Saturday, April 19, 2014

15 Hours Apart

From USA Today:
"Ohio couple married 70 years die 15 hours apart"

When Helen Felumlee passed away at the age of 92 Saturday morning, her family knew her husband Kenneth Felumlee, 91, wouldn't be slow to follow her. The couple couldn't bear to be apart very long, and Kenneth passed away only 15½ hours after his wife of 70 years. "We knew when one went, the other was going to go," said daughter Linda Cody to the Zanesville Times Recorder. "We wanted them to go together, and they did." After Kenneth had his leg amputated 2½ years ago because of circulation problems, Helen became his main caretaker, making sure he got everything he needed. She continued this up until three weeks before their deaths, when she became too frail to care for him. "She was so weak, she could hardly do it," Cody said. "But she was still pushing his chair; she was still filling his water cup." When Kenneth's health started to fail, Helen began sleeping on the couch to be near him. The two hadn't slept apart in 70 years, the family said. Years ago, when the two took an overnight ferry equipped with bunk-beds, they chose to both sleep on the bottom bunk rather than be separated for even a night. Soon after Kenneth, Helen's health also started to go downhill, and she was confined to a hospital bed near the end of her life. Kenneth took this particularly hard. "He would just reach out and grab her hand, but he would keep his head down because he couldn't stand to see her hurting," Cody said. Upon his wife's death, Kenneth was ready to join her, family said. "She was staying strong for Dad and he was staying strong for her," Cody said. "That's what kept them going."  Helen and Kenneth's love story began when they were just 18 and 19 after Kenneth's ex-girlfriend, a friend to Helen, introduced the two. They immediately hit it off, dating for three years before deciding to elope. Lying to their parents, the two said they were taking a day trip to Kentucky to visit Kenneth's old basketball coach. Heading to the courthouse with only $5 in their pockets, Kenneth and Helen arrived with barely enough to pay the $2 fee. The couple were wed Feb. 20, 1944, two days before Kenneth was legally old enough to get married. "He couldn't wait," son Jim Felumlee said. When the couple returned, they were too nervous to tell their parents right away, so they lived separately several weeks until Kenneth developed the courage to break the news of their elopement. "I would have liked to have been there for that conversation," Cody said. The newly official Felumlee family grew almost immediately, as Helen quickly became pregnant with the first of their eight children. Caring for a household of eight children was no easy task, but the couple was determined to make it work. Both Helen and Kenneth had grown up working, and they weren't afraid to put in the extra effort. Kenneth worked at the B&O/Chessie Systems Railroad as a car inspector while also operating Felumlee's Garage. He later worked as a rural mail carrier for the Nashport Post Office. In addition, he was active in his Nashport-Irville United Methodist Church as a Sunday school teacher and member of the Council on Ministry and administrative board. He also was a member of the board of education from Frazeysburg-Nashport schools, Tri-Valley schools, and the Muskingum County School Board. His children recall him coming home from one job, grabbing the only hour or two of sleep that he ever operated on, and then heading off to his other job. At night, it wasn't uncommon for Kenneth to leave the house in order to go help someone whose plumbing or car had broken. "Some days, he wouldn't sleep," Jim said.  The long absences could be hard to deal with, but Helen supported Kenneth in all his endeavors. "There would be hours he wasn't here, and she had all these kids, but she understood that it was a need in him to help other people," Cody said. Helen spent her days cooking and cleaning not only for her growing family, but for other families in need in the area. She even changed diapers for a neighbor's child, as the father was not keen on the task. She taught Sunday school and served on the Council on Ministry and Friendship Circle at the church, but was known even more for her greeting card ministry. Not only would Helen just send birthday cards, she would also send sympathy cards, greeting cards and holiday cards to everyone in her community, each with a personal note inside. "She kept Hallmark in business," daughter-in-law Debbie Felumlee joked. Jim added, "If you would forget your birthday, she would remind you." Together, the couple served their community, were active in the lives of their many grandchildren, and visited nursing homes on Sunday. Beloved by the community, Kenneth was jokingly dubbed the "self-appointed mayor of Nashport" by those that knew him well. When Kenneth retired in 1983 and the children began to leave the house, the Felumlees began to explore their love of travel, visiting almost all 50 states by bus. "He didn't want to fly anywhere, because you couldn't see anything as you were going," said Jim. The two grew with every day, their children said, and remained deeply in love until the very end. Even in their last days, Helen and Kenneth would eat breakfast together while holding hands.
About 12 hours after Helen died, Kenneth looked at his children and said, "Mom's dead." He quickly began to fade, and was surrounded by 24 of his closest family members and friends when he died Sunday morning. "It was a wonderful going away party," Cody said. "He was ready. He just didn't want to leave her here by herself."

^ This is a sad yet also nice story. Many people today only stay married for 15 hours and yet this couple were married for 70 years. They created a life that many can only dream of. ^

71st Ghetto

From the JP:
"71st anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto uprising commemorated"

Members of the Jewish community and residents of Warsaw on Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during World War II. Masses commemorated the Jewish revolt against final Nazi efforts in 1943 to deport the remaining ghetto population to death camps.  A commemorative ceremony took place at the Monument to the Ghetto Heros in the Polish capital.  The crowds then marched to the Umschlagplatz square where Jews had been rounded up by German troops for deportation to the Treblinka death camp. In 1940, the Nazis crammed around 400,000 Jews into the ghetto.  After mass deportations to the Treblinka death camp in 1942, some 700 fighters launched an uprising against thousands of German soldiers. The uprising was crushed after nearly a month, and about 7,000 Jews were shot.  The remaining Jews were sent to concentration camps.
^ The sad reality today is that the survivors at these events get smaller and smaller each year and yet the anti-Semitic attacks (like those in eastern Ukraine) continue to grow. Many non Jews tend to overlook these incidents since they aren't personally affected by them and that is how it started back in the 1930s and how it could start again today. People and governments also say "Never Again" and in the same breathe they look the other way to open attacks. ^

US In East

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Report: US ground troops to be sent to Poland, Estonia"

A small contingent of U.S. soldiers will deploy to Poland and Estonia for a series of upcoming ground exercises aimed at reassuring allies shaken by Russian intervention in neighboring Ukraine, according to a report. The U.S. is planning to send a company sized Army element of roughly 150 troops to conduct drills with allies, spanning roughly two weeks respectively in both Poland and Estonia, The New York Times reported Friday. The land force exercises being planned by the Obama administration are part of a broader undertaking by NATO to beef up its presence in eastern Europe. It is unclear what U.S. unit will be taking part in the exercises in Poland and Estonia, but more details are expected to be announced next week, the Times reported. On Wednesday, NATO said it would increase its presence in the region both on land, sea and air. Measures include plans for more fighter patrols over the Baltic nations and warships in the Baltic Sea and eastern Mediterranean. One way to ensure a steadier presence of ground forces in the region is through a series of on-going troops rotations. The plan to send 150 troops to Poland and Estonia could be a first step with more such rotations to come in the future. “There’s an entire range of possibilities and measures that are being considered,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a  Thursday news conference at the Pentagon with Poland’s defense minister Tomasz Siemoniak. “Rotational basis of training and exercises are always part of that." One such possibility that has been under consideration is the deployment elements from the Texas-based 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division — the unit already designated as the U.S. contribution to the NATO Reaction Force — to maintain a steadier regional presence. Warsaw is unlikely to be satisfied by such  limited, rotational deployments. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has urged NATO to station 10,000 troops in Poland. During the past two months, the U.S. has bolstered its presence in the region in a variety of ways as the crisis in and around Ukraine has unfolded. Steps have included the deployment of  12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland for more frequent training exercises. Hagel said that augmented presence will continue through the year. U.S. warships also have been a more regular presence in the Black Sea. In the weeks ahead, NATO’s plans for boosting its presence in eastern Europe are expected to become clearer as allies make troop contributing pledges for assorted missions. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO supreme allied commander and head of U.S. forces in Europe, earlier this week said Russian actions around Ukraine are a signal that security on the Continent can no longer be taken for granted as NATO reassess its posture. “We’ve had a paradigm shift, change, gone through a period where I think we thought we were past the time when military force would be used to change international borders in Europe,” Breedlove told reporters on Wednesday, adding that would change how NATO viewed security on the continent and the readiness and responsiveness of its forces.

^ After seeing the "limited" reactions of the EU, NATO and the US in the past few months I don't think this is anything other than a symbolic gesture. If the Russians invaded any of the NATO/EU countries that used to be part of the Iron Curtain/USSR (ie Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, etc) I don't see Western troops being effectively used to repel them. I see them fleeing more to the West. The West has shown Russia it's hand and that is one of a group of weak politicians (ie Obama) who would rather hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" than stand-up to their commitments. If I was living in one of those aster European countries that was once under Russian/Soviet occupation I would be scared too. ^

Punished Paying

From Yahoo:
"Student fought bureaucrats for Holocaust justice"

Charlotte van den Berg was a 20-year-old college student working part-time in Amsterdam's city archives when she and other interns came across a shocking find: letters from Jewish Holocaust survivors complaining that the city was forcing them to pay back taxes and late payment fines on property seized after they were deported to Nazi death camps. How, the survivors asked, could they be on the hook for taxes due while Hitler's regime was trying to exterminate them? A typical response was: "The base fees and the fines for late payment must be satisfied, regardless of whether a third party, legally empowered or not, has for some time held the title to the building." Following her discovery in 2011, Van den Berg waged a lonely fight against Amsterdam's modern bureaucracy to have the travesty publicly recognized. Now, largely due to her efforts, Amsterdam officials are considering compensating Holocaust survivors for the taxes and possibly other obligations, including gas bills, they were forced to pay for homes that were occupied by Nazis or collaborators while the rightful owners were in hiding or awaiting death in the camps. "I didn't expect any of this to happen, though I'm happy it finally did," Van den Berg told The Associated Press in an interview. "I never dreamed that compensation could be the result." An unpublished review of those files by the Netherlands' Institute of War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies — or NIOD — found 217 cases in which the city demanded that returning Jews pay the taxes and penalty fees for getting behind in their payments. Two Dutch newspapers, Het Parool and De Telegraaf, have received leaked copies of the report and published its conclusions. The report found that the city's top lawyer advised politicians of the time not to enforce the fines, but the recommendation was rejected. Politicians worried granting one claim might lead to more. "The city made a conscious decision to reject this advice, which cannot be described otherwise than as a totally needless callousness toward (Jews) who had their property taken during the war," De Telegraaf quoted the report as saying. Amsterdam's official ruling of Sept. 12, 1947, a public document viewed by the AP, was that "the city has the right to full payment of fees and fines" and that most excuses — including that property had been seized by the Nazis — were invalid. Ronny Nafthaniel — a leader of the Dutch Jewish community who sat on a vetting panel for the NIOD report and has reviewed a copy — said the papers' reporting is accurate. Spokespeople for the NIOD and the city declined to comment on the findings ahead of a statement planned next week.
Nafthaniel said many of the homes were sold to Dutch collaborators who left the bills unpaid and fled at the end of the war. "Another thing that happened, and this is almost too sad to relate, is that Jews got back from Auschwitz — and then got an invoice for the gas that had been used in their homes," Nafthaniel said.  The Netherlands deported a relatively high percentage of its Jews during the Nazi occupation of 1940-1945 compared to other European countries, in part because of its efficient bureaucracy. An estimated 110,000 Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust, including teenage diarist Anne Frank. Around 30,000 survived the war, many later emigrating to Israel. The Institute report recommends that the city now pay survivors or their families 4.9 million euros ($6.7 million): 400,000 euros for the fines and 4.5 million euros for the back tax payments on homes they were unable to use while in hiding or incarcerated at German camps. However, these are only for one type of housing tax, specifically fees for long-term leases when the city owns the ground a house is built on. Nafthaniel said there were numerous other categories of unfair charges — such as the retroactive gas bills — but remaining records may be too spotty to do anything about those. There is also a major unanswered question about whether Jews who paid the back taxes and fees without filing a formal complaint should also be reimbursed. In one of the letters Van den Berg found, a Jewish man asked for an extension in paying the back taxes because his home had been seized by an organization created by the Nazis in 1941 to despoil Jews of their property. Before deportation, the man was also forced to surrender his assets to the Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. bank in Amsterdam, which transferred them to the Third Reich — leaving him with neither the house nor funds to pay for taxes on it. "In conclusion," the man wrote, "I'm asking you in handling this matter to be led by moral considerations."  No response was found in the archives, Van den Berg said. None of Van den Berg's colleagues or superiors had the time or inclination to take the matter further. So she took up the challenge: "My feeling was, they were too important to just let them lie there," she said. "This was an injustice that was done, not something you could just put aside and forget about." She did further research and found there were public records on the postwar tax charges in city archives, eventually leading to 342 case files in all. Van den Berg notified city officials about the documents and received assurances they would be fully investigated. Now and then she checked in, only to learn that nothing had been done. In March 2013, Van der Berg heard that the documents were "one signature away" from being destroyed, as other documents from the era had been. She was told that didn't matter because they had been digitized, but she felt it was important to preserve the physical evidence. She hoped the letters would one day go on public display.  In desperation, she turned her findings over to Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool in March 2013. The publication caused an outcry, and the city quickly commissioned a more thorough study by the NIOD to examine the documents and place them in a wider context of the city's postwar treatment of Jews. The study, partly leaked by the newspapers, is due to be officially released this month. Nafthaniel said other painful revelations have come to light during the investigation, such as a chain of letters during the occupation where Amsterdam city officials complained that "dog tax" revenue had plummeted, and demanded compensation from German authorities. They never mentioned the reason for the decline in revenues: the dogs' Jewish owners had been deported. Naftaniel praised Van den Berg's role in uncovering the documents. "She is absolutely a hero" he said. "She pushed her bosses and all the civil servants around her to open up these files, even when they told her not to bother."

^ Unfortunately, this isn't a single incident. The majority of countries occupied by the Nazis and later liberated did the same thing to the returning survivors. Many governments did it because they were anti-Semitic and praised the Germans for helping to get rid of the Jews. Some governments did it because they openly collaborated with the Nazis during the war and wanted to get something from the peace. The sad reality is that many Holocaust victims were punished during the war by the Nazis and their own people and continued to be punished after the war by their own governments. I hope that more of these records are made public across Europe and that the governments and people guilty are made known. ^

Friday, April 18, 2014

Add Israel

From the JP:
"Hassle-free travel: US pushing to add Israel to visa waiver program"

The United States and Israel are creating a working group to help Israel advance toward joining the visa waiver program. “This is a goal of both the United States and Israel, and it would make travel easier for citizens of both countries,” Julia Frifield, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, said in a letter sent Thursday to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). The Department of Homeland Security is also part of the working group, Frifield said. The letter was the first indication that the US government is dedicating resources to facilitate Israel’s entry to the program, which allows travel without pre-arranged visas. Two major obstacles have kept Israel from joining the program: Allegations by US officials that Israel has discriminated against Arab- and Muslim-Americans seeking entry, and a proliferation of young Israelis traveling to the United States as tourists and then working illegally. The maximum visa rejection rate for entry into the program is 3 percent, and Israel’s is at 9.7 percent, spiking up from a 6 percent average in recent years. The letter from Frifield to Lowey outlined measures that would address concerns about visas denied because of suspicions that applicants planned to seek illegal employment, but did not touch the issue of discrimination, although State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki raised it last month, saying it was a core issue.
Among the measures outlined by Frifield in her letter were a review of practices affecting Israelis aged 21-26 who want to travel to the United States, more education about how best to obtain visas for such travel and expanding cultural exchange programs for young Israelis. Frifield said the State Department had reviewed the visa refusal rate for Israelis aged 21-26 and found it had doubled from 16 percent to 32 percent in 2013. She said the main factor in the increase was Israelis seeking work illegally and noted the visa approval rate for that age group was nonetheless relatively high. “We know that despite a two-thirds approval rate, this increase has led to a perception by some that young Israelis  are unwelcome to travel in the United States,” Frifield said. “Clearly that is not the case. Israel is one of our closest friends and allies.” Lowey, who with other lawmakers led demands for a review of the visa rejection rate for young Israelis, praised the measures outlined by Frifield.
“I am pleased Embassy Tel Aviv and the State Department will undertake this full review of visa policies and have committed to making it easier — not more difficult — for young Israelis to travel to the United States,” she said in a statement.

^ Israel should be included in the Visa Waiver Program. Israelis can go to Canada, Mexico, most of South America and Europe - including Russia - without visas and yet they can't come to the US. The US and Israel have always been strong allies throughout the decades. We have even helped build and pay for the Iron Dome which helped protect Israeli cities from Palestinian missiles - the first time ever. Congress should start working and make this happen - it should have been done a long time ago (while they are at it they should also include Poland -which the US has strung along the VWP for years.) ^

Ukraine Russian

From the MT:
"Ukraine Government Pledges Russian Language Rights"

Ukraine's acting president and prime minister offered some of their strongest pledges yet on Friday to strengthen constitutional rights to use Russian language in an effort to defuse separatist protests.
In a joint televised address, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for national unity, urged people to refrain from violence and said they would support constitutional change and decentralizing more power to local councils, including over their official language — a central demand of Russian-speaking protesters in the east. "The Ukrainian government is prepared to conduct comprehensive constitutional reform which will strengthen the powers of the regions," Yatseniuk said. This would include giving executive powers to locally elected officials in place of those currently appointed by central government, he said. "We will strengthen the special status of the Russian language and protect this language," he added. At present, millions of Ukrainians, including many who do not consider themselves ethnically Russian, speak Russian as a first language and have a right to use it for some official purposes in those regions where Russian-speakers are a majority. The constitution already contains some protection for Russian and other languages but names Ukrainian, a related Slavic tongue, as the sole language of the state.
Many Russian-speakers feared the overthrow of the Kremlin-backed president in February could harm their interests, especially after Ukrainian nationalists in parliament attempted, ultimately in vain, to pass a bill abolishing Russian language rights. Turchynov expressed disappointment that parliament had on Friday failed to unanimously support a draft of the proposed reforms. The former ruling Party of Regions, whose power base is in the Russian-speaking east, said the proposals fell short. The party wants Russian to have equal status with Ukrainian. Turchynov, noting the approach of Easter on Sunday, said: "We call on all citizens to reach out their hands to each other, to refrain from radical actions and the language of hatred." He stressed his desire for a "unitary Ukraine" — a phrase that combines the promise of decentralization with a rejection of the federal structure proposed by some easterners and by Russia. Kiev says that would lead to continued Russian interference and the eventual break-up of the Ukrainian state. "To achieve peace and understanding among the citizens of Ukraine," he added, "regional, municipal and district councils will be given the right to decide to grant, within a particular area, alongside Ukrainian, the state language, official status to the Russian language or to another language spoken by a majority of the local population."
A variety of other languages are spoken in certain parts of Ukraine, notably Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak in the west.

^ While it is a good thing for the Ukraine to protect the use of the Russian language I don't think this act will stop the pro-Russians inside the country from taking over buildings and creating "People's Republics." ^

Thursday, April 17, 2014

People's Leaflet

From USA Today:
"Leaflet tells Jews to register in East Ukraine"

World leaders and Jewish groups condemned a leaflet handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which Jews were told to "register" with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over a government office in an attempt to make Ukraine part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media. Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee "or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated," reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website, and Ukraine's Donbass news agency. Secretary of State John Kerry said the language of the leaflets "is beyond unacceptable" and condemned whomever is responsible. "In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable — it's grotesque," he said. "And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities — from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of — there is no place for that." U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt called the leaflets "the real deal." But the man whose name appears on the leaflets, Denis Pushilin, identified as chairman of "Donetsk's temporary government," said he was not responsible. Pushilin, who is a leader of the pro-Russian movement in Donetsk, acknowledged that leaflets were distributed under his organization's name but denied any connection to them, Ynet reported. Donetsk is the site of an "anti-terrorist" operation by the Ukraine government, which has moved military columns into the region to force out militants who are demanding a referendum be held to join Russia. Emanuel Shechter, in Israel, told Ynet his friends in Donetsk sent him a copy of the leaflet through social media. "They told me that masked men were waiting for Jewish people after the Passover eve prayer, handed them the flier and told them to obey its instructions," he said. The leaflet begins "Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality" and states that all people of Jewish descent over 16 years old must report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and "register." It says the reason is because the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta, a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement that fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, "and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk," a name adopted by the militant leadership.
The leaflet then described which documents Jews should provide: "ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles." Consequences for non-compliance will result in citizenship being revoked "and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property," it said. A registration fee of $50 would be required, it said. Olga Reznikova, 32, a Jewish resident of Donetsk, told Ynet she never experienced anti-Semitism in the city until she saw this leaflet. "We don't know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it's serious that it exists," she said. "The text reminds me of the fascists in 1941," she said referring to the Nazis who occupied Ukraine during World War II. The Jewish community in Donetsk issued a statement saying the leaflet distribution "smells like a provocation." The chief rabbi of nearby Dnipropetrovsk, Shmuel Kaminezki said, "Everything must be done to catch them." "It's important for everyone to know its not true," Kaminezki told CNN. "The Jews of Donetsk will not do what the letter says." Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the USA, said the leaflets should be seen in the context of a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe. "This is a frightening new development in the anti-Jewish movement that is gaining traction around the world," Klein said. Michael Salberg, director of the international affairs at the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League, said it's unclear whether the leaflets were issued by the pro-Russian leadership or a splinter group operating within the pro-Russian camp. But he said the Russian side has used the specter of anti-Semitism in a cynical manner. Russia and its allies in Ukraine have issued multiple stories about the threat posed to Jews by Ukraine's new pro-Western government in Kiev, Salberg said. "The message is a message to all the people that is we're going to exert our power over you," he said. "Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don't step out of line."

^   This is beyond disturbing and shouldn't be overlooked by anyone or any government - Ukrainian or not and Jewish or not. The Nazis used the same kind of message to lure the Jews of Kyiv to Babi Yar (where in one day in September 1941 34,000 men, women and children were murdered.) I went to the site of Babi Yar with my mom and sister when we were in Kyiv and it has become the local "lover's lane" with only a few monuments to remember the killings. I took the above picture at Babi Yar - it is the exact spot where the killings took place. It is things like these anti-Semitic leaflets that make "People's Republics" a joke. I do not think this letter is a joke and those responsible should be arrested and charged with hate crimes. For those that don't think this involves them should read the Martin Niemoeller poem: " First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me." That says it all. ^

70 Years: '44

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Europe pulling all stops to mark 70th anniversary of key WWII events"

Some townspeople here still remember that day in April 1944 when a burning American B-17 screamed low overhead, crashed and exploded in a nearby field. Crippled by German flak, the bomber sailed like a flaming arrow into ground now occupied by dozens of grazing cows. Antonio De la Serna, who was 11 when he witnessed the crash, shudders when recalling the sputtering roar of the dying engines. “We were quite afraid,” he said. But seven decades later, the town of Fouleng celebrates that day as if it were a holiday. Four Americans bailed out before impact. One was captured by the Germans; three were rescued by local residents. It was the villagers’ first brush with the forces that would, five months later, liberate Belgium. “The reason we are here in Fouleng is that we all have a duty to remember,” Mayor Christian Leclercq said in a ceremony Sunday, marking 70 years to the day that the Flying Fortress crashed here. “For you Americans, it is to show your affection to the servicemembers who defended the country. For us Belgians, it is to thank the Americans for joining World War II against the invasion of the Nazis.” The commemoration drew at least 100 people — the best-attended event marking the crash since a church service in 1944.
Those numbers were driven largely by the return of 94-year-old Troy Hollar, the sole surviving member of that ill-fated flight, and of more than 20 family members of the crew. But time is also a critical factor. Commemorations across the Continent are pulling out all the stops this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the last year of World War II, with an expectation that by the next major milestone in five years there might not be many WWII veterans to celebrate with. The Netherlands American Cemetery, where 8,301 U.S. servicemembers from World War II are buried, is the second-most visited American cemetery in Europe — only Normandy gets more traffic. Yet despite healthy attendance of between 250,000 to 300,000 visitors annually, only three veterans of the war have visited in the last year, said Richard Arsenault, the cemetery’s assistant superintendent. Not long ago, much of his time was spent accommodating veterans and their direct descendants. “But now we realize that we are getting less,” he said. Visits by the siblings of World War II veterans also are in steep decline; same, too, for their children. “We are getting a lot of, ‘He was our great uncle,’ or things like that,” Arsenault said. Still, interest in the cemetery has not waned. Numerous groups, many of them made up of World War II enthusiasts from around Europe, are jostling to get their events on the cemetery’s calendar. The crush is even more severe in Normandy, a large region of northern France where tens of thousands of Allied troops landed on five widely spread beaches on June 6, 1944, to establish the foothold that would lead to Germany’s defeat. Accommodations at local hotels have long been booked solid for the days of parades, fireworks, re-enactments and visits by world leaders that will commemorate the largest amphibious assault in history. But there are scores — if not hundreds — of other events around the Continent over the next year, leading up to the 70th anniversary on May 8, 2015, of the Allied Victory in Europe. Many are organized by local groups and not much publicized. Others draw huge crowds and celebrities. On April 28, a group dedicated to preserving the history of Exercise Tiger — a large-scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy — will hold a memorial service in honor of the 946 American servicemen who died at Slapton Sands in Devon, England. On May 18, Britain’s Prince Harry goes to Italy to commemorate four major battles between January and May 1944 in which nearly a quarter-million Allied troops from Britain, the United States, Poland, India, France and New Zealand took part. Referred to by some as the Stalingrad of the Italian front, the fourth battle ended with the liberation of Monte Cassino and opened a passage for the Allies to advance on Rome. Celebrations across France will dominate much of the late spring and early summer, starting with the Normandy invasion in June and continuing with the liberation of Cherbourg June 26, Caen on July 9, and scores of other lesser-known places along the route to Paris, which was retaken by friendly forces on Aug. 25, 1944.
 In Belgium, where Fouleng held a memorial ceremony Sunday, the real celebration kicks off in September to mark the country’s liberation. From Sept. 5-7, the city of Mons will host “Tanks in Town,” featuring a large collection of vintage armor to commemorate its liberation by forces from the U.S. 3rd Armored Division. The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial will be host to two concerts and a film from Sept. 12-14 to commemorate the country’s liberation. Also starting Sept. 14, the Belgians and Dutch launch a week of celebrations marking Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ unsuccessful attempt to bring the war to an early end depicted in the classic war film “A Bridge Too Far.” Though the schedule isn’t set, it’s expected to include convoys of some 600 vintage military vehicles that will drive from Leopoldsburg, Belgium, to Veghel, Netherlands, Sept. 14, and from Veghel to Nijmegen, Netherlands, Sept. 20. After that, the winter is peppered with events in remembrance of the Battle of the Bulge, the German counteroffensive that left some 19,000 Americans dead and many more wounded or captured. Thousands of people, many in vintage uniforms, are expected to take part in road marches and re-enactments with special attention placed on the feats of the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. All of these events are expected to be bigger than usual because, for re-enactors and other World War II enthusiasts, “if [the year] ends in a five or a zero, they’re going to want to be part of it,” Arsenault said.
^ While 2014 is not the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 (2015 is) it is still important to remember the key events that happened in 1944 that helped end the war in 1945. The main events are: the D-Day landings in June 1944, the liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. These all helped turn the tide of the war. ^

Au Revoir Marois

From the Globe and Mail:
"Quebec will become a sovereign nation, tearful Marois insists"

It was an abrupt end to an illustrious political career. Pauline Marois held her final cabinet meeting as Premier of Quebec on Wednesday and is about to leave political life again, this time for good. Ms. Marois couldn’t hold back the tears as she took stock of a political career that spanned more than 30 years including seven as party leader and the short eighteen months as premier.  “It will soon be seven years when I left my garden after a brief retirement because I still wanted to serve Quebec,” Ms. Marois said, tears draining from her eyes, her voice thick with emotion as she tried to deliver her final goodbyes as premier. “I’ve read this twenty times but I still can’t seem to get through it,” she said, trying to muster enough composure to deliver her statement. “Can someone please give me a handkerchief?” she asked, shedding more tears. It was the first time Ms. Marois spoke publicly since the Parti Québécois’ devastating April 7 election defeat, finally coming out of hiding to bid her final farewell. Still deeply wounded by her loss and demoralized by the party’s lowest level of voter support in over 40 years, Ms. Marois insisted she had no regrets. Even though during her tenure as party leader, Ms. Marois rejected calls within her own caucus to take bold initiatives to promote Quebec independence, she remained convinced that Quebec will one day take that important step and become a sovereign nation. “I don’t know when, I don’t how, but one thing that I do know is that we would be in a better situation if we were independent. I am sure of that. We are different, we are a nation, we have our French language and our culture which is very important. We are able to do it if we decide to choose this freedom,” Ms. Marois said. Just before holding her final cabinet meeting, Ms. Marois finally met with Premier-elect Philippe Couillard after putting off the face-to-face encounter for several days. The meeting was brief – about 20 minutes– and courteous. No doubt the mudslinging between the two leaders that marked the last campaign had left its toll. Mr. Couillard emerged from the meeting anxious to move on with the business of governing. “It’s an important day but there will be many important days ahead as well,” the Liberal Leader said. Ms. Marois urged her Liberal counterpart to adopt a number of measures initiated by government, including the End-of-Life Bill that allows for euthanasia under certain strict conditions. But she specifically called on the Premier-elect to become a guardian of the French language. “We need protection. No government can avoid the responsibility that comes with being the leader of the only French-language nation of the Americas. We have a responsibility to defend our language and our culture. I have concerns with regards to our language and I mentioned it to Mr. Couillard hoping that his government will act on this front,” Ms. Marois said during Wednesday’s news conference. The PQ leader said she was proud of being the first woman to be elected premier of the province and gratified for what her government accomplished during its short term in power. She said she wanted her government to be remembered as the one which fought corruption and collusion by adopting legislation to protect the integrity of public institutions. Ms. Marois will stay on as PQ leader until the next party meeting on June 7 where she will address rank and file members for the last time. Meanwhile Mr. Couillard will have his cabinet sworn in next Wednesday and begin preparations for an inaugural speech and the tabling of a budget when he decides to convene the National Assembly later next month

^ This Marois woman is so delusional - as I have said before. I'm glad she is leaving politics and hopefully she (and other separatists like her) will get the hint that the people of Quebec do not want to become a separate country - as the 1980, 1995 and elections like this last one as shown. Also, Marois needs to learn her geography. She said that there is no French-language nation other than Quebec (if it becomes independent.) Right off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada lies Saint Pierre and Miquelon which is owned by France. Also there is French Guiana in South America (again owned by France) along with numerous French territories in the Caribbean. Hopefully, now Quebec can move forward and prosper. The last thing I have to say to Ms. Marois, as a French Canadian, is "Au Revoir."

Putin Q&A

From the BBC:
"Analysis: Vladimir Putin's veiled threats over Ukraine"

Russian President Vladimir Putin's yearly Q&A session is always a mammoth and carefully orchestrated event. This year it lasted nearly four hours and was dominated by questions about Crimea and Ukraine.  It was a chance for Mr Putin to project himself as a reassuring statesman to his people, a leader who, from Russia's point of view, had this crisis under control.  To his supporters he would have seemed a model peacemaker, advocating diplomacy and compromise. But his critics would have heard veiled threats, and an underlying steely determination to have his way.  And in the light of what's been agreed in Geneva, his comments are also illuminating, a guide to what it is that Moscow wants.  His main argument was that at the heart of any compromise had to be a deal between the government in Kiev and "real representatives" of the Russian-speaking rebels of eastern Ukraine (including some of the self-styled separatist leaders who have been imprisoned).  That indeed was Russia's starting point at the talks in Geneva today between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU, which have now resulted in an agreement to take initial steps to de-escalate the tension.
But what Mr Putin made clear was that in his view the most important talks - between the two opposing sides in Ukraine itself - have yet to start. What he stressed again and again was that all Russia wanted was what the pro-Russian protestors of eastern Ukraine themselves demand - some sort of federal or decentralised arrangement, so they can run their own affairs (and presumably stay closely tied to Russia), and a guarantee that these rights would be protected by law. It did not matter which came first, he said: a referendum to change the constitution, or the election planned for 25 May for a new Ukrainian president. The key was whether Kiev could deliver a deal and a guarantee which the east Ukrainians accepted. So far, so good. Not a hint of talk of any secessionist aims, of eastern Ukraine following Crimea's lead to break away and join Russia (an option which has found less traction, it seems, in eastern Ukraine than it did among Russian-speakers in Crimea). That, it seems, is not what Russia wants. But the vision of compromise, if all goes well with negotiations, was only half of what Mr Putin had to say. There were also harsh words and warnings of what could happen if this attempt to exit from the crisis doesn't work. To have sent the Ukrainian army into eastern Ukraine was madness, said Mr Putin, a "grave crime" which meant that the illegal government in Kiev was staring into the abyss.  He categorically rejected allegations that Russian special forces were operating in eastern Ukraine too. This, he said was "utter nonsense": the only forces in eastern Ukraine were locals, forced to take up arms in self-defence. Kiev had to pull its Ukrainian troops and heavy weaponry out, he said, before any compromise could possibly work. And if not, then Moscow would not recognise the presidential election in May and, more chilling still, everyone should remember that the Russian parliament had given him what he called the "right" to use Russian military force in Ukraine.  He stressed that he hoped he would not have to give the order. But the threat remains: as a last resort, those tens of thousands of Russian troops based across the border might indeed be ordered to invade. And if Russians feared that this might create enmity for the first time in history between Russia and its Ukrainian brethren, it was not Russia's fault, said Mr Putin. He nodded to (unnamed) foreign powers who were always trying to drive a wedge between Russia and its neighbours out of fear of Russia's size and power.  "Look at Yugoslavia," he said. "They cut it up and then began to manipulate it. That's what they want to do with us." This paranoia that the West has been out to weaken Russia emerged in other comments too.  Absorbing Crimea into Russia had also been important in terms of national defence, he admitted, because otherwise the Nato alliance might have moved into Crimea and Sevastopol, elbowing Russia out of its rightful position at the heart of the Black Sea. But Mr Putin's attitude to the West is complicated. He also wants to be friends again - and so, it seems, do many Russians. A succession of questions made clear that while Russians may welcome the return of Crimea to the motherland, they are also worried about the price they might have to pay for this victory.

President Putin tried to reassure them:

  • that there was enough money in Russian reserves to cover the billions of roubles needed to prop Crimea up
  • that crippling European sanctions were unlikely
  • that Russia did not face the prospect of international isolation because many countries understood its point of view
  • that if the Ukraine crisis could be resolved peacefully, a good working relationship with the United States and Europe could be restored

It was a telling reflection of the anxieties of ordinary Russian people.  Just as his own performance was an insight into the fears and suspicions which have driven Vladimir Putin's actions so far and a glimpse of his game plan for how this Ukrainian crisis might be resolved. But the tensions have not yet subsided. His deep-seated grievances against the West will probably not go away. And after all that has happened it may be harder to rebuild co-operation with Western partners and with any new government in Kiev than he assumes. It's still too soon to tell which way this crisis may turn out.

^ These Q and A sessions are basically pointless since everything and everyone is pre-screened. It is simply another state of the nation speech rather than a live "town hall meeting." ^

Ukraine Deal

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Deal reached on calming Ukraine tensions"

In a surprise accord, Ukraine and Russia agreed Thursday on tentative steps to halt violence and calm tensions along their shared border after more than a month of Cold War-style military posturing triggered by Moscow's annexation of Crimea. Russia's pledge to refrain from further provocative actions drew support but also a measure of skepticism from President Barack Obama, who said at a news conference at the White House that the United States and its allies were prepared to ratchet up sanctions if Moscow doesn't fulfill its commitments. "I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point," Obama said after Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and diplomats from Ukraine and Europe sealed their agreement after hours of talks in Geneva. The abruptly announced agreement, brokered by the West, provides no long-term guide for Ukraine's future nor any guarantee that the crisis in eastern Ukraine will abate. But it eases international pressure both on Moscow and nervous European Union nations that depend on Russia for their energy. Reached after seven hours of negotiations, the deal requires all sides to refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions. It calls for disarming all illegally armed groups and returning to Ukrainian authorities control of buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists during protests.
Notably, though, it does not require Russia to withdraw an estimated 40,000 troops massed near the Ukrainian border. Nor does it call for direct talks between Russia and Ukraine. The agreement says Kiev's plans to reform its constitution and transfer more power from the central government to regional authorities must be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It gives amnesty to protesters who comply with the demands, except those found guilty of committing capital crimes. The negotiations came against the backdrop of the bloodiest episode to date in the clashes that pit the new government in Kiev against an eastern insurgency the West believes is backed by Moscow. In the eastern Ukraine Black Sea port of Mariupol, authorities said three pro-Russian protesters were killed and 13 injured overnight Wednesday during an attempted raid on a Ukrainian National Guard base.
As for the agreement reached in Geneva, monitors with the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will be tasked with helping Ukraine authorities and local communities comply with the requirements. Lavrov said the OSCE mission "should play a leading role" moving forward.
Kerry called the one-page agreement "a good day's work." But, anticipating Obama's remarks a few hours later, he stressed that if Russia does not abide by a pledge to de-escalate the crisis by the end of the upcoming Easter weekend, the West would have no choice but to impose new sanctions as initially planned. In a further sign of impatience on the part of the Obama administration, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. would send non-lethal assistance to Ukraine's military in light of what he called Russia's ongoing destabilizing actions in the country. The aid will include medical supplies, helmets, water purification units and power generators. In remarks at his own news conference in Geneva, Kerry said, "It is important that these words are translated immediately into actions. None of us leaves here with a sense that the job is done because of words on a paper."
Lavrov said the agreement was the product of compromise by the two sides that as recently as a several weeks ago refused to speak, intensifying the crisis and ratcheting up East-West tensions to levels not seen since the Cold War. "Most important is that all participants recognize the fact that Ukrainians should assume leadership and ownership of settlement of the crisis in all aspects, be that resolving the issue in all aspects," Lavrov said. He repeated Moscow's statement that it does not intend to intervene militarily in Ukraine. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered slightly less assuring words. He reserved the right to act to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, but said he hoped it wouldn't be necessary to send in troops to do so.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia called the agreement "a test for Russia to show that it is really willing to have stability in this region." The U.S. and EU were prepared to broaden their list of Russian and Ukrainian officials and oligarchs whose assets and Western travel have been frozen if Thursday's talks hadn't shown movement. Even more punishing sanctions against Moscow's energy and banking sectors have been threatened. The EU is Russia's biggest trading partner and oil and gas client, and it has been reluctant to push ahead with penalties that would undercut its own citizens.
The EU instead has chastised Russia for threatening to cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine — a route for pipelines to Europe. In a letter Thursday, EU President Jose Manuel Barroso told Putin that Russia would risk its reputation as a reliable supplier should Ukraine's gas supplies be cut off. Moscow had threatened to end the deliveries to force Kiev to pay debts. In Ukraine, meanwhile, the interior ministry described a mob in Mariupol of about 300 people armed with stun grenades and firebombs — following the pattern of battle-ready militia bearing sophisticated weapons that have been involved in seizing government offices in the country's eastern regions. Ukraine also began stringent checks for Russian citizens seeking to enter the country, and Russian airline Aeroflot reported a ban on Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60 visiting except when traveling with family or to funerals of relatives. In a four-hour nationally televised call-in show in Moscow, Putin insisted that Russian special forces were not fomenting unrest in Ukraine, as Kiev and the U.S. claim.
But Putin also seemed to keep the door open for Russia to recognize Ukraine's presidential election set for May 25, softening his previous demand that it must be postponed until the fall and preceded by a referendum on broader powers for the regions. Ukraine has asked for military assistance from the U.S., a request that was believed to include lethal aid such as weapons and ammunition. Obama administration officials have said they were not actively considering lethal assistance for fear it could escalate an already tense situation. The U.S. has already sent Ukraine other assistance, such as pre-packaged meals for its military. In Brussels, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance would increase its presence in Eastern Europe, including flying more sorties over the Baltic region west of Ukraine and deploying allied warships to the Baltic Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. NATO's supreme commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, told reporters that ground forces also could be involved at some point, but he gave no details.

^ It is one thing to make an agreement between different countries and another for all sides to abide by it. Hopefully, all sides will follow what they agreed on in this case. ^

Battle For 2nds

From the MT:
"Forcing Russians to Disclose 2nd Citizenship Is Unconstitutional, Cabinet Says"

Russia's Cabinet of ministers, led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, has reportedly deemed unconstitutional a bill to force Russians to disclose whether they have citizenship in another country. However, President Vladimir Putin in a meeting last month supported the proposed measure, currently being considered by the lower house of parliament. The disagreement shows a rare rift between the head of state, who has the final say over whether a bill approved by parliament can become law, and the Cabinet, which heads the government's executive branch and is thus responsible for enforcing the country's laws. The Cabinet's deputy chairman, Sergei Prikhodko, said in a statement cited by the Vedomosti newspaper on Thursday that Article 62 of the Constitution declares that Russia views its citizens as only its own citizens, and officially proclaiming another citizenship runs counter to that definition. Elected officials and police officers are already obligated to disclose any other citizenship that they may have, and failure to do so may result in disciplinary actions. However, the Cabinet believes that failure to perform such a disclosure is not a crime because it does not endanger the public. Liberal Democratic Party member Andrei Lugovoi, who submitted the bill to parliament last month, said he had not seen the Cabinet's statement and declined to comment further.

^ It will be interesting to see if Putin or Medvedev will win this one. I'm sure that it won't be Medvedev. ^

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

War Inventions

From the BBC:
"10 inventions that owe their success to World War One"

1. Sanitary towels...

A material called Cellucotton had already been invented before war broke out, by what was then a small US firm - Kimberly-Clark. The company's head of research, Ernst Mahler, and its vice-president, James, C Kimberly, had toured pulp and paper plants in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia in 1914 and spotted a material five times more absorbent than cotton and - when mass-produced - half as expensive. They took it back to the US and trademarked it. Then, once the US entered the war in 1917, they started producing the wadding for surgicBut Red Cross nurses on the battlefield realised its benefits for their own personal, hygienic use, and it was this unofficial use that ultimately made the company's dressing at a rate of 380-500ft per minute.  "The end of the war in 1918 brought about a temporary suspension of K-C's wadding business because its principal customers - the army and the Red Cross - no longer had a need for the product," the company says today.  So it re-purchased the surplus from the military and created a new market. "After two years of intensive study, experimentation and market testing, the K-C team created a sanitary napkin made from Cellucotton and fine gauze, and in 1920, in a little wooden shed in Neenah, Wisconsin, female employees began turning out the product by hand," the company says. The new product, called Kotex (short for "cotton texture"), was sold to the public in October 1920, less than two years after the Armistice.

2. ... and paper hankies

Marketing sanitary pads was not easy, however, partly because women were loath to buy the product from male shop assistants. The company urged shops to allow customers to buy it simply by leaving money in a box. Sales of Kotex did rise but not fast enough for Kimberly-Clark, which looked for other uses for the material. In the early 1920s, CA "Bert" Fourness conceived the idea of ironing cellulose material to make a smooth and soft tissue. With much experimentation, facial tissue was born in 1924, with the name "Kleenex".

3. Sun lamp

In the winter of 1918, it's estimated that half of all children in Berlin were suffering from rickets- a condition whereby bones become soft and deformed. At the time, the exact cause was not known, although it was associated with poverty. A doctor in the city - Kurt Huldschinsky - noticed that his patients were very pale. He decided to conduct an experiment on four of them, including one known today only as Arthur, who was three years old. He put the four of them under mercury-quartz lamps which emitted ultraviolet light. As the treatment continued, Huldschinsky noticed that the bones of his young patients were getting stronger. In May 1919, when the sun of summer arrived, he had them sit on the terrace in the sun. The results of his experiment, when published, were greeted with great enthusiasm. Children around Germany were brought before the lights. In Dresden, the child welfare services had the city's street lights dismantled to be used for treating children. Researchers later found that Vitamin D is necessary to build up the bones with calcium and this process is triggered by ultraviolet light. The undernourishment brought on by war produced the knowledge to cure the ailment.

4. Daylight saving time

The idea of putting the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn was not new when WW1 broke out. Benjamin Franklin had suggested it in a letter to The Journal of Paris in 1784. Candles were wasted in the evenings of summer because the sun set before human beings went to bed, he said, and sunshine was wasted at the beginning of the day because the sun rose while they still slept. Similar proposals were made in New Zealand in 1895 and in the UK in 1909, but without concrete results
It was WW1 that secured the change. Faced with acute shortages of coal, the German authorities decreed that on 30 April 1916, the clocks should move forward from 23:00 to midnight, so giving an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. What started in Germany as a means to save coal for heating and light quickly spread to other countries.  Britain began three weeks later on 21 May 1916. Other European countries followed. On 19 March 1918, the US Congress established several time zones and made daylight saving time official from 31 March for the remainder of WW1. Once the war was over, Daylight Saving Time was abandoned - but the idea had been planted and it eventually returned.

5. Tea bags

The tea bag was not invented to solve some wartime problem. By common consent, it was an American tea merchant who, in 1908, started sending tea in small bags to his customers. They, whether by accident or design, dropped the bags in water and the rest is history. So the industry says.
But a German company, Teekanne, did copy the idea in the war, and developed it, supplying troops with tea in similar cotton bags. They called them "tea bombs".

6. The wristwatch

It is not true that wristwatches were invented specifically for World War One - but it is true that their use by men took off dramatically. After the war, they were the usual way to tell the time. But until the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, men who needed to know the time and who had the money to afford a watch, kept it in their pocket on a chain. Women, for some reason, were the trailblazers - Elizabeth I had a small clock she could strap to her arm.  But as timing in war became more important - so that artillery barrages, for example, could be synchronised - manufacturers developed watches which kept both hands free in the heat of battle. Wristwatches, in other words. Aviators also needed both hands free, so they too had to throw the old pocket watch overboard. Mappin and Webb had developed a watch with the hole and handles for a strap for the Boer War and then boasted of how it had been useful at the Battle of Omdurman. But it was WW1 which really established the market. In particular, the "creeping barrage" meant that timing was everything. This was an interaction between artillery firing just ahead of infantry. Clearly, getting it wrong would be fatal for your own side. Distances were too great for signalling and timings too tight, and, anyway, signalling in plain view meant the enemy would see. Wristwatches were the answer. The company H Williamson which made watches in Coventry recorded in the report of its 1916 annual general meeting: "It is said that one soldier in every four wears a wristlet watch, and the other three mean to get one as soon as they can."  Even one of today's iconic luxury watches goes back to WW1. Cartier's Tank Watch originated in 1917 when Louis Cartier, the French watchmaker, saw the new Renault tanks and modelled a watch on their shape.

7. Vegetarian sausages

You might imagine that soy sausages were invented by some hippy, probably in the 1960s and probably in California. You would be wrong. Soy sausages were invented by Konrad Adenauer, the first German chancellor after World War Two, and a byword for steady probity - dullness would be an unkind word.  During WW1, Adenauer was mayor of Cologne and as the British blockade of Germany began to bite, starvation set in badly in the city. Adenauer had an ingenious mind - an inventive mind - and researched ways of substituting available materials for scarce items, such as meat. His began by using a mixture of rice-flour, barley and Romanian corn-flour to make bread, instead of using wheat. It all seemed to work until Romania entered the war and the supply of the corn flour dried up. From this experimental bread, he turned to the search for a new sausage and came up with soy as the meatless ingredient. It was dubbed the Friedenswurst or "peace sausage". Adenauer applied for a patent with the Imperial Patent Office in Germany but was denied one. Apparently, it was contrary to German regulations about the proper content of a sausage - if it didn't contain meat it couldn't be a sausage.  Oddly, he had better luck with Britain, Germany's enemy at the time. King George V granted the soy sausage a patent on 26 June 1918. Adenauer later invented an electrical gadget for killing insects, a sort of rotary apparatus to clear people out of the way of oncoming trams, and a light to go inside toasters. But none of them went into production. It is the soy sausage that was his longest-lasting contribution.  Vegetarians everywhere should raise a glass of bio-wine to toast the rather quiet chancellor of Germany for making their plates a bit more palatable.

8. Zips

Ever since the middle of the 19th Century, various people had been working on combinations of hooks, clasps and eyes to find a smooth and convenient way to keep the cold out.  But it was Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-born emigrant to the US who mastered it. He became the head designer at the Universal Fastener Company and devised the "Hookless Fastener", with its slider which locked the two sets of teeth together. The US military incorporated them into uniforms and boots, particularly the Navy. After the war, civilians followed suit.

9. Stainless steel

We should thank Harry Brearley of Sheffield for steel which doesn't rust or corrode. As the city's archives put it: "In 1913, Harry Brearley of Sheffield developed what is widely regarded as the first 'rustless' or stainless steel - a product that revolutionised the metallurgy industry and became a major component of the modern world." The British military was trying to find a better metal for guns. The problem was that barrels of guns were distorted over repeated firing by the friction and heat of bullets. Brearley, a metallurgist at a Sheffield firm, was asked to find harder alloys. He examined the addition of chromium to steel, and legend has it that he threw away some of the results of his experiments as failures. They went literally on to the scrap heap - but Brearley noticed later that these discarded samples in the yard had not rusted. He had discovered the secret of stainless steel. In WW1 it was used in some of the new-fangled aero-engines - but it really came into its own as knives and forks and spoons and the innumerable medical instruments on which hospitals depend

 10. Pilot communications  

Before World War One, pilots had no way of talking to each other and to people on the ground.  At the start of the war, armies relied on cables to communicate, but these were often cut by artillery or tanks. Germans also found ways of tapping into British cable communications. Other means of communication such as runners, flags, pigeons, lamps and dispatch riders were used but were found inadequate. Aviators relied on gestures and shouting. Something had to be done. Wireless was the answer. Radio technology was available but had to be developed, and this happened during WW1 at Brooklands and later at Biggin Hill, according to Keith Thrower a specialist in this area of historical research. By the end of 1916, the decisive steps forward had been made. "Earlier attempts to fit radio telephones in aircraft had been hampered by the high background noise from the aircraft's engine," writers Thrower in British Radio Valves: The Vintage Years - 1904-1925. "This problem was alleviated by the design of a helmet with built-in microphone and earphones to block much of the noise."

^ War doesn't always bring bad things. Sometimes new inventions are made. These are all things that we take for granted today and they were invented 100 years ago during World War 1. ^

Personal Year

From the BBC:
"Boston bombing: Couple still strong one year after tragedy"

Marc Fucarile didn't really want to go watch the Boston Marathon last year - he'd never been before and isn't keen on crowds.  But he thought it would be fun to see some old friends and he could take his five-year-old son, Gavin, along too.  His fiancee Jen Regan persuaded him they'd probably want to have a beer and Gavin shouldn't miss pre-school. He agreed. That was the last piece of luck that day. When the first bomb went off, Mr Fucarile and his friends all rushed into the street. The second blast was about 4ft (1.2m) away from them. He found himself on his back, one leg on fire. He tried to get his trousers off, but got third-degree burns on his hands from touching his belt buckle.  His right leg had been blown off. People started to help. They told him not to try to sit up. He knew that wasn't good.  He'd once helped a guy in a car crash and remembered telling him not to move because he looked so bad.  First one ambulance and then another went by. They were too full.  Eventually a policeman took him to hospital. He kept thinking about his son. He had to stay alive for Gavin.  The twin swing doors to the hospital opened: he was wheeled through and then he blacked out. He was in a coma for days. Someone phoned Ms Regan. The person told her to get the hospital quickly. At first she thought it was one of his friends playing a sick joke, but then she realised this was serious.  She went with his brother, a policeman. He'd get her in past any security. When a doctor phoned to say Mr Fucarile had lost his leg, she threw the phone and punched the truck.  She said the man in the hospital bed looked nothing like him.  They are a pretty amazing couple. Together since school, childhood sweethearts. He was a roofer, she's a nurse, both Boston Irish-Italian. A long line of family in the police, military and the fire brigade. He's a regular guy, a charmer, a joker and a tease.  She's tough and lovely, and says she is coping because you have to when you have family. But her smile is thin and she's rather closer to the edge than you feel happy about.  They're the sort of people who tell you they're average Americans, but they're going through something extraordinary and terrible and somehow holding it together. They name-check all the people who helped them, whom they've become close to, whose acts reassure them strength and goodness can be shaped from formless horror. An online fundraising effort has garnered more than $190,000 (£114,000). Ms Regan says the bombers failed; the terrorists lost because of that, because Boston is strong, as the slogan goes. "You think that you can break everyone and they didn't succeed, you know? They really didn't." A lot of what they say could sound bitter in cold print - but it is not said with bitterness but resignation. They are clearly mourning a life they once had that will never return.  They hope for what Ms Regan calls "a new normal" that is merely bad, rather than hideous.  Mr Fucarile has endured endless surgery. His left foot had to be rebuilt, piece by slow piece, an artery taken out of the leg.  The spike of bone that once was his heel was chiselled down until it fit his newly-made foot. The last operation was in January. There will probably be more. His burnt left leg hurts all the time. He wakes Ms Regan, screaming in the night. He has to decide whether to keep it or have it amputated as well.  And then there's the shrapnel in his heart. Another operation. His dad says open-heart surgery is really painful.
Watching Mr Fucarile with their six-year-old son Gavin, it is clear how much the boy loves him, clambering on his lap to look together at pictures on a laptop. But they both say it is the impact on Gavin that is the worst of a list of very bad things.  "The hardest part for me is probably that Gavin got robbed of a big part of his childhood. Marc doesn't get to go outside with him and throw a ball like he used to. Or, you know, building a snowman - we didn't do anything this winter with him. It's awful," Ms Regan said. "I think every little boy knows that there's bad guys out there but they think that it's like a cartoon," she added. "And now [Gavin] knows that there's real mean people out there and it's awful. I think that's been the hardest part for me." This must be hard for Mr Fucarile to hear, but he doesn't disagree.  "The hardest thing has been my son, just when he makes comments like, 'It was funner, dad, when you had two legs'," he said. People in a nearby courtyard "were playing out in the snow and he was like, 'Let's go out and play in the snow', and I was like, 'Daddy can't'". They agree with the federal government that, if convicted, the man accused of the bombings should be put to death.  Mr Fucarile says anyone who doesn't think that is nuts.  "I hope that somebody burns him and shanks him and cuts his legs off," Ms Regan said. At one point Mr Fucarile stops the interview - his new prosthetic leg is chaffing, and he is beginning to blister. He has to take it off.  When he returns and continues talking, Ms Regan rolls her eyes.  "You just go on and on and on," she said.
He reaches over to grab her. They laugh. They joke about how he chases her in the wheelchair, and how the noise it makes gives her the creeps.  They're getting married in a few days' time - it's a wedding long postponed and they say it will forever put a happy spin on the anniversary of the most awful week of their life.  But this is love amid the ruins. What is hard? Mr Fucarile recites a list. Getting in the truck. Getting Gavin in the truck. Getting dressed. Getting in the shower. Falling down in the shower. Going to the toilet. Ms Regan not getting help with the dishes and the trash and every other little thing he used to do.

^ In times like these (ie the anniversary of something terrible) most people and most media only focus on the "bigger picture" - how the city/nation has been affected. They also talk about the attackers and those that knew them and yet did nothing to stop them. This is a nice article about an innocent victim and how he and his family have had to over-come not only the bombings, but also the pain and injuries that continue. ^

Glowing Holland

From the BBC:
"Glow in the dark road unveiled in the Netherlands"

Glow in the dark road markings have been unveiled on a 500m stretch of highway in the Netherlands.
 The paint contains a "photo-luminising" powder that charges up in the daytime and slowly releases a green glow at night, doing away with the need for streetlights. Interactive artist Daan Roosegaarde teamed up with Dutch civil engineering firm Heijmans to work on the idea. The technology is being tested with an official launch due later this month. It is the first time "glowing lines" technology has been piloted on the road and can be seen on the N329 in Oss, approximately 100km south east of Amsterdam. Once the paint has absorbed daylight it can glow for up to eight hours in the dark Speaking to the BBC last year about his plans Mr Roosegaarde said: "The government is shutting down streetlights at night to save money, energy is becoming much more important than we could have imagined 50 years ago. This road is about safety and envisaging a more self-sustainable and more interactive world."  Mr Roosegaarde's projects aim to help people and technology to interact. His past projects have included a dance floor with built-in disco lights powered by dancers' foot movements, and a dress that becomes see-through when the wearer is aroused. "I was completely amazed that we somehow spend billions on the design and R&D of cars but somehow the roads - which actually determine the way our landscape looks - are completely immune to that process," Mr Roosegaarde said. Heijmans was already working on projects involving energy-neutral streetlights when Mr Roosegaarde teamed up with the company. "I thought that was updating an old idea, and I forced them to look at movies of jellyfish. How does a jellyfish give light? It has no solar panel, it has no energy bill.  "And then we went back to the drawing board and came up with these paints which charge up in the daytime and give light at night," he said. Heijmans says that the glow in the dark technology is also "a sustainable alternative to places where no conventional lighting is present".
Innovation on roads needs to be encouraged said Professor Pete Thomas, from Loughborough University's Transport Safety Research Centre but new technologies need to prove themselves.
"We have some high visibility markings already on roads in the UK, plus cats-eye technology etc. So the question is how much better than these  is this alternative?  "If we put this technology on all unlit roads that would be a lot of kilometres and it would be a big investment so if safety improvement is the target then we need hard evidence about how this compares to what we already have and to back up any safety claims," he said. The UK Highways Agency said it was watching the trial in the Netherlands with interest but said that previous studies had shown that "luminescent road paint would be unsuitable for use in this country".  It said it would take several things in to account when deciding whether to include luminescent road markings in its design standards. These would be include how far in advance road markings could be seen, how skid resistant they were, how visible they were during the day and how they would perform in winter when there are fewer hours of daylight. Initially the team also had plans to develop weather symbols that appeared on the road once the temperature reached a certain level. A temperature-sensitive paint mixture would be used to create giant snow flake-shaped symbols on the tarmac to warn users that the road may be icy. The current stretch of glow in the dark road in Oss does not include this temperature sensitive technology.
It is a pilot project at this stage and is expected to expand internationally later this year. Dutch media report that Heijmans is keen to use the paint on other roads but has not yet negotiated any contracts.

^ This is a really cool idea. It would help people see better at night (especially since most roads do not have any sort of lighting on or around them.) ^

Closing Russki McDs

From the MT:
"Most Russians Want McDonald's Closed, Poll Says"

Liberal Democrat Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky's call to close all McDonald's restaurants in Russia received a lot of media attention, and a recent poll shows that most Russians would be glad to see the back of the fast food chain. Sixty-two percent of respondents support the closure of all McDonald's in Russia, according to a survey conducted by SuperJob's Research Center in the week that followed the company's announcement that it was shutting its three restaurants in Crimea.
Younger Russians were more likely to defend the Big Mac purveyor, with 33 percent of those aged below 24 saying they wouldn't like to see the golden arches disappear from their towns. SuperJob said that respondents' explanations for their choices were often rooted in patriotism, with many saying that U.S. fast-food franchises should be replaced by cafes serving domestic cuisine. Those against shuttering the restaurants, which first opened to a massive fanfare in Russia in 1990, cited a lack of good cheap alternatives. McDonald's April 3 announcement about its Crimean suspension spurred headlines that ran the gamut from Zhirinovsky's comments to reports that Burger King would open restaurants on the former Ukrainian peninsula. Burger King Worldwide later denied reports that it plans to expand into Crimea. The poll was conducted from April 4 to 10 among 1,600 respondents in 249 cities and towns across Russia. No margin of error was given.

^ The age group that most wants McDonald's to leave Russia are those that had to stand hour in long lines for empty shelves. They couldn't even get vodka without ration coupons. I can see why they would miss those "good old day" and want McDonald's and places like it to leave the country. Russia has lots of restaurants (that are pretty expensive), but very few fast food places that are cheaper. Besides if they make McDonald's leave Russia how will people in places like Yaroslavl know what Lenin is pointing to? On Lenin Square in Yaroslavl the Lenin Statue is pointing to the nearest McDonald's (he used to point to the future of Communism, but that collapsed in favor of Capitalism.) ^

Boston: 1

From the BBC:
"Boston to mark anniversary of marathon bombing"

Memorial ceremonies are beginning in the US city of Boston to mark the anniversary of the deadly bombing at last year's marathon. US Vice-President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will attend a tribute at the Hynes Convention Center at midday (16:00GMT). The flag will be raised and a moment of silence held at the finish line later.  Three people were killed and some 264 injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line at last year's race. Tuesday's ceremonies will include representatives from families of the victims as well as members of the emergency services, government agencies and civic organisations. This year's Boston Marathon is due to take place on 21 April. Tuesday's memorial events began with a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the explosions, attended by the families of the three bombing victims - Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi.  Relatives of university police officer Sean Collier, who was killed during a manhunt for the suspects, as well as state and local officials also attended the solemn ceremony.  Officials have told residents and visitors to expect a larger than normal police presence through the week leading up to the race. However, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said it would be "the Boston Marathon as it has always been". "Our goal is for everyone to enjoy the race," he said. City health officials say they have also made preparations to help those affected by the bombings cope with the anniversary. "The first anniversary of a disaster is always difficult," said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Boston public health commission. In a statement, President Barack Obama said: "We send our thoughts and prayers to those still struggling to recover. "One year later, we also stand in awe of the men and women who continue to inspire us - learning to stand, walk, dance and run again." And when the sun rises over Boylston Street next Monday - Patriot's Day - hundreds of thousands will come together to show the world the meaning of Boston Strong as a city chooses to run again." Bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is due to stand trial in November. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, of which 17 carry the possibility of capital punishment. Prosecutors allege that he set off two pressure cooker bombs with his older brother Tamerlan, 26, who later died in a police shoot-out.

^ It is important to remember these kinds of attacks (and not only on the anniversary.) The local news has a lot of coverage today and everywhere you turn it is "Boston Strong." I am sick and tired of hearing that slogan. It is pretty dumb. New York City didn't need a stupid slogan to remember the several thousands of people killed on 9-11 and yet the people in that city seem to still remember what happened and those that died. Having a slogan makes it sound like you are a by-product of a corporation's attempt to sell you something (like: "Mentos: the fresh maker") rather than remembering a day that 3 people died and hundreds were wounded. ^

The Brink

From Yahoo:
"Russia says Ukraine close to civil war as Kiev begins offensive"

Russia declared Ukraine on the brink of civil war on Tuesday as Kiev said an "anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Moscow separatists was under way, with troops and armored personnel carriers seen near a flashpoint eastern town. Twenty-four hours after an Ukrainian ultimatum expired for the rebels to lay down their arms, witnesses however saw no signs yet that Kiev forces were about to storm state buildings in the Russian-speaking east that armed militants have occupied. Interim President Oleksander Turchinov insisted the operation had started in the eastern Donetsk region, although it would happen in stages and "in a considered way". Amidst the deepest East-West crisis since the Cold War, the leaders of Russia and the United States have called on each other to do all in their power to avoid further bloodshed. The standoff has raised fears that Moscow might turn off gas supplies to Kiev, disrupting flows to the European Union. Russian exporter Gazprom promised it would remain a reliable supplier to the EU, but German energy company RWE began deliveries to Ukraine on Tuesday - reversing the usual east-west flow in one central European pipeline. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave a gloomy assessment after at least two people died on Sunday when Kiev unsuccessfully tried to regain control in the town of Slaviansk, about 150 km (90 miles) from the Russian border. "Blood has once again been spilt in Ukraine. The country is on the brink of civil war," he said on his Facebook page. Turchinov said the offensive, which he first announced on Sunday, was finally underway. "The anti-terrorist operation began during the night in the north of Donetsk region. But it will take place in stages, responsibly, in a considered way. I once again stress: the aim of these operations is to defend the citizens of Ukraine," he told parliament. At least 15 armored personnel carriers displaying Ukrainian flags were parked by the side of a road around 50 km (30 miles) north of Slaviansk, witnesses said.  Ukrainian troops wearing camouflage gear and armed with automatic weapons and grenade launchers were stationed nearby, with a helicopter and several buses containing interior ministry personnel near the road. Ukraine's security forces have been in some disarray since protesters ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich in February. However, the interim leadership may also be treading carefully with the offensive to avoid civilian casualties.  Moscow accuses Kiev of provoking the crisis by ignoring the rights of citizens who use Russian as their first language, and has promised to protect them from attack. It also highlights the presence of far-right nationalists among Kiev's new rulers. However, a United Nations report on Tuesday cast doubt on whether Russian-speakers were seriously threatened, including those in Crimea who voted to join Russia after Moscow forces had already seized control of the Black Sea peninsula. "Although there were some attacks against the ethnic Russian community, these were neither systematic nor widespread," said the report by the U.N. human rights office. The report cited "misinformed reports" and "greatly exaggerated stories of harassment of ethnic Russians by Ukrainian nationalist extremists". NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused Moscow of involvement in the rebellions. "We never ... comment on intelligence, but I think from what is visible, it is very clear that Russia's hand is deeply engaged in this," he told reporters at a meeting with EU defense ministers in Luxembourg. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that Moscow was stirring up the separatists in the east and southeast as a possible prelude to repeating its annexation of Crimea. "Ukraine is spreading lies that Russia is behind the actions in the southeast," Lavrov said on a visit to China. He called on Kiev to hold back before a meeting between Russia, the EU, United States, and Ukraine planned for Geneva on Thursday. "The use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.
Moscow has demanded constitutional change in Ukraine to give more powers to Russian-speaking areas, where most of the country's heavy industry lies, while the secessionists have demanded Crimean-style referendums in their regions. Kiev opposes anything that might lead to the dismemberment of the country. But in an attempt to undercut the rebels' demands, Turchinov has held out the prospect of a nationwide referendum on the future shape of the Ukrainian state. NATO states have temporarily sent troops, aircraft and ships to eastern Europe to reassure nervous post-communist alliance members. But Polish Defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak said the Crimean crisis made it vital that NATO station significant numbers of troops there and ignore any objections from Moscow. "What is really important is the strengthening of NATO's eastern flank," Siemoniak told Reuters. The president of Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, also expressed concern. "Georgia, which experienced very harsh Russian foreign policy moves six years ago, and which is still in a very complicated relationship with the Russian Federation, is naturally very alarmed because of the Ukrainian precedent," President Georgy Margvelashvili told Reuters.

^ The map from this article does a great job to show the real situation in the Ukraine. It shows the Russian-occupied Crimea, the thousands upon thousands of Russian troops on 3 sides of the Ukrainian border waiting and it shows the cities where the Pro-Russian mobs are fighting. Of course Russia is still saying (and believing) that they are the great crusaders who only want to protect the innocent ethnic Russians yet it is the Russians and the ethnic Russians (from the Ukraine) that have destabilized the country and brought open warfare to its streets (first in Kiev, then the Crimea and now eastern Ukraine.) Maybe if Russia withdrew its occupation soldiers and stopped the anti-Ukrainian propaganda the violence would end and the Ukraine would not be on the "brink of civil war." I have decided to start using the Ukrainian transliteration for their capital  - Kyiv  - rather than the more common Russian transliteration - Kiev.^