Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stronger Special Ed

From Yahoo:
"Rights of learning-disabled students bolstered by high court"

A unanimous Supreme Court has bolstered the rights of millions of learning-disabled students in a ruling that requires public schools to offer special education programs that meet higher standards. The court struck down a lower standard endorsed by President Donald Trump's nominee to the high court. Chief Justice John Roberts said that it is not enough for school districts to get by with minimal instruction for special needs children. The school programs must be designed to let students make progress in light of their disabilities. The Wednesday ruling quickly led to tough questions at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the high court had just tossed out a standard that Gorsuch himself had used in a similar case that lowered the bar for educational achievement. In its ruling, the Supreme Court sided with parents of an autistic teen in Colorado who said their public school did not do enough to help their son make progress. They sought reimbursement for the cost of sending him to private school. The case helps clarify the scope of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law that requires a "free and appropriate public education" for disabled students. Lower courts said even programs with minimal benefits can satisfy the law. Roberts said the law requires an educational program "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances." He did not elaborate on what that progress should look like, saying it depends on the "unique circumstances" of each child. He added that there should also be deference to school officials. "When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all," Roberts said. "For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to sitting idly awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out." At Gorsuch's hearing, Durbin said the nominee had gone beyond the standards of his own appeals court by adding the word "merely" in his 2008 opinion approving the "de minimis" — or minimum — standard for special needs education. Durbin suggested that Gorsuch had lowered the bar even more.
Gorsuch, handed a copy of the ruling during a break on the third day of his hearings, noted that his panel reached its decision unanimously based on a 10-year-old precedent. Durbin also said Gorsuch had ruled against disabled students in eight out of 10 cases dealing with the IDEA. "To suggest I have some animus against children, senator, would be a mistake," Gorsuch said. Later, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., pressed Gorsuch again, saying he added the word "merely" to the standard "to make it even more narrow." Gorsuch responded: "I disagree." Disability advocacy groups argued that schools must offer more than the bare minimum of services to children with special needs. The ruling does not go as far as the parents wanted. They had argued that educational programs for disabled students should meet goals "substantially equal" to those for children without disabilities. Roberts rejected that standard, saying it was "entirely unworkable." The court's decision to require a more demanding test for progress has major implications for about 6.4 million disabled students who want to advance in school and rely on special programs to make that happen. School officials had cautioned that imposing higher standards could be too costly for some cash-strapped districts. They warned that it could also lead parents to make unrealistic demands. The case involved a boy known only as Endrew F. who attended public school outside Denver from kindergarten through fourth grades. He was given specialized instruction to deal with his learning and behavioral issues. But Endrew's parents decided to send him to private school in 2010 after complaining about his lack of progress. They asked the school district to reimburse them for his tuition — about $70,000 a year — on the basis that public school officials weren't doing enough to meet their son's needs. The Colorado Department of Education denied their claim, saying the school district had met the minimum standards required under the law. The federal appeals court in Denver upheld that decision, ruling that the school district satisfied its duty to offer more than a "de minimis" effort.  Disability advocacy groups cheered the ruling, saying it raises the expectations for learning-disabled students. "It is now clear that schools must provide students with disabilities the supports they need to help them achieve meaningful and substantive educational goals," said Ira Burnim, legal director at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Francisco Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association, said the court had issued a "measured" decision "that isn't really upsetting the apple cart." He said it would lead to schools more carefully tracking the progress of special needs students. But he praised the court for saying it would defer to the judgment of educational officials.

^ This is a great ruling. It will start forcing school districts around the country to do what is right (most have to be told what is right with a law rather than Common Sense and Decency.) It's not "enough" to simply allow disabled children into special education, but to prepare them for the real world - as a school is supposed to do for EVERY child. Now there are no more loop-holes that school districts can try to keep disabled students from getting the education and training they deserve. It's sad that we have to have these kinds of decisions and clarifications, but I am glad they were made so no school district to "hide" their special education students anymore. ^

Russian Behavior

From the MT:
"Russia's Foreign Ministry Is Telling Citizens How to Behave Abroad, and It's Everything"

The Russian Foreign Ministry has published a list of recommendations for citizens traveling the world. “General Elements of Behavior” offers a compendium of travel dos and don’ts, ranging from “It’s desirable in any country to show friendliness to the local population and be considerate of their way of life” to “Observe the rules of hygiene when visiting swimming pools and saunas.” There are also some unexpected pieces of advice, like, “In countries with sizeable black populations, refrain from using the words ‘negro’ and ‘nigger,’ as well as their derivatives.” Also, when speaking to people in foreign countries, “observe a minimum distance of 50 to 60 centimeters [1.6 to 2 feet].” Things get more interesting when Russia’s Foreign Ministry starts offering recommendations for how to behave in specific countries. The Moscow Times translates the government’s advice for Canada, France, Great Britain, Israel, and Kenya. American readers, you’ll be disappointed to learn that the U.S. isn’t singled out.


“Canada, where same-sex marriage was long ago legalized and there is a serious ‘obsession’ with gender equality,  isn’t the best place for retelling ‘obscene male’ anecdotes and jokes about ‘the non-traditionals.’ In addition to public censure, in major metropolitan areas with compact ‘queer’ neighborhoods (in particular, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal), you risk penalties in the form of a fine or even felony charges for ‘hate crimes.’ “It’s better to refrain from demonstrating emotions when dealing with members of the opposite sex, in order to avoid allegations of attempted sexual harassment (on university campuses, the institution of the ‘public moral police’ is widespread). “An important feature that distinguishes Canadians from Americans that you must bear in mind when communicating is their ‘sense of self-awareness and difference’ from Americans. “Though foreigners sometimes find it difficult to distinguish one from the other, Canadian citizens can become very offended, if you compare their country to the United States.”


“It’s necessary to avoid any behavior toward women that might be regarded as an act of ‘sexism.’ It’s also desirable not to react to representatives of the LGBT community, and not to address them with any offensive words or gestures. “In a cafe or restaurant, one addresses the waiter not as ‘garcon,’ but ‘monsieur,’ and the waitress as ‘madam.’ Russian citizens who do not speak French are strongly recommended to ask for a menu in Russian or English. Attempts to pronounce the names of meals in French without knowledge of the rules of the French language can lead to conflicts. “In France, it’s customary to greet one another in public places: public transportation drivers, store clerks, concierges, and hotel staff. “It is not advisable to demonstrate disrespect for the French language, trying to ‘get a point across’ to French people in Russian, and then getting angry that they don’t understand you.”

Great Britain

“The British are characterized by the following traits of nonverbal communication:– raising the eyebrows (this is perceived as an expression of skepticism);– rotating your finger around your temple (this gesture means ‘decide for yourself,’ which isn’t what it means in other countries);– raising the middle and index fingers, with the palm of the hand towards the recipient is a sign of approval, in the style of the ‘V for Victory’ sign, but faced the other way can be a serious insult to other people;– the middle and index finger folded together and raised in the air (this gesture means ‘Just you wait. I’ll get you!’); and– the extremely rude ‘middle finger’ gesture (a raised middle finger implies an obscene refusal to a request).”


“In general, the tolerance threshold for spoken obscenities in Israel is low. Here, you’ll often hear distorted Russian obscenities originally popular among Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the early 20th century. But foreigners are advised to avoid Yiddish colloquialisms (‘putz,’ “schmuck’) and similar Arabic expressions (‘kus ummak,’ ‘sharmuta’), It’s inadmissible to use the word ‘zhid’ [kike] when addressing any Jew, even if he doesn’t understand Russian. “Visitors to this country should bear in mind Israelites’ extreme sensitivity to virtually any criticism of the state of Israel itself, as well as criticism of any aspects of life in Israel.”


“Comparing a Kenyan to a monkey can cause the very strongest reaction, as can rudely questioning a Kenyan’s mental abilities (knocking yourself on the head, as a gesture during conversation, is considered an insult). If you poke a Kenyan with your finger during conversation, it can also instigate aggression from him.”

You can read all the country-specific recommendations (in Russian) on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Just think 25 years ago this wasn't an issue for Russians since no one was allowed to leave and travel within their own country was highly restricted. The full Russian version is even funnier (ie. don't go to Israel and make anti-Semitic remarks.) They don't mention going to the US though, This feels more like those warning labels that companies have to place on products because idiots did something dumb with it. This is what happens when you don't have AFN "commercials" telling you not to walk down a German street with full cowboy garb on calling every German a Nazi with a thick Southern accent and then taking out your pistols, shooting them in the air and shouting like Yosemite Sam. ^

London Victims

From the BBC:
"London attack: The victims"

Three people were killed, along with the assailant, in Wednesday's attack in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament. About 40 people from 11 different countries were injured, of whom 29 needed hospital treatment and seven remain in a critical condition. Details have not been given of all the victims.


PC Keith Palmer

PC Keith Palmer, 48, was stabbed as he tried to stop the attacker in a courtyard outside the Houses of Parliament. He was an unarmed member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Squad who had served for 15 years. "Keith will be remembered as a wonderful dad and husband," his family said in a statement.  "A loving son, brother and uncle. A long-time supporter of Charlton FC. Dedicated to his job and proud to be a police officer, brave and courageous. A friend to everyone who knew him.
"He will be deeply missed. We love him so much. His friends and family are shocked and devastated by his loss." PC Palmer, who had a five-year-old daughter, joined the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in April last year after serving in the Territorial Support Group (TSG) based in Catford but working across London. He had previously been based in Bromley borough between 2002 and 2009. "Keith was a genuinely nice person; nobody had a bad word to say about him. When I heard what had happened I knew it would be him because that's just the sort of guy he was, to step straight in when others might step back," said PC James Aitkenhead, who worked alongside Keith in the TSG. Conservative MP and former colleague James Cleverly tweeted: "A lovely man, a friend. I'm heartbroken." Mr Cleverly said the two had served together in the Royal Artillery before PC Palmer joined the police. In an emotional tribute in the Commons, he later described him as a "strong, professional public servant". Also addressing MPs, Prime Minister Theresa May said PC Palmer "was every inch a hero and his actions will never be forgotten". A minute's silence was held in Parliament and in front of the New Scotland Yard police headquarters at 09:33 GMT - chosen because 933 was the shoulder number on PC Palmer's uniform.

Aysha Frade

Aysha Frade, who worked at DLD College London, close to Westminster Bridge, also died in the attack. She was a British national whose mother was Spanish, the Spanish foreign ministry said. Ms Frade lived in London with her two young daughters and husband, according to Spanish media reports. Her father was of Cypriot origin, while her mother was from the Galician town of Betanzos, where her two sisters run an English school, the Voz de Galicia reports. The principal of the independent sixth form college said she worked in the administration team and described her as "a highly regarded and loved" member of staff. "She will be deeply missed by all of us," Rachel Borland added.  A former neighbour, Patricia Scotland, who lives in the Ladbroke Grove area of London, said the family had lived close by for 40 years before moving away two years ago. She described Ms Frade as a "lovely mother, a lovely wife". "She was just a lovely person, with two lovely, lovely girls," she said. "You couldn't ask for better neighbours". A teacher at DLD College, Courtney Love, said she was a "great staff member" who was a "helpful, supportive, kind" and "a lovely, lovely person". Betanzos councillor Andres Hermida said the community in Spain was in "enormous pain" and shrouded in an "atmosphere of sadness". "Aysha spent her summers here and had many friends here since her childhood, so we are all very affected," he said.

Kurt Cochran

Kurt Cochran from the US state of Utah was in London as part of a holiday in Europe to celebrate 25 years of marriage to his wife Melissa, who was seriously hurt in the attack. In a statement, Mrs Cochran's family said they were "heartbroken" by the news of Mr Cochran's death. "Kurt was a good man and a loving husband to our sister and daughter, Melissa," they said. They said Melissa had received serious injuries in the attack and was being treated in hospital. The couple had been scheduled to return to the US on Thursday. "We express our gratitude to the emergency and medical personnel who have cared for them and ask for your prayers on behalf of Melissa and our family. Kurt will be greatly missed," they added. US President Donald Trump paid tribute to Mr Cochran on Twitter, saying: "A great American, Kurt Cochran, was killed in the London terror attack. My prayers and condolences are with his family and friends."


Romanian couple

Andreea Cristea suffered multiple injuries in the attack, and has undergone complex surgery, while her boyfriend Andrei Burnaz sustained a broken foot, according to the Romanian ambassador to the UK. The Romanian couple were on a trip to London to celebrate Mr Burnaz's birthday and are planning to marry, Dan Mihalache told the Romanian news agency Agerpress. The ambassador said Ms Cristea was suffering problems with her lungs and had a blood clot removed from her brain overnight. The Romanian embassy in London has also confirmed that she was the woman seen falling into the River Thames as the attacker drove across Westminster Bridge. British police had said a seriously injured woman was rescued from the water.

French schoolchildren

Three French schoolchildren on a school trip to London were among those injured as pedestrians were struck by a car on Westminster Bridge. They are from the St Joseph's School in Concarneau, Brittany. The parents of the injured students were flown to London on Wednesday evening by the French government. The mother of one of them told local newspaper La Telegramme that her son was in intensive care with fractures to the legs, a head wound and a localised haematoma behind the lung. She said he did not remember what had happened, the newspaper reported. The mother of one of the group who escaped unhurt told the Associated Press her daughter "was next to her school friends who were ran over by the car. She saw the car driving past near her and saw the terrorist getting out of the car."  The woman, who gave her name only as Martine, said: "She is very shocked by what she saw. She was really scared for her friends." More than 90 students from the school were on the trip to London. Those who are uninjured are due to return home on Thursday.

British students

Four students from from Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire were among those injured in the Westminster attack. Owen Lambert and Travis Frain were struck when a car drove along the pavement on Westminster Bridge at the outset of the attack. They were part of a group of 13 students on a visit, with a lecturer, to the Houses of Parliament. Mr Lambert, 18, from Morecambe, is understood to have required stitches to a head wound, while Mr Frain, from Darwen, suffered a wrist injury. Two other students needed treatment for lesser injuries.

Other victims

Three police officers, two of whom are in a serious condition, were also injured as they returned from an event marking their bravery in service, the Metropolitan Police said. Four South Korean tourists, in their 50s and 60s were hurt in a rush of people trying to flee the attack, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said. Also among the injured were 12 British citizens, two Greeks, one German, one Pole, one Irish citizen, one Chinese person, one Italian and one American, Mrs May told MPs.

^ By remembering the victims (those dead and injured) of this and all terrorist attacks we help make sure what the terrorist(s) did was in vain. ^

Lion's Weather

Friday: Snow
Saturday: Snow then freezing rain
Sunday: Freezing rain then snow
Monday: Freezing rain

So much for "in like a lion out like a lamb."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Russia Clearing Debt

From the MT:
"Russia to Pay Off Soviet-era Debt to Bosnia-Herzegovina Within 45 Days"

Russia has agreed to settle its outstanding Soviet-era debt with a $125.2 million payout to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told Interfax March 21. Russia closed its Soviet-era debts to the other states in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia - over the last five years. An agreement signed between Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina on March 21 recalculated the Soviet-era debt into U.S. dollars at the rate used in the original memorandum from Sept. 17, 2003.
The amount is “$125.2 million and is repayable by a one-time cash payment within 45 calendar days,” Storchak told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. In February, an anonymous source from the Finance Ministry told Russian tabloid Izvestia that Russia would clear its debts by the end of summer. Russia has already closed debts to Western creditors and to China.

^ I think it's a good sign of faith that Russia is clearing its Soviet debt - especially with the tough economic situation going on in Russia today. ^

UK Flying Ban

From the BBC:
"BA and Easyjet laptop ban 'in force by Saturday'"

The cabin baggage ban on laptops and tablets on direct flights to the UK from six countries will be in place by Saturday, the government has confirmed. Passengers travelling from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia must put big electronic devices in the hold. BA, Easyjet,, Monarch, Thomson and Thomas Cook flights are affected. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the move was in response to an "evolving threat" from terrorism. He told the Commons the government's decision was thought necessary to protect the safety of UK passengers, but would not give any more detail. "We have taken the steps for good reasons," said Mr Grayling. The ban applies to any device larger than 16cm long, 9.3cm wide or 1.5cm deep. It includes smart phones, but most fall inside these limits.  Under the new rules, all large electronic devices, including Kindles and similar e-readers, must be packed into luggage going into the hold. Mr Grayling told MPs he would write to insurers to ask them to be mindful of the changes. The new security measures would be brought in "over the coming days and no later than Saturday 25 March", said a Department for Transport spokeswoman. She added that passengers "should go to the airport with the expectation that the measures are already in effect". So far, only Easyjet has confirmed to the BBC that the restrictions are already in place.

UK carriers affected by the ban include:
  • Easyjet - It introduced the ban on Wednesday. The airline said passengers would face extra security checks and advised them to arrive early at their airport. It says it is contacting affected passengers ahead of their flights to let them know the new rules. Up to three Easyjet flights a day are expected to be hit by the new security measures.
  • British Airways - It issued a notice to passengers on Tuesday, saying passengers would face additional searches and questions, and were likely to be called to their boarding gates earlier. Travellers part-way through their journey or about to start a journey in one of the affected countries who felt unable to immediately comply with the new rules can rebook their flight.
  • - It says and Jet2holidays customers travelling from Turkey would face extra security checks and the new hand luggage restrictions. Its service from Turkey to the UK starts on Monday, by which time the measures would be in place, a spokesman said.
  • Monarch - It says it will increase the paid-for hold luggage allowance by 3kgs free of charge to allow for the extra weight of electrical items. The airline runs a summer service from Turkey from 29 April, so no flights will be affected until then. It says it will remind its customers of the new travel rules by email.
  • Thomas Cook - It says customers flying to the UK from Turkey and Egypt should pack devices into their hold luggage to be checked in before going through security. The company advises holidaymakers with questions to call them on 01733 224 536, or, if already on holiday, to check holiday documents for in-resort contact numbers.
  • Thomson - The first affected flight for Thomson and First Choice customers departs early next week. The carrier said it was "currently working through operational plans and the best way" to notify affected customers.
Overseas airlines affected are Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Saudia. The ban follows a similar move in the US, where officials say bombs could be hidden in a series of devices.  Mark Shepherd, from the Association of British Insurers, advised travellers to check their insurance policy covers valuables placed in the hold. He said some might find they have additional cover under a household contents policy for gadgets outside the home. "Wherever possible, travellers should keep valuables, including tablets and laptops, with them on flights and, if travelling from destinations affected by the new regulations, it may be sensible to leave valuables at home," he added. "If devices are damaged during a flight, there's also the potential to seek compensation through the airline."

^ This is much more expanded than the electronics ban for the US. For the US ban it doesn't affect all the same countries and doesn't include US airlines. The British seem to go more to the extreme when it comes to these kinds of travel bans. I remember flying to/from Scotland and England several years ago when you couldn't bring more than one carry-on and you couldn't bring a bunch of other personal items into the cabin (not just electronics.) That ban extended to every British airport. I had no issues flying from the US to the UK, but within the UK and from the UK to the US the Brits were extremely strict on their rules and those rules lasted years. Hopefully, these new electronic bans are only temporary and not a years-long ban (in both the US and the UK.) ^

175 Compensation

From the DW:
"Germany to compensate victims of anti-gay laws"

The government cabinet has approved legislation to make amends to men convicted under a law banning homosexuality after the Second World War. Germany's Justice Minister called the initiative "long overdue."  The German government is putting forward legislation to compensate men convicted under the country's infamous Paragraph 175 of the criminal code, which made male homosexuality a punishable offense and which was only completely repealed in 1994. Those convicted faced lengthy jail sentences and life-long social stigma. The Justice Ministry expects some 5,000 victims of the discriminatory legal clause to apply for compensation. If the new legislation is approved, they'll be able to claim 3,000 euros ($3,238) compensation plus an additional 1,500 euros for every year they served in prison.  German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the government would ensure that legal pardons and compensation proceeded swiftly due to the advanced age of many victims. "The rehabilitation of men who were brought up before the courts solely because of their homosexuality is long overdue," Maas said in Berlin on Wednesday. "They were pursued, punished and reviled by the German state just because of their love of other men, because of their sexual identity." Maas said the legislation would go before the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, before the current legislative period ends in June. Prospects for its passage are good. The opposition Left Party and the Greens are also in favor of rehabilitating and compensating Paragraph 175 victims. The government Anti-Discrimination Agency said that recent public opinion polls show a clear majority of respondents supported the legislation as well.   Paragraph 175 was formulated in 1871, but it was rarely enforced until the Nazi regime expanded it to make homosexual acts of all sorts between men into felonies. The law was retained in both West and East Germany after World War II. Estimates of the number of victims vary, but over 50,000 men were convicted in West Germany under Paragraph 175 between 1945 and 1994, when it was finally stricken from the criminal code. Lesbianism was never banned under the law. Victims of the legislation in Nazi Germany were legally rehabilitated in 2002, but those convicted after the war didn't receive similar pardons. Legislation to redress that injustice has taken quite some time. After pressure from activists, Maas announced that his ministry would begin drafting a rehabilitation law in the middle of last year, and 30 million euros were earmarked for victims' compensation in late 2016. "It was a very complicated matter legally because it requires the legislature to overrule the Federal Constitutional Court," Markus Ulrich, the spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD), told Deustche Welle. "But when a conservative external evaluator found last year that the government not only could draft legislation but had a duty to do so, that really got the ball rolling." Maas acknowledged that in essence, the German state was admitting that the German state had previously acted unjustly. "The strength of a state of law is reflected in having the strength to correct its own mistakes," the Justice Minister said. "We have not only the right but the obligation to do something."  Gay advocacy groups welcomed the proposed legislation. Jörg Litwinshuch, operative chairman of the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, named after the Germany gay rights activist, called the draft law "a significant milestone in rehabilitating the victims of Paragraph 175." The LSVD also greeted the announcement positively.
"After many long decades of ignorance, legal and political consequences have finally been drawn from severe mass human rights violations committed by a democratic state against homosexual people," association spokesman Helmut Metzner said. But both the LSVD and the opposition parties would like to see the state offer more compensation to Paragraph 175 victims for the injustice they were subjected to. "The compensation rules as they've been laid out are quite unsatisfactory," Left Party LGBTI issues spokesman Harald Petzold said in a statement. "The Left Party is calling for adequate and fair compensation. That's why we're demanding an individual payment of 9,125 euros and the introduction of a special pension for victims." The Greens had a similar view of the situation.
"The damage to people's careers and pensions has to be taken into account," the Green Party demanded in its official statement. "Unfortunately, until now, these considerations have been excluded. The Bundestag will have to introduce improvements here." The draft legislation will be sent to parliamentary committees, which can make amendments, before it is put before the Bundestag as a whole for approval. Should dthe Left Party and the Greens get their way, the costs could be well in excess of the 30 million euros allocated last year.

^ People may think that Paragraph 175 was a Nazi invention and it wasn't - it was used long before and long after the fall of the Third Reich. It was made in the 1870s and wasn't repealed until the 1990s. The Nazis did expand the use of 175 and sent homosexuals from all over Nazi-occupied Europe to concentration camps. After the war, the Allies refused to recognize the homosexuals as a victim and instead took them out of the concentration camps and into prisons (Homosexuality was illegal in the UK, the USSR and the US - not sure about France - I know it was under Vichy.) When Germany was divided into East and West 175 was still enforced and even in reunited Germany it was used for 4 more years. Paragraph 175 and its usage throughout German history shows the anti-homosexuality discrimination evolve more and more over the years. Most of the world (including the US, Canada and the UK) decriminalized homosexuality in the 1960s-1970s. Russia did in the early 1990s. Germany did not until 1994 and that shows a clear distinction . Homosexuals can not marry in Germany. Hopefully, these compensation laws and pardons will help move Germany forward in giving full equality to gays and lesbians. It has been 23 years since Homosexuality was made legal in Germany and that has to over-come over 120 years of legal discrimination and imprisonment. ^

London Attack

From the BBC:
"London attack: World leaders show solidarity"

Leaders of countries affected by recent terror attacks have voiced solidarity with the UK after the deadly attack near the Houses of Parliament. A lone attacker was shot dead after he used a car to run down pedestrians, killing three, and stabbed a police officer to death outside Parliament. Leaders of France and Germany, which suffered deadly vehicle attacks last year, offered the UK their support. The US president offered condolences and praised UK security forces. Among the 20 people injured by the car on Westminster Bridge are three French schoolchildren and two Romanians. In Paris, the lights of the Eiffel Tower went out from midnight (23:00 GMT) in a tribute to the victims. President Francois Hollande expressed his "solidarity" with the British people, saying "terrorism concerns us all and France knows how the British people are suffering today".  In July last year, a man drove a lorry into pedestrians in the southern French city of Nice, killing 84 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country saw a lorry attack in December that killed 12 people in Berlin and was also claimed by IS, said her thoughts were "with our British friends and all of the people of London".   "I want to say for Germany and its citizens: we stand firmly and resolutely by Great Britain's side in the fight against all forms of terrorism," she added. US President Donald Trump spoke by phone to British Prime Minister Theresa May to offer his condolences and to praise the effective response of UK security services. Mr Trump pledged the "full co-operation and support" of the US government in bringing those responsible for the attack to justice, the White House said in a statement.  Saying his thoughts were "with London tonight", European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recalled it was the first anniversary of the Brussels attacks. Today marks one year since the people of Brussels and Belgium suffered a similar pain and felt the support of your sympathy and solidarity," he said in a statement. "At this emotional time, we at the European Commission can only send that sympathy back twofold."

In other reaction:
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that it was an "attack on democracies around the world" and Canadians stood "united with the British people in the fight against terrorism"
  • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was an "attack on parliaments, freedom and democracy everywhere" and offered his support and solidarity to the British government
  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "Horrible images from London. The very heart of the city has been struck. Our thoughts are with the British people"
  • Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed sympathy for the injured and offered condolences to the relatives of those who had died, adding: "We don't split terrorism into categories; we consider it as absolute evil. At this moment, as always, our hearts are together with the British people"

^ I've been in London many times and in that spot several times. ^

Monday, March 20, 2017

No Flight Devices

From Yahoo:
"U.S. to ban some airline passengers from carrying larger electronics"

U.S. authorities are planning to ban passengers traveling on certain U.S.-bound foreign airline flights from carrying into the cabin larger electronic devices in response to an unspecified terrorism threat, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday. The new rule is expected to be announced as early as Monday night by the Department of Homeland Security, the officials said, adding that it had been under consideration since the U.S. government learned of a threat several weeks ago. The source said the rule would cover a dozen foreign airlines flying from about a dozen countries, including some from the Middle East, and would include airlines based in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The officials did not name the other countries. The officials said no American carriers were affected by the ban, which would involve devices larger than a cell phone. Passengers would be allowed to carry larger devices in their checked luggage. Royal Jordanian Airlines said in a tweet on Monday that U.S.-bound passengers would be barred from carrying most electronic devices aboard aircraft starting Tuesday at the request of U.S. officials, including those that transit through Canada. Passengers can still carry cell phones and approved medical devices. Al Riyadh newspaper, which is close to the Saudi government, reported that the civil aviation authority had informed "airlines flying from the kingdom's (Saudi) airports to U.S. airports of the latest measures from U.S. security agencies in which passengers must store laptops and tablets" in checked in baggage. Al Riyadh quoted a civil aviation authority source as saying that these measures from senior U.S. authorities were relayed to the Saudi interior ministry. The White House declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, said the agency has "no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide an update when appropriate. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called congressional lawmakers this weekend to notify them of the plan, congressional aides said.

^ This sucks. I travel with my I-Pad and it wouldn't be allowed on-board certain flights. I'm just waiting on the mass protests to start around the US and the world because it seems that all some people can do nowadays. ^

La Francophonie

The countries in darker brown are full members of the International Organization of La Francophonie.

The countries in lighter brown are associate members of the International Organization of La Francophonie.

The countries in yellow are observer members of the International Organization of La Francophonie.

From: Yahoo Images.

PM's Francophonie

From the Canadian Prime Minister's Website:
"Déclaration du premier ministre du Canada à l’occasion de la Journée internationale de la Francophonie"

Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a fait aujourd’hui la déclaration suivante pour souligner la Journée internationale de la Francophonie : « En cette Journée internationale de la Francophonie, nous nous joignons aux francophones du Canada et de partout dans le monde pour célébrer la langue française et la culture francophone.  « Tout au long de notre histoire, les francophones ont contribué à faire de notre pays un endroit dynamique, inclusif et ouvert sur le monde. Aujourd’hui, nous célébrons les nombreuses contributions de cette communauté, qui a joué et continue de jouer un rôle central dans l’évolution du Canada, ainsi que les valeurs qui nous unissent, comme l’entraide, la solidarité et la démocratie. « Cette journée est également l’occasion de rendre hommage aux liens profonds que nous entretenons avec la communauté francophone internationale. Le Canada s’engage à continuer de bâtir un monde meilleur en faisant la promotion des valeurs qui nous sont chères, comme la paix, la diversité et le respect des droits de la personne.  « Au nom du gouvernement du Canada, je transmets mes meilleurs vœux à tous ceux qui, partout dans le monde, marquent la Journée internationale de la Francophonie. »

"Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the International Day of La Francophonie"
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the International Day of La Francophonie: “On the International Day of La Francophonie, we join Francophones in Canada and around the world to celebrate the French language and francophone culture. “Throughout our history, Francophones have helped make Canada a dynamic, inclusive and open country. Today, we celebrate the many contributions of this community, which has played and continues to play a central role in building Canada, as well as the values that unite us such as cooperation, solidarity and democracy. “This day is also an opportunity to pay tribute to the deep ties we share with the global Francophone community. Canada is committed to continue building a better world by promoting the values we hold dear, including peace, diversity and respect for human rights. “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I extend my best wishes to everyone around the world celebrating the International Day of La Francophonie.”

^ It's important to remember the impact the French language has had in Canada (from when it was the sole official language of New France, to when it was banned by the British to when it became a co-official language of a bilingual Canada.) ^

GG's Francophonie

From the Canadian Governor-General's Website:
"Message from the Governor General on the Occasion  of the Journée internationale de la Francophonie"

Every year, March 20 marks the Journée internationale de la Francophonie. As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada, I am proud that our great nation is a member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF). The common thread that connects all 84 member States and governments of the OIF is the French language, in addition to our shared commitment to promoting peace, democracy and human rights. This commitment underpins the remarkable spirit of co‑operation that exists between us. On this festive day, discover or learn more about the French language and francophone culture through contests, performances and festivals. This is an opportunity for 274 million people across five continents to celebrate the language we share and the diversity of cultures evolving within the Francophone world. I invite Canadians and francophiles everywhere to take part in the many activities being held around the world.

"Message du gouverneur général à l’occasion  de la Journée internationale de la Francophonie"

Chaque année, le 20 mars marque la Journée internationale de la Francophonie. Alors que nous célébrons le 150e anniversaire du Canada, je suis fier que notre grande nation soit membre de l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Le fil conducteur qui relie les 84 états et gouvernements actifs de l’OIF est la langue française, mais n’oublions pas notre engagement commun envers la promotion de la paix, de la démocratie et des droits de la personne. Cet engagement renforce le remarquable esprit de coopération qui existe entre nous. En cette journée de festivités, vous pouvez découvrir ou en apprendre davantage sur la francophonie à travers des concours, des spectacles et des festivals orientés autour du fait français. C’est l’occasion pour 274 millions de personnes sur cinq continents de célébrer la langue que nous avons en partage ainsi que la diversité des cultures qui évoluent au sein de l’espace francophone. J’encourage les Canadiennes, les Canadiens et tous les francophiles à prendre part aux nombreuses activités organisées de par le monde.

^ The French Language is just as important as the English Language in Canada. Every Canadian should strive to become bilingual whether they live on the eastern coast, the western coast, the Arctic North or the central of the country. I am proud to say that I can speak English as well as French. ^

ASL World

From Wikipedia:
"American Sign Language"

The countries/territories in dark pink: Areas where ASL or a dialect/derivative thereof is the national sign language.

The countries/territories in light pink: Areas where ASL is in significant use alongside another sign language.

^ English has been the International Language since the 1940s and it seems that ASL is also part of that great distinction. ^

Not The Droid

Assisted Germans

From the DW:
"German Federal Court rules patients should have access to life-ending drugs"

For more than a decade a 74-year-old man fought for legal access to fatal drugs for his paralyzed, now-deceased, wife. A German court has now ruled that her extreme suffering should have been taken into account.  Germany's federal court ruled on Thursday that people "in extreme circumstances" should have legal access to drugs to end their own lives. The federal administrative court in Leipzig ruled in favor of "the right for a patient who is suffering and incurably ill to decide how and when their life should end" provided the patient "can freely express their will and act accordingly." The purchase of deadly drugs in Germany is forbidden, but the court found that the right of self-determination meant there should be exceptions for extreme cases "if, because of their intolerable life situation, they had freely and seriously decided to end their lives" and if there were no palliative-medical alternatives. The court only heard the case after years of legal battles by the widower of a woman who took her life in 2005. In 2004 he had applied to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices to allow his severely disabled, paralyzed wife to purchase sodium phenobarbital for the purpose of suicide. The claim was denied and so she traveled to Switzerland where she took her own life with the help of the Dignitas euthanasia association. The man took the case as high as the Federal Constitutional Court, but the German courts found that he could not sue because he had not himself been affected. He took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which decided in 2012 that the man was entitled to a decision in Germany. So the case resumed and finally came to a conclusion on Thursday when the Federal Administrative Court found the refusal of a suicide drug was illegal. The lawyer of the 74-year-old plaintiff said that the judgment was a great relief for his client.  The German Foundation for the Protection of Patients said  the judgment was "a blow to the cause of suicide prevention in Germany". Board member Eugen Brysch said the definition of "what an intolerable condition of suffering is remains open." Suffering is "neither objectively measurable nor legally universally defined." In 2015 German parliament voted to ban assisted suicides performed by commercial groups. Family members or close associates were exempted from punishment in assisted suicide cases. The bill called for "striking a balance" between punishing those who provide suicide assistance and a complete deregulation of the process. Euthanasia is a difficult subject in Germany given its associations with its Nazi history.

^ I do not understand why any government or person would be against helping to ease the pain of someone who is already dying and who wants to end their own suffering. The only reason I can see is that the people opposed to allowing the terminally ill to decide whether they want to end their life on their terms or not is that they haven't had someone close to them suffer in pain and agony while they died slowly. You can't always play the "Nazi" card as this article mentions because then you couldn't do a thing in Germany. Homosexuals were murdered by the Nazis and yet they still can't marry in Germany. The Disabled were murdered by the Nazis and yet most of Germany is not accessible to the handicapped (I know from experience.) Doctor-assisted suicide should be legal in Germany and around the world for the terminally ill that want that option for themselves. There should be safeguards in place to make sure it isn't abused by the patient, the doctors or anyone else involved, but in the end it should be up to the terminally ill person whether they continue suffering or not. ^


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Opening Ceremony

I thought I would write about the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Special Olympics. I have to say that I thought it was really great. I have seen many Opening Ceremonies from the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics, the Summer Special Olympics and the Winter Special Olympics and this Opening Ceremony in Austria was one of the best Opening Ceremonies of any of the International Games. It was very entertaining as well as gave a good message (without throwing it into your face at every turn.) As with most Opening Ceremonies there was a lot of the local (in this case: Austrian) tradition and culture and that was nice. I've been to Austria several times and like it there. This Opening Ceremony clearly wasn't some thrown-together event, but was well-thought-out. It had European as well as International entertainers and celebrities. The Special Olympics (whether the Summer or Winter Games) may not get a lot of attention around the world or funding, but they still showed that they are very capable of throwing one of the best Opening Ceremonies I have ever seen. You forget that it is an event for the disabled and just remember that it was a fun and entertaining event. Of course, it is not easy for any of these athletes since they don't get the funding or sponsors that other athletes get and that really needs to change. If anything, they have to work even harder to prove themselves and their skills and that shouldn't go unnoticed. Now that the Opening Ceremony is over I am curious to see how many medals the US and Canada get (as I always am when watching any of the Olympics.)

Participating Nations

From Wikipedia:
"2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games"

The 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games officially called 12th Special Olympics World Winter Games is a Special Olympics, a multi-sports event that was held in Austria from March 14 through March 25, 2017.

Nations participating:

 Burkina Faso7310Floorball
 Ivory Coast12719Floorball
 Kenya12012Floor Hockey
 Nigeria20020Floorball, Floor Hockey
 South Africa18624Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating
 Uganda16016Floor Hockey
Asia Pacific
 Australia9312Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding
 Bangladesh151328Floor Hockey
Flag of India.svg Bharat454590Alpine Skiing, Floorball, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating,
Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 New Zealand10313Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding
Flag of Japan.svg Nippon371754Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating,
Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Pakistan6612Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg Serendib628Floorball
 Singapore13114Floorball, Speed Skating
East Asia
 China443276Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating
 Chinese Taipei261440Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Hong Kong311637Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 South Korea461965Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Snowboarding
 Macau5510Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Mongolia12214Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Snowshoeing
 Andorra415Alpine Skiing
 Armenia101Cross-Country Skiing
 Austria*23090320Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing, Stick Shooting
 Belarus909Cross-Country Skiing
 Belgium151126Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing
 Bosnia and Herzegovina8816Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing
 Bulgaria448Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Croatia191029Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Cyprus16622Floorball, Floor Hockey
 Czech Republic211132Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Snowboarding
 Denmark10414Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Figure Skating
 Estonia12416Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball
 Finland25934Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing
 France161329Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Macedonia101Alpine Skiing
 Georgia257Alpine Skiing, Figure Skating, Snowshoeing
 Germany482775Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing, Stick Shooting
 Gibraltar14115Alpine Skiing, Floorball, Snowshoeing
 United Kingdom91221Alpine Skiing, Figure Skating
Flag of Greece.svg Hellas12214Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Hungary231033Alpine Skiing, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Iceland224Figure Skating
 Ireland24226Alpine Skiing, Floorball
 Isle of Man9312Floorball, Snowshoeing
 Israel12214Floorball, Snowshoeing
 Italy211334Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing
 Kazakhstan141226Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing
 Kosovo112Alpine Skiing
 Kyrgyzstan213Alpine Skiing, Speed Skiing
 Latvia14620Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Snowshoeing
 Liechtenstein448Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing
 Lithuania25429Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing
 Luxembourg131124Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Stick Shooting
 Moldova202Speed Skating
 Monaco17623Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Montenegro426Alpine Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Netherlands151025Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding, Speed Skating
 Norway231235Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Snowboard, Speed Skating
 Poland321446Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Romania9615Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Snowshoeing
 Russia502979Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 San Marino404Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Serbia10919Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing
 Slovakia10616Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Figure Skating
 Slovenia10818Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Spain302252Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Foor Hockey, Snowshoeing
 Sweden301141Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Snowshoeing
  Switzerland381250Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Snowboarding
 Tajikistan448Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Turkmenistan213Figure Skating, Speed Skating
 Ukraine16218Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey
 Uzbekistan91019Alpine Skiing, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
Latin America
 Argentina11516Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floorball, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing
 Chile448Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding
 Costa Rica18220Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing
 Cuba12012Floor Hockey
 Dominican Republic224Snowshoeing
 Mexico29433Floorball, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating
 Venezuela16622Floorball, Floor Hockey, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
Middle East
 Algeria16016Floor Hockey
 Egypt18220Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing
 Iran11011Floor Hockey
 Jordan448Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Lebanon549Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing
 Morocco16218Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing
 Qatar505Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Saudi Arabia606Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Syria426Cross-Country Skiing, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Tunisia16218Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing
 United Arab Emirates20323Floor Hockey, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
North America
 Canada6840108Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing
 Jamaica18018Floor Hockey, Speed Skating
 Saint Lucia12416Floor Hockey
 Trinidad and Tobago10616Floor Hockey
 United States8257139Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Snowshoeing