Saturday, August 1, 2015

Extradite Palmer

From the BBC:
"Zimbabwe 'seeks lion Cecil's killer' Walter Palmer from US"
The US dentist who killed a lion in Zimbabwe should be extradited to face charges, Zimbabwe's Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri has said. Walter Palmer's extradition was being sought so that he could "be held accountable for his illegal action," she said. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was contacted by a representative of Mr Palmer on Thursday. The contact comes as US authorities continue to investigate the hunt. Mr Palmer, from Minnesota, is believed to have paid about $50,000 (£32,000) to hunt the lion, known as Cecil. He says he thought the hunt was legal and was unaware Cecil was protected.  At a news conference in the capital, Harare, Ms Muchinguri referred to Mr Palmer as a "foreign poacher". "As we frantically try to protect our wildlife from organised gangs such as this one, there are people... who can connive to undermine Zimbabwean laws," she said. "One can conclude with confidence that Dr Palmer, being an American citizen, had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA," Ms Muchinguri added. She also said Mr Palmer's use of a bow and arrow against Cecil was in contravention of Zimbabwean hunting regulations, Reuters reports.  Two Zimbabwean men have been implicated in the death of the lion. A professional hunter has been charged with failing to prevent an illegal hunt - which he denies - and prosecutors are deciding on the exact charges the landowner should face.  There has been a huge online backlash against Mr Palmer. The dental practice he runs in Minneapolis has been closed since he was named as the hunter who shot Cecil.  On Thursday, the White House said it would review a public petition to extradite the American dentist after more than 100,000 signed it. But spokesman Josh Earnest said it was up to the US justice department to respond to any extradition order.  Meanwhile, US billionaire philanthropist Tom Kaplan has agreed to match every dollar donated to the UK conservation unit which was tracking Cecil until he was killed. He capped the offer to Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at $100,000 (£64,000).
Cecil the Lion:
  • A major tourist attraction in Hwange National Park - Zimbabwe's largest game reserv
  • The 13-year-old animal was renowned for being friendly towards visitors
  • Recognisable because of his large size and distinctive black mane
  • Led two prides containing six lionesses and 12 cubs along with another lion, Jericho
  • Was being monitored as part of an Oxford University study into lion conservation
    ^ If Palmer really believes he followed Zimbabwean law and did nothing wrong when he killed Cecil then he should willingly fly to Zimbabwe to state his case. It doesn't matter what US law says as the act happened in Zimbabwe and you are required to know the laws of whatever country you are in. I believe Palmer knows what he did was illegal and so will fight to stay in the US where he will probably get another fine  - like he did in an earlier incident involving a different endangered animal. All signs of his past point me to his guilt and so he should be made to face charges. ^


    Guided Theft

    From the MT:
    "Police, Muscovites Search for Guide Dog Stolen From Distraught Owner"
    Moscow police are investigating the theft of a guide dog that was stolen from its owner near a busy metro station in broad daylight earlier this week, Russian media reported Friday. “Police have opened a theft case over a guide dog that was stolen from a blind girl,” TASS cited an unidentified local police spokesman as saying. He said a search for the animal was under way. The dog, a golden labrador named Diana, was stolen at about 6 p.m. Wednesday outside Papa Carlo, a pet store near Profsoyuznaya metro station in the city's south, Anna Arkhangelskaya, an employee of Moscow State University who launched an appeal to find the dog, wrote on her Facebook page early Thursday morning.   “The dog is a part of me, she's very dear to me — she's my friend, my companion and my eyes,” Diana's owner, Yulia Dyakova, told Moskva24 news channel in an interview aired Thursday.  “It's hard for me because I don't know how the dog is, what kind of conditions she's being kept in, whether she's being fed, looked after. Even if they won't return her, I'd like to know how she is,” Dyakova said, choking back tears.  Several hours after Diana's disappearance, Dyakova received a phone call saying Diana's collar, which had Dyakova's phone number on it, had been found near the metro station, Arkhangelskaya wrote. In a follow-up post the next day, Arkhangelskaya wrote that several people had contacted her to say they had seen a woman get on a suburban train with Diana at Paveletsky Train Station, and that once on the train, she had been overheard telling a fellow passenger that people who beg with animals in underpasses should not be trusted and that she had saved the dog from a blind person who had been exploiting the animal.  Dyakova, who has won awards for her singing and been featured on TV, sometimes sings on the street or in city underpasses, Arkhangelskaya said.  The woman suspected of having taken Diana got off at Domodedovo station, Arkhangelskaya said, after which she was met by a man and her further movements are unknown. A photo of the suspected abductor taken on the metro was included in the same Facebook post.    Dyakova has had the guide dog for nearly two years, and is completely dependent on her, Arkhangelskaya added, calling on Facebook users to spread the word and notify her or the police if they thought they had seen the missing dog or her suspected kidnapper.

    ^ Being disabled is hard enough anywhere in the world. Being disabled in Russia adds more difficulties. Being disabled in Moscow has its own hardships. Most Russian people with disabilities never leave their homes because life is too hard. To be blind and able to go around the over-crowded city with a guide dog probably gave Dvakova a sense of normalcy. The majority of Russians see a disability as the outward sign of shame and of sin (ie that it is deserved for some wrong-doing) and so there is very little care or compassion to the disability. I have seen that attitude when I was in Russia (I went to an institution for the disabled)  as well as from Russians around the world. Of course not every Russian discriminates against the disabled, but the large majority do. I believe this theft was done by someone who sees the disabled as sinful and that they deserve to be punished. Not only is this a theft, but it is also a human rights issue. That person is not only stealing a beloved dog, but also the means of sight. This guide dog is the eyes to the person who uses them and has been trained, at great expense, to do its job. I only hope the dog is found and returned and that the Russian media continue to show the state of affairs of the disabled within Russia. ^

    Cost Of Bribes

    From the MT:
    "Average Bribe in Russia Doubles in Rubles, Remains Steady in Dollars"
    The amount of the average bribe in Russia has nearly doubled this year, reaching 208,000 rubles ($3,485 at today's rate), as the country's currency has shed value amid Western sanctions and an economic downturn, according to Interior Ministry estimates cited by pro-government Izvestia daily on Friday. This compares to about 109,000 rubles Russians are believed to have been paying or receiving as an average bribe in 2014, though police concede that their estimates may not be completely accurate, the report said. The increase in bribe amounts is substantially less significant in their dollar equivalent, because the Russian ruble traded at around 35 to the dollar at the start of 2014, but has slumped to around 60 to the dollar as of this week. “Functionaries have grown used to taking bribes in dollars, or tying their amount to the Central Bank's exchange rate,” a member of the Public Chamber, Dmitry Chugunov, was quoted by Izvestia as saying. But the chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, Kirill Kabanov, said police estimates of an “average” bribe may not be worth much, Izvestia reported. Roman Vernega, a lawyer, argued that bribery is essentially a victimless crime, benefiting the both parties in the transaction, so neither is likely to complain to the police, Izvestia reported. But he conceded that police informants or undercover agent who help expose corruption also allow to record the amounts of bribes that change hands, according to the report. A corruption perception index by Transparency International ranked Russia 136th last year, just behind Nigeria. Essentially admitting defeat, Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill this spring slashing fines for giving and receiving bribes, after a Kremlin envoy, Garry Minkh, scoffed corruption penalties are rarely being honored anyway. 

    ^ Giving and taking bribes in Russia is as old as the country itself. It was an everyday occurrence in Czarist and Soviet times and has continued into modern times. The only thing that has changed is not the Russian people's perception that giving or getting a bribe is wrong, but the actual cost - it is now based on "market prices." ^

    4 1/2 Minutes

    From the Stars and Stripes:
    "Digital recording of Emperor Hirohito's WWII-ending speech released"
    The 4½-minute speech that has reverberated throughout Japan's modern history since it was delivered by Emperor Hirohito at the end of World War II has come back to life in digital form. Hirohito's "jewel voice" — muffled and nearly inaudible due to poor sound quality — was broadcast on Aug. 15, 1945, announcing Japan's surrender. On Saturday, the Imperial Household Agency released the digital version of the original sound ahead of the 70th anniversary of the speech and the war's end. In it, the emperor's voice appears clearer, slightly higher and more intense, but, Japanese today would still have trouble understanding the arcane language used by Hirohito. "The language was extremely difficult," said Tomie Kondo, 92, who listened to the 1945 broadcast in a monitoring room at NHK public broadcaster, where she worked as a newscaster. "It's well written if you read it, but I'm afraid not many people understood what he said," she said. Poor reception and sound quality of the radio made it even worse. "I heard some people even thought they were supposed to fight even more," she said. "I think the speech would be incomprehensive to young people today." Every Japanese knows a part of the speech where Hirohito refers to his resolve for peace by "enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable," a phrase repeatedly used in news and dramas about the war. When people heard that part 70 years ago, they understood the situation, Kondo says. But the rest is little known, largely because the text Hirohito read was deliberately written in arcane language making him sound authoritative and convincing as he sought people's understanding about Japan's surrender.
    Amid growing concern among many Japanese over nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role, the current Emperor Akihito is increasingly seen as liberal and pacifist, and the effort by his father, Hirohito, to end the war has captured national attention. Speaking in unique intonation that drops at the end of sentences, Hirohito opens his 1945 address with Japan's decision to accept the condition of surrender. He also expresses "the deepest sense of regret" to Asian countries that cooperated with Japan to gain "emancipation" from Western colonization. Its significance is that Hirohito, who at the time was considered a living deity, made the address, said Takahisa Furukawa, a historian at Nihon University in Tokyo. "What's most important is the emperor reached out to the people to tell them that they had to surrender and end the war," he said. "The speech is a reminder of what it took to end the wrong war." On the eve of the announcement, Hirohito met with top government officials to approve Japan's surrender inside a bunker dug at the palace compound. Amid fear of violent protest by army officials refusing to end the war, the recording of Hirohito's announcement was made secretly. NHK technicians were quietly called in for the recording. At almost midnight, Hirohito appeared in his formal military uniform, and read the statement into the microphone, twice. A group of young army officers stormed into the palace in a failed attempt to steal the records and block the surrender speech, but palace officials desperately protected the records, which were safely delivered to NHK for radio transmission the next day. The drama of the last two days of the war leading to Hirohito's radio address was made into a film, "Japan's Longest Day," in 1967, and its remake will hit Japanese theaters on Aug. 8.
    ^ The Emperor is the head and symbol of Japan so all its achievements and its crimes are his as well. While this recording is a historical first  - the first time any Emperor spoke to his own people - the language used didn't seem to get its intended message across. If the ordinary person can't understand your meaning then the message is lost. Luckily, the Allies occupied Japan and did away with the militant, hysterical aspect and allowed the Emperor to remain in power. We didn't have to, but we realized his significance to the Japanese and so let him stay. This month is the 70th anniversary of V-J Day (technically V-J Day is September 2nd in the US - the day the Japanese formally signed the surrender document - when it really should be August 15th - the day the actual fighting stopped) and releasing this to the public once again reminds the Japanese people of their past (ie their crimes during the war) as well as their present (ie how far they have come and prospered since 1945.) ^

    Canadian Pill

    From the BBC:
    "'Abortion pill' legalised in Canada"
    Canadian health authorities have approved the drug RU-486, commonly known as the abortion pill.
    The pill, a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone, had been pending approval by Health Canada since 2012. It has been in use in the United States since 2000 and in France since 1988. Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation called it "great news" for women in Canada but anti-abortion campaigners disagreed, calling it a "human pesticide". The pill causes a medically induced abortion earlier in the pregnancy than most surgical abortions. Earlier terminations are considered safer than late term abortions by pro-choice campaigners.  It is already available to women in about 60 countries, and has been in use in the UK for almost a quarter century. Health Canada confirmed to BBC News that the Linepharma pharmaceutical company has been told they can begin production of the pill, which will be sold under the brand name Mifegymiso. A doctor's prescription will be required for women to obtain the drug, which is normally effective up to 70 days into a pregnancy. Mrs Saporta says the pill will likely become available in 2016, and will be distributed by doctors rather than pharmacies, as it is done in the US.  Abortion was first legalised by the Canadian Supreme Court in 1988.

    ^ I have mixed-doubts on the abolition pill (anywhere in the world.) On the one hand I think women should be able to decide for themselves what they do and on the other I think we have created a society that doesn't seem to care about human life or consequences for your actions. Both men and women today simply do and don't stop and think before they do something. We tell people that everything is great and you can do anything you want to without anything bad happening. This thinking and simply doing has created several generations of people who think they can do anything and nothing bad - only good - will happen to them. So if you get drunk and have sex and then get pregnant all you have to do is take a quick pill and everything will be fine and you can continue partying without a second thought. We need to start teaching respect for one's self and responsibility for others. Those teachings, along with modern medical care - like this pill - will bring us out of a sense of "Me, Me" and get us thinking about what our actions really mean and say about our charatctwer. ^

    Friendly Kyiv

    From the MT:
    "Kiev Releases 'White List' of Ukraine-Friendly Russian, International Celebrities"

    Ukraine's Culture Ministry published a list of international celebrities Thursday, including prominent Russian writers and musicians, who are seen as deserving of the support of the Ukrainian state.Russians on the so-called “white list” include rock musicians Yury Shevchuk, Andrei Makarevich and Zemfira, as well as writers Boris Akunin and Viktor Shenderovich. Ties between Moscow and Kiev have deteriorated to a post-Soviet low over the past year amid fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian troops, but some prominent artists in Russia have spoken out against Russian aggression and declared their support for Ukraine.At a July 3 concert in Tbilisi, Zemfira tied a Ukrainian flag to her microphone, while Makarevich has been attacked by Russian officials and had concerts canceled in Russia after he performed in Ukraine. The list also featured a few non-Russian names, including Hollywood actors Tim Roth, George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and European rock legends Martin Gore of Depeche Mode and Klaus Meine of the Scorpions. The "white list" comes on the heels of a black list of cultural figures — mainly Russian ones — for whom Kiev has banned entry to the country. Figures on that list include Russian crooner Iosif Kobzon, French actor Gerard Depardieu, U.S. director Oliver Stone and U.S. actor Steven Seagal.

    ^ It is great to see that so many celebrities - including many Russians - support international law and the Ukraine. ^

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015

    United Europe

    From Unian:
    "Another six states support sanctions against Russia"
    Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, as well as Ukraine support the extension of restrictive measures against Russia until January 31, 2016 in view of its actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, according to the EU website. “The Candidate Countries [to the EU] Montenegro and Albania, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this Declaration,” reads the statement by the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini. 
    According to the press release, The European Union takes note of the commitment of mentioned states and welcomes it.

    ^ It's good that more countries are stepping up to voice their concern and outrage at Russia invading, occupying and annexing the Crimea as well as giving soldiers and weapons to the ethnic Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine. ^


    Hunter Dentist

    From Yahoo:
    "Dentist Walter James Palmer sends patients apology letter after killing Zimbabwe lion Cecil"
    The Minnesota dentist who killed “Cecil the Lion” in Zimbabwe wrote a letter of apology to his patients Tuesday as a media firestorm continued to grow and his online business and social profiles were assailed with threats and hate messages. Walter James Palmer, who paid about $50,000 to hunt the lion, used bait to lure the 13-year-old black-maned big cat out of Hwange National Park in early July so he could shoot it with a bow and arrow, authorities said. In the letter to his patients at River Bluff Dental in Bloomington, Palmer again said he did not know Cecil was a well-known lion who had been collared for a study until he had finished the hunt. He made the same claim in a statement to the media eariler Tuesday. Palmer said he hired local professional guides, acquired all the necessary permits for a legal big-game hunting trip and promised to assist Zimbabwean or American authorities with any questions, should he be asked. River Bluff Dental’s official website and Facebook page have been taken down. The business’ phone line has also been disconnected. Thousands of outraged citizens have flooded the office’s Yelp page with angry messages shaming Palmer for killing Cecil. Charity Charamba, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwean police, told The Associated Press that the two Zimbabwean men who allegedly helped lure Cecil out of its protected area will appear in court. The police are searching for Palmer, she added. On Tuesday, a “We the People” petition was launched on the official White House website in hopes of extraditng Palmer to Zimbabwe so he can face justice. It already has more than 66,000 signatures. “Two of Palmer’s local accomplices are already in custody. Zimbabwe authorities now actively seeking Palmer in connection with this incident,” the petition reads in part. “We urge the Secretary Of State John Kerry and the Attorney General Loretta Lynch to fully cooperate with the Zimbabwe authorities and to extradite Walter Palmer promptly at the Zimbabwe government’s request.”

    ^ This dentist has done several things in the past that are illegal (one involving another endangered animal and one dealing with sexual harassment of a woman that was settled outside of court.) This guy clearly has lots of issues and whether you agree with hunting or not I think we can all agree Palmer is not the kind of person anyone would want around their teeth. I do hope he is sent to Zimbabwe to face criminal action. ^

    Future Disabled

    From Disability Scoop:
    "Parents Of Grown Children With Disabilities Worry About Future"
    The doctors told Elizabeth Criss that a child with her daughter’s disorder would only live until she was 8. She would suffer from seizures, the doctors said. She would likely be unable to communicate and would have problems with her vision. Almost all of that was true, except Emily Criss is now 29.
    “We never expected she would age out of the school system,” Elizabeth Criss said. “It feels good when the doctors are wrong.” Now Criss said she worries about her daughter’s future. What will happen if Emily outlives her parents? Who will bathe her, feed her, change her and understand that she likes to sit on the cool, green grass because it soothes her, or that small, colorful toys calm her? Thousands of families across California are grappling with the same questions as programs that serve those with developmental disabilities are increasingly strained. Their numbers are growing and they are living longer. But a decade-old funding freeze has closed group homes, halted work training programs and reduced staff at some agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable individuals. And those who train them to work in the community and live independently say they are under more pressure than ever to uphold the quality of services. Figures by the state Department of Developmental Services show that from 2004 to 2014, the number of California residents who used those services rose 37 percent. Emily Criss is among the approximately 280,000 Californians with special needs. She is among the 76 percent who live at home and are cared for by a parent. And she’s among the 17 percent who are 22 to 31 years old, one of the fastest growing age groups in the state. The increase in those who need services combined with the rate freeze could topple California’s system to care for those with disabilities, wrote the authors of a UCLA study published in 2011. “These factors threaten the financial solvency of service providers, potentially resulting in decreased access to high-quality care and increasing the cost of care for the state,” the authors wrote. California’s Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, passed in 1977, mandates that people with developmental disabilities and their families have a right to receive the services and support they need to live like those without disabilities. Under the act, California formed 21 nonprofit regional centers that coordinate services for people with developmental disabilities. Those regional centers distribute pay to the agencies. It makes California one of the best states to care for those with developmental disabilities, many agree, but the system isn’t perfect. “All those services came from the Lanterman Act, but the problem is they didn’t properly fund it,” said Kenneth Lane, executive director of The Adult Skills Center in Lake Balboa. The nonprofit organization supports, trains and instructs individuals with developmental disabilities across the San Fernando Valley to be as independent as possible. During the Great Recession, more than $1 billion in funds were cut from the Department of Developmental Services. That funding has not come back, advocates say. The current state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June calls for $5.9 billion in total funds or $3.5 billion in general funds for the California Department of Developmental Services, an increase of $400 million. But the rates paid out to regional centers will remain the same. The issue is expected to be discussed in the next several weeks during a special session Brown has called. The committee, made up of several lawmakers who have pledged some sort of funding solution, will examine how to raise more money and how to increase oversight of those funds. “The administration is mindful but is not committing higher ongoing levels of spending because we know that a downturn in the economy is coming. We just don’t know when,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state’s Department of Finance. In the years since the recession, Palmer said the revenue stream is still volatile and anything can happen, but that the Department of Developmental Services wasn’t singled out. There were deductions in Medi-Cal rates and within the Department of Rehabilitation, among others, he said. But advocates for people with developmental disabilities see it differently. They see a state flush with more money and say it’s time programs see at least a 10 percent increase in funding across the board. The lack of rate increases has created a groundswell of protest from various groups, including the Lanterman Coalition and the Association of Regional Center Agencies, who have launched social media blasts and letter writing campaigns. In addition, there is concern about the 1,000 or so people who live in state-run homes for those with developmental disabilities, including one in Pomona and another in Costa Mesa. An investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that those state-run homes have been directly responsible for 13 deaths of patients since 2002. Brown and activists agree it’s time to close those homes and allow those who live there a chance to live in the community. Closing the homes would save the state millions of dollars, but it’s unclear if those dollars would follow the clients or go toward rate increases. “Yes, we absolutely want to take people out of the developmental centers and fold them into the community programs, but again, where will we get that funding?” asked Cyndi McAuley, the executive director for the Therapeutic Learning Center for the Blind, a nonprofit in Reseda where Emily Criss attends a day program. The organization runs a residential and after-school program, as well as other programs in the community.
    “So many of my colleagues and I working in this field are wondering what will be the impact to the community if the rates continue to be frozen,” she said.

    ^ Being a caregiver is never easy especially when you have to worry about what is going to happen to your adult children if/when something happens to you. States have done a way with many programs and services to the elderly and the disabled - - the two groups that need the most help. We should do more to integrate the disabled and move them out of institutions and into more group homes as well as into their own homes where possible. ^

    Stepping On History

    From the DW:
    "Munich decides against commemorative cobblestones for Nazi victims"

    The Bavarian capital's council said it would instead honor the memory of the victims with commemorative plaques and small stone monuments in public places and on the walls of houses around the city. The Jewish community in Munich and several other victims' associations have long been against the cobblestones, called "Stolpersteine," or "stumbling blocks" in German, as they feel it is disrespectful to tread on people's names on public roads and pavements. Some also argue that it is legally unclear whether permission to place the stones has to be given by the victims' families. The decision also triggered plenty of reaction on Twitter, with many disappointed about the council's decision. This user says it's a "defeat for humanity."  The German sculptor Gunter Demnig is the brainchild behind the commemorative bricks that usually display the name of one victim of the Holocaust and a brief synopsis of his or her life. They are usually placed near the victim's former residence. His idea has been adopted across 500 towns and cities in Germany and several places elsewhere in Europe.
    ^ To me it doesn't make a difference if there are stolpersteines or other monuments and plaques. The main thing is that something is visible to remember each and every man, woman and child that was a victim of the Nazis. ^

    Monday, July 27, 2015

    $15 Wage

    I have seen this going around Facebook. It sounds like something that should be easy and a no-brainer, but it's not all black and white.


    From Google:

    European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

    ^ I can't see if there is a cookie statement on my blog as I am outside of the EU. If anyone inside the EU can let me know if the statement is there I would appreciate it. Thanks. ^

    Cheap Airports

    From Yahoo:
    "The cheapest US airports to fly in and out of" just released its 6th annual US Airport Affordability Index, which ranks 101 popular US airports by average airfare.  Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport in Ohio has the cheapest flights, with an average airfare of just $199. It jumped to first place from 77th last year. Atlanta International, in Georgia, is the second-cheapest airport to fly from, with an average airfare of $231, and Dallas, Texas, hopped up one spot to 3rd, with an average airfare of $251 — tied with LaGuardia, New York. In contrast, you might want to avoid flying into McGhee Tyson, Tennessee, which is at the bottom of the list with an average ticket costing $552. Pensacola Regional in Florida and Portland International Jetport in Maine are hot on its heels, with average airfares of $540 and $537 respectively. This shows us that location doesn't necessarily matter, as popular airports like LaGuardia beat less frequented ones like McGhee Tyson.

    Here are the top 10 cheapest airports in the country:

    Average Airfare
    Ranking  Last Year
    Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, OH (CVG)
    Atlanta International, GA (ATL)
    Dallas Love Field, TX (DAL)
    La Guardia, NY (LGA)
    Chicago-O'Hare International, IL (ORD)
    Philadelphia International, PA (PHL)
    Long Beach (Daugherty Field), CA (LGB)
    Cleveland-Hopkins International, OH (CLE)
    Orlando International, FL (MCO)
    Metropolitan Oakland International, CA (OAK)

    And here the 10 most expensive ones:

    Average Airfare
    Ranking  Last Year
    92Portland Intl Jetport, ME (PWM)
    93Pensacola Regional, FL (PNS)
    94McGhee Tyson, TN (TYS)
    95El Paso International, TX (ELP)
    96Anchorage International, AK (ANC)
    97James M. Cox Dayton International, OH (DAY)
    98Greenville-Spartanburg International, SC (GSP)
    99Northwest Arkansas Regional, AR (XNA)
    100Yeager, WV (CRW)
    101Honolulu International, HI (HNL)

    ^ This was an interesting read - -especially for anyone who travels a good amount. I have been to 4 of the 10 cheap airports and only 1 of the 10 expensive airports in the country. ^

    Teaching The Past

    From the Daily
    "Should Palestinians Visit Nazi Concentration Camps?"
    A Palestinian professor takes his students to visit Auschwitz to learn about the roots of their conflict with the Israelis. “We are breaking a big taboo. We are challenging the collective narrative of the Palestinians regarding the Holocaust.” Dr. Mohammed Dajani has become known worldwide as the Palestinian professor who led a group of students to visit the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. But he began life with a very different point of view. “We grew up in an environment that was totally anti-Jewish,” Dajani – a native of Jerusalem – explains. “People harbored a lot of anger towards the Jews for causing the Nakba (Catastrophe). They lost their property, they lost their home, they lost their identity. I grew up on the idea that the Holocaust was a conspiracy.” But something happened during Dajani's early adulthood that helped change his black-and-white view of Israelis. And recently, he organized a trip that caused a firestorm. The plan was to take thirty Palestinian students to visit Auschwitz. At the same time, thirty Israeli students planned to visit a Palestinian refugee camp, where they would hear from refugees of the Nakba. Dajani strongly believes that reconciliation between the two communities will never happen without each community understanding the historical, and current, trauma of the other.  “Palestinians should not compare the Nakba with the Holocaust,” he says. “While the Holocaust was the Final Solution for the Jewish people, the Nakba was not the Final Solution for the Palestinian people. It wouldn't have been possible for Jews to sit with Nazis and reach an agreement. Within the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is possible for Palestinians and Israelis to reach a comprehensive, just settlement that will accommodate both peoples. That's why I think that teaching about the Holocaust is important. For Palestinians to realize that there is hope, and that in negotiation the path to peace lies.” At the same time, he is deeply uncomfortable with Jews using the Holocaust “to rationalize, for us [Palestinians], why they had to deport us from our homes in order for them to come and live in them. It doesn't mean,” he insists, “that if we learn about the Holocaust we will not demand our rights, or [will] lose our national identity.” But this nuanced message was lost on those who stirred up controversy following the trip. Students at Al Quds University – where Dajani was the head of the American Studies Department and library director – boycotted him, claiming that he was “trying to sell Palestinians the Zionist story,” or was “collaborating with the Israelis to undermine Palestinian nationalism.” Dajani knew to take things seriously when he started receiving threatening letters at his office. His students also faced negative responses to the trip, as well. However, “many of them were courageous,” Dajani says proudly, “to stand up and say, 'We went to learn, and we learned a lot.'” See why Dajani persists with his work, how one student was affected by the trip and, most surprising, who else wants to go:
    ^ This is a really good article to show what both sides can learn from each other. ^

    Sunday, July 26, 2015

    ADA @ 25!

    The Americans With Disabilities Act was signed today (July 22nd) in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. It was the first major legislation in the United States that legally protected men and women with disabilities from discrimination. We  have come a long way in the past 25 years since the ADA was passed, but there is still a lot that needs to be done on this country and around the world to make sure that people with disabilities receive the same opportunities and chances that everyone else does.

    POW Dog

    From Gov.UK:
    "Judy: The Dog who became a prisoner of war"
    She saved countless lives, survived sinking ships and spent several years in internment camps – so it’s little wonder Judy the dog became one of the most famous and unlikely heroes of the Second World War. The pure-bred liver and white-coloured pointer stole the hearts of the nation in 1945 when news of her exploits and time served as an official Prisoner of War were revealed to the public. She returned to Britain, along with thousands of Allied troops, following Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), which is being remembered this year on 15 August for the 70th anniversary. Judy was the ship’s mascot on board the gunboat HMS Gnat in 1936, part of the defence fleet in the Far East. Animals would often be adopted by warships as mascots to help with security, pest control and companionship for those on board. Initial attempts to train Judy as a gundog for shooting parties ashore were a failure and she would often end up falling overboard, forcing the ship to come to a stop to retrieve her. But before long Judy proved her worth to the ship’s company. She alerted the sailors to the presence of river pirates, who would have done them harm in the darkness, and could point out the approach of hostile Japanese aircraft using her superior sense of hearing. Years later, Judy transferred to the gunboat HMS Grasshopper, which in 1942 was attacked by Japanese aircraft forcing all those on board to abandon ship and head to the nearest land – an island in the South China Sea. With no fresh water supply to be found, the situation looked grim for the survivors of HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly, another British ship whose sailors ended up stranded on the island. But once again, Judy’s instincts saved the lives of her compatriots. Leonard Walter Williams, a British seaman who served on board HMS Grasshopper, recalled his memories of Judy in an interview for the Imperial War Museum.
    He said:
    We landed on the island and naturally water was short. Judy was lost one day and we couldn’t find her so we went to search for her and she had found a patch where she dug a big hole and she had found fresh water for the survivors of the Dragonfly and Grasshopper.
    Judy was a saviour then. She was a marvellous life-saver.
    Judy and the men trekked for hundreds of miles in a bid to reach safety at Padang in Sumatra, but missed the last evacuation ship as the Japanese were due to invade the city at any moment. At the arrival of the enemy forces, the survivors of the bombing of the Grasshopper were taken into custody as Prisoners of War – along with Judy – and taken to a camp in Medan, in North Sumatra.  It was at this camp in Medan in August 1942 that Judy bonded with Leading Aircraftman Frank Williams, from Portsmouth. The young British sailor shared his meagre rice ration with Judy and from that moment she never left his side. Judy protected Frank and the other Prisoners of War by distracting the camp guards when they were dealing out punishment to their captives. Later, the Prisoners of War were told they would be heading to Singapore on board the SS Van Warwyck – but the Japanese would not allow Judy to board the boat with them and ordered she be left behind.
    Leonard Williams, of no relation to Frank, recalled:
    We weren’t going to have that happen. Judy had been with us all that time.
    So we had a sack and we would train her to hop in the sack at a given signal and then we would put her on our shoulders. Judy was put in the sack and we carried her on board.
    The next day, on 26 June 1944, the SS Van Warwyck was torpedoed by a British submarine, unaware the vessel was being used to transport Allied prisoners of war. Of the estimated 700 prisoners on board, 500 were killed – but amid the fires and wreckage, Judy emerged unscathed.
    Mr Williams added:
    When we were torpedoed we heeled over and luckily Judy was by a port hole.
    We opened the port hole and Judy was pushed through and she ran down the ship’s side.
    Quite a few of us were lucky to get out at that particular time. A lot of people owe their lives to Judy. She was pushing pieces of wood towards people who couldn’t swim.
    Eventually the survivors swam towards a Japanese tanker and climbed up the nets on its side. Judy too was hauled aboard, but the Japanese guards were not happy to see the dog, who they knew should never have been on board the ship. They declared they would have her killed as soon as they reached land.  However, as the execution was due to take place, the former commander of the prisoner of war camp they have travelled from in Medan intervened. He had taken a liking to Judy and to ensure her safety, ordered she be listed as an official Prisoner of War – making her protected from execution and eligible for rations. Judy was reunited with Frank and remained with him throughout the war, surviving several camp moves as well as gunshot wounds, alligator bites and attacks from wild dogs before the Japanese surrender in August 1945.  Once back home in Britain, Judy was met with national adoration. She was presented with the PDSA Dickin Medal – known as the animals’ Victoria Cross – which is the highest honour an animal can receive. It recognises the bravery and devotion shown by animals serving in time of military conflict. She received a citation that would make any human soldier, sailor or airman proud. It read: “For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped maintain morale among fellow prisoners and also saving many lives through intelligence and watchfulness.” Judy remained with Frank and died on 17 February 1960. She was buried in Tanzania, where Frank was working at the time. As a last tribute to his companion, Frank built a monument at the grave and attached a large metal plaque, which records the history of Judy’s life and all her daring feats.
    Other notable Dickin Medal recipients
    Since the first Dickin Medal in 1943 the PDSA has conferred the award on almost 100 animals including dogs, pigeons, horses and a cat.
    • Bing – an Alsatian patrol dog with the 13th Parachute Battalion in the Second World War. In addition to patrol duties, Bing was a ‘fully-qualified Paratrooper’ and joined the battalion when they jumped over Normandy on D Day, 6 June 1944.
    • Billy – a pigeon which delivered a message from a force-landed bomber, while in ‘a state of complete collapse’ and under bad weather conditions while serving with the Royal Air Force. Billy was given the Dickin Medal in August 1945.
    • Simon – the ship’s cat of HMS Amethyst during the Yangtze Incident. Simon disposed of many rats despite being wounded by shrapnel in a blast on board. Simon was awarded the Dickin Medal posthumously in 1949.
    • Treo – a Labrador with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Treo located an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to trigger a series of bombs by a roadside soldiers were about to pass. Treo is credited with saving many lives of soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment and was awarded the Dickin Medal on 24 February 2010.
    During the Second World War, dogs were recruited by the Armed Forces to serve on patrol and as guards. Ships would also often have animals on board as their mascots. The Second World War also saw the first use of mine detection dogs in the British Army. In total, the Army and Ministry of Aircraft Production employed around 3,500 dogs for guard, patrol and mine detection duties.  Military working dogs continue to serve a role today, ranging from the detection of explosives, weapons and drugs to the defence of military personnel and property. There is a memorial in Hyde Park, London, to animals involved in conflict called the Animals in War Memorial. It was unveiled in November 2004 by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.
    ^ It's important to realize and recognize all the animals (dogs, cats, horses, camels, etc) that helped our fighting men and women during war. ^

    US Training Kyiv

    From Yahoo:
    "U.S. troops to train regular Ukrainian military troops: State Department"
     U.S. troops will begin training regular Ukrainian military forces later this year in an expansion of their current mission, which so far has been limited to instructing Interior Ministry national guard units, the State Department said on Friday. "This training is part of our long-running defense cooperation with Ukraine and is taking place at the invitation of the Ukraine government. This additional program brings our total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to over $244 million," State Department Mark Toner said. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, head of U.S. Army forces in Europe, said earlier this month that U.S. officials were discussing expanding the military training to include regular Ukrainian troops under the Defense Ministry. The training is part of U.S. efforts to strengthen Ukraine's security following Russia's seizure of the Crimea last year and the spread of separatist unrest in eastern, Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.  Hodges said officials were looking at training army and special operations troops, likely focusing on skills like tactics and combat medicine. He said the expanded training mission did not mean the administration would be providing Ukraine with lethal arms. The United States has provided Ukrainian forces with non-lethal aid to help them battle Russian-backed rebels, but the administration has resisted providing lethal arms in hopes of preventing an escalation of the conflict. Some U.S. officials have called for giving Ukraine more sophisticated counter-battery radar to help them fight back against artillery and mortar fire from the rebels. Toner said he had nothing to announce on any new weapons for Ukraine and that the focus was on providing non-lethal aid. He said the training would begin in western Ukraine near the Polish border later this autumn. The Pentagon said the training offered to regular Ukrainian military troops would be similar to that given to the national guard forces. U.S. forces in Europe have been training the Ukrainian guard since this spring, focusing on strengthening internal defense capabilities.

    ^ It's about time the US did more to help the Ukraine. It is over a year since Russia invaded, occupied and annexed the Crimea and about the same amount of time that Russia started giving Russian troops and weapons to the ethnic Russian terrorists fighting in eastern Ukraine. The US, Canada, the EU and several other countries responded by putting sanctions on Russia and while they have had some effect they are only a small part in making sure Russia doesn't try to expand itself militarily into more of eastern Europe. Most of the EU (ie Germany, France, etc) doesn't seem to take the threat from Russia as seriously as places like the Baltics or Poland and so the US has to come in - through NATO - and do what the other countries refuse to do. It seems that nothing can get done around the world unless the US is there in some shape (ie protecting eastern Europe NATO countries from Russia, helping the Ukraine against Russia, fighting Islamist terrorists in eastern and northern Africa or fighting IS in the Middle East. Europeans and others around the world have come to rely too heavily on the US to protect them when they should be doing more to protect themselves. At least the Ukrainians want to do more to protect their citizens and their territory. They just need some help and training. The rest of the world should look at what the Ukrainians have suffered under the Russians and the ethnic Russian terrorists for over a year. They have achieved a great deal with very limited aid or support. I do not believe the majority of the citizens or governments of Europe or the EU would be able to survive the same kind of war - especially on two fronts since most of their people have been "babyed" for decades. ^

    Lufthansa Charges

    From the DW:
    "Report: Lufthansa planning 'budget' pricing system"

    Lufthansa is planning a new pricing system to meet challenges from low-budget competitors, a German paper has reported. Meager earnings have spurred the shakeup at Germany's classic airline.  Lufthansa's ticket chief Jens Bischof was quoted in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper saying that passengers would only pay for what they used, unlike the all-round service that the airline has offered since the 1950s. Economy-class flights would be offered in three categories from October 1: Flex, Classic and Light, which would comprise just a seat and hand luggage. The various options, spurred by low-cost rivals, would apply initially to Lufthansa's domestic and medium-haul flights. "A third of all passengers in Europe and Germany travel only with hand-luggage," Bischof said. "Why should these customers still pay a standard tariff?" "In our new concept the customer will only pay for the service ordered," he added. But basics such as free snacks and flight miles will be retained, as will Business Class. The new system would also apply to Lufthansa's foreign subsidiaries Austrian and Swiss. It remains unclear whether long-haul flights to Asia and America will also offer the new system. Luggage charges would start at 15 euros, if the passenger handed it over at check-in, or at triple that price if found to be excessive just before boarding. The Süddeutsche said Lufthansa would formally present its model on Monday, after planning the changes over the past year-and-a-half. Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr, who became a central figure after the crash of a flight of another subsidiary, Germanwings, in southern France in March, had previously pushed for efficiencies to head off airlines such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Middle East competitors. The shakeup follows Lufthansa's meager earnings in 2014 and a tentative deal to avoid further strikes, reached last Friday with the pilot's trade union Cockpit. Both sides are to conduct a joint market analysis to develop a new salary system. The union wants guarantees that all Lufthansa pilots will no longer be allocated to the low cost subsidiary Eurowings in a salaries' packet said to be worth 400 million euros ($439 million). n exchange, Lufthansa wants to lift the pilots' normal retirement age, currently at 55. Currently, a company pension tides them over until they reach Germany's statutory retirement age between 65 and 67. The Süddeutsche said the ticket pricing plan marked an about-turn for Lufthansa, which in Germany remains market leader ahead of Air Berlin, which has the backing of Arab Gulf investors. Lufthansa pricing executive Jörg Hennemann told the paper that the proposed ticket pricing system was aimed at ensuring that aircraft seating was consistently "used to capacity." On average in 2014, Lufthansa flights recorded nearly 80 percent capacity. Worldwide, Lufthansa has 119,000 employees. Last year the airline had a turnover of 30 billion euros but earned a profit of only 55 million euros.

    ^ It seems Lufthansa and many European airlines are behind the times in more than just on-board security. US and Canadian airlines have been doing these kind of pricing for years now. I don't think airlines charging for everything from baggage to headphones to food is the right step it is the current trend and I don't see it ending anytime soon. The main reason Lufthansa isn't making enough money is because their pilots either go on strike or crash into mountains. Maybe Lufthansa should focus on their own employees as a way to cut costs and make a profit before they alienate even more people from flying them. ^

    Committed President

    From the Stars and Stripes:
    "Obama commits US to intensified fight against terrorists in East Africa"
    President Obama on Saturday committed the United States to an intensified fight against terrorists in East Africa, announcing here that his administration would expand support for counterterrorism operations in Kenya and Somalia, including increased training and funding for Kenya’s security forces. “We have to keep that pressure going even as we’re strengthening the Somali government,” he said at a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Obama acknowledged that al-Shabab terrorists retain the capacity to attack “soft targets” in both countries, even after years of American drone strikes and efforts from a regional, U.S.-backed counterterrorism force based in Somalia. But he said al-Shabab’s territory had been “systematically reduced.” Obama came to office vowing to move the United States off a perpetual war footing and promising to wage a smarter, swifter war on international terrorism. But his East African sojourn this week serves as a stark reminder that seven years into his presidency the long, difficult fight against terrorism remains a central and vexing component of his foreign policy. Security will also be similarly dominant during the president’s time in Ethiopia, a nation that has worked to keep the instability in Somalia from spilling across its borders and that has dispatched peacekeeping forces to South Sudan and elsewhere.
    “Counterterrorism will certainly be a focus” national security adviser Susan E. Rice told reporters before Obama left for the trip. While al-Qaeda affiliates are the primary concern in East Africa, Rice said, “in West and North Africa, obviously we have seen [the Islamic State] become an increasing presence, particularly in the Maghreb, but also in Nigeria.” Kenneth Menkhaus, a political science professor at Davidson College, said it is hard to be hopeful that closer cooperation between countries could resolve the region’s problems anytime in the near future. “The Horn of Africa presents extraordinarily complex political and security dilemmas, for which there’s no obvious answer,” Menkhaus said in an interview. “The question really is which is the least bad choice, and how can you kick open doors which, down the road, could present opportunities for conflict resolution.” Obama’s decision to visit the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — the first sitting U.S. president to do so — is part of his push to build capacity among African nations to address the problems of their region. Ethiopia and Kenya — both of which border Somalia and South Sudan, countries that remain riven by deep conflict — have contributed troops to multiple regional peacekeeping operations. Both are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the U.N.-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). In 2015, Kenya received $100 million in U.S. counterterrorism assistance — more than doubling the amount allocated the previous year. As a result of this weekend’s talks, the Massachusetts National Guard and the Kenyan government will sign a partnership agreement, a senior administration official said, and the administration has pledged to work with Congress to provide additional counterterrorism aid to Kenya.
     ^ How does Obama and Congress expect the US Military to meet these new commitments  - or even their current ones  - - when they continue to reduce the budget and manpower of the US Military? Our soldiers are already stretched thinly around the world (Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Djibouti, countless more countries around the world - not to mention those within the US.) Anyone with even basic math skills knows you can't downgrade your troop size and their budget and still expect them to take on more and more commitments. It's not feasible. I know Islamist terrorists have been attacking most of eastern and northern Africa for many years now and that needs to stop, but the African countries themselves need to do more. Right now they aren't very effective. Also, the other NATO countries need to step-up and do more to protect Europe rather than make the US move it's forces to eastern Europe as a show of strength against Russia in the Ukraine. And the whole world needs to do more to stop IS in the Middle East. ^

    Anthem's Merger

    From Yahoo:
    "6 Ways the Big Health Insurance Mergers Will Affect Your Coverage"
    Health insurance company Anthem announced Friday that it will buy rival insurer Cigna for $48.3 billion. The deal comes just weeks after fellow health insurance providers Aetna and Humana announced their merger, concentrating health insurance providers in the U.S. to just three big companies. (UnitedHealth Group is the third.) The latest deal will impact more than 53 million people, representing about 17 percent of the U.S. population, The New York Times reports“We believe that this transaction will allow us to enhance our competitive position and be better positioned to apply the insights and access of a broad network and dedicated local presence to the health care challenges of the increasingly diverse markets, membership, and communities we serve,” Joseph R. Swedish, the CEO of Anthem, said in a news release on Friday.
    1. There will be fewer options for insurance 
    While these mergers might reduce costs for companies that provide insurance, what do they mean for people who are insured? Some markets will now have less competition — won’t that allow costs to go up? Antitrust regulators have said they plan to investigate these mergers, as options for consumers are dwindling. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis found that the Aetna-Humana merger will greatly increase the number of U.S. counties where at least 75 percent of Medicare Advantage (Medicare offered by a private insurance company) customers will only have one option for insurance. The mergers will also remove competitors from the exchanges where people can buy insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act in several states, the WSJ reports.
    2. Plan quality and customer service could take a hit
    However, Swedish said in his news release that the Athem-Cigna merger will provide an “acceleration of innovative and affordable health and protection benefits solutions” to customers. But … will it really? It’s doubtful, says health care expert Sarah O’Leary, founder of Exhale Healthcare Advocates, a national consumer health care advocacy. “When consumers have less choice and the insurers’ realize it, the cost of consumers’ coverage could rise,” she tells Yahoo Health. “Plan quality, as well as customer service, may be affected.”
    3. Cost increases for the uninsured 
    While health care expert and consultant Howard Peterson, a managing partner of TRG Healthcare, tells Yahoo Health that he doesn’t expect health care costs to go up for most of us who are already insured, he says they likely will for people who are still uninsured. Here’s why: Health insurance providers want to lower the costs of their coverage and essentially pay less to health care providers like hospitals and doctors. Those hospitals and doctors may in turn raise their rates for those who are actually paying out of pocket. “Generally, to the extent that you can get price payers to pay prices, you do,” Peterson says.
    4. Out-of-pocket payments could increase 
    People who are insured may feel the impact of this as well, health care expert Caitlin Donovan, spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, tells Yahoo Health.  Think of it this way: If you have to visit the emergency room and your health insurance covers only a certain percentage of ER visits, you could end up paying more out of pocket if your hospital charges a higher overall rate.
    5. Prescription costs may rise
    The cost of your prescription drugs — as well as your affordable access to certain brand-name drugs — could be impacted as well. “Insurers can place drugs on a ‘specialty tier’ that requires patients to pay a percentage of the cost of the drug rather than a simple copay,” explains Donovan. As a result, the cost of those drugs could be thousands per month or even per pill, and there’s really not much you can do about it.  Less competition means insurers have more power to add these barriers in their plans, Donovan says.
    6. More doctors to choose from
    But there might be an upside to these mergers. The new insurance companies have talked about the ability to provide a larger network, and Donovan says that may end up being true: “We can be hopeful that if you’re currently in a narrow network, you’ll have more access to providers in the future.” Your health insurance premium (i.e., what you pay every month to get health care coverage) shouldn’t go up, either. “We’re not worried about premiums increasing as much as out-of-pocket costs and changing networks,” says Donovan. But while experts have a good idea about what may happen, they all say it’s hard to tell exactly what the fallout of these mergers will be. Of course, we have a little time to wait and watch. “They’re big companies — it’s going to take a while,” says Peterson. “A lot will happen over the next two or three years.”
    ^ Oh great - just what the healthcare system in the US needs - - higher costs for the patients. ^

    Obama's Call

    From USA Today:
    "Obama calls for African nations to treat gays equally"
    President Obama called on African nations Saturday to confer equal rights to gays and lesbians, kicking off his first full day in the nation by undertaking a topic that remains highly sensitive on the continent. Kenyan President Kenyatta dismissed the importance of gay rights, calling it a "non-issue" in the nation. Speaking at a joint news conference after bilateral talks between the two leaders, Obama said he is "unequivocal" on the question of treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. "The idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong," Obama said. Obama drew a parallel to the treatment of blacks in the United States during the period of segregation and Jim Crow laws, saying he is "painfully aware of the history when people are treated differently under the law." "That's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen," Obama said. "When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread." Kenyatta was dismissive of the topic of gay rights, saying, "This issue is not on the foremost mind of Kenya — and that is a fact." For weeks, Kenyan leaders and locals have threatened to demonstrate and disrupt the president's first official trip to Kenya if he brings up gay marriage, legalized in the U.S. by a Supreme Court ruling in June. "We want to warn Obama to steer clear of any comments on same-sex marriages during his visit," Bishop Mark Kariuki said in Nairobi ahead of the speeches. "Any attempts will lead to a call for mass demonstrations across the country and disrupt his meeting." In the majority of Africa's 54 states, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have to hide their sexual orientation for fear of persecution or criminal prosecution. In Kenya, homosexuality is illegal and gay marriage unconstitutional South Africa is the only African country that permits gay marriage.
    ^ There  seems to be two sides to Obama. He stayed almost silent within the US (he didn't make these kinds of speeches to the states that didn't allow gay marriage before the Supreme Court forced them) but in Africa he makes it a big deal. Of course I think gay marriage is part of giving homosexuals equality and it should be legal around the world. I would have liked Obama to start in his own country (or perhaps he did - - wink, wink.)  ^

    Health Mistakes

    From Yahoo:
    "State health insurance markets struggle with cost challenges"
    State-run health insurance markets that offer coverage under President Barack Obama's health law are struggling with high costs and disappointing enrollment. These challenges could lead more of them to turn over operations to the federal government or join forces with other states. Hawaii's marketplace, the latest cautionary tale, was awarded $205 million in federal startup grants. It has spent about $139 million and enrolled 8,200 customers for individual coverage in 2015. Unable to sustain itself, the state marketplace is turning over sign-ups to the federal for 2016. Twelve states and the District of Columbia fully control their markets. Experts estimate about half face financial difficulties. Federal taxpayers invested nearly $5 billion in startup grants to the states, expecting that state markets would become self-sustaining. Most of the federal money has been spent, and states have to face the consequences. "The viability of state health insurance exchanges has been a challenge across the country, particularly in small states, due to insufficient numbers of uninsured residents," said a statement from the office of Hawaii Democratic Gov. David Ige, announcing last month that his state's sign-ups were being turned over to the federal government. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled the Obama administration can keep subsidizing premiums in all 50 states through, no longer is there a downside for states turning to Washington. If the decision had gone the opposite way, state exchanges would have been a leaky lifeboat for preserving a major expansion of taxpayer-subsidized coverage under the law. With the pressure gone, "I think you are going to see much more of a hybrid across the nation," said Peter Lee, who heads California's state-run marketplace. Covered California fell short of its sign-up projections this year by nearly 20 percent, but Lee says it remains "a solid business proposition."  States are "talking a lot about shared services," Lee said. "It's how you get economies of scale." States could pool resources on functions such as labor-intensive call centers or use's technology for online enrollment. They generally want to keep control over marketing, consumer education and oversight of insurance plans.
    —The U.S. attorney in Boston has subpoenaed records dealing with the troubled rollout of the Massachusetts Health Connector, dating to 2010.
    —Colorado officials are considering big changes to the state's marketplace, from pooling call centers with other states to dismantling the exchange and relying on instead. Although the market is on solid financial footing, it has fallen short of best-case enrollment goals.
    —A federal audit concluded that Maryland used exchange establishment grants from Washington to pay for $28.4 million in costs that should have been allocated to the state's Medicaid program. State officials dispute that, but federal officials say Maryland should pay the money back. Separately, the original lead contractor for the state website has agreed to repay $45 million to avoid legal action over rollout problems last year.
    —In Vermont, a debate has been raging about whether to abandon the state exchange. Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin originally wanted a single state-run system for all residents, along the lines of Canada. Shumlin backed off because it would have meant prohibitively high taxes. He wants to fix the state exchange, still grappling with technology problems that plagued it from launch.

    ^ No one saw this coming. Oh wait - - I did! If Obama wants this as his legacy than the states should let him (ie the Federal Government) deal with it. That way when the health care system and health insurance system continues to fail - and it will - blame will be solely placed on where it is deserved.  Instead of fixing the crumbling healthcare system first Obama simply added millions upon millions of new people into the failing system. If it couldn't support the people it already had in it what makes anyone think that it would magically fix itself after adding the whole country to it? ^