Monday, September 26, 2016

Saving Collapse

From the MT:
"Putin Says Soviet Union Could Have Been Saved"

 As he does from time to time, President Vladimir Putin today made another ambiguous public statement about the fate of the Soviet Union, this time stating that its dissolution was unnecessary, were it not for the Soviet Communist Party’s policies. “You know how I feel about the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was entirely unnecessary to do this. It would have been possible to carry out reforms, including democratic reforms, without this [dissolution],” Putin said during a meeting at the Kremlin with the leaders of the political parties represented in the new State Duma. He then faulted the Soviet Communist Party for mismanaging the Soviet Union, blaming it for promoting “ideas of nationalism” and “other destructive ideas that are ruinous to any state.”  Earlier this year, Putin compared Soviet nationalist policies to an “atomic bomb” placed by Lenin and his allies “under a building called Russia” that only exploded later.


^ As I have said before, and history has proven every time, communism can never work in real-life. There will always be a class-based society (for better or worse.) Even during Soviet times there were the "good" Communists who got more perks (ie. travel, better apartments, jobs, access to foreign products, etc.) and those that didn't - which shows that everyone wasn't equal in this "class-less" society. Also anytime a country has to place strict controls on it's citizens (for travel abroad, travel within the country, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.) you know it wouldn't last. It may be several decades later, but eventually it will collapse - as the Soviet Union did. The sign of a great country is one that has to keep people (illegals) out and not one that has to keep its own people in. The USSR collapsed, in-part, because the Soviet Government had wasted what little money they had (ie. foreign currency) on its military and internal "security" rather than on its people. Eventually, the Soviet people had had enough and wanted basic services and products to make life bearable (there's something wrong when a country has rationing when there's no war or natural disaster.) Once the Soviet Government relaxed a little to the people's demands it was only a matter of time before the whole system collapsed. Once people see the truth (ie. that they could have a decent standard of living as the rest of the world) they were not going to go back to the lies of the past. I do not believe that Russia will ever fully become the Soviet Union of the past (despite the Russian Government's stance on bringing back Soviet symbols and practices.) The Russian people (even those that have never left Russia) have seen what the world has to offer and while they still want/need a strong leader to tell them what to do (it is a common thread in Czarist, Soviet and modern Russia) in the end I doubt they would give-up the freedoms and practices that they have lived with for the past 25 years.  Even on the off chance that Russia went back to Soviet times the dictatorship system would eventually collapse for the same reasons as stated above. History tends to repeat itself - especially when you don't learn from your past mistakes. ^


https://themoscowtimes.com/news/putin-says-the-ussr-could-have-been-saved-55467

Speaking Up


^Have used this phrase for all the telemarketers and political calls today (when I usually let the machine get them.) Since the Do Not Call List is a joke and doesn't work you have to have some fun with them, but you have to play the part and shout it (as though you really can't hear them because of a towel.) Their surprise is priceless and then you hang up. It's the little things that make life fun. ^

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Royals Visit

From The G & M:
"Where’s William? Your guide to the royal visit to Western Canada"

British Columbia will be a bit extra-British this weekend as William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and their young children make an eight-day visit to Canada. Stay tuned for updates on their journey and background on the Royal Family’s Canadian connections.  The royal couple and their children arrive in Victoria on Saturday for an official greeting at the B.C. Legislature and a military service at the Cenotaph. Their itinerary in Vancouver on Sunday includes a tour of Sheway – a program in the Downtown Eastside that helps mothers with addiction problems care for their children – and meeting newly arrived Syrian refugees at an immigrant welcome centre.

Monday, Sept. 26: The Duke and Duchess will visit Heiltsuk First Nation territory in Bella Bella to get a flyover tour of the Great Bear Rainforest. Prince William is endorsing the region, dubbed the “jewel in the crown” of Canada’s protected wilderness areas, as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy forest-conservation initiative.

  • Tuesday, Sept. 27: In Kelowna, the royals will join in anniversary celebrations at UBC’s Okanagan campus before heading to Whitehorse to inspect the Canadian Rangers, a reserve Arctic patrol force that counts Prince William and his brother Harry are honorary members.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 28: The royals will see Whitehorse’s MacBride Museum, attend a community art festival, be welcomed to Carcross/Tagish First Nation territory and see a mountain-biking demonstration on Montana Mountain.
  • Thursday, Sept. 29: The whole family regroups in Victoria for a children’s tea party with military families.
  • Friday, Sept. 30: The Duke and Duchess will tour Haida Gwaii, take a canoe ride, visit a new hospital and fish with youth from Skidegate.
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: Back in Victoria again, the royals will spend their last day visiting family-care and mental-health workers and sailing on a tall ship run by a program that mentors young people.


  • Why are they visiting? Canada turns 150 next year, and Ottawa is pulling out all the stops, budgeting $210-million for projects and events marking the anniversary of Confederation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited the Duke and Duchess to visit Canada earlier this summer. The Trudeau government has expressed hope that 2017 will be a turning point in Canada’s relationship with indigenous people, and having a future monarch strengthen ties with B.C. First Nations aligns well with that objective.  The B.C. lieutenant-governor’s residence in Victoria, Government House, will be the Duke and Duchess’s headquarters while they’re in Canada. Prince George and Princess Charlotte are staying behind in Victoria while their parents travel. Victorians are the only ones who’ll get a look at George and Charlotte – three and one years old, respectively – when the royals arrive and leave, and at a children’s tea party on Thursday. This is both children’s first visit to Canada, and Charlotte’s first tour overseas.

    ^ The Duke will  one-day be King of Canada (as will his son) so it's good that they take the time now to visit the country. Canada is the most visited Commonwealth country by Queen Elizabeth II (Queen of Canada) so maybe it will continue to hold that distinction with the Duke and his family. ^

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-royals/wheres-william-your-guide-to-the-royal-visit-weekend/article31982370/

    ID Vote




    ^ You have to show ID to vote in my state and you can even get a free one - just to use for voting - if you can't afford a Driver's License or Non-Driving ID. People in the US cry and say it's discriminating to force people to show an ID card to vote (yet they don't seem to have any issues to show one to board a plane or enter a Federal building) when the majority of the world requires its citizens to have a national ID card and to pay for it whether they can afford to or not. Not having a national ID card and showing it results in fines and/or prison. To me that is discrimination. ^

    Thursday, September 22, 2016

    NI Funding

    From the BBC:
    "Legacy inquests: Families warn of legal action over funding"

    The government and Stormont Executive have been told they have 14 days to agree to fund inquests into some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles or face court action.  It comes two weeks after NI's most senior judge called for urgent action. Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said there is a legal obligation on the government to ensure the inquests are heard. NI Secretary James Brokenshire said responsibility is with the executive. Relatives of more than 30 people people killed during the Troubles staged a protest at the lack of progress on the issue at Stormont on Thursday morning. They have called for the government to release £10m of funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice for a five-year plan to hear all of the legacy inquests.  Sir Declan Morgan wanted the money released before an overall agreement is reached on how to deal with the past. But the request was blocked by First Minister Arlene Foster. This month, Sir Declan Morgan said he was hugely disappointed, and said there is a legal obligation on the UK government and the Stormont Executive to ensure that the inquests are heard. A lawyer for the families, Padraig Ó Muirigh, said Westminster had ignored Sir Declan's warning and were in breach of their legal obligations. "I believe the British government are ignoring a warning from the Council of Europe and also from the Lord Chief Justice," he said. "Very clearly, they are in breach of their human rights application on this issue."  Mr Ó Muirigh later handed a letter to an official representing the secretary of state warning that legal action will be launched if funding for the inquests is not released within 14 days. The Stormont Executive and Department of Justice received similar letters. But in a statement issued a short time later, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) made it clear that the secretary of state still believes it is up to Stormont to resolve the issue. "Reform of the inquest system has been part of the secretary of state's intensive discussions over recent weeks with victims' and survivors' groups on implementing the Stormont House Agreement legacy institutions and making available £150m of UK government money to fund the bodies to deal with the past," the statement said. "It is clear that the current system is not equipped to deal with the number and complexity of cases. "The NI Executive, which has responsibility for inquests in Northern Ireland, is rightly considering how the legacy inquest system can be improved."


    ^ It's clear  that no one in Northern Irish politics really wants to see The Troubles' files opened-up 18 years after they ended and are using the funding issue to help that happen. Maybe they are worried that more of their crimes will be found out. There really isn't any neutral party in all of this. The British (Government and Military) the Northern Irish Protestants (the numerous extremist groups as well as the NI Government and the RUC police force) and the Northern Irish Catholics (the numerous extremist groups) committed crimes from 1969-1998 and so the there needs to be a neutral party (maybe the EU, the Council of Europe or the UN) to oversee the investigations in the crimes, attacks and murders of The Troubles.  ^


    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-37442184

    CDN English

    From the BBC:
    "Where Does Canada's Accent Come From?"

    Canada has always faced several obstacles in defining itself to the outside world. For one, it’s a thinly populated country of 35 million all too easily overshadowed by its neighbour, a hugely powerful country of 319 million with economic clout, an enormous film industry and high-quality TV. Then there’s its history, which lacks the grand mythical arc of most other countries. And, more esoterically, there is the conundrum of the Canadian accent: to most people outside of North America, it is almost impossible to distinguish from the typical US accent – to the point that so many foreigners confuse the two when they’re travelling abroad and Canadians feel the need to attach a flag to their backpacks.   But despite some people’s skepticism there is, in fact, a unique Canadian way of speaking and, despite its subtlety, it remains remarkably resilient. Over the last several decades, the increasing interconnectivity of the world has threatened a number of local dialects across the world, but according to Charles Boberg, an associate professor of linguistics at McGill University and the author of The English Language in Canada , the Canadian accent is stubbornly persistent: “Canadian linguistic identity is here to stay on the long term.” The primary reason for Canadians’ hard-to-identify accent is, of course, historical. Canadian English was partly shaped by early immigrants from the UK and Ireland, but it was affected much more by the arrival of about 45,000 loyalists to the British crown during the American Revolutionary War. By the outbreak of the War of 1812 a few decades later, a significant part of the population of Ontario – which had about 100,000 inhabitants – were of US extraction. The result, especially west of Quebec, was an accent lightly shaped by British English, but much more so by 18th Century colonial American English. Since Ontarians were largely responsible for settling Western Canada in the following decades, their Americanised accent spread across the country and eventually became the de facto accent for the majority of Canadians.  There are a few exceptions: Newfoundland’s population was disproportionally shaped by immigrants from southwestern England and southeastern Ireland, and since the island is geographically isolated and only joined Canada in 1949, it has retained a way of speaking that is dramatically unlike the rest of the country. Other parts of Eastern Canada – including Cape Breton Island and in parts of Prince Edward Island – have also retained distinctive accents. But if a person travels into western Canada – into Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia – the accent becomes more American-sounding and locally indistinguishable. “The West was a melting pot for settlers from many regions, so there was this leveling out of differences, not only in Canada, but in the US,” says Boberg. “The settlement depth in Western Canada goes into the 1890s, so it is about a century old. The time depth and the population density being very sparse, those encourage widespread leveling and homogeneity.”  This makes it very difficult, even for Canadians, to tell the difference between someone from Winnipeg and someone from Vancouver – or from Seattle.  For most non-native English speakers, distinguishing more generally between American and Canadian accents is extremely difficult – Boberg compares it to telling the difference between two minor areas in Britain – but linguists have isolated some distinctive qualities that are helpful. A feature of Canadian speech called ‘the Canadian shift’ involves something called a ‘low-back merger’, which describes Canadians’ tendency to erase the difference between certain vowels that come from the lower part of the mouth – ‘lot’ and ‘thought’, for example. Canadians in Windsor pronounce the word ‘stack’ in the same way that Americans pronounce the word ‘stock’ in the neighboring US city of Detroit. According to Boberg, people casually trying to identify a Canadian accent should focus two sounds. Canadians do something called ‘Canadian Raising’, meaning that they pronounce some two-part vowels (known as dipthongs) with a higher part of their mouths than people from other English-speaking regions – this is what causes the ‘ou’ sounds in words like ‘out’ and ‘about’ to be pronounced something like ‘oot’ and ‘aboot’.  The most telltale sound, according to Boberg, is Canadians’ tendency to use the ‘æ’ sound in words like ‘mantra’ and ‘pasta’, unlike the lower (more ‘oh’-sounding) pronunciation favored by Americans. If someone says that, Boberg explains, it is almost impossible that they come from anywhere except Canada. The sound, he adds, “makes Americans’ skin crawl”. In recent years, academics have noticed that the Canadian accent is undergoing a curious change. Known as ‘the Canadian vowel shift’, the vowels among a wide variety of Canadian demographics are becoming higher and pronounced further back in the mouth – bagel is turning into ‘bahgel’, shoes into ‘shahs’. The reasons aren’t clear, and despite the name of the shift, Canadians are not alone in undergoing the change: something similar is happening in parts of the US, including California (some people are describing this process as the ‘Valley Girl-isation’ of the Canadian accent). Other parts of the US, including some northern regions, aren’t experiencing the shift, so it may end up amplifying differences between the two accents rather than muddling them.  The fact that the Canadian accent has survived this long, despite centuries of close physical and cultural proximity with the US, is a testament to people’s attachment to their Canadian national identity. When new immigrants arrive in Canada, they still adopt distinctive Canadian patterns of speech – and that’s not likely to change any time soon. As Boberg explains, there are two dynamics that generally determine how the members of a contemporary community speak: one is a person’s desire to be “global” and sophisticated, and the other is their desire to sound like a member of their own community. “There’s that conflict of not wanting to sound embarrassingly local, but not wanting to sound snobbishly global,” he says. Because people rarely want to go too far in one direction, this allows accents to evolve without fully disappearing. “Language is one of the few ways we have left of making statements of local belonging since we now all dress the same, we all watch the same movies.” And as long as both of those dynamics remain in play, Canadians will continue to sound like Canadians.

    ^ The story of any language is always pretty interesting. Canadian English (as you can see above) has a unique timeline. To sum things  up:  Canadian English is a mixture of American and British English. I have to admit it sounds strange when I hear "zed" instead of "zee" for the letter "Z" not to mention the vowels, but it is part of what makes Canada  - Canada. ^


    http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160921-where-does-canadas-accent-come-from

    Overseas Voters

    From the Stars and Stripes:
    "Most eligible expatriates don't vote in US elections, study finds"



    A study released Wednesday, described as the first of its kind, has found what political scientists have long suspected: Most American expatriates don’t vote in U.S. elections. The study by the Federal Voting Assistance Program found that voting rates for all estimated 2.6 million eligible overseas voters, excluding servicemembers and their spouses, was 4 percent in 2014. That compares to 36 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. and, according to a previous study by the FVAP, 21 percent of eligible active-duty military voters who mailed in ballots in 2014. “While we can expect to see an increase in the overall voting rates for the 2016 presidential election, we need to understand whether the overall rate for 2014 is due to low awareness of how to vote absentee or if it is related to other factors,” FVAP Director Matt Boehmer said in a news release. The top three reasons for not voting, according to a group of citizens abroad FVAP surveyed, were difficulties with absentee voting, feeling out of touch with the national or local community and no candidate preference, according to the study, which FVAP said was the first of U.S. expatriates’ voting behaviors. Trying to suss out voting rates for that group is a challenge largely because there is no comprehensive list of all U.S. citizens living overseas. FVAP used data from foreign countries, U.S. government administrative sources and academic studies to estimate the number of Americans eligible to vote in countries around the world. It then calculated overseas voter turnout rates by country using those eligible voter estimates and 2014 ballot requests and submissions from overseas voters, information gleaned from the States. FVAP, a part of the Defense Department whose aim is to aid troops, family members and overseas citizens in voting from anywhere in the world, found in its study that overseas citizens were highly educated, with nearly half holding graduate or professional degrees and a third holding bachelor’s degrees. Their average age was 49. Both age and education are usually associated with high voter turnout. But experts have long believed that expatriates vote at low rates because their ties to the U.S. and community issues are more tenuous. The expatriates had been living abroad, on average, for nearly 14 years, the study found. Forty-three percent were dual citizens. U.S. voters living overseas can visit FVAP.gov for their state’s specific voter registration and ballot request deadlines, as well as tools and information for completing a Federal Post Card Application (the voter registration and ballot request form) or the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (the backup ballot). Voters can fill out the forms by hand or use the online assistant before they print, sign and send them to their election office.


    ^ Absentee voting is a major problem for Americans outside the United States. Many times the ballots aren't received before the election and many people believe they aren't even counted unless the overall vote is very close. More needs to be done to make Americans living outside the country feel they are included - especially during an election. ^


    http://www.stripes.com/news/most-eligible-expatriates-don-t-vote-in-us-elections-study-finds-1.430187

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    Fall


    Etias

    From the DW:
    "A 13-euro entry fee for the EU?"

    The EU is planning to massively increase its border controls. Those who want to enter have to register, or apply for a visa. The goal is more security, though EU citizens will be spared.  Australia's had one for a long time, and the United States has had one since 2007: An electronic entry system for travelers who don't need a visa. Now, the EU wants to implement such a system in order to have better control over who is actually entering and leaving the bloc. In the US, the online electronic registration system is known as "ESTA." In Europe, it will be known as "Etias" (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). The EU Commission is currently carrying out a feasibility study to determine how Etias can be set up at hundreds of airports and border crossings. The legislative process would then begin at the end of the year. EU interior ministers called for a digital registration system last year following the terror attacks in Paris. But the system, designed to close recognized security loopholes, has been in planning for much longer. Now, it's going to become a reality. Similar to the US system, travelers who don't need a visa for the EU will be required to register online. A fee will be charged for the process; according to EU officials, it could be anywhere between 13 and 50 euros ($15 and $56). Based on the current 30 million travelers from non-EU countries who do not need a visa, that would create income of between 390 million to 1.5 billion euros per year. The number of people who don't need a visa but who will have to pay this "entry fee" could increase considerably in the next few years. After Brexit, millions of British people traveling to the EU for vacations or business trips will also have to pay  and register with Etias. The same goes for people from Turkey or Ukraine, in the event that the EU grants them visa-free travel. According to Camino Mortera-Martinez of the Brussels-based think tank, the Center for European Reform, it's a bad deal. "It would be damaging for British business," she told Britain's "Guardian" newspaper.  Etias is just one building block in a wider initiative by the EU Commission to boost security following the terrorist attacks and uncontrolled migration over the past year. The system to record the movements of all travelers from non-EU states is at the heart of the new security measures. This network, called "EES" should be agreed on by the end of the year. Currently, the technical details are still being worked out. Starting in 2020, every entry and exit will be saved in a databank. At the same time, the validity of IDs and visas will be checked. In addition, there will be a system query with the Schengen Information System, or SIS, which records information on possible terrorist suspects.  Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner responsible for the new system, has promised an end to the co-existence of numerous European databanks. "The systems will help to make Europe's borders safer. At the same time, strengthening the power of the European police authority, Europol, is a concrete step toward an efficient exchange of information, as well as identification of falsified travel documents," said Avramopoulos. The entry and exit records will be kept for a period of five years. Data protection activists are already criticizing the planned system, calling it a "data leech."  In the wake of last year's terrorist attacks in France, the French and German interior ministers called for the introduction of systematic controls, including for EU citizens. Currently, people with an EU identity card have been able to cross external borders after a simple check of their travel documents. But that means it's not possible to see whether, and how often, a radicalized jihadist with a European passport has traveled in and out of Syria, for example. This loophole was supposed to be closed, but now it appears that there is political resistance. The EU Commission has since watered down its proposals, as the current Schengen rules forbid any "systematic" checks on EU citizens at the external borders. However, in the future EU citizens will also be required to pass through automated entry points where the biometric data in their passports is read and compared with their faces. But unlike people from non-EU countries, their data will not be saved. It will likely be at least another four years until the new systems are up and running, the scanners are set up, and all the databanks are connected. "We need closer coordination between the EU and the member states," said EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. "We have to concede that there's no other way in our mobile world to achieve more security." The papers from the EU Commission also point to the new border controls, scanners, and registration procedures having a "deterrent effect" on illegal immigrants.


    ^ No matter what you try to call it the Etias is in fact  a visa (the same way the US' ESTA is and Australia's ETA is - although not it's e-visitor since it is free.) I can understand checking the ID cards and passports and even taking biometrics, but if you charge for it then it is no longer visa-free. I know that the EU wants to do something to protect itself from more terrorist attacks, but they forget that the attacks in the last 10 years have been done by EU citizens who have free access to travel, live and work in any EU member state. I don't see Etias helping in that respect since it won't check EU citizens. I also don't see anyone paying 50 Euros ($56) to travel to the EU - especially for vacations. The EU needs tourists from the US, Canada, Australia and Japan to help their economies - especially in light of the recent attacks and slump in tourism. They should be trying to entice us to come and spend our money so more EU member states don't have to beg for another  bail-out. This new system seems like putting a Band-Aid over a healthy part of skin while doing nothing to actually treat the wound (ie. the Islamic extremists who have EU citizenship, live freely within the EU and want to hurt/kill non-Muslims.) ^

    http://www.dw.com/en/a-13-euro-entry-fee-for-the-eu/a-19566988

    Flag Fun


    ^ Sometimes all you need are some flags to have some fun. ^

    Mandatory Dog Training

    From the BBC:
    "Switzerland scraps mandatory dog training"

    Switzerland's parliament has voted to do away with obligatory training courses for dog owners, after a government report suggested they had little effect. The law requires anyone getting a new dog to attend four hours of obedience classes with their pooch, plus an additional theory course for first-time dog owners, But a report released in March found no drop in the number of incidents of dogs biting, and no marked change in the behaviour of dog owners who had taken the course, the site says. About one in five dog owners were found to be skipping the course entirely. Members of the National Council - Switzerland's lower house of parliament - narrowly voted to scrap the law on Monday by 93 votes to 87, the 20 Minutes website reports. The upper house had already approved the move.  But there was strong opposition in some official quarters. Interior Minister Alain Berset insisted that there had been a fall in the number of "dramatic" dog-related tragedies since the training was introduced. "There are also people who drive cars and motorbikes without a licence. But that's no reason to remove the requirement to acquire a licence," he's quoted as saying by Le Temps. The mandatory training was introduced in 2008, three years after a young boy was killed by a group of pitbull terriers near Zurich, leading to a nationwide debate over dangerous dogs. Swissinfo.ch notes that it's not clear how the change will affect people who own dog breeds classified as dangerous, and are currently required to undergo more intensive training.

    ^ I would never guess that a country like Switzerland would have ever introduced mandatory dog training, but they did. At least now they finally got rid of that law. ^


    http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-37418371

    Waitstill And Martha Sharp

    From Yad Vashem:
    "Waitstill and Martha Sharp"




    Waitstill Sharp was a minister in the Unitarian church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and his wife Martha a noted social worker. In 1939, the Sharps accepted an invitation by the Unitarian Service Committee to help members of the Unitarian church in Czechoslovakia. Arriving in Prague in February 1939, the Sharps also aided a number of Jews to leave the country, which had come under Nazi control on March 15th. The Sharps continued their charitable work until August 1939, leaving Prague when warned of their possible arrest by the Gestapo. On June 20, 1940, Waitstill and Martha Sharp landed in Lisbon, Portugal, on a mission to help refugees from war-torn France. Making their way into Vichy-controlled France, that had allied itself with the victorious Nazi Germany, they sought ways to help fugitives from Nazi terror, Jews and non-Jews alike.  They then learned that Lion Feuchtwanger, a world famous German-Jewish author of historical fiction needed to be taken out of France urgently. In 1933, with Hitler’s rise to power, Feuchtwanger had settled in France where, together with other German anti-Nazi intellectuals, he continued his literary work as well as his anti-Nazi writings. He was numbered 6th on a list of persons whose German citizenship was annulled for their anti-Nazi stance. With the outbreak of the war in September 1939, Lion Feuchtwanger was ironically interned by the French government as an “enemy national” and held first in Camp des Milles, near Aix-les-Bains, then in St. Nicholas, near Nîmes. With the defeat of France in June 1940, Feuchtwanger’s life was in danger, since under the French-German armistice agreement, the French government had undertaken to hand over to the Nazis any Germans upon request, and Feuchtwanger was one of the persons on top of the Nazi wanted list. His wife Marta tried desperately to save him, and asked Myles Standish, of the US consulate in Marseilles, to help liberate her husband from internment.  This was done, with Feuchtwanger fleeing dressed as a woman. Taken to Marseilles, it was now urgently necessary to get him out of the country, for fear that the French police, then under Vichy control, would be looking for him. Learning of Feuchtwanger’s plight from Varian Fry, an emissary for the US Emergency Rescue Committee, Waitstill and Martha Sharp took it upon themselves to organize Feuchtwanger’s escape. A new identity card was produced, where he appeared as Wetcheek (the English translation of the German Feuchtwanger). The Sharps then rented a room in Marseilles near the main train station, from where one could cross via an underground passage directly into the station and thus avoid the police control at the station’s entrance. In September 1940, Martha Sharp, dressed as a native peasant woman, accompanied Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger by train to Cerbere, on the Franco-Spanish border, where Waitstill Sharp was waiting for them. He told them that he had bribed the French border guards to allow the flight of the Feuchtwangers, but urged them to be careful, for he could not guarantee that the same guards would be on duty when the Feuchtwangers would attempt their crossing. It was decided that Marta Feuchtwanger would go first, and with the help of the cigarettes that she freely distributed to the guards, she distracted them for enough time to be allowed to pass the frontier undisturbed. As for Lion, he also crossed over successfully with the help of his false identity card under the name of Wetcheek.  The Sharps waited for them on the Spanish side, and the whole party continued on to Barcelona. The intention was to reach Lisbon, Portugal, and catch a boat sailing for New York. To get to Lisbon, the party of four first had to head to Madrid, but were afraid to use the sole airline making that route, the German (and Nazi-controlled) Lufthansa, so instead they went by train. Waitstill bought a first-class ticket for Lion, hoping that the Spanish police would be less diligent in inspecting travelers in that compartment. He also gave him a briefcase bearing the large heading “Red Cross.” Lion’s wife Marta traveled third class. Throughout the long trip to the Spanish-Portuguese border, Waitstill watched over Lion Feuchtwanger, keeping inquisitive travelers at a safe distance, so as to lessen the danger of his disclosure by the Spanish police, and the risk of his being returned to Vichy French hands. The Fascist dictatorship in Spain, headed by Franco, was at the time considering aligning itself with Nazi Germany, and would certainly not have hesitated to hand over Lion Feuchtwanger to the Nazis if they had asked for him. Arriving safely in Lisbon, also at the time a near-Fascist country headed by Salazar, the Sharps arranged for the Feuchtwangers to quickly board a ship heading for New York, and they sailed at the end of September 1940. At the time, they were assured that the US government had allowed their entry into the United States. In 1976, Marta Feuchtwanger gave a lengthy account of their escape from France with the assistance of Waitstill and Martha Sharp.  Having accomplished this, Martha Sharp returned to France, and journeyed to Vichy to plead for permits (laissez-passer) for a group of children-9 of them Jewish- to leave the country, which she eventually received. On November 26, 1940 this group left France, including the three Jewish Diamant sisters (Amalie, Evelyn and Marianne), and Eva Esther Feigl, all of whom, thanks to Martha Sharp’s efforts, were armed with US visas. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1926, Eva Feigl had fled with her parents in 1938, and arrived in France. Arrested as “enemy aliens,” the Feigls desperate sought ways to leave the country. Luckily for them, the Sharps were able to add Eva Esther to this group of children, and take her out of the country. Her parents stayed behind. Mrs. Feigl lives in New York, and gave testimony of her timely rescue by the Sharp couple. After the war, Martha Sharp helped raise funds for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, and was active in helping Jewish children reach Israel under the Youth Aliyah program. In that capacity, in 1947 she journeyed to Morocco, and in 1951, to Iraq, to coordinate clandestine emigration possibilities for Jews desirous to leave for Israel. She died in 1999; Waitstill had passed away in 1984.  In light of the risks taken by the Sharps – first of being apprehended by the French authorities for helping Lion Feuchtwanger, a fugitive from French law, to avoid arrest, coupled with the offense of bribing French border guards, and the equal risks of arrest while traveling incognito through Spain, a country leaning toward Nazi Germany, and keeping in mind the Sharps’ meritorious assistance to other Jewish fugitives of Nazi terror – Yad Vashem decided on September 9, 2005 to confer upon the late Waitstill and Martha Sharp the title of Righteous Among the Nations.  A medal and certificate of honor was presented to the Sharps’ daughter, Martha Sharp Joukowsky, in a ceremony at Yad Vashem, on June 13, 2006, in the presence of a large audience, including members of the Sharp family, and Mrs. Eva Esther Feigl, one of the Jews rescued by the Sharps.

    ^ I learned about this American husband and wife by watching the documentary "Defying The Nazis: The Sharps' War." At a time (1939-1941) when most Americans (the Government as well as regular citizens) didn't want to have anything to do with Europe or the Nazis these two people risked everything to save innocent men, women and children. ^


    http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/sharp.asp

    Monday, September 19, 2016

    NYC Bombs

    From the BBC:
    "US terror blasts suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami in custody"



    A man suspected of planting bombs in New York and New Jersey is in custody after a shootout with police that began when he was found asleep in a doorway. Afghan-born Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, is undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound after the confrontation in New Jersey. Republican Donald Trump immediately seized on the news as vindication of his hard line on immigration and vowed to defeat "radical Islamic terrorism". The FBI said no other suspect was being sought over the weekend's blasts. A huge manhunt was sparked on Monday after police publicly identified Mr Rahami as chief suspect. Officers have refused to discuss what led them to him but senior law enforcement officials have told US media that a fingerprint collected from an unexploded device in New Jersey was key. Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said the suspect was found sleeping in the doorway of Merdie's Tavern in Linden, New Jersey.  When a police officer went to investigate and wake him, the suspect fired on him and two police officers suffered injuries, before his arrest. He was later charged with five counts of attempted murder of police officers over the shootout, prosecutors said.  Federal prosecutors are still determining charges over the New York-area bombings, the AP reported.

    What we know:

    • Ahmad Kham Rahami has been arrested in connection with the New York and New Jersey blasts
    • He is a naturalised US citizen born in Afghanistan

    What we do not know:

    • Motivation for the attacks or whether he was radicalised
    • Whether there is a link to the so-called Islamic State
    • How exactly authorities pinpointed Mr Rahami as the suspect behind the bombings

    The bombing in the Chelsea district on Saturday night injured 29 people. An unexploded device was found nearby. Other devices have been found or have exploded in New Jersey over the past few days.
    Early on Saturday, a pipe bomb exploded in a shore town ahead of a charity race. No-one was hurt. One of several devices found in an abandoned backpack near the railway station in Elizabeth exploded as a police robot was trying to disarm it in the early hours of Monday morning. President Barack Obama, speaking in New York, said officials did not believe there was a connection between events in New York and New Jersey and a stabbing attack in Minnesota, also on Saturday, in which nine people were injured.  That attack was apparently carried out by a 22-year-old ethnic Somali. The president said that the US would continue to go after so-called Islamic State (IS). "We will continue to lead the global coalition and the fight to destroy Isil [IS] which is instigating a lot of people over the internet to carry out attacks," he said.


    ^ I have seen the following on Facebook and other social media and while it may not be PC it does say a lot: "  1. Plot twist!!   Suspect in NYC bombing is an Afghani immigrant!  2. Haha, just kidding. No plot twist." I'm not sure why when there's a terrorist attack in places like Paris, Brussels, etc. everyone changes their profile picture to the flag of that country yet no one has done that for the attacks in NJ/NYC (or after the Boston Marathon bombing, the CA terrorist attack or the Orlando terrorist attack.) The US is one of a few countries that is fighting the terrorists in dozens of places around the world while other countries do little to nothing to stop them. ^

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37411784


    Tricare Mess

    For years we have been able to use our local pharmacy (there's only one in town) but now we are forced to use Tricare's Home Delivery Pharmacy. It has been one thing after the other when dealing with them. I mailed in the application and the prescription (with my credit card information and signature on it.) I then signed-up online. I got the first medicine and it was only 1 bottle (when usually it is 3 bottles for a 90 day supply) and I received a bill. I called Tricare to get things straightened. The first woman I spoke with had such a thick accent it was difficult to understand what she was saying. She transferred me to someone in their pharmacy department. I could understand this woman better, but she was clearly not able to think for herself and just kept repeating what sounded like a rehearsed speech. She kept saying that they filled the prescription as it was written and that it definitely was a 90 day supply. I knew she was wrong. The prescription may have been written one way but if you did the math then you knew it was a 1.5 ml shortage for a 90 day supply. That may not see that big of a deal, but I can't mail the medicine to Iraq and so have to have the full 90 day supply on-hand for the next leave so it can be taken back. I also asked why I was given a bill when I had sent in my credit card information with my signature authorizing payment and was told that they didn't know why and that I could sign -up for automatic credit card payments.
     I then called the eye doctor's office and was told there was a 1.5 ml shortage in the 90 day supply of medicine. They will give me some free samples to make up that shortage and a new prescription. I then sent Tricare a secured e-mail about the issues with the shortage and the billing - specifically stating that while I understood they can only fill the medicine amount as written but that the Tricare pharmacist didn't catch the 1.5 ml shortage when I pointed it right out to her. She could have said something like: "You're right. There's a shortage and you should have your doctor write a new prescription so you can get the correct amount." Instead she kept saying: "We filled the 90 day supply" - - like a robot.
    I got a reply to my e-mail today and the woman who replied was also hit by the same dumb-stick that the pharmacist was. Even when you point the mistake out and say that it could have been a wrongly-written prescription (ie. not Tricare's fault) they continue to tow the "party line" that they fulfilled a 90 day supply. I don't understand how everyone at Tricare I have dealt with over this has such poor basic math skills or how they can keep repeating something that doesn't have any logic behind it. I really wish I could stop using the Tricare Home Delivery Program for this medicine, but it is being forced upon us because of the government. I do know one thing: I will double-check everything I get from Tricare from now on because I have no faith that they have the basic skills to fulfill the orders correctly. The only good thing is that I don't have to use them for my own medicines (I can get those at the local pharmacy still.)

    We Can't Manage It

    From the DW:
    "Berlin election: Merkel links migrant crisis to CDU defeat"

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted responsibility for her Christian Democratic party's "bitter defeat" in Berlin state elections. She voiced regret over mistakes that contributed to last summer's migrant crisis in Germany. More than a million migrants reached Germany - a record. "If I could, I would turn back time for many, many years, to prepare better," she told reporters. Her CDU party can no longer run Berlin with the Social Democrats (SPD). The centre-right CDU won 17.6% of the vote - its worst-ever result in Berlin. Mrs Merkel conceded that her open-door policy towards migrants - embodied in her phrase "wir schaffen das" (we can manage it) - was a factor in the election. She has now distanced herself from that phrase, calling it "a sort of simplified motto". She has been widely criticised in Germany for the policy, which was a humanitarian gesture faced with the desperate plight of migrants, many of them refugees from the war in Syria. The right-wing, anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) will enter the Berlin state parliament for the first time with 14% of the vote. The AfD is now represented in 10 of Germany's 16 regional parliaments. Earlier this month it pushed the CDU into third place in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.  Looking back at the migrant crisis, Ms Merkel defended her policy as "absolutely correct on balance, but ultimately it meant that for a long time we did not have enough control". She said she needed to work harder to explain her migrant policies.  The SPD emerged as the strongest party with about 22%, in spite of losing almost 7% of its voters, and said it would hold talks on forming a coalition with all parties except AfD. It is expected to drop the CDU as a coalition partner in favour of the left-wing Die Linke and the Greens.  Sunday's election in Berlin, a city-state of 3.5 million people, was dominated by local issues including poor public services, crumbling school buildings, late trains and a housing shortage, as well as problems in coping with the migrant influx. AfD co-chairman Joerg Meuthen said the party was strongly positioned for next year's national elections and colleague Beatrix von Storch predicted that it would become the third largest political force in Germany in 2017. "We're witnessing in 2017 Angela Merkel's battle for survival," she said.  It's being described as the "Merkel malaise".  For the second time in a month, Angela Merkel's conservatives have suffered a humiliating defeat at the regional ballot box.  Both votes are widely seen as a verdict on Mrs Merkel's refugee policy. But the result also reflects growing disillusionment with Germany's establishment parties. The Social Democrats may have won the election here but they lost voters; their success is being described as the weakest victory of all time. Germany's political landscape is changing. The anti-migrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric of AfD resonates with the electorate. The party is now almost certain to win seats in the national parliament next year, which could complicate coalition-building. Commentators predict the start of a more complex politics.  And many blame Angela Merkel. For the first time, the chancellor's political future feels uncertain. Don't expect her to stand down any time soon. But, increasingly, her own party views her as irrevocably tainted by her refugee policy.   Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder, from the CDU's sister party CSU, was quick to call it the "second massive wake-up call" in two weeks. "A long-term and massive loss in trust among traditional voters threatens the conservative bloc," he told the Bild daily, adding Ms Merkel's right-left national coalition had to win back support by changing course on its immigration policy.  "Protest election turns capital into tatters," proclaims daily tabloid Bild, which describes Berlin's SPD mayor as Germany's "weakest election winner of all time".  The rise of the right-wing AfD is driven by voters who feel "forgotten and marginalised", says Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
    On the fate of the chancellor, Spiegel says that while her CDU "crashed", she is likely to be able to blame local factors, rather than anger at her welcoming stance on migrants. Sueddeutsche Zeitung sees a party revolt as unlikely: "No one knows how things will carry on without her."

    ^ Apparently Merkel and Germany can't manage it. Germany should know how to deal with massive influx of refugees since they had to deal with them after World War 2 (of course they caused most of those) and again refugees from Communist Eastern Europe (including East Germany.) The refugees today are not the same as the ones from the 1940s or the ones from the 1950s-1990s. You have to investigate them more before you let them in otherwise you get attacks and violence like you saw in different places in Germany over the last year. I am all for helping refugees, but you have to do it smartly and make sure your country is ready and safe for them first (and that those coming in are also safe.) The world has seen what happens when you don't think this through correctly and now Germans are voicing their opposition. ^


    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37409451

    Russian Results

    From the MT:
    "Statistical Evidence Suggests Russia's Ruling Party Cheated Its Way to Supermajority"

    Statistical analysis of this Sunday’s parliamentary election results appears to show evidence of some of the same irregularities that plagued the 2011 State Duma contest, according to the Slon news website. The outlet’s senior editor, Mikhail Zelensky, cites findings that suggest nearly half of all the votes recorded for United Russia, the ruling political party, may have been falsified.  According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, United Russia won a historic 343 seats in the next Duma, granting it a massive 76-percent supermajority capable of amending the constitution without support from any rival parties. Zelensky highlights that United Russia’s performance on Sunday violates some of the statistical assumptions political scientists make about free and open elections, explaining that graphing turnout and voting distribution, as well as turnout and absolute votes, should yield a bell-shaped curve — a so-called Gaussian distribution. According to data from the Central Election Commission, United Russia’s results defy these expectations. Russia’s three other major political parties (A Just Russia, LDPR, and the Communist Party) gained most of their votes at precincts where they won roughly 10–20 percent of the total. In other words, these opposition parties very rarely won more than 40 percent of the vote at any single voting station. United Russia, on the other hand, won millions of votes in precincts where it captured more than 70 percent of all ballots cast, meaning that the party continued to earn enormously high numbers of votes even in places where nearly every voter supported United Russia (a bizarre phenomenon most spectacularly visible in Chechnya).

    Russia’s party of power also managed to attract drastically more supporters in voting stations with higher turnout, unlike the other three major parties.  According to preliminary research by the Russian physicist Sergey Shpilkin, who published statistical evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2011 State Duma elections, the natural bell curve of voter turnout compared to votes cast in Sunday’s election suggests that the true total turnout was just 37 percent — a whopping 11 percent lower (5.7 million votes fewer) than Russian officials claim. If Shpilkin is correct, and you throw out the ostensibly falsified votes counted at precincts with turnout above 70 percent, then “corrected” election results are dramatically different from the official figures: United Russia’s share of the electorate falls from 54 percent to 40 percent, the Communist Party’s support rises from 13 percent to 18 percent, LDPR jumps from 13 percent to 17 percent, and A Just Russia wins 8 percent, instead of 6 percent. In other words, Russia’s opposition parties could have won a slim majority in the parliament for the first time in well more than a decade.

    ^ Anyone who is surprised by these results doesn't know how things have worked in Russia (Czarist, Soviet and modern times) for hundreds of years. I don't think I have met a Russian that hasn't used a "roundabout" way to get things done. I'm not saying it is right. I'm just saying it seems to be the only way they have ever known to get things done. ^

    https://themoscowtimes.com/news/statistical-evidence-suggests-russias-ruling-party-cheated-its-way-to-a-supermajority-55396



    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    Brixmis Memorial

    From the BBC:
    "Cold War spies recognised by National Memorial Arboretum"

    A £10,000 memorial has been unveiled in Staffordshire to commemorate the work of Cold War spies.
    The National Memorial Arboretum installation recognises the contribution of the Brixmis - the British Commanders-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany. The work was dangerous and many of those who took part were injured.  Former members of the mission and their families attended the unveiling on Saturday.  Tony Matthews, a volunteer at the arboretum, said: "The arboretum is not just about the dead, it's about remembering the people who gave service to their country. "These men found out about Soviet tactics, different equipment. They slept in their cars for days on end.  "It's important their work is remembered." Brixmis officers worked with their American and French counterparts throughout the Cold War. They gathered military intelligence behind the Iron Curtain, stealing Soviet military hardware and searching East German rubbish dumps for classified information. Donations helped fund the memorial.


    ^ People often forget all the men and women who worked "behind-the-scenes" during the Cold War to help stop Communism and to help ensure millions of innocent people around Eastern Europe and the rest of the world had the basic freedoms that were denied them by the Communists, but were eventually won for them when the Cold War ended in December 1991 Any time you have to forcibly stop your own people (through Walls, death strips, border exclusion zones, etc.) from escaping through own country for a chance of basic rights and freedom then you know what you are doing is wrong. Communism has proven in every country that has imposed it that it can never work and always leads to a dictatorship with innocent people dying or being imprisoned. It is thanks to the hard work of Brixmis and many other such groups that the Cold War never turned hot and that freedom won over Communism. ^


    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-37402094

    Paralympic Medals

    From Wikipedia:
    "2016 Summer Paralympics medal table"

    2016 Summer Paralympics medal table
     Rank NPCGoldSilverBronzeTotal
    1 China (CHN)1058151237
    2 Great Britain (GBR)643944147
    3 Ukraine (UKR)413739117
    4 United States (USA)404230112
    5 Australia (AUS)21292979
    6 Germany (GER)18251457
    7 Netherlands (NED)17192662
    8 Brazil (BRA)*14292871
    9 Italy (ITA)10141539
    10 Poland (POL)9181239
    11 France (FRA)951428
    12 New Zealand (NZL)95721
    13 Spain (ESP)812828
    14 Canada (CAN)8101129
    15 Uzbekistan (UZB)861731
    16 Nigeria (NGR)82212
    17 Cuba (CUB)81615
    18 Belarus (BLR)80210
    19 South Korea (KOR)7111634
    20 Iran (IRI)79723
    21 Tunisia (TUN)76619
    22 South Africa (RSA)76417
    23 Thailand (THA)66618
    24 Greece (GRE)54413
    25 Belgium (BEL)53311
     Slovakia (SVK)53311
    27 Algeria (ALG)45714
    28 Ireland (IRL)44310
    29 Mexico (MEX)42915
    30 Egypt (EGY)35311
    31 Serbia (SRB)3249
    32 Norway (NOR)3238
    33 Turkey (TUR)3159
    34 Kenya (KEN)3126
    35 Malaysia (MAS)3014
    36 Colombia (COL)251017
    37 United Arab Emirates (UAE)2417
    38 Iraq (IRQ)2305
    39 Hong Kong (HKG)2226
     Morocco (MAR)2215
    41 Croatia (CRO)2215
    42 India (IND)2114
    43 Lithuania (LTU)2103
    44 Latvia (LAT)2024
    45 Singapore (SIN)2013
    46 Hungary (HUN)18918
    47 Azerbaijan (AZE)18211
    48 Sweden (SWE)14510
    49 Austria (AUT)1449
    50 Czech Republic (CZE)1247
     Denmark (DEN)1247
    52 Namibia (NAM)1225
    53 Switzerland (SUI)1214
    54 Argentina (ARG)1135
    55 Vietnam (VIE)1124
    56 Finland (FIN)1113
     Trinidad and Tobago (TTO)1113
    58 Kazakhstan (KAZ)1102
     Slovenia (SLO)1102
    60 Bahrain (BRN)1001
     Bulgaria (BUL)1001
     Georgia (GEO)1001
     Kuwait (KUW)1001
    64 Japan (JPN)091221
    65 Venezuela (VEN)0336
    66 Jordan (JOR)0213
    67 Qatar (QAT)0202
    68 Chinese Taipei (TPE)0112
    69 Ivory Coast (CIV)0101
     Ethiopia (ETH)0101
     Uganda (UGA)0101
    72 Israel (ISR)0033
     Portugal (POR)0033
    74 Mongolia (MGL)0022
    75 Cape Verde (CPV)0011
     Indonesia (INA)0011
     Saudi Arabia (KSA)0011
     Mozambique (MOZ)0011
     Pakistan (PAK)0011
     Philippines (PHI)0011
     Romania (ROU)0011
     Sri Lanka (SRI)0011
    Total (82 NPCs)4664654781410


    ^ The Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Paralympics is today and here is the medal count. The US team got fourth place. ^



    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Summer_Paralympics_medal_table