Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sponsoring Terror

From the BBC:
"Trump declares North Korea 'sponsor of terror'"

President Trump has announced that the US is re-designating North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, nine years after it was removed from the list. In a cabinet meeting, he said the move would trigger "very large" additional sanctions to be announced on Tuesday. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later admitted that "the practical effects may be limited". Mr Trump blamed the country's nuclear programme, and support for what he called international acts of terrorism. While announcing the decision at the White House, the US president said it "should have happened a long time ago".  President Trump has announced that the US is re-designating North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, nine years after it was removed from the list.  Secretary Tillerson hasn't given up on a negotiated solution to the stand-off with North Korea.  He told journalists he still hoped for diplomacy. But the decision to put Pyongyang back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism will almost certainly set back the possibility of any opening for talks, at least in the short term.  The chances of that happening were slim anyway. And it might prompt a backlash from North Korea, perhaps by way of another missile test.  The Americans have had some success in getting other countries to tighten the noose on Pyongyang, including from China.  Mr Tillerson's goal remains to eventually force the regime to back down and agree to negotiations aimed at giving up its nuclear weapons programme, something Pyongyang has refused to do. China on the other hand, is pushing for talks now, alongside the pressure. It won't be happy about anything that makes that less likely  Speaking to reporters at a White House press briefing, Mr Tillerson, the top US diplomat, said the designation was meant to hold North Korea accountable for recent actions it has taken "including assassinations outside of their country" and "using banned chemical weapons". He admitted that given existing sanctions it was "very symbolic" but also said new measures could "disrupt and dissuade some third parties from undertaking certain activities with North Korea". "The practical effects may be limited but hopefully we're closing off a few loopholes with this," he said. Mr Kim continues to pursue nuclear weapons and missile programmes in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions.   He has made no secret of Pyongyang's plans to develop a missile capable of reaching the US mainland and has claimed to have developed a hydrogen bomb. Last month, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said that the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea was increasing.  Monday's announcement comes after the president returned from an extensive tour of Asia last week.  

^ It seems that only the US, South Korea and Japan are taking the North Korean threat seriously. I guess it must be hard for countries like: the UK (who are so confused with Brexit), Germany (who are so confused with who will run their country) and Russia (who is too busy fighting in Syria and the Ukraine) to pay attention to the rest of the world when they have their own issues. The United States has had to deal with their internal problems as well as external problems since the 1940s and the current North Korean crisis is no different. I wonder what the world would be like if other countries stopped thinking only of themselves and actually took an active role like the US has. I guess we will never know. ^


Military Thanksgiving

German Fail

From the DW:
"What now for Germany after coalition talks fail?"

Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing perhaps the biggest challenge of her tenure after collapse of coalition talks. New elections are now considered the most likely way forward, but are there any other alternatives?

What options are there for a majority government?
The only other majority would be theoretically be provided by a coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). The "grand coalition" governed Germany from 2013 to 2017 with 504 of 631 seats in the previous legislature. However, after a poor election showing in September, the SPD committed to an opposition role and have not changed their position. On Monday, SPD leader Martin Schulz rejected forming a new coalition under Merkel and said his party wouldn't shy away from fresh elections. SPD deputy leader Thorsten Schäfer-Gumbel said on Sunday that the SPD was "not the spare wheel on Angela Merkel's careening car."

Would a minority government be an option?
No, it is not really an option. In politically troubled times, it would be difficult for Merkel to require opposition support in order to pass every piece of legislation. A possible coalition between the CDU, with Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democrats (FDP) would lack 29 seats for a majority in parliament, and a coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Greens would lack 42 seats. In any case, this model, which is quite common in other countries, has not yet been tested at a federal level in Germany. Immediately after the federal elections, the chancellor announced: "I intend to bring about a stable government in Germany." The SPD, for its part, ruled out supporting Merkel's minority government.

Could there be new elections?
Article 63 of Germany's constitution, or Basic Law, provides for the following scenario: The German president must first propose someone for the office of Chancellor. This person becomes chancellor if more than half of the members of the Bundestag vote for him or her ("chancellor's majority"). If the president's proposal does not receive a majority, a second voting phase will begin. Germany's parliament will then have two weeks to reach agreement, by an absolute majority, on a chancellor. The number of ballots is not limited, nor is the number of candidates. If no chancellor's majority is obtained in these two weeks, a third voting phase begins. In this last round, achieving a relative majority is sufficient. The candidate who wins the most votes becomes the chancellor. At this stage, the president must act again. If someone is elected only by relative majority, the president can appoint her or him as chancellor of a minority government — but he or she can also dissolve parliament. In this case new elections must be held within 60 days.

^ Oy veh! ^


Paper Snow

For everyone who keeps asking me to post pictures when it snows:

1. Take a sheet of white printer paper.
2. Hold it to your face.
3. See the snow.

If I took a picture of every time it snowed on my mountain I would spend the next 6 months taking pictures.

Responsible Poll

From the MT:
"Most Russians Hold Putin Responsible for Country’s Problems — Poll"

A majority of Russians hold President Vladimir Putin responsible for Russia's problems, according to the results of a Levada Center poll published Monday. Putin is widely expected to announce his candidacy for elections next March which would give the president a fourth term. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose anti-corruption protests this year drew thousands onto the streets across the country, is barred from running because of a prior conviction he says is politically motivated. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they held Putin responsible to at least some extent for the country’s problems, while 19 percent abdicated him of any responsibility.  Some 15 percent of those polled said they believe Putin “does not know how people live” and has “forgotten about ordinary people.” Seven percent said he does not do enough to fight corruption. But 19 percent described Putin as a “strong-willed” and “real man,” and 18 percent said they appreciate that he protects the country from the West. Levada’s survey was conducted Oct. 20 - 24 among 1,600 people in 48 Russian regions.

^ It seems the Kool-Aid is starting to wear-off. I am curious to see for how long. ^


Not So Long Weekend

Why are people saying that they can't wait for the "Long holiday weekend" coming up? There is no holiday this weekend. The holiday is only on Thursday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Merkel Doubt

From Reuters:
"Merkel fourth term in doubt as German coalition talks fail"

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday her efforts to form a three-way coalition government had failed, thrusting Germany into a political crisis and pushing Europe’s largest economy closer to a possible new election.   The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) unexpectedly pulled out of more than four weeks of negotiations with Merkel’s conservative bloc and the ecologist Greens, citing irreconcilable differences.  The euro hit a two-month low against the yen soon after FDP leader Christian Lindner said on Sunday that his party was withdrawing from the talks as the three would-be partners could not find common ground on key issues.   A tired looking Merkel said she would stay on as acting chancellor and would consult with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on how to move forward, adding that a deal had been within reach.  “It is a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany,” Merkel told reporters. “As chancellor, I will do everything to ensure that this country is well managed in the difficult weeks to come.”  It was a sobering moment in the career of a woman who during 12 years in power became a symbol of stability, leading the euro zone during its debt crisis and building compromise within the European Union on a deal with Turkey to stem migrant arrivals.  Merkel was weakened after a September election as voters angry with her decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to more than a million asylum seekers punished her conservatives by voting for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) far-right party.  The break down of the talks leaves Germany with two unprecedented options in the post-World War Two era: Merkel forms a minority government, or the president calls a new election if no government is formed.  The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel’s current coalition partners who were the second-biggest party in the election, have ruled out a repeat of an alliance with her conservatives, who won the vote but were left with fewer seats.  There is little appetite for a new election. The main parties fear that the AfD would win more than the almost 13 percent of votes it secured to enter parliament for the first time as the third-biggest party.  Failure to form a government in Europe’s largest economy could have implications for everything from euro zone reforms championed by French President Emmanuel Macron to the shape of relations with Britain after it leaves the EU.   The next government was also expected to increase spending, raising hopes of more fiscal stimulus for an economy that has been relying on consumption and state spending for growth.  While campaigning for a fourth term, Merkel cited the strong performance of an economy that has been growing since 2010 and a record low unemployment rate as reasons for voters to back her conservatives.  Economists have accused her of complacency on the economy, saying she should overhaul the tax system to make it more growth-friendly and boost investment on digital infrastructure - demands also made by the FDP.  The DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce said a prolonged period of uncertainty would be bad for the economy.   “There is the danger that work on major issues for the future of our country will be delayed for a prolonged period of time,” DIHK President Eric Schweitzer wrote in an email. “German companies must now prepare for a possibly long period of uncertainty. This is always difficult for the economy.”  The break down of the talks came as a surprise, especially as it was announced by the resurgent FDP, Merkel’s preferred coalition partners who had dropped out of parliament four years ago and had ruled with her conservatives during 2009-2013.  After its impressive electoral comeback, the FDP’s decision to pull out of coalition talks was puzzling, according to Jackson Janes, of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  “And it is also a dangerous game of poker for Germany,” Janes added.   Immigration was the main sticking point in the negotiations. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavarian allies had demanded a yearly cap on the number of asylum seekers that Germany accepts each year, a measure rejected by the Greens.  There was also discord over conservative proposals to limit the right of some accepted asylum seekers to bring in immediate family members. Merkel said a compromise with the Greens on immigration had also been possible.  Government spending, tax cuts and climate policy had also been sticking points.   “Today there was no progress but rather there were setbacks because specific compromises were questioned,” the FDP’s Lindner said. “It is better not to rule than to rule the wrong way. Goodbye!”

^ For all the faults the US election process has at least we know who will be our leaders after we vote rather than having to vote for a party (not a person) and wait for the party that gets the most votes to join with other parties and hope they can come to an agreement.That isn't very stable. I studied the parliamentary system of government extensively in college and yet still don't really get it - and wonder if anyone truly does. Now Germany and the European Union has to continue to wonder what is going to happen. ^


Mined Donbas

"Land mines in Donbas make it one of most dangerous areas for civilians - media"

United Nations reports that this Donbas region is becoming one of the most mined areas in the world, Washington Post reports.   Anti-vehicle mines, in particular, kill more people here than anywhere else in the world, researchers say — surpassing victims in Syria, Yemen or battlefields across Africa, according to WP.“Nobody knows how big the problem is,” said Henry Leach, the head of the Danish Demining Group’s program in Ukraine. “We just know it’s big.” Land mines, booby traps and unexploded ordnance are sown across tens of thousands of acres — much of it off-limits because the fighting is still going on and because of obstructions raised by officials. The HALO Trust, a humanitarian mine-clearance organization, estimates that land mines have caused 1,796 casualties in eastern Ukraine — among them 238 civilians killed and a further 491 injured — since the start of the war in 2014. The rate of casualties from mines and unexploded ordnance has increased over the years — a trend likely to continue as displaced families return to areas where fighting has subsided, now riddled with explosive remnants. Deaths of three Ukrainian soldiers from a land mine blast here last year put the area on the radar of the Danish Demining Group. Its manpower is drawn from the local population — supervisors say risks are manageable and training takes just a few weeks. In the Donbas twilight zone, this job is attractive. Pay is decent, the task empowering. This site is expected to be cleared within a year.

^ Little to nothing is being done by the international community to actually stop the Russian-backed war in the Donbas. This ineffective stance has allowed the region to be littered with mines. We need to step-up and put our money where our mouth is to stop the bloodshed that has been allowed to go on for years. ^


Early Lighting

Juicy Letters

One thing I really miss is getting those juicy Christmas newsletters. People tend to only write them when they have something to brag about, but I like getting them when it hasn't been such a great year. If that's wrong I don't want to be right.

Jedi Carving

Manson Dead

From the BBC:
"Charles Manson dies aged 83 after four decades in prison"

Charles Manson, the notorious head of a cult which he directed to commit murders, has died in hospital aged 83. He was admitted to Bakersfield hospital in California earlier this month, US media reported. In 1969, Manson followers, known as the Manson family, killed seven people. Among the victims of his killing spree was heavily pregnant Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanksi.  Four other people at her home were also brutally stabbed to death. The next day, a wealthy couple in Los Angeles were also killed by the "Manson family".  The news of Manson's death was first reported by TMZ magazine, which quoted Tate's sister, Debra. She said he had received a phone call from prison officials. Manson believed in a coming race war in America, after which he could emerge as a leader of a new social order - a vision nicknamed "Helter Skelter", after a Beatles song Manson became obsessed with. Prosecutors argued that Manson hoped black Americans would be blamed for the killings, heightening racial tensions. He convinced a number of his followers that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, using a reported combination of drugs and genuine charisma which brought the "family" - mainly young, middle-class women - under his control.  Manson killed no-one himself. Instead, his followers carried out the murders on his orders. Nonetheless, he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death in 1971. Before that sentence could be carried out, California outlawed the death penalty, and his sentence was changed to life. Over the course of his life in prison, Manson applied for parole 12 times.  At the last, in 2012, the parole board said he had not appeared to have made any efforts to rehabilitate himself. Nor was he a model prisoner, having been caught in possession of a weapon and contraband mobile phones. In 2014, he was granted a marriage licence to wed a 26-year-old woman who claimed she loved him, but the licence expired and the marriage did not go ahead. Since his conviction, Manson and his followers have been the subject of dozens of documentaries and books.

^  Had California done the right thing Manson would have been gone back in 1971. At least now he is looking up at us. ^


Sunday, November 19, 2017

War Dog

From HBO.com:
"War Dog: A Soldier's Best Friend"

This poignant documentary explores the unbreakable bond between multi-purpose K9s and their handlers.  After 9/11, the U.S. military began to specially select, train and deploy multi-purpose K9s to serve side-by-side with the nation’s most elite Special Operations soldiers, finding and disarming enemies while providing emotional support to troops in the bleakest hours. From executive producer Channing Tatum and director Deborah Scranton (The War Tapes, HBO’s Earth Made of Glass), War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend highlights the intimate relationship between U.S. Special Operations soldiers and their K9s, who serve together as human-animal teams in combat. Fewer than 1% of all military K9s are selected for Special Operations. Dedicated, fearless and highly trained, these canines and Special Operations forces are cut from the same cloth, forging unbreakable bonds and developing lethal fighting capabilities under the most grueling selection courses. In this world, where two-legged and four-legged warriors are considered equal members of a team built on loyalty, sacrifice and love, communication travels up and down the leash in a nameless language. Paying tribute to their service, War Dog recognizes the invaluable impact of these K9s on their human counterparts. With unprecedented access, the film brings these extraordinary stories to life, featuring exclusive military footage, personal photos, on-the-ground combat and drone video surveillance footage, footage of war dogs training and in action, and revealing interviews with the handlers, who open up about the physical and emotional struggles they’ve faced. Underscoring the unwavering loyalty and bravery that make these four-legged brothers- and sisters-in-arms heroes in their own right, War Dog profiles three relationships between soldiers and dogs: U.S. Army Ranger Trent McDonald and Layka – On his 27th birthday, Trent lost Benno, his first canine partner, during a mission in Afghanistan. While mourning his loss, Trent instantly connected with young Layka. On her first deployment, Layka was shot by an enemy and the bullet tore through the ball of her joint, causing her to lose her leg from the shoulder, but Trent remained by her side as she was nursed back to health. The three-legged dog has since been honored for her service, and was featured on the cover of National Geographic. After serving in the war, Trent and Layka developed an even greater bond. “At the end of the day, when everything fell apart, the only person who had me was her,” he explains.  U.S. Army Ranger John Dixon and Mika – In 2006, John was one of four soldiers picked to start a Ranger dog program. There, he quickly developed a bond with Mika. But on John’s eighth deployment, and second deployment with Mika to Afghanistan, they walked into an ambush. John was hit and while being evacuated, the two were separated. Though reunited in the hospital room, John was sent home, and Mika’s PTSD prompted the decision to retire her from military service to a police department in Mississippi. “I just want that relationship back with her and I want to be able to help care for her…that would mean a lot for me, because I feel that I owe her that,” John explained. He hoped for a reunion like the one he witnessed between fellow former Ranger and dog handler Donovan Hunter, who was able to adopt Nuke, his own retired dog, and credits the canine with helping him make the transition back to civilian life. Despite multiple attempts, however, John was unsuccessful in reuniting with Mika, who died this month.  U.S. Special Operations Command Dave Nielsen and Pepper – “You’re a warrior I hold in the highest regard,” Dave reads from a letter he wrote to Pepper, his deceased canine partner. A decade ago, in the wake of Pepper’s death, Dave put mementos of her in a box. Now, as he goes through the items – a map of where she died, her picture, a napkin he used to bring pieces of steak from the chow hall to feed her – Dave remembers Pepper as “a lap dog who became a beast of fury on target.” The two developed a “bond that couldn’t be broken,” and she provided support for all the soldiers around her during hard times. During a deployment in Iraq, Pepper gave her life to push an enemy soldier out of hiding; the man was killed, but Pepper was never found. While he still mourns her death, Dave is grateful that his “daughter has a daddy because of Pepper…I know that one day we’re going to meet up.”  War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend is directed by Deborah Scranton; produced by Brett Rodriguez and Deborah Scranton; executive producers, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan; co-producer, Colin Hudock; edited by Kevin Filippini; cinematography by P.H. O’Brien. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

^ I just watched this documentary and it is very good. It tells the story of the US Military, the Special Ops and dogs that serve in the Military. It's a story that many people don't know, but one that everyone should know. ^


PLO Closure

From the BBC:
"Palestinians 'could freeze US ties' over Washington office closure"

The Palestine Liberation Organisation has warned it will freeze its ties with the US if it carries out a threat to close the PLO office in Washington.  In a video on Twitter, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat called the move "unacceptable". US officials say the PLO could be breaking a legal condition for it to operate in the US. The US law says Palestinian authorities must not pressure the International Criminal Court to investigate Israelis. The PLO, which is seen by the international community as representing all Palestinians, opened an office in DC in 1994.   It is the first time that the State Department has declined to reissue a six-monthly operating licence for it.  A state department official cited "certain statements made by Palestinian leaders" about the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the reason behind the non-renewal. In September Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN that the Palestinians had called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute Israeli officials over "involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people".  The State Department official said President Trump had 90 days to decide whether to let the PLO keep its office if he deems that the Palestinians have entered into "direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel". Mr Abbas said he was "deeply surprised" by the US move, which he said had "dangerous consequences for the peace process and the American-Arab relations". Mr Erekat said he believed the Israeli government had been putting pressure on the Trump administration "at a time when we are trying to co-operate to achieve the ultimate deal".  The Israeli government said it was a matter of US law, the Associated Press news agency reported. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has been deadlocked since 2014, when a US attempt to broker a deal failed.

^ The Palestinians seem to not really want peace. I know what they said to me in person when I was in the West Bank last month, but actions speak louder than words and their actions in the past month do not support a peaceful mindset. ^


Nuclear General

From USA Today:
"No one can prevent Trump from using nuclear weapons, experts say"

A system of checks and balances exists to prevent a U.S. president from illegally ordering a nuclear strike, but no one can stop the commander in chief from using nuclear weapons, according to senior military experts and a former vice president.  "If President Trump were to decide that it's time to put (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un in his place once and for all, he would choose a plan that already exists. And it would be almost impossible in my view to override a decision to implement that option," Bruce G. Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer and co-founder of the Global Zero group that advocates eliminating nuclear weapons, told USA TODAY on Sunday.  The exact procedure that would be followed has come under scrutiny amid congressional testimony about Trump's experience and authority to wage war at a time of elevated tensions with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions. "We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said at a hearing last week into presidential authority to use nuclear weapons. While the key aspects of the precise sequence of events that would allow a U.S. president to launch a nuclear strike remain a mystery, Gen. John Hyten, the current head of Strategic Command, said Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada that he would refuse a launch order from a president if he believed that order to be illegal. He added that the president would then likely ask him for legal options.   "I provide advice to the president," Hyten said. "He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm gonna say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' Guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is."  However, Brian McKeon, a senior military policy adviser in the Pentagon during the Obama administration, effectively told U.S. senators during congressional testimony that a president's will to launch a nuclear strike could not be thwarted. He said that if a military commander refused to execute the president's order the defense secretary would then be told to order the reluctant commander to proceed. "And then, if the commander still resisted," McKeon said, "you either get a new secretary of defense or get a new commander." Either way, the launch goes ahead.  "The protocol for ordering the use of nuclear weapons endows every president with civilization-ending power," Blair wrote in a Washington Post column last summer. And the president "has unchecked authority to order a preventive nuclear strike against any nation he wants with a single verbal direction to the Pentagon war room."  Blair told USA TODAY that "no one ever thought that a commander of Strategic Command would ever be thinking of defying a president. The whole system was set up to be extremely streamlined. When I was a nuclear launch officer I practiced fighting nuclear wars probably 100 times in a simulator and exercises in the field scores of times, and the launch order always came directly from the Pentagon." Speaking to Fox News in 2008, then-vice president Dick Cheney said: "(A president) could launch a kind of devastating attack the world's never seen. He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."

Blair outlined this process to launch a nuclear strike:
1. The president consults with his advisers. They explain his available options, and the Strategic Command chief located near Omaha, Neb., gives a recommendation.
2. The president chooses an option and orders the Pentagon war room to implement it.
3. The Pentagon war room asks the president to authenticate the order using a code, the so-called "biscuit."
4. The war room formats and transmits a launch order that is the length of a tweet directly to executing commanders in submarines, to those overseeing land-based rocket missiles in the mid-Western U.S. and to bomber forces.
5. The launch order is checked for its authenticity by commanders using special codes that they already possess.
6. The launch orders are transmitted to all commanders around the world simultaneously. 
7. If the codes are authenticated, the land-based weapons are fired within a minute or two and within 15 minutes for submarines.

^ You would think an Air Force General and the current head of Strategic Command would know the law and protocols for a nuclear strike - clearly he doesn't. Any President has the final say in whether or not to fire nuclear weapons and a General or official can advise the President what to do, but can not stop the President from a strike. That is something everyone should have learned in basic US Social Studies class. It has been that way since atomic and nuclear weapons were created in the 1940s. Someone should send General Hyten back to a middle school Social Studies class so he can learn what is legal/protocol and what isn't. Him not knowing seems just as bad as a nuclear strike happening. We have heard about nuclear strikes since the 1940s and there were times we came close to using them (1962, 1967, 1973, 1983, etc.) but luckily, no President has done more than threaten to use them since Truman in 1945 (which I should say I completely think he was in the right to do.) I would hope Trump and any other future President would continue the "tradition" or threatening, but not using nuclear weapons. ^

Royal 70th

From the BBC:
'New portrait marks Queen and Prince Philip's 70th anniversary"

A  new portrait of the Queen and Prince Philip has been released to mark their 70th wedding anniversary. The royal couple will mark Monday's platinum anniversary with a private dinner with family and friends at Windsor Castle. The bells of Westminster Abbey, where they married in 1947, will ring to mark the occasion. Royal Mail has issued a set of six commemorative stamps, featuring the couple's engagement and wedding.  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are the first royal couple to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.  When they married, the then Princess Elizabeth was 21-years-old while her groom, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, was 26.  The new image, by celebrity photographer Matt Holyoak, shows the pair flanked by Thomas Gainsborough's paintings of George III and Queen Charlotte from 1781. In the photograph, the Queen is wearing a cream day dress designed by Angela Kelly, her personal assistant and dressmaker since 2002. She also wears a "Scarab" brooch in yellow gold, carved ruby and diamond, designed by Andrew Grima and given to the Queen as a gift in 1966.

^ I remember the special 60th Wedding Anniversary exhibition when I visited Buckingham Palace in 2007. It's nice to see something special being done for the 70th anniversary. ^


Girl/Boy Scouts

From USA Today:
"Girl Scouts: There's no need to let girls into Boy Scouts"

It  has been over a month since the Boy Scouts of America announced it would accept girls into its core programs, but many Girl Scout participants and their parents remain skeptical of the change and its purported usefulness to young women. For over a century, scouting has been largely single gender. Although the Boy Scouts has co-ed programs such as its Venturing program, it never before welcomed girls into its Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs.  And many Girl Scouts don’t see why they should start now. “Our experiences are created for and with girls,” said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, the Girl Scouts’ Chief Girl and Family Engagement Officer. “I think that’s important when we consider what appeals to them and what benefits them most.” The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has been vocal in its opposition to the Boy Scouts' decision, with its president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan writing to the organization in August, asking the board to refrain from recruiting girls. Such a decision would “result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA,” she wrote  The Girl Scouts has long touted the unique benefits it provides girls, citing its long history of serving young women through programs built around the way girls learn and interact with each other.The Boy Scouts of America acknowledged there are learning differences between boys and girls.“That’s why it’s important to keep it as single gender as we can,” said Lucia Cronin, chairwoman of the National Cub Scouting Committee. She said smaller gatherings of the Cub Scouts, the program for first- through fifth-graders, will still remain single gender, but larger gatherings may be co-ed depending on the decision of the leaders. The Cub Scouts will include girls starting in 2018. The Boy Scouts will do the same in 2019, she said.  This has left some wondering why the Boy Scouts is offering these programs to girls if gatherings will still be largely single gender.

^ My brother and I were Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts and my sister was a Girl Scout. I don't see why there can't be separate organizations for boys and girls in this case. Both genders are taught to respect others and how to be good citizens. ^

Thanksgiving Week

Zimbabwe Numbers

From the BBC:
"Zimbabwe: 10 numbers that will help you understand what's actually going on"

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is under house arrest after almost four decades in power - following a military takeover. Here are 10 numbers that will help you understand how the country got to where it is now.

1 = the tally of leaders in the last 37 years

President Mugabe, who led the country's liberation movement, has been in power since independence in 1980. He served first as prime minister until the switch to a presidential system in 1987.

231 million per cent = inflation in July 2008

Zimbabwe's economy has struggled since land reforms were introduced in 2000.  The programme that saw white-owned farms redistributed to landless black Zimbabweans - and those with good political connections - led to sharp falls in production.  As the country's central bank printed money to try to get out of the crisis, rampant inflation took hold.  Although the World Bank does not have figures for 2008 and 2009, numbers from Zimbabwe's central bank showed annual inflation reached 231 million % in July 2008. Officials gave up reporting monthly statistics when it peaked at just under 80 billion % in mid-November 2008. The country was forced to abandon its own currency a year later at a rate of Z$35 quadrillion to US$1

$16.3bn = GDP in 2016

The political and economic crises between 2000 and 2008 nearly halved Zimbabwe's GDP - the biggest contraction in a peacetime economy, according to the World Bank.A brief period of recovery between 2009 and 2012 has now faltered and the economy faces serious challenges, says the World Bank. Growth has slowed sharply from an average 8% from 2009 to 2012, caused by shifts in trade and a series of major droughts. President Mugabe has always blamed Zimbabwe's economic problems on a plot by Western countries, led by the UK, to oust him because of his seizure of white-owned farms.

74% = the population living on less than $5.50 a day

The country's political and economic crises have resulted in high poverty rates. The hard years between 2000 and 2008 saw poverty rates increase to more than 72%, according to the World Bank. It also left a fifth of the population in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty, estimated to have fallen from 2009 to 2014, is now projected to have risen again substantially. About 27% of children under the age of five suffer stunted growth, with 9% severely stunted because of poor nutrition, the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey report revealed.But poverty in Zimbabwe is still lower than in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, where about 41% of the population were living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, World Bank data suggests.

90% = one estimate of the unemployment rate

Estimates of the country's unemployment levels vary wildly.The World Bank's modelled estimates based on the International Labour Organisation data puts the figure as low as 5% in 2016, while Zimbabwe's biggest trade union claims the jobless rate was as high as 90% this year.However, the World Bank's definition only covers those actively "seeking" work. Many of those not counted may not seek a job despite wanting one because they "view job opportunities as limited, or because they have restricted labour mobility, or face discrimination, or structural, social or cultural barriers".The CIA world factbook estimates the rate was 95% in 2009, but says current figures are not known.

89% = adult literacy rate

Due to large investments in education since independence, Zimbabwe has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa, with 89% of the adult population literate, according to World Bank data from 2014.Globally, the literacy rate stood at 86% in 2016, while in sub-Saharan Africa it was 64% (2015 figs).

13.5% = the adult prevalence rate of HIV/Aids

Zimbabwe has the sixth highest HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1.3 million people living with HIV in 2016, according to UNAIDS.However, after a peak in 1997, rates are declining.

60 = the life expectancy at birth

Life expectancy fell in the 1990s, with the HIV/Aids epidemic a major killer. It dropped from a high of 61.6 years in 1986 to 43.1 years in 2003.

81 = the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people

Mobile devices are the leading communication tool for Zimbabweans.But while most have a mobile phone, only 43% of households have a radio, 37% have a television and 10% have a computer, according to the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey.

16.7 million = the current population

After a growth spurt after independence in 1980, a decline in birth rates and a rise in death rates saw population growth slide downwards. With high outward migration rates also high, the population has not recovered its post-independence growth.

^ Most of this data helps explain the dire economic and social situation in Zimbabwe and why there is currently a coup against President Mugabe who has been the only leader for 37 years. ^


Mens' Day

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Accessible Airbnb

From Disability Scoop:
"Airbnb Acquires Site Offering Accessible Accommodations"

Airbnb has sometimes come under fire for lack of access for travelers with disabilities. The home-stay company says it wants to do better. So it’s buying Accomable, a London company that arranges vacation stays in private homes that have verified accessibility features. “We want to help create new policies and procedures for vetting Airbnb properties, to make sure an Airbnb customer with accessibility needs can trust its offerings the same way they’d trust an Accomable listing,” said Srin Madipalli, 31, Accomable CEO. An inveterate traveler and wheelchair user, he co-founded the London company two years ago after encountering many obstacles with accommodations during his globe-trotting. Madipalli, who holds an MBA from Oxford and previously was a corporate lawyer, will move to San Francisco to take on the new role of accessibility product manager at Airbnb. Four other Accomable employees (out of six total) will also join Airbnb. The company, which had raised about half a million dollars in backing from investors, had about 1,100 listings, mainly in Europe. Those will be folded into the Airbnb site.  “What really excites us is this is a chance to reach millions and millions of people,” Madipalli said. Many of the hosts on Accomable are themselves people with disabilities or have a family member with a disability and have retrofitted their homes with features such as ramps and roll-in showers. The site has a stringent vetting process, requiring photographs or videos of every accessible feature so it can verify that travelers have the access they need. Airbnb said that it has been working on new accessibility checklists for hosts about features such as step-free entry to rooms and doorways wide enough for wheelchairs. In June, a Rutgers study found that Airbnb hosts often rejected people with disabilities, even when their lodgings were advertised as wheelchair-accessible. “While we have rules that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and an Open Doors policy that helps ensure everyone can find a place to stay, it’s clear that we can do more to effectively serve people with disabilities,” Airbnb said in a blog post on Thursday. “We’ve had insightful and humbling conversations with travelers and disability advocacy groups where we heard stories, gained perspective and learned what we can do better.”

^ Hopefully Airbnb can incorporate Accomable so that it will enhance both sites and expand accessibility to the disabled around the world. Disabled people should be the ones to benefit from this incorporation. ^


Stone Soup

For Thanksgiving I am making my world famous stone soup - it's an old family recipe.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Offering Less

From the BBC:
"Canada offers 200 ground troops to UN peacekeeping"

Canada has promised to give the United Nations up to 200 ground troops to aid in peacekeeping missions worldwide. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at the at UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver. Canada will also provide helicopters, cargo planes and military trainers as well as donate millions to help recruit women to foreign militaries. The five-year commitment is a far cry from the 600 troops promised last year. "We're asking peace operations to do more - not only to deal with violence when it erupts, but to respond to the entire life cycle of conflict: preventing its outbreak, supporting complicated peace processes and helping people to rebuild their lives when conflict ends," Mr Trudeau said during a press conference on Wednesday.  "That is the reality of modern peace operations." An official told the Canada Broadcasting Corporation that negotiations with the UN are still under way to determine where the troops will be deployed. It could be as long as two years before troops and supplies are actually on their way, the official said.  Canada will also donate C$21m ($16.5m; £12.5m) to help foreign countries train and recruit women for peacekeeping missions, including $6m to help strengthen UN programmes. Canada has come under pressure to ramp up its peacekeeping efforts as conflicts rage around the world and as the US undergoes a political shift towards protectionism. Last August, the government committed 600 troops, 150 police officers and CA$450m to the UN over three years. A recent study found that Canada is last among the group of leading industrial nations, the G7, in defence spending. In June, Canada announced it would raise military spending by 73% over the next decade, but most funds would not begin rolling out until 2021.

^  I don't understand. Trudeau stated that "We're asking peace operations to do more" and yet Canada is only providing 200 peacekeepers and lags behind the 600 troops promised last year. If you think peacekeeping operations require more then why do you offer less to support them?  ^


Germany Discriminates

From the BBC:
"Kuwait Airways 'within its rights' to ban Israeli - German court"

A German court has ruled that a Kuwaiti airline was within its rights to refuse to carry an Israeli citizen. The ruling angered Jewish groups and others, who argued that it condoned anti-Semitism.  Kuwait Airways cancelled the passenger's ticket for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok. The Frankfurt court said the airline was respecting the laws of Kuwait, which does not recognise the state of Israel.  It said it was unable to rule on Kuwaiti law, and that German law covered discrimination on the basis of only race, ethnicity or religion - not citizenship.   Nathan Gelbart, the passenger's lawyer, called it a "shameful verdict for democracy and for Germany in general". "This verdict cannot stand," he said. The passenger will appeal the verdict, he said. The Central Council of Jews in Germany said: "It is unacceptable that a foreign company operating on the basis of deeply anti-Semitic national laws should be allowed to do business in Germany. "We urge the federal government to examine all legal avenues to prevent such cases of discrimination in the future." The mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, also criticised the decision.  "An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to take off or land in Frankfurt," he said. The BBC was unable to reach Kuwait Airlines for comment.

^ Clearly the Germans are siding with Kuwait on this because the passenger is both Jewish and Israeli. There was a similar case a while back involving Kuwait, Kuwaiti Airways, and Israeli and the US. The US told Kuwait they had to accept the Israeli or risk loosing the US market altogether. That is how you stop Anti-Semitism. Germany can learn a lot from the US, but since it involves a Jew I doubt they will listen. The Germans just recently announced there is now a legal third gender (whatever that is) and that third gender has anti-discrimination rights, but they refuse to protect a Jew within German borders (Frankfurt.) It's not really surprising given Germany's history (not only the Holocaust, but during the 1972 Munich Massacre and the rise of Anti-Semitism in recent years.)  ^


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Oldest Island

From USA Today:
"This Italian island is home to the oldest people in the world. Here's their secret"

Zelinda Paglieno, who turned 102 in October, offers sobering advice when asked what's the secret to her long and healthy life: "Two fingers width of red wine, and no more, at lunchtime every day.”  “I’ve never smoked, but a little wine is good for you — and that’s something I still do now. We have very good grapes here,” she explained. Paglieno’s age is no anomaly here in picturesque Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean that is home to the oldest people in the world, according to researchers on aging. Sardinia is one of only five "Blue Zones" in the world identified as having residents who often reach age 90 or older. The other four are Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, Calif. Paglieno, in her hometown of Esterzili, population 600, has three neighbors who are 100 or older.   Despite her age, Paglieno remains in good health and happily navigates the hilly mountain village she’s lived in her whole life. She attributes her longevity to living off the land, good old-fashioned hard work, destino (destiny) and, of course, the local red wine known to be rich in polyphenols, which offer numerous health benefits. Researchers studying centenarians in Sardinia’s remote mountain areas have a different explanation. “Genetics is the main thing. The individuals living to these ages are almost always related,” said Pino Ledda, lead researcher of the Blue Zone Project in the region. He points to charts on his computer about the nearby village of Seulo, a few miles from Esterzili on an adjacent mountainside, that had 20 centenarians over the past two decades.  “These areas are remote and have a history of isolation, so the gene pool is small — but why the genes here are leading to such long lives, that’s what we’re investigating,” he said.  Seulo’s longevity milestones have been extensively documented and verified with records that stretch back to the 19th century, said Ledda, who now lives full time in the village. The village is regarded as the place where people live the longest in the world. Throughout Seulo, older residents can be seen walking the hillside and uneven roads, slowly but steadily going about their business. Around them, large black-and-white pictures adorn the facade of 20 homes — portraits of the village’s centenarians since 1996.   Centenarians are cherished here, where each is made honorary mayor on his or her 100th birthday. Another aspect to life along the narrow streets of Seulo not seen elsewhere on earth: men living as long as women. Of the 20 centenarians in the village during the past two decades, 11 were men.  Caterina Moi, 97, who prefers to go by her nickname Lelina, was married to the village's last male centenarian, Salvato Angelo, who died in August at 102. Her cousin just turned 103. “I’m not old!” Moi exclaims after explaining she was born in 1920, a few years after her cousin and late husband. She still hears well, can negotiate the steep steps to her first-floor home with relative ease and has no problem recounting past moments in her life. Moi is also clear on why she believes she’s been graced with a long and healthy life — hard work. “Since I was young I have always worked," she said. "Salvato was a hard worker also. There were no machines to help you. We had to do everything by hand. When it came to working I’ve never said, 'I don’t feel good, I can’t do this today,' I’ve just got on with what needed to be done."  The belief that hard work equals a long life echos throughout Sardinia. Researchers like Ledda are reluctant to agree but admit there’s a little truth to it.  Centenarians in Seulo and Esterzili share something else. Their families have lived and worked off the land for generations, some working into their 90s. “We ate what we grew. If you wanted vegetable soup one day, you had to go collect the ingredients yourself,” Moi said. “We didn’t need to think about eating healthy. We ate what we had, and it was healthy.” Living off the land may provide an answer to why people here have good genes to live a long time, and researchers are studying stomach bacteria for clues.  “We’re looking at the flora of the intestines and gut to see whether it has something to do with what people are eating, and whether it has to do with a diet specific to Sardinia,” Ledda said. “The centenarians are helping us with this, donating stool samples that can be analyzed, and we hope to soon have a better idea of what’s going on.” Many residents like Moi and Paglieno are happy to assist, especially if it helps revitalize interest in their communities. More than half of the buildings in isolated Seulo and Esterzili are empty and falling into disrepair. It’s also a chance to impart their own little piece of wisdom after a long, happy, and healthy life. “Go live your life, work hard and be active — and a little wine,” Paglieno repeated. “I’ve already had mine for today. It’s one of the secrets, but just a little. Don’t abuse it.”

^ While I have great respect for the elderly I personally would not want to live to be 100. There is just something depressing about out-living all your family and friends. ^

Australian Vote

From the BBC:
"Australians decisively support same-sex marriage"

Australians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic poll.
The non-binding postal vote showed 61.6% of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing. The issue only went to a voluntary postal vote after a long and bitter debate about changing the law.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would now aim to pass legislation in parliament by Christmas.  "[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality," Mr Turnbull said after the result was announced. "They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love." The result on Wednesday brings an end to what was at times a heated campaign. The vote itself had been criticised by same-sex marriage supporters, many of whom said it was unnecessary when parliament could debate the issue directly.  The survey was voluntary, unlike Australia's compulsory elections. More than 12.7 million people - about 79.5% of eligible voters - took part in the eight-week poll, which asked one question: "Should the marriage law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?" The Yes campaign argued that it was a debate about equality. The No campaign put the focus on the definition of family, raising concerns about how issues like gender will be taught in schools.  Australia's chief statistician David Kalisch said about 7.8 million people voted in support of same-sex marriage, with approximately 4.9 million against it. He said participation was higher than 70% in 146 of Australia's 150 electorates. All but 17 electorates supported changing the law.  "This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world," Mr Kalisch said. "It shows how important this issue is to many Australians." 

^ It good to see that the majority of Australians are in favor of basic equal rights. Hopefully, their government will enact a law making gay marriage legal. I don't understand why so many people and governments feel threatened by gays and gay marriage. If you aren't gay then don't marry someone of the same sex. If you are gay then you should be allowed to. It's that simple. People have said that this is only a gay issue, but throughout history change has only really came from outside groups. Women got equal rights because they were joined by men. Blacks got equal rights because they were joined by Whites and gays will get equal rights because they are joined by straight people. ^


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Knowing When Wrong

White Paint

Question: why do they mark roads with white paint - especially in places where it snows?

Tracking Pill

From the BBC:
"FDA approves 'trackable' pill"

US regulators have approved the first pill that can be digitally tracked through the body. The Abilify MyCite aripiprazole tablets - for treating schizophrenia and manic episodes - have an ingestible sensor embedded inside them that records that the medication has been taken. A patch worn by the patient transmits this information to their smartphone.  The information can also be sent to the prescribing doctor, if the patient consents to this. Experts hope it could improve medication compliance, although the company that makes the tablets says this has not been proved for their product.  The prescribing notes also stress that Abilify MyCite should not be used to track drug ingestion in "real-time" or during an emergency, because detection may be delayed or may not occur.  The pills are not licensed to be used in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis. About the size of a grain of sand, the sensor activates when it comes into contact with stomach fluid.  It can take 30 minutes to two hours to detect ingestion of the tablet. Mitchell Mathis, from the Food and Drug Administration, said: "Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients.  "The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers."

^ This is a little creepy and sounds like it will start as a voluntary program to help people and will then turn into a non-voluntary program to track people. ^


Venting Snow

The rock salt has finally shipped (only after I contacted the store and my bank several times.) I called the vet to get the test results (I was supposed to get yesterday) and they will "call me later today." I contacted the tree guy again today to see when he will come and am waiting for a reply. It would be great if people/businesses could just do what they say they would do. If you aren't interested in doing a job then man/woman up and say so. It's the professional thing to do - not to mention common decency. At least I can vent my frustration at dealing with stupid people by shoveling snow. There's definitely a lot of them (stupid people) and it (snow) around.

Monday, November 13, 2017

North Defects

From the BBC:
"North Korea soldier shot while defecting at DMZ to South"

A North Korean soldier has defected to South Korea at the heavily protected Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), South Korea's military says.  The soldier was shot and injured by his own military as he crossed to the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area in the village of Panmunjom.  The defector has been taken to hospital.  About 1,000 people from the North flee to the South each year - but very few defect via the DMZ. This is the fourth defection by a North Korean soldier via the DMZ - one of the world's most heavily guarded strips of land - in the last three years.  North and South Korea are technically still at war, since the conflict between them ended in 1953 with a truce and not a formal peace treaty.  According to a statement from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, the soldier made it across by passing through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom, which is the only portion of the Demilitarised Zone where both forces stand face-to-face.  "He crossed from a North Korea post towards our Freedom House [a building on the South Korean side of the border]," the statement said. He was hit in the arm and shoulder by gunfire, it added.  According to South Korean media this is only the third defection across the JSA since the end of the Cold War, the BBC's Mark Lowen in Seoul reports. The last time a soldier crossed was in 2007, and before that in 1998. The number of North Koreans defecting to South Korea in the first two-thirds of this year dropped by 13% compared with 2016. From January to August 2017, 780 North Koreans escaped to South Korea, according to officials in Seoul. The fall is believed to be a result of tighter government surveillance and reinforced border security by both North Korea and China. The majority of the defectors flee via China, which has the longest border with North Korea that is easier to cross than the heavily protected DMZ. Seoul says more than 30,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

^ You have to admire this brave soldier who decided to risk being killed just to flee Communist North Korea - especially by the DMZ. ^


1st Card

I got my first Christmas card today!!!! Have I mentioned how much I love getting regular mail - especially cards? I do!!!!!!

25 Days TV


Just a heads-up: if I don't complain about seeing all your posts and pictures about your political views (no matter how wrong they are), what online games you play, what product you are trying to sell, what the food looked like right before you ate it or how often you "lol" or "lmao" then I expect the same courtesy when I talk about the weather. FYI: I will be talking and posting pictures about the weather from now until it stops snowing - which is sometime in May (don't believe me then just check out the pictures in my album "Mother's Day Snow May 2017.") So get used to it. "Winter is Coming!" Correction: Winter is Here!!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

New Trilogy

From the DW:
"'Star Wars': Disney announces new trilogy"

Just weeks ahead of the release of "The Last Jedi," Disney has announced that the next Star Wars trilogy is already in the works. "Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson will write the new storyline and oversee production.  The galaxy far, far away continues to expand with Disney at the helm. CEO Bob Iger has revealed plans for the "Star Wars" franchise's next trilogy. Rian Johnson, the director of the upcoming film "The Last Jedi," would write and direct the first film in the new series, Disney announced. "[Johnson] is a creative force, and watching him craft 'The Last Jedi' from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career," LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy said. "Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy."  According to Disney, the new trilogy's plot will be separate from the current Skywalker saga and introduce an array of new characters. Disney has yet to issue a release date for the next trilogy, although it likely won't be until after the final installment in the current saga, currently just titled "Star Wars: Episode IX," is released in December 2019. Along with the new trilogy, Iger also announced that a new live action "Star Wars" television series was in development. The series is expected to launch as part of Disney's upcoming streaming service, which it hopes will compete against the likes of Netflix and Amazon. Disney's streaming service is due to launch in 2019. Iger used an earnings call on Thursday to tout the success of the "Star Wars" franchise under Disney since it acquired the rights from LucasFilm five years ago and relaunched the saga in 2015 with the release of "The Force Awakens." "We have big ambitions for the "Star Wars" franchise," Iger said. "We've got more great "Star Wars" movies already planned for years to come in addition to the 2019 release of Episode IX."Production recently wrapped up on a new film based on the Han Solo character, who was played by Harrison Ford in the original 1977-83 trilogy as well as in "The Force Awakens." Simply titled "Solo" and due out in May 2018, the film will run as part of the additional series unfolding alongside the current Skywalker storyline. The first film released as part of the parallel saga, "Rogue One", was released last year and grossed more than $1 billion at the box office.

^ I have to say I can't wait to learn more about this new trilogy just as I can't wait to see the new movie in December. ^


PM''s Remembrance

From the Canadian Prime Minister:
"Statement by the Prime Minister on Remembrance Day"

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Remembrance Day:
“Today, we pause to remember and honour the Canadian women and men who have served our country and stood on guard for us and the values we hold dear. “Every generation of Canadians has answered the call to serve. From Ypres to Dieppe to Korea to Afghanistan, our servicemen and women have shown courage as a matter of course, and stood resilient in the face of great adversity. “This year, in marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we have paused and reflected on some of our most important military milestones. In keeping alive the memory of battles like Passchendaele, Hill 70, Vimy, and Dieppe, we remind this generation, and future generations, where their freedom comes from. “We owe an immeasurable debt to our veterans, to the fallen, and to the families who love them. Just as our servicemen and women have taken care of us, we must also take care of them. It is our sacred duty as a country to be there for our heroes when they need us most. “At 11:00 am, I encourage all Canadians – no matter where you are – to observe the two minutes of silence. We remember those who stepped forward to serve, who endured horror and hell, and made extraordinary sacrifices for our freedom. “We stand together, a grateful country, with poppies close to our hearts. “Lest we forget.”

Du Premier Ministre du Canada:
"Déclaration du premier ministre à l’occasion du Jour du Souvenir"

Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a fait aujourd’hui la déclaration suivante à l’occasion du jour du Souvenir :
« Aujourd’hui, nous prenons le temps de nous rappeler les Canadiennes et les Canadiens qui ont servi notre pays. Nous rendons hommage à ceux qui nous ont défendus et qui ont veillé à nos valeurs les plus chères. « Chaque génération de Canadiens a répondu à l’appel pour servir leur pays. D’Ypres à Dieppe, de la Corée à l’Afghanistan, les braves hommes et femmes de nos forces armées ont fait preuve de courage au quotidien et de résilience devant l’adversité.  « Cette année, en célébrant le 150e anniversaire de la Confédération, nous avons pris le temps de réfléchir à certains des moments les plus importants de l’histoire militaire de notre pays. En perpétuant le souvenir de batailles comme celles de Passchendaele, de la côte 70, de Vimy et de Dieppe, nous rappelons à notre génération et aux générations futures d’où vient leur liberté. « Nous avons une dette de reconnaissance immense envers nos vétérans, ainsi qu’envers ceux qui sont tombés et leurs familles qui les aiment. Tout comme les braves hommes et femmes de nos forces armées ont pris soin de nous, nous devons aussi prendre soin d'eux. C'est notre devoir sacré en tant que pays de soutenir nos héros lorsqu’ils en ont besoin. « À 11 heures, peu importe où vous êtes, je vous invite à observer les deux minutes de silence. Nous nous souvenons de ceux qui ont servi, qui ont vécu l’horreur et traversé l’enfer, et qui ont fait des sacrifices extraordinaires pour assurer notre liberté. « Pays reconnaissant, nous nous tenons debout ensemble, le coquelicot près du cœur. « Nous nous souviendrons. »

^ It's important for a leader to show their support and appreciation for the men and women that serve and protect their country. This speech showed just that. ^



Veterans' Day!

Remembrance Day!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Holiday Closings

From USA Today:
"Veterans Day 2017: What's open and closed"

With Veterans Day, always on November 11, falling on a Saturday this year, many government agencies and court systems are observing the holiday on Friday, November 10. Here are the openings and closings you can expect:

Banks: The vast majority of banks, such as the Big Four — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank — will be open on Friday and will be closed on Saturday.

Post offices: Post offices are open Friday but closed Saturday. Mail pickup and delivery are on the same schedule.

Schools: Closings vary district by district. For instance, New York City public schools will be open on Friday while those in the Los Angeles Unified School District will be closed.

Libraries: Most public libraries are closed on Saturday and some, such as those in New York City and Los Angeles, will also be closed on Friday.

Markets: Stock, bond and futures markets are open on Friday.

Federal offices: Non-essential federal offices will be closed on Friday. Federal courts also will be closed.

National Parks will be open on Friday and will have free entrance on Saturday and Sunday. Many state parks also will be offering free admission on Veterans Day weekend.

State offices: Most state offices and courts will be closed on Friday. However, in a few states, such as Wisconsin, which does not recognize Veterans Day as a holiday, they will remain open. And in Rhode Island the holiday is observed on Monday.

Local government offices: Like in the vast majority of states, most government offices of counties, cities, towns and other official entities will be closed on Friday.

Retail businesses: Most commercial enterprises will remain open on Friday as well as on Saturday. In fact, the period around Veterans Day has become a time for sales and offers.

^ It's always good to know what is open and what is closed on a holiday. ^

Cold Checking

Brexit Clarity

From the BBC:
"Brexit bill: Barnier gives UK two weeks to clarify key issues"

The UK has two weeks to clarify key issues or make concessions if progress is to be made in Brexit talks, the bloc's chief negotiator has said. Michel Barnier was speaking after meeting the Brexit secretary for talks on citizens' rights, the Irish border, and the UK's "divorce bill". David Davis said it was time for both sides "to work to find solutions".  Before the talks, Theresa May said she wanted the UK's exit date set in law, and warned MPs not to block Brexit.   Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier suggested Britain would have to clarify its position in the next fortnight on what it would pay to settle its obligations to the EU if the talks were to have achieved "sufficient progress" ahead of December's European Council meeting. "It is just a matter of settling accounts as in any separation," Mr Barnier said.  Mr Barnier also said both sides had to work towards an "objective interpretation" of Prime Minister Theresa May's pledge that no member of the EU would lose out financially as a result of the Brexit vote. The Brexit secretary insisted good progress was being made across the board, and that the negotiations had narrowed to a "few outstanding, albeit important, issues".  Mr Davis and Mr Barnier agreed there had been progress on the issue of settled status for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. Mr Barnier said the UK had provided "useful clarifications" on guaranteeing rights, although more work needed to be done on some points including rights of families and exporting welfare payments. For the UK's part, Mr Davis said, the government had "listened carefully" to concerns and that there would be a "streamlined and straightforward" process for EU nationals to obtain settled status.  But Mr Davis rejected a suggestion that Northern Ireland could remain within the European customs union. He was responding to a European Commission paper, which proposed that Northern Ireland may have to remain a member of the EU's single market or customs union, if a so-called "hard border" with the Irish Republic is to be avoided.  Saying there had been "frank discussions" with Mr Barnier and his negotiators on the issue of the Irish border, Mr Davis insisted there could be "no new border" inside the UK. "We respect the European Union desire to protect the legal order of the single market and the customs union, but that cannot come at cost to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom," Mr Davis told reporters in Brussels.  "We recognise the need for specific solutions for the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. But let me be clear - this cannot amount to creating a new border inside our United Kingdom," he added. Mr Barnier said the "unique situation" on the island of Ireland required "technical and regulatory solutions necessary to prevent a hard border".

^ The EU, the UK and the rest of the world is confused by what will happen after Brexit. ^


Snow/Ice Driving

Animal Planning Kit

From Ready.gov:
"Pets and Animals"

Get Informed

  • Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation and when to shelter in place.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station and monitor TV, radio, and follow mobile alert and mobile warnings about severe weather in your area.
  • Download the FEMA app, receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.

Make a Plan

Remember, during a disaster what’s good for you is good for your pet, so get them ready today.
If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured – or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors. Plan options include:
  • Create a buddy system in case you’re not home. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals.
  • Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets.
    • Find pet friendly hotels along your evacuation route and keep a list in your pet’s emergency kit.
    • Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter.
    • Consider an out-of-town friend or relative
  • Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter, in case your pet needs medical care. Add the contact information to your emergency kit.
  • Have your pet microchipped and make sure that you not only keep your address and phone number up-to-date, but that you also include contact info for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.
  • Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.
  • If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located.
  • Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.
  • If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger!

Tips for Large Animals

If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster.
  • Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
  • Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
  • Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers.
  • Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care and handling equipment.
  • If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.
Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated.
Animals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.
Make sure your livestock has the following to help prevent cold-weather problems:
  • Plenty of dry bedding to insulate vulnerable udders, genitals and legs from the frozen ground and frigid winds
  • Windbreaks to keep animals safe from frigid conditions
  • Plenty of food and water

Build a Kit

Include basic survival items and items to keep your pet happy and comfortable. Start with this list, or download Preparing Makes Sense for Pet Owners-Emergency Preparedness Pet Kit List (PDF)  to find out exactly what items your pet needs to be Ready.
  • Food. At least a three day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
  • Water. At least three days of water specifically for your pets.
  • Medicines and medical records.
  • Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
  • First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
  • Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.
  • Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
  • Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.
  • A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
  • Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.

^ Here's what people with pets and other animals should do to prepare for an emergency. ^