Saturday, July 21, 2018

Aussie Studies Dogs

From MSN:
"Dogs to be trained to support war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder"

For Australian war veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the loyalty and friendship of assistance dogs can help them on the path to recovery. Now evidence of the special relationship between dogs and veterans will be scientifically examined for the first time in Australia.  La Trobe University in Bendigo, Victoria, is training 20 PTSD assistance dogs to help support veterans. The Department of Veterans' Affairs has put almost $2 million in funding towards the project. Associate Professor Pauleen Bennett, from La Trobe's School of Psychological Science, is the head of the university's 'dog lab', Australia's first laboratory dedicated to monitoring interaction between humans and dogs. Dr Bennett said dogs shared a connection with humans dating back about 50,000 years.  "They can almost tell what we're thinking, and we can read them very well. It's almost like a symbiotic relationship," he said.  Integral to the project are students and staff, carefully selected from the university's many campuses, who will raise the puppies before pairing them with a suitable veteran.  While projects in Canada and the United States have paired up dogs and veterans with PTSD, Dr Bennett said there was a need for an evidence-based program in Australia. "We can take what's been done in other countries and not replicate that, but build on that and do something a bit different," Dr Bennett said. Lead researcher Tiffani Howell said the study was unique because it was looking at the early stage of the relationship between the veteran and the assistance dog. "[We will] consult [veterans] on their needs and provide them with individualised training with existing therapy dogs while their assistance dog is being trained," Dr Howell said. Working alongside the university are staff from the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia (CSTDA), who identified breeders throughout the country to develop lines of dogs particularly suited to veterans with PTSD. The preferred breeds were Labradors and the Lagotto, an Italian water dog known for being placid and liking people, as well as the standard poodle and smooth-coated collies.  "Of course, it has to be the right Lagotto and the right Labrador, depending on what suits the person," Dr Bennett said.  The four-year pilot program will begin at the breeders' properties with an eight-week socialisation period for the puppy. Twelve months of preparation will follow, during which university staff and students will bring the puppies to their campuses. "While they're at work every day, they will be doing the socialisation training with the puppies," Dr Bennett said. PhD psychology student Dac Loc Mai is involved in the project and is a foster parent of four-month-old Abbie the Labrador. He said there were strict guidelines to be followed each week. "There's a list of dos and don'ts. It's not like raising normal pets," he said. Crucial to the dogs' training is a three-month bonding period for the dog and the veteran.   "After that, if all goes well, they get to keep their dog. So we're not going to take dogs off people," Dr Bennett said.  Dr Bennett said dogs were unique in their social intelligence and incomparable with any other animal. She said dogs were particularly good at social cognition, or in other words, "they get us". "They can look at a person and tell what that person's feeling," she said. "Just through our body language, they can pick up whether we're unhappy or happy. Dogs are amazing." The PTSD assistance dogs will receive specialist training to handle a range of scenarios.  "These are dogs that have to cope with people having meltdowns; they have to cope with loud noises," Dr Bennett said. "For our veterans, we think it [the assistance dogs] will be mostly about getting them out into the community, so being able to act as a security blanket." Over the next six months, the university will find suitable veterans from across the country to take part in the project. Dr Bennett said it would require a lot of work from the veterans, who would have to learn how to train and maintain the dog, and report back for research purposes. "It's not something that will suit everybody. We're talking about a really serious commitment in terms of time, energy and activities," she said.

^ Australia has been fighting terrorism around the world for a long time now and their soldiers returning from active duty in warzones get PTSD just like the soldiers from the UK, Canada, the US, etc. Hopefully, this study will help the veterans and the service dogs. ^

Stormy Weather

Sunshine today and then thunderstorms, heavy rain and tropically-oppressive humidity Sunday through Friday. Considering we are in a mild drought in my area we need the rain (just hope the Internet stays on throughout it.)

US Aids Kyiv

From the BBC:
"Ukraine crisis: US to give Kiev $200m in defence support"

The US has announced it will give Ukraine $200m (£152m) to strengthen its defence capabilities.  In a statement, the Pentagon said the funds would be for training, communications, medical, and other non-lethal operational needs.  The US said it had given more than $1bn in defence support to Kiev since 2014.  Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula that year, and is also accused of arming separatists in the east of the country.  More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions - which are known collectively as Donbas. Moscow denies sending its troops and providing weapons to the separatists, but admits that Russian "volunteers" are helping the rebels The latest announcement by the Pentagon comes just days after US President Donald Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin, which has prompted criticism from senior American lawmakers that he was too lenient with the Russian leader. At the summit in Finland, the two presidents discussed a number of issues, including the Ukraine crisis Media reports say President Putin proposed holding a referendum in Donbas to resolve the conflict - but Moscow has not publicly commented on this. The two leaders held talks with only interpreters present and have given few details of what was actually said.

^ This is what the US (and the rest of the world) should be doing to help end the 4 years of fighting in the Donbas by Ukrainian Government forces against the Russian-backed rebels. The Ukraine needs both military and non-military aid to continue to counter the threats they face. Even after Trump's stupid remarks about Putin and Russia at Helsinki it's nice to see that the US is continuing to do its duty to support the Ukraine in the return of the Donbas and the Russian-annexed Crimea. I really hope we (the US) stays on that course. ^

Remembering Genocide

From the DW:
"Khmer Rouge genocide in the minds of Cambodian youth"

A tradition of silence surrounds the horrific atrocities committed in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime during the 1970s. How does the nation's youth view that difficult part of their history? It is estimated that between 1.7 and 2 million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime during its nearly 4-year reign of terror, from 1975 to 1979, with little outcry from the international community. The Khmer Rouge, formally the Communist Party of Kampuchea, was headed by a communist revolutionary, Pol Pot, and took control of the Cambodian government in 1975. Their goal was to turn the nation into a communist agrarian utopia. In reality, however, during the regime's three years, eight months and 20 days in power, millions of people were forced into labor camps where they were starved and abused. The Pol Pot's government emptied the cities and enslaved the population in rural gulags, where people worked to death and were executed for minor infractions. It not only targeted intellectuals and educated professionals like doctors, teachers and journalists, but also executed old and infirm people, among others. Nearly four decades after the collapse of the brutal regime, the atrocities committed during this era still scar the collective consciousness of Cambodians. But many in the country are still not comfortable talking about the Khmer Rouge and their experiences. Rithy Odom, a student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that his parents do not talk about it very often. "Only if I ask them, they would tell me how they managed to survive during the regime; how they migrated and what they ate during that period," the 20-year-old student told DW. Odom added that it's important to be well aware of one's history, as it helps people to avoid repeating the mistakes made in the past. "Sometimes, I can't help but think about all the unimaginable horrors that can happen to people. It is so painful just to think about it." When asked about his view on the Khmer Rouge regime, Odom said, "their leaders were overpowered by their own ego and ambition; they were big fans of extreme socialism which eventually led them to their own demise." Unlike Odom, not everyone is open to talk about the Khmer Rouge. Sin Sovannleakhena, a multimedia design student in Phnom Penh, says she isn't interested in the topic. "I am aware of our tragic and painful history, the conditions that people had to face back then. No matter how much we speak about it now, nothing will change anyway," she said. As it struggles to leave its past behind, Cambodia appears to be facing a generational gap when it comes societal awareness about the Khmer Rouge. A survey of 1,000 Cambodians aged 18 and above, conducted in 2011 by the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, concluded that many young Cambodians were not sufficiently aware of the brutal crimes committed by the regime. It revealed that a third of the respondents who did not live under the Khmer Rouge lack knowledge about the war crimes court that was subsequently set up to investigate the atrocities and bring the perpetrators to justice. The court is known formally as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), an NGO, says young Cambodians know little about the history of the Khmer Rouge. To raise awareness, DC-Cam, with support from the education ministry, is implementing a book project, which aims to ensure that students all over the country gain knowledge and understanding of this regime. "There are over 1,700 high schools in Cambodia. We have managed to send the textbooks to all the schools, roughly about half a million copies," Chhang said. Royal University student Odom said, "I think youth must be informed about the history in order to avoid taking the wrong path that our seniors took. We are the only hope Cambodia has."

^ It is a shame that the youth of Cambodia do not know much about what happened to their parents and their grandparents because of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The murder of around 2 million people by the Khmer Communists is just as much of a genocide as what the Nazis did during the Holocaust, as what the Turks did to the Armenians or what Stalin did to the Ukrainians in the 1930s. ^

Adrian Cronauer

From CNN:
"Adrian Cronauer, disc jockey who inspired Robin Williams' role in 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' dies"

Adrian Cronauer, the former US airman whose radio show provided the inspiration for Robin Williams' character in "Good Morning, Vietnam" has died, his family said. Cronauer passed away Wednesday in a Virginia nursing home of an "age-related illness," his daughter-in-law Mary Muse told CNN. He was 79 years old. "Adrian was warm and approachable. He loved the service men and service women all over the world, and always made time to personally engage with them. Although he was an only child, his military brothers and sisters became part of his family," his family said in a statement. A former US Air Force sergeant, Cronauer coauthored the original story for the 1987 dramedy "Good Morning, Vietnam." Williams starred as an irreverent disc jockey loosely based on Cronauer, borrowing his name and the boisterous sign-in -- "Gooooooood Morning, Vietnam!" -- that became a tagline of the era.  Otherwise, Cronauer would later say that the antics and energy that made Williams' role memorable were not part of the real Cronauer's experience. He battled censorship and orders for conservative programming. But he did not openly defy his superiors, as Williams' character did, or befriend the Viet Cong -- not as far as he knew, he once joked. "If I did half the things he did in that movie, I'd still be in Leavenworth (the federal prison) and not England," Cronauer told Stars and Stripes during a stop at a Royal Air Force station in England in 2004. Williams' performance won a Golden Globe and received an Academy Award nomination for best actor. By combining humor and pathos with themes of resistance and military life outside the battlefield, it broke the mold of traditional wartime films that focused on conflict in the trenches. The film "helped to open dialogue and discussion that had long been avoided," Cronauer's family said in their statement. "Of course to us, he was a loving and devoted husband to his late wife Jeane, as well as beloved father, grandfather, and great grandfather."  Cronauer's military involvement continued long after his active duty service. He served as a confidential adviser to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense from 2001 through 2009 and represented the POW/MIA Office in meetings within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, according to his obituary. For his efforts, he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He sat on the Board of Directors of the National D-Day Memorial. He served as a member of the Virginia Public Broadcasting Board, the Arlington County (Virginia) Cable TV Advisory Committee and the Board of Governors of the New School for Social Research in New York City. He served two terms as a trustee of the Virginia War Memorial.

^ I have seen "Good Morning Vietnam" like so many other people and that's how I first learned of Adrian Cronauer. It was also one of the first movies about the Vietnam War that didn't take a political side on whether the US should have been there or not (but it did take a side on the different US Military regulations regarding censorship and what could be said and played over AFN radio.) ^

Geoffry Wellum

From the BBC:
"Battle of Britain RAF Spitfire Pilot Geoffrey Wellum Dies"

The youngest Spitfire pilot to fly in the Battle of Britain during World War Two has died, it has been announced. Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Wellum, who was just 18 when he joined the RAF in August 1939, died at his home in Cornwall on Wednesday evening aged 96. He served with 92 Squadron and his first missions included the "dogfights" above London and the Home Counties for which the battle became known. The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust said it was "saddened by the news". Sqn Ldr Wellum was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was later promoted to flight commander with 65 Squadron. He later led eight Spitfires from HMS Furious to relieve Malta.  Sqn Ldr Wellum, speaking in 2013, said: "Somebody said: 'Here's a Spitfire - fly it, and if you break it there will be bloody hell to pay'." "Looking at my life now, I had peaked at about 21 or 22. It was just lovely blokes, all together in Fighter Squadron."  He remained in the RAF until 1960. Patrick Tootal, secretary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, said members of the charity's staff and volunteers had been "much saddened by the news". "Only this week Sqn Ldr Wellum had been talking enthusiastically about attending the Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey on 16 September," he said.

The Battle of Britain:
- The Battle of Britain was a pivotal moment in WW2 when the country stood alone against Hitler's seemingly unstoppable military power.
- In July 1940 the RAF deployed 640 planes, although more were available, and aircraft production was subsequently ramped up
- The Luftwaffe could call upon 2,600 fighters and bombers
- Nearly 3,000 aircrew served with RAF Fighter Command during the battle
- The average age of a pilot was 20 years old
- 20% of the pilots were from the British Dominions, and occupied European or neutral countries
- The RAF lost 1,023 planes and the Luftwaffe lost 1,887 planes in the battle

^ It is sad that we keep losing so many of the great men and women who saved the world from being taken over by dictators and oppressed. They risked so much for those of us not even born yet. ^

Best Of the Best

Tripled Terror Payout

From the DW:
"Germany triples payouts to families of terror victims"

The German government has tripled financial compensation for the families of people killed in terror attacks. The payouts will be backdated to include victims of the Berlin Christmas market attack and NSU murders. Spouses, children and parents of people killed in terror attacks in Germany will receive a lump sum of €30,000 ($35,000) in compensation from the federal government, instead of €10,000, German commissioner for victims Edgar Franke said. Franke, citing the Bundestag's 2018 budget, told the Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper on Friday that victims' siblings will receive €15,000 instead of €5,000. According to Franke, the payments would also be distributed retroactively to include the families of the 12 people killed in the 2016 Christmas market terror attack in Berlin's Breitscheidtplatz and the families of those murdered by the neo-Nazi NSU terror cell. Relatives of Germans killed in terror attacks abroad would also qualify. Franke estimated that in total about 300 victims' families would receive the increase. In future, children who lose a parent in terror attacks will receive an additional €45,000 in support. About €8 million was set aside for the victims of terrorist violence and extremist attacks in the 2018 budget, an increase of €6.6 million on the previous year. The role of commissioner for victims was created in 2017 following widespread outrage over the way the Breidscheidtplatz victims and their families were treated by German authorities in the wake of the attack. Families had a hard time getting information about their loved ones and where to turn for help — some were sent hospital bills for postmortem examinations. "In Germany there were payments to help survivors and victims' relatives, but they were not suited to terrorist attacks and were relatively low when compared to other countries, so we had to readjust," Franke, who took over the role from Kurt Beck this year, said. Prior to the Berlin attack, Germany had not dealt with such large-scale terror attacks, in contrast to neighboring France, Spain or Britain, Franke added. "That's why we were not so well-prepared."

^ This will really help the families and victims of terrorism. I would like to see similar government aid to terrorist victims throughout the world. ^

Thursday, July 19, 2018


From USA Today:
"TSA testing 3D screening of carry-on bags with American at JFK this month"

The Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday that it will soon begin testing a 3D scanner for carry-on bags with American Airlines at New York’s JFK airport. TSA has been testing "computed tomography" (CT) machines at airports in Phoenix Terminal 4 and Boston Terminal E since June 2017. The test at JFK is expected to begin in late July. TSA has already used the technology on checked luggage for years, but the machines were too big and heavy to install at many checkpoints. As the size has become more manageable, TSA expects the technology to improve security while hastening checkpoint lines because TSA officers won’t have to search cluttered bags by hand as often. “Use of CT technology substantially improves TSA′s threat detection capability at a checkpoint.” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “This partnership will allow us to deploy new technology quickly and see an immediate improvement in security effectiveness.” TSA has been testing CT machines from three manufacturers: Analogic Corp., Integrated Defense and Security Solutions and L3 Technologies. Pekoske has said he hopes to test 40 machines across the country this year, and the budget proposal that Congress is debating for next year included $71 million for 145 of the machines. One advantage of 3D technology to standard two-dimensional X-ray, which is what most travelers see at airport checkpoints, is that a TSA officer can rotate the image digitally to examine a suspicious item without unpacking a bag. The color image can also be programmed to highlight suspicious materials, which could one day reduce the need for removing laptops or separating larger containers of liquids from carry-on bags. “At American, we are always looking at ways to invest in technology that raises the bar on global aviation security while improving the customer experience,” said American Airlines Chief Security Officer José Freig. “Our partnership with Analogic Corp. and the TSA will continue to transform aviation security by bringing state-of-the-art CT technology to the security checkpoint.” 

^ I just went through TSA security yesterday while flying home and the TSA checkpoint in Denver was completely disorganized and chaotic. Around 1,000 people were coming and going everywhere and the TSA officers (the few they had) weren't doing much to control things. Hopefully this new 3D screening will be part of an over-haul to make airport screening of people and bags more organized and efficient. Although I thought the same when they started using the full body scanners, but you still have to take your shoes and belts off before going through (what's the point of a full body scanner that still makes you take off parts of your clothes?) The TSA and the US Government really need to work to make airports and airlines safe while at the same time making things easier and organized for the passengers. I have seen it done really well in other countries (like the UK, Canada, etc.) and so know it can be done if passenger comfort is even considered by the Government  - which it really hasn't been done by the US Government in 17 years. ^

Operation Shader Medal

From the BBC:
"New operational service medal recognises fight against IS"

Medals honouring UK military personnel involved in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have been awarded for the first time. The new silver Operation Shader medal featuring a striped grey, light blue, dark blue and red ribbon was presented to 36 sailors, soldiers and air crew.  The defence secretary said the medals would also be given to people working outside conventional areas of combat. This includes UK-based drone pilots and intelligence co-ordinators. The Operation Shader medal is the first operational service medal to be created since 2003. Traditionally, operational service medals are awarded to individuals who have completed service in a specific campaign where they were exposed to physical danger. The Queen has approved the extension of the eligibility criteria for the Operation Shader medal to include personnel who have made a significant contribution to efforts in Iraq and Syria, including civilians. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the move reflects the changing nature of warfare.  Speaking at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall after the presentation ceremony, Mr Williamson said: "It goes to show how important our armed forces are - it is about keeping Britain safe even if they're taking action in the field many thousands of miles away." More than 1,400 British personnel are involved in the coalition formed in 2014 to defeat IS.  Personnel based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire fly the Reaper drones used to carry out strikes and surveillance against IS, assisted by intelligence staff and systems specialists. The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said some of the personnel had worked on the campaign continuously since the UK's involvement began. "Physical risk is one part of it, but there is also the mental resilience, the endurance and sustainment needed for people who have been effectively deployed on operations for years," he said. "I am just delighted that we are having that opportunity to properly recognise their contribution to this campaign." The medals presented to personnel based outside the conventional area of operations will not carry a clasp sitting across the ribbon bearing the words Iraq and Syria.  

^ The United Kingdom has done and continues to do a lot around the world to fight against IS and other terrorist groups and the men and women in the British military that risk their lives doing that deserve a specific medal to recognize their sacrifice. ^

Annexed Enemies

From the MT:
"Annexed Crimea Compiles ‘Enemies of Reunification’ List"

Local authorities in Crimea have compiled a list of artists and officials opposed to Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula.  Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 after a contested referendum that was unrecognized by the international community. Several Crimean activists opposed to the annexation, including a Ukrainian film director now on hunger strike, face charges that supporters say are politically motivated. Crimea’s Civic Chamber announced on Wednesday that it had drafted a so-called “Crimean Dossier” that includes celebrities and politicians who have publicly spoken out against the annexation. “The figures included in the ‘Crimean Dossier’ spread unreliable information that incites national hatred against Crimea, becoming the main heroes of fake news,” the chamber said. The institution accused several prominent Russian cultural figures, including journalist Ksenia Sobchak and filmmaker Alexander Sokurov, of falling victim to “anti-Russian propaganda.” In doing so, “they ignore the Crimeans’ conscious choice of March 2014,” it said, referring to the March 16, 2014 referendum. They “offend the residents of the peninsula,” the institution added. The chamber, which describes itself as an organization that ensures cooperation between Crimean authorities and residents, said that an updated list would be handed over to law enforcement officials at an unspecified future date. 

^This should not surprise anyone. Russia believes it can do anything it wants to around the world - like invading, occupying and annexing independent territory (ie. Crimea) and anyone - Russian or not - that doesn't support their wars is considered an enemy of Russia. I feel sorry for the people both within Russia and in annexed Crimea that have to suffer because of the dictatorial policies of the Moscow Government. ^

Franco Ban

From the DW:
"Spain to outlaw groups honoring dictator Francisco Franco"

Groups idolizing Spanish dictator Franco will become illegal under plans presented by the new socialist government of Pedro Sanchez. Madrid also plans to fund the exhumation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War.  Spain's justice minister on Wednesday presented Congress with the new socialist government's plan to revive and expand state initiatives that would support the victims of dictator Francisco Franco, as well as make organizations honoring the dead dictator illegal. The series of reforms to Spain's 2007 Historical Memory Law, the first legislation to condemn Franco's repressive regime following his death in 1975, return the controversy over Spain's authoritarian past to the political forefront. The country was riven by his rule and has struggled to reach a national consensus on the dictator's legacy and recognize victims of his regime. A key element of the reform will provide state funding to exhume the remains of Franco's unidentified victims from mass graves, Justice Minister Dolores Delgado said. "It is unacceptable that Spain continues to be second in the world after Cambodia in terms of the number of disappeared people," she said, adding that victims' families should not have their attempts to recover their relatives' remains blocked by judges or local authorities. According to ministry, around 1,200 mass graves have yet to be opened. The graves contain victims of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), when Franco's nationalist-Catholic military forces defeated a left-wing republican coalition. While exhumations had previously been undertaken by victims associations with state subsidies, the former government of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy cut off all such funding. Wednesday's reform announcement by Delgado, a minister in the new government of Socialist Pedro Sanchez, reverses the policies of the ousted conservative government, following a pattern where the political left supports working through Spain's dictatorial past, and the right wants to let the past rest so as to avoid opening social wounds. Other related initiatives highlighted included archival access and reparations for Franco victims' relatives, the public release of exhumation information, an official census of Franco's victims from the Civil War through his death, and the annulment of sentences issued by Francoist tribunals.  "To speak of memory is to speak of justice," the minister said. Delgado also said that Spain's government was studying how to make "associations or organizations that defend Francoism" illegal. One example is the National Francisco Franco Foundation, founded in 1976 with the goal of "spreading and promoting the study and knowledge of the life, the thoughts, the legacy and the works" of the dictator. According to the group's website, it last received state funding in 2003 in order to digitize Franco's archive. It currently receives tax breaks under Spanish law.  The foundation's website contains articles and essays that praise the dictator and play down the extent of his violent repression. It also puts fresh flowers every day on Franco's tomb in the controversial memorial outside Madrid known as the Valley of the Fallen. Sanchez has promised to remove Franco's remains from the monument. Delgado said Wednesday that the towering cross that holds the remains of more than 30,000 Spaniards who died in the Civil War would be given a new significance. Symbols honoring Franco and the Civil War would also be removed, she added. 

^This is long over-due. Spain should have done this in 1975. I hope this new push to punish the crimes committed during the Franco dictatorship will continue and last until the victims get the justice they deserve. ^

Fee Up-Held

From the DW:
"German ZDF and ARD public broadcasting household levy ruled constitutional"

Germany's top court has ruled a monthly fee levied on every household to fund public broadcasters is constitutional. The fee brings in €8 billion a year and has had its critics, and its supporters.  A monthly fee levied on every German household to fund public broadcasters is legal, with one exception, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday. For years, critics have lashed out at the monthly fee to support public broadcasters and finally brought their case to the top court. The Karlsruhe-based court ruled that the fee was justified by the broad programming options offered and was levied "specifically for the financing of public service programing that is fundamental to democracy." However, the court upheld one complaint and ruled for a single exception. It deemed levying the fee more than once on owners of a second home was illegal. The  court ordered new rules to be drawn up by 2020 and in the meantime owners of multiple properties are no longer liable to pay the levy more than once.  Every house or apartment must pay a monthly fee of €17.50 ($20.35) to support independent public television and radio stations. The €8 billion collected annually from 45 million homes goes to fund the public service broadcaster consortium ARD, as well as ZDF and radio station Deutschlandradio.  Prior to 2013, the fee was charged according to the number of radio, television or computer devices per household. However, this fee model became too difficult and intrusive to enforce.  Since 2013, the fee has been levied regardless of the number of people in a household or whether the house or apartment has a television, computer device or radio.  Commercial businesses are also charged for property and according to how many employees they have. They must also pay one-third of the licensing free for each car – an issue that has angered rental car companies. The plaintiffs argued that the fee amounts to a hidden tax imposed illegally by the German states through state treaties, and thereby oversteps their remit because they have no authority to levy taxes. In addition, at issue was the question of "equality before the law" in Germany's Basic Law, because the fee is not charged on actual use or the number of people using the service within a house. A third question before the court was on the legality of charging the fee to commercial enterprises. The court was not asked to rule on the legality of public service broadcasters or whether the fee itself is constitutional — that has already been accepted. Rather, the court ruled on how the fee is collected, that is, whether every household should be equally charged. The court chose four representative complaints out of the many that have been lodged. Three were from private individuals and one was from the rental car company Sixt. The court ruled that the fee can be charged per home or apartment because public broadcasting is "typically" used there. Indeed, that view is backed up by consumer research studies, which indicate that public broadcasting reaches 94 percent of people in Germany each week.  The court also ruled that given that public broadcasting can be accessed by television, radio, computer, smartphones and tablets, it was not practical to charge per device.  It also found that even if a household does not use public broadcasting, they have a "realistic ability to use" it. The court also said the legislature had "wide discretionary scope" to fix the monthly fee and that the rate was not excessive given the wide range of programming.  Lastly, the court confirmed the rules for commercial enterprises. In upholding the fee on commercial enterprises, the court said they also benefit from public broadcasting.  For example, in the case of Sixt car rental, the court said those in cars benefit from traffic updates on the radio and can listen to public broadcasting. In addition, radio in the car is also factored into the price of the rental price and therefore Sixt benefits financially, the court said.  

^ I have lived in Germany (but never had to pay the license fee because of SOFA) and will never understand why any country (Germany, the UK, etc.) forces its citizens to pay to use a TV, a radio or the Internet beyond what the service provider charges. It seems like petty dictatorship to me. The fee may have been needed when TVs were first coming out in the 1950s-1960s, but not anymore. Germany has several of these kinds of odd fees/taxes (like the religious fee that every German has to pay - so much for being a secular state.)  ^

Airline Peace

From the DW:
"Ethiopia makes first commercial flight to Eritrea in 20 years"

The skies over Ethiopia and Eritrea opened to a first commercial passenger flight in two decades, giving tailwind to the peace process between the neighbors that severed ties in a border war.  "The bird of peace has just flown to #Asmara!” Ethiopian Airlines tweeted on Wednesday. That bird was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying 456 passengers on the first direct commercial flight to Eritrea in since the start of a border war between the neighbors more than 20 years ago. Flight attendants served sparkling wine and handed roses to those on board. Ethiopia's former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his wife Roman, ambassadors and representatives of business, civil society and the media were among them. Relatives of families who were split during the war between the two countries were also on Flight ET0312.  The passenger jet took off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa after an official ceremony to mark the occasion. During the 90-minute flight, passengers and crew chatted and took selfies before the plane touched down at Asmara International Airport in the Eritrean capital to a red carpet welcome.  Eritrea's Foreign Minister Osman Saleh welcomed the passengers as they disembarked. Scores of dignitaries lined the tarmac as the plane taxied to a stop.  "Without Ethiopian Airlines, peace with Eritrea today would not be complete. Our first step to reform with Eritrea has begun with Ethiopian Airlines,” said Hailemariam. Commercial air traffic between Ethiopia and Eritrea was halted at the height of hostilities, including air raids, during the 1998-2000 war. The stand-off in the Horn of Africa was to rumble on until Hailemariam's successor, Prime Minister Abey Ahmed, came to office in April and sought peace and Ethiopia, Eritrea officially end war.  The two sides have been moving towards normalizing relations with high-level visits in both Addis Ababa and Asmara. At the weekend, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki made a visit to the Ethiopian capital  Afwerki and his delegation arrived in a large unmarked white jet. The officials he dispatched at the start of peace talks last month arrived in an Emirates aircraft. The Addis Ababa-based Ethiopian Airlines Group is Africa's largest airline. It flies to 70 cities and owns stakes in Malawi's national carrier and Asky Airlines in Togo.

^ It's nice that these two countries could make peace after 20 years. Hopefully, things will improve for the citizens of both countries now. ^

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Colorado Overall

I have to say that overall I had a good trip to Colorado. While there were some hiccups and some health issues (enhanced with the high altitude) I got to meet my sister’s new dog (who is so cute) as well as playing with her other dog that I have met before (who is also very cute.) I also met my sister’s new boyfriend and he seems better than her old one (so far.)

Being in Colorado I got to have a little civilization for a while and be in a land with 24 hour/365 day places, where my cell phone worked and where you can have food delivered to your house. I was able to post things including pictures with my phone rather than having to use my camera and then download them to my computer before posting them. I even went to a movie theater where you get your own popcorn and butter yourself (and can go back as much as you want) as well as sitting in a very comfortable sofa seat that you picked beforehand.

While many places of Colorado (especially Denver) have wanna-be hipsters and lots of pot-heads it also has some cool people (like the friends I got to hang out with.) My sister also did a good job in trying to keep me busy – not an easy task. Most of the trips I just sit in her house binge-watching streaming shows and movies – that I can’t do on my mountain, but this time I didn’t do that. My sister did introduce me to YouTube “Fail” videos – videos of people doing weird and funny things and failing. It was really funny. I have to say that it was a nice and fun time.

Colorado Meme

Leaving CO!

When I was leaving Colorado (earlier today) I had to leave for the Denver Airport very early. Checking-in at Southwest was even more difficult than at my local, smaller airport. There was a Southwest employee (a guy) who was supposed to separate the crowds of people into those being forced to use the kiosks and do everything themselves and those who were allowed to go to the full service counters. He kept messing up where he was sending people and then would get mad at the people who went to the wrong place. Once I checked everything in myself we followed signs to the furthest TSA security line (on the opposite side of the airport we were on.) There were signs saying it was a short wait, but that was a lie. There were around 1,000 people crammed in a very small area and everything moved so slowly. It was not organized, but just complete chaos. After security you have to take the train to one of the terminals, but there aren’t many boards or signs telling you which gate your flight was at so it was one of those you just have to know kind of things – which is stupid at an airport.

I got to my gate and was able to board first. Yesterday there were lots of cancellations, delays and diversions in the Northeast due to thunderstorms and rain (while it was sunny and nice in Colorado) and so both flights were completely full. On my flight to BWI an old man sat next to me and a younger woman sat next to him. They didn’t know each other, but by the end of the flight they had told each other their whole life’s story (most of which seemed like a bunch of fabrications.) I couldn’t help but laugh at what they were saying to each other. I was very glad to be able to leave the plane when it landed because it was becoming too much – listening to them. On my next flight the only “excitement” was that a very old man who looked and dressed like a 1970s Italian mobster sat next to me. It was pretty funny.

When we landed my bag was the 3rd one out and I was able to get my car, leave the airport and get home without much hassle despite it being rush hour and there being lots of construction on the highways.

Renaissance Fair

This trip to Colorado didn’t only involve me trying new food places, but also trying new things and one of that was going to the Renaissance Fair. I have never been to a Renaissance Fair (but have been to Medieval Times in Florida, Maryland and Toronto, Canada) and so wanted to see what the Fair was like. I was expecting everyone to speak in Old English and to dress in Renaissance-style clothes with Renaissance-themed events and shows. Most of the people (including the employees of the fair – not sure what to call the people who worked there) did not even try to speak in Old English. Many had aspects of Renaissance clothing, but most were gothic or ultra-modern. Most people also were more into magical worlds rather than the Renaissance world. The shows we watched were good, but it was very sunny and hot outside and only one of the stages had any protection or shade. I am glad to say that I wasn’t the one who decided to leave early (although I didn’t hesitate to leave once it was brought-up.) The Renaissance Fair (at least the one in Colorado) just wasn’t for me and I probably won’t go back to it.

CO Food!

One thing I tend to do when I am in Colorado is go on a food spree. That’s because in my state only hospitals, gas stations and a handful of McDonald’s are allowed to be open 24 hours not to mention that we don’t have most of the food choices that a place in civilization (like Colorado) has and no one delivers food to my mountain. I won’t write about all the places I ate while in Colorado, but will mention a few of them. Of course I had to go to the Edelweiss German Restaurant. I have always gone there since my first time in 2010. I had my usual – schnitzel  - it was just as I remember it (the atmosphere of the restaurant was good, the food was excellent, the company and conversation (by my sister and myself) was good. Another place I went to (this was my first time) was to the HuHot Mongolian Restaurant. You fill a bowl of whatever you want and the cook it right in front of you. It was really good. For dessert we ordered make-your-own S’mores (not traditionally Mongolian, but it tasted great.) I would definitely go back there. One place that I had been to before, but that failed this time was Thunder and Buttons. The other time I was there (2 years ago) I got the schnitzel sandwich (yes I like schnitzel) and it was perfect, but this time it was burnt beyond recognition and was as hard as a rock that I couldn’t take more than two bites. Luckily, the night wasn’t a bust. My sister and I were meeting up with some friends. I haven’t seen them in 2 years and yet it was one of those full-blown belly laughs kind of nights. It was just several hours of fun. Too bad we don’t get to hang out that much. I posted a picture the waitress took of us (it is not a very good picture of me, but the other three came out good so I decided to post it.) The last food item I will talk about wasn’t at a restaurant, but was in my sister’s backyard. Her new boyfriend made smoked brisket the night I arrived. It was really good. I wish I was able to BBQ, but I’m not good at it.

On The Go To CO!

I have been going to Colorado since 2010 and so I have been to most of the tourist attractions (especially in Colorado Springs and Denver.) With that said I hadn’t been back to Colorado in 2 years - last year I went to Israel with my sister instead of visiting her in Colorado – so I thought I should make the trip out there again. Not only did she get a new dog that I have never seen, but also a new boyfriend so I thought I should check both of them out (more so the dog because I love dogs.)

As my flight was very early and I would have to leave my house at 2 am to get to the airport on-time I had to bring my dog to the kennel the day before. It is his second time staying at the kennel and I think he likes it there – especially since he can hang out and play with other dogs – but it still wasn’t easy to bring him there, but I did.

The next day I drove to the airport (very early as I already said) and had to deal with some dense fog along the way. I parked in the airport garage and walked to the terminal. Even though the airlines say to be there 2 hours beforehand for domestic flights Southwest Airlines – which I was flying – wasn’t open 2 hours before. On top of them being tardy they have a new (and I think – dumb) system where you have to do everything yourself including printing your luggage tag only to then being it to the bag drop where a Southwest employee checks your ID. There was a woman with five children on the kiosk next to me and she asked the Southwest employee who was walking around the different kiosks for help and the female employee simply told the woman to “follow the directions” and then walked away. This is the kind of arrogance that Southwest tends to have especially when dealing with their customers. I managed to do what Southwest should have done and then headed for the TSA line. I was told (by the TSA woman checking my ID and boarding pass) that I was their first passenger that day – I guess I should have felt honored, but I could have cared less. I walked through the full body scanner and then had the TSA guy pat my bare arms (I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.) That only seems to happen to me at this one particular airport – maybe the TSA there just likes my arms and want to touch them. It can’t be because they saw something in the scanner.

After going through security I found my gate and when it was time to board I boarded among the first people and sat by the window. The flight crew announced it wasn’t a full flight and so there was a seat in-between me and a woman. I have to comment on the woman. She looked like she had just walked out of a 1980s movie. Her hair was about 5 times larger than her head and the shoulder pads in her business suit seemed just as high. It was pretty funny to see. Other than that the flight to Baltimore was uneventful.

At BWI I had to walk the long trek from Concourse A to Concourse C, but I had a long layover and so didn’t have to rush. When it was time to board I boarded among the first people (again) and this time the flight crew announced that it was a full flight. The two other people in my row had to use seat-belt extensions (as did four other people nearby.) The guy right next to me was wearing shorts and he wouldn’t stay on his side and I noticed when I was leaving the plane that he had left a sweat stain on my pants – just the side he touched. It was not very pleasant. Throughout the flight to Denver the pilot and his crew were going crazy about turbulence and they kept the seat-belt sign on most of the 4 hour flight – even though there was no turbulence to speak of. The over-reaction and melodrama by the pilot and his crew did not go unnoticed by the other passengers –not just me. These are the people who are supposed to be in control of things and here they were “experiencing” turbulence that no one else on-board the same plane was feeling.

I was glad to get off the plane as soon as we landed in Denver. Of course I had to take the dumb train to the main terminal where I met my sister and got my bag and headed to Colorado Springs. While the flights to Colorado weren’t the worst ones I have every experienced they did have their odd parts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

100 Years: The Romanovs

From The Independent:
"Tsar Nicholas II's murder 100 Years on: Ther terrible fate of Russia's Imperial Family."

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the execution of the Russian royal family by their Bolshevik captors, one of the most shocking events in 20th century history. Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsarina Alexandra and their five children, along with three servants and the family physician, Dr Yevgeny Botkin, were slain in cold blood in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16 July 1918. The Romanovs had been detained since the February Revolution in Petrograd (now St Petersburg), when the tsar was forced to abdicate on 15 March after losing control of the violent uprising in which bread rioters and industrial strikers fought police and gendarmes loyal to the monarchy, the tide turning definitively when members of the Russian military mutinied. Chaos ensued, a republican provisional government was installed under Alexander Kerensky and the royals were taken into custody after an offer of asylum by Britain was withdrawn on the advice of King George V. They were imprisoned first in Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, then in Tobolsk in Tyumen-Oblast, before finally being moved to Yekaterinburg by train on 30 April 1918. Alexei Romanov, 13, suffered an attack of bleeding as a result of the haemophilia that beset the family at this time and only joined his parents three weeks later, along with his sisters Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia, who were sexually assaulted by their guards in transit. In Yekaterinburg, the prisoners were held inside a fortified mansion with whitewashed windows in the town centre that had once belonged to a local military engineer named Nikolai Nikolayevich Ipatiev. Commandeered by Ural Soviet officials, who had ordered the owner to vacate the premises, the property was sinisterly rechristened “The House of Special Purpose” and served as a prison in which the imperial royal family were held for the final 78 days of their lives. Maxim machine gun nests were trained on the residence while the Popov House across the street served as a makeshift barracks, where the soldiers brought women, drank and played cards off duty. Pleas for news of the Romanovs from concerned members of the European diplomatic community went unanswered. During that time, the family adapted to their circumstances: Nicholas reading and the boisterous grand duchesses Maria and Anastasia befriending their guards to stave off boredom, the former becoming romantically involved with one, Ivan Skorokhodov, and conspiring with him on how the Romanovs might escape. Skorokhodov smuggled a birthday cake into the compound and presented it to Maria on 26 June when she turned 19, but was subsequently removed from duty when his superior, Filipp Goloshchekin, learned of their relationship and tightened security. They were allowed into the garden for exercise but had no view other than the sky and the spire of the Voznesensky Cathedral as a high wooden palisade had been erected around the perimeter of the Ipatiev House to conceal them from the public gaze. The fate of the Romanovs was seemingly undecided until July, when the White Guard – still loyal to the tsar – began to move in on Yekaterinburg and looked certain to capture it. The Bolsheviks could not afford to have the Romanovs fall into the hands of the Whites, lest they became symbols around which anti-communists could rally or provide foreign governments with an alternative head of state to recognise. Goloshchekin travelled to Moscow to obtain the order for the assassination and is thought to have secured it from Vladimir Lenin himself, although no paper trail exists to confirm the fact, no doubt deliberate on the part of the Bolshevik leader. “Revolutions are meaningless without firing squads,” he famously said. On the night of the killing, the guards entered the bedroom of Dr Botkin shortly after midnight and found him awake at his journal. They ordered him to rouse the sleeping Romanovs and tell them to dress for a long journey. Outside in the street, the engine was started on a Fiat truck, intended to ferry the bodies away, in order to mask the sound of screaming. Having gathered the royals in the basement, Commandant Yakov Yurovsky, charged with organising the execution, read aloud the death sentence from the Ural Executive Committee to the assembled royals and their loyal domestics, still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Alexei, too sick to stand, was sat in a chair. When the firing commenced, the bullets flew wildly, some ricocheting off the Romanov children because they had sewn diamonds into their underclothes to keep the family valuables safe, ensuring they could pay their way in the event that they did escape. The members of the inexperienced death squad, brandishing an assortment of firearms, were themselves hit in the melee. Nicholas died instantly but several members of the family were only injured, writhing in their own blood on the basement floor as caustic gunpowder smoke filled the air. Their leader, Peter Ermakov, was drunk at the time and only managed to hit Maria in the thigh as she tried to run for the doors. Panicking and fearing the cries would be overheard at street level despite the rumble of the truck, the revolutionaries set about them with bayonets, running the tsarina and her children through and firing at their heads. The violence lasted a horrifying 20 minutes, with one of the killers later recalling that the scene was as slippery as the surface of an ice rink, according to historian Simon Sebag Montefiore. Two of the girls were still breathing when the bodies were carried out, a fact that has been cited as the origin point for the myth of Anastasia’s escape. In fact, the only survivor of the massacre was Alexei’s pet spaniel Joy, who was subsequently rescued by Colonel Paul Rodzianko of the British Expeditionary Force and brought to live in Windsor. Like the shootings, the secret disposal of the victims’ remains was also badly bungled. Yurovsky’s men piled the corpses into the truck, which broke down on route to the nearby Koptyaki woods. They were met by 25 accomplices, also drunk, who had arrived on horseback bearing lamps and expressed disappointment that the Romanovs were already dead as they had hoped to have the pleasure of lynching them. Ermakov, in his stupor, had only brought one shovel, so Yurovsky dismissed the work crew, retaining only five to help with the burial in an abandoned mineshaft. It was only after having stripped the dead of their clothing, looting the hidden jewels and dousing them in sulphuric acid that Yurovsky realised the mine was too shallow to be secure. After returning to Yekaterinburg to discuss the problem, it was decided to retrieve the bodies and rebury them in a deeper copper mine to the west. On route, the truck became stuck in the mud in a hollow known as Porosenkov Log (”Pig’s Meadow”), where, too exhausted to continue, the men dug a mass grave and dumped the cadavers, pouring more acid over the remains, smashing the bones to splinters with their rifle butts before concealing their handiwork and returning to town. Tsar Nicholas II has been described by Montefiore as “diminutive and hardly majestic… his looks and immaculate manners concealed an astonishing arrogance, contempt for the educated political classes, vicious antisemitism, and an unshakable belief in his right to rule as a sacred autocrat”. He was not trusted by his ministers and his indulgence of the self-styled mystic and charlatan Grigori Rasputin gave his many enemies reason to persecute him. But the fate of the Romanovs was brutal beyond reason. The rediscovery of Nicholas, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia’s bones in 1979 by amateur investigator Alexander Avdonin allowed them to be reburied in the family crypt in St Petersburg in 1998. The remains of Alexei and Maria were found in 2007 but have so far not been reunited with those of their tragic family due to a DNA dispute raised by the Russian Orthodox Church. A century later, the Romanov ghosts are still not at peace. 

^ 100 years ago today the Russian Communists of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (there was no Soviet Union until December 1922) murdered the Romanovs. Today, both the RSFSR and the USSR have collapsed. The Czar and his family are reburied in Saint Petersburg and are saints in the Russian Orthodox Church. ^

Dogs 1st

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Accessible NY Fun

From AMS Vans:
"New York State Offers a Freewheeling Handicap Vacation"

Let's just say that, while visiting New York, you may "never sleep." The state has such a variety of things to do--from the city life to the suburban areas--you're sure to have a fantastic time! Check out these top wheelchair accessible attractions in the Empire State!

Times Square, Manhattan
You can explore Times Square for hours, with so much to see. The Square is full of neon lights, huge billboards, Broadway theaters, and televisions studios. If you're ready to shop, this is the place to go for an assortment of internationally known storefronts, boutiques, and markets. For those with a sweet tooth, check out M&M's World, where you can find a two-story wall covered with a variety of colorful M&M's, or create your own customized M&M's with the store's personalized printer. And M&M's World is just one of the many yummy candy shops that can be found at Times Square.  Check out a "Good Morning America" or Music Television Network (MTV) broadcast, where you can be part of a live audience! Be sure to see a fantastic Broadway or Off Broadway show at one of the many theaters. When all the activity makes you hungry, don't fret, Times Square has countless amazing restaurants to choose from. Visit Restaurant Row, located between Broadway and 9th Avenue. If you're in the mood for Italian, dine at the historic Barbetta, which is nearly as old as Times Square itself. The restaurant celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006, and is still owned by the original family who opened it.  All in all, there are too many shops, theaters, restaurants, and attractions located within Times Square to list. That said, you're guaranteed to have a great time without a dull moment. Most of the attractions in Time Square are wheelchair accessible. Just keep in mind the streets are extremely crowded, so you might find it helpful to have someone with you just in case you find yourself in need of assistance. Remember--parking is scarce, so it's best to plan for parking before you go, with a wheelchair van.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
The Metropolitan is one of the largest art museums in the world. It consists of more than two million pieces of art, which cover a 5,000-year time span. There's sure to be something for everyone to enjoy, like the brilliant galleries of ancient Egyptian artworks, the American Wing, Musical Instruments, Modern and Contemporary Art, Photographs, Medieval Art, The Robert Lehman Collection, Greek and Roman Art, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, European Art, Drawings and Prints, The Costume Institute, The Cloisters, Asian Art, Arms and Armor, Ancient Near Eastern, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.  Bring home some souvenirs from the museum's store! Every purchase made helps support the museum's programs. There are nine different places within the museum to dine, so take your pick. Make sure to check out the museum's map to locate the eateries you'd like to try.  The museum is wheelchair accessible. The entrances that are accessible are located at Fifth Avenue and 81st Street, and through the parking garage at Fifth Avenue and 80th Street. There are wheelchairs available free of charge at the coat-check areas. Elevators and escalators can be accessed throughout the museum.

Chinatown, Manhattan
Chinatown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New York. Chinese immigrants established the district in the 1800s. Visit this area to experience the distinctive Chinese culture, including its exotic architecture, authentic cuisine, shopping, and people. The vicinity has grown to include other Asian populations such as Vietnamese and Malaysians. When you aren't shopping or eating, explore the Asian American Arts Centre, where you can see American and Asian art forms utilized in performance, exhibition, and public education. Stop by the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, which is dedicated to preserving the history, heritage, culture, and diverse experiences of the Chinese in the United States. The museum brings 160 years of Chinese American history to life with exhibitions, along with educational and cultural programs. The majority of Chinatown is wheelchair accessible, but be aware there are some spots where you might need assistance getting around.

Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown
Baseball fans can explore the Baseball Hall of Fame, where you'll be treated to lots of exhibits and artifacts. The museum is a collection of artifacts from baseball's beginnings to now. There are more than 38,000 baseball artifacts in the museum--all visitors are bound to find something that influences their love for the game! The museum has three floors, and the staff recommends guests start on the second floor.  The exhibits include a Cooperstown Room, The Baseball Experience, Taking the Field: The 19th Century, 20th Century Baseball Time Line, Babe Ruth Room, Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball, Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience, Viva Baseball, Today's Game, FENtennial: Fenway Park's First 100 Years, Sacred Ground, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, One for the Books, Autumn Glory: Postseason Celebration, Baseball Cards, Pastime Portraits: The Photographs of Forrest S. Yantis, Learning Center, Art of Baseball, Inductee Row, Hall of Fame Gallery, Baseball at the Movies, Scribes and Mikemen, Bullpen Theater, and Sandlot Kid's Clubhouse.  The museum is wheelchair accessible, and there are elevators available.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, New York City Harbor
Take the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island! Liberty Island is home to the Statue of Liberty, the national monument of freedom and democracy gifted to the US from France.  When visiting the Statue of Liberty, check out the exhibit located on the second floor of the statue to discover the history and symbolism of the 305-ft. monument. This exhibit features the famous sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. The sonnet is engraved on a bronze plaque on the statue's pedestal. The Torch exhibit includes the original torch from 1886, as well as the history of the torch, including diagrams, photographs, drawings, and cartoons. Make sure you hit the observation deck to see magnificent views of New York City and the Harbor!  The Statue of Liberty is now fully wheelchair accessible. Thanks to renovations in 2011 and a new elevator design, wheelchair users can now reach the observation deck.  Not far from the Statue of Liberty is the Ellis Island Immigration Museum--the nation's premier federal immigration station. More than 12 million immigrants passed through the station until 1954. The station reopened after its transformation into a museum on September 10, 1990.  The Ellis Island Museum covers more than 100,000 sq. ft. and features artifacts, photographs, prints, videos, interactive displays, oral history, and personal stories of immigrants seeking new opportunities in a foreign land. Experience the 45-minute audio tour, which takes visitors through the life of the immigrant and allows them to feel as if they were the "new arrival." There are additional tours available, which go into more detail with in-depth interviews with historians, architects and archaeologists. Ferries for Ellis Island and Liberty Island are wheelchair accessible. There are a limited amount of wheelchairs available for rent on both islands. The museum is wheelchair accessible; however, the observation pedestal is not. Guest are required to climb 24 stairs to reach the pedestal, but there are elevators available for the Ft. Wood Promenade area.

Central Park, New York City
These 843 acres of landscape are packed full of interesting things to do and see, or to simply relax within, soaking up the beauty the park has to offer. As you explore this world-famous park, you'll find numerous statues of iconic figures such as Balto, Alice and Wonderland, William Shakespeare, and many more. Enjoy the fountains, meadows, beautiful bridges, and visit the performance centers, educational facilities, and gardens.  Within the park is the Central Park Zoo and Wildlife Center and the Tisch Children's Zoo. The zoo only takes up .77% of the park, but houses more than 1,400 animals and 130 species from tropic, garden and polar temperature zones. Depending on the season of the year, you can enjoy outdoor concerts and plays being performed within the park. The highly anticipated Central Park Film Festival attracts thousands of visitors annually.  Note that only half of the restrooms are wheelchair accessible. Some visitors find navigating the park easier with a map you can pick up at the Central Park store.

Bronx Zoo, Bronx
Speaking of zoos, the Bronx Zoo is the largest wildlife preserve in the US, and covers 265 acres, with more than 5,000 animals and over 600 species! There are five main exhibits. In the Himalayan Highlands, you'll navigate the mountaintops of Nepal and visit the snow leopards, red pandas, and white-naped cranes. Jungle World takes you inside the Asian jungle. You'll love seeing otters, gibbons, and even a tapir. There are more than 800 creatures residing in the jungle. The Madagascar exhibit is home to enchanting plant life, as well as lemurs, hissing cockroaches, and crocodiles! Tiger Mountain is the Siberian tigers' bungalow, where guests learn how the cats stay fit through the zoo's animal enrichment program. In the World of Reptiles, you'll find frogs that look like moss, giant pythons, Cuban crocs, green tree monitors, poison dart frogs, and so much more! Don't miss these incredible reptiles!  All buildings at the zoo are wheelchair accessible. You'll find some rough terrain and a few steep hills throughout the zoo. Some visitors find it helpful to have someone with them in case they're in need of assistance. Visit Accessible Bronx Zoo to view the accessibility map.

Museum Mile, New York City
Located on famous Fifth avenue, from East 82nd to East 105th, is Museum Mile (which stretches just a bit over a mile.) You'll find lots of fascinating museums to probe. The "mile" includes The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Neue Galerie, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the National Academy Museum & School, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, The Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and El Museo Del Barrio.  A short distance away from Museum Mile is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which features 20th-century American and contemporary masters. The enormous American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space have science exhibits that are larger than life. Also nearby is the New York Historical Society and the DiMenna Children's History Museum. The Museum of Modern Art is home to many significant contemporary art pieces. Most museums are wheelchair accessible and have wheelchair rentals available upon request.

Coney Island, Brooklyn
Food, fun, and a fantastic Ferris wheel! Meander along the 3-mile wooden boardwalk, chow down on those delicious hot dogs from Nathan's Famous, take delight in the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean, check out Luna amusement park and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. (During the month of June, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park offers free firework shows and karaoke on the Boardwalk.) Learn all about Coney Island's history at the Coney Island Museum! The New York Aquarium is also nearby.  The boardwalk is brimming with great places to eat, hang out, and shop! There are always fun events and shows happening at Coney Island, so keep an eye out for one you might find interesting during your stay in New York. Keep in mind that not all amusement park rides are wheelchair accessible. For questions regarding accessibility, contact the guest services office.

9/11 Memorial, New York City
The memorial to the tragic events of 9/11 was dedicated to the families of the victims on Sept 11, 2011--the 10th anniversary of that catastrophic day. The Museum opened the following day.  Admission to the September 11 Memorial is free, but you do have to make a reservation. You can make reservations at The memorial spans eight acres and honors the victims who lost their lives with their names on bronze parapets that surround large reflecting pools built into the towers' footprints. The plaza has more than 400 trees and provides a peaceful spot for visitors to reflect on loved ones and the events that took place. Located nearby is the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, which features photos, walking tours and a collection of objects all in remembrance of 9/11.  The 9/11 Memorial has a limited amount of wheelchairs available free of charge and is wheelchair accessible.  Novelist Alec Waugh said, "You can fall in love at first sight with a place as with a person." That explains all the "I heart NY" t-shirts you see everywhere you go in the good ol' USA! 

^I used to live in New York and so it's nice to see things that are accessible for those in wheelchairs  - although it would have been nice to see more options for things outside of NYC. ^