Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo

From the Ottawa Sun:
"Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a proud soldier, father"



Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a doting father, an animal lover and a proud soldier who dreamed of serving his country since he was barely a teenager. The Hamilton native was living that dream Wednesday morning when he was gunned down in the nation's capital while performing one of the highest honours bestowed upon only the finest Canadian soldiers -- standing guard with an empty rifle over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Parliament Hill. Now in Steeltown, across the country and around the world, the 24-year-old's name will forever be tied to the day Canada's innocence was stolen. "He was very proud to be a soldier," Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina said of Cirillo on Wednesday. Bratina was among the many who visited the armoury where the slain soldier's reservist unit is based to pay their respects in the wake of the deadly attack in the heart of the country.  The mayor also visited Cirillo's grief-stricken family, accompanied by Hamilton Police Chief Greg de Caire, saying "there were lots of tears." "It's very sad," Bratina said, as the Canadian flag above the armoury flew at half-mast and flowers piled up at the locked gate to the armoury, which was guarded all day by soldiers. Cirillo's parents, two sisters, his five-year-old son Marcus and other family members were still in shock Wednesday, too distraught to talk about their loss. "His mom is now on her way to Ottawa," Bratina said. He said Cirillo became a cadet when he was just 13, then joined the Argylls of Canada - 91st Canadian Highlanders about five years ago. His most recent and final duty -- standing sentry at the National War Memorial in Ottawa -- began Monday. "Someone who is assigned to ceremonial guard at the cenotaph in Ottawa is a very highly trained, qualified individual," Bratina said. "To stand in ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, right next to the Parliament Buildings, is one of the highest accolades you can get."  Although soldiers are armed with rifles while performing the ceremonial duty, the mayor noted out that the guards do not typically have ammunition in their weapons. And he, like the rest of Canada, was stunned by the shooting. "To hear one of our own was taken ... in a cowardly ambush, it's hard to put it into words," Bratina said.
Others who visited the armoury expressed similar feelings. "It tore my heart apart when I found out it was an (Argyll) because these are just kids that are just looking for the honour in life," said veteran Ed Hughes, who served in Canada's military in the 1980s. "And to end up being shot, so cowardly, while protecting the (Tomb of the) Unknown Soldier is a shame. "It's a sad day. Canada will never be the same." A Facebook memorial page -- with a link to a fundraiser -- honouring the reservist was launched just hours after his death. Photos on his @ncitaly Instagram account show Cirillo dressed in his camouflage combat uniform, cuddling a number of rescued dogs and spending time with his young son Marcus.


^ No matter what you think and say about a government or their military the truth is right here. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a soldier who was murdered doing his duty. A soldier doesn't have to die in a foreign land to defend his country, but can be guarding a memorial that remembers those that did. ^



http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/10/22/cpl-nathan-cirillo-was-a-proud-soldier-father

The Kurds

From the BBC:
"Who are the Kurds?"

Between 20 and 30 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. In recent decades, Kurds have increasingly influenced regional developments, fighting for autonomy in Turkey and playing prominent roles in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where they have resisted the advance of the jihadist group, Islamic State (IS).
 
Where do they come from?
The Kurds historically led nomadic lives revolving around sheep and goat herding throughout the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia. Today, they form a distinctive community, united through race, culture and language, even though they have no standard dialect. They also adhere to a number of different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims.

Why don't they have a state?
In the early 20th Century, many Kurds began to consider the creation of a homeland - generally referred to as "Kurdistan". After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.
Such hopes were dashed three years later, however, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. Over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed.

Why are Kurds at the forefront of the fight against IS?
In mid-2013, IS turned its sights on three Kurdish enclaves that bordered its territory in northern Syria. It launched repeated attacks that until mid-2014 were repelled by the Popular Protection Units (YPG) - the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD). The turning point was an offensive in Iraq in June that saw IS overrun the northern city of Mosul, routing Iraqi army divisions and seizing weaponry later moved to Syria.  The jihadists' advance in Iraq also drew that country's Kurds into the conflict. The government of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region sent its Peshmerga forces to areas abandoned by the army.  For a time there were only minor clashes between IS and the Peshmerga, but in August the jihadists launched a shock offensive. The Peshmerga withdrew in disarray, allowing several towns inhabited by religious minorities to fall, notably Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis where sheltering. Alarmed by the Peshmerga's defeat and the potential massacre of the Yazidis fleeing Sinjar, the US launched air strikes in northern Iraq and sent military advisers. European countries meanwhile began sending weapons to the Peshmerga. The YPG and Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) also came to their aid. Although the jihadists were gradually forced back by the Peshmerga in Iraq, they did not stop trying to capture the Kurdish enclaves in Syria. In mid-September, IS launched an assault on the enclave around the northern town of Kobane, forcing more than 160,000 people to flee into Turkey.  Despite this, Turkey refused to attack IS positions near the border or allow Kurds to cross to defend it, triggering Kurdish protests and a threat from the PKK to pull out of its peace talks with the government. However, it was not until mid-October that Ankara agreed to allow Peshmerga fighters to join the battle for Kobane.

Why won't Turkey help the Kurds defending Kobane?

There is deep-seated hostility between the Turkish state and the country's Kurds, who constitute 15% to 20% of the population. Kurds received harsh treatment at the hands of the Turkish authorities for generations. In response to uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s, many Kurds were resettled, Kurdish names and costumes were banned, the use of the Kurdish language was restricted and even the existence of a Kurdish ethnic identity was denied, with people designated "Mountain Turks". In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan established the PKK, which called for an independent state within Turkey. Six years later, the group began an armed struggle. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.  In the 1990s the PKK rolled back on its demand for independence, calling instead for greater cultural and political autonomy, but continued to fight. In 2012, the government and PKK began peace talks and the following year a ceasefire was agreed. PKK fighters were told to withdraw to northern Iraq, but clashes have continued  Although Ankara considers IS a threat, it also fears that Turkish Kurds will cross into Syria to join the PYD - an offshoot of the PKK - and then use its territory to launch attacks on Turkey. It has also said it is not prepared to step up efforts to help the US-led coalition against IS unless the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also one of its goals.

What do Syria's Kurds want?
Kurds make up between 7% and 10% of Syria's population, with most living in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, and in three, non-contiguous areas around Kobane, the north-western town of Afrin, and the north-eastern city of Qamishli. Syria's Kurds have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. Some 300,000 have been denied citizenship since the 1960s, and Kurdish land has been confiscated and redistributed to Arabs in an attempt to "Arabize" Kurdish regions. The state has also sought to limit Kurdish demands for greater autonomy by cracking down on protests and arresting political   The Kurdish enclaves were relatively unscathed by the first two years of the Syrian conflict. The main Kurdish parties avoided taking sides. In mid-2012, government forces withdrew to concentrate on fighting the rebels elsewhere, after which Kurdish groups took control. The Democratic Unity Party (PYD) quickly established itself as the dominant force, straining relations with smaller parties who formed the Kurdistan National Council (KNC). They nevertheless united to declare the formation of a Kurdish regional government in January 2014. They also stressed that they were not seeking independence but "local democratic administration".
Will Iraq's Kurds gain independence?
Kurds make up an estimated 15% to 20% of Iraq's population. They have historically enjoyed more national rights than Kurds living in neighbouring states, but also faced brutal repression. Kurds in the north of Iraq revolted against British rule during the mandate era, but were crushed. In 1946, Mustafa Barzani formed the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to fight for autonomy in Iraq. After the 1958 revolution, a new constitution recognised Kurdish nationality. But Barzani's plan for self-rule was rejected by the Arab-led central government and the KDP launched an armed struggle in 1961.  In 1970, the government offered a deal to end the fighting that gave the Kurds a de facto autonomous region. But it ultimately collapsed and fighting resumed in 1974. A year later, divisions within the KDP saw Jalal Talabani leave and form the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).In the late 1970s, the government began settling Arabs in areas with Kurdish majorities, particularly around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and forcibly relocating Kurds. The policy was accelerated in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, in which the Kurds backed the Islamic republic. In 1988, Saddam Hussein unleashed a campaign of vengeance on the Kurds that included the poison-gas attack on Halabja.  When Iraq was defeated in the 1991 Gulf War Barzani's son, Massoud, led a Kurdish rebellion. Its violent suppression prompted the US and its allies to impose a no-fly zone in the north that allowed Kurds to enjoy self-rule. The KDP and PUK agreed to share power, but tensions rose and a four-year internal conflict erupted in 1994  The two parties co-operated with the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein and have participated in all governments formed since then. They have also governed in coalition in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), created in 2005 to administer the three provinces of Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaimaniya.
After the IS offensive in June, the KRG sent the Peshmerga into disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the central government, and then asked the Kurdish parliament to plan a referendum on independence.  However, it is unclear whether the Kurds will press ahead with self-determination, or push for a more independent entity within a federal Iraq.


^ I have to admit that I didn't know much about the Kurds until recently (except for meeting some when I lived in Germany.) I don't know about the Kurdish people as a whole, but I have focused on the ones living in Iraq (mostly around Erbil) and they seem like a group of hard-working, determined people. I know someone who lived in Baghdad for several years and now is in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) and they see an instant difference in the two groups. Not only do the Kurds love Americans and other Westerners while the Iraqi soldiers flee the Kurds stand, fight and win. Turkey doesn't seem to care about anyone other than Turks. They deny they carried out a genocide against the Armenians and they continue to deny and discriminate against the Kurds in Turkey (while the Turks also refuse to aid its NATO co-members in the ISIS fight.) Maybe Turkey shouldn't be in NATO if they refuse to do anything - even in their own backyard. The US and other countries need to support the Kurds as they are really our only solution to stopping ISIS since Turkey refuses to, Syria won't and Iraq can't. ^


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29702440

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ottawa Attacks

From the G & M:
"What unfolded during the attack in Ottawa"

The attack on Parliament Hill began with a shooting at the National War Memorial shortly before 10 a.m. A gunman with long black hair approached a soldier standing guard before the cenotaph and fired a long-barrelled weapon at least twice, witnesses say, dropping the wounded soldier to the ground. He was declared dead at hospital hours later.  The gunman then marched across the street to Parliament Hill. It is not clear whether one or more gunmen entered the Parliament Buildings, but dozens of shots were fired. The explosive rattle of gunfire rang through the halls where MPs, journalists and others were ushered to safety and huddled in locked rooms. One gunman was shot dead in Parliament’s Centre Block. One parliamentary guard was shot in the leg and another was grazed. Several MPs reported that the gunman was killed by Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, who is a former police officer although is not normally armed. As police rushed to the scene and civilians scrambled for cover chaos reigned in the area around Parliament Hill. There were reports of gunmen on rooftops in the area. Gunfire was reported near the Château Laurier hotel just before 11 a.m. One report suggested a gunman had escaped on a motorcycle, speeding away on the Queensway highway, but that has not been confirmed. Parliament remains on lockdown. It is not clear yet how many gunmen are involved in the attacks. Many reports have suggested two or three or possibly more. The targets chosen are clearly of some political significance: The tomb of the unknown soldier, the seat of government and the city’s best-known place of commerce. The attacks come just two days after a Canadian soldier was killed in an apparently targeted hit-and-run incident in Quebec. Security officials had just raised the security threat level from low to medium, possibly related to the deployment of Canadian soldiers and planes to the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but not in response to any specific threat. Construction worker Barry Wills told The Globe and Mail that shortly after the first shots were heard, he saw someone hijack a vehicle close to the Parliament Buildings. “I saw this guy, he had a head wrap, he came whipping through the gates, and he had a shotgun,” Mr. Wills said. “He looked back at me, I dove behind my truck. … He hijacked a car, he told the guy to get out of a black car … he drove up, and he went into Centre Block.” At 11:20 a.m., an eight-member police SWAT team with a dog enter Parliament’s Centre Block on the run. They emerged from the main doors and re-entered though the centre doors in the basement.
Police said no arrests have yet been made. “As far I know no one is under arrest,” said Constable Marc Soucy of the Ottawa Police Service. He also said he was “not aware” that any suspects had been shot. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were all reported safe. Mr. Harper was in a secure location and was briefed by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. The PM was scheduled to appear at an event in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai later Wednesday but that event has been cancelled. He will speak to Canadians at some point later Wednesday. The soldier shot at the War Memorial was treated at Ottawa Civic hospital. He has not yet been named, but he is a reservist from Hamilton with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The hospital said two other patients have been admitted and are in stable condition. On Parliament Hill, police were going room by room, clearing offices and breaking down locked doors. Some MPs had barricaded themselves in the Conservative caucus room, piling chairs high against the doors. Many other MPs tweeted that they were safe as the security operation continued to unfold around them.

^ No one thinks that Canada would get attacked and so they (Canadians) tend to think see the countries like the US and Israel (that try to stop the groups that want to attack us) as bullies and policing the world. These attacks in the Canadian capital show both Canadians and the other countries that don't take these threats and attacks seriously that they are real and not just made to scare people or push back other domestic issues. Unfortunately, innocent people had to die, but hopefully now the world (and Canada) will do more against Al-Qaeda and ISIS. ^


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/what-unfolded-during-the-attack-in-ottawa/article21229398/

Forced Airports

From Yahoo:
"Homeland Security orders new screening for Ebola"

Everyone coming to the United States from the three West African countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak will now be screened for the deadly disease at one of five airports, the Homeland Security Department said Tuesday. Earlier this month, Customs and Border Protection officers at New York's Kennedy, Newark Liberty, Washington's Dulles, Chicago's O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airports started screening people arriving from West Africa. The screening includes using no-touch thermometers to determine if travelers have a temperature, one symptom of a possible Ebola infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also working with DHS on the screening. There are no direct flights to the United States from the three Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. About 94 percent of the roughly 150 people traveling daily from West Africa to the U.S. arrive at the one of the five airports. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday that now everyone traveling from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea will have to land in the U.S. at one of the five airports and then fly on to their destination. The new requirement means that people traveling from the region who were not originally passing through one of those five airports will have to rebook their flights. Johnson said DHS now has "measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days." Some members of Congress have urged President Barack Obama to ban all travel from West Africa.

^ I'm not sure how the US immigration officials will know if someone came from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea with they are an American, Canadian, European, etc and have no stamps in their passport. The US officials (immigration and health care) didn't know what to do when the Liberian guy came and brought Ebola into the US even though Ebola had been raging there for months. I think the US government and health officials are merely doing the bare minimum to appease people's minds rather than doing what actually needed (the same with the WHO and other countries.) ^

http://news.yahoo.com/homeland-security-orders-screening-ebola-160508921--politics.html
 

Disability Week

 I got this on Facebook and think it's a good idea for everyone to take a minute and help those with visible and invisible disabilities whether it's holding a door open for them or simply learning more about a disability.

Foreign Signs

From MT:
"Moscow Puts Up Garbled, Unreadable Latin-Letter Street Signs"

The Russian capital has erected new street signs transliterated into Latin letters, but they may be of limited help to tourists because of their unusual spellings.  One example making the rounds in blogs and various media is the name of a downtown square that City Hall has rendered as "Xoxlovskaya ploshhad." The spelling — which defies both Google Maps' standards and The Moscow Times' system — uses the Russian letter "x" rather than transliterating it as "kh," a sound that is much easier for non-Russian speakers to understand. Thus, "Xoxlovskaya Ploshhad" is usually written as "Khokhlovskaya Ploshchad" for foreigners.  Other examples include "Ulicza Volxonka," for what is more commonly known as "Ulitsa Volkhonka," and "Koly'mazhny'j pereulok" ("Kolymazhny" in The Moscow Times' spelling and "Kolymazhnyy" on Google Maps). Online news site Gazeta.ru on Monday pinpointed the problem: City Hall has apparently been using a transliteration system originally intended only for online use.  The system was meant for people who only have Latin keyboards but want to write in Russian (a common occurrence among Russian emigrants in the 1990s), spelling their messages with Latin letters and then converting them to correct the Cyrillic spelling using computer programs. The system is explicitly defined as being meant for phonetic use in the Russian state-approved technical standards system GOST, prominent blogger Sergei Mukhamedov said last Friday. But this did not deter City Hall, which said it is not planning to make any tweaks to the spellings as it proceeds to install 110,000 new street signs by 2018, Gazeta.ru said. Moscow allotted 20 million rubles ($500,000) in 2011 for the program to put up new street signs, Interfax reported at the time. The measure was largely meant to make navigating around the city easier for foreign tourists. Moscow accommodated about 5.6 million tourists in 2013, City Hall said earlier.  Russia has struggled with rendering its street names for an English-reading audience before, most notably during the recent Sochi Olympics. Many street names in the southern host city were translated from Russian — not transliterated — resulting in such  oddities as "Shotgun Street" and "Blue Dali Street," names clear to foreign visitors but completely unintelligible to locals.

^ I have been to Moscow many times and there needs to be more for both the Russian tourist as well as the foreign tourist in the capital. As for the transliteration of the signs: I don't understand why the city doesn't just put the signs in Russian and English. Russian international passports use both so why not the rest of the country? . Transliteration is complex while translation can be easier. Rather than saying Moskva you would use Moscow. The majority of the world knows and uses English and so it would make things easier for everyone. The Russians could use English to speak to foreigners and vice versa. Putting up signs that no one will be able to understand is just a waste of time and money. ^

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/moscow-puts-up-garbled-unreadable-latin-letter-street-signs/509841.html

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rwanda Scanning

From USA Today:
"Rwanda to screen U.S. visitors for Ebola"

The East African nation of Rwanda is requiring all visitors from the United States and Spain to self-monitor, fill out an extensive questionnaire and report their medical condition for the first 21 days of their visits because of the Ebola cases that have surfaced in the two Western countries. Coincidentally or not, the new screening follows an embarrassing uproar in a New Jersey school over the imminent enrollment of two Rwanda children that initially prompted their parents to keep them at home for 21 days. The order by the Rwanda government to visiting Americans and Spaniards was posted Tuesday on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda:
"On October 19, the Rwandan Ministry of Health introduced new Ebola Virus Disease screening requirements. Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition—regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola—by telephone by dialing 114 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the duration of their visit to Rwanda (if less than 21 days), or for the first 21 days of their visit to Rwanda. Rwandan authorities continue to deny entry to visitors who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, or Sierra Leone within the past 22 days."
The U.S. and Spain have both recorded deaths from Ebola. In Dallas, a Liberian national died of the virus two weeks ago and two nurses who treated him tested positive for the virus. At least two Spanish missionaries died in Spain after contracting the disease in West Africa. One Spanish nurse also tested positive for the virus.  Rwanda is located in East Africa about 2,600 miles east of Liberia, the closest of the three West African countries with the Ebola outbreak. Rwanda has been unaffected by the Ebola outbreak on the other side of the continent and has reported no cases of the virus.
The dust-up in New Jersey involving two Rwanda children took a new turn Monday with an apology by the superintendent of the Maple Shade School District in Burlington County. The children were supposed to begin classes Monday at Howard Yocum Elementary School in Maple Shade, N.J., but ran into a backlash from other parents, WTXF-TV in Philadelphia.com reports. The uproar started after a school nurse sent a note to staff members saying that the school intended to take the temperature of the two students three times a day for the next 3 weeks, the normal incubation period for Ebola.  The letter quickly leaked to parents, stirring up fears and prompting the school district to post a note that their parents had voluntarily decided to keep them at home for 21 days. But on Tuesday, the school district changed course again and apologized for its rash behavior, noting on its website that its schools have "become the unwitting 'face' of our nations fears with regard to pressing health concerns." "None of the actions that have shined the regional light of media exposure on Maple Shade Schools was mean-spirited or ill intended," writes school superintendent Beth Norcia.
She says the school next week "will welcome the new students whose parents graciously offered to keep them close this week." She adds that the schools will "consider the unintended consequences of our messages more carefully in the future. No matter how well-intentioned, a message that originated within our schools created conflict and concern within the Maple Shade community. We offer our sincere apologies."

^ Rwanda has a right to screen Americans, Spanish and any other nationality that has reported an Ebola case, much less a death. The US failed to contain Ebola when it was first brought into the country and the government and health officials has done an awful job in stopping its spread. The fact that those who have been in contact with Ebola have been allowed  to travel across the country and go on cruises just shows how disorganized and confused those that are supposed to help us, keep us safe and get us better don't have a clue on what they are doing. It is one thing to not have a cure or vaccine for Ebola and another to not know how to isolate the people who have contact with the disease to travel freely, mingle with other people and possibly spread the disease. Until the US (the WHO and other countries) gets their act together and starts following basic, common sense (ie isolating those who could have the disease from everyone else) then countries like Rwanda should do what they feel necessary to protect their citizens - since Obama, other US government officials, the CDC and the healthcare officials in Texas don't seem to care about keeping the rest of us safe and disease-free. ^


http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/10/21/rwanda-united-statees-ebola-screening/17653947/

Fake Disabled

From the BBC:
"Grand Opera House: Disability 'faked for free tickets'"

Belfast's Grand Opera House has said it is reviewing its wheelchair access scheme, because people are pretending to be disabled to get free tickets.  At the moment, people with disabilities can get one free ticket for a carer when they pay for a seat at a show. They are not obliged to prove that they need special access and the Grand Opera House has said it has evidence the "scheme is being misused".
Management said it was seen as "an opportunity to avail of free tickets". The Grand Opera House introduced its Access For All membership scheme two years ago and during that period 1,200 people have signed up as members. However, the theatre is now contacting all of those currently registered to use the scheme, to explain that a review is under way.   The letter states: "It is very disappointing to have to make any changes to the services we offer our customers, but regrettably, we have to ensure that the scheme is fit for purpose, meets the needs of those people who need it most, as well as making sure that it remains a viable option of reasonable adjustment for the Grand Opera House." Last year, the venue issued in excess of 3,000 free tickets for carers. The venue's management said they intend to announce details of changes by early next year.  A statement issued on behalf of the Grand Opera House said: "The scheme has been successful in the last two years, and we hope that access for the most disadvantaged members of our community continues in the future.   "We will continue to liaise with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and our in-house disability advisory group to ensure that we maximise this access for those with disabilities and will be monitoring the use of the scheme in the new year before introducing any changes."

^ This is as much of a disgrace as those people who discriminate against the disabled. People who fake being disabled to simply get free things or special attention deserve to be sent to jail. It's hard enough for a person who really is disabled to get basic help and if others abuse that then it makes people not want to help or trust those that need it. I know this is for something free and not help opening a door, etc, but it is the same principle. I have seen this kind of abuse before. When you board a plane (especially Southwest which doesn't have assigned seats) there are a ton of people in airport wheelchairs who pre-board to get the better seats up front and then when the plane lands they are the first ones running off the plane (no wheelchair needed) while those we brought their own wheelchair and really need it have to wait a long time for their chair to come from underneath the plane  - since the flight crews tend to store their own luggage in the on-board cabinet for wheelchairs. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-29709464

Russians Fear US

From the MT:
"Russians More Afraid of U.S. Than Islamic Terrorism, Survey Shows"

Nearly a quarter of Russians believe the U.S. poses a bigger terrorist threat to their country than radical Islamists, a survey published Tuesday showed. Twenty-two percent of respondents to the poll by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), titled “Terrorist Threats Against Russia: New Sources,” said the U.S. was the most likely source of a terrorist attack, compared to a mere 4 percent who felt that way a year ago. Islamic extremists came in only second in the ranking of the biggest threat for Russians, with 13 percent of respondents citing this group as the biggest threat.
Ukraine — which had never before been cited in previous surveys on terrorism —came in third, with 7 percent saying the brotherly nation was a possible source of a terrorist attack on Russia. Russia has been at loggerheads with the new leadership in Kiev and its Western allies ever since the ouster of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February and Russia's annexation of Crimea a month later. In the ensuing information war, Russian state media widely referred to the new Ukrainian government as a “fascist junta” and Kiev's Maidan protesters as consisting of neo-Nazis and Right Sector ultranationalists intent on exterminating ethnic Russians. Whereas the North Caucasus used to be considered as one of the biggest threats to Russians in previous years — with 20 percent naming it as a potential source of terrorism only a year ago — now a mere 3 percent says it threatens Russians' security. Russian authorities have battled an Islamic insurgency in the turbulent region for decades, and shootouts between security forces and militants still occur there regularly.
The survey by VTsIOM was conducted before a suicide bombing in Grozny on Oct. 5 that killed 5 policemen and injured a dozen others. Overall, while Russians' perceptions on the threats of terrorism have changed considerably, so too has their level of confidence in the authorities. “Russians have never before felt safer over the entire period that [VTsIOM] has been conducting such surveys, since 2002,” a statement on the pollster's website said. Sixty-eight percent said they were confident in the ability of Russian authorities to prevent a terrorist attack, compared to 20 percent who said authorities probably could not protect the public and 3 percent who said they definitely could not. In January, in the wake of the Volgograd bombings that killed 32 people, only 23 percent of respondents were confident in the ability of authorities to protect the public. Forty-three percent said the situation with terrorism had improved somewhat, and 15 percent said it had improved considerably. In January, 57 percent had said the situation had not changed at all. With such a drastic change in sentiments since the start of the year, analysts have speculated about what could have contributed to the public's increased optimism. In comments to the Kommersant business daily published Tuesday, Anatoly Yermolin, a veteran officer of the Federal Security Service's Vympel group, said the public's increased confidence likely stemmed from the successful holding of the Olympic Games in Sochi. Valery Fedorov, head of VTsIOM, said the bigger factor in the changed perceptions was the belief that authorities were in control of the situation. “People have started to see the problem of terrorism as something that is easily resolvable, basing this on the notion that our authorities' abilities have increased,” Fedorov was cited as saying. Yermolin expressed bafflement at how the U.S. could be seen in the context of terrorism, however. “I don't understand how a normal person can say that the U.S. and Ukraine are terrorist threats to Russia,” Yermolin said in comments to Kommersant. The survey was conducted from Sept. 13-14.among 1,600 people in 42 Russian regions. It has a margin of error no greater than 3.4 percent.

^ I guess the Russians have drank the Kool-Aid and forgot about the terrorist attacks done by Islamist extremists on their trains, buses, planes, airports, apartment buildings, hospitals, theaters and schools. That kind of thinking can only give the real threat (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, etc) more opportunity to attack since the Russians will be focusing on other things. ^


http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russians-more-afraid-of-u-s-than-islamic-terrorism-survey-shows/509808.html
 

No Job? Then Jail

From the MT:
"Belarus Wants to Criminalize Unemployment"

Taking an old-school approach to battle the woes of modern capitalism, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has endorsed a legislative ban on unemployment, Interfax reported Monday. "You want to bring back [the phrase] 'social parasitism,' do it. That would be easier for the people to understand," Lukashenko was cited as saying at a governmental meeting on employment. His comments were made during a discussion of the Belarussian police's proposal to punish people who "intentionally don't work," including by imposing forced labor. "We need to make these people work using any means we know and can handle," the Belarussian strongman was cited as saying. He set Jan. 1 as the deadline for introducing measures against "social parasitism" ("tuneyadstvo"), a Soviet-era legal concept. Belarussian official statistics put the unemployment rate in the country of 9 million at below 1 percent. But independent experts estimate that the figure is about 10 percent of the total workforce. This is not the first time Lukashenko has advocated radical employment regulations: In 2012, Belarus reportedly banned workers in the state-controlled timber industry from resigning without a senior manager's permission. Last May, Lukashenko called for similar restrictions in the agricultural sector, explicitly describing the ban on quitting a farmer's job as the reinstatement of "serfdom." Social parasitism was a criminal offense in the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1991, based on the doctrine that in a socialist state, every able-bodied person has a duty to work and help build a utopian communist society. The concept gained notoriety in 1964, when famous poet Josef Brodsky was convicted of social parasitism despite his argument that his job was writing poetry. Brodsky went on to receive the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature.

^ Looks like Belarus doesn't want Russia to keep stealing its thunder of bringing back the Soviet Union. ^

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/belarus-wants-to-criminalize-unemployment/509831.html

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hot Benches

From MT:
"Moscow Considers Heated Benches for Winter"

Moscow residents may soon be able to keep their derrieres warm in even the coldest winter weather with the arrival of heated benches, a news report said Monday. Innovative benches with built-in heaters may soon appear on the city's streets, in sports stadiums and in some courtyards, according to Rossia-24 television channel.  The benches, made by a Novosibirsk-based company, New Horizons, contain a heating mechanism triggered when the temperature falls below 15 degrees Celsius. The first benches will appear at the city's VDNKh park as part of a forum on improving city life on Nov. 5-6, while Fili park's management is already seeking investors in order to install the benches there, Rossia-24 reported. Marianna Fetosova, the park's PR manager, was cited as saying the benches would be put in the most popular areas of the park, as well as near the entrance.

^ One thing Russia should focus on is clearing their sidewalks, streets and the roofs of snow and then worry about heated benches. I have seen dozens of people slip and fall on poorly-shoveled streets and also people being hit from ice and snow falling from buildings. That is more dangerous than sitting on a cold bench. ^

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/moscow-considers-heated-benches-for-winter/509766.html

Scots Bag Paying

From the BBC:
"Minimum charge for carrier bags in Scotland introduced"

A mandatory carrier bag charge has been introduced in Scotland for the first time. Shoppers will now have to pay a minimum of 5p per bag, with many retailers donating proceeds to good causes. In May, MSPs voted to bring in the new regulations in a bid to tackle Scotland's litter problem, but the fee does not just apply to plastic bags. It has also been imposed on single-use carriers made from eco-friendly materials.  The minimum charge applies to all retailers, not just supermarkets. Wales became the first part of the UK to introduce a minimum charge for single-use carrier bags in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland last year. The Scottish government has estimated that 800 million single-use bags are given out by supermarkets every year in Scotland alone. More than 160 retailers including Marks and Spencer, McDonald's and The Co-operative Group have registered for Zero Waste Scotland's Carrier Bag Commitment, launched earlier this year.  This means organisations have agreed to donate the net proceeds from the charge to good causes, which may include environmental causes.

^ I am against these stupid extra charges whether they occur in Scotland or California. It is only a way to make more money in the guise of helping the environment. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-29677458

Post Cuts

From the G & M:
"Canada Post rolls out first wave of door-to-door delivery cuts"

The key for Doug Boyd’s new community mailbox arrived in the mail a month ago and he already checked to see if it worked. By Friday, he had seen the last postal delivery at his red-brick home in suburban Ottawa. And so, by Monday morning, the 59-year-old Kanata resident was among tens of thousands of Canadians who are the first to be affected this fall by Canada Post’s big push to end door-to-door delivery in all urban areas within the next four years.  The first phase-out this week affects about 71,300 homes and 2,300 businesses in Fort McMurray, Calgary’s east end, Winnipeg’s north end, the Kanata suburb in western Ottawa, five bedroom communities northeast of Montreal and parts of Halifax. These will be joined on Nov. 17 by 25,300 homes and 1,100 businesses in Oakville. The move didn’t happen without complaints from residents who felt that their new mailboxes were installed in a hurried fashion and that the Crown corporation was determined to make the shift, no matter what concerns were raised. Mr. Boyd’s new community box, for example, sits at a corner across from his house. He expects that, like other community mailboxes (or CMB in Canada Post jargon), his will become littered with junk mail and tagged with graffiti. He fears motorists will stop by at all hours and would crowd his driveway since there is no parking at the box. In the Montreal suburb of Repentigny, a resident told CBC that he received a key that opened three neighbours’ mailboxes, but not his own. Canada Post has said it is considering new CMB designs so they could be mounted on the sides of buildings, corner stores or coffee shops. The Canada Post drive would more than double the number of Canadian households that will get its letters and parcels from CMBs. The corporation repeatedly notes that two-thirds of Canadian households (about 10 millions homes) already don’t receive their mail at the door. However, that includes people who live in seniors’ residence, apartments and condos and who would get delivery at a mail panel in their building lobby. Of the 10 million households cited by Canada Post, about four million – 26 per cent of all households in Canada – receive their mail at a community mailbox. While many politicians and residents appear resigned to the change, others are still trying to challenge Canada Post. More than 195,000 people have signed an online petition started by Susan Dixon, a Cambridge, Ont., resident.


^ I don't receive my mail anywhere near my house. I have to drive a mile off my mountain to a set of 10 mailboxes. I don't really feel sorry for these people (except the disabled affected) as they can still walk to their mailboxes while I can't. ^



http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canada-post-rolls-out-first-wave-of-door-to-door-delivery-cuts/article21167673/

Paying Nazis

From the BBC:
"Nazis who left US still paid social security"

The US government has paid dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals millions of dollars in social security after forcing them to leave the US. The payments, funded by taxpayers, were made through a legal loophole, an Associated Press investigation has uncovered. Some are still being paid.
Former guards at Nazi labour camps, where millions died, are among them. The US justice department says benefits are paid to individuals who renounce US citizenship and leave voluntarily.
But there is anger that public money is being used in this way. "It's absolutely outrageous that Nazi war criminals are continuing to receive Social Security benefits when they have been outlawed from our country for many, many, many years," said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Getting paid:
  • Jakob Denzinger began serving in a Death's Head Unit in 1942, later settled in Ohio and became a plastic industry executive
  • Martin Hartmann volunteered for the SS in 1943, was stripped of his US citizenship and admitted to his Nazi past
  • Martin Bartesch was a guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, was working as a janitor when US authorities discovered past
  • Arthur Rudolph is accused of using slave labour at a Nazi rocket factory, brought to US after war due to technical prowess
  • John Avdzej was a Nazi-installed regional mayor in occupied Belorussia, claimed to have been a farmer when he immigrated to US
  • Wasyl Lytwyn served in a Nazi SS unit in the Warsaw Ghetto, worked as a shipping clerk in Chicago and later admitted concealing his SS service
  • Peter Mueller was a Nazi SS guard who came to the US in 1956 and resided in Illinois before voluntarily leaving for Germany
She said she plans to introduce legislation to close the legal loophole. Four World War Two suspects are said to still be alive and collecting benefits. One is former SS guard Martin Hartmann, another is Auschwitz camp patroller Jakob Denzinger. Mr Hartmann is said to have moved to Berlin from Arizona in 2007, while Mr Denzinger left Ohio for Germany in 1989. He currently resides in Croatia.
The arrangement reportedly allows the justice department's Office of Special Investigations to avoid drawn-out deportation hearings and expel more Nazis from the US.   At least 38 of 66 suspects who left the US kept their benefits, the Associated Press investigation found.  In a statement, justice department spokesman Peter Carr said that in 1979, the US Congress ordered the removal of Nazi criminals "as expeditiously as possible" to countries where they would face the possibility of criminal prosecution. "Under existing US law, all retirement benefits - Social Security and Medicare - are terminated if someone is ordered by the court to be removed from the US," he added.  "However, if an individual renounces their US citizenship and voluntarily leaves the US, they might continue to receive Social Security benefits."

^ This is just outrageous. The US (and other countries) should never give retirement or other benefits to known war criminals. Germany continues to give government pensions to former Nazis living openly as well as former East German Communist leaders. There is no real why any former Nazi or Communist Party member should receive anything other than time in prison or the death penalty. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29694228

Hack Government

From the G & M:
"Hack the border: Governments asked to enlist whiz kids to end delays"

Frustrated by costly delays at the Canada-U.S. border, the business community is urging governments to seek solutions from private-sector whiz kids.The national governments are being pressed to adopt a model popularized by high-tech startups during the original dot.com boom in the 1990s: gather a bunch of software engineers in one room, give them a problem to solve, and promise a prize. They call it a hackathon.  Leading business groups are requesting that kind of hackathon for the border, unsatisfied by the pace of progress following years of government efforts to reduce wait times.
It’s been raised repeatedly lately with public officials by the Canadian American Business Council, which counts six dozen companies and an advisory board that includes the two countries’ ambassadors to each other. The group’s Maryscott Greenwood took it up after meeting with White House officials this summer, when they explained how the hackathon model had been used in U.S. disaster preparedness. She suggested that kind of approach might help the Beyond the Border program, the delay-fighting initiative announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama in 2011. She brought it up again at a binational border conference in Ottawa last month, a regulatory co-operation meeting in Washington this month, and in conversations with cabinet ministers — U.S. Homeland Security boss Jeh Johnson, and Canada’s Industry Minister James Moore. One official at the Privy Council Office wouldn’t announce whether the idea was under consideration; he only said there would be recommendations made to the countries’ leaders later this year as part of the governments’ Beyond the Border Action Plan implementation plan.
It’s not like the idea would be revolutionary. Governments in both countries have already begun using the startup-culture approach to solving problems. The home-rental app Airbnb also launched a project, aimed at pre-identifying homes that could shelter displaced people and emergency workers during a crisis. Then the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare health-exchange website last fall only bolstered the U.S. administration’s determination to modernize its procurement procedures. The idea of a prize for improving the border came from someone at the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who told Greenwood how rewards had been used elsewhere to attract participants.


^ I am curious to see if anything will really change and make things better and faster at the US/Canadian border. ^


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/hack-the-border-governments-asked-to-enlist-whiz-kids-to-end-delays/article21156587/

Russian Fear

From PM:
"Putin's Coup"

The war in Ukraine is no longer only about Ukraine. The conflict has transformed Russia. This increasingly is what European leaders and diplomats believe: that Vladimir Putin and his security establishment have used the fog of war in Ukraine to shroud the final establishment of his brittle imperialist dictatorship in Moscow. Among those who believe that this is happening, and that Europe will be facing down a more menacing Russia for a long time to come, is Radek Sikorski, who was Poland’s foreign minister from 2007 until September. “I think psychologically the regime has been transformed by the annexation of Crimea,” Sikorski told Politico Magazine. “This was the moment that finally convinced all doubters and turned all heads. This was Napoleon after Austerlitz. This was Hitler after the fall of Paris. This was the moment that finally centralized everything into the hands of Vladimir Putin.” Sikorski is formerly a glamorous figure in Brussels who played a leading role in shaping the European Union strategy toward both Russia and Ukraine. European leaders, intimidated by his charisma and outspoken views on Russia, chose not to appoint him as Europe’s high representative for foreign affairs earlier this year. Today Sikorski is the hawkish speaker of the Polish parliament, and he says that the West has been so distracted by the crisis in Ukraine it has missed the more important developments further east. “What is happening now is the full embrace of neo-imperialism,” Sikorski says. “They have exploited every post-Soviet and neo-Soviet atavism and made it real because an alarming proportion of the population believes it. This is how they have refueled their regime.” Sikorski is outspoken but not alone. Powerful officials inside Russia also see a darker cast to the regime, with the influence of the free-market economists and loyal oligarchs whom Putin once surrounded himself with significantly diminished. The liberals, relatively speaking, are out; the Russian president is reportedly now only working closely with security officials and the Defense Ministry. Some European diplomats even question whether Putin is still fully in charge, so beholden is he to the siloviki – the military and security establishment. “Every year the ruling circle shrinks smaller and smaller,” said one Kremlin source. “The only people that Putin is listening to are the military and the intelligence.”  Fear has returned to Moscow. Paranoia has gripped Russian officials and business elites. Those privy to sensitive information no longer carry smartphones. Instead they carry simple old cell phones and now remove the battery – to make sure the phone is dead – when they talk about Kremlin politics among themselves. This is because they assume the security services are now recording what is being said and this can disable the recording device. There is real fear that the next dramatic event in Russian politics could trigger a wave of sackings, arrests or even purges. “This is the new ruling elite – the GRU military intelligence, which was the spearhead on the ground in Ukraine and the defense ministry,” says Sikorski, referring to Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency, which commands its own special forces. “The removal of old elites has not started yet, but that’s the next logical step. … They have unleashed patriotic euphoria. They made this happen by exploiting the psychological and sociological resentment of the all the new and the old intelligence and security services toward the hated class of billionaires with their yachts and their mansions in London. That’s why they are so committed and loyal.” Carl Bildt, who was Sweden’s hawkish foreign minister until this month, also believes Putin’s revanchist team is using the nationalistic fury whipped up by the Ukraine war to consolidate its power. But Bildt suggests the new, hard-line Russian regime might also be brittle beneath the surface. “The mood from my Russian contacts is one of extreme pessimism and fear,” Bildt told Politico Magazine. “They have no idea where the future leads. They fear that Putin may rule forever or collapse very suddenly because the regime has such weak foundations. From what I am hearing, the military are overjoyed right now. This is because they are receiving what militaries want, which is prestige and vast new transfusions of money. But the oligarchs are frightened and the regional governors are angry. This is because they are the ones losing out on that big fat Moscow check.” Putin has instilled fear of stepping out of line with talk from his propagandists about the “sixth column.” The regime has long smeared the opposition with textbook accusations of them being Russia’s “fifth column.” But the Orwellian new invention of a “sixth column” refers to those inside the regime opposing expansionism due to their ties to the West. Alexander Dugin, the Kremlin-controlled ideologue now promoted across official airwaves as the champion of this new conservatism, has even called these insiders the main existential enemies of Russia. “The oligarchs with property in London know they are the outdated remnants of a previous era,” said one Kremlin adviser. Within the establishment there have been sudden sackings of intelligence officials and generals believed to be disloyal. Meanwhile, beyond the Kremlin walls, the security services have moved to finish the job on the Russian opposition. Through repression and infiltration, there is no meaningful opposition activism left. The main opposition leaders have all been forced to flee the country, isolated or placed under house arrest. The protest movement is dead. “We believe most of the people who took to the streets of Moscow back in 2011 have emigrated,” one Russian official familiar with the matter says. “And we believe the rest will soon follow.” There is growing fear among professionals in Moscow that the regime is contemplating requiring exit visas, a restrictive practice that vanished for most part with the Soviet Union. This appears for the most part to be a rumor spread by the Kremlin to encourage the remaining liberal activists to flee. However, there is a reality here as well: More than four million officials tied to the military and security services are now effectively banned from leaving the country. “They are closing the border slowly,” explains one Russian government adviser.

^ It seems that modern-day Russia is quickly becoming the 1930s Soviet Union with its purges, surveillance, etc. Where no one was safe and everything was forbidden. ^

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/vladimir-putins-coup-112025.html#.VEValjotCUl

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Last Laugh


I got this on Facebook and I agree with it.

Ebola Rules

From Yahoo:
"Rules vary about travel to countries hit by Ebola"

Demands are rising in Washington for the U.S. to ban travelers from countries in West Africa, but the Obama administration is resisting and says the screening measures already in place for travelers are more effective. There are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone to the U.S. Officials say that about 150 passengers a day arrive in the U.S. from those countries after making a connecting flight, usually in Europe. Most arrive at one of five airports, where screening for fever — a symptom of the disease — began this week.

Here's what different countries are doing about travel to and from the Ebola hot spots:

EUROPE:
United Kingdom: No formal ban. No direct flights from the three affected countries to London's Heathrow Airport since British Airways suspended service there in August due to the outbreak. There is passenger screening at Heathrow and soon at two other airports.

Germany: No ban and no plans for one. There is no formal monitoring or screening of arriving passengers. Like the U.S., Germany doesn't have any direct flights from those three African countries.

France: The government advises against non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. Air France suspended flights to Sierra Leone but has maintained once-a-day flights from Guinea, a former colony. Beginning Saturday, temperature checks for passengers arriving in Paris from the Guinean capital of Conakry.

Netherlands: The government advises against travel to the same three nations and urges Dutch citizens in those countries to leave. No direct flights. Currently no extra screening at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, although passengers on flights to and from Nigeria receive flyers with information about Ebola.

Ireland: No ban planned. No Ebola monitoring at airports. Ryanair flies to Morocco but not to any of the countries in the Ebola epidemic. The U.S. has customs stations at Dublin and Shannon airports for U.S.-bound travelers.

Czech Republic: Starting Tuesday, medical checks at Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport for passengers who visited Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone in the previous 42 days.

Albania: No ban.

Turkey: Passengers from Liberia and Nigeria are undergoing more intensive screening. Those with high fever or other symptoms are being quarantined. Six travelers suspected of having Ebola turned out to have malaria instead.

MIDDLE EAST:
Israel: No direct flights. The government plans to ask passengers on connecting flights from West Africa, mostly through France or Ethiopia, to declare if they have been to one of the Ebola countries recently and if they feel ill.

Egypt: Airport officials say there is no travel ban.

Saudi Arabia: People from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone could not get visas for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, a move that affected more than 7,000 travelers. Stopped issuing work visas to nationals of those countries.

United Arab Emirates: Dubai-based Emirates halted flights to Guinea in August. Dubai International Airport, a major hub for global air traffic, has no specific Ebola screening.

Qatar: Qatar Airways advises against non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone and does not fly there.

LATIN AMERICA and CARIBBEAN:
Colombia: Bars entry by any travelers requiring visas who have been in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Senegal.

Haiti: The prime minister tweeted that the UN stopped sending peacekeepers from Africa to Haiti as a preventive measure.

Jamaica: Bans entry by anyone who has been in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone within four weeks.
Guyana: Diplomatic missions have been told not to issue visas to people from the affected West African countries.

Trinidad and Tobago: Denies entry to residents of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo. Others who have visited those countries within six weeks will be quarantined for 21 days.

Saint Lucia: Visitors from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone can't enter until the Ebola outbreak is under control. Travelers from Nigeria need to present a recent medical certificate declaring them free of the virus.

Antigua: No entry to anyone who has been in affected countries within the past 21 days and suspended granting of visas.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Bans nationals from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Belize: Issued a ban Friday on visas to persons from West African countries.


^ Some countries seem to take this Ebola epidemic seriously and others like the US do not. ^

http://news.yahoo.com/rules-vary-travel-countries-hit-ebola-231204323.html

Caribbean Bans

From the BBC:
"Caribbean countries announce Ebola travel bans"

A group of Caribbean countries have announced bans on entry to foreigners who have travelled through the three West African countries most affected by Ebola. Jamaica said it would not accept travellers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone for the time being.  Guyana, the island of St Lucia, Haiti and Colombia also introduced a ban.  In the United States, President Barack Obama has resisted pressure to put similar bans in place.  Jamaica's travel ban extends to "persons ordinarily resident in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as persons who have travelled to or transited through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, within 28 days of having departed from these countries".  The government said Jamaican citizens and residents would be quarantined for 28 days and that it was a temporary measure. St Lucia's Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said his country was a poor small national that did not have the capacity "to manage any crisis that lands on our doorstep, any crisis of that kind".  Passengers from Nigeria would also be required to present a "recent medical certificate" clearing them of the virus he said.  Colombia included Senegal as well as Nigeria in their ban.
In Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said Guyanese diplomatic missions had been directed not to issue visas to people form West African nations until further notice.  Haiti's Prime Minister tweeted that the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti was suspending the rotation of troops from African countries as a preventive measure.

^ It makes complete sense for countries to either ban or quarantine people coming from infected areas. The US has done too little too late and now it is spreading (of course the Liberian man should have known better as should have the nurses treating him.) ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29655344

Growing Marriage Rights

From Wikipedia;
"Same-sex marriage in the United States"




 
Timeline of same-sex marriage in the United States:

2004   Sandoval County, New Mexico (20 February; discontinued, reinstated by statewide legalization 19 December 2013), Massachusetts (17 May)

2008  California (16 June, discontinued 5 November; reinstated 28 June 2013), Connecticut (12 November)

2009   Iowa (27 April), Coquille Indian Tribe (Oregon) (May), Vermont (1 September)

2010 New Hampshire (1 January), District of Columbia (3 March)

2011 New York (24 July), Suquamish tribe (Washington) (1 August)

2012 Washington (6 December),  Maine (29 December)

2013 Maryland (1 January), Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians [Michigan] (15 March),  Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians [Michigan] (8 May), Santa Ysabel Tribe [California] (24 June), Delaware (1 July), Minnesota (1 August), Rhode Island (1 August), Doña Ana County, New Mexico (21 August), Santa Fe County, New Mexico (23 August), Bernalillo County, New Mexico (26 August), San Miguel County, New Mexico (27 August), Valencia County, New Mexico (27 August), Taos County, New Mexico (28 August), Los Alamos County, New Mexico (4 September), Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation [Washington] (5 September), Grant County, New Mexico (9 September), Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes [Oklahoma] (18 October),  New Jersey (21 October), Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe [Minnesota] (15 November), Hawaii (2 December),  New Mexico [Statewide] (19 December), Utah (20 December, discontinued 6 January 2014, reinstated 6 October 2014)

2014 Cook County, Illinois (21 February),  Michigan (21 March, discontinued 22 March), Arkansas (9 May, discontinued 16 May), Oregon (19 May), Pennsylvania (20 May), Illinois [Statewide] (1 June), Wisconsin (6 June, discontinued 13 June, reinstated 6 October), Indiana (25 June, discontinued 27 June, reinstated 6 October),  Oklahoma (6 October), Virginia (6 October), Colorado (7 October), West Virginia (9 October), Nevada (9 October), North Carolina (10 October), Alaska (12 October), Idaho (15 October), Arizona (17 October),

 ^ It's good to see that so many states are finally allowing homosexuals to marry (most states were recently forced to by the Supreme Court.) It is still wrong that any US state doesn't allow gays to marry. It's a question of homosexual civil rights and nothing more. It is discrimination to not allow gays to marry just as segregation was for non-whites  The blue states on the map above allow gay marriage and treat their residents as regular citizens whereas the other color states on the map continue to openly discriminate and treat their homosexual residents as second-class citizens. It is marriage apartheid. While the trend around the world has been to support equal rights for homosexuals there are still large areas (ie Africa, the MIddle East, Russia, etc) where being gay can get you fined, imprisoned or even put to death.) You do not have to be gay to want equal rights for homosexuals. It's  called Straight, But Not Narrow. It works on the same belief of white people helping blacks get their civil rights or men helping women with theirs. ^
 

Georgia's NATO Center

From the MT:
"Minister Says Georgia to Host NATO Training Center in Defiance of Russia"

Georgia will not allow pressure from Russia to stop it hosting a NATO training center on its territory or deter its plans to deepen ties with the West, the former Soviet republic's defense minister said.
The South Caucasus country of 4.5 million, crossed by pipelines that carry Caspian oil and gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, went to war with Russia in 2008 and remains wary of antagonizing Moscow as it tries to move further out of its orbit. "Confrontation with Russia should be avoided. Georgia needs stability," Defense Minister Irakly Alasania said in an interview. "But we will never bow to the Russians … to a 'diktat' from Russia on what is better for Georgia."  Georgia has watched closely as the conflict unfolded in eastern Ukraine, where Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula in February and pro-Russian separatists rose up in mid-April against Ukrainian government forces.
The 2008 war between Moscow and Tbilisi was fought over breakaway moves by the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are now under Russian control. "We want Ukraine to be successful and in this regard we see Russia's actions as the main threat to the security of the region," the minister said in the interview on Thursday. Russia has said it would regard NATO membership by Ukraine as a security threat and has increasingly raised reservations about Kiev's hopes of joining the European Union. It has also imposed trade embargoes in Georgia as it charted a pro-Western course. Alasania said Georgia, which signed an association agreement with the EU in June that deepens trade and political ties, was pressing on with efforts to join NATO despite failing this year to be granted a Membership Action Plan, a formal step towards accession. Georgia's former envoy to the UN and defense minister since 2012, the 40-year-old said cooperation with NATO would include hosting a training centre with the alliance. "This centre will be jointly operated by NATO and Georgia and it's going to be an additional layer of security and defensive capability for Georgia," he said. "It will be a Georgia-owned facility, but planning will be jointly done with NATO." He said NATO advisers would also help set up a separate logistical centre to facilitate the training centre, with NATO member states covering the bulk of the expenses for the creation of both centers as well as the training and exercises. Georgia's armed forces would receive further support from the alliance by having senior NATO officers attached to the army's general staff, he said. Georgia has enjoyed a strong relationship with the U.S. since securing independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and showed its support for NATO by sending troops to fight in Afghanistan.
Alasania said Tbilisi was ready to share its experience with Iraq to help "build strong institutionalized armed forces there" and was exploring ways to help as the U.S. tackles Islamist fighters.

^ It's nice to see countries like Georgia and the Ukraine thinking for themselves despite being threatened by Russia. Both the Ukraine and Georgia have Russian troops currently occupying parts of their countries. It must be a difficult decision for these small countries to make, but it's clearly the future they want and the West needs to support them. ^

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/defense-minister-says-georgia-will-host-nato-training-center-in-defiance-of-russia/509653.html

Ottawa's Response

From the G & M:
"Ottawa readies Ebola response team, provinces designate treatment centres"

Ottawa has a team of infectious disease experts on standby and the majority of Canadian provinces have designated specific Ebola treatment centres as this country tries to prepare for a killer virus that has now infected two U.S. nurses, raising serious questions about whether the average North American hospital can safely treat Ebola patients.  Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Wednesday evening that if Ebola makes its way to Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada would send a crew of epidemiologists and other experienced outbreak managers to help halt the spread of the virus, something the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now admits it should have done in a more robust manner after the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas last month. Meanwhile, every province from Alberta to Nova Scotia – with the exception of Ontario – has already selected two or more designated hospitals where health-care workers are supposed to receive extra training to treat possible Ebola patients. At least one British Columbia health authority has designated a hospital, and Ontario is in the process of choosing its designated hospitals now, according to the province’s Health Minister. The Canadian approach is an acknowledgment that not all hospitals can cope with Ebola patients, a reality underscored by the apparent bungling at the Dallas hospital that treated the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. – Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died of the disease. Infectious-disease experts said Wednesday that tapping some hospitals as treatment centres makes sense, so long as staff at other hospitals and health-care facilities are trained to flag patients with Ebola symptoms and a history of travel to the Ebola-affected region. “Every hospital needs to have a basic ability to ask the questions and isolate somebody while they’re figuring out what to do next,” said Michael Gardam, the director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto. Ontario is also poised to the be the last of five selected provinces to be ready to run rapid, preliminary lab tests for Ebola. Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta all have the capability now; Nova Scotia is expected to by next week. Preliminary positives would still have to be sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

^ The US missed the mark in isolating Ebola and so hopefully Canada will learn from these mistakes and treat their sick better and faster. ^


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/ottawa-readies-ebola-response-team-provinces-designate-treatment-centres/article21121980/

 

Another Czar

From USA Today:
"Obama to name Ron Klain as Ebola 'czar'"

President Obama will tap veteran government insider Ron Klain to coordinate his administration's efforts to contain the Ebola virus, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.
Klain, a former chief of staff to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore who is well known by Obama and White House aides, is being selected for his management experience and contacts throughout the government, Earnest said. Klain's appointment marks a swift turnabout for Obama, who until Thursday had resisted calls to appoint a single official to run the government's response to Ebola.
Asked Thursday about the prospect of an "Ebola czar," Obama told reporters: "It may make sense for us to have one person, in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process just to make sure that we're crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's going forward."  Obama did not specifically mention Klain's appointment during a Friday speech to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but said his administration is taking an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to fighting Ebola. The administration has come under increased pressure to name an anti-Ebola coordinator in the wake of news that two nurses in Dallas had contracted the deadly virus. Both had been treating a man who died of Ebola.

^ Obama has created more czars than Russia has and yet nothing seems to change. ^




http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/10/17/obama-ebola-czar-ron-klain/17429121/

Memorial

From the MT:
"Justice Ministry Moves to Liquidate Renowned Human Rights Group Memorial"

Russia's Justice Ministry has filed a claim with the Supreme Court seeking the liquidation of the Russian Memorial Society, an independent human rights group. Critics say the move exemplifies the Kremlin's ongoing stifling of non-governmental organizations.  The Russian Memorial Society, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by the European Parliament last year, was created in the 1980s by Soviet dissidents to preserve the legacy of the victims of Stalinist repression.  News broke among Russian state-run media outlets Friday that the Justice Ministry had appealed to the Supreme Court in late September to dissolve the NGO, which has been critical in recent months of Russia's stance on Ukraine. The high court's hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 13.
 
 
According to a statement published by Memorial on Saturday, the Justice Ministry's official explanation for the lawsuit — which it has not made public — centers on technicalities involving the human rights group's organizational structure.  Memorial, which is comprised of a patchwork of smaller groups that work in the fields of philanthropy, human rights advocacy and historical research, said in a statement that the Russian government had started expressing concern regarding the organization's status in 2012.  Under Russian law, an organization can only be classified as "national" if it is represented across more than half of Russia's regions via formally registered "regional" organizations. Memorial is comprised of numerous organizations operating across the country under one central umbrella, but it lacks a head office that oversees all of the regional branches' operations.   "The Justice Ministry's claims are baseless," the organization said in an online statement published Saturday, pledging to file a complaint challenging the government's legal action with the Constitutional Court.  The organization's chairman Arseny Roginsky, a former Soviet prisoner, told the RBC news agency that in the event of the Russian Memorial Society's dissolution, some organizations that had worked under its umbrella would simply re-register with the Justice Ministry.


^ Memorial was created towards the end of the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped to bring about the horrors of the Soviet crimes. It has also worked to end hazing in the military and other important issues. If the Russian Government forces Memorial to close it will only signal that the government officials are scared of what Memorial could expose. ^



http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/justice-ministry-moves-to-liquidate-renowned-human-rights-group-memorial/509293.html
 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving



               Happy Thanksgiving! Heureux d'action de graces!

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. Unlike Americans (who have to have their holiday meal on the Thursday) Canadians can choose whether to have theirs on Saturday, Sunday or Monday. I chose to have mine yesterday so I could have the leftovers today. This year I had no one else to help me celebrate Thanksgiving. I still decided to make the traditional holiday meal with turkey, stuffing and cranberries. I also made an apple pie (the first time) and it came out pretty good. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and I have only missed it 2 times in my life and now I get to celebrate it two times every year (Canadian in October and American in November..)

Flying Trouble

From Yahoo:
"6 Scientific Reasons Why People Are Jerks on Airplanes"
 
Ever since the days of scantily clad stewardesses and cigar-smoking passengers gave way to “flight attendants” and smoke detectors in the toilets, flying has gotten progressively less posh. People suck, planes are cramped, and you suffer dozens of indignities before even reaching your tiny seat. But lately, seeing as plane after plane’s been diverted by belligerent passengers and Knee Defenders, we wondered what exactly about flying brings out the worst in humans — aside from the food, of course. So we asked experts — two psychologists, and a veteran pilot — to find out.
 
 1. People hate not being in control
Flying ordeals — long lines, security scrutinizing you, and your belongings, being told to take off shoes and fasten seat belts — make people feel like they lack control, which leads to fear, anxiety, and ultimately acting out. “Few things can leave you feeling less in control than flying — someone else is driving, you can only get up when you have permission, there’s a lot of noise, you’re often left in the dark”, clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula told Thrillist. “When we feel out of control, our emotions get out of control too, and anger and frustration are going to lead the fray. It’s a recipe for rage”.

2. Primal instincts kick in
Protecting the armrest is the airspace equivalent of protecting the nest. “There rarely is anything more holy to us than our boundaries,” said Michael Brein, a PhD who calls himself the Travel Psychologist. “When these are infringed upon, then all hell can break loose.” Brein explains that tight quarters and no escape route exacerbate the issues. “You’re forced into unwanted intimacy and forced to adapt. You try to withdraw as much as you can, but in an aircraft and with the frustrations and anxiety that accompany flight, all the stress and pent up anxiety and frustration on top of having your personal space infringed upon leads to rage.”

3. Being horrible is contagious
“Monkey see, monkey do,” Brein said. While we may not consciously emulate others, seeing people act out, both in real life and in the news, may encourage similar behavior — a riot mentality, if you will. Humans naturally mimic their surroundings to fit in.
Plus, if everyone around you is a grumpy jerk, chances are you’ll experience emotional feces runoff.

4. More awful humans are flying today
Obviously, some people have always sucked, but the degree of suckage is worsening.
Patrick Smith, who’s been a commercial airline pilot since 1990 and blogs for askthepilot.com, says that although air rage is trendy in the media now, it’s been an issue for airlines for years. Smith claims that lower airfares have led to the possible increase in the number of airline incidents, because cheaper prices have resulted in a change in demographics. “In previous decades, when flying was a lot more expensive and exclusive, you didn’t have gangs of inebriated college kids flying off to Cancun for the weekend,” he explains, adding that flying has also become a less dignified experience than it once was, and, “right or wrong, passengers don’t feel an obligation to behave as politely as they once did.”


5. Alcohol acts as a catalyst
Captain Smith says alcohol is involved in a very high percentage of air rage incidents, and Brein agrees that alcohol and meds at high altitudes cause passengers to become less inhibited, and discard self-control. “Booze and airplanes are not a good idea. It’s like having a bar where there isn’t quite enough oxygen; the effects of alcohol tend to be potentiated at altitude,” Dr. Durvasula explains.
In laymen’s terms: Drinking while you’re crammed into a skybound container and battling for leg room isn’t doing you any good.


6. Airline profitability drives misery
Airlines are businesses. Perhaps not well-managed businesses, in some cases, but all have one thing in mind: to make as much money as possible. That means shoving as many people into their winged sardine cans as they can, charging for extra bags, and maybe not giving you peanuts.
 

^ I have travelled a lot over the decades and it really has gotten a lot worse flying since 2001. Airlines, flight crews and airports have been given "carte blanche" to treat their passengers as cattle rather than humans and anyone who complains is a "terrorist." You take that and add lengthy tarmac and flight delays, having to pay for every little thing has made flight travel one of the worst means of transportation. The majority of people (including myself) put up with it because it is faster than most other modes, but there is no joy or fun in anything dealing with flying. Until world governments, airlines and airports work to bring the human concept back to flying things will only get worse. ^


https://www.yahoo.com/travel/6-scientific-reasons-why-people-are-jerks-on-airplanes-99437513637.html