Sunday, June 26, 2016


^ Learning sign language is important to integrating the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Most of the world uses ASL (American Sign Language) or a "dialect" similar, but as with any language there are different sign languages used around the world. I learned ASL a long time ago (back when you spelt everything out) and now while you can still spell out each letter of each word they have created special signs that mean the whole word - which is pretty cool. ^

Fallujah Freed

From the BBC:
"Iraqi commander: 'Fallujah fight is over'"

The brutal, month-long struggle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah is over, and Islamic State militants have been driven from the once booming, now beleaguered "city of mosques," Iraqi military leaders said Sunday. Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi told Iraqi state TV that government troops had swept into the northwestern neighborhood of al-Julan, the last area of Fallujah to remain under militant control. The battle for Fallujah has featured sometimes fierce door-to-door battles as the military worked to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. "We convey the good news to the Iraqi people that the battle of Fallujah is over," al-Saadi said, adding that more than 1,800 militants died in the fighting and the rest had fled the city.nThe Iraqi military was supported by coalition airstrikes and local militias. Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi stressed the value of the airstrikes and urged continued support in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as Daesh. "About 90% #Fallujah is safe & habitable b/c we caught Daesh off guard, preventing them from destroying city as they did w/ Ramadi & Sinjar," al-Obeidi tweeted.  Fallujah, a predominately Sunni city about 40 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, is known for the scores of mosques that dot its neighborhoods. The city has been under the control of the Islamic State since 2014, when it became one of the first Iraqi cities to fall to the militants. The government offensive in Fallujah followed a successful operation in December to wrest Ramadi, another Sunni city in western Iraq, from militant control. But Ramadi was nearly destroyed in the fighting, and the toll for Fallujah has also been high — almost 100,000 additional people were driven from their homes and forced to scramble for water, food and shelter. Fallujah Mayor Esa al-Esawi told Reuters that displaced families could return to the city within two months, if the government and international agencies provide aid to the effort. Reconstruction will involve more than infrastructure, he said. "Daesh worked to brainwash people," he said. "We need serious programs by the international community to help people get rid of Daesh's deviant ideologies and restore their normal life."nMore than 3 million Iraqis have been displaced since 2014, when the Islamic State mounted its brutal campaign to carve an extremist caliphate out of a wide swath of Iraq and Syria. The militants have slowly been losing ground in recent months, but the war and humanitarian crisis are far from over.

^ Looks like Iraq is finally starting to get its act together (with our help) and kick ISIS out. ^

Brexit For Americans

From the BBC:
"Six ways Brexit could hit Americans"

The United Kingdom's historic decision to become the first sovereign country to vote to leave the European Union has reverberated across the world.  Though it's unclear what a British divorce from Europe may look like, the decision may have caused unintended consequences for many Americans. Here's a look at six ways the Brexit may affect the US.

1. Cheaper holidays to the UK

About one in 10 visitors to the UK is American. And the exchange rate for the dollar is better for Americans in the wake of Brexit - it's now worth $1.48, down about 8% from a year ago, and at its lowest level since 1985.  This means Americans going to see Big Ben, Stonehenge or Edinburgh Castle this summer can expect their dollar to go a lot further, at least for now. Michael Stitt, president of North America for Travelzoo, told the BBC that he advises any American travellers to the UK to check on the exchange rate right before a trip and to consider taking GBP out while the exchange rate is low and the dollar is strong. UK hotels will almost certainly offer deals and specials, he said, and vacation operators will likely put together some "pretty aggressive" packages for going on holiday to the UK. On the inverse, British travellers may think twice before booking a trip to the US because it will be more expensive, he said.

2. Higher airfares

Though an attractive exchange rate makes a summer trip to London more affordable now, Brexit could make flying in and out of the UK more expensive in the long term. The UK currently operates under a single aviation market that allows British airlines the freedom to fly between EU countries and the right to fly within an EU country. The EU also has a similar agreement with the US. The outcome of last night's vote means the UK may lose its rights to fly in and out those countries if new contracts are not negotiated, according to Andrew Meaney, the head of transport for economic consultancy Oxera. Ultimately, airlines could struggle to meet the same amount of demands with fewer services in and out of the UK. US airlines could also consider replacing London with a city such as Dublin as an entry point into Europe.

3. Uncertainty for Americans working in London

For American bankers living in London, the Brexit signals uncertainty about the capital's status as the world's largest foreign exchange market.  US banks will have to decide on moving thousands of jobs to other major European cities such as Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris depending on whether the UK is able to negotiate new trade deals to retain access to the world's largest single market, the EU. In a memo to staff on Friday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon indicated that though the company planned to maintain a large presence in Britain, it would face significant hurdles. "In the months ahead, however, we may need to make changes to our European legal entity structure and the location of some roles," Mr Dimon said.  If Scotland should seek another referendum vote to leave the UK in the wake of Brexit, American bankers may find themselves packing their bags for Edinburgh, the second largest financial hub in the UK.

4. Retirement funds in jeopardy

The Brexit has roiled global financial markets, with the US, UK, Europe, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney markets dropping at the opening bell. Many Americans are exposed to the stock market through their retirement plan, also known as a 401(k) plan. In fact, about half of America's full-time employees participate in their company's 401(k), according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. The UK's exit from the EU has already hit current market prices and could potentially trigger a recession. Investments in global stock markets expose Americans to such market turmoil, and could result in one's equity portfolio losing value.

5. Property boom

The state of the UK economy is volatile, so American property is looking like a very safe investment right now. "Any time there is a recession in significant markets such as London, it bodes well for the US," international real estate lawyer and consultant Edward Mermelstein told the BBC. "Investment will be attracted to a safe haven, and there's no safer location than the US market... the US will be the beneficiary of continued foreign investment due to the uncertainty created by this vote." Americans looking to buy property should expect prices to rise in the next year - making right now a better time to buy rather than waiting. But in the meantime, as the Washington Post pointed out, current mortgage rates will continue to be at an all-time low as foreign investors seek US government debt, pulling down interest rates.

6. Game of Thrones on a shoestring

The UK film and TV industry will be badly hurt by Brexit, the chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance told the Verge.. "The decision to exit the European Union is a major blow to the UK film and TV industry," Michael Ryan told the website. "Producing films and television programs is a very expensive and very risky business and certainty about the rules affecting the business is a must." HBO series Game of Thrones is largely filmed in Northern Ireland, partly funded by the European Regional Development fund. It has also been filmed in Spain, Croatia, Iceland and Malta. That funding could go away, depending on how UK's EU exit is negotiated.

^ As I've stated before there is a lot of unknowns with this Brexit mess. Will the United Kingdom break-up because of this? (Northern Ireland, Scotland, London and Gibraltar all voted to stay with the EU.) What will the UK's (or what's left of it) position be within Europe? How will this affect the UK's relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations, other countries and the US? This article tries to answer the one about the US - again no one really knows what will actually happen. - but the 6 points do seem like they could happen. ^

Spain Wants Gibraltar

From the BBC:
"Brexit: Spain calls for joint control of Gibraltar"

The Spanish government has called for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU. The British overseas territory of 30,000 voted overwhelmingly for remain, with 95.9% opting to stay in the union. "The Spanish flag on the Rock is much closer than before," Spain's acting Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Friday. Gibraltar has been a British territory since 1713 but Spain continues to claim sovereignty over the enclave. At the entrance to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar relies heavily on its shared EU border with Spain for trade. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo campaigned for a remain vote.  Julie Girling, the Conservative MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, said; "I am deeply sorry that the people of the UK have chosen this leap in the dark.  "I believe future generations will question our wisdom." There were 19,322 votes for remain, amid a turnout of 84% of the UK voters on the enclave. Spain continues to claim sovereignty over Gibraltar but the majority of Gibraltarians are British citizens with British passports.
The enclave is self-governing in all areas except defence and foreign policy. It is home to a British military garrison and naval base. Gibraltarians elect their own representatives to the territory's House of Assembly and the British monarch appoints a governor.

^ Spain needs to realize that they are not going to get Gibraltar. Gibraltar may become independent or stay with the British, but I don't see them ever going back to the Spanish. Spain completely closed the border with Gibraltar in 1969 (long before the UK joined the EC - which became the EU) and the border wasn't opened until 1985 (long after the UK joined the EC/EU.) Spain cut Gibraltar off for 16 years and only started dealing with them again when the EU forced them to (ie. when Spain joined the EU.) I am curious to see what the new status will be with the UK (along with Gibraltar) and the EU now that they are leaving. ^

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Reactions

From Wikipedia;
"International reactions to the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016"


European Union:

  •  European Union - President of the European Council Donald Tusk said: "This is not a moment for hysterical reactions. Today on behalf of the 27 leaders I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as 27. Until the UK formally leaves the EU, EU law will continue to apply to and within the UK, and by this I mean rights, as well as obligations. All the procedures for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU are set out in the treaties. In order to discuss the details, I have offered an informal meeting of the 27 in the margins of the European council next week. I have also proposed we start a wider reflection of the future of our union.[
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said: "We respect the result. We have clarity for the UK to go its own way. Now is the time for us to behave seriously and responsibly. David Cameron has his responsibilities for his country, we have our responsibilities for the future of the EU. You can see what is happening to sterling on the markets. I don't want the same thing to happen to the euro."
The European Central Bank issued a statement that read: "Following the outcome of the UK referendum, the European Central Bank is closely monitoring financial markets and is in close contact with other central banks. The ECB stands ready to provide additional liquidity, if needed, in euro and foreign currencies. The ECB has prepared for this contingency in close contact with the banks that it supervises and considers that the euro area banking system is resilient in terms of capital and liquidity."
  • The G7 was expected to make a statement in regards to whether there is any coordinated intervention to ease monetary policy by global central banks.
  •  NATO - Leader Jens Stoltenberg said: "The UK will remain a strong and committed NATO ally and will continue to play its leading role in our alliance."


  •  Austria - Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that "a domino effect on other countries cannot be ruled out." Although he added that the EU as a whole would survive.
  •  Belgium - Prime Minister Charles Michel said that EU member states should meet to "define priorities and set out a new future for Europe."
  •  Bulgaria - Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said of potential contagion that "only Bulgaria, Romania and Greece will remain when the domino effect is set off."
  •  Czech Republic - President Miloš Zeman said that the result could have an unpleasant influence on the European Union because the United Kingdom will no longer balance French and German influence. He also noted that he was disappointed by the result and that it could worsen the economic conditions in the Czech Republic.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that the result is "not the end of world, nor it is the end of the European union. He also said Europe should change. because the project needs stronger support of citizens.Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said the European Union should respect the decision and should not force remaining countries to stronger integration.
    • The ODS issued a statement that read the result was "the last warning before others will go." It also called for change in functioning and strategy of European Union. Leader of the party Petr Fiala said that the Czech Republic "should reconsider its existence in European Union" and negotiate new conditions for the country.
    • Eurosceptic parties welcomed the result and called for a similar referendum. The Party of Free Citizens called for similar referendum because "European Union has changed since 2003 and three million newly eligible citizens could not vote at the time due to their age. Freedom and Direct Democracy stated that it will propose, in parliament, a referendum on the withdrawal of the Czech Republic from the European Union.MP Ivo Valenta, member of Senate, called for a "Czexit" and criticised the European Union for bad legislation, bad immigration policy and for having an army of bureaucrats.
  •  Finland - Minister for Foreign Affairs and the leader of the Finns Party Timo Soini said that "the nation has had its say" and that "any retaliation and whinge is out of the question."
  •  France - Front National leader Marine Le Pen wrote: "Victory for freedom! As I have been asking for years, now we need to have the same referendum in France and in the countries of the EU." Her niece and party member, Marion Marechal-Le Pen wrote: "From #Brexit to #Frexit: It's now time to import democracy to our country. The French must have the right to choose!" Les Republicains leader for the Paris regions Valerie Pecresse wrote: ""It's a thunderbolt. Nobody believed this could happen. I was convinced nobody would choose to undo what we have strived so long to build. We need to rethink Europe. The French must know that the EU protects them. We need a Europe that is more democratic and less bureaucratic."
    • Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud wrote: "Now to the other Members states to save the EU from unravelling which excludes business as usual, especially in Brussels. Reform or die!"
  •  Germany - Chancellor Angela Merkel said, after a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, that Europe should discuss the result "together and in calm," while warning against hectic reactions. She noted the referendum result would be tabled during an EU summit in Brussels the following week.
Leader of the European People's Party and Christian Social Union MEP Manfred Weber wrote: "Exit negotiations should be concluded within 2 years at max. There cannot be any special treatment. Leave means leave."
Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wrote: "Damn! A bad day for Europe."
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote: "The news from Britain is really sobering. It looks like a sad day for Europe and Britain."
  •  Greece - Prime minister Alexis Tsipras in a televised address to the nation argued that “it was a difficult day for Europe” and that “the EU has been dealt a blow” In his statement the Prime Minister underlined that the result is respected and estimated that the message had long been sent, as reflected by the rise of far right politics in Europe. According to the Greek Prime Minister the gap is widening and a “return to the so-called security of national entrenchment” will lead to a dead end. PM Tsipras elaborated that an immediate change of course is necessary to defend against the far right.
New Democracy MP Dora Bakoyannis said: "The cost of populism emerged today in all its glory. Mr Cameron is bearing great responsibility. It's a hard day for Europe and an even harder day for the UK."
  •  Ireland - The Taoiseach's office issues a statement that read: "This result clearly has very significant implications for Ireland, as well as for Britain and for the European Union."
  •  Italy - Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini wrote: "Hurrah for the courage of free citizens! Heart, brain and pride defeated lies, threats and blackmail. THANK YOU UK, now it's our turn."
  •  Netherlands - Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "The dissatisfaction you see in Britain is also present in other countries, including my own. This has to be a stimulus for more reform, more welfare." He added: "First the British have to decide when they want to start the process of leaving."
    • MP and Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders wrote in congratulations of the outcome and that it is "Time for a Dutch referendum!"
  •  Poland - Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said: "Brexit is bad news for Britain and Europe. It is a sign the EU concept needs to change."
  •  Slovakia - Prime Minister Robert Fico said that Slovakia respects the decision to leave the European Union and further noted that it is not a "tragedy but a reality". He also said that the European Union should change its policy because many people are not satisfied with its migration and economic policies. He added that the result would influence the Slovak six-month tenure as president of the European Commission.
  •  Spain Acting Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo called for joint control over the disputed territory of Gibraltar, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the EU.[


  •  Australia - Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: "The impact on Australia immediately, directly, from a legal point of view, will be very limited because it will take some years for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, to negotiate an exit. However, we've seen already large falls on stock markets and there will be a degree of uncertainty for some time." He added that this was a "momentous and historic decision." He also insisted "there is no cause for Australians to be alarmed by these developments" and that "it is important to remember that the Australian economy is strong and resilient and has weathered global shocks before and weathered them well."
  •  Brazil - The Itamaraty Palace issued a statement saying the country remains as the EU partner, but says it will strengthen relations between Brazil and the United Kingdom. The note also says that the country sees with "respect" the outcome of the referendum, and trust that this decision will stop the process of European integration.
  •  Canada - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: "The people of the UK have chosen to leave the EU. The UK and the EU are important strategic partners for Canada with whom we enjoy deep historical ties and common values. We will continue to build relations with both parties as they forge a new relationship. [...] Prime Minister David Cameron indicated today that he will resign by the fall. On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank him for being such a close ally and good friend to our country. We wish him well."
  •  India - Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: "In this globalized world, volatility and uncertainty are the new norms. This verdict will obviously further contribute to such volatility not least because its full implications for the UK, Europe and the rest of the world are still uncertain. All countries around the world will have to brace themselves for a period of possible turbulence while being watchful about, and alert to, the referendum's medium term impacts."
  •  Ira - Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a democratic state are respected to British vote to leave the European Union and considered it as will of the majority of its people in setting its foreign relations. Iran has always called for expansion of relations with European countries based on mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs and the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union will not change Islamic Republic's relations with that country."
  •  Japan - Finance Minister Taro Aso said he would carefully monitoring financial market developments and respond as and when needed in the currency markets. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said the government was worried about financial market volatility as a result of the vote as being "undesirable."
  •  Norway - Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: "The referendum in the UK marks a crossroads for European cooperation. Britain's decision pose[s] policy challenges. Europe's leaders must get a grasp on the instability and lack of confidence many voters feel."
    • The Red Party wants a referendum on whether Norway should leave or remain a member of the European Economic Area. Party leader Bjørnar Moxnes said: "If also the United Kingdoms stands outside the European Union and negotiating a separate agreement with the EU, it will make it easier for Norway to get a more normal trade agreement with the EU than with the EEA agreement."
    • The Centre Party politician Per Olaf Lundteigen said: "The Centre Party must work even more powerfully to terminate the EEA agreement and replace it with a trade agreement.", as a reaction to the Brexit.
  •  Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin said "The consequences will be global, they are inevitable; they will be both positive and negative. ... It is a choice of the British people. We did not interfere and we are not going to interfere." Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev said "This will of course reduce the appetite of investors to take risks. But I do not see any serious risks for Russia". Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin wrote in his twitter "Without the U.K., there will be nobody in the EU to defend sanctions against Russia so zealously". Head of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachyov said the results of the referendum show that the EU failed "to fulfill its primary mission- to become transparent and convenient for citizens".
  •  Turkey - Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said: "The period of the disintegration of the European Union has begun. And the first vessel to have departed is Britain."
  •  United States - Republican Party presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump said, after arriving in Scotland: "I think it's a great thing. I think it's a fantastic thing." U.S. President Barack Obama stated that he respects the decision made by the people of the UK, despite not supporting the country leaving the EU.


The Euro fell by almost four percent against the United States dollar, while traditional "safe haven assets" such as gold and the Japanese Yen surged. Crude oil prices fell.The flagship French CAC 40 and German DAX initially fell by over 10% upon opening, while bank shares from the two countries fell by more. Likewise, the Spanish IBEX 35, Greek ATHEX, Dutch AEX index, Czech PX Index and Polish WIG30 all fell by eight to 15 percent. The Swiss franc, a traditional save haven asset, rose sharply, thus prompting the Swiss National Bank to intervene in the foreign exchange market to cap the rise. It issues a statement that read: "Following the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, the Swiss franc came under upward pressure. The Swiss National Bank has intervened in the foreign exchange market to stabilise the situation and will remain active in that market." Yields on European sovereign bonds spiked, with 10-year bonds in Spain and Italy rose as much as 0.40% in early trades.In the Asian-Pacific region, an unnamed official at the Bank of Korea in South Korea declined to comment on rumours it intervened in the foreign exchange market, but Vice Finance Minister Choi Sang-Mok said the government would take all efforts to minimise the impact of the result. An unnamed policymaker with knowledge of the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) plans for related market management said that it was "prepared to deal with any volatility." The Australian dollar, which has traditionally been sold off in times of financial market uncertainty, fell strongly against the dollar and the yen. Other traditional markers of uncertainty, such as interbank dollar funding rates in Singapore and Hong Kong, were more steady. Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang said: "Because of this matter, we have made preparation in many aspects. We have reserved sufficient liquidity and we are able to handle in different situations." The Hong Kong Monetary Authority asked banks within its jurisdiction to maintain ample cash conditions and that no unscheduled monetary liquidity injection operations had been taken. The Singapore stock exchange sought to reduce volatility by raising margins on Nikkei futures traded on its exchange. The Chinese yuan fell to its weakest level against the U.S. dollar since January 2011 while its offshore counterpart slipped to its weakest level in more than four months, despite a possibly unrelated People's Bank of China injected 170 billion yuan into the system. The Philippines Central Bank issued a statement that read it was closely monitoring the foreign exchange market and would be prepared to act to ensure orderly transactions and smooth volatility. In the U.S.A., government bonds effectively priced in a small FOMC interest rate cut from a rate increase in July. Every two months, a conclave of many major central bank governors is held in Basel, Switzerland at the Bank of International Settlements. This month the meeting coincided with the day following the vote. RBI's Raghuram Rajan, who had previously called for greater coordination for such situations, issued a statement that sought to allay concerns about the impact of the vote on Indian financial markets and reiterated the RBI's promise to provide necessary liquidity support to ensure orderly movements. He also sought to reassure investors about India's preparedness to deal with the eventuality and that the Indian rupee's fall was relatively moderate compared to many other currencies.


Anton Boerner, head of Germany's foreign trade association, said: "That is a catastrophic result for Britain and also for Europe and Germany, especially the German economy. It is disturbing that the oldest democracy in the world turns its back on us."


The BBC highlighted uncertain reactions from the EU, Ireland and Greece.


Former Czech President Václav Klaus said the result was a victory for democrats who want to live in a free world and it would change the thinking of millions of people in Europe. He compared the result to the British resistance against Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. He also stated that it would not have any economic effect on the Czech Republic.

^ You can just see how scared the EU member-states are from these and other reactions. The same can be found throughout the United Kingdom. As I said before: no one seems to know what will happen now and the not-knowing leads people to be scared and fear the worst.

FARC Ceasefire

From the BBC:
"Colombia Farc: Ceasefire signed to end five decades of war"

The Colombian government and the Farc rebels have signed a historic ceasefire deal, bringing them closer to ending more than five decades of conflict. The announcement is seen as one of the last steps before a full peace deal is signed, which is expected within weeks. Colombia's president and the Farc leader shook hands in celebration. The longest-running insurgency in the Western Hemisphere left an estimated 220,000 people dead and almost seven million displaced. The announcement in Havana caps formal peace talks that started three years ago in the Cuban capital. Colombia's President, Juan Manuel Santos, has previously said he hopes to sign that accord by the end of July.
Thursday's announcement includes:
  • A commitment that rebels will lay down arms within 180 days of a final peace deal
  • The creation of temporary transition zones and camps for the estimated 7,000 rebels
  • A provision that no civilians will be allowed to enter Farc camps, to guarantee rebel security
  • A provision that UN monitors will receive all the group's weapons

"Let this be the last day of the war," Farc leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko, said at the announcement. Both sides agreed to let the courts rule whether a popular vote can be held in Colombia to endorse the deal, which was a promise made by Mr Santos. The president said at the ceremony that this was a "historic day". "We have reached the end of 50 years of death, attacks and pain," he said. "This is the end of the armed conflict with the Farc." The announcement of the Farc ceasefire dominated the headlines of the online editions of the main Colombian newspapers and other media outlets. Both sides still need to establish how the peace deal in its entirety will be implemented, verified and approved. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and leaders of Latin American countries also attended the ceremony.

^ Many people outside of Colombia and South America probably have never heard of the FARC or the 50 years of violence, but today's announcement is a good thing that will hopefully allow Colombia to move forward and better the lives of their citizens. ^

New Monument

From the BBC:
"Stonewall to become US gay rights monument - Obama"

The Stonewall gay bar in New York, where a 1969 police raid led to riots and the birth of the gay rights movement, has been designated as a US national monument.US President Barack Obama named the Stonewall bar as the first national monument to gay rights.  The Stonewall National Monument will cover 7.7 acres (3.1ha) of land, including the nearby Christopher Park. Gay marriage was legalised nationwide last year after bitter legal battle"I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country: the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us," Mr Obama said in a video announcing the creation of the monument. "That we are stronger together, that out of many, we are one. The video will be played on the billboards in Times Square on Saturday, the White House said in a statement. At the time of the Stonewall riots, in July 1969, police said they acted to enforce a law that made it illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to "homosexuals". Since then, the riots - widely known as the Stonewall Uprising - the US has enacted a number of anti-discrimination bills, including allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US armed forces. Last year, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage nationwide.

^ Stonewall is just as important a national monument as any dealing with civil rights (whether for women, homosexuals, Blacks, the disabled, etc.) ^

Brexit; Now What?

From the BBC:
"Brexit: What happens now?"

The UK has voted to leave the EU - a process that has come to be known as Brexit. Here is what is likely to happen next.The story so far At exactly 06:00 BST on 24 June it was confirmed that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. The first thing to stress is that the UK will not leave immediately. The UK is still a member of the EU and will probably remain so for several years. But the vote has already triggered an extraordinary chain of events.  A new prime minister needed In a statement outside Downing Street, David Cameron said the government would respect the result and carry out the instructions of the British people, reassuring the 2.9 million EU citizens in the UK that they will not be adversely affected. Although it was his responsibility to remain in No 10 to "steady the ship", he announced he would step down in the autumn as he was not the right "captain to steer the country to its next destination". A new Conservative leader and prime minister is expected to be elected by the end of September. Under the party's existing rules, Conservative MPs would hold a series of ballots, with all but the two most popular candidates being eliminated. The final two will then go into a run-off in which all Conservative Party members will get a vote. This was the system used to elect Mr Cameron in 2005.  Market reaction to the referendum result was immediate and dramatic.  The FTSE 100 index of leading shares fell 8% after opening in London. There was a big sell-off of bank shares and housebuilders, with Barclays and RBS at one point down by more than 30%. By the end of trading, the index had bounced back, closing 2.8% down. The FTSE 250 index closed down 7%.  The value of the pound has also been hit hard on the foreign exchange markets, tumbling to lows not seen since 1985. At one stage, it hit $1.3305, a fall of more than 10%, although it too slightly recovered to close down 9% at £1.36.  Bank of England governor Mark Carney - who is likely to emerge as a key figure in the coming days - said some "market and economic volatility" could be expected in the wake of the Brexit vote but the Bank was well prepared. He said it stood ready to offer all necessary assistance to ensure financial stability, including £250bn of extra liquidity for the banking system and potential support for sterling. Business leaders have appealed for calm but also more clarity over how the process of leaving the EU will proceed and who will lead it. A number of firms have said they will review their investment in the UK. Sources within Morgan Stanley have told the BBC that the bank is stepping up a process which could see up to 2,000 of its London based investment banking staff being relocated to Dublin or Frankfurt. All EU leaders wanted the UK to stay in the bloc and a Leave vote has been met with disappointment and dismay across the Channel.  Hastily-convened meetings are now taking place in Brussels and across foreign capitals on how to deal with the fallout of the UK's decision, with the leaders of Germany, France and Italy to meet on Monday ahead of a wider EU summit later next week. European Council President Donald Tusk has appealed for unity among the EU's 27 other members, saying the vote is historic but "not a moment for hysterical reactions". German leader Angela Merkel said the vote was "regrettable" and a "watershed moment" for the EU.  What will happen next is difficult to predict. A long, hard road of negotiations between the UK and EU beckons although it is unclear when this process - likely to take years - will begin. EU leaders are particularly worried about the prospect of "contagion", with the UK's decision already fuelling demands from populist, anti-EU parties in France and the Netherlands for referendums of their own on EU membership. There is a formal legal process for withdrawing from the EU - enshrined in Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty - although it has never been invoked before.  Mr Cameron has said it should be up to his successor to decide when to activate Article 50 by notifying the European Council. Once this happens, the UK is cut out of EU decision-making at the highest level and there will be no way back unless by unanimous consent from all other member states. Quitting the EU is not an automatic process - it has to be negotiated with the remaining 27 members and ultimately approved by them by qualified majority. These negotiations are meant to be completed within two years although many believe it will take much longer. The European Parliament has a veto over any new agreement formalising the relationship between the UK and the EU. Leave campaigners have said there is no need to trigger Article 50 immediately, suggesting that first there should be a period of informal discussions with other EU members and the European Commission to iron out the main issues and a feasible timetable. Some have even suggested that Article 50 should not be invoked until after the French presidential elections in May 2017 and the German parliamentary elections next year to avoid Brexit becoming an issue in the campaigns.  The idea, they say, would be to allow other EU leaders the time to realise they need a "friendly" trade deal with the UK to continue exporting their consumer goods into the British market without tariffs.  Any such trade agreement - separate to the negotiations over the "terms of divorce" - would need to be approved separately by the UK and by every remaining EU member, with Leave supporters envisaging this could be completed by 2020. Britain could, technically, ignore all of this and simply write the EU out of its laws, although that wouldn't make future negotiations any easier. The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman says this would mean ripping up the UK's obligations under the Lisbon Treaty and therefore, while it was possible, remained very unlikely. As only one part of one country has ever left the European Community - Greenland more than 30 years ago  - we are in uncharted territory here. While Article 50 negotiations are taking place, the UK is bound by all existing EU laws and treaty obligations. But after two years, this would no longer be the case and British membership could cease.  Monday is set to be a lively day in Parliament as MPs meet for the first time, with a David Cameron statement on the referendum expected to take place in the afternoon. The process of extricating the UK from the EU will ultimately involve rescinding the 1972 European Communities Act, the brief piece of legislation that brought the country into the European Economic Community, as it was then known, and which gives primacy to EU law in the UK. It will also mean sifting through an estimated 80,000 pages of EU agreements, which have been enacted over the past five decades, to decide which will be repealed, amended or retained - a process which Parliament will want to oversee.  Parliament will ultimately have to ratify the treaty authorising UK withdrawal. The majority of the UK's 650 MPs were in favour of Britain staying in the EU and while they will have to respect the will of the British people, they will not be silent bystanders. There have already been moves among the 450 or so MPs who want to stay in the EU, across the Labour, Conservative, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green parties, to keep the UK in the single market in any exit negotiations. This, dubbed "reverse Maastricht", would mean Britain would have to keep its borders open to EU workers and continue paying into EU coffers - which is likely to be unacceptable to most of the 17 million people who voted Leave in the referendum.  The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also want to be represented in the process.  The Brexit vote will fuel concerns in Westminster that the future of the United Kingdom is now in serious doubt.
The SNP warned during the campaign that if - as has happened - the UK overall voted to leave the EU but Scots voted to remain, Scotland would be taken out of the EU "against its will" and this could be the trigger for another independence vote. Senior SNP figures have said the vote shows Scotland sees its future in the EU and the issue of its own constitutional status could be revisited.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the issue is now back "on the table" while her predecessor Alex Salmond has gone further, saying a second vote could take place within the next two and a half years, depending on how long it takes the UK to depart. There are also concerns in Northern Ireland about the implications of the Brexit vote for its relationship with the Republic of Ireland. Remain campaigners warned that a Brexit vote could herald the return of "hard" border controls between the North and South. The Irish government has said the future of the border is one of a number of priority issues in its contingency planning.  Sinn Fein has called for a vote on the reunification of Ireland but this has been rejected by the UK government.

^ It seems that no one (in the UK or the EU) really knows what will now happen. If it will be a pleasant "divorce" or a long-drawn out, painful one. ^

Sleeved Army

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Army rolls up sleeves during 10-day trial period at Fort Hood"

Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, have been allowed to roll up their uniform sleeves for a 10-day trial that ends on Sunday. The decision came after a re-enlistment ceremony during which Army Spc. Cortne K. Mitchell asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley whether soldiers could roll up their sleeves to cool off in the Texas heat, the Army said in a statement. The uniform exemption was only for the Operational Camouflage Pattern or Army Combat Uniform, while in garrison and with commander approval. Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk, a spokesman with the Army personnel policy division, said the service would review feedback from the Fort Hood trial before deciding whether to change the policy. “Feedback from soldiers resulted in us wanting to do a trial over the next 10 days to see the feasibility of updating Army Regulation 670-1 and incorporating in the future for the force to give commanders flexibility in wear based upon their unit’s mission,” Pionk said in a statement. Opinion on the uniform change was mixed among 1st Cavalry Division soldiers interviewed by Stars and Stripes. Younger members embraced the opportunity to show off their arms. “It’s a good step towards a modern army,” said Pfc. Adrian Duczak, a rifleman. “And with the ‘suns out, guns out’ thought process, it’s going to not only boost morale but cause soldiers to take more pride in themselves and their appearance, thus helping our combat readiness. Because who wants to be the one with the smallest arms?” Others remain skeptical. Staff Sgt. Philemon Kimball, battalion supply noncommissioned officer in charge, said the current uniform with rolled sleeves just doesn’t support a professional image. “I personally, in one week, have seen sleeves rolled about eight different ways with varying appearances — none of which were neat and presented a professional appearance,” he said. “Until the uniform changes and we remove the pockets and patches from the sleeves, I do not think that we should unilaterally start rolling sleeves.” Health concerns were the main worry for Staff Sgt. Phillip Mott, 2nd Battalion operations NCOIC. “Having been in the Army during the Battle Dress Uniform wear period, one of the many lessons learned was that the arms of soldiers were accessible to burns from the elements such as the sun,” he said. “These sunburns have already been seen from the soldiers wearing sleeves rolled up.” Sgt. Aron Corcoran, 2nd Battalion operations NCOIC, said the Army has to remain open to new ways of doing things. “Honestly, things are changing in the Army, and it’s about time that we started working towards those changes,” he said. “Whether they be big or small, as the uniforms keep changing, so will the wear and appearance of the uniform along with it. Hopefully, we as an army can continue to keep our minds open for change. Sometimes change can be a good thing.”

^ I don't see an issue of letting the soldiers that want to to roll-up their sleeves. ^

UK's Out!

From the BBC:
"EU referendum: BBC forecasts UK vote to leave"

The UK has voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union after 43 years in an historic referendum, a BBC forecast suggests. London and Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU but the remain vote has been undermined by poor results in the north of England. Voters in Wales and the English shires have backed Brexit in large numbers. The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as the markets reacted to the results.  Referendum turnout was higher than at last year's general election. Labour's Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Bank of England may have to intervene to shore up the pound, which lost 3% within moments of the first result showing a strong result for Leave in Sunderland and fell as much as 6.5% against the euro. UKIP leader Nigel Farage - who has campaigned for the past 20 years for Britain to leave the EU - told supporters "this will be a victory for ordinary people, for decent people". Mr Farage - who predicted a Remain win at the start of the night after polls suggested that would happen - said Thursday, 23 June would "go down in history as our independence day". He called on Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum but campaigned passionately for a Remain vote, to quit "immediately". A Labour source said: "If we vote to leave, Cameron should seriously consider his position." But pro-Leave Conservatives including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have signed a letter to Mr Cameron urging him to stay on whatever the result. Labour former Europe Minister Keith Vaz told the BBC the British people had voted with their "emotions" and rejected the advice of experts who had warned about economic impacting of leaving the EU. He added: "It will be catastrophic for our country, for the rest of Europe and for the rest of the world."

^  UK to EU: "So long, farewell, Auf Weidersehen, goodbye!"  The UK was never fully invested in the European Community or the European Union despite being part of it for over 40 years. They always took the opt-outs given to them. Now they have opted-out of the whole EU. It will be interesting to see what happens next both within the UK and the EU and if any other EU countries now decide to leave. I called it  (the beginning of the end) with the EU bailouts and the migrant issue and now it's happening. ^

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Underground Wall

From USA Today:
"Two years after Gaza war, Israel wants underground wall to block another war"

As the second anniversary of the Israel-Gaza war nears,  the Israeli government is taking an extraordinary step to avert a new war with Hamas militants who govern the Palestinian strip. Israel recently announced plans to build an underground wall along its 37-mile border with Gaza to thwart Hamas' sophisticated underground network of tunnels and bunkers. Hamas, which said Gazans are gearing up for the next war, used tunnels to smuggle weapons, supplies and fighters to attack Israel during the 50-day conflict that began July 8, 2014. The Ministry of Defense refused to comment on details or timelines for the new plan, but the Israeli military did lift the gag order on the project as the country prepares to mark the anniversary. “The purpose is to keep Hamas deterred, and we are minimizing their ability to build up their forces while trying to improve the financial situation in the (Gaza) Strip,” military intelligence director Herzi Halevy said last week. He said Hamas is in dire financial straits and not interested in another round of war, but Gaza is continuing to train and bolster its military forces. Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas in Gaza, announced earlier this year that Palestinian militants “are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine.” He said Gazans are “prepared to go without bread and water, but will not live without respect." Construction of the concrete barrier will cost $570 million and stretch dozens of miles below and above ground, according to the Israeli Ynet news website.  The underground wall will replace a wire fence in place since 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza. Israel’s border with Gaza has remained relatively quiet since Hamas and the Israeli government agreed to a truce ending the war. But the military said Hamas resumed building its underground infrastructure, and at least two new tunnels were discovered in the past year. Likewise, when Israel developed its Iron Dome air defense system that can intercept rockets fired from Gaza, Hamas militants shifted their efforts underground, expanding their tunnel network to transport weapons and launch attacks on Israel. The Israeli army has also spent more than $330 million in the past two years on developing an underground sonar detection system as a defense against the tunnel threat, security analyst Yossi Melman wrote last month  in the Israeli newspaper Maariv. Hamas vowed to outsmart Israeli attempts to deter its attempts to infiltrate Israeli soil. The Israeli government said this week that it intercepted a package at the Gaza border containing wetsuits allegedly en route to the Hamas naval commando unit.

^ This makes sense for Israel. In the last major attack 2 years ago they proved they  could protect their skies with the Iron Dome and now they are going to secure their ground (well underground.) The Israelis keep working hard to protect themselves against Hamas (and every other enemy) and they deserve the up-most respect from other countries. The only way a 2 state solution will come forward is by the Palestinians rejecting terrorism (ie Hamas)  - especially since their tactics haven't worked in over 60 years - and install a government that will recognize and work with Israel rather than against them. ^

Foxes Vs Chickens

^ A friend sent this to me. It's a little crude, but it makes its point. ^

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Torched Jaguar

From the BBC:
"Rio 2016: Jaguar in Amazon torch relay shot dead"

A jaguar has been shot dead shortly after it was used in an Olympic torch relay in the Brazilian city of Manaus, the army said. The female jaguar escaped its handlers after the ceremony on Monday and attacked a soldier, a spokesman said.  Four tranquiliser darts failed to stop it and a soldier shot it with a pistol. Organisers for the Rio Games said it had been a mistake to exhibit the Olympic torch next to a chained wild animal.  University of Brasilia animal behaviour scientist Joao Paulo Castro told BBC Brasil that it was likely the animal escaped because it got stressed during the relay.  "It's neither healthy nor advisable to subject an animal to such a situation, with lots of noise and people," he said.
"Often, jaguars already are stressed by being kept in captivity, that's only compounded when they're exposed to hubbub."Animal rights groups have condemned the killing, with some questioning why the animal was involved in the Olympic event. "When will we learn? Wild animals held captive and forced to do things that are frightening, sometimes painful, and always unnatural are ticking time bombs," Brittany Peet, director of captive animal law enforcement at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said in a statement. The animal called Juma was being kept at a zoo attached to a military jungle training camp. It was rescued as a cub by soldiers after its mother died in the jungle and was brought up at the camp, the military said. Jaguars seized from hunters are sometimes kept as mascots by jungle battalions and shown at military parades. An investigation into the jaguar's death will now be carried out by the military.  The Olympic torch is relayed through Brazil leading up to the August opening ceremony.

^ This is just plain disgusting and everyone involved with this "photo-shoot" and subsequent murder of the jaguar needs to be held accountable. Any one with even a slice of common sense would know this was a bad idea before doing it and yet clearly common sense fell to the wayside and with it the murder of Juma. This is just another in a long list of issues and problems plaguing the Rio Olympics and they haven't even started yet. With an impeached President, the Zika virus, the murder of Juma, the violence in and around Rio and all the problems with the venues and water anyone (athlete or watcher) who actually goes to these games deserves a  medal just for braving Rio. ^

DC "Sit-In"

From the BBC:
"Democrats hold Congress 'sit-in' protest to force gun control vote"

Democrats in the US Congress are refusing to leave the floor of the House of Representatives in order to force a vote on gun control laws. Nearly 100 lawmakers are staging the protest, demanding expanded background checks and the blocking of gun sales to terror suspects. Senators are pushing for a compromise, with top Democratic Senator Harry Reid supporting a Republican proposal. Mr Reid said he supported new legislation proposed by Republican Senator Susan Collins that that would stop gun sales to a limited number of people who are on some terrorism watch lists. "Even though it may be a small step forward, at least it is a step forward," Mr Reid said in a statement. Republicans, who control Congress, called a recess which forced the cameras to be switched off. So the protesters took their message online. Some are tweeting pictures and one Congressman has been streaming video using the Periscope app. The effort is being led by John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Four bills since the attack in Orlando have failed to pass the Senate, but a compromise bill with some support from both parties is due to come before the Senate on Thursday.
President Barack Obama took to Twitter to thank Mr Lewis "for leading on gun violence where we need it most". Legislators chanted "no bill, no break" and sang 1960s protest songs. A spokesperson for Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, tweeted: "The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair." The lawmakers want a vote to be held before the scheduled break at the end of the week, ending on 5 July.

^ The picture isn't from this article, but one posted by the Democrats. I would have more respect for this "sit-in" if they weren't on their cell phones and just sitting - sitting on chairs doesn't count either (or try a hunger strike.) I actually agree that people on terrorist watch-lists should not be allowed to buy or own guns, but do not think the way the Democrats are handling this debate is professional or right. Both sides need to do stop acting like babies and start getting stuff done. ^

Dropped Moscow

From the MT:
"Moscow Ranking for Expat Living Costs Falls 65 Places in Three Years"

Moscow has dropped 17 spots in this year’s rankings of the world’s most expensive cities for foreigners, a report by the Mercer Human Resource consulting group said Wednesday, falling to 67th on the firm’s list.  The change in rank has been driven largely by the ruble’s dramatic fall in value against the U.S. dollar. Since 2013, when Moscow was ranked the world’s second most expensive city for expats, living costs in the Russian capital have fallen steadily.  St. Petersburg, another popular city for expats in Russia, has seen an even more dramatic decline since 2013, when it was ranked 23rd. On this year’s ranking, the city took 152nd place.  Hong Kong took first place in the survey, followed by Angolan capital Luanda. In Europe, London fell five places to 17th, while the majority of other European capitals remained steady. Many U.S. cities rose in the rankings due to the dollar’s increasing strength against other currencies, with New York rising five spots to claim 11th place, the report found.

^ I remember going from Yaroslavl (where I could "live like a king") and going to Moscow where the same amount of money wouldn't get me much of anything. Moscow is like an Old West town in the US where you can do anything you want (legally or not) and that comes at a price. It's nice to see that now the cost of living for expats in Moscow has gone down, but it did so because of the international sanctions and the self-imposed bans when Russia annexed the Crimea. It would have been great if the price of living in Moscow fell for different reasons. ^

UK Questions

From the BBC:
"The UK's EU referendum: All you need to know"

What is happening?
A referendum is being held on Thursday, 23 June, to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. This article is designed to be an easy-to-understand guide. Thanks for all your questions - we've answered a selection at the bottom of the page.
What is a referendum?
A referendum is basically a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part, normally giving a "Yes" or "No" answer to a question. Whichever side gets more than half of all votes cast is considered to have won.
Why is a referendum being held?
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold one if he won the 2015 general election, in response to growing calls from his own Conservative MPs and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), who argued that Britain had not had a say since 1975, when it voted to stay in the EU in a referendum. The EU has changed a lot since then, gaining more control over our daily lives, they argued. Mr Cameron said: "It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics."
What is the European Union?
The European Union - often known as the EU - is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries. It began after World War Two to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. It has since grown to become a "single market" allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas - including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges.
What is referendum question?
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
What does Brexit mean?
It is a word that has become used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU - merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit, in a same way as a Greek exit from the EU was dubbed Grexit in the past.
Who is able to vote?
British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals living abroad who have been on the electoral register in the UK in the past 15 years. Members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be eligible, unlike in a general election. Citizens from EU countries - apart from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus - will not get a vote.
How do you vote?
It is a similar system to that during other elections. Firstly, if you have registered to vote, you'll have been sent a card telling you when voting takes place and where you should go to vote on 23 June. On that day, when you go to the polling station you will be given a piece of paper with the referendum question on it. You then go to a booth, which will have a pencil in it for your use. You then put a X in the box which reflects your choice and put the paper into a ballot box. Alternatively have also been able to opt to vote by post.

Who wants the UK to leave the EU?
The British public are fairly evenly split, according to the latest opinion polls. The UK Independence Party, which won the last European elections, and received nearly four million votes - 13% of those cast - in May's general election, campaigns for Britain's exit from the EU. About half of Conservative MPs, including five cabinet ministers, several Labour MPs and the DUP are also in favour of leaving.
Why do they want the UK to leave?
They believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work. One of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of "ever closer union" and what they see as moves towards the creation of a "United States of Europe".
Who wants the UK to stay in the EU?
Prime Minister David Cameron wants Britain to stay in the EU. Sixteen members of his cabinet also back staying in. The Conservative Party has pledged to be neutral in the campaign - but the Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems are all in favour of staying in. US president Barack Obama also wants Britain to remain in the EU, as do other EU nations such as France and Germany. As mentioned above, according to polls, the British public seems pretty evenly split on the issue.
Why do they want the UK to stay?
Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU say it gets a big boost from membership - it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argue, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. They also believe Britain's status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.
So would Britain be better in or out?
It depends which way you look at it - or what you believe is important. Leaving the EU would be a big step - arguably far more important than who wins a general election - but would it set the nation free or condemn it to economic ruin?
What about businesses?
Big business - with a few exceptions - tends to be in favour of Britain staying in the EU because it makes it easier for them to move money, people and products around the world. BT chairman Sir Mike Rake, a recent CBI president, says there are "no credible alternatives" to staying in the EU. But others disagree, such as Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB, who says an EU exit would allow the UK to negotiate trade deals as our country "rather than being one of 28 nations". Many small and medium-sized firms would welcome a cut in red tape and what they see as petty regulations. The British Chambers of Commerce says 55% of members back staying in a reformed EU.
What are the rules for campaigning?
The Electoral Commission is in charge of making sure it's a fair contest. It has designated lead campaigns for both the "leave" and "remain" sides. The official campaigns - Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe - get access to a grant of up to £600,000, an overall spending limit of £7m, campaign broadcasts, free mailshots and free access to meeting rooms. The Electoral Commission has published a guide to the rules.
So who is leading the rival sides in the campaign?
  • Britain Stronger in Europe - the main cross-party group campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU is headed by former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Rose. It is backed by key figures from the Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, most Labour MPs, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Alan Johnson, who is running the Labour In for Britain campaign, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance party and the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and the Green Party. Who is funding the campaign: Britain Stronger in Europe has raised £6.88m so far, boosted by two donations totalling £2.3m from the supermarket magnate and Labour peer Lord Sainsbury. Other prominent Remain donors included hedge fund manager David Harding (£750,000), businessman and Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman (£500,000) and the Tower Limited Partnership (£500,000). Read a Who's Who guide. Who else is campaigning to remain: The SNP is running its own remain campaign in Scotland as it does not want to share a platform with the Conservatives. Several smaller groups have also registered to campaign.
  • Vote Leave - A cross-party campaign that has the backing of senior Conservatives such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson plus a handful of Labour MPs, including Gisela Stuart and Graham Stringer, and UKIP's Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans, and the DUP in Northern Ireland. Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson and SDP founder Lord Owen are also involved. It has a string of affiliated groups such as Farmers for Britain, Muslims for Britain and Out and Proud, a gay anti-EU group, aimed at building support in different communities. Who is funding the campaign: Vote Leave has raised £2.78m so far. Its largest supporter is businessman Patrick Barbour, who gave £500,000. Former Conservative Party treasurer Peter Cruddas gave a £350,000 donation and construction mogul Terence Adams handed over £300,000. Read a Who's Who guide. Who else is campaigning to leave: UKIP leader Nigel Farage is not part of Vote Leave. His party is running its own campaign. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition is also running its own out campaign. Several smaller groups have also registered to campaign.

Will it simply be the case of all votes being counted to give two totals?
Yes, is the answer to this question from William from West Sussex. All the votes will be counted and then added up, with a straight majority needed to provide the result. In answer to some other people's questions, there is no minimum turnout needed. So if, for the sake of argument, only three people voted on the day, if two of them voted to leave, that would be the result.
I'm away on holiday for the week of 23 June - can I still vote?
The good news for Dean from West Sussex - and the many others of you who asked the same question - is that you will be able to vote by post, as people can in local and general elections. 
When and how will the results be announced?
In answer to a question from John, from Lewes, counts will get under way when polls close at 22:00 BST Thursday, 23 June at 382 local centres around the UK. These local results will be declared as the counts are completed before being collated at 12 regional centres, which will also declare the totals for each side. There will be a rolling total so the time at which one side reaches the point of being mathematically unbeatable depends on how quickly the votes are counted and how close the results are running. It is a safe bet that from 04:00 onwards there should be pretty clear picture of which way the vote is going. A chief counting officer will announce the overall result at Manchester Town Hall.
If the UK left the EU, would UK citizens need special permits to work in the EU?
Lots of people asked about this. A lot would depend on the kind of deal the UK agreed with the EU after exit. If it remained within the single market, it would almost certainly retain free movement rights allowing UK citizens to work in the EU and vice versa. If the government opted to impose work permit restrictions, as UKIP wants, then other countries could reciprocate, meaning Britons would have to apply for visas to work.
Would leaving the EU mean we wouldn't have to abide by the European Court of Human Rights?
Duncan, from Chippenham, wanted to know if the UK could deport terror suspects to their own countries to face charges without being overruled by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.  The ECHR is not a European Union institution. It was set up by the Council of Europe, which has 47 members including Russia and Ukraine. So quitting the EU would not exempt the UK from its decisions. The UK government is, however, committed to repealing the Human Rights Act which requires UK courts to treat the ECHR as setting legal precedents for the UK, in favour of a British Bill of Rights. As part of that, David Cameron is expected to announce measures that will boost the powers of courts in England and Wales to over-rule judgements handed down by the ECHR.
Has any member state ever left the EU, or would the UK be the first?
Pauline, from Shipston on Stour, asked this one. No nation state has ever left the EU. But Greenland, one of Denmark's overseas territories, held a referendum in 1982, after gaining a greater degree of self government, and voted by 52% to 48% to leave, which it duly did after a period of negotiation.
If we stay in do we keep the pound for ever?
It is up to the UK government to decide whether or not to keep the pound or switch to the euro. The deal David Cameron struck with the EU included recognition that the UK has no plans to switch to the euro currency.
How much does the UK contribute to the EU and how much do we get in return?
In answer to this query from Nancy from Hornchurch - the UK is one of 10 member states who pay more into the EU budget than they get out, only France and Germany contribute more. In 2014/15, Poland was the largest beneficiary, followed by Hungary and Greece. The UK also gets an annual rebate that was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher and money back, in the form of regional development grants and payments to farmers, which added up to £4.6bn in 2014/15. According to the latest Treasury figures, the UK's net contribution for 2014/15 was £8.8bn - nearly double what it was in 2009/10. The National Audit Office, using a different formula which takes into account EU money paid directly to private sector companies and universities to fund research, and measured over the EU's financial year, shows the UK's net contribution for 2014 was £5.7bn.
How long will it take for Britain to leave the EU?
This was a question asked by many people. The minimum period after a vote to leave would be two years. During that time Britain would continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making, as it negotiated a withdrawal agreement and the terms of its relationship with the now 27 nation bloc. In practice it may take longer than two years, depending on how the negotiations go.
Could MPs block an EU exit if Britain votes for it?
Michael, from East Sussex asks an intriguing question - could the necessary legislation pass the Commons if all SNP and Lib Dems, nearly all Labour and many Conservative MPs were in favour of staying? The answer is that technically MPs could block an EU exit - but it would be seen as political suicide to go against the will of the people as expressed in a referendum. The referendum result is not legally binding - Parliament still has to pass the laws that will get Britain out of the 28 nation bloc, starting with the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act. The withdrawal agreement would also have to be ratified by Parliament - the House of Lords and/or the Commons could vote against ratification, according to a House of Commons library report. It adds: "If the Commons resolves against ratification, the treaty can still be ratified if the Government lays a statement explaining why the treaty should nonetheless be ratified and the House of Commons does not resolve against ratification a second time within 21 days (this process can be repeated ad infinitum)."  In practice, Conservative MPs who voted to remain in the EU would be whipped to vote with the government. Any who defied the whip would have to face the wrath of voters at the next general election.One scenario that could see the referendum result overturned, is if MPs forced a general election and a party campaigned on a promise to keep Britain in the EU, got elected and then claimed that the election mandate topped the referendum one. Two thirds of MPs would have to vote for a general election to be held before the next scheduled one in 2020.
What impact would leaving the EU have on the NHS?
Paddy, from Widnes, wanted to know how leaving the EU would affect the number of doctors we have and how it would impact the NHS. This became an issue in the referendum debate after the Leave campaign claimed the money Britain sends to the EU, which it claims is £350m a week, could be spent on the NHS instead.  Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that leaving the EU would lead to budget cuts and an exodus of overseas doctors and nurses. The Leave campaign dismissed his intervention as "scaremongering" and continues to insist that EU membership fees could be spent on domestic services like the NHS. Former Labour health secretary Lord Owen has said that because of TTIP (see answer above) the only way to protect the NHS from further privatisation was to get out of the EU.
Will I still be able to use my passport?
Yes, in answer to Ruth's question. It is a British document - there is no such thing as an EU passport, so whether the UK stays in or leaves the EU your passport will stay the same. In theory, the government could, if it wanted, decide to change the colour, which is currently standardised for EU countries, says the BBC's Europe correspondent, Chris Morris.
Will our EHIC cards still be valid?
No-one knows for definite. The EHIC card - which entitles travellers to state-provided medical help for any condition or injury that requires urgent treatment, in any other country within the EU, as well as several non-EU countries - is not an EU initiative. It was negotiated between countries within a group known as the European Economic Area, often simply referred to as the single market (plus Switzerland, which confusingly is not a member of the EEA, but has agreed access to the single market). Therefore, the future of Britons' EHIC cover could depend on whether the UK decided to sever ties with the EEA in the event of a leave vote.
If the UK left the EU, would it be able to rejoin in the future?
A few people have asked this question - and the answer is yes. BBC Europe editor Katya Adler says the UK would have to start from scratch with no rebate, and enter in to accession talks with the EU. Every member state would have to agree to the UK re-joining. But she says with elections looming elsewhere in Europe, other leaders might not be generous towards any UK demands.The mechanisms for re-joining the EU are set out in the Lisbon Treaty. According to Article 50: "If a state which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49."
Would the EU still use English, if the UK voted to leave?
Yes, says BBC Europe editor Katya Adler. There would still be 27 other EU states in the bloc, and others wanting to join in the future, and the common language tends to be English - "much to France's chagrin", she says.

^ This pretty much sums up everything related to tomorrow's Brexit (or not) vote. ^