Thursday, July 24, 2014

Prision Bridge

From MT:
"Russian Inmates to Build Bridge to Crimea"

Russia's Federal Penal Service said that the country's inmates would soon be contributing to public works including the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea and a cleanup operation in the Sochi region, the Kommersant newspaper reported Wednesday. Oleg Korshunov, the deputy head of the service, told Kommersant that the initiative followed the creation of the Federal Penal Service's Trade House, which aims to increase the prison system's revenues. The Federal Penal Service said that only non-recidivist convicts who are normally allowed to leave their prisons on special conditions will be considered for the program. Korshunov said that Russian authorities had already requested that 200 prisoners take part in a cleanup operation in the Sochi region, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in February.
A working Russian prisoner makes on average 196 rubles ($5.60) a day, Korshunov said. Some prisoners employed in labor-intensive jobs at sawmills or in metallurgy can make as much as 20,000 to 25,000 rubles ($570 to $720) a month, he added. A total of 252,000 of the country's 550,000 inmates at federal penitentiaries are eligible to work. About 110,000 prisoners already work within the federal prison system.

^ This is nothing new. The Soviets used prisoners for their key-work projects too. Also, many countries use the jail system to make or save money (ie making license plates, etc.) As long as the prisoners are paid it can't be called slave labor. The main point here is the building of the bridge connecting the Crimea to Russia. One good thing is that the isolation caused when Russia invaded and occupied the Crimea has led to the already economically hurt Crimean economy to suffer even more. That's what the locals get. The economical effects are also starting to hit Russia (not only through the international sanctions, but with the high cost to make the Crimea apart of Russian Federation.) It will be a mistake that will last for a very long time and will, hopefully, make the Russians remember the mistake they made when they created this mess themselves. ^

A Different War

From USA Today:
"Five reasons this Israel-Hamas war is different"

Israel and Hamas have fought at least 10 wars and skirmishes in the past decade. All have resulted in the deaths of civilians, uneasy truces and preparations for the next confrontation. But the latest conflict is unique because of technological advances in weaponry on both sides and a transformed political landscape in the Mideast that, in this rare instance, favors Israel. Here are five key factors shaping the fighting that is now in its third week:

Rockets' range: Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip, has increased the range of its rockets significantly since 2012. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, says Hamas has been able to obtain a Syrian-made rocket that can travel up to 100 miles, representing "a huge improvement on their capability." Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Palestine Center, a think tank in Washington, says Hamas militants have been able to modify the rockets to develop even greater range. The result is that the rockets reach well beyond southern Israeli communities near Gaza that have felt threatened for years. This time, rocket fire has disrupted life in Israel's major cities, from the coastal financial and cultural center, Tel Aviv, to the capital, Jerusalem. On Tuesday, a rocket damaged a home in Yahud, about a mile from Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, prompting the cancellation of all U.S. flights and many from Europe, which hasn't happened since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Palestinian fighters have also acquired anti-tank weapons that complicate the fight for Israel, Munayyer says.

Iron Dome: Israel has greatly increased deployment of its missile defense system, which it says has intercepted about 90% of Palestinian rockets aimed at population centers. By protecting civilians, Iron Dome gives Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more breathing room to conduct a longer military operation in Gaza, says Aaron David Miller, former U.S. adviser on Arab-Israeli negotiations to Republican and Democratic secretaries of State. "They have perfected an extraordinary missile defense, which created more time and space for Netanyahu at home and checked what Hamas thought was an advantage in high-trajectory weapons," Miller says. The system activates when it detects a rocket aimed at populated areas and lets other rockets hit the ground to save munitions. 

 Extensive tunnels: Hamas and other militant factions have developed a network of tunnels for sneaking into Israel as well as for hiding rockets, other weapons and command centers. Heavily armed Palestinian squads intercepted on their way from tunnel openings to Israeli communities carried tranquilizers and handcuffs, apparently to bring back hostages, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday. "Tunnels have always been part of Hamas' strategy," Miller says. But now, "the Israelis have been stunned at the number, magnitude and engineering complexity of this tunnel complex."
In response, Israel launched ground operations Friday to eliminate Hamas' tunnel complexes in a 2-mile strip along the border. The strategy is risky for Israel because Hamas is employing guerrilla war tactics, using anti-tank weapons and putting up a fierce fight in civilian areas that put Gaza residents in the line of fire.

Israeli deaths: The fighting has caused the largest number of Israeli fatalities since its 2006 war in Lebanon with the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers have died and one is missing in battles with Hamas militants, who have fought more aggressively than in the past. Palestinian rockets also have killed three civilians, including a Thai guest worker on Wednesday.
On Sunday, Hamas said its fighters lured two armored vehicles into a field it had rigged with explosives. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed in a combination of attacks that day, the most in any one day since the war with Hezbollah. Palestinian deaths — 640, according to the Palestinian Maan News Agency — are to date about half the 1,400 who died in Israeli airstrikes and a ground operation in 2008-09.

Hamas' political isolation: The fighting started with Hamas weaker politically than it has been in a long time. In part, that's because its main political and financial backers, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Assad regime in Syria, are busy fighting for their own survival and are unable to provide assistance. In its last conflict with Israel in 2012, Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, had a close partner in Egypt, which was run by the main Brotherhood group. President Mohammed Morsi, a key Brotherhood leader, brokered the 2012 cease-fire that Kerry and other diplomats are trying to revive. Today, Egypt, which controls Gaza's southern border, is run by a military regime that deposed and jailed Morsi and outlawed the Brotherhood on charges that it tried to impose an Islamist dictatorship. Egypt closed Hamas' tunnels to the Sinai Peninsula to prevent munitions crossing into Egypt after a series of terrorist attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians that Egypt said it traced to Gaza. Hamas used those tunnels to smuggle goods and weapons into Gaza, and to fund its operations though smuggling fees. Egypt has also blocked the flow of cash from countries such as Qatar into Gaza. Egypt, which has condemned Hamas during the current fighting, has proposed a cease-fire on terms the militant group has rejected because it wants the Sinai closures lifted.  The closures have made it impossible for Hamas to pay its 40,000 government employees and produced "desperation and panic" in Hamas, "which is why it keeps fighting," says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. "Hamas is trying to break out of this blockade in a whole new way because the blockade is different. They're broke and unable to move."

^ This sums0up what is currently happening pretty well. It's great that Israel has the Iron Dome (other countries should get it) and it's nice to see that Hamas is all alone in their "global" fight. ^

Hiding Then Spinning

From MT:
"Ukraine Rebel Commander Acknowledges Fighters Had BUK Missile"

A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia.  In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence.  Before the Malaysian plane was shot down, rebels had boasted of obtaining the BUK missiles, which can shoot down airliners at cruising height. But since the disaster the separatists' main group, the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk, has repeatedly denied ever having possessed such weapons.  Since the airliner crashed with the loss of all 298 on board, the most contentious issue has been who fired the missile that brought the jet down in an area where government forces are fighting pro-Russian rebels.  Khodakovsky blamed the Kiev authorities for provoking what may have been the missile strike that destroyed the doomed airliner, saying Kiev had deliberately launched air strikes in the area, knowing the missiles were in place.  The officials said the "most plausible explanation" for the destruction of the plane was that the separatists fired a Russian-made SA-11 — also known as a BUK — missile at it after mistaking it for another kind of aircraft.  U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has said it is convinced the airliner was brought down by an SA-11 ground-to-air missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.  Other separatist leaders have said they did not bring the Malaysian plane down. Russia has denied involvement.  Khodakovsky is a former head of the "Alpha" anti-terrorism unit of the security service in Donetsk, and one of the few major rebel commanders in Donetsk who actually hails from Ukraine rather than Russia. There has been friction in the past between him and rebel leaders from outside the region, such as Igor Strelkov, the Muscovite who has declared himself commander of all rebel forces in Donetsk province.

^ I am shocked! A terrorist group shoots down a plane killing nearly 300 people, harasses and tries to stop the outside world from knowing the truth or viewing the wreckage and the bodies and then when the truth is being made clear they admit they had the missile and try to spin their story again. If these ethnic-Russian terrorists really had nothing to do with the attack or did the attack by mistake then they would have immediately came out to the world and admitted everything. Instead they acted like weasels and now the rest of the world only sees that. ^


From BBC:
"Scottish independence: Europeans with an eye on Edinburgh"

Voters will go to the polls in September to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country. But what other Europeans are pressing for independence and how closely are they watching Scotland?
1. Catalonia
The Catalan regional authorities have a long history of fighting the central authorities for greater autonomy, with many Catalans believing their language, culture and identity cannot be properly represented in Spain. The region in north-east Spain already enjoys a wide degree of autonomy, and, until recently, few Catalans wanted full independence. But Spain's economic crisis has seen a surge in support for separation as many believe the affluent region pays more to Madrid than it gets back.
At the same time, the political base of support for Catalan self-determination has broadened from its traditional preserve of the left and been embraced by the centre-right. The Catalan government plans to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November 2014, asking voters if they want Catalonia to be a state, and if they want it to be an independent state.  Spanish MPs overwhelmingly rejected a request to hold the referendum earlier this year, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declaring it "illegal". Recent opinion polls suggest people in Catalonia are evenly divided over independence.
Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, a columnist for Spanish newspaper El Pais, says people are keeping an eye on Scotland. He says: "Whether they vote yes or no doesn't really matter - the fact a referendum has been granted and is going ahead is seen as hugely significant. "What remains to be seen is whether the Catalan government will merely use the threat of a referendum as a tactical tool - or whether they will go through with it, which would mean facing sanctions from Madrid." It is also worth noting that Mr Rajoy has implied that Spain could veto an independent Scotland's membership of the EU, widely interpreted as a warning to Catalan separatists. The Scottish government argues Scotland could remain in the EU as it is already a member as part of the UK.

2. Basque
Spain's Basque country already has a large degree of autonomy. Like Catalonia, it won more devolved powers - it has its own parliament, police force, controls education and collects its own taxes - in the 1970s.  The argument for Basque independence relies on its distinct identity and language - which was suppressed under Spanish dictator Gen Franco. Many Basque nationalists also believe the country's borders extend into southern France. The Basque Parliament has lobbied Madrid for a referendum on independence repeatedly over the past 15 years, but the Spanish government has consistently rejected appeals for such a poll. Inigo Gurruchaga, a journalist at El Correo, one of the main papers in the region, says the Basque question has historically been more sensitive than Catalonia because of its association with the violent separatist group Eta. Eta - which was formed more than 50 years ago to fight for an independent Basque homeland - declared a definitive end to hostilities in 2011. But the Spanish government insists the group must disarm. "Basque nationalists are now biding their time, watching and waiting to see what happens with the Catalan referendum," says Gurruchaga. They're also watching to see what happens in Scotland. "I'm constantly being asked to write articles on Scottish independence," he adds.

3. Flanders
Potential for a breakaway state from Belgium lies in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of the country, where there have been calls for greater Flemish autonomy from Wallonia, the French-speaking southern half. In the past, Flemish leaders have said they only want to reform the Belgian state, not dismantle it. The number of Flemish voters that want independence has stayed pretty constant - at about 10%.  However, the New Flemish Alliance party (NVA), which has 20% of the federal government seats, has an independent Flanders in its manifesto. "The NVA has recently moved away from overtly campaigning for secession in order to concentrate on social and economic issues, but separatism is still in the party's statute," says Dave Sinardet, a professor of politics at the Free University of Brussels. Flanders tends to lean right politically, whereas Wallonia tends to lean left, which the NVA says makes it hard for right-wing parties to govern at a national level. As Prof Sinardet points out, it's a strikingly similar case to that made by many proponents of Scottish independence about the tension between Scottish and English voting preferences. The NVA also has a lot in common with a very different British phenomenon - UKIP - in terms of what Prof Sardinet calls the "charismatic, man-of-the-people" leadership of Bart de Wever and his party's tough stance on immigration.  He says there's "very limited" awareness of the Scottish referendum in Belgium in general but political parties such as the NVA are "likely to be paying closer attention".

4. Padania
Separatists in the north of Italy have long called for an independent state made up of several of the country's wealthiest and most populous northern regions, sometimes referred to collectively as Padania. Economic imbalance is key to demand for northern self-rule, since many in the north see themselves as "exploited" - not getting back what they pay in taxes, and (as they see it) subsidising the poorer south. The movement has found political expression in the form of the Northern League (NL), which is famous for its stridently anti-immigrant rhetoric, and reached its highest levels of support in 1996 and in 2008. The party's votes in parliament were crucial to the coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party (PdL).  The NL's main appeal was its drive for more devolved control over taxation and its ability to channel discontent against the central state, according to Dr Arianna Giovannini, a co-convenor of the UK Political Studies Association's Italian politics specialist group. But she argues a failure to follow through on this proposal when it was in government damaged its standing with voters, who then felt neither the traditional centre-right nor the NL could meet their needs. The party's decline in popularity was demonstrated in the 2013 general election, when it only managed to get 4% of the votes. Giovannini says in the NL's heyday in the mid-1990s it often pointed to Scotland and used the English word "devolution" to illustrate the case for more regional powers, although awareness of the Scottish referendum is not at present particularly widespread.

5. Veneto
The Veneto - a northern region of which Venice is the capital - has its own distinct movement for independence. It is born out of a similar sense of economic dissatisfaction to the wider northern movement, says Matteo Nicolini, assistant professor of public law at Verona University. This dissatisfaction has gathered new political momentum since 2010, when the Northern League (NL) was in decline at a national level, but still held ground in Veneto. In March a coalition of "Venetists", including president of the Veneto regional government, Luca Zaia, came together under the name of Veneto Indipendente to set up a referendum on independence.  People could vote online, via telephone or at polling stations improvised in town squares. The organisers declared "Yes" won with 89% of 2.5 million votes cast. Nicolini says he finds it "strange" that the national government has not challenged the plebiscite, which he describes as "illegal" since it goes against Article Five of the Italian constitution: "The Italian Republic is one and indivisible." Giovannini suggests that the next step for the Venetists will be to strengthen and professionalise their organisation - and this could determine whether Rome pays them more attention. Scotland isn't really on their radar, Nicolini adds.

6. Brittany
Brittany, in north-west France, has its own language, culture, cuisine and flag and has strong ties to other parts of Europe's Celtic fringe. Although political nationalism is weak, efforts to assert a distinct Breton cultural identity enjoy broader support in the region. Breton, a Celtic language that is close to Cornish and Welsh, was historically scorned as a "patois" of the working classes, but has enjoyed a mini-revival in recent years after decades of decline. Politically, the case for Breton devolution is made by the Union Democratique Bretonne. Its main successes have been on the regional council of Brittany - though in 2012, Paul Molac was elected to the French National Assembly - the first Breton autonomist to take a national seat. John Loughlin, professor of European politics at Cambridge University, says the creation of regional councils in the 1970 and 1980s, and increased tolerance towards linguistic plurality, were historically "relatively successful" in absorbing demands for Breton autonomy. More recent signs from Paris indicate that the country is to become more centralised - not less - with President Hollande announcing plans to reduce the number of French regions from 22 to as few as 14. The proposal has been met with some hostility, particularly in Brittany.

7. Corsica
Another challenge to French sovereignty has come from Corsica, a large island of about 330,000 people off the south-east coast of France.  Corsica has suffered more than 40 years of political violence involving separatist paramilitaries, with bombing campaigns from the mid-1970s often targeting police stations and administrative buildings. In 1998 France's top official on the island was assassinated.  Extra powers for Corsica were narrowly rejected in a 2003 referendum organised by the French government.  Political parties who have rejected the armed struggle include the Union of the Corsican People, which enjoys consistent modest levels of electoral success and currently has one MEP, Francois Alfonsi.  Dr Anwen Elias, a lecturer on European nationalism at Aberystwyth University, explains that support for Corsican independence is "quite low" but that numbers are difficult to come by since "even to carry out an opinion poll on this question is so controversial".
Asked if she thinks Corsicans are mindful of the Scottish referendum, she says that "all European nationalist movements are keeping a close eye on Scotland".

8. Hungarians in Romania
There is a widespread belief among Hungarians that some western parts of what is now Romania belong to them.  In the post-war Communist era, the Hungarian language was banned in Romanian schools and the use of Hungarian place names was suppressed. Protests in support of an ethnic Hungarian pastor triggered the 1989 Romanian revolution that toppled the autocratic Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.  Dr Erin Marie Saltman, a researcher of Hungarian politics for anti-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, says that "since Ceausescu, the situation of Hungarians in Romania has been much better".  However, the transfer of Transylvania to Romania after World War One is often referred to by Hungarians as "the national tragedy".  "This idea is shared by Hungarians on both the right and liberal left, but over the past 10 years it has been politicised and used to drive up support particularly for right-wing and far-right parties," says Dr Saltman.  "You see the map of 'larger Hungary' everywhere - on bumper stickers, beer mats and tattoos," she adds. In 2013, thousands of Hungarians demanding self-rule marched in Transylvania.
The centre-right Hungarian government is supportive of their aims, but the Romanian government opposes the idea on the grounds it might lead to the break-up of the Romanian state. Dr Saltman says "not that many" in Hungary and Romania are aware of the Scottish referendum, but that could change if Scotland votes "Yes".

^ I think that any region or territory that wants its independence should be allowed to have it. The majority of places wouldn't be able to cope with the everyday things and would come running-back to their former status. Of course that only works when these regions (ie those that declare their independence) become fully independent and don't make side-deals, etc. South Ossetia and Abkhazia both declared their independence from Georgia and then became part of Russia (their citizens receive Russian internal and international passports as well as Russian pensions.) That's not being independent. That's substituting one country's control from another. ^

Dead Nazi

From BBC:
"Suspected Auschwitz guard Johann Breyer dies in US"

An elderly man in the US accused of Nazi war crimes has died while awaiting extradition to Germany. Johann Breyer, 89, passed away in a Philadelphia hospital on Tuesday night, his attorney told US media. His death followed an order by a US judge granting a request for Mr Breyer to be sent to Germany to stand trial. German prosecutors were hoping to put him on trial on charges of aiding in the murder of more than 200,000 Jews at Auschwitz during World War Two. Mr Breyer, a retired toolmaker, was arrested at his home in June and placed in federal custody. He later admitted he was a death camp guard, but said he was stationed outside and had nothing to do with the deaths. Mr Breyer emigrated to the US in 1952 and during the 1990s, the US attempted to strip him of his citizenship and deport him. But that failed when a judge ruled he was a natural-born citizen through his mother and was coerced into joining the SS as a minor. The new probe was led by the federal German office in charge of Nazi war crimes, which said there was new evidence, including war-era records showing he was at Auschwitz earlier than he had acknowledged.  Mr Breyer was the oldest person US officials have accused of being involved in Nazi war crimes.

^ This is how pathetic the Germans of that era have become. Before every adult German never was a Nazi, had never known a Nazi and had no knowledge of what was going on during the war. Now even the Nazi guards at the death camps are trying to claim they had no knowledge of what was going on. This is what happens when you allow the losers to rewrite history and they preach that they were the original victims. At least, this Nazi guard is now in hell with his other comrades (where I'm sure they are still acting the victims.) ^

Open Air

From USA Today:
"FAA lifts ban on flights to and from Israel"

The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its prohibition on U.S. airlines flying into and out of Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Wednesday, the agency announced it had extended the ban a second day and it was expected to wait until midday Thursday to decide whether or not to extend it further.  The FAA decided to lift the flight restrictions effective 11:45 p.m. ET, however, after it "carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation," according to a statement posted on the agency's website. The flight ban was initiated after a rocket struck near the airport Tuesday and the FAA says it will "continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions as necessary."  While the ban was in effect, Israeli airport and tourism officials insisted that planes could land safely. British Airways and El Al were among the airlines that continued to fly into Tel Aviv despite the rocket strike. Even with the ban lifted, airlines must decide when to resume flights. Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines, which diverted a flight Tuesday headed from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Tel Aviv, told CNBC the airline made its decision before the FAA acted. "We have a much higher duty of care, and we've got to make the right decisions for the flight attendants, customers and pilots on our flights," Anderson said.
Israel gets more visitors from the United States than any other country. Of 3.5 million visitors last year, 623,000 were Americans, according to Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

^ This was clearly an example of being overly cautious. I can't understand both sides (Israeli's stance to continue on and the rest of the world's stance of fleeing.) It really shows that if places like: Moscow, London, Berlin, Toronto, New York, LA, etc were bombed the way Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are the world wouldn't be able to handle it with the dignity and continuity of daily life like the Israelis constantly show us. ^

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Helping The Most Needy

From JP:
"Christian NGO brings Sderot Holocaust survivors to Jerusalem"

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge over two weeks ago, Earl G. Cox, the founder and chairman of Israel Always, a US-based Christian NGO, has supplied more than 1,000 soldiers with basic necessities. “When a conflict is taking place and there’s a need for humanitarian aid, I come immediately to bring my resources for those in need,” said Cox of his organization, which has raised millions of dollars in direct and indirect aid for Israelis for the last 16 years.  He is now caring for a group of 20 Holocaust survivors who have been bombarded by rockets in their Sderot community by chartering a bus on Tuesday morning to take them to the relative quiet of Jerusalem, where he is providing hotel accommodations, meals and activities at no cost. “There are 300 Holocaust survivors in Sderot, but most are not ambulatory, so once we identified those who could walk, we put them on a big bus today and brought them to Jerusalem, where they can relax at a hotel for three nights and four days,” he said. Cox said his goal is to provide a much-needed respite during the tumult to the elderly survivors who have been traumatized by incessant rocket fire from Hamas terrorists on their community. “The rockets rain down constantly there,” he said from the Jerusalem Gold Hotel, which has provided discounted rooms for the survivors. “These people have gone through the Holocaust and now they have to go through this – it is inexcusable.”  Noting that they have been relegated to bomb shelters for much of the last two weeks, Cox said it was important to him to provide the Holocaust survivors a safe and quiet environment, if only temporarily. “They’ve been going through so much and are so nervous – they’re skittish about everything,” he said. “Since they arrived here many have said that they have been waiting for the [rocket] siren because it is so quiet here.” Apart from providing rooms and meals, Cox has planned several low-intensity activities, including a trip to the Old City and other local sights. “We’re going to play it by ear, depending on how well they feel,” he said. “Right now they’re just happy to sit in quiet in the hotel. We’re not pushing them, but I hope to take them to enjoyable locations that will make them happy.” He added that Israel Always intends to bring another group of 20 survivors from Sderot to Jerusalem next week, but may not have the funding to accommodate a second trip. “We’re not sure if we will have enough money to provide for the soldiers and pay for another trip, but we are hopeful,” he said. Cox said that he saw his efforts had paid off following a brief sojourn to the Old City on Tuesday evening. “They were crying, saying ‘You don’t know what you’ve done for us,’” he said.

^ It's stories and acts like this one that show how much the world (not just other Jews) believe in Israel. You would think that when these bombings take place the Israeli Government and the vast majority of Christian and Jewish organizations would already have back-up plans to help those most in need (ie the very young, the elderly, Holocaust survivors and the disabled) but these groups are usually forgotten or left-behind to fend for themselves (it happens all over the world whether it's because of war or a natural disaster.) Israel Always not only supports the Israeli soldiers fighting and dying to protect their country, but hasn't forgotten the Holocaust survivors in their time of need either. I hope that governments around the world see this and offer more assistance to organizations like IA who are doing a great thing and need more funding to continue. ^

Keeping The Scots

From USA Today:
"Cameron makes surprise visit to Scotland before vote"

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday became the first prime minister in 34 years — since Margaret Thatcher in 1980 — to visit the remote Shetland islands. The surprise visit comes ahead of a referendum on Scottish independence. Cameron's two-day visit to the area that sits more than 100 miles off the Scottish mainland and is closer to Oslo, Norway, than London is part of a drive to make his government's case that Scotland — all of Scotland, including its various clusters of distant islands — would be better off economically by remaining part of the United Kingdom.  The vote on Sept. 18 will decide whether Scotland opts to sever more 300 years of political union with England and Wales. Most polling projects the vote will fail. "It's a bit late in the day this referendum," said Calum Ferguson, 35, an oil services worker who was relaxing Tuesday on the dock at Lerwick's quaint inner harbor. "We sold our souls to the English a long time ago," he said, laughing. Shetland has a population of just over 20,000 people, but the vast oil and gas reserves in the surrounding North Sea have brought prosperity to the islands in the form of pristine roads, well-funded schools and a disproportionate number of outstanding sports and leisure complexes.  Cameron has been aggressively campaigning for months to ensure that revenues from those reserves ultimately continue to flow to Britain's coffers rather than any new Scottish state ruled from Edinburgh. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has maintained that Scots would flourish by adopting a fully independent parliament and governing institutions, as well as rejecting the monarchy and other shared constitutional practices.  On Wednesday, the prime minister will travel to Glasgow to attend the opening ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, which has participants from 71 countries and two territories.

^ Maybe if more British (ie English) politicians focused on the different parts of Scotland more then the Scots wouldn't feel neglected and want to leave the country. I don't think the Scots will vote for independence, but if it happens it will be interesting to see how things change in the UK. I've been to England and Scotland many times (and Northern Ireland once) and so would notice the changes as an outsider would (but a well-versed outsider.) ^

Law Rush

From MT:
"Laws Signed by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday"

President Vladimir Putin signed a flurry of new legislation on Tuesday, including:

Permanent winter: Putin signed a law reintroducing permanent winter time. Clocks in Russia will turn back one hour on Oct. 26 and will stay there permanently.
Crimea: A series of laws were signed on the integration of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia's legal system, with particular focuses on intellectual property, sports, pensions and the financial system.
Senators: Putin signed amendments to the Constitution, vesting the president with power to directly appoint senators to the Federation Council.
Television advertisements: Putin signed a law banning advertisements on paid-access television channels, a move that caused an uproar in the industry.
Personal data: All Russians' personal data will now be stored on Russian territory. Analysts say the new law will isolate Russians as foreign websites — including hotel and airline booking sites — will be required either to store users' data in Russia, or cease operations in the country.
SMS spam: Putin signed a law regulating the mass distribution of short messages among mobile phone users. The law's aim is to fight spam messages.
Olympics: Putin signed a law liquidating Olimpstroi, a state enterprise that orchestrated the construction of Olympic infrastructure projects for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Abortions: Administering illegal abortions is now subject to administrative fines.
Speedy justice: The president signed a law introducing compensation in instances where justice in Russia's court system drags on too long.
Transparency: Fresh legislation requires governmental agencies to release information about their activities to civil society organizations.
Etc.: Putin signed a series of other laws, amending legislation in the financial, social, urban planning, transportation and other sectors.

^ It seems Putin is signing as many new laws as he can. Maybe he knows something the rest of us don't. ^

Protecting Some

From BBC:
"Obama signs order protecting some gay workers"

President Barack Obama has signed an order banning federal government contractors from discriminating against gay and transgender workers. The executive order follows years of pressure from gay rights groups. Mr Obama cannot extend the protection to all American workers, however.
The order comes after far broader anti-discrimination legislation stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives. But it still applies to nearly a quarter of US workers.  The order also extends anti-discrimination protection to transgender workers in the federal government itself. Gay federal workers are already protected against discrimination."It doesn't make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender," Mr Obama said at the White House. "And that's wrong. We're here to do what we can to make it right - to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction." Eighteen states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as have more than 200 cities and other local governments. The executive order did not include an exemption for religious organisations that contract with the federal government. Mr Obama also called on Congress to pass a far-reaching bill called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (Enda), which passed the Democratic-controlled US Senate last year but has since languished in the Republican-led House of Representatives. That legislation would bar employers with 15 or more workers from making employment decisions - hiring, firing or compensation - based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  But Republican House Speaker John Boehner opposes the bill, arguing it could lead to lawsuits and hinder job creation.

^ On the surface this sounds like a good thing, but another one of his Executive Orders (he seems to have so many of them) helped everyone but openly excluded the disabled (the group that deserves and needs the most help and protection out of all the other groups.) This Order may not have any "hidden" items or groups  - and I hope it doesn't - but you never know with him. ^

No Closed Airport

From USA Today:
"Tel Aviv flight ban cuts off Israelis"

For the first time in more than two decades, major international flights were suspended to Israel's main airport Tuesday because of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, limiting Israel's access to allies around the world as the latest military confrontation with Hamas deepens. The move by international carriers and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was a reflection of growing anxiety over the vulnerability of global air travel following Thursday's downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard. The FAA imposed a 24-hour ban on flights to Israel after several U.S. airlines acted. Germany's Lufthansa, Italian airline Alitalia and Air France made similar moves before the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an advisory. Israeli airline El Al maintained a regular flight schedule. Not since 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, has travel from the west been so disrupted to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, the primary international gateway to the Jewish nation. The suspension of flights was at least a temporary victory for Hamas, which has threatened to shut down the airport in the past and, in the most recent fighting, has shown increasing range and prowess at firing rockets from positions in Gaza to disrupt life in Israel.  Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on airlines and the FAA to reconsider, saying the ban would "hand terror a prize.'' He said civilian flights were protected by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and the airport was safe. Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was boarding an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv "to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.'' The Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel. While many have been intercepted, including several headed for the airport area, officials said a rocket that struck Tuesday was the closest yet to the airport since the latest fighting began two weeks ago. The rocket heavily damaged a house and lightly injured one Israeli in Yehud, a Tel Aviv suburb near the airport, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. The abrupt cancellations forced thousands of travelers to alter their plans and left some stranded. For how long is unclear: The FAA's initial move was for 24 hours, with updated guidance to be provided by midday Wednesday. The FAA, following steps by some airlines themselves, prohibited U.S. carriers from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours "due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza." The European Aviation Safety Agency followed with its own advisory, saying it "strongly recommends" airlines avoid the airport.
Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for transport, said he is "very concerned at situation near Ben Gurion Airport" and is "monitoring closely." At the airport early Wednesday, Miriam Roensen and boyfriend Kim Naess wandered around with their rolling luggage trying to figure how to return to Oslo, after a week's vacation in Israel. They headed to the airport believing they had been rebooked after their initial flight was canceled. "So now we are trying a third option, but we do not know what that we will be yet," Roensen said. They were among hundreds of tourists and Israelis who arrived the airport believing they could fly out, only to discover that they had no way to leave the country. The staff at the information desk had few options to suggest. "Whatever happens, if you let it get you down, than you will be down, but if you cannot do anything about it, stay happy," Naess said.  After a rocket-filled honeymoon, Tarzyna Dyna and Hubert Swietek were happy to learn they could leave as planned. They were booked home to Warsaw on El Al, one of the few airlines flying out of Israel on Wednesday morning. They planned to board, though Dyna acknowledged unease. "I am scared to fly, because I heard that a rocket fell near this airport, and I am scared that that kind of rocket may hit our airplane," Dyna said. Germany's Lufthansa, Air France, Air Canada, Alitalia, Dutch KLM, Britain's easyJet, Turkish Airlines and Greece's Aegean Airlines were among those carriers canceling flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns. Jairyes Samal took a photograph of his wife and children by the departure board showing their flight home to Turkey was canceled. "We checked before we left the house. The flight was still scheduled to leave on time," Samal said. Historian Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to Washington, said the decisions to cancel flights stemmed from an abundance of caution after the Malaysian airliner was shot down "It's unfortunate, and I'm sure this wasn't the State Department's intention, that Hamas is celebrating this as a victory," Oren said. "I don't think it's in anybody's interest to give Jihadist terrorists a victory." Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said he was at the airport two weeks ago, waiting for a flight to Washington, when sirens wailed and he and other travelers had to take shelter.
"This is not the first time a rocket targeted Ben Gurion International Airport," he said. "They've already found ways to avoid the rocket risk. There's something different going here that I can't explain." During the 1991 Gulf war, every airline but El Al suspended service to Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. Earlier in the current conflict, Hamas fired "a handful" of rockets toward the airport, resulting in a nine-minute suspension in traffic, the newspaper reported. More than 1,000 passengers fly each way on four flights daily between the United States and Israel by U.S. airlines.
Jack Ram, 50, of Tel Aviv, who was in New York visiting friends, said threats of violence and disruptions while traveling were nothing new for Israelis. He prayed Tuesday before entering the departure area at Newark, for an El Al flight to Israel. "We're used to it. That's how we live,'' he said.

^  This has nothing to do with Hamas and their rockets since they have been firing them for 2 weeks and nothing major has happened (due to the Iron Dome.) Like the article states it is clearly the US and Europe's nerves over what happened in eastern Ukraine. That is different as the pro-Russian terrorists are actually on the ground and within easy rocket range (as shown by them murdering nearly 300 innocent people) while Hamas is confined to Gaza and the Iron Dome shoots down their rockets 90% of the time. Since the US and EU cancelled the flights they should be forced to provide for those (both in Israel and around the world) affected by the cancellations. I'm sure they won't and the airlines will say they don't have to as they didn't cancel them and that will leave the stranded in limbo with only Israel taking care of them (at least those in Israel at the moment.) This dos show the difference between the Israelis and the rest of the Western World. Israel views this as a sign weakness and that life as to continue as normal as possible as an act of defiance to Hamas and their other enemies. It is like the stories from the Siege of Sarajevo where the Bosnian women (Serb, Bosniak and Croatian) were seen in the latest fashion including high heels and make-up as they collected firewood, food, water or were running from snipers. They couldn't control the overall war, but could do this little to show their defiance. This is Israel's act. ^

In From The Cold?

From Yahoo:
"Did Putin just bring Russia in from the cold?"

In a security meeting today, Putin said Russia would try to rein in Ukraine's rebels. He also effectively told media and politicians that the country is not under Western siege – and to stop repeating that claim. Vladimir Putin opened a special meeting of the Kremlin's Security Council today with an odd statement: "There is no direct military threat to our country’s sovereignty or territorial integrity at present," he said.  To a Western ear, that might sound like belaboring the obvious. For a Russian audience today, it's a jarring note for their leader to strike. Mr. Putin's statement flatly contradicts what the domestic media have been saying for months. Just days ago, Russian outlets were warning of a White House "offensive against Russia and China," with the US trying to create "instability on Russia's borders." Putin himself earlier this month claimed that Russia's annexation of Crimea was to forestall NATO from getting a foothold in Ukraine. "If you've been reading the Russian press and watching TV over the past few months you would have gotten an entirely different impression," that the country was in a state of emergency and facing imminent peril, says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based foreign policy journal "Russia in Global Affairs."  Russian experts say that Putin's sudden reversal is a clear sign he is looking to ratchet down the domestic anxieties and anti-Western attitudes that have been rife since the Ukraine crisis erupted about five months ago. And perhaps most significantly, it's time to end the siege mentality. "Domestically, he's calling that off," Mr. Lukyanov says. "His core message to the West seems to be that we are ready to be flexible. Russia is in no mood to escalate the confrontation, and it's possible we could do some deal on non-recognition of the Ukrainian insurgents," he adds.  Russia has been facing growing isolation, and escalating threats of sanctions, due to its alleged support for east Ukraine's anti-Kiev insurgency. That has shifted into high gear since the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 last Thursday, which increasingly looks to have been done by Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels. But Putin today pointed out that Russia supports a full independent investigation of the accident. Moreover, he added the intriguing suggestion that Moscow might be ready to use its leverage on the rebels if there is a serious peace process. That looks like Putin is looking for ways to extricate Russia from its messy involvement in post-revolutionary Ukraine, and particularly the increasingly out-of-control eastern rebels, says Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator Group, a Moscow-based media consultancy. "All attempts to support rebellion in eastern Ukraine have failed. There is no small victorious war down there," just a growing disaster, he says. "I think Putin wants to be rid of that, and concentrate all Russia's political efforts on defending its annexation of Crimea last March. Basically, this is an effort by Putin to save face," he adds. Among other things, Putin stressed that Russia is a reliable business partner, one that wishes to be part of the global community and will "never turn to isolationism."  He voiced greater confidence than he has in the past that Russia is immune to the kind of "colored revolution" that has led in the past decade to disorderly power shifts in next-door post-Soviet states, primarily Georgia and Ukraine. And he even seemed to pledge a halt in the Kremlin's crackdown on liberal opponents and civil society activists who have been actively targeted by a raft of new laws as agents of "foreign" influence. Since annexing Crimea, Putin has enjoyed public approval ratings of over 80 percent. "The fact that he mentioned the threat of 'colored revolution' is an indication of his [ongoing] fears," says Boris Makarenko, chairman of the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. "But, in practical terms, a leader with over 65 percent public rating isn't facing a realistic threat of revolution." But with serious economic sanctions looming, and Russia's economy already stagnating, Putin is probably exploring a "Plan A" that would involve rolling back tensions with the West, helping to broker a political settlement in Ukraine, and easing the political crackdown at home, says Gleb Pavolovsky, a former member of Putin's inner circle who has since turned critic. "Most of Putin's speech was directed at an internal audience, and leaving aside his worries about 'colored revolutions' it was mostly an appeal to reason," he says. It was primarily a message for all the various factions around Putin to drop their differences and get behind disengagement in Ukraine and conciliation with the West, because the only alternative – "Plan B" – is something very few members of the Russian elite would actually want: "That would be to close the doors and accept a state of maximum isolation for Russia," Mr. Pavlovsky says.

^ Maybe this is real and not just a ploy to not get punished even more by the international community. All of this was first created by Russia (when it backed the pro-Russian dictator (I mean President) of the Ukraine and pressured him not to get closer ties with the EU and then Russia went into the Crimea and then supported the terrorists in eastern Ukraine. They played Russian Roulette and are on the last shot waiting to see if there's a bullet or not. Hopefully, they can get out of the mess they made and bring things back to the way they were (if not better) than last year. ^

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


From MT:
"Red Cross Opens Door to Ukraine War Crimes Prosecution"

The Red Cross has made a confidential legal assessment that Ukraine is officially in a war, Western diplomats and officials say, opening the door to possible war crimes prosecutions, including over the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH-17. "Clearly it's an international conflict and therefore this is most probably a war crime," one Western diplomat in Geneva said. The International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war, and as such is considered a reference in the United Nations deciding when violence has evolved into an armed conflict. "Within the U.N. system, it's the ICRC that makes that determination. They are the gate keepers of international humanitarian law," said one U.N. source. The ICRC has not made any public statement — seeking not to offend either Ukraine or Russia by calling it a civil war or a case of foreign aggression — but it has done so privately and informed the parties to the conflict, sources told Reuters. "The qualification has been shared bilaterally and confidentially," ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk told Reuters on Friday. "We do not discuss it publicly." The designation as a war — either international or civil — changes the game legally, because it turns both sides into combatants with equal liability for war crimes, which have no statute of limitations and cannot be absolved by an amnesty. Suspects may also be arrested abroad, since some countries apply "universal jurisdiction" to war crimes. Without the designation, Ukrainian government forces would be responsible for protecting civilians and infrastructure under international human rights law, while separatists would only be liable under Ukraine's criminal laws. "It changes their accountability on the international stage," said Andrew Clapham, director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. "This makes individuals more likely to be prosecuted for war crimes." Dutch prosecutors have opened an investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 on suspicion of murder, war crimes and intentionally downing an airliner, a spokesman said Monday. Based on the Law on International Crimes, the Netherlands can prosecute any individual who committed a war crime against a Dutch citizen. The 298 people who were killed when the plane was downed over Ukraine included 193 Dutch citizens. President Vladimir Putin said in May that the country had collapsed into civil war, while Ukraine regards the conflict as a war involving Russian aggression.

^ If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it's a duck. What has happened in the Ukraine (both in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine) is a war. ^

Ground Stop?

From JP:
"Report: US considering grounding flights to Israel amid rocket threat"

The US is considering canceling flights to Israel after a rocket fired from Gaza caused damage in the city of Yehud, which is just over five kilometers from Ben-Gurion Airport, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday. The US Federal Aviation Authority has a statute by which flights to and from an airport will be canceled for a period of 24 hours in the event that a rocket explodes in the area.  According to the Channel 2 report, no final decision has been made to ground flights to Israel. However, a Delta Airlines flight that was supposed to land in Israel on Tuesday changed course and landed at De Gaul Airport in Paris. In addition, a US Airways flight that was scheduled to take off from Israel on Tuesday has remained grounded, Channel 2 reported. Israeli and American flight officials are reportedly trying to come to an understanding regarding the US concerns over rocket fire. Israel contends that the Iron Dome rocket defense system, which has proven to be 90% effective during Operation Protective Edge, is also capable of intercepting projectiles in the area of Ben-Gurion Airport. The rocket which landed in the courtyard of a home in Yehud on Tuesday, causing damage and leaving two people lightly injured, marked the first direct hit in the greater Tel Aviv area, known as Gush Dan, since the Gaza operation began more than two weeks ago.

^ I can understand airlines not wanting to risk the safety of their crew or passengers by flying into/out of warzones. If only Malaysia Air had thought of that before going through eastern Ukraine. ^

Obamacare Ruling

From BBC:
"US court deals setback to Obamacare"

A US appeals court has thrown out a federal regulation implementing key subsidies of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law. The ruling deals a setback to so-called Obamacare, potentially affecting the subsidies benefiting many low and middle-income people. A three-judge panel found in favour of plaintiffs who sued over tax credits for people buying health insurance.
The law has been under siege by opponents since it was passed in 2010. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on Halbig v Burwell on Tuesday, one of four lawsuits currently challenging the legality of Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-funded subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The court - considered the second highest in the nation behind the US Supreme Court - returned the case to a lower court with instructions to rule in favour to plaintiffs who had fought against the subsidies being offered in 36 states. The IRS is said to have dispensed billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies through federal healthcare exchanges, or marketplaces. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued they were injured by the IRS actions because it triggered additional taxes for employers. The subsidies, or tax credits, have been made available to Americans with annual incomes up to 400% the federal poverty level. That works out to $94k (£55k) for a family of four.

^ Slowly, but surly these stupid law is being dismantled. As I have always stated I am for providing healthcare for all Americans, but not for the Government forcing everyone to buy it themselves. The majority of countries that have universal healthcare are funded mostly by the government. ^


From JP:
"Germany, France, Italy condemn anti-Semitism in anti-Israel demonstrations"

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy on Tuesday condemned anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia that have marred rallies against Israel's role in its conflict with Hamas in which about 600 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died. After 10 days of bombardment, Israel on Thursday also launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip to halt rocket fire out of the territory. So far 29 Israelis, 27 of them soldiers, have died in the fighting. On Sunday, French media showed the burnt-out front of a kosher grocery shop in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, which is home to a large Jewish community, and clashes between pro-Palestinian marchers and riot police outside two synagogues.
"Anti-Semitic incitement and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish faith and synagogues have no place in our societies," the three foreign ministers said in a joint statement issued in Brussels.
France's Laurent Fabius, Italy's Federica Mogherini and Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "Nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions here in Europe." The ministers' statement on Tuesday came as Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting.
French authorities had refused to allow several pro-Palestinian protests scheduled for the weekend due to fears of violence, but gave the green light for a rally planned in Paris on Wednesday. France has both the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe and flare-ups of violence in the Middle East often add to tensions between the two communities. In Germany, police in Berlin said it had detained 13 people after demonstrators pelted police with stones after a pro-Palestinian protest on Monday. Police also banned an anti-Semitic slogan used by protesters, according to media reports.
"We will do everything together and in our countries so that all citizens can continue to live in peace and safety, unoffended by anti-Semitic hostility," the ministers said. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) welcomed the statement from the three ministers. "The situation has reached unexpected dimensions. The wave of anti-Semitism in the course of pro-Palestinian demonstrations is getting worse from day to day," said Deidre Berger, director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish relations.

^ This is another reason why you can't trust those that support Gaza. They are not anti-war or even anti-Israel, but anti-Jewish. These bigots would support anything as long as they could attack Jews. I hope countries around the world do more to prevent the violence than simply talking. ^

Monday, July 21, 2014

Open Letter

From Yahoo:
"Grieving father of MH17 victim pens open letter to Putin"

A grief-stricken father whose 17-year-old daughter was a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has penned an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the letter posted to Facebook, Hans de Borst wrote that his daughter, Elsemiek de Borst, had planned to become an engineer. "Elsemiek would next year take her final exam, along with her best friends Julia and Marina, and she did well in school," de Borst wrote. "She then wanted to go to TU Delft to study engineering, and she was looking forward to it! She is suddenly no more! From the air she was shot in a foreign country where a war is going on." Elsemiek, he wrote, was traveling from The Hague to Malaysia with her mother (de Borst's ex-wife), brother and stepfather on MH17. She was one of 193 Dutch victims of the crash. The Boeing 777 en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam was shot down over the Russia-Ukraine border, killing all 298 passengers and crew. "Many thanks to the Separatist leaders of Ukrainian government for the murder of my dear and only child," de Borst wrote. "Gentlemen of the above, I hope you're proud of including her and her young life was shot up too, and you can look in the mirror! "Thanks again," he added, signing the letter: "Sincerely, Elsemiek's father, Hans de Borst from Monster, whose life is ruined." De Borst wasn't the only grieving Dutch parent to address Putin. "Mr. Putin, send my children home," Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend, Daisy Oehlers, were among those killed in the crash, told Sky TV. "Send them home. Please." Fredriksz-Hoogzand told the Associated Press she was appalled at the way the crash site was being handled. "I am not a politician," she said on Sunday. "But I know for sure that Mr. Putin can do something. "No words can describe it," Fredriksz-Hoogzand continued. "Bodies are just lying there for three days in the hot sun. There are people who have this on their conscience. There are families who can never hold the body of a child or a mother."

^ While world governments and politicians can do some things in situations like this it means more coming from the victims and their families. ^

Guilty Friend

From USA Today:
"Boston Marathon suspect's friend guilty of obstruction"

A friend of the man suspected in last year's Boston Marathon bombings was convicted Monday of helping to cover up the crime that left three people dead and more than 250 injured. A federal jury found Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy by hindering the investigation into bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a friend and fellow student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Prosecutors said that after Tazhayakov and another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, determined that Tsarnaev was a suspect in the bombings, they threw out a backpack and removed a laptop from Tsarnaev's dorm room. Lawyers for Tazhayakov argued that Kadyrbayev had removed the items; prosecutors said Tazhayakov went along with the plan. "They took materials from that room that they never should have touched, and that's what he is going to pay the price for," juror Daniel Antonin, 49, said after the verdict was announced. Tazhayakov was convicted of involvement with the backpack but not the laptop. Sentencing was set for Oct. 16. Tazhayakov, who could face more than 20 years in prison, was the first of three friends of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev to face trial stemming from the attack April 15, 2013. Kadyrbayev faces trial in September. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who will turn 21 Tuesday, is charged with bombing a public place and using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. Two pressure cookers exploded near the finish line of the race. The attack took place on Patriot's Day, a major holiday in Boston highlighted by the running of the nation's most iconic marathon. Prosecutors say Tsarnaev's brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan, was involved in the planning and explosions. On April 18, Kadyrbayev texted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, telling him that a photo released by police showed a suspect that looked like Dzhokhar. "LOL," Tsarnaev replied, according to a federal affidavit. "You better not text me ... come to my room and take whatever you want." According to prosecutors, Kadyrbayev showed the text message to his friend Tazhayakov. Hours later, the two men went to Tsarnaev's dorm room. Prosecutors say Kadyrbayev removed Tsarnaev's backpack, which contained fireworks, and his laptop — and Tazhayakov supported the effort to protect Dzhokhar. That night, prosecutors say, the Tsarnaev brothers killed Sean Collier, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the early hours of April 19, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar was found, wounded and hiding in a boat, that day. He is being held without bail and could face the death penalty if convicted.

^ Anyone who helps terrorists (whether in the US, eastern Ukraine or Gaza) should be treated as a terrorist themselves and be dealt with accordingly. ^

Dumping Terrorists

From MT:
"Why Putin Can't Afford to Dump the Ukrainian Separatists"

While Russia's support of Ukrainian separatists has led to its worst standoff with the West in post-Soviet history, the Kremlin cannot afford to disown them because that would spell a major geopolitical defeat and alienate the jingoistic masses at home, Russian pundits said. The rebels are Moscow's last remaining leverage in the otherwise vehemently pro-Western Ukraine, Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank said Monday. And domestically, the Russian public has been persuaded to see the insurgents as the good guys resisting "forces of evil" — which means disowning them would destroy Putin's popularity, Lipman said. This leaves Putin without any appealing options, though he may yet whip out a surprise and come out on top, as he has been known to do, experts said. "The Kremlin has been reduced to choosing between bad and worse," said independent analyst Sergei Shelin. "But it only has itself to blame," he said. The months-long conflict over Ukraine intensified last week when a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down over a separatist-controlled area, leaving 298 dead, most of them European citizens. U.S. officials have accused the allegedly Moscow-backed secessionists, who are campaigning to join Russia, of being behind the incident. Those accusations have been echoed and amplified by Western media and the government in Kiev, who have dismissed attempts by the rebels and official Moscow to blame the incident on the Ukrainian anti-insurgency forces. In an apparent effort to defuse the "Boeing Crisis," Putin aired a live public appeal on the issue — timed, unprecedentedly, for Sunday evening primetime in the U.S. But he refused to side with the West and blame the rebels, limiting his speech to well-meaning generalities and vague accusations against Kiev. Putin's strategic goal is to keep Ukraine from affiliating with the EU and, even more importantly, NATO, said Alexei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies, a for-profit think tank in Moscow. The "Great Game" for Ukraine between Russia and the West has lasted for at least a decade, kicking off with the Orange Revolution of 2004, which prevented a pro-Russian presidential nominee from coming to power in Kiev. Russia lost most of its political influence in Ukraine with the second revolution, which ousted the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, said Makarkin. Now the only option Moscow has left is rendering Ukraine too unstable for NATO to align with, and a simmering insurgency is just the thing to do the trick, the analyst said. However, the plan to maintain a festering low-profile conflict in eastern Ukraine became unfeasible with the Malaysian jet's downing, which requires the Kremlin to act, said Shelin. So far, the Ukrainian crisis has been a major ratings booster for Putin, whose public approval soared to 86 percent last month following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's pro-Russian province of Crimea in March. The only time Russians loved Putin more was in 2008, when his approval rating hit an all-time record of 88 percent following a brief successful war against Georgia, another pro-Western former Soviet neighbor. Most Russians see Ukrainian separatists as heroes resisting the quasi-fascist "junta" in Kiev, a view hammered home by relentless propaganda on Russian state television, said Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center. The anti-Ukrainian sentiment is also apparently shared by part of the Russian ruling establishment, especially in the army and security forces, though they do not voice it publicly, all experts polled for this story agreed. Putin has reaped the benefits of the ongoing jingoistic, anti-Ukrainian frenzy at home, Lipman said. But this also means the Kremlin would negate all popularity gains if it pulls off an ideological U-turn and denounces the rebels, pundits said in unison. "Given the current economic trouble, if the Russian public thinks we were defeated in Ukraine, the approval ratings are likely to plummet," Makarkin said. Russia is undergoing an economic slowdown in recent years that even Putin has attributed to state mismanagement. The country has been teetering on the brink of recession for months. Giving up on the insurgency could also energize domestic political opposition in Russia, experts said. Russia saw sweeping anti-Putin protests from 2011 to 2013, largely liberal and pro-Western in sentiment and therefore not dissimilar to Ukraine's two recent revolutions. The annexation of Crimea was, among other things, a message to liberal protesters that such revolutions do not end well, said Lipman. Both she and Shelin, the independent analyst, admitted that the liberal wing of the Russian opposition has been largely crippled by a government crackdown. But another danger are the nationalists, especially the radical volunteers who are infiltrating Ukraine in droves to fight for the separatists, and who will be outraged if Putin explicitly denies them support, experts said.
"If they go in one direction, they can go in another," Lipman said. "And these people are ready to shoot." The problem for the Kremlin is that acting on domestic public expectations is likely to bring about a severe international backlash, said Shelin. Though direct Russian involvement in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane has not been proven, the incident has already been compared to the 1988 bombing of a U.S. passenger jet over Lockerbie in Scotland staged by the Libyan government. The incident ruined the global image of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi and triggered economic sanctions that trimmed Libya's GDP by a quarter over a decade. Western countries have already imposed sanctions against selected Russian companies and officials, and are considering expanding them to entire sectors of the economy. Public humiliation is also possible — U.S. and Ukrainian media are already calling for Russia to be stripped of the 2018 World Cup — and the bruises to Russia's global image could take years to fade. There appears to be no solution that would simultaneously end the hostilities in Ukraine, appease the Russian public and allow Putin to save face, Makarkin said. The two current options — giving up on the rebels or antagonizing the West — are both "catastrophic" for the Kremlin, Lipman said. "Putin needs a totally unexpected maneuver to get out of this one," she said. "He has pulled it off before, but the situation has never been as tight as now."

^ It's true that Putin is in a difficult situation both at home and around the world, but it's something that he created for himself. You have to take the good with the bad. You can reap the benefits of popularity, etc when you invade and occupy a foreign territory and no one really opposes you, but you also have to take the consequences when you train and supply a militant group that commits murder. It's sad that the world (especially the EU) stopped paying attention to what was going on in  the Ukraine and only now pay attention to it because of the non-Ukrainian deaths. Had the Serbs done the same thing during the Bosnian War I'm sure the world leaders would have done more to stop the massacres and the Siege of Sarajevo rather than ignoring them for years. I don't know how Putin and Russia will handle all of this. I can only hope they stop supporting terrorists and work to bring peace. ^

Somber Mourning

From Yahoo:
"Israeli mood turns dark with mounting casualties"

For almost two weeks, Israel practically bristled with confidence and pride: The Iron Dome air defense system was dependably zapping incoming Hamas rockets from the skies, the military was successfully repelling infiltration attempts on the ground and from the sea, and the conflict with Hamas was causing almost no casualties in Israel. That has changed in what seems like a flash, after at least 25 soldiers were killed and scores injured — a predictable yet still stunning outcome of the fateful decision, announced late Thursday, to send troops and tanks by land into Hamas-ruled Gaza.
In a country where military service is mandatory for most citizens, and military losses are considered every bit as tragic as civilian ones, the reaction to the setbacks was electric. Newspapers and broadcasts have been dominated by images and tales of the fallen — mostly young faces barely out of high school — and interviews with parents concerned for offspring so clearly now imperiled.
Angst over the highest military toll since the 2006 Lebanon war now mixes with a cocktail of emotions: on one hand, a strong current of determination to press on with efforts to end the rocket fire from Gaza; on the other, the sinking feeling that a quagmire is at hand. "It's ugly and it's no walk in the park," said Alon Geller, a 42-year-old legal intern from central Israel. "But we have to finish the operation. If we stop now before reaching our goals, the soldiers will have died in vain." There was always near-consensus among Israelis for the airstrikes aimed at ending the rocket fire, which they considered unreasonable and outrageous. The Palestinian fatalities caused by the airstrikes — over 500 in two weeks, many of them civilians — are generally blamed here on Hamas, for locating launchers in civilian areas and for proving to be cynical and nihilistic, to Israeli eyes, at every turn.
But a ground invasion of Gaza is another story, and the government had clearly hesitated to take the risk. House-to-house fighting, tanks exposed in fields, the danger of a soldier being kidnapped, to be traded for thousands after years in captivity: It is an untidy and dispiriting affair.  The government felt it necessary to take such a risky step because despite all the damage being inflicted on Gaza by the airstrikes, the Hamas rocket fire simply did not stop. Israeli officials also felt world opinion would understand after Hamas rejected a cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted. Complicating the situation from Israel's perspective, Hamas does not seem to be coming under significant pressure from the people of Gaza despite the devastation they are enduring. While Gaza is no democracy and Hamas rules by force, this seems to reflect genuine support for Hamas' aim of breaking the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the strip. "This brought it home that they are out to kill us and we have to stop them," said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a political analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies. "No one can say he (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) was trigger-happy. It convinced the Israeli public that the decision taken by Netanyahu came from a sense of 'we have no other choice.'" Despite the absence of panic Monday, it is clear that if soldiers continue to be killed at this rate, the flexibility enjoyed by Netanyahu to date will likely be replaced by a growing sense of urgency to stop the casualties. Many Israeli leftists will demand an end to the operation. Hard-liners will demand more radical action, up to and including a takeover of Gaza. That will add to the already mounting pressure from an outside world horrified by the carnage on the Palestinian side.
The prime minister is probably mindful that the popularity tipping point for his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, came when the public concluded too many soldiers were being killed and that the military was not fully prepared during the 2006 war. Some — in the government and on the street — are already calling for a total invasion aimed at ousting Hamas, even if this leaves Israel again occupying a hostile and impoverished population of 1.8 million, as it did for nearly four uncomfortable decades until its pullout from Gaza in 2005. For the moment the ground operation is mostly limited to areas relatively near the Israeli border, where Israel is shutting down tunnels and hunting for rocket launchers; a takeover of Gaza City would probably be much more costly still. "I hate war. I'm pained by every death," said Haviv Shabtai, a 61-year-old Jerusalem bus driver who has served in several wars, has a son currently called up, and had opposed a ground invasion because of the risk. Shabtai said he took the losses personally and was even physically overwhelmed at the news. "After recovering from that shock," he said, "I say go all the way."

^ This just shows how human the Israeli people are. They mourn the civilians and the soldiers (like no other country in the world does) and yet they realize what's at stake and that they didn't start the bombings and have to do whatever they can to stop them. The Palestinians, on the other hand, don't seem to care how many of them die and only put on the "water-works" when the cameras are on. While Israel mourns over 25 dead Gaza cares little for their 500 dead. Some may see that as a sign of "defiance" but I see it as an arrogance that has no basis. ^

Elderly Remember

From DW:
"Crowded out by hipsters, Berlin's elderly keep smiling"

The Berlin they grew up in was completely different, run by either the Nazis or the communists. As the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood now gentrifies, DW's Leah McDonnell speaks with those who were there first.  Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood is strewn with WiFi-equipped coffee shops, Montessori pre-schools, om-infused yoga studios, and organic grocery stores. Sleekly designed bikes and baby buggies crowd the sidewalks, while compact, low-emissions vehicles line the streets of renovated, turn-of-the-century houses. Prenzlauer Berg is Germany's hipster hub, a trendy metropolitan mecca for wealthy urban dwellers from all over the world. But it hasn't always been that way. Up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Prenzlauer Berg was just another inconspicuous district of East Berlin. It was home to working-class Berliners living hard, simple lives, submitting to their war-torn destinies and adhering to the dictates of the East German regime. When you speak with elderly natives here, there's no bitterness in their tales, only an uncanny affection for the past, and for the one constant in their lives - Prenzlauer Berg. What many identify with most now is the neighborhood itself; the physical turf on which their lives began, unfolded, and - if they're lucky - where it will end. Gerda Ohst, 92, has lived in Prenzlauer Berg her entire life. She's survived two husbands and her children are seniors citizens themselves. Ohst's bright eyes light up when she hears I'm from New York City. "My parents lived there too!" she tells me. "When I was four years old my parents moved New York - without me."  Like many of her generation, Ohst was raised by her grandmother. Her glassy eyes scan me with a small child's curiosity, as if I might magically be able to reconnect her with her lost parents. I watch Ohst mentally pack away her still vital childhood fantasy and continue her story. She tells me of her marriages, her job in a textile factory, and about how her mother came back to Prenzlauer Berg unannounced when Ohst was 17. "My father had died and she wanted to take me back home to New York. 'Home?,' I said, 'Prenzlauer Berg is the only home I've ever known.' And so she returned to New York alone." Hearing stories like Ohst's, it's easy to understand her generation's attachment to their physical surroundings. For them, moving was rarely a choice, but something that happened to them, and often meant the loss of their closely woven social network and community. These days, the few elderly natives left in Prenzlauer Berg gather at the citizen-run center for seniors called Herbstlaube. A few years back, 200 regulars started meeting here for lunch or to knit or play mini-golf together. Just 20 of the original Herbstlaube members remain. One of the younger ones, 70-year-old Christa Seeger, recalls the Prenzlauer Berg of her youth: "Back then, everyone on the block knew each other. You could ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar or a few tablespoons of coffee. Families lived in one house for decades, and the new generations grew up together. These days my neighbors move in and out so quickly, there's no chance to establish any real connection."  Seeger adds, "It's different now. Sure, everyone is helpful and friendly and I have good relationships with all of my neighbors. But it's not the same." She was born in Berlin and never traveled far. "Seeing other places never interested me much, and now the world comes to me! Today three-quarters of my neighbors are foreigners," says Seeger. Prenzlauer Berg once rang out with the homogenous, hard clang of the East Berlin dialect. Now Seeger hears many foreign languages and encounters people from different cultures daily on her street. "Anyway," she comments, "If there is a place I want to see, I can do it on the Internet." Currently her mobility concerns are more local. "My kids are going to buy me the Rolls Royce of walkers so I can get navigate the cobblestones and curbs more easily," she says, sitting back in her chair with a smile.  Home is where the heart is. Or maybe the heart is where the home is? One gentleman at Herbstlaube is not as much at home here in Prenzlauer Berg as the other members.  Eighty-five-year-old Egbert Haugwitz is from Hanover. His children live in Berlin, so when he needed to be cared for, they brought him here. Haugwitz worked in construction his whole life, but today his tough façade has become softer and his is easily moved to tears by the memory of his wife, his hip operation or a visit by his grandchildren. While his physical needs are met, Haugwitz has been uprooted and cut off from his physical connection to his memories - and it hurts. There's a saying in Berlin: "Altwerden ist nicht für Weicheier," which literally means, "Getting older is not for soft eggs," or wimps. It takes strength to watch your environment and all the memories attached to it disappear before your eyes. For the last 25 years, the natives of Prenzlauer Berg have watched their neighborhood transform into a place they no longer recognize - and, more importantly, one that no longer recognizes them. They are invisible strangers on streets that were once theirs.  As an elderly person, Christa Seeger is out of place in her own neighborhood that now tailors to latté-drinking hipsters and their offspring. When I ask her and others about this point they shrug it off, refusing to waste time focusing on the negative. And that's what's so intriguing to me about Berlin's aging generation: their ability to appreciate life and exploit the joy to be found in any situation. It's a skill they needed to survive the last tumultuous century in Berlin - and one their new neighbors would be wise to adopt.

^ The elderly seem to be the same no matter what country they are from or what they went through in their youth. They love the familiar and remembering the past (often over-looking the bad.) It's interesting to see how this area of Berlin has changed (first Weimer, then Nazi, then Soviet, then Communist and now reunited with the rest of Berlin.) ^