Monday, January 16, 2017

Lithuania Fence

From the BBC:
"Lithuania plans fence on Russian Kaliningrad border"

Lithuania has announced plans to build a fence to boost security on its border with Russia's Kaliningrad enclave. The move comes amid heightened tensions in the Baltic region, where Nato is deploying extra troops and Russia has installed nuclear-capable missiles. The fence will cover about 135km (84 miles) of border, from Vistytis to the Neman River, which runs to the Baltic Sea. No barrier exists there currently. Lithuania says it aims to prevent any Russian "provocations" and smuggling. Lithuanian Interior Minister Eimutis Misiunas said one such provocation was the incident on Estonia's border in 2014, when an Estonian security official was detained by Russia. In August 2015 Russia jailed Eston Kohver on spying charges. But he was freed the following month in a "spy swap" with Russia.  Like its Baltic neighbours, Lithuania was alarmed by Russia's March 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.  Russian help for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine further fuelled their concern about "hybrid" warfare - that is, acts of aggression like infiltration of special forces and cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. Soldiers in unmarked uniforms took over Crimea and were nicknamed "little green men". Only a year later did Russian President Vladimir Putin admit that Russian forces had been involved.   Nato has begun deploying a US-led army battalion to Poland and three more will go to the three Baltic states, reaching a total of about 4,000 troops. Russia has condemned the move.  Mr Misiunas told the AFP news agency that the 2m-high (6.5ft) fence would cost about €30m (£26m; $32m), with most funding coming from Lithuania's EU partners.   Kaliningrad's acting governor, Anton Alikhanov, said Russia approved of anti-smuggling measures, but he played down the significance of the fence. Quoted by Russian news, he joked that Kaliningrad could send some bricks to help Lithuania.  Lithuanian politician Rasa Jukneviciene said "this fence will not stop tanks or other military equipment" but it would help to "reduce the potential threat posed by Russia". Latvia and Estonia - Nato members like Lithuania - also plan to erect fences along their borders with Russia.   In 2015 Poland announced that it would build watch towers along its border with Kaliningrad.  Linas Kojala, director of the Eastern Europe Studies Centre in Lithuania, said smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol into the EU from Kaliningrad was a problem.  But the main motivation for the fence is fear of "little green men" infiltrating, he told the BBC. Russians can cross Lithuania's border easily at the moment, though it is illegal to enter without a visa, he said. "There is a lot of talk in Lithuania now about hybrid scenarios, like what happened in Ukraine," he said. In 2015 Lithuania reinstated conscription, which provides about 3,000 extra personnel for the armed forces annually, he said. The total number of service personnel is about 20,000.

^ It seems more an more countries are building walls and fences on their borders in the past few years. Not sure why so many people are complaining about building a fence/wall on the US border with Mexico. It is exactly what many other countries (like Lithuania) are doing. I see no issue with protecting your borders to make sure terrorists, smugglers and illegal immigrants don't enter. ^

Free Weekend

"Would you like to go to a free trip this weekend? "

                   - "How much is this free trip?"

"It's free."
                    - "And when is this weekend?"

"This weekend."  

From: "The Simpsons"

^ I know so many people who are like this. ^

Frank Link

From the BBC:
"'Anne Frank link' unearthed at Sobibor camp"

Researchers excavating the site of the Nazi death camp at Sobibor have discovered a pendant nearly identical to one owned by Anne Frank. Experts from Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial team believe the pendant belonged to Karoline Cohn, who may have known the famous diarist. Like Frank, Cohn was born in Frankfurt in 1929. Yad Vashem traced her via a date of birth engraved on the pendant. Historians say they have found evidence of only two pendants of the kind. The small triangular pendant is engraved on one side with the words "Mazal Tov" (congratulations) in Hebrew, alongside Cohn's date of birth and the name of her home city - Frankfurt. On the reverse is the Hebrew letter "Hay", often used to represent a name of God, surrounded by three Stars of David. Researchers are now trying to discover from any remaining relatives whether the two girls could have been related.  Yad Vashem is working alongside the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to excavate parts of the former death camp at Sobibor. The pendant was found at what is believed to be the location where victims undressed and had their heads shaved before being sent into the gas chambers.
Yad Vashem said the items recovered, which also included a Star of David necklace and a woman's watch, probably fell through the floorboards and remained buried.  Cohn was born in Frankfurt on 3 July 1929. She was deported from the city on 11 November 1941 to the Minsk ghetto.  The ghetto was liquidated in September 1943 and Cohn may have been among some 2,000 of its residents sent to Sobibor, where the pendant lay concealed for more than 70 years. Records show that Frank owned a nearly identical pendant, differing only in the date of birth engraved on one side.  Yoram Haimi, an archaeologist with the IAA who led the excavation at Sobibor, said: "This pendant demonstrates once again the importance of archaeological research of former Nazi death camp sites.  "The moving story of Karoline Cohn is symbolic of the shared fate of the Jews murdered in the camp. It is important to tell the story, so that we never forget."  More than 250,000 Jews are believed to have been killed at Sobibor, in Nazi-controlled eastern Poland. Unlike some facilities which also functioned as labour camps, Sobibor was among the Nazi camps built solely to exterminate Jews. The Nazis destroyed the camp following an uprising in 1943 and planted it over in an attempt to cover up their crimes. Archaeologists have since discovered the foundations of gas chambers and a train platform. Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen camp, in northern Germany, in 1945.

^ This is interesting. Even if there is no connection to Anne Frank every piece of personal clothing or artifact that is found and identified at a death camp like Sobibor is another win against the Nazis. The Germans tried to destroyed all evidence of their crimes at Sobibor because they knew what they were doing was a horrible crime. I have seen many personal artifacts found in ghettos, mass graves, concentration and death camps and to be able to put a name and maybe even a story behind the item is something amazing. ^

Occupy Democrats

"Occupy Democrats? What do they occupy? They don't occupy the House as a majority, they don't occupy the Senate as a majority, they don't occupy 33 states as Governors and in a few days they won't occupy the White House. The Russians couldn't have hacked every level of the elections (Federal, State, Local) so I guess there's a clear majority around the country for change. Guess the Democrats should have occupied themselves and paid some attention to the needs of the majority of Americans over the past several years rather than a handful then they wouldn't be on the outs in nearly every single level of government we have although they do seem to occupy Hollywood and the media."

^ I found this quote. Not sure who first wrote it as it has been passed and shared several times, but it is well written. ^

Bigot Holiday

From Yahoo:
"Arkansas tries to strip Gen. Lee from Martin Luther King Day"

Every third Monday in January, Arkansas state offices are closed in observance of an unlikely holiday: the shared birthdays of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Only three states commemorate both men on the same day, a practice that critics say hurts Arkansas' reputation. Now the Republican governor is reviving an effort to remove Lee from the holiday, but he faces resistance from opponents who complain the move belittles the state's Confederate heritage and from black lawmakers worried about a plan to set aside another day to honor Lee. "I think this provides our state an opportunity to bridge divides," said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has vowed since early last year to make the change, which is part of his agenda for the legislative session that began last week. Arkansas has had a holiday in honor of Lee since 1947 and one for King since 1983. That year, agencies required state employees to choose which two holidays they wanted off: King's birthday on Jan. 15, Lee's birthday on Jan. 19 or the employee's birthday. In 1985, the Legislature voted to combine holidays. Alabama and Mississippi also honor the men on the same day. Hutchinson's idea is not new. Two years ago, a similar proposal repeatedly failed before a House committee. The renewed debate comes amid a nationwide re-evaluation of monuments and symbols linked to the Civil War, the Confederacy and slavery. After the 2015 fatal shooting of nine black church members by a white gunman who had posed with the Confederate flag in photos, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag's removal from the Statehouse. In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley took down four Confederate flags on the Capitol grounds. Arkansas Democrats last year announced they would remove Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson's names from the party's annual fundraising dinner, joining a growing number of states distancing themselves from the slave-owning presidents. As with the flag debate in other states, the King Day proposal has drawn the ire of groups that say removing Lee from the holiday is an affront to people whose ancestors served the Confederacy. In 2015, opponents regularly filled a House committee room to speak out against the idea. "It's like telling our Hispanic neighbors that we're not going to do Cinco de Mayo. It's like telling the Irish we're not going to celebrate St. Patrick's Day," said Robert Edwards, commander of the Arkansas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "I think it's just a racist bill." The idea also raised complaints from lawmakers who question why any change is needed. "We're looking for a solution to a problem we don't have," Republican Rep. Josh Miller said. "I haven't noticed any humongous Robert E. Lee parades that are taking place in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day." Supporters of ending the dual holiday include the city of Little Rock and Pulaski County, which passed resolutions last year endorsing the move. Proponents previously argued that the current holiday hurts the state's efforts to attract businesses, an argument Hutchinson has not adopted. The 2015 bill was fueled in part by photos widely circulated on social media of a sign noting the shared King and Lee holiday. "I think if Rorabert E. Lee were here today, he would say, 'Move my birthday and Dr. King deserves recognition,'" Hutchinson said. The governor faces resistance from past supporters by simultaneously calling for a day in October to remember Lee, although it would not be an official state holiday. Democratic Rep. Fred Love, who sponsored one of the two previous bills, said he's unlikely to support Hutchinson's proposal if it includes a day for Lee.
The former chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus said a Lee Day would also give her pause. She suggested Hutchinson pursue that in a bill separate from the proposal giving King the holiday to himself. "I don't think my constituents would understand having a day that celebrates the head of the Confederate army that enslaved black folks," Democratic Sen. Linda Chesterfield said. "But I think they truly will understand that it's important for Dr. King's day to be a stand-alone day."

^ This is a big disgrace. Didn't the South get the memo? They lost the Civil War (1860s) and the Civil Rights Battle (1960s) and should not be allowed to glorify their racist past. I lived in Virginia and there are racist examples everywhere. It is disgusting. It's on thing to have a battlefield memorial (even for the Confederacy) and another to name a holiday, a school, a road, etc. after any of them. Why stop there? Why not also have MLK/Robert Lee/Jim Crow Day? People who think that the Civil War wasn't able slavery and the right of the South to abuse and torture people are wrong. It wasn't the only reason for the war, but it was a big part of it. For those that say they are only remembering their past and they don't reflect current times. The same symbols and names used by the South in the 1860s were used in opposition of Civil Rights in the South in the 1950s-60s so even the Southerners believed/believe that the symbols and names still hold meaning and that meaning stands for racism and keeping a group of people down. We would never stand for the Germans glorifying their Nazi past and we should not stand for the South glorifying the Confederacy, Jim Crow or anything related to it. ^

MLK day

Sunday, January 15, 2017


From the DW:
"Luxembourg broaches dropping French and German as official languages"

On Monday, Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies will discuss a popular online petition that seeks to make Luxembourgish the country's only official language. Is the movement's success a sign of insecurity or populist revolt? Once a tiny duchy, Luxembourg has grown to boast the world's second-highest gross domestic product per capita. It is home to a number of EU institutions and has courted major international financial firms and technology companies to get them to base their European headquarters there. As a result, Luxembourg has drawn people from the world over. Around half of the country's 550,000 inhabitants are foreign nationals, while some 350,000 more workers commute into Luxembourg from neighboring countries on a daily basis. Accordingly, the country operates in three official and administrative languages: French, German and Luxembourgish. All are taught in schools, although French is the language of legislation and the most visible. Unsurprisingly, English has also become increasingly commonplace, both in education and the workplace, twining together a diverse, multilingual society. That could all be upended, however. An online petition submitted to Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies last year called for "Luxembourgish to be the No. 1 administrative and national language for all residents of Luxembourg." What began as an ordinary petition on language has transformed into a heated countrywide debate concerning Luxembourg's national identity. Petition 698 has attracted almost 15,000 signatures, shattering all previous records. And although the petition's author, Lucien Welter, has explicitly distanced himself any populist agenda, right-wing groups have been spurred by its subsequent success. Luxembourg's government will host a public hearing on January 16 to discuss the proposal, alongside a subsequent counterproposal, Petition 725, that calls for an even more multilingual state. The country's parties will be forced to take a position: more Luxembourgish or more multilingualism?  Could Luxembourg be about to take its country back? Though the petition has gathered a share of populist support, Peter Gilles, a professor of linguistics at the University of Luxembourg, doesn't see the motivation as particularly populist, although he does believe that "it encroaches on populist tendencies that are becoming commonplace in Europe these days." "Certainly there some people, particularly of the older generation, who feel pressured by Luxembourg's large share of languages," Gilles told DW. "This creates the feeling that the Luxembourgish language is under threat - that it's declining or even at risk of becoming extinct." Welter, who did not respond for comment, has distanced himself from anyone who has used his petition to spread a right-wing agenda. In a discussion on his Facebook page, he wrote: "I dissociate myself from any racist, populist and xenophobic statements." He had previously stated that his motivation behind the petition was to "save the Luxembourgish language before it disappears." That fear, however, is misplaced, according to Gilles, whose research shows that Luxembourgish was far from in decline. "When we look at the data from a scientific perspective, we know that Luxembourgish is in a very strong position, and indeed the number of speakers is actually increasing," he said. "What is often overlooked in this debate is the young people and children from foreign background learning Luxembourgish as a foreign language. When you look at this, there should be no reason to fear that Luxembourgish is in decline, since there are more children learning and studying the language."  Following Monday's public hearing on the petition, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and lawmakers on the committee will debate the motion privately, although they do not need to take legislative action. Many have written off Petition 698's chances of success already, deeming it unfeasible, and, although it did gather a wave of support, that support still only amounted to about 3 percent of the population. Still, Gilles says, lawmakers should take heed from the concerns raised by the petition and stem any unease spurred by Luxembourg's increasingly international makeup. "There should definitely be efforts to make Luxembourgish more visible in day-to-day life," he said, adding that while it isn't an immediate issue "because people know which language to use where, changing demographics nevertheless test these situations and show that the use of Luxembourgish is far too narrow." Making Luxembourgish the only administrative language would risk isolating a country located at the heart of Europe whose success in no small part relies on a foreign workforce. However, for many locals it is a part of their identity that they see threatened. Lawmakers should listen to concerns of those who signed Petition 698 and endeavor to promote Luxembourg's mother tongue without impeding the country's multilingual fabric.

^ I see no issue with making Luxembourgish the only official language of Luxembourg. The people of Luxembourg have a right to be proud of their language and to be able to use it throughout their country. Making Luxembourgish the sole official language doesn't mean that the people wouldn't still learn and use foreign languages. I know some people from Luxembourg and they can switch back and forth between: Luxembourgish, German, French and English as though they were the same language. But they say they know more about Europe and the rest of the world than they do their own country. There needs to be a balance made (in Luxembourg as well as other countries) to highlight their own language, customs, history and traditions and to embrace the different languages, customs and traditions of others. Making Luxembourgish the only official language of Luxembourg makes sense. People opposed to doing it are trying to throw words out (like populism) to scare people. It's not wrong to love your language or your country. In France the only official language is French and no one has called that policy bad so why should it be bad for Luxembourg? ^

Stasi Fired

From the BBC:
"Berlin housing official Andrej Holm 'fired over Stasi links'"

Berlin's mayor has dismissed the city's housing secretary over his links to the Stasi, the former East Germany's dreaded secret police. Michael Mueller asked for Andrej Holm to be fired after his role in the Stasi was revealed by a Berlin newspaper. Mr Holm, 46, worked for the secret police in the period immediately before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But it emerged he claimed in a job application in 2005 that he had never been a full-time employee. Mr Holm has admitted his full involvement with the Stasi. However, he said he had thought his statement when applying for a post at Berlin's Humboldt University in 2005 was correct. Mr Mueller said Mr Holm, who is politically independent, had shown he "was unable to look clearly at himself and to draw the consequences".   The Social Democrat mayor added that "especially in Berlin, which was the epitome of a divided city, there must be no doubt about the work to overcome the past" - a reference to confronting the painful legacy of authoritarian rule. Mr Holm, whose father was a Stasi officer, volunteered to join the agency at the age of 14 and four years later enrolled in its school as an officer cadet before taking a full-time role. His involvement drew public criticism when he was nominated to be Berlin housing secretary in December 2016 by left-wing party Die Linke, which evolved from the East German communist party.  Mr Holm is not the first German politician to have to stand down because of their ties to the Stasi since the country's reunification in 1990. Early examples include East German leader Lothar de Maiziere, who was appointed minister for special affairs after reunification, and Wolfgang Schnur, founder of East German political party Democratic Awakening.

^ Germany never carried out lustration once it was re-united in 1990 (kind of like how it didn't really have a de-Natzification in 1945) so it shouldn't be surprising to find people working throughout German society, not just the government, that were Communist officials, Stasi officers or informants. What is surprising is that Berlin's mayor actually fired someone for their Stasi ties. That is a step in the right direction (even though it's been 26 years.) The Germans like to claim they remember the past crimes (the Nazi and Communist ones) but the reality tends to be that they burry it as far as they can and hope it never gets out while former Nazis and Communists are allowed to live and work freely in society while also receiving government pensions for their "service to Germany" in helping to commit crimes against humanity. ^

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Norway's Radio

From the BBC:
"Norway starts turning off its FM analogue radio signal"

Norway is the first country in the world to start switching off its analogue radio signals. The Nordic nation will start turning off the FM signal at 11:11 local time (10:11 GMT) on Wednesday, in favour of Digital Audio Broadcasting, or DAB.  The digital signal gives better quality and coverage than analogue - and for about an eighth of the cost. But there are some who are concerned about the switch-off's potential impact on the elderly and motorists.  According to a December poll published in the Dagbladet daily newspaper, two-thirds of Norwegians think the government is moving too quickly.  By the end of the year, national networks will only be available on DAB, while local stations have five years to make the switch. And despite 70% of Norway's listeners already using DAB to tune into their favourite stations, critics say too many people will be forced to make expensive upgrades to their equipment.  A new car radio, for example, costs in the region of NOK4,000 ($468; £382).  "Norway is not prepared for this. There are millions of radios in homes, cottages and boats that won't work anymore and only around 25% of cars in Norway have digital radios or adapters,'' said Svein Larsen, of the Norwegian Local Radio Association.  Others, however, want to cling onto FM - invented in the US in 1933 - for the memories. Marius Lillelien, head of radio at the national broadcaster NRK, said: "Of course there is a lot of nostalgia in radio. That's one of the reasons this switch is so controversial.  "But that means people love radio and nostalgia is an asset to us whether we are broadcasting in analogue or on DAB." Ministers remain undaunted by the change, and countries like Switzerland and Britain - both considering a switch to digital networks - will no doubt be closely watching how the switch goes over the next few months.

^ Not sure why this is so important to do  - especially so quickly. I remember the hassle people had (especially the elderly) when the US switched TV signals a few years ago and even then there were numerous extensions. ^

Farewell Numbers

Free Minsk Travel

From Belta.BY:
"Belarus introduces five-day visa-free regime for citizens of 80 countries"

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko signed Decree No. 8 “On the introduction of the visa-free entry and departure for foreign citizens” on 9 January, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian leader. The document introduces the visa-free entry through the border checkpoint at the Minsk National Airport and the visa-free stay in Belarus for up to 5 days for the citizens of 80 states.
These are 39 countries of Europe, including the entire European Union, Brazil, Indonesia, the USA, Japan, and other countries. First of all, these are favorable countries in terms of migration, Belarus' strategic partners which have introduced visa-free regimes for Belarusian citizens on a unilateral basis. New regulations also apply to the non-citizens of Latvia and stateless persons of Estonia. The document aims to raise the number of business trips, tourism and private visits of people with regular passports and will not apply to foreigners on official trips with diplomatic, service, special and similar passports. A valid passport or other document permitting foreign travels, money (equivalent to at least two base amounts for each day of stay in the foreign currency or Belarusian rubles), medical insurance in the amount of at least €10,000 operational in Belarus will be needed for the visa-free entry. The citizens of Vietnam, Haiti, Gambia, Honduras, India, China, Lebanon, Namibia, Samoa should also have a valid multi-visa to the EU states or the Schengen Area with a mark confirming the entry to their territory, plane tickets with a confirmation of the departure from the Minsk National Airport within 5 days after the date of the entry. The visa-free regime does not apply to people arriving to Belarus by plane from Russia and planning to go to the airports of Russia (these are internal flights with no border control).  The decree will enter into force in a month after its official publication.

^ This starts next month. Hopefully it will help Belarus rejoin the international community after years of self and internationally-imposed isolation. 5 days doesn't seem like long enough especially to travel from the US or  Canada. It should at least have been a week. ^


Friday, January 13, 2017

Lucas' Museum

From the BBC:
"Star Wars' creator George Lucas to site new museum in Los Angeles"

Star Wars' creator George Lucas will build his Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. The project's organisers announced that after "extensive due diligence and deliberation" the city had been chosen over San Francisco. The museum will cost over $1bn (£0.8bn) and be financed by Lucas himself. It will exhibit art and memorabilia from the Star Wars franchise and other cinema classics, including The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca.  The museum will be located in Exposition Park, near other attractions including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California African American Museum and the California Science Center. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his city was "the ideal place for making sure that it touches the widest possible audience". "We went after it with everything we have," he added.  Originally, Lucas had planned to build the museum in Chicago, but he faced local community opposition and abandoned the proposal last year.  San Francisco had offered a site on Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay, but failed to win over the project's organisers.  The new museum will sit near the University of Southern California, where George Lucas studied film in the 1970s.  As well as Star Wars items like Darth Vader's mask, the museum will show artworks chosen from the 40,000 items in Lucas' collection, including works by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Lucas made the first Star Wars film in 1977 and sold the franchise to Walt Disney in 2012 for $4bn.

^ This seems like a cool and logical choice. Not sure why Chicago was ever in the running, but LA is where Hollywood. ^

Off Russians

From the MT:
"One in Five Russians Receiving Salary 'Off The Books' — Poll"

More than one fifth of Russians still receive at least some of their salary “off the books,” according to a report by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) published on Thursday.
One in ten respondents said they received all of their wages unofficially, while 13 percent said that part of their salary was paid in cash. The number of surreptitious payments has fallen since January 2015, when 29 percent of respondents admitted to accepting money unofficially. Some 74 percent of respondents said that they now received all of their wages “on the books,” while 3 percent did not provide an answer.   The poll was carried out with 1,600 respondents between Dec. 24-25, 2016, in 130 settlements in 46 regions of Russia. The margin of error does not exceed 3.5 percent.

^ The only thing that surprised me with this poll is that it was only 1 in every 5 Russians. I'm sure the number is actually higher, but the majority of people don't want to announce it. Favors and doing things off the books is a part of every major aspect of Russian life. I have seen it first-hand millions of times. It is especially important during tough economic times. ^

Wet Foot Gone

From USA Today:
"Obama ends 'wet foot, dry foot' policy for Cubans"

President Obama announced Thursday an end to the 20-year-old "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed most Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil to stay and become legal permanent residents after one year. President Obama issued a statement Thursday evening saying the U.S. is working to normalize relations with its one-time foe, and ending this policy was the next logical step. "Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal," Obama said. "By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries."
The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, created by President Clinton in 1995, has generally allowed Cubans who simply touch U.S. soil to stay in the country. Those caught at sea are returned to Cuba. In exchange for the new policy, Cuba has agreed to start accepting Cubans who were issued a deportation order in the United States, something the communist nation has refused to do for decades.
The decision, formalized in a joint statement issued by both governments Thursday, comes as Obama tries to cement his historic opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba and one week before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Obama ended more than five decades of isolation with Cuba in December 2014 and even visited the island in 2016. Trump has said he would renegotiate the U.S. dealings with Cuba, and ending the "wet foot, dry foot" policy could affect Trump's plans. Others were enraged, arguing that Cuba's communist regime continues to violate the human rights of its citizens. Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, called Obama's decision "another example of a heartless foreign policy." Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American Republican from Florida, agreed. "With just eight days left in his administration, President Obama has found one more way to frustrate the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people and provide yet another shameful concession to the Castro regime," he said. Cubans have received favorable treatment from the United States ever since Fidel Castro took control of the island in 1959 and declared it a communist ally of the Soviet Union. Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1966 that allowed tens of thousands of Cubans who had already fled Castro's revolution to gain legal status in the U.S. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it left Cuba in economic ruin, prompting thousands more to take to the sea for the United States on makeshift boats and rafts. To end the crisis, Clinton enacted the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. Rumors that the policy would end have been rampant in Cuba since the 2014 rapprochement between the two countries, prompting a surge of Cubans fleeing for the United States. In the year before Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the opening of diplomatic relations, 24,278 Cubans reached the U.S. That number nearly doubled in 2015 and surpassed 54,000 in 2016, according to the White House. Many Cubans continue traveling to the U.S. by sea in rickety, dangerous boats built from spare parts in Cuba. In recent years, more Cubans have taken advantage of laws that allow them to travel to Ecuador, where thousands have started the long, dangerous land voyage across Venezuela, Central America and Mexico to reach the southwest border. Under the new joint agreement, the U.S. will still accept at least 20,000 Cubans each year through traditional immigration channels.

^ Of course Obama has to continue his bromance with Fidel even though Castro is dead (may he not rest in peace) and Obama only has a week left in office. Obama has bent over backwards for his love of Castro and Cuba while the Cuban people continue to live in a tightly-controlled communist regime with no regards to basic human rights or freedoms. At this point Obama couldn't get the super -glue off his lips if he tried - or wanted to. In a week he will be out of office and no longer able to make the US a lackey to the rest of the world. We may actually get our back-bone back. ^

Canada's Aid

From the BBC:
"Canada last in foreign aid, defence spending, report says"

Canada is last compared with its global peers when it comes to defence and aid spending, a new report says.  Ottawa came less than halfway to meeting international spending benchmarks in those areas.  The Global Canada study uses those two funding areas to measure a country's global engagement.  The analysis also suggests Canada's level of spending on international assistance as a share of GDP is close to an all-time low.  Mr Trudeau made "Canada is back" a catchphrase after winning the federal election in 2015 and promised a new era of global engagement.  Global Canada founder Robert Greenhill, a former president of the federal development agency, said that Canada is not back, it is "far back".  "We actually don't believe in doing our fair share at this point," he said.   The report, Assessing Canada's Global Engagement Gap, released on Wednesday, compares Canada's share of national income committed to both collective security and to international assistance with that of other G7 nations and similar mid-sized, advanced countries like Norway and Australia.  Canada and Japan were tied in last place by committing 1.2% of GDP to combined spending on defence and aid. In comparison, the UK and Norway spent 2.6%, Germany spent 1.7% and Italy spent 1.5%.  The US spent 3.5%, mostly on defence.  US President Barack Obama has pressured Canada to increase its Nato spending. President-elect Donald Trump has also been critical of laggard Nato nations. Canada currently spends 0.97% of its GDP on the military alliance, less than half the 2% benchmark.  Looking at just foreign aid, the analysis, using the Gross National Income (GNI) measure, suggests the Liberal government's commitment to development in its first year was slightly lower than the spending average under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government - 0.26 % of GNI compared to 0.30% GNI.  The international target for foreign aid spending is 0.70% of GNI.  Critics have repeatedly singled out Canada over the years for falling short on aid funding.   Mr Trudeau has said that United Nations target is too ambitious for Canada in the near future. Mr Greenhill said the Trudeau government inherited a history of cuts to development from the 1990s and between 2010-14.  "Almost for a generation Canadians politicians have taken their eye off their international commitments," he said.  Unless it increases funding in those areas, the current Liberal government will end up with the lowest commitment to development aid of any Canadian government in the last 50 years, according to the report. Mr Greenhill estimated an annual investment of CA$4bn (US$3bn; £2.5bn) would be necessary to bring funding levels to those seen in the 1970s and 1980s. "Being a G7 country and trying to shape a better world does have costs," he said. There have been recent commitments by Mr Trudeau in both areas.  Last August, the government committed 600 troops, 150 police officers, and CA$450m over three years to a still unspecified United Nations peacekeeping operation.  It also pledged increased spending over two years to help the Global Fund, which focuses on the prevention and treatment of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in more than 100 countries.  Global Canada, founded in 2014, seeks to "advance Canada's global engagement".

^ Canada (along with most other countries) have become to reliant on the United States to protect them around the world - while at the same time bashing us. It's time that every major country finally does it's part and that includes paying for things with the UN, NATO and any other international organization they are part of. Freedom isn't free and it's time Canada and other countries realize that and do more. ^

Maltese Terms

From the DW:
"Brexit deal must be worse than terms of EU membership, says Maltese PM"

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said the UK must not gain advantages from leaving the EU. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has reiterated that Brexit does not spell the end for the bloc.  Addressing journalists in the Maltese capital Valletta on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that "if we are considering the Brexit case as the beginning of the end we will make a major mistake." At the same conference, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said any deal between Britain and the EU must be worse than the terms of its membership.  "We want a fair deal for the UK but that fair deal has to be inferior to membership," Muscat said, as Malta took on the six-month rotating EU presidency. "I have rarely been at a discussion on any other subject where the 27 member states have basically the same position," said the premier, whose country is a former British colony. Muscat said there would be only "one contact point" for negotiations - the European Commission - which "would, from time to time, consult with EU governments when a political decision would need to be made." Some 52 percent of the UK voted to leave the EU in a referendum last June, but is yet to start formal negotiations with the other 27 countries on the terms of its exit and its future relationship.  UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - starting formal negotiations with the EU - by the end of March. Amid speculation it will take longer to establish Britain's new trade ties with the bloc, there are growing calls for some kind of transitional deal. May's position remains unclear, with free movement of labor and immigration controls dominating the domestic British debate.  On Wednesday May distanced herself from remarks by a junior minister who suggested Britain was considering introducing an annual  £1,000 (1,150 euros, $1,200) post-Brexit "immigration skills charge" on every skilled worker from an EU member state recruited by a British employer. Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament's representative in the Brexit process, called the proposal "shocking."

^ It makes sense. If the EU gives the UK a great withdrawal agreement then it will be a domino game with other countries wanting to leave the EU and get the same great deal. ^

Friday The 13th

"It's Friday the 13th. I would be more impressed if it was Friday the 13th, a full moon and Halloween all in one."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

PM Shuffle

From the BBC:
"Canada PM Justin Trudeau shuffles key Cabinet ministers"

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promoted top Cabinet performers and brought in new faces as Ottawa prepares for the Trump presidency. vSix Cabinet posts have been shaken up in the reshuffle, with some rookies taking top roles.   Major changes include Chrystia Freeland's move from international trade to foreign affairs.  Immigration and democratic reform portfolios are affected, along with one key diplomatic post.  It is the first major cabinet shuffle since Mr Trudeau took power in November 2015 and comes as Ottawa prepares for a protectionist administration about to take power in the US.  President-elect Donald Trump is to be sworn in on 20 January.  Chrystia Freeland, who helped prevent the collapse of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) last October, will be one of Canada's main voices on the world stage as new global affairs minister.  She will retain the Canada-US relations file, including trade relations with Canada's largest trading partner.   Ms Freeland has lived in both Russia and the US, and spent time in Moscow as the former bureau chief of the Financial Times. She is known to be well connected in Washington.  While she is also known in Moscow, Ms Freeland does not have the warm relationship her incoming US counterpart Rex Tillerson has with Russian officials.  In fact, she is currently banned from Russia. Ms Freeland, who has been outspoken in her support of Ukraine, was one of 13 Canadian officials and politicians sanctioned by Moscow in 2014 in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Canada over Russia's annexation of Crimea.  Mr Trudeau praised Ms Freeland as an "extremely strong member of the team" and for her handling of the Ceta file, and brushed off any possible tensions with Russia.  "As to how she gets a long with Russia, well, she speaks fluent Russian," he said.  Ms Freeland also waved off her ban from Russia, saying it was an issue for Moscow to tackle.  She is being replaced at international trade by neophyte MP Francois-Philippe Champagne, a trade lawyer, who will work closely with Ms Freeland on a portfolio that includes Ceta and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Mr Trump has said he wants to either renegotiate or scrap Nafta altogether and has said he will quit the TPP on his first day in the White House. Speaking in context of his re-shuffled team, Mr Trudeau noted on Tuesday that "obviously the new administration to the south will offer both opportunities and challenges as well as a shift in global context".  Ms Freeland is replacing Stephane Dion, who announced on Tuesday that he was leaving politics after 21 years. He has been offered an ambassadorial position by the prime minister.   John McCallum, who helped oversee efforts to fast-track 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country, is being shuffled from the immigration portfolio and will become Canada's new ambassador to China.  The veteran politician will help oversee the country's move to deepen economic ties with China, including exploring a possible free trade deal with the Asian nation.  Senior officials in the Trudeau government have been working hard to lay the groundwork for the new relationship between Canada and the US as Mr Trump prepares to replace President Barack Obama.  They have been meeting regularly with members of Mr Trump's advisory team since the presidential election south of the border, and there have been efforts to reach out to lawmakers from the 35 northern US states.  Two of Mr Trudeau's top aides met last week with Mr Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon and the president-elect's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to reports.  Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who helped negotiate Nafta, has also been playing an intermediary role between Ottawa and Washington.

Who is in, who is out:

  • Chrystia Freeland moved from international trade to global affairs
  • John McCallum leaves immigration to become Canada's new ambassador to China
  • Stephane Dion leaves foreign affairs
  • Maryam Monsef moved from democratic institutions to status of women
  • Patty Hajdu moved from status of women to employment and labour
  • Quebec MP François-Philippe Champagne promoted to international trade
  • Ontario MP Ahmed Hussen promoted to immigration
  • Ontario MP Karina Gould promoted to democratic institutions
  • MaryAnn Mihychuk leaves employment and labour

^ It is pretty interesting to see the reasons for this Cabinet shuffle. ^

Sense Power

Decade Banning

From the BBC:
"Young Russians born this decade face complete smoking ban"

Russia's health ministry is considering a permanent ban on selling cigarettes to people born in 2014 or later.  It's part of a tough anti-tobacco strategy the country's politicians are trying to make a reality.
The ban on the sale of tobacco to this generation and younger would continue even after they reach adulthood.  It's only being considered at the moment but it could mean smoking eventually becoming illegal for all Russians. Russian news site Izvestia says it has seen a policy document titled "concept for the state policy to counter tobacco consumption in the years 2017-2022 and beyond". It says the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation confirmed the document is being widely shared across government. "This goal is absolutely ideologically correct," Nikolai Gerasimenko, a member of the country's health committee said, according to The Times. Anti-smoking campaigners have called for similar measures in other parts of the world in the past, but have never received government backing.
Smoking is already against the law in Russian workplaces, housing block stairwells, buses and commuter trains and within 15 metres of train stations and airports. Russia has one of the highest smoking rates in the world with around 40% of its population smokers. In some shops, packets of cigarettes can be bought for less than $1 (60p). The Russian cigarette market is estimated to be worth more than $22bn (£18bn).

^ The USSR tried an anti-alcohol campaign in the 1980s and that didn't work. I don't believe this anti-smoking campaign would work either. The Russian people believe they can't change much in their world (ie the standard of living, their government's actions, etc.) but they will fight anyone who tries to take their vodka and cigarettes away. ^

Brunner Squalor

From the BBC:
"Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner 'died in Syria squalor'"

One of the world's most wanted Nazi war criminals died in 2001 aged 89 after spending more than a decade incarcerated in a dilapidated Damascus basement, a French magazine has said.  The Revue XXI magazine reported that Austrian-born SS commander Alois Brunner spent his last years living in squalid conditions. It said he remained a fervent anti-Semite right up to his death. Brunner is accused of deporting more than 128,000 Jews to death camps.  He was in charge of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris where Jews rounded up in France were held before being sent to the death camps. An estimated 345 children were among his victims. For many years there has been uncertainty as to whether Brunner - born in 1912 - is still alive, although the chief investigator pursuing him told the BBC in 2014 that he believed Brunner died in 2010 in Damascus. Brunner is believed to have fled to Syria in the 1950s from West Germany, reportedly serving later as an adviser to the Syrian government on torture tactics before being shunned by the authorities. The latest investigation by the Revue XXI magazine (in French) quotes one of Brunner's guards as saying that he "suffered and cried a lot in his final years, [and] everyone heard him".   The guard, identified only as Omar, said Brunner survived on meagre army rations in the last years of his life.  The magazine's findings have been welcomed by renowned Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld.  "We are satisfied to learn that he lived badly rather than well," Mr Klarsfeld told the AFP news agency.  Brunner was removed in April 2014 from the Simon Wiesenthal Center's most wanted list, in a move signifying that it too considered him to be dead. The SS commander played a key role in the implementation of Hitler's "Final Solution" to murder Jews and has been described by Nazi hunters as "a monster", responsible for sending 47,000 Jews in Austria, 44,000 in Greece, 23,500 in France and 14,000 in Slovakia to camps where most were murdered.

Alois Brunner

  • Was once described by Adolf Eichmann - the architect of the "Final Solution" - as one of his best men
  • Eichmann dispatched Brunner wherever he felt round-ups of Jews were proceeding too slowly
  • From June 1943 until the liberation of France, he sent thousands of Jews to their almost certain deaths
  • He waged a reign of terror on the French Riviera, hunting down Jews who had sought refuge in the relative safety of the Italian-occupied zone
  • It is widely believed that he lived under the false name of Georg Fischer while in Syria - and that successive regimes offered him protection
  • Syria has repeatedly denied harbouring him

In 2001 he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by a court in France and is reported to have survived at least two Israeli intelligence assassination attempts while in Syria in 1961 and 1980.

^ If the Nazis can't be brought to justice the next best thing is for them to live in sub-human conditions (the same way they made their victims before murdering them.) ^


From the MT:
"19 Countries Call for Ban on Russia From International Sports"

The National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADO) of 19 countries have called for a ban on Russia from all international sporting competitions, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) reported in an online statement Wednesday.  The request was signed by Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States during a Jan. 10 summit in Dublin.
NADO leaders also called for a “removal of all major international competitions, as well a moratorium on the awarding of new competitions to Russia,” the statement read. The move comes on the heels of the latest World Anti-Doping Agency report published in Dec. 2016 and presented by Richard McLaren, a lawyer who investigated doping in Russia.  The report alleges that more than a thousand Russian athletes spanning 30 different sports were connected to the use of performance-enhancing drugs or the concealment of positive urine samples.  McLaren's report covered the 2011-2015 period, during which, the investigator claimed, Russia carried out a massive operation to cover-up performance enhancing drug use. Russia's sporting officials deny the report’s findings, claiming the allegations are politically motivated.   Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, formerly Russia’s sports minister, reacted to NADO's statement saying that anti-doping organizations should not engage in politics. “Anti-doping organizations are anti-doping organizations,” Mutko told the R-Sport news agency. “They should monitor the situation in their own countries, collect urine and not interfere with politics.”

^ Doping is a serious problem in Russian sports and so is the cover-up. Maybe if Russian athletes can't compete and no international sporting events take place in Russia the Russian Government and people will try to fix the problems plaguing their sports. Of course I'm sure the Russian Government will spin this so they are the victims - that's what they seem to always do regardless of reality. ^

Church Sentence

From the BBC:
"US church attacker sentenced to death"

A white supremacist has been sentenced to death for the racially motivated killings of nine black people at a South Carolina church. Dylann Roof was convicted last month of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes, after opening fire on a Bible study group in 2015. He remained unrepentant and had told the jury: "I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I had to do it." The jurors deliberated for nearly three hours before reaching their verdict. The massacre shocked the nation and reignited a debate about race relations and the flying of the Confederate flag. Roof told police he wanted to start a race war and he was photographed holding the battle flag, which to many is a symbol of hate. The tragedy led to the flag being removed from the South Carolina statehouse, where it had flown for 50 years.  Earlier on Tuesday, Roof addressed the jury, saying: "I don't know what good it would do anyway" if they spared his life. The judge will issue a formal sentence on Wednesday morning. After the sentence was announced, the 22-year-old killer stood and requested to be appointed new lawyers and to file for a retrial.  US District Judge Richard Gergel replied that he was "strongly disinclined" and instructed Roof to think about it overnight. Nearly two dozen friends and relatives of those gunned down at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston testified during the sentencing phase about how Roof's crimes have affected their lives. But none of them had appealed to the jury to return a death sentence.

^ It is cases like this one that we need the death penalty since life in imprison does not really mean life, but a certain number of years. ^

Monday, January 9, 2017

Namibia Case

From the BBC:
"Herero and Nama groups sue Germany over Namibia genocide"

Representatives of two indigenous groups in Namibia, the Herero and Nama peoples, have filed a class-action lawsuit against Germany in New York. They are seeking reparations for what former colonial power Germany acknowledges was genocide. The plaintiffs are seeking reparations and the right to representation at talks between Germany and Namibia. Some 100,000 people are believed to have been killed when Germany crushed an uprising, beginning in 1904. Namibia and Germany have been in talks about a joint declaration on the massacres, which Germany has recently admitted were genocide, but Herero and Nama descendants have been excluded from the talks. Unlike with the victims of World War Two atrocities, Germany has also refused to pay reparations to victims, saying it pays millions of dollars of development aid to the country instead.  The dispute relates to a period in the late 19th and early 20th Century, when Germany was the colonial power in Namibia, then called South West Africa.

The suit claims damages on the basis that, as it states:
  • from 1885 to 1903, about a quarter of Herero and Nama lands were taken without compensation by settlers with official oversight - German descendants still farm some of that land today
  • colonial authorities ignored rapes of Herero and Nama women and girls as well as indigenous forced labour
  • as many as 100,000 Herero and Nama people died after they rebelled in 1904 in a campaign led by Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha
Studies also suggest that colonial rulers placed captives in concentration camps, and shipped off thousands of heads belonging to the dead to Berlin in an attempt to prove the inferiority of the defeated Africans in now discredited medical experiments. The plaintiffs say Germany's insistence it is making amends by paying development aid is unsatisfactory. "There is no assurance that any of the proposed foreign aid by Germany will actually reach or assist the minority indigenous communities that were directly harmed," the plaintiffs' lawyer Ken McCallion said in an email to Reuters news agency.  "There can be no negotiations or settlement about them that is made without them."  The case was lodged with the US District Court in Manhattan under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1979 law often invoked in human rights cases.

^ This is an interesting case. I don't know a whole lot about what happened in the German colonies of Africa. I don't usually agree that people should get any reparations unless they actually suffered or a direct line of theirs did (up to the Grandparents.)  I will keep up on this and see what happens as well as learning more about what happened in Africa. ^

Einstein Generation

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Diabetes Costs

From USA Today:
"Soaring insulin prices prompt insurance shift"

Many parents of diabetic children and adults suffering with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are bracing for changes in insurance coverage of their insulin next year, as prices of the vital medication continue to soar. Higher insurance deductibles and changes in the prescription brands covered by some insurers are raising concerns among some people with diabetes.

CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), will no longer cover the insulin brand Lantus in favor of a new biosimilar version, Basaglar. Biosimilars are considered the generic versions of "biologic" drugs that are based on natural sources. The company also announced a program last week to further keep diabetes costs down, following a similar move in August by competitor Express Scripts. Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States, affecting nearly 10% of the population or about 29 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, more than 8 million people are undiagnosed. Type 1 diabetes — often still called juvenile diabetes — can occur when people are children or adults. Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common with the increase in obesity and sedentary behavior. Prices for Humalog and many insulin brands have increased from about $300 to $500 between January 2013 to October 2016, according to drug discount search company GoodRx. Lantus increased about 60% — from $240 to $380 — in the same time period, GoodRx says.  "It’s definitely unfortunate prices are going up so much and impacting the people who need it to stay alive," says Henry Anhalt, an Englewood, N.J., pediatric endocrinologist. "But I think a big part of the problem is how much (insurers) cover and how much they fight you." The amount of insulin a diabetes patient needs every day depends on what they are going to eat, how much they will exercise and their stress level, says Anhalt, chief medical officer of the T1D Exchange, which is researching ways to better manage diabetes and runs an online community for people with type 1 diabetes. Changes in the formularies — the lists of drugs covered by insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — make many patients anxious, says Anhalt,  But Troyen Brennan, a physician and chief health officer at CVS Caremark, says he's heard "very little complaint with regard to stress levels."  Basaglar has been proven to be "exactly equivalent if not slightly better," he says. Patients who have a bad reaction to a change in insulin can request an exception to the formulary, Brennan adds. Kristina Blake has type 1 diabetes and insurance through the city of San Diego, her previous employer. Her deductible has increased by 400%, so she "will be dealing with the retail prices next year," she says. Because she will always need insulin, Blake says, "I accept that I am a "cash cow." Until insurers started fighting back against price increases by raising deductibles and changing formularies, the companies' reactions to price hikes tended to get more attention than the actual prices. That's starting to change. In the past four years, Blake says, her receipts show the price for three vials of Humalog nearly quadrupled, adding that it's not "a new and improved medication." "That's disgusting," she says.  Drugmakers say price increases are necessary to fund innovation and note that the portion of the price going to PBMs and wholesalers is confidential. The PBM trade group says the industry has little choice but to fight back. "Employers, unions and government programs that offer these benefits don’t have much choice but to spend their resources on competitively priced (medications) that offer the same or better value," says Mark Merritt, CEO of the trade group Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. Nearly $5,000 is spent on average per diabetes patient every year on medical expenses that could have been avoided if patients had taken their diabetes medications as prescribed, according to Express Scripts. Improperly treated diabetes can lead to loss of limbs, kidney function and vision. Mindy Bartleson, 24, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 7 and lost good insurance coverage when her father died of cancer when she was 12. "I remember what it was like to be floating around trying to get on a low-income insurance," says Bartleson, a program assistant with the College Diabetes Network. "After I gradated from college and got to switch to a new insurance company, my stress level went down because I wasn’t in survival mode."

^ I lived with someone who had diabetes and ultimately passed away because of complications from dealing with diabetes. The amount of out-of-pocket costs for medicine (insulin, needles, etc.) as well as doctor's visits, hospital visits, ER visits, etc. was enormous. It's clear that diabetes is big business for many in the medical field. More should be done to prevent people from getting diabetes, to help people manage their diabetes and to lower the costs associated with diabetes care  - including medicine. In the past we have learned the truth of many companies over-charging for medicine for different things simply so they can make more money. They are in it for the money rather than to help save lives and I don't see why there can't be a balance between the two. ^

Airport Attack

From USA Today:
"Florida airport shooting: Victims' names released, more on what we know now"

Authorities on Saturday continue to hunt for a motive behind the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as more details about the incident emerge. Five people were killed and six injured amid the chaos, as terrified passengers ran before police apprehended the suspect without incident.

Here's what we know:

What happened?

The melee erupted around 1 p.m. ET, when a man opened fire in a baggage claim area in Terminal 2. Witnesses described him as slender, 5-foot-7 and wearing a blue T-shirt. He did not say a word as he emptied several magazines of bullets, the witnesses said. He then dropped to the floor, spread-eagled, and awaited arrest. Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca said the gun came from the killer's checked bag. After retrieving the bag, he went to the bathroom, loaded the firearm and started shooting, LaMarca tweeted. George Piro, FBI special agent in charge of the agency's Miami division, said authorities have interviewed 175 witnesses and collected photos, video and other physical evidence.

Who is the suspect?

Esteban Santiago, 26, a former military veteran, has been identified as the suspect by law enforcement authorities. They say he appears to have acted alone. Santiago was taken into custody without incident by a Broward County sheriff's deputy. He was booked at a Broward County jail on a murder charge. "Indications are that he came here to carry out this horrific attack. We have not identified any triggers that would've caused this attack," Piro said. "We are continuing to look at the terrorism angle as a potential motivation." Born in New Jersey, Santiago served in both the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Alaska Army National Guard, according to Lt. Col. Candis A. Olmstead, director of public affairs for the Alaska National Guard. Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale early Friday aboard a Delta flight that originated Thursday.  In November, Santiago appeared unannounced in the FBI offices in Anchorage, complaining that the Islamic State had gained control of his mind and was urging him to fight on its behalf. The FBI conducted a background check, learning of his military record, which included service in Iraq, but found no connection to terror groups. Determining that the man apparently needed psychiatric care, the FBI alerted local law enforcement and turned him over to their custody for a medical referral. It is not clear whether Santiago received treatment following that incident.

Who are the victims?

Authorities have identified the five dead and are notifying next of kin.

The names of these slain victims have been made public so far:

► Olga Woltering of Georgia. She was a member of the Atlanta-area Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Cobb County, according to an Associated Pres report. Woltering and her husband flew to Fort Lauderdale for a cruise, church sources said.
► Terry Andres, of Virginia. He was a volunteer support technician with the Oceana Volunteer Fire Department from April 2004 through 2010, said Art Kohn, spokesman for the Virginia Beach Fire Department.

► Michael Oehme, 57, of Iowa, has been identified as one of the slain victims by his sister. Elizabeth Oehme-Miller also told the AP by phone Saturday that her brother's wife, 52-year-old Kari Oehme, was shot in the shoulder and is expected to recover. They flew to Fort Lauderdale to go on a cruise, she said.

Others' names will be released later. The number of injured was revised Saturday from eight to six. Three of the victims are in good condition and the others are in intensive care.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday morning that some of the survivors are “fighting for their lives."

Scott said he visited some of the victims in the hospital Friday evening. He talked to a couple who flew to Fort Lauderdale to go on a cruise. The wife was shot, and now they'll be going home instead. Another woman's husband was shot and was bleeding "profusely" form the arm, Scott said.

The shooting, Scott said, was a "hateful act." “It was an absolutely horrific day,” he added. “The person responsible for this act will be brought to justice to the furthest extent of the law.”

How did a gun get through a checked bag?

Transportation Security Administration rules allow travelers to pack unloaded firearms in checked luggage, so long as passengers declare their weapons to the airline while checking in, and they are packed in a locked, hard-sided container. Piro said Santiago followed TSA procedures by checking the weapon. The strict protocols involve showing the weapon and its carrying case to an airline ticket agent, who then checks that the gun is unloaded. Ammunition may also be carried in checked baggage but must be stored separately from the gun, said David Williams, assistant professor of aerospace and occupational safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Is the airport open?

The airport reopened at 5 a.m. Saturday. It had been shut down for 16 hours following the attack. Terminal 2, the scene of the shooting remained an active crime scene Saturday morning. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport handles about 586 commercial flights daily, according to Flight Aware, a flight tracking website. As of 9:30 a.m., about a quarter of those flights scheduled to depart from the airport had been canceled and another 17 were delayed. JetBlue, which had several cancellations, announced it would resume operations at 10 a.m.

^ Millions of people travel (especially through airports) and it really gets you even more so that the shooting happened on the ground and past the secured area. Since 9/11 we have come to accept (for lack of a better word) that there could be terrorist acts on-board planes, but the majority of people wouldn't even think of an attack by baggage claim. Since the attack is so recent we still don't know everything. Hopefully, the rest will come out soon and we can try to fix the holes in our security to stop future attacks. ^

Calm Keep

^ For all those south of me going on about the snow. ^

Hearst/Directv Update

^ Only a few hours after my last post it seems the dispute has been resolved since I now have all my channels back. It still shouldn't have taken almost a full week to resolve.  ^


From B&
"Hearst Stations Pulled in Dispute With DirecTV"

Hearst Television said Sunday its stations’ signals have been pulled from DirecTV after the two sides reached an impasse in retransmission negotiations. The old agreement expired Dec. 31. “We have made significant investments to deliver top tier programming to our viewers and DirecTV is seeking the right to carry our stations at below market rates, which is neither fair nor reasonable<” Hearst said in a statement via its stations. “We regret the inconvenience DirecTV’s demands have caused its subscribers, and we will keep you fully informed of developments.” The stations added that they are not “blacked out.” “You may continue to receive our station for free, over the air, or by other satellite distribution, and, where available, from cable operators,” Hearst said. Hearst offered advice on getting an antenna at a Hearst says it owns and operates local TV and radio stations in 26 markets across 39 states.

^ I have lost two of my three local channels thanks to this dispute (just when the new shows and new episodes of old shows are starting.) Unlike, many others I can't streamline the shows with my Internet so I can't see them at all. To listen to both Directv and Hearst they are both working hard but it is already 1 week old and the only people loosing here are people like me. I wish Hearst and Directv would stop playing the victim and instead fix this dispute right now. ^

Orthodox Christmas!

^ Щасливого Різдва!  Καλά Χριστούγεννα! Շնորհավոր Սուրբ Ծնունդ! Milad bayramınız mübarək! З Божым нараджэннем! Sretan Božić! Рождество майрамы менен! Весела Коледа! Мавлуди Исо муборак! Рождество құтты болсын! Среќен Божиќ! Срећан Божић! შობას გილოცავთ! С Рождеством Христовым!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Equal Mossad

From the BBC:
"Israel's Mossad spy agency on the hunt for women agents"

Israel's shadowy international spy agency, Mossad, is seeking to bolster its ranks with more women, launching its first recruitment drive specifically targeting females. "Powerful women needed," ads published in national newspapers say alongside the face of a woman obscured in shadow. Mossad already has a staff that is 40% female, with 24% of them in key senior roles, local media report. Women have been praised as better secret agents by a former Mossad chief. Tamir Pardo said in 2012 that female agents "have a distinct advantage in secret warfare because of their ability to multitask" and they "suppress their ego in order to attain goals," according to the Jerusalem Post. "Contrary to stereotypes, you see that women's abilities are superior to men in terms of understanding the territory, reading situations, spatial awareness. When they're good, they're very good," the then-agency chief said.  The Mossad website tells would-be female recruits: "It's not what you've done, it's who you are."

The Mossad ('The Institute')

  • The international arm of Israel's intelligence service was founded in 1949
  • It is one of the most feared and fabled secret intelligence services in the world. The agency has both been lauded for daring operations and accused of cold-blooded murder
  • It first proved its ambition and global reach with the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1960 in Argentina
  • "They are looking for honest crooks. They take people like me - I'm not a crook, I'm a very obedient citizen of the country of Israel - and then they teach you how to steal, and they teach you, sometimes, to kill, and they teach you to do things which normal people don't do, actually criminals do," Gad Shimron, a former Mossad agent, told the BBC in 2010

^ I have great respect for Israel and the things they have done that most other countries don't have the stomach to do to get the job done. Israel is one of a few countries that require their women to be conscripted in the military - which is the true sign of an equal society. It is good to see that the Mossad is also actively looking for women to join their ranks too. ^