Thursday, February 22, 2018


I watched the Season Finale of “The Amazing Race” a few hours ago and am so glad that the team I wanted to win from the very beginning did win.  * Spoiler Alert * I watched Cody and Jessica on “Big Brother” and thought they both played a great game together. I actually stopped watching the show (BB) after both Cody and Jessica were evicted. I didn’t care for the other contestants and didn’t care to see which one of them won. I was glad to hear that Cody won the Fan Favorite Award and that both he and Jessica were going to be on TAR. I watched every episode of TAR, as I usually do, and liked this season because it had mostly good teams that I wanted to see win. I didn’t care for the Yale Team (Evan did nothing but put Henry down) or the Lifeguards (Brittany also did nothing but put Lucas down – although he did deserve it at the end when he lost his passport.) While I would have liked to see Kristi and Jen or Alex and Connor win I am glad that Cody and Jessica won. I heard on TV that they are also engaged so that’s cool. I wish TAR aired longer than other shows. It doesn’t drag-on like some and it’s interesting to see where they will go next and what they will do.


From USA Today:
"Wildlife Photographer Of The Year"

A lowland gorilla, saved from a bushmeat market, rests drowsily in the arms of the man who helped rescue her. An image of that scene, "Pikin and Appolinaire" by Jo-Anne McArthur, won the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year's People's Choice Award presented by London's Natural History Museum. Pinkin, the gorilla, awoke after being sedated on a drive in Cameroon alongside Appolinaire Ndohoudou, a worker with Ape Action Africa. The nonprofit works to save gorillas like Pinkin from bush meat markets, where butchered animals such as apes, elephants and antelopes are sold as food. Poachers captured Pikin and removed her from her habitat before she found herself safe with Ape Action Africa. Appolinaire, who once fled Chad for Cameroon after a civil war, now helps raise gorillas like Pikin. "I regularly document the cruelties animals endure at our hands, but sometimes I bear witness to stories of rescue, hope and redemption," McArthur, the photographer, said. Such is the case with the story of Pikin and Appolinaire, a beautiful moment between friends." As a complementary award to Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the People's Choice award honors outstanding nature photography as decided by the public. 

^ This is a heartwarming story and picture. It also reminds us that many animals around the world are in danger and need our help. ^

Numbers/Dates = Facts

From Wikipedia:
"School Shootings in the United States"

The following are the numbers of dead and injured from knives and guns by year or decade in the United States at schools. It includes K-12 public and private schools, colleges and universities. It does not include suicides or bombings.
1764: 10 Dead, 2 Injured
1840s-1850s: 4 Dead, 1 Injured
1860s: 8 Dead, 1 Injured
1870s: 3 Dead, 4 Injured
1880s: 2 Dead, 7 Injured
1890s: 14 Dead, 20 Injured
1900s: 13 Dead, 5 Injured
1910s: 11 Dead, 12 Injured
1920s: 5 Dead, 5 Injured
1930s: 10 Dead, 3 Injured
1940s: 11 Dead, 2 Injured
1950s: 13 Dead, 8 Injured
1960s: 42 Dead, 65 Injured
1970s: 36 Dead, 65 Injured
1980s: 51 Dead, 162 Injured
1990s: 91 Dead, 152 injured
2000s: 107 Dead, 137 Injured
2010: 8 Dead, 12 Injured
2011: 5 Dead, 12 Injured
2012: 42 Dead, 16 Injured
2013: 19 Dead, 35 Injured
2014: 17 Dead, 35 Injured
2015: 21 Dead, 41 Injured
2016: 10 Dead, 26 Injured
2017: 19 Dead, 26 Injured
2018 (up to February 21st): 19 Dead, 26 Injured

^ School violence is not a recent “trend.” It has occurred from even before our country was independent. It has occurred when we had a King (of England), a Democratic President, a Republican President or even a President from a political party that no longer exists. It has occurred before assault weapons, computers, video games, movies and television shows were even invented. There is clearly more to look at then just saying things you think are true to prove your point. These are numbers and dates (facts.) ^

75 Years: White Rose


75 Years ago today (February 22, 1943) Hans Scholl (24 years old), Christoph Probst (23 years old) and Sophie Scholl (21 years old) were guillotined by the Nazis for their role in the anti-Nazi resistance group, The White Rose. The members were mostly students at the University of Munich. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for passive opposition to the Nazis regime. They had been horrified by the behavior of the Germans on the Eastern Front where they had witnessed a group of naked Jews being shot in a pit. On February 18, 1943 Sophie and Hans distributed the pamphlets personally at the University. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they flooded out of lecture rooms. Leaving before the class break, the Scholls noticed that some copies remained in the suitcase and decided it would be a pity not to distribute them. They returned to the atrium and climbed the staircase to the top floor, and Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets into the air. This spontaneous action was observed by the custodian Jakob Schmid. The police were called and Hans and Sophie were taken into Gestapo custody. The other active members were soon arrested, and the group and everyone associated with them were brought in for interrogation. On February 22, 1943. The trial was run by Roland Freisler, head judge of the People’s Court, and  lasted only a few hours, they were convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Only hours later, the court carried out that sentence by guillotine. All three faced their deaths bravely, Hans crying out his last words, “Long Live Freedom.”Later that same year, other members of the White Rose -- Alexander Schmorell (25 years old), Willi Graf (25 years old), and Kurt Huber (49 years old) -- were tried and executed. Most of the other students convicted for their part in the group's activities received prison sentences. Prior to their deaths, several members of the White Rose believed that their execution would stir university students and other anti-war citizens into a rallying activism against Hitler and the war.  Accounts suggest, however, that university students continued their studies as usual, citizens mentioned nothing, many regarding the movement as anti-national. Their actions were mostly dismissed, until after the war when their efforts were eventually praised by the German consciousness. I took the one picture outside the University of Munich in Germany. It is the White Rose Memorial. The other picture is of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Legal Vs Illegal

Dragging On

"Survivor" drags on for months, but "TAR" is over in a few weeks? That's just wrong.

Tubman's Park

From USA Today:
"Harriet Tubman national park: Visitors pour in during first year, shattering projections"

Harriet Tubman looked north in 1849 and, seeing freedom, fled the Eastern Shore of Maryland and its system of human bondage. What separates her from many other self-liberating slaves of the time was that she looked back. Tubman returned a dozen times or more, ferrying at least 70 people out of slavery on the Underground Railroad. Nearly one year ago, a museum opened where her journey began near Church Creek in the swamps of southern Dorchester County. And the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park has proved a hit with the public. The National Park Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which run the site together, recorded more than 100,000 visitors in its first year Not bad considering the 17-acre park, one of the Park Service's smallest properties, was designed to host a maximum of 75,000 per year.  "In our first year, we kind of blew that out of the water," said Dana Paterra, the manager of the state park side of the operation. "We knew it would be a good thing, but we didn't realize how far people would travel to learn about Tubman in her homeland."The park can trace visitors back to all 50 states and 60 countries, she said. Her staff has had little time to celebrate. February brings Black History Month and an intense slate of events tailored toward celebrating one of the observance's central heroines. And March brings the first anniversary of the park's opening day, along with its own festivities on the weekend of the 10th-11th.Meanwhile, park employees are prepping for the first round of upgrades, including the installation of listening stations for self-guided museum tours and the addition of books and computer equipment for a new research library.The site's popularity may lie in a quality it shares with its namesake. Like the 5-foot-tall Tubman, the park packs a force much greater than its relatively diminutive size suggests.  The parking lot was nearly full on a recent Tuesday, but that was largely the product of a seminar for local schoolteachers. For some of the teachers, it was no easy journey. "Driving up, I was like, 'Dear Lord, this is in the middle of nowhere,'" said Kylie Vogelsang, a social studies teacher at Washington High School in Princess Anne, Md., during a short break. "But I see why they did that." Bereft of any artifacts from Tubman's life, the museum relies heavily on the surrounding landscape to tell her story. And the land that is little changed from Tubman's time. "You can look out our window and see what Tubman saw," Paterra said. "It creates a very powerful connection for people to stand where Tubman stood." The park is nestled near two places that figure prominently in Tubman’s early life: the plantation south of the community of Madison where she was born and the small farm near Bucktown where she grew up. No one can say for sure if the young Tubman's feet trod the property where the museum rises from Dorchester's silt loam. But she often hunted muskrat and worked alongside her father, Ben Ross, cutting timber, so there are few places she didn't visit in the region, historians say.The visitors center serves as the starting point to the Tubman Byway, a 125-mile driving tour that stretches through Maryland and Delaware and into Philadelphia. Highlights of the tour include the Bucktown Village Store, where her early resistance to slavery earned her a blow to the head, and the Cambridge wharf where kidnapped Africans were sold. Space for the $22 million visitors center was carved out of the adjacent Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a hub for migratory birds. It's not uncommon in the winter months, then, to hear from the Tubman property the distant sound of thousands of snow geese, honking in unison. A synergy has emerged between the neighboring parks.  Take Missy and Seth Warfield of Easton, who brought another couple from the Washington, D.C., area on a day trip to the refuge and Tubman museum. "More people should know about it," Missy said. "We come down to Blackwater many times over the year and remember when (the Tubman site) was just an empty field with a sign and a promise on it." That Tuesday's visit, just her second since the center's debut, was personal. Warfield said her great-grandfather was a Methodist minister and abolitionist who helped raise money for a home for Tubman in Auburn, N.Y.Immersing herself in Tubman's life, if only for a morning, filled her with a "very good feeling," she said. Designed by the Baltimore architectural firm GWWO, the visitors center resembles a telescoping quartet of barns: three clad in a silvery shell and one in cedar. For close observers, the building and grounds contain many hidden gems. Pretty much everything is a metaphor or symbolic of the Tubman story," Paterra said. Start with the materials that coat the facility. The cedar calls to mind the traditional architecture on the Eastern Shore. On the other three pitched segments, the zinc wrapping has a self-healing patina intended to reflect the country's slow recovery from the wounds of slavery. While standing outside the front entrance, gaze north. Notice how the plain of sod widens slightly as it retreats toward the dense forest in the distance. That's symbolic of a slave's journey northward, increasing with hope with each step. From the opposite vantage, the view south constricts, tightening like a shackle. Once the trees and shrubs reach maturity, the winding, gravel trails on the property will give visitors a sense of what it must have been like as a refuge-seeking slave, unaware of what might be around the next bend. Inside, Tubman's story comes to life through sculptures depicting key scenes in her biography and through her own words.  One of the most subtle, but powerful, displays greets visitors just as they enter the building: a bronze bust of Tubman. One important detail reveals itself, Paterra pointed out, only to those bold enough to look beyond the obvious to the dark reality just beneath.  There it is, on the opposite side of the bust, just above the fold in her collar: jagged, raised scars from where she had been whipped. The bust's creator, Brendan Thorpe O'Neill of Easton, based the image of the young Tubman on photographs taken when she was in her 60s. The sculpture stands on a slab of wood from Maryland's original Wye Oak, perched at the height she would have stood. 

^ I remember getting a book when I was a kid about Harriet Tubman and thought it was so interesting that she risked everything to go back down South and save more slaves. She not only fought to free blacks from slavery, but also for women to get the right to vote. I can see why so many people want to go visit her national park. ^


KFC Shortage

From USA Today:
"Hundreds of KFC branches in the UK to remain closed amid ongoing chicken shortage"

KFC expects some of its U.K. outlets to remain closed for the rest of the week, as a result of chicken shortages across the country. Around half of the fast-food chain's 900 stores in Britain were closed Tuesday evening. Many of those still open are offering a reduced menu or have cut their hours.  Last week, KFC said the closures had been caused after it had taken on a new delivery partner, DHL, and apologized for the shortages. A KFC spokesperson said the company anticipated the number of closures to fall over the coming days while they worked "flat out all hours to clear the backlog." "Each day more deliveries are being made; however, we expect the disruption to some restaurants to continue over the remainder of the week, meaning some will be closed and others operating with a reduced menu or shortened hours," the spokesperson said. Delivery firm DHL, which took on the contract last November with food service company QSL, said it "regrets" the interruption of supply and is working to rectify the situation as soon as possible. "Whilst we are not the only party responsible for the supply chain to KFC, we do apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment caused to KFC and their customers by this incident," a DHL spokesperson said Monday. KFC has set up a webpage for U.K. customers to find out the latest updates regarding their nearest outlets.

This is definitely not the same generation who stood alone against the Germans during the Blitz.I know who started the shortage - my Dad (he can't stand chicken.) ^


I am not a Russian computer troll, but I play one on TV.  - - True Story.

It's Not Guns?

From USA Today:
"Like the U.S., Switzerland loves its guns. But mass shootings are rare."

The Swiss are heavily armed but mass shootings are rare, unlike in the United States where the country is still reeling from its latest tragedy at a Florida high school that left 17 dead. About 2 million guns are estimated to be in circulation in this Alpine nation of 8.5 million people, according to GunPolicy. org, which publishes international data on firearms. Only the United States and Yemen have more guns per capita. Though weapons are ubiquitous here and gun laws are relatively liberal, crime is low. In the past 10 years, guns were used in less than 120 homicides, government figures show.  Switzerland also hasn’t seen a mass shooting since 2001, when a gunman opened fire in the legislative body in the Canton of Zug, fatally shooting 14 people before killing himself. 

So, what is Switzerland doing right?
Vigilance is one factor. As an extra safety net, the government encourages professionals like mental health providers to report anyone they suspect of being dangerous, and has created a database listing all gun license refusals. “We check it every time someone wants to purchase a firearm to make sure it doesn’t end up in wrong hands,” said Lulzana Musliu, a spokeswoman for the Federal Office of Police, which oversees the sale and licensing of guns. For the U.S., 2017 was considered the deadliest year for mass shootings in more than a decade. The runner-up: 2016, which saw 188 people lost in such attacks. The Florida shooting rampage has rekindled interest in legislation that allows a judge to order authorities to remove guns from a threatening person or prevent a gun sale if a police officer or relative makes the request. At least five states in the U.S. have adopted the measures allowing for police to remove weapons or prevent gun sales, under what are often called "extreme risk protection orders." Legislation is pending in Congress urging states to adopt more of the provisions. President Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have each said they will review gun restrictions in an effort to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. In Switzerland, the government also banned immigrants from eight countries, including Algeria, Sri Lanka, Turkey and nations of ex-Yugoslavia from owning firearms. This rule stems from political conflicts and hostilities that simmer within these groups, posing “a serious threat” to the safety of our population, Musliu added. Oversight and legal restrictions only go so far. What also keeps gun violence under control is the sense of responsibility deeply engrained in this safety-conscious society. “The Swiss use their guns for target practice or hunting. Unlike Americans, they don’t arm themselves to protect their families or commit crime,” Martin Killias, criminology expert at Lausanne University told Geneva’s daily newspaper, Le Temps. The Swiss Shooting Sports Association has about 3,000 clubs across the country, including a youth section where children as young as 12 learn to handle and shoot a gun safely. Last year, the Defense Ministry contributed about $860,000 for training, and the government donated 10,585 army assault rifles and 930,000 rounds of ammunition to gun clubs. Since World War II, soldiers serving in the Swiss military kept their weapons and ammunition at home. This gave rise to the famous “gun in every closet” phrase pro-gun lobbyists in the U.S. and elsewhere used to tout Switzerland’s liberal arms law.  But that changed somewhat in 2007, a year after Swiss champion skier Corinne Rey-Bellet and her brother were shot by Corinne's estranged husband, who used his old military-issue rifle to commit the murder. After that incident, the government ordered that ammunition for army weapons be left in arsenals, although the guns could still be kept at home. Anti-gun activists argued that this rule was ineffective, because it didn’t apply to weapons owned by civilians — collectors, hunters and amateur marksmen. The mainstream consensus was that Swiss gun owners didn’t need any more restrictions because the existing laws regulating the sale and licensing of private guns were stringent enough.  In 2011, 56% of voters rejected a referendum by leftist parties and church groups trying to ban military guns from private homes on the grounds that existing laws were strict enough.

^ What you mean the problem isn't only about guns? Who would have thought?  Oh, right me and millions of other people/ ^

Love To Hate

Another example of how the self-proclaimed "Love Trumps Hate" group has become the "Love Hating Trump" group instead: even when Trump does exactly what they wanted him to do by banning bump stocks they still "attack" him over the move, Didn't they say they were going to leave the country if he won? You're bags are packed and we are ready for you to go.

Schengen Push

From the DW:
"Bulgaria and Romania push to join EU's Schengen Area"

(The blue on the map above are the countries that are part of the Schengen Area. The yellow are countries that are part of the European Union and are obliged to eventually join the Schengen Area.)

They style themselves as stable and safe countries at every opportunity; nevertheless, they have yet to be admitted to the Schengen Area. Romania and Bulgaria, it seems, will remain the European Union's problem children. Bulgaria's foreign affairs minister, Ekaterina Zaharieva, has once again challenged the European Union over expanding the border-free Schengen Area. Not only did she call for the repeal of temporary border controls within the bloc in a recent interview with the German daily newspaper Die Welt, she also demanded that Bulgaria and Romania be admitted to the Schengen Area by the end of the year.  The diplomat's proposal is backed by a certain amount of political heft, considering Bulgaria currently holds the European Council's rotating presidency. Yet the initiative is anything but new. Bulgarian and Romanian politicians have been demanding membership in the Schengen Area with tenacious regularity since being invited to join it on January 1, 2007. Each time they have done so, the request has been denied on the basis of deficiencies in the areas of rule of law and fighting corruption. Although the European Commission has said both countries fulfill the technical requirements put to them, a number of EU member states, above all France and Germany, have voiced reservations. And rightly so, say critics of a premature accession. One of the most prominent skeptics is Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann. He said in a recent newspaper interview that it would be desirable for both countries to join the Schengen Area in the long term, but he stressed that the security of German citizens should not be put at risk to do so. He added that the threat emanating from Bulgaria and Romania with regard to "widespread corruption and the massive problem of organized crime" was simply too great. He also noted that it would be impossible to justify reintroducing border controls with Austria while at the same time dropping controls at the Bulgarian and Romanian frontiers before the protection of the EU external borders could be guaranteed.  Ahead of Germany's national election last September, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out in support of all EU member states becoming part of the Schengen Area. Merkel also called European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's proposal to admit Bulgaria and Romania as soon as possible a "reasonable approach." Yet, in the same breath she called for extending controls along Germany's borders into the future. Merkel justified the move by pointing to a lack of protection on Europe's exterior borders. "Until the protection of the external border works as we envision it, it is absolutely right that there should be controls at critical points along EU interior borders," Merkel said in a newspaper interview.  Meanwhile, EU Commission President Juncker has become more restrained in his accession calls, at least as far as Romania is concerned. Speaking recently in Brussels, Juncker said that Romania had made great strides in regard to the rule of law, yet he said the Commission could not accept other recent developments there. The reference was all too clear: The Social Democratic government in Bucharest is currently attempting to weaken judicial independence and water down anti-corruption efforts. Juncker was unmistakable in stating that if Romania failed to rework its proposed reform it would adversely affect EU discussions about accession to the Schengen Area. Twenty-six countries are now part of the 1958 Schengen Agreement, which abolished passport and customs controls between the participating states. Twenty-two of the countries are EU members. The United Kingdom and Ireland, both of which opted out of joining, as well as Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania are outside the Schengen Area. Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are non-EU signatories to the Schengen Agreement. Although the agreement is based upon open borders between signatory counties, some border controls have been temporarily reinstated since an increase in refugee arrivals beginning in 2015. In light of heightened terrorism concerns, the European Commission has declared its intention to allow continued controls within the Schengen Area into the future. The current rule stipulates that a country can extend such border control policies every six months. The most recent extension will expire in May. Brussels has proposed allowing the controls to be extended for a time period of up to two years as a result of the current security situation. At the moment, a number of countries, such as Austria, France and Germany, are conducting border patrols. Most say they are doing so not because of an acute terror threat, but because of a lack of protection at the EU's exterior borders.

^   The European Union has had a separate and not equal view towards Romania and Bulgaria since they joined. At first there were controls on how many Bulgarians and Romanians could live and work in other EU member states. Those have since all expired. Now, even though the EU admits that Romania and Bulgaria have fulfilled all aspects needed to join the EU just doesn't want to and instead wants to continue to treat them as second-class citizens. The Schengen Area as Europeans and tourists have known it may be vanishing for good. Many EU countries (in the Schengen Area and out of the Area) are putting-up barriers and fences and conducting border checks. to curb illegal immigration and terrorism.  While I am not against such measures I don't see how you can claim the free movement of people throughout all member-states when there are barriers and controls preventing such free movement. I guess I am just for a more honest and transparent system. Have the controls if you think you need them, but then don't get "all high and mighty" on other countries (like the US) when they built a barrier or Wall to do the same thing.  ^

Bump Stock Ban

From the DW:
"Donald Trump orders ban on Las Vegas-style bump stock gun modifications"

The US president has signed a memorandum ordering a ban on bump stocks used to make semi-automatic rifles fire like automatic weapons. The man who killed 58 concert-goers in October 2017 in Las Vegas used a bump stock.  US President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to write new regulations that would "ban all devices" like bump stocks used in the 2017 Las Vegas concert massacre. The announcement came after a former student shot and killed 17 people in a high school in Florida on Wednesday. 

Trump's announcement:
    - Trump said at a White House ceremony honoring US public safety officers: "Just a few moments ago, I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns."

    -"We must move past cliches and tired debates and focus on evidence-based solutions and security measures that actually work," he said, adding the regulations would be drawn up "very soon."

    - A Justice Department spokesman later said: "We look forward to the results of that process as soon as it is duly completed."

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy took to Twitter to point at a growing fear among lawmakers about inaction on gun control, saying: "Sign after sign this week that we've hit a fulcrum point in this debate where politicians are … scared of the political consequences of inaction on guns." But Sean Caranna, executive director of gun rights group Florida Carry, showed contempt for Trump's directive, saying: "You can't just legislate away evil." Why this matters: President Trump has faced increasing pressure in recent days from gun control advocates to pass stricter laws following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Advocates called for a ban on bump stocks after Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old former accountant, used them to fire rapidly into a crowd of 22,000 concert-goers in Las Vegas in October, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500. US Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to ban the modification in October, but the proposal floundered.
What are bump stocks: US law prohibits the sale of automatic weapons made after 1986. Bump stocks allow a shooter to modify a semi-automatic weapon to fire at a similar rate to an automatic weapon. There were no reports of a bump stock being used in the Florida school shooting.
Why is Trump acting now: Momentum is building for gun control measures after the Parkland, Florida, shooting. Several American celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a mass demonstration in Washington DC urging Congress to take action. The march, organized by survivors of the Parkland shooting, is slated for March 24.
^ There really is no pleasing everyone all the time - even people who want bump stocks banned complain because it is Trump who banned them. Those are the self-proclaimed: "Love Trumps Hate" people who have instead become "Love Hating Trump."  ^

No Cash

From MSN:
""No Cash Signs Everywhere Has Sweden Worried It's Gone Too Far."

"No cash accepted" signs are becoming an increasingly common sight in shops and eateries across Sweden as payments go digital and mobile. But the pace at which cash is vanishing has authorities worried. A broad review of central bank legislation that's under way is now taking a special look at the situation, with an interim report due as early as the summer.  If this development with cash disappearing happens too fast, it can be difficult to maintain the infrastructure for handling cash, said Mats Dillen, the head of the parliamentary review. He declined to give more details on the types of proposals that could be included in the report. Sweden is widely regarded as the most cashless society on the planet. Most of the country's bank branches have stopped handling cash; many shops, museums and restaurants now only accept plastic or mobile payments. But there's a downside, since many people, in particular the elderly, don't have access to the digital society. "One may get into a negative spiral which can threaten the cash infrastructure" Dillen said. Last year, the amount of cash in circulation in Sweden dropped to the lowest level since 1990 and is more than 40 percent below its 2007 peak. The declines in 2016 and 2017 were the biggest on record. An annual survey by Insight Intelligence released last month found that only 25 percent of Swedes paid in cash at least once a week in 2017, down from 63 percent just four years ago. A full 36 percent never use cash, or just pay with it once or twice a year.  In response, the central bank is considering whether there's a need for an official form of digital currency, an e-krona. A final proposal isn't expected until late next year, but the idea is that the e-krona would work as a complement to cash, not replace it completely. Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves has said Sweden should consider forcing banks to provide cash to customers. In its annual report on Monday, the Riksbank said the question is what role it should play in a future with even fewer cash payments. "The Riksbank is carefully analyzing this development," Ingves said. "Overall, I think we are facing structural changes in areas that have previously been stable. This is a development which will affect all the Riksbank's departments and we will need to make strategic decisions regarding the way forward."  

^  I use credit and debit cards, but I also use cash. You never know what could happen. There may be a power outage and you have to get food and the electronic  banking system isn't working. There are so many issues that could happen that would require you to have cash. ^

Sun Not Snow

When you started the week with a snow storm and will end the week with a snow storm, but today is sunny and 69 F you have to go into town to enjoy the one day of nice weather.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Skimpy Insurance

From Reuters;
"U.S. to extend skimpy health insurance outside of Obamacare"

The U.S. government on Tuesday proposed extending the availability of skimpy health insurance plans to millions of Americans in another Trump administration move aimed at undercutting the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.   The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule that such plans, now available only for periods of three months or less, will be available for up to 12 months. The agency is considering whether these plans will be renewable.  The plans will not include the benefits that define the insurance created under Democratic former President Barack Obama, including required health benefits such as maternity coverage and the guarantee of insurance regardless of health.  Obamacare currently allows for such short-duration plans, but they are limited to three months. The agency said it expects 100,000 to 200,000 people to shift from an Obamacare plan to such insurance in 2019 when the rule would go into effect, but that millions more people who have no insurance will likely sign up.  Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who began serving in his post less than a month ago, said in his first media briefing on Tuesday that the proposed rule marked “an important first step.” He said the administration is working on additional policies aimed at providing cheaper health insurance options for consumers.  America’s Health Insurance Plans, the biggest U.S. health industry lobby, said it was concerned the expansion would make it more expensive to cover the sicker people, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, who remain on the Obamacare marketplace. About 10 million people are enrolled in Obamacare plans that are eligible for income-based subsidies.   Evercore ISI analyst Michael Newshel said in a research note that while the magnitude of the new rule’s impact is debatable, directionally it is “another negative more for the stability of the individual insurance market.”   Even so, there were no new negatives in the government rule proposal, Newshel said. Shares in insurers which sell these plans were mixed. Centene Corp (CNC.N) gained 82 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $101.04; Molina Healthcare (MOH.N) rose 55 cents or less than 1 percent to $72.67; Anthem Inc (ANTM.N) fell 70 cents or about 0.3 percent to $234.33 and Cigna Corp (CI.N) fell 84 cents or 0.4 percent to $192.97.  The premiums on the plans have been rising each year since the marketplace was launched and increased in the double digits in 2018, reflecting a costly pool of members, fewer insurers and less competition, and the government decision to pull back billions of dollars in payments to insurers.  Republican President Donald Trump last year issued an executive order requiring the agency, which oversees the Obamacare individual market, to propose such a rule as part of its goal to make health insurance more affordable. The order also required an extension of association-based health plans that do not comply with Obamacare and more use of tax-free health savings accounts.  U.S. health officials said they did not expect the introduction of the plans to contribute to a rise in premiums in the ACA marketplace.

^ I don't know enough yet to tell if these "skimpy" insurance options will be any good. I do know that Obamacare hasn't and isn't working. My health insurance monthly rate constantly goes up because of Obamacare and my having to pay for everyone else and all the added programs. It will go up again in April. One thing I am glad to see is starting in 2019 Trump has done away with the Obama-imposed Individual Mandate. That was an ultra-Socialist, bad idea that was forced on every American. The health care system in the US continues to falter. Obamacare didn't fix the system it merely forced millions upon millions on to the already crumbling system and so the cracks got bigger and more noticeable. I really wish Congress would find a balance to fixing the health care system and providing - but nor requiring - Americans to have health insurance. ^

Peanut Help

From USA Today:
"There May Be Home For Kids With Peanut Allergies"

The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut flour helped sensitize children to nuts in a major study. Millions of children have peanut allergies, and some may have life-threatening reactions if accidentally exposed to them. Doctors have been testing daily doses of peanut flour, contained in a capsule and sprinkled over food, as a way to prevent that. California-based Aimmune (AIM-yoon) Therapeutics said 67 percent of kids who had its treatment were able to tolerate the equivalent of roughly two peanuts at the end of the study, compared to only 4 percent of others given a dummy powder. The study involved nearly 500 kids ages 4 to 17 with severe peanut allergies. They were given either capsules of peanut flour or a dummy powder in gradually increasing amounts for six months, then continued on that final level for another six months. Neither the participants nor their doctors knew who was getting what until the study ended. About 20 percent of kids getting the peanut powder dropped out of the study, 12 percent due to reactions or other problems. The results have not yet been reviewed by independent experts, but will be presented at a medical meeting next month. The company plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the treatment by the end of this year, and for approval in Europe early next year. 

^ It would be great if this treatment could eventually save people with peanut allergies completely. It would also be nice for everyone else who has had to stop bringing anything with peanuts to schools, on planes, etc. (It seems that the peanut ban happened all of the sudden a few years ago and has stayed ever since.) ^

Anti-Slander Informing

From the BBC:
"Poles told to report 'anti-Polish slander' to diplomats"

Poland's top senator, Stanislaw Karczewski, has urged his compatriots worldwide to notify diplomats about anyone who slanders the Polish nation. Senate Marshal Karczewski's plea came in an open letter condemning "insults" suggesting Polish complicity in Nazi Germany's World War Two atrocities. A controversial new Polish law makes it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of any complicity in Nazi crimes. Critics fear the law could stifle the truth about the role some Poles played. "Please document and react to all anti-Polish hostility, expressions and opinions that harm us. Notify our embassies, consulates and honorary consuls of any slander affecting the good reputation of Poland," Mr Karczewski's letter said (in Polish). "I call all our compatriots... to document and gather any testimony of atrocities and crimes against humanity committed during World War Two." He said that, before the surviving witnesses to the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities die, "it is necessary to record their memories, in order to remember all and any wrongdoing against Jews, Poles, Romani people and any other victims". The Nazis murdered an estimated six million Jews - mainly in death camps in occupied Poland - and millions of other people they considered to be "racially inferior". Among the biggest groups were Poles and Soviet prisoners-of-war. Mr Karczewski's letter says "six million Poles died, including three million Polish Jews". Opponents of the Polish nationalist government's drive to revisit history, including Israel and the US, worry that it may distort the truth, glossing over cases of Polish anti-Semitism and other Polish abuses.  

^ Sadly, this sounds more like returning to the days of people going to the Służba Bezpieczeństwa (the Polish equivalent of the KGB) and informing on others. Poland is a great country (I was supposed to visit it along with some Polish relatives later this year, but had to cancel) and doesn't need to have to do things like this. I worked at the USHMM and have studied the Holocaust and the European Theater of World War 2 - especially regarding Poland. The Germans occupied half of Poland from September 1939 - June 1941 and all of Poland until 1945. The Germans committed horrendous war crimes against all Polish citizens (Christians, Jews, the Romani, Communists and anti-Communists, the Home Army  - Armia Krajowa - the intellectuals, etc.) Every territory that was occupied by the Germans (from the British Channel Islands to the Soviet Union) had German collaborators. Poland was one of a few occupied countries that did not have a National Government that collaborated with the Germans. With that said there were Polish Christians as well as Polish Jews that individually collaborated with the Germans. That shouldn't be forgotten. What also shouldn't be forgotten is that Poland has the most individuals that received the Righteous Among the Nations Award from Yad Vashem even when German law in occupied Poland stated that any Pole that helped the Jews would be killed - along with their whole family. I can understand that Poland (like any other country) does not want to be associated with crimes  - much less war crimes - especially when the majority of them were carried out by the German occupiers in German-made and run camps, but no country should forget those that aided the Germans (no matter how small their number was.) I hope to go to Poland soon - not this year as I already said - and hope to meet my Polish relatives. Hopefully I won't get "reported" on by any of them or from any other Pole to the authorities for showing the full picture because that would seem like a return to the days of informing to the German Gestapo or the Polish and Soviet secret police. One Polish-made TV series that I really like and have written about in a previous post that shows a well-rounded and accurate portrayal of Poland occupied by both the Germans and the Soviets as well as those that fought them, sided with them and were their victims is "Czas Honoru" (Time of Honor.) I would recommend people watch that to see a very interesting, well-made and historically correct  - yet also entertaining - series. ^