Monday, May 25, 2015

Deployed US

From Wikipedia:
"United States military deployments"

The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with over 160,000 of its active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories and an additional 70,000 deployed in various contingency operations. US troops are spread across the globe: approximately 66,000 are stationed in Europe; approximately 80,000 in East Asia and the Pacific region; over 5,000 in North Africa, Southwestern and South Asia; over 1,700 in the Americas; less than 400 in Sub-Saharan Africa; and less than 100 in states of the former Soviet Union. Of those in Europe, most of the military personnel are located at installations activated during the Cold War, by which the US government sought to challenge the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. US personnel are seeing active combat in Afghanistan. Others are deployed as part of several peacekeeping missions, military attachés, or are part of embassy and consulate security. The following are countries, listed by region, in which US military personnel are deployed. The numbers are based on the most recent United States Department of Defense statistics as of December 31, 2014. hese numbers do not include any military or civilian contractors or dependents. Countries with fewer than 100 US personnel deployed are omitted.

Key to the above map: Countries in which the US military had a presence in 2013. This map shows the current deployments of the US military. Most of the deployments on this map that are less than 100 troops are usually less than fifty military personnel, just for public knowledge. The lightest blue means less than a hundred US troops; the aqua teal mix, which is a little brighter, means more than a hundred troops; and the darkest blue on map means more than 1,000 troops. This map has those listed as part of Overseas Contingency Operation Deployments integrated in, while military dependents and civilian personnel are omitted

Combat Zones:
Afghanistan: 6,839
Iraq: 3,100

Support Zones:
Kuwait: 11,865
Bahrain: 3,373
Turkey: 1,518
Qatar: 610
Saudi Arabia: 322
United Arab Emirates: 321
Egypt: 280
South Africa: 221
Japan: 49,396
South Korea: 28,500
British Indian Ocean Territory: 546
Thailand: 228
Kyrgyzstan: 225
Singapore: 188
Australia: 182
Germany: 38,491
Italy: 11,354
United Kingdom: 9,124
Spain: 2,170
Belgium: 1,216
Portugal: 617
Greece: 396
Netherlands: 375
Cuba: 727
Honduras: 378
Greenland: 141
Canada: 132

The United States:   There are 1,148,750 personnel on active duty in the United States and its territories

- CONUS: 1,072,753
- Hawaii:  51,050
- Alaska: 19,295
- Guam: 5,501
- Puerto Rico: 147

^   Even though Memorial Day is to honor the men and women that served in the US military and either died while serving or afterwards (Veterans' Day is to honor the men and women who served or are serving in the US military and are still alive) it's important to show ordinary Americans the commitment the American soldier makes for them everyday. Today less than half of 1% of all Americans are serving or know someone serving in the US military. Before the Draft ended in 1973 and the US went to an all-volunteer military that percentage was over 50%. With that huge drop in percentages has come ordinary Americans ignorance that the military is fighting its longest wars in history (14 years so far) and that US troops are in 150 countries with most doing an average of 4-6 deployments. Before 1973 the US asked something of the majority of its male citizens while today the US asks very little of its male or female citizens with a handful working constantly around the country and the world to protect us all. ^

CDN Buying Tourists

From the G & M:
"Harper announces spending to boost Canadian tourism in the U.S."
Ottawa will spend $30-million over three years to boost tourism promotion in the United States, hoping that the lower loonie and strengthening economy south of the border will send more tourists northbound. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement Friday in Berthier-Sur-Mer, Que., where he also announced money to renovate the Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site. The new temporary cash for the Canadian Tourism Commission marks a reversal of years of spending cuts at the federal Crown corporation, which has seen its base funding slashed by more than half since 2001. The commission had cut virtually all of its promotion efforts in the U.S. to save money and focus on other regions. Conservative Minister of State Maxime Bernier, who is responsible for tourism and the CTC, said those cuts were necessary to help the government balance the books. “Now we are re-investing in the CTC,” he said. Mr. Bernier said he will meet this summer with provincial tourism ministers to propose that they match $1.25 for every dollar Ottawa spends to promote Canada in the U.S. “We listened to the industry,” Mr. Bernier said in an interview. “I’m pretty confident that we’ll have more tourists from the U.S. after this announcement. Also, I’m convinced that the provinces and the private sector will also invest money in the U.S. market.” The plan to boost tourism promotion in the U.S. was first mentioned in the government’s April budget, but Friday’s announcement was the first time a dollar figure was attached. The effort is expected to be made up of several smaller campaigns that would work with industry groups to target specific demographics, such as skiers or foodies. The annual base funding for the CTC is currently around $58-million a year, meaning Friday’s announcement will increase its annual funding to about $68-million a year for the next three years. The organization’s budget was as high as $98.7-million in 2001, which works out to $126.6-million in today’s dollars after accounting for inflation. At that time, Canada was among the top 10 tourist destinations in the world. Americans made 591,965 overnight trips to Canada in March of this year, which represents a 7-per-cent jump over March, 2014. The U.S. is by far the main source country for tourists here, but travel from other countries is growing at a faster rate than the growth in tourism from States. There were 37,895 visitors to Canada from the United Kingdom in March – a 22.5-per-cent increase – and 22,778 visitors from China in March, a 23.9-per-cent jump. Latin America is also a growing source of tourists, with 18,614 people arriving in March, representing a 23.5-per-cent increase over March, 2014, according to the CTC. According to the federal government’s official tourism strategy, tourism represents about 2 per cent of Canada’s overall gross domestic product and directly employs about 594,500 people.
^ Most countries spend money overseas to get tourists and businesspeople to visit. ^

Disabled Leaders

From Disabled
A list of politicians and world leaders who currently hold or held office while having a significant physical disability
Argentina •Daniel Scioli, former vice president and current governor of Argentina's biggest province, in 1989 lost his right arm in an accident whilst racing on the Paraná river in the 1000 km Delta Argentino race.
•Batong Pham, former member of the Western Australian Legislative Council
•Graham Edwards, former Member of Parliament for Cowan (lost both legs during the Vietnam War).
•Gregor McGregor, early 20th century Labor federal Senator (blind).
•Kelly Vincent, member of the South Australian Legislative Council
•Rob Pyne, member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
Brazil •Golbery do Couto e Silva, chief of staff of Geisel and Figueiredo administrations (blind in one eye).
Cambodia •Hun Sen, Prime minister (blind in one eye due to a war wound).
•Conner Copeman, village councillor in Cumberland, British Columbia (quadriplegic with limited use of extremities after being beaten in a violent attack in Saskatoon).
•Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (visually impaired due to Graves' disease).
•Kent Hehr, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (quadriplegic after being shot as a bystander in a drive-by shooting).
•Lucien Bouchard, former Ambassador to France, leader of the Bloc Québécois and Premier of Quebec (amputee due to necrotizing fasciitis).
•Manon Perreault, Member of Parliament for Montcalm (paraplegic).
•Marlene Jennings, Member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, partially blind due to detached retinas and cataracts.
•Michelle Stilwell, Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia (quadriplegic).
•Pierre Sévigny, former Member of Parliament and Associate Minister of National Defence (amputee).
•Sam Sullivan, former Mayor of Vancouver (quadriplegic with limited use of his extremities).
•Stephanie Cadieux, Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia (paraplegic).
•Steven Fletcher, Member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia (first quadriplegic MP).
Czech Republic •Jan Žižka, Czech general and Hussite leader, follower of Jan Hus. He took part in the civil wars in Bohemia in the reign of Wenceslaus IV.
Dominican Republic •Joaquín Balaguer, President, became blind due to glaucoma.
Ecuador •Lenín Moreno, Vice President of Ecuador 2007 - 2013, paraplegic.
Fiji •Iliesa Delana, member of Parliament and Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports (since 2014); leg amputee (due to an accident as a child) and Paralympic gold medallist.
•Antoine Pinay, Prime Minister of France (paralyzed right arm due to a World War I injury).
•Georges Couthon, one of the leaders of the French Revolution, was a paraplegic.
•Jean-Marie Le Pen, Member of the European Parliament and three-time presidential candidate (blind in his left eye).
•Louis XVIII, King of France, was paralysed by gout in his final years.
Germany •Wolfgang Schäuble, minister (currently of finance, formerly of the interior) and former CDU party chairman; wheelchair user since 1990 assassination attempt.
•Béla II, King of Hungary (1131 - 1141), was blinded by his father's political opponents in 1113
•Ferenc Hirt, Member of Parliament for Tamási (since 2006); wheelchair user due to a car accident since 1988
•Katalin Szili, Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary.
•David Rotem, member of the Knesset (polio).
•Ilan Gilon, member of the Knesset (paralyzed leg due to polio).
•Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel (lost his left eye in World War II).
•Moshe Matalon, member of the Knesset (paraplegic due to injury sustained in the Yom Kippur War).
•Ya'akov Katz, member of the Knesset (injury sustained in the Yom Kippur War).
•Zion Pinyan, member of the Knesset (polio).
Jamaica •Floyd Morris, President of the Senate. (Blind)
Malaysia •Karpal Singh, member of parliament for Bukit Gelugor (car accident left him a full-time wheelchair user with neurological problems in his right arm).
Mexico •Álvaro Obregón, President, lost his right arm in combat.
New Zealand •John A. Lee, MP 1922-1943, left arm amputee (war wound during the First World War).
•Guro Fjellanger, former Environment Minister (wheelchair user due to spina bifida).
•Tove Linnea Brandvik, former Member of the Parliament of Norway. In a wheelchair due to a neuromuscular disease.
Poland •Malgorzata Olejnik, member of Sejm.
•Said Amirov, former mayor of Makhachkala. Paralysed as a result of one of many assassination attempts.
•Vasily II, the Grand Prince of Moscow, was blinded by his captors in 1446, yet regained power and reigned until his death in 1462.
San Marino •Mirko Tomassoni, former Captain-Regent (paraplegic).
Solomon Islands •Martin Magga. Became seriously ill and wheelchair-bound in 2009 while serving as Minister for Health. Served as MP, in a wheelchair, until his death in 2014.
 Soviet Union •Vladimir Lenin, 1st Head of Government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, mute and bed-ridden after a series of strokes.
Sri Lanka •Senarath Attanayake, Member of Uva Provincial Council. The first elected representative with a disability in Sri Lanka. Also the first person with a disability to become a lawyer in Sri Lanka. Full-time wheelchair user due to polio infection at the age of 2 years.
United Kingdom
•Anne Begg, MP since 1997, wheelchair user.
•Colin Low, Baron Low of Dalston was born blind.
•David Blunkett, former Home Secretary, is blind since birth.
•David Maclean, Baron Blencathra, MP (1983 - 2010) currently sitting to the house of Lords, since 1996 has Multiple sclerosis.
•Davina Ingrams, 18th Baroness Darcy de Knayth, member of the House of Lords, paralyzed from neck down following a car accident.
•Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister, is blind in one eye.
•Ian Fraser, Baron Fraser of Lonsdale, MP several times between 1924 and 1958, then first life peer appointed to the House of Lords in 1958, blinded in action during the First World War.
•Jane Campbell, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, disabled rights activist and member of the House of Lords, was born with Spinal muscular atrophy.
•Nick Griffin, Chairman of the BNP, is blind in one eye, following an accident in 1990 involving a shotgun cartridge.
•Susan Cunliffe-Lister, Countess of Swinton and Baroness Masham of Ilton, politician, had several parts of her body paralysed following a car accident.
•Tanni Grey-Thompson, Baroness Grey-Thompson, disabled athlete and Member of the house of Lords, was born with Spina bifida.
United States
•Bob Dole, former U.S. Senator from Kansas and 1996 presidential candidate, has had a withered, useless arm since a World War II injury.
•Bob Kerrey, former Governor of Nebraska and former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, lost one leg below the knee due to combat injury in the Vietnam War.
•Daniel Inouye, former U.S. Senator from Hawaii, lost his right arm due to grenade shrapnel in World War II.
•David Paterson, former Governor of New York, legally blind from birth.
•F. B. Teter, Member of the Washington House of Representatives (1919 - 1923), blind.
•Franklin D. Roosevelt, former President of the United States (paraplegic due to polio).
•George Wallace, former Governor of Alabama, paraplegic due to a bullet wound sustained in a 1972 assassination attempt.
•Greg Abbott, current Governor of Texas and former Texas Attorney General, paraplegic due to a 1984 freak accident when a falling oak tree hit him in the back.
•James Langevin, current U.S. Representative from Rhode Island, was injured in an accidental shooting when 16 and is now a quadriplegic.
•John McCain, current U.S. Senator from Arizona, limited use of arms and "off-kilter gait" due to torture as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
•John Porter East, former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, (paraplegic due to polio contracted in 1955).
•John Swainson, former Governor of Michigan, lost both legs due to a landmine in World War II.
•Jon Tester, current US Senator from Montana, lost 3 fingers in a meat grinding accident.
•Kristen Cox, 2006 Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, blind from Stargardt disease.
•Max Cleland, former U.S. Senator from Georgia, triple amputee (both legs and one arm) due to a grenade blast in the Vietnam War.
•Mo Udall, former U.S. Representative from Arizona, lost his right eye in a childhood accident.
•Tammy Duckworth, current U.S. Congresswoman from Illinois, lost both of her legs and damaged her right arm due to a rocket propelled grenade attack in the Iraq War.
•Thomas Gore, former U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, blind from childhood accidents.
•Woodrow Wilson, former President of the United States, partially paralyzed due to a stroke.

^ This shows that no matter what your disability you can still lead an active and productive life - including being in the government. ^

Crimea Plummets

From the MT:
"Demand for Real Estate in Annexed Crimea Plummets"

Russians, the last hope of the Crimean real estate market, appear to have lost interest in buying properties in the contested region. This comes as an unpleasant surprise to Crimea, which — banking on its coveted climate and coastlines — had hoped for a boom in sales after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March last year. Instead, demand for properties in the region has fallen 60 to 70 percent compared with 2013, said Ilya Volodko, head of the Macon Realty Group real estate consultancy. Surprisingly, Crimean property owners' optimism was a big part of the problem. Expecting a spike in demand, property owners and developers hiked prices in 2014, sending the average price of residential real estate in Crimea up 46 percent for the year, according to Crimean state statistics service Krymstat. These price rises were then aggravated by the fact that, historically, real estate prices in Crimea are denominated in U.S. dollars. So when the Russian ruble slid 40 percent to the U.S. dollar last year due to weaker oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, Russian buyers watched the price of Crimean real estate soar. To make matters worse, rising inflation and an economic recession in Russia are weighing on potential buyers' purchasing power. As demand plummets, real estate prices in Crimea are beginning to fall. Prices have fallen 9 to 10 percent since January, analysts contacted by The Moscow Times agreed — but they are still high compared to similar properties elsewhere in Russia. The prices of economy-class properties in Crimea start at 42,000-45,000 rubles ($850-900) per square meter, according to data from Macon Realty Group. By comparison, prices in the neighboring Krasnodar region, a popular Black Sea resort, start from about 35,000 rubles ($700) per square meter, according to the consultancy. While likely the main concern for Russian buyers, price isn't the only problem scaring away Russian buyers.
Last year Crimean property sales couldn't be officially registered at all, Volodko said, in part because Ukrainian authorities blocked the Russian government's access to the existing property registry. The Russian legal system began to operate on the peninsula in September, but this too led to new difficulties. "Property sales in Crimea used to be processed within half an hour, now under Russian law it takes several weeks," said Oleg Kuznetsov, the head of Crimean real estate agency Yalta Real Estate. Meanwhile, uncertainty regarding Crimea's status internationally has limited the pool of potential buyers to Russians and Crimean residents themselves. "No foreign investor will be interested in buying property in the region until it is recognized by the rest of the world," Volodko said. "The cost of real estate in Crimea is not low enough to be worth the risk."

^ This is a good sign for everyone (but the Crimeans and the Russians.) It shows that ordinary Russians aren't buying the official Russian line to flock to the Crimea to integrate the annexed territory. It also shows the Crimeans who voted to join Russia (in an illegal vote) that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. ^

Memorial Week: 6

From now through Monday. Remembering Memorial Day week. Day 6.

Happy Memorial Day!

Flags At Arlington

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Flags-In ceremony sets the stage for Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery"

In Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the emotion of the day caught up with Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore. He had just placed silver airborne wings on the grave of his best friend, Staff Sgt. Kevin Michael Witte, in memory of the times they had gone skydiving together. Witte, 27, died in an improvised explosive device attack in Baghdad in 2006. “With all the BS we put up with, we get one day a year where it puts everything in perspective. This is our generation,” Moore said, gesturing to the section where many of the casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been laid to rest. Moore and more than 1,000 other servicemembers were taking part in Thursday's pre-Memorial Day Flags-In ceremony, conducted at Arlington every year since 1948 by the Old Guard. American flags — more than 228,000 of them — lined every headstone, their red, white and blue contrasting with the white marble. “This section (60) is tough,” said Moore, who also visited the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, killed in Afghanistan in 2005 “It’s too crowded on Memorial Day," Moore added. "It’s just soldiers here today.” In a different part of Section 60, at the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., another soldier saluted sharply: His son, Spc. Nicholas Connell, who placed the American flag at the base of the headstone. “I know in my heart, as much as it means to me, the honor and sacrifice that everybody in here has given to us," Connell said. "If people could see us giving that same respect, they would want to do the same.” James Connell was killed in 2007 in Iraq; Pfc. Daniel W. Courneya and Pfc. Christopher E. Murphy died in the same attack. “My dad was an all-American, he was 100 percent a patriot," Connell said. "For me, he was more of a best friend. He was my football, basketball, baseball coach. We traveled so much as an Army brat, moved from place to place; that was my one buddy to go to talk to when something is bothering you. "He was definitely a family man. I know he loved his family more than anything.” His father, Connell said, is the reason he enlisted. “Memorial Day is for us to come out here and honor the people who fought and have fallen for our country," Connell said. "Give them the respect they deserve, and the loyalty they deserve.” Old Guard soldiers also placed flags at the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington.

^ I have always liked the fact that  people put American flags on veteran's gravestones since I was a little kid. It shows respect for the job they did for us. ^

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Banning The Ban?

From Yahoo:
"Robert Gates: Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders not sustainable"

The Boy Scouts of America must reverse its longstanding policy of excluding gay adult leaders or risk unfavorable legal decisions that could doom the historic organization, its president, Robert Gates, warned his group’s national leadership Thursday. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” said Gates, a former Pentagon and CIA chief. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.” Gates’s remarks came during the during the BSAs annual national meeting in Atlanta. The 105-year-old organization took no immediate action on a formal policy change, but Gates said he would no longer seek to revoke the charters of chapters that want to defy the ban. “We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy from some councils,” he said. “Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country — changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated.”
Gates pointed to recent debates over same-sex marriage and a trend in new state laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation. The former U.S. Secretary of Defense said a legal fight could put the BSA in the same vulnerable position the armed forces faced at the end of “Dont ask, dont tell,” a policy that barred openly gay individuals from serving in the military. “Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes,” he said. “If we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational belief in our duty to God and our focus on serving the specific needs of boys.” Gates’s remarks were welcome news to those who have been challenging the Scouts’ longstanding anti-gay policies. “While our work won’t be done until we see a full end to their ban on gay adults once and for all, today’s announcement is a significant step in that direction,” Scouts for Equality executive director Zach Wahls said in a statement. “I’m proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA.” Two years ago this week, the BSA, one of the country’s largest and oldest youth organizations, decided to break 103 years of tradition by allowing openly gay members into its ranks. The controversial move was approved by more than 60 percent of the approximately 1,400 votes cast by the BSA’s national council. But the Scouts’ ban on gay adult volunteer leaders and paid staff was not reconsidered. Thursdays development is an about-face of sorts for Gates, who said last year that he was opposed to reconsidering the issue of gay adult leaders during his two-year term as the group’s president. “I had hoped then for a respite during which we could focus on healing our divisions from the 2013 decision, improving our program, strengthening our finances and ending our decline in membership,” he said. But internal pushback and the current political climate have forced his hand, he said. About 70 percent of scouting units across the country are sponsored by churches acting as charter organizations. Gates told the leaders that he recommends a change in policy allowing the charter partners to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith. “We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this,” Gates said. “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape.” The 71-year-old acknowledged that some in the crowd would be angered by his remarks, but he assured them, “I have no hidden agenda.” “The one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend this challenge will go away or abate,” he said. “I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”
^ Even though Gates only did this so the Federal Government wouldn't come in and make them change more things it is still a positive step for the Boy Scouts. I never understood how they could admit gay scouts and yet not let in gay scout leaders since many leaders are former scouts. Right now this is only an idea and hopefully it will become policy soon. ^

Paying POWs

From the MT:
"Germany to Pay $11 Million WWII Compensation to Soviet Prisoners"

The German government plans to pay a total of 10 million euros in compensation to an estimated 4,000 surviving World War II Soviet prisoners for their suffering at the hands of Nazi Germany, coalition sources said on Wednesday.  Europe marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war earlier this month, and the event threw a spotlight on some of the more rarely discussed aspects of the conflict, such as the fate of many millions of prisoners of war.  The sources told Reuters that Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have agreed with their Social Democrat (SPD) partners to set aside the sum in a supplementary budget, with each survivor due to receive 2,500 euros ($2,780).
The suffering of the 5.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, who were held by German forces between 1941 and 1945, was extreme and more than half died. Held in inhumane conditions, many were executed. Others starved or died of disease. In a speech commemorating the end of the war in early May, German President Joachim Gauck emphasized the responsibility Germany bears for these deaths, and said the cruel fate of the Soviet prisoners had not been fully recognized in Germany.  A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry declined to confirm the plans as they were a matter for the Bundestag lower house but he said he believed they were correct.  "In the view of Foreign Minister [Frank-Walter] Steinmeier, it is a good initiative from the Bundestag that he welcomes and supports," said the spokesman.  Ties between Berlin and Moscow have been under strain since 2013. Western countries, including Germany, accuse Russia of direct involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, although Moscow denies this.  Nevertheless, Merkel, a central figure in trying to get a cease-fire implemented in Ukraine, attended a May 10 end of war memorial in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It was unclear whether the compensation affected only survivors in Russia or in other former Soviet states.  The Bundestag must still approve the payment, but given support from both ruling parties and from the opposition Greens, its passage is likely to be smooth.  Germany has paid more than 72 billion euros in damages for crimes committed by the Nazis, but it is difficult to put a figure on the amount paid to the Soviet Union, which, as one of the four occupation powers, seized assets such as industrial plants as compensation.

^  Even though the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were allies from September 1939 until June 1941 once the Nazis broke their friendship off by invading the USSR the Germans captured millions of Soviet soldiers. The Germans claimed that since the USSR never ratified the Geneva Convention they didn't have to treat the Soviet soldiers as POWs (Japan used the same excuse in its harsh treatment of Allied POWs  - Japan hadn't ratified the Geneva Convention.) That excuse along with the Nazis' view that all Slavs were sub-human led to millions of Soviet POWs being tortured starved, gassed, experimented-on, etc. After the war the Soviets occupied more than half of Germany (until 1990) and carried out the harshest de-natzification process of any of the occupying powers (ie France, the UK, the US.) The Soviets took anything and everything from their sector of Germany that they wanted - from whole factories to raw materials to people. West Germany escaped the brutality that East Germany endured. Germany has been reunited for 25 years and World War 2 ended 70 years ago so it is high-time that Germany gives compensation directly to the Soviet POWs that were abused and mistreated by the Nazis. Hopefully, this agreement will cover every former Soviet Republic and not merely Russia. It is also good to see that this is happening despite the current Russian annexation of the Crimea and supplying weapons and men to the ethnic Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine. The mistreatment of Soviet POWs in World War 2 and the current Crimean Crisis have nothing to do with each other. The Germans were guilty of their crimes back then and need to make amends. ^

Memorial Week: 5

From now through Monday. Remembering Memorial Day week. Day 5.

Ireland's Yes

From the BBC:
"Huge Republic of Ireland vote for gay marriage"

The Republic of Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage in a historic referendum.  More than 62% voted in favour of amending the country's constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.  It is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said it was a "small country with a big message for equality" around the world.  The referendum was held 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 20 countries worldwide.   BBC Ireland correspondent Chris Buckler said the atmosphere at Dublin Castle, where thousands of people gathered to watch the results being announced, was more like a festival than a referendum result. Counting began at 09:00 BST on Saturday, and the final result was declared shortly before 19:00 BST.  Cheers and applause greeted the announcement of the results by the returning officer Ríona Ní Fhlanghaile.  The turnout was more than 60%, and the outcome seemed clear a short time into the count, with prominent "no" campaigners declaring defeat early on.   In total, 1,201,607 people voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while 734,300 voted against.

^ It did surprise me a little that ultra-conservative Ireland voted so overwhelmingly to make gay marriage legal. It shows that the Irish have changed leaps and bounds over the past several years. Hopefully the rest of the world will see their example and follow it. Northern Ireland is the only territory now (out of: England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland) where gay people can't marry. ^

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Week: 4

From now through Monday. Remembering Memorial Day week. Day 4.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sorta Publicly Banned

From the BBC:
"Netherlands approves plans for face-covering veil ban"

The Dutch cabinet has approved plans for a partial ban on wearing the face-covering Islamic veil in public places including schools, hospitals and on public transport. However, the proposed ban will not apply to wearing the veils on the streets, officials say. Those who flout the ban could be fined up to €405 ($450;£290). Only a few hundred women in the Netherlands are thought to wear burkas, most of them only occasionally. The proposed new law will be sent to a panel of legal advisers for assessment, reports say.  The panel was heavily critical of an effort in 2012 by the government to ban burkas, saying it breached constitutional religious freedom provisions. "Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport," the government said in a statement after the cabinet approved Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk's bill.

^ It seems pretty dumb to ban it in must public places, but not on a public street. ^

Thanking Nation

From Yahoo:
"Seattle Couple Who Fled Nazi-Controlled Europe Leaves $847K Estate to 'America'"

A couple from Seattle left all they had, nearly $1 million, “to the government of the United States of America" in their identical wills, the lawyer who administered the estate said.  A cashier's check for $847,215.57 was received and deposited into the U.S. Department of the Treasury's general funds on May 13, according to U.S. assistant attorney Peter Winn, who told ABC News today that he was the one who worked with the Treasury Department to accept the money on behalf of the government. Though Peter Petrasek and Joan Petrasek never indicated why they wanted to donate all of their money to the U.S. government, Winn believes the money is a "thank you" to the country that took in the couple after they fled from Nazi-controlled eastern Europe in World War II.
^ This is a nice little story that shows that no matter how many years have passed (in this case around 70) people  - especially those that were helped by the United States - want to give back to the country.  ^

Late Moscow Help

From Yahoo:
"Russia ready to help Iraq defeat Islamic State: Lavrov"

Russia is ready to supply weapons to Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, as the country struggles to halt advances by Islamic State militants. Speaking ahead of talks in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, Lavrov told reporters Moscow would make every effort to help the Baghdad government push back the militants.
Islamic State insurgents overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend in the most significant setback for the Baghdad government in a year, exposing the weakness of Iraq's army and the limitations of U.S. air strikes. On Thursday the group seized full control of Palmyra in neighboring Syria.

^ It seems Russia is a little late to this "party" as numerous countries have been helping Iraq fight ISIS for over as year. I'm not usually a fan of Russia supplying weapons and/or men to places (ie eastern Ukraine) but in the case of Iraq I am. ^

A Nut Case

From Yahoo:
"Court frees ex-Korean Air executive in 'nut rage' case"

Former Korean Air Lines executive Heather Cho walked free after nearly five months in prison on Friday after an appeals court suspended the sentence she was given for her outburst over the way she had been served macadamia nuts. Cho, the daughter of the airline's chairman, was sentenced in February to one year in prison over the Dec. 5 incident at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, where she forced a plane to return to its gate in order to expel the flight's crew chief. The "nut rage" case provoked mirth as well as outrage in South Korea, where many people are fed up with what they see as heavy-handed conduct by the rich and powerful. Her lawyer said after the ruling that Cho felt remorse for the suffering she caused among the crew members who were subjected to her outburst. Cho, 40, did not answer questions from reporters as she left the court surrounded by Korean Air employees and after she changed into personal clothes from her prison uniform. She was driven away in a black car.  The court upheld Cho's conviction, finding her guilty of breaking South Korea's aviation law, but reduced her sentence to 10 months, which it suspended. It noted her previous lack of a criminal record and that she is the mother of young twins. "The defendant would have had a chance to reflect sincerely on the mental anguish she caused in the victims during the five months she spent in the darkest place in society while in detention and away from family," Judge Kim Sang-hwan said.
A lower court ruled in February that the airline's former vice president and head of in-flight service had violated the law by ordering the plane to return to its gate. Cho faces a civil suit filed in New York by a flight attendant involved in the incident for damage caused to her career, reputation and emotional health, seeking unspecified damages.Cho resigned from all posts at the airline after the incident became public. Her outburst began when she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, not a dish, while seated in the first class cabin of the A380 jumbo jet. She is the oldest of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho's three children. Her siblings are executives with the airline.

^ It is good that the court found her guilty in the first place as anyone disturbing a flight (especially an international one to/from the US) is harmful to those on-board as well as on the ground. Even though this woman is released her image is known around the world and she will have to deal with her crazy arrogance for years to come. ^

No Moscow Pride

From Yahoo:
"Moscow bans Gay Pride march, again"
Moscow's town hall announced Thursday that it would not allow a Gay Pride march in the Russian capital that activists wanted to hold later this month -- a ban that it repeats every year. "We have warned the organisers that the demonstration will not be authorised," and told them of the risks should they ignore the ban, the Ria Novosti agency quoted mayoral spokesman Alexey Mayorov as saying. No explanations for the ban were given but it would have come as no surprise to the Gay Pride organisers, who have attempted since 2006 to obtain permission to hold their event in Moscow.
Whenever they have attempted to carry out a public event, Moscow police have quickly dispersed them. The organisers, who had applied to hold two meetings and a march on May 30, had said they expected around a hundred people at each event. One of those organisers, Nikolaï Alexeyev, told AFP that he intended to appeal the ban. He denounced the pressure placed on him, explaining that the Gay Pride ban had been announced an hour after he was brought before a judge for no obvious reason. "We will nonetheless hold some kind of action on May 30, even if the venue is not yet decided," he said. Pro-gay protests are rare in Russia, where homosexuality was a crime until 1993 and then classed as a mental illness until 1999. In 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed legislation banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors. Human Rights Watch last December sounded the alarm over a rising number of homophobic attacks in Russia, saying that the ban on "gay propaganda" effectively legalises discrimination.

^ It is no surprise that the Parade was banned again. What does surprise me is how anti-gay the Russians seem to have become in the past few years. Homosexuality was illegal from the 1930s to 1993 and then from 1993 until a few years ago it was legal and seemed to be a non-issue. Now being anti-gay seems to be a national crusade and there is more violence against gays now then when it was officially illegal. It seems that homosexuals in Russia are an  "easy" group that can be targeted whenever there is something else wrong in the country and the Government wants to divert attention from that other problem (the Jews in Russia are also often used as scapegoats in these circumstances.) ^

Memorial Week: 3

From now through Monday. Remembering Memorial Day week. Day 3.

Dropped Agreements

From Yahoo:
"Ukraine rips up key cooperation deals with Russia"

Kiev lawmakers on Thursday annulled five crucial security agreements with Moscow that had allowed Russia to transport troops to a separatist region of Moldova and purchase weapons that are only produced in Ukraine. The deals were suspended when Kiev accused the Kremlin of fomenting a pro-Russian revolt in Ukraine's industrial east 13 months ago that has killed 6,250 and left the ex-Soviet state's economy in ruins. But Thursday's decision means that legislative support from Ukraine's dominant nationalist and pro-European parties would be required before such cooperation could resume once the separatist conflict is resolved. It also underscores how little a truce deal reached in February has done to rebuild trust between Moscow and Kiev. "I know of no other country that continues to be friends with a neighbour that kills your people," prominent pro-EU deputy Mustafa Nayyem wrote on Facebook. "And only recently I learned that we still have international agreements with Russia concerning military and technological cooperation!" The five laws include a strategic agreement allowing Moscow to send peacekeeping forces across Ukraine to Moldova's Russian-speaking Transdniester region. A top Ukrainian state security official told AFP that the transports' abrupt interruption had caught Moscow off guard when they first went into effect about a year ago. The same source said Moscow has since found new avenues by which to supply troops in the self-declared state.  But several senior Russian officials signalled their alarm at the sudden complication. "There is no other way for us reach (Transdniester) other than through Ukraine," an unnamed diplomat in Russia's foreign ministry told Interfax. "We have to think and look for alternatives. We cannot abandon Transdniester and Moldova," the Russian parliament's defence committee head Vladimir Komoyedov added. A second politically-charged agreement cancelled by Kiev required the neighbours to protect each others' state secrets. It was initially adopted with the arrival of one-time spy Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in 2000. Another law covered basic Russian military transports across Ukraine and a fourth concerned mutual arms purchases. Ukraine inherited several huge Soviet-era arms manufacturing sites that formed the backbone of Russia's armed forces. The final law covered intelligence sharing between the two sides. "Many Ukrainians must have learned with some surprise today that these laws were still around," Kiev's Razumkov Centre analyst Oleksiy Melnyk told AFP. Ukraine's Western allies have encouraged parliament to spend less time on populist -- and often little-more than symbolic -- measures and to focus instead on the numerous laws needed to get the recession-hit economy back on track. But some analysts said Thursday's legislation meant that crucial links that tied Moscow and Kiev over the past two decades have been ruptured for many years to come. Pro-Russian legislators that supported these laws at the expense of closer links with NATO and the European Union were trounced in the November election and at present appear a longshot at making a comeback in the 2019 parliamentary vote. "The chances of Ukraine and Russia resuming the type of military and technological cooperation that they enjoyed just a few years ago appear highly unlikely in the mid-term perspective," independent military analyst Mykhaylo Pashkov said in an interview. "Russia's foreign policy approach is also unlikely to change under Putin," he added. "There is little chance that he will take a benevolent view of Ukraine in the next few years."
Pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko has pledged to adopt all the reforms needed for Ukraine to join the European Union by 2020.

^ It had amazed me since the Russians got involved in the Crimea and then eastern Ukraine over a year ago that the Ukrainians were still dealing with Russia in numerous fields even while Russia invaded, occupied and annexed part of their country. It should be noted that Russia voided key agreements with the Ukraine first (ie dealing with the Black Sea Fleet, etc.) The Ukraine has every right to expect that its territory not be used by foreign powers and when Russia invaded the Crimea they (the Russians) were clearly in the wrong and started the rapid downward slope that has come over the past year. It is "good" to see the Ukraine finally removing these agreements with Russia - I suspect that the government in Kyiv held out for so long hoping that the international community could convince Russia to stop supporting the ethnic Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine and to also return the Crimea to the Ukraine - that has failed and so this is one step that the Ukraine has to make. Russia can continue to try and play the victim in all of this, but no one is buying what they are selling. ^

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Memorial Week: 2

From now through Monday. Remembering Memorial Day week. Day 2

Repressed Russians

From MT:
"Designs Flood In for Political Repression Monument in Moscow"

More than 300 designs have been submitted as a part of a competition to create a monument honoring the victims of political repression in Russia, the TASS news agency reported Wednesday. "The application period is now over, and around 300 designs have been submitted. An expert group comprised of architecture, sculpture and fine arts experts and City Hall officials will start work now" to decide on the criteria for the winning design, which will then be selected by an expert jury, Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, was quoted as saying by TASS.  The monument will be erected at the intersection of Prospekt Sakharova, named after the Soviet dissident and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, and the city's Garden Ring. Fedotov said all the designs will be presented at an exhibition, and expressed hope that the project would be open for public discussion. He said fundraising for the monument's construction has already begun, TASS reported.  Millions of Soviet citizens were executed or spent years in the gulag labor camps as a result of political repression in the Soviet era.

^ Throughout their history the Russians have known how to repress people (ie the Czars and the Soviets) but they don't seem to know how to have museums or monuments to their victims.  The Gulag Museum in Russia hasn't gone off well so I don't hold out much hope that this new monument to the millions of innocent men, women and children throughout the Soviet Union, as well as Eastern Europe, willdo justice to the hardships, torture and death that befell them. I hope I'm wrong though. ^

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Elian Chooses US

From Yahoo:
"Cuba's Elian Gonzalez, former castaway, wants to visit US"

Elian Gonzalez, who spent months with his Florida relatives as a Cuban child at the center of an international custody dispute, said in an interview broadcast Monday that he'd like to return to the United States for a visit. Now 21, Gonzalez told ABC News in an interview that if he could visit anywhere, it would be the U.S. Gonzalez thanked the American people for the love they showed him during the custody battle 15 years ago, and said he would like to go back "to give my love to the American people." He said he'd like to see a baseball game, visit Washington museums and talk to Americans. "I could personally thank those people who helped us, who were there by our side. Because we're so grateful for what they did." ABC's images of Gonzalez captured over several days showed him first with a beard, then clean-shaven. Gonzalez is a local celebrity on the island and was a military cadet when he was in his late teens. He is now studying industrial engineering at the university in the Cuban province of Matanzas, west of the capital. According to the interview, he recently became engaged to be married. He was just a few weeks shy of 6 when his mother, Elizabeth Brotons, died at sea in 1999 while trying to take him to the U.S. Gonazlez survived by clinging to an inner tube and was rescued on the high sea, eventually ending up with Florida relatives who fought to keep him in the United States. "I was alone in the middle of the sea, that's the last thing I remember," Gonzalez said. He said he was moved by his mother's efforts to keep him afloat while he drowned. "She fought until the very last minute to keep me alive," he said. The tug-of-war between Gonzalez's U.S. relatives and his father ensued, with then-president Fidel Castro siding with the boy's surviving parent Juan Gonzalez and the Miami-based Cuban exile community backing family members in Florida. For months, Cuba's Communist government organized almost daily marches of thousands of people demanding that the child be returned to the island. News media camped outside the home where Gonzalez was staying in Miami, with cameras constantly trained on him and his relatives. The case sparked a debate about parental rights that raged on both sides of the Florida Straits. President Bill Clinton's administration ultimately backed the father's rights and allowed him to take his son back to Cuba in mid-2000. The ABC report said Gonzalez said he had no regrets about his father's decision to stay in Cuba, and he's not angry with his Miami relatives and open to reconciliation.
^ Now that Elian Gonzalez is 21 and can decide for himself it seems he wants to come back to the US. I remember watching the police take him from the closet in his relatives' home at gunpoint and then he was forced back to Communist Cuba despite his mother literally dying to give him a better life. The Attorney General, Janet Reno, and US President, Bill Clinton, are to blame for returning him to Cuba. I am curious to see if Elian wants to come back just to thank the Americans who helped him or if he wants to live here. He was brought back to Cuba and used as a Communist symbol for years. Regardless of the recent opening between the US and Cuba the fact is that Cuba's system  - political and economical - is crumbling because Communism has never worked in any country that has had it. The Soviet Union kept Cuba afloat for decades merely to spite the US and then when the USSR collapsed Cuba was left on its own and we have seen how that failed. The only good thing is that Cuba is slowly moving away from failed Communism to proven Capitalism (mostly because Fidel Castro is too old and sick to stop it.)  As a Canadian (unlike Americans) I can go to Cuba right now if I wanted to, but I don't really care to. ^

Cannes' Shoes

From the BBC:
"Cannes 'turned away amputee in flat shoes'"

Film producer Valeria Richter, who has part of her left foot amputated, says she was stopped at the Cannes Film Festival for not wearing high heels. She told BBC 5 live red carpet officials pointed at her shoes and said: "No, no, this won't work, you can't get in like this."   Ms Richter, who was eventually allowed in, spoke after Cannes was accused of turning away women in flat shoes. The festival has denied heels are part of the official dress code. A spokeswoman said ushers had been "reminded" of this, suggesting women in flat shoes would now be admitted. However, numerous festival-goers have reported seeing women being turned away. Among them was Asif Kapadia - whose Amy Winehouse documentary premiered in Cannes last weekend - who said his wife had been stopped on the red carpet but was "eventually let in".  Ms Richter told the BBC she "couldn't keep her balance" in heels, after having her big toe and part of her left foot amputated. She was stopped four times on her way into the premiere of Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees on Saturday. "They pointed their finger at my shoe and then were waving their fingers at me," she said. "It was quite obvious it was my shoes that was an issue." "Obviously, I could wave my foot at them," she said, "and that would make the situation a little awkward for them, because I had a visible explanation [for not wearing heels]". Although Ms Richter was eventually granted entry, she said "many of my colleagues who can't wear heels were rejected and did not come in." British star Emily Blunt, whose latest film Sicario debuted in Cannes on Tuesday, called the alleged ban on flat shoes "very disappointing". "Everyone should wear flats to be honest," she said.  "We shouldn't be wearing high heels anyway. That's my point of view. I just prefer wearing Converse sneakers." However, the star opted for heels at the red carpet premiere of her film, which also stars Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro. Festival director Thierry Fremaux has said "rumours" of a ban on heels were "unfounded". But the row is awkward for Cannes in a year when it was seeking to address sexism in cinema. The festival opened with a female-directed film for the first time since 1987, and organisers have endorsed a series of "Women in Motion" talks by stars such as Isabella Rossellini and Salma Hayek.

^ Whether it's an official rule at Cannes or not the people working for the Film Festival obviously think it is and are enforcing it as though it was. I'm not going to go into the whole heel issue now, but what got me is the woman who was turned away for wearing flat shoes she's an amputee. That shows how the people involved with the Cannes Film Festival treats the disabled (not to mention women in general.) I don't understand why Cannes is such a big deal, but whether it is or not they shouldn't be allowed to treat the disabled differently. ^

Memorial Week: 1

From now through Monday. Remembering Memorial Day week. Day 1

Annexed Abkhazia

From MT:
"Abkhazia Appoints Russian General as New Defense Minister"
Abkhazia has appointed a retired senior Russian military officer as its new minister of defense, suggesting a tightening control by Moscow over the nominally independent breakaway Georgian territory. De facto President of Abkhazia Raul Khajimba announced the appointment of General Anatoliy Khrulev to head the MoD on May 18, just three days after Khajimba met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. Until his retirement in 2010, Khrulev had commanded the Russian 58th Army, and was wounded in South Ossetia fighting in the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia. In announcing the appointment, Khajimba said it would help improve "cooperation" with Russia: "Our army isn't large, but in conditions of great military difficulty, when it was formed, it showed itself to be capable," Khajimba said. "Today is a different time, and we are taking on new missions, including those connected with the development of military-technical cooperation with Russia. We are counting on your [Khrulev's] knowledge and experience."  The appointment follows last year's signing of an integration deal between Abkhazia and Russia, which called for a "unified defense space" and other forms of tighter military coordination.  Khrulev isn't the first non-Abkhazian to be minister of defense: Sultan Sosnaliyev, a native of Kabardino-Balkaria who fought in Abkhazia's war against Georgia in the early 1990s, served two terms as defense minister, including as recently as 2007. But this appointment is obviously more sensitive. While relying on Russian security guarantees against Georgian efforts to retake its lost territory, Abkhazia has endeavored to maintain its independence as much as possible and to minimize Russian interference in its internal affairs.  In a revealing interview with the local RFE/RL service, the director of the Center for Strategic Research under the President of Abkhazia, Oleg Dameniya, acknowledged that the appointment may be unpopular in Abkhazia.  "I can only say that we have a deficit of cadres, especially in this exact area, in the area of the armed forces," Dameniya said. "But, unfortunately, our society, in all likelihood, isn't ready yet and I, also, am not ready to comment." In Tbilisi, the appointment was seen as "confirmation of the Russian occupation" of Abkhazia. "Regardless of the fact that Russian soldiers have commanded illegal armed formations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the appointment of Anatoliy Khrulev is yet another glaring confirmation of the Russian occupation and a continuation of the occupation regime," said Paata Zakareshvili, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality. "This indicates that Russia doesn't trust the Abkhazian public and sees the future of that society only under Russian control."
^ I guess the Abkhazians (or should I call them Russians?) realize there's no more need to try and hide the fact that they aren't an independent country and never have been. They are merely a Georgian territory that is annexed (although unofficially) to Russia. You can not claim to be independent and use Russian passports, receive Russian government pensions, use the Russian Ruble and have Russian troops on your territory. That's not independence. There's a clear line between receiving foreign aid and help and being occupied or annexed. It seems Abkhazia changed one government (the Georgians) for another (the Russians.) In a way I would have more respect for Abkhazia and the Abkhazians if they fought for their own land (from Georgia), declared their independence and worked hard to make it an internationally-recognized country. Instead they are servants in their own home as the Russians have been calling all the shots there for years. ^

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Birthday Second

From CNN:
"This year, we all get an extra second on June 30"

This is going to be a long year. Well, one second longer. We're all going to get an extra tick of the clock, known as a "leap second," on June 30.  The bonus sliver of time raises a couple of questions.
How to spend that extra second? Sleeping? Working? Maybe Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg will use it to help keep up with his New Year book-reading program. Then there's the question of why we need to tinker with clocks all around the world in the first place.  It all comes down to physics, according to Nick Stamatakos, the head of Earth Orientation Parameters at the U.S. Naval Observatory, which oversees atomic clocks in the United States. "The real simple explanation is the Earth is slowing down a little bit," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. That means atomic clocks are keeping more accurate time than our planet's own rotation, which can speed up and slow down because of tides and changes within the Earth's core. To get things back in sync, an extra second is periodically added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the world's benchmark time standard. The call is made by scientists at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, the agency that keeps tabs on the spinning of the planet. It announced the decision to add a leap second this year in a bulletin Monday.  The previous one was in 2012, but that didn't go entirely smoothly. Some of the software platforms that underpin a lot of websites didn't know how to cope with the extra second.   The issue has become an international sticking pointSome countries, including the United States, want to get rid of leap seconds altogether, saying they're too disruptive to precision systems used for navigation, communication and other services. But others, like Britain, have argued that it's risky to allow a divergence between the time kept by atomic clocks and that of the Earth's rotation. An international radiocommunication conference in 2012 put off a decision on the matter until this year. In any case, fewer leap seconds are being added nowadays than a few decades ago. "Earth isn't as slow as it was in the 70s," said Stamatakos. "Relative to the 1970s, it's sped up a little bit." But still not enough to keep time with the atomic clocks.
^  Looks like my birthday will have one second added to it. Some say it's because of the Earth's rotational pull, but I think it's just because people want extra time with me. ^

Captured Russians

From the BBC:
"Ukraine to prosecute captured 'Russian soldiers'"
Ukraine says it will prosecute two men it claims are elite Russian soldiers captured fighting in eastern Ukraine. The two wounded men were seized in the town of Shchastya, almost 30km (19 miles) from the Russian border. The head of Ukraine's security service has told the BBC there is proof the men are Russian troops. Russia said the two men were no longer serving soldiers. Rebels in eastern Ukraine said the men were policemen from Ukraine's Luhansk region.  Vitaliy Naida, Ukraine's security chief, told BBC World News he was "absolutely positive" the men were officers from the GRU, the foreign military intelligence branch of Russia's army. "We have battle dress uniform, we have automatic rifles that are produced only in the Russian Federation only for Special Forces' use," he said. Mr Naida said the men were part of a group of 220 GRU officers deployed to Luhansk on 2 May. The others have now returned to Russia, he said. "We have already started a criminal case for a terrorist act," Mr Naida said. In a video, one of the captured men said he was a sergeant from the central Russian city of Togliatti, where an elite intelligence unit for the Russian army is based. The video has not been independently verified.  Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia's ministry of defence, said the two men were not serving soldiers at the time they were detained. "We are counting on the Ukrainian leadership to show good sense," he said, adding that he hoped the two men would be "released as soon as possible". The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and Nato say there is clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels with heavy weapons and soldiers. Independent experts echo that accusation.
^ You have to like that Russia is calling for their soldiers immediate release when they still have a Ukrainian pilot in their jail. Talk about double standards. I am confident that these two men are active members of the Russian military. Russia lied when they denied any knowledge of the "little green men" that suddenly appeared with Russian weapons in the Crimea that forced a vote to join Russia - again at gunpoint. - and has since admitted those men were Russian special forces. You can't take what the Russian Government says at face value as the truth usually comes out against them. ^

Monday, May 18, 2015

Victoria Day!

Today is Victoria Day in Canada. It was originally created to honor (or as the Canadians write "honour") Queen Victoria's birthday. Now it is a day to remember the current Canadian King or Queen - in this case Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada. Today is also considered the unofficial start of summer - the same way Memorial Day is in the US. Most Canadians don't even know they have a Queen as their head of state and so don't know what Victoria Day celebrates and instead they focus on the fireworks and BBQs (again the same way most Americans don't remember the men and women who fought and died for their freedoms as Memorial Day is supposed to mean.) One thing to remember today is that the Canadian Monarch is only legally  allowed to be  Protestant - the same way it is in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and the other Commonwealth Realms. That means those countries (including Canada) officially and openly discriminate against every other religion since they are saying that only Protestants are capable of being good Queens and Kings. This one official statement has hurt the minorities in the different Realms (the Catholics in Northern Ireland and the Catholics in Quebec.) While I believe Queen Elizabeth II is a great Queen of Canada (and of the other Commonwealth Realms) I do not think the "position" should only be allowed to those of the Protestant faith.