I knew from the beginning that it was too good to be true. Now I have found out that it was. 6 weeks ago I found a lawn care service and had the owner come give me an estimate. They told me that if I lived in town it would be more than half the cost, but with my mountain and the travel distance it would be more. I agreed and they were to start the next week (coming on either Thursdays or Fridays.) The next week the workers came and I took them around the property and showed them what I wanted done. The first time would be more work removing bushes, etc. and not merely mowing. They got to work and when they were done they handed me a bill. I wrote a check and mailed it out the next day. I thought that things were now settled and that for the first time in over 7 years I wouldn't have to mow my yard (or take care of the leaves in the Fall.) I got my hopes up for nothing. In the 5 weeks since the first time they came the yard doesn't look like it has been mowed. Even when I see them working and then check the yard when they leave the grass is still pretty high. I mentioned it to the owner and asked that they lower the blades. There was one week (over the 4th of July weekend) where they didn't come that Thursday or Friday. My dad called the owner and they eventually came that Saturday. I was leaving for Colorado that Sunday and my dad for Iraq that Monday. Then they didn't come at all this week. I waited until after business hours today just to make sure and then sent the owner an e-mail saying that because of the unreliability in the 6 weeks of using their company I was cancelling my service with them. I asked him to send me my bill for the work they had done (minus the first week which I already paid for.) The owner then replied that his crew had come yesterday and saw that the yard didn't need to be mowed and that they should have left a note on my door saying that they had stopped by and that they didn't need to mow. I replied that I work from home and that no one had stopped by all week much less left a message. I then went outside and took a picture of the yard (where the grass is up to my ankle) and sent it to the owner. The owner replied that it clearly needed to be mowed - duh! - and that if I wanted he would personally come do it himself tomorrow. Rather than keep "fighting" with them and getting more stress I will keep my cancellation with them and mow the yard myself. Hopefully, I can find another company to take care of the leaves this Fall. I just wish I could find one person in this state that actually does what they agree to do and not hide or make excuses. It is the one place I have lived around the US and the world that this has constantly happened.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
From the BBC:
"Canada overhauls child benefits scheme"
Canada has overhauled its child benefits system and significantly increased the amount of money the state will pay out to families. In a new scheme, launched on 20 July, nine out of ten families will see their benefits rise. The move fulfils a major 2015 election pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But it also comes at a time of budget deficit and economic stagnation in the country. Child welfare reform has been a pressing issue in Canada since the 1990s, with as many as 14% of the country's children living in poverty, according to national statistics data. "The new Canada Child Benefit means more money for healthier groceries, kids' summer programmes, and back-to-school clothes," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement. But critics have pointed to the cost - approximately CA$22.8 billion (£13.2 billion) from the federal budget at a difficult moment financially. Huge wildfires in Alberta have hurt oil production and Canadian exports performed worse than economists expected during the second quarter of this year. Payments through the scheme are also fixed rate for the next four years, meaning parents will not see their benefits adjusted according to inflation.
Top 5 countries for child welfare
But optimists hope the pros will outweigh the cons. The government estimates working-class families will receive an extra CA$2,400 (£1,386) a year on average through the new system. Parents with children under the age of six will be eligible to receive CA$6,400 (£3,698) a year, while parents with children between the ages of six and 17 will be eligible for CA$5,400 (£3,120) a year. The scheme is also more simple than the previous model, which involved Universal Child Benefit and two other benefits installations in tandem. The new scheme involves a single monthly payment and is weighted according to household income. "We are punching well below our weight on child poverty," said Iglika Ivanova, Senior Economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, an independent think tank. If successful, Ms Ivanova said the new system could cut child poverty by up to 22% within a year, affecting the lives of 230,000 people. A key test for the reform will be the impact it has on the lives of indigenous Canadians, who suffer greater levels of inequality. As many as 76% of aboriginal residents in Manitoba and 69% in Saskatchewan live below the poverty line. The National Post, a conservative Canadian news outlet, has given the new child benefit a lukewarm reception. The biggest change, they argue, will be felt by high-income families. Those earning more than CA$180,000 (£104,000) a year will see their child benefits phased out entirely under the new initiative. Economists say the full impact of the reform will not be known for a number of years.
^ Here's hoping that this will be funded correctly and help the children in Canada that need it the most. ^
From Disability Scoop:
"New Emojis Depict Range Of Abilities"
"New Emojis Depict Range Of Abilities"
There are countless emojis available, but only one depicting disability. Now, a group of advocates is looking to change that. The London-based disability advocacy group Scope has created a series of 18 new emojis portraying people with a range of abilities. The icons include people in wheelchairs, individuals with prostheses, a guide dog, those with hearing impairment and other disabilities engaging in a variety of activities. What’s more, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, several of the emojis depict athletes with various special needs. “Emojis offer a colorful array of more than 1,800 characters to help sum up how you’re feeling. So it’s disappointing that disabled people are represented with just one emoji — the wheelchair user sign,” said Rosemary Frazer, campaigns manager at Scope who uses a wheelchair herself. “This one symbol can’t represent me and the disabled people I know. To truly represent the world we live in, disabled people should be included in a way that reflects the diversity of our lives,” she said. The icons developed by Scope are freely available to download and share. Officials with Scope said they hope their designs will encourage the Unicode Consortium — the organization that standardizes emojis — to release icons representing people with disabilities.
^ As the article states it is very timely for these new emojis because of the Paralympics. Even if they weren't coming up it is good to have these emojis to show the different types of disabilities - especially within sports - since there are a wide-range of people with different abilities - as there are in any kind of sports with "regular" people participating. ^
"Why the 'Heat Dome' Will Scorch Nearly the Entire US This Weekend"
A blast of sweltering heat will sweep across the United States over the next four days, and some places will see temperatures as much as 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 to 8.3 degrees Celsius) above average for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service. Hot weather in July is to be expected, of course — after all, it's the middle of summer — but a so-called heat dome is kicking these hot and humid temperatures up a notch. A heat dome happens when a "dome" of high pressure traps hot air underneath it, said Mike Musher, a meteorologist at the NWS' Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. In the coming days, an enormous dome will envelope much of the Midwest before moving toward the East Coast over the weekend, he said. This dome formed largely because the jet stream passing over the U.S.-Canada boarder is preventing cooler air from pushing southward, Musher said. "During the summer months, with the jet typically so far north and not much cold air to dig into the united states, it's natural for these large high pressure systems to develop," he said. Much of the country will feel scorching temperatures over the next few days, according to weather prediction maps published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In Minneapolis, for example, the average temperature on July 21 is 84 degrees F (29 degrees Celsius), Musher said. But this weekend, it will be in the mid- to high 90s Fahrenheit (about 35 to 37 degrees Celsius), he said. By this weekend, as the heat dome moves eastward, temperatures in parts of the Midwest will drop to the 80s, Musher said. But the heat will continue to sizzle some areas. On Sunday, temperatures are expected to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) in several states, including parts of Kansas, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia, NOAA's weather prediction maps show. Heat domes aren't rare, but this one appears to have produced the first sizable heat wave of the summer, Musher said. Weather and government officials advised people to stay cool as the heat dome makes its way across the country. Even President Barack Obama tweeted, "This map says it all. Stay safe as it heats up: Drink water, stay out of the sun and check on your neighbors." The White House issued a statement asking people to be watchful of heat exhaustion symptoms, including heavy sweating; skin that is cold and pale; nausea; or vomiting. Likewise, heat stroke symptoms include high body temperature; skin that is red, hot and dry; or even unconsciousness, according to the government. Moreover, it's important to check on infants, young children and the elderly, who are less efficient at regulating internal body temperature than adults are, the statement said. But even adults should take care to wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, refrain from strenuous exercise, and drink plenty of water, the National Weather Service recommended.
^ It is very hot, hazy and humid on my mountain in Northern New England which is pretty rare. People need to remember to check-on the elderly, the disabled and pets with it so hot and humid. ^
From the BBC:
"Munich shooting: Gunman acted alone, say police"
A shooting at a Munich shopping centre which left nine people dead was carried out by one gunman who then killed himself, German police have said. The suspect was an 18-year-old German-Iranian dual national who lived in Munich, police told a news conference, but his motive is unclear. Sixteen people were injured, three critically, police added. A huge manhunt was launched following reports that up to three gunmen had been involved in the attack. The body of the suspect was found about 1km (0.6 miles) from the Olympia shopping centre in the north-western suburb of Moosach. Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told the news conference early on Saturday that the suspect had not been known to police and there were no known links to terror groups, although investigations were continuing. Following the attack, the Bavarian capital's transport system was suspended and the central railway station evacuated. Public transport was reopened several hours later when police gave a cautious "all clear". Thousands of people stranded by the emergency and unable to get home were offered shelter by local residents. First reports of the shooting came in just before 18:00 (16:00 GMT) on Friday. Witnesses said the attacker opened fire on members of the public in Hanauer Street before moving to the nearby Olympia shopping centre. Police described it as "an acute terror situation" although officials stressed that the motive was as yet unknown. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, told national TV: "We cannot rule out that it is linked to terrorism but we can't confirm it either, but we are also investigating in this direction." A meeting of the government's security cabinet will be held on Saturday. Police urged the public to avoid speculation on social media and to desist from using photos or video of their deployments online. German security forces have been on alert since a teenage migrant stabbed and injured five people on a train in Bavaria on Monday, in an attack claimed by so-called Islamic State. The authorities had warned of the danger of further incidents.
^ Sadly, this seems to be the new norm throughout Europe. For decades they welcomed migrants and refugees from the Middle East/North Africa and now those once welcomed as guest workers are shooting and bombing for a disgusting and lost cause. The UK, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium have all had to deal with Muslim extremists terrorizing and killing innocent people. We have had several terrorist attacks in the US (since 9-11) in California, Florida and Massachusetts and the world always makes it seem like we deserve them because of our gun policies. Tight gun polices doesn't seem to protect those in the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium or anywhere else in Europe. The issue here isn't gun controls, but terrorism. Whether it happens in the US or the EU, by a group or a lone wolf, the end result is death and terror. That needs to be addressed before more attacks occur. ^
Friday, July 22, 2016
"Myrotvorets OSINT website team create map of Donbas fighters from Russia"
Volunteers of the Myrotvorets (Peacemaker) OSINT website have created an interactive map showing places of residence in Russia of Russian fighters who have participated in the Donbas war against Ukraine. "As of today, the map displays 3,200 hyperlinks to militants and terrorists. There are 15,000 more profiles of Russian mercenaries on the waiting list for filling in. Then, citizens from other countries who have fought against Ukraine and Ukrainian separatists will be added. [The website's team] are short of hands now," Ukrainian Member of Parliament Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook on Thursday, July 21. "It features all the OSINT-spotted Russian terrorists, mercenaries and fighters whose geography stretches from Kaliningrad [in Russia's west] to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky [in the Russian Far East]," he wrote.Gerashchenko invited Russian citizens to visit the Myrotvorets website and check "if terrorists and fighters who participated in war in Ukrainian territory live in their neighborhood." "In future, the Myrotvorets website will become a Ukrainian prototype of a center created by [Austrian Nazi hunter] Simon Wiesenthal, which will help to trace and find all invaders of our country the same way as Israel did to Nazi criminals. God's mill grinds slow, but sure!" he wrote.
^ This is a great idea. Not only does it continue to show proof of Russia's involvement in the Donbass War, but it allows people in Russia, the Ukraine and around the world the type of people that are fighting there (some may even be neighbors or close friends.) I wonder how long it will take the Russians to block access to the site in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea. It is getting harder and harder in this instant-technology age for Russia to continue telling the lies they have over the years. They tend to deny, deny, deny and then when the truth comes out and their lies revealed they simply shrug it off and blame anyone but themselves. It's a shame that Russia is doing this since they could be part of the international community and help make things great rather than be separate from it and make things worse. ^
Thursday, July 21, 2016
"Six countries, incl. Ukraine, support EU's extended sanctions over Crimea"
"Six countries, incl. Ukraine, support EU's extended sanctions over Crimea"
Albania, Georgia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, and Montenegro have supported the EU Council's decision to extend the sanctions over the illegal annexation by Russia of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, according to the Council of the European Union. "The Candidate Countries Montenegro and Albania, and the EFTA countries Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, and Georgia align themselves with this Council Decision," the Council said in a statement. "They will ensure that their national policies conform to this Council Decision. The European Union takes note of this commitment and welcomes it," the statement said. On June 17, 2016, the Council decided to extend the existing sanctions until June 23, 2017. The EU's sanctions over Crimea include a ban on imports from Crimea and Sevastopol to the EU along with a ban on investment in Crimea and Sevastopol. Sanctioned are also tourist services in Crimea and Sevastopol. In particular, European cruise ships are banned from entering Crimean ports. Exports of certain goods and technologies to Crimea, in particular, in such sectors as transport, telecoms and energy, are not allowed.
^ It's good to see that the Crimean Annexation and the War in the Donbass hasn't been completely forgotten with the Brexit, Nice terrorist attack, Turkish coup, etc. going on in Europe alone. The Ukrainian people continue to fight for the integrity of their country and the rest of the world needs to continue to support them. ^
Sunday, July 17, 2016
From the G & M:
"Children born abroad to Canadians may end up as ‘lost Canadians'"
Like many Canadians, Jennifer and Evan Brown moved to the United States for work. In 2011, they jumped at the chance to live in New York when Evan, a chartered accountant, was offered a job there. After the couple had their first child a year later, they moved back to Canada, where they eventually had a second. But there’s a crucial difference between their children: One has more citizenship-transmission rights than the other. The Browns, who now live in Victoria, are affected by a law passed by the government of Stephen Harper, whereby the children of Canadian citizens born abroad cannot – with only a few exceptions – pass on their own citizenship if they also have children abroad. The provision was introduced as part of changes the previous, Conservative government made to citizenship laws. While the current Liberal government is undoing much of that legislation, it has so far not addressed the concerns of families like the Browns. Without citizenship, an individual does not have access to many of the benefits that come with being Canadian, including the ability to travel with a Canadian passport and to vote or run for political office. It can also complicate the individual’s ability to work in Canada and access all social benefits. With that much at stake for their children, Canadians born abroad may feel pressure to restrict their travels and working opportunities.
It took four years for the Browns to figure out that their four-year-old son, Jackson, born in the United States, was affected by the law. Like most children in the same circumstances, their son received a letter from the Canadian government explaining the rule, but the Browns didn’t fully understand it at the time. Ms. Brown was recently at a local playground when another parent, Roy Brooke, told her how his son, five-year-old Nathan, may not be able to pass citizenship onto his children if they are born abroad as Nathan was. Ms. Brown realized the rule probably applied to her son as well. “I had the assumption that he’d actually have more doors opened for him having been born in the U.S., and then I felt that possibly we’d actually restricted the most important door for his children,” Ms. Brown said. The rule stipulates that someone born or adopted outside Canada to a Canadian parent is not a Canadian citizen if the person’s parent was also born abroad after April 17, 2009, when the provision became law. The limit was brought into force in an effort to “achieve greater simplicity and transparency in citizenship laws as well as to preserve the value of citizenship,” according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The Brown and Brooke families were not working for the Canadian government or Canadian Forces when they had their children abroad – the only exception to the rule – so their children were not exempt from the first-generation citizenship limit. Mr. Brooke has taken the fight for the citizenship-transmission rights of children like Nathan and Jackson to Ottawa. After two years of unsuccessfully attempting to persuade the Conservatives to change their policy, he is pushing the Liberals to do so. He had his eyes set on the Liberals’ Bill C-6, which aims to reverse some Conservative changes to the Citizenship Act, but was told it was too late to amend the legislation to remove the first-generation citizenship limit. The bill is currently at first reading in the Senate, where Mr. Brooke is now seeking witness status before committee and encouraging others affected to make their concerns known. Immigration Minister John McCallum said at the end of May that he would look into the matter. His office referred further questions to the Immigration Department, which refused to speculate whether changes may be tabled in the future. NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who has met with other affected families, called the policy “discriminatory” against Canadians who choose to work abroad, especially in today’s global economy. “The Prime Minister himself has said on many occasions now, ‘a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.’ This also applies to second-generation Canadians born abroad as well. They shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens,” Ms. Kwan said. Mr. Brooke and his wife, Sara Bjorkquist, were working in Geneva, Switzerland, when their son was born in August, 2010. Had they been aware of this law, Mr. Brooke said he and his wife would have thought twice about having children overseas. He’s now concerned that Nathan may not be able to pass on citizenship to his children if he chooses to follow in his parents’ footsteps and work abroad. “My decision to serve at the UN could penalize me, my son and his offspring,” Mr. Brooke said. “Three generations are hurt because we decided to live overseas for a few years and work for the UN, and that is not right.” Only a couple of exceptions can apply to the children of Canadians like Nathan: if at the time of the birth abroad, the child’s other parent is a Canadian citizen by birth in Canada or by being granted citizenship through immigration, or if the affected parent is working for the Canadian government or Canadian Forces at the time of the birth. “If [Nathan] works overseas, his children could be stateless if he works for the Red Cross, the UN or any non-federal government entity, and marries a non-Canadian,” Mr. Brooke said. Parents of children born abroad who are not eligible for citizenship may sponsor their children to become permanent residents and then apply for citizenship. In 2009, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada estimated that 2.8 million Canadians – or 8 per cent of Canada’s total population – lived abroad. IRCC said it does not know how many Canadians born abroad are affected by the first-generation citizenship limit. Advocacy groups, including the Canadian Council for Refugees, have called on the government to restore the right to citizenship for the second generation born abroad or at least to provide citizenship to those who would otherwise be stateless under the law. “By denying citizenship to the second generation born abroad, Canada is creating a new set of ‘lost Canadians’ and making some children born to Canadians stateless,” the CCR said in a report on Bill C-6.
^ I really hope they change that first-generation provision and do it soon. I have always said it was a very stupid and discriminatory provision. I take citizenship very seriously and know that it is not something that should be bought and sold (some countries let you become a citizen by simply giving them a lot of money.) I believe that if you are considered a natural-born citizen (not naturalized) then you should be given the right to pass that on to you children. I am considered a natural-born citizen of the United States and a natural-born citizen of Canada, but as Canada likes to discriminate (it's citizenship laws have always done so since a separate Canadian citizenship was created right after World War 2 - dual citizenship wasn't allowed until 1977 and for decades a Canadian could lose their citizenship by simply living outside Canada for a certain time period and now this 2nd generation proverison) I couldn't pass on my Canadian citizenship. A foreigner who comes to Canada and becomes a naturalized Canadian has more rights than a natural-born Canadian like me. They can pass on their Canadian citizenship to the 2nd and subsequent generations while I cannot. That goes against the very heart of true citizenship. Not only does this current provision help create stateless "Lost Canadians" but it also goes against what being a democracy and a citizen within that democracy is really about. There are two extremes with regards to citizenship/nationality issues: the one where you cheapen it by allowing people to simply throw money at it to become a citizen and the other where you discriminate against natural-born citizens to pass on their citizenship to their children. Canada follows the last extreme and that needs to change if Canada wants to consider itself a free, open, democratic and non-discriminatory country for its own citizens. ^
"9/11 museum stages art exhibition rife with reality"
To mark the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, the 9/11 memorial museum is staging an art exhibition that in some cases uses actual remnants of the day of terror in works that convey both grief and tenderness. Scorched and torn business papers from the collapsing towers and radio transmissions from the fiery pit are part of the collection titled, "Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11," which opens Sept. 12. Thirteen artists contributed paintings and a sculpture, as well as works on paper and video. In one video clip, a young woman washes her fire chief father's shirt — soiled from three days spent working in the smoking World Trade Center rubble. Brooklyn resident Christopher Saucedo created his papier-mache artwork, "World Trade Center as a Cloud," as a way to remember his firefighter brother, whose remains were never found. Other artists lost friends or witnessed the attacks. Monika Bravo, a native of Colombia living in Brooklyn, had filmed a thunderstorm passing over the city on Sept. 10, 2001, from her studio on the 92nd floor of the north tower. The footage is now condensed into a piece dedicated to a fellow artist who died a day later in the same tower. "Through the lens of art, we reflect on the raw emotion we all felt on that unforgettable Tuesday morning 15 years ago," said Alice Greenwald, the memorial museum's director. The artists are not asking "that we revisit the horrors of that day but that we try to make sense of what was left in its wake." Some works incorporate papers, in many pieces, that were blown out of the disintegrating skyscrapers and landed as far away as Brooklyn across the river. They included a rumpled sheet in Japanese and an application for a marketing job written days before the Sept. 11 attacks. The exhibition was assembled by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum that oversees two reflecting pools bearing the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The display is the first in the museum's special exhibition gallery where various 9/11-related topics are planned in the future.
^ I can't believe that this September is the 15th anniversary of the attacks. With that said. I think showing the true artifacts from that horrible day is a good idea. Most museums display such artifacts whenever possible. Seeing them helps people who weren't alive or weren't there when it happened to see that this really happened, that it affected real people and isn't just some historical moment that has no reliance to the person visiting the museum. ^
From the MT:
"Most Russians Feel No Ability to Influence Country – Poll"
"Most Russians Feel No Ability to Influence Country – Poll"
Some 73 percent of Russians feel they have no influence over what happens in their country, a survey by the independent Levada Center revealed Wednesday. The figure has risen from 59 percent in November last year, with the percentage of respondents who believed they could slightly influence the country falling from 30 percent to 17 percent over the same period. Fifty-four percent of respondents also said they had no ability to influence what goes on in their city or their region, with only 30 percent believing that they had a slight ability to do so. Out of the 1600 respondents, sixty-four percent said that they felt absolutely no responsibility for what happens in the country, rising from 55 percent in November last year. The Levada Center interviewed Russians aged 18 and older in 137 urban and rural communities across 48 Russian regions between June 23 and 27. The report comes months before elections for the Russian State Duma. Another recent poll by the Levada Center showed that a third of Russians expect the upcoming State Duma elections to be rigged, and that only ten percent of Russians believe that the 2011 elections were not manipulated in some way.
^ Sadly, it seems that the majority of ordinary Russians do not have much, if any, influence about how their country is run or its role in the world. While it does not surprise me at all it is a sad statement of reality. ^
From the CDN Prime Minister's Website:
"Canada signs Landmark Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine"
The Government of Canada remains committed to working with Ukrainian government and business leaders to deepen the commercial ties between our countries and create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow our economies.Today, Prime Minister Trudeau, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Groysman witnessed the signing of the milestone Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), which will open our markets to products, grow our communities, and give our citizens a higher standard of living.The Agreement is part of Canada’s continued commitment to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to build a stable, democratic, and prosperous country. Both Canada and Ukraine are committed to the timely ratification and implementation of CUFTA – so that Canadians and Ukrainians alike can take advantage of its benefits as soon as possible.
- In 2015, Canada and Ukraine announced the conclusion of the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) negotiations.
- Canada’s International Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, and Ukraine’s First Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Stepan Kubiv, signed the Agreement in Kyiv during Prime Minister Trudeau’s first official visit to Ukraine.
- Ukraine offers numerous opportunities for Canadian businesses and investors, in areas such as information and communication technologies, agriculture, infrastructure and logistics, aerospace, defence and security, and energy.
- In 2015, bilateral trade between Canada and Ukraine increased by 13.9 per cent over 2014, totalling almost $278 million. Canada’s exports to Ukraine totalled over $210 million in 2015. Examples of products imported by Ukraine include pharmaceuticals, fish and seafood, and coking coal.
- Canada’s merchandise imports from Ukraine totalled more than $67 million in 2015. Major imports included fertilizers, iron and steel, and anthracite coal.
- Now that the Agreement has been signed, Canada and Ukraine will go through their respective domestic legislative processes to ratify and implement the Agreement.
^ It's good that Canada has not forgotten the Ukraine despite everything that is going on around the world. Hopefully this Free Trade Agreement will help both countries. ^
Thursday, July 14, 2016
From the MT:
"Sports Facilities for the Disabled to Open in Moscow"
"Sports Facilities for the Disabled to Open in Moscow"
Moscow will begin construction of four soccer fields and a fitness center for disabled persons this year, city website Mos.ru reported Tuesday. The head of Moscow's city construction department, Andrei Bochkaryov said facilities of a combined 16,403 square meters will appear throughout the city. Moscow city's budget will cover the cost of the project. Three soccer fields with artificial turf, locker rooms, showers and administrative offices will be completed this year at Trudoviye Reservy and sports schools No. 27 and 76. The fourth field will be on Michurinsky Prospekt, Mos.ru reported.
A fitness center will open in Moscow's southern Nagatino Sadovniki district. It will feature two pools specially adapted for use by disabled persons, a multipurpose gym and a rehabilitation center with massage rooms. Progress is gradually being made on disabled rights in Russia, with the country's first state-run autism care center opening in Moscow in April. But more than half a million people in Russia have been deprived of disabled status over the past two years.
^ This is a great step in the right direction for both Moscow and Russia. Usually the disabled in Russia are treated as second-class citizens who deserve the life they have (the Russians are very superstitious.) Now the disabled Muscovites will have an opportunity to train and play sports like everyone else. ^
From USA Today:
"Senate sends Obama bill toughening airport security"
Airport security will be tightened and travelers will get bag-fee refunds for long-delayed luggage under legislation the Senate cleared Wednesday for President Obama. The Senate voted 89-4 to approve the compromise bill extending Federal Aviation Administration policy through Sept. 30, 2017. The House approved the bill Monday by voice vote. Obama is expected to sign it. “The reforms in this legislation will help ensure that attacks like those that happened in Brussels and Istanbul don’t happen at American airports,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who drafted the bill as chairman of the transportation committee. The FAA’s current authorization expires Friday, so the relatively short-term bill will allow further debate on shifting air-traffic control from the FAA to a private corporation, which was a top priority in the House. “This bill will bolster security at many of our nation’s airports and help us better protect the flying public,” said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the committee.
Provisions in the bill will:
• Force airlines to refund bag fees automatically if luggage is delayed 12 hours after a domestic flight or 15 hours after an international flight. Airlines charged $3.8 billion in bag fees last year. But only about three passengers out of 1,000 complain about mishandled bags, and airlines said they already have policies to reimburse passengers for lost bags.
• Double the Transportation Security Administration teams that patrol airports outside checkpoints, such as in arrival halls or baggage claim, often with bomb-sniffing dogs to discourage attacks like those in Brussels and Istanbul. If Congress later provides funding, TSA could boost the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams from 30 to 60 through 2018.
• Toughen eligibility standards for airport workers who have access to secure areas and conduct more random screening of workers for their credentials and possible weapons. The goal is to thwart workers from smuggling guns or a bomb onto a plane as is suspected in the destruction of a Russian Metrojet in Egypt in October.
• Encourage TSA to explore different vetting options to sign up travelers for Precheck, which allows expedited screening for travelers who get background checks and pay an $85 fee for five years. The bill also calls on TSA to keep Precheck lines open during peak travel times after complaints of long lines this spring.
• Raise the FAA’s civil fine for pointing a laser at an airliner from $11,000 to $25,000, with quarterly reports to Congress about the number of incidents and enforcement actions taken. More than 7,347 laser strikes on aircraft were reported to the FAA last year, nearly double the total from the year before.
"In the face of international terrorism, it's critical that we make every effort to secure our airports, train stations, and bus depots — the places Americans rely on to go about their daily lives," said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., one of the sponsors of the VIPR provision.
From Disability Scoop:
"Caregiver Wage Rule Here To Stay"
With a final court challenge rejected, implementation of an Obama administration rule mandating pay protections for in-home caregivers assisting those with disabilities is proceeding. The U.S. Supreme Court indicated late last month that it would not hear a case disputing a 2013 U.S. Department of Labor regulation requiring minimum wage and overtime pay for in-home care workers. The court’s order effectively means that the Obama administration rule, which took effect last year, will remain in place. Under the rule, most home care workers must be paid at least the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour and earn time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours per week. Previously, caregivers were classified much like baby sitters and were not entitled to the same rights as other kinds of employees. Trade groups representing agencies employing many in-home care workers sued over the change, arguing that the pay raise would make the care they offer to clients with disabilities unaffordable. Initially, a U.S. District judge sided with the industry groups saying that the Labor Department had overstepped its authority. But on appeal, a three-judge panel found otherwise. In October, Chief Justice John Roberts denied a request from the trade groups who had asked the court to delay the rule while they continued their appeal. Roberts’ move allowed the rule to take effect that month. Since that time, there have been reports that the changes have led to difficulty for some people with disabilities trying to obtain needed services. Many agencies have opted to limit hours for caregivers in order to avoid paying overtime, necessitating more workers. But that has triggered caregiver shortages, with in-home care provider positions notoriously difficult to fill. “We have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, including state officials, providers of home care services, advocates representing people with disabilities and worker advocates, to encourage thoughtful implementation of the rule,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “We continue to stand ready to provide all stakeholders with the technical assistance necessary to help them comply with the rule.” Officials with the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a group advocating for the direct-care workforce, said the wage mandate is necessary to meet the growing demand for in-home care. “Finding skilled, committed workers for caregiving jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. The DOL home care rule is a first step toward addressing this labor shortage,” said Jodi Sturgeon, the group’s president. “We hope that state legislatures will move swiftly to ensure home care providers have the necessary funds to comply with the rule and avoid any disruption of services to consumers.”
Even as the dust settles on the pay mandate for hourly workers, disability service providers are also bracing for the impact of another Labor Department rule which will affect wages for salaried workers. Traditionally, salaried employees earning at least $23,660 have been exempt from overtime pay. However, under the change set to take effect in December, that figure will double to $47,476 with automatic increases in the future. With many workers set to be newly eligible for overtime under the rule, providers of home and community based services to people with developmental disabilities raised alarm bells saying that the Medicaid payments they rely on haven’t been adjusted to account for the change. In response, the Labor Department has committed to delay enforcement of the new mandate affecting salaried workers through March 17, 2019 specifically for providers of Medicaid-funded services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in residential homes and facilities with 15 or fewer beds.
^ I am glad this is allowed to go into effect and that caregivers will finally be treated as the hard-working people they are and not simply seen as a baby-sitter. The key now is to force the organizations and companies that hire caregivers to not simply make them part-time workers so they don't have to give them full benefits. I know there is an acute shortage of caregivers around the country and so the companies should be willing and able to hire full-time caregivers when they can find people for those positions. ^
From USA Today:
"Obama orders troops to South Sudan as civil war continues"
"Obama orders troops to South Sudan as civil war continues"
President Obama has ordered 47 U.S. troops to South Sudan to help protect the American embassy there after an outbreak of violence in the newly formed nation. The troops were airlifted into the country Tuesday as part of an effort to evacuate U.S. personnel. Another 130 troops are pre-positioned in nearby Djibouti ready to provide support, Obama told Congress in a letter Wednesday.Obama’s notice fulfills the requirements of the War Powers Resolution, which requires notification of the movement of combat troops into a new country. “Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property,” Obama said in his letter to Congress. “These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.” Noting a "sudden and serious deterioration in the security situation in the capital," the State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency personnel from South Sudan on Sunday, although the embassy said it was "a reduction in staff, not an evacuation." The northeastern African nation was carved out of Sudan in 2011 after a U.S.-supported referendum backed its independence. But it's been embroiled in a civil war since 2013, as rival political factions have turned to violence. It's not the first time the U.S. military has deployed troops to protect U.S. personnel in South Sudan. Obama ordered a similar deployment of 46 U.S. early-response forces in 2013.
^ I'm sure most people didn't know about this or have even heard of South Sudan. Unlike my post about sending more American "advisors" to Iraq I like that this time the soldiers going to South Sudan are being called what they actually are and not some made-up political name to make the politicians feel better. ^
From the BBC:
"Canadian singer goes rogue, adding 'all lives matter' to anthem"
Canadian singing group The Tenors has apologised after one of its members altered the country's anthem to include the phrase, "all lives matter". The group was performing at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Diego when the singer went off-script. Member Remigio Pereira held up a sign that read "all lives matter" while singing O Canada and also changed a lyric of the song to the same phrase. The group said they were unaware of his plans to change the anthem. The vocal quartet, based in British Columbia, issued an apology on Twitter, saying they were "deeply sorry for the disrespectful and misguided lack of judgment by one member of the group acting as a 'lone wolf' today". The group added Mr Pereira would not be performing with them until further notice. Mr Pereira changed the line from, "With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free" to "We're all brothers and sisters. All lives matter to the great". He then held up a sign with the phrase and "United we stand" written on the back. The phrase "all lives matter" has stirred controversy as critics argue it undermines the Black Lives Matter movement.
^ It is completely disrespectful to change the lyrics of the national anthem (whether it is the Canadian, American or any other country.) There is a time and a place to make political statements and while singing your national anthem is neither the time nor the place. It is also pretty annoying to hear and see all these "Black Lives Matter" statements on the news and online. I know it is cliché but I would prefer people to use "All Lives Matter" - just not during the national anthem. ^
From the BBC:
"IS conflict: US to send 560 more troops to Iraq"
"IS conflict: US to send 560 more troops to Iraq"
The US is to send 560 more military personnel to Iraq to help in the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS), Defence Secretary Ash Carter has said. It will bring to about 4,650 the number of US personnel in Iraq, most of them serving in training and advisory roles. The extra troops, including engineers and logistics experts, would help local forces planning to retake the IS stronghold of Mosul, Mr Carter said. He made the announcement on a surprise visit to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Troops from the new deployment will be stationed at Qayara airbase, which was recaptured from IS militants by Iraqi government forces on Saturday. The facility is about 65km (40 miles) south of Mosul, IS's last urban bastion in Iraq. The latest US troop increase in Iraq comes just over two months after President Barack Obama announced the deployment of an extra 250 soldiers to Syria, adding to the 50 that were already on the ground.
^ I wish the President would stop calling them "advisors" the way JFK and Johnson did in Vietnam. They are soldiers and in a warzone. They are risking their lives in another country and yet the politicians can't call a spade a spade. ^
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
I decided to stop by the Post Office and get my held mail only to find 4 buckets of packages waiting for me. Only 5 packages where things I ordered. The rest were presents from friends of friends for my birthday. It took 2 mail clerks 40 minutes to scan them all. I then made a quick trip to the market and then went home. My dogs were more than thrilled when I got there, but they had left a huge mess that I am still cleaning up. At least they had gotten groomed while I was gone and so they looked nice and got pampered.
Now that I am back I have to get the house cleaned and organized again. I also have to watch all my taped shows, go through all the new books and DVDs I got for my birthday and get back to work. I had received a message from FairPoint while I was away about switching from satellite Internet (with its usage limit) to getting it through our phone (with no usage limit.) I was supposed to get a package from them that the installer would use when he came this Friday. The message said that the high-speed Internet that we were told about wasn’t available in our area (surprise, surprise) and that our appointment was now moved to August and not this Friday and that no one would have to be home for the installation – which doesn’t make since. What do they do with the modem? I knew something like this would happy and that’s why I told my dad (who really wanted the change in Internet providers) that he would have to contact FairPoint as soon as he came home on leave and yet - as usual – he waited until a few days before he was to go back rather than weeks before. I dealt with this kind of mistake (on both his and FairPoint’s part) a few years ago and it literally took me 7 months of fighting with FairPoint to get things back to normal. I’m feeling déjà vu here.
Back to the trip to Colorado. All-in-all it was a good, fun trip. I don’t know if or when I will go back, but hopefully I will and the next time will be more like this last time rather than some of the other times I have been there.
When it was time for me to go home I had a choice of either flying out of Colorado Springs (13 hourstravel –time with 2 layovers) or out of Denver (6 hours travel-time with 1 layover.) Which ever one I didn’t choose I would get a refund on. I know it sounds like a no-brainer: to simply use Denver and the shorter time, but I like that Colorado Springs Airport is small and haven’t had any issues there like I have in Denver. In the end I chose Denver. I had to leave Colorado Springs at 1:30 am. Since it was DIA there was a ton of walking around for no reason (from the different Southwest check-in sections to trying to find a TSA check-point that was open.) Once I found the open check-point I didn’t have any issues with the TSA. I didn’t go through the body scanner (only the metal detector) and no one checked my bare skin. I took the train to my gate. There was an annoying woman who decided to sit across from me and wanted to talk and talk (mostly about weird stuff.) I don’t know how many times I had to explain the Southwest boarding system to her. She just wasn’t “getting it” with my instructions and the little Southwest video. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and so I did and she moved on to someone else.
The flight to BWI was jammed packed, but was otherwise uneventful. When we got to Baltimore I only had to walk one gate away for my next flight. This flight was also packed-full. I sat at the window while two very large people sat in the two other seats. The guy (closest to me) couldn’t fit in his own seat and so was all over my area. Not only that but he smelled really bad. The woman (who sat by the aisle) would not stop complaining about everything and was doing so very loudly. At least it was only during the shortest leg of the trip.
We landed and I went to the baggage claim where my bag was the third one out. I then went to the parking garage to find the Jeep my dad had left. It was right where he said it was and so I was in and out of the airport within 15 minutes from landing which is very good. I also didn’t lost in the 2 roundabouts/circles while driving home (I have no idea why they use traffic circles as they are a big waste of time since no one yields – they should just use traffic lights.)
That Saturday, my sister and I drove up to Littleton to work at the Irish Festival. It was held at a park right next to Columbine High School (the one where the school shooting took place.) On a side note: I remember I was in high school when it happened. It was Spring Break and I heard about it on a TV in an airport when I was waiting for a connecting flight. Back to the Festival: I have been to Irish, Scottish and Celtic festivals around the US and in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland so I knew what to expect – or so I thought. Of course I never worked at one and never in security. I joked with my sister that I was their “muscle.” The festival itself was pretty small and there wasn’t a lot of people – there were more volunteers than regular people. It was pretty disorganized too. It took 6 different people to tell us where to park and even then we weren’t in the correct area. The radios didn’t work, the free water wasn’t cold (it was in the 90s, sunny and humid) and in the beginning I was supposed to walk around the festival for my 9 hour shift – which wouldn’t be possible. Eventually I got to drive around with my sister in a golf cart (which I hadn’t done since I was in Costa Rica several years ago.) My sister drove the cart the whole time so it was ok – I probably would have hit people walking – not meaning too of course. Some of the singing acts were good and they had Irish bag pipers, but other than that there wasn’t much to do. The food places weren’t all that great either (except for crepe I had - - - I know very Irish. When it got dark whole areas of the park didn’t even had lights so that wasn’t fun to deal with. It was fun to hear the drunk people (you would never think there would be drunk people at an Irish Festival would you?) Other than being hot and getting a sun burn (only on the areas where I kept using sun tan lotion – go figure) there wasn’t much drama at the festival. It was still something to get me out of the house.
That Thursday was my sister’s birthday. I had mailed her presents so I didn’t have to bother having wrapped things in my suitcase and confuse the TSA even more than bare skin seems to. She seemed to like her presents – they were mostly items from her wish-list so it was things she wanted. After she came home from work we went to the Edelweiss German Restaurant (I go there at least once every time I’m in Colorado) for her party. I haven’t had a party since I was a little kid and even then it was a combined one with my brother and sister (since our birthdays are: June, July and August) so it was nice to see her have her own party and not a shared one. She had invited people from her different jobs and out of the 13 people (including myself and my sister – her boyfriend didn’t come - I only knew 3 other people. The rest I had never met before or was introduced to them for a second the one time I went to her work last year.
My sister and I got there around 6 pm (the party was starting at 6:30 pm) and until the first guests arrived I wondered if anyone would actually show up. I’m not saying my sister doesn’t have any friends, but in my experience the only time I see friends or family is when I have to do all the work to visit. At 6:30 on the dot the first guests came. They were the 2 out of the 3 people I actually knew. I had met them on my last visit in September 2015. Luckily (at least for me – not so sure they felt the same by the end of the night), they sat across from me and not at the end of the table or at the second table. As most people know I like to talk and usually I don’t have anyone in person to talk to so it was nice to converse in real life. The fact that the couple have experience traveling and living around the world gave us more common things to share. Other than a few “hellos” to some of the other guests the majority of the night I spent having a ball talking to people who actually could keep up with what I was saying and had interesting things themselves to add. I do need to learn my numbers and elevations as I was way off in that topic, but I’ve never been good with Math or numbers. I know that sounds arrogant, but most of the guests were talking about construction or things only local to Colorado and that seemed pretty boring to me. The party lasted until 9 pm and the time really flew by. I had been worried beforehand that I would be stuck in agony the whole night faking a conversation with people I didn’t know or didn’t like, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was a pretty cool party. I only wish I didn’t have to travel long distances for these kinds of experiences since I didn’t used to have to. I’ll stop playing my mini-violin now and move on.
I won’t go through a day-by-day account of the rest of my vacation. I knew my sister was working during the day and that I would be stuck at her house watching TV shows and movies through either Amazon or Netflix (something I can’t do on my mountain.) I had arrived in the afternoon of July 3rd and other than a few minutes outside with her dogs playing in the pool I bought them on July 4th I didn’t go outside until July 7th. I stayed mostly in her living room on her couch (as I usually do when I visit) fighting her three dogs for space – they are cute so it wasn’t so bad. I was able to watch the whole season of “The Man in the High Castle” – which was really good. I have the book and can’t wait to read it. I also watched all of Season 6 of “Game of Thrones.” I watched all of season 1 of “The Flash” and several episodes of “Marco Polo.” I also saw several stand-up comedy shows.
While I didn’t go out for several days as I was now in the land where cell phones work and people deliver food to your door – something they don’t do on my mountain – I was able to still feel I was in civilization even if I was sitting in the dark. The fact that I could send an e-mail or update my status on Facebook by my cell phone and didn’t have to use my I-Pad or regular computer and then I could have pizza and Chinese food brought right to the front door proved that.
When I wasn’t having food delivered, at a restaurant, at the Irish Festival or watching shows and movies I did do some other things. I went to the dog park with the 3 dogs to tire them out and think I was more tired than they were afterwards. I also went to a real bookstore. I don’t know of any real bookstores in my state and usually order them online, but it was nice to go to a real store for a change. I don’t usually know of the new books since they don’t advertise them like they do TV shows and movies. I guess it’s the little things that impress me now.
I got back from my trip yesterday. I would have written about it earlier, but things have been a little crazy. Better late than never I suppose. I went to Colorado Springs (I know it’s not my first or even fifth time there – I’ve been there over a dozen times since 2010) but with any trip I take there always seems to be the good and the bad. This time was no different.
I started my trip on July 3rd. The date is important in that my dad was returning to Iraq the next day on July 4th (no fireworks for him.) Usually I drop him off at the airport, but this time he had to drop me off and then he would have to drive the Jeep to the airport the next day for himself and make sure to tell me where in the airport parking garage it was parked so I could find it when I returned. I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find it, but that is for another post.
I was flying Southwest. I haven’t flown them in about 4-5 years and when I did back then I always pre-boarded so didn’t have to worry or think about their stupid boarding system. Rather than give you a seat number they came up with the “great” idea of assigning you a letter group and a number position depending on when you checked-in. Then you have to wait for your Group (A, B or C) to be announced and then have to line up according to your number. Once you are on the plane it is then a free-for-all in finding a seat. Since I always pre-boarded I decided to pay the little extra for their “Early Bird” check-in where they make sure you are in the “A” group and so can basically have your pick of any seat. I had no issues either checking-in online the day before or checking-in my bag the day of.
The airport is undergoing construction (until November.) It’s a small airport and yet for some reason they put no thought into the security lines until now. Supposedly, once the construction is finished the security process will be “efficient” and “speedy.” There’s still several months until I will know if that is actually the case or if it was just a big waste of time and money.
I went through TSA security. Of course I had to take off my sandals and so had to walk barefoot on the disgusting and sticky floor – it felt like being at a movie theater that they don’t clean the floors and you stick to everything. After putting my things through the X-ray machine I then went into the body scanner. I was wearing a short-sleeved polo shirt and yet the TSA officer had me stretch my arms out while he frisked my skin. It is things like this (and mistreating the elderly and the disabled) that help give the TSA a bad name. Anyone with even a sliver of intelligence or even basic common sense would know that there was no need to “check” the exposed skin on my arms since there was nothing covering them. After the TSA had made sure my bare arms were not a threat I was allowed to get my things and then went to the restroom to clean the stickiness off my feet (they should have disposable booties that you can wear through the scanner when they make you take off your sandals, flip-flops, etc.)
There was no issue boarding my flight to Baltimore. It wasn’t a full flight and so the middle seat (I was sitting by the window) was empty. It was a quick hour and 10 minute flight to BWI. I have been to BWI several times before (especially when I lived in northern Virginia) so knew the layout of the airport. I had to change concourses and walk pretty far to my next gate.
Boarding for the flight to Denver apparently was too complicated for many of the other passengers who didn’t know that “B” comes after “A” in the alphabet and that they would have to wait for the “A” group to board first and that B 19 was not the same as A 19. This time the plane was jammed packed and looked like a Third World country (Southwest is said to be the Walmart of the sky so it shouldn’t be too surprising.) I decided to just sleep the whole flight rather than deal with all the loud and smelly passengers around me.
When we landed in Denver (I’ve been there before) I had to walk a long way to the train that took me to the main terminal where I was meeting my sister. I assumed that she would be waiting for me at the “meeting point” - where the ticketed passengers leave the secured area and mingle with everyone else. I guess I shouldn’t have assumed that since she wasn’t there. I had to call her on my cell (luckily it worked there since it doesn’t on my mountain) and found that she was at the baggage claim so I went there. Here’s where Southwest’s intelligence comes back into play. They had 8 different flights on one small carousel with people pushing and shoving to get their bags. I waited there with my sister only to hear an announcement that I had to go to another carousel. I finally got my bag and then we had to walk forever through a maze in the parking garage to the car. You may notice that there’s a theme with BWI and DIA – long stretches where you have to tire yourself by walking.
So I was now in Colorado. We decided to wait to have lunch until we got to Colorado Springs. That turned out to be a bad decision since the hour drive took much longer due to all the traffic. I hadn’t eaten since 11 pm the night before and it was around 1 pm Mountain time (3 pm Eastern time) when we finally were able to eat something at Cheddar’s. I had never been there before and it was pretty good.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
From USA Today:
"Author, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel dies at 87"
^ I actually got to meet this great man in person when I worked at the Holocaust Museum. It was for about 5 minutes (maybe less.) He was very nice and signed one of his books for me. Even though Elie Wiesel was a teenager during the Holocaust and suffered greatly he didn't let that ruin his life. He worked for decades to make sure no one forgot about the Holocaust and worked to end the different genocides that have happened around the world since 1945. ^
"Kremlin admits Snowden Russian agent"
The Kremlin has settled the issue over long-time speculations regarding Edward Snowden's actual role once and for all by stating that Snowden is indeed their man, 20committee.com reported citing the article that was initially published in German by Bild. In a remarkable interview this week, Franz Klintsevich, a senior Russian security official, explained the case matter-of-factly: “Let’s be frank. Snowden did share intelligence." "This is what security services do. If there’s a possibility to get information, they will get it,” he said, according to 20committee.com. With this, Klintsevich simply said what all intelligence professionals already knew – that Snowden is a collaborator with the FSB. That he really had no choice in the matter once he set foot in Russia does not change the facts. Klintsevich is no idle speculator. He is a senator who has served in the State Duma for nearly a decade. More importantly, he is the deputy chair of the senate’s defense and security committee, which oversees the special services. The 59-year-old Klintsevich thus has access to many state secrets – for instance regarding the Snowden case. He is also a retired Russian army colonel, having served 22 years in the elite Airborne Forces (VDV). Klintsevich saw action in Afghanistan in the 1980s with the VDV and, based on a careful reading of his biography, appears to have served with GRU, that is military intelligence (his work in “special propaganda” in Afghanistan and his 1991 graduation from the Lenin Military-Political Academy are indications of his GRU affiliation). Klintsevich is not a well-known figure outside Russia – he appeared in the Western press briefly in 2012 with his short-lived idea to buy Hitler’s birth house in Braunau, in order to destroy it – but he is a well-connected member of the Kremlin’s ruling elite. Given his senate committee position and his GRU past, there is no doubt that Klintsevich is considered nash (“ours”) by Russia’s special services. His statement outing Snowden’s relationship with the Kremlin therefore cannot be an accident or a slip of the tongue. For whatever reason, Putin has decided to out Snowden as the collaborator that he actually is – and has been for three years already. One reason for this may be Snowden’s recent tepid criticism via Twitter of Russia’s draconian new laws on domestic surveillance – which vastly exceed any of the activities of the Western democracies that Snowden has so strongly criticized from his FSB hideaway. Indeed, his hosts finally allowing their American collaborator to tweet negatively about Russia – many had noted Snowden’s silence on FSB repression and worse – may be a sign that the defector has outlived his usefulness. In truth, Snowden was never all that well informed about American intelligence. Contrary to the myths that he and his mouthpieces have propagated, he was no more than an IT systems administrator. Snowden was never any sort of bona fide spy. There are no indications he really understands most of what he stole from NSA. The FSB therefore milked Snowden of any valuable information rather quickly. He likely had little light to shed on the million-plus secret files he stole. Instead, his value to Moscow has been as a key player in Kremlin propaganda designed to discredit the Western intelligence alliance. In that role, Snowden has done a great deal of damage to the West. But he was never a “mole” for Moscow inside NSA. In reality, the Snowden Operation is probably a cover to deflect attention from the one or more actual Russian moles who have been lurking inside NSA for years, undetected.Based on the cases of previous Western intelligence defectors to Moscow, Edward Snowden faces an unhappy future. Whatever happens to him is up to his hosts, who control all aspects of any defector’s life. There no longer can be any honest debate about his relationship with the Kremlin, which has settled the matter once and for all. Putin and his special services consider Snowden to be nash – there is no question about that now.
^ There was never a doubt that Snowden wasn't simply a whistle-blower trying to help the world. He is a traitor. He may not have known much since he was an IT guy, but he gave whatever he knew to the Russians and for that he should never be pardoned. ^
Friday, July 1, 2016
From the Governor-General of Canada:
"Governor General's Canada Day Message"
They desire a better country. That’s the motto of the Order of Canada, which is of course the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system and a reflection of what makes this country so great: its people. Today, I want to borrow and adjust that motto a little as we celebrate and reflect on what makes Canada so special. We desire a better country—that’s what makes Canada so special. Let me tell you why I think that. I think of the past year, and the remarkable response of Canadians to the Syrian refugee crisis. People showed extraordinary compassion and generosity in welcoming Syrians in their time of great need. I think of the bravery and caring Canadians displayed during the wildfires in Fort McMurray. In communities near to and far from the fires, people opened their arms to welcome those who were forced to flee their homes. And from coast to coast to coast, people donated money and resources to help. I think of the reaction of Canadians to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and how we must demonstrate our commitment to a more fair, just and equitable society. In communities across the country, people are listening, learning and pledging to do better in partnership with Indigenous peoples. First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples themselves are bravely and resolutely building stronger communities and helping Canada to realize its full potential. I think of the countless Canadians who are pausing to remember our veterans who courageously served and sacrificed 100 years ago in the terrible Battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel. I have seen first-hand, in cities and towns across this vast land, all of these acts of kindness, of justice, of respect and remembrance taking place. Welcoming refugees. Fighting fires. Striving for reconciliation. Remembering veterans. These are just a few of the reasons why I say: We desire a better country. These are challenging times, but Canadians understand how much we have in common. And Canada is our common ground. One year from now, we’ll mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation, so let’s keep desiring a better country for all. What better gift could we give?
Happy birthday, Canada!
Le message du gouverneur général à l'occasion de la fête du Canada:
Ils désirent une patrie meilleure. C’est la devise de l’Ordre du Canada. En plus d’être l’élément central du Régime canadien des honneurs, l’Ordre du Canada met en valeur le plus grand atout de notre pays : ses gens. Aujourd’hui, j’adapte légèrement cette devise pour célébrer et mettre en lumière ce qui fait du Canada un pays si spécial. Nous désirons tous un pays meilleur : voilà ce qui fait du Canada un endroit si unique. Je m’explique. Je pense à la dernière année et à la réponse remarquable des Canadiens à la crise des réfugiés syriens. Les gens ont fait preuve d’une compassion et d’une générosité extraordinaires et ont chaleureusement reçu les Syriens dans le besoin. Je pense à la bravoure et à la bonté des Canadiens durant les feux de forêt à Fort McMurray. Dans les communautés entourant le lieu des incendies, les gens ont ouvert leurs bras aux évacués. D’un océan à l’autre, la population a donné de l’argent et des ressources. Je pense à la réaction des Canadiens à la conclusion des travaux de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation, et à la nécessité de manifester activement notre engagement envers une société plus juste, plus équitable et plus égale. Partout au pays, les gens sont attentifs et s’engagent à faire mieux, en partenariat avec les communautés autochtones. De leur côté, les Premières Nations, les Métis et les Inuits s’efforcent bravement et résolument de bâtir des communautés plus fortes et d’aider le Canada à réaliser son plein potentiel. Je pense à tous les Canadiens qui prennent le temps de se souvenir de nos vétérans qui ont servi avec courage et fait tant de sacrifices, il y a cent ans, dans la terrible bataille de la Somme à Beaumont‑Hamel. Enfin, j’ai pu observer, dans les villes et villages de notre vaste pays, tous ces gestes de bonté, de justice, de respect et de mémoire, tels que : Recevoir les réfugiés. Combattre des incendies. Travailler à la réconciliation. Se souvenir des vétérans. Voilà quelques exemples qui me font dire : Nous désirons une patrie meilleure. Les temps ne sont pas toujours faciles, mais nous savons que nous avons beaucoup en commun. Et le Canada est notre terrain d’entente. Dans un an, nous célébrerons le 150e anniversaire de la Confédération; continuons donc à désirer une patrie meilleure pour tous. N’y a-t-il pas plus beau cadeau à offrir?
Bonne fête, Canada!
^ Today is Canada Day and it's nice to hear what the Queen's official representative in Canada has to say about the state of affairs for the country. ^
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Today is my birthday. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how good of a day it turned out to be (considering up until last month I thought I would be celebrating it by myself.) We used our new grill to cook steak (one of my favorite foods) and then had cake. Both were really good. The smell of the steak alone would have been enough.
I got two calls today from people wishing me a happy birthday. Many people did it through Facebook or e-mail - and I got more than last year. As for gifts: I got 76 birthday cards! 6 were from friends and family and 70 from friends of friends from around the world. It was pretty cool - considering I like getting regular mail. I also got some money, a 24 carat-gold coin from Australia (I collect world currency), about 9 books and 51 DVDs! The majority of the DVDs are series. I have a lot of books to read and lost of movies to read and watch (with subtitles.) So, this year I have received the most number of both birthday cards and birthday presents. I guess I'm doing something right if so many people took the time to help me celebrate.
This year I can't find any fault with how my birthday went and that's a pretty cool feeling.