Friday, June 23, 2017

Occupied Vetting

"Turchynov announces check of all from occupied territories who want to get biometric passport"

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov has said that it is necessary to conduct a thorough check of all those who want to receive a biometric passport arriving from the occupied territories, the NSDC's press service has reported. According to him, after the launch of the visa-free regime of Ukraine with the EU, the number of those eager to receive biometric passports from Crimea and from the occupied territory of Donbas has increased significantly, the press service said. "At the same time, with no access to the archives remaining in the occupied territories, there is a danger that citizens of other countries, terrorists or representatives of Russian secret services may gain access to the visa-free regime under the guise of Ukrainian citizens from the occupied territories," Turchynov said. "That is why, in order to prevent such things, it is necessary to amend the current legislation, which will allow conducting a very thorough check of citizens arriving from the occupied territories to obtain a biometric passport. In the case of discrepancy in the submitted data, such citizens should be denied receiving a biometric passport". In this regard, Secretary of the NSDC of Ukraine held a meeting with the heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Migration Service, the SBU Security Service of Ukraine, border guards and others. He reported that for the legal settlement of this issue, an appropriate draft law was prepared; the bill "was developed by people's deputies-members of the parliamentary coalition and in the nearest future, must be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada." "At the same time, it is critical to adopt this law, vital to ensure the security of Ukraine and Europe, before the start of regular holidays," Turchynov said.

^ It does make sense. In order to make sure that 5th columnists and other people don't ruin the EU visa-free travel for all Ukrainians those coming from the occupied territories of the Crimea and the Donbas need to be heavily vetted. Ukraine has worked too hard to let others ruin their country even more than they currently are. ^

Friday Love

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Argentinian Nazi Find

From the DW:
"Large collection of Nazi artifacts discovered in Argentina"

Argentine police have found around 75 Nazi artifacts in a collector's home near Buenos Aires. The haul provides more evidence of the presence of high-ranking Nazis in South America after World War II.   A bust relief of Adolf Hitler, magnifying glasses in boxes with swastikas, and a medical device to measure head size were just some of the Nazi artifacts Argentine police found in a collector's home in Beccar, a suburb of Buenos Aires. Authorities say they believe these items are originals that belonged to high-ranking Nazis in Germany during World War II. They believe it is the largest collection of Nazi artifacts in the country's history. Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told the Associated Press news agency some of the artifacts were accompanied by photos, and include a photo negative, not released to the public, of Hitler using one of the magnifying glasses. "This was a way to commercialize them, showing they were once used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the object."  "It's part of Argentinean history and we need to get it out in the open," she added. Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the Argentine Jewish Associations Delegation (DAIA), called the findings "unheard of" in Argentina. "This is irrefutable evidence that following the Second World War, the doors were open, in Argentina, for top figures of the Nazi regime to enter our beloved country."  Agents with international police force Interpol followed the collector and raided his home on June 8 with a judicial order. They found a large bookshelf in the study that gave way to a secret passage way leading to a room with Nazi imagery. The collector, who remains free but under investigation by a federal judge, was not identified. Police are still trying to determine how the artifacts got to Argentina. The main hypothesis among investigators and members of the Argentine Jewish community is that a high ranking Nazi or Nazis brought the artifacts for Argentina, which became a refuge for fleeing criminals after World War II. Authorities did not name any Nazis whom the items may have originally belonged. After proper investigations into their origin and ownership, the pieces will be put on display at the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires to keep the memory of Yom Hashoah alive. The DAIA has given the Argentine government an award for finding these historic pieces.

^ It's no real surprise to find so much Nazi stuff in Latin America since the Nazis were protected by many governments and people throughout Central and South America after 1945. ^

Road Report

I am taking parts of a complaint letter I wrote to my Town Selectmen and Town Police about an incident that occurred at 3:20 pm on Thursday, June 22, 2017 on my driveway. I was in my car driving down my driveway to drive down the road to my mailbox. The end of my driveway was blocked by the Road Agent in a construction truck. I waited on my driveway. The Road Agent started backing his truck back from my driveway and waved me to drive on and so I did. I passed one other town construction truck on the road, but made it to my mailbox will no difficulty.

When I was driving back up the town road there were now 4 town construction trucks on the left-hand side of the road. I pulled over to the right-hand side of the road as much as I could and waited. The first two construction trucks moved past me with no difficulty. I then pulled-forward towards the third vehicle to see if there was enough room to pass. I raised both my hands to indicate to the truck’s driver whether I could go or not and got no response. I looked again and saw there was now more than enough room for both me and the two other trucks to pass by without difficulty. I proceeded to drive past the trucks and made it to the top of my driveway with no issues. When I was parking my Jeep I saw a town truck (I later saw was the Town Road Agent) backing-up past my driveway and then driving forward into my driveway. I got out of my Jeep and the Road Agent got out of his truck. The first thing out of his mouth was “What the f##k are you doing? Are you some kind of Retard?” I asked him what he meant and he said I should have waited – he continued to use explicit, swear words throughout the incident – which I won’t continue repeating in this letter. I even asked him two times to stop swearing at me which he refused.

I asked him why we couldn’t receive any form of advanced notification that the one and only way in/out of our mountain would be closed for maintenance and he replied that it wasn’t his job to do so and that if we wanted that notice then the town would need to hire more people. I accepted that response, but then he went on to talk about how if I didn’t f###king like it they wouldn’t plow or fix the road and I wouldn’t be able to use it (again with much more descriptive and verbally threatening language.) I asked him a second time to stop swearing and if he wouldn’t that he could leave my property. He continued swearing and so I told him to “Get off my f##king driveway.” He continued talking about how he was the best road agent in the state and that anyone would tell you so. He said he even “fixed” the end of my driveway for me  - to which I replied the work they did at the bottom of my driveway only made a small situation worse by creating a deeper and wider ditch that the UPS truck got stuck in and I had to have several neighbors help with getting him out. He continued swearing  (saying he would talk to my neighbor about that) and it was clear he wasn’t going to change his attitude and possibly become more verbally threatening so I told him for a third time to get off my property and that I was going to file an official complaint on him with the town. He said some more swear words as he got into his truck and backed-out of my driveway.

Right after the incident I called the Town Clerk’s Office and got no answer so I called the Town Selectboard’s office. I told the woman there that I wasn’t sure whom I needed to contact about the verbal harassment and threats I had just received from the Town’s Road Agent. She told me to send a report via e-mail  (giving me their e-mail address) and said that no one from the Selectboard would read it until next week. She also stated that if I felt threatened that I should call the Town Police and gave me the number to call. I called that number and the person there said they would have an officer call me.

The officer called me a few minutes later and I told him what had happened. He said that no laws were broken and that it wasn’t considered harassment. I asked him what was considered harassment and he said 2 or more incidents with the same parties. I asked him if there could be an official note made about this so that it would be considered the first official harassment report. He said I could file I report and give it to them. I asked him for the Police’s e-mail address so I could send the report and he said it was better if I came and delivered it in person so they could ask me any addition questions. I told him that since the town doesn’t have a full-time police force (and mentioned that back on January 31, 2017 when I called the Town Police I was told by the dispatcher that no one was working that day and then had to wait over an hour for the State Police to come) that I would prefer to send an e-mail and if they had any questions they could then call me or I could then come see them – when I was sure they were in the office. Even when I spoke with the Selectboard’s office and the woman there said I could call the Town Police today if I wanted to and I asked her if they were there right then she said she looked out her office and saw their door closed meaning they were not. On top of that I wouldn’t try to drive down my road again today and have another threatening encounter with the Town Road Agent. In the end I did manage to get the Town Police’s e-mail from t officer who did repeat that he advised me to come in-person.

The main issue here is the unprofessional manner in which the Town Road Agent treated me. He made a conscious effort to drive half-way up the town road and on to my driveway just to create a threatening scene with numerous swear words and it took me three times telling him to get off my property for him to do so. It is clear that the Road Agent does not have any sort of filter on himself or respect for his position or the people of this town. If he had he would have treated the whole situation in a professional manner rather than the threatening, bullying manner in-which he did conduct himself. No one should have to be treated in such a way  - especially on their own property and definitely not by a Town official. I already sent the complaint e-mail to the Town Selectmen and the Town Police and will mail a regular letter when I am in town tomorrow. I don't think the Town will do anything about this - they never do - but at least there will be physical documentation about this if/when another incident occurs. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Planets

From the DW:
"NASA finds more Earth-sized planets that could support life"

The planets are likely the right size and right temperature to support complex life. The Kepler planet-searching telescope has detected nearly 50 such planets in one small part of the observable universe. 
NASA said Monday its Kepler Space Telescope mission discovered 10 new rocky, Earth-like planets outside of our solar system which could support life. "Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone," said Kepler scientist Mario Perez.  Those 10 planets were orbiting suns at a similar distance to Earth's orbit around the sun. This distance is considered the "Goldilocks Zone" - not too close, not too far away from the sun, just right to support life. Seven of these planets were circling stars similar to our sun. This does not mean life of any complexity has been found on these planets, but the chances that Earth is the only planet that supports life are dwindling. "It implies that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone around sun-like stars are not rare," Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb wrote in an email to the AP news agency. Loeb was not part of the Kepler research team. Kepler also discovered 209 other planets, scientists announced Monday. The Kepler telescope has detected nearly 50 planets in the Goldilocks Zone in four years of searching. The Kepler telescope only looked at a small part of the Milky Way galaxy. The telescope studied about 150,000 stars, while the Milky Way contains hundreds of billions of stars.  Before Kepler was launched in 2009, astronomers hoped there would be Earth-like planets around about 1 percent of stars. Scientists involved with the Kepler telescope said that number is closer to 60 percent this weekend. "This number could have been very, very small," said Caltech astronomer Courtney Dressing "I, for one, am ecstatic." The Kepler telescope will soon make way for its successor. The Transisting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will observe the brightest 200,000 nearby stars for two years starting next year. The James Webb Space telescope, which will replace the Hubble telescope next year, will be able to detect the make-up of atmospheres of exoplanets. The James Webb telescope will also be able to determine the possibility of finding potential life forms.

^ This is interesting. You don't hear a whole lot about space anymore. People have a "been there done that" attitude even though there is so much we haven't done or even know about space. ^

Presidents Meet

From the BBC:
"Trump has 'good discussions' with Ukraine president"

US President Donald Trump has said he had "very, very good discussions" with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Washington. During the meeting, billed as a "drop-in", they discussed "support for the peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine", the White House said. Ukraine has been fighting Russian-backed rebels in the east since 2014. Mr Trump's previous calls for better US ties with Russia have worried Ukrainian authorities, observers say. Tuesday's meeting came as Washington announced more sanctions relating to Russia's actions in Ukraine.  The measures target 38 organisations and individuals, including Russian government officials and also officials in Crimea - a Ukrainian region annexed by Russian three years ago. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the move "regrettable".  In a brief statement, the White House said the two leaders had also discussed "President Poroshenko's reform agenda and anticorruption efforts". In televised comments, President Trump described Ukraine "a place that we've all been very much involved in and we've been seeing it and everybody has been reading about it". He added that "a lot of progress has been made" between Ukraine and the US, without providing any further details. Meanwhile, Mr Poroshenko said America was "one of the most reliable supporters" of Ukraine. The "drop-in" meeting was described by a number of Russian analysts as a diplomatic snub for the Ukrainian leader. But observers in Ukraine stressed on the importance of it coming before expected talks between Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 gathering in Germany in July. The US administration is facing claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and of possible links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.  Mr Trump has repeatedly denied the allegation, calling them a "witch hunt".  In Washington, President Poroshenko also held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. "The United States stands with you. We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty, to international law or to the international order," Mr Mattis said.

^ It's clear that the US (and the rest of the world) needs to do a lot more to help the Ukraine. Hopefully, this is a good sign of things to come. ^

Aboriginal Day!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Too Hot

From the BBC:
"Phoenix flights cancelled because it's too hot for planes"

As temperatures climb in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 40 flights have been cancelled - because it is too hot for the planes to fly. The weather forecast for the US city suggests temperatures could reach 120F (49C) on Tuesday. That is higher than the operating temperature of some planes. American Airlines announced it was cancelling dozens of flights scheduled to take off from Sky Harbor airport during the hottest part of the day. The local Fox News affiliate in Phoenix said the cancellations mostly affected regional flights on the smaller Bombardier CRJ airliners, which have a maximum operating temperature of about 118F (48C).  The all-time record for temperatures in Phoenix is just slightly higher, at 122F, which hit on 26 June 1990. The cancelled flights were scheduled to take off between 15:00 and 18:00 local time.  At higher temperatures, air has a lower density - it is thinner. That lower air density reduces how much lift is generated on an aircraft's wings - a core principle in aeronautics. That, in turn, means the aircraft's engines need to generate more thrust to get airborne. It's a well-known problem - a 2016 report from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) even warned that higher temperatures caused by climate change could "have severe consequences for aircraft take-off performance, where high altitudes or short runways limit the payload or even the fuel-carrying capacity". Those problems are why many countries in the Middle East, and some high-altitude airports in South America, tend to schedule long flights for the evening or night, when it is cooler.  Bigger aircraft like Boeing 747s and Airbus models have a slightly higher operating temperature, and have not been affected by the heat in Phoenix. An American Airlines statement provided to The Arizona Republic newspaper said those jets should be fine up to 126-127F (53C) - just a little higher than what is expected.

^ I don't like when it's too hot or too cold. I have been to places that are constantly hot and it's not fun for long. I know people always say "but at least it's a dry heat" in Phoenix, but 120 F even without humidity is too hot. ^

Prop Law Blasted

From the BBC:
"European Court blasts Russia 'gay propaganda' law"

Russia's "gay propaganda" law is discriminatory and encourages homophobia, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled. The Strasbourg judges said Russia had discriminated against three gay rights activists who opposed the law. It was adopted in 2013, banning promotion of homosexuality among people under 18. The law "reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia", the ruling said. Gay rights groups condemned the law. Under the law, private individuals deemed to be promoting "homosexual behaviour among minors" face fines of up to 5,000 roubles (£67; $85), while officials risk paying 10 times that amount. Businesses and schools can be fined up to 500,000 roubles.  Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay prejudice is rife. Critics see the propaganda law as part of a state campaign to marginalise LGBT activists, whose work includes dissemination of sexual health advice.  The Strasbourg court said the fines imposed on three Russian gay rights activists violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the court, the legislation aimed at curbing promotion of homosexuality was "not clearly defined" and was implemented in an arbitrary way. It "served no legitimate public interest", the court said.  Russia's justice ministry says it will appeal, arguing that the law is aimed "exclusively at protecting the morals and health of children".   MP Vitaly Milonov, of the ruling United Russia party, who introduced the original bill into the St Petersburg parliament and which formed the basis of the federal law, told BBC Russian that the court's decision was "anti-national". "It is absolutely harmful, and those who set up this decision are enemies of Europe," he said. The three activists had been found guilty for protesting against the law in 2009-2012 - outside a secondary school in Ryazan, a children's library in Archangel and an administrative building in St Petersburg.  The court rejected the Russian government's claim that such a law was needed to protect morality.  It found that the government had "failed to demonstrate how freedom of expression on LGBT issues would devalue or otherwise adversely affect actual and existing 'traditional families' or would compromise their future".  Such laws, the judges said, "embodied a predisposed bias on the part of a heterosexual majority against a homosexual minority". They ordered Russia to pay each of the activists damages of between €8,000 (£7,000; $8,900) and €20,000. One of the three, Nikolai Alexeyev, hailed the ruling as a "total victory", the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Moscow. He had picketed a children's library, holding a sign declaring that gay people could also be great - and listing the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein as examples.

^ It's nice to see a neutral court come to the same conclusion the rest of the world has on this issue. I honestly don't think the Russian Government will pay the damages or change the law and the anti-gay discrimination and attacks will continue throughout Russia. ^

Kazimierz Piechowski

From Wikipedia:
"Kazimierz Piechowski"

He was born October 3, 1919 Rajkowy, Poland) is a retired engineer, a Boy Scout during the Second Polish Republic, a political prisoner of the German Nazis at Auschwitz concentration camp, a soldier in the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) then a prisoner for seven years of the communist government of Poland. He is known for his famous escape from Auschwitz I along with three other prisoners dressed as members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, fully armed in a stolen SS staff car, in which they drove out the main gate—"a universally acclaimed... [feat] of exceptional courage and gallantry", in the words of Kazimierz Smoleń. After the collapse of Polish resistance to the German invasion, Piechowski along with fellow boy scout Alfons "Alki" Kiprowski (b. 9 October 1921) were captured by the German occupiers in their hometown of Tczew and impressed into a work gang clearing the destroyed sections of the railway bridge over the Vistula, which had previously been blown up by the Polish military to impede Nazi transports. Polish Boy Scouts were among the groups targeted by the Gestapo and the Selbstschutz. They decided to leave Tczew on November 12, 1939 and attempted to get to France to join the free Polish Army. While crossing the border into Hungary they were caught by a German patrol. They were first sent to a Gestapo prison in Baligrod. They were told by the Gestapo "Actually, we should shoot you, but we have for you something much more interesting." They were sent to a prison in Sanok next, then to Montelupich Prison in Kraków. Their last stop before Auschwitz was a prison in Wiśnicz. Piechowski was sent to Auschwitz as a political prisoner, the so-called Legionsgaenger, one wishing to join Polish military formations—or "legions"—abroad. Moreover, the Polish Boy Scouts were labeled a criminal organization in Occupied Poland. Piechowski was among a transport of 313 Polish deportees to Auschwitz on 20 June 1940: it was only the second transport after the initial one from Tarnów. Among this Tarnów group was another Pole who would escape in an SS uniform: Edward Galinski. Galinski's escape was short-lived. Piechowski received inmate number 918. He credits Kapo Otto Küsel (inmate number 2)—one of the original 30 German deportees from Sachsenhausen—with his survival by assigning him lighter work. Piechowski was in the Leichenkommando, assigned to bringing corpses to the crematorium, including those shot at the "Black Wall" by SS-Rapportfuhrer Gerhard Arno Palitzsch. Piechowski was present when Polish priest and fellow Auschwitz prisoner Maximilian Kolbe offered to exchange places with a fellow Pole who was among a group of ten sentenced to be starved to death. The sentence was in retribution for a perceived escape attempt of a prisoner.  He also had access to the list of upcoming executions, and when he checked it once he saw that his friend, Eugeniusz Bendera, was going to be executed. So both of them and 1 more man planned an escape plan. So on Saturday morning of 20 June 1942 told his camp leader along with his two inmates, that they were assigned to throw away the waste. Later they decided to go to a storage closet, grab three German uniforms, and escape. On the Saturday morning of 20 June 1942, exactly two years after his arrival, Piechowski escaped from Auschwitz I along with two other Poles, Stanisław Gustaw Jaster (b. 1921; inmate number 6438), veteran of Invasion of Poland in rank of first lieutenant from Warsaw; Józef Lempart (b. 1916; inmate number 3419), a priest from Wadowice; and Eugeniusz Bendera (b. 1906; inmate number 8502), an auto mechanic from Czortków, now Ukraine. Piechowski had the best knowledge of the German language within the group, and held the command of the party. They left through the main Auschwitz camp through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate. They had taken a cart and passed themselves off as a Rollwagenkommando—"haulage detail"—a work group which consisted of between four and twelve inmates pulling a freight cart instead of horses. Bendera went to the motorpool; Piechowski, Lempart, and Jaster went to the warehouse in which the uniforms and weapons were stored. They entered via a coal bunker which Piechowski had helped fill. He had removed a bolt from the lid so it wouldn't self latch when closed. Once in the building they broke into the room containing the uniforms and weapons, arming themselves with four machine-guns and eight grenades. Bendera arrived in a Steyr 220 sedan (saloon) car belonging to SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Kreuzmann, license number SS-20868. As a mechanic he was often allowed to test drive cars around the camp. He entered the building and changed into SS uniform like the others. They then all entered the car: Bendera driving; Piechowski in the front passenger seat; Lempart and Jaster in the back. Bendera drove toward the main gate. Jaster carried a report that Witold Pilecki (deliberately imprisoned in Auschwitz to prepare intelligence about the Holocaust and who would not escape until 1943) had written for Armia Krajowa's headquarters. When they approached the gate they became nervous as it had not opened. Lempart hit Piechowski in the back and told him to do something. With the car stopped, he opened the door and leaned out enough for the guard to see his rank insignia and yelled at him to open the gate. The gate opened and the four drove off.  The prisoners abandoned the stolen escape vehicle in the vicinity of Maków Podhalański, at a distance of some 60 kilometres (37 mi) from the camp.  Kazimierz Piechowski eventually made his way to Ukraine, but was unable to find refuge there due to anti-Polish sentiment. Forging documents and a false name, he returned to Poland to live in Tczew, where he had been captured. He soon found work doing manual labor on a nearby farm, where he made contact with the Home Army and took up arms against the Nazis within the units of 2nd Lt. Adam Kusz nom de guerre Garbaty (one of the so-called "Cursed soldiers").  His parents were arrested by the Nazis in reprisal for his escape, and died in Auschwitz; the policy of tattooing prisoners was also allegedly introduced in response to his escape. Piechowski learned after the War from his boy-scout friend Alfons Kiprowski, who remained a prisoner at Auschwitz for some three more months after his escape, that a special investigative commission arrived at Auschwitz from Berlin to answer—independently of the camp's administration—the question as to how an escape as audacious as Piechowski's and his companions' was at all possible.  After the war he attended the Gdańsk University of Technology and became an engineer, and then found work in Pomerania. He was denounced to the communist authorities for being a member of the Home Army and sentenced to 10 years in prison; he served 7. At the end of his sentence, he was 33; he reports thinking, "They have taken away my whole youth—all my young years." Thereafter he worked as an engineer for the communist government for some decades. After the democratic transition, he declined the Order of the White Eagle when Maciej Płażyński tried to award it to him, politely (but also enigmatically) replying, "I do not feel that this honour is owed to me". In 1989 he sold land he owned near Gdańsk and travelled with his wife to various parts of the world, visiting over 60 countries. In 2006 Piechowski was named an honorary citizen of the city of Tczew with which he has had a longstanding association (as his pre-War hometown). Likewise in 2006 Kazimierz Piechowski was the subject of the 56-minute-long documentary film Uciekinier ("Man on the Run") produced by Marek Tomasz Pawłowski and Małgorzata Walczak, which won several international awards. In 2009 the British singer Katy Carr released a song about Piechowski under the title "Kommander's Car"; while 2010 saw another documentary on the subject from the filmmaker Hannah Lovell, the 26-minute Kazik and the Kommander's Car. He currently lives in Gdańsk.

Piechowski's associates:

  • The kapo Kurt Pachala (or, Pachele; born 16 October 1895), a native of Neusatz (inmate number 24), in charge of the motor pool (Fahrbereitschaft; or alternatively, of the food stores or supply depot, the so-called Truppen Wirtschaftslager) at Auschwitz, was implicated in Piechowski's escape by the circumstantial evidence uncovered during the ensuing investigation, and as a result was tortured and then sent to the standing cell in Block 11 where he died of thirst and hunger on 14 January 1943. He is said to have been reduced at the end to eating his own shoes. His treatment and death were recounted at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials in 1965 which formed the basis for the 1965 play Die Ermittlung (The Investigation) by Peter Weiss. Pachala is the only known victim of reprisals for the escape within the Auschwitz concentration camp itself (apart, that is, from the family members of the escapees): it was the ruse of the fake work commando that saved other prisoners from reprisals. 
  • Eugeniusz (Gienek) Bendera (b. 13 or 14 March 1906 in Tschortkau (Polish: Czortków), Podolia), then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. According to Kazimierz Piechowski, Bendera was the originator of the idea of the escape, and the one who conceptualized the whole plan. After the War he returned to Przedbórz to live with his wife (married in 1930; one son), until a divorce in 1959 when he moved to Warsaw. He died after 1970.
  • Józef Lempart (born 19 August 1916 in Zawadka): After the escape he was dropped off by the escapees at a monastery in Stary Sącz, a locality some 155 kilometres (96 mi) from the camp, in a state of total exhaustion.  His mother was deported to Auschwitz in reprisal for his escape and killed. He left the priesthood, married, and had a daughter. He died in 1971 after being run over by a bus while crossing a street in Wadowice.
  • Stanisław (Staszek) Gustaw Jaster, nom de guerre Hel (b. 1 January 1921): The youngest of the escapees. In Auschwitz was a member of the secret underground military organization ZOW. In Warsaw he reported to the Home Army High Command about the resistance in Auschwitz and became a personal emissary of Witold Pilecki. His parents were deported to Auschwitz in reprisal for his escape, where both died (his father, Stanisław Jaster, b. 1892, having perished at Auschwitz on 3 December 1942; his mother, Eugenia Jaster, b. 1894, first deported to the Majdanek concentration camp, eventually perished at Auschwitz on 26 July 1943).  He continued to fight against the German occupiers in the ranks of the Home Army as a member of one of its most important special-operations units, the Organizacja Specjalnych Akcji Bojowych (Osa–Kosa 30), but also at his own initiative taking part in engagements staged by other Home Army units, most notably participating in the successful action at the Celestynów railway junction on the night of 19 May 1943, carried out under the command of Captain Mieczysław Kurkowski nom de guerre Mietek, whose object was to free the prisoners being transported by the Nazis from the Lublin Castle prison to the Auschwitz concentration camp by train, when he gained special distinction through an act of bravery whereby he virtually single-handedly assured a victorious outcome for the operation in which 49 prisoners were freed. His comrades-in-arms have described him as a man "of enormous stature invested with extraordinary physical power".
    According to the account first promulgated in a 1968 book by Aleksander Kunicki, Cichy front Jaster was accused of collaboration with the Gestapo and executed in 1943 by members of the Home Army. This account has since been discredited as lacking foundation in documentary evidence. What now appears to be reasonably certain is that Jaster was rearrested by the Gestapo in Warsaw on 12 July 1943, and that he perished sometime between July and September of that year. The exact circumstances of his death remain however a bone of contention. Both Eugeniusz Bendera and Kazimierz Piechowski himself ― as well as many others who knew him personally ― made their voices heard in an effort to exonerate the memory of Jaster in the wake of the controversy engendered by the publication of Cichy front It has been pointed out that the author of the accusing book, Aleksander Kunicki (1898–1986), an intelligence officer of the Home Army during the War (see Operation Kutschera), had himself been subsequently accused of having collaborated with the Gestapo and sentenced to death, only to have his conviction set aside by the authorities of the Communist Poland (who instead awarded him a state pension for "meritorious service to the nation" — an extraordinary outcome for an operative of the Home Army, a military arm of the Polish government in London, whose members were persecuted after the War by Communists either with lengthy imprisonments (as in the case of Kazimierz Piechowski himself) or by being killed, as in the case of Witold Pilecki, a figure directly connected with the events dealt with in the present article, Gen. Emil Fieldorf, and others) Kunicki's book was submitted to a closely reasoned and devastating critique by Tomasz Strzembosz in 1971, which uncovered (among its other weaknesses) deliberate selective concealments and falsifications of published sources which Kunicki invokes in support of his thesis. In the slowly emerging consensus of opinion in the matter — while the uncorroborated allegations of Aleksander Kunicki presented as "facts" in Cichy front remain what they are, namely allegations, unsubstantiated, in parts fanciful, and (in the light of emerging facts about Kunicki himself) perhaps self-serving — the book is thought nevertheless to contain an element of truth concerning Jaster's ultimate fate. It would appear that after his second arrest by the Gestapo in Warsaw on 12 July 1943 Jaster may have managed to escape yet again (this time by jumping out of a speeding Gestapo car moments after having been seized in a street together with a high-ranking Home Army commander, Mieczysław Kudelski nom de guerre Wiktor) — a feat so unprecedented (both in the degree of bravura displayed and in the fact that it would have been the second time that Jaster managed to extricate himself from Nazi clutches) that it would have aroused suspicions among the Home Army just then plagued by a series of devastating setbacks which could only have been caused by a well-placed mole, leading to a hasty and unjust execution of Jaster. If this hypothesis as to the fate of Jaster were to be accepted as a fact, it would remain to be explained why no documents relating to the case have come to light, however.
    The authors of the aforementioned award-winning 2006 documentary film about Kazimierz Piechowski, Uciekinier ("Man on the Run"), Marek Tomasz Pawłowski and Małgorzata Walczak, are currently working on a sequel centred on the person of Stanisław Gustaw Jaster.
  • Alfons "Alki" Kiprowski (born 9 October 1921 in Świecie), Piechowski's fellow boy scout, was separately deported to Auschwitz (inmate number 801). He would escape from Auschwitz independently from Piechowski, just 94 days later, on 22 September 1942, together with two other prisoners, Piotr Jaglicz (b. 29 June 1922; inmate number unknown) and Adam Szumlak (b. 16 June 1920; inmate number E-1957 [or EH-1954]).

^ I had known about the escape from Auschwitz for years, but don't really remember any of the details other than the prisoners escaping dressed as Germans and driving a German car out of the camp. I didn't know that one of the prisoners was arrested and sent to Auschwitz because he was a Boy Scout or what happened to all of them after the escape and the war. It is a very interesting story that needs to be told. I have ordered the documentary and a book on this so I can learn even more. The escape happened 75 years ago today and even after so many decades we continue to learn so much about the Holocaust, World War 2, what the Nazis did and what the Communists did. ^

Monday, June 19, 2017


Here's a suggestion: maybe you shouldn't go to a country (as a tourist or otherwise) that we have been technically at war with since 1950 and don't have diplomatic relations with.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Free/Discount Day

From USA Today:
"Free beer? Toast dad to these Father's Day deals"

Dads deserve to be treated like kings Sunday. Several restaurants are offering free treats and discounts to help celebrate dad and save you a little money. Sunday also is the last day to take advantage of many gift card promotions at restaurants nationwide, which can make for a good last-minute gift.

The following freebies and specials are only available Father's Day, unless otherwise noted, at participating locations.

Bass Pro Shops: The outdoors store has free in-store family activities for its Gone Fishing event from noon to 4 p.m. June 17 and 18 at participating locations nationwide. Free activities include learning how to cast a reel at a catch-and-release pond, free photo downloads, seminars, giveaways and more. 

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s: Dads get a free meal with the purchase of another entrée up to $10 value at participating locations. 

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse: Dads get a free limited-edition pint glass on June 17 and 18 while supplies last. 

Duffy's Sports Grill: Dads get a free pint of beer with any meal purchase and a $10 MVP bonus added to their loyalty account, which can be redeemed June 19 through July 22. 

Firehouse Subs: Dads get a free medium sub with purchase of another medium or large sub, plus a side and a drink when you show  coupon at participating locations.

Cashback and mobile shopping app Ibotta is having its first-ever “Hops for Pops” free beer rebate. Only on Sunday, when dad orders a beer at any bar and restaurant nationwide, earn $5 back through the smartphone program.

First Watch: Dads get a free small bag of premium coffee with their meals while supplies last. 

HoneyBaked Ham: Buy one sandwich, get one free with this coupon June 16-18 at participating locations and while supplies last. 

Hooters: The Father’s Day dine-in deal includes 10 free boneless wings with the purchase of a beverage and any 10 boneless or Original Hooters Style wings at participating locations. 

Hurricane Grill & Wings: At participating locations, buy one entrée with a minimum purchase of $8.99 and dad gets a free entrée of equal or lesser value up to a $16.99 value. Cannot be combined with other offers, coupons or discounts. 

PDQ: Dads get a free combo meal with the purchase of one kids meal at participating locations. 

Pilot Flying J: From June 18 through 24, dads get a free cup of Pilot Coffee when they show a coupon on their phone from Pilot Flying J’s Facebook page.

Ruth Chris Steak House: Dads who dine in Saturday and Sunday will get a $25 dining card to use on a future purchase June 19 through Aug. 27. Select locations will have specials on Sunday. 

Tijuana Flats: Dads get a free taco on Father’s Day and a drink, which can include a draft beer. No coupon is needed but sign up for the Tex-Mex restaurant’s Flathead email club 

Bertucci’s: Dads dining in on Father’s Day get a coupon for free meatballs to use on a future visit. While supplies last and one per dad or per party, according to this Facebook post. 

Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse: Dads who dine in on Father’s Day between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. will get a dining card for a free lunch or dinner to redeem June 19 through Aug. 10. Cards are available while supplies last. Plus, kids 6 and younger dine free and ages 7 to 12 are half price. 

Hickory Tavern: Dads who dine-in on Father’s Day at any of the chain’s 27 locations will receive a $10 off coupon that can be redeemed during a July visit. 

Hotshots: Dads get a choice of burger, small order of wings or 9-inch one-topping pizza plus a soft drink for free at participating locations. 

Medieval Times: Through Father’s Day, dads’ admission is free with the full-price purchase of another adult when you use the code DAD17 when making a reservation. 

Spaghetti Warehouse: Dads eat free when they dine-in Sunday and can choose from the “15-layer lasagna” or any “Original Recipe Spaghetti Entrée” when they dine-in Sunday. 

TCBY: Dads get a free treat for Father’s Day at participating locations, according to the TCBY Facebook page.

Texas Steakhouse & Saloon: All dads who eat at participating Texas Steakhouse locations on Father's Day get certificate for a free entrée up to $15 on their next visit up. 

UFC GYM: Participating gym locations throughout the country will offer free access to all fathers and accompanying family members Friday through Sunday. 

Zea Rotisserie & Grill: Dads get a free 4-pack of Covington Brewhouse's Seasonal Beers with a minimum purchase of two entrées while supplies last. 

^ It's nice to know what discounts and free things are available for Dads. It doesn't have to cost a lot to show them a good time on their day. ^

Father's Day!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Serbian PM

From the BBC:
"Serbia to have first gay prime minister as Ana Brnabic is chosen"

The president of Serbia has nominated a gay woman to be his prime minister in a double first for the deeply conservative Balkan state. Ana Brnabic was chosen by the new President, Aleksandar Vucic. Her approval by parliament will be largely a formality, as his party and its allies hold an overwhelming majority. Just a few years ago, the appointment would have been unthinkable. But EU hopeful Serbia can present it as proof of increasing tolerance.  Ms Brnabic is not only Serbia's first openly gay PM, but also the first woman in that post.  "I believe that Brnabic has professional and personal qualities to be prime minister," Mr Vucic told reporters. He made no mention of her sexuality.  The symbolism of the appointment is real, but it comes against a backdrop of ingrained and sustained antipathy towards homosexuality. It may be more of a harbinger of change than evidence that change has already occurred. Police research in 2015 found that almost half its officers agreed with the statement "homosexuality is an illness that should be treated", reports the BBC's Guy De Launey in Belgrade.  Even the leader of one of the smaller parties in the president's coalition, Dragan Markovic Palma of Unified Serbia, said Ms Brnabic was "not my prime minister". He was recently quoted as saying that the new prime minister "should be a family man who knows what children are".  They mean gay people face discrimination and threats to their physical safety. Belgrade's Gay Pride march was banned for three years in succession on grounds of public safety after far-right protesters attacked the event in 2010. It was revived in 2014 amid huge security, including special forces and armoured cars. But since then, civil society organisations have reported that some individuals taking part have lost jobs as a result.  Social conservatism dominates the region as a whole, and then there is the influence of the Church - whether Orthodox in Serbia or Catholic in Croatia, our correspondent explains. Church-affiliated campaigners in Croatia forced a referendum in 2013 which rejected same-sex marriage. A 2015 referendum in Slovenia failed in its bid to legalise same-sex marriage. Far-right parties, which represent a small minority of people in Serbia, have suggested the new prime minister was not a home-grown choice but "the choice of the West".  That's the cynical interpretation - that President Aleksandar Vucic is using Ms Brnabic's nomination to demonstrate Serbia's adoption of EU values in the hope that Brussels will overlook other shortcomings.  Another explanation is that Mr Vucic may see Ms Brnabic as a safe choice for prime minister - competent but without a party base - who will not be a threat to his own power.  She joined the government last year, serving as the minister for public administration - one of the least enviable jobs in the government.  Serbia's public sector includes many Yugoslav-era businesses, some in desperate straits, as well as a sizeable civil service. In office for less than a year, she was introducing an e-governance system designed to cut down on red tape and IT as a mandatory subject in schools, our correspondent says. As a moderniser, she does seem well placed to continue the job of implementing the reforms needed for Serbia to gain accession to the EU - such as improving relations with Kosovo, reforming the judiciary, and promoting the rights of minorities - including the LGBT population.   Since joining the government last year, Ms Brnabic has tried to place the focus on her qualifications rather than her sexual orientation, asking: "Why does it matter?" On accepting the nomination to become prime minister, she said she would be working on goals "that are bigger and more important than all of us individually". Ms Brnabic will join a small number of gay prime ministers to lead governments in Europe, including Leo Varadkar in the Republic of Ireland and Xavier Bettel in Luxembourg. Iceland had an openly gay prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, in 2009-2013.

^ Serbia seems to really want to modernize itself and it's image around the rest of Europe and the world. If that is true then hopefully this new Prime Minister will help them do that. Doing so would not only help Serbia and it's citizens, but also the stereotypes gay people have (in both the Balkans and around the world.) ^

Cuba Change

From the DW:
"Trump to limit travel, restrict business with Cuba"

US President Donald Trump is set to reverse "Obama's policy of appeasement" toward Cuba, with new travel and business restrictions. With Cuba at a crossroads, some think the plan will further entrench the regime.  In a draft presidential memorandum released late Thursday, the White House said the new policy was "designed to empower the Cuban people." "This is not directed against the Cuban people, but the Cuban regime," the statement read. The aim, it said, is political and religious freedom and respect for human rights. On Friday, Trump is set to appear in Miami, the home base of the Cuban-American exile community, to announce the new policy aimed at stopping the flow of US cash to Cuba's military and security services.  In the final years of his term in office, former US President Barack Obama initiated a diplomatic breakthrough with the former Cold War foe, which included the restoration of relations and the reopening of embassies.  "The president is not opposed to ANY [sic] deal with Cuba, he is just opposed to a bad deal," the statement read, adding that business-to-business relations were still possible, as long as "they don't enrich the Cuban military complex." The Cuban military has been expanding its reach into the tourist industry, with its holding company, the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), owning the best hotels and most retail outlets, rental car companies and import entities. Estimates are that GAESA companies account for more than half of the business revenue generated in Cuba. The statutory tourism restriction will be strictly enforced, the statement went on, and diplomatic relations will continue. Trump will not close down the US Embassy in Havana, which Obama re-established in 2015. Although the new policy is being announced on Friday, none of the changes will become effective until the Treasury Department releases new regulations, which could take months. Thursday's statement said Trump had met with "experts" in Congress, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has warned against plans not to go ahead with the crackdown on Cuban trade and travel. Rubio also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election. Critics fear the measures will not do much economic damage to the Cuban regime, and will give it new ammunition to proclaim itself a victim of US aggression and an excuse to postpone democratic changes.  On Wednesday, Cuba said it plans to hold municipal elections in October, a precursor to the handover of power from President Raul Castro in 2018. Raul Castro has said he will step down next February at the end of his second five-year term, but has indicated he will stay on as head of the Communist Party, the only legal party in Cuba. The electoral notice coincides with a period of uncertainty for Cuba.  The group that has ruled the country since the 1959 revolution is dying out and Cuba's main political and trade ally Venezuela is in crisis. Castro's first vice president, the 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, is widely tipped to assume Castro's mantle, but there is also talk of a radical break with the older generation and an embrace of the market reforms that have been a feature of Raul Castro's nine-year rule.

^ Cuba has done little to nothing over the past few years (or even since Fidel died) to open itself up to the world or to ordinary Cubans on the island yet Obama kept giving them everything for free. If Cuba wants to really change itself and the lives of its people that is great and should be rewarded, but they haven't and so shouldn't. ^

Crazy 15 Minutes

From the BBC:
"Michelle Carter guilty of texts urging boyfriend's suicide"

A Massachusetts judge has ruled that a woman who sent dozens of texts encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide is guilty of his death. Michelle Carter, now 20, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for her messages to 18-year-old Conrad Roy urging him to kill himself. He took his own life on 13 July 2014 by running a generator in his vehicle in a car park in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Carter, who could face up to 20 years in prison, sobbed in court. She encouraged her boyfriend to take his own life so she could seek attention as the "grieving girlfriend", the trial heard.  The case appears to set a legal precedent, as there is no Massachusetts law that criminalises telling a person to commit suicide. Judge Lawrence Moniz said Ms Carter was guilty of "wanton and reckless conduct" by sending Mr Roy a message instructing him to get back in the truck, which he had exited as it filled with fumes. "She called no one and finally she did not issue a simple additional instruction - get out of the truck," he said. The accused broke down in tears as the judge delivered his verdict. The victim's father, also called Conrad Roy, said in a press conference the family was "thankful" for the verdict. "This has been a very tough time for our family, and we would like to process this verdict that we are happy with," he said outside court. Carter has been allowed by the judge to remain free on bail, pending sentencing, but is banned from sending text messages or using any social media network. The criminal charge against Carter meant that prosecutors had to prove that she had a "direct" role in Mr Roy's death.  Judge Moniz, who handed down the ruling because Carter chose not to have a jury trial, said the fact that Mr Roy had previously attempted to take his own life, or that he might have done so again, was not relevant. Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn told the court in her closing arguments that the directness required by the involuntary manslaughter statute required updating for the modern age. "Back years ago in order to have a relationship you had to actually see somebody - or at a minimum talk on the phone. That is no longer required. People fall in love via the internet and via text. People bully via text and the internet. You can encourage someone to die via text, and you can commit a crime via text," she said. The case drew national attention after the texts sent between the two teenagers were revealed by investigators. "Hang yourself, jump off a building, stab yourself I don't know there's a lot of ways," she said in several messages sent in the two weeks before his death, as he was on holiday with his family. In the moments before his suicide, she wrote: "You need to do it, Conrad" and "All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy."  In another message, she wrote: "You're finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. It's okay to be scared and it's normal. I mean, you're about to die." Prosecutors argued that Carter had manipulated Mr Roy, who had a history of depression and suicide attempts, into taking his own life, advising him that it would be "painless". But Carter's defence team argued that Mr Roy had planned his own suicide, and had gone so far as to secure the equipment that he used to take his own life. They also said anti-depression medication that Carter was taking had affected her judgment. As Mr Conrad's truck filled with poisonous carbon monoxide, he left his vehicle to speak on the phone, with Carter, who was nearly 30 miles (48km) away at the time. Investigators did not have a recording of that call, but in a text to a friend, Carter described what was said. "Sam, [the victim's] death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the [truck] because it was working and he got scared and I f****** told him to get back in Sam because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldnt have him live the way he was living anymore I couldnt do it I wouldnt let him," she wrote after his death. Another message to her friend stated: "I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself. I heard him dying." She also contacted a friend when she learned that investigators were looking through Mr Roy's phone. "They read my text messages to him I'm done", the accused wrote, adding, "his family will hate me and I could go to jail". She will be sentenced on 3 August 2017.

^ Hopefully this will serve as a lesson to other people who think it is cool to help others commit suicide just for the thrill of it. She is clearly mentally unstable and I hope she will get the full 20 years in prison. She got the 15 minutes of fame she wanted and because she did so in such a horrible way she deserves the full extent of the law. ^

Helmut Kohl

From the DW:
"Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies, aged 87"

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl has died, aged 87. Having led Germany for 16 years, he is remembered for reuniting the country as well as for making a huge political and economic contribution to the integration of Europe.  Helmut Kohl's political party the Christian Democratic Union on Friday confirmed media reports that the former chancellor had died.  "We mourn. #RIP #Helmut Kohl," the brief message read as tributes began to be made by world leaders.  Kohl died at his home in Ludwigshafen, south of Frankfurt on the Rhine river, early Friday. He gave his name to an entire generation - the "Kohl Generation." It was common knowledge among young people who grew up while he was chancellor that Helmut Kohl would sometimes invite special state visitors back to his home in Oggersheim, a suburb of the western German city of Ludwigshafen, and serve them his favorite dish: stuffed pig's stomach. In his leisure hours he liked to wear cardigans stretched across his enormous frame. Helmut Josef Michael Kohl was born in Ludwigshafen on April 3, 1930. He was only 17 when he joined the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and was active in the party during his studies in History, Law and Governance and Public Policy. Kohl was elected premier of Rhineland-Palatinate in 1969. At just 39, he was the youngest person ever to hold the position. In 1976, the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), choose him as their candidate for chancellor in the parliamentary elections. He won 48.6 percent of the vote, but that still was not enough to keep Helmut Schmidt's Social Democrats (SPD) from staying in power in a coalition with the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).It was not until six years later, on October 1, 1982, that Kohl finally reached his goal. The leader of the opposition, which also had the largest number of seats in the German parliament, was voted in as chancellor. It was a vote of no confidence against the Social Democrat Chancellor Schmidt that brought Kohl to power, after he succeeded in convincing FDP leader Hans-Dietrich Genscher to break with Schmidt. Kohl formed his own alliance with the FDP and became the head of the government. In a controversial move a few months later he proposed another confidence vote to hold fresh elections, which he won. There was considerable discontent with Kohl's government during his first years in office. He acquired the reputation for not solving domestic problems but just "sitting them out." He responded to criticism by repeatedly reshuffling his cabinet. His visit to the cemetery in the German city Bitburg with US President Ronald Reagan in 1985 sparked fierce debate, as members of the Waffen SS, a paramilitary organization of the Nazi regime, were buried there alongside German and American soldiers. On another occasion, he compared the head of the Soviet Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. But it was Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika that were to benefit Kohl the most. In June 1989, Kohl welcomed the Soviet leader in Bonn. At that point no one was reckoning with the imminent fall of the Berlin Wall, which was to happen just a few months later. Kohl, however, greeted Gorbachev with words of expectation: "Many people are pinning their hopes on your visit here - people back home in your country, and here in ours." The situation advanced much faster than anticipated, and when the Wall did fall it caught Kohl off guard. He was on a trip to Poland when the citizens of East Germany stormed the inner-German border and the East German guards let them through. Although Kohl immediately headed home, he didn't get back in time to be the first West German politician to address the entire German people at that symbol of their division, the Brandenburg Gate. Instead, it was the words of the West German president, Richard von Weizsäcker, that people heard that night.Kohl, however, quickly seized the initiative and launched a 10-point plan with the aim of reuniting the two German states as quickly as possible. He tried to defuse fears in other countries about a reunited Germany becoming too powerful or too nationalistic. "We Germans have learned from history," he said at the time. "We are a peace-loving, freedom-loving people. For us, love of our native country, love of freedom, and the spirit of being a good neighbor always belong together."   Kohl had reached the zenith of his political career in 1989 and 1990. He was celebrated as a star in East Germany. His promise to its citizens included the often-quoted "green pastures." But despite the introduction of the solidarity tax to contribute to the development of the former East Germany, reunification couldn't be rushed, and Kohl didn't succeed in raising the living standard in the eastern states to that of the former West. Many East Germans who had lost their jobs failed to find new employment and moved to the West after reunification and development in the five new German states continued to be slow, and as people became frustrated Kohl saw his popularity plummet. Dissatisfaction with the Kohl system grew among Germans, with many of them regarding the chancellor as only interested in holding onto power. In October 1998, a coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens won parliamentary elections and after 16 years - a record for Germany - Helmut Kohl was once more a member of the German parliament's opposition. News in 1999 that "his CDU" was involved in accepting illegal donations through a number of secret bank accounts would tarnish his reputation. At first, Kohl denied any involvement in the scandal and said his conduct was beyond reproach. Despite his reassurances, the CDU eventually revoked his honorary party membership and at a special party convention Kohl was asked to give up his seat in parliament as well. He later admitted to having received millions of deutschmarks worth of illegal contributions, without ever disclosing the donors' names. Court charges against him were dropped in return for paying a fine, and the ex-chancellor largely left the German political stage. In July 2001, Kohl's wife, Hannelore, committed suicide taking an overdose of sleeping pills. She had suffered from photodermatitis, a form of sun allergy.  As the CDU's finance scandal faded into history, Kohl once again received recognition from his party, including current chancellor and former Kohl protégé Angela Merkel, as well as the international community. At the age of 78, Kohl married Maike Richter. Former companions went on record as saying that Kohl's new wife kept an overly watchful eye on him, assuming control over his social life. The relationship to Kohl's sons from his first marriage and, most recently, collaboration with his long-time ghostwriter Heribert Schwan were affected in similar ways.  As an elder statesman, Kohl continued to receive recognition. In May 2011, he was awarded the Henry Kissinger Prize for exceptional contributions to transatlantic relations. Former US President Bill Clinton called him "the most important European statesman since the Second World War." Shortly before his death, Kohl received yet another notable tribute when the Federal Republic of Germany issued a special stamp in his honor. It shows Kohl's face, spread across 12 square centimeters and captioned "Chancellor of reunification - honorary citizen of Europe." Helmut Kohl would not have called himself the perfect politician - and neither would his Christian Democratic colleagues, but he will go down in history as chancellor of reunification and a major promoter of a united Europe.

^ He helped to shape not only Germany (East, West and Reunited) but Europe and the rest of the world for most of the last of the 20th Century. ^

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tim Donley

From the USA Today:
"Double-amputee vet gets accessible home of his own"

For the past five years, a now-retired Marine corporal has been navigating life as a double amputee.
On Thursday, Tim Donley and his wife, Kelly, were given the keys to a brand new, handicapped-accessible "smart home" designed to remove many of the everyday roadblocks that he has encountered since he was wounded in Afghanistan.  “It’s ours. I’ve never had a home of my own,” Tim Donley said. “We’ve never had anywhere that was ours.”  The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which has its headquarters on Staten Island, N.Y., changed that.  “The apartment we’ve been living in has been pretty rough. It is a small place, so a lot of times I’ll hop around instead of worrying about being in my wheelchair because there just isn’t enough room.” Tim Donley said. “You don’t find many places that are handicapped accessible to the extent that we tend to need it.”  The foundation honors the sacrifice of Stephen Siller, who died saving others on Sept. 11, 2001. One of its programs builds accessible homes with lighting, heating and electronics that can be controlled via computer, tablet or smartphone, and it has completed more than 50 such homes across the USA.  This home features a number of amenities meant to give Tim Donley more independence than a normal house. Pull-down cabinets and drawers for storage and a roll-in shower are just a few of its attributes.  “It is such an incredible place, and it’s ours,” Tim Donley said. He lost both legs and had severe damage to one arm when an improvised explosive device detonated near him Feb. 9, 2012, while he was on patrol in Afghanistan.  The home also will make it easier for the Donleys to play host to other disabled veterans who are their friends, including Kelly Donley's brother, Mark Fidler. Fidler also lost his legs in Afghanistan when the Marine stepped on an IED less than a week into his combat tour.  “We haven’t been able to hang out with Mark or other injured guys as much because we didn’t have enough space for multiple wheelchairs. It’s tough,” Tim Donley said.  The Donleys wanted to live in Bethel Township, about halfway between Harrisburg and Allentown in eastern Pennsylvania, because it is close to Kelly Donley's parents.  Her parents' property also is home to Kelly Donley's two horses, and her husband is hoping to get a horse specially trained to accommodate riders without legs.  Tim Donley met Kelly while he was in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., recovering from the injuries he sustained in the 2012 explosion.  "Kelly’s older brother, Mark, was injured about four months before I was, and he and I became friends at the hospital,” Tim Donley said. “Kelly and I met about a year later, and the rest is history.”  Members of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and representatives from the organizations and businesses that helped finance and build the home had a Thursday ceremony at the home to officially welcome the Donleys.  Having a mortgage-free, navigable home removes some of the stress that comes from living with injuries, not just for his family but for all of the veterans that the foundation has helped, Tim Donley said.  “In our time of need and during times where we’ve needed support, there have been good people who really want to help us and want to do something good for us,” he said.  “It is changing our lives.”

^ I love hearing about these kinds of stories - - giving back to the men and women who gave so much for us. I only wish we could be flooded with these stories since it would mean that we are helping every single veteran (disabled or not) who helped keep us safe. ^

USHMM's Diary Program

From the JG:
"US Holocaust Museum seeks funds to preserve war diaries"

A.C. Strip has long understood the significance of the diary his older brother kept as they fled the Holocaust with their parents. He turned it into a self-published book that he gave to his brother as a 90th birthday gift. But Strip never considered the diary to be an important historical document. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is making him rethink that. Strip's brother's journal is one of more than 200 diaries written by Holocaust victims and survivors the museum hopes to digitize and make available to the public with the help of its first crowd-funding campaign. The museum is seeking $250,000 for the project and will begin soliciting donations through Kickstarter on Monday, the birthday of the most famous Holocaust diarist, Anne Frank. The diary has forced Strip to confront painful memories. On a recent visit to Washington to be interviewed for the project, he found it too difficult to tour the museum. But he visited the nearby National Museum of African American History and Culture and gained some perspective on what the Holocaust Museum is trying to accomplish. "I had forgotten some of these things in my own lifetime, all these stories about people like me and my family," Strip said. "The African-American museum is bringing these things to life that will not permit people to forget, and the Holocaust Museum, their job is not to permit people to forget." Strip, a native of Antwerp, Belgium, was 5 and Joseph 17 when their family fled the Nazis. Then known as the Stripounskys, they escaped across the border to France and spent a year holed up with a farming family in a small village before going to Spain, Portugal and, finally, the United States. Joseph — who later became an engineer, settled in New Jersey and lived to 91 — chronicled the journey in meticulous detail, using four notebooks. He accented his writing with sketches, maps and newspaper clippings. One sketch shows "Master Teddy Bear," a stuffed animal the family bought for young A.C. Strip, 81, a lawyer who lives in Dublin, Ohio, broke down in tears several times while discussing his family's journey in a telephone interview. While his immediate family got across the Belgian border, two aunts and two uncles didn't make it. Their papers were Czech, not Belgian, and they were later killed by the Nazis. Two of Strip's orphaned cousins later joined his family in the U.S. and were raised by his parents. He considers them his brothers. "Our family, like so many others, got beat up pretty bad," he said. The diary project is important because Holocaust survivors are rapidly dying off, museum officials said. If the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, the money would mostly pay for the work needed to translate, catalog and digitize them. The museum has diaries written in 18 languages. "We're living in scary times. Holocaust denial has been on the rise. Anti-Semitism and hatred is extremely worrisome. It's on the front of a lot of minds, certainly this institution. These diaries, these first-person accounts, testimonies, this is the evidence," said Dana Weinstein, the museum's director of membership and new audience engagement. "This evidence will stand as proof that the Holocaust happened." Many of the diaries were much shorter than Joseph's, kept on scraps of paper or scrawled onto family photographs. The museum received one diary from Warsaw, Poland, that had been hidden behind a radiator in a bombed-out building. It looked like a deck of cards, but it turned out to be four sheets of paper that were folded many times. The author was a woman known as Deborah — it could have been an alias — and that's all the museum curators know. Strip's brother was careful to write down everything. His maps were so accurate that, during a trip to France two years ago, Strip was able to use them to find the village and the farmhouse where his family hid. The last name of the family they stayed with was Mech. Strip visited the mayor's office and asked the secretary if anyone with that name still lived in town. "She went to the computer, picked up the telephone, came back and said, 'One of Mr. Mech's children will be here in 5 minutes,'" Strip said. "Five minutes later, a very nice gentleman, 62 years old, who wasn't born at the time I was there but who knew the whole story, came in, took one look at me and he started crying."

^ Diaries are an important document that historians use to get an in-sight on events from history. I have read many diaries and journals from the Holocaust (and other historical events) and they really make all the facts and figures more personal to those of us who never went through the event. ^

Roam Like Home

From the DW:
"EU finally kills off cellphone roaming charges"

On June 15, the European Union is finally ending extra mobile phone charges for phone users who leave their country. But critics say German and Spanish lobbyists have watered down the new rules.  It's been called a victory for the European Union - a sign that Brussels can protect its citizens from exploitation by telecommunications companies. After all, the world needed multinational legislation to counter the power of multinational corporations. But lobby observers say that those corporations, particularly from Germany and Spain, have worked to water down the new rules. A decade of compromises, delays, negotiations and re-negotiations will finally end on June 15, when mobile roaming charges will be abolished across the bloc. That means that EU-based phone users will pay the same for calls, texts, using the internet and downloads when they travel to another EU country as when they are at home. It's supposed to be a new dawn for consumer rights. Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper, for instance, was effusive on Tuesday, calling the new deal a "triumph for the EU, not only over the interests of mobile phone companies. The decision shows that Europe can change the everyday lives of people for the better. Five hundred million consumers will profit."  But there are holes in this new "roam like at home" world. For one thing, telecommunications operators are still allowed to set caps on high-speed flat-rate internet use abroad. For another, different networks are allowed to keep their different rules on which territories belong to the EU - while some include Switzerland, the British Channel Islands, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino, for example, others don't - which means travelers to those places have to check which network their phone picks up. And, as Susanne Blohm of Germany's major consumer protection organization Verbraucherzentrale explained, the new rules are riddled with unnecessary complexities. "In principle, this June 15 [legislation] is a very, very big success," she told DW. "But one big point of criticism is that international calls aren't affected by the new regulations. I can go to Spain on holiday with my German tariff and call Germany for the same price. But if I'm in Germany and want to call abroad it could be more expensive. Paradoxically, it could be more expensive to call Poland from Germany than to call Poland from Spain, even though I'm at home." It is, as Blohm puts it, "legally very complicated and totally confusing for a normal consumer." "We as a consumer rights organization said international calls needed to be included in the new legislation, but it was never a part of the negotiations," she said. Guillermo Beltra, head of legal affairs at the European consumer organization BEUC, knew the problem well enough. "In the vast majority of member states it is unjustifiably expensive to call a different country from your own country, and the roaming deal does not put a solution on that." But he added that the EU was currently renegotiating telecommunications rules, and that a solution might be found. The fact that consumers had to wait 10 years for these reforms is largely down to a complex struggle between the different telecommunications companies over the caps on "wholesale roaming charges" - the fees that networks charge each other for using their networks.  Here, the largest firms - particularly Spain's Telefonica and Germany's Deutsche Telekom - were able to pressure the European Commission to keep the caps higher than the smaller operators - who charge lower fees - would have liked. But still, Beltra called the new regulations "a very big win for consumers overall," even though the major companies had done all they could to delay the new rules. For a while, the then-EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy, Germany's Günther Oettinger, tried to dilute them further by pushing a plan to have roaming charges only suspended for 90 days a year - but that was shot down. "Both Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom are the biggest incumbent operators and have a lot of influence over their governments - governments who have a lot of political power in the EU as well," he said. But ultimately, Beltra said, even these companies will be happy with the new deal. "I think they should see the glass half-full, like we do, in the sense that this opens a new era of seamless usage of their connectivity," he said. "It's a really good time to be in the data connectivity industry, because the EU just created measures to make sure the demand for data connectivity has no barriers. The problem is that the companies had been very short-sighted in the past trying to protect sources of income that they knew were coming to end."

^ It seems that with every new law there are also many loop-holes. The only way for this no-roaming within the EU rule to be truly effective it has to be completely no-roaming anywhere within the EU. If it's not then it isn't worth the paper (and translated into all the official EU languages) it is printed on. ^

UN For Rights

"UN insists on resumption of Mejlis activities in occupied Crimea"

The United Nations declares that the Russian Federation must refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis, according to the Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine (February 16 to 15 May 15, 2017) from UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, published on June 13, 2017. "On 19 April, the International Court of Justice delivered its Order on provisional measures in proceedings brought by Ukraine, concluding that the Russian Federation must refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis, and ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language," the report said. The Order asserts that the Russian Federation and Ukraine should work towards full implementation of the "Package of Measures" in the Minsk agreements in order to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. As UNIAN reported earlier, the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague announced on April 19 a decision that partially satisfied the request of Ukraine to apply temporary measures against Russia. The court noted that Russia must refrain from imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis. At the same time, the court decided that Ukraine did not provide sufficient evidence that would have become an essential basis for the application of interim measures relating to Russia's violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Financing of Terrorism. Ukraine, as part of the lawsuit against Russia, requested the International Court of Justice to introduce temporary measures aimed to prevent Russia from human rights violations for the period of consideration of the case on the merits, in order to protect civilians in the temporarily occupied Crimea and Donbas.

^ The language and cultural rights of the ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Tartars in Russian-annexed Crimea need to be respected by Russia. Since the Russian invasion, occupation and annexation of the Crimea over 3 years ago the ethnic Russians there have been placed on a pedestal while the ethnic Ukrainian and Tartars have been openly discriminated against by the Russian authorities. The UN (as well as the governments of the world) need to do more than simply talk about protecting the innocent men, women and children in annexed Crimea. Talk hasn't changed a thing over the years. If Russia is breaking international law in the Crimea (or anyplace else) then it needs to be punished by the international community as a whole - the same for any other country. ^

Obstruction Probe

From the BBC:
"Trump-Russia inquiry: President's 'possible obstruction to be probed'"

US President Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice, the Washington Post reports. Citing unnamed officials, the newspaper says three senior intelligence officials have agreed to be interviewed by Mr Mueller's investigators. Mr Trump's lawyer said the FBI's leak to the newspaper was "outrageous". Mr Mueller is overseeing an FBI inquiry into Russia's alleged meddling the 2016 US election and any Trump links to it. President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia, describing the ongoing inquiry as a "witch hunt".  On Wednesday, the Washington Post described the decision by Mr Mueller to investigate President Trump's own conduct as a major turning point in the investigation, which until recently focused on the Russian angle. Quoting the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the newspaper said Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and Richard Ledgett, until recently Mr Rogers' deputy, agreed to be interviewed by investigators.  The newspaper said this could happen as early as this week. The unnamed officials told the newspaper the obstruction of justice investigation began just days after President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey on 9 May. Before the sacking, Mr Trump had sought and received assurances from Mr Comey that he personally was not under investigation. However, Mr Comey has since suggested that Mr Trump attempted to get him to shut down the investigation into his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  Mr Flynn was fired in February for failing to reveal the extent of his contacts with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. The White House has denied it put pressure on Mr Comey.   James Comey hinted at it. Washington insiders suspected it. Now the Washington Post is reporting it (through anonymous sources, of course).  Donald Trump himself is under direct investigation for obstruction of justice by the special counsel's office. Take all those previous assertions by the president that he's not the target of law enforcement efforts, and throw them out the window. Mr Trump will surely insist that the inquiry into whether his campaign had ties to Russia is still a hoax perpetrated by Democrats and a hostile media, and that the obstruction allegations are built on that empty foundation.  That may not matter. "It's not the crime; it's the cover-up," may be a hackneyed political saying, but that doesn't mean it lacks a kernel of truth. There's still an open question as to what, exactly, could happen if Mr Mueller does find the president violated the law in acting to disrupt an ongoing investigation.  Could charges be filed? Would it fall on the House of Representatives to act?  It's all uncharted legal terrain. If the Washington Post is correct, however, Mr Mueller may be charting a course for the darkness.  President Trump has so far made no comments on the latest report. But a spokesman for Mr Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz responded angrily to the Washington Post story. "The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal," said spokesman Mark Corallo.

^ I have been following all of this from the beginning (reading both Western and Russian sides - in English and in Russian) and it did seem that this probe was the next logical step to make. I don't know for sure if Trump is guilty or not, but will continue to follow this as best I can. Hopefully, we learn the truth (one way or the other) soon. ^