the Yekaterinburg Diocese's website, more than 60,000 people participated in the march. The church-led procession started at the former location of Ipatiev House, demolished in 1977 and now the site of a church, where the last Russian tsar and his family were shot by the Bolsheviks on the night of July 16, 1918. The procession started around 3 a.m. and finished around four hours later with a prayer at the location where the bodies of the seven Romanovs and their four servants were originally deposited, now the site of a monastery. Some of the participants wore old-style clothing that resembled the uniforms Nicholas II wore during his time in exile. Celebrity Duma deputy and former Crimean Prosecutor General Natalya Poklonskaya led the procession holding, in her hands, an icon of the tsar. “For me, it is a duty and a great honor to be here on this night,” Poklonskaya told the state news agency TASS.  Nicholas II was forced into exile after renouncing the throne on March 2, 2017. Together with his wife and five children were then killed by a revolutionary firing squad. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized the imperial family in 2000 and their remnants are now held in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. In the eyes of "tsar-worshippers," a group of Orthodox believers whose ranks reportedly include Poklonskaya, Nicholas II sacrificed himself to redeem Russians' sins, in an analogy of the self-sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.

    ^ It is a little surprising that after 100 years so many people are marking the Czar and his family. It has only been 26 years since the Russians have been allowed to worship (both the Czar and the Orthodox Church.) ^

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    Emmys List

    From the BBC:
    "Emmys 2017: Westworld leads Stranger Things in nominations"

    Westworld leads the drama nominations at this year's Emmy Awards, with its British stars Sir Anthony Hopkins and Thandie Newton among the nominees.  The HBO sci-fi series has 22 nominations in total, while comedy show Saturday Night Live also has 22. Stranger Things and Feud: Bette and Joan are up for 18 each, followed by comedy Veep with 17. Among the other British nominees, Ewan McGregor, Riz Ahmed and Matthew Rhys have two nominations each.  Other big names on the list include Oscar winner Viola Davis, who is nominated for How To Get Away With Murder, and Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon - both for Big Little Lies.  Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, who played Bette Davis and Joan Crawford respectively in Feud: Bette and Joan, both get nods. There's a posthumous nomination for Carrie Fisher for her guest role in Channel 4 comedy Catastrophe. Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated for Sherlock: The Lying Detective.  His competition for best lead actor in a limited series or movie includes Robert De Niro, who's shortlisted for playing fraudster Bernie Madoff in The Wizard of Lies.  The Crown and The Handmaid's Tale - which had been expected to be among the top drama contenders - both have 13 nominations.  They include nods for their female stars Claire Foy and Elisabeth Moss, both nominated in the best lead actress category.  Thandie Newton is up for best supporting actress in a drama series for playing a robotic brothel madam in Westworld, which is based on Michael Crichton's 1973 film of the same name.

    Key categories:

    Best lead actress in a drama series
    • Keri Russell - The Americans
    • Claire Foy - The Crown
    • Elisabeth Moss - The Handmaid's Tale
    • Robin Wright - House of Cards
    • Viola Davis - How To Get Away With Murder
    • Evan Rachel Wood - Westworld
    Best lead actor in a drama series
    • Matthew Rhys - The Americans
    • Bob Odenkirk - Better Call Saul
    • Kevin Spacey - House Of Cards
    • Liev Schreiber - Ray Donovan
    • Sterling K Brown - This Is Us
    • Milo Ventimiglia - This Is Us
    • Anthony Hopkins - Westworld
    Best lead actress in a limited series or movie
    • Felicity Huffman - American Crime
    • Nicole Kidman - Big Little Lies
    • Reese Witherspoon - Big Little Lies
    • Carrie Coon - Fargo
    • Jessica Lange - Feud: Bette And Joan
    • Susan Sarandon - Feud: Bette And Joan
    Best lead actor in a limited series or movie
    • Ewan McGregor - Fargo
    • Geoffrey Rush - Genius
    • Riz Ahmed - The Night Of
    • John Turturro - The Night Of
    • Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock: The Lying Detective
    • Robert De Niro - The Wizard Of Lies
    Best lead actor in a comedy series
    • Anthony Anderson - Black-ish
    • Aziz Ansari - Master of None
    • Zach Galifianakis - Baskets
    • Donald Glover - Atlanta
    • William H Macy - Shameless
    • Jeffrey Tambor - Transparent
    Best lead actress in a comedy series
    • Pamela Adlon - Better Things
    • Jane Fonda - Grace and Frankie
    • Allison Janney - Mom
    • Ellie Kemper - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    • Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Veep
    • Tracee Ellis Ross - Black-ish
    • Lily Tomlin - Grace and Frankie
    Best drama series
    • Better Call Saul
    • The Crown
    • The Handmaid's Tale
    • House of Cards
    • Stranger Things
    • This Is Us
    • Westworld
    Best comedy series
    • Atlanta
    • Black-ish
    • Master of None
    • Modern Family
    • Silicon Valley
    • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    • Veep
    Best limited series
    • Big Little Lies
    • Fargo
    • Feud: Bette and Joan
    • Genius
    • The Night Of
    Best TV movie
    • Black Mirror: San Junipero
    • Dolly Parton's Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love
    • The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks
    • Sherlock: The Lying Detective
    • The Wizard Of Lies
    Five of the seven nominations for best drama series have gone to new shows, including NBC's This Is Us, which is the first show from a major broadcast network to be in that category since 2011. The new season of HBO's Game of Thrones isn't nominated because it is starting too late to be eligible this year.  Despite that, HBO had the highest overall tally with 110 nominations, followed by Netflix with 91 and NBC with 60.  The winners will be announced at a ceremony hosted by Stephen Colbert on 17 September.

    ^ The movies and shows in Bold are the ones I have seen. ^

    Anton Mamaev

    From the BBC:
    "Outrage after disabled Russian man jailed for assault"

    The imprisonment of a severely disabled man for violent assault in Moscow has outraged many social media users in Russia. Anton Mamaev, 28, suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a rare condition which requires him to use a wheelchair, without which he is almost completely immobile. Despite this fact, Mamaev was found guilty of assaulting a former special forces officer and stealing his motorised scooter. Amongst the evidence used against Mamaev was a brief video clip, apparently CCTV footage, showing him smoking a cigarette and accompanied by two able-bodied men. The video was later posted to a community called "Mash" on popular Russian social networking site VKontakte, where it has been watched more than 80,000 times.  Court officials later explained that, due to the serious nature of the crime, there was no option but to sentence Mamaev to prison. His condition, officials said, was not on a government-approved list of ailments which exempt people from serving jail time. The verdict, announced on Friday, instantly made a splash on social media, with Twitter users overwhelmingly critical of the decision. One popular tweet showed a picture of Mamaev in his wheelchair. A popular post on the chat app Telegram called the case "an illustration of Putin's Russia". "It is vital to understand that Anton has not been imprisoned; he has been sent to die a painful death," wrote blogger "StalinGulag", whose tirade was viewed by more than 50,000 followers. The case was also highlighted by one of Putin's most prominent opponents, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny.   Seemingly in response to the storm on social media, Russian human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova met with Mamaev's father. She later posted on Instagram: "I am doing everything in my power to help."  Mamaev, meanwhile, has been transferred to hospital where he remains under police custody. A court decision will later be taken as to whether to decrease his sentence because of his disability.

    ^ Martin Niemöller said this about Nazi Germany:

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Here is one about Russia today:

    First they came for the Ukrainians, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Ukrainian. Then they came for the Homosexuals, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Homosexual. Then they came for the disabled, and I didn't speak-out -Because I was not disabled. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me. 

    The point: this may seem like a one-time thing, but it's clearly a statement by the Russian Government that they will not tolerate anyone (especially not someone disabled) questioning them. Those that do will be punished severely and probably not heard or seen from ever again.  We all know what happens when you sit by and watch others being taken away and do nothing.  ^

    Ukraine Plan

    From UNIAN:
    "Poroshenko, European leaders discuss Marshall Plan for Ukraine"

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced Ukraine has discussed with the European Union the possibility of developing a new long-term economic support plan similar to a Marshall Plan, a comprehensive U.S. program of support for Europe after World War II. "Today we've discussed the possibility of a new long-term plan for support of Ukraine, which was proposed at the European People's Party summit, a kind of a Marshall Plan for Ukraine, as well as the use of by Ukraine of funds of the EU's external investment plan," Poroshenko said at a press conference after a meeting with President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv on Thursday, July 13. According to the Ukrainian president, Ukraine has an ambitious economic integration plan, which foresees accession to the EU customs union, the Schengen zone, the digital market and the energy union in future. "This is strong impetus to the implementation of economic, social, sectoral and other reforms, the growth of our common trade and investment," Poroshenko stressed.

    ^ The Ukraine deserves all the help it can receive from the EU, the US, Canada, the UN, etc. They have gone through more in 3 1/2 years than most countries. ^


    "I've always wondered this very important question: 'What color does a Smurf turn when it's choking?'" RH

    New GG

    From the BBC:
    "Trudeau picks an astronaut for Canada's new governor general"

    Former astronaut Julie Payette has been tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be Canada's next governor general.  Mr Trudeau announced the nomination on Thursday, after considering both francophone and aboriginal candidates for the largely ceremonial role. Ms Payette, 54, will take over as the Queen's representative in Canada when David Johnston retires in September. She was the first Canadian on the International Space Station, and speaks six languages, including French. "What a great day," Ms Payette said when her nomination was officially announced.  Mr Trudeau called her "unquestionably qualified".  A Montreal native, she holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from McGill University and a master of applied science from the University of Toronto. She was chosen from over 5,300 applicants in 1992 to become one of four astronauts in the Canadian Space Agency. In 1999, she became the first Canadian to board the International Space Station. In additional to her career as an astronaut, she has sung with international orchestras, plays the piano and is the mother of two children. She retired from the CSA in 2013.

    What does the role involve?

    Ms Payette would be Canada's 29th governor general since confederation in 1867, and the fourth woman.
    As the Queen's representative in Canada, the governor general:
    • is Canada's official head of state in her absence
    • has the power to give a throne speech and suspend parliament
    • gives royal assent to legislation
    • swears in the prime minister
    • is commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces
    Her predecessor, Mr Johnston, was a Harvard alum who spent decades in academia before being appointed in 2010.  He is scheduled to retire this autumn, after his final visit with the Queen next week, when he visits the UK.  Ms Payette's appointment continues the tradition of alternating between anglophone and francophone governors general, although Mr Trudeau had also considered appointing an indigenous representative.  Members from both Mr Trudeau's Liberal Party and opposing parties have praised her nomination. Conservative MP Lisa Raitt tweeted that she was "beyond happy" at the nomination. "If @Astro_Payette is our next Governor General - I am beyond happy. Smart and accomplished. Trailblazer," she tweeted.  Roberta Bondar, who was the first Canadian female astronaut, also gave her approval. "I think she's really going to be a great asset," Bondar told CBC. "It will just be so interesting to see her bring her view of the world and of Canada, seeing [the world] from space provides one with a different type of insight. I'm really looking forward to it."

    ^ I have to admit I only thought Canada had 1 astronaut (and I only learned that when I saw him as a judge on Master Chef Canada.) With that said, I have since done some more research and learned more about the Canadian Space Program as well as Julie Payette. I think she will be a good addition as the new Governor-General. ^

    Dancing Turkey

    Just saw a wild turkey dance his way from the bottom of my driveway to past my front door. He had some cool moves that made my day better. I didn't wake-up this morning thinking I would see a wild turkey dancing in front of me, but am glad he decided to.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    State Obligations Fail

    From Disability Scoop:
    "Feds Find Fewer States Meeting Special Ed Obligations"

    Less than half of states are meeting their obligations to appropriately serve students with disabilities under the nation’s special education law, federal education officials say. In an annual review, the U.S. Department of Education found that only 22 states deserved the “meets requirements” designation for the 2015-2016 school year. All other states were placed into the “needs assistance” category. The findings issued this summer come from a mandatory assessment of state compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The ratings are based on how well states meet their obligations to serve students with disabilities ages 3 to 21.  Federal officials look at student performance and functional outcomes for kids with disabilities as well as how well states follow through with procedural duties like completing special education evaluations. If a state fails to achieve the “meets requirements” level for two or more consecutive years, IDEA stipulates that the Education Department take enforcement action, which can include redirecting or withholding funds, developing a corrective action plan or mandating other changes. This year’s determinations reflect a drop in the number of states found to meet requirements. Last year, 24 states received that designation. States receiving letters indicating that they met their obligations under IDEA include Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The remaining states were labeled “needs assistance.” No state received the more extreme designations of “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

    ^ We need to make sure every US state and territory fulfills its special education obligation and does so every single year. The schools and states should do this not because it is a Federal law, but because it is the right thing to do. You can not have a good education system when you aren't educating everyone who needs and deserves it. ^

    Donbas Reintegration

    From UNIAN:
    "Summary of Donbas reintegration bill: Russian occupation, liberation, division of powers"

    A bill on Donbas reintegration, which was drafted by the National Security and Defense Council, headed by Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov, recognizes the Russian occupation of the east of Ukraine and provides clear notions of occupied areas and lists illegal armed formations that control that territory. The document was planned to be considered and approved at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council on Monday, July 17, but the consideration was postponed, according to the news portal Turchynov explained this by "the need to hold additional consultations with our strategic partners," said. Officials and lawmakers polled by do not rule out that the document will be considered by the Verkhovna Rada only in autumn, as parliament will go into its summer recess from July 14. The portal has published the summary of the draft law on the specifics of state policy to restore Ukraine's sovereignty in temporarily occupied areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
    Russian occupation and aggression
    This is the first Ukrainian law that recognizes the Russian occupation of Donbas as a result of military aggression. This is the first attempt to give a legislative assessment of the war in the east of Ukraine. "The Russian Federation is waging military aggression against Ukraine and has temporarily occupied parts of its territory with the help of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation," the bill said.
    Temporarily occupied territory
    Article 1 of the draft law gives a clear definition of temporarily occupied areas, as well as provides a list of military formations that control that territory. "[This is] an area of ground within the boundaries of which units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, illegal armed formations established under the auspices of, subordinate to, managed, controlled and funded by the Russian Federation and the occupying administration of the Russian Federation have set up authority and exercise their power," the article says. The boundaries of the temporarily occupied areas shall be defined by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine as proposed by the General Staff of the Armed Forces. A special legal regime shall be introduced in the occupied areas.
    Documents and property Article 2 of the draft mentions documents and property rights applicable in the occupied territory. In particular, any documents, decisions, etc. that have been issued in uncontrolled territory shall be deemed as invalid. People, regardless of their status of internally displaced persons, shall retain rights to property that remains in the occupied areas. The same way, the state retains its ownership of assets in uncontrolled territory. "The state of Ukraine, territorial communities of villages, towns and cities located in temporarily occupied areas shall retain their right of ownership of property, including real estate, namely land."
    Liberation of territory
    Article 4 describes the purpose of state policy to restore sovereignty. It proposes the following steps: - to liberate the areas and restore constitutional order; - to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals who have suffered from Russian aggression. Article 5 outlines provision of constitutional order: "The government authorities shall use existing opportunities to protect the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens living in the occupied areas." However, the draft law does not give any other details regarding this matter. Yet, it states that "it is necessary to take comprehensive measures to ensure national security and defense, deterring Russian aggression."
    Cultural relations
    Article 6 highlights the restoration of humanitarian and cultural ties with people living in the occupied areas. It also suggests the provision of humanitarian and legal assistance and access to the Ukrainian media. "The foundation of the protection of citizens' rights and freedoms... is the promotion of their social and economic needs, the rebuilding of humanitarian and cultural ties, [the provision of] access to the Ukrainian media, and national means of legal defense."
    Responsibility and self-defense
    Article 6 of the draft law states: "Ukraine is not responsible for the illegal actions of Russia as an aggressor state and its illegal armed formations controlled by it in certain districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions." Article 7 states that Ukraine has an undeniable right to defend itself that can be exercised. For this purpose, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the SBU Security Service of Ukraine, the intelligence service, the National Guard and other forces shall be engaged. This is stipulated in Article 8. Division of powers Article 9 determines the powers within which the president is authorized to take decisions during the operation of this law. "The President decides on the use of the Armed Forces, other military units, to deter and repel the armed aggression of the Russian Federation." It is the president who also declares martial law. Article 10 highlights the division of powers. The Joint Operation Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shall perform command and control functions. Read alsoLosses from Russian aggression in Donbas estimated at about $50 bln. The Chief of Staff shall be appointed by the President as proposed by the Chief of the General Staff. All who are involved in ensuring national security in Donetsk and Luhansk regions shall be subordinate to the Chief of the Joint Operation Headquarters. The last article, Article 11, states that the rules of crossing the contact line and transportation of goods shall be also determined by the Chief of the Joint Operation Headquarters.

    ^ It's important for the Ukraine to set-out a program for the reintegration of the Donbas. Eventually the war there will end and the Ukraine will need a way to move forward. ^

    Maltese Approve

    From the DW:
    "Malta's parliament approves gay marriage"

    The vote marks a significant progressive milestone for a typically conservative European country. But not everyone on the predominantly Roman Catholic island has welcomed the move.  The Marriage Equality Bill (formally titled the Marriage Bills and other Laws) passed in Valletta on Wednesday simply changes select words in existing Maltese marriage laws, thereby including homosexual couples.  In a 66 to 1 vote, parliamentarians from both the ruling Labour Party and the center-right alliance opposition, National Force, agreed to replace the words "husband" and "wife" with the gender-neutral term "spouse." The word "parent" will take the place of "mother" and "father," while the phrases "the person who gave birth" and "the other parent" will be used to describe lesbian couples who have children via medical processes. The sole objecting member of parliament, Edwin Vassallo, described the "morally unacceptable" law as incompatible with his Catholic faith.  "A Christian politician cannot leave his conscience outside the door" of parliament, Vassallo said.  Social Dialogue Minister Helena Dalli, who brought the bill to parliament, said its intention was to "modernize the institution of marriage" in the traditionally conservative island nation of around 420,000 people. Divorce was illegal in Malta until 2011 and it remains the only nation in the European Union (EU) that entirely bans abortions. Civil partnerships were only introduced in 2014; Malta also inherited laws against sodomy from colonial power Britain, revoking them in 1973, just a few years after the UK. Wednesday's vote to legalize same-sex marriage is Malta's most recent step in establishing itself as a leader in LGBT rights. In December 2016, Malta unanimously banned gender identity conversion therapy - a practice to "cure" homosexuals which had been legal up until then - becoming the first, and only EU nation as of yet, to do so.  The Catholic Church - a historically powerful force in Maltese society - decried the gay marriage law, arguing that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. "I can decide that a carob and an orange should no longer be called by their name," Archbishop Charles Scicluna said in his homily in the days following the start of the parliamentary debate on the issue. "But a carob remains a carob and an orange remains an orange. And marriage, whatever the law says, remains an eternal union exclusive to a man and a woman." The German news agency dpa reported that silent demonstrators had gathered outside the parliament on Wednesday to protest the law on a religious basis. The Life Network Foundation of Malta, a Catholic pro-life non-profit organization, also opposed the bill's passage. In a statement sent to Maltese parliamentarians ahead of the vote and shared with DW, Chairperson Dr. Miriam Sciberras argued that the legislation "is not about bringing gay marriage at par with heterosexual marriage, but introducing the former whilst eliminating inherent concepts of the latter." Among other things, the organization objected to the word changes the new law would introduce, saying that "spouses" and "parent" meant the bill was about the "abolition of heterosexual couples." The bill's passage was also a triumph for the socially progressive Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who achieved an overwhelming re-election victory in June. Muscat's Labour party had promised to kick off its legislative agenda with the Marriage Equality Bill. He described separate marriage laws for homosexual and heterosexual couples as "discriminatory."  Describing Wednesday's vote as "historic," Muscat also said, "It shows that our democracy and our society are maturing." During Muscat's first term in office, the government began recognizing gay marriages performed abroad. It also legalized civil unions performed in Malta for gay and heterosexual couples alike. Last year, the number of solely civil unions surpassed that of church weddings for the first time since the former's introduction in 2014. In addition to legalizing gay marriage, the new law also affects heterosexual marriages: references to "maiden name" will be replaced with "surname at birth" and couples will now be able to choose which name to take after tying the knot.  Malta, the smallest member of the European Union by population and size, follows on the heels of Germany in its June decision to legalize gay marriage. 13 EU nations have legalized gay marriage within their borders, while an additional 14 recognize same-sex civil unions. The European Greens celebrated the bill's passage on Twitter while calling for continued action. Malta is the 24th country worldwide to legalize gay marriage.

    ^ I am glad (as I have said before) that Malta has joined the growing list of countries granting equal rights to all of it's citizens. ^