Saturday, February 18, 2017

Metro Loosing Icons

From MT:
"Moscow Metro to Lose Iconic Escalator Attendants"

The Moscow metro is set to lose one of its greatest features: the legion of dour Russian pensioners guarding the transport system's escalators. Barricaded in a small perspex box and armed with a microphone, the attendants are charged with ensuring unruly passengers follow the metro's many rules and regulations. Daily tasks include terrorizing tired commuters who sit on the escalator steps or issuing passive-aggressive reminders on correct passenger flow. They also control the escalators' emergency stop button. From April 1, 2017, the attendants' role will be given to members of the metro's escalator repair team, who will guard the staircases in between call-outs.  Some of the those affected by the changes will be moved to other positions. Others will lose their jobs, Russia's Life news site reported.  Many of the attendants are pensioners who subsidize their state income with a monthly wage of approximately 14,000 rubles ($242). The Moscow metro boasts 649 escalators across its network. The longest escalator, measuring an impressive 126 metres can be found at station Park Pobedy.

^  I always saw them when I took the Metro in Moscow, but never had any contact with them. I guess I was too busy trying not to fall down the steep and fast-moving escalators. ^

MA Everywhere

"The Massholes are coming! The Massholes are coming! - - Correction: The Massholes are here. Not only is it a holiday weekend, but also school vacation in MA so they all seem to come up here and while not all of them are Massholes there sure are a lot of them. Just driving to the mailbox I had to deal with two parked cars with MA plates - blocking our small mountain road. The people probably went hiking and when they come back their cars will probably be towed (the guy who lives down there likes to do that.) It's how they say "Hello" up here.

Sharing Good

Roe Passes

From the BBC:
"Roe v Wade: Woman in US abortion legal test case dies"

Norma McCorvey, whose test case made abortions legal in the United States, has died aged 69. She was represented under a pseudonym in the Roe v Wade case, in what ended up being a landmark and controversial Supreme Court judgement in 1973. Having turned to religion, McCorvey then said being part of the decision to legalise abortion "was the biggest mistake of my life". She also unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. Her death, in a Texas care home, was confirmed to US media by a journalist who had been working on a book on the case. The ruling in January 1973 came after McCorvey, then a 25-year-old single woman under the pseudonym "Jane Roe", challenged the criminal abortion laws in Texas that ruled abortion was unconstitutional, except in cases where the mother's life was in danger. Henry Wade was the Texas attorney general who defended the anti-abortion law. McCorvey first filed the case in 1969 - she was pregnant with her third child and said she had been raped. But the case was rejected and she was forced to give birth. However, in 1973 her appeal made it to the US Supreme Court where, by a vote of seven to two, the justices ruled that the government lacked the power to prohibit abortions. The court's judgement was based on the decision that a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy came under the freedom of personal choice in family matters, as protected by the Constitution.  McCorvey, having revealed her real name in the 1980s, went on to clarify that she had not been raped as she had earlier claimed. She had said so only to get permission for an abortion and speed up her case. By the time the legal challenges to her case were over, her daughter was two and had been given away for adoption. "I'm a simple woman with a ninth-grade education who wants women not to be harassed or condemned," she told the New York Times in 1994, before she went on to denounce abortion. "It's no glamorous thing to go through an abortion. I never had one, but I've worked in three clinics and I know." In an anti-abortion television advert broadcast earlier this decade, she said: "Abortion has eliminated 50 million innocent babies in the US alone since 1973. Abortion scars an untold number of post-abortive mothers, fathers, and families too." Before Roe v Wade, some states had already started to reform or repeal laws on abortion, but women seeking a termination had to do so illegally, at great expense, and often in unsafe conditions. One underground network run by women in Chicago said it performed some 12,000 abortions in the late 1960s and early 70s, before the court ruling was made. In more recent years, the issue has proven to be among the most divisive in US politics.  Last month, President Trump signed an executive order banning federal money going to international groups which perform or provide information on abortions. The order, known as the Mexico City Policy, was originally put in place by Ronald Reagan but was rescinded under Bill Clinton.  Although the policy does not directly affect services in the US, Mr Trump has said he supports an abortion ban at home, where several states maintain restrictions on abortion services. In many parts of America, women have to travel for hours to get an abortion because access to services is limited.

^I believe women should have the right to decide whether they are going to keep their baby or not. With that said I do not think that any form of government funding (Federal State or local) should be allotted to funding an abortion. People always say that there is no place for the government in a person's bedroom and yet they want the government to then pay for abortion or other related things. You can't have it both ways. If you are adult enough to have sex, make a baby and to have an abortion than you are adult enough to pay for it too. If not then maybe you shouldn't be having sex in the first place. ^

Reading Problem

^ Does reading movies count? ^

Russia's Rebels

From the MT:
"Putin Signs Executive Order Recognizing Passports Issued by Ukraine's Rebels"

Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on Saturday officially recognizing identification documents issued by the two breakaway “republics” in eastern Ukraine. In addition to passports, the Russian Federation will recognize education documents, certificates recording births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, and automobile registrations. Now, using documents issued by the self-declared “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, individuals will be able to enter Russia. According to the executive order, which Putin says he signed “to protect human rights and freedoms” in accordance with “the widely recognized principles of international humanitarian law,” Russia is only recognizing the rebel republics’ documents temporarily, until the conflict in eastern Ukraine is resolved.  This decision follows reports earlier this month by the RBC news agency that Russian border authorities were already unofficially accepting identification papers issued by Ukraine’s breakaway republics.

^ This shouldn't come to a surprise to anyone. Russia has been recognizing and helping the ethnic Russians fighting in the Donbas from the very beginning and I'm sure they have even supplied them with the materials for these documents. ^

Friday, February 17, 2017

Settle Soviet Debt

From the MT:
"Russia to Settle Soviet Debt in 2017"

Russia's Finance Ministry announced last week that it had cleared the Soviet Union's $60.6 million debt to the former-Yugoslavian nation of Macedonia. This leaves Russia with just one more payment to settle: $125.2 million owed to Bosnia and Herzegovina.  An unnamed finance ministry source told Russian tabloid Izvestia that the debts would be cleared by the end of the summer. Russia inherited a debt of more than $66 billion when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Much of the money owned to the Yugoslav government came from business deals which saw communist Yugoslavia provide the Soviet Union with consumer goods “In a sense, it is a PR campaign,” economist and politician Andrey Nechaev said. “Despite sanctions, we are paying our debts. It's a nice way to show that Russia is a reliable borrower.” The Kremlin was able to pay off $22 billion of Soviet debts to the Paris Club — a group of 17 creditors including the United States — in 2006. Soviet debt to China was settled in 2015 with a payment of 400 million Swiss francs ($400 million).  The Soviet Union previously owed $2.1 billion debt to South Korea. Former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin signed a deal with his counterpart in Seoul in 2003, writing off part of the debt while agreeing to pay the remaining $1.5 billion over the next 23 years. Russia's foreign debt amounted to $ 38.6 billion as of Oct. 1, 2016, according to Central Bank statistics. Moscow pledged to cut foreign borrowing in the wake of financial sanctions in 2014, but tumbling oil prices has left the Kremlin struggling to plug the state budget. Russia’s Finance Ministry announced in July 2016 that it planned to spend over a third of Russia's $72 billion national welfare fund between 2017 and 2019 on balancing the government's books.

^ With everything that has happened in Russia in the 26 years since the USSR collapsed (wars,  economic collapses, etc.) it is pretty amazing that Russia - as the sole Soviet Union successor state  - has also continued to pay-off it's foreign debt and is close to being able to say that the billions owed by the USSR is completely paid-off. People think that just because a country collapses that its problems and obligations go away, but they don't. It would be nice to see Russia start to tackle over problems and issues leftover from Soviet times (within Russia and around the world.)  ^

It's Snowing?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Not My Thimble

From USA Today:
"Fickle finger of fate flicks Monopoly's humble thimble out of the game"

Originally added to Monopoly in 1935, the thimble game piece will no longer ship with the iconic real estate-based board game. During a month of voting in the "Monopoly Token Madness" campaign, more than 4 million votes were cast to save current tokens and add new pieces to the Hasbro game. And the meager thimble seems to be the unlucky victim of progress. It joins milkmen, television repairmen and rock band saxophonists. The thimble was part of daily life when it was chosen as an original game piece. But, in the recent Token Madness competition, it had to compete against more relevant entries like a computer, a cellphone and a jet. There were 56 new tokens competing against the eight currently included. Hasbro will announce what token will be added to the game on "World Monopoly Day," March 19. A new game with eight fan-picked game pieces will go on sale in August. 
The last time a token was dropped and a new one was added was in 2013. The oh-so-exciting iron was dropped in favor of a cat token. The Scottie dog was added in 1950.

^ They have so many different versions of Monopoly why can't they just leave the original alone? ^

Illegal Vs Legal

^ For those that don't understand the difference between an illegal immigrant and a legal immigrant. ^

Passenger Drone

From the BBC:
"Dubai announces passenger drone plans"

A drone that can carry people will begin "regular operations" in Dubai from July, the head of the city's Roads and Transportation Agency has announced at the World Government Summit. The Chinese model eHang 184 has already had test flights, said Matt al-Tayer. The drone can carry one passenger weighing up to 100 kg (220 pounds) and has a 30 minute flight time. The passenger uses a touch screen to select a destination. There are no other controls inside the craft. It is "auto-piloted" by a command centre, according to a video released by the government agency. It has reported speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour) and can fly 31 miles (50km) on a single battery charge. "This is not only a model," Mr al-Tayer, according to a report by the Associated Press. "We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai's skies." The device was also approved for testing in Nevada in June 2016.  Dr Steve Wright, senior lecturer in avionics and aircraft systems at the University of the West of England, told the BBC that safety would have to be paramount. "The way these systems work, making them work normally is easy. The tricky bit is making systems that are resilient to failure," he said. "I would like to see the drone flying for at least 1000 hours before I saw a human in it." Dr Wright added that he would not be volunteering for an early flight. "I'd have to be taken on board kicking and screaming." Last month Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics announced that its Cormorant passenger drone - designed for military use - could be in use by 2020. The $14m (£11m) drone can carry 500kg (1,100lb) at 185km/h (115mph).

^ I agree with Dr. Wright. I wouldn't get into one anytime soon. ^

Half Plow

We got another major snow storm last night. When I went out today to start clearing it away I noticed that part of my driveway had been plowed. That's right only half of my driveway. The two brothers who had been plowing my driveway for 7 years and randomly stopped this year (I haven't spoken or even seen them in person since the one time 7 years ago.) They still plow the neighbor's house across from me and I believe they were the ones to plow part of my driveway this time (and one other time earlier this season.) It may not seem like a big deal, but not only did this person only do part of the job, but he made it even harder for me since he only pushed the snow from the end of my driveway up halfway and I had a "snow wall" blocking things. I couldn't use the snow blower on it as it was iced-over and so I had to clear it by hand. Sometimes it isn't the thought that counts since this guy thought it would be good to plow part of my driveway and give me a lot more work to fix it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gambia Rejoins

From the BBC:
"The Gambia: UK 'very pleased' about Commonwealth return"

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is in The Gambia, has said he is "very pleased" the West African state intends to rejoin the Commonwealth. His visit, the first to The Gambia by a British foreign secretary, comes weeks after long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh went into exile after losing elections.  Mr Jammeh took The Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it a neo-colonial institution. New President Adama Barrow had promised a return to the 52-nation grouping. Before leaving for Banjul, Mr Johnson said: "We will ensure this happens in the coming months.  "The strength of our partnerships show that Global Britain is growing in influence and activity around the world."  The Commonwealth secretariat said it welcomed the news, saying the formal process of rejoining would have to be agreed by the 52 heads of government. "When The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013, the heads of government... noted its decision with regret. We looked forward to the country's eventual return because it was part of our very close knit family and our doors have always remained open," a spokesman said.  Last week, the European Union promised The Gambia an aid package of nearly £65m ($81m) - almost three years after freezing its assistance to the West African nation. Mr Barrow, who was sworn in last month, has also said The Gambia will reverse its move to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a statement on Monday, the government said it had written to UN chief Antonio Guterres to inform him of its decision "to discontinue the withdrawal notice". A former Gambian information minister had referred to the court last year as "an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans". The move is a blow to Africa's anti-ICC lobby - which includes South Africa, Namibia and Burundi. At the annual African Union summit held this month, leaders called for a mass walk-out from the ICC, but faced opposition from other countries, including Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia.   The Foreign Office said as well as holding talks with Mr Barrow, Mr Johnson would visit the UK-funded Medical Research Council and speak to Chevening scholars and workers and employers in the tourism industry. The West African state is a popular holiday destination for Britons. Thousands had to be evacuated last month because of security concerns when Mr Jammeh was refusing to hand over power after losing December's elections.  Mr Barrow, whose swearing-in was held in neighbouring Senegal, is to be inaugurated as president in a ceremony at the national stadium on Saturday. Several heads of state are expected to attend. Local dignitaries may include former Vice-President Alhagie Saihou Sabally, who local media said had returned to the country on Monday after 22 years in exile. Mr Jammeh, who took power in coup in 1994, is now in exile in Equatorial Guinea after West African leaders deployed troops to The Gambia to ensure he left power.
Mr Johnson will go on to Ghana for talks with President Nana Akufo-Addo on Wednesday. Referring to him and Mr Barrow, Mr Johnson said: "Their elections highlight the continuing strengthening of democracy in West Africa."

^ The change in the Gambia may bring it back into the rest of Africa and the World. The Commonwealth has a chance to become a great and powerful organization around the world - especially with the UK leaving the EU, but a lot would have to change from within the organization. I am a Commonwealth citizen and Commonwealth Day is next month yet I don't know a whole lot about what the Commonwealth actually does (and doesn't do) and I consider myself above-average in knowledge on the Commonwealth - especially compared to other Commonwealth citizens. ^

Less Help

From the BBC:
"Trump defence chief Mattis threatens less commitment to Nato"

The new US defence secretary has told Nato members that Washington will "moderate its commitment" to the alliance if they do not increase their spending on defence. James Mattis's comments repeat President Donald Trump's demand that members raise their spending on defence to meet a target of 2% of their GDP. Only five of the 27 countries do so. Earlier, Mr Mattis had hailed Nato as the "fundamental bedrock" of trans-Atlantic co-operation. According to a text of his remarks, Mr Mattis said at the Nato headquarters in Brussels: "No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defence of Western values. "Americans cannot care more for your children's future security than you do," he added, as he met defence ministers for the first time on Wednesday. Mr Trump's comments, during his campaign, that the US might not defend allies who do not contribute their "fair share" to Nato, had worried many European nations, particularly those near Russia's border.  While hailing the alliance's ability to respond to security challenges, Mr Mattis said it was a "fair demand that all who benefit from the best defence in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary cost to defend freedom". Only the US, UK, Estonia, Greece and Poland currently meet the spending target.

^ I've been saying this for years - not just about NATO, but in general. The world expects the US to protect it regardless of where, when or how much and then most of the time those same countries bash the US. It is high-time that the US starts making its allies live up to their own commitments. NATO and its other member states need to contribute more to their own safety. ^

Good And Sad Story

From the BBC:
"Thousands raised for children of cancer death couple"

A six-figure sum has been raised for the children of a couple who died of cancer within days of each other. The three children released an image of their terminally ill parents' last moments together as they held hands in a Merseyside hospital. The image of Mike Bennet, 57, and wife Julie, 50, from Wirral, was shared by Oliver, 13, Hannah, 18, and Luke, 21.  By 16:30 GMT on Monday, more than £150,000 had been raised for the three siblings. Family friend Heather Heaton Gallagher said the amount of money raised had "blown everyone's socks away".  She said: "The kids are astounded, they couldn't believe it.  "They are seeing all this support coming from across the world and it's inspirational to them." Ms Gallagher said the children were being supported by their aunts and uncles and the money would be used to help them through college and university.  She said their parents had been "besotted" with each other. She added they "were just so in love" and "always made time for everyone". "About three weeks ago I met Julie and she said 'that's it, the chemo isn't working' and that was very hard to hear." The pair were admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital two weeks ago, where Mr Bennet died on 6 February. Mrs Bennet, a primary school teacher at Sommerville School, was then moved to St John's Hospice and died on Saturday.  She was diagnosed in May last year with cancer which began in the liver and kidneys and then spread to other organs. Her husband, a self-employed cabinet maker, had been fighting a brain tumour since 2013 and had been nursed at home by Mrs Bennet and the children until his wife became too ill to care for him.

^ This is such a good and sad story all in one. ^

Flag Day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Relaxed Swiss

From the BBC:
"Switzerland votes to relax its citizenship rules"

People in Switzerland have voted to relax the country's strict citizenship rules, making it easier for third-generation immigrants to become Swiss.  Being born in Switzerland does not guarantee citizenship. Non-Swiss residents must typically wait 12 years before applying. Tests and government interviews are also required, which can be expensive. Initial projections suggest that 59% of Swiss voters said yes to simplifying the rules. The new proposal will exempt third-generation immigrants, who are born in Switzerland and whose parents and grandparents lived permanently in Switzerland, from interviews and tests in the naturalisation process. Supporters of the plan to simplify the process argue that it is ridiculous to ask people who were born and have lived all their lives in Switzerland to prove that they are integrated.  The result is a defeat for the right wing Swiss People's Party, which had warned the measure was the first step to allowing all immigrants - 25% of Switzerland's population - to get citizenship, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Berne. Some opponents had argued that the new proposal could lead to the "Islamisation" of the country.  One opposition poster featured a woman in a niqab - although this is a rarity in Switzerland. However, the new law will affect only about 25,000 people, the majority of whom are of Italian origin, our correspondent says. More than half of third-generation residents in Switzerland are descended from Italian immigrants, while other large groups have roots in the Balkans and Turkey.  The current vetting procedure, aimed at ensuring that new citizens are well integrated, includes interviews carried out by town councils. Questions put to interviewees can include requests to name local cheeses or mountains.  Those in favour of maintaining the current system also argue that the strict vetting rules make it superior to the more anonymous systems in neighbouring France and Germany. Over the past 30 years, three previous attempts to relax the rules were defeated.

^ This was an interesting vote since it focused only on the third-generation born and you don't usually here about the third-generation. ^

Likealike Dictator

From the BBC:
"Hitler lookalike arrested in Austria"

A Hitler lookalike has been arrested in Austria on charges of glorifying the Nazi era, local officials say.  The 25-year-old man reportedly calls himself Harald Hitler. The man, sporting a side parting and a trademark moustache, had been seen having his photograph taken outside the house in Braunau am Inn in which Adolf Hitler was born. The lookalike had recently moved to the town on the German border, police spokesman David Furtner told the BBC.  Mr Furtner said this was not a joke or a piece of performance art.  "The young man knows exactly what he is doing," the police spokesman said. He said the man had also been spotted in Vienna and Graz.  Pictures of the man were published by Austria's news website on Monday. Glorifying the Nazi era is a crime in Austria.  Last October, the Austrian authorities decided to demolish Hitler's birthplace house to stop it becoming a focal point for neo-Nazis. Hitler was born in a rented room on the top floor of the building on 20 April 1889. During Nazi rule, the house was transformed into a shrine to Hitler as the town drew in a wave of tourists. But as the Nazis began to lose control in 1944, it was shut.

^ It is weird to dress like Hitler. He is probably the most well-known mass-murderer dictator. On a similar note: I remember seeing people dressed as Stalin in Red Square in Moscow and yet no one seemed to object even though Stalin's reign of terror lasted much longer than Hitler's. It's one thing to dress up as a super hero for tourists and another to dress as a mass-murderer dictator. ^

Valentine's Day!


Every year people write: "Happy V-D Day" on February 14th. Either you are telling someone to go out and get some antibiotics or you're saying: "Happy Valentine's Day Day" Both aren't good. The more you know........

Monday, February 13, 2017

IDF Scooters

From the JP:
"160 disabled IDF veterans receive new mobility scooters"

Some 160 mobility scooters were donated to disabled Israel Defense Forces veterans by philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson through the Friends of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization. Uri Ehrenfeld, 63, was among those who received one of the devices. Ehrenfeld was taken captive on the eighth day of the Yom Kippur War after being severely wounded and held captive for two-and-a-half months.  Ehrenfeld worked for the government for more than 20 years but had to retire following severe medical problems about 15 years ago. “Due to the fact that I was severely wounded, I need to walk with a cane or crutches,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “Without those I can hardly walk. I heard about the possibility to get the gift and it’s given me the freedom to walk, it’s given me the freedom to access places with my family that I couldn’t go before.” “It gives me the ability to be more free, to be more independent. It’s a great help, for all of us,” Ehrenfeld added. Nissim Ben Shabat, 53, who was wounded during the 1982 First Lebanon War in a building collapse in the city of Tyre, was another veteran who was grateful for the donations. “This scooter is my legs,” he said. “It will enable me, after many difficult years, to be mobile with ease over long distances. This is something that until today was almost impossible for me to do.” Another veteran to receive a scooter was former border policeman Ronny Goslan, 43, who lost both his legs when he threw himself on a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 2002. “Finally, we can go for a walk in the park with our grandchildren,” said the wife of one disabled veteran who was wounded in the Yom Kippur War. “We’ll surprise them this Saturday.” The youngest veteran to receive a scooter was 38 and the eldest was 90. The scooters were donated by the Adelsons after they visited the Beit Halochem Rehabilitation Center in Tel Aviv Beit six months ago. Elyezer Shkedy, a former major-general who heads the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization, called the Adelsons “true friends of the wounded soldiers” and emphasized that their contribution will greatly improve veterans’ daily lives. The Friends of IDF Disabled Veterans Organization works in cooperation with the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, providing for the needs of more than 51,000 disabled veterans during their rehabilitation

^ Every country that has a military needs to support their veterans - especially those that became disabled during their service. That support should come from the military, the government as well as ordinary citizens and organizations. ^

Not My Monkey!

"Every time you feel yourself being pulled into other people's nonsense repeat these words: 'Not my circus, not my monkeys.'" - - Polish Proverb.

China To Fingerprint

From Yahoo:
"China to start fingerprinting foreign visitors"

Millions of foreigners visiting China annually will have their fingerprints collected starting this week, China's Ministry of Public Security announced Thursday. The requirement will apply to most people between the ages of 14 and 70. Foreigners holding a diplomatic passport or coming from countries that have reciprocal agreements with China will be exempted, the ministry said. Fingerprint logging will start Friday in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city bordering Hong Kong, before being gradually implemented elsewhere. Chinese authorities counted more than 76 million entries and exits last year from foreigners, primarily from South Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia. The ministry said in a statement that the new requirement was "an important measure to strengthen entry and exit management" that matches requirements in other countries. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has fingerprinted most foreign visitors since 2004. The agency said on its website that it is conducting tests of facial recognition software and other biometric screening. Japan also began fingerprinting all arriving foreigners in 2007 as a public safety measure.

^ I am not a big fan on taking biometrics, but China isn't the first country to do this and it seems like the new trend so I guess travelers just have to accept it if they want to visit a country that does it. ^

Joint Trump/Trudeau

From the Prime Minister of Canada's Website:
"Joint Statement from President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau"

President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held their first official meeting today in Washington, D.C. and affirmed their longstanding commitment to close cooperation in addressing both the challenges facing our two countries and problems around the world. No two countries share deeper or broader relations than Canada and the United States. We are bound together by our history, our values, our economy, our environment, and our resolve to improve the lives of our citizens. Our close relationship and ongoing collaboration allow us to successfully meet any challenges we may face over the coming years, and to build a prosperous future for the people of both countries.
Neighbours in Growing our Economies
We recognize our profound shared economic interests, and will work tirelessly to provide growth and jobs for both countries. Canada is the most important foreign market for thirty-five U.S. States, and more than $2 billion in two-way trade flows across our shared border every day. Millions of American and Canadian middle-class jobs, including in the manufacturing sector, depend on our partnership. We affirm the importance of building on this existing strong foundation for trade and investment and further deepening our relationship, with the common goal of strengthening the middle class. The United States and Canada also recognize the importance of cooperation to promote economic growth, provide benefits to our consumers and businesses, and advance free and fair trade. We will continue our dialogue on regulatory issues and pursue shared regulatory outcomes that are business-friendly, reduce costs, and increase economic efficiency without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards. We will work together regarding labour mobility in various economic sectors. Given our shared focus on infrastructure investments, we will encourage opportunities for companies in both countries to create jobs through those investments. In particular, we look forward to the expeditious completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which will serve as a vital economic link between our two countries.
Energy Security and Environment
U.S.-Canada energy and environmental cooperation are inextricably linked, and we commit to further improving our ties in those areas. We have built the world’s largest energy trading relationship. We share the goals of energy security, a robust and secure energy grid, and a strong and resilient energy infrastructure that contributes to energy efficiency in both countries. We collaborate closely on energy innovation, particularly in the clean energy sphere. As the process continues for the Keystone XL pipeline, we remain committed to moving forward on energy infrastructure projects that will create jobs while respecting the environment. We also look forward to building on our many areas of environmental cooperation, particularly along our border and at the Great Lakes, and we will continue to work together to enhance the quality of our air and water.
Partners in Keeping our Border Secure
We recognize the security of our borders as a top priority. Together, we address security at our shared border and throughout our two countries, while expediting legitimate and vital cross-border trade and travel. We demonstrate daily that security and efficiency go hand-in-hand, and we are building a 21st century border through initiatives such as pre-clearance of people and integrated cross-border law enforcement operations. In addition, our two countries are committed to a coordinated entry-exit information system so that records of land and air entries into one country establish exit records for the other. Recognizing the success of pre-clearance operations for travellers, we commit to establishing pre-clearance operations for cargo. We intend to accelerate the completion of pre-clearance for additional cities and continue to expand this program. Not only will these efforts enhance efficiency at our shared border, they will also strengthen our shared security. In the spirit of a more efficient and secure border, we will also examine ways to further integrate our border operations, including analysis of the feasibility of co-locating border officials in common processing facilities. Because we share a strong concern about the increase in opioid-related deaths, our countries will work together on common solutions to protect our people from opioid trafficking. Given the integrated nature of the infrastructure that supports our intertwined economies, cyber threats to either country can affect the other. We therefore commit to further cooperation to enhance critical infrastructure security, cyber incident management, public awareness, private sector engagement, and capacity building initiatives.
Allies in the World
We are indispensable allies in the defence of North America and other parts of the world, through NATO and other multilateral efforts. Our troops have time and again fought together and sacrificed their lives for our shared values. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) illustrates the strength of our mutual commitment. United States and Canadian forces jointly conduct aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning in defence of North America. We will work to modernize and broaden our NORAD partnership in these key domains, as well as in cyber and space. The United States welcomes Canada’s recently announced decision to launch an open and transparent competition to replace its legacy fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft. The United States also welcomes Canada’s decision to explore the immediate acquisition of 18 new Super Hornet aircraft as an interim capability to supplement the CF-18s until the permanent replacement is ready. Canada appreciates the cooperation of the United States to facilitate these processes. The United States values Canada’s military contributions, including in the Global Coalition Against Daesh, and in Latvia. Together, we are harnessing all elements of national power to achieve the goal of degrading and destroying Daesh through our military operations to deny it safe havens and to build the capacity of local partners, stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the Middle East region, cut off access to financing and funding, counter the Daesh narrative, and support the stabilization of communities liberated from Daesh.
Empowering Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders
It is a priority of both countries to ensure equal opportunities for women in the workforce. We are committed to removing barriers to women’s participation in the business community and supporting women as they advance through it. As part of this effort, we are creating a Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. We expect this initiative to promote the growth of women-owned enterprises and to further contribute to our overall economic growth and competitiveness, as well as the enhanced integration of our economies.
The Way Forward
We share a commitment to continue to strengthen our ties for the benefit of our mutual prosperity and security. We look forward to our cabinets following up on today’s meeting with further discussions in their respective areas of responsibility. Our countries deserve our full commitment to increased economic growth, which we will deliver. The partnership between the United States and Canada will continue to be unique and a model for the world.

"Déclaration commune du président Donald J. Trump et du premier ministre Justin Trudeau"

Le président Donald J. Trump et le premier ministre Justin Trudeau ont tenu leur première réunion officielle aujourd’hui à Washington D.C. et réitéré l’engagement de longue date à travailler en étroite collaboration pour faire face aux défis auxquels nos deux pays sont confrontés et aux problèmes survenant dans le monde entire. Il n’y a pas de pays qui entretiennent des relations plus profondes et vastes que le Canada et les États-Unis. Nous sommes liés par notre histoire, nos valeurs, notre économie, notre environnement et notre détermination à améliorer la vie de nos citoyens. Notre relation étroite et notre collaboration continue nous permettront de surmonter toute difficulté qui pourrait se présenter au cours des prochaines années, et de bâtir un avenir prospère pour la population des deux pays.
Voisins pour ce qui est de la croissance de nos économies
Nous avons de profonds intérêts économiques communs, et travaillerons sans relâche afin de stimuler la croissance et de créer des emplois dans nos deux pays. Le Canada est le marché étranger le plus important pour trente-cinq États américains, et les échanges commerciaux bilatéraux traversant notre frontière commune s’élèvent à plus de deux milliards de dollars chaque jour. Des millions d’emplois occupés par des Canadiens et des Américains de la classe moyenne, notamment dans le secteur manufacturier, dépendent de notre partenariat. Nous soulignons l’importance de bâtir sur cette solide fondation, en faveur du commerce et de l’investissement et pour approfondir davantage notre relation avec l’objectif commun de renforcer la classe moyenne. Les États-Unis et le Canada reconnaissent aussi l’importance de la coopération pour stimuler la croissance économique, offrir des avantages à nos consommateurs et entreprises et promouvoir un commerce libre et équitable. Nous poursuivrons notre discussion à l’égard des questions réglementaires et tenterons d’obtenir des résultats réglementaires communs qui sont adaptés aux entreprises et permettent de réduire les coûts et d’augmenter la rentabilité sans compromettre la santé, la sécurité et les normes environnementales. Nous travaillerons de concert sur la question de la mobilité de la main-d’œuvre dans divers secteurs économiques. En raison de notre intérêt commun à l’égard des investissements en infrastructure, nous encouragerons toute occasion pour les entreprises des deux pays de créer des emplois grâce à ces investissements. Plus particulièrement, nous attendons avec impatience l’achèvement dans les plus brefs délais du pont international Gordie-Howe, qui sera un lien économique crucial entre nos pays.
Sécurité énergétique et environnement
Les secteurs de collaboration États-Unis-Canada en matière énergétique et environnementale sont étroitement liés, et nous sommes résolus à resserrer nos liens dans ces secteurs. Nous avons développé la plus importante relation commerciale du monde dans le secteur de l’énergie. En effet, la sécurité énergétique, un réseau énergétique puissant et sûr et une infrastructure énergétique robuste et résiliente, qui favorise l’efficacité énergétique dans les deux pays, sont des objectifs importants à nos yeux. Nous travaillons en étroite collaboration sur le plan de l’innovation en matière d’énergie, particulièrement dans le secteur de l’énergie propre. Le processus relatif au projet de pipeline Keystone XL se poursuit, et nous demeurons résolus à faire avancer des projets d’infrastructures énergétiques qui créeront des emplois tout en respectant l’environnement. Nous sommes également impatients de mettre à profit nos nombreux secteurs de coopération environnementale, particulièrement le long de notre frontière et des Grands Lacs, et nous continuerons de collaborer afin d’améliorer la qualité de l’air et de l’eau.
Partenaires pour ce qui est d’assurer la sécurité de notre frontière
Nous reconnaissons que la sécurité de nos frontières est une grande priorité. Ensemble, nous prenons en charge la sécurité à notre frontière commune et dans l’ensemble de nos pays, tout en accélérant le commerce et les déplacements transfrontaliers légitimes et essentiels. Chaque jour, nous démontrons que la sécurité et l’efficacité vont de pairs, et nous sommes en train d’établir une frontière digne du 21e siècle au moyen d’initiatives, comme le précontrôle de voyageurs et les opérations transfrontalières intégrées d’application de la loi. De plus, nos pays se sont engagés à opérer un système coordonné de données sur les entrées et les sorties pour que les registres d’entrées par voie terrestre et aérienne dans un pays établissent des registres de sorties pour l’autre pays. Étant donné le succès d’opérations de précontrôle de voyageurs, nous nous engageons à établir de telles opérations pour le fret. Nous prévoyons accélérer l’achèvement des travaux afin que le programme de précontrôle soit disponible dans d’autres villes, et continuer à élargir ce programme. Ces mesures permettront non seulement d’accroître l’efficacité à notre frontière commune, mais aussi de renforcer notre sécurité commune. Dans le contexte d’une frontière plus efficace et plus sûre, nous étudierons des façons d’intégrer davantage nos opérations frontalières, notamment, analyser la possibilité de regrouper les autorités frontalières dans des installations de contrôle communes. Puisque nous sommes tous deux préoccupés par l’augmentation des décès liés à la consommation d’opioïdes, nos pays collaboreront afin de trouver des solutions communes afin de protéger notre population à l’égard du trafic d’opioïdes illicites. En raison de la nature intégrée de l’infrastructure critique qui appuie nos économies interreliées, les cybermenaces dirigées vers un pays peuvent avoir des incidences sur l’autre pays. Par conséquent, nous nous engageons à collaborer davantage afin d’accroître la sécurité de l’infrastructure critique, la gestion des cyberincidents, la sensibilisation du public, la participation du secteur privé et les initiatives de renforcement de la capacité.
Alliés dans le monde
Nous sommes des alliés indispensables au chapitre de la défense de l’Amérique du Nord et ailleurs dans le monde par l’intermédiaire de l’OTAN et d’autres organisations multilatérales. À maintes reprises, nos troupes ont combattu ensemble et sacrifié leur vie pour défendre nos valeurs communes. Le Commandement de la défense aérospatiale de l’Amérique du Nord (NORAD) illustre la force de notre engagement mutuel. Les forces américaines et canadiennes effectuent conjointement des missions d’alerte aérospatiale, de contrôle aérospatial et d’alerte maritime dans le but de défendre l’Amérique du Nord. Nous travaillerons à la modernisation et à l’élargissement de notre partenariat au sein du NORAD dans ces domaines clés et les domaines cybernétique et spatial. Les États-Unis ont salué la décision que le Canada a prise récemment concernant le lancement d’un processus concurrentiel ouvert et transparent afin de remplacer sa flotte existante de chasseurs CF-18. Ils ont également accueilli favorablement la décision du Canada d’étudier l’achat immédiat de 18 nouveaux avions Super Hornet, afin de suppléer provisoirement la flotte actuelle de CF‑18 jusqu’à ce que les appareils de remplacement permanent soient prêts. Le Canada se réjouit de la coopération des États-Unis visant à faciliter ce processus. Les États-Unis saluent les contributions militaires du Canada, notamment au sein de la Coalition internationale contre Daech et en Lettonie. Ensemble, nous mettons à profit tous les éléments d’un pouvoir national afin de réaliser l’objectif d’affaiblir et de détruire Daech grâce à nos opérations militaires visant à le priver de refuges sûrs et à renforcer la capacité des partenaires locaux, à stopper l’afflux de combattants terroristes étrangers au Moyen-Orient, à couper l’accès au financement et aux fonds, à dénoncer le discours de Daech et à faciliter la stabilisation des communautés libérées de son emprise.
Renforcement socioéconomique des femmes entrepreneures et chefs d’entreprise
Veiller à ce que les femmes aient des chances égales sur le marché du travail est une priorité qu’ont en commun nos pays. Nous sommes résolus à éliminer les obstacles à la participation des femmes au monde des affaires et à les appuyer pendant leur cheminement. C’est dans ce contexte que nous créons le Conseil canado-américain pour l’avancement des femmes entrepreneures et chefs d’entreprise. Nous croyons que cette initiative favorisera la croissance des entreprises dirigées par des femmes et contribuera à notre croissance économique et compétitivité globales, et à une intégration accrue de nos économies.
Prochaines étapes
Nous sommes tous deux résolus à continuer à renforcer nos liens au profit de notre prospérité et sécurité mutuelles. Nous comptons sur nos cabinets pour assurer le suivi de la réunion d’aujourd’hui et poursuivre les discussions dans leur secteur de responsabilité respectif. Nos pays méritent notre engagement ferme à stimuler la croissance économique et nous honorerons cet engagement. La relation unissant les États-Unis et le Canada continuera d’être unique et de servir de modèle pour le monde.

^ This seems to have been a good meeting. Hopefully this statement will go from words to really action that helps both Canada and the US. ^

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Greek Bomb

From the BBC:
"Greek WW2 bomb forces huge Thessaloniki evacuation"

At least 70,000 people in the Greek city of Thessaloniki are being evacuated so that a 500lb World War Two bomb can be defused, officials say. It is thought to be one of the largest wartime bombs to be found in urban Greece in addition to being one of the largest mass evacuations. The bomb was discovered during road works last week and is due to be disposed of on Sunday. Officials say it is too degraded to tell if it is German or an Allied bomb. Residents within a radius of about 2km (1.2 miles) of the bomb will be compelled to evacuate the area between now and Sunday morning, security officials have said.  The operation has been described by one blog as the biggest evacuation of Greek civilians in peacetime. However, it is not possible to verify such a claim. The military says an operation of this size and complexity is the first of its kind in a densely populated area of Greece and the disposal operation should take about eight hours - but may take as long as two days.  About 1,000 police officers and 300 volunteers will be deployed ahead of the disposal operation. People in the city were warned to vacate their homes several days in advance.  The evacuation is expected to cause considerable disruption in Thessaloniki, with about 450 residents of a refugee camp due to be among thousands of others being evacuated to schools, sports halls and cultural centres. The bomb was discovered last week near a petrol station during work to expand fuel storage tanks.  A state of emergency has been declared in the three municipalities affected by the defusion operation, Thessaloniki's Deputy Governor Voula Patoulidou told the Associated Press. news agency. "It is the first time something like this is happening in Greece,'' he said. "The transfer of all residents is mandatory and we will go door-to-door to make sure everyone leaves."   The military say they will initially try to defuse the bomb's detonator before taking the device in its entirety to an army firing range, where a decision will then be taken on how best to neutralise it. The city's bus terminal will be closed down while trains will also stop operating. There is also expected to be some traffic disruption in addition to interruptions to church services.   One resident of the city told the Associated Press that the bomb was dropped by British and US planes targeting German rail facilities on 17 September 1944.  German forces occupied Greece from 1941 until October 1944.

^ It's one thing when a German city has to be evacuated because of a World War 2 bomb (they started the war after all) and another when a place that was occupied by the Germans (like Greece) continues to suffer from the war. It doesn't matter if the bomb is German or Allied. It wouldn't have been dropped on Greece if the Germans hadn't invaded and occupied the country in the first place. Hopefully, the bomb will be taken care of quickly and safely and the thousands of people can return home. ^

Trump's One China

From the BBC:
"Trump agrees to honour 'One China' policy despite threats"

US President Donald Trump has climbed down on past threats and agreed to honour the so-called "One China" policy. He backed the long-standing agreement during a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the White House said. The One China policy states that there is only one Chinese government. Mr Trump broke with diplomatic norms in December, by accepting a call from the president of Taiwan, considered a breakaway province by China.  As president-elect, Mr Trump also said he saw no reason why the agreement should continue without key concessions from Beijing. China retaliated to the Taiwan phone call by making an official complaint to the US.  The telephone conversation on Thursday night was the first between the two since Mr Trump took office on 20 January, though the new US president has called several other national leaders.  On Friday, Mr Trump said the conversation was "very warm".  He added: "We had a very, very good talk last night, and discussed a lot of subjects. It was a long talk." He made the comments during a press conference at the White House with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  The White House said a wide range of issues were discussed during the US-China call, which it characterised as "extremely cordial". The two leaders had invited each other to visit, it said.  A statement from Beijing said China appreciated Mr Trump's acknowledgement of the One China policy, calling the two nations "co-operative partners" who could "push bilateral relations to a historic new high".   Taiwan, meanwhile, said it would continue "close contact" with the US, pointing out that maintaining good ties with Washington and Beijing was key to regional stability.  Mr Trump has caused concern in Beijing with his stance on trade and the South China Sea, but it was his decision to accept a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that triggered most alarm. Though the US is Taiwan's main military ally, no US president or president-elect had spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader for decades. Under the One China policy, the US recognises and has formal ties with China rather than Taiwan. Mr Trump had indicated that policy could change, suggesting the US should not abide by One China unless it secured concessions from Beijing on trade.   Comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on China's military build-up in the South China Sea further chilled ties. He suggested that the US should block access to artificial islands China is building in disputed waters. Chinese officials have reacted relatively calmly to remarks from the new administration, though they lodged an official protest over the Taiwan phone call.  But the Taiwan issue is very sensitive, something state media made clear when it accused Mr Trump of "playing with fire".   The telephone call followed a letter sent by Mr Trump to Mr Xi on Thursday - the president's first direct approach to the Chinese leader. In it, Mr Trump said he looked forward to "constructive relations". The New York Times reports that it was hand-delivered to China's ambassador by National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had also spoken to China's top foreign policy official last week.  There were other signs that the White House was seeking to stabilise ties, such as Ivanka Trump attending a Lunar New Year celebration at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.  At a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang declined to answer whether Mr Trump's acknowledgement of the One China policy had been a condition of the call.   The content of the phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Xi will be celebrated in Beijing as signalling a return to the traditional framework of the US-China relationship. Three weeks into the new American administration, after a score of phone calls between Mr Trump and other world leaders, China's absence from the list was becoming ever more conspicuous.  Many Chinese citizens see Taiwan as the last piece in China's territorial jigsaw. Any further move towards independence and international recognition for the island would have represented a dangerous humiliation for Mr Xi.  With the presidential phone call, Beijing can draw a line under such fears. Three weeks in, it has won a clear and unequivocal commitment from the Trump administration to honour the One China policy.
However, it is not clear what, if anything, the Trump administration has won in return.

^ China got rid of it's One Child Policy so why shouldn't the US (and other countries) get rid of the One China Policy? There's the People's Republic of China (in Beijing) and the Republic of China (Taiwan.) To ignore that there are two different countries and have been since the 1940s doesn't help the reality of things. Citizens from Taiwan can come to the US under the Visa Waiver Program despite the US and Taiwan not having embassies in each other's countries while the citizens from China need a visa to come to the US even though the US and China have embassies in each other's countries. That seems odd to me. ^

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2nd Nor'Easter

From USA Today:
"Second blizzard in days could pound New England this weekend"

Yet another winter storm is poised to hammer New England with heavy snow and howling winds by the end of the weekend, just days after Thursday's storm pummeled the region with up to two feet of snow. From Sunday afternoon to Monday evening, another powerful winter storm is set to deliver blizzard conditions for portions of New England hit hard by this week's storm, AccuWeather meteorologist Kyle Elliott said. The worst of the storm appears headed for eastern Maine, where a foot or more of snow and strong winds are expected, the National Weather Service in Caribou, Maine, said. Travel will be difficult and dangerous, with whiteout conditions and blowing and drifting snow, AccuWeather warned. Major airline delays and cancellations are likely. For Boston, the storm "could turn out to be a glancing blow or a very high-impact event," the weather service said. Relatively warmer temperatures there could mean some of the precipitation falls as rain.  Elsewhere, a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected in parts of western and central New York and northeast Pennsylvania, the Weather Channel said. Rain is expected farther south into the mid-Atlantic. The weather pattern will remain active across the Northeast later next week, when winter storms could target the region again, AccuWeather said.

^ Another nor'easter 3 days since our last nor'easter (but not our last snow storm.) It definitely takes a certain kind of person to get through so much snow in such a short amount of time. ^

No Regrets

Friday, February 10, 2017

Triple Treat

From USA Today:
"Triple treat: Eclipse, comet, full moon all coming Friday night"

Skywatchers will enjoy a rare space triple-header Friday night and early Saturday morning: A "penumbral" lunar eclipse during the full "snow" moon — and the flyby of a comet.

Penumbral lunar eclipse:

Eagle-eyed skywatchers will see a "penumbral" lunar eclipse Friday evening during the full moon.
Not as spectacular — or noticeable — as a total lunar eclipse, this rather subtle phenomenon occurs when the moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow (known as the penumbra), according to The outer shadow of the Earth blocks part — but not all — of the sun's rays from reaching the moon, making it appear slightly darker than usual.  The exact moment of the penumbral eclipse is 7:43 p.m. ET (6:43 p.m. CT, 5:43 p.m. MT and 4:43 p.m. PT), NASA said. The eclipse will be visible from Europe, Africa, western Asia and eastern North and South America, NASA reports.
About 35% of all eclipses are of the penumbral type.

Full "snow" moon:

As required during any lunar eclipse, the moon will be full Friday night. And this month it's nicknamed the "snow" moon. According to the Farmers' Almanac, full moon names date back to Native Americans in the northern and eastern U.S. Each full moon has its own name. "The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon," the almanac reports. "Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred." Calling February's full moon the "snow" moon is right on target: On average, February is the USA's snowiest month, according to data from the National Weather Service. The Farmer's Almanac reports some tribes referred to February's moon as the "hunger" moon, because harsh weather conditions made hunting difficult.

Comet 45P:

A few hours after the eclipse, Comet 45P, which has been visible after sunset for the past two months through binoculars and telescopes, makes its closest approach to Earth, when it will be "only" 7.4 million miles away, NASA said.
Look to the east around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, where it will be visible in the sky in the constellation Hercules. Binoculars or a telescope could be helpful. Watch for a bright blue-green "head" with a tail. It will be visible in various points of the night sky until the end of February, according to NASA. If you miss it, don't worry: It will return again in 2022, said Jane Houston Jones of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

^ This seems interesting. ^

Snow Talk

Friday night: plowable snow.
Saturday: plowable snow.
Sunday night: plowable snow.
Tuesday: plowable snow.
Thursday plowable snow.
For those saying I only talk about snow: I'll stop talking about it when I can stop going out and clearing it for hours on end.

Glass Eiffel

From the BBC:
"Paris to put up glass wall to protect Eiffel Tower"

The Eiffel Tower in Paris is to have a 2.5m-high (8ft) wall of reinforced glass built around it as protection against terror attacks, officials say.  The Paris mayor's office says the wall will replace metal fences put up for the Euro 2016 football tournament. The project, if approved, is expected to cost about €20m (£17m; $21m) and work should start later this year. The French capital has been on high alert since attacks by jihadists in November 2015 left 130 people dead. Last July, 86 people were killed when a lorry ploughed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice. The Eiffel Tower, one of France's most famous landmarks, attracts more than six million visitors each year and the wall is designed to stop individuals or vehicles storming the site, said the assistant mayor for tourism, Jean-Francois Martins.   "The terror threat remains high in Paris and the most vulnerable sites, led by the Eiffel Tower, must be the object of special security measures," he said.  "We will replace the metal grids to the north and south with glass panels which will allow Parisians and visitors a very pleasant view of the monument." Mr Martins added: "We have three aims - to improve the look, make access easier and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff." The project will also involve reorganising pathways around the tower. Earlier this month, a man wielding two machetes attacked soldiers at Paris's Louvre Museum. President Francois Hollande said there was little doubt it was a terrorist act.

^ The glass wall will probably look like an eye-sore, but I have never really cared for the Eiffel Tower. I remember the first time I saw it. I had travelled to Paris by train (from Germany) with my mom. We took the Metro and right as I came out of the station and saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time I said, without a hesitation,: "That's it? Great. Let's go someplace else." I wasn't impressed. Since that first time I have been back to Paris a dozen times and only been back up to the Eiffel Tower when I had to with my school group when we spent Spring Break visiting a French school. ^

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Contrary to popular belief a nor'easter has nothing to do with Easter so you can stop looking for colored eggs in the snow.

No Hard Border

From the BBC:
"Brexit: Irish border crossings 'impossible to monitor'"

The Irish ambassador to the UK has described the Irish border as "invisible" and said it would not be possible to monitor the numerous crossing points after Brexit.  Dan Mulhall was giving evidence to the Westminster-based Northern Ireland Affairs committee. The committee is investigating the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Mr Mulhall said there is no support for a "hardening" of the border.  He told MPs: "It is universally acknowledged that the open and virtually invisible border that exists at present confers benefits on both parts of Ireland and on all communities in Northern Ireland.  "I am not aware of anyone who thinks that a hardening of that border would be an acceptable outcome."  Commenting on the negotiations that would lead to the UK leaving the EU, the seasoned diplomat of nearly 40 years said talks between officials and politicians would not be straightforward. "Nobody can say how these negotiations will end up," he added. He said those involved in discussions should "avoid any manifestation of a hard border".  Mr Mulhall also told MPs that 1.85m cars, 177,000 lorries and 208,000 light vans are recorded crossing the border each month.
In his second evidence session on the Irish border, Mr Mulhall faced questions from a series of Northern Ireland MPs. Pressed on how the border could be controlled, Mr Mulhall said: "I just don't think it's remotely possible to think in terms of having a border that would really control every movement of goods and people." In his evidence session, Dan Mulhall also said it was "essential that Brexit does not affect the Good Friday Agreement, and that the people of Northern Ireland can have confidence that this will be the case".   Since the EU referendum vote, applications for Irish passports have increased dramatically.  Mr Mulhall pointed out that in Great Britain, applications had gone up by 40%, and in Northern Ireland applications had risen by 20%.

^ I don't think anyone (British or Irish)  wants to return to the old days (1960s-1990s) when
the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was torn-up with fortifications to stop the movement of weapons and bombs during The Troubles. It has been 19 years of relative peace on the border and to change that would be to breed contempt and the possibility of the return of the violence to Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. ^

WH To Keep Sanctions

From the MT:
"White House Says Russia Sanctions Will Remain Until Crimea Returned to Ukraine"

U.S. Sanctions against Russia will remain in place until the Crimean peninsula is returned to Ukraine, the White House has announced. Presidential Press Secretary Sean Spicer described the process of lifting sanctions as a “non-starter.” “With respect to the sanctions that specifically deal with Ukraine and Crimea, I think that Ambassador Haley, [Washington's representative to the United Nations], has spoken very, very clearly about that,” Spicer told journalists on Wednesday. “Until Russia leaves Crimea, those sanctions are a non-starter.”  A group of six U.S. senators launched a bill on Wednesday which would stop U.S. President Donald Trump from lifting sanctions against Russia without the approval of Congress. The bill would force the Trump administration to prove that the Russian government was not “undermining” Ukrainian sovereignty before sanctions could be eased or lifted. The White House would also have to show that Moscow was not supporting cyber-attacks against U.S. institutions. Both houses of Congress would then have 120 days to reject the proposed changes. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the politicians backing the proposal. “To provide [sanctions[ relief at this time would send the wrong signal to Russia and our allies who face Russian oppression,” he said in a statement. “Sanctions relief must be earned, not given.”

^ I know everyone has protested and complained about the lifting of this and the ending of that, but this statement made by the US Ambassador to the UN and reaffirmed by the White House shows that the US is committed to keeping pressure on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea (which is not internationally recognized.) I only hope that these aren't mere words, but that the actions (sanctions) remain until the Crimea is returned. ^

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No Irish PSNI

From the BBC:
"PSNI gives internet safety talk in Irish"

The PSNI has given a talk on internet safety to children at an Irish speaking school in Castlewellan - in Irish. In a post on PSNI Down's Facebook page, Constable Phil Quinn said police were "really excited" about making the speech at Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche. Constable Quinn, of the Downpatrick Neighbourhood policing team, told the BBC Tuesday's presentation was made at the suggestion of one of the teachers. Delivering the talk in Irish "just made sense," he said.  "We have to deliver the message to the community in the way they want it," he added.  Preparing the talk for delivery had been "difficult", Constable Quinn admitted. "It's not just a question of putting it into Google Translate and hoping that it comes out properly," he said.  School principal Aingeal Nic an tSábhaisigh said she had "jumped at the chance" to have the lecture through the medium of Irish. "It lets the children know Irish is outside of the walls of the school. I think the PSNI here are sending out a message they are happy to work with all the community.  "It is vitally important our children know about safety online and how to deal with, perhaps, unwanted approaches online and we are so glad the PSNI made the effort to promote that message through Irish for our pupils."

^ I'm not sure why everyone is praising this as a great thing. Irish has been one of the official languages of Northern Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords. How pathetic is it that the PSNI couldn't get an Irish speaker or trained something to learn Irish in those 19 years? It is like praising someone for using Google to give a butchered talk in French in Quebec Province rather than a person who could actually speak French. Maybe the PSNI isn't as diverse as they claim to be. Even if they couldn't train one of their own to learn Irish couldn't they at least hired an Irish translator to translate what that officer said? That would have been better than giving a butchered, Google- based translation to the children - especially on something as important as safety. ^

Germany Deports Children

From the DW:
"German authorities deported 620 unaccompanied minors"

The German government has revealed how many young refugees were denied asylum following a parliamentary inquiry launched by the Greens. The government has said the minors failed to meet asylum requirements.  Local media reported Wednesday that among the minors deported from Germany last year were 275 Afghans, 58 Syrians, 39 minors from Eritrea and 36 from Iraq. The "Rheinische Post" newspaper quoted the German government of saying that the minors were denied asylum because "they failed to meet asylum requirements." The figures also revealed that 45,224 unaccompanied migrants reside in Germany. Around 89 percent of all asylum claims by young people were successful last year, with 98 percent of Syrian minors and 71 percent of Iraqi minors reportedly granted asylum.  However, claims from Morocco and Libya remained largely unsuccessful. The German government has named Morocco a "safe country of origin," which makes approval of asylum applications from the country extremely difficult. The European Union has also recently looked to Libya to reduce the number of people attempting to reach Europe from the north African country. Germany's Green party issued a stinging critique directed at the federal authorities over their handling of deported migrant children. Beate Walter-Rosenheime, the Greens' speaker for youth policy, said the deportations were "a large-scale mistreatment of the children's well-being." Even if a minor does not receive asylum in Germany, authorities should check if an applicant has relatives in Germany before beginning the deportation process. The Greens' speaker for migrant policy, Luise Amtsberg, said: "Almost 90 percent of unaccompanied minors receive protective status. This demonstrates how urgent the need for support is among young people and that the reason for their fleeing is fully justified."  Under-18 Migrants arriving in Germany face a myriad of laws and regulations before they can be granted asylum. New arrivals are taken into care by child protection services, where their age is determined - sometimes using bone analysis if no doubts are raised concerning an applicant's age. All German states have a quota of how many migrant minors they should take in. The quota largely depends on the state's financial standing. By law, minors should be sent to a state that has yet to meet its quota. In practice, this is rarely the case, as the level of intake among states varies enormously. Bremen, for example, has taken in almost three times the required number of young migrants, while Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania has taken in 76 percent of its designated quota.   German Chancellor Angela Merkel has toughened her stance on rejected asylum-seekers following the December terror attack in Berlin. A Tunisian migrant, scheduled to be deported, killed 12 people and injured almost 50 after he drove a truck into a Christmas market.  Last month, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere outlined plans to overhaul the country's asylum policy and security apparatus, expanding the federal government's powers at the expense of individual states. One of the key changes proposed would see federal authorities take over the operation of deportation centers from the states.

^  Here's another thing the ultra-liberals aren't crying over - the deportation of 620 refugee children from Germany. When the US wants to ban refugees we are evil, but when the Germans (or anyone else) deports refugee children everyone stays silent. If you are going to hold a belief in a cause that's fine, but you can't have double-standards. If you do then you have become a hypocrite. ^