Saturday, December 16, 2017

VWP Security

From the DW:
"US bolsters security requirements for visa-free travel"
The new measures have formed part of a security-focused White House policy to curb irregular migration and increase security. A senior US official said "an adaptive and agile enemy" was the primary reason for the move. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday announced new security requirements for 38 countries whose citizens can currently  travel to the country without visas. The countries, which include Germany and most European Union (EU) member states, must now use US counterterrorism information to screen travelers and launch public information campaigns if 2 percent of their citizens overstay their visas.

New measures:

  • The visa-waiver program allows citizens of 38 countries involved in the program to stay in the US for business or tourism for up to 90 days.

  • The DHS said Hungary, Greece, Portugal and San Marino are expected to launch public campaigns to inform their citizens as 2 percent of travelers from those countries overstayed their visas.

  • Roughly 20 million people travel to the US each year on the visa-waiver program.

Announcing the new measures, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said:

  • "The United States faces an adaptive and agile enemy, as terrorists continue to explore ways to reach our country and to direct, enable and inspire attacks against us."

  • "It's critically important we stay ahead of these threats by improving our security posture.

^ It's important to keep the Visa Waiver Program and to keep those coming into the US by the VWP safe as well as American citizens. Hopefully these new security requirements will be followed by current VWP countries so that their citizens can continue to come to the US. ^

Day 5

Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Spoilers

^ And I have to wait for the DVD. ^

Day 4

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Camel Hospital

From the DW:
"Camel hospital opens in Dubai "
While hospital care for race horses is highly sophisticated and available worldwide, the same is not the case for camels. A new hospital has been opened in Dubai with state-of-the-art equipment especially made for them.  A $10.9 million (€9.21 million) camel hospital has opened in Al Marmoum, Dubai with state of the art treatment on a par with that offered for racehorses. Director of the hospital Mohamed Al Bulooshi said "There are a lot of equine hospitals because horses have existed for centuries as have their races but for camels, no."  "We are very interested in preserving our heritage," he said. "And we found that we must care for camels, not only by breeding and raising them but also by being able to medically treat them." The hospital has found it difficult to find equipment specific to treating camels and as a result, much of it has been made to order. There is an operating theater and an x-ray room with MRI, and CAT scan facilities are to be installed next year. There is also a small racetrack where the camels can be rehabilitated.  Staff have been recruited to work at the hospital from the UK and Mexico. There are also plans to carry out medical research to improve understanding of camel biology.

^ This is pretty interesting. ^

East Recognition

From the BBC:
"Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital"

The leaders of 57 Muslim nations have called on the world to recognise "the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital". An Organisation of Islamic Co-operation communique declares US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise the city as Israel's capital as "null and void". It also says the move has signalled Washington's withdrawal from its role in the Middle East peace process. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier said the UN should take over. In a speech to the OIC summit in Istanbul, Mr Abbas said it would be "unacceptable" for the US to be the mediator "since it is biased in favour of Israel". The Palestinians had engaged with the Trump administration in an attempt to agree "the deal of the century", he noted, but had instead "got the slap of the century".   The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. The city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.  Israel occupied the sector, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.  The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, President Trump has announced that the US will eventually move its embassy.  The communique issued by OIC member states says they reject the unilateral decision by the US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital as "null and void legally" and consider it an "attack" on the rights of the Palestinian people. They accuse the US of "deliberately undermining" peace efforts and warn that it has given "impetus to extremism and terrorism".  They say Washington will be held "fully liable for all the consequences of not retracting from this illegal decision" and that it has effectively announced its "withdrawal from its role as sponsor" of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. They then invite all countries to "recognise the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital" and ask the UN to assume its responsibilities and reaffirm the city's legal position.  The BBC's Mark Lowen in Istanbul says that after street protests and widespread condemnation of Mr Trump's declaration, this was an attempt by Muslim leaders to harden their response. The meeting was convened by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strident critic of the US move, who vowed to "stand up to American bullying" and called Israel "a state of terror".  But, our correspondent says, some Muslim leaders are more pro-Trump than others; Saudi Arabia and Egypt only sent ministers to this meeting, possibly to keep the US on board.  So, he adds, there was a semblance of unity at the OIC summit and tough talk, but little sign that Donald Trump was listening.  The White House said Mr Abbas's comments were of the kind of rhetoric that "has prevented peace for years".  An unnamed official said: "We anticipated reactions like this. We will remain hard at work putting together our plan, which will benefit the Israeli and Palestinian peoples." Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "not impressed" by the OIC's statement. "The Palestinians would do better by recognising reality and acting in favour of peace and not extremism," he said. "In the end the truth will win out and many countries will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move their embassies there." He previously said there was "no substitute" for the US' role in the peace process.

^From 1948-1967 the Palestinians, Jordanians and other Muslim countries ran East Jerusalem and kept Jews and Israelis from visiting their holy sites there. Since 1967 Israel has ran all of Jerusalem and allows Jews, Christians and Muslims to visit their holy sites throughout the city. It is clear that a united Jerusalem run by the Israelis is more free and open to all while a divided Jerusalem would allow the Muslims/Palestinians to bring back open discrimination against the Jews. One thing that this announcement did show is just had radicalized Turkey has become in recent years which is another cause for concern. ^


Day 3.


We had to put my dog, Princess, to sleep today. We were with her for the whole thing and it was peaceful.  When we first got her at the rescue she had many issues, but quickly overcame them and really lived up to her name. She liked to cross her paws when she sat by the kitchen watching us (especially my mom) cook. She was also a great Early Warning System and would let us know whenever someone was coming up our mountain. She liked to take things too. I know that somewhere in the house is her hiding spot with 4 remote controls and whatever else she decided she wanted over the years. One of the best memories is that every time I would go out the door (to do errands, to mow or to shovel) she would run up the stairs and look out the window on the landing. I would turn around and wave and she would bark. When she could no longer go up the stairs she would look out the window of the front door and bark when I waved. She loved her treats too and you couldn’t help but keep giving them to her. This is the first time I do not have a dog living with me, but am glad to have had her for so many years.

Removing Rough Sleeper

From the BBC:
"Deporting EU rough sleepers from UK unlawful, High Court rules"
A Home Office policy of removing EU citizens found sleeping rough on UK streets is unlawful and must stop, the High Court has ruled. A judge said the measure, introduced last year, was discriminatory and broke freedom of movement rules. Campaigners brought the case on behalf of three men facing removal. The government said it was disappointed by the ruling - which applies to people from the EU and European economic area - but would not be appealing. The Public Interest Law Unit (PILU) at Lambeth Law Centre, which took out the judicial review, said the decision would affect hundreds of people. It said the Home Office had been carrying out "regular raids" on locations where officials believed they would find European nationals who could be deported. In her judgement the judge, Mrs Justice Lang, also said the Home Office should not have been using the raids as a chance to verify whether the rough sleepers were abusing their right to reside in another European nation. PILU said the High Court had shown itself willing to protect the rights of a vulnerable group of workers, adding: "Homelessness cannot humanely be dealt with by detaining or forcibly removing homeless people."  The case was brought on behalf of three men facing removal orders from the Home Office. The judge said the order should be dropped against one of them, a Latvian, Gunars Gureckis, while a Polish man, Mariusz Cielecki, is now expected to appeal against his. The order against another Polish man, Mariusz Perlinski, had already been dropped. The Home Office had argued the EU's Free Movement Directive allowed member states to impose restrictions on people in certain situations, including where there were concerns about security, public health, or fraud. A spokesman said: "We will consider carefully what steps are necessary to ensure we reflect the judgment in future enforcement." He added that most of the people removed under the measure had not exercised their rights to residency in the UK when required and were therefore not lawfully in the country.
^ It seems there are so many loop-holes with the EU's "Freedom of Movement" that tend to make it neither free or allow for much movement. I had never heard of the term "rough sleeper" before this article. ^

Cow Politics

Parliament Vote

From the BBC:
"Brexit bill: Government loses key vote after Tory rebellion"

The government has been narrowly defeated in a key vote on its Brexit bill after a rebellion by 11 Tory MPs. In a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May, MPs voted to give Parliament a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels. The government had argued this would jeopardise its chances of delivering a smooth departure from the EU. Despite a last-minute attempt to offer concessions to rebels, an amendment to the bill was backed by 309 to 305. Ministers said the "minor setback" would not prevent the UK leaving the EU in 2019.  Of the Conservative MPs who voted against the government, eight are former ministers. One of them, Stephen Hammond, was sacked as Conservative vice chairman in the aftermath of the vote. "Tonight I put country and constituency before party and voted with my principles to give Parliament a meaningful vote," he tweeted. The government said it was "disappointed" at losing - its first defeat on Brexit - despite the "strong assurances" it had offered. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the defeat was "a humiliating loss of authority" for Mrs May on the eve of an EU summit where leaders will discuss Brexit.  It's the first time that Theresa May has been defeated on her own business in the Commons. She has to front up in Brussels tomorrow with other EU leaders only hours after an embarrassing loss in Parliament. Beyond the red faces in government tonight, does it really matter? Ministers tonight are divided on that. Two cabinet ministers have told me while it's disappointing it doesn't really matter in the big picture. It's certainly true that the Tory party is so divided over how we leave the EU that the Parliamentary process was always going to be very, very choppy. But another minister told me the defeat is "bad for Brexit" and was openly frustrated and worried about their colleagues' behavior.  The defeat came after opposition parties joined forces with Conservative rebels during a heated debate in the Chamber on the amendment. Critics accused those behind the amendment - which was authored by former attorney general Dominic Grieve and championed by other pro-Remain campaigners - of trying to "frustrate" Brexit and tying the government's hands. After the result was announced, one of the rebels, former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: "Tonight Parliament took control of the EU Withdrawal process." But other Conservative MPs reacted angrily, with one, Nadine Dorries, saying the rebels should be deselected.  The Tory rebels were Mr Grieve, Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Stephen Hammond, Sir Oliver Heald, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. Another Conservative MP, John Stevenson, abstained by voting in both lobbies. Two Labour MPs, Frank Field and Kate Hoey, voted with the government.  The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and negotiations are taking place on what their relationship will be like in the future. The EU Withdrawal Bill is a key part of the government's exit strategy. Its effects include ending the supremacy of EU law and copying existing EU law into UK law, so that the same rules and regulations apply on Brexit day. MPs have been making hundreds of attempts to change its wording - but this is the first time one has succeeded. Unless the government manages to overturn it further down the line, it means a new Act of Parliament will have to be passed before ministers can implement the withdrawal deal struck with Brussels. Ministers had made several efforts to placate the Conservative rebels, and argued that Mr Grieve's amendment would put unnecessary time pressure on the government if talks with the EU continued until the last minute. They had already promised a vote on the final deal and to enshrine the withdrawal agreement in an Act of Parliament. But critics demanded a guarantee of a "meaningful vote" before the deal is agreed. They said the wording of the bill would allow ministers to bypass Parliament in implementing what is agreed with Brussels. And minutes before the vote, they offered a last-minute promise of action at a later stage of the bill's journey through Parliament. Some Conservatives said this had changed their minds but Mr Grieve said it was "too late".   Speaking afterwards, the government said: "We are disappointed that Parliament has voted for this amendment despite the strong assurances that we have set out.  "We are as clear as ever that this bill, and the powers within it, are essential.  "This amendment does not prevent us from preparing our statute book for exit day. We will now determine whether further changes are needed to the Bill to ensure it fulfils its vital purpose." Justice Minister Dominic Raab said the defeat would not hold up the Brexit process. "It's a setback but it's a fairly minor setback, it won't frustrate the Brexit process," he said, adding: "It's not going to stop us leaving the EU in March 2019." Mr Corbyn said "Parliament has asserted itself" amid a "power grab" by the prime minister. The European Parliament's chief Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "British Parliament takes back control. European and British Parliament together will decide on the final agreement. Interests of the citizens will prevail over narrow party politics. A good day for democracy.

^ This sounds like a very good "checks and balances" for the British people even if it will add more chaos to the already never-ending Brexit soap opera. ^

Monkey Day

^ Happy World Monkey Day! ^

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holy Land Holiday

From USA Today:
"Celebrating Hanukkah in the Holy Land"
Yael Horovitz, who immigrated to Israel from Australia, always loved the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but the emphasis there on Christmas made her feel a little left out. “In Australia, for two months out of the year I couldn’t escape Christmas carols,” said Horovitz, who is Jewish. “Being forced to listen to them in supermarkets, shopping centers, on the radio and TV bothered me.” Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the Maccabees’ victory over their Greek-Syrian oppressors in 167 B.C., as well as the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, was barely acknowledged by most Australians, Horovitz said. But Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Tuesday, is an altogether different experience for her now.  Ten years ago Horovitz moved to Israel, where Jews comprise roughly 75% of the population. Here, the holiday season “feels so right,” she said. “This is my religion, these are my songs, my decorations, my kids being educated to love their heritage, and being embraced by it from all sides.” Hanukkah in the Holy Land gives Horovitz and other Jews who have immigrated to Israel from Western countries a sense of belonging they don’t feel anywhere else. In Israel, though Hanukkah is not a national holiday, most of the nation celebrates it. That’s a big contrast to the way many American Jews feel at Christmastime, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. “Christmas is the one day of the year when many American Jews experience a sense that they are outsiders in America” because Christmas, a religious holiday, is also a national holiday, Sarna said.Although Hanukkah is a minor festival on the Jewish calendar, Sarna said, more than a century ago American Jews elevated the holiday “as a way to ensure that they were not left out of the holiday spirit.”Their goal, Sarna said, was to ensure that Jewish children would be happy and proud of their own winter holiday and not want to celebrate the holiday of another religion.Even so, if you live in the U.S., “it is impossible to avoid Santa and Christmas music and holiday lights. It’s the time of year when the differences between Jews and their neighbors seem most stark.”That’s not the case in Israel, Sarna said, where Hanukkah and not Christmas is the dominant December holiday. Just 2.1 percent of Israelis are Christian; 17 percent are Muslim; 1.7 percent are Druze. The remaining 4 percent belong to other religious minorities or have no religion.Although Hanukkah in Israel remains far less commercialized than it is in the U.S., with shopping malls hanging nary a holiday decoration, it has more recently taken on some of its American trappings.This week, Osher Ad, a large Jerusalem supermarket, had two aisles’ worth of Hanukkah-related products, from elaborate faux-silver menorahs to imported paper Hanukkah plates and napkins and dreidel-shaped containers filled with chocolate candies.And rather than sell only simple jelly doughnuts, a traditional Hanukkah treat, now bakeries around the country create fancy and expensive Western-style doughnuts.Jewish children are on school break the week of Hanukkah, so movie theaters time their new releases to the vacation. Festigal, a live music and dance show for children, is an annual tradition.Compared with the holiday season in the U.S., however, Hanukkah in Israel is low-key. Families gather to light the menorah – some have a separate one for each child – and eat doughnuts or potato pancakes fried in oil. (Oily foods are eaten on Hanukkah to commemorate the “miracle” of the holiday, when enough oil to light a lamp for just one night lasted for eight.)Some parents give their children presents – though almost never more than a couple — or Hanukkah “gelt” – both money and chocolate coins.Orthodox families like to light their menorahs outside, in glass containers, so everyone who passes can soak up their light.Tsipi Amiri, whose family lived in the U.S. until she was 10, said she doesn’t miss the “commercialization” of the holiday season or the pressure to celebrate Hanukkah with lots of fanfare and gifts.“There was this competition within the American Jewish community about who got what,” Amiri said. “Thankfully, I don’t see that here.”Netanya Carmi said the first thing she noticed during her first Israeli Hanukkah 20 years ago was that many stores close early every night and evening classes at universities are canceled so all can go home and light candles with their families.“Here in Israel, Hanukkah is all about tradition and family,” Carmi said.

^ This was very interesting. I really hadn't thought about Jews in Christian countries and having to deal with Christmas and how it is different being a Jew in Israel with Chanukah. ^

Day 2!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trudeau's Chanukah

From the Canadian Prime Minister:
"Statement by the Prime Minister on the first day of Hanukkah"

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement today marking the first day of Hanukkah:
“At sunset today, Jewish communities in Canada and around the world will welcome the beginning of Hanukkah – one of the oldest traditions in the world. “For eight nights, families and loved ones will celebrate the Festival of Lights by lighting the candles of the menorah, one by one. Together, they will pray, sing, enjoy food, and share stories of hope. “Hanukkah is a time to honour the profound strength of the Jewish people, and their triumph over immense adversity. Each Hanukkah candle reminds us that love conquers hatred, that light drowns out darkness, and that even our smallest actions have the power to make a difference in the world. “This year, we have marked 150 years of Confederation – a chance to celebrate the many cultures, traditions, and beliefs that help make Canada such a wonderful place to live. Jewish Canadians have made significant contributions to our communities and our country, and continue to make Canada inclusive, open, and strong. “On behalf of our family, Sophie and I wish all those celebrating a happy and peaceful Hanukkah. “Chag Hanukkah Sameach.”

"Déclaration du premier ministre à l’occasion du premier jour de la Hanoukka"

Le premier ministre, Justin Trudeau, a fait aujourd’hui la déclaration suivante pour souligner le premier jour de la Hanoukka :
« Ce soir, au coucher du soleil, les communautés juives au Canada et à travers le monde accueilleront le début de la Hanoukka, l’une des plus anciennes traditions du monde.« Durant huit nuits, les familles et leurs proches célèbreront la fête des Lumières en allumant une à une les bougies de la menorah. Ensemble, ils prieront, chanteront, mangeront et échangeront des histoires porteuses d’espoir. « La Hanoukka est une occasion de rendre hommage à la force profonde du peuple juif et d’honorer leur victoire face à des épreuves immenses. Chacune des bougies de la Hanoukka nous rappelle que l’amour l’emporte sur la haine, que la lumière dissipe les ténèbres et que même le plus petit geste a le pouvoir de faire une différence dans le monde. « Cette année, nous avons souligné les 150 ans de la Confédération, une occasion de célébrer les nombreuses cultures, traditions et croyances qui font du Canada un endroit où il fait bon vivre. Les Canadiens d’origine juive ont apporté des contributions importantes à nos communautés ainsi qu’à notre pays et continuent de rendre le Canada inclusif, ouvert et fort. « Au nom de notre famille, Sophie et moi souhaitons bonheur et paix à tous ceux qui célèbrent la Hanoukka. « Chag Hanukkah Sameach. »

^ This is a good holiday official speech too. ^

Trump's Chanukah

From the White House:
"A Message from President Donald J. Trump on Hanukkah"
Hanukkah is a time for Jewish families around the world to come together around the lighting of the menorah and celebrate the miracles of the past and promises of the future. Melania and I wish all of our Jewish s brothers and sisters celebrating this meaningful holiday a happy and healthy eight nights in the company of those they love. The miracle of Hanukkah began more than 2,000 years ago, when the practice of Judaism was made punishable by death. A small band of Jewish patriots rose up and reclaimed their Jewish identity by vanquishing a mighty army. In their pursuit to rededicate their holy temple, the Jewish heroes found only enough oil to light the temple’s menorah for one night. However, a miracle occurred and with God’s grace the oil lasted for eight days. On this holiday, we are proud to stand with the Jewish people who shine as a light to all nations. We also stand with the people of Israel, the Jewish State, which has itself a miraculous history of overcoming the tallest of odds. We hope that those observing the holiday here, in Israel, and around the world have a wonderful holiday.

^ A good official speech. ^

School Phones

From the BBC:
"France wants stricter child phone ban in schools"

France will enforce a ban on children's mobile phone use at school from 3 September next year, the French education minister says. Jean-Michel Blanquer said: "We're working on this - various methods may be used." An existing ban is not applied uniformly in France. Some French education experts were sceptical about Mr Blanquer's pledge, saying school resources were stretched. The minister said pupils' phones could be kept in lockers during lessons. The deputy leader of a French teaching union, Valérie Sipahimalani, told the daily Le Monde that the current ban "is extremely difficult to implement". "A teacher doesn't have the right to search pupils, nor to confiscate a phone, as it isn't a dangerous object," she said.  The French education code says mobile phones are banned "during all lessons and in places stipulated by the school's internal rules". Those places are typically libraries, canteens and school gyms.   Mr Blanquer said phones should however be available for some teaching purposes and for emergencies. In his presidential election manifesto Emmanuel Macron pledged to enforce a ban on children using mobile phones at school. He won the election in May and his liberal party La République en Marche has a parliamentary majority. In England schools are free to decide what rules, if any, they apply to mobile phone use. Many English schools already ban children from using phones in classes, but allow it during breaks.
^ I don't envy teachers anywhere in the world. Their job is difficult enough (teaching and getting students interested in things) add to that bulling, school violence, absenteeism, lack of government, local and parental support and now cell phones. Teachers now have to spend more time being policemen/women rather than educators. I don't think students should be allowed cell phones while in school. The only exception to that is one of those phones that can only call one other number as well as the emergency numbers. That way they can't use the Internet or play games or call friends during school hours, but can still call a parent and the police/fire/ambulance during an emergency. ^

Chanukah: Day 1

I have used the spelling: Chanukah ever since a teacher in Germany told me that you can't use "Ch" in the spelling. I proved her wrong in front of the class with evidence and have made it a point to use the "Ch" ever since. ^

Extended Sanctions

"Reuters: EU to agree extending economic sanctions on Russia until mid-2018"

European Union leaders will agree on Thursday to prolong for another six months the bloc's economic sanctions on Russia, imposed over the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and Moscow's support for rebels in east Ukraine, according to Reuters.  The main sanctions, which target Russia's energy, defense and financial sectors, would otherwise be due to expire at the end of January 2018, Reuters said. EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will agree an extension until mid-2018, officials and diplomats in Brussels said.  Moscow says it will never return Crimea, which it annexed in 2014 in a move that has not been recognized internationally. Western countries say Russia has also been providing a lifeline to separatists in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014.
^ Russia (or any country) should not believe that something is "set in stone." The Soviets believed that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would last forever and yet it collapsed after 69 years. Nazi Germany said the annexation of Austria in 1938 would last  1,000 years  - like the  rest of the Third Reich - and yet Austria became un-annexed in 7 years and independent 10 years later. It is good that the EU is continuing to stand firm on the sanctions since nothing has changed (at least for the better) in the Ukraine or the Crimea. ^